Joining forces on a UK-wide publication (was AF/Platformist split)

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nastyned
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Feb 12 2011 12:15
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I don't either, can't see the need for political organisation. ;)

You resigning from SolFed then? wink

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 12 2011 12:21
Steven. wrote:
I know I've said this before in these discussions, but I don't see what the difference is, if our politics are based on our economic interests (which they are for us). The only difference might be for example if Solfed did not allow members of the bourgeoisie to be members, but the AF did (but of course practically that wouldn't make a significant difference anyway)

You know we didn't invent the distinction right? It's a distinction that has been made throughout the workers movement for at least a century. It has nothing to do with what you think in your head. Every leftist through to the crudest base-superstructure tankie would stress the political and economic are inseperable, then advocate separate economic based unions and a political based party. Unless you're saying that organisationally the CNT or FORA are 'the same' as the CP or KAPD because of their members thoughts?

Now it might well be that AF members think it is the role of revolutionaries to try and organise class conflicts along direct action lines. That's great. But that means you're advocating political-economic organisation, not that it's all the same. It has little to do with your slightly bizarre fixation with SolFed's membership criteria! It's about whether revolutionaries should seek to organise collective direct action themselves, or leave it to separate economic organisations, be they trade unions (platformists and others) or spontaneous transient groups formed in struggle (workplace resistance groups as 'informal tendency', pannekoek's spontaneous organisation etc).

nastyned
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Feb 12 2011 12:28

If you want to call the AF a poltical-economic organisation feel free. As our main membership criteria is political agreement though I still think describing ourselves as a political organisation makes more sense.

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 12 2011 12:38
nastyned wrote:
If you want to call the AF a poltical-economic organisation feel free. As our main membership criteria is political agreement though I still think describing ourselves as a political organisation makes more sense.

well no, i think the AF is a political organisation in a long tradition of political organisations. although like i say it's little (directly) to do with membership criteria and much more to do with organisational role. as far as i'm aware the AF sees organising struggle as the role of separate organisations which either have independent formal existence on an economic basis (trade unions, IWW) or spring up spontaneously (workplace resistance groups), within which AF members will operate: "the organisation is not just a propaganda group: above all it must actively work in all grassroots organisations of the working class such as rank and file groups, tenants associations, squatters and unemployed groups as well as women’s, black and gay groups. It must try to link unionised and non-unionised workers, building a movement at the base."

that to me is a classic statement of political organisation. nowt wrong with it, if that's your thing. but it's is self-evidently different to saying 'we must build workplace organisation along revolutionary lines, federating together revolutionary workers and developing the capacity to organise collective direct action since this can't be left to the trade unions or spontaneous resistance.'

But of course this impasse over quite elementary stuff is PRECISELY why i don't think yet more discussions at an abstract theoretical level are going to achieve anything, and the best thing is for advocates of political-economic organisation to just get on and do it.

no1
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Feb 12 2011 12:42
Joseph Kay wrote:
the best thing is for advocates of political-economic organisation to just get on and do it.

exactly.

nastyned
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Feb 12 2011 12:46
Joseph Kay wrote:
well no

Alright don't then.

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Ed
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Feb 12 2011 12:52
nastyned wrote:
If you want to call the AF a poltical-economic organisation feel free. As our main membership criteria is political agreement though I still think describing ourselves as a political organisation makes more sense.

Jumping in late, this is exactly what's being said. Similarly, no one is saying that SF is at this moment a political-economic group: it aspires to be one or at least to create one..

Now as for whether you see a need for a political group alongside a political-economic one or not (or see a need for a political federation or not), to me it's academic.. there's little point in not pulling together for joint work on the basis of belief or non-belief in the need for one or the other.. to me it seems obvious that both views can peacefully co-exist and co-operate, no?

Spikymike
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Feb 12 2011 13:09

Joseph,

Thanks for the earlier extracted half apology - but remember it was you on this thread who brought up again the issue of terminology in relation to 'unions' and made the valid connection with at least one part of the council communist tradition - my second post might have been better worded- but was only prompted by that and intended to draw attention to recently added texts in the Library on the past council communist tradition. I am entitled to repeat my difference of opinion with you and the SolFed on this issue of terminology in the context of the actual history of unions and subsequent capitalist development since the AAUD-E days, whilst acknowledging that there are also probably more substantial points of agreement between us in our criticism of unions in general.

There are other areas however where I consider that, aspects at least, of both the council communist and anarcho-syndicalist traditions may be outdated (partly referred to in our separate responses to the Bruno Astarian text on 'communisation' and also reflected in the article 'Marxism is Dead - Long Live Marxism' )

There were also some doubts raised by me in my earlier post on the attitude of anarchist groups to organisation and recruitment in the context of this current debate between SolFed and the AF, the level of internal discussion in the two groups and significant differences which also often exist between published strategy and the actual everyday practice of group members, which might have been considered more contentious ( again continuing some earlier discussions on the 'organisation ' question).

Whilst I do have some pretty firm ideas, which I mostly share with anarchist communists, I do not post everything here as a statement of beliefs, but rather as a tentative exploration of my own and others ideas. I take that liberty even when the debate, as here, seems mostly confined to the interests of the two groups members.

nastyned
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Feb 12 2011 13:26
Ed wrote:

Now as for whether you see a need for a political group alongside a political-economic one or not (or see a need for a political federation or not), to me it's academic.. there's little point in not pulling together for joint work on the basis of belief or non-belief in the need for one or the other.. to me it seems obvious that both views can peacefully co-exist and co-operate, no?

I'm with you there Ed, but without some commitment from SolFed nationally, which may not be possible, cooperation is going to be sporadic and temporary.

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Steven.
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Feb 12 2011 13:31
Joseph Kay wrote:

Now it might well be that AF members think it is the role of revolutionaries to try and organise class conflicts along direct action lines.

of course we do.

Quote:
That's great. But that means you're advocating political-economic organisation, not that it's all the same.

if that's the way you want to phrase it, fair enough.

Quote:
It's about whether revolutionaries should seek to organise collective direct action themselves, or leave it to separate economic organisations, be they trade unions (platformists and others) or spontaneous transient groups formed in struggle (workplace resistance groups as 'informal tendency', pannekoek's spontaneous organisation etc).

I think the problem here is not so much the difference between political organisation and political-economic organisation, because with the AF and Solfed there is no qualitative difference here. I think the problem is the size of the organisations, or even the possible size of them being realistic.

Even if both groups combined and were 10 times as big, we couldn't organise significant collective direct action ourselves, as we would still be extremely spread out, and have minimal or zero density in any workplaces. Direct action in workplaces would still overwhelmingly be the result of informal workgroups, mostly mediated through the trade union form.

Of course, I think revolutionaries should coordinate to intervene in these, to try to build informal workgroups, and help workers take control of struggles as much as possible, but for the foreseeable future we're not going to be organising the action through organisations which we have set up.

nastyned wrote:
If you want to call the AF a poltical-economic organisation feel free. As our main membership criteria is political agreement though I still think describing ourselves as a political organisation makes more sense.

ditto.

Joseph Kay wrote:

well no, i think the AF is a political organisation in a long tradition of political organisations. although like i say it's little (directly) to do with membership criteria and much more to do with organisational role. as far as i'm aware the AF sees organising struggle as the role of separate organisations which either have independent formal existence on an economic basis (trade unions, IWW) or spring up spontaneously (workplace resistance groups), within which AF members will operate: "the organisation is not just a propaganda group: above all it must actively work in all grassroots organisations of the working class such as rank and file groups, tenants associations, squatters and unemployed groups as well as women’s, black and gay groups. It must try to link unionised and non-unionised workers, building a movement at the base."

that to me is a classic statement of political organisation. nowt wrong with it, if that's your thing. but it's is self-evidently different to saying 'we must build workplace organisation along revolutionary lines, federating together revolutionary workers and developing the capacity to organise collective direct action since this can't be left to the trade unions or spontaneous resistance.'

Firstly, it has been pointed out that that text needs a rewrite. But secondly, that may be a statement of a political organisation, but I don't agree that there is anything necessarily wrong with it, or that it does contradict what you say.

Us pro-revolutionaries are always going to be a tiny minority, so we're always going to have to be active in organisations wider than our own. Solfed members for example have been active in unions, NSSN, etc.

What makes our (anti-) politics qualitatively different from standard political organisations is that we don't aim to increase the power of our organisations, or lead workers, but attempt to help workers improve their ability to self organise and improve their collective self-confidence.

The AF does of course want to "build workplace organisation along revolutionary lines, federating together revolutionary workers". As for "developing the capacity to organise collective direct action", of course we want to do that as well but not for our own organisation as such but within the class as a whole. "Since this can't be left to the trade unions or spontaneous resistance" - of course we agree with this as well. I really don't get what this disagreement actually is.

Quote:

But of course this impasse over quite elementary stuff is PRECISELY why i don't think yet more discussions at an abstract theoretical level are going to achieve anything, and the best thing is for advocates of political-economic organisation to just get on and do it.

I think you are probably right here, because we have just been going round in circles for a while, my guess with neither side understanding the other that well.

To help me understand what you mean, could you give me some more examples of the kind of organisation you mean? The examples you gave, CNT (excluding representative functions), FORA, etc I see what you mean there and I'm supportive of this type of organisation, but the key difference I think is the huge size of those organisations compared with ours. Which means that they could initiate some actions themselves, but I don't see that being achievable in the UK in the foreseeable future.

mons
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Feb 12 2011 16:38

Adding something else for discussion, on a different thread vanilla.ice.baby said:

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I would just like to reiterate I would ideally like to see the maximum possible libertarian communist unity in a Libertarian Communist (or whatever) Network that brought together the various federations, the commune, and various individuals who signed up to a minimum aims and prnciples and programme for joint action, and organised in local groups across the country. I actually think that is doable right here right now.

I like the idea. Thoughts?

vanilla.ice.baby
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Feb 12 2011 17:25

To be clear - it's not something I see happening right now, or that I care if it happens any time soon, or that I intend to put any work into it, other than in my local group. I also don't think if it is to happen it's the responsibility of the national feds to make it happen.

And if it were to work, it would need to be driven by local multi tendency groups working together for practical and genuine reasons - not just because "unity is good".

Battlescarred
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Feb 12 2011 17:48

Would that include L&S , perchance?

Battlescarred
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Feb 12 2011 17:55

"Joseph Kay wrote:

Personally I'd favour turning DA into a web magazine and resurrecting the Black Flag proposal from earlier in this thread, if there's any traction to that it will turn into a formal proposal."
I have raised the same discussion within the AF and will be arguing strongly for this ( see T La Palli's comments above) I hope you will be doing the same. This is a process which if successful could possibly open up other processes

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Feb 12 2011 19:13
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Battlescarred wrote:
Would that include L&S , perchance?

This is the exact reason this is a non-starter! No one could agree where to draw the line of inclusion - eg, there's no way in hell I'd be part of a group that contained say L&S people or CWF. Whereas for others having a group wide enough to include these people would be the whole point.

It could be that only groups that hold explicit communist positions should be included?

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 12 2011 20:44
Steven. wrote:
To help me understand what you mean, could you give me some more examples of the kind of organisation you mean? The examples you gave, CNT (excluding representative functions), FORA, etc I see what you mean there and I'm supportive of this type of organisation, but the key difference I think is the huge size of those organisations compared with ours. Which means that they could initiate some actions themselves, but I don't see that being achievable in the UK in the foreseeable future.

I don't think it's about size at all. I mean the CNT has over 5,000 members, including small job branches. But a lot of it's smaller groups are basically like SolFed - small 'officios varios' made up of isolated militants. That's precisely the point here: it's not about size but orientation. CNT members look to organise as workers and do so according to anarchist methods. Now it's all very well saying you do the same thing, I'll put that aside for a minute and say the crucial point is the CNT sees it as its responsibility to try and organise direct action since leaving it to the official unions means using class collaborationist methods etc, and leaving it to spontaneous initiatives is inadequate (as e.g. advocated by Pannekoek historically, but nobody so far as I can tell here).

Now this clearly involves organising beyond the membership - an example in a big dispute being Puerto Real and the union/assembly approach. But even in tiny struggles (and I'm switching to SF now as I'm more familiar with this) say one isolated militant trying to agitate about say, unpaid overtime, it's not really adequate to describe this as 'informal organisation'. That's a mystification of a very conscious and deliberate organising process aimed at agitating, doing one-on-ones to win people over to the idea of action, getting a job committee together, pulling more people in and taking direct action. Now it's great if AF members like the sound of that, but its not political organisation. As far as I'm aware, historically the AF has seen activities such as producing workplace rights advice, training people in workplace organising, actively agitating and soliciting workers with problems to get in touch, organising direct action solidarity etc as 'union work' best left to either mainstream unions or more grassroots groups like the IWW, LCAP or whatever, themselves typically lacking any real political perspective. Now it may well be the experience with the IWW has highlighted the problems with leaving this to non-revolutionary organisations. Brilliant.

Steven. wrote:
Even if both groups combined and were 10 times as big, we couldn't organise significant collective direct action ourselves, as we would still be extremely spread out, and have minimal or zero density in any workplaces. Direct action in workplaces would still overwhelmingly be the result of informal workgroups, mostly mediated through the trade union form.

Again, size is a complete distraction. It's about orientation. A single militant can get a whole workplace organised (of course, there are retarding variables) by taking the initiative, agitating, collectivising grievances and so on. The US IWW has had great success doing this (the fact their model involves pretty apolitical recruitment doesn't change point that individuals, supported by an organisational infrastructure oriented to such activity, can organise, or strictly speaking initiate the self-organisation of, workplace direct action).

On the last bit, I really don't get it. I've said above why subsuming the whole, very deliberate and strategic organising process into 'informal organisation' mystifies precisely what needs to be explained. On the trade union thing, a significant majority of workers are not unionised. Those who are, are often only notionally so with no active branch etc. Even those with active branches, most unions do not organise in the workplace. Branches consist of activists who meet, and typically collective action is rare in favour of individual rep work, grievances etc (as you well know). Individual stewards may or may not try and actually organise, but the unions as a general rule basically don't. So for the vast majority of workers, trade unions are in no position to mediate whatever we manage to organise, because they have no effective presence. Now maybe the first thing management would do, faced with say a march on the boss is to call in a 'responsible' union to 'represent' the workers. Well the danger of this has to be part of the inoculation/organising process, so that workers recognise it as a counter-attack and not a concession. Again there's nothing informal about it, it's conscious, strategic and backed by an organisational infrastructure designed for the purpose.

As a general point, don't worry too much about historical examples (FORA, CNT, AAUD-E etc). I was merely trying to illustrate that the ideas of separate political and economic or combined political-economic organisations were not invented by some people in Brighton in 2010, but has animated many of the most radical elements of the workers' movement for a century. It's not about looking for blueprints, but establishing the basic concepts. It may well be that the AF's conception of political organisation is different to historical ones (malatesta and the platform have been mentioned, and the AF's approach obviously can't be reduced to either). But I don't think saying it's all the same really helps elucidate whether thats the case or not.

axiom
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Feb 12 2011 22:51

‘Joining forces on a UK-wide publication’

This thread is mainly discussing the possibility of the anarchist federations working together on a magazine production.
Black Flag — what an excellent name for an anarchist mag. I’d love to see AF and SolFed committing articles to Black Flag.

As for L&S, they are a Left-wing organisation. How would they ever fit into the idea of the two* anarchist feds working together on a magazine
project?

(*are there more than two?)

nastyned
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Feb 12 2011 23:04

I don't really know what to say anymore after reading Joseph Kay's latest post, and having seen 's post is it worth the effort. cry

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Feb 13 2011 00:45

Come on ned, don't play the shrinking violet, it doesn't suit you. You've been just as curt in your responses on this thread as and ultimately all he's actually said is that co-operation will have to come naturally from the practical work of locals rather than decided upon at a national level. I disagree with him on that but I don't think it's reason enough for you not to respond to JK..

nastyned
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Feb 13 2011 08:11

No, the time for talk has passed. It's time for me to change my orientation. So no more will I sit back and do nothing except read highly selective passages of Maltesta. First thing Monday morning I will be declaring myself to be the National Confederation of Labour and then things will really start to happen.

no1
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Feb 13 2011 09:22
Joseph Kay wrote:
i'd like to reiterate if people think i'm misrepresenting Malatesta, council communism or whatever in my posts here please recommend texts as i'm more than happy to do more homework.
T La Palli
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Feb 13 2011 09:59
october_lost wrote:
I think its a terrible idea. Real divisions will be overcome through political activity not discussing theory.

Of course, but is there not some worth in discussing theory. Like for example this thread which continues to discuss theory. Personally I prefer facetoface discussions where possible. We had a dayschool in Edinburgh recently, where, for example, a Solfed member gave a talk on the role of assemblies in workplace organising. Lots of people found this useful and it contributed a little to better understanding of each others politics.

vanilla.ice.baby
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Feb 13 2011 11:21
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Battlescarred wrote:
Would that include L&S , perchance?

This is the exact reason this is a non-starter! No one could agree where to draw the line of inclusion - eg, there's no way in hell I'd be part of a group that contained say L&S people or CWF. Whereas for others having a group wide enough to include these people would be the whole point.

The only way an all Britain libertarian communist (or class struggle anarchist or whatever you want to call it) formation (yes mate ABLCF) would come about is through multi tendency local groups that had a real presence on a political basis in local and national campaigns and movements coming together because it made sense to come together nationally. Various political organisations may be involved in that because their members are genuinely involved in the local groups. And power would have to be rooted in the local groups, not in national orgs getting reserved delegate seats or whatever.

I think it would be nice if it did happen, and it could be useful but I'm not going to agitate for it.

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Feb 13 2011 12:30
nastyned wrote:
No, the time for talk has passed. It's time for me to change my orientation. So no more will I sit back and do nothing except read highly selective passages of Maltesta. First thing Monday morning I will be declaring myself to be the National Confederation of Labour and then things will really start to happen.

This really is just a bit daft. JK has already said that he doesn't want to misquote Malatesta, if you can point him to readings then he's willing to do so etc.. I feel like you're reading willful misrepresentation where there just isn't any..

And as for 'declaring a National Confederation of Labour on Monday', well, I really just have no idea which post you got that from.. perhaps you can quote the bit where you got that impression from?

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Feb 13 2011 15:57
vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
wrote:
Battlescarred wrote:
Would that include L&S , perchance?

This is the exact reason this is a non-starter! No one could agree where to draw the line of inclusion - eg, there's no way in hell I'd be part of a group that contained say L&S people or CWF. Whereas for others having a group wide enough to include these people would be the whole point.

The only way an all Britain libertarian communist (or class struggle anarchist or whatever you want to call it) formation (yes mate ABLCF) would come about is through multi tendency local groups that had a real presence on a political basis in local and national campaigns and movements coming together because it made sense to come together nationally. Various political organisations may be involved in that because their members are genuinely involved in the local groups. And power would have to be rooted in the local groups, not in national orgs getting reserved delegate seats or whatever.

I think it would be nice if it did happen, and it could be useful but I'm not going to agitate for it.

I have always thought a tendency/umbrella group pushing for libertarian communism, that incorporates members of several organisations and none should exist, if nothing more than to increase the co-operation of all those involved in grass roots initiatives.
But I get the impression that several attempts along the way have hinted at this sort of thing but never found fruition because i) what it was trying to achieve was not clear and ii) it went beyond strictly anarchist class politics. I would have thought Bradford 98 and the recent Anarchist Conference of last year was an example of this sort of thing, or where it could have happened from but alas. I genuinely believe anything open and sincere like this would have to emanate from AF in the first instance. Its the only group in the UK which is in a position to give something like this legs.

If it involved minimal structure, base level agreement and clear class politics and it was vetted to exclude groups like L&S, it would have as much potential as people want to give it. AFAIK CWF does not exist beyond a few people and I don't think its fair to simply write off their potential politically as does.

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bulmer
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Feb 13 2011 16:47
vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
The only way an all Britain libertarian communist (or class struggle anarchist or whatever you want to call it) formation (yes mate ABLCF) would come about is through multi tendency local groups that had a real presence on a political basis in local and national campaigns and movements coming together because it made sense to come together nationally. Various political organisations may be involved in that because their members are genuinely involved in the local groups. And power would have to be rooted in the local groups, not in national orgs getting reserved delegate seats or whatever.

I think it would be nice if it did happen, and it could be useful but I'm not going to agitate for it.

I think this does sum up pretty much what I think really.

If there was some set regroupment called between say AF and SF, I would be in touch with them seeing what happened and consider joining the new group. I would be even more likely to join if it did include The Commune and L&S, but I think thats a lot less possible (partly due to, I feel unjustified, ill feelings towards L&S from SF and especially AF. Not that I feel L&S are always perfect though).

I think what has to happen is more groups like WAG, my local group Huddersfield Anarchist League (I know there are others too) to appear around the country, which allow people from libertarian socialist views to be involved and coordinate activity. I think there also needs to be more of an effort for these groups' ideas to be spread through various mediums, such as blogs, flyers, news sheets, but aimed around local issues.

Also more lib socs need to be working together to improve existing national publications like BF and Freedom, especially from people outside of London. There then needs to be an upsurge in local groups trying to get these publications out there, again especially outside of London.

Yorkie Bar
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Feb 13 2011 16:50

Why would L&S want to merge with us? Didn't they start out as a split from AF anyway confused

gypsy
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Feb 13 2011 16:56
Yorkie Bar wrote:
Why would L&S want to merge with us? Didn't they start out as a split from AF anyway confused

good point.

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 13 2011 17:20
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
If the AF and SF did call for some sort of libertarian communist regroupment I don't think L&S would be interested and I doubt all of The Commune would be. I can't see the point in anything being based on watering down politics though and if anything were to come from both organisations I doubt it would be on that basis.

the problem with all these discussions is they're fixated on size to the exclusion of orientation. if we don't want to be a political organisation, why would we want to be a bigger political organisation? if the proposed ultra-mega-anarchy clubTM is a revolutionary union (/intiative), don't we need to discuss whether people actually agree with that, rather than oscillating between snide dismissals and saying it's all the same thing anyway?

Anyway, i've written something here giving some context to the 'theory' banded about on this thread.

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bulmer
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Feb 13 2011 17:56
Yorkie Bar wrote:
Why would L&S want to merge with us? Didn't they start out as a split from AF anyway confused
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
If the AF and SF did call for some sort of libertarian communist regroupment I don't think L&S would be interested and I doubt all of The Commune would be. I can't see the point in anything being based on watering down politics though and if anything were to come from both organisations I doubt it would be on that basis.

Probably shouldn't of even put on what I did in brackets, because thats a whole other topic...

Just trying to say, I think that all the groups are so marginalised and (don't really like saying this) and irrelevant, I personally think we need a lot more coordination in larger numbers in some way. I think this would be more effective with L&S and TC on board in some proposed regroupment, but I understand it won't happen. I was just putting forward a more idealistic want of mine forward.

But yeh, really need to be pushing forward on a local level, whether you're in one of these groups or not. I think we should be all trying to get together people in our own areas with some lib soc views coordinated as well pushing people who we know in other parts of the country to do the same thing.