How can we (re)build the Anarchist movement in Britain?

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Ed
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Dec 9 2003 17:30
How can we (re)build the Anarchist movement in Britain?

Taken from the state of the movement thread all the stuff about where we are (nowhere), what do people think can/should be done to build a movement in this country?

Personally, I think organising where we live and work is vital if we want to build a strong, grassroots movement. I also think that Prisoner Support/Anti-Prison stuff is vital (I think Harold Thompson was saying that prisoners are just an army waiting to be mobilised). Finally, I think Anti-Fascism is ESSENTIAL and politically it's gold for us. I mean, it's not a hard argument to make against nationalism/fascism: "Your country? Since when? It's the rich's country yada yada yada......". Also, considering the BNP are addressing people's needs by lying, it's not to diffivult (with a bit of work obviously) to expose their lies. Finally, Anti-Fascism is a good way of breaking out of the @ racial ghetto by making alliances with the non-white community who are effected by the emergance of racism in the community.

Anyway, those are my four pillars for revolutionary activity in this country. Other lesser stuff is like having regular, large blocs on demos, benefit gigs, film shows, building on bookfairs, enrager.net, having good prop etc.

What do other people think? What do people think the main problems are with the movement? What's good and what's bad in the movement?

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Dec 9 2003 21:41

you're right about anti-prison stuff. Prisoners have, by definition, already come into collision with the state. Just look at the tactics of the Nation of Islam -- we need to be equally good at helping prisoners. i hear the US ABC groups compete directly with NoI for activists; can we do this?

As for anti-fascism, I agree that it's important, but only because it's part of the general collapse of UK politics. people are moving away from voting, and sometimes towards the BNP, because of the way the Labour Party and the unions have abandoned the working class -- most of the UK population. If all we come up with is an 'anti' campaign, we'll only keep the BNP down untill the next lot come along.

The times that anarchism has been successful is when it has offered real help to people's lives. With millions turning away from voting there's a chance we could come up with better ways to affect UK politcs -- to win a beter deal for most people. If we can't do that we'll stay a fringe movement.

Fringe movement have often achieved a lot, but I hope we can do better than that.

La_Haine
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Dec 9 2003 22:11
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
you're right about anti-prison stuff. Prisoners have, by definition, already come into collision with the state. Just look at the tactics of the Nation of Islam -- we need to be equally good at helping prisoners. i hear the US ABC groups compete directly with NoI for activists; can we do this?

What exactly are the tactics of the Nation of Islam?

WeTheYouth
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Dec 9 2003 22:29

I beleive that prisoner support is great and it we need to build on that.

I personally beleive in getting more people interested, i beleive in getting out there and telling people what we have to say, and we need to do this with tours like the WMA tour which is planned, i think we need to go to colleges/Uni's and pass round information.

My opinion is, the only way to build this movement is to get more people involved.

Networks such as the AYN have to have people who are commited all the time and people cant get bored with it.

We must grow as a movement and not be left as a small movement with small groups and little influence.

We must see the macro picture now. Not concentrate on the micro.

nihilista
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Dec 10 2003 09:00

I agree with most of this. But I wonder since we dont' even have a strong movement internally (ie self defined anarchos) I don't know how we can reach out.

Maybe it's time to actually build some long lasting things in this community that can then broaden out into the wider community.

Not sure if that made sense.

RichardGriffin
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Dec 10 2003 12:18

I've been given this some thought recently and am gonna write something for Freedom. It seems to me that there are three main problems:

1. We stretch ourselves too thinly. The trots concentrate on one or two high profile campaigns. We try to cover everything. Given our numbers we should concentrate on a few issues to help build the movement and raise its profile. Related to this I know we rely on too few people to do a load of work.

2. We don't coordinate and plan ahead enough. For example there is a lot of interesting stuff going on in London next year - launch of the Unity Coalition, Convention of the trade union left, ESF, Mayday march. We need to be planning our responses to these and working together. Mayday and the Bookfair aside there are no other coordinated anarchist activities in the capital.

3. We need to connect more with the wider labour movement. Anarchists 100 years ago were an integral part of the labour movement. They worked in trade unions, with ILP members, held public meetings... we are now pretty much closed off. This outreach stuff includes boring things like paper sales but its the only way to spread the message. The SWP is the biggest left party cos they work hard at spreading their message. Our activism means we are frequently too busy and inward looking to build the movement.

I am not pessimistic but I think we could do a lot better.

nastyned
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Dec 10 2003 16:22

I agree with most of the points people have made - we do need to be more organised and focussed.

I think an easy way for this to start happening is if people joined the national group they agreed with most (or failing that disagreed with least!).

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Dec 10 2003 17:46

I agree 100% with Richard that we spread ourselves too thinly. That's why I think we should concentrate a lot of our effort on Prisoner Support, Anti-Fa, Workplace and Community organising. For a start, a lot of this overlaps i.e. Anti-Fa and Community stuff. Also, benefit gigs etc. can be done in conjunction with any one of these as well.

Also, yeah, we don't coordinate enough. It's not that hard that if someone finds out about a lefty type meeting then they can tell everyone and suggest sorting out a response. Simple.

As for spreading our message, I agree as well but I am worried that if we have good prop then people get involved and actually all we do is create good prop then it could turn people off.

As for

Quote:
I think an easy way for this to start happening is if people joined the national group they agreed with most (or failing that disagreed with least!).

I could go on and on. I reckon that class struggle groups in this country should unite in one big federation. At least Class War and Anarchist Federation should as they actually only differ in image and NOTHING else. SolFed should also get involved as well because the difference between Syndicalists and Communists today is so miniscule it's not even worth noting.

Also, Nihilista, can you expand on that? It sounds interesting.

RichardGriffin
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Dec 10 2003 19:49

Not sure that everyone does need to join national feds. Whether members or not we should still be able to coordinate things. If SF or CW or AF organised something I'd be happy to get involved. The trouble is as I said we don't plan ahead enough. Also I think the number of people who regard themselves as anarchists (rather than influenced by anarchism) is tiny (2,000??) Those influenced by anarchism are a much larger number. Tactically I think we have to be realistic given our numbers.

I've suggested on the Freedom list organising a meeting in Jan open to any anarchist (including national feds) to try to plan ahead some stuff this year, don't know what people think?

The propoganda stuff is worth doing and can take many forms. I'm on a few socialist lists (including the SA) and post a few anarchist critiques of what is going on amongst the authoritarian left. A few people have shown support and a couple have asked for more info' on anarchism. Iain from Black Flag regularly writes to trot papers countering their lies about anarchism and recently debated Marxism v Anarchism with AWL. Locally I work with trots (for eg on anti BNP stuff) which has challenged a few of their views on anarchism. I also set up the local anti-war group (the only non SWP in my bit of Kent - really pissed them off!) I let people know I was an anarchist. All this stuff can help raise awareness of anarchism.

nastyned
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Dec 10 2003 21:22
Ed wrote:
At least Class War and Anarchist Federation should as they actually only differ in image and NOTHING else.

Sadly this is wrong. I'm in the AF and as far as I can see Class war generally have a different position on unions (being more uncritical) and Ireland (being basically pro-republican). I could possibly cope with that but Class war also think standing in local elections is fine and I have to draw the line at that. sad

Personally, I feel politicially closer to the SolFed but unfortunately just don't agree with 'the principles of revolutionary syndicalism'.

nastyned
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Dec 10 2003 21:26
RichardGriffin wrote:
Not sure that everyone does need to join national feds. Whether members or not we should still be able to coordinate things. If SF or CW or AF organised something I'd be happy to get involved.

OK, but I think one of the problems with british anarchism is that too few of us are in 'permenant' organisations so every tme we want to organise something we have to set up yet another 'ad hoc' group. Not very efficient and wastes a lot of time an energy in my opinon.

RichardGriffin
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Dec 10 2003 22:03

Ned, I think your views on CW and SF illustrate the point about national feds. Anarchism has so many threads to it that its hard to find any group that fits the bill, but your point about having to set up ad hoc new groups and networks everytime we want to do something is well made. Its a shame that there couldn't be a general federation that brings things together (I think there was one in the 1960s)/

La_Haine
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Dec 10 2003 22:31
RichardGriffin wrote:
Ned, I think your views on CW and SF illustrate the point about national feds. Anarchism has so many threads to it that its hard to find any group that fits the bill, but your point about having to set up ad hoc new groups and networks everytime we want to do something is well made. Its a shame that there couldn't be a general federation that brings things together (I think there was one in the 1960s)/

For me that is what enrager will hopefully help start doing... once we get more people from different groups/areas talking and discussing current actions/campaigns and so forth people will realise that we can work together on so many issues (and there are so many).

Don't stop being critical of each other but don't let that stop us working together on the other issues (anti-fa and prison solidarity seems to be a good start perhaps... and also the g8 in 2005)

nastyned
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Dec 10 2003 23:10
RichardGriffin wrote:
Ned, I think your views on CW and SF illustrate the point about national feds. Anarchism has so many threads to it that its hard to find any group that fits the bill, but your point about having to set up ad hoc new groups and networks everytime we want to do something is well made. Its a shame that there couldn't be a general federation that brings things together (I think there was one in the 1960s)/

there's yer anarcho-syndicalists, yer anarchist communist and class war. Wot more do you want? :?

nihilista
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Dec 11 2003 09:00

Someone asked me to expand on my pithy little comment above.

Okay, what I meant was that rather than just forming more federations and meeting based organisations and doing more prop to try and entice people into 'anarchism', that we (self-defined anarchos) start some 'propaganda by the deed'.

We should be forming strong libertarian schools, social centres, workers co-ops,housing co-ops, co-counselling groups, alternative health networks. We should respond as a group when one of our comrades loses his/her job, is fucked over by social security, is nicked (for anything). We should be growing our own vegetables, etc etc. We should (to quote some christian guy) 'help thyself'. We should, in short, be as disconnected from the state as we can be.

If we can't do this for ourselves, for our comrades and our friends then we have absolutely nothing to offer anyone else except the potential to get arrested on some trot march.

That's what I meant.

ffaker
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Dec 11 2003 11:51
nihilista wrote:
We should be forming strong libertarian schools, social centres, workers co-ops,housing co-ops, co-counselling groups, alternative health networks. ...

If we can't do this for ourselves, for our comrades and our friends then we have absolutely nothing to offer anyone else except the potential to get arrested on some trot march.

HA! So true. I agree with this. And I think that is the point being made about working in local communities. This is vital. It is hard work, but thats what it will come down to i suppose. Deeds. Though propaganda is important too, but our priorities should be rooted in local action IMO. Another point is the other one that has already been made: more co-ordination and reporting. Like, there is already some good local work going on. But perhaps sometimes we are too busy whining about how crap the local trot groups are, when instead we should be talking about the great local social centre or co-op that is starting up and needs help?

Just my 2p.

phoebe
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Dec 11 2003 12:40

I reckon staying united and forming non-hierarchical groups to fight day to day struggles and not spending so much time officially "building the movement" might actually do it. setting up national-level groups without building strong local groups to start with seems doomed because there are no foundations for the actual activists involved (and considering we're anarchists and not a hierarchical party with a someone's mugshot to shove in front of what we do, that kinda means that it has to collapse eventually because it will have huge problems relating to people at large)

Theorising is good, discussing your politics is good. Spending time writing anarcho prop which is just prop for anarchism rather than writing prop against specific issues which contains anarchist analysis seems to happen a lot (or is the way a lot of prop I've seen looks like) and is just a waste of time in terms of getting people actually involved with libertarian politics (and turns people off because most people getting into activism don't want to adopt a new ideology, they want to deal with the problems in the best way possible. Just cause anti-authoritarianism might be in our opinion the best approach to things that doesn't mean other people start from that opinion at the outset.)

um, So yeah, more day to day struggle, less preaching, more interaction, and more active theory instead of discussing which bearded oldie could have which other bearded oldie.

Phoebe

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Dec 11 2003 12:56

I did point out on the thread about Primitivism something I think needs to be repeated again:

It is really worrying that the biggest thread on this site is not about community struggle, Nrew Labour, Iraq, anti-fascism, AIDs or whatever - it is about fucking Primitivism.

Perhaps we could start by being a bit more relevant than that?

phoebe
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Dec 11 2003 12:58

I stopped posting in the primitivism thread because it seemed like it was becoming so much more of an issue in discussion than I felt it should be and didn't want to be part of that.

Garner
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Dec 11 2003 13:36

I think the reason primitivism generated so much debate is because there are people here with some very different views on it.

Community struggle, New Labour, Iraq, etc are things that we all probably broadly agree on, so you won't get so much argument, so threads'll be shorter but more productive.

Mind you, I've given up beating my head against the brick wall of primitivism for now too...

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Dec 12 2003 19:26
La_Haine wrote:
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
you're right about anti-prison stuff. Prisoners have, by definition, already come into collision with the state. Just look at the tactics of the Nation of Islam -- we need to be equally good at helping prisoners. i hear the US ABC groups compete directly with NoI for activists; can we do this?

What exactly are the tactics of the Nation of Islam?

The NoI offer contant support for black prisoners in US jails. They offer a moral code, a view of the world, and anetwork of friends and fellow beievers on the outside. People inside prison are made to feel part of something bigger, and they're encouraged to educate themselves inside. In many ways this is very similar to the practise of the Irish Republican communities.

Of course, both of those networks are alos based in ideas of ethnic exclusivity and obediance to a central authority. But the support they offer is real -- an in return they gather to them a wide section of radical prisoners.

With hte prison population rocketing in the UK we need a way to offer solid support to those who are being targeted by the state. Of course, most of the NoI and IRA membership are working class, and have organic links to the prison population. The UK anarchist movement is made up of a lot of middle cxlass people who don't have links to prisoners. However, we do have links, and we need to use them to empower action within and against the prison system.

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Dec 13 2003 14:49

I've been thinking about this prison thing a lot recently and i've come to the conclusion that we need a strong prisoner support network. I've long been wanting to restart the old ABC network and I know that there are already four functioning local prisoner support groups (Brighton, Bristol, Huddersfield and Leeds - it's likely there are more that I don't know about) plus Haven (free books to prisoners scheme) and the Campaign Against Prison Slavery. We've also got quite a lot of prison contacts that we could use very well in a co-ordinated network. I think it would be a great idea to try and tie them all together in some kind of ABC network.

I think it would be a great idea and I'd be willing to help set up a London ABC group (though I've got A LOT of things on at the moment so I don't want to commit myself too much right now).

Would anyone else want to set up an ABC network in this country?

Kalashnikov_Blues
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Dec 13 2003 23:33

I should know better then to post (or say anything for that matter) when I'm drunk... but it seems to me that the whole of the "movement" is lackin Movement... well yeah, movement and connectivity (is that a word? It is now) everyone supports something different, which is cool, but who will ever see Anarchists as a "threat" if they can't even manage a x-mas party without disent?

I know it sounds gay (in that non offensive way, for those of you easily offended [best not talk to me then] wink ) but i kinda was thinkin that maybe if one were to set up a general anarchsit picnic, you know, no politics (aside from the obviuos) no nothing except some beer and food and maybe a football or two and some sunshine would be nice (now I know that I'm askin for alot...) and just rock out in a totally social way build bonds and friendships and then create a basis from there.

You know, with that sort of back ground, you can use common ground to actually create a movement.

Instead of all this silliness of prisoner rights or food banks or what have you (not that I'm opposed to any community building!) we just need to form a basis to work from.

I could expand on this for hours and rephrase what I have already said. But I'll leave it in your capiable hands. I'm sure you know what I'm on about... I hope...

Start in your own backyard and go from there... 200 Anarchists that are friends are a far stronger force then 10,000 that dont know each other...

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Spartacus
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Dec 17 2003 00:19

i've been thinking of trying to get an abc group started in birmingham for a while, and i think that stronger prisoner solidarity is deffinitely something that we need, as eventually if we actually start being effective in other areas we are going to come up against the state in it's nastiest forms, and if we don't have the safety net there we'll fail and end up in a worse position than before cos no one will take us seriously if we can't stick up for our own.

i don't think you can really get an abc network started just like that, but if maybe we all keep banging on about prisoner support whenever we go to meetings, then any one just involved in anarchism cos they think it makes them cool will get bored and piss off, and all those genuine anarchists will be inspired into being more coordinated about prisoner support and suddenly abc groups will pop up like mushrooms all over the place (i can dream can't i?). it would also be nice if as many local anarchist groups as possible did an occassional picket of wilkinsons, you'll be amazed at the positive response you'll get, and as wilkos are generally in or near working class communities that's a bit of community work as well. it only needs to take two or three hours once a month... and then post a nice little report on the caps website please, it's so nice when i just have to click post on a submitted article rather than cut and paste from an email.

i think what i'm trying to say is, i agree with everything ed says!

including the bit about cw/af/sf, i mean the membership of those three groups added together at an optimistic estimate can't be more than 150, which even in terms of the anarchist movement is tiny, and our points of disagreement are so petty... i mean i'm in class war, yet there are very few points that i would disagree more strongly than a friendly debate with earth firster types, so those between the three class struggle orgs are pretty ridiculous, they're only little theoretical points of no real consequence, i doubt there is actual much difference in our day to day practice other than the image difference. which is why not many people do join them as ned (i think) suggested, because we come across as ridiculously petty and don't really offer much advantage over not being in the feds.

oh dear, i'm rambling, time for bed i think.

nastyned
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Dec 17 2003 10:26

Another attempt is curretly being made to get this more organised.

This was posted to indymedia:

Prisoners, Prisons and info list

Johnny X, 16.12.2003 16:37

Anarchist mailing list for Ireland and Yorkshire.

lumpenlist

Not being aware of any anarchist mailing list in Ireland or Yorkshire concerned with

Prisoners, Prisons and related areas, Dublin and Hull Anarchist Prisoner Support has decided to try and create some sort of place where information of this type can be

exchanged. It has thus created the lumpenlist@anarchistps.org.

We see no reason to keep this disscusion limited to Political or Pow's

and would encourage posting & debate about all categories of Prisoners and

Prisons.

To subscribe to the list send an e-mail with the text ' subscribe

lumpenlist '

to majordomo@anarchistps.org

(APS)

e-mail: anarprisonersupp@hotmail.com

Homepage: http://www.anarchistps.org

JoeBlack
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Dec 17 2003 16:01

I'm going to ask an unpopular question

Could someone explain why they think either anti-fascist or prisoner support work will 'build the anarchist movement'. I'm not looking for a moral or other argument for working in these areas. I'm just curious as to why so many posters have selected them as key areas for (re) building the anarchist movement in Britain.

nastyned
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Dec 17 2003 18:01

I think the reasoning behind this is that most anarchist seem keen on getting involved in anti-fascism and prisoner support work, and we can work together on this regardless of what other groups we're in.

Then I think the hope is that if we're working together on these things we'll then find it easier to work together on other things as well.

JoeBlack
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Dec 18 2003 10:43

OK I can see how these are both areas people in the movement are already active in. But this was sort of what I was driving at in the question. Is 'building the movement' simply getting the existing groups/individuals working together more or does it mean getting people involved who for one reason or another are not involved at the moment?

For anarchists the attraction of both issues is clear, the self-defence element has been pointed out but also they are nice and 'black and white'. The anarchist position on fascism or prisons is obvious enough after all.

But pretty much for the same reasons I think they are not great at pulling in new people. Indeed the organisational realities of either (in particular with relation to security) may even mean that a lot of the time you don't want unknown people involved. So really they are far more of an internal movement need then an external movement builder. Again I'm not arguing against doing either, I'm asking why are these issues central to 'building the anarchist movement'?

I guess there is also a more fundamental point here and that is the extent to which people see building the movement as being about re-grouping existing groups/individuals V 'creating' new anarchists.

ffaker
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Dec 18 2003 11:52

Good point.

I think that the local community is crucial. Rather than setting one or two particular focii (is that a word?) of activism for the whole of the UK, maybe we should focus on one or two particular issues relavent in our particular localities. So if the fash are a threat in your area, that may be something to focus on. If there are kids who can not get school places near to home, then starting or building up free schools could be an excellent long term project.

When I look back on the development of my political ideas over the last few years I can see that in a lot of mays I was an anarchist without realising there was an actual movement or name for it. The main reason for this problem was that the only impression I had of anarchists was "they smash stuff on may day and want chaos". I think there is little we can do to change mainstream media smears, but if we are active on a local level, then people will just know that stuff is false because we work with them on stuff that matters to them.

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JoeMaguire
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Dec 19 2003 18:28

Sticking my oar in, maybe even where its not wanted Id say organisation seems to be the key to our problems.

Anarchy isnt chaos or disruption, on the contray its organisation albiet without hierarchy, leadership and oppression.

But the reality of our movement is you could live in a very small locallity and still have no contact or co-ordination with others in the next town/city...and why is this?

Unless we pool our resources, especially the bods involved and actually do something significant with our forces it just sounds like 'more of the same', which will lead us where...?

And I havent even touched on national co-ordination...

orangeosprey
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Jan 14 2004 12:03

I agree with ed completley, but over a wider spectrum. During the 19th century, the suffergette movement was fragmented in effectual, then they united under the one banner to form the NUWSS, and the movment became galvanised, potent and infulential. excluding the reformist/conformist organizations such as the Communist party of great britian and the like, i believe that all radical left wing groups should form one federal organziation, Eg. ClassWar, the AF , the World Socialist Movent to name but a few. Ieologically, these organizations have little difference, and what differnces there are can be resolved. We are soread far to thin, and the movment is stagnated. We have to unite so we can form a dynamic, proactive movement with a large enough pool of recources,manpower and most importantly ideas from which we build on.