Differences between the AF and WSM

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knightrose
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Dec 8 2006 13:04
Differences between the AF and WSM

Admin - split from here

Hey Joe - you've got the stated aim of setting up a WSM type group over here, haven't you? So what would be the problem?

In any event, I prefer the idea of seriously talking about the differences between the WSM and the AF. Having spent a couple of days sick in bed sad, trawling through your website smile, I reckon they revolve around a couple of points only:
1. attitudes towards the unions - though in reality the difference may be less than you think. Most of us are in unions where we can be, attend branch meetings and try to argue for militant action. One or two of us have been and at times are stewards and union reps. What we don't do is try to reform them.
2. Nuances around the national question. You've obviously been doing a lot of thinking about it yourselves recently, judging by your psoition paper on Ireland and partition.
3. You have a better organisational structure and demand more of your members.

We do function as a federalist group. We have regular delegate Meetings which decide policy between the annual conference. The conference decides on collective issues, hears reports from (elected) officers, decides on policy - for example our collective decision to invlove ourselves in the Defy ID campaign.

We don't discuss lengthy position papers, though we do hold theoretical discussions. I'm not sure what is best.

We do actively recruit (although not actively enough - I like your idea of three meetings then be asked to join). We are trying to build a unified anarchist movement.

Our paper Resistance serves a similar function to Workers Solidarity. The editors try to ensure that the content reflects the collective view of the AF.

Although we often aim for consensus, we are happy enough to take majority votes on issues.

We are serious about international work. Joining IFA and functioning as the current secretariat is proof of that.

Like I say, I think there's more that unites us than divides us.

knightrose
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Dec 8 2006 13:11

can you get rid of my effort at a split then?

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AndrewF
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Dec 8 2006 15:32
knightrose wrote:
you've got the stated aim of setting up a WSM type group over here, haven't you?

I guess this is a reference to
As none of the current anarchist groups in Britain are moving in our direction or seem likely do so in the future we should have a medium term objective of encouraging contacts in Britain towards setting up an organisation along similar lines to ourselves. When resources permit, this will involve producing a bulletin for Britain and organising meetings over there..
Building an anarchist international - http://www.wsm.ie/story/848

knightrose wrote:
I reckon they revolve around a couple of points only:

While I think you are right to pick out these particular issues I also think the difference is a reflection of a bigger issue - the question of what the role of an anarchist organisation is and what does it do today.

I've a minor problem in discussing this as the relevant position paper, 'The role of the anarchist organisation' has not been revised in many years so its a bit of a crude reflection of our current practise and doesn't reflect our development in recent years. I suppose part of the reason we haven't got around to a revision is that the answer seems fairly obvious to anyone in or in the process of joining the WSM. Anyway despite that disclaimer I'll use the paper as it stands to illustrate what I mean

9 We seek influence for our ideas in all class organisations. In real terms that means WSM will go forward for all positions in the unions and other bodies where there is the possibility of mandating and recall. We will never accept any position that is not under the control of the members of that body. Such positions are not ends in themselves. The struggle to win them must be bound up with a fight for more democracy, more mandating, more control. We are striving for the self-activity of the many .
The Role of the Anarchist Organisation - http://www.wsm.ie/story/34

Ignore for the moment that this section uses the example of unions, what it is actually talking of is what others have called social insertion. This is the idea that the role of the anarchist organisation is not simply to propagandise for anarchism but also as an organisation to involve itself in struggles as part of whatever organisations the working class has created.

I have the very strong impression that while the AF functions as a propaganda organisation the involvement in struggles as an organisation is close to non-existent in particular if you exclude involvement in anarchist campaigns. This is not to say that individual members are not involved in struggles or that at times individuals do not seek to work with other individuals in the AF involved in the same issue. But this is rather different from an organisation deciding to collectively agree an approach to a struggle and for its militants to then implement this approach within that struggle in a co-ordinated manner.

It is possible this impression is false, its basically formed on the basis of what the AF put in the public sphere. You make a reference to AF policy in relation to the Defy ID campaign you might want to expand on that as a counter example.

knightrose wrote:
1. attitudes towards the unions - though in reality the difference may be less than you think. Most of us are in unions where we can be, attend branch meetings and try to argue for militant action. One or two of us have been and at times are stewards and union reps. What we don't do is try to reform them.

The above is a sort of example of what I mean. It doesn't create the impression that the AF as an organisation has a common strategy for union work rather some do's and don'ts which are filled in by individual initative. The interesting exception here is what I presume is a collective decision to join the IWW. Regardless of how useful I think that strategy is I think having a positive strategy is in itself a step forward, if one strategy fails it means the door is already open to learn from this, discuss alternatives and adopt a new collective strategy.

WSM policy on union membership is a lot more definitive

7.2 We encourage 100% union membership and all WSM members are members of their appropriate trade union. When members take up employment in non-union jobs, they are expected to join an appropriate trade union

There is also a large difference is contained in your last line that What we don't do is try to reform them.

In contrast this is what our position paper says
7.6.5 UNION DEMOCRACY

(a) We fight to change the role of the full-time officials - not to change the individuals who occupy the positions. Their decision-making powers have to be removed and returned to the rank & file membership. They should be elected and paid no more than the average wage of the people they represent. They should only serve for a fixed period of no more than five years after which they return to ordinary work. The unions will have to win the demand for jobs to be kept open in order for this to be realistic.

[i](b) All officials to be subject to mandation and recall.

(c) We are totally opposed to the ICTU "two tier" picket.

(d) For regular branch and workplace meetings, in working hours where this is possible.

(e) For direct elections to all committees, conference delegations and national officerships, subject to mandation and recall.

(f) All strikes to be automatically made official as long as they do not contradict trade union principles.

(g) Support for all disputes, official or unofficial, in pursuit of higher wages, better conditions, jobs, trade union principles or any issue in the interest of the class.

(h) For the publication of minutes of all union meetings.

(i) Where revolutionaries can gain enough support to win election to national officerships in large unions, or indeed small ones, this support should not be used to merely elect a candidate. Instead it should be used to fundamentally change the structure of the union in such a way as to return power to the membership and turn the officers into administrators and resource people rather than decision makers.
The trade unions - http://www.wsm.ie/story/423

The AF position of leaving it up to individual member to participate in the unions but not fighting for union democracy doesn't make a whole lot of sense except as a moment in a debate between those who favour and those who oppose involvement in the unions. That is its not a strategy but simply a compromise that leaves you without a strategy.

knightrose wrote:
2. Nuances around the national question. You've obviously been doing a lot of thinking about it yourselves recently, judging by your psoition paper on Ireland and partition.

I think we have done a huge amount of work in this area since we formed in 1984 because the situation we found ourselves in was one where there was no decent treatment of imperialism in general or Ireland in particular anywhere in the Anglo anarchist movement. Instead what you had was a sterile division between those who saw the likes of the IRA as freedom fighters on the one hand and those who saw them as murdering nationalists on the other. Neither of these positions was much use to us on the ground - indeed anarchists in Ireland who adopted the first tended to take the obvious step and join the 'republican movement'.

Developing our position to the point it is at today is I think one of our major theoretical achivements. The AF position on the other hand is to me simply avoids the complexities by limiting itself to a short rhetorical statement. Given the intimate involvement of the British state in Ireland this to me is a very serious over sight if perhaps one that is being swept away by the changes that have happened in the last decade over here.

I do think it is indicative of an ongoing problem which is the AF does not have any position on imperialism that provides a solid basis for acting on. Given the continued role of the British state as the military partner of US imperialist interventions I think this is a significant problem.

knightrose wrote:
We don't discuss lengthy position papers, though we do hold theoretical discussions.

How do new members or those who did not make a conference come to understand what the outcomes of such theoretical discussions are? Position papers have the disadvantage of making an organisation look very bookish but they make the transmission of very detailed theoretical discussions both within an organisation and through time possible.

knightrose wrote:
We do actively recruit (although not actively enough - I like your idea of three meetings then be asked to join).

Yes this works very well and is a vast improvement on our previous method which was based around a lengthy reading list. That didn't work well at all and also led to the legend that you had to sit some form of exam in order to join.

knightrose wrote:
Our paper Resistance serves a similar function to Workers Solidarity.

I might be wrong but I'm of the impression from the content that Resistance is very much aimed at anarchists and activists whereas WS is mostly aimed at 'the man in the street' and is mostly (80%) distributed door to door. I'm not sure how important this difference is.

knightrose
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Dec 8 2006 15:43

Just to deal with the simple one, and because I like answering things quickly,

Quote:
knightrose wrote:

Our paper Resistance serves a similar function to Workers Solidarity.
You said:
I might be wrong but I'm of the impression from the content that Resistance is very much aimed at anarchists and activists whereas WS is mostly aimed at 'the man in the street' and is mostly (80%) distributed door to door. I'm not sure how important this difference is.

Funny, I'd have said the same about WS! I've only seen a couple of copies - which in itself is a shame and something that should be put right - but I'd have said that whatever your intention, WS reads much the same as Resistance. Most of the distribution of Resistance is done in the street. Not on demos, not at meetings, but around shopping centres and tube stations. In Manchester we distribute most of ours in Market St, for example. It is intended to be for the 'man in the street'. I know we sometimes fail! That's a problem when a small organisation is trying to produce a paper 10 times a year. (Actually there have been 13 this year, with three special issues).

I'm going to have to go away and give the rest of your post a think. The trouble with the WSM is that you never say anything briefly smile

knightrose
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Dec 8 2006 16:46

Another go at answering some of your post. Please accept that any msirepresentation of your views is accidental. It's very difficult to reply to such a long post. Presumably we can work out what we both mean as we discuss things.
From our Aims and principles:

Quote:
Our ultimate aim must be the complete abolition of wage slavery. Working within the unions can never achieve this. However, we do not argue for people to leave unions until they are made irrelevant by the revolutionary event. The union is a common point of departure for many workers. Rank and file initiatives may strengthen us in the battle for anarchist-communism. What's important is that we organise ourselves collectively, arguing for workers to control struggles themselves.

We recognise that workers will most likely organise through their trade unions. We argue for workers to control what goes on in disputes through their meetings. For example, there are two AF members at my school (the family again smile). We are both NUT members. When we were on strike last year we argued for there to be a picket line, we stood on the picket line - despite one of us being on a temporary contract. Moreover at meetings at school we argued for a militant position (successfully) and argued that no deal should be done without the members having ratified it. To my mind that goes with the wording and the spirit of our Aims and Principles.
You said:

Quote:
In contrast this is what our position paper says
7.6.5 UNION DEMOCRACY

(a) We fight to change the role of the full-time officials - not to change the individuals who occupy the positions. Their decision-making powers have to be removed and returned to the rank & file membership. They should be elected and paid no more than the average wage of the people they represent. They should only serve for a fixed period of no more than five years after which they return to ordinary work. The unions will have to win the demand for jobs to be kept open in order for this to be realistic.

Our view would be that this is an impossibility.
Our Aims and Principles state:

Quote:
Unions by their very nature cannot become vehicles for the revolutionary transformation of society. They have to be accepted by capitalism in order to function and so cannot play a part on its overthrow.

From a purely pragmatic point of view our experience is that the unions are organised in a way which prevents them being democratised. They are organised top down. The union heirachies control the conferences and even control what motions can be discussed. Again speaking from my own position, in the NUT every year we are sent a list of motions for conference. We have to prioritise a handful. Those with enough support MAY get discussed. More likely they will get rewritten by the Executive as a composite motion. The unions here rely on militants from left groups - they run around like crazy doing all the hard work. They get to change nothing - because the rule book acts against them. Is that not also your experience in Ireland? I'd guess that's why a number of you joined the IWU as it is relatively new and probably not bureaucratised yet.

However, aren't we both arguing for the same thing? That workers in struggle should control the struggle themselves? That in times of struggle it is necessary to break out of the craft confines imposed by the unions? That workers should mandate their delegates and so on?

We discussed position papers. Our policy appears in our pamphlets. They are all the collective expression of the AF's views. As such they are distributed to all members prior to publication and are discussed at our Delegate Meetings. We urgently need to produce one on trade unions, that I'd agree.

Quote:
I do think it is indicative of an ongoing problem which is the AF does not have any position on imperialism that provides a solid basis for acting on. Given the continued role of the British state as the military partner of US imperialist interventions I think this is a significant problem.

But if you look at recent issues of Resistance there has been a lot written about Iraq, Palestine and so on. The current issue does too. Members of Manchester AF support a picket at Marks and Spencers about Palestine and Israel. Our local website has a lengthy section from Anarchists Against the Wall. We organised a large(ish) anarchist bloc on the September demonstration in Manchester against the war (with the collaboration of comrades in Solfed). Last week our London comrades helped organise a picket in support of the people in Oaxaca. If you look on the IFA website you'll see the statement we produced. They did the same earlier in the year in support of the Belarussian comrades.

Personally, I have been on dozens of demos against the war in Iraq. We've produced stickers and leaflets arguing for withdrawal. What more can we do? These fit in with our Aims and Principles.

We never take sides in inter-imperialist conflicts. Our solidarity is always with the workers and peasants involved. This can be hard to express at times.

Finally, for now. You speak of social insertion. We talk about providing a leadership of ideas. We see ourselves as part of the class, albeit a miltiant part.

Enough for now.

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AndrewF
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Dec 8 2006 19:27

OK I think on the question of union reform there is a difference and IMHO a significant one that would have a impact on a fairly regular basis for anyone active in a union.

My problem with the AF position is that it gives up the struggle prematurerly - indeed it doesn't want to fight it all all. Now I'd accept what you post about the difficulties facing any fight for reform and your not wrong when you suggest this is connected with our experimentation with the IWU.

But and its a big but the revolutionary project itself is difficult, success in almost anything we do, particularly in a period of low struggle will be rare. So we need to distinguish the merly difficult from the impossible.

I think the sort of democratic program we talk of could only be won in periods of high and prolonged struggle, I'm not under the illusion it could be carried at a conference now by argument alone. I would also expect the bureaucracy to oppose it and indeed through manipulation of rule books try and rule such things 'out of order'. The counter to this is of course that they can't afford to split the membership by going too far. But even in the right circumstances none of this is easy.

But impossible? I think that is exactly the sort of crystal ball judgement we should avoid.

Secondly and just as important there is then question of how struggles play out within the working class. Particularly coming out of a long period of passivity struggle will almost be cerrtainly for unionisation and as problems occur for democratisation of the unions. Anarchists certainly need to be a leadership of ideas within this but part of effective leadership is knowing when your arguments will find an echo and when they won't. It may turn out that in at least some unions there is no possibility of reform but preaching this from the start not only assumes we already know this but also that this is an arguement that would have a positive influence.

It seems obvious to me for instance that if you are to have a split those who will be listened to will not be the cassandras who have preached doom from the sidelines from the start but rather those associated with the struggle for democracy. 'I told you so's' may get self satisfaction but they are seldom popular.

knightrose wrote:
However, aren't we both arguing for the same thing? That workers in struggle should control the struggle themselves? That in times of struggle it is necessary to break out of the craft confines imposed by the unions? That workers should mandate their delegates and so on?

For sure - we are all anarchists. I dare say anyone in SF reading the above would also agree as would probably Class War or (ex) Wombles. But your right its no harm to remind ourslelves that on the broad question we have much in common - that often gets lost in squabbles over details.

knightrose wrote:
Our policy appears in our pamphlets. They are all the collective expression of the AF's views.

Ah right I didn't know this, I'd presumed they were like Organise articles. This does mean the AF has a good deal more cohesian than I'd given it credit for.

The one problem I'd see with this is that pamphlets have more of a tendency to be fixed in stone (because they tend to be mass produced) so if you change them 6 months later you've a big expensive pile of outdated stock. I reckon our partition paper was amended on average every 8 months or so, it would have been hell if it was a pamphlet. As it is Organise! got stuck with a large pile of their pamphlet that replied to our position paper that no longer existed around 6 months after publication.

I'll end this post here to keep the length managable and go on to imperialism in another.

knightrose
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Dec 8 2006 20:14
Quote:
It seems obvious to me for instance that if you are to have a split those who will be listened to will not be the cassandras who have preached doom from the sidelines from the start but rather those associated with the struggle for democracy. 'I told you so's' may get self satisfaction but they are seldom popular.

I think the counter to this is to ensure that the anarchists are always amongst the most militant workers, always pushing for spreading the struggle, always arguing for democratic forms of struggle.

A parallel might be with the struggle against the Poll Tax in the late 80s and early 90s here. It was mostly dominated by Militant, which was a trot group inside the Labour Party. Labour then were the opposition. The view that they expressed was that we should call for Labour to do this, that and the other. We, of course, opposed them. That didn't stop our views being listened to with respect by others. But the reason for that was because we made sure we did the hard work of agitating and organising.

Likewise in the early-90s a couple of us (then in Subversion) - were able to help push through a strike in support of a teacher who was sacked from a local school. Sadly nothing came of it. Then when more job cuts were threatened, the two of us argued hard for strike action. We visited local schools and addressed meetings to that effect. In that we were up against some of the local bureaucracy (so-called lefts too) and we lost narrowly.

Incidentally, despite our anti-union reputation, three of us in Subversion (which never numbered more than 9) were stewards/reps at one time or another.

My problem with the unions is not simply pragmatic. It's also based on the real struggles of the working class. In times of heightened struggle, the unions have invariably sided against the working class. Even during the miners strike here, the NUM sabotaged a number of the more radical activities going on and the TUC actively prevented real solidarity. In any event, our role is simple - to push for the extension of the struggle.

Incidentally, I'm not trying to sound like Mr Super-Militant here. The examples I'm giving are from quite a lengthy period of political activity. Life is normally pretty ordinary. It's just occasionally it all gets interesting.

Going back to an issue in an earlier post. We took a collective decision two years ago to involve ourselves in Defy ID. I reckon that decision has kept the campaign going. It's also helped stop the other, softer campaign No2ID, become too hopelessly reactionary! Our decision meant that we discuss our activities at NDMs (National Delegate Meetings) and that we always carry an article on the subject in Resistance. Members of the AF are active in this campaign in Nottingham, Liverpool and Manchester. We've also made a decision to support Rossport and have organised solidarity actions in London and Manchester. Again, these are discussed at NDMs.

We could do more, I know. But we are relatively small and have limited time. I suspect others (like yourselves)are not aware of how we operate. As I said on another thread, the people who set up the ACF were influenced by the Platform and some of that remains today.

As to the pamphlets. The main policy statement is Beyond Resistance. Aspects of Anarchism also reflects our general views. Ecology and Class is somewhat more general but nobody disagreed with it. The Work pamphlet is a speculative effort which we published because it raised interesting ideas for discussion. The new one on Resistance to Nazism is a historical account. However, the introduction was put in the IB and approved by Conference. We generally only print a couple of hundred at a time, so if we changed our minds about an issue that would not be a problem.

Finally, although Organise articles only represent the views of the authors, they all fall within the bounds of our Aims and Principles, unless we say otherwise.

It strikes me that relations between the AF and WSM would improve if there was more actual face to face contact. Before I went over to Rossport this summer I was incredibly hostile to you guys.

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madashell
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Dec 9 2006 01:01
JoeBlack2 wrote:
The above is a sort of example of what I mean. It doesn't create the impression that the AF as an organisation has a common strategy for union work rather some do's and don'ts which are filled in by individual initative. The interesting exception here is what I presume is a collective decision to join the IWW.

We actually discussed this at our last conference, I can't remember the exact decision we came to if I'm honest (I missed that bit), but it wasn't that the AF should become involved in the IWW as an organisation.

*Edited second paragraph out*

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Dec 9 2006 01:40

...lol, no it wasn't a collective decision - I think we just said it was rather good idea (!) and down to what individuals, but the AF would always remain separate.

Interesting conversation, I might come back on it.

ticking_fool
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Dec 9 2006 08:09
Quote:
It strikes me that relations between the AF and WSM would improve if there was more actual face to face contact.

Anarchist exchange visits! (Only half jokng...)

knightrose
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Dec 9 2006 08:42

The conference decision was very vague. Something of a fudge to be honest. It's an issue we need to discuss properly at the next Conference and make a proper decision about, based on our experiences.
The reasons offered for AFers joining the IWW were that it didn't really function as an alternative union, but was the nearest to our strategy of workplace reisstance groups that existed.
But, as I said, we unfortunately fudged the final decision.

knightrose
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Dec 9 2006 08:44
Quote:
Anarchist exchange visits! (Only half jokng...)

I think it would be sensible if a decent sized group of us went over to the Dublin Bookfair, reciprocating the WSM's efforts with the London one.

ticking_fool
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Dec 9 2006 08:50
Quote:
I think it would be sensible if a decent sized group of us went over to the Dublin Bookfair, reciprocating the WSM's efforts with the London one.

That's not a bad idea. It's in March isn't it?

jack white
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Dec 9 2006 09:44
knightrose wrote:
Before I went over to Rossport this summer I was incredibly hostile to you guys.

Why was that?

knightrose
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Dec 9 2006 12:36

It was based on assumptions that derived from a cursory reading of your stuff back in the 80s.
I have a feeling that the negative assumptions have worked both ways.

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Dec 9 2006 14:25
knightrose wrote:
I think the counter to this is to ensure that the anarchists are always amongst the most militant workers, always pushing for spreading the struggle, always arguing for democratic forms of struggle.

Sure its always possible for good work to at least partially overcome a theoretically problematic position. But you start getting onto some odd contradictions where the organisation appears to say one thing while the membership appear to actually do something else. The example you give from Subversion is a good illustration, a group that on the outside proclaimed an 'outside and against' position in relation to the unions but on the inside 1/3 of whose members were actually shop stewards presumably in recognition of certain realtities.

IMHO this sort of situation is all too common on the left and the source of major weaknesses. Modern anarchism seems particularly prone to it. I think anywhere there is a clash between what we say and what we do creates an urgency to re-examne both with the aim of resolving that contradiction. From whats above it sounds like the AF is on the path to do this in relation to individual involvement in the IWW becoming some sort of collective decision to be involved.

On the Dublin anarchist bookfair - it will take place 2/3 March and the AF are already on the list of groups to be invited over. If its likely a few will come let it would be useful to know as it will help us determine what to arrange for the Friday night.

IrrationallyAngry
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Dec 9 2006 14:41

One of the issues raised in Joe Black's first post on this thread seems to have been glossed over a bit since: That of acting and intervening as an organisation, as opposed to making propaganda collectively but operating as individuals in practical matters.

From where I'm sitting (ie outside the anarchist movement) it seems to me that the single biggest difference is that WSM, despite being a smaller group than the AF, is organisationally tighter and more effective. There are plenty of things I don't agree with the WSM on, but they are an effective group for their size. Making decisions about events and campaigns as an organisation and implementing them as an organisation makes them a force of sorts at least in the small world of the left. With all due respect to the AF they seem to be rather less than the sum of their parts. Much the same could be said about SolFed.

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Dec 9 2006 16:18
knightrose wrote:
Quote:
Anarchist exchange visits! (Only half jokng...)

I think it would be sensible if a decent sized group of us went over to the Dublin Bookfair, reciprocating the WSM's efforts with the London one.

seconded. And volunteered.

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Dec 9 2006 16:19
madashell wrote:
We actually discussed this at our last conference, I can't remember the exact decision we came to if I'm honest (I missed that bit), but it wasn't that the AF should become involved in the IWW as an organisation.

what kinda right-wing reformist bastard proposed that?! grin

sovietpop
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Dec 9 2006 22:34
ticking_fool wrote:
Quote:
I think it would be sensible if a decent sized group of us went over to the Dublin Bookfair, reciprocating the WSM's efforts with the London one.

That's not a bad idea. It's in March isn't it?

First weekend in March. I'm always encouraging anarchists to come visit us, it'd be excellent if you could make it over.

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madashell
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Dec 9 2006 23:37
Tacks wrote:
madashell wrote:
We actually discussed this at our last conference, I can't remember the exact decision we came to if I'm honest (I missed that bit), but it wasn't that the AF should become involved in the IWW as an organisation.

what kinda right-wing reformist bastard proposed that?! grin

I don't know, but I hear they got a letter of expulsion the next day sad

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Dec 10 2006 02:19
sovietpop wrote:
ticking_fool wrote:
Quote:
I think it would be sensible if a decent sized group of us went over to the Dublin Bookfair, reciprocating the WSM's efforts with the London one.

That's not a bad idea. It's in March isn't it?

First weekend in March. I'm always encouraging anarchists to come visit us, it'd be excellent if you could make it over.

Too right every one should come and visit us. We're like you know into class struggle only sexier. Mr. T

sovietpop
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Dec 10 2006 08:50

Tell it like it is brother.

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Serge Forward
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Dec 10 2006 08:59

I've already stayed with members of the WSM and a couple of WSMers came and stayed with me, and political differences aside, it was all very nice... but that was about 20 years ago. Maybe this time, instead of just nice, it could be something really beautiful wink

gurrier
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Dec 10 2006 14:02
IrrationallyAngry wrote:
One of the issues raised in Joe Black's first post on this thread seems to have been glossed over a bit since: That of acting and intervening as an organisation, as opposed to making propaganda collectively but operating as individuals in practical matters.

From where I'm sitting (ie outside the anarchist movement) it seems to me that the single biggest difference is that WSM, despite being a smaller group than the AF, is organisationally tighter and more effective. There are plenty of things I don't agree with the WSM on, but they are an effective group for their size. Making decisions about events and campaigns as an organisation and implementing them as an organisation makes them a force of sorts at least in the small world of the left. With all due respect to the AF they seem to be rather less than the sum of their parts. Much the same could be said about SolFed.

I get the same impression in general but as Knightrose says above, this could be just an impression from a distance. However, it is definitely borne out by the different propaganda put out by the AF and the WSM. I mean it almost seems to me that members of the AF are slightly ashamed of being in an organisation and are very reluctant to promote it - I rarely see articles about AF involvement in campaigns or promotions of the work that the AF has done in a particular area.

I would tentatively suggest that this might be both
a) a reaction to the strength of trot organisations, some of whom did this to ridiculous levels (eg. swp) and completely subjugated all struggles to the party
b) a reflection of the relative strength of anti-organisational influences both in the general anarchist milieu across the water and also within the AF itself.

As I say above, this could be just an erroneous impression from a distance and it's definitely not meant as an attack - that's just how it seems from here.

In terms of practical cooperation, the biggest potential problem I'd see is the ultra-left and councillist influences in the AF. We're involved in all sorts of stuff on a day to day level and much of our internal debate is very practically focused - what should we do tomorrow in campaign x. I personally find that ultra-leftism is a hindrance in such debates - general purpose sloganeering which is intrinsically hostile to pragmatism. Once gain, however, this might just be an impression picked up off these boards and might not at all be an accurate reflection of thought in the AF.

Still, if a good few of ye could make it over for the Dublin bookfair, it would definitely be a very good first step. Peope are so much more nuanced in the real world.

IrrationallyAngry
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Dec 10 2006 14:27
gurrier wrote:
I get the same impression in general but as Knightrose says above, this could be just an impression from a distance.

This may be a function of my own political background, but I just can't see the point in being in an organisation that doesn't act as an organisation.

gurrier wrote:
I would tentatively suggest that this might be both
a) a reaction to the strength of trot organisations, some of whom did this to ridiculous levels (eg. swp) and completely subjugated all struggles to the party
b) a reflection of the relative strength of anti-organisational influences both in the general anarchist milieu across the water and also within the AF itself.

I think that about sums it up, particularly when you take into account the large number of British anarchists who seem to be ex-SWP and who seem to have reacted strongly against their own previous experiences. My impression of British anarchism is that there seems to be an almost pathological opposition to organised recruitment and even to the organised selling of publications.

That's particularly true in the broader libertarian/anarchoid milieu but is also the case amongst people who are actually in class struggle organisations. And there are other influences which parts of the British class struggle anarchist movement react against just as strongly and almost as counterproductively. The different approaches taken by the WSM and the most militantly anti-"lifestylist" elements on this site towards things like summit protests are a case in point.

From where I'm sitting, something like the G8 protests in Scotland looked like a gift-wrapped opportunity for class struggle anarchist organisations. Their political opponents had done them the favour of gathering together a large number of people, pre-filtered to be much more open to anarchist ideas than most of the rest of society. But instead of going there, getting in amongst the punters and seeking to recruit both to their organisations and more generally to class struggle ideas, the responses seemed to range from half-hearted involvement to aggressive dismissal.

The potential recruits were written off in advance as hideous liberals, while the very idea of recruiting was written off as being proto-SWP behaviour. This is the problem with defining your politics negatively, primarily in opposition to other currents rather than positively.

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Tacks
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Dec 10 2006 15:26

er... I concur.

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McCormick
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Dec 10 2006 15:48

Hmmm. I think the Anarchist Federation, SolFed and the IWW for that matter, could have done a lot more around the G8. Individual members certainly did quite a bit.

IWWs were amongst the most active organisers of the Festival of Full Enjoyment - one of the few attempts by the anti-capitalist/libertarians to reach out to the workers of Edinburgh (or anywhere else). On the day, things didn't work out so well but it was an attempt (the only one?)to connect the G8 with the everyday exploitation of the working class.

As for the AF, members from London, Leeds,Newcastle, Sheffield, South Wales and elsewhere did come up for the events. Most stayed at the Stirling camp.

On the massive walk around Edinburgh, the AF had a stall, distributed thousands of Resistance and sold Organise!Several people joined the AF after meeting them on the 'walk' and at the camp.

But, yes, more could have been done. Much more I'm sure.There were some very dismissive attitudes.

martinh
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Dec 11 2006 10:29

If I can fit it in I'm hoping to go over to the Dublin bookfair as well. Had a very good time there before and it is good to see people working together well in a way I don't think would be possible here.

Regards,

Martin

Battlescarred
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Dec 11 2006 11:04

I'm afraid your impressions of the AF are fallacious, Guerrier. We organise massive distributions of Resistance around the countrey ( WE've distributed 400 a month in South Wales on a regular basis) and in London we have at least two Resistance distros and up to as many as 6 per month ( that's outside of demos and meetings) We always have a presence of denmos in London ( as well as the recent united contingent in Manchester) and always try to have a stall. We do regular flyposings and stickerings ( which few other anarchist groups seem to do these days) I have never met anyone in the AF who exhibits "anti-organisational" tendencies. ( and obviously in the past there was our massive investment in the Polltax movement, with large numbers of posters and stickers and 2 pamphlets, often reprinted by local poll tax groups)
No, we do tend not to blow our own trumpet, but we are active and heavily involved in Defy ID and have produced several editions of a pamphlet around that issue in a large run, massively distributed free ( as well as two stickers and a poster around the theme). In London some of us are involved in the anti-Olympics group and we organised a meeting about this at last Bookkfair. AFers are similarly involved around the country in various activities, social centres etc.
I'm actually quite aghast at the caricature you have presented.

anarchol
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Dec 11 2006 13:10
Battlescarred wrote:
We organise massive distributions of Resistance around the countrey ( WE've distributed 400 a month in South Wales on a regular basis)

Wasn't all that done by one person (who has since left the AF, but not anarchist activism) in one small south wales town?