Anarchist Movement Conference

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Fall Back's picture
Fall Back
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Jun 7 2009 21:45
Anarchist Movement Conference

How was it?

Did anything explicit come out of it?

nastyned
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Jun 7 2009 21:49

I heard it was good. I didn't go myself so no details though.

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Jun 7 2009 22:35

I thought it was good. My expectations were quite low following on from some of the preparation and planning meetings and in general although nothing concrete emerged from the event I was impressed. It was always going to be a reflection process more than anything, and I was left with a better perception of others than prior to the conference.

The discussions were a mixed bag. Being broken up and scattered into random groups, the politics in the 15 odd rooms were pretty varied and with different levels of expierence. I felt we never got down to specifics in the topics because we spent alot of time covering what I would consider the abcs of anarchism, so it did feel like reinventing the wheel, especially when we had a long drawn out discussion of individualism vs. collectivism and on definitions of class.

If the politics of people was up a notch or two (or more of a class struggle anarchist bent), I think the format would have really worked and more potential could have emerged. 300 people apparently registered, the organisers hadnt been saddled with the debt which most people had imagined and I didnt see any sectarianism I had imagined smile A semi success methinks.

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Jun 7 2009 22:50

Yeah, I thought it was an excellent conference. Will post a detailed response later. The discussion was good in my group. It did concentrate on theory, but maybe this was needed, and there was a time constrait. The main themes to come out of my group (I couldn't stay for the final session where all the groups came together) were...

* That we don't need one federation, but rather we should work together around common principles and aims. That AF, Solfed, CW, Freedom etc all have a role within our movement, as do the many local groups, social centres, community groups etc.

* That this is a period of low workers struggle, but nevertheless anarchist ideas can be important in the struggles that do occur. That class consciousness is contradictory and that the recession can lead to anti capitalist struggle but also can increase the dangers from far right nationalism.

* That we should RESPECT the diversity of our movement. That we should work together, and build stronger networks between anarchists.

raw
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Jun 7 2009 23:40

A report from one group hear: http://london.indymedia.org.uk/articles/1543

I thought it went to plan, it gave people a sense of confidence about seeing ourselves as a potential cohesive movement.

As for the class argument, I'd say 90%+ were class-struggle anarchists and those that saw class division as central to anarchist anaylsis of oppression.

The intervention by no pretense was theatrical (see http://publish.indymedia.org.uk/en/2009/06/431897.html) but I think they made a needed point though certain parts of the video they showed were misrepresentative.

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Jun 8 2009 10:37

The Saturday was a bit hit and miss, but yeah with the mix of people you were always going to end up spending a big part of the first day explaining positions and such.

It was pretty heartening though that class and community politics was by far the most visible presence, and in our group most of the strongest voices were along those lines - which meant the Sunday was actually pretty good, we came up with some interesting ideas.

Best overall stuff imo would probably be:

- The plan to establish a central online clearing house for local groups and skill sets so people can access knowledge and help more easily - personally I'd like that to have gone through libcom but I think realistically the site's reputation and direction probably prohibits it.
- The call to properly link up community and workplace groups so we can share info about upcoming problems and plan ahead. Personally, I argued that this should be semi-formalised into a delegate structure of individuals for every group tasked with regularly - like once every two weeks say - talking with other related or nearby linking people. Sort of like the international secretary position in a fed, but drilled down a bit.
- The call for a national publication supported by as many anarchist groups as possible, possibly using Freedom as a base.

The intervention was a bit cringeworthy, the point was fine, the portrayal of a blanked out everywoman holding a flag on the promo literature as sexist was just bizarre. The spectacle of about 250 people applauding and cheering every time they were told how sexist they were being was a bit weird as well - surely actual sexists would have been a bit, well, meaner?

Battlescarred
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Jun 8 2009 10:41

Odd that the intervention actually interrupted a woman speaking

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Jun 8 2009 11:14

I don't think anyone was too bothered about it, I wasn't tbh - I'd started zoning out a bit at that point wink. Plus they were reasonably quick and to the point, if they'd insisted on dragging it out for ages I think there would have been a bit more irritation.

But yeah the active applause was for what they were saying mainly, which is that there's still alot of (usually unintentional) sexism in the anarchist movement.

Which is a fair enough point, but tbh not one which required an intervention because mostly, people will agree with you. It's like going to a green conference and saying 'you know, I think sometimes greens can be a bit environmentally unfriendly'. Technically it's true, and you'll get a thumbs up, but worthy of a direct action? Probably not.

raw
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Jun 8 2009 11:32

The main proposals which came out were:

Economic Criss - Support Groups
- Resources for workers regarding occupations
- Web resources
- Solidarity groups
- anti-repossesions groups

National newspaper
- Either create a widely distributed newspaper or make freedom into one

Anarchist/Libertarian Website Resource
- contain a directory of all groups (a form was passed around for this)
- collacting strategy documents from diff. orgs
- list of anarchist/libertarian speakers
- this means that anyway that is good at speaking on a subject or training can be listed so that other groups can organise meetings based on those topics
-- i.e. How to set-up a workers coop? Organising at work?...etc
- all the materials, leaflet will also be available so to enable small groups host events, quickly without re-inventing the wheel.
- Anarchist Style guide - suggestions for language, articles on design, tutorials on design.

non-electioral manifesto for elections
To create a more effective response during elections from abstentionist position, so that anarchists ideas can become part of the dialogue.

Mission Statement
To divise a clear set of ideas on what we are for and how we can achieve this. The idea was for it to be a short statement, with bullet points that can become a generic document for the general public.

Mass, hi quality agit-prop campaign
this is similar to the above, the idea is to produce a set of flyers, stickers, posters that can present ideas on the world from an anarchist perspective. The aim is to educate and inform the people what anarchist ideas represent. This was thought of as ONE way of breaking down the isolation and marginalisation that anarchists have with the wider world.

all these are open to input. Was we have the minutes back from each group we will keep people updated.

There is a follow up meeting in October at the Anarchist Bookfair.

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Jun 8 2009 11:35

I agree Rob. I missed the intervention cos I had to leave before the final session. But I can see how it was applauded given the nature of the conference. The conference was a positive experience. I'm hopeful it will strengthen our movement through the creation of networks and groups working together. I was also impressed with the group discussion.

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Jun 8 2009 11:41

It sounds like a really good conference.

I especially agree with the idea that Anarchism has to re-establish its connection with the wider world and the greater mass of people.

Good, practical suggestions. Hopefully more events like this can be organised. smile

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Jun 8 2009 11:49

My group wanted this to be an on going annual event, with maybe an international conference every 3 or 5 years. This is all positive and we also need to work with each other locally in between the "big events" and the big actions.

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Jun 8 2009 12:22
raw wrote:
National newspaper
- Either create a widely distributed newspaper or make freedom into one

Would that mean dissolving all the sheets from the Feds etc etc and plowing all of it into one paper?

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Jun 8 2009 12:23

Yeah I was gonna say raw, you missed out one of the Group One suggestions on the initial list, which was summat along the lines:

The call to properly link up community and workplace groups so we can share info about upcoming problems and plan ahead. This could be semi-formalised into a delegate structure of individuals for every group tasked with regularly - like once every two weeks say - talking with other related or nearby linking people.

raw
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Jun 8 2009 12:24
molly0000000s wrote:
raw wrote:
National newspaper
- Either create a widely distributed newspaper or make freedom into one

Would that mean dissolving all the sheets from the Feds etc etc and plowing all of it into one paper?

No but I think the idea involved supporting, distributing and funding it on a movement level that everyone has a stake in seeing it grow.

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Jun 8 2009 12:26

In practice dissolving other sheets would be unlikely, as the reaction to Black Flag's proposals have shown, so it'd be more likely working in a combination of timely communication from groups to supplement their own irregular work, and sharing of the best content across platforms and yeah as raw says financing and practical support work to help with sustainable expansion.

raw
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Jun 8 2009 12:50
weeler wrote:
Quote:
We have covered our faces in the same way we might do against the state and its agents – inspired by the tradition of our militant sisters who took back male-dominated stages, and political spaces.

Weeler, if you are going to troll then do it somewhere else. If you have something to say thats constructive then say it. Maybe start of with a question?

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Jun 8 2009 13:17
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were the groups specifically engineered? each group having x number for class struggle backgrounds, x from green backgrounds, x from activist backgrounds, x from anti-fascism backgrounds etc. etc.?

i thought the whole point of the conference was to move ahead class struggle politics/anarchism - if it's open season in terms of attendence to all kinds of folk is this not just repeating the same old mistakes of repeated anarchist bootsales, i.e. a remarkable toleration of people/groups that should be inimical to class struggle politics, that ultimately inhibits, renders impotent and makes so called movement even more irrelevant?

i thought the above after reading october lost's report about the lack of class struggle perspective and based on what you're saying jack it seems there was an expectation that class struggle politics was not necessary the core of those in attendance, however going on what raw says 90% of those there were

raw
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Jun 8 2009 13:35
oisleep wrote:
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were the groups specifically engineered? each group having x number for class struggle backgrounds, x from green backgrounds, x from activist backgrounds, x from anti-fascism backgrounds etc. etc.?

i thought the whole point of the conference was to move ahead class struggle politics/anarchism - if it's open season in terms of attendence to all kinds of folk is this not just repeating the same old mistakes of repeated anarchist bootsales, i.e. a remarkable toleration of people/groups that should be inimical to class struggle politics, that ultimately inhibits, renders impotent and makes so called movement even more irrelevant?

i thought the above after reading october lost's report about the lack of class struggle perspective and based on what you're saying jack it seems there was an expectation that class struggle politics was not necessary the core of those in attendance, however going on what raw says 90% of those there were

I stand by the fact that 90%+ people see class struggle and capital accumulation as central to their politics. That is not to say that every has the same definitions of class. One guy in my room said class was irrevalent, after discussion he clarified it as the definitions of class and what was once the working class is irrevalent, we need an updated view of class society and struggle. Alot of these were discussed and explored.

As for the political basis of the conference. Read the call, read the questions, look at the supporting groups. We can not (nor do we want to) prempt discussions. we gave people the space, try to make the event attractive to anarchists that are active in all manor of activities, set the tone to being a constructive dialogue. And thats what happened. judging from
the proposals and the similar responses by each group in the final plenary you could gauge a sense than many people did share the ideas, methods and politics.

In my group I had people from IWW, L&S, Black Flag, SolFed, Lancaster Anarchists, Climate Camp and No Borders.

Unfortunately Steven's group seemed to be the most difficult one. There was a clear process and aim - this was about organising for the anarchist movement, it was not to discuss whether a facilitator is authoritarain for trying to facilitate!

raw
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Jun 8 2009 13:37
Jack wrote:
To be fair, a bunch of mentals in masks doing an intervention to claim teh anarchy movement is sexism isn't really something you can respond to constructively.

this is unfair, they had a valid point - people appreciated it, some people didn't. Some were annoyed that they hadn't participated in the conference - though apparently three of the women had the day before. The action was not in response to anything specific happening at the conference but was organised months in advanced. There was no attempt by that group to email us about their problems with the conference. They just decided that there was going to be no dialogue.

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Jun 8 2009 13:52
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is this down to the different make ups of the groups giving huge differences, or is it more reflecting the differing biases of those who wrote them?

I think it depended what group you were in. Steven's group was definitely a difficult one, and he wasn't the only member of it who couldn't be arsed doing a second day from what I understand. Mine had a couple of ramblers but on the whole was a fairly strong one in the end and I was happy enough to spend some time on it.

There was a massive difference between the Saturday and Sunday as well.

Saturday was always going to be pretty boring for people who have been involved a while because a lot of it was exploring what we thought about anarchism and class, which usually requires explaining fairly integral bits to the less knowledgeable and a certain amount of naval gazing rather than getting useful stuff done.

Sunday on the other hand was for most people just the fourth question, which was the practical one and produced by far the most interesting talk, at least from my pov.

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Jun 8 2009 13:57
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Yeah I'd probably echo that, I think it depended what group you were in

i did mean to say this as well, as didn't want to sound like I was taking that one instance as representative of the whole thing, and chances are more noise will be made about the exceptions which give them a bigger placing in the whole thing than they actually were

if at the end of the day, the outcome of the thing means more common sense in and from 'the movement' then that's pretty good, just unfortunate that the movement is at such a low, that things like this are seen as victories in themselves (and i don't mean this as a dig, just to show the enormity of the task faced)

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Jun 8 2009 14:11
Jack wrote:
I only just realised this isn't a joke and actually did happen. embarrassed

Jesus Christ. Just, fuck.

OMG! Someone challenged the movement's assumptions in a confrontational way! How terrible!

Rob ray wrote:
The intervention was a bit cringeworthy, the point was fine, the portrayal of a blanked out everywoman holding a flag on the promo literature as sexist was just bizarre.

I don't think they were trying to claim it was sexist, they were trying to claim it was the movement deliberately presenting itself in a gender-neutral way which disguises its own maleness, which is a fair point, altho if the flyer had featured a manly man a la old CNT posters I doubt they'd have been that happy either. Also, I think a more valid critique of that flyer would have been "It's someone with no fucking face, how the fuck could anyone think that's a good image to portray? They don't have a fucking face!"

Quote:
The spectacle of about 250 people applauding and cheering every time they were told how sexist they were being was a bit weird as well - surely actual sexists would have been a bit, well, meaner?

I think it's a bit naive to say that people have to be either full-on misogynistic "actual sexists" or never behave in any kind of a sexist way at all. I don't think anyone would claim that the anarchist movement is full of outright woman-haters, more that it contains people with the kind of contradictory consciousness that they can applaud a feminist speech and unconsciously replicate patriarchal attitudes in their everyday behaviour.

Weeler wrote:
I agree with these guys, as I am sure you know.

Yeah, that's pretty much spot-on. We really need to find a way out of this shitty impasse where people with sensible politics avoid talking to the media cos they don't want to come off looking like Chris Knight, leaving our media coverage to be monopolised by...people like Chris Knight.

Jack wrote:
To be fair, a bunch of mentals in masks doing an intervention to claim teh anarchy movement is sexism isn't really something you can respond to constructively.

Yes, there's definitely no way you can have any kind of a constructive response to people asking you to critically examine your own behaviour, is there? roll eyes

Anyway, as far as the actual conference goes, I thought it was pretty good, definitely better than the cynics had been predicting. Of my group, one person who'd never been to any anarchist event before didn't see why we all thought class was so important, and we had one hilarious old loon from principia dialectica who denounced us all for having poxy critiques based on class and then pissed off after lunch on the first day, but every other person in my group had a decent class perspective. Of the group summaries, some sounded less bad than others, and one contained an absolutely terrible line about how "we shouldn't define ourselves by our relationship to capital cos some of us are like totally outside that, maaan", but the majority sounded pretty decent.
Of course, the big test is whether anything will actually come out of it or whether we just spent 6 grand on getting lots of anarchists to talk to each other, but I'd say it was definitely a positive thing overall. Cheers to the organisers.

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Jun 8 2009 14:12
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a group of anarchists just show up in masks

plus ça change

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Jun 8 2009 14:15
molly0000000s wrote:
raw wrote:
National newspaper
- Either create a widely distributed newspaper or make freedom into one

Would that mean dissolving all the sheets from the Feds etc etc and plowing all of it into one paper?

No I think the idea is to respect what is already out there but maybe use something (??Freedom) to bring ideas and people together.

raw
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Jun 8 2009 14:17

Ok, I agree with that. The attack on the leaflet was just a convenient attack, so too was the showing just the male speakers at the Anarchist rally. I also remember that it was also a few women that were involved in smashing up the RBS on G20 - they were arrested and sentenced last month (suspended sentence). So yeah, the parrallels were extremely untrue. I can kind of agree with the some of the arguments over the speed dating photo.

Anyway, because we called it the anarchist movement conference, the association the group targetted it. Anyway, like I said before they don't seem like talking about their opinion/views instead they act as they speak the truth.

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Jun 8 2009 14:18

Hiya Farce - you must have been in my group! I agree that it was a worthwhile event and the discussion largely very positive.

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Jun 8 2009 14:20
Jack wrote:
Farce wrote:
Yes, there's definitely no way you can have any kind of a constructive response to people asking you to critically examine your own behaviour, is there? roll eyes

Most people can ask someone to critically examine their own behaviour without needing to do an intervention with a video in the middle of a conference. In masks.

Yeah, but would we actually be talking about it if they'd done it in a less dramatic way? Really? At first I thought it was overly confrontational, but if they actually see the anarchist movement as a space where they experience oppression then it's perfectly appropriate to be that aggressive about it.

raw
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Jun 8 2009 14:33
Jack wrote:
- we both know perfectly well that if a couple of these people had felt this stuff was missing from the conference, and had gone along to the organising meetings and argued for it to be more prominent in the conference, then it almost certainly would have been.

It was argued to have a discussion on this issue and look at the whole gender binaries, heteronormative, white privilege that much of the movement is supposedly infested with. Becuase we were trying to create a conference that was looking at the anarchist movement in a critical way perhaps we assumed too much that people would discuss these issues. So those terminilogies were not included instead they were submerged in more abstract questions. We didn't neccesarily wanted to preconfigure every aspect of the discussions, we wanted people to bring everything to the discussions.

Anyway some groups did discuss these issues at length, and it was certain implicit in alot of the issues regarding accesibility and inclusion in anarchist groups/spaces

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Jun 8 2009 14:36
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Yes, I agree, it would have been perfectly appropriate if they'd aggresively argued their point. In the meetings that were open to everyone. Since it was, y'know, a conference

thing is i don't think anyone should be shocked at anarchists behaving like anarchists at an anarchist conference

hence my point about the enormity of the task

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Jun 8 2009 15:07

For my group class struggle was definately the main perspective. There was one person who intervened on the first day to say the class struggle was over and/or meaningless then he left, and there was one comrade who felt that class was used as another tool to divide us and she felt this was unnecessary. I don't think though she strongly dissagreed when people talked about the contradictions of class consciousness (the copper, and the rebel in our heads) and she also didn't strongly disagree when people tried to explain class i the terms of those who have an interest in maintaining the status quo and those who don't. However, it would be wrong to claim she was "won over" to a class struggle perspective. Nevertheless the rest of the group was pretty clear on the issue.