Lessons from "merger" thread

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Oct 25 2004 16:15
Lessons from "merger" thread

What are the lessons we can draw from the "merger of anarchist feds" -thread?

http://enrager.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=2665

It's a good thread

To me they were:

1. We don't have a clue how to get out of this marginalized trap we are in

2. Hopes for a merger are futile, there is not even agreement if this was a good thing

3. Lesson from abroad is that the only libertarian groups that are doing well are the ones based on real working class issues, namely the syndicalist groups which serve as unions as well. This is lacking here in UK.

4. Wayne makes great posts when he is not angry.

Do people want to take this forwards/discuss any more?

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Oct 25 2004 16:57

Sadly I'm beginning to agree with you on point 2.

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Oct 25 2004 17:02
JDMF wrote:
3. Lesson from abroad is that the only libertarian groups that are doing well are the ones based on real working class issues, namely the syndicalist groups which serve as unions as well. This is lacking here in UK.

Are they growing though? They seem relatively stagnant...

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Oct 25 2004 17:15

GB, thats why i was asking for new info on some groups like CGT and SKT in that another thread. I know SAC has grown a bit, but not a lot (of course that means growing about all national feds put together in UK per year, but percentage wise it is fairly flat). IWW in US seems to be doing really well, but it's hard to tell how well because people don't talk numbers. But news like 200 truckers joining IWW during this summer in California, and shops organised here and there are quite encouraging.

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Steven.
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Oct 25 2004 17:25
JDMF wrote:
GB, thats why i was asking for new info on some groups like CGT and SKT in that another thread. I know SAC has grown a bit, but not a lot (of course that means growing about all national feds put together in UK per year, but percentage wise it is fairly flat). IWW in US seems to be doing really well, but it's hard to tell how well because people don't talk numbers. But news like 200 truckers joining IWW during this summer in California, and shops organised here and there are quite encouraging.

Hmmm yeah last I heard about a year ago was about 2,000 members for IWW US (most not active though)

One thing we were thinking of doing on enrager was compiling reports of different countries' libertarian movements, with info like groups, publications, numbers etc. - this sound like a good idea?

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Oct 25 2004 18:20

Heres my two pence, which is mainly drawn from a good AF comrade I spoke to last week about the prospects for anarchism in this country.

Although I havent a big political background to draw from (maybe that will be obvious from my comments) I think JDMF is right about the working class being essential to developing (and we are not specifically speaking about size here) and for me personally I would lean towards syndicalist methods, but in the current practice anarcho-syndicalism hasnt, for whatever reason been able to lay any sizable roots, despite its existence for a number of years. Its best prospect would be, IMO to develop within a class struggle anarchist federation, where it can argue its point and be in a better prospect to put its networks into practice.

This would mean the AF and the SF merging, without question. The problem with this is that some AF members are anti-syndicalist (read their principles also) so how this prospect would work Im not immediately sure, but Im pretty certain SF members would be the most hostile to any merger (dont hold me to that).

Personally I think theres a number of ways people could be open to merging, but we need small steps - but things that can bring this further into practice are:

1. Talking about it with people in and around the federations, understand the positions and lets try and deal with the issues together.

2. If your in one of the federations (CW, AF, SF) push the debate or position through your internal bulletin.

3. Use one of the bookfairs/discussion groups etc to throw open the idea. For example couldnt we have this discussed at the London Bookfair?

4. Someone could try and write something for Freedom.

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Oct 25 2004 18:32
october_lost wrote:
4. Someone could try and write something for Freedom.

Just quickly - apart from the odd ranting editorial, we like to steer clear of being inward-looking in Freedom...

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Oct 25 2004 18:52
George'sBush wrote:
october_lost wrote:
4. Someone could try and write something for Freedom.

Just quickly - apart from the odd ranting editorial, we like to steer clear of being inward-looking in Freedom...

How silly it is that you think of a united anarchist movement as being 'inward looking' - I know what your getting at, but its not called for on this occassion...

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Oct 25 2004 19:24

Key problems with a merger:

1) The who's gonna leave their international? AF won't leave IFA, SF won't leave IWA.

2) Which publications are we gonna keep? Which are we gonna dump? As much as I'd like a new federation with Freedom as newspaper, Direct Action as magazine, this means some feds will lose thier publications.

3) People in the feds who have become federationalised. Hmm, not quite a word but I think it explains pretty well some people who have been in their fed too long. They kind of see their fed as exempt from criticism and other feds as shite.

These problems aren't unsolvable but they are problems. What I got from the merger thread was that we need to concentrate on local and workplace stuff. Maybe once we've got a few more of these, we can get together again and talk about setting up a federation. We need to be prepared to set up community groups (eg WAG, HSG) and industrial networks (my problem with the SF networks are that you have to join SF to join the networks which is annoying. I mean surely if someone is a class struggle anarchist, that is enough to work with on workplace issues?). Anyway, once we've got a few strong locals and INs, then we can come together and try and sort out a new federation.

In the meantime, maybe we could organise local libertarian forums where all the anarchist groups/collectives in an area get together every three months and tell each other what they've been up to, what they want to do in the future and how other local anarchos could help. They could also be open to the public so people interested in anarchism could come along and see what's going on in their area. Also, anarchists looking to organise locally could use that get together as an oportunity to publicise that. It would also mean that anarchists would be getting together more often and may lead to more mutual aid and co-operation (remember that phrase, anyone? Lovely, innit?) and maybe in a few years.....a well organised anarchist movement, making the most of its resources!

red n black star

lucy82
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Oct 25 2004 22:45

i'm clearly seen as a treehugger and therefore should have no voice tongue but i'm taking one anyway. circle A because i can.

eds right, in that people probably won't leave or change their international easily, if at all. but then the real question is not what publications would be dumped (which will cause serious blood on the carpet ...) but what would be gained from having a bigger group (if groups joined, what can be done that can't be done now? given that the level of scrabbling and political wrangling might well make a larger merged group unworkable anyway).

i'm not denying the ideas and the potential usefulness of local and workplace stuff, setting up industrial networks and community groups, mutual aid, openess, co-operation...

all this can be good and if its happening now, great, if its not, it won't start happening because the feds join up.

in reality, its practical, who would want to do it? if people did, how could you link resources? how could you not alienate people already involved and engage them and other people. people have strong ideas and loyalties of their own. what would it achieve? would the cost be worth the gain? if you think the feds don't achieve much now, how would the new federation achieve more? ... i'm all for an anarchist movement making the most of its resources, for mutual aid and co-operation, but i don't think asking people to merge federations will work for practical reasons.

i have been involved in various examples of different group politics over the years, and the rows tend to outweight the usefulness. sorry, i'll go back to treehugging wink

gangster
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Oct 25 2004 23:20

Let me think - when has the Freedom newspaper EVER been useful in, or influential of, mass campaigns? twisted

I think a basic point that needs answering is one of political ambition. Do people really believe an 'anarchist federation' is the answer, or is our role working in the mass organisations and unorganised masses, taking part and encouraging revolutionary development?? We've already covered such ground before, WE DON'T want to encourage 'a new sect', the point is to build better methods of participation in struggles and disolve the differences there currently are between 'anarchists' and the masses... we really need to lose our identity (but not our politics) black bloc

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Oct 25 2004 23:41
gangster wrote:
the point is to build better methods of participation in struggles and disolve the differences there currently are between 'anarchists' and the masses...

Ouch - please don't talk about "the masses" - makes you sound like an 18th century revolutionary zealot!

Quote:
Let me think - when has the Freedom newspaper EVER been useful in, or influential of, mass campaigns? twisted

Is that supposed to be a criticism of Freedom now?

Cos nothing anarchist has been influential in a truly "mass" campaign in this country probably since the syndicalists in the early 1900s (although the roads protests and AFA stuff probably came close...)

gangster
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Oct 26 2004 18:33
George'sBush wrote:
gangster wrote:
the point is to build better methods of participation in struggles and disolve the differences there currently are between 'anarchists' and the masses...

Ouch - please don't talk about "the masses" - makes you sound like an 18th century revolutionary zealot!

Quote:
Let me think - when has the Freedom newspaper EVER been useful in, or influential of, mass campaigns? twisted

Is that supposed to be a criticism of Freedom now?

Cos nothing anarchist has been influential in a truly "mass" campaign in this country probably since the syndicalists in the early 1900s (although the roads protests and AFA stuff probably came close...)

I agree with the syndicalist influence in the pre WW1 period... Although I totally disagree that the road protests were EVER a mass campaign, and AFA????? WTF. Regardless of how highly I like anti fascist action, they were never part of a mass campaign, and if they were as you say - what was the period? COs I truly don't know... And the example I was thinking about was Class War during the Poll tax, the most influential anarchist organisation and paper since the 1930s I would guess...

OK, not the masses, I'll call them the 'multitude'.

nastyned
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Oct 26 2004 22:35

Here's a few points from me:

1. It's obvious our energies need to be focussed on local and workplace organising. Many people have said this. Now we need to get on with doing it. I'm open to the possibility that syndicalism could be useful but i see this as A possible way not THE way. And I still think you'd need a separte anarchist federation wink

2. In Ireland the AF/ASF/etc. merger seems to have worked well so there IS potential. But having said that it seems an area we have cooperated on in the past (anti-electorialism) is now a non starter!

3. If there was a possiblily of building something bigger and better it would be daft for international affiliations to stop it. See point 1 for where we should be focussing.

4. In my grand pubications scheme of things DA/Organise/BF would merge and become more frequent, resistance would be the agitational and the rest would be dropped. OK, I can't see it happening but some publications might well welcome a merger or the chance to be dropped in favour of something newer and better.

5. No need for the word federationalised. Being dogmatic, set in their ways and generally of the opinion they're always right is not limited to people in national federations!

6. Can't see HSG joining any national federation ever.

7. SolFed made a mistake when they decided you had to join solfed to join the networks. It's good that solfed set them up and of course they wil influence them but they should let the networks control themselves.

8. Yes, merging is only worthwhile if it would improve things, not just lead to more rows. As I said, I think it could though. Maybe not merging everyone mind wink

Ilan
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Oct 27 2004 09:16

There is a minimum number of people who can do any seriously effective political activity. Thus, on local scale, the need for cooperation for doing what all involved agree on is more important than what they do not agree on - but any way cannot achieve.

However, it will be futile to merge togather functioning collectives and federations who have no common strategy and tactics.

The anarcho-syndicalists whose first priority is the wish to organize the working people in a one big revolutionary syndicate, cannot find common ground with anarcho-communists. These regard their first priority the promotion of revolutionary antiauthoritarian anticapitalist opinions every where using direct action and joining general initiatives like general unions and community struggles.

There is of course big need for getting togather of anarchists who are not yet involved with a collectives and federations in less policaly focused level like these the PGA local infopointssupply.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Oct 27 2004 12:49
JDMF wrote:

1. We don't have a clue how to get out of this marginalized trap we are in

2. Hopes for a merger are futile, there is not even agreement if this was a good thing

3. Lesson from abroad is that the only libertarian groups that are doing well are the ones based on real working class issues, namely the syndicalist groups which serve as unions as well. This is lacking here in UK.

4. Wayne makes great posts when he is not angry.

I agree with you on all of these. I'd point out, though, that the 'groups abroad' that you mention exist because they are the libertarian fringe of a larger millitant workplace-based movement in those countries. Can we see any millitant movement in the UK that anarchists could organise the libertarian fringe of? I'd say the last time that really happened was when anarchists organised thelib-fringe of the eco-movements during 1990s to the present.

I can't emphasise this enough -- we can't create anarchist organisation in a vacuum; without pre-existing millitancy all a merged federation would do is to push the visibility of anarchism within existing protest and media circles.. The only hope I see on the horizon is the move towards community-based action groups like the IWCA/HSG/Bristolian, etc. plus our existingtradition of residents' groups -- and these are not anarchist by any means -- but they are trying to tackle issues that people feel strongly about.

I still think a general libertarian network would be a good idea, but for info-sharing about existing struggles/activity, rather than in the belief it will focus us on a better path.

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Oct 27 2004 12:56

I agree with the primmie

edit: although I don't think anyone is seriously claiming that a merger would hasten the revolution, or that recruiting to it would be a goal. We all want autonous action by the w/c- I don't want them identifying as anarchists: I want these ideas and methods of organising to become common currency. This is the function that the feds currently have: propaganda groups trying to make anarchist ideas seem less weird and more a part of everyday reaction to shitty circumstances.

Steve
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Oct 27 2004 13:36
Ilan wrote:
The anarcho-syndicalists whose first priority is the wish to organize the working people in a one big revolutionary syndicate, cannot find common ground with anarcho-communists. These regard their first priority the promotion of revolutionary antiauthoritarian anticapitalist opinions every where using direct action and joining general initiatives like general unions and community struggles.

This is just wrong but I just haven't the time to go into the why's and wherefores now.

malatested
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Oct 28 2004 10:04

'the idea that anarcho syndicalists are not anarcho communists is ridiculous. and to claim anrcho syndicalism revolves entirely around the "workplace" is also just slanderous. '

Completely agree with wee lad. Just answered questions for an interview for the AF's mag 'Organise!' between themselves and our good selves -'Organise!') -PHEW! -which says exactly that.

Now there may well be differences between the AF (i preferred it when they were the ACF!) and Solfed but that isn't it, the AF have a somewhat checkered outlook towards workplace organising (ranging from decent critiques of trade unionism to the ridiculous "Outside and against the Unions" nonsense.)

I think there is a momentum in the AF to go beyond this. Not my place to say more about this...

Solfed to my mind have a problem of being a propaganda group sometimes acting like it will be the base for a militant anarcho syndicalist union, ie setting up Solfed exclusive industrial networks (tho i don't see anything wrong with individuals in industries with similar political outlooks forming networks, just that it isn't anarcho syndicalism!).'

Agree, ye gotta open those networks up.

In Ireland Organise has brought together the AF and Anarcho Syndicalist Federation but then we shared a common outlook on the troubles (which means alot here) and were devoid of the personality feuds that are common in the rest of the UK. The basis of Organise was in recognising that we are a propaganda group and not a union/workplace resistance group, ultimately the future fighting organs of a autonomous working class will be decided by the class itself, all we can do is share our ideas and attempt to create a tradition of libertarian thought and input into the wider class struggle.

(faint strands of the internationale start here...)

lucy82
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Oct 29 2004 22:59

please not the internationale. its a bloody awful song. crap words that make very little sense sung like a church dirge by fist waving swppies at marxism..

servile masses spurning the dust... yuk

the only good bit is the thieves willing out with their booty because the word booty always improves a sentence

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Oct 29 2004 23:17

the spanish have a specifically anarchist internationale, but i much prefer a las barricadas, it has a much better and uplifting tune (well it would, it's anarchist) and of course it's in spanish, which makes most things sound better.

all together now:

"a las barricadas!

a las barricadas!

por el triunfo de la confederacion!"

knightrose
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Oct 30 2004 07:05

I'm one of those who would favour a coming together of the AF and SF. Both are anarchist communist. Reading their publications there is not much between them really. (I'm in the AF btw).

Really, there wouldn't be much to lose. And how important are the internationals anyway? There are efforts within IFA to seek closer links with the IWA anyway ...

On the issue of workplaces. The AF has got itself in a right old mess over this one. In my opinion, we are right to see the unions as part of the problem - I'd describe them as part of the management structure of capitalism - and I think that was clearly understood when it was decided upon all those years ago. Unfortunately, industrial work is hard and not as media-friendly as anti-capitalist protests and the like. By adopting an anti-union stance we allowed ourselves to get dragged into the more general swamp that characterises anarchist politics. By this I mean the kind of lifestylist, alternative politics that has zero relevance to working class people.

We need an outlook that understands the importance of industrial struggle in the revolutionary process. That does not mean we should be organising alternative unions or seeking to reform or democratise existing ones.

As far as I can see, that kind of industrial outlook is not very disimilar from what SolFed aim at in reality. I am sure that if we wanted to, we could sit down and work out a common approach that would leave all of us wondering what we'd got so uptight about before!

redyred
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Oct 30 2004 14:34
lucy82 wrote:
please not the internationale. its a bloody awful song. crap words that make very little sense sung like a church dirge by fist waving swppies at marxism..

I don't see how anyone can dislike this version of the internationale.

(That's a hyperlink direct to an mp3 btw so you might want to right click and save target).

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Oct 30 2004 16:17
knightrose wrote:
I am sure that if we wanted to, we could sit down and work out a common approach that would leave all of us wondering what we'd got so uptight about before!

is it necessary that the whole fed would have a unified approach, i mean is it not possible to have a fed with slightly different approaches to this? There's a balance to be struck between strictly defined policies and room to manouvre, and i think too many groups opt out to have too tightly defined policies from the start...

Mike Harman
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Oct 30 2004 16:46

Just played that mp3, even my Japanese girlfriend can't work out what it says. Internationahhhhhlooo.

knightrose
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Oct 30 2004 17:12
JDMF wrote:
is it necessary that the whole fed would have a unified approach, i mean is it not possible to have a fed with slightly different approaches to this? There's a balance to be struck between strictly defined policies and room to manouvre, and i think too many groups opt out to have too tightly defined policies from the start...

In my experience there is a need for a broadly agreed set of principles. Otherwise soem people end up doing things others cannot agree upon, or even hate.

It's not so bad today, things at home being less controversial, but I remember times when soem supported irish nationalism and others opposed it. That caused some interesting discussions within the movement and led to break ups in feds of the time.

Our principles and policies should be tightly defined enough that they let us feel comfortable that others who speak, write or produce things will do so in a way we are broadly happy with. I reckon there's enough similar between the AF and SolFed to allow this to happen.

gangster
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Oct 30 2004 18:31
knightrose wrote:
JDMF wrote:
is it necessary that the whole fed would have a unified approach, i mean is it not possible to have a fed with slightly different approaches to this? There's a balance to be struck between strictly defined policies and room to manouvre, and i think too many groups opt out to have too tightly defined policies from the start...

In my experience there is a need for a broadly agreed set of principles. Otherwise soem people end up doing things others cannot agree upon, or even hate.

It's not so bad today, things at home being less controversial, but I remember times when soem supported irish nationalism and others opposed it. That caused some interesting discussions within the movement and led to break ups in feds of the time.

Our principles and policies should be tightly defined enough that they let us feel comfortable that others who speak, write or produce things will do so in a way we are broadly happy with. I reckon there's enough similar between the AF and SolFed to allow this to happen.

As this merger business was raised by Class War, I am intrigued why you are leaving us out of the equation???

knightrose
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Oct 30 2004 22:11

two reasons:

1. i'm picking up fag ends of conversations - haven't read the whole thread and merely replied to some comments about the AF and Solfed. And in Manchester that's all that exists in terms of feds - though not in terms of anarchists, there are many more than just us.

2. i think merger bewteen CW and AF would be a lot harder to achieve, though not ultimately impossible. I know some members of CW and AF hold joint membership.

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Oct 31 2004 08:30
knightrose wrote:

In my experience there is a need for a broadly agreed set of principles. Otherwise soem people end up doing things others cannot agree upon, or even hate.

good point about the irish nationalism. But is this experience of yours from large groups or from small anarchist groups like the ones in UK? Because experience from larger groups shows that sure, some people in the group can be involved with things others even hate, but it is a cultural change to be able to stand that if the overall aims are agreed.

I know small groups are comfortable because there is not that many occasions where you would need to compromise or tolerate differences. The cult mentality is a risk though and a recipe for keeping the fed small.

I don't think merger is worth it without this "cultural change", but perhaps this is something deeper in the brittish psyche because not many seem to be bothered about this smile

knightrose
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Oct 31 2004 09:20

I'm afraid my only experience is in the UK.

The groups I'm talking about are the ORA and AWA of the 70s and early 80s.

There do surely have to be some broad principles? Some groups accept so many divergences that they seem to be heading in no direction at all, despite their size.

I agree though that in the past we have been too sectarian.

any realignment would not be able to accept nationalism or voting in elections, surely? Neither could it take on board those who want to "capture" and "reform" existing unions. These things are just basic. How we relate to industrial work is another matter, so is whether we advocate abstention in elections or simply ignore them.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Oct 31 2004 13:01
knightrose wrote:
There do surely have to be some broad principles? Some groups accept so many divergences that they seem to be heading in no direction at all, despite their size..

Such as?

For myself, I feel that unity based on common action can deal with a lot of differences over theory, but a politically-based organisation that isn't defined by action will generally need close agreement.