A new Anarchist Organisation!

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jambo1
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Jul 20 2007 18:25

this thread has gone of on a tangent here i think, its not about AF or SolFed its a bout a totally new organization. i dont know how things will work out but i am very interested in it. i think madashell is right the discussion about the AF and unions should be another discussion altogether. i for one want to know more about praxis.

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madashell
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Jul 20 2007 18:58
jambo1 wrote:
this thread has gone of on a tangent here i think, its not about AF or SolFed its a bout a totally new organization. i dont know how things will work out but i am very interested in it. i think madashell is right the discussion about the AF and unions should be another discussion altogether. i for one want to know more about praxis.

And on that note, does Praxis have any particular position on workplace organisations and the role of unions? I know that DU believes that it is necessary to "rebuild the unions", is that Praxis' wider strategy on this or what?

IrrationallyAngry
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Jul 21 2007 14:57

I suspect that it will effectively be a cut and paste of the WSM position. That position is of course not nearly as beautiful and pure as the schemas of various left communists and ultra-lefts, but it has the merit of engaging to some extent with reality and not being, you know, batshit insane.

Mike Harman
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Jul 21 2007 15:07
IrrationallyAngry wrote:
I suspect that it will effectively be a cut and paste of the WSM position. That position is of course not nearly as beautiful and pure as the schemas of various left communists and ultra-lefts, but it has the merit of engaging to some extent with reality and not being, you know, batshit insane.

How would you describe "a worldwide socialist strategy of organising space workers"?

IrrationallyAngry
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Jul 21 2007 16:30

A what?

Mike Harman
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Jul 21 2007 16:50

http://libcom.org/forums/libcom-wobblies/business-unions-iww - somewhere in there, courtesy Dundee United.

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it has the merit of engaging to some extent with reality and not being, you know, batshit insane.

I think those who want to revive organisations that died 70 years ago, or for that matter try to reform the TUC unions are the ones who need a reality check.

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georgestapleton
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Jul 22 2007 20:46
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That comment was aimed at GS and his snide, asinine and unhelpful comments.

Yeesh battlescared keep your pants on. I've loads of respect for the AF, and I've argued in the WSM that we should have much closer links with you. But I don't think you are so 'great' that it would make more sense for DU to set up a branch of the AF rather than set up a completely new group. Especialy seeing as you have little to no presence in Scotland.

It was one throw away comment, to have a go at me, praxis and the WSM on the basis of it is a bit over the top. Especially when both me and Dundee are people who are enthusiastic about working with the AF.

Anyway, surely you appreciate that the AF is not the anarchist organisation that britain needs, albeit one of the best anarchist organisations in Britain.

knightrose
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Jul 22 2007 21:44

We'd argue that more than one organisation is needed. And aim to work in a non-sectarian manner with those that exist. We already work with Dundee anyway in the IWW, so we'll probably be quite able to get on with each other.

I would, though, doubt whether there's much space for a third federation.

Lucy parsons
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Jul 22 2007 22:10

Knightrose; "I would, though, doubt whether there's much space for a third federation."

Would that be the 3 Federations that already exist? AF SF CW

As it goes I think there's so much space out there, and so many many unaligned, that the more the merrier tbh.

In fact, one glance at the May council elections has seen an outbreak of 'Independentitis'. Many people are now realising they can organise and have politics, beyond official say so. Any attempt by so called anarchists to try and 'dominate' who 'is in' and who 'is out' is doomed to failure.

IrrationallyAngry
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Jul 22 2007 22:40
knightrose wrote:
I would, though, doubt whether there's much space for a third federation.

I think that's an utterly bizarre idea. The three existing federations have what, 100 members between them? 150? On an island with a population of 57 million. And you think that there isn't much space for a new federation?

From an outside perspective it seems to me that the failure of British class struggle anarchism to produce even one fairly substantial organisation in recent years is shocking. Anarchism as an idea has had a profile higher than it has had for many years. It became almost fashionable amongst a certain subset of young people. A confused but sizeable anarchoid milieu developed. And yet all you've managed to assemble are a trio of organisations with a few dozen members each?

It seems to me that you lack any culture of organisation building. There's no systematic approach to convincing potentially sympathetic people of your ideology, to recruiting them or to consolidating them. There doesn't even seem to be a culture of intervening into situations <i>as an organisation</i>. It's as if you don't take your organisations, or there underlying politics, seriously enough.

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Jul 22 2007 23:00
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It seems to me that you lack any culture of organisation building. There's no systematic approach to convincing potentially sympathetic people of your ideology, to recruiting them or to consolidating them.

I, for one, hope the AF never makes trying to recruit people who might be vaguely sympathetic to our ideas into the fed a priority. Who gives a fuck how many people are in class struggle anarchist organisations anyway?

Anarchist organisations should stick to propaganda and support and leave the class struggle to the class.

knightrose
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Jul 23 2007 00:00

I forgot about Class War. Aren't they more of a brand name and marketing exercise anyway.

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There's no systematic approach to convincing potentially sympathetic people of your ideology, to recruiting them or to consolidating them.

That makes me wonder why we bother producing Resistance or going to demos and forming blocs? Or asking people whether they'd like to join the AF?

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It's as if you don't take your organisations, or there underlying politics, seriously enough.

This shows a different perspective on what the organisation is for. Does it support its members or do the members support the organisation. We aim for the former.

IrrationallyAngry
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Jul 23 2007 00:03
madashell wrote:
I, for one, hope the AF never makes trying to recruit people who might be vaguely sympathetic to our ideas into the fed a priority. Who gives a fuck how many people are in class struggle anarchist organisations anyway?

I'd have expected you , as a member of a class struggle anarchist organisation, to care much more about it than I do. If it doesn't matter how many people are in your organisation then why are you in it? What's the fucking point of your organisation if it's so utterly trivial whether there are any people in it or not?

I'm not arguing that people who don't agree with your ideas should be in your organisations. I'm saying that if you take your organisations and their politics remotely seriously you should put serious emphasis on convincing people who might be vaguely sympathetic to your ideas of those ideas and of the case for joining your group. Do you really need me to explain that being organised actually matters? Do you really need me to explain to you that organisations of a few thousand or even a few hundred have a vastly greater capacity to do any of the things you think an organisation can usefully do?

There are many things I disagree with the WSM on, but I can certainly empathise with them when they bemoan the state of class struggle anarchism in Britain. If it was my problem rather than theirs I doubt if I'd be remotely capable of remaining relatively polite and patient.

madashell wrote:
Anarchist organisations should stick to propaganda and support and leave the class struggle to the class.

And to think you lot have the cheek to accuse Trotskyists of believing in an artificial divide between organisation and class!

knightrose
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Jul 23 2007 00:31

please take a look at www.af-north.org. What do you see? Or www.afed.org.uk.
Our main problem at the moment is integrating around 20 new members in the past year.

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madashell
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Jul 23 2007 01:09
IrrationallyAngry wrote:
I'd have expected you , as a member of a class struggle anarchist organisation, to care much more about it than I do. If it doesn't matter how many people are in your organisation then why are you in it? What's the fucking point of your organisation if it's so utterly trivial whether there are any people in it or not?

I'm not arguing that people who don't agree with your ideas should be in your organisations. I'm saying that if you take your organisations and their politics remotely seriously you should put serious emphasis on convincing people who might be vaguely sympathetic to your ideas of those ideas and of the case for joining your group.

It's the part I've bolded that I strongly disagree with. As far as I'm concerned, the AF should exist primarily for the purpose of arguing the case for class-struggle, anarchist communist politics and tactics within the workers' movement. If people happen to come to agree with our aims and principles and consequently join, great, but I think that treating the exact numbers of people within any given organisation as vitally important is substitutionist in the extreme.

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Do you really need me to explain that being organised actually matters? Do you really need me to explain to you that organisations of a few thousand or even a few hundred have a vastly greater capacity to do any of the things you think an organisation can usefully do?

It matters that we are organised as a class. Organisations of people of a particular political perspective are secondary to that at best. Indeed, focussing on the recruiting for the latter is often counterproductive to building the former.

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And to think you lot have the cheek to accuse Trotskyists of believing in an artificial divide between organisation and class!

What do the 57 varieties of Trotskyist have to do with anything?

IrrationallyAngry
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Jul 23 2007 02:14
madashell wrote:
It's the part I've bolded that I strongly disagree with. As far as I'm concerned, the AF should exist primarily for the purpose of arguing the case for class-struggle, anarchist communist politics and tactics within the workers' movement. If people happen to come to agree with our aims and principles and consequently join, great, but I think that treating the exact numbers of people within any given organisation as vitally important is substitutionist in the extreme.

In that case why have an organisation at all? Can't one person alone "argue the case for class-struggle, anarchist communist politics and tactics within the workers' movement"?

The simple fact that you are yourself in an organisation answers the question. You are aware, on some level, that ideological organisation is useful - and as a result you are willing to attend your organisations meetings, hand out its leaflets, pay it a sub and so on. Being organised in your group of a few dozen makes you more effective at the things you think anarchists should be doing. It is just as blindingly obvious that if your group was bigger it would be better able again to do those same things.

The argument you are putting forward is necessarily anti-organisational in its conclusions. You don't follow it to its logical conclusions because you recognise that doing so would be stupid and counterproductive. So a contradiction exists between your behaviour and your avowed opinions. If organisation is important and useful in whatever ways make you think its worth being in the Anarchist Federation, why is it not important and useful enough to actually try to make your organisation bigger, stronger and more effective?

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It matters that we are organised as a class. Organisations of people of a particular political perspective are secondary to that at best. Indeed, focussing on the recruiting for the latter is often counterproductive to building the former.

The rather obvious point that seeking to build your political group can be approached badly, in a sectarian or even counterproductive manner is not an argument against political organisation.

Take as an example the last decade or so in Britain. We have seen the rise and then decline of an amorphous, politically incoherent but also politically radical anti-globalisation movement. For some years there was a body of opinion amongst a subset of young people which was attracted to anarchism or at least curious about it or potentially sympathetic to it. Instead of working to engage with this milieu in a focused, careful, politically clear way which sought to convince these people of class struggle politics the opportunity was squandered.

Some class struggle anarchists were hostile to that anarchoid milieu. Others were sympathetic from afar. Others joined it and worked with it, but mostly as individuals or small groups adapting to its existing politics and prejudices. What didn't happen was an organised, political intervention as a group seeking to win this potentially sympathetic audience firstly to your politics and secondarily to your organisations. Instead those people were left to the NGOs, the lifestylists and your other political opponents. If a serious approach had been taken to that miliue in an organised way over a few years there is every possibility that when that movement ebbed it would have left behind a politically coherent class struggle anarchist federation of four or five hundred. Instead your groups have picked up the odd punter here and there who got to you mostly under their own power and basically nothing much of benefit to your politics has been left behind.

To give an example right next door to you, the WSM managed to do much what I'm describing above. And in great part as a result they have gone from a group of a dozen to a group of more than three times that - roughly equivalent to going from a group of 120 to one of 400 in a British context. And lets make it clear, the WSM have no magic skills at this, in fact they are pretty amateurish at it. But they do take their organisation and their politics more seriously than their equivalents across the Irish Sea. Now I can already hear you sneering at a group going from a dozen to 40 members in a couple of years as irrelevant. And in the greater scheme of Irish society and politics you'd be right to think that it isn't at all important. But on the microscale of revolutionary politics it means quite a few things. It means that they have the numbers to act collectively in campaigns or struggles, rather than just have someone go along and then report back. It means that in some limited circumstances they can try to be the ones to launch a national campaign and therefore to shape its starting form according to their political principles. It means that if someone in Dublin or Cork becomes interested in anarchist ideas that their main point of contact with those ideas will be through a class struggle organisation rather than in some lifestyle collective. Is this not a good thing from your point of view? Is it not worth trying to achieve?

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What do the 57 varieties of Trotskyist have to do with anything?

I found it of interest that one of the political errors anarchists often accuse Trotskyists of - positing an artificial distinction between class and organisation - was so clearly present in a different form in your own argument.

Mike Harman
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Jul 23 2007 06:55
knightrose wrote:
please take a look at www.af-north.org. What do you see? Or www.afed.org.uk.
Our main problem at the moment is integrating around 20 new members in the past year.

Actually, AF-North's menu seems to be messed up (on firefox 2.x) it was fine last time I looked.

knightrose
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Jul 23 2007 07:27
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Now I can already hear you sneering at a group going from a dozen to 40 members in a couple of years as irrelevant

Where can you hear that? Not from within the AF. You will hear political criticisms, never sneering. Our main interest with the WSM is improving our relationship and wanting to see if there are areas we can work together on.
FFS we distribute their publications when we get hold of them.

I would, however, argue that you can't generalise from their experience to that of England, Scotland and Wales. For example, for years our federation comprised two groups, neither big and a couple of dozen individual members scattered across the country. In the past couple of years we've seen the growth of 5 and hopefully soon 6 groups in other parts of England. However, none of them are very large. None of them are in a position to make the kind of intervention you are talking about in specific areas. You also seriously overestimate what we could have done with the anti-globalisation scene.
In any event we've almost tripled our membership since I joined the AF. Not enough, but something to work on.

Battlescarred
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Jul 23 2007 09:25

For me the numbers game is a red herring, that is multiplying the population of Ireland to get an equivalent figure for the number of people in a British organisation. A red herring, irrelevant and stupid.
For a long period of time the WSM membership stood at around a dozen. Did you hear anything from the AF criticising you for this? Now you've managed to grow to around 40. Yes, a small success, but a pitiful figure all the same. Just as the numbers in British organisations are pitiful.
To be quite frank, it really is sickening to be told where we're going wrong., from someone who appears to have no real understanding of what the anti-globalisation movement was in this country.The AF is an immensely active organisation, producing lots of street propaganda, producing a monthly newsheet EVERY MONTH and distributing thousands of these, that has well attended public meetings, that is present on every anti war demonstration in this country with a mass distribution of propaganda and always a literature stall at beginning and end.
It is very difficult building a serious anarchist organisation in this country, believe me. I've been at it for forty years. (Although I suppose I will now receive a lecture of what I haven't done and how inadequate my practice is) But we do take the task seriouisly, and our hard work over the last couple of decades is beginning to pay off, with a sizeable growth and the development of local groups. But in the final analysis, whether you have a membership of 40 (WSM) or of 80 (AF)that is stil a derisory figure, and people need to have a sense of perspective, rather than crowing over tiny successes.

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Devrim
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Jul 23 2007 09:42
Battlescarred wrote:
For a long period of time the WSM membership stood at around a dozen. Did you hear anything from the AF criticising you for this? Now you've managed to grow to around 40.
IrrationallyAngry wrote:
There are many things I disagree with the WSM on, but I can certainly empathise with them when they bemoan the state of class struggle anarchism in Britain. If it was my problem rather than theirs I doubt if I'd be remotely capable of remaining relatively polite and patient.

From this, and other comments I don't read it as if this person is a WSM member.

Devrim

Mike Harman
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Jul 23 2007 09:46

He's not, he's a member of the Irish Socialist Party http://www.socialistparty.net/

knightrose
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Jul 23 2007 09:53

So why's he trying to muddy the waters? Silly question, I guess.

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Devrim
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Jul 23 2007 10:02
knightrose wrote:
So why's he trying to muddy the waters? Silly question, I guess.

I don't read it as trying to 'muddy the waters'. It seems to me to be reasonably fraternal comment on the state of British anarchism. I am not really up on the issues involved (globalisation movement etc), but I think that the point about intervening as an organisation is probably a valid one, but then I would say that as I am not a fedralist.

Devrim

Sorry.
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Jul 23 2007 10:11

erm, are you sure about the name ...?

knightrose
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Jul 23 2007 10:13

At the risk of breaking ranks with other AFers, I think we do need to go out and actively recruit more. My issue with the WSM is over political positions.

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Devrim
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Jul 23 2007 10:15
Jack wrote:
I disagree with how the WSM go about it and their political orientation, but I think the way they actively go out and recruit is better than how either SF or AF go about it. Most SF members I've spoken to about this recognise there's a problem with our semi-reluctance to recruit.

I think that the important thing is to orientate your organisation correctly. It is not a matter of running around recruiting, but of involving people in our activity. If they then want to join, they can persue this. Personally, I wait for people to ask.

Jack wrote:
I agree with madashell that anarchist organisations aren't going to mean fuck all in any revolutionary situation,

I disagree strongly with this. I think in times of mass struggle more radical organisations automatically come to the fore.

If we take for example the 'Picket' newsletter at Wapping, a project started by one unemployed ex-spart became hughly influential amongst the strikers, and that is just in one dispute in an isolated sector.

Devrim

knightrose
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Jul 23 2007 10:17
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Personally, I wait for people to ask.

In Manchester we wait till they've been to a few meetings, ask them to distribute our material, involve them in discussion and then ask them if they want to join.

Terry
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Jul 23 2007 11:59

I think irrationally angry misunderstands the anarchist movement in Britain, he see a kinda nebulous politically incoherent but sympathetic to anarchism slice of youth outside of the federations, arising and declining in the context of anti-globalisation protests. Actually anarchism outside of the federations predates j18, Seattle, or Prague, though there were a lot more people coming in at that time due to the political evolution of the environmental direct action movement. Personally I think the media highpoints of 1999 to 2001 were actual political low points.

The tendency to organise into specific political organisations, the ‘party’ type organisations he would recognise, is very much a minority. ‘Anti-Organisational’ currents are pretty pronounced, see for instance the wholesale adoption of Michels ’iron law of oligarchy’ in the otherwise alright ’Down with empire up with spring’ manifesto in the final issue of Do or Die!. I would argue that a lot of this is a legacy of Leninism, and of NGOs.

This doesn’t mean an absolute lack of organisation or relatively unformed minds awaiting recruitment!, it means more other organisations of a more diffuse network style or not politically specific, and it means another political perspective (sometimes good, sometimes bad).

There are also people who see a national organisation as developed out of thriving local groups as a first step, like some folk in Haringey Solidarity Group, see http://www.haringey.org.uk/

See for instance;

http://www.londonarc.org/social_centre_network.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_Social_Centre_Network

http://www.schnews.org.uk/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_direct_action_in_the_United_Kingdom

There are also groups that did develop in the ‘anti-globalisation context’, like the Wombles http://www.wombles.org.uk/

There is a degree of animus on these boards towards some of these trends, sometimes justified, sometimes not, which is not necessarily reflective of anything other than the particular opinion of whoever is posting.

Members of the AF for instance volunteer in a couple of those social centres and have been involved in setting up a couple more.

In Dublin, by contrast, there is much less in the way of alternatives, in fact there is a whole slice of anarchism British style which is simply missing from Ireland (eg there wasn’t an EF! started here in 1992), hence the WSM is in a much better position to grow, relatively speaking, which isn’t to downplay the work of the comrades in question, it also means in any more broad based libertarian group their relative importance is greater than it would be in a British context which I would suspect makes things easier.

Jimmy
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Jul 23 2007 14:06
Jack wrote:
I disagree with how the WSM go about it and their political orientation, but I think the way they actively go out and recruit is better than how either SF or AF go about it. Most SF members I've spoken to about this recognise there's a problem with our semi-reluctance to recruit.

Well, the WSM isn’t great at recruitment. It’s not as if we’re aggressive about it. Mostly new members come from working alongside us in campaigns, then going to a few meetings, and gradually thinking over whether their politics is similar enough. So I’d say 0ur recent growth is probably a consequence of fairly long term involvement in a lot of areas rather than active recruitment.

At the moment we’ve reached a stage where we get enquires about joining from people we’ve never met. That used to be very rare. Possibly a tiny critical mass – iyswim – has been reached.

Clearly the WSM is still too far too small to have a consistently significant impact in political life in Ireland. You can be sure no one in the WSM has grand illusions about the penetration of anarchist ideas amongst working people. And 50 people in a population of 5 million leaves a long way to go. While numbers aren’t the be all and all of an anarchist organisation, they are very important. So obviously we’d like to be much bigger. Without large anarchist organisations I don’t see an anarchist society happening. Presumably that’s why those of us who are in organisations bothered to join.

It’s probably true, Terry, that there were and are significant differences between the English and Irish libertarian milieus. But, having said that, the WSM did engage positively with what was there, helping to set up grassroots gatherings, being generally fairly open and not dismissive of working with people whose politics we’d regard as…vague. Probably not a whole lot of those folks actually joined, but it did help the libertarian left as a whole and therefore us. Our general orientation is to engage with people whose politics is different from ours – no point in preaching to the converted – whether that means engaging with broad campaigns, less class struggley anarchists, republicans, trade unions, whatever. I’m not sure what the AF or SF’s approach to this. Whole other thread I guess. Plus like, good bakuninists everywhere, we’re not obviously batshit insane.

Btw, that’s not to say that the WSM is particularly good at acting as a coherent unit. In fact, probably half of the internal debate about any given campaign is given over to moaning how we should be doing better. But there is a very conscious awareness that this is a problem, that it’s probably the fundamental reason as to why we exist.

One of the reasons I joined the WSM was that, apart from political agreement, they had their fingers in pretty much every pie possible at that time, from RTS to pro-choice referendum, bin tax to help with workplace organising, to plain propaganda distribution. Pretty soon I concluded it would just make my life easier and political activity much more productive to work with an them. Maybe that’s a question we should ask and re-ask ourselves whether in or out of an organisation.

Devrim wrote:
Jack wrote:
I agree with madashell that anarchist organisations aren't going to mean fuck all in any revolutionary situation,

I disagree strongly with this. I think in times of mass struggle more radical organisations automatically come to the fore.

Agree with Devrim. They’ll be no withering away of the political organisations.

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Steven.
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Jul 23 2007 14:13
Jimmy wrote:
Devrim wrote:
Jack wrote:
I agree with madashell that anarchist organisations aren't going to mean fuck all in any revolutionary situation,

I disagree strongly with this. I think in times of mass struggle more radical organisations automatically come to the fore.

Agree with Devrim. They’ll be no withering away of the political organisations.

I would also agree with this. In fact the higher the general level of struggle the exponentially greater the influence of pro-revolutionary groups, since their ideas have more fertile ground. I'm not sure why you'd say this jack?