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Why don't SolFed and AFED merge?

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cobbler
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May 30 2010 21:13
Why don't SolFed and AFED merge?

History aside, why is a movement, which isn't exactly huge, divided in such manner?

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May 30 2010 21:30

Although I realise this topic has probably been discussed to death elsewhere, as someone who is still fairly new to the movement I must admit I have caught myself wondering this as well...

If anyone could give some clarity to the situation, it'd be much appreciated. smile

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Chilli Sauce
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May 30 2010 22:06

Because SolFed is just way more good looking and we don't want to mix-up the anarchist gene pool. Duh.

petey
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May 30 2010 22:16
ncwob wrote:
Because SolFed is just way more good looking and we don't want to mix-up the anarchist gene pool. Duh.

have you moved?

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Joseph Kay
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May 30 2010 22:28
cobbler wrote:
History aside

well that's the problem, they're separate organisations for historical reasons. neither organisation is synthesist (i.e. based on a spurious anarchist unity based on self-identifying as 'anarchist'), and so any hypothetical merger would need to be a result of a convergence of strategies. i don't think a merger in itself would address that; there's already a good working relationship between the organisations and a mutual committment to fraternal co-operation, plus there's good discussions between members of each. i'm not convinced a merger (rather than a symbiotic working relationship) is the way to go, but we'll see how things develop.

part of the problem is that SolFed has functioned similarly to the AF as an anarchist political organisation, but one that doesn't want to be an anarchist political organisation. SolFed is in the process of reorientating itself as a political-economic/revolutionary workers organisation (strengthening industrial networking, developing a training syllabus for relevent skills, reviewing strategy etc), which hopefully will help clarify the relationship between the two.

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Chilli Sauce
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May 30 2010 23:15

Yes, yes I have. Was active in the BIROC for a little bit, but let's just say the honeymoon didn't really last...

Still got my red card tho, active at the international level.

cobbler
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May 31 2010 01:07
Joseph Kay wrote:
well that's the problem, they're separate organisations for historical reasons. neither organisation is synthesist (i.e. based on a spurious anarchist unity based on self-identifying as 'anarchist'), and so any hypothetical merger would need to be a result of a convergence of strategies. i don't think a merger in itself would address that; there's already a good working relationship between the organisations and a mutual committment to fraternal co-operation, plus there's good discussions between members of each. i'm not convinced a merger (rather than a symbiotic working relationship) is the way to go, but we'll see how things develop.

I'm going to be deliberately simplistic, but if they work together as closely as you say, why not formalise the link? Why make people choose between one or the other?

Would having one organisation really mean that people could not 'specilaise' in different strategies according to their situation?

Quote:
part of the problem is that SolFed has functioned similarly to the AF as an anarchist political organisation, but one that doesn't want to be an anarchist political organisation. SolFed is in the process of reorientating itself as a political-economic/revolutionary workers organisation (strengthening industrial networking, developing a training syllabus for relevent skills, reviewing strategy etc), which hopefully will help clarify the relationship between the two.

For clarity, do you mean that there will be a clearer divide between the two in their activities and approaches?

If so, repeating the point above, why can that not be expressed as differing wings of one anarchist organisation?

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Joseph Kay
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May 31 2010 01:31
cobbler wrote:
I'm going to be deliberately simplistic, but if they work together as closely as you say, why not formalise the link? Why make people choose between one or the other?

well you don't have to chose. there's nothing stopping people joining both. as i said, there's no point merging unless there's a practical basis to do it. it's not clear that exists at present.

cobbler wrote:
Would having one organisation really mean that people could not 'specilaise' in different strategies according to their situation?

i would hope so, because i don't want to be a part of a synthesist organisation that works in different directions at once. tactical autonomy within an agreed strategy is fine, but pursuing contradictory strategies would be a recipe for paralysis and incoherence, e.g. SolFeds industrial networks are revolutionary unions in-formation (which means they look to organise at work independently of the existing unions and aspire to be able to initiate action independently), whereas the AF explicitly opposes the networks 'becoming functioning unions' ('On the frontline'). I think there's a lot of talking past each other on this issue, with the AF reading 'union' and hearing 'mediator', but at least until that's clarified a merger would just lead to a synthesist fudge and consequent lack of direction.

cobbler wrote:
For clarity, do you mean that there will be a clearer divide between the two in their activities and approaches?

i mean SolFed is trying to focus on organising as a (revolutionary) workers group rather than a specifically political one. i can't speak for the AF, they might say 'hey, that's what we want to do too' which may lead towards a merger, they might maintain their approach of acting as a specific political organisation that participates in struggles, movements and campaigns, and may or may not see SolFed as one such group to participate in.

cobbler wrote:
If so, repeating the point above, why can that not be expressed as differing wings of one anarchist organisation?

well repeating the point above ( wink ), a synthesist organisation is not desirable. whether or not one organisation can carry out two different roles (acting as a revolutionary workers' organisation seeking to organise struggles in our workplaces etc and as a specific political organisation that intervenes in campaigns and movments) is an open question. i tend towards the view that an anarcho-syndicalist organisation should do the former, and take a pluralist view on political organisations which could both participate in the former and pursue the latter, which i think requires a higher degree of political unity. this thread may be of interest.

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jef costello
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May 31 2010 10:42

Because no one would come to the meeting.

cobbler
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May 31 2010 17:17
Joseph Kay wrote:
this thread may be of interest.

Bloody hell that was a mammoth read, but worthwhile. I'm going to let my brain absorb it for a while, give my eyeballs a rest and do some tidying up.

Then I'll be back wink

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Joseph Kay
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May 31 2010 17:21

aye, that's why this is a massive topic, and personally i don't think a merger can substitute for an organic convergence of strategies, which makes practical co-operation more important than jumping the gun with talk of organisational mergers.

i mean on the face of it, the combined resources of SolFed and the AF, if you add in Organise! could do a hell of a lot so i see the appeal, probably a 10,000 copies a month freesheet, have multiple decent industrial networks etc, but it's not clear if that's the kind of organisation everyone wants to be.

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May 31 2010 19:07
Joseph Kay wrote:
i mean SolFed is trying to focus on organising as a (revolutionary) workers group rather than a specifically political one. i can't speak for the AF, they might say 'hey, that's what we want to do too' which may lead towards a merger, they might maintain their approach of acting as a specific political organisation that participates in struggles, movements and campaigns, and may or may not see SolFed as one such group to participate in.

Coming from the AF I completely agree with our principle against (trade or syndicalist) unions but don't see any contradiction in supporting this type of revolutionary 'union'. In fact, I think industrial (/community) networks of this kind which groups all communists and aims to put the class struggle before the organisation (i.e. doesn't aim to negotiate for/represent workers etc.) is the way to go. So, I consider myself both an anarcho-syndicalist and anarchist communist and would probably feel at home in either the AF or Solfed. Though perhaps I'd be more councilist that many in the latter group.

After hearing different people's opinions, I'd agree that a formal merger isn't on the cards anytime soon. But what I'd hope to see is members increasingly working together - perhaps on a wider industrial strategy? - to such an extent that our differences become irrelevant. Of course, I still want the AF continue to grow in size and have a presence in new places.

Joseph Kay wrote:
there's nothing stopping people joining both.

I was pretty certain that from the Solfed side, it wasn't possible for AFers to join? Then again, I'm not sure if it's really necessary to be in both at the moment.

Btw, this is just my personal opinion.

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May 31 2010 19:19
Volin wrote:
But what I'd hope to see is members increasingly working together - perhaps on a wider industrial strategy? - to such an extent that our differences become irrelevant.

i think this is already happening. AF people attended the EWN/ASN education cuts conference Brighton SolFed/Sussex Anarchists hosted, and we had some very productive discussions both in the workshops and in the pub afterwards. whether this leads to differences becoming irrelevant and a merger, or a clearer mutual understanding and a symbiotic relationship i don't know (cos i can't tell the future!).

Volin wrote:
I was pretty certain that from the Solfed side, it wasn't possible for AFers to join?

there's nothing stopping individuals joining. i think if AFers were to want to join on mass that would require formal discussions at a national level, to clarify the relationship between the organisations, allay fears it was some kind of takeover etc. i agree there's not a clear reason to join both when both play similar roles, i guess we'll see how things develop.

cobbler
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May 31 2010 20:58

Okay, I've given my brain a rest. This is how I understand the thread, please correct me if I'm wrong.

AFED and SolFed currently occupy very similar ground, both acting as general anarchist political groups. However, SolFed is trying to get back to, or concentrate on its core business of workplace organisation, leaving the more general political activity to AFED. It seems there's an idea that it is possible for people to join SolFed who did not feel allied to the more general anarchist trend, although I can't quite see how this can be. (Except for the fact that SolFed makes no comment on religious belief, which I'm already on record as having described as potentially unuseful if taken to the extreme.)

To me that suggests strong grounds for a close relationship whereby people might join AFED to be part of the general political movement and SolFed to gain support in workplace organisation. Without meaning to appear to belittle SolFed in any way at all, it suggests to me that SolFed is an activist wing of the more general struggle. It might make sense to keep it as a separate organisation if that means it can attract members who would not join AFED. I don't know.

The fact that at one time AFED members were rebuffed from SolFed, and that some feeling that AFED members cannot join SolFed is a bit of a problem, but the comment made that SolFed might feel it was being taken over if all of AFED joined is understandable. I think the misunderstanding relating to 'revolutionary unions' needs to be cleared up.

Quoting from the thread:
Knightrose wrote:
" As I see it, both AF and Solfed occupy essentially the same ground. We are both purely political organisations. Solfed has aspirations to be more than that, but so does the AF. Our documents talk about organising in the workplace as AF members and in collaboration with others."

to which Joseph replied:
"my point is these aren't alternatives like anarchist bourgeois parties ('ooh, the SF manifesto's swung it for me, i'm voting for them...' ), they're different organisational roles that complement one another. "

I would say that as a relative newcomer to these organisations (to be fair I've spent over a year trying to work out what each really stands for in practice and have attended a local Solfed meeting) Knightrose's description is spot on and the situation does appear much as Joseph says it isn't. This discussion, and reading that rather lengthy thread have clarified, in theory at least, it is possible that this statement could be true: " they're different organisational roles that complement one another"

What does that mean in terms of merger? It still makes some sense to me, though I can see why people oppose it. It still means that people like me have to choose between the two, or join two potentially overlapping organisations.

I think I read a suggestion that some over-arching organisation be formed which would allow each to maintain it's separate identity but also allow closer collaboration (and actually allow each to concentrate more on what it should be doing).

Is there currently an understanding that members of either could attend local meetings of the other, for example, to aid local organisation?

Now, where does L&S fit in...?

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May 31 2010 21:30

My own opinion (for what little it is worth - as I am still relatively new to both these groups) is that I can understand the argument that these two groups have different focal points of activity, yet I could also see the benefits of having one group, or at least an umbrella organisation.

The main issue I have with British anarchism currently is that the groups seem to lack a real 'presence' in the minds of working class people and of wider society. Now obviously that's no ill reflection on the members of those groups - it's simply the circumstance in which we find ourselves as anarchists. Yet I do find myself wondering if the aim of building wider links with the working class could not be better accomplished with a single group with which working class people could more generally identify.

I don't think such a group would have to sacrifice one strategy for another. From what I see, there is nothing that would prevent both types of strategy being carried out autonomously under the auspices of a single organisation. Essentially I find myself agreeing that a loose co-operation is the best practical way forward (after all, is that not the kind of society we envisage?) - yet I think the benefits the wider movement could gain from a united representation may not have been fully realised.

Like I say, I have no real deep understanding of the different politics of the groups, so this is essentially just me thinking aloud, but I thought I'd share my opinion.

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Jun 1 2010 09:27
Quote:
Now, where does L&S fit in...?

Nowhere.

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Jun 1 2010 09:32

Just to throw in my two cents (as a SolFedder), I think I'm with JK on this one in that I see conscious, coordinated activity between the two groups as the way forward.

In particular, SF is moving toward industrial networks (I can't speak for AF) and I would have would love for AFers to join them. If they also decide they want to join SF, that great, but in the spirit of putting class before organization, our foremost concern as industrial networks shouldn't be growing our own organizations but offering trainings, putting out propaganda, organizing cross-union activity, and facilitating struggle along libertarian principals.

knightrose
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Jun 1 2010 11:18

Speaking as an AF member ...

The AF is over twice the size of Solfed. That poses problems in terms of a "merger", as I'm sure some people would be worried it would turn out to be a takeover. That would be disastrous for the movement. Where AF and Solfed have groups in the same cities, then we always try and work together closely. We want to do that even better.

However, if Solfed want to form real industrial networks and would love AF to join them, it might make sense to invite us along to the discussions about setting them up. I'm pretty sure that many of us would be very sympathetic to the idea.

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Chilli Sauce
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Jun 1 2010 11:45

Well, in London we're preparing for a strategy meeting, should know more by then...

Werther De Goethe
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Jun 1 2010 13:23
knightrose wrote:
Speaking as an AF member ...

The AF is over twice the size of Solfed. That poses problems in terms of a "merger", as I'm sure some people would be worried it would turn out to be a takeover. That would be disastrous for the movement. Where AF and Solfed have groups in the same cities, then we always try and work together closely. We want to do that even better.

However, if Solfed want to form real industrial networks and would love AF to join them, it might make sense to invite us along to the discussions about setting them up. I'm pretty sure that many of us would be very sympathetic to the idea.

So what has happened to the AFed's enthusiastic support for the IWW of which (if I remember correctly) you were a leading proponent of? Was that a 'takeover' that didn't work out?

knightrose
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Jun 1 2010 15:11
Quote:
So what has happened to the AFed's enthusiastic support for the IWW of which (if I remember correctly) you were a leading proponent of? Was that a 'takeover' that didn't work out?]

Ever heard of changing your mind about something?

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Jun 1 2010 14:32
Werther De Goethe wrote:
So what has happened to the AFed's enthusiastic support for the IWW of which ... Was that a 'takeover' that didn't work out?

afed never had a position on the iww, some members thought it was worthwhile, and joined, others didn't

Mike Harman
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Jun 1 2010 14:37

While the question wasn't worded very nicely, I'm not aware of this change of mind being discussed much anywhere.

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Jun 1 2010 14:51
Werther De Goethe wrote:
So what has happened to the AFed's enthusiastic support for the IWW of which (if I remember correctly) you were a leading proponent of? Was that a 'takeover' that didn't work out?

The AF as an organisation never supported the IWW, enthusiastically or otherwise. A lot of people joined the IWW few years ago, a number of them have now left the IWW.

To describe this as "enthusiastic support" of the IWW by the AF indicates either complete ignorance of what actually went on or straightforward dishonesty.

knightrose
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Jun 1 2010 15:12

Our collective views are set out in On the Frontline

Mike Harman
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Jun 1 2010 15:41
On the Frontline wrote:
At the moment grass roots self-managed industrial unions like the
IWW provide opportunities to spread militant struggle from
workplace to workplace, strengthen struggle within the workplace
and coordinate solidarity action. Where they judge that these
opportunities still exist, AF members are encouraged to join them.

This doesn't look particularly like a change of mind to me, unless all the individual members of the AF who left the IWW around the same time decided that "these opportunities" don't "still exist", which would be fair enough but doesn't answer the question really.

@ - anywhere in particular?

Mike Harman
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Jun 1 2010 15:46
cobbler wrote:
Now, where does L&S fit in...?

Another long thread but worth reading if you're interested in this kind of thing: http://libcom.org/forums/organise/liberty-solidarity-18062008

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Jun 1 2010 16:08

catch, the AF have been admirably open about the lessons of their involvement in the IWW, e.g. a long piece here. since they're not claiming to have a fully worked-out industrial strategy ('On the frontline' is more about 'describing tendencies' and strikes me as a moment in discussion rather than a grand conclusion) i don't think it makes much sense going 'ha, you don't have a fully worked-out industrial strategy!'

i mean yes, i found the decision of some AFers who found SolFed/EWN too 'unionist' to join the IWW instead a little perplexing. but they've been open about their reasons and it think it also shows a failure on SolFed's part to explain why we're not advocating reformism under a red and black flag (like the CGT-E, who apparently maintain they're anarcho-syndicalists). i mean there's not even a basic introductory pamphlet on anarcho-syndicalism, so we can hardly blame people for not telepathically 'getting' it. and i can see why if you think SolFed and the IWW advocate the same thing, you'd join the latter. they're much bigger (although much of it seems to be paper membership), and a few years ago were rapidly growing.

so i think the upshot of this is any merger would be jumping the gun. the AF are clearly having decent discussions of industrial strategy, while SolFed are have been discussing precisely what kind of union we advocate, how it differs from non-IWA formations and how to take practical steps in that direction. coupled with the good fraternal relations between the organisations, and good discussions within and between them, i think a rush towards merger would be an attempt to skip these essential processes (the end point of which is necessarily open).

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Jun 1 2010 16:42

I haven't read AF's original "On the Frontline", but I have read the "redux" (http://libcom.org/library/frontline-redux-problem-unions), which I think is not only really close to the SolFed position--at least as I understand it in London and Brighton--but is pretty damn critical of the organizational steps the IWW has taken in Britain.

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Jun 1 2010 17:45
ncwob wrote:
I haven't read AF's original "On the Frontline", but I have read the "redux" (http://libcom.org/library/frontline-redux-problem-unions), which I think is not only really close to the SolFed position--at least as I understand it in London and Brighton--but is pretty damn critical of the organizational steps the IWW has taken in Britain.

Thats the view of a few members though (myself included), not the AF as a whole.

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Jun 1 2010 18:29
Quote:
i mean yes, i found the decision of some AFers who found SolFed/EWN too 'unionist' to join the IWW instead a little perplexing.

That wouldn't have been the reason we did what we did. Solfed is, in my opinion, an anarchist communist propaganda group. It has aspirations to be more. We were already in an anarchist communist propaganda group and frankly felt we were in the better one of the two. We would have been very interested in joint work in industrial networks, not in joining another political group. It had nothing to do with Solfed being too unionist.

The AF has aspirations towards the creation of what we call "workplace resistance groups". Discussions with Manchester Solfed certainly gave the impression that what they were doing in reality was create such a group, rather than an a-s union. That's why we suggested joining the EWN.

By that time some of us had tentatively taken steps into joining the IWW, we hoped that being part of it would make the creation of networks and that type of group more possible. We knew that this was at variance with the IWW desire to create One Big Union. However, being knocked back by Solfed made it sensible to put our efforts into the IWW. It was never a collective decision to enter - certainly not all AF members did. The current views are those outlined in Frontline. The opinions expressed in Redux were meant to be a contribution to the discussion to take our work forward.

We are still discussing internally a lot of these issues and it would be wrong to suggest that there is a single view on the matter. We will talk about it further at our conference this July.