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(en) Freedom 6401 Jan, 2003 - Practical suggestions

From <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 24 Jan 2003 05:09:39 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Do we need a new type of anarchist federation in Britain? The
debate continues ...

I'd hoped my original article would lead to more discussion.
Surely a question of this importance should produce more
input from readers? On 21st September, Ed from Woking
Anarchist Federation suggested that, in order to strengthen
our movement, we should all join one of the existing national
federations. But he missed the point I was trying to make. If
these federations were stronger more anarchists would join
them, for a start. But in any case, many people seem happier
outside the existing groups. Asking them to join one would be
fruitless. Even if all anarchists did join, the question of
co-operation would still be an important one, and one that isn't
currently being addressed. (Nor, incidentally, did I suggest
setting up a brand new anarchist federation, though if one did
result from increased cooperation I'd be happy).
Turning to Paul Maguire (30th November), I really wonder
what he's on about. Perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised that
he spends more time lambasting those he considers 'freaks'
than actually addressing my original article and the ideas it
raised. If he did address them, he'd have to comment on my
suggestions for how we, as anarchists, could apply our ideas
and make them relevant to our class. Certainly I don't need
him to tell me that anarchists are isolated from the working
class either. I said as much back in August, when this
discussion began. Ironically, though, Paul turns my own point
into a stick to beat me with. Then, after ignoring the bulk of
what I said, he says my suggestions are like 'pissing in the
wind'! Well, better than taking the piss.
If, by the term 'anarcho-librarian', he simply means an
anarchist who bothers to read what others actually write, I
plead guilty. Looking at what he wrote, it's significant that for
all his talk about finding means to 'our assumed constituency'
(the working class), he singularly fails even to mention the
means by which I proposed we could do so. I take this lack of
discussion to signify a lack of support for what I called
community and workplace syndicalism. But where does that
leave us? Paul says we could "learn more from the recent
successes of the BNP, lessons we can turn against them, than
we can from what the CNT did" in Spain. Which means that,
as workplaces and community assemblies are rejected, we're
left with the dead-end of electioneering. And he accuses others
of not wanting to learn from previous errors!
It's a shame that, after expressing so much venom, Paul can't
be bothered to suggest anything practical himself. Need I
remind him the reason Durruti and Makhno inspire us today is
because they supported workplace and community assemblies,
and direct action - not electioneering? As for Brian Bamford's
contribution, I'd say he gives us a practical example of one
possible way forward. Any coordination of anarchist activity
will have to be built from the bottom up, and the experience of
the Northern Anarchist Network could be something to learn
from. Can we have more details of what's done there and, as
importantly, how?
Now I've got a practical suggestion to make, and one which
could provide a test run for the coordination I think would
strengthen our presence. The 'Don't attack Iraq' lobby of
parliament on 15th February would be an ideal event for which
we could concentrate on the 95% that we, as class struggle
anarchists, have in common. Libertarian Lad said on 30th
November that we should work on "organising a fightback in
the UK against capitalism", rather than bothering with
"thousands of bible thumpers, CNDers and treehuggers". Well,
I think he's wrong on five counts.
First, fighting the war and capitalism aren't, and mustn't be,
mutually exclusive. Second, the costs of the war will be
dumped on the working class, both here and in Iraq (the
working class suffers most in any war). Third, if Libertarian
Lad thinks that people on the anti-war march will be limited
to his colourful list he's wrong. Fourth, if we want real
anarchism to predominate, we need to be active. We need to
present our ideas in a militant and practical way. Ignoring a
mass event like this would mean leaving it to the 'radical
liberals and lifestylists' he criticises, so ensuring that fluffy
'anarchism' continues. Fifth, working together on 15th
February will allow us a test-run for joint activity in the class
So, what could this cooperation involve? At its most basic, a
joint leaflet by all the national anarchist federations and class
struggle magazines and papers. This would explain the
anarchist analysis of war and how to stop it, and shouldn't be
difficult to agree and produce. It could advertise a follow-up
public meeting, and give contacts for all the groups. Perhaps
this could be fleshed out on the AF-SolFed-CWF mailing list?
One of the problems people complain of is the lack of visibility
in our movement. Leafleting an anti-war demo like this would
be a massive boost to our visibility.
Needless to say, joint activity could happen for any event, and
it's a disgrace that it isn't often being done now. We've
managed it in Glasgow, even taking leaflets, stickers and
placards down to the London RTS/Dockers' march in 1997. I
remember being dismayed then that London anarchists hadn't
done something similar. What about now? Is it more of the
same or an attempt, no matter how flawed, to get our ideas
across to others in a big way? Will it be anarchy in action or
anarchist inaction?
Iain McKay
On 8th February, there will be a special anti-war issue of
Freedom to coincide with the lobby of parliament a week later.
For details of how to contribute, email FreedomCopy@aol.com
or join the Freedom discussion list by sending an empty email
to FreedomAnarchistFortnightly-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Like Paul Maguire, I and the rest of the Anarchist Federation
agree our focus must be on raising levels of resistance among
the working class. The question is how to do it. With only just
over sixty members spread across the British Isles I think the
AF punches above its weight, but we're spread mighty thin. We
encourage members to form local AF, anarchist or campaign
groups, and to provide support in the form of leaflets, flyers,
pamphlets, posters and stickers. We provide money to pay for
venues, travel for speakers, a benefit fundraiser or whatever.
We help fund agitational bulletins like Merseyside
Resistance!, which feature local campaigns and more material
Hopefully a group forms and begins to fight back, joining in
local struggles and raising new issues via propaganda and
direct action. Hopefully it creates a culture of resistance. Then
the task is to form a non-electoral challenge which has the
potential to abolish the local state, or to force it into
significant concessions to freedom - not an easy task! Until
then, a permanent federation helps sustain these groups and, if
they peter away (which happens), members of the AF aren't
lost to the movement but carry on the fight knowing that
others are fighting too.
The national federations also provide the means for people to
debate strategy and tactics, which is important in the struggle
to win back the allegiance of ordinary people. It's true we
haven't done enough to create a connection in people's minds
between poverty, inequality and capitalism - unfortunately,
most people's attitude is that they'd like a piece of it, if only
the fat cats would stop guzzling the cream. It's hard to argue
for the abolition of money when it's the want of it that drives
people crazy!
Paul Maguire was exactly right, but here's a question. Do we
try to stimulate people's desire for freedom while pointing out
that it's the injustices of capitalism that deny them that
freedom? Or do we challenge injustice while pointing out that
this injustice stems from our lack of freedom? Or, like the
Anarchist Federation, do we try to do both, unifying those for
whom liberty and justice are the twin poles of the same
Odessa Steps
Anarchist Federation

Paul Maguire's frustration with the anarchist movement may
be understandable, but ultimately standing on the sidelines
shouting "you're all wrong" is no solution either. As someone
who has a partner, two children and work to do, I can
understand his frustration with a ghetto that seems to want to
talk only to itself. If anarchism is a valid philosophy, which I
believe it is, then it has to be relevant to the real struggles of
working class people.
I've recently joined the Solidarity Federation, after ten years
involvement in a local anarchist group that came out of the
campaign against the Poll Tax. What I find there isn't "a
syndicalist equivalent of trade union routinism", despite what
Paul says, but a small group of people trying to put their
anarchist politics into some kind of positive direction. There
are only about six active people in our local group, and quite a
few more or less inactive ones.
Yet we're involved in disputes in local government, including
the year-long dispute in Hackney libraries, in campaigns
against the sell-off of council housing and also in producing a
free newsletter that we give out at demonstrations, tube
stations and workplaces. It would be easy, given the scale of
the task we face and, as Paul says, our distance from having a
widespread base in the working class, to feel we were just
'pissing in the wind'. But I'd defend our activity, not because I
think we have all the answers, but because otherwise we'll
always be starting from zero.
So what I'd say to Paul and other isolated or inactive
anarchists is to join one of the national organisations or a local
group - there must be somewhere you can get together with
other people and put your politics into some useful activity.
It's only by doing things that we actually learn about our
politics. There must be some group or organisation that's near
enough to what you believe to get involved with. And if there
isn't, get some people together and set it up.
Steve Fisher
For the latest on the Hackney libraries dispute Steve

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