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(en) Freedom 6404 22 Feb, 2003 - Practical suggestions, part two

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 31 Mar 2003 11:30:47 +0200 (CEST)


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We already have three national federations, together
with a wide range of other networks and groups
('Practical suggestions', 11th January). What I suggest
isn't in any way intended to replace them. My proposal
is to give anarchism a public face that can be applied
in everyday situations, without compromising our
ultimate objectives of total revolutionary change in
society. If we're ever going to achieve our ends, we
need to present ideas that are comprehensible and
achievable, and which actually attempt to solve the
problems people face now. Our ideas should draw
people to us.

In my view, what puts people off anarchism isn't the
range of views presented, or the fact that there are
many different anarchist groups. Indeed, in some ways
that's to our advantage. What puts people off is the
gap between what we say we'd like eventually and what
we propose (and do) about it in the here and now. If we
want people to take us seriously we need to take our
'target audience' and its concerns seriously, even while
we recognise that many problems in present society
simply can't be solved this side of the capital and the
state being abolished.

What I'd like to propose is a series of 'policy forums'
which are open to all those who consider themselves
anarchists and who are prepared to discuss matters
with others who think likewise. This exercise wouldn't
be about defining 'anarchism' or what acceptable ideas
and behaviours are. It would be based on bringing
together those anarchists whose primary focus is power
relations (class struggle, anti-state and so on) and
those who are advocates of anarchist values. Obviously
these two aren't exclusive, but we must realise that
different anarchists have different priorities.

This proposal would mean everyone participating on
an equal basis, rather than having to sign up to an
already-existing group or federation first. Instead
groups, both physical and virtual, could congregate
around specific areas of concern. Each group could try
to define this concern from anarchist perspectives as
experienced in contemporary society. It could suggest
some short-term and partial solutions, while also
defining what our ultimate objectives might be. It
could highlight ways of getting from where we are now,
via short-term goals, to our final objectives.

If agreement was reached within each policy area, we
could then go through another phase where people
from each policy group would meet up to see how the
ideas put forward in each area would impact on each
other. This would be the time to resolve the inevitable
clashes of priorities. Finally, we could pull all these
aspects together in a form which would allow all
anarchists the opportunity of undertaking action to
promote our objectives, short-term and long-term
alike.

By focusing the discussion groups on subject areas
rather than on ideological positions, we'd open the way
for groups and individuals to think through hows and
whys, without having to defend specific ideas. In the
end, hopefully, the outcome of all these discussions
and conferences would be a more united movement. It
would be more inclusive and open-ended, while at the
same time more focused and with more definite
objectives and ways of achieving them.

Richard A.

I couldn't let Iain McKay's response to me ('Practical
suggestions', 11th January) go unchallenged. Iain
wilfully misinterprets my comment that "we can learn
more from the recent successes" of the British
National Party, and takes me to mean I support the
BNP's electoralism. This isn't the case. My point is
that a far-right party, which is the enemy of the
working class, has stolen a move on the left and
anarchist movement in what ought to be that
movement's natural constituency. It's achieved this by
doing the work the left has neglected, patiently
working doorsteps to argue for a particular political
alternative.

It's this regular work I think we can learn from, not the
reprehensible politics of the BNP or the electoral
strategies which underpin it. The BNP has gained an
audience within a working class that's hostile to
Labour by becoming part of the landscape of working
class political life. My original criticism of Iain's
proposal for a new form of anarchist federation was
that he was proposing an organisational solution for
the weakness of the anarchist movement, without
addressing the political cause of that weakness.

For me, the revolutionary left turned its back on the
working class after 1968, when the influx of student
revolutionaries made the campus the focus of political
life. Class became something the revolutionary left
paid lip service to, but it wasn't fundamental to it.
This meant the left became divorced from the daily
life of the working class, and its politics ever more
abstract and single-issue based.

But how can a predominantly middle class
revolutionary movement find its way back to the class
it left behind? It seems to me that the precondition for
this has to be the acceptance by the anarchist
movement that it took a wrong road, along with a
critical examination of our history and politics since
1968.

It will take a great deal of patience and humble pie to
win back some of our credibility on the doorsteps. In
organising workshops and advice sessions, I think some
of the work the Solidarity Federation does is a step in
the right direction. But I also think that fetishising
syndicalism as the alternative, as Iain seems to do, is
to put the needs of anarcho-syndicalists before the
needs of the working class as a whole.

Two points here. Most people who are militant at work
are so within the existing trade union structures, and it
makes more sense to aim for rank-and-file control
within these structures than it does to propose an
anarcho-syndicalist alternative - how much credibility
would anarchists win with fire brigade militants, for
example, by proposing an anarcho-syndicalist
alternative to the FBU? The second point I want to
make is that, in a period of defeat, working class
people are probably weakest in the workplace and
strongest in their communities.

So the best way for local anarchist groups to come
together would be by working with other people over
immediately relevant community issues - housing,
bailiffs, policing - and by using militant direct action to
prove the relevance of our politics. I don't object to
joint activity, but I do think we have to give serious
consideration to the form and issues addressed. For
what it's worth, I'm not isolated myself, nor am I
inactive where I live and work. It's just that what the
anarchist groups near me are up to is irrelevant to me.
Paul Maguire

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