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From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 7 Apr 2004 10:14:04 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
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History - The AF has its roots in a number of small anarchist groupings that
existed in the 1970s. There had been contact with groups in France
such as the Organisation of Revolutionary Anarchists and later the
Union des Travailleurs Communiste et Libertaire (UTCL). Two of the
founding members of the AF had been members of the UTCL in France
in the early 1980s. However, though recognising the value of a specific
political anarchist organisation, there were certain aspects of the politics
of the UTCL which they found problematic: a tendency to involvement
in reformist union structures and an orientation towards reformist leftist
groups. Upon return to Britain, these two members, enthused by having
been part of an actual anarchist movement, rooted in the working class,
were intent on establishing a similar movement in Britain, starting with
the formation of a specific anarchist group that was revolutionary and
not implicated in union reformism. Meanwhile in Britain, there had
been a renewed interest in anarchism. There were two organisations:
Class War and the Direct Action Movement. Neither of these
organisations was considered adequate for the task ahead. Class War
was not explicitly anarchist and not a formal organization. In addition, it
relied on an anti-theory, populist approach with a stereotypical view of
the working class as being angry class warriors who didnt want to
think too much. Direct Action was an anarcho-syndicalist organisation
and therefore focuses on building the anarcho-syndicalist union,
something thought to be a futile in the British context.
Another individual who had single-handedly been producing a
magazine called Virus joined the original two and launched the
Anarchist Communist Discussion group at the Anarchist Bookfair in
October 1985. They received remarkable interest in their project and by
April 1986, there was enough stability to formalise the organisation into
the Anarchist Communist Federation. Though there is some historic
continuity with earlier anarchist groups in Britain, the new federation is
mainly a new phenomenon, drawing on people new to anarchism in the
1980s. We started out with a set of aims and principles, which remain
largely in tact, but there has still been considerable development in our
politics, as new people join and offer new perspectives, and as we
develop our ideas in the course of what is going on in the class struggle
itself. In the late 90s we changed our name to the Anarchist Federation,
not because we had changed our politics, but for pragmatic reasons.
The members in Ireland are now part of an autonomous organization
that covers both the North and South. Those who were AF members
continue to hold joint membership and participate in the activities of the

Aims and Principles
The central plank of our principles, like all anarchist organisations, is
the recognition of the need to abolish both capitalism (in all its varieties)
and state oppression. The state can never be used as a vehicle to
transform society. In addition, we believe that this can only come about
through a social revolution, where the working class organises itself to
physically overthrow the system. Anarchism is about individuals
changing as part of a general social struggle. It is not about individuals
changing their lifestyle and hoping capitalism will just go away. We do
not fetishise violence and recognise that the use of violence can produce
new hierarchies, but we realise that it is unavoidable. However, the
revolution will primarily come about through non-military means as we
develop our power through a variety of social, economic, political and
cultural forms of resistance. It is to this end that we work.
Though not always demonstrated in our propaganda or political
activities, we argue that there is not just class exploitation and
oppression. Though we dont necessarily use the concept of
patriarchy, we believe that the oppression of women pre-dates
capitalism and will not automatically disappear with the end of
capitalism. Sexism permeates the working class and the anarchist
movement and will require particular struggles to get rid of. At the same
time, we do not see struggles against sexism as totally separate from
those against the entire system of hierarchy and oppression. Recently,
the womens movement has been in decline and this is reflected in
the lack of focus on specifically anti-sexist struggles in our propaganda
and our activities. This is something we are trying to deal with- how not
to be gender-blind in our analysis of the working class and the class
Similarly with anti-racism, but in this case the political situation
makes the issues more obvious and easier to focus on. We have seen a
growth in racism for a variety of reasons, not just to do with September
11th and much of our propaganda and activity has been directed at
building anarchist resistance to racism and fascism without forming
unholy alliances with reactionary religious groups.
Nevertheless, we have had limited success in attracting people from a
broad spectrum of ethic backgrounds.
The nature of unionism in Britain has posed many problems for us
when trying to decide on a workplace strategy. The unions are not only
reformist but are often totally implicated in the exploitation of the
working class. Our experience led us to adopt what some may call an
anti-union position. We argue that people should not take up
positions in the union and that in many cases there is no point in even
being a member of the union as its role is counter revolutionary. There
is no point in trying to democratise the unions or try and make
them more combative. It is in their nature to negotiate with capitalism,
not to seriously undermine it. They cannot be reformed. This position
has caused some difficulties because as most workplace activity takes
place within the context of the official union, what do we actually do?
We have argued that we should be trying to organise informal groups of
militant workers, whether they be union members or not. The aim is not
to establish an alternative union structure, which would only end up
becoming another reformist union, but to be a source of revolutionary
propaganda and a catalyst for action. We would like to help develop
workplace organisation but not in the sense of an alternative structure.
We have had some members demonstrate the possibility of such a
strategy but only around particular issues for a limited time. At this
years conference we are going to rediscuss our workplace strategy
and we expect this will be on-going. This is one area that the greater
experience of other anarchists in Europe would be very helpful.
One of the reasons for rejecting anarcho-syndicalism as a strategy is
because of the importance we place on organising in the community.
We are well aware that community in the traditional sense does not
really exist, but there are issues that affect the localities where people
live. These issues include transport, provision of public services and the
effect of the environment on health. Members have set up local
anarchist groups which have been successful in at least raising
awareness and in some cases actually mobilising the wider working
class on a small scale.
We have a strong internationalist perspective and are particularly
critical of national liberation movements and ideologies. There can be
no better government. The only way we can achieve true
liberation is through internationalism which refuses to choose between
oppressors. History has shown that the lesser of the two evils
soon turns out to be just as evil. Meanwhile, you have
abandoned your own principles and weakened your own movement. It is
only by building up the international anarchist movement that we can
effectively challenge all oppressors.

We are organised on federalist lines which means we are a federation
of individuals and groups with no central political or administrative
structure. This does not mean that we have no decision-making
structure, something which can only lead to informal leadership cliques
rather than formal ones. We have one national conference and three
national delegate meetings a year that will take decisions on our general
orientation, strategy and action. However, these decisions are reached
through extended discussion in the Internal Bulletin and on the internet
discussion list. It is very rare that we have anything which is not
generally agreed after discussion. If we do vote on anything, the vote is
first open to any member to register a negative vote. If the decision is
still made, then groups and/or individuals are still free to not implement
the decision as long as they do not seek to undermine the organisation. I
cannot actually think of an example to illustrate this as we have not had
a very controversial issue in some years. The only vote we had relatively
recently was whether to change the name to the Anarchist Federation.
There had been considerable debate but in this case the minority who
felt less strongly about keeping the name were willing to accept the
decision of the majority as we could not have an organisation with two
names! In most cases, however, there is room for difference. For
example, recently one group disagreed with the analysis in an article of
Resistance and decided they were not going to distribute that issue. In
general, though, the principle is to move forward together as an
organisation and to avoid such situations. One of our central concerns
is how to ensure maximum participation of all members and how to
avoid formal and informal hierarchies. After all, it is our experiences
that will provide the basis for alternative ways of organising society.
We remain primarily a propaganda organisation due to our size- less
than 70 people spread through-out the country, often on their own
rather than in groups. We manage to produce a bi-annual magazine
(1000 copies) and a monthly free bulletin (2000-3000 copies). In
addition we have a range of pamphlets, posters and stickers. We
strongly believe that our main focus must be to develop an anarchist
presence within the working class both in the workplace and the
locality. The future for anarchism and for the planet lies in anarchism
being taken up by a wide variety of working class people in their
everyday struggles, not just by those whose main activity is organising
and participating in media-driven events.

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