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(en) Ireland, AF interview with Organise!

From Organise Ireland <organiseireland@yahoo.ie>
Date Thu, 9 Dec 2004 15:51:49 +0100 (CET)

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AF: Perhaps you could explain the basis of the merger of the
Anarchist Federation and Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation in Ireland?
Organise!: The merger of the Anarchist Federation and
Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation in Ireland was based on
the common desire for those organisations to look at
practical ways forward for anarchism in Ireland.
Theoretically and tactically, we came to believe that
there was not enough difference in our mutual
positions to warrant separate organisations,
especially given the current size of those
organisations. From working together on previous
campaigns: anti-war activity, prisoner support,
support for the fire-fighters etc…we already knew that
there was a sufficient level of trust, confidence and
mutual respect to render practical cooperation
After a series of private meetings, which covered a
whole range of different issues, the lack of
divergence in our position on ‘the national question’
was confirmed. The question of workplace organisation
was discussed, from time to time at later meetings,
but never formally so.

AF: Did the merger start with a formal proposal or did
it grow organically?

Organise!: There was never a formal proposal for the
AF and ASF to sit down and discuss amalgamation,
though members of the AF did respond positively to the
proposal made by Jason Brannigan to the movement on
the ‘irishanarchism’ email list in 2003. For those
comrades in Britain not aware of this proposal, it
called for the establishment of an Irish anarchist
federation based on affinity groups that:

“could be formed around local areas, membership of the
same trade union, be employed in the same industry, or
around specific issues or collectives such as prisoner
support or book distribution.”

This was a proposal to all three organisations
existing at the time in Ireland, and to other
non-aligned activists. Unfortunately, the proposal did
not meet with a positive response from the WSM at that
time: not that their response was negative, it was
simply non-committal. It was just after this,
however, that the ASF and AF published their first
joint bulletin –Wildcat! –which focussed on class
struggle relevant at the time, but also included a
‘statement on the north’ which we had previously
agreed. It was while we were deciding the layout of
the second edition of Wildcat! that we first began to
realise the direction in which we were heading. It was
suggested that we could compliment the statement in
the first bulletin by having ‘a statement on
industrial organisation’ in the second, and I think it
was during the groundwork accomplished for that, that
some of us first began to talk seriously of the
possibility of merger.

AF: Anarchist Communists and Anarcho-Syndicalists have
historically differed about the way in which we create
a free society; what's changed?

Organise!: First of all, I think you have fallen into
a common misconception regarding the use of those
terms ‘anarcho-communist’ and ‘anarcho-syndicalist’.
It is fairly obvious that ‘anarcho-syndicalists’ are
‘anarcho-communists’ too. The latter is simply an
umbrella term, indistinguishable from similar terms
such as ‘anarchist’ or ‘libertarian communist’
Secondly, both the AF and ASF, during our negotiation
process, were aware that those events which have
‘historically’ divided and weakened us, should not be
permitted to do so over and over again, ad infinitum.
For example, from the perspective of the AF in Ireland
at the time (of which I was a member), we had long ago
refused to focus on the CNT’s entry into government in
1936 as an example of anarcho-syndicalist tendencies
towards reformism -especially when ‘historically’ the
FAI (good ‘anarcho-communists’ by the way) had also
participated. We looked instead at those episodes in
history that would furnish us with hope for the
future: for example, the relations between the Turin
Libertarian Group (essentially council communists) and
the USI during the upsurge in the Italian Works
Councils in 1920. Questions like: ‘what were the
differences in the FAUD and AAUD-E in Germany at the
same time’ were routinely being asked?
As to the accusations of a-politicism meted out to
anarcho-syndicalists the world over, for anarchists,
mostly based in the north of Ireland, we understood,
as did the ASF, that being apolitical was the one
thing neither organisation could be accused of.
>From the ASF perspective, I think there was a definite
sense that here was another organisation which wanted
to find practical ways of working together in the here
and now. When Jason, in his proposal wrote;

‘I do not believe, personally, that an all island
Anarchist organisation/federation, or for that matter
anarcho-syndicalist federation/union can be built on
the basis of any of those active at
present trying to achieve this on their own and in
competition with each other.’

…it seemed to echo thoughts that we had already been
having in the AF.

I think our aims and principles on trade unions and
industrial organisation are a great step forward in
the sense that a federation of workplace and community
resistance groups, alongside activity in the trade
unions (if the militancy of the TU warrants it) has
provided us with the opportunity to initiate in
cooperation with others a series of industrial
networks. The establishment of an Educational Workers
Network in Ireland will hopefully be just the first
step in that direction.

AF: Has the merger changed anything or simply created
a larger activist and campaigning group?

Organise!: The merger has changed us in the sense that
our levels of confidence and activity have never been
higher. Yes, we have combined resources, a better
bulletin, a vastly improved website, and active locals
(in Belfast, Armagh and Down and in Dublin/Kildare).
But we have an even firmer belief in the validity of
our ideas, and the willingness to argue them. At the
same time, we are modest enough to realise, that the
growth of anarchism in Ireland will be a combined
effort of all those willing to participate in class
struggle both in the workplace and our communities.

AF: What are the main political priorities of the new
group? What are the main challenges facing the working
class in Ireland?

Organise!: The main political priories really lie in
helping develop greater coordination, solidarity and
mutual aid which will culminate in the social,
political and economic transformation of our society.
In the north of Ireland, our activists have been
greatly encouraged by the reaction of ordinary people
to our message in the anti-water tax campaign in which
we are currently involved. The message simply is:
organise yourselves!
We do not see the ‘working class’ as something
external to ourselves. Organise! members are working
class people and we believe that as members of that
class we can reach out to the majority among us and
convince them that they have the ability to empower

AF: What has been the reaction of other anarchist and
libertarian groups to the merger? Have relationships
altered and if so, how?

Organise!: We had a Dublin launch which was well
attended by members of the WSM and others. everyone
has been positive about our merger. If relations have
altered, they have altered for the better. Having a
stronger anarchist organisation in Ireland can only be
beneficial to the movement overall.

AF: One of the key reasons for merger appears to have
been to increase the profile of anarchism in the
workplace. How's that going?

Organise!: Organise! has members who are shop-stewards
in trade unions but, where the potential exists, it
is through our vision of ‘open’ industrial networks
that we believe there is a real possibility that the
profile of anarchism in our workplaces will grow in
the next few years. But not just the workplace:
organisation must link up with community-based
struggle as well.

AF: What campaigns are Organise! involved in at the

Organise!: Our ongoing campaigns are anti-racism,
anti-water charges activity and prisoner support.
Our members are involved in the Fascists Out Campaign
(FOC) which has taken direct action against the rise
of the White Nazi Party (WNP). We believe this is the
only argument those thugs understand.
In the north, the onset of water charges in 2006, has
been met by our locals there actively going out and
engaging with people in our communities, winning the
argument for a massive campaign of non-payment based
on direct action.
Through our links with Anarchist Prisoner Support
(APS), we remain constant in our desire to build up
networks of support for all our prisoners.
Recently, our members were involved in direct action
against the use of Shannon airport by U.S. military
aircraft and against the use of so-called ‘less lethal
weapons’ by armed forces throughout the world.

AF: What's your view of the state of libertarian
politics in Ireland and the culture of resistance to
the state?

Organise!: I think libertarian politics are in a
healthy state at the moment in Ireland. Grassroots
networks have appeared in several cities in Ireland as
a result of the prevalence of libertarian ideas and
disillusionment with Marxist-Leninism. The Grassroots
Gatherings of anarchists and libertarians in Ireland
is ongoing, and while they are a useful source of
networking with others, I believe, personally, that
they ought to focus on more class-based issues in the

AF: Are any other mergers or co-operations planned?
What about the Workers Solidarity Movement?

Organise!: We have no merger planned with the WSM. We
have just published our response to their position on
partition and we would hope this will be seen as a
valid attempt to work through some of our differences
there. Regarding our positions on trade unions, there
is possibly greater opportunity for rapprochment
around the strategy of industrial networks.
As far the future… We have a pamphlet on ‘the national
question’ due out in early 2005 which will compliment
the pamphlet on Belfast anarchism just released. A
pamphlet on trade unions will follow later next year.


This interview appears in the latest edition of the
AF's magazine 'Organise'


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