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(en) Britain, *Organise! #63* - The emerging movement

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 15 Apr 2005 06:38:39 +0200 (CEST)

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A member of the Anarchist Federation talks to a member of Organise!,
the Irish anarchist organisation, to find out the state of the movement
there and what prompted the merger between two of the national groups.
>>>>Perhaps you could explain the basis of the merger of the
Anarchist Federation and Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation in Ireland?
<<<<The merger of the Anarchist Federation (AF) and Anarcho-Syndicalist
Federation (ASF) 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 possible.
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.

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

<<<<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
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 Workers'
Solidarity Movement (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.

>>>>Anarchist Communists and Anarcho-
Syndicalists have historically differed
about the way in which we create a free
society. What's changed?

<<<<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 that have `historically' divided and
weakened us should not be permitted to do
so over and over again.
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.

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

<<<<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.

>>>>What are the main political priorities of
the new group and what are the main
challenges facing the working class in

<<<<The main political priorities 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 themselves.

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

<<<<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

>>>>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! 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.

>>>>What campaigns are Organise! involved
in at the moment?

<<<<Our ongoing campaigns are anti-racism,
anti-water charges activity and prisoner
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.

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

<<<<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 future.

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

<<<<We have no mergers planned with the
WSM. We have just published our response
to their position on partition and we would
hope this would 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 rapprochement 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.
* Organise! #63 - Winter 2004 FOR REVOLUTIONARY ANARCHISM -
the magazin of the anarchist federation

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