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(en) Britain, *Organise! #62 - LETTERS: Is Organise! Still Slipping?

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 9 Mar 2005 09:37:46 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
News about and of interest to anarchists
http://ainfos.ca/ http://ainfos.ca/index24.html

A couple of issues back you quipped: `Is
Organise! slipping?` Well, yes, quite
frankly, is the answer, with `0:60' confirm-
ing that prognosis in veritable spades. So
much so you might even consider re-titling
the `zine `The Bolshevik Bugle' - Alarm-
ingly regressive is the only way to describe
it, containing as it does tedious recyclings of
the likes of long-dead, tenuous, some
would say dubious anarchists-turned-
Bolshies such as Arshinov and Serge. The
review of Skirda's book, for example,
`Facing the Enemy' appeared as little more
than a ponderous excuse to revive (resusci-
tate!) the dated, discredited and very
rapidly disinherited document `The
Organisational Platform.' Hardly anyone of
the time it first saw the light of day,
including nearly all anarchist communists,
were of the opinion that there was anything
useful about it as a manifesto for libertarian
revolution. What's changed that it should
be seen as the holy grail 80 odd years on?
There is something acutely embarassing
about the way supposedly progressive anti-
authoritarians of the 21st century seem to
be obsessed with pushing this ancient
vanguardist obscurity. Similarly with the
Trotsky-loving never-quite-confirmed
`anarchist' Victor Serge, subject of another
book review in the journal. Please, what
possible relevance can someone like Serge
hold for the world as it is today? Are
Bolshevist sympaticos like Arshinov and
Serge really where the focus for debate
needs to be in these massively dangerous
and turbulent times?
Another contributor goes to inordinate
lengths to talk up an outfit (the ABC/F)
that in many respects in recent years has let
the movements prisoners down badly.
They dumped, for instance, U.S. working
class prisoner Harold H.Thompson for no
sound reason whatsoever. At least one
ABCF clique in America was known to be
nearer the diktats of Chairman Mao than
anything that could be identified as
anarchism of any sort. Only a year or so
ago U.K. anarcho prison activist Mark
Barnsley publicly alleged (Freedom 63/5)
ABC elements here were corrupt. Did
anyone bother to verify Barnsley's state-
ment? Was Harold Thompson ap-
proached for his thoughts on the ABCF?
Few would go as far as to deny the good
work done by the ABC down the years, but
they simply were not beyond reproach as
the feature would have' it.
It is stated in the blurb panel promoting AF
newsheet `Resistance'... `more and more
people are coming into contact with
revolutionary ideas.' What, like ideas circa
1780 as in the `Whiteboys of Ireland'
feature? Sure, an interesting enough
reflection on little-known Irish history in
itself, but again, a spur to contemporary
revolutionary anarchism, perhaps not.
Wouldn't an in-depth piece on refugees/
asylum seekers have been more appropri-
ate given the current political climate where
those forced into exile are getting ham-
mered right, left and centre? Or a closer
look at Bush's Amerikkka hell-bent on
subjecting the world to its own ideological
recipe of aggressive, rapacious capitalism?
There is the reek of something very
unpleasant in the air on both sides of the
Atlantic and the ideas anarchist commu-
nists should be articulating are ideas that
will counter the devastating implications of
Bush, Blair and Berlusconi policies before
its too late.
Oh, and the letters page a correspondent,
bemoaning that SHAC (Stop Huntingdon
Animal Cruelty) workers had been taken to
task in `0:59' for engaging in work involving
the suffering of animals, is wrong also.
Unless and until workers become self-
consciously critical of the work they accept
payment for then nothing, absolutely
nothing about this society will change for
the better, never mind take on revolution-
ary impetus.
Still, the reviewer of the Serge book at least
is deserving of some credit for acknowledg-
ing that Serge himself had, `...lost hope in
the power of the working class to overthrow
capitalism...' Substitute `will` (or desire or
both) for `power' and we'd be much closer
to a truth the class struggle movement
needs to recognise about itself in these
times. Anarchist communism is a worthy
aspiration. It could even be an imperative i
there is to be any lasting hopes of saving
the planet from a rampant, possibly
fascistic capitalism of the near future.
Cannot the AF turn its eyes in that
direction,the starting point today, rather
than facing backwards as it seems to be
doing much of the time? If the ideas of
yesterday were as bright as some appear to
believe they were then there would be no
need of people like us, would there?
> For an anarchist communist world,
> Frankie Dee, Merseyside

In Reply:
We are a federation of organisational
anarchists. We strongly believe that a
degree of self-organisation and co-opera-
tion will be necessary both to confront,
dissolve and destroy capitalism and meet
the needs and aspirations of up to six
billion people in the free society of the
future. By that we don't mean an
organisation, one group deciding for the
rest how the revolution will be brought
about or carried through. We recognise
the vast diversity of experience and thought
that is ­ inexorably ­ taking humanity
towards the free society but by many
different roads and from many different
starting points. So we think that books like
Skirda's Facing The Enemy are useful in
examining the successes and failures of
organisational anarchism and making the
case for collective action. But thinking well
of some degree of organisation and unity in
action does not make us raving Bolsheviks,
as Frankie Dee asserts, not by a long-shot.
Regarding The Organisational Platform for
a General Union of Anarchists (to give it its
full title), some members of the Anarchist
Federation think it's a useful document,
written as it was by people who had spent
many years fighting an authoritarian
revolution with some success and who
came to the failures of European anar-
chism with fresh eyes; others of us think it
less useful. The review points to the many
differing opinions about The Platform
voiced by anarchists and argues ­ as we
ourselves would ­ that doctrinal differences
can and should be put aside in pursuit of a
common goal of freedom. There is
strength in the unity of ideas and action,
which is why the Anarchist Federation was
formed. But that is a long way from the
sort of unified and disciplined organisation
of anarchists the authors of The Platform
proposed. If you're interested in the kinds
of organisation we think help people
struggling to bring about a freer world,
you'll find some ideas in As We See It,
The Role of The Revolutionary
Organisation or Beyond Resistance, all
currently available from the AF.
That diversity we value in the movement
comes not just from our own experiences
but also the ideas and experiences of other
anarchists and libertarians. We don't
apologise for bringing to the attention of
people the history, thought and experience
of others so that they can decide for
themselves what can be learnt or enjoyed
from it. Perhaps Frankie Dee prefers that
people like Victor Serge, Piotr Arshinov
(executed by Stalin in 1937, some anar-
chist-turned-bolshevik) or Nestor Makhno
were simply airbrushed out of anarchist
history? Humans are fallible people. We
fairly describe their successes and failures,
their good ideas and bad, their flaws as well
as their gifts. That doesn't make us
apologists for their ideas or obsessed with
past failures and history; we aren't.
Frankie Dee unfairly thinks us backward-
looking. Sure, Organise! #60 had historical
examples of self-organisation and resistance
to the ruling class but it also had articles on
Iraq, Oil, the Firefighters Strike and the
continuing struggle of the people of
Argentina against globalisation and free-
market capitalism. It's a pity he didn't wait
for Organise #61 before rushing to print ­
it had articles on direct action against the
Iraq War in Ireland and the North-East,
more on the struggle in Argentina and
features on The New Economy, strikes at
Bombardier and the current state of
industrial struggle and the unions ­ as up to
date as it gets. Organise! is not Socialist
Worker, with its numbing repetition of
strike, struggle, organise. It's a magazine of
ideas promoting revolutionary anarchism,
which requires more than endlessly harping
on about Bush's Amerika ­ we leave that
sort of thing to George Monbiot and
Naomi Klein, bless `em.
Finally, regarding the article on the ABC,
Frankie Dee is reading too much from it.
The article he refers to in Organise! #60
(Yelensky's Fable) is about 2400 words
long; the section on the ABCF is about 70
words and simply says that it is still "very
active". The rest of the article is a history
of support for anarchist prisoners and the
state's response from Tsarist times to the
present. It steers clear of taking sides in
disputes between what are ­ let's face it ­
fairly arcane matters between a relatively
small number of anarchists in just one part
of the world and concentrates on the
history of the ABC, warts and all. We
thought it was a useful balancing of
accounts on behalf of people who were
there, who are sometimes accused and
criticised but who cannot, because they
have been murdered or imprisoned by the
state, reply to their critics. Sure the ABC
has made mistakes from time to time but
the article admits that. It rightly focuses on
the "good work done by the ABC down
the years", a fact that Frankie Dee acknowl-
edges but underestimates.
Frankie Dee knows us well and we're
always glad to publish letters from one of
our most faithful readers. In this case his
blunderbuss has hit many targets but with
little effect. We're trying to build and be
part of a global movement with huge
diversity and one purpose - revolution.
The Anarchist Federation has worked out
some pretty good ideas on most things and
is far more focussed on action and progress
than on minor differences of opinion
within other parts of the movement, which
we respect but won't let hold us back. Lets
keep it real.

A letter for Organise!?
Send your letters to:
Organise! Letters, AF, c/o 84b Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 7QX
* Buletin of AF - Anarchist Federation - Britain

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