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(en) Ireland, Anarchist Workers Solidarity #88 - Thinking About Anarchism: Organisation

Date Mon, 24 Oct 2005 08:32:41 +0200

It is an old cliché that anarchists are against organisation - the
media loves to point out an imagined contradiction between anarchism
and organisation. The reality is that (among other things) anarchism is
a theory of organisation. The circled A often seen sprayed on walls
represents the A of anarchism within the O of organisation.
The confusion arises because anarchists criticise all forms of top down
organisation and all too often we are told these are the only forms that
can exist. Whether it's the boss in the workplace or the politician in
the Dail we are educated to believe this is the only way to get things

Of course in our day to day interactions with friends and relatives we
never organise things this way. Can you imagine arranging a night out
where one person ordered everyone else to turn up at a particular pub
or to go to a particular cinema?
Forms of anarchist organisation

There is no one right form of anarchist organisation. Rather, different
forms are used for different purposes. What all these forms have in
common is a desire to avoid the creation of any hierarchy while at the
same time making sure that whatever needs to be done gets done.
Informal organisation

The simplest form is the informal form where a small group of people
want to do something, they discuss this and then they go ahead and do

This works pretty well for small scale individual projects - in particular
if there is some reason why you don't want the project to be public
knowledge. Opening up an abandoned building in order to squat in it
might be an example.

However it is not the best form of organisation for involving lots, i.e.
hundreds or even thousands, of people or involving new people
because the existing group of people already know each other well and
those who people who are not in the core group of friends will tend to
be excluded (accidentally or otherwise) from a lot of the decision
making because of the informality. This form of organisation is
sometimes called an affinity group.
The Network

This is useful where a large group of people are interested in a
common project and want to be able to rapidly involve as many people
as possible. It might be composed of a collection of affinity groups and
programatic groups or it might simply be composed of individuals. It's
a good form of organisation for one off protests or events. Typically
there will be one or more assemblies that define and redefine a set of
goals/mandates and alongside this lots of sub-groups and individuals
who will implement these mandates or do what is required to fulfill the

However its open nature makes it easy for hostile opponents and
others to 'infiltrate' it. It's lack of anything but basic agreement on core
principles mean that over time disagreements within the network may
grow to paralyise it and prevent it taking action. Networks in Ireland in
recent years have included Dissent, Dublin Grassroots Network and
Grassroots Network Against the War.
Project Groups

These are useful when you want to achieve some single long term aim
like opening a bookshop, creating an indymedia or sustaining a social
centre where part of the goal is to bring new people into the project.
Seomra Spraoi is one such project.
Programmatic Groups

This is where people come together around an agreed detailed
programme and set of written positions. Because of the often quite
detailed agreement between the members it is possible to have a long
running organisation that builds up considerable resources.

It also will develop a reputation (for better or worse) amongst those
who come into contact with. Internally it should build a high level of
trust and mutual understanding between its members which allows a
high level of solidarity and mutual aid.

The greatest advantage of such a form of organisation is its ability to
weave a common thread between a number of projects and struggles
through both involvement of its members in them and through a
publication that details each of them to many people.

The disadvantages of this form of organisation is that it requires a level
of commitment to join and quite a lot of time spent in internal
discussions to reach collective agreements. Because of both of these it
will seldom be able to grow very fast without losing its original
purpose. The Workers Solidarity Movement is an example of this from
of organistion but our members are also involved in all the other forms

by Andrew Flood

This page is from the print version of the Irish Anarchist paper
'Workers Solidarity'. http://struggle.ws/wsm/paper.html

We also provide PDF files of all our
publications for you to print out and distribute locally

Print out the PDF file of this issue

You can find out when new issues of the paper come out by joining
the Ainriail list http://struggle.ws/other/ainriail.html

This edition is No88 published in Sept 2005

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