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(en) Britain, Anarchist Federation Organise #67 The politics of the anarchist federation: a tribute By Brian Morris

Date Sun, 10 Dec 2006 10:19:01 +0200


In an important academic study of contemporary anarchism Karen Goaman (2002) focussed exclusively on avant-garde individualists and anarcho-primitivists. She implied, quite misleadingly, that these "currents" represented contemporary anarchism, and were, moreover, the only ones that engaged in radical "activism". What was interesting about her study was that she emphasized the importance of anarchist periodicals, for they created a sense of community, and, by drawing on past traditions, re-kindled and kept alive an alternative vision of social life. Unfortunately, by focussing exclusively on anarcho-primitivism and the avant-garde (falsely equated with anarchism) Goaman neglected to mention those anarchist groups focussed around such important periodicals as "Direct Action", "Black Flag", "Class War", "Red and Black Revolution", "Rebel Worker" and "Freedom". Even more striking, given her emphasis on the Situationists and the avant-garde (the focus of her thesis) she completely fails to mention the Anarchist Federation. Yet over the last two decades the Anarchist (Communist) Federation has been actively engaged in contemporary struggles - whether relating to struggles around the workplace or community, environmental issues or the anti-capitalist movement- as well as regularly producing a splendid anarchist magazine Organise! and several important pamphlets.

As the Anarchist Federation is this year celebrating its 20th anniversary it might be useful here to offer my own reflections on this periodical, appropriately titled with the active verb "Organise!" - for revolutionary anarchism.

Although the magazine openly advocates a specific form or strand of anarchism, that of anarchist communism and revolutionary class struggle, what I think is quite refreshing about Organise! is that it has always been free of sectarian angst and vituperation. Thus while engaging in constructive debates and critiques of other forms of anarchism, it has been singularly free of the personal invective and abuse that mars other anarchist periodicals, especially in the United States. Aiming not only to develop anarchist ideas, but to offer a clear anarchist viewpoint on contemporary issues and debates, what is also significant about Organise! is the truly broad coverage that it has always offered to its readership. Thus over the last decade or so Organise! has offered critical reflections on many different issues and struggles, both at a local level and in relation to the British state. It has then kept us informed about worker's struggles in Britain, and has offered enlightening reflections on such issues as the Criminal Justice Bill, advertising - "the poetry of capitalism", on racism in Tower Hamlets, and on the relation of squatters and travellers to the economic crisis

But what has always appealed to me about the magazine is that, within its twenty or so pages, it has invariably carried one or more articles on resistance movements or class struggles in other parts of the world. Organise! has therefore always offered its readers an internationalist perspective, in reporting on the world-wide impact of global capitalism. Thus there have been informative articles on, for example, worker's struggles in Japan, the resistance of native peoples in the Philippines and elsewhere to the intrusion of mining corporations, the terror in East Timor, class war in Argentina, and on the many issues relating to the politics of such countries as Cuba, China, Somali, Mexico and South Africa.

Yet although Organise! has been centrally concerned with class struggles at home and abroad, it has never neglected other important fields of struggle, particularly those relating to gender, the environment, and wider cultural issues. Reading some anarchist texts and periodicals one might be forgiven for assuming that the anarchist movement only involves men, either academics or macho types. What then has been important about Organise! is that it has always been involved in gender issues. It has often focussed on women anarchists like Ito Noe, or on issues, such as abortion, that specifically concern women. Informative articles on anarchism and sex, on women and the Spanish revolution, and on pornography and the sex industry have expressed this interest in gender issues.

With regard to ecology Organise! has always taken a balanced approach. On the one hand we have anarchist periodicals like "Anarchy" and "Green Anarchist" which embrace primitivism with a fundamentalist ardour, and completely ignore class struggles, workers and urban problems, while on the other hand many anarchist journals and newspapers have tended to treat ecology as of marginal interest. In contrast Organise! has always treated the ecological crisis and environmental issues as important topics, while at the same time supporting class struggles. Social justice and defending the environment are, for the Anarchist Federation, intrinsically linked. Thus Organise! has always supported environmental campaigns, whether in relation to Twyford Down or in supporting the London Green Peace activists against the McDonald corporation. Equally important is that over the past decade it has provided useful critiques of primitivism and deep ecology as well as illuminating discussions of such issues as the politics of water, deforestation, nature conservation (anti-people or anti-capitalism?). public transport and land ownership. The pamphlet "Ecology and Class: Where there's Brass, there's Muck" draws together many of these earlier articles, and gives a very useful introduction to ecological issues, viewed from an anarchist communist perspective. The pamphlet is informative, well-researched and lucid, and covers a wide range of topics from biotechnology and global warming to primitivism and the anti-roads movement.

Equally important, though having a central focus on class struggles, and critical of the kind of scholasticism that is all too common in Academia, articles in Organise! often deal specifically with theoretical debates and wider cultural issues. Thus over the decade there have been articles on Keynesian economics, intellectual property rights, the politics of the Socialist Worker's Party, Malcolm X and Black nationalism, mutual aid and evolution, cultural identity, moral panics and children and god and religion.

In retrospect, it is of interest to read the early articles on Tony Blair and Saddam Hussein. These show a good deal of prescience. The article on Blair entitled "Labour Pains" (1995) reflects on Blair's pamphlet on "Socialism" (no less), indicating how wishy-washy it is, and how Blair's politics are akin to those of Thatcher. How true!

Finally, there are the aspects of the magazine Organise! that have always appealed to me - the political cartoons, the support for anarchist prisoners, the obituaries and biographical vignettes of revolutionary anarchists, some known, some unknown, and the book reviews. Though often critical, such reviews express a generous spirit. There is also, usually, an engaging letters page.

Unlike some pretentious anarcho-primitivists the Anarchist Federation has always sought to critically develop anarchist communist ideas. So it has never saw the need to ridicule and dismiss the ideas of an earlier generation of anarchists as "obsolete". It has therefore drawn insightfully on the life and work of such social anarchists as Bakunin, Kropotkin, Makhno and Durruti.

Asked to respond to what the Anarchist Federation has done over the past decade or so, especially in relation to its magazine, one can only say that Organise! has been a beacon of light in a troubled world. Long may it prosper.

Reference: KAREN GOAMAN The Old World is Behind You: The Situationists and beyond in contemporary anarchist currents. Ph.D.Thesis University of London 2002
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