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(en) collective action au: From ‘Anarchist Affinity' to ‘Collective Action' - A brief history and future directions.
Fri, 8 Sep 2017 11:18:56 +0300
Over the past year, the members of Anarchist Affinity have discussed changing our name so
that we can adopt a label that better reflects our understanding of anarchist communist
politics and vision for social change. To this end, we've decided to call ourselves
‘Collective Action.' ---- Anarchist Affinity emerged, in a very basic form, from a reading
group in 2012. Early members of the group came together out of a sense of shared
frustration with the limitations of anarchist politics in Melbourne. Anarchists can be
inward looking - it's easy to get caught up in the internal issues and culture of the
anarchist scene, and miss out on engaging with broader social movements. We often lack the
organisation and political confidence needed to make anarchist ideas relevant to
contemporary political and social struggles.
Anarchist politics have a lot to offer. Our ideas about direct action, the dangers of
reformism and electoralism, and the importance of bottom-up decision making in mass
movements have the potential to help us build stronger, more resilient social movements.
But for anarchist ideas to have any impact, we must put them into practice.
And to do this, we need political structures and methods of organising which will allow us
to think and act collectively. As it is, too often we end up reinventing the wheel. Our
political memory is very short, there is little sense of the history of previous
struggles, and few opportunities to learn from past mistakes. We lack a clear vision of
what winning would look like. The skills we need to do necessary long-term organising
often aren't present or need to be shared more thoroughly. In Melbourne, most people get
involved in anarchist politics through friendship networks and use these networks as the
basis for their organising. But we need to be able to reach those who are already within
the ‘left' and work together with people who might not be our friends otherwise.
These are some of the challenges we face as anarchists in Melbourne in 2017. The name
Anarchist Affinity is an odd one given our politics and the common associations attached
to the word ‘affinity' among anarchists. The term ‘affinity group' is most commonly
associated with a more temporary grouping, brought together for a specific goal or action,
and usually characterised by a closed membership, consensus decision making, and decidedly
less formal structures. Our aim has long been to build something other than an ‘affinity
group' as it is commonly understood. We aim to build a political organisation with shared
politics and strategy, organised in local groups in various workplaces, universities,
neighbourhoods, and wider campaigns. We want to be part of an outward facing group that
can clearly communicate and articulate its politics to anyone who is interested, whether
we meet them at work, in the community or at a rally.
We need to develop anarchist and other left-wing political collectives to help us engage
in political struggles, reflect, learn and grow as activists. The particular
organisational form that a group adopts is a lot less important than a commitment to
organise and act collectively. Our ideas about anarchist organisation have been influenced
by the political tendencies known as platformism and specifism. Platformists and
specifists argue for the importance of specifically anarchist organisations as a means of
linking together broad social movements. For our purposes, platformism is not an
all-encompassing political theory which ought to be embraced uncritically. It is a set of
principles about how we, as anarchists, can play a useful role in increasing the capacity
of ordinary people to struggle for the issues which matter to them (and us!).
To us, the platformist idea of ‘collective responsibility' means being accountable to each
other, ‘theoretical unity' means working to arrive at a shared political understanding,
‘tactical unity' is a commitment to plan and act together, with the aim of testing and
refining our political ideas in practice, and anarchist ‘federalism' offers a method by
which we can implement a shared strategy without resorting to the hierarchies inherent in
so-called ‘democratic centralism.' The idea of collective responsibility is particularly
important to us. We live in a society where the isolated, ‘independent,' individual is
held up as the centre of everything.
Many of us have little experience of working with others in a context not structured by
oppression and exploitation. Our workplaces, families, and friendship groupings don't
provide us with a good model for political organisation and action. Part of the task that
faces us as anarchists is to create forms of organisation which allow us to relate to one
another in new ways. This requires work - we can't expect to unlearn the limited and
oppressive habits of thought we have accumulated through a life time of social
conditioning in an instant or by ourselves. Part of collective responsibility means
committing to learning about forms of oppression, like sexism, racism and prejudice
against LGBTIQ+ people, and challenging our role in maintaining them. This involves
understanding how different forms of oppression support one another and how they
reinforce, but are not reducible to, capitalism and the state. Collective responsibility
also means that we take responsibility for the political development of the people we work
with. This means being prepared to be critical of the actions of others and to help each
other respond to any criticisms constructively. We are all works-in- progress, and we need
each other's support to become better anarchists.
Being part of an organisation is one important way we can help build a culture of
solidarity on the left. We want to create political spaces where we help each other out as
much as we can, and we get help if we need it. Our actions should be oriented around
improving our everyday lives, working in the here-and- now with an eye to the future.
We want to be unified not just by an abstract set of ideals, but a day to day commitment
to increasing our capacity to live and fight back against the blows of capitalism and
other oppressive systems. To that end we wish to take part in and build projects that
substantively address peoples' real needs, showing the efficacy of anarchist politics in
the process. We need a clear vision so that we aren't just stuck trying to survive, but
are able change the world so that we can live in it.
Collective Action is a new name, not a new grouping. The politics, aims, positions, and
membership of the grouping remain the same. We hope this name better reflects our
understanding of anarchist politics, our position on the question of organisation, and
what we see as the task confronting revolutionary anarchists and others who dream of the
overthrow of all systems of oppression and exploitation.
Anarchists must develop the capacity to advance our ideas whilst simultaneously
engaging with and advancing wider struggles. Political forces which do not organise will
inevitably remain marginal. We want to work with people who share our ideas and outlook,
and we want you to join us. The collective capacity of an organised group is greater than
the sum of the individual efforts of disconnected activists. At the same time, there are a
range of different views on how to do politics amongst Australian anarchists.
It is more important that anarchists organise in general, than that anarchists join this
or that grouping in particular. For this reason, we encourage all anarchists to organise
however they see fit. Whether you join our group or seek to build something different,
let's communicate, collaborate and cooperate wherever possible.
The struggle before us is ultimately one of the political status quo or survival. Will we
let the hierarchies of our present social, economic and political order continue until the
planet is destroyed, or is another world possible? If we are committed anarchists, and if
we believe that our ideas offer some possibility for real change in the face of these
challenges, then let's work together to learn from the lessons of past struggles and fight
for a better future.
The members of Collective Action, August 2017.
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