A - I n f o s
a multi-lingual news service by, for, and about anarchists

News in all languages
Last 30 posts (Homepage) Last two weeks' posts

The last 100 posts, according to language
Castellano_ Català_ Deutsch_ English_ Français_ Italiano_ Português_ Russkyi_ Suomi_ Svenska_ Türkçe_ All_other_languages
{Info on A-Infos}

(en) Australia, Report of "Love & Rage Conference" Sydney

From Jura Books <a-infos-@chaos.apana.org.au>
Date Thu, 19 Apr 2001 09:44:47 -0400 (EDT)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

>From Rebel Worker, paper of the Anarcho-Syndicalist
Network, Vol.20 No.2 (170) April-May 2001
subs overseas: $25 Aust.per year airmail, in Aust. $12 per year PO Box 92
Broadway 2007 NSW Australia

HEAD - 2 = 
Impressions of "The Organised Left & Society: Bridging the Gap
and Building for the Revolution" A Love & Rage Conference.
This conference was held on 17th-18th February at the UTS (University of
Technology, Sydney) and was organised by the largely student group "Love &
Rage" (L&R). The groupings attending the conference included L& R groups
from central Sydney, Bankstown Campus of the UWS (University of Western
Sydney), Newcastle Uni and Canberra, and the allied grouping "Revolutionary
Action" from Wollongong. As well members of several vanguard and non
vanguard leftist groups were in attendance. Overall 100 people attended the
sessions over the two days.
The shadows cast on the gathering by the dominance of the vanguard
party/sect legacy on the anti-capitalist movement, the pall of "student
politics" and the crests of the Anti-Globalist movement - the Anti-WTO
Seattle, S26 Prague and S11 Melbourne protests were quite apparent.
@HEAD - 2 = 
L & R has come into prominence in recent years as a militant student
movement with revolutionary aspirations. It's origins lie in a split within
the student group "Left Alliance" a few years ago. This high profile has
stemmed from its involvement in a successful occupation of the UWS
Bankstown Campus on behalf of a log of claims and  involvement in a range
of industrial disputes - Davids, Visyboard and a furniture factory in
Western Sydney, Joy Mining Machinery near Mossvale, and current disputes at
BHP in Pt.Kembla over out sourcing of maintenance jobs and the Metrone
lockout in Western Sydney.
These industrial disputes/actions have manifested a high level of grass
roots students/workers collaboration, and cooperation and manipulation to
varying degrees by the union hierarchy.
The L&R grouping certainly appears as a manifestation of a renewed
youth/student protest movement similar to the youth/student protest
movement of the late 60's & early 70's associated with the anti-Vietnam War
and anti-conscription campaigns. The chief purposes of the conference were
to review L & R activity, chart future directions and adopt a formal
structure and a publication.
There was quite a wide ranging discussion and evaluation of L & R activity
on the campus and industrial fronts. Jura Books and ASN
(Anarcho-Syndicalist Network) members had been invited to the gathering and
participated in the discussions.
@HEAD - 2 = 
UNHEALTHY                           INTROSPECTION
An ASN militant was particularly dismayed by the extremely unhealthy
introspection of the "gender dynamics" obsession shown by some L & R
members in regard to the discussion process. This introspection is very
much a part of the left subculture and radical student milieu. It's certain
to alienate militant workers. The young comrades of L & R no doubt due to
their involvement in the hot house of student politics and lack of
workplace experience seemed generally oblivious to this likely reaction of
militant workers to their gatherings.
Certainly if the capitalist mode of production is to be overthrown and a
stateless and classless society is to be established - workers control of
production and the building of an associated self managed direct action
oriented workers' movement are vital objectives. Obviously, therefore,
exotic sub cultural codes of   behaviour such as "gender dynamics"
obsessions  which act as barriers to militant workers attendance can have
no place in genuine revolutionary discussions and forums.
This self absorption of the young comrades may also be symptomatic of an
elitist "student vanguard" orientation. This orientation was encouraged in
the 1960's youth protest movement by the writings of Herbert Marcuse of the
Frankfurt School of Philosophy which encouraged the notion that only such
groups as students, blacks, etc, could carry out the revolutionary project
and that the working class in the West was hopelessly integrated in
Capitalist relations. The ASN militant certainly noticed comments along
these lines by some L & R members.
This absorption in meeting procedure is also very much a part of the
"formalist" considerations of "sects". These groups distracted from the
hostile world of class struggle and the need to help foster workers' self
organisation, often unwholesomely lavish attention on the minutiae of their
precious internal organisation. Their all so important "organisation"
having an existential quality - an end in itself. 
As usual in most  radical student/left sub cultural happenings the sacred
cow of "identity politics" poked its head in the proceedings  in the form
of the issue of separate organising for those of the female persuasion. The
ASN militant attacked this notion pointing to the dangerous role of
identity politics in dividing the anti capitalist movement  and the
activity of such nefarious agents of global  capital as American
Foundations funded by transnational corporations and the CIA in encouraging
identity politics and in particular boosting the so called women's
movement in the USA in the late 1960's so as to divide the New Left see
"Gloria Steinam and the Women's Movement" in RW Vol.16 No.4 May- June 1997.
A L&R member replied to this attack, defending identity organising but
recognising the capitalist cooptation possibilities.
@HEAD - 2 =    
INDUSTRIAL                          INTERVENTIONS
The ASN militant proceeded with a criticism of L&R activity, particularly
its limitations in regard to the revolutionary project. He focused on the
failure of L&R groups to facilitate insurgencies amongst the grass roots in
industry. L&R groups have made some valuable industrial contacts from a
range of industrial disputes and the UWS Bankstown occupation. However, no
attempt has been made to launch industrial papers to assist the activity of
militants on the job and encourage processes of self organisation which
later down the track could lead to syndicalist unionism.
He went on to emphasise the importance of L&R groups in linking up with
militants/grass roots in coal mining and steel in Wollongong/Pt.Kembla and
Newcastle via such a project. Historically these regions have been the
major bases of heavy industry and militant unionism in Australia.
A sharp conflict developed between the ASN militant and a L&R member from
Newcastle, who dismissed the possibility of making such linkages in
Newcastle on the basis of bogus subcultural and geographic reasons and
lacking concrete analysis. He also referred to the marginalised state of
the radical movement in Newcastle. The ASN militant replied  that similar
arguments could be used in regard to workers in transport industries in
Sydney where the ASN has made some progress in assisting their self
organisation and militant actions.
The arguments presented by the ASN militant for L&R groups to emphasise the
launching of grass roots industrial combat papers met with little response
from the conference. Apparently most didn't consider such serious long
range work which could actually put together the nuts and bolts of a self
managed workers' movement as a worthy priority. They appeared hypnotised by
the glamorous anti-globalisation movement spectacles, on campus activity
and occasional support work in industrial disputes.
However, one L&R member recognised the crucial importance of grass roots
industrial publications to revolutionary activity today. He spoke of the
ASN project Sparks in transport industries in NSW and compared it to the
"Hoist" published by the rank & file movement in the NSW BLF (Builders
Labourers Federation) from the 1950's onwards which assisted the emergence
of syndicalist building workers' movement and later on the famous "green
bans". He also recognised the importance of winning workers to the
revolutionary movement.
The ASN militant went on to point out that the failure of L&R groups to
assist the emergence and growth of grass roots insurgencies when
intervening in industrial disputes would play into the hands of the ALP and
the union hierarchy and their bureaucratic agendas. In this way, he
emphasised L & R groups merely reacted to events on the industrial front
and lacked a revolutionary industrial strategy.
In the sessions of the conference examining future directions of L&R
activity, someone emphasised activity in sectors which are not dominated by
social democracy, the unemployed movement, establishing "revolutionary
spaces" and outreach in rural areas.
The ASN militant argued  that those sectors dominated by the ALP can't be
ignored or side stepped. He discussed the case of train drivers in the SRA
(State Rail Authority) in NSW, a grouping which in other countries such as
France during the periods December 1986/January 1987, and December 1995
have played  a crucial role in the launching of massive strike waves
affecting public sector industry. These industrial upsurges have generally
raised workers' morale and involved the blossoming of  syndicalist style
grass roots committee movements. In the SRA, train drivers are one of the
few groups which still have regular union meetings. However these meetings
are normally strangled by the sabotage of ALP caucuses which meet secretly
before each meeting. The ASN militant argued that should the activity and
organisation of militant train drivers be assisted in unravelling this
stranglehold by the ALP of  train drivers union meetings a tremendous force
for militant action could be unleashed.
@HEAD - 2 =  
 In regard to unemployed organising, the ASN militant pointed to the
extreme difficulties in this sector. He compared the situation of the
unemployed movement of the depression era which was a mass movement to the
situation today. He showed that the social welfare system of the depression
era based on rations encouraged collective action. Whilst the contemporary
system encourages atomisation. In the depression, unemployed organising was
facilitated by a network of unemployed hostels - housing 30 or so. This
nucleus in turn was able to mobilise hundreds or more into protests. In
contrast today, unemployed groups have often only 10 or so active members
and 100's of "paper members" on membership lists which they are unable to
The ASN militant also emphasised the important role of syndicalist unions
and associated union halls in facilitating the organising of both employed
and unemployed, unlike the existing bureaucratic trade unions.
With reference to forming "revolutionary spaces", the ASN militant
emphasised that unless the ferocious speed up in industry and lengthening
of working hours associated with the employer offensive was checked, it
would be most unlikely that militant workers would become  involved in
these spaces. Contact with militants on the job would mainly occur via the
Several ISO (International Socialist Organisation), a Trotskyist sect,
members attended the conference and intervened in the discussions on behalf
of  Leninist vanguard party building. These arguments were effectively
demolished by the ASN militant.
One ISO member argued that on the basis of the dubious "success" of the
Bolshevik party during the Russian Revolution of 1917 which involved its
"success" in seizing control of protest movements, that a similar model was
applicable in the Australian context. The ASN militant showed that this
successful manipulation was only possible amongst Russian workers as there
was no well established union bureaucracy due to successful czarist
repression and late industrialisation. In contemporary Australia, there is
certainly a very well entrenched, crafty union bureaucracy. Another ISO
member presented the grotesque argument that during the worker/student
upsurge of May 1968 in France, the French Communist Party via its machine
of shop stewards in factories was able to prevent the revolutionary
contagion spreading from students to workers, and that this machine could
go "in reverse" and spread this contagion. This entire argument discounted
the bureaucratic conservatism of the CP hierarchy. The ASN militant focused
upon  the much more advanced workers actions in Italy in 1920 involving
extensive factory occupations and a massive workers' control action
involving 600,000 workers in which the USI (Italian Syndicalist Union) and
Antonio Gramsci's group and newspaper "L'Ordine Nuovo" in Turin, not a
vanguard party played a critical role.
@HEAD - 2 = 
During the course of the conference, reference was made on several
occasions to the "shadow of the ISO" over the gathering by L&R members.
Whilst several L&R members are ex-ISO members.  Certainly vanguard/elitist
attitudes which are so much part of the Trotskyist/student radical legacy
were expressed by some L&R members. One member spoke of presumably  the
"L&R party" "intervening in political crises". Mention was also made about
L&R "competing" with the ISO in the student movement. The effect of such
"competition" is usually for those groups involved to take on Leninist
features and the spreading of the vanguard/machieavellian malady.
The ASN militant argued against this competition and on behalf of  working
together with non vanguard groups to generate a wide ranging discussion
process in the anti-capitalist movement critical of the Leninist/vanguard
legacy in the form of the "Red & Black Forum" project.
The final sessions of the conference focused on internal organisation,
publications and resolutions. The excuse given for a proposed constitution
(which wasn't adopted by the conference) was the need to avoid "an informal
leadership". However, the real reason seemed  to be about transforming  L&R
into a vanguard party to "intervene rapidly in political crises".
Associated with the constitution  was the proposal to launch a L&R newspaper. 
The ASN militant criticised these proposals. He emphasised the importance
of "working in your own backyard" particularly the gruelling "unglamorous"
task of assisting the launching/continuity of grass roots combat
publications in the workplace and assisting the coordination of grass roots
industrial insurgencies and direct action.
Implicit to this  argument was the notion that a key objective of L&R
"organisation" should be to assist "organisation on the job" which could
tackle the bases of  global capitalism - capitalist ownership of the means
of production   with the only solutions to the problem - " internationally
coordinated direct action on the job and eventually workers control of
industry". In this way L&R could become a genuine revolutionary force,
rather than a sect captivated by anti-globalist spectacles and glamorous
interventions and open to manipulation by the union hierarchy/ALP  for
their bureaucratic agendas.  The ASN militant also argued that a L&R
newspaper (which was adopted by the conference) was likely to become just
another exotic sect paper, due to the overwhelming influence of
Leninism/vanguardism in the left subculture and amongst L&R groupings.
In conclusion, the impressions gleaned from the conference show L&R
manifesting some vanguardist and self marginalising features characteristic
of the left  subculture and radical student politics which are likely to
impede the fulfilling of the group's revolutionary aspirations. Two
pathways are opening up to L&R - one leading to becoming an exotic
vanguardist sect and the other toward becoming a "catalyst for workers
militant self organisation". Hopefully, with L& R members  acquisition of
further workplace experience, a deepening  understanding of the
revolutionary project and labour, socialist/anarchist history and taking
advantage of "constructive criticism", the latter path will be taken.
                Mark McGuire

               The A-Infos News Service
      News about and of interest to anarchists
               COMMANDS: lists@ainfos.ca
               REPLIES: a-infos-d@ainfos.ca
               HELP: a-infos-org@ainfos.ca
               WWW: http://www.ainfos.ca
               INFO: http://www.ainfos.ca/org

 To receive a-infos in one language only mail lists@ainfos.ca the message
                unsubscribe a-infos
                subscribe a-infos-X
 where X = en, ca, de, fr, etc. (i.e. the language code)