Where We Stand: Formation of a new anarchist communist project in the UK

collective action pedant

May Day statement of "Collective Action". In it we outline our analysis of the problems facing the anarchist movement in the UK and offer a call out to all independent anarchist communists to participate in our project to re-visit our political tradition, re-group and re-kindle our political action.

“I listen to them freely and with all the respect merited by their intelligence, their character, their knowledge, reserving always my incontestable right of criticism and censure.” - Mikhail Bakunin

The contemporary anarchist movement throughout the UK, and indeed around the world, faces unique challenges.

This generation is faced with crippling austerity measures begun by the former Labour government and now accelerated by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. The economic crisis has provided political elites with a practical justification for ideologically motivated attacks on the working class. Efforts to “bring down the deficit” at all costs have provided the state with the necessary camouflage to manoeuvre into savage Thatcherite cuts to the public sector, education and social welfare, while also creating an incremental process of privatisation of the National Health Service, greater tax breaks for millionaires, tax cuts for businesses, as well as strengthening attacks on workplace organising rights. All of this in an effort to stimulate an economy that continues to stagnate, largely at the expense of increased poverty and mass unemployment, affecting most seriously women, the young and people of colour.

The stark realities of this situation are compounded by the fact that working life for British people is increasingly in economic sectors that are unorganised and casualised, or soon to be unorganised and casualised. This is while a traditional revolutionary ‘left’ movement has essentially embraced a position of defence and retreat, cuing the outdated appeal to its standard yet dwindling constituents. The anti-austerity movement seems content to seek only a defence of the concessions won by older generations, rather than using the economic crisis and a renewed interest in radical ideas as a means to agitate and fight for a fundamentally different society. In the various regional anti-austerity groups, the authoritarian Marxist left and trade unions have entrenched themselves in petty squabbles over either bureaucratic union organising - in unions that have become increasingly conciliatory towards the coalition government - or what level of support they should offer to the Labour Party, in some cases providing them with a platform at organisational meetings and rallies.

The reality is that the existing repertoires of the Left do not speak to the challenges the working class are facing or indeed with the experiences of the majority of working class people, focusing primarily on the minority of organised workers in privileged economic positions, namely employed, contracted or salaried, non-precarious unionised workers. These mediocre organising efforts have been complimented by reformist struggles such as the anti-tax avoidance campaigns, anti-workfare campaign, which lacks a focused analysis of the nature of work. Initiatives such as Occupy, although at least providing a base for opening the debate on austerity, equally lack direction and focus or a clear understanding of the nature and cause of the attacks. Admittedly the occupation movements in other countries have shown signs of radical transformation, but in the UK most organising efforts have been couched in a social democratic framework aimed at achieving nothing more than a defence of concessions and in some instances actually criticising offensive efforts to fight austerity in the context of anti-capitalism.

The models of activism that the Left rely upon are still tied to the mass struggles of the 1970s/80s - mass rallies, pamphleteering and paper sales, manoeuvring within political meetings. Yet years of Neo-Liberal reform since then have manufactured a working class that is de-politicised, de-mobilised and individualised. What is required in this instance is not intervention, but reconstruction. The Left are still seeking to lead and direct a mass of workers that, to put it simply, does not exist at this time. Some radicals may look longingly at the resistance in Greece, Spain and other parts of Europe and, falling back on classical Marxist economism, argue that it must get substantially worse to get better. Although the simultaneous rise in “political suicides” in these countries should at the very least lead us to question the wisdom of this analysis - do we want it to get that bad? Such a view ignores the sustained, politicised resistance that Greece, for example, has retained throughout the 1980s/90s, the combative nature of social struggles, a record of concessions won from the state (particularly amongst the students and youth) and a growing anarchist/anti-authoritarian movement that is active, visible and engaged with the communities in almost every urban centre throughout the country.

Our only glimmer of hope, in these years of austerity, has been in the brief but bright struggles of the youth and students. Only here was it possible to see the successful meeting of two cultures - of political militants and organisers (anti-militarists, anti-war campaigners and others politicised through Iraq) and the creativity and combativeness of a generation shut off from the comfortable futures of even their older siblings. By March 26th, when the TUC called its “Rally for the Alternative” in London, it had already become clear how isolated this demographic truly was, as direct action was taking place on Oxford Street thousands of trade unionists watched Ed Miliband in Hyde Park, a pro-austerity politician, play to the crowd.

Unfortunately, a lack of ambition is not just something endemic within the traditional Marxist left. The anarchist movement has also failed to make a significant mark on resistance to austerity, as well as building momentum towards a general acceptance of anarchist ideas and methods. Historically the anarchist movement has shown itself to be distinct from the left, but in recent years - throughout the UK - it has failed to promote the richness of anarchist tradition and history or separate itself from the inertia of the traditional left, becoming nothing more than an appendage to it, content with fulfilling a propagandist role, or at times acting as the more militant wing of the austerity movement when required.

The building blocks of an autonomous counter-power must consist first and foremost of an attack on the myths of austerity and class compromise and the building of confidence in self-organisation and direct action.

Where anarchists have been successful in the past they have been vibrant and integrated parts of working class communities. This means abandoning the terrain of both activism and the Left, and finding ways to speak to the experiences of, and more importantly finding ways of organising within those sections of our community who have, in many cases, already made the critical step of seeing through the illusions of representative democracy but still remain disconnected from politics.

Ultimately the objective of an autonomous and self-organising workers’ movement is to build unity. Such an aspiration, however, should not lead us to ignore both the conservative and privileged nature of certain sections of the workers’ movement as significant barriers to this goal. A minority of organised workers seek to defend concessions in secure employment, which in contrast to the majority of the working class is a particularly privileged position. Precarious workers, students, the unemployed and their communities have displayed in the last year a distinct sympathy towards anti-authoritarian methods and have sought to push a momentum towards offensive direct action. At the same time there has been an acute lack of political foresight, despite the breeding ground for widespread radicalisation. This has been a failure of the anarchist movement to capitalise on this moment and use these battle grounds as a framework to build on this distinct anarchist tradition and insert revolutionary anarchist ideas. This is an area in which we have fought before - the intransigent revolts of the underclass in Montmarte in the 1890s, the counter-cultures of Barcelona’s “Barrio Chino” of the 1930s and the rallying call of the Wobblies to abandon the conservative AFL and act as a pole for the excluded, abandoned and unorganised - it is an area in which we must fight again.

Collective Action: an association of anarchist communists

“If the revolutionary lacks the guiding idea of their action, they will not be anything other than a ship without a compass.” - Ricardo Flores Magón

“We also ask for discipline, because, without understanding, without co-ordinating the efforts of each one to a common and simultaneous action, victory is not physically possible. But discipline should not be a servile discipline, a blind devotion to leaders, an obedience to the one who always says not to interfere. Revolutionary discipline is consistent with the ideas accepted, fidelity to commitments assumed, it is to feel obliged to share the work and the risks with struggle comrades.” - Errico Malatesta

Collective Action has been formed by a group of anarchist communists seeking to understand and resolve the issues facing the anarchist movement and the working class. Having lost confidence in the current formation of the anarchist movement, we felt it necessary to regroup and rekindle our political ideas and activity in the context of forming a wider analysis of the current situation. At the present time we consider ourselves to be a movement orientated association with a focus on critically assessing our failings and the nature of future struggle. However, we aim to actively participate in current struggles with the long term objective of building towards the recreation of a relevant and viable anarchist movement that is able to insert itself into social struggles, winning the leadership of ideas and fostering the cultures of resistance. We believe that this process of regroupment is essential to that objective.

We identify anarchist communism as a political current with its roots in the federalist, anti-authoritarian sections of the First International. This has been a global tradition present in the revolutions and social upheavals of the past century. In contemporary terms we believe this particular tradition to be best represented by the specifist conception of social anarchism. This is a conception of anarchism with which we actively identify. Specifism can be summarised as:

•The need for specifically anarchist organisation built around a unity of ideas and praxis.

•The use of the specifically anarchist organization to theorise and develop strategic political and organisational work.

•Active participation in and building of autonomous and popular social movements via involvement and influence ("social insertion")

We consider an important aspect of specifism to be the idea of “recapturing the social vector of anarchism,” i.e. re-inserting anarchism as a current of popular organisation within social struggles.

We do not believe that specifism provides complete answers to the problems raised above; we do believe that it is a method and tradition that helps us to address and understand them more clearly (as well as being true to the original vision of social anarchism).

This is a call out to all independent anarchist communists who feel the need to understand more concretely who we are, where we are and how we move forward. While the association encourages people to join it and participate in this process of regroupment, our project is not about quantity, it is about quality. We do not aim to build membership, we aim to build coherency. We do not want to compete with other organisations, but refocus our efforts. We are a space for anarchist communists to address their ideas collectively and to build those ideas into a coherent strategy that is grounded in common struggle and united by the robustness of theory.

At present we collate our ideas and discussions on our blog and through our website, which will be published periodically in our journal Ninth Symphony. Our aim, through this, is to publish materials that emerge as relevant and meaningful to the anarchist movement within the context of our existing activity as organisers and militants.

- Collective Action

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Where We Stand (leaflet print)80.66 KB

Comments

bulmer
May 1 2012 14:20

Who's involved in this? Is it a split from another group or have some local groups and individuals come together? It's hard to say much about the group as there's not much to go on but I'm interested into what this will offer and how it will fit in with AFed, SolFed, Commune etc. I understand the theoretical differences but that doesn't always translate into practical differences, if you get what I mean?

Diddy-D
May 1 2012 15:15

I say thanks to Collective Action, for this post.

Anarchism is about people doing it for themselves, and taking the initiative, not about fitting in with AFed, SolFed blah blah.

Steven.
May 1 2012 15:20
bulmer wrote:
Who's involved in this? Is it a split from another group or have some local groups and individuals come together? It's hard to say much about the group as there's not much to go on but I'm interested into what this will offer and how it will fit in with AFed, SolFed, Commune etc. I understand the theoretical differences but that doesn't always translate into practical differences, if you get what I mean?

as far as I know it is a small number of people who left the Anarchist Federation (AF). Unless I'm wrong, there don't seem to be any political differences at all, only organisational differences, in that this lot are influenced by especisfismo and platformism. (The latter of which of course influenced the AF as well)

to be honest, I don't quite understand what the organisation differences would be with the AF. I guess they're hoping to be more coordinated in their activity, is that right?

I would like to know, do they have any examples of the type of social insertion they talk about in the UK, and how successful they were? Because it seems that Liberty and Solidarity try to organise in this way, and don't seem to have had any success (of course I'm not trying to compare the politics of collective action to L&S, as the latter's are clearly leftist).

I think it's always good for people to try things out, because we clearly don't have all the answers, so I'm not trying to be critical here.

radicalgraffiti
May 1 2012 15:33
Diddy-D wrote:
I say thanks to Collective Action, for this post.

Anarchism is about people doing it for themselves, and taking the initiative, not about fitting in with AFed, SolFed blah blah.

theres no point haveing multiple organisations that have the same politics and do the same stuff, so i assume bulmer is asking how this is different to the existing organisations.

an anarchist is not just about doing things for youselve its about organising our lives without bosses, rulers, etc and creating a world where we can do this

Serge Forward
May 1 2012 15:37
Diddy-D wrote:
I say thanks to Collective Action, for this post.

Anarchism is about people doing it for themselves, and taking the initiative, not about fitting in with AFed, SolFed blah blah.

Er... no, that's not what anarchism or libertarian communism is about (although that's not to exclude 'DIY' and 'taking the initiative'), but those things alone would be more akin to some kind of radical liberalism. Anarchist communism has to be about creating a movement and that means cooperating with others groups and organisations. Politically, I quite like the cut of Collective Action's jib and I know they have at least one or two very sound comrades involved. Best of luck with the project!

Diddy-D
May 1 2012 15:48
Serge Forward wrote:
Diddy-D wrote:
I say thanks to Collective Action, for this post.

Anarchism is about people doing it for themselves, and taking the initiative, not about fitting in with AFed, SolFed blah blah.

Er... no, that's not what anarchism or libertarian communism is about (although that's not to exclude 'DIY' and 'taking the initiative'), but those things alone would be more akin to some kind of radical liberalism. Anarchist communism has to be about creating a movement and that means cooperating with others groups and organisations. Politically, I quite like the cut of Collective Action's jib and I know they have at least one or two very sound comrades involved. Best of luck with the project!

I agree. I'm not arguing for individuals to act on a purely individual and insular level. By people doing it for themselves, I was kind of meaning working-class people doing for themselves, and realizing they can take control of things collectively. This is what I push for in the service-user movement, and encourage my peers to push for funding to run our own projects at grassroots level (such as mentoring).

If peeps want to set up a group such as Collective Action, and work together, there's nothing wrong in that.

vanilla.ice.baby
May 1 2012 16:37

Good luck to 'em, but I have a few questions.

Who are the leaflet and blog aimed at?

Why can't you do what you want to do within AFed/Solfed?

and;

How do you plan to grow your politics?

Fall Back
May 1 2012 17:55

Could someone from Collective Action expand on:

Quote:
Active participation in and building of autonomous and popular social movements via involvement and influence ("social insertion")

What are you meaning by social movements? In so far as I understand social movements as they exist in the UK, I'm not sure how this would be distinct from:

Quote:
Historically the anarchist movement has shown itself to be distinct from the left, but in recent years - throughout the UK - it has failed to promote the richness of anarchist tradition and history or separate itself from the inertia of the traditional left, becoming nothing more than an appendage to it, content with fulfilling a propagandist role, or at times acting as the more militant wing of the austerity movement when required.

I am guessing you must mean something different from what this brings to mind for me (anti-cuts groups etc.), but I don't know what else they would be.

Asking because while I have sympathy towards the critique, but for us trying to go beyond the problems that this presented meant taking the exact opposite direction and trying to do our own thing, rather than socially inserting ourselves in pre-existing 'movements'.

Chilli Sauce
May 1 2012 18:05
Diddy-D wrote:
I say thanks to Collective Action, for this post.

Anarchism is about people doing it for themselves, and taking the initiative, not about fitting in with AFed, SolFed blah blah.

No, anarchism is about being organised. This isn't to say that there's not a good reason to create a new anarchist organisation, but asking how it differs/fits into the existing national feds is a very legitimate question. And one not to be brushed aside with such individualist/"autonomous" disregard.

I second Bulmer's question.

Diddy-D
May 1 2012 18:13
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Diddy-D wrote:
I say thanks to Collective Action, for this post.

Anarchism is about people doing it for themselves, and taking the initiative, not about fitting in with AFed, SolFed blah blah.

No, anarchism is about being organised. This isn't to say that there's not a good reason to create a new anarchist organisation, but asking how it differs/fits into the existing national feds is a very legitimate question. And one not to be brushed aside with such individualist/"autonomous" disregard.

I second Bulmer's question.

Fair enough. I thought Bulmer was implying somehow Collective Action were wrong to set up their own initiative. And I know anarchism is about being organized. And I also stated in a previous post above, that I am not calling for peeps to act purely as insular inviduals. By 'doing it for themselves', I mean the working class coming to class consciousness, and realizing our own ability to move collectively and shape our future.

plasmatelly
May 1 2012 18:34

Any news on who he is yet?

andy61
May 1 2012 18:34

I think this is a good step forward.For anyone new to anarchism or even someone vaguely interested it seems at the moment that you are trying to join an exclusive club.Anarchism appeals to many, many people if only we can open our arms and welcome them in-all should be welcome.Whatever culture, whatever class background.We have a great history and tradition and philosophy but to have new history you have to create it- and to do that we need to be far more welcoming.Remember that most people have absolutely no idea what anarchism is (chaos to most) but it's appeal is huge once understood-if we welcome them and don't disappear into little factions.

Theft
May 1 2012 18:53
plasmatelly wrote:
Any news on who he is yet?

who? Collective Action?

Khawaga
May 1 2012 19:07

Fuck off BOOZK you anti-Semite. You'll be banned in no time for spouting off crap like that.

Admin: anti-semitic comment to which this refers has been removed and user banned.

Diddy-D
May 1 2012 20:36
andy61 wrote:
I think this is a good step forward.For anyone new to anarchism or even someone vaguely interested it seems at the moment that you are trying to join an exclusive club.Anarchism appeals to many, many people if only we can open our arms and welcome them in-all should be welcome.Whatever culture, whatever class background.We have a great history and tradition and philosophy but to have new history you have to create it- and to do that we need to be far more welcoming.Remember that most people have absolutely no idea what anarchism is (chaos to most) but it's appeal is huge once understood-if we welcome them and don't disappear into little factions.

I quite agree, andy mate smile

bulmer
May 2 2012 00:03

Just to clarify. I think this group is closer to my own political views than any others in the UK. But from my experience, people try to be too ideologically pure at the expense of actually going out and attracting support of working class people. I think this does have potential if those involved can back up, what i see as, their sound political base. But that's a hard thing to do, so it could be they end up like just another sect. Hopefully not though and good luck!

Ernestine
May 2 2012 10:20

While I reckon there is room for a rethink of the nature of work and how to be effective in community organisation this document is a bit heavy on theory, and short on practical suggestions. It's easier to criticise than to actively improve things, and I'd really like to hear the ways this collective wants to build the anarchist movement. Terms like 'social insertion' and 'specificism' give me the freaks - could you spell them out in plain language? One thing I'm trying to do is write stuff that doesn't need a grounding in political theory to make sense.

Rob Ray
May 2 2012 10:51

Ime the opening statement is the least important part of how a group forms and evolves. You should've seen North London SF's practice a few years back in comparison to today (let alone in comparison to the As & Ps). I'd echo the wellwishing!

cantdocartwheels
May 2 2012 11:26

Pretty much agree with rob ray, opening statements and other such waffle comea very heavy second to stuff on the ground. I would echo a few others in saying i'm not entirely sure what the differences are being ot too up on some of the theoretical terms used, but perhaps that will become apparent in time.

Would be interested in seeing what the practical relation is to the steel city wobs who are doing some really good stuff atm. I assume theres probably a fair bit of overlap.

sawa
May 2 2012 11:47

I wish your new organisation well, the more comrades sympathetic to platformist and especifist traditions the better! Good luck comrades. :]

There does however seem to be an over emphasis on the theoretical, I don't quite understand how in practice what you are proposing is any different from that of AFed and Solfed. I struggle to see the practical purpose of critiquing fights for reforms and defensive struggles when the power of our class is so week atm. How does one build "confidence in self-organisation and direct action." without such struggles?

Whilst obv organisationally there is a difference between specific political organisations and those that tend more towards synthesism like AFed, I dunno what practical differences there are. Though obviously this is only your first text. Indeed out of interest why did you guys stop being a faction in AFed and decide to work outside it?

nastyned
May 2 2012 11:53
sawa wrote:

Whilst obv organisationally there is a difference between specific political organisations and those that tend more towards synthesism like AFed, I dunno what practical differences there are.

The AF is, and always has been, an anarchist communist organisation.

sawa
May 2 2012 12:00
nastyned wrote:
sawa wrote:

Whilst obv organisationally there is a difference between specific political organisations and those that tend more towards synthesism like AFed, I dunno what practical differences there are.

The AF is, and always has been, an anarchist communist organisation.

I said towards, as in its nearer to such than platformist organisations.tongue And yeah i know what AFed is thanks. tongue

Serge Forward
May 2 2012 12:26

Blimey, Sawa, that definitely has to be a first! I've never heard the A(C)F described as synthesist or even 'tending towards' synthesism... ever!!! Although pointing out that we belong to the nominally synthesist IFA would be a fair point (though the degree of real synthesism in IFA is debatable). Then again, it could be said that, as the majority of platformist groups have generally tended towards some lowest common denominator leftism, then who are the real synthesists?

For the record, I'm certainly not including Collective Action in this mad scramble for bargain basement politics trend. I respect their political ideas which are little different from the AF's, but from what I know of the formation of this group, I reckon I'll probably have one or two differences with their actual practice. Still, I look forward to future collaboration between them and other organisations.

Theft
May 2 2012 12:28

Afed is nearer to platformism than synthesism, as it's explicitly an anarchist communist orgnaisation. With regards CA they stated that they still agreed with the As & Ps of Afed, the disagreement is more over political organisation and structure.For example I find very little to disagree with them on here http://www.anarchistcommunist.org/index.html But I have major problems with this document http://www.anarchistcommunist.org/uploads/1/1/3/7/11373086/membership_criteria_and_structure.pdf

Ernestine
May 2 2012 12:41

Oh bugger, I own quite a few drums, books and records, some of which I made myself. Perhaps I am becoming detached from the recent history of capitalist development.

sawa
May 2 2012 12:51
Serge Forward wrote:
Blimey, Sawa, that definitely has to be a first! I've never heard the A(C)F described as synthesist or even 'tending towards' synthesism... ever!!! Although pointing out that we belong to the nominally synthesist IFA would be a fair point (though the degree of real synthesism in IFA is debatable). Then again, it could be said that, as the majority of platformist groups have generally tended towards some lowest common denominator leftism, then who are the real synthesists?

For the record, I'm certainly not including Collective Action in this mad scramble for bargain basement politics trend. I respect their political ideas which are little different from the AF's, but from what I know of the formation of this group, I reckon I'll probably have one or two differences with their actual practice. Still, I look forward to future collaboration between them and other organisations.

Ha it wasn't a major point and tbh I am glad you are offended. haha :]
I just meant it is nearer to such on a spectrum evidenced by stuff such as you say membership of IFA, and in some ways AF does seem closer to a tendency organisation.

I don't think this idea of platformist groups as leftist is very helpful nor do such make them synthesists whatever your critiques of "leftism", it is wholly part of the anarchist communist tradition and such groups at least aim for tighter organisation even if they may lack such in practice.

I actually find http://www.anarchistcommunist.org/uploads/1/1/3/7/11373086/membership_criteria_and_structure.pdf more agreeable than the statement here. But I hope comrades take into account(which I think people in L&S have said they have tried to tackle too) that when there are levels of membership and criteria for such, that it is even more important to actively reach out to ethnic minorities, queer people, women etc. and tackle issues which effect such oppressed groups. Because whilst greater formalities do help greater participation I think probs can arise with such cadre structures as those who are privileged are often more able to commit and see themselves as more capable.

Battlescarred
May 2 2012 13:52

"Ha", to quote you, you're being a little disenfgrnuous with your spurious desciption of the AF as a synthesist organisation which is so far from the truth. You might not find the characterisation of platformist groups as leftist - if the cap fits- but neither do i find your characterisation of AF as synthesist very helpful either.

the croydonian ...
May 2 2012 17:31

What is synthesism in this context mean ? I know what the word synthesis means but yeah I dont quite get what this means as a name for a distinct sort of idea/strategy within anarchism.

Anyway, with regards to this statement, my opinion is basically that whilst I don't want anyone, especially comrades, to feel they are not allowed to form any new organizations at will for whatever reason, I do struggle to see the reason why we need another anarchist organization that will probably differ from others like Solfed and Afed only in a very small and perhaps insignificant way with regards to practice.

With the whole thing they say about social insertion etc, I dont really think you can do it in any other way than we do now, that is, getting involved with anti cuts movements that are leftist etc and other things of that nature. With class confidence, consciousness and power being pretty low at the moment (not to say this can change obviously), it is the best and perhaps only achievable realistic option. Im reminded of the time where I was telling some one about how absurd condemning anarchists for "hi jacking" demonstrations was, seeing as

1. Anarchism is about the working class and therefore we are obviously going to be engaging with them, particularly when they are in struggle.

2. If we had an explicitly anarchist march for instance, it would be extremely likely that the police would shut it down, arrest shitloads and try to gather information on all of us.

flaneur
May 2 2012 17:36

Syntheism in the anarchist context means organisations which include strands other than anarcho communism, most likely various individualism tendencies. Think only a couple of organisations are properly like this nowadays, such as the French AF.

Serge Forward
May 2 2012 19:27

Flaneur's definition of synthesism is correct, but I see no evidence of such individualism in the French AF and this may possibly be in name only, given that the French AF is basically a class struggle organisation. Aside from the Russians who are no longer in IFA, I don't know of any IFA organisation that is 'properly like that' i.e. synthesist.