The AF and Solfed

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enelpozo
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Oct 8 2005 14:11
The AF and Solfed

Following on from what Knightrose has said in another thread, and to make public a discussion that has been ticking over slowly within the AF, why don't we work together more? What seperates us in practical terms? Should we merge?

It is very inspirational to see what the Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation and the Anarchist Federation have done in Ireland and it's a shame we haven't managed to do similar things over the water in Britain, especially seeing as local groups seem to work together without many problems. red n black star

Steve
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Oct 8 2005 14:44

I thought it was at least another four months before this subject would be raised again. Isn’t there a time limit on it?

Ideally everyone should just leave the AF and join SolFed. Problem solved. wink

knightrose
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Oct 8 2005 17:30

Steve, what advantages are there in the existence of two separate federations? What are the really significant differences? If there are advantages and there are significant differences, then I'll happily shut up about it all!

kalabine
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Oct 8 2005 17:47

tbh it's hard enough to get solfed to work with you if you share an office ( tongue ) i don't think they'd ever merge with AF based on past experience

not that the blame lies soley with solfed, AF, and CW are just as bad imo -you should all merge - but i really cant see it happening, which is a shame

all pro merger anarchos should form a new fed from scratch and let the others waste away....

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pingtiao
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Oct 8 2005 17:52

I also think that there is nothign to be gained in the AF and SolFed being separate, and a lot to lose. I say this as an AF member, and I would say that this is the majority position among all AF members I know [that last is important].

enelpozo
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Oct 8 2005 17:58

so what's the opinion of Solfed on this? Do they think the same way as pingtiao says most the AF do?

knightrose
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Oct 8 2005 19:02

personally, I doubt that CW are within the same basic framework .... sorry

Steve
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Oct 8 2005 20:02
knightrose wrote:
Steve, what advantages are there in the existence of two separate federations? What are the really significant differences? If there are advantages and there are significant differences, then I'll happily shut up about it all!

I think there are basic differences between anarcho-syndicalism and anarcho-communism around questions about the form of organisation the nature of economic and political struggle. OK at the present that may not seem important but I don’t want to be a member of an organisation within which I have to constantly try to argue a very basic position. Speaking personally I’m against having a specific anarchist organisation if and when an anarcho-syndicalist union exists and I know that is contrary to what AF people think. Basically for me anarchism does not make sense without the syndicalist bit.

I don't see any problem in working together etc and have always said that. On a practical note as far as I know there are no AF members in Lancashire (I've asked before) and certainly no AF groups. We in Preston do work with Lancaster Anarchists who are non-aligned and do so quite happily.

Most of the impetus for this debate seems to come from the AF. I can only think of one or two individuals in SolFed who push for this. It comes up every year or so (sooner in this case) there are a few internet exchanges then it dies away. If some people were to try a merger all you would end up with is another anarchist federation alongside AF & SF. The main problem as I see it is all those anarchists who will not join anything at all preferring to form ad-hoc loose alliances perpetuating the myth that anarchism is anti-organisation.

kalabine
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Oct 8 2005 20:40
Steve wrote:
The main problem as I see it is all those anarchists who will not join anything at all preferring to form ad-hoc loose alliances perpetuating the myth that anarchism is anti-organisation.

that's bollocks - i'm a syndicalist in the workplace and a communist in the community, to me (and others) there is no contradiction - i could quite happily join SF, AF, and CW but i don't see the point when there's 3 feds all with less than 100 members, it's crazy...so i have to concentrate on my local group (HSG)

i could join all 3 i suppose, but where is the sense in that? confused

all class struggle anarchos in britain should be in a single fed

Steve
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Oct 8 2005 22:23
kalabine wrote:
i'm a syndicalist in the workplace and a communist in the community

See I'm anarcho-syndicalist in the workplace and the community, which takes me back to my first point I think.

kalabine
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Oct 8 2005 22:37
Steve wrote:
kalabine wrote:
i'm a syndicalist in the workplace and a communist in the community

See I'm anarcho-syndicalist in the workplace and the community, which takes me back to my first point I think.

how does being a syndicalist in the community work? does it mean allowing workplace assemblies control community life as well? confused

Steve
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Oct 8 2005 22:55

You are just re-emphasising my point. Anarcho-syndicalism isn't about separating the political and the economic, the workplace and the community. I'm an anarcho-syndicalist not a syndicalist. That is why the "we're all class struggle anarchists why can't we all join together" malarky just won't work.

I really don't want to argue about this. As I said I will willingly work with other anarchists and do so. Just let’s drop all this merger nonsense once and for all. Alternatively all those who are serious about it get together and set up (yet) another federation that has a compromise (read fudged) viewpoint and see what happens.

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pingtiao
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Oct 9 2005 00:12

What would the major compromise be, out of interest?

Do you genuinely believe, Steve, that there is greater divergence between the positions of the two federations than there is within each one between its members?

kalabine
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Oct 9 2005 00:36
pingtiao wrote:
What would the major compromise be, out of interest?

Do you genuinely believe, Steve, that there is greater divergence between the positions of the two federations than there is within each one between its members?

unfortunately he does, it's exactly the sort of attitude that causes new members to leave solfed at a rate of knots, and causes iwa members who move to the uk to look elsewhere, when they realise how short sighted and sectarian solfed really are.

enelpozo
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Oct 9 2005 01:06

as i said above i'm interested in finding out what other solfed members think. Steve is one person and although he says only one or two people agree with what some of us are arguing for i'm not sure i believe that. one or two?!

in any case to go from the situation we are in now to talk of a merger is a bit extreme. a short term goal would just be to work together on something as NATIONAL organisations. But by his dismissive attitude towards this discussion maybe Steve doesn't even seem interested in that.

Maybe the Irish anarcho-syndicalist federation could take over solfed, then we might get somewhere wink

knightrose
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Oct 9 2005 07:23

Enelpozo, your last comment on Steve was unfair. Relations between SolFed and the AF in the NW are good and there is the beginnings of some working together, particlarly we hope on the Stuff Your Boss Campaign. Steve is giving an honest answer to a question put. It's not his fault if you don'

t like what he's saying. To be honest, it's the first time I've heard a SolFed member express an opinion on the matter.

Steve
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Oct 9 2005 10:05

I’m sorry if you are upset that I’m not for a merger but you are twisting what I say. I am for us working together and, as knighrose said, we are doing that in the North West. I just don’t see the point in trying to force the two federations together. It won’t make one big fed it will end up in three smaller ones. I don’t believe every member of AF wants a merger.

I have only ever heard two members of SF say they want a merger. It has never been a topic for internal discussion so I don’t know everyone’s opinion but having been around for quite a while I think I know the general feeling. The compromise would be on the attitude towards organisation. It’s clear from the above posts that some anarchists separate the economic and political. “Syndicalist in the workplace communist in the community” is not what we are about. I don’t see the need for a specific anarchist organisation within an anarcho-syndicalist one and I would rather be in an organisation that this is clear from the start rather than take a step back into a compromised solution that reflects how many political parties are organised.

As for new members and IWA members leaving because of our supposed sectarianism. Well this is a new one. I’ve not come across this at all. In fact the signs at the moment are of growth with several new locals in the offing and established locals gaining new members. Preston SF has doubled in size over the past year or so.

To re-state we in Preston have always worked with other anarchists in the North West when we could. We work with Lancaster Anarchists on Maydays and anti-fascist work. We paid for posters for Lancashire Anti-fascist Alliance and advertising Burnley Anarchist events and without asking for our name to be put on it so I don’t see how we can be accused of being sectarian.

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JoeMaguire
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Oct 9 2005 10:55
Steve wrote:
I think there are basic differences between anarcho-syndicalism and anarcho-communism around questions about the form of organisation the nature of economic and political struggle. OK at the present that may not seem important but I don’t want to be a member of an organisation within which I have to constantly try to argue a very basic position. Speaking personally I’m against having a specific anarchist organisation if and when an anarcho-syndicalist union exists and I know that is contrary to what AF people think. Basically for me anarchism does not make sense without the syndicalist bit.

Steve, I think anarchism without the syndicalism doesnt make sense either, but until that becomes a practical issue, in the here and now, I think your points are creating a pointless schism. Im of the belief that people will always be attracted to a more organised political pole, so wouldnt it make more sense to unite on the basis of class politics until such a time that practical tasks seperate us?

Steve
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Oct 9 2005 11:16

I’ve got an idea. At the next AF conference why don’t you pass a motion regarding merger with the SF? You could then approach the SF formally and we can discuss it at our next conference. We would all then know where we stand. It may even lead to greater co-operation even if a merger is rejected.

(Btw october_lost is one of the SF people I mentioned above)

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JDMF
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Oct 9 2005 11:50

by the way, merging two tiny groups doesn't make one big one, but just one tiny group wink

There are much more serious underlying problems that needs addressing before there would be any real value in something which in effect narrows down the methods of approaches and working cultures we have at hand...

enelpozo
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Oct 9 2005 12:36
knightrose wrote:
Enelpozo, your last comment on Steve was unfair.

well i can't really see it myself, perhaps i didn't choose my words correctly. in any case, sorry Steve.

well, i'm not sure we'd be able to pass motion to suggest a merger with Solfed. I'm not 100% for the idea myself. But does it really need this from the AF to kick start a discussion in Solfed? Couldn't you have the discussion anyway?

IrrationallyAngry
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Oct 9 2005 17:05
JDMF wrote:
by the way, merging two tiny groups doesn't make one big one, but just one tiny group ;)

Isn't that the key point?

We get plenty of ill-advised unity mongering on our side of the fence too, and when somebody points out that there are real differences of approach, methods, strategy and aims between the different Trotskyist groups which make the idea of merging difficult someone can always be relied upon to start giving out about how such attitudes are "sectarian".

Class struggle anarchist organisations in Britain are tiny but they exist in a wider milieu which they could very easily recruit from in more significant numbers. The most effective and easiest way for you to build a real national organisation would be for any one of your federations to take a serious approach to doing just that.

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Steven.
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Oct 9 2005 18:44
Steve wrote:
Speaking personally I’m against having a specific anarchist organisation if and when an anarcho-syndicalist union exists and I know that is contrary to what AF people think.

Right well I think this is the key issue.

However steve do you really believe this? What if in Britain say the anarchosyndicalist union was the spanish CGT? Or the Swedish SAC? Would you not naturally form links with other people in it to try to steer it away from collaboration and reformism, and to a true anarchist line?

Jason Cortez
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Oct 10 2005 09:46

In the ten years i was a member of SolFed, merging with the AFed wasn't an issue and i don't recall anyone i knew in the AFed talking about it, maybe things have changed over the last year. There are real differences between the SolFed and the AFed in theory at least. In practise it may not seem important at present, but any attempt to merge would flounder at the 'constitutional phrase'. It would make more sense to find ways of sharing resouces and working together that don't needlessly duplicate the work being done separately (yes, i know that's the main reason for a merger, but i can't see it ever happening).

It would be far better for the Feds to examine why they haven't grown over the last decade and attempt to address these issues.

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Rob Ray
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Oct 10 2005 10:06

Tbh It doesn't seem to me that there's much point in merger talks at the moment (bit of a departure from my original position, which was closer to Kalabine's) cos of three major things:

- Very few people in the feds want to do it, for whatever reason.

- Geographically, am I right in thinking that outside of the major cities (even inside) there's really very little geographical conflict which would mean a merger led to bigger groups?

- The major problem is not lack of mergers, but lack of tactics/organisation. I've spent a fair bit of copy slagging off the 'superunion' merger and its attempt to hide the fact that the major unions are not functioning as they should, it makes me a little uncomfortable that very similar points could be made about merger proposals for SolFed and the AF.

billysmith
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Oct 10 2005 10:10

As an outsider and not being that knowledgeable about anarchism etc. even I can see differences in approach between various anarchists and would imagine a merger between AF and Sol Fed to be not only unlikely but a mistake. It would only become less clear what anarchism is about and what it had to offer people like me.

meanoldman
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Oct 10 2005 11:29

There are clearly theoretical differences between the AF and SolFed, the SolFed constitution puts its aims as:

The Solidarity Federation is an organisation of workers which seeks to destroy capitalism and the state. Capitalism because it exploits, oppresses and kills working people and wrecks the environment for profit worldwide. The state because it can only maintain hierarchy and privilege for the classes who control it and their servants; it cannot be used to fight the oppression and exploitation that are the consequences of hierarchy and the source of privilege. In their place we want a society based on workers’ self-management, solidarity, mutual aid and libertarian communism.

That society can only be achieved by working class organisations based on the same principles - revolutionary unions.

whilst the AF would agree with that completely but remove the exclusivity of revolutionary unions as an organisation method and have:

The Solidarity Federation is an organisation of workers which seeks to destroy capitalism and the state. Capitalism because it exploits, oppresses and kills working people and wrecks the environment for profit worldwide. The state because it can only maintain hierarchy and privilege for the classes who control it and their servants; it cannot be used to fight the oppression and exploitation that are the consequences of hierarchy and the source of privilege. In their place we want a society based on workers’ self-management, solidarity, mutual aid and libertarian communism.

That society can only be achieved by working class organisations based on the same principles.

Which isn't to say they couldn't merge (I'd love it to happen), there are political differences in all organisations (in the AF there are certainly disagreements on the exact nature and role of violence), but in any merger SolFed would have to drop a fundamental part of their constitution which people like Steve understandly are not keen on.

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the button
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Oct 10 2005 11:35

I posted this on the (similar) thread in General, but some of it might be appropriate here, too: -

Quote:
Yes to the poll question [should we cooperate more in London?]. As to the question in the thread title -- a London-wide class struggle organisation? Well, I would be in favour of that, in the same way that I would be in favour of all Bank Holidays being sunny. I.e., it would be nice, but it's very hard to make it happen just by saying so, or thinking it's a good idea.

I think the way forward on this is for anarchists to work together and socialise together & let the basis for unity emerge out of the experience of common struggle (and common getting rat-arsed ). To begin with a programme or constitution for a unified organisation would be lunacy, for practical reasons (fuck me, can you imagine what the early meetings would be like?) -- setting the thing up would probably burn out most of the folks involved.

And if a London wide organisation does emerge, it must be something other than SolFed + AFed + Class War + anyone else who wants to sign up = New improved......

There are excellent comrades who are not part of any of the feds, & who don't want to be. Presenting a "new improved" to them & expecting them to sign up out of sheer gratitude would be profoundly fucked in a number of distinct though related registers.

My 2p-worth. (In SolFed btw wink )

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JoeMaguire
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Oct 10 2005 16:59

The only resonable stumbling bloc mentioned thus far is that of theoritical differences, the feds as they are, are mearly a representation of the people involved in them, Im not discussing unity for its own sake, I just cant fathom why differences which arent yet practical in character are being brought to the centre stage.

gangster
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Oct 10 2005 17:37
knightrose wrote:
personally, I doubt that CW are within the same basic framework .... sorry

This is one of the reasons why we are not merged (attitudes like this). I remember it was only the last year that a 'merger' meeting happened in Bradford. One guy from Sol Fed, a couple from Af and a few from CW... At the meeting there was a great deal of agreement, and a proposal to take things forward through a 2 year congress of class struggle groups. nothing happened as a result however (i don't know why), I really did try, but it was the reception that failed (inexplicable given that several apparently want a merger), that is not to say that we can't try again...

If you really believe there are significant differences on principles (and I don't) it boils down to attitude towards political timing, tactics and strategy. It is on those details where there are personal differences, and potential disagreements.... sad to say... I was one all for encouraging merging and it wasn't the first time I tried either, but I have now given up on this one. It would be better if we could forget about all the baggage (disband the organisations -just like that), be forced into a room, and then see what sort of ideal type organisation we could come up with... It would of course be an organisation that we would also want to continually improve too.

knightrose
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Oct 10 2005 17:39

To be honest, I'd settle for an assumption that we will automatically work together wherever possible. I get the feeling that it almost exists anyway.

The whole joining together thing may be overly optimistic.

What might be practical could be something like the old London Workers Group. Different groups and individuals getting together regularly and planning joint activity - except, not in London, of course, as manchester and lancashire are now officially the centre of the universe.

Actually, the AF in the north is trying to get more organised. We're planning to meet up in early November and have a first northern AF meeting. Solfed seems quite together in these parts, maybe there could be the start of a better co-ordination once we've got our acts better together.