An interview conducted with two members of St Louis libertarian group, Autonomy Alliance.
While in St. Louis, I was lucky enough to stay with two members of the Autonomy Alliance. In that time, I've been impressed with the level activity I've seen from the group—regular publications, public events (not the least of which included a screening of the 1971 film Sacco and Vanzetti), and running a once-yearly weekend school.
Unlike many of the city-based libertarian groups in the US, I hadn't heard of them before. So I thought it'd be worth learning a bit more about them. The following interview took place with those same two members, although it's in personal capacity, so should not be taken as the official AA positions.
Tell me a bit about the group. When were you founded? How many people are currently active? Are members active in any other organizations? What are the particular politics of your group and what level of political agreement do you strive for? What are the activities and projects you're involved in?
Autonomy Alliance has been active for about 5 years, although it's current core group has only been active since late 2008. There are about 10 members who attend regular meetings, vote on event proposals, and facilitate annual events. Our members are all involved with other local and national anti-capitalist organizations. AA is made up of PARECONists, social anarchists, radical feminists, and Wobblies. The goal has always been to bring together folks of different radical left-wing backgrounds into a cohesive organization to work on local projects, distribute literature, discuss readings and put out a quarterly newsletter.
One aspect of AA that differs from many radical groups is that we have defined membership, a democratic voting procedure, and agreed upon organizational by-laws which we collectively edit every year or so. While AA is still small in numbers, I think we're able to focus our time and energy into local projects in a way that's relatively efficient. I think we all want to avoid the pitfalls that come along with doing things in a disjointed and loosely organized way. We co-sponsor an annual event called Left Wing School, a day long series of workshops and panel discussions on a wide ranging number of subjects, from labor, environmentalism, feminism, Palestine solidarity, etc. The LWS has occurred every December for the past several years. In the past, we've also co-sponsored several commemorations of the 1877 General Strike. In 2010, we brought in famous labor historian, Jeremy Brecher, along with popular singer-songwriter David Rovics to participate in this event. It was attended by about 100 people.
What are your long-term goals? Any plans for sustained campaigns in the workplace or the community? How do you relate to the wider movement in St. Louis?
Our long term goals are dedicated to building a larger and more effective network of radical anti-capitalists in the greater St. Louis area. More specifically, this means continuing to conduct meetings where we can discuss readings and plan events. It means showing up to demos, distributing literature, and doing self-education so that we can all continue to understand the intersection of different social justice struggles and theoretical tendencies.
How does Autonomy Alliance relate to other anarchist organizations in the US, either other city-based organizations or national ones?
AA has never been internally defined as an anarchist organization. Although most of our members identify as left-libertarians of one stripe or another, we're careful not to pigeon-hole ourselves. We usually employ the term "libertarian socialist" when asked to describe our collective principles. This catch-all term seems to sit well with all of us...
Locally, we network with anarchists, Marxists, liberals, and unaffiliated individuals who are just getting into radical projects.
Autonomy Alliance appears, at least to me, to have a very high level of commitment from its members. For the size of your membership, there's no doubt you're a very active organization, how have you achieved and maintained that level of commitment?
The degree to which we're active and committed is, I think, directly proportionate to our degree of internal democracy and accountability. We have defined group roles so that, to put it bluntly, shit gets done.
Finally, what do you see as the prospects for class struggle in St. Louis in the near future?
It's hard to say. On the one hand, capital has been crushing organized labor for decades. The trade unions are content to throw their money at center-right political candidates. Many rank-and-file workers are content to embrace racism and nationalism. It's a scary time to be involved with radical class struggle. But was it ever any other way?
On the other hand, many ordinary people, who were never critical of capitalism before the recession are starting to connect the dots. I'm personally inspired by the organizing tactics of the Industrial Workers of the World, but as an organization, Autonomy Alliance is doing what it can to educate and inspire the masses through our activities.