AFed's decline

Submitted by Craftwork on June 8, 2022

AFed’s magazine, ‘Organise’, which nowadays is mostly reprints of other people’s texts, appears more interested in nationalism or videogames than strikes. As we head to a summer of struggles, with strikes by RMT, UCU, GMB, IWGB, and many others, and the possibility of mass cuts to Civil Service paving the way for further struggles ahead, the latest issue of Organise says nothing about workers’ struggles in Britain, and instead opts for a lot of pro-West/pro-war Ukrainian-bourgeois bullshit. Combined with their PKK support, they’ve obviously abandoned anti-nationalism/proletarian-internationalism.

And they have announced they want to have an 'anarchist' black bloc at the 18/06 TUC demo, alongside some new, unknown group called 'Hackney Anarchists' ('Hackney' presumably referring to the place in London).

Is this decision to black bloc just for the sake of looking radical? Because I see no tactical value of doing so, amidst an assembly of thousands of mostly ordinary workers.

When I look at AFed, I just see an organisation in terminal decline, in both qualitative and quantitative terms.

Rob Ray

5 months 3 weeks ago

{edit: cba}

Fozzie

5 months 3 weeks ago

Hackney Anarchists would appear to be a new group who have a twitter account etc and are indeed based in the London Borough of Hackney as far as I can tell. I am not sure that their lack of fame is especially relevant at this point.

The latest Organise can be read online here - and is not especially to my taste. I'm not sure Organise was ever my go-to publication for updates on or analysis of workers struggles in the UK though.

In terms of black blocs, I'm not sure that the argument can be made that they are any less effective than another A to B march through central London. My preference on these things to to hang about with friends, colleagues and neighbours personally.

Fozzie wrote:In terms of black blocs, I'm not sure that the argument can be made that they are any less effective than another A to B march through central London. My preference on these things to to hang about with friends, colleagues and neighbours personally.

Yeah black bloc is a tactic, not a fetish. A TUC march is not a 1980s, West German autonomen demo.

Yeah black bloc is a tactic, not a fetish. A TUC march is not a 1980s, West German autonomen demo.

It's not, but anarchists and others have been tailending these things (and wearing a lot of black while they do it) for as long as I can remember?

Spikymike

5 months 3 weeks ago

Well the current AF 'Organise' publication in seeking, perhaps understandably, to avoid 'preaching' to the mostly isolated anarchists in Ukraine from the safer circumstances of the UK have relapsed into a confused and more familiar, 'lesser evil' 'democracy versus dictatorship' and 'anti-fascist' political discourse remote from any clear anarchist-communist class perspective.

Rob Ray wrote: {edit: cba}

Is that the next issue of 'Organise'?

rat

5 months 3 weeks ago

To keep updated on the current analysis from the Anarchist Federation, it is worth checking their Twitter account: @AnarchistFed

Rob Ray

5 months 3 weeks ago

More an expression of frustration about your focus on having a go at people atm, but stirring seems to be the kick you're on and I don't have the energy for engaging with it.

Mair Waring

5 months 3 weeks ago

I don't think this is just a personal expression of frustration or stirring, but totally understand if you don't want to engage Rob.

Personally I think Afed co-organising an event with Hackney Anarchists or organising a Black Bloc is pretty irrelevant to how they are doing as an organisation. I understand thinking Black Bloc is isn't always appropriate, but Afed is hardly alone in wearing it at a protest.

I do think their latest issue of Organise was pretty poor in quality, and while I am not totally against re-prints, it looks like maybe around a third of it was re-printed material, which is quite a lot. I do think Organise is a very pretty and well-designed magazine (and I think it has a decent circulation, given the generally low circulation these days). But yeah, I think there is a clear lack of interest or focus on class struggle (which isn't just strikes), and I do think there was quite a lot of nationalistic sentiment there really. Two particularly bad articles were the editorial (which was far worse than their more in depth article on the crisis in Ukraine), and also an article on slogans (which criticised slogans as a way of shutting down free speech, with references to fascist Germany, and cited "No War but the Class War" and "No Gods, No Masters" as examples of this - without acknowledging that plenty of people who defend those sentiments have longer / more reflective articles on the matter - just seemed like arguing in bad faith to me). I do think the lack of interest in the workers' movement or openness to workers' internationalism, reflects a move away from class struggle politics, which has been going on for a few years. Also I think it's nice Organise contains article on trans rights, and also lighter things like comics or video game reviews, but really I think this needs to supplement a more serious focus on the kind of activity Afed think can build a revolutionary movement.

I would say that both Freedom and the ACG regularly cover strikes, but often not in an overly critical or analytical way (Freedom are more guilty of this than the ACG). I do really appreciate them both as sources that report industrial unrest, but I think as anarchists we don't want to just be cheerleaders for reformist trade unions. I do recognise more analytical takes are difficult when strikes are ongoing, or without actually going and talking to people (like proper journalism), or (best of all) without having anarchists involved in the strike and reflecting on it.

I have just uploaded an article by London Afed, about the Cost of Living Crisis. It was really good in my opinion, well worth a read, and unlike pretty much all of Organise, it was clearly in the vein of class struggle anarchism.

Rob Ray

5 months 3 weeks ago

I'm just sick of back-seat driving tbh and have always regarded it as a black mark on the character of the person doing it, particularly in the form of a public slagging. The bottom line on Freedom's coverage of strikes for example is that there's very few volunteers trying to put out a lot of things at once and we don't have the time to write and edit everything in the sort of depth that we'd like. I'd fucking love to have a regular industrial reporter but after years of asking the job's still open. No shortage of people telling us what we're doing wrong though (positive feedback meanwhile is rarer than gold).

I don't think many people have any idea how draining it is filling a news wire in your spare time every week. Just finding a timely relevant topic someone else has already written about, reformatting it, sourcing a non-copyrighted pic and sorting out the social media bits is basically your morning before work, several days a week. A considered, researched piece could take an evening, or several, with no guarantee more than a handful of people will even bother to read it. And it's an open-ended undertaking, the front page is still hungry even if you're exhausted, or ill, or have family commitments.

Let alone filling last minute gaps in magazines after a long layout shift by bashing something out because text needs to be there - believe me, as someone who's had to do that more times than I care to remember, you can get better at it but just being coherent can be hit and miss, let along putting out quality researched content.

Everyone acts as though the disappointment in anarchist media is a lack of depth and consistency, when in fact the miracle is that these things happen at all, and the disappointment is usually that so few people are prepared to put their money where their complaint is to help generate knowledgeable, engaging articles.

So forgive me if I get hacked off with people who spend their time "critiquing" others' work when the number of articles they've contributed to said project is zero. Everyone seems to have endless time to tell others what to do, or write 1,000 words of opinion about the latest Twitter spat on "their" social media outlets (actually owned by tech giants and tailored to the echo chamber), while collective projects get tumbleweed on callouts to help make anarchist media better.

Mair Waring

5 months 3 weeks ago

You have edited your comment, from what was written a few minutes ago, so this might not respond to everything.

I think you can comment on things without it being "backseat driving". I have no idea who most people on Libcom are, or what they do (I think this goes for the internet these days in general), and so I am quite wary of people making personal critiques of people not doing anything who are making points about the content of something. Personally I have been involved in all sorts of projects pretty much consistently since a teenager, and have found it very tiring, and don't feel the need to say what those are to justify me discussing tweets or magazines on an online discussion board... For all I know other people in this thread have been active doing things as well. And even if they haven't it doesn't mean they don't have valid points to make.

For what it's worth Rob I am quite aware of how draining it is to write regular anarchist news, alongside doing activism in general. And articles I have written have been published in Freedom before (without a name, cos most of the news writing I do is anonymous). I understand how hard it can be to get coverage on industrial struggles, I have been editing an anarchist newsletter for a few years, and for that entire time I think we might have had one person send in an article about an industrial dispute (which we had to ask for in the first place). We still try and cover strikes reularly, because we think it's important. At the same time, I think anarchist magazines or papers not covering strikes (and Freedom does do that, and I did compliment them on that), reflects badly on their politics, even if I don't think that should be aimed at those involved on a personal level.

Also much of the criticism of Afed and Freedom recent writings is not at all about the difficulty of getting contributions, but about what they have written. Namely a lot of people disagree with their take on Ukraine. And Afed re-published lots of stuff in this magazine, they could have just re-published something to do with industrial unrest. I am also sure, like almost everyone who has written a publication before, they had to produce filler or talk about things last minute that needed to be talked about, and they must choose to write about other things than industrial disputes. It clearly reflects on their political focus and direction.

Rob Ray

5 months 3 weeks ago

I think you can comment on things without it being "backseat driving".

As though I ever said otherwise.

I am quite wary of people making personal critiques of people not doing anything

And that's the usual straw man, in which not doing anything for the projects they're complaining about metamorphoses into not doing anything.

I think anarchist magazines or papers not covering strikes (and Freedom does do that, and I did compliment them on that), reflects badly on their politics,

All it reflects is them not having someone who's up for writing regularly about industrial activities. Industrial writing is particularly hard to get for a number of reasons. It's frequently very tedious and repetitive even if you're interested in it. Understanding union issues is actually quite a specific interest, Union activists are often among the most busy people and are hard to pin down on writing about their struggles. Only one in five people are even in unions, let alone with experience enough of them to offer a decent critique, and the younger you go the fewer there are - which is actually extremely relevant to anarchism, as there's a massive generation gap from about age 30 to 50.

The fact that you reach for "bad politics" before even considering other factors rather showcases what I'm saying.

Namely a lot of people disagree with their take on Ukraine.

And have I said word one about people who have written rebuttal articles which are vaguely thoughtful about the actual content of pieces? The only times I've intervened were when Craftwork decided to get gossipy about a Twitter meme and when ACG didn't just write an article accusing a Russian writer in Freedom of being an anti-Russian ID-pol xenophobe using a quote that missed out the exact part of the offending paragraph that undermined their point, but charged around radical discussion groups with it, emailed it to us and bugged us about it on social media, accusing us of abandoning our politics. It's not about comradely disagreement, it about this tendency to slag people off, usually for sectarian or dramatic purposes, and then bang on about "legitimate critique" when it's nothing of the sort.

You know what, fuck this, I should have stuck with cba.

nastyned

5 months 3 weeks ago

The articles in Freedom were awful. https://www.anarchistcommunism.org/2022/03/07/identity-nationalism-and-xenophobia-at-freedom/

sherbu-kteer

5 months 3 weeks ago

I'll try and give some more comradely criticism then – from my perspective as someone who edited an anarchist paper (briefly) it reads like Organise is trying to be halfway between an agitational thing, and an anarchist version of readers' digest. I don't want to give too much instruction because I have no idea what goes on inside AFed / Organise but my honest opinion is that people involved should try and refocus, because reading between the lines of your own post Rob you yourself know the quality of the mag is not what it could be. What kind of expectation is there for AFed members to write for the paper? What do you do with the paper, hand it out at protests, do street sales, distribute it through lefty bookshops / zine spaces? What is the audience you're targeting? Etc.

When I was editing our paper we tried to aim for a bigger thing but realised we didn't have enough content for it, even though we are a group with fairly clear expectations that everyone would contribute to writing as best they could. So we pulled back and aimed for a smaller but more targeted approach with articles we thought would be a bit more engaging to people we met at demos, friends of ours interested in our politics, etc. It's worked pretty well so far, though it also took the group having a moment of introspection and recommitment (and change of editors) to make it happen. In group meetings we'll discuss ideas for articles, organise who's writing them and then go from there.

If you're at the point where the main problem is finding enough to submissions to print then it seems obvious the publication should be reduced in size, and AFed members called upon a bit more directly to write. Otherwise you get to the point where you're just printing any old shit that would better fit on someone's blog, as well as reprints of stuff that can very easily and more accessibly be found elsewhere.

With the ACG – the main point is that by publishing those crappy articles, Freedom was putting itself outside the "comradely" relationship, and thus not really deserving of the politer kind of criticism reserved for people you sympathise with politically. I'm inclined to agree, as those articles really, really sucked, and were beyond some legitimate internal disagreement within the bounds of anarchism / communism. ACG people posting the article everywhere was probably annoying I agree, but it's not the most important problem.

Craftwork

5 months 3 weeks ago

If it's okay to support Ukrainian 'resistance' due to it being a smaller country invaded by a larger, more powerful one, then why not also voice support for Iraqi Ba'athist resistance, the Taliban/Al-Q, pro-Gadaffi Libyan forces, or Assadist forces? After all, they were all resisting invasions from mighty (Western) imperialist powers.

They think NWBTCW is a blanket statement, but they are guilty of its selective application.

Zosia and the Pole/Czech 'antifascists' are rattled by the Russian invasion of Ukraine because it triggers historical anxieties about the Russian invasions of their countries, but NWBTCW doesn't work as a principle if you abandon it when the war gets too close to your home. That just makes you a chauvinist. Hence it's even more important to uphold that principle when the war hits close to one's own country/neighbouring countries.

Zosia speaks of 'orientalism', yet beyond the Western world, countries are either neutral or pro-Russia.

The view of Putin as a uniquely-evil aggressor is only dominant in Western public discourse. If you want to be a good 'non-orientalist': what makes the Western public discourse 'truer' than the non-Western narratives on Russia-Ukraine, from India, Mexico, Brazil, China, South Africa, Iran, Palestine?

Craftwork

5 months 3 weeks ago

accidental double-post

Craftwork wrote: If it's okay to support Ukrainian 'resistance' due to it being a smaller country invaded by a larger, more powerful one, then why not also voice support for Iraqi Ba'athist resistance, the Taliban/Al-Q, pro-Gadaffi Libyan forces, or Assadist forces? After all, they were all resisting invasions from mighty (Western) imperialist powers.

if its ok to support resistance to imperialist aggression why isn't it ok to support a selection of literal fascists?

radicalgraffiti wrote:

Craftwork wrote: If it's okay to support Ukrainian 'resistance' due to it being a smaller country invaded by a larger, more powerful one, then why not also voice support for Iraqi Ba'athist resistance, the Taliban/Al-Q, pro-Gadaffi Libyan forces, or Assadist forces? After all, they were all resisting invasions from mighty (Western) imperialist powers.

if its ok to support resistance to imperialist aggression why isn't it ok to support a selection of literal fascists?

Like Azov, or fascist volunteers?

Anyway, Islamists aren’t really fascists. Ba’athists, you can make the case.

But I don’t see any big difference between lending support to the nationalist Ukrainian ‘resistance’, but not other nationalisms, unless you think “democratic European” nationalism is superior to undemocratic, MENA nationalisms, in which case you have some Eurocentric double-standards.

Craftwork wrote:

radicalgraffiti wrote:
Craftwork wrote: If it's okay to support Ukrainian 'resistance' due to it being a smaller country invaded by a larger, more powerful one, then why not also voice support for Iraqi Ba'athist resistance, the Taliban/Al-Q, pro-Gadaffi Libyan forces, or Assadist forces? After all, they were all resisting invasions from mighty (Western) imperialist powers.

if its ok to support resistance to imperialist aggression why isn't it ok to support a selection of literal fascists?

Like Azov, or fascist volunteers?

you'd have a point if anyone was supporting azov battalion or other fascists in ukraine

rat

5 months 3 weeks ago

A new article has been published on the ACG website.
It should be right up radicalgraffiti's street.

Revolutionary Defeatism.

"Why defeat matters more than victory…"

"Revolutionary Defeatism is a primary principle for anarchist internationalists. Acting locally and coordinating globally against imperialist war is the internationalist task and responsibility of social revolutionary militants and our class everywhere. But what does it mean?"

https://www.anarchistcommunism.org/2022/06/12/revolutionary-defeatism/

Rob Ray wrote:

I think you can comment on things without it being "backseat driving".

As though I ever said otherwise.

I am quite wary of people making personal critiques of people not doing anything

And that's the usual straw man, in which not doing anything for the projects they're complaining about metamorphoses into not doing anything.

I think anarchist magazines or papers not covering strikes (and Freedom does do that, and I did compliment them on that), reflects badly on their politics,

All it reflects is them not having someone who's up for writing regularly about industrial activities. Industrial writing is particularly hard to get for a number of reasons. It's frequently very tedious and repetitive even if you're interested in it. Understanding union issues is actually quite a specific interest, Union activists are often among the most busy people and are hard to pin down on writing about their struggles. Only one in five people are even in unions, let alone with experience enough of them to offer a decent critique, and the younger you go the fewer there are - which is actually extremely relevant to anarchism, as there's a massive generation gap from about age 30 to 50.

The fact that you reach for "bad politics" before even considering other factors rather showcases what I'm saying.

Namely a lot of people disagree with their take on Ukraine.

And have I said word one about people who have written rebuttal articles which are vaguely thoughtful about the actual content of pieces? The only times I've intervened were when Craftwork decided to get gossipy about a Twitter meme and when ACG didn't just write an article accusing a Russian writer in Freedom of being an anti-Russian ID-pol xenophobe using a quote that missed out the exact part of the offending paragraph that undermined their point, but charged around radical discussion groups with it, emailed it to us and bugged us about it on soci

You claim ACG of "using a quote that missed out the exact part of the offending paragraph that undermined their point", but that only applies to the last quote, you conveniently ignore the other paragraphs which were quoted in full and are valid.

So why are you engaging in such disingenuous apologetics? Anyone who compares ACG's article against the Freedom sources can see their critiques are valid.

“We can’t risk assuming the same logic applies when Ukraine and the UK are incomparable. While the latter is literally an imperialist force, nationalism or patriotism (or however we feel most comfortable defining it in English) can be empowering and important for people who are under threat of imperialist invasion. Around the world, the fights for citizenship, autonomy, and self-determination come alongside asserting certain flags, languages, religions, and cultures. This isn’t the same as far-right, neo-nazi groups who do it on behalf of somewhere like England. Fascism punches down, resistance is not the same. From Ukraine to Scotland to Western Sahara to Palestine to Tatarstan, we stand with the people resisting imperialism.

“Bad-faith accusations of Russophobia are corrupting our ability to properly criticise how pointless it is to arbitrarily ban everything Russian. I get that Russian people often get tied closely to the actions of the state and it makes sense, Russians have famously played a big part in the formation and destruction of governments. Russians and Russian things are often seen as political even if they’re not. Everything is pushed through some ideological prism and used for endless manipulations of the political spectrum. And while it is truly understandable that many people hate Russia and Russians and anything to do with Russia, and more power to them, part of the narrative Putin is giving to Russians is that he is the only person on their side. “It’s us against them”. He says the rest of the world hates us, watch how they treat us. He says Ukrainians are Russophobes (imagine). The insular, exceptional nationalism which Putin has been carefully nurturing and weaponising will only become more effective if the rest of the world turns its back on Russian people.

“It also isn’t anti-left to be Russophobic, but taking Russian bands off festival line-ups also isn’t going to help anyone.”

adri

5 months 3 weeks ago

rat wrote: A new article has been published on the ACG website.

ACG wrote: Defeatism is not pacifism, it cannot afford to be whilst each rolling tank and falling bomb dismembers workers. It is not, as Lenin described it, merely to “…desire the defeat of ‘your own’ government, wish defeat, favour nothing less than defeat” ushering in the victory of the most militarised and brutal power. Revolutionary Defeatism is the active mobilisation of solidarity and defence of community against its forced militarisation and co-option, and resistance to the idea of a capitalist victory or a capitalist peace – the latter the bloody breathing space between blows.

What is the source of the Lenin quote, if you don't mind me asking (or is it even a quote)? Not the biggest fan of Lenin, but in his defense he never argued “defeatism” (in the context of World War I) was merely the desire for the defeat of one’s own government in order to allow "the victory of the most militarised and brutal power.” In his article “The Defeat of One’s Own Government in the Imperialist War,” Lenin is in fact attacking Trotsky’s position that hoping for the defeat of one’s government is the same as hoping for the victory of the other belligerent, so Lenin is clearly not in favor of “the victory of the most militarised and brutal power.” Lenin for example writes,

Lenin wrote: The phrase-bandying Trotsky has completely lost his bearings on a simple issue. It seems to him that to desire Russia’s defeat means desiring the victory of Germany.

In the same article he also calls for converting imperialist war into civil war, and argues for “inter national [sic] revolutionary action by the working class against their own governments.”

He similarly made calls for the solidarity of the working classes of Russia and Japan during the Russo-Japanese war. See his article “To the Russian Proletariat” for instance,

Lenin wrote: Long live the fraternal union of the proletarians of all countries fighting for complete liberation from the yoke of international capital! Long live Japanese Social-Democracy protesting against the war! Down with the ignominious and predatory tsarist autocracy!

nastyned

5 months 3 weeks ago

I don't really get why Rob Ray thinks the ACG's critique of the awful Freedom articles is somehow illegitimate or in bad faith. It's not just us that think they were awful, the brief thing we wrote was politely worded, and Freedom even then edited one of the articles to remove the worst parts.

rat

5 months 3 weeks ago

adri, thanks for your comments and observations — I'll ask about that quote and get back to you.

adri

5 months 3 weeks ago

ACG wrote: Defeatism is not pacifism, it cannot afford to be whilst each rolling tank and falling bomb dismembers workers. It is not, as Lenin described it, merely to “…desire the defeat of ‘your own’ government, wish defeat, favour nothing less than defeat” ushering in the victory of the most militarised and brutal power. Revolutionary Defeatism is the active mobilisation of solidarity and defence of community against its forced militarisation and co-option, and resistance to the idea of a capitalist victory or a capitalist peace – the latter the bloody breathing space between blows.

I'm guessing it's a quote from Hal Draper's The Myth of Lenin's "Revolutionary Defeatism"? Of course the article is making other points, but I don't really see why the author is attributing the quote, and especially the stuff after it, to Lenin. Lenin says stuff similar to what's quoted, but the above passage is almost verbatim with Draper here,

Draper wrote: When we look at Lenin’s writings themselves we will find a variety of shifting and inconsistent formulations on “defeatism” at various times, but the part which has entered into the canonical form of “defeatism” includes the following.

(1) In a reactionary war, you must wish for the defeat of “your own” government, desire defeat, be in favor of defeat, nothing less than defeat.

nastyned wrote: I don't really get why Rob Ray thinks the ACG's critique of the awful Freedom articles is somehow illegitimate or in bad faith. It's not just us that think they were awful, the brief thing we wrote was politely worded, and Freedom even then edited one of the articles to remove the worst parts.

I've said my view on ACG's article across multiple threads now and I've already said I'm not going to engage with this one further. If you want to keep banging on about it that's up to you, but I won't be joining you.

nastyned

5 months 3 weeks ago

Ah yes, I'd forgotten how strange some of your views are. I'll bear that in mind in future.

Rob Ray

5 months 3 weeks ago

I'd forgotten how strange some of your views are

Yeah, this sort of thing is precisely why I'm not continuing the conversation, and why I said cba in the first place.

nastyned

5 months 3 weeks ago

Probably for the best.

Craftwork

5 months 2 weeks ago

Tomorrow’s Afed “anarchist black bloc” will be a real test of strength for an organisation in decline. We shall see how they perform.

(Spoiler alert: they’ll break away from the body of the demo at some point and end up nowhere in particular.)

rat

5 months 2 weeks ago

Over twenty ninjas turned up!

Craftwork

5 months 2 weeks ago

The real anarchists there were the people distributing Rebel City/Jackdaw, and actually engaging in dialogue with workers.

Mair Waring

5 months 2 weeks ago

You are both just being a bit immature. There is plenty to critique Afed, or the ACG, for. But the fact that maybe 20 or 30 of them attended a demo wearing black bloc, and didn't leaflet it, is hardly a sign of anything, nevermind a decline or betrayal of their principles. I have been to plenty of demos and just been with an anarchist bloc, and I have also leafleted many demos, these things are hardly incompatible. Going on about it cheapens any critique of their actual ideas/writings.

novatorious-hill

5 months 2 weeks ago

Over the years i've become increasingly distant from my initial anarchist positions, in no small part because of the nationalist and national liberation politics that has become the bread and butter of a great many who call themselves anarchist. I think AFED epitomise this, alongside meaningless symbolic gestures and no small degree of tailism when it comes to social issues.

The whole point of Black Bloc is to remain unidentifiable during direct action, turning it into a uniform is utterly counter productive *edit* besides it being alien to the large majority of workers in the UK.

tinneddirt

5 months 2 weeks ago

So, I am a member of the London group of the Anarchist Federation, and this is my personal opinion and not representative of the group as a whole or anything. I am also not going to speak for Organise, as I am not involved in its production and am so busy I rarely get to read it, although I will say that Organise is very much shaped by what people choose to submit to it, so if anyone has some good class struggle analysis they want to see in Organise: Organise submissions

Anyway...

We can not take credit for organising the bloc at the TUC demo as a group, we just signal boosted it to help comrades out who wanted to organise it but did not have access to social media as established as ours. In terms of our support for the bloc itself, different members had differing levels of enthusiasm for it and involvement in it, but each to their own. I personally am not a huge fan of A to B marches, and the bloc was too small to do much else other than follow the TUC march, but I am glad there was an obviously anarchist presence there instead of the only radical presence being eleven different flavours of weird Trotskyist sect.

Was having a black bloc useful? I honestly do not know. No tactic is going to be universally attractive to all people. Some people will be intrigued on seeing a black bloc, some people will be worried by it, some people just wont care. However, I would like to point out that the profusion of far right “journalists” at these things who take pictures of anarchists and other leftists at any opportunity in order to out us to our employers or harass us online or in person means that having an obviously anarchist presence that is not in black bloc is always going to pose a safety risk to those involved.

But you can do a black bloc while also doing stuff to attract people who might not be into that kind of thing. On the non-spiky looking end of the scale, we also set up a stall with AFed and SolFed material, and we had a pamphlet prepared around the cost of living crisis (Available here). Now, we did not do the best job of this, as the eleven different flavours of weird Trotskyist sect seem to do nothing but run stalls and hand out newspapers and are frankly better at it than us, and the intermittent rain did not help at all. We lack the SWP’s strong anti-rain gazebo game and ability to colonise every good street corner at a protest from way before the protest gets there. But whatever, those are lessons learned for next time and we still got to talk to a few people, hand out some material, and get some emails for the mailing list.

What we did at the TUC demo was very much throwing stuff at the wall to see what would stick. Pre lockdown many of us were heavily involved in the London Anti-Fascist Assembly after a worrying rise in far right mobilisation, and setting up the Green Anti-Capitalist Front as a more radical alternative to Extinction Rebellion, and post lockdown a lot of our time and energy has gone into the Dalston Solidarity Cafe and other, not yet public, projects. These are all very demanding in terms of capacity and we were getting out into a mainstream demo as an organised anarchist presence after a long absence because of this. How many people would show up for a black bloc? What would the reaction be? Would anyone come to our table? Would weird Trotskyists try to flip our table and run us off the demo? Ultimately to really answer those questions we had to go out and do the thing, and now we have a better idea about all those things, which will inform what we do at the next demo, or if we decide it’s better to pour our energy into other stuff.

To some of the broader points made here: I do not know any AFed members who are pro Ukrainian state, pro Ukrainian nationalist, or pro NATO, but the points we are trying to make seem to constantly get transmuted into those positions by others; Being anti Russian imperialism turns into being pro Ukrainian state. Accepting the choice of local anarchists to resist the Russian invasion because Russian occupation would result in mass violence and deportations directed against local communities turns into being pro Ukrainian nationalist. Recognising that the Ukrainian people have been forced into a choice between NATO and Russia and that NATO is probably the choice that will cause them the least harm turns into being pro NATO. I myself, and every comrade in the fed I have talked to, are none of those things.

We are also still a class struggle organisation. Many of us are active in our unions where they still exist, and some of us are organising outside of the unions in workplaces where most of the workforce do not even know what a union really is. It would be nice if we wrote about workplace struggles more, but that takes time and energy away from other projects, and since we are on good terms with both SolFed and the IWW and often have membership overlap with those two groups, we tend to concentrate on covering other bases instead of replicating the kind of stuff they do.

sherbu-kteer

5 months 2 weeks ago

"Recognising that the Ukrainian people have been forced into a choice between NATO and Russia and that NATO is probably the choice that will cause them the least harm turns into being pro NATO."

That is being pro NATO...

novatorious-hill wrote: Over the years i've become increasingly distant from my initial anarchist positions, in no small part because of the nationalist and national liberation politics that has become the bread and butter of a great many who call themselves anarchist. I think AFED epitomise this, alongside meaningless symbolic gestures and no small degree of tailism when it comes to social issues.

The whole point of Black Bloc is to remain unidentifiable during direct action, turning it into a uniform is utterly counter productive *edit* besides it being alien to the large majority of workers in the UK.

Yeah, this is basically my view.

novatorious-hill

5 months 2 weeks ago

''To some of the broader points made here: I do not know any AFed members who are pro Ukrainian state, pro Ukrainian nationalist, or pro NATO, but the points we are trying to make seem to constantly get transmuted into those positions by others; Being anti Russian imperialism turns into being pro Ukrainian state.''

The issue is that, like sherbu-kteer has stated, this IS being pro NATO. It comes from a misunderstanding of what imperialism is, an epoch of global capitalism as opposed to something some states do because they are bad. Global capitalism requires the destruction of capital assets to begin a new process of accumulation, to combat the declining rate of profit - war is a product of imperialism, and the working-class have no interest in vying factions of the bourgeoisie.

Do we really consider the military aid gifted to the Ukrainian's as politically neutral, or the thousands of volunteers risking their lives as cannon fodder? is the expansion of NATO not also a product of imperialism? The notion that the Ukrainian state, in the 21st century is in some way desirable as opposed to the Russian state is absurd - capitalism as a global system ended having any progressive character long ago.

The only position worth it's salt in the current climate is the one that has been pushed by the Communist Workers Organisation and the ACG under the slogan ''no war but the class war'' where a new inter-imperialist global war has been warned of for the last 5 years.

it seems as though AFED are tied the editorial board of Freedom (i am confident the person who wrote this is an influential member of the fed) and this article most certainly is pro-ukrainian state - one of the most sensationalist, and down right disgusting articles I have ever read in my entire life (link provided) https://freedomnews.org.uk/2022/03/04/fuck-leftist-westplaining/.

I would also like to add that this article has been edited (without any note informing readers), to make it slightly more palatable to anyone who hasn't had their brains rearranged by the liberal politics of the internet left.

It's racist to criticise anarchists who jump in the trenches with far-right militias, and white supremacists in the name of ''anti-fascism''...

Craftwork wrote:

novatorious-hill wrote: Over the years i've become increasingly distant from my initial anarchist positions, in no small part because of the nationalist and national liberation politics that has become the bread and butter of a great many who call themselves anarchist. I think AFED epitomise this, alongside meaningless symbolic gestures and no small degree of tailism when it comes to social issues.

The whole point of Black Bloc is to remain unidentifiable during direct action, turning it into a uniform is utterly counter productive *edit* besides it being alien to the large majority of workers in the UK.

Yeah, this is basically my view.

It's a shame that such a rich history of struggle is being trashed. This is what happens when you ban everyone from your organisation that has read more than one pamphlet, and has been around for the larger portion of the 20th century.

This nonsense with Blac Bloc has also happened previously during a march in solidarity with anarchist prisoners in Russia - i was just informed by a comrade that that FED turned up in Black Bloc (he was a witness) and that locals in a working-class area thought they were fascists.

The fortunate thing is there are groups dedicated to an internationalist and proletarian perspective, whose politics hasn't become a fashion statement.

adri

5 months 2 weeks ago

I'm not all that interested in the UK anarchist scene, but I do think people should actually explain why viewing a Ukrainian victory as a "lesser evil" is flawed (which I agree that it is), rather than merely citing their principles/NWBTCW—doing the latter makes you a boring ideologue. Among other examples, one could point to Marx correctly "abandoning his principles" by throwing in his support for the Union during the American Civil War. Principles should not be used as an excuse to not think, or to brush aside tactical considerations. Just invoking the "falling rate of profit," because you saw it in Capital Vol. 3 or because it's part of your organization's sacred ideology, doesn't by itself explain why the outcome of the war is irrelevant.

sherbu-kteer wrote: "Recognising that the Ukrainian people have been forced into a choice between NATO and Russia and that NATO is probably the choice that will cause them the least harm turns into being pro NATO."

That is being pro NATO...

I do not think it is, at least not in the way that people seem to be claiming, in a “pro-West/pro-war Ukrainian-bourgeois bullshit” way.

If some ones house was on fire and it shook out in such a way that they had the choice to jump from the third floor window and break both their legs or burn to death, saying “jumping from the third floor window is probably the best option for that person” is a reasonable thing to say. It is not, however, being pro-breaking both your legs when jumping from a third floor window as a solution to fire safety. Recognising that one of two bad options is less bad than the other is not the same thing as supporting that option as a political line.

What we want is a global working class movement powerful enough that it can shut down any attempt at imperial war, and with that level of power would likely be able to launch a revolution. However, we do not have that, so the people of Ukraine have a selection of utterly shit options. They have to now make choices based on those options, choices that are literally life and death for some of them. Recognising that is not about supporting NATO, but trying to show some sympathy and understanding to the utterly horrible position that many of our Ukrainian comrades are now in.

But, let us say for the sake or argument that that this is true, that recognition of some bad options being better than other bad options is the same as support. If it was, I would expect everyone to apply this principal evenly to all sections of anarchist organising.

It would apply to the shit options of workers who have to choose between accepting a wage for padding out the pockets of capitalist exploiters and providing tax revenue for imperialist states or unemployment. After all, each one of us who goes to work and pays taxes on our wage is providing far more material support for NATO than AFed ever has as a group. It would also apply to the shit options of whether or not we oppose the slow dismantling of the welfare state, despite that welfare state being bound up in all the violence, oppression, and exploitation of the state form, or just let it fall apart and all the misery that might bring.

Of course, on these issues most anarchists take a more nuanced stance than that; that workers must make the best of bad choices in order to survive while we attempt to organise so that better choices become available and ultimately we can overthrow state and capital. And of course within this nuance some things are still beyond the pale – workers may need to work to survive, but becoming a cop is not Ok, for example. And sometimes we end up awkwardly “supporting” certain aspects of the state in a very conditional way for the same reason, that until we are well organised enough to provide something better, a state that does not let the majority of its surplus labour force starve to death is probably a better situation for the working class to be in than one in which the state does allow that starvation.

Now, if any of you do reject working for a wage, or any kind of opposition to the slow abolition of the welfare state, or any kind of engagement with state and capital at all and propose a refusal to even comment on the pros and cons of the different choices a worker might make within state and capital in order to survive, because such things are no different from supporting state and capital, well I guess you can consistently claim that AFed supports NATO and I have some respect for your ethical consistency. But I suspect that this is not the stance of most people accusing us of being pro west or pro NATO.

Spikymike

5 months 1 week ago

I'm sure some Ukrainians (but not all) thought being part of the European Union was, or at least might be, better economically than being part of a Russian dominated economic sphere. The trouble is that in reality that choice isn't in the end separate from membership of NATO and in the meantime that choice involved interim cut backs as part of an intended integration package, and siding with the European as opposed to Russian favoured sections of the Ukrainian ruling class, with civil war and the prospect of being embroiled in a NATO/Russian proxy war the almost inevitable outcome, in which the working class on both sides would, and now are suffering. As to the choices facing individual workers in the midst of this, it seems to me that, in the obvious absence of a previously organised mass class response, escaping the war zones, and avoiding or getting out of the armies on both sides is probably No 1, or otherwise simply trying to survive through mutual aid until the war is resolved one way or the other to pursue the class struggle after. Cant say whether that might force some Ukrainian workers to fight back or not with arms, depending on the immediate circumstances of the time and place. Some things are not really choices at all in such a war irrespective of the correct ideological persuasion.