AF and hopoi?

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Spikymike
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Feb 15 2010 13:04
AF and hopoi?

I would be interested to know if the AF has any collective view on support for the campaign group 'Hands Off the People of Iran' and perhaps more generally on similar campaign style groups.

I attended a hopoi meeting in Manchester this weekend, with the subject matter particularly relevant in light of the increasing brutality handed out to all and any protestors against the current Iranian regime.

The speakers were all interesting and an Iranian women speaker particularly informative.

The first part of the meeting was chaired by an AF member who made a number of valuable contributions (and only one bad one - incidentally corrected by someone whom I suspect was a CPGB member). I got the impression that there were other AF members involved in hopoi - is that right?

This particular meeting had a very strong CPGB influence in both verbal and written contributions and the CPGB appears to be very active in hopoi.

It is noticeable that the published supporters of hopoi include a huge range of labour MP's and various noteable left wing individuals and organisations, none of which are remotely of course on a similar wavelength to the AF, (even if some of them, sometimes make sensible comments on particular issues).

Presumably if the AF collectively thought this campaign worthwhile investing it's time in then you would be happy to have your organisations name added to the list of supporters?

In the past (as a member of Subversion) I have been involved in a number of solidarity type groups, such as a local anti-poll tax group and the Liverpool Dockers support group, which included workers from other political groups but none of these were formally supported or promoted by those political organisations and certainly were not associated with the current ruling government party or 'official opposition'.

Of course I realise there is an element of (justifiable?) opportunism in getting celebrity names as supporters for this type of campaign group so as to get more media exposure but it does muddy the waters politically.

The absense of an AF listing as a support group suggests to me that:

1. There are differences of opinion within the AF on support for this campaign, or
2. AF members support the campaign but are too embarrased to have their name listed alongside other capitalist supporting individuals and groups,
3. AF supports the campaign but cannot afford the subs, or
4. AF is happy for it's local groups or even perhaps it's individual members to involve themselves in any campaign without further collective discussion.

I am not suggesting that hopoi doesn't do some useful work - I am sure it does, but I wonder how the AF decides to allocate it's limited resources and who, and on what basis, it decides to work with politically?

As a 'freelance' pro-revolutionary I am of course at liberty to operate a bit of a 'pick-and-mix' approach to my activity (and on this occassion for instance distributed a useful and relevant article from 'Revolutionary Perspectives' rather than something from the AF) but presumably AF members operate a more collective approach to their activity.

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Farce
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Feb 15 2010 14:15

1, and to some extent also 4. Some individuals, especially in Manchester and Leeds, are strongly supportive, others aren't that fussed or think it's too CPGB-dominated. We're a federation, not a centralist group, so members are free to get involved in any activity they think is useful and doesn't contradict our principles, and the whole federation can only be committed to supporting something by a democratic decision at conference.

Mike Harman
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Feb 15 2010 17:52

Similar questions were brought up when the WSM were involved in it a couple of years ago. Threads for reference:

http://libcom.org/forums/organise/hands-people-iran

and http://libcom.org/forums/organise/hopi-anti-war-organisation-18102007

Spikymike
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Feb 17 2010 19:20

Catch, Thanks for those links which I have brushed through.

Whilst I cannot get quite as excited as the various contributors to that last debate I am certainly sympathetic to the suspicians and reservations you expressed.

I note here that whilst members of both the AF and WSM are involved in the two hopoi's that their approach to this seems to differ - presumably the difference between an anarchist federalist and platformist style of organisation?

I suppose I'm closer to the 'platformist' style in my thinking but not the result of that in the case of the WSM which retains an unfortunate leftist politics that would of course make it a more natural bedfellow with other leftist groups in such types of campaigns.

Farce,

Thanks for that quick response which helps a bit but...

In my post above I tried to distinguish between two different types of groups with one being 'solidarity' based and the other 'group campaign based' but this has yet to be taken up here by any AF members.

There is more to say on the general issue of involvement in campaigning organisations like hopoi, including the matter of how to deal with/relate to party organisations such as the CPGB if you do get involved.

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888
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Feb 17 2010 21:49
Farce wrote:
We're a federation, not a centralist group, so members are free to get involved in any activity they think is useful and doesn't contradict our principles, and the whole federation can only be committed to supporting something by a democratic decision at conference.

This haphazard approach isn't something to be proud of though, I mean it's the reason why the IWW does loads of stupid things.

nastyned
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Feb 17 2010 22:32
888 wrote:
This haphazard approach isn't something to be proud of though, I mean it's the reason why the IWW does loads of stupid things.

I don't see what farce was saying as advocating a haphazard approach.

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 17 2010 22:41

i think a lot of the stupid things the IWW does (no-strike deals, MSPs) are a result of them (a) not really having much in the way of political principles and (b) not really caring if members agree with them anyway. hence they do stuff that contradicts the letter and spirit of their constitution.

i think the AF's approach is federalism insofar as they have principles which members have to abide by but they're free to do what they like consistent with those A&Ps. i mean it sometimes leads to unstrategic actions like half joining the IWW and half not, but not to stuff which goes directly against the A&Ps.

knightrose
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Feb 17 2010 22:47

I'm not sure why Spikymike feels the need to ask these questions on Libcom. He comes to all the Manchester AF meetings and can readily get an answer face to face.

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Django
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Feb 18 2010 07:43

I think if his point is to find out whether the AF nationally has a policy on something, or whether it comes from the initiative of local groups, then it makes sense to involve other members of the organisation in the discussion.

Also, if we have a public discussion forum we shouldn't be afraid of using it. Other people reading the site may have similar questions, more openness is a good thing IMO - both for its own reasons and so people interested in joining or working with the organisation have more of an understanding of it.

knightrose
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Feb 18 2010 09:45

I'm not afraid of using it.

The AF has no collective view on Hopoi. As a Fed we don't support it. We've taken no view on whether individuals should be members.

Spikymike
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Feb 25 2010 11:16

Well I must admit I did find weelers post a good laugh but it has, perhaps inevitably, put the lid on any further useful discussion of a number of issues/questions raised in my two postings which have only really been responded to here in a very limited way.

Joseph for instance did mention in passing the potential and some actual 'unstrategic' actions resulting from an overly 'federalist' (and I would say 'libertarian' ) approach to organising, just one of the issues behind my original posting.

Of course no pro-revolutionary organisation should seek to centrally control all the political activities of it's members ( this would only stifle initiative, innovation and necessary experimentation - including learning from our mistakes) but it should surely be a matter of collective concern what those activities in general are, with at least some discussion of their poltical worth and relative priority in relation to the main objectives and function of the organisation. Members should be open to the influence of each other as to those priorities and a public record of the organisations views made known, even if in the last resort individual members are left in many (but not not all) cases to decide for themselves what they do.

I was also concerned as to how AF members (or other pro-revolutionaries) deal with groups like the CPGB in such campaign type organisations if they do decide to get involved, especially as such groups can superficially sound like genuine pro-revolutionaries in some of their interventions (as I hinted in my orginal post) whilst in practice working towards a typical left wing capitalist programme.

Beyond that there are still some particular matters regarding hopoi itself.

I post these questions here because this is an open AF forum which I assume to be intended for political discussion, because local AF meetings don't always have time for more detailed debate ( and I am reluctant to take time up with some issues when there are more basic discussions to be had with people new to our common political stand), because I am interested in what AF members and supporters outside the local group think, because in the 'Libcom' spirit I think these issues have relevance to other individuals and groups within my broadly defined 'thin red line' and lastly because it is sometimes easier to put a considered view in writing like this.

I should add (for those who don't know) that I post as a critical supporter of the AF. I do have some specific views of my own on issues I raise derived from some decades of experience, but my views have changed over those decades and I am still open to further changes in the course of informed debate.

nastyned
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Feb 25 2010 19:33
Joseph Kay wrote:

i think the AF's approach is federalism insofar as they have principles which members have to abide by but they're free to do what they like consistent with those A&Ps. i mean it sometimes leads to unstrategic actions like half joining the IWW and half not, but not to stuff which goes directly against the A&Ps.

'Unstrategic' sounds quite negative, and I'm not sure it always is, sometimes a bit of diversity is the best way. E.g. with IWW membership it made sense for me to join when I was in Edinburgh but it would be pointless now I'm back in Woking. So at the moment anyway I think having a national policy either for or against joining the IWW would I think be a mistake (Sorry to drift further off topic but does anyone know what their membership in Britain is at the moment?).

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 25 2010 20:26

i wasn't trying to be overly critical, the point was just that federalism interpreted one way could mean every member/local do what they want within the A&Ps, whereas another way would be that you democratically agree a general strategy (e.g. with regard to participation in campaigns/coalitions), and specifically agree strategies for participation in particular campaigns, then members would be free to use their initiative within that agreed framework.

so for example with the latter method, the AF may well decide IWW membership should be treated like every other union and be left to individual judgement, but may also agree a national strategy for intervening in a particular movement, while deciding that participation in a given campaign would contradict the A&Ps.

from the outside i get the impression the first approach has been more common in the AF. but like i say i'm not having a go, i mean SolFed's no paragon of national strategising (although this has been recognised and we're in the process of addressing it).

ticking_fool
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Feb 26 2010 13:03
Quote:
from the outside i get the impression the first approach has been more common in the AF.

I think this is true, but with the proviso that we make as much space as possible to discuss what groups are involved in and why they're doing it. So we don't have national strategies, but we do have very clear lines of communication so that groups can coordinate when they need to. For a small organisation, I think in most cases this is more sensible than national strategies that may or may not be relevant to particular groups.

The IWW is a good example. For those groups in cities which have functioning IWW branches joining has made sense and has produced some pretty useful activity and alliances (Edinburgh bin strike support, Sheffield cinema stuff and so on). For groups where there's no IWW presence trying to set one up from scratch would make no sense, but the connection to groups that are involved allows for solidarity and support actions when they're needed. So when bodies were needed in Sheffield a lot of them came from the AF, pickets against scabs in Liverpool put on by AFers were able to link up with the Edinburgh stuff very easily.

For a small organisation with a limited capacity this is I think the best way to work. It's not ideal in many ways but it is the best way that activity can be supported by the broader organisation without imposing burdens elsewhere.

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Anarchyisorder
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Feb 27 2010 23:31

Sorry i've only just seen this.

Because i'm late don't know how much more I can contribute, but I would probably be the AF member who has dedicated, in a personal capacity, most time to HOPI as an orginisation.

AF does not have an official line on HOPI, it has been loosely discussed and there are a range of opinions. As an orginisation, we in the AF don't have much time for HOPI, this stems from the fact we are a relatively small orginisation with other priorities and because HOPI has some shit policies and some dodgy people involved within it.

I sat on the National Steering Committee of HOPI throughout 2008 and enjoyed my time there, in that time HOPi raised several thousands of pounds for workers struggles in Iran, went around the country organising educationals with Iranian political activists (from the feminist movement, LGBTQ, Students and workers movements...) and worked with orginisations such as Iranian Queer Railroad and Workers Fund Iran. I don't regret any of this.

Having said that, AF involvement other than my own and a handful of other members who see the potential of an orginisation as consistent as HOPI in it's approach to anti-war activism, has been small.

HOPI is dominated by the 20 person CPGB, absolutly. That's a real shame, but that alone isn't reason not to get involved, not when faced with an anti-war 'movement' in Britain that is so in bed with the theocracy in Iran all criticism of the regime that kills our comrades in their thousands, is muted.

My own involvement with HOPI stems from my personal deep interest in Iranian national politics, same goes I imagine for those members in Manchester and Leeds who also get involved with the work HOPI does. Being a member of AF has no bearing on my work in HOPI other than where possible, I bring my politics into HOPI and always speak as an AF member. This is because AF as a antional orginisation don't involve themselves with what individuals members chose to do in a personal capacity. Although I have of course had my priorities questionied, as one would expect.