Open letter to Dissent - from an Anarchist Federation member

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gentle revolutionary
Joined: 31-10-04
Oct 15 2005 00:37
Open letter to Dissent - from an Anarchist Federation member

I sent this to various lists:

Dear friends,

as an individual AFer involved in the broader London scene, I will not deny that my feelings towards the Dissent Network are ambivalent. On the one hand I have a lot of sympathy for the people involved and its libertarian ethos (affinity groups, imaginative visions of the future, non-traditional mobilising had a great predecessor in the French March 22nd Movement in May '68...great stuff about that by Murray Bookchin in Post-Scarcity Anarchism). Also, Dissent has played an important role in keeping the post-G8 torch lingering in those smaller places where little in terms of libertarian organisations existed before. A few small, local groups which organised for G8 later even joined the Anarchist Federation.

On the other hand, I'm very troubled with what I perceive as tendencies towards creating a self-sufficient shell where people could live more peacefully "in the movement" - but merely as "outside agitators" to the rest of the population. Does Dissent have intentions to root itself in the local communities where its members live and/or work? How? Does it intend to basically work as a minoritarian & militant ""lobby"" group, and/or does it believe it is the right and responsibility of the majority of the population to bring forward radical change in this country? If "it" (i.e. individual members & member-groups) agrees with the latter, does it believe in the concept of instilling revolutionary consciousness into people from outside, or it subscribes to the (philosophically) materialistic notion of organic conscientisation? Although these are only ideal types, I believe it is possible to strongly root oneself in either the first ("propaganda of the deed") or the second (historically materialistic) tradition, and I also believe that experience from countries with much more developed anti-capitalist struggles indicates the relative poverty of activist ghettoes and "subcultures of resistance" dedicated to largely symbolic and substitutionist direct action initiatives in comparison with more encompassing and integrated approaches to radical social change (take the late Lotta Continua in Italy as a short, flawed, but still brilliant example of the integrated approach).

I'm not claiming there are other British organisations which have "discovered the formula", especially since more traditional groups lack in the genuine liberatory spirit, even if (or because?) they are closer to "ordinary" people. I would like to see a synthesis of both, and since I believe I'm in the minority in wanting this (along with other AFers), and there is a general lack of political will and energy for these kinds of experiments, I hope maybe there's still some chance for working like this in East London at least (East London Anarchist Group/Network & the establishment of a community-related squatted social centre - after all, the general fraud of the Olympics and the concrete communal threat of gentrification, coupled with greater possibilities for strike action in the construction, transport and service sectors - should naturally bring together both currents of the "movement").

I hope AF’s proposals (especially the last one on building a network of community based social centres) will get the serious and friendly (dare I say comradely:) consideration that they deserve. Surely a dedicated libertarian organisation which has continually worked on various fields while (critically) supporting the anti-G8 initiative - although previously unaware of any official process in which federated groups were supposed to enter Dissent – isn’t going to be ostracised, not from a network which claims to be for the abolition of hierarchies and for direct democracy.

In struggle,


Joined: 27-03-04
Oct 15 2005 01:18

it's pointless talking to dissent, they are politically worthless, and will take one look at your letter if that, then throw it in the bin


Joined: 24-03-06
Oct 24 2005 18:41


Sorry mate but we aint all that bad! Yeh theres a lot of stuff in Dissent that is maybe politically and more importantly socially useless, but not all of us are only summit hoping weirdoes. I know theres been a fuck load of debates on here about this so dont wanna start another, but personally I know Dan and pretty much agree with his position, I did listen and it did help me formulate ideas for the last gathering and I feel that us, some folks from AFed and a few other people are converging around positions and ideas that are now much more sensible and have some real potential to go beyond socially alienated activism - but yeh, thers still quite a lot of crap. But if they (stunt loving wierdoes) do what they want and we can do what we want within the framework of an anti-authoritarian network which has certainly enabled our group to make contact with others (such as Dan and AFed members) then thats great. If it continues to be a top-down structure enforcing useless stunts on the rest of us though, yeh we might think again.

Joined: 15-01-04
Oct 24 2005 19:39

Sorry mate but we aint all that bad! Yeh theres a lot of stuff in Dissent that is maybe politically and more importantly socially useless, but not all of us are only summit hoping weirdoes.

No-one doubts that there are extremely sound comrades inside Dissent. The issue is whether Dissent as a structure and organisation is capable of doing or being something useful. I'd say no.