What's going on in AFed?

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Ed
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Jan 2 2018 18:14

EDITED TO ADD: Cross-posted with Mike Harman making Borg-like similar comments! The new libcom party line has been learnt well, comrade! smile More importantly though, perhaps see my comment at the bottom of this post to split this into a new thread.

SpikeyMike wrote:
Ok Ed but 'Patriarchy' and 'racism' are general terms that cover a wide and different variety of specifically experienced forms of oppression by different groups of people in different countries in different periods of history at different levels of intensity and which capitalism is able under pressure to amend at least up to a point in ways to it's benefit as much as those experiencing that oppression

Mike, I certainly agree with all of the above but I'd also add that the same could said of class "at least up to a point", as you say: the rise of social democracy and the integration of unions into the capitalist state being a case in point. Same with class as experienced differently depending on location, era, intensity etc. Indeed, this latter aspect would seem impossible to discuss without being intersectional: how could you compare, say, the Flint sit-down strikes, the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, and car factory struggles in apartheid South Africa without discussing race? And, more importantly, why would you want to?

This isn't to reduce class to 'one oppression among many'; it's still class exploitation which is the driving force behind capitalism and it's class struggle that leads to our way out. But class struggle can't be separated from struggles against racism or sexism coz you just end up with shit anti-racism, shit anti-sexism and shit communism.

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Many of the struggles against specific forms of oppression by those who experience it do not, and may have no immediate reason, to extend beyond a desire for a measure of equality on capitalist terms (not to be dismissed either) - there is no automatic extension towards a revolutionary politics with or without the encouragement of our pro-revolutionary minorities.

See above. I really feel there is no "automatic extension towards a revolutionary politics" in any struggle: the 1930s sit-downers were also happy to keep factories segregated, London dockers who went on wildcat strike in 1967 over casualisation went on strike again in 1968 in support of Enoch Powell. All struggles have the potential to end up as merely sectional struggles or widen out to develop class consciousness. That's no more or less true of, say, Black Lives Matter or workplace organising. Yet the former seems to only begrudgingly be accepted as class struggle while the latter is accepted without question.

By the way Mike, as I write this, I feel we may be straying off topic. Shall we start a new thread to discuss this?

Mike Harman
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Jan 2 2018 18:15
Jim wrote:
little_brother wrote:
Anti-colonial thinking is a term for thinking about privilege e.g. taking into account different experiences of e.g. racism, prejudices, discrimination or oppressions which minorities (although doesn't have to be a minority in the face of extreme domination by a powerful group) face or have faced historically.

Do you think it's a useful term? As far as I can tell the AF has always been against all forms of oppression, I'm not sure why 'anti-colonial' is needed and I think most people would associate it with opposition to actual colonialism, not opposing oppression in the UK.

I've seen people use decolonize more than anti-colonial tbh. Either way whether it's a useful term or not (have seen even people who use it argue that it's not a useful term), we can say that understanding colonialism and the opposition to it is useful for understanding some of the opposition to oppression in the UK. Sivanandan on the 1968 immigration act (made specifically to prevent stateless Kenyan Asians with British passports coming to the UK) vs. race relations act (de jure equality obviously not the end of racial discrimination in the UK) is an example of this. Alongside Mansfield Hosiery and other strikes where immigrants from ex-colonies were organising, within a decade of independence in some cases. Base Publication's first editorial discussed this and how it can inform approaches to Brexit etc. http://www.basepublication.org/?p=114 I've only really noticed people revisiting this history in the past 3-4 years - maybe that's me not noticing it before or a general move towards bringing some of this stuff forwards (the Black Star Asian Youth Movements book and tandana archive resurfaced some of the later '70s early '80s history and that was only 2013, Grunwick 40 year anniversary was last year).

When it comes down to autonomous organising, things like accountabiity within political groups around sexual assault etc. just saying 'we're opposed to all forms of oppression' doesn't really cut it. People arguing that organising around or even talking about racism or sexism is 'divisive', collapsing stuff like the Stonewall riot into 'liberal idpol' or that Trans rights can impinge on the rights of assigned-female-at-birth women will still say they're opposed to all forms of oppression in the abstract.

Spikymike
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Jan 2 2018 19:51

Surprisingly as it may seem I don't disagree with everything MH and Ed say but then no-one has said that we shouldn't argue against or show solidarity with a whole range of specific anti-racist or anti-sexist etc struggles where they intersect with class needs and the potential for extension of class struggle but that doesn't apply across the board. Not convinced that the current 'Privilege' and 'Intersectional' theories as they stand or are currently applied actually help with that.

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Jan 2 2018 20:27

Discussion amongst AFed members "Do you think we should make the organisation more explicitly open to other libertarian communists who agree with our aims and principles, but don't describe themselves or their beleifs as explicitly anarchist? Also btw, do you think it's annoying that if you start a conversation about say, gender, you're expected to spend the first three minutes reminding everyone you're still a communist in case people think you've forgot?"

Discussion outside "Why are they all liberals now?"

Mike Harman
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Jan 2 2018 21:11

Let's look at a hypothetical (but somewhat concrete) example from the AF-split statement:
https://communistanarchism.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/class-struggle-anarchist-statement-on_1.html

Class Struggle Anarchist Statement wrote:
A second important point is that even when we are engaged in important struggles against particular oppressions we must keep in mind that there is a bigger picture. It is not just a question of fighting an individual’s behaviour or attitude. Oppressions have their basis in a whole system, within structures and institutions. Adopting a wider perspective is important within the political movements themselves. Your male comrade may be acting in a sexist way, the white activist may not appreciate the impact of colonialism and racism on struggles and feminists may not understand the issues facing trans people but ultimately they are struggling for the same thing you are. In this way we can perhaps find less aggressive and authoritarian ways of dealing with oppressive behaviour and ideas within the movement itself. Keep in mind how you would handle unacceptable behaviour amongst workmates or in a residents association. An aggressive, ‘call-out’ approach, humiliating a person on Facebook or banning them from spaces, would not be acceptable and could completely destroy any chance of your struggles succeeding. (Obviously, there are times when actions may be so extreme that banning people may be necessary but we have to make sure that this action is carefully considered.)

To expand those hypotheticals:
- A residents association meeting where several residents are trans. One resident of the block is a TERF and shows up at the meeting handing out leaflets against the GRA, maybe arguing that shared gender neutral toilets in the lobby of the block be gender segregated, while people are trying to talk about rent increases.

- A mass meeting at a workplace organising against redundancies, someone is arguing that if redundancies do happen it should be based on 'last in first out' which happens to mean most of the immigrant and women staff would be made redundant whereas older white British men would retain their jobs.

For an actual example from last year, the Christiansburg Target strike where central demands of the strike were against transphobia, racial discrimination, and sexual harassment from the store manager https://libcom.org/news/christiansburg-va-target-workers-strike-against-sexual-harrassment-racial-discrimination-23

Class Struggle Anarchist Statement wrote:
An aggressive, ‘call-out’ approach, humiliating a person on Facebook or banning them from spaces, would not be acceptable and could completely destroy any chance of your struggles succeeding.

Or it might be the only way the struggle succeeds - by shutting down the introduction of racism, sexism or transphobia into the organising space, derailing everything else happening and potentially alienating many participants when the 'rights' of the people introducing these arguments are defended against those affected by them.

If all the white male staff at a workplace make it clear they're OK with the idea the immigrant and women staff losing their jobs first so they can keep theirs whether the struggle is successful or not, whose fault the disunity arising from that? (And this goes for whether they suggest it or just refuse to challenge it when it's brought up, and whether it's stated explicitly or via 'last in first out', and whether people realise that 'last in first out' means a structurally racist and sexist outcome when it comes up or not).

Additionally, that paragraph blurs the line between the residents association/workplace mass meeting and the anarchist communist group - presumably none of the people at the residents association would be eligible to join the AF unless they were 'anarchist communists' - but does this mean someone who thinks 'voting is OK sometimes' should be excluded while a transphobe shouldn't? If you're organising a strike would you include someone in strike meetings who thinks strikes are bad and we should all co-operate with management? If not why is that a red line and some other things not? I think most of the people on this thread are in favour of minority unionism, informal workplace groups, dual carding and similar variations because it's not always possible to get everyone at a workplace on board with militant (or even not very militant) action, and this implies excluding people from those groups whose aims either aren't aligned or are contrary to the goals.

This doesn't mean that you'd instantly exclude anyone who makes the slightest sexist comment or is ignorant about trans issues or colonialism from mass meetings, but that's a straw man that afaik no-one is arguing for at all - and some of the objection here seems to be against getting challenged on these things in any way at all that's not softly softly.

SpikeyMike wrote:
Not convinced that the current 'Privilege' and 'Intersectional' theories as they stand or are currently applied actually help with that.

I'm sure you'd apply that to plenty that goes under the name of 'communism', 'anarchism' and 'Marxism' too - whether it's the party form, crude workerism, Keynesianism and so many others.

If people really want to engage with 'Privilege theory' critically they should ignore the 'invisible knapsack' stuff and just jump into Chris Wright on Race Traitor or similar. In the same way people who want to engage critically with anarchism should deal with the CNT or Kropotkin instead of Hakim Bey or crimethinc.

https://libcom.org/library/marxism-white-skin-privilege-chris-wright

darren p wrote:
Just out of interest how was it that people whose politics are closer to liberal idpol than anarchist-communism came to be the majority in the AF anyhow? Isn't there any kind of screening process for new members? Though guess this an academic question now..

When tankies and similar have a go at anarchists for being 'liberals' or 'anti-Semites' or whatever other smears than can come up with, they show themselves up as either very ignorant or deliberately smearing or both and get very quickly held up as such. Whereas this comment from darren p describing the majority of AF members as liberal just went past without barely a comment except one partially agreeing with it from Serge Forward.

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Jan 2 2018 23:02

Some good responses, I had forgotten about convict leasing.

I think that although any one form of oppression could be abandoned capitalism requires some form of oppression to divide the working class.

Oppression divides the working class, communism is about, and requires, the working class being united. So we can't accept it and we must challenge it. This is not the same as demanding more female CEOs or black business owners or whatever.

I dislike callout culture to the extent that it can be about asserting power rather than challenging behaviour, but we do need to challenge behaviour. If someone was having a drink with the AF split group and said "gay marriage is fine and they should have equal rights, but obviously they can't work with kids" then I don't doubt that they would be immediately challenged. I admit I didn't get trans issues at first, so I had to work on them. I had to work on class, race sex etc too. I can remember actually saying, and believing, that I sufffered from more discrimination as a white male. I still don't feel like I fully understand all these issues, but I think I know them enough to respect the people that experience them directly. And there will be more stuff in a few years.

Speaking from the outside it does seem like trans issues have shown up a generational divide, with newer members seen as arrogant and trying to tell established members what to do and the older members seen as not being up with modern issues. In which case people need to get over themselves. Older members are not your parents, so no need to butt heads with them. If you have contributed a lot over the years then it can be annoying to have someone who has just arrived tell you how to suck eggs (this is where my laziness pays off) but you are going to have to deal with it, in the same way as older comrades dealt with you in the past. There's something faintly ridiculous about comrades who would have fought against the idea that homosexuality was a bourgeois degeneracy are calling people liberals for supporting trans rights.

Sorry that this post is repetitive, but this split seems to be a waste of time and energy when the few people that actually care about anarchism do not have enough of either.

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Jan 2 2018 23:22
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There's something faintly ridiculous about comrades who would have fought against the idea that homosexuality was a bourgeois degeneracy are calling people liberals for supporting trans rights.

Jef, I hope you're not suggesting those who have left the AF "are calling people liberals for supporting trans rights." Such a suggestion would be massively ridiculous.

Mike Harman
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Jan 2 2018 23:38
Serge Forward wrote:
Jef, I hope you're not suggesting those who have left the AF "are calling people liberals for supporting trans rights." Such a suggestion would be massively ridiculous.
Serge Forward wrote:
darren p wrote:
Just out of interest how was it that people whose politics are closer to liberal idpol than anarchist-communism came to be the majority in the AF anyhow? Isn't there any kind of screening process for new members? Though guess this an academic question now..

I'm still not entirely sure if they are actually in the majority but it's a very good question nevertheless; one that I'm sure those of us who've left will most likely be discussing.

So do you think that either a majority or significant minority of AF members have politics that are closer to liberal idpol than anarchist-communism or not? Either you don't actually think they're 'closer to liberal idpol than anarchist communism', or you do think that, but for different or additional reasons than supporting trans rights. Jef's one sentence summary isn't exactly contradicted by this exchange.

gamerunknown
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Jan 2 2018 23:39
Ed wrote:
I can't help but feel this is yet another personal dispute made political.

This doesn't seem to be the case actually - there's been little face to face disagreement from what I can tell (I haven't attended meetings in some time though). Good friends have ended up on separate sides of this. In fact, I hope there isn't any personal animosity generated.

Mike Harman
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Jan 3 2018 00:47
Jef Costello wrote:
I think that although any one form of oppression could be abandoned capitalism requires some form of oppression to divide the working class.

Race has been the primary way that work has been stratified/organised globally. Gender has been the primary way that social reproduction has been organised domestically. That goes for chattel slavery 150 years ago, to migrant workforces in agriculture now, to a major contributor to the rise of the far right in the US being a reaction to the gender binary being questioned ('soy boys', 'cucks', movements to keep women out of technical jobs, widespread sexual harassment etc.). Or for example arguments around automation where seasonal migrant agricultural labour and care work are almost always ignored.

Other things tend to hang off race and gender rather than being completely separate (race and disability have been closely linked, like 1950s studies claiming that black africans were like lobotomized Europeans or Toby Young arguing for 'progressive eugenics for the working class due to hereditary IQ' while simultaneously decrying wheelchair ramps). Both sexuality and gender expression are inextricable from the gender binary. Mental health cuts across both. An awful lot comes in the end comes down to chromosones and phenotype, and justifying people's social position based on those via pseudo-scientific shit - whether it's eugenicists, race science, TERFs all of which making a come back at the moment.

Communism seems considerably more likely than either racism or gender binaries breaking down completely within capitalism, and I don't think other forms of oppression could really stand by themselves without those two on some level. This doesn't mean that the way things are enforced or appear can't change significantly, or that something quite specific like the British social class or Indian caste system couldn't eventually be overturned, but even those two are surprisingly persistent despite generally being an impediment to capitalist development in the abstract.

On call-out culture, why is it callout culture to call someone racist or a transphobe, but not when you call the majority of the membership of an anarchist communist organisation liberals or 'soft on national liberation'? Is one moral and one political or is just people not taking shit very well?

Burgers
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Jan 3 2018 08:24
Craftwork wrote:
Are they going soft on national liberation?

When asked about AF groups sharing Kurdish nationalist propaganda AF twitter said "Individual members of the AF yes...but not the entire AF as a whole." I guess the A&P's don't mean much these days, which is a shame.

But be warned asking questions will get you blocked and publicly named.

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Jan 3 2018 09:35
Mike Harman wrote:
So do you think that either a majority or significant minority of AF members have politics that are closer to liberal idpol than anarchist-communism or not? Either you don't actually think they're 'closer to liberal idpol than anarchist communism', or you do think that, but for different or additional reasons than supporting trans rights. Jef's one sentence summary isn't exactly contradicted by this exchange.

FWIW I said “liberal” not because they are concerned with trans, race issues etc (everyone should be concerned with those) but because of the way that concern is being framed I.e through the language of “rights”, “privelage” and other things taken straight out of the liberal academy.

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Jan 3 2018 09:38
Mike Harman wrote:
On call-out culture, why is it callout culture to call someone racist or a transphobe, but not when you call the majority of the membership of an anarchist communist organisation liberals or 'soft on national liberation'? Is one moral and one political or is just people not taking shit very well?

I would have thought “call out culture” refers to the naming and group shaming of an individual. Saying “the AF is going soft on national liberation” isn’t the same thing..

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Jan 3 2018 11:35
Burgers wrote:
When asked about AF groups sharing Kurdish nationalist propaganda

What AF group has shared Kurdish nationalist propaganda?

Spikymike
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Jan 3 2018 12:54

darrens post 43 does highlight a point that 'intersects' with some of those I made earlier. If you read the long first part of the AF statement as in the earlier post no 10 it is a familiar and depressing list, but that only looks at the most recent period in the now fairly long history of capitalism that has moved through both significant structural shifts and shorter swings back and forth in terms of the cycles of economic crisis and collective class struggle. Looked at over the longer term it is possible to discern both advances and declines in the advance of social struggles in which class struggle and capitalist competition have worked in conjunction to provide at least temporary benefits to our class whilst modernising and stabilising capitalism. Differing perspectives in our understanding of the significance, for instance of the Syrian Kurdish movement in the balance between apparent social advances in women's liberation and consolidation of capitalist and nationalist interests would seem to reflect this. There is a risk that this depression moves us to abandon some of the more critical communist perspectives on defensive struggles both social and economic gathered over the longer term. That may of course reflect my own concerns and personal experiences of the more extreme political mood swings in the various groups and movements over my lifetime that I have perceived taking place more recently within the AF and our wider milieu. A better balance may emerge from all this in time I suppose.

Burgers
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Jan 3 2018 13:17
Uncreative wrote:
Burgers wrote:
When asked about AF groups sharing Kurdish nationalist propaganda

What AF group has shared Kurdish nationalist propaganda?

Bristol AF Twitter account did, that silly Spanish civil war "tank" comparison picture amongst other stuff.

Mike Harman
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Jan 3 2018 13:49
darren p wrote:
FWIW I said “liberal” not because they are concerned with trans, race issues etc (everyone should be concerned with those) but because of the way that concern is being framed I.e through the language of “rights”, “privelage” and other things taken straight out of the liberal academy.

It's like you didn't read my comment before replying:

Mike Harman wrote:
If people really want to engage with 'Privilege theory' critically they should ignore the 'invisible knapsack' stuff and just jump into Chris Wright on Race Traitor or similar. In the same way people who want to engage critically with anarchism should deal with the CNT or Kropotkin instead of Hakim Bey or crimethinc.

https://libcom.org/library/marxism-white-skin-privilege-chris-wright

The theory/history of white privilege/white skin privilege has been developed by W E Du Bois, Theodore W Allen, David Roediger, Race Traitor (which had Loren Goldner as a contributor) among others. Have you read all of these? Are you sure they're all liberals? I haven't read all of them, but in general they're not more liberal (generally less) than 'Marxists' like David Harvey and similar.

Are there a lot of liberals who throw around words like 'privilege' without understanding class, yes there are. But then David Harvey's built an entire career around Capital while he advocates alternative currencies and voting for Bernie Sanders.

If you just see a couple of words you don't like and ignore the actual politics behind them or dismiss things because other people you don't like use similar words, it's your fault not theirs.

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Jan 3 2018 14:55

Thanks for the input on decolonization, essentialism and other points & various people saying - I used to think that but now I think this. What's happened in AF is very much a symptom of the way some members have responded to real attempts coming from within AF over the decade to think about privilege, intersectionality etc. and apply it to the way our organisation works. I don't think it is necessarily generational as some older members have changed their thinking along the way as people have described on this thread. A relatively large proportion of members identifying with gender oppression has also been a most important factor which goes back quite a long way too (evidenced in our various activities and outputs - 'What's Wrong with Angry' is 10 years old this year for example - see https://libcom.org/library/what-s-wrong-angry-lgbtq-bulletin-anarchist-federation-2011 - that's issue 2, issue 1 was in 2008). It could possibly have continued without a split but the problem highlighted above - about every attempt to think differently getting reduced to a label of just identity politics - was becoming too wearing. The thing that set this off was the bookfair incident and how AF would/should respond to it, so not a personal thing and not even a AF only thing, but there were obviously strong individual views and currents in AF that either wanted change (or didn't). The majority are on the side of change - what this may look like and what it are the next steps are being discussed right now. This will surely affect things outside of AF too, not least we've been involved in co-organising, or at least participating in, many of the regional bookfairs outside of London and some thinking about those will need to happen for the coming year.

Spikymike
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Jan 3 2018 15:18

It would be interesting to know how many of those AF members and supporters who were previously involved from say 2008 with the activities of the LGBTQ group have remained in the AF rather than drift back into other more specific reformist campaigning? It wouldn't surprise me if there isn't a divide along broadly generational lines (I'm an oldie myself) but then each new influx of younger people whilst it often brings some fresh thinking also remains short lived and only partly positive on reflection later. Not all change is for the better - it can often be 3 steps forward and at least 2 back.
And lazy use of 'labels' is to be avoided even if there might be something relevant behind that usage in some cases. I mean darren I bet your reading list isn't as big as Mike Harman's - so take your finger off the button!

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Jan 3 2018 16:06

It was first published 10 years ago and at the start of the period of austerity and cuts (I think we managed a fourth issue of the Nottingham Sparrow around the same time) and I can't remember all of whom was involved in the writing as I wasn't - I was waist deep in Notts Save Our Services. I do think it's a big presumption and really quite insulting to talk about people 'drifting back' or to say that ideas that are not going to be ultimately sustained or influential are the ones coming from younger comrades. In fact they could be considered as the ones who have started us off on our current path. Firstly look at the issue 2 and the class politics are clear but also take the point on this thread - in whose eyes it is that LGBTQ activity is somehow to be considered apart from the core activity of a class struggle organisation? I hope they won't mind me saying that some of the AF members I do know were involved with writing WWWA are no longer in AF but are involved in RABL (Red and Black Leeds) who are very much active and also produced the well regarded pamphlet on Sex Work which AF has being selling on its stall at bookfairs. 3 steps forward and 2 back is still 1 forward smile

Spikymike
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Jan 3 2018 16:46

So here then: https://wearetherabl.wordpress.com including some ex-AF people maybe. Not sure why they are not part of the AF they seem similar.

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Jan 3 2018 20:07

that anarchist communist federation statement in full:

via Imgflip Meme Generator

Tarquin
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Jan 3 2018 20:24
Spikymike wrote:
So here then: https://wearetherabl.wordpress.com including some ex-AF people maybe. Not sure why they are not part of the AF they seem similar.

Red and Black Leeds were Leeds AF. They disaffiliated a few years back.

Spikymike
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Jan 4 2018 11:37

I note that the Abbey Volcano and J.Rogue text has been included in the ex-AF Communist Anarchism blog possibly the first of others that they liked which perhaps points to a measure of clarity as to both differences and similarities over this issue. The libcom version of this in the library has some other comments and useful links as well.

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Jan 4 2018 21:38
Burgers wrote:
Uncreative wrote:
Burgers wrote:
When asked about AF groups sharing Kurdish nationalist propaganda

What AF group has shared Kurdish nationalist propaganda?

Bristol AF Twitter account did, that silly Spanish civil war "tank" comparison picture amongst other stuff.

Not to mention Merseyside AF with a Kurdish flag.

Burgers
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Jan 5 2018 09:03
Serge Forward wrote:
Burgers wrote:
Uncreative wrote:
Burgers wrote:
When asked about AF groups sharing Kurdish nationalist propaganda

What AF group has shared Kurdish nationalist propaganda?

Bristol AF Twitter account did, that silly Spanish civil war "tank" comparison picture amongst other stuff.

Not to mention Merseyside AF with a Kurdish flag.

But "we must fight against terror together" Serge

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Jan 5 2018 10:06

That's the one. You've reminded me it wasn't exactly a flag - it was a placard with that slogan, a union jack and YPG flag on it.

Burgers
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Jan 5 2018 10:45

This. When nationalism isn't enough, so you go full scale imperialist. Placard being held up by members of Merseyside AF at a solidarity with Rojavo demo/vigil in Liverpool a few years ago (I've cut the picture down so as not to show faces).

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Jan 5 2018 11:29

I understand the context of this photo was someone from Merseyside AF took the placard to help divert the police from arresting a Kurdish person on the demo who had been holding it. If you think this is a useful tactic in the circumstances to make out the AF is soft on national liberation as part of a continued attack, after your leaving, on we are doing to develop more intersectional thinking, that is very sad.

Merseyside had attended some of the Kurdish community demonstrations in Liverpool from the point of view of supporting a minority ethnic group against persecution by the Turkish state, despite reservations about the politics of some of the people involved (in pretty much the same spirit that we’d attend Palestine solidarity stuff). The AF member took the placard and invited the cops to arrest them at a point when the Kurdish man was being threatened with arrest. Regardless of the politics of national liberation, it was an act of practical solidarity against police repression, not an endorsement of the PKK.

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Jan 5 2018 12:00

Interesting that's never been mentioned before now.