How best to organise locally?

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Steven.
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Mar 29 2004 14:03
How best to organise locally?

Right well ignoring national stuff and so on for now, I’m pretty sure a lot of us would agree that starting groups in your area to try to get involved in local struggles, link them together and argue for anarchist organisation and tactics.

Also quite a lot of new local groups and projects are starting up at the moment, like the Bristol Anarchist Network, Ipswich Anarchists, South west London anarchists, Hereford AF, and there are loads of groups around already.

But what’s the best way to organise? People in the nat feds presumably think that the only way they’ll function as feds is with a fair bit of theoretical unity. Why would local groups be different? Cos the concerns are more immediate?

Is it best to avoid the word “anarchist” in any group like Haringey solidarity group do? I spose benefits of this would include that

· revolutionary non-anarchists (like autonomists, lib. Marxists etc.) would be more likely to get involved at the beginning

· people wouldn’t be put off by the word “anarchist”

· you’d sound more “respectable”

· well ideally you’d be more likely to just get random (non-@) people

· you can get a lot more agreement between some strains of anarchism and some libertarian socialism or something than between different strains of anarchism (say revolutionary as opposed to individualist/reformist)

Negative points:

· if we don’t own up about being anarchists, anyone else who gets involved will pretty much realise anyway

· if we don’t use the term anarchist and associate it with positive things we’ll never challenge any pre-conceptions

· the word “anarchist” does intrigue people, and anarchism has a relatively high profile

Hmmmm I had some important (to my mind) questions I wanted to ask here, but they seem to have got lost and I can’t remember exactly what I was asking... basically some friends and I have been talking for a while about trying to get some local thing off the ground, but what kind of group is worth starting? A specifically anarchist one which we know will not get mass participation (in the foreseeable future at least wink) or attempt a more “united front” non-hierarchical solidarity group. But then isn’t that what the trots do with their united fronts – tone down their politics to attract recruits? Cos no one’s fooled by that, and the trots just end up acting like reformists on their own.

Hmmm maybe I’ve answered my own question then...

But still any and all thoughts appreciated 8)

MH
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Mar 29 2004 22:42

Interesting topic! No easy answers either.

I think any comrades setting up a local group have to be prepared for the long haul, there is no overnight success, and it's easy for the initial enthusiasm (and even success) to be dimmed.

To me formal local groups can give a public face to anarchist ideas & activity, sort of anarchist outrreach - stalls, discussions, basic anarcho info,accessibility for new people and so on, as well as doing stuff.

I'm involved in the attempt to set up an anarchist network in Bristol, which I must stress is very much at an early stage - too early in fact to say whether or not it's going to work even in the short term. The thinking behind it is that it can fill a perceived gap in Bristol, cos there's lots of informal networks/groups doing actions & benefits, but they are very scene based, and not that easy to get into. Also people hear about them doing this and that, but because of their nature they can be hard to find. The nat Feds don't presently have much presence here, just a couple of SF'ers and one (ex?) AF as far as I know, but the Sf'ers to their credit are willing to give the network a go along with a small variety of other individuals. I suspect a lot of the 'direct activists' are gonna wait and see what we do before they may get involved, which is ok - nothing wrong with people who just like to 'do' actions, but they need to remember they need to interact with the wider public, and actually discuss the politics that inform their actions.....and maybe that's were this network can come in? We'll see.

We're doing our first semi-public discussion meeting on April 8th, on 'revolutionaries & community organisations', the pros & cons of getting involved in local community groups. We'll have introductions from a member of a residents group in St Pauls, as well as a guy from HSG in London. Be interesting to see how much interest we get, and then compare it with the turnout etc at the Schnews event on 11 April (some of us of course will help with both!).

Be interesting to hear from others with experience of local groups.....?

Steve
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Mar 30 2004 09:30

Every SF group is a Local group in the sense that it is autonomous. I think one of the problems with local @ groups is that is what they remain, just a local group. Lots of people running around and getting nowhere fast. Now I know the @ feds aren't that effective but maybe one reason is the reluctance of anarchists to get involved in anything beyond their own town. Other countries don't seem to have this problem. Now I'm quite proud, but not complacent, of what we’ve done in Lancashire. After all there wasn’t any anarchist presence here a few years ago except for the Lancaster Anarchist Group who seem to suffer from being, well, too localised. I have discussed it with them and I’m hoping our joint plans for Mayday may stimulate it again.

At the same time when people come to us we can also talk about what we do nationally and then internationally. It gives new people some hope when they discover we are part much larger movement.

I know there is the adage ‘think globally organise locally’ but I do think a lot of anarchists only do the second half. Just a few thoughts.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Mar 30 2004 15:52

Steve, I think it's a bit of a provocation to come on a local organising thread and say "the best way to organise locally is to be part of a national federation". Calling on the European example isn't a winner either -- as though we could become like Italy with a bit of hard work?

Personally I think that people need to come together on the basis of immediate interests and common cause -- usually a local matter. Greater organisation is a good thing, but the local projects I've been involved with usually took all our available energy. In order to reward the energy put into it, networking has to deliver concrete gains.

Steve
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Mar 30 2004 16:31

I didn't exactly say that. By all means organise locally but if you have a lot of small local unlinked @ groups I don't think anarchism will grow. I was just pointing out that SF groups are local. If we grow in Lancashire we will split down into smaller more localised groups, Preston, Burnley etc.

As for Europe, again I was just pointing out that anarchists in other countries don't seem to have the same problem when it comes to organising nationally, nothing more.

coyote
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Mar 30 2004 18:30

one problem (?) with local circle A groups is a lack of continuity...cos mostly we tend be quite nomadic. groups tend to dissolve when activists move on...you end up with gnerations of groups repeating stuff done by a group 5 years earlier.

any local groups lasted more than a few years?

(g confused o on, i'd be delighted to hear of some)

star green black

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Mar 30 2004 21:16

The 1 in 12 centre in Bradford has been going for over 20 years now, as has veggies, catering campaign. Anarchist tea pot is about 10 years old, I think, as is Cornerstone in leeds. A common project is the best thing to hold people together.

MH
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Mar 30 2004 21:37

And there's HSG in London (14 years), there was TAG in Tyneside for many years, the group in Lancaster (based originally on CW) for many years, other groups in Leeds/Sheffield/Manchester, Counter-Info & ACE in Scotland, people around Kebele in Bristol (7years), people based around schnews/Justice in Brighton, the group in West London (WAR) lasted 5 years, and so on. Also, many former & existing local groups do have both national & international contacts as people have increasingly travelled, and used the internet.

But it's not just 'indepedent' anarchist groups that struggle, local groups of the Nat Feds also don't last that long, often cos there's only a few members.......and they move on.....then a couple of new people come along and set up/resucitate the local Nat Fed group, but start all over again. In some ways the growth of local indy groups, with involvement from local Nat Fed members, may actually help the Nat Feds by maintaining a local presence that disseminates info from a variety of groups, as opposed to just 'their Fed'.

We do though have an ongoing problem in sustaining all forms of organised groups on a local basis. This is particular to the UK as opposed to Europe, and I guess goes back to our 'lack of' an organised, class based anarchist movement. We can't change the past, but we can try to change the future, so it's good to see the Nat Feds local members increasingly involved in independent local groups. I for one hope that situation continues, because whilst I have no desire to be in a Nat Fed, I do want the movement to put down roots, involve a wider age group, and and grow.

Interestingly, I know a few people in HSG have considered trying to set up some sort of national network of local groups....what do people think? Or is it a risk of too much bureacracy/meetings and nothing else?

nastyned
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Mar 30 2004 22:14

I'm not quite sure why some anarchists have 'federalism phobia'. We've been organising that way for over 100 year now...

I've been involved in setting up a local group and am a member of a national federation. As an anarchist i'm free to choose to do what i want to, i don't somehow get 'national' orders because i'm in a federation.

i've also recently seen the benefits of being in a national organisation as someone local that had been handed a copy of resistance in london contacted the Anarchist Federation and they were able to put them in touch me and they came to a Surrey Anarchist Group meeting. Also at a recent national meeting AF meeting i found out that there were links between a local company and a campaign going on in wales.

I'll try and get round posting a reply to the original question when i have some more time tomorrow.

Steve
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Mar 30 2004 22:29

Just like to point out that Manchester SF has been going since 1994. Before that it was Manchester DAM (1979) and before that Manchester SWF (Syndicalist Workers Federation) (1950s?) so I reckon they must hold the longevity record! grin

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Ed
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Mar 31 2004 21:14
Quote:
Interestingly, I know a few people in HSG have considered trying to set up some sort of national network of local groups....what do people think?

I think it would be a bit silly to set up ANOTHER federation when we've already got three that are almost identical in size, politics and influence.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the day when CW and AF merge and at the same time incorporate all the locals i.e. WAG, HSG, SAG, LAG etc. That way we could actually have a nationally based anarchist federation. I understand the SF don't want to be part of a merger (and I understand why) but surely there'd be nothing stopping them from getting involved. Anyway, that's what I think but I'm an optimist......

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Spartacus
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Mar 31 2004 22:46

great though it would be ed, sadly i don't think it'll be happening any time soon. but i think the suggestion was for a network which is after all different from a fed, which might be a good idea.

i think it's best to call the group anarchist and let it be judged on actions which is what most people do. after all, if you have a nice liberal name but don't do anything worthwhile, no one will be interested in your ideas, but even if you call yourselves the revolutionary anarchist direct actionists of tipton, if you do good effective stuff then people will get interested. and it's best to be honest after all.

a good idea for groups once they've found their feet, is to do a sort of tour of their area with a stall. or at least, i expect is would be a good idea if we could ever move out of birmingham city centre roll eyes cos unfortunately you do need reasonable numbers to actually do anything effective, so that we you can mop up any straggling isolated types who's only excuse is they don't know if there's anyone near them...

nastyned
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Apr 1 2004 17:07

There were CW and ACF (as we were then) merger talks a long time ago, shortly after the poll tax riots. It was before i was involved and i think it fell apart with feeling of mutual mistrust.

Personally speaking, as i've said before on these, boards i feel closer politically to the SolFed than CW but there you go...

Anyway, back to local groups i think you might as well call yourself an anarchist group, you're going to have to admit to it sooner or later! Some anarchists do tend to follow a 'don't mention the @ word' policy but i'm not sure why or if they gain any benefit from it. In my experience of a local group you're much better of with a few people who are committed and you can rely on than loads who occasionally come to the pub but do nothing else.

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pingtiao
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Apr 2 2004 11:09

What major sticking points are there between the AF and SolFed?

Or inded ClassWar?

As networks of federated local goups, I assume that it is specific incompatabilities between their As+Ps?

Steve
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Apr 2 2004 11:20

As someone has pointed out before I think the main problem is that SolFed adhere to the IWA principles of Revolutionary Syndicalism. Any merger would mean that either the new organisation leaves the international, which SF members don't want to do, or applies to join it, which AF and CW members don't want to do.

Anothers issue may be around the role of a specific anarchist organistion in relation to a future revolutionatry union but as this is a long way off in the future I don't see that as a particular practical problem today, just a theoretical debate.

Other issues? I don't know. Personal differences?

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pingtiao
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Apr 2 2004 12:45

Are there significant personal issues?

There is a new crop of british anarchists here now, and I would hope that we can get beyond any differences that exist. A united movement is a strong movement.

Perhaps some Federation london socials would be a good idea?

red n black star

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JoeMaguire
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Apr 2 2004 13:30
Ed wrote:
Personally, I'm looking forward to the day when CW and AF merge and at the same time incorporate all the locals ..

Not sure I follow this. Or this,

Quote:
a united movement is a strong movement.

Surely a fed can only go so far in terms of size before it ceases to function effectively for individual members? In terms of small tight knit resistance and for the pluralility of it I dont see the problem with several feds operating, its just I seriously cant be arsed with the pointless sectarianism that seems to be thrown up from time to time....

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Steven.
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Apr 6 2004 10:39

Thanks for the input everyone...

but on a related note - why is it that say, people in the AF like pingtiao start local anarchist groups, that aren't based on the AF hallmarks? Surely that means there's some kind of problem with the A's and P's no? If you don't have an actual federation of functioning local groups?

butchersapron
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Apr 6 2004 17:26
George'sBush wrote:
Thanks for the input everyone...

but on a related note - why is it that say, people in the AF like pingtiao start local anarchist groups, that aren't based on the AF hallmarks? Surely that means there's some kind of problem with the A's and P's no? If you don't have an actual federation of functioning local groups?

Not at all - that argument logically leads to there only being *one* correct form of organisation - this is simply a recognition that there are *different* forms of organisation that are more suited to specific intitiatives, aims, local conditions or tempraments.

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pingtiao
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Apr 7 2004 09:06

I hadn't seen that reply, GsB.

I decided not to start a local AF group, as that would be impopsing conditions on the people that attended the meetings that they might not have been happy with. When there is no functioning anarchist group in an area, it seems silly to exclude people who I could otherwise work with.

Yes, I am perfectly happy to state that my wish is for the group to eventually freely federate to the AF, but that is my wish. The decision must be freely arrived at by those affected by it.

The AF As and Ps are ones that I totally agree with.

Against Capital and State

pingtiao