American anarcho-communist federations of yesteryear

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booeyschewy
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Nov 26 2006 05:09
American anarcho-communist federations of yesteryear

I've heard about two federations I'd like more info on. First is the anarchocommunist federation from the 60s that I think Bookchin and Chomsky were in. What did it do, what was it's trajectory, influence, etc. Do we have any of its publications?

Second was a federation/listserv that was in the works but never came together. I know this was around the time NEFAC came into being, and was curious what groups/people were involved and why it never came together.

syndicalist
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Nov 26 2006 13:58

Whoa .... there was the Anarchist Communist Federation of North America (1978-1982) of which myself and syndicalistcat (Tom) were founding members.

I have seen reference to some sort of anarchist federation that Bookchin was a part of in the late 1960s or early 1970s, but don't really know much about it. Not sure about Chomsky.

If I may be so bold to say, our ACF was really the first post-Vietnam war effort at pulling concious anarchist-communist and anarcho-syndicalists together. Our basis was pro-orgnization, pro-class struggle, pro-anarcha feminist, anti-racist and very clearly working class oriented.

Aside from our general work, we published some interesting pamphlets and publish the first continental (north am.) newspaper "the north american anarchist". after the split within the ACF the "naa" became "strike!".

We were not platformists. In fact, "the platform" was not very well known or distributed. And the few folks (outside of our NY groups "the federation", then libertarian workers group)who knew of the platform considered it, well, you know, anarcho-bolshevik. I will say, that our NY group was in contact with the old British Organisation of Revolutionary Anarchists (which became the Anarchist Workers Alliance)and the various platformist groups in France & Italy. While we did not share all of their views, we felt it important enough to maintain as comradely a relation as possible. A view we still hold today.

As I have to get to work now, let me just place these pieces into the mix. I promised NEFAC to write a piece about the ACF experiance for the "northeast anarchist", but this is a slow work in progress.

That said, I'd be happy to have a discussion about the ACF.

Here's some background towards that discussion:

Anarchist-Communist Federation of North America (ACF) (1978-82) by mitch Tuesday, Nov 1 2005, 4:31am

Aims and Principles and brief history of ACF

The ACF existed from 1978 to 1982. The ACF was the second wave of post-World War I anarchist-communists. The ACF was not a platformist organization. It was similiar to the old Vanguard group in the sense of incorporating traditional anarchist-communist and anarcho-syndicalist principles and perspectives.We sought to build an anarchist organization that was structured, politically coherent and acted concertedly.As with the Vanguard group, most of us were in our 20's and early 30's.
http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=1618&region=northamericam...

A glimpse of Anarchist-Communism in the 1930's USA
by mitch Monday, Oct 31 2005, 6:09am
http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=1606

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Steven.
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Nov 26 2006 14:10

You're a very interesting guy to have around, syndicalist!

petey
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Nov 26 2006 19:03

and so is your cat

syndicalist
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Nov 27 2006 01:13

what cat? you must be the dude who sorta swiped my pen name and added cat after it -:)

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syndicalistcat
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Nov 27 2006 01:31

he's referring to me, i guess. i'm not very
imaginative about pennames.

petey
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Nov 27 2006 01:51

but your posts are good - very informative, the two of yiz

syndicalist
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Nov 27 2006 03:11

ah, silly me. now i get ya. duh, no wonder why i'm still going at it for all these years, it must be the hard head!
thank ya.

syndicalist
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Nov 27 2006 04:13

Bookchin viewpoint on anarchist organization was mainly carried out by those who are known as the social ecologists. These comrades considered themselves anarcho-communists (and we were anarchist-communists!) and believed in the "affinity group" form of anarchist organization. Those of us in the ACF of NA saw the need for a national organizzation with structure, principles and for collective group action.

Anyway, here's a link to a piece written by Bookchin which should be of interest.

The essay originally was written in reply to an attack by Huey Newton on anarchist forms of organization.

ANARCHY AND ORGANIZATION A Letter To The Left Reprinted from (SDS) NEW LEFT NOTES, January 15, 1969

http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_archives/bookchin/leftletterprint.h...

Anarchy and Organization appears in Anarchy Archives with the premission of the author.

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MJ
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Nov 27 2006 05:05
syndicalist wrote:
As I have to get to work now, let me just place these pieces into the mix. I promised NEFAC to write a piece about the ACF experiance for the "northeast anarchist", but this is a slow work in progress.

NEA 13 (Spring/Summer 2007)

smile

Battlescarred
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Nov 27 2006 11:38

The ORA became the Anarchist Workers Association not Alliance, and I was one of the ORA/AWA people who communicated with the ACF/Strike

syndicalist
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Nov 27 2006 13:40

Well greetings to you Battlecared. Thanks for the correction.

Perhaps we corresponded with each other. I'll PM you.

--mitch

rebelworker
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Nov 27 2006 15:58

Mabey the email list you were refering too was the tesudo list set up by nefac to coordinate the eventual formation of a confederation of AC groups in North America.

It included folks from NEFAC, FRAC, NAF, the Furious five in San Diego, Capital Terminus in Atlanta and some folks from the south California Anachist federation.

NEFAC sometimes got some heat for being toot hard line and pro platformist. We are the only group from this list that still exists in any size.

Better politicl line, better region or just too stuborn to quit, you be the judge...

But seriously there is still the eventual hope for a continental confederation. Regional focus has been one of the greatest lessosn for succes from the NEFAC project, and we have just moved to a more regional (Quebec/US) focus that should help to re start struggling areas. One of the reasons we in nefac did not submit to the early pressure to formalis a continental fed years ago was the feeling that we are hardly strong enough in our region to devote time to a bigger proect, nevermind some of the other groups. In reflection i think this was the for the best. The regional groups were not strong enough to stand on their own so Im sure it would have lead to a weak organisation.

We still maintain ties with people from all these projects and are moving to make our magazine more reflective of a continenal project, with the hope of an eventual org. But for now local work must be done to build a real social base.

Battlescarred
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Nov 27 2006 16:15

I for one wish you all the best

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OliverTwister
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Nov 27 2006 20:05

Capital Terminus Collective still exists and is not terribly small.

edit: look!

Feighnt
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Nov 28 2006 01:20
OliverTwister wrote:
Capital Terminus Collective still exists and is not terribly small.

edit: look!

oh wow, you guys have someone from the Durruti Column in your collective??? surprised

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syndicalistcat
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Nov 28 2006 09:04

rebelworker writes:

"But seriously there is still the eventual hope for a continental confederation."

If this comes to pass, I would hope -- plea -- that we not make a commitment to the "communist" label a part of its basis of unity. If so, i'd be excluded. I think it is completely hopeless to try to communicate our ideas to ordinary folks here in the USA while carrying around the "communist" label. If we can't define our ideas, what we're for, without that label, we're in bad shape. I'm also not sure exactly what "communism" means, as far as ACs are concerned....despite having been a member of the Anarchist Communist Federation of the 1970s.

There is one definition of "communism" that I know that would make me a communist. Reznick and Wolff in their book "Class Theory and History" define a "communist mode of production" as a socio-economic arrangement where those who produce the social surplus also "appropriate" it (i.e. control its production and use). This is a rather Marxist way of defining a classless mode of production.

Even so, I think it is better, for purposes of name and public presence, to avoid the "c" word for the simple reason that it is misleading since the meaning it has in everyday American English isn't the meaning it has here on libcom.

Workers Solidarity Alliance, which I'm a member of, doesn't use words like "anarchism", "socialism", "communism" in its statement of principles or its name. Despite having been affiliated to the IWA, we're not officially committed to "libertarian communism". That's because, when WSA was formed, it included libertarian syndicalists who were ACs but also some who weren't "communists"...and still does. Of course, if you use "communism" loosely enough, as in the Reznick-Wolff definition for example, then we would be so committed since we're committed to a stateless, classless society of generalized self-management.

t.

Comrade Byrnes
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Nov 28 2006 20:31

CTC still representin'

And yes, a member fought in the Durruti Collumn. he currently is retired and does speaking tours all over the country and most recently in Montreal and Spain.

Skraeling
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Nov 28 2006 23:00
booeyschewy wrote:
I've heard about two federations I'd like more info on. First is the anarchocommunist federation from the 60s that I think Bookchin and Chomsky were in. What did it do, what was it's trajectory, influence, etc. Do we have any of its publications?

I think you may be talking about the anarchist split from the Students for a Democratic Society in 1969. Once the SDS self-destructed (mostly into bizarre Maoists sects), the anarchists formed a group called the Radical Decentralist Project which involved Bookchin. They attempted to form a nationwide anarchist group but it never eventuated. (Bookchin's version of these events are in his Marxism, Anarchism and the Future of the Left.) I dont think the Radical Decentralist Project was anarchist communist, more like anarchist synthesist. Bookchin was in a New York group called (i think) Anarchos which might have called itself "anarcho-communist". Anarchos i think formed a chapter of the SDS in the lower-east side.

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syndicalistcat
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Nov 28 2006 23:40

There was an entity in the '70s called the Social Revolutionary Anarchist Federation. It was extremely synthesist. It is an exaggeration to call it an organization. It was anything goes, from anarcho-capitalists, to counter-culture types, to class struggle ACs. in the late '70s the class struggle folks who wanted a more disciplined, organized type of formation formed the Anarchist Communist Tendency. This led eventually to formation of the Anarchist Communist Federation in 1978.

There were anarchists in SDS but they were a small minority in the late '60s explosive growth of SDS. In the UCLA chapter of SDS the three anarchists were expelled by the Stalinists in 1968. Some of them joined The Resistance, an anarchist draft resistance group.

t.

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EdmontonWobbly
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Nov 29 2006 02:02

I'm in a publishing collective with one old fellow from the SRAF and another is in our IWW branch. i even got to check out some old pamphlets from those folks. They seemed very synthesist and all over the place, but a lot of stuff seems to trace back to them out here on the prairies.

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Tacks
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Nov 29 2006 02:18
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
synthesist

:?:

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madashell
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Nov 29 2006 02:22
Tacks wrote:
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
synthesist

:?:

IIRC, very similar to "anarchism without adjectives" type stuff, believe that there are useful ideas and tactics to take away from most, if not all, forms of contemporary anarchism.

Feighnt
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Nov 29 2006 09:40
Tacks wrote:
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
synthesist

:?:

in addition to what mada said:

it was basically made in reaction to the Platform, by Voline and some other folk i dont remember. wanted to make a rather loose grouping of stuff like Anarcho-communists, syndicalists, and individualists.

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syndicalistcat
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Nov 29 2006 17:32

The synthesist idea of an anarchist organization, as a loose federation open to all tendencies, and the name itself, were developed by Sebastien Faure around 1903.

rebelworker
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Nov 29 2006 22:39
OliverTwister wrote:
Capital Terminus Collective still exists and is not terribly small.

edit: look!

I am very happy to hear that i have been misinformed on the fate of the CTC. I was always very happy to have you folks as supporters and was also happy about the relatively large size of the group.

Also was very happy to have George up to Quebec for a 70th aniversary tour.

Kepp on rockin in Atlanta.

More on the use of the word communism when I get back from martial arts....

violencia.prole...
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Nov 29 2006 22:59
Quote:
If this comes to pass, I would hope -- plea -- that we not make a commitment to the "communist" label a part of its basis of unity. If so, i'd be excluded.

Although we're at opposite ends of the age spectrum, (you've been around for a long time, I'm a lot newer to the movement) I've always come across the use of the word communist by anarchist organizations as meaning a "stateless classless society." I've heard but I'm not positive that Marx defined it using those very words.

Quote:
I think it is completely hopeless to try to communicate our ideas to ordinary folks here in the USA while carrying around the "communist" label. If we can't define our ideas, what we're for, without that label, we're in bad shape.

I think if we have to change our name to be heard then we're going about relating it to people in a bad way. The word communism is not on the same level as say nazism. The younger generation has not been drilled with the anti communist line as much as older people were. I think we're arriving at a point where people hear communist and say "whats that about" not instantly think dictatorship.

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syndicalistcat
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Nov 29 2006 23:27

VP writes:
"I've always come across the use of the word communist by anarchist organizations as meaning a "stateless classless society." I've heard but I'm not positive that Marx defined it using those very words."

I've found that many anarchists and left-communists do NOT mean that by "communism." I find that they consider the following things a necessary condition for communism, as they conceive of it: abolition of money, everything being distributed free, "from each according to ability, to each according to need." Notice that these ways of defining "commumnism" do not define it as a mode of production, that is, a way that social production is organized, but in terms of distribution. For those anarchists or left-communists who follow this practice, being a stateless and classless society is apparently NOT sufficient for being "communist." That's a main reason why a lot of anarchists do not regard participatory economics as communist, even though it is a sketch of classless, stateless society.

VP writes:
"I think if we have to change our name to be heard then we're going about relating it to people in a bad way. The word communism is not on the same level as say nazism. The younger generation has not been drilled with the anti communist line as much as older people were. I think we're arriving at a point where people hear communist and say "whats that about" not instantly think dictatorship."

I think it may be true that the old McCarthyite tedencies have atrophied. But I constantly run into the assumption that "communism" refers to the kind of system that exists in Cuba and North Korea, and used to exist in the USSR.

If communism is a classless stateless society, why not just say you are for a classless stateless society, or a self-managed society? I don't see why the word "communism" is needed. I tend to suspect that it's use sometimes has something of the aura of in-group cult.

t.

violencia.prole...
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Nov 30 2006 00:29
Quote:
I've found that many anarchists and left-communists do NOT mean that by "communism." I find that they consider the following things a necessary condition for communism, as they conceive of it: abolition of money, everything being distributed free, "from each according to ability, to each according to need." Notice that these ways of defining "commumnism" do not define it as a mode of production, that is, a way that social production is organized, but in terms of distribution. For those anarchists or left-communists who follow this practice, being a stateless and classless society is apparently NOT sufficient for being "communist." That's a main reason why a lot of anarchists do not regard participatory economics as communist, even though it is a sketch of classless, stateless society.

I see your point. What I was trying to do was provide a very basic deffinition, obviously I didnt do that so well.

Quote:
If communism is a classless stateless society, why not just say you are for a classless stateless society, or a self-managed society? I don't see why the word "communism" is needed. I tend to suspect that it's use sometimes has something of the aura of in-group cult.

But why is saying stateless classless society any different if your actually having a discussion with a person? I can see why using communism in propaganda might not always be the best decision, however, if someone is giving you the time to hear your ideas why would they stop because you use the word communism? If you explain what it really means I doubt they'd be turned off.

t.

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syndicalistcat
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Nov 30 2006 00:41

VP:
"But why is saying stateless classless society any different if your actually having a discussion with a person? I can see why using communism in propaganda might not always be the best decision, however, if someone is giving you the time to hear your ideas why would they stop because you use the word communism? If you explain what it really means I doubt they'd be turned off."

Classless and stateless are reasonably objective terms, tho of course they do require some explanation of what the class system is, what a state is. But "communism" is an ideological buzzword. It is pure rhetoric.

t.

Feighnt
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Nov 30 2006 05:08

i often find that most "regular" people (ie: Liberals, or politically apathetic folk), when confronted with the word "communism," cant get past the baggage. or, alternately, you *could* get past it, but only with tons of side-explanations about what you mean, with explicit explanation that you specfically do *not* mean russia/cuba/china etc. problem is, most people arent interested in spending a lot of time or engaging in a real discussion - they just want to be able to say that "communism works in theory, not in practice" or some variation of that, and leave it at that.

i'm not inherently against using terms like "communism," but i do believe, like syndi-cat, that it's more practical to use terms like "stateless/classless."