DONATE NOW TO HELP UPGRADE LIBCOM.ORG

The Anarchist Workers Group (deceased)

139 posts / 0 new
Last post
AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Apr 9 2006 15:04
The Anarchist Workers Group (deceased)
Serge Forward wrote:
I'm thinking more of the hideously deformed Anarchist Workers Group.

The AWG wound up in 1992, an 18 year old entering the movement today would have been 3 when the last published anything. They had a maximum of 30 members and existed for les than four years. I don't understand why they still haunt the imaginations of anarchists in Britian in the manner they seem to above. Learn what is to be learned and move on.

(For the 18 and older year olds see http://www.struggle.ws/awg.html for a partial archive of AWG material and analysis of their collapse).

pepe carvalho's picture
pepe carvalho
Offline
Joined: 9-04-06
Apr 9 2006 11:10

it also has to be understood that a large number of the AWG's members were coming from an SWP background, that must have had a relationship with their politics.

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Apr 9 2006 11:27
pepe carvalho wrote:
it also has to be understood that a large number of the AWG's members were coming from an SWP background, that must have had a relationship with their politics.

Oddly enough the ones coming from the SWP background seemed to be most resistant to the turn to leninism while the ones who were ex-DAM seemed to pushing that direction the most. (I was an observer at a couple of their conferences so this is first hand). And most of the members didn't understand quite what was being argued about anyway as their internal education and communication was very haphazard.

Actually this isn't so odd, I guess the SWPers had first hand experience of the problems of leninist organisation whereas the others could only see what they considered to be solutions.

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Apr 9 2006 11:28

Mods - it might be a good idea to split this off as a thread on the AWG

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Apr 9 2006 15:07
JoeBlack2 wrote:
Mods - it might be a good idea to split this off as a thread on the AWG

Done.

Yeah I see the point about Leninism, I think ex-Leninists would be much less likely to become Leninists again, because we've consciously rejected it, rather than some anarchists who just bypassed it straight into being anarchists, but might be susceptible to it later on, particularly after experiencing all the problems of the anarchist movement (disorganisation, etc.)

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Apr 9 2006 15:55

Joe,

I think that you are right. It is something that happened along time ago, and it has no relevance to today. Maybe though it is important to discuss what happened in a reasonable way. The standard analysis is that they were all Leninists anyway, and they were just a cancer on the anarchist movement. I actually knew then quite well, at least the people from London who were involved in the formation of the AWG ( I don‘t know anything about the people in Manchester, or the other groups they formed their organization with), so let’s discuss what really happened.

First, none of the members of SWLDAM, who went on to form the AWG had been in the SWP, FACT. The people in Manchester, and the other groups may have been, but the core group hadn’t been. Second FACT, if they were influenced by any leftist group, I would say it was the old (Ferudi) RCP. Some of them had studied under him at university.

They, the people who formed the AWG, were in DAM because at the time it was the national anarchist organization. One has to remember that this was the early days of the AF, and ‘Class War’ wasn’t a serious organization, as it isn’t today. All of the people in SWLDAM were young workers, who had tried to work with SLDAM, but found that they were completely obsessed by Anarchism, and what had happened in Spain in 1936, and completely divorced from the class struggle.

They were interested in the platform as they saw that it separated them from ‘anarchism/life style anarchism’. In response to this when they split from DAM, they tried to form a national organization. I don’t see anything wrong in that. In fact, you have to admire them in that they approached political work seriously. They tried to open a dialogue with the ACF, who rejected their approaches for what ı believe were the right reasons, and did open a dialogue with the WSM.

I think that the whole criticism of them in the ‘Anarchist movement’ was bollocks. They tried to discuss politics, and formulated political positions. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact it is constructive. My disagreement with them was that the positions that they adopted were ‘leftist’ (i.e. support for national liberation movements, and putting pressure on the union leaderships). To be honest, quite similar to the position of the WSM.

I think that there were positive things to learn from the AWG. They emphasized, as the platformists say, ’tactical, and theoretical unity’. This is a good thing even if it is so basic we shouldn’t even need to discuss it. The problem was they did it around ‘leftist’ politics, not communist ones.

I think that a lot of the anarchist criticism of ‘Leninists’ today is completely meaningless. I can’t personally see how they are organizationally different. In fact, one of the positive things about the ‘Leninists’ is that they wouldn’t tolerate some of the rubbish that passes itself in theory in the anarchist movement. I don’t think that ı need to go on about ‘social centers’, and ‘pan Celtic federations’ again. The dividing line today is not between ‘Marxists’, ‘Leninists’ and ‘anarchists’, but between ‘social democrats’, and ‘communists’. The AWG were ‘social democrats’. That is all there is too it.

It would be interesting though if anyone who was involved in the group who is still around today wrote about it.

Sorry.
Offline
Joined: 13-11-03
Apr 9 2006 16:08

Just to catch up on a little history, I'm presuming the following from various conversations ...

That DAM had some limited success as r+f union movement with the "networks" strategy. This brought in some people who were non-anarchosyndicalist and diluted the ideological content of DAM until people started suggesting things that were incompatible with a-syn. The a-syns in DAM then formed SolFed to re-focus on a-syn, and some of the remainder (ie. the less syndicalistic types) went off to found the AWG, which promptly fell apart in relatively short order.

Which is why I get looked at funny when bringing up wider r+f networks to SolFed people?

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Apr 9 2006 16:13

Devrim I'm pretty much in agreement with you on the factual end of the AWG. I also think a discussion of them is useful as over the years they have become a sort of scare crow.

Sorry. wrote:
The a-syns in DAM then formed SolFed to re-focus on a-syn, and some of the remainder (ie. the less syndicalistic types) went off to found the AWG, which promptly fell apart in relatively short order.

I don't think the order is right here as AWG was around from 1989 and the SolFed thing happened around 92 or '93 I think. I'm not really aware of the internal DAM stuff of that period and how this connects up

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Apr 9 2006 16:13

No, I don’t think that is exactly right. These things happened a long time before DAM became SolFed. Also think that young workers were coming into DAM because of their experience in the class struggle (e.g. the miners, and printers strikes). The rank and file groups were formed on the back of this, not the other way around.

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Offline
Joined: 14-01-04
Apr 9 2006 17:11

I know it was a long time ago, but I think that some of the leftist ideas the AWG were coming out with have also been pushed by groups like the WSM and Alternative Libertaire/UTCL.

Sure the AWG is an extreme example, but the question I was trying to ask was, is there anything inherent in the Platform that steers class struggle anarchists towards bog-standard leftism? Or is it the case that creeping leftism just become something of a platformist tradition?

jack white
Offline
Joined: 7-04-05
Apr 9 2006 17:15
Serge Forward wrote:
some of the leftist ideas the AWG were coming out with have also been pushed by groups like the WSM and Alternative Libertaire/UTCL.

... the question I was trying to ask was, is there anything inherent in the Platform that steers class struggle anarchists towards bog-standard leftism? Or is it the case that creeping leftism just become something of a platformist tradition?

Could you give some examples of these policies?

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Offline
Joined: 14-01-04
Apr 9 2006 17:16

And yes, it all hapened well before the Industrial Networks. I never met any ex-Trots in the AWG. The ones I knew were mostly ex-SWLDAM and a couple of ex-ACF. After the AWG collapsed, most of these went on to join the RCP/Living Marxism lot. A few of us at the time, thought, "Told ya so."

martinh
Offline
Joined: 8-03-06
Apr 9 2006 17:20

Devrim

I think your analysis of the AWG is fair. The core of the old SWLDAM group (led by D.A. aka Joe White) went on to join the RCP and Joe White has followed them all the way to Spiked. C, the other leader, was the one who went into Workers Power. I believe that one of the northern AWG comrades joined the SWP and was a UCW steward the last I heard of him. I think the WSM's analysis overlooks the fact that it was the leadership who were keenest on Trotskyism. My local of the DAM at the time continued to meet and discuss with them until about 1990 (I'm hazy here) but when we were reaching agreements on things I got the feeling that Joe White wasn't happy and those discussions stopped. (As an aside there was one person left from the SWLDAM group who went on to set up the IWW in Britain in its 90s to present day incarnation).

I only know one person who is ex-AWG and still around today, there may be others, but as far as I know he's not on these boards.

There is a problem with anti-intellectualism within the British anarchist movement, though it does have some quite useful roots in working class distrust of people who talk down to us. Sadly all too often it's an excuse to shut down debate that people don't want to have. This is the most useful legacy of the AWG, TBH, to remind us of the need for debate, consistency and theoretical and tactical unity. Their failure meant that each generation needs to learn these lessons anew.

Sorry., I don't know where you've got the chronology from but it's wrong. After successes in and around things like the miners, printers and poll tax struggles, the DAM decided to orient itself towards setting up a union. It was a different time and, IMO, we failed to anticipate the period of extended social peace that characterised the 90s onwards in most of Britain. The proposal to set up a union was controversial within the DAM, and once the argument broadly in favour of it had been decided the people who became the AWG left. It took a couple more years before the SolFed was established by the DAM, several industrial networks who contained non-DAM members and Norwich Solidarity Centre, which was functioning as a local at the time.

Looking at a contact list from the time, and the first SF contact list, we lost local groups in Leeds, East London, Leicester, Edinburgh, Burnley and Bolton around then, though my recollection is that some of those groups differed with the SolFed over industrial strategy, preferring a rank and file strategy within the unions, and others wanted a more "political" group. In reality, the class struggle was declining and a lot of people were burnt out. (I was probably one of them and would have drifted off if there hadn't been a group for me to rejoin when I got myself together again).

Regards,

Martin

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Offline
Joined: 14-01-04
Apr 9 2006 17:22

Yes, but I think Devrim has pretty much said it... groups like the WSM and AL have always had a less critical approach to the trade union bureaucracies than either the AF or SolFed. I also see the platformist organisations as being soft on national liberation.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Apr 9 2006 17:25

DAM had indusrial networks in those days too. They have had them on, and off since at least the mid 80's. You are right about them joining the RCP though. They always admired the look confused .

knightrose
Offline
Joined: 8-11-03
Apr 9 2006 17:25

Fascinating discussion. I only came across the AWG in their final days in the North, where they were a group that seemed firmly on the trajectory they finally took.

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Offline
Joined: 14-01-04
Apr 9 2006 17:35
Devrim wrote:
They always admired the look confused .

Yes, flat-tops were definitely de rigueur.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Apr 9 2006 17:36

Yeah very interesting, the trajectory of these groups is important for us all to know I think.

jack white
Offline
Joined: 7-04-05
Apr 9 2006 17:36
Serge Forward wrote:
groups like the WSM and AL have always had a less critical approach to the trade union bureaucracies than either the AF or SolFed.

What are you talking about here?

martinh
Offline
Joined: 8-03-06
Apr 9 2006 17:36
Devrim wrote:
DAM had indusrial networks in those days too. They have had them on, and off since at least the mid 80's.

Well, sort of, though there is a difference between rank and filism and industrial networks, mainly about relating to the unions.

Devrim wrote:
You are right about them joining the RCP though. They always admired the look confused .

smile

As someone who was neither punk (the majority of DAM under 30 at the time were) or into the nascent club scene (which is what the AWG were into) I know exactly the pressures of which you speak wink

Regards,

martin

knightrose
Offline
Joined: 8-11-03
Apr 9 2006 17:38

when we met them it was at the time of the Gulf War after the invasion of Kuwait. We were trying to argue for a No war etc position. They'd have nothing to do with it. It was almost impossible to see any difference between them and trot groups. I wasn't surprised when they ended up in them, but was disappointed.

martinh
Offline
Joined: 8-03-06
Apr 9 2006 17:45
knightrose wrote:
when we met them it was at the time of the Gulf War after the invasion of Kuwait. We were trying to argue for a No war etc position. They'd have nothing to do with it. It was almost impossible to see any difference between them and trot groups. I wasn't surprised when they ended up in them, but was disappointed.

I think at the time a lot of minor trot groups did lots of work to try to convince us (anarchists/internationalists generally) that such a position wasn't nuanced enough roll eyes I think the RIL did a special leaflet aimed at us (they had members in our local APTU) on this very issue.

I'm sure they can say so themselves, but I don't think the WSM would ever take the sort of line the AWG ended up doing. Which is one reason why I'm not hostile to the whole platformist tradition - just because both attempts in Britain have been conveyor belts to Trotskyism and beyond, it doesn't mean that the same is true everywhere. Or indeed need happen here again. IIRC the ACF at the time was heavily into the Platform, as well, but managed to draw on other things and not go the same way as the ORA and AWG.

Regards

martin

jack white
Offline
Joined: 7-04-05
Apr 9 2006 17:52
martinh wrote:
"the sort of line the AWG ended up doing."

What line did they take? Victory to Iraq or something?

knightrose
Offline
Joined: 8-11-03
Apr 9 2006 17:53

I've said somewhere else that I don't think the the Platform leads to "platformism". There's nothing wrong with a sense of collective repsonsibility and a desire to seek political agreement and a common effort.

Equally, I'm not sure that the ORA (Organisation of Revolutionary Anarchists) was just a conveyor belt to trotskyism. The AF are really their descendents. In any event, the ORA/AWA were part of a process of development in the 70s. There were other groups as well. The upshot of those developments were the groups we see today, with the politics we see today.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Apr 9 2006 18:00

Martin,

I was in DAM at the time, so if there is a fault with the chronology it is with my memory. I do remember DAM deciding to found a union, but I didn't think that even the membership took it seriously. I think that the AWG had decided to split before then anyway. DAM did have a 'Industrial network' strategy before that as that was one of the reasons we originally set up 'Communication Worker'.

On a personal side, I am a bit upset by C.H. going into 'Worker's Power', but P.C. (post office counters) from SWLDAM had already gone there. The thing you said about an ex-member of SWLDAM being involved in the IWW really surprises me. Whom? initial will do.

Dev

Divisive Cottonwood
Offline
Joined: 15-08-04
Apr 9 2006 18:16

My memory is a bit hazy from then but I do remember them being into another "anti-war" coalition that traded under the slogan Victory to Iraq - it was full of ultra-leftists, in particular the RCP. God knows how they theoretically ended up with this position! Talk about national chauvanism.

They also liked to turn up "en masse" (appropiate inverted commas here for an organisation of their size) at the SWP's Marxism event and intellectually slug it out with the Trots. Although that must have been as responsive as chatting to a brick wall. Their magazine was called Socialism from Below - which I thought was quite a good title anyway.

Their demise is what happens when people sit around theorising too much - they go up their own arse and promptly disappear.

Divisive Cottonwood
Offline
Joined: 15-08-04
Apr 9 2006 18:20
Serge Forward wrote:
I don't understand why they still haunt the imaginations of anarchists in Britian in the manner they seem to above. Learn what is to be learned and move on.

Maybe it's because they very quickly went so ultra that ended up in Leninist/Trotskite positions... which is a strange trajectory to go!

Certainly don't agree with another posters description of them as being social democrats.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Apr 9 2006 18:25

They weren't ultra left at all. They were the antithesis of it. I would characterize them as social democrats, but then I would characterize Lenin as one also.

martinh
Offline
Joined: 8-03-06
Apr 9 2006 18:28
Divisive Cottonwood wrote:
My memory is a bit hazy from then but I do remember them being into another "anti-war" coalition that traded under the slogan Victory to Iraq - it was full of ultra-leftists, in particular the RCP. God knows how they theoretically ended up with this position! Talk about national chauvanism.

Twas all about supporting small nation against big imperialism. There's a logic to it if you agree with Lenin. Or Saddam Hussein. But not a lot otherwise.

Divisive Cottonwood wrote:
They also liked to turn up "en masse" (appropiate inverted commas here for an organisation of their size) at the SWP's Marxism event and intellectually slug it out with the Trots. Although that must have been as responsive as chatting to a brick wall.

Actually at the time it was quite a sensible thing, at least in international terms. The Berlin Wall had just fallen and the SWP paid for anarchists or people close to anarchism to come over from Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Russia, at least. One of our members who'd gone along brought a member of the then IREAN group of Moscow (now KRAS) too our local group meeting and we had to rope someone in to speak German as it was the only language we all understood. IIRC the AWG did have some success in recruiting from the SWP, mainly in Southampton I think, sadly these people were let down by the trajectory the group was on.

Divisive Cottonwood wrote:

Their magazine was called Socialism from Below - which I thought was quite a good title anyway.

Their demise is what happens when people sit around theorising too much - they go up their own arse and promptly disappear.

I don't think it was too much theorising that did for them, but the wrong sort of theorising wink

Regards

martin

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Apr 9 2006 18:30

Also the problem wasn’t that they thought too either. This is a comment very typical of the anti intellectual current in British anarchism.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Apr 9 2006 18:32

Martin,

I am really intrigued. Who from SWLDAM was involved in setting up the current IWW?