The Anarchist Workers Group (deceased)

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Mike Harman
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Apr 14 2006 09:52
Devrim wrote:

I had actually never heard of him until I started using this site.

Then you're very, very lucky.

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This is not getting into mysticism, but like with people like the ‘Diggers’ in the English civil war there was a time when political opposition could only be expressed through religion. Hasan Sabah II’s pronouncement of the ‘resurrection’, and that the ‘Rule of Law is Ended’ is quite interesting.

Of course I mean only in a historical sense. I really can’t stand mysticism. Not as much as my next door neighbour who spits the word like it is an insult though. Just to prove it I am going back to the UNISON thread now.

Dev

Yeah I think historically those currents are very, very interesting. There's a bit in the Devils of Loudon where Huxley talks about human emotion being the same throughout history but being experienced through completely different cultural parameters - although he's talking about it in the context exorcism, mass hysteria and sexual abuse as entertainment it's still interesting.

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Devrim
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Apr 14 2006 13:29

Hi Catch,

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I don't think Peter Lamborn Wilson's intention was to appeal to Turkish readers, but to the third-worldism and exoticism which infests the activist milieu in the US,

Is it really that popular in the States eek? Do you think that I could give up my job, and sell 'third-worldism and exoticism to American idiots? It would be better than going to work everyday. Now all we have to hide is that I live in a tower block in the middle of a city of 5,000,000 people...

I don't know the Huxley book you mention, but the historical things I was talking about were communistic, egalitarian movements that sprang from Christianity. There were a lot of similar currents in mediaeval Islam too.

Dev

Mike Harman
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Apr 14 2006 16:47
Devrim wrote:
Hi Catch,
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I don't think Peter Lamborn Wilson's intention was to appeal to Turkish readers, but to the third-worldism and exoticism which infests the activist milieu in the US,

Is it really that popular in the States eek?

Crimethinc's pretty popular, and Bey's stuff has been used a fair bit by them, then you've got all that Starhawk stuff that was posted up here - £500 to learn about permaculture and witchcraft. Deep Ecology, Gaia theory. One IWW campaign in New York was for a Wiccan to be allowed to wear religious symbols at work. I'd guess not a great deal more popular than it is in wider society in the North West and North East - all those New Age management consultants and self help books etc. I've seen Temporary Autonomous Zone in a fair few bookshops in the US though - with it's odes to Italian fascism and paedophilia. And you scoff about social centres. Check http://libcom.org/library/social-anarchism--lifestyle-anarchism-murray-bookchin

if you want an entertaining run-down.

Quote:

Do you think that I could give up my job, and sell 'third-worldism and exoticism to American idiots?

Maybe, chuck mysticism and lifestylism in and you could be onto a winner, you'd have to stop making sense though, which might be a problem.

Quote:

I don't know the Huxley book you mention, but the historical things I was talking about were communistic, egalitarian movements that sprang from Christianity. There were a lot of similar currents in mediaeval Islam too.

Do you mean Sufism? That's about as far as my knowledge goes. I can see some parallels with the Ranters and whirling Dervishes I guess. wink

The Huxley book is a fun read, it's about a group of Carmelie nuns who claim to be possessed by the local priest, and end up as an S&M street show (and the local priest ends up quite a lot worse off than them) - all based on historical records. There's a film based on it called "The Devils" by Ken Russell, which isn't as good.

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Devrim
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Apr 14 2006 17:07

Oh my God! I have just read through about half of that description of lifestyle social anarchism. eek eek eek eek eek

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Devrim
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Apr 14 2006 17:21

Actually, I can't read any more.

I was refering not to the Sufi's, who tended to talk mystical rubbish, but more to groups like the Kharijites.

Wiki says

Quote:
Kharijite theology was a form of radical fundamentalism, preaching uncompromising observance of the teachings of the Qur'an in defiance of corrupt authorities. They preached absolute equality of the faithful, in opposition to the aristocracy of the Quraysh which had grown more pronounced under the Umayyads. They spread by violent jihad (the sixth pillar of Islam to some) their radical anti-authoritarian ideals: only the most pious should be caliph, they believed, even if he were an Abyssinian slave (the lowest social class of the era). For some, a caliph was not even necessary; they insisted only that if one were chosen, he should be elected by the entire community of believers.

When you consider that this was a group in the 7th century in a period where virtually all politics were expressed through religion, they were saying some pretty radical things.

Mike Harman
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Apr 14 2006 17:28

Cool, if you've got any book recommendations, I can think of a certain library frequented by a large number of Muslims they could be stocked in...

As to social anarchism or lifestyle anarchism you've clearly led a very protected existence, sorry it had to be me to break it to you Mr. T

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Devrim
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Apr 14 2006 20:14

Catch,

I am 37 years old, and heve lived, and worked in seven different contries. I always thought that 'life style' anarchists were people who didn't recognise that class was central, and just put it up there as one issue alongside aninal rights, the enviornment, etc..., but still recognised it. It was quite a shock to read that. eek

Mike Harman
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Apr 14 2006 22:46

I'm sure some of them are the relatively harmless types you mention, but Bookchin spent about 30 years arguing against the people he describes in SA/LA before finally rejecting anarchism about 10 years ago.

For my next trick, I suggest this:

http://www.hermetic.com/bey/taz_cont.html

Particularly "Wild Children" and "Pirate Utopias".

and this:

http://libcom.org/library/leaving-out-ugly-part-hakim-bey

I'd suggest a strong drink beforehand, or possibly not depending on your temperament.

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Steven.
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Apr 14 2006 23:51
Devrim wrote:
Catch,

I am 37 years old, and heve lived, and worked in seven different contries. I always thought that 'life style' anarchists were people who didn't recognise that class was central, and just put it up there as one issue alongside aninal rights, the enviornment, etc..., but still recognised it. It was quite a shock to read that. eek

Ha thought it was funny you saying about how there are a lot of lifestlyist elements on these boards. You should've seen them a year ago, ha ha!

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Apr 15 2006 06:03

I had a brief look. I don’t think that I am going to bother reading it, Catch. I don’t actually know much about Bookchin. Is he worth reading? Why did he bother arguing with these people? I think that one of the things that all of these people who talk about getting out of the ‘anarchist ghetto’ do is orientate themselves completely towards it. I don’t really think that these loonies are worth writing about. Certainly, I will look at the ‘lifestyle anarchists’ on the Mayday march here with a little more interest. There are about twenty of them, but I think that the fact that you see them with a circled A banner at demonstrations suggests they are of the type I described. I may even talk to them.

The second thing I would like to know is what is the thing with the big (British?) anarchist obsession with pedophilia? Obviously I don’t support pedophiliac propaganda. (I don’t think that it should even be necessary for me to say that. They fact that I do shows that there is an obsession). And I would be quite annoyed if I called myself an anarchist, and somebody started to defend this in the name of ‘Anarchism’, but no more annoyed than I would be by the other shite that they are spouting. Actually, I am annoyed about it anyway. (It’s a good job that I didn’t have that drink, Catch, possibly as it’s 8.50 a.m. and I have to go to work soon). But why the obsession with pedophilia? The only thing that I can think of is that it comes from Class War, and their following of the gutter press media campaign. Let’s be honest, I am sure that there must be relatively few pedophiles compared to muggers. They both commit violence against other individuals. Why all this focus on pedophiles? Is it trying to copy the Sun, and be more working class then thou? I think ultimately it is scaremongering.

I read an interesting story in a Turkish newspaper about it, but I don’t know if it was true. Back when the Sun was having its ‘name, and shame’ campaign an angry mob burnt down the house of a pedophile in Southampton. Unfortunately, the guy turned out not to have been a pedophile at all, but a pediatrician. Easy mistake to make. Luckily the guy wasn’t in the house at the time.

Take care,

Dev

knightrose
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Apr 15 2006 08:03

Bookchin is a very eclectic writer. A product, I think, of an environment that favours starts and lacked a decent organised movement for a long time. However, although some of what he wrote is odd, I'd definitely recommend Post Scarcity Anarchism and the book about lifestylists (forgotten tis name).

As to paedophiles..... I suppose we reflect the society around us. Also back in the 70s, paedophiles claimed they were jsut another sexual liberation movement and worthy of the same support as womens and gay liberation. A lot of anarchists swallowed it, (horrible images come to my mind when I write that) maybe our attitude today is something of a reaction against that?

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Serge Forward
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Apr 15 2006 08:30
knightrose wrote:
Bookchin is a very eclectic writer. A product, I think, of an environment that favours starts and lacked a decent organised movement for a long time. However, although some of what he wrote is odd, I'd definitely recommend Post Scarcity Anarchism and the book about lifestylists (forgotten tis name).

Post Scarcity Anarchism was one of the first anarchist books I ever read. I still think it's good.

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PaulMarsh
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Apr 15 2006 09:44

I never bothered reading Bookchin again after Bob Black put him to the sword, giving him six of the best trousers down.

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PaulMarsh
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Apr 15 2006 12:28

Jack I suggest you read it again, wearing a new pair of glasses:

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Steven.
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Apr 15 2006 12:34
Devrim wrote:
But why the obsession with pedophilia? The only thing that I can think of is that it comes from Class War, and their following of the gutter press media campaign. Let’s be honest, I am sure that there must be relatively few pedophiles compared to muggers. They both commit violence against other individuals. Why all this focus on pedophiles? Is it trying to copy the Sun, and be more working class then thou? I think ultimately it is scaremongering.

Some anarchists defend mugging... I can think of one group which has produced stickers encouraging people to mug people in suits with briefcases but some prominent anarchists today still support paedophilia (like Bey) and like knightrose in the 70s lots more did. At work (library) we have a a load of pro-paedo propaganda which I had to copy - and it made me fucking sick to my stomach (even more than already) to see "anarchist" (not class struggle mind) material there - from groups still around today that I won't mention.

In the UK today there are quite a lot of paedos. From NCIS:

Quote:
The numbers of paedophiles

9.1 While the number of registered sex offenders in the UK is known to be over 18,000, it is not possible to say with any certainty how many active paedophiles there are in the UK. Between 1980 and 2001, almost 70,000 crimes were reported involving gross indecency with a child and unlawful sexual intercourse with a female child. But this figure excludes other reported offences against children, and moreover there is a concern that many sexual offences against children go unreported. Independent witnesses are rare, and there are numerous reasons why victims may be reluctant to come forward at the time that the abuse is taking place, including intimidation and misplaced feelings of guilt or embarrassment. The fact that victims often report abuse historically, once they have reached adulthood, means that some paedophiles may be active over a long period before coming to the attention of the authorities.

With muggers I read somewhere there might not be that many, just a small number who just mug all the time. I read an estimate for 200 in London I think, but can't remember where...

I think paedophilia is a good example of the disgustingly ridiculous positions lifestlyist anarchists extend to, worth mentioning due to the fact that it is about the most disgusting crime imaginable.

Jack, I think Paul was joking...

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PaulMarsh
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Apr 15 2006 13:17

No I was not joking re Bob Black v Bookchin, heresy that it is to praise Bob Black on these boards (horror of horrors, an anarchist who can actually write in an open populist style)

Chapter 5, in my opinion reddens Bookchin's arse.

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Apr 15 2006 19:14

One version of the "snitch" debate here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Black#Controversy

A taster from the other side of the fence here:

http://www.spunk.org/texts/reviews/sp001727.html

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OliverTwister
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Apr 15 2006 19:20
wikipedia wrote:
One altercation between Black and writer and alleged drug addict Jim Hogshire (author of the Loompanics book Opium For the Masses and the Feral House books Pills A Go-Go) resulted in Hogshire's arrest for possession of poppy pods with intent to manufacture opium. Black subsequently acknowledged that he had informed on Hogshire to the police, a claim that led to his alienation from some anarchist circles.

It is alleged that during the course of a dispute over religion (Hogshire proclaiming militant Islam), Mr. Hogshire aimed an M1 rifle at Mr. Black while blocking his exit. According to Black, Hogshire became incensed after Black "expound[ed] hermeneutics to Hogshire"[1]. Using Hogshire's wife as a human shield, Black maneuvered himself out of the house and escaped. Despite later accounts to the contrary, it was in fact Hogshire who first reported the incident to the police[2]. A month later, Black wrote a letter to the Seattle police claiming Hogshire was operating an illegal drug lab.[3] After news of this event became known, several bookstores, including Philadelphia's Wooden Shoe and Boston's Lucy Parsons Center stopped carrying Bob Black's books. Mike Hoy, owner and operater of Loompanics, sided with Hogshire and circulated a letter of support signed by himself and the ownership of Feral House. A legal defense fund was established and requests for donations were publicized by Loompanics.

Hogshire was indicted on the felony charge. Following his initial arrest bail was posted and Hogshire was released, after which he fled and was declared a fugitive. After a few months, his new lawyer negotiated his surrender and a guilty plea to a misdemeanor. The sentence was a fine, probation and community service. Hogshire and his wife later divorced and Hogshire (rumored to be addicted to heroin now) has not been heard from publicly since.

On another occasion, a member of the Church of the SubGenius, John Hagen-Brenner sent Black an "improvised explosive device consisting of an audio cassette holder wired with four cadium-type batteries, four flashbulbs, and five firecrackers" [4], as described in the charging document filed in Federal District Court. According to Black, he thought the package looked suspicious, then on impulse "threw it against the wall. There was a flash (the flashcubes) and a puff of smoke but the firecrackers did not go off." [5] Black turned the device in to the police. Black believes this is because of criticism Black made of the Church, and he has repeatedly brought up the incident in his writings concerning the Church. Ivan Stang and other members of the Church have denied any involvement in this incident, and no one else was charged.

On a previous occasion a member of Processed World allegedly assaulted him by slamming his head against a sidewalk because he did not like Black's criticism of the publication. Police records show it was Black who was arrested for assault - a fact which Black puts down to the individual in question calling the police after the incident. He subsequently sued the same individual for libel, in a case which he eventually dropped but which cost the defendant financially. Such incidents are sometimes represented by Black's opponents as a propensity to seek revenge by using the police and the courts, though this is contested by his supporters.

Chaz Bufe wrote:

Two years ago, Robert C. Black, Jr., attorney at law (also known as Bob Black and "The Last International") began to attack Processed World in various publications, among them Bluff, the SRAF Bulletin, and San Francisco's Appeal to Reason. Shortly after these printed attacks began, flyers were posted in the San Francisco financial district revealing the names of writers using pseudonyms in Processed World; this appears to have been an attempt to cause them to lose employment. (Most of the people who work on the magazine are office workers.) Flyers were also posted in staffers' neighborhoods vilifying them and listing their home addresses and telephone numbers. When staff members removed these violations of their privacy, there were immediate cries of "censorship" from Black's cronies. (There was, of course, no indication on the leaflets as to who produced or posted them.)

In 1984 the attacks were stepped up. Processed World's office lock was epoxied and in September a worker on the magazine received a middle-of-the-night death threat against her and her baby. In October, Robert C. Black, Jr., attorney at law, filed a complaint with the San Francisco Planning Commission over alleged zoning violations in Processed World's office. The following month, PW was forced to move after the Planning Commission discovered that the roof in its office was only seven feet high rather than the required eight. PW then moved to its present location in a warehouse shared with several other people. That same month an ax was placed through the magazine's office door in the middle of the night.

In 1985 things really got nasty. During the spring someone began slashing copies of the magazine with razor blades in bookstores in San Francisco and the East Bay. In April, flyers (again bearing no indication of their origin) urging that PW's new office be "torched," and which listed the new address, were posted in the financial district. In the same month Robert C. Black produced a xeroxed tract noteworthy primarily for his vicious personal attacks and disgusting vulgarity (calling one person whom he doesn't even know a "butt fuckee," for example). The next step was physical assault. On April 19, Black was arrested for physically assaulting a Processed World staff member hawking copies of the magazine on the sidewalks of the financial district. His arrest came about in a curious way. After the incident occurred, Black went running to the cops in an attempt to get the PW staffer arrested for assault. But fortunately, several passersby had witnessed the incident and identified Black as the assailant. So Black was arrested, hauled off and booked. In May he failed to show up for his arraignment on the battery charge and a warrant was issued for his arrest.Finally, in June, one of the residents of the warehouse in which Processed World has its office was returning home from a show at 3:00 a.m., and when he got home he found a person pouring gasoline all over the front of the building.

Mike Harman
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Apr 15 2006 23:49
Devrim wrote:
I don’t actually know much about Bookchin. Is he worth reading?

You won't like him on democracy, but as mentioned earlier Post Scarcity Anarchism is very good, if not representative of what he's like now.

Quote:
Why did he bother arguing with these people?

He was one of the first people discussing ecology in the '50s and '60s, then he saw the American Green part develop from an organisation he set up, liberal environmentalists, primmos and deep ecologists using some of this earlier work on organic communities to back up their misanthropic shit, and some of the people he worked with turned out to be mystics/individualists. I think he felt a responsibility to distance himself from that when his name was being used.

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The second thing I would like to know is what is the thing with the big (British?) anarchist obsession with pedophilia?

I think it's something that's developed on this forum rather than a general thing. It does piss me off a lot that someone relatively well known such as Bey appears to have gone relatively unchallenged for some time on stating that the Republic of Fiume (run by one of Mussolini's mates) was the "first anarchist state", along with tacking paedophilia onto anarchism. He's published by Autonomedia - may have run it at some point, the TAZ stuff, from what I remember, had a degree of popularity with the RTS/squat party scene during the '90s - certainly it was tied in with those sorts of actions, and his stuff is sold in a lot of radical bookshops. I think the paedophilia stuff gets mentioned so much because it's the absolute worst example of where lifestylism/individualism/mysticism leads to - supporting stuff like that. As with so much on this forum the original reason why it's brought up disappears over time and it looks very odd from outside.

Quote:

I read an interesting story in a Turkish newspaper about it, but I don’t know if it was true. Back when the Sun was having its ‘name, and shame’ campaign an angry mob burnt down the house of a pedophile in Southampton. Unfortunately, the guy turned out not to have been a pedophile at all, but a pediatrician. Easy mistake to make. Luckily the guy wasn’t in the house at the time.

Dev

Recently I heard some stuff that strongly contradicted this - apparently some kid spraypainted paedophile on a paediatrician's house - presumably as a joke. This was reported as a mob going round the house and burning it down, or there may have been two seperate incidents. Either way, although I can't remember where I saw it, the idea was put forward that this marked the beginning of the British media's attack on the white working class that's developed into the 'chav' phenomenon and other culturally based forms of recent class snobbery - "look at these stupid uneducated people who don't know what a paediatrician is" etc. - the hysteria around paedophiles becomes a mechanism for ridicule of those who often end up with people just out of prison being rehoused down the road from them.

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Apr 16 2006 08:34
PaulMarsh wrote:
Catch wrote:
Quote:

I read an interesting story in a Turkish newspaper about it, but I don’t know if it was true. Back when the Sun was having its ‘name, and shame’ campaign an angry mob burnt down the house of a pedophile in Southampton. Unfortunately, the guy turned out not to have been a pedophile at all, but a pediatrician. Easy mistake to make. Luckily the guy wasn’t in the house at the time.

Dev

Recently I heard some stuff that strongly contradicted this - apparently some kid spraypainted paedophile on a paediatrician's house - presumably as a joke. This was reported as a mob going round the house and burning it down, or there may have been two seperate incidents. Either way, although I can't remember where I saw it, the idea was put forward that this marked the beginning of the British media's attack on the white working class that's developed into the 'chav' phenomenon and other culturally based forms of recent class snobbery - "look at these stupid uneducated people who don't know what a paediatrician is" etc. - the hysteria around paedophiles becomes a mechanism for ridicule of those who often end up with people just out of prison being rehoused down the road from them.

Agree with Catch's analysis.

There is no evidence of a house burning incident, but the attack on a paedetrician's office DID happen:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/901723.stm

Personally I see no point in going down the chav discussion route here - I just see this as on a par with the people in Hartlepool who hung a monkey thinking it was a French spy...

Or it was all a big joke....

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Apr 16 2006 10:32

I think that possibly you are right, Catch. I have seen this term ‘chav’ in the English media, and while I am not 100% sure what it actually means, I do get the feeling that it is part of some form of snobbery in the media. I originally brought up the incident as an example of media scaremongering. I think that both of them are dangerous.

There are lots of scare campaigns in the media. Even if John’s remarks on the prevalence of pedophiles are true, your kids are in much more danger of being knocked down, and killed by a car. Yet nobody is talking about banning them. The last time I was in London (About two years ago I visited a friend who was working there for six months) I remember feeling afraid walking on the streets at night. I mentioned this to my friend, who replied that the worse thing about street crime is the fear that it creates. I think the media does create this attitude. Recently, an Irish friend of ours was staying with us, and he was shocked about the way that people in this country behave with children. For example it is quite normal for someone on an over crowded bus to ask a standing child to either squeeze in besides them on their chair or to sit on their knee. Even children who they don’t know. He said that you would get arrested for that in Ireland. Do we have less pedophiles here, or is there just less of a scare about it?

Dev

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Apr 16 2006 11:15
Devrim wrote:
Recently, an Irish friend of ours was staying with us, and he was shocked about the way that people in this country behave with children. For example it is quite normal for someone on an over crowded bus to ask a standing child to either squeeze in besides them on their chair or to sit on their knee. Even children who they don’t know. He said that you would get arrested for that in Ireland.

Dev

Unless you were a priest of course!

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Apr 23 2006 15:24

I can remember the AWG well, they were a right laugh ! When they were around though, it was different times, it was pre message boards and internet, with more publications, more public meetings ect. I would imagine, that if they were still around they would be enthusiastic message board posters. They were all really young, nearly all of them were under twenty five, had been to university, come from relatively privileged backgrounds and so on, not that any of that mattered. They were though, very keen on going to other groups meetings, and lecturing them on the shortcomings of their politics. Everyone at that time was plagued by them, SWP, ACF, class war, they could be a right pain in the arse.

It went something like this, if you can picture the scene, early nineties, class war international conference Shoreditch town hall, monday morning, first day of a week long event. A class war member opens the meeting with a brief introductory speech from the chair, there is maybe three hundred or so people in the hall. It's then opened to the floor, with an invitation for anybody who wishes, to speak. A hand goes up, "My name is so and so, and im from the Anarchist Workers Group" who speaks and speaks and speaks, until the chair intervenes and says "Do you think you could wind it up now mate, and let someone else speak" Another invitation to the floor, another hand goes up, "My name is so and so, and im from the Anarchist Workers Group" speak, speak, speak, speak, another intervention from the chair "Please wind it up" And so on, and so forth, all week long, every meeting, in fact, every meeting that class war had at that time, every meeting everybody had at that time. And my memory of it is, that when they engaged with class war, they got slaughtered, time after time.

They had some strange ideas for would be anarchists, very heavily into theory, which is fair enough as far as it goes. More problematic though, was their idea that some kind of cadre based organisation should lead the way. The funny thing is though, that the group that lectured all and sundry on the error of their ways, and supposedly had it all sorted in terms of theory and ideas, in no time at all, disappeared up it's own arse. A couple of them go into Workers Power, but even worse, a couple of them ended up in the enfeebled and decrepit remnant of the RCP.

I had a bit of a soft spot for them, they were after all some enjoyable arguments. But as I said before, and nobody took me up on this ? they remind me a lot of some libcom posters, particularly that Colchester Anarchist Group lot ! Make no mistake, if the AWG was still around that's what some of you would be involved in, you would have got on like a house on fire, just a feeling ! smile red star

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Dec 23 2011 16:32

Sorry to re-open a thread that was last added to over five years ago, but I'd like to add a little of my perspective, if I may, as someone who was involved from the early days of the AWG but left before the mass defection to the Revolutionary Communist Party (if a handful of people can be classed as a mass defection). I came upon this thread during a bored moment at work, so apologies if the response is a little more rambling than it should be. My view is that the demise of the group was as much about small group dynamics as it was about politics, though it would be daft to claim that the political trajectory the group embarked on wasn't an issue.

The AWG had a distinct leadership in a handful of theoreticians who were probably smarter and/or more dedicated than the rest of us and generated the bulk of the group's output. They imposed a certain pressure on the group and on themselves to come up with a complete set of theoretical positions on everything in an insanely short space of time. Some of us struggled to keep up and tended to let things go that we should have probably opposed more vehemently. The pressure to develop positions quickly was probably one of the factors in some of those positions ending up a little too close to refried Trotskyism for comfort... along with the pathologically oppositional streak within the group that wanted to distinguish itself from the rest of the anarchist movement.

I don't by any means think all the members of the informal core group particularly coveted a leadership role, although the adoption of the cadre bullshit did tend to formalise that situation: rather, leadership was kind of thrust upon them as the key architects of most of the group's policies and strategy - and this was compounded by a certain amount of hero worship from some group members, especially as some of the leaders were quite charismatic individuals. Within the leadership group were some who did appear to fetishise Leninism to a degree (or were at least overly fascinated by it and by its percieved contrasts to anarchism's percieved failings) and others who appeared to fetishise their own intellectual prowess (and others who just wanted to wind up other anarchists). All of this lent itself to a certain air of smugness that probably did as much as the actual politics to alienate the AWG from the rest of the movement. This was exacebated by a degree of groupthink where a sizable proportion of the membership took on these characteristics to a greater or lesser extent.

In common with the much of the rest of the anarchist movement, the AWG couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery, though it very much wanted to project a self-created image of itself as a brutally efficient, highly organised political machine. In some ways, the fetishing of theoretical and tactical unity was a substitute for organisation - if everyone could argue a recognisable line, we could hide the fact that some of us had a pretty rudimentary grasp of it. The derision about 'organisational solutions to political problems' was symptomatic of this failure. Attempts had been made to do internal education, but again, this was an organisation aiming for too much too quickly and didn't stand a cat in hell's chance of keeping up with itself. It didn't help that some of us were already a bit burned out by the (dis)organsational side of anarchism by the time the AWG was founded, whilst others weren't confident enough or inclined to take on organisational roles. It also occurs to me that the key leadership would have been better off setting themselves up as some kind of anarchist thinktank rather than as a political organisation. That was certainly where their strengths lay.

Amongst some of the membership, the orientation towards the RCP was there quite a long time before the group dissolved. Whilst this orientation wasn't shared by all of us and indeed some of us were quite hostile to it, it came as no surprise when the SFB rump jumped ship. It was always on the cards. Interestingly, as I recall the first defection was to the SWP and came from an AWG member who had come to the group from CWF. I suspect the AWG was just a rest stop on a longer journey.

I think that ultimately the AWG threw the baby out with the bathwater. It was so focused on setting itself up in contrast to the rest of the anarchists that by increment it stopped being an anarchist group either organisationally or politically. It probably should have listened a lot more carefully to warnings from the WSM and and some of the older ACF members who'd been there and done that in the 70s. But as a group it was young and arrogant and fiesty and was never going to take any notice of anyone else - plus I think some of the members enjoyed flirting with Leninism. That's one of the reasons I jumped ship... and the fact it was a bloody exhausting organisation to be part of.

I still see some of the ex-members socially from time to time, although we don't necessarily see eye to eye politically, so this is not an attempt to dish the dirt, just one person's possibly flawed perspective. One thing I will say, though, is that we were the best dressed anarchists around. And we had the best record collections... and were we never less than sincere, even when we were wrong.

syndicalist
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Dec 23 2011 16:38

Not to reply 5 years later....but I was just the other day reading the AWG review of the Direct Action Movement's pamphlet "Winning the Class War" (in "Socialism from Below" magazine).
I suppose this is one of the benefits of cleaning out our old office...organizational fioles that haven't been read for decades are being re-read.

The magazine was well laid out and quality published. But it was a pretty sucky review .... as was the politics of the group in relations to anarcho-syndicalism. Sorry, just being candid.

nastyned
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Dec 23 2011 18:44

Interesting post Spleen.

Martin O Neill
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Dec 23 2011 19:49

I think I am going to enjoy reading this thread about the good old days over Christmas. How long before L&S go the same way as the AWG?

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Serge Forward
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Dec 23 2011 23:44
Spleen Cringe wrote:
One thing I will say, though, is that we were the best dressed anarchists around.

I seem to remember a few of you were well into yer flat-tops. I often wondered what happened to you lot, as those who didn't join the RCP seemed to disappear out of politics.

sawa
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Dec 24 2011 05:14

Interesting, what did AWG actually, do what activity were they involved in, what influence on mass movements? Presuming they did more than intellectualise and argue with the left of course. tongue

Martin O Neill wrote:
I think I am going to enjoy reading this thread about the good old days over Christmas. How long before L&S go the same way as the AWG?

How long before Solfed go the same way as AWG?
Sectarianism = boring.

martinh
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Dec 24 2011 11:37

Well they did a lot of intellectualising and arguing (and agreeing) with the left. IIRC they had a small presence in the CPSA and got workers in one DSS in South London to take action against the poll tax. It was token, but it was still an achievement. They were present in the anti poll tax struggle, though I recall them derailing an anti-poll tax conference by attacking the Labour Party as racist. I've no problem with their line of argument per se, but the timing was awful. Mind you this was in the context of Militant (now SP) shutting out all political organisations not affiliated to the Labour Party, aimed at the SWP, it had the effect of guaranteeing large paper votes for all the dead LP branches that they controlled, as well as all the LPYS etc. We (DAM) argued that there should be no political affiliation, only anti-poll tax groups and union branches should be involved. Needless to say the Militant won that vote, ironically that policy would ban their current incarnation from affiliating to any anti-poll tax group.

They did a fair bit around the first Iraq war, which is where they ended up having lots of rows with anarchists as they were effectively arguing support for Saddam with their anti-imperialist line. There is an archive of their material on the struggle.ws site I think so you can find more there if you're really interested.

They were always pally with the left socially and I think this led them to mistake an orientation to the left with one to the working class. Of the main leaders in London, one ended up in Workers Power, the other, who had studied under RCP guru Frank Furedi, in the RCP.

I only ever see one of them anymore, he never joined the RCP or anything and I think would still consider himself an anarchist.

BTW I don't think its sectarian to draw parallels between groups that have a similar point of departure. L&S is a split from the AF rather than DAM/SF, but draws on similar political traditions to the AWG and is also characterised by charismatic leaders and rejection of much of anarchism.

Regards,

Martin