Anarcho-syndicalism in Australia

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smush
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Mar 26 2007 05:14
Anarcho-syndicalism in Australia

hey all,
smush writing here from Aotearoa (NZ). could someone tell me a bit about the recent history of anarcho-syndicalism in Australia and the current situation? Groups? Locals? Publications? How many members? Contacts with the IWA? Splits (and why)? etc.

(i've tried but just don't get it...) thanks!

smush
ps. i'm hoping to go to the international syndicalist conference in Paris in late April. If others from the region are going, PM me. chur

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jason
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Mar 26 2007 23:12

Did you see Jeremy's post in the "Contact with Australian Anarchists" thread? He gave a brief outline there of recent history quoted below. I hope he and others have the time to expand on that here.

Quote:
Firstly, to answer Dublin Dave's question "what is the relationship between asn and the ASF?" or words to that effect; the answer is basically "not good, but no longer of enough significance to be very bad". There was an IWA affilliate called the ASF back in 1992 which split, roughly between Melbourne and Sydney, both sides claiming to be the ongoing entity. I featured in these events as did Mark. Mark was in Sydney, I was in Melbourne but sided when push came to shove with Sydney. The Melbourne group faded out of existence and then back in, although it was hard to see what it did except claim IWA membership. The Sydney group continued to exist as a network of likeminded activists but dropped the formal apparatus. An IWA investigator eventually came out and reported favourably to Melbourne. He was in my view very wrong to do this but we "Sydney ASF" took this, with I think some relief, as our licence to depart the IWA and changed our name to the asn. The "Melbourne ASF" has continued to fade in and out of existence, and has continued in my view to be almost entirely pointless. There was at one stage even a Perth and Sydney group, and there is something going on now I think because just the other week I ran into a young woman who said she belonged to "the ASF". But the days of practical hostility are I think pretty much over.

One thing I have kept going over the last few years is a small event celebrating the great victory of the IWW in world war one. Australia, alone of all the belligerents in world war one had no conscription and this is thanks above all to the Australian IWW which won a famous victory against the war machine. Australians celebrate the war machine on April 25, ANZAC Day, and a few of us celebrate the real heroes of the war on that day. (It is a significant action in the Australian context, I don't have time right now to explain why, must pick up kids from school!) Through organizing this got in touch with Melbourne IWW, some of whom I knew in pre-split ASF. The Melbourne IWW is indeed very small, but we are indeed taking serious stock of the way forward. Some of its members are very active indeed in broader "defend the unions stuff", not so much yet in under our own flag
IWW stuff.

Must run.; solidarity to all, J

jeremytrewindixon
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Mar 27 2007 07:48

At the time and for some years afterwards I spent a lot of time re-fighting the ASF Wars, culminating in a long series of posts on what was then the AIT-IWA-
talk e-mail list and is now the anarchosyndicalism list. Some of it is still in the archives of that list, and I also have some of it on my files. I have no doubt that the comrade I was chiefly in conflict with has every word saved. I have to say that most people found it very unpleasant to read, and I (and no doubt my adversaries) also found it unpleasant to write. Maybe I should stow some of it in the library here? The IWA list had to put up with it because it concerned an IWA section you see.

But you might find, jason, that your interest in the ASF Wars is short-lived. They were not inspiring, and the aftermath was disgusting.

jeremytrewindixon
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Mar 27 2007 07:50

But as a contribution to answering smush's question, try:
http://www.rebelworker.org/

rata
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Mar 27 2007 12:58
jeremytrewindixon wrote:
The IWA list had to put up with it because it concerned an IWA section you see

You are talking about the list which didn't have any organic links with IWA as International. It was mailing list created by an individual which used, without agreement being made on the international level, the name of IWA-AIT.

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Steven.
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Mar 27 2007 13:02
jeremytrewindixon wrote:
Maybe I should stow some of it in the library here?

Yes that could be useful. Could we take a look at some of it from which to make a decision?

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Tojiah
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Mar 27 2007 13:37
smush wrote:
hey all,
smush writing here from Aotearoa (NZ).

What is it with people calling New Zealand Aotearoa? Or is it a part of New Zealand? This (libcom.org) is the only place where I've ever seen this word used.

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 27 2007 14:04

i think it's the maori name for NZ, it's used on indymedia too i think.

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Anarchia
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Mar 27 2007 23:18

Yeah, Aotearoa is the Maori name for NZ.

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Tojiah
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Mar 27 2007 23:20
Asher wrote:
Yeah, Aotearoa is the Maori name for NZ.

Okay. Then why use that instead of New Zealand? Kind of confusing for foreigners, isn't it?

jeremytrewindixon
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Mar 28 2007 06:49

By popular demand, a couple of posts of mine nearly eight years after the ASF split. And there is more my friends where that came from. Much much more. And if one goes beyond the archives of the anarcho-syndicalism list there is much more again. The report to the IWA which precipitated the "Sydney faction" leaving the IWA and rebadging as the asn was printed in Rebel Worker with only the names changed....."to protect the guilty" as they say.

This is probably as much about the Australian split as anyone wants to know, and a bit more.
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AIT-IWA-talk] Marking Time
jeremy dixon medyewsa@hotmail.com
Wed May 10 23:07:51 2000

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Leigh's stuff on the 1992 split again. However ludicrous it may seem this,
from Leigh's viewpoint, is the real issue; all this attempt to pretend that
the ASN racists etc being merely tactical moves to make us rue the day that
the Melbourne and Sydney groups of the then ASF-IWA, the only groups
affiliated at the time, varied procedurally from Leigh's wishes.

I've been over this a few times in the last few years (!); there is no point
covering the same ground forever. Maybe there should be a joint pamphlet or
something....we could discuss the details on lawandanarchy, Leigh, as an
interesting case study.

However; the nub of it is easily grasped. The issue is whether groups newly
affiliated at an ASF Congress had the right to vote at that Congress. They
did not have such a right; that this obvious point of practice was assumed
by the statutes is shown by (1) the fact that delegates to vote needed to be
endorsed by an affiliated group and (2) the fact that decisions of the
Congress had to be ratified by the member groups. So the decision to admit a
body of people as a member group of the ASF did not come into effect until
after the Congress.

The Congress, Melbourne and Sydney groups together, gave effect to this
accepted substantive principle by (I wasn't there myself, and neither was
Leigh) formally supporting the admission of the candidate groups after the
only matter which required a vote. This was Melbourne's proposal to remove
RW as the paper of the ASF (so it would become the paper of the Sydney
group) Melbourne was in effect serving notice of its future intentions; as
it knew that the vote would be stalemated 1-1.

I'm losing the machine, but this gripping saga will be continued shortly!

-Jeremy

[AIT-IWA-talk] Mark of the Beast
jeremy dixon medyewsa@hotmail.com
Thu May 11 19:21:41 2000

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The gripping saga continues, part 1 is repeated for your reading convenience
below.

Lucky you and lucky me.

Anyway Melbourne knew that the vote to remove RW as paper of the Federation
would stalemated 1-1 and therefore lost. I'm well placed to know of
Melbourne's expectations as I and another member were the dissenting voices
to this proposition. It was pointed out to us in that meeting by the person
who became our delegate to the Congress that as the new groups to be
affiliated would not be able to vote until next Congress; there would still
be time for the matter to be decided otherwise. The minutes to that meeting
are unfortunately in Leigh's hands, and I can't remember who took them, but
I would hope this discussion is referred to there.

We all knew that the groups to be affiliated could be expected to vote
against Rebel Worker. If things had gone as they procedurally should then,
barring some sudden enlightenment, the anti-RW push would have had its way
at the next Congress or at a Special Congress; or (and I don't have a copy
of the 1992 statutes in front of me) I think it could have been done through
the inter-Congress postal decision making procedures available. Sydney, in
agreeing to the affiliation of the new groups, knew that this meant the
eventual end of RW's federal status.

Leigh was not however content with that. It is necessary at this point to
explain some background....hopefully this will go some way to _ending_ this
matter. I have been careful not to identify anyone but Leigh and me, who are
pretty much in the public domain at this stage!

_Rebel Worker_ had become the symbol of the dissensions within the ASF,
which was rapidly involving or or degenerating as an anarcho-syndicalist
group; people in Melbourne tending to return to whence politically they had
come before adopting anarcho-syndicalism; there was general climate of
disenchantment with class struggle. Green issues, with others, were commonly
counterposed as a stick to beat class-struggle arguments. There had always
been this tendency in Melbourne; we paid (at least in theory) 10% of our
dues to some commune in NSW, and the interest in public transport unionism
was greatly helped by the fact that here environmnetal and class concerns
came together. (As a worker in a car factory, my requests for help did not
attract much interest)

When Melbourne ASF was riding high, with at one stage 3 viable groups,
class-struggle interests and other melded together well enough most of the
time. In the degeneration of the early 1990's they began to be counterposed
by supporters of "green politics"; there is some sign of this in the
internal bulletins of the period. This feeling took the concrete form of
hostility to _Rebel Worker_. It may seem bizarre that a paper which was
engaged in publishing the complete works of Grahame Purchase should be
accused of ignoring environmental issues, but so it was. The anti-RW push
was pretty much fact proof. The problem was not that it didn't have enough
about the environment but that it had too much about class.

Of course, there had always been disputes about the editorial policy of the
paper, this is natural and healthy. RW stayed too long in the hands of the
Sydney group; but the Melbourne groups were not prepared to take it on. The
split motion in 1992 was *not* to recall the editors of RW, and *not* to
replace it with another federal paper; the motion was in effect to have no
federal paper at all. Every issue which anyone had ever had or thought
they'd had with _Rebel Worker_ was grafted on to the basic complaint;
sometimes voiced sometimes not; it was too industrial, it had too much about
class.

I tried to play a contructive role in healing these tensions; (and naturally
ended being blamed for them as co-demon with Mark!)

For example I helped form a "Green" Special Commission of the ASF and gave a
public talk for it (the others having declined this job) on an Anarchist
approach to sewerage. (Waste Disposal from the Bottom Up! Riddle of the
Sphincters!) I had a lot of fun researching it, and discussed it a lot with
my fellow car workers who were helpful. None came to the public meeting but
maybe next time. There was no next time, as my fellow members of the
commission proceeded to leave the ASF, the apparent satisfaction of their
grievance having apparently clarified for them what they had really wanted.
Last I heard these particular comrades continue to be active
environmentalists, continue to be on good terms with all parties and take no
part in the ASF wars.

As for the problem with RW I proposed the formation of a Melbourne local
paper, which became _Burning Issue_. The editor (whose selection I
supported) was especially interested in squatting and the like. When it was
proposed to knock off RW, I suggested a compromise; that _Burning Issue_ be
carried as a supplement to _Rebel Worker_. This became the Melbourne
proposal which was to be taken to Congress; and it may well have saved the
ASF. But then.....disaster struck.

Grievances against me personally had been accumulating in the Melbourne
group for a while, and acted as a focus for the more general
tensions. I was probably difficult enough; a lot was happening in my life at
the time, none of it very nice. Some comrades thought more highly of
themselves than I did of them, and no doubt I didn't always conceal this
very well. But a lot of it was just that a scapegoat was needed for the
genral malaise, and the local supporter of the "Sydney position" was the
obvious candidate. Also suiting me for this role was that I didn't live in
the inner suburbs at the time, I hadn't been to england (and didn't defer
enough to those who had) and so on. One comrade wanted to fuck an ex girlf
of mine, and believed quite mistakenly I was the obstacle to that delicious
conjunction. His conclusion was that I was "sexist", and he shared this
conclusion with others, and even gave it as his reason for leaving the ASF,
without explaining his bias. Another comrade got cold feet (for perfectly
good reasons) in an action which brought me a lot of publicity; and was
pretty much out for my blood ever since. Apparently feeling, mistakenly,
that he had lost face. And so on. Rightly or wrongly, I refused to engage on
this level. Wrongly, I guess.

Leigh, of course, was collecting grievances against various people. The
particular grievance against me centred on the fact that he was squatting in
the ASF meeting room at the time (although employed and quite able to get a
room in a hotel) and resented meetings taking place in what he regarded as
his sleeping quarters. I wasn't the only person to have words with him about
that, but I was the target of choice.

There are plenty more memories like this, but no doubt you are getting the
drift. After 8 years I am tired of ignoring the often ludicrously petty
reasons for the split. This may seem too personal etc, but it has the virtue
of being the motivating part of the truth.

Then there was the ill-fated intervention at a trot meeting at Kronstadt.
Heaps of Anarchists went but only one of them actually knew something about
the subject, and that was me. It sounds conceited but it is true. Given half
a chance I was able to shoot the trot arguments down in flames; and
hopefully alienate a few trot neophytes for their party. I asked the other
Anarchists to give me such a chance by refraining from giving the trot
leaders an excuse to close the meeting....this was certainly ill-judged on
my part but it was well intended. I do not share the trottophbia of many
Anarchists, especially those who live submerged in the Anarchist ghetto, and
had reason to believe that it was possible to turn a section of this group
to Anarchism.

At the next meeting Leigh attempted to have me expelled over this matter. He
hadn't been attending meetings for, from memory, about 6 months, brooding
over his wrongs. Others who hadn't been seen for a while turned up
especially to prevent the expulsion. But, more disaster...at previous
meetings I had been asking for help in the car industry. Comrades felt that
the car industry was ideologically unsound (even those who drive cars which
I do not)and were not very enthusiastic. But a proposal came to produce a
poster glorifying a small "riot" that had occurred at the local Ford plant
some years ago. I said fine, but if it is going to impress car workers then
you will have to explain what good it did for the workers; you are talking
about people with families here....On first enquiry it turned out that the
little riot had achieved nothing at all, so I reckoned that the poster ought
to take another tack. Speaking as a car worker myself. There was a dummy
spit, and this matter conjoined with Leigh's proposal at the next meeting.

At that meeting the poster-proposer wanted an agreement that he and I should
turn up at alternate meetings. His tack was that I was a talker but not an
activist and he couldn't stand it....at the time I was facing down almost
daily threats of violence at work, where I was also involved in necessarily
underground propaganda, and was awaiting trial on two summary offences
arising from ASF actions, and was playing my part in the bureacratic load of
the ASF. So this accusation can hardly have been meant literally, I think it
decoded as "doesn't necessarily agree with me". In any case, I said that
this was an expulsion motion is disguise; if it got up I would defy it and
force an honest expulsion.

At the end of the meeting I was not expelled but some people were pretty
unhappy. The solution dreamed up by Leigh was to start a new group
"Melbourne North" for all people who didn't like Jeremy; or who didn't want
to be ostracised by Leigh and his friends If that sounds childish....I can't
help it. And then, to to put personal pressure on everyone to join the new
group; as I have said Leigh does have formidable social skills. The idea was
to effect an expulsion without the annoyance of stating the grounds. It
didn't come off, and we ended up with a smaller Melbourne group and a
"Melbourne North" group applying for affiliation at the next Congress; soon
to be joined by the Unwaged Workers Movement, which had split form another
unemployed group.

But; (and here we get back to start of this rave) the people who had
supported the RW compromise, Burning Issue as a supplement remember, went
with the "Melbourne North" candidate group. The people now in the
Melbourne group did not mostly agree with my support for RW; and voted to
change the Melbourne submission to straightforwardly removing RW as afederal
paper.

Someone else has booked my computer and I must go!

So part 111 will come!

I wanna be played by Drew Carey.

-Jeremy

[AIT-IWA-talk] Marking Time of the Beast
jeremy dixon medyewsa@hotmail.com
Thu May 11 22:31:42 2000

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OK, part 3 of hopefully the last run-down of the Glorious Devolution of 1992
to appear on this list.

So now, we have a Melbourne Group, a Sydney Group; a proposal from the
Melbourne Group to remove RW as federation paper; two candidate groups
seeking admission, one to be called Melbourne North which consisted of
ex-members of the Melbourne Group who were, I gather, a little stunned at
the turn of events. Melbourne North had some cross-membership witht the
Unwaged Workers Movement (the other candidate group); and quickly began to
founder. I know this because I overheard Leigh begging a member of the UWM,
who was also a member of MN, to come to the MN meeting so they could make
their quorum of three. Again. The member was protesting that he was sick of
doing this. The MN was bound together only by hatreds and resentments; and
it was common knowledge that it was initiated by Leigh as a tool for a
failed coup rather than bona fides, so its problems were not surprising.

So there is some doubt that the candidate groups were genuinely functioning
by the time of the Congress, which is another issue. At most, by my
impression, there was enough support for one group between the two of them.
(Stacking is endemic to the federal structure type, but that again is
another issue)

Now, as I explained in a previous post (Marking Time) it was quite clear
from the statutes that a new group could not vote at the Congress at which
it joined. The trouble was that (so far as I know) no Congress had ever had
a vote before, decisions were meant to be reached by consensus if possible;
previously the delegates from new groups had been known to everyone present
and had of course joined in discussions; the relevant statutes had not
mattered as there was no need to count heads for the decision. Furthermore
the people who joined Melbourne Noorth probably felt all the time as if they
were ASF memebers entitled to a voice.

For these reasons Leigh was able to persuade some people that Melbourne and
Sydney were in the wrong....or, I suspect, to pretend to believe that the
decision was wrong; and MN seconded by the UWM put up a motion for a Special
Congress to have Sydney expelled for not allowing MN and UWM delegates to
vote at the Congress theywere admitted at. There is logical problem here, it
seems, in that the decisions of Congress had to be ratified by the groups to
certify that correct procedure had been followed. If correct procedure had
been followed then there was no issue; while if it had not then there was a
good argument that the whole Congress was void. If the Congress was void
then of course the MN and UWM had never been admitted to the ASF and had no
standing...Furthermore there was no move to expel Melbourne which was also
party to the crime of applying the statutes; actually there could not have
been becuase groups can only be expelled one at a time. As Leigh boasted,
intitally, the intention of the expulsion motion was intimidate Sydney, as
it was assumed that Melbourne would vote against the expulsion...another of
Leigh's brilliant organizational ploys; like the founding of MN.

Anyway. Sydney refused to recognise the Special Congress. I agreed with them
on this; and here is the nub of the matter. The intention of the Special
Congress was to expel the Sydney Group for *keeping* the statutes. If they
had been falsely accused of breaking the statutes the Congress would still
have been valid....but they were truly accused of *keeping* the statutes. In
terms of bourgeois law it was the equivalent of convicting someone of
*failing to commit a crime*. Such a verdict condemns only the court. It was
vitiated by bad faith. By deciding to spit on the ASF statutes, to breach
the agreements which bound them as part of the ASF it was the MN and UWM
which separated themselves form the ASF.

Well Melbourne did not in fact send a delegate (exactly on what grounds I
don't know as I was working shift when the meeting was held, and things
moved very fast from here on in)although one Melbourne person turned upas an
observer and another turned up as Fed Sec (or so I hear); Sydney didn't
recognise the Congress so it didn't turn up; the MN and the UWM delegates
proceeded to vote Sydney's expulsion.

At the next Melbourne meeting I and another member declared for Sydney , and
two of the other three active members (there were others who dropped in fom
time to time) said they were resigning and the group dissolved. The
secretary of Melbourne recognised the validity of the expulsion (which was a
bit much as he had been Melbourne's delegate at the Congress and knew
better) and gave the books to MN, in effect to Leigh.

After some confusion both melbourne and Sydney claimed the title of ASF-IWA.
The UWM disappeared first; and then the MN shrivelled down to Leigh; who in
his won eyes "became" the IWA. Burning Issue was printed for a while but
also snuffed out.

Which us to to......the end of this aprt of the exciting saga.

Any questions?

Luv, Jeremy

AIT-IWA-talk] History Note
jeremy dixon medyewsa@hotmail.com
Tue May 16 05:31:10 2000

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>
> > You haven't commented on my account of the dynamics of the Melbourne
>group
> > leading up the split.....Is there anything in that you would like to
> > contradict? Another simple question.
> >
> > Ho hum.
> >
> > -Jeremy
> >
> >
>I don't respond to insults, I don't see the point.

That'd be a "No" then; there is nothing you want to contradict? I appreciate
your honesty this time.

Of course I understand that to you my references to you will seem unfairly
derogatory; and I'd have to say that sparing your feelings has ceased to be
one of my big priorities. But history rather than insult was my aim.

-Jeremy

yuda
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Mar 29 2007 08:27
tojiah wrote:
Asher wrote:
Yeah, Aotearoa is the Maori name for NZ.

Okay. Then why use that instead of New Zealand? Kind of confusing for foreigners, isn't it?

Actually it tends to be white foreigners that tend to bring this up as an issue, An APOC friend of mine who's travelled extensivly to hui (meetings) for the global south has commented that this is not much of a problem as most of the people attending are used to using more indiginous place names than one's given to them by white colonisers.

It's probably no more confusing than calling Ayers Rock, Uluru and anyway you know it now so it shouldn't be an issue next time eh?

syndicalist
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Joined: 15-04-06
Apr 26 2007 05:39

jeremytrewindixon wrote:
The IWA list had to put up with it because it concerned an IWA section you see
rata:
You are talking about the list which didn't have any organic links with IWA as International. It was mailing list created by an individual which used, without agreement being made on the international level, the name of IWA-AIT.

Reply:

Actually, it was started by members of an IWA Section as an informal electronic discussion board. At the time of it's initiation, IWA communication's were done as printed mail outs and periodic faxes. As more and more IWA members were becoming wired, the list seemed an appropriate way for IWA members to discuss matters (informally) and to share information (both formally and informally).

At no time did the IWA Secretariat or any of its affiliates asked the list to change its name or cease operations. There was a later discussion by some of its more frequent users to explore a name change. This never happened. The list hasn't been used in ages and is probably no longer up.