Aotearoa anarchist and anti-state communist movement

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asn
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Feb 10 2007 10:44

I like this kind of idea Mark. But how do you initially get off the ground if you're outside the strategic sector?

- via contacts made, and a little dash of "salting" could help
- its also a question of being motivated seek out such contacts, -doing the "Hard Yards" of constantly following up possible contacts - friends of friends etc (in the case of the formation of the nucleus which formed the rank and file movement in the BLF in NSW in the 1950's - the Communist Party activitists - brought together members and contacts they had there also other leftwing types see Paul True's Pamphlet "Rolling the Right" on the NSW BLF in the 1950's-60's)
- upto 1985 we had no transport contacts/members -
Howevever the NSW sparks lauching was greatly helped via contacts made with the distribution of the deceased "Victorian Sparks" 1986-1991 in Sydney- for several years before the NSW Sparks was launched in 1990 (the distribution on a regular basis of the NSW Sparks in other states in australia eg qld, Vic, SA etc today could also result in contacts being made via regular readers who are transport workers and later become contributers via interviews - would create the basis for relevant sections in the current NSW Sparks and the eventual launching of Sparks editions in these other states
- also one of our members got a job in the buses and made a valuable contact there despite this member not lasting very long -a few months -- another member who joined us in the late 1980's worked in a key depot in the railways in Sydney - later on key militants connected with at least one militant network in transport became involved -they saw the paper of use in their activity - if you have ever seen the film "On the Waterfront" - you may get some idea of the climate in sectors of transport which these militants have to face - its very tough in many sectors and they recognise the value of serious sustained help they get - they are very experienced people and of course ensure the control of any content of theirs for publication
mark

yuda
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Feb 10 2007 23:39

I was speaking with a couple of anarchists liast night and the conversation looked at several of the questions which were originally posed. The one thing we all argreed on that was an improving situation was the re-emergence of syndacalist and union activity amongst the younger anarchists/activists. 5 or 6 years ago there was little in the way of syndacalist thought and as poo mentioned "class" was almost a dirty word.

I felt it could have somethiing to do with local activists starting to look at the issues at home instead of jumping onto the latest overseas (usually US) bandwagon.

Torrance
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Feb 11 2007 02:43

Interesting discussion so far. In answer to the original questions:

1. Fairly low ebb in terms of purely anarchist organisation: only one organised anarchist group (that exists without much direction), no regular publications, no organised involvement as anarchists in any major campaign or struggle.

2. 2006 was OK in slightly broader terms for the "movement": widespread anarchist involvement in Progressives dispute (but mainly as individuals, and widespread disillusionment with NDU), significant youth activity early in 2006 (school walkout being the most significant of these), successful Weapons Conference protest (mass militant protest)...

3. We grow the movement by having a sense of direction and at least some outline of a strategy. At present this simply doesn't exist, and most anarchists occupy themselves with scattergun tactics and single issue campaigns without understanding how to (attempt to) transform these into generalised revolts.

4. We need some way to develop some sort of collective direction, but this doesn't yet call for an anarchist organisation, as far as I can tell. In the cases of both ART and Wildcat I've felt that, once these groups were established, they realised they had no idea about what to actually do. In the case of Wildcat they have mainly since been preoccupied with discussions (worthwhile of course) and group maintenance.

As my god Malatesta would say, work out what to do first, organisation follows as a result and as necessary. Don't fetishise organisation for its own sake.

Torrance
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Feb 11 2007 02:55
Omar wrote:
This is the most frustrating thing in aotearoa anarchism at the moment. Anarchism is historically a working class movement for class liberation. However so often anarchism is a bunch of hippy or punk types running around wearing patches and calling themselves anti-authoritarians.

Actually, anarchism has always had elements of bohemianism and non-working-class elements. I personally agree with Bookchin that it is those who are most impoverished but least integrated into capitalist relations that are the new "revolutionary agents", and the best example in the history of anarchism is the newly-displaced peasantry forced into wage slavery: they provided both the energy and militancy of both the Spanish and Russian revolutions. In contrast, the indistrial proletariat was quite well disciplined to the dictates of the workplace and was less inclined to anti-authoritarian revolt.

I think its unfair to dismiss "hippy or punk" types simply because they wear patches, etc. Nor are they (always) disaffected middle class youths biding their time before they enter middle class professions as they are so often protrayed. Often they are disaffected working class youths whose propensity for militancy can be higher than the integrated working class.

Revolt usually comes first of all from the fringes, and this includes disaffected youths, immigrant communities, indigenous people, queer cultures, etc., and only then spreads.

Torrance
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Feb 11 2007 03:12
Omar wrote:
thats why the tino rangatiratanga movement can mobilise thouands again and again causte the idenity politics that mould the movement are so strong.

people seem to forget that working class politics is identity based as well.

I'd disagree. To be painfully Marxist for just one second, class is a description of "objective" conditions: one's relations to the means of production, for example. It becomes a matter of identity depending on how people organise with relation to class: do they organise as workers, extolling the virtues of the working class character or do they organise as people seeking the abolition of class altogether?

The same can be said for feminism. A lot of feminists (anarchists included) approach feminism from an identity politics perspective, which includes seperatist organisation and a certain degree of gender essentialism (which reaches its height in cultural feminism). The alternative is the feminism developed by Judith Butler, Queer Theory and post-structural feminism which seeks the abolition of gender, sexual orientation and the institutions that construct and enforce these social categories. This is a form of feminism very much opposed to the identity politics of other areas of feminism.

The Tuhoe film we saw at the beginning of the Indymedia conference presented a good example of the problems of identity politics with regards to tino rangatiratanga: the painful excerpt of the woman who was neither quite Maori (brought up in urban Auckland, didn't know te reo or tikanga) nor quite pakeha (looked obviously Maori). The organisation around identity requires constant definition of those identities and the policing of their boundaries, which is an act of power (or violence as Butler believes) and exclusion. In the Tuhoe movie it means that pakeha-Maori are excluded, and in identity-based feminism it means trangender are excluded.

Blah, this is off topic. I just wanted to make the point that class doesn't have to be identity based, and neither do those other struggles that are so often discarded by the classical left as "identity-politics".

Torrance
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Feb 11 2007 03:18
smush wrote:
This is very relevant to the situation here as it determines what we actually do. Do we get involved in running a small business in a non-hierarchical way because we can't be fucked working for a boss or always being poor on the dole? Is this the "self-organisation [of] our own activity"? I very much doubt it. To me, this sounds like anarchists making themselves comfortable in the capitalist system!

Well put.

If we are to "destroy [the established order] through creating" (Kropotkin) anti-authoritarian institutions, then we have to be keenly aware not to recreate the conditions of our own oppression. It seems to me workers coops tend to represent the internalisation of the boss in workers' own heads: they force themselves to work harder, to compete better, to capitalise on new markets more effectively, etc. etc.

poo
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Feb 12 2007 03:47
Torrance wrote:
I think its unfair to dismiss "hippy or punk" types simply because they wear patches, etc.

quite right, but I reserve the right to dismiss hippys or punks that claim the wearing of patches/lack of soap/terrible taste in music etc, is inherently anti authoritarian.

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Anarchia
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Feb 12 2007 09:24

I don't think you can criticise other people's taste in music, poo wink

omar
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Feb 12 2007 09:42

I wonder what people think of NEFAC (www.nefac.net) as a possible model for a revolutionary organisation in Aotearoa?

In response to torrance's question about what the organisation would do here are some examples from NEFAC about what local anarchist-communist collectives can do:

1. Serving as a forum for discussion on how to better participate in broad coalitions as revolutionary anarcho-communists. In this way anarchists don't feel isolated in coalitions with sectarian-left groups or liberal organizations.

2. Supporting the work of members within local groups in the form of sharing tasks, such as postering, media contacts, fundraising, etc.

3. Creating a participatory forum for theoretical development and the discussion of anarcho-communist politics, revolutionary history, etc.

4. Supporting the work and development of anarcho-communist strategy within larger social movements, as well as a structure where this strategy can be critically discussed and evaluated.

5. Ensuring full collective participation within federation politics (for example, local groups can discuss and debate proposals between conferences)

6. Distributing agitational and propaganda materials produced by the federation.

7. Providing a structure for bringing new members into the federation.

8. Organizing fundraising events on behalf of the federation (which would go towards funding federal projects, supporting the warchest, etc.)

9. Mobilizing people for local demonstrations or campaigns.

10. Hosting NEFAC congresses or strategy meetings.

Convert
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Feb 12 2007 10:56

Sounds good, but how do go from here (libcom online world) to there (actually doing stuff) if you know what i mean?

I think we have to face the limitations of the internet - its extremely useful in a way but is very individualistic by nature.

Torrence (on hippies)- well put, im so sick of the latest libcom slur 'you fucking hippy', last month it was platformists, and before that trots i think!? Maybe theres a list we're working through?

Torrance
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Feb 12 2007 11:25

So summarising NEFAC's points:

1. Provide a place for theoretical and strategical discsussion (points 1, 3, 4).
2. Perpetuate the existence of NEFAC (points 5, 7, 8, 10).
3. Engage in social movements and propagandise (points 2, 6, 9).

The first certainly does not require organised political grouping or federations but urgently needs to happen, and the second is one of internal group process.

So I guess the only reason there among NEFACs reasons for existence (or whatever it is) that require organised groups is to intervene in social movements and push them in a libertarian direction. I guess the question then is which social movements, how do we intervene collectively and exactly where would we like to encourage these movements to go? And is this just a form of vanguardism, anyway?

Looking around, there isn't much in the way of social movements. There are the unions (20% membership, and can hardly be described as a movement), there are the loose network of environmental organisations which do, in some cases, have large membership bases (often upper-working class and middle class, legalistic and back the Green Party, not based around immediate needs of members), there is a loose network of Maori organisations with a fairly large base (but lots of inter-class ties, and the Maori Party has been good at coopting dissent). I'm sure there's more I'm not thinking of...

So which of those do we get involved in? Do we jump from one campaign to the next big thing, like Socialist worker? Or do we create something of our own? Build anarcho-syndicalist unions (with an emphasis on community organising)?

Blah blah blah...

yuda
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Feb 12 2007 21:05
Asher wrote:
I don't think you can criticise other people's taste in music, poo ;)

I second that.

yuda
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Feb 12 2007 21:34

Although I think that NEFAC have a lot going for it, I believe we are missing several steps in building an organisation like NEFAC in Aotearoa.

First of all imho you can't just jump in and set up a local federation without plenty of ground work over several years (at least) this has been tried before in Aotearoa and it's never worked yet. It's a bit like setting up an organisation then collectivising later, I've seen this fail more than once. Anyway without that grassroots frame work we would just end up like the Workers Party or SWO or the like, firing off press release and the like and then collapsing.
Basically I think we have to get our collective shit way more together before we can look at setting up anything closely resembling NEFAC. For a start we have to look at our own lines of communications (nationally and locally) and get them working and also start looking wider than our own cliques.

I think we really have to make a concerted effort to draw links with the local working class in our area getting involved at a local level in our communities. I see the rise in syndicalist activity in the wider activist community refreshing although I feel it's somewhat diluted by the nature of some of the unions involved (ie rigid, top down organising).

Other ideas could be things like community newspaper ie Christchurch's SMOG was probably the best effort I've seen from a newspaper put out by radicals but of interest to wider communities.

Also a *really* good national publication; imho Thrall was the closest example to this, personally I would like to see something that has a broad base of appeal wider than anarchists and our friends - something an average apolitical worker could subscribe to without feeling they are buying into "our brand of revolution" ie, you don't have to have a generally anarchist magazine with the words "anarchism" on every page

One thing we have to watch out for when working with local groups and other "activisty" groups is to make sure anarchists just aren't used to do the donkey work that no one else wants to do ie: postering, leafleting, again I've seen this happen.

So how do we start? Well this convo is as gooder space as any

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Anarchia
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Feb 13 2007 00:30

SMOG rocked. Even SNAP! had/has its moments sometimes, some issues I've felt were really good. Is F still thinking about starting SMOG up again?

I wouldnt see any point starting up a NEFAC-esque org in Aotearoa at this stage. Additionally, I'd really query how many people we have around even within our own "communities" who would actually be interested - the politics of people within our "communities" are vastly different to each other, for the most part. Even if the people in this thread have similarities (although also many differences), our politics are hardly representative of the vast majority of Aotearoa anarchists.

Torrance
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Feb 13 2007 03:33
yuda wrote:
Also a *really* good national publication; imho Thrall was the closest example to this, personally I would like to see something that has a broad base of appeal wider than anarchists and our friends - something an average apolitical worker could subscribe to without feeling they are buying into "our brand of revolution" ie, you don't have to have a generally anarchist magazine with the words "anarchism" on every page

What was it about Thrall you liked as opposed to TSA, for example? Would such a magazine allow a place for discussions like this or would it be like a "public face"?

omar
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Feb 13 2007 05:51
Quote:
We grow the movement by having a sense of direction and at least some outline of a strategy. At present this simply doesn't exist, and most anarchists occupy themselves with scattergun tactics and single issue campaigns without understanding how to (attempt to) transform these into generalised revolts.

I agree. Wouldn't it make sense then to have some kind of national organisation that does project a sense of direction and some strategy for anarchists to engage with?

In response to Yuda, I fully disagree. NEFAC was founded at a confrence with only two small collectives and some assorted individuals. There is a good article on NEFAC's first five years here: http://nefac.net/node/1702

The problem with initiating local activisties before having national organisation is that it orten seems pointless. Isolated anarchist collectives have very little impact but two or three or even four federated collectives across Aotearoa could have a significant impact on the class struggle. I think our experience would be similar to NEFAC in that if we did start a federation more collectives would come online. A NEFAC style organisation would make it much easier to build the type of anarcho-syndicalist unions that Torrance mentions.

i dont think theres much point putting energies into a national publication if we dont have anational organisation to produce it, distribute it and use it as an interventional tool in the class war.

yuda
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Feb 13 2007 09:35
Torrance wrote:
yuda wrote:
Also a *really* good national publication; imho Thrall was the closest example to this, personally I would like to see something that has a broad base of appeal wider than anarchists and our friends - something an average apolitical worker could subscribe to without feeling they are buying into "our brand of revolution" ie, you don't have to have a generally anarchist magazine with the words "anarchism" on every page

What was it about Thrall you liked as opposed to TSA, for example? Would such a magazine allow a place for discussions like this or would it be like a "public face"?

My feeling with TSA (I'm talking specificaly about latter issues) is it was aimed at a specific audience ie anarchist punk types in it own right it was a good zine but yeah I'm kinda thinking of a broader zine that would be like a public face so to speak

poo
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Feb 14 2007 00:51
yuda wrote:
Asher wrote:
I don't think you can criticise other people's taste in music, poo ;)

I second that.

you guys have no taste what so ever

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Anarchia
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Feb 14 2007 01:21

Need I say more?

omar
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Feb 14 2007 05:24

ummm can we stay n topic please

Skraeling
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Feb 16 2007 03:02
Torrance wrote:
I personally agree with Bookchin that it is those who are most impoverished but least integrated into capitalist relations that are the new "revolutionary agents", and the best example in the history of anarchism is the newly-displaced peasantry forced into wage slavery: they provided both the energy and militancy of both the Spanish and Russian revolutions. In contrast, the indistrial proletariat was quite well disciplined to the dictates of the workplace and was less inclined to anti-authoritarian revolt.

How do you explain the revolt by German workers after WW1 who set up workers councils? How do you explain the minor wave of working class self-activity after WWII in industrialised countries? How do you explain France in 1968 where a wealthy, integrated working class rose up in occupied workplaces? How do you explain the revolt against work in the 1970s (it also occurred in NZ)?

Bookchin's theory that the working class has been integrated into capitalism and thus we ought to fetishise movements on the margins is very dodgy. and its a child of its time (the 1970s when liberals thoguht new social movements were the way of the future). Even then it was a crappy theory cos the working class in the 1970s had the biggest amount of strike activity in its history.

Quote:
Revolt usually comes first of all from the fringes, and this includes disaffected youths, immigrant communities, indigenous people, queer cultures, etc., and only then spreads.

not sure (i'm talking abt class struggle rather than revolt). sometimes yes (as in the supersizemypay campaign). sometimes no (as in the struggle against the ECA in 1991). i think class struggle affects pretty much everyone, whether they recognise it or not. So even if you're a redneck Westie you might still steal stuff from the boss, work shoddily, work slowly etc. So those who are more "mainstream" culturally still have revolutionary potential.

Speaking historically, people on the fringes of society have little influence on those in the mainstream. They tend to get marginalised and their struggles ignored or repressed. (I should know, i'm a long term full time lumpen)

Torrance
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Feb 17 2007 02:34
skraeling wrote:
How do you explain the revolt by German workers after WW1 who set up workers councils? [...]

Yeah, good point. I think Bookchin's point was that the integrated working class may revolt, but it is usually along lines of immediate gains (wage etc.), whereas the marginalised are more likely not just to engage in class struggle, but struggle against class. What do you think of that?

Of course, the Sparticist revolts would fly in the face of this probably, but I think the involvement around, for example, the American I.W.W., the Spanish and Russian revolutions support that claim (I think the revolutionary potential of France '68 is sometimes overstated).

I don't know, and of course these aren't rules, just general tendencies... and a little bit esoteric probably too. wink

Convert
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Feb 17 2007 09:35
Quote:
Hopw do we grow the movement in 2007?

I dont know much about much - but imo we need effort put towards propaganda. 99.9% of people think anarchists just make bombs and want to kill people. What about a newspaper with contributors from differnt parts of the country, reporting on different struggles from a anarchist/communist perspective, as well as editorials on anarchism in general. Just thinking out loud ...

omar
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Feb 18 2007 08:06

yeah i agree we need to do a lot more propagandising.
t's not too hard for people with 20 bucks to burn on photocopying to make up a 5 page A5 size zine and they quickly have 20 copies of the zine. yay, i might do it sometime soon even.

Convert
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Feb 18 2007 12:20

Second hand printing presses arent that expensive either

Skraeling
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Feb 19 2007 05:14
Torrance wrote:
I think Bookchin's point was that the integrated working class may revolt, but it is usually along lines of immediate gains (wage etc.), whereas the marginalised are more likely not just to engage in class struggle, but struggle against class. What do you think of that?

Of course, the Sparticist revolts would fly in the face of this probably, but I think the involvement around, for example, the American I.W.W., the Spanish and Russian revolutions support that claim (I think the revolutionary potential of France '68 is sometimes overstated).

Bookchin can be worth reading, but i don't think much of his theories that most of the working class has been integrated into capitalism. Bookchin was heavily influenced by Western Marxism and its idea that the working class was held in thrall by capital thru the consumerism, culture industry etc (the Situationists are very much in this tradition). This theory seemed correct in the 1950s and early mid 1960s but simply couldnt explain the worldwide working class unrest of the late 1960s to about the mid 1970s (a time of thebiggest amount of stike history so far in a period of "affluence").

I think this type of thinking is patronising as it looks down upon "mainstream" working class people as being passive robots or whatever.

I dont think marginalised people are inherently more radical than those who aren't. Both have revolutionary potential. Certainly, many revolts have started on the margins, like the IWWs focus on hobos and casualised immigrant labour, but often these get repressed eg. the revolt by African American proles in the 1960s in the US with COINTELPRO etc.

The Spanish and Russian revolutions were not based on people on the margins, more like people at the heart of Spanish and Russian capitalism (ie. peasants and workers), even if some of them had recently left the land and become industrial proles.

Quote:
I don't know, and of course these aren't rules, just general tendencies... and a little bit esoteric probably too. ;)

Yeah they are just that, just general tendencies, but ni dont think they are esoteric at all. This kind of stuff -- which sections of scoety are historically the more rebellious -- is really, really important, and is often overlooked in radical circles. I mean if you actually look at class strugle in the present and base your practice on it they you are likely to be far more relevant than a dogmatic group that overlooks the actual state of class struggle and just spouts some irrelevant ideology.

omar
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Feb 20 2007 00:03

we will never really have a good picture of which are most radical section of workers at the moment.

Class struggle is kept firmly on a controlled leash by the trade unions (although some union beuareacrats have longer leashes than others - giving a false dichotomy of radical and conservative unions). the tino rangatiratanga movement has in large part been turned into a proxy movement for a) the Maori iwi buearacracy and b) the Maori Party. Whenever workers or Maori start to do something which compromises their position at the barganning table or in Parliament they are brought back firmly into line. autonomus organisations outside these two institutional structures are needed.

Cam
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Feb 23 2007 00:44
Quote:
In the late 1970s, a Trot group called the Socialist Action League, under orders of their US HQ called the Socialist Worker (i think), all of a sudden sent all their members into factories in order to radicalise the poor proles therein, even tho the membership of the SAL was pretty much all middle class. so you got trots who were doctors and whatnot who suddenly were working in car factories in petone! weird. they didn't have much success, needless to say. SAL have now become that tiny Trot sect that sell papers extolling the virtues of Stalinist Cuba (i cant remember their name)

The Socialist Action League is now called the Communist League these days. They are reasonably cultish and still have the 'program' where they 'get amongst the working class'. Seems to be just a control on many of their members (especially their handful of younger members). Some want to go to university but are heavily discouraged by the group. Their paper is called 'The Militant'.

Skraeling
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Feb 23 2007 05:53
omar wrote:
we will never really have a good picture of which are most radical section of workers at the moment.

true, but we can develop a rough and ready picture of the situation by looking at strike stats, keeping a close eye on what is going on, supporting strikers, and establishing a wide series of contacts etc

for example, is it true that it appears that service workers (fast food workers, cleaners, supermarket workers) are the most rebellious at the mo? I had a look a few years ago, and i think it was actually state sector workers who were the most rebellious (nurses and teachers esp.)

Quote:
Class struggle is kept firmly on a controlled leash by the trade unions (although some union beuareacrats have longer leashes than others - giving a false dichotomy of radical and conservative unions). the tino rangatiratanga movement has in large part been turned into a proxy movement for a) the Maori iwi buearacracy and b) the Maori Party. Whenever workers or Maori start to do something which compromises their position at the barganning table or in Parliament they are brought back firmly into line. autonomus organisations outside these two institutional structures are needed.

yup, very very true, and yet there aren't any really. I think that is what revolutionaries need to create. The Maori iwi bureaucracy i think is more than just a bureaucracy to control Maori proles -- it is largely an instrument of an emerging Maori capitalist elite that has come forth since the treaty settlement process has begun.

To continue the theme of above, historically the most rebellious section of the working class in NZ has been the Maori wing of the working class. Hence its essential for capital and the state to coopt this rebellion, which is wot the settlement process is all about.

omar
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Feb 25 2007 12:25

Thanks for all your feedback on this thread folks, I don't want it all to disappear as I think people have made some excellent points and raised some challenging questions for the anarchist/lib. marxist movement in aotearoa.

I'm briefly going to outline my conclusions from the thread based on what people have been saying.

1. We urgently need a national anarchist/anti-state communist publication that comes out regularly. We need to propagandise and get our message out to the people. We also need to use anarchism.org.nz as a way of communicating, networking and building our work.

2. We grow our movement by having a sense of direction and at least some outline of a strategy. We need some way to develop some sort of collective direction and strategy at both national and local levels, and to understand how our single issue campaigning can be transformed into broad anti-capitalist revolts. We need to seek to understand our own situation in Aotearoa and develop a theory and strategy that suits our conditions.

3. We need to encourage working-class self-organisation, especially in a) economically strategic areas and b) on the margins of society where revolt is likely to come from (Indigenous people, Migrants, Minimum wage workers) and c) where we live, work and study. We can do this through helping them form anarcho-syndicalist trade unions and to bring together grassroots militants and help them become more active - raise their morale - re-establish there workplace organisation and turn the tide. We also need to listen to these people and support their struggles, without being co-opted by buereaucratic unions, the Green Party, lifestylism or liberal reformism.

After the internet....

So what's next. The above are my conclusions drawn, sometimes in direct quotes from the above discussion. I want to suggest two things.

Firstly, that we all intensify attempts to reorganise locally in pre-existing or in new anarchist/lib. communist collectives. (I'll be working on this in Auckland in the coming weeks)

Secondly, that we hold a national anarchist/anti-state communist conference within the next few months in Wellington to a) Establish a group to publish a national publication and b) to orient ourselves and to outline a collective strategy.

What do people think? Is there enough energy, enthusiasm and committment to make this happen?