Australian Anarchist Federation

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Edgar's picture
Edgar
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Mar 12 2009 22:54
Australian Anarchist Federation

Sorry if I've missed another thread on this subject, but

Can anyone clue me up to what's happening with the creation of an Australia wide
Anarchist Communist Federation? I've read about meetings that have taken place
but is this Federation going to become a reality?

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Mar 12 2009 23:23

I'm on the other side of the Tasman sea, but from what I've seen/read/heard from comrades in Australia, I'd lean towards probably not, at least not any time soon.

First up, if you haven't already seen it, there's plenty of useful documents and discussion on the (now defunct) website that was made for the original proposal - http://afederation.wordpress.com/

My impression from the original Fed meeting was that the majority of participants felt it was too early to form a fed and that there wasn't enough of a political agreement among the groups to do so (and that even if there was, they hadn't had time to discuss to find that out).

It did seem, at least initially (I don't know if this has continued) to provide impetus for greater communication however, especially for groups within Sydney to talk to each other, and for groups within Melbourne.

It also, AFAIK, provided some of the impetus for SACT (Sydney Anarchist-Communist Tendency) to form, and raised the profile of MAC-G (Melbourne Anarchist-Communist Group) amongst Melbourne anarchists, both of which are valuable (albeit small) gains for class-struggle anarchists smile

Edgar's picture
Edgar
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Mar 13 2009 23:22

Thanks Asher.
Do you think it's a geographical issue then?
Is there more organisation on a state level?

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Anarchia
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Mar 14 2009 01:03

I'll preface this again by saying that some of the Aussies who post on here may disagree with me, and they're probably right if/when they do as they'll be much closer to the action than me...I haven't been to Australia since late 2006, and while I have friends/comrades there, I don't keep in as good touch with them as I should tongue

Firstly, you have to keep in mind that Australia is a huge country geographically...around the same size as the USA but with only 21 million or so people instead of 250 million. Perth (main city on the Western seaboard), for instance, is closer to Jakarta (capital of Indonesia) than it is to Melbourne and Sydney (the two biggest cities, and the two main centres of anarchism).

I remember going to an anarchist conference in Sydney in 2005 (Subplot, organised by the Mutiny collective) and being surprised that while I was meeting lots of the Sydney anarchists, lots of them were meeting each other for the first time too. At the time, I got the distinct impression there was very little communication between the various groups and social cliques. From what I've heard, things are much better now - certainly there is now good cooperation between Jura Books and Black Rose Books (the two anarchist infoshops) and between them and the Mutiny collective (who put out the monthly Mutiny zine which is worth a read), and I think between Mutiny and SACT too.

Mutiny and some other comrades (in Melbourne as well as Sydney, and possibly Brisbane although I'm not sure) have also produced 2 (that I've seen, there may be more now?) issues of Unless You Are Free, an irregular newspaper - 1 issue mainly on anti-war stuff (released on the anniversary of the Iraq invasion) and 1 issue mainly on climate change (released for the Australian climate camp) which is an interesting experiment in cooperation and seems a worthwhile project.

At the same time, I think the Anarchist Federation project was inherently flawed (as I think of all synthesist federation attempts), imagine if A-Fed, SolFed, L&S, Class War etc tried to federate, and add Earth First!, the social centre and infoshop collectives, the Schnews crew etc etc to the mix, and you'll get an idea of what was attempted!

jeremytrewindixon
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Mar 14 2009 02:47

Unity comes from action in common.

ANZAC Day is coming up. On ANZAC Day in Melbourne a disparate group of Anarchists normally do a small commemorationn of the real Australian heroes of World War One, the Industrial Workers of the World out side the old Melbourne IWW HQ . I've posted reports on actions in the past. Last year was carried by the MACG, thanks comrades, but usually the action has involved members of a variety of contrasting groups, I expect and hope the same will be true this year.

Not big, not flashy. Not about confrontation with the march but about planting another seed. If comrades are serious about building an Anarchist Federation this is the palce to start.

In NZ, unlike Australia, the IWW did not successfully defeat conscription. But NZ has geeuine anti-war heroes too, Archibald Baxter springs to mind. How about if this simple small action was carried out this year in every major population centre in NZ and Australia? Or even in a few cities outside Melbourne? Then a real federation would be afoot.

Federation grows out of common action. It is the common action which is the magic potion, the "federation" is just the label on the bottle.

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Mar 15 2009 08:21

The Afed convergence wasn't to set up an anarchist communist federation, and was also not to set up a specifically class struggle federation. In actuality demography of anarchist politics in australia remain the same as comrades have talked about in other threads, with alot of time taken up with environmental and social issues(ones not relating to class struggle).

The same as has been said about US & UK anarchist activities. In my opinion, self-proclaimed anarchists get involved with disconnected single issue and largely reformist campaigns, possibly with the idea that by being involved with as many of them as possible, they are connecting these struggles and enacting change. In reality though....

Examples of this would be.
Late March - Go to newcastle floatilla coal port blockade - for non-radical and very-non direct direct action. Stop work actions are only effective when the people working, stop working. Capital flows unhindered.

Also late March - Aust. wide actions against the governments carbon pollution reduction scheme, where you'll join the central committee of the campaign in voicing their opinion for a radical re-thinking of the scheme. Radical not meaning challenging the root of the problem, but meaning, re-writing the scheme to give slightly less concessions to big business. Capital flows unhindered..

April - Go from newcastle to lake Cowal for the annual activist walk-on, where barrack gold will have worked miners harder in the lead up to the stop work action, and will work them harder after the day. Capital flows unhindered, land rights still denied(they haven't mined all the gold yet, they'll give it back and appologise after)....

April also - stick around in sydney for a demonstration infront of a conference on nuclear fuel(i think). probably the most effective, but still, capital flows unhindered!

May - Stay in NSW to help set up a blockade on a road planned to push through an aboriginal sacred site.

Late June - Come to adelaide because there's another arms-expo on.
Smash at the defence state for 3 days, then leave and go back to the forest to set up blockades in east gippsland before logging season starts.

The things all these people could achieve if they focused on struggles at home, and applied the revolutionary direction they want to see in all these other liberal campaigns, they'd be able to create something, at least somewhat threatening to capital, surely!

The possibility of any afed organising being of a class struggle nature is so low. You'll find the same opinions amongst people other people on here have written that active anarchists thought in the 70's. There are no classes, i don't like to think of people in terms of classes, class lines are too blurry to base any politics on them. Class struggle is pointless, noone's going to read your pamphlets, noone's going to read your posters, noone wants to improve their situation, noone cares, everyone is a fuckhead, etc.

Even if noone wants our pamphlets with marxist analyses, or noone reads the class-struggle anti-war posters we put up, i couldn't care less, at least we plant seeds, instead of just running from protest to protest pretending to be changing things.

x

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Mar 18 2009 08:12

Gabs is correct: the gathering last Easter was not organised with a view to forming an anarchist-communist federation, but to discuss the possibility of organising an anarchist federation involving groups from across Oceania (meaning, in practice, Aotearoa/New Zealand and Australia).

Discussion on this subject lasted for some time following the gathering, but has not progressed very far (as far as I can tell). Nevertheless, the federative idea has been floated, and who knows what may come of it.

On anarchists and class: I disagree with Gabs. That is, while there are no doubt a number of anarchists who attend the events Gabs refers to, there are other anarchists who devote their time to other matters. This includes considering questions of class. While there are some anarchists who consider 'class' as being in some way irrelevant or otherwise objectionable from an anarchist viewpoint, for many anarchists I know and have worked with over a period of some years, class and class-struggle are a central feature of their politics.

As an aside, 'class politics' is not synonymous with 'Marxist analyses'. In general, the strength of an analysis relies upon its accuracy, and timeliness. (Nor is 'anarchist communism' 'anarchism' plus 'class'.)

jeremytrewindixon
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Mar 26 2009 09:21

Yeah, OK Gabs and @ndy, but what about the ANZAC Day action proposed? There is a class aspect to celebrating the IWWs resistance to conscription, it is intrinsic. People who support the action may well have different attitudes to class, may or may not define themselves as "class struggle Anarchists" etc. We could use the occasion to discuss the issue, on the spot or at the pub afterwards.

How about getting some practical measures going ahead which create a conversation with the broader community? Chatting amongst ourselves is fine, but it is sterile without broader engagement.

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Mar 29 2009 09:59

"...what about the ANZAC Day action proposed?"

I'm not sure. What about it? Are you asking me if I will be attending a rally? Probably not.

Anarchists generally are engaged in various activities designed to promote consideration of anarchist ideas; I'm unsure why a rally on ANZAC Day is of over-riding importance.

princess mob
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Mar 29 2009 13:39

jeremytrewindixon, I'm really curious about why you think a commemoration of a long past historic moment is the answer, or why you think it's so much more worth promoting than other activities. And I'm a big nerd for history. I'm not trying to be facetious either: I'd like to hear your reasoning. (Beyond the idea that people with otherwise disparate ideas would be able to come together for such an action.)

On the federation, I think Asher & @ndy are pretty much right. On the conference itself, I wrote an article for Mutiny which (hastily) gathered the opinion of a range of participants. I was sure this had already been posted here last year, but can't find it, so here it is:

Quote:
Over the Easter long weekend, people gathered in Melbourne to talk about anarchism & anarchist organising in Australia & the region. About sixty people were there – often enough to fill the front room of the former radiator workshop that the Melbourne Anarchist Club recently bought & is working to turn into an ongoing political space.

The conference had been called around a proposal to form a regional anarchist federation. This proposal was discussed a lot over the weekend, & a decision was made not to form a federation at this stage. Instead, it was seen as something to continue to work towards, & a number of structures were set up to help ongoing communication. One of these was a commitment to regular regional meetings, at least in Victoria & NSW – see the ad elsewhere in Mutiny for information about the upcoming Sydney meeting. There was also a communication network decided on, through which groups can keep in touch with what’s going on, & a couple of online communications structures for groups & individuals to share news, information & proposals.

Alongside these discussions, there were a number of conversations called around particular projects. The gathering provided a space where projects could kick off, including a ‘militant research’ network, organising for protests against the arms fair in Adelaide in November, a newspaper about anarchist analysis of climate change & networks for skill-sharing & distribution for people putting out publications.

I could tell you what I thought about it, but that would be an exercise in self-indulgence & probably bad journalism. Also, then I’d have to write heaps. Instead, this article is an attempt to compile a bunch of ad-hoc surveys of different people who were there. It’s not a perfect sample (it’s skewed towards the people I could get in touch with at the last minute to make the deadline). But I did my best, & I talked to people from Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra & Adelaide; people who were part of organising & people who weren’t; people who went as part of a collective & people who didn’t; & people who have quite long histories of involvement in anarchism in Australia & people who came along because they wanted to see what it was all about. I also took into account the report posted by the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group at http://www.ainfos.ca/en/ainfos20677.html. If you were at the conference – or even if you weren’t - & you have something to add to this discussion, please, write a letter to the zine.

What was good

Overall, people were happy with the convergence as a space to meet people, to have political discussions & to make practical connections.

“The best thing was the general discussion that flowed out of workshops, the conversations that went on after – the fact that the political discussions did continue over beer.”

“Basically I [went because I] was pretty sure I disagreed with a lot of the way socialist/Marxist groups organised, but [was] finding the lack of theoretical, big picture discussion in groups I was organising in frustrating. […] [I] expected a small turnout, and a pretty low key, rabbly mob- I didn't really think the big picture discussions I was after would happen...but they did!”

“There was one meeting in particular between MAC and Jura about the bureaucratic stuff of running a space that just snapped everything into focus for me; imagine being able to call on other anarchists for that kind of advice all the time. It demonstrated to me that there is a real need for anarchists to work together on the basis of mutual aid, and all this politics and theory is just bullshit to fill the time. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, because there's obviously a need to spread anarchist ideas and discuss these things, but just seeing how this practice can really work was great to see happening right in front of me… and we were talking about fucking tax and GST!”

“I was very pleasantly surprised, at a lot of things, like the turnout, the diversity of ages and backgrounds of people there, the relevance and immediacy of discussion, […] Talking to older and younger people about politics was especially valuable as I’m stuck in my university bubble a lot of the time.”

“The best thing was being able to call out for a meeting & everyone come to it, & then we were able to talk about whatever. It was really good for kicking off some good practical planning.”

Differing Expectations

While people generally went to the conference mainly expecting to be able to meet people & to break out of the geographic &/or political isolation many felt, there was clearly a division about what people thought the purpose of the meeting was & how much it was connected to the Federation proposal.

A Melbourne participant & organiser wrote:

“I guess I expected both the individuals and groups to have asked themselves what a federation would be good for, and if they could see benefits for establishing these relationships with others, they would come to the conference. … MAC was only really interested in taking to anarchist groups about the possibilities of federating, and the initial call-out got us pretty excited that others were thinking along the same lines. That call-out was revised later on to be broader than, I think, we could find useful in terms of our project; we're explicitly anarchist and primarily wish to work with other anarchist groups, although obviously not exclusively.”

A counterpart from Sydney, on the other hand, said:

“We thought about it as a more open conference for people who broadly agreed with the common politics. That yeah, it was a conference focussed around a proposal to form an anarchist federation, which could end up being a more politically closed organisation, & maybe wouldn’t include everyone at the convergence, but that the general questions we also wanted to talk about – what the hell should we be doing right now? – was something that it was worth talking about with more people. I guess I felt like we were going into it more with the idea that the federation was a proposal, but I wanted there to be discussion in quite broad terms about whether it was a good proposal, whether it was the best way for us to work together, & what it would actually mean to do so. So I’m disappointed that Sydney, I guess, didn’t put more effort into talking that through with Melbourne & the people they’d been talking to, who sometimes took the response of one small collective as an indication that they wouldn’t be welcomed by the conference as a whole. Cos that’s caused some problems since.”

There was also division about the participation of individuals in the conference structure & the proposed federation. Someone from Melbourne said they found disappointing “the extent to which "federation" in the anarchist sense was misunderstood (or deliberately obscured) and the tendency for individuals and non-anarchists to drive the agenda away from this discussion. On reflection, it seems there was an attitude that if organised anarchist groups go ahead and co-operate or create agreements with each other that this is somehow authoritarian.”

“Myself and most other members of my group expected (and expected to be disappointed) that there was no consensus understanding of what an anarchist federation is.”

A Sydney participant said they were disappointed by “talking to many individuals who I think are totally awesome, and having them tell me that they were alienated and felt like they totally lost enthusiasm because of the group centric nature of the talk and talk about whether individuals would be allowed or not was really disappointing.”

Another Sydney respondent said:

“I also think there was a lot of time spent arguing over the question of how individuals would fit into any federation structure – or rather, a lot of time spent arguing against it, when I’m not really sure there ever was anyone at the convergence arguing that individuals should be part of a federation. But there were people arguing for finding other structures that would allow isolated individuals to keep in touch.”

Class Politics

One of the other major points of discussion in the lead up to Easter was the question of class politics. As someone said, they strongly anticipated that “we would not be able to resolve” the key question of the “relevance of class/ what it means to be a worker.” However, many people found the discussion & the chance to explore these tensions in more depth encouraging.

“An excellent discussion on class occurred on the third day. A lot of people had criticised class analysis on the second day, but when we got down to the actual discussion the next day, a lot of ideas were clarified. Several others from a range of different groups were putting forward arguments that seemed to be based on a genuine working class position.”

“Something that came out of the talking was a focus on class struggle and a class analysis as almost pre-requisite, while I kinda agree, I think further talk about race, especially Indigenous struggles here in Australia (the violence at the beginning of the founding of all nation-states) and also gender [is necessary].”

Conference structure & dynamics

People generally felt that the conference ran fairly smoothly, but that there were many things that could have been improved.

“I think there were some effective experiments in interesting techniques in making it decentralised & horizontal.”

“The gender imbalance, those in attendance and talking, was skewed towards men.”

“I wish I could have had more time to talk to people there.
More time for discussion on common politics.”

“Yeah, so the crap facilitation (I mean the lack of clarity and purpose, not necessarily the facilitators them/ourselves!) and lax attitude to the agenda served to make some sessions very boring, especially when a few people would go off on some long, largely irrelevant tangents. I think the dwindling numbers of the course of the conference reflect that. Having said that, maybe the format was all wrong for our purposes, and the problems stem from that. I'd be interested in hearing what others think about it.”

Talking & making history

“[I liked] talking to/listening in on, discussions of the recent history of protest in Australia, like S11, stuff like that, from an anarchist perspective.”

“[I was disappointed that we didn’t talk about] previous examples of existing anarchist federations and how they might relate to what we can create, [there was] very little discussion of previous Australian attempts to create anarchist federations. But in some ways it was heaps cool. It was still historical.”

“I’m mainly glad it happened – I think it was really a good step for anarchists & associates in this country to start trying to work these things through together, instead of only meeting at activist crisis points.”

The future

While the conference didn’t end with the creation of a federation, participants generally felt that what came out of it were good steps towards future organising.

“I am quite energised over the conference!”

“It seemed to create some kind of a commitment to a political project that wasn’t there at the start – people seemed to have been encouraged into further activity.”

“From a MAC point of view, I think it made us realise that there's a very real possibility of federating locally.”

“Though the Conference demonstrated that general level of consciousness and maturity in the Anarchist movement in Australia is still very uneven, but there are a number of serious groups and individuals and the balance is shifted gradually and strongly towards a higher level than we have seen before.”

“I was glad we decided not to federate. [I’m] wary of the tendency of left groups to splinter over differences of semantics/organising methods, rather than genuine political opposition. And I think it's a good thing to build regional area networks first, accept that this process will be slow (there’s still a lot of networking to be done just among Sydney groups for example), and that that is a good thing.”

“If a federation exists, it will be because of necessity and practice, not declaration.”

jeremytrewindixon
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Mar 30 2009 00:19
princess mob wrote:
jeremytrewindixon, I'm really curious about why you think a commemoration of a long past historic moment is the answer, or why you think it's so much more worth promoting than other activities. And I'm a big nerd for history. I'm not trying to be facetious either: I'd like to hear your reasoning. (Beyond the idea that people with otherwise disparate ideas would be able to come together for such an action.)

Well, princess mob, partly for the same reasons that the revival of ANZAC Day is an ominous sign. These festivals shape our consciousness, that is what they are for. It is not really a question of dead history, Australian troops are again fighting imperialist wars overseas. Associated with this, part of what makes it possible, is that Australian kids are again being fed the lie that Australiai as acountry crystallized around ANZAC Day, and the lie that the ANZAC soldiers "fouhgt for freedoms". The struggles around the Vietnam war severely damaged the ideology of the capitalist state; the moment when that damage was effectively repaired can be fixed in Australia, when Bob Hawke organised a "homecoming" for Australian veterans. That made it official that he heroes of the Vietnam War were the nsoldiers, not the draft-resistors.

So the revival of ANZAC Day has to be countered, (assuming of course that we want to influence history and not just set-up a social club). Direct confrontation does not work very well, protestors at ANZAC Day are just fitted into the show, and it is their show. It makes more sense to set up a new show, to honour the people we think are the heroes of WW1, and through them the sort of people who we think are the heroes of wars in general.

Beyond the question of ANZAC Day, remembering the legacy of the IWW is well worth the effort for its present relevance. The IWW built a mass movement which was always oriented to the general population rather than a tiny section of it. They sought to make a revolution which required reaching people in general....surely, princess mob, that is waht we want to do?

If you look back on earlier reports etc I've writtern on the action you will see I advocate things like building "war trees" with chocolate roots, amking "strikelets" (ie red pikelets) and so forth for the occasion. We need to make opposing the war machine as enjoyable as Chrsitmas and Easter, to capture the imagination, to use the obvious resources of folk culture. The wobbles understood this, but the left in general has it seems long forgotten.....

But, princess mob, suppose this particular idea is a pup.....You haven't challenged ny claim that federation grows out of common action rather than just gum-flapping. Which common action would you propose?

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Rats
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Apr 8 2009 07:23

We'll be having an anzac day counter-event in adelaide, just to let people around the place know. If anyone here is involved in the melbourne demo, could i ask what kind of things you're going to do for it? We were thinking of maybe having a well-advertised picnic with info and tasty food.

xo

jeremytrewindixon
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Apr 9 2009 06:27

Hiya Gabs,

We gather at the old HQ of the Melbourne IWW in Little Bourke St. In previous years we sang Wob songs, handed-out leaflets, destroyed a "war tree" based on a famous IWW cartoon, and cooked "strikelets" which were red-dyed pancakes or pikelets. Not everyone did all these things and the strikelets I actually only did once, most people wouldn't eat them claiming the food dye I used was unhealthy . This year I'm planning to use beetroot juice. Not everyone laid the same stress on the wobbly side of the event, it was/is pluralist in nature.

12-20 people in recent years (the first event was in 2004 with 3 people!). The event attracted the interest of Police Security Intelligence out of all proportion to its size, despite its non-confrontational character, so be prepared for that.

Good luck, I'm rapt to hear you will be doing this.....

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Apr 29 2009 12:08

I've been avoiding Libcom, but it looks like people are genuinely interested, so here's my belated 2¢ on A-Fed.

The main flaw in the A-Fed proposals and conference were the attempt to create the organisation first and then try to fill it by pushing people to organise in a certain way (I think we said 'locally/geographically'). In hindsight it was an obvious mistake. My own reasons for pushing for a federation don't seem to much up with the purposes and activities of the various federations and orgs in the UK that have been mentioned. The usefulness of a federation, in my opinion, in Australia would be to formalise networks of communication, to be able to recognise and receive delegates from other groups to increase collaboration. As it stands, much of this is done through informal friendship networks. The advantage of formalising this is that periodic falling out of these friendships would not be an impediment to ongoing communication.

The thing is, I think this communication and collaboration is something that can be achieved anyway, without announcing or constituting a federation.

There is still ongoing talk amongst MAC members and the MARC (Melbourne Anarchist Resource Centre, the building MAC owns and runs) user groups about 'federation.' As mentioned above, there's obvious cross-purposes between general membership anarchist groups (i.e. MAC), anarchist projects (such as Barricade) and campaign groups populated by anarchists. The cross-over in membership and small numbers of people involved make the idea of a local federation made up of these groups a bit laughable. Why would we need delegates when we're talking about no more than 50 people? Who is federating with who when most people are members of several groups? Some people are literally members (however this is defined) of 4 anarchist groups. Does this mean they get 4 times the say of someone who only has time for 1 group? I can't see any use in that at all. But these discussions are ongoing.

So that's where we're at. Still talking about it.

I think our energies would be better spent popularising anarchist ideas and participation in anarchist activity and organising with each other around this specific task. While I personally think that these questions should be revisited as often as possible, the time to spend serious energy into stuff like 'federation' is when the inevitable questions of organisation arise from expanding participation in the anarchist movement.

I still think the A-Fed conference was extremely useful. Maybe we should organise something similar, but around a different question.