The Australian/NZ/Pacific libertarian/anarchist movements

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bastarx
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Apr 10 2006 04:59

I could say a lot on this subject and possibly will if people ask specific questions. But for now I'll just make a few scattered comments.

On the small number of Sydney anarchos, certainly true, Melbourne has long had much more lively radical scenes and much better class struggle generally.

This is I think linked to the different class compositions. Sydney is much more finance-capital dominated, its Stock Exchange is far bigger than Melbourne, it has many more corporate headquarters etc. Melbourne has more manufacturing. So for instance in the big union demos last November 15 Sydney had some 50000 workers on the streets whereas Melbourne had over 200000.

I also wonder if the different racial compositions have some effect. I think Sydney has more of the recent immigrants - Vietnamese and Middle Eastern especially whereas Melb has more of the earlier ones - Greeks, Italians, Yugoslavs. Like elsewhere in the Anglophone world the anarchist scene is largely made up of young Anglos with a smattering of well-integrated kids of migrants (eg me).

The scene has certainly declined in recent years in both numbers and quality of politics. After the high points of the S11 protest in Melbourne (11/9/2000) and the Woomera breakout (April 02) things fell apart.

There was little effort made with the anti-war movement. Dave and I tried to do some stuff but living in small cities (Wollongong and Canberra) made it hard without much participation by Sydneysiders and Melbournites. I know anarchos/autonomes did anti-war stuff there but there was minimal response to our efforts at some sort of wider coordination.

The Forbes protest and preceding mini-conference Subplot in Sydney last year was something of a reunion of people who'd been active around 2000-02 but there were also many old faces missing and debates that we'd thought settled (esp that old violence chestnut) were revived.

Also worth noting is that perhaps unlike other Anglophone countries there are probably as many people in the radical scene who'd identify as autonomists or communists than anarchists. This I'd imagine is because Capital-A anarchism in Oz is even more pissweak than elsewhere.

cheers

Pete

NB. Seeing as Canberra doesn't really have a radical scene and that I see other cities scenes approximately once a year at conferences all this should be taken with a grain or three of salt.

happyanarchy
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Apr 12 2006 04:13

Brisbane & Queensland has had an interesting anarchist/radical history which I'm not going into now. Except to say the highlights are the General Strike of 1912; the Syndicalists of North Qld in 1930's; the Wobblies anti-war movement during WW1; Foco in the late 1960's; Triple Zed early 1980's, RTS 2003

Anarco-movement is probably at it's quietest now since 1960's. Current active and public groups are the fading Institute for Social Ecology, Bleeding Hearts zines, BASTARD. There is still a number of anarchos in loose networks hapeening around Brisbane, generally being around the Catholics Workers, Peace Convergence, feminist & queer, punk/zine scene, eco/green activists, animal lib and a few mutualists. Not a great deal of actions happening tho or much cross-scene interaction.

The gentrification of West End has broken up a lot of Brisbane's radical community & activist scenes, and there is some reacting to this. But it's largely piecemeal.

Visit http://www.brisbaneanarchy.org

http://www.peaceconvergence.com

http://www.animalactivism.org

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aketus
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Apr 12 2006 07:50

Hey, the new drupal theme at BASTARD looks cool! Nice work

Skraeling
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Apr 12 2006 08:08
PaulMarsh wrote:
In London I have met plenty of Kiwis, and no one has ever used the word Aotearoa. Is it just people on the left/anarchist movements who do?

Asher has answered this quite nicely, but to add my two cents...

Aotearoa is in quite wide usage beyond leftist circles. to state the obvious, Maori use it all the time, and they make up, I think, about 15% of the population. Plus white liberals sometimes use it. in my experience, "mainstream" (woteva that is) white/Pakeha people don't use it, tho i suspect many of them of becoming more aware of it. The national anthem is even sung in both Maori and English b4 international sporting games, even rugby. Wow! wink

Dave Antagonism
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Apr 13 2006 04:24

Interesting new zine out from the Syndey Mutiny crew. I think their email is mutineers@graffiti.net. Good comrades, very pluralistic- will send the high priests of "Capital A Anarchism" batty

mad love

Dave

Ghost_Of_Durruti
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Apr 13 2006 06:53

Aah. Reading happyanarchy's post above made me all nostalgic - I lived in Brisbane for 15 years all up, leaving a couple of years' ago. I can't really add much to the discussion on what the scene there is like now, but unless things have changed, I'm guessing the leninists / trots are still flogging papers at UQ/QUT and che badges down the valley markets roll eyes

You may have to put up with Peter Beatty, but damn, at least you got sunshine and warmth 8)

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happychaos
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Apr 14 2006 00:22

This comment has been moved <a href="http://libcom.org/forums/libcom/rank-n-filers-supersizemypay-com-blackcat">here</a>.

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Steven.
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Apr 14 2006 12:57

Great post simon, really interesting - if you had time, I'd love to hear more about supersizemypay, you could start a new thread perhaps?

I'd be interested to know why you're not involved with it any more for example...

bastarx
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Apr 15 2006 06:33
simono wrote:
I would suggest all anarchists to get involved in union organising, or any sort of community organising that doesn't involve just activists. That would be the most obvious thing that I learnt from the experience. Anarchists are often quite out of touch with the very people we beleive have the ability to change society. .

Lucky I'm not an anarchist then. Also lucky I don't relate to people as objects to be organised to further the political careers of Maoist and social democratic hacks (ie the ones who run the Unite union you're in).

I would suggest to all anarchists who want to talk about work to actually do some first. If there's a union in your workplace you'll see firsthand how useless they are.

Lots of Love

Pete

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happychaos
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Apr 15 2006 11:44
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Lucky I'm not an anarchist then.

(-; It also applies to communists, socialists, liberals etc. I was being overly generalistic on purpose. Most "workingclass" people have no idea what we are talking about, not because they couldn't understand it, but because it doesn't seem relevant to them. (I'm obviously putting myself in this category.) My own experience, and I'm saying this as my own viewpoint, and lots of people in NZ disagree, is that lefties focus too much on trying to communicate their own stuff rather than organising people to organise themselves in the way we beleive in. (Does that make sense?) I do this too - too much focus on wanting perfect workers council not enough focus on learning how to deal with basic crap in the workplace the workers are dealing with.

Quote:
Also lucky I don't relate to people as objects to be organised to further the political careers of Maoist and social democratic hacks (ie the ones who run the Unite union you're in).

My girlfriend and I obviously have issues with the political viewpoints of certain people in Unite. (Although I'm not too sure who the Maoist is? Unless you mean some people from Wellington who I have nothing to do with...)

The other thing I was going to say was the unconstructiveness of lefties in NZ (including anarchos, and myself again.) A lot of people spend all their time bagging other groups for their political beliefs/tendencies etc, but I'm not sure how much time they spend doing constructive things? It's quite easy to bag a trotskyist for being a trotskyist (and I've got lots of issues with trotskyism etc) but if you don't actually do anything else, or provide anything useful for the people your organising - you either go over their heads again or just end up talking to other activists. I'm not suggesting you're doing this or you do that, it's just something I see quite a bit.

Quote:
I would suggest to all anarchists who want to talk about work to actually do some first.

Lol - you must have been to Nz. Mr. T

Quote:

If there's a union in your workplace you'll see firsthand how useless they are.

Unite and other unions may be crap - but what alternative have we created or are we in the process of creating? its easy to critise and I think we should criticise - but for workers in unions, they do more than any of our small anarchist or communist groups may do. that 2% pay rise might be a complete sellout, but no group I've ever been on has had as much of a concrete win that the people we were organise would understand and see as being beneficial. of course this doesn't mean that unions are the answer, it just means what the hell are we doing!

simon.o red n black star

bastarx
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Apr 16 2006 05:26

Hi Simon

Looks like you're far too nice to take my inflammatory bait. No worries, I can be civil too.

I don't have much time now but I don't see my politics as being based on doing things for workers. Especially not as some outside organiser. I'll take this up at greater length in the next few days.

cheers

Pete

Skraeling
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Apr 16 2006 05:39

Well on the subject of anarchists getting involved in unions in Aotearoa, a few anarchists in Dunedin set up the Autonomous Workers Union, a kind of more democratic alternative to Unite. I was involved in setting up this base union but since have left. The union is still going, and has organised lots of fast food workers, but its more low key than Unite.

Apart from two or three people, the anarchist and activist milieu were very unsupportive of our work. Most activists and anarchists here shy away from anything to do with workplace stuff, including not only union stuff but also workplace agitating outside unions. It was like we had crossed the pale and were beyond reproach. We promoted the union at an anarchist conference, but got hardly any interest. I remember we were signing up workers left, right, and centre in a cafe one night, and the local anarchist bookshop collective were meeting at the same time. We were met by a stony silence from the anarchist collective, who i then was a part of. No one from the anarchist collective, who were mostly vegans animal rights types, showed interest in the union. But the workers did. Interesting. Other anarchists were supposed to set up branches in other cities, but they never got off the ground.

This reaction is hardly surprising i know. But its important to realise it wasn't based on a principled critique of unions inevitably being part of the establishment or anything. It was more like we had gone outside their lifestyle comfort zone.

Anyway, the main lesson I learnt is that it is pretty near impossible for an alternative union not to behave like a mainstream union.

Mr R Reid is the prominent Maoist within Unite. He helped found Unite, and was president i think for a while. There are quite a few Maoists in Aotearoa who go underground, pretend to be social democrats, and get themselves nice cushy bureaucratic positions in unions, community service groups and student unions. I think that is called the long march thriough the institutions strategy or something? I cant remember.

Skraeling
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Apr 16 2006 05:45
Peter wrote:

I don't have much time now but I don't see my politics as being based on doing things for workers. Especially not as some outside organiser.

hi Pete,

yeah this is EXACTLY what happened with my experience in the Dunedin union. We were running around doing things for workers under the pretence of helping them organise themselves (which was part of our constitution). It became absurd, like we were supposed to become experts in the law to help workers, and we at times aimed to become a sort of top-down consultancy agency that takes out individualistic personal grievances against employers that you see on ads on TV these days "Problem at work? Fired? Not being paid? Bullied? Then call us, Employment Consultants agents"

bastarx
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Apr 17 2006 03:01
simono wrote:
Most "workingclass" people have no idea what we are talking about, not because they couldn't understand it, but because it doesn't seem relevant to them.

True but the answer to this problem is not to try and use some Trojan horse union organising to get anarchist ideology accepted. "Union membership now with 50% more anarchism".

When struggle picks up anti-capitalist ideas will make more sense to more people. However I don't think the way to get struggles started is via some barely alternative union which no matter the success it has can't help but objectify the workers it organises. You've described how that happened during your time with Unite yet you seem to believe that this is not due to the union form but just bad leaders, not enough organisers etc.

Quote:
is that lefties focus too much on trying to communicate their own stuff rather than organising people to organise themselves in the way we beleive in.

Lefties try and organise people so they can represent them within capital. I'm sure they could do it better but I'd rather they didn't. So are people organising themselves or being organised?

Quote:
Unite and other unions may be crap - but what alternative have we created or are we in the process of creating?

Why do you want an alternative to the unions? They are a time-tested way of selling workers to capital. Workers organisations that are opposed to the unions and do not seek to sell themselves to capital cannot be created by professional outsiders like unions can.

cheers

Pete

gregor samsa
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Apr 17 2006 08:46

like pretty much everywhere else the anarchist scene is a small faction within a small left wing political scene.

In auckland there is very little in the way of socialist politics in general and anarchism in particular. we ran a discussion group called blackcat for a while with an accompanying website. our website got quite a few hits and we gad a cool selection of writings in the library part of it. we wrote an A4 newsheet every week for around 12 weeks before giving up, the focus was on local news but when content ran out we had to write about international news. we got very little feedback from doing this so we stopped, maybe people dont stop and read a newsheet which is posted up on walls in the city. we also did food not bombs for quite a while very week. this was pretty cool because we cooked food and gave it to people who really needed it and people who were just passing by.

we also pasted posters around auckland cbd with interesting pictures and messages. apart from informal groups of anarchist people there is radical youth which is a predominantly high school group. the focus of this group is new zealands youth rates laws. some good progress has been made and a lot of publicity has been generated but like any group there is lots of infighting and some people who really arnt that involved organising are setting themselves up in leadership positions and are having attention focused on them because of their politically involved parents. this is a negative thing. also the politics have become increasingly vaguer as the group has grown, initially it was explicitly anti-capitalist but i dont know how much this is so.

ive been living in wellington for a few months which has a relativly large anarchist scene. ive been told there are around 90 anarchists in welly, which isnt bad for a city of 350 000. there are a whole plethora of groups and no single formal organization. it operates on an informal social basis and almost all of the different groups/campaigns membership overlap with the rest. from what ive seen its pretty positive but there are still a few criticisms to be made. sometimes i feel that its just a 'scene' like the punk scene or anyother sub-culture, except this one is political. there doesnt seem to be much in the way of any long term strategy of how to broaden the influence of anarchism out of this sub-cultural milliu.

greece has the largest anarchist movement in the west but still has the same issues in that anarchism is stuck in a cub culture of disaffected youths (generalization) while there is nothing inherently wrong with this i dont see the point in attacking a bank every week except to show up on infoshop. it still doesnt make anarchism relevant to the majorty of people we believe can organize a libertarian society.

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Steven.
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Apr 17 2006 10:55

Good stuff gregor - we saw the blackcat site it was good, i remember email them/you about the use of our history articles on it wink

I might take some of these posts people have made and stick them in library if that's ok, cos they do form part of a historical record...

Dave Antagonism
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Apr 18 2006 15:27

Peter wrote

Quote:
Lefties try and organise people so they can represent them within capital. I'm sure they could do it better but I'd rather they didn't. So are people organising themselves or being organised?

How do you determine this? If a trot or an anarcho is involved in trying to get people in their work place to struggle over a particular issue is that different from some one that is not a "Leftie" doing it. Are does doing it make you a "leftie". Also does not the communist rejection of democracy mean that sometimes communist "organise people." If a minority of us impose a picket or occupy an office we are "organising" those workers in there - we are imposing a regieme of relations.

In my mind that if "struggle picks up" it will probably to some extent still exist in the forms that social democracy has produced. Obvioulsy it will be contradictory and problematic. Is the role of communists to wait for the struggle to develop beyond these ( maybe writing leaflets from the sidelines) before they dirty their hands? Or is in fact this the struggle - to engage with fellow workers in today's conditions, what ever the context and foster solidarity, co-operation and defiance? To take the ideas around us seriously, to take real people and real situtaions seriously, to enjoy the mess of living?

Communism exist now, it is a reality today , not some transcendental goal in the future. It can only be found through an engagement with the world as it is, not by waiting for a tomorrow that never comes

mad love

black star Dave circle A

gregor samsa
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Apr 18 2006 22:21

Just a few more thoughts on anarchism in auckland

I know there used to be an anarchist bookshop here sometime in the 80's but its long since closed. there was nothing in the way of anarchism untill the 90's when bruce greenville and others ran a chapter of class war. as a young trot I used to be perplexed by all those crust punks decked out in masks, black clothes and patches marching in the opposite direction of the may day march. i wasnt really impressed. class war now is defunct.

I think our attempt was the first to get something serious going on a regular basis but it had its flaws, as someone on ireland indymedia put it '"Its posted by Nick kelly, who as memory serves from my days down under is not a member of blackcat (an esteemed auckland based anarchist group)""

Esteemed by who? BlackCat was the result of various Unite organisers suffering from consensus-withdrawl and a couple of Infoshoppers from Canada engaged in tourist activism. Their short-lived attempt to run a flat in central Auckland as a social centre produce much heat but little light."

I have no idea who this person is but i probably know them. our idea was to turn the flat into a social centre with resources for people involved in activism of various sorts. we did have workshops there and food not bombs was run out of it but apart from that there wasnt much.

The other micro factions of the left in auckland are just as equally sad though. recently the SWP (Uk) clone has morphed into a vague 'movement' around the 'workers charter'. the workers charter is a full color 20 page newspaper which is districuted by the main union body, its pretty impressive for a leftist newspaper but its pretty weak on the politics. working people are actually reading it in their workplace which is good (theres a letters setion where bosses have written in calling it a rag)

The WPNZ+Revolution+Others/ACA/back to Workers Party is also up in auckland but there not that visible. A university sociologist professor called David Bedgood has a tiny little sect which rubbishes everyone else. But the weirdest of all is the Communist League, the clone of the US SWP, there pretty internally authoritarian and have really strange political positions, there all about a 'workers and farmers government' in new zealand, they seem to turn a blind eye to the agri-business nature of farmers and their reactionary political leanings.

hmmm, im interested to know if anyone else knows anything about anarchism in auckland historically or contemporary

Skraeling
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Apr 19 2006 02:48

i know a little about anarchism in Auckland historically. Anarchism in Auckland has never really taken off, i suspect becos Auckland is so spread out it is difficult for people to come together and meet.

There were a series of groups in the early 1960s. Then nothing in the late 1960s, when anarchists joined other movements than form their own groups. Then there was a revival, there were quite a few loose groups from the mid 70s to the early 80s. They did lots of stuff, mainly anti-racist and unemployed organising. But then they disappeared, and things i believe didn't take off until the late 80s and early 90s, when there was a big anarchist presence in the unemployed movement again. Mainly punk rockers who were associated with Books from the Black Lagoon and The State Adversary.

There is a going to be a book published about the period of the 60s and 70s.

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happychaos
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Apr 19 2006 08:00

I just thought, as one of the three people who wanted to create BlackCat, here is my understanding.

1) We did want to have an activist space, but it got sidelined and it was clear there wasn't actually enough interest or even an activist sub-culture formed enough to sustain it. (I'm not saying we should have a sub-culture activist group to sustain it, but from what I know that what usually sustains these things. (-:)

2) The house was a flat for gods sake. I never considered it to be a blackcat activity. smile

3) There were BlackCat meetings there, but I went to only a few of them. I think regular meetings are a good idea, but I don't honestly think we can even manage that and I'm not too interested in just talking about random unconnected things (at the moment.)

4) We had a website. There is no anarchism.org.nz anymore which I helped run for a while before slowly not participating because no one else was and people were just complaining about decision making processes but not actually getting involved. (That's happened with the website since and it is still not up.) We wanted to have a website, it was meant to be very simple. Didn't need to be updated. We put up articles we liked. I personally don't think you should put to much energy into a website unless its just reflecting something your doing in the *meat world*.

5) For example: News From Nowhere. Basically we did a broadsheet for about 10 weeks. I would have only participated in no more than 5. I never though broadsheets would get anywhere - however, i thought it was a good exercise in writing.

At the end of the day, we all were too busy. I was fulltime at Unite, one went to wellington and the other studying.

We just saw an emptiness and filled it. I have many ideas on how to build a group, but blackcat wasn't one. (-; We just ran out of time and steam (which happens often) the only thing is that we always knew that was the case lol.

simono

Admin: Discussion about union organisation &amp; nature of communism/capitalism negation etc split to here