Differences between Beyond Resistance and AWSM?

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Steven.
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Aug 11 2010 19:30
Differences between Beyond Resistance and AWSM?

so I was wondering what the differences between these two organisations basically were? in terms of political/tactical differences, social makeup etc?

I'm not trying to stir any trouble! I'm just not clear on any distinctions, points of disagreement or whatever, so info appreciated

Jared
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Aug 12 2010 04:13

No it's a common question. I think we are pretty similar in general politics (anarchist communist, class struggle focused etc etc) and we have a good working relationship with AWSM, distro each others stuff, and stay in touch. Most of us are friends.

BR is based in Christchurch, a city in the South Island, and is more of an affinity group specific to our city. AWSM has members around the country, with a strong presence in the North Island, and is more of a national group.

We've had good discussions before on our differences, mainly on BR's strategy, which I guess leans towards anarcho-syndicalism. AWSM at the time was seen as a Platformist org (but that's changed over time — the reference to the Platform has been dropped from their A&P's). Also there were disagreements about the process AWSM took to set up, which held back a number of us from joining. Most of that is water under the bridge though.

BR is small. We have four core members with around 4-6 support members who help out at events. AWSM has been growing I believe, with a mix of Platformists, anarchist communists (some sympathetic to a-s) and the odd Libertarian Marxist (this is only through conversation with individual members of AWSM, I don't pretend to know who's in AWSM or their politics).

I have sometimes felt that the way AWSM functions as the national body for anarchist communists in NZ could be a potential roadblock to organisational growth in NZ. At some stage there will be more groups than BR outside of AWSM who identify with the politics but will want autonomy from both. If that happens we will have to figure out what next.

Now that BR is quite established with our own positions I'm not sure if BR should dissolve to join AWSM (personal politics has played havoc in NZ for a long time but I feel we are moving past them). Possibly if AWSM agreed we could federate formally under a new banner (Aotearoa Anarchist Federation?), which could be fruitful. It would keep the autonomy of both groups and encourage the formation of other collectives.

However NZ's anarchist movement is very small. I'd never want to compete for members in CHCH with AWSM — it just wouldn't make sense. I'm becoming more open to somehow joining AWSM (with BR's autonomy intact), but that's a discussion for our collective and AWSM to have. Also some may be opposed to us joining due to personal histories.

Feel free anyone else to chip in.

bootsy
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Aug 12 2010 08:41

Its a fair question Steven, BR and AWSM are on pretty good terms so there is no real shit to be stirred by asking. I would second everything Jared has said here, and so I don't have a whole lot more to add.

For starters I think its worth just checking out the differences between our aims and principles, our positions on Tino Rangatiratanga (Maori self-determination) differ a reasonable amount, and I do find BR's position to be pretty problematic for any anarchist communist to endorse, most importantly the bolded section:

Quote:
We recognise that the indigenous peoples of Aotearoa belong to the land on which we stand, and act in solidarity with Maori engaged in grassroots struggle for self-determination.

Whereas ours states:

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We support Tino Rangatiratanga and stand in solidarity with flaxroots indigenous struggle and direct action. The state’s Treaty of Waitangi settlement process has benefited a small Maori capitalist elite, while doing little for working class Maori. While we respect tikanga Maori and te ao Maori, we believe that tino rangatiratanga is not possible for all Maori under capitalism and the state.

TR is a pretty complex thing to engage with, and I have to admit I'm far from formulating any coherent opinions of my own on the subject, however I think BR are pandering to an incredibly crude nationalist mysticism here. That statement on its own would probably be enough to put me off joining BR, although I am one of the hardliners in AWSM (and probably the Aotearoa anarchist scene) when it comes to the rejection of nationalism.

As Jared points out BR are also explicitly syndicalist, whereas AWSM does have individual members who are sympathetic to syndicalism however as an organisation syndicalism is not a part of our program.

That said, even I feel like I'm picking hairs trying to point out the differences, because in terms of our actual practice the groups are damn similar. As Jared points out BR do not maintain any pretensions to becoming a national organisation, while AWSM does, though in practice I admit we are having trouble growing branches in many of the centers where we only have one member. At some point I think it will not be very worthwhile for AWSM and BR to remain separate orgs, if that means competing over potential members and stunting the ability of anarchist communists to communicate effectively throughout the country. However a merger doesn't seem particularly urgent either.

Personally I don't agree much with Jared's outlook on the formation of a national anarchist org/federation/whatever, I think its useful to have an explicitly anarchist communist org which aims to grow branches nationally in order to give people who agree with our politics the opportunity to communicate with others and organise even when they are geographically isolated. Small regional groups will rely too heavily on already established politicized social groups in order to form, in other words the anarchist ghetto. Whereas with a national group in operation people do not have to be in the 'scene' in order to communicate with link minded people. Class struggle anarchists should not be focused on recruiting from the already established anarchist scene, imho.

Members of BR in Christchurch and Members of AWSM in Wellington are both also going to try and set up a solidarity network in their respective regions, and I think its worth pointing out there are some differences in approach between those of us in Wellington and BR in chch. BR, being more explicitly syndicalist, are aiming to set up the kind of network envisaged in SolFed's strategy and struggle pamphlet, an ideologically anarcho-syndicalist network which agitates for mass assemblies (correct me if I'm wrong here, but this is what I have gathered from our many discussions on the subject). I don't think we are aiming to do anything like this in Wellington, perhaps our model could be more comparable to SeaSol in that it will not have any explicitly anarchist political program but will simply be a network for militant workers. This is all talk at the moment though so we will see what kind of shape these networks take once they're off the ground.

Also as Jared points out AWSM's politics were semi-platformist at the beginning, however they definitely aren't anymore. Despite the fact that people on anarchist black cat are insisting that we have signed the Anarkismo statement, which we haven't. If anything I would say our politics are moving closer to A-Fed (although I admit I'm biased).

bootsy
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Aug 12 2010 08:42
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and so I don't have a whole lot more to add.

I realize now that this was a blatant lie.

Jared
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Aug 12 2010 11:02

Thanks Bootsy,

The position on Tino Rangatiratanga in our A&P's need to be changed IMHO. That was decided on in the very initial meeting, and I don't think it's been talked about explicitly that much by the group since then. I feel our strategy paper is a touch better:

Quote:
Anarchist strategy and activity in Aotearoa must recognise Maori oppression, Tino Rangatiratanga, and Indigenous forms of self-organisation. We recognise and support the need for Maori to struggle as Maori, with Maori, and on Maori terms — it is not up to Pakeha to tell Maori what is best for them, for this is the continuation of white supremacy. Instead, we can illustrate the link between class exploitation and colonial oppression, vocalise an anarchist communist perspective, and offer a critique of Maori corporatism, hand-in-hand with local iwi.

Maori currently make up a significant portion of the working class, yet the recent history of Pakeha exploitation of traditional lands and culture must not be overlooked. We believe it would be detrimental to ignore the very real past of colonisation and forms of Maori protest against it — as contradictory as this may seem to Eurocentric anarchist traditions. Cultural diversity and self-determination does not have to imply nationalism and a nation state, therefore Beyond Resistance aims to support, engage with, and learn from flaxroots indigenous struggle in Aotearoa.’

I wouldn't see a federation as a big tent kind of thing, if that is what you mean by this:

Quote:
I think its useful to have an explicitly anarchist communist org which aims to grow branches nationally in order to give people who agree with our politics the opportunity to communicate with others and organise even when they are geographically isolated

It would have to be anarchist communist with a degree of tactical unity etc etc. I just think the approach of forming nationally first, with branches to follow, was slightly flawed (or at least could have been done better initially). Again, that's water under the bridge and I don't want to bring all that up again wink

Quote:
I think its worth pointing out there are some differences in approach between those of us in Wellington and BR in chch. BR, being more explicitly syndicalist, are aiming to set up the kind of network envisaged in SolFed's strategy and struggle pamphlet, an ideologically anarcho-syndicalist network which agitates for mass assemblies (correct me if I'm wrong here, but this is what I have gathered from our many discussions on the subject). I don't think we are aiming to do anything like this in Wellington, perhaps our model could be more comparable to SeaSol in that it will not have any explicitly anarchist political program but will simply be a network for militant workers.

To be perfectly honest, through the activity against the 90 Day bill and working more closely with others in CHCH I think any kind of network here is no longer on the cards to be explicitly anarchist/anarcho-syndicalist. We've had a lot of support for some kind of network and it does seem wrong to limit it when there's so much enthusiasm. That doesn't mean we wont be practicing anarchist/syndicalist methods (such as mass assemblies etc etc) but yes, the initial thinking has shifted. Who knows, the hui's yet to happen.

Again, I'm open to the idea of merging into AWSM but it wouldn't be my decision alone. Members of BR (and AWSM) would have to have that conversation. Wasn't BR on your conference agenda? What came out of that?

bootsy
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Aug 12 2010 11:25
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It would have to be anarchist communist with a degree of tactical unity etc etc. I just think the approach of forming nationally first, with branches to follow, was slightly flawed (or at least could have been done better initially).

I think you missed my point slightly so I'll try and explain it more clearly. As you have said, BR is a regional group which aims to encourage the growth of other regional anarchist communist groups and, at some point in the future, for those groups to come together into a national federation. Whereas AWSM set itself up as a national organisation from the get go, not a regional one.

The problem with your approach Jared is that for a national organisation to form you are essentially relying on anarchist communist groups to spring up out of nowhere. But lets look at the reality of the situation, where would these groups come from? Answer: most likely the already existing anarchist scene, this is because I think the formation of regional groups is likely to rely on already existing social networks. And as for people who are geographically isolated, who agree with our politics, but who do not want to be involved with the local anarchist social scene? Well if there isn't a national organisation they are not really able to do anything. They may not constitute a branch as individuals, but at least if there is an entire organisation behind them they will be in a much better position to form a branch than if they are acting as individuals. Which is why I think the existence of a group which is clearly committed to forming a national organisation is a much better approach.

So yes the point is not necessarily that the politics of your federation would be big tent (though I think your commitment to regional autonomy means they will inevitably be somewhat big tentish imo), its that you would be likely to end up recruiting from the anarchist scene. Which like I said should not be a priority for class struggle anarchists.

Actually I think this might be one of the key differences between AWSM and BR, and I'm definitely with AWSM on this one.

Jared
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Aug 13 2010 09:45
Quote:
BR is a regional group which aims to encourage the growth of other regional anarchist communist groups and, at some point in the future, for those groups to come together into a national federation.

The problem with your approach Jared is that for a national organisation to form you are essentially relying on anarchist communist groups to spring up out of nowhere

Hey I see you point and concede that you're right in a sense. But I'd just like to point out that we don't place much emphasis on BR trying to encourage other groups forming. If they did then great, we;d help out as much as possible, but it's not something we actively plan to foster. I guess we take a more organic view of a federation coming about through need as it happens, rather than trying to build it per say.

I certainly don't think we focus on the existing scene. Like you, most of us in AWSM had problems with the so called 'activist community' and wanted to break away from that, in both our politics and our activity. But I certainly don't place my bets on people outside of our own lives to magically join an anarchist communist group with such explicit A&P's (I include BR in this too). Hence the need for more events, more visible activity in wider class issues, and encouraging involvement. I do think AWSM and BR do this quite well and are certainly more accessible than past groups. (Actually I take that back, we just had a new member approach through him liking our website and coming to events).

Question: what kind of autonomy do local branches in say, A-Fed, have? I notice locals have their own websites and put on their own events but share the same A&P's, is this correct? I mean BR is basically doing the same stuff as AWSM but with different A&P's (by the way I don't feel like our A&P's are the gospel, I couldn't tell you any of them off the top of my head embarrassed ).

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Al
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Aug 18 2010 09:18

Ok, I've finally sorted out logging in after some difficulty and this will be my first post on Libcom. Yah!!!

Like Jared I also would like to see us revisit our a's & p's, especially our position on TR. I'd like to see it changed and it will no doubt be on the agenda of our 12month Hui.

I've have had mixed feelings about approaches to establishing a national organisation, and have thought that local/regional collectives forming first then federating nationally was the best approach. I would say though that my position is changing especially after some discussions about establishing solidarity networks regionally and some previous discussions with Asher. What ever works I guess.

How you explain AWSM's approach Bootsy does make sense and I've been really keen for some time to see anarchism move beyond the lifestylist ghetto. Actually we have someone new who is interested in becoming a member of BR who doesn't come from a 'scene' or punk subculture, which is great.

The way things have been going with organising around resisting the Governments proposed changes to the ERA, it has been interesting with more communication and co-operation nationally than I've seen before.

I'm interested in seeing this continue and also some strategic and tactical unity develop around how best to organise to fight these changes. AWSM have been putting out some great flyers which has been really useful.

It's funny BR has formed a good working relationship with the Workers Party through co-operating with this campaign, which has been great.

Lets all keep talking.

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Steven.
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Aug 18 2010 14:56

thanks for the information, it is helpful working out what the score is.

It's good hearing what you guys are up to on here generally so do stick around!