A proposal for a regional anarchist federation in Australia

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Joined: 6-03-07
Feb 12 2008 00:51

Andy, you write, little knowing that in doing so you demonstrate my point:

As for origins, when Barricade was first established in 1995, it was given seed money by the International Workers' Club (IWC) (a project established in the early '90s in order to obtain a warehouse space for political meetings and social functions). When the project proved to be unrealisable at that stage, Barricade received funds from it, and so did the Black Star (a PA system). Both projects continue to this day. Insofar as the desire to establish such a space was the intention of the IWC, it would make a great deal more sense to consider the MAC the legitimate heir of the warehouse project.

Andy, thing is I have a piece to this puzzle that you apparently do not have. Yes, Barricade was given seed money by the IWC, and yes it would make sense to consider Barricade the heir of the warehouse project. People went over too as well as money. And the warehouse project was a project of the (real, pre-split) Melbourne ASF. I was at the ASF meetings where this project was argued for, I remember well because I vigorously argued against it. I was at the meeting that was specially stacked with currently inactive members to push it through. I was at the meeting which set up the warehouse project as a "special group" under the constitution of the ASF. I went to the benefit for the IWC at the Sarah Sands, and so on and so forth. Towards the end most of the Melbourne ASF were more interested in the IWC than anything.....the ASF was unravelling and people were returning to their roots.....and so if you join those dots you will see why I call Barricade the real heir of the old Melbourne ASF. The current group calling itself the ASF is irrelevant to this, I'm not sure what it is relevant to. (I'd be gald to be informed!)

As to barricade "clinging to life".....it began as a shop in a major shopping centre. Then it rented a few sqaure metres in the Irene warehouse. Then it halved the space it was renting. Now it turns up occasionally as a bookstall? There is a pattern here. Maybe the MAC can make soem space for it.

@ndy's picture
Joined: 17-03-06
Feb 12 2008 06:54

The IWC may have been a project of the ASF, but the point remains:

Barricade has no formal relationship with the ASF, and never has. None of its (current) membership are members of the ASF. The two pursue separate goals, are structured differently, meet separately, have separate memberships, and have done and been so for the last 13 years.

It is in this sense that Barricade is not the "legitimate continuance of the (real) Melbourne ASF"; in addition, the ASF (as a group of local anarcho-syndicalists) has continued to exist, in one form or another, throughout this period (that is, from February 1995).

This is the point I am making, and I think it's fairly clear, so I won't repeat it again.

Inre Barricade: in its incipient form, in 1994, it began as a series of street stalls. It's not quite correct to state that it opened its doors in a major shopping centre; rather, it opened up on Sydney Road, a major thoroughfare. It leased the property at 115 Sydney Road from January 1995 until December 2002, at which point negotiations with the landlord ceased, and rental became prohibitively expensive. In January 2003, Barricade re-opened at Irene, as both a shop and a library. At some later point -- I don't recollect when -- the collective proved unable to pay the rent on the library space, and so the library was closed and only the shop remained. In August 2006, Barricade closed its doors at Irene, again for financial reasons. Currently, the collective is committed to re-opening in the new space when it becomes available for use as such.

Joined: 6-03-07
Feb 13 2008 03:05

Oi, Andy, you are reduced to arguing (bizarrely) that Sydney Rd is not a major shopping centre? And, obviously, your point about the IWC does not "remain" after my post but is in fact terminated with extreme prejudice.....As must be obvious to you. So what is going on here? And the group currently calling itself the ASF, I must repeat, should not be confused with the ASF which split in 1992.

Leaving aside that baggage of the past I am heartened to hear that Barricade will get a home in the new Anarchist space and hope that your group will not repeat the mistakes of history.

Incidentally I hear that the new space was bought with the sale of certain assets belonging to the Anarchist community as a whole?

Joined: 6-03-07
Feb 13 2008 03:05

Oi, Andy, you are reduced to arguing (bizarrely) that Sydney Rd is not a major shopping centre? And, obviously, your point about the IWC does not "remain" after my post but is in fact terminated with extreme prejudice.....As must be obvious to you. So what is going on here? And the group currently calling itself the ASF, I must repeat, should not be confused with the ASF which split in 1992.

Leaving aside that baggage of the past I am heartened to hear that Barricade will get a home in the new Anarchist space and hope that your group will not repeat the mistakes of history.

Jason Cortez
Joined: 14-11-04
Feb 13 2008 17:54

Yeah cuz the "anarchist community as a whole" can own assets. confused

Joined: 6-03-07
Feb 14 2008 03:14
Yeah cuz the "anarchist community as a whole" can own assets.

Of course it can't, Jason, in a legal sense. What can happen though is for assets to be gifted to a corporate body to be held in trust for the purpose of benefiting the anrachist community. I was expressing myself loosely.

I changed my mind about including that last sentence (which is why the post appears twice). I don't want to prejudge events and we will see what happens.

Incidentally, Jason, I made the mistake earlier of assuming you were an Australian anarchist. Your interest in Australian affairs is welcome enough of course. We are a pretty interesting bunch.

Lumpen's picture
Joined: 11-02-08
Feb 18 2008 10:12

Ah, I don't think I've heard of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Network before this thread and I've been around for a while! I recall seeing Rebel Worker in the Barricade (or was it ASF?) library though. I thought that was a Sydney thing. Are you affiliated with any international? How big is the group? What's the difference between yourselves and the ASF or the IWW? What does the ASN do? (I couldn't find any of this info online). Or are you in the IWW as well? The profile doesn't answer much, less on why you need to be told about our approaches to other anarchist groups. Maybe keep an eye on the PO Box or email in the coming weeks.

Obviously I'm not in a position to speak on behalf of the ASF and presumably you're not motivated by disinterested inquiry. The purpose of explaining who MAC is, was to make up for our apparent deficit in publicity – although I wasn't saying anything MAC hasn't said openly before. It makes sense to do so in the context of talking about federating.

I can't see much point in justifying the activities of MAC unless you can point to something you think is an obstacle to federation or co-operation with other anarchist groups. The same goes with supplying information on the ASF, although I'm unaware on what their position on federating is or number of members anyway. I can tell you that it's a) not big and b) functioning.

I can correct you on Irene though. Irene was never an anarchist space, although it was very sympathetic to libertarian political strands for a while there. It hasn't had the same political bent for quite some time now: four or five years by my reckoning. There are similar spaces that currently perform the functions that Irene once did, minus the Barricade bits.

All this stuff about 'creating space" and so forth is all well and good, except (as you well know) the Melbourne anarchist community has owned a property since "someone" left us (not and your group but "us') the A House in Brunswick back in what was it 1988?

If you are contesting our administration of these resources, or want to express an interest in joining MAC, then you know how to contact us: P.O. Box 494, Brunswick, VIC, 3056. The rest isn't anything MAC hasn't discussed internally before. It might help explain things by pointing out that by "space" I mean something more institutional than physical.

Any other questions about MAC, you can PM me, although I'm not a spokesman. Otherwise I'm only interested in discussing federation with other anarchist groups or establishing co-operative networks generally.

Joined: 2-01-07
Feb 18 2008 11:22

It seems you perhaps have selective vision and memory - unfortunately I don't know any cure for it
- for a discussion of asn activity for many years in NSW/Sydney see in the archive section of our web page www.rebelworker.org the articles - Anarcho-Syndicalism - Catalyst for Workers Self-Organisation and Anarcho-Syndicalist Strategy for Australia Today -
and for an asn critique of the ASF see Report on the Conference held in Wollongong "Liberty, Autonomy & Solidarity" also in the archive section of our web page -
for an ASN critique of theAustralian IWW see in the oceania section of libcom - see discussion of the Australian IWW - threads - they aren't difficult to find -
also see ASF-IWA website thread on libcom oceania section for some asn detials
- the asn - is not affiliated to any international bodies

Joined: 6-03-07
Feb 19 2008 06:38
The profile doesn't answer much, less on why you need to be told about our approaches to other anarchist groups.

Gee lumpnboy, what do you want from a profile? Mine includes my name! (its cunningly disguised in my username).....And I think I explained that I don't need to be told about your approaches etc, I just think your efforts would be better employed appraoching the citizenry in general, and if they had been so employed I would likely have heard of them. OK comrade? Lets not get petty here. (mutter) better than your profile anyway (mutter) groucho

Its a hot day. I'd rather discuss it over a beer. Follow that link that Mark gives.

You say that the ASF is "functioning" ? What the hell does that mean? I suppose it means that it has meetings and that is about it.

I'm not at this stage contesting MAC's administration of resources. I pointed out that they are not MAC's to do with as it will simply because earlier posts had given the impression that they were. You have been around a while you say.....no doubt you will remember the campaign to close down Jura Books because it was not "accountable" to the Anarchist community, even though (unlike MAC) it had no obligation be "accountable""? Maybe some people involved in that inspiring episode now have links with MAC possibly.

But we are etting off the subject of federation, eh. I still reckon the best thing you could do towards federation is to support spreading the Anzac day action to other states.....other types of practical cross-countyr solidarity spring to mind but all anarchists could unite on the Anzac Day project.

Joined: 17-03-06
Feb 21 2008 04:06
jeremytrewindixon wrote:
The profile doesn't answer much, less on why you need to be told about our approaches to other anarchist groups.

Gee lumpnboy, what do you want from a profile?

Hi Jeremy - Lumpen wrote that, not me - we're not the same person even if our usernames invoke the same noble declasse position. For what it is worth. Hope you're well.

Joined: 6-03-07
Feb 22 2008 00:47

Sorry lumpnboy, the careless error was due to speed; like my typos. Just as I can spell really, so also I did not really have you confused in my head with Lumpen.

I'm well enough, and hope you are at least the same.

Citizen K's picture
Citizen K
Joined: 26-01-08
Apr 7 2008 12:37

So what happened at the convergence?

Anarchia's picture
Joined: 18-03-06
Apr 7 2008 23:37

From the brief bits and pieces I've heard, sounds like it went well, there were some productive discussions and a good basis for future ones was built. No federation was formed, but a network for future communication and possible building of a fed was.

Here's a report I saw on ainfos from the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group:

Australia, Report on the Anarchist Conference in Melbourne

During the Easter weekend there was an Anarchist Conference in Melbourne. About
60 people attended, with a maximum count of 55 people being in the room at any
time. About 43% were women. ---- One of the main aims of this Conference was the
forming of an Anarchist Federation (of a synthesis type) after the relevant
proposal by the Mutiny Collective from Sydney, supported by Melbourne Anarchist
Club (MAC) and others since last November-December. ---- But in the Conference
has been disovered that there are a lot more questions of shared politics to be
worked out, as well as ideas of what the structure & purpose of an Anarchist
Federation would be.

Participants have reacted to that in a mature way by deciding to find what
common agreements are possible now, including one to explore the potential for a
Federation. So, a Federation has not been formed. Instead, the Conference
decided to form a network with the purpose of working towards a Federation and
seeing whether one is possible.

The delegate of the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group (MACG) carried the
thoughts and proposals by the group:

The MACG’s position on the proposed Anarchist Federation was that, firstly it
welcomew the discussion about a possible Anarchist Federation as a sign that the
Anarchist movement in Australia is developing and becoming more serious. MACG
has no objection in principle to a Federation. It is the correct way to operate
in a single organisation, but the key is to know what we are doing and do it

The biggest problem is that the current Anarchist groups in Australia have
little experience of working with each other and there is little understanding
of common politics and therefore what we had to work out at the Conference was
only the beginning of what it is necessary to know. Thus, MACG considerw that
an Anarchist Federation in Australia at the moment is premature and the best
outcome that ould come of the Conference was the formation of a formal network
of groups who make a commitment to working with each other with a view to
deciding over the course of a year or two, whether a federation is possible.

MACG also noted that any Anarchist Federation must be a Federation of groups,
not of groups and individuals together. The latter would create major problems
in decision-making and be a haven for cranks and destructive personalities. The
groups would have to be real ones, with common principles and acting in their
own names. Phantom groups for the purpose of admitting scattered individuals
would not count. At the most, individuals would be able to participate in the
Federation as observers. Any Anarchist Federation must be based on a clear set
of shared principles so that its members can be able to come to agreement on how
to act. Without a strong set of shared politics, every practical proposal will
be the subject of endless argument. This is a recipe for bitterness, division
and ineffectiveness.

Also something that MACG considers extremely important is that any Anarchist
Federation must be based on a clear class analysis. Class is not an “issue” to
be put alongside other issues, but a fundamental dynamic of how the world works.
The new world will be created by a revolution of the working class, or not at
all. Problems such as the oppression of women, racism, homophobia and the
destruction of the environment can only be eliminated by the overthrow of
capitalism. This does not mean that all non-class oppressions have to wait till
“after the revolution”, but rather that it is the duty of the entire working
class to fight them here and now. Just as there will be no women's liberation
without workers' revolution, there will be no workers' revolution without
women's liberation. An injury to one is an injury to all.

A class analysis means a recognition that the power of the working class is
based on our ability to stop capitalist production and the flow of profits. The
strategic orientation of the Anarchist movement needs to be towards building
workplace organisation, for that is where our power is. All other activities
should be seen in the light of their contribution to that strategy.

The lack of a class analysis leads Anarchists, like it does others, into
dead-end strategies. Some of them include parliamentary reformism, lifestylism
or insurrectionism. A criticism of lifestylism does not mean that we should not
try to live our lives as Anarchists as much as possible in the here and now, but
rather that making personal efforts in that direction is not a substitute for a
workers' revolution. Insurrectionism derives, in part, from using class as a
badge of identification rather than a strategic orientation for action. The
revolution will not be made by making riots against the police, however
despicable they are, but through workers taking over their workplaces and
defending them against all comers.

If, despite MACG’s objection, an Anarchist Federation was to be formed at the
Conference, the MACG would not join. Instead, MACG would establish close
relations with its constituent groups with a subjective class struggle
orientation for the purpose of having co-operation on shared priorities and
helping them deal with the issues that arise. Our attitude to the Federation
will be supportive and not hostile. We will not rule out joining the Federation
at a later date should it evolve into a form we support.

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 arguements that seemed to be
based on a genuine working class position.

During the Conference, became known that in Sydney that there is a small group
of Anarchist Communists there who are interested in setting up a group like
MACG) in Sydney. There is also another group in Sydney called Alarm which is
still in forming by young anarchists and which is moving along aarchist
communist lines.

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.