Towards Federation report

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@ndy
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Jun 12 2013 12:07
Towards Federation report

FWIW, I wrote a v brief report on the 'Towards Federation' conference held in Melbourne on the weekend:

http://slackbastard.anarchobase.com/?p=33968

vicent
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Jun 17 2013 05:51

do you think that it will come to fruition soon? i was at the first meeting and it seemed to be going really well

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@ndy
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Jun 17 2013 08:41

Depends what you mean by 'soon'. There hasn't been an anarchist federation in Australia since the 1970s (tho' arguably, for a short period of time in the 1990s, 'Angry People' approximated one). FWIW, I would expect at least another 12 months to pass before the political and organisational basis of a federation is properly established. Currently, there's three groups in Melbourne that have expressed an interest, one in Brisbane, and possibly others in Adelaide and Sydney.

The conference itself had fairly minimal aims: to lay the groundwork for and elicit interest in the possibility of forming a federation. I think it was reasonably successful in this. More broadly, in principle, most anarchist groups recognise that coordinating their activities by means of a federative structure is a worthwhile endeavour. The difficulty lies in working out more precisely what are the common political grounds they share and the nature of the organisational structure they wish to establish - and this will take time.

Ablokeimet
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Jun 17 2013 10:17
vicent wrote:
do you think that it will come to fruition soon?

If it comes to fruition soon, it will be extremely premature. Anarchists in Australia who have been around a while know about the appalling disaster that was the Federation of Australian Anarchists. Much has been written on it (look for it with your Famous Web Search Engine) and none of the pieces I have seen have had a single good word to say about it. Therefore, there is a fair amount of care being taken this time around to get the process right. The issues tackled at the TFAC were the essential starting point, but much needs to be done, including:

(a) Participating groups deciding what their reaction to the Conference is; and

(b) Participating groups deciding what the next step in the process of federation should be.

Neither of these is simple. Only three groups had delegates on the second day and one of them came with a mandate which didn't allow for the expression of views on the bulk of items under discussion. One group supports the process and intends to federate, but didn't attend and so wasn't able to put opinions about the matters on the table. And one comrade who observed had no mandate from his group, so wasn't in a position to give any opinions at all - despite the fact that the participation (or otherwise) of that group would make a substantial difference to any federation which eventuates. All of these considerations are relevant to point (a). Setting out the intricacies involved in point (b) would be even longer.

The process has been useful so far and promises to continue to be so. I think the formation of a federation is likely, but probably not before next year. And the most definitive statement I can make is that I expect the Melbourne Anarchist Club will be part of it, if it forms. The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group will be in a position to decide its reaction and its next step some time in the next few weeks.

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Lugius
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Jun 18 2013 10:30

Ablokeimet wrote:

Quote:
If it comes to fruition soon, it will be extremely premature.

The FAA disintegrated in June 1976, that's 37 years ago. I think the question should be turned around and looked at from the other end. Why has it taken so long to get to the point where anarchists groups in Australia are taking the preliminary steps to form an anarchist federation?

There were three groups (the MAC, Jura and Organise!) that engaged in a sort of trial run with an agreement in 2009 to co-operate together to publish 'Sedition'. This was a result of a conference initiated by the MAC in that year. The MACG chose not to participate. That was four years ago.

If a federation forms soon, it will not be premature, I'd suggest it would be long overdue.

Given that everybody who has had anything to say about it has agreed that an anarchist federation in Australia would be a good idea, it begs the most obvious question;

Why is it taking so long?

Ablokeimet
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Jun 18 2013 10:51
Lugius wrote:
Why has it taken so long to get to the point where anarchists groups in Australia are taking the preliminary steps to form an anarchist federation?

Good question. To have a guess, I'd say it's probably been because most of the Anarchist groups around haven't been capable of joining a federation. This is a different question, however, to the issue of how long the process of initiating a federation should take. We've taken a long time till we started the process, much longer than was desirable. The process itself, however, is necessarily protracted, because it is going to force the groups involved to face a lot of questions many have previously not considered.

Lugius wrote:
There were three groups (the MAC, Jura and Organise!) that engaged in a sort of trial run with an agreement in 2009 to co-operate together to publish 'Sedition'. This was a result of a conference initiated by the MAC in that year. The MACG chose not to participate. That was four years ago.

Was MACG invited to participate? I can't recall us receiving an invitation. If one was sent I'd be glad to know the date, so that I can search back and find out why we didn't respond.

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Jun 18 2013 19:58
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Was MACG invited to participate? I can't recall us receiving an invitation.

If I recall correctly, the June 2009 conference was open to anyone who took the initiative to be involved. Unlike the most recent TFAC, there was no plenary. It was a case of calling for a conference on the specific topic of anarchist federation as a means of ascertaining the level of interest. Given that federalism in an integral part of anarchist-communism, would it not be reasonable to expect an interest and initiative on the part of a self-avowed anarchist communist group?

The TFAC was divided into two parts; an open forum, open to any individual who had an interest, a plenary, to which delegates of groups were invited. The plenary is the key difference between 2009 and 2013. The duration of time between the two conferences demonstrates that the MAC is certainly not rushing it.

During the course of planning the TFAC (which was initiated at the MAC meeting of 3 March) the question arose; who to invite? There was some considerable discussion and the final list was based on information available and was probably not perfect but it certainly was a start.

In Melbourne; Anarchist Affinity, Libertarian Workers for a Self-Managed Society, Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group. In Sydney; Black Rose Collective and Jura Books. In Brisbane Anarchist Group and Brisbane Solidarity Network. A total of seven groups.

Invitations were made by email and the response was varied. In Melbourne; AA responded but chose not to send delegates to the plenary. AA did send observers to the open forum. LWSS responded and sent a delegate to the plenary, but not to the open forum. MACG responded and sent a delegate to the plenary and participated in the open forum. Jura did not respond but a member of Jura participated in the open forum and was admitted as an observer at the plenary. Black Rose did not respond and did not participate in any way. In Brisbane; the BAG responded and declared their support but were unable to send any delegates. The BSN responded indicating only that the proposal was under discussion but did not send delegates.

A proposed constitution was circulated to all groups as well as any written responses specific to the proposal of which there was one from LWSS and one from MACG. Since the TFAC, the Adelaide-based Organise! has re-grouped and these documents have been forwarded to them.

Quote:
Good question. To have a guess, I'd say it's probably been because most of the Anarchist groups around haven't been capable of joining a federation.

Why not? Is it not reasonable to expect anarchist groups to have the capacity to organise together in an anarchist federation?

Quote:
it is going to force the groups involved to face a lot of questions many have previously not considered.

It's been 37 years since the disintegration of the FAA. Is that not ample time to consider the questions? More recently, it has been four years since the MAC took the initiative in 2009. How protracted do you think it will be?

Ablokeimet
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Jun 19 2013 11:22
Lugius wrote:
If I recall correctly, the June 2009 conference was open to anyone who took the initiative to be involved.

I've checked my E-mail account and the MACG's. I can find no record of a conference in 2009, or of any invitation to one. I do have, however, documents concerning a conference in March 2008. They make interesting reading.

Lugius wrote:
Quote:
Good question. To have a guess, I'd say it's probably been because most of the Anarchist groups around haven't been capable of joining a federation.

Why not? Is it not reasonable to expect anarchist groups to have the capacity to organise together in an anarchist federation?

Except for the bookshops, and the Mutiny zine, most Anarchist groups in Australia for the last few decades have been short-lived and not well organised. Most groups have come together around specific projects rather than being outward looking and seeking to put the case for Anarchism to the wider community. I'm not justifying it. I'm just explaining it.

Lugius wrote:
Quote:
it is going to force the groups involved to face a lot of questions many have previously not considered.

It's been 37 years since the disintegration of the FAA. Is that not ample time to consider the questions? More recently, it has been four years since the MAC took the initiative in 2009. How protracted do you think it will be?

1. The FAA put people off for many years. Too many. But it did put them off. The MAC is to be congratulated for getting the idea going again.

2. The MACG has a position of wanting a very specific type of federation. We call it Anarchist Communist. Because of that, we had been waiting for the formation of other Anarchist Communist groups in Australia. Until recently, those that had arisen in the last 8 years or so did not last long enough for the necessary discussions to get terribly far. When the MAC initiated the latest process, we were quite pessimistic about its chances of success. We decided to engage in good faith, however, and have been surprised by the amount of common politics we have discovered so far. As a result, we are more optimistic than we were initially.

3. Considering the number of meetings that are likely to be necessary, and the frequency with which people will be willing & able to travel interstate, I expect the process to finalise sometime early next year. A Melbourne-only federation would probably be achievable sooner, because local groups could meet together more frequently.

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@ndy
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Jun 19 2013 13:13

I think Ablokeimet may be right about dates: a previous such gathering took place over the Easter weekend in 2008. There's discussion elsewhere on libcom on the outcome:

http://libcom.org/forums/oceania/australian-anarchist-federation-1203200...

MACG participated in this event, held at MAC.

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Lugius
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Jun 20 2013 05:41

Yes, you're right. My mistake - I was confusing it with the ASF Congress held at MAC in June 2009.

But the point remains; why has it taken so long? I think an answer to this question would contribute to the successful development of an anarchist federation in the future.

Ablokeimet wrote:

Quote:
The FAA put people off for many years. Too many. But it did put them off.

I find this explanation unsatisfactory. I was at both the January 1975 conference in Sydney that founded the FAA and the June 1976 conference in Melbourne where it imploded. The number of people who were involved with it in those days, who are still up and about, are very few. I can think of four who are no longer with us. In my view, the idea that those events alone put so many (presumably anarchists) off for so long lacks credibility.

One of the fatal flaws in the original founding of the FAA was it was agreed that it could be comprised of groups and individuals. This put individuals on the level as groups in terms of decision-making power. It accorded individuals, who were unwilling or unable to demonstrate a capacity to work co-operatively together with others, power that made the federation meaningless in any anarchist sense. Even as late as the Easter 2008 conference, there were those that argued for a federation along these lines. If there is any lesson to be learnt, if not already understood theoretically, is that an anarchist federation is comprised of member groups only. I know of no-one seriously suggesting otherwise.

But even this is an insufficiently adequate explanation for the lengthy duration of zero a-fed action! If the anarchist scene is demonstrably unable to organise itself into something resembling a movement (of which an anarchist federation would be a key landmark feature) then it brings into question of the genuine desire on the part of anarchists in Australia to organise a society that dispenses with capitalism guaranteed by the state altogether.

I would contend that a better explanation would be that an anarchist federation challenges bourgeois notions of individual freedom and entitlement to privilege and authority.

At the TFAC open forum held on Saturday 8 June, a self-styled anarchist associated with a project (Loophole) that claims to anarchist without ever overtly identifying as such, wondered out loud how Loophole would be regarded by an anarchist federation (should one be founded).

He feared a challenge to Loophole's alleged right to appropriate all the signs and symbols of anarchy - a sort of anarchist applique, to what is an essentially reformist project. At the same time, asserted a right of veto over anarchist groups federating in the very same name! ("That's only your opinion" he responded to the definition put forward on the day)

It is difficult to think of an example of bourgeois hypocrisy more richly detailed or vividly illustrated than this, beyond a Sunday afternoon meeting of your local Rotary club.

Faint echoes of this attitude could be detected in the statement made by Anarchist Affinity when indicating that, while they would not participate in the founding of an anarchist federation, they would "not stand in the way" of other groups doing so. This presumes possession of the right of veto. It flies in the face of the principle of free association.

If the MAC chooses to freely federate with one, two or more other anarchist groups, under the name Anarchist Federation Australia or any other name arrived at by common agreement, then any other anarchist group who chooses not to may please themselves, but they do not possess any right of veto.

The MAC has demonstrated a serious and sustained commitment to the project of founding an anarchist federation in Australia (which does not rule out the involvement of groups in Aotearoa at some point in the future) in accordance with time-worn anarchist practise. The MAC seeks the participation and involvement of other groups within a context of mutual respect and understanding.

But let's not faff about forever - how hard can it be for genuine article ridgy-didge anarchist groups to organise an anarchist federation, say, within a lifetime?

Had it been my decision alone, I would have called the conference;

Get On Board Or Get Out Of The Way, Toot, Toot!

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Lugius
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Jun 25 2013 03:09

"Solicit men's view in the mass, and they will return stupid, fickle and violent answers; solicit their views as members of definite groups with real solidarity and a distinctive character, and their answers will be responsible and wise. Expose them to the political 'language' of mass democracy, which represents 'the people' as unitary and undivided and minorities as traitors, and they will give birth to tyranny; expose them to the political language of federalism, in which the people figures as a diversified aggregate of real associations, and they will resist tyranny to the end."

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon