What is to be done? A proposal for an Aotearoa Anarchist-Communist Federation

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Felix Frost
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Aug 7 2007 15:06
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What is to be done?

By Asher (title stolen from Lenin – after all the bastard did to anarchists, I figure he deserves it)

Actually, Lenin stole it himself from the nihilist Chernychevsky.

knightrose
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Aug 7 2007 15:08

I've read your whole text ( a bit quickly and filtered by a bit of nasty illness, so sorry if I've got anything muddled).

You are right about what is needed. I'm not sure if there's such a huge difference between the reality of membership of the AF and NEFAC, though. We (AF) are going through something of a growth phase at the moment - partly caused by members creating groups around themselves. We are a federation of groups rather than individuals and the amount of agreement needed to join is high. That's what makes it possible for autonomous groups to function within one organisation. Synthesism is definitely to be avoided. The main differences between us and NEFAC are political, I think - as shown on these boards.

It's also worth noting that our current growth is due to a lot of patient work. Holding regular meetings, bringing out propaganda regularly, intervening on demonstrations, getting involved in campaigns with a distinctive voice all take time, but the hard work is worth it.

Finally, as one who has been active during the period of bringing up kids, it's soemthing you need to take very seriously and see as being an area for collective responsibility - not the childcare, but the making sure that comrades with children are enabled to be as fully active as possible.

I'll be interested to hear how you get on.

knightrose
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Aug 7 2007 15:50
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Would I be wrong in thinking that rather than getting involved in most campaigns and pushing your ideas you prefer to set up your own purely anarchist campaigns?

I reckon you'd be wrong there. I guess you are referring to the Defy ID/No2ID debate there. Groups like No Borders, though, aren't specifically anarchist, are they? Nor the IWW.

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how could the AF without collective discipline across the organisation intervene in a campaign with their own specific ideas and strategy

As a result of discussion.

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The federalist approach doesnt allow for a 'distinctive voice' surely, each branch has their own individual voice.

You'll generally hear us all singing from the same song sheet. It's discussion again.

knightrose
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Aug 7 2007 15:52

Actually, maybe we'd better not derail this thread. I mainly posted because I wanted to say that it can be hard work establishing a fed, but it pays off in the end.

nastyned
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Aug 7 2007 15:56
guydebordisdead wrote:
Does the AF actually do this though? Would I be wrong in thinking that rather than getting involved in most campaigns and pushing your ideas you prefer to set up your own purely anarchist campaigns?

I think this is just repeating what works for platformists, how could the AF without collective discipline across the organisation intervene in a campaign with their own specific ideas and strategy? The federalist approach doesnt allow for a 'distinctive voice' surely, each branch has their own individual voice.

confused

...and there was me thinking that federalism was one of the main principles of platformism! confused

As to the AF, we work with all sorts, though it is often the case that we'll be in smaller, more libertarian coalitions than the biggest leftist one.

We also make (and try to implement!) decisions nationally.

knightrose
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Aug 7 2007 15:58
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We also make (and try to implement!) decisions nationally.

That explains why we keep voting on things. I was wondering.

knightrose
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Aug 7 2007 16:04
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I ask because I don't think the only difference between NEFAC and AF is merely political, its how you view the role of the anarchist organisation.

I think that is a political diffference.

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do AF get involved in campaigns that involve a mass of people including trot groups or whatever?

Yes we do.

knightrose
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Aug 7 2007 16:12

I still think it comes to down to politics in the end. The differences between the WSM and AF are fairly well documented and we don't really need to rehearse them again. You say things we never would. Equally, I think some of the issues are more down to local circumstances. Equally it seems there's still quite a bit of mutual misunderstanding.

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Aug 8 2007 03:11
knightrose wrote:
I'm not sure if there's such a huge difference between the reality of membership of the AF and NEFAC, though.

From what I've read, I wouldn't necessarily disagree, but on paper the organisational structure is somewhat different, which is why I used both of them in the article rather than just one - while personally I prefer the structure of the AF to that of NEFAC, it's good to get a few different ideas out there prior to discussion of how an Aotearoa Anarchist-Communist Federation might function smile

There should be some time at the upcoming conference to discuss this, so hopefully something will come of it.

knightrose
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Aug 8 2007 09:24

Great. Sorry we sort of derailed the thread.
One point I made that was serious was about people with kids - it pays off to be thoughtful. Manchester AF has three of us in my family as members - myself, my partner and son. I doubt this would have happened if we'd not taken the issue seriously. It's simple actually - mostly down to making kids welcome around members, arranging convenient locations for meetings, valuing everyone's involvement etc.

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Aug 8 2007 09:38

Mm, yeah. In one collective I'm involved in, 3 out of the 6 collective members have children (three of the four kids are under 5) so that can take a bit of thought in terms of meeting times/locations etc etc. I think we do it reasonably well, but there have been times where not all 3 of those people have been able to make meetings due to it not working out.

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MJ
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Aug 8 2007 13:14

Good, clear, well-written proposal. Best of luck to you -- keep us posted!

MJ (NEFAC-Boston)

knightrose
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Aug 8 2007 13:23

When our kids were young we sometimes had to say only one of us would go to a meeting. Other times we had all meetings round our house. Then when pub time came, comrades took it in turn to babysit. Mind you it didn't work so well with another comrade whose partner was not in the organisation. He felt torn between family/politics and naturally family won. He's still in occasional contact, but is a big loss. Sorting out the comrades/kids issue is important. It helps overcome the young, male orientation of groups.

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Aug 8 2007 23:05

Cheers MJ, will do smile

makaira
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Aug 9 2007 03:49
knightrose wrote:
Sorting out the comrades/kids issue is important. It helps overcome the young, male orientation of groups.

I don't think this can be stressed enough.

knightrose
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Aug 9 2007 07:11

Unfortunately, though. It was our son who joined the AF, our daughter rebelled sad So we have another young male member!

Skraeling
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Aug 11 2007 01:17

On a practical level, i don't think importing the AF or NEFAC or WSM model wholesale would really work in NZ conditions. Of course, I'm not suggesting in any way that you are Asher.

To be specific, NZ is a provincial country, generally conservative, reasonably spread out geographically, and sparsely populated. It has only one big city (Auckland) and Auckland really functions more like several small cities -- Akld doesn't really have a centre or heart. This means in NZ its v. hard to form functioning local groups of people along the same wave length. Cos there would probably only be about a dozen people in the whole country who would call themselves anarchist communists, i think it would make more sense to form a national federation of individuals rather a federation of local collectives. At the moment, there are no local anarchist communist or communist groups, and in some cities like Dunedin there would be no hope whatsoever of forming an anarchist commie group, and even in the bigger cities, such groups would prob only have 2-3-4 people in a local. IHO It would take more effort to form a lasting local group than to form a national federation. By forming a functioning national fed you would be able to pool all the resources and skills of people around the country into one group. And of course if that doesn't work you can then put more effort into forming locals.

I think some anarchists have a tendency to fetishise local groups, and see them a priori as the be all and end all of organisation. I think it depends on the situation whether localism is workable/desirable or not.

knightrose
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Aug 11 2007 08:15

For a long time the AF had only one real group - London. There were a whole bunch of individuals scattered around the country too. The intention of being a national federation was more aspirational than real. Eventually it paid off and we've got ten groups, though most of them are pretty small with around 4 members or so. Three of the groups are larger than that and we've got real hopes of the others growing in the very near future Which is to say that maybe both Asher and Skraeling are right at the same time. It didn't happen overnight and in many ways grew from the kind of structure Skraeling is suggesting.

To my mind you have to get right the basis for association and have a commitment to producing regular propaganda material. At first you will be an anarchist communist propaganda group. In reality that is what we are still, though sometimes we are able to co-ordinate that propaganda so it looks like something more.

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Aug 12 2007 01:29

There's some more discussion about this going on on my blog for anyone interested.

Skraeling wrote:
Cos there would probably only be about a dozen people in the whole country who would call themselves anarchist communists

I'd definately say that was an underestimation. I'd call numbers certainly around 20-30, potentially more. Of course, thats not to say all would be interested in an @-commie fed - some are certainly quite pro-synthesist methods of organising.

I could see, potentially, Wellington and perhaps Auckland having functioning local groups - certainly both have the numbers to do so. Christchurch would have a few people who could collaborate, but I'm not sure if I'd call that a local group per se. But I definately agree that, as least at the foundation, any Federation would be mostly individuals cooperating on a national level rather than local groups feeding into a national level, because of the geographical distribution you mention.

Skraeling
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Aug 13 2007 01:16
Asher wrote:
Skraeling wrote:
Cos there would probably only be about a dozen people in the whole country who would call themselves anarchist communists

I'd definately say that was an underestimation. I'd call numbers certainly around 20-30, potentially more. Of course, thats not to say all would be interested in an @-commie fed - some are certainly quite pro-synthesist methods of organising.

Hmmm...In the late 1990s there would only be 3-4 people calling themselves anarchist communists, and then in about 2003 there were definitely only about 6-7 people in the whole country who would call themselves anarchist communist. There was one anarchist communist group in Wgtn called Wildcat (1st incarnation, nothin to do with current Wildcat) but that lasted only 6 months and fell apart once i left Wgtn (I don't think ART in Chch was explicitly anarchist communist, i think they may have called themselves "class struggle anarchist" IIRC). The general reaction of anarchists to calling yourself an anarchist communist was one of shock -- it went something like "Communist????? Why use that term? That is something to do with dictatorships in Russia!" and then you'd maybe overhear some snide comment about being into anarchist dictatorships or something. So they were generally pretty ignorant of a major strand of anarchism. So perhaps that is why i'm a bit shocked that you say there are 20-30 anarchist communists in NZ. Most anarchists, in my experience, preferred to call themselves simply "anarchists", and any further clarity into what they were actually into beyond the wishy-washy and nebulous term "anarchist" was generally avoided (apart from "anarcha-feminist", of course). I'm exaggerating a little here for effect, but it would surprise me greatly if this situation has changed in a deep manner. It hasn't been the case in Dunedin in the last few years. Same goes for Chch at the mo.

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I could see, potentially, Wellington and perhaps Auckland having functioning local groups - certainly both have the numbers to do so. Christchurch would have a few people who could collaborate, but I'm not sure if I'd call that a local group per se. But I definately agree that, as least at the foundation, any Federation would be mostly individuals cooperating on a national level rather than local groups feeding into a national level, because of the geographical distribution you mention.

So would you want to see locals set up Wgtn and Auckland b4 a fed is set up (which may be quite difficult), or just jump in and set a national fed up and hope that locals are formed out of it? there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

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Aug 13 2007 01:33
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I'm exaggerating a little here for effect, but it would surprise me greatly if this situation has changed in a deep manner.

I've definately noticed a strong change in the time I've been in Wellington, with more people identifying as something beyond anarchist. I think to some extent this has to do with the predominance of green/eco/post-left tendancies, and people wanting to clarify their own politics as something seperate from that (or a part of that), whether consciously or not.

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just jump in and set a national fed up and hope that locals are formed out of it?

That one. Logically, if there are 4-5 people in Wellington, for example, I would imagine they'd be keen to work together on a local level as well as part of the national Fed.

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Aug 13 2007 01:43

Skraeling - For what its worth, I just went through some people in my head and came up with 15 that I've heard identify as anarchist-communists. I'm sure there's more in Auckland that I don't know as well as that. If you widened it to include anarcho-syndicalists as well (which some people have suggested in discussions about this) then thats another half dozen or so.

Plus there could be some in smaller centres that nobody knows - two people have joined the AACF set-up list already that I've never heard of...

edit - The other thing to remember is that there's a surprisingly large pool of anarchists, much more than you'd think. For instance, in 2005, I was part of a crew that organised a Wellington anarchist community weekend - a gathering of all anarchist identified people in Wellington. There were over 90 people on the invite list (of whom about 65 showed up during the weekend)...

And revol - eh?

yuda
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Aug 13 2007 03:42
Skraeling wrote:
[(I don't think ART in Chch was explicitly anarchist communist, i think they may have called themselves "class struggle anarchist" IIRC).

ART wasn't explicitly anarchist communist and did call ourselves a class struggle anarchist group mainly because one member considered themselve a syndicalist, another a mutualist and another a situationist. At the time it seemed like a useful compromise. The rest of us did describe themselves as anarchist communist.

Probably at the time I would had called myself an anarchist without objectives though my politics were (and still are) closest to anarchist communism.

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Aug 13 2007 04:07
yuda wrote:
anarchist without objectives

without adjectives, perhaps? tongue

yuda
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Aug 13 2007 08:26
Asher wrote:
yuda wrote:
anarchist without objectives

without adjectives, perhaps? tongue

No, I think I got it right. tongue

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Aug 13 2007 09:21
revol68 wrote:
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f you widened it to include anarcho-syndicalists as well

anarcho syndicalists are anarcho communists ffs!

why are people such fucking spastics?

No need to be rude revol, and it's not necessarily true - some people in the WSA for example aren't communists, like syndicalistcat on here. He's a Pareconite.

Anyway good luck asher and co with this. I hope libcom has proved useful in these efforts in some way?

If you did get a group started, one thing which we would like to encourage is for groups in certain areas/sectors to commit to contributing regular content to libcom from that region/sector. Because of course the more content that is here the better off everyone is, and regions which have good regular content could in the future get their own custom home pages: nz.libcom.org for example. Anyway, just a thought.

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Aug 13 2007 10:39
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If you did get a group started, one thing which we would like to encourage is for groups in certain areas/sectors to commit to contributing regular content to libcom from that region/sector. Because of course the more content that is here the better off everyone is, and regions which have good regular content could in the future get their own custom home pages: nz.libcom.org for example. Anyway, just a thought.

I definately like the sound of that. If things get going, I'll suggest that for sure. Even if not, I'll try to spread the word at the conference among people I think might be interested to try to get more NZ stuff on here regardless. In the meantime, I'm happy to keep cross-posting the features I write for Aotearoa Indymedia onto here as I have been recently.

john
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Aug 13 2007 11:07
John. wrote:
revol68 wrote:
Quote:
f you widened it to include anarcho-syndicalists as well

anarcho syndicalists are anarcho communists ffs!

why are people such fucking spastics?

No need to be rude revol, and it's not necessarily true - some people in the WSA for example aren't communists, like syndicalistcat on here. He's a Pareconite.

but if you're a syndicalist, but don't espouse anarchist communism as the end point, doesn't that mean you're not an anarcho-syndicalist? maybe a revolutionary syndicalist, or just a syndicalist, but not an anarcho-syndicalist?

Skraeling
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Aug 14 2007 01:10
Asher wrote:
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I'm exaggerating a little here for effect, but it would surprise me greatly if this situation has changed in a deep manner.

I've definately noticed a strong change in the time I've been in Wellington, with more people identifying as something beyond anarchist. I think to some extent this has to do with the predominance of green/eco/post-left tendancies, and people wanting to clarify their own politics as something seperate from that (or a part of that), whether consciously or not.

well, that sounds like a bit of a change in wellington. yuk, post-left anarchism. are there many primitivists? they're even worse. I remember a time when there was only one anarcho-primitivist in the whole country. unfortunately he put out a terrible lifestyle anarchist magazine (the person and zine shall remain nameless).

but overall i doubt if it much of a change. i think the anarchist movement in NZ has its firm origins in the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s rather than the anarchist movement itself. so the predominant form of anarchism has been lifestyle anarchism, whether in its hippie/eco/green/feral form or its punk form. I think the predominance of eco/green/post left anarchism in wellington at least is just an extension of this. At least the liberal anarchism a la the CEC has had its day! Or is counter cultural anarchism just a form of liberalism? Yes...

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Aug 14 2007 01:39
Skraeling wrote:
are there many primitivists?

I can't think of any self-identified primitivists in the country, happily. A couple of people who are either ex-primmies or sympathise with primmies, but thats it.

Skraeling wrote:
i think the anarchist movement in NZ has its firm origins in the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s rather than the anarchist movement itself.

Thats interesting, hadn't thought about that at all before, but certainly sounds believable/relatively accurate.