Is the British Anarchist movement dead?

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Vlad The Inhaler's picture
Vlad The Inhaler
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Nov 21 2017 19:57
Is the British Anarchist movement dead?

I have no links to the Anarchist movement, I have spent the majority of my political life immersed in the Leninist milieu. In this day and age without the old social and professional networks that used to exist my only real recourse was to google and wiki search for local groups. The Anarchist Federation site doesn't load, and thinking back I don't think it loaded when I was trying to find out about them about a year ago. The Solidarity Fed also seem fairly quiet.

Has Anarchism withered away in Britain? It would be tremendous to hear that it hasn't.

I'm not the most useful comrade and my arrival certainly won't herald the revival of our political fortunes but it would be good to at least be in contact with other politicos who want comradeship, support and discussion.

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rat
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Nov 21 2017 20:02

Is your question based on the problems of loading one anarchist organisation's website?

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Vlad The Inhaler
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Nov 21 2017 20:10

As I said, I don't have any connections with any Anarchists. I don't know any, I don't think I've even met any. A google and Wiki search didn't really turn much up other than SolFed which doesn't seem very active and AnFed which has never loaded any time of tried it.

radicalgraffiti
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Nov 21 2017 20:17

the afed's internet host is currently having problems https://libcom.org/forums/anarchist-federation/afed-national-site-18112017

the facebook page and twitter accounts are still working

Mike Harman
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Nov 21 2017 20:19

The AF website is down due to a hosting issue, expected back in 'days'.

Brighton Solfed is the most active Solfed local, I don't have first hand knowledge but they seem to be going from strength to strength winning disputes against local employers and landlords: http://www.brightonsolfed.org.uk/

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Vlad The Inhaler
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Nov 21 2017 21:42

Cheers comrades. I'll see if I can contact them through Facebook.

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jondwhite
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Nov 21 2017 22:34

Isn't libcom primarily British?

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Nov 21 2017 23:00
jondwhite wrote:
Isn't libcom primarily British?

the group that runs it is, although more of our readers are American than from the UK (although this is probably to be expected as the US has a much bigger population than the UK)

the AF has active local groups, but yes its website nationally has been down for a couple of days due to hosting problems.

Anarchists in the UK are also involved in lots of other local groups, as well as campaigns which are not specifically anarchist in themselves, for example migrant solidarity work, workplace organising etc

ajjohnstone
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Nov 22 2017 03:01
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Anarchists in the UK are also involved in lots of other local groups, as well as campaigns which are not specifically anarchist in themselves, for example migrant solidarity work, workplace organising etc

So can that be interpreted that the idea an goal of anarchism is secondary?

I'm not being acrimonious since my own organisaton places the object of achieving socalism as primary and as individuals, they too are involved in non-party activity - yet it is suffering the same sort of malaise as this thread seems to suggest is happening - lack of presence and influence in being able to communicate and convince fellow-workers.

And so there seems to be a common problem, and it is one i am failing to determine.

And if we can't identify the problem, we cannot recommend a remedy.

freemind
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Nov 22 2017 09:28

Anarchism is in a parlours state in my opinion.Ive been an Anarchist for 34 years and it will be in the same sorry way in 10 years too due to its inability to give a cogent unified line on such things as Freedom of Speech,Power,Organisation etc
It still is unable to shed its Individualist/Lifestylist tag and therefore attracts the usual band of individuals who are neither class conscious militant or revolutionary.
I sometimes think that Anarchism should selfimmolate rather than suffer this indignity as it deserves better with its once great history.
Until it tackles these issues it will be unable to do itself justice and the class it purports to fight for.Ansrchism is against constituted Authority not all Authority.For Freedom of Speech for freedom fighters not laises faire bourgeois for example.Class positions not liberal Montseney posturing and a clear understood line.Class or nothing imo

Mike Harman
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Nov 22 2017 11:45
ajjohnstone wrote:
So can that be interpreted that the idea an goal of anarchism is secondary?

Depends if you think 'anarchism as goal and idea' is convincing lots of people to be anarchists, or whether you think it's self-organised activity against the state and capital, and to what extent you think either of those things have to be accomplished via a single organisation.

The most promising stuff I've seen in the UK is the solidarity network (-ish) things that Brighton SolFed do. Angry Workers of the World in West London look great too: https://libcom.org/blog/angryworkersworld

Both of these are explicitly political (solfed likes political-economic) groups doing organising.

However there are groups that are less obviously anarchist like Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth which are organising on similar models.

Especially outside major cities, and depending on industry, people workplace organising will often be trying to get an informal work group going without any specific organisational affiliation, really because that is how workplace organising starts unless you happen to work in an already-militant workplace (or unless you equate organising to recruitment drives).

The recognition in solidarity networks is that both workplace and housing struggles are at an incredibly low ebb in general, but that there are direct action possibilities despite that, which can get people actual results. This in turn can build capacity and confidence.

For 'convincing people to be anarchists', apart from the federations, there's this site and there are publishing collectives like Base http://www.basepublication.org/ or Out of the Woods https://libcom.org/outofthewoods - some of the people involved in those projects are also involved with local/workplace organising.

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Nov 22 2017 15:59

Active social centres
Bookfairs from this year (most will recur next as well)
Radical Routes (anarcho-inclined housing and worker project)
Ongoing campaigns with heavy anarchist involvement include anti-fracking, refugee support, homeless and squatting, anti-weapons manufacture, spycops inquiry etc.
Dissident Island Radio is a particularly long-running podcast that's good for catching up on the current state of things
AK, PM, Active and Freedom Press are anarcho-specific publishers, plus there's an absolute shit ton of DIY stuff.
Various anarchist bookshops are affiliated to the ARB

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Nov 22 2017 18:31

Also check Rebel City. The free news sheet originally published by the London group of the Anarchist Federation. It has now become a project involving a range of anarchist groups and individuals. It is distributed for free in London. Normally a PDF is available of Rebel City from the AF website, but that site is down at the moment.

https://www.facebook.com/pg/RebelCityNewspaper/about/?ref=page_internal

ajjohnstone
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Nov 23 2017 03:42
Quote:
The most promising stuff I've seen in the UK is the solidarity network (-ish) things that Brighton SolFed do. Angry Workers of the World in West London look great too: https://libcom.org/blog/angryworkersworld Both of these are explicitly political (solfed likes political-economic) groups doing organising. However there are groups that are less obviously anarchist like Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth which are organising on similar models.

So what is growing the fastest, the Solfed model or the Housing Action model?

I understand that agitation has frequently an indirect and often incalculable influence. It has a catalyst effect and often represents itself by groups punching above our weight.

But some things can be used to reflect its impact. Circulation figures of "Direct Action". Attendance at open meetings? In fact, the number of meetings and their geographic spread.

Facing a rather dismal prognosis for the future my own organisation is conducting some navel-contemplation - not particularly as soul-searching as i would prefer but a sign that we do recognise our lack of progress. This thread showed others elsewhere are confronting a similar condition.

Too often i get the feedback that appears optimistic rather than the reality. I can't help wondering when you place the advance of anarchist ideas into their historical perspective...we share the lack of headway, despite our differing approaches over the decades.

I think there has to be a link between struggle and how it is conducted with the goal of what is to be achieved. Otherwise, the risk is simply a radical reformist movement, that declines to engage in system change. We can witness various NGOs who have taken on a radical expression of organising and campaigning but remain rooted to the status quo.

Mike Harman
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Nov 23 2017 10:20
ajjohnstone wrote:
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The most promising stuff I've seen in the UK is the solidarity network (-ish) things that Brighton SolFed do. Angry Workers of the World in West London look great too: https://libcom.org/blog/angryworkersworld Both of these are explicitly political (solfed likes political-economic) groups doing organising. However there are groups that are less obviously anarchist like Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth which are organising on similar models.

So what is growing the fastest, the Solfed model or the Housing Action model?

....some things can be used to reflect its impact. Circulation figures of "Direct Action". Attendance at open meetings? In fact, the number of meetings and their geographic spread.

Well they're similar models, the obvious differences are taking on both housing and workplace, vs housing only and SolFed's explicitly anarcho-syndicalist stance and links to the national org- however in terms of an individual case the collective march on the town hall or lettings agency is going to be pretty similar. Brighton SolFed doesn't require you to join to open a dispute with them, and you can help with other disputes without joining too, so while the politics are explicit it's also not functioning as a pure membership organisation.

HASL meetings have gone from ten to forty people in the past year or so, including lots of kids (it looks like kids actually attend the meeting to at least to some extent, vs. 'childcare at the meeting'.

Here's a recent article on Brighton housing dispute victories: https://libcom.org/news/brighton-solfed-housing-union-round-three-months-three-victories-10112017
New dispute opened in November: https://libcom.org/news/brighton-solidarity-federation-opens-dispute-g4lets-14112017

And three part interview with HASL: https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi-izzy-koksa/housing-activists-stand-up-to-dodgy-land

It'd be good to get people actually in those groups to discuss the similarities and differences (will think about trying to arrange that for an interview or something).

Where I live doesn't have a functioning activist scene at all, and I'm only just starting to find people who could potentially be interested in setting something up, with no actual success so far.

ajjohnstone wrote:
Too often i get the feedback that appears optimistic rather than the reality. I can't help wondering when you place the advance of anarchist ideas into their historical perspective...we share the lack of headway, despite our differing approaches over the decades.

I don't personally consider myself an anarchist, I think 'communism is the real movement that abolishes the present state of things', and some of that has been anarchism, some has been Marxism, but it is really working class self-activity which hasn't always had either label. So for me rather than convincing people to be 'anarchists', it's making the history of movements as accessible as possible, trying to link these to current struggles, the connection of current struggles to each other and then decent theory has always been written informed by those things anyway, so with some grounding in the actual history you can assess whether theory is any good or not.

One thing we've tried to do recently is revamp our news section (it used to be very well maintained a few years ago but went very quiet) https://libcom.org/blog/help-us-report-class-struggle-08082017 -

ajjohnstone wrote:
I think there has to be a link between struggle and how it is conducted with the goal of what is to be achieved. Otherwise, the risk is simply a radical reformist movement, that declines to engage in system change. We can witness various NGOs who have taken on a radical expression of organising and campaigning but remain rooted to the status quo.

I don't think there's a risk of solidarity networks becoming NGOs as such - at least if they did so then it'd be a different organisation at that point. There are risks that they could end up taking on representational functions, and there's a question of how much they get involved in legal routes. i.e. if someone wants to take their landlord to court or use an industrial tribunal to what extent would they get involved, as well as people asking the group to help with their own dispute, but then not helping out with anyone else's dispute (this happening isn't in itself a failure, but it would be if it happened every time). But there's a lot of critical discussion of these questions.

Another risk is either NGOs or trade unions (or the Labour party's Momentum) creating organisations that look like solidarity networks, but end up doing a couple of publicity stunts outside a town hall and otherwise are the usual recruit/rally/march orgs and leech off people who might be interested in/need actual organising.

Another big thing that's happening, is there's been a massive shift in the past 5-7 years from forums like this to facebook and twitter. A massive amount of political discussion happens on both platforms, of varying qualities - whether ideology, historical events, current events from a distance, first-person accounts of police brutality or protests etc. etc.

So anyone under say 25 is on balance just not going to sign up to an internet forum at this point - especially on twitter you get to hand-pick who you read and talk to, whereas on libcom or other forums you're stuck with everyone that posts here. In terms of ideological politicisation of people, it's having a massive effect - although it's one that's been very successful for the far right (especially with fucking terrible youtube channels).

Spikymike
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Nov 23 2017 10:59

Solidarity Networks have been organised with some limited small scale successes as just one necessary response to larger changes in class composition and the long term incorporation of traditional trade union forms of class struggle into the management apparatus of capitalism and likewise in their turn other attempts to respond to that eg the shop stewards systems. They represent a small contribution to regenerating some self-confidence into a working class in the UK and elsewhere that has suffered a raft of defeats of larger scale struggles in our recent UK history. As such they may contribute to the longer term regeneration of class struggle in this part of the globe that takes different forms elsewhere. Historically it is major shifts in the 'objective' economic and social crisis of the capitalist system that have provided the background to more sudden upsurges of struggle beyond industrial and geographical sectors which in turn provide possibilities for some kind of rupture in the reproduction of capitalist social relations. These are not predictable by the communist minorities which organise in advance of that but such minorities have potential to influence events when such occurs which makes our efforts in both the everyday class struggle and commitment to revolutionary change worth pursuing. Still we do have to take a longer term historical view of capitalism and class struggle and not measure everything in terms of the latest superficial political mood swings or the latest ups and down of membership figures of our tiny pro-revolutionary groups.

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Nov 23 2017 14:23

I very much agree. On the question of social movements, it seems to me, ultimately that the main beneficiaries of these radicalised groups is parties like Labour. If you look at Momentum, that grew out of various extra-parliamentary pressure and protest groups including Occupy. The allure of actually rolling your sleeves up and making many short term advances is just too strong for most people. Being an Anarchist or Marxist is never going to offer someone the short term gratification that they crave. Its not always clear if or how much progress the Far Left is making because we don't operate within easily definable or quantifiable parameters that Social Democrats do, especially when the Social Democrats usually co-opt any successful social movement despite having not only not contributed but actively opposed it.

Leaving Leninism behind has been torture for similar reasons. When you don't see Anarchism anywhere, hear many (any) Anarchist voices and sense that Anarchist groups are really advancing in any meaningful way it can leave the individual feeling disorientated, alienated and eventually despondent. For all their failings (and god knows they have many) what the Leninist groups have going for them is the ability to keep members busy, involved, connected, visible, engaged and radicalised. Even when all you're actually doing is selling the paper and carrying placards it keeps the spirits up and supplements agitational and political activity with party building activity. You can level legitimate criticism of that kind of political action but in terms of movement and momentum and just keeping things ticking over until the next outbreak of civil unrest its incredibly potent.

rooieravotr
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Nov 26 2017 20:23

I very much recognize yur picture of Leninism and its attractions. It worked with me for many years. And yes, leaving that behind was not easy, but very much worthwhile all the same smile

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Nov 28 2017 18:29

Good old Martin commented on this today...
https://youtu.be/Gg5ecL3dGK8

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Nov 30 2017 10:47

Do Anarchist & Left-Com groups ever have meetings where they self-reflect and self-criticise? By that I mean is a failure to advance ever discussed? Would a group like the SPGB ever ask itself why it hasn't made any electoral advances in the last hundred years? Its difficult on a forum to judge someone's sincerity when they say something like that, it could sound like I'm being facetious or antagonistic, but I'm absolutely not, genuine question. The same for the AF, SF, ICC, ICT...does the marginality of these groups force strategical rethinks or tactical changes? How much of these groups tactics and strategies are considered sacrosanct? From the outside, when I was a Leninist, Anarchists could sometimes look a little conservative in the sense that they would insist on a particular way of doing A or B because, without quite saying it, "If it was good enough for Bakunin, then its good enough for us" sort of thing.

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Nov 30 2017 12:10
Vlad The Inhaler wrote:
Do Anarchist & Left-Com groups ever have meetings where they self-reflect and self-criticise?

Seems like we do little else sometimes, tbh.

Quote:
From the outside, when I was a Leninist, Anarchists could sometimes look a little conservative in the sense that they would insist on a particular way of doing A or B because, without quite saying it, "If it was good enough for Bakunin, then its good enough for us" sort of thing.

From the outside, my impression of Leninists is pretty similar, but with the word "Lenin" substituted for the word "Bakunin."

Edit: Just to expand on the second point, I read the SWP Internal Bulletin around the time the "Comrade Delta" stuff came out, and almost every IB submission began "We face a similar situation to the Bolsheviks did in [date], when Lenin said they should do [thing]". There were differences of opinion over which period life of Lenin the current period most resembled, but the form of argument was the same. (In fact one of the few submissions in that IB that didn't follow that format was largely written by an anarchist, but that's very much another story. Heh).

Mike Harman
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Nov 30 2017 12:34
Vlad The Inhaler wrote:
The same for the AF, SF, ICC, ICT...does the marginality of these groups force strategical rethinks or tactical changes? How much of these groups tactics and strategies are considered sacrosanct? From the outside, when I was a Leninist, Anarchists could sometimes look a little conservative in the sense that they would insist on a particular way of doing A or B because, without quite saying it, "If it was good enough for Bakunin, then its good enough for us" sort of thing.

Brighton Solfed wrote this pamphlet a few years back https://libcom.org/library/strategy-struggle-anarcho-syndicalism-21st-century - this reflected their move to solidarity network style organising as well as trying to contextualise anarcho-syndicalism with other traditions. That then led to discussions within solfed nationally which resulted in:

https://libcom.org/library/fighting-ourselves-anarcho-syndicalism-class-struggle-solidarity-federation

I don't know what the internal discussions were like - have never been a solfed member, but from the outside the pamphlets were a really encouraging development. Early '00s solfed articles often had the 'and this is why we need an anarcho-syndicalist union' final paragraph which is more or less the opposite of reflective writing.

Other groups that seem to discuss changes and write about those externally - the Occupied Times changed to Base Publication last year, and wrote about some of that. It's a magazine rather than an organising group (they're involved with different things for day-to-day organising) but good to see nevertheless. http://www.basepublication.org/?p=157

Angry Workers of the World also seem to have a very reflective approach to things, from https://angryworkersworld.wordpress.com/about/

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Nov 30 2017 13:37
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Would a group like the SPGB ever ask itself why it hasn't made any electoral advances in the last hundred years?

Not yet, but i think it is getting closer to questioning fundamentals. At the moment it is addressing its organisation structure due to falling membership. As i have told my comrades - that is re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

If you believe that your political position is the correct one, then the fault must rest elsewhere and with others so logic would lea us to believe.

I have heard some of my comrades despairing about their fellow-workers and explaining our failure as the rejection of the working class of the socialist idea. Others explain our failure as inadequate communication and campaigning - that we are overwhelmed by the capitalist class indoctrination and all is needed is a bit more effort.

It seems to rely on workers miraculously becoming receptive to our ideas, a shift from our Marxist understanding that it will be a combination of material conditions created by capitalism and the ensuing class struggle and the accompanying ideological education and organisation that would bring class consciousness to a boiling point.

After a hundred years this is simply not manifesting itself. In simple arithmetic terms, the socialist/anarchist movement has actually grown smaller in relation to population numbers.

I don't know the answer, but i do keep asking myself the question, Vlad. I'm not here on Libcom for no reason.

As Einstein once said - continually repeating the same process and expecting a different result to occur is madness.

We have to get to the point where we do wonder if our principles are the right one. Sadly, this conclusion also applies to those who compete with the SPGB in the battle of ideas...They too appear to have failed in advocating the anti-parliamentarian route. Their ideas are also dismissed by our fellow-workers.

If anyone has followed the SPGB discussion forum, i have suggested that an open conference is held after a long period of preliminary exchanges and discussion which would involve the participation of John Crump's "Thin Red Line", where everything is on the table and everybody is willing to change. I honestly cannot imagine that happening. It isn't just the SPGB that has a hostility clause, is it?

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Nov 30 2017 14:18
the button wrote:
From the outside, my impression of Leninists is pretty similar, but with the word "Lenin" substituted for the word "Bakunin."

Absolutely fair point. In response I'd say I suppose I always knew deep down that "us" Marxists were a doctrinaire bunch, I suppose I always expected better (more iconoclasm) from those "crazy, far-left Anarchists".

the button wrote:
Edit: Just to expand on the second point, I read the SWP Internal Bulletin around the time the "Comrade Delta" stuff came out, and almost every IB submission began "We face a similar situation to the Bolsheviks did in [date], when Lenin said they should do [thing]". There were differences of opinion over which period life of Lenin the current period most resembled, but the form of argument was the same. (In fact one of the few submissions in that IB that didn't follow that format was largely written by an anarchist, but that's very much another story. Heh).

Don't get me started on the SWP, never been a member. They are opportunistic when the struggle calls for principle and only want to talk principle when opportunity arrives for action. I thought the pamplet Carry on Recruiting was particularly apropros.

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Nov 30 2017 14:30

Interesting post, thanks AJ.

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Nov 30 2017 15:21

In my opinion, some of the issues that AJ highlights above for the SPGB are essentially true for any of the smaller left and ultra-left groups; that is, if you're activity is largely confined to propagating ideas (putting out newspapers, statements on current events, etc) then your chances of success will be fairly limited, especially in the current climate where whatever is left of the social movements has largely been hoovered up into the Labour Party. Scott Jay goes into it a bit in his 'What is a Marxist organisation?' but I think the analysis applies equally to anarchist political groups.

That said, the groups on the 'extra-parliamentary' left (to use a bit of an old school phrase) that are doing well are precisely those groups the engage themselves primarily around getting involved in disputes with bosses and landlords. So Brighton Solfed are continuing to win victories against bosses, landlords and estate agents while Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth are doing similar but specifically in housing. There is also currently a big organising drive by London IWW along with the Angry Workers of the World in West London; I'm not a member but have heard second-hand that things are going quite well there.

So I think that's the main difference really. If you want to talk left-wing politics to people you might as well join the Labour Party or one of the bigger Trot groups (which is what lots of people have done). But in the (few) places where extra-parliamentary groups have thrived, it's because they've shifted their focus onto a kind of solidarity network model of organising (and winning) conflicts, which I think fits the kind of small group situation that most radicals find themselves in these days.

I don't think this is any kind of magic bullet that will immediately solve all the problems of the libertarian left in the UK (I think the immediate future doesn't look great tbh). But I do think it's the sort of activity that can give us some sort of foothold within the class until the wider conditions improve.

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Nov 30 2017 17:17

I like how my post listing dozens of bricks and mortar organisations, at least one organising hundreds of people covering millions of quids' worth of housing stock and running at least two major gatherings a year (Radical Routes) got totally blanked here in favour of banging on about HASL and Brighton SF.

I know libcom loves its Formal Revolutionary Organisations but I'm not sure ignoring where most of the anarchists actually are is a particularly good way of assessing the relative strength of anarchism in Britain.

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Nov 30 2017 21:48

Tbh Rob, you've got a point and I think part of it is just from pure ignorance. For instance, I have no idea what Radical Routes actually does so when you say "here's RR, they're a network of housing and worker coops" I just think that's good for them but how useful is it to people not living/working there? I also have no idea how useful it is in breaking out of the lefty/anarchist ghetto (maybe it is, I honestly don't know and I imagine the same goes for many others, hence why just saying 'Radical Routes exists' might not have been enough to pique people's interests).

Same goes for social centres: it's obviously not enough that they just exist but it matters what they do. Are they hubs for local activism? Punk music venues? Bookshops? How active are they? How active are the groups using them? All of those are valid activities to different degrees but they're important questions to ask. I don't expect you to be a walking encyclopedia on UK anarchist social centres, just saying why I think people might not have responded how you wanted.

On the other hand, with Brighton SF and HASL, I see groups drawing in working-class people not usually part of the activist scene using direct action and solidarity to win disputes against bosses/landlords. Even if I'm mostly aware of them for personal/geographical reasons, they are still exciting to me and I see the potential for growth/duplication that I don't see in the projects you mention that I know next-to-nothing about (precisely coz I know so little about them!).

Last thing, I'm not sure how 'formal' or 'revolutionary' HASL are so not sure that's the divide here. I think it's more to do with groups that engaging in conflicts with bosses/landlords vs internal movement infrastructure building. Obviously both are necessary but, from my POV, there's a tendency towards the latter because it engages people on a 'political' level: you run a political space, people come for political meetings, read political books and take political leaflets. It's very different from talking to non-political people about taking direct action to win a dispute with their current/former employer/landlord.

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Nov 30 2017 22:12
Ed wrote:
Tbh Rob, you've got a point and I think part of it is just from pure ignorance. For instance, I have no idea what Radical Routes actually does so when you say "here's RR, they're a network of housing and worker coops" I just think that's good for them but how useful is it to people not living/working there? I also have no idea how useful it is in breaking out of the lefty/anarchist ghetto (maybe it is, I honestly don't know and I imagine the same goes for many others, hence why just saying 'Radical Routes exists' might not have been enough to pique people's interests).

Same goes for social centres: it's obviously not enough that they just exist but it matters what they do. Are they hubs for local activism? Punk music venues? Bookshops? How active are they? How active are the groups using them? All of those are valid activities to different degrees but they're important questions to ask. I don't expect you to be a walking encyclopedia on UK anarchist social centres, just saying why I think people might not have responded how you wanted.

On the other hand, with Brighton SF and HASL, I see groups drawing in working-class people not usually part of the activist scene using direct action and solidarity to win disputes against bosses/landlords. Even if I'm mostly aware of them for personal/geographical reasons, they are still exciting to me and I see the potential for growth/duplication that I don't see in the projects you mention that I know next-to-nothing about (precisely coz I know so little about them!).

Last thing, I'm not sure how 'formal' or 'revolutionary' HASL are so not sure that's the divide here. I think it's more to do with groups that engaging in conflicts with bosses/landlords vs internal movement infrastructure building. Obviously both are necessary but, from my POV, there's a tendency towards the latter because it engages people on a 'political' level: you run a political space, people come for political meetings, read political books and take political leaflets. It's very different from talking to non-political people about taking direct action to win a dispute with their current/former employer/landlord.

Agreed. My first thought when I read Rob's post was, well, Labour & the Trade Unions do that as well. Fighting for reforms is fine is as far as it goes, in fact its very important when you're poor and/or victimised but Anarchism is surely a lot more than that. Its about drawing the politics out of every situation, trying to link struggles in peoples minds, exposing people to their own power, explicitly.

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Nov 30 2017 22:37

If you look at the housing co-ops on the Radical Routes site it shows a lot of what are essentially large house shares. So I come back to Ed's point:

Ed wrote:
that's good for them but how useful is it to people not living/working there
Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
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Joined: 6-11-03
Dec 1 2017 00:17

Depends on the co-ops, but as an example I know personally, the Ipswich one has:

- Been involved in local anti-fascist organising,
- Fundraised for radical and community projects,
- Helped set up and support a local food co-op (a non-hierarchical, self-organised, volunteer run wholesale price setup by and for people who need cheap food)
- Funneled through a number of people who learned organising techniques while part of that community and have since exported them elsewhere
- Been a focal point for local people interested in getting involved in radical politics
- Been involved in the broader Radical Routes system, which has as part of its constitution a required commitment to contribute to radical projects and learn a host of useful skills for self-organising
- Provided support to progressive initiatives across the town
- Distributed literature for various radical groups, including SF, AF and IWW
- Backed people troubled by the benefits system/lack of social support etc

Plus loads of other stuff that isn't off the top of my head. Now some of those you could characterise as reformist I suppose, and far be it from me to say it's a perfect project (it ain't) but fact is quite a lot of people have passed through the doors and been exposed to radical ideas working in practice. As a project it actively provides a living example of a non-hierarchical co-op constructively helping not just walk-ins but the people who live in them, in a town where that sort of thing simply does not happen.

And frankly, while I see a lot of "but is it inspiring self-organisation in the working class" type questioning from people who talk about HASL and SolFed as examples of mutual aid in action, we all know that the vast majority of these projects are a core of half a dozen people operating more or less as a service. Somtimes they inspire the people they're helping, sometimes the takeaway is minimal, people burn out and it collapses as though it never existed. These projects have been coming and going based on how many radicals fancy a crack at it for as long as I've been an anarchist and no doubt long before. None of this is a point-to model which will radicalise by its very nature, its all messy because it's small numbers of human beings who are already more or less desperate and strung out trying their best in their specific circumstances with whatever resources they can muster.

Quote:
If you look at the housing co-ops on the Radical Routes site it shows a lot of what are essentially large house shares.

Mike, I get that your contributions are limited by distance but what's put online from grassroots projects is rarely an adequate summary or their day-to-day activities. Sometimes it might be better to avoid muddying the waters with conclusions based on such.

In reality, Radical Routes is made up of a large number of more or less directly active co-ops, some of which are fairly inactive beyond keeping RR itself running and getting new co-ops going (though that's no small feat, as it involves serious training in things like housing law, finance, fundraising etc - the boring background work) while others have been absolutely key in things like direct action environmentalism, research projects, providing material assistance for local initiatives etc. They fade in and out of activity depending on lots of personal factors within the membership, much as Locals do for Solfed or AF but often much more reliably there.

As a related aside, I sometimes think folks here get so focused on the one angle they forget we're part of a broader ecosystem. Lots of the people who work on things like housing solidarity will have been turned on to radical ideas elsewhere. Some of the best working class organisers I know came in through the party scene as much as anything. I've never been terribly into the This Is Class Struggle approach libcom sometimes falls prey to, life's way more messy than that and when people talk about how workers find inspiration to learn and self-organise where they are, well that's sometimes in a radical housing co-op listening to a shit spoken-word raising money for someone who got nicked rallying against the local fash. If that facet of the movement is totally ignored on the grounds it's unacceptably wishy washy/vague you're doing the equivalent of grabbing a dog's tail and declaring "well gosh, this is a depressingly small and ineffective bit of old rope."