Declaration of the Anarchist Communist Federation of North America, 1980

A declaration from the Anarchist Communist Federation of North America, and a few other assorted documents from 1980.

ACF Declaration

We live in a world in which the vast majority of people are manipulated and exploited for the benefit of a privileged few. The main goal of the members of these ruling classes is to increase their personal power and wealth by any means necessary. They try to blur the distinction between rich and poor by the use of myth that wealth is available to all. This irresponsible pursuit of economic and political power has brought about not only poverty and unrewarding lives for the vast majority, but threaten the existence of humanity with ecological disaster and nuclear war.

We are anarchists because we oppose the notion that the political state can be used to either protect or promote social revolution. The state is the graveyard of freedom and equality. It means privilege and domination on the one hand, subordination and poverty on the other.

We are communists because we believe that the wealth produced by society rightly belongs to society and not to the few who own and control the machinery of production and distribution of goods and services which have been produced by generations of working people.

As anarchists we recognize that the problems of hierarchy are not only based on the workplace. The habits of obedience and authority stem also from the daily subordination of women to men, children to adults and race to race. In the final analysis no social revolution can succeed without the simultaneous dismantling of all such hierarchical relationships.

We are opposed to the State and ruling classes which dominate every country today. In their place we propose the free federation of autonomous communities and workers' associations united by free agreement. In the struggle to achieve this society of free producers we advocate direct democracy, direct action and autonomy.

We have formed a federation because it is the organizational structure which best promotes the free coordination of activities among self-governing groups.

We urge all who share these goals to work with us.
Adopted July, 1980,
At the Sixth Conference of the
Anarchist Communist Federation of North America

ACF AFFILIATES

CANADA

Regina ACF
Toronto ACF
Totally Eclipsed (Jordon Station, Ontario)

UNITED STATES

Nameless Anarchist Group (Ypsilanti, Michigan)
Syndicalist Alliance (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Rascal (Morgantown, West Virginia)
Resurgence (Champaign, Illinois)
No Limits (Madison, Wisconsin)
Bread and Roses (San Francisco)
Chicago Black and Red (Chicago, Illinois)
Libertarian Workers Group (New York City)

AFFILIATION PENDING

Soil of Liberty (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Creative Urge (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
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MEMBERSHIP PROCEDURES

INDIVIDUALS: All individual members must be affiliated with a federated group. An individual wishing to join the federation must request membership of an affiliated group and it is up to that group to determine whether to associate with a given individual or not. Individual applicants may choose between any of the local groups which will accept her/him. Once in the federation, an individual member may change her/his affiliation, but must always be affiliated with some group.

GOUPS: The base unit of the federation is the local group. A local group shall consist of at least three individual anarchist-communists living within one hour's traveling time of each other, but may include additional members living beyond this radius. Local anarchist groups that wish to affiliate must communicate their desire to federate to all groups presently within the federation. The applicant group has been contacted and has been given an understanding of the federation's principles and goals, the group or its representatives must then attend a conference of the federation in order to allow members from the other groups to meet them personally. After this the federated groups shall decide if they wish to associate with the applicant group.

(1980)
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NO BLOOD FOR OIL!

We of the Anarchist Communist Federation are vehemently and unalterably opposed to draft registration and conscription in whatever country they may occur

THE DRAFT IS SLAVERY
AND CANNOT BE TOLERATED

Once again young workers and students will be forced to risk their lives to maintain the profits of the powerful few. We condemn an economic system which forces youth into the military because no jobs are available.

We will aid and abet anyone engaged in anti-draft struggles or G.I. resistance within the military,

(Issued Spring 1980)

Comments

syndicalist
Mar 11 2013 15:47

On Trade Unions was adopted at the July 1982 "Strike!" network conference (St. Catherines, Ontario). "Strike!" superceeded the ACF newspaper, "The North American Anarchist". Those of us who participated in the "Strike!" newspaper/network represented those class struggle anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists who formally worked well together in ACF/NA. Ultimately the a/s in the network went on to form the WSA. We remained on very good, comradely and friendly terms with our comrades in the "Strike!" network.

The position was a compromise between a more traditional libertarian communist position and what can now be described as WSA-style anarcho-syndicalist viewpoint. This very much reflected the participants perspectives. If I was to write a similiar position today, it probably would be more favorable to the possibility of a more permanent nature of "revolutionary syndicalist unions". In 1982 the Libertarian Workers Group (later NY WSA) was into promoting action committees, "rap groups" , independent unions. Without trying to pigeon hole the perspective, but something like a cross between classical anarcho-syndicalism and the shop-floor radicalism of the Detroit "facing reality" group (sans marxism).

Without further commentary....

On Trade Unions

The trade unions have, since their inception, been, at best, defensive organizations of working people. They have been unable to alter or abolish class rule.

This is the root cause of the historic tendency of the trade unions, particularly at the leadership level, to become integrated into the continued functioning of capitalism. In recent years that tendecy has become more pronounced, especially as bureaucratic elites, who have a direct interest in maintaining the present system of power and privilage, have consolidated themselves at the head of the trade unions.

Yet even given this powerful tendency other factors --- the structural crises of capital, ideological needs, etc. --- have led the ruling class to attack the unions and force them, often unwillingly, into an adversary role. The unions will even take on a militant and confrontational attitude for a time, but only until a "more reasonable" position comes to the fore within the ruling class.

This is the situation that we find ourselves in today. as revolutionaries, as anarchist workers, there is great opportunity facing us. The temporary militancy of the union leaders, as well as the deeper resentment of the rank and file against them as well as the bosses, will engender many struggles over the next few years, struggles that may lead to the rebirth of a genuine workersmovement. We cannot hope to play any part in these struggles, to put forth our program, if we remain aloof and abstain from them simply because they may take place in a trade union context.

Needless to say, as everywhere else, our activities as anarchist workers are motivated by our principles, and we do not go into the unions to seize the leadership for ourselves or to "capture" them for anarchism. We recognize, again, that the trade unions can not be transformed into revolutionary organizations, and in participating in them we seek for new forms of organization and struggle that will help transcend them.

The type of organization we believe will lead to the overthrow of capitalism ---- revolutionary syndicalist uions, workers' councils and assemblies ---- cannot exist as permanent organizations of the entire working class, in a non-revolutionary situation they must be transitory. They will be built a step at a time out of the autonomous workers' groupings that exist to some extent today. To faciliate our participation in this process we must begin by regrouping ourselves now, creating new means of discussion and communication, autonomous struggle groups and committees of anarchist militants in various workplaces and industries.

The future begins today we must seize it or loose it.

Adopted, July 1982, Strike! conference

Steven.
Jan 4 2011 10:04

Hi sabotage, thanks for posting these articles.

Just a quick note on editing, when entering group names an article is about, please only enter the name once in the "authors and groups." tag. Duplicating them in the tags box only makes things confusing! Cheers again, we appreciate it.

syndicalist
Jan 5 2011 15:40

This submission is basically taken from a posting I did a couple of years ago on another discussion site. I've added a couple of new comments in the footnote. Otherwise it is essentially the same.

For a long time I have promised to do a full blown piece on the ACF/NA. When that is completed, I will let you all know.

-- Syndicalist, Jan. 2011
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sadly, few articles have been written about the Anarchist Communist Federation of North America (hereafter ACF). Those articles, which have been written, generally tend to be written from one or the other opposing viewpoint which developed within the ACF.* Although these articles layout opposing viewpoints, they do little to give a sense of who and what the ACF was in any measurable detail.

I to, someday, develop all this into an article or essay. In the meanwhile, I hope to put up, in piecemeal fashion, information pertaining to the ACF. I not intend to be a definitive history of the ACF. It is, rather, one participant's effort to write about the history of our short-lived effort. While trying to be objective as possible, these materials and recollections are subjective in nature. And is merely an effort at developing a history of this period of time.

The 1970's "Scene"

It would be remiss of me not to try and set the stage for the formation of the ACF without giving you a sense of the broadly defined "scene" of the day.

The early 1970's, when I started to radicalize, were filled with a great many social protests. Much of the highlights of the late 1960's were drawing down, but not exhausted. Urban rebellions, the French 1968 May Days and the 1969 Italian "Hot Autumn" wave of wildcat strikes were still crisp in the collective mind. Government repression was still very much alive and, of course, the student killings at Jackson State and Kent State were fresh. The revolt against alienation, racism, regimentation and automation at work created a new generation of working class militants and rebellions. Wildcat strikes and other forms of direct action seemed to be more and more the norm.

By the mid-1970 the Viet Nam War was, for the most part, over. The "new left" of the late 1960's and early 1970's seemed to split a dozen ways. Much of the break-up of the Black Panthers, the Brown Berets (Chicanos), the Young Lords (Puerto Ricans) and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) led to the formation of several Maoist and nationalist and independent socialist formations.

The "old left" consisted mainly of the Stalinists of the Moscow oriented Communist Party (CPUSA) and the then Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party/Young Socialist Alliance SWP/YSA).

Independent of these old-line parties was the De Leonist Socialist Labor Party (SLP). The SLP was to split a few times during this period as well. The splits were caused by the dead weight of authoritarianism and abstaining from anti-war activities. Some of these splits created a couple of specifically De Leonist oriented groups; others went in a more libertarian socialist direction.

The anarchist and libertarian left were generally small and vastly out-resourced and out-numbered by those on the authoritarian left. That said, there was growth coming out of both the student movement and the near moribund Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Before the ACF there was SRAF.

SRAF

In 1972, the American anarchist movement came together into the synthesist Social Revolutionary Anarchist Federation (SRAF). The SRAF was loosely based and had between 20-30 mixed groups and/or contact addresses. I got involved in SRAF in 1974 and it was truly a hodge-podge of groups. There were class struggle anarchists of the anarchist-communist and anarcho-syndicalist varieties. There were individualists, social ecologists (who referred to themselves as anarcho-communists, note the subtle difference in terminology). There were vegans, nuditists and fruitists. There were some who I would consider right-wing libertarians (perhaps some would be the left wing of today's libertarian party [sic]).

That said, there were quite a few decent, hard working and honorable comrades involved in the project. Some of the hardest working SRAF members were Linda & Jim Bumpus in Palto Alto, California.

SRAFBULL, BLACK STAR & Cheap Mimeo pamphlets

In addition to the SRAF Bull (the monthly internal newsletter), SRAF also issued the "Black Star" magazine. Additionally, SRAF was known for its cheap mimeograph pamphlets. It was through SRAF that I was first exposed to a number of classical anarchists. Through SRAF I had the opportunity to read Malatesta’s “Anarchist-Communist Program.”

A number of us who were to go on and form the ACT and the ACF were involved in this project.

Jim Bumpus Honorable Mention

While I had some fundamental disagreement with Jim, I found him to be a decent and honorable comrade. I was saddened to read about Jim's untimely death a few years back. He and his compa Linda were really the mainstays of SRAF, what old time American radicals would refer to as the “Jimmy Higgins” of the movement. The shit workers. The ones who worked their tails off. Not out of glory seeking, but out of commitment. They cranked out the mimeo newsletters and pamphlets on a regular basis. Some of the cheap mimeo pamphlets were some of my first introduction to formal anarchism. And who can forget the wonderful button/badge, professionally done, with the backdrop of the N.A continent and the slogan "US Out of North America" on it.

Wildcat Mountain, Self-Management Workshop & Formation of the A.C.T.

If I may, there's actually a personally funny story about the formation of the Anarchist Communist Tendency. The ACT was formed at the SRAF Wildcat Mountain conference, August 1977. This was a camp-out style conference.

One last thing on the pre-formation of the ACT. About a year or so prior to the Wildcat Mountain conference folks from Resurgence in Chicago began to circulate Sam Dolgoff's proposal for the "Regeneration of the Labor Movement" (http://membres.lycos.fr/anarchives/site ... .htm#notes). I believe Sam originally wrote it for distribution and for action inside the IWW.

This document was to be studied, discussed, adopted and promoted by those inside SRAF who were pro-organization, pro-anarcho-syndicalist and class struggle anarchist-communist. It was to be the basis for initial discussion of our tendency beginning to form around the "Self-Management Newsletter". It was under the auspices of this tendency that a workshop was held at Wildcat Mountain. This was the kick-off to a more organized tendency, the ACT.
Anyway, the tendency was starting to organize. We had a workshop on self-management, but this really lead to a discussion of what us uppity (early) 20 something year olds wanted. We were mainly working class kids from Ontario, W.Virgina, the mid-west (IL. & MI) and, I think, myself representing the whole northeastern US.

In the AM on Sunday, after an intense night of partying round the campfire, one or two folks stopped by to get me up and out of my sleeping bag. I was hung over, I mean red-eye hung over. Then a couple of others come by. Then a few more. Before you know it, damn near our entire tendency was sitting around talking about organizing the ACT---hell, and I'm still in my sleeping bag all the while. And so we agreed to announce that day the formation of the ACT. To this day I laugh. Well, at least I thought it was funny.

ACF Formation

In March of 1978, in Ypsilanti, Michigan the ACF of North America was formed .The founding conference was a wonderful adventure and experience. I was 23 years old and wide-open to the new world that laid at our collective finger-tips. I would say that most of us who were involved were in their 20’s. We were all some pretty cool firebrands…. But we all still had a lot to learn. And learn we did.

For the most part we had few elders to turn to. The class struggle anarchist movement was near dormant for decades. Much of what we did was a learning experience. I really don’t think we were all that theoretically savvy. Our experiences were limited but we were all activists. What we lacked in accumulated wisdom, we made up for it with spunk, determination, a desire to learn (quickly) and a very strange common sense manner. By which I mean, we were cognizant of the world about us, we wanted to be practical and yet advance our views. Although we may not have always acted maturely, I think we had a mature sense about us. Perhaps an illusion, but we all were quite serious in wanting to be in the thick of things. Surely those I was close to at least.

Our two areas of collective agreement were Peter Kropotkin's Anarchist Communism: Its Basis and Principles http://www.fourmilab.ch/etexts/www/kropotkin/ancom/

The other was the Basis for Affiliation & the Internal Organization of the ACF. (1978). Elsewhere I am posting the revised and shortened version we issued in 1980, some two years after our formation.

I hope to transcribe and post this 16 page document at some point.

There were many reasons why the ACF sputtered out. But this will have to wait for another time.

During the ACF's existence; we managed to carry out various activities on the local level, such as anti-conscription (the government attempted to bring back the military draft); anti-war and workplace.

The ACF published a high quality monthly newspaper, "The North American Anarchist" (later "Strike!). Also published were several pamphlets, including on "Self-management", a reprint of Maxinoff's "Syndic lists in the Russian Revolution" with an afterward on workers struggles in the 1980s and a heavily sold "You Can't Blow-Up a Social Relationship".

Let me end this segment with a quote from the 1978 document. No truer words can be said today:

"As anarchists we organize in all areas of life to try to advance the revolutionary process. We believe a strong anarchist organization is necessary to help us to this end. ... We recognize that the revolution can only be carried out directly by the working class. However, the revolution must be preceded by organizations able to convince people of the anarchist communist alternative and method."

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* I believe this is the only on-line article that focuses in on the ACF. Notes on Anarchism in America, Part 2 by Mike Hargis: http://www.syndicalist.org/archives/llr14-24/22i.shtml I do not share in Mike's specific comments about the break-up of the ACF or about the group I belonged to, the Libertarian Workers Group. Suffice it to say, we were in different ACF tendencies.

In the first issue of ideas & action — Winter, 1982 a few articles were published from a different perspective. The "Decline and Fall..." article has yet to be transcrbed for on-line viewing

"Discussion: The ACF Experience:
Hey, General Custer, why were we there? by Ed Clark +
The Decline and Fall of the ACF by Steve R "

A couple of additional pieces appeared in Strike! (formerly The North American Anarchist) by ex-ACF members. These are also not on line.

An additional typed and photocopied document on the ACF was circulated by Ted Lopez of the one or two person "Tampa Workers Affinity Group". This document was totally critical of the ACF from what can be considered today as a "left communist" perspective.

+ "From Issue # 1 “ideas & action” (Winter 1982)

Hey General Custer, what were we doing there?
By Frank Stevens (Ed Clark)

One does not, in bourgeois culture, speak ill of the dead. People who have some kind of revolutionary aspirations may be expected to offer more accurate observations. When the Anarchist Communist Federation abruptly disintegrated last year, one could assume that there would be a tidal wave of position papers offering blame (or credit) for future attempts to build a revolutionary movement.

Not so. The end of the ACF was a vast literary yawn. Nothing is so revealing of the passions of those who were part of the ACF as the profound disinterest that greeted its demise. The only attempt to construct a continental anarchist-communist movement in the last two decades shattered … and no one really gave a shit.

Why didn’t the ACF work? The commonest explanation I’ve heard goes something like this: ACF was made up of several political tendencies that could not, in the long run, function within the same organizational framework. As long as the various tendencies practiced a kind of conscious self-restraint (i.e., refusing to bring up controversial political ideas), a superficial unity could be preserved.

However, as time went on, people in various tendencies grew impatient and began pressing their political points with greater vigor … and matters escalated to the point of disintegration.

It’s not a bad theory, but it doesn’t really go very far. Why, for example did it not prove possible over the years for people who came into the ACF with conflicting political views to work out an acceptable synthesis? Even if this was not possible in all cases, it should have been possible in some. But it didn’t happen. No new federation emerged from the ruins of the ACF. It lacked mourners, it also lacked heirs.

Perhaps the reason that no synthesis was forthcoming is that no one expected it or even wanted it. Nearly all the groups that affiliated with ACF already existed prior to affiliation. Each group had already formed a personal network with a more or less developed set of ideas. Joining ACF could only be seen, at best, as an opportunity to convert other affiliates to ones own set of ideas. Where people might have looked at each other as equals, to learn from as well as teach, instead they looked at each other as potential converts or (worse) rival theologians, partisans of the devil.

In such a matrix, there can be no identification with the common the common organization. ACF was an arena, not a movement. When you’ve done as much as you reasonably hope to do in this area, you go home.

Still, is it fair to boil everything down to bad faith? AC certainly numbered a fair share of assholes in its ranks, but that can hardly be the only explanation.

One thing that certainly struck me over and again in the ACF was enormous identifications with this or that political movement of the past. I often had the impression I was speaking with political conservationists; that is people who wanted to preserve a set of views simply because of their venerability.

Let me be clear about this: the history of the past revolutionary movement is worth study. There is something useful to be learned in all of humanity’s attempts to free itself.

That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a personal, highly emotional identification with political phenomena of the distant past. In some cases, this went so far as to recreate the forms of those ancient movements, adopting titles and forms of language that once referred to the real world but are now of interest to only historians. ACF was not only an arena, but a peculiar kind of area where ghostly forms fought their old fights over again … bloodlessly, of course.

I can, in a way, understand this and even have some sympathy for it. It is fun to be (or play at being) some great anarchist or syndicalist revolutionary hero over the weekend. But then, Monday morning arrives in all its dismal reality and you have to get up and to go to work. So you look forward to the next meeting or conference, where you can play again. We all need some form of escape from class society, right?

But no one puts their life on the line on behalf of their entertainment. Most people in ACF never put their hearts into it, never took seriously its revolutionary potential, never thought for a moment it could actually be possible to overthrow class society. Even those who took their ghostly roles seriously could not really believe that this rhetoric might someday really count for something.

It is ironic to think that all these people invested their energies in ghostly role-playing while never examining their own possibilities at all. Maybe it is easier to re-enact ancient failures than to risk failure on your own. If you do exactly what some classical anarchist or syndicalist did and it doesn’t work, you can put the blame on him.

But we know who’s really to blame, don’t we? All past revolutionary movements failed to liberate us from class society. How can we do better?

How can we develop a useful synthesis of the best ideas of past revolutionary movements? Are there altogether new approaches to revolutionary struggle suggested by contemporary class society? What would an egalitarian mass revolutionary organization look like and what steps could we take in that direction?

In ACF, there were a small number of people who tried to raise and deal with these real questions. Their efforts were resented and, in the context of ACF, unsuccessful. Yet they were the only living revolutionaries in ACF, and some of them, at least, will doubtless be found in the next new attempt to build a revolutionary movement that can go all the way.

But for the ghostly majority, as always,requiescant in pace."

Transcribed by Syndicalist: http://libcom.org/forums/history/american-anarcho-communist-federations-of-yesteryear?page=1
Scroll down to comment #53

klas batalo
Jan 5 2011 17:12
Steven. wrote:
Hi sabotage, thanks for posting these articles.

Just a quick note on editing, when entering group names an article is about, please only enter the name once in the "authors and groups." tag. Duplicating them in the tags box only makes things confusing! Cheers again, we appreciate it.

good to know

TexMackenzie
Dec 27 2011 05:09

Ah the acf .... was a member of the totally eclipsed & nominally the toronto groupuscles... ed's (may he rip) views are somewhat reflected in my experience .... I would add that this was also the time of the appearance of identity politics, environmentalism( not that it was new but was gaining a new urgency ) an assertive feminism that was no longer willing to let the male left off the hook for side lining it's concerns a more vocal gay community likewise not content to see it's concerns belittled or ignored etc etc ... there was an emphasis among certain tendencies on class struggle to be the only legitimate way forward and this was looked at as being to workerist( I believe that was the term used) for some .... so part of the split was along those lines with the non class struggle ( it's a bad term as these folk were not against class struggle) but didn't trust the class struggle people to take their concerns seriously ...as there was a tendency amongst the class struggle people to say that these issues could or would be dealt with after the revolution or were secondary to the main thrust of taking over the means of production... this would be shown by when someone would come out of the closet you'd get reactions like " oh no not you too" or similar shit... anyway it was a good experiment and showed areas that did need work and hopefully lessons were learned ...