Political organising and engaging in struggles can be quite problematic and needs from the outset to be pragmatic. As anarchists and communists, in contrary to the leftist model of organising, we tend to join struggles as equals. So doing a talk on something that could be construed as a marketing pitch for the AF, put me off a little and possibly others as well.
Instead, I wanted to give an introduction to the basic underlining principles of anarchist communism and how I think it compels us to organise. In the course of that the role the AF undertakes, or sees that it undertakes, or at least should undertake would hopefully be apparent. I appreciate that some may not be new to anarchism, but the hope is to underline what we believe and where this logically takes.
One comrade of mine in an anarchist introduction at the Anarchist Bookfair some years ago, tried to present anarchism as a critique of power relations. I want to take it further than that and say that anarchism, and by which we mean anarchist communism, is an attempt at a revolutionary project for the realisation of a genuinely free society; free of the inequities of the market and the oppression of the state. It’s a body of ideas which we feel has something to offer and whose time may not yet have come. It holds within it important lessons from the past and ideas to take forward, without the same colossal setbacks endured by various strands of Marxism.
In the founding statement of the Anarchist Communist paper Freedom in 1886, it stated;
“Anarchists work towards a society of mutual aid and voluntary co-operation. We reject all government and economic repression.”
For sometime this was falsely attributed to Kropotkin and not Charlotte Wilson, but all the same, it’s a good place to start from. It’s unrepentantly beckoning a future communist society.
The assertion of the future society, or attempting to ‘build the new world in the shell of the old” is a means and an end as we see it. In contrast to oppression, injustice, inequality and hierarchy, as anarchists, we struggle and invoke the potential of the new society. The premise being, our politics and struggles are intimately intertwined into the relations we’re developing with each other, or as German anarchist Gustav Landauer put it “The State is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of behaviour; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently toward one another”.
When trying to isolate or pin-down the conception of anarchism we find some difficulty. There is no all encompassing manifesto or one founding father giving us our stone tablets that we have carried on unhindered. Its body of ideas are scattered across a number of theorists, organisations, a number of texts and historically encapsulated in events as diverse as the Spanish Civil War to the Paris Commune, and not just European events or events back in antiquity, we can see something of anarchy in the Arab Spring and more recently the resistance to racist police brutality and protests in immigration detention centres.
When we look at anarchism these core principles are at work;
- Means to an end philosophy; i.e. it is prefigurative, attempting to address matters in the here and now
- Utilising direct action without third party mediators
- Based on self-management through voluntary association
- And the important bedfellows of egalitarianism and solidarity
When we come to embrace even a fraction of these ideas, we clearly become antagonistic to a society based on the rule of property and market forces, the political supremacy of the state etc. These ideas compel us into confronting basic everyday struggles like those forced on many of us at the moment in London, such as;
- Housing – rising rents and the attack on social housing, unhindered building of new homes for the wealthy, pushing ordinary people out of the city
- Attacks on social security and welfare in its many guises
- The increasing racist and parochial character of politics whether its immigration controls or the rise in the confidence of the far-right
The struggles and potential success of our class requires a greater level of organisation than is currently apparent from the libertarian milieu. After being involved in anarchist politics for a number of years, anarchism, particularly in the capital remains as static and unable to meet important barometers of winning the decisive battle of ideas as ever. We need to insert our ideas into new arenas and put forward a movement building strategy.
These are important questions we need to address, collectively, which I feel even the most well intentioned affinity group or local collective will struggle with;
How do we present our ideas and the history of the struggles of workers, to the class?
How do we co-ordinate radical militants?
How potentially do we envisage winning campaigns from inception to fruition?
How potentially do we envisage workers running their own workplaces?
We have to ask ourselves deep probing questions, such as why do turgid leftist groups still dominate the campuses? How is it that Leninist groups still dominate some campaigns in our absence? How do we respond to this? Why does the old left still dominate certain sections of the trade unions?
In an article no so long ago, Marxist David Harvey noted “I wouldn’t want my anarchist friends to be in charge of a nuclear power station”
Well, I believe he got it wrong. Anarchist organising with its eschewing of the dead-weight of centralism, hierarchy in favour of self-management and autonomy complements the logical requirements of vital services like aviation and nuclear safety. Very real crises posed today like the spread of contagious diseases and international conflict require responses that go way beyond the restricted framework of the nation state and parochialism.
As anarchists our response to this has to be greater and greater organisational capacity as a movement. There are spaces all over that we should be contesting, be it the power of the state, the market or the left. The AF organisationally is very modest, but we struggle for, along with others, for a stronger dynamic and militant anarchist movement grappling with some of these questions. To echo Bakunin, our role is very reminiscent of that of a midwife; to highlight dangers to our liberty, while getting involved in the day to day fights, be it housing or work-place issues, anti-fascism and anti-racism while helping the spread anarchist ideas.
This is why, contrary to the mass media perception, anarchism has to imply order, it’s the logical consequence of what we believe in;
“organisation, far from creating authority, is the only cure for it and the only means whereby each one of us will get used to taking an active and conscious part in the collective work, and cease being passive instruments in the hands of leaders.” – Errico Malatesta
As anarchists we need to meet this challenge and we need organisationally to be dynamic and multi-faceted in our approach to the struggles ahead of us.
How does the AF attempt to undertake this?
- Grounded on a set of aims and principles which are explicitly asserting social/class struggle anarchism to bring together militants who share ideas in common.
- It’s based on local and autonomous self-organisation and has a structure that supports networking by oppressed groups
- Part of an international – International of Anarchist Federation (IAF) which helps us initiate activity internationally with our comrades facing similar issues.
To that end; the AF regularly puts a lot of work into
- Education, particularly propaganda and introductory ideas around anarchism
- Due to its resources its able to throw support behind important initiatives, such as the recent AFEM conference, where it was a principle supporter
- We support our members in community and workplace disputes
- Political engagement with wider campaigns
The following statement was released by Comrades from Cairo Egyptian anarchists) on October 30, 2012.
The next period will again see a familiar foe that many of you have and
continue to fight. International Financial Institutions (IFIs) such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have long been assisting in the looting of the Egyptian economy and the displacement of the Egyptian people. Our goal is to resist these institutions and their depredations. Because we know that this struggle is universal, send this letter to all those working in solidarity against the bankers and their friends. After the revolution, these organizations targeted Egypt,hoping to consolidate and extend their control. Citing “economic instability”, they want to impose their programme in Egypt –
an affordable solution that will increase, once again, the gap between rich and poor and will endanger the livelihood of millions of people. What we call “instability” is nothing other than the revolt of the base that opposes the status quo of political and economic hegemony of the Egyptian state. The new leadership of Egypt maintains a neoliberal logic of governance. The Muslim Brotherhood, the generals, bureaucrats and bankers have the same intentions in mind: continuing exploitation, theft and commercialization of natural and human resources of the country. While some of the key leaders of the Brotherhood already promoted neoliberal policies years ago, shortly after taking power, the organization has now officially changed its religious positions against the IMF loan, citing economic “necessity”. In practice, this means priority requirements of banks and financial institutions and not on policies that enhance social justice for the Egyptians. Moreover, while the IMF states that the loan has conditions, a “package of economic reforms” carried out by the lackeys of the Egyptian economic system must be approved by the Fund prior to the loan disbursed. Indeed, without conditions … IMF may be the most obvious creditor with expansionist tendencies, but it is not only the creation and maintenance of unequal economic, cultural and territorial relationship, based on domination and subordination.
Just as dangerous are institutions such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Bank and European Investment aiming to commercialize, privatize and plunder everything from transport and electricity to the Nile. Many of these banks have supported for years our dictators, applauding their efforts to subjugate us, the earth and our water, to private capital. Egypt is no exception. The revolution in South Africa against apartheid was considered a threat to economic stability – the new leadership that emerged boasted revolutionary credentials that enabled the implementation of the neoliberal project, which exceeded the colonialists predecessors.
Following his election victory, with promises of progressive programs, Lula, President of Brazil, presented growing neoliberal policies “rinsed” with charity projects for an increasingly impoverished underclass. The same happened in India when economic policies, to help the country decided to enter global markets, led thousands of farmers into debt and losing their livelihoods, with increasing stratification between rich and poor. And the examples continue. Across the world, these International Financial Institutions and the governments that support them, exploit the uncertainty of the “post-revolutionary” era by imposing austerity measures and tightening their grip on the those that rise up against these control systems.
Egypt is no exception. Their solution is our problem, “economic stability” is misery and exploitation for us . If we are all together we can strengthen our position towards them. We recognize the origin of this fight against international financial institutions and the IMF: A worldwide network of inspired people and activists, of which we are part. Today, we in Egypt are under attack and imminent threat, and we have decided to fight. For those who have similarly become the target of the IMF and the International Financial Institutions and fight against these predators, let’s find ways to combine and unite our forces against them loans at local and global levels.
No boss, no creditors!
Sincerely, The Comrades from Cairo firstname.lastname@example.org
6.15PM Sun 4th July – Lucas Arms, Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8QZ
To counterpose the distortions of the SWP’s flagship event Marxism 2010, AF and SF are hosting ‘What is libertarian socialism?’ discussing – Anarchism, Libertarian Socialism and Workers Self Management/Control. Sunday 4th July at 6.15 at the Lucas Arms, London.
“Anarchism is not about proving a party line or a dogma to be correct thus its not about whether Marx, Bakunin or some other long dead bearded individual was right 150 years ago, its about what works today and about what we want to create in the future. We can take economic ideas from Marx, federalist ideas from Bakunin and ideas of working class self organisation from the various stripes of syndicalism and early workers movements and we can update them with the radical ideas of the situationists and emerging movements across the globe. We don’t need to be tied down to a single set of ideas whatever year or revolution they originated in.
Anarchism is about thinking outside the box and demanding the impossible, its about advocating a revolution of everyday life. A world were the nature of work is fundamentally changed to the point where it becomes unrecognisable, a world without all the waste of capitalism, without credit cards, armaments industries, advertising, finance and without employers and unemployment. Yet we are not politicians advocating a perfect world, we are simply saying that we can have a better world when we learn that only we ourselves can sort out our own problems.”
Contact email: email@example.com
Saturday, 10 July 2010, 2.00pm-5.00pm
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1
Ken Worpole: Colin Ward and the anarchism of everyday life
“Colin Ward in conversation with Roger Deakin”, introduced by
Harriet Ward: On meeting Colin Ward
Stuart White: Colin Ward: making anarchism respectable, but
not too respectable
Peter Marshall: Colin Ward in the history of Anarchism
Tony Fyson: Colin Ward at work
Dennis Hardy: On the margins