Even as many of us constantly engage in struggles to enact our revolutionary politics and ideas in collectives, as individuals, at work and at play, there is often an underlying sense of isolation from broader anarchist activity from which to draw knowledge and inspiration. We feel that this is a severe barrier on our ability to maintain effective struggle or to even propagate a revolutionary, anarchist politics on a larger-scale. We believe a Federation that collectives (and individuals) over the wide distances of this region can align with would begin to solve these problems.
Mostly the feeling that an Anarchist Federation is necessary emanates from a simple desire for solidarity amongst revolutionaries that cannot always be found in our local communities and workplaces. A Federation could provide strong support for campaigns and actions across the region. When organising around similar issues, collectives would gain a greater momentum from being able to share ideas and resources with others from across the continent and beyond. This is not a new idea but we hope that a new attempt can be made at solidifying such possibilities. That is what this proposal is for.
A solid, ongoing federation would help us look after each other. Solidarity with and support for those of us (and also those who aren’t ‘us’), who come under the repressive boot of the state is a crucial aspect of mutual aid and creating an anarchist community and will be an ongoing project for as long as we continue to resist.
Much of what communication currently takes place between anarchists happens on an ad-hoc basis at convergences, which are usually connected to major protests. This activist focus tends to exclude those who, because of family or work responsibilities, geographic isolation, or other reasons, can’t, or don’t want to, attend such events. A federation would enable better communication and ongoing political development. It could be a useful point of reference for people who, for whatever reason, are unable to be involved in collectives but who want to stay in contact or who need support. This would be important in helping to ensure intergenerational continuity so that individuals are able to stay involved and connected to anarchist struggle while being able to pass on their knowledge.
We do not wish to see a federation replicate or ‘override’ networks that already exist. By wanting to organise more explicitly as anarchists we don’t want to become inward-looking, purist or isolated. On the contrary, we hope that if we are more strongly organised, we will be better able to work alongside and be a part of social struggles that do not define themselves as anarchist.
One of the points we’ve discussed frequently is the tension between openness and political commonality. We don’t think it’s necessary or desirable to try to form an organisation of every activist, or even everyone who calls themselves an anarchist, in the region. Without a certain level of shared politics we won’t be able to go beyond talking about what we’re against and begin to talk about, and work towards, what we want. Alternately, we don’t want to define too narrowly a particular type of anarchism. One of the benefits we see of a federation is the possibility that different strands of anarchism can learn more about each other, and that we can further develop both our common and our separate politics. We want as much as possible that our contacts be your contacts, our networks your networks, our resources your resources and that internal strength can be translated into an outward focus.
This proposal is very much a draft. We’re putting forward our ideas in the hope that other people will consider and discuss the idea of a federation, not because we know for sure what it should be like. It was written by a small group of anarchists in Sydney. We’ve been helped a lot by discussion with others from Sydney and elsewhere, from looking at other models and from discussion that happened around previous proposals for a federation here. The people who wrote this are involved in anarchist projects such as Mutiny and the Black Rose Books collective, but it hasn’t been endorsed by these groups.
How we might get from proposal to federation:
Over the next few months, we hope that people will discuss the idea of an Anarchist Federation in their groups, in their cities, through existing forums & through an email list and a blog set up for such discussion.
Within the first half of next year we would like to help organise a convergence with the explicit purpose of discussing, and hopefully forming, the federation.
The fundamental politics for participation in the federation would be that members:
- Seek the abolition of capitalism and class society in all its forms.
- Support an organisational philosophy based on decentralisation, mutual aid and autonomy, and reject domination and hierarchical/authoritarian organising.
- Oppose all forms of oppression and power over others and recognise that these rarely play out in isolation but are strongly interwoven and connected.
- Believe that an anarchist society is desirable, necessary and possible. Revolutionary change isn’t going to come from leaders, experts or professional activists but can only come from below: from the collective self-organisation of ‘ordinary’ people.
- Believe in solidarity across and against borders and are internationalists. We reject the state and all its functions such as the police and military.
Some further points
Here are some more thoughts that we’ve been discussing, and which inform our understanding of what the 5 points mean. These are provided for the purpose of discussion, not to be limits on the basis of federation.
Radical Struggles, Capitalism and Class
There are many different important elements in revolutionary and radical struggle. These include, but are not limited to, class, anti-colonialism, anti-racism, feminism and queer liberation. Some see one liberatory movement – such as the class struggle – as most important, whilst others choose not to create such a hierarchy. We hope that through working together we can discuss these differences in helpful ways.
When we talk about class struggle, we don’t simply mean the actions of the ‘traditional’ blue-collar working class. We recognise that the class composition of today has changed – largely as a product of neoliberal economic policies – and is characterised by conditions of casualisation and precarity. The unpaid and unrecognised labourer, the unemployed, the casually and underemployed, are all integral to revolutionary change. This class is diverse, but interconnected and we realise that all these struggles are affecting the same global capitalist system.
We further understand that capitalism is not just multinational corporations, economic summits or secret meetings of the very rich; it is a social relation and system that is played out and produced in our everyday lives.
Living without Hierarchy
The language of ‘non-hierarchical’ organising can still be used to implement the centralised control of a few. We believe that radicals should create structures that are genuinely decentralised and leaderless. Some frameworks for this include rotating and recallable delegates, consensus-based process and spokescouncils.
Although we may formally understand that racism, sexism, etc are an oppressive part of capitalism we still need to consciously ‘unlearn’ these concrete ideas and ways of social interaction in our own political organising and daily lives. This cannot be achieved by merely writing a paper – we need to create a liberatory culture everyday. That there are many ways of resisting all these forms of oppression is a strength, and we want to find ways of connecting our politics with these struggles.
Some Thoughts on Contemporary Struggles
The struggle against the global environmental crisis is inextricably linked to that against capitalism, and is a significant part of contemporary radical action. Environmental crises will necessarily affect those already marginalised and excluded more than those who are economically and socially privileged. ‘Green capitalism’ is not an answer, and we understand that a truly sustainable society will necessarily be decentralised, anti-capitalist and radically democratic.
We support Indigenous struggles for true sovereignty, dignities and against the theft of land and resources and ongoing genocide. We understand that many modern states were built on a brutal and ongoing colonialism, which continues to be upheld and imposed by police and the military.
Our struggles are internationalist and directed against the nation state. Nationalism and patriotism are barriers that are used to divide and repress ‘ordinary’ people, and prevent our own autonomous self-organisation. Permitted and unpermitted migration is a pivotal part of contemporary capitalism, dividing rich and poor, and the vast bulk of people on the basis of a false nationality. We accept the slogan that “No One is Illegal”.
Direct Action, not Lobbying or Negotiation
We don’t want to negotiate with the representatives of the state or the functionaries of capital. We realise that the dominant global institutions are so intrinsically undemocratic, pervasive and directed by profit-making that lobbying has little or no effect. We see direct action and mutual aid as occurring in many different forms and as the most practical and realistic way of building our power, our autonomy and achieving revolutionary change.
Rough thoughts on structure
- When we talk about a regional federation, we are deliberately unclear about where in particular we are talking about. To limit ourselves to Australian borders seems silly: we would like to be open to comrades from Aotearoa and further. On the other hand, perhaps it would be more practical to begin with a smaller geographic region. There has already been some discussion about forming an Asian Anarchist Network as well.
- The federation would be horizontal and based upon already existing affinity groups or collectives that choose to align themselves with it. We see this as one way of ensuring a rejection of top-down politics.
- We do see there as being some solid requirements for participating individuals and collectives. We believe that there should be some kind of dues structure. This would give us some financial reserve and could be used on, among other things, a publication, jail solidarity and travel expenses for delegates. There would be an e-mail list or a message board for discussion.
- Anarchist spaces that already exist, such as infoshops throughout the country, could be supported more effectively. They could link up more frequently, and could provide an alternative space for organizing rather than through establishment-controlled structures like universities or student unions.
- A regular publication, either quarterly or biannually, could be produced. We see this as crucial to furthering both internal communication and propagating anarchist ideas to a wider audience. A website could be established.
- An annual convergence (that isn’t centred around a major protest) to bring together anarchists from across the region, to strengthen networks, share information and skills and to improve collective campaigns.
- Collectives would nominate rotating delegates or spokes that would meet either quarterly or every six months. This would be to further communication and facilitate the better functioning of the federation. We believe these would operate by a consensus-based model, with details to be decided at the foundation convergence.
- These people could be a contact point for the federation in their geographical area. A phone tree for urgent contact and discussion would be established.
- When there is a cross-over between collective work on certain important issues, federation working groups could be established. For instance this could include an Indigenous Solidarity working group or one against Australian Imperialism. We see collectives across the region working on these issues, and believe that there could be better co-operation and development of ideas. An Outreach working group could be set up to better spread our shared philosophy.
- We hope for a safer spaces policy to come out of a foundation convergence and we believe that there should be a grievance committee delegated at each convergence.
Ideas on Safer spaces
We have to talk and think about ways to make the Federation and its events spaces in which we respect and support each other: because this doesn’t just happen automatically. It is everyone’s responsibility to think about how their behaviour and the behaviour of others affect people’s ability to participate and feel safe in a space. We all have to constantly work to ensure our spaces are free from physical violence and sexual assault, from intimidation and discrimination. There will be people involved in the Federation from various backgrounds and with various identities and people will have different experiences of the same spaces. We want to be able to vigorously disagree with each other while still making sure that everyone is listened to and is able to talk.
We want to set aside significant time at the initial convergence to talk about these issues. Any founding document would highlight such concepts as a necessary element of revolutionary struggle. We hope that collectives and individuals will bring concrete ideas and proposals to participate in this dialogue.
As we have tried to make clear, all parts of this proposal are open for discussion and change. To facilitate discussion over the next few months – hopefully leading to a convergence – we have created a blog and email account. We see the blog as a public forum for discussion while the email would originally be for direct queries/responses/getting in contact. If it becomes necessary we would possibly also look at creating an egroup for more practical matters such as organising a formation convergence.