Our global society is broken. Donald Trump & Brexit are symptoms along with the rise of the far right elsewhere in Europe. In an old pattern, fundamental economic crisis often results in society becoming very much more brutal for most people. In the age of nuclear weapons this current crisis could be our last. And with a somewhat longer countdown to disaster we are also facing climate catastrophe.
The crisis is fundamental rather than temporary because there are two underlying factors that are irreversible. The first is the end of the era where the environmental costs of growth could be mostly discounted in the belief that dilution would neutralise pollution. For much of the industrial revolution the poisonous effluent dumped into the ecosystem had only local severe effects with the vast oceans and atmosphere diluting the pollutants enough that global effects were minor. This is no longer the case with climate change being the most talked about of several examples where the pollution generated by growth can no longer be absorbed without serious global consequences.
The internet brought many advantages to radical organising, not least the speed at which movements can grow and the ease with which complex ideas can be made available to almost everyone. But there were certainly negative side effects and here I want to look at what is probably the most important of these, the move away from sustained collective organising, analysis and preservation of lessons.
It’s useful to start with the statement that there is not point looking back to the past and wishing we where there instead of here, or in a very similar fashion just demanding the ‘discipline’ of past periods without understanding why that discipline was organic to that period.
The easiest way to understand what I mean is to understand the collective newspaper publishing projects of the past. There required many individuals to pool their efforts & cash to produce often well crafted and widely distributed papers. At the time unless you were wealthy this was the only option to reach many people. When printing was technically difficult and expensive it demanded considerable resources from a lot of people in order to distribute your message. And because a lot of resources were going into the distribution of what was a very limited number of words it made sense that a lot of time was spent on what exactly those words were.
One of the key foundation documents for the Workers Solidarity Movement is the ‘Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft)’ This text was written in Paris in 1926 by a group that included exiled Russian and Ukrainian anarchists and was very influenced by the lessons they drew from the Russian Revolution. Three of the authors -- Nestor Makhno, Ida Mett, Piotr Archinov -- were then and now very well known anarchists, the remaining two -- Valevsky and Linsky -- I know relatively little about.
In this article I intend to examine whether this text has any relevance to anarchist organising today, some 90 years after it was drafted. In addition, what can we say about its shortcomings? Finally, I will look at some of the confusion the WSM ran into when trying to follow it.
"If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality"
WSM recently held our first Facilitation and 'Conversations about Anarchism' training day in Dublin. The photo shows the problems attendees had already encountered in meetings they had participated in. How many of them have you come across?
The purpose of the training was to give people the basics of facilitation that can avoid or at least minimise these problems.
At the end of the training all the 11 people who had taken part were very positive about it. One said “It was good to meet new people, I learned a lot about facilitation and would now be more confident now, I also learned about anarchist process” while another said “It was very comprehensive with detailed techniques about how to facilitate.” Everyone said they would be interested in future trainings.
Ireland is in the midst of a massive popular awakening as hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets to protest the introduction of water charges. After too many years of austerity it would appear the people have decided enough is enough and almost spontaneous rebellion has appeared in every town and city. Confrontations between Gardai and campaigners that are reminiscent of the suppression of protest in Rossport have erupted in Dublin suburbs.
This began life as a few quick morning coffee fueled points on online reactions to the piece 'The end of capitalism has begun' Paul Mason published in mid July. I had read the piece itself the previous afternoon on my second monitor in work, suitably enough in micro break fragments as I was worked on a project.
This is a by email interview Andrew did with Black Άκυροι from from Thessaloniki Greece in April 2015 about the Dublin anarchist bookfair, squatting & policing in Ireland, Syriza and horizontalism. At the end you will find a link for the interview as published.
The ideas of each age tend to become that of the ruling ideology and we are seeing an extraordinary example of that at the moment. As a response the ECB/IMF attack on Greek democracy an online fund it campaign has been set up to fund the 1.6 billion interest owed and so far 1,863 people have contributed.
The first problem is the obvious practical one that the 1.6 billion if raised only represents the latest interest instalment on an unplayable debt over 300 billion. So even if successful such a project would only kick the ball down the road for a month or two.
There is a strong tendency, almost a rule, that anarchist groups tend to fall apart once they have more than 20-30 members in any city or 50 to 60 overall. Or at the very least an organisation that once felt like it worked very well becomes one that feels sluggish and starts requiring too much effort to achieve limited results in the longer term. There are exceptions which mean this is not inevitable but why does this happen and more importantly how can we avoid it in our organising?
The cause may be simply a limitation of our brains and in particular the number of complex inter relationships between people we can track. Or, more correctly, a failure to acknowledge that this limit means that informality will fail and formal administration is more and more necessary as group size rises. A lesson that is not just relevent to anarchist but to all attempts at horizontal organisation.
(If you arrived here from a search for Dunbar's number
and know little or nothing about anarchist organisation
you might want to read
Are Anarchists in Favour of Organisation).