Towards Federation? (Anarchist conference, Melbourne, June 8/9, 2013)

Last weekend a small gathering of anarchists took place at the Melbourne Anarchist Club. The 20 or so who attended did so in order to discuss anarchist federation: that is, the establishment of a formal linkage between a number of anarchist groups based in Australia. In addition to MAC and various unaligned individuals, delegates, representatives and observers from a handful of other groups were present, including Anarchist Affinity (AA), Black Star, International Organisation for a Participatory Society (IOPS), Jura Books, Libertarian Workers for a Self-Managed Society (LWSS), Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group (MACG) and Melbourne Street Medic Collective (MelbSMC).

The first day of the conference was an open forum at which the following questions were addressed: what is anarchism, what is an anarchist, what is an anarchist group and what is an anarchist federation? The second day of the conference was oriented towards formal discussion of the proposals that had been put to the conference by various anarchist groups, primarily MAC, LWSS and MACG, regarding the aims, purposes and structure of a federation.

While there was some interest expressed on the part of some groups (as well as some criticisms of both the possibility and desirability of doing so) there was no final agreement on establishing a federation. Instead, the possibility will continue to be the subject of discussion, potentially involving groups from further afield (Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth) in a series of future meetings and in online discussions. I’ve included statements on the subject by AA and LWSS in the comments below. You can read anarchist blogger Kieran’s thoughts here.

Before I go, a few anarchist and other blogs/projects I think are worth paying attention to:

Anarchist Affinity is a new group of anarchist-communists based in Melbourne.
Anarchist Melbourne Bookfair. The 3rd annual Melbourne Anarchist Bookfair (August 10 at Abbotsford Convent) is just two months away.
Avenue is a new-ish publication from WA. You can read the three issues produced so far here.
• The Brisbane Solidarity Network is active and anarchic.
Disaccords continues to document all sorts of interesting ruptures in the spectacle’s space-time continuum.
• The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group now has a blog.
memengineering is an anarchist-y blog by peter lach-newinsky.
Plan to Thrive is “a collaborative blog project to encourage and support the health and wellbeing of people and groups engaged in working for social and ecological justice”.
The Golden Barley School is what happens when an anarchist, a communist and a feminist walk into a bar…

Finally…

FUCK YEAH ANARCHIST BANNERS!

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2014 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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3 Responses to Towards Federation? (Anarchist conference, Melbourne, June 8/9, 2013)

  1. @ndy says:

    From Anarchist Affinity (Melbourne):

    “Open letter to the Melbourne Anarchist Club,

    We thank our comrades in the Melbourne Anarchist Club for organising the Towards Federation conference, and for inviting our participation.

    Anarchist Affinity believes that a specifically anarchist political organisation must be built if we are to seriously advance anarchist ideas and advance the struggle against capitalism, the state and all forms of oppression.

    We believe that anarchist organisations are most effective when built on a shared political understanding (theoretical unity), a common strategy (tactical unity) and united by a collective responsibility to their implementation. We believe that such an organisation must be directly democratic and federal in structure.

    For these reasons, we welcome the Melbourne Anarchist Club’s decision to re-start the discussion on how anarchist organisation in Australia might be advanced.

    This said, Anarchist Affinity has significant reservations about the proposed Anarchist Federation in Australia.

    First, we are conscious of our own limited capacity and resources at this point in time as a small group with less than a dozen members. We’re focussed on building our local capacity through participating in local campaigns.

    We are also aware that to be a success, the kind of federation we advocate will require the active participation of multiple functioning and healthy anarchist groups, with both the desire and preparedness to achieve greater theoretical unity, as well as the resources in labour and money required to meaningfully pursue common strategy.

    We understand that other groups participating in the conference favour a much looser conception of federation, with more limited organisational goals.

    We are keen to discuss our different approaches, but instead of discussing the organisational structure of a proposed national federation, we would support a program of political steps that build the cooperation between our groups. The aim should be laying the political groundwork for an anarchist national organisation with the capacity to make a serious impact on the class struggle in Australia.

    This could include meaningful joint participation in political campaigns, such as for refugees, strike support, or for renewable energy, cooperating as an anarchist block[?]. It might start with simply sharing our position statements … on these numerous topics, to see whether our groups share the same positions. In this way we could build … theoretical unity between us, as well as the political impact of anarchist groups in Australia by establishing a common front.

    But there is still much more to be done before an Australia-wide anarchist political organisation is a viable proposition.

    Therefore with respect to the plenary session on Sunday 9 June, we do not feel ready to commit to the proposal advanced by the Melbourne Anarchist Club. That said, we do not want to play spoiler and to stand in the way of groups that are ready to pursue it. For this reason, and those outlined above, Anarchist Affinity will abstain from the plenary session on Sunday 9 June.

    We will send two delegates to the open discussions on Saturday, with a mandate to communicate the positions outlined in this letter…

    In comradely support,

    Anarchist Affinity.”

    From Libertarian Workers For A Self-Managed Society / Anarchist Media Institute (Melbourne):

    “Although we believe a Federation of anarchist groups is a good idea, we think the way that’s currently proposed is not the best way forward. We think what is needed is a series of delegates meetings of the groups invited to form a Federation to thrash out:

    Principles of Association
    Decision making processes within the Federation
    Federation structure

    Delegates can then take these decisions back to the groups they carry a mandate for – for discussion / possible alterations and ratification or rejection.

    We will be sending one delegate … to the Towards Federation Anarchist Conference on Sunday 9th June. His mandate covers;

    1. Presenting our position regarding a provisional Federation…
    2. Involvement in any discussion regarding any submissions made.
    3. Drawing up with other delegates a compromise position.

    His mandate does not include the ability to make a decision on the day about whether the Libertarian Workers For A Self-Managed Society / Anarchist Media Institute accept the final position reached by delegates who attend the Conference. That decision can only be made by the group once [he] has reported back to the Libertarian Workers For A Self-Managed Society / Anarchist Media Institute.

    PRINCIPLES OF ASSOCIATION
    Put forward for discussion at Conference

    An anarchist society is a society without rulers, not without rules.
    Anarchists actively work towards creating a society without rulers.
    The struggle to redistribute power and wealth lie at the heart of the struggle to create an anarchist society.
    Terror is the dominant weapon used by the State to maintain inequality. Terror plays no part in the anarchist struggle to create a society without rulers.
    Anarchist organisations who wish to affiliate need to use direct democratic mechanisms within their organisation to make decisions and rely on recallable delegates with specific mandates to carry out those decisions.
    Agreement on these principles/variations of these principles/or other agreed principles that are acceptable to foundation members form the basis of membership of the proposed anarchist Federation.

    DECISION MAKING PROCESSES WITHIN AN ANARCHIST FEDERATION
    Put forward for discussion at Conference

    Consensus or consensus (minus one affiliate) needs to be reached to change the Principles of Association.
    Process to expel affiliate can only begin if a case is made they have broken the Principles of Association and that case is accepted by a majority of other affiliates. An affiliate can only be expelled from the Federation if 75% or more of affiliates agree with the expulsion proposal.
    Other decisions – if no consensus possible, both a majority and minority position can be articulated on behalf of the Federation if any assets earmarked for a specific campaign and no consensus has been achieved assets divided in terms of the numbers supporting each side/s.

    FEDERATION STRUCTURE
    Put forward for discussion at Conference

    Based on a delegate structure.
    Delegates to meet via virtual means or physically at least once every three months.
    Joint Convenors be appointed at each delegates meeting to speak on behalf of the Federation – No group is able to have more than one Convenor at any one time.
    Convenors to be selected at delegates meeting. Convenors are recallable if more than 50% of affiliated groups not satisfied they are carrying out their mandate.
    Yearly Federation dues set to only cover costs of running the Federation. All campaign costs to be borne by groups that support specific campaigns.
    Individuals can apply for observer status.

    SUGGESTION
    If Federation is formed to be called Federation of Australian Anarchist Groups.

    We would be happy to become involved in future delegates meetings of anarchist groups that wish to federate, if no federation evolves from the June Congress.”

  2. Lugius says:

    Your report omitted a reference to an agreement made at the 26 May 2013 meeting of MAC as outlined in the 28 May 2013 TFAC Report sent to all invited participants:

    A proposal was put to the meeting that the MAC enter into an agreement with the [Brisbane Anarchist Group] to federate in accordance with the proposed constitution on a provisional basis until such time [as] a decision can be made to confirm the federation at a congress, continue on a provisional basis pending confirmation or to terminate the agreement. The proposal was put in response to the 14 May email from the BAG.

    The MAC has agreed to enter into an agreement with the BAG to federate under the working title ‘Provisional AFA’ in accordance with the proposed constitution as sent to all invited groups. It was considered that the decision would only be binding subject to ratification at duly constituted meetings of both groups.

    At the 9 June TFAC Plenary, the MACG indicated its desire to participate in the process of developing the proposed constitution and agreed to meet in July with the MAC to continue this work. The LWSS delegate will report back and presumably will decide to engage in this process or not. In addition, a member of the Black Star Collective indicated that a proposal would be put to a meeting to participate in the process.

    There remains an invitation to all invited groups to participate in the process of developing the proposed constitution with a view to establishing a permanent anarchist federation.

  3. Alex G says:

    Hey I wasn’t informed of this conference…would have loved to have gone because I do believe in federating. I didn’t hear of or see any call out online or elsewhere calling for this event. :(

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