Clarification of what i think about the Anarchist Federation in the UK

From reading some of the articles on this blog, especially “critique of the anarchist federation” and “anarchism which is not anti-colonialist is just racism in disguise” people in the anarchist federation have probably gotten the impression that i am harboring big grudges against them and just want to shit all over them or give them a bad reputation.

I want to apologise to anyone who has gotten this impression, and i recognise that by only writing about my criticisms of the organisation, in quite a sarcastic way too, i have in fact been contributing to giving it a bad reputation, which i dont actually want to do.

A lot of the negative tone of what i wrote did indeed just come out of a sense of resentment at the particular way that my disassociation from the organisation actually came about, but i now understand that this was largely just the result of a long series of  misunderstandings, partly involving simple administrative issues about people not having my current email address etc.

So i have calmed down a lot, and if possible i’d like to repair some of the damage by making it clear here that i do still have a lot of respect for the organisation and i’d like to be able to at least occasionally work on some of the same issues as people in it.

As long as people in the organisation do not refuse to work with me simply out of spite, and can just focus on the issues themselves, i am sure this is possible and that i can get on with practical work with them without making a big deal out of things that happened in the past. “Practical work” does not even necessarily have to involve spending any time with me anyway.

Being part of the Anarchist Federation for two years taught me a huge amount about political and economic theory that i am hugely grateful for. When i first joined the organisation i was quite young and inexperianced in many aspects of life, and my head was full of all kinds of incoherent notions. One of the advantages to structured organisations in general, especially ones that have a focus on constantly updating their analysis, is that people within them receive a political education much faster than they’d be able to any other way that i can see.

Even if i eventually decided that there were a few things i disagreed with about the organisation’s positions, i dont really disagree with them as strongly as perhaps other things i’ve written have made it seem. My overall experience of the organisation is that it is full of people who are very intelligent and experianced, who treat their actions in an intellectually rigorous way.

I am sure that people in the Anarchist Federation who disagree with me on some topics could come up with arguments against things i’ve said that would make me stop and reconsider some things, so again, i hope noone is too spiteful to engage with me on them.

If anyone in Afed misinterpreted “Anarchism which is not anti-colonialism is racism in disguise” to think that i am just accusing everyone in it of being racist or White sumpremacist, then i would ask them to look back at what i actually wrote. If anyone is going around claiming that i have said these things about afed then i would ask them to stop, because i never said that.

I was the Latin American secretary for over a year and actually represented the organisation to many other anarchist groups throughout Latin America in face to face meetings. I have to say i think this gives me some right to make comments on the organisation’s approaches to issues of imperialism and racism.

I would also like to make it clear that i am not an “anti-organisationalist”. I have engaged with insurrectionalist theory enough to have made up my own mind on the arguments against formal organisations, and i have pretty much always argued that although they make some interesting points, to completely reject formal organisations is absolutist, and ridiculous.

I do genuinely believe that some of arguments made by the Anarchist Federation and the writers they are influenced by, such as the authors of the Organisational Platform of Libertarian Communists, have never really been answered by any insurectionalist author i have ever read.

the only “insurectionalist” authors that i really do agree with are those who are less absolutist on this issue, such as Peter Gelderloos: http://news.infoshop.org/article.php?story=20070408112944402, and this anonymous writer: http://www.crimethinc.com/blog/2010/01/07/say-you-want-an-insurrection/ who writes under the Crimethinc banner but whose views definitely are not the same as most Crimethinc people. To me insurrectionalism is simply about recognising that certain violent actions carried out by oppressed people can be legitimate even in non-revolutionary situations, and that revolutionaries can and should seek to proactively change social dynamics rather than taking them as given.

However, I believe very strongly that if Anarchism is to play any significant role in social conflict then Anarchists need to be very organised, with accountable decision-making structures and clearly defined roles for individuals within organisations. All my experience of anarchist groups that have not been organised in that way has confirmed this. The Tyranny of Structurelessness definitly exists, and being part of Afed gave me a lot more confidence to argue against it in other groups i was involved in.

Being a part of the Anarchist Federation for two years also confirmed the value of organisations in other ways, as i saw first hand how the organisation’s structure was able to last beyond short term political campaigns and helped provide a sense of continuity between struggles.

So i don’t have any major theorectical problem with the Anarchist Federation trying to organise itself the way it does. The objections i have are mainly based on my impression that some of the specific ways it is structured means that it fails to achieve what it tries to. It doesnt mean i don’t want what Afed wants, which is a well-structured national anarchist organisation.

I have written, in an overly harsh tone i admit, that i thought it would be better if the whole thing was abandoned and a new organisation was formed. On a theorectical level, i still believe this, but there is no way i could imagine it actually happening unless the Anarchist Federation as it exists now played a significant, if not leading role in forming that new organisation. Obviously i did not make that clear in earlier writtings, which were written, as i admitted above, partly out of anger at the rudeness with which i thought i was being treated.

It even says in some Anarchist Federation literature that the organisation does not see itself as necessarily the final answer in Anarchist organising in the UK, and that theorectically it could dissolve and merge with some new future organisation. That was one of the things that attracted me to the organisation, that it didnt seem as up-itself as many other political groups.

i do believe that the time has come to start thinking about a new national organisation that is structured in a slightly more loose way than Afed, but which is still based on core theorectical ideas that afed has about the role of anarchist organisations and how they should be structured. This is because i feel that there are many young people around the country who have been radicalised in recent years but who will for cultural reasons just never be interested in an organisation with the organisational culture of afed.

I also believe that a certain overly defensive group-mentality exists in Afed that might make the process of afed disbanding and being replaced by something more dynamic and effective extremely difficult. I am sure there are lots of people in afed who would just automatically deny that there is anything wrong with it. But i also know that there are also lots of people in Afed who feel similarly to how i do about certain things, even if they still think i’m a rude idiot.

I know i’m a rude idiot sometimes. I just hope that people see that its not all the time, and that i can also be capable of making sensible arguments and good decisions. Even more importantly, i hope people realise that i am interested in putting aside differences and getting on with practical work to advance the same aims as them, whether or not i am part of the organisation again and whatever the circumstances of me leaving were.

One final point i would like to make is that i dont feel that i really know anyone in the organisation well enough to make personal judgements on them, and that i also dont feel that they know me well enough to do the same. In the organisation i was extremely isolated and only communicated with other members via the internet, at a few national gatherings, and once or twice on the phone.

I dont think these experiances of me are really enough for somebody to make an informed judgement on my level of commitment to the same aims and principles as them. I hope that anyone with a negative image of me in their head can take a step back and think about whether it is really justified on the basis of the limited experiance they’d had of me. I have certainly tried to do the same with people in Afed whom i’ve formed negative views of.

I also promise to be more careful in my choice of language in any future public communications where i might mention Afed to make sure i am not being unfair or giving it a bad reputation.

Having said all this i would love it if people from Afed could communicate with me more, even if they have nothing good to say, or even if they only write a few very short sentences. I don’t want to have any kind of feuds or bad relations with organisations that believe in almost exactly the same things as me, as there is too much practical work to be getting on with.

To clear up the issue once and for all, my email is Razchaoten@gmail.com. if more people had known that in afed before they decided to kick me out, perhaps none of this would have happened, as i would have been able to defend myself against accusations of being Anti-organisationalist at the time. But what’s done is done, and if anyone wants to get in touch then they are more than welcome to email me.

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One comment

  1. As an incidental note, the CrimethInc. text cited above is not a significant departure from other material produced by that collective/network in the past decade.

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