anarchist federation

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:, and this anonymous writer: 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 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.

Anarchism Which is not Anti-colonialist is Just Racism in Disguise

Saying you are opposed to Capitalism and the State without talking about Imperialism and Colonialism is quite a strange thing to do. It is in fact suspicious, as it indicates not only that you live in an imperialist country and enjoy the benefits of this, but also that you refuse to admit this fact. I am afraid to say this makes you a racist, even if you don’t realist it. Like with drugs, the first step to giving up racism is admitting you have a problem. The UK Anarchist movement has yet to take this first step.

Divide and Rule Affects Anarchists Too

Many people living in Imperialist countries whose armies have invaded other people’s territory to exploit their labour power and resources may feel pissed off at the government for reasons that have nothing much to do with Imperialism.

They may feel that their taxes are too high, for example, or that the government is letting too many immigrants come into the country, or not providing enough public services. In all of these examples such people may actively support even more imperialist government policies to bring more wealth to the country, such as wars of aggression and tightly regulated border controls between imperialist countries and their colonies.

Basic to the age-old Imperialist strategy of divide and rule is the placing of members of certain ethnic groups in privileged positions in relation to others. In settler-colonies such as the modern day Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank, the settlers are the group given the privileges by the government, while the indigenous people are subjected to racist oppression. In imperialist “home” countries it is the “indigenous” population which is given privileges by the State whilst migrants from the colonies and their descendants are racially oppressed. Modern day Israel is also a good example of this, as people of Palestinian Arab descent are systematically excluded from political and economic power.

Sticking with the example of Israel, let us examine the Israeli Anarchist movement. Judith Butler, in a lecture available online misleading called “Queer Anarchism and Anarchism Against the Wall” (which in fact barely mentions Queer Anarchism at all) offers a critique of certain sections of the Israeli Anarchist movement which talk about their struggle against the Israeli state as something separate from the Palestinian people’s struggle for self-determination.

Butler points out that many Anarchists, not just in Israeli but all over the world, wrongly understand “self-determination” to mean “the creation of a State”, which is not necessarily the case. Though it is of course true that many Palestinians do wish to see the creation of a new State of “their own” (which to Anarchists would be an impossibility since States are always controlled by elite minorities rather than whole populations) many other Palestinians keep the ideas of self-determination and State-creation deliberately distinct.

This confusion on the part of Anarchists living in Imperialist countries between anti-colonial struggles for self-determination and chauvinistic nationalist struggles for the creation of new States does not just apply to Palestine, but indeed to all anti-colonial struggles. This leads many anarchists from such countries to refuse to support any anti-colonial struggles unless they are explicitly anti-statist, which is very rare.

Point 4 of the UK Anarchist Federation’s Aims and Principles

… is typical of this confusion, stating:

We are opposed to the ideology of national liberation movements which claims that there is some common interest between native bosses and the working class in face of foreign domination. We do support working class struggles against racism, genocide, ethnocide and political and economic colonialism. We oppose the creation of any new ruling class. We reject all forms of nationalism, as this only serves to redefine divisions in the international working class. The working class has no country and national boundaries must be eliminated. We seek to build an anarchist international to work with other libertarian revolutionaries throughout the world.

Notice that there is no distinction made here between different types of nationalism, indeed the first sentence talks about “the ideology of national liberation movements”, as if they were all the same. They do claim to support “working-class” struggles against colonialism, but what does this mean in regions of the world that remain industrially undeveloped or where capitalist modes of labour relations have not been fully established?

The first sentence also mentions “claims that there is some common interest between native bosses and the working class in the face of foreign domination”, but it does not actually offer any argument against these claims, because there is none. No-one can deny for example that the Chinese working class is better off now than they were under colonialism, even if they are still horribly exploited.

But being less exploited is in their interest, and it has come about because of the interests of their “native bosses” in promoting export-led industrial development. The Communist Party has an interest in enriching itself and trying to outcompete the West, and this has led to increases in the standard of living for working class Chinese people as well.

This refusal to provide an analysis of how capitalist economies actually work, beyond the simplistic communist view of that money and wage-labour are inherently wrong and need to be ended, is perhaps part of the reason for these baffling claims against economic nationalism being in the interests of working class people.

What I think the Anarchist Federation mean to say is “being oppressed by native bosses is not as good as being your own boss”. So why don’t they just say this, instead of ruling out support for any anti-colonial movement that calls itself nationalist?

Benedict Anderson argued that “nations” are Imagined Communities, in his book of the same name, because in any nation there are too many people for them to all personally know one another, yet they still think of one another as a community.

Is it not possible, therefore, to imagine a community that you might even use the word “nation” to describe that does not have a State? Anarchism is after all the philosophy that communities don’t need States to exist or manage themselves. But the Anarchist Federation claim that any form of nationalism “divides the working class” and that “national boundaries must be eliminated”.

I would argue on that it is rather Nation-States that divide the working class and that it is the institutions of border control between such States that must be eliminated. If this happens then it really doesn’t matter in economic or political terms whether or not people choose to identify with nationalist concepts.

In the same lecture about Israel, Judith Butler mentions the “age-old” question of whether Anarchy can only exist if there is a State for it to be opposed to, or if Anarchy is instead something that can exist without States, even though it is defined in relation to them.

I would say that of course Anarchy can exist without states, and that just because the word means “without State” it doesn’t mean States have to actually exist for the concept to make sense. Before there were States people obviously didn’t use the word “Anarchy”, because it wouldn’t have meant anything, like how no one used to talk about “organic” food before chemical pesticides and fertilisers were invented. But just because they may have used different words back then it doesn’t mean people’s food wasn’t organic or their societies anarchic by the definitions we use today.

The words “self-determination” are much less confusing, because they are framed in positive terms. Anarchists would perhaps be better off describing their beliefs in such terms, especially when engaging in anti-colonial struggles. If a group of people “imagines” themselves to form part of a national community and organises a political movement calling for their “self-determination”, there is nothing wrong with this in itself from an Anarchist standpoint.

The problem only comes when people start conflating the concepts of “self-determination” with “state creation”, and as anti-statists Anarchists should be the main people voicing opposition to this conflation, rather than conflating it in our own heads as well.

This means instead of closing our eyes and putting our fingers in our ears whenever we hear about a group of people struggling in the name of their national identity, we should actively participate in these movements as much as possible in order to promote an anti-state perspective from within.

It is strange that organisations like the Anarchist Federation do not apply this logic to anti-colonial struggles when it is precisely the same logic they use to justify their engagement with workplace and community struggles more generally. In these struggles, the Anarchist Federation argues, it is necessary for anarchists to be present in order to counteract the tendency of authoritarian and statist groups, whether Marxist, Liberal or whatever, from taking decision making power over the direction of the struggle away from the rank-and-file.

Anarchists do this not only because it provides opportunities to spread our critiques of States and authoritarianism to wider audiences, which is more like a by-product of taking up this role within wider social movements, but also because we believe that if Statists take control of struggles then the rank and file have already lost, whereas we want them to win.

As anti-capitalists, Anarchists desire a world in which the concept of being “working class” becomes meaningless, because there would be no other classes to compare it to. Yet we are happy to call ourselves “working class” right now in order to join in struggles with other people who identify with this label. So why can we not apply the same logic to nationalism?

Just as we criticise Marxists for claiming that working class self-determination can only be achieved by the creation of a Workers State, so should we also be arguing that national self-determination (whatever nation you might be talking about) is not dependent on the creation of a Nation State, but is actually severely damaged by it.

White Supremacist Anarchism

If anarchists living in imperialist countries (such as Russia, Israel, the US and all the EU countries) do not participate in anti-colonial struggles which are being fought against those same states, then we can only conclude that they do not really care about destroying the State they are oppressed by, or in preventing anti-colonial struggles from being taken over by Statists.

If this is so it suggests that they are in fact merely pretending to be opposed to inequality when they really want to maintain their own privileges over colonised people, whom they are also happy to allow to continue to be oppressed by States, whether “foriegn” or “native”. As they will almost always have a different ethnic identity to the colonised people whose struggles they refuse to declare allegiance with, this position must be seen as fundamentally Racist.

I do not mean to suggest that this racism is conscious, and I know full well how quickly people can lose their tempers once accusations of subconscious oppressive attitudes start getting thrown around. In the past Anarchist Federation members have argued that their position is justified because some of their members are from the same countries as the anti-colonial movements which they criticise. This was the apparently the case with an article they produced which criticised the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka for being nationalists, at a time when Tamil civilians were being brutally murdered and one might have expected words of solidarity instead.

If this article was written by somebody of Sri Lankan Tamil descent, then of course it doesn’t make much sense to accuse them as an individual of being racist. But the Anarchist Federation was not a presence at any of the Tamil Solidarity demonstrations going on in the UK at the time, nor has it been very involved in anti-colonialist solidarity activism in general.

Instead they focus mainly on the struggles of unionised workers in the UK, who are predominantly White Europeans of British descent and so are already extremely privileged compared with other ethnic groups. Though the Anarchist Federation is heavily involved in anti-fascist activities, to its credit, it does not emphasise an opposition to racism in UK society more broadly, and is itself a disproportionately White organisation, despite its black (and red) flag.

The main emphasis of the AF is on issues of economic oppression, which also reflects the fact that it is a predominantly White (and Male) organisation. The minority of Female-identifying and Queer members has enabled a shift towards recognising the necessary interconnectedness of struggles against both class society and patriarchy, but so far even this has been limited and no comparable shift towards an anti-racist focus has occurred.

Islamophobic Anarchism and Atheist Chauvinism 

This may also have something to do with the AF’s 10th point in its Aims and Principles, which declares:

We oppose organised religion and cults and hold to a materialist analysis of capitalist society. We, the working class, can change society through our own efforts. Worshipping an unprovable spiritual realm, or believing in a religious unity between classes, mystifies or suppresses such self-emancipation / liberation. We reject any notion that people can be liberated through some kind of supernatural force. We work towards a society where religion is no longer relevant.

Though an improvement on the previous wording of this point which simply said “we are opposed to organised religion and religious belief”, the fact that this is even part of the Aims and Principles is clearly going to disincline the vast majority of the world’s population from wanting to have anything to do with the organisation. When I was a member of the Anarchist Federation I witnessed and participated in many discussions on this issue and found that the Anti-religious faction was simply too powerful within the organisation for there to be much hope of this changing.

This is one of the reasons that I declared in my “Critique of the Anarchist Federation” that the organisation should just be abandoned and a new one formed, because it is too set in its ways to be reformed, much like the State it purports to oppose.

I found many Anarchist Federation members, and other White UK anarchists generally, to hold Islamophobic views almost identical to the fascists they opposed. Many Anarchists fall into the trap of accepting the Fascists’ own terms of the debate, including the assumption that Islam is inherently authoritarian and sexist.

Most Westerners have a very poor understanding of the core teachings of Islam, and Anarchists are no exception. All you need to do in order to be considered a Muslim, according to the most liberal interpretations of the Koran, is declare belief in a single God and Mohammed as the messenger of that God. In itself this has nothing to do with the question of whether or not one is opposed to the state or has a materialist analysis of capitalism.

Going one step further in being a good Muslim than simply saying you think the Koran is genuinely the word of a single God who actually exists, you could also decide to pray 5 times a day (which is mainly just declaring the first point over and over again), give 2.5 per cent of your income to the poor, fast during Ramadan and try to visit Mecca at least once in your life.

That’s it. Those are the 5 pillars of Islam and everything else is pretty much optional (again, according to the most liberal interpretations). Women don’t have to cover their faces, and have the right to divorce their husbands. All races of people are considered equal. Usury and inequalities of wealth are considered immoral. Oppressed people have the right to fight back against oppression.

Rather than being opposed to Anarchism, liberal forms of Islam actually complement it incredibly well. Any religion that emphasises “One God, One Authority” can also be interpreted as an anarchistic statement that “there should be no human authority in the material world”.

Just because you don’t believe in God doesn’t give you the right to say that people who do cannot be true revolutionaries. Just because you were brought up to believe in Christianity – a particularly illogical religion which tries to say that God both is and isn’t human at the same time –  then lost your faith in it later, that doesn’t mean you know everything about all world religions.

Believing in “materialism” as the Anarchist Federation claims to, usually means having been raised in a society where you have been able to achieve a high enough standard of scientific education to be able to get at least the basic gist of both the Biological Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection and the Cosmological Theory of the “Big Bang” as well as the Socio-economic “Labour Theory of Value”.

These theories are all on the State school curriculum’s of many Western countries, and open discussion of them is not punishable by law. This is not the case in most of the rest of the world.

Even if many anti-colonial political organisations may be “secular” this does not make their members Athiests, and secularism is in fact more often used to help people of different religious faiths get along rather than to help them get along with athiests.

I am not going to claim that refusing to work with religious people is actually racist, even though the majority of people who take such a hard line against religion are likely to be from ethnically privileged backgrounds. What I will say though is that it does nothing to help the aims of the movement, which I understand to be the achievement of greater working class unity around the world.

There is no reason why someone cannot have both a materialist analysis of capitalism and a moral one which is prepared to actually call capitalists and governments Evil. The use of moral language in political discourse makes for much more powerful propaganda than just “holding to a materialist analysis of capitalism”. If you say “capitalism is against our interests as a working class people” the obvious response is “So what? Who are we to assert our interests anyway, in a value-free materialistic universe?” but if you also say “revolutionary activity is the only moral thing to do” then you hit people where it hurts, their hearts.

Non-white people living in the UK, or the world in general, are much less likely to be Atheists. This means that most people actively struggling against colonialism – and therefore against presently existing States – have some kind of religious view. Saying that they “worship…an unprovable spiritual realm [which] mystifies or suppresses [their] self-emancipation/liberation” is not only a terrible way to express solidarity with them, it is also quite clearly not true.

Religious faith is often cited by its practitioners to be the only thing keeping them going in tough times, such as when they are fighting revolutionary wars against the State for instance. Far from “suppressing” their self-emancipation, religious teachings often provide a catalyst for it, for example when Malcolm X encouraged Black people in the US to organise for “self-defence by any means necessary”.

This was a most revolutionary idea and one which was based on Islamic religious teachings that legitimise violence against oppressors. Indeed, one of the last things the Prophet Mohammed said to his followers before he died was “do not oppress, and do not be oppressed” which could be considered an elegant summing up of anarchist revolutionary practice.

Again, just because you may see your own society’s dominant religion – Christianity, for most Westerners – as a force keeping down the working class in your country, it doesn’t mean that religious belief necessarily always plays this role everywhere in the world.  Even Christianity has sometimes been used as a catalyst for revolutionary anti-colonial and anti-capitalist struggles, especially in Latin America, where many Catholic Priests influenced by “Liberation Theology” even took up arms themselves against the State alongside poor people.

If the Anarchist Federation, or any other similar organisation, wants to be a private members clubs for atheists only, it should choose another name. Christian, Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu Anarchists have all played roles in world history and will continue to do so. So will anti-statist nationalists involved in anti-colonial struggles.

Anarchists of all ethnic and religious/philosophical identities should unite on the basis of a shared commitment to the self-determination of all people and the negation of all States, and leave religious and national/racial identities out of it.

Then we might just stand a chance of really becoming a global working class movement.




Critique of the UK Anarchist Federation

So I used to be a member of the Anarchist Federation in the UK, as well as part of various informal affinity groups and lots of attempts at things in between, networks and forums and what have you. I have also traveled around a fair bit to other cities and countries in Europe and Latin America to learn about how the anarchist movements in those places worked. I am not claiming to be any kind of expert as a result of these experiences. I am still only 25 years old at the time of writing this. But I do feel like I have learned at least a few things worth sharing.

In writing specifically about the Anarchist Federation in the UK I am not trying to piss anyone off. However, I am not going to pretend I don’t have some feelings of bitterness towards the organisation. Maybe if I ran into certain people I might come across as a bit cold towards them, but that’s pretty much the extent of my spitefulness.

I joined the Anarchist Federation because I felt like the Anarchist scene in my town was too disorganised. If you accept the numbers and terminology I was using in “Fibonacci insurrectionism” then it was an informal network but with enough people to have at least a federation, perhaps something more.

There were various collectives campaigning about different things or running different projects, and god knows how many affinity groups and random individuals drifting around with no clear sense of purpose as far as I could see.

I imagined that the Anarchist Federation was a lot bigger than it actually turned out to be when I joined. It had over a hundred people, but not much more than that and it never seemed to grow in the few years I was associated with it. The structure of the organisation was very far from the hypothetical “ten groups of ten” model I talked about in “Fibonacci insurrectionism”.

You could be considered a Branch of the federation if you only had three people. That’s ridiculous. What can you do with three people, really? I would have put it at a minimum of 8, a maximum of 15, so that when you get up to 16 you split into two. Like I said, 15 is pretty much the maximum for a consensus meeting.

As a result of this some Branches had a lot more people than others, and so some were a lot more effective than others. Many Branches barely existed. Mine was one of them. I’d be at delegate meetings hearing people from other cities talk about what their group had discussed and voted on and proposed and whatever, and I could just talk for myself pretty much. And I wasn’t the only one. There always seemed to be people around about which it was hard to say whether they were speaking as a delegate or just an individual.

It was all very confusing. You had to give a certain amount of personal information to join as well as money. That right there is gonna put a lot of people off. All the groups I knew about organised fundraisers for themselves, usually gigs. Gigs are great for fundraising because they are also social events which can be made into awareness raising things, with the right speeches, lyrics, decorations and literature around the place. But the Anarchist Federation insisted on cash from each of its members, according to how much they earned.

It was a constant topic of conversation, taking up hours of time on internet discussion forums and at conferences themselves. I am not exaggerating when I say that the vast majority of the time spent at national conferences went on discussing internal administrative problems on the federation and that absolutely no time at all went into discussing direct action, except as a theoretical concept.

Someone who had been in the federation a long time even told me that it was debatable whether or not revolutionaries should take direct action. An Anarchist said that. It was unbelievable.

The theory seemed to be that if you did anything then it made you a vanguardist. The word “vanguard” is thrown around a lot in anarchist circles so perhaps I should discuss it a bit. Lenin called for a “Vanguard party” and what he meant by that was a hierarchical organisation bent on seizing political power for itself. So anarchists are against the Leninist idea of vanguard parties. Sure.

But “vanguard” just means “in front” rather than “at the back”. Lenin meant that the Vanguard party should go in front and take power, so that when the rest of the people caught up they could all be given the power that the vanguard took. Obviously, that’s ridiculous, power corrupts, etc.

But when you are not talking about taking power but simply taking action, then to throw around the word vanguard like it’s a bad thing is fucking stupid. Someone has to make the first move. And that person is most likely to be someone who has built up a while revolutionary theory on the idea of making a move, i.e. an Anarchist.

By making the first move you could be said to be “leading the way” and people are always going to tell you “oh but anarchists aren’t supposed to have leaders” in an annoying voice but the thing is, we are not against leaders, we are against rulers. Bosses, governments, people with coercive power. Not just someone who has a suggestion about what fucking direction we should take.

The Anarchist Federation’s literature makes clear that they are not against leaders, saying that they actually want to be a kind of intellectual leadership of the working class. At least, some people seem to be big fans of texts that call for an organisation to be this “leader of ideas”.

Well, I would much rather have a practical leader who knows how to do lots of things than an intellectual leader who just knows lots of long words, and I don’t think I am alone here. By following someone who knows how to do things you will learn how to do them yourself, as long as you pay attention. By following an intellectual leader you will learn how to be a self-righteous, smug little freak.

The Anarchist Federation also said it wanted to be the “memory of the working class” but all they seem to remember is defeat. I read pretty much all their literature and didn’t get much of an idea about what the fuck I was supposed to do from any of it. I learnt that lots of people had died in struggle a long time ago.

A major feeling I got from a lot of people was that I needed to quickly learn loads of anarchist history and read all the old classic anarchist writers. I don’t regret any of that, because some of it is amazing literature, but really, it wasn’t what I signed up for.

I was already an anarchist when I joined, or I wouldn’t have joined. I was trying to figure out how to be a more effective revolutionary activist, but all the “action” done under the Anarchist Federation banner was organising some public talks, sometimes turning up to other peoples demos or picket lines and giving out newsletters.

In itself that wouldn’t have been a problem. After all a formal organisation with a structure so easily open to police agents shouldn’t be claiming illegal actions under its own name. But the federation seemed to actively distance itself from informal networks of affinity groups rather than aiming for the kind of “movement” I describe in “Fibonacci insurrectionism”. In turn, most activists I knew saw no reason to get involved with the federation, or what the point of it was. Sometimes people asked me if they thought the Anarchist Federation would have funded various things, like materials for actions, but I knew it would have been pointless even to ask. Activists naturally presumed that the point of an organisation like that would be to fund or at least support people taking action, but the organisation didn’t seem interested in that at all.

Federation members would routinely ridicule other anarchists, and especially insurrectionists, despite it saying nowhere in any of their literature that they were against insurrectionism. In doing so they were playing their part in perpetuating and exacerbating precisely the same divide that I am trying to reconcile, that between insurrectionism and platformism. Sometimes people would just resort to crass stereotypes about squatters and hippies, which I took offense to as a fairly hippyish squatter. I’m writing a insurrectionist zine about spirals, for fucks sake.

But I was genuinely loyal to the organisation despite all this bullshit, always trying to speak up for it amongst my friends in insurrectionist circles, always trying to advocate it’s positions. But for me, doing so was a matter of action. I tried to find ways of taking action that fitted in with the federation’s decisions.

Federation says we need to make sure the Left don’t take over the anticuts movement? I try and help organise and advertise alternative anticuts organisations not based on hierarchical structures that Leftists can easily take over, and to promote them whilst disrupting Leftist demonstrations with more radical tactics than just walking around listening to reformist bullshit, like occupying buildings and trying to do symbolic actions against banks and other capitalist institutions which caused the crisis.

Of course these tactics did not always work, and I could have benefited from hearing what other actions groups had tried in other parts of the country in order to figure out what tactics worked and what didn’t. But when I read the reports groups made about themselves they seemed to all be about holding meetings and giving out literature on the street. I mean, I did that as well. But it’s not action. It’s propaganda at best.

So the only way I could take action to advance the anarchist federations aims as I understood them was with non-members, through informal structures. When they found this out they kicked me out of the federation behind my back. They actually had a vote at a conference, which I was not told about in advance, or even after. I just tried to check my emails one day on the Anarchist Federation account and I found out I had been deleted.

That’s why I mentioned I was a little bitter. But I think the points I am making here are still quite valid. They kicked me out for advocating structurelessness or words to that effect. I hope that “Fibonacci insurrectionism” at least proves that I do not advocate structurelessness. I just recognise the chaotic nature of the universe and say that structure and informality should compliment each other rather than be seen as two opposing things.

There is room for order in a chaotic universe, but there is no room for chaos in an ordered one, nor in the Anarchist Federation, so it seems. I wish I could be constructive and suggest ways the Anarchist Federation could be reformed so that is more like the kind of organisation I talk about at the end of “Fibonacci Insurrectionism”, which uses its formal structures as part of a wider, informal, movement, which it is connected to other parts of in semi-formal ways. Also, one which is pro- action and which exists only to analyse action, take action and help others take action.

But really, from what I have experienced of the internal culture of the Anarchist Federation, I think it would be incredibly hard to change it in a more insurrectionary direction. It has become a stagnated and irrelevant organisation with an informal hierarchy that is probably more likely to simply become formalised rather than be effectively challenged. Around the time I left they were talking about a “Secretariat” made up of all the elected officials in the organisation, mostly a small friendship clique of the longest serving members as far as I could make out. These “Elders” seemed to have decided long ago to crush youthful initiative and to prioritise the struggles of unionised workers (a relatively privileged section of British society) above most other concerns, just like the Trotskyists they claimed to be so different from.

So, I say to anyone would like to be part of the kind of structures I have described in Fibonacci Insurrectionism, we need to start from scratch. I don’t care what it gets called, but we need an Insurrectionist Anarchist federation in the UK, one with a decent amount of real groups of a decent size and a simple delegate system, with no membership fees or personal details needing to be handed over just to participate.  We need about a hundred people who know what they are talking about when it comes to both direct action and propaganda, who have enough patience to sit through a meeting and participate in a delegate structure, and who are also connected to various other militant affinity groups, collectives and revolutionaries through different informal means. People who see the point of an organisation is to do whatever it takes to help the insurrectionary movement to grow, not to close yourself off into a private club of theoreticians and cynical trades unionists. People who want to stop pissing around and get on with it for fucks sake.

Do a hundred such people exist?  Are you one of them? Get in touch.