A few disjointed thoughts on Camp Anarchy 2013.
Melbourne’s second Camp Anarchy was held at Camp Eureka over the recent Labour Day weekend here in Victoria.
Reviewing a conference is easy, right? You pick a broad theme and evaluate what you observed in at the event in terms of that theme, bang it out to 750 words and hit publish. Right?!
That doesn’t work so well for Camp Anarchy. There remains no coherent anarchist political current in Australia. The Camp did contain a strand of firm class politics, but it was by no means in the majority. Perhaps the best thing that could be said for the politics of Camp Anarchy is that it brings the eclectic mess together and gives it a good old stir. Political coherence takes time, effort and a hell of a lot of debate.
In this sense, the worst sessions were the best. Take “Building for Revolution” for example. The economic analysis presented by the host, and the conclusions drawn from it, were utterly erroneous.
Apparently some cascading series of bank runs is imminent and we should all sell our houses, hide gold under our mattresses and invest in permaculture. The session host argued the role of anarchists was to show through things like permaculture and mutual credit that another life is possible, and thus when the collapse occurs the mass of society will join us.
How this is “building for revolution”, I do not know.
The sessions “Building for Revolution” and “Climate Action: Social Revolution not Lifestyle Change” probably facilitated the most obvious clash between lifestylist and class struggle ideas.
On the surface all present rejected the idea that either capitalism through the market or the state through “direct intervention” offered any kind of solution to the environmental crisis. That said, the individualist and lifestylist positions advanced by some contained an oddly capitalist logic. There were plenty who seemed to think it was both possible and somehow politically useful to withdraw from the market.
These are the kinds of ideas people are advancing and calling “anarchism”, and what we must be prepared to contend with if the politics of the broad anarchist tradition is ever to be reclaimed.
In that vein, another session that was both interesting and oddly mistaken was “Real Democracy Now!”. That anarchists reject what passes for democracy in Australia is a no-brainer. It was also good to see that no one (at least who attended this session) is seriously advancing a Stirnerite individualist conception of anarchism that utterly rejects democracy as “majority rule”.
There was, however, something oddly reformist about the project proposed by “Real Democracy Now!”.
The group of anarchist comrades who hosted the session intend to establish a group to argue for directly democratic measures in Australia. They were particularly enamoured with ideas of participatory budgeting and the model pioneered by America Speaks.
That our practice should be directly democratic is central to class struggle anarchism. Federalism, recallable delegates and assemblies are both the methods of our organisations and our vision for political organisation after capitalism. But to establish a project that argues for this method without explicit anti-capitalist politics risks reformism. To argue for public participation in governance as a goal in itself, without embedded economic and social demands, does nothing to undermine either the state or capitalism. Quite the contrary.
I shall watch what comes out of Real Democracy Now! with cautious interest.
I attended two other sessions. I co-hosted “Platformism” with other comrades from Anarchist Affinity. I would be interested to know what attendees thought of it.
Also hosted by an Anarchist Affinity comrade was “Anti-mining: The struggle of farmers and workers in Indonesia”:
Unfortunately few came to the session, in which the comrade discussed the development of a grassroots network of farming communities across Java resisting Australian mining development.
It was a stinking hot weekend.
Politics aside, the Rec Hut at Camp Eureka was the absolute highlight. It makes me want to head out and build something in bush timber!
There are a couple of other things outside the formal sessions worth commenting on.
Kids. It was absolutely brilliant to see a political event that makes a serious effort to both provide a space for children, and to make it possible for children and parents to participate in the political program.
This wouldn’t have been possible without a serious safer spaces policy. It was good to see that at least on that question, there was amply political agreement.
Update: I don’t want to under-emphasize the anti-capitalist politics that were present. I only attended a narrow segment of the camp, and I missed all of Monday. Check out the programme here.
I seriously regret missing Sunday morning’s session on the state of the Union movement, but I have had a chance to catch up with the comrades who ran that session.
I would love to hear more from people who attended “Watermelons are Weapons”, “Islamaphobia” the sessions with Marjorie Thorpe and Clare Land and the session on Latin America.
I’d also like to point out that that for all I disagreed with the politics of a number of sessions I attended, there was never any sense of unpleasantness. I don’t doubt the integrity and sincerity of those who’s politics I might describe as “utterly erroneous”, and I certainly appreciate that we could have a passionate political disagreement with warmth and good humour.
I look forward to Camp Anarchy 2014.