May 2013

Melbourne Anarchist Club, 62 St Georges Road, Northcote.

MAC – have called for federation.

Towards Federation conference!

The Melbourne Anarchist Club is calling on anarchist groups down under to Federate. The proposed federation comes complete with constitution. It follows on from a 2009 conference with the same aim:

At [the 2009] conference an agreement was reached between Jura Books, the Melbourne Anarchist Club and Organise! to co-operate together to publish Sedition magazine. Based on the success of this project, an anarchist conference is being organised in Melbourne over the long weekend of 8-10 June to examine the possibility of founding an anarchist federation in Australia. – Towards federation FB group

I wont be in a position to attend the conference in May (I’m fleeing the country for a couple of months), but I would like to have attended. I mean that.

I want to see an effective Australia wide anarchist political organisation. But to be effective this organisation will require the participation of a number of vibrant anarchist groups, with shared politics, a common and reasonably well developed theoretical understanding of the situation we are in, and preparedness to commit to a common strategy based on that theoretical understanding.

These are not things that can be willed out of thin air.

Before such a national organisation can be forged, we need sizeable and active anarchist groups in Australia’s major cities, that communicate and cooperate, and that engage in the serious political discussion required to develop a common political understanding.

This hasn’t happened yet. Australian anarchism remains a small collection of unconnected grouplets with a theoretical understanding that is often as shallow as it is varied.

We need to ground our efforts in a realistic understanding of where we are at. Long before a federation, what anarchists in Australia first is a serious publication. From what I understand this was much the conclusion that was reached in 2009.

The problem for the proposed federation in 2013 is that Sedition was far from a success. There was one tepid edition with limited distribution, and then nothing.

I hope that the groups proposing a federation “right now”, will reconsider. Before we embark on a national project, we (anarchists in small groups) must first build our own capacity, so that common projects like Sedition become viable. In turn it is only when projects like Sedition have grown to involve something of an anarchist movement, will the concept of a political organisation of the anarchist movement (the anarchist federation) make any real sense.

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Whether now is the time for a federation or not, it is always time to get together and discuss how to take anarchism in Australia forward. I can’t really comment about Sydney or Brisbane, but I have a few ideas for Anarchist groups in Melbourne that I would like to have taken to Towards Federation.

  • Melbourne needs reading groups. Initiatives like the Fantin Reading Group need to re-start, and they need to continue. The sad fact is that the people who could most benefit from understanding anarchism are anarchists. We need to study anarchism, and we need to study the present situation. Theory matters.
  • Melbourne needs a publication. Even a terrible photocopied zine is better than no publication at all. Sydney has Mutiny, Melbourne has multiple zines and newsletters that exist in name only, apparently on permanent hiatus. Anyone serious about class struggle anarchism in Melbourne, and everyone at this conference, should consider on what basis cooperation could be achieved for some kind of quarterly.
  • We need to bring some anarchism to the anarchist book fair. All groups that are serious about building anarchist in Australia should immediately get involved in organising the upcoming Melbourne Anarchist Bookfair. The bookfair is the only event on the Melbourne anarchist calendar with significant reach outside anarchist circles. Every group should get involved in the organising collective, every group should argue against the presence of reformist (and outright anti-anarchist) content, every group should publish for the bookfair, every group should be running workshops, and every group should have events that follow up from it.

If we’re not in a position to do the simple things, we’re not in the position to consider a anarchist federation that is anything more than an exercise on paper.

I want an anarchist federation, and I want it to be more than an empty website. To achieve this, rather than announcing a federation in June 2013, it might be more useful to agree on a program of action that will build the capacity of anarchist groups and build cooperation amongst them.

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