This is the first of our monthly round-ups of events and views on issues local and national. The idea is to give readers a flavour of what we are about on a more informal level than just reading our publications. So, what do Nottingham AF get up to….?
The weekend of Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th had us at one of our Federation Delegate Meetings. At these, AF meetings groups send delegates from their groups to communicate the decisions taken by their groups to the national level. The decisions relate to proposals put to the national organisation by groups and individuals. We organise through ‘direct democracy’. This is different from ‘representative democracy’ which is how most political parties and other organisations run, and how the country is run. Instead of electing a representative to make decisions for us, who we can only remove at an election whether or not they do what we have elected them to do, we choose delegates for that meeting specifically, and they only have the authority to carry out their groups’ wishes and would be instantly recalled if they went beyond this mandate. Likewise people carrying out national officer roles can be recalled instantly if they fail to carry out their roles or go beyond them. This allows the membership to control the organisation without installing a layer of people with executive decision-making powers, limiting the possibility of corruption or the creation of formal or informal power-bases (we think that the latter tend to emerge where there is no formal structure of activist or anarchist groups).
Using these methods we took decisions on matters including developing our theoretical base, what to put in our propaganda, what campaigns we want to be part of nationally (although individual groups do not have to follow national decisions if they have other priorities), how to involve new members better and increase their confidence levels, what events to arrange, how best to involve ourselves in workplace organisation, the meetings we would be involved in at the London Anarchist Bookfair (below), how to further the development of the anarchist movement’s ‘safer spaces’ initiatives, how to address current press interest in Anarchism.
Wednesday 10th was when the Nottingham members branch of the Industrial Workers of the World held a meeting at the New Mechanics Institute. Entitled ‘Change at Work’, it featured national speakers who are addressing the question of involving ‘precarious’ workers. This refers to the growing ranks of workers with little or no job security, poor terms and conditions, and even no proper contracts, including those forced into employment that is illegal or semi-legal. With all of this always goes low pay. Workers represented by the IWW speakers include workers at Pizza Hut (cooks, restaurant staff and delivery people) and cleaners at Brunel University in London. The aim of the IWW is to get people working in the same industry and workplace to organise together rather than to be divided by trade and rank as they are in modern trade unions. Some of the AF in Nottingham are in the IWW, as well as their trade unions where they are workers, and some are students in the IWW and involved in training workplace activists.
The weekend of the 13th and 14th was the Nottingham Beer Festival. Anarchists do have the odd night off! We joined friends, colleagues and other anarchists and collective members and users of the Sparrows’ Nest for a few pints. This has become a bit of a tradition. It was busier than ever and good fun and a nice change from pub culture.
On Wednesday 17th we didn’t manage to attend Nottingham Against Workfares’s demonstration at the Station St. Job Centre. But this is a really important campaign and anarchists are throwing their weight behind it. There have already been a few events that we’ve taken part in as well. There will be more events so watch this space and the campaign’s Facebook site for dates and more information.
Saturday 20th saw us on the national TUC demonstration against Austerity. We turned out nationally and marched with our work colleagues and in the Radical Workers’ Bloc. It’s difficult to see what these marches are achieving. They aren’t even building support for the unions, let alone leaving the government and its capitalist pals quaking in their boots. The traditional labour movement has been weakened by years of sell-outs by bureaucrats, career-builders and leaders compromising with bosses rather than fighting for their members. Everyone knows this but it seems impossible for a real fight to emerge without it being sapped of energy by the established Left who are apologists for capitalism. Anarchists see this as terminal situation.
We discuss the unions and their role in our publications – we don’t see them as reformable. We work in them and with militants in out workplace for what concessions we can, but we don’t see them as vehicles for the transformation of society. We have tried to work with their most radical and committed members in local campaigns, most recently Notts save Our services. This group has collapsed since Anarchists left it after it was hijacked by the most manipulative and reformist elements of the Left handed over its support to the Labour Party. Recent Trades Council activity in Notts. appears to have been to help leverage more than £10k for negative campaigning against Anna Soubry (Broxtowe MP, now ‘Junior Health Minister’ AKA Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health). To do this a specially formed organisation Broxtowe Save Our NHS now exists. ‘Save our Labour Party’ more like.
Saturday 27 was the annual London Anarchist Bookfair. This vast event sees several thousand anarchists and those interested in Anarchism attend a day-long event held at Queen Mary University in London. This year the Anarchist Federation and individuals in it ran and spoke in 7 meetings. They were on ‘Self-Management’ within our movement, which is a central tenet of Anarchism. Also on the Saint-Imier international event this Summer that we had attended, and see the new issue of our paper Organise!). And on ‘Privilege Theory’, which is a way of theorising and undermining unequal power relationships within radical movements, which we are evaluating for its usefulness. In addition we participated in a round-table discussion on Class Struggle, along with the Solidarity Federation and Industrial Workers of the World. We also hosted a meeting on behalf of the Anarchist Black Cross of Belarus to gather support for its political prisoners, four of which are Anarchists (Belarus remains a dictatorship in spite of the collapse of the Soviet Union and there is no freedom to organise against legally, so those willing to act against its state need our support). We also hosted a meeting to build support for those working for a Woman’s Right to Choose whether or not to have an abortion in the Republic of Ireland, where it is almost impossible to get one and richer people travel abroad to get one, but most women are forced to bring unwanted children into the World. In addition we ran a large stall selling our propaganda and teeshirts and hoodies designed by us in Nottingham and took more money than ever before, which we plough back into our publications and into solidarity work. The following day we went on a tour of the Anarchist East End with a London member who is an Anarchist historian from our London group. Quite an eye opener!
We also launched the issue #79 of our paper Organise! at the bookfair:
See you in November!