The idea of an
Anarchist Party came from concern about the lack of anarchist action
in the UK in the face of growing social distress - as the result of
economic and political policies, and climate change.
It seemed wrong that
the movement should be so quiet here when there were so many people
suffering and so many issues to address, while anarchists in other
countries, in much more difficult circumstances, were fighting
effectively to improve the lot of ordinary people and to promote
revolutionary social change.
This is not to say that
the UK experience is unique, voices from elsewhere make that clear,
but the analysis here is local.
A big part of the
explanation is the development since the 1980s of two extreme ideas
of anarchist action; the predominantly working class, physical,
direct action approach associated with Class War and a more
intellectual, middle class, propagandist focus of many of the
Anarchist Federation; leaving the middle ground of community activism
almost completely empty.
There were good reasons
a. The disintegration of poor communities, in the 1970s and 80s, as a result of the failure of the trades union movement to protect manual workers against 'free market' capitalist economic and political strategies, the subversion of the working class by offering them a stake in the capitalist project through home ownership and cheap debt, and the isolation of poor communities geographically by deindustrialisation and centralisation.
b. The success of the movement in the 80s and early 90s in establishing 'anarchist' communities - drawing people in, followed by the shrinking of the wider movement in the later 90's as the political cycle followed its course.
c. The media focus and the satisfactions of large scale direct actions.
d. The raising of ambitions by the popularisation of Anarchist theory and the recognition of the movement by the mainstream.
As a consequence, the
movement, which had been so decentralised and socially integrated in
the period of punk popularity, became increasingly divorced from its
local community roots and centralised in distinct communities in
major cities, dis-functional rural townships and on the road. The
social connection was broken and the major focus became big-picture
conflicts like the G20s and the ambition of educating the wider
Every shade and mix of
the extremes exists, but what matters is that the centre ground is
largely empty but for campaigns like anti-gentrification or
occasional support for industrial action. Critical discussions and
action across the movement, like defending the poor from Austerity,
relating to XR/climate change and dealing with the changing tactics
of the far right are just not out there. The space for community
activism is occupied by Community Interest Companies, charities and
the state, all of which are apolitical or, at best, cautiously
reformist. We have a steadily declining status quo - government does
whatever it wants. The movement is failing those who need it most and
who are the fundamental source of its support, energy and legitimacy.
Despite all this
though, it is also clear that Anarchism really has become the default
political philosophy for many young people and is entrenched in the
mainstream conversation. The actions of the black bloc have
demonstrated our integrity and kept us out there in the media and the
public mind, and AFED have provided theoretical consistency and
maintained a connection to broader political issues.
The obvious conclusion
is that it is necessary to start from the ground up; that modern
times need a modern approach. That what we have is a powerful legacy,
not progress. The organisations of the past have brought us here but
it is time to move on; to build a refreshed movement that can be
owned by a new generation of activists, reflect their take on the
world and address the issues of today, in communities, on the streets
and on the global stage.
prescription is difficult, so what follows does not explicitly
reference existing AP's, is intentionally empty of detail and as
loose as possible; Anarchists will make of it what they will.
An Anarchist Party will
have a broad program balanced across community activism, legal direct
action, activist resources and propaganda. It can still support
activists breaking the law, intentionally or otherwise, after the
It can benefit from
being a legal political entity and demand a public presence with
credibility and self esteem.
It would seek to attract members from across the community, accepting that many would be politically inexperienced and many of anarchist inclination only; and be prepared for the influence that would have on group formation, discussions and actions. This not the 1980s, when many young activists already had years of experience and aggressive anarchism was the norm in a vibrant subculture. The communities we move in now are poorer, more oppressed, more under surveillance and way less at liberty to act. We have to organise in a more careful, developmental way; a process that builds confidence with group solidarity, experience and theoretical coherence. We can expect regular incursions by leftists in search of power and an ever present appetite for reform and the exploration of internal politics, but at the same time we will be building a deeper, broader movement, appropriate to our demanding time. ■
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