UK: Anarchists! Get Organised!
We are facing an unprecedented period of attacks against the working class. The Conservative-Liberal coalition have unleashed the full force of austerity upon us in order to help tighten the grip capitalism holds on society. Public sector cuts, the bedroom tax, benefit cuts and so on are merely different faces of the ugly beast known as neoliberalism. Unless we directly challenge these attacks on our standard of living we can only expect further cuts – all at the expense of the working class.
It is important that there is an specifically anarchist response to austerity for anarchism is a social and political movement with its roots in the struggles of the working class – those who are most effected by the cuts. We cannot allow the struggle against austerity to be left to authoritarian or state socialists or the liberal left (or worse the far-right and fascists); their response to the economic crisis is much of the same. Anarchism holds the only really answer for the emancipation of the working class from the exploitation of capitalism.
Bristol is unique in that it has a wealth of anarchist resources to pool from. Apart from a large anarchist movement made up of individuals we have a number of specifically anarchist organisations (Anarchist Federation, Solidarity Federation, IWW etc.) and even our own anarchist social centre – Kebele. Considering this we have a very small presence on the radical/revolutionary Left in Bristol despite being arguably one of the largest tendencies in the city. Our isolation is a product of our own creation and one that will lead to our eventual downfall.
It is time to face the facts: We are disorganised and ineffective. The most prominenent social movements of the past decade have come from the far-right (most notably the English Defence League). The severe lack of an organised movement from the Left (either anarchist or socialist in nature) has allowed the far-right to grow as the only radical alternative to the current system. This leaves us in an unfortunate position where we are fighting a defensive battle against the forces of reaction, one which we cannot win, for they have the entire strength of State and capital behind them.
Recent attempts at regroupment by the Left (or Left Unity) have offered varied results and have often been led by the authoritarian Left. The latest attempt (The People’s Assembly Against Austerity) – like other attempts – must be seen for what it really is: an effort by the authoritarian Left to centralise power and take control of any popular opposition to capitalism. This is in despite of their attempts to appropriate the terminology of the libertarian Left (“People’s Assembly”, “bottom up” etc.).
In those instances where it preferrable or necessary to engage with the wider Left it is important that we approach such projects with a real sense of tactical and ideological unity or we run the risk of being overpowered by those tendencies with a stronger foundation. We can achieve more in such groupings as a united whole rather than as a spattering of individuals with different approaches and ideas.
I therefore propose that our focus should not be on “Left Unity” (a concept so vague it lacks all meaning) but instead focus our efforts towards a sense of “Anarchist Unity”. As I pointed out earlier Bristol has a wealth of anarchist resources that could be put to better use. The lack of communication, for starters, between the various anarchist organisations leaves us feeling disempowered and isolated. A concerted effort by anarchists of Bristol to pool together our resources would allow us to exercise the full force of our combined power and put anarchism on the map as a real movement within the political landscape of Bristol.
By indentifying shared interests and objectives anarchists of Bristols can work together to overcome obstacles that would otherwise be impossible for individuals or small groups to achieve. The differences between the various tendencies and groups are minor but what we share in common is much, much larger. We do not know our true strength or we are simply afraid to use it.
The recent May Day march – organised by the TUC – showed us a glimpse of what anarchist unity could look like. An anarchist bloc made up of individuals from various groups had a loud and visible presence at the front of the march adding a much needed livliness and increasing the presence of anarchism in Bristol. Since then though anarchists have returned to the realms of obscurity and left the task of continued organising to the authoritarian/liberal Left.
There are those amongst us who shy away from organisation for ideological reasons. We must cast off these people so that we can focus on the real task of organising for a better, more just society. The task at hand is enemourmous in scope and cannot be carried out by small bands of individuals but by the combined forces of the working class.
There is no reason why anarchists should not be a part of this force – I would argue that it is necessary for them to be if we are to achieve a more just society.
In closing, this text has laid down the foundation for why I think anarchist unity is important. What particular form it takes is still up for discussion though my hope is that this text will stimulate conversation amongst anarchists and hopefully set the gears in motion for a more unified anarchist movement in Bristol.