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Sydney Anarchist Bookfair 2015

Anarchist Picnic

Date and Time: 
Sat, 06/06/2015 - 11:30am to 2:00pm

From 11:30am, Saturday 6th June at Blacktown Showground. Hosted by Black Flag – Western Sydney Peoples Collective. Family friendly picnic day for anarchists and anyone curious about anarchism, or interested in getting involved with one of Sydney's various collectives. Join anarchists from across Sydney and beyond at the Blacktown Showground for a day of comradery and fun, only a few minutes from Blacktown train station. Bring a plate or some snacks to share if you're able, or alternatively donations will be collected for the Sydney Anarchist Bookfair. There'll also be a raffle on the day with some fabulous prizes to be won. Feel free to bring a soccer ball or a frisbee, and maybe wear clothes you don't mind getting paint on coz there'll be some banner paints while we're at it! Invite your friends to the Facebook event.

Political Perspectives: 

Recommended books - four short book reviews

Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: Left-libertarian Thought and British writers from William Morris to Colin Ward, David Goodway.

This book so excites me that I'm reviewing it before finishing reading it. Goodway gave a talk/book launch when in Sydney a couple of years ago, which was great, but nothing like delving into each of the fascinating essays that comprise this masterful work. Not that I agree with all his points and positions, but it provides a richness of thought and analysis of a huge range of authors, from many I know little or nothing about to the famous, like William Morris, E P Thompson, Herbert Read, Oscar Wilde and George Orwell. It's not just that he brings out the anarchist connections in their thoughts and writing, but about their interactions and debates, and the part many played as activists. Stimulating.

The Accumulation of Freedom: Writings On Anarchist Economics, (Editors) Deric Shannon, Anthony J. Nocella 11, & John Asimakopoulos.

As the title suggests, this is another of the several recent works that aim to develop a modern approach to 'anarchist economics', a topic that I've been getting into lately. Overall, this collection of essays helps to confirm my contention that there is no such thing as 'marxist economics', however some of the authors still mistake Marx and Engles' analysis of capitalism for a statement on economics. This is my major critique, but doesn't apply to all the authors represented here. On the very positive side, there is a broad inclusion of many aspects of what an understanding of economics should include, and topics that anarchists have been writing about and putting into practice for generations. Economics is often a scarey topic for some, but this treatment isn't.

Kontrrazvedka: The Story of the Makhnovist Intelligence Service, V. Azarov.

Black Cat Press has published several books from new research on the Russian Revolution. We know of the betrayals of the Bolsheviks and the heroics of the Makhnovists, but often the details are missing, this slim book fills in some very interesting and critical information. The lessons learned from these studies describes how hard it is to maintain an insurrection, and the variety of resources needed: 'insurrection' as distinct from 'revolution'. One interesting anecdote was about Maria Nikiforova, who led an anarchist detachment much like Makhno. At one point they pulled guns on each other - relax, it was sorted out, she got the resources needed and headed off to blow up some Whites and free the Makhnovist General Staff that Trotsky had arrested, unfortunately already shot when she got there.

Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism, Michael Schmidt.

A brief but important book that seeks to explore the wide range of anarchist movements across the globe - hence the 'cartography' in the title. Schmidt follows the approach of a previous publication 'Black Flame' in that he covers only anarchism from 1868 onwards, continuing with the thesis that anarchism began then. Yes, I have serious trouble with that notion, but not with the breadth of information in this book. Many popular movements are covered, albeit briefly, and several of them I'd not heard of, didn't know of their extent, or had only read a whisper of information about them, eg, the ZZZ of Poland, the 1928 East Asian Anarchist Federation and the strange Manchurian Revolution of 1929-31 - among many others. This is more than just a catalogue of events, it also holds interesting analysis and shows the international linkages that led to millions of people aligning with anarchist organisations.

 

 

Proposed Anarchist Federation Constitution - Draft by Jura Books, May 2015

Attached here is a draft of the proposed constitution for the Anarchist Federation Australia, drafted and approved by the Jura Collective in May 2015, based on earlier versions prepared by Melbourne Anarchist Club with input from other anarchist groups.

 

Background

To give some background and context, here is a summary of the current federation process, to the best of our knowledge. It’s based on a few different accounts, leading up to May 2015.

In 2007, some members of the Mutiny Collective called for expressions of interest in holding a conference to discuss the idea of an anarchist federation in Australia and/or NZ. In response to this initiative, the Melbourne Anarchist Club (MAC) organised a conference held during Easter 2008. About 60 people from across Australia attended and a broad range of views were expressed from opposition to enthusiasm. There were no delegates as such and each participant attended as an individual. While there were some differences in attitude to federation there was a significant amount of common ground. Following on from this, MAC decided in March 2013 to hold the Towards Federation Anarchist Conference in June 2013. It was proposed to invite groups (as opposed to individuals, although individuals were encouraged to attend as observers). A proposed constitution was presented for discussion and about 30 people attended including delegates from MAC, Libertarian Workers for a Self-managed Society (LWSS), and Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group (MACG). There were also observers from Anarchist Affinity and Jura. In January 2014, a follow up conference was held at Jura at which delegates from MAC, MACG and Jura attended (and an observer from a Canberra anarchist group). The draft constitution was discussed and suggestions for amending it were made. People from Jura agreed to do another re-draft of the proposed constitution.

In May 2015, Jura completed a re-draft of the constitution, which is now being circulated. Jura and MAC aim to have a meeting re the federation in June 2015. There will also be an open workshop about federation at the Sydney Anarchist Bookfair, on Saturday 13th June.

Over the last few years, there has also been a fair bit of online discussion about the federation, for example on Libcom and Facebook.

As we understand it, Jura, MAC and MACG are keen to form a federation this year, on the basis of the constitution we’ve been discussing and drafting and redrafting over the last few years. We would welcome other anarchist groups joining this federation if they agree with this constitution. However, we do not want to go back to stage one of the drafting process. (Although of course the constitution will be open to revision by the federation in the future.) We also intend for the federation to develop a ‘Statement of Shared Positions’ and a program of activities/projects, in the near future, which will give it more form and substance.

 

Groups that have been contacted about the federation at some point since March 2013:

AFA Perth - A meeting of of anarchists in Perth was held on 12 September 2014 and a decision was made to form a group with a view to federating in accordance with the proposed constitution (Jan 2014 version).

Anarchist Affinity (Melbourne) - Declined to send a delegate but did send an observer to the 2013 conference, a statement was made stating that while Anarchist Affinity supported the idea in principle, they were not ready to proceed and indicated that they would take no further part at this stage.

BAG (Brisbane) - Agreed to proceed on the basis of the proposed constitution in April 2013. Subsequently re-affirmed in January 2014.

Black Flag (Western Sydney) - Contacted in person by Jura people in 2015. Current position on the federation unknown.

Black Rose (Sydney) - Was initially contacted through what came to be discovered a defunct email account. Was contacted again in person by Jura people in 2014. Held a meeting to discuss the federation. Current position on the federation unknown.

Black Swan (Adelaide) - Has been sent the proposed constitution but no follow-up to date. Current position on the federation unknown.

Brisbane Solidarity Network - Has been sent the proposed constitution but no follow-up to date. Current position on the federation unknown.

Byron Bay Anarchists - Requested a copy of proposed constitution in 2014 but no response since. MAC unable to independently confirm the existence of the group.

Grupo de Melbourne - This is a group of the remaining Spanish exiles. A member came to MAC to express disappointment that they had not been invited to participate. Subsequently sent the January 2014 version of the proposed constitution by MAC. Discussed the proposed constitution over a weekend in May 2014 to develop a submission. Currently awaiting an English translation.

Jura (Sydney) - Had an observer participate in the June 2013 conference and hosted the January 2014 conference at which the proposed constitution was discussed. Discussed, amended and agreed on the May 2015 draft of the constitution. Jura is hosting a meeting of the federation (possibly the inaugral conference?) in June 2015.

Libertarian Workers for a Self-managed Society (Melbourne) - LWSS sent a submission and a delegate to June 2013 conference. Some of the LWSS submission was incorporated into the current proposed constitution. Since then, there has been no follow-up contact with LWSS. Current position on the federation unknown.

Melbourne Anarchist Club - Initiators of the current project to found an anarchist federation. Is in agreement with the January 2014 version of the proposed constitution on the proviso that there are at least three groups from at least two cities/locations and that the proposed federation be provisional for a period of 12 months to be subsequently confirmed or not. MAC is currently considering the May 2015 version of the proposed constitution.

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group - Sent two delegates to June 2013 Conference and January 2014 conference. The MACG have expressed support and a desire to have the principles of 'the platform' incorporated into the constitution. Has participated in two joint meetings with the MAC to discuss the proposed constitution and have proposed some additions and modifications which were incorporated into the proposed constitution that was presented to the January 2014 conference.

 

 

Reportback: Reclaim Ignorance Rally April 4th

A counter-protestor calmly stands in the way of a man with a swastika tattoo at the Melbourne Reclaim rally - photo by Kenji WardenclyffeOn April 4th, a couple of weeks ago, I attended the counter-rally to Reclaim Australia (RA). For those that don't know what RA is all about it comes down to fear-mongering and bigotry. They oppose the "take-over" or "Islamification" of Australia by Muslims, they want Halal certification banned, and want Islam banned from being taught in schools, amongst other narrow-minded, and fear based demands. They don't let facts get in the way of good-olde scapegoating, and would rather stir up xenophobic sentiments instead of realising Muslims compose only 2.2% of Australia's population. If this is a taking over Australian culture, I'm not exactly sure what Australia they are living in.

In anycase, I attended the counter-rally, organised by some Lefty organisation, alongside a bunch of other anarchists, about 25-30 many of whom formed part of ANTIFA. We congregated at the George St end of Martin place from 10am onwards, and watch many people walk to the meeting point of the RA rally in a center square of Martin Place. It was hard to tell who was part of RA and who was an ordinary citizen as individuals, couples, or small groups walked pass us, but there were some that made it obvious where they intended to be. These people had Australian flags draped over their backs, or Australian flag hats, or shirts, or handheld Australian flags. I don't like to make assumptions, but I'm pretty sure these people were heading to the RA rally.

There were some people, however, that didn't need an Australia flag for us to know where they were going, they were notorious enough to be recognised on appearance. The first was Ross "The Skull" May, a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi, known for, back in the 70s, his anti-sementic aggressions; his assault of any opposition, for which he served repeated jail time; and general racist behaviour, all while dressed in Nazi regalia. It seems he'd smartened up in his older age, as for this rally he wasn't wearing any Nazi insignia, but even as late as 2013 he still clings to his outdated neo-Nazi beliefs saying that he's proud to be a neo-Nazi in this day and age. For the rally he wasn't traveling solo, but was surrounded by 5-6 well-built middle aged men, and as he walked pass the group of us he threw a few Seig Heils our way. We responded with a barrage of mockery.

Later, his neo-Nazi buddy Jim Salem passed our way. Back in the 70s he ran around with The Skull wearing Nazi regalia, promoting his racist and fascist ideology. Not surprisingly he was also jailed for assault and fraud, both of which he claims to be innocent of. Currently, he is leader of Australia First (NSW) and holds a doctorate based upon his thesis of right-winged radicalism. Unlike Ross, Jim was alone, but that didn't prevent him from hurling threats at us anarchists, claiming he knows where we all live. It's hard to say whether or not these characters will have any sway amongst the RA crowd, there is hope that they don't, but there are probably a least a few who will be swayed by whatever backwards, fear drenched argument they can muster.

In anycase, the RA crowd was composed of some neo-Nazi's. If the RA beliefs are not enough to be concerned about, then the mingling of people who hold these beliefs with some neo-Nazi's should make one alarmed. However, as I looked upon the crowd from the distance through the lines of police I could see an Aboriginal flag, and even an Israeli flag, both of which would offend Jim and Ross. Perhaps, there's enough memory of Nazism, to prevent any spread of it, however, the spread of bigotry and racism, doesn't need neo-Nazism and seems to be moving along fine with RA.

Not long after the RA started we decide to go to the actual counter rally that was held a few blocks away from Martin Place, where noone from any of the rallies could hear or even see each other and therefore have no effect whatsoever on each other. We got there at the tail end of the speakers, and, to my surprise, the organiser of the counter-rally put to vote whether we wanted to march to Martin Place or not. It was a resounding yes. However, as soon as we started to move the cops closed in a tight line, preventing us from moving down Phillip St. That didn't perturb us, the entire crowd quickly turned around and started to march down Macquarie St, much to the chagrin of the police, many of whom bolted ahead of us.

By the time I got to the top-end of Martin Place a line of police had formed, not just foot-soldiers, but police on horseback and beyond the line I saw a protesters being pushed and dragged back beyond the police line. They must've made it up there before the majority of the police formed the line. There was a few attempts to break through the line, but it was met with brute force by the police. It was before this line of police that we started to chant various phrases to vocalise our displeasure with the likes of RA, and it was also before this line that it started to rain.
So, there we stood, in the rain, chanting in front of the police, intentions set on the RA rally. I'm not sure if they heard us, or even saw us, there was a few more lines of police closer to the RA rally. I walked along the line, taking some photos, wondering why the foot-soldiers had no wet whether gear, how much they were getting paid to on this holiday Saturday, and where they'd rather be than in the rain, protecting a bunch of bigots from some lefties.

This seemed to be the climax of the counter rally. After this most of the attendants made their way back to the spot of the speakers, and mulled around a bit under cover, cops watchful and standing in the rain. Eventually most people left, while a bunch of ANTIFA discussed a strategy to confront RA via Martin Place. After a bit of discuss we broke off in groups, and caught a train to Martin Place, however, by the time we got there the RA had dispersed though I'm sure I saw many making their way down the escalators to catch a train, who gave us a curious stare.
In the end there was no direct confrontation with any of the RA rally attendants on the cold, rainy day, but there were many confrontations with police. For this final strategy, they shooed us away from the RA rally site, down Phillip St, and continued to follow us for a few blocks until we got to Georgy St. It was about this time that I decided to part ways from the small group that was continually being pushed away from the Martin Place area by police. I'm not exactly sure by what legal authority they could do that, they claimed a "move on order" or something of the like as we were a danger to public peace. In anycase, I moved on by my own volition back to the train station and home.

It wasn't an uneventful event, but it wasn't exactly climatic. I'm not sure what I was expecting, nor am I sure of what tactics could've been used. The ANTIFA crew seemed to have a few alternative ideas as to what to do, and how to approach it, but it the long run I'm curious what strategies can be used to not only confront this bigoted culture head-on, but also how to inspire change so the ANTIFA wouldn't be required to start with. That, however, sounds like a long term goal.