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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.

 

 

Provisional Anarchist Federation Australia formed

 

At a meeting on 14th June 2015 at Jura Books, delegates from four anarchist groups agreed to form a provisional Anarchist Federation Australia. The four founding groups were Jura Books, the Melbourne Anarchist Club, the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group and Perth Libertarians. At the meeting a number of individual observers were also present as well as an observer from Black Rose and Black Flag. The provisional Federation is based on this constitution. However the constitution is still being discussed, and changes may be made at the first Congress of the Federation - tentatively scheduled for December 2015 in Melbourne. As well as being geographically diverse, the groups making up the federation have a range of political differences, but we hope to work together cooperatively to spread anarchist ideas in Australia. Other anarchist groups are welcome to join us.

 

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 was then circulated. There was also an open discussion about federation as part of one of the workshops at the Sydney Anarchist Bookfair, on Saturday 13th June 2015.

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

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:

  • 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 Books (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. Hosted the meeting on 14th June 2015, at which two Jura delegates attended, and it was agreed that the provisional Anarchist Federation Australia be formed.
  • 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. Two MAC delegates attended the meeting on 14th June 2015 at Jura, where it was agreed to form the provisional Anarchist Federation Australia.
  • 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. One MACG delegate attended the meeting on 14th June 2015 at Jura, where it was agreed to form the provisional Anarchist Federation Australia.
  • Perth Libertarians - 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). One Perth Libertarians delegate attended the meeting on 14th June 2015 at Jura, where it was agreed to form the provisional Anarchist Federation Australia.