Wednesday, August 27, 2008
INTERNATIONAL ANARCHIST MOVEMENT:
THE WORKERS' SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT-IRELAND:
As is usual when the wife and I travel we try and drop in on the local anarchists, if this is at all possible. Here in Ireland we had the privilege of meeting with and socializing with some of the members of the WSM in Dublin. Here are some preliminary impressions.
1)As in most countries the anarchist movement here is small, smaller in fact than what I expected it to be viewing its activities from the perspective of Canada. This small size is belied by the considerable influence it has through the activities and organizational principles of the WSM. The WSM itself is small, but, if I was to try and "stage it up" to a country the size of Canada, it would mean that we had somewhere between 350 and 410 well organized and dedicated anarchists who were actually active in matters that meant something to ordinary people, not just "fashionistas" more content with a "scene" than with building something relevant to what anarchism actually strives for. We have no such numbers in Canada, and it is a pity. There are certainly thousands, perhaps over 10,000 "anarchists" in Canada, but they are chronically disorganized, and especially as we live right next door to the fulminating heart of all that is crazy in the world, the USA, many are not just unconcerned with "public outreach" but actually do all they can to drive as wide a wedge as possible between anarchism and "the public". Ireland seems mercifully free of this sort of foolishness, or maybe that's just the impression of a brief visitor.
2)Unlike say Spain and Greece, but like most other countries that we have visited, including our own, an ordinary person could easily arrive, stay for years, and never come in contact with anything that might say there was indeed an anarchist movement here in Ireland. But the comparison is unfair. Something like "Infoshops" give a slight visibility (I understand there is one here in Cork that we hope to visit before we leave) as well as in Galway. Brief mini-riots at gatherings of the international ruling class also, despite the illusions of the participants, give even less "visibility". Ordinary people are far less likely to pay any attention to such things than they are to the most minor sporting event. They simply don't touch the average person's concerns and anyways, you always know who will win the game in the end. Police 2200; Black Bloc 0.
But where this is unfair is that the WSM is involved in activities that actually matter and have long term effects on people's lives. Whether these be the unions, community struggles or whatever they are neither flashy "protests" staged more for 10 seconds of TV time nor building a cozy little in group. The WSM was one of the major forces behind the recent rejection of the 'Lisbon Treaty' for instance, and they have long term activity in the campaign to legalize abortion here in Ireland- something that actually matters , unlike say bullshitting about "ending civilization" as is so popular in the USA.
This sort of "visibility" here is indeed more profound than in places such as Canada (even though we're not exactly outstanding there either) where there is a more prominent "scene".
3)One of the most pithy comments that I have heard from a local anarchist here relates to the lack of a long term anarchist tradition in Ireland. It's probable that we "started" earlier in Canada than they did here, especially as anarchist groups were already "well" established when I first became active circa about 1971. Still, as the guy said, (or a paraphrase of it), "when you start from nothing you can build something better because you are building from the ground up". The WSM is incredibly active in popular campaigns here and have a correspondingly larger influence than we do back in Canada. It all goes to show what a difference organization means.
4)I guess I'd better take the time to point the reader to the WSM's website, http://www.wsm.ie , though I emphasize that the WSM is hardly the internet equivalent of a "paper organization". Go there to learn more about their activities.
5)Having seen them at action here in their homeland I can see why their "traveling apostles"to the USA and Canada have been so inspiring of anarchist organization on the North American continent. Unlike many other anarchist or libertarian outfits in NA, some of which I might approve of and some of which I despise, the WSM is not a one man show (or three "theorist" show). The skills that are developed by proper organization are widely diffused amongst the members of their groups, and they are well equipped to develop them elsewhere, even in brief visits.
6)The wife and I had the privilege of sitting in one one of the WSM's meetings as observers. The contrast to far too many "anarchist" meetings in NA is stark. As the wife put it, "they stuck to the point". This was even when matters came up that obviously couldn't be resolved in the time allotted. Tabling the matter was resorted to. The meeting began on time and ended on time. There was a clear agenda.There was a chair who facilitated discussion. It was orderly. They even voted on matters. No bullshit about letting the person with the biggest mouth and the strongest bladder dominate by "consensus" or any other cultish "process" that makes too many meetings in NA such an unendurable pain. The horrible struggle to reinvent the wheel via navel gazing about "process" wasn't visible there. There is a way to make meetings democratic , fair and as productive as possible. It is the "rules of order", Robert's and otherwise, that have been worked out through generations and as just as applicable to anarchist groups as they are to gardening clubs. Not that they have to be slavishly adhered to, but they are a practical model to follow. In the voting there was quite often dissent, and the minority was allowed to exist. This is an important point as consensus and other forms of cultism are actually much more oppressive than the supposed rules of order that they hope to replace by something "better". They attempt to force agreement where no such thing exists by social pressure.
7)Finally, before I close for the evening, I'd like to thank the WSM for the hospitality that they extended to us. This is especially notable as I have been on record for years as merely a "sympathizer" of what has come to be known as "platformism", and my differences have been made very plain. The WSM has 8 points of agreement that you can find at their website. They are certainly not the rigid ideologues that their "anarchist" opponents try to picture them as.
But, of course, I knew that already. It's nice, however, to see it confirmed in front of my own eyes. As to the opponents of such outfits as the WSM on my own continent, well all that I can say is that telling a lie is certainly more of a necessity to someone like a "post-leftist" or a "primitivist" than having a bowel movement is. It's more like having a drink of water. They may be able to get by on one shit a day, but, like water consumption, they usually have to tell several lies a day just to keep their spirits up. Here the spirits are kept up by actually doing something practical.
More on the WSM and anarchism in Ireland later. Time to sign off.