Why join an Anarchist organisation


'Liberty without socialism is poverty and injustice. Socialism without liberty is tyranny and brutality'
Bakunin had a vision of an alternative way to run society and it is a vision that we share today. I want the replacement of the current economic system, a system based on profit and hierarchy, with a system based on need and freedom. I don't believe the current system can be reformed to make it more human. In different ways, and on various levels, the political work I do is aimed at creating the possibility of revolution. Revolutionary change is not as unusual as is often thought; in 1974 we had the Portuguese revolution, in 1979 Iranian Revolution, in 1979 Nicaragua, in the eighties we saw the collapse of the Soviet Union.

What is rarer is the type of revolution that anarchist are seeking. That is a revolution that is democratic, that is organised by the bottom up, that rejects leadership of parties or individuals, that puts in place democratic structures with which to run society.

For this revolution to happen people have to believe that they have the power to bring about change

* They have to be able to organise effectively.
* They have to have skill and experience.
* They also need to have an idea not only of what they are fighting against, but also what they want to put in its place.

Why do you need Organisation

In 1991 with four others I joined the WSM. At that time, the WSM was just two people. Alan who spoke this morning, and Kevin who is in Cork and can't be with us today. 2+4= 6 people. Not very many. Why did I bother?

I bothered because I realised that as an individual, there is very little I could do to win people to anarchism. I could try and try to convince friends and work mates, but generally that is a long and lonely process, and after a few months, or years, on my own I'd be burnt out. I didn't want my anarchism to be just pub talk. I wanted to turn my dreams into reality.

Work is easier when it is shared, when resources are pooled.

Producing a magazine, a paper, even a leaflet is a difficult task for an individual, but a lot easier for a group.

Speaking at a union or campaign meeting can be nerve-wracking, but to know that at least some people support your position, and are willing to say so, makes you feel less isolated, more confident.

Being a member of a group, no matter how small, makes it easier to get anarchist ideas across.

Being a member of an organisation means that when an issue arises that you feel is important, you can count on having others there who will work with you and the more people there are involved, the more pro-active the campaign can be.

There are many different types of organisations out there, many different flavours to choose from. All, except anarchist ones, are based on the leadership model.

The type of organisation you belong to, reflects the type of society you want to create. [In this talk I am speaking of my experience of the WSM because that is the organisation I am a member of, but the same holds true of most other anarchist organisations]

We want a society without leaders, so our organisation has no leaders.

Instead all our members are active in both the work and the decision making of the organisation.

We share the work. We take turns writing articles, editing the paper, speaking at conferences like this one. We are all involved in campaign work and in our trade unions.

There are no power positions within the WSM. Any position held within the organisation is electable and recallable and entails doing nothing more than administrative work. So for example at the moment I am the national secretary. In most other organisations that would make me the leader. In this one it means I write letters to people looking for information and I organise national meetings of the group. I can only do this job for a maximum of three years, after which I have to pass it on. If I fuck up, I can be recalled. And the same goes for Alan, who looks after our accounts, and for Andrew, Checkov, Conor and Deidre who look after our web-page.

We have written quite a bit about how we can bring about a revolutions. I don't have time to go into them all,

Capitalism is a big, worldwide system.

But it only persists because people believe there is no alternative.

And it is no coincidence that people don't imagine other ways of living.

We live in a system that excludes people from making fundamental decisions over their own lives, from participating in the societies they live in, and the elections yesterday are an example of this.

Every four years elections are held with great hype, vast amounts of press and media time are devoted to them, we are told that this is the chance to have our say, to be involved, to exercise our rights etc etc. After elections very little changes. Peoples votes didn't make a difference. The promises were betrayed. People aren't involved in making decisions about how the country is run.

Then for the next elections, they switch off, they'd decide not to take part, they ignore the process. they change the channel. More and more elections are nothing more than theatrical performances. Politics for Blair, Bush and Berlosconi is based on spin, on manipulating the media or on owning it. Elections are irrelevant when it comes to changing the system, but they are very relevant to maintaining it.

And this is where anarchists and anarchist organisations come in.

There is a battle of ideas out there. Ideas about what is possible, about what is permitted, and about what politics is.

The anarchist approach is radically different. We don't play their game, because we know we can never win it. We change the rules. It is a approach that challenges the status quo.

But as I said. It is a battle of ideas.

If we don't get our ideas out there, they will be ignored.

And the only choice on offer will remain the choice that Bakunin spoke of in 1880. Between tyranny and injustice and slavery and brutality.

That is no choice. It's not the world I want to live in. That's why I joined an anarchist organisation and I urge you all to do the same.

Talk by Aileen O'Carroll at the WSM's 'Ideas and Action', May 2002.