It is one thing to say, as above, that we "accept the necessity of cooperation, planning and organization" and quite another to build organization. And when we aim to develop "a strong Australian Section" of the international libertarian movement we have to ask what constitutes organizational strength. Answering these questions should be our major interest at the moment. At the conference earlier this year the Brisbane S.M.G. distributed three papers presenting our viewpoint on strategy and tactics, on internal democracy and on a libertarian political programme. It seems to us that dealing with at least these three matters is a prerequisite to successful organization and therefore to regional regroupment. This belief is not pulled out of a hat but is based on our experience of trying to organize without satisfying these prerequisites. At various times we have experienced lack of direction or crisis in one of these areas, which forced us to come to grips with the problem.
We did this by theoretical discussion which produced a coherent position on these matters. We thereby created the minimum common denominator of cohesion necessary for our organization to operate well.
At the conference such subjects did not assume any larger proportion than a number of other matters - marxism and anarchism, personal life, education and so forth. Except for some aspects of strategy (eg working in unions) they were hardly discussed at all. We think this explained some of the aimlessness at the conference. Therefore we raise these issues again in the hope of this time provoking discussion, preferably through the bulletin. In this bulletin we reproduce our internal democracy statement. We also attach our political programme. Those of you who were at the conference would have seen earlier drafts of both statements. An article on strategy and tactics makes a number of general points and attempts to give a few illustrations.
Why are these three areas crucial to organization? Firstly, the need for establishing principles of internal democracy is the same need that will lead people in a libertarian society to have regulated ways of working and to write laws. What we found was that we needed to formalize our relationships as libertarians. We could not recreate our organization anew each time we met. Instead we had to formulate principles of operation - how to integrate new members, how to treat the existence of differing levels of knowledge, ability and experience, the function of cells as compared to general meetings and so on.
Without such written principles we could not be organized. With them new members knew what was expected of them and what they could demand and cells and individuals could work freely without constant consultations. We were able to sum up the lessons of crises in our internal functioning and conclude them or at least approach such difficulties with less emotional confusion and more clarity if they recurred. We expect always to see new issues arise in this area, especially as we grow. We expect all activist groups will experience these problems in different ways and at different times. They should always be seen as a direct experience of the problems of the kind of democracy we are trying to build. The principles we establish are relevant to our understanding of that democracy. (This point will be much more apparent when we are a mass movement). Constituting these principles in writing will make our organization more effective and will prevent our having the same experience again and again.
Secondly - a political programme. We believe it useful for every group to detail such a programme, assuming, of course, that it would be improved over the years like the internal democracy statement. Some would argue that libertarians should not have "blue prints". But our understanding of the creative work of the libertarian mass movements of the past, our critical analysis of the institutions of this society and our own experience 'Of building libertarian organization ourselves lead us inevitably to certain principles of social and economic organization. When crises occur or when the most important issues are discussed in capitalist society, libertarians will have to be there putting forward these principles in a unified and organized way. We will have need of a clear idea of how social decision making should be organized and how wealth should be distributed. The contemporary representatives of every other political stream have their programmes which offer answers to these questions and when they present them we must be able to show that their answers are wrong.
Furthermore, a programme is the basis for the cohesiveness of a libertarian group which can only rely on theoretical agreement for its capability to act as a unified force - whereas an authoritarian organization relies on obedience. Without such cohesion we must resign ourselves to being a non-organization which is in constant crisis because of ever-present disagreement over basic premises and which cannot carry out unified activity because of differences, regular changeover of membership and the presence of reformists, counter-culturalists, individualists, etc. The nine points in the membership and aims statement of FAA could never be the basis of sufficient agreement to create cohesiveness. They implicitly raise more questions than they answer. What is "libertarian socialism" or a "cooperative social economy without the State". What are "the theoretical, idealogical-cultural, moral and material organizational prerequisites" for self-management? These nine points partially define what we are against - capitalism, state socialism, sexism, racism, states, etc - but not what we are for. Negative unity is typical of popular fronts and many of us have been involved-in their sad fates. The nine points are really an expression of our inability, so far, to find theoretical unity.
Until we do this we will not be able to get organized. These last general points about the FAA apply to regional groups especially those who use the nine points as the required level of agreement in their group and even more so to these who make no attempt to set up any level of agreement.
Thirdly - strategy and tactics. Taking the FAA aims again - how do we "propagate the general idea of libertarian socialism" and how do we "initiate, assist and participate in practical struggles for partial objectives" on the basis of their relation to libertarian aims. Some ways of voting will contradict or undermine our aims. Also we need to assign priorities which may limit some areas where we might like to work. At the conference we distributed a six point statement which clarified many of our views on strategy and tactics. In this bulletin we make some attempt to answer some of these questions raised by the FAA aims.
Many of the concerns expressed here seem to be felt in sections of the libertarian movement in Europe. A recent letter from ORA in France says that they broke from the French Anarchist Federation because it was "a traditional anarchist 'organisation'. This means it was composed of a mixture of anarcho-syndicalists, communist-anarchists, individualists, pacifists and so on. Because of that, the FA has never been able to reach a theoretical coherence". We think this is a similar situation to that of the FAA. ORA goes on to say:
We could not agree more. By 1937 the libertarian movement had experienced massive defeat. This concluded an assault on hierarchical society which had commenced in the nineteenth century. In the late fifties and sixties small groups began to appear again (those groups which had hung on since the thirties were mostly moribund). Now the libertarian movement faces the task of rebuilding itself for another assault which could be more powerful because of the lessons available from the past. But only if we learn those lessons and only if we invest our present situation with all the seriousness which it merits. It is quite simple - whether this assault succeeds depends on what we do how. If we do not establish cohesive organization and coherent theory we will fail.
We believe it is pointless to have a conference in 1976 as nothing has changed. We should not hold conferences out of habit, they consume too much energy. They should be held when they promise a qualitative step forward at the national level which will only follow developments at the regional level and this has not yet occurred. We have nothing to organize nationally. At the last conference we established a means of communication. This would still seem to be as far as we can go nationally. Since there is little common theory or common levels of organization our ability to act together is low.
Also we should not be holding conferences to win people to our ideas. For one thing our ideas are too divergent or at least too many issues are unresolved. For another, winning people is the task of regional groups not national meetings. Therefore any future conferences should be closed not "come one, come all" as in Sydney. Another obvious reason for closed conferences is so that we will not have to, at every new conference, re-establish levels of common opinion which we reached at conferences before. For example, since we voted to "accept the necessity of ... planning and organization" no theoretical discussions of whether libertarians should organize or not should occur and no individualist anarchists should be allowed to attend.
The only way of operating as closed conference is to have each regional group issue credentials (on the basis of that group's presumed acceptance of the membership and aims statement of the FAA) to delegates. Individual affiliates who state their agreement with the membership and aims statement could attend. As was suggested earlier, ultimately a national organization of libertarians would, we hope, have a far more detailed basic level of agreement than these simple points. Another aim of such procedures is to exclude journalists, marxist leninists etc, and police spies. Such, anyway, are our suggestions.
FAAB, Sept-Oct 1975