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Libertarian Socialist Alliance for Self Managed Energy Systems: 1978-1979

The Libertarian Socialist Alliance for Self-Managed Energy Systems included six anarchist groups in four states. Members included the Libertarian Workers for a Self-Managed Society, Libertarian Socialist Collective and the Monash Anarchist Society from Melbourne: Libertarian Socialist Organisation from Brisbane: Sydney Anarcho-Syndicalists and the Adelaide Anarchists.

Delegates members from the six groups met on a number of occasions in 1978 and 1979 to produce and distribute a leaflet, pamphlet, poster and badge, that was used to launch a campaign about Self-Managed Energy Systems.

A strong anti-uranium movement had developed across Australia in the late 1970's. Anarchists across the country were interested in participating in and expanding the demands of the Australian Anti-Uranium movement. The Self-Managed Energy Systems campaign attempted to expand the debate by looking at the centralised nature of energy production in capitalist societies and proposing decentralised energy systems as a radical alternative to centralised systems.

Poster Produced in 1979

They argued in their pamphlet and campaigns that nuclear energy was a highly centralised form of energy production that placed social and political power in the hands of a few people. They also stated that the struggle to set up decentralised energy systems that was controlled by local communities and the people as a whole was a revolutionary strategy that challenged the power of the corporate sector. The Libertarian Socialist Alliance for Self-Managed Energy Systems was an excellent example of what could be done when anarchist groups were able to put their theoretical differences aside and work together on a specific campaign. All too frequently anarchist groups are so involved in their own campaigns and their struggles for survival they don't see the need, or have the people, time and energy to become involved in a common campaign.

The Alliance produced and distributed material in four states and in its own small way helped to expand the debate about uranium mining and nuclear energy that was such an important part of Australian politics in the late 1970's and early 1980's. The Coalition governments decision to expand the Labor Parties three mine uranium policy by opening up a new uranium mine in Kakadu National Park, highlights the need to once again raise Self-Managed Energy Systems as an alternative to Nuclear Energy.

Source: Joe Toscano, Anarchist Age Weekly Review

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The Following is the text of the 1979 leaflet put out by the Alliance:


The struggle over nuclear power poses questions about the very nature of society itself.

For far too long the anti-nuclear struggle in this country has been confined to a debate about the dangers associated with nuclear power.

  1. The elimination of nuclear wastes and the effect these nuclear wastes will have on the environment and people.
  2. Catastrophic releases of fuel or waste products following an accidental melt down at a nuclear plant.
  3. Leakage of radiation from nuclear power plants.
  4. Deliberate use of radioactive materials as a method of terrorism or criminal extortion.
  5. Use of nuclear weapons by the state (whether corporate capitalist or state communist) in international conflicts or civil disturbances.

The basic pressures of diminishing resources, expanding production, production for profit, consumerism, corporate power, and technological, fetishism have heralded a world push by corporate capitalists (U.S.A.,' Western Europe etc.) and state communists (self-appointed but misnamed= Russia, China, Indochina etc.) for uranium mining and nuclear power. They are pursuing this policy to ensure that they will have available the centralized sources of power they need to continue to control their countries.

A nuclear economy will mean:

  1. Increased social control by the state;
  2. The concentration of power in fewer hands;
  3. The introduction of more repressive state measures to deal with opposition.

These issues have not been discussed in this country by the opponents of nuclear power. This leaflet which has been produced by autonomous groups of organised Libertarian Socialists in Australia is an attempt to highlight what a nuclear future would mean in this country and internationally.


We live in a hierarchial society. A few people ax the top control most facets of our lives. In western society the method of energy production is an important way of controlling, people because the survival of western society as' we know it depends on energy production. Most of the energy sources used by the ruling class at, present are:

  1. Centralized
  2. Highly technical

This means that the few people who own and organise the - production and distribution of energy have a great control over the direction of society. Nuclear energy is a very highly centralized form of energy. A relatively ,few people with certain skills would be able to control the energy used for the functioning of western society. The decision to mine and export uranium is a political and economic decision made by the ruling class to strengthen their control over society.

The nuclear future is horrifying because it is an extension of the inherently unjust features of this society - more importantly it places even more power in the hands of the state and corporate controllers and it tears and smashes society even more into the shape necessary for their benefit.

Nuclear Power crates a repressive State

The loss of civil liberties already severe in some parts of this country is one of the less publicised dangers of a nuclear society. In the U. K. the special nuclear police have the right of "hot pursuit" of suspects. They can shoot to kill and ask questions later. In West Germany and France the already established repressive state apparatus has been- used against an anti-nuclear movement that is crossing international boundaries and protesting in an imaginative and productive way. Thousands of police have been used against demonstrators occupying nuclear power stations. Some of these demonstrators have been killed by the state others have been maimed and others have lost their- jobs. The extreme police violence used against demonstrators overseas and in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane confirms predictions of the determined commitment of strong sections -of the ruling class to nuclear power.

Yet Australia might outdo them all ins such repressive state measures. The 1953 Atomic Energy Act and Approved Defence Projects Protection Act means that police can detain search or arrest anyone without a warrant. It means that fines of $1,000 to $10,000 and or 6-12 month jail terms can be imposed. It means that a defendant "does not have to be convicted on the circumstances of the case, his/her conduct or her/his known character" (Section 47, Atomic Energy Act). It means that anyone "hindering or obstructing" the mines or threatens the security of a project can be arrested and punished be he/she an antiuranium protestor or an employee criticizing safety conditions. Companies facing union bans are able to "determine the composition and affiliation of the workforce" presumably even to the extent of using troops to transport and load the yellowcake. It may even well mean that security guards at nuclear plants can kill suspects and be legally immune.

"The Opposition"

Support the political parties?

Both the A. L. P. and the Australian Democrats have an indefinite moratorium on the mining and export of uranium till adequate safeguards for the disposal of nuclear wastes have been found. It must be recognized that the uranium debate has been narrowly perceived in terms of safety and non-safety of nuclear power by these groups. Why have they concentrated on these aspects and not the wider implications of a nuclear future libertarian socialists are raising?

The Australian Democrats, a liberal capitalist party passed its policy on uranium by a slim majority. It is our opinion that the Australian Democrats will either support a uranium based energy system in the future or alternative technologies based on hierarchically organized commodity production.

The A.L.P. is a party dedicated to reformist capitalism, to an economy orientated around consumer capitalism and an expanding G.N.P. Thus they require and promote centralized large-scale power sources as does every industralizied capitalist nation. The A. L. P. does not support a socialist policy of organising energy systems which meet people's needs and are controlled by them directly through industrial and community councils. Support for a political party with an antiuranium policy does NOT mean the end of uranium mining or nuclear energy in Australia.

Support the A. C. T. U. proposals?

The A.C.T.U. perceives the uranium debate in terms of safety and non-safety, not in the wider political and social implications of a nuclear future because they are just another bureaucratic institution which is part of corporate capitalist society. At some stage in the past some trade unions have been vehicles for revolutionary change. At the present time the trade union structures are the methods by which the ruling class attempts to channel workers dissent "up the right channels". At best trade unions want a bigger share of the cake without rocking the boat. At worst they are vehicles which make sure workers struggles do not get out of hand. The increasing number of wildcat and nontrade union supported struggles (remember Ford, Chrysler and the S.E.C. power strike) are examples of workers bypassing the official trade union structures because they realize they are bureaucratic tools, of corporate capitalism which make sure workers don't rock the boat.

If we are serious about stopping uranium mining and preventing a nuclear future we must bypass the union hierarchies and bureaucracies whether "right or left wing" and appeal to rank and file unionists to, stop uranium mining as welt as build a self-managed system of production based on a rational energy system.
- Libertarian Socialist Organisation
- Libertarian Workers for a Self-managed Society
- Monash Anarchists

Other libertarians believe, however, that trade unions are actually and potentially more progressive than as outlined above. We believe that trade unions are the basic minimum defence organs of the working people and in fact have acted as focal points for radical extra-parliamentary activity. We believe that anti-uranium activists should work at a grass roots level in order to foster industrial action by unions against uranium mining. We also believe that one of the most important on going struggles in Australia today is for rank and file democracy in the unions and the general industrial movement.
- Libertarian Socialist Collective
- Sydney Anarcho-Syndlicalists
- Adelaide Anarchists.

The increasingly bureaucratised and right wing A.C.T.U. has finally taken a stand on uranium mining. At one stage the A.C.T.U. called for a referendum so that the question could be put to the Australian people but this course has now been rejected. The next proposal was for a rank and file debate and vote (by workers mining and transporting uranium) but this second course has also been rejected:

The proposal that has now been endorsed by a delegates conference of the A.C.T.U. is to:

  1. Meet all existing contracts
  2. Ban uranium mining until adequate safeguards for the disposal of wastes have been established (not an outright ban on the mining and export of uranium). Fortunately, the S.A. and Victorian Trades and Labour councils have voted against the delegates' resolution.

The union vote indicates the concern and the ability of the ALP to prevent the trade union movement for adopting a more radical policy on this question, the tear of which was one of the motives behind Hawke's bureaucratic manoeuon the uranium question over the last few months.

Alternative energy sources are potentially liberating

What must be confronted is that the alternative to nuclear power, that is solar energy and all the systems deriving indirectly from the sun's energy (wind, water etc) can only be developed to their full potential in the context of a radical restructuring of society.

Ecological problems are not solely technological problems. No technological issue can be defined on its own terms. It always has a social dimension, however much this dimension may be masked-by technical jargon. A discussion of solar energy, wind power, methane and other popular sources of alternative energy that fails to deal with the way these sources will be used inherently presupposes that energy will be used as it is in our society.

When operated within present society alternative technology could be co-opted to maintain sources of en ; that are centralized in a hierarchial and exploitative way under private ownership or state control. ' (Extreme examples of this approach are the plans aired in the U.S.A. to blast a hole in a mountain for a giant wind generator or that a space station be built to collect solar energy and beam it back to earth.)

Such plans reflect the drive to allow development only in a direction that facilitates control from above and profit making. Nuclear energy is attractive to the rulers throughout the world as it offers even greater social control than possible at present.

Alternative energy sources are potentially liberating. They offer direct control and are easily understood. They give people a new recognition of their ability to control the instrumentalities not only of social life but of day to day material life. However people will not realize this potential unless the question of social relationships is faced up to. The social change needed to utilize these technologies is the decisive factor.

  1. Within the confines of capitalism alternative technology will be co-opted to unecological ends.

  2. Alternative technology cannot provide the solutions for the fundamental problems of energy production and distribution intrinsic in the capitalist system. The problems are not merely technological. They concern the limitations of the social and political structure with the result that workers are repressed and moulded to serve the needs of capitalist production and accumulation. A structural, economic and political hierarchy is maintained which is destructive of the libertarian aim of a society composed of communities of workers freely interacting in a variety of complex ways. Such a self managed society is founded on freedom and automony which necessitates decentralized production. As energy production is a crucial aspect -of modern society, it is necessary to establish energy technology compatible with the social structure. If alternative energy is to fulfil its total potential it has to be developed along with a decentralized self managed society.

Direct Action

We need to involve ourselves in activities which will increase our confidence and our ability to run our own lives. Not activities in which we rely on leaders (politicians, bosses, trade union bureaucrats etc) but anti-uranium campaigns and activities which we control. Street marches can show the Authorities the strength of our movement and provide us with psychological support but they will not stop uranium mining.

The corporations rely on the working people of this country to turn the cogs of industry. The people who mine, transport and process uranium have the power to stop uranium mining by withdrawing their labour from these projects. If working people refuse to handle uranium the government could:

  1. Cease uranium mining.
  2. Use its disciplinary arm (Police and Army) to ensure uranium is mined and exported.

Direct industrial action and support for the people involved in this action including:

  1. Physical
  2. Psychological .
  3. Monetary support is the ONLY way uranium mining and the development of a nuclear future will be stopped in Australia.

Towards a self-managed society

As Libertarian Socialists who will be consistently presenting our viewpoint over the coming crucial months, we see the only hope for humanity in the development of a co-operative society that not only challenges the state - be it corporate capitalist or state communist - but also the constricting hierarchies of the workplace. Here the basic needs of all of us are primarily and most obviously subverted by the profit-making interests of the capitalist ruling class and bosses. It is here that we must begin our battle for the decentralized socialist society that will use energy sources solar, tidal etc. appropriate to people's needs and social fulfilment.

A self-managed society is a society based on the control of industry essential services and the community by local councils of workers on the level of a single firm, locality, or institution and by associations of these local councils (workers councils) on the level of the community as a whole. A self-managed society is a society based on cooperation in which each individual has an equal say in the decisions concerning her/his life and an equitable share of the social wealth.

If we wish to live in a self-managed society then it is essential that groups of people with similar ideas meet in the places they work and live. These small groups should build up peoples confidence in their ability to control their own lives and attempt to demystify, their fellow human beings about the nature of corporate capitalism and state communism by putting forward their ideas on self-management through agitation at work and in the community. These groups should be based on co-operation and equal decision-making power because they are the embryos of the local and workers councils in a self-managed society.

A self-managed society that will use energy sources - solar, tidal etc. appropriate to peoples needs and social fulfilment will only occur when a large number of Australians in a large number of industries, institutions, schools and localities in this society have the desire and confidence to run their own lives.

Towards a direct democracy based on a federation of industrial and community councils

LIBERTARIAN SOCIALIST ALLIANCE for self-managed energy systems

LIBERTARIAN WORKERS FOR A SELF-MANAGED SOCIETY, P.O. Box 20, Parkville, 3052 Melbourne, Vic.
LIBERTARIAN SOCIALIST COLLECTIVE, P.O. Box 113, Brunswick, 3056, Melbourne,, Vic.
MONASH ANARCHIST SOCIETY, c/- Monash University Union, Wellington Rd., Clayton, Vic. 3168
SYDNEY ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS, 417 King St., Newtown, 2042, Sydney, N.S.W.
LIBERTARIAN SOCIALIST ORGANISATION, P.O. Box 268, Mt. Gravatt Central 4122, QId.
ADELAIDE ANARCHISTS P.O. Box 67, Nth. Adelaide, 5006

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