Footnotes to Anarchist Affinity’s Statement of Principles

I’m a member of Anarchist Affinity, an anarchist-communist grouplet 1 in Melbourne.

We’ve just published an initial position piece, a Statement of Principles. It’s not perfect. It’s not final. There will be changes, and subsequent position statements. But it’s where we are at now.

I wanted to take a few moments to highlight some bits of it, explain a couple of things, and point to the ideas that inform it.

Paragraph 1.

1. As anarchists we fight to create a self-managed, socialist and stateless society, in which all contribute freely according to ability, and through which all have full access to the material basis for pursing their individual and collective fulfilment. In this libertarian socialist society, individual freedom is harmonised with communal obligations through cooperation, directly democratic decision making and social and economic equality. We believe such a society is both desirable and possible, and we actively work toward overcoming the hierarchies, exploitation and systems of oppression that stand in its way.

The bulk of paragraph one, in particular the words “individual freedom is harmonised with communal obligations through cooperation, directly democratic decision making and social and economic equality”, is blatantly plagiarised from Schmidt and Van der walt (2009), ‘Socialism from Below: defining Anarchism’, from Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism. I believe that chapter of Black Flame is still available online at the Fantin Reading Group.

Paragraph 2.

2. To confront oppression in all its forms, the self-organised activity of all persons experiencing oppression is necessary. Systems of oppression manifest both as structures in the economic system and in the ideology of the dominant culture. Within the dominant culture of our society, intertwined oppressive systems include (but are not limited to) sexism, racism, queerphobia, transphobia and ableism. These oppressive systems, whilst occurring within the context of capitalism and shaped to serve its purpose, are not reducible to capitalism. Unless we actively struggle against all oppressive power systems, these hierarchies will be reproduced both within our own organisations and in any post-capitalist society. We see fighting against these forms of oppression as just as important to the creation of an anarchist society as fighting capitalism and the state. Only by working to eliminate oppressive power relations within the working classes will we be able to create a revolutionary movement capable of genuinely transforming society.

Oh imperfect attempt! Where do we stand on feminism? Is sexism merely a division of the working class, a product of class society, and an idea that will evaporate is a post-capitalist society?

I happen to think that an understanding of sexism is one dimensional if it doesn’t also integrate an understanding of capitalism. That said sexism is not reducible to capitalism, ideas are not merely products of material circumstances and economic structures, they also shape material circumstances, and oppressive ideas can also take on a life well beyond the material circumstances which created them.

If ignored sexism will not simply be washed aside by anti-capitalist struggle. If not specifically combatted, there is no reason sexism would not continue to be an oppressive structure in a post capitalist society.

We want to integrate an understanding of capitalism and sexism, that does not merely reduce one to the other. We’re not there yet. This paragraph was an attempt, it’s an imperfect snapshot of our thinking at one point in time. As anarchists we hope to be feminists and anti-racists as well as anti-capitalists.

For further reading on the topic I’d recommend Insurrections at the intersections: feminism, intersectionality and anarchism, it’s a chapter by Abbey Volcano and J Rogue that was included in AK Press’s new edition of Quiet Rumours: An anarcho-feminist reader.

Paragraph 3.

3. Australian capitalism is founded on an act of genocide – the murder and dispossession of this continent’s indigenous people. Capitalism on this continent was built on the seizure and exploitation of indigenous land, and continued attacks on indigenous communities are perpetrated by Australian capitalism and its racist state in the pursuit of what lands and resources that remain. We unequivocally support the ongoing struggle for indigenous self-determination in Australia, and recognise that indigenous sovereignty over the Australian landmass was never ceded.

Australian capitalism has genocidal origins… surely this is stating the obvious? To consistently oppose capitalism in Australia, we have to support the struggle for indigenous self-determination. To support indigenous self-determination is to oppose capitalism.

Paragraph 4.

4. Capitalism is a social system based on the private ownership of the means of production (land, factories, workplaces, machinery and access to raw materials). A tiny minority own the means of production and profit from the productive labour of the working class. The working class consists of all whose access to the means of existence requires that they place their ability to labour at the service of capital. This includes all who labour for a wage, all who are presently unemployed, and all who labour in the reproduction of the working class (domestic labour). Workers are paid the minimum the capitalist can get away with in a given situation, and the capitalist steals the rest. The private property owned by capitalists is the wealth stolen from past generations of workers. Capitalism denies the vast majority their economic and social inheritance through recourse to violence and coercion. Any incursion into private property is punished by the state. This system, capitalism, the state and the oppressive ideologies that support it, must be abolished in their entirety.

Anarchism critically appropriates Marx’s analysis of capitalism, Marx in turn owes much to Proudon.

From Schmidt and Van der Walt, (2006) ‘Proudon, Marx, and Anarchist Social Analysis‘, in Black Flame:

The imprint of Marx’s economic analysis can clearly be seen in the thinking of the anarchists. Bakunin’s only quibble with Marx’s Capital was that it was written in a style quite incomprehensible to the average worker, and he began a Russian translation of the book. Kropotkin despised Marx, but his understanding of class struggle, exploitation, and capitalist crisis was deeply imprinted with Marxist economics. Malatesta, who complained that anarchism had been too “impregnated with Marxism”, did not develop an alternative economic analysis, and … his close associate Carlo Cafiero even published a summary of Marx’s Capital.

Check out Wayne Price’s Marx’s Economics for Anarchists: An Anarchist’s Introduction to Marx’s Critique of Political Economy.

Paragraph 5.

5. The state is a centralised structure in which a small number of people, through their control of the police, military and courts (a monopoly on ‘legitimate’ violence), impose decisions on the vast majority. The state is not simply a “body of armed men” in service of the dominant class, it is also an institution that develops its own interest and that seeks to perpetuate its existence and expand its power. As anarchists we wholly reject the state, and instead we aim for “the most complete realisation of democracy—democracy in the fields, factories, and neighbourhoods.”

An attempt at differentiating between anarchist and Leninist understandings of the state…

Paragraph 6

6. Capitalism reaches across the entire globe. Military and economic imperialism (so-called globalisation) continue to subordinate most of the globe to the capitalist system, securing access to resources, labour and markets for the capitalist core. As capitalism is global, the struggle against capitalism must also be global, and we must act in solidarity and support for the struggles of oppressed people wherever they occur.

A commitment to internationalism, but also a wiff of world-systems analysis. Capitalism does not exist in discrete nation-state entities, it is constituted as a world-system, and that system now traverses the entire globe.

We’re not slavish followers of Immanuel Wallerstein (far from it!), but the method of analysis he advances is a useful tool.

Paragraph 7.

7. Capitalism has wrought upon our planet a global ecological crisis that now threatens the basis of existence for the majority of humanity. Capitalist entities grow or perish, whenever capital is not growing it is in crisis. Capitalism, as the effective cause the present environmental crisis, cannot effectively solve or even lessen the extent of environmental degradation. Capitalism’s demand for continued growth on our finite planet is at odds with human survival as a species, and therefore as a matter of necessity, and not just desirability, it must be abolished.

Prosperity without Growth
makes the case, without realising it. Tim Jackson’s belief that we can somehow change capitalism to operate in a steady state is of course farcical, but the argument he makes for the necessity of doing so is compelling. The obvious conclusion, unintended by the author, is that capitalism must be abolished if human survival is to be assured.

Paragraph 8.

8. The role of anarchists is to build the capacity of oppressed peoples as a whole to struggle for our collective emancipation. It is only when the collective and conscious social force of the mass of oppressed people exceeds the power of capitalism and the state, that a revolution with truly libertarian socialist potential be possible.

This paragraph is only the briefest nod to the argument about social force made by the FARJ in Social Anarchism and Organisation.

Paragraph 9.

9. We believe that revolutionary unionism, or syndicalism, is an essential strategy to build the collective power of the working class. We seek to build rank and file organisations that unite workers across existing unions, and advocate for directly democratic structures and militant strategy.

Platformists are syndicalists. This is often lost in debates about whether revolutionary unions are sufficient in and of themselves, or whether anarchists also require specific political organisations.

We favour organisational dualism, we organise politically as anarchists, whilst also seeking to build mass organisations of the whole (and not just explicitly anarchist) working class.

Paragraph 10.

10. We unite as a specific anarchist organisation on the basis of theoretical unity, tactical unity, collective responsibility and federalism. By theoretical unity we mean developing and organising around a shared understanding of anarchism, capitalism and the context in which we operate. By tactical unity we mean developing and collectively implementing a common strategy for achieving our goals. By collective responsibility we mean agreeing to act collectively – rather than individually in the pursuit of our common strategy. By federalism we mean organising on a directly democratic “grass roots up” basis, rejecting any “top down” command structure.

If this seems similiar to the anarkismo editorial statement, well it is.

If that in turn bears resemblance to the Organisational Part of the Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (draft), well, you get the drift.


I am convinced that if anarchism is to be anything other than a fringe phenomina on the far left in Australia, that anarchists must organise on a political basis. If we truly are libertarian communists, and not liberal individualists, then we need to learn to act collectively, to theorise collectively, to plan collectively, and to engage in struggle collectively.

To theorise and act collectively requires some degree of political agreement. That’s what this document is intended to be for the small group I participate in. If your political outlook accords with ours, and you’re in the mood to smash capitalism and the state, then get in touch.

  1. We’re realists


  1. Ralph BennettNovember 11, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Without a policy of population stabilisation…………the working class are doomed.
    Best, Ralph

    ie The price of Labour is dependent on scarcity and the price of the essentials of life increase with competition ( more people ), for them.. Let alone, the destruction of other species, as we hack down their habitat for more food and shelter.

    • Populationist arguments completely misunderstand the nature of the environmental crisis.

      The level of ecological destruction and resource use is not crudely determined by the number of people on the planet.

      The areas with the highest rate of population growth have the lowest per capita resource consumption and ecological footprint. Why? Because they are the poorest.

      The populations that have the biggest negative environmental impact have the lowest population growth, and are the wealthiest.

      Labour is not the driver of ecological destruction and resource consumption. Capital is. The driver behind capitals demand for ever larger amounts of resources for ever larger production is not increased demand from labour. Rather it is the internal dynamic of capitalism, growth in output is required to sustain growth in profit in a competitive market place.

      Population is inconsequential when faced with the rapacity of capitalist growth.

      As for the price of labour, without capitalism, labour in surplus of requirement for production is a boon, to be reaped in free time.

      Even if “population stabilisation” were a worthwhile goal, its something that would occur regardless in a libertarian socialist society. Time and time again human societys have shown, that when economic inequality is reduced, when the position of women is improved, when life expectancy improves, when education and healthcare improves – the rate of human fertility stabilises.

      And that is all that really needs to be said in the face of populationist nonsense. Although others have addressed the subject in much greater detail:

      • “By collective responsibility we mean agreeing to act collectively – rather than individually in the pursuit of our common strategy. By federalism we mean organising on a directly democratic “grass roots up” basis, rejecting any “top down” command structure.”

        How does AA imagine this will happen given that AA rejected an invitation to participate in the ‘Towards Federation Anarchist Conference’ last June?

        Earlier you have written; “Before such a national organisation can be forged, we need sizeable and active anarchist groups in Australia’s major cities, that communicate and cooperate, and that engage in the serious political discussion required to develop a common political understanding.”

        You also wrote; “I want an anarchist federation, and I want it to be more than an empty website. To achieve this, rather than announcing a federation in June 2013, it might be more useful to agree on a program of action that will build the capacity of anarchist groups and build cooperation amongst them.”

        How is TFAC not an attempt ‘to agree on a program of action…..and build cooperation…”?

        It appears to me, that there is a gap between rhetoric and practice on the part of AA on this issue.

        It is possible that TFAC is a mistake but without having a crack, there is no real way of knowing. A sure-fire way of avoiding mistakes is to not do any thing at all.

        I’d be interested to know why it is necessary to adopt a document that was written by Russian exiles in Paris in 1926 as opposed to cooperating with other anarchist groups in Australia today to create a document based on our own experiences around which we can federate.

        Although I would concede that it is a lot easier to lift a document from somewhere else and long ago.

        In my view, anarchists in Australia today need to be organised in a way that is recognisably anarchist i.e. a federation of groups.

        As you say: “If we truly are libertarian communists, and not liberal individualists, then we need to learn to act collectively, to theorise collectively, to plan collectively, and to engage in struggle collectively.”

        Where is the manifestation of these views on the part of AA?

      • Ralph BennettNovember 14, 2013 at 9:47 am

        The denial that the increase in numbers of consumers, either rich or poor… doesn’t increase the destruction of habitat…..does not make sense at any level..

        For example, poor countries trash their forests for more food production every day.
        A small farm, carved out of the forest which can support only a family of 6 , needs to expand when the extended family of grandchildren , brings the number to 12.

        Our species increase, either rich or poor, deny habitat for other species that share the planet.

        Capital cannot make money out of real estate speculation, if demand is stabilised.




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