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Report back from the Anarchist Movement Conference

June 10th, 2009 · post by Chris Walktall · Make a comment

The Anarchist Movement Conference took place recently. But did it fuel enthusiasm and inspiration or did it highlight old divides. Below is a report back from the two day event.

Firstly, I must confess I went to the first Anarchist Movement Conference organisational meeting back in January or so and didn’t  think much of it; although I believed a conference was important and  useful, the first meeting seemed disorganised and without focus.

I then forgot about it – except seeing the occasional advert in the usual suspects of newspapers, magazines and websites, and a benefit gig organised by Class War – until the first day, Saturday 9th June. There had been an online application form, with entrance costing from £5 up, depending on your wage/generosity, which I had not managed to do, so I registered bright and early Saturday morning before being assigned a group and toddling off the welcome meeting.

Three things struck me about the people at the first meeting; the number, I think about 300 people took part; the lack of crusties, there were very few you would pick out a crowd as a probable anarchos; and the domination of white males, a theme I’ll return to later.

We had been divided into 15 groups and considerable effort had been put into making sure people from the same friendship groups and political coalitions were kept separate. This had the effect of throwing us all into conversation with people we would not normally associate with and avoided, presumably, everyone just agreeing with one another.

We then had 4 topics to cover

Movement

or why we aren’t one?

Restistance

or are we futile?

Class

or is there anybody out there?

Ideas into reality

and what’s in between?

We were given 10 hours, over Saturday and Sunday, to discuss these, or stray away from the topics if we felt it appropriate, and were instructed to organise the time and breaks ourselves, and just to be back to share what had happened 2pm Sunday afternoon. Because they are such large and important ideas each group had their own take on these questions; I won’t even begin to explain any of the conclusions or emphasis that we each put separately, needless to say they took in very different ideas from the destruction of gender-binary to post-Marxian views of class, but the minutes of all will be included in the post-conference report.

It’s fair to say that each group’s experience depended on the randomised make up, some were complicated by a couple of anti-organisationalists, who wanted to have no facilitator, and one group had 5 facilitators; none the less when everyone came to report back on Sunday afternoon, everyone seemed enthusiastic and optimistic. Uniquely for a conference, people were clamoring for more time, that it wasn’t long enough, and perhaps it could be extended to 3 days next year?

After all 15 groups had presented their conclusions and thoughts we were invaded. Six people dressed in black block attire walked in, explained they were ‘taking over’ and turned off the lights, an intentionally intimidating  experience for everyone. A projector was set up, drum and bass kicked  in and it was explained to us that this was a group of  anarcho-feminists trying to raise awareness of sexism within the movement. Their aggressive and intimidating behaviour certainly got them more attention than a simple presentation would have done, but unfortunately some of the language they used made it seem like an attack on the conference specifically and it wasn’t until a discussion in the pub later that many of us realised it was a comment on the movement as a whole.

After 10 hours of discussion and a 2 hour report-back there was still enough energy for 6 groups to be set up to discuss specific proposals arising from the discussions immediately after the feedback session. Reports from which will be included in the massive ‘Anarchist Movement Report’ that is going to be published at the anarchist book-fair in October, which will also include the minutes from every group and organisational meeting.

I believe it was a much more positive experience than anyone dared hope for. The energy was sky-high the enthusiasm was there and people were much happier to concentrate on what united them than the petty differences that have separated revolutionary from revolutionary in the past. Roll on next year.

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