On Saturday 8th August members and supporters of The Commune from across the country met in London to discuss the development of our communist network, which is a year old this month. As well as discussing the modest successes we have achieved so far in terms of organisational growth, we looked towards further building and strengthening our voice in the workers’ movement.
Over the last year we have attracted a number of people to taking part in The Commune, as well as a broader milieu of people interested in our activities and who regularly attend our meetings. Alongside monthly forums in London we have organised a reading group on communism from below with meetings every three weeks. We have sustained a monthly paper over 2009, produced a series of pamphlets, and now a Spanish language publication La Comuna for Latin American migrant workers. The number of pages accessed on this website is typically above 400 a day.
The discussions on practical matters were prefaced by a session on workers’ self-management and how our stance against state-socialism relates to the current capitalist crisis. Chris Kane pointed to the lack of belief in an alternative to capitalism – with Marx seen as valuable in predicting crisis, rather than in terms of the communist society he advocated – and how a moneyless, stateless society could combat the alienation of people from each other and from what they produce in a way that a statified system could not. We agreed that given the traditional left’s hostility to such conceptions of self-management, we should produce more materials arguing for our own distinctive politics on the question.
Furthermore, there was discussion of how these wider politics relate to specific workers’ struggles, and how we can relate activism around fights such as the cleaners’ disputes in London to the ideas we argue for. Abstract theoretical work separate from the lived experience of the working class is not of much use to anyone: we must both learn from current fights and participate in day-to-day activism in order to ground our ideas and ensure that our debates are useful and relevant to the movement.
As well as continuing with our publications, the meeting discussed a number of events which will hopefully lead to more participation in our discussions and the building of a more pluralist, open network. Plans for coming months include a reading group series on the theory of trade unionism and different means of workplace organising, and the continuation of our monthly forums on topical matters. The meeting also decided to initiate a ‘summer school’ allowing a range of debates, hopefully meaning more discussion than takes place at anarchist bookfairs but avoiding the preaching-the-party-line agenda of Trotskyist groups’ summer schools.
We are participating in a conference in Edinburgh on November 19th, hosted by the Republican Communist Network, and these comrades will also be involved in a planned international magazine facilitating discussion between communists across the world. We believe there is much to be learnt from communists in other countries on developments in capitalism and the re-shaping of the working class today and the theory of communism for the 21st century, and such a publication looks likely to lead to fruitful exchanges. Although we have no intention of creating a fake ‘international’ with delusions of grandeur, it was remarked at the aggregate meeting that the level of dialogue between communists internationally is less than one hundred years ago, despite huge technological advances and the advent of the internet.
The aggregate also discussed limitations of our work, in particular our rather London-centric character, which persists despite interest from a number of individuals around England and Wales. We hope to overcome this by holding day-schools on our politics outside of the capital, as well as by holding stalls at the coming anarchist book-fairs in Bristol (12th September) and Manchester (26th September) and so create committees in other towns and cities. A further question due to be discussed at the next aggregate is the gender and race composition of our network.
Although well aware of our small size and the limitations of our work, the aggregate had an upbeat tone and made a number of concrete decisions regarding our future organising plans. Times, dates, venues and other details of these activities is due shortly – write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information or to take part in organising these activities.