1. Towards Anarchist Organisation
There is not (and, as far as I know, never has been) a federation of Australian Anarchists. The name 'Federation of Australian Anarchists' was merely chosen some years back according to that principle whereby any group of anarchists at all calls itself a "federation" (presumably thereby intending to imply that the members - all three of them in some cases - remain free, independent and equal). In general it would be more accurate to speak of an 'aggregation' than a 'federation' when talking of Australian anarchism but that would not, perhaps, sound as nice.
If we are to have a genuine federation of Australian anarchists it is necessary to remember that such an organisation is a federation of groups - state, regional- functional or local - rather than an association of individuals. Furthermore a federation is a binding together for common external purposes of groups retaining internal autonomy. The idea of local autonomy is in the anarchist tradition - and corresponds to the realities of our current situation - but if anarchist groups have anarchism as both their internal aim and the purpose of their external relations it is hardly clear that common action is compatible with an extreme interpretation of internal autonomy.
The basis of the federative form is that pre-existing groups or organisations come to an agreement whereby each group undertakes to do certain things for the others - or for the federation if this takes on a reified form. To put it in a more formal mode of speech: the groups exchange mutual obligations and set up a framework for further contacts and the resolution of conflicts. (Measured by such an ideal it will be clear why I call Australian anarchism an 'aggregation'.) Federations in any genuine sense cannot be set up from above - "federation from above" being indistinguishable from central direction - and can only be extended by the existing federation after constituting themselves independently.
Despite my reservations concerning the ultimate compatibility of mechanically interpreted federalism with anarchist revolutionary action I would not wish to deny that a Federation of Australian Anarchists would be a great, indeed a giant, step forward. The federative form allows development of closer ties between local and regional groups as well as the development of special national organs when and if such are needed. The problem is that a federation is only as good as the bulk of its component groups. Thus the task confronting Australian anarchism is not that of national organisation but that of state, local and functional organisation.
It seems that one thing that is essential at the moment are state or regional groups with the functions of:
a) bringing existing anarchists into contact with each other,
b) arousing general interest in anarchism outside the movement and making new "converts",
c) encouraging the formation of local or functional groups which will engage in agitational and propaganda work within factories, unions, schools, universities, local government, etc.
Ultimately the basis of an anarchist movement must be its local - functional or occupational groups, ie groups based on regular personal contact between members, but these will have to be created and in the interim groups of a much wider span of membership will have to serve. When a functioning network of action groups is created within such a framework the original organising group could be transformed into a propaganda section attached to a state or regional federation (if we have to use that word).
The ultimate cells of an anarchist federation are its affinity groups: groups based on a common locality, status or occupation or on a common interest in particular sorts of anarchist activities. Of these certain of the latter type are of special national importance. One needs groups of people who will take it upon themselves to publish magazines, newspapers, pamphlets or newsletters since these things are local in production however national their function. Similarly one needs groups that will maintain lists of speakers for propaganda work - and of course do propaganda themselves - as well as groups that engage in, or organise, research into topics of interest to the movement. It is the existence of such a network of specialisations that defines a federation as something more than the sum of its parts.
If the important thing is the real relations of co-operation between component groups - the exchange of finance, printed material, experiences and trained manpower - the exact organisational specifications of the Federation are obviously unimportant except in so far as they may help or hinder this co-operation. If we are to have a National Committee then it might as well just consist of state secretaries - when and if they come into existence - and the secretaries of any functional and/or occupational groupings that emerge, eg anarchist groups organised nationally in particular trade unions or professions. Similarly the state committees or committees in any specialised national organisations could consist of the secretaries of local groups and so on. (The assumption underlying this scheme is that the prime purpose of a permanent national organisation is to improve communication and allow decisions to be made in between national conferences. I do not think that many important decisions will have to be made in the near future and neither do I think that there need be or should be national policy-making between conferences - while anarchism remains legal of course - but it is important to have available channels of communication. I certainly do not intend however that all anarchist communication should flow through this network. Any anarchist group should be able to contact any other directly and any anarchist should be able to address all anarchists through the pages of the Bulletin).
FAAB., No 1., Oct., 1974