The Federation was founded as the Anarchist Communist Federation in March 1986 by the Anarchist Communist Discussion Group, which had coalesced around two anarcho-communists who had returned from France and began selling the pamphlets of the defunct Libertarian Communist Group tendency, and members of Syndicalist Fight. The group aimed to provide an anarchist intervention into working class struggles such as the Miners' Strike, and was closely involved with the Anti-Poll Tax community-based campaign at the end of the 1980s and unemployed struggles through the Groundswell network of claimants' action groups. There is also a student membership, of whom many, including non-student members were involved in the series of university occupations that began in the beginning of 2009 and swept across British universities in opposition to the Gaza War as well as the 2010 Student movement against reforms in further education.
Anarchist Communist Federation (ACF) changed its name to the Anarchist Federation in the late 1999 as mentioned in Organize Issue 52. Unlike its French counterpart it is therefore not a true federation of anarchists but rather a faction composed of advocates of Anarchist-Communism. The Anarchist Federation places itself amongst a continually developing current of autonomous working class struggle. Important influences on the Anarchist Federation's politics include The Organisational Platform of Libertarian Communists, the Manifesto of Libertarian Communism, Solidarity and the anarchist communist currents within the Spanish, Russian and Ukrainian Revolutions. The Anarchist Federation promotes an understanding of intersectionality in Anarchist thought. The Anarchist Federation continues this tradition of agitation within the workplace and community, rather than attempting to gain prominent bureaucratic positions in trade unions, local councils and other institutions, unlike a number of socialist and communist parties and groups. It promotes grassroots direct activism against the state and capitalism and is run in a horizontalist manner. The Anarchist Federation( particularly the scottish sections) took positions critical of Scottish independence during the Independence referendum viewing it as nationalist, but it did not dictate to its members whether to vote or not or how. The Scottish sections of the Anarchist Federation are involved with the Action Against Austerity network.
Key Anarchist Federation principles include a commitment to class struggle as a method of abolishing capitalism and the state, and a rejection of the strategy of vanguardism. The Federation is affiliated with the International of Anarchist Federations. The AF have two regular publications; Organise!, the twice a year theoretical journal of the organisation, and Resistance, a regular free paper covering a range of topical news & events from an anarchist perspective, highlighting the widespread acts of resistance to the state and capitalism that go unreported in the mainstream press. They also publish numerous pamphlets ranging from an 'Introduction to Anarchist Communism' to the history of libertarian class-struggle resistance to Nazism.
The AF logo, which depicts two clasping hands above flames, is inspired by a salute used by anarchists during the Spanish revolution. The element of flames can be seen to refer to quotes by both Mikhail Bakunin and Buenaventura Durruti.
The Aims and Principles are a number of points that the Anarchist Federation is politically based around. Individuals are required to agree with the Aims and Principles as they are regarded to be a basic representation of Anarchist-Communist politics within a revolutionary organisation, however they are subject to edition, a decision taken by vote at the two consecutive Federal Delegate Meetings.
The aims and principles are as follows:
- The Anarchist Federation is an organisation of revolutionary class struggle anarchists. We aim for the abolition of all hierarchy, and work for the creation of a world-wide classless society: anarchist communism.
- Capitalism is based on the exploitation of the working class by the ruling class. But inequality and exploitation are also expressed in terms of race, gender, sexuality, health, ability and age, and in these ways one section of the working class oppresses another. This divides us, causing a lack of class unity in struggle that benefits the ruling class. Oppressed groups are strengthened by autonomous action which challenges social and economic power relationships. To achieve our goal we must relinquish power over each other on a personal as well as a political level.
- We believe that fighting systems of oppression that divide the working class, such as racism and sexism, is essential to class struggle. Anarchist communism cannot be achieved while these inequalities still exist. In order to be effective in our various struggles against oppression, both within society and within the working class, we at times need to organise independently as people who are oppressed according to gender, sexuality, ethnicity or ability. We do this as working-class people, as cross-class movements hide real class differences and achieve little for us. Full emancipation cannot be achieved without the abolition of capitalism.
- We are opposed to the ideology of national liberation movements which claims that there is some common interest between native bosses and the working class in face of foreign domination. We do support working class struggles against racism, genocide, ethnocide and political and economic colonialism. We oppose the creation of any new ruling class. We reject all forms of nationalism, as this only serves to redefine divisions in the international working class. The working class has no country and national boundaries must be eliminated. We seek to build an anarchist international to work with other libertarian revolutionaries throughout the world.
- As well as exploiting and oppressing the majority of people, Capitalism threatens the world through war and the destruction of the environment.
- It is not possible to abolish Capitalism without a revolution, which will arise out of class conflict. The ruling class must be completely overthrown to achieve anarchist communism. Because the ruling class will not relinquish power without their use of armed force, this revolution will be a time of violence as well as liberation.
- Unions by their very nature cannot become vehicles for the revolutionary transformation of society. They have to be accepted by capitalism in order to function and so cannot play a part in its overthrow. Trades unions divide the working class (between employed and unemployed, trade and craft, skilled and unskilled, etc.). Even syndicalist unions are constrained by the fundamental nature of unionism. The union has to be able to control its membership in order to make deals with management. Their aim, through negotiation, is to achieve a fairer form of exploitation of the workforce. The interests of leaders and representatives will always be different from ours. The boss class is our enemy, and while we must fight for better conditions from it, we have to realise that reforms we may achieve today may be taken away tomorrow. Our ultimate aim must be the complete abolition of wage slavery. Working within the unions can never achieve this. However, we do not argue for people to leave unions until they are made irrelevant by the revolutionary event. The union is a common point of departure for many workers. Rank and file initiatives may strengthen us in the battle for anarchist communism. What’s important is that we organise ourselves collectively, arguing for workers to control struggles themselves.
- Genuine liberation can only come about through the revolutionary self-activity of the working class on a mass scale. An anarchist communist society means not only co-operation between equals, but active involvement in the shaping and creating of that society during and after the revolution. In times of upheaval and struggle, people will need to create their own revolutionary organisations controlled by everyone in them. These autonomous organisations will be outside the control of political parties, and within them we will learn many important lessons of self-activity.
- As anarchists we organise in all areas of life to try to advance the revolutionary process. We believe a strong anarchist organisation is necessary to help us to this end. Unlike other so-called socialists or communists we do not want power or control for our organisation. We recognise that the revolution can only be carried out directly by the working class. However, the revolution must be preceded by organisations able to convince people of the anarchist communist alternative and method. We participate in struggle as anarchist communists, and organise on a federative basis. We reject sectarianism and work for a united revolutionary anarchist movement.
- We have a materialist analysis of capitalist society. The working class can only change society through our own efforts. We reject arguments for either a unity between classes or for liberation that is based upon religious or spiritual beliefs or a supernatural or divine force. We work towards a world where religion holds no attraction.
The Anarchist Federation publishes the theoretical journal Organise!, as well as a monthly newsletter, Resistance and two series of pamphlets; Anarchist Communist Editions and Stormy Petrel.
Organise! is the magazine of the Anarchist Federation. It is published in order to develop anarchist communist ideas and aims to provide a clear anarchist viewpoint on contemporary issues and to initiate debate on ideas not normally covered in agitational papers. The AF aims to produce Organise! twice a year and to meet this target, the AF positively solicits contributions from its readers.
Any article that furthers the goals of Anarchist-Communism are aimed to be published. However even articles that are in complete agreement with the Aims and Principles can be left to much open debate. The articles in Organise! do not necessarily represent the collective viewpoint of the AF.
Organise! hopes to open up debate in many areas of life. Despite being a publication of the Anarchist Federation, unless signed by the organisation as a whole or by a local AF group, articles in Organise! reflect the views of the person who has written the article and nobody else.
Resistance, like Organise! is a publication by the AF, however, it is a monthly bulletin produced by members of the organisation. It carries more of a local interpretation to it than Organise! does and deals with the same issues, although in less words, and in some articles has a more comical theme to it.
The distribution of Resistance is free although usually donations are requested.
The Anarchist Federation has published 19 pamphlets in the ACE series covering a wide range of historical and theoretical subjects including;Basic Bakunin. ACE#1
The Role of the Revolutionary Organisation. ACE#6
Ecology and Class - Where There’s Brass There’s Muck. ACE#9
Beyond Resistance - A Revolutionary Manifesto. ACE#11
Resistance to Nazism. ACE#16
Basic Kropotkin. ACE#17
On the Frontline: Anarchists at Work. ACE#18
In The Tradition. ACE#19
The London group of the Anarchist Federation also produced a set of pamphlets under the imprint of Stormy Petrel which includes The Friends of Durruti: Towards a Fresh Revolution; A Brief Flowering of Freedom: The Hungarian Revolution 1956; Errico Malatesta: Anarchism and Violence; and The Italian Factory Councils and The Anarchists.
The motif of the stormy petrel has a long association with revolutionary anarchism. Stormy Petrel was the title of a German anarchist paper of the late 19th century, it was also the name of a Russian exile anarchist communist group operating in Switzerland in the early 20th century. The Stormy Petrel was the title of the magazine of the Anarchist Communist Federation in Russia around the time of the revolution. Writing in 1936, Emma Goldman referred to Durruti as “…this stormy petrel of the anarchist and revolutionary movement…”
The Anarchist Federation is a member organisation of the Anarchist International of Anarchist Federations (IAF-IFA), but also has its own secretariat responsible for regions of the world that do not have IAF-IFA members. The principles of work within IFA are that of federalism, free arrangement and mutual aid. To improve co-ordination and communication within IFA, as well as to provide an open contact address for the public and other anarchist groups and organisations, an International Secretariat (C.R.I.F.A. - Commission of Relations of the International of Anarchist Federations) was set up. CRIFA irregularly rotates among the IFA federations. It is currently based with the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI).
The IFA-IAF was founded during an international anarchist conference in Carrara in 1968 by the three existing European federations of France, Italy and Spain as well as the Bulgarian Federation in French exile. To counter the Internationalisation of state and capitalist powers that are developing their influences ever rapidly on a global scale, the IFA has since aimed to build and improve strong and active international anarchist structures.