Uploaded as part of the Anarchism in Australia project.
Author: Silo, Love and Rage- Collective of the Autonomous Left.
Originally Published: References to Love and Rage as an organisation, Likely post 1998.
Retrieved from: web.archive.org copy of Love and Rage website, 2004.
Vision and Realities of Student Activism at end of the Millenium
It is is nothing new to any one that we are currently experiencing an unprecedented right-wing climate in Australia nowadays. A number of social gains, result of decades of working class struggle, have been severely undermined if not destroyed by the neo-liberal agenda of the ruling class. The destruction trade unions, welfare provisons, funding to community groups and services are a few of them. This offensive of the ruling class against the multitude is reflected at subjective level not only in the diminishing cofidence of ordinary people in the extraordinary benefits of collective action, but also the establishment of a new cultural hegemony where the values of liberal individualism take a central stage in the configuration of people’ commom sense. In other words, there is no effective mass movement questioning the market, but the values of the market appear to have been integrated as fundamental part of the make up of people’s own view of the world.
As communist activists, we found ourselves in extraordinary contradictory and paradoxical situation. On the one hand, we have this vision of a new society which is libertarian., classless, stateless, communist in all the true sense of the word, and yet in the inmedicay of our activism, we are forced to confront a quite grim reality where we have basically to operate in a defesive mode action, without being fully able to put forward a communist and libertarian perspective to broader audiences of people.
Our inmediate task have been to put all our efforts in defending quite important social gains and political spaces, but ones, that despite of their importance, are collectives intituitions inhereted from the statist policies of social-democracy. While the welfare state, the right to organise trade unions, students organisation were direct result of social movements, these were also strategies of deterrance implemented by the ruling class at the time to pacify the working class through the Keynesian class consesus.
Today in our campaign against VSU, we are defending very often the most rotten, reformist, corrupted, and undemocratic institution, but at the end of the day the only spaces which allow us to get some meaningful organising against the system done.
This in fact reminds me of a story. In one of the many rallies in support of the Allende government in Chile when the military was about to rise its head, one old worker marching in front of the Presidential Palace was carrying a placard saying “This government is like shit, but it is my goverment”.
I think that this placard describes quite well the feeling of radical students activists today. We have to be honest and say to students that that things like NUS, several SRCs are not that wonderful at all, but are the our organisation to the extent that still provide avenues to organise collectivelly from below.
In this context, I think our central strategy as Love and Rage in the student movement have been one of revolutionary reformism. This revolutiary reformism has two central aspects. On the one hand, “we seek to practice revolutionary activism without lapsing into ultraleft posturing, attempting to establish a transitional link between reformist demands with the maximum demand of revolution. We are not againt reforms, we are gainst “reformists” such as ALP that looks at parliament, elections and backdoor deals as the main avenue of social change. Our strategy is to fight for reforms by revolutionary methods, that is, through the collective and self-directed organisational power of ordinary people at the grassroots level.”. That the reason we give so much imprtance within the student movement to the organisation of autonomous collectives addressing all sort of issues not just education, but women’s rights, the environment and so on. The particpatory nature of democracy of this autonomous collectives is precisely the fundamantal building base for the emergence of a diverse mass movement against capitalism in the future.
On the other hand, our position as political group within these collectives and also broader the student organisations is not to lead these organisations but to participate in it as equals with other organizations and people. Through such participation we seek to do two fundamental things: 1) to argue for the most democratic student movement possible, one that gives every person the ability to participate in it fully; and 2) to argue for our anti-authoritarian and commuinst politics within this plural movement in order to influence it into struggling against all forms of oppression, not to control it or disband it if we fail to control it, as the DSP and the ISO do.
In this light, the Love and Rage is a tiny minority of activists, but a militant one. As a “militant minority”, our role within a general education campaign is always to argue for the most radical line possible. Struggles in the past has shown that even the realisation and victory of very moderate demands are not achieved by moderate and respectable means, but by militant and disrespectful activity. To have the most militant position will never be a guarantee for success, but will certainly shift debate within a movement to the left, increaisng people’s cofidence in their own actions and organisation, and providing the necessary political accumulation of forces for futrure battles and thereby a space for communist ideas.