The Anarchist Workers Group has long held a fascination for me since I first encountered them intervening in the SWP’s Marxism event around 1990.
The first issue of their magazine, Socialism From Below, gives a very good overview of the anarchist movement at the time, explaining the origins of the AWG itself. The AWG was criticised by the anarchist milieu for its adherence to the Organizational Platform of the Libertarian Communists– considered to be a manifesto for Bolshevised anarchism.
This guest post is by Gavin Brown, a former member of the AWG.
The Anarchist Workers Group (AWG) originated from a split in the syndicalist Direct Action Movement (now SolFed) in the late 1980s.
The DAM members who initially formed the AWG rejected the tactic of building revolutionary syndicalist unions in opposition to the official trade union movement in the UK. They favoured instead a rank and file orientation, as set out in their pamphlet In Place of Compromise.
Throughout the few years of the group’s existence, the AWG never had more than 30 members nationally.
In addition to the original members who had split from the DAM, the group initially recruited members from other (broadly) anarchist organisations, such as the Anarchist Communist Federation and Class War, as well as a member who had been active in the Workers Solidarity Movement in Ireland (perhaps the anarchist group that the AWG shared most in common with).
Later the group recruited directly from the Socialist Workers Party and its periphery. (S&F: We have a leaflet here from ex-members of Southampton SWP who went on to join the AWG)
In addition to a small number of unemployed members and students, most of the AWG’s membership were white collar workers in the public sector.
The articles in SfB demonstrate the group’s development from a critical engagement with anarchism towards an increasing orientation to the Marxist left, which was consolidated by the participation in the Hands of the Middle East committee against the first Gulf War alongside the RCP and others.
Eventually, the majority of active members of the AWG rejected anarchism altogether and embraced Marxism (although they were largely unable to agree on what form of Marxism and the renamed Socialism from Below group dissipated).
(S&F: We have one leaflet under the name of Socialism From Below as the group was renamed)
Two members of the AWG went on to work on the short-lived Analysis magazine project with ex-members of the RCP.
(S&F: see our post on Analysis which we will shortly be updating taking on board comments from Gavin and others and incorporating material he loaned us)
However, several members of the AWG later joined the RCP itself (and one of the AWG’s founding members was still writing for Spiked as late as 2017 – having spent more time in the orbit of Furedi than he ever had as an anarchist).
While it is possible to understand how the anti-statism and suspicion of the Labour Party carried from anarchism, plus the AWG’s anti-imperialist approach to the British occupation of the north of Ireland and wars in the Middle East might have led to sympathy to the RCP in the early 1990s, his continuing engagement with Spiked baffles many other former AWG members still.
Thanks also to Neil for valuable comments on the AWG, Analysis and the RCP