This year’s ADM had lots of highlights, but one of the main ones for me was the success of the fringe event I organised with the Irish anarchist organisations Organise! and my old Dublin comrades the Workers Solidarity Movement (WSM). Proving that anarchists are capable of organising, there was a pretty good turn-out at the event planned to mark the 50th anniversary of Rudolf Rocker‘s death.
Entitled “Politics without parties – The future of trade unionism?”, the event covered Rocker’s impact on trade unionism in the UK, anarchism and trade unionism in the workplace and the media’s coverage of anarchism. I was joined at the main table by Jason Brannigan from Organise! and Chekov Fenney of the WSM.
There were some very interesting discussions with the people who came along, including a number of NUJ members and some local activists.
There was lots of common ground between the groups, particularly when Chekov, who has had a rather turbulent history with parts of the Irish media, held up a copy of Nick Davies “Flat Earth News” and started talking about the problems journalists face. This convergence of ideas was added to by the fact that among the NUJ members in attendance was photographer Guy Smallman, well known for his radical photographs and a long-time Indymedia contributor.
The history of anarchists and the media is a long and difficult one. Too often, anarchists are portrayed exclusively as violent troublemakers, while many anarchist groups shun the media completely and refuse to challenge this coverage, preferring to rely on their own relatively small-scale alternatives.
However, the meeting discussed the benefits of going beyond this oppositional standpoint and Chekov, in particular, spoke of the benefits that can come from engaging with the media and strongly countering ridiculous claims of the kind that the anarchist movement in Ireland has seen over the years. The WSM has managed to “infiltrate” the mainstream media on a number of occasions over the years, Aileen O’Carroll’s appearance on the Late Late in 2004 being probably the highlight.
As someone with one foot in both camps, I’ve long felt that journalists and activists can learn a lot from each other and the NUJ can be the organisation that brings them together. This event confirmed that to me.
Belfast WSM kindly reported on the event and uploaded some audio to Indymedia Ireland.
I’m seriously thinking of organising a similar event in London over the coming months. If anyone wants to help, please get in touch.