author: p'tit punk - 27.08.2002 23:36
- Mass political gatherings are often at best reformist, at
worst counter-productive. In any case, they offer no future.
- Mass future (vision) are often at best reformist, at worst
counter-productive. In any case, they offer no real alternatives.
Date: 08-20-02 03:22
My Five-Pole Compass (A reflection on the structure of the PGA)
This text begins by putting forward some basic ideas. It seems logical to
me that if we're to figure out how to do something, we need, first of all,
to have a vision of what it is that we want to do. And it makes sense that
our goal and our methods complement one another. A theme that runs throughout
the text is the necessity to create real possibilities to address "radical
reflections" and to integrate divergent points of view, so as to benefit
collectively from the diversity of our ideas. And to become, thereby, a bit
more effective… I talk about mass movements, radicalism, revolutionary
perspectives, activism, choucroute garnie, and then I add some of my own reflections
on the (dis)function of the PGA and its goals.
The style is kind of ironic, just because it came most easily to me to critique
the PGA's structure in a humouristic and charicaturial manner. I'm aware that
my tone might be interpreted as sarcastic or aggressive, so I want to establish,
here in the introduction, that the effect I'm looking for is that of self-derision.
I like to think that nothing is sacred, and I hope we can share a laugh over
anything at all – which we can, right? And don't worry, I include myself,
in a certain manner (which demands a continual self-questioning), in the activist
- Mass political gatherings are often at best reformist, at worst counter-productive.
In any case, they offer no future.
- Mass future (vision) are often at best reformist, at worst counter-productive.
In any case, they offer no real alternatives.
It's essential to talk about 1. and 2. because these questions and our responses
to them will be reflected in the type of structure we end up choosing for
We need to start putting into practice the Belles Théories already
in existence. And we need to apply them in our everyday lives, in our political
gatherings and in the way that we set up our formal and informal networks.
I mean, for example, aiming becoming autonomous, towards empowering people
to think creatively, and towards attacking (and savagely!) specialization
– which includes, for us, political specialization and "the political
specialist" (read: activist). I don't justify this in terms of self-actualisation
and satisfaction (everyone knows that that's secondary, in relation to the
Cause), but in the interest of efficacy for the Cause….
- Questioning the way of conducting meetings in general. Mass assemblies
of the political elite don't tend to produce very much, other than an opportunity
to make friends during breaks from the meetings themselves.
Concrete propositions for changing the PGA's structure. Direct democracy,
decentralization, and non-specialization aren't just noble ideas which will
spontaneously, mysteriously, realize themselves "after the revolution".
We need to start applying them right now, "here, there, and everywhere".
The expression "la vie est politique" doesn't mean for everybody
working for the Cause.
- Political gatherings: For what end?
- Symbolic acts of property damage; articles written (read: distorted)
for the reading pleasure of a public of "others".
Do we need to be a mass to break ten windows and have a couple of articles
show up in the paper? Can we imagine, instead, the same number of individuals,
or even ten times less, coming together not as a mass, but as a group
of people with a common aim? Can we imagine that aim as thinking and
acting for themselves? Okay, so in this case they wouldn't be likely
to meet at the same place or the same time, but in terms of spreading
the message or economic damage, their impact would be incomparable.
I have the impression that after several days of action the system would
be razed. Sabotage.
- Getting together, knowledge-sharing, networking, blah blah blah.
Coooooooool! Sign me up. But why don't we really start to take the importance
of this process into account? How about inserting several days of loafing
around into our perfect activist schedule? And while we're at it, how
about creating the possibility to confront and exchange our ideas and
our prospects for change, with the goal of mutual, individual, and collective
enrichment? Because so far, we haven't figured out how. There's wealth
in diversity, but not if everyone just keeps their contribution to themselves,
too scared to mix things up, risk a little and share… And this
is what I see to date: we're all nice and we all agree and we all think
the same way (which amounts to not thinking at all), and we're right
and its them that are mean. The "secret club" approach is
convenient: it allows us to avoid posing or exploring any nagging doubts
about ourselves and our collectives. But if we're to effect any real
change, we have to begin by asking questions. And the first place we
need to aim those questions is at ourselves. Without this, we run the
risk of keeping ourselves busy stirring up the wind – and therefore
contributing to the destruction of the planet, of individuals, of all
forms of life.
(Fin du refrain)
- Giving their participants the impression that they're all united
around a good cause. Activist re-energization.
This sounds nice, but if we want to be critical we can twist the heading
to read: "lightening their participants' consciences and providing
an opportunity for activist tourism". It's easy: you attend the
gathering and you earn your BA in whatever subject proposed (food, housing,
action facilitation, law, adrenaline – just throw your rock here!).
And, best of all, you get to go home when its over and return to "la
vie normale" until the next kermesse! No questions need to be asked
regarding the fact that you'd be way more effective if you just quit
your day job and left the consumer lifestyle behind. Which brings me
back to efficacy, because it seems that we're still working with the
assumption that anti-globalization gatherings are somehow "effective".
In fact, I don't think this assumption is just. How can they become
effective until we start taking the time to talk and until we create
the kind of frameworks conducive to real exchange? And not just exchange
among political specialists but among all the participants.
- Demonstrate against repression to feel happy in the knowledge that
we're united against the mean people.
Abstract of concrete goals:
Aim to encourage creativity, political consciousness and independent
thinking among participants – break free from the "activist
tourism" mould. It's easy, we just need to start putting into place
a set of practices that are coherent with our goal of self-management.
Create time and space to get together and ask questions.
As to anti-repression demonstrations: I have a vision of the ideal. All
the participants come knowing what to expect, including those whose actions
could get them beaten up by cops or land them in jail. And afterwards,
everyone's able to weigh the hardship of their bruised and noble heroes-in-prison-for-the-Cause
against the fact that hundreds of thousands of people die every day from
the direct or indirect effects of that against which we're fighting (what
is it we're fighting against, again? And who is this we, anyway?). In
my vision, we don't just abandon those brave, jailed, comrades, but we're
able to start pumping our energy in a more useful direction. Strategically,
it's something to think about…
As to the worthlessness of perspectives, see the point below:
- I think that the mass movement's visions are worthless, apart from the
fact that it's reassuring to tell ourselves that we're a big mass of nice
people contre the meanies. A mass revolution would be really cool and everything,
but what comes after? Is the fact that we're nice and we're together really
enough to spontaneously generate a better world for tomorrow? But how could
we believe an idea like that?
Isn't it necessary that the nice people start trying, first of all, to
stop being so dependent and start thinking and acting for themselves?
Personally, I'm ready to challenge any revolutionary elite of political
specialists who arrive and tell the people how to live. Firstly, because
they'd be specialists, but also because I can't imagine how we can come
up with coherent prospects for change if we don't start trying them out
in our daily lives.
In the best-case scenario, the mass revolution will be followed by a
reform. But what use is this? Those people that get it into their heads
that the world will become magically better after one, two, or three revolutions
(I think that it's a Mao idea, this three-step revolutionary change) are
pretty damn unlikely to start reappropriating their lives today. In fact,
they're a billion times more apt to stay totally dependent, dreaming (during
their off-work hours, of course) of the anarchist elite who'll come teach
them how to live when everything is better. I think that autonomous individuals
are generally much more effective than the followers of an elite.
Summary of concrete perspectives: Throw out these visions of "lendemains
qui chantent" (tomorrows that sing). Become conscious rather than
deluding yourself all the time. Reappropriate your life and start questioning
your own actions and ideas. And don't just try copying someone else's.
Transition: If you prescribe to the vision of a mass movement for the
global revolution with, as a goal, a better world that just arrives magically
one day, guided by some elite (to which, perhaps, you'll belong as well),
you probably have little problem with a structure that sanctifies political
specialists. It's just this kind of structure that would facilitate your
vision of the future.
But the path I'd rather follow leads in the opposite direction. It turns
sharply away from the role of activist, towards a certain coherence between
practice and theory. We need to find methods for self-organization which
create social and political alternatives in themselves. We need to aim
towards direct democracy, so that anyone interested can be really involved
in making decisions. Let's hangs the bosses and masters as those who would
think for everyone else, and so prevent us from thinking for ourselves.
Lets build the clear, coherent structure that will allow us to change.
- What use are marathon meetings of political specialists?
- To "work", to "make decisions". To like, make politics
(and here I differentiate the idea of "making politics" from that
of "being political"). Okay, so if its politics we want, let's
make them. But what good is a marathon meeting of more than, say, forty
people? No good, or not much at all. If any constructive discussions or
decisions end up taking place, they happen when only the most enduring participants
are left – the cream of the political specialist crop. How can the
nice people change the world if we're not even able to make fair decisions
about how to do it together? We need to try to put into practice some of
our ideas about decentralization and direct democracy, to encourage exchange
and reflection at the lowest organisational level, to think about breaking
up our meetings into several steps. Maybe with a rotating system of delegation?
And if there's too many delegates, how about we hang them! Or no, we add
further stages of decentralization. The principal of delegation should aim
to limit the centralisation of decision making, and remove some of the dead
weight of political specialists who do nothing but go to meetings about
meetings to see and be seen and to represent nobody's concerns but their
- To get together, network, share knowledge, blah blah blah…
(See the refrain, part 1)
Meetings in themselves are a really great chance to get together and shine
– if you're someone who likes meetings (read: a meeting specialist.
Boo hiss). But we could also conceptualize our marathon meetings in a different,
more open way: as an opportunity for public assembly and exchange. "Being
political" does not have to mean "having the deep desire to work
for the Cause by attending two, three, or four days of round-the-clock meetings".
So the people who like talking politics can talk politics, those who want
to exchange knowledge or skills or whatever can do that, and those who prefer
to relate to one another in a non-specific, non-constructive, non-rational
kind of way can do that too if they like… Break up all ghettos and
borders – those among activists too.
Summary of constructive proposals:
Aim towards decentralization and direct democracy and everything that goes
with them, never hold meetings of more than X participants. Which totally
doesn't prevent us from making places and time to get together and talk however
the hell we want, in a way that isn't interesting only to the cream of the
political specialist elite who like meetings so very much.
Okay, that's enough, I won't go on about the fact that I think the form of
structure should support a process of continual self-questioning. Or that
as we have to move out from Western Rationalism before we'll ever be able
to imagine global alternatives that aren't just reformist.
With that, gros bisous. Sweet, rational dreams,
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