PGA Process

 A reflection on the structure of the PGA

author: p'tit punk - 27.08.2002 23:36


  1. Mass political gatherings are often at best reformist, at worst counter-productive. In any case, they offer no future.
  2. 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 movement, too.


  1. Mass political gatherings are often at best reformist, at worst counter-productive. In any case, they offer no future.
  2. 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 the PGA….

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….

  1. 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.


  1. 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:

  2. 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.

  3. What use are marathon meetings of political specialists?

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,

p'tit punk

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