Building a Cohesive Vision for Infoshops
''or "What the fuck are we doing anyway?"''
We recently had a(nother) collective meeting in Chicago to discuss the "focus" of our infoshop. After some discussion, I felt frustrated because our direction was still ambiguous. Our present day paths were not being defined in the context of our future goals. This was because as a group we had not yet had a discussion of what our long term aspirations were, how to get there, and what that meant we should be doing now.
I felt a lack of long term goals was also present at the Detroit gathering. We had absolutely ZERO discussion on WHY we were doing infoshops, what our ideas of "the revolution" were, and what role infoshops play in achieving them. Not to slag off the gathering, it was definitely positive in many ways and served as a necessary point for us to meet, share experiences, trade knowledge & advice, and get inspired. But now that we've gotten the ball rolling, so to speak, we need to figure out what game we're playing, and what the best strategy is.
You may be asking, "Why is this necessary?" Well, I have found "lack of vision" detrimental in many ways. In terms of internal dynamics, I have noticed that those with a clear concept of their "political" aspirations have pretty definite ideas of what projects they want to be doing now, while those without definite long term goals are more likely to get involved with projects that feel good, and rarely start new ones themselves. This leads to informal hierarchies, and also to disparities in terms of taking on workloads and responsibilities, as some are more "driven" than others. Such imbalances then lead to problems inside groups on personal and political levels, etc... In terms of our infoshop network, political near-sightedness is dangerous, because without our own direction we can become easily manipulated into projects that aren't necessarily in alignment with our unclear goals. Thus issue-based politics get pursued instead of more revolutionary politics, or we get sucked into time-consuming spectacular politics like national days of action, which have little actual effect, and fall far clear of the impact of say, community organizing. There are plenty of ways to be an "activist" and do absolutely nothing effective at all (but hey you might look good and will definitely feel "active"), and if we don't have some theory-action praxis going, we are in danger of falling into such powerless protest modes. Not having revolutionary goals and ideas of how to get there also mean that we are selling ourselves and "the movement" short, by not living up to our full potential, and we will pose no real organized threat to the status quo. Having a lackadaisical attitude about politics, "the revolution", etc. puts us right alongside wishy washy leftists and liberals who, by their inaction and near- sightedness, end up supporting the status quo with no clear critiques or alternatives to offer.
I feel very strongly that we need to start having more discussion and political advancement as a movement. I'm not saying that we need to define our political line as a collective entity (although working out some collective goals would be great!), but that we need to start bouncing more ideas off each other and thinking realistically about how we're going to go about changing this world. This means discussing our concepts of revolution, what kind of "movement" we need, what roles infoshops (and other counter-institutions) play in that movement, and how they relate to the projects we are doing/should be doing now. I'm raising these vision issues now because I want to see them discussed in the pages of this zine, over the aaa-web, and everywhere else. I'm also interested in seeing political discussion and advancement be an equal focus to networking and skill-sharing at our next conference.
We've started to have some of these discussions in Chicago. They have in fact helped us to somewhat define our present day focus for the A-Zone; and a major part of that focus is having a space open for people to pass on ideas & experiences, interact & debate, teach & learn & be inspired. We want to increase the amount of "political education" in our communities so that everyone can develop their own vision of what revolution is, how to get there, and therefore what to do now. While many people have a vision of their ideal society, and some are anti- authoritarians because of it, many also don't have practical ideas of how to reach that society, and so they are missing crucial theory-practice and present-future dialectics in their politics (oops, sorry if that was too marxist for ya!).
This also raises the question of making our informal network more of a formal network. Do we want/need to, or should we just be doing MORE networking, MORE THINGS with our network?
I can see there being some resistance to having these discussions because the potential for conflict and alienation is high. We've all been conditioned by society to see politics as stupid, pointless, and not empowering, and it's hard enough just "making a living", right? Also, looking at the groups that compose are informal network, it's clear that their nature makes it a de facto radical anti-authoritarian network. So there is going to be some minimum political definition, whether we like it or not. That will inevitably exclude and alienate some groups and people from the network who aren't necessarily going in the same direction (this can be good and bad). Obviously, we want to avoid doing what Love & Rage just did (narrowing the politics and organization to further a specific anarchist tendency). We do, however, need to start discussing and developing theory and variety and differences are important for this so that real debate can occur. It is also important to network with groups that are outside our network, that may not necessarily be going in the same direction, but that we can work with, share ideas with, and learn from, as well as influencing them ourselves.
Not to be all talk, and at great risk to myself, I will now throw out some of my personal ideas and thoughts concerning these issues. Basically, I want to encourage some open discussion, so feel free to critique and/or support what I have to say.
Seeing as how we are a network of counter-institutions, I feel pretty safe saying we likely all see revolution more as a process than an event; and that process starts now with everyone one of us in our hearts and heads, killing the cops inside. Now I feel that revolution must include all people (altho we will doubtless have enemies and opposition), and the movement to overthrow the status quo and establish a new society must be popular and be working to establish that new society now, both in terms of personal dynamics and political praxis.
I see counter-institutions as playing a crucial role in this movement because of the concept of dual power: challenging the power of state and capital while also working against the insidious forms of hierarchy and domination that have worked themselves into every conceivable relationship, both in our movement and in society. I envision a strategy of self- organized, informed communities creating direct democratic, collective counter-institutions that fulfill people's needs (and take away their reliance on state institutions), while working together and confederating as needed to create a popular counterpower to the existing corporate and military structure.
I also feel that a distinct situation exists in the U$ in terms of its oppressed internal colonies (black, latino, indigenous nations, etc.), and that the strongest leash keeping white people from being revolutionary is white privilege, and so I feel it is the responsibility of white people to refuse and destroy that privilege and the social construct of race it props up, while providing solidarity and support to self-determined struggles of the internal colonies. So as a "white" autonomist, I am interested in developing counter-institutions, and especially infoshops, to be an information and support resource for communities for developing counter-institutions, while beginning the struggle against personal-social power dynamics, especially those of white privilege and "whiteness".
Ideally these counter-institutions will work to create "situations" that deconstruct the spectacle and affect people's consciences, as people are moved towards change most by direct experience. I am also interested in creating non-hierarchical ties of support and solidarity with counter-institutions developed by the colonized nations. I think a good start is developing a counter-institutional network to discuss these issues, provide mutual aid (see ad in this issue), and provide info and resources to other self-organized groups.
Well, that's a basic general overview. Trying to cram my politics into one bloody paragraph is kinda ridiculous, but what the hell. I should explain that I feel there is no "true theory" about the practice of revolution, but that there is a dialectic interrelation among theory & practice: "theory only advances as the support of the struggle, the practice only advances when it is backed by a theoretical construction". This is merely where I'm at right now, hopefully it will continually change!. Go at it.
I do feel there's a few particular questions that merit discussion in terms of infoshop focus. Primary is whether infoshops should function more as a resource for the movement or more as a resource for and organizing our neighborhoods/communities. In Chicago, we made the mistake of trying to be both when we weren't really prepared or skilled in being a community resource. One might point to the European infoshop network and how they are primarily for movement support, as they provide space for meetings and events, distribute literature, and have a fairly sophisticated info-sharing system including 'zines and computer networks. Yet that could also be looked at as detrimental because they ignored their communities as they isolated themselves from valuable support. In the U$, many of our groups are primarily white yet operate in non-white gentrifying neighborhoods, so the community role clearly cannot be ignored!
These are just a few off the top of my head. Others are developing an anti-colonial/race traitor perspective, security, ghettoization, etc etc etc . We have so much to discuss and figure out, and if we are serious revolutionaries, we should start doing so now!
So that's my rant, I'm going to end it with a list of some good reading material to spark ideas & discussion, and a list of questions we used at a recent Autonomous Zone meeting. Later.
thanks to mckay, kate, lee, and purple bruise for the feedback!
Some good reading
- Defining the Autonomous Struggle (article in Wind Chill Factor #9)
- Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat, by J. Sakai
- False Nationalism, False Internationalism
- Nightvision: Illuminating War & Class on the neo-colonial terrain
- Race Traitor: A journal of the New Abolitionism (the 2nd issue of The Blast! has a good article on this)
- situationist theory on the spectacle and creating situations
- Revolutionary Self Theory: A Beginner's Manual
- Anti-Mass Methods of Organization for Collectives
- Building United Judgement: A Handbook for Consensus Decision Making
- The Dispossessed, by Ursula LeGuin (good sci-fi depicting an anarchist society)
- From Riot to Insurrection
- Post Scarcity Anarchism, by Murray Bookchin
- The Irrational In Politics, by Maurice Brinton
Questions we recently discussed at the Autonomous Zone
- What is our/your vision of revolution and the society it will produce (realistically & practically)? How do we get there?
- What role will the infoshop play in that movement activity? What does this mean we should be doing now?
- What do we see the A-Zone looking like and doing 6 months, 1 year, 5 years from now?
- What is our current role in the neighborhood community and how do we see it changing?
- What is our current role in the activist community and how do we see it changing?
- How do we encourage other collectives and counter-institutions to form outside the A-Zone?
- How does the A-Zone operate internally?
- What makes people feel good about being involved here?
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