A river that needs crossing political and tech blogs - On the political side, there is arrogance and ignorance, on the geek side there is naivety and over- complexity

My videos are on these two youtube channels visionontv 3,832,876 views and undercurrents 22,689,976 views


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Entries with tag organising .

10 days at Balcombe Protection Camp

Photo: Katherine Stanley


My experience at the camp was over all positive, and came away feeling that fracking is a completely winnable campaign.

I went to the camp to spend a week making media about the people, issues and organising of the #fracking protest camp. In stead of this media/video making, which am very good at I spent 10 days living on the camp trying to sought out many core issues.

* the dysfunctional camp meetings

* the draining camp fractions/dynamics/power struggles

* the tech tent

I will start with the tech tent, when i arrived the camp had no working solar power and all battery were charged (by grid electricity - fossil fuel) offside and driven in by car each day. No care was taken for the effective life of the battery’s so they were disintegrating rapidly by being excessively discharged each day. With 12v battery’s it is much more efficient (and safer) to run the camp on native 12v then use fragile/inefficient and potently dangerous 240v inverters as was happening.

The tech space was being ripped apart and trashed (by persons unknown) every night, leading to the problem that nothing permanent could be built or sustained, this lead to all the competent people leaving this core space. Each day new equipment would arrive and by the next day it would be broken, the solution was to then order more new equipment, the tech spending was spiralling out of control.

When equipment was ordered it was always the wrong type because of the politics/opacity of shopping - this was very damaging as it lead to more equipment failer and the strong possibility of electrical fire. This repeating power politics and unspoken agenda’s was the root of many issues.

I spent much of my 10 days on this problem, and by the end of the time we were charging all legal/camp/media/visiter phones on 12v solar power and had finally ordered the equipment to run the wider camp on solar power.

This was on order when I left:

Core permanent power for the tech tent

100w 12v x2 semi-flexible solar panels permanently affixt to the roof of the south facing tent

water/shock profer controller x2

strong water prof connectors

heavy duty cabling

Then we had politics - Experimental event charging (this was a political choice rather than technical)

1x250w 24v glass facing solar panel 

Voltage regulating Controllers to bring this huge 24v panel (20KG metal and glass) down to the 12v needed

This experiment system saves around 50 in cost but is a HUGE problem as its heavey and frigile if it is mixed up with our 12v set-up as this will lead to equipment failer and possibly fires.

The camp is in a permanent state of chaos with out some one in the space to mediate this chaos, and at time the will not be, then this experimental system has to be (at a minimum) installed/looked after in a physically separate space to the core stable power set-up.

Is saveing a small amount of money worth adding to this chaos?

Because of camp politics this essential equipment was not ordered.

GOOD CAR “cigarette lighter” connector banks x2 (branded)

6x double 5v USB car adapters (branded)

3x laptop 12v power supply’s with tips (branded)

Trust and control and the role of gatekeepers in blocking

Everyone understands the role of “gatekeepers” in traditional media. I want to look at how there are very similar issues with radical and progressive media. Most blocking and authoritarianism in activist organising is not conscious, rather its roots lie in psychological traits rather than ideological thinking. Everyone might be a professed horizontalist, but some are clearly not acting in the accordance with the way they think/speak.

An example of this is when the are two clear points of view, both valid and valuable, in a group. Typically, the horizontalist view is blocked procedurally until there is no time left in the process. Then the more vertical view is pushed through at the last moment to “save the process”. The outcome is very bad feeling between the groups/indiviuals and the more (dysfunctional) authoritarian view is implemented. This is problematic as it gives a clear signal to everyone involved that progressive ways of working cannot work, which feedbacks to the next process and left/progressive project stagnates. 
In general, building radical media needs to have no gatekeepers to the overall structure (just like that hugely successful progressive, horizontalist project, the internet). We need ideas of how we can work our way out of this progressive cul-de-sac and we need them soon. It seems to me that progressive organising is based on trust, and authoritarian organising is based on a need for control (and the distrust that this breeds). So does the answer lie in leaving enough time for trust-building in progressive organising as a core part of the process?

Power politics - In activist organizing prioritizes self-interest over outcomes

The is a lot of self destructive behavior in left/progressive organising, an old example the Monty Python sketch

Am looking at concepts that describe this. Power politics is a state of international relations in which sovereigns protect their own interests by threatening one another with militaryeconomic, or political aggression. 

Power politics is essentially a way of understanding the world of international relations: nations compete for the world's resources and it is to a nation's advantage to be manifestly able to harm others. It prioritizes national self-interest over the interest of other nations or the international community.

Techniques of power politics include, but are not limited to, conspicuous nuclear development, pre-emptive strikeblackmail, the massing of military units on a border, the imposition of tariffs or economic sanctionsbait and bleed and bloodletting, hard and soft balancingbuck passingcovert operationsshock and awe and asymmetric warfare.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_politics

Can people think of examples of how this manifests in smaller world of activist organising?

How we create a better, just, world with the people that are currently in the world rather than some theoretical people or class


It seems to me that after living through two explosions of protest DIY creativity, the CJB/anti roads movement and the climate camp are the examples am thinking about here. The are some lessons to learn. Both of these movements were “affinity group” driven at their core, that is a smallish groups (or interlocking groups) of friends – trust networks. They then built out into much wider community’s and movements.

Both were successful as long as this core – renewed itself – and rapidly fell apart when the core did not. In the case of the climatecamp the was a failed conhuse attempt to continue the organising in a open – bureaucratic - consensuses based way. Were the CJB flowed into the more political focused anti-globalisation movement – which burned out in the violence of summit hoping before becoming bogged down in the hierarchical infighting of the social forum movement.

Some thoughts:

1) the is an instinct for bureaucratic and hierarchical organising which is to strong to resist if the isn't a core healthy affinity group in place. Any successful group is likely to end like this if we take the second point into account.

2) Activist culture and affinity group forming has a strong (possibly necessary) tendency to exclusivity by lifestylism. This will exclude much of the diversity that is necessary for real sustainable changing community – be it in age, class, background, gender etc.

3) This puts a very real limit on the possibility of grassroots alternatives with the real people and cultures we are working with now.

4) the flow and use of the digital process may have a way round this by activity streams, self tagging and profiles – but this would have the cost of universal surveillances and transparent working practices – so would be a brave group of radical people to take this path in the face of possible state and corporate repression.

Where are we? Within its limits affinity group organising is fertile ground, but we need to build things out beyond these limits if we want a more humane society based on this grassroots organising. Current people, cultures and working practices do not do this yet ideas for changing this?

Am going to start blogging more about process in activist groups am involved in

There have been lots of private e-mails going around about the appalling process currently happening in the rebellious media conference organising community. So I thought I would take the most positive parts of each and try and move the process on. Firstly http://live.rebelliousmediaconference.org one surgestion “invite technically-savvy people to help build the site” as this is an open organizing site and the vast majority of the structure comes from the people using the site it is obvious that we need people to use the site (duh...) to build the structure with this in mind I have started a call out for interested people http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wisdom_of_Crowds to help do this.

Next issue coming up on monday. Am going to start blogging more about process in activist groups as there seem to be very recurring issues that would be helped by exposing to some scrutiny.

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