Outline of 20 years ups and downs of grassroots activism in the UK
In my expirence the flowering of the indymedia networks followed by the first years of climatecamp were the high points of activist culture. The end of climate camp was the low point of activist culture, after this the drift to NGO and fashion was wide and dissipating.
Occupy was a break in activist culture, it was the first mass “internet first” on the ground manifestation that happened disconnected to the past of activism because of the use of #dotcons tools as prime organising space. The old couture has been discredited by the failings of climate camp, the new dotcon tools had been celebrated and used well by Ukuncut etal. Were Ukuncut was a reboot of old climate camp crew, Occupy was a project of the #failbook generation in all its wide reflective madness.
Were are we now? The old left is rebooting with a broken mix of the blairite right and the Stalinist/toxic left both pulling at the radical liberal centre. Alt media content is being rebooted but the network it needs to build, to stop its drift to NGO burn out is missing. The right is ideologically bankrupt and visibly grasping, but stronger than ever.
In activism currently we are full of the biter taste of occupy and NGO worshipping of dotcoms and careerism. The working of the 21st century is potentially different to the workings of the 20th century the are groups, networks and individuals that embody this and a larger group/individuals who fight for the past century working practices.
The “certainties of the 20th century” are grasped in our frail and trembling hands, the first stage of a “network” reboot is to let go of these “certainties” one constructive path to this is to fill in the gaping activist memory hole by looking at what works and what dose not. The lost and flailing progressive alt needs foundations bridging this gap to build on.
The IS NO SHORT TERMISM HERE but the is speed and nimbleness, plenty of fun, creative motivated building to be done. Many of the foundation problems can be built in parallel as a “network” so it can happen faster than most can imagine.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Am currently working on two projects to take steps to medate the issues I ouline here:
Where is our media?
Climate camp is a example of the transition from alternative media to social media. At the beginning of the Climate Change Movement Indymedia was declining. At the first two camps there was a healthy Indymedia centre providing internet, sustainable power and computers
There's always a stress between alternative media and outreach to traditional media. They're in competition and to a certain extent they ignored each other at climate camp. But for social change it is important for the two to go hand-in-hand. The outreach to traditional media should support the production of alternative media and alternative media should feed the best of its production into traditional media to amplify its voice. At climate camp there was only lip service to this happening, in reality the two groups split apart quite soon. Originally the groups were supposed to share the same physical space, but this did not last.
The agenda of traditional media outreach was about the shmoozing of traditional journalists.* Whereas alternative media was bogged down in providing real services in a field which to an extent is always dysfunctional. Like oil and water without a conscious emulsifier to hold them together they separated and throughout the life of climate camp the two never really came together. This happened to a certain extent because radical activists, and I use the word “radical” with "" marks, were prejudiced against people who do what is perceived as soft works such as media production. This is part of activist lifestyle. The spikey/floppy debate.
For a time activist/traditional media outreach ploughed separate paths both playing a role. With the growth of blogging and then most importantly social media - Twitter and Facebook. A new group of NGO focused careerists** championed this initially successful new tool. The traditional media crew ignored social media***, mirroring the attitude of traditional media to social media at those times. The more naive alternative media embraced social media as an effective tool for social change. The realistic alternative media reluctantly embraced it as another form of media outreach, a form of outreach that bypassed the gatekeepers of traditional media.
The growth of social media impacted grassroots alternative media in catastrophic ways. The software NGO careerists**** championed social media and for the naive alternative media people this was the panacea, the future, the one way to gain a voice. Interestingly the traditional media outreach initially saw social media as a threat but they soon with reluctance embraced it. The few remaining radical alt media people struggled to work wih declining relevance, their tools ageing and disintegrating. With the problems of geek culture they had no way to compete with traditional media or the new social media.
Social media took over activist media. Traditional media still had a role as the traditional media belatedly embraced social media and learnt how to use it.
As I highlighted my other article the problem of geek culture damaged radical alternative media. The failure of traditional media outreach to complement activist media led to radical activist media being sidelined. The growth of individualistic blogging while temporarily bolstering individual voices inevitably led to a decline of of our cultural voice. The final blow the wholesale embracing of social media pushed by the NGO careerists.*****
In all these failures we have come full circle to where we started with a dominant hegemonic gatekeeper media world. If we are to rebuild an open media we have to learn from these mistakes and make sure that we do not continue to repeat them.
Lessons to learn
* Work out how to overcome the limitations of geek culture for activist media. Open is the solution here.
* The politics of media. We need to make sure that there is emulsifier in place between radical grassroots media and traditional media outreach. To achieve this the social movements need to rein in and refocus the traditional media message. Media production IS “spikey” and core to activism.
* Radical grassroots media is always incompatible with NGO careerists.****** We need to build in strong enough foundations so that our architecture cannot be subverted by these privileged people. This is for their good and our good.
Conclusion, the most difficult part of successful radical grassroots media is social, cultural and political. In this it's essential that it is not technologically led. Actually technology is the easiest part of radical media. The tools and standards that we need always already exist. What is missing is the willingness and the common-sense to use what we have.
Organise the 21st Century
Lets look at how we acturly organise.
Garssroots alternative streams (and mainstream river with more complexity) can be split into a number of streams
* The horizontals
* The verticals
In the horizontals the organising is actually pretty opaque – lets look at the tributary’s
Organic consensus – this is rare and generally fleeting, a working example is the rainbow gathering, generally as the project settles into place organic consensus is replace with one of the bellow organising strategys. The organic nature comes form shared myths and traditions.
Bureaucratic consensus – common but this tends to be only a surface layer obscuring the actual working practices which would be one of the others. It leads to ossification, see late climate camp process as an example of this. A current project is looking likely the “edge fund”.
Opaque affinity group – the is a group of people who are doing it but you don’t know how or how to take on a role. A lot of alternative are actually run like this, middle/late climatecamp is an example.
Invisible affinity group – the thing just appears as if by magic – lovely as far as it takes you. Given time this will burn out and morph into one of the other forms. Early Climatecamp is a good example of this as is early Indymedia
Open affinity group – the is hope in this hard to sustain one an example would be the tech group at Balcoby anty fracking camp. These are hard/tiring to keep open “naturally” falling into a different strategy.
Then the verticals are more in the open
Democratic centralism (SWP etc) top down and corrupt, good for the nasty crew at the centre that can last a long time by draining new blood from the alternative. Big noise and little effect.
Bureaucratic democracy (NUJ) good as far as it goes but endless meetings and heavy use of cross subsidy to sustain the sluggish process, problematically reactionary dues to glacial adaptation to changes around it.
Career Hierarchy – most trade unions and the labour party, conservative and sluggish, can be captured by functioning opaque/invisible affinity groups and then used for their own ends – an example the new labour project.
Generally the way things are on the river surface bears little relation to the undercurrents bellow the surface. Almost all organising that achieves social change is by opaque or invisible affinity groups. The more permanent static alt infrastructure is Democratic centralism or Bureaucratic democracy. The parts that merge into the mainstream river are career Hierarchy.
We live in turbulent times, enjoy your ride on the choppy river.
Where are we - an example of what works
An example of what works.
At Balcome the anti-fracking camp last summer we built a “visible affinity group” to do the power and tech for the camp. This was successful in providing working off grid energy for the camp of more than 200 people for 2 months.
However it wasn’t with out problems and did fail to build on this success when the time came to reproduce this open working model at the next camps over the winter.
How we made it work, a time line:
* Clear the space of the dysfunction by imposing open working practice's.
* This opens the space for functional working which has been excluded by the dysfunctional pushy minority.
* Open working practices nurtures talent and energy the space growers and blossoms, good shit happens.
* A tiny minority of seriously dysfunctional individuals will actively try and destroy this flowering, some emotional violence will inshuew in process of excluding them.
* The wider camp will become used to a working tech space and normality will settle back into place, at its best this is rinsed and repeated for each part of the camp.
* People will start to forget the open processes as artificial, constant vigilances is needed here to keep openness relevant and in place.
* As the camp is packed down a open meeting will bring this amnesia to the surface as everyone has an equal voice and the focus (affinity) that created the flowering will be trampled under the widening of the groups members.
In the horizontal alt the are only two successful working practices, most organising happens by “invisible affinity groups” climate camp and RTS are examples of this. Rarely “open affinity groups” are also successful, examples would be early Indymedia and this tech at Blacome.
I love affinity group organising
A ruff DRAFT
I love affinity group organising, its a very effective way of getting good stuff done. Lets look at the highs and lows of a few such inspiring groups.
First 2 years climatecamp were affinity group organised (manifested), it worked very well, the was no “democracy”. Process grew and smoothed this in-till the project “ossified” into the naive mess that you see in the film “just do it”, it went down hill when bureaucratic consensuses process brought a highrahcky into existences run by people who had no idea how to do real/horizontal things.
The first few years of London hackspace were afferently group organised (hacked), it was a exceptional frendly and open space, with few fundemental problems. Only later has it started to fall into the arms of “bureaucracy” which some naive people might call democracy. The common space, decision making and creativity are now “ossified” and the trolls are breeding and dispoling the decision making e-mail list.
In both cases the transition came about because of the limitations of affinity group organising – that small close nit groups, while nimbale/very effective move on. The resulting spaces are then filled with less imaginative/creative/lovely people who leave the space open to trolls and blind ego wankers.
Affinity group organising is the best we have for anerkist/libertarian/horizontal ideas about life, but the is no working horizontal process for passing on responsibility to new affinity groups – thus they are annual flowers, they fade and die too soon to be a real alternative to traditional society. What can we do about this?
The same happened to UK indymedia, though that was also different in some ways.
Balcombe - anarchist and conservative
Interesting to think about the things you are involved with and the things you do. Important to understand am not talking about the sciences or polatics of fracking here, am lifting the lid to see what I can see under the hood of both camps.
I had been staying in the Balcombe Protection Camp (BPC) for a week and was walking back from spending a few hours at the climate camp (RCP) along the beautiful bridal way, this seamed to sum up my feelings about the two camps. "#Balcombe protection camp is conservative and anarchic #reclaimpower is anarchist and conservative, thoughts on #frackoff camping”.
In the BPC we had a dysfunctionally colourful collection of disparate groups with the stongist being different “conservative' voices. But the overall process was arcnerkic in a creative way. Then at RTP we had a very functional mono-culture over all young and progressive lead by a affinity group of ex-arnercists who now largely work for NGO's.
Why would I call both camps conservative? Looking at the ongoing power struggles of BPC it becomes easy to see that the strongest voices are thoughs who have the lest progressive agenda’s – underlining it all are the squirearchy, they have the hands and fingers on the money, media and web sites. Then the is there natural allies’s the disempowerd working class who control the welcome centre and share responsibility for the money. Added to this you have the family history of occupy who some how fill this country space...
In the climatecamp (RTP) we have a odd mixture of old school lifestay anarchists and new professionals moving up the NGO pole. The meetings are slick, and all the decisions are made before the camp starts – this works very well as a one off and with funding might continue. Though am not shore if the few remaining “anarchists” will continue with this? Excelent actions, soughted pro tredtional media team, food, power, tolits and grhate legal backup. What more do you need? yes... that is a Q. a few peopule were asking...
My second comment a few days latter “Came back from #Protest #Fracking with the feeling of a Brothel of media prostitutes and corporate (media) cock suckers. Where is the balance of the (alt) contemporary media today?” both camps are hungry for traditional media coverage, the seams to be little belief or understanding left for alt-media or even social media.
A reply from Richard Hering “Where is the alt media? You could start here and watch all the videos http://grassroots.visionon.tv/fracking and if you want the latest, embed the player in your blog or site...” is like a cry in the dark and is ignored by both camps.
So neither is very progressive, but both have space for much more progressive input, you can turn up at both camps and as long as you are not relying on centralised resources you can have a big impact so both are relatively open as progressive spaces. In this seance they are both still temporary autonomous zones in the old anarchic speak.
I would like to make alt-media really work at such spaces. Todo this you would need:
1) a sorted team of people (3 would be a start)
2) own solar power and basic equipment
3) a big tent/small markey/carport
4) a budgit for transport and expesise
Then turn up and make things happen – we did this very successfully at Kingsnorth Climatecamp.
Control freak's (DRAFT)
(Psychology) an obsessive need to be in control of what is happening http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Control_freak This has been an issue with many groups and individuals I have been involved with in activist organising.
It was key to the decline of the http://indymedia.org.uk project and the ossification the climate camp process and static nature of the climate camp website http://climatecamp.org.uk My most destructive experience of this till recently was the organising of the London European Social Forum, and the central role of the SWP and Ken Livingston's office in this. Currently I am involved in the organizing of the http://rebelliousmediaconference.org and I would like to highlight how this process is being damaged by Control Freakery during the on going process.
RMC (Peacenews) process and “pushing the agenda”
During the first meeting I attended a single speaker talked continuously for ¾ of the meeting, constantly expressing the lack of time and the need to move on – this is called “pushing the agenda”.
Taking charge of the minutes – and constantly not reporting the views in the record of people who do not fit into this pushed agenda.
Packing and controlling the agenda of each meeting, then pushing through this agenda, leaving no time or space for differing views.
Then when the inevitable rebellion happens blocking this procedurally in till it becomes irrelevant to the outcome of the project. Nitpicking might be a good way of describing this blocking. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micromanagement is used as weapon to stop productive open organising and to shut down process outside of the “pushed agenda”.
Its hard to put your finger on what is wrong at the start of this process but as you go along it is soon made clear that it is a deep intolerance, a lack of trust and narrowness of vision that verges on stupidity.
As one of the core organisers of the RMC conference highlighted it is very hard to change this behaver, some back ground reading on the problems http://www.ec-online.net/knowledge/articles/control.html
Issues that make this behaver more of a problem:
* Lack of solidarity among the organising group
* Unbalance of knowledge of the core differencet approaches in the RMC this has manifested as lack of understanding of technological change.
The ecology of hash-tag organising (DRAFT)
A look at ideas around Ukuncut, which grew from the winding down of the climatecamp movement.
The recent police violences at the student demo's is nothing new - rather a new group of people are experiencing systematic police abuses.
The recent police violences at the student demo's is nothing new - rather a new group of people are experiencing systematic police abuses. This film is about what happened at the Kingsnoth Climatecamp 2008, at the big G20 demo after this they killed a man.
The harassment and exclusion of legal observers, the violent arrest of women refusing to be searched, the aggressive interrogation of local residents, the threatening of journalists with arrest for doing their job, the confiscation of 100s of items such as childrens' costumes and crayons, attempted dawn raids on the camp, the use of batons and CS gas against peaceful protesters, and the forced search of 1000s of people and the adding of their personal data to a secret database. This type of political policing has to stop, and the right to legitimate protest re-established.
The Ratcliffe Swoop prosecutions caused a backlash against activist media that reverberated around the Edinburgh climate camp. We were not present at the Ratcliife Swoop, and played no part in the gathering of video there. When we saw footage posted of identifiable activists doing criminal damage, we were astonished, as throughout the history of video activism this has been an absolute "no no", without the express consent of the activists pictured. We immediately took this material down from visionOntv accounts where it had been posted, and told the Ratclifffe media team why we did so. Regrettably the footage was later re-posted by the producers to accounts outside of our control. Having said that, as of writing, we have been unable to find out any details of the prosecutions and exactly which footage was used.
But as a response I (perhaps naively) thought it might be helpful to try to do consensus/affinity group process with activist film at the Edinburgh climate camp. To kick this off, we showed a sneak preview of END:CIV on the Saturday to a crowd of around 50-70 people which sparked off a good and respectful debate about aesthetic of activist film and the old spiky/fluffy debate about effective action. People came away challenged and thoughtful.
The next day after the action on the RBS HQ we showed the rough edit of it to get feedback and make sure it was OK to put out. It was enthusiastically received but there was also a very forceful verbal attack of “you must do this” “do it now, or you are endangering activists” and a refusal to answer simple questions about “why” in exchanges with one person. Finally, after some bad feeling, I found out that she had seen an “object for causing criminal damage” being held by one person in the film. OK, that is a genuine issue, so I agreed to look at it again. I asked her to show me where it was in the film but instead she rushed off to tell everyone that climatecamptv had refused to remove the “weapon” and that we were putting out films that were endangering activists. This led later to many different groups and individuals coming along to have their say over the next day about how the film should made.
See later where this led.
I had watched the film 3 times during editing for legals, and had shown it to to a number of other trusted people. After we had packed up the screening we looked at the “object” on the video and found it to be a plastic horn not an “object to cause criminal damage” at all. Humm... a storm in a teacup you would think, but read on.
Let's briefly go through it - the film of the action had a few legal issues.
* The pushing on the bridge (possibly assault) leading to the earlier dressing-up sections (unmasked) being possibly incriminating of this possible assault.
* We had no video of the breaking of windows (criminal damage) thus this was less of an issue in the film. Nor did we have film of any identifiable possible perpetrators.
* There was one additional shot which could potentially have been "creatively" used by police to prosecute an activist.
* The bridge-pushing was problematic as all the activists were unmasked, with all the FIT team on the roof and 3-4 corporate media TV/photo actively filming. Many photos/images would be available so on the one hand it was clearly done in the open, and therefore accountable. On the other, if they were charged, our video would likely be used in the prosecution, both for and against the activists. It's an issue we face many times and it unless we know otherwise we have to have to err on the side of caution. Without the opportunity to ask them whether they were accountable thus OK to show it or not, we decided to blur this section – rendering the need to blur the early stuff irrelevant as we now had no incriminating video of this “crowd” action.
The other potentially incriminating shot was removed, at the request of the individual filmed.
After running it past the affinity group made up of CCTV/visionontv crew and some trusted legal support we left it to a volunteer to polish the final edit for showing that evening before putting out to the web. In my experience you can never run a film past an audience too many times before it's finished from both a legal and an aesthetic point of view.
The day of action was very busy, and we were all running around filming. While we were out and about a number of people came in to look at the earlier action video being edited and asked the editor to make changes – he responede to their requests and made a lot of changes to hide and obscure many details throughout the film.
When we saw the film in the evening just before the screening we were shocked. Editing a film by committee is always a disaster and the film was now an incoherent and sinister mess making climatecamp look like a bunch of criminals. We now had a film we couldn't put out. This wasn't our volunteer editor's fault, it was a problem with the process we had begun but were not around to control. To top this, at the end of the day the editor had found the people who were at the front of the bridge-push and they had made it clear that they were unhappy being blurred out as it was the best thing they had done in ages. They were willing to be accountable for their actions, so we didn't need to thus put any obscuring in the finished film.
We now had to re-do the film from an earlier version. It was dark and we were late for the nightly screening, we had one computer to gather all the films up and convert then to the right format and re-edit this film – we decided it wasn't possible to screen the action film and concentrated on showing the other 9 finished but less exciting films we had ready. We started the screening with non-action films to cries of "we want to see the action". So an old version of the action film was rush-encoded and was ready half-way through the screening. Unfortunately this contained the ptoentially incriminating shot we had earlier taken out, and was screened to about 40 climatecampers. NOT good. Another person had a very solid go at us...
What did we learn from this?
Should protesters never trust any video/photo on an action OR should they trust video activists as THEY know what they are doing?
For me, not trusting experienced video activists leads to the very real danger that through bureaucratisation it pushes the working affinity group structure underground and renders it ineffective – the option of bureaucratic/consensus process isn't an option with film which is at its best a skilled creative story-based process.
But now we have to deal with the rumour mill which quickly churned around the "weapon" / plastic horn issue. Rumour has more power than truth when there isn't a functioning media. I heard the misinformation that we had put out footage of window-smashing weapons three times while leaving the camp to get home. And that's why I wrote this post as this rumour could distort the very real pro/anti-media debate in activism which needs to happen in a constructive way.
On the subject of social media and underground/wannabe mainstream film-makers/photographers, there are very real dangers that is the subject of another post.
A brief history of activism
This is a DRAFT
#Occupy has become bureaucratised and continues as e-mail lists and side projects, not very active.
#ukuncut has become institutionalised. Still active - presser protests in conjunction with NGO's
#climatecamp The anarcho' s left and most of the rest got jobs in NGO's a few continue in other campaigns. It has run its course, the influx of liberals had watered it down till its DNA failed. The healthy ones went onto Ukuncut. Fuckup, not conspiracy sadly. A spattering of global projects remain.
(google trends not accurate)
#submedia still banging the radical drum
#Indymedia failed from the opposite resion the activists excluded other groups in till the weren't a healthy mix left. Then the group dwindled by exclusion and inbreeding till its DNA was two narrow to evolve when it needed to change with the growth of personal publishing. It was replaced by blogs then corporate social networks. Still exists.
The are still some active IMC's would be intresting to look at why some are still working?
#undercurrents burned out of funding then failed to re-new with the fund-raising charity side not feeding into the active political production side. The charity/NGO side then shrank and dispersed. Still exists
(google trends not accurate)
#schnews had some lean times but seem to have survived in the radical project Though clearly fading on this graph of web searches
Good activist media
Lets get positive for a moment What has worked in Alt/radical media?
DRAFT – looking at two contrasting successful activist media strategys.
When indymedia started in 2000 in the UK undercurrents the radical news organisation I was working for had played a role in its founding running a ALPHA build of the server code that the IMC sites were built on in 1999 at the reclaim the streets party in the city of London. A number of the undercurrents crew were involved in the group that setup in the UK IMC site and had its first outing at mayday 2001?
I used the site to upload images and videos on the day. I intaly had my doubts that such a radical experiment in OPEN publishing could work – so was a supporter and user of the IMC project before I became more fully involved – going so far as to found a regional IMC in Oxford. Soon after setting up in London the IMC project exploded around the world leading to the setting up of over 30-40 global sites and numerous IMC projects such as video, radio and print newspapers. Before blogs (and social media) the self publishing idea was a huge global success, oftern rivaling tredtional media on the audiance of the events it covered.
Climatecamp media team were a very nice bunch of people who successfully shaped and shifted traditional media coverage of climate issues in the UK (and around the world) . Rather than spend energy building there own media they focused on playing the traditional media and were very skilled at doing it – most have since gorn onto full time work doing the same for prominent NGO's.
So we have two differing but equal successful strategy for radical media, activists can and do do real affective radical media.
How do we organise from 19/09/2009
This was copied over from the visionontv process page:
This is the process of the visionOntv affinity group so far (an affinity group is a trust network)
At the core of any affinity group is a core/periphery relationship and a usheraly unspoken way of moving between them.
At base, the project is DIY for core crew:
* For simple changes and improvements, just do it. If you think people should know, e-mail them.
* For major changes (e.g. changing key text on the front-page), run it past people first, including those who may disagree.
* There should generally be time to put up everything you can as a draft to the wiki page so others can have input. For really big changes, talk to everyone, and call a meeting if people feel it is needed.
* If someone keeps fucking up and ignoring the process call a meeting.
* When the project has grown start a weekly online meeting for people to update everyone on what they have been up to. And as a way into the affinity group.
Do everything you can in public (ONLY stuff that needs to be is ADMIN only)
If the trust network breaks down, and they do sometimes, then people should do different projects. And by doing well in their project re-build the trust based on common understandings. Trust is built by doing core things that need to be done and lost by talking about doing things or just taking up time and space with no outcome. If anyone is terminally annoying then in the end they will go away - it's best not to feed the trolls.
Thoughts on alt-organising from 2007
Alt-grouping and sustainability
This isn’t a statement of truth more a way to help look at a recurring problem, and to help active participants to mediate the problem to a better outcome.
It is to do with the sort of people who get involved at each stage of an alt-project's development. This is of course a generalization as people do fall into more than one grouping and shift between groupings during the project. Written from 10 years of direct practical experiences of the many different alt-groups that share the same dynamics.
First to look at the terms used:
Getting things done people
Are more interested in things happening than the process, though their process, as far as it goes, tends to be good otherwise they wouldn’t “get things done”.
Are the unsung heroes who do much of the work but receive little recognition. They are the “sustaining” core of any alt/project.
I am using the term in the positive sense to mean those who create and can work in structures. They solidify the project and thus sustain it, but when caught up with the “theorists” (who they are attracted to) and the “life stylist” groupings, they can institutionalize the dysfunctions as much as the original function.
Are a troubled “category” in alt-projects. The “consensus decision making process” tends to marginalize them as nobody has a “larger say” than anybody else. So their input, whether good or bad, tends to be submerged into “lifestyles”. Theorists who have come through any of the first 3 categories should defiantly be listened to with positive (but critical) ear. However this rarely happens as, as with the sort of “critical input” you are reading now, they have a tendency to come across as unfriendly to the majority of the project at stage 7 (the gathering) when these voices are most needed.
Grow out of the “hangers on” and are drawn to any open successful alt-project. At their best they “metamorphose” into one of the other categories and sustain the project. A sustainable alt-project has a clear and open way of facilitating this transformation. (or on the other side/more regularly is a functional closed project which also helps to keep the lifestyle drain to a minimum)
Project time line
1) “Getting it done” sort of people with inner drive start a project.
2) Soon mixed with “working people” and the few “bureaucrats”.
3) “Getting it done” people start to specialize into parallel projects. The weight of the project starts to fall onto the “working people” and increasingly the “bureaucrats”. We start to see “theorists” coming out of the first 3 categories and coming in from outside. “Hangers on” start to gather and a pronounced “lifestyle” side to the project begins to emerge.
4) The “getting it done” people start to burn out or move completely onto other projects. The “bureaucrats” start to be central to sustaining the project supported by the “working people’. The “lifestylists” start to form into groups around the “theorists”, and the "working people" are drawn into these groups.
5) The project is at its height but also starting to decay. Hopefully it can stay at this plateau for a period. The core project is the bureaucrats supported by the “working people” who are not fully caught up in “lifestyle” groupings. The lifestyle groups hopefully give as much energy as they take, but they are starting to exclude new “working” and “getting it done” people until the project starts to become dysfunctional.
6) The few remaining “getting it done” people with the longstanding “bureaucrats” and “working people” start to react against the decay, which sparks a debate amongst the “theorists” and “lifestylists” which generally paralyses any affective action to rejuvenate the project. The “bureaucrats” and “getting it done” people, alongside the majority of groups, call for a gathering to attempt to rejuvenate the project.
7) The gathering suffers from “the tyranny of structurelessness”, leading to a renewal of good will, but the consensus of the gathering exclude the “getting it done” and long term “bureaucrats” as they feel they cannot impose their view on the group. The consensus is created by the “life stylists” and “theorists” who have no or little experience of “getting things done”. Thus generally achieves little and refuse to even see the root causes of the project decay.
This process repeats itself with more or less success for a time depending on the particular nature of the project. For only practical action will keep the “bureaucrats”, “working people” and the now distant “getting it done people” engaged.
One of the parallel projects started by the “getting it done” people then draws the “working people” and “bureaucrats” that haven’t burned out into a new cycle. The burn-outs return to mainstream organizing/life.
This has been an attempt to give people a glimpse into the churning activist world, and help them make informed decisions on how sustainable to get involved – I hope it helps in small ways.
The role of "blocking" in horizontal projects
Mannequins dancing to barely visible strings (DRAFT)
This is an attempt to understand how blocking is used to stop/slow positive social change. By blocking I mean many things, refusing to address core issues, pushing everyday agenda’s to hide more systematic issues, and confusingly using big issues to distracts and fog everyday needed changes.
Outcome-driven horizontal projects are hard to sustain. I understand climatecamp process ossification better now - there is a strong blocking to process change - the continuing pushing of the needed change is blocked thus the change gets harder (more vertical) until it ossifies and becomes non-functionaly strong enough to break the block (thus breaking the horizontal process it is trying to achieve). End up with a broken structure that cannot move or change.
So the issue is "blocking" which largely is a psychological fear of losing non-existent certainty - ie. the false consciousness (cf Marx) of capitalism - Thus the moniker "stupid individualism". The root out of this is to work a way round this "stupid individualism".
Rainbow Gatherings manage this - by forcing scarcity, in visionontv we don’t have this option, in Rainbow you are moved into a world where all the normal options are simply are not there - thus change HAS TO HAPPEN - it's an intentional community. "Stupid individualism" simply becomes too dysfunctional in this situation to stop change. This is at the heart of rainbow process. In our situation, on the internet, in media there is no scarcity, so “stupid individualism” reigns supreme and unstoppable.
An issue is that many people will self-define what I am saying at this point - BUT will not engage with it - The writer is being a "stupid individual" and this would be the case if the writer was not actively engaged in a real social project.
"Trust networks" are the solution to "stupid individualism". With this understanding I have a more sympathetic view of climatecamp process. The derided “process people” suffered from ossification as much as the wider camp. And I am arguing that this is a re-occurring issue, so the individual who were left pushing a empty agenda are less at fault than the systematic issues that they haven’t addressed.
Its important NOT to take personal responsibility for this as the is a dead end block in using this as a solution to this problem. Maybe more useful to seeing us as mannequins dancing in a circle twitching to barely visible strings. And the circle we are in - is not the right one. We need a new circle with some different strings (some of them more visible) and to start a new dance.
The blocks: what participants feel are the tangling of strings, the process they are trying to unravel so as to make a new circle to dance in. We are all attached to strings, so get untangling. It's the strings NOT the messenger that stops you. Help is needed trying to untangle and re-set some strings, perhaps the messenger is trying to help? try not to shoot
In this post I attempt to untangled a string (climatecamp process wasn’t as bad as i thought it was). Which string are you going to untangling? "Stupid individualism" is the trap we have to avoid, but we are getting more and more snared in it - on all sides.
The danger is that we are talking about parallel things and more tragically - thinking along parallel divergent lines - "stupid individualism" is strong and kicking and the more we kick the more entangle we become - leaving little hope of a new dance - by the way dance is a metaphor for process and strings are a metaphor for the very human senses of belonging that we need for society to hold together.
Does it end well I wonder - it never has in the past, but one can keep coming at a problem from different angles. Maybe this time it might. Thus am NOT taking any personal responsibility - just seeing us as mannequins dancing in a circle twitching to barely visible strings. And the circle we are in - is not the right one. We need a new circle with some different strings (some of them more visible) and start a new dance.
Were do I come from politicly?
Thinking were we come from... mainstream bohiminasm, hippy drop-out culture, Greenham, CND, vagabond, labour party, student, squatting culture, protest camp culture, DIY community group organising, undercurrents, internet utopian's, Anti-GM direct action, coupuratewatch, risingtide, indymedia, summit hoping, anti-war direct action, mainstream alt-tv, rescuing/ running a community centre, European social forum/SWP, visionontv, climatecamp, Rebelus Media Confunce, occupation movement...
Collective statement from some individuals affected by recent infiltrations Various 2011-03-02
This statement has also been published at http://dysophia.wordpress.com
A group of people involved in radical action around the environment and other social struggles who have been involved with and been affected by recent exposes of infiltrators have come together to create a joint statement on how the issue has evolved and been represented in the media.
We are issuing this statement in solidarity with all those, in the UK and beyond, who are facing charges or have been affected in any way by the work of the undercover agents recently discovered.
We are a diverse group of individuals who have been involved in radical action, including actions based around the environment, for close to 20 years. This has included organising the Stirling Eco-village, the Camp for Climate Action, Earth First! Gatherings, anti-GM decontaminations, as well as many other forms of social struggle. We have been up trees, down tunnels and on the front line. We have taken beatings from the police and received convictions for the pleasure, and we make no apologies for our belief in direct political action.
The media frenzy that followed the collapse of the second Ratcliffe trial was met with an equally frenetic flood of articles and comments in the alternative media. Many of these were infuriating and/or very depressing, particularly as all the anti-media comments posted on Indymedia seemed to conveniently forget the fact that the site was one of the main sources of information used by the journalists covering the story.
It is difficult to convey what we feel without falling into the same contradiction. Many of us who were very close to the situation wished to remain anonymous and refused to join in the flood of opinions and speculations. This was an attempt to avoid or at least not to feed into the media (and Indymedia) craze. This refusal to take a public position seems to have been interpreted as acceptance or even active participation in the media strategy.
Historically we have always tried to rise above the 'society of the spectacle' and it is has proven to be an important strength. We hope that comrades in other countries can comprehend the complexity of networks and political positions within the UK, and understand that the very public position taken by a few individuals in no way represents us all.
The environmental movement is not the only network affected by the recent exposures. We are all involved in different struggles beyond environmental concerns. Many movements, from animal rights, to migrant solidarity struggles have been targeted. Marco Jacobs was connected to the No Borders network, Lynn Watson to the peace movement. Mark Kennedy began to make connections to the animal rights movement, and had a ongoing interest in anti-capitalist struggles within the UK and across Europe. These are just some examples.
Despite this diversity, there is a tendency to refer to 'the Movement' without distinguishing that there is a broad range of social struggles taking place in the UK and elsewhere. These struggles often overlap, as is the case with our own activism. It is a mistake to suppose that the environmental movement is capable of representing all of the other social movements that have been targeted by the police in this case, and there has been little recognition of this by the people dealing with the media. This has shown not only a lack of solidarity with these struggles, but has explicitly played into the rhetoric of 'good' and 'bad' protesters.
Now that the sensation seems to have died down, we are making this statement in the hope that it will undo some of the damage that has been done.
How the ecological movement is being portrayed in the mainstream media We feel that self-selecting individuals and groups have gone to the media with a strategy that presents a movement of gormless idiots, that is totally ineffective and of no threat to the State, in order to argue that the placement of undercover officers is 'unjustifiable' and 'over-policing'. This is a very dangerous position to take as it facilitates the repression of those who are being identified as a genuine threat.
Regardless of the intention behind them, the statements that have been made in the mainstream press appeal to a narrow sector of middle-class, left-wing liberals. Downplaying our radical tendencies is not a way of broadening the appeal of radical environmental demands. If anything, the very opposite is true, as anyone who has done stalls in the street is able to tell you.
[Indymedia does blah. Content is good, and free to use for non-commercial purposes under the Open
Content license. if you have questions, email someone.]
We are angry at the way the movement we have been so involved in has been portrayed, with such a profound lack of basic political understanding. We want to be clear we that are not trying to make things 'a little bit nicer' or tweak the system, we are challenging capitalism and the dominant ideology as being responsible for the ecological destruction of the planet.
The very nature of what we aim for is in direct opposition to the system, and it is therefore no great surprise that the State and corporations target us. The more economic damage that is done, or the more successfully the dominant paradigm is challenged, the more inevitable infiltration becomes.
As anarchists, we believe in solidarity, and autonomy. When we take action, we do so because it is an appropriate response, a valid tactic. We reject, therefore, the way in which several individuals have presented their 'story', in connection with infiltrators, as having been persuaded to act by them.
State informers have been used for hundreds, or even thousands of years. We have been dealing with and exposing police and informers as long as our movements have existed. Our aims are radical, and repression from the powers-that-be has always been expected and dealt with. We object to the way history is being re-written.
Relationship with the mainstream media We are concerned that the relationship with the media is coming to define the eco-defence movement and its actions. It is clear that the media has been given preferential treatment on access to materials
and this is breeding distrust (as clearly demonstrated in recent clashes on Indymedia). We reject the notion that the likes of
The Guardian and The Independent newspapers can ever be part of the solution to the problems we face.
Our story is strong enough that we will get the media attention regardless. We do not have to change who we are to satisfy
the wishes of these for-profit companies and their advertising agendas. High profile liberal journalists are not our natural
leaders or spokespeople. While the media is (at times) an important tool for activism, pandering to it is a dangerous spiral to
ineffectiveness, damaging the integrity of the movement in the long term for shallow, short-term goals.
Relationship with the police and the State The tone of many of the statements made to the press implied the need for
'reforms' or better regulations for undercover policing. We would like to stress that we do not want 'better' or 'more ethical'
Some groups and individuals have used the mainstream press to call for police reform. However, in reality, the actual
result is an ongoing consolidation of power within the Metropolitan Police who have taken control of the 'domestic extremist'
units, including those which ran various of the infiltrators. The police exist to protect the State, private property and profits. To
do this they use infiltrators and sleep with militants to get information. They also beat people in police cells, and frame people
for crimes they didn't commit, etc. etc. Superficial reforms will never change that. Even if a public relations battle has been
won against the police and other infiltrators, they will no doubt regroup and continue their activities. Pretending that they can
be reformed is not just dangerous but serves to legitimise their on-going existence.
The victories of our movement will not
be won through The Guardian nor in the plush offices of civil liberty NGOs. They will be won on the streets, in our
communities, in the fields and in the forests. The ecological defense movement and the other struggles we are involved in
have grown strong because they have stepped outside the political campaigning/lobbying box and sought change from
multiple directions, such as working directly with communities, taking direct action and causing economic sabotage. Today,
lobbyists with very different agendas from our own, are using the space we forced open, and we should stop helping people
co-opt our work.
“Those most affected” The press and others have placed a morbid emphasis on sexual relationships in these cases. This
totally ignores the complexity of human interpersonal relationships and the range of emotions and experiences involved
here. We have all had different kinds relationships with one or more of the undercovers recently exposed, and feel very
uncomfortable by the assumptions made in statements and actions that took place in the wake of the media frenzy. Attempts
by third parties to define the abuses of trust experienced by the people who were close to these infiltrators (often in the name
of 'solidarity') have been extremely disempowering.
Unfortunately, some people (not just from the UK) have put pressure on people to act and to talk to the media without
considering their own personal well being, and the impacts this could have on others. We call for practical solidarity through
awareness; respecting everyone's individual boundaries. We want to discourage people from talking publicly (or encouraging
others to do so) about relationships (again, of any nature) without considering the wider implications for others who are also
[Indymedia does blah. Content is good, and free to use for non-commercial purposes under the Open
Content license. if you have questions, email someone.]
dealing with this. We request that people make no assumptions and only talk from their own experiences.
Moving on This has been a difficult time, but it has also made us aware of how lucky we are to know so many people who
continue to act with dignity and integrity, and to be part of networks of resistance which stretch across the globe. The process
of the wave of exposures has revealed many false unities in respect to our politics. We call for solidarity and respect across
networks, we need to consolidate our allegiances and to support each other. The State will continue to use surveillance and
infiltration, and we hope that valuable lessons are learnt from this process, and not forgotten.
Notes  This statement was put together through a collective process that involved approximately 15 people, the majority
in the UK but a number across Europe as well. It includes people who were close to the exposing of various police infiltrators.
The point of contact is firstname.lastname@example.org - comments & feedback can be sent to this address.
 For more background on the story as it appeared in the Guardian see http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/mark-
kennedy http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/surveillance http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/activism
 There are many threads on Indymedia relating to this, however, some key 'debates' are at
 BBC coverage of Ratcliffe trial & interviews http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDttEnl8r34&feature=related
This statement has also been published at http://dysophia.wordpress.com/
Why aren't more people using animoto to tell there stories?
Its strange that more campining groups havent been useing animoto as its a perfict way for non-filmakers to tell a story with video as can be seen by this letter to the met film which when't viral with over 40K views which is a lot for an actavist video.
Find out how to do it your self http://visionon.tv/photo