The conference began with a general meeting to welcome the participants and discuss the agenda for the day. The Des Moines and Ames groups handed out a proposal titled “Principles of Unity”. We then split into workshops of six people to discuss points of the proposal. Each group contained at least one person who had worked on the proposal. In each of our groups there seemed to be much confusion, if not disagreement, over the principles, which seemed to reflect a Marxist influence. Most people in ours and other groups never got past debating the first two points. They were 1. “Members of the organization will strive for ideological unity:, and 2. “Members of the organization hold a dialectical materialist perspective”.
We then returned to a 2nd general meeting where one person from each of the ten groups gave a report. Many didn’t seem to understand what was implied by the terms used. The principles seemed vague. They were never discussed fully or clarified sufficiently during the entire conference. After the reports were given, several arguments began. Everyone seemed defensive and there was much heated debate. It was suggested by the Iowa group that we once again number off into workshops to discuss points brought out at the first workshops. There was disagreement with this method of dividing into groups of six and some suggested alternative ways. One alternative was to separate according to one’s willingness to work with Marxists and another to divide into the groups with the same tendencies.
The meeting lagged on and the disagreements became less coherent. People became restless. We adjourned for lunch. Some individuals posted announcements of workshops to be held in the afternoon. Of the two major groups, one group consisted mostly of those who were interested in forming an organization which would umbrella all “libertarian socialists” per se. The other group wanted a strictly anarcho-communist network in the Midwest.
A general meeting was held again. The first group distributed a revised proposal of “The Principles of Unity” that was simplified and open-ended. They also proposed a newsletter to discuss different ideologies. The second group decided to read material concerning anarcho-communist principles to eventually, over a period of months, build a foundation for a communications network. There was $13.40 collected for the cost of the first communique.
Discussion of the principles of unity dominated the rest of the afternoon. Many of the people felt the debates were becoming irrelevant and ego-orientated.
A women’s caucus was held after the general meeting. It was brought up at the caucus that the general meetings were male dominated and had sexist undertones. Many women agreed with this point and decided to bring it up at the next general meeting.
After the events of this first day, it seemed to us that many people were discontented and the issues muddled.
The next day practical workshops took up most of the morning. Those workshops provided instruction on a variety of skills such as offset printing and graphic layout. The feminist workshop along with others were held that afternoon. It was decided to limit the attendance to women. At this workshop, several topics were dealt with but none were discussed fully because of inadequate time. There seemed to be an uneasiness amongst the women because of lack of familiarity with one another. Although the early part of the meeting was stilted, when there were disagreements, they were discussed rather than argued. We felt the strongest outcome of the meeting was a basis for further communication. The exchanging of addresses helped alleviate the isolation many women felt as anarcho-feminists in their communities.
Overall, the conference seemed regimented and far too limited in the time devoted to discussion of other proposals that had been brought to the conference. For us, the most positive aspect was an opportunity to meet other anarchists with whom we can work to form a strong and viable anarchist organization. We hope future conferences will be more open to A) rational critisism, B) less structure and C) less male domination and more female participation.
Obviously, we could not attend every single workshop and caucus; therefore, these opinions are based on both our own experiences and talks with individuals throughout the weekend.
We are very interested in hearing from other women and hope they will contribute to future issues of Network Notes. ***Mimi & Susan
(note: reprinted from Anarchist Feminist Network Notes numero 3. Write c/o Resurgence P.O. Box 801, Evanston, Il, 60204)