Community activism - revolutionary or reformist?

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Joined: 11-12-03
Mar 30 2004 21:43
Community activism - revolutionary or reformist?

The newly formed, and very embryonic, Bristol Anarchists Network is to hold an open discussion meeting on Thurs 8 April, 7.30 - 9.30pm, at Easton Community Centre, Kilburn Rd, Easton, BSG. Below is the text of the flyer advertising it. Any thoughts? Why not come along?

‘Revolutionaries and Community Organisations’

A discussion meeting open to all those interested in organising without leaders, with introductions from a Residents Group in St Pauls, and Haringay Solidarity Group (London)

With the downturn in workplace struggles over the last 20 years, some revolutionaries have looked towards involvement in local community issues & groups as an additional form of struggle – such as residents groups, community centres and local single-issue campaigns (defending nurseries, traffic calming etc). Others have focused on acting with those within their own ‘activist scene’. Some of course have tried to do both! This discussion will focus on breaking out of the activist scene; the pros & cons of involvement in local community organisations; and questions like these:

· Is dealing with dumped cars, litter, graffiti, crack houses & prostitution revolutionary; an example of genuine community solidarity; or just NIMBY (not in my back yard) campaigning?

· Are active & successful local campaigns powerful evidence of organising amongst ourselves for ourselves, or do we just end up doing the Council’s/Government’s job for them?

· Just because people take direct action on local issues, does this make them revolutionaries?

· What is revolutionary about getting dragged into local processes like working with the council & cops?

· What do local people think about revolutionaries getting involved in their groups?

· How many people in residents/community groups would really support a non-hierarchical, non-capitalist society? Will they once they are more involved in their local community?

· Haringay Solidarity Group (London) have been active for 14 years, involved in many local campaigns, supporting & setting up residents groups, even helping to organise a council-funded but independently run community festival, whilst maintaining their own revolutionary beliefs. What can we learn from them? For more info on HSG see

Meeting organised by the newly formed Bristol Anarchist Network (BAN) –

PaulMarsh's picture
Joined: 26-09-03
Mar 31 2004 06:23

Would definately come along if I lived in Bristol as I think this is a really important debate now for Anarchists, and Anarchist organisations in particular.

I have changed my view on this in recent years, as the effect of New Labour on our communities has become apparent. Put simply nowadays politicians barely feel the need to guarantee even basic services in working class communities. They are not even interested in whether working class people vote for them anymore - they know that it is the middle class vote that matters. Our communities are being abandoned in a way that did not even occur in the Thatcher recession of the early 80s.

Given this, Anarchists adopting positions on issues we are unlikely to influence, often about issues in countries thousands of miles away, whilst services in our own communities crumble, begins to me to look increasingly odd, if not downright perverse.

Joined: 11-12-03
Apr 14 2004 00:36

I think 19 people showed up. There was a fairly positive discussion about involvement in local community groups, getting residents groups going, the pros & cons & pitfalls. One person made the point that involvement in yer local community was the most basic form of direct action, that really community activism is just day to day living - be it toppling a new mobile phone aerial, to slowing down traffic, to filling out a grant form (if you know how!), to helping out your neighbour. Fair point!