A contribution to the "Reflections on J18" collection.
J18 has managed to attract an amazing network of activists to work together, but I feel that a we need to clarify what we are trying to challenge. It is not enough to simply say we are opposing just capitalism or globalisation, the groups who have been working on J18 in the UK and many elsewhere are opposed to nationalism, war, centralisation, government, bureaucracy, sexism and a lot more. For a large part J18 identify with anarchism or radical ecology. For future proposals we need to debate more on how we strike a good balance between clarifying our radical politics and having a proposal that is simple, straight forward and inspiring for people outside our small political ghetto. We need to work on strengthening our radical diversity without falling into the trap of using vague liberal friendly language. In our efforts to build a huge anti-capitalist network we have attracted a lot of groups and it sounds impressive but unfortunately too many of them are liberal or are open to authoritarian or conservative elements. This is partly because of phrases like ' the longer the list, the better the action ! ' used in some early leaflets would have turned me of the entire event, if I didn't know the good reputation of the groups putting it forward. I guess you're never happy with a leaflet or proposal unless you've written it yourself.
- Decentralising, strengthen and expand our network/s ? By the time we are ready to start thinking about opposition to the start of next years G8 summit, I don't know if I will be interested in repeating the strategy of targeting the financial centres. Perhaps to encourage greater local organising we should break from having a lot of the organising happening in London, instead taking actions where we live all on the same day. Thirty actions against different parts of the structure across the country and replicated across the world, linking local concerns to the global system, might have more impact then focussing on the financial centres. Perhaps it is not as empower as having thousands and thousands in the streets in one place, but in terms of building our local networks it may be a better strategy.
- Keeping up the momentum built by j18 ? Focussing all our other actions or energies towards one big day seems to have caused many people to get burnt out. Personally it will be a long time before I can focus on helping organise an international campaign. I think I will tend to focus on smaller actions. J18 I think has neglected local manifestations of capitalism which effect us everyday in favour of the financial targets. While it is true that uniting against the big corporations and the symbols of the capitalist system is a good way to bring people together to show what we are fighting against, it is another to challenge capitalism and the state where we live and work. Easier said than done I know, but by doing isolated actions we loose sight of the bigger picture and often paint ourselves into single issue corners. Brighton has a monthly gathering of anti-authoritarian groups monthly under the name of the ' Rebel Alliance. ' Another suggestion made was that similar groups organising all over the country would be a good idea. Perhaps working towards a couple of nationally co-ordinated actions, some smaller international actions and a big international action once a year (or more !)
- When should tasks be made accountable to other parts of the network ? When should groups be left to their own and not be accountable to others in their network ? Obviously this is not for me to dictate but it is an issue we should be constantly questioned. In the past I have had experience of groups where raising consensus is a painful process where it has takes so long to make a decision that things take forever to gets done. My experience however with various meetings and responsibilities in J18 groups has been that sometimes there is not enough consultation between different groups. There can be a slight ' tyranny of structurelessness ', due partly to deadlines and because the demands we make of ourselves are really huge. Sometime information is being held in too few hands because of perceived security (and sometime legitimate ) concerns, but sometimes I have felt it is just an unacknowledged clique or desire for control, intentional or otherwise. When information is held in a few hands it is easier for infiltrators to fuck us up than if no one really had control of it. Having never been involved in something so big its hard to criticise when so many people have been working so hard, but it is worse not to act on it when it does happen. In the run up to a couple of big actions, and to a smaller extent J18, we have dedicated discussion time at meetings to banner slogans, posters other agit-prop etc only for the people who have been producing them not to receive that information, or to ignore it and do their own thing, sometimes with good results and sometimes bad, either way they end up deciding the message, that represents others. On one hand I wonder if I've any right to criticise when I am not there to produce the banner, flier, or other propaganda, from the original ideas to the finished article, particularly when there are many people dedicating more of their time to the actions than myself. However when propaganda is widely circulation and designed to represent or inform about the actions of a group, they should reflect the thoughts of the ' members ' of the group. Sometimes I have felt that individuals doing the work hide behind the words 'autonomously organised' when they are just pushing their own angle, intentionally or not in effect creating a hegemony on information and an ideological hierarchy. This always needs to be challenged, by bringing in new people and not overusing perceived security risks to close out people so that cliques are broken before they develop. This is not a not an original idea, unfortunately it is not put into practice enough, due to oversight or because some people have specialised skills which make them a valuable member of certain groups all the time. We need more skills training and outreach.
- Grassroots radical diversity. J18 as I understand it is an attempt to create a network of diverse grassroots radical groups to fight capitalism ( and the rest ), unfortunately we have attracted some liberals. I think we have attracted liberals internationally because we put out the message stressing a coming together of a diversity of struggles without making it clear enough what we mean, ( or perhaps being liberals they are just stupid ! ) These liberals if they continue to become part of a hopefully growing post –j18 network, will actually rob it of its radicalism and diversity; and fall apart because of all the liberal hacks. The point I am trying to make is we need to be a bit clearer to keep J18 and whatever groups we try and build after, radical and diverse. Centralised decision making structures and reform platform acts to oppose diversity. As well as being autonomously organised internationally, groups should be decentralised locally also. It seems that some groups abroad do not organise like this, I said earlier that I haven't had been enough consultation with people in different groups to have formed a definite answer, although the names of many of the groups and occasional comments of individuals in them give me some idea. Centralisation whether within Non-Government-Organisation (NGO) reform environment groups, in the form of union leaders, liberal or totalitarian states or within a fringe political party etc always enforces uniformity or 'mono-culture'. What is passed of as diversity by liberals pale in comparison to the radical diversity of grassroots autonomous ' communities of resistance. ' I am fine with J18 groups like Chikoko ( the grassroots indigenous resistance to Oil in Nigeria Delta ), groups like the Industrial Workers of the World, Earth-first!, Reclaim the streets from what I know of them as they encourage diversity and have a flexible vision of a world in which individuals have as much control of decision that effect them as is possible.
signed: anonymous and paranoid