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(en) <caravan99> From resistance to revolution I (1/2)

From autonomousrevolutions@gmx.net
Date Wed, 21 Mar 2001 05:35:58 -0500 (EST)


 ________________________________________________
      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E
            http://www.ainfos.ca/
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Hi there!
Several people have expressed interest in discussing about alternatives at
the European PGA meeting in Milano. The attached text might be interesting for
the discussion, and hopefully it will also be an interesting reading for the
trip to Milano. It is the last chapter of the soon to be published book
'Restructuring and Resistance in Western Europe, Diverse Voices of Struggle'. For
more information on the book or to order a copy, write to
resresrev@yahoo.com
Have a nice trip!

--
GMX - Die Kommunikationsplattform im Internet.
http://www.gmx.de
>From Resistance to Revolution
Replacing capitalism with networks of free, autonomous
and self-reliant spaces
A Western European perspective

When this book was about to be finished, the editor
proposed a title which included the word 'Revolution' to the
authors of the chapters, most of whom are actively involved
in anticapitalist movements in Western Europe. Some
expressed very serious reservations about it and the hope
that it would not be used, arguing that this word is too
deeply associated with the disgraceful atrocities and
despotism of communist dictatorships, or that the idea of
revolutions in this continent is nothing but wishful thinking.
One even said that he would withdraw his chapter if this
word would be included in the title of the book.

This anecdote reveals the extent to which a very basic and
necessary concept has been appropriated by the advocates
of hierarchical and despotic bureaucracies. As a result, those
who uphold revolutionary ideas in this continent are seen by
most people as violent nostalgics of grey tyrannies, as
anachronistic and demagogic power freaks. Even by people
who believe that we need 'a drastic and far-reaching change
in ways of thinking and behaving', in other words… a
revolution.

This is more than a semantic problem. The negative
connotations of this term have led to an unprecedented
erosion of our revolutionary imagination which, together
with the objectively impracticable conditions for large-scale
social change in Western Europe, have led many people
with anticapitalist and antiauthoritarian convictions to build
their own alternatives away from the rest of society, or to
focus on restricted areas of work where they feel that they
can at least achieve some concrete results (like denouncing
the practices of certain transnational corporations, working
in fair trade shops, campaigning against temporary job
agencies, on narrowly defined environmental topics, etc).
Consequently, a great deal of potentially revolutionary
energy and creativity ends up in remote places with very
little interaction with the rest of the world, or pursuing
processes of gradual transformation within the existing
architectures of power, rather than working towards the
collective construction of totally different social, economic
and political relations.

This chapter aims to encourage those who reject the existing
social order, but also oppose centralised power structures
and hierarchical regimes, to reclaim the concept of
revolution and redefine it through practices that go beyond
the framework of nation-states and classical (and
increasingly outdated) conceptions about the working class.
It takes a strong stand in favour of diverse, self-determined
and decentralised (but connected) revolutionary strategies to
create free, autonomous spaces that relate to each other on
the basis of equity and respect. It doesn't give recipes about
how these spaces would look like or what would be the
process to construct them, since it proposes autonomy and
decentralisation in both respects, but analyses a few critical
factors that could hinder the process.

But more than anything else, the chapter invites those who
identify with the new and rapidly growing 'movement'
against capitalist 'globalisation' to reflect collectively about
how we can move from resistance against the institutions
that embody capitalism to the construction of different
relations between humans and with the environment. About
what organisational processes could stimulate the kind of
social change that we so often speak about. And about how
to express all this in a language that is understood by people
around us and a praxis that gives space and encouragement
to many people from different backgrounds to participate.

This appeal is not motivated by romantic, aesthetic or
dogmatic reasons. It is motivated by the conviction that the
social and ecological devastation caused by our economic
system will continue to worsen at increasing speed in the
next few years, striking very large sectors of the Western
European population, and provoking a crisis of political
legitimacy unprecedented since the creation of nation states
in our continent. This process is already opening political
spaces with a tremendous potential to change society,
expressed primarily in the so-called 'anti-globalisation
movement'. But if we don't analyse and act on alternatives
soon enough, these spaces could well be occupied (as is
already happening) by authoritarian and hierarchical
ideologies with a coercive and top-down approach to social
change and a proven record of disasters, atrocities and
oppression.

Maybe a discussion about revolution is not the best starting
point for this debate; in any case, it will hopefully be
controversial enough to stimulate a lively debate.

The death of an illusion

The slaves of the 21st century don't need to be hunted,
transported and auctioned through complex and
troublesome commercial networks of human flesh. There
are plenty of them lining up for an opportunity to work
away their lives for a salary of misery in the export-
processing zones of the South, most of which prefer to
exploit young women. Others mortgage their future to
moneylenders in order to finance the hazardous trip to the
booming areas of capitalist development in the North,
adventuring into the murky depths of clandestinity,
vulnerability and exploitation as illegal immigrants. The
governments of the countries that they leave behind, the
former colonies where Western nations deployed inhuman
tactics to get access to resources and take over economic
control, where so many people sacrificed their lives for
'national liberation', are now competing with each other to
attract foreign investment (the same capital that has abused
them for centuries), finding new ways to help anyone
willing to 'invest' a few dollars to multiply them by abusing
workers, trashing nature and taking control over people's
lives.

This is what capitalist 'development' is delivering to most of
humanity today. It has reached such a level of sophistication
and cruelty that most people in the world have to compete in
order to be exploited, prostituted or enslaved if they want to
survive.

Since the Second World War, most of the population of
Western Europe has benefited from the material outcomes
of this model. Our countries concentrate a great deal of the
wealth looted by global economic interactions, by the on-
going deterioration of the terms of trade for the
commodities produced by Southern countries . The welfare
state distributed a minimal part of that affluence, enough to
protect most Western Europeans from the crudest forms of
capitalist exploitation and at the same time promote
consumerism (See chapter 55, Broad Alliance for the
Welfare State).

In this period, most Western European governments have
also devoted substantial chunks of their budgets to policies
aimed at balancing the inequalities between different
regions, in order to compensate partially the natural
tendency of capital to concentrate where it finds the best
conditions. As shown in different parts of this book,
competition has already concentrated most of the production
and consumption in privileged regions and metropolitan
areas of Europe, making the rest increasingly dependent on
subsidies (See chapters 43, 44, 47, European Cities, Urban
Sprawl, and Disturbing Features on the Spanish Horizon).

But the redistributive policies that limited social and
regional disparities are rapidly disappearing. The
accelerated expansion of capital, provoked by an economic
system which requires continuous growth and accumulation
to survive, has made even the largest national and regional
markets too small for most industries to survive.
Consequently, the framework in which business operates
has gone far beyond the national and regional frameworks
where policy is made, compelling governments to orient
their policies to the needs of capital, in an attempt to keep
the largest possible share of the cake within their countries.
The most important factor that business takes into account
when making these decisions is profitability, which is
naturally reduced by the taxes needed to fund redistribution
policies. Therefore, it will not take long until these policies
become part of history. Along with them, the social and
environmental regulations that restrict the 'freedom' to
exploit and destroy are slowly being removed to promote
competitiveness (See chapters 26, 53, Social dialogue,
social pacts, or social Europe, and Environmental limits-a
brake to growth and globalisation).

The elimination of redistributive and environmental policies
on our continent is still in the early stages, but it is already
having devastating consequences for a lot of people
(especially women, the elderly and children) (See chapter
56, Convergence and the end of Welfare) and regions (See
chapter 47, Disturbing Features on the Spanish Horizon).
Eventually, social relations will probably be determined
entirely by competition between people and regions, and
growing numbers of Europeans will see themselves
excluded from production and consumption processes, or
with positions within them that cannot guarantee a life in
dignity. This trend will certainly intensify in the next years,
encouraged by the growing economic role of highly
sophisticated knowledge and technologies, which have an
even more accentuated tendency to concentrate in particular
regions (the so-called 'global cities') than traditional
industries. It is also a normal phenomenon in a world where
the expansion of capital has reached geographical limits
(since there are almost no new territories to be conquered
and exploited) and accumulation happens more and more on
the basis of market concentration, by bankrupting, merging
with or taking over the competitors. This exacerbates the
existing trend to the formation of global oligopolies, making
the owners of capital increasingly powerful (See chapter 8,
Mergermania).

Hence, unless something very spectacular happens in the
next years, many people in Western Europe will soon be
faced with social conditions similar to those faced currently
by the poor in the South, as is already the case in the USA.
The Northern governments will surely continue using a
wide range of tools to make sure that the massive
macroeconomic gap between North and South continues
growing (from trade agreements (See chatper 11, The EU
and the rest of the world) to the direct use military force,
disguised as 'humanitarian interventions' or as 'war on drugs'
(See chapter 62, Global military strategies for the
millennium), but this will not translate in a good life for the
majority of the population, it will only expand the influx of
economic refugees. Social tensions will increase
dramatically as wealth concentrates in fewer and fewer
hands and regions, making growing sectors of the
population unable to meet basic needs and forcing them to
live in appalling environmental conditions . The illusion of
the benevolent state and a socially and environmentally
sensitive capitalism that can provide welfare, abundance
and harmony for all, already heavily questioned, will in all
probability soon be gone. Its decay is already providing a
perfect context for the growth of fascism, xenophobia and
exacerbated nationalism, already visibly strengthened all
over the continent as analysed elsewhere in this book (See
chapter16, Popular racism in corporate Europe).

All this is not only (not even primarily) caused by policy
choices of national governments. These are of course
responsible for their decisions, particularly the governments
that apply neoliberal policies with unnecessarily sadistic
dedication and those which promote, either directly or
subtly, nationalistic and xenophobic reactions. But the main
engine of these developments is purely economic. The only
way to stop the social and environmental deconstruction of
Western Europe would be to stop the expansion of capital,
which means to abandon capitalism and shift to a different
economic system. Any government that would do so would
make its economy the target of a massive attack by all the
important economic forces of the world, which would not
tolerate a challenge of this kind (especially not in Western
Europe). This is a cost that no government is prepared to
bear, regardless its pretended ideology. Consequently,
'representative democracy' is becoming, more than ever
before, a set of useless mass rituals (elections, referenda,
etc) and bodies (parliaments, senates, etc) with less and less
room of manoeuvre to make independent decisions in the
most important policy fields (See chapter 26, Social
dialogue, social pacts, or social Europe?). Their continued
existence responds to the need to legitimate the repressive
machinery of the state, increasingly active in these times of
global social tensions (See chapter 62, "If struggling for life
and freedom is a crime, I am also a criminal").

Similarly, the disappearance of social and environmental
policy in Western Europe is not really a consequence of the
policies of multilateral institutions such as the World Bank,
the International Monetary Fund or the World Trade
Organisation (which do bear a lot of responsibility for the
accelerated disintegration of most Southern and Eastern
countries), not even of the European Commission or any
other EU body. These institutions are essential tools and
symbols, but not originators, of the economic processes
described above. Even if they would want to, they would
not be able to slow down these processes, much less to give
a 'human face' to capitalism by regulating it at the global
level, as advocated by the dominant trade unions (See
chapter 26, Social dialogue, social pacts, or a social
Europe?), most NGOs, etc. The best example of this
impossibility is that the very few positive and binding
results of the cycle of conferences that the United Nations
did in the late 80s and 90s are becoming tools to legitimise
further destruction and exploitation, as is the case with the
Climate Convention (See chapter 63, The United Nations
are terminally ill). Similarly, if the World Bank and the IMF
would suddenly stop all Structural Adjustment Programmes,
nothing much would change since the same role that these
institutions were playing in the 80s and 90s has now been
adopted, in a much more efficient and less visible way, by
the conveniently private Credit Rating Agencies that
determine the behaviour of the large investment funds that
shape the global economy .

Consequently, all efforts to reform or 'democratise'
supranational institutions are, in the best case, a complete
waste of time. Although they present themselves as
'pragmatic' and 'result-oriented', they have not made any
difference at all in the destructive nature of policies that are
designed to satisfy the needs of global capital.

Global autonomous resistance

These needs would still exist, and continue to be equally
dominant, if the international institutions that fulfil them
would disappear. But the recent Global Days of Action
against bodies such as the WTO, IMF and World Bank (See
part 16, Summit Hopping to the Bank),  by successfully
attacking their legitimacy and questioning their very
existence, have opened up a space to think and act against
capitalism that would have been inconceivable in the North
just three years ago. Each one of these mobilisations has
motivated growing numbers of (mainly young) people to
organise themselves in autonomous action groups, and has
awakened the consciousness of large sectors of the
population and received their sympathy due to the
embarrassment that they have caused to very powerful
institutions and governments.

The anticapitalist communication networks through which
these groups have been coordinating themselves and
preparing the global days of action, particularly Peoples'
Global Action (PGA) (See chapter 66, Our Resistance Is as
Transnational as Capital), have enabled a large number of
groups and activists from the North and a diversity of
experienced grassroots movements from the South to get to
know each other and to increase their contacts. These
networks and the string of successful global actions that
have taken place since 1998 have put into practice the
slogan 'Our Resistance will be as Transnational as Capital',
which became globally known during the second Global
Day of Action in June 18th 1999 (See chapter 69, J18-Good
ideas spread like wildfire). Now all the institutions that
symbolise global capitalism know that, no matter where
they go, their meetings will be disrupted by decentralised
civil disobedience and direct actions.

The success of these global actions and networks comes to a
great extent from the fact that their articulation is based on
autonomy and decentralisation, not on bureaucratic
structures and unequal power relations. This philosophy is
also reflected in the PGA manifesto:

There are many diverse ways of resistance against
capitalist globalisation and its consequences. At an
individual level, we need to transform our daily lives,
freeing ourselves from market laws and the pursuit of
private profit. At the collective level, we need to
develop a diversity of forms of organisation at different
levels, acknowledging that there is not a single way of
solving the problems we are facing. Such organisations
have to be independent of governmental structures and
economic powers, and based on direct democracy.
These new forms of autonomous organisation should
emerge from and be rooted in local communities, while
at the same time practising international solidarity,
building bridges to connect different social sectors,
peoples and organisations that are already fighting
globalisation across the world.

These global, decentralised and autonomous connections
and forms of action have already provoked a shift in
awareness and understanding for many people, who in view
of their success have decided to actively participate in them.
Within a very short time, the idea of resisting capitalism has
become a reality for many people who until recently were
overwhelmed by the apparent impracticability of such a
large undertaking, or who were not even thinking about it
until they saw that it is possible (and very satisfactory);
even for some who, focused as they were in very narrowly
defined campaigns, considered that talking publicly against
capitalism in Western Europe would be counterproductive
because of its historical connotations.

This excellent transformation in the political landscape of
Western Europe (and North America, Australia and
Aoteoroa, and to a lesser extent also of the South, where
anticapitalist awareness and action has always been much
stronger anyhow) is obviously related to the visible and
appalling effects that globalised capitalism is having all
over the world, but these have already been manifesting
themselves for a long time without catalysing the social
response that we have witnessed in the last years. This
response was to a large extent induced by the enormous
appeal of the free articulation at a global level of diverse,
equal, autonomous and self-determined identities and forms
of action within spaces of mutual support. The mobilisation
potential of these networks has much of its roots in the
conscious rejection of power structures and of leadership
struggles within 'the movement', which preclude the
possibility to 'capitalise' politically our collective efforts by
any agenda or ideology. Such forms of articulation were
already identified in the past as particularly effective by
feminist thinkers such as Biddy Martin :

What leftists have criticised in the feminist movement
as fragmentation, lack of organisation, absence of a
coherent and encompassing theory and the inability to
mount a frontal attack may well represent
fundamentally more radical and effective responses to
the deployment of power in our society than the
centralisation and abstraction that continue to plague
leftist thinking and strategy.

Spaces for revolution

The recent internationally coordinated actions against
capitalism have enabled the anti-authoritarian and anti-
hierarchical collectives and activists to partially overcome
the retreat provoked by the history of communist regimes.
Consequently, in the last three years we have come a long
way out of the closet of political self-restraint. However,
until now we have used the potential of international
decentralised and autonomous anticapitalist networks
primarily to take the streets for protests and blockades, and
for a limited (though very interesting) exchange of ideas and
practices.

We have not yet explored to what extent these tools can
help us to construct self-sustained, non-hierarchical spaces
to create non-capitalist livelihoods, take back control of our
own lives and realise our ideas about free and equal social
relations with environmental sensitivity, exempt of
economic exploitation and of 'all forms and systems of
domination and discrimination including, but not limited to,
patriarchy, racism and religious fundamentalism of all
creeds.'  Inclusive spaces articulated in international
networks of mutual support and exchange, and with room
for the active participation of many people, motivated either
by their ideas, by the dreadful conditions of life that society
offers them, or just by curiosity.

There have been autonomous anticapitalist spaces in Europe
for a long time: excellent experiences of collective
ecological lifestyles free of coercion and exploitation, social
centres with space for autonomous political participation,
local networks of alternative economic exchanges, etc. But
most of them are either quite disconnected from wider
processes of social change (which is especially the situation
of most rural alternative communities), or have very limited
possibilities to solve the everyday problems of excluded
people, since they base their self-sufficiency on totally
normal economic interactions (like the social centres that
sustain themselves with bars and parties). And, although
there are brilliant exceptions to this, in general they are also
rather closed spaces, countercultural retreat areas where
people who do not share certain political standpoints, and
sometimes even aesthetic preferences, usually feel rather
unwelcome, resulting in homogeneity and sometimes even
sectarianism.

This is reasonable in the social context that is still
predominant Western Europe (excepting in specific regions
and social sectors such as the undocumented immigrants
(See chapter 23, 28, "Caravan for the Rights of Refugees
and Migrants" in Germany, Declaration of migrant domestic
workers), where the basic needs of most people have been
covered, and consequently the main reason to participate in
these spaces has been either political or aesthetic
predilection. However, the dreadful effects of globalised
capitalism are radically transforming the political landscape
of Western Europe.

The idea of constructing autonomous and self-reliant
livelihoods could very well become a real option for the
people who suffer most from increased competition and
decreased redistribution, who are either excluded from
production and consumption by this process or profoundly
unhappy with the precarious and insecure places reserved
for them. At the same time, the regions excluded from the
dominant economic networks, unable to compete in an open
market economy other than as waste sinks, will not really
need to make major decisions to opt out of the capitalist
logic, since they are already being pushed out of the game,
watching their economies decay and the subsidies shrink
(See chapters 47, 49, Disturbing features on the Spanish
horizon, The eastern countries-a mouth watering morsel for
the EU to choke on).

Consequently, in the next few years the construction of self-
sustained spaces with equal and non-exclusive social and
economic relations could become a real alternative for many
Western European people and regions with no 'use' for the
system. But this will not happen spontaneously, especially
not in a continent where most people expect the state to
solve structural problems, 'create jobs' and make sure that
the basic needs of all the 'citizens' are covered.

People who see this expectation as naive and unsound in
times of irreversibly globalised capitalism will have to work
hard for the transformation of the dominant political culture
before excluded people and regions start to seriously
consider the idea of free, autonomous and self-reliant spaces
as real alternatives with relevance for them. This will only
happen if they see that they can expand their possibilities,
improve their quality of life and increase the control over
their destinies by changing the frameworks and principles
that shape their understandings of social, economic and
political relations. This implies making visible that self-
defined autonomous groups of people can substitute the
nation states as spaces for decision-making and for the
resolution of conflicts, that relations of cooperation,
solidarity and equity between fairly self-reliant groups can
substitute monetarised exchanges and money, and that
overcoming oppressive social relations that are deeply
entrenched in the dominant culture (including sexism,
racism and religious fundamentalism of all creeds, but also
more subtle forms of domination like consumerism) can be
liberating for everybody, not just for those who are visible
oppressed by them. This might seem a herculean task, but it
might be easier than it seems, for several reasons.

First of all, representative democracy is rapidly losing
legitimacy in Western Europe due to the obvious
contribution of all governments, regardless of their
ideological composition, to the social and environmental
crisis that is starting to manifest itself in our continent. The
same process is also likely to undermine the legitimacy of
the state as an institution, because of the increasing
repression that it is likely to apply in order to protect
concentrated wealth, with hardly any positive function or
democratic legitimacy to help balance its image (See part
12, Your best friend may be your worst enemy-the myth of
the "Weakening State").

As mentioned above, the reaction of many people to this
process is to yearn for authoritarian regimes (fascist or
communist) to re-nationalise the economy, but fortunately
most people in Europe still have a strong historical memory
and refuse such 'solutions' for their problems. This can boost
the social receptivity and sympathy to other possible ways
out of the crisis which reflect positive ethical values (such
as freedom, equity, environmental awareness, etc).

Consequently, depending on how we collectively respond to
the globalisation of capital, we might construct a future with
increased freedom and control over our lives, or face bleak
perspectives of authoritarianism, control and (quite
possibly) war and devastation. Most probably, we will have
to deal with a mixture of both, but the balance will depend,
to a great extent, on our own decisions (See part 3, An
invitation to revolt, and it ain't necessarily sweet…).

Second, we have already constructed international
decentralised and autonomous networks that within a very
short time did the seemingly impossible task of making
global capitalism a controversial issue for social discussion.
The combined effect of these diverse voices articulating a
collective (though not necessarily identical) message in a
horizontal and decentralised way has been a pleasant
surprise. Before these networks came into being, these same
voices, acting in relative isolation, could not have expected
to have such an impact in such a short time. As expressed
above, their success is deeply related to their conscious
avoidance of divisive and unnecessary structures of power
and representation, in order to prevent bureaucratisation and
promote autonomous participation. The same principles and
global connections could have equally astonishing results if
they were used to collectively construct free, autonomous
and self-reliant spaces, and make them visible and (at least
partially) accessible to all people who are not happy with
their place in society.

Finally, the construction of these spaces, in contrast with
other responses to global capitalism (See chapter 26, Social
dialogue, social pacts, or Social Europe?), only depends on
the determination, optimism and creativity of the people
who want to do it. It is in our hands to make it happen, since
it doesn't require any state intervention (rather, the opposite)
or change of government. And the construction of such
spaces can be done without much money (especially in
excluded regions), searching for ways to reduce the need for
cash as much as possible. Furthermore, the global networks
have shown that we have, within a short time, collectively
achieved surprising levels of organisational, technological
and communication capacities. While they might not yet be
sufficient, and sufficiently shared, to make non-monetarised
economies based on solidarity a viable alternative, the way
in which they are increasing is a good reason to believe that
it soon we will possible not just to survive in such spaces,
but to live a good and self-determined life.

Once there are spaces of this kind functioning successfully,
they will surely inspire the creation of many more. These
immediate revolutions in the social, political and economic
relations can bring about real change in a much faster,
effective and self-determined manner than any grand design
for taking over power. However, many obstacles have to be
surmounted before these noble purposes become a vibrant
and dynamic reality.

Identity, diversity and participation

As mentioned above, many spaces of this kind already exist, but
most of them are quite inward-looking. Many have only limited
connections to wider processes of social change, particularly at
international level (though many of them are very active at the
local level), and most of them don't make much of a conscious
effort to reach out to people who don't share their political and/or
countercultural views, maybe because those who make the efforts
are often not very successful. For instance, many of the social
centres that would want to be an open space for their
neighbourhood end up attracting only the people who see
themselves reflected in the aesthetic outlook of that space. This
limited outreach derives from their fact that these spaces are
normally constructed by relatively homogenous groups of people,
who often define their collective identity in defensive or escapist
terms, reflecting a mentality of resistance that distances them from
the rest of society (See chapter 23, "Caravan for the Rights of
Refugees and Migrants" in Germany).

If we want to break out of the ghetto, we will have to take up the
challenge of putting into practice the ideas that most of us defend
about the importance of diversity, sacrificing the security,
predictability and simplicity that come from relatively closed and
homogeneous collective identities. This would not only reduce the
tendency of those who see themselves as 'politically aware' to see
themselves as 'too cool to mix', it is also a positive step on its own
merits, because fighting for autonomy without diversity and
respect for the difference is a very dangerous combination, with an
important authoritarian and reactionary potential. Furthermore,
collective homogeneous identities are based on conventions of what
are appropriate behaviours, ideas and values; they consequently
undermine the freedom and autonomy of the members of the
collective (even when they accept the conventions voluntarily),
partially deny people's own particular identities, and introduce
risky dynamics of power and leadership, and in some cases even of
oppression. The self-denying capacity of these dynamics are
highlighted in a critical pamphlet about the 'animal rights'
movement, written by someone who was actively involved in it:

The ghettos that spring up around single issues, political groups,
religions, tupperware mornings, etc. do come about out of a
common desire to belong, to be part of the world, to be involved in
a real community. But time and again this is reduced to playing a
part in the world and corresponding to a set formula of phoney
social identities... To 'fit in' it helps to adopt the same opinions,
postures, attitudes and even vocabularies. Every fashion is an
example of people refusing to think clearly for themselves, [about]
the nature of their life and its relation to society as a whole.8

This is a complex issue, since there are obviously behaviours,
values and ideas that cannot be accepted, no matter how much
they enrich the diversity. But the limits are subjective and up for
discussion. For instance, some people consider eating meat as
almost equivalent to fascism, while for others it is the most natural
thing in the world; similarly, there are different approaches to
sexist or racist behaviour, depending on its perceived importance
and degree, and the list could go on forever. Consequently, spaces
characterised by diversity are bound to foster disagreement, which
is actually positive since disagreement nourishes creativity and
change. But then again, this does not mean that we should
embrace a relativist perspective, or that collective values are
necessarily a bad idea. On the contrary, they are indispensable,
but they become a problem when they are approached in a
moralistic manner, leading to homogeneity, sectarianism and
isolation, and often also to ugly power relations.

A good way to create alternative political and socio-economic
spaces with room for difference would be to consciously avoid the
creation of political communities with precise boundaries and
identities (such as parties, associations, assemblies, etc.) as
frameworks for decision-making and action based on people
'being members of' or 'belonging to' them. This has been the
standard way to articulate political, social and economic life since
time immemorial, which explains why most people seem to need
such a feeling of 'belonging' to work collectively with others. But
in fact it is perfectly possible to go beyond single political
communities by thinking and acting within different layers of
affinity and free interaction, by combining several fluid and
interconnected spaces of communication and cooperation, from
small local groups to large global networks, without 'belonging' to
any of them. In fact, all we need in order to act and cooperate in a
context of partial disagreement, on the basis of our own identity, is
some flexibility and imagination to move between different spaces,
depending on the purposes of the cooperation in question and the
degree of affinity that it requires.

Actually this is nothing new, most people relate in this way with
each other in their everyday life. But most people, even those who
believe in autonomy and decentralisation, adopt for their 'political'
work one single collective identity with one single decision-making
space, which very often becomes the scenario of atrocious power
struggles. This is not only grossly inconsistent with the very idea of
autonomy, it is also a brilliant way to discourage the participation
of many people who have better things to do than witnessing badly
camouflaged power games at neverending senseless meetings.

The organisational process of the action against the World Bank
and the IMF on September 26th in Prague exemplifies quite well
the problems associated with single decision-making spaces. In the
August preparatory assembly, the last before the action, we wasted
a complete (and very fatiguing) day discussing due to the stubborn
insistence of the representatives of the Socialist Workers' Party,
who wanted the protest to be expressed in a single march,
although many people obviously favoured other forms of action.
We finally came to a consensus 'by exhaustion' that ended up
being totally meaningless anyhow, because most of the people who
went to Prague to participate in the action had their own ideas
about what they wanted to do in that day, and coordinated them in
the very fluid and participatory space of the convergence centre,
where many different layers of identity, connection and
coordination came together in a very chaotic (in the best sense of
the word) and creative process. We all knew beforehand that there
would be a convergence centre conceived precisely for this kind of
interactions, but this did not prevent a lot of people (not only the
Socialist Workers, also some people from autonomous groups) to
see the preparatory assemblies as the 'decision-making body' for
all the people who wanted to join the action, although many of us
considered them to be simply a space for communication between
the different groups mobilising to Prague, with the primary role of
ensuring that the people who would go to Prague for the actions
would have the conditions to interact and decide freely among
themselves. The same problems of conception were clearly
expressed in the differences of understanding (or, to put it more
bluntly, the total confusion) about the role of INPEG, the
coordination that was formed to prepare the logistics of the day of
action (See chapter 75, Open Rebellion in Prague).

The problems faced in Prague are probably the most recent and
complete example in Western Europe of the sort of organisational
puzzles and conflicts that are likely to emerge if we want to work
towards large-scale social change in an autonomous but
coordinated way in our continent. This process will probably not
be possible if we don't make conscious efforts to overcome, at
local, regional and international level, the classical and monolithic
conceptions about 'unity', organisation and political identity,
working towards complex, multicultural and dynamic sets of
autonomous spaces of coordination. While this conceptual shift is
relatively easy and straightforward as far as the coordination at
regional or international level is concerned (as was the case in
Prague), it will surely not happen spontaneously within local
spaces of articulation and organisation, where the vice of
homogenisation within enclosed political identities is most intense
and alienating. Whether it happens or not will depend on our own
efforts.


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