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(en) [Pga_europe_discussion] My visit to Leiden (one story about PGAconference) (1/2)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 10 Apr 2003 12:02:50 +0200 (CEST)


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Hi people, better late than ever... although I know this
would have been much more interesting months ago.
However embedded to this text is my opinion about few
discussions that have been around in PGA Europe discussion
list and Caravan99-lists lately, such as East-West issues
and claims about "evil consensus people hitchiking the PGA conference".
Antti R.
> My visit to Leiden
The purpose of this article is to summarize my personal experiences
from the European conference of the People's Global Action, which took place
31st of August-4th of September 2002 in Leiden of Holland. The experience
was indeed confusing, and more than once I really find myself asking "what
am I doing in this place?". However it was very useful to clarify to myself
some things what are going on in the Western Europe - on situation and
perspectives of the movement. My experiences were maybe not always
encouraging, but maybe I understand certain things more clearly by now.
There are two kinds of people - others write too long articles, others too
short or do not write at all. After finishing this one (or making to the
middle), you won't have a doubt to which category the author goes. I decided
first to write down everything, and then to make different shortened
versions to various journals. If you haven't seen these journals and are
reading this article, you are probably too dependent on the internet.

Slipping from my principles

During last 5 years when I have been active in Finland and Russia, I have
found myself countless times criticizing activist tourism, where people
travel thousands of kilometers to some spectacles instead of trying to get
the message spread in their own areas. I personally tried to stay away from
these events, never travelling to West from the river Oder. Last spring I
however decided to travel to European PGA conference, since I discovered
that I am much in a need of some moral boost. Luckily I expected to get this
moral boost just from seeing big bunch of political hippies, and not from th
e possible resolutions or practical coordination the conference could make.
Although no Russian was interested to travel with me and I am not completely
broken, I decided to hitchhike onwards from Latvian border to save money and
to raise awareness in Russia that if you really want to participate to an
international event, it is not really a question of money. I soon realized
that my estimations about schedule were far too optimistic, but I had
incredible luck on the road plenty of times and arrived to Leiden early in
the morning of Friday the 30th, just a bit more than 5 days and some 2500
kilometers since I had left Moscow.

It took days to accommodate to the environment. It was not only the
demonstration against the Corporate influence over the UN in Amsterdam of
the Saturday, which was the most hippie action I have ever been in, but the
Leiden in itself and Dutch cities in general. I mean, everything was just
too nice and cute even in the Finnish scale, not to talk about the Russian!
How can one seriously think about destroying the global capitalism in such a
place? In another hand, my undocumented Polish friend from Berlin got
harassed by cops just for dumpster diving or walking on the street - if you
disturb all this disgusting nicety, you are immediately pushed around! In
such places one has feeling that you just have to break something. No wonder
why so many voted the racist LPF party, the place would be ready to fascism
if there only was some movement crushing of which would require that! How I
hate those welfare states!

Bum rush the show

I was in the Finnish group which organized the first PGA conveyor's meeting
in Finland in the summer of 1998 (to be honest I did not really lift a
finger for that since I had other projects then), and I have been following
the developments of the network ever since. Conveyor's meeting eventually
lead to few burn-outs and destruction of our group, but I am not really
bitter for that since it was anyway best thing our group ever got done. But
what disappointed me was the analysis I then made about the conveyor's
group. To me it then seemed like a discussion group of super-activists, a
sort of activist equivalent of the WEF. Reading old PGA materials now, it is
clear to me that the process of choosing the conveyors was indeed
transparent, but I do not think representatives of the conveyors themselves
had much of any mandate to discussions and endorsements they made from the
organizations they were representing. Not that decisions about action days
or informal discussions about NGO's were that crucial decisions about future
of our all, but networks which are based on personal ties only claiming to
represent mass movements are just in clear contradiction with my personal
ideas. But biggest disappointment of all was that it seemed to me that
nothing else is really possible - PGA unites such a multitude of different
movements with different structures from different organizational
traditions, that any attempts to make more democratic and rigid mechanism
would lead to immediate collapse of the project. In the world of today, any
attempt to more coherent international organization seems to be doomed to
100 times smaller scale.

However there has been some development in the network during 4 years, most
importantly introduction of the continental dimension. In Europe there is
much more coherence between the movements, people and groups involved in the
European PGA are from much more similar traditions (such as anarchist,
autonomist, anti-imperialist or radical NGO) than in the global scale.
Lately a number of people (such as French Sans Titre collective and
Eurodusnie) have raised the criticisms about problems I had seen, and in the
European level there maybe would be ways to find at least partial solutions.

Hooked to organization

We must point out that we have really a big cultural barrier here, during
last 3 years author of this text has sunk deep into tradition of the
"organizational anarchism", which has same roots as the "anti-authoritarian
networking" which is somewhat hegemonic paradigm in the European PGA, but
has developed very different answers to problems of representation and
decisionmaking. Where many comments in the European PGA discourse raise
criticism of representation as such, my current organization Autonomous
Action relies on delegates with imperative mandates and immediate
recallability. Our view of democracy also does not demand consensus
decisionmaking. Lack of the "organizational anarchism" is that it does not
put that much stress to good process than "networking/consensus/affinity
group" approach of "anti-authoritarian networking", where by simplifying a
little one may say that latter tradition is ready to sacrifice results for
sake of a good process.

In many Western countries less than 5% of the anarchists (not that most in
PGA define themselves as such) are part in any formal organization, in
East-Europe this share is bigger but probably nowhere much more than 25%. It
is an open question if organizational anarchism may organize mass movements
these days, since it has not really succeeded in that since 1936. But PGA is
around and unites millions (and tens of thousands in Europe), so plenty of
organizational anarchists find themselves in the PGA conferences (including
leading moderate syndicalist unions, Swedish SAC and Spanish CGT).
However, since my understanding of democracy differs so much from the
European PGA paradigm, in every discussion I am in another leg
out-situation. However since many people had made similar criticisms as I
have, I was more inside than for example the syndicalists who were carefully
following process discussions but never said a word, obviously feeling
themselves as sole observers.

So fresh, so clean

As I said I had no any expectations beforehand, but this changed soon on the
place. Everything (food, night places, venues) was stunningly well
organized, even a daily conference paper was published with information
about all the sessions of the day before! Even more important, the wish to
deal with the structural problems on the European level was very evident,
both conveyors, MRG Catalonia and Eurodusnie, had done propositions to deal
with some of the problems, such as increasing transparency to the process
how conveyors are working and what are their responsibilities. I was
especially happy to see that Eurodusnie had published Jo Freeman's "tyranny
of structurelesness" in the conference reader, this text is very important
theoretical reference of our movement and we (Autonomous Action) have
distributed its Russian translation in the former Soviet Union.
So suddenly I was much more motivated with the process part of the
conference, especially when I realized that none of the more practical
working groups were about themes which have any relevancy in the former
Soviet Union. The fact that "civil society" does not exist in xUSSR sets a
very rigid frame to what you may even think to try. For example, although
Russia is not contributing less to the global debt problem than Western
countries, in Russia you may forget about organizing around some demands
towards decision makers which do not raise direct possibilities of people to
influence their own lives by direct action. Same thing with any Third World
issue whatsoever, the segment of the society which would pressure
policymakers towards something just does not exist. Chechen war was another
thing since the own nationals were slain there in thousands in the both
sides, and there were real chances of mutinies for example, but we finished
organizing against even that when anti-war movement took course to agony two
years ago (in December 2002 we however resurrected our campaign). Our
solidarity demonstration as part of the S26 of year 2000 around IMF and
World Bank issues is unlikely to be repeated, it is not really the problem
in Russia that people do not know that they are robbed, they know it very
well - it is not the information what is needed but effective and credible
forms of resistance. Discussions about Rio+10 or Carbon Trade could be as
well in another planet for us.

Global Season of Struggle - connecting movements for emancipation

So besides the East European working group in afternoon of the Monday the
2nd of September, I ended up to Strategy and Process debates. Since in
Saturday evening I heard that there was an urgent lack of the note takers, I
listed to taking notes from two strategy debates of the Sunday. This was a
mistake for sure, since there was 8 PM deadline for the notes to be
published in the paper of next day - by that time I had not even notes of
the first debate finished! I was for sure somewhat disappointed about this,
especially when I saw next morning that small size of the paper (one A3)
allowed only very superficial look to debates which had taken place, and for
half of the discussions there was no place in the first place. There was a
sort of misunderstanding about the function of the paper - editors had
journalistic approach, and materials were treated as news - where people
writing the notes for sure wanted to give people who had not been able to
participate to concrete discussions as complete picture as possible about
what had taken place. Luckily these two approaches were converging later on,
especially when size of the conference paper grew bigger... and anyway
internet compensated partly limitations of the paper version.

There were 6 themes for the strategy debates - "How do we look back on the
international mobilizations and days of action, and how will we move
forward?", "What concrete alternatives can we create?", "How do we relate to
more vertical organizations and with the wider society", "How do we react to
repression", "Which new forms of resistance are emerging" and "How do we
organize in a direct democratic way and build up counter power". All debates
took place both in the morning and in afternoon, where the idea was that
everyone could then participate to two different debates on different times.
I was taking notes about 6th theme in the afternoon, and 4th theme in the
morning.

The biggest problem to me as a note taker was not the unrealistic deadline
or extracting demand, but
the fact that it was almost impossible to grasp some content from the
discussions in the first place. The themes were just way too abstract to get
something out, in context where there could be dozens of people in the room
and most saw each other the very first time. Sixth group I choose as a
laboratory experiment, since I found the theme most widest and thus most
impossible to have results in 3 hours. To discussion about repression in
afternoon I went because it was the most concrete, but still people (there
were only 5 of us) expressed their concerns about anything from blood tests
in England via banning the demonstrations in Strasbourg to Pim Fortyin's
murder, RAF and repression in Moscow. What is the point in discussion
repression without any focus on what could we do about it? And as always,
discussing concrete proposals is impossible if they are not printed to paper
and distributed says in prior to beginning of the discussion. Not that I am
criticizing, since I noted that during all the strategy debates there were
number of people who were very interested about any comments others said
Had an unshakeable opinion that process is converging towards some results
Had an overall opinion that everything had been extremely fruitful and interesting
I can do nothing but remember those people with an enormous respect. I can
also only respect the note takers who were able to extract contents of the
groups to 200 words, and giving picture that there had been a clear process
which had converged to some common solution about the problem in question. I
tried that, but I realized that it would be horrible violence against
contents of the discussion since I should imagine the overall storyline
which I just could not see. Those people must just have born a laptop in
their hands.

Process as a goal in itself

In the morning of Monday the 2nd there were still no any really relevant one
case issue workshops from xUSSR perspective, and I decided to join the PGA
process discussion. Here my activist culture went to a full crash course
with the one around there, the consensus process here became a painful
experience at least. Most of the morning session went to discussion about
what issues we should discuss and in which order. In the end not any real
decision was made, discussion just followed it's own logic. Later I hear
that the afternoon session had been less painful and had managed to proceed
with the agenda.

In the end, conference ended up to make decisions about 5 issues concerning
the process of the European PGA network. First was about infopoints, how
information about PGA is distributed on the local level. Second one was
about Global contacts, how European PGA takes care about global
communications and maintains the global contacts list. Third one was about
support group, group of people who together with conveyors help with the
practical work. Fourth one was how conveyors are chosen and what their tasks
are, and fifth one was about communication tools.

Eurodusnie had made ready-written propositions only about issues of
communication tools and conveyorship. MRG Catalonia had had propositions on
decentralization (this developed into infopoint structure) and support
group, but in their original form propositions were somewhat loosely defined
and pleased few people. Issues of both infopoints and support group were
controversial for many people around, and the conference was in the end
somewhat unable to make about any decisions on the latter. Taking in the
account that guidelines for infopoint- and support group working had to be
drafted from zero, it was actually surprising that conference was able to
make even that much decisions.

Consensing for fun

The pain of the consensus was that I had to strive to keep my mouth shut in
order not to sabotage the process. Every time I opened it (usually that was
for some fundamental criticism), I received suffering looks pleading for
mercy. For sure no-one was rude and asked me to shut up, but it was clear
that most of my comments (and many comments of other people as well) caused
plenty of suffering. When you make majority decisions, you can raise
objection on about every detail, since most of the details are not very
interesting to most of the people and thus you may just vote, and everything
is over in the five minutes. In consensus process in large groups, if you
start to whine about details everyone will just get crazy.

One example was the issue of decisionmaking in the final plenary. Eurodusnie
had proposed that decisions could be made with 3/4 majority if consensus may
not be reached, where MRG Catalonia was strictly demanding consensus. This
was a clear conflict, and to me it seemed that solving it should be of first
priority since plenary itself could hardly make a draft decision about this
one. So I proposed the topic to be the first to be discussed. Some people
agreed, others not, and somewhat the idea just got buried without any
explicit decision having been made about it. Of course I could have insisted
when facilitator made propositions about next issues to be discussed, but
that would hardly have been constructive. I heard that in the beginning of
the afternoon session another person had made the same proposition, but it
sank as well without any special rejection. Finally no any session managed
to really priorize issues, which ended up to situation that process
discussion was finished 3 AM in the morning of the plenary day. And if some
draft decision about plenary decisionmaking was made, it was not announced
anywhere (so I supposed it was not made). So plenary ended up to work in a
consensus. Quite logical - if there is not consensus about something else
than consensus, decisions will be made in consensus. Consensus for sure made
the final plenary very slow, and in a sense these flaws which were present
in the process from the very beginning lead to situation where final plenary
was unable to make decisions about a number of points.

If I ruled the decisionmaking procedure (imagine that)

I am not against consensus decisionmaking, but the conditions for it to work
out are that group should be small enough (less than 30 persons), homogenous
in their opinions and discussion culture and there should be almost
unlimited time frame. None of these conditions were fulfilled in the
European PGA conference. Due to this, even many hard boiled activists get
very frustrated and stressed. For sure consensus decisions might be made in
an unrelaxed atmosphere as well, but there is no more any guarantee that
these are real consensus decisions, not arbitrary and watered down
compromises which people agree only in order to get back home some day. In
this kind of conditions consensus decisions become sort of a game, where
each participator has to weight very carefully are their disagreements with
some points principal enough to have them said out, since this will always
increase frustration of others and endanger the discussion about even more
important topics, since time frame is limited and it is not possible to make
decision about all of the points.

Time to drop some heads? Not quite. I could not really grasp the logic how
some propositions got accepted and some just dropped without any discussion.
However the process discussion followed all the time a certain logic. One
reason for this might be homogeneity of opinions among dominating
activists - which is maybe not due to clique but due to a long experience on
PGA work which has lead to different people supporting similar kind of
solutions to existing problems. Many people seemed to have a really clear
vision what could work in practice and what not, and on which themes a
consensus might be reached and on which themes not. Facilitators were
extremely skilled as well. For example other people than me just implicitly
understood, that as no other proposition than consensus would be accepted
for the final plenary, wasting hours to discuss about that be a waste of
time. Most of the decisions made were really small steps, but in a sense
important steps for the development of the network.

Working group of the rising sun

The East European working group in the Monday afternoon was a source of
controversial feelings not only for me. We had met in the Saturday evening
with a small group of people from Russia, Czech Republic and Poland, as well
as the Swedish person who had initiated this working group for the
conference. Our purpose was not to take control of the agenda, but to make
some propositions for the general discussion. We decided to pick up three
points - EU expansion and campaign related to that, European Social Consulta
impact and participation in the Eastern Europe and at last how western
groups willing to help East European groups could do that in a constructive
and useful way. We did not picked up the issue of NATO protests coming up in
Prague, since that was a topic of a separate presentation. These points were
agreed (or more correctly, no-one disagreed) in the big working group,
although the discussion to come was probably something different from what
we had expected.

People who had initiated the point in program had one ambitious idea above
others - making European PGA a genuinely European organization, where
East-European groups are as much present as those of the West. But as the
usual rule goes, if you have not written concrete proposals prepared, you
may just forget about it. Even worse if you have your goal but expect others
to make the concrete proposals to reach it.

After lengthy presentations of the groups present, we decided to start with
the theme of the EU expansion. Some people noted that they would like to
talk about expansion of the capital in general. It was very clear to me that
this kind of debate would transfer discussion to a moaning in a choir about
evils of the capital. People did not seem to figure out, that for example
Czech comrades were planning a very concrete campaign on the EU expansion,
and wished to have that discussed on a very concrete level. But only me and
Czech comrades were supporting splitting of the group to have more practical
issues to be discussed separately, so the group went for the moaning.

Easternplayalisticadillacmuzic

At this point it became clear that people had come to the discussion with
very different kinds of ideas what it should be, and most came without any
idea whatsoever. Almost all people from the West came to hear a lecture
about East Europe, without any opinions or wishes to do something. Many
people from the East came to talk about their concerns about any theme
whatsoever, without any attempt to make some concrete proposals (not that
they could have been worked out collectively in any case). Some people were
NGOists, they were very nice people but I am afraid there would be no any
basis for common projects for them since I have no any faith to NGO way of
activity in the Eastern Europe. So in the end I just ended up listening the
flow of words and trying to write notes.

I do not think the presentations in conferences are a good idea, if people
want to just learn something the written articles are for that. However, for
many people from East it was pleasant just to sit and tell about their
projects, and to listen about projects of the others. This obviously because
for many people adopting oral information is more easier that adopting
written one, and because many people are unable to use full opportunities of
the internet, where information about any groups and projects is available
but hard to reach.

During the break, more than 10 Western Europeans left the room, without
having said any word. Probably most were there for presentations anyway, but
maybe some were silenced because for some reason the discussion adopted a
sort of "East talks, West listens" mode. I do not see much of a point in
this, maybe it is some reminiscent of some "Western guilt" discourse which
is quite present in all documents of the movement who address the issue of
raising the Eastern and Southern participation. However as far as the East
goes, this is quite pointless approach since role of Westerners here is not
that of sole cheerleaders, since in East there are no similar living
tradition of peoples movements than in the South and thus the ideas and
modes of organizations come from the West. Some groups in the East for sure
try to operate on the tradition of the movements which toppled the iron
curtain, but to a large extent it is the Western movements which generate
movements in the East, and thus Western and Eastern groups should have
completely equal roles in this discussion.

I am quite happy that the European Social Consulta was not addressed a lot,
I had only supported its inclusion to draft agenda since some comrades in
the Czech republic seemed to have a some sort of vision about its relevance
in the East. To me, all consulta documents seem to be some of the most
horrible collections of vague and abstract rhetoric I have ever seen. I do
not claim that there is no any concrete content in the project, they just
succeeded very well in making it invisible. At first sight, it seems like
either there is a hidden agenda in it, or organizers do not have much of any
idea and just hope that gathering masses of people to one common mess would
be a good goal in itself. So I decided to stay far from any conference
events with any relation to consulta, and watch from the distance what is
about to come from the process until stepping into it.

Actually there had been one concrete proposal to increase East European
participation in the preparation of the conference - proposition of the MRG
Catalonia to create regional PGA's to various areas of the Europe, one being
the East Europe. This would have been a disaster for East Europe, if passed.
No group in East Europe which currently has any commitment whatsoever to PGA
has a capacity to do such an organizing on their own. This would have
effectively meant throwing responsibility of East European organizing to
East Europeans, and that Western groups focus only to their own area - as it
unfortunately has usually been at least until now.

There is nothing like a good guilt-tripping

As for the last common topic, "how western groups willing to help East
European groups could do it in a constructive and useful way" goes, it was
my idea. When I started with it we had some 20 minutes left, so I just said
what I think without much of hope that some larger discussion would take
place. The point behind the topic was that there seems to be much goodwill
in the West about how to get East Europeans involved, but not much of any
practical ideas. For example I have not read a single strategy paper during
the last years not wooing about low level of East European participation,
and concerns how to have some more of it. In another hand, when there are
some very concrete proposals by Eastern groups about cooperation, often
nothing comes out from them.

When I was talking how conference and summit travelling of the few without
sharing the experience with the others creates activist elites, a comrade
from the Rainbow Keepers was a little bit insulted since she had organized
this kind of projects in the Russia in the past, and had a contradictory
experience. She felt that in general the interest in Russia to international
events is miserably low, and it is a huge pain to have some people
travelling even when it is possible to do it for free.

In the end, I sort of agree with her that the issue is much more complicated
that just "activist elite vs. the rest". But it is not the stupid and
ignorant mass of activists either - there are just deep structural and
social reasons which prevent PGA and other international initiatives, such
as summit spectacles, to create synergy with the Russian movements. At
first, the Russian society is currently in a very different state that those
of the West or of the South. Where in many Southern countries structural
adjustment has pushed huge masses of people back against the wall, where
chance is to resist or to die, and in many Western countries traditional
left is facing the same choice, in Russia where Yeltsinite democracy is
going to its agonizing death the fragile civil society born during the
Perestroika time is gone as well. The nation is ready to totalitarism, only
reason why it is not created is that really fascism is only necessary for
capital where there is an opposition which has to be crushed, and in Russia
there isn't. For masses of people hooked to their tv screens, events like
Prague, Seattle or Gothenburg would as well take place in another planet.
Those Russians who travel to these events get some moral boost, but do not
have much of an attempt to organize around same kind of issues on the local
level since there is hardly any perspective.

Really networking always goes from bottom to up - you must have a well
functioning group in your city until you may reach out to local and national
level, and unless the regional networks are not functioning, doing
international work is a waste of time. For example Alter-EE list has been
networking East European anti-authoritarian activists for 6 years already
and has a very wide base of subscribers, but it has seldom been able to
create common projects since there is just not that much base for such a
thing. Really networking and common projects sort of born out spontaneously,
when time is ripe for them. For example I proposed 4 years ago in East
European anarchist conference in Prague to set up such a East European news
courier as the Abolishing the Borders from Below is now, but the time was
just not ripe then - now it is, and ABB appeared completely independently
from the networks in which I have been raising the discussion. In some sense
attempts to have some success with Russian participation to international
movement is sort of hitting ones head to brick wall, as long as the social
conditions for that just are not there. Or more exactly, you maybe would get
some results but better not to expect too much, and better to very carefully
work out some model how those possible results could be reached since there
are many traps on the way, and good intentions alone are not much of any
help.

We are just note-taking for fun

Once again, I was ready with the notes around midnight, which meant that our
working group was mentioned with 30 words in the conference newspaper. This
was a disappointment to a Swedish comrade who had initiated the working
group, but I commented that just having some written words about East Europe
could do a little to change the problems we have. Same goes with his
proposition to have something about East Europe to have mentioned in the
final strategy document - some nice words like "we must work hard to
increase East European involvement" would change the real situation very
little since the same phraseology is present anywhere anyway. At first,
there should be concrete proposals, and at second, this concern should be
integrated to network far more deeper way than just the level of
declarations. European PGA network structure is light-years from having a
chance to make strategy documents binding all participators. It is the minds
of the people we have to change, not papers, and to me the most crucial
question with the PGA is if there any chances for that in the first place?
After typing the notes another night in a row until midnight, I for sure was
quite tired, and much more confused than any time before wondering what I am
doing in this place. So Tuesday morning I spent few hours just hanging
around and refocusing. When my mind was cleared from all intentions and I
was 100% I was not nervous anymore, I find myself floating to discussion
about conclusions on the strategy debates. My intention was not to
participate but just to observe the process.

Here we go again

Quite long time was sacrificed to presenting the strategy debates which had
taken place some two days before. This was somewhat boring, mostly just
reading and referring from the conference newspaper. For some reason I said
something about the groups to which I had participated, which seem to make
people even more bored since I had not a much of idea about what our
discussions had been about and for why they had taken place.

Some people showed incredible capacity of creative thought, and managed to
extract some common nominators from all the strategy debates. Or maybe they
had just been thinking about the issues they took up on their own, and thus
they saw everything linked to these issues. Anyway, these nominators were
"Intervention to real social dynamics", "From welfare state to control
state" and "Private property & reappropriation". Then we faced a problem -
all strategy debates should have included the aspect of gender, in order
that not to have been mariginalized to its own debate, but apparently no
debate had been dealing with the issue. So it was decided that this time
gender issue will have another try in the form of a separate group. I
decided to opt for this one, since it was most interesting in a sense of
laboratory experiment - gender issue is probably the worst among all of
those "all talk no do" topics (beating even "East European participation"
and "local involvement"), and I was very curious to know if something else
could be reached this time. It was a source of amusement for everyone to
notice, that our debate consisted of two guys - me and a French one. Later a
Dutch guy working in PGA radio joined us.

Et si des keums en Êcoutant ce skeud pensent que j'ai tort

The French guy was taking notes, and he had also very strong vision what we
should state about the topic. I concentrated just to raise my bad
experiences about lack of real content on various gender debates and I
called for concrete proposals. I told about only new concrete proposal I had
heard in many years, that is the triple stack system. Stack is the
facilitation technique where instead of chairman giving one person a right
to speak at time, one person is just writing down names in the order
where people ask their turn, and everyone is given turn in their times.

There is a variant of this, when
direct points and general points are separated - people who want to make
direct comments to one speaker are given priority, so they "are in another,
priorized stack". But few weeks before I heard from an American anarchist
communist comrade another variant used in their federation - that in which
people who have been inactive in the discussion before are giving priority
to others, which puts them to "third stack", which is given a priority over
the two others (actually technical points are given a priority over all of
these, so it is not "triple stack" but "quadruple stack"). This is certainly
a gender issue and not a sex issue, since there are plenty of macho women
dominating the discussions, as well as silent and timid men - persons
discussion gender may differ from the biological one. But usually it is
women who are silent, and this method helps to integrate everyone who is
afraid to talk aloud in public to discussion.

However the French guy had another interest in this discussion, and he ended
up writing a very beautiful declaration on his own which consisted about one
third of the final conclusions of the strategy debates. For sure there was
not a single phrase in this text with which I would not agree with, but it
also had not anything I had not read dozens of times before, it sort of
fulfilled my bad expectations.

In general I think gender issue was not that rudely sidelined in the
conference. Although many debates were dominated by men, and the women who
participated were from the minority with a good self-esteem, still in all of
the issues (except gender issue) there was a much better presence of women
than in any issues our federation has lately been working on in Russia. I do
not think this is just an accident, the European PGA paradigm of consensus
and concentration to good process (such as facilitation) instead of results
really gives better abilities for women (in the sense of gender, that means
I include silent men here) to participate. Of course applying this approach
which is successful in small, homogenous groups is not always doing so well
in the big events such as the European PGA conference, but still the
difference is clear. In Russia we should really think what to do improve our
process, and what in the European PGA paradigm would be applicable for us -
miserable share of women among our militants is a proof that we may not
continue as we have done before.

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