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(en) US, Greensboro, The SouthEastern Anarchist Network Conference

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 15 Apr 2004 09:45:20 +0200 (CEST)

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At long last, the SouthEastern Anarchist Network Conference
happened in the post-industrial small city of Greensboro, and out
of it comes the latest acronym in the worldwide fabric of anarchist
struggle - SEANet, or SouthEastern Anarchist Network. As a
Southerner myself, I find it rather strange that no southeastern
anarchist network existed already - for despite it's lack of
headlines, many of the most committed, passionate, and possibly
lunatic anarchists I know come from the Southeast United States,
and have been for years. I suspect that unlike their sisters and
brothers in struggle in areas with huge anarchist scenes such as
West Philly, being an anarchist in the most religious and
conservative part of the country is an utter trial by fire. As one
southern anarchist put it: "Fundamentally I had a choice: I could
either move to some anarchist ghetto where things were already
happening, or I could try to start things happening in my
hometown against all odds." Luckily, some folks have chosen the
latter path, and the SEANet conference is just a symptom of the
rising insurgency of the Southeast. Here's a quick, one-person,
hopelessly biased review of the event.

The local Greensboro collective that did the work was stellar:
food, housing, childcare, and everything else was taken care of on
a level above and beyond some of the best anarchist events I've
ever seen. The collective itself was a diverse collection ranging
from queer anti-racist activists to a middle-aged formerly
homeless man who got into anarchism through the Greensboro
Food Not Bombs, and none of them slept very much as they
busily cooked reams of dumpstered food, arranged housing, and
guided folks around. The conference itself took place at a plush
Quaker college called Guilford, and the local anarchist students
did a good job facilitating in the best Quaker tradition. An
excellent guide to the conference was produced, featuring not only
the events but a history of resistance in Greensboro, from strikes
by the blind garment workers decades ago to the fight against
police brutality today, such as the framing of Kwame Cannon and
the murder of Gil Barber. One of the more stunning events was
the Greensboro Massacre in 1979, where a multi-racial march
against racism, including many revolutionaries, was ambushed by
Nazis and Klan with the complicity of the police, leaving five dead
and eleven wounded. Still, the recent Klan and Nazi rally at the
state capitol of Raleigh was trounced by nearly a thousand
protesters, including a two-hundred person anarchist contingent
that physically blocked the rally and fought with police, so the
struggle continues - and it looks as if progress has been made.

Anarchists came piling in from all over - from Lake Worth,
Florida to Knoxville, Tennessee - overall, I'd guess around one
hundred and fifty anarchists. Southern anarchist groups were
there doing distro, such as the paper Fifth Estate and the Urban
Pirate CrimethInc faction. Anarchists were as usual mostly
younger and white, but there was a great range of age, race, and
class - quite a few of the anarchists appeared to be grey-haired
truckers, and there were anarchist people of color in attendance.
There was also a vast number of queer, transgender, and intersex
anarchists in attendance. In the South, the amount of sexual and
gender repression is intense, and these folk were some of the most
militant at the conference. The organizers had set-up gender
neutral bathrooms ahead of time, and the transgender and
intersex anarchists put forth photocopies of a list of demands
about themselves and how to relate to them with dignity and
respect - although apparently not everyone paid well enough
attention, for at the end of the conference some of them noted
there was still lots of confusion over sex and gender. Overall, the
atmosphere at the conference was one of friendship and
camaraderie, and there was hardly any in-fighting or navel-gazing,
and everyone from anarcho-primitivists to anarcho-communists
had practical and discussions plans together. I was pleased to be at
the first anarchist conference where the Southern accent was
predominant, from its drawling lowland variety to its more
high-twanged Appalachian cousin.

The format of the conference was unique, introducing the idea of
passiongroups instead of workshops. Everyone who goes to
conferences knows that the speakers and workshops are usually
secondary to the socializing and networking. Instead of having
speakers and a set group of workshops, most of the conference
time was set aside for spontaneous organization of discussion
groups around particular issues. As one organizer of SEAnet said,
"It's not that one person should be giving the workshop, or
nobody giving the workshop, but everybody giving the workshop."
Passion-groups were organized around everything from radical
drum corps (which was a hit!) to impromptu planning for regional
actions. Overall, most people seemed to really think this format
was a definite improvement over most conferences, and this
conference could have easily been dubbed "Organized
Socializing." In the southern United States, where there are many
isolated groups and individual anarchists spread throughout small
towns, everyone seemed to enjoy meeting each other and building
networks, with often people from the same area finding about
each other for the first time. As racism and sexism have
historically been one of the greatest impediments to radical
change in the South, there was an anti-racist and gender caucuses
that happened instead of passion-groups during the conference for
periods of time. While the facilitation was careful, these are
definitely tender and difficult topics in the South, and many new
people to anarchism were to new to this approach to say the least.
On a personal note, I think it's a fine line between fighting racism
and sexism effectively through radical education and liberal
guilt-tripping that reinforces identity politics and hierarchy, but
overall I think people got grounded in the harsh realities of racism
and sexism, regardless of tactical differences.

One topic that was on everyone's minds was the upcoming G-8
protests in Georgia, and numerous meetings were held to figure
out what was going on. Almost everyone agreed that it was simply
confusing trying to figure out what was happening. Members of
the Direct Action Network from Savannah shared their plans and
remarked upon the high level of police resistance even giving
permits for traditional marches, and Georgia anarchists who had
been to Brunswick (the small town nearest Sea Island, the island
about an hour from Savannah where the G8 protests are actually
going to be held) informed us about how the people in Brunswick
were both excited and scared by the coming of the G-8 to their
town. Brunswick suffers from some of the worst environmental
racism and pollution in the world, and the locals of Brunswick and
the Gullah people (from whom the U.S. government stole Sea
Island) were also hoping to use this event to bring international
attention to their plight. With police preparations looking to dwarf
even Miami and so making mass direct action untenable, one of
the most popular ideas was to "Fix Shit-Up". Instead of ritualized
Black Blocs, instead use the hundreds of anarchists coming to the
region to do everything from gardening to house repair for the
locals - thus presenting anarchism in the best possible light while
the media and police demonize us. Ideas were floated to do
autonomous direct action type events in other places around
Georgia outside police lines, and also to do community outreach
about anti-globalization and anarchy on our own terms. There was
a call to do a Miami-style "Really Really Free Market," essentially
a gift-giving anarchist flea market, in Raleigh after the G-8. While
plans are still hazy everywhere, everyone left feeling that it was
both urgent to help out in Georgia and do work in their local

Of course, if there's one thing anarchists know how to do, it's
party - and the anarchist talent show was no exception to this rule.
From the one-man anarcho-New Wave of Agent Starchild to the
free-style hip hop stylings of Rookster, festivities were in the air.
In fact, a few grey-bearded locals who happened to be in the
restaurant at the same time as the anarchist free-for-all were so
inspired they grabbed the open mike as well, and a local man with
a biblical beard spouted strange North Carolina poetry while
another local women, who probably not particularly familiar with
anarchism, sang "Come anarchists, let's go down, let's come,
c'mon down!". Kakistocracy, Descolada, and others then rocked
out with metallic hardcore so beloved by many southern

Lastly, the SouthEastern Anarchist Network (SEANet) decided to
remain exactly that - a network. Plans for a more organized or
formal approach were thrown out quickly, as anarchists recounted
how such attempts had wrecked previous regional networks.
Platformists don't fear - anyone can of course develop an
ideological organization, it's just that SEANet isn't one. Instead
SEANet is and will remain primarily a network for communication
among autonomous collectives and individuals in the Southeast,
through means such as its listserv and gatherings. It was decided
any region collective could use the SEANet name as long as it
properly identified itself so that the whole network would not be
accountable for its actions, such as "My Regional Collective
(SEANet)." The web-page http://www.southeasternanarchist.org
will hopefully soon be updated to allow interactive news postings,
discussion-boards, and a blog for radical and anarchist southern
history. Tentative proposals were made to have another
conference, perhaps in Lake Worth, within eight months to a year.
A regional paper would also be created sharing action and
practical information around the Southeast. Various campaigns,
such as the Eastern Forest Defense Camp, the G-8 protests, and
the continued struggle against racism in the South would be able
to use SEANet resources and communications to keep everyone
in the Southeast aware of what a rocking place the Southeast is.

The atmosphere of this conference was one of revolutionary joy -
a breath of fresh air to the ideological bickering that pervades
many anarchist conferences and feelings of inadequacy in the face
of the depravations of the Bush regime. Against its historic roots
of racism and religious bickering, it's clear that the anarchist
movement is growing in the Southeast. In all good humor, the
South will rise again - and this time it's flag shall be black!

For more info:

SEANet: http://www.southeastanarchist.org

SEANet Listserv: http://lists.riseup.net/www/info/seanet/

E-mail: seanet [at] risup.net

Link: http://www.southeasternanarchist.org
posted by Alexander Trocchi on infoshop.org

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