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(en) Praxis #2 - Autonomy & Affiliation: An Interview with Doug from Direct Action Anti-Authoritarians

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 13 Feb 2004 12:28:34 +0100 (CET)


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Doug has been an active participant in RAAN for several months now,
and recently Direct Action Anti-Authoritarians (DAAA) - the group
that he organizes with in his hometown of Modesto - decided to
affiliate with the network and become a regional presence.
Certainly we could be criticized for essentially "interviewing
ourselves" here, but since DAAA as a pre-existing group became
involved with RAAN, it was felt that a brief exploration into that
process would be a valuable feature in a journal dedicated to the
advancing activities of the network. Questions have been submitted
by various members of RAAN's online Hub, and we have tried to
cover especially the topics of regional autonomy and the benefits of a
network.

August 6, 2003

RAAN: What would you like to be called for this interview, and is
there anything about your personal politics or self-identification that
you would like us to know?

Doug: On the RAAN Hub and some other places I go by the name
"crudocrust", but you can call me Doug. While I have some thoughts
on things like platformism, insurrectionism, post-leftism, ect. my
ideology basically falls into what could be labeled as green
anarcho-communist.

RAAN: Can you tell us a little bit about your group, Direct-Action
Anti-Authoritarians? When and how did it form, and about how many
people are currently involved? What are your most direct
(anti-)political influences, and do you have any sort of internal
decision-making structure?

Doug: DAAA started when I began visiting the Raise the Fist!
(www.raisethefist.com) site about a year ago. Around that time, RTF!
Direct Action Network chapters were starting to form, and I wanted
this town to have one. At the same time, a group of us
anti-authoritarian activists in Modesto were beginning to see that the
Peace Center here (Liberal/Social Justice group) wasn't going to do
shit.

Our first goal was to get started on RTF!, and we had a site that we
updated regularly. Through that we met other people from the
surrounding area, and took things from there.

DAAA evolved from the group SAO, (Student Activist Organization),
and from those meetings we gained an idea of where we were going.
Instead of dogmatic ideals about ways of doing things, we just do
them. Like most anti-authoritarian groups, we work on consensus,
sometimes direct vote, and we also trust and know each other pretty
well, so things go smoothly. Also, DAAA is great because females
outnumber males, so issues of sexism are easier to grasp.

As for political influences, I can say that writers such as Chomsky,
Crimethinc., Marx, Kropotkin, as well as strands of feminism flow
throughout the group.

RAAN: What kind of campaigns has DAAA been taking on in the
past, and what are you all involved with now?

Doug: When we first got started, one of the first things that we did
was put together a local Food Not Bombs. For about 6 months we built
up the organization, and in that time we got some local media
coverage and community interest, and also started to listen to what
was happening to homeless people in Modesto. We learned that not
only are the police harassing people that are sleeping outside, but the
town's one Gospel Mission was doing a poor job as well. DAAA then
helped the homeless organize a large meeting with around 100+ people
to discuss what was wrong at the Mission. Out of the meeting we
created an open letter to the Mission, and they then responding by
denying all claims of misconduct. Because the Mission has threatened
to close down and put everyone out in the streets if too much is
uncovered about their practices, we are now working with other
homeless activists to try and find constructive alternatives to the it.

DAAA has also done Modesto's first Bikes Not Bombs, which went
pretty well. We table a lot, do a lot of literature and outreach, and we
also staged a walkout and did a "slowdown" at the Modesto Post
Office when the war started; people brought lots of stuff to be sent to
Iraq, causing the Post Office to shit themselves (it's illegal to send
certain things to Iraq, like pencils, or Band-Aids, or gauze).

Through Infoshop.org and other internet outlets, we used money left
over from the anarcho-punk band Rojo y Negro to buy copies of the
Crimethinc. book Days of War, Nights of Love and get it to other
activists and the libraries of the area.

We act as organizers for protests, and form an affinity group when we
go to large demos during black blocs. One successful event we
organized was when some more conservative elements at the Junior
College staged a "patriotic rally", and didn't allow any anti-war voices
to speak; we got our Iranian friend up there under the guise that she
was pro-war, and she blasted them. We also showed videos, handed
out flyers, served boca burgers, and had banners. The newspaper
came out and actually gave us a fair representation, and the the
conservatives looked silly because they had hoped for no anti-war
presence whatsoever.

DAAA is eclectic, and we are the only people in this area that want to
push the limit. If we are at a large vigil, we try and do a march; if we
are talking about an action, we try and make it better.

We also try to bring the animal liberation aspect to the table by
incorporating some Modesto animal rights activists, and trying to get
some of the old fogey pacifist types to put down the McD's. We have
organized Circus Protests, animal rights flyering, and fur
demonstrations. Recentally, we did a film showing of "PickAx!", and
have been doing some work and outreach on GMO foods. We are also
still flyering for upcoming anti-war activities while going at the
Homeless issues.

As for the rest, it falls under the cover of darkness, and the culture of
security.

RAAN: When did DAAA officially affiliate with RAAN? How was
this action proposed, and what decision-making process was used by
the group to accept it?

Doug: Well, I got an online journal about two years ago. By and by, I
tried to seek out other anti-authoritarians/anarchists that used that
service, and eventually I got in touch with RedLibertad (RAAN - Los
Angeles). I guess my first actual sight of the network came when I
was looking at some discussions on those sites and ran across the
"Sickle-A" symbol, which at the time I thought was the dumbest thing
I had ever seen (no offense).

Eventually, I got to talking to Red and some other RAANites, and took
the trip over to the network's Internet "Hub". Around this time, I came
to learn the "true" meaning of the hammer and the sickle, got over my
"commie-phobia", and started to spend some time working with the
network. I was told that I "joined" the group just by participating, so
there you go.

DAAA affiliated with RAAN when I presented the network's
Principles & Direction to to the group, and asked what everybody
thought. Some members were kind of taken aback by the P&D, but I
think it was just too long and hurt their brains. Eventually we all
agreed to affiliate.

RAAN: What were seen as the benefits of affiliation? Drawbacks?
What did affiliation mean in terms of effecting the practical activity of
your group, and why were these effects seen as acceptable or
beneficial?

Doug: You have to understand that DAAA operates in the Central
Vally much like RAAN does on a larger level. DAAA acts as a way of
taking credit for actions, ("DAAA took credit last night for the action
against...") or as a name for any organizational body facilitating an
event ("DAAA is throwing a benefit show for Raise the Fist!").

Being a part of the network has not changed our operations, but
actions have increased and become more concise since our
involvement with RAAN.

RAAN: Do you feel that in affiliating yourself with the network, you
are maintaining your group's autonomy? What do you think that the
process of affiliation will mean for future groups, and how do we best
emphasize the need for free association and self-governing
collectives/affinities within the bigger picture of RAAN?

Doug: Networks are alot different than federations, and in our case I
feel like our autonomuy has not be trampled on in any way. Right now
though, RAAN is basically seen as an "Internet" group, and so
associating with RAAN means being linked to its Internet
personalities and structures, and not so much to the action network of
activists who are actually doing things.

I see the need for networks to be critical in the sense of bringing
together activists and creating the basis for new people to become
active, and to give people assistance in planning things. One example
of this is Crimethinc's "Above-Ground Railroad" feature, where people
traveling in different places can hook up with other Crimethincers and
get somewhere to stay, ect.

For networking with future groups, we just have to be sure to be as
ideologically-encompasing as possible. My biggest fear is that we will
push more primitivist and green anarchists away from the network,
and then close ourselves off. While I have my own misgivings about
primitivists, we need to make sure that all sections of the
anti-authoritarian movement are represented, and that the "red"
doesn't scare away those with whom we need to be working. How we
go about doing this is up in the air right now. The best tactic I have
seen so far is simply to make ourselves known as a presence. Upon
going to San Diego for the Revolution Summer actions, people that
were involved in IWW, ABC, Pirate Radio, and Animal Liberation
groups all knew about RAAN because of the simple fact that we had
marched in Sacramento with a network banner. In that way a whole
new group of people became interested in what RAAN was, what we
were about, and what we were doing. The Anarchist Black Cross
Network of San Diego even got a donation of books from RAAN
through our "Book Liberation Week" initiative.

The Internet is a tool, but if we only keep to the Internet, that is where
we are gong to stay. Either through the stencil or in the street, let's
make the RAAN presence fucking known.

Also, as we go to new places and network with new people, we have
to be sure we get across what the benifits are of this network, and
why it is in people's interest to be a part of such a group.

RAAN: Has the way in which DAAA functions changed at all since
its connection to RAAN? Have any of its internal processes
undergone any development since affiliation? What about the
development of your own personal politics since you've been with the
network?

Doug: Nothing has changed that much about the way the group works.
To be completely honest, DAAA collective members OK'd the RAAN
affilation, but so far have been uninterested in purely RAAN projects
in the sense that they haven't gotten involved with the Network Hub.

As for my own personal politics, RAAN has basically allowed me to
come to better understand Marxism, and its libertarian offshoots in
the vein of situationism, autonomism, and council communism.
Although I'll never forgive Marx for talkin' mad shit about Bakunin, and
you know I gots to represent for the circle-A, if it's anti-hierarchal, it's
all good. In the time that I've worked with RAAN, I've also been able
to formulate in my own mind what I think that the role of federations
and networks should be, at least to a point.

RAAN: It is my understanding that DAAA does not have any
"official" documents or statements of position. How has the affiliation
with RAAN, the resulting adoption of the Principles & Direction,
Organizational Principles, etc. helped to give the group a stronger
base? Has this altered DAAA's image in any way or changed the way
that others approach you once they recognize you as part of a larger
network?

Doug: DAAA has issued calls to action, created flyers, and written up
certain positions on things, but we've never come out and said in black
and white what our politics are - we don't need to. We know who we
are, we know what we are doing, and we continue fine without
drawing up a constituion or charter.

I'd like to think that people veiw our RAAN affilation in a good light;
outside of the Infoshop scene we've gotten a good reaction from
people we've been out in the street with before, or tabled with, etc.,
but we have a long way to go if we want to reach "Green Anarchy" or
NEFAC status.

RAAN: Is your group in contact with or working alongside RAAN in
any other cities? What about collective network projects?

Doug: Well, I've had the pleasure of working with RedLibertad from
RAAN-LA on two recent events. In Sacramento, DAAA geared up for
the mini-WTO conference on bio-tech and GMO's. DAAA put
together meetings, discussions at Food Not Bombs, and
literature/email sharings. At the conference, we worked with other
collectives we knew and were able to share vegan food with people,
hand out things like literature and spray paint, and help out projects
like Food Not Bombs.

Actually, the idea for RAAN's Book Liberation Week came up when
Red and I were together. I brought up the idea, and he ironed it out.

Revolution Summer in San Diego went about the same for us, but that
was cut short because of police harrassment and FBI misconduct
(hopefully). I'm sure we'll write more about this later.

RAAN: DAAA is also part of Raise The Fist! (RTF!)'s "Direct Action
Network". Can you tell us a little bit about that group, how it's
different or similar to RAAN, and the prospects for future cooperation
between these two networks?

Doug: RTF! collectives are usually loosely connected, and the goal of
the RTF! network is usually not to bring people together, but to have
people start up groups in towns that don't already have
anti-authoritarian groups. RTF! provides collectives with a bunch of
nice online features and recently, RTF! groups faciltated the writing of
a speech to be read in support of Sherman Austin (RTF! founder) at a
protest in Philly.

The differences in RAAN and RTF!, are more organic I would say. The
RTF! network dosen't have any uniting principles to the extent that
RAAN does. Groups are connected to people quite like RAAN is, but
RTF! collectives work more as groups, whereas RAAN operatives are
more like loosely-scattered individuals.

RAAN: How do you see RAAN's further development and expansion
in respect to DAAA's? Most importantly, what are your predictions
for any future work with other groups outside of as well as within the
network?

Doug: Peronally I would like to see state-based "Infoshop.org"s that
would allow better networking for different groups in the country, and
the world. Also, I would like to see more fundraising on behalf of
RAAN so we could buy certain supplies. DAAA will keep doing what
it is doing, and hopefully keep RAAN up-to-date with what is going on,
and hopefully people can help out in doing so.

RAAN: Thus far, RAAN has operated mainly as a tightly-knit group of
radicals who have come together under shared principles to
collaborate on a series of projects. The widening of this circle and
especially the formation of RAAN collectives and affinities has
opened us up to a lot of new possibilities. Do you have anything you'd
like to say to any groups or individuals who might be interested in the
network?

Doug: I would say that networks are very useful for activists and
people trying to get things done. I just went down to San Diego, and
met up with people working with the ABC, IWW, Pirate Radio, and
CFA (Compassion For Farm Animals, an animal lib. Group) just by
researching them on the Internet. Thus I was able to basically know
all there was to know about the scene down there, plan out my trip,
and get in contact with other activists. The ability of groups to work
with others, to not only share ideas and concepts, but also resources,
is very important - especially to a movement that is not centralized in
any way shape or form. RAAN is a tool, and how good that tool is
depends on the people that are working with it.

RAAN: And finally: on a scale of one to "sexy", just how sexy is
RAAN?

Doug: Pretty sexy, but don't tell my girlfriend.



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