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(en) European PGA* Conference Newspaper - Racism class issues in the anti-authoritarian activist scenes

Date Mon, 09 Oct 2006 08:50:32 +0200

This is the report of the first workshop concerning racism that has
taken place in the decentralized part of the PGA in Lyon. The goal
was to understand why the people concerned by racism, migrants,
often of working class and precarious, who have not had or had little
access to education and to information are minoritarian in the
anti-authoritarian movement. The people of color were yet a
minority; as much as in this workshop as well as in the general
gathering in Lyon. About 25 people participated in this workshop.
After discussions in smaller groups (3 groups), the ideas that came
out of each group were shared with everybody. In the first place;
people were asked to discuss between them about their links with
groups or movements directly concerned with racism or migration.
This part will not be treated here. Each group being composed by
people of different backgrounds, they resulted in different
sensibilities towards issues on colonial history; of classe; etc. and
some issues were country specific. But some impressions still
seemed to converge on a few points (ex.. closedness of the activist
scenes of white and Western majority).

Question 1: Why are the people concerned by racism
under-represented in the circles of the anti-authoritarian movements
when instead they are the majority in the ghettos and that they lead
the global anticapitalist struggles?

Groupe 1 *two women of algerien origin were present in this group
Algeria, Germany, France...

In certain scenes and in the culture of feminist literature, there is not
enough questioning of the representations on sexism in the
countries that have been colonised.

Certain attitudes of latent racism that hurt a lot.

Historical reason – ex. while feminism wzs emerging (70's –
80's), the immigrant women had other crucial preoccupations and
feminism had not arrived all the way to the bidonvilles and in the
HLM neighborhoods (lowcost social housing).

The feminism in France also has a rather intellectual and bourgeois
history; thus certain women did not feel concerned or welcome

The community is closed apon itself.

The question in itself was put to question : Why

* The notion of “representation” was put to question by
people who originally came from the former French colonies...

In the same manner, it was criticized that it was necessary to define
what racism is.

Culture of silence : the oppressed and their descendants have learnt
to stay silent --> dificulty to speak out and difficulty to listen to this

Groupe 2 *one persone of color (woman) Switzerland, Sweden,
France, Ukraina, Germany...

Migrants have prioritary problems that are different.

Possible difficulties : language differences different cultural
backgrounds different class of origin different ways of organizing

Power relations make it difficult to develope friendship.

Complexity : intersection of different types of oppressions (ex.
racism, sexism, heterosexism, class oppression, etc...) in the

There's a tendency to selfcensorship in the people who are targeted
by racism.


--> it is also necessary to create spaces on our own and not to
wait for others to make them.

Logic of time and urgency make it difficult to cover these issues in
an explicit manner.

There's the tendency to exoticise the “Other” and to trap
her/him in stereotypes (positive or negative).

Often a paternalistic attitude is adopted towards people as if we knew
“better than them” (education) yet at the same time, people
who have less means of power tend to count on those who have
more means of action...

Lack of desire/effort to confront these issues (ex. whiteness) in the
activist scenes.

People don't mix – ex. we may invite people to meetings but we
do not become friends with them

* The affinity based logic can be excluding

Not enough space is given to discuss about these issues

Too local perspective – ethnnocentrism (activist culture)

We stay in a logic of give in take – hierarchy, lack of objective
equality and power relations (of which we do not become conscious).

Ignorance on the situation of the other – the action of a person is
very limited according to his/her conditions and position/status.

Lack of presence/visibility of people with similar conditions –

Selfcensorship on one hand and reluctance to talk about one's own
history and that of one's family and/or country and its implication in
the past/present politics (not to position oneself – and we tend to
ask the others to position themselves).

Groupe 3 dtwo people of color (women) Bulgaria, Australia, France,

- Situation in Bulgaria where there are many Roms in communities
that are quite closed and not conscious enough of the modes of
anti-authoritarian self-organisation. The Turkish community
distrusts the Bulgarians because of racist discriminations. No trust,
difficult to make connections. Segregation of the Turkish population.
not much mixing, difficulties to make exchanges. The fact that there
be so much racism doesn't give the desire to create ties with
individuals who are difficult to distinguish from the oppressors.

In Australia, the Chines immigrants, Koreans, Vietnamese do not
ivest themselves in anticapitalist groups. In the activist circles,
difficult to create ties with youth of Asian origin who are the object
of discrimination.

In France, the same kind of patterns when you arrive in a place
where you are discriminated they tell you to scram. Mentality
integrated in the first generation. But there are many people of color
since a long time so this doesn't explain anything.

When one is non-white, culturally poor; it is very difficult to
integrate oneself culturally; it's very difficult to integrate oneself to
the anarchist, feminist and left scenes. 3 things are recognized : to be
white, to be rich, to be educated (know how to speak well...).
Otherwise you are not accepted. One must proove oneself; be in the
same identity codes.

A peroson concerned by racisme explained that when she went to
the G8 for the first time it reminde her of the first time she went to a
lesbian club, where at the entrance she was told “this is a gay
club” and refused to let her in. The same sensation at the G8
where she seemed to read in the eyes of the people “what the
hell are you doing here?” When we organise direct actions it is
necessary to feel at ease. How to arrive to this level of
self-confidence if the white group is closed; that we feel that the
people are scared of foreigners, of the people they do not know?
How to change the world if we cannot change these local problems?

The words change:we say minority for people who are the majority.
What changes :there will be people who have power, money outside
of white people. The actions, anti-white movements change the
situation and the way these issues are seen. To return the
oppression. We speak of anti-white racisme, white people are scared.
Before the people of color sent back the violence to their
communities, now return to the white oppressor.

If your parents give you money, you're not obliged to work, it's
easier to invest yourself in the anarchist scene as opposed to if you
work or if you have family in your charges.

Cultural obstacles: It's a long time that this is questioned but it isn't
working. Class problems: it's difficult to say that we don't understand
the books on theory, elitism. The language used is academic, tough.
If you grew up in a proletarian context and you're not an activist, you
don't have the political culture that is needed, and that you don't
understand, when you don't understand it is made understood that
you are stupid. In the white middle class one can be sexist,
homophobic, without political reflection but you have access to
certain means that when you come from working classes, and you
or/and your family doesn't speak the local language; or that you
don't have these bases, nor encouagement to reading...

There's also from the exterior, there are perceptions of anarchists as
people who are “lazy” and who do not contribute to a more
larger community.

The people who are implied in the daily struggles don't have the
“privilege” of the anarchist lifestyle

The problem of anarchist “culture”

Question 2: Whose responsiblility is it to increase the participation of
the people concerned directly by racism in these scenes? (which

Groupe 1

- Cultural hegemony: the experience to have lived as a foreigner and
unwelcome allows to understand a few things.

Groupe 2

Deconstruct on different levels personal historical interpersonal
(speak and share)

Facilitate the creation of network, make information circulate
outside of the closed circles and vice-versa.

A practical example to sensibilise people on these issues : distribute
things like brochures-questionaries (that exist) to measure one's
own internalized racism, homophobia, sexism, heterosexism

Meet and speak directly with the people who are concerned

Make explicite and visibilise the implicite rules and structures;
organisation/how things work in the scenes

Include and welcome specific groups (ex. write in the flyer that
people without papers are very welcome)

Create spaces

Tto become conscious of /realize about power dynamics

Groupe 3

Link with local struggles – not to wait for people of color to
“come towards us”

The activists should be conscious of their “safety” strategies
of the group de comment leur stratégies de “protection”
du groupe (ex. not working with people we don't know when
planning direct action).

Allow people to learn in their own time/rhythm.

The intellectual/academic understanding fo the théorie seems to
be valued more than anything which excludes for example the
working class


A few notes :

One of the difficulties of these discussions is that the people who
intervened did not have the same relationship to this and oppression
and that this is not made explicite.

Maybe we didn't underline enough the qtiestion concerning the
confrontation to one's own internalized racism de se confronter.

Affinity-based networks are problematical.

Lack of connection with other movements.
* PGA is an antiauthoritarian anticapitalist direct action network
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