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(en) Reflections on "May Day '98" PART II (amendments of author)

From "David Harvie" <dh@lubs.leeds.ac.uk>
Date Fri, 7 Aug 1998 10:51:16 +0300 (IDT)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Most of the final section of our MayDay'98, As We Saw It document 
(Part IV "Reflections") got lost when I sent it a couple of days ago. 
Apologies. Here it is.

Before we reflect on how it went for us, we need to make it clear that
we did have an amazing sense of ‘Wow!’ - it was liberating and
inspiring to meet with so many people coming from all over the country
to talk politics. But while there were many positive things about
MayDay’98, there were also some negative aspects. Most of these points
are inter-related and have both an up-side and a down-side. 1. There
was lots of respect. Participants in all nine groups seemed very
tolerant of each other and there seemed a genuine willingness to
listen to different points of view. For us this was an absolutely new
experience at political conferences! Most groups seemed to get along
without formal chairing, and the use of facilitators seemed to be
generally welcomed. At the beginning people were being a bit ‘super-
polite’ ("After you.", "No, after you"), but as controversial thins
were said, half a dozen of us would all try and respond at once, and
suddenly we’d need a formal chair. Without a formal chair, sometimes
we got too concerned about timing our interventions: you need to be
able to jump in but without interrupting. So some groups found that
they shied away from too much controversy and disagreement, which was
a bit frustrating. Considering that for many of us there is long,
sectarian history of point- scoring over others, competing for members
and slagging each other off, it’s no surprise that at this, our first
open, non-sectarian ‘olive branch’ conference, there did seem to be an
overemphasis on finding agreement rather than exploring disagreement.
This is a reflection of the need to communicate and build up
relationships rather than barricade ourselves away. MayDay’98 was a
good first break away from the usual posturing and strutting that goes
on at political conferences, but for the future, we do need to look at
our differences if we are to overcome or accept them. We also need to
build up a culture of continual assessment/criticism and questioning
of ourselves. This conference was the beginning; now we need to look
wider at our ‘movement’, its diversities and boundaries, explore the
differences and push the contradictions. 2. MayDay’98 seemed very
‘anarchist’-dominated. This is fine if you wanted it to be an
anarchist conference. But our goals should be more ambitious. There
are masses of people out there who share our politics but are not part
of any anarchist/socialist tradition, so the fact that MayDay’98
remained anarchist-dominated was a bit disappointing, even if it
wasn’t very surprising. There is so much more potential out there for
all sorts of people to talk politics and work together - we hope to
see that happen in the future. 3. MayDay’98 also turned out to be very
‘activist’-oriented. One of the issues we wanted to question was the
very nature of ‘activism’ itself and the whole culture of ‘politics’

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