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(en) Alt. Media: On the International Anarchism Gathering at St. Imier, Switzerland

Date Thu, 16 Aug 2012 16:29:51 +0300


Impressions from the Gathering ---- From August 8 till August 12, hundreds of anarchists from around the world met in St.Imier 140 years after the antiauthoritarian and anarchist International took place. I went to the event as a delegate from Unión Socialista Libertaria from Peru, but also as an anarchist without adjectives, activist, blogger, documentarist, and therefore my impressions are personal and not the opinion of any organization. ---- It should be clear that my criticism goes to all the anarchists that attended, including myself, and not to someone in particular and especially not to organizers, who did as much as they could, considering the circumstances. Something that was lacking was solidarity to divide all the tasks among all participants. Due to the complexity of the gathering, I have divided the article into different areas to facilitate lecture.

Organization: I'm almost completely sure that La Cooperative Espace Noir and the Federation Libertaire des Montagnes were the two organizations that came up with the idea of the event. A militant from the later said to me that the other organizations did not give enough (economically and in volunteers), and that for this reason almost all the weight of the event fell in the hands of few people.

Economics: The event cost about 100 thousand euros, between the funicular (1000 euros each day), the camping site, food, and other innumerable costs. The camping site cost between 9 and 14 swiss francs by person depending on what one could afford. Cable car service was included with the camping quota since the camping site was high in the mountains and the only way to get to it was in a car, in the funicular, or through a 1 hour 1/2 walk. A lot of things were given at a "free price", including food.

Volunteers: Volunteers were lacking, with the exception of the kitchen that functioned autonomously. Personally, it took me a while to get oriented and find the information stands. These were located in "Espace Noir" and the "Patinoire" where the book fair was taking place. In many conferences, volunteers from the organization were needed to control the time of the conferences.

Translation: In the same way, translation was another weakness of the gathering. On the internet, we could find which conferences had translations, but in St. Imier nobody knew what conferences were in what language. In the program, some conferences appeared in English and turned out to be in French, and in many occasions without any translation. We had to arranged things as we could. In many instances, the public was asked "Who can translate from English to French? for example. What was really amazing was that, when we organized ourselves, we could make conferences of more than 400 people in French and translate them simultaneously to English, Spanish, Portuguese, and German. That was the case on Pelletier's and Ferretti's conferences about "Geography and Anarchy". The only hall that used translation by radio and headphones was the main hall, which served for the inauguration and the final meeting. I should also mention that many translators did not do their job correctly, perhaps by overestimating their abilities.

Access: St Imier is a small town in the Jura valley, surrounded by steep hills, and therefore the access for people with disabilities was difficult. The path from the "Patinoire" to the town center was also very steep, and a considerable factor to take into account that affected free circulation.

Camping Site and Cable Car: As I have mentioned before, the camping site was located at 400 meters high from the town. The price was between 9 and 14 euros for each person, according to the economical possibilities of every attendee. There were enough bathrooms and these were cleaned every day by a hired company. The showers were located in big tents and these were collective. Some people that desired to sleep were upset with other people that wanted to party on the same place. The cable car could take a long time to work, especially at night. Because of height, the temperature at the campsite could reach 5 degrees celsius.

Anarchist Book Fair: The book fair was a complete success. There were publications from many countries and in many languages. One of the most concurred stands was the one from the Anarchist Federation from France. The Spaniards did not lag behind, probably the second most common language on the fair. The only thing that bothered me was the price of some objects. I found very thin book priced 12 euros, which is completely ridiculous, especially when these are some of the most common anarchist works. On the bright side, this was more an exception to the rule, since most books and magazines were priced correctly, and there were many objects, posters, and magazines marked free price.

Conferences: There were many interesting conferences and some of them could last more than 3 hours. Regrettably, some of them were full and it was impossible to assist. In some others, it was collectively decided that they should take place outside so that everyone could attend, but in this case, it was difficult to hear what was been said. Sometimes, the names of some conferences did not correspond to the themes discussed. For example, the conference " Current Situation, Historical Opportunity for Rearmament" by Gutierrez was translated incorrectly on the program; it was mostly about the possibilities of anarchism in social movements. Another flaw was that in some conferences, the speaker decided to read a text, or the conference lacked interactivity with the public.

Cinema: Between conferences, food, and the fraternal ambiance of the gathering, to watch a movie when so many things were happening around was out of the question. I think that most anarchists decided that it was better to be in contact with other anarchists than to watch movies, which they could do any other time.

Kitchen: The kitchen was organized by different collectives that counted with the same economical support from the organization. The price for 3 meals was 10 swiss francs or roughly 3.30 swiss francs for each meal, but it was the decision of every guest to give what they could. The food was completely vegan, and the portions were generous. It was great that everyone had to clean their own plate and utensils. The last day of the gathering, it was made public that 20 thousand francs were spent for food, and we were missing 8 thousand. The kitchen collective received a standing ovation at the final meeting and they deserve it.

Venues: The gathering took place in various venues, which were located on a considerably distance from one another. The Anarkismo tent, for example, was located far away from the rest of venues. Some venues, like the one mentioned before, were tents and the sun could make things miserable for attendees. Most venues could not accommodate comfortably the public, but at least this was a sign that the conferences were a success.

Actors:

Anarchist Organizations: I have no problem criticizing the anarchist organizations that were present during the gathering. The gathering was meant to be for all anarchists and not only the organized ones, so I thought it was wrong that on the final meeting, there was a large table only for delegates from organizations, and that they had more time to speak than the rest of anarchists present. The delegates spoke for more than an hour, and then there was no time for the free discussion of all attendees.

Punxs: The first impression of St. Imier during the gathering was marked by the presence of countless punxs and crusties that hanged around the public areas of the town. Personally, if it would've been for punk rock I would probably never got to know anarchism. Unfortunately, I could observe the hostile or rebel attitude of some few punxs, like for example walking on the asphalt recently installed by the town workers. Attitudes like "I do whatever I want and fuck the rest" have nothing to do with anarchism and I condemn them. At another time, people were needed to disassemble a tent, and some punxs who were next to it did not even flinch. I was obvious that to many people this was anarchism. In most conferences, punx's aesthetics was not present. Note: most punxs were nice people are real libertarians, I'm just talking of some few individuals.

St. Imier Inhabitants: Even if many inhabitants were scared of hundreds of anarchists debarking into town, after our arrival, many of them put their prejudices apart and realized that we were not so different from them. In general, I think that most of the population of St. Imier received us with open arms, and that from now on, they will be more proud of the history of this town.

Anarco-feminists: A huge polemic about patriarchy and anarco-feminism occurred. Anarco-feminists had at their disposal a round table each day of the gathering, and in the main hall. At the final meeting, the anarco-feminists demanded for women translators only, which I found ridiculous. At the same final meeting, they called on women for not making their voices heard, since most comments came from men. They also pointed out the stalker behavior of men who had drunk every night. These two last points I think were justified. Finally, the second to last intervention of the final meeting was a guy who wanted to speak precisely about anarco-feminism. When he started to talk, another guy on the back of the hall started yelling something to show his disapproval of men speaking about feminism. I yelled at him quickly in French "don't be intolerant!" and something else that I have forgotten. Other people told him that he should leave if he cannot bear listening to different opinions, and thus he left.

Vegans: Saturday night, some people decided to make a blockade around the grill with sausages and cheese behind Espace Noir. I understand their anger since it had been decided that only vegan food should be offered during the gathering, but the way their expressed their discontent was inadequate. Anarchists use direct action against capital and the state. In this libertarian gathering, a blockade against other anarchists was inadmissible and I will explain why: Animal rights and veganism are two themes in which there is no consensus among anarchist; and furthermore, vegans are a minority among anarchists. So, trying to impose their way of thinking on the rest of us by doing a blockade was, in my opinion, intolerant.

Conclusions:

The event was really historical. For the first time in history, anarchists from all tendencies and schools of thought gathered to organize themselves and celebrate our diversity. The organization and the success of the gathering break completely away from all past prejudices about anarchism, and could only signal the advance of anarchist ideas at a global level.

The media will have to work hard to distortion our image, since there were almost no actions to which they frequently relate us. I'm talking about protests, destruction of property, violence, etc… But it is true that in the few articles about the event, an external or paternalistic view towards anarchists is maintained, including the old prejudice about anarchists striving for disorder. In an article that I could not retrieve again, the subtitle was "Meetings for People that don't like Meetings". In other articles, the commentaries of pseudo-libertarian ( anarco-capitalists) continue to distort the meaning of anarchism. I finish my essay with the hope to see more activity from anarchists in the social field, as well as in mainstream media to defend our principles, and that for once and for all, anarchism takes the place that belongs to it in the history of mankind.

Cheers,

Rzo, Bitacora Anarquista

This article was originally published in Spanish at http://www.bitacoranarquista.wordpress.com
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