A - I n f o s
a multi-lingual news service by, for, and about anarchists **

News in all languages
Last 40 posts (Homepage) Last two weeks' posts

The last 100 posts, according to language
Castellano_ Català_ Deutsch_ Nederlands_ English_ Français_ Italiano_ Polski_ Português_ Russkyi_ Suomi_ Svenska_ Türkçe_ The.Supplement
{Info on A-Infos}

(en) [Pga_europe_discussion] My visit to Leiden (one story about PGA conference) (2/2)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 19 Apr 2003 09:34:24 +0200 (CEST)

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

Et si des keums en ?coutant ce skeud pensent que j'ai tort
The French guy was taking notes, and he had also very
strong vision what we should state about the topic. I
concentrated just to raise my bad experiences about lack of
real content on various gender debates and I called for
concrete proposals. I told about only new concrete proposal
I had heard in many years, that is the triple stack system.
Stack is the facilitation technique where instead of chairman
giving one person a right to speak at time, one person is just
writing down names in the order

where people ask their turn, and everyone is given turn in
their times. There is a variant of this, when

direct points and general points are separated - people who
want to make direct comments to one speaker are given
priority, so they "are in another, priorized stack". But few
weeks before I heard from an American anarchist communist
comrade another variant used in their federation - that in
which people who have been inactive in the discussion
before are giving priority to others, which puts them to "third
stack", which is given a priority over the two others (actually
technical points are given a priority over all of these, so it is
not "triple stack" but "quadruple stack"). This is certainly a
gender issue and not a sex issue, since there are plenty of
macho women dominating the discussions, as well as silent
and timid men - persons discussion gender may differ from
the biological one. But usually it is women who are silent, and
this method helps to integrate everyone who is afraid to talk
aloud in public to discussion.

However the French guy had another interest in this
discussion, and he ended up writing a very beautiful
declaration on his own which consisted about one third of
the final conclusions of the strategy debates. For sure there
was not a single phrase in this text with which I would not
agree with, but it also had not anything I had not read dozens
of times before, it sort of fulfilled my bad expectations.

In general I think gender issue was not that rudely sidelined
in the conference. Although many debates were dominated
by men, and the women who participated were from the
minority with a good self-esteem, still in all of the issues
(except gender issue) there was a much better presence of
women than in any issues our federation has lately been
working on in Russia. I do not think this is just an accident,
the European PGA paradigm of consensus and concentration
to good process (such as facilitation) instead of results really
gives better abilities for women (in the sense of gender, that
means I include silent men here) to participate. Of course
applying this approach which is successful in small,
homogenous groups is not always doing so well in the big
events such as the European PGA conference, but still the
difference is clear. In Russia we should really think what to do
improve our process, and what in the European PGA
paradigm would be applicable for us - miserable share of
women among our militants is a proof that we may not
continue as we have done before.

36 process discussion points of danger

In afternoon I joined the discussion about conclusions of the
of the PGA process. At once I was able to sit the whole time
without saying anything. When the allocated time was
finished, half of the themes were not even discussed yet. As
far as I know, there had not been any priority discussion
about the themes, although it had been proposed several
times. This was maybe not such a bad thing after all, since
such a thing would have wasted hours. Finally some people
ended up discussing proposition to plenary until 3 AM. I
guess everyone understands that this approach is not very
democratic or transparent since most people are just too
tired to participate, especially if they want to be awake during
the plenary itself.

In the end I think the mistake was not really lack of the
priority discussion, but the fact that there was not enough
time in the first place, and too few well-prepared proposals.
The issues of the support group and infopoints are really big
and controversial ones, and one and half days to prepare
them were certainly not enough. I do not really understand
what was the point in sacrificing the morning session to
strategy debates. Is goal of the European PGA to make some
strategy document which everyone will find useful and
necessary to their activity, and to which they will be
committed to? I doubt. At worst, the results will be just
abstract words impossible to apply in any concrete project,
at best still just some commentaries and recommendations.
European PGA is quite far from being able to draft a sort of a
party action program, if such a thing is needed. I do not think
that increasing coherence is bad thing, certainly there are
things I hope all people involved in the European PGA do
and concentrate into. But due to extremely loose structure,
no any strategy debate may reach such results, it is always
the groups setting their agendas separately from each other.
That is the level where I hope the development to take place,
not in the level of the declarations.

So the morning of the plenary once again mostly ended up
just to present the results of the strategy debates. I think it
would have been enough to have these debates just once,
and a note-taker to extract

some 200 words from each to common report. What is the
point of a structure like European PGA to have some strategy
paper, which everyone have formally agreed? I would be
surprised if any of the groups who were in the conference
would sit down in their local, translate the strategy document
to their own language and make a decision how to apply it to
each of their projects. The abstractness of the paper was not
result of the confusion among those who came to
conference, it was result of the structure of the European
PGA itself.

100 plenaries and runnin'

>From which we may move to the point of having the plenary
in the first place. Lately I have come to conclusion that the
main problem is in having any kind of formal decision - this
formal decision can be reached in a more (such as
parliamentary, authoritarian) or less evil (such as imperatively
mandated delegates, direct democracy, plenary or
consensus) ways, but it is evil anyway. Any need to have a
formal, written down decision is a sign that people are not
capable to reach an agreement in a normal face-to-face
discussion, a decision which is expected to be accepted and
followed in the future as well. Making any formal, written
down decision is always a pain, against natural group
dynamics of the human beings.

I have no doubt that such a pain is often needed - but the
fact that the pain is there shows that we are moving on
dangerous ground here. And more there is pain, more you
may question the sense of all that. And plenary, if anything, is
a very painful thing. Its existence indicates that people who
are really committed to the PGA process have desperate
need to legitimize the steps they are taking, by forcing
everyone to one big room for hours in a desperate attempt to
reach a consensus decision. Almost all people really
interested about the process were in the process discussion,
which was some 4 or 5 times smaller than the final plenary,
and respectively 4 or 5 times less painful. But although PGA
crystallizes hopes of tens of millions of people, it networks
millions of people in the world and tens of thousands in
Europe, and is the most credible international initiative since
founding of I-do-not-know-which workers international, still
in the European level there are just a handful of people who
have a slightest vision how the process of PGA should
develop. Just a handful of people who are ready to sacrifice
few days to difficult discussions about the theme. Such a
small group of people, that they must get legitimization to
their decisions by the painful plenary process - otherwise
they will feel like a small activist group, and probably will
soon to collapse into being such. Although vast majority of
the participators of the conference and plenary are not really
committed to the process and their presence is mostly
symbolical support, their presence is still the lifeline for the
maintenance of the myth of the PGA.

biNGO time!

Whatever, during the plenary I managed not to stress too
much, instead I was observing the social dynamics in a rather
relaxed mood. A great help for this one were my biNGO
grids, where I crossed

keywords every time when someone mentioned them.
Unfortunately I was not successful this time, and in general
only one French comrade got a biNGO although the rules of
the game had been published in the general conference
newspaper of the same morning. Here are my grids, crossed
blocks are noted with green color. Strategy biNGO was a
common effort of two Finnish and one Swedish comrade, in
process biNGO Finnish were supported by Danish.

Strategy debate:

Sem Terra
forms of

Process debate

We don't
have that
much time
sign "L">>
not go
to the
Keep to the
So we leave it
for later

Note that words did not have to be mentioned in the exact
form - for example we crossed "anarchism" when "anarchist"
was mentioned. However combined expressions had to
explicitly include all parts, although "radical" and "change"
were mentioned many times, sometimes even in the same
phrase, we could not cross "radical change" since they were
not mentioned combined. It was also not allowed to cross
expressions when they were just read aloud from written
documents submitted to the plenary.

We played the first biNGO to afternoon as well, but since the
results were not good we decided to make a separate
process biNGO, which we played only one hour - with
tremendous results! One may

make some conclusions about the spirit in the plenary from
the fact that "please" was not said

at once during this period...

Lengthy punchline starts here

Ok, having read some 7000 words of cynical or
tragicomedical remarks, reader maybe wants to know if I have
something positive to say about the European PGA
conference, or at least some concrete proposals which I
called all the time. Well, although I certainly love all you
people who were there, boosting your moral is not that much
my style. To me pain and understanding have always been
two somewhat synonymous expressions.

First good step would be that everyone just spent a while to
think what do they want from the network, after having done
a reality check. It is obvious that European PGA is unlikely
rushing as one to any new initiative, it is for example not
necessary a sign of racism if network does not run
immediately to support issue such as the movement against
the war in Congo, in contrary to opinion of one African
participator. In another hand, although European PGA has its
own prioritizing dynamics, and these dynamics are to a large
extent independent from any collective decision, priorities
are still not necessary a monolith course which is
unchangeable, I think that by patient discussion it is possible
to influence not only formal prioritization by the network
(which is a little in itself) but also to priorities of the
individuals who are participating to it.

We need some more dimensions here

Take concrete issue, such as the East-European involvement.
At first West-Europeans should realize, that most issues
which work out in the West do not work in the East. Even
many issues, which you could imagine should work in the
East, will not work. Still there are and will be some ideas
which could be worth of trying. For example Autonomous
Action of Moscow got first hooked to European
Noborder-network just in connection with the organization of
the Polish bordercamps, but in few years an idea of
organizing support campaign to Chechen refugees popped
up. It did not really worked out, but was worth of trying
anyway. When we again began questioning our participation
to the Noborder in the spring of 2002, Southern groups of
Autonomous Action began to organize anti-deportation
campaigns in the Kuban region of the Black Sea rim.

So when Western groups begin new campaigns, they should
have a thought if there could be an East- European dimension
in them. The same way, East-European groups should have a
thought if their campaigns could have some West European
dimension, and more importantly, be concrete and realistic
with their expectations, and even more importantly, to expect
something else except just money. People shouldn't be too
realistic - every anti-repression issue, every ecological
protest has at least some potential to become international,
you should at least have a try.

East Europeans should strive to understand West-European
movements in a more deeper than just a superficial way. At
first sight anything in West Europe seems just awesome, but
after another look it is easy to find plenty of problems. My
strongest discovery after Leiden was that I am actually hell of
a lucky to live and organize in Moscow - our autonomy of
action is in a completely different level than in the West. In
the West, whatever you say or do is annoying someone else
in the "left". In Russia there are people criticizing and hating
you as well, but they are something like 10 persons in some
closed e-mail list. But in the West, there will always be
hundreds or thousands of people putting you as a reformist,
an extremist, an authoritarian, a disorganized, a liberal, a
dogmatic, a sexist or a sectarian feminist nutcracker or
whatever on every step you take. Here we can just do
whatever we want and organize the way we want. Actually in
federative level Autonomous Action is just about as
organized as is possible without sinking into bureaucracy or
to endless discussions about formalisms, being in this edge is
a sort of an ideal compromise to me. In the West, there would
not be a chance for such a balancing. If East-Europeans do
not start to understand West-European society and
movements, they do not even find any normal people to
cooperate with, for example dozens of people in Russia live
in faith that ATTAC in the West are good people and efforts
should be taken in order to network with them.... what a
waste! In similar way, most of people in Russia think that the
commonly agreed main goal of any big international
mobilization is to have as big riot as possible.

If there is something from which West-Europeans should get
rid of, that is the attitude that everything should be on a
walking distance! If you think that places like Warsaw or
Prague are far away.... fuck you! They are not! People from
Siberia spend days hitchhiking on highways or bumming in
short-distance trains to get to our summer conferences at the
Black Sea, and you may not spend few short hours in a
comfortable Western train which is a direct connection!

Probably East-European involvement would also require that
some people which have a long-term involvement in the PGA
should take the issue to their hearts. Eastern expansion was
for sure a condition for the Noborder network to have any
perspective at all (since soon Central Europe won't have any
ground borders), but it would not have happened without
lots of sacrifices and work by a very few Western individuals.


There is also one very practical issue which is currently a
barrier in the East European involvement. That is the current
East European coordinator, Rainbow Keepers. I am sure that
the few people who have some vision about developing PGA
in East Europe among Rainbow Keepers have most honest
intentions, but they seem to have much other priorities.
Besides few articles in somewhat little distributed paper,
Tretiy Put, and organizing a bus travel to founding
conference and presence in Cochabamba, Finland and
Leiden for example, I have not seen much attempts to
organize on PGA frame in the xUSSR by them. Nothing came
out from the idea to have East-European/CIS PGA
conference organized in Votkinsk in August of 2001.

Inactivity would not be a problem in itself it could not at times
hamper participation of the others. Example on this was the
Cochabamba conference, support group passed
East-European applications to Rainbow Keepers to approve,
but Rainbow Keepers refused announcing that they do not
know these groups and have no method to decide about
their suitability. Support group had not such resources either,
but it was even worse idea to pass applications to
conference organizers. In the end, no-one did anything with
the applications, and as far as I know Rainbow Keepers was
the only group travelling to the Cochabamba from East
Europe. Among thus refused applicants were two persons
from Autonomous Action. Actually the fact they applied was
outrageous since these people did not had approval of the
whole organization (which was then just a network) to their
application and seemed just to think that Western activist are
happy to waste $1000 anytime just to see some Russian
faces (this actually at times seems to be the case). However if
nothing is done with the current situation same thing is likely
to be repeated in the future.

A Rainbow Keeper activist explained me that in Cochabamba
it was decided that RK will not "monopolize contacts", that
any other East European group should have equal access to

This is a good decision. I think another decision which
should be made is that any East Europeans should be able to
participate to European process in the equal terms, whatever
happens to the East European process hosted by Rainbow

Note that I am as well a Rainbow Keeper member myself, so I
am not just trying to throw some mud on a rival organization.
And if these few details are solved, I have no problem of
having Rainbow Keepers to continue as East-European
coordinator, or conveyor, or whatever. But in the long run, I
think for European PGA it would be good to have an
East-European conveyor, or maybe a group of East European
conveyors since it is unlikely that a single group could handle
the task on their own.

This seems like a completely unrealistic thing right now,
where some East European groups which have had a long
involvement in the PGA even wonder have they enough
resources to work as infopoints. But I think in few years it
would be possible to have East European conveyors, if we
approve it as a common goal now. For sure it would require
also very active role of the support group (if it will still exist)
and withdrawing conveyor, since organization of the
conference, and even that of the coordination meetings
would be financially dependant from the West.

Antti Rautiainen

(Post scriptum: when making final edition to the text, it seems
like PGA will have an East-European conveyor already

****** The A-Infos News Service ******
News about and of interest to anarchists
COMMANDS: lists@ainfos.ca
REPLIES: a-infos-d@ainfos.ca
HELP: a-infos-org@ainfos.ca
WWW: http://www.ainfos.ca/
INFO: http://www.ainfos.ca/org

-To receive a-infos in one language only mail lists@ainfos.ca the message:
unsubscribe a-infos
subscribe a-infos-X
where X = en, ca, de, fr, etc. (i.e. the language code)

A-Infos Information Center