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News ::
Time For A New Anarchist Cookbook (english)
26 Feb 2003
Modified: 02:17:15 PM
It's time for a new anarchist cookbook. Not for making food or bombs, silly -- this one's for activities. We're putting together a collection of how-to pieces on everything from tabling and wheatpasting to street confrontations and more unusual endeavors, something like Earth First's Ecodefense manual only for the urban/suburban context.
It's time for a new anarchist cookbook.

Not for making food or bombs, silly -- this one's for activities. We're putting together a collection of how-to pieces on everything from tabling and wheatpasting to street confrontations and more unusual endeavors, something like Earth First's Ecodefense manual only for the urban/suburban context. The idea is to compile the information in the brains of experienced "activists" (ugh, what a terrible word!) and place it in the hands of -- well, everyone else! We want this cookbook to be available to and used by everyone from every walk of life.

We've posted some sample recipes at our website in hopes that everyone who knows more about this stuff than we do, or has some other perspective, will tell us what we've forgotten to include. By all means, please tell us aspects of each subject we've ignored, or lessons you've learned in practice that are important to keep in mind, or possible variations on each theme.

We are also hungry for YOUR contributions. If you have a recipe for action that you'd like to share, please do! You can submit it anonymously or pseudonymously if you like. All that we ask is that it be a recipe that you have personally taste-tested, if you know what we mean.

Without further ado, here's our first recipe -- something probably very familiar to all of you, but apparently not familiar enough to the young folks in the last few marches I participated in. Please tell us what's missing! Thanks so much for your help!

Wholesome, Nutritious Affinity Group

A circle of friends
A good idea
Plans for different scenarios
Structures to respond to unexpected scenarios
A little courage (may be optional)
Subsequent discussion

Cooking up a group
How many people should comprise an affinity group?

Size can range from two to, say, fifteen individuals, depending on the action in question; but no group should be so numerous that an informal conversation about pressing matters is impossible. You can always split up into two or more groups, if there are enough of you.

Is the affinity group a permanent arrangement?

No, an affinity group is a structure of convenience, ever mutable, assembled from the pool of interested and trusted people for the duration of a given project. Once assembled, this group may choose to be "closed," if security dictates: that is, whatever goes on within the group is never spoken of outside it, even after all its other activities are long completed. A particular team can act together over and over as an affinity group, but the members can also participate in other affinity groups, break up into smaller affinity groups, and act outside the affinity group structure.

Chances are, even if you have never been involved in direct action before, even if this is the first radical text you have ever encountered, that you are already part of an affinity group--the structure proven most effective for guerrilla activities of all kinds. An affinity group is simply a circle of friends who, knowing each other's strengths, weaknesses, and life histories, and having already established a common language and healthy internal dynamics, sets out to accomplish a goal or series of goals.

Affinity groups can be practically invincible. They cannot be infiltrated, because all members share history and intimacy with each other, and no one outside the group need be informed of their plans or activities. They are more efficient than the most professional military force: they are free to adapt to any situation; they need not pass their decisions through any complicated process of ratification; all individuals can act and react instantly without waiting for orders, yet with a clear idea of what to expect from one another. The mutual admiration and inspiration they are founded upon makes them almost impossible to demoralize. In stark contrast to capitalist, fascist, and communist structures of all kinds, they function without any need for hierarchy or coercion: participation in an affinity group can be fun as well as effective. Most important of all, they are motivated by shared desire and loyalty, rather than profit, duty, or any other compensation or abstraction: small wonder whole squads of riot police have been held at bay by small affinity groups armed with only the tear gas cannisters shot at them.

Affinity groups operate on the consensus model: decisions are made collectively, based on the needs and desires of every individual involved. Democratic votes, in which the majority get their way and the minority must hold their tongues, are anathema to affinity groups: if a group is to function smoothly and hold together, every individual involved must be satisfied. In advance of any action, the members of a group establish together what their personal and collective goals are, what their readiness for risk is (as individuals and as a group), and what their expectations of each other are. These things determined, they formulate a plan.

Since action situations are always unpredictable and plans rarely come off as anticipated, an affinity group usually has a dual approach to preparing for them. On the one hand, plans are made for different scenarios: if A happens, we'll inform each other by X means and switch to plan B; if X means of communication is impossible, we'll reconvene at site Z at Q o'clock. On the other hand, structures are put in place that will be useful even if what happens resembles none of the imagined scenarios: internal roles are divided up, communications systems (such as two-way radios, or coded phrases for conveying secret information or instructions aloud) are established, general strategies (for maintaining composure, keeping sight of one another in confusing environments, or blocking police charges, to name some examples) are prepared, emergency escape routes are charted, legal support is readied in case anyone gets arrested. After an action, a shrewd affinity group will meet (again, if necessary, in a secure location) to discuss what went well, what could have gone better, and what comes next.

An affinity group answers to itself alone--this is one of its great strengths. Affinity groups are not burdened by the procedural protocol of other organizations, the difficulties of reaching accord among strangers or larger numbers of people, or the limitations of answering to a body not immediately involved in the action. At the same time, just as the members of an affinity group strive for consensus with each other, each affinity group should strive for a similarly considerate relationship with other individuals and groups--or, at the very least, to complement their approaches wherever possible, even if these others do not recognize the value of their contribution. Others should be thrilled about the participation or intervention of affinity groups, not resent or fear them; they should come to recognize the value of the affinity group model, and so come to apply it themselves, from seeing it succeed and from benefitting from that success.

An affinity group can work together with other affinity groups, in what is sometimes called a cluster. The cluster formation enables a larger number of individuals to act with the same advantages a single affinity group has. If speed or secrecy is called for, representatives of each group can meet ahead of time, rather than the entirety of all groups; if coordination is of the essence, the groups or representatives can arrange methods for communicating through the heat of the action. Over years of collaborating together, different affinity groups can come to know each other as well as they know themselves, and become accordingly more comfortable and capable together.

When several clusters of affinity groups need to coordinate especially massive actions--for a big demonstration, for example--they can hold a spokescouncil meeting. In this author's humble experience, the most effective, constructive spokescouncils are those that limit themselves to providing a forum in which different affinity groups and clusters can inform one another (to whatever extent is wise) of their intentions, rather than seeking to direct activity or dictate principles for all. Such an unwieldy format is ill-suited to lengthy discussion, let alone debate; and whatever decisions are made, or limitations imposed, by such a spokescouncil will inevitably fail to represent the wishes of all involved. The independence and spontaneity that decentralization provides are our greatest advantages in combat with an enemy that has all the other advantages, anyway--why sacrifice these?

The affinity group is not only a vehicle for changing the world--like any good anarchist practice, it is also a model for alternative worlds, and a seed from which such worlds can grow. In an anarchist economy, decisions are not made by boards of directors, nor tasks carried out by masses of worker drones: affinity groups, circles of friends who share common needs and interests, decide and act together. Indeed, the affinity group/cluster/spokescouncil model is simply another incarnation of the communes and worker's councils which formed the backbone of earlier successful (however short-lived) anarchist revolutions.

Not only is the affinity group the best format for getting things done, it's practically essential. You should always attend any event that might prove exciting in an affinity group--not to mention the ones that won't be, otherwise! Without a structure that encourages ideas to flow into action, without friends with whom to brainstorm and barnstorm and build up momentum, you are paralyzed, cut off from much of your own potential; with them, you are multiplied by ten, or ten thousand! "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world," as Margaret Mead wrote: "it's the only thing that ever has." She was referring, whether she knew the jargon or not, to affinity groups. If every individual in every action against the state and status quo participated as part of a tight-knit, dedicated affinity group, this revolution would be over in a few short years.

You and your friends can change the world. Stop wondering what's going to happen, or why nothing's happening, and start deciding what will happen. Don't just show up at the next demonstration, protest, punk show, traffic jam, or day at work in passive spectator mode, waiting to be told what to do or entertained. Get in the habit of trading crazy ideas about what should happen at these events--and of making those ideas reality!

An affinity group could be a sewing circle, a bicycle maintenance collective, or a traveling clown troupe; it could come together for the purpose of starting a local chapter of Food Not Bombs, discovering how to turn a bicycle into a record player, or forcing a multinational corporation out of business through a carefully orchestrated program of sabotage. Affinity groups have planted and defended community gardens; squatted, built and even burned down buildings; and organized neighborhood childcare programs and wildcat strikes. Individual affinity groups routinely initiate revolutions in the visual arts and popular music. It was an affinity group that invented the airplane. Another, composed of disgruntled Nietzsche enthusiasts, nearly succeeded in assassinating Adolf Hitler during the second world war. One published this book.

Let five girls and boys meet who are resolved to the lightning of action rather than the quiet agony of survival--from that moment, despair ends and tactics begin.
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I thought you were AGAINST WAR (english)
26 Feb 2003
Hey, I thought you were AGAIST WAR?

I guess that your advocacy of civil insurections against
people of other color and whites who disagree with you
is OK, eh?

PHONEY's. Why aren't you asking IRAN to disarm and marching
for that end results?