What do we fight against ? How ? What are our aims ?
(Discussion that happened during the decentralized PGA gathering in lyon, france, august 2006)
When we talk about what we're fighting against, about what we are fighting for, some deep questions arise, and we do not find time to discuss them further... These debates have something to do with what we can call “our struggles' strategies”. More simply : what for and how do we move?
The aim of this discussion was to clarify some debate issues that had risen from the discussions and workshops that'd been happening during the PGA gathering in lyon... It was about starting to think together about it, explain and clarify what was not consensual amongst us...
As this topic is huge, and it's difficult to know where to start, we've tried some special type of discussion.
first step : Brainstorming
First we raised some fundamental but vague questions : “By the way, what are we willing to do ? And how ?”. Both being linked. From these questions we made a brainstorming: we could propose ideas, try to tell if they were aims or ways to reach these aims, and also tried to explain the links between them... Of course it was vague and complex, it was actually only some first material in order to open a further debate. It already showed how our ideals and goals can be different from one to another person, so as the ways to reach them...
(When i say “our” or “us” or “we”, i talk about the group of people who attended the discussion, and there's also behind this group the vague idea of everyone who was at the gathering)
Here's a caricatural attempt to make a synthesis of the brainstorming's results :
What are our aims ?
The ones that seem to be the more general:
Fight against capitalism Do the revolution ? Build a horizontal democracy Fight against patriarchy, sexism, racism, and the heteronorm Destabilize the system Social transformation Make misery and boredom decrease
The ones that seem to be less general, some kind of ways to reach the general goals above, and sometimes are very closely linked :
Increase our joy and power Shut down the WTO Fight against the capitalist rules Create another temporality Being autonomous and self manage our tools Build some local relationships that are out of the market relationships Fight against the idea and will of personal comfort
Which ways are we planing / would we like to plan?
About fighting against patriarchy, sexism, racism, and the heteronorm : To make information campaigns To react against some laws Questions the status and roles that are imposed to us Think our inter-personal relationships and the personal things as political To create some “non-mixed” speech spaces To visibilize some different sexual identities Direct actions
Against capitalism as an economic and social system : Demonstrations Direct actions Re-think about our consuming habits, to stop consuming petrol and all this shit To develop our own production tools To re-appropriate some knowledges and skills To stop working (for a wage) To fraud (the highway ticket booth...) Trade-unionism To create and maintain a permanent power relations
In general :
To get involved in the social struggles Not to use reformist ways
Make our questions become some questions of life
To make some “Sans-Titre” gatherings (French speaking network kind of linked to PGA and to the organization of this PGA gathering) or some PGA gatherings.
To organize carnivals To re-appropriate some spaces
To create some free (virtual and physical) spaces To make inter-connexions between the autonomous spaces
To spread the idea that the autonomy is a source of satisfaction Communication, visibility To inform, reach the other people, so as kids and the future generations
To make some rolling around and snuggles, tenderness
Fight against concurrency and domination relationships To share a meal, a beer, a joint, fight against selfishness
Second step : “dichotomized argumentations”
From this brainstorming we thought that three issues could be pointed out (amongst many others). They could be expressed by some kind of caricatural dichotomized debates, each one of them opposing two different positions.
Here are the three issues :
“Lifestylism” versus “activism”, which means that some people think we should first re-think our lifestyles, whereas others think we have to first make actions.
Shall we concentrate on some specific priority struggles or shall we think our struggles in a general way ?
- When we do things, do we want to communicate so that the others understand what we do and why, or do we prefer to concentrate on making our own actions while knowing their meaning, knowing they're legitimate and not willing to explain them ?
(We could also have wondered “counter-summits : yes or no ?” ; “are we ok with the violence or against it ?”, “strawberry ice cream or tofu cooked with mustard ?”...)
After we had voluntarily expressed those debates as strong oppositions between two sides, we chose one of these issues to discuss it in small groups. In each of these groups we had to imagine that we were in one of both positions (for activism or for lifestylism...), to defend it and criticize the other one. This was in order to find and develop some arguments, even if we didn't really think what we said. After this argumentation training we could go on with a more complex and less dichotomized discussion, about what we really thought...
Here's a discussion we had :
“LIFESTYLISM versus ACTIVISM” Change the world by having alternative ways of life... or mainly by confronting the system by some actions ?
To confront the system with our alternatives is in itself an attack against the system. Evidence : repression against the squats, autonomous spaces, social centers...
When we do activism, we do not avoid the risk of reproducing the system's logic that we fight by our actions.
There can be some lack of coherence between actions, ideas and daily life.
Some experiences like the Zapatistas' show that building autonomy is a deeper work than only making actions. And the process (e.g. create a direct democracy organization) is much more important than the goals. It includes all the aspects of life : education, healthcare system, relationships between the people...
We criticize those who get isolated from the rest of the world by their alternative lifestyles, but you can also stay stuck in your activist scene and not reach the “normal people”.
We can change the temporality perceptions, by example by giving up paid jobs...
Even if growing vegetables doesn't save anybody, it doesn't exploit anyone either ! And it's a step towards autonomy.
After the revolution there will be no more supermarkets to get food from the garbage, so we need to develop some other lifestyles now
Concrete actions against racism : big (and united ?) demonstrations against some racist laws.
Activism is the only way to create and maintain a power relationship.
Sabotage within the system (while working by example)
The system is so oppressive and violent that we can only fight against it, and try to avoid victims.
If you want to get rid off some multinationals or companies, the most efficient is to attack it by any means necessary (sabotage...) and not only to boycott it (stop consuming their products)
To live together some alternatives by developing our dreamed world in a small community doesn't change anything if it's an isolated experience.
When you do activism you're in contact with global problems.
There's so much to do, that only concentrate on growing vegetables doesn't help anyone.
Activism is the only way towards revolution.
Re-appropriation (steal things...) and recycling (to eat from the containers) as a form of activism means to take things from capitalism in order to give you time to fight against it.
third step : discussion
Then we try to start a discussion with our own and real ideas and arguments, on a more complex and less dichotomized way... (off course the ideas expressed did not all make a consensus amongst us)
Some people think it's nonsense to oppose in such terms activism and lifestylism. Activism can be lifestylism !
Some people think that we need to find the perfect balance between activism and lifestylism. To do activism without questioning our lifestyles is like making the revolution without knowing what will be afterwards.
Work on lifestylism and activism allows us to prepare the revolution and what will be afterwards. To develop an alternative lifestyle without activism is some kind of selfishness.
If we do activism or lifestylism, in any case, we do need to have some political consciousness and to have some aims, think about our discourses, consequences and aims...
We have to think and talk at any time we make actions about what actions, why, what for, how.... rather than make actions only to make actions.
When we use so much energy on actions, we don't have time for the rest, and roles and hierarchies remain. Tasks remain separated : theory, actions, cleaning. (fuck professional activism – you don't even earn any money from it ! Kill the professional activist that's inside of you)
The horizontal organization is as important as the actions themselves.
Regular actions against some companies and institutions can be very efficient. The same for things that undergo the laws, like finding ways to help some people (to marry a migrant, to host some illegals...). It's a kind of civil disobedience.
(the minutes from the next discussions are less detailed, we only report their conclusions)
TO CUMUNICATE WITH THE OTHERS To communicate about what we do ? Or doing things only because we think they are relevant for themselves ?
We don't want to reproduce what we're fighting against : to hide our real ideas, change the ways we want to make actions, only to fit in the “public opinion”. The excess would be to refuse to do anything that's efficient because anything efficient would mean it's reformism. The other excess would be to remain in dogma / ideology. We can't avoid wondering how our actions will be perceived. In this perspective, we can't despite the others. We have to think about our strategies. Before anything we have to be lucid : take the situation into consideration, and if we do something because we feel like doing it, even if it will not seem to be obvious to the “others”, it's not worth it to lose energy on communicating about it.
GLOBAL STRUGGLES AND / OR PRIORITY STRUGGLES ?
Patriarchy and capitalism are two oppressive systems that can exist independently, but in our society they are closely linked. They're feeding each other. Then we think it's necessary to fight both of them at the same level.
It is necessary to make our struggles global so that we can fight against any kind of oppression, domination, including the relationships we profit from : the ones that maintain our privileges.
Interiorized racism and sexism and so on are complex... This struggles' activists are also acting within these domination systems, they are also reproducing them...
Each person cannot fight within every struggle, get involved everywhere...
Then in our specific struggles, we shouldn't forget the general dimension (at least talk about it in our discussions)