Trapese workshop at Anarchist bookfair

Trapese workshop. Anarchist Bookfair

 

The recently published, Do It Yourself; a handbook for changing our world, explores nine different thematic areas from food, health, education and direct action, where people are doing it themselves, organising in the here and now for change. The book weaves together theoretical analysis, practical examples, experiences and stories to demonstrate the potentials, feasibility and problems of these ideas and projects. The book concludes that, although not easy, it is entirely possible to build a society that is ecologically sustainable, organised non-hierarchically from the grass roots.

 

Obviously such a claim raises a number of important strategic questions, the doubts that we often keep to ourselves or worry about when we can’t get to sleep at night. At this moment in time, as always, there are big challenges that face horizontal/autonomous/anarchist movements. We have have proved we can practically organise events such as anti g8/climate/ no border camps and pull off some amazing actions and sustained campaigns, whilst also maintaining a range of long term projects such as social centres and publications. But most of us, seem to spend very little time in strategic discussion about where we are going with these horizontal politics.

 

We (The Trapese Collective) wanted to use the opportunity of this year’s Anarchist Bookfair to start discussing these big questions with people working in different campaigns, groups and movements. Although the workshop was only an hour long, some interesting points were raised. This document is a synopsis of the notes from the small group discussions we had. We hope these debates can continue and be opened up for more people to participate in. The questions are deliberately left wide open, they are by no means the only important questions we should be asking, and within each question a hundred more questions spring up, but nevertheless they are starting points.

Groups discussed points for yes and no.

 

Can you change the world without taking power?

Power is an extremely hard concept to define and power itself forms in many different ways and exists within all of our human relationships. This questions assumes that we are talking about confronting state power with counter powers, however its also important to point out that within our individual relationships we also reinforce the use of power and power structures and that it is also crucial to challenge them if we want to confront the notion of power.

Like the answer to many of these questions it is of course yes and no. Perhaps the focus should be more on undermining power and living despite capitalism and thus beyond it rather than attempting to engage with it and therefore end up in a process of replicating it.

 

Does bringing these ideas to the mainstream always mean compromising your principals ( wasting your time)

Every time we encounter another individual we make some form of compromise, whether we realise it or not. Compromise is an inevitability of human relations, however it should not be something we accept unconditionally. Often whether or not we compromise is based on an analysis between where we want to get to and what we want to do to get there-do the ends justify the means. There a number of things to take into consideration

  • The use of the word mainstream is problematic, society is made up of many different social groups. And certain things appeal to certain groups in certain ways, this does not mean ‘compromising’ but maybe emphasising one thing over another.

  • -keep on educating, it is unlikely that the first time someone hears about climate change they are going to start taking action. Making these ideas available in a variety of different ways and providing continuity to these ideas reinforces there possibility.

  • Many people don’t think they have time to change, or they agree in principal with the ideas but ‘we’ need to do more to make these ideas more accessible, show practical examples, raise awareness of possibilities etc.

  • we need to create opportunities for people to engage and think about these things. For example using theatre/ cultural events as a means of passing on information is a good way for people to engage with an idea without committing to anything.

 

Is doing it ourselves is not possible, the world is far too complicated ( housing, sewage, water, food etc.)

Of course it is very difficult to ‘do it ourselves’ but it is not entirely impossible. The problem with this question is it suggests that we have to reinvent the system rather than reusing the current system, its much easier to start with things that already exist. Additionally presumably radical social change includes everyone. There are already people who deal with these complexities and work within these systems- housing, sewage, food distro etc., they would be best placed to be the people that restructure them. What we are aiming to do is to make these systems non hierarchical, more democratic and participative and sustainable.

 

 

Are pockets of resistance to ghettoised and irrelevant to the vast majority of people

 

In discussing this question the ghetto has been defined as ‘ something that is inward looking, that has no choice as to where it is.’ Mostly we are too ghettoised and we are not good at conveying over arching ideas. This question provokes several more questions

-How do we network?​

-Is the book fair too ghettoised?

-How do we make things relevant?

-What is outreach?

 

Should we focus on supporting struggles rather than confronting power?

Creating and building alternatives supports struggles by involving more people, showing people the possibilities and creating change.

Trapese workshop. Anarchist Bookfair

 

The recently published, Do It Yourself; a handbook for changing our world, explores nine different thematic areas from food, health, education and direct action, where people are doing it themselves, organising in the here and now for change. The book weaves together theoretical analysis, practical examples, experiences and stories to demonstrate the potentials, feasibility and problems of these ideas and projects. The book concludes that, although not easy, it is entirely possible to build a society that is ecologically sustainable, organised non-hierarchically from the grass roots.

 

Obviously such a claim raises a number of important strategic questions, the doubts that we often keep to ourselves or worry about when we can’t get to sleep at night. At this moment in time, as always, there are big challenges that face horizontal/autonomous/anarchist movements. We have have proved we can practically organise events such as anti g8/climate/ no border camps and pull off some amazing actions and sustained campaigns, whilst also maintaining a range of long term projects such as social centres and publications. But most of us, seem to spend very little time in strategic discussion about where we are going with these horizontal politics.

 

We (The Trapese Collective) wanted to use the opportunity of this year’s Anarchist Bookfair to start discussing these big questions with people working in different campaigns, groups and movements. Although the workshop was only an hour long, some interesting points were raised. This document is a synopsis of the notes from the small group discussions we had. We hope these debates can continue and be opened up for more people to participate in. The questions are deliberately left wide open, they are by no means the only important questions we should be asking, and within each question a hundred more questions spring up, but nevertheless they are starting points.

Groups discussed points for yes and no.

 

Can you change the world without taking power?

Power is an extremely hard concept to define and power itself forms in many different ways and exists within all of our human relationships. This questions assumes that we are talking about confronting state power with counter powers, however its also important to point out that within our individual relationships we also reinforce the use of power and power structures and that it is also crucial to challenge them if we want to confront the notion of power.

Like the answer to many of these questions it is of course yes and no. Perhaps the focus should be more on undermining power and living despite capitalism andthus beyond it rather than attempting to engage with it and therefore end up in a process of replicating it.

 

Does bringing these ideas to the mainstream always mean compromising your principals ( wasting your time)

Every time we encounter another individual we make some form of compromise, whether we realise it or not. Compromise is an inevitability of human relations, however it should not be something we accept unconditionally. Often whether or not we compromise is based on an analysis between where we want to get to and what we want to do to get there-do the ends justify the means. There a number of things to take into consideration

  • The use of the word mainstream is problematic, society is made up of many different social groups. And certain things appeal to certain groups in certain ways, this does not mean ‘compromising’ but maybe emphasising one thing over another.

  • -keep on educating, it is unlikely that the first time someone hears about climate change they then go about declaring an end to the fascist, imperialist, capitalist state. Making these ideas available in a variety of different ways, providing continuity to the ideas.

  • Many people don’t think they have time to change, or they agree in principal with the ideas but ‘we’ need to do more to make these ideas more accessible, show practical examples, raise awareness of possibilities etc.

  • we need to create opportunities for people to engage and think about these things. For example using theatre/ cultural events as a means of passing on information is a good way for people to engage with an idea without committing to anything.

 

Is doing it ourselves is not possible, the world is far too complicated ( housing, sewage, water, food etc.)

Of course it is very difficult to ‘do it ourselves’ but it is not entirely impossible. The problem with this question is it suggests that we have to reinvent the system rather than reusing the current system, its much easier to start with things that already exist. Additionally presumably radical social change includes everyone. There are already people who deal with these complexities and work within these systems- housing, sewage, food distro etc., they would be best placed to be the people that restructure them. What we are aiming to do is to make these systems non hierarchical, more democratic and participative and sustainable.

 

 

Are pockets of resistance to ghettoised and irrelevant to the vast majority of people

 

In discussing this question the ghetto has been defined as ‘ something that is inward looking, that has no choice as to where it is.’ Mostly we are too ghettoised and we are not good at conveying over arching ideas. This question provokes several more questions

-How do we network?​

-Is the book fair too ghettoised?

-How do we make things relevant?

-What is outreach?
Should we focus on supporting struggles rather than confronting power?

Creating and building alternatives supports struggles by involving more people, showing people the possibilities and creating change.

 

  • Following on from the workshop at the Anarchist bookfair we have had a number of other workshops and discussions with loads of different people, here are some more ideas!
  •  Is it possible to do it ourselves or is it all too complicated, do we need centralised power structures?
  • We are ourselves, we are already running those systems of sewage, electricity, housing etc the problem is that we don’t control it. We do have the organisational capacity but do not have the power to change where those things are going and the increasing lack of control that people have within those structures. This is due to the history of privatisation where by the value of work is extracted from it. We maybe need ‘centralisation’ but this has to be inconjunction with bringing it back to a local level.
  • The more centralised something becomes the less people have control, this can also affect health- if a decision is taken at a ‘national centralised level. Newcastle is a legacy of industries affect on health.
  • We can’t expect everyone to organise everything ( transport, health, sewage) But we can have centralised power structures with delegate representation who come from a  local to take part in those decisions.
  • If people begin to work locally and for the community then they themselves also benefit. Thus reducing dependency on wage slavery.
  • Just because something is centralised it does not mean that power and control are the same thing. Processes need to be more transparent,  how decisions have been made needs to be more public. Its true transparency has been mis -used by New Labour but it does not mean we should stop the idea of it.
  • How do we move to a point where we would be in control whether centralised or not. Is it enough to work on the dissemination of information.
  • Centralisation means that things are vulnerable, it is by its nature unstable. Localisation also build resilience so that certain basic needs can be met

Is creating autonomous structures valid in its own right?

It is of course a good fist step but that is not to say that such spaces don’t end up ghettoised and exclusive. Depending on the point of the question, if the case is a small group who are getting to know each other and trying to create something in their town or city then its a good beginning but the question then comes if you want to get more people involved.

Creating spaces and bases is really important, for people to come together, be inspired and learn.

All spaces are important but there is a rural/ city divide to the question. In a city  there are so many different social groups and many of them have their own spaces or centres. In a rural setting because there is fewer people, frequently the social groups are more mixed and there is less of thisperceived division between what is an ‘autnomous’ space and whats just a ‘space’ with a set of agreements for using it.

Autonomous  spaces outside of the city provide space for people to learn and skill share – such as ecological gardening.

How can we make ‘our work’ more relevant and accessible to wider communities?

-The current education system is failing everyone within it – both teachers and pupils.

-Adult education is vital

-More free schools ( see above article)

-What’s so great about our ideas anyway, is it not more of a question of working with different groups and people and building new ideas- ones that are relevant to everyone within them.

-To build a broader base of people you have to show that these ideas are effective, more people become involved when they can see the visible effects of what it is that you are doing and feelincluded .

-Continuity is important.

 

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6 Responses to “Trapese workshop at Anarchist bookfair”

  1. hey its on there twice

  2. i hope some people comment

  3. alicetrapese Says:

    test

  4. alicetrapese Says:

    hey kim, i dont think i can edit it yet, cant remember the trapese password

  5. Hiya, i’ll comment 🙂

    If you need any help with wordpress stuff, give me a shout as I’ve done quite a bit of it..

  6. Well done for creating the blog! I was at the workshop at the A Bookfair but due to being pre-occupied with other matters, ie, trying to sell or distribute my own books plus chasing up various invoices from various stalls, etc, didn’t really participate – i found it quite a difficult space as well, what with the hierachically laid out lecture theatre with it’s tiers of seating, etc.

    I was slghtly purturbed by the pre-amble to the workshop, in which one of the presenters introduced the excelent DIY manual by saying that he had had critisism from ‘the movement’ that it was ‘too positive’!!! Which reminded me of every reason why I decided to distance myself from the Anarchist movement and instead focus my energy on the permaculture movement, ie, there’s too much focus on the problems and the negatives and not enough on the positives and how we can actually make real differnces! Don’t listen to the negative nay-sayers, there is enough stuff about telling us what is wrong, we need MORE books like the DIY manual, positive, empowering, solutions based stuff!

    BTW, are there any training workshops planed for London for the future, would love to go to Hebden Bridge but its a bit too far away for me, esp this time of year!

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