The local elections have been and gone along with the post-mortems and analysis. Apart from a few notable exceptions, most of it glossed over the turnout which was unsurprisingly low. These were our thoughts (plus those of other comrades) on the aftermath of the elections: ‘None Of The Above’ sweep the board yet again 6.5.22. Prior to that, we put out this post with some of our thoughts – with a particular emphasis on the situation in Thurrock – on why people felt it wasn’t worth the effort of voting: A few thoughts on voting in local elections 5.5.22.
Right, that’s enough about their system and the sham of ‘participation’ that’s the local elections. Along with pretty much most other anarchists, our thoughts return to what can be done at the grassroots to bring about real change. There’s no set manual on how to bring about change at this level. What has to get done will very much depend on the specific circumstances of the area you’re operating in. It could be setting up a food kitchen to meet immediate and urgent needs. A community run food growing project may well also be needed. It may be the case you’re in an area with a large number of rogue landlords and action has to be taken to deal with them. This list could go on and on but we’re sure you get the point that the people best placed to decide what action needs to be taken are those directly impacted by what’s going on.
We’ve been around the block when it comes to activism and have a fair bit of experience of different ways of working at a community and neighbourhood level. Where there’s been a fairly flat level of organisation with little or no hierarchy, the experience has generally been good. When it’s been in a set up with a discernable hierarchy and a leader or leaders with a bit of a Messiah complex, the experience was pretty grim.
This is where the concept of an affinity group comes into play. This isn’t some fluffy way of getting people together. It’s a tried and tested way of actually getting stuff done, as explained in the links in the post below which we’ve borrowed from our comrades:
This was first posted on the D.I.Y. Culture Facebook page
The idea of affinity groups comes out of the anarchist and workers movement that was created in the late 19th century and fought fascism in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish Anarchist movement provides an exhilarating example of a movement, and the actual possibility of a society based on decentralised organisation, direct democracy and the principles behind them.
★Affinity groups: an introduction. 2003 but still good: https://libcom.org/article/affinity-groups-introduction
“Affinity groups challenge top-down decision-making and organising, and empower those involved to take creative direct action. Affinity groups allow people to “be” the action they want to see by giving complete freedom and decision-making power to the affinity group. Affinity groups by nature are decentralised and non-hierarchical, two important principles of anarchist organising and action.”
★Affinity Groups from Re-Education. 5:52mins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNOJ5RP3EJY
Obviously some kind of mutually agreed structure and consensus decision making process needs to be in place because at the end of the day, affinity groups are about getting stuff done, not just feeling good in each others company. It’s in this spirit that we present this comprehensive range of pamphlets and readings from Seeds for Change that covers many aspects of affinity groups and consensus decision making:
Anarchic Agreements – https://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/anarchic_agreements
A Short Guide to Active Listening – https://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/activelistening
A Short Guide to Making Changes in your Group – https://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/makingchanges
Checklist for Encouraging People (to Be (and Stay) Involved in Your Group) – https://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/checklist.pdf
Consensus Decision Making – Short guide – https://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/shortconsensus
Consensus Decision Making – Long guide – https://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/consensus
Effective groups – https://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/effectivegroups
Working with Conflict in our Groups: a guide for grassroots activists – https://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/conflictbooklet.pdf
The above list is taken from a fairly lengthy piece we wrote in a bid to try and get to terms with the mixed experience we’ve had as a result of involvement in a few projects where decision making process was a tad on the opaque side! Here it is: Consensus, keeping it small and federating 17.2.22.