S29 Anti-War Rally in D.C. (from International A.N.S.W.E.R.)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Wed Oct 3 04:53:23 PDT 2001

> > With whom I work basically depends on who is supporting what cause.
>> For instance, I've worked with AFL-CIO officials like Don Slaimon,
>> who boasts of having worked to create "free & independent unions" in
>> then socialist societies, especially during the strike of OSU workers
>> in CWA Local 4501 in 2000 -- the kind of guys who are diametrically
>> opposed to the Workers World Party on the question of the Chinese
>> state, workers, & intellectuals. I endorse neither's position on
>> China, but that shouldn't prevent me from working with both -- with
>> union officials when a local strike has to be supported, with Workers
>> World organizers when an anti-war rally needs to be held at the
>> moment when the precious few are willing to do anything.
>> Yoshie
>Well, Yoshie, I wouldn't brag about such alliances. True, one's political
>options are sometimes limited, especially in times of crisis. But this
>doesn't mean one abandons all perspective when dealing with wannabe nazis
>like the WWP. March with whom you like, but know that your "comrades" would
>sooner see you in a camp than democratically empowered. And what's this bit
>about "precious few" willing "to do anything"? That's not the gist I get
>from the networking I've been doing.

S28-30 was to be a giant convergence, but as you know, many groups & individuals pulled back. A large number of actions & events -- not just national & international but also local & regional ones -- have been cancelled, & those who are still determined to move forward (e.g., the SOA Watch, the striking public-sector workers in Minnesota [see Steven Greenhouse, "28,000 State Workers Strike in Minnesota, Drawing Fire," _New York Times_ 2 October 2001], etc.) to further whatever leftist cause are under attacks, along with anti-war organizers & immigrants in general.

As for my "comrades," they include those who would probably see even _you_ as insufferably authoritarian. :-0 The following was recently posted to one of the local political mail lists:

At 10:52 AM -0700 10/2/01, [name withheld] wrote:
>This is a message for those who consider themselves
>part of the group of people educating themselves on
>possible organizational forms. It's unlike anything
>I've seen proposed, and could be good. I don't mean to
>start a discussion string. I'm just providing a
>resource that has come out of frustrated brainstorm
>session a bunch of my dearly beloved friends had after
>that frustrating meeting. Hopefully we'll discuss it
>next Sunday.
>The Fair
>No more meetings
>The fair is an alternative to meetings, spokes
>councils, coalitions etc. It isnít a charter or formal
>rule structure of any sort, but should eliminate the
>need for these things. It is a set of concepts,
>dispositions, and practices that can be freely
>adopted, adapted and applied for the purpose of
>creating social change. It is centered in a
>recognition of the autonomy of the individual, the
>natural human tendency to organize into small groups,
>and the desire and need to network on a larger scale.
>The intent is to offer norms that maximize
>intermingling, personal connections, and efficiency in
>terms of time and emotional expenditure. It is
>designed to draw new people in and empower them. It is
>also intended to deeply subvert authoritarian
>tendencies within the movement, to eliminate a sense
>of entitlement or ownership of the movement, and to
>create gatherings that are very difficult to sabotage,
>that are, in fact, difficult for those with a state
>apparatus-mentality to comprehend.
>Key Concepts
> The individual
> Individuals are recognized as the fundamental unit of
>organization and action. No umberella organization can
>speak fully to the philosophy, motivations, desires,
>goals or intrinsic value of any individual, let alone
>to a group of them. We should resist the authoritarian
>tendency to create a group that speaks for us with one
>voice, no matter what the decision process is. I think
>that, in large groups, all decision processes are
>fundamentally flawed because of the force of time
>constraints and the universal corrupting influence of
>power. The fair provides nothing but a structure that
>enhances the ability of individuals to cooperatively
>generate change.
> The house
> The fair itself should recognize no groups in the
>formal sense. It canít read papers, platforms or
>pronouncements, and I donít have much stomach for it
>either. The fair recognizes the natural groups that
>indivuals universally form as an expression and
>extension of their autonomy. Individuality is somewhat
>diffuse; we construct and define ourselves in terms of
>those around us and especially those we feel close to
>and trust. The word I use for this is a house: a
>circle of close friends sharing either a similar
>mindset or a set of understood norms by which they
>deal with their differences. A house may coincide with
>a formal organization, and that is one of the ways
>houses are formed. A house may coincide with an
>affinity group, or some of the closest members of a
>house may choose to organize themselves as an affinity
>group, especially during times that require more
>explicit structure. A house, however, has no defined
>borders. Individuals can be ëin a houseí to greater
>and lesser degrees, and almost all individuals are a
>part of multiple houses. The house is not a unit of
>organization itself, but an extension of the
> The practical significance of a house derives from at
>least two things: first, it is an efficient, natural
>and enjoyable unit of communication that doesnít
>require special expenditure of energy. You just talk
>to the people in your house, and if youíre commited to
>social change then that information flows easily and
>unconsciously within a house. Second, people tend to
>align themselves with one another in this form. Some
>friction within a ëcoalitioní can be thought of as
>friction between houses. Recognizing this, we should
>probably design a structure that facilitates mixing
>between houses so that information flows into and
>between houses easily, and so that the edges of the
>house become more and more blurred, allowing our
>individuality to organically extend into the group
>insofar as individuals actually extend it, and no
>farther. We should also create a space where,
>ultimately, fairly divergent houses may be able to
>interface, communicate, plan and criticize each other.
> This sort of diffuse concept should form the basis of
>any autonomy-respecting gathering, rather than the
>oppressive notion of organizations joining together in
>a coalition. It has liberatory potential, and should
>foster efficiency, enjoyment and respect for autonomy.
> The house concept shouldnít justify the isolation of
>new people who show up, but should attune us to the
>isolation they may feel. It should also attune us to
>the fact that an interested individual probably has
>her own networks, is also a member of various
>ëhousesí. It is in large part through houses that a
>movement grows in terms of commited and connected
>people, and it is in houses that people support,
>sustain and inspire each other.
> The Fair
>Taking its cue from actions like Women in Black, a
>fair is not an organization, but a pattern and a tool.
>A fair is a gathering of indivudals for the purpose of
>communicating, criticizing and supporting each other
>in their efforts to create change. A fair may be
>focused in order to draw a more specific group. A
>peace fair, or anti-war fair, or anti-globalization
>fair, or economic justice fair or a general
>resistance fair could be called, for example. The
>concept of the fair is completely un-owned. The clan
>could even call a white supremacy fair, I guess ...
>but it wouldnít meet any of their needs unless they
>became anti-fascist, anti-authoritarian white
>supremacists. Anyway, the idea is to create a
>structure that very specifically addresses the goals
>and problems of a liberation movement, and is intended
>as a loose organizational format. It is the
>individuals who make a fair good, bad or stupid. This
>is a fact for all movements. The fair concept just
>makes this fact central.
> Dispositions are the things that a fair ëshouldí be.
>When organizing, certain dispositions and attitudes
>play an important role in defining the sense of a
>fair. Iíll present some dispositions that I think
>would be beneficial to hold. The dispositions of a
>fair should be contested and discussed in large group
>before a fair is established. In describing the fair
>to new individuals or advertising for it, these
>dispositions or principals could be shared. There
>wouldnít be any enforcement of these, but they might
>be summarized and presented to interested people so
>that they could get a sense for what the fair is
>about, and it would help the ëfounding groupí define
>what a fair should be about.
> Potlatch Mentality
> Some northwestern indigenous groups used to contend
>with each other in spectacles of generosity. These
>were called potlatches. Knowledgable folks will scewer
>me for my ineptness here, but basically different
>clans would try to out-do each other in hospitality. I
>give you one fish, you have to give me two, I have to
>give you four ...somebody builds a big house and burns
>it down at a big party to show how wealthy they are,
>then the other clan burns down two. Etc.
> Rather than competing to control the movement, groups
>with differing philosophies might try to out-do each
>other in terms of good deeds or effective actions.
>Ownership of the movement is a repressive and
>deceptive concept. There is nothing to say that we
>shouldnít communicate with people who have different
>philosophies than our own. If animosity between groups
>develops, a fair should still provide a meeting
>opportunity for those groups, allowing for at least
>some crossover and exchange. A fair provides no
>authoritarian means of controlling or speaking for
>anyone else, but could provide an environment where
>real animosities are reduced or, at worst, converted
>into a potlatch.
> If youíre not against us, youíre with us
> This is part of my personal philosophy and religious
>beliefs. Self-explanatory, and I think itís a good
>disposition in general.
> A fair doesnít provide for the implication of
>individuals in the activities of any others, unless
>they choose to participate in those actions
>themselves. Provided we donít feel individuals are
>actually ëagainst usí (essentially saboteurs), I would
>suggest that their presence is welcome.
> This disposition also demands that a fair not define
>itself in terms of what it opposes. Such a fair would
>draw together very strange groups, and we would be
>forced to admit that theyíre ëwith usí in some sense.
>For example, a movement that is anti-capitalist,
>anti-authoritarian socialist, pro-worker and pro-local
>economy may be anarchist, green or fascist. Another
>example: if we participate in an anti-war movement,
>then Colin Powell is probably one of our allies right
>now. Heís expressed the opinion that heíd prefer to
>send in the CIA and foster inter-factional disputes.
>This would probably make Afghanistan even more hellish
>than official war.
> These problems are present whether we adopt an ëif
>youíre not against us...í mentality or not. If we
>adopt this disposition, though, it highlights the need
>for individuals to do their homework and define
>themselves in terms of goals, not in terms of enemies.
> Consensus building
> We should have a general disposition toward consensus
>building and a respect for consensus building
>techniques. This is valuable for lots of reasons that
>weíre all familiar with. However, we shouldnít obsess
>over consensus once weíve smashed the real problem,
>which is the umbrella mentality of a coalition. All
>participation in all actions is consensual down to the
>individual, and there is no obligation to participate
>in anything you donít like. I think this is a truer
>and deeper sense of consensus than the spokes council
>model or standard consensus models, which, although
>the internal process appears consensual, may still end
>up speaking for individuals who would not consent to
>the decision. Consensus building is a value, not a
> This is finally what some people consider the real
>practical part. Itís whatís discussed when we talk
>about consensus or 2/3rds or whatever vote. The fair
>concept, however, lays the presumptions in these
>concepts bare. I think that most meetings are actually
>fairs, even if they pretend to be something different.
>If we are having a weekly fair rather than a coalition
>meeting, then we shouldnít pretend it is a coalition.
>There is something authoritarian in the delusion that
>some gathering of people is going to own and dictate
>ëthe movementí in Columbus. I donít care how
>consensual your practices and traditions, unless you
>have infinite time and infinite access for all
>community members, you have an organization that is,
>basically, authoritarian. So 50 people all decide to
>march here or there or make this or that statement.
>Does that imply community wide or movement wide
>consensus? And from what source of privilege do we
>consensers get the time to do all this? The best we
>can do is nothing but a tyranny of the time-rich. If
>the group is run in a manner that is more internally
>authoritarian (and there are ways to get consensus
>that are authoritarian--the U.S. government is
>illustrating this beautifully right now), then this is
>even worse. And in doing this absurd
>coalition-umbrella thing, we wear ourselves out, turn
>new people off, get pissed at each other and do very
>little of what matters. This is mass insanity on a
>very small scale.
> We need practices and traditions that match our
>situation and empower us. Developing, refining and
>tweaking this formula is one of the most important
>functions of a fair. We need to constantly think of
>better practices to help us meet our goals. A great
>deal depends on the structure of our practices. Hereís
>one formula I would suggest.
>I. Summary of the last weeks events (less than 30
>II. Activities/Agenda items.
> I suggest that agenda items should be presented by
>those people who want to bottom line it (since thatís
>what usually happens anyway), or that somebody should
>generally be found to bottom line it before hand. We
>could send these in e-mail format beforehand to save
>time, with the general item and bottom liner. We can
>still have an open agenda, too, with last-minute
>additions, rather than generating the whole agenda on
>the spot. I think thatís whatís going on already, but
>it isnít clear.
>III. Break out groups.
> Small groups would break up and work on all agenda
>items in parallel.This could be a good time for the
>members of a house split up among the items theyíre
>interested in, sort of acting as spokes in the
>different groups. This would let people feel more
>comfortable with the groups formed, help people
>communicate how the small-group process worked (since
>the people in your house will hear about it
>eventually), get more diverse small groups working
>together, and combat clannish tendencies. Most
>productive work gets done in small groups anyway.
> The facilitator of the break-out group may be the
>bottom-liner of the agenda item. That way, their role
>is to facilitate criticism and discussion of ëtheir
>ideaí, not to spout off what they already plan to do.
>This way, every group would automatically have its own
> People can float freely between the groups (they
>float in and out of meetings anyway). Fast agenda
>items that seem like no-brainers (how are we going to
>go and table?) would get finished up and planned in a
>couple of minutes, and people could slowly aggregate
>into the longer-running groups if they felt like it.
>This way, all the quick little items get finished up,
>and people donít feel obligated to participate in
>groups that donít interest them. If you donít really
>care about the details of how a rally is planned, why
>should you suffer through other peopleís arguments?
> We might want to bring food, alchohol, instruments,
>whatever, so that people who arenít interested in any
>of the running discussions (or who finish up) can just
>hang out and socialize. In my opinion, this is one of
>the most important ways to ëcreate social changeí. New
>people can get to know whatís going on, talk to people
>whoíve been around for a while, get to feeling
>comfortable, while the longer-running groups finish
> We may consider putting a time limit on this stage,
>too...1 or 2 hours? We should discuss whether
>break-out groups are informal, consensual, ultimately
>run by the bottom-liner or what. Informal might work
>if we really have a general disposition toward
>consensus building. Since the groups speak for nobody
>except those that choose to support an action, there
>should also be an inherent tendency toward consensus
>building, based purely on the fear that some important
>contingent just wonít participate in the action if
>thereís a problem. This is how things work anyway, or
>IV. Summary. The groups present what theyíve decided
>and discussed, and its maybe opened for whole-fair
>discussion. We donít have to consent to or vote on any
>of this, really. If you donít want to participate in
>what somebody has cooked up (with the help of the
>group), then you donít have to have anything to do
>with it. We could consider having each group present
>their results (most of it probably very brief), then
>have one ëgo aroundí of the big group where people say
>what they plan to participate in and do, what they
>support, and what they canít support and why. This
>would cement our opinions, open things up to criticism
>or support, remind us of whatís going on, and bind the
>participants together to some extent without demanding
>consensus over every thing that any group of people
>might want to do. It would hopefully emphasize what
>unites us while also encouraging an understanding of
>what divides us. All participation in anything is
>completely consensual, of course, in the sense that
>the fair itself isnít making umberella statements for
>anyone. Do what you want.
> Since the fair isnít permitted to speak for anyone,
>those interested in having actions with multiple
>groups signed on could pass around sign-on sheets at
>this time. There would be no pressure to sign at all,
>and the fair would hopefully eventually embrace enough
>groups that they wouldnít all sign on to everything.
>This way, all groups present have an opportunity to
>participate in basic planning of anything they care
>about, but there is no concern that a body they donít
>control will speak for them. For example, if some
>group is making fliers that some indivuals donít like,
>for example, they could participate in the group and
>influence the way fliers are being made, or they might
>use the fair to form their own flier making break-out
>group, and if all else fails they can at least express
>their dissent or dissatisfaction in addition to having
>no part in the action. If youíre especially concerned
>about having support from some organization or house
>for an item youíre bottom lining, you can take the
>responsibility of getting somebody from those groups
>into your break-out group, so those groups can help
>make a proposal that theyíre comfortable signing onto
>or participating in.
>V. Decide on next weekís head facilitator (basically,
>the agenda-runner). Give out their e-mail for agenda
>items. Go out and do stuff. Feel good and energized.
>Be excited about next weekís fair.

Now, what this young man is saying is not a bad idea for a series of small-scale actions (tabling, flyering, etc.), but I doubt that we can organize a union, engage in civil disobedience, build a mass anti-war demo with participation of diverse working-class people, etc. according to this method. It appears his political philosophy doesn't agree with mine at this point, but I'd still have to work with him.


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