Autonomous course & permanent discussion
As anarchists, considering insurrection and looking for ways to make it possible is not the same as drawing up a master plan leading towards insurrection and looking for the cattle to execute it. Neither can it be about a crowd joining an initiative and not taking responsibility for thinking for themselves, discussing, creating an autonomous course. Of course this is a caricature, but it enables one to sketch out certain mechanisms inherent to each attempt to bring people together without, at the same time, proposing circles of affinity and permanent discussion as necessary conditions to enable informal organization.
The enthusiasm at the beginning of a shared project after a period of searching for affinity is contagious and attracts others who are willing to struggle. Enthusiasm is one of the driving forces behind every fight, but it is far from a solid base on which to build a struggle. What happens when it all becomes a bit less playful and demands a bit more seriousness? What about when there are difficulties and setbacks? This is not a plea for marrying a certain struggle or signing a contract at its inception, but an underlining of the absolute necessity of the development of an autonomous course. Without autonomy, without being able to revolt and struggle starting from oneself, and without a project being offered, one can only be swallowed into projects and able to make them their own.
But, viewed from another angle, what do you do when you are meeting other enthusiasts and impatient people in the middle of a struggle? During the development of the struggle against the new camp some individuals in Brussels took the initiate to create an assembly, a space where everyone (except politicians and other leaders) willing to struggle without trade unions could come to. A space for debate and coordination in the struggle.
However, discussion and thinking about what one wants need to happen in a more permanent way, outside of the collective moments, otherwise these moments become nothing more than moments in which one is either competing with others (by selling proposals and looking for adherents, or by shooting down the proposals of others), or letting oneself be dragged along by the best speaker. An assembly on the one hand risks the strengthening of a “waiting attitude” (we are waiting for discussion and proposals until we are all sitting together instead of autonomously looking for comrades and starting discussions on an individual level of in smaller constellations), and on the other hand risks strengthening the illusion of the number. What does that mean? If you consider the struggle as a struggle growing in “participants,” you automatically start thinking about what you can share with all these people. You start proposing things toward “the group,” and if the group takes up the proposals you give them new proposals, on and on, until it bumps onto its inevitable limits.
But what are those limits? First of all the paralyzing effect of collectivity, some kind of dictum that everybody need to agree upon before something can begin, and so everyone needs to be persuaded of the validity of a proposal. This causes extremely destructive discussions, which hurt more than they help-- for example, when the deeper notions of ones view on social reality or what one demands from a struggle don't coincide.
Secondly, these sorts of spaces impose a collective rhythm on the struggle, a rhythm which everyone feels alienated from in the end. It is a rhythm of action after action without deepening, because deepening is not possible when discussion is limited to collective moments. And so, at the end, one doesn't know what one is doing anymore, except reproducing the same thing. When, in such a space, proposals are charged with an exaggerated weight, because no one wants to be dragged into an initiative that seems over their heads. What is known is milked dry until it becomes routine, what is unknown provokes adverse reaction. We'll say it again-- this is the consequence of a lack of autonomy, permanent discussion and thought about what one wants outside of the collective moments.
Thirdly, those who are accustomed to making proposals will feel exhausted after a while, because thinking about proposals each time and taking effort to realize them takes more energy than simply participating in an action. In every relation, the lack of mutuality eventually becomes a burden, until one decides to break with it. On the other hand, the ones that the proposals are coming to will feel passive, ever more unsure about what they actually want, in contrast with those who always seem to have a clear idea of what they want. This role begins to gnaw at us, until one has had enough of it and takes a step back from everything. An organizational model which is unbalanced can keep burning on enthusiasm for a while, but when the enthusiasm disappears one is left with sour feelings.
And so? Every struggle is in need of spaces that can help shape it. Spaces in which there is discussion or in which one can coordinate for specific goals (for example the organization of a demonstration). However, when there is only one space, and this space becomes the reference point, it will inevitably become a burden to the struggle and will suffocate people's autonomous courses, rather than giving them oxygen.