Tis the worst economic crisis for 40 or 100 years and we all know that extremism and revolution are supposed to flourish at such times. We should be extra busy stirring up revolt and anarchy etc. But what exactly should we be doing?
[1.] On a personal level
It is on this level that most solid political work is done. Few see a demonstration and are converted, few read a paper and change their politics. We all change our minds slowly and over a long period of time, and due to not one event or conversation but due to hundreds of them. It is done by slow continual pressure demanding change.
Hence I think that our most important political activity is our conversations with our fellow work-mates and the people who live next door and along the street. By and large you can influence a large number of people not at all, but you can influence a few people a lot.
There are no dramatic results to be expected talking to the people next door. Any changes will be so gradual that you won’t notice them. And at work you probably work in a department that is full of fascists anyway. Most anarchists I have talked to seem to. But you are doing as much good turning a right-wing bigot into someone more moderate as you are turning a lefty into an anarchist.* Here also is the ground on which the NF must be fought and beaten, not out on the street in mock battle. [handwritten footnote * Does this actually happen?]
But to talk to the people around you, you must change as well. You must listen to them and understand what they are saying more than they listen to you. If you work with ten others they are going to talk 10 times more good sense than you are. You’ve got to learn what is good sense and learn to recognize it. You are just there to reinforce that common sense and to weaken the rubbish. You are not the preacher of a new gospel or the guardian of the truth. You are just one common person among many common people. And what you must reinforce, and you must talk is common sense – not jargon and high flown theories,
2. On a local level
A vital part of this is respect. You must build respect. People’s respect for you, your respect for the people around you, people’s respect for each other and their respect for themselves. More than anything anarchy will grow with this respect. When all hell breaks loose, or when there is the most minor crisis and the pay packet is not handed out at 3.00 pm on Thursday, then people will listen to those they respect, not those they always agree with, and you, you will only listen to those you respect, and it is vital that you listen more than you talk. Respect comes from many things, but not very much from the politics you talk. It is from the other things you say, the things you do, mainly the little things – actions speak louder than words, but it is not the dramatic actions, it is the little ones. And it is common sense above all.
Although I always say that the personal level of activity is the most important, I only say that because I think it is the most neglected. I feel that all levels of activity are important and must co-exist. We must try to get the right balance. The local group must be based on exactly the same things as our personal life, respect and common sense. The main problems at a local level start from a lack of respect for each other. We always have the problem that at any meeting of half a dozen of us there are half a dozen different views. This should be an advantage but it usually instead leads to competition and division. The local group must be built on mutual respect and common sense. A few years ago we used to say that groups must be built on affinity, but I no longer think this is so. It is not necessary for me to like you or agree with you, but it is necessary for me to respect you and you to respect me. When I respect you I will listen to you. I will try and understand what you are doing and saying, and I will take account of you in what I say and what I suggest the group does. I will look for agreement between us not division, and I will try to put forward positions that unite us, not just my own position.
But what should a local group do? In the most general terms, create anarchy! By which I mean put most effort into positively putting forward anarchy rather than attacking the opposition all the time (especially the NF). Concentrate on the simple and positive actions that speak clearly to a few, rather than the spectacle that speaks to no-one. There is nothing wrong with the odd spectacular, it is just the only thing that some people can think of. We must in general aim to grind exceedingly small, although that means slowly but surely. Concentrate your efforts on a few things and do them well.
3. On a national level
I don’t know what to say. We need national communication rather than national organisation. There ain’t nothing wrong with National Organisation, providing firstly it is based on strong local groups, and is not suggested as a substitute for them, and secondly providing that we don’t create an organisation which requires so much work that we get one of our strongest local groups to run it and drain all the energies of that group so that in a year’s time we still have our National Organisation but we have destroyed one of our strongest local groups. (This is something we have done at least five times since I joined the movement.)
At this time I think what we should do is to begin to build some regional groups. We should not try to create them instantly. Just do the odd thing that will help them to grow up – slowly.
Roughly all groups should put at least ten times the effort into local activity as to any regional activity. Grow slowly, but grow well.
Having said all that I have to admit that I have not made any suggestions as to what we should do at any level. I do not see that I can. I live in Islington, London, and I can see that circumstances vary between people who only live a few miles from each other, and so how much more must they vary throughout the country.
However I personally put most of my spare time into the local tenants association and do most things within the street in which I live. I do almost nothing around work although three friends are shop stewards and two more are ex-stewards. You personally do not have to be, indeed should not be, active in all major areas of struggle but it is best if between a group of you, you are closely connected to most of them.
I haven’t been connected with a local group for at least a couple of years, but that’s due to chance factors I think. I’ve been part of at least 4 defence groups, and have worked on Anarchy magazine for many years. There’s a lot I don’t do. What must be achieved is some sort of balance. The main effort is personal, done as you work or as part of living in the evenings and weekends. Then work locally, and lastly on a national or exceptionally on an international level. Remember anarchy grows from the roots upwards.
From: Anarchy (second series) no.23 p.5-7.