Antti Rautiainen (anttirautiainen) wrote,
Antti Rautiainen

My Belgrade experience (continuing)

Contaminating from the basement

Party we had planned was about to begin. Evil Rata dared to come to conference drinking Coca-cola with no remorse, and he was rightfully assaulted for this - there was some loud yelling and coke was splashing all around. This was the revenge he deserved for all the spam e-mails he sent against the PGA. There is a speculation however, that really he was assaulted by a Pepsi salesperson, who had infiltrated the conference. This salesperson was singled out by watchful conference security, and she was forced to scrub floors.

Eventually party evolved to anti-PGA conference with header "What is wrong with the PGA - class struggle anarchist perspective". There was a strict face-control, only stalinists (with moustaches), trotskists (with eye-glasses) and sexists from Resnik were allowed. They know how to shake it in Gdansk, but headspin on the table has to be practiced some more.

This all made establishment anxious, and entrance to our conference was barricaded. Or perhaps it was because groundfloor was pacified for sleeping. So there was a conflict, fortunately we could agree to investigate the noise concern, and really most of the noise in the gym where people were sleeping came from groundfloor through windows, and not from our autonomous anti-PGA space. So we could have continued the party, but some of the key people had to leave for the city already. Much of the rest of the party people were in a lengthy Balkans meeting, which was commented afterwards to have been excellent, with exception of the decision to have Balkans PGA meeting to be organized by some neo-Bolsheviks in Thessaloniki, which is very hardly reachable for all non-EU people anyway.

Since people remaining in the counter-summit were Resnik drunks listening Turbonegro, I made a tactical switch to side of the PGA establishment, I dissolved anti-PGA conference and locked up the classroom number 5. Room had to be cleaned up a lot early in the next morning, so I wanted to have some sleep after toughest day of the conference. But wild rumors about the anti-PGA conference had been circulating in the camp already, and I heard that some Danish people came half past midnight, about one hour after end of the counter-summit to search "where that good party is?".

Wednesday 10 AM it was time for the "Anarchist Mystery Organization", again in Classroom number 5, scrubbed clean from beer, chips and other icky things. We had decided to found a new anarchist international with Laure, since we are not content with any of the existing ones. We had drafted a program in train from Warsaw to Belgrade. But it was not only about sucking best PGA blood to our coming up international, but also to discuss difficulties which appear in international cooperation in general and in Eastern-European coordination in particular - we hoped also to have a discussion with people who do not like founding new formal organizations as much as I do, and people who do not see demand for such organizations in the first place. Call for the working group we had drafted 3 days before was the following:

"Anarchist Mystery Organization"

"-How should anarchist cooperation be organized in Eastern Europe?

-Is there a middle way between creating organizational fetishism/micro

bureaucracies, and informal networks lacking solidarity and ridden with untransparent informal hierarchies?

-International activist meetings - practical help or identity building?

-Come and have your own international!"

Already 2 years ago in Leiden I had made an analysis, that such organization as PGA which just networks vastly different projects without setting any common priorities and with minimal political coherence lack solidarity, since foundation of the solidarity is in sharing - sharing of common ideas and projects. For sure, PGA conferences also serve a certain purpose as they are now. There are few possibilities to meet so many different and interesting people involved in grassroots movements. Since change of the millenium, social forums and the like have practically taken over the so called "anti-globalist" movement, and PGA is a sort of relic from the times when things were better. Probably it would be impossible to found something as wide as PGA right now in case it collapsed - so it is worth of support. Of course it is important to visit any events like European Social Forums where one may meet thousands of critical people, but personally I hate even the idea of going there and hope I never have to. I do not want to put down efforts of comrades who have worked hard to get alternatives visible inside Social Forums, I am sure that they have had good intentions, but there is no way our movement may develop in being just a small tumor in the disgusting social democrat whole, all talk about "contaminating" the event is just way off the ground. It is just very harmful to have any illusions about such a possibility. Our movement lives and dies depending on its existence as something on its own. I remember the enthusiasm when PGA was founded in Geneva 1998, it inspired movements all around the world. Just lately I heard that for example Indymedia charter is founded on PGA hallmarks, and I am sure there are many other examples. Nothing alike has been left from all those alternative events inside social forums.

In practice, necessity of PGA got proven pretty concretely, since I was the only person in the Anarchist Mystery Organization workshop. 50% of our projected international got lost with the transport. If there were other people with concerns in regards to PGA within the conference, they had other concerns than we had. Right now, it there is no way to have more coherent common denominator than PGA concept is.

On Eastern Europeans and "lack" of them

Next workshop I participated was "Breaking the activist ghetto". This was one of the few which were properly prepared in prior, and discussion paper had been released already one month before the conference. A person from Glocal group of Hanau which had called the workshop also made excellent notes, so there is no need to go to detail with the discussion.

I only attended the first part of the working group. I had wrote a reply to paper of the organizers, but it got lost to the cyberspace. So I made my point orally - I think the whole "activist ghetto" - discussion is a West-European one, since at least in Russia we do not have such a ghetto. Any activity immediately collides with the mainstream society, which makes things difficult but is an interesting challenge in the same time.

"Activist ghettoes" make sense, just as any ethnical and cultural ghettoes (for example Roma, gays) which different communities have founded around them for the sake of protection. Existence of such ghettoes is to big extent the reason that anarchism still exists in the first place, and has not withered away as countless once widespread libertarian movements before it (such as narodniks and council communists). In practice, projects which attract most people in Russia seem to be those which aim to building of such ghettoes. It seems like ghetto must be built first in order to be destroyed later on.

Small support for my thesis was the fact that there were almost no East-Europeans in this discussion, so it seems like being in a ghetto is definitely not a concern for East-Europeans. A couple of times during the conference I heard concerns about small number of East Europeans, after conference I heard that somebody from UK had even asked "but do you really think that people from Eastern Europe are actually here?" - this had provoked some Polish to propose all East-Europeans to paint their faces green during one conference day in order to gain "visibility". Really this concern was unfounded, since actually there were quite a lot of East-Europeans around, perhaps one fifth of the participators, maybe even more. Compared to size of the movements, East-Europeans were just as well represented as West-Europeans. Of course there were also failures, such as neighboring Romania - Yugoslavia had lately issued very costly visas for Romanians, and an extra effort should have been made to have any Romanians in the conference. I also did not meet any Czech people, scene seems to have a crisis there. Or perhaps they just save all their pennies in order to obtain nukes. But most of the other countries of East-Europe with any "horizontal" activism were present.

Of course, in ideal situation, PGA should not network only small activist groups but also mass movements. But we should be realists, in past there have been some Eastern-European NGO-like structures hooked with PGA, but they did not gave anything for the process. It is better to have small, horizontal groups than big ones for whom hallmarks mean nothing.

However, East-Europeans were often attracted to very different program than West-Europeans - this is one of the reasons why some West-European complained about lack of them. There was a sort of division, where West-Europeans were for example media-activists or "pink & silver", and East Europeans came from small revolutionary anarchist groups (with many exceptions for sure). This difference is also reflected to activist culture in general, Laure wrote a good rant about difficulties of East-Europeans to access Western European jargon and discourse, which I do not feel necessary to repeat here - I try to make this text available online with this one. In some discussions, lack of East-Europeans was about total, whereas in others they were a majority.

After lunch in Wednesday I joined PGA process discussion for a while and I just could not resist temptation of counting share of East-Europeans present. From more than twenty people in the room, only three raised hands - among them, one person living in the West with East-European origins, one person from West living in the East (myself), and only one "genuinely East-European". Obviously, bringing the PGA conference to Eastern Europe had not made a big change what comes to involvement of East-Europeans in the process. Even local organizers from DSM! were so busy with all the shitwork that it seems like none of them actually participated to the process. One has to do even much more to have East-Europeans involved to PGA - to form personal contacts, support East-European initiatives.

One of the many criticisms by West Essex Zapatista towards Belgrade organization was for lack of the East-Europeans in the process of preparing the conference. Of course, more of $$$ and scarce time could have been invested for this, but I think this concern was not really just, all the information was there all the time for any East-European to hook with it. For sure call got translated to Russian a way too late, but that was because some Minsk people halted the translation without bothering to tell anybody, and eventually Sumy people translated the text on their own initiative.

Even if one day we had an unlimited amount of cash, many people do not like begging for it - actually, those who like begging are often least useful types from point of view of the international activist networking. And visa procedures are humiliating. When I told about these problems to a person from Eurodusnie, he was immediately ready to pass me a pile of cash to get Russians to the next European PGA event with the least required begging - that was nice, but I do not necessarily want to be the money man. These are really complicated questions, in the end totally transparent and egalitarian application procedure might be an oxymoron.

Some credit for lack of Eastern European involvement is also due to some (former ?) Rainbow Keeper activists, who machinated an intrigue in Geneva 1998 against some trotskists from Voronezh in order to gain "Eastern European conveyor" - label, but eventually did very little to justify such a title.

West Essex Zapatista have also attacked the whole global PGA process for lack of African involvement. But in general I think network should not be judged according to its "might" and "width" only. Actually I think it is pretty much authoritarian leftie idea to have branches everywhere, no matter what the local priorities really are. Such a thinking plagues even libertarian circles, for example a while ago I was approached by a member of a legendary revolutionary syndicalist organization from USA about perspectives to have their branch in Russia. When I told my honest opinion about applicability of their concept of organization in Russia, correspondence was finished. No further interest for exchange of ideas. When someone else from the same organization will contact me another time after a couple of years, the same history will probably repeat itself (to be honest, I am personally also not very interest about bilateral exchanges which some groups propose since it takes lots of time... I rather have such exchanges in multilateral way, for example in Alter-EE e-mail list).

I think Africans are able enough decide on their own if PGA concept is necessary for them or not. Of course if the problem is lack of information there, there is something we should do. In East Europe, one of the reasons of lack of the networking is that groups and organizations are just not yet ripe of being able to really benefit from international exchanges. Local shit must hold together first. When Andrej Grubacic from DSM! asked me if I knew any groups in Eastern Europe which could be the next conveyors, only one Polish one came to my mind - but even they have little awareness about PGA and actually are pretty notorious for monopolizing such international communications, so perhaps I would not even like to see them as conveyors. I could have founded PGA infopoint in Russia right after Leiden, but I did not wanted because I would have been the only person doing the work. Fortunately, Epicenter infoshop from Sankt-Petersburg announced their willingness to become a PGA infopoint in the final spokescouncil, thus saving us from embarrassment of still not having a single infopoint in the whole Russia (in whole Eastern Europe, only other infopoints are in Sumy of Ukraine and Lyublyana of Slovenia).

I think one should be just as concerned about discrepancies of Western-European involvement than about lack of East-Europeans or Africans. For example during whole conference, I met only one person from Italy. There were 4 from Ukraine, so

Italian radical left was perhaps 1000 times less represented than Ukrainian, since Italy has the biggest movement in the world (both relatively and absolutely). Perhaps involvement of authoritarians from Leoncavallo in PGA for a while discredited network in eyes of rest of the Italian scene, and when Leoncavallo for some reason made conclusion that they may not use PGA in their search for hegemonies and lost their interest, nobody else hooked up in their place.

From Western Europe, UK was best represented, probably due to longstanding Reclaim the Streets - involvement in the PGA. Big UK involvement is very good, since although British "anti-globalization" scene has been much smaller than continental one, it has been much more free from all the kinds of authoritarian institutions. Besides former and current RTS activists, there were many people for example from Dissent! and Wombles, latter group is particularly symphatic to me. There were also many Germans, but few of theme were interested about the process. There were even some anti-German morons tearing down exhibition of photographs of Palestinian children. It would be nice if next European conference was in Germany - that would be a good opportunity to settle some scores with those types. Some French groups have been much involved in the process during last years, but besides them few people came from France. It seems like French scene is more fractionalized, and it is pretty hard to form alliances - this is perhaps why some French seemed to be particularly sensitive to criticisms which could discredit PGA as a whole. Spanish were around, but they could have been more, taking into account size of the movement there. Dutch involvement was not unsurprising, taken that as previous conveyor Eurodusnie had spend a lot of effort to help DSM! to put the 3rd conference up. Austria is perhaps not the easiest place to be radical left, but Austrians were around and they were among the coolest people in the conference. Danish and Finnish were relatively well presented, but at least latter without involvement in the process. Besides Italians, Swedish were particularly badly represented - I only met 3 persons although Sweden has a relatively big anti-authoritarian scene. Traditionally Swedish have been pretty autonomous though, without big effort to network internationally.

Busy Wednesday

PGA process discussions continue most of the time during European conferences, and they draft proposals for the final plenary/spokescouncil. In Belgrade, I was only participating to one session, this splitted to different groups - I chose one which discussed about relations of PGA to European Social Forum, Socialist Workers' Party and other such vertical organizations. There were not too many people in this group, and they were almost exclusively British - little surprising given where the then next ESF was about to take place. PGA has a pretty strict policy of non-representation - only final plenary/spokescouncil of European conferences may make decisions in the name of European PGA, and there is for example no way for somebody to "negotiate" with ESF or whatever in the name of the PGA. Already in Leiden it was clear that this raises a problem with visibility, "promoting" PGA is pretty difficult and this is why it is often not accessible to people that could be interested. But changing existing policies is not really possible, since they lie very deep in the concept of the organization in general - so in some sense discussions in our working group were a sort of waste of time. Everyone was pretty much aware anyway that ESF and SWP suck, although there were perhaps different levels of optimism how much some sort of involvement in the former may make change.

This was only time in the conference I was in a group mostly crowded with people speaking English as their motherlangue, and it made a big difference. Person which speaks better English immediately sounds more clever and well-argued, even if she/he was talking about most trivial things. This may have much more deeper influence to power structures than we even imagine. In this conference, I attended no workshop with any translations, they were just not asked - it might be a pretty bad sign if everyone without proper English skills have already now been in practice excluded from PGA events. In Leiden there were still a number of non-English speakers, in Belgrade just a handful.

After process discussions, I joined anti-repression workshop. It was initiated by people doing Aubonne bridge solidarity work for person who got almost killed when police made him drop from a bridge during latest Geneva protests. This was interesting, because initiative is from completely different networks than European Anarchist Black Cross, to which I am connected. I think one of the biggest problems of our movement is lack of anti-repression work with a long-time perspective. There is very much work to do, but it is not very spectacular and of little interest to society in general - this is why "spectacle activism" has been pretty averse towards anti-repression issues beyond setting up temporary legal teams during the summit protests. Incapability of the "spontaneous movement" to organize anti-repression work is one of the main reasons I have argued for a more coherent, formal way of organization. Not that our "less spontaneous" efforts in Russia have been much more successful either.

However, this workshop was a bit of disappointment. Apparently, people who originally wanted to present Aubonne bridge project did not came, so presentation had to be made by another person who seemingly had other concerns and was not too much in the mood. Maybe half of the people had not any previous experience with anti-repression work, they just came to listen. As for people already active, there were a couple of very local German initiatives, Wombles who had worked with cases of British repressed after Gothenburg and Thessaloniki protests, and people from Thessaloniki group of Antiauthoritarian movement of Greece. Little doubt that solidarity work in Greece is at completely another level - solidarity movement for Thessaloniki 7 surpassed anything what could have been imagined in rest of the Europe. Greek people also proposed questions that could be discussed, but facilitator hurried to finish working group according to the schedule. I do not think maintaining the schedule was a good idea - we could have discussed the issues such as who should be concretely supported and how on our own even if she had to do her business elsewhere. After Thessaloniki, there were 3 separate anarchist supporting campaigns in Greece, totally conflicting around these questions and without any coordination of activities, so Greek people certainly had some insight to relevance of these questions, although British could just shake their heads and say "Greece is Greece". I still have not had time to join the e-mail list of Aubonne bridge network, so I do not know how much it is currently active. Mostly this network attempts to be a sort of information clearinghouse and to do fundraising, fine tuning of politics is up for each involved group to do on their own.

My 6th working group of Wednesday (counting the men's network meeting in lunch which ended up just changing e-mails), and last of the whole conference, was the Dungeons and Dragons one. Although board game variant is pretty primitive, it still took about one hour to learn the rules. I found it surprisingly gender-correct, 2 of the four characters are female. Their sexual orientation was not defined though. 8 year old dungeon master preferred a ready scenario to improvising, so we slained all the goblins pretty easily since it was the first level. Non-violent conflict resolution was not an alternative. However we were denied opportunity to loot the treasury in a somewhat unfair manner, perhaps there was an anti-consumerist message dungeon master wanted to deliver us.

Security issues

In the evening, some pretty serious security concerns raised. Some Polish girls were sexually harassed by local kids, locals also recognized Croatian accent of one participator and she was threaten because of her nationality. Stuff was also stolen from the tents. Earlier in the day someone claiming to be from Serbian Blood & Honor section had also promised to bring his crew in the evening and storm the conference.

Things looked bad. Most of the people had left for squat party, and we could not find anybody doing security from the so-called Emma team. For sure it was very good that local kids were let to drink beer in the conference area every day (unfortunately but almost unavoidable consequence of which was that some genderqueer people felt pretty uncomfortable - outreach from the ghetto comes with a price), but about all of the local kids were having gopnik/derzy/jogging suit wear and it would not have been any trouble for any nazis or thieves to infiltrate among them. There was an idea to do some patrolling in the camp area to discourage thieves, but I did not found anything to be used as a weapon, nor a single person organized enough, so I went for another business.

Actually I understood that in previous evenings Emma team had done pretty good job in de-escalating drunken arguments with local kids that were unavoidable. Hippie approach for security for sure works better to a certain limit, even if we managed to have some 10 person black-block macho crew to "defend" the conference site in Wednesday evening, things could have pretty easily escalated and I do not think we would have been much of a physical contest for local kids in case they decided that we are a nuisance altogether. And really I guess the biggest problem of the Emma team was lack of people.

In another hand, there are things to be criticized as well. Good for the PGA, that even fluffiest types were not happy with the moronic punk who called the cops, they fortunately left soon without causing trouble. There is no excuses for ignoring concerns of harassed Polish girls (I did not saw this myself, just heard about it) - Laure pointed out correctly that stiff reaction would have been much more likely if these girls had been from some more "important" scene. Also, since things were indeed stolen, announcement that "nothing happened - people just are paranoid" cannot be seen as anything else as primitive, manipulative and authoritarian crowd control tactics. I found it also outrageous that there was no reaction whatsoever to threat of an all-out nazi attack. That would hardly be just a promise in Russia. Of course a likely result of distributing information would be a useless panic, but at least some minimal precautions should have been made - for example tents from surroundings of the school could have been moved to football field, which could have been easier to defend.

Actually somebody in fact saw cars around site loaded with nazis - perhaps a raid was planned, but plans changed since they realized that it would not be a fair fight. At least in Russia nazis usually prefer to attack white people only if they are offered a proper resistance.

I do not know in detail about the situation in Serbia, but at least in Russia we may not give 100% security guarantee for any activist event - although big attacks are seldom seen. And shame on somebody from abroad who would demand such a guarantee - you either adapt to local realities or stay home. Personal security is one of the many privileges you must compromise in order to maintain revolutionary politics.

But of course things are very much different, if you are responsible for more than your personal security only. I would not recommend taking your children to any such events (big and open, which attract public attention) in Russia, and Serbian PGA conference organizers should have also considered in prior, whether they may really fully guarantee security of children or not. BTW, I wonder what happened to crèche-pool - such a thing was planned and even volunteers were asked in the website, but seemingly it never got realized.

Among local kids, especially Roma seemed to like us. However they came only in the evenings, so I suppose they understood us being a big party only. Talking about accessibility of activist cultures, "consensus hippie" seemed to be specially accessible to Roma, they even had a common jam with Rhytms of Resistance. I was not participating to this Roma outreach part, so I may only comment what was told to me.

Final spokescouncil - PGA campaigns

Thursday morning it was time of the final spokescouncil. This form turned out to work very, very good - a positive surprise compared to hellish final plenary in Leiden. There were perhaps a dozen or so affinity groups, 10-20 persons in each of them. Each of them had a spokesperson, only one accepted to speak in the central ring (a couple of times reasonable exceptions were made to this rule to clarify fine details of opinions inside the group).

Almost all the time when serious concerns raised, they were similar between a number of different groups. This helped to economize time even more, since some groups did not had to voice their concerns at all. Preliminary discussion inside affinity group is pretty much required to formulate concern so that it was understandable and relevant for everybody - this is the main benefit of a spokescouncil.

Our affinity group ended up being a rag-bag of various outcast elements - West Essex Zapatista, East-Europeans and some weird Austrian types. Many of us however went to support miners' strike to Kostolac 80 kilometers north from Belgrade, and much of the rest could not bear discussion to the end of the spokescouncil, so in the end our affinity group was perhaps two persons. I heard miners' strike was great, besides bosses, miners were also fighting their own union. Miners were totally excited for "anti-globalists" coming to support them, and those who went were really sorry that they were only one mini-bus. I however preferred spokescouncil, since for me it was a very interesting laboratory example of direct democracy.

Actually, contents the final spokescouncil were perhaps less interesting than the form. Main proposal for PGA campaigns was "Global Estafette" (relay), born from discussions about going beyond summit protests and global action days. Idea is that instead of one day actions, actions would spread from country and city to another as a relay.

But hold on, what is this? What is the analysis on the global action days it is founded on, in which sense it is going beyond? Is the point just have the next days thing, next cool way to have your face to telly? Is the only problem with global action days that it is "yesterday's thing", and people are already "bored" with it? Is our movement some kind of entertainment factory? This is how I sometimes feel like, when trying to have apathetic kids to move their asses to some action, or what seems to be all too much asked, to do something themselves.

Although at times we will have to play with the rules of the system, ultimately PR, advertisement and selling things are in a fundamental controversy with what we are. I like more than indymedia especially because it is totally primitive, rough, true and it does not play games. It gives a fuck about rules of the design!

Action days (used to?) show how small groups in many different cities may together sum up to a much bigger than one may ever see in a protest in some particular place. They were our weakness turned to a strength. They were not just a nice trademark some activist copywriter released one day, but a result of objective condition of class (and other) conflict in world of today.

Most of the texts criticizing "summit hopping" scream for their lack of content. Especially for Americans, "community organizing" is buzzword of the day, although it may mean anything up to all-out reformism - usually content does not has to be defined at all in the context. Yes, Black Panther Party members were killed for campaigning for issues like zebra crossings and breakfasts for the children of their communities, but that does not mean that those issues are revolutionary today. Yes, we should work with issues which are relevant to society at large, but often it is not all too clear what is the possible input our movement could give to such issues, how do those issues relate to global change, are our means really those which people involved see relevant, and are means those people would like to use our means. We need more honest attempts of analysis, less concept-dropping. So "community organizing" is in the list of words banned in 2005!

I am afraid media and spectacle value of "Global Estafette" would be much less than that of global action days, but shortcomings (spectacle much for the sake of itself) are more or less the same. And most of the people do not figure out what estafette means anyway (when writing this, name of the action has been changed to Global Chain Refl-Action - not too clear either).

But whatever, we will see which kind of concrete propositions come out from this project, and after that we will consider participation in Moscow. Theme "Taking it back" is still a way too abstract, and may mean almost anything. Let us take Yo Mango for example - a friend of my friend spent a couple of years ago 3 months in a Sankt-Petersburg jail when cops tried to squeeze some money for her after an unsuccessful attempt to steal a packet of coffee. For sure people shoplift in Russia as well, but that has more to do with extreme sports than carnival, youth culture or popular resistance.

I think beautiful words and abstractions are the least scarce resource of our movement. Currently Abolishing the Borders from Below - journal is attempting to launch a special number on "reappropriation" in Eastern Europe, collecting various phenomena which one could interpret as appearances of this one abstract concept. If it happens to be on the ground, perhaps "taking it back" may work in Russia as well. It is both shortcoming and benefit of the PGA format that there is no moral imperative for all participators to execute common actions.

Only global action days proposed in the draft were around 8th of March (international women's day), 12th of October (for "Bolivarian revolution"), and around G8 6th-8th of July. First was not too clear - how this would be different from what Women's day is now already? There was not any answer for this unclarity, but eventually (according to minutes) all propositions got endorsed in a chaotic manner, with exception of the Bolivarian action day, revised version of which got passed in the end of the spokescouncil.

Together with another delegate from Russia, we proposed PGA endorsement for international action day against the war in Chechnya 23rd of February, which is both day of "defender of the fatherland" (sort of macho equivalent of women's day which is unpolitical in Russia), and anniversary of Chechen deportation to steppes in 1944. There were also some other proposals - 20th of April (beginning of the invasion to Iraq, 1st of May (international day against flexibility), Palestinians asked solidarity in general - but for some reason these four were just noted as proposals in the minutes, and eventually there was no discussion should European PGA endorse these calls as a whole. Understandable given the time restrictions, but really also a mistake of the facilitators.

Final spokescouncil - cooperation, access and all the rest

Second session of the spokescouncil was about "PGA relations with other political/activist organisations and structures such as NGO's, trade unions, social fora, political parties". Day before I had shortly visited group which had later on drafted this proposal, which was a total mess of "proposals", "ideas for discussion" and "announcements of upcoming events", without a clear distinction between these. There was for example a proposal to call interested groups and individuals to compile a manual or reader on how to deal with these organisations. This was pretty shady, given the "non-representation" policy of the PGA. So it was agreed that this reader will have a subtitle "inspired by the PGA". Logical next question was if anything may be published as "inspired by the PGA" - answer was YES. You bet that organisations as informal as PGA will hold together only as long as some seriously rotten eggs do not jump to the board.

Eventually, the following a concrete proposal was extracted from all that mess -

"PGA should not allow people to become isolated or excluded in the PGA process because they belong to certain organisations that may be less situated within PGA hallmarks, but put the emphasis on people's behavior within the network and at conferences. However, people from such organizations can only participate as individuals, will not be allowed to promote their organization through PGA, and

must respect the PGA hallmarks when participating in PGA. Leaders

and representatives of such organizations are not welcome in PGA,

and PGA process meetings are only open to people who agree with the


(in above resolution "PGA" means "European PGA").

Another logical question was asked - could any nazi could show up, participating as an individual respecting hallmarks by self-definition? But really this was nitpicking - I would do my best to attack physically any fascist scum showing up in the conference, whether my action was endorsed by some spokescouncil or not - so no point in blocking the proposal. And it is really impossible to draft universal "one size fits all" guidelines for dealing with authoritarians, for example our organization (Autonomous Action) had to make recently such a strict resolution against any cooperation with authoritarians that it might be difficult to follow it in practice in popular local struggles.

In this conference there was a leading figure for German PDS party, she was exposed in the daily newspaper and soon after that she left the conference. I think this was absolutely correct way to deal with the issue, since it was obvious that she was not presenting herself in an open manner, and thus could not have any "honest intentions" in participating to the conference. I do not understand how some people could be disappointed with this. I would also like to note that outright naivete among (Western) European PGA participators the resolution above reflects is due to their local situation - for example in Russia fascists from National Bolshevik Party would show up in any event participation conditions according to this criteria. For West-European PGA participators a scenario of nazis showing up is a fantasy, whereas in Russia it would not only be possible but likely as well.

Next section of the spokescouncil was "Suggested steps to take in cases of physical/psychological violence". This sounds pretty abstract, but obviously drafters of the document had sexual harassment in their minds. Perhaps they should have been more specific, for example psychological violence may be about everything, up to wiping ones ass with PGA hallmarks.

When I saw this text, originally written by Stockholm Anti-Fascist Action, first time in the process list, it must be said that I did not liked it. This was because of certain ambiguousity, which could have been interpreted that it supported presumption of guiltiness of the suspected offender. However in the process it became clear that this was not the case, a number of other affinity groups raised concerns similar to ours and eventually it was agreed that the text would be rewritten for the following event in order to eliminate this ambiguousity. Really I think that with voiced amendments, text was pretty good and deserved to be applied outside European PGA as well, and to be translated to different languages.

Fourth section of the spokescouncil was structure proposals for European PGA. Although many points were marked to be concrete proposals about which decision had to be taken, really they were sort of ideas for people to do, without anything what could basically be disagreed about, such as "The next PGA conference in Europe will be organized through a process of open preparation meetings, by the next conveyor and an open international preparation group". What could one possibly disagree with? In Leiden, there was an ambitious program to reform PGA structure which was left halfway due to time constraints, but this was not continued in Belgrade. It seems to me that European PGA has now a stable structure, and no radical changes are to be expected during next years.

Last section of the spokescouncil was "Global process proposals". Biggest section was about endorsing 4th Global PGA Conference to be organized in Nepal 2005. There were only few concrete proposals, such as about contacting disappeared South African conveyors, and creating a global list of conveyors which would be easily available in the web, and about making an informal "inspired by PGA" newsletter about European Conference 2004. All of these were pretty common sense, for sure no any controversial issues and conflicts.

So what remained was the clean up and "outreaching event" in the evening. A famous anarchist once said that "If I cannot dance for it, it is not my revolution", but I think it is too much asked if one has to dance after 5 days of totally exhausting conference program. Maybe I was just dead tired, or maybe the final evening party really was as boring as I found it. Talks were boring, videos were stereotypical, music was crap and I had already got an overdose of hippies during the week. Only nice thing was the inflatable yellow plastic PGA on the stage which we could punch.

Issue of activist subculture is pretty delicate and I will not get too deeply to it here. I have referred loosely to "consensus hippies" in this document, but really West-European activist culture is something which goes beyond "hippie" and has also many other roots than 60's protest movements. Any community of people always, more or less unconsciously founds norms and discussion paradigms which separate it from all other communities. Paradoxically, it seems like commonness is always founded on exclusion of the others. If one demands that activists should give up their culture, for most of the activists it would not make any sense to be an activist anymore. Such a thing as "normal people" just does not exist, and all groups arguing against "life-stylism" have just as exclusive subcultural habits as the others.

For example, I do not like samba so I feel alienated from all this samba stuff. However if Rhytms of Resistance played breakbeat or bhangra beat, things would be totally different. So in the end, it is too much asked to always have the party your way.

So how about a final judgement, how I managed to satisfy my 5 interests in regards to PGA conference? As for convergence if ideas beyond "one struggle" rhetorics - well, I am not impressed. But to be honest, I did not expected too much. As for finding people to help us in case of some problems with authorities - not too many, but at least something concrete. As for benefits to Eastern European organizing - I suppose all of those East-Europeans who participated should judge themselves. One of the local organizers was at least very upbeat right after the conference. At least we launched one new international project - the Anarchy Bus. To find about general interest to organize with similar but more strict principles than PGA, we at least got a very clear answer - there is no demand. As for the decisionmaking - not bad, although more attention should have been given to rising concerns in prior to final spokescouncil.

As for the European PGA in general, way is clear to forward, and I will stay involved according to my personal possibilities. Next step is to find new European conveyor, and to make evaluation what really went wrong with Resnik issue and other problems. 6 years is a respectable age for a grassroots network in this hectic video age, and although Global PGA has been in stagnation since 2001, European and Asian processes are all but dead. PGA does not attract anymore such attention as it used to, but this may be a benefit as well since it allows going beyond brandmaking - more introspection and better focus on what is actually done.

Antti Rautiainen


  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.