The First Gathering of Libertarian Infrastructures
[The translation of this call-out is not being posted as a current event-- the gathering, after all, has already passed-- but because the model of organization and the concept of anarchist infrastructure may be of interest to comrades in other countries. An article about how the gathering went was published in the most recent issue of Fifth Estate]
Call-out for the First Gathering of the Coordination of Libertarian Infrastructures
translated from Catalan by PG
[Note on terminology for North American audiences: «libertarian» is a non-specific, more inclusive synonym of «anarchist». The term first came into being in France as a direct synonym at a time when the term «anarchist» could not get past the press censors. In general, those who use the term in North America are NOT libertarians, though a minority who do not opt for electoral politics and want to practice self-sufficiency with no government interference may be classifiable as communitarian or individualist anarchists. Ron Paul is not a libertarian, he is a liberal, another term that has been thoroughly confused in the North American context. A liberal is a proponent or ideologue of the sociopolitical structures and policies that complement the so-called free market. When conservatives, who tend to be liberals, accuse their opponents of being liberals, what they are clumsily and ahistorically trying to call attention to are politics that are social-democratic or progressive.]
Many times it has been said in our circles—and we agree—that we suffer a lack of creative rather than abstract projects. We put a great deal of energy into organizing protests and propaganda, and as far as our destructive capacity towards the system that oppresses us is concerned, sometimes we are even capable of beating the police in the streets; but we often fail at the moment of constructing the path to a new world.
Despite this, in Catalunya there exist many creative projects and liberated infrastructures. Thus, our failure does not proceed from a lack of initiative or intention. So how do we explain this contradiction?
We believe that the perceived weakness in the creative sphere of our struggles comes down to a social problem, a kind of problem that no collective would be capable of solving on its own. Everything from state repression to capitalist alienation to patriarchal socialization converge to exercise a continuous pressure on our lives. This pressure affects our creative projects in a very distinctive way. It keeps us from valuing the feminine or feminized tasks of care and survival, makes our projects respond to the needs of the law and the capitalist market, and causes them to separate from the more combative spheres of the struggle.
We all know the result of this process: cooperatives and projects for a solidaristic economy that end up in self-exploitation or that even transform into capitalist businesses with an alternative character; projects that fail due to exhaustion, that fall into a productivist logic, or that collapse under the imposed need to pay rent; projects that little by little distance themselves from the struggle as they come to inhabit a reality different from that of those comrades who remain «in the streets»; projects that limit themselves to a legalistic path, in order to avoid repression and the significant loss of energy and material that such repression brings; or projects that, even as they evade capitalist dynamics, condemn themselves to self-isolation in their search for self-sufficiency.
Meanwhile, other comrades continue in the destructive and abstract paths of struggle (also necessary), normally the youngest of us, given the lifestyle that such paths favor. As such the creative part of the struggle is divorced and distanced from practices of collective self-defense and propaganda. In the end all of us are weakened.
This is a predictable dynamic. Capitalism always offers us tools for «achieving our dreams» and realizing any and all creative projects, but they are tools that reconduct us towards mercantile and productive relations. Democracy will also give us permission for nearly any initiative, but with regulations and conditions that will not allow us to step out of the game that the powerful control so easily.
We cannot take refuge in the law nor in the profitability of our ideas.
We feel a collective need for coordination and an intensification of relations to be able to build the collective force necessary to sustain our projects without losing our compass points. We want to see one another's faces to realize that we are many, so that we can climb out of our isolation. We want our projects to serve the struggle, to sustain us and to sustain all those who fight, instead of satisfying alternative and «responsible» consumers. We want to make use of the combative and propagandistic parts of the struggle to be able to communicate our visions and dreams, going beyond individual projects, and to be able to defend them when the government or a property owner threatens their continuity. We want our creative projects to link up rather than remaining alone.
We have seen and been a part of projects that ended up in self-exploitation or the commercialization of the struggle. However, we have neither answers nor immediate solutions to the problems of money, of cooperatives, of rents, etc.
We have to consider that all commercialization, every relation or exchange mediated by money constitutes a danger and carries within it the seed of capitalist relations. Notwithstanding, none of us are capable of escaping economic impositions, and many surival initiatives, even cooperativism, have generated important experiences and histories.
Perhaps, instead of circling the wagons of dogma or arguing where to draw red lines, we should foment the opposite: that which we want, that which we know brings us closer to a free world. The gift economy is the type of economy that is oldest and most incompatible with exploitation. It is based in reciprocity, mutual aid, care and well-being, that which is not quantifiable. We still practice gift economies, but often unconsciously and only in spaces that are still not ruled by the State and business (among friends and family members, in some villages, among neighbors...).
We do not want to reject projects that use money because all of us do the same in our daily lives; what's more, we appreciate that many projects have a currently insurmountable need to spend and generate money. There are projects that have to pay rent or buy machines and materials or pay their members because their work implies a full day's labor. We want to include all such projects. But we also want to open a door to be able to explicitly spread the idea of the gift economy and establish the relations necessary to practice this kind of exchange.
There exist many organizational experiences that have failed. Organizations can be centers of power that end up centralizing or dominating an entire struggle. Of course, currently the most common outcome is that organizations fail long before they accumulate such power. It seems people abandon them for not meeting their needs or for constituting a great deal of effort and few results. Desite all this, many of us still have the need to organize ourselves.
We understand that, at least in the current context, the problems are the obsession with unity and the failure to understand «organization» as the fruit of a verb. We believe that, faced with any proposal for organization, we should always ask, «organize what?» If the answer is not clear, it's because there is no clear need for organization.
In this case we do not propose an organization for its own sake, but because we feel a concrete need to foment more coordination among projects that already exist, that have already developed their practices and chosen their paths.
There is a great diversity among all these projects and that is their strength. The current proposal will not satisfy all the organizational needs of all the collectives and individuals who attend. It will only satisfy some concrete needs and remain open to responding to other needs through initiatives that arise from the collectives themselves, initiatives that do not have to be imposed on all.
To carry out this work of sharing and coordinating we believe it is essential to accept our heterogeneity and autonomy. We want to create a common space where everyone can decide their degree of involvement and the initiatives in which they do or do not want to participate. We do not seek unity on the level of action, language, or thought. We put things in common* to be able to decide whether to share or not, because decentralized—connected but free—we are stronger. We respect difference, not as a current problem that we have not yet overcome, but as a proof of our freedom and as a source of constructive conflicts and learning.
The existence of our projects proves that we are capable of organizing ourselves. Since the projects are each so different, coordination among them will take on diverse forms that logically we cannot predict.
[*Translator's note: the expression in Catalan is «posem les coses en comú» which means to share or to make things accessible to everyone, without implying homogeneity or unity. Nowadays «posar en comú» is an expression that usually refers to a sharing of ideas, information, or other abstract things, but it stems from a communal heritage in which the commons were a normal form of economic cooperation free from state regulation that allowed both sharing and individual freedom. ]
On Dreams and Know-how
It is no coincidence that in our society fewer and fewer people learn the skills necessary to sustain life. We are ever more dependent, trained to perform undignified and surreal jobs. Neither is it a coincidence that we are losing our capacity for imagination. A century ago, the whole society questioned the future and debated contradictory visions. Today, everyone accepts the future that is being imposed on us, or at the most, they imagine the apocalypse.
As such, we think it is necessary to impel the recovery of artisanal know-how and other skills that make life and struggle possible; and also to impel the dissemination of other visions, of rebellious, communal, and anarchic imaginaries. These imaginaries will be infinitely stronger if they are sustained, not by isolated initiatives but by a web of real projects that generate a collective power and that make the first step towards other social relations.
If you identify with some of these concerns and experiences and participate in a creative project or you have the intention of starting one, you are invited to the first gathering for building a coordination of libertarian infrastructures.
Open Proposal for Structure, Objectives, and Minimums
-Generate an awareness of collective power so that projects can support one another without having to support themselves in commercial relations and fall into self-exploitation.
-Foment relations and connections between creative projects of the same type (for example: printshops, social centers, gardens, healthcare groups, childraising groups, etc.)
-Foment relations and connections horizontally between projects of different types to make possible exchanges, networks, gift economies and a culture of reciprocity.
-Give support to the people who want to start new infrastructure projects, sharing materials and experience.
-Encourage the learning of capacities and skills that are artisanal and truly useful for the self-organization of life.
-Share knowledge and resources.
-Make possible the level of coordination between projects that the members themselves consider fruitful and necessary.
-Semiannual gatherings in Catalunya. The gatherings will not be congresses, but common spaces that are decentralized and designed for the sharing of resources and the encouragement of relations of quality, where people can directly make contacts, start initiatives, and generate networks in an agile way, without going through bureaucratic procedures.
-The Coordination is intended for participants in creative and infrastructure projects, or for people with the intention of starting such a project.
-Minimalist organization, from below and arising from direct needs. The gathering will be a space for encouraging the generation of other types of organization and coordination: from email lists to networks, meetings, and joint activities. No group or individual will have to participate in structures that do not directly respond to their own organizational needs (for example: three garden collectives and a collective of self-organized healthcare can organize a joint initiative, without other collectives with other needs having to participate).
-A voluntary commission, established at each gathering, that takes responsibility for organizing and publicizing the following gathering, and inviting new collectives to participate.
-A commission for setting up a website where all the collectives and projects that wish can be listed as forming part of the Coordination.
-Participation is for people who are involved in infrastructure projects or creative projects, or who have the intention of starting such a project. By creative and infrastructure projects we mean any project that corresponds to a vital need (cultural, emotional, or physical), that creates tools necessary for the struggle (spaces, propaganda, care, capacities of self-defense, etc.), or that begins to build the world we carry in our hearts.
-It does not matter at all how the projects that wish to participate label themselves, but it is necessary that their principles, practices, and thinking be libertarian, even if they do not use that word. Accepting that a group of heterogeneous people will not arrive at a consensus on the meaning of this term, we understand «libertarian» (at least in this document) to mean: with a revolutionary or transformative perspective, in favor of a healthy, heterogeneous and free world; against patriarchy, capitalism, the State, the domination and destruction of the planet and of other living things, and all other types of exploitation and oppression. It also means: a commitment to the values of solidarity, mutual aid, self-organization, and free association, and an independence from any political party, state institution, or state-funded labor union.
-We understand that many struggles and important values are not reflected here, but we respect the differences amongst ourselves, we value constructive conflict, and we recognize that all of us still have much work to do, that no struggle is perfect and we accept what is obvious: that ennumerating a complete list of all the struggles and values will not make it so that these are truly appreciated in practice; that the struggle has to be perfected on the streets and not on paper.
The first gathering will be celebrated on October 17 and 18 in Manresa
-Presentation of projects (function, brief history, needs and desires).
-Elaboration of a more detailed schedule.
-Meetings among similar projects.
-Free time for workshops of artisanal skills and techniques, etc.
-Changes to the proposal of objectives, structures, and minimums.
-Forming a commission to organize the next gathering.
(There will also be time for cooking, eating, and playing together, and a space for children).