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Critical Notes on Active Resistance 1996


Active Resistance, the Counter-Convention, was held in Chicago August 21st-31st, 1996. I was on hand from about the 12th or so, working with the facilities staff and other logistical support, security, and planning one of the workshop subgroups.

There were two aspects to AR. Demonstrations, street theater, and so forth made it partly a protest of the Democratic Convention held in Chicago (shades of 1968). Also, it was intended to be a new step in gatherings, with the purpose of having tangible results and accomplishing something other than just a big party. Because of that connotation, it seems, AR was not officially promoted as an "anarchist gathering". Part of the programming was in the form of standalone workshops and events, part in the form of a five-day workshop series (the Core) with three tracks; Economics, Community Organizing, and Building Revolutionary Movements. The sum of these intentions is what made it a Counter-Convention, an effort at doing some collective thinking and planning in answer to the collective action of the opposition.

the Notes

I tend to be forced into the critical role because in five years I have but rarely observed the anarchist scene question or evaluate its own actions. If each piece of information had to be "balanced" we would need only one piece.

Do you find it hard to see why I would trash AR? If that's what's on your mind then you miss the point.

These criticisms are basically the sharp end of an argument against anarchism being characteristically self-absorbed and parochial. Much of what I found wrong with AR reduces to this concern. The brochure states, "In every way possible, we maintain our distinction from the dominant culture." Is this a political movement or some kind of paranoid ethnic group?

I just have no loyalty to anarchism the alternative youth scene. Whether it can be rehabilitated is an open question.

Richard Taylor

July 1998

Also by this writer:

Against Student Activism
Alternative Dispute Resolution
  1. Eine kurze Geschichte des AKWs
  2. Peace Center Accident Report
  3. Towards a Collective Space in Bloomington
the Circle Pines Conference of November 1994