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Community Organizing Core

This Core section ran five presentations with repeat schedulings of the first two, which allowed people to pick up in the middle. Activities included brainstorming the basics of anarchism (always an exercise in heterogeneity), outlining the basics of organizing, trying to impact organizing theory using these basics, and drafting model organizing proposals.

Remarks drawn from my small group's evaluation.

My own reflections.

I pretty much concur with the points on presentation raised by others in my small group.

Overall the Core had hoped to achieve a "dynamic tension" between anarchism and organizing, but I would have to say it did not.

The sessions seemed to pose anarchism as a theoretical protagonist which was somehow to inform community organizing. One of the small group exercises asked us to use a major element of anarchism to rewrite two pages of statements about community organizing. The second page came from an article by Tom Knoche. At first I thought both pages were his, and only later did I learn that the first page was from the Midwest Academy (a "mainstream" group). Except for its paragraph on internal organization, which is not a defining point, there was nothing in the Midwest Academy page that an anarchist should find deficient or objectionable. I was truly at a loss to see the point of the exercise, and my small group, probably most small groups, wound up bogged down in almost etymological scrutiny. We couldn't figure out what the problem was supposed to be.

In fact, theoretical overlap between anarchism and community organizing is substantial already. The things people often find objectionable in community organizing are its opportunism, concessionism, and lack of success at transmuting its theoretical principles into reality. (Do anarchists have special insight into this? No.) Thus the Midwest Academy can say, "Empowerment is a process by which people learn the value of united action through real-life experience, and build the self-confidence of the individual", and at the same time promote an Alinskyist doctrine that the purpose of action is to "make officials do their jobs". This does not necessitate rehabilitating their definition of empowerment.

I am more or less satisfied with community organizing as a tactical form, as far as that goes, and I fail to see the need to "develop an anarchist model." On the contrary, it would be much more fruitful to use the immense practical experience of organizing to critique traditional anarchist blunders which I will not enumerate except to say that self-ghettoization and purism would probably top any list. One point raised during the sessions is that communities need not be geographically based. Although formally true, this line of thinking has the potential to lead straight back to the ghetto. Many people seemed to think of community organizing as something to do within the "anarchist community." It's a community, isn't it? We're organizing, aren't we?

This may result from not understanding the community organizing model. Its geographic component is a feature we should never discard, because one important basis for political power is control of the land itself. The geographic component will also force us to take questions of local political development, alliance, and strategy seriously.

Ultimately I think the relationship between anarchism and organizing is a relationship of strategy and means. We should use the means as a component of the strategy, not micromanage the strategy into the means. For reasons I have yet to learn, this ideological micromanagement has been a consistent feature of the anarchist grouping I have come to know.

For Improvement

Whatever progress can be made on these questions will benefit not only us, but everyone who sees fit to try and organize. As anarchists, we will do ourselves more good by providing leadership on questions of general concern than by theoretical parochialism.