Because of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in 2008, there was a lot of protest mobilization in the Midwest during that time. The stuff I became involved with was mostly anarchist related. It was my entry into radical politics and the beginning of an anarchist grouping in Iowa City, which I’ve already written about previously.
One of the things that we sort of linked up with was a couple conferences or ‘gatherings’ of anarchists that were for the purpose of initiating some sort of network or federation. The whole thing tanked, but it wasn’t a complete waste of time. It was an educational experience on what not to do and what not to be a part of.
Anyway, this is a reportback from the Kansas City ‘gathering’ in the Summer of 2008, and a follow-up meet-up that happened in Omaha, I believe in the Fall of 2009. Not sure what these reports were for, I just found them in a notebook. I find it funny how angry I was at the time.
The next day, Saturday, was the bulk of the weekend and very quickly took on all of the negative aspects of large anarchist group meetings. The start of the day was delayed by an hour and a half and we talked about what we were going to talk about for an hour.
Then a very long and frustrating discussion about what form this midwestern anarchist thing should take followed. A small but vocal minority advocated for more formal organization. A more numerous, but just as vocal minority pushed informal organization, with some saying they wouldn’t have anything to do with it if formal was the direction taken. The majority of everyone else just wanted to get to know other radicals, hangout, were apathetic or silent.
The rest of the day was characterized by delays, report backs on what other groups are doing, hangout out and drinking. It seems that most of the things people are involved with in their towns are Food Not Bombs, ‘community’ gardening, Infoshops/punk spaces, squatting and/or trying to create a community of squatted spaces and some other stuff.
I did meet a guy from Four Star Anarchist Organization that was pretty cool and talked to him for quite a while about various things. He seemed to be among the only class struggle types there. There were several others that I enjoyed talking to on a personal level, although not so much on political level…at times I felt like I had about as much in common with people as I do the ISO.
To sum it up, for me, personally and politically, I didn’t get much out of at all. I didn’t have the energy or interest to work on by myself, nor with another IC comrade, an actual proposal for more formal structure. It most likely would have been rejected or resulted in bitter arguments between us and others who “just want to build affinities and personal relationships”. The gathering was basically like a Crimethinc convergence with less structure, no workshops and a stereotypical punk-hipster-hippie-traveller kid-insurrectionary-green-post-leftist majority demographic.
The next one is in Omaha in November.
Update on this whole thing for those that care is that, unsurprisingly, it basically doesn’t exist.
The most recent meet-up was in Omaha and almost nobody attended (including myself). From the descriptions it sounded like it was completely an informal hangout. Ironically, but perhaps also unsurprisingly, the core folks who were most vocal AGAINST a formal organization and FOR an informal hangout didn’t even show up. A few who were for formal structure did go though.
This gradual dismantling of a potential Midwest anarchist “neteration” seems to have coincided with some of the infoshop-centered anarcho scenes falling apart in some cities and other cities not being heard from in a while.
It’s interesting to reflect on my own development as an anarchist and, what I’ve learned from this experience is the following:
-People who identify as anarchists are often idiots. Avoid thinking of them as having any useful thoughts or views just because they call themselves an anarchist.
-Anarchists continuously repeat past mistakes without learning from them or being aware of these past mistakes. And when I say past, I mean anything more than 2 years ago.
-You can’t create a formal organization with people who are anti-formal organization.
-Insurrectionarys (whether class war or social war), primitivists, post-leftists and anarcho-syndicalists/communists cannot exist in one organization.
-If the basis for a possible organization is 100% folks between the ages of 17-25…it’s probably not worth the trouble.
-People who are against workshops at a gathering/conference have shitty politics and want to bask in irrelevance. Rightly view them as lunatics and don’t try to convince them of anything.
-If it’s called a ‘gathering’, well…just go to the bar instead.
-If the phrase “feeling out our affinities” is said more than once, without irony, your best bet is to go home.
-Those who speak in vague, wordy generalities and refuse to talk about concrete examples should be scathingly insulted. While it may not accomplish anything, it will make you feel better.
In summary, most in the stereotypical American anarchist miliue are moronic half-wits who will bring you to the brink of renouncing revolutionary theory and practice itself in favor of non-involvement and becoming a mostly apolitical person. The only useful purpose they have is that some of us eventually come out of that subculture and phase and onto actual serious and sane organizing.