de l’affinité… et du groupe (here and no further)

J’emprunte au blog ‘Les sentiers de l’utopie’

Un texte qui parle de l’action de désobeissanvce civile qui a bloqué la mine de charbon de Garzweiler le 15 aout 2015
Questions d’affinité et du groupe… qui nous intéressent au plus haut point ! En plus ils parlent de l’art de l’affinité ! 😉

The art of Affinity

How to build an affinity group, an organisational approach which is at the heart of effective direct action is one of the most important parts of the training. An affinity group is a cluster of between 5 and 15 people who decide to work together – staying together during the action, looking out for each other, and building trust and emotional support to enable and empower its participants. Remaining autonomous, not relying on a top down command structure, but making their own decisions about what to do (and not to do), affinity groups are way more fluid and responsive than a larger mass of people. They are also seed beds for new people to participate.

Decentralised and non-hierarchical, by their nature, the affinity group form was first invented by Spanish anarchists in the late 19th century, when circles of friends meeting in cafes, often at first to share cultural and artistic ideas (like a literary salon), began to talk politics and plan actions together. Decades later the form was resurrected during the anti-Vietnam war protests, by the infamous American post dadaist art activist collective: Black Mask. Some of the most successful mass acts of disobedience, from the huge, sometimes 30,000 strong, anti nuclear blockades of the 70’s to the turn of the 20th century shutting down of the WTO in Seattle, used affinity groups as the main fabric of the action.

What brings a group together is often sharing the same desires for the tone and style of action. Our affinity group for the day came together around the fact that none of us really wanted to be arrested, even though we were all committed to going into the mine and knew that the chances of getting away with it were very low. As it happened, as the day of action got closer and the excitement rose, our group collectively drifted into realising that not getting arrested for an act of mass disobedience was a bit like fighting a war for peace, by the eve of the action we no longer cared for anything other than getting onto one of the excavators.
Photographer: Paul Wagner courtesy of
Photographer: Paul Wagner courtesy of

Sometimes affinity groups stay together for years, others are put together for a particular action. Some of us in our affinity group are already good friends, but others have never met before and for a handful this is their first act of disobedience. We are a sundry bunch, ranging from 21 to 50 years old and we include a Turkish designer, French journalist (there to act not report), Czech student, Danish NGO Campaigner, Spanish Environmentalist, Belgian Engineer and a British researcher. In the tradition of non-cooperation with the authorities, we have decided that we will refuse to give any names if arrested. Not because we are not proud to be shutting down Europe’s biggest carbon bomb, but because in the tradition of Civil Disobedience theorised and practiced by Thoreau, the Militant Suffragettes, Martin Luther King, Ghandi et al. we believe that noncooperation with what is wrong is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with what is good.

If on top of that, we can also avoid feeding this society of hyper surveillance that controls, checks, measures, films, files, tracks and captures our every move, then it is a win win situation. To facilitate our anonymity the legal team has invented an ingenious system, we give our ID documents to them and they give us each a number. If arrested we use our phone call from the police station to tell them our number and they are thus able to see who has been detained and send the appropriate support, without any name ever having been uttered.

A catchy group name is always motivating, we have decide to call ourselves: Mary Poppins, partly because we want to use some of the multicoloured umbrellas that have had images and texts stenciled on them, useful for shade, strong visuals and protecting us from pepper spray. It’s a nod to the Hong Kong democracy movements that turned the use of umbrellas into a fine art of resistance.
Photographer: Julie Andrews courtesy of P.L Travers
Photographer: Julie Andrews courtesy of P.L Travers

We have all paired up into ‘buddies’, two people who even in chaotic moments where the larger affinity group might get split up, stay together come hell or high water. Isa and I pair up as always, the last time we buddied up on an action though I ran through a line of riot police without any warning and left her isolated on the other side, which is exactly what NOT to do with your buddy. This time I’ll try to be more aware and sensible.

Mary Poppins will be joining the “international finger”, one of the four columns made up of numerous affinity groups, that will walk into the mine from different directions and head for the diggers. After the fingers reach the machine, each affinity groups can decide what to do and where to go, ours still hasn’t decided, although I liked the idea that we would write a giant message in the sand a lot more than climbing to the top of the excavator, the world’s biggest land based vehicle, with our banner which says: Jobs not Coal.

Philosopher Frederic Jameson wrote that the “The central problem of all political philosophy (and later of political science) is the constitution of the group.” How do we treat each other ? How do we make decisions in ways that reflect our desired world without hierarchy and domination ? How do we listen deeply, debate, disagree, decide together ? And how can we live now together as if we were already free? The affinity group form is a beautiful rehearsal for many of these questions. In German and in English the words ‘friend’ and ‘free’ both come from the same Indo-European root, which conveys the idea of a “shared power that grows”, a far cry from the atomised individualistic freedom of neoliberalism, which so often pollutes even the most radical of minds “I’m an anarchist ! I’ll do what I want!.” As the Invisible Committee explain in To Our Friends: “Being free and having ties was one and the same thing. I am free because I have ties, because I am linked to a greater reality than me.” If anything else an affinity group is an amazing accelerator of friendship, and when it is fueled by taking the risk of disobedience together, it becomes a love machine like no other, an ecology of freedom.

2 commentaires

  1. La citation de Jameson dans le dernier paragraphe “The central problem of all political philosophy (and later of political science) is the constitution of the group.” est extraite de son livre ARCHAEOLOGIES OF THE FUTURE un passage ou Jameson cite abondamment Charles Fourier :

    « But if politics means getting any group of people to agree to something and to act together, if it means encouraging individuals to speak their minds and to come to enjoy doing so, at the same time that you find a way to bring them to fall silent without discouragement, and with a certain confidence that so much virtually ontological disagreement will nonetheless generate action rather than paralysis – then Fourier is political and understood very well that the « theory of attraction » was his great intervention into political theory and philosophy as such:

    Et comme les Séries passionnees ne se composent que de groupes, il faut, avant tout, apprendre a former les groupes.
    « Ha! hal les groupes, c’est sujet plaisant que les groupes: ça doit etre amusant les groupes! »
    Ainsi raisonnent les beaux esprits quand on parle de groupes: il faut d’abord essuyer d’eux une bordée de fades equivoques; mais que le sujet soit plaisant ou non, il est certain qu’on ne connait rien aux groupes, et qu’on ne sait pas meme former un groupe régulier de trois personnes, encore moins de trente.
    Cependant nous avons de nombreux traités sur l’étude de l’homme: quelles notions peuvent-ils nous donner sur ce sujet, s’ils negligent la partie élémen­taire, l’analyse des groupes? Toutes nos relations ne tendent qu’a former des groupes, et ils n’ont jamais été l’objet d’aucune étude. »

    Charles Fourier, Nouveau Monde industriel, Paris, 1973


    1. Super cette citation de Fourier — effectivement je me souviens que Laurent (artiste) a dit : ‘des que les artistes sont plus de 3 ils se sentent menacés !! et meme déjà à 3 c est pas donné!’
      Quand j ai fait ce stage de ‘désobéissance civile’ tout de suite on te parle de groupes afinitaires qui fonctionnent par 7 /8 et aussi parallèlement d ‘être en binômes = tu dois trouver ton binôme – la personne avec qui tu vas rester coute que coute en cas de gros problèmes = arrestation /malaise/ blessures etc etc — le truc d après ce que j ai compris c est que les crs fonctionnent aussi comme ça !!!


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