Monday, 12 October 2015

Lessons from Radical Assembly 4

Here is my brief summary of the day.

1. Reports from regional groups
We started the day with reports from regional groups on what we have achieved since May. Without wishing to criticise the other groups, I felt RASEL has achieved the most. In particular, I think our self-education and process-building (largely unique to us, it seems - although others have begun to follow suit) has started to lay the basis for an extremely effective revolutionary organisation. Also, I feel our planned projects of a stall, continuing film nights, library campaign, community assembly work, and solidarity with Bahar, sounded more exciting than the support for outside campaigns which other groups seem to be focussed on. We also seem to be by far the biggest group, and have very low turnover in comparison to the others.    

2. Ideas from Mary, Jen and Anna [names changed]
After the report-back from the groups we split into small groups to talk about how to develop the assemblies. The three people I talked to (all from SE London but not involved in activism) all had ideas which I found really useful. The main theme was that we need to make it EASIER for people to get involved. They want to do stuff but it is often difficult. Particular suggestions include:
(a) Making it easy for people to do actions close to where they live - they don't want to travel far to do actions.
(b) Being more welcoming to newbies, including having more welcoming attitudes and having info materials to help people get up to speed.
(c) More advertising - e.g. posters in Peckham Rye, using Meet-Up, and an events forum/calendar.
(d) Have someone responsible for outreach.
(I also took the note that we need to 'sort out Facebook page', as they had ideas for this, but unfortunately I can't remember the details.)

I agree with all of these ideas, and think we've discussed a lot of it before, and think we should look at them further as a group.

3. Direct action workshops and anti-fascism
We split into about eight groups to have direct action workshops. Workshops were held on a range of issues from environmental activism to sex worker organising. I ended up at the antifascist workshop - one of many topics I know very little about. I learnt that whilst the fascist threat remains small, it is growing.  100 fascists recently marched in Dover and were unable to be stopped. I also learned that there is a lot more to anti-fascism than the street clashes that get filmed for TV. The London anti-fascists engage in a range of educational and public relations work, as well as covert intelligence gathering and sabotage of fascist networks. They also provide training and services to other movements, including recently the Focus E15 mums. Lots of people involved in anti-fascism do this broader work and not the street mobilisations. 

One thing I find very interesting about ant-fascism is that because of the dangers anti-fascists face, in order to maximise safety, they are often forced to use leftist principles in the most extreme ways. For example, the principle of solidarity becomes hyper important in the streets - i.e. you need to literally make the most solid physical block possible - when defending each other against violent fascists. I also like that the anti-fascists have to combine their left-wing (often anarchist) principles, with extremely thorough preparation and organisation in everything they do - an ethos many leftist organisations could probably learn from.

London Antifascists will be giving a training in Goldsmiths College on Oct 25th and I think it would be a great learning experience if a lot of us from RASEL could attend. Alternatively, we might be able to organise our own training.  

When we first set up RASEL, I was scared by how much work we had facing us if we were to build a strong, effective organisation, and it sometimes still intimidates me. However, RA4 was a good chance to take stock of all we've achieved so far and provided plenty of ideas for us to be able to carry on developing and moving forwards. So I found it a rewarding experience. See you soon.