if you already have an affinity group or any
other form of organisational clique preparing to protest
in september we want to know about it!
please click here...
if you are not sure what an affinity group
is read on...
Organise in clusters! Form a group with your friends! Be loud!
Look exiting! Have fun!
is an affinity group?
An affinity group is a group of people
who have an affinity for each other, know each others strengths
and weaknesses, support each other, and do (or intend to do )
political/campaign work together. Most of us will have had some
childhood/formative experience of being part of a group whether
informally, as in a group of kids that are the same age and live
in the same street, suburb or town, or formally, as in being involved
in a sports team. However, affinity groups differ from these for
numerous reasons, as explained below, (hierarchy, trust, responsibility
to each other etc).
The concept of 'affinity groups has
a long history. They developed as an organising structure during
the Spanish Civil war and have been used with amazing success
over the last thirty years of feminist, anti-nuclear, environmental
and social justice movements around the world. They were first
used as a structure for a large scale nonviolent blockade during
the 30,000 strong occupation of the Ruhr nuclear power station
in Germany in 1969, and then in the United States occupations
/ blockades of the Seabrook nuclear power station in '71 when
10,000 were arrested and again many times in the highly successful
US anti-nuclear movement during the '70's and '80's. Their use
in sustaining activists through high levels of police repression
has been borne out time and again. More recently, they have been
used constructively in the mass protest actions in Seattle and
We don't have to use the word 'affinity
group' - blockade teams, action groups, cells, action collectives
etc. have all been used to describe the same concept. It would
be best to find the most relevant name depending on when and where
the structure is used. Also, each affinity group can choose their
own name. For example, at the AIDEX protest, there was a 'Perseverance
Affinity Group' named after the Fitzroy pub where it's members
had their first meeting. Other names range across a whole gamut
of political sensibilities ( or the lack thereof ); from the "Screaming
Trees", the "Alcoholics against the Bomb", to the "Buckrabendinni
with whom do i form an an affinity group?
The simple answer to this is the
people that you know, and that feel the same way about the issue(s)
in question. They could be people you see in a tutorial, work
with, go out with, or live with. The point to stress however,
is that you have something in common other than the issue that
is bringing you all together, and that you trust them and they
An important aspect to being part
of an affinity group is to get to know where each other is at
regarding the campaign or issue. This can involve having a meal
together, and you all discussing it after you have eaten, or doing
some form of activist related training together, like attending
a nonviolence, conflict resolution or facilitation workshop, developing
de-arresting strategies if needed, working out how to deal with
certain police tactics ie. snatch squads, police horses.
You should all have a shared idea
of what you want individually & collectively from the action/campaign,
how it will conceivably go, what support you will need from others,
and what you can offer others. It helps if you have agreement
on certain basic things: how active, how spiritual, how nonviolent,
how touchy-feely, how spiky, how willing to risk arrest, when
you'll bail-out, your overall political perspective etc. But then
again, you may all just work together at a job, play music or
hike together etc.
Within an affinity group, there are
a whole range of different roles that it's members can perform.
A lot of these roles will be determined by the aim or raison detre
of the AG, but could include a Media Spokesperson, to either talk
to / deal with news media , a Quick decision facilitator, 1st
Aid to take care of people that are hurt, a Spokesperson to convey
the affinity group's ideas and decisions to other AG's, a Legal
Observer, and Arrest support.
As well as these roles within itself
the AG can take on a specialised role in the way it interacts
with other AGs, or operates within the breadth of the protest
or campaign. There can be affinity groups specialising in copwatching,
countering "protest highjackers", legal observation, catering,
communication & cluster liaison, medical., clowning, or good old
common garden variety blockading. With this role focus, each AG
can do it's job and support the work of other affinity groups.
In this way, many affinity groups form an interdependent network
that achieves so much more than a large group of individual activists.
Within the context of a demonstration,
as important as the aspect of the AG that is out on the street,
is the support crew. They do all the mundane stuff, and regrettably
don't get the recognition that they deserve. They can walk/feed
pets, water plants, childcare, call employers and freaked out
parents/children, pay rent etc. As a consequence, more people
can participate (and risk more) because they have help with these
things. The emotional support is not to be underestimated; apart
from the offers of hugs, kisses, and phone calls, people feel
safe enough to risk themselves when they know that they have emotional
support. Support crew can also indirectly support direct action
by supplying information to news media and interested community
groups, raising funds and providing logistical support, like food,
water and accommodation. The street aspect of an AG, and its support
crew can ( and should ) swap round, so that there is a clear understanding
within it as to the importance of all roles in the group's effectiveness.
The aim at the end of the day
is to look after yourself and each other, have fun, and work towards
a maximised degree of constructive social change.