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blog10 december 2023 Nederlands

How we organise

Author: zilvervisjes | GEPLAATST DOOR: zilvervisjes

Who are we?

We are a group of anarchists living in Rotterdam who were previously involved in student, squatting, and other housing struggles. We decided to call ourselves the Silverfish, or de Zilvervisjes, after the silverfish who ate some of our publications in our humble anarchist library. Most of us were previously involved in the Rotterdamse Anarchisten Tegen Supermarkten (RATS) collective.

Why are we anarchists?

We believe that a society characterized by mutual aid, free association, self organization and spontaneous initiative is possible, and that today’s society, characterized by competition, coercion, centralized organization and apathy must be transformed in its favor. Furthermore, we believe that the current society is maintained through hierarchical social forms, such as capitalism, states, property, as well as prevailing race, gender and sexuality relations. This must be struggled against by people organized upon social relations that embody the society they wish to create. We are anarchists because we act on this belief, while learning and transforming ourselves in this process.

Someone might raise an objection: How can you change anything without taking power? Today the prevailing institutions are doing everything they can to remove the smallest hopes people have regarding a better world. Thus, people are either convinced that change isn’t possible until the world ends as we know it or that change could only come through reforms or political rupture by the force of the state.

We believe that this very belief in the state is the source of our hopelessness. Every bit of goodness we have in our lives today is created through our power. We create and maintain social relationships, goods and infrastructure. The authorities are not vested with magical powers: the power they are wielding is our very own power, they live like parasites on it and try to constrain it. Therefore, we say: we already have power and can expand it further through collective struggle. Our call is to those who can see the little bits of goodness that exist in our lives and want those to take over the world.

We believe oppression and exploitation goes on because all the social skills, social sense and desire necessary for gathering, communicating, and making decisions together are suppressed and made to serve the powerful. Apart from the direct, personal violence we face from the privileged and their apparatuses, we think that the endlessly mediated structures of our society constrains direct action. The world today is not made at a human measure, the invisible structures and hierarchical complexity of our society leads us to live in alienated and individualized ways. We envisage a world where every individual and group can act freely and spontaneously, without being the instruments of others.

That said, we can only have this freedom of action through giving it to each other: We need to come together and realize our common interests if we are ever to be free. Thus, we believe in the need to organize. For us it is clear that as long as we do not organize ourselves, we will be organized by whatever dominant power structures are in town. By organizing, we will be able to counter the direct violence of the state as well as remaking our social environment at a human scale.

We realize that there are other obstacles to organizing apart from those imposed by the minority rule of capitalists and the state. There are the various forms of power and inequality that run through our relationships with our friends and others around us. Whether that be patriarchy, whiteness, cisheteronormativity, ableism; even the very fact that one of us earns more than the other, is better educated, or is living in a part of the world which is less affected by climate change, all creates differences in interests. Some inequalities stem from hardened power structures, some are more products of circumstance.

What they all have in common is that they are made especially difficult to address or struggle against because of the endlessly hierarchizing nature of this society. We believe that power structures are constantly interacting, strengthening and shaping each other, as well as using any circumstantial differences between people as a means to create deeper divisions. We extend solidarity to everyone struggling against specific forms of power, although at the same time realize that none of them can be ultimately uprooted if they are not taken on as a whole. We are interested in the horizon of revolutionary feminist, anti-capitalist, ecological, queer and anti-colonial movements, and will continue to be inspired by the connections between them.

Since oppressive power structures cannot be taken on separately, we adopt a revolutionary attitude which aims to dismantle all of them. Some will suggest that sympathetic though our goal is, it is merely a dream. As a response, we point out that working to totally dismantle power structures is the only realistic solution. History shows that whenever reforms are earned by social struggles, they can later be easily taken away, or worse, the struggle is incorporated into the political system, shifting the shape of the power structure in a way which makes it much more resistant to change. Furthermore, historical examples in labor struggles, black liberation, and women's liberation show that ruling classes only give in to significant reforms when they feel that their system as a whole is threatened.

We need a revolution, but that cannot not mean idly waiting for it: On the contrary, we believe than an abstract, mythic idea of revolution which will later come to historical realization is not helpful. Rather, we need to cultivate the desired forms of action, habits and ways of relating, starting from our personal relationships and our immediate environment, and associating with others outside of our context on the same basis.

How does our group work?

We came together after RATS entered a period of inactivity in Rotterdam. While we were inspired by many elements, such as the weekly VoKus that gathered many activists together every week, the anarchist library and the solidarity parties, we felt that there were some recurring problems throughout the years. First of all, even though many anarchists were present in this scene, we did not feel that we came together sufficiently as to build a platform for our ideas and practices. We think this was a missed opportunity to help each other grow and build capacity for action as a collective. We also saw a lack in how we related to other social movements in Rotterdam.

While Rotterdam is home to heightened social conflicts and accompanying strong movements, we found ourselves relating to these movements mostly as individual anarchists. In our opinion, this is also a missed opportunity, since to connect to other movements as anarchists can enrich both our anarchism and further spread liberatory ideas and practices. That said, we do not think of anarchism as a political sect which always has the best answers. Anarchism, rather than subsuming other movements under abstractions, has a potential to move from particularities to the generalities of social change: its capacity for dialogue with other perspectives while aiming to dismantle all opressive power structures is where anarchism shines. That leads us to the conclusion that shying away from openly calling ourselves anarchist, and hesitating to espouse anarchist ideas, was counter-productive. Therefore, we decided to organize based on an openly anarchist group, open to participation by anyone who feels affinity with our ideas and practices.

The second problem we felt in the radical political scene was less about the ways anarchists organized and more about organization in general. We felt that we failed to intervene in the behaviors of several abusers whose presence made shared spaces hazardous for some of us. We feel that many inter-personal conflicts arising out of the interactions with abusive individuals but also other relationships weighed the energy of the group down, and we struggled to support each other and resolve them. We do not think we had the appropriate structures to engage in decision-making processes which were based on consensus. There were some assemblies, but we think these tended to happen in moments of crisis rather than in continuity, which we think is important for cohesion and finding collective solutions to our problems. Therefore, we decided organizing our group around regularly structured assemblies.

For us it is more important that people directly act for their interests and less important how they do it. Therefore, the way we decided to organize follows not from a universal programme of action, but rather experiences we gathered as individuals about what works best in our context. The way we organize, we hope, will open up further possibilities as it moves forward.

Where can I find you?

Every second Friday we aim to hold open assemblies in a location in Rotterdam. Please contact us if you have any questions/if you want to come by!

Instagram: @zilvervisjes010

Email: zilvervisjes AT riseup DOT net

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