What we’ve learnt from the Net and how we can extrapolate it to all spaces of struggle
(Some thoughts geared towards action, compiled for the Radical Community Manager courses that we organise at X.net)
The Internet is not just a tool, it is an epoch in history.
Technological progress changes the ways in which we organise, think about and see the world.
The Internet is both a tool and a battleground.
The internet is not “a space in which to publicise myself”, it’s a device for
sharing and connecting inputs, an opportunity to find new forms of action and to change the rules of the game.
[Important! Explanatory note: What we say about the Internet only matters if it affects the outside world.
Note on the explanatory note: when we say “affects the outside world” we don’t mean it leads to a protest or demonstration, we mean that it changes the world… but we hope that this becomes clear as you read on.]
Outline for political action as at 24 June 2012.
A few things to consider before reading the following outline:
a – the only two things we can count on with absolute certainty are death and our fingers. @Mic_y_Mouse
b – The Net is constantly moving and evolving; this is what defines it, at least for the time being. A tactical formula that works for a while will stop working unless it is constantly changed and improved. The things that we are going to tell you here are changing even as we write. We can only hold onto the essence, the philosophy, the ethics of these practices, rather than the practices themselves.
c – the thoughts compiled in this text refer to the way political actions are structured. We can start many actions simultaneously, but we have to study each one separately. We’re talking about actions from inside the illogical logic of the system. Naturally, we also have to inhabit spaces outside of the system. But those are governed by other rules and ways of behaving that aren’t included in these pages (4).
d – It is clear – or maybe it isn’t – that we have to tactically consider what a particular moment in history demands from us.
For example: there’s a big difference between the actions required by the momentum of the Indignados’ Movement in its early days and what the Indignados need now. In other words, the tactics that worked six months ago won’t work now, and the ones that work now wouldn’t have worked then.
e – For this same reason, the first bad habit we have to get rid of is our tendency to emulate ourselves.
This bad habit is closely linked to onomastic obsessions: celebrating our own anniversaries, in our own “historic” places. We write ourselves into history before we’ve finished.
An that’s a pity because our main asset is surprise: the ability to do the unexpected, unexpectedly, in unexpected places.
So here it is, a step-by-step outline in which every step is vital:
1 – Cry elsewhere (4)
It seems obvious, but it isn’t: we have to ask ourselves what our objective is, and then stick to it.
The objective must be specific. Not a hypothesis. A concrete plan with demonstrable solutions.
We have to carry our legitimate hopes, dreams, dogmas and faith with us (see below when we talk about our “ideological body of beliefs” and “memeplexes”), but we have to store them away at the bottom of our hearts/minds.
The only things that belong in the shared space of struggle are concrete things that can/should be achieved.
How can we tell whether or not something is concrete? J
One clue is to apply the following military formula, to the letter.
Ask: who, what, how, when, where. And above all: why.
If you can’t answer these questions, your objective is not concrete enough to share. And even if you can answer them, it still might not be.
Where am I going with this? I simply want to start by sharing these things that I’ve learnt. By suggesting that it’s probably best not to bother anybody unless we are well-prepared and clear about our objectives, so that we can contribute solutions, not problems.
When we talk about objectives, the critical aspect tends to take all the picture; the proposal itself and affirmations tend to be weaker and lacking in grounds.
It’s easy to know what we don’t want because we experience it. But it’s difficult to know what we do want, because it has to be a mix of invention and experience at the same time, otherwise it won’t have any consistency.
Perhaps we only know the questions and not the answers? It’s important to resolve our doubts and do our complaining in other spaces, to “cry elsewhere”, otherwise we do not know how to be free.
The Internet, the ethics of the Net and the hacker ethic (2), have taught us to do things, rather than demand that things “get done” The only thing we demand is the removal of all obstacles to “doing”.
The hacker “ethos” has been summarised as follows (2):
- The world is full of fascinating problems waiting to be solved
- No problem should ever have to be solved twice
- Boredom and drudgery are evil
- Freedom is good
- Attitude is no substitute for competence
That said, and once we have our concrete objective, we have to come together and define:
2 – Who we want to be and who we are:
- an individual
- a closed group
- an open group
- a diffuse group
- a platform of groups and/or individuals
We can be several of these at the same time, but we have to be aware of the different kinds of behaviour each identity entails. Mixing them unwittingly can turn out badly – tactically and even “legally”.
When you choose one or more of these identities it doesn’t mean that you withdraw from more general voluntary or inevitable spaces for interaction (assemblies, neighbourhoods, cities).
We must occupy and work in all possible spaces. But we have to respect the identity required by each dynamic.
If things goes wrong, keep reading to find out the importance of the fork.
Note on step 2: Some thoughts on the opportunity to be a one way or another (inspired by conversations with Xavier Barandiarán).
[Note on the note: you have to read this note because even though it’s a note, it’s actually more important than point 2 itself J]
Herd (loosely based on Wikipedia definition): a herd is an association of a number of individual agents interacting with one another and with their environment. Their collective behaviour is decentralised and self-organised. The herd acts as a unit that moves in the same direction, but its function emerges from non-coordinated behaviour of individuals who follow their own impulses.
In a herd, each individual spontaneously carries out different roles according to their ability during brief periods of time. Any individual can briefly take control, or be at the centre or at the most exposed edge for a few moments, until another individual naturally takes over.
“Herd” in the very positive sense of the term. We can also think of a flock of birds.
(see also “swarm behaviour”, although this is a slightly different metaphor to the one I’m suggesting here)
A herd cannot act with speed and precision, but it has a great capacity to expand and grow.
Our brains spontaneously synchronize stimuli: if something “makes sense” a connection happens; if it doesn’t, there is no connection. Connection means collective “attention” although it does not necessarily lead to a collective decision.
Catalyst (loosely based on Wikipedia definition): a catalyst is a substance or device that speeds up a scientific process. In chemistry, catalysts are small groups of molecules that change the rate of a reaction, making it faster (or slower). Catalysts decrease the amount of energy required for a particular process. Catalysts amplify and guide the power of a reaction. They are small, flexible groups that channel “collective attention.” They do not consist of more than 20-50 molecules.
Rubén Sáez says: “In biochemistry, the metabolic pathways that enable the functioning of the extremely complex system of the human body are based on networked catalytic cycles. In fact, the emergence of life (the most brilliant of all known emergent properties – no offence intended to creative thought) is linked to the emergence of the first self-replicating catalytic cycles. If we manage to create various catalysing groups and interconnect them in the right way, we will generate catalytic cycles. And if we manage to continue to work in that way, we will generate the capacity for them to self-replicate. The end result – after leaving due time for evolution, interconnection and social metabolism – could be a new socio-political order as an emergent property.”
Certain times in history require us to behave as a herd, other times require us to act as catalysts.
We should not be afraid to be few in number if that is all we can or should be. And we shouldn’t attribute the qualities of a catalyst to a herd.
At this stage of the Indignados’ Movement, the time has come to speed up processes by working as many small, independent nodes with autonomous decision-making capacity, who know what needs to be done, and support each other when and only if it becomes necessary, recognising each other through our work, which is also the basis of our reciprocal trust.
3 – We already know that it’s not enough to simply know who and what we are.
We also have to decide how to show ourselves in the outside world.
We can show ourselves in the form of:
- a “brand”
- an ephemeral identity
- an anonymous identity
- a lobby group
- a communication medium
We can take on several of these identities at the same time, but we should be aware of the different kinds of behaviour they entail. Mixing them up unwittingly can end up badly – tactically and even “legally”.
Just as in the previous case – or even more so – numbers aren’t important:
whether we are few or many, we are the future no matter how we present ourselves.
4 – Our interactions should not be horizontal in nature, but merit-based, in the positive sense: the kind of merit that is always in process, always available to those who cultivate it through work and experience, following their own needs. This idea tends to shock people who are unfamiliar with networking dynamics, but it’s patently obvious to the members of most virtual communities, who work with it as part of their everyday practices. We are all different. This is what guarantees the impossibility of imposing verticality onto a “meritocracy”, because there will never be just one merit or a single skill, there will always be many different ones developed by all sorts of people. This is why forces tend to come together around “finished work”, theories-put-in-practice and ways of life, rather than around fantasies and opinions.
It is not our identity that defines us, it is our results.
Horizontality is a fallacy: as Michel Bauwens and many others have amply shown, in a given group 1% of people execute, 9% contribute and 90% parasite, complain and weigh it down (btw, these are the ones who have not done their “crying elsewhere”. For them, we paraphrase some advice from marketing wiz Paul Arden: energy is 75% of the job; if you haven’t got it (or can’t have it), be polite).
To explain this “provocation” J that I’m using to try and shake up what I see as a certain stagnation, all I’m trying to say is that when somebody expresses an opinion, we should be able to ask: “This thing that you’re expressing an opinion on – what have you done in relation to it, or what do you know how to do?” If the answer is: “I haven’t got the faintest idea, my opinion is based on my beliefs”, well this person loses points and will find it much harder to win the stuffed toy prize at the end.
And lastly @axebra, sent me this important clarification: “We can prevent a meritocracy from becoming an excuse to fall into influence peddling and corruption by including two other variables from hacker culture: Transparency (so that merit can be analysed objectively – as you can see the code that each developer has contributed in open source projects), and that the result must become part of the Commons (the material generated cannot be claimed by a particular individual or group, but must benefit everybody, like free software or a corrupt politician going to jail J).
5 – This is also why we defend attribution (which includes anonymity, that is the impossibility of attribution if the person who “makes” it prefers it that way): individual autonomy and empowerment create healthy groups that each member can contribute to according to her abilities, opportunities and knowledge at each point in her life, and be recognised and respected for it. Recognition from the community and the outside world means selfcare and identity. It frees you from the frustration and anxiety of affirmation, and allows you to calmly free the fruits of you work for the common good.
A needs-based approach is basically charity.
A skill-based approach recognises that skills have to be valued or they will go to waste.
We’re not asking for anything, least of all charity. We simply are.
6 – In praise of the concept of the ‘fork’
From way back, we’ve always defended “divorce” J (the fork): we cooperate as autonomous individuals around specific projects; ideally, we don’t ask the group for things that it can’t give us, because we’ve already done our crying elsewhere. We can take different paths at any moment. Being together and hating each other is not a strength; it is cowardly and it’s a weakness. Distributed networks don’t need a nucleus in order to operate. We are autonomous individuals, independent nodes that happily, voluntarily come together for a common purpose at a particular time. We can try to achieve the same aim separately if our methods and moods are different; in the most of the cases, every bit helps. We interact through dynamics of cooperation, not dependency.
Against the concentration of powers, the Internet ‘de-concentrates’ powers. J
The Network of Networks is a distributed network, and this is the basis of its functioning and philosophy: relevant trust networks that are distributed and autonomous in relation to their specific activities, in which no node needs to know in detail what the others are doing in order to move forward and support each other. These nodes, which are separate but linked by bonds of trust, can support each other when the need arises, but as a rule they operate as sovereign, autonomous groups.
Centralisation is neither possible nor desirable; federation is the option.
A global association of selfish radical reformers. 
Altruism is selfishness that hasn’t come out of the closet.
Even in its smallest form (two people), “democratic” organisation is not about attaining the impossible goal of always agreeing (dogma and centralist control). It’s about creating a space of ethical trust that allows some of us to look after certain aspects and develop our skills in them, while at the same time we can let go of controlling other aspects because we know that others will take care of them. This forces us to shed the prejudices that lead us to try and control the actions of others.
People who are obsessed with centrality (the centrality of an assembly, a neighbourhood, parliament) don’t realise that the things that are outside of the centre will always be “more”: more representative, more numerous, bigger, freer, more flexible, more volatile, newer and, above all, more real.
What better example than “representative democracy”: the dictatorship of the largest minority over the majority of minorities.
It’s not true that if we want to reach our goal “we must stay together”, that “together is better”, that the herd is always best.
It’s always good to separate. It’s the only thing that makes it possible to come together again.
We can live together for as long as we please, but we will never be of the same flesh.
7 – We are uncountable and unlocatable. So why are we so determined to be counted and located? Why, when, and for what?
Why do we organise demonstrations?
Why do we collect signatures?
We have an unprecedented historical opportunity: why then are we playing against ourselves?
It’s rarely useful to count ourselves; it’s even more rarely useful to let ourselves be counted. It’s only useful when there are more of us than the minimum number required for a specific purpose.
That’s something we have to know in advance. And I mean “know”, not “wish”.
How can we find out?
By using a mathematical formula that I worked out and can guarantee 100%: you are able to summon 10% of the people you are directly in contact with. That excludes twitter, fb and similar networks.
In other words, if I have 100 email addresses, 10 people will turn up. If I hand out 1000 flyers, 100 people will sign.
That’s the way it is: if we want 10,000 people at a demonstration, we need to contact 100,000 people directly.
There have been rare exceptions, and all of them were very well organised in advance, such as the Indignados’ Movement (3 months preparation).
So we shouldn’t bother people with mass calls for participation if we can mathematically calculate that we won’t end up massively summoning anybody.
We have to know how to work with what we have. We can grow without frustration, without envy, with pleasure.
A few can be as effective as many, depending on the circumstances.
This means that we can free up our energy and cover more fronts at the same time. The lower the numbers required to bring about catalysis, the more catalysts will be able to have.
All of us may not be present at a particular moment, but that doesn’t mean that our numbers are not much larger than they appear.
8 – There’s no 1 without the 8: what is our target group?
- our peers
- people who think like us
- people who listen but are unlike us
- people who do not listen (but are similar)
- people who do not listen (and are different)
- the enemy’s friends
- the enemy
- institutions, the media
Each of these groups requires a different use of tools and, more importantly, a different aesthetic in order to make it from the screen/street -> to the retina -> to the brain -> to the guts.
We can have several ‘targets’ at the same time, but we should be aware of the different kinds of behaviour they entail. Mixing them up unwittingly can turn out badly – tactically and even “legally”.
If we want to analyse further, there are several options to choose from. By way of example, I’ll just mention a few elements of the Mactor method used by the army, among others:
“the information gathered about the actors is set out in the following way:
• their objectives, goals, projects under way and maturing.
• their motivations, constraints and internal means of action (coherence)
• their past strategic behaviour (attitude).
• the means of action that actors have at their disposal.
9 – Remember that when we talk about political action we are really talking about communicating to bring about change.
Communication is a dialectical relationship between the communicator (us) and the interlocutor (our target).
This means that we can’t just express what we have to say. We also have to say what the interlocutor can understand, in a way that she can understand it.
As systemic psychologists say, it is impossible to not communicate, in other words:
- If our interlocutor can’t understand the language we’re using, we probably actually want to be misunderstood (by the people we are addressing), we want to take the role of the victim; (1)
- Silence is communication too;
- excessive communication is not “message”, it’s “noise” (or SPAM) and only puts people off.
10 – The content: our (brilliant) ideas
Meme: (loosely based on Wikipedia definition): a meme is a unit of cultural evolution that is analogous to the gene in that it self-replicates and mutates. A meme can be anything that is copied from one person to another and can include habits, skills, songs, stories and other types of information. Memes reproduce through copying that brings about variations and selection. As only some variants can survive in a battle to the death, memes compete for space in our memories and for the opportunity to be copied again.
Given that social learning takes place differently in each person, the process of imitation cannot be considered to be perfect. This means that there is an extremely high rate of mutation in memetic evolution, and that mutations can even take place within each and every interaction in the imitation process.
Clusters of memes join together and form memeplexes, in which each meme is a cultural unit in a complex cultural system, such as the body of ideological beliefs that each person creates and uses as a guide.
Memes, which we can consider to be in-between stages of the creation of memeplexes, are terribly concrete. And if we apply the metaphor to ourselves, it is very difficult for a coalition of several memes to come together and create a memeplex that exactly matches our own body of ideological beliefs… there’s a lot of work to be done.
This shouldn’t discourage us. It’s a good thing.
It leads us to be more concrete and to win frequent, well-aimed victories in the present. And to lose some non-definitive battles too.
Meme transmission shares the characteristics of all evolutionary processes: fecundity (some ideas are particularly effective), longevity (they persist for a very long time) and accurate copying (traditional conservatism, specially as taught in primary education, that is, Freud’s “compulsion to repeat”).
In the same way that genes self-replicate just because its their nature (that is, unconsciously), memes also tend to replicate; a good idea isn’t really a good idea unless it can also spread successfully. This means that memes are indifferent to truth.
Ergo, it is not enough for an idea to be good to win.
Whether we like it or not, no power means no rights.
I’m not talking about tension between good and evil, but about something much more trivial, more like “the customer is always right.” In the current climate (the dominant meme), it’s not enough to say something “isn’t true”: We have to create a stronger meme, one that can devour the existing one.
How? How do we make our meme go “viral”? The basic thing about memes is movement.
A text (5) that Xabier Barandiaran has written about bacterial networks can help us understand:
“Life is a fusion of two types of stability: the stability of dynamic self-organised systems (autonomous or autopoletic systems) and the stability of replicating forms or templates (DNA-ARN)”, which are comparable to genes. The first are systems that function outside of thermodynamic balance, the latter are energetically stable structures subject to recombination. The fusion of these two forms of stability leads to the concept of information (genetic information). As such, they are also the biological bases of communication” and of life.
In this sense, there are two basic types of evolution: the first uses horizontal transfer, and the latter uses vertical inheritance.
Vertical or Darwinian evolution is probably better known: it makes it possible to follow the genealogy of genetic changes over time and their lineages, going all the way back to our evolutionary origins.
Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is the transfer of genetic material from one organism to another organism that is not its offspring (not from generation to generation): bacteria, single cell beings, exchange their genetic code.
According to neo-Darwinist theory, mutations are the source and the direct cause of evolutionary change, but they are by no means the mechanism that leads a change to become fixed.
Natural selection is what leads some changes to become fixed and gets rid of others. A gazelle might be born with some type of advantageous gene, but if it is eaten by a predator just as it raises its head, goodbye advantageous mutation.
In horizontal transference, bacteria have the capacity to send hundreds of thousands of copies of the genetic sequence into the environment. They generate a massive parallel, distributed process that spreads innumerable copies of a resistance gene, in which the bacteria on the receiving end can instantly incorporate the new gene as part of their metabolism.
The basic idea is that exchanging instructions that have successfully solved a problem (bacterial evolution) may turn out to be a faster and more effective evolutionary mechanism than saving those instructions in order to attain a greater comparative reproductive success (Darwinian evolution).
In short, it is an evolutionary or innovatory model that increases individual autonomy through collective cooperation. This is precisely the model that we advocate in the free culture movement, and the one that we practice, among other things, in technopolitical networks.”
11 – The new: Transforming our imaginary so that we can subvert reality
Newness is our responsibility. It’s extremely difficult. Our ontological nature makes us tend to be dependent, possessive and insecure. But above all we tend to be conservative: we only trust familiar patterns, we feel a compulsion to repeat. Our whole psychic structure is totally resistant to change. Doing something that is unfamiliar and truly new for us requires an extreme effort of consciousness and will, while our nature tries to pull us the other way. Particularly during difficult times, we return to familiar places and defeated practices.
But didn’t we want to bring about change? If so, we must make this effort. Indignados’ is a digital native movement, and this “novelty” was behind the great qualitative leap in comparison to past movements. But when difficult times hit, it has tended to regress back to familiar models that have been used before, and are now obsolete. We must defend the courage to experiment with new ways of doing things, right up to the very end. We should learn to read the signs, so that we can plan ahead.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it” (Peter Drucker).
And “You can and should shape your own future. Because if you don’t someone else surely will do it for you.” (Joel Barker).
The future is made up of tendencies that are a continuation of the past and present, along with elements that are totally new. This means that we have to understand what’s happening today and what happened before. We have to learn from history and then put the same amount of effort into inventing.
“The past belongs to memory, the future belongs to imagination and will.” (P. Massé)
Yes, it requires willpower. It requires taking a strategic attitude to our desires and our nightmares. Survival itself means learning to see what’s ahead.
“Those who do not read the future are doomed to repeat it” (George Santayana)
We can’t subordinate the effectiveness of an action to ideological prejudices. This doesn’t mean that anything goes, even immoral acts. Once we’ve pre-set our objectives (“ethical” should be implicit), we should sweep away the prejudices that pop up in our minds because of human nature. It’s simply fear of the new. Just sweep them away. With our willpower. Do our crying elsewhere.
This pays off.
We know that there is no juicier vertigo than to achieve something new. It is like fast-forwarding through history, hurtling at full speed, with the wind in your hair.
12 – “Doing” and not “doing”
Not “doing” things that we need to do can end up being expressed in many forms.
For example, hatred.
A person who gives up, festers in hate. She is the eternal victim. Inversely, if somebody is festering in hate, it is because she has given up.
Hatred is legitimate and inevitable.
But right now I think we can channel it in other ways that will be much more harmful to our enemies.
I would sing it like this:
Without pleasure and rage, there’s no empowerment.
Without empowerment there’s no rebellion.
Without rebellion there’s no r-evolution.
Not “doing” can also take other forms.
Perfectionism, for example.
The best way to response to this problem may be to read the hacker manifesto called the “Cult of Done” (3).
I am pasting it below, but first I want to remind you that we only have to “do” the few times that it is necessary – with specific goals, focused plans and quick, targeted victories. As mentioned earlier, too much “doing” is not “doing”, it’s noise (see SPAM above).
The “Cult of Done” (3) goes like this:
1. There are three stages of being: not knowing, action and completion.
2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
3. There is no editing stage.
4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what
you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t, and do it.
5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.
8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
10. Failure counts as done. So do make mistakes.
11. Destruction is a variant of done.
12. If you have an idea and you publish it on the Internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
13. Done is the engine of more.
13 – Our way of disseminating:
Viral Marketing (based on Wikipedia definition):
“Viral marketing is a technique for producing exponential increases in “brand awareness” by means of self-replicating viral processes analogous to the spread of viruses.”
To put it briefly, we’re talking about the following stages of an action:
a – observe the situation without prejudices (that is, without deforming it to make it fit in your theories and desires)
b – choose the concrete stages or “memes” that will create memeplexes.
c – find a lowest common denominator that you share with your target for each meme.
d – create them in the right order.
e – before you release it (and only when it’s completely finished, so you don’t bother busy people) check it with like-minded peers for feedback, improvements, contamination, positive energy, dissemination.
f – aim it at the target and release it, knowing that it will activate 10% of your selected target.
g – if the meme manages to take over the space of another existing one, it will be co-opted (1) and the operation will have been a success.
h – so we’ll disappear.
Things are won without anybody noticing.
No real change has ever come about overnight. Not even the discovery that the earth revolves around the sun.
Ideas and memes that catalysts have fought for, shaped, brought to the forefront, have then been co-opted and used for good or evil, by any individual or any form of human organisation that has adopted them. Even commercial television.
Yes, winning is also painful, it means ceasing to be useful (in this battle – don’t worry, there are many more to come!). It means a loss of identity, loss of authority, of control, of unity and purity, it means nostalgia and emptiness. But apparently offspring are always a blessing in the end
We invade the mainstream without shame, letting it co-opt us, because it will never restrict us.
Why do we want to spread?
- Perhaps because we want to “contaminate” even more people, to expand an idea to an infinite degree, so that it takes hold and displaces others (to broaden the base and stability of an idea)
- To make our ideas occupy the memetic space that was previously occupied by ideas contrary to our own (displace the enemy)
- To empower ourselves (Watch out! This goal is rarely compatible with the other two – although achieving the other two would empower us, so this one on its own is of less interest)
Unfortunately, in most cases we only achieve c) even though we’re really after a) and b), because we are weakened by the innumerable self-referential tics that only amuse the person or group that launches the action and like-minded people. Self-affirmation can be good, until we reach a certain threshold. Then it becomes counterproductive because it is not inclusive, it creates borders, hinders expansion, creates a boundary that limits us and makes us recognisable and exclusive.
Also, you get what is known as “double bind” in psychological jargon: a contradictory imperative that is inherently impossible to fulfil, such as “be free”, “be spontaneous”, “be anti-capitalist”.
We need to realise that our target audience is probably made up of people who are not like us. This means that we have to let go of insecurities, stop repeating our beliefs (which should be well-embedded in our souls by this stage), and concentrate on what our interlocutor – the target of our efforts – needs (even if this target is our enemy).
As in all dialectic relationships, we can’t ask the other party to come to us. We have to find shared ground, or go and find them on their own territory.
Note on a target group that I’m particularly interested in:
In the current context of the Indignados’ Movement, I’m particularly interested in “the middle class” as a target group. I’m using this term in the positive sense too. I can consider myself middleclass. By middle class I mean people who are middle class and those who want to be so. And those who don’t want to be middle class, they feel upper class, but will end up being so anyway. And professionals, and working class or unemployed people who aspire to the promise of the “middle class”, that is, the idea of some kind of dignified life within this system that sells the precariousness of life as a temporary circumstance when it is actually the main condition of their existence.
The middle class is the largest group of people who participate or sympathise with the Indignados’ Movement on a mass scale, and identify with the movement’s outrage or “indignation”. It is also what sets 15M apart, not to mention the fact that it allows for the “non-criminalisation” of the movement to a large extent. The middle class are also the group that political parties need to cajole in order to legitimise their power. It therefore has great leverage in this battle. The middle class is the group that has suddenly flirted with politicisation on a mass scale. It can continue along one of two paths: it can follow the opportunity for change, roll up its sleeves and contribute to pushing the current system over the edge, or it can succumb to the fear that the existing system wants to instil, in which case society will become increasingly fascist, as has occurred at many other times in history. Once again, we have the tension between repeating familiar models or having the courage to create something new.
Without relinquishing the radical nature of our utopias, we have to be able to mediate among ourselves; it’s important to breathe optimism and empowerment into adversity. Rage is not standardised, and each of us has different limits and experiences. If we want resounding victories, we must be inclusive.
14 – We shouldn’t do the things we like to do, but the things that we can win at: and we’ll end up liking it.
Classic head-on confrontations, are not effective because they are predictable. They are only effective when you have enough resources to win. You should not try to surround the enemy either unless you have the numbers to do so.
We can apply the 10% rule that we discussed earlier. To the letter
We are perfectly aware of our numbers.
It is possible to win many things if you have fewer numbers and/or less means than your opponent, as long as you are smarter, given that winning basically means that you get the enemy to make a wrong move and disappear.
What can we do?
- find vulnerable points – if we can’t directly attack the centre of gravity, we need in-between points;
- break and/or infiltrate the enemy ranks;
- make the enemy doubt your strength and its own, by staying under the radar, unidentifiable and uncountable;
- break down its leadership;
If the enemy is powerful, it’s not in our interest to make it feel that it is under attack, because then it will swell. It’s in our interest to make the enemy feel betrayed, unmasked, abandoned.
Why do we continue to confront the enemy directly even when we lack the numbers or means? Why do we need to measure how radical we are against daddy-the system? Why do we do the same thing in our personal life? We do it when we feel small or defeated or angry. To be aggressive towards the hierarchically pre-designated interlocutor is a consequence of depression. If we ignore this interlocutor, it doesn’t mean we are not firm. Reacting to provocation is a sign of weakness. Indifference and steamrolling ahead are signs of tenacity. The measure our radicality is history, now and always. The history that we are able to create.
Note to the police (if any have read this far): we are entirely peaceful but unremittingly firm in our determination to sweep away injustices, legal or otherwise, by means of all the ethical actions that we consider to be tactically necessary.
It’s not a matter of principle.
We will do it because these injustices deprive us of the pleasure of life, they attempt to condemn us to be engulfed by sad passions.
It is life or death for our being-human.
The system wants us to be sad and servile. Joy is our greatest revenge. We have a lifetime in which to disobey.
15 – We have to do our crying elsewhere 2 (4)
The proposals that we bring to our spaces of organisation have to be in a finished state. We don’t organise a campaign just because we need affection (let’s join forces!). And we don’t get behind a fantasy just to feel less alone. And then there’s the counterproductive obsession with counting how many of us there is, in order to find out whether we’re right.
We don’t organise a campaign as a way of getting people to work for free towards our grand ideas. And we don’t really believe that everybody has to stop what they are doing because what we’re doing is better. We don’t organise campaigns to educate them.
And we don’t organise campaigns and then infinitely examine the nuances because we’re afraid of going out on the battlefield.
Here lies the difference between moralism and ethics. Moralism is a state of racism and cowardliness at the same time. It is the sense of superiority of the person who does not act.
Then there is the ethics, which is implicit in actions. It is the direction of “doing” (the body of theory we carry in our hearts).
There’s no time for purity.
There’s not enough time; the enemy, the real enemy, quickly regroups.
We are guided by ethics, not by moralism: our goal is to share not to educate/indoctrinate (1).
When we think about anything we’ve ever learnt, we can see that we learnt it because we encountered it at a point in our lives when we were receptive to it, and needed that knowledge. Whenever we’ve learnt anything it was because our practices became learning, ideas.
We won’t force anybody to learn; we can only share what we know, so that it can be picked up by those who need it.
The ethics of doing, the ethics of sharing, free us from the moralism and stagnation of dogmas.
All these steps are anti-natural.
We tend to be self-referential. Our psychic structure pushes us towards familiar things; our compulsion to repeat prevents us from being spontaneously faithful to the objectives that we set ourselves and encourages us to betray the things we know are good for us. Our historical responsibility, our rational efforts, must focus on remaining faithful to our desire for change. This means overcoming the fear of the new in the ways we think and behave.
As our colleague Toret says: when you have no imagination, you turn to memory.
And as Marx – Groucho Marx – says: better new than never.
All these steps are anti-natural. They all lead us to what we truly desire.
We’ve been able to do it and we’ll keep doing it; this is why we’ve been able to take a r-evolution into a space of arid thought.
As I write, there’s no doubt that I am missing some of the subtleties. In general, I’m better at creating history than talking about it. Like everything we do, egoism drives what I do. The future doesn’t interest me. I don’t have children to pass it on to, and I don’t think the human species deserves to survive. But the future is here in my present, every day. And as the saying goes, “I’m interested in the future, as I’m going to spend the rest of my life there.”
See you there, along with my personal heroes who aren’t in any book.
My heroes are my comrades in the fight.
Justice and quality
Barcelona, March-June 2012
(translation: Nuria Rodríguez)
PS: I’ve been accused of overlooking the more “feminine” texture of the struggle. Perhaps because of my military tone? J I actually don’t overlook it at all, but this didn’t seem the right place to show it. Children may be reading. J
But I do think that we should take advantage of the widespread contempt for women. The enemy don’t see us coming, and by the time they realise, it’s too late for them.
Licence: you can do whatever you like with this text as long as you mention the authorship.
- The defense of the Internet and of sharing
- The Internet as a tool for counterinformation and self-organisation; as a way of ending impunity and the atomisation of ideas for change.
- Netiquete and a new ethics that favour maturity and autonomy thanks to the recognition of each individual’s merits and skills, and the standardisation of forms of organisation that favour decentralised control, the empowerment of end users, and the shared distribution of resources.
- Spaces: affinity groups and online collaborations; anonymous, viral presences; “brand” development; assemblies.
- The “how”: be radical, demand the possible.
- Learn to win: whenever there is change, there is loss.
- This war is a language war
- We need to be present at all levels.
- Letting ourselves be co-opted.
- Finding resources within the system.
 Erick S. Raymond, «The Cathedral and the Bazaar», Indianopedia version.
 Thanks to my friend Stef for passing me “The Cult of Done”.
I think this is the original source, but I’m not certain.
 When I say “do your crying elsewhere” I don’t mean “go and cry on your own somewhere like a stray dog” I mean “we should treat our spaces of organisation as a space where we go once we have our ideas straight, not a space where we can dump our insecurities and weaknesses.” We have to build ourselves strong affective networks that include other spaces in which we can care for each other and show our fragilities. But we shouldn’t ask strangers who may feel as needy and lost as we do to cover our emotional needs and understand our fears. Our space of political action and our emotional space may be the same, but this is not usually the case.
This is not a text on spaces of affect – don’t look for any of that here; that’s a text I haven’t finished writing yet. J
Other texts that I consider complementary and very useful:
- Amador Savater: “¿Cómo se organiza un clima?
- This DVD: very useful, even though it’s completely off-topic
- Jacques Lecoq, my theatre teacher, taught me two things that he never wrote down:
1- When you start an improvisation, accept things as you find them. Use the elements that are available, never say “no” to them and try to impose your own.
2 – Always ask “why?” about everything.
Spanish original version: http://conservas.tk/tacticas/