will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom, but an
oceanic circle whose centre will be the individual'
is an affinity group?
affinity group is a small group of 5 to 20 people who work together
autonomously on direct action or other projects. You can form an affinity
group with your friends, people from your community, workplace, or organization.
Affinity groups challenge top-down decision-making and organizing, and
empower those involved to take creative direct action.Affinity
groups allow people to "be" the action they want to see by giving complete
freedom and decision-making power to the affinity group. Affinity groups
by nature are decentralized and non-hierarchical and generally use consensus
based decision making.
History of Affinity Groups
The idea of affinity groups comes out of the anarchist and workers movement
that was created in the late 19th century and fought fascism in Spain
during the Spanish Civil War.
Spanish Anarchist movement provides an exhilarating example of a movement,
and the actual possibility of a society based on decentralized organization,
direct democracy and the principles behind them. Small circles of good
friends, called "tertulias" would meet at cafes to discuss ideas and
plan actions. In 1888, a period of intense class conflict in Europe
and of local insurrection and struggle in Spain, the Anarchist Organization
of the Spanish Region made this traditional form (tertulias) the basis
of its organization. Decades later, the Iberian Anarchist Federation,
which contained 50,000 activists, organized into affinity groups and
confederated into local, regional, and national councils. Wherever several
FAI affinity groups existed, they formed a local federation. Local federations
were coordinated by committees were made up of one mandated delegate
from each affinity group. Mandated delegates were sent from local federations
to regional committees and finally to the Peninsular Committee. Affinity
groups remained autonomous as they carried out education, organized
and supported local struggles. The intimacy of the groups made police
July 1936, Francisco Franco, with a group of fascist generals, launched
a military revolt to take power from Spain's government. Spanish workers
and peasants armed themselves and defeated the military throughout much
of the country, particularly in Anarchist strongholds. Millions of Spaniards
took action to restructure society along revolutionary lines, not revive
the treacherous Spanish government. Factories, transportation, telephones
and even wholesale and retail stores were taken over and run collectively;
an estimated 1200-1800 self-managed workers' collectives were formed.
Workers' self-management effectively replaced the remnants of government
and private institutions, providing the everyday necessities of life
- food, clothing, shelter, and public services. The experience of working
in non-hierarchical affinity groups created the conditions for 6 million
people in Spain to reorganize society along revolutionary principles,
organizing workplaces, agriculture, and communities without bosses and
idea of large-scale affinity group based organization was planted in
the United States on April 30, 1977 when 2,500 people, organized into
affinity groups, occupied the Seabrook, New Hampshire nuclear power
plant. The growing anti-nuclear power and disarmament movements adopted
this mode, and used it in many successful actions throughout the late
1970s and 1980s. Since then, it has been used by the Cental America
solidarity movement, lesbian/gay liberation movement, Earth First and
earth liberation movement, and many others. Most recently, affinity
groups have been used in the mass actions in Seattle for the WTO and
Washington DC for the IMF and World Bank, as well as Philadelphia and
Los Angles around the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.
is a Cluster and a Spokescouncil?
cluster is a grouping of affinity groups that come together to work
on a certain task or part of a larger action. Thus, a cluster might
be responsible for blockading an area, organizing one day of a multi-day
action, or putting together and performing a mass street theater performance.
Clusters could be organized around where affinity groups are from (example:
Texas cluster), an issue or identity (examples: student cluster or anti-sweatshop
cluster), or action interest (examples: street theater or lockdown).
spokescouncil is the larger organizing structure used in the affinity
group model to coordinate a mass action. Each affinity group (or cluster)
empowers a spoke (representative) to go to a spokescouncil meeting to
decide on important issues for the action. For instance, affinity groups
need to decide on a legal/jail strategy, possible tactical issues, meeting
places, and many other logistics. A spokescouncil does not take away
an individual affinity group's autonomy within an action; affinity groups
make there own decisions about what they want to do on the streets (as
long as it fits in with any action guidelines.) All decisions in spokescouncils
are made by consensus, so that all affinity groups have agreed and are
committed to the mass direct action.
How to start an affinity group
affinity group could be a relationship among people that lasts for years
among a group of friends and activists, or it could be a week long relationship
based around a single action. Either way, it is important to join an
affinity group that is best suited to you and your interests. If you
are forming an affinity group in your city or town, find friends or
fellow activists who have similar issue interests, and thus would want
to go to similar actions. Also, look for people who would be willing
to use similar tactics - if you want to do relatively high risk lockdowns,
someone who does not want to be in that situation may not want to be
in the affinity group. That person could do media or medic work, but
it may not be best if they are completely uncomfortable around certain
tactics of direct action. If you are looking to join an affinity group
at a mass action, first find out what affinity groups open to new members
and which ones are closed. For many people, affinity groups are based
on trusting relationships based around years of friendship and work,
thus they might not want people they don't know in their affinity group.
Once you find which affinity groups are open, look for ones that have
an issue interest or action tactic that you are drawn to, like a Free
Tibet affinity group or a blockade affinity group.
can an affinity group do?
They can be used for mass or smaller scale actions. Affinity groups
can be used to drop a banner, blockade a road, provide back-up for other
affinity groups, do street theater, block traffic riding bikes, organize
a tree sit, change the message on a massive billboard, play music in
a radical marching band or sing in a revolutionary choir, etc…There
can even be affinity groups who take on certain tasks in an action.
For instance, there could be a roving affinity group made up of street
medics, or an affinity group who brings food and water to people on
the streets. What makes affinity groups so effective for actions is
that they can remain creative and independent and plan out their own
action without an organization or person dictating to them what can
and can't be done. Thus, there are an endless amount of possibilities
for what affinity groups can do. Be creative and remember: direct
action gets the goods!