Outcome from our second open assembly

On the 4th May 2019, the Green Anti-Capitalist Front (GAF) held its second open assembly. Approximately seventy people attended, the majority for their first time. The assembly’s agenda was divided into two parts: the first focusing on clarifying the aims and principles of GAF, reflecting on past actions and considering possible future directions for the Front; the second focusing on concrete aims, with working groups formed to decide strategies, actions and organisational methods.

Part 1: The Manifesto, Past Actions and Principles of Unity

In the first session, assembly members divided themselves into small groups to discuss GAF’s past actions, it’s current manifesto and possible principles of unity going forward. Some of the key discussion points are laid out below.

The ‘Green New Deal’ was discussed and criticised, with members noting how it exemplifies the capitalist strategy of ‘green washing’.

Also discussed was the question of whether GAF should offer critical support for Extinction Rebellion (XR), given that we do not want to collaborate in any way with the state. The question was then raised of which groups GAF should actively be excluding. Red lines were drawn at evidence of transphobia, misogyny, racism, fascism etc. The Front must actively reject working with cops, and cannot tolerate populist, eco-fascist or Malthusian ‘overpopulation’ ideas.

It was agreed that a diversity of tactics is necessary and important. The importance of direct action was also emphasised, amongst other strategies. Members wanted to see actions in response to specific ecological threats, like airport expansions.

It was suggested that GAF also organise creative projects and help to build alternative economies (e.g. setting up community co-ops).

Members highlighted the link between climate change and imperialism and the huge – and too rarely mentioned – role played by militaries. For this reason, amongst many others, GAF should put an emphasis on solidarity with the Global South and with the global working-class. The Front must, therefore, maintain its economic focus. Some members suggested potential engagement with trade unions.

The current manifesto was critiqued. It was noted that words such as “utopian” could put people off. Further, members requested more accessible language in the manifesto’s wording. For example, replacing “MEDC” / “LEDC” with Global North/South and avoiding language like “existential”. Members agreed that GAF’s actual ideas are clear, but that they could be being obscured by language. The assembly seemed to generally agree that a rewrite of the manifesto and a refining of GAF’s ‘core principles’ would be helpful for the Front. Once these were complete, members suggested that GAF literature could be publicly distributed by members (via stalls etc.). The general theme of inclusivity was explored at length later in the assembly.

It was recognised that GAF must offer a very clear alternative to XR. One of XR’s strengths is how clear and simple their message is – GAF should aim for the same.

Finally, the question of how GAF can best support the setup of ‘branches’ outside of London was raised. Various assembly members had travelled from other cities to be at the assembly and were particularly interested in doing so

Part 2: Working Groups

In the second part, assembly members assigned themselves to working groups. Each working group discussed certain issues in more detail and begun planning concrete actions and methods of organising. At the end, all groups fed back to the assembly; key points are summarised below.

Finance and Fundraising Working Group:

It was noted that GAF has so far been relying largely on individuals or single organisations for funding. This is not sustainable. Flyers and room hire have constituted the main costs so far and other expenses are likely if, for example, we have a banner/flags professionally made. A few ways of minimising costs were therefore suggested: banners could be made by hand; those with access to printers could print literature themselves (if PDFs are made available online). A suggestion was also made (after the working-group session) of the Front applying to Lush or the Edge Fund for financial support.

There was strong enthusiasm within the group for organising gigs/day events as fundraisers. GAF’s current lack of funds means that a fundraising event should happen as soon as reasonably possible. It was also discussed whether a GAF bank account (necessary for types of online fundraising) should be set up. However, strong concerns about security were also raised; no decision has been made at present.

The group strongly agreed that transparency is important in financial matters.

The donations that were collected from assembly members will go towards flyer and leaflet printing costs.

Inclusivity Working Group:

It was agreed that more accessible language is needed in GAF’s communications, e.g. the phrase ‘existential crisis’ is not accessible to a wide audience. Further, translation of the current flyer into other languages was suggested. Together, these two decisions may help outreach to groups often underrepresented in environmental movements, e.g. working-class communities. That outreach – also discussed by the Media Working Group – could consist of leafleting, workshops, talks etc. in communities. Outreach should aim to educate the public on the threats to life and the environment posed by capitalism and the necessity to build green alternatives.

It was agreed that GAF meetings should be held in accessible spaces to accommodate all interested individuals. In the vein of physical accessibility, members agreed that planned actions should actively account for the skills and limitations of the individuals involved. Further, that nothing is to be expected of members beyond what they wish to contribute.

It was agreed that GAF should not be ‘led’ in any way by any subgroup of members. It must remain a decentralised front to avoid the pitfalls of centralised leadership and encourage diversity of thought and tactics. Exclusory behaviour within GAF cannot be tolerated.

Events/Actions Working Group:

Members agreed that GAF should plan for two types of events: those that target capitalist infrastructure and those that help to build green, alternative structures.

Group discussion also decided that initial focus should be on large, upcoming events; members should be aware of the Earthstrike (24th May) and Trump’s state visit (4th June). However, GAF/solidarity actions should not be planned on these exact dates due to high police presence across London. Aside from potential GAF actions on and around the two dates above, there are two, upcoming GAF events – panels at the Antiuniversity (15th – 22nd June) and the Anarchist Festival (31st May – 2nd June).

It was agreed that worker solidarity is important. Workers should be encouraged to strike/take leave to minimise the effect of GAF actions on the working class. Workers in sectors that serve capitalism, and its efforts against the climate, most diligently need not be accounted for in these measures.

Members suggested that GAF carry out disruptive actions – involving noise, music, speeches and demonstrations – as these are important for targeting the movement of capital. The equipment and training that would make disruptive events possible would also make gigs (and similar social events) possible. These are useful for providing information to the public about how to build alternative structures to capitalism, for financing future actions and for maintaining morale.

Groups within GAF are at liberty to organise cellular actions and carry them out under the GAF banner. However, no communication is to be made with groups known to co-operate in any way with the state.

Regional Working Group:

It was agreed GAF groups being set up elsewhere should be aided as much as possible by established branches. They may also require initial support from London, e.g. speakers visiting regional groups. Once regional branches have been established, inter-regional support should also be possible, e.g. Brighton groups supporting Southampton groups. Regional GAF groups may also be able to work with similar, existing, anti-capitalist and environmental groups in their own regions, potentially more so than in London.

Regional group organising is more likely to start with info nights or film nights than ‘GAF meetings’. Once established, regional groups should look towards being present at anarchist/radical bookfairs where possible. Further, regional group presence at university “Freshers’ Fairs” from September is possible and should be encouraged.

Media/Communications Working Group:

It was agreed that GAF’s social media (currently Facebook and Twitter) roles should be shared out among its members.

A few changes to the Front’s visual presence were discussed. It was suggested that members attempt to design a new/second logo, or even come up with a new name for GAF. Further, GAF’s current flyer was discussed. Members generally like it, but it was suggested that a complimentary, more concise version also be produced.

Following on from this, it was discussed how clear aims and principles are necessary for different groups to generate their own flyers and leaflets. It was agreed that regional GAF groups could distribute their own flyers, leaflets etc. at demos if these are in-line with GAF’s aims and principles. These aims and principles should be kept very simple.

There was some discussion of the London Antifascist Assembly (LAFA), which was partly an inspiration for GAF. It was mentioned that LAFA has had difficulties trying to take rigid political stances, as a single entity, due to being composed of diverse groups. It was therefore suggested that GAF learn from this and avoid attempting the same.

All groups agreed to continue these conversations in further detail outside of the assembly. The working groups above are only based on initial suggestions. Others can form as needed and any group can alter, disband, etc. as appropriate.

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