people who become involved with activism complain about elitism. In many respects,
there is legitimacy to this allegation. In both national and grassroots groups
there is an excess of leader/follower dynamics. |
For instance, not everyone
who seeks to get involved is invited and allowed to participate in organizing.
Often, only a core group of certain individuals are allowed to participate. Even
within these core groups, there are complaints that some members are more privy
to information and news beyond their local area, thus possessing a monopoly of
Is it true and is this acceptable or excusable? The answer
to this depends on whom you ask and to what exactly you are referring.
also find many behaviors unacceptable and counterproductive, behaviors which many
of us can improve, myself included. We don't organize enough activities that encourage
input from outside our core group, like doing public forums that include a significant
Q&A/comment component so that others have more of a voice. We operate too
much in white middle class communities with little to no outreach in other more
diverse communities. The voices of women as well as gay/lesbian members feel diminished
I generally advocate for more inclusive organizing, decision
making and information sharing, but is it fair to categorically criticize all
exclusivity? Can we really include all newcomers into our group process? For at
least two reasons I think we have to be careful about who participates in our
groups. Those two reasons are group identity and security culture issues.
Because of group identity and character, I think it important
to insist that those in the group making decisions agree in what they advocate
or are against. This would include agreeing to a mission statement and/or some
basic ground rules or parameters (i.e. advocate for animals via militant direct
action and philosophical support of the Animal Liberation Front).
identity and character are important factors that determine the roles the particular
group plays as part of the wider movement. Without well-defined parameters, group
identity and character can easily become transient and slide into a less militant
(and thus less effective) role within the greater militant movement.
We don't want the animal abuse industry and their minions to
be able to easily undermine our efforts. Because we are under siege by corrupt
industries and their minions (who are more politically motivated as they routinely
violate their own laws while pursuing to persecute us), secretiveness has become
a necessary part of this movement. Whether it is brainstorming, debating campaigns,
strategies and tactics or planning a specific civil disobedience, we don't want
our opponents to know how we think or what we are doing before we actually do
it. Therefore, it is important to first know those you let into your group discussion
and decision-making processes very well.
These precautions are taken not
only to prevent deliberate infiltration, but also factors like loose lips (caused
by either careless disregard or inexperience). Generally, it is safe to say, no
newbies and no blabber-mouths. It's also a good idea to be careful of those who
have consistently allowed their fears to control their actions.
People often feel out of the loop when others are always
well-informed on current affairs and they are not. Obviously there is some deliberate
information gate-keeping happening. Some may be unnecessary and more motivated
by manipulative censoring. However, some stems from good security culture practices
or simply out of respect toward others who expect and demand such privacy.
like there are organizers who want to be elitist in order to maintain some kind
of power dynamic, there are also non-organizers who may want know "everything"
just because ego or reputation and not because of the desire to organize. There
is a difference between having access to information and not doing anything with
it, and having the responsibility of using information in a positive and proactive
manner. Good organizers forward as much public information to other co-organizers
as possible and point people to the many public information services available,
like zines, e-mail announcement lists and forums, and directories like No Compromises
Trenches. Organizers should encourage others to take initiative and
teach others how to research, find other groups with whom to network, etc.
concerns over group identity and security culture (what I call "acceptable
exclusivity") counter-productive and growth hindering? Yes, but this is part
of the price that is imposed upon us as reluctant soldiers under siege, not of
our own choosing.
I want to acknowledge that elitism and exclusionary behaviors
exist too much in our movement and are wrong. My words here are not an attempt
to apologize or make excuses for manipulative or abusive elitist, exclusive behaviors.
Instead, I acknowledge and make a conditional apology for what should be, and
I think is, excused exclusive practices.