Get Up and Get Going: How to Form a Group
Taken from: https://libcom.org/library/get-get-going-how-form-group
A guide from It's Going Down on how to start new groups and projects.
Becoming radicalized in a small town by yourself, seemingly in the “middle of nowhere,” can often be one of the most difficult experiences you may ever encounter. But even harder than the feeling of being adrift can be the desperation of not knowing how to go about attempting to make the leap from being just an individual with a set of ideas to someone that is part of a movement and specifically, a group of people who are organized in a set area, acting in concert, with that movement.
While this column will be written in a way that assumes that the reader is located in a place without other anarchist, anti-authoritarian, or autonomist groups, hopefully it will also have some good advice for anyone that is looking to start a project or group of any sort, regardless of what the overall terrain looks like around you.
In today’s age, where the internet has taken up more and more of what social movements and struggles are based around, the need to have a presence on the streets and in our neighborhoods, is now greater than ever.
>Before Getting Started
Before you begin to form a group (in this context, group is going to refer to everything from an organization, a project, a crew, to any sort of collective attempt at doing something), it’s good to keep a few things in mind, and also to look around your general region for different examples of ways to organize, how to intervene, and things that other groups are doing, building, and working on.
First, it’s always good to go back and read and study the history of your region. Who were the original people that lived on the land that you now live on? How did they respond and fight back against colonization? Are their descendants still in the local area? What is the history of past movements, from labor to civil rights to the fight against the war in Vietnam? Are there examples of riots, strikes, and occupations that shaped your town? How have people historically responded to the police, to pollution, environmental racism, and ecological destruction? The results of a few internet searches, calls to local union halls, and trips to the library, may surprise you.
Second, it’s probably worth it to check out the groups that are in your town and also general region. If there’s a university and junior college, see what is happening on campus. Are there groups of people putting on film showings and discussions in town? Are there hold overs from past movements still meeting that before you didn’t know about. This goes for reactionary and far-Right forces as well; as their presence will of course impact your ability to organize. Looking into what is happening in towns around you may also be worth your while. For instance, finding a group of people in a town 45 minutes away might not lead you to find a group of people you might organize with, but it might give you an idea of what people in a somewhat similar context are doing in their own location. The point in doing all of this background research is to see if there are other people out there that like you – are looking for something else.
Third, it's good to have an understanding of your local context and what the primary tensions and contradictions are within daily life of the general area that you inhabit. This can change, neighborhood to neighborhood, but in general you need to know who holds wealth and power in your area and what their interests are, and how they are attempting to shape and control the area around them. You also need to map out how this is causing tensions to arise; and how people, if at all, are responding.
This can mean everything from gentrification and police sweeps of the homeless to the closing of schools and manufacturing plants to pipeline projects and simply generational abject poverty. Reading the local news daily, while understanding its real limits, will also help in this regard. Chances are, you already know that your town has a history of being polluted by the XYZ plant, that the opioid crisis has ravaged the region, or that the biggest issue is lack of affordable housing, etc. The reason that you need to think strategically about these realities is that by doing so this can and will inform how you may be able to respond to them.
A big mistake that some people new to organizing make is that they simply try and jump into what group they most closely associate with; often networks and organizations that are already established across the US. This means that folks often with no experience suddenly set up IWW chapters when they have no history of actual labor organizing, and often times, just sit around in meetings until after 6 months to a year, the project folds. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t start an IWW, Redneck Revolt, Earth First!, or Anarchist Black Cross group, but only to point out that as you find people and begin to get organized, the work you end up doing may be completely different than the original project that you had in mind. Also, there’s nothing stopping you from later on incorporating aspects of these other groups into your organizing: from letter writing nights, to labor organizing, to learning how to use firearms properly.
Final point, the biggest pot hole that many new people get stuck into is that of social media. In short, setting up an account won’t magically make a real life group appear. And while running a Facebook page for “XYZ Town of Anarchists” might be a great way to meet some people, if all you do is share memes and links about things happening elsewhere, as opposed to going out and starting projects and organizing, then what’s the point? If you set up accounts, use them to boost that you are doing and to hopefully find new people, but don’t mistake a page for actually being organized.
>Building a Crew
If we are operating from the idea that you are essentially alone in the project of building a group of people you can being to organize with and take action along side of, then you’re going to have to work at finding like minded folks – and trust us, they are out there. For instance, for every mail order IGD ships out to a Portland or Brooklyn, we ship probably twice as much to towns and cities we’ve never heard of. So rest assured, people are out there, and generally they are just as isolated, alienated, and looking to connect with other people as you are.