This August saw the second Plan C national congress of 2014. All four of our groups (Leeds, London, Manchester and Thames Valley) met in Leeds for a weekend of discussion and decision making. Alongside the concrete decisions some of our members have written down their thoughts and reflections on the sessions which we hope you find of interest. Needless to say these are personal reflections of some of the key points of interest in each session and are not necessarily representative of Plan C as a whole.
As well as working on national projects the Thames valley group is currently working on a Universal Basic Income (UBI) documentary. The group also hopes to produce public perspective papers on campaigns which they have taken part in.
Leeds have continued to organise ten minute tub thumps and are starting to screen films as well. The first series is a selection of critical science fiction films. The group has also organised a walking tour of Hunslet, an area of Leeds which has seen deindustrialisation and the beginnings of regeneration. This formed the basis for an article in the Occupied Times.
The Manchester group has been very busy participating in national projects. However we have also found time to continue our Manchester Autonomous Drinkers monthly social events as well as begin a series of large discussions entitled “conversations on the future”. Our first two events were on the concept of the future and the current crisis of work. Manchester has also been leading on the Beyond Europe project and organised a successful national speaker tour for members of …ums Ganze! (our German Beyond Europe member).
The group have been organising several film screenings and hosted a leg of the …ums Ganze! tour. They also organised a successful meeting about housing struggles in London with as well as a joint meeting with Feminist Fightback about the E15 Mothers campaign. The group helps to run the Common House in Bethnal Green.
Fast Forward 2014 is moving forward and we are all very excited (if not a little nervous) about hosting the first one in September (12 – 14). For more information please head here.
Plan C has committed to making an intervention at the national TUC demonstration on October 18th in London. This will take the form of an organised bloc on the march. We want to build the politics of this intervention in a collaborative manner through the festival and local meetings in our respective cities. We are hoping to engage in the large strikes happening in the weekdays before the 18th as well. Maybe you or your organisation would like to participate in this process? If so, get in touch!
We will be helping to organise a fundraising party on the evening of the 18th to raise funds for the anarchist bookfair (also on the same day, attending all three events should be possible!) the Common House as well as our festival and magazine projects. Details forthcoming.
This was a discussion about finding shared political horizons, rather than trying to come up with specific demands, or to agree a fixed Plan C position on demands.
The question of demands isn’t just a question of getting specific goods (free education, a basic income, renationalised railways). Demands also play a role in creating composition in movements – a rallying point or pole of attraction, a way of finding each other – as well as being a way to shift debates, and publicly raise new questions about how the world could be.
We talked a bit about different types of demands, using Ben Trott’s article (http://turbulence.org.uk/turbulence-1/walking-in-the-right-direction/) as a way of delineating transitional demands from directional demands from utopian demands. Transitional demands are about securing the dominance of the party within movements, and are therefore not relevant for Plan C as a non-party. Directional demands are more relevant. Instead of being dreamt up by a party cadre, they are set from the class itself; they’re the unfulfilled wishes on the tip of everyone’s tongue. They’re not about building a party, but about precipitating new sites and directions of struggle. Finally, utopian demands help to crack open the political imaginary, to incorporate the possibility of radical change, and more distant horizons for political desire.
Demands are about creating an appetite for a concrete better world. They start from the problems people are encountering within this world, and move forwards into a new one. By starting from the concrete experience of lack in this world, and proposing ways to fulfil concrete needs, they are a way to turn apathy and despair into hope.
Someone asked if a demand is realisable within capitalism, is it a demand worth fighting for? The general feeling was that demands, as a political strategy, didn’t in themselves have to lead directly to the end of capitalism to be worthwhile; it’s about what’s achieved along the way – what new social composition, political subjectivities, horizons of possibility, as well as improved material conditions can be brought into being. But we also discussed how the fulfilment of demands could also have a demobilising effect, creating political ‘machines for producing gratitude’, and locking people’s allegiances more firmly into existing power structures, like a kind of clientalism. Apparently in Spain, where the huge struggles around social reproduction are finding institutional articulation in the form of PODEMOS, the big fear is that the institutionalisation of the struggle will demobilise it and lessen the power of the movements.
It isn’t just the demand itself that will advance revolutionary strategy, but how it interacts with the wider configuration of society; which social forces it helps to empower. The long, complex, compromised, ambivalent history of the UK welfare state is instructive here. The world that is struggled for tends to be different from the world that struggle creates.
Demands are about some kind of alchemy of power and possibility. In a time when power shimmers far off in some globalised postmodern simulacrative constellation of capital, as distant as stars from a demobilised and decomposed class, it’s hard to work out how to aim demands. And when the concrete material problems confronting us are as epochal as climate change, how do you level demands against the end of the world?
Written by JT (MCR)
The working group producing an (unofficial) magazine for Plan C are also making progress. We are very close to making a public announcement. Keep your eyes peeled for information on release dates and locations.
The magazine editorial collective were originally going to call the magazine ‘Trigger’, but this was vetoed at the last minute (after a lot of work had already been put in to making a promotional video for the magazine with the name in) by a few people – one from the collective and two from the wider organisation. Many substantial political points have been raised by this controversy, about the autonomy of working groups, internal democracy, gender politics and our relationship with the wider left, but we decided not to use this discussion to thrash out those wider issues, as we had the urgent task of needing to name the magazine.
Should we call it ‘Trigger’?
Those opposing the name Trigger were concerned that it would be read as critique, satire or even mockery, of the ‘trigger warning’ practice. They were concerned that this would be needlessly inflammatory and uncomradely. Plan C has not previously entered into the debate around trigger warnings and the wider politics associated with it, and has had no internal discussions about it. There are differences of opinion on it within the group. They were therefore concerned that the name Trigger could cause tension both within the group and with people outside it. Particular discomfort was felt by some about the name Trigger’s potential to be seen as mocking.
Some people did not agree that Trigger was likely to be read as satirical or mocking. Others disagreed, and were sure that it would. Several people recounted friends taking the magazine name to be a satire on trigger warnings, and suggested this would unfortunately be a widespread interpretation, regardless of our intentions. It was noted that the movement we currently find ourselves in is not generous, does not always take things in the spirit in which they were intended, and has tendencies to moralistic policing. Though there was a great deal of discomfort in the feeling that we were being cowardly and pandering to these tendencies which we are strongly opposed to, there was also concern that, regardless of the politics involved, it would not go well for us if we called the magazine Trigger. The point was made that we should look to confront these problems at some point, as it is crippling the left and creating a poisonous atmosphere for organising. This met with wide and heartfelt agreement. It felt to some like we were making a retrogressive, pragmatic decision rather than engaging with a substantial political problem.
It was noted there has not been enough respect to the time and energy that went into choosing the name, and that this problem arose several months later than it should have.
The decision was made not to call the magazine Trigger.
An article is currently being written by two members of the editorial collective about this controversy and the issues that it raised.
What shall we call the magazine?
The decision was made to decide on a default name for the magazine, and then give the editorial collective a week to come up with a better one.
Default name: Kraken – An organism whose strength lies in its fluidity and heterogeneity. It’s a living organism that adapts to its environment. It will have its appeal beyond those who would usually pick up a far left mag. The imagery is of a powerful organism that is emerging from the depths with some intent to change something.
Recent issues regarding internal democracy
It was decided that we need new mechanisms for working groups and local groups to be able to check in more regularly in addition to our congresses and delegates, so people can be move involved in and aware of decisions and discussions happening in groups.
The remit of working groups will now always include a stipulation about how frequently they have to feed-back. This will be followed by a specific period of time during which people have the opportunity to respond and feedback (a fortnight). Feedback will come back through local groups.
Local groups will commit to always publishing their meeting minutes on the email list.
Finally, we formed a technology working group to draw up a report with recommendations for online decision-making software we could use.
It was noted, however, that policy won’t save us – we also need to focus on the cultural and intersubjective issues raised by our recent conflicts. We’re trying to make a many headed hydra, so how we deal with conflict and disagreement is a very important issue, and one which we will continue to thrash out.