By Keith McHenry
We the people will stand up to Trump. Creating a strategy on how to transform America into a sustainable, post-capitalist society will take imagination. There are things we can do to prepare, to fight back.
Forming affinity groups is an important first step. An affinity group is simply a voluntary group formed around a common goal or interest. Such groups typically have five to ten participants who know one another and meet at least once a month, sometimes as much as several times a week. An affinity group provides a space for discussing tactics, strategies, and specific actions. It also provides a place to work cooperatively on projects. Importantly, it also serves as a means of mutual support and validation, a means of overcoming the crushing isolation that keeps people alone, disempowered, and hopeless; it can provide inspiration and stir the imagination in these dark times.
The longer a group works together, the more trust and strength it will have. Many affinity groups are organized in a non-hierarchical manner, often using a consensus decision making process, and are frequently made up of trusted friends. Affinity groups provide a means of organization that is both flexible and decentralized, and that makes it easy for like-minded groups to coordinate their activities.
A number of affinity groups can be formed into what activists call “clusters.” For example, in the effort to stop the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station in New Hampshire, clusters formed in geographic locations such as Boston, North Shore, and so on. All participating affinity groups would send representatives to cluster meetings, and any decisions they made then had to be approved by participants in the member groups.
Where this process fails is when large groups try to come to consensus on every minor matter. We saw this problem often during the Occupy Wall Street movement. Detailed discussions of minor things is better kept at the affinity group level, or, even better, are best left to work groups. An example would be food procurement and preparation at large gatherings and actions, which is usually delegated to Food Not Bombs or other work group.
An affinity group structure can help sustain blockades of rail lines, ports, highways, pipelines and other infrastructure needed to continue fascism. Access to food, water and shelter could be impacted for many of us. Affinity groups of food providers, medics, lawyers, artists, authors, musicians, construction workers, seamstresses, plumbers, electricians, gardeners, bicycle mechanics, scientists, yoga practitioners, teachers, software developers, media people and the many other skills will be necessary to sustain blockades, occupations and self defense efforts.
An affinity group can provide both emotional and practical support. The dire reports on our failing society can be stressful. Having close friends in an affinity group to talk with could be essential. Knowing that we have practical support if jailed can make it possible for more of us to take risks. We could share important passwords with a trusted ally and provide access to our homes so plants can be watered and pets cared for. If risking arrest we may want to give a designated member of the affinity group the birth dates, legal names, important people to contact and have a lawyer available. An affinity group could be vital as we experience the advent of “naked fascism.”
If thousands of us dedicate ourselves to forming affinity groups, organize nonviolent direct action preparations in our local communities, build decentralized networks of activists, and plan for an increase in harsh political repression we might be able to provide a solid foundation for opposing whatever Trump, corporate capitalism and fascism have to deliver. See you at the next action. Don’t mourn, organize!
Keith is a Food Not Bombs co-founder and author of Hungry for Peace and The Anarchist Cookbook