Radical Ghetto

Submitted by admin on Tue, 2006-07-25 10:15.

The Radical Ghetto and Ways of Opening up to Others...

Two remarks with regard to the 'ghetto':

  • Marginalisation of the activist tendency: how to leave the ghetto without possible conflicts of interest through involvement with NGO's etc, in other words, reformists?
  • Destruction of militantism and the development of a way of life without conflicts between: private life/political activities/work life.

And other common activist ills. Is there a more satisfactory way of going about things?

These two questions are slightly different, but both deal with the same problem: how to keep and develop our political identity without being isolated from other people - or from certain aspects of our lives?

The "ghetto", its identifying group and its militant practices, permit us to get together, resist, exist in the face of pressure of society's norms and dominant practices. Its probably impossible for a social group to differentiate itself from others without developing its own customs, values, language, even musical tastes, ways of dressing (black clothes!) etc. This gives us strength. We like it. Its all good.

The problem is that our actions and values are aimed at changing the outside world. Not just at creating a cozy hermetically sealed little alternative world for ourselves. We will only succeed if we link up with and make ourselves understood by others who are also people disgusted by this society! At its worst radicalism becomes a sort of inverse elite of anti-capitalists, anarchists, etc. who consider themselves more evolved, purer, and braver. They believe they know everything, and therefore stick to each other because others cannot understand... great for the ego but not very efficient. And often, in fact, this leads slowly but surely towards a corporate way of acting. Each person fights primarily for their own interests and, while this can be good, if, at the end of the day, we are only interested in defending our own way of life (i.e.: squats) what is the difference between ourselves and the corporate unions that we criticise (unions, in their turn, believe that squatters just want a free place to live)? Worse, with time, this attitude could end up drifting towards a kind of alternative cocoon or towards right-wing cynicism.

Its not that we are doing it on purpose! But how to break down divisions and media-created stereotypes? In our society we aren't that used to talking directly with people. Its via TV that we know whats going on. Our posters, leaflets, demonstrations are somewhat efficient in regrouping our 'band' (such that it is) but what effect on passers-by, our fellow city dwellers? Its got to the point that often there is nobody who will try to distribute leaflets or chat to people because ultimately they don't know how. In reality, demonstrations truly exist only if covered by the media. Therefore its the media that formulates (or reformulates more to the point) our message! At the European PGA conference at Leiden there was a guy from Attac (a French organisation fighting for distribution of stock exchange profits) who came. It was incredibly interesting to see the difficulty we had in explaining to him our criticisms of his organisation. It was as if we simply weren't used to interacting with someone with a differing political viewpoint. Our attitude is a little schizophrenic because most of us are not full time activists (happily!). In our 'full-time' existence, in our work lives and private lives, we are naturally obliged to live by more conventional rules.

There are obviously plenty of people who both dream of and put into practice an overall life goal; who avoid compartmentalisation by organising their entire life (private life, work etc) in a way that is consistent with their political ideas. Cool if you can manage that, but obviously that once again poses the question of ghettoisation and relations with the outside world.

Seeking escape from this impasse, however, there are interesting experiments: autonomous social spaces (Geneva), theatre happenings, different street (or shop) events, stories such as the first person to start "Precarias la deriva"(a Madrid organisation fighting for women without job security: http://www.sindominio.net/karakola/precarias.htm).

And each one of us, at work, for example, do we not talk about politics? Yes, there's lots to talk about ...and act upon!