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urban75 forums : Powered by vBulletin version 2.2.2 urban75 forums > discussion forums > politics/protest > The Social Centre Movement
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chairman_miaow
Senior Member

Registered: Jan 2002
Location: London
Posts: 126

The Social Centre Movement

(This was a response I wrote to a comment on the .Violence vs Non-Violence thread that I thought should be made into a new topic...)

quote:
What tactics should we use to advance the movement?
Passive marches from a to b clearly achive very little in this respect (especially as the media now blatantly ignore them).

Ultimately futile attempts to blocade summits may also have reached the limit of their effectiveness (not sure on that).

Clearly we have to evolve new forms of effective mass direct action that involve greater numbers and a wider representation of the population.

I'll leave the details to someone else though, thanks!


I think a lot of people in the movement are now thinking of new (well, old ideas revisited really) forms of mass direct action. To me the growth of interest in social centres is a new form of 'direct action' and one that confronts Well Red's criticism regarding the one day spectacular. (this is off the V vs NV argument but still relevant)

The social centre movement (currently only in an embryonic stage) will hopefully became a way for communities to link up at a day to day level. Building strong ties and ultimately creating a Dual Power structure that could realistically threaten state hegemony.

This is the ultimate form of direct action. Not symbolic, not spectacular but concrete, on-going, ever developing social models that help build revolutionary potential every day.

At present there are social centres like the Radical Dairy in Stoke Newington, which has a fantastic library of political texts, offers free classes in everything from Yoga to English lessons, DJ'ing to electronics workshops etc. It is linking the gay & lesbian communities, local youth, activists and others and has been actively involved in the Hackney Not For Sale campaign.

Two other social centres are currently being developed these are the Carnivalistas (an exciting and vibrant bunch of activists who plan on buying a permanent space that can't be shut down as easily as a squatted space) and Emmaz. There is also LARC on Fieldgate Street in East London.

I believe that, over the next 5-10 years, these are going to become important community based activist locations that are going to be perceived as more of a threat than marches, banner waving or even brick throwing.

We are more dangerous when we build something up than when we simply tear something down. What's that saying? "You can't blow up a social relation" (?)

They ain't gonna be able to easily destroy a movement building community unity and their idiotic questions about "we know what you're against but what are you for" will be made redundant through our actions.

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Old Post 06-03-2002 01:41 PM
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chairman_miaow
Senior Member

Registered: Jan 2002
Location: London
Posts: 126

Blatant Advertisement...

but on topic!

The Carnivalistas invite y'all to enjoy some vegan loveliness at Bonnington's Cafe, 11 Vauxhall Grove, SW8 from 7pm on Saturday 30 March 2002.

The Carnivalistas are in the process of purchasing a space to run a social centre in South London.

We aim to create a space in which local community groups and individuals can come together to build a strong self-confident and self-supporting community free from racism, sexism and all forms of bigotry. We work non-hierarchically and support all forms of action that strive towards a society built on mutual aid.

The Carnivalistas are part of a London-wide network of community social centres. For more information on the carnivalistas email carnivalista@yahoo.co.uk.

For information on the London Social Centre Network (see some of the info above) contact londonscn@yahoo.co.uk

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Old Post 06-03-2002 03:13 PM
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tomas
Member

Registered: May 2001
Location: N4
Posts: 77

there are a number of good things in building social centers or any other day to day organisation. i think the best bit is what CM touches, building someting up. when building a democratic, hopefully direct democratic, organisation the people in it will also find a way to manage the "future ideel society". so any sceptic saying that that wont work because this or that could just try it out and see for them self. the only way to build a revolution today is thru practical everyday examples and any gathering of people actualy doing this is a threat. i think the downside is that it will allso be possible for goverment agencies to infiltrate and ruin such initiatives if they grow to strong.

a center like the once mentioned is futher more an every day protest aginst this society.

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Old Post 06-03-2002 05:29 PM
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Kaka Tim
Would Be Monkey-Wrencher

Registered: Aug 2001
Location: Leeds
Posts: 511

Last weekend we had a-spire - squatted building used for a film festival, gig venue, cafe and free party space.
Lasting just three days it was very succesful.

One of the most positive aspects was people encountering the 'activist movement' for the first time and coming away very impressed with the organisational and practical skills of people who'd they'd previously written off as 'dole scrounging crusties'.

My overriding thought after the event was -
'What we really need is a permanent space like this'.

There is obviously a real need for 'free space' throughout the country and there are plenty of empty buildings.

It would also help break down barriers between different groups.A network of autonomous social centres throughout the country would be extremely positive.

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Old Post 06-03-2002 06:03 PM
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Monkeygrinder's Organ
Senior Member

Registered: Nov 2001
Location: the end of the beginning
Posts: 241

Not much to say but I think these are a fantastic idea. Presenting something as a genuine alternative has to be so much better than just saying 'we hate capitalism, and it should be abolished now, etc.' Is there anything like this in Manchester?

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Old Post 06-03-2002 06:29 PM
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soulrebel
thought criminal

Registered: Feb 2002
Location: University of Warwick
Posts: 619

Does anyone know what happened to the big social centre on Railton Road in Brixton, which I remember reading about in the Big issue a couple of years back - perhaps it had/has links to u75, both being Brixton based?

As I recall the police/local council were trying to fiddle the history books to claim that it had been in the property for less than the 12 yrs needed to get "squatters rights" and thus be declared the legal owners of the property - they were trying to say they had only been there 11 yrs 10 months or something, and thus close down the centre.

Also I think there were rumours about them trying to abolish the "squatters rights" law itself, claiming it was an ancient loophole that no longer applied to present day society, or some such bollox.

This probably sounds incredibly ignorant, i suspect this is something that all of you, and every self-respecting anarchist, knows every intimate detail of... a text book case maybe... please enlighten me! Its one of those things that I read about, think "wow, this is some major conflict between us and the powers that be, what happens next", and then never hear about again, as presumably it has been hushed up, or just forgotten by the depressingly fickle media machine (like the Kurdish thing with the threatened execution of Abdullah Ocalan, also back in `99 - I just realised I never found out if he was freed, executed, still in prison, or what..)

Anyway, social centres are a fantastic idea - and something I am seriously considering as a career option (one of my mates, also an anarchist, is in his final year of uni, and is going thru a big moral dilemma about what he can do that is not feeding the capitalists when he leaves, and it got me thinking about the decisions I will be making in 2 years time). There was one in Italy (I forget which city) with a fantastic library, which was shut down by police not long after the Genoa protests... shudder to think about what happened to all the books...

If I was not a student, or even if I drop out (may have to for financial reasons ), i would probably, as a rootless person stuck in the middle of capitalist society, head for a place like this so I could be living on the front line, doing something genuine to help fight oppression rather than just talking about it... although I guess getting educated has its place in the fight too...

If a nationwide network is being planned, please let me know...

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Old Post 07-03-2002 09:33 AM
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well red
twisted face of hate

Registered: Dec 2000
Location: under your bed
Posts: 371

The moment the social centre network becomes "a career option" is the moment we should burn them all to the ground.

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Old Post 07-03-2002 11:08 AM
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soulrebel
thought criminal

Registered: Feb 2002
Location: University of Warwick
Posts: 619

what do u mean? I simply meant "an option of something to devote my life to". I certainly did not mean "an option for something to make money out of". Of course if you mean by "career option" (and perhaps in my post it was an inaccurate choice of words) the commercialisation of "social centres", then yes, they would then be completely opposed to everything that they now stood for, and fully desreve burning to the ground.

Or do you think it is wrong for someone like myself to consider spending my "career" (meaning working life, with no money-making implications) working in a social centre, full stop? That perhaps they should be entirely part-time volunteer staffed, and no "professionals" (again I am having to use the language of capitalism, as i cannot think of an alternative word employing lifelong vocation but without any financial subtext) involved?

Please explain, this could get very very interesting.

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Old Post 08-03-2002 01:18 AM
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freethepeeps
no gods,bosses,rulers

Registered: Jul 2001
Location: SE17
Posts: 1304

Careers, professionalism and social centres!!

I think the word "career" is an unfortunate one to choose in relation to Social Centres. It is intricately linked to the ideas of work and professionalism.

The idea of opting out of the world of work and pay, and devoting your time and energy to a social centre is good. But there must be a seperation from the idea of work, professionalism and self-advancement. They must not be about managers, experts and must never mirror the institutions provided by charities, churches and social services!!!

The aim of social centres is about empowering people, about involving everyone. They need to be organised in a non-hierarchical way.


quote:
That perhaps they should be entirely part-time volunteer staffed,


Even the idea of staff is problematic, as it implies that responsibility is vested in some individuals, who decide what is going to happen.

The problem is indeed the "language of capitalism", and if we take on their value laden terms, we will end up in the same mess that their institutions end up in.

"FORBIDDING IS FORBIDDEN" - Grafitti from Paris 1968.

Social centres need to offer alternative visions that people can engage with. When they come in, many people are likely to ask, "who is the manager, who is in charge?!!" And the answer needs to be "NO-ONE!!! There are some people who helped crack the building, there are some people who spend a fair bit of their time here, but it is for everyone to work out how it functions and what needs to be done. problems need to be solved by all who are here and use this centre."

That of course is my opinion!! But I hope it helps you think through some of the issues soulrebel!

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Old Post 08-03-2002 07:36 AM
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agricola
cymru am byth

Registered: Feb 2002
Location: oval
Posts: 388

ftp,

by this do you mean the centre would exist as a part of the community (ie a bricks and mortar representation of it) or a facility to assist it in doing things that it was concerned with....a kind of collective? (this is a genuine question btw - personally i see them as a support device where experience in aspects of life can be shared)

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Old Post 08-03-2002 08:13 AM
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freethepeeps
no gods,bosses,rulers

Registered: Jul 2001
Location: SE17
Posts: 1304

Agricola - surely both (if I understand your question)

It obviously would be a building, but it would be a building where people could be a part of creating a space that is sociable, non-hierarchical, responsive and fun! A place where people could resolve issues, join together to tackle problems in the wider community and start shaking off the shackles of the mental slavery that is part and parcel of the way the world is organised now.

The possibilities are endless!!

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Old Post 08-03-2002 08:22 AM
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agricola
cymru am byth

Registered: Feb 2002
Location: oval
Posts: 388

ftp,

ty, its just from you reply to soulrebel it seemed (to me) that the centre would have to be the community rather than some kind of external support mechanism.
i said it on the other post but there is a lot of promise in the idea, especially if you can mimic on a larger scale the work of the old community health trusts that the government just banned (because of their success in helping patients). similarly (you may disagree) they could, at least in the short term, liase with agencies like police, social services etc and attempt to raise the quality of life in their areas.

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Old Post 08-03-2002 08:30 AM
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William of Walworth
Festographer

Registered: Sep 2001
Location: Wonderful Walworth, SE17 [5017 old-incarnation posts]
Posts: 7307

smokin'

Could Buds and Spawn (who's involved I think) or someone else please post some info on that newish, and legal social centre in the East End?

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Old Post 08-03-2002 08:51 AM
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danny la rouge
obey little, resist much

Registered: Feb 2002
Location: Stirling (city my arse!)
Posts: 575

Sounds great. h2o, are you reading this? Practical change etc etc

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Old Post 08-03-2002 09:10 AM
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treelover
Senior Member

Registered: Sep 2001
Location: Peoples Republic of South Yorkshire
Posts: 307

my feeling is that if they are primarily counter-cultural/youth culture focussed with the usual obsession with free parties, band nights, etc. then they will fail. They have to be integrated into the wider community somehow(while not compromising their value system). Perhaps, a good example would be that the local pensioners action grioup would feel comfortable to have a tea dance there, or a single mothers group would meet there.. Another danger is that the squats i have encountered, not many really, seem to attract a large number of freeloaders who contribute nothing and a small group group is left to do everything. but good luck anyway...

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Old Post 08-03-2002 12:04 PM
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well red
twisted face of hate

Registered: Dec 2000
Location: under your bed
Posts: 371

Unfortunately, treelover, those problems are amongst the biggest faced by the new social centre movement: it is overwhelmingly the reproduction of a closed social scene rather than an open social centre. The particular variety of activists that are involved in this scene are not the most organised or grounded people, its largely a case of having tons of enthusiasm without much of an idea of how to use it.

I do think these problems can be overcome, but they have to be acknowledged as problems first (and then resolved), and I would very much regard the social centre movement at the moment as being a potential good idea rather than an actual one. I feel bad for being overly critical, but I am hugely frustrated at the amount of missed opportunities and wasted effort that the movement is currently stuck within.

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Old Post 08-03-2002 12:27 PM
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agricola
cymru am byth

Registered: Feb 2002
Location: oval
Posts: 388

well red,

amazingly enough i agree with you, when miaow first mentioned it i did have the mental picture of a kind of super-citizens advice bureaux that could, if not actually help members of the community, then put people in touch with those that could and act as a kind of forum for local debate in a way that local councils never are

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Old Post 08-03-2002 12:33 PM
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well red
twisted face of hate

Registered: Dec 2000
Location: under your bed
Posts: 371

Amazingly enough, I don't care whether you agree with me or not. I've been involved in the kind of super-advice-shop you mention. It was very successful, but most of the work we did involved helping people who had problems with the police.

Fundamentally, social centres are supposed to enable communities to organise themselves, not to provide a service to the community. To change the world, we need to stop being spectators and start to get involved.

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Old Post 08-03-2002 12:54 PM
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Stig
neanderthal member

Registered: Oct 2001
Location: swansea
Posts: 837

Ours seems to be working for the reason that it does make the whole of the community welcome. We DO have the local pensioners drinking posh tea and reading the local paper in one corner, and the anti-incinerator group making banners in the other corner etc.

This can be a hard scenario to keep stable, especially when certain groups or individuals are completely opposed to each other, but one of the ground rules has to be that everyone is welcome unless they put anyone else off coming in, which basically boils down to: no violence (whether physical or verbal).

we do have a couple more rules than that which have evolved over time in order to prevent the whole thing going arse-up, (when I say 'we' I don't mean staff, I mean 'us who can be bothered to turn up at the place and serve tea and clean up')

One of these is: no party politics or religious groups (It's not that they're not allowed in, they just can't wallpaper the place in propaganda or preach). This doesn't include the reading library, which includes stuff from all sorts of groups, depending on who donates them (i.e. us, mainly )

I know it will grate with some people to have any rules at all, (not very anarchy, is it?) but if we didn't the place WOULD have been burned to the ground by now, straight after the gang warfare, instead of which we have glowing praise in the local paper at least once a week.

and anyone can, basically, do absoloutely anything they want in there. Our free parties/band nights or whatever don't put the old ladies off - they know that the tea dance is NEXT week.

By far the best thing about it is actually getting all these different people to talk to each other. Which they do!

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Old Post 08-03-2002 01:06 PM
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William of Walworth
Festographer

Registered: Sep 2001
Location: Wonderful Walworth, SE17 [5017 old-incarnation posts]
Posts: 7307

smokin'

Excellent, Stig and all involved

Does it include access to advice as mentioned above?

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Old Post 08-03-2002 02:04 PM
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Stig
neanderthal member

Registered: Oct 2001
Location: swansea
Posts: 837

Certainly does!

we have a man who worked for CAB for 20 years, but he was a bit of a rebel, as he wasn't supposed to actually sort people out, only advise them, and hence didn't agree with their working practices.

So now he does it his own way, on his own terms. In our place.

Next?

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Old Post 08-03-2002 02:12 PM
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treelover
Senior Member

Registered: Sep 2001
Location: Peoples Republic of South Yorkshire
Posts: 307

f**** excellent stig, i get your point about variety, tho its about not being stereotyped, more info please, pARTICULALRY CUTTINGS ETC. lets keep this thread going, who knows, we might get someone over from bbc1/channel 5 (aka general thread, along!.)

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Old Post 08-03-2002 03:35 PM
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Stig
neanderthal member

Registered: Oct 2001
Location: swansea
Posts: 837

Treelover: yup, I'm from general thread. "Just passing through, mind yer backs," etc

The link is on the 'web' icon on my posts. There's a couple of cuttings on there, on 'press' page, but they're a bit crap cos we haven't got a scanner so I took photos of them lol. Still they're just about readable. One day soon I'll have the time to type them out, no doubt. In fact, one day, I'll work out how to put a proper website together.

Last edited by Stig on 08-03-2002 at 04:46 PM

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Old Post 08-03-2002 04:25 PM
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hongkongfooey
Member

Registered: Feb 2002
Location: well south of the borda
Posts: 91

I think social centres are a wicked idea. I am really interested in the relative politicisation that the spaces have. for example, i know that the social centre in north London doesn't allow political meetings of groups like, say, RTS or the WOMBLES because they don't want it to get shut down for its affiliations with said 'pre-terrorist' anarchist disorganisations.

Does the occupation and protection of property necessarily affect anarchist politics? Whaddy'all think?

I agree that social centres should be a space that is open to the community to manage and use as it sees fit, but is that all they are? do they also have/need to have some kind of agenda of agitation, of making links between said commnities and anti-capitalist movement? or is this in opposition to the aims just stated?

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Old Post 08-03-2002 05:28 PM
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hongkongfooey
Member

Registered: Feb 2002
Location: well south of the borda
Posts: 91

BTW, Stig, that Swansea gaff looks bloody amazing. Congratulations to all involved.

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