Thursday, 8 December 2011

Ideologies and Realities: some thoughts on migrant solidarity in Athens

Something I wrote and first posted on ContraInfo, now reproduced below, for your delectation...

Saturday December 3rd, approximately 200 people gathered in Omonia Square to show their solidarity: Against fascism; For the legalisation for all migrants and refugees; For citizenship for all 2nd generation migrant children. The demo was called by SEK and the Union of Immigrant Workers.

Representatives from different migrant and native communities spoke about the real and daily experiences of racist discrimination and violent persecution in the city. Many spoke in Greek and also in their native languages. Their messages were heard by the gathering crowd, those passing through and those from the neighbourhood of Omonia.

After an hour or so of speeches, the rally evolved and expanded into a moving demonstration of maybe 500 people, who took to the streets together in a march to Syntagma. The march progressed along Stadiou street, around Syntagma square, pausing outside the parliament before returning back to Omonia along Akademias street. The path of the demo was sounded out by a mix of political slogans, chants and the rhythm of African drums, making an atmosphere that was both defiant and celebratory.

One unit of MAT made a symbolic presence at Syntagma but were otherwise visible in their total absence from the rest of the demo; neither to scare, nor control; neither to protect nor attack. No fascists showed their faces.

Speaking to a Senegalese man carrying a placard reading ‘Against fascism! In solidarity with immigrants!’ he said he had come to the march to fight for freedom in a city where he had experienced regular police attacks after living here 9 months without papers.

If the aim of Saturdays demo was to generate a greater feeling of solidarity among communities, we can call the demo a success. But a demo is also a symbolic act; showing those who don’t participate, who disagree who hold ‘the power’ how much power we also have. In this dimension, the demo was not successful. Where were the anarchists on Saturday?

Because it seems on that day, the reasons not to attend were greater than the reasons to be there. And this seems to be the case more often than not. The complexity of the reality; the confusion of mapping political ideology onto the situation, freezes us to act despite our desire to do so. Reasons not to act take on greater importance than the reasons to act. Maintaining the purity of our ideologies seems to become more important than the reality of the situation. On single issues, this dilemma often exists: between acting to bring about a world we want to see, and dealing with a situation that is created by and within dominant power. On the issue of migration, the dilemma of whether to act seems to go something like this: As a movement that is anti-state, anti-capitalism, how can we really show solidarity with migrants who, by their mere status as migrants, are appealing to the state for their rights, and to the capital for their place within that system?

But which is more important? The purity of an ideology, or the reality of the situation? If we walk around the centre of Athens right now, we see people searching through the rubbish for scraps to eat or sell[1]. If we walk around Ermou, se find street sellers who regularly have all their goods stolen by police. If we go to the squares where its still safe for them to hang out and talk to people, we hear stories of no work, no money, no means of escape despite the plans to leave. No hope. And this is just what we can see. We can’t see into the basements, housing 5 people to a room, into the prisons doing the same, into the squats where people take shelter. And say we go beyond the city and head into the mountains around Igoumenitsa. We find people starving and thirsty, because the police refuse to let them enter the city to look through the rubbish for food[2] (and some people have lived that way for years).

In front of all of this, what can we say? That we cannot show solidarity because what they want reinforces the state and capital? Because the way you struggle is ‘not very anarchist’?

Because there is a difference between wants and needs. Ideology cannot feed you. If we wanna face the reality, most people who migrate here and then face these violence’s are 'not very anarchist'. But the oppressions they face here are very real and very different from our own (despite coming from the same source). But, like anarchists, they also want freedom.

So, I see my role - as an anarchist - to fight: against my own oppression, and the oppression of others, under this system. In the first case, I can do it in my way, or in the way of the collectives I chose to participate in. In the second case, I can show solidarity with those who may not feel like they can fight, or who may choose to fight in ways that I might not actually agree with. Here, I try as best I can to be led by those experiencing the oppression first hand. In both cases, as a citizen, my ability to rebel is also a privilege and having a passport is a massive freedom. It gives us the privilege to act upon our political ideologies; to dedicate time to rebel in ways people without papers cannot. I fight against the idea of a passport, I fight in solidarity for those who don’t have one to have the right to a passport. This massive contradiction is also at the heart of the dilemma of acting to bring about a world we want to see, and dealing with a situation that is created by and within dominant power.

So, we take our ideologies and we don’t forget them, but we combine them with being lead by the needs of those facing this oppression. We help people break and keep squats so that people have a place to stay. We coordinate ourselves so that we can accurately document racist violence and police violence against people of colour and we share this information with others. We take to the streets and show solidarity together, when the people who face this oppression feel they can show their power. We create hybrids from the connections we make with people who don’t think the same way as us, and new things become possible.

Saturdays demo was just one event, using one tactic with one rhetoric; just one blast of smoke out of the volcano. The reasons not to be there were many (the political intentions of SEK, whether immigrants really had any actual power/say in the event and whether making a demo was the right strategy).

But if we don’t like what we see, particularly if we feel that migrants are being lead, rather than being heard, then we must make our own things happen. Starting by making connections to those experiencing this oppression first hand, that we witness with our own eyes, on our own streets every day. Daily experiences of racist and structural violence transcend political ideology.

[1] Extreme poverty clearly does not just affect migrants, but economic inequality, combined with xenophobic racism works together to make migrants far more likely to experience extreme poverty.
[2] We would also need to be capable of time travel, because this summer, after several previous raids, the mountain camp in Igoumenitsa was razed by cops, and the majority of the 400 (needs checking) people living there arrested. Those who remained were told that if they dared to claim asylum, they would also face arrest. Indeed, this happened. Igoumenitsa has now been hailed as a ‘migrant free zone’ by its Mayor.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Talking about the R word at a time of 'crisis'

During this time of ‘crisis’, people say that you cannot talk about rights. There is no ear and no taste for it. To do so is to engage in a luxury that Greece doesn’t have right now. So its kinda bitterly ironic that as the avenues for talking about rights are closing, so those most oppressed by this lack seem most affected by the ‘crisis’, and even further to the outside of this thing we could call Greek society. It becomes clear that at the moment, rights are the reserve of Greeks. That this crisis is a Greek one, Greek business. Any migrants affected by it are merely caught in the crossfire.

So, as Greeks demonstrate, discuss and occupy buildings, all around the city migrants are looking through the rubbish, searching out scrap to sell and scraps to eat[1]. As the country gets poorer and work becomes more scarce, the old adage that migrants are the first and hardest hit is here, in front of the eyes of all in the city. Yet it is essentially ignored. Searching through the rubbish is becoming a very necessary and increasingly competitive way to survive. You can sense the bare existence of thousands of people struggling; and the blackness at the heart of any crisis that can ignore this. This is a humanitarian crisis, not an economic one.

Migrants are mortally affected by the crisis, but have the least possibility to give voice to this violence. Why would you engage in voicing your pain and rage at a political situation you have been excluded from? And between political activity and survival, survival wins out every time. So far the crisis is affecting migrants, but as objects, not as subjects.

At the same time, migrant communities are struggling to respond. They are increasingly called upon to provide basic support: food, medicine and shelter. Yet they appear less and less as hubs for the struggle for the rights of their communities. How and why to be spokespeople when the government pays no attention to anything not framed in economic terms? How and why to represent people who are trying desperately to escape from Greece? All of it seems to have left many groups and networks  at a loss as to what to do, or as to what their role is now, in all of this.

But the presence of thousands of migrants, ignored by the government (but not by the police) also highlights the farce of the state and its claim to represent people and their interests. On the one hand the ‘subjects’ it claims to represent despise it, and on the other, the people it claims are illegitimate are stuck here. The question is not just how to look to the state for rights and recognition, but also, and more importantly, why to look to the state at all?

The fight to be here doesn’t stop just because the state isn’t paying attention. As much as the state won’t pay attention, now it also cant. Just as the people feel themselves backed into a corner, so does the state. Its under attack and maybe getting weaker. Migrants in Greece could never rely on the state, for rights and recognition or support without a fight. Everything that was given was done so begrudgingly. They have had to look to their communities and nurture those structures of support that have absolutely nothing to do with the state. The difference is that now the situation is more dire, and Greek communities must also do the same. For all of the extreme hardship this crisis creates, especially for those most oppressed, it also necessitates finding ways to meet people’s needs in ways outside of the state.

Mosques have been feeding and sheltering thousands of people this last year (its estimated that one mosque alone was feeding 600 people every day during Ramadan). A few weeks ago, a collective started a community health project in one neighbourhood in Athens. Such community based projects, right now, is what needs to happen. There is becoming an ever clearer shared necessity to survive. And nobody is likely to be going anywhere right now. They have the potential to reconnect people together through the mere nature of them being in the same place and sharing the same need at that time. No other qualification is needed (Ok, in the case of the mosque you must be a Muslim so this is a whole other issue of exclusion). Such projects make more apparent that the exclusion of migrants that is so viscous right now is only the language of the state speaking through us, like a poltergeist that we can and must exorcise, if we don’t want the response to be a xenophobic kicking out or locking up.

So when people say that the opportunity for talking about rights has passed, what they actually mean is that the opportunity to talk about rights to the state has passed. But rights haven’t gone away. They aren’t just statements made to and by the state. They are also acts of survival, among and between people. So just as a conversation with the state is off the agenda, the opportunities to make rights still exist. Perhaps there is even a greater chance to act out rights now, when the state is both weak and not paying attention. But perhaps framing all of this in the language of rights is itself a bit to grand and daunting. It’s about finding ways to meet people’s needs in the here and now. And right now those needs are basic and great.

[1] Thats not to say that this separation is absolute. The Union of Immigrant Workers is one of several groups supporting strikes and present at demos.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

General strike in Athens

Today was the second day of a 2 day general strike across Greece. Both the largest public and private sector unions called for it, in response to the vote in parliament this week for a further wave of measures that will impoverish Greeks in order to pay off  the Troika (the name given to the IMF, EU and World Bank together). An estimated million people were on the streets in Athens alone yesterday; a demo the size of which few people had seen in their lifetime. People were together; and angry. It was a full day of protest; space to fight the cops or stand behind flags and banners; the movement was in enough of a shared direction to make ‘solidarity’ not seem totally ridiculous. The act of being on the streets united people, but ideas on what should come next divided them. Ideology came along and kinda fucked things up.

Cause after the beautiful, violent expression on the streets yesterday, today has been marked by clashes between protesters. PAME, the stalinist union, were on the streets in force, and, ehem, decided to make a human wall surrounding the front of Parliament, which looks out onto the square. So, from the beginning, the idea of all on the streets together was undermined with a laughable show of force and oppression, separating other protesters from the target: parliament.

What came next was just ludicrous. Being in among it, I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but it was very quick and went something like this...

The black block formed a front on the north-western side of the square, opposite the PAME ‘wall’. Fighting broke out between the block and the ‘wall’. The fighting took over one of the streets running down the western side of the square, and the police looked on. Estimates say 20 people were hospitalised. The fighting created a space for the cops to fill and occupy the square, with thousands of protesters fleeing to other streets and some stuck in the crossfire between the 2. 5 minutes and everything was over. The square was cleared. What the fuck?

The reaction of most is cynicism. This clash has happened before and. and the radical left and anarchist movements have a long history of hatred and antagonism. Now stalinism and anarchism are totally NOT the same thing. But in this scenario – on the streets of Athens during a mass protest – the things that they share must surely be of more importance than the things about which they disagree. Things in common: a desire for radical change, possibly through revolution? However, where anarchism is about acting as if the state doesn’t exist, the stalinitists of PAME acted like protectors of the state, standing guard outside parliament against the black block and others, and sending a big fuck you to them all.

Who gives a shit about how it started. The fact that these clashes are possible and regular indicates how much work must be done before any kind of movement big and strong enough to form a revolutionary power can emerge. Surely the fight over ideologies is what comes after the revolution, not before? Before, and you’re just making the cops lives a whole heap easier; and undermining your own cause as a result.

One of the reasons PAME made this ridiculous wall was to keep ‘trouble makers’ out of the protest. Standing in front of the parliament, like the rightful owners of the demo is such provocation. And divisive. But the tactics used by the black block makes me question their motives too. Something is tactical when the situation is assessed and the best response is found, collectively. Black block fighting cops seems to happen at every demo. Its predictable and this weakens its effectiveness to go beyond just provocation, if the aim is revolutionary.

Anyway. The day is not yet over. As I left the square people were slowly filling it up again. And now a man has died (53 year old guy from inhaling gas), who knows what’s coming next...

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The London Riots and my idea of class

A few nights ago I went to a talk about the London riots by Martin Lux from the Whitechapel anarchist group. His talk was a little like storytelling; the benefits and limits of placing things in an order and making connections. He was clear this was his story; his opinion. It was a good opinion and worth hearing. And it made me make connections to my own story. Let’s start with his...

The connections begun last winter with the student protests against fees and cuts. Dismissing the student movement entirely (as being a lame bunch of twats, mainly from the middle classes that’s never actually mounted any real threatening movement to speak of), he focussed on the acts of school students in some of the London protests; how they were the ones behaving more unpredictably and wildly, sticking it to the cops the hardest and learning from these confrontations. It was through the violent clashes between the cops and the school students that the possibility and the space for the more violent clashes that happened in the spring and later that summer were created.

So with this as the backdrop, we move on the riots of July. Again, there’s been lots written about the events themselves, so here’s a little of his analysis... The riots were spontaneous, numerous and diverse expressions of violent anger. This anger came from the build up of generations of being fucked over, of being lumped together as some kind of deserving poor, and of the numerous individual experiences of being reminded of the fact (shit education; crap jobs with shit wages; a benefits system that expects gratefulness; regular and systematic violence from the cops in a prison system that makes it into all spaces in your life from street searches and tags, to curfews and asbos). As with most explosive public order situations, there were acts of anti-social behaviour and the rioters attacked their own neighbourhoods too. You might wanna do that too when you feel that your neighbourhood is more of a ghetto than a home and society thinks that you’re not even human. The rioters looted a lot of stuff too. Again, you might wanna do that when you live in a society that has index linked human value to your ability to buy stuff as completely as the british one, and you can’t get it. Not everyone can have the stuff. That what makes it socially valuable. So they took it and probably had a pretty good time in the process.

He talked about how the left and the anarchist movement failed to get involved with the riots. In the case of the left they didn’t recognise the rioters as even part of the working class (or the lower class or underclass), defining them as lumpen proletariat and hence devoid of a political dimension and agenda. In the case of the anarchist movement, they failed to see a political message in what was happening too; they didn’t see it as creating space in which they could also express their vision of the world. He criticised the UK anarchist movement for also being mainly middle class, totally alienated from the working classes and totally useless in this situation.

The main messages from of the talk: People. Stop talking your theory and get on the streets! The only way to radical change is through insurrection from the lower class. And, the middle classes suck

As the discussion progressed (and blimey was it a long one), it became clear that the Greek understanding of class is totally different. One thing that he explained was the fact that the british working class is made up of british citizens as well as immigrants and people of colour, and many different people were on the streets during the riots, for different reasons. In Greece, the idea of class ), like a caste, as some kind of birthright (or curse) means that social divisions within native society are less clear. At the same time though, mass immigration is a fairly recent thing, so divisions between natives and non-natives are extremely plain. The contemporary british working class on the other hand exists within this idea of class as birthright or curse. It could be defined as the class denied: in social, cultural and economic terms. It’s also the class that fights back. When defined as such, the british working class can be diverse in terms of race or nationality (perhaps this is also one reason why people quickly come to identify - at least to a certain extent and for some - as British, of any class. I have been in countries when people who have lived in a place for 10 generations still don’t identify as – or are accepted as - the nationality of the place they are living in).

As someone who is middle class, I don’t feel so comfy ‘defining’ the working class. But seeing as he defined me, as coming from the class that should fuck off and die, I wanna say something, cause I don’t think it’s so black and white. It’s not so black and white because class is more blurry than that, even in the UK. What class am I? Both my parents came from working class backgrounds. Inner city London, poor, immigrant heritage (and active involvement in radical politics too. As a 1st generation eastern European Jewish man, my granddad was there on the streets of the east end fighting Oswald Moseley’s Fascists). But I was brought up with middle class values and aspirations. Social climbing was a big motivation for my dad; desire to do better than the working class roots he didn’t value. After my dad became ill and could no longer work, we didn’t have much money and I grew up on benefits. Financially, we were the underclass, but the rest of the middle-class stuff – the cultural stuff - remained. In fact, perhaps we strived even harder to assert the middle class status when we couldn’t back it up in financial terms. Because we were poor I got a scholarship to attend a posh school (nuns, silly uniforms, the works) and my education reinforced my identity as lower middle class; the class with the slight inferiority complex. So when I act, I come from this background. It makes me think of the definition of activism as ‘doing as much I can from where I’m at’. I can’t do more than that. Don’t define me and don’t write me off.

It’s also not black and white because being middle class and having radical politics is a constant process of struggle too. There’s truth in the fact that radical politics – the theory -  is mainly a privilege of the educated. This education comes to form some kind of protective barrier between words and deeds; the tools to see injustice, but an excuse not to act (these riots don’t express this or that theory, so they can’t be revolutionary, etc, etc). We talk the talk, but rarely really walk the walk. Our politics comes before the practice; of direct experience of repression and the struggle against it. So getting involved means becoming a class traitor; and this is our struggle; overcoming privilege – to live out a comfortable, secure life, being socially positioned to take advantage of the system. The challenge is in overcoming a fear of violence and conflict; rejecting and being rejected by our own class. This is the challenge of making the idea of a radical middle class not a contradiction in terms. This is really scary and difficult, partly because it comes from choice, so I can choose not to. I can choose to keep talking and not act on it and be a hypocrite. My challenge is always to stop using theory as a wall to hide behind.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Some Reflections on NoBorder Camp Bulgaria 2011

Last week saw 300 people gather for a long weekend near the border of Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria , on the Bulgarian side. The camp was situated on the edge of the small village of Siva Reka. From a distance, the camp looked like a mini festival scene. I don’t suppose the village had ever played host to such a thing. The people of the village were extremely positive to our presence, but there is still something slightly comical about 300 folks descending on them. It looked like the circus had come to town.

NoBorder Camp Bulgaria brought together people from across Europe for 5 days of discussions and demos. The main actions of the camp included talks and film screenings with local communities; a protest in the nearby town of Svilengrad, where the Border Police HQ is; carnivalesque protests at the border points of Turkey and Greece and a demo outside the detention centre in the nearby town of Ljubimec.

The location of the camp was partly a symbolic one. Situated 4 km from the border with Greece, and 11 km from the border with Turkey, Bulgaria (along with Romania) is soon to become the new frontier of the eastern-most Schengen zone. But the camp was also practical, aiming to make connections with the locals who’s lives will be affected by the changes. For the local people who visited the camp, they talked of their vulnerability in the face of decisions that essentially remain hidden from them. There was a sense of confusion; that their region could become the focus of huge flows of sans papiers, but also that little had changed so far. They know that change is coming, but so far it is hard to see, and this creates fear. No information, to consent, no power.

On a wider scale, with Bulgaria and Romania entering Schengen next year, the new imperialism of the militarised European border regime takes another step outwards; another zone is created from which Frontex attempts its dehumanising border crack down the name of bureaucracy and efficiency drives; another space from which Europe can project oppression through the discourse of protection and security. For people trying to enter Europe and who have to do so clandestinely however, the extension of Schengen is both an oppression and also a new opportunity.

There have been a number of accounts of what happened during the camp, and you can read them here. What I want to focus on are some of the themes that arose from camp discussions; some reflections on what the camp created that perhaps will last and enrich the movement. These reflections are based on a conversation between myself and a friend at the camp. They are only our thoughts and cannot be representative of the camp, but perhaps they offer up a little of the feeling of the camp.

Me: When I think about NoBorder camp Bulgaria, I feel that the camp itself was anarchist- it was DIY and it was people working through their ideologies together - but the actions of the camp weren’t. Actually it feels pretty unimportant to make this distinction, since the camp created an autonomous space. Ideologies didn’t matter in and of themselves. At least this is how I think it was by the end.

Them: I was trying to think about whether you can designate an action as explicitly anarchist or not. On the one hand you could look at the kinds of things anarchist generally do and say ‘OK, well they do these direct actions; they fight cops; they’re black block’. Then you could look at the camp and say that it didn’t do those things therefore it’s not anarchist. But I feel  there’s something wrong about this way of seeing it. I think what’s missing is an appreciation of the context in which those actions are done.

The idea of being an anarchist, I think, is to bring about anarchism, or to make an environment more anarchist. So you want to push for some change that might be far down the road. And just because the ‘end’ might be anarchist doesn’t mean that everything that leads to that point is also obviously identifiable as anarchist. Sometimes the definition of anarchist isn’t important.

Me: I can’t help feeling that a lot of what we achieved was very reformist and symbolic though. And I think that many people had a problem with that. Demonstrating outside the border police. Is such an act more than just symbolism? Perhaps the biggest and most positive outcome from our actions was the outreach to the local community and the positive press response. Perhaps this is the foundation for a movement in Bulgaria. That is something to be proud of. But much of the camp was symbolic. Its location was mainly symbolic too, in light of the fact that the changes that will affect the area have not yet come into full force.

Them: I still think the context needs to be understood. The fact that those organisers with local knowledge were saying that nothing like this had ever happened in Bulgaria before, even an action others might feel was ‘fluffy’, you could tell that the authorities were very nervous. There is no movement in Bulgaria. This makes it like special circumstances. A lot of it comes down to risk. If we had done something more radical and had been violently repressed, it could have gone in a way that would have undermined the possibility of establishing a movement in Bulgaria at all.

Me: The aims of the NoBorder network are incredibly broad though. There is a huge variety of understandings about how we should go about achieving a world free of borders. It makes for a lot of conflict within the movement when it comes together. It makes for some very long meetings!

For example, there was this conflict between those who wanted more individual autonomy to decide over actions and the wishes of the camp organisers to stick to actions that had limited chances of antagonising. I guess it came down to a divide between individual autonomy versus collective action, but also a tension in how collective actions can reflect the wishes and ideologies of 300 people. There were many who were not happy with the protests we made and were disappointed the camp didn’t create a space for more, radical, creative actions. At the beginning there were accusations of a break of trust. What do you think about this?

Them: I thought that people were missing the point. In these discussions it was pointed out that it was not trust we had lost. Rather a lack of clarity about where people were coming from; different perspectives. Because everybody seems to come to these things with the idea that everybody must have the ‘right’ and same idea immediately. People don’t give each other the benefit of the doubt. And it can quite easily and quickly escalate into a conflict. We don’t give each other the benefit of the doubt. We are not gentle with each other as a movement!

There’s something going on here about lifestyle anarchism and the idea that you can just go to another country, a different context where you don’t speak the language, and you just have to do your thing, which often becomes a kind of acting out of how you see your identity. To me this is saying ‘this is about me’ and it’s not about looking far down the road and thinking ‘what’s it gonna be like here in a years time or 10 years time?’ There were things about the protests I didn’t like. But because of the location and context, we were limited to actions that were public relations exercises. This was a spectacle, but perhaps one with some lasting effects.

Me: I think many of these issues would have been solved simply if the camp had been longer. We were beginning to generate a flow. And then it ended! So many of the conflicts in the camp existed because we didn’t yet know each other, so there was this strange lack of trust between people. A kind of ‘why don’t you already talk in a language that I fully understand?’ If we had spent more time together I think we would have had the opportunity to develop a much greater understanding and solidarity between each other. And this gives me hope for the future. I don’t think we should be negative on this point, because I think there was a learning process throughout the camp. I certainly learned a lot about my own flexibility and understanding of the diversity in the network. You can come out of those conflicts aware of how to do things differently and better the next time.

Them: I have had lots of experience where anarchists are not forgiving and are judgemental. Will people continue to make these mistakes. I think there’s something in the mentality of anarchism that lends itself to judgement like we saw at the camp.

Me: I have great memories from our action outside the detention centre, when we were communicating with the people inside the centre.

Them:  Yeah there was a moment when someone shouted – in French – if anyone inside spoke French, and a guy replied ‘Oui’! and everyone roared a cheer. It was a connection.

Me: During that action all the cops were invisible really. They were simply standing there between a conversation they were not welcome to participate in.

Maybe we need to have more realistic expectations about what can be achieved in a camp. For me, the most useful thing is the chance to meet and share ideas with other people. To learn from each other. To make a temporary autonomous zone! For some this is not the point of the camp, but we are a diverse network. A NoBorder camp doesn’t exist in isolation. It exists as one type of strategic action in a whole series of actions by people connected to different networks. Perhaps there are scenarios where the local context, and the political situation and the targets exist in a way that means that other things are possible at a camp. For me Brussels was an example of when being so close to decision making powers was a perfect opportunity to really show our power. We were violently repressed but even that is a sign that we hit them where it hurt! In the context of Brussels, more antagonistic actions made sense. In somewhere like the border region of Bulgaria, there’s not those decision making powers. It’s site where decisions are acted, but not made, so the type of action in the context is different.

A large proportion of the camp came from western Europe. I think this generates a very specific way of conducting politics and making decision. A specific way of valuing, of keeping watch over racism and sexism that had a very distinct character to it. I think that if you already understood this way and were familiar with it, you would could feel very included within the camp, but if you weren’t familiar with it, it could have been very easy to have felt like an outsider in the camp, like you were doing it wrong.

Them: We also had the conversation about it being a privilege to go to a NoBorder camp and this is true in a lot of cases. But I definitely see the value in doing activism inside the borders. That’s where a lot of the power is. And then means that many people will be excluded. But I don’t necessarily think that this makes it a bad or valueless thing to do, because these camps are a part of a diversity of tactics. NoBorder camps are an opportunity to use our privilege. Some camps have been in the places of migrants and have generated a lot of solidarity. This location did not allow for that, but it was an opportunity for us to use our privilege to do something. Being aware that it is a privileged thing is important, but it is only one type of thing.

Me: OK, so we had some difficult conversations and pissed each other off a little, but in the end, a lot more was learnt and shared. What I love about camps like this is that, for a few days, everything you do is self-organised. From the showers to the dinners to the action of the camp, everything is DIY, collectively run and collectively agreed. Being a part of it is an experience which makes me feel that little bit more powerful. That little bit more positive about the future. Bring on the camp(s) in 2012!