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TUCoPS :: Truly Miscellaneous :: sp0003~1.txt

Proposal for a Decentralized Communications Network to link autonomous groups and individuals





PROPOSAL FOR A DECENTRALIZED COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK TO LINK AUTONOMOUS
GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS

What you are reading is a first draft proposal written mainly by one person
(Sprite) with only a little outside input so far. It is doubtless full of
errors, inconsinstencies, and in some cases redundant. I am hoping to get
lots of feedback from others so that it can be added to, edited, and
developed into a nice, beautiful proposal that will lead to actual
organizing and ultimately to a social revolution by oh, say christmas. So
get to work, kidz!

In the wake of the split in the Love & Rage Network, we see the chance for
a truly decentralized, bottom-up, organic network for communication &
mutual aid. To a large extent, this network, however small and scattered,
already exists and functions. We would like to see it become more
organized, and develop into a full spiderweb of interconnected autonomous
groups.

Much of our ideas for this proposal are based on the European Counter
Network (ECN), the Spinnennetz, the Infoshop Network, and your average
activist phone tree. For more info on these, we suggest contacting the 56a
Infoshop (ECN)/56a Crampton Rd./London SE 17/UK, or reading the article in
Clash #8 on Spinnennetz and the article in Slingshot #48 on Infoshops.

This proposal for the actual organization of this network is really rather
simple, and is based on a few assumptions:
1) Electronic networking (e-mail, bbs's, irc's, etc.) is currently the
quickest and easiest means for communication and the transfer of news &
information, altho all mediums (...) should be used.
2) the current situation of the N. American anarchist/autonomist/anti-auth.
movement is that there are several regions that pretty much have their shit
together (NY, Philly, Twin Cities, SF, Chicago, Toronto, etc. etc.) and for
a network to start, the seed would best be planted in those areas, where it
can grow and stretch out to others.

Reasons For Communication

There so many reasons such an infoexchange is desirable...
1) To provide an alternative media, which would counter the lies and
illusions of the capitalist media. To create a forum for our own voices and
analyses to be heard, debated, and acted upon.
2) To break down the isolation, to promote communication, so that small,
poorly-financed, or regionally isolated groups can still participate fully
in the movement and connect with all other areas of the movement.
3) To encourage solidarity work and mutual aid. Today's technological
advances allow quick transmission of data, thus allowing us to react
promptly and be increasingly effective.
4) The exchange of information produces consequences. Infoexchange helps
create alternative communication structures and promotes a mutual learning
effect where we can draw from each other's experiences as well as develop
internal dialogue for change.
5) Data communication supports personal communication. Interaction will
help unify our movement as well as draw us closer to each other personally.

The Proposal

To create a network of communication, using all available means:
electronic/e-mail/bbs's, phone, fax, mail, infoshops, pirate radio/tv,
papers, hotlines, etc. This network would be decentralized,
non-hierarchical, non-partisan, and dedicated to the exchange of
information.

To start:
1) We get together at least one collective/infoshop/group/whatever in each
currently active area who will take up responsibility as a
communication-info-exchange node/nexus/crosspoint (Node) for their area.
These Node groups will preferably be groups that have access to internet as
well as other resources that would allow them to transfer info to and from
many groups.

The Node groups will basically serve as an exchange point. They will keep
contact (lists) with all their local area groups, as well as all the other
Nodes. Likewise, local groups will keep contact primarily with their area
Node, but also the other Nodes.

The functioning is rather simple: Say a local group has an incident where
they want other groups all over to take action on that week. They either
contact all nodes across the land, if they have the resources, or if they
don't, they take it to their area Node, who transmit it to the other Nodes
for them. When Node X (an example) at the other end of the continent gets
the info, they disseminate it to their local area groups, using all means
appropriate & necessary. The other Nodes do likewise. Thus, info gets out
to all groups in contact with the web fairly quickly, and without a lot of
work by one group.

POINTS TO PONDER

o Contact lists should be kept by all the Node groups that list their local
groups and what mediums of communication they have access to.

o Node groups should have internet access, because at the present time it
is the easiest & fastest way to transfer info. This will help accelerate
the pace of solidarity/mutual aid work, as well as making the transfer less
of a burden. If possible, Nodes should have more than one internet account.

o When Node groups disseminate info, they should utilize all the
appropriate mediums. Of course, this will also depend on the specific Node
group and what resources they have.

o A primary focus on disseminating info should be given to other groups
that will help spread the info further. For example, pirate radio/tv,
frequently published papers, infoshops, hotline numbers, etc.

o There are basically 3 aspects to disseminating info. First, there is
time-sensitive info, usually solidarity work, that needs to be gotten out
in a quick way (phone banking, faxing, etc.). Then there's regular news
that can go out in periodic updates (papers, zines, flyers, mailings, free
radio/tv, hotlines). Then there's having space where people can come and
find information (infoshops, archives, bbs's).

o The Node groups and their contact numbers should be distributed widely,
to as many groups as possible. Not only will this increase the amount of
news/info fed into the network, but it will provide local groups with the
info necessary to contact other Nodes should their area Node fall apart,
suffer from repression, or act discriminatorily. Thus the elimination or
inapppropriate actions of one Node will not be debilitating to the web, as
the rest of the structure will fill in the gap.

o Obviously, there is going to be a large burden taken up by Node groups.
They should not take up the responsibility lightly. For obvious reasons,
groups that already have info-exchange apparati in place, like groups that
publish papers, etc. would be best suited for the job. However, as these
groups are usually overburdened already, an option is for a less busy group
who wants to take up the Node responsibility using the facilitities that
more resourced groups have. This might make things a bit crowded and hectic
in some places, but the leeching group could also focus on developing the
resources of the group they leech from, or otherwise develop a symbiotic
relationship.

o A lot of hoopla gets made about developing National Projects, on the
supposition that such projects will be stronger and more effective when
supported nationally. While this is true, it is also true that such
projects tend to detract significantly from work done on the local level.
This network, once enacted, will hopefully solve this problem. Instead of
focusing on National Projects, calls can be put out over the Web, which
will undoubtedly be taken up by groups so inclined all over. The beauty of
this is that each locale will work on the call/project as much as they see
fit. Coalitions can be built, actions done, etc., all on the level that
local group want to put into it.

o The idea of a national/continental anarchist paper has also been raised
often, one which would report on and be a resource for the entire @
movement, yet it is my opinion that at this time such a project is too
ambitious, both because our movement is so small and because papers are an
incredible work-money effort. Considering also that there are already
several @ papers with a local bent but national+ distribution (WCF,
Slingshot, Profane, 5th Estate, Shadow, to name a few), it also seems
unnecessary. I would rather we encourage nodes or other local groups to
develop similar publications for their area.... Consider also that such
papers can be posted in electronic form and widely distributed to other
Nodes.

o Some people feel that networks like this should be based on a mutual set
of agreed upon principles. Again, i feel that because we are starting with
groups that do agree on basic things like self-management, non-hierarchy,
anti-capitalism, etc., that the network will organically reach out to other
like-minded groups. Thus any formal statements of principle, political
statements, etc. ad nauseum, can be chucked out the door.

o There is, of course, the danger that Node groups will not be impartial in
their dealings with other groups. To a certain extant, this cannot be
avoided, and is a struggle to be dealt with at the local level. However, it
is important that this should not become a hindrance to the network, and so
bypasses are needed. First and foremost, is that each group in the network
know of and have contact with other Node groups. Secondly, this kind of
divisive and sectarian behavior should be actively struggled against, and
pressure should be brought upon those groups that act in this manner.

o The interconnectedness is also beneficial, not only as a bypass, but also
in the case of groups breaking up, slowing down, or facing repression.
Their absence will be taken up and filled by other parts of the web.

o It is hopeful that this network would extend beyond @ groups to other
autonomist, anti-authoritarian, and non-authoritarian groupings. Frankly,
this kind of diversity can only serve to liven up the variety of input and
bounce more ideas off of each other, not to mention sharing of experiences,
thus leading towards more change and understanding of each other. Some
people fear that this openness will lead to infiltration and disruption by
authoritarian groups and the like. However, considering that no group in
the Network should (theoretically) ever develop too much power (as long as
groups remain interconnected), and that disruptive elements can be easily
bypassed, or even pressured by other network groups into changing or
else...this should not be a problem. I actually see the network naturally
just connecting @/a-a/non-a groups because those groups gravitate towards
each other, so authoritarian groups should not often be a problem.

o This network, unlike a national organization, should not detract from a
local emphasis. In fact, it should actually aid in the development of
counter-institutions, as it will support both infoexchange and mutual aid,
without taking away time & energy from local work.

o A major focus of this network should be on expansion. First, the areas
that are not covered by the web need to be reached, helped into developing
their own institutions, and brought into the network. Second, an effort
needs to be made to get the info out of the activist ghetto, to jane & joe
average on the street. This outreach could fall as a task to be taken up by
the infoshops, free radio/tv, papers, etc. It is a crucial aspect that
should not be glossed over.

o This ties in with another focus i feel this network should have: creating
counter-institutions. Obviously, the network itself is all about creating
an alternative & oppositional media, but i feel it should also work towards
helping the development of community-based counter-institutions,
particularly infoshops/community centers, but also all other areas that are
both helpful & essential: medical, food, housing/shelter, clothing,
cooperative work, transportation, education, childcare, etc. etc. This
stems from my philosophy that info & theory & education help alter people's
mindsets, but usually only actual EXPERIENCE causes people to change
themselves radically, which is what we need. I feel we need to work on
developing counter- institutions that will reach out to people and give
them those experiences (collective work, mutual aid, self-determination,
non-hierarchy, etc. etc.).

o To facilitate the growth and change of this network, it has been
suggested that yearly conferences/gatherings could help bring it together.
However, i feel that considering the area we are covering and restraints
that keep people from travelling far, regional gatherings would be more
democratic and productive, and they already go on anyway! Also, Node
groups, since they have internet access, can regularly conference via IRCs,
or other internet mediums (MUDs, etc.)

o In terms of info-exchange, a clear source and time-effect for information
is important as the context of the info's source is invaluable in deciding
how to react to/integrate it, and the time restraints in organizing
solidarity/aid are crucial.

o Exchange is encouraged to be as personal as possible. Rather than
recreating the capitalist media, which produces info for consumption, we
want the info to have a consequence. Thus we want to promote the exchange
of ideas about long-term perspectives and actions like discussion papers,
background info, theoretical works, and political/practical education.

o While we use computers because of their effectiveness, we must be clear
about the problems they pose: privacy, hacking, lack of personal
creativity/expression in computer text, all the way to the seperation of
concepts from reality.

o A good form for reports is like this:
1) Background: story of politics and practices of group.
2) Situation: political and tactical concept of action/event, expectations.
3) The Event: what happened, where & when, what didn't happen, details,
expectations fulfilled or not.
4) Reaction: how to react? own activities, expectation to the audience.
5) Consequences: discussions that followed, other events
6) Practical Info
7) Future Perspective

o Security is also an issue, and security precautions should always be
taken, especially in terms of phone and mail contact. Encryption (pgp)
should be used when appropriate for electronic transactions (and pgp keys
should be verified!).

o Another goal for the network could be the establishing of autonomous
electronic info-mediums, such as bbs's. Quite a few underground bbs's today
are linked together into their own small nets. An autonomous info-net,
complete with bbs's linked to infoshops linked to papers and pirate
radio-tv would just give me orgasms.

o We would of course, need some kinda hot sexy name for this
network-web-linkage thang. "Spiderweb" is too cheesy for us. The only other
suggestion so far is "the Matrix". yeah, we're goofy cyberpunx, so there.

Getting Started

So to get this network going, we need to start by having several groups
volunteer to be Nodes for their areas. If necessary, we can come up with
some sort of validation procedure, like getting endorsed by 10 local groups
or some such. Anyways, once we have groups who will be Nodes, they need to
start developing contact lists as well as ties with their local groups
(gee, imagine that!). Then, as info comes out, the exchange should begin,
and i figure it will develop organically from there.

A major hurdle we face is expanding the web into areas that are currently
"dead". Most areas just need some impetus to get a little more organized.
Hopefully once an area is contacted and jacked into the info-web, the flow
of info-ideas will help spark some action & development...but we might need
to think farther than this.

One suggestion is to re-inact the early 1900s Wobbly program of sending out
organizers into areas that are ripe for things to happen. These organizers
would move in, and for a long time (several months), just get accustomed to
the situation. Listen & observe. Then, when they have a solid grasp on
things, they get involved, and start organizing. When things are standing
on their own feet in the area, they pack up and move on. Obviously, a
long-term project not to be taken lightly. And this is just one idea...

All in all, this network will be what we make of it. It can only function
if many different political groups and collectives take part in its
structure. We have an opportunity to create a healthy, living, network
organism that can unite us and support our interaction while retaining our
autonomy. It's all up to us.

We hope to hear criticisms and ideas people have. Please direct your
comments to us by one of these mediums: c/o WCF, P.O.Box 81961, Chicago, IL
60681, U$A (312) 455-0707 (fax also available, call first) email:
thak@midway.uchicago.edu



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