Isolated activism


Like the vast majority of anarchists, I've never lived anywhere that is a hotbed of activism really but at the moment I'm more isolated from political activism than I have ever been. I live in a country that is more authoritarian than most and I speak very little of the native language, so it's hard to be as politically active as I would like. So for both my own personal use and as a guide to others here are suggestions for what you can do as an isolated anarchist. I've split it into four short (often overlapping) sections; Your Local Area, Travelling Further Afield, The Internet and Your Skills.

Your Local Area

Even if you don't have an active anarchist group in your town, it doesn't mean you can't link up with people there. Do some research to see if there is anything going on in your town by looking around on the net and keep an eye out in the local papers. This maybe some sort of religious group that helps homeless people, there could be a Citizens Advice Bureaux (if you're in the UK) that you can volunteer at to give people advice on issues or maybe there is something that local residents are angry about that you can help organise around. Just keep your eye out and if something pops up, then go for it. Where it's possible try add some more radical input but try remain pragmatic.

Also, something as obvious as just talking to your friends about political issues is better than doing nothing. Don't be afraid to talk about things but at the same time don't go on about politics all the time or go anarcho-puritan on them every time you disagree on something. Plant some seeds and you maybe surprised how many grow.

I found out there were some labour rights NGOs operating in my local area and wanting volunteers, unfortunately due to my crap level of Mandarin I was politely told I would be useless. So I'm still a bit stuck on things to do locally but I try not to hide my anarchist identity even though it can be hard for people to understand what I'm on about.

Travelling Further Afield

This is something that is hard to do as it will probably cost you money and will be quite time consuming for little reward (depending on how far you have to travel), but it is always good to actually get out there and be with like minded people in an attempt to improve social conditions. It can also be hard to know where to travel to and when to do it, so first of all you will have to do some research on the internet.

Are there any big demos or industrial actions coming up? Sites like the J30 and N30 ones have been very good use for UK based activists to find out about picket lines and demos for national public sector strikes but check out all the trade union sites for information too. If there is a big demo that you can get to then try and get down for the day and add your support.

Are there any social centres that you can pop into? There are social centres all over the world and are often hubs for political activism. A good site to find if there are any near you is this radical contact list. It might be a good idea to try contact the centre before hand as they only may be open at certain times of the day and on certain days of the week.

Are there any branches of an anarchist (or similar) group around? Look at all the different national and international organisations you know of (and would like to work with), see if they are active in somewhere that you can travel to. Also, use a search engine to search for keywords that include any nearby cities or towns (e.g. anarchists London) and ask around on some of the anarchist forums about if there any active anarchists in your region.

If you can find some information on a city that is within travelling distance on any of this then it may be worth a day/weekend trip to be apart of them. There is nothing that compares to actually be involved physically in a movement, even if it's only once in a blue moon, so if you can save a bit of money up then don't be afraid to do it. Once you get some contacts in an area then you'll pretty soon have some free crash space making it easier to afford more frequent travels to that area.

For me personally to do this I have take a journey to Hong Kong. I just recently stayed at the Occupy camp there, helping out where I could and asking lots of questions about what is happening in the area. I hope to make stronger links with the activists involved especially the anarchists as well as the Marxist groups and other class conscious activists. I learnt a lot about what is going on there, which otherwise I just couldn't find out, and it has given me a glimpse of what the possibilities are for me being active in the future.

The Internet

If you're reading this, then you obviously know what it is. You can use this in a variety of ways from something as simple as sharing articles with friends on facebook or twitter. Contribute to forums like libcom and don't be afraid to get stuck into discussions. Maybe you could write your own blog, contribute to an existing website or comment on blog posts, news sites, Youtube etc.

One thing that is good about the internet is that it gives you a good chance to write your own thoughts down, which will help you refine your ideas, so try go past just posting one-liners on forums and add some depth to your posts. In the short term your posts may not be the best but it is a good way to improve your own theory. And if you are criticised, then don't take things to heart as nobody has perfect politics (except me anyway wink). Then if you're feeling confident, try start a blog or contribute to an existing one if you feel you have a perspective to offer to the world.

I used to have my own (not very successful) blog, which I decided to fold once I moved out of the UK and after a break from doing much on the net, I'm trying to do a bit more to contribute to libcom (like me starting this blog). It's a great resource that is growing and improving all the time and has great potential to do more.

Your Skills

Do you have any skills that can be made use of? If you are a talented designer then create some posters or help with leaflet layouts. If you are a talented musician then add some political content to your music and raise some awareness at gigs. If you like making films then edit some footage together and post it on the net.

I could keep on going but I think you get the idea. With the internet, you can link up with other people online and make your skills available to others who lack these skills. If you're willing to put the time in then a lot is possible.

I have a background in web design and development, so hopefully this may help me a bit but haven't made much use of these skills recently. In the past, however, I've used them for groups I was involved in.


So, yeh. Being isolated is pretty shit and it will always piss you off somewhat but you can still do something useful with your time. Just keep on making contacts and keep in contact with other like-minded people close to home and further afield. Make use of the internet and whatever skills you have. It will be hard to keep motivated sometimes but you just have to try persevere.


Jan 12 2012 00:35

Nice one bulmer, pretty much spot on in terms of being isolated ( I know the feeling, having a long commute to branch meetings is proper shit! That doesn't really compare to having bad Mandarin in China though, wow eek ).

In one way, it's actually quite positive being isolated, because you push yourself to get active/politicise people, just so you aren't isolated anymore.

Likewise, once you start, people will come out of the woodwork. For example, Ireland is having it's own kind of poll tax moment, and from getting involved in that mass campaign, you discover there are more people around than you think, to a suprising degree.

All the best! smile