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An Assembly of Well-Meaning People

anon | 01.08.2006 22:03 | Lebanon War 2006 | Anti-militarism | London

Tonight’s assembly in Central London for direct action against the invasion of Lebanon was not entirely unproductive. However the discussion often seemed to be going round in circles, with little progress being made towards the aim of ‘direct action’ and people feeling increasingly frustrated and drained. This scenario will have felt familiar to people who have attended similar meetings in the past. The problem, in a nutshell, is a fundamental flaw in the design of such meetings.

It would be absurd for somebody who thought capitalism should be destroyed to call an ‘ASSEMBLY OF WELL-MEANING PEOPLE’ in which to organise it. Upon proposing to destroy capitalism, discussion would inevitably turn to whether well-meaning people should support the destruction of capitalism, whether well-meaning people might be hurt in the process of destroying capitalism, what it means to be well-meaning, whether it could ever be well-meaning to destroy anything, and so on. The well-meaning people could not possibly reach agreement on these questions in the course of one meeting, and those who had already decided that capitalism should be destroyed would be no closer to their aim.

And so the organisers of assemblies of ‘direct action’ must be more specific. As long as the boundaries of discussion are made clear on the call-out for the meeting – so nobody turns up under the impression that ‘what it means to be well-meaning’ will be on the agenda – this is no less democratic than defining a meeting in broad terms such as ‘anti-capitalist’, and much more effective. We should not be bashful about making our call-outs ideologically and politically precise, and in some sense exclusive. This may deter those who actively disagree with us, but what use are they in our meetings anyway? Genuinely open-minded newcomers need not be alienated. They should be welcomed but it must be made clear that attendance is on the basis that discussion of the pre-announced ‘points of unity’ is saved for another time and place. At the start of the meeting, a short explanation of the points of unity by the organisers could serve to answer frequently asked questions.

All credit to those who took the initiative and called tonight’s meeting, sorted out the room, and attempted the impossible task of facilitating it. This is by no means an attack on them but hopefully a model for more effective meetings in future.



Concrete plans that came out of the meeting

01.08.2006 23:54

Perhaps this poster left before the end? - things improved, and concrete plans emerged.

For details, see

Anon Too


Display the following 2 comments

  1. the consensus process is necessarily full of spirals — sharon & tracey
  2. Hmmm ... — Tim