One of the first things I did when I arrived was to attend a meeting on anarcha-feminism. Although the programme called it a round table it was really an assembly. I soon understood that there were many problems with misogynistic behaviour at the camp, which is why a women-only meeting had been called to discuss a chart which we hoped to distribute at the gathering to draw attention to pressing gender-related issues. It was a bit of a shock to realize that there is such a thing as macho anarchists (I will come back to this in a future post), but the assembly I took part in was extremely interesting since it was my first direct experience of anarchist decision making. First, translators volunteered for four languages and a moderator was appointed. Then, the chart prepared by a work group was presented and discussed, using a few hand signals in order to facilitate consensual decision making without any interuption. A microphone was passed to women who wished to contribute to the discussion. We were sitting in a half circle, which made it fairly easy to see what was happening among us and react to it. Once it was clear that we were going to print out the chart as it stood, someone volunteered to translate it into Spanish and money was collected to cover the costs. Then, at the request of a group of women who had encountered problems the previous night – and with the support and concern from other women in the group – the discussion turned to their experience. Finally, another meeting was scheduled for the same day as a follow-up.
The organization of the anarcha-feminist meeting was far from perfect: the topic jumped back and forth at times, everyone couldn’t see everyone else, I volunteered to translate into English but never found out for whom I was supposed to translate, and some hands were raised longer than others before receiving a microphone. The meeting was effective but far from seamless. Still, it showed me exactly how a consensual decision is reached in a large group, how everyone can get heard, and how to make the most of the resources at hand. More importantly, I realized how willing I am to take part when I feel truly included. I had only just arrived and didn’t know anyone, and yet I was able not only to sit and understand but to participate actively in the process. It gave me faith that self-management is very effective when it is properly structured, and that everyone can be involved in decision-making.