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Spring 2019 General Assembly

You’re invited to Olympia Assembly’s upcoming general assembly on May 4th at 1:00pm @ Sylvester Park.
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Olympia Assembly is a libertarian socialist organization, connecting people from a variety of backgrounds and political perspectives around the principles of participatory democracy, direct action, collective liberation and solidarity, cooperative economics and mutual aid, and ecological stewardship. We seek to advance a platform to transform our city, region and the world along horizontal and cooperative lines and to provide a practical and revolutionary structure for non-ruling class people to resist systems of domination and hierarchy. We will work in solidarity with other regional and global efforts working towards a new politics of participatory democracy, ecology, freedom and socialism.

Our general assemblies occur four times per year and are a place for community members and radicals to come together to discuss the essential social, political and economic issues pertinent to the community at large & brainstorm radical, direct action and mutual aid based solutions to them. The discussions at these general assemblies helps to determine the focus of Olympia Assembly as an organization for the next several months.

The agenda will be popularly generated by participants, so bring ideas and discussion topics that are important to you and the community at large.

“Doors” will open at 1:00 pm for a potluck and the assembly will be from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm.

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Science-Fiction, Dystopia and Utopia – April Reading group

Sunday, April 7, 2019, 2 PM – 4 PM @ 115 Legion Way SE, Olympia, WA

This month we’ll be reading and discussing the articles Dystopias Now by Kim Stanley Robinson and The Limits of Utopia by China Miéville.

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Join us for a  discussion of these two short articles by science fiction authors K on dystopias and utopias and how they shape the lens that we interpret the world through and affect our organizing.

Reading group texts do not necessarily represent Olympia Assembly, we read them for critical engagement and discussion.

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Dual Power, Revolution and Symbiosis – March Reading Group

Sunday, March 3, 2019, 2 PM – 4 PM @ 115 Legion Way SE, Olympia, WA

This month we’ll be discussing three different pieces on Dual Power: Revolution is not a metaphor by Sophia Burns, Base-Building: Activist Networking or Organizing the Unorganized? by Tim Horras, and an excerpt from Community, Democracy, and Mutual Aid: Toward Dual Power and Beyond by the Symbiosis Research Collective.

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Olympia Assembly has recently voted to join Symbiosis, an organization which seeks to connect municipalist organizations across the globe to fight for socialism using the tactic of dual power. An Olympia Assembly member (Paige) has brought up that the definition of dual Power used by Symbiosis misrepresents that tactic and portrays it as a method of replacing the economy one co-op at a time rather than a means to build capacity for a revolutionary movement. As stated on the Symbiosis website, “This dual power strategy can help sustain our communities under capitalism, channel our collective action to fight back more effectively, and eventually supplant the institutions of capitalism to become the governing structures of the liberated society.”

Dual power is a term first used by Lenin and Trotsky during the Russian socialist revolution in 1917. To them, the goal of dual power was not to “supplant” the economy, but a means of building an alternative to win a contestation for power, overthrow the Duma government in an insurrection, and establish a socialist government. While the conditions of the world today have changed, and socialists cannot seek to simply copy and paste the tactics of past revolutionaries, a tradition of dual power has been carried on by various Marxist tendencies.

I am recommending two short pieces of reading for this discussion, all that deal with the long term goal of dual power (referred to as base-building in the first article). While the differences may not seem that large, the long term trajectory of a socialist project is very important. Supplanting an economy through co-ops and building revolutionary power share similar tactics in the short term, but without a plan, we very well may lose the class struggle. I hope this can lead to some thoughtful discussion.

~Paige

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Social Reproduction Theory – February Reading Group

This month we will be reading and discussing the essay “Without Reserves” by Salar Mohandesi and Emma Teitelman. Download a pdf here.
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Radical economic analysis has long focused on the conditions and exploitation of workers in the workplace. In the 1970s Marxist-feminists sought to broaden this focus from the production of commodities to the production of life generally. This theoretical intervention, social reproduction theory, particularly highlighted the myriad gendered and often unwaged activities that characterized household labor. Social reproduction theory has now conceptually expanded beyond the household and nuclear family to examine the numerous ways capitalist society is reproduced outside the workplace – whether through gender, race, state violence or market exploitation. This month’s reading, Without Reserves, offers a history of U.S. capitalism from a social reproduction perspective.

In addition to the reading, here is a short introductory video on social reproduction theory:
https://www.plutobooks.com/blog/video-what-is-social-reproduction-theory/

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OlySol Response to Recent Olympian Editorial

For reference, here is a link to the original Olympian article:
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Dear Olympian Editorial Board,

From the beginning, your skewed coverage has made it clear that the Olympian sided with anti-homeless downtown business/property owners, and was unwilling to provide a fair and balanced depiction of what OlySol is actually doing and why. But OlySol members are glad that the Olympian Editorial Board finally came out and put their bias on full display.

The Olympian uncritically prints claims of business owners saying they “feel threatened”, in spite of the fact that they don’t have a single documented example of any threats from OlySol. OlySol has never committed any violent acts or threatened violence against anyone. Meanwhile, the comments sections on the Olympian’s Facebook page are full of business owners and their far-right allies making calls for mass murder and violence against the homeless population and OlySol. There, anti-homeless advocates are calling for the starving, violent displacement, and killing of homeless people as well as  wishing that everyone in the homeless camps would die of overdoses. They are calling for white nationalist organizations to show up in town and form vigilante street patrols and “clean things up”. Business owners are calling for tougher vagrancy laws, increased policing, and employing private security to expel homeless people from safe sleeping locations downtown, putting their lives and wellbeing  at risk. If the Olympian Editorial Board really cared about “violence” or about people feeling threatened, they would be publishing articles about the threats faced by the homeless community, about the violence of gentrification, the violence of the white nationalist groups – threats coming from the well off downtown business and property owners that the Olympian has sided with.

OlySol, which is busy organizing material aid projects, such as Mutual Aid Mondays, for the homeless and preventing private security guards from harassing people while they sleep are “enemies of the homeless”. Organizing working-class people to fight back against anti-homeless campaigns is “creating division” instead of “unity”. Meanwhile, greedy landlords and business owners are literally creating homelessness by driving up rents and paying low wages, so that people can’t afford housing. But they are portrayed by the Olympian as compassionate and caring members of the community who are trying to solve “the homeless problem” (i.e. the proximity and visibility of homelessness to the monied interests of downtown.) If only these meddling kids at OlySol would just “grow up” and stop getting in the way of more “civilized” efforts to make things “safer” and more “vibrant” by driving all of the homeless people out of town, so that downtown businesses can make more money.

The Olympian Editorial Board’s proposed solution is to deploy police violence against OlySol, encouraging the arrest of OlySol members if they protest again. On what grounds? The Olympia Police Department, while I’m sure they’d love to arrest and suppress OlySol members, has already made clear in public statements that they cannot arrest OlySol for exercising their legally protected first amendment rights to protest. If you think that the non-violent forms of protest that OlySol has been using (street demonstrations, flyers, social media campaigns, etc) are not “civilized”, what exactly would you suggest that community members do? The fact is that OlySol’s tactics have worked, and that the influential business and property owners you represent are angry about that, and are using the Olympian to run a propaganda campaign painting their opponents as terrorists.

OlySol gives a thumbs down to the Olympian for blindly reprinting the lies of greedy, anti-homeless business owners and landlords who want to see OlySol members in prison on “terrorism” charges, and the homeless community either dead or violently expelled from Olympia.

OlySol gives a thumbs up to the working-class people who have showed up to support and participate in solidarity actions, collectively proving that direct actions gets the goods (although it might make you some enemies on the editorial board of the local paper).

 

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OlySol Public Statement on “Terrorism” Smear Campaign:

Lately, Olympia Solidarity Network has been subject to increasingly normalized slander through a highly liberal application of the term “terrorism.” Downtown business/property owners, Olympia residents and Olympia City Council member, Lisa Parshley, have all directly participated in this jingoistic smear campaign. These claims have been amplified by The Olympian and right-wing talk radio station KVI. Both of these media platforms interviewed Amy Evans, of real estate firm, Kidder Mathews. She has largely originated the local terrorism panic. Much of the fear-mongering has been in response to OlySol’s use of patrol disruptions, a tactic which yielded success in the campaign to suspend the anti-homeless Downtown Safety Team security scheme. However, comments on social media alluded to OlySol’s supposed “terroristic,” “threatening” and “bullying” tendencies long before even this tactic was used.

 

OlySol’s disruptions of the Downtown Safety Team nightly patrols have been labeled “terrorism” despite the fact that they were clear legal expressions of first amendment rights. When Amy Evans was asked on KVI what kind of threats were made to the guards during the disruptions, Amy Evans admitted that she did not actually know of any examples.  No physical altercations occurred and no one was harmed during these disruptions. The same cannot be said about the Downtown Safety Team’s efforts. These efforts inflicted harm upon houseless people by sweeping alcoves and actively contributing to cycles of displacement and criminalization that cause adverse effects to their health and wellbeing. Moreover, OlySol and CopWatch members experienced assault on multiple occasions from Safety Team guards while attempting to legally monitor their activity. OlySol does not dispute claims that Safety Team guards felt uncomfortable during the disruptions. However, terrorism isn’t reducible to discomfort and if it were the term’s pervasiveness would yield it inconsequential.

 

The use of masks by demonstrators has largely been cited as evidence of terrorism.  It is true that many demonstrators wore masks and costumes. It is also true that some of these people wore black clothing.  However, many chose not to protect their identity. Everyone has their individual motivations for wanting to remain anonymous, but the widespread use of masks was largely motivated by attempts to falsely incriminate demonstrators in the past by the former Safety Team, the Downtown Ambassadors, and the Olympia Police Department.  There is still one demonstrator facing trumped up felony charges stemming from a patrol disruption in October. Rather than spend months or years unexpectedly navigating the legal system due to false accusations, many opted to protect their identities.

 

As is often the case, the term “terrorism” is employed as an expression of hysteria and desperation. Divorced from any consistent and meaningful definition, “terrorism” is used solely to condemn, skirting further critical investigation. “Terrorists” become the scapegoat, preventing the exposure of more fundamental, underlying social issues. At its worst, “terrorism” is the justification for incarcerating the innocent, torturing detainees, and slaughtering civilian populations.

 

In the context of OlySol’s Safe Sleep campaign, it is important to not only analyze OlySol’s conduct but also the nature and content of the campaign’s subjects, the Downtown Safety Team particularly and the downtown business class generally.

Before the disruptions, OlySol used tactics such as demand deliveries, phone zaps, postering campaigns and street theater. These tactics were labeled as “threatening” and “bullying” on social media and by Olympia Downtown Alliance director, Todd Cutts. These tactics were perfectly legal expressions of first amendment rights. The question of whether OlySol exhibited such behaviors is not the real question though. What should be asked is who initiated the cycle of such behavior and relations? OlySol did not initiate the mass displacement of houseless people from one of the few and inadequate options for safer sleeping. OlySol did not hire muscle to threaten and bully people who often do not have the means to access consistent shelter. OlySol does not mobilize large groups of business/property owners to City Council meetings to threaten and bully elected representatives to in turn act as the bullies toward the houseless on behalf of the business class. What should one do if they, their friends and/or their family were being categorized as undesirable by a connected and influential class of people and then slated for removal by them? Why are small business/local property owners exempt from criticisms, even as they systematically exhibit the behavior they accuse others of?

 

Right-wingers online have gleefully taken advantage of the escalating rhetoric of “terrorism” to level death threats against OlySol members and houseless people. Comments on social media have suggested far-right and notoriously violent vigilante groups, posses, and mercenaries assume downtown security patrols in lieu of the former Safety Team. There have also been calls for OlySol members to be “hauled off”, “cleansed” from downtown, shot in the streets, and suppressed with fire hoses. One person claiming to be a business owner expressed interest in forming a patrol with “relaxed rules of engagement” and “Sherman’s type of warfare.” Local business owner Casey Carlson is one commenter who called for mercenaries and cleansing. There has also been a call to starve the houseless, to let them all overdose, and “send the bums packing” regardless if “a few get hurt in the process” in response to the OlySol campaign. Also in response, local landlord Darin Richards has stated, “Push those worthless bums into the sound #crabfood.”

 

Another instance of reported violence originating from the business class was perpetrated by Brad Beadle, the owner of Pizza Time’s downtown Olympia location, and two others at a meeting primarily attended by business/property owners and ODA representatives. They physically attacked an individual at the meeting assuming this lone person was protesting it. This person had arrived to the meeting late and was silently observing until he attracted the attention of attendees who thought he should not be there. The vast majority of business/property owners who witnessed the attack felt emboldened enough to lie to police and say the observer initiated the assault. The police released all involved parties since the vast majority of statements made to them contradicted the physical evidence of the assault.

 

Accusations of terrorism levelled at OlySol have served to legitimize threats of violence and violence against anyone who even appears to oppose the business class’ agenda. It is an attempt to limit freedom of expression and speech with the threat of violent retaliation from the state, vigilantes, and the business class. It is a damaging trend for all those who seek to stand up for themselves and others in the face of injustice and disregard. It should not be tolerated by anyone who wishes to see significant movement from the status quo in this society and the world.

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Reflections on Olympia Assembly: An Experiment in Popular Power

Reposted from Institute for Social Ecology

By  David Goldman

What Is Olympia Assembly?

Olympia Assembly started in March of 2017, amidst ecological and political catastrophe. It was created as a communal assembly project, coalescing around points of unity such as direct democracy, non-hierarchy, ecology, mutual aid, and direct action. The goal of the organization is to build the new world in the shell of the old by creating the building blocks of a libertarian socialist dual power project. It seeks to meet people’s needs and decentralize power, leading to a crisis of legitimacy for the state where people powered institutions are posed against hierarchical structures.

Olympia Assembly (OA) has launched a variety of collectives, mutual aid projects, direct actions, and educational projects in our city of 50,000 people. At our assemblies and general meetings, people deliberate and co-author decisions to be implemented by the group according to the principles of deliberation, direct democracy, and participatory relationships. We have embedded collectives and delegates that implement decisions within the limits of the policy made at the base of the general meetings. At meetings, people bring discussion topics and proposals to the table and we create a participatory agenda. When there are proposals, we deliberate, filter decisions through our points of unity, and then vote. During deliberation, people can bring forward questions, concerns, amendments, critiques, and dissent. This lets us round out decisions, and as a result, we almost always come to a unanimous or near-unanimous agreement – even during mass assemblies. When there is disagreement, we use simple majority decision making. We are working on fleshing out our bylaws.

What We Do

Olympia Assembly working groups are often ephemeral and geared towards a particular project – seasonal assemblies, mutual aid events, protests, or other periodic events – and then disappear. However, it has also created some ongoing projects such as the Olympia Solidarity Network, Mutual Aid Mondays, and Olympia Community Medics.

Olympia Solidarity network, or OlySol, is an anti-capitalist direct action working group connected to Olympia Assembly. It has had four direct action victories since starting in the late summer of 2017. OlySol won back a tenant’s stolen deposit through a demand delivery and an office picket. We won back a worker’s stolen wages through a fifty-person demand delivery. Using direct action, we won repairs for over 100 tenants at a low-income housing complex. This involved flyering door to door at the apartment complex, meeting with tenants, picketing the management office, flyering against the local management company and at the houses and neighborhoods of the management in Seattle. OlySol just won a campaign against a private security firm hired by building owners to sweep houseless people out of alcoves at night. That campaign involved everything from flyering multiple cities, picketing outside of businesses, phone zaps, mass leafleting, bank shutdowns, and disruptions of the private security force.

Mutual Aid Mondays is a weekly project that provides houseless camps in Olympia with free food, clothes, hygiene materials, tarps, tents, blankets, sleeping bags, coffee, first aid supplies, and literature. Emerging from an alliance between Olympia Assembly and four other organizations, Mutual Aid Mondays provide material assistance to those most in need and helps build relationships between radicals and the houseless population. Occupying public space, these camps provide houseless people with a place to stay –although not an ideal one – and are the vanguard against encroaching rent increases and real estate investment.

Incubated at the 2018 Spring Assembly, Olympia Community Medics (OCM) is a medic collective for street protests and houseless people. OCM has helped with multiple marches, protests, and anti-fascist demonstrations as well as providing weekly medical supplies to houseless people around downtown. The collective works closely with Olympia Assembly, OlySol, and Mutual Aid Mondays.

Olympia Assembly has also helped on several other actions and events. We have worked with Just Housing, a local houseless solidarity organization, on civil disobedience campaigns. Over twenty people from our first Assembly participated in a camp-in organized by Just Housing that broke the city’s unjust “no sitting/laying” ordinance. Throughout our first summer, we helped with weekly non-violent direct-action campaigns at city hall, providing people, promotion, and material support for the actions. We have also recently started working on creating a tenant’s assembly focused on the Eastside region of Olympia.

Olympia Assembly has initiated other mutual aid events that provided free tools and food to people, especially houseless people, including a neighborhood block party with free food, music, clothes, and literature. We have also thrown benefit shows for Rojava that became among the biggest DIY parties of the year, distributing libertarian socialist literature, screening a documentary about Rojava, and raising money for Afrin. We also put on a benefit show to support Just Housing’s work.

We held a community forum on gentrification and a new condominium complex being built downtown. We have handed out thousands of pamphlets throughout the city about libertarian socialism and related issues. We have used our networks to help with action projects throughout the city and beyond. OA helped the local IWW and DSA chapter put on a May Day event in 2018 that had over two hundred people. Our popular education reading group has read everything from Bookchin texts to Jackson Rising by Kali Akuno.

In 2018, Oly Assembly helped organize people in the Pacific Northwest to attend the Institute for Social Ecology Summer Intensive in Poulsbo, Washington. Olympia Assembly and Solidarity Network members spoke at the Fearless Cities conference in New York and at a communist forum in Seattle that featured Kali Akuno from Cooperation Jackson. Olympia Assembly has helped inspire multiple other projects; our assembly model, solidarity network, and Rojava solidarity projects have been emulated in other cities.

One of the most important aspects of Olympia Assembly has been training people in how to structure participatory and democratic meetings. People have also learned how to do promotion, relationship building, and implementing policy made by the base. Learning from our successes and failures, these organizational skills provide tools and insights that we can take into other projects and other organizations.

Although there are limits to our organization and area that require improvement, we have done pretty well for an organization that is only a year and a half old.

Challenges of Communalist Organizing

One fundamental issue with Communalist organizing is how to apply the general principles to particular contexts. Doing this in your city in 2018 will be distinct from applying such principles in Rojava in 2011 or Jackson Mississippi in 2016. Some important questions to ask when starting a Communalist project are: What forces are opposed to a Communalist project? What institutional and cultural infrastructure exists in your region that is sympathetic to it? What relationships do you and fellow organizers already have? How can we best apply these general principles to particular contexts? And how do we embed our daily work in a larger political strategy?

In our own local work, Olympia Assembly has confronted a variety of challenges. One of the biggest was an initial organizational identity crisis. There were radically different visions for what Olympia Assembly ought to do – some people wanted OA to be a vague assembly project whereas other people wanted OA to reflect specific libertarian socialist principles. This was compounded by the fact that the organization grew too fast and launched too soon so that we were unable to appropriately use the first few assemblies to meaningfully reach out.

Another hurdle was that OA did not have a stable meeting space for the first half year. As a result, we had to have meetings to plan the meetings, which led to logistical nightmares and a lack of stability. This made it more difficult to get involved in OA, especially if one didn’t have much time. We have had a consistent meeting space for the last year, but by not having stability during the first few months, we missed a crucial opportunity to grow our organization. But due to the identity crisis of the organization, we were in many ways not ready to grow. A slower approach to building organizational stability, including basic stuff like consistent times and locations for meetings, would have allowed us to be more effective.

We have had outreach issues; we don’t have a working group to promote the monthly meetings, only for the seasonal assemblies. This has led to a lack of promotion and a lack of reaching out to people. A few people do promotions informally with little to no coordination. Reaching out to friend groups for meetings, making social media event pages, and sending emails to list-serves is essentially reaching inwards. Most of our outreach for monthly meetings comes from informal conversations. We desperately need an outreach committee between each monthly meeting if we want to meaningfully grow. We need to be doing consistent flyering and door-to-door work, as well as more face to face conversations with acquaintances and strangers to invite them in. At this point in the organization, we have enough of an organizational infrastructure to start that process in a more meaningful way than when we first began. We also have sustained direct action and mutual aid projects people can join that are already off the ground and rolling that new people can easily plug into.

There are multiple left-leaning communities in Olympia that have been essentially neglected in our outreach. We haven’t made a meaningful effort to flyer in parts of the city we don’t frequent and don’t do enough door-to-door work. There are groups with relatively similar politics to us, yet which operate in different social groups and do not work with us on shared ideals – such as some anarchist groups, some left groups, Quakers, and Unitarians. We have made some basic mistakes regarding bread and butter organizing methods.

A related issue concerns inclusion versus political coherence, and the relationship of general assemblies and revolutionary political organizations. Although Olympia Assembly has reached out beyond the revolutionary left, including apolitical people and left-liberals, it remains an organization that mainly speaks to people who already share our politics. On the one hand, this is not surprising given that we have specific points of unity that spell out a broadly libertarian socialist orientation. While clearly stating our politics and vision, it also limits its appeal.

By running the group according to explicitly libertarian socialist principles rather than simply as a democratic assembly model, we have essentially created a libertarian socialist organization. This is distinct from calling for general assemblies of community members regardless of political orientation. Yet part of the strategy of Communalism is to use general community assemblies to propagate libertarian socialist content and by extension reach out to people and get popular assemblies to endorse and embody such principles. OA functions as an assembly based on shared points of political unity, but we have failed to operate as a forum for dialogue that reaches far beyond our general political milieu. The seasonal assemblies come closest to this goal, but outreach is still limited. OA needs to find other ways to engage with people who are not already sympathetic to libertarian socialist principles.

Yet people don’t have to be libertarian socialists to join OA; it is possible to agree to such principles within the organization while disagreeing with libertarian socialism as a broader social goal. Some liberals, Marxist-Leninists, and anarchists have worked very well within OA. Our actual work and functional structure can also function as outreach; it has engaged some people who weren’t initially sympathetic to libertarian socialist ideas. In part, our points of unity exist because while direct democracy is necessary, alone it is not sufficient. It must be rounded out by the political content of freedom and non-hierarchy, clearly enshrined in the organization’s points of unity and bylaws. Without a coherent ethical content and structure, it is possible to use democratic forms to vote on profoundly undemocratic and unfree measures.

We need to find a way for our organization to maintain principled politics while also reaching out to new people. This can be done by creating more ideologically neutral spaces and assemblies where dialogue can happen between people who disagree. We can also host more issue-specific forums on vital community topics. We can also engage existing neighborhood associations, some of which have interesting projects, including an organic community garden and a campaign to stop a 7-11 store. This could be done through organizing around a variety of issues based in common conditions that move towards building common political ideals. As housing is one such arena, we are currently organizing a tenant’s assembly. The more politically specific an organization is, the more exclusive it can be to people who do not yet agree with those politics. However, a democratic structure, ethics, and strategy can be attractive to radicals and non-radicals alike. It is ultimately difficult to navigate exactly how loose versus politically specific a particular Communalist project should be.

Demographics is another important factor; Olympia is a college town, and the people who started Olympia Assembly were mainly students between the ages of 18 and 30. Regardless of how hard we have tried to reach out beyond the student population, we remain much too youth- and student-centric. This is reflected among the founders of OA, who have most or many of their acquaintances, friends, and comrades in the student population. Even though the expressed goal of OA is to reach out to the Olympia community as a whole, it can easily look like a student-centric organization because of the composition of the group. We have made some progress in reaching beyond the student population, but it still haunts the organization and limits our capacity to reach out. The student population is disproportionately radical and have far more time on their hands compared to others. They are also disproportionately transient and subcultural. This could pose serious issues for OA over time.

Given this population, many core members of OA share the same social circle. This creates an issue where a large clique appears to have, and in fact does have, too much informal power over the organization. This inhibits the kind of comradeship that goes beyond friendship that organizations need. People who are not friends with core OA organizers can feel isolated and left out, even if they are welcomed with open arms into the organization. Although comrades might also be friends, we need to be conscious of these elements and how they can inhibit solidarity with strangers, even though friendship can also fuel momentum and outreach. Clearly, political projects must go beyond specific populations and friend groups if they are to become mass movements.

These previous concerns contribute to the problem of inconsistent membership. Our membership has been semi-consistent, but not stable enough. Our monthly meetings often have at least 10 regular members showing up, some semi-regular members, as well as a few new people at each meeting. Their capacity and willingness to engage varies due to factors like work, school, commitment to the project, and hope in the potential of Olympia Assembly. Thus, we have a few dozen consistent members alongside a large but inconsistent network of about 200+ people.

It is often difficult to get new people to take ownership of OA. New members often do not fully understand the principles and goals of OA, how to participate in meetings, or organize outside of meetings – all of which have a learning curve. Founding members often take skills they have learned for granted, and there is not enough orientation for new members about how to get involved. Without theoretical and practical knowledge about how OA meetings function over time, people do not see the reason or to participate. Furthermore, new people don’t always see the fruits of individual meetings or actions, as they almost never appear instantly. It is in large part through sustained meetings, and the legwork in between, that organizational gains become evident.

This situation is exacerbated by unfinished organizational bylaws. We have fragments – a skeleton of a decision-making process, some delegated roles and limits on them – but without a guide to how the organization is supposed to function, it is difficult for new people to fully comprehend what we are doing. Bylaws summarize our aims and structure and will allow the organization to be accountable to them.

Together, these dynamics result in a situation where the most vocal and committed members end up making most of the proposals. This exacerbates the lack of participation from less consistent and committed members. The issue of different levels of experience and engagement in an organization is inevitable, but increased participation and group ownership are desirable for both ethical and strategic reasons. One step towards rectifying this problem was the creation of an education committee.

Lastly, it has been noted that although the work that OlySol does is important and enjoyable, at times OA is perceived as too focused on the “more fun” components of militant direct action rather the “less fun” work of collective building. While the intense focus on direct action campaigns against bosses and landlords has been both warranted and successful, at times it has been over-emphasized at the expense of goals that reach beyond people already convinced of our ideals. This dynamic sometimes pits short-term goals against long-term goals instead of meshing them together.

Building Power, Moving Forward

To conclude, Olympia Assembly offers a democratic and non-hierarchical vision of the good society that is linked to a strategic orientation of building Communalist forms of dual power. At times we act as if this is shared common sense. Yet without spreading knowledge of our ethical and strategic vision, our aims can become obscure or invite skepticism. Although it can be simplified, Communalist praxis can be difficult to explain or understand, especially in the current political context. Questions like “What ought to be politically?” and “How ought we get there?” are complex and require complex answers. We need to find educational tools that express the basic substance of Communalism in a way that is easy to understand without distorting its core ethos.

Making concrete gains now while keeping the bigger picture in mind is a tall order for any group. This process will require a lot of experimentation, but there are also many historical experiments for us to learn from. We do not need to completely reinvent the wheel. We can sift through history to help develop a praxis that learns from the past as well as incorporating new insights. We must constantly adapt our strategy to our political vision, adapt our political vision to ethical means, and adapt all of the above to new relevant conditions to find out what kind of proposals ought to be decided on to get us from here to utopia.