Prefigurative politics are the modes of organization and social relationships that strive to reflect the future society being sought by the group. According to Carl Boggs, who coined the term, the desire is to embody “within the ongoing political practice of a movement […] those forms of social relations, decision-making, culture, and human experience that are the ultimate goal”. Prefigurativism is the attempt to enact prefigurative politics.
With the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill further restricting the right to protest, things are looking pretty grim at the moment. That’s if we continue to play the game under the rules set by the authorities. We could choose a different path…
Resistance takes many forms. It’s about a lot more than protests on the streets. Don’t get us wrong, getting out on the streets is great for bonding with like minded people, making links, building networks and generally letting off steam. Whether street protests contribute much towards building the new world we desire is, ahem…a matter of debate… Resistance is also about flying under the radar of the authorities. It’s about starting to build the new world we want to see inside the shell of the increasingly dystopian one we’re currently forced to endure.
Being against the system doesn’t just mean engaging in reactive activity to events. It’s also about showing the kind of world we want to move towards and fight for. It’s about building the social and community structures we need, so that when revolution does come, we have the foundations ready for the new world we want. It’s about the kind of prefigurative action we can engage in to bring this about. It’s not separate from revolution – it’s an integral part of the process of revolution.
It’s not just about the physical stuff such as community gardens, community kitchens, food banks, clothing banks and the like. It’s about learning to work with each other in a collective, non-hierarchical way. It’s about finding and developing ways of working and learning that enables people to grow and develop.
It’s offering a positive glimpse of what the future will be. Ordinary people don’t tend to react well to images of street confrontations. We know that’s largely down to the negative and very often false stereotypes that the media put on us. Ordinary people will however, be a lot more receptive to grassroots initiatives that are starting to make a positive difference in the communities where they’re based.
Obviously, there’s only so far a grassroots initiative can go before hitting the constraints imposed by the system we have to live in. Experiencing the impact of those limits and understanding why they’re there is a way for people to understand why radical change is needed and why existing power structures have to be swept away.
People will understandably want to see examples of grassroots projects that have an intention of bringing about real change. The thing to bear in mind is that no two grassroots projects will be the same. Each one will have evolved to deal with a specific set of circumstances in their neighbourhood. For sure, generalities can be made when it comes to why a neighbourhood needs a foodbank or a community garden. But, there will always be specifics, not least regarding the people involved in the project.
There are many groups working at the grassroots who, each in their own way, are trying to make the world a better place. Whether they would define what they do as prefigurative let alone anarchist is possibly open to debate. Regarding that, we’ll leave you with this quote and link:
The anarchist conclusion is that every kind of human activity should begin from what from what is local and immediate, should link in a network with no centre and no directing agency, hiving off new cells as the original grows.
Colin Ward – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Ward