Monday, April 23, 2007

You lost me at Campaign...

My latest rant about 'campaigns' started at Anarchafairy's. My central objection, which I posted as a comment there, is as follows:

Campaigns are military operations, centrally run, with very clear goals. As the military is a hierarchical organisation the leaders can decide on the goal and the tactics and then tell people what to do.
I first started noticing the left using the term campaign within unions, where at least I think the metaphor is accurate. Most unions are structured in such a way that they can be at least mapped on to an army. I didn't use the word much myself, certainly not in my big disputes, but that was mostly because I had problems with the top down ideology the word represents.

But the word has spread to other groups on the New Zealand left, and the term is now near ubiquitous. Every effort to educate, agitate or organise is now called a 'campaign'. I don't know if the people using the term have a specific understanding of what they mean when they say campaign. Sometimes I think it's just shorthand, and people are ignoring the metaphor entirely. But often I think people do mean campaign. They believe that the way to organise is for a small group of people to set a goal and figure out how to get there. That's not really organising - organising is getting people together and letting them make the decisions, which doesn't work if the plan is pre-ordained.

While I'm not anti-reform, and I think trying to change some of the many crappy things we face in this world is well worthwhile, I don't think that can be our only goal. The point of working on individual issues is to make ourselves stronger for next time. Campaigns, which are so focused on the here and now, ignore this entirely.

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