via It’s Going Down
New Outreach Materials and the Importance of Spreading Ideas
We anarchists are a minority. We punch above our size, and our numbers seem to be growing lately, but to many of us the experience of being isolated because of our beliefs is too familiar. Engaging others with our ideas has always been of essential to anarchist practice. Each of us can reflect back on what made us embrace a philosophy that may have seemed dogmatic at first. With exposure to the right ideas and experiences, people can come to embrace radical ideas very quickly. A lot of people are having experiences that challenge their political assumptions lately, and we need to make sure we are there sharing our ideas to people looking for ethical ways out of the multiple crises ripping through our social fabric.
Screens are all around us, and producing good anarchist video content is hugely important, but we shouldn’t let new technology blind us to practices from our past that are still effective. The anarchist movement still thrives on literature and the sharing of the written word. Our words are powerful, and many people who went on to become incredible revolutionaries, such as Ricardo Flores Magon, discovered anarchism through reading (combined with experience of course). We are not using the full potential of powerful anarchist writing. Reading and sharing more of it is essential for us to grow as a movement (in terms of both quality and quantity).
No, I’m not writing this to beg you to read the latest 500 page text posted on anarchist library. I’m sensitive to the need for brevity, although sometimes great length is called for. Handing out brief anarchist and other radical text for free on the street is something I have done many times in my city. Although I have no proof, I believe it is an incredibly effective thing for anarchists to do. In military terminology, it could be called a “force multiplier.”
Most people tend to go for things that are both short and practical in some way. However, some number of people get incredibly interested when they see what I’m doing and take sometimes over 100 pages worth of material. I am always happy to run into people like this! Sometimes I do this at large demonstrations, sometimes just on crowded streets. Both work well. People will ask what your literature is about. Be prepared with a vague summary with some specificity. Something like, “it’s about how to transform society to meet everyone’s needs,” or “it’s about how social movements of the past won the freedoms we enjoy today.” Focus on the positive element.
By the way, in case you’re reading this thinking, “wow, this person must be so confident and comfortable interacting socially with strangers,” let me just let you know that’s not the case. I’m naturally a shy introvert but I get outside my comfort zone for the cause, and to grow as a person as well. Don’t get discouraged by a few bad interactions. They are bound to happen, especially if you’re just starting out. Experience will improve your confidence and outcomes. Just walk up to people and say, “hey, want some free pamphlets on changing the world?” Or something like that. Everyone can find their own style doing this kind of thing.
In weeks to come, it is likely that there will be some massive left-liberal street mobilizations due to election mayhem. I’m sharing two trifold pamphlets I made specifically to open the minds of people at these types of events, but they work well anywhere. It’s best if people can go to distributing them in pairs or trios, but alone can be ok too. Be sure to fold the pamphlets inward on a hard surface. It’s easy to get the hang of. Nice crisp folds inside the margins between text helps make a good impression.
I hope you all like these two pamphlets. They’re some of the best intro material I could conjure. Note that neither of them mention anarchism by name. That’s on purpose. When you do this kind of thing explicitly promoting anarchy/anarchism, it tends to be much more difficult. I guess people just think of the Joker or whatever. Component parts of anarchism, such as anti-racism, freedom, equality, labor rights, feminism and so on are much more popular. Use this.
As the frequency and participation in left-liberal mass demonstrations grows, we should view each of them as an opportunity to reach out and share our ideas. Not doing so strikes me as a waste. Building a new social consensus is slow, difficult and often frustrating, but also rewarding at key moments. I don’t know, but I suspect that the literature I’ve shared has made a big difference for some people, and making a life-changing positive difference for just one person makes this all completely worth the effort.
Some quick do’s and don’ts:
Do take covid19 precautions
Do get your own printer if you want to do this regularly
Do make folding and stapling a group activity (if safe)
Do buy that printer at a discount on Craigslist
Do print out stacks days or months ahead of time, the day of is usually
Do make good use of rubber bands
Do keep moving when that is what others are doing around you
Do approach others with a friendly tone
Do make room for other people to respond to you
Do kindly answer people’s reasonable questions about what you are doing
Do politely cut people off and move on if they start to argue with you
Do recognize that your behavior reflects either well or poorly on the
ideas you are sharing
Do practice community/self-care after you’re done if you find this all
Do keep learning, design some pamphlets of your own, and write to
sharpen your ideas
Do NOT get into arguments
Do NOT try to approach people from behind
Do NOT be overly guarded or “shady” with people
Do NOT assume that you are the wrong identity to do this kind of thing
Do NOT attempt to distribute literature in a tone-deaf way at
Do NOT assume people will approach you if you have a table, but feel
free to experiment
Do NOT sit around waiting for validation after someone accepts a
pamphlet, keep moving
Do NOT try to engage people who are in a clear rush or on the phone, or
have earphones in
Do NOT get upset when you face rejection by some people; be polite and
Do NOT get discouraged if your first time doing this doesn’t go so well,
just learn from the experience
cover photo: Clay Banks on Unsplash