“| am therefore faced with the problem of
creating a project whose immediate aim is
destruction, which in turn creates space for
..We believe that instead of federations and
groups organised in the traditional sense —
part of the economic and social structures
of a reality that no longer exists — we
should be forming affinity groups based on
the strength of mutual personal knowledge.
These groups should be capable of carrying
out specific coordinated actions against the
An affinity group could be a sewing circle or a bicycle maintenance
collective; it could come together for the purpose of providing a meal
at an occupation or forcing a multinational corporation out of business
through a carefully orchestrated program of sabotage. Affinity groups
have planted and defended community gardens, built and occupied and
burned down buildings, organized neighborhood childcare programs and
wildcat strikes; individual affinity groups routinely initiate revolutions
in the visual arts and popular music. Your favorite band was an affinity
group. An affinity group invented the airplane. Another one maintains this
able to rely on each other to come through on commitments. When
a plan is agreed upon, each individual in a group and each group ina
cluster should choose one or more critical aspects of the preparation
and execution of the plan and offer to bottomline them. Bottomlining
the supplying of a resource or the completion of a project means
guaranteeing that it will be accomplished somehow, no matter what. If
you're operating the legal hotline for your group during a demonstration,
you owe it to them to handle it even if you get sick: if your group
promises to provide the banners for an action, make sure they're ready,
even if that means staying up all night the night before because the rest
of your affinity group couldn't show up. Over time, you'll learn how to
handle crises and who you can count on in them—just as others will learn
how much they can count on you.
GO INTO ACTION
Stop wondering what's going to happen, or why nothing's happening. Get
together with your friends and start deciding what will happen. Don't
go through life in passive spectator mode, waiting to be told what to do.
Get in the habit of discussing what you want to see happen—and making
those ideas reality.
Without a structure that encourages ideas to flow into action, without
comrades with whom to brainstorm and barnstorm and build up
momentum, you are likely to be paralyzed, cut off from much of your
own potential; with them, your potential can be multiplied by ten, or ten
thousand. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed
people can change the world," Margaret Mead wrote: “it's the only thing
that ever has.” She was referring, whether she knew it or not, to affinity
groups. If every individual in every action against the state and status
quo participated as part of a tight-knit, dedicated affinity group, the
revolution would be accomplished in a few short years.
ESSENTIAL BUILDING BLOCKS
OF ANARCHIST ORGANIZATION
Turbulent times are upon us. Already, blockades, demonstrations, riots,
and clashes are occurring regularly. It's past time to be organizing for
the upheavals that are on the way.
Rut getting organized doesn't mean joining a pre-existing institution and
taking orders. It shouldn't mean forfeiting your agency and intelligence
to become a cog in a machine. From an anarchist perspective,
organizational structure should maximize both freedom and voluntary
coordination at every level of scale, from the smallest group up to
society as a whole.
You and your friends already constitute an affinity group, the essential
building block of this model. An affinity group is a circle of friends who
understand themselves as an autonomous political force. The idea is that
people who already know and trust each other should work together to
respond immediately, intelligently, and flexibly to emerging situations.
This leaderless format has proven effective for guerrilla activities
of all kinds, as well as what the RAND Corporation calls “swarming”
tactics in which many unpredictable autonomous groups overwhelm a
centralized adversary. You should go to every demonstration
in an affinity group, with a shared sense of your goals
and capabilities. If you are in an affinity group that has experience
taking action together, you will be much better prepared to deal with
emergencies and make the most of unexpected opportunities.
This guide is adapted from an earlier version that appeared in our
Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook.
AFFINITY GROUPS ARE POWERFUL
Relative to their small size, affinity groups can achieve a
disproportionately powerful impact. In contrast to traditional top-down
structures, they are free to adapt to any situation, they need
not pass their decisions through a complicated process
of ratification, and all the participants can act and react
instantly without waiting for orders—yet with a clear idea of
what to expect from one another. The mutual admiration and inspiration
on which they are founded make them very difficult to demoralize.
In stark contrast to capitalist, fascist, and socialist structures, they
function without any need of hierarchy or coercion. Participating in an
affinity group can be fulfilling and fun as well as effective.
Most important of all, affinity groups are motivated by shared desire
and loyalty, rather than profit, duty, or any other compensation or
abstraction. Small wonder whole squads of riot police have been held
at bay by affinity groups armed with only the tear gas canisters shot at
THE AFFINITY GROUP IS A FLEXIBLE MODEL
Some atfinity groups are formal and immersive: the participants live
together, sharing everything in common. But an affinity group need
not be a permanent arrangement. It can serve as a structure of
convenience, assembled from the pool of interested and trusted people
for the duration of a given project.
rather than resenting or fearing you. They should come to recognize the
value of the affinity group model, and so to employ it themselves, after
seeing it succeed and benefiting from that success.
ORGANIZE WITH OTHER AFFINITY GROUPS
An affinity group can work together with other affinity groups in what
is sometimes called a cluster. The cluster formation enables a larger
number of individuals to act with the same advantages a single affinity
group has. If speed or security is called for, representatives of each
group can meet ahead of time, rather than the entirety of all groups:
if coordination is of the essence, the groups or representatives can
arrange methods for communicating through the heat of the action. Over
years of collaborating together, different affinity groups can come to
know each other as well as they know themselves, becoming accordingly
more comfortable and capable together.
When several clusters of affinity groups need to coordinate especially
massive actions—betore a big demonstration, for example—they can hold
a spokescouncil meeting at which different affinity groups and clusters
can inform one another (to whatever extent is wise) of their intentions.
Spokescouncils rarely produce seamless unanimity, but they can apprise
the participants of the various desires and perspectives that are at
play. The independence and spontaneity that decentralization provides
are usually our greatest advantages in combat with a better equipped
For affinity groups and larger structures based on consensus and
cooperation to function, it is essential that everyone involved be
the one hand, you can make plans for different scenarios: If A happens,
we'll intorm each other by X means and switch to plan B; if X means
of communication is impossible, we'll reconvene at site Z at Ql o'clock.
Un the other hand, you can put structures in place that will be useful
even if what happens is unlike any of the scenarios you imagined. This
could mean preparing resources (such as banners, medical supplies, or
offensive equipment), dividing up internal roles (for example, scouting,
communications, medic, media liaison), establishing communication
systems (such as burner phones or coded phrases that can be shouted
gut to convey information securely), preparing general strategies (for
keeping sight of one another in contusing environments, for example),
charting emergency escape routes, or readying legal support in case
anyone is arrested.
After an action, a shrewd affinity group will meet (if necessary, ina
secure location without any electronics) to discuss what went well, what
could have gone better, and what comes next.
TACT AND TACTICS
An affinity group answers to itself alane—this is one of its strengths.
Affinity groups are not burdened by the procedural protocol of other
organizations, the difficulties of reaching agreement with strangers, or
the limitations of answering to a body not immediately involved in the
At the same time, just as the members of an affinity group strive for
consensus with each other, each affinity group should strive for a
similarly considerate relationship with other individuals and groups—
or at least to complement others’ approaches, even if others do not
recognize the value of this contribution. Ideally, most people should be
glad of your affinity group's participation or intervention in a situation,
A particular team can act together over and over as an affinity group,
but the members can also break up into smaller affinity groups,
participate in other affinity groups, or act outside the affinity group
structure. Freedom to associate and organize as each person
sees fit is a fundamental anarchist principle; this promotes
redundancy, so no one person or group is essential to the functioning of
the whole, and different groups can reconfigure as needed.
PICK THE SCALE THAT'S RIGHT FOR YOU
An affinity group can range from two to perhaps as many as fifteen
individuals, depending on your goals. However, no group should be so
numerous that an informal conversation about pressing matters is
impossible. You can always split up into two or more groups if need be.
In actions that require driving, the easiest system is often to have one
affinity group to each vehicle.
GET TO KNOW EAGH OTHER INTIMATELY
Learn each other's strengths and vulnerabilities and backgrounds, so
you know what you can count on each other for. Discuss your analyses of
each situation you are entering and what is worth accomplishing in it—
identity where they match, where they are complentary, and where they
differ, so you'll be ready to make split-second decisions.
Une way to develop political intimacy is to read and discuss texts
together, but nothing beats on-the-ground experience. Start out slow so
you don't overextend. Once you've established a common language and
healthy internal dynamics, you're ready to identity the objectives you
want to accomplish, prepare a plan, and go into action.
DECIDE YOUR APPROPRIATE LEVEL OF SECURITY
Affinity groups are resistant to infiltration because all members share
history and intimacy with each other, and no one outside the group need
be intormed of their plans or activities.
Unce assembled, an affinity group should establish a shared set of
security practices and stick to them. In some cases, you can afford to
be public and transparent about your activities. in other cases, whatever
goes on within the group should never be spoken of outside it, even after
all its activities are long completed. In some cases, no one except the
participants in the group should know that it exists at all. You and your
comrades can discuss and prepare for actions without acknowledging to
outsiders that you constitute an affinity group. Remember, it is easier to
pass fram a high security protocol to a low one than vice versa.
MAKE DECISIONS TOGETHER
Affinity groups generally operate on via consensus
decision-making: decisions are made collectively according
to the needs and desires of every individual involved.
Democratic voting, in which the majority get their way and the minority
must hold their tongues, is anathema to affinity groups—for if a group
is to function smoothly and hold together under stress, every individual
involved must be satisfied. Before any action, the members of a group
should establish tagether what their personal and collective goals are,
what risks they are comfortable taking, and what their expectations of
each other are. These matters determined, they can formulate a plan.
Since action situations are always unpredictable and plans rarely come
off as anticipated, it may help to employ a dual approach to preparing. On