A new avenue of thought in Perth

Teri Saki

Chain Reaction #115, August 2012, www.foe.org.au/chain-reaction/editions/115

It may come as a surprise to some that Perth, Western Australia is not exactly a hotbed of dissent. White supremacy and flagrant consumerism seem to be a way of life for many in this mineral-centric town. Thankfully, the likes of the various Indigenous, refugee and environmental groups offer a refreshing oasis in this political and ethical desert.

Particularly inspiring have been the creative interventions by the Ban Uranium Mining Permanently (BUMP) Collective and the recent occupation of Matagarup Island by the Noongar Tent Embassy. Something else that is planting radical situations into the conservative Perth fabric is a new collective that came into being in late 2011.

The Unnamed Collective, as it is named (or not), broadly engages anarchist thought and praxis, each member bringing their own twist on the theme. Similarly, with each member of the Unnamed Collective belongs a story of how they got involved and what the group means to them. This article refers to the experiences of its author, a collective member since November 2011.

Feeling inspired by the global uprisings in the Middle East and Europe, and keen to engage in the building of an anti-capitalist movement in Perth, I found myself at some Occupy Perth General Assemblies. Teething problems are natural in the early days of any movement, but attempting to collaborate with Libertarians and conspiracy theorists in one corner, reformists in another and the flag-waving Left in the other, all under the trope of "We are the 99%" combined with the then messy process left me feeling somewhat troubled. Where were all the change agents? The libertarian-socialists and anarchists? The Autonomists? Folk who understand that capitalism is the problem and that there is more to social change than marching and chanting?

Then I discovered the Unnamed Collective, meeting weekly. They sounded like just what was needed. On the agenda was the establishment of a new publication; a magazine which was to contain serious political analysis and a space for radical, creative expression as an alternative to the current conservative Perth press. Added to this was a strong will within the group to balance thought with action − militant and creative direct action. Over the months, the Unnamed Collective has gained momentum. Our actions and community building events are too many to list here. The best advice I have for the curious reader is to check our website unnamedavenue.org in order to keep abreast of our activities and magazine, 'Avenue'.

In terms of theoretical frameworks which inform what we do in the collective, we are probably most influenced by the ideas of The Situationists and understanding how Spectacle Capitalism operates. The Situationist Internationale, a European revolutionary group of the late 1950s and 60s held that there is an increasingly commodified version of reality that has been manufactured by capitalism, which is insidious and ubiquitous. They called it the Spectacle. Where life was once "being", through Spectacle Capitalism it is merely "having" and "appearing".

How this can manifest for people is somewhat differentiated but for activists it can be continually measuring success along the lines of "how are we perceived?" and "did we get any media coverage?". Whilst these may be valid questions in some instances, the Unnamed Collective has created different goal posts for itself. Our aim is to sneak radical ideas through gaps in the Spectacle, or create these gaps ourselves.

How we do this is through creative interventions or creating situations that enable people to participate in real life experiences, and simultaneously challenge the authority unmediated by the Spectacle. Participation is the key element, which in my experience has also been something that many of the collectives of Friends of the Earth also value highly.

The next thing the Unnamed Collective repeatedly checks itself against is the fun-meter, asking ourselves 'did we have fun and feel liberated during our action against a mega-corporation, against CCTV cameras, for human beings and the planet?' If the answer is yes, then we also know we have been successful at transforming the power relations inherent in the capitalist machine. As one of our members, Mar says, "We should never go to a political activity that leaves us going home feeling less powerful, less engaged and more demoralised than when we turned up."

Importantly too, we understand that we do not exist in a vacuum and thus avoid sectarianism by acting in solidarity and collaborating with groups such as BUMP, Refugee Rights Action Network and Occupy. Recently, the Unnamed Collective facilitated some free schools with Occupy Perth, and we have supported Lizard's Revenge – the anti-nuclear blockade, arts and music festival at Olympic Dam uranium mine in July 2012.

The future for the collective is unwritten. We are committed to continue building upon our success with the nascent publication 'Avenue', a housing co-operative is being initiated and there is burgeoning interest in the mining sector as our next port of call for direct action.

So, to the corporations who come to Perth to seek refuge from growing global dissent and to the state that protects them, we suggest that when they least expect it, they will be part of a situation that they cannot ignore, which the Unnamed Collective has created; a "reinvention of everyday life".