Affinity group

Affinity group

An affinity group is usually a small group of left-wing political activists (usually from 3-20) who work together on direct action.

Affinity groups are organized in a non-hierarchical manner, usually using consensus decision making, and are often made up of trusted friends of a common ideology. They provide a method of organization that is flexible and decentralized.

Affinity groups can be based on a common ideology (eg. anarchism), a shared concern for a given issue (eg. anti-nuclear) or a common activity, role or skill (eg. Black Blocks). Affinity groups may have either open or closed membership, although the latter is far more common.


Affinity groups appeared in the U.S. antiwar movement of the 1960s and 1970s.The term was first coined and used by Ben Morea. Later, anti-war activists on college campuses organized around their interests or backgrounds -- religious, gender, ethnic group, etc.

The origin of affinity groups dates back to 19th century Spain, where they were called "tertulias" or "grupos de afinidad" by Spanish anarchists [ [ Rant Collective : History of Affinity Groups] ] . They became popular again in the 1970s in the anti-nuclear movement in the United States and Europe. The 30,000 person occupation and blockade of the Ruhr nuclear power station in Germany in 1969 was organized on the affinity group model. [ [ : Affinity Groups] ] [ [ Uproot : Affinity groups] ] Today, the structure is used by many different activists: animal rights, environmental, anti-war, and anti-globalization, to name some examples.

The 1999 protests in Seattle which shut down the WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999 included coordinated organization by many clusters of affinity groups. [ [ Seattle prepares for battle - Trade before freedom] ]



By definition, affinity groups are autonomous. Co-ordinated effort and co-operation amongst several affinity groups, however, is often achieved by using a loose form of confederation.

*"Cluster": The cluster is the basic unit of organization amongst affinity groups. A cluster consists of several affinity groups and is organized in a non-hierarchical manner. A cluster can be permanent, but is more often an ad hoc grouping organized for one specific task or action. One can be organized around a shared goal (eg. blockading a particular road), a common ideology (e.g. the Quakers) or a place of origin. [ [ Rant Collective : Clusters and Spokes Councils] ] [ [] ]

*"Spokescouncil": The spokescouncil is an aggregate of clusters and affinity groups. Each affinity group or cluster nominates one representative (often called a "spoke") to participate in the council. Spokescouncils are most often temporary bodies, committed to accomplishing one task or event. [ [ What is a spokescouncil?] ]


Affinity groups tend to be loosely organized, however there are some formal roles or positions that commonly occur. A given affinity group may have all, some or none of these positions. They may be permanent or temporary and the group may opt to take turns in these roles, or assign one role to one person.

*"Spoke": The individual charged with representing the affinity group at a spokescouncil or cluster meeting; roughly the same as a spokesman but without gender assumptions. Occasionally, the spoke will be granted a more general ambassadorial role by the affinity group.

*"Facilitator": A person or people who perform facilitation duties in consensus process of the group and also, to varying degrees, act as arbiter of internal conflicts.

*"Media contact": An individual who represents the group to the mass media. Often this individual is the same person as the Spoke.

*"Vibe watch": A person or people charged with monitoring the mood and feeling of the group. The reference is to "vibrations" in the colloquial emotional sense. In some affinity groups, the vibe watch is also charged with keeping the facilitator from using his or her role to favor any position or proposal.

*"Snap-decision facilitator": Also called "quick decision facilitator", this is a person charged with making decisions for the group in time-constrained or high-pressure situations. The position is rare and is almost always temporary.


*Hauser, Luke "Direct Action: An Historical Novel," (New York: GroundWork, 2003) 768pp. ISBN-10: 0974019402


External links

* [ Affinity Groups] , a Letterbomb
* [] - hundreds of AG actions, photos, and resources
* [ Ruckus]
* [ Generic Organizational Structure Outline] for affinity groups

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