Tools for change: the homepage

Pessimismo dell'intelligenza ottimismo della volontà - deve essere la parola d'ordine di ogni comunista consapevole degli sforzi e dei sacrifizi che sono domandati a chi volontariamente si è assunto un posto di militanza nelle fila della classe operaia - Antonio Gramsci, 1920

Tools for change is a linked archive of resources - from whole books to project outlines and from mailing lists to zine articles - whose common theme is that they are all about change: social movements from below challenging structural relationships, spiritual practices geared towards transforming ourselves and our interaction with others, and attempts at radical educational practice of various kinds.

This rag-bag of stuff has been produced by various people across two decades of politics, spiritual practice and intellectual effort - most but not all of it coming from the last five years or so. It represents a lot of collective and individual work which has wound up here for a range of reasons. Being the kinds of projects they are, few of them made any systematic attempt to get the kind of mainstream publishing which provides permanent and accessible records: librarians call this stuff "grey literature" (presumably because our paper and printing hasn't always been the most commercial in quality...) Because I was often involved in doing the publishing, writing stuff or keeping records, I wound up with a large pile of documentation, which seemed worth trying to organise and make more generally available. So this archive is the result!

I thought it was worthwhile sticking this stuff up on the Web because I've become convinced over time that trying to change things is a skilled activity, which means that we can learn by looking at each other's efforts and reflecting more on our own practice. Putting this up here gives me a chance to do a bit of reflection, mirrors their own work back to the original creators, and hopefully it'll encourage other people to put up some of their own stuff. Some of these projects worked brilliantly; others fall under the heading of "don't do this". I've tried to indicate something of this in the notes at the start of each different section.

The original introduction, put up in November 2000, included this comment:

Despite the technophiles, we don't yet know whether the Web will actually prove to be particularly useful as a tool for change: many activists and spiritual practitioners I know still keep a wary distance, and there often seems to be an inverse relationship between Internet presence and involvement in face-to-face networking. The trick, presumably, would be to bridge the gap between the two and overcome the polarisation between virtual isolation and local parochialism, which is a difficulty for a lot of movements at present. How to do that is something we're still struggling with.

Things have changed, and perhaps even in 2000 this was a rather partial view of things. Certainly the "movement of movements" which has gone around the world since 1999 has made great use of the Net (particularly Web pages and discussion lists) to get itself organised. More recently, the Net has become a useful tool for organising within Ireland in a way that simply wasn't true a few years ago. At the same time, it remains the case that some of the most radical and grounded activism has little or no Web presence, and the Internet version of the "paper organisation" is still very much a reality. But the Net has certainly become another terrain of struggle and organising in the attempt to transform the world.

Part of the process of transformation involves deconstructing the ways the world is presented to us - seeing through reification to process and power - and rethinking the totality we find ourselves in, its hidden conflicts and our relationship to them. Rather than break up these resources under different headings, I've arranged them as a ring, so that western Marxism and contemporary Buddhism, social movements and academic research, do not appear as existing on different planes, but start to share some kind of communicative space. You can enter the ring at any point, or move from one document to the next one on the ring.

The authors of the documents on this site include Robert Allen, Deborah Ballard, Colin Barker, Kieran Bonner, Gerard Boucher, Giovanni Cappelletti, Isolde Carmody, Deirdre Clancy, Mary Condren, Mark Connolly, Donna Cooney, Laurence Cox, Ramor Dagge, Nuala Donlon, Peter Doran, Máire Dorgan, Tanya Drum, Shane Dunphy, Peter Emerson, Andrew Flood, Martin Geoghegan, Anne Good, John Goodwillie, John Gormley, Claire Harron, Antje Herrberg, Monica Heynen, Peter Hill, Fergus Hogan, Tim Howells, Roy Johnston, Simon Jones, Jason Kirkpatrick, David Landy, Ronit Lentin, Lothar Lüken, Gillies MacBain, Pat McBride, Finian McCluskey, Carol MacKeogh, Pauline Maguire, Peter Mansfield, Laura Maranzana, Anna Mazzoldi, Richard Moore, Caitríona Mullan, Marcos Muñiz Torres, Damian Nolan, Paul O'Brien, Mary O'Connell, Maeve O'Grady, Sadhbh O Neill, Alex Plows, Dónal Quirke, Jocelyne Rigal, Heleen Riper, Road Alert!, Gillian Ryan, Raymond Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Dermot Sreenan, Gary Thompson, Roland Tormey, Claire Wheeler, Caroline Whyte, and others. Many more people took part in the organisations that produced these documents, notably the editorial team at An Caorthann, the other participants in Ireland from Below and Mustard Seed II, posters to the social-movements mailing list, and everyone in the Ballymun Oral History Project.

Some of these documents have been slightly altered to protect the innocent. In no case does this affect the sense or the substance.

Click here to access the ring. A list of new stuff is available here.