Organizing for Power: Affinity Groups

Extinction Rebellion Portland is helping our members form affinity groups — the basic building blocks for effective collective action of all kinds.  An affinity group is made up of 6-15 people who build good connections with each other and then make decisions together about how to participate in actions.  

The first affinity groups were formed as part of the anarchist and workers’ movement in late 19th century Spain.  They were a traditional form of organizing that was adapted to fight Franco’s fascism in the 1930s.  According to the website Organizing for Power, “Local federations were coordinated by committees were made up of one mandated delegate from each affinity group. Mandated delegates were sent from local federations to regional committees and finally to the Peninsular Committee. Affinity groups remained autonomous as they carried out education, organized and supported local struggles. The intimacy of the groups made police infiltration difficult.”

Affinity groups were first used in the United States in 1977 when 2500 people, organized in the Clamshell Alliance, occupied the in-progress Seabrook New Hampshire nuclear power plant. This powerful sustained opposition to nuclear power delayed the completion of 1 nuclear plant for 14 years, and prevented the building of a planned second plant.

They were also used in 1999 when activists in Seattle (and some from Portland and elsewhere!) shut down the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting, locking down in the streets of Seattle. For more on the Battle of Seattle, please see:

Since XR PDX started in 2019, we have encouraged rebels to form affinity groups.  COVID kept us from doing actions where we risked arrest, and the affinity groups we had listed have fallen away.  We are currently engaged in rebels who want to create or join an affinity group to get matched up. In September, we will be doing a training for affinity groups and taking action together at some point in the fall. For more information on forming or joining an affinity group, please email

[Pictured above: an affinity group from Extinction Rebellion in Bristol, England. Photo credit: xrbristol]

About Margaret Butler

Margaret Butler was born and raised in Portland and spent 40 years in the labor movement. Upon retirement, she embraced climate justice activism with Climate Jobs PDX and XRPDX.


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Speech at OMSI Youth Climate Event