Gaining Ground, Not Losing It: Questions from a Revolutionary Anarchist

  • Posted on: 8 September 2018
  • By: Anonymous (not verified)

Note: A slightly different version of the following was first published by It’s Going Down (https://itsgoingdown.org/gaining-ground-questions-from-a-revolutionary-a...)

Art Burbridge

How do we turn revolt into revolution today?

Anticapitalist resistance is surging in the face of a stagnating capitalism and the ruling class’s desperate turn to fascism. But from Occupy and Ferguson to the anti-ICE movement, uprisings are dissipating rather than escalating into fundamental, widespread challenges to ruling class power. Radical movements have struggled to develop the mass organizations and shared revolutionary strategy needed to create such challenges. How can revolutionary anarchists help transform revolt into a crisis of class rule?

A central task for revolutionary anarchists today, I argue, is multiplying and connecting spaces for (a) combining disconnected but sympathetic radical struggles, and above all (b) hammering out shared ideas of mass organizing and planning.

Finally, I ask: how would we create a shared revolutionary program for organization and strategy? What kinds of questions would we need to answer? What specifically could revolutionary anarchism bring to such a program? I end by sketching some of those questions.

The time to build revolutionary power is now.

I. Why a revolutionary program?

We have the chance to strike a powerful blow against a stumbling enemy.

Capitalism has been stagnating since the financial crisis 11 years ago. It is lurching towards another crisis.[1] Segments of the ruling class are turning to fascism in desperation to crush working-class resistance and restore its profit margins.

Crisis, stagnation, and repression—these are sparking a massive upsurge of revolts like the anti-ICE movement, anti-racist struggles, and militant antifascist, anarchist, socialist, and communist organizing.

But the recent explosions are more widespread and more powerful than we know what to do with. We don’t have the tools we need to connect uprisings into a revolutionary challenge to ruling class power. For instance, the important “Occupy ICE” movement is being swept away without a clear, mass, coordinated plan to build on its gains. The prison strike now faces this danger. “Occupy Wall Street” confronted the same problem. We remain largely reactive to the latest outrage. We struggle to channel radical power in durable ways for definite, large-scale, revolutionary strategic goals.

Too often, radical struggles focus on tactics. We hope that a revolution will come eventually, the accumulation of small-scale victories. Ending capitalism requires more. A systemic problem calls for a systemic solution.

But we also seem to be overwhelmed with revolutionary plans. Many anarchist, socialist, and communist groups have ready-made ideas about tactics, strategy, and organization. Their answers are often disconnected from the concrete mass revolts we are witnessing. Revolutionary programs tend to stay in the activist “silos” that have characterized radical organizing since the 1970s.

And to create a revolution, struggle must be on a mass scale. Capitalist firms exist only by extracting as much surplus as possible from the working class. At the same time, the ruling class pits groups of workers against each other—nation against nation, white workers against workers of color, men against women, cis-gendered people against non-binary people, the employed against the unemployed. White supremacy, patriarchy, transphobia, ableism—these help cement the racist, patriarchal bourgeoisie’s power. When workers fight each other, the ruling class can continue exploiting, dominating, colonizing, and waging imperial war. Radically challenging capitalism means widespread, intersectional class power that refuses to play capital’s games of domination.

The task ahead is combination, not isolation, of revolutionary efforts to help build the intersectional organizations we need. Combination here doesn’t mean an insipid “left unity.” It means connecting the various antiauthoritarian (even if not explicitly anarchist) currents that often lie at the heart of the most powerful struggles against capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy, and white supremacy today. More broadly, it means coordinating, across far left ideological and community divides, the radical struggles that can work effectively together without endless bickering—and that often informally overlap anyway.

All of this means the most pressing questions for radicals today are about strategy and organization. One of the most important things revolutionary anarchists can do, I suggest, is help create, multiply, and federate experimental spaces to hammer out collaborative answers to those questions. (Some of us in RED have begun experimenting with such spaces; see this and this).

I don’t offer my own revolutionary program here. Members of RED have a few contributions on this front—see this, this, and this. And for an interesting response and critique, see this.

My goal here is only to help spur the kind of shared, widespread discussions we need for building mass revolutionary plans.

II. Towards a revolutionary program: some questions

What are some of the basic questions we would need to answer together to create shared, mass, revolutionary organization and strategy? Here are a few.

(a) Understanding capitalism: How does capitalism work today? What and where are its weaknesses?

-How does capitalism function—internationally and nationally?
-How is capitalism developing and changing?
-What weaknesses does that development show? How can revolutionary anarchists and their allies best exploit those weaknesses?
-How do its structures and developments play out where I am organizing?

(b) Understanding the ruling class: Who is our enemy? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

-How is the ruling class organized—internationally and nationally?
-How does it enforce its rule and command obedience? Where and how specifically does it wield the power of the state and the economy against the working class?
-How is the ruling class’s power developing? How is the state, as its most direct weapon, developing? What weaknesses and strengths come with these changes?
-What are the most important sectors of the ruling class to target?
-How can revolutionary anarchists and their allies best exploit those weaknesses?
-How do the ruling class’s structures and developments play out where I am organizing?

(c) Understanding the working class: How is the working class structured today? Where is it the most radicalized? Where does it have the most potential power?

-How is the working class structured—internationally and nationally?
-How is the working class developing and changing?
-What strengths come with that development? How can we help to seize and enhance those strengths?
-How do the working class’s structures and developments play out where I am organizing?
-Where are the working class’s most militant and powerful sectors? What “layers” within important sectors are the most militant and powerful? What is their relationship to other, more conservative “layers”?
-How do those structures play out where I am organizing?
-How can we help more militant and powerful sections of the working class infect the other layers and draw them into the struggle?
-What non-working class/non-bourgeois sectors exist? Which parts of the petty bourgeoisie, for example, or the mass of students, could be won over to the cause of revolution? How?
-Where and how is the working class best organizing itself against capitalism—internationally, nationally, locally? What lessons can we draw from that resistance for the future?

(d) Strategy and tactics: What are our long-term and medium-term goals? How do we work towards them in our short-term actions?

-How do we picture the overall, long-term strategic goal of a world without capitalism? What would that kind of society look like? If we can’t decide on this now, can we create spaces to continue discussing and experimenting with long-term ideas as part of our struggle, to stay inspired and excited?
-What intermediate or medium-term goals do we have? What parts of local, national, and international capital are we going to target for revolutionary action—what sectors, what firms? Why and how? How will their power be radically disrupted? What are the desired results and how do they fit into the larger plan?
-What short-term tactics do we need to build towards our intermediate and long-term goals? What “molecular,” small-scale tasks will build towards intermediate and long-term ones?
-As we hammer out answers to these questions: what dominant strategies and tactics are guiding revolutionary organizations today? What works best and what doesn’t?
-What lessons can we draw from past organizing for the present? Where are the most inspiring and relevant struggles to be found and how can their ideas be best incorporated into the present?

(e) Organization: What kinds of organizations will help us build the strongest possible working class power and achieve our goals?

-What organizations do we need to achieve our short-, medium-, and long-term goals?
-How can we ensure spaces that are safe, caring, and nurturing for our comrades, especially those who are the most punished by capitalism and targeted by the state? How can we learn from each other to make sure our organizing is perfectly hostile to sexual assault, racism, misogyny, transphobia, ableism, and all other forms of domination? How will grievances be handled and accountability maintained?
-How should decision-making work on a mass scale? Will consensus—the “common sense” for many groups today—work to build something mass and revolutionary? Are there other kinds of decision-making that could be more effective? What works for other groups and what doesn’t? How can we make sure we’re not overly dogmatic about decision-making—perhaps by using hybrid models that ensure we’re the most powerful we can be?
-How can our organizations cut across the silos we often find ourselves in? How can they be deeply intersectional in order to combat the intersectional domination of the ruling class?
-How can we best avoid harmful versions of “left unity” that only paper over irreconcilable differences between radical groups (some communists and some anarchists, e.g.) only to create schisms later?
-As revolutionary anarchists, how can we help push mass organizing as far left as possible? How can we be non-dogmatic, and yet help challenge many radicals’ fixation on the state and elections, wholly reject liberalism and liberal influence, and build radically equal federations of horizontal power?

[1] See Michael Roberts, The Long Depression: Marxism and the Global Crisis of Capitalism (Chicago: Haymarket, 2016); Andrew Kliman, The Failure of Capitalist Production: Underlying Causes of the Great Recession (London: Pluto Press, 2011).

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Comments

These are very real and pressing questions and the authors deserve congratulations for tangling with them.

Unfortunately we then come to the left-liberal middle class moral hang-up mantra:

"...colonialism, patriarchy, and white supremacy..."

Which all anarchoid compulsive protester types cleave to monolithically out of their relentless conformist groupthink, abject fealty to adolescent peer pressure and intellectual laziness. These buzzwords are bankrupt. They say nothing. They mean nothing. They communicate nothing other than serving as a sort of compulsive protester mating cry. They are proof of a complete lack of intelligent analysis about how contemporary society functions. They make the people chanting them feel good; that is why they do it. Middle class moral hang-up types who chant this mantra are never going to have a credible material impact on the larger world around us. They have no analysis of the capitalist mode of production. Read some intelligent authentic revolutionaries like the Situationists, who the authors have apparently never heard of.

Yeah … you uh … sound like you're describing the chip on your shoulder instead of the problem? People can do a frustratingly bad job understanding and using those words but with your logic, I can't use any words ever again because somebody, somewhere misused them.

Colonialism was only ever a function of leviathan, not something to be highlighted as a primary critique, patriarchy has not been a formal problem since the 70s and white supremacy-while real and historical-is an over believed phantom that that is then turned into a notion of socialized privilege that IS erroneous.

It's the 3rd(turd) worldist viewpoint which should be rejected just like first world ideology.

How the fuck can words be "overused to begin with"?! God dammit ziggy ...

That simple, this is what the stuctures of Marxist 3rd worldist binary thinking leads to. When you take terms that maybe have some tertiary consequential truth to them and turn them into primary go to structures of analysis you have terms of abuse and these terms were clearly terms of abuse from the very beginning based on the radical structure of thought that came up with them.

A structural anarchist radicalism would have come up with different terms that likely would have been properly and more acutely applied.

Nope. Thats your weird, reactionary bias showing again. It wasn't a nefarious plot. Nobody comes up with terms in the hopes that they'll be "abused". Unless you start going down Jordan Peterson paths in the woods where the evil "cultural marxists" were trying to jedi mindfuck everyone instead of the obvious thing they were actually trying to do.

(hint: they just wanted to analyze why capitalist society is mostly shit, most of the time)

There's nothing reactionary or Petersonian(a pro-western centrist) in what I'm saying and you know it. I don't believe in plots for one thing as it regards discourse. The abuse is consequential not planned but if the analysis is bad to begin with, the abusive terms pretty much start right off the bat as is clearly the case with colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy ect.

I know it's shit, but their reasoning and explanation was also shit of the Marxist Progressive structured variety.

I didn't say there was. It's an analogy sweetheart, using another, similar example of a deeply flawed, paranoid narrative that seeks to replace occam's razor with the breitbart bludgeon.

Or MAYBE, you folks can't separate your own interests (or lack thereof) with theory from whats happening in the larger discourse around you. Anti-colonialism and white supremacy might be old hat to a lot of radicals by now, which probably means its only just becoming relevant on the scale at which it might make any damned difference to most people.

Meanwhile, some of us are just whining about people can use words in bad faith. Boo hoo.

"Anti-colonialism" -- what a laughable idiotic concept in the 21st century -- and "white supremacy" are mantras derived theoretically from Maoism. And useful only for showing the historical ignorance and intellectual shallowness of the compulsive protest scenesters who use them.

Resist all-important adolescent peer pressure and conformist groupthink. Read The Situationists. Read Dauve. Then make like a grown-up and sally forth into real-people-land and apply the insights you've acquired.

what interest could you possibly have in resisting the existence of the common-use term for structural racism? hmm?

Not following this critique of words like “colonialism.”

For ex:

Is the idea that capitalism isn’t colonialist in some fundamental way? Seems like we’d obviously say yes it is (a necessity of trying to find cheaper labor, new markets to expand due to competiton, eg)

Or is the idea that colonialism isn’t primary to capitalism, just a secondary offshoot not essential to its basic function?

Again seems obviously wrong since capitalism only emerged via colonial “primitive accumulation” and worldwide colonization has played an essential part in its existence again and again (see why I said above re: labor and new markets).

Or is the idea it’s just “modish,” or quirky activist talk, to refer to colonialism? Like an empty phrase?

That seems weird given how really serious revolutionary internationalism has mostly evaporated, so thinking about international capitalist structures has gone out the window. Thus the problem wouldn’t be THAT we talk about colonialism but that we need to do it more and more rigorously.

(For ex i thought RED had a longer analysis that grounds this one [referenced at beginning of article] that goes into a lot more re: capital’s colonialism, so they seem to do some of that centering of colonialism in their work, though maybe not enough.)

Or is the idea that capitalism is OBVIOUSLY colonial, and so talking about capitalism AND colonialism risks talking about two different structures when there’s only one? That’s interesting though I can’t tell if people are saying that and we’d need to say an awful lot more on this topic. I’m inclined to think that colonialism is PART of capitalism (rather than independent)—but that radical analysis tends to be so nationalist and narrow in vision that we often miss the deep internationalism of capitalism—so we need terms like colonialism as a corrective.

So—the offhandedly rejection of words like “colonialism” here seems a lot more like a dogmatic reflex than anything, given how it’s not really giving an analysis of where and how capitalism has central material drives to colonial expansion

You're "not following" because it's not a good faith discussion imo. Whether these posters genuinely want to pretend there's still a discussion to be had about whether colonialism exists and/or is bad, which I sincerely doubt, or they're trolling their faces off, the best possible outcome is you realizing that you could spend more time thinking about the subject.

Where I'm from, anti-colonialism is pretty much the only narrative that's managed to push back against "the totality" at all. It's still getting attacked and dismissed all the time, most people STILL have no idea what it is but there's space that's been carved out.

It hasn’t pushed back against anything substantial. It’s also saturated throughout rulling power leftist ideology and THAT’S ultimately the issue with phoney turd worldist Maoist born anti-colonialism. It was NEVER a discourse made to take on Leviathan as such. It’s a structural Marxist vessel to usher in a new kind of integrated totality.

The sooner anarchists create structurally congruent discourse for and by them that is actually anti-leviathan and against civilization and not rely on marxoid born structural thought the better.

Says you. I say it's an easily accessible (tho imperfect) historical narrative that does the best job possible of explaining the last few hundred years to the millenials with their limited attention spans. You're just asserting this huge conclusion, based on your anti-marxist crap and alluding to hypotheticals that doesn't actually exist.

Anyway, keep squawking as I know you will.

Anti-colonialism was put through the liberal laundromat and Marxist drycleaner and emerged as the prickly-clean morally righteous Idpol mindset.

The discourse around the rejection of leviathan for instance is fairly accessible. Of the big 3 towers of leviathan, civilization and history leviathan is the easiest rejection discourse to swallow(civilization and history in that order are more challenging). Anti-colonialism is a trojan horse for a new civilized model. It's of no use to to arch anti-leviathan anarchists for the simple reason that the critique is highly selective and binary in its targets. Colonialism is a function of the above big 3 and not a driver of meta level power in itself.

Where the word "accessible" is applied to political discourse, it literally means stupid and/or for "the stupids". Checkmate ziggy. You realize everyone else stopped reading this thread days ago, yes?

I understand that you have to simplify and de-niche to a point but the language of leviathan critique is not all that niche based. You'll here it among right wing libertarians for instance albeit in a very incongruent way. Leviathan analysis and critique needs to be the libertarian anarchist counter to the marxist born colonial critique.

You spend all your time floating obscure philosophical arguments that are gibberish to 99% of internet users, I don't think you DO understand that. Not even close.

Leviathan emphasized critique is hardly obscure. It’s an idea that a fair amount of libertarian minded peoole understand.

Nope, it's not widely understood and nope, it's not a dichotomy either. You're basically just emotionally invested in your little pet theory.

Neither is the critique of the state(though it’s hardly obscure). Leviathan analysis is about as understood as anti-state analysis and just about all libertarians are aware of it and against it.

Is it more of minority analysis then noisy anti-colonialism, yes, but that doesn’t mean there will not be more awareness of it in the future as anarchism becomes more widespread with time.

Anti-Colonial analysis on the other hand is a statist dominant position that is narrow on analysis and selective on blame with a binary based phantom enemy(White 1st World Western Society). Of course civilization and state are more complex then that and most anti-colonial ideologies are not capable of the proper analysis. It also ends with cheer leading for certain states(black yellow brown etc).

Do you even remember what we were originally arguing? You just conceded I was right this whole time when you say "Is it more of minority analysis then noisy anti-colonialism, yes,"

THAT WAS MY ONLY FUCKING POINT. WE'RE DONE HERE

Your original point was about ACCESSIBILITY not about outright majority awareness and I challenged the idea that leviathan analysis and critique was not accessible. It's about as out there as anarchism is. There is also the fact that anti-colonialism is and never was even radical at this or any point.

That's what's ultimately important.

This looks like a series of bald assertions without supporting argument. so im gonna guess this is trolling?

Don't troll police me RJ! We intellectuals regret the influence of physiological tantrums and the negative effect testosterone laden activists have upon furthering the advancement of an unhindered insurgency. We wait for calmer times to emerge out of our basements ;)

Yes, more adjectives are needed, and soooo, we contemplative anarchs must avoid the aggressive muscular manarchist milieus to preserve our unique ideas from the turmultuous hierarchical dominance of the activist patriarchs! We will bide our time in humble humor and sombre hilarity awaiting the suspended moment.

Great points here, thanks. And I think there’s a lot more thinking on the subject that I’m gonna need to do.

Can you tell me more where you’re coming from? Would love to hear more on your interesting idea of colonialism as a counter to “totality.”

What is familiar to me may be unfamiliar to you. What is familiar to me is meaningful, what is unfamiliar to me is noise. What is meaningful to me is perceived as noise to others to whom I am unfamiliar.

My tribe values conservation. Your tribe values tolerance. The Tribe must perceive unfamiliarity, must, as threat to maintain relevancy, identity. If there is familiarity there is no Threat there is no Tribe. I see flaw, i do not see racism. I see human nature, I do not see conspiracy. I see insecurity, I do not see empowerment. I am innuendo. I am malcontent. I am unresolved, misunderstood, encrypted. I finished listening before others finished talking. I am learned behavior.

I see expectation become misfortune become sadness become embitterment become victim become anger become retribution become moralist become protector become god become expectation...

The difference between what i am and what i think i am: I am naturally flawed. I am synthesized perfection.

Mostly, I am the aggregate of indiscriminate consumption, all things, feelings, ambitions. I am totalitarian to my own whim and soon my whim becomes compelled. Globally, I adhere to the moral high ground. Yet, in secret, I followed the path of least resistance. I echo the loudest complaints rather than solve or help anything. I perpetuate the end of the road. I bring nothing and consume everything. I am pop-culture and all of its bastard splinter sub genres that desperately cling to relevance.
I will spin and cycle all ambitions, this is legacy, an eternal cascade of hypocrisy and insecurity stemming from an ancient and long forgotten wrong.

We all have one thing in common that assures continuity of madness.

Ugh.

Would like to just get down to the matter at hand raised the article for better or worse—how to organize a revolution. Poetry’s terrific, but not terribly helpful re: strategy and tactics.

Any serious discussion about that subject will be ruthlessly trolled in to the ground round here!

Besides, step 1 is get off the internet.

Interesting—didn’t know that about this site. Why is that kind of discussion trolled so bad?

BeCaUSE wE JUsT lIkE THE poetRIES aND JusT DON't KNoW thAt SRs ReVOluTions reQuIreS Srs discuSsIOnS! sTrATEGies! tActiCS! SO WE can WIn THe OrGaNIZEd aNArchiES!

Basically there's literally troll tweedle dum and dee (SirEinzige and Le Way) and they do their best to derail most discussion.

But the topic of "organizing revolution" probably deserves it.

“But the topic of "organizing revolution" probably deserves it.”

Why so?

I'm not the moron who made that quote, but to answer in the broadest sense, "organizing revolution" means to create an organization for a riot, an institution to discuss and regulate chaotic disobedience, or a hierarchical process of levelling power. You see how contradictory it is hmm? No different to the counter-revolution, the binary quandary between the right and left.

Don’t think I see why organization is the same as being authoritarian or repressing creativity, horizontal, etc.

Eg, nature is highly organized and yet spontaneous and completely horizontal.

Sorry if this comes across as condescending RJ, but kiddo, the premise is that organization creates rules and a culture of administration. Think of morality as a form of self-enslavement, soooo, being willing to be organized is akin to being ruled by others.,.

That of course, depends on how you do it. Or at worst, is a dogmatic and kind of stupid position.

Its only inevitable that organizing an anarchist revival WOULD be ruthlessly mocked BECAUSE in this era the only entrance is via public relation fanfare such as Fedbook membership and encruitment and public exposure at events like block parties if any success at gaining popularity is desired. Also the swing towards casual individualist projects away from politics is an expression of the new cynicism with which the youth these days regard any formal organization. There are only a finite number of variations to the binary protest formulae, banner marching, rock throwing, chanting and screaming hysterical slogans and turning over paper boxes and smashing bank windows and suger glueing atm and door locks has run its course in alienation the population from inquiry into anarchist theory, which ironically is held in dormant safety in the minds of the sacred few intellectual unique ones who wait patiently for the masses to catch up with their ideas, who send little snippets out from their secluded basements, little hints and slices of wisdom to direct a discourse this way or that towards a specific topic and theoretical proposition to contemplate, and, if considered worthy and excellent, to be tested in ones daily life amongst the normal hoi polloi, slowly sending these seeds of insurgency to grow and do their slow magic, to awaken the stagnant and paralyzed mental processes of the masses into a new paradigm and social consciousness.

2018: "......" (too busy looking at Facebook posts)

Figaro,

This is a riddle right?

I know what your are!!! You are youthful ideology! Genuine Anti-Comedy....mor MOR!

Anarchy is a dead horse - mostly because fuck you is why. dont worry it will sink in....

Fuck you too! I can still lay here and stink, can't?! You can always pointlessly beat me, or perhaps use me to poison some drinking water or launch me over the castle ramparts to spread disease!

USE YOUR IMAGINATION

There can be no hesitation in retreating from the promises and practices of a 20th Century methodology which makes the natural condition of oppression an enemy of its social fabric. Has it not been phased out and made aesthetically obsolete by the new technologically enhanced modes of populist unification blanketing global media? This new ideological pressure chamber, or rather, vacuum, depending on which side of the binary social filter one occupies, the Idpol quest and its morality, squeezing and injecting its dumbed-down sentiments into the global zeitgeist, alas, it has forced the most imaginative and unique thinkers to withdraw from the organized activist mire and its ressentiment fuelled venting scene, and seek alternative relational dynamics amongst valiant Stirnerian knights of individual honor!

do i get an anarchy shirt? Also how many anarchy points do i get for running a yellow light...back in the day it was 4 not sure bout now.

Fuck Off/Bye
whatever works better

THIS SHIT IS GONNA GO DOWN RIGHT FUCKING NOW ASSHOLE MOTHERFUCKER SHITDICK ASSHOLE FUCKING FUCK.

I destroy any money i get because spending only validates the fucking entity. I DONT VOTE FOR THE SAME REASON!
HAHA fucking anarchy BRO

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