An anarchist collective.

After reading this stuff I reading stuff from the Furious Five, archived over at Adam’s. Here’s my notes.

The Furious Five Revolutionary Collective “Who We Are”

“The Collective is not based on ideological purity. On the contrary, it is constantly striving to help in the revising of anarchist communism and its reconstruction where necessary in order to make it relevant to the present (much needed) context.”

I like this. The F5 clearly had some level of ideological unity, but statement suggested that they expect their ideas to change and that they actively wanted to change the ideas of others.

“the necessity of anarchists working within popular, mass organizations”

Makes a lot of sense, though I think that in some cases this may mean working to build these organizations from the ground up, and I think anarchists should generally orient toward particular sites and/or experiences within organizations. (More on this later.)

“learning from whatever groups or struggles are out there, no matter where on the map or where in time they may be”

Makes a lot of sense.

“Currently, we work in several areas of organizing: student, labor, and community organizing. We believe that the purpose of the collective is to constantly debate the effectiveness of working in whatever area of organizing and provide a venue for accountability, review, self-criticism, and mutual support.”

Makes sense. This could imply that the group is a sort of affinity group of organizers who see themselves as anarchists. It makes me wonder what took precedence, mass or political work.

“We also believe that we should help in the propagation of anarchist and anti-authoritarian ideas. That being said, the Furious Five Revolutionary Collective is not imbued with a missionary spirit. We wish to help in the creation of an anarchistic movement, not necessarily a movement of anarchists.

I’m not so sure about that bit. I’m for a missionary spirit, thought we don’t want to make being an anarchist a pre-condition for working with or having a relationship with someone.

Senala or Quilombo, the piece could be read as dismissing the suggestion that anarchists “need to outreach to communities of color” and as suggesting that multi-racial organizations don’t make sense, though I think that’d bea misreading since the author was I think a member of the F5. I don’t have the context to understand some of the piece main points, which are about APOC. I’ve not seen the attacks on APOC that the author is responding to, they sound messed up! As the author suggests, really I’m not the audience for the piece. This is an important point: “while there are white Anarchists out there who remember that only the oppressed can liberate themselves and the end of white supremacy cannot be brought about by white people – there are those that, in their arrogance and shortsightedness, will not yield and cannot tolerate the thought that maybe there is something that Anarchist people of color need to discuss that does not include white people.” This is a good piece for me to read and listen to, I’m not sure what else to respond with.

From Reforms To Revolution

I think this piece is well written, particularly the opening, and like the points it makes. I could see reprinting this as a pamphlet or stealing its ideas and writing a pamphlet making the same points with reference and quotes to this pamphlet.

It makes a good point about criticisms that seem unrealistic. It’s really easy to criticize any project/activity short of a full blown actually existing perfect society, for the distance between the project and perfection. Maintaining a critical perspective – staying bothered at some level about the distance from perfection – is useful and important, but it’s not the only thing useful or important. We also need to be able to appreciate the distance between a project and what reality would be like without a project: something is better than nothing, we have to be able to see some movement in a positive direction starting from *somewhere* – I mean, at least conceptually, we have to able to make those distinctions.

The heart of the piece is about the relationship between immediate demands and long term vision and values. This is I think a basic issue for radicals doing mass work – winning gains and seeking to win gains is not reformist. Reformism is being content with just gains or thinking that the existing system can be made full livable through reforms alone. Wanting and working for reforms in addition to a revolutionary project is not necessarily reformist and as the piece argues can add to a revolutionary project. Part of the issue is how we relate to people’s relatively short term perceived self-interest and how that relates to our long term project and vision. I think some critics of short term stuff is partly because some of that sort of critic is just bad at mass work and bridging mass work and political work.

I really like this point: “The transformation of anarchism into a counterculture has led to a counterculture mentality, where anarchists worry more about the lifestyle of rebellion and the appearance of rebellion than actually working towards it in any concrete fashion. Anarchists can spout off until the end of time about the social revolution, but without serious discussion and implementation of a strategy to get there, we are nothing more than a joke. Its as simple as this: we are here at point A, the society we want is at point B, what steps do we need to take to get there?”

Though I’d say it’s more like Point A to Point Z 🙂

The idea that short term gain “takes the edge off “revolutionary anger”” that the author discusses is, as he says “callous and classist” and “betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the causes of revolution. Revolutions do not spring from despair or deep deprivation, they actually occur when expectations are rising, there is a belief in a better world, and this belief chafes against the reality of government as a hindrance.”

Objective conditions alone do not produce social change or consciousness. Objective conditions underdetermine subjective conditions.

I totally agree with this: It is foolish to “expect people to come to us. We have to go to them. We must not force our priorities and pet battles onto them (though we can certainly mention them), but instead must fight for the things that are important and vital to them, even if they are reforms. Our purpose will be to use these battles to show them their own power. Many do not even believe that they can win a fight against their landlord, let alone capitalism, the military, and the entire state machinery of the United States of America! But if they can start winning these smaller skirmishes, then a sense of their own power and ability to effect change will take hold and ferment.”

Mass work alone doesn’t do it either, though: “there has to be the constant reminder and push to make sure that reforms, once gained, never satisfy. (…) Oftentimes, once a movement or group has won a reform, they are content and go back to their regular lives. Indeed, governments and institutions grant reforms for this purpose: to pacify. And this is exactly why we have to be part of movements fighting for reforms. To build a revolutionary presence in communities and movements striving towards reforms is the beginning of radicalizing those communities and movements, and placing those reforms in the proper context

“Fighting for reforms is not inherently reformist, and is indeed the basis and springboard for revolution. If nothing else, fighting with others for needed reforms can inspire sympathy. Say, Anarchist A fights with a community against the demolishing of housing to make way for condominiums. From now on, even if Person A from that community hears bad things in the media about anarchists, maybe now he or she will say, “You know, I don’t think that’s true, Anarchist A was a good person and fought with us”. The media and government paint anarchists and radicals as irrational fanatics, basically inhuman and unnatural, which makes it easy to suppress us without public outcry. We only make this more effective by remaining aloof and being “abnormal” in most people’s eyes, but we can dispel this misconception by simply being around.”

In doing mass work “not only is our goal to demonstrate to people their own power, but also to give them a taste of the society that could be built with that power. There is a wrong-headed notion going around that people are clueless about the ills of society and we need to just bombard them with enough logic and facts until they see the light. Instead of focusing so much time on illustrating the various problems, which many people know about already, we should be focusing on convincing people that an alternative is possible and that they have the strength to make it a reality. Most people are attached to the current system more out of a lack of faith in the possibility of an alternative than any love for it. The key to revolutionary consciousness is sparking that fire in people’s hearts that makes them believe in a new society, want it with all their soul, and feel that it is within their power. (…) We need people who believe in revolution with their hearts and not just with their heads, and in fact, that’s the only way in which we can truly reach them.”

Building a Revolutionary Movement:Why Anarchist-Communist Organization?

“organization based on a strategic orientation towards social movements of the working class and oppressed.”

The piece reminds readers that “anarchism once held center stage in the mass revolutionary movements (…) while the vast majority of the Marxist current was organized into reformist social democratic parties that were oriented towards electoral change.” He quotes Hobsbawm, “in 1905-14, the marxist left [sic] had in most countries been on the fringe if the revolutionary movement, the main body of Marxists had been identified with a de facto non-revolutionary social democracy, while the bulk of the revolutionary left was anarcho-syndicalist, or at least much closer to the ideas and mood of anarcho-syndicalism than to that of classical Marxism. Marxism was henceforth [after the Russian Revolution] identified with actively revolutionary movements… Anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism entered upon a dramatic and uninterrupted decline.” Adam argues that this decline result in part from insufficient anarchist organization.

The piece (rightly) opposes “reformist mutualism.” “

“two central themes: 1) the organization of militants into a coherent federation and 2) the interaction and active participation of anarchists within the social movements.”

Not sure about federation exactly, but this isn’t the biggest deal really. The point is right, as is the opposition to synthesism.

“important strategizing work can only occur in an organization with a high degree of trust, commitment and political unity. Theoretical and tactical unity is not something imposed, but is an ideal that is always strived towards and developed out of a process of critical thinking, strategizing, action and evaluation.” (I prefer the phrase “strategic unity” but that’s a minor terminological issue, point remains and is right on.)

I like the importance the piece places on publications.

“movements should be horizontal, participant led and democratic in structure as much as possible. They should be oriented towards direct action and more importantly create the type of conditions that transform the participants into self-conscious thinkers and organizers amongst their peers. The classic example of social movements is radical labor organizing, but contemporary examples could also be working class student and community organizing.”


Race, Gender, and Class

I love that this piece opens with a Robin Morgan quote, and such a good one. Women’s liberation groups don’t get enough credit in my opinion.

I like how this piece is written and the start from personal experience (appropriately enough, following the Morgan quote), and the appeal to a long history several times in it.

Good knock on class reductionist (class distortionist!) “tomorrow, brother; later, sister” understandings of race and gender oppression as being automatically resolved by class struggle narrowly understood – “wait until after the revolution,” that kind of crap.

I’m not sure about the term “privilege,” I agree with my comrade Tom Wetzel that “advantages” is a better term, but the point remains that understanding this stuff is really important.

“Imperialism has been used as a shield by every single dictator that had its power threatened by the bigger shark”, though “this this is not a justification to the U.S. actions, is just an example of how racist structure benefits not only the white elite”

“The need of self organization for women came from the realization that in a social structure, every single relationship is one of power, and if the social structure was constructed by men, it would be inherently sexist. Only women could devise a structure that would really beneficiate women.”

“Why is it then surprising that our movement and our spaces are normally male dominated if why do not critically analyze the balance of power in the attitudes and presence of men and women inside the movement?”

“The oppression of women by the working class males is a phenomenon that can be traced back to almost every single culture. To see the feminist struggle as separate and a “division of forces” of the working class is a ludicrous statement – a reflection of a poor understanding of the nature of oppression and the nature of the working class.”