The Politics of Impatience: An open letter from anarchists to the anarchist movement

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Suzy
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Apr 8 2010 16:31
The Politics of Impatience: An open letter from anarchists to the anarchist movement

The Politics of Impatience:
An open letter from anarchists to the anarchist movement

Dear friends,

As anarchists from a variety of different projects and political perspectives, mostly in the U.S., we are inspired by the courage of students fighting for access to public universities in New York, California, and everywhere. At a time when politicians take money out of schools and build prisons to fill with young people of color and poor people – while giving away trillions to the banks, health insurance companies, and war profiteers – any movement that takes back space and resources for public use wins our hearts. Many of us are not students, but we will continue to demonstrate our solidarity in whatever ways we can when students are beaten and arrested, and colleges themselves start to look like jails because administrations are afraid of the power of student organizing.

We are shocked that on March 4th at Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY), some anarchists harmfully disrupted a protest against tuition hikes, budget cuts, and childcare cuts. Some of the facts of what happened are in dispute. Some are not, including the following: A faculty member and longtime media activist was injured in the head, sectarian graffiti was spray-painted, and a parent from Defend Hunter Childcare was targeted with a sexist epithet that was heard by some as a rape threat. Some of the individuals involved have apologized for their actions. But we still need to ask why this happened, how anarchists could be responsible for these things. And how to make sure it never happens again.

At the root of the incident was an impatience by some anarchists with a rally and walkout that they decided should have been an occupation. This letter will talk about the politics of impatience and offer some ideas for action.

A movement that stands for childcare, healthcare, and education for everyone means more to most people than slogans shouted by those who are “pushed by the violence of our desires” to act as individuals. A statement with that phrase as its title, written by some folks involved in the altercation at Hunter, claims, “We do not need the ‘consent of the people.’” But militant direct action needs to take place within the context of a movement, not outside of it. To single-handedly declare that a protest is not radical enough without participating in the democratic processes of the movement is vanguardist. It’s ironic--and tragic--when it comes from anarchists. When we want to occupy, let’s reach out to those who might want to occupy too, so there’s a chance they might occupy with us.

Peace to the villages, war to the palaces

We are deeply frustrated with the lack of militant resistance across the U.S. while the powers that be are murdering millions of people with impunity, transferring our wealth to the richest, and destroying the planet. In many areas, the only options being offered are lobbying, actions pre-determined by media-savvy advocacy nonprofit staff, and grassroots campaigns that only demand what they believe to be immediately “winnable” from local, state, or federal governments.

We’ve all felt the transformation and possibility that resonates in the air at more spontaneous mass protests where, however briefly, the streets or the schools are truly ours. If that moment of freedom can also feed the bellies and minds of people’s children, people will do it again, and more will be inspired to try it on their own terms.

Learning our movements’ histories can give us a few ideas. CUNY, for example, has a tremendous militant history of student occupations, which were organized very carefully with massive popular support -- not just from the students, but from the Black and Latino neighborhoods most of them came from. In 1969, when the police started arresting students occupying CUNY campuses across the city, community members brought food for the protesters, standing between them and police. This is because the students were part of those communities, and their tactics, strategy, and message were connected to so many people’s lives.

Those lengthy occupations, which involved the burning of an auditorium, won Open Admissions – meaning that by 1976, the student body was majority working-class people of color from New York City public high schools. Many of these students took the opportunity to spend years studying their communities’ revolutionary histories and putting those lessons into action. At CUNY, occupations as a winning tactic continued through the 70s and 80s.

These occupations’ strategic use of demands has been a defining feature of successful revolutionary movements, in this country and around the world, for centuries. It is no less vital in these days of crisis. Picture the Homeless, a current New York City grassroots organization founded and led by homeless people, write collectively in the January/February 2009 issue of Left Turn magazine, “If we spend all of our time on a campaign to fix the shelter system, we’ll never get around to fighting the tyranny of the housing market. Reforms can be steps on the road to revolution when we use them that way. Also revolution is a process itself, which isn’t over when the smoke dies down. In the best of all worlds, reform can help us figure out what the revolution will look like – if we use the process of winning reform to illuminate what it is that we want and what it is going to take to get it.” [Click here for a pdf of this article.]

For Sparks to Fly

Militancy and dramatic tactics require trust, and trust is built by humbly listening to people who have their own ideas and plans for their liberation. It is now more than ever, exactly because of the urgency of the crisis created by capitalism, that we need to be careful that our actions are as respectful, strategic, and collectively discussed and agreed-on as possible. “Confrontational approaches are bound to encounter opposition at some point, but if the opposition is coming from potential comrades, it’s a warning sign that one is on the wrong path,” CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective write in “Say You Want an Insurrection.”

We’ve heard about a few events in the past few years where anarchist groups have disrupted other groups’ events. There are times when the only way to get a vital message across is to do things that people will say are disruptive. We value a diversity of tactics and ideas, and we don’t want this statement to be used to stifle dissent. But collective liberation is going to be a long struggle, and we will need to get along with people of different backgrounds and ideas. Hunter College in particular has a long history of anarchists, communists, socialists, Black and Puerto Rican nationalists and other radicals working together. This is never easy, but it is something to be proud of. The urgency of crisis will not make these challenges go away. If we are serious about revolutionary social change, then we need to have more open conversations with those we disagree with, instead of blasting each other on the internet. Conflict is a part of life that we can often learn a lot from, but only when we are open to hearing criticism and learning from our mistakes.

A Vision that Beckons

As anarchist Ashanti Omowali Alston said in a speech at Hunter College in 2003, “How can we nurture every act of freedom? Whether it is with people on the job or the folks that hang out on the corner, how can we plan and work together?”

Toni Cade Bambara, a Black feminist (and CUNY activist) said that “the job of the writer is to make revolution irresistible.” That’s our job too. Our movements need to offer what the system never can: dignity, solidarity, freedom, and honesty.

We sign this letter to say that as anarchists:

We want a free world.

We respect the human dignity of other people fighting for freedom, even when we disagree.

We take militant action rooted in collective, voluntary, democratic participation. We make time for open discussion and decision-making.

We respect the self-determination of oppressed groups and learn from these struggles.

We reject attacks by anarchists on movements they decide are not “militant” enough.

We imagine new ways to build the loving, liberatory communities we want to live in while we resist and attack the forms of domination we live under now.

In solidarity,

[Note: Projects and organizations are listed along with people’s names for identification only and don’t imply endorsement by that group. Groups that sign on collectively are marked with an asterisk.]

Suzy Subways, SLAM Herstory Project, Prison Health News writing collective, Philadelphia
Joel Olson, Bring the Ruckus and Repeal Coalition
Zachary Hershman, Coalition for Essential Services Philadelphia, former SDS member
Jasper Conner, IWW, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Appalachia VA
Chris Dixon, Sudbury Against War and Occupation & Upping the Anti, Sudbury, Ontario
cindy, doris ’zine
Daniela Sea
Sara R. Galindo, Los Angeles (A) Bookfair Collective, UCLA Graduate Student
Jamie McCallum, the CUNY Graduate center
Mitchell Verter, author, Dreams of Freedom: A Ricardo Flores Magon Reader (AK Press)
Michelle O’Brien
laurel smith, POWER: Parents Organizing for Welfare and Economic Rights. Olympia, WA
Samantha Sitrin, ACT UP Philadelphia
Corina Dross
Arthur J. Miller, Tacoma GMB-Industrial Workers of the World, Co-Editor: Bayou La Rose, anarchist for over 40 years, Tacoma, WA
Ruth Sheridan, Alaskans for Peace and Justice, Anchorage
dave onion
*Team Colors Collective
Nicole Davis, DC IWW, DC SDS
Lydia Pelot-Hobbs, North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO), New Orleans, LA
Chris Borte, creating democracy, Portland, OR
Peter Bohmer
Brendan Maslauskas Dunn, Olympia WA
Steven Araujo, (Graduate) Student Organizing Committee at UC Santa Cruz, United Auto Workers local 2865 Santa Cruz
Alexis Shotwell, Sudbury Against War and Occupation
Paul Messersmith-Glavin, Institute for Anarchist Studies, Perspectives on Anarchist Theory journal collective, IWW-Portland, Parasol Climate Collective, Red and Black Cafe, Portland
Walter Hergt, Black Sheep Books
Luis Fernandez, Bring the Ruckus and Repeal Coalition
Colin Cascia, a member of the defenestrator collective
Andrew Willis Garcés
James Generic, part of the Wooden Shoe collective
Crescenzo Scipione, Rochester SDS, IWW
Marina Sitrin, San Francisco Bay Area, author of Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina
Dan Berger, author of Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity, cofounder of Onward newspaper (2000-2003)
David Stein, Critical Resistance-Los Angeles
Jon Berger, College Park SDS & the Civilian-Soldier Alliance
Sara Skinner, DC
Alex Knight, endofcapitalism.com
Dana Barnett, Philadelphia PA
scott p, the defenestrator collective
Roy San Filippo, Editor, A New World in Our Hearts: 8 Years of Writings from the Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation
Joseph Lapp, IWW, Alaskans Together for Equalitity
Tara Lindsey, educator, Denver
Stephen Polk, student and community activist, Denver
Mary Witlacil, Denver Food Not Bombs
luce guillen-givins
Clare Bayard, Catalyst Project
Chris Crass, Catalyst Project
layne mullett
germ ross, Marginal Notes Collective and former member of Philly SDS
Sarah Small, Marginal Notes Collective, Coalition to Save the Libraries, political prisoner support work
Jade Gleaner, Co-director The Mill Creek Farm


For more information and views on what happened at Hunter:

“Open Letter to the Student Movement,” signed by a named list of Hunter student, faculty, and alumni activists. The many letters in solidarity with the Hunter activists’ Open Letter, including one by anarchists at Hunter who helped organize the walkout, are not publicly available, except for this one by CUNY activist lawyer Ron McGuire.
• A blog called “Take the City” hosts several unsigned writings opposed to the Open Letter, including “A Response to the Lies of March 4th” and “Pushed by the Violence of Our Desires”
Video from the rally (first posted by Take the City)

Some ideas and histories to check out:

• SLAM Herstory Project http://slamherstory.wordpress.com/
Some history of radical CUNY student organizing

• “Between Infoshops and Insurrection: U.S. Anarchism, Movement Building, and the Racial Order” by Joel Olson http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~jo52/pubs/Anarchism and Race-public.pdf

• “Smack Bad Politics, Abolish the White Race” by Sam Emm
http://www.bringtheruckus.org/?q=node/91

• “Black Fighting Formations” by Russell Maroon Shoats
http://www.akpress.org/2005/items/blackfightingformations
A short history and analysis of armed Black groups, 1960–94, from the imprisoned Black Panther

• “Promissory Notes: from Crises to Commons” by Midnight Notes Collective and Friends http://www.midnightnotes.org/Promissory%20Notes.pdf

• Upping the Anti - a radical journal of theory and action http://www.uppingtheanti.org/

• Turbulence newspaper – ideas for movement http://turbulence.org.uk/

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Schwarz
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Apr 8 2010 17:07

isn't this letter more appropriate for a site like anarchistnews? why join this (UK) forum just to post this?

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Django
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Apr 8 2010 17:08

This isn't really news either, at least as far as the remit of this site goes - it should be moved to the forums.

Suzy
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Apr 8 2010 17:22

oops, sorry. just wanted to post it to anarchist websites. I thought this was international and i like this website. please suggest more for me to post it on. hope it can be helpful to others.

much respect,
suzy

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Joseph Kay
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Apr 8 2010 17:23

i've moved it to the organise forum

Suzy
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Apr 8 2010 17:25

thanks, buddy! sorry for my confusion. this is all meant in good open honest dialogue.

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arminius
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Apr 8 2010 17:32

What usa forum is comparable to this one? (And there's lots of stuff on Libcom that's not uk - I'm happy to note.)

googoo
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Apr 9 2010 21:27

Excuse me, but it looks like lot of these signers are not anarchists. Especially the principle, Suzy Subways:

http://leftspot.com/blog/?q=afterwinter

"The "Afterward" which was posted by Suzy Subways (who was in Fire by Night), is an important self-criticism of Fire by Night's errors after it ended, which sheds some light on why the NY Fire by Night group dissolved itself amidst what they characterize as white chauvinist errors in the mass movement, and then the Bay Area group moved toward Marxism and joined a Marxist organization. I think the afterward is important for showing that the part-anarchism part-Marxism mix didn’t last. I think a lot of young activists are attracted to a blend of Marxist and anarchist ideas, so a group like Fire by Night can have some attraction. This afterward helps clarify the difficulty of building a revolutionary organization on the basis of that eclectic mixture – Fire by Night folded after a year and the group that stayed together ultimately rejected anarchism and joined a Marxist organization.

…Months after the dissolution of FbN, former West Coast members were approached by Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) to discuss joining FRSO. In May of 2000 we joined Freedom Road. Many folks may be asking how a group of people who came from such an anarchist background could have ended up in an organization like Freedom Road Socialist Organization. Much of that shift occurred in an analysis that developed while in FbN. As the New York branch statement notes, “Our turn away from anarchism and towards revolutionary socialism was in part the consequence of our participation in the CUNY movement and the realization of the crying need for a more serious and disciplined kind of revolutionary organization than was consistent with our previous anarchist outlook.”

Although we recognize the mistakes and contradictions of 20th century socialism, we also don’t think the baby should be thrown out with the bath water. The revolutionary socialist tradition provides a framework from which to analyze and fight for a just future society. Although we continue to hold some tenets of anarchism (open democratic processes and community building) as important, we do not believe that anarchism as a whole can provide the tools necessary to build a renewed revolutionary movement today. We hope that some of our conclusions are useful and relevant for future endeavors to build revolutionary organization, and we invite any thoughts about the content of this pamphlet. People learn through struggle and we learned a lot about organization building and practice from our experience in Love and Rage and Fire by Night.

Yours in Struggle,
Former Members of Fire by Night Organizing Committee

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Apr 9 2010 22:12

To simply refer to the FRSO as a "Marxist organization" is not sufficient, unless one thinks that anything that is "Marxist" is inherently counter-revolutionary. However, there are many different varieties of "Marxism", and it is best to be clear what is what. In fact, the FRSO is a Marxist-Leninist -- or better, a Maoist-Stalinist -- organization, which means that they are bureaucratic vanguardist supporters of totalitarian state capitalist regimes. On the other hand, there are varieties of Marxism which have always opposed Stalinism, Maoism and Trotskyism as forms of counter-revolutionary state capitalism. Libertarian communists are well-advised to be clear about these distinctions, so that they can sort out which "Marxists" are their (class) enemies and which aren't. Happily, many on libcom are quite clear about this.

googoo
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Apr 9 2010 22:17

if you're interested in good honest dialogue, why do you start off with lying about your politics?

http://leftspot.com/blog/?q=afterwinter

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waslax
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Apr 10 2010 09:28

Oh, I agree completely with you about that. These people (of the FRSO and allies) should not be trusted.

mK ultra
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Apr 9 2010 23:34

On Freedom Road

While I disagree with Freedom Road on many issues I do not view them as the enemy. In fact in many of the movements I have been involved in Freedom Road comrades have played a very positive role. Regardless of their relationship to Marxism-Leninism, in practice the usually play a role that is pro-direct action organizing and pro-autonomy of social movements. They have developed critiques of past marxist-leninist practice and have come to some of the same ideas that many anarchists embrace. That's probably why they were successful in attracting many (ex) anarchists from Love and Rage. I don't want to paint too rosy a picture. They believe in the state, at times they seem to have a strategy that is pro-democratic party, and when the shit hits the fan no doubt further divisions will appear. But for the time being many of them are allies in the struggle. (Note I am speaking of the left refoundation split of Freedom Road, not the more traditional leftist FRSO split.)

In this specific case I would like to hear more from the anarchists on the ground involved in the Hunter College event. While the open letter above makes many good points, I know it doesn't tell the whole story.

waslax wrote:
....In fact, the FRSO is a Marxist-Leninist -- or better, a Maoist-Stalinist -- organization, which means that they are bureaucratic vanguardist supporters of totalitarian state capitalist regimes....
Suzy
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Apr 10 2010 01:49

Hi friends,
I was a member of Fire by Night Organizing Committee for about a year. I left the group in the summer of 1999. About six months later, Fire by Night dissolved. Some of the former members in the Bay Area joined Freedom Road. I was in NYC from 1995 to 2004.

One of the main reasons I left Fire by Night is that I was still an anarchist, and the group was moving in another direction.

When Fire by Night dissolved, some of the former members released the statement quoted from above. It is the "Afterword" to “After Winter Must Come Spring: A Self-Critical Evaluation of the Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation,” a document finalized by the Fire by Night Organizing Committee after I had quit. I posted the Afterward because I felt that it was not right to leave it out when people posted or published "After Winter." The reason I cared is because I felt that "After Winter" was kind of harsh on Love and Rage, so I felt that leaving out the Afterword was unfair because the Afterword explains some of the problems in Fire by Night.

The first paragraph quoted above was written by an old friend of mine who I adore who happens to be a communist. The second 2 paragraphs are taken from the Afterword itself, which was written by former members of Fire by Night in the Bay Area.

I didn't write any of those 3 paragraphs. I also never joined the Freedom Road socialist organization. I do have friends in that group, and I have had wonderful experiences working with them, and I think it's a great organization. But I have never joined it, and I wouldn't, because I'm an anarchist.

I can understand how seeing the above post might be misleading if you don't know me though.

In solidarity,
Suzy Subways

Suzy
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Apr 10 2010 01:48

The following is the only part of that post on leftspot that I actually wrote. Leftspot is a wonderful blog that a dear friend of mine who happens to be a communist does. In 2007, I saw that "After Winter" was posted on the blog, so I went on and posted the Afterword. This is what I wrote:

Afterword to the Love & Rage evaluation "After Winter..."
Submitted by Suzy Subways (not verified) on Fri, 04/13/2007 - 4:18pm.

Please include this Afterword wherever this evaluation is printed or posted. For some reason, it is not usually included in online versions, but it's incredibly important and can prevent misunderstandings about Fire by Night.

In solidarity,
Suzy Subways

Suzy
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Apr 10 2010 01:55

Also, I do understand the need to hear all sides of the story. In the letter, we did include links to some of the many open letters about the March 4th incident at Hunter (the others are on facebook and not available publicly, unfortunately). These links are located just under the signatures.

Much respect,
Suzy

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Tarwater
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Apr 10 2010 02:00

Can I ask what is the significance of individuals signing statements like this?

scottydont
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Apr 10 2010 03:35

well the statement might have pretty shitty politics, but at least its a change from the blatant race baiting about march 4th that was going on earlier. wink

Quote:
Can I ask what is the significance of individuals signing statements like this?

yeah, you would think that a statement about events at Hunter would at least try to get people from Hunter to sign on or at least people from NYC instead of just a buch of anarchist milieu celebrities?

Is there any substance to this letter at all? It seems to me like an empty activist call to "movement building" and a bizarre statement in support of some weird form of democratic centralism.
Frankly, this kind of thing is exactly part of what makes anarchism in the US a joke...on one hand you have a bunch of punks starting bike collectives and dressing like ninjas and on the other you have a bunch of liberal "anarchist" activists who couldn't organize their way out of wet paper bag calling for participation in their campaigns for climate/environmental/global/urban/insert-your-favorite-catchphrase-at-the-moment justice and to take "movement building" seriously, which apparently means building left activist coalitions with Trots, Maoists and non-profiteers to fight for liberal reforms.

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Apr 10 2010 06:25
mK ultra wrote:
(Note I am speaking of the left refoundation split of Freedom Road, not the more traditional leftist FRSO split.)

Damn, I can never keep these groups straight. Is it the People's Front of Judea or the Judean People's Front? Is it the internal or external fraction -- or the right or left refoundation split? Traditional or reactionary?

It's hard to call most of the signers anarchists, let alone radicals. Many make their living schlepping ideology in anti-oppression workshops (at what, $350 a pop?), or pimping their non-profits and NGOs for ruling class foundation money.

And what anarchist fawns all over an unapologetic Stalinist Obama-ophile like Max Elbaum? I have a comrade who's an older wage worker in San Francisco's service industry who got purged from Elbaum's group, Line of March (more popularly known as March in Line!), in the 1980s for "not being sufficiently self-critical" during one of their Scientology-esque criticism/self-criticism sessions. He called it a Stalinist-guilt-tripping-mind-control-cult. The Catalyst Project (two of whom signed the open letter) calls it a model of an anti-imperialist anti-patriarchy organization that anarchists should be emulating today. What utter nonsense!

waslax wrote:
To simply refer to the FRSO as a "Marxist organization" is not sufficient, unless one thinks that anything that is "Marxist" is inherently counter-revolutionary. However, there are many different varieties of "Marxism", and it is best to be clear what is what. In fact, the FRSO is a Marxist-Leninist -- or better, a Maoist-Stalinist -- organization, which means that they are bureaucratic vanguardist supporters of totalitarian state capitalist regimes

I wholeheartedly agree. Why are they posting this rubbish here?

I clicked Suzy's link: http://leftspot.com/blog/?q=afterwinter

and this is what I found:

Quote:
Red Organizations in the U.S.

The Best...

Freedom Road Socialist Organization

...and The Rest

Communist Party USA

FRSO/OSCL (Left Refoundationist)

League of Revolutionaries for a New America

Party of Socialism and Liberation

Revolutionary Communist Party

Single Spark Collective

Solidarity

U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization

Workers World

From my experience, these groups are dangerous. When the First Gulf War broke out in 1991, these were the groups that snitched out militants to the pigs when people attacked property. Frankly, all these groups are the Stalinist goons that are the enemy of 99% of us here at libcom. Party of Socialism and Liberation broke off from Workers World, the group famous for their front group ANSWER (with another front group sandwiched in the middle: International Action Committee), which organizes the mass anti-war sheep-crawls in New York and San Francisco and elsewhere. Those two groups still stridently defend the "workers' paradise" of North Korea, and Workers World was one of the last holdouts that supported Hoxha and Albania to the bitter end.

And as Scottydont pointed out, there doesn't appear to be a single signer from Hunter College or even New York City. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

I also agree that incoherent statements like these don't belong on libcom. Put it on Indymedia or someplace where the popular front of liberals and Stalinists is tolerated. And I remember most of these signers, they signed another open letter at the time of Obama's inauguration last year, saying they wanted to "Build a Popular Power Bloc" in a strategic alliance with the Democratic Party.

Lastly, some of those Bay Area signers were part of another popular front called Coalition Against Police Execution, who I personally witnessed playing a completely reactionary role during the 2nd Oscar Grant Riot on January 14, 2009. Basically, they were surrogate pigs. Here's what the group Advance the Struggle wrote about them in their pamphlet Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity? (available here: http://advancethestruggle.wordpress.com/2009/07/15/justice-for-oscar-grant-a-lost-opportunity/):

Quote:
When CAPE activists, all wearing neon vests to distinguish themselves as figures of authority, lined up between the people and the police, they played the exact role that Roy examines above [the “buffer” role nonprofits (or non-governmental organizations – NGOs) play]: they became a buffer between the people and state. They faced the people, backs turned to the pigs, and tried to put out the fire of people’s emerging consciousness and militancy.

They're not anarchists or even Marxists by a definition shared by us here on libcom. So what are they? As I said above, my best guess is an ol' fashioned popular front of liberals and Stalinists masquerading as anarchists and communists.

Be wary of these fuckers.

scottydont
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Apr 10 2010 06:27

Here is what the Take the City crew wrote, for those who are interested... I'm not sure if this is a direct response or not, but it basically functions as one anyway (and also is actually pretty interesting reading...*cough*)

http://takethecity.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/let-the-dead-bury-their-dead/

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Devrim
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Apr 10 2010 06:27
Quote:
Excuse me, but it looks like lot of these signers are not anarchists.

Are any of them anarchists? I only skimmed through it, but did look at the list of people who signed it. Are any of them members of actual anarchist political organisation, such as NEFAC or the WSA? Or are they just a bunch of liberals with anarchy 'A's?

Devrim

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Juan Conatz
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Apr 10 2010 07:03
Devrim wrote:
Quote:
Excuse me, but it looks like lot of these signers are not anarchists.

Are any of them anarchists? I only skimmed through it, but did look at the list of people who signed it. Are any of them members of actual anarchist political organisation, such as NEFAC or the WSA? Or are they just a bunch of liberals with anarchy 'A's?

Devrim

It doesn't look like there is a single signer from any of the Class Struggle Anarchist Conference groups, which form the bulk of pro-organization folks here in the States.

I could be wrong though, as I don't know every member of every group.

soyonstout
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Apr 10 2010 08:57
Quote:
Is there any substance to this letter at all? It seems to me like an empty activist call to "movement building" and a bizarre statement in support of some weird form of democratic centralism.
Frankly, this kind of thing is exactly part of what makes anarchism in the US a joke...on one hand you have a bunch of punks starting bike collectives and dressing like ninjas and on the other you have a bunch of liberal "anarchist" activists who couldn't organize their way out of wet paper bag calling for participation in their campaigns for climate/environmental/global/urban/insert-your-favorite-catchphrase-at-the-moment justice and to take "movement building" seriously, which apparently means building left activist coalitions with Trots, Maoists and non-profiteers to fight for liberal reforms.
Quote:
So what are they? As I said above, my best guess is an ol' fashioned popular front of liberals and Stalinists masquerading as anarchists and communists.
Quote:
Are any of them anarchists? I only skimmed through it, but did look at the list of people who signed it. Are any of them members of actual anarchist political organisation, such as NEFAC or the WSA? Or are they just a bunch of liberals with anarchy 'A's?

As has been said before most of the signers seem to Popular Front-Style "anarchists." Many believe in "building movements" with Trots, Maoists, and above-all Democrats and NGOs to patch up the cracks in the capitalist building. This is actually extremely common and in my experience accounts for the bulk of those in the US claiming to be anarchist (perhaps this is different on the West Coast, but my experience has been that most "anarchists" I've met are leftists)

While I don't doubt that many have good intentions, their fixation with permanent mass organizations for reform on specific issues, and campaigns to use or sections of the state or convince sections of the state to lessen their attacks on each specific oppressed group as an isolated entity, derail any real class struggle

a) onto the terrain of the state, turning militants into functionaries or lobbyists, and turning the struggle into a legal struggle, allowing the state to ignore/repress/make-and-break-promises-to them, and

b) into a "multitude" of diverse, specific, oppressed interest groups, each chipping away at the margins of capitalist society, or setting up camp "outside" those margins, as opposed to a class with a common social position in the heart of capitalist society and power via its place in the process of capitalist production to actually defend its living standards on its own terms (not those dictated by the state) and/or change society.

Communists (by which I don't mean Trots, Maoists, or Stalinists), however, advocate class struggle, which aims at the self-organization, class independence, and unity of the working class in its fight to defend its living standards. This is, of course, completely illegal and is completely at odds with getting permits to march, making coalitions with trade unions, NGOs, and charity groups to try to pressure the state through legal means, etc. When workers fight for themselves directly in their interests and are able to extend their fight throughout their class, other oppressed groups take notice and look to the workers, who have the power to shut down the production process, as the class that can really change society.

Another problem with the Popular Front approach is that it often times resembles or is nothing more than charity work on behalf of some pitied sector of society, and activists get caught up in the ritual of "fighting the good fight" of helping one or two of the millions who are getting screwed by capitalism every day and they end up thinking this is the most that can be done--which is both paternalistic and ultimately will lead to massive burn-out, which is another way "movement building" unintentionally serves the state: people spend years trying to slow the attacks of capitalism in ways that don't directly challenge capitalism and thus never see any alternative or any possibility of a force in society capable of defending itself on it's own terms outside of and against the state, and either wind up becoming functionaries of that state, or give up politics altogether.

This is why revolutionaries sometimes use the term "the left wing of capitalism" to describe these groups because whatever their intentions, they function to derail and blunt the class struggle.

soyonstout
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Apr 10 2010 09:04
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Are any of them anarchists? I only skimmed through it, but did look at the list of people who signed it. Are any of them members of actual anarchist political organisation, such as NEFAC or the WSA? Or are they just a bunch of liberals with anarchy 'A's?

Actually, a number are contributors to anarchist publications, but I don't know if any of those are specifically class-struggle anarchist publications or not.

scottydont
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Apr 10 2010 09:12
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It doesn't look like there is a single signer from any of the Class Struggle Anarchist Conference groups, which form the bulk of pro-organization folks here in the States.
I could be wrong though, as I don't know every member of every group.

I can personally attest that some of them are anarchists (or at least syndicalists wink ), and at least one of them I know used to be a member of a platformist org and generally has pretty solid politics... Hence part of my disappointment in seeing their names here.

To be honest, however, I feel like the positions advanced in the letter are really not all that different than those I have heard expressed by some individual NEFAC members and members of various other anarchist communist or platformist groups. Also, I know the IWW is not anarchist and is open to all members of the class and blah blah blah....so what one member says hardly represents the the whole, but these types of views seem to be rampant in certain portions of the wobblies, as is demonstrated by the huge amount of wobblies who signed the thing.

Not trying to stir things up and I'm not trying to attack NEFAC or the wobs , just relating personal experience that membership in an "anarchist communist" or "class struggle" org dose not mean one is exempt for this kind of bs...

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waslax
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Apr 10 2010 09:25

Kudos to soyonstout612 for post #21. Very good summary analysis of a form of leftist politics that becomes hegemonic when the class struggle is at a relatively low level, and how it functions to derail any actual struggles that do arise.

soyonstout
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Apr 10 2010 09:30
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In many areas, the only options being offered are lobbying, actions pre-determined by media-savvy advocacy nonprofit staff, and grassroots campaigns that only demand what they believe to be immediately “winnable” from local, state, or federal governments.

This is interesting, though. And again, Devrim it actually looks like many are members of anarchist groups although I don't know if they are class struggle anarchist groups per se. Many of the signers seem to be leftists, but I know there are some on here who are not 100% bound up with that.

But the coalition-building mentality is endemic in the US and I think it's important to state clearly why revolutionaries need to avoid it and clearly differentiate the class struggle from the "CoMB" as the Take the City response calls it, which derails class struggle into the arms of the state.

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Devrim
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Apr 10 2010 10:39
soyonstout612 wrote:
Actually, a number are contributors to anarchist publications, but I don't know if any of those are specifically class-struggle anarchist publications or not.
soyonstout612 wrote:
This is interesting, though. And again, Devrim it actually looks like many are members of anarchist groups although I don't know if they are class struggle anarchist groups per se. Many of the signers seem to be leftists, but I know there are some on here who are not 100% bound up with that.

I don't think that 'class struggle anarchist' is really a very useful term. To me it implies accepting that all of the liberals who call them self anarchists are. 'Class struggle anarchist' is a tautology. It is similar to saying 'anti-state anarchist'. There aren't any other sorts of anarchists just liberals pretending to be.

scottydont wrote:
I can personally attest that some of them are anarchists (or at least syndicalists wink ), and at least one of them I know used to be a member of a platformist org and generally has pretty solid politics... Hence part of my disappointment in seeing their names here.

I don't think that just calling yourself an anarchist, syndicalist, or a communist makes you one. That would make Ken Livingstone, Simon LeBon, and John Zerzan all anarchists*

To be a political militant requires political activity i.e. being a member or sympathiser of a political organisation.

So what you are saying comes across to me as one of them used to be an anarchist.

Devrim

* Ex-Mayor of London, lead singer of successful 80s English pop group Duran Duran, and American anti-humanist respectively.

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Tarwater
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Apr 10 2010 14:32
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Kudos to soyonstout612 for post #21.

poetry.

syndicalist
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Apr 10 2010 15:32
soyonstout612 wrote:
Quote:
Are any of them anarchists? I only skimmed through it, but did look at the list of people who signed it. Are any of them members of actual anarchist political organisation, such as NEFAC or the WSA? Or are they just a bunch of liberals with anarchy 'A's?

Actually, a number are contributors to anarchist publications, but I don't know if any of those are specifically class-struggle anarchist publications or not.

soyonstout612 wrote:
Quote:
Are any of them anarchists? I only skimmed through it, but did look at the list of people who signed it. Are any of them members of actual anarchist political organisation, such as NEFAC or the WSA? Or are they just a bunch of liberals with anarchy 'A's?

Actually, a number are contributors to anarchist publications, but I don't know if any of those are specifically class-struggle anarchist publications or not.

As a longstanding class struggle anarchist (and in contact with both groups here above mentioned), I can only say that the statment was circulated AFTER signatures where already on the statment and posted elsewhere.

Furthermore, I can only say that this email is being discussed internally in the groups mentioned above.

tsi
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Apr 10 2010 15:40

soyonstout612's post really hits the nail on the head.

soyonstout612 wrote:
As has been said before most of the signers seem to Popular Front-Style "anarchists." Many believe in "building movements" with Trots, Maoists, and above-all Democrats and NGOs to patch up the cracks in the capitalist building. This is actually extremely common and in my experience accounts for the bulk of those in the US claiming to be anarchist (perhaps this is different on the West Coast, but my experience has been that most "anarchists" I've met are leftists)

The west coast isn't really any different from the rest of the continent. See recent "no olympics on stolen land" in vancouver.

We probably have fewer leftist anarchist organizations (I'm thinking of platformism here) but that doesn't seem to change what things anarchists are involved in.

Quote:
While I don't doubt that many have good intentions, their fixation with permanent mass organizations for reform on specific issues, and campaigns to use sections of the state or convince sections of the state to lessen their attacks on each specific oppressed group as an isolated entity, derail any real class struggle

this is very true.

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klas batalo
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Apr 10 2010 16:04

yeah got to second syndicalist's statement above. as a nefac supporter i only just heard of this letter through the lists in the last 24 hours. i think the problem is that there are a lot of anarchists who join SDS, or IWW in their areas because of a lack of solid anarchist organizations or groups self-organizing. they eventually then take on a vague sorta popular front style method tactically it seems. i know because i used to be content with such back in 2007 when there was barely any anarchists in my city. this is why i think organizing specifically as anarchists is important. though i am definitely still very interested in this sorta insurrectionary council-communist turn much of the anarchist student youth movement types have been taking on, basically because i do believe that councils/mass assemblies can be a pretty effective way to tactically organize at times. my question to these folks though is how do you make these forms of resistance spread without a bare minimum of formal organization or broad organizing in communities?