What did Love and Rage do?

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syndicalist
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Jan 5 2007 13:29

Ok, what can be some of the a) positive lessons learned from L&R and b) the negative?

--mitch

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888
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Jan 5 2007 15:13
syndicalistcat wrote:
well, i think i tend to agree with blackstarbhoy. The word
"cadre" was obviously not coined by Lenin.
t.

It's actually a Napoleonic word, which is worse than Lenin. But it's only a word, true. Albeit an unfortunate one. It does kind of imply a top-down organising method to me.

blackstarbhoy wrote:
lack of political respect for differences.

I don't respect maoists like I don't respect fascists. Unless your project is mass starvation and death camps, there is nothing positive to be learned from maoism.

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Jan 5 2007 17:56

well, i wouldn't *use* the word "cadre" because it can have these sorts of dubious connotations for people, but i wouldn't make any assumptions just because someone uses the word, i'd want more details.

t.

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Jan 5 2007 18:16

OK - blackstarbhoy seemed to be saying we should have political respect for bolsheviks, but maybe I was wrong, and he just meant political respect for people who use the word "cadre" in which case I apologise.

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Jan 6 2007 01:19
syndicalistcat wrote:
well, i wouldn't *use* the word "cadre" because it can have these sorts of dubious connotations for people, but i wouldn't make any assumptions just because someone uses the word, i'd want more details.

t.

I think syndicalistcat that you elucidated very well on why I choose that term. We, meaning revolutionary anarchists, class struggle libertarians, communist anarchists etc, here in the US have few organizations, few members, and few resources. I stand by the notion that there has to be co-ordination and the development of strategic approaches. I think all this means developing a membership that is committed to a program and willing above all to carry it out.

Not to ignore the complexities of organization like majority and minority viewpoints and how differences manifest themselves, but above all, there has to be a framework that organizes committed revolutionaries especially in times of retreat/decline of the social movements. Although I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a “Platformist”, I don’t think my position is beyond the scope of what the Delo Truda Group and subsequent pro-organizational anarchist tendencies conceived of as ways to not just build an organization but how to posit it as a voice within movements. If we wanted to look back then my position is not different from even classical forms of organization advocated by libertarians in the period of the 1ST international. I could give up the term“cadre”, I’m not wed to it, but if people are opposed to it because of connotations of it being exclusive, or top down, or sets militants apart from supporters or more casual allies, well, that is a problem not unique to that particular term and infact endemic to all our organizing whether the dichotomy is members/supporters, core/periphery, or even organization/movement. With any form of organization we libertarians build, the objective is to create the most participatory and engaged form of organization for all it’s members. But, I think there has to be an emphasis on responsibility and commitment, which, is continually lacking in US anarchist projects.

Mitch asks what lessons can be learned from L&R, I would say that the above is part of one of those lessons. Out of 8 years of L&R, I would give a casual estimate of 200 people passing through it. At any one time, possibly only 50 were involved in it. Out of that, only a handful really shaped the terms of debate around political analysis and strategy, as can unfortunately be seen as to why Day is so heavily represented in Fillipo’s book (although other members who contributed were purposefully under represented by Fillipo based I’m assuming on Fillipos political direction towards BTR which in ways was not entirely different from where the Day faction went, basically a rejection of anarchism and the creation of a new “libertarian” Maoism). Day was a prolific writer and thought much about politics.

Not to say, that others didn’t contribute to L&R, but L&R had a heavy tendency towards the “street”, meaning much of it’s membership were attracted to it because of its militancy and that it WAS NOT reformist or Marxist or a debate society. The “action” oriented types were really important, many of them played active roles in anti-fascist work, reproductive freedom/clinic defense work, cop watch/anti-police work, and ABC/prisoner solidarity work. In a big way, this activity is what got people energized about L&R. But, also unfortunately, political development was seen as boring or considered dominated by men. Towards the end, as political differences sharpened, many people just faded away because a) they no longer saw a personal stake in maintaining the project, b) their interest was in a fighting organization, not one obsessed with arguing out politics.

I think that these lessons about L&R apply to much of our organizing today. For those of us who see the need to create an organization that is active and attempts to intersect with others within social movements, then there is no easy path. Perhaps I am being overly pessimistic in regards to contemporary anarchist organizations, but things are really at a low point. I am optimistic in that this could change, but I think there has to be some real introspection on our parts coupled with some experimentation in terms of alliances and joint work. I am not satisfied with the state of organized anarchism.

Anyway, I would like to see others take on the “lessons” and how they could be applied in the here and now.

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Jan 6 2007 04:19

blackstarbhoy: "I think syndicalistcat that you elucidated very well on why I choose that term. We, meaning revolutionary anarchists, class struggle libertarians, communist anarchists etc, here in the US have few organizations, few members, and few resources. I stand by the notion that there has to be co-ordination and the development of strategic approaches. I think all this means developing a membership that is committed to a program and willing above all to carry it out."

I agree with you. My idea of a revolutionary organization is that it would have an orientation to the developing of mass struggles, and especially developing mass organizations where the members have control. I find that many anarchists in the USA seem not to realize the importance of building a social base over time, a social base in which our methods and ideas have influence. In fact the libertarian Left will be stillborn without doing this. It's magical thinking to suppose that this all happens "spontaneously."

Episodic "actions" -- which so many anarchists fixaate on -- are not adequate to do this. This is why i tend to think of the ideal revolutionary organization as also made of activists and organizers embeded in particular working class communities, in mass organizations and campaigns. This definitely requires commitment, a long view. I think such an organization would in fact be a "vanguard" in the sociological sense that it would be a group that is perhaps more far-sighted and committed to radical change than the average person at present. This need not have any authoritarian implications; it need not be "vanguardist".

Revolutionary activists and organizers can -- and should -- have an orientation to constantly train, involve, mobilize ordinary folks, to structure movements so as to facilitate this, and to create programs that constantly train rank and file people so that they have the skills and knowledge to be an active factor in controlling their organizations and movements. "Vanguardism" is when a "vanguard" tries to become the management of movements, by gaining control of top-down structures, or to substitute its decision-making and action for that of ordinary working class people.

blackstarbhoy: "With any form of organization we libertarians build, the objective is to create the most participatory and engaged form of organization for all it’s members. But, I think there has to be an emphasis on responsibility and commitment, which, is continually lacking in US anarchist projects."

Yep. I remember back in the '70s, despite my disagrements with the Leninists I knew, i respected them for their commitment and discipline. It's always been an aggravation that anarchists in the USA can't seem to develop an adequate sense of "responsibility and commitment." I've always agreed with the idea of a "disciplined cadre organization"; it's just that I interpret this differently than the Leninists.

The discipline is horizontal, to one's compas, not to any "leadership" hierarchy. And by "cadre" I mean a committed activist, an activist who has a sense of being part of an organization with a collective project, a project that this compa identifies with. I don't normally use the word "cadre" because of its associations, as I explained before. But I do appreciate the importance of discipline and commitment.

The fundamental project is that of working class self-liberation, which requires the development of active involvement, cohesion, confidence, understanding, skills within the working class. The aim of a libertarian left organization should not be to empower itself but to empower the mass of the people, the oppressed. But it is possible for our organizing work to assist in that process. But to be successful in that requires that we consider how we can be effective.

t.

syndicalist
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Jan 6 2007 13:49

Sorry folks, I'm sure its mentioned somewhere, but where's the link to BTR "cadre" theory and/or position?

Thanks for the link.

Interesting thread so far.

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Jan 6 2007 18:28
syndicalist wrote:
Sorry folks, I'm sure its mentioned somewhere, but where's the link to BTR "cadre" theory and/or position?

Thanks for the link.

Interesting thread so far.

From the BTR Statement:

Quote:
A revolutionary organization for the 21st century needs to forge a path between the Leninist vanguard party favored by traditional Marxist parties and the loose "network" model of organizing favored by many anarchists and activists today. The purpose of a revolutionary organization is to act as a cadre group that develops politics and strategies that contribute to mass movements toward a free society.

It is not a vanguard group. It does not seek to control any organization or movement, nor does it pretend that it is the most advanced section of a struggle and thus has the right to act in the interests of the masses. Instead, it assumes that the masses are typically the most advanced section of a struggle and that the cadre perpetually strives to learn from and identify with the masses. At the same time, a cadre organization does not pretend it doesn't provide leadership for larger movements, nor does it pretend that leadership is inherently authoritarian. A cadre organization does not seek to control any organization or movement, it aims to help lead it by providing it with a radical perspective and committed members dedicated to developing its autonomous revolutionary potential. A cadre group should debate those politics and strategies that best imagine and lead to a free society and then fight to enact them in mass-oriented organizations and movements.

A cadre is not an umbrella organization. It does not participate in any and all kinds of progressive social activism. Instead, a cadre group seeks out, helps develop, and supports those forms of agitation that undermine the rule of official society and that in some way prefigure the new society. In other words, the organization would not actively support any kind of activism but only those struggles that hold the potential of building a dual power. We imagine that such a revolutionary organization would be to contemporary movements what the FAI was to the CNT in Spain or the First International was to the European working class movements: a membership organization of like-minded persons committed to developing and encouraging the autonomous revolutionary tendencies in our present society.

Additionally, from Roy San Fillipo's Build the Cadre, Abolish the White Race:

Quote:
In addition to our disagreements on analysis and strategy, NEFAC and BTR disagree on the role of revolutionary organizations and their relationship to mass movements. A cadre is a revolutionary formation of individuals who come together around a set of common politics to develop revolutionary strategy and theory based upon study, debate, and a consistent analysis of political practice. A cadre is defined not by this process, but by the commitment of its members to building revolutionary struggles and waging class war. As Nicolas points out, cadre presupposes that there are non-cadre. I would also add that revolutionaries presuppose that there are non-revolutionaries. There are significant differences between cadre and non-cadre just as there are significant differences between revolutionaries and non-revolutionaries. Though I would stress that this difference does not imply a hierarchy, if we are to successfully confront the challenges revolutionaries face in participating in mass movements composed largely of non-revolutionaries with reformist goals, we must acknowledge this and understand the contradictions it poses for the revolutionary process. Nicolas states that NEFAC participates in social struggles as "members of the class not as outside agitators." Surely, this is not entirely true; NEFAC members are both "members of the class" and "outside agitators." It is incumbent upon revolutionaries to confront this contradiction, not pretend that it doesn't exist.

It is true that we argue for our politics within broader organizations that we participate in. However, I could not disagree more with Nicolas's claim that this amounts to undermining the capacity of mass movements to develop their own politics. There is a difference between groups and individuals who make principled arguments for their own politics and ideas within organizations and movements and those who seek to undemocratically dominate those movements and organizations. NEFAC seemingly sees no distinction between the two. What would be the point of developing a strategy if we refused to argue for it in broader movements? Indeed, what would be the point of having an organization or even politics at all? How does NEFAC relate to broader movements and organizations if it does not argue for its particular positions, strategies and politics? Nicolas argues that our desire to develop our own politics and strategies is evidence that we are not interested in broader movements developing their own autonomous politics and strategies. Are we to presume from this that NEFAC doesn't develop its own politics and strategies?

Every organization I have worked with-anarchist or not, cadre or not, revolutionary or not-has developed a set of politics, and then argued for their positions in the context of broader organizations and movements. Not only does this NOT undermine the capacity of movements to develop autonomous politics, it is a central part of the process by which they will develop them. Not only is this not indicative of a belief that ordinary workers are "too dumb to develop politics," it embraces the idea that workers are smart enough to distinguish bad ideas from good ones. We do not believe that we have "oh-so perfect ideas" nor do we believe we possess any kind of truth or correct ideas about struggle. We do believe that we have useful ideas, however flawed they might be. As a cadre organization, we seek to develop an internal, democratic, collective process by which we can develop, test and apply these flawed but useful ideas through study and debate, and to disseminate those ideas in broader movements so that they may in turn be tested and developed through struggle and debated amongst other ideas and tendencies. Through this process, we hope to develop ideas that are less flawed and more useful.

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Jan 6 2007 19:27

Thanks MJ. I think this is a bit inadequate: "A revolutionary organization for the 21st century needs to forge a path between the Leninist vanguard party favored by traditional Marxist parties and the loose "network" model of organizing favored by many anarchists and activists today. The purpose of a revolutionary organization is to act as a cadre group that develops politics and strategies that contribute to mass movements toward a free society.

It is not a vanguard group. It does not seek to control any organization or movement, nor does it pretend that it is the most advanced section of a struggle and thus has the right to act in the interests of the masses. Instead, it assumes that the masses are typically the most advanced section of a struggle and that the cadre perpetually strives to learn from and identify with the masses. At the same time, a cadre organization does not pretend it doesn't provide leadership for larger movements, nor does it pretend that leadership is inherently authoritarian. A cadre organization does not seek to control any organization or movement, it aims to help lead it by providing it with a radical perspective and committed members dedicated to developing its autonomous revolutionary potential. A cadre group should debate those politics and strategies that best imagine and lead to a free society and then fight to enact them in mass-oriented organizations and movements."

It's okay up to the point where they start talking about "leadership." This is a very slippery term and has multiple meanings. "Providing leadership" might mean they try to influence a movement, provide orgaizers/activists who help to build it. But I'd add that it is essential if a movement is not to prefigure some bureaucratic consolidation of control, that it must have some systematic way of training and empowering the rank and file in movements/mass organizations, so that as many participants acquire abilities needed to be an active factor and make self-management of the movement real. Their statement is deficient in that it doesn't show a commitment to self-management of a movement/organization in this sense.

San Filippo: "It is true that we argue for our politics within broader organizations that we participate in. However, I could not disagree more with Nicolas's claim that this amounts to undermining the capacity of mass movements to develop their own politics. There is a difference between groups and individuals who make principled arguments for their own politics and ideas within organizations and movements and those who seek to undemocratically dominate those movements and organizations."

The problem i have with this is that I think they don't see the more subtle point how activists/organizers who have developed skills and theories about the world around them can end up dominating in the sense that the members of the mass organization become dependent on them. This historically was how the union bureacuracy emerged in the AFL at the end of the 19th century. The carpenters union, for example, was built orginally by anarchist and socialist carpenters who were originally unpaid elected delegates. But because of their dedication, reading, wealth of ideas, the rank and file became dependent on them. Due to their radical politics, they often ended up getting fired. because the ranks were dependent on them, they decided to hire them as "walking delegates" -- the origin of the business agent system.

Again, the solution here is to have a perspective in favor of empowering rank and file members of mass organizations, outside one's political group, empowering them by helping to train them, encourage them to take on leadership roles, like public speaking, running a meeting, so they learn by doing.

t.

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Jan 7 2007 06:54

Hmmm....not sure about this "cadre" stuff. I often have found when folks start adopting a certain language, they also start to adopt the negative aspects of it as well.Yet I would agree "we" need to find a way to develop a way to prioritize things and carry them out in as broad and efficient manner as possible.

Even in the best of organizations there will probablly be at least 3 kinds of members: 1) The really, really, really activist 2) the activist whose level is much less, but still active and 3) the member who agrees with everything but, for whatever reason, is much less active or not at all in the formal sense.

So how does an anarchist "political" organization function effectively if it is strictly "cadre" in format? There's no democratic centralism to force a person to "fall in line". Peer presure perhaps or some agreed upon position that you msut do a,b or c or fall out of membership. But there's problems with this. I think NEFAC has had an experiance with this.

I really don't think you can "order" members to do things like the leninists do. I also think that "concentration" works when the organization has a blend of ages and abilities. Folks who are more established in their lives (meaning long term jobs and families) are less likely to be able to move about or concentrate in a new job or city. Folks who are less established have more flexibility.
My former group, the Libertarian Workers Group, was able to concentrate and act in a concerted effort because we were younger and (mostly) single or without children. So a blend is needed.

The question of ---i hate this term--- "axis" as the younger comrades call it is also important. Using the NEFAC experiance---since WSA has general areas of work, but not "must" activitiy areas--- it can work for awhile, but then folks seem to "drift" off. This can be for very solid reasons, like local stuff that demands a local shift or the like. So.... in a "cadre" organization, what happpens when comrades go "off message" as they say?

Anyway, gotta get to sleep at this point.

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Jan 7 2007 20:35

well, as I say, i prefer not to use the word "cadre" because of how some others use it (especially Leninists).
Moreover, we don't need the word. We should be able to explain/discuss what is desireable in a revolutionary organization without using that word.

But i will say that it is an advantage if an organization has the ability to decide that certain things will be priorities of work, and encourage members to work in these areas, through some collective decision. In practice this can be difficult to carry off, especially if you have few members, who, for example, work in different areas and have different life situations.

I think it is also advisable if an organization has some way of training, orienting prospective new members. In my experience the desireability of this gets lost because gaining new members becomes such a fixation that you don't set up a process for evaluating and training prospective members. I mean, just because someone says they want to join doesn't mean they necessarily understand your organization's priorities, ways of doing things, and they may even disagree with certain parts of your basic politics.

That's just a couple of things that come to mind right now.

t.

Phebus
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Jan 23 2007 16:27

This tread is probably dead but I found it interesting to read, so here's my take.

(My background is that I was involved in Demanarchie and while we were not part of L&R, we had cordial relations with them (we exchanged papers, they came to visit us 3 times, I wrote articles for their paper and I even gave a talk at one of their non-decisional east-coast conference))

So, what was L&R work?

Well, first we cannot underestimate what amount of work it took to maintain an organisation alive in the (almost) pre-internet era. L&R printed a monthly internal bulletin (the Disco'Bull) that they send to every members. They also had a fat tabloïd (16 pages and more if I remember well) that was widely distributed in the North-American scene (6 000 copies every 2 months). They did this for 8 years, in itself it is a lot of work...

L&R started as a newspaper project, that evolved into a loose network, then a formal organisation with membership, decision making progress and dues. My own estimate of the number of people involved is much larger then the one given here. Except in the very end, most of the time they had around 100 members (not all of them super-active). Most of their membership (75%) was concentrated in 3 large locals (NYC, TwinCities and Mexico) and a number of smaller groups (half a dozen). I would say that close to 500 people where members at one time or another. My understanding was that the membership was mainly composed of former punks and skins in their 20's, most of them students, some of them worker's.

At a time of low struggle, L&R was in search of struggles that had the potential to become a mass movement. At conference they would discuss the situation and decide collectively where to get involved based on what they think could become big. They where pushing a radical, direct-action oriented line in the movements (closed to what anarchists where doing in the anti-globalisation movement). Their main area of work was similar to what other anarchists where doing at the time : ecology (in the early beggining), anti-fascism (mainly ARA but also reproductive freedom, immigration, gay right, feminism), anti-police and repression (copwatch), ABC stuff, etc.). At the time our main criticism was that they where not involved around socio-economic issues (neoliberalism). In the end they tried to correct that and got involved in a number of struggles that touched on neoliberalism (student movement in NYC, Zapatista solidarity, Living Wage campain).

I think they where important because:

-They where pro-organisation and showed to an extend that you could do more when you are organised (and the effect of their newspaper was that they linked together a cluster of militants way larger then the actual organisation)

-They tried to think strategicaly and their analysis was based on a study of the actual reality (materialism)

-They think that an anarchist place was in the struggle, that propaganda and political work had to be linked to actual struggles actualy happening... and they were leading by exemple (they where actually involved at the fore-front of radical movements and where mainly writting about what they knew first hand, from a participant perspective... in this sense their paper was really a movement newspaper)

-They where not operating only in a getto and where open to work with anyone and did not fear to engage in the battle of ideas inside the left

Some of the problems :

-As they witness dramatic events that changed the face of world (collapse of the soviet union, radical change in the economy, defeat of the old left and social movements) they tend to think that they had almost nothing to learn from the past... to a certain extent they succombed both to the american exceptionalism phenomena and they tried to reinvent the weel (wich lead a number of key figure outside of anarchism)

-They had almost no class analysis and class was just one oppression they didint pay much attention to in a long laundry list (race and sex was way more important)... by extention they also had almost no social analysis and did not really care about the economic side of poverty (ex.: while they where interested in fighting the police repression or racism in popular neigborhood they where not interested in fighting the welfare reform, or fighting for universal health care, or unionising the working poor...)

-They saw themselved as socialy and racialy priviledged (wich they where) so, except maybe in anti-racism and some struggles against the christian right, they where never fighting for themselved... They where always "in solidarity". You dont make a revolution out of charity and they where trapped because, as a white dominated group, they where not attractive to most people of colors but at the same time they had nothing to say/offer to white people

-They build their organisation around a newspaper (wich have it's good sides) so they tend to attract intellectuals. Intellectuals that were action oriented of course but still intellectuals. Their was a lot of less intellectual activists with the same politics around them that never joined because eigther they did not feel they had something to contribute (they where not writters) or because they didnot see what the organisation could bring them ... And those that joined where underepresented and no one remember them!

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Jan 23 2007 18:16

Thanks to Phebus for his very good summary about L&R. I don't remember much of them here in California. There was an L&R group here in San Francisco, tho, because some of them ended up in Freedom Road Organization. But in the early '90s I don't remember any visbility for L&R here. I do remember a critique of my group, Workers Solidarity Alliance, as allegedly "class reductionist" by L&Rers Day and Black. Actually WSA went thru an effort to try to analyze the oppressions of women, gay people, and people of color in the '80s, and had an emphasis on reproductive rights (defense of abortion clinics) in the late '80s to early '90s. Our analysis of the non-class areas of oppression may not have been adequate, but I don't think we were "class reductionist." The criticism probably reflects the sort of politics that Phebus describes.

t.

SonofRage
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Jul 10 2007 21:19

There seems to be some questions about our use of the term "cadre" so I thought I'd point folks to this article on our website:

What is a Cadre Organization?

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Jul 10 2007 21:53

test post

Interesting, thanks for linking to that.

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Jul 11 2007 18:43
SonofRage wrote:
There seems to be some questions about our use of the term "cadre" so I thought I'd point folks to this article on our website:

What is a Cadre Organization?

What do you see as the major differences between the way a cadre works in practice and say, a NEFAC collective? I know there was a bit of debate around this issue when BTR was forming, but I'm curious how this concept has played out in reality. I'm especially curious as to what you see as the practical distinction between the two.

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Dec 27 2014 18:21

The Detroit Love and Rage group put together this pamphlet around the time of the Federation's break up which is pretty good synopsis of at least their group's work and hopes for the future:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/228900504/Towards-A-Fresh-Revolutionary-Anarch...