Burning River is a member collective of the Federation of Revolutionary Anarchist Collectives--Great Lakes Region. This is a paper (edited version) we recently presented to FRAC at our bi-annual conference.
BRC Tasks and Perspectives Spring 2004
Resistance and Occupation Grow in Iraq
With the recent series of events in Iraq, BRC sees the occupation of Iraq becoming an even larger issue than when its status was dwindling last fall. Al-Sadr's coordinated uprisings have both inspired everyday Iraqis as well as the international anti-war movement, even the non-violent wing. They have also created, to some degree, solidarity between Sunni and Shia forces. It is essential that we develop a clearer understanding of the variety of resistance forces in Iraq, one that does not impose a puritanical anarchist view on both their positive and negative aspects. A victory for the amalgamation of anti-occupation forces in Iraq (i.e., forcing the U.S. to withdraw without fully succeeding in imposing a puppet regime) would be a victory for the people of the world who oppose U.S. imperialism. It also should be seen as a boost for the anti-war movement in the sense that the failure of the U.S. to crush those within Iraq resisting occupation has a direct correlation to the amount of force "The Coalition" is willing to use based on its fear of worldwide public opinion and outcry. Questions exist has how to best increase this social pressure on the U.S. to withdraw. How realistic is it to publicly support the anti-occupation forces in Iraq without falling into the "T" (terrorism/terrorists) trap being set by the current catch-all doublespeak? What do the people saying "Support our Troops, Bring Them Home Now!" have to contribute to this movement at this point? Is the time ripe to be part of the budding network of groups supporting GIs who refuse to serve? Is the possibility of a draft something we need to take seriously at this point? If so, what role will/can we play in building a draft refusal campaign and movement? How do we relate to Kurds and their struggle for a separate nation in the north? The key, from our perspective, is to give critical attention to these questions as we decide how we can continue to increase the pressure for the U.S. occupation to end, in the process exposing the systematic (not incidental) nature of this conflict and the need to confront the entire "war on terrorism's" agenda.
The Parallel Universe of Palestine
Palestine has also seen a recent upsurge in both resistance and repression. We see this as far from coincidental. Sharon's ability to attack intifada forces in Palestine is directly related to how tough the U.S. is being in Iraq. Make no mistake about it, the harsher we allow the U.S. to act in Iraq, the more intense repression, raids, and assassinations will be in Palestine. We should make a serious effort to incorporate ending the occupation of Palestine into all anti-war work.
It's the Economy, …or is it?
Capitalism's nature is to ebb and flow. At the slightest downturn many leftists chomp at the bit to claim capitalism, as an entire system, is in crisis. While for working people in the U.S. right now things are far from good, the "crisis" is not quite here. That does not mean, however, that there are not real issues to pay attention to. Currently the Bush administration is shooting to be the first presidential administration to have less jobs than when they took over the oval office. This is serious but needs a context. This fact will no doubt be ammunition for the Kerry campaign. As anarchists it's important that we admit there is a difference here between Republicans and Democrats. The difference being the approach used by the various wings of the ruling class to build a "strong American economy for the 21st century." Don't let not your local Democrat supporters forget who signed NAFTA and started talks for the FTAA. Clinton did not have job loss anywhere near what Bush did. Much of this was due to the "dot.com boom" and not Democratic trading policies, but nonetheless. What Clinton did, and Kerry no doubt plans to do, was to initiate job transformation. The shift from manufacturing to service oriented jobs was in full swing by 1995 and continues today. Bush and company are perhaps a bit more callous and disillusioning about the ordeal. American workers are generally working much more and much harder than ten years ago but getting paid less. This is a logical result of this job transformation from producing something to serving it (or typing up paper work for it, etc.). Our (the anarchist movement) understanding of economics is fairly weak at this point. This calls for us to have a much deeper and more involved understanding as to how the "new" economy works and why. In addition to understanding this "new economy," being aware of alternative economic models is essential.
Working Where it Counts
The above analysis of the economy also leads BRC to suggest the need for to engage the labor movement (not just AFL-CIO, but yes, they are a part of what we mean by that). What roll does organized labor have in this "new" economy? Why are they being attacked so fiercely by the Bush administration? Why do they continue to support the Democrats even amongst the inability of that party to do anything but occasionally place a band-aid on Republican (and Democrat, no doubt) wounds? What type of labor movement do we think is capable of building explicit working class resistance of an anti-capitalist nature? Currently in BRC we have two members who are just beginning to get active in their local unions. The two areas they work in are shipping/transportation and education. These are two areas we see as key to the development of the type of movement we wish to see, for two different reasons. What other areas we should focus in on? Would working in public utilities, such as phone, gas, and electric prove useful? How should we go about developing a set of politics that speaks to people in the areas we strategically focus on? What issues are winnable but also expose the need for eventual ruptures with the old ways? Are there aspects of the current labor movement we should get more involved in such as Jobs with Justice or other lower wage worker organizations?
Marching for Women's Lives and Fighting for Reproductive Freedom
This April 25th will be quite possibly the largest march to defend the reproductive freedom of women the U.S. has ever seen. Members have BRC have played an instrumental role in building for this march in the Ohio area. We see these types of massive, woman-based, ultra-inclusive public actions as being key in the current stage of beating back the attacks on women's access to both reproductive and basic healthcare. While the more mainstream and liberal elements to this march and overall movement have their flaws and lack revolutionary desires, this battle is one that is possible of winning serious victories in while under capitalism. One question we have is how to relate to those, even radical feminist organizations, that demand the best current option is to vote Bush out of office? Another important question is how do we unite anarchists, especially anarcha-feminists, in order to facilitate in planning for the potential reversal of Roe v. Wade? Possible points of consideration include mass mobilization and the development of alternative women's healthcare networks.
To Vote or Not to Vote, Many are Asking this Question
This summer the age old question will once again rear its ugly head. In times of argument amongst the ruling class and serious attacks in the international and national arenas, does voting serve any type of strategic purpose? Amongst BRC there are various takes on those that see the need to vote in this upcoming presidential election. They range from outright rejection of anything associated with voting to sympathy for those that vote while simultaneously working on grassroots projects. At a recent video showing/presentation, one BRC member put voting in a particularly useful context: "I don't have a problem with people voting as long as they don't see that as being at all enough, as long they continue to work in the streets, neighborhoods, and workplaces and don't focus on the ballot box as their major way of making change." We should take this position into serious consideration in BRC's opinion. Is targeting the very act of voting itself useful any longer? Was it ever? Does it ever make sense for someone to vote? If so, how does that change our take on the traditional anarchist view of being against electoral politics of all kinds?
Look Out Above
In the last year, especially because of various exposures done by anti-war activists, it has been revealed that counter intelligence programs of some degree or another are being conducted under the guise of "anti-terrorism." In Cleveland, during a trial of an anti-war activist, an "undercover" boasted of the fact that the police had been keeping tabs on most activist and community groups in Cleveland, naming several groups and people by name. The recent episode in Grand Rapids, Michigan points to a similar situation. It's safe to assume that things are the same in all cities FRAC is operating in. None of this should come as a surprise to militants in FRAC, but it should not be glossed over either. Security culture should be reviewed in all collectives and encouraged in the general milieu of folks we work with. New tactics and precautions should be considered as well. While the state is aware of quite a bit, we should never make it easy for them or assume they know every detail of our work. The use of anonymity should be heavily encouraged, whether by the use of nicknames, emails without our real names, etc.
BRC has been discussing the need for more grassroots, community oriented work to take the place of the general pandering to activists that is called "building for revolution" amongst many in our ranks. One member proposed an overly ambitious campaign calling for the creation of several neighborhood based organizations that would fight for local bread and butter issues while injecting an anti-authoritarian spirit and action. In other words, we would not hide our politics nor impose them. While it was shot down as not currently being possible, the general idea has been haunting BRC members, especially since the diminishing of the anti-war movement. We want to see more discussion in as to how we should approach the need to work more amongst working people and less amongst "activists." The question is not whether to do this but how and by what means.
Communicating without Talking
In line with the above suggestions and thoughts, we would to increase the amount of agitational propaganda and public art. This spring and summer the opportunity is ripe to encourage local artists and late night trouble makers to paint the town red and black with messages of anti-occupation (of all forms: Iraq, Palestine, bodies, police brutality, my freezer). Another idea in this area concerns the creation of a street-oriented paper.