(maybe we can try this again here.)
Printed Anonymously, April 2008
It is safe to say that we are living through some of the worst times in the history of the world. We are no longer in danger of a disastrous end; we inhabit an environment of pure catastrophe to which we must simply acclimate ourselves, that we must simply survive. It is also safe to say that we who live in the United States are not the beneficiaries of some grand privilege as some maintain. Rather we inhabit one of the most degraded social environments that exists, we are among the most dejected, those most accustomed to defeat. There is no great proletarian counteroffensive, no social movements to speak of. But from the other side there is a permanent campaign of counter-insurgency, a conscious waging of social war.
For the milieu of pro-revolutionaries, the last years have certainly not been good. We’ve lost comrades to the state, suicide, forced exiles, anti-social violence, and the weight of time. When we talk with many, there is a great sense of demoralization, or at least a general inability to see a way forward given our current circumstances. From this demoralization has also come a shaking off of the dust of old conceptions and old forms. Many agree that what we currently have at our disposal for opposing this world is completely inadequate, and that for some time, we have lacked the ability to define a particular strategic direction for ourselves that actually builds our power rather than exhausts it.
After confronting deeply held convictions and facing reality, we have put this piece forward as a contribution to defining a strategic direction towards destroying every enemy that stands in our way.
Back on the Summit Train
I’d prefer not to. –Bartleby the Scrivener, Herman Melville
Currently, a huge amount of significance is being placed on the outcome of the mobilizations against the 2008 Republican and Democratic National Conventions. The “success” of summits as the measure of our power is perhaps the most misguided, yet persistent, idea we have taken with us from the “anti-globalization” era. Gauging our strength according to the numbers gathered together, by the dollar amount of damages done, the quantity of media coverage, and so on are not true indicators of anything. The long-term perspectives underlying some of the summit organizing are the only redeeming qualities: people hope to build a network of pro-revolutionaries across the land, reenergize those who have dropped out of the scene in the last several years, and of course feel the empowerment of being amongst hundreds, perhaps thousands of comrades. The question of course is what use will these networks be put to, more of the same? What are we reenergizing people for, more of the same? We aren’t asking these questions in bad faith; we want to know what’s going to be different this time. We don’t want to run in circles anymore.
Undoubtedly, Seattle, Quebec City, and Genoa had real moments of generalized conflicts when residents of many neighborhoods came out on the streets to fight with police or to loot stores and shops. And more than a few of us have cut our street-fighting teeth in these situations and learned a bit about organizing ourselves, but these meetings are nothing more than media events where fools in business suits have their pictures taken alongside other fools in business suits. The World Economic Forum meetings, the G8, the European Union summits, the Republican, Democratic or Green conventions are all false images of reality. Capitalism is not crystallized in conventions centers, government buildings, or corporate offices; it is not a controlling center. Capital is the domination of all life under the reign of value, which permeates our very existence through the structuring of our lives and by commodifying nearly everything on the planet.
We need tactics and strategies that can attack the true face of domination, not the red flag it waves to draw our attention.
Breaking Out of Our Ghetto
Young people everywhere have been allowed to choose between love and a garbage disposal unit. Everywhere they have chosen the garbage disposal unit. –Guy Debord
Standing side by side with people who we have built friendships with, been romantically involved, or struggled alongside of gives us a feeling of great power. This is what draws many to summits, the need to feel connected –to feel collective strength. We all feel this need, but it must be said that it is a symptom of both the alienation inherent in our daily lives and the isolated ghetto many of us inhabit. We’ve constructed a scene and exist in a subsection of capitalist society from which we are completely incapable of communicating with the outside world, with other realities, and more importantly with others in struggle.
The retreat into a scene arises from a need for affirmation in the face of the apparently monolithic dominant society. This attempt to bring people together only led to further isolation; no one can dispute that truth. No “alternative life” under capitalism can be maintained, thus people fall back on having the moral high ground. Walls of distinction are erected for the sake of purity in order to define who is most contaminated by the outside world, as if reality could somehow be avoided. What matters most is that each individual, standing alone as a consumer or citizen, makes good personal decisions in order to make a difference; this is after all, the best we can do. We have been in this scene, and we have experienced its suffocation; we refuse it, but we also refuse to let ourselves be defined by it.
Whether it’s the division of labor in the workplace or the urban and suburban organization of space, on all levels, isolation weakens us. We need to embed ourselves in social realities, not withdraw from them. A lack of roots and practical links to others beyond a scene, subculture, identity or milieu leaves us in a terribly isolated position and cuts us off from our greatest source of strength: solidarity. But we are also looking for something different than the urban guerillas or islamists who would embed themselves in social networks; we aren’t in search of converts, followers, human shields, or pawns to deploy. We are looking for brothers and sisters in arms, people we can fight alongside of, love deeply, and build a community with against capital. Thus we face an important problem: upon what basis do we meet other people?
We need to move beyond encountering others on the level of issues, opinions, and political identity. Instead a common basis can be built around overlapping needs and inclinations within various realms of contestation, not as perceived, but as directly experienced. Direct implication changes things because you don’t begin from an ideology; you begin from a reality. Thus our starting point is not how we imagine things to be, what an organizer, activist, or politician perceives to be important to his/her constituency; instead it is a relationship of direct experience, of conflict. We think that taking part in this faceless resistance and building solidarity within various social networks gives us a common basis from which to begin, from which to fight, from which to seize what we need. But it is only one step; there is no panacea.
Leaping Into Conflict
Fight fire with fire. –Metallica
There are of course others direction in which we can move, other paths in need of clearing. One that we find promising is intervening in social conflicts so as to fan the flames of revolt. While the United States has not been rocked by the violent upheavals that have taken place in Mexico, France, and Greece in recent years, we have certainly missed many chances to wreak havoc on our enemies. When several prison populations revolted in the Midwest in the summer of 2007, what could have been done in solidarity against the prison system as a whole? Perhaps an effective link could have been drawn between those prisons and the external prisons that the nearby ghettoes constitute. What about the increasing, though mostly cosmetic, roundups of immigrants by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, what response has been made beyond purely symbolic demonstrations? Or further back in time, what could we have done in solidarity with the ILWU lockout in 2002 that idled factories across the nation, the truckers’ wildcat strikes in 2003-2005, or the myriad riots that have erupted in ghettos from Cincinnati to Benton Harbor?
There are of course some notable exceptions to this trend of being too disorganized or too late to do much of anything. The fare strikes attempted in Chicago in 2003 and San Francisco in 2005, the less symbolic efforts against the Iraq war, actions to support and build links of solidarity with May Day demonstrations against further criminalization of the undocumented, and some efforts in solidarity with the Six Nations reoccupation in 2006 and against the destruction of the South Central Farm in 2005.
But what does it mean to intervene? It means to take the break and push it further, to act in solidarity, not out of common misery, but out of common refusal to submit. It’s the extension of disturbance and paralysis to other social sectors. It’s the hope of getting to the point of no return, of turning things into a real state of exception.
No one can deny that many situations have predetermined limits, a foreseeable end; others however, have nothing of the sort.
We stated once before that our intention is not to gain converts, but there are many others who go from place to place attempting to do just that or who try to push things into institutional channels. Some of them even claim to be our allies: the friendly NGO worker, the nice socialist from the local college, or the seasoned, professional activist. For us, these events are something different. The potential of these small-scale or intermediate battles lies not only in obtaining whatever goals they have –if there even are any— but more so in the experience of struggle itself. Situations of social conflict allow for a rupture within which people transform themselves and gain a sense of their own power to transform reality. Collective confrontation can both lead to and spring from self-organization that builds ties of mutual aid and solidarity. These experiences can’t merely be measured in wages won, property destroyed, or numbers of participants; it’s something qualitative.
But we don’t want to run from upheaval to upheaval like we have run from summit demo to summit demo in the past. We need something deeper, something more coherent.
Projecting Ourselves into the Future
Everybody get your mother-fucking roll on. –The Big Tymers
Our projects begin from reality, from the global social war going on, and they are based on the recognition of a possibility: that we can change history.
Rather than always responding to the moves our enemy, fighting on their terrain, on the days that they dictate, we can create our own projects that allow us to take the initiative, to move from defense to attack. With foresight we can organize ourselves to attack where our enemy is not looking and provoke winnable confrontations that mock any pretense of total control. We can gather a forward momentum that goes beyond us and contributes to a generalized counterattack on the part of the proletariat as whole.
Many of our comrades tend to see things merely as a game of numbers: more projects, more pro-revolutionaries, more bookstores, more conferences, more protests, and on and on. We think this is the wrong way to think about things. It is not the quantitative growth of more projects; it is their coherent interweaving that has the most promise. It’s a question of exploring how our struggles at work or in our neighborhood function together with our projects outside of that, of how they strengthen one another and how they work together in a coherent project of subversion. We must ask ourselves: what role does something play in our greater revolutionary project, how does it strengthen us?
In recent years we have been forced to ask ourselves repeatedly, when the state hits us, why are we so incapable of hitting back in any substantial way? Or when situations arise in our own areas or in our own lives, why are we also so incapable of acting with any decisiveness, with real force? The answer to these questions is actually quite simple: we haven’t established the minimal necessary criteria to do so, or as some of our comrades put it, we haven’t assembled “the necessary material, affective, and political solidarities.”
We need organization, plain and simple, but organization is not synonymous with acronyms, constitutions, public splits, position papers, and the like. It is at once the bringing together of the means –the tools, the spaces, the cash, and the skills— necessary to accomplish tasks, but also something more. The fundamental basis of organization lies in the relations we build with one another, not simply in the pro-revolutionary milieu, but also in other areas in which we fight. Our strength will ultimately come from the strength of our relations, how willing we are to have one another’s backs.
Unfortunately most of the projects we have taken on have been limited because they lacked the quality of being socially expansive. Some are structured in such a way that we are “active” and others are “passive,” or that one side is going to save the other. Other projects begin from the position that everyone else has been bought off, and that only we are willing to do something. Even worse, some that masquerade under the guise of solidarity are nothing but charity work or voluntary servitude. A true revolutionary project would be one that is inherently social, focused on lived reality, easily reproducible, and that resonates with people and threatens to spread within social networks.
In a way we must start from scratch, a daunting task to say the least, but one that we must meet head on.
The Years Ahead
I bet you’d forgotten me, thought I was dead. –Ghost-Faced Killer
Very few are looking to the future with real hope. We are being fed the lie of a buying our way to a green utopia and the trick of following yet another leader down the path to nowhere. All the while it is becoming harder to survive as the prices of nearly all essential commodities are rising, backed by the distinct possibility of a global economic downturn. New rounds of struggle have already begun, and we must be ready to play a part. New tactics and strategies will emerge, as well as new forms of organization, and we must be on the lookout for these so that we can pair them with the techniques of yesteryear that some have unfortunately forgotten.
We’ve used many words in this essay, some of confusing meaning and some that mean very different things depending on who is speaking. And by continually saying we, there is the presupposition of a commonality that may not really exist, but ultimately it comes down to how we envision revolution. To many it is a program to be put in place or a creed to convince others of that will then be brought to life. We see revolution as the process by which a new world will come into being through the negation of the old. Thus it isn’t a new political order or a more equitable economic arrangement; it will be something completely different, a world completely other in which we will create the content of our daily lives in the way that we see fit alongside a million others.
Survival doesn’t suffice for us; it’s just too pathetic. We want to see the fear in their eyes, and the sweat dripping off their brows. We want to see the emergence of the old class hatred that shows no mercy. We can only take what we want by force because it is ultimately this that we seek: the reappropriation of our very lives.
 Pro-revolutionaries is not a commonly used term. Through its use we hope to denote the existence of a group of people who are consciously for revolution in the here and now. Clearly though, throughout history every revolution has been made not simply by those who label themselves with this or that ism.
 Faceless resistance is a term we’ve borrowed from some Swedish comrades who define it as, “the various informal and immediate class struggle practices that exist,” which are immediately useful for achieving small ends, but which also serve as a springboard for more widespread conflict.
 A massive disruption of international trade resulted from the ILWU lockout, causing a loss of $1 billion per day, which snowballed to $2 billion a day. Not only that, the ripple effect in a prolonged strike or lockout would idle a large percentage of retailers and production facilities across the country. Also the trucker’s strikes are interesting because they are a key link in the process of realizing value, but also because in many places their collective organizing efforts are illegal because they are considered independent contractors.
 We are using real state of exception in the sense that Walter Benjamin used it in his essay, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” by which he means not the state’s suspension of the rule of law, but rather our negation of the rule of law through revolt. Giorgio Agamben delves deeply into this concept in his work State of Exception.
Print Versions Available Soon at:
Long Haul (Berkeley)
Burnt Book Mobile (Milwaukee)
Iron Rail (New Orleans)
Bound Together (San Francisco)
One Thousand Emotions (St. Louis)
Pitch Pipe (Tacoma)