Atlanta Anarchists: Moving Forward
I read this piece aloud at an anarchist assembly in October. Some people suggested that a discussion of the piece would be beneficial, but I wasn't in the mood. If you wanna talk further about the ideas presented here, you should make your friends talk to you about it or talk to me about it! I promised that I'd post it on indymedia for the trolls, who I trust will do their part in making "serious" discussion impossible on the internet. <3
I think we've all come to the conclusion that we can't force rupture. The unprecedented levels of participation during Occupy were not a result of years of effort that consolidated people into "revolutionary organizations" or even collectives. The 5,000 people in Atlanta's streets for Trayvon Martin were not a result of a years long campaign against police violence. Although revolutionary organizations, collectives, and campaigns are ever-present & aren't always a bad thing, we can't attribute tons of people in the streets to the success of movement-building strategies.
Widespread acknowledgement of the impossibility of forcing rupture sometimes takes the form of over-emphasis on new social networking media. Though we have new tools for mobilization, the process of getting people into the streets isn't reducible to education and outreach. Everyone knows that our clothes are made in sweatshops, but that doesn't stop us from wearing them-- let alone get us to do something different. And we know by now that the number of people in a march will only ever be around half of the "attending" list on Facebook, and sometimes less than that.
There is another sort of force, impervious to our own will or determination, that drives people to action. We can call that force hype, the Idea, consciousness, the myth, hope, or any number of words, but the important part is that whatever it is lies outside of our direct control. People say fuck it when they're ready, and never before. To be more specific, strategies that try to build movements or to build the Party (in the Leninist sense) rarely, if ever, result in the sort of rupture we're after.
This admission determines our position as a position of waiting. Until the cycle of struggle brings us to the next explosion of social activity, we'll be waiting to get there. Instead of asking "How can we build a social movement?," we now ask "How can we be prepared for the next one?"
This sets us back into a position that, in the historical sense, is analogous to our existence pre-Occupy. An analysis of what we were doing in the months and year before the occupation of Troy Davis Park is useful here, but we can do more than name the projects we were involved in. We should think about what sorts of projects gave us skills that were utilized during the occupation. Further, we should think about what skills and tools we could have used during the occupation, and then begin figuring out what sort of projects can help us develop them.
I'm not going to take the time here to go through all of that analysis, but a piece involving some relevant discussion was written in January, and really should come out soon. I and others have thought about this a lot, though, so I'll go ahead and present briefly some tentative conclusions, without too much justification. These conclusions take the form of approaches to the future, rather than a program of particular steps for moving onward. These approaches differ from one another, but definitely overlap at times.
(1) One approach emphasizes that we need to build radical infrastructure. Figuring out what exactly counts as "radical infrastructure" is, of course, the necessary next step. Some of us have decided that "radical infrastructure" includes a functioning social center that can serve both as an entry point and somewhere for us to be together. (I've heard that steps are already being taken to make a social center exist-- that's rad as hell.) We can look at the anarchist assembly as a type of infrastructure that improves communication amongst ourselves. We should continue to come up with new forms of infrastructure that don't exist solely in and for themselves, but rather help us build important tools and skills-- that is, help us move toward larger goals of an anarchist project.
(2) Another way to think about moving forward is in terms of developing a culture of resistance. This might be where we get written off as "only in it for the social"-- and we can respond to that critique by saying, hell yeah, we're in it for the social! I imagine a culture of resistance valuing and encouraging revolutionary ideas and rebellious actions. Forms of radical infrastructure, like the examples mentioned earlier, are some more permanent and open ways of sustaining such a culture. We can look at social events like potlucks and movie screenings as another element. On the other hand, regular wheat pasting and other things I won't say too explicitly (yeah, i'm talking about "clandestine acts") are means of building complicities and sending out those little signals of disorder. A culture of resistance functions as a way to keep us in touch with one another and makes us feel like there's something going on. Importantly, it also has the potential to impact the larger social terrain by promoting an accessible and alternative way of living and relating to one another.
*Some folks in New York wrote a prettier and much more elaborate essay that I think echoes this approach. It's called War is here, if you want it.
(3) On that note, a similar but consequentially separate approach to the question of the future is based on injecting ourselves, our ideas, and our actions into the broader public consciousness. We can think about this in terms of tactics, in the sense of describing particular parts of actions (whose nature is already determined) in order to make those actions real for more people than just us. Tactics that increase our visibility could include emailing local news outlets after a particular action and fliering during demos. For example, a lot of people (like employees at the W hotel) were talking about the anti-police march on July 27 because the street was littered with informational leaflets after the march. After they were notified of vandalized parking meters, local news outlets published brief interviews that exposed public support for that action.
We can also use this more outward-looking approach strategically, in the sense of informing the sort of actions we want to move forward with. This can look as as simple as wheat pasting anarchist posters and distributing newsletters. It can also look like an idea for action brought up at the last anarchist assembly-- hanging the fuck out as the ugly side of society in spaces we don't "belong", like by the Fox theater. On a more expansive level, we've also imagined a campaign at city council demanding a youth center as a precursor to taking over buildings.
*These ideas are inspired significantly by some essays on post-2008 Greece, written by A.G. Schwarz. Schwarz's works are compiled in a zine called The Delirious Momentum of Revolt, which we're discussing at the anarchist reading group on Sunday. (I also might have jacked all these ideas mostly from that piece.)
(4) Finally, we can't forget what seems to have been a dominant anarchist approach for the past however-long: intervening in already-existent struggles to push them to their internally-defined limits. We've definitely done this in the past, though we might not have recognized what exactly we were doing. Before Occupy, a lot of energy was focused at GSU. Although people might not have identified as "outside" the projects and organizations enough to call their involvement "intervention," an anarchist position often pushed those struggles further than they might've gone otherwise. I'm thinking, for instance, about actions at the senate hearings for HOPE scholarship, and not about Occupy GSU, which fell flat on its face after the walkout.
I think this approach was brought up at the last anarchist assembly. We've been saying often that nothing's happening, but that (firstly isn't true) and (secondly, is only maybe-true in relation to the people that we already know. Really recently in Atlanta, the Symphony Orchestra stopped playing in protest of program cuts and prisoners went on hunger strike. Emory students are currently trying to organize against austerity cuts, and the fight against cuts to public schools isn't over, either. We should consider involving ourselves in projects that other people have initiated, even though we probably don't agree with their politics and maybe don't care about their campaigns. Every struggle should be pushed to its limit: I know I, at least, am past caring why people are pissed and are just glad that they're trying to stir shit up (other than right wingers and fascists, of course). I've also heard about some really good experiences at recent Occupy Atlanta marches.
I don't think that any of these approaches could function on their own. They're definitely not mutually exclusive and, I think, are each important and complementary. While we're sitting here thinking about what the fuck to do next, we should keep all of these ideas and more in mind. Some of us have known one another for a while and have a shared history we can draw on for moving forward. Some of us have only just met, and that's grounds for exciting new possibilities. In closing, let's remember the importance of
(1) analyzing our current situation and current "potential vectors of revolt,"
(2) the confidence in ourselves that, together, we've created real justification for-- and which is so crucial to everything we want, and
(3) that worn out slogan that says keep going and never, ever stop!