Unifying Revolutionary Forces in the Coming Year

by Advance the Struggle (Bay Area) on August 15, 2012

We are some members of Advance the Struggle, a New York revolutionary collective, and Black Orchid Collective who have been traveling together and discussing during the lead up to the Everything for Everyone Conference in Seattle.  Through these conversations, we have been brainstorming ideas for how we can build together over the long term.

The following is the results of these brainstorms.

To be clear, this is a discussion document, NOT a formal position representing our groups.  It is also not something we aim to push as an immediate outcome of the Everything for Everyone (E4E) conference.  Instead, we hope it will prompt discussion about how to move forward during 2012 into 2013.  We also acknowledge that not everyone involved in E4E will agree with or be interested in this project, but we hope that those who are contact us so we can discuss further.

  1. Tensions of building a national formation
  2. Character of Occupy
  3. Rupture versus base building? Towards a new Revolutionary Organization
  4. Towards a working class insurrection

2012-2013 can be a year of unifying revolutionary militants from around the US. In order for this to happen, we need to take the necessary preparatory steps in 2013 to develop a common political analysis and perspective on revolutionary work.  Our strength will come from unifying all of the militants that come out of left communism, anarcho-communism, Johnson-Forrest Tendency/Sojourner Truth, and like-minded revolutionary forces close to this constellation.

Tensions of building a national formation

To begin with, many of us are hesitant to pull militants from the ground to build (inter)national organization when our forces are few. Some of us had experience with revolutionary organization that focused on the national work in a way that undercut local work.

We are aware of this problem.

We’ve seen the creation of  national committees, pulling many militants out of  local organizing work to manage national work.  This top-heavy structure created an unhealthy balance and led to the implosion of these revolutionary groups. We also recognize that a heavy-handed national group can undermine and hold back dynamic local groups. Despite these problems, we still recognize the need for national revolutionary organization. We also recognize that some revolutionary groups have become too focused on local political work, for example Advance the Struggle in the Bay Area and Black Orchid Collective in Seattle.

Although we want to unify our forces, we’re not for ignoring the differences between Marxism and anarchism, or using only unity of action as the basis for revolutionary organization.  But we still recognize and appreciate the spectrum of shared political perspectives between anarchism and Marxism.

This is seen in our friendly orientation towards First of May Alliance, an anarchist class-struggle grouping that takes race, gender, and sexuality seriously, who also do Occupy and housing work; Miami Autonomy and Solidarity (MAS) has a similar outlook, organizing immigrants, taxi drivers, and hospital workers in Miami. The Industrial Workers of the World are organizing non-union workers with sophisticated salting operations moving beyond the National Labor Relations Board and legalistic unionism.  Left Party, a Latin American Trotskyist group in the Bay Area, does serious organizing of immigrant workers, but the mainstream left ignores them. Struggles United/Luchas Unidas (SULU), another Latin American Trotskyist group in Los Angeles, engages in militant action in the streets and fights the trade union bureaucracy through direct action.

We seek united fronts and/or serious collaboration to advance class struggle with these tendencies.

We recognize the difficulty in forming effective revolutionary organization solely on the basis of the Russia question, views on Spain, or other major revolutions which have historically been the basis for revolutionary organization. While these historical revolutions are important to understand, the reality is that forming revolutionary organization on the basis of total historical unity does not automatically lead to unity in action. Likewise, those who are about action independently of revolutionary history, end up reproducing common mistakes of the past, and implementing contradictory organizational practices and interventions in class struggle.

We want to fight for a new way of organizing which actually brings together militants ready to collectively intervene, while still engaging in comradely debate around long-term strategy and revolutionary theory/history.  This engagement can ultimately guide long-term political practice – if done in the right way. On the other hand, we all know dogmatic left groups who seek unity based solely on ideology/program and have not been able to act as a unit during ruptures, nor organize any serious intervention in class struggles, demonstrating the hollowness of their own political formations.

    While Occupy forces across the country have demonstrated the capacity to intervene in and shape ruptures, the revolutionary formation should not be solely composed of or dominated by Occupy forces. We believe there is a sizable milieu (1,000-2,000) of anti-capitalist and Occupy militants in the U.S.  However, this does not mean they share a similar organizational perspective: the need for (inter)national organization based on revolutionary politics/theory.  While militants may act a certain way in struggle, this does not mean that the majority of Occupy militants are won over to the perspective of building revolutionary organization. Although Occupy forces celebrate protest as an anti-capitalist movement in itself, this ended up hitting limits that contributed to the demise of their own forces.

Character of Occupy

Is Occupy the new revolutionary force? While we recognize Occupy’s refusal of legalistic union baggage,  this conflicted with its use of the Health and Safety code written into the ILWU contracts during the December 12, 2011 port shutdown. Occupy also declared itself  the new labor movement.

How do the ruptures of Occupy splash into the employed working-class for a greater offensive against capitalism? How can it develop struggle within key workplaces that uphold the capitalist system?

Our strongest case for the existence of a working class rests on the massive productive capacities of the U.S.; it is still the second largest manufacturer of goods in the world, and only recently did it fall behind China.  Due to our/their strategic location at economic points crucial for capital’s reproduction, employed workers maintain a powerful leverage with our/their ability to shut the system down. The West Coast Occupy movement attracted surplus populations, i.e. workers thrown out of stable employment,  giving it a political space for anti-capitalist and anti-statist street militancy.

Yet West Coast Occupy movements on December 12 overestimated this section of the working class. These radical actions brought to light the limitations of surplus populations against capitalism. A small current of unionized workers entered Occupy, attempting to politicize unionized rank-and-file workers and organize with non-union and surplus populations in Occupy committees.  These two currents, surplus populations and unionized workers, merged in key moments like December 12, which were important political ruptures but still fell short of defeating EGT-Bunge.

A West Coast Occupy street insurgent force able to blockade key workplaces from the outside, along with unionized rank-and-file in strategic workplaces, and non-union workers connected to both, need to come together as a unified revolutionary force. In isolation, each of these three sections of the working class cannot successfully challenge capitalism. What we need is fighting, political organization of workers inside the port and other workforces to meet the insurrection from outside and unify in a broader multi-sectoral fighting committee.

The ruptures of Occupy should be acknowledged and advanced into a full-fledged revolutionary offensive by keeping in mind the limits of its composition. The capitalist state will adapt to economic blockades done by surplus populations. When attempted, only a small number of workers supported the actions, who were then tokenized by some activists in the movement as representatives of all workers.

We do not take seriously the claim that large numbers of port workers were involved.

The ports, transportation and the schools, have unionized workers, non-union workers, and unemployed populations who relate in different ways to these institutions. Unified, these three groups of the working class could take over these large unionized workplaces and run them to stage a total offensive against the system, while supporting each other in the way that Occupy did. Occupy did much better in mobilizing surplus populations and the working class in the streets, but still has a long way to go towards politically organizing workers central to the running of these key areas of working-class power.

We face a fork in the road for our orientation towards employed workers in the coming ruptures. Occupy’s method of inspiration from the outside has not worked.  If, for example, port workers are not integrated into ruptures and we attempt to run the ports from the outside it could devolve into human chains against their attempts to work, or even worse, beating them up as scabs in the name of the movement.

Instead, we believe workers themselves must produce the ruptures inside their workplaces and Occupy failed to demonstrate the ability to make that link. Again, the ideological blinders different currents wear obscure the deep limitations of the recent port shutdowns and do not get at the central strategic and political problems facing Occupy.

Every tendency exaggerates the role of their own tendency and its impact in the port shutdowns. These ideological blinders prevent a deeper analysis for a new revolutionary movement.

We are open to hearing criticisms of our own ideological blinders.

Rupture versus base building? Towards a new Revolutionary Organization

The left has been polarized between base building and rupture-centric strategies. The debate on the hard revolutionary left has devolved into fights between these two categories. This is a problematic dichotomy and is a polemical tool which does not reflect the actual divisions, nuances, and on-the-ground organizing.  It is a failure of revolutionaries if we let polemics mask reality. We need a dialectical relation between these “two categories” to have a successful assault on capitalism.  We want to build off of the working class bases we have and push them to intervene in ruptures, as well as have the ruptures permeate the bases of workers we relate to.

The Portland Hella 503 grouping appears to not be focused on ruptures or base-building as fixed political practices, but a dynamic synthesis of both in relation to anti-police brutality organizing. This is what we are for.  We appreciate Hella 503’s emphasis on ruptures, and the political practice which organizes working class communities, as a form of base-building, into anti-state struggles. We ask all serious revolutionaries to see the nuanced relationship and not create unhealthy debates by re-polarizing these two categories as frozen and inherently antithetical. To the extent we create unhealthy polarizations ourselves, we want to be challenged.

For instance, when we discuss strategy with some militants in Portland, they only emphasize ruptures; this masks the fact that Portland is actually doing base-building.  Revolutionaries should have taken the correct aspects of the brilliant insights of the Portland crew and helped develop a more dynamic understanding.  Organizationally, revolutionaries have consistently failed to do this in the U.S. Organizations must help refine debates to share their sharpest insights across the country.

A national network composed of strong locals focused on intervening in their respective cities can help facilitate dialog between militants across the country to critique and reflect on each other’s work.

We do not believe that we should form national cadre organization in the immediate future. We do believe local-level cadre formations are necessary, as well as larger, looser networks.  But the local cadres need to be communicating, learning from each other, and debating theory and practice.  Our hope for this period is the creation and expansion of a collection of local cadre groups unified around their local struggles, respective blogs, and common discussion of key political actions and documents.

We propose some of the key documents below which can be points of debate and dialogue leading to possible unification or splits based on the political reality of 2012 in the upcoming years.

Towards a working-class insurrection

We see certain currents of the insurrectionist scene as advocating communist/anti-capitalist actions from the outside of the self-activity of workers.  At the same time, we are 100% against the NGO and anti-communist critiques of the “outside agitator.”  This devolves into identity, privilege politics, and conservatism.

The idea that the unionized working class at the point of production is tied to and bought off by capitalism and thus no longer revolutionary appears to be true due to the inactivity of the last 30-40 years in the U..S. But just as in 1932 the unemployed marches laid the groundwork for the 1934 general strikes, the Occupy movement of surplus populations and some employed workers could lay the groundwork for a contemporary multi-sectoral offensive against capitalism.

Occupy was not able to do this and didn’t  have the coherence and strategy to do so.

The insurgency of surplus populations, coupled with non-union and some union workers, created a radical social movement that developed important ruptures. In order to move through and beyond the Occupy rupture, it is necessary to link these three important sections of the working class against capitalism.  The unfolding of revolutionary organization can catalyze that.  It’s not enough to simply continue believing that from-outside surplus population insurgency will automatically catalyze rank-and-file action.

The capitalist system is in deep crisis and it is unclear where the next ruptures will emerge – the next uprising might not look like Occupy.  We need to think bigger, act bolder, and be prepared. Sporadic sequences of riots are not enough.  Revolt of unionized, non unionized workers and surplus population columns, must shut down key institutions and re-start society on a totally different basis.  If this is not taken into account, it diminishes the most communistic and insurrectionary aspects of the word “rupture.” We are not adventurists who believe this will happen today, but all serious revolutionaries must build the fighting organizations necessary to accomplish this sooner than later.

This task starts today.

What we are for, concretely:

  • We are for a national conference meet-up in 2013.
  • The basis for this meet-up is collaboration on the writing and discussion of a series of key documents that can prompt crucial discussions and strategizing in the political work we’re doing on the ground. This common activity can be the basis for the emerging tendency we are building.
  • Our respective blogs are the best spaces for such discussion.
  • In the meantime, we are for intervening together in upcoming ruptures and reflecting on these together.
  • These discussions  are important because the highest point of revolutionary politics is the formation of militants who are in the streets or workplaces fighting.

We know that things have gotten bad between some of us, but we want to squash personal beef and come together over politics.

Here are some topics we could cover; we welcome folks suggestions for other topics as well:

  1. ILWU, port truckers, and waterfront struggles.
  2. Legacy of 1968 and today’s revolutionaries of color.
  3. Housing struggles and anti-gentrification.
  4. Educational struggles and austerity.
  5. Immigration and contemporary revolutionary struggle
  6. Development of women / gender nonconforming  militants
  7. Queer / LGBT liberation.
  8. Why revolutionary organization?
  9. NGO complex and social movements
  10. Ruptures verse base building.
  11. Balance of sheet of Occupy.
  1. Class struggle in the age of automation – similarities and differences to 1934 general strikes
  2. Occupy movement and why the working class is an agent for revolution
  3. Role of college students in movements
  4. Marxism, Maoism, Trotskyism, anarchism or something new?
  5. Race, White Supremacy and how to attack it
  6. Anti-war, anti imperialism, internationalism
  7. Decolonization, indigenous struggle, and indigenismo
  8. Capital’s destruction of the natural environment, the threatening of human existence itself.

Signed,
Members of Black Orchid CollectiveAdvance the Struggle Collective and a NYC Revolutionary

  • David Berger

    In the absence of a group of militants with some concrete experience in class struggle, a meet-up with a prgram like this would be like the worst GA I ever attended in Zuccotti Park.

    The objective basis for such a massive operation does not yet exist. This would be a left version of the OWS National Gathering in Philly last month. A revolutionary organzation needs to be build up on the basis of practice and theory. We are not yet at the point where either is developed enough for a national organization that has any meaning.

    David Berger

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

    I’d really like to find out who from NYC got in contact with BOC and Advance the Struggle to sign this. It looks like a great initiative, one that is long overdue.

  • http://advancethestruggle.wordpress.com The Fish

    @David B:

    Totally agree. Which is why we sent it out to groups of militants like ourselves, with concrete (and ongoing) experience in the class struggle. We don’t think of it as such a “massive operation” (that sounds like forming a large working-class political organization, which would be great except like you said we don’t have the forces). More like building discussion between healthy, broadly like-minded revolutionaries. I’m personally on the fence about the likelihood of a national organization coming out of it, as I read about other regroupment attempts that led to premature organizational unity and resulting bureaucracy, splits etc. etc.

    BUT are we going to think small forever? Don’t we need to be discussing actual political questions outside of our localized scenes? Do you think that building national revolutionary organization is an important goal, and if so how do you see that happening? The Kasama Project for instance has what I think might be a different framework for building national organization: http://kasamaproject.org/2010/09/02/a-communist-beginning-what-it-might-look-like/

    @Pham Binh: We reached out to these folks: http://eastcoastrenegades.wordpress.com/

    • David Berger

      I find it disturbing that three groups that each link so far in this thread to: Black Orchid Collective, Advance the Struggle and Kasama gives a similar disturbing result.

      Linking to Advance the Struggle, we get a piece entitled: Species of Revolt: On Revolutionary Organization. This document does not even mention the working class or any current working class struggles in the US.

      The Kasama link leads to a document entitled: What a Communist Beginning Might Look Like. This document’s only reference to the working class directly is to an upsurge in 1912 in St. Petersberg.

      Following the Black Orchid link, we find, eventually, a piece entitled: Between the Leninists and the Clowns: Avoiding recklessness and professionalism in revolutionary struggle. This one makes a passing to “labor solidarity with port truckers and and striking Davis and Wast Management Workers. However, it spends more time on clowns than with the working class.

      The Fish says, “we sent it out to groups of militants like ourselves, with concrete (and ongoing) experience in the class struggle.” Cool. My question is: what kind of experience are you talking about?

  • Viva

    Don’t mind Mr. Berger. He was formerly known amongst internet circles as “RED DAVE”. He is a retired, wealthy white Jewish gentleman living in New York City. How’s the fish, Dave?

    Anyhoo, I’m convinced that Mr. Berger is or at one point was affiliated with the NYPD. I would not be the first, let me tell you. I would not doubt that he acts as a provocateur on some level.

    I’m posting this as a fair warning to all those wishing to interact or to work with Mr. Berger. He’s highly suspect. Not that I think this website or any of the organizations connected to it will succeed on any tangible level. You’re all still talking about Occupy Wall Street, for Christs sakes.

    • David Berger

      (1) Fuck you, Viva, whoever you are. You are a liar and a coward.

      (2) I am indeed RED DAVE, who was expelled from revleft by a bunch of Maoists, Stalinists, Insurrectionary Anarchists and a Democratic Party politician.

      (3) If you call a person who has to work full-time as a teacher in his late 60s “wealthy,” then you don’t know what wealthy is.

      (4) I plead guilty to being white and Jewish. One does not choose one’s DNA.

      (5) As to me being a cop, one more time, you are a liar and a coward. And, one more time, fuck you. You wouldn’t dare say that to my face.

      (6) And, of course, you’re as politically ignorant as you are morally coarse. If you think Occupy Wall Street is dead, then I guess the 20 or so labor militants, part of the OWS Labor Alliance, who met Tuesday evening to coordinate their support for the CWA workers, didn’t meet at all.

      (7) And once again, fuck you.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

      A cop is more likely to post an anonymous comment accusing someone else of being a cop than they are to post the kinds of comments he does.

      I’m willing to be that Occupy Wall Street at its worst is still more of a success than any initiative/group you are involved in at its best. Call it a hunch.

  • https://www.facebook.com/PhillySocialists/info Aaron Slater

    First I would like to thank the original poster for the great post. I will definitely be checking out the Black Orchid Collective, Advance the Struggle Collective and a NYC Revolutionary because of this post.

    Despite its sordid history, regroupment is one of the fundamental political questions for the left in our present and future. The Occupy/post occupy moment definitely is a rupture that must be taken advantage of. With all the newly activated people, energy, and hope we now have a chance to begin to create a leftist infrastructure that can challenge and win power from the capitalist class and oppressors.

    As a Marxist I must admit the amazing success the anarchist movement has accomplished and the new tools of avoiding or countering the bureaucratization of the movement. However, I believe for the movement to continue to grow we must find a synthesis between the “leaderless” low intensity organization and a highly organized and efficient party apparatus. What the members of Black Orchid Collective, Advance the Struggle Collective and a NYC Revolutionary are proposing sounds like an excellent start. I agree that the ongoing, accurate, and timely transfer of information and debate and discussion of said information will help our movement mature, grow, and become more successful. A loose network of organizations who are for the time completely autonomous, but willing to share their successes, failures, and lessons is essential.

    To this end I am in the process of proposing the addition of a news/theory/discussion page to my organizations new website. I will also continue posting here as well as connecting to other active organizations and continuing the conversation.

    In solidarity
    Aaron Slater

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  • Manuel Barrera

    I look forward to hearing more concrete plans for the 2013 conference and applaud the collective effort to bring larger numbers of us together. I would encourage us to ignore and oppose those of “us” who look to accuse each other about ties to the police. Today, Mike Ely on the Kasama Project posted a very good commentary on the revelation that Richard Aoki was an FBI informant (http://kasamaproject.org/2012/08/20/richard-aoki-exposed-straight-talk-about-security-culture-the-new-cointelpro/). I agree with Mike that we must not allow these kinds of revelations to make us turn on each other. Regardless of their veracity, such accusations or revelations accomplish the ruling class objective to divide and disorient those struggling to end capitalist rule when solidarity and unity are essential components of our eventual victory. I do not share all of Mike’s prescriptions for focusing on “security”; though I believe the issue important and essential to logistics in mass actions, our foremost focus must ALWAYS to be open and democratic. We have nothing to hide, but most important, our most crucial task is to defend and advance the fight for democratic rights which include united solidarity against police/military repression, the right to assemble and protest, and the right to organize on and off the job (including for the unorganized and undocumented). I believe such democratic rights are an essential campaign for a united left to build upon. Socialism and the struggle against capitalism is foremost the struggle for and establishment of the democratic rule of the overwhelming majority–the working masses.
    I wish us all the greatest of courage in building a revolutionary example for the working masses in our fight to end the slavery and oppression of the capitalist world.

    • David Berger

      Manuel Barrera posted: “I wish us all the greatest of courage in building a revolutionary example for the working masses in our fight to end the slavery and oppression of the capitalist world.”

      This troubles me. What do you mean by “a revolutionary example”? With all due respect, this sounds like substitutionalism. A united left, meaning unity with those worth uniting with, can only come with participation in working class struggles.

      David Berger

  • Manuel Barrera

    The working class has, from the so-called “Left”, only “examples” of sectarianism, “security cultures”, defense of democratic rights only if the people fighting them have the “correct mass line” and all sorts of excuses for NOT working together. People learning to fight the capitalist class need better examples, or, perhaps a better term might be “traditions” where they see the most conscious layers showing how to engage in solidarity and collaboration based in the interests of the masses rather than what “we” provide now, which is essentially engaging in playground one-upmanship. There is no substitute for building a revolutionary leadership; requiring some “revolutionary examples”. The problem, as I see it now, is that each and every group, tendency, “current” or individual all seem to want to “prove” that they are the one answer. To be sure, creating a revolutionary leadership is NOT the sole answer; building the mass movement, educating people as they struggle are also essential. But we have now either 50 or nearly 100 years since the last “revolutionary example” of leadership (depending on which revolution you consider viable) to have come forward. All our efforts at our own “race to the top” have failed in building such a leadership and the greatest example of the mass movement–Egypt and/or Greece (again, depending on your perspective)–has occurred through revolutionary (and difficult) collaboration. Shouldn’t we be worrying about how to get THAT right rather than engaging in (literally) nit-picking innocuous terms?

    I submit this reply in the spirit of clarification and “unconditional positive regard” for the dialogue. If you wish to engage in sectarian squabbling, please don’t expect a further response.

    Looking forward to us finding the “courage in building a revolutionary example for the working masses in our fight to end the slavery and oppression of the capitalist world.”

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  • Aaron Aarons

    Our strongest case for the existence of a working class rests on the massive productive capacities of the U.S.; it is still the second largest manufacturer of goods in the world, and only recently did it fall behind China.

    1) The United States is the third-largest country by population, after China and India, and has more than double the population of any other country that has been regarded as ‘industrialized’, unless you count Brazil in that category. What is the per-capita manufacturing data?
    2) How do you quantify the goods manufactured? By price? Weight? Labor hours to produce them?
    3) How much of the manufacture of ‘goods’ in the U.S. is arms manufacture? How does that affect the revolutionary (or even reformist) potential of those who are paid, usually well, to produce such material to serve Empire?

    • Aaron Aarons

      Typographical goof: It is the first paragraph, and NOT the ones that follow, that is a quote from the article. What follows that quote are MY comments.

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