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(en) Praxis #2 - As Sexy As We Wanna Be: An Interview With Nachie From RAAN - By Donald, The Female Species Collective (RAAN Cincinnati - OH)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 15 Feb 2004 11:26:55 +0100 (CET)


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Nachie is one of the co-founders of the Red & Anarchist Action
Network, and has been organizing in its name for nearly a year now.
Donald from the Cincinnati-based zine The Female Species was able
to conduct this interview by e-mail to find out more about the network,
it's overall principles, and some recent activities. This interview also
marks the first release from the newly-formed RAAN Publication
Network (RAAN-PN), which is dedicated to making information from
the tendency available to a wider audience.

To start off, could you give a short history of RAAN and what your
personal involvement has been.

Well, I’ve been working on the Internet for about three years now,
and for most of that time I’ve been contributing to leftist
newswires. Sometime around early 2002, Matt (another of
RAAN’s co-founders) approached me about doing a “Red &
Anarchist News Network” collaboration between the sites we
were working on at the time. I was a communist, he was an anarchist,
and it seemed like it was a good way to build some practical unity
between our ideologies. But before we ever got around to setting up
the news network, we came up with the idea of calling it the Red &
Anarchist Action Network instead. At the time we had no idea what
“action” would mean, we just knew that we wanted to leave
ourselves open to development beyond just the sharing of news.

RAAN’s first incarnation was as a small web forum, populated by
the communists who visited my site and the anarchists who had been
visiting his. We also publicized the collaboration a bit to see if other
open-minded people would want to get involved, and pretty soon we
had developed into a discussion group with many intelligent
participants from all over the political spectrum.

At some point, a group of us decided that it would be in our interest to
try and use that forum to produce something, which is how we started
working on what eventually became the network’s founding
document, the Principles & Direction. Writing the P&D was actually a
terrible process that took many months because we did it collectively
and submissions were open to anyone who wanted to contribute. As
you can imagine, a large part of those months was spent arguing over
each minute detail of anarchist-communist unity, and it was quite a
while before anything got accomplished. Nevertheless, there are two
things that really made that process worthwhile: The first is that we
came out of it with a document forged in discussion, and as a result
it’s a very strong set of principles in terms of setting up
fundamental guidelines for unity in the post-Left. The second is that
after all that debate, none of us ever wanted to talk about ideology
again, and we were more than ready to move beyond the Internet and
start acting on those principles in real life.

How has RAAN evolved since it was first formed?

RAAN has continued to be a tendency comprised of action and driven
by discussion, which means that we’re always developing as a
whole because of the different ideas and methods that new people
bring into the network. Our original principles have stood the test of
time and because of them, we’ve been able to accomplish much
and forge bridges of trust between many different groups and
ideologies.

The creation of Praxis Journal was definitely our most ambitious
project since we had finished the principles, and even though we were
still basically operating as an Internet forum, the ideas and activities
associated with RAAN had grown to a point where we felt capable of
producing a major publication like that. Praxis #1 also gave us a
chance to put forward another piece of network policy, and we came
up with the Principles of Organization as a way of helping those who
were looking to apply the network’s positions when putting
together an effective anti-capitalist group in their area.

The most exciting time for the network is right now, because our
recent publication of two monthly newsletters (“RAAN - Network
News”) has shown that once there is a strong set of unifying
principles in place, total decentralization of activity is possible.
We’re just putting the finishing touches on the second issue of
Praxis, which includes one final piece of network “policy”, the
Principles of Action. The PofA represents to us the most advanced
stage in the development of how we’ve been seeing ourselves not
as an organization, but as a worldwide tendency with a fluidity of
membership based in autonomous action.

Has RAAN gotten sexier with age?

Absolutely. Everything RAAN does has been getting easier and
easier because the network only asks two things – agreement with
its principles, and the ability to work in a “sweat equity”
environment. It’s a hard culture to build - especially when
you’re dealing with two groups that people usually expect to be
fighting each other - but it means that anybody can jump in and take
part at any time, because the essential unity is already there. A lot of
the older members have been leading by example, and it’s such an
easy and solid model to get involved with that interest in the network
has only been growing.

I think a lot of the things that we have to say, and in particular the
critiques we’ve been bringing against established activist and
anarchist scenes, are finding a very receptive audience in a new
generation of revolutionaries who are very radical, but also extremely
disappointed at the lack of progress from both the
“organizationalist” and “lifestylist” crowds. We’ve
also been very lucky because this recent resurgence of interest in the
Situationists has meant that now is a perfect time for ideas like
Marxism to gain a new appreciation, and people are becoming more
open to learning about things like the ultraleft-communist roots of
primitivism, or even just in working with other anti-authoritarians who
don’t necessarily self-label in the same way that they do. This
overall breakdown of ideological divisions between anti-authoritarian
anti-capitalists that the network represents is not just a triumph in
dialogue - it’s the gateway into a new round of activity for our
movement.

Needless to say, it only gets sexier from here.

What kind of actions and projects would you like to see come out of
the network in the future?

The practical union of communists and anarchists is a continuing
project that I’d like to see carried on far into the future. Within
that general framework, the type of activities that RAAN gets
involved in is totally up to the membership itself. When you have
something like the network to point to, there is the possibility of very
easily connecting seemingly isolated struggles to the bigger
revolutionary picture. I’m incredibly excited to be involved with a
group where in one town we might be stopping logging trucks, and
then in another we could be organizing sex workers. Or hey, why not
in the same town?

RAAN’s motto is “rock the boat, blow up the yacht”, so
we’re always trying to bring up issues in our community that
aren’t necessarily being addressed. From time to time this has
gotten us into trouble with the “scene”, but the more armchair
anarchists who hate us, the more fun we have.

That’s rocking the boat. Blowing up the yacht means no
compromise - not with liberals, not with Leninists, and certainly not
with the state. We have to keep fighting to ensure that revolution and
revolutionary ideas cannot be ignored or written off as a subculture.
The ways in which we can accomplish this are varied, and ultimately
up to the individual people who are going to keep this network alive.

What are some successful actions and projects that we can learn
from?

There are many things both in history and in RAAN that I could point
to as being examples of successful action, for example some of the
achievements of the German squatter’s movement. Ultimately
though, I think it’s less important to know the individual histories
of past successes then it is to just recognize the essential
characteristics that made them revolutionary, and then apply those to
what we’re doing now.

So like the German squatters, we have to see ourselves as not being
bound by the laws and relationships of this society, because as
revolutionaries we exist not just outside of it, but also on top of it,
replacing it. Yes, we’re all still living within the confines of
capitalism, but at every turn we’re trying to break out of that. This
escape can’t just be a denial of class society; it has to actively
destroy it in the process.

RAAN’s most crucial guideline for action in the name of the
network is “does what you’re about to do satisfy your political
consciousness? Does it satisfy you personally?” In that sense
people might say that we’re opening ourselves up to cooption by
inactive street punks, but I really don’t think that’s going to be
the case. I’ve heard of two recent actions being claimed by RAAN
- the vandalizing of a corporate development site in California and a
Maoist bookstore in New York - and in both cases nobody I was in
contact with even knew that we had “members” in those
areas! What this means is that people are taking action, and as a
result something completely decentralized but nonetheless very
unified is beginning to take shape. If you want an example of success,
that’s it.

How does RAAN’s praxis aid the self-activity of the working
class?

That’s really a tough question for any group to deal with, but of
course it’s also the most important for anyone with even the
vaguest idea of what a revolution would have to mean in terms of
class war.

RAAN is very influenced by the autonomist traditions in history,
which means that for us dual power is probably one of the most
important concepts to agitate around. Practically what this means is
creating a dialogue related to the establishment and defense of
sustainable, extra-legal institutions, and then of course putting those
ideas into practice. If a comparison to the Situationist International
can be excused, that group was numerically very small but in the end
we have a lot to learn from them because instead of trying to direct
the working class, they focused on creating tools that the proletariat
would need in the event of a revolution. Accomplishing this nowadays
means that first and foremost, our goal can never be anything but a
total and immediate overthrow of capitalism.

There are plenty of radicals out there who, despite their ultimate
agendas, actually think that a revolution is impossible under the
current circumstances (“the conditions aren’t right”). I
think this is bullshit because not only is that an incredibly defeatist
point of view, but it actually doesn’t make any sense. What
we’re dealing with here in terms of potential for revolution is not
just a future revolt in response to something like a bad economy,
it’s the continuing and overwhelming contradiction between the
driving forces of this society and the fundamental nature of humanity
(what large numbers of people need in order to live fulfilling and happy
lives together). Simply put, this means that at any place and at any
time where you find capitalism or any other type of coercive,
hierarchal relationship, there is a continuing possibility for radical
transformation.

So what that tells us is that the job of an anarchist-communist
tendency isn’t to organize for a future revolution, but to act like
the revolution is here now – because it is! The network has
approached this by bringing back the emphasis to issues like the
development of non-oppressive relationships, direct attacks against
the institutions of power, and by bringing up issues traditionally
outside of bourgeois-liberal activism, such as the need to not only
confront but also destroy authoritarian ideologies, and make things
like training in firearms available to wider circles of people.

And what about the Leninists?

Fuck the Leninists. As a communist and a Marxist, I’m no
stranger to anti-Leninism because I’m always having to deal with
the difference between the actual content of my ideas and the way
that they are perceived by a lot of people, especially anarchists. These
distortions are for the most part due to the Leninist tendency, and so
I’d say that being a communist is probably the best course in
anti-Leninism that anyone can ever get. That RAAN is so
anti-Leninist is as much because the Marxists in the network wanted
it to be as it is just a necessary fact in uniting anti-authoritarian
currents.

But while we’re on the subject, I’d like to address something
that really bothers me, which is that a lot of anarchists these days are
actually relatively unfamiliar with Leninism or its history, and are in
fact willing to work with Leninists or even within their organizations
(especially as part of a “united front” on single issues).
There’s nothing scarier to me than when a self-proclaimed
anarchist asks me why RAAN has to have such a hard policy on
Leninism. Let’s be clear about something: maybe there aren’t
any fundamental differences between a Leninist and an
anti-authoritarian if the both of you are just planning to stand on a
street corner together with some newspapers, but since that’s not
exactly what RAAN has in mind when it talks about action, the
exclusion of Leninism and all other vanguardist dogmas will remain an
essential part of who we are.

Recently, you have been involved with the creation of the Kazm
Collective (RAAN Rockville, MD). How will the collective benefit
from being affiliated with the network?

Kazm Collective has been a blast. Not just because of the wonderful
people that have been getting involved in what we’re doing, but
also because of the way we’ve approached our activities and tried
to stay away from everything that we hate about what’s generally
referred to as “activism”. This attitude is actually part of the
network’s history and is what gives it the potential to be so much
different from a lot of the groups going around nowadays pretending to
be revolutionary.

One of the things that makes Kazm special is that it’s one of the
first RAAN-affiliated groups that was founded specifically on the
principles of the network, and it’s certainly the first such group to
become firmly established. All of the people involved with the
collective have had past experience in activism, and when I was
asked about helping to organize a presence in the area, we knew right
from the start that we wanted to be part of RAAN because of the kind
of “no-bullshit” culture that the network has fostered. To me,
that more than anything else is the greatest attraction of RAAN for
Kazm and groups like it.

The people who originally came together to form the Red & Anarchist
Action Network did so specifically with a hatred for the armchair
discussions and reformist/statist concessions that have been holding
back the revolutionary movement. This is reflected in the
network’s principles, which developed directly out of hundreds of
debates between different ideologies, and to me represents the most
clear-cut plan for a workable anti-authoritarian union between the
compatible anarchist and communist tendencies. So while we did have
to spend parts of our first few meetings chasing out Leninists and
discussing the network’s positions with people who were
unfamiliar with them, at a very early stage in the collective’s
development we were already able to start talking about action and -
more importantly - going ahead and just doing it.

I know people who were initially skeptical of working within an
existing set of principles, but who are now actually defending the
network’s uncompromising nature as an integral part of the
collective. This is great because I think it shows that the concept of
RAAN isn’t just another detached ideology, but something rooted
in practice and applicable to anybody who’s interested in making
that crazy, no-holds-barred revolution we’ve all been talking
about.

Finally, what is needed for success in Miami this November? How can
RAAN contribute?

Well, first of all I have to say that the network has traditionally been
very hesitant to attach any sort of importance to these major summits
and the mass mobilizations that accompany them, because at the end
of the day we’re just going to be playing their game by their rules,
and there’s absolutely no way we’re going to win (that applies
equally to all those who are planning more “radical” actions at
the protests). Especially in more recent years, it seems that our
movement has been more interested in theatrics on the street than in
the meaningful disruption of the meetings that we came to oppose.
One of the places where this is especially visible is in the way that
even the most direct-action oriented protesters (those who will be
throwing themselves at the state’s lines and trying to crash the
meetings) are for the most part still approaching their attack from a
defensive point of view. This is reformist by nature because it puts us
in a situation where the only way we’ll be able to affect the
meetings is if the state ever decides to bow down and let us in. Of
course I’m not suggesting that we as a movement have the
resources (in terms of dedicated individuals) necessary to mount the
kind of armed offensive that could challenge state forces in Miami, but
that doesn’t mean that we don’t have other options open to us.

The summit’s organizers are actually quite strapped for cash,
which means that there are many things we can do to disrupt their
little party in terms of making the city uninhabitable or too costly for
them. But before we can do that, we need to start thinking outside of
the protest box they’ve set up for us. So for example, does the
Intercontinental Hotel where the meetings are going to be held have
the kind of security right now that it’s going to have on the
weekend of the 20th? Instead of thinking about how to win in Miami
when November rolls around, we should be discussing how to win in
Miami right now.

That said, RAAN has been getting ready for the meetings and what
I’m hearing most in the network isn’t “should we go?”
but “how are we getting there?” This is because even though
we are highly critical of the Northern “anti-globalization
movement”, we recognize that it’s foolish to completely
remove ourselves from it. The network’s attitude in relation to
these large protests has been to try and minimize the damage that the
security apparatus can do to us while we’re in such a vulnerable
position, so with that in mind we’ve been exploring options like
street combat and medic training, which regardless of occasion or
numbers is something that all revolutionaries should seek out.


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