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(en) The Agitator Index - Please check out the newly updated Bring the Ruckus webzine

Date Sun, 14 Aug 2005 21:40:43 +0300


The articles in this update include:
Report on the Minuteman Project by Luis and Sean
Anti-Authoritarian Organizing by Paul Glavin
as well as writings on labor and the Left relevant to
the recent split in the AFL-CIO and a report on the
BTR national meeting by Dan Horowitz de Garcia.
Bring the Rucks National Meeting Report By Dan Horowitz de Garcia
Memorial Day weekend saw the third national meeting of Bring the
Ruckus (BtR) in Portland, Oregon. This year’s meeting was a
more introspective meeting than in the past with the agenda
reflecting a desire to look at internal operations. The two-day
gathering gave members a chance to evaluate past work, make
corrections, and implement new program.

Although national meetings are usually held once a year it had been
18 months since the last gathering in Los Angeles. It was
immediately apparent this is too much time between meetings and
members talked about the necessity of more face-to-face political
discussion.

The number of people present showed growth in the organization,
now with four functioning locals (a chapter with at least 3 members
in good standing) and three other proto-locals (chapters in
formation). Also present were many observers, non-members who
wished to participate in some of the political discussion. Observers
came from as far away as Chicago and the Bay Area and at the peak
almost matched the number of members present. Much of the
discussion focused on the internal workings of BtR which was
difficult to have in the presence of so many outsiders. Rather than
shut down the conversation, however, everyone present pushed
through the difficulties. But the general sense from membership is
that our conversations didn’t go as deep as we would have liked
in certain areas. Members, already aware of many pressing issues,
wanted to dive deep into those political questions. Instead time was
spent catching up observers. This was particularly true in
discussions on feminist praxis and the dynamics of a cadre
organization. This is in no way the fault of observers, but rather the
natural result of having the room almost evenly divided. While
it’s likely BtR will continue to have observers at national
meetings the policy is sure to be re-evaluated over the next year.

The meeting agenda was divided into two days with day one
dedicated to answering two questions about BtR’s work and day
two focusing on proposals and elections. The questions for day one,
how have we done our work and how should we do our work, were
divided into morning and afternoon sessions. The morning session,
about how we have done our work, began with a review of actions of
the past 18 months. Specifically members reviewed work done in our
priority areas (anti-prison and anti-cop work), exploratory areas
(counter military recruitment, workplace organizing, border
organizing, and anti-drug war work), and specific projects (the
Republican National Convention demo/Life After Capitalism
conference and the Grassroots Prison Campaign). See sidebar for
specific reports. Analyzing these accomplishments in small and large
groups, participants pointed to the need for greater political
education within the organization and greater consciousness about
process.

The consensus of BtR members, as well as the observers, was that
the organization needs to spend time on internal political education.
This means developing the collective political analysis on questions
of leadership, cadre, gender, the six criteria, and how BtR functions
as a national organization. It was also noted that there seems to be a
lack of definition of what is success in Ruckus. The lack of clarity
regarding the development process of membership growth,
ideological development, and other areas can and has led to
confusion. For example, the relationship of Bring the Ruckus to
Race Traitor and its politics was unclear to most observers and some
members. In answering the question how do we do our work, BtR
answered that the work is strong but that we lack clarity in key
internal and external areas.

The afternoon agenda focused on how the work should be done. We
tackled this large question by having a series of shorter discussions
on the definition of a cadre organization, our public face, and
feminist praxis. The conversations only scratched the surface of
each topic, but did lead us to an answer of the larger question.

Although there is no serious disagreement within BtR on the
effectiveness of a cadre organization, there are questions about what
it means to operate as one. The function of a cadre, adapted from
C.L.R. James, is to observe, record, and participate in working class
struggles with the potential to create a free world. A cadre group
organizes revolutionaries, rather than mass groups, and works to
develop an accurate analysis of the world and the politics of its
members. The conversation led to questions on the revolutionary
process itself and how a cadre organization relates to it.

Among some in the Left the term cadre carries baggage. There are
also key questions to be asked of cadre organizations. How open
should cadre members be with their membership? Can a national
organization even be a cadre group? Is it opportunism for a cadre
group to pick an area of work? At present BtR members participate
in local struggles, learn lessons which influence analysis, and then
present that newly learned analysis to others within the local
struggles. We work from the principle that community work is a
place of commitment, a place to put one’s soul, not a place to
find opportunity. However, as some observers pointed out, even with
this principle are we planning to be ready for mass insurrection that
will result in revolution? It is problematic if that’s all we’re
concerned about. Wouldn’t it be more productive to see
revolution as a social and cultural phenomenon and develop the
criterion to stretch the boundaries of organizing. In fact this is one of
BtR’s six criteria. Yet we haven’t struggled as an
organization with how lessons learned be applied when capital can
no longer function as it presently does. That is the moment when
new opportunities emerge for revolution.

Our public face was divided into three areas: those we work with, the
larger Left, and the world at large. Although our operating principle
can be helpful in our local relationships, some members put forward
that cadre must build a revolutionary political pole in the work they
do. What about that worker that has been dying to meet a
communist their whole life? When is it going to be safe to be a
revolutionary? If we’re not going to build that now, when? This
question remained unanswered, but we did determine that our public
face to the Left and the world at large should be to put forward
questions we can’t answer ourselves.

Discussing feminist praxis proved to be a truly rewarding but difficult
conversation. The dialog began with our organization definition as
described in the original BtR statement, but led to a critique of
internal dynamics. Clearly there is a need within the organization to
deepen gender analysis. The need within the organization is so great
it rises to almost a crisis level.

Outside critiques of BtR have identified a gap between our definition
and our work. While much of this criticism was refuted as being
based on white, middle class feminism or a simplistic laundry list of
domination, the membership was convinced a gap does exist and
must be closed. A revolutionary gender analysis cannot be based on
recruiting more women in the organization, but neither can we
ignore that BtR is a majority male organization. Women’s
experience in the organization shows male supremacy stifles
women’s voices and creates a backlash. As an organization our
gender politics are weaker than other areas and it is reflected in our
internal dynamic.

Many solutions were offered, including a gender parity policy, but it
was decided that the issue deserved more consideration. Gender
caucuses were formed and met separately that evening. The
women’s caucus brought three proposals to the membership the
next day: all articles to the discussion bulletin that evaluate work
must be based on all six criteria or they will be rejected, the political
education committee is to make analysis of intersections of race,
gender, class and sexuality a top priority, and that gender caucuses
become a permanent part of national gatherings.

Day two was a day for proposals and elections. We adopted proposals
on a childcare fund for members, created a political education
committee, voted to increase the profile of workplace organizing
from experimental area, and dropped anti-drug war work as an
exploratory area. We also re-affirmed our commitment to anti-prison
and anti-cop work and added border organizing as a priority area. In
addition we adopted a strategy to build the organization in the
southeast. As previously mentioned each caucus reported on its
discussion with the women’s caucus bringing three proposals.

For the most part proposal implementation was one of electing
committees and determining deadlines. However, three proposals
deserve special mention: political education, southern strategy, and
workplace organizing.

The political education committee was tasked with creating a way to
update new members on organizational politics with a focus on
political strategy and internal questions, conducting face-to-face
educational sessions with membership & a small number of invited
guests, to push or pull members with articles or theories who
haven’t put them force, and finally help locals and proto-locals
with a plan for political study. This was the largest committee and
was found to be so important that the chair was turned into an
elected position. While directing such a large, newly formed body
will take time, plans are already in the works for member notebooks
as well as weekend retreats dedicated to critical political issues.

The southern strategies proposal was passed by a large margin, but
for various reasons. The proposal calls for prioritizing work within
movements in the South that fit or approximate the six criteria,
particularly against prisons and the police. In addition it prioritizes
building Ruckus in the South, starting in Atlanta and moving from
there to build several locals throughout the region. The majority of
members didn’t disagree with focusing on a region, but they did
disagree on why. While some believe the South has unique political
significance in the US, others were not convinced. Still, a majority of
members liked the idea of focusing on building the organization in a
region. Action items for this agenda range from dedicating a time to
working with the Atlanta local on projects to relocating to the South.

The workplace organizing proposal marks the first time an
exploratory area of work has advanced within the organization. The
workplace organizing committee is exploring how to be involved in
organizing that falls outside the traditional US union framework.
This includes organizing among marginalized workers (e.g. day
laborers, bike messengers, etc.), working without a legally
recognized union, and other areas.

After elections we ended our conference with a discussion of roles
and accountability focusing specifically on the coordinating
committee. The coordinating committee was founded at the first
national meeting as an administrative body responsible for
implementing decisions and keeping committees on track. Members
are nominated and serve one year terms. The outgoing committee
members pointed out that it’s unclear whether the coordinating
committee is purely administrative, a leadership body, or a mixture
of both. This is truly difficult, they said, because there is no way for
the committee to simple be administrative if it’s to hold folks
accountable. Since BtR is a volunteer organization, what is the
committee’s authority in implementation or enforcing
accountability.

Through the discussion it became apparent the organization needed
to clarify the specific role of the coordinating committee. It is
constantly negotiating boundaries of authority. Although some
proposals were put forward to create separate structures for
accountability, ultimately it was decided that the problem is cultural.
While the membership likes the idea of a committee that shines the
light on failure to meet stated obligations, in practice this has led to
drama. There are already mechanisms in place within the bylaws to
hold folks accountable, what’s missing is a culture that uses
those mechanisms. The coordinating committee is a leadership
position, but it can’t be used as an excuse for members to avoid
uncomfortable conversations with one another.

This years’ national meeting showed a young organization
struggling for maturity and succeeding in places. Just as in any
growing process it hurts at times, but the pain is a worthy price to
pay for the excitement and potential.



Accomplishments in the last 18 months

In most of these areas what has been accomplished should not be
necessarily viewed as BtR work, but instead work Ruckus people
have been involved in. In some cases the successes, or failure, would
not have happened without BtR members but not always. In either
case the accomplishment should be seen as that by the community
rather BtR. When this is not the case the exception will be noted.
Primary Work Areas

Anti-Police


Four locals are doing anti-police work and all through participation
in Copwatch, a grassroots organization that monitors police activity.
In two locals the Copwatch chapter is just being started and Ruckus
members are core members. In the other two areas the Copwatch
chapters have been established. Ruckus members are also core
members and in at least one of those cases the chapter was started
by BtR members. Lessons learned from the work include its relation
to the six criteria particularly how a high profile project forced a
response to a radical race critique of police, gained strong general
support in the Black community and even showed a glimmer of dual
power. The message that the community would be better off without
police did not alienate, but instead resonated. Also learned from a
southwestern local was how to connect police issues to immigrant
issues by focusing on police harassment of day laborers. The cross
fertilization brings “new” issues to both immigrant and
native born communities. Lastly, work to defeat a ballot measure to
hire more police raised questions on relationship building with
organizations led by low-income people of color.
Anti-Prison


This work is primarily being done by three locals, one through
participation in Critical Resistance, one through a new statewide
criminal justice coalition, and the other through participation in an
anti-jail coalition. The work with Critical Resistance has expanded
work with a political education program focusing on women recently
released from incarceration. The group has seen a slight but definite
shift towards abolition politics among community groups. Next tasks
are struggles with strategies for prison abolition and the relationship
to dual power. The work being done in the statewide coalition is
doing extensive outreach to rural populations and working to
connect abolition politics to economic justice struggles. The
proto-local is struggling with several issues include the boundaries of
work within 501c3 frame, abolition strategies, and expand the
gender analysis as it relates to prison abolition. The final local has
had to step back from a campaign to close a women’s jail due to
serious political, structural and strategic errors made by the coalition
leaders. The work did bring up many questions regarding relation to
feminist praxis and lead to the foundation of a Copwatch chapter.
National Projects
RNC/Life After Capitalism


Seven BtR members went to the demonstration against the
Republican convention as well as the Life After Capitalism
conference. We attended but did not organize for it collectively as
Ruckus. Although great presentations were done, there was a lack of
follow up. In the end the activities did not further the creation of a
local in NYC, even though there were a lot of folks in NYC who are
interested in Ruckus politics. While this did create an opportunity for
folks in Ruckus who had not met before to meet one another,
members work on this project more as individuals rather than as a
group.


Grassroots Prison Campaign


BtR worked directly with grassroots organizations in the South,
however only two members made the trip. The effort did recruit a
new member, but more importantly it raised about how work is
done. The activities did develop the organizing skills of members as
well as expanded our view of work and the capacity of organizations
we worked with. It also showed what we have to do to be national,
and demonstrated a potential new model to distinguish between
organizing and activism.
Exploratory Areas

Border/Immigration work


This was primarily done by one local that took on work against Prop
200 in Arizona. The state proposition, which did pass, ended all state
benefits or services to people without ID (i.e. the undocumented).
BtR members were one of the first to begin organizing on this and
their efforts to build relationships with organizations and people
doing this work. It also led to connections with the anti-minuteman
project at the border and has built to greater work with day laborers.
The local is centrally located in the struggle, but there are
considerable strategic decisions to be made by the coalition. The
work also showed that it’s possible to use reformist strategies to
connect with more radical elements in local struggle. The local is
struggling with connecting border work to workplace organizing as
well as the question of relationship of a cadre organization to mass
organization.
Workplace Organizing


Members of one local in particular are involved in alternative forms
of workplace organizing. They have produced a number of writings
that can be the beginning of a conversation on relationship to
workplace/community work and where revolutionary orgs should be
intervening/building relationships locally, nationally, and
internationally. There is also work on developing a method to
evaluate how we do or don’t develop revolutionary
consciousness. Members are also engaged in serious struggle which
has raised questions about how our work is evaluated against the six
criteria as well as how we use them in our organizing.
Military Counter Recruitment


In both locals where this was explored members found challenges in
sustainability as well as the differences in organizing vs. activism.
Both locals evaluated the work and found it not worthwhile to move
on. In one case the organization members were involved in simply
fell apart due to difficulties in finding a sustainable way to campaign
on this issue.
Dan Horowitz de Garcia is a member of Bring the Ruckus.
erent local community campaigns support each other and how
can green/left activists support them.

Speakers have been invited on the following topics/from the
following groups (some are to be confirmed):

Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment aka CHASE
(involved in campaigning against incineration), anti-nuclear protest
camps in West Germany in the '80s, contempory anti-pylons
groups, Galway for a Safe Environment (involved in campaigning
against incineration). More to follow.

The Tenth Grassroots Gathering is to be the culmination of the
Solidarity Week at the camp, which begins on Monday August
22nd.
More details to follow very shortly.

For more details of the Gathering phone Terry at: 086 1682416, for
more details of the Solidarity Week phone Tracey at: 087 6543425

Or e-mail room101ucg@yahoo.co.uk

(Above text prepared by Terry and posted to indymedia.ie)
The grassroots gatherings have aimed towards a network which
would:

* Be based on the principle that people should control their own
lives and work together as equals, as part of how we work as well as
what we are working towards.
* Within the network this means rejecting top-down and
state-centred forms of organisation (hierarchical, authoritarian,
expert-based, Leninist etc.). We need a network that's open,
decentralised, and really democratic.
* Call for solutions that involve ordinary people controlling their
own lives and having the resources to do so: the abolition, not
reform, of global bodies like the World Bank and WTO, and a
challenge to underlying structures of power and inequality.
* Organise for the control of the workplace by those who work
there.
* Call for the control of communities by the people who live there.
* Argue for a sustainable environmental, economic and social
system, agreed by the people of the planet.
* Working together in ways which are accessible to ordinary
people, particularly women and working-class people, rather than
reproducing feelings of disempowerment and alienation within our
own network.

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