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(en) US, California, Beginning the discussion on Goals and Strategy [and structure] -- SCAF (LA)

Date Mon, 05 Sep 2005 14:16:29 +0300

My personal vision is of a world that is organized based on autonomous
regions, where those regions are organized around their own specific
conditions. Regions are connected to other regions through general
goals and they share resources. Within those regions there are
community/workplace councils, elected delegates, mass assemblies that
allow for them to organize themselves but in the end they choose how
they organize themselves on the basis of free association and
horizontalism (direct-democracy). Regions would be connected through a
federation, which would be a permanent non-hiarchical structure that
allows for people to organize themselves and take control of their
resources, and take part in decision making – without the need of state
apparatus, national bureaucracy, or a vanguard party.

A region does not mean set borders in place, it constitutes geographic
conditions. For example, the Central Valley of Calfornia produces the
most food and most variety of fruits and vegetables in the nation
(because of its concrete conditions), and Los Angeles /Southern
California has different conditions. The importance of mutual aid,
cooperation, and support between region and region is the life of the
federation. There would be no lines drawn on land that disconnects
people from each other, there would be communities that connect people
to each other and connects them directly to other communities in all
parts of the world.

Another important aspect of regionally based organization is building
autonomy. Autonomy means building independence among people where they
reclaim their resources. That also means that historically colonized
people reclaim their way of life, their language, and culture.
Anti-colonialism, and national liberation is part of the process of
human liberation, we have to support them whether they be in Bolivia,
Ecuador, or in the South/New Afrika, Puerto Rico, among Chicanos in the
U.S., in Chiapas, Mexico, Latin America, Ireland, Africa, Palestine and
so on. Autonomy means self determination in the final analysis, and
people as a people having their own space to create and reclaim their
own way of life. Women within autonomous regions, and all genders and
sexual identities, will need their own space as well.

As anarchists and anti-authoritarians, is not just supporting these
struggles, but learning from them, and fighting in solidarity with all
oppressed people -- but also giving them their space to develop and grow
(and supporting that).

So how do we connect this lofty idea to what we’re doing today, without
becoming arm chair/ivory tower revolutionaries and without getting too
focused on our immediate work – but finding the right balance and
dialectical relationship between the two?

I think in Los Angeles we’ve gotten off to a good start so far, and have
a lot of potential, yet we haven’t (to quote my friends from the
chapter) we haven’t gotten our hands dirty yet.

The Southern California Anarchist Federation as an organization is new
in general and has only three chapters in So-Cal, one in Orange County,
one in Los Angeles, and one in the Antelope Valley. In a general sense
a federation now is the process of building self-management, autonomy,
and organization regionally and is united on common goals and
principles. Each chapter empowers the members to become active
participants in the decision making, and builds accountability amongst
its members. The chapters coordinate all the issues that affect the
particular communities in the regions so therefore it develops
organization and long term projects around our conditions and our
general principles as anarchists or anti-authoritarian
socialists/libertarian socialists.

In Los Angeles we have collectives that organize around particular
struggles and specific issues. Each collective is autonomous as well,
and can organize independently, and choose its own membership, and can
exist without the chapter. The chapter allows for their to be
coordination between different issues in the region, and builds long
term vision and organization projects for individuals and collectives
who want to be part of that.

In Los Angeles the collectives we’ve begin to organize around and we
hope to get off the ground are so far (which became part of the
federation through consensus or because members of SCAF wanted to build
a collective project and connect it to our chapter):

-Mujeres Libres – a collective of women and men building projects that
empower women and fight patriarchy

-the Mutual Aid Collective – connecting neighbors to share resources, in
a step to build community based action and collectivity

-Si Se Puede – a labor collective, empowering workers, building
collectivity, solidarity and projects that challenge hierarchy in the
labor union and focuses on those who are forgotten by organized labor

-Youth Liberation Collective – High School youth organizing in their
schools and connecting other youth with each other who want to organize
and challenge illegitimate authority

- Cop Watch – organized communities observing police as they go about
their business as usual: harassing people in our communities – and take
direct action to stop the brutality and murders that have become an
every day occurrence in Los Angeles.

-Propaganda and Media Work Group/Collective ( I consider this a work
group because all the members of chapter will approve or support in some
way the work of the Propaganda and Media Collective)

Our chapter is also seeking to build relationships with other
organizations and enter in coalitions with other organizations that we
feel, collectively, that they have similar goals that we do, which they
don’t necessarily have to be anarchist in name but in a broader sense we
agree in the short term or in the long term.

There are many benefits of organizing in a federation, which is a
structured non-hierarchical organization. We set in place checks and
balances from the beginning so that we don’t develop power
relationships, and if they do develop they are ways to check them. All
our positions are rotated, and no position is permanent – if a delegate
or any other person abuses the temporary leadership they are given –
they can be instantly recalled or even suspended or expelled from our
organization. Also as mentioned, each collective can function
autonomously, and there is no centralized power, so it makes it hard for
the state to destroy the organization. We are conscious that we’re
working in a repressive atmosphere – so developing ways to combat state
repression is important. We don’t isolate ourselves from communities
which makes it easier for the state to come down on us, but we seek to
build strong roots broadly in the communities, the left, and society in
general. Also we seek to support other federations in other regions,
and support similar movements here and around the world – and learn from
each other.

All that mentioned, I think that developing mid-term demands and aims is
something that time will tell. I would personally like to see, along
with other folks, SCAF helping develop community infrastructures that
allow for particular communities to organize themselves. This relates
to the idea of building Dual Power, where people again break
dependencies from the state and the city and organize their own
communities, their work places ant their schools – and build mutual aid
programs, education, and organization that is capable of defending
itself if the state comes down on them. Focusing on our projects is
important, because that will enable us to actually outreach and build
strong ties to our communities and our organization won’t become
stagnant where the membership is exclusively anarchist (especially
people who don’t do the groundwork but romanticize the anarchist

How that would look:

In the communities of Watts, Pasadena, South Central, Compton, Pico
Union, and so on, the infrastructure can be a community council, where
they organize around specific issues that affect them and their
neighbors like Police Brutality, Rent control and Land Lords kicking
people out into the streets, people not having food, single mothers
having No Child Care and having to Work and Go to School. The
infrastructures will allow people to organize on their own who actually
live there and build their own vision and plan – along with that people
will be welcome to join the organization, but our the role of the
councils will not be to “develop the forces of the federation” in a
vanguardist sense – we’re not organizing to recruit but to develop

In our workplaces, it means “Firing the Boss”, and organizing on the
jobs for better living conditions, and empowering people who are
targeted by the state or ignored by organized labor for example:
domestic workers, women, day laborers, immigrants – this can mean
building work centers that are run co-operatively by workers themselves,
where they support each other, get work, organize themselves, and work
with the broader community projects

In our schools, it means student councils fighting the administration
and student governments and building democracy and collectivity on the
campuses where students even run their own co-opreratives and community

All that is the foundation of a movement that is capable of challenging
the system of power, and building collective ownership of our
communities. I think any revolutionary organization, that is serious
and direct-democratic should seek to play a role in building that and
not just waiting for the “Big Revolutionary Crisis” to happen while
“Leading the Masses” – we seek to connect people with each other,
empower them, learn from them, and educate each other to actually build
the world we want to live in right now.

We don’t want to turn things upside down, where we’re at the top, we
want to turn things sideways where there are horizontal relationships
between all people.

Until then, always in struggle,

Joaquin Cienfuegos

member of SCAF-LA
m0rph 30 <morph3030-A-yahoo.com>


For more information about the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern
California Anarchist Federation, or interested in joining some of the
projects contact Shawn (chapter secretary) at communityfeast@yahoo.com

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