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(en) US, A Southern Strategy for Bring the Ruckus* By Dan Horowitz de Garcia (Atlanta) and Joel Olson (Flagstaff)

Date Tue, 20 Sep 2005 12:31:00 +0300

[Editors’ note: While the Southern Strategy proposal** was passed
at Ruckus’s 2005 national meeting in Portland, the following
argument in favor of it is not shared unanimously by the
membership. This article was written by the two Ruckus members
who drew up the proposal. Further debates on the centrality of the
South for revolution in the United States are under way by the
Ruckus membership.]

The Centrality of the South

The South is the key to building a revolutionary movement in the
United States. American political institutions were created with
deference to slaveholders’ interests. Forget the small vs. big
state debate in your civics textbooks: the Senate was created to give
equal representation to all states in order to give the South effective
control over half of Congress. The tacit agreement was that the
House of Representatives (in which representation is based on a
state’s population) would be predominantly Northern, while the
South would exercise power via the filibuster in the Senate.

Eleven of the first sixteen presidents were Southerners. Southerners
controlled the federal judiciary. The Democratic Party was built on
an alliance between Southern slaveholders and Northern workers.
After the Civil War, the South used its filibuster power in the Senate
to block civil rights legislation. Since Nixon, the South has been
central to the Republicans’ national strategy. The GOP’s
“Southern Strategy,” developed by Nixon strategist Kevin
Phillips, deliberately used racial appeals to attract white Southerners
away from the Democrats. The result is that the “Solid
South” has gone from overwhelmingly Democratic to
overwhelmingly Republican in twenty years. This explains why
presidential election strategy starts in the South: Nixon, Reagan,
Bush I, and Bush II built their candidacies on white Southern votes,
while Carter and Clinton used their Southern origins to stem the
Republican tide.

The South is also the birthplace of most of the reactionary policies
hurting working class people throughout the nation. Increasing
imprisonment rates, death penalty executions, regressive taxation,
union-busting, the reduction or elimination of welfare, the limited
access to health care, an aggressive foreign policy, and more all have
their origins and/or a strong foothold in the South.
The South’s Potential

American political institutions and policies have a Southern tilt to
them. That makes the states from Texas in the west to North
Carolina in the east and from Tennessee in the north to Florida in
the south absolutely central to political strategies. The abolitionists
knew this, the freedmen and women during Reconstruction knew
this, the Wobblies knew this, and civil rights workers knew this. Yet
today’s left has written off the South and concentrates on New
York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. These are important cities,
to be sure, but none of them dominate the political landscape the
way the South does.

If we don’t figure out how to build power in the South, we
won’t be changing much of anything in this country. For while
the foundations of state repression lie in the South, so do the
foundations for freedom struggles: the overthrow of slavery (which,
as W.E.B. Du Bois shrewdly argues, was won by a “general
strike” of labor by half a million slaves who crossed Union lines),
Reconstruction, Civil Rights, and the Black power movements all
originated in the South.

The potential base for a new freedom movement lies in the South,
too. The South is home to 16 million African Americans and 12
million Latinos, 18% and 14% of the population in the South,
respectively. These groups are routinely disfranchised by electoral
politics. In 2003, 35.9 million people lived in poverty in the US, and
more of those poor people (about 14.5 million) lived in the South.
The face of poverty in the South is racial and gendered. Women,
particularly women of color, are disproportionately poor. If poor
women of color end poverty in the South, then it will be ended in the
whole country. Yet despite the centrality of the South and its
potential for radical struggles, how many national organizations have
a presence in Southern states? It can no longer be acceptable to have
offices in D.C., New York, and/or San Francisco and be considered

We start in Atlanta

In the 2004 elections Georgia was considered rock-solid Bush
country. Kerry visited the state a total time of zero. Senator Zell
Miller self-identifies as a Democrat but campaigned for Bush. Bush
won Georgia by 500,000 votes. But according to the Georgia
Department of Corrections, there are 600,000 people on the prison
visitation rolls in Georgia. The math is obvious.

Ruckus’s Southern strategy should begin where there’s a
problem, where there’s potential to successfully fight this
problem, and where we already have a base to fight this problem.
That means we start building in Atlanta. Atlanta is the home to
regional offices for many Southern and national organizations, and
it’s also a stop on regional travel. People who work and live in
the South usually have some contact with Atlanta, especially those
involved in progressive work. By building a local in Atlanta, we make
contacts with radical movements throughout the South. This would
pave the way for the creation of more Ruckus locals in the South.

The work in Georgia is also in need of people. Communities United
is building an organizing collective to carry out its strategy. This
collective allows interested volunteers an immediate opportunity to
get involved in an exciting campaign. In addition to building an
organization of family members of prisoners, the work includes a
community campaign strategizing process. These two projects mean
Ruckus members will have direct organizing experience (in addition
to an opportunity to make strong contacts), which can be used in
future work.

The Next Great Southern Freedom Movement

Du Bois wrote in 1935, “The chief and only obstacle to the
coming of that kingdom of economic equality which is the only
logical end of work is the determination of the white world to keep
the black world poor and themselves rich. A clear vision of a world
without inordinate individual wealth, of capital without profit and of
income based on work alone, is the path out, not only for America
but for all men. Across this path stands the South with flaming
sword.” These words hold true today, but we should (as Du Bois
himself did) see the South not as the source of all these ills but as an
opportunity to challenge them.

Most liberals blame the South for the nation’s problems. This is
true to a point, particularly regarding the white South. But there is
another South that has historically held, and still holds, the potential
to transform the entire nation. Ruckus needs to see this opportunity
and seize it.

The South is central to revolution in the United States.

Let’s build the next great Southern freedom movement that will
rock the South, the nation, and the world.

Let’s agitate and organize the South.


** A Southern Strategy for Bring the Ruckus

Bring the Ruckus adopted the follow proposal at its 2005 national
meeting in Portland, Oregon.

We propose that Bring the Ruckus’s political strategy for the
next two years should:

1. Prioritize building movements in the South that fit or approximate
the Six Criteria, particularly against prisons and the police

2. Prioritize building Ruckus in the South, starting in Atlanta and
moving from there to build several locals throughout the South.

The organization should give this a political and financial precedence
within Ruckus. It should also encourage and help Ruckus members
move to Atlanta. The short-term goal of this proposal is to create a
functioning local in Atlanta and to participate in its political work,
including but not limited to the Grassroots Prison Campaign and
Communities United. The medium-term goal of this proposal is to
create several locals throughout the South working on prison and
police issues. The long-term goal of this proposal is to ensure that
Ruckus is part of revolutionary organizations in the South. Due to
the South’s strategic position, the attack on white supremacy
there will enhance revolutionary possibilities nationwide. We
propose that Ruckus make this commitment for at least two years,
after which it will be reevaluated by the membership.
** [Bring The Rukus is an antiauthotitarian anticapitalist
direct action revolutionary initiative.]

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