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(en) US, Above and Below: Them, Them, and Us - By BRICK anarchist collective http://www.frac.ws/aboveandbelow.html

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 12 Jun 2003 22:15:26 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

> This is one of three tasks and perspectives discussion documents drafted
to help stimulate debate with the Federation of Revolutionary Anarchist
Collectives. While these are a little old, we believe they are still worth
discussing. This also coincides with the release of our new website:
George Bush and his war hawks swarm down on the world from the
heights of power and authority. The massive US war and occupation of
Iraq has several aims: to aggressively establish US military and political
dominance in the Middle East; to prove total US power to capitalist rivals
around the globe; to insure direct control over the Middle Easts
resources; and to favorably position itself for the ongoing struggle against
a startling insurgency from below: Islamic fundamentalism/fascism.

This is a bold and radical course for the capitalists, full of risks and
challenges. It already has caused injury, possibly fatal, to major
ruling-class institutions like NATO, the European Union, and the United
Nations. It has provoked a massive outpouring of antiwar sentiment,
protest, and direct action, all across the globe. The chill that fell on the US
protest movement after 9/11 has thawed.

Less spectacular but equally a part of this drive is the offensive directed at
the working classes internationally, including within the US. Trade pacts,
like Plan Puebla Panama, open up countries labor and resources; IMF
austerity and privatization measures drive down wages and living
standards and put education, healthcare, water, land, and infrastructure
directly in the hands of the corporations. Antiterrorism is used to
justify extensive new police powers, the erosion of civil liberties,
carrying out advanced population mapping, and opening up public
discussion of internment, assassinations, and torture.

The Bush government, in alliance with the Christian Right, is working to
roll back the victories women have won at home, on the job, and in wider
society. There is no doubt that his will also be true for GLBT communities.
War has always increased racism here in the Homeland. Arabs and
Muslims continue to face both official and vigilante attacks. Mexicans and
other Latinos have had to deal with increased repression at the border,
deportations, and sweatshop conditions. In the Black community, systemic
police brutality and incarceration, economic marginalization, and an
imposed drug epidemic have not let up. The white sections of the working
classes are now too feeling the effects of downsizing and cutbacks. This
presents opportunities for class unity, but also for white supremacist and
fascist backlash and balkanization.

The official opposition (Democratic Party, AFL-CIO bureaucracy, major
civil rights groups, the Greens) are either totally complicit in this
offensive, or serve as a means to co-opt and dilute any autonomous
struggle against these attacks.


The world system of capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, and the
state is going thru a monumental reorganization which involves a great
deal of inner-ruling class competition. This has temporarily weakened it at
points, providing openings for resistance from below. Roughly speaking we
would divide the resistance into two camps: 1) authoritarian, and 2)
autonomous and anarchist. The differences between the two general
approaches and visions are significant, and cannot be bridged by a shared
militancy. In fact, as anarchist revolutionaries, antifascists and radical
feminists we understand our situation as a three-way fight. Them, Them,
and Us.

Authoritarian movements

9/11 and the war in Afghanistan have brought home the fact that there is a
serious force committed to fighting and overturning the US government,
other western governments and radically remaking society. But they are
our enemies also. Al-Qaeda and movements like it include tens of
thousands of fighters with sophisticated weapons and communications, a
major bankroll, and the ability and the audacity to pull off spectacular acts
of sabotage and terror. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan gave us a
glimpse of what this kind of force looks like in power. Women were
removed from public life, stripped of all rights. A large paramilitary force
physically policed public morality. War, conquest and criminal
enterprise were central to the economy. No activity outside of the ruling
structures was allowed.

In North America and Europe, but also in parts of the global South,
right-wing nationalism, white supremacy, and fascism have reemerged. In
Europe populist-fascist parties have made serious runs at state power. In
India, Hindu fascists in political power have sanctioned mass pogroms and
rape of Muslims. In the US a relatively small (but large by left standards)
fascist cadre organization, the National Alliance, is carrying out
professional mass outreach, carving out a music and cultural underground
and has started to test the streets. The fascists in the US have actually
felt more repression from Ashcrofts Feds than any section of the left
outside of the Arab communities.

Beyond fundamentalism and fascism there remain other authoritarian
currents of opposition from below. Authoritarian communist and
nationalists continue as guerilla groups in several Third World countries
and as opposition parties in the West. Their goals, which once may have
seemed radical, are now clearly about control by a party elite (usually
middle-class intellectuals) of a revolutionary state, that in turn controls
all of society. While instituting certain reforms from above, their obsession
with centralization, production, and total ideological control have
devastating effects on the land, working people and any autonomous
movements or impulses.

Autonomous movements

So who is the Us? Who do we stand with on this planet? The Zapatistas
uprising, the Battle in Seattle, and Argentinas revolt. The anarchist and
alternative unions in Europe, the land seizures in Brazil, and the heroism of
RAWA. The anti-privatization movement in South Africa, the
Belfast-based free-speech forum The Blanket, and the bonfires in Quebec
City. Peoples Global Action, the IndyMedia Centers, and the
International Libertarian Solidarity network.

This sample of movements, organizations, actions, and projects may seem
unwieldy, but it has a logic. As a movement, its main characteristics
include: conscious anti-capitalism, a rejection of vanguardism and
statecraft, a broad repertoire of militant direct action, a directly democratic
process, an egalitarian vision, a commitment to autonomy, political and
physical hostility to the fascists and fundamentalists, an ecological
understanding, and deep reservations about the effects and effectiveness
of an armed-struggle strategy- among others.

Anarchism is a significant minority within these movements, better known
and with more momentum than any time in the last sixty years. Marxists
and ex-Marxists also exert significant influence, and Indigenism and
different religious beliefs are also important guides or references for many.
Anarchists cannot be passive participants in these movements. We have a
responsibility to argue for explicitly anarchist methods and goals. There is
nothing guaranteed about these struggles, many first launch themselves
with a strong autonomous character, only to come under domination of an
authoritarian group, or be co-opted back into the system. The Solidarity
movement in Poland and the first Palestinian Intifadeh are examples. The
anarchist role is not seizing leadership, but encouraging and defending the
most far reaching self-organization against all authority.

Culture has played an increasingly important role in our movement. It
gives life to the resistance. We also know that any culture becomes a
target for capitalism to be sold back to us as a commercialized empty
shell. Within hip-hop, punk, queer and other subcultures battles are being
waged between a committed underground and corporate colonization.

The autonomous movements are not without significant weaknesses and
flaws. In general there is not a clear orientation towards insurrection- an
immediate abolition of the state and collective appropriation of wealth and
resources. The wariness towards armed struggle, often learned from direct
experience, sometimes verges on pacifism. This gives the movement a
distinct reformist side, though not as visible partly because of a general
disinterest in electoralism. The enthusiasm this current has inspired among
radical youth, indigenous communities, and campesinos has not yet found a
strong base in the urban working-classes around the world, and this has to

In the North American Great Lakes region two small but important groups
are examples of the autonomous movement. The Ontario Coalition Against
Poverty (OCAP) has come the closest to merging the anti-globalization
movement with the poorest sections of the working-classes thru
direct-action case work and mass mobilization; and the Anti-Racist Action
Network (ARA) which has doggedly struggled both physically and
ideologically against the fascists, forming a core of young militant

The balance of forces in Mexico is also extremely important to us here.
The EZLN in Chiapas are in many ways the prototype of what we mean by
autonomous movement, because of their rebellion, their refusal to seek
state power or to disarm, their liberated municipalities, and the sharp
exchanges with authoritarian groups like the Basque ETA. Also in Mexico,
we are starting to learn more about the struggles of the Consejo Indegena
Popular Oaxaca- Ricardo Flores Magon (CIPO-RFM), a similar group with
more explicit anarchist sympathies. We are committed to building a
relationship with this group and other autonomous movements south of the


In trying to sum up this paper, we feel it is important for our Federation to:
be able to analyze the moves of the ruling class and what problems and
possibilities this presents, in particular this war against Iraq; to understand
and be able to differentiate between authoritarian and autonomous
resistance; to build and participate in the autonomous movements,
especially among the working classes; to fight for revolutionary anarchist
methods and goals within these movements, and struggle against
repression, reformism and rising elites; to contest the authoritarian
movements both physically and politically; and to link up with other
struggles and movements around the world for discussion and mutual aid.
We are a new grouping on a new world stage, most of what we try to do
will necessarily be experimental. We must be bold as we advance while
encouraging a thorough dialogue around all our activities.

Some Specifics Tasks

1. We need to develop our politics and vision. We need both a historical
understanding of revolutionary anarchism, including the debates around
the Platform, and a clear analysis of our current situation, the moves of
the ruling class and the resulting problems and possibilities. We need to
understand and be able to differentiate between authoritarian and
autonomous methods and goals. We need to write short position papers on
a whole range of questions facing us, for debate and discussion. We
should hold at least one educational Day School annually, maybe jointly
with NEFAC and others, that concentrates on internal education, debate,
and discussion. Not just by and for experts and intellectuals, but
recognizing we all have things to teach and learn. This also involves paying
attention to, learning from, and building ties with the international anarchist

2. We need to strengthen the organization. FRAC needs more of a public
face with publications, position papers, a web page. The antiwar poster
was an excellent start. We need to better collectively sum up our
experiences, in local organizing, demos and actions, etc. with regular
reports and discussion from the members, collectives and secretaries. We
also need to stimulate and help bring out more collectives in our region. We
need a strong sense of security culture, an understanding of different
methods of repression including sophisticated counterinsurgency. We need
to be able to organize a fighting movement that can successfully organize
direct action, on both mass and small group levels. We should also
systematically build ties with the new wave of anarchist organizing in
North America- NEFAC and the other regional federations and networks.

3. We need to experiment more with trying to build organization and action
in the workplaces and communities outside of the left and anarchist
scenes. In Chicago, the small Uprise! initiative at UPS has proven that we
can get a favorable hearing and engage in some struggle in these areas.
Our effort to organize in the Pilsen/Little Village neighborhoods holds even
more promise. We need to experiment, and try and draw lessons from the
experience. This will take collectives and individuals committing to get
these type of projects off the ground.

4. Developing revolutionary culture is equally important. A number of
comrades are artists, musicians, and DJs, and almost all of us have
connections to the subcultures. We need to analyze whats going on in
popular and rebel culture, and figure out how to participate and impact
cultural consciousness and movements. We need to make sure all of our
activity has flava. We are not the rigid, boring left and we dont want to
look like it.

BRICK anarchist collective
Chicago, IL
April 2003

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