Building Anti-Authoritarian Movements With the Size and Resilience to Win
In this piece, I propose a different way that we might approach radical, revolutionary, transformative politics. I propose experimentation with new and unique political spaces—both conceptual and physical—which hold closely to a belief that another world is possible; which use that hope to build for the long-haul and on a large scale; and yet which, at the same time, hold us, nurture us, and ignite us as real people as we struggle daily, yearly, multi-generationally to get where we need to go. I propose that these spaces must go beyond the traditional organizational styles and formats that we've become used to—be they campaign organizations and coalitions, non-profits, collectives, spontaneous mobilizations, cadre groups, or revolutionary parties. Instead, I propose rethinking many of the assumed conventions and truisms of Left movements, and reaching out even more widely into society and history—even into enemy territory—for lessons and inspiration.
From Food Not Bombs to the Direct Action Network, From Take Back the Land to Occupy Wall Street, anti-authoritarian—even explicitly anarchist—forms of social struggle have shown a powerful ability to capture the popular imagination. Unfortunately, maddeningly, our movements have been consistently unable to leverage most people's initial attraction and intrigue into life-long commitment to anti-authoritarian revolutionary work. In the last 20 years alone, hundreds of thousands have probably had positive flirtations with anti-authoritarian politics. Where are they all now? I believe that anarchism's cultural insularity and organizational narrowness squander our ability to galvanize and crystallize popular power.
I believe that some of our most dedicated, strategically oriented organizers see this disturbing dynamic, but many are learning the wrong lessons from it. Instead of seeking to open up our politics—making it easier to play with, chew on, and ultimately commit to in all of its edginess and expansiveness—they close up and practice a selective timidity. Many subdue their anti-authoritarianism into quiet, sturdy participation in non-revolutionary groups—as if silent role modeling alone will radicalize people through osmosis. Increasingly, others are embracing cadre-type formations, where they end up rationing out pieces of their politics for specific mass audiences, while the good stuff—the rich worldview that makes people dig in for the long haul—remains gated behind gauntlets of study groups and often intense membership requirements. As innocuous as these trends seem, I worry that they hurt our long-range prospects.
All problems and contradictions aside, right now there are still thousands of anti-authoritarians—including me—who thirst for revolutionary organizations that can hold us as whole people, that can provide us a political home regardless of our work schedules, our family obligations, our ages, our cool factor, or our interest in this or that specific issue or campaign. We are eagerly awaiting new models that have us in mind.
In a recent piece I've written, “Someday We'll Be Ready, and We'll Be Enough: Building Anti-Authoritarian Movements With the Size and Resilience to Win,” (www.mutualinspiration.org) I try to propose some unique approaches to revolutionary movement building—approaches that emphasize revolutionary imagination, mass-scale, creative militance, and mutual inspiration. It argues for creating explicitly revolutionary spaces that:
-Publicly, imaginatively put forward a revolutionary vision, and work towards it
-Are capable of supporting memberships of hundreds, or even thousands within an area, across multiple issues and all identities
-Are recruitment friendly, warm, and accessible to non-activist people
-Are capable of providing a democratic and nourishing political home to both hardcore activists and busy, tired working people—without making the hardcore people feel held back or “dumbed down,” or making the busy people feel tied to the vanguardism of a well-studied elite
-Support approaches to movement building that see organizers as whole people with the need for balanced and healthy lives, and which give us tools to care for and mutually inspire each other
-Are simultaneously building grassroots infrastructure to boost our capacity for disruptive action, for personal growth and political education, and for developing constructive counter-power
-Are strategically spry and allow for the transience of populations and the quick shifting of social, political, and economic realities
I warmly and humbly encourage all anti-authoritarians to take a look and contribute your feedback to these ideas. Read the piece at www.mutualinspiration.org .