Analysis Uncategorized

Revisiting Social Revolution in the Aftermath of 2020

submitted anonymously –

“Our task as anarchists, our main preoccupation and greatest desire, is to see the social revolution come about: a terrible upheaval of men and institutions which finally succeeds in putting an end to exploitation and establishing the reign of justice.

For we anarchists the revolution is our guide, our constant point of reference, no matter what we are doing or what problem we are concerned with. The anarchy we want will not be possible without the painful revolutionary break. If we want to avoid turning this into no more than a dream we must struggle to destroy the State and the exploiters through revolution.”
-Alfredo Bonanno, Why Insurrection?

Few anarchists today have any speak of social revolution. Many laugh off or roll their eyes at the mention of it or worse, talk about realism and reform. The few who talk talk about it as if it were a religious desire or an otherworldly force. But what is social revolution, and what is anarchy without the social revolution? A desire, a goal, an over arching project of our entire lives – without it, what are we, what are we doing, and why?

The anarchist movements in the U.S. today are largely a reactive force, always waiting for another movement or uprising to come along to attach ourselves to. Emptying anarchy of its content, anarchists are content to be the militant auxiliary or informal organizational vanguard of social movements or simply sit back and look for forms of anarchy in other peoples and places so we can rest assured that anarchy is a latent impulse in all peoples, that we are less alone than we really are and that it’s a simple matter of time before everything falls into place. If I were to sum it up, I would say that there is a great confusion about what it means to be an anarchist and what it is anarchists aspire to.

The last time I spoke to someone about the idea of revolution the person responded with how it has become such a meaningless word. I couldn’t agree more, but the conclusions we drew from this were totally different. For him it meant that we shouldn’t bother with the idea. For me it means that we must return to the basics of anarchy – reexamine, explore and draw out our ideals to their conclusions and the means to realize them lest they get captured and killed by the enemy like what has happened with once dangerous ideas like Direct Action, Mutual Aid, Anti-Authoritarianism and Free Association.

Our ideals and actions – what anarchism is and what it means to be, act, fight and live as an anarchist – are not static, unchanging things. They must be continually gone back to and re-examined or else we will unconsciously fall into paths and ideas defined and re-defined by those who aren’t anarchists. It’s no different than when we don’t examine our own lives and fall into unconscious patterns and suddenly wake up 5 years down the line somewhere we don’t recognize and someone we didn’t want to be. It’s the same because anarchy, too, must be lived and examined.

So this is my small contribution to the re-examination of anarchy with a particular focus on the concept of social revolution, a long neglected desire gathering dust in the old tomes and broken dreams of anarchists past. I hope to take it out, dust it off a little and rekindle its fire to help us orient ourselves in struggle. Anarchy isn’t merely a beautiful idea to be dreampt about yet never realized but it is a concrete condition of possibility – something that can be realized at any point in time but only if we set about the task of realizing it ourselves. But we will not stumble our way into anarchy, without an idea of the ways and means to get there we will find ourselves in a great confusion, running around in circles conflating ourselves with reform movements, labor movements, leftist movements, helping others realize their goals but finding ourselves no closer to our own. No, we need to know our goals and desires, we need to study and examine the means and processes to actualize them, we need to dig into the grand process of destruction and creation and get re-acquainted with it.

I do this as much for myself as for others because I am tired of half baked ideas leading to half baked action, of being led around by others whims or waiting around for someone or something else rather than concretely moving towards something. Because I am tired of stopping half way because I have no conception of what to do, or what could happen, next.

I can no longer be unsure, I have one life to live and it is what I wager each day I take up the fight for anarchy.

A Personal Reflection

For the longest time I was among those who didn’t think or care about revolution. It didn’t matter to me, all that mattered was the fight today. But you go and go and go and all the time you are going you’re not thinking, not reflecting. It wasn’t until I went to jail that I took time to slow down and think and reflect, because that’s all you could do in jail. Suddenly the immortality of youth was beginning to wear off – in the previous years, and years to come, friends and comrades have been intensely injured, some went to jail and prison, some were murdered by the weight of the world through suicide and overdose. The stakes were real and the consequences were real and I couldn’t afford to run around without thinking anymore.

At a certain point you have to ask – what am I in this for? Where are we going with this? What’s the point? What even is the anarchy I’m risking myself for? I think everyone gets there eventually. For most people there isn’t an answer and they drop off and try to “get their life together” and return to the bloody complicity of normality, or they try to keep going as they have until their life and/or body falls apart and they drop off, or they die.

The rest of us try to find something.

In jail I read a lot – Alfredo Bonanno, Assata Shakur, Ursula K. LeGuin, and the works,exploits and dreams of various other anonymous or otherwise lesser know anarchists, revolutionaries and rebels. When I got out I kept reading and kept thinking while trying to get my feet back on the ground. Then 2020 came, both the pandemic and the riots. It’s these two events that put things in perspective for me – opened my eyes to the possibilities and the horrors.

Me and some comrades went to Minneapolis – we saw the flames, the joy, the power but we also bore witness to the police, military and fascist repression on a scale we hadn’t experienced before. We returned to Olympia to experience for a few months a total power over the city. Everything was smashed and every night we would come out and smash more. We never thought we would get to this point and it was obvious we never thought beyond it because the same question came up over and over – now what?

Insurrection came and ripped space and time from the vicious maws of the state – its forces in retreat. But an opening is just an opening and we still have to make the conscious choice to walk through but we were unprepared – perhaps even scared – to ask important questions. Questions of land, of food, of expropriation, of arms (and particularly in ways that disempowered the professional ‘security’ teams – organized petty authoritarians – that bullied, injured and killed more of “us” than they ever did of cops and fascists – rest in power Antonio Mays Jr).

Downtown cores were wrecked, state security forces were in retreat, yet our everyday lives were untouched. We returned to our largely segregated neighborhoods which remained untouched, many of us still had to return to jobs or sleeping in cars or shelters or on the streets. The old forms of power – misogyny, white supremacy, citizenism, settler anxieties and the old baggage of many people’s class position still persisted and the struggle against these were pushed aside “for the movement” while numerous people on the receiving end of these forms of petty authoritarian domination were forced out. It was clear quickly that “the movement” had replaced the insurrection – the project of our very lives.

Without a vision, a goal, a total project and deep understanding of it we were unable to even imagine taking the opening which was forced open. We couldn’t grasp the totality of the project we were embarking on, only recognizing the streets as a terrain of struggle yet nowhere else.

And then the opening closed.

It’s in these past few years since and in the wake of the collapse of the anarchist movements here in which I’ve been doing the most thinking, studying and reflecting. Slowly in the last year we’ve really begun to re-emerge and yet still we are largely making the same, unconscious mistakes as before of waiting for another movement or uprising and attaching ourselves to it – of being reactive because we don’t think about where we are trying to go, of relegating Anarchism simply to a form of organizing social struggles and emptying it of its specific content.

It’s this desire to not repeat these mistakes of the past, to no longer aimlessly run around in circles or make complex excuses for waiting, to fully embrace Anarchy and delve into the self discovery of what that means that have brought me to the reexamination of the basics of anarchy and in particular the idea of social revolution – a total view of the project of destruction and transformation in all it’s facets, imperfections and particularities.

Social Revolution

The great process of destruction and creation. Some imagine this as a singular moment of battle after which we shall be free. Some see it like a force of nature that will come regardless of what we do – or specifically that we cannot do anything to make it come faster – to justify waiting forever. Others, also seeing it in a religious or natural manner, say it will never come so better to toss it aside, forget about it, and simply act.

It is neither mystical, nor a force of nature, nor something that happens outside of and to us but a concrete process which we undertake. It’s constantly beginning but it has no end because it is the project of our lives – how we live, how we understand ourselves, how we relate to others and the world around us.

In this way we talk of social revolution rather than Political Revolution like the Communists, Socialists, Democrats and Fascists do. The Political is concerned with the taking of power and exerting it over others, the administration of people and things, while the social is concerned with changing the very fabric of our lives – an undertaking no power can demand of us, force upon us, or undertake for us. It’s the very essence of autonomous self organization, we have to do it ourselves for ourselves.

It’s at the same time Individualistic and Collective and does away with the distinction all together. Individualistic because the changing of relations starts at the level of the individual – from the moment we decide to be done with our old selves, be done with submission, with the humiliations thrust upon us by this world. When we begin to see and understand oppression, our suffering and our complicity in the suffering of others, and undergo a process of internal transformation. Collective because once we begin we can no longer turn back, forget, return to our old selves and very quickly we come upon the violent limits of this world – the landlord, the boss, the police and every petty authoritarian along the way. We begin to understand that our lives, our freedom, is bound in the lives and freedom of the Other, that we are not an island, that we rely on other people. We also realize that we are weak. By ourselves we are at the mercy of the dominators, we can strike out in small ways and at first it is freeing but quickly we come face to face with the enormity of the world of horrors. It’s at this point we reach out for the Others and for the first time stumble awkwardly through how be together on our own terms – to add up our Individual power to make a Collective power that doesn’t diminish but empowers. All this to live better and fuller. All this to attack and for the first time claim our lives and our futures.

It is a dance between Destruction and Creation. We Destroy our old selves and the baggage of this world – the inhibitions, the roles thrust onto us, the small ways we keep crawling back to the Masters. Knowing the bourgeoisie, the nationalists, the colonists, the authoritarians won’t simply give up their power – that is what police, armies and militias are for, after all – we lay waste to the old world to clear the time and space for ourselves. It is only with this Destruction that we can talk of Creation – we destroy our old selves to open the possibilities to – for the first time – a free and full existence that is determined on our terms. We destroy the old world and its wretched defenders to claw out the space and time to experiment with all the ways we can exist together. One does not exist without the other.

This is the essence of social revolution, it is conscious steps we take day by day inside ourselves and with each other that is both wildly destructive and beautifully creative. If all we do is think about it, it will be nothing as we are not doing it. If we sit, examine and debate its nature it will be nothing because we are not doing it. It is not a matter of belief, it doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in it or care about it because it is something we do, do for our entire lives and it is only by doing does it come to be.

This is all well and good, but it’s still too vague for my taste, so let’s go a little further.

Here is my greatest desire: Anarchy, the autonomy of the individual in the freedom of association assured by the full, free, and equitable access to the means of life, joy and self fulfillment. The understanding that all that exists and will exist is so by the collective effort of all living creatures since the beginning of life and as such it is the rightful collective inheritance of all living creatures, belonging to us all, simply by virtue of birth. It is the negation of authority and hierarchy, the universal emancipation of all living creature from all forms of domination – to neither rule nor be ruled.

It is this view of anarchy which shapes my understanding of social revolution and the process in which we bring it to be. For me, there is no difference between our ends and means, our means must also be our ends – this is why we oppose political parties, vanguardism, a military discipline, bureaucracy and alienating structures that subdue the individual. Not just on tactical grounds, but for the fact that to try to attain anti-authoritarian ends through authoritarian means is an inherent negation of anarchy. It is to explicitly say that means and principles of anarchy are not up to the task of its realization.

The means in which we realize revolution will give anarchist principles their precise historical content – individual autonomy, direct action, the refusal of mediation and compromise, freedom of association, solidarity and mutual aid, etc. Directly putting these into practice in the insurrectionary moment will be chaotic, many will accuse the process and the new individuals it creates of going too far – first and foremost among the terrified pearl clutchers will be those who know that a person who has the means to directly satisfy their needs cannot so easily be managed, mediated, controlled and passed through the gamut of half way measures and incrementalism.

Realism, slow steps, transitory stages will not curb the desires of the barbarous individual born of the insurrection. The revolutionary process is aborted by half measures and it is from the corpse of this process that the monster of the reaction is born and tightens around our necks its claws of Law and Order – a reality we are currently living in the aftermath of the 2020 insurrection.

The first and most important part of the revolutionary process is the abolition of private property – in all of its forms from land and capital to food, clothing, shelter, etc. – by a total and complete expropriation expressed in the opening up and looting of all stores and warehouses, taking stock of all empty houses and apartments and letting those who need them house themselves, the refusal of paying or recognizing rents and debts, the take over and self-organization, mass abandonment, or destruction of all workplaces and opening up their use to all.

This is the actualization of the phrase “Everything for everyone” and it’s negation is the establishment of a revolutionary dollar, a barter system, labor vouchers. The very first revolutionary act is the destruction of Capitalism, exchange economics and the wage system by the immediate self organization by the exploited to assure – through arms – that everyone has the means of access to food, clothing, dignified housing without any intermediary or committee.

This is the first expression of self organization and the revolutionary process lives or dies by it.

What comes next is an uncontrollable extension of fire, self organization and collectivization reaching into every corner of the old world.

The destruction of all records and torching of all financial and property based institutions – banks, treasuries, debt collectors, real estate, property management, etc.

The re-appropriation of the pool of collective knowledge and skill and the self organization of social life to abolish the division of labor which brings an end to the reign of specialists.

The looting of gun stores and armories for the free arming of all peoples and self organization of revolutionary violence – rejecting uniforms, ranks, professionalization, militarization and the armed vanguard – for the routing of state security forces and opening the way to the destruction of all state records and state buildings, the opening up and destruction of jails and prisons, juvies and reformatories.

The take over and collectivization of the means of communication – radio and television stations, printing presses and internet infrastructure for free access and flow of communication, information and more broad spread of the insurrection.

The self organization of specific peoples and struggles into their own collectives, assemblies, networks, federations, or what other forms they choose, no longer content to be smothered by an enforced universalism built on their backs and at their expense, to best discuss by themselves and for themselves the particularities of their oppression and exploitation and how to make the Social Revolution just as much their own.

To sum it all up – it is the total upsetting of normality and creating the conditions that make it impossible to return to the old world when the fires settle and the smoke clears. The steps we take are the clearing away of the physical structures of domination and with it seizing for ourselves the time and space to finally decide, on our own terms without any mediation or intermediary, who we are and how we wish to live.

In drawing out the potentials of this process I am not trying to devise a blueprint to be followed to the letter but am trying to bring light to the means to realize our goals and desires. This will all depend on the specifics of location and situation and needs a deep examination of the local and regional terrain and context to concretely figure out what to do.

Insurrectionary ruptures will come, as they always have, but they will not deliver us to somewhere else on their own. No act of divine providence, no cataclysmic event, no decree passed down from above will deliver us from the wretched position we find ourselves in – prostrated before our oppressors with the burden of their world on our backs.

It is only by the intentional, determined action of us as individuals and together with the rest of the great mass of the exploited individuals that we will pull the emergency break on the death machine of capitalism and industrial civilization and make a break for it, never to return.