This post was written by friend of blog Mara Chinelli:
After touring the country for several weeks, Rochester Red & Black’s Colin O’Malley returned to Rochester to deliver his talk on what building a revolutionary anarchist organization could mean for social movements in the United States.
(If you’re interested in the audio and full notes, check this out).
If you missed him in any of the 17 cities he swung through, here are some points that I think are worth considering.
“Consensus wasn’t handed down in stone tablets from the gods of anarchy”
While spending time with the Red Libertaria, the Argentinian anarchist organization that led workplace takeovers in the early 2000s, Colin pitched a question that would seem reasonable to most American lefties: how do you come to a consensus with so many members and reconcile differences in perspective and objectives?
The answer: We don’t. Instead the Red Libertaria put together a twelve page document on stating why they organized, how they organized and what the wanted to accomplish. If interested members agreed with these basic aims and principles they could join and if not they wouldn’t. The point being: genuine free association. Granted, this doesn’t necessarily mean that those main objectives are static. There were certainly processes whereby membership could vote to change the document, which Colin wasn’t privy to given a level of organizational secrecy leftover from the dictatorship days.
After hearing the word especifismo thrown around for months, Colin inquired about this term critical to South American anarchist movements. The basic premise of the tradition can be outlined in 3 main points:
- Anarchists should have their own explicitly anarchist organization based around a unity of theory and practice.
- Members of that organization should work to develop relevant theory that can be put into practice given the political and economic moment in which they intend to engage in struggle. Instead of leading discussions about the post-revolutionary society, anarchists should draw upon relevant texts to employ strategies that can strengthen class struggle. For example, in a discussion about Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta, members of the Red Libertaria looked at the work he did in Argentina and how they could learn from it.
- The third point pertains to the term “social insertion,” which Colin insists is perhaps not the best translation of the Spanish term “inserción social.” Essentially, the revolutionary anarchist organization should embed itself in current social movements. Unlike more Leninist vanguardist organizations that see themselves as both the driving force and vehicle behind struggle, the anarchist organization should genuinely engage as allies to the masses. This approach boils down to an important question radical leftists should revisit when developing roadmaps of struggle: who exactly do we think is the primary revolutionary actor?
Anarchist organizations need social movements and social movements need anarchist organizations.
Towards the end of the talk, Colin made an interesting point in response to a history of expulsion and disengagement of the radical left, which has led to much self-imposed marginalization for many anarchists and leftists. As a result, social movements have easily succumbed to centrist ideas and leadership over time without radical ideology to move them forward. Despite being started by organizers with revolutionary visions, social movements have had the tendency to drift towards the center, losing mobilization around important fights on the way. Anarchists should reclaim their position within social movements and develop a strong organizational role to strengthen them.