Filed under: Anarchist Movement, Anti-fascist, How To, US
You’ve seen the news, maybe you went to Charlottesville, VA with a liberal or lefty group and saw first hand how Anarchists and Anti-Fascists rolled. Or maybe it was during the inauguration of Trump where Black Bloc Participants Rescue Disabled Woman from Police Attack. Perhaps it is personal, your grandparents told you a story about Nazi Germany and you’re determined to prevent a repeat of history. Either way let’s get some basics down.
Antifa is not a group. There is no membership. There is no party, like “Democrats”, “Socialists”, “Republicans”. This website is not leadership. There are no big names and faces, no way to advance your personal career. There are no big funders, antifa is not a non-profit, nor is it the made up term “Alt-left”. There are however groups and an ideological underpinning to every Anti-Fascist action. There are networks of solidarity and recognizable, communicable goals.
Resistance to White supremacy goes back to the invention of race. The conflict in Virginia was not the beginning. There have been many sizable battles for emancipation in the US: The Watts Rebellion (65), L.A. Rebellion (92), Baltimore (2015), Ferguson (2014-2015), SF Bay Area (2014-2015) all shared similar characteristics as the smaller fights: Cincinnati April (2001), Toledo (Oct. 2005), Berkeley (Spring, 2017), Sacramento (June 26th, 2016). These are all different iterations of the same struggle; different people, different cities, not so different circumstantial events but nonetheless the spirit and acts of resistance run through each rebellion. Racism must end, democracy does not give us hope, fascism must be defeated.
Anarchists and anti-fascists were in Charlottesville to shut down a nazi rally, and they did. They were also there to open up possibilities, and they did. Our position has been made pretty clear: It’s not just about speech, but Freedom itself. Many were also there to protest racism and bigotry, while this is noble, important and honorable, it must also be defended. A different characteristic has emerged now, one capable enough to free ourselves and others from the brutality of racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, patriarchy and bondage – Revolutionary Abolition.
It’s not that you have to be an anarchist to get down with antifa, but know who you’re around and please take a second to appreciate the politic, and our tool-kit. Anarchism is advancing the largest revolution of the 21st century. It works.
Theoretical Foundation: Anarchism
“Of all ideologies, anarchy is the one that addresses liberty and equalitarian relations in a realistic and ultimate fashion. It is consistent with each individual having an opportunity to live a complete and total life, With anarchy, the society as a whole not only maintains itself at an equal expense to all, but progresses in a creative process unhindered by any class, caste or party. This is because the goals of anarchy don’t include replacing one ruling class with another, neither in the guise of a fairer boss or as a party. This is key because this is what separates anarchist revolutionaries from Maoist, socialist and nationalist revolutionaries who from the onset do not embrace complete revolution. They cannot envision a truly free and equalitarian society and must to some extent embrace the socialization process that makes exploitation and oppression possible and prevalent in the first place.”
– Kuwasi Balagoon
Contemporary Anarchism in the states is not a monolithic or dogmatic ideology but a continual reversal of theory and action. Anarchists have had many decades to reflect and persue the utmost effective response to our situation in America. To this effort anarchists are creating networks for those facing detention, incarceration, deportation, or white supremacist violence to escape and live with dignity.
Revolutionaries, social centers, collectives, and antifa groups are already actively building infrastructure of resistance. This infrastructure is not just material but psychological, spiritual, theoretical, and foundational. It is a departure from party politics and in conflict with both the left and the right for complete and total freedom.
Defense of oppressed people and of our political projects is paramount to liberation. For those that truly want this nation of hate and violence to end, Self-defense, Conflict resolution and Revolutionary Justice are proven ways forward. It is important that the way through these tragic times not just be personal but also collective.
Immediate action: Resist authority and build power from below.
- Collectively read and discuss the political framework of the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement for some tangible ideas on what to do. Check out Kuwasi Balagoon Liberation School if you’re in NYC.
- Check out our reading library as well as Crimethinc’s. Both contain literature that might help you and others grow ideological and theoretical foundations of autonomy, solidarity, and mutual aid.
- Collectively share Sub.Media films, and hold community discussions. Sub.Media is a revolutionary film collective that produces digital shorts.
- Produce and share your own media as well with others in your community, be it zines, films, art, books. Share what excites you, what challenges you, what provokes. Try offline as well.
- Be real about self-care and collective-care. Develop practices and rituals that take a different approach to time, center your self, as well as provide nurturance for your self and those around you in this period of turmoil. Build your compassion, build your grace.
- Take care of one another – acknowledge one another’s mental, physical, and social health care needs. Work together to build group confidence and trust.
- Print out “Message in a bottle: A quick tip pamphlet for street based resistance” and bring to the next demonstration.
- Find others locally, organize horizontally, discuss political texts on this site and develop plans of action in affinity groups. Remember you are NOT the Messenger of “Truth”; Stay humble, stay free. Challenge white middle-class activist approval, but don’t stress too much about that sinking ship of an irrelevant demographic.
- Support all resistance against the state and all tendencies and hierarchies that alienate and oppress the people of your locality. Support graffiti writers, social centers, Mutual Aid Organizations, Rapid Response groups, and local self-organized initiatives and collectives.
- If you’re a current or former US military personnel, consider joining IVAW. Help form exit strategies for state agents, current and former military, to create a society of refuseniks (those who refuse to serve). Help open up space for veterans to move away from authoritarian, patriarchal tendencies and towards horizontal, collective power.
- Find what affects you and those around you the most. Everything in this piece is hacked, remixed and presented from the authors point of view. Challenge it! There is no one way forward, just powerful ideas.
- Join your local anarchist or anti-fascist collective.
Affinity Groups: The Essential Building Block of Anarchist Organization
Borrowed from: Crimethinc
Affinity Groups are Powerful.
Relative to their small size, affinity groups can achieve a disproportionately powerful impact. In contrast to traditional top-down structures, they are free to adapt to any situation, they need not pass their decisions through a complicated process of ratification, and all the participants can act and react instantly without waiting for orders—yet with a clear idea of what to expect from one another. The mutual admiration and inspiration on which they are founded make them very difficult to demoralize. In stark contrast to capitalist, fascist, and socialist structures, they function without any need of hierarchy or coercion. Participating in an affinity group can be fulfilling and fun as well as effective.
Most important of all, affinity groups are motivated by shared desire and loyalty, rather than profit, duty, or any other compensation or abstraction. Small wonder whole squads of riot police have been held at bay by affinity groups armed with only the tear gas canisters shot at them.
The Affinity Group is a Flexible Model
Some affinity groups are formal and immersive: the participants live together, sharing everything in common. But an affinity group need not be a permanent arrangement. It can serve as a structure of convenience, assembled from the pool of interested and trusted people for the duration of a given project.
A particular team can act together over and over as an affinity group, but the members can also break up into smaller affinity groups, participate in other affinity groups, or act outside the affinity group structure. Freedom to associate and organize as each person sees fit is a fundamental anarchist principle; this promotes redundancy, so no one person or group is essential to the functioning of the whole, and different groups can reconfigure as needed.
Pick the Scale That’s Right for You
An affinity group can range from two to perhaps as many as fifteen individuals, depending on your goals. However, no group should be so numerous that an informal conversation about pressing matters is impossible. You can always split up into two or more groups if need be. In actions that require driving, the easiest system is often to have one affinity group to each vehicle.
Get to Know Each Other Intimately
Learn each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities and backgrounds, so you know what you can count on each other for. Discuss your analyses of each situation you are entering and what is worth accomplishing in it—identify where they match, where they are complentary, and where they differ, so you’ll be ready to make split-second decisions.
One way to develop political intimacy is to read and discuss texts together, but nothing beats on-the-ground experience. Start out slow so you don’t overextend. Once you’ve established a common language and healthy internal dynamics, you’re ready to identify the objectives you want to accomplish, prepare a plan, and go into action.
Decide Your Appropriate Level of Security
Affinity groups are resistant to infiltration because all members share history and intimacy with each other, and no one outside the group need be informed of their plans or activities.
Once assembled, an affinity group should establish a shared set of security practices and stick to them. In some cases, you can afford to be public and transparent about your activities. in other cases, whatever goes on within the group should never be spoken of outside it, even after all its activities are long completed. In some cases, no one except the participants in the group should know that it exists at all. You and your comrades can discuss and prepare for actions without acknowledging to outsiders that you constitute an affinity group. Remember, it is easier to pass from a high security protocol to a low one than vice versa.
Make Decisions Together
Affinity groups generally operate on via consensus decision-making: decisions are made collectively according to the needs and desires of every individual involved. Democratic voting, in which the majority get their way and the minority must hold their tongues, is anathema to affinity groups—for if a group is to function smoothly and hold together under stress, every individual involved must be satisfied. Before any action, the members of a group should establish together what their personal and collective goals are, what risks they are comfortable taking, and what their expectations of each other are. These matters determined, they can formulate a plan.
Since action situations are always unpredictable and plans rarely come off as anticipated, it may help to employ a dual approach to preparing. On the one hand, you can make plans for different scenarios: If A happens, we’ll inform each other by X means and switch to plan B; if X means of communication is impossible, we’ll reconvene at site Z at Q o’clock. On the other hand, you can put structures in place that will be useful even if what happens is unlike any of the scenarios you imagined. This could mean preparing resources (such as banners, medical supplies, or offensive equipment), dividing up internal roles (for example, scouting, communications, medic, media liaison), establishing communication systems (such as burner phones or coded phrases that can be shouted out to convey information securely), preparing general strategies (for keeping sight of one another in confusing environments, for example), charting emergency escape routes, or readying legal support in case anyone is arrested.
After an action, a shrewd affinity group will meet (if necessary, in a secure location without any electronics) to discuss what went well, what could have gone better, and what comes next.
It’s safer to act in chaotic protest environments in a tight-knit affinity group.
Tact and Tactics
An affinity group answers to itself alone—this is one of its strengths. Affinity groups are not burdened by the procedural protocol of other organizations, the difficulties of reaching agreement with strangers, or the limitations of answering to a body not immediately involved in the action.
At the same time, just as the members of an affinity group strive for consensus with each other, each affinity group should strive for a similarly considerate relationship with other individuals and groups—or at least to complement others’ approaches, even if others do not recognize the value of this contribution. Ideally, most people should be glad of your affinity group’s participation or intervention in a situation, rather than resenting or fearing you. They should come to recognize the value of the affinity group model, and so to employ it themselves, after seeing it succeed and benefiting from that success.
Organize With Other Affinity Groups
An affinity group can work together with other affinity groups in what is sometimes called a cluster. The cluster formation enables a larger number of individuals to act with the same advantages a single affinity group has. If speed or security is called for, representatives of each group can meet ahead of time, rather than the entirety of all groups; if coordination is of the essence, the groups or representatives can arrange methods for communicating through the heat of the action. Over years of collaborating together, different affinity groups can come to know each other as well as they know themselves, becoming accordingly more comfortable and capable together.
When several clusters of affinity groups need to coordinate especially massive actions—before a big demonstration, for example—they can hold a spokescouncil meeting at which different affinity groups and clusters can inform one another (to whatever extent is wise) of their intentions. Spokescouncils rarely produce seamless unanimity, but they can apprise the participants of the various desires and perspectives that are at play. The independence and spontaneity that decentralization provides are usually our greatest advantages in combat with a better equipped adversary.
For affinity groups and larger structures based on consensus and cooperation to function, it is essential that everyone involved be able to rely on each other to come through on commitments. When a plan is agreed upon, each individual in a group and each group in a cluster should choose one or more critical aspects of the preparation and execution of the plan and offer to bottomline them. Bottomlining the supplying of a resource or the completion of a project means guaranteeing that it will be accomplished somehow, no matter what. If you’re operating the legal hotline for your group during a demonstration, you owe it to them to handle it even if you get sick; if your group promises to provide the banners for an action, make sure they’re ready, even if that means staying up all night the night before because the rest of your affinity group couldn’t show up. Over time, you’ll learn how to handle crises and who you can count on in them—just as others will learn how much they can count on you.
Go Into Action
Stop wondering what’s going to happen, or why nothing’s happening. Get together with your friends and start deciding what will happen. Don’t go through life in passive spectator mode, waiting to be told what to do. Get in the habit of discussing what you want to see happen—and making those ideas reality.
Without a structure that encourages ideas to flow into action, without comrades with whom to brainstorm and barnstorm and build up momentum, you are likely to be paralyzed, cut off from much of your own potential; with them, your potential can be multiplied by ten, or ten thousand. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world,” Margaret Mead wrote: “it’s the only thing that ever has.” She was referring, whether she knew it or not, to affinity groups. If every individual in every action against the state and status quo participated as part of a tight-knit, dedicated affinity group, the revolution would be accomplished in a few short years.
An affinity group could be a sewing circle or a bicycle maintenance collective; it could come together for the purpose of providing a meal at an occupation or forcing a multinational corporation out of business through a carefully orchestrated program of sabotage. Affinity groups have planted and defended community gardens, built and occupied and burned down buildings, organized neighborhood childcare programs and wildcat strikes; individual affinity groups routinely initiate revolutions in the visual arts and popular music. Your favorite band was an affinity group. An affinity group invented the airplane. Another one maintains this website.
Self-Defense: The Heart of Revolutionary Transformation
Borrowed from: Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement
Self-defense is the central pillar of our resistance. The State tries to consolidate its monopoly on violence by claiming to have the unique ability to protect its “citizens,” but it has become clear, there is no such thing as protection that one does not provide oneself. Self-defense is not only the barricade against an oppressive force, but also the means for the collective development that is an integral part of revolutionary change.
Across the United States, there are currently groups that are committed to the principles of self-defense, from left-wing armed groups to anti-fascist brigades to copwatch organizations. These groups use a variety of tactics and strategies depending on the local conditions, yet they share common enemies: fascists, right-wing militias, and State forces. The groups who have combatted these reactionaries have a proven commitment to defending oppressed communities; they are the foundation upon which we can build a political movement.
Thus, we propose that the existing militant anti-fascist and anti-police movement can be further developed according to the following guidelines:
- Underscoring these groups with a new revolutionary scope and the political principles outlined here.
- Deepening the local scope of these groups by tying the actions to neighborhood self-governance, and a larger political project.
- Connecting these projects to each other to broaden our capacity by increasing resources, participants, and deepening our commitments to revolutionary political solutions.
- Developing the capacity to begin launching offensive actions against fascists and the regime.
The RAM proposal is to grow locally, while connecting, politically and materially, to similar groups regionally. By placing self-defense at the center of our revolutionary movement, we can protect the development of our political projects and centers. This will allow the values and practices that we are trying to implement to have the opportunity to expand. We propose connecting self-defense groups to the smallest unit of self-governance possible: the neighborhood. This places the capacity for self-defense in the hands of those who need it.
- Decentralization is an effective militant strategy and shapes the revolutionary practice of defense groups.
- Militant groups are connected to local political bodies organizing towards self-governance.
- Feminism, anti-racism, and the abolition of white supremacy constitute the foundation of defense organizations.
- Core revolutionary principles and goals allow groups to work with a variety of tactics towards the same goal even without direct coordination.
The neighborhood council: Primary Unit of Self-Governance
Borrowed from: Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement
When revolutionary groups form projects like the Black Panthers’ breakfast programs, the New Orleans based Common Ground Collective, or the Greek anarchists’s revolutionary solidarity with Syrian refugees, these initiatives also form new political and social relations based on mutual aid and neighborhood self-sufficiency. Unlike State-based organizations, which turn citizens into helpless recipients of services, volunteer-run projects instead supplied the resources, tools and knowledge for people to provide for themselves, make the primary decisions about organization, and, if firmly tied to self-defense forces, eventually take over the infrastructure necessary for survival.
The political paradigm we are working towards is a network of councils and communes without the State. It’s a vision of autonomy that runs through neighborhood-based councils, where decision-making rests at the local level. This political formation reverses hierarchy and centralized power by making the most local unit the most powerful, and regional bodies simply a means for coordination. We propose starting from the nexus of the small, revolutionary groups already active in many cities, towns, and rural areas. Already, such groups function as local political collectives with strong ethical backbones and a commitment to communal decision-making.
As these groups expand through the abolitionist struggle, they have the ability to introduce more people to this model of politics. The purpose, then, is to expand qualitatively and quantitatively, without recreating centralized and hierarchical social formations. To facilitate the process of liberating people from bondage, we offer the following suggestions as possible means by which revolutionary groups can help establish structurally decentralized projects that integrate uncompromising anarchist foundations through the creation of new councils and local institutions:
- Revolutionary groups can create social programs, such as a free health
clinics, safe houses for immigrants and others targeted by the State,
educational programs, etc., with a revolutionary outlook, in order to bring
new people into new revolutionary methods of organization, while building
- They can help form new collectives and councils, based on either local
circumstances or a specific issue, such as tenants’ associations,
revolutionary youth groups, or neighborhood assemblies.
- Revolutionary groups can build stronger relationships with similar groups in
The success of this project is measured by more and more people within a neighborhood becoming politically engaged and active decision-makers within their communities. While the State drags on by using increasingly totalitarian methods, we build our power: building new communities of resistance in the disintegrating remains of the regime. By proliferating, these bodies can, in the short term, erode the oppressive functions of the State, and partnered with rigorous defense, dislodge them.
Conflict resolution and Revolutionary Justice
Borrowed from: Revolutionary Abolitionist Network
No platform, no dialogue, no inch of territory, and certainly no concern can be ceded to those who either threaten or unleash authoritarian, white supremacist violence. As the Italian anarchist, Alfredo M. Bonanno has eloquently put it, “The life of someone who oppresses others and prevents them from living is not worth a cent.
The legacy of revolutionary justice in the US is an inherently political phenomenon, as it has always been situated in reprisals against the State, the slave-holding planter class, capitalists and their institutions, and the broader forces of bondage, from colonial to patriarchal oppression. It is impossible to speak about resolving social conflicts in the US without addressing the agents of the State and reactionary, racist forces, and their consistent use of terror to maintain their social and political position.
The entire council-based system, as in Spain, Chiapas, or Rojava, is predicated on the health of the social fabric. All pragmatics, education, and values are collectively organized so that the individual can overcome alienation and powerlessness by personally shaping the conditions of their lives through discussion and decision-making. The ability to shape all the facets of society confers upon each individual a far wider scope than the mere satisfaction of personal needs, as it also includes the well-being of the entire community. With the invisible wall between politics and community broken down, this focus on community health becomes the driving force behind the process of resolving conflicts. If we intend to resolve the conflicts between parties instead of simply finding fault and applying punishment, the solution is mediation. In Rojava, conflict resolution is implemented in several, slightly different ways throughout the society that the participants are actively involved in constructing.
The Tekmil is a foundational process that begins with self-reflection and analysis based on revolutionary principles. In fact, it’s important to note that this practice is what led to this region’s transition from a hierarchical national liberation struggle to its current ground-up structure.
The main point is that each person ‘criticizes’ those in their affinity group they care the most about because they want to see them improve and become better people. To begin on a serious footing, the participants step into another room, and act as if those fallen in the struggle are there with them. Thus, people are expected to act respectfully. There’s typically a person that leads the Tekmil and writes down the criticisms, who starts by opening the floor up to anyone that has something to say. If a person feels the need to express themselves, they ask if they can speak, stand up and give their observations. If they’re speaking about someone else, that person cannot reply to their criticism. In fact, they are not even supposed to bring it up after the Tekmil. They are just supposed to accept it and think about it. Once no one has anything else to say, the person leading the Tekmil summarizes what was stated.
When police killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, the town erupted in riots. No sooner had they begun this act of defiance, when non-profits and faith “leaders” descended upon the town to induce people to protest “peacefully” and attempted to de-escalate the situation. On the other hand, riot police and armed right-wing militias surrounded the rebels, cornered them in a sea of “illegality” by declaring curfews, and then swept people up with brutal arrests and long jail terms. Without revolutionary objectives, or the foundations for a sustained revolutionary conflict, everyone had to, eventually, reconcile living with the oppressive State that they were just rebelling against when the riot subsided.
The most essential tasks are to create the ideological underpinnings for revolt and the necessary infrastructure that can sustain action and long-term forms of organization.
There is a big difference materially in what an organized and fortified hamlet versus a mass in revolt can accomplish. With a base of operations impenetrable to outsiders, the maroons were able to provide a serious challenge to the practitioners of slavery. Tactically, they leveraged the advantage of attack from a free area outside the jurisdiction of hegemonic power. However, it was not only their territorial integrity, but a commitment to the autonomous nature of their societies that allowed for the maroon’s perseverance. The maroons refused to give up their freedoms, maintained regional decision-making and fluid fighting formations, and continued traditional practices. Outsiders looking for liberation saw that the people involved in maroon communities weren’t struggling to grab power, but to fight for liberation itself.
- Look to the communities that are most oppressed for comrades in struggle.
- Fight alongside and defend groups enacting revolutionary justice.
- Derail forces that want to bring people back into the fold of power: nonprofits, political parties, and authoritarian political groups.
- Provide political foundations: principles, new organizational models, infrastructure and defense.
Together we can get through these times.
In Love and Rage,
-A member of the It’s Going Down experimental agitation committee