Filed under: Anarchist Movement, Critique, Northeast
We know we need to help turn Philly into the site of a radical resistance to Trump and the social forces he represents. But there is no clear, widespread sense of what that kind of resistance might look like in this city. Right now, we mostly have a series of disconnected efforts.
One way to deal with this is to think critically about the kinds of resistance we *do* have and about how to radicalize and deepen it. The Solidarity Forum here in Philly is an extremely limited, ineffective response to Trumpism. But it’s valuable for the questions it raises about how to radically resist.
Reportback on the Solidarity Forum
The Solidarity Forum has been a monthly event at Arch Street Methodist Church since December that’s attempting to drum up resistance efforts in the city (last meeting: March 11th). It’s organized by many of the same people behind the DNC Action Committee, which organized some very light resistance during the 2016 DNC. The Forum is built on the “speed dating” model: people move from table to table every two minutes to hear a pitch from groups who want them to join. It has had some decent turnout. At its February meeting, I’m estimating about 150 people total showed.
Some of the groups there are, thankfully, more radical: the Philly Coalition for REAL Justice and Philly Antifa come to mind. But a lot of the groups fall into the more liberal variety and avoid any image of conflict at all. For example, one group wants to march to Harrisburg and ask elected officials to change their ways. The idea seems to be the people in office just don’t realize what they’re doing is hurting people.
The forum is somehow a step backwards from the DNC Action Committee. The goal of the Action Committee was largely to coordinate the most local groups possible. This meant rejecting any possibility of confrontation or conflict so as not to offend. Early on, the committee was called the DNC Protest Committee. After an early debate, the leadership decided the goal and language of protest would be dropped completely as too alienating. But at least (and this is hardly anything) it was an attempt at some kind of solidarity.
The Solidarity Forum, by contrast, has jettisoned the idea of organizing. It’s more like Amazon than anything: it wants to connect people to their favorite baubles, which they can then play with in private.
An anarchist response?
What should a radical leftist, anarchist response be to events like this? An obvious answer would be to ignore them. But I think this is a mistake. Events like this are symptoms, not causes; and more than this, they’re fairly popular place for more and less radical groups to gather. Like it or not, this is one of the places organizing in Philly is starting from.
There’s no clear path towards mass, radical politics in Philly. But the forum shows us a clear roadblock: the “common sense” of a lot of the left in Philly that resistance should be totally allergic to disruption and confrontation. How do we start shifting this common sense? Is it possible for the more radical left to engage and work with the Solidarity Forum without itself becoming too reformist and reactionary?
How can we start pushing the political culture in Philly to the more radical left? How can we avoid, as anti-authoritarians, being a vocal but isolated clique? Can we develop a “polyamorous” and “queer anarchism” that works with different kinds of people and approaches, but keeps pushing ideas and people to the antiauthoritarian left?