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May 23, 22

What Form Does the Struggle for Bodily Autonomy Assume Next?: A Response to Some Current Models

A critique of various organizing models in the current struggle for reproductive freedom and some proposals for what could come next.

photo: @GraffitiRadical

We are responding to two groups: the anonymous group known as “Jane’s Revenge” (hereafter, JR), and the insufferable “Socialist Alternative” (hereafter, SA). Both of these groups demonstrate leftist relics of armed struggle and party organization. We reject both of these models, while sending solidarity to the anonymous group for their actions. Unlike SA, we see the isolated attack in Madison as legitimate and powerful but we also want to offer another perspective and to suggest building a diverse revolutionary culture instead of only isolated attack. We do not denounce the actions of JR, but we do have some critiques to share.

To Socialist Alternative

First, Madison’s chapter of SA has boasted its efforts in “building a mass movement in the streets.” Anyone who attended these large performances knows damn well that walking aimlessly downtown chanting empty slogans such as “this is what democracy looks like” as the police voluntarily block off intersections is far from building a permanent revolutionary force. In fact, after the march on the first night of protests against the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade, what was the first thing these “revolutionaries” led the crowd to do? To sign up for their pathetic organization. What does marching peacefully in a predictable, police-sanctioned fashion accomplish? Absolutely nothing. Such a performance is precisely what those who control our bodies have demarcated as “acceptable” and utterly ineffective political (in)action in order to maintain their control over our bodies. Marching peacefully is simply an extension of the state’s condition of bodily control, out of which the struggle for our right to abortion originates.

Where is the struggle against this generalized, everyday, normalized assault on our bodily autonomy? Where is the analysis and action responding to the relations of domination we live under, those which underlie our bodies’ every movement and every breath? Why, they are simply funneled into the new order — the domination of our bodies to the “class struggle,” the so-called “socialist alternative”. We continue to be controlled at the bodily level by the state, and by the authoritarian left which purports to liberate in its domination, to revolutionize in its reformism. In reality, you’re just another face of the liberal democratic machine — manufactured with precision in order to fool us all and accumulate power and bodily domination for its own aims, and ultimately, to do nothing to free our bodies from domination. Freedom from bodily domination is the true demand presupposed by the demand for abortion access and guarantee. Apparently, SA groups were activated across the US to vanguard a “Feminist Socialist Revolution” in response to the Supreme Court leaks. We do not expect anything to come from this and neither should you. As we were leaving the first night of the “mass mobilizations” organized by the SA, a houseless woman mocked the march and said “anyone got a coat-hanger because I gotta do this shit now, y’all are a fucking joke!” It is this brutal reality that the leftist groups have yet to reconcile. Not to mention, their calls for revolutionary organization were met with blank stares by most of the normies in the crowd. Several commented that no one could hear anything from the self-appointed leaders of the march, who were shouting indecipharable phrases and cringe worthy declarations — met with awkward, scattered applause and even held back laughter. Clearly not many people took this call to action very seriously as the numbers dwindled for the next planned march. Meanwhile, nothing of substance has been done in the wake of these theatrics, and our bodies stand to remain controlled by Christian white male supremacy with more vigor than ever before. We would like to send a message to SA and its leaders. Fuck off. You aren’t in control of anything, you haven’t built a movement, and no one is interested in your antiquated vision of revolution. Let people do what they want to do.

This paternalistic statement in response to the attack by JR demonstrates SA’s lack of awareness to the situation:

“While understanding that this was probably motivated by enormous and justified rage at the reactionary onslaught against women’s rights, Socialist Alternative condemns this counterproductive attack. It will only strengthen the anti-abortion movement and the forces of state repression, and it impedes the efforts we – along with many others – have made to fight back against the attacks on abortion rights. Nonetheless, we won’t let it deter us from fighting back through militant mass action.”

We want to ask SA, what is militant mass action? Do you understand what that term means? Because it requires actual disturbance, it requires collective experimentation, and it requires halting everyday life. How are your actions anywhere near “militant”? What are your suggestions for putting forth “militant mass action” other than tired old methods of class struggle, which fail to particularize this issue as a genuine struggle for bodily autonomy? We do not believe that you or any authoritarian leftist group is capable of such things. In fact, we believe you will do everything in your power to make such gestures impossible as you lead crowds into empty streets with empty promises, shouting at empty halls of power, endlessly deferring the moment to act, and endlessly deferring the radical feminism required to win the struggle for abortion access to class-obsessed Marxists, liberal reformists, and painfully out-of-touch identity politics. You are a relic of the past and those who you seek to convert see you for what you are. Opportunists. You will fail because you do not want to share a collective struggle; you want to lead others to your “revolution.” You want to stifle our fighting spirit and you want to discipline us to be good party members. You are no different than the democrats that you claim to be against. We want nothing of your middle class revolution. We find inspiration in the bold actions of anarcha-feminist collectives in Mexico kicking out politicians from their offices, opening shared spaces, and collectively attacking their enemies. Real revolutionaries becoming a real revolutionary force.

To Jane’s Revenge

Now, we would like to shift our attention to the recent anonymous group known as “Jane’s Revenge.” We are not against you and we do not condemn your actions. But we do want to offer what we and so many others have learned from the failures of armed guerrilla struggle. We are not militants: our actions can be militant, and our strength has the potential to be as strong as militaries, but we should never become legible as such. The SA still believes in a leftist politics that is long dead. They are wrong to think that mass unionization will succeed or that we are witnessing as they call “a revitalization of mass struggle.” No, because there needs to be a way to share and articulate a struggle and gathering to listen to speakers does not encourage such encounters. Perhaps they mean “revitalization” in the same sense that city planners use the word. But we digress. We too were enraged and disheartened by the impotent and powerless marches in Madison. However, we know that social movements are not going to be what builds the revolutionary forces capable of transforming our lives in the present. We must not turn to isolated despair and we must not continue alienating ourselves from others no matter how alone we feel.

While the arson against Wisconsin Family Action offices was clearly effective as its image proliferated across media networks, we aren’t concerned with the false equivalent state language of terrorism that the Socialist Alternative insists upon using. We don’t care about being politically legitimate in the way these opportunists do. The attack was effective but it is not enough. What relationships does such an attack build? It is clear that the left in the United States (even anarchists) do not believe that anything is possible since any direct action is read as a false flag (online discourse has made this painfully clear). But what does this demonstrate? We would like to point to a historical moment: Italy in the 1970s and Autonomia. In his novel titled The Unseen, Nanni Balestrini provides us with illuminating depictions of the counter-insurgent atmosphere of Italy in the late 1970s. It demonstrates the generalized rebellion early in the movement and struggle shared between workers, feminists, students, unemployed, beatniks, freaks, etc. and we see some beautiful moments of collective power (such as the squatted social centre). However, we begin to see armed struggle take the forefront of the scene with groups such as the Red Brigades and their targeted assassinations that land more revolutionaries in prison and fragment their material forces. This is what we are concerned with. Not a fragmentation of social movements (as this is inevitable), but the failure to build necessary relationships and to proliferate certain gestures wider.

Our first step is finding each other, and that’s what social movements should be used for (but we know that these ebb and flow). We attempted to find others in the crowd, but it seems most of our comrades are not to be found in liberal marches. However, it is impossible to find each other in an environment of fear and paranoia. This is where we find ourselves now in the Twitter age and the current stage of spectacle. Thrusting ourselves into insurrectionary gestures that serve as a reaction to spectacle is not sustainable, and it is exactly the position that our enemies want us in. We will build nothing and we will all end up imprisoned if this is the route that we take. The state will be the first to call someone a terrorist and the authoritarian left will soon follow suit (as demonstrated by the so-called “comrades” at SA). We want you to know that you are not alone, but this cannot be the only option. The left in the US is convinced that no one can do anything themselves – that an action such as this could only be a false flag – and the internet has spectacularized this sentiment. It is not worth hoping that the propaganda of the deed will inspire others. We live in 2022: social movements are going to only be met with liberal democratic ends, and our actions (no matter how effective) will be either co-opted or criminalized. We too want to see these social movements turn into social explosions. But we are aware of where we are and who we are surrounded by. We have to be able to move freely, to experiment, and to encourage others to do the same. Clandestine acts of armed struggle do not accomplish this.

What could be done to generalize actions? How can people become inspired by one another? What targets are accessible to everyone, what direct actions are easily replicable, what information could collectively be spread? This is what we want to see and what we think could build a long-term culture of resistance in place of clandestine acts (which have their purposes in a larger picture). But we need to be working within a larger ecosystem of collective experimentation in order to keep each other safe. For a more concrete example, someone on a Madison Reddit post listed various businesses and orgs that support anti-abortion orgs in the city (this has since been deleted). What if there was a way to creatively share this information and to encourage a network of smaller-scale attacks? What if enough of this information spread in a way that anyone could engage on this level? What if instead of attending mass empty protests, people felt inspired to autonomously organize their own occupations, vandalisms, phone zaps, street performances, powerful marches, or whatever manifestations? Could we build a network to support each of these acts and make a larger scaled resistance possible; keeping our enemies in fear, unknown when/where the next move will be made with a diversity of tactics that would invite others? We know that power lies in infrastructure and that must be where we set our general focus. We want to follow in the footsteps of friends in different cities and make it possible to develop and share perceptions of the world through these encounters. To not fade into obscurity of the spectacle or the neutralizing operations of social media; but to encounter one another and to discover the power we hold together. This is our vision and we want to share it with you and anyone else in Madison who feels similarly.

We are inspired by your courage but we know that the words in the communique you put out will ultimately ring hollow. This is a war that you can’t win alone. Unfortunately revolutionaries of the 1960s and 1970s learned this the hard way. We need to keep each other safe and to find ways to bridge our living and fighting together. We do not believe we can tell you what to do but we are pleading with you to imagine what else is possible: to learn from those who have struggled before us, and to not repeat the same mistakes that only place us further from the power that we collectively hold. We write this because we want it to be known that there are others in Madison who have taken notice of your actions and want to extend our friendship and hope that we can soon find ways to connect our struggles and to build a life in common. We are also tired of waiting but we have also determined the stakes and chosen other strategies.

Find us in the crowd. You’ll know us when you see us.

-Some other Madison anarchists

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