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Build the Power: Revolutionary Organization Gets Off the Ground

by Heather Ajani Monday, Jan. 06, 2003 at 2:12 AM
ruckus@illegalvoices.org POB 1543 | Phoenix, AZ-tlan 85001

Various people from around the country meet to develop an organization based on the Bring the Ruckus proposal released in April 2001.

Build the Power
New Revolutionary Organization Gets Off the Ground
by Kris Roehling and Heather Ajani


Recently, people from around the country met in Phoenix, Arizona to discuss the creation of an organization around the "Bring the Ruckus" draft proposal that was distributed nearly two years ago (http://www.illegalvoices.org/ruckus). The meeting drew folks from places like Atlanta, Los Angeles, Portland, Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts. The purpose of the meeting was to lay the groundwork for a new revolutionary formation.

Over the past year, Bring the Ruckus (BTR) has built its current membership through discussion and debate over the draft proposal as well as through a "Fight the Power, Build the Power" speaking tour in the spring of 2002, which included Washington D.C. and the West Coast. Through developing interest via face-to-face interactions, we have managed to slowly build a presence in the cities represented at the meeting.

The meeting took place on November 9-10, 2002. The first day was committed to political discussion and the second day to building the organization. The meeting was made up of mostly men, though people of color and women were represented. There were several people from Phoenix, but representatives or entire collectives were present from various cities as well.

The political discussion encompassed everything from our individual politics and political work to our analysis of the world. Topics of discussion included the function of whiteness/race in American society today and its relation to class, settlerism/colonialism compared to the race traitor analysis, feminism/women's liberation, and intersectionality/avoiding laundry list approaches to oppression. We also discussed the significance of the creation of several new federation-type organizations around the country as well as the anti-globalization and anti-war movements.

The second day's discussions addressed the formation of an organization. It began with the participants confirming their political unity based on the previous day's discussions and figuring out where that discussion would lead us in regards to building the organization. Based on the first day's discussion, we established six criteria for political work within this new organization-in-formation. These criteria are:

  • It must address systems that attack working class people of color
    By strategically focusing not only on the working class but also on people of color within this class, we ensure that our work is focused on those most impacted.
  • It must be consistent with a feminist praxis
    Our politics must include a gender analysis and our practice must consistently challenge systems of patriarchy both in society and within the organization.
  • It must attack white supremacy
    Undermining the system of white privilege challenges one of the greatest barriers to revolutionary consciousness among the working class.
  • It must have the potential to build a dual power
    Our work must challenge state power or prefigure a challenge to state power, it must pose a revolutionary or potentially revolutionary challenge to that power, and it must prefigure a new society in some small way
  • It must have the potential to further the development of revolutionary consciousness among the working class
    We will measure success by the impact on consciousnesses on the people we work with. We will work for the greatest amount of awareness of capitalism's contradictions among the greatest number of people.
  • It should stretch the boundaries of political organizing
    Rather than rely exclusively on the strategies and tactics of the past, we will encourage creative methods of resistance.

When discussing our political work, we found that a clear majority of us were doing work around police, prison and immigration issues. Further, we also agreed that these issues most closely fit the six criteria. We therefore agreed to focus on anti-police and anti-prison work, with the understanding that a) locals are free to develop their own strategies and ways of doing this work according to local conditions, as long as it's consistent with the six criteria; b) other kinds of work that fall outside of these two areas but meet the six criteria are also welcome; and c) these areas and the specific work we're doing within them are all subject to critique at the upcoming national meeting.

Once common criteria and work was hashed out, a basic structure for the group was agreed upon. It includes a coordinating committee, locals, and various work groups responsible for organizing the next meeting, putting together another tour, and editing the discussion bulletin. Once the committees were formed, the role of each was defined and their accountability to the larger group established. We then filled the committees with volunteers, except for the coordinating committee, which was nominated and chosen by the entire group. There was some concern as to what the committee should look like in terms of gender and race. We agreed that in filling these positions we would not let ourselves be bound by stringent requirements based on identity because that would be unfair to some members, forcing them into a particular role because they happened to be a woman, of color, etc. We did agree that as the organization grew we will have to make sure that various identities are represented and not overlooked.

While BTR is no doubt a "revolutionary political organization-in-formation," this meeting was a strong beginning. We left Phoenix with political unity, a structure and a purpose (and a commitment to coming up with a new name in the future!). We committed to continue engaging in study and debate in order to expand our analysis and reflect on the intersection between practice and theory. Other goals include creating new locals, organizing a national meeting and a speaking tour, and to create a new document to reflect developing politics. Within the next year, we seek to accomplish all of the goals and projects we have laid out before us as a result of this meeting and to officially found this new organization in the fall of 2003.

If you are interested in becoming part of BTR or want more information, please visit our website at http://www.illegalvoices.org/ruckus

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