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by JoNina M. Abron
Thursday, Sep. 25, 2003 at 11:39 AM
A Proposal by the Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers (BANCO) for the creation of an Anarchist People of Color United Front
BUILDING AN ANARCHIST PEOPLE OF COLOR UNITED FRONT
Submitted by the Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers (BANCO)
to the Anarchist People of Color Conference, Oct. 3-5, 2003, Detroit, MI
The Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers (BANCO) called for the Anarchist People of Color Conference, did the initial organizing, and since has worked with a number of people to make it happen. (*BANCO is an African-American Anarchist collective currently based in Michigan.) We give special thanks to Jena, Shemon, and Jason in Detroit, and Ernesto Todd Mireles and the XDC crew in Lansing who brainstormed with us and among themselves about how to build the conference, gave a great deal of time and volunteer work, and whose efforts actually prepared the site for the meeting to take place. We also thank Sister Walidah Imarisha and Not4Profit for their fundraising campaign, which brought in badly needed dollars; and we thank Ernesto Aguilar for creating the website which made online registration possible. We thank everyone who organized in their areas to come to this conference, and thank any Anarchist groups that helped to raise money to sponsor local people in their areas to come.
From the beginning, we called for unity and mutual aid in the creation of a space where anarchist and anti-authoritarian peoples of color can discuss our own issues. Some of us know each other from past work in the anarchist movement, but many of us will be coming together for the first time. Therefore, it is a truly historic occasion, and one of the few times when peoples of color will be meeting and planning a new movement. Let?s not waste the moment, however. The main business of this conference should be about building a new movement.
BANCO did not call for the conference to organize around our exclusive political views or reflect our Black community program. Furthermore, we are not seeking to ?lead? all POC. BANCO recognizes the autonomy of all peoples of color within the broad anarchist/anti-authoritarian movement. If we do not respect each other?s autonomy and engage in mutual respect now, we will cripple our chances to build a movement later. We have also always wanted to help build a united movement of various peoples of color with various points of view to unite in common struggle--African, African-American, Xicano, Native, Desi, Asian and multi-racial.
I. Why We Need to build an Anarchist People of Color movement.
Our histories as distinct peoples of color on this continent and internationally are vastly different from white people; we have been enslaved, exploited, subjected to systematic racism, genocide, and other continuing forms of terror. This cannot all be boiled down into a mere ?class issue for industrial workers?, like most white radicals still claim. We are today oppressed as workers and common people by the state and corporations, but also as larger victims of racial and colonial oppression.
Many peoples of color have also experienced racism even within the broader anarchist/anti-authoritarian movement, whose members are primarily whites/Europeans throughout the world. Much of the discrimination has been the exclusion of peoples of color from the movement and ignoring our issues, but some of this has taken the form of hostile white chauvinism, giving weak rationalizations in defense of white domination of the movement. In the United States, for example, anarchist/anti-authoritarian peoples of color who make legitimate claims of autonomy within the broader movement are frequently accused by white/European anarchists and anti-authoritarians of being ?nationalists? who want to divide the movement, even lumping us together with non-white ethnic politicians, businessmen, and reactionary religious or cultural nationalists, claiming we are all in favor of our own ?ruling class?, a nation-state, or are somehow acquiescent to racism. Yet, peoples of color did not create white racism, nor do we benefit from it, so we know this is false. Anarchism?s lack of diversity undercuts the whole movement, and it must change. We must organize.
One blatant example of the racism/racial exclusion within the anarchist/anti-authoritarian movement in the United States was the failure of the predominantly white organizers of the 1999 anti-globalization demonstrations in Seattle to get substantial numbers of peoples of color to participate. Some said this was because Seattle did not have a large Black/POC community. However, this was inexcusable, particularly, at the WTO protests held later in Washington, D.C, which is a predominantly Black and Latin city, and yet very few Black/Latino community activists were recruited!
While some white/European anarchists and anti-authoritarians consistently speak out against racism in the movement and work for a diverse Anarchist movement, their numbers are too few. So, peoples of color, who are largely ignored and/or dismissed in the broader anarchist/anti-authoritarian movement when we attempt to address the problem of racism, consequently, have no alternative but to organize ourselves as an autonomous force. Indeed, we believe that is why so many peoples of color have responded favorably to the call for the conference. This does not mean that we will refuse to work with white activists, just that we declare our independence.
The conference will be held at a time when peoples of color all over the world are catching hell?subjected to low-wages, unemployment, substandard housing and health care, inferior schools, police brutality, racial profiling, mass imprisonment of the poor, gay bashing, and more. These issues and problems must be seriously addressed if the anarchist/anti-authoritarian movement is to grow among peoples of color. The ideology and political principles of anarchism and anti-authoritarianism must be popularized in order for substantial numbers of peoples of color to embrace our politics.
In short, peoples of color need to see that anarchism and anti- authoritarianism are relevant to organizing on the every day material issues in our lives. It cannot remain what it presently is: an abstract political ideology for middle class white people. It must begin to reflect our histories and our issues.
Anarchist/anti-authoritarian peoples of color do not have the luxury of engaging in abstract politics that do not concretely address the issues and problems in our communities. Therefore, we must form a united, non-sectarian front to fight the problems that we have in common. Within this front, the various races, nationalities, ethnic groups, etc. should retain their autonomy. While we may not agree on everything, may even have intense debates on occasion, we must unite around those life and death issues that we do agree on, and not let ethnic rivalry, political outlook, or personal animosities divide us.
II. Creation of an APOC United Front
BANCO calls for the creation of an open United Front that any person of color who is an anarcho-syndicalist, anarcho-communist, other anarchist tendency, or any anti-authoritarian person of color may join. This includes people who are just being attracted to our ideas, and those residing in our communities that we hope to reach. This open United Front differs from previous revolutionary fronts in that it is an autonomous organization. Rather than being tied to a party or other external entity, this United Front will set its own politics and strategies. In that sense, it is a coalition of forces rather than a vanguard sect.
This coalition will be a mass movement, rather than a network of ?true believers.? While an Anarchist organization in theory and practice, everyone who joins does not have to belong to existing groups. The former approach leads to freedom, mutual respect, and open debate with friend and foe, while the latter is merely another narrow, intolerant political circle. We have to spread our program and beliefs within communities of color, and win people over to Anarchism. They will not seek us out if we do not make the initial contact.
This proposal for a United Front is not patterned after any existing groups. However, in the past, there have been anarchist groups organized as a United Front. These include the United Anarchist Front, Action Directe in France, the Awareness League in Nigeria, and the Northeast Federation of Anarchist Communists. The point is that a United Front is not unheard of in the anarchist movement, and BANCO believes that a United Front will give us the best chance to build an effective mass anarchist tendency, rather than yet another ?loose? and ineffective small anarchist tendency. We have the numbers now to build a real movement, and to bring in many others.
III. Revolutionary Principles of Unity
1. We oppose any forms of capitalism and class oppression and support the liberation of the poor and the workers.
2. We oppose any form of racism or white cultural chauvinism in the Anarchist movement, and call for unity and recognition of our right to autonomy.
3. We oppose the oppression of women, homosexuals, gays, transgender peoples and other sexual minorities in society.
4. We oppose all forms of colonialism and imperialism in the Third and Fourth Worlds and support the struggles of all oppressed peoples in the West.
5. We call for an immediate moratorium of the death penalty and the dismantling of the prison structure.
6. We oppose nation-state wars and the building of a fascist police state based on hysteria over ?terrorism.?
7. We want decent housing, food, clothing and other essentials for all, not just the rich.
8. We call for a social revolution to erect a new society entirely.
NOTE: This is strictly a tentative proposal and platform and can be freely changed by a majority vote of the membership at any time.
Many tendencies are present within anarchism, and an open United Front welcomes them all. There will be no leader, bureaucracy, or clique running this type of movement; it will be in the hands of the membership body. No one member or secret clique can act alone in the name of the group. All manner of business will be freely discussed and decided by a consensus/or majority vote. We believe in direct democracy, that everyone should have an equal voice, and that every major decision must be made after discussion and a decision by a majority vote/consensus.
A member is any person of color who agrees with the revolutionary principles of the United Front, formally joins the group, and participates in our work. The APOC United Front would recognize both individual and collective memberships, but it is the responsibility of individual members to build a local organizing group in their community or city, which can then be certified as a formal collective.
There should be a conference held each year where major decisions are made. There should be an organizational council, made up of several elected spokespersons who may be recalled by a majority vote for cause. These spokespersons should carry out the proposals from various regions, groups and other segments within the United Front, and cannot make up their own policies.
There should also be some type of coordinating committee to make administrative decisions between conferences. The coordinating committee will have no authority to make political decisions for the members of the APOC United Front, and must make a quarterly report to the members. They are also subject to recall for cause.
In addition, working collectives of various members should present proposals for the activities of the APOC United Front. For instance, working groups on prison issues, police brutality, poverty and homelessness, anti-war, education, and other issues would be researching and coming up with future action campaigns for the movement.
V. Mass Politics and Community Organizing
Anarchists alone cannot make the revolution. Only the masses of people in a society can do that, but we can propose anti-authoritarian solutions. The APOC United Front should be an organization of activist individuals and groups engaged in mass struggles on the issues of the day and against those forces which oppress peoples of color in our communities.
The revolution also will not be built on the Internet where most Anarchists organize and debate their issues in this period. We believe that any radical political movement should be organizing in working class and poor communities of color, rather than retreating to middle class enclaves like info-shops, coffeehouses, or college campuses. We need to organize around the basic needs of the common people, especially those where we may live or work. Each POC organizer must learn the basics of community organizing practice and then apply that to revolutionary and political theory. We also need a transitional program of ?survival programs pending revolution.? We do not seek to lead people, but we seek to unite with them, so that they can transform their own lives.
The North American Anarchist and leftist movements have placed too much emphasis on small political circles politically linking up with ?the masses? at the time of a revolutionary insurrection, instead of working each day with under-class elements in their own neighborhoods. This essentially middle class organizing style has predictably led to disconnected, elitist organizations. We have to do better, have to be part of working class/poor communities.
What can we be doing now that?s different?
1. Building inner-city food cooperatives to empower and feed the poor (rather than charities or feeding them on the street corner). This can also provide a food source contrary to the high-priced grocery stores, greedy corporations and agri-businesses, who prey on poor and working neighborhoods.
2. Building poor peoples movements to fight unemployment and poverty. The current rates are twice the unemployment levels in the Black community as whites, and it is also hitting other POC communities hardest.
3. Building fight-back movements against utility company rip-offs, police brutality, the death penalty, racial profiling, anti-immigrant hysteria, substandard housing and homelessness, and other day-to-day problems of APOC communities.
4. Building survival programs to physically transform the barrio or ghetto where poor people reside. We need to pressure the government, corporations and other elite institutions to pay reparations for the oppression of peoples of color, in order to obtain funds to rebuild housing, schools, hospitals and other social institutions, and improve the quality of life of community residents.
5. Building an inner-city dual power; a commune, co-ops, political collectives, and other institutions to organize the community, and challenge the rich and their agents on a long-term basis.
WHAT DO WE THINK NEEDS TO HAPPEN WITH THIS PROPOSAL?
Conference participants should talk to each other about this proposal, and in fact all of the proposals at the conference seeking to build a new movement. Ours is for a United Front, others seek a network, and still others may seek other formations. We do not claim that our proposal is perfect or that no one else has good ideas. Our proposal may not please everyone, but we believe that our approach gives everyone at the conference the right to decide on this important issue, rather than an approach of sectarianism or dissension which does not serve our movement well in the long run.
All of the proposals should be taken seriously, and all those presenting a proposal should be required to lay it before everyone at the conference. Those presenting proposals should try to work with other Anarchists with competing models, and try to come up with the best approach, but then it is up to all conference participants to decide what kind of movement we want to build.
The most important thing is that everyone should have the right to discuss and decide at a plenary set up for that purpose. A plenary is just a panel where everyone could present their model and discuss it with all in attendance. These matters should be fully debated and then a majority of persons at the conference should enter into consensus or formally vote on the issue. They should make their minds up on what they can decide at the Detroit conference. Then if a majority should democratically vote to set a date and location for additional meetings, they should do so to ensure that all would be welcome, not this or that activist faction alone.
If we do this in a sectarian fashion, we will witness the creation of two or three hostile, mutually exclusive political circles being created in the APOC movement, and just repeat the sectarianism of the general Anarchist scene, which has had the problem for decades. This may yet happen, and we are powerless to prevent it, but we call for unity first, and will then attempt to debate and diffuse our political differences if that is possible.
Prepared by JoNina M. Abron, Ralph Anderson, Lorenzo Komboa Ervin, and Munyiga Nosakahere.
BANCO, P.O. Box 19962, Kalamazoo, MI 49019
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