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Beginning the Discussion on Goals and Strategy - SCAF (LA)

by Joaquin Cienfuegos Tuesday, Sep. 06, 2005 at 7:12 PM

Beginning the discussion on Goals and Strategy [and structure] -- Southern California Anarchist Federation (Los Angeles Chapter)

My personal vision is of a world that is organized based on autonomous

regions, where those regions are organized around their own specific

conditions. Regions are connected to other regions through general

goals and they share resources. Within those regions there are

community/workplace councils, elected delegates, mass assemblies that

allow for them to organize themselves but in the end they choose how

they organize themselves on the basis of free association and

horizontalism (direct-democracy). Regions would be connected through a

federation, which would be a permanent non-hiarchical structure that

allows for people to organize themselves and take control of their

resources, and take part in decision making – without the need of state

apparatus, national bureaucracy, or a vanguard party.

A region does not mean set borders in place, it constitutes geographic

conditions. For example, the Central Valley of Calfornia produces the

most food and most variety of fruits and vegetables in the nation

(because of its concrete conditions), and Los Angeles /Southern

California has different conditions. The importance of mutual aid,

cooperation, and support between region and region is the life of the

federation. There would be no lines drawn on land that disconnects

people from each other, there would be communities that connect people

to each other and connects them directly to other communities in all

parts of the world.

Another important aspect of regionally based organization is building

autonomy. Autonomy means building independence among people where they

reclaim their resources. That also means that historically colonized

people reclaim their way of life, their language, and culture.

Anti-colonialism, and national liberation is part of the process of

human liberation, we have to support them whether they be in Bolivia,

Ecuador, or in the South/New Afrika, Puerto Rico, among Chicanos in the

U.S., in Chiapas, Mexico, Latin America, Ireland, Africa, Palestine and

so on. Autonomy means self determination in the final analysis, and

people as a people having their own space to create and reclaim their

own way of life. Women within autonomous regions, and all genders and

sexual identities, will need their own space as well.

As anarchists and anti-authoritarians, is not just supporting these

struggles, but learning from them, and fighting in solidarity with all

oppressed people -- but also giving them their space to develop and


(and supporting that).

So how do we connect this lofty idea to what we’re doing today,


becoming arm chair/ivory tower revolutionaries and without getting too

focused on our immediate work – but finding the right balance and

dialectical relationship between the two?

I think in Los Angeles we’ve gotten off to a good start so far, and


a lot of potential, yet we haven’t (to quote my friends from the

chapter) we haven’t gotten our hands dirty yet.

The Southern California Anarchist Federation as an organization is new

in general and has only three chapters in So-Cal, one in Orange County,

one in Los Angeles, and one in the Antelope Valley. In a general sense

a federation now is the process of building self-management, autonomy,

and organization regionally and is united on common goals and

principles. Each chapter empowers the members to become active

participants in the decision making, and builds accountability amongst

its members. The chapters coordinate all the issues that affect the

particular communities in the regions so therefore it develops

organization and long term projects around our conditions and our

general principles as anarchists or anti-authoritarian

socialists/libertarian socialists.

In Los Angeles we have collectives that organize around particular

struggles and specific issues. Each collective is autonomous as well,

and can organize independently, and choose its own membership, and can

exist without the chapter. The chapter allows for their to be

coordination between different issues in the region, and builds long

term vision and organization projects for individuals and collectives

who want to be part of that.

In Los Angeles the collectives we’ve begin to organize around and we

hope to get off the ground are so far (which became part of the

federation through consensus or because members of SCAF wanted to build

a collective project and connect it to our chapter):

-Mujeres Libres – a collective of women and men building projects that

empower women and fight patriarchy

-the Mutual Aid Collective – connecting neighbors to share resources,


a step to build community based action and collectivity

-Si Se Puede – a labor collective, empowering workers, building

collectivity, solidarity and projects that challenge hierarchy in the

labor union and focuses on those who are forgotten by organized labor

-Youth Liberation Collective – High School youth organizing in their

schools and connecting other youth with each other who want to organize

and challenge illegitimate authority

- Cop Watch – organized communities observing police as they go about

their business as usual: harassing people in our communities – and take

direct action to stop the brutality and murders that have become an

every day occurrence in Los Angeles.

-Propaganda and Media Work Group/Collective ( I consider this a work

group because all the members of chapter will approve or support in


way the work of the Propaganda and Media Collective)

Our chapter is also seeking to build relationships with other

organizations and enter in coalitions with other organizations that we

feel, collectively, that they have similar goals that we do, which they

don’t necessarily have to be anarchist in name but in a broader sense


agree in the short term or in the long term.

There are many benefits of organizing in a federation, which is a

structured non-hierarchical organization. We set in place checks and

balances from the beginning so that we don’t develop power

relationships, and if they do develop they are ways to check them. All

our positions are rotated, and no position is permanent – if a delegate

or any other person abuses the temporary leadership they are given –

they can be instantly recalled or even suspended or expelled from our

organization. Also as mentioned, each collective can function

autonomously, and there is no centralized power, so it makes it hard


the state to destroy the organization. We are conscious that we’re

working in a repressive atmosphere – so developing ways to combat state

repression is important. We don’t isolate ourselves from communities

which makes it easier for the state to come down on us, but we seek to

build strong roots broadly in the communities, the left, and society in

general. Also we seek to support other federations in other regions,

and support similar movements here and around the world – and learn


each other.

All that mentioned, I think that developing mid-term demands and aims


something that time will tell. I would personally like to see, along

with other folks, SCAF helping develop community infrastructures that

allow for particular communities to organize themselves. This relates

to the idea of building Dual Power, where people again break

dependencies from the state and the city and organize their own

communities, their work places ant their schools – and build mutual aid

programs, education, and organization that is capable of defending

itself if the state comes down on them. Focusing on our projects is

important, because that will enable us to actually outreach and build

strong ties to our communities and our organization won’t become

stagnant where the membership is exclusively anarchist (especially

people who don’t do the groundwork but romanticize the anarchist


How that would look:

In the communities of Watts, Pasadena, South Central, Compton, Pico

Union, and so on, the infrastructure can be a community council, where

they organize around specific issues that affect them and their

neighbors like Police Brutality, Rent control and Land Lords kicking

people out into the streets, people not having food, single mothers

having No Child Care and having to Work and Go to School. The

infrastructures will allow people to organize on their own who actually

live there and build their own vision and plan – along with that people

will be welcome to join the organization, but our the role of the

councils will not be to “develop the forces of the federation” in a

vanguardist sense – we’re not organizing to recruit but to develop


In our workplaces, it means “Firing the Boss”, and organizing on the

jobs for better living conditions, and empowering people who are

targeted by the state or ignored by organized labor for example:

domestic workers, women, day laborers, immigrants – this can mean

building work centers that are run co-operatively by workers


where they support each other, get work, organize themselves, and work

with the broader community projects

In our schools, it means student councils fighting the administration

and student governments and building democracy and collectivity on the

campuses where students even run their own co-opreratives and community


All that is the foundation of a movement that is capable of challenging

the system of power, and building collective ownership of our

communities. I think any revolutionary organization, that is serious

and direct-democratic should seek to play a role in building that and

not just waiting for the “Big Revolutionary Crisis” to happen while

“Leading the Masses” – we seek to connect people with each other,

empower them, learn from them, and educate each other to actually build

the world we want to live in right now.

We don’t want to turn things upside down, where we’re at the top, we

want to turn things sideways where there are horizontal relationships

between all people.

Until then, always in struggle,

Joaquin Cienfuegos

member of SCAF-LA


m0rph 30


For more information about the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern

California Anarchist Federation, or interested in joining some of the

projects contact Shawn (chapter secretary) at>

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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 7 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
Infiltraitors Anarchist from the past Thursday, Sep. 08, 2005 at 7:43 AM
To: Anarchist from the past Please stay in past Thursday, Sep. 08, 2005 at 8:16 PM
Infiltration must be assumed history buff Friday, Sep. 09, 2005 at 4:53 AM
Get a grip anarchist from the past Friday, Sep. 09, 2005 at 6:03 AM
to anarchist from past a Friday, Sep. 09, 2005 at 9:04 AM
No inherent tyranny to technology Please stay in past Friday, Sep. 09, 2005 at 6:17 PM
What is the vision? anarchist from the past Sunday, Sep. 11, 2005 at 3:56 PM

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