Note: This is a work in progress. Many of these ideas have been stewing in my head and the heads of some comrades of mine for quite some time now, but in writing them (specially in a blog) I tend to forget things or downplay others. I’ll probably revisit and re-write this thing when it is all written (The golden rule of good writing – rewrite it!). Much of these ideas are based out of Huerta Grande, the work of Antonio Gramsci in his Prison Notebooks and several years of conversation with my good comrade Adam at Machete 408, plus others. My thoughts on strategy, I must admit, owe much to the analysis of Carl von Clawsewitz’s On War, which I guess is not a very kosher confession for an anti-militarist anarchist. And still further, some ideas of the Organizational Platform of the Libertarian Communists will make an appearance. If there is a point with which you agree, disagree or would like to see explained further, please say so, it would be very helpful. Ok, here we go again.
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Strategical program of action based on the political analysis
Class warfare is nothing if not a war. It is the “act of force to compel our enemy to do our will.” The will is the political objective of the different parties who engage in the war. The will of the bourgeoisie is the maintain its dominant class status – our will is the elimination of class society and social hierarchy.
We are forced here to expand our idea of war to include the ideological groundwork for the actual event itself. The Iraq war was not started on March 20, 2003, with the bombing of the Al-Dora farms. In fact, the war had already started on February 5th, when Colin Powell made his now infamous presentation to the UN security council, because the White House had already decide to go to war.
The class warfare between the bourgeoisie and the different exploited classes (peasants, proletariat, the dispossessed or lumpen proletariat, etc.) has been going on for at least two centuries, sometimes as open physical warfare, and sometimes as an ideological warfare. Antonio Gramsci defined these two situations as a war of maneuver and a war of position.
Yet the idea of war of position is too broad and vague to be of any practical use to us. It can refer to any moment from the reactionary times we live in to the eve of the “storming of the Winter Palace,” but these two situations have very little in common and we cannot fathom to use the same strategy in both cases. To be more precise, we must first decide if we are in the offensive or the defensive. It is not a question of actions being offensive or defensive, but if the overall movement of working people (be it local, national or transnational) is winning new ground or trying to defend the ground already won. The sentiment expressed by the “we are winning” tag in Seattle reflects the first analysis, while S.T.O.R.M. based its strategy on the defensive mode of the people’s movement.
The question of the movement being defensive or offensive is a crucial one, and should be analyzed in depth by the organization seeking to create a program. It is also important to understand that each situation carries a difference in outlook and a different set of problems.
If you assume an offensive view of popular movements, the primary analysis should be to detect what are the defenses of the State and which weaknesses they present. The defenses of the State may be physical (arsenal, police, army, etc.,) or ideological (the law, “deterrents” like prisons or torture, the media and the formation of public opinion). More likely, it can be a combination of all of them in different degrees.
After detecting the weaknesses of the defenses of the State, we must proceed into using our analysis of our own power and that of allies willing to join, and create an assault plan with the possible allocation of that power to the weak point of the State machinery.
I put this forward because I am trying to create a broad how-to manual on creating a political program. I have yet to be presented with any slightly convincing argument for this view, and I find it quite dangerous to the overall health of popular movements.
Defense is the strongest form of struggle. This might conflate with some people’s romanticizing the periods in which social movements were in the offensive, such as the thirties and the sixties.Yet it is worthwhile to notice that decades after these movements were crushed by the State, their legacy remains, if a little eroded. The reason for this is that once that ideological ground is won, it is hard to be lost. It has been chipped away, perverted and attacked constantly, but the ideas that racism and sexism are bad are still a big part of the general discourse. (Clearly things are much different in practice, and the idea of racism has been stripped of all its systemic value and made into a individualistic relationship, but my point is that the need for racial equality wasn’t part of the discourse of this country until very recently.)
The aim of defense is preservation, while the aim of offense is conquest. A defensive outlook for social movements would aim first at defending the terrain won on previous struggles, such as the great labor unrests from the thirties and the civil rights struggle from the sixties and seventies. From a defensive perspective, the lack of activity is a gain.
It is also important to say that while defense aims at preservation, it cannot be its endgame. Defense aims at amassing ones forces to the point that one can then engage on a offensive. And it is paramount to find the breaches that might open in the ideological battlefield against the ruling classes, attack at those points and win them over, and then hold them.
Keeping all that in mind, the defensive or “war of position” strategy should first analyze what are the areas attacked by the State that must be defended. Priorities should be assigned based on:
- the organization’s proximity and prior level of engagement with the struggle,
- the prevalence of popular directive and organization against top-down bureaucratic control,
- ability of the ruling-class of sustaining the attack and the ability of the people to defend against it,
- The sphere of influence of the organization and the ability of it to affect change.
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Ok. Again I didn’t get to all I wanted to say. Next, I’ll talk about tracing goals, and methods of achieving goals. Also, will take about the particular difficulties that anarchist organizations face when creating a program.