Eight Years of Writings from the Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation edited by Roy San Filippo, AK Press, 2002.
This fall will mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of Love and Rage as a network of activists from the U$, Mexico and Canada, organized to produce a revolutionary newspaper, which by 1993 became a membership based federation. That fall the editor, Roy San Filippo, joined and was in the paper’s production group for three years and served on Love and Rage’s coordinating committee for a term.
Filippo points out in the Introduction that many activists in the post-1999 Seattle World Trade Organization (WTO) protest upsurge began to ask many of the same questions Love and Rage had grappled with upwards of ten years earlier, calling this book “a first step in preserving the organizational legacy, ideas, debates, and history beyond the political life span of the individual members of Love and Rage.”
Filippo describes the editorial process for what was picked for the book, and addresses the accusations of Love and Rage’s crypto-Leninism before going into the first section, Anarchy.
The first article, Always More People Than Cops by Futura Demibold, starts of with the author’s description of a cop car getting bricked during the protests against the 1968 Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Chicago. It’s used as a radicalizing example for the author, one of many from that week “about power, politics, and class.”
Futura goes on to juxtapose these actions to the Weatherman faction of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) National Action commonly remembered as the Days of Rage the following year, also in Chicago.
Futura returns to the 1968 DNC before starting to critique the then current call to protest the 1996 DNC which also took place in the Windy City. Futura backtracks again to 1968, writing about participating in a city bus drivers’ strike during the DNC, comparing and contrasting it to the protests. Futura describes the New Left’s Turn Towards Labor and advocates this as the organizational basis needed to make a revolution in the U$.
Next is a Draft Proposal on the State from Love and Rage’s internal Federation Bulletin. It’s a pretty standard critique of the state from an anarchist perspective but also backtracks to also critique the rise of the state giving it a bit of a primitivist vibe. Aside from when the mistaken attribution of Lenin’s concept of the withering away of the state to Marx, it seems pretty solid. The main thing that it makes me wonder is, what were the other drafts like? What were some of its critiques? Forms of direct democracy and potential threats such as new forms of bureaucracy are also outlined.
The next article, Dual Power In the Selva Lacandon by Christopher Day is initially about the Zapatista’s organization and the Mexican government’s repression. Other groups such as the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) and the Organization of Purhepecha Nation (ONP) are also discussed, before a description of dual power. After describing a number of different forms and critiques of dual power, Day returns to the subject of the Zapatistas, and how they were able to build dual power in Chiapas. The communist roots of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) are clearly addressed, as are its Catholic elements, two things many Anarchists in the U$ who claim to support or even emulate the Zapatistas in my experience have refused to acknowledge. Day continues to alternate between a theoretical analysis of dual power and a chronicle of Zapatista practice.
This article is followed by another internal document, Some Thoughts About Anti-Authoritarianism dealing with the split in Love and Rage during its dieing days of 1998. It seems to ask more questions than it answers, and mostly leaves me curious about the rest of the debate it was a part of.
The next article backtracks to 1992, and is on the emergence of Black Bloc tactics in North America which only happened the year before in the movement against Operation Desert Storm.
This is followed by The Revolutionary Anarchist Tradition, an explanation of the need to understand the topic followed by a brief history of it from the Russian Revolution through the Spanish Civil War.
Why the Anarchists Lost the Spanish Revolution Response to “The Revolutionary Anarchist Tradition” is printed next, finally giving the book a serious polemical flavor!
The next section, Organization, starts with Love and Rage in the New World Order, a Love and Rage Conference Paper from 1994. Its firstly about how Love and Rage fit into the then current world happenings, and secondly about how they could move forward in that context.
This is followed by What Kind of Revolutionary Organization is Useful Today? a 1995 Love and Rage editorial. Beginning with a bold denunciation of liberalism and capitalism, and asserting the need for revolution, the title’s question is quickly asked. The Marxist-Leninist vanguard party is put forward and cut down just as quickly. A second strategy of “counter-cultural outposts” such as Infoshops is also briefly examined and in a comradely manner disregarded. A “third response, revolutionary pluralism, is the position Love and Rage has finally arrived at after six years of debate and struggle.” A vision of revolutionary direct democracy is articulated, followed by prospects for movement building at a time when organizing was at a low point.
Another Love and Rage editorial, The Role of Structure and Organization in a Revolutionary Movement, is next. This had also followed the previous article when printed in a successive issue of the paper, though it seems like it should have gone first being very basic and short.
The next article, Demise of the Beehive Collective: Infoshops Ain’t the Revolution, was written by a co-founder of the Beehive Autonomous Collective, Brad Sigal, who was a member of the group for its whole, brief life. Infoshops are defined, as what was the then current wave in the U$ which included the Long Haul and Autonomous Zone Infoshops. The origins of the Beehive Community Space & Infoshop in Washington, DC and its crossover between activism and punk is outlined, followed by many of the issues that seem to plague Infoshops in the U$ such as isolation from the larger communities they are a part of, gentrification and some of the other big questions all too frequently avoided or only lazily addressed of race, class, gender and transience. Other things such as lack of political direction and cohesion are written about, followed by a critique of the politics usually practiced by Infoshops at the time. This is expanded on with a re-iteration of how Infoshops can be a part of larger struggles or drop the ball. Coming chronologically after the two preceding articles all printed in Love and Rage you also get the sense of how these arguments fit into the ideological development of the Federation, though oddly these three articles all from 1995 are all that make up this section.
The next section is Race, starts with one of my all time favorites, To Advance the Class Struggle, Abolish the White Race by Noel Ignatiev. A scathing advocacy of white people using their unearned privilege to destroy the illusion of white supremacy, I can only imagine the shit storm this started when it came off the presses! You get an idea with a note from the Production Group taking Ignatiev to task for his apparent refusal to acknowledge the ways white women are still threatened by the state. But otherwise it’s a fairly solid critique of the intersectionality of race and class and I frequently point to it as a blueprint for how “white ally” can be something other than an oxymoron. It’s not just an attack on fringe white supremacists, but the entire white mainstream right down to the schools, unions and bosses alike, the so-called justice and welfare systems and even the family itself!
This is followed by an editorial, Building a Multi-Racial/Multi-National Revolutionary Anarchist Organization. It’s a pretty good argument against narrow nationalism and race based solidarity organizations. But next up is Response to Multi-Racial Organization Editorial by Joel Olson, a thought provoking article pointing out many errors with the preceding editorial’s line, and the process used to publish it. Olson also articulates concerns of how organization building can be a distraction from actually taking action, and the need for revolutionary opposition to liberalism, the state and the right.
Next is Draft Resolution on White Supremacy, a 1997 Love and Rage Conference Paper. Starting with white supremacy’s roots in colonization, slavery and genocide, going through the failure of Leftists in the U$ to acknowledge and confront that ongoing legacy in any real way, then advocating support for self-determination of people of color and reparations, and ending with a warning for Love and Rage to avoid the white Leftist practice of trying to lead communities of color; all of these writings leave me pretty appalled with the current discussions or lack there of on race in the U$.
The final section, Love and Rage, possibly should have gone first, starting with a brief history of the organization, Love and Rage Breaks Up. This article is mostly about the organization’s downfall and the two groups that came out of it immediately, the Fire by Night Organizing Committee and a faction of signatories to a statement, What We Believe (WWB), which follows.
A response to WWB is next, What We Do by Christopher Day, which among other things is a deep analysis of the Federation’s failures. Day is very self critical in this account, but also writes about hope for future revolutionary prospects and new ideas such as those of the Zapatistas.
This is followed by Struggle on Three Fronts by Joel Olson. It’s a critique of the split over WWB’s deeper implication’s with the core politics of Love and Rage, namely debates over anti-statism, white supremacy and dual power. Olson addressed intersections of oppression and exploitation as he moved through these issues, advocating a “vision of a completely new world in which one’s ‘standard of living’ is judged by the creative control they have over their own lives, not by how much stuff they have.” Olson also addresses a plurality of articles from the Federation Bulletin (Fed Bull) aside from WWB and the various campaigns and working groups different Love and Rage locals were involved with showing the flurry of activity they were a part of even in the Federation’s dieing months, and this at a time known for its lack of radical goings on!
The book concludes with After Winter Must Come Spring: a Self-Critical Evaluation of the Life and Death of the Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation by the Fire by Night Organizing Committee. It was a post-break up pamphlet, starting with an introduction moving quickly to a brief history beginning with Love and Rage’s founding “as a ‘continental revolutionary anarchist news monthly'” in Chicago, in November 1989. Internal politics are interspersed with the major world happenings such as the Gulf War and the Zapatista Uprising, pegging the beginning of the end to be with the publication of The Historical Failure of Anarchism. If this is accurate, why wasn’t it printed in this fairly short book? The history ends with the founding of the Fire by Night Organizing Committee.
A Part 2 backtracks to emphasis Love and Rage’s accomplishments and mistakes, both in theory and practice. A Part 3 outlines the potential and “need for a reinvigorated revolutionary left that is able to incorporate the lessons of the past century and respond creatively to the challenges of the next one.”
This is as true now as it was then. Printed in 2002, if this book is “a first step in preserving the organizational legacy, ideas, debates, and history beyond the political life span of the individual members of Love and Rage.” a second step is long over due. There is a Love and Rage archive available at loveandrage.org and a number of other websites contain articles by and about Love and Rage. But an in depth, systematic study of the polemical debates and activism of Love and Rage, at least of a few core issues such as race and strategy would benefit comrades today greatly since we are facing too many of the same things, many of which are worse. A look towards the work of directly related post Love and Rage groups such as Bring the Ruckus would also be invaluable to people who continue to struggle for radical change today. If you are interested in helping with this, please write alextheweaver at gmail dot com!