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Defining the Red & Anarchist Action Network

Compiled 12.09.05
Revised 07.18.10

The following words are an exercise in futility. Since its inception, the Red & Anarchist Action Network (RAAN) has suffered from perceived need to define and categorize its own existence into various fractions of an unappreciated whole; to condense the experiences of countless participants into a hastily-written summary. In short, to define and self-define according to the pre-existing formula of ostensibly revolutionary activity (as established by the milieu of radical anti-politics). This page seeks to counter these distortions by presenting different viewpoints as to the essential nature of RAAN, perhaps at the risk of spreading confusion in the sense of not offering a single pre-defined box in which to fit the network.

At the same time, we have to recognize RAAN at its base as an alliance between "anti-state" communists and anarchists of various self definitions - including various affiliates who reject personal labels but nevertheless feel a degree of affinity to these currents. So while there is no overall structure to the organization or disorganization of the network, its theoretical body and purpose does fall into the historically-recognizable traditions of libertarian anti-capitalism. It is in order to better describe this context that RAAN has used its founding document, the Principles & Direction, (or P&D) as a point of departure.

Before delving deeper into an attempted definiton of RAAN's totality, it is worth noting that in order to fully appreciate the network it is necessary to also explore the various texts that have been authored in its name. The page regarding RAAN's understanding of affiliation (as opposed to "membership") may also be helpful, and the compiled history on RA.org is particularly useful since the network has tended to describe itself only as an interconnected string of moments; as various actions rather than a body existing independently of them.

To be fair, RAAN has gone through several different phases and iterations, each adding uniquely to its overall experience and current state, but all taking place under the greater "organization of autonomies".1 The network began in 2002 as a loosely-moderated discussion community for anarchists and communists, and began to assume a more defined nature as these discussions turned towards the implementation of effective revolutionary strategy. The ideologically and geographically dispersed affiliations to this project allowed for a variety of different tactics to be proposed and tested, leading to the acceptance of more formalized collective organization at the local level2 as well as an overall "total decentralization" as described by the Principles of Action.

In the final analysis, RAAN considers autonomy to be its most important principle, explaining its potentialities in any given situation as directly related to the unique desires of its individual participants. In some cases this position has led to incoherence or inactivity since it might be criticized as a failure to define a long-term program, or identify with any single tradition in struggle (see above). However, as a tendency there are specific tactics that the network has seemed to prefer (direct action & hooliganism, organization around housing issues, prison solidarity, dual power, food security, and confrontation with traditional "Leftist" political organizations). These trends appear to have been due to the prevailing interests of its most active members rather than any concerted policy, and are therefore likely to develop in different directions in the future. The specific focus on dual power seems to have risen from communist influences and an interest in autonomist currents, particularly those in Marxism.3 It is important to note that since its first "declaration" of existence, RAAN has been against the Leninist model of organization on a level unmatched even by most (North American) anarchist tendencies. The network has further distinguished itself by criticizing the traditionally subcultural status of the anarchist movement, pointing out that such a composition tends to reproduce systems of domination within itself.4

Although there appear to have been no examples of fundamental disagreement between the anarchists and communists who work together within RAAN's principles, the network has in the past been frequently criticized by portions of the anarchist movement for its inclusion of (non-Leninist) Marxists. The majority of these debates had taken place over RAAN's useage of the term "dictatorship of the proletariat", and in 2003 led directly to a clarification of purpose on the part of the network.5 Conversely, RAANistas have also been labeled as "new age lifestylists" for their support of any tactic that individual affiliates might consider to be personally liberating. For its part the network has shown no hostility to any of the myriad anarchist tendencies, though a lighthearted critique of anything and everything has certainly marked its internal culture.

RAAN AS A TENDENCY

"...if actions taken are not done in the name of the network, then the network does not exist. Similarly, if no one is out acting in the name of RAAN, then RAAN at that moment has no membership. Alongside adherence to our principles, action (keeping in mind our broad definition) precludes all membership in RAAN because the network is an amorphous tendency that exists only when one or more individuals act or create something in its name. Our essays, publications, and collectives are the footprints of this process, and serve only as indicators - not proof - to the existence of our organization." - Nachie, The "No Bullshit" Policy
It is extremely difficult to categorize RAAN or even to introduce newcomers to it in a single, clean motion. There are no national conferences to attend, and even if one were to assemble every journal, essay, and all the other publications that have been independently produced under the network's name, you would still only be holding a few pieces of the puzzle. Again: we would recommend looking at the history page on this website, as it is an invaluable exploration of the movement. RAAN is a reality created daily by all those who wish to contribute their energy to it, and the lack of effective language in describing this complex process has been called its biggest weakness. For our purposes here, we may assist an analysis of the network's totality by referencing Hakim Bey's work Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ), which is a dialogue on diffuse moments or "zones" of resistance, coalescing as autonomous cities, islands, campsites, rituals, information, and even states of mind. Shrugging some of Bey's original framework, it may be useful to conceive of RAAN as a TAZ:
"The TAZ is an encampment of guerilla ontologists: strike and run away. Keep moving the entire tribe, even if it's only data in the Web. The TAZ must be capable of defense; but both the "strike" and the "defense" should, if possible, evade the violence of the State, which is no longer a meaningful violence. The strike is made at structures of control, essentially at ideas; the defense is "invisibility," a martial art, and "invulnerability" - an "occult" art within the martial arts. The "nomadic war machine" conquers without being noticed and moves on before the map can be adjusted. As to the future - Only the autonomous can plan autonomy, organize for it, create it. It's a bootstrap operation. The first step is somewhat akin to satori - the realization that the TAZ begins with a simple act of realization."
There are various other ways of defining a TAZ, and many RAAN affiliates more versed in "class struggle" ideology might disagree with using it as a comparison to the network because of what could be seen as the "defeatist" nature of the TAZ's temporary existence and emphasis on personal liberation (although the network itself has also stressed this point). The Marxists might prefer to identify RAAN with the original concept of the organic, non-"vanguard" communist party, which Antonio Negri describes in Domination and Sabotage as "A contradiction which we must live and control within the overall development of the process of proletarian self-valorization [which aims to] destroy the reality of power as the obverse of the capitalist state-form ... power is to be dissolved into a network of powers, and the independence of the class is to be constructed via the autonomy of individual revolutionary movements [that reduce] the party to a revolutionary army, to an unwavering executor of the proletarian will."

Both these explanations can be considered valid insofar as they examine how RAAN presents itself from two different angles; from two different narratives with different vocabularies. When necessary, the network has defined itself as an "organized contradiction" - a term that functions as a justification for RAAN's existence by framing it as an organic process developing according to the needs and challenges presented within a given historical moment. This means that the various actions and initiatives launched under the network's banner interlock to form a gestalt: not only as a practical collectivization of resources and credibility, but also in the presentation of a unified culture and generalized experience capable of manifesting itself within any given sphere.

FOOTNOTES:

1. Seven Theses on the Orientation of RAAN

2. See Principles of Organization

3. See the RAAN Interview with George Katsiaficas

4. See Anarcho-Sceneism

5. See Defining a Dialogue of Revolution: The Dictatorship of the Proletariat


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