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Emotional Poverty #4

Editor's Note: The following is only a transcribed copy of handwritten texts that appeared in the fourth issue of the RAAN journal Emotional Poverty. Though these are the most well-known essays, they do not represent the full contents of that issue, nor can this means of representation be expected to accurately preserve the original layout and artwork that accompanied them.

Fall/Winter 2006

"This booklet is not a substitute for an informed discussion"

MISCONCEPTION AND THE R.A.A.N.

Despite all the attempts being made by Emotional Poverty and others in our tendency to articulate and clarify the applications of practical autonomism via RAAN, there remain a number of unhelpful misconceptions about our crew. One such rumor is that RAAN sees itself as a traditional leftist organization, whose job it is to create revolution [sic]. This strikes us as incredibly naïve. Self-identified radical groups are born of capitalist society and therefore incapable of imagining, much less creating, revolutions. Although as RAAN we can collectively create tools of struggle, ultimately the purpose of any such network will be the immediate physical and psychological survival of its participants. To ignore these personal needs in favor of "loftier" goals will most likely amount to an unsustainable vanguardism, a sterile culture, and politics removed from the first person. If we really want to understand and seize our place in history, we have to realize that radicals neither proclaim nor lead revolutions. If we can accept this, we will actually be freed from the "weight of obligation" and can begin a more healthy discussion as to what RAAN actually is.

This brings us to the second misconception about the network, namely that we are attempting to construct an artificial culture of "RAANismo" for the sake of our image and propaganda. Of course, we do strongly identify as RAANistas, and that is the basis for the work we take on (and for this, we are not ashamed). But RAAN's culture was not "declared" overnight. Thought we will make conscious attempts to articulate and recreate RAANismo on a day-to-day basis, this is no "party policy" but rather a natural intervention in an organic process that is already underway. We have not "created" a separate culture for RAAN. We merely became aware of its encroaching existence through an honest self-reflection. It's not that we fetishize the unique identity of the network, but that 4+ years of praxis has inevitably led to the development of that identity. To downplay or ignore this would be to gravely misunderstand the totality of the network's experience.

And with that, I would like to address the third major misconception about RAAN, that being the tendency of other groups and individuals to attempt a selective borrowing from our tactics, presentation, or ideology. To my knowledge, we have always been open to work with other revolutionaries on a basis of mutual aid and shared credibility. But what those other groups need to understand is that our successes and failures, and especially our methodology were not developed in a vacuum, but rather as interlocking parts of an organic whole. The zeitgeist, the energy and momentum of RAAN, our imagery and reputation, are the results of specific approaches and history.

Despite the universality of autonomist anti-politics, they cannot simply be established when and where one desires. Different opportunities, personal attitudes and experiences, individual motivations, and sometimes even ideological points of reference (for instance, our total exclusion of Leninism) come together to incubate a much larger, historically unique project. This is not to say that there is only ever one way of doing things, but simply that the complex factors responsible for the network's ongoing development cannot be reproduced at a whim. One cannot sever only the parts you want and expect them to function as before when removed from the original collective experience. In other words, the point is not that we are communists, anarchists, or even an "action network"; it's that we are the autonomous culture of RAAN.

OF INDIVIDUALS, AND ORGANIZATIONS

The primary base unit of any revolution is the individual - or, in our case, the "RAANista". First and foremost then, we must develop our praxis in such a way as to accommodate and strengthen the personal roles of each of our affiliates. Particularly in North America, we have a tendency to view the joining of an organization as a sort of surrender of individual autonomy towards some distant and invisible "greater cause". This is bullshit. Of course it would be true as regards the Liberals, Leninists, and Federated Syndicalists who delight in creating the needless bureaucracy and "process" to support their delusions of grandeur; but for us, this is bullshit.

It's bullshit because RAAN is not an "organization" but a force of nature, and as such is directly subject to the individual whims of those who comprise it. Fuck sacrificing your autonomy for "something greater"; we'll leave that to the Leftists and postmodern thumb-twiddlers who are as terrified of effectiveness as they are of repression. In RAAN you don't sacrifice shit, you take on a personal responsibility for the recreation of the network in your daily life, on your terms.

You either step up and handle that, or you can back off and be forgotten. There's no room for some half-assed involvement you got into just so as to reinforce your own misconceptions when, inevitably, it "just doesn't work out", or the network isn't "what you thought it would be".

Either make it what you want, make it what you are, through action, or get the fuck out of the way for people who will. Comments made from the sidelines are neither recorded in history books nor remembered in fireside tales.

In a quest for effective strategy, we have always looked at what pre-existing "collectives" and anarchist organizations were up to at the regional and city level. Whenever possible we try to organize with those who have already shown a dependable will to self-motivation on their own terms, both practically and ideologically (meaning it was they who came to us). By studying the experiences of relatively large, nationwide historical groups such as the Hell's Angels, we discover that their explosive growth was due not so much to a few "organizers" ("recruiters", whatever) going town to town starting new crews, but rather that the collective credibility and example set by the group inspired different crews already in existence to begin affiliating themselves to the credibility and name of the larger organization.

Now, RAAN has always been against just trying to "absorb" the pre-existing anarchist (or communist) movements with all of their problems, but in many cases it is in the collectives and groups already in existence that we see the most potential for effective organizing.

These groups could, overnight, change the face of radical anti-politics in this country without really having to do anything new, simply by choosing to identify openly, militantly, with each other's struggles. RAAN - Seize The Time.

GENDER IN RAAN

Disclaimer: A rejection of societally-imposed gender roles and categories is inherent to the principles of RAAN. On this page though, we will primarily focus on the involvement of female-bodied and -identified individuals. In the future we hope to continue to explore other issues and dynamics of identity and autonomy.

"Justice is a woman with a sword" - DA Clarke

By 1973, The Weather Underground in the United States recognized the need for women to "autonomously take on the responsibility of developing a feminist politics and program". Yet despite several actions by women's cells in the WU and a membership that was up to 75% female, by the time the organization dissolved four years later ideological rigidity, Leninist centralization, and the inability to act in an above-ground capacity had snuffed out any opportunity for such a development.

How do we, as a network open to and struggling for the liberation of all "genders" and self-identified orientations, remain open to all those groups? How do different organizational methods affect this? As a concept, RAAN was born on the Internet and went through much of its early development there. Since then, many women have become involved with RAANista projects, but in 95% of these cases it is obvious that women have gotten involved only through direct personal contact and mutual aid, not because they saw a website. It is imperative that we continue to build the above-ground and cultural activity of the network, ensuring that we can remain accessible. At the same time, clandestine or autonomous action, and our commitment to respect the motivations of those who engage in them, can help build the space for autonomous feminist, queer, race, class, anti-civ, etc. etc. etc. anti-politics within the network.

People aren't going to "take on the responsibility" to develop these things for us unless we, unlike The Weathermen, truly support the independent expansion and decentralization of RAAN and really do, as individuals, step up and, without waiting for anyone to approve it, take the reins and decide where the network is going...

...which should be, wherever you desire.

CREWS OR COLLECTIVES
(only one can win, but not really)

In April of this year, RAAN started to get organized in Philadelphia. The ideologically-diverse "Revolutionary Marxist Collective" had split along anti-Leninist lines, and the autonomist factions were about to reconstitute themselves as an above-ground RAAN cell in the city. Over the course of this process, numerous questions were raised and discussions were had about what forms the network needed to take in Philly. Part of the question was if another collective was needed to replace the defunct RMC. The observations in these pages rise from those discussions as well as work the network has done with groups in several states. It is important to note that there is no single definition for what a "collective" is, nor do we wish to imply (as in the title) that "crews" are the only alternative. It's just semantics, a self-identified group could consider itself a collective, crew, cell, chapter, faction, etc. and still have interchangeable qualities. Bad personal dynamics can also wreck a group no matter what it calls itself. Lastly, we intend no prejudice to those who refrain from categorizing or "organizing" their activity, or just pull autonomous actions in the name of RAAN.

To be a "collective" can, of course, mean almost anything. Membership requirements, dues, structure dictated by an overhead organization, or none of those things. Everything can be and is called a "collective" these days, sometimes without any elaboration on process or membership requirement, which is a problem. What we know for sure is that as self-declared groups, collectives tend to institutionalize themselves in people's consciousness, whereas crews do not. Collectives, as they become stable groups, become larger than life as they are taken for granted and/or assume an overall identity more important than the work they actually do. To the mind of the outsider, a collective is a self-contained, closed group. Crews are seen as inherently more informal and open to new involvement. Collectives become exclusionary as they claim actions for themselves, since even when they are part of a larger federation, their activities are confined to single cities. Crews, on the other hand, are notorious for spreading to new regions.

This inability for collectives to make themselves accessible in the long term is the key to why they stagnate. Collectives become an insulated culture usually run by a handful of strong, or privileged, personalities and get locked into repetition. Because they have institutionalized into "a collective", members will have to devote a lot of energy to keeping up that appearance. Completely unnecessary meetings, press releases, "official journals", and general chest-thumping may take place. Crews need none of these things.

By repeatedly engaging in these rituals of self-validation, collectives can sterilize themselves by falling into a routine and creating roles. Personal growth is not nurtured, only the image of the collective. Unhealthy leadership patterns emerge. Although crews also need to engage in activity if they are truly worthy of the name, theirs can often be more sporadic, creative, expressive, effective, and inclusive of new ideas than a collective. In fact, as collectives get better at what they do, they often turn into activist ghettos specializing in those activities, which doesn't leave much room for new or even unaffiliated people to do things differently or better. Although they are often effective at tackling specific issues, on the whole it doesn't seem as though "collectives" can transcend very well into multi-issue movements, confined as they are geographically and alienated as they are from the rest of society by their self-identification as "a collective".

For these reasons, collectives would seem a strange choice of organizational method for something like the Red & Anarchist Action Network, which seeks to form cultures of resistance from city to city, and not just activist talking circles. These issues were key in the eventual decision by the Philly RAANistas to form a decentralized crew rather than a cast-in-iron collective.

There were two other chief concerns related to making the new chapter compatible with RAAN culture, against which it was decided that forming a "collective" would not make sense. Those were the need for fluidity and pluralism. Fluidity relates to the concept of RAAN existing only in and through actions taken in its name, making it irrelevant and even a waste of energy to create semi-permanent formations such as collectives when only the activities of the group, and not its existence, matter. Collectives vary in size and break up all the time, making them very misleading representatives of the tendency. RAAN's focus is to organize with action, not act with organization.

Pluralism was the other concern because it is important that any self-declared RAAN group recognizes that it holds no monopoly on the activities or existence of the network in any given area, and that it works to create a culture of openness where different people still feel like they can be a part of RAAN without having to join a local chapter or compromise their autonomy or anonymity as individuals. Collectives usually do not create such an atmosphere.

As mentioned above, this text is in no way meant to be the final word on defining the role or structure of collectives. These observations are made merely with regard to the history and strategy of the Red & Anarchist Action Network.

FIVE PRINCIPLES OF THE RED & ANARCHIST ACTION NETWORK

As far as ideological orientation, ours are well covered by the founding documents of RAAN. Here however, we will glimpse the way by which we function from day to day.

1. Individual Empowerment

The backbone of the network is each individual RAANista. Affiliates choose their own level of involvement and through action determine their contributions to the tendency and the direction it is going in. This direct form of meritocracy, where diverse individuals can tailor the overall project to their personal needs, is unique to autonomism.

2. Mutual Aid

The unity in action provided by RAAN allows for cross-ideological bonds to be built and within these new categories of affiliation, all resources become common property and can be shared according to need and/or strategy.

3. Collective Credibility

The secret to RAAN is that it is an army of ants consciously choosing to attack as an overwhelming beast. The power of the individual to assert themselves within the network, the psychological benefits of coordinated action and common culture, as well as their value as weapons, all depends on our shared identification. Together we can truly rock the boat. However, if projects and actions cannot be easily identified as RAAN projects or actions, they cannot benefit from or contribute to the collective credibility.

4. Diversity of Tactics

We live amidst a historic failure by both clandestine and above-ground revolutionaries to support each other. By choosing a common banner and hoping to use it as a tool in struggles across the board, we have also made a commitment to bridge that gap by uniting into a recognizable, though un-definable, culture of resistance.

5. Autonomy

Autonomy refers to the complete decentralization of RAAN; the idea that groups and individuals should be able to make decisions and act independently of any overhead coordination; that individuals must be given the space and resources to tackle the issues they are finding most relevant, in the process autonomously determining network "policy" from moment to moment.

DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE!

Let us be honest: we want our network and its culture to spread into a collectively-empowered web of resistance. Alongside us (and sometimes, against us) will be a myriad of other associations who claim to be working towards similar goals. We do not seek to oppose or interfere with such groups where their aims are sincere and their methods non-reformist, but we must understand that these comrades, especially those who seek to organize nationally and conventionally, despite their resources and years of experience, are not "the only game in town". We need to understand that, especially over the Internet, any small club can portray itself as a mass organization, particularly when special attention is paid to producing official publications, communiqués and press releases, and pointless masturbatory gatherings. The immediate problem isn't that there are too few people working on these projects, but that the output is traditionalized and mystified in such a way that discourages new participation and individual initiative.

Plenty of "federations" have really just been collections of PO Boxes; the "international secretariat" is actually nothing special, and the bi-monthly journal's glossy cover is just a distraction. For RAAN, individual affiliates and prospects must be given wide access to the network's internal mechanisms, empowering them to act autonomously and in the process cultivate an understanding of the true processes by which groups replicate and portray themselves. This is especially important wherever relatively small cells can have an enormous impact on the network as a collaborative experience greater than the sum of its parts. They must be empowered to do so!

OUTRO

This is it: here we are, engaging in a history and tradition that adds up to a coherent sense of what it is to be a RAANista. I think this means consciously trying to look at autonomist praxis and pluralistic movements and finding ways to explain their essence in a manner that continually challenges us to critique ourselves and make our methodology more understandable while increasing the accessibility of our practice. We need your help to do this. There is no leadership in RAAN. We make some efforts to bring workshops to cities, but ultimately it comes down to each individual person taking the initiative to create RAAN actions in their area. We have neither the resources nor the inclination to run more extensive outreach or "recruitment" programs, and though we've increased efforts to clarify our positions, at this point the continued evolution of this tendency depends entirely on the individuals who will choose to affiliate their diverse activities to it. By this process, "leadership" is created in the sense of the most radical, innovative, memorable and/or recent, effective actions becoming the standard to which all RAANistas are held. By choosing to autonomously recreate the network in their own image, individuals can take charge of our direction in a very real way. Our priorities right now should be to build the physical, visible culture and presence of RAAN, establish support systems and autonomous spaces, and solve the riddle of how to most efficiently empower new comrades to act while preserving a flexibility of tactics for those who are already involved.

RAAN = Collectivized Credibility

Sisters and Brothers!

It is your duty to investigate the activities and methods of the Red & Anarchist Action Network. There is no other way. Now is the point in history where we decide to either be useless or be remembered. Nobody is forcing you to join anything, no one is telling you what to do, but either get down with the program or step out the way!

RAANISMO O MUERTE!


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