This essay originally appeared in the second issue of Praxis, journal of the Red & Anarchist Action Network (Fall, 2003)
"...in a world where the instruments of repression are so varied, both visible and invisible, only a fluid movement of free-thinking and autonomous individuals can truly effect any level of change in the basic functions of our society, not to mention in their everyday lives. RAAN provides those individuals with the tools and contacts that may be necessary for the accomplishment of these changes. Furthermore, it establishes a common bond with other radical anti-capitalists, through which all may benefit." - The RAAN Principles & Direction
In the early Summer of 2003, an anonymous individual claiming to represent a group calling itself The Hukbalahap Collective (RAAN) submitted to the Red & Anarchist Action Network a short text entitled "Call for the Formation of a New Armed Revolutionary Movement". Proposing the establishment of an underground "armed wing" to the network, the essay was eventually included in the first issue of Praxis Journal with a disclaimer regarding the network's conception of autonomous activity and diversity of tactics. By July, network activity had increased to the point where a person or persons claiming RAAN affiliation had vandalized the window of a Maoist bookstore in New York City, and a similar claim was laid to the vandalism of a corporate development site in LA. While these actions were relatively minor next to the overtly violent acts proposed by the Hukbalahap Collective in their "Call", taken together it was enough to bring about an important discussion in the network regarding the nature of our principles, the actual application of autonomous action in the name of RAAN, and how we would have to evolve in order to appropriately accommodate our growth.
THE RAAN "HUB"
"RAAN participants were able to choose their own levels of involvement in the project, and influence it through contributions to a variety of discussions and efforts. Comrades involved in the organization need not wait for any "Central Committee" to call a convention in order to be exposed to new ideas, as the continual discussion of relevant issues - and the mutual learning that accompanies it - is always occurring and indeed, driving, the network." - The RAAN Principles & Direction
The current state of the network's development irreversibly calls for a break with the mostly Internet-based activity of the past. To continue on our present course and with our traditions unchanged will inevitably lead to the installment of an Internet clique within the network that would reign over RAAN and dictate the activities of the tendency according to the personal whims of those behind their keyboards. At the same time, it would be irresponsible and destructive to abandon the channels of public communication that have already been established over the Internet, and through which we have accomplished a variety of collective projects. Our solution is to adapt the current modes of online dialogue into a large collection of common tools and projects that will remain open and accessible, but which will hold no sovereignty over, or responsibility for, the non-Internet activities of RAAN. We call this center of network-related discussion and Internet-based activity the RAAN "Hub".
The Hub of the Red & Anarchist Action Network is a system by which network members and groups may communicate freely on issues related to the overall structure of RAAN. The Hub is not a single website, forum, or e-mail list, but a collection of such communication channels that together represent our clearest conception of the network's ongoing dialogues. This includes a sharing of news from different regions and a continuing, self-evolving discussion of the network's activity towards the goal of developing new projects. The Hub bears the responsibility of putting together network publications such as the Praxis Journal and RAAN - Network News. Individual RAAN members and groups may freely take part in these processes through the Hub.
The Hub does not, however, have the power to determine "official" network "policy", as any such practice would inevitably be to the exclusion of membership not connected through its discussion centers. In the rare event that there should be a need for a network-wide declaration or call to action on behalf of all members and collectives, the Hub will function as the author of any such texts by using its channels of discussion and the pre-established traditions of collective writing employed by the network. Participants in the Hub must act responsibly in respect to these duties, and all members of the network should be aware that participation in and contribution to the discussions on the Hub is an important part of a RAAN affiliation. The Hub must publicize its decision-making process and allow ample time for the greatest possible number of recognized network participants to reach consensus. As a detached Internet body, the Hub does not have the power to make decisions definitively representing the entirety of the network's tendency, but in any case where network-affiliated actions have indirectly threatened the well-being of the Hub, it is the responsibility of those participating in the Hub to reaffirm their autonomy in that capacity from the real world actions of the network. The Hub must not abuse this process, and Hub statements on the behalf of the network are to be proposed only in the most extreme of circumstances. Any such statements are to be signed "The RAAN Network Hub". Note that this is a change from our original practice of creating network-wide statements over the Internet, and reflects our maturing system of autonomy and overall growth to a point where we can no longer expect to see the entirety of RAAN represented in any one place at any given time.
The Hub does not have the power to contradict the founding documents or principles of RAAN, as the theoretical orientation of the network must be preserved in the face of unaccountable participation through the Internet. It is the duty of the Hub to defend the fundamental communist-anarchist principles of RAAN and provide a presence ideologically in support of any activities affiliated with those principles. Those who find themselves in opposition to these principles are obligated to break with the network.
AUTONOMOUS ACTIVITY THROUGH AFFILIATION
"...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 Functioning of a Network
RAAN rejects any formalization of its concept of action. The network is organized into autonomous individuals, collectives, affinities, cells, and groups that operate independently of each other, and under any level of anonymity which they may deem appropriate. These individuals and groups affiliate with RAAN in their actions as a sign of solidarity with the principles of the network. Through its Hub, the network provides any affiliated presence wishing to publicize its existence or activities and establish communication with other above-ground portions of RAAN with the ability to do so.
The network does not contain any form of leadership or hierarchy, and is based off of past successful models of autonomous decentralized organizations such as those of the Animal and Earth Liberation Fronts (ALF and ELF, respectfully). The main difference between RAAN and these covert direct action groups is that the network allows for both above-ground and underground (anonymous; illegal) activity. Like the ELF and ALF, RAAN replaces a centralized group hierarchy with a shared set of principles and guidelines, embodied in the Principles & Direction, Principles of Organization, and these Principles of Action. If an individual believes in these principles and follows the basic guidelines and expectations of the network, she or he can organize or perform actions (as broadly defined in the P&D) and become a part of RAAN.
THE PRAXIS OF VIOLENCE
"Representatives of the bookstore contacted the maintainers of the Red & Anarchist Action Network's website regarding the incident, and were informed that not only is there no way of accurately tracking network membership in the city, but that unlike the RCP, RAAN functions on a basis of autonomous decentralized activity, and so the most that our Internet hub would be capable of doing would be to raise awareness about the action. Members of RAAN are encouraged to decide for themselves whether or not this action should be supported by the network." - RAAN-NN #2, August 2003 (reporting on the vandalization of Revolution Books in NYC)
As we have mentioned, this statement was born of a discussion that began in response to a call for the initiation of "armed struggle" by a faction of the RAAN tendency identifying as The Hukbalahap Collective (see Praxis #1). Therefore, we would have considered it irresponsible to not address the specific question of illegal and violent autonomous activity in putting together these Principles of Action.
The revolutionary movement is now approaching - and in many ways has already arrived at - a situation similar to that which it faced in the second half of the last century. Our continuing general failure to create a broad-based physical alternative to the capitalist system, coupled with the increasing security of status quo now enjoyed by the bourgeoisie through the expanding repressive nature of the State and Spectacle will inevitably lead to the degeneration of certain elements into the desperate praxis of individual violence. While in some cases, such tactics have led to the achievement of certain short-term goals, on the whole they have historically failed to contribute in any way to the self-activity of the working-class. We see the use of isolated violence and urban guerrilla tactics as evidence of our movement's overall failure to accurately reflect the status and activity of the proletariat and connect it with our own. As a part of that movement, RAAN will not be exempt from this process and must be prepared to receive it.
Firstly, it is necessary to say that our interpretation of violence as it applies here is principally that of the literal, in that we are referring to physical violence knowingly done to another human being. This issue has broad implications both within the network and outside of it; taking a final position in which we either condone or condemn the use of violence would immediately alienate sections of the revolutionary movement as described in our principles. In particular, explicitly supporting the use of violence would place RAAN in a legally questionable situation, thus opening an unnecessarily wide avenue for repression against the above-ground sections of the network (the network Hub, regional collectives, etc.) .
However, RAAN is not - nor has it ever been - a "pacifist" organization. Nor is it a physical structure that can be identified or controlled as easily as a fully above-ground organization. RAAN is a set of base principles, a tendency and ideology, that can be affiliated with during any variety of autonomous revolutionary activities. These affiliations, collectives, groups, and individuals decide the nature of their own participation in the network, and therefore it is conceivable that there will develop underground as well as above-ground sections of RAAN; illegal as well as legal; violent as well as non-violent.
In addition, the adoption of a policy that would flat-out condemn or discourage the use of violence (or any other tactic) by those under RAAN affiliation could conceivably crucify us in time; we would be incapable of adapting to the changing and future political nature of our our societies. A network such as ours, which strives to change the world both locally and internationally, must not pin itself to a single practical strategy, as this would be to ignore the differences in material conditions faced by our movement across the globe. The only way to respond to a diversity of political climates is to call upon a diversity of tactics. It is for this reason that RAAN has decided not to take an official stance on whether or not violence is an acceptable tool in our battle against capitalism and the State. RAAN will neither condemn nor condone any use of violence; we expect all individuals and affiliated groups to decide for themselves what is considered an acceptable and effective means of advancing the revolutionary project in their area.
Within this broad acceptance of tactics, we must make it clear that RAAN rejects the fetishization of violence and violent activities as an alienating and ultimately ineffective culture - the laughable legacy of Maoist romantics in which we will have no part. We must speak out against the rise of macho attitudes and the urban guerrilla "ideal" within the anarchist and communist movement, and in particular the spectacular cults of personality that have tended to accompany such developments. RAAN expects that no action - whether violent or not - should be approached rashly or due to a fixation on an image of "revolutionary heroism". Praxis must coincide with proletarian class needs and be directly managed by the revolutionary class itself. Actions detached from said class are inherently counter-revolutionary, for they do not work towards the collective self-empowerment of the working class.
It is the official position of the Red & Anarchist Action Network that our principles do not directly call for the use of violence, direct action, or other illegal tactics, but that we do understand the frustrations and conditions that would lead individuals to undertake such activity. Furthermore, we recognize that under our fluid system of autonomous affiliation through action, violent activity by individuals or groups affiliated with the network is entirely possible.
The positions represented in this text are intended for clarification and educational purposes only; they are not intended to either encourage or discourage anyone to do anything illegal.