2011 and beyond… the strategy of Beyond Resistance

In Aotearoa, as around the world, the effects of capitalism are being felt more than ever. In the workplace we face individualised contracts, casualised labour, and a range of anti-worker laws designed to erode collective resistance. Where unions do exist they are ineffective and mirror the very structures that diffuse real power in the first place. The unemployed and those on benefits have experienced massive cuts to their only means of survival, while entire communities are being gentrified by developers, councils and landlords who place profit before people.

The forces of capitalism and the state aside, we live in a society used to the delegation of power to someone else. By giving up power to that of a representative (politician, community bureaucrat or union official) who will supposedly act on our behalf, the practice of self-organisation and collective action needed for meaningful change is lost.

The position of Beyond Resistance is that in order to challenge these conditions, it is necessary to struggle in a way that encourages the building of collective power and self-activity. To do this, strategy and tactics must be applied. We need to know our long term objectives and how to overcome obstacles — the end being to weaken our class enemy, strengthen organs of self-management and take concrete, tactical steps that bring us closer to breaking with the current system.

Propaganda is necessary to build a visible and vibrant working class movement. But it cannot be the exclusive focus of our efforts. Propaganda cannot determine one’s needs; it is one’s needs that should determine propaganda. With this in mind, we must be able to offer constructive and practical action based on our ideas, our methods, and our goals. We must move away from single-issue activism towards a constructive anarchism based on organisation and long-term struggle. Therefore, Beyond Resistance seeks to implement the strategy put forward below.

A dual power strategy

The focus of our organising should be to facilitate the building of dual power. Dual power refers to a state of affairs in which working class power poses a direct challenge to the State and threatens to replace it as the accepted power in society. To do this involves creating the embryo of the new world while fighting the current one — ‘building the new in the shell of the old’. By encouraging direct control of struggles by those in struggle, the practice of non-hierarchical workplace and community assemblies, and collective decision-making, we can facilitate the growth of a culture of resistance and begin to confront the uneven power dynamics under capitalism.

Put simply, the way we organise our struggles and the way we relate to others during those struggles helps build a new power, which will one day destabalise and confront the current power held by the capitalist class. By doing this we not only oppose the state, we also prepare ourselves for the difficult questions and confrontations that will arise in a revolutionary situation.

Running a collective for food distribution or a radical bookshop, while having its own value, does not confront wider social relations. Dual power is not just building counter institutions that will magically grow within capitalism and replace it once it is gone. Such counter-institutions may collectively manage a resource and practice new forms of organization (both valuable things), but on their own they are not enough to bring about radical, social change. The State will not peacefully relinquish power to such institutions. Rather, those in power will try their best to destroy them using whatever coercion and force is necessary. This is because dual power directly challenges to the legitimacy of the State. A situation where two social forms compete for legitimacy is inherently unstable — one or the other must prevail eventually. Therefore dual power is both creative (in building new forms of social relations), and destructive (to confront and replace capitalist social relations and the power of the state).

Single-issue campaigns may be important, but if they do not work towards building dual power they should not be the focus of our collective efforts as an organisation. Campaigns that do not contribute toward the building of dual power should be seriously analysed and evaluated. If a popular protest movement has little hope of building dual power, it is not one we should spend energy on as a collective. We may morally and politically approve of such movements and participate individually, but as a small group with limited resources we must reject the liberalism of activism and concern ourselves with our own organising.

A revolutionary feminist perspective

From our Aims & Principles:

We reject patriarchy and fight for the empowerment and liberation of women. We stand in solidarity with feminist struggles, and believe that actively challenging the personal and interpersonal manifestations of patriarchy is equally as important as working towards structural changes. Both need to happen together to create a new society free of male domination.

With this in mind, Beyond Resistance aims to have a revolutionary feminist perspective, in several ways. Firstly, we need a revolutionary feminist analysis of our society that challenges male dominance, compulsory heterosexuality, and the binary gender system. Secondly, our internal operations (organizing structure, roles and responsibilities, meeting procedures, decision making, etc.) must ensure women’s participation and be strongly aware of practices that tend to favour men’s voices over women’s, and we must work to overcome them. Thirdly, we must not neglect revolutionary feminist political struggle, particularly those kinds which connect struggles against sexism with the class struggle and building dual power. Finally, our future vision must be feminist. It should imagine a world not only without sexism or homophobia but one in which gender relations are completely transformed and liberated. Toward this end, we recognise resistance to masculine/feminine gender borders and encourage people to critique and explore their desires rather than repress them.

Tino Rangatiratanga

Racist structures, actions and ideas mean that Maori are over-represented in the most exploited parts of the working class. As a result, class struggle is necessary to Maori self-determination. However Maori are also oppressed and exploited as Maori, since Maori land, economy, language, laws, arts and spiritual traditions (etc), have been repressed, but also taken and used for the benefit of capitalism and white supremacy.

Therefore Anarchist strategy and activity in Aotearoa must recognize the ongoing history of indigenous self-organisation and resistance to both capitalism and colonization. It would be detrimental to ignore the very real past of colonisation and forms of Maori protest against it — as contradictory as this may seem to Eurocentric anarchist traditions. Cultural diversity and self-determination does not have to imply nationalism and a nation state, therefore Beyond Resistance aims to support, engage with, and learn from grassroots indigenous struggle in Aotearoa.

As a group focused on class struggle, what we have to offer is a critique of corporate and representative approaches to social change.  We aim to work alongside grassroots Maori struggle in Aotearoa and develop our understanding of the links between colonization and class exploitation. We support the need for Maori to struggle as Maori, with Maori, and on Maori terms, and realise that it is not up to Pakeha to tell Maori what is best for them, for this is the continuation of white supremacy.

“If the anarchist approach to social change requires means and ends to be linked… any progressive steps forward require those concerned to walk softly, respectfully, patiently and sensitively, with a willingness to engage, share ideas, listen and learn. Unless you want the cycle of oppression to continue to suit your ideas, Indigenous perspectives and collaboration must be key in shaping strategies for progressive social change…” — From ‘Racism, Xenophobia & White Privilege’

Strategy in practice

Rather than rally people around a particular issue (an activist approach), we believe the pressing task ahead is to build relationships between people in order to transform power dynamics. The issues and concerns need to be defined by people themselves. Anarchist organizing should facilitate people’s ability to tackle these concerns, and encourage collective action to create change and to build dual power. Being involved in our own workplace and community struggles, building solidarity networks, and encouraging collective decision making in public and inclusive spaces are ways of putting anarchist communism — or more specifically, our strategy — into practice.

Solidarity networks

Solidarity networks are networks of people who support the ideas of direct action, solidarity, collective decision-making and self-organisation. Such networks span across different communities and different workplaces (regardless of unions or not), in order to support and connect struggles and build collective action. Networks try to bring anyone affected by an issue together to collectively discuss the issue, regardless of union membership, place of employment, gender, race or age. The key is the self-activity of all of those concerned, to widen the fight, and encourage a state of permanent dialogue.

Solidarity networks offer important support to those who are isolated (such as sub-contractors, temps, causal workers, the unemployed and those at home) and help build a sense of community. They act as an important source of skill sharing and education — doing all the useful things the current unions do (acting as source of advice, sharing knowledge on labour law, foster solidarity etc) while critiquing their legalist and bureaucratic frameworks. Importantly, they are not limited to the workplace.

By promoting direct action and solidarity, putting across anarchist ideas and offering practical examples of those ideas in practice, we would hopefully start to build a culture of resistance. This is vastly different to the current representative unions or community boards, whose unaccountable officials take it on themselves to control the fight and steer it along an acceptable path. By practicing and promoting mass meetings in times of struggle, we plant the seeds of ongoing, relevant forms of resistance which empower all of those effected — not just network members, but those who aren’t members of the network and who may never want to be.

Assemblies

As anarchist organisers, our roles should be to put forward explicitly anarchist ideas and, where possible, call for open assemblies during workplace or community struggles.

Assemblies are a way of building forums in which we collectively organize struggle and take collective action, rather than individual or representative solutions. As such, it is a means of directly involving everyone in struggle and to collectively solve the problems we face. Politics, therefore, is not separated into a specialised activity that only certain people do. By organising our own forms of direct action (such as workplace direct action, rent strikes and other activity) we weaken the social dynamics currently upheld by capitalism and point to a different kind of power — one that encourages the collective, working class power of the future.

It is also a way of keeping politicians or others in check, and helps prevent struggles being co-opted for personal gain. Having power reside at the widest base, and having recallable delegates answerable directly to those involved provides greater accountability, and makes it harder for someone to sidetrack or control the direction of the struggle.

Sadly, the lack of community and collective forums means such assemblies are far from common (even more so outside of struggle). While public and inclusive decision making forums are the goal, we realise that such forums may not be applicable in certain situations (especially in tense workplace conditions, in which case such a strategy would only work after a long period of discreet agitation). Instead, revolutionary, self-managed assemblies should be viewed as the ideal forum to work towards, and not a one-step solution.

Historically, in times of hightened class struggle, such forms of decision-making have appeared spontaneously and without outside influence. By encouraging such forms in the here and now, we plant the seeds of revolution which can only truly blossom during times of mass, social struggle. This is the role of anarchists as revolutionary organisers, and the goal of Beyond Resistance.

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