Season of the Weird & Letters
Guns-R-Us

BY TIM PATTERSON

     On the 12th day of Christmas, the papers gave to me:

     Twelve drive-by spray jobs,
     Eleven looney loners,
     Ten tots a-wasted,
     Nine killer spouses,
     Eight bloody gang wars,
     Seven psycho shooters,
     Six Chuck-E-Cheese stiffs,
     Five parcel bombs;
     Four commuters down,
     Three dead cops,
     Two lethal jokes,
     And a mass murder at the Wal-Mart.
        *     *     *
     All in all, it made for a pretty grim holiday season.
There were stretches when the local news didn't have time
for anything but the daily death report, except maybe the
weather and the likely bowl matchups. Then the year-end
statistics started to roll in: 15,000 homicides last year,
12,000 of them with guns.
     Showing the indomitable spirit and instinctive good
sense that has always made America great, ordinary citizens
flocked to a grassroots movement...to buy more guns than
ever before. Civic activism isn't dead after all,
apparently. We finally hit the magic number; over 50 percent
of adults now own at least one gun, for a grand national
total of 200,000,000 firearms. Makes me sleep better at
night, knowing that an armed citizenry is the best defense
against tyranny.
     There were, however, some signs of a mass recognition
that guns really do kill people and that the level of
private firepower available in the U.S. is utterly insane.
Community outrage has begun to be heard and felt. After
being stalled for years, modest gun control measures are
starting to pass, even in places like Utah, testimony to the
sobering effect of the upsurge in everyday violence and the
declining clout of the National Rifle Association. Sen.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, always a man with his own
distinctive angle on things, has floated a plan to tax ammo
out of existence -- a far, far better thing for him to do
than beat up on welfare mothers.
     President Bill (I always refer to him by his first
name, since he's younger than I am) showed his usual flair
for courageous leadership by arranging a seasonal photo-op
as he headed into a duck blind, outfitted in a camouflage
suit, in hopes of proving that his signature on the Brady
Bill didn't mean he opposed "reasonable" gun use -- whatever
that is. Seems that President Bill's entire year's supply of
backbone got expended going to the mattresses on behalf of
the corporate crowd that wanted NAFTA so bad.
     Regular folks were a little more creative. In cities
across the country, exchange programs sprang up, offering to
trade guns, legal or otherwise, for other stuff, no
questions asked -- concert tickets, Toys-R-Us certificates,
sneakers, you name it. Judging from the response, this was
clearly an idea whose time had come. But I have to wonder
just what kind of folks this concept appeals to. Would you
really expect there to be thousands of people out there who
have been holding onto Uzis and Macs and assorted 9-
millimeter death rays, biding their time until they could
barter them for a complete set of Teenage Mutant Ninja
Turtles, or something in an 11-D hightop? Guess so; and
guess that's why I'm never going to make it as an
entrepreneur, let alone as a social critic.
     The success of the Guns-R-Us initiative, however, did
cause me to rethink my previous position on gun control,
which was, if you'll remember, to put the excess military
capacity of the country to work confiscating every last one
of them in a massive nationwide house-to-house search-and-
destroy mission. Instead, I now think it's time for the
ultimate '90s swap meet: Guns for drugs. I can see the
slogan up on billboards everywhere: "Stop the killing; just
get loaded at home!"
     I guarantee you it'd draw a crowd in my neighborhood.
     And I know just the person to oversee the program:
Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, who has already stepped in
it by having the nerve to raise the possibility of
legalization of drugs in public. Think of it; President Bill
could turn in his hunting rifle and finally have another
chance to inhale.
     Sure, this approach would create some problems of its
own, but that's true of any visionary social program. And
you have to admit, it's not nearly as disgusting as the
project that spent your tax dollars feeding radioactive
breakfast cereal to mentally retarded children while telling
their parents it was a "nutrition experiment" -- another
heart-warming story that surfaced during the holidays.
     In an effort to end this column on an upbeat note,
something that affirms the sanctity of life, let me draw
your attention to a front-page story that ran in the New
York Times on Christmas Day. It seems that scientists around
the world have rallied to save the life of the smallpox
virus. The last few vials of this deadly killer were slated
to be fried at the end of the year, since the disease itself
was officially eradicated from the world over a decade ago.
U.S. and Russian scientists argued persuasively that there
is still scientific value to be found in studying the
remaining specimens, dangerous though they may be.
     Which is more than can be said for the leadership of
the National Rifle Association and the members of Congress
they own.

RECONSTRUCTING THE LEFT
     We're hardly surprised to find out (again) that
CrossRoads readers are keenly interested in discussing ways
to renew the U.S. left. Nevertheless we were gratified at
the volume of mail received in response to our most recent
issue on "Reconstructing the Left." We've devoted extra
space to this month's letters column in order to publish as
many comments as possible; we invite readers to keep this
discussion going by sending in your thoughts for future
issues.

DSA: OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS
     In "Sound the Alarm" (CrossRoads No. 37), Mike Conan
and Carl Pinkston describe DSA as "plagued by difficulties."
They note in passing some of the major policy positions
adopted at the recent DSA national convention in Los Angeles
November 11-14, and then proceed to question whether any of
them will come to pass because "...DSA has a longstanding
problem in turning ideas to action; it is a nebulous group,
lacking a grassroots activist character, overwhelmingly
white and rooted mainly among academics and professionals."
They conclude on this note: "...DSA will continue to do
useful work, but is unlikely to be a rallying point for
socialist renewal."
     As a participant in the DSA convention, I must say that
my own perspective on DSA is considerably more upbeat. Yes,
DSA faces problems, but they are primarily problems of how
to deal with opportunity, not how to stave off defeat.
     First, the organization is financially solvent for the
first time ever, with membership contributions funding the
basic functions of the organization. Special projects still
need outside funding, and the staff is still tiny compared
to what it needs to be, but the base is solid.
     Second, this was the most unified convention ever, with
an emphasis on the practical and programmatic. We fully
recognized and lamented our weaknesses, and committed
ourselves to overcome them. We adopted concrete plans to
stimulate local activism and diversify local chapters,
specific plans to reach out to more women, youth and people
of color.
     The very structure of the weekend reflected this
orientation. Thursday was devoted to a DSA Organizing
Institute concentrating on local strategy and tactics. On
Friday night Cornel West and three local non-DSA activists
from the African American, Korean and Latino communities
dialogued on the prospects for progressive unity and action
before an amazingly diverse audience of 500 at a South-
Central L.A. church. It was a moving evening, hopefully only
the first of many "Breaking Bread" events in Los Angeles and
around the nation. Panel presentations on NAFTA, Politics in
the Clinton Era, and DSA's Strategy and Projects were
uniformly down to earth and result-oriented, with a minimum
of rhetoric.
     Delegates fully recognized the "crisis of socialism,"
but this convention chose to focus on the real opportunities
the left has now, for the first time in 12 years, to impact
policies in this country that affect people's lives,
sometimes even for the better, as in the current health care
debate. The election of Bill Clinton did make a difference,
for all his many shortcomings. (Incidentally, a motion on
"independent political action" was killed, in favor of a
motion to reaffirm DSA's current inside/outside strategy in
regard to the Democratic Party, with an emphasis on campaign
finance reform and support for insurgent candidates.)
     One amusing bit of evidence on the new situation for
the left in the Clinton era was provided by Cornel West
while speaking to the convention at lunch on Saturday.
Clinton invited Cornel to the White House after reading Race
Matters, and they spoke for several hours. Cornel reported
being quite flattered and impressed, but as the conversation
went on at length, found himself wondering "if this guy had
a day job."
     Purists may grumble that we are not after invitations
to the White House, and that is true. At the same time, my
sense of this convention was that the assembled DSA
delegates wanted to put debates about abstract theory behind
them and do a better job of affecting the actually existing
politics of the day. As Harold Meyerson pointed out at the
convention, FDR and LBJ were very similar to Clinton
politically, in that they were open to and were pushed by a
mass movement to make serious reforms. Our task today is to
push Clinton, and we can only do that by getting a lot of
non-socialists to help.
     As for socialist unity, most DSAers would say it's a
good thing, but it needs to be unity in action. DSA, and the
entire socialist left, is tiny compared to where it needs to
be, which is why DSA's continuing emphasis is on reaching
out to the not-yet-socialists on its "right." The issue was
not formally discussed during the proceedings.
     In keeping with the domestic focus on the convention,
very little discussion was devoted to foreign policy, in
contrast to a vigorous debate over the Gulf War two years
ago. Although partly by accident, this reflected a healthy
desire to focus on what we know, and to avoid windy
resolutions about a very complex and quickly changing
international arena. We did adopt an "Americas Project" to
strengthen our ties with our sister organizations in this
hemisphere, and passed motions to work on issues of fair
trade and immigration reform.
     On the minus side, the actual number of delegates
attending was smaller than hoped for, which was mainly
attributed to the expense and distance for people from the
East Coast and Midwest. The racial and gender composition on
panels was good, but the floor looked very white and male
(if not terribly academic!).
     To me, the experience of the convention shows that DSA
is grappling in a down to earth way with what it means to be
a democratic socialist in the U.S. in the 1990s, fighting
hard in the here and now while planning for the long run. We
have many weaknesses, but we also have some strengths. We
don't have many answers, but we have some pretty good
questions. Let's find the answers together. --Brad Jones,
Los Angeles; the author is a teacher and renters rights
activist, a member of the Executive Committee of L.A. DSA,
and a member of the CrossRoads Board of Directors.

IT'S DEMOCRACY
     Reacting to your lead-off articles on "Reconstructing
the Left" (CrossRoads No. 37), my feeling is your writers
are barking up the wrong tree. The issue now isn't
socialism, it's democracy.
     The place now where the rubber meets the road is the
fight to preserve and extend democracy. If that fight is not
won, in the future consideration of socialism will be as
dead as the study of the old Pharaonic kingdoms in ancient
Egypt.
     With all complexities peeled off, there are two
contending factions. Multinational corporations have a
program of using the less-developed countries as suppliers
of raw materials and preventing any local industrial
development, keeping wages down and living standards at the
present abysmal level. In the established industrial
societies their program is to break unions and all social
benefits now established and cut the costs of production.
For them the only significant figure is the bottom line. To
hell with people, environment or any of the "frills" people
have become accustomed to. To accomplish this they have to
disenfranchise the populations of both worlds. They will buy
politicians, the mass media or anything else needed. In the
less-developed countries they will simply use brute force to
smash any local efforts toward democracy.
     The weapon of labor and all progressive people is
democracy to combat this relentless drive of greed. The
governments must represent the people's needs for food,
health, housing, education and environmental protection. The
corporations and the rich must be taxed to provide money for
these social needs. This can be done if government is
democratically controlled.
     I remember the left upsurge in the '30s. We were in the
Republican Hoover-Coolidge Depression. People flocked to the
unions and the more far-seeing joined the Communist and
Socialist parties. There was no contradiction here, the
members of the left parties considered union-building their
main work, thus attracting many working people.
     At that time socialism in the USSR offered an
alternative to the rapacious capitalists. The workers
movement read its own desires into this socialism, not fully
understanding that Soviet socialism grew from Russian
feudalism keeping many of its dictatorial forms. This
socialism did many worthwhile things in its 70 years right
up to Gorbachev's time, but the bureaucracy it developed
stifled initiative to the point where its society was
uncompetitive and people demanded change.
     Our future under democracy must provide for people's
needs, jobs for those wanting to work at living wages,
opportunities for individuals with initiative to develop
their skills not at the expense of society. This may or may
not be socialism, but that is for future generations to
decide.
     The job today is to build democracy. We must dislodge
corporate control of our political machinery. We have to be
in every democratic movement. Unions must be built, civil
rights protected, racism fought. Battles for universal
health care, education, social security and environmental
protection will earn the support of the broad population and
make movements that will attract more support than a debate
over socialism. --Lloyd W. Lehman, Aptos, California

IT'S NOT POST-STRUCTURALISM
     Many thanks to Mel Rothenberg for his clearly written
and courageous discussion of a Marxist response to post-
structuralism (CrossRoads No. 37). This ideology, spreading
like an intellectual cancer through academia, has confused,
neutralized and misled a great number of otherwise
progressive intellectuals for almost two decades. With their
obscurantist jargon and cult-like devotion to their esoteric
truths, too many of our colleagues have resisted or been
incapable of constructive dialogue with the unconvinced.
     While its theoretical stance provides some fertile
ground for important discussions, post-structuralism, as an
ideology, is reactionary through and through. At a time when
the people on this planet are being joined, whether we like
it or not, in a global community of universal economic and
environmental concerns, it proclaims eternal fragmentation
and irreducible difference. At a time when a qualitative
advance in human consciousness is required to save this
earth and life on it, it proclaims a non-objectivity of
knowledge, the ephemerality of consciousness and the
impossibility of reason. At a time when capital has launched
an unprecedented drive to complete its global hegemony,
post-structuralism proclaims the nonexistence of an
historical force objectively opposed to capital.
     Not surprising, while the purveyors of this ideology
proclaim their radicalism and protest -- or boast -- of
their supposed marginalization, they enjoy considerable
access to academic jobs, university presses, major
publishers and a host of journals. Marxists, on the other
hand, have to content ourselves with CrossRoads and a small
handful of other outlets, and real marginalization from
academia.
     I appreciate Rothenberg's willingness to engage in
dialogue and to learn from the post-structuralist challenge.
The question of the existence and nature of the working
class is certainly a central one, and one that requires
further thought. I would ask Rothenberg to reconsider his
statement that "Marxists believe the working class is an
historical entity..". Is the "working class" really an
entity? Is it a definable sociological group? Here, the
post-structuralist critique of the metaphysical way of
assuming that its abstractions correspond to concrete
"entities" has something to offer. But rather than discard
the idea of the working class, perhaps we should search for
the concrete reality behind this concept in a different
form.
     "Labor" and "capital" are not entities, but forces and
internal relations of a humanity whose life process is
divided within itself. Their antagonism is not simply
manifest as a conflict between two demographic groups, but
is a nexus of forces and relations that permeates all of
human life. While capital and labor were embodied in fairly
clear social categories in the 19th century, the same may
not be true today. Marx suggested that as capitalism
developed, the working class would come to be the universal
class. We have to ask what this means and find new ways to
think about the composition of the revolutionary class.
     If "modernism" is the thesis and "post-modernism" the
antithesis, we need the synthesis, the transcendent
resolution. Let's not fear new and creative ways of
thinking. --Carl Shames, Kensington, California

IT'S NOT POST-MODERNISM
     Mel Rothenberg's discussion of post-structuralism and
post-modernism was right on the money. My guess is that the
influence of these trends on the left is a lot greater than
any of us might have realized. (Doesn't it seem that half
the workshops at the Socialist Scholars Conference in recent
years have been on Madonna videos or is that just my
imagination?)
     By the way, there are some interesting developments on
the post-structuralist front. Jacques Derrida came to New
York this fall and declared to his acolytes the importance
of "rediscovering" Marx. Apparently he has just completed a
book on Marx that will be available in English shortly.
Also, Gayatri Spivak, a leading defender of Derrida-thought,
has proclaimed in a recent essay that "It is indeed the
moment to reread Capital."
     People like Derrida and Spivak must be aware that post-
structuralism and post-modernism now seem rather pass‚, like
yellow power ties or arugula salads, since they are
intellectual fashions very much associated with the
capitalist suprematism that marked the late '80s. The fall
of the Berlin Wall and the pre-1987 Wall Street financial
explosion tended to inflate anti-Marxist thinking among
academic and literary circles. Susan Sontag's shift to the
right is typical of this trend. Now that the bloom has faded
from the post-Soviet rose and the capitalist world is in
disarray, many of the more intelligent post-structuralists
and post-modernists must be rethinking things if they want
to be taken seriously.
     So the question must be: what comes after post-
structuralism and post-modernism. I believe that Marxism
still has a lot to offer, provided it avoids the kind of
dogmatism that characterized it in the past. Here's hoping
that CrossRoads can provide a good example in this regard. -
-Louis Proyect, New York, New York

IT'S A THIRD PARTY
     With the "collapse" of the Stalinist models of
socialism in the last few years, the self-defined socialist
left in the U.S. has been grappling and groping for an
overarching project, a raison d'etre. CrossRoads magazine
and the Committees of Correspondence have been at the
forefront of efforts to regroup what's left of the left.
Fine. But what next? What now?
     According to a New York Times/CBS news poll released
last year, when asked, "Does this country need a new
political party to challenge the Democrats and
Republicans?", 58 per cent of those queried answered yes.
     Last year we hissed, dissed and dismissed Ross Perot,
who is moving to fill the void expressed by that 58 percent.
His 19 percent showing in the election proved that people
are hungering and hankering for any choice, any change.
Progressives have yet to put up anyone in his stead.
     This year it is amazing to see all the "progressive"
publications that called for a vote for Clinton now crying
out, "Clinton Has Betrayed the American People!" What a
surprise.
     The conclusion is that millions of people are hoping
for a new, progressive, political party in this country.
Half the populace doesn't vote, seeing no one that
represents their interests. A majority would like to see an
alternative to the Hobson's choice we face with the
Democrats and the Republicans, who will never allow the
locked out to be let in.
     The strategic goal of the left in this period should be
to lay the groundwork and effect the convergence of all the
different progressive groups calling for a new third party.
     There are the Greens (environmentalists), Labor Party
Advocates (unionists), NOW's 21st Century Party (feminists),
Project New Tomorrow (people of color), and the New Party,
all of which are calling for a new party. Because we don't
have proportional representation here, like they do in
Europe, where the Greens were able to make some inroads in
the '80s, we will need to unite before any of us have a
voice, and a choice
     The problem in the U.S. is that the enemy is unknown,
unnamed, and invisible, unlike other countries that have
made revolutions (the Czar: Russia; Batista: Cuba; the Shah:
Iran; Somoza: Nicaragua; Duvalier: Haiti; Marcos: the
Philippines). The enemy here is systemic. We, Marxists,
socialists, leftists, have to show other activists that we
will need to have a common program of struggle against a
common enemy. Otherwise, we will be five fingers flailing in
the wind instead of a fist.
     The FMLN in El Salvador merged from five different
parties. We can learn something from them. The New
Democratic Party of Canada, the Democratic Revolutionary
Party of Mexico, the Workers Party of Brazil, and the New
Zealand Alliance are all third party efforts that have
decisive social weight. We can learn something from them.
     Ben Franklin, our American forebear and another
experienced revolutionary, said it best. "We must hang
together or we will hang separately." We can learn something
from him.
     An American third party will probably not be avowedly
socialist, but broadly social-democratic, if we can even get
away with calling it that. Whereas "democratic socialist"
used to be considered redundant, now, with the dissolution
of the Stalinist regimes calling themselves socialist, it's
considered an oxymoron. Maybe we'll be called "progressive."
In that context, we'll have a key role to play in our call
for economic, in addition to political, democracy. Politics
operates within the parameters of the possible.
     We who remember the battles of the '30s and the '60s
have a wealth of information to pass on to the young people
of the '90s. This country has a longstanding revolutionary
tradition that has to be excavated, resuscitated,
rejuvenated, and revived, using American ethos and ideology
as a paradigm.
     So let's leave the quibbling over "socialism" and
"communism" to the armchair Marxists, and get on with the
task of creating a new, progressive, populist, popular third
party out of the disparate strands that now exist, and
before Perot fills the existing void. That should be our
premise and our promise. --Joyce Stoller, San Francisco

IT'S CLASS AND DIRECT ACTION
     I enjoyed reading the material in CrossRoads "Youth and
the Future of the Left" issue (No. 34), which articulated
the need for left organizations to break with the ways
they've marginalized and, yes, oppressed young people. The
articles are significant because they open up a new level of
discussion -- that of revolutionary strategy and its
relationship to organization -- that the left has shied away
from in recent years.
     In particular, Suzanne Forsyth Doran's piece, "Culture
of Control or Liberation," repeats some of the new left's
trenchant critiques of what we once called "the old left"
(though I'm not sure she is aware of that), and formulates
some new considerations as well. I was particularly struck
by her perceptive comments on the way language can be used
to create a clique, "encourag[ing] the use of `experts' who
must explain and interpret everything to their own members,
effectively removing rank-and-filers' ability to resolve
even the simplest questions themselves." That sort of
"education," Doran writes, undermines "the development of
radical consciousness and a commitment to active
participation in social change precisely because it
duplicates the dominant society's pressure towards
conformity and passivity." Extremely well put. Perhaps
Suzanne and other interested readers would enjoy Marge
Piercy's old essay, "Grand Coolie Dam." Also, Marja's essay,
"Monogamy Blues and the Left" (in Red Balloon Magazine,
Spring 1988), offers more food for thought along these
themes.
     There are some areas, however, where I disagree with
Suzanne. Where she writes, "The under-representation of
youth is not an isolated phenomenon. It is symptomatic of a
general weakness...failure to integrate women, members of
oppressed nationalities, and gays and lesbians within the
ranks and leadership," the absence of both "class" and
"race" from her analysis is visceral. It's not merely that
they were overlooked and could readily be added to the
"laundry list" of oppressions. Rather, their absence
reflects a moralistic way of seeing the world -- as a
sociology of oppressions, which fails to appreciate the
centrality of class exploitation to capitalism, sexual
domination to patriarchy, and white supremacy to imperialism
and the accumulation of capital.
     Suzanne's way of framing the problem is unfortunately
reminiscent of sociology courses in U.S. colleges, which
define oppression as a "strata" or "identity" demarcated by
a quantitative lack of something: homeless people are
homeless because they don't have enough money; workers are
oppressed because they can't afford to buy enough goods;
etc. In contrast, a Marxist analysis sees class, and thus
"oppression," differently; oppression (and class) is, along
with exploitation and alienation, a social relationship
inherent in the process of production and reproduction of
capitalism itself, not a hierarchy of affluence, poverty or
privilege based on purchasing power as consumers.
     Of course one can't help but affect the other. But our
job, as radicals engaged in overthrowing
capitalism/patriarchy and transforming all the conditions of
daily life, is not primarily to "incorporate and address the
experiences of people who suffer most from oppression," as
Suzanne believes (though, to be clear, I am certainly not
against doing that).
     Through the lens of the market, asserting a "hierarchy
of oppressions" based on lack of goods and privileges is
always rather arbitrary. Which indices should one compare?
In that quantified framework, workers as workers are not
necessarily the most oppressed. They/we are not usually the
worst off in capitalism. And yet, only class revolution can
overthrow capitalism.
     The sheer power of a Marxist class analysis in
explaining the pushes, pulls, tensions and contradictions in
capitalism, on the other hand, cannot be reached via the
sociology route, nor through that of its cousin, "identity
politics." The division into classes in capitalism is not
just a problem of some accumulating more goods, privileges,
power and services than others, but over others. That
exploitative (rather than simply uneven or unfair)
relationship defines the system. Someone, or some force, or
some system, is materially benefitting from the
exploitation/oppression/alienation of the working class,
which would not exist, as a class, without the multi-level
enforcement of that whole set-up.
     In a famous passage from Socialism and Revolution (at
least famous for the new left; the old left never heard of
him, as usual), Andre Gorz wrote 25 years ago:
     "Obviously, the natural subject of revolution is, first
of all, the most oppressed sector of the working class
because its liberation depends upon total subversion at all
levels of the present order. This, however, does not mean
that the most oppressed sector can and must be the main
bearer of revolutionary ideology, its actual
vanguard....Domination produces an ideology that justifies
domination as natural and necessary and makes non-acceptance
of it a crime. The deeper the oppression, the greater the
inability of the oppressed to think of themselves as
possible subjects and agents of their own liberation...own."
     To say that our job is not necessarily to organize the
most oppressed is not meant as a denunciation of the various
social movements. I myself am deeply involved in many of
them as my arrest record indicates. But capitalism -- which
is defined by class relationships over the ownership and
control of certain forms of property and the sale for a wage
of one's ability to work -- requires, precisely because it
is so defined, class-based movements to transform those
property relations and the system based on them.
     My other main (and related) difference with Suzanne
Doran's otherwise excellent essay is over its way of framing
our role: to "build a mass-based movement," to "motivate
youth, women or oppressed minorities [again, class is
invisible] to join in struggle." I see it differently.
Movements erupt continuously. In general, a leftist doesn't
change someone else's consciousness; people do that for
themselves, as they find themselves in new situations. Our
task, as radicals, is to develop the new society within the
belly of the old. Our strategies, unlike those of the old
left, must compel the formation of communities of resistance
and nurturance through which people act directly to express
their subversive relationship to the existing capitalist
aesthetic, ways of relating, exploitation, alienation and
oppression.
     Direct action, as strategy, is necessary for our own
development, to begin reclaiming bits and pieces of our own
lives. Direct action as strategy guides us in how to go
about doing everything: How we feed each other, raise
children, produce goods, attack the system, set up guerrilla
clinics to provide alternative health care, take over
abandoned buildings, train to protect ourselves from
rapists, muggers and violent police attacks (at home, or
against imperialist forays abroad), provide for our common
defense, circulate underground newspapers and videos, and
communicate and network.
     Temporary communities of resistance and nurturance --
the formations that most encourage individual self-
development within the larger collectivity -- spring up and
die out continuously. Every struggle generates nodal points
at which time direct action communities of resistance and
nurturance can, potentially, blossom, combine and vie with
the existing institutions and social relations to determine
in which ways everyday life will be re-organized. The
problem for the left is to figure out how to sustain such
moments of "dual power," and to intervene in those arenas
that seem to hold the most potential at any particular time
for giving rise to and sustaining those communities -- a far
different understanding of the role of revolutionaries than
held by most of the left, which sees its role as raising
consciousness of others.
     The primary task of revolutionaries in the U.S. today
is to: (1) solid-up the tiny slivers of resistance --
embryonic "liberated zones" -- wherever they develop,
wherever people are acting directly to accomplish even the
tiniest seemingly non-political thing for themselves; (2)
where necessary create them where they don't arise on their
own (which could border on "vanguardism," an all-too-
prevalent trap which we must guard against); and, (3)
encourage and facilitate networking, cooperation and
councils among them -- in some ways, more an artistic
project than a traditionally-conceived "political" one,
given the limited dimension of what is typically considered
to be "political" these days.
     Clearly, there is an art to insurrection, an aesthetic
to deflecting the crushing blows of capital and amplifying
its dissonance until it fractures as a result of its own
vibrations. Discussions of radical strategy and vision must
overthrow the old "build up the movement/consciousness
raising" paradigm and focus on direct action, as strategy.
Direct action communities of resistance and nurturance are
crystals of collective self-development and empowerment
through which the new world hums. --Mitchel Cohen, Red
Balloon Collective, New York, New York