Tips for Radicals

Aiming to be a "blog of the gaps" to cover things that other radical blogs often miss — what we want, our journey there, and issues along the way.

To help you searching the blog, I use the following tags to categorise posts:

  • theory - ways of structuring the world
  • strategy - plans to achieve the theories
  • tools - specific ways to (help) achieve the strategy
  • tips - advice that could help you in your life and action
  • examples and analysis of existing campaigns

For more info, see the about this blog page.

Please send in your own blog posts, links, comments, or article ideas either as a submission or an ask - always welcome.
"if you don't have a strategy, you're part of someone else's strategy."
– a. toffler

"What can we do today, so that tomorrow we can do what we are unable to do today?"
– Paulo Freire


I also run a more scatter-shot blog full of incoherent rants and tumblr arguments. Sorry about that.

Recent Tweets @

Anarchist Affinity:
How is anarchism still relevant in the world today? What do anarchist ideas about strategy and tactics have to offer people active in social movements today?

Michael Schmidt:
I’d say there are several ways in which anarchism is relevant today:

1) It provides the most comprehensive intersectoral critique of not just capital and the state; but all forms of domination and exploitation relating to class, gender, race, colour, ethnicity, creed, ability, sexuality and so forth, implacably confronting grand public enemies such as war-mongering imperialism and intimate ones such as patriarchy. It is not the only ideology to do this, but is certainly the main consistently freethinking socialist approach to such matters.

2) With 15 decades of militant action behind it, it provides a toolkit of tried-and proven tactics for resistance in the direst of circumstances, and, has often risen above those circumstances to decentralise power to the people. These tactics include oppressed class self-management, direct democracy, equality, mutual aid, and a range of methods based in the conception that the means we use to resist determine the nature of our outcomes. The global anti-capitalist movement of today is heavily indebted to anarchist ethics and tactics for its internal democracy, flexibility, and its humanity.

3) Strategically, we see these tactics as rooted in direct democracy, equality, and horizontal confederalism (today called the “network of networks”), in particular in the submission of specific (self-constituted) anarchist organisations to the oversight of their communities, which then engage in collective decision-making that is consultative and responsible to those communities. It was the local District Committees, Cultural Centres, Consumer Co-operatives, Modern Schools, and Prisoner-support Groups during the Spanish Revolution that linked the great CNT union confederation and its Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) allies to the communities they worked within: the militia that fought on the frontlines against fascism, and the unions that produced all social wealth would have been rudderless and anchorless without this crucial social layer to give them grounding and direction. In order to have a social revolution of human scale, we submit our actions to the real live humans of the society that we work within: this is our vision of “socialism”.

In sum, anarchism’s “leaderless resistance” is about the ideas and practices that offer communities tools for achieving their freedom, and not about dominating that resistance. Anarchists ideally are fighting for a free world, not an anarchist world, one in which even conservatives will be freed of their statist, capitalist and social bondage to discover new ways of living in community with the rest of us.

It will, of course, be said that such a scheme as is set forth here is quite unpractical, and goes against human nature. This is perfectly true. It is unpractical, and it goes against human nature. This is why it is worth carrying out, and that is why one proposes it. For what is a practical scheme? A practical scheme is either a scheme that is already in existence, or a scheme that could be carried out under existing conditions. But it is exactly the existing conditions that one objects to; and any scheme that could accept these conditions is wrong and foolish. The conditions will be done away with, and human nature will change. The only thing that one really knows about human nature is that it changes. Change is the one quality we can predicate of it. The systems that fail are those that rely on the permanency of human nature, and not on its growth and development. The error of Louis XIV was that he thought human nature would always be the same. The result of his error was the French Revolution.

Oscar Wilde had a knack for saying things perfectly (via class-struggle-anarchism)

This is such a great summary of why calls to “be realistic” are such bullshit.

Great interview with David Harvey, going over how capitalism sustains itself, creates poverty, and reacts to movements that challenge it.

universalequalityisinevitable:

Peter Joseph on structural violence, from this video.

(via ragemovement)

dagwolf:

tanacetum-vulgare:

The Student Union of Michigan ran an interview last week about a gutsy move by six Duke graduate students: For the past two years, they have collectivized wages. That is, they take their “stipends” (university-speak for “paychecks,” a sleight of verbiage that gets universities out of all sorts of labor laws) and put them into one big bank account. This way, for example, if you have an engineering student who makes a whopping $25,000 a year because he’s got summer funding, he or she subsidizes the medieval historian with two kids who gets only a swift kick in the groin from June to September.

The idea that $25k/yr is “whopping” is pretty funny, but this is fantastic. 

Collectivized wages in a department is great and all, not that it would ever happen. Can you imagine the lump of coal that’s been refusing to retire putting his earnings into the same account as the young fellows?

This would be great. I do have the feeling that if this were to become a trend the schools would find a way to profit from it by increasingly exploiting labor for less pay and benefits. Cool story, tho.

I am right now cracking up imagining some of the privileged shits I went to school with sharing funds. I mean, they didn’t even want to share their space with specific writers. Who belonged and who didn’t was a big deal at my school. Financially speaking, my friend, D, could have used something like this. He was strapped. I could have, too. I could have gotten out of a shitty relationship a lot sooner. But several of our colleagues were already well off, and I’m sure would want to opt out. We had a hard time getting a grad student org up and running. I can only imagine what this would have done. Still. I’d do it. I’d live in a commune. I’d off to a squat right now if I could. (Nothing like that for us in Seoul.) Share my books and records and food and money and clothes—that’s all i got—with all of you. I don’t think that’s what this is all about, though.

Then again, as collectivized a life as I’d like to live, I have trust issues and maybe they’re showing in my emotional response to this. Boohoo, I’m damaged.

This is cute!

novaramedia:

Aaron Bastani questions the leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett, on the rise of UKIP, human-made climate change and the proposal for a guaranteed basic income.

Sections:
0:06 - The Long Recession
02:08 - UKIP
05:06 - Cost of living crisis
08:38 - The Floods
10:49 - Basic Income
12:28 - The party form

Interviewer: Aaron Bastani @AaronBastani
Camera/Edit: Ralph Pritchard @RalphPritchard

Interesting insight to how the Green Party sees themselves (as the “political wing” of the rest of us, basically).

I definitely notice a desire in climate justice circles, with their oh-so-common formal NGO media training hats on, to be more “certain” and “unequivocal” - because otherwise it’s “confusing” or “it dilutes our message”.

However, I feel like the overuse of certainty (“climate change caused flood/war/famine”) - especially in headlines - creates an over-expectation for future certainty. When we can’t deliver this, our fundamental point is undermined.

Be careful, y’all.

Amazing review of the book I’m reading now, which lays out the theory of “border imperialism”, but more importantly is chock full of useful organising tips and idea about strategy.

Undoing Border Imperialism is not just for those doing migrant justice work. The lessons learned from organizers in the various NOII groups can be applied to those involved in any form of social justice organizing.” - I could not agree more.

One would think a government that has inflicted such suffering on those with the least resources to resist, without even turning the economy around, would have been at risk of political suicide. Instead, the basic logic of austerity has been accepted by almost everyone. Why? Why do politicians promising continued suffering win any working-class acquiescence, let alone support, at all?

I think the very incredulity with which I began provides a partial answer. Working-class people may be, as we’re ceaselessly reminded, less meticulous about matters of law and propriety than their “betters”, but they’re also much less self-obsessed. They care more about their friends, families and communities. In aggregate, at least, they’re just fundamentally nicer.

To some degree this seems to reflect a universal sociological law. Feminists have long since pointed out that those on the bottom of any unequal social arrangement tend to think about, and therefore care about, those on top more than those on top think about, or care about, them. Women everywhere tend to think and know more about men’s lives than men do about women, just as black people know more about white people’s, employees about employers’, and the poor about the rich.

And humans being the empathetic creatures that they are, knowledge leads to compassion. The rich and powerful, meanwhile, can remain oblivious and uncaring, because they can afford to. Numerous psychological studies have recently confirmed this. Those born to working-class families invariably score far better at tests of gauging others’ feelings than scions of the rich, or professional classes. In a way it’s hardly surprising. After all, this is what being “powerful” is largely about: not having to pay a lot of attention to what those around one are thinking and feeling. The powerful employ others to do that for them.

And who do they employ? Mainly children of the working classes. Here I believe we tend to be so blinded by an obsession with (dare I say, romanticisation of?) factory labour as our paradigm for “real work” that we have forgotten what most human labour actually consists of.

Even in the days of Karl Marx or Charles Dickens, working-class neighbourhoods housed far more maids, bootblacks, dustmen, cooks, nurses, cabbies, schoolteachers, prostitutes and costermongers than employees in coal mines, textile mills or iron foundries. All the more so today. What we think of as archetypally women’s work – looking after people, seeing to their wants and needs, explaining, reassuring, anticipating what the boss wants or is thinking, not to mention caring for, monitoring, and maintaining plants, animals, machines, and other objects – accounts for a far greater proportion of what working-class people do when they’re working than hammering, carving, hoisting, or harvesting things.

This is true not only because most working-class people are women (since most people in general are women), but because we have a skewed view even of what men do. As striking tube workers recently had to explain to indignant commuters, “ticket takers” don’t in fact spend most of their time taking tickets: they spend most of their time explaining things, fixing things, finding lost children, and taking care of the old, sick and confused.

If you think about it, is this not what life is basically about? Human beings are projects of mutual creation. Most of the work we do is on each other. The working classes just do a disproportionate share. They are the caring classes, and always have been. It is just the incessant demonisation directed at the poor by those who benefit from their caring labour that makes it difficult, in a public forum such as this, to acknowledge it.

As the child of a working-class family, I can attest this is what we were actually proud of. We were constantly being told that work is a virtue in itself – it shapes character or somesuch – but nobody believed that. Most of us felt work was best avoided, that is, unless it benefited others. But of work that did, whether it meant building bridges or emptying bedpans, you could be rightly proud. And there was something else we were definitely proud of: that we were the kind of people who took care of each other. That’s what set us apart from the rich who, as far as most of us could make out, could half the time barely bring themselves to care about their own children.

There is a reason why the ultimate bourgeois virtue is thrift, and the ultimate working-class virtue is solidarity. Yet this is precisely the rope from which that class is currently suspended. There was a time when caring for one’s community could mean fighting for the working class itself. Back in those days we used to talk about “social progress”. Today we are seeing the effects of a relentless war against the very idea of working-class politics or working-class community. That has left most working people with little way to express that care except to direct it towards some manufactured abstraction: “our grandchildren”; “the nation”; whether through jingoist patriotism or appeals to collective sacrifice.

As a result everything is thrown into reverse. Generations of political manipulation have finally turned that sense of solidarity into a scourge. Our caring has been weaponised against us. And so it is likely to remain until the left, which claims to speak for labourers, begins to think seriously and strategically about what most labour actually consists of, and what those who engage in it actually think is virtuous about it.

Great piece from the UK-based Edge Fund, which has some really key differences with other funders:

  • No need to promise that you will spend the money you get on any one thing
  • No need to report back “how the money was used” in any way
  • Funding is given to groups even if they’re informal, radical, or use direct action.
  • Decisions to support groups from oppressed communities are led by those communities.
  • Decisions to support groups are made collectively by all members, including many past recipients of funding.

Such a great organisation!