Claim No Easy Victories: Anarchist Analysis Of ARA

Claim No Easy Victories:

An Anarchist Analysis of ARA and its
Contributions to the Building of a Radical Anti-Racist Movement

by Rory McGowan, BRICK
Collective (FRAC-GL)

GO: Whenever
fascists are organizing or active in public, we're there. We don't believe in
ignoring them. Never let the nazis have the streets!

THE COPS OR THE COURTS TO DO OUR WORK FOR US: This doesn't mean we never go to
court. But we must rely on ourselves to protect ourselves and stop the

DEFENSE OF OTHER ANTI-FASCISTS: In ARA, we have lots of different groups and individuals.
We don't agree about everything and we have the right to differ openly. But in
this movement an attack on one is an attack on us all. We stand behind each

necessary to build a broad, strong movement against racism, sexism,
anti-Semitism, homophobia, discrimination against the disabled, the oldest, the
youngest and the most oppressed people. WE INTEND TO WIN!

-Anti-Racist Action's
'Points of Unity'

The current climate of war
and repression is foisting on us an urgent need to try and decipher what in
hell is happening. Questions of capitalist restructuring and expansion,
occupation, white supremacy, racism, white privilege and fascism are all topics
being raised in anarchist circles. Questions, that are of the utmost importance
in our developing of a fighting movement that can intervene in struggles that
are breaking out, or soon will.

Without veering too far
into negativity, it must be said that for much of the North American anarchist
movement, we are short on theory and much of an analysis of historical
conditions and developments. While there is growth and promise, we still have
an uphill journey. Partly because the current anarchist movement is quite young
in age and does not have a solid connection with any historical lineage - no
institutions or infrastructure that we can claim some linear connection to, not
much living history that is explicitly anarchist and maps out decisions or
breaks made for the political or social advancement of our groups and people in
struggle. However, this isn't to say we haven't participated in any way or that
we're short on experience. Since the mid 1980's the North American anarchist
scene/movement has been developing collectively and taking part in struggles
that, when examined, can give lessons to build on. We are young, but we have
been a part of many not-so-insignificant projects and battles. Looking back
wards from recent direct action against the war, to the globalization protests,
to political prisoner/prison abolition work, to Zapatista support, to further
back with anti-apartheid work and solidarity with people of color and the
oppressed, including Black and Native struggles, looking at this it is clear
anarchists have sought to develop ourselves by learning from and being real
participants in these many fights.

It is in these struggles
that we can gage our success and failings, and with the formation of critical
perspectives, applied and integrated into our work, we may be in better
positions to identify, defend, and help generate more autonomous and
potentially insurrectionary action.

For fourteen years the work
of ARA has been to popularize the ideas of direct action in the fight against
racism. Along the way ARA's own internal development has meant connecting
racism to other struggles against oppression, from the pro-choice and
anti-patriarchal organizing to pro-queer struggles to emphasizing the continual
need for participation and initiative in political direction from young people.
While there is no single, homogenous, ARA political line beyond ARA's 'Points of Unity', generally, ARA has and continues to be an anti-authoritarian arena
for debate and action around the connectedness of various forms of oppression.
This allows for an experimentation and self-activity essential to the
development of a conscious movement outside of the control and direction of the
State. Constructing organizations and movements at the grassroots can be
instructive in both the difficulties and simultaneously the radical potentials
of people in action.

And that is what we need.
From a revolutionary perspective, we need movements that can challenge peoples
notions of what is possible and then sketch out in our heads what its going to
take to make our endeavors succeed. Is ARA such a movement? Is the work done by
ARA building towards an actual radical opposition movement? Is that even the
intention of ARA? After forteen years what has ARA's contribution been? And
what has been the contribution of anarchists within ARA? If we find in ARA the
elements that are essential components of a movement capable of influencing the
emergence of radical currents, is ARA up to the challenge of understanding and
building on these elements.

These questions represent a
kind of "ruler" that I think we size up ARA with, and provide a
context for discussion. While I hope this article answers these questions, I am
prepared to admit that it only scratches the surface and prompts more questions
than it satisfies (but this isn't a bad thing). If ARA is to be relevant it's
got to be constantly subjected to a critical assessment of its work, from outside
and from within. And in regard to the broader discussion of where we
revolutionary anarchists see organizing potentials and lessons to be learnt,
then ARA may be as good a starting point then most anything our movement has
been connected to.

To best access the impact
ARA has had and what role it could play in the future, it could be helpful to
look at its past and development. From starting as an organization of
anti-racist Skinhead crews in the late 1980's, to remaking itself into a
political movement of nearly two thousand during the mid 1990's, and ending
with the current period of the ARA movements life.


ARA originally came out of
the efforts of Minneapolis anti-racist skinheads to create an organization that
could combat the presence of nazi skinheads in their city and its neighboring
city, St. Paul. The Baldies, a multi-racial skinhead crew having members of
black, white, Asian, and Native American origins, was fighting the Nazi
skinhead group, the White Knights, and had set a code within the local punk and
skinhead scenes: if Baldies came upon White Knights at shows, in the streets
downtown, or wherever, the nazis were warned once. If Baldies came across the
nazis again, then the nazis could expect to be attacked, or served some of what
the Baldies called "Righteous Violence."

While the Baldies actions
went a long way to limiting the presence and organizing efforts of nazis in the
Twin Cities areas, the Baldies realized that a successful drive against the
nazis would mean having to form a broader group that appealed to kids other
than just Skins; ARA was that group. However, the attempt to make ARA into a
group beyond the Baldies was met with limited success, and ARA remained
predominantly skinhead.

But the experience of the
Baldies was not limited to Minneapolis alone. Across the Midwest, nazi activity
was growing and anti-racist Skinheads were organizing in similar ways to what
the Baldies had done. Soon, these different anti-racist skinhead crews were meeting
up with each other and deciding to create a united organization of anti-racist
skinhead crews. ARA as a name was adopted and a brief network of the crews was
formed: the Syndicate.

Like Minneapolis, Chicago
had multi-racial crews. These ARA skins were generally left-wing sympathetic
and in Chicago it was not uncommon to find some Skins warming to Black
liberation/Nationalist ideas. And it was not just racist and nazi ideas that
were confronted. The Chicago ARA crew banned the wearing of American flags
patches on jackets on bomber jackets (a standard piece of the Skin attire). At
this point in time this was a rather significant step in Skinhead circles.
While many Skinheads could claim to be "anti-racist", a vast majority
also were ProAmS (Pro American Skins). It was generally unheard of to find
whole crews of Skinheads rejecting patriotic trappings. Many ARA skins took
their cue from the words of groups like Public Enemy, America was a racist
nightmare and the Stars and Stripes a symbol for, "...a land that never
gave a damn."

The success of ARA could be
found in its being a truly organic product of a youth culture. Young people, in
this example Skinheads, were creating a group that was explicitly anti-racist
and sought to confront and shut out the nazi presence in the scenes
specifically and the cities generally. ARA as an idea was made a pole to rally
around and as an actual body of people it fought for "turf" and the
establishment of a type of hegemony - lines were drawn and you had to choose
where you stood. From putting on music shows, to producing zines and
literature, to holding conferences where people could meet up and hang out
while simultaneously trying to build an actual political project capable of
fighting and winning.

However, ARA had many
weaknesses' that would lead to this initial incarnation having to be
"reformed.". ARA was at this point predominantly male, and despite the
growing political consciousness and understanding that ARA needed to be more
than just a Skinhead group, the emphasis placed on physical confrontation and
violence often breed a mentality where in the end, ARA was only about beating
down the nazis. Larger political concerns became subordinate to the internal
scene life. Women in the ARA groups saw double standards. While emphasis was
placed on combating the oppression of racism, sexism ran rampant. Several women
would leave ARA to look for a politic that dealt more fundamentally with
Patriarchy. Some left in plain disgust at the macho behavior of some ARA men.
Other women decided to stay in the movement and challenge the behavior and
attempt to integrate radical and feminist ideas into the core politics of ARA.
The decision by these women to stay was based on the realization that there
were few other organizations existing that were as radical and militant. ARA
had managed to attract a number of dedicated and determined individuals and
this encouraged the idea that it was possible to develop an anti-sexist vision.

ARA helped expand peoples
understanding of politics and oppression but the sword is double edged, and the
new political consciousness worked to illustrate the limitations of this first
incarnation of ARA. ARA needed to grapple with its internal contradictions if
it was to develop into the broad, militant anti-racist youth organization and
movement it originally hoped to be.


From '88 to '90 ARA had
spread throughout the Midwest United States and was even seeing some West coast
groups spring up. However, by 1991 the Minneapolis grouping represented the
most consistent and in many ways the more diverse and politically engaged
group, this was made possible in part by ARA's relationship with revolutionary
anarchist groups like the RABL (Revolutionary Anarchist Bowling League). Despite
the somewhat silly name, RABL had a rep for being extremely confrontational and
solidly pro-class war anarchist. Some of the members of ARA and the Baldies
were involved with RABL and hoped to bring anarchist politics into ARA's

While keeping the militancy
and uncompromising attitude that ARA had been built on, anarchists in ARA made
efforts to address the weakness that had run through ARA earlier. Attention to
Queer struggles, Patriarchy, imbalance of power between whites and people of
color, were all issues thrown to the fore now.

ARA Minneapolis was trying
to turn itself into a popular, anti-authoritarian direct action group.
Institutionalized oppressions of class society were given as much priority to
thought and action as the continued struggle against nazi organizing. From
police brutality to anti-war activity to actions to defend abortion clinics,
ARA was a much more dynamic organization and this aided in its recruitment of
new militants.

ARA had ceased to be a
group centered around Skinhead culture, and while the limited potential of
ARA's first wave had been overcome, problems would still plague the group.
Understanding class, gender, sexual definition and internal sexism would
continue to be a challenge for ARA. By 1993, ARA in Minneapolis had reached a
stage where after an extremely intense and inwardly focused grappling with
group and individual identity, ARA almost totally fell apart and for the next
year ARA remained dormant. It was now in Canada that ARA would find its


Toronto ARA was formed in
1992 as a response to a rise in nazi activity in the city. Arson, vandalism,
and physical attacks were being carried out by fascists. Made up of anti-prison
activists, native/indigenous organizers, anti-racists, anarchists, and kids
from the local punk and skinhead scenes, ARA went to work to challenge and
shutdown the fascists.

At this point the main
organization of fascists in Toronto was the Heritage Front (HF). Founded by
long time neo-nazi and KKK organizers, the HF was attempting to bring the
different nazi tendencies together under its banner. The most well known of
these fascist groups was the pre-Matt Hale COTC (Church of the Creator) which
served as the "muscle" to the HF's political rhetoric.

Through the work done by
ARA in the States and its promotion in the radical anti-imperialist press, Love
and Rage's newspaper, and the punk scenes many publications (in particular
magazines like MRR and Profane Existence), ARA as a name and model seemed to be
the best avenue for organizing a grass roots, militant, and independent
anti-racist project.

Like previous ARA
organizing, emphasis was put on creating a visible culture through music shows,
literature, and mass in your face demonstrations. ARA Toronto was having
organizing meetings of over a hundred and their demos were in the several of
hundreds. Toronto ARA quickly became a successful campaign and it's
establishment in youth scenes and areas of Toronto like Kennsington Market made
it impossible for fascists to carry out their activity openly. ARA proceeded to
go after the HF leadership and held "outings", instead of organizing
boring demos with speakers talking to the wind, ARA mobilized to march on the
homes and hangouts of the nazis.

While previous incarnations
of ARA had envisioned themselves moving towards a broad youth oriented style of
organizing, it was Toronto ARA which really illustrated the potentials for ARA
to do just that. The support and interest ARA created in less than a year's
time was seen when an anti-HF demo in downtown Toronto in January of 1993 drew
over 500 anti-racists who were going to prevent HF members from marching
through the streets. The ARA contingent was attacked by police on horse back,
with some ARA members being arrested for assaulting police.

Despite the attack, ARA
found the demo an overall success. The demo sought to shut down the nazi march
and it did that, but it went further and showed ARA as an organization uninterested
in playing the games of established liberal "anti-racist" and left
groups. ARA knew that direct action was a more powerful force than lobbying for
State action or selling papers - two things which will never stop racist and
fascist organizing.

The success, and draw
towards, ARA's work would soon catch the attention of larger political Left
groups. Organizations like the IS (International Socialists) tried to enter into
ARA, but after a period of a couple months were voted out by a 2/3 majority. However,
ARA now a known force and center for militant youths and activists would be
sought out more and more for joint actions and Left groups would try and place
themselves into a position of "leadership" within ARA, this
especially with the formation of the ARA Network in 1995.


In 1995 several different
groups came together to discuss creating a united front of various independent
anti-racist forces. ARA had reemerged in Minneapolis and met with members of
the MAFNet (Midwest Antifascist Network), an ARA type group that contained
several Left tendencies from anarchists to smaller Marxist groups like the
Trotskyist League to older SDS veterans.

After much debate, the new
body would be called the Anti-Racist Action Network, and would be held together
by the 'Points of Unity' (POU). Any individual could participate in a chapter
so long as they agreed to the POU (although, different chapters could have
additional political points of unity, reflecting the specific groups political
orientation. This would later cause trouble where one groups POU would be taken
as the Networks). Strategically, it brought in a larger mass of people and
could be a vehicle for taking direct action and democratic left ideas of
organizing to a higher level. The new ARA Net was also genuine in its not being
a front for any one political group.

Utilizing internal
discussion bulletins, national meetings, having a delegate system to facilitate
decision making between the different chapters, ARA Net represented something
new and fresh. And it also was an overwhelmingly anti-authoritarian
organization. A sizable segment of the membership identified as anarchist and
were now in a position to argue for anarchist models of organizing. There was
no other movement that was currently existing that saw anarchists in a position
to define avenues of action.

Anarchists involved with
Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation worked within ARA to keep the
organizations structure and aims transparent and participatory. Love and Rage,
as an organization, viewed ARA as a potential mass movement (e.g.: SDS), where
politics could be raised and debated and where through practice and constant
analysis win people to more and more radical positions. The relationship
between the different political tendencies was often rocky, and there was
constant debate around the setting up of different committees and how much
influence they would have. Other issues of contention were the ability of
organizations to join ARA en masse. ARA Net was set up on a chapter basis, and
each chapter was made up of individuals. No organization could just join ARA
Net. Chapters could have its members coming from any tendency, but a specific
organization could hold no sway beyond the number of chapters their members
were apart of. And even then each chapter was allowed only two votes. This made
it difficult for Left sects to highjack ARA for opportunistic interests.

The next several years saw
hundreds of activists join up with ARA. Network annual conferences could easily
see 500 in attendance and conference weekends would be a mix of both decision
making plenary and educational workshops with topics ranging from anti-Prison
work to Colonialism to State repression to developments in the Far Right

But the life's blood of ARA
remained its action in the streets. The following years from '96 to '98
provided ARA militants the greatest chance of demonstrating the politics of the
movement on a much more mass level. But this period would also emerge as the
most difficult period in ARA's life. From accountability, to the need for a
more coherent analysis of race, class and gender, these issues along with the
ever present need to struggle against sexism, patriarchy and internal power
imbalances would come to dominate the movement unlike at any time previously.
Internal conflicts would split ARA at the seams and it would take the pulse of
the new protest movements erupting in Seattle '99 to give help ARA a new focus
and energy.


Newspapers were scrambling
for info on the new street militants and their ideology of anarchism, debate
started to rage in the radical press. The Black Bloc was seen by some as misled
youth, interested only in adventurism. Sometimes the Black Bloc was condemned
outright and treated as criminal - an attitude that rolled in from the
established Left. During riots, liberal and leftists do-gooders actually tried
to defend capitalist property from the anarchists. In several instances, avowed
'pacifists' have attacked the Black Bloc in an effort to protect places like
the Gap and Starbucks.

The actions by the Black
Bloc and anarchists turned traditional politics on its head... ARA groups
quickly defended the Seattle Black Bloc, seeing a similarity in tactics and
motivation - also in the way that militant anti-fascism had suffered from the
denunciations by the established left and liberal reformists.

The Seattle events had an
immense effect on the ARA movement. ARA, like many groups, was taken by
surprise when the Battle of Seattle erupted. The profound change the
demonstrations had on political discourse and life itself could hardly have
been foreseen. In ARA, there had long been debate about expanding our role and
focus beyond the most basic anti-racist organizing. Many saw ARA as a
grassroots direct action, anti-racist, anti-nazi, and for many ARA'ers,
anti-cop movement. But explicit anti-capitalism was never taken up as a whole.
Within several individual chapters this would have been probable, mostly in the
anarchist dominated groups in Minneapolis, Detroit (two cities that also had
L&R members as active ARA organizers) and Chicago. But within ARA, there
were tendencies that saw adopting more explicit politics as potentially
detrimental to ARA. Seattle helped to turn this around.

But this gets too far
ahead, it is important to first outline the pre-Seattle ARA period and raise
what events were fueling its growth and significance.

Throughout the Midwestern
United States, Klan groups were on the offensive and holding blatantly provocative
mass rallies that could attract hundreds of supporters. The Klan and assorted
neo-Nazi allies were pinpointing cities that were faced with tinderbox-like
racial tension. Fights around affirmative action, welfare, police brutality,
housing, continued school de-segregation practice, or any struggle that brought
about conflicts that poised people of color against the interests of White
Supremacy in either its institutionalized form or autonomous actions by White
citizens, the Klan would use as an opportunity to polarize the debate and saw
their numbers and influence grow. Klan groups, like the one lead by longtime
KKK member and neo-Nazi Tom Robb, became seen as fighters for White

From Cincinnati, Ohio to
Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Klan started holding its demos but the effect was that
thousands of counter demonstrators came out to vent their disapproval and
hatred of the racists. In some of these cities the smoldering racial tension
that had long been present was about to be ignited. It was this
counter-organizing that became the main thrust of the ARA Network. Doing
pre-rally agitating, trying to meet up with sympathetic groups, and boldly
stating that the aim of it's counter-protesting was to "shut down"
the rallies, ARA established itself as the group that rolled out to force the
racists to take flight.

In particular, there was a
massive riot that erupted when the Robb Klan faction came under attack from
Black residents and ARA'ers in Ann Arbor. Police attacked the crowd using tear
gas. Several Klansmen and fascists were wounded by protesters. Six years later,
that riot is still talked about in Ann Arbor, partly due to continued legal
issues brought on by the subsequent arrest of dozens of anti-racists charged
with inciting and participating in mob action and assault. The arrests came two
months after the Ann Arbor action, when at another Klan rally in Kalazamoo,
Michigan, police using both video tape and statements made by "peace"
marshals, identified several activists. The "peace" marshals, whose
ranks were comprised of mostly older male Trade Unionists, had seen their
influence and authority at the Ann Arbor rally ignored and undermined - they
had been unable to prevent anti-Klan protesters from (un)peacefully taking
matters into their own hands. While Ann Arbor was seen as a victory for
anti-racists, the later arrests seriously demoralized many ARA'ers and showed
that ARA was not completely ready for the repercussions of its activity. Many
arrested activists felt let down and un-supported. The combination of high
legal costs and the potential of lengthy jail time left many activists feeling
alone and insufficiently supported. Even more, without a solid political
understanding of how these actions were part of a broader strategy, it is easy
to see how the stress could make some question the relevance of what ARA was
doing. There were cases of activists asking why they were risking so much for a
few hours of street fighting. This is a real concern that should not be

Many radicals in ARA could
point to the significance of the mass action: sharpening political differences
and solidifying existing positions, generating spontaneous organizing and/or
the need to quickly reassess plans, the coming together of comrades and new
groups of people, and polarizing the mass of the protesters against the police
and government officials who would be spending time and money to allow the
racists to rally. For anarchists, this atmosphere provided opportunities to
speak and agitate for more radical positions and actions while simultaneously
supporting steps being taken by folks from the communities who were operating
outside of any political formation and sought to work in ways that directly
went against government or community "leaderships" sanctioned plans
and conduct. Out of these actions, connections and dialogue could be had about
what the needs of the communities are, beyond these one time explosions of
anti-racist action. For anarchists, an assessment of the confidence and
abilities of our forces could be made. Anarchist revolutionaries wanted to
spread and popularize ARA, but personal and group development was equally
important. This process of developing a nuclei, or cadre, of fighters is an
important point of militant, extra-legal activity.

The ability of a movement
like ARA to resist the emergence of a centralized, top-down structure where
there would be a minority determining the politics and the strategy, would be
found though the widest possible discussion and planning within the various ARA
circles, and stressing the collective process. It happened on more than one
occasion that one person would form an ARA group and would attempt to exercise
ownership over it. Others who would come into the group would feel as if their
opinions and work were subordinate to a few who may have greater economic
resources or social influence. As with any growing movement, the result was an
attraction of individuals who sought to use the movement for their own ends,
rather than making ARA the property of the whole of the membership. These
groups did not last long within ARA, but they had the effect of alienating many
new and enthused activists, including women, who felt some of the ARA locals
were controlled by men who were interested in women for dating purposes more
than as comrades.

It should be emphasized
that at this time (1996-97), ARA had reached its pinnacle in membership, easily
estimated at 1,500 supporting activists. The anti-Klan organizing and a number
of anti-police brutality campaigns initiated by ARA groups had helped swell the
ranks of ARA. But in 1998 at the ARA national conference several internal
conflicts would put the fire to ARA and test its ability to cope with its own
weakness'. A series of accounts from women of having been treated in abusive
and demeaning ways, and one woman ARA activist having been sexual assaulted by
a male involved in ARA, lead to a major split. Local ARA groups collapsed into
different factions and individual members would sometimes side with particular
split off factions in other cities, depending on who knew who. At the core of
this was the fact that several women felt that their concerns and struggles
against sexism were being ignored or undermined by their own male
"comrades". Women were told to not bring their personal issues to the
meetings and long standing cases of blatant male chauvinism were discounted as
having been exaggerated by women to suit their private interests. ARA's
movement structure had little in terms of a plan of resolution. ARA existed as
a loose network centered around the POU, and mechanisms of accountability and
action to solve internal disputes and problems of such high and sensitive
degree were not present. A few activists intimately connected to the situation
used this unfortunate truth to evade criticism. Though ARA was being affected
as a whole, individuals directly involved (or who had sided with certain
persons who were being accused of sexism and misconduct) would say that the
matters were of local concern and that they were uninterested in Network
involvement, despite several women contacting ARA groups and individuals in
other cities asking for help because the local group would not deal with, and
in effect would try and mute, the issues.

Attempts at mediation
failed and ARA left its annual conference splintered and demoralized. Several
local groups never regained momentum and others who outwardly appeared strong
would themselves come crashing inwards. Most notable was the split in the ARA
affiliated RASH UNITED (Red & Anarchist Skinheads) who split into East
Coast and Midwest factions, and ultimately ceased all together (a Canadian RASH
in Quebec continued but was more thoughtful and committed to group
accountability than many of its American counterparts). Once again cases of
sexism and un-accountability by a mostly male membership caused implosion.

While the next year did not
see ARA groups stop their organizing, it was a rough year and introspection on
the part of many in the movement slowed down outward perceptions of action. It
was crucial for ARA to grapple with its limitations, and many comrades worked
tirelessly to open up debate about what had happened and what needed to change:
how groups formed or were "vested" into the ARA Net, structures and
practice for resolution, rotating Network roles, and attempting to hold more
gatherings where internal network life and issues involving its members could
be discussed. ARA would remain a network of chapters united around the Points
of Unity, but it was smaller and the level of discourse was more intense and
productive than before. If ARA was to continue as a movement, then a higher
commitment on the parts of its overall membership was required and a
realization that a few words of who it was or some mechanical structural
adjustments would not be adequate. Emphasizing political quality over
membership numbers was what the movement needed.

Even current internal
strategy plannning and political discussions have been influenced by this
introspection started a few years back. Drawing out experiences within ARA
combined with developing theories of women in society and our movements,
several ARA chapters have tried to draw more attention to the need for
anti-patriarchal organizing and political priorotizing. The Chicago ARA group
(which found its beginnings firmly rooted in clinic defense and exposing
far-right ties to the anti-abortion movements) is one chapter that has tried to
integrate a more serious womens focus into its work. With a recent ARA
conference held this past April, and the fact that several committed and
longtime ARA activists are women and continue acting as
"responsibles," ARA will be hosting a womens' conference towards the
end of summer to continue to elevate anti-patriarchal politics to the front of
direct action, and anti-fascist, organizing.

But moving back to Seattle.
It was at this time that several ARA affiliates re-grouped and started to
organize, building off of their connections and history of direct action.
Seattle was a moment that lit up peoples imaginations and many ARA groups that
were still active threw themselves into the various mass protests. Seattle,
Washington DC, Cincinnati, and Quebec City saw numerous ARA militants
participating in the protests' planning and actions. While internal debates
over anti-capitalism and ARA's adoption of this as a unifying politic
continued, the majority of ARA supported the organizing and saw issues of
"globalization" intrinsically connected to larger struggles around
race, gender, and class inequality. Another point for ARA to organize around
was the increased attraction the "anti-globalization" movement was
having for far-right and neo-fascist groups .It was here that work by smaller
ARA groups took shape. More theoretical works were developed to analyze ARA's
activity and the emerging social movements - from advancements and tactics in
State repression to the needs of social and more specifically, revolutionary
left - to build on current battles with the State and resist co-option or
destabilization, to the influence the new movement was having on other areas of
struggle. Mass protest and the increased connectedness movements had with one
another via internet and these series of mass demos helped expand possibilities
for quick mobilization and affinity that had in the past been established less
frequently and taken a greater period of time to develop.

But ARA's orientation was
not to be defined solely by its relationship to the anti-globalization
movement. ARA had for years been struggling against racism and fascist
organizing. Many Klan groups saw their rallies cease as they suffered from
their own internal power struggles, State infiltration/repression, and having
ARA outmaneuver them on many occasions, by successfully mounting campaigns to
build effective street and community resistance. But new fascist organizing,
lead by more sophisticated and potentially dangerous fascist movements, started
to emerge. In the days following the 9/11 attacks, the National Alliance
started a campaign to build on white peoples' insecurities and fears. ARA
participated in defense of Mosques and Arab centers. Struggles to fight the
tightening of immigration laws, the rising number of cases of detentions and
deportations of immigrants, and the general racist backlash, were all areas
that ARA activists found themselves involved in. Yet the rapidly changing
circumstances of 9/11 and the escalation of Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq made
it difficult for much of the Left and progressive forces to get a stable
footing. The US State was quickly moving to inact stauncher repression measures
that were geared towards silencing protest with fear and intimidation. More
concerning, they may potentially be launching a campaign of infiltration and
encapsulation wherein the State may actually direct the activity and political
trajectory of a group or movement by utilizing moles and dis-information. The
authorities were now working overtime to curb outbreaks of militant action.


A recent article entitled
"Revolutionary Anti-Fascism" published in NEFAC's agitational magazine
Barricada, posed several questions about ARA. While it praised ARA's commitment
to organizing street level defense against racist attacks and fascist groups,
where most of the Left fails miserably, the article is critical of ARA's continued
lack of developing positions on a range of issues: patriarchy, white supremacy,
class, and even fascism. The article is important and I sympathize notably with
its emphasizing that ARA needs to seriously grapple with political questions
and commit itself to a higher level of debate, whether or not there is
immediate agreement. Where I disagree with the article is that beyond
articulating radical anti-fascist positions it see's ARA's main contribution in
the past and future as its anti-fascist organizing, anti-fascist organizing
that is based more times than not on straight-forward anti-nazi activity. A
point the article makes is that where there is no visible or active nazi
presence, ARA groups fall into a state of inactivity. This has become an unfortunate
reality for a lot of ARA groups and shows an inability to connect anti-racism
with other struggles beyond the pale of nazi activity. Anti-nazi action is
important, but like past ARA attempts to attack inequality and oppression in
the interconnected realms of race, gender, and class exploitation, current ARA
activists would do well to connect with developments in their cities,
communities, schools and workplaces. Sorry for the run on sentence, but the
main point here is that anti-fascist politics should be a lens threw which we
view class society as a whole. It is a critique of power and anti-human
tendencies and its incorporation coupled with a willingness to fight and
utilize direct action in whatever arena we are struggling in, may help to
develop the neccessaru mass movements capable of breaking down our societys
rule of exploitation and division.

I chose the title
"Claim No Easy Victories" to point out that ARA has been an essential
fighting movement in North American radical politics. Its success in mobilizing
and politicizing hundreds of activists can not be ignored. Current organizing
by anarchists would look vastly different if ARA had not exploded into the
scenes, or had ceased when difficulties arose. However, while significant
advancements have been the result of ARA organizing - the development of
anti-fascist politics, staunch defense of collective and decentralized
organizing, the use of direct action and militancy in the face of a legalistic
and pacifist Left, and the important defeats of various fascist organizing -
ARA still has a long road ahead of itself, and it may be too easy to rest on
what has been done thus far. Success is temporal and fleeting - the struggle


For more info on ARA, the
book Confronting Fascism, and the womens' summer conference hosted by
ARA Chicago, contact:


Rory McGowan is a printer by trade, a long-time
supporter of Anti-Racist Action, and currently a member of the Federation of
Revolutionary Anarchist Collectives - Great Lakes (FRAC-GL).


The Northeastern
Anarchist is the English-language theoretical magazine of the Northeastern
Federation of Anarcho-Communists (NEFAC), covering class struggle anarchist
theory, history, strategy, debate and analysis in an effort to further develop
anarcho-communist ideas and practice.


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