Fight The Power, Build The Power

"The Ruckus collective formed in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1997 to discuss revolutionary politics at a local and national level and to develop a revolutionary praxis. Its main contribution locally has been the creation of Phoenix Copwatch, which has been patrolling the streets since early 1999. In the summer of 2000, Ruckus activists began talking about the need for a national or continental revolutionary organization. This led organizers to embark on a program of study with the goal of creating a proposal for a membership-based national or continental revolutionary federation." - Event Flyer
The (English-speaking) Western part of North America is perhaps the most hostile place in the hemisphere for anarchists believing in organization. Those of us believing in federations, cadre groups, tactical and strategic unity - or more simply the organizationalist trend of anarchism - are probably in the minority here. It is in this context that the Ruckus Collective has emerged in defense and promotion of organization. As their members described it, Arizona does not have a large radical tradition, although with the (relatively) recent emergence of the Ruckus Collective and the Phoenix Anarchist Coalition this is changing.
The Ruckus website contains various texts of theirs, including most of the materials that they have analyzed in their studies of past radical currents in the United States. Currents studied include the Black Panther Party, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Abolitionists, Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation, the Anarchist Black Cross, Students for a Democratic Society, and others. The current Ruckus gives most attention to is Abolitionism. At their presentation, the Ruckus members identified themselves as New Abolitionists, a trend centered around attacking the foundations of white supremacy in our society. The Race Traitor publication is at the forefront of this political trend, and it seems much of Ruckus' politic is directly based on Race Traitor.
The Draft Proposal touches on various issues, the main themes being their conception of a cadre organization, a democratic federative structure, anti-statism, radical feminism, strategic unity, and most importantly (in their minds) the destruction of white supremacy. The proposal identifies this struggle against white supremacy as the foremost struggle that anarchists, and specifically this organization, should be involved in.

Presentation and Discussion
Each presenter discussed their various political involvements, and then delved into explaining the Ruckus proposal to the audience of 50 or 60. The discussion had an important and serious character to it, with little discussion of rudimentary revolutionary politics - although unfortunately this was briefly disrupted by a pacifist who took issue with Ruckus' conception of revolutionary violence, and a self-identified social democrat from the St. Louis Independent Media Center who was doing research for his graduate school.
Ruckus presenters talked about their involvement with Phoenix Copwatch, how it was acting as a utility for attacking white supremacy in their locality, and then about their conception of race politics in general. While capitalism and environmental issues were touched on, mostly by Alan, the overwhelming majority of the presentation was about race politics.
One of the Ruckus members talked about SNCC's contribution to the radical history in the U.S. She said that whites should become actively involved in support roles for organizations and movements of people of color. It was emphasized that the whites in such movements must not take leadership over them. Police brutality, immigration defense (especially around Latin American immigrants), race-related poverty, and gang issues were the main struggles suggested as having the possibility to challenge white supremacy.
Audience members from two different Bay Area anti-authoritarian groups of color spoke. The discussion ended around the topic of class when multiple audience members brought up situations of struggles that did not revolve around race. The relevance of this kind of race-based analysis to rural white Americans, and white industrial worker struggles were two examples of this. The presenters acknowledged these as legitimate and moving towards open class warfare.

Capital and Class
Not once in the Draft Proposal is the word "capitalism" used, although at the presentation Ruckus promised that a section on anti-capitalism is being added. On first glance, the proposal could give one the impression that all class analysis has been absolutely subordinated in favor of purely race-based analysis and perhaps even give rise to the dangerous trap of seeing U.S. society in terms of a dialectic between whites and people of color. This notion might be further tempted by the timetable of Ruckus' presentation, where much time was given to encouraging whites to play support roles in struggles of people of color.
Race-related anti-colonial struggles were talked about, but hardly entertained was what Franz Fanon referred to as the threat of "the national bourgeoisie", in struggles against colonialism. Such struggles have too often ended in capital and the state simply re-emerging after victories against colonizers, simply modified to cater to a new ruling class made up of members of the formerly colonialized people. Simply supporting struggles of people of color could be disastrous unless these struggles are carefully analyzed and chosen by anarchists.
In reading their documentation, Ruckus is keenly aware of both these issues, and there is no reason to believe that they fall into either of the traps listed above. The presentation however, didn't make a serious enough effort to address capitalism or class.

NorthEastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists: Parallels and Differences

At this juncture, we suggest that communism without abolitionism is impossible but that abolitionism without communism is incomplete. -Abolitionism and Communism by The New Abolitionist News editorial board.

As a group agitating for a revolutionary membership-based federation, striving for strategic and tactical unity, with the key ideological issues being class and the state, it was surprising to hear Ruckus' response when an audience member raised the issue of NEFAC. The Ruckus presenters said that there were significant differences with NEFAC, particularly around race and class, and that these difference would stand in the way of the Ruckus organization federating, and perhaps even cooperating with, NEFAC. Now this was particularly striking, considering that NEFAC is the most advanced living example that we organizationalist anarchists have to draw from in North America. Additionally, the communist tradition that NEFAC embraces seems like it would enhance (and perhaps does already exist in) Ruckus' ideology.
In juxtaposing NEFAC and Ruckus, an abundance of similarities move into sight. Some of the key common dislikes are states, capitalism, sexism, racism, homophobia, ecological destruction, colonialism and imperialism, and other baddies; and key common positive holdings are democracy, federalism, class warfare, social change, internationalism, technology (neither group has condemned it on the whole), organization, and the stated desire to move forward. These commonly held values seem to encompass every key aspect of political ideology, in other words NEFAC and Ruckus are very similar on the theoretical level.
The two groups obviously come from very different backgrounds, with different inspirations, but in terms of theory/ideology there only seems to be one significant difference: the adoption of communism. NEFAC was developed specifically as an organization for development along the lines of "the communist tradition within anarchism", and in their name placing communism on equal footing with anarchism. Ruckus however, neither mentioned communism in their proposal nor in their Oakland tour-stop. Despite the lack of a visible identification with communism the latest Ruckus document, The Goal of a Cadre Group is Class War, moves much closer to a communist analysis, framing the task of revolutionaries in the United States as win over the undivided working class to revolutionary politics (even quoting Marx in good light.) This is essentially the same position espoused by North American libertarian communists. Even with this difference on the term communism, there does not seem to be a contradiction on class-analysis between the two groups.
So what of the major differences between the groups? It would appear that all the significant differences held are based on tactics and strategy. Firstly, Ruckus is absolutely clear in its view of race, as the chief factor used by the capital and the state to divide the working class. "The glue that has kept the American state together has been white supremacy; melting that glue creates revolutionary possibilities." While NEFAC also views race as a tool used "to divide and weaken the working class", and is putting more and more effort into addressing the issue of race and white supremacy, it has not yet voiced a strategic analysis similar to Ruckus'.
Another issue of strategic difference is national/continental versus regional organizing. In the document that lead to NEFAC's creation, Initiative for a NEFAC, the problem of great geographic distances between different parts of the North America is addressed by "regional federations" that would facilitate having "semi-regular meetings or conferences" of the federations. Ruckus simply proposes a national/continental federation, with little reference to regional federations. This isn't to say that NEFAC's goal isn't a national/continental federation: "Once a few regional federations are established, than we can talk about organizing nationally."
While there are surely other differences between the groups, it seems like they would be overshadowed by their similarities. If one common value held by the groups stands out more than the others, it should view be viewed as the fact that both NEFAC and Ruckus are dynamic organizations, progressing and developing with momentum and potential.

Conclusions
The Ruckus presentation and discussion at AK Press was stimulating and inspiring. The fact that so many people came out and showed interest in anarchist organization speaks of the potential for positive things to come. The work that Ruckus does with Phoenix CopWatch is a tangible asset, and is working towards providing an alternative direction for anti-authoritarians in our area.
NEFAC and the Ruckus collective are probably the two most active elements in agitating for cadre-like anarchist organization in North America. Given the overwhelming similarities held by the two groups, any effort to create new anarchist federations in North America should be coupled with an effort to synthesize the views held by the two groups, so that new federations may reap the benefits. Unless there is a significant point that this article overlooks or fails to understand, it seems that a serious effort towards creating this synthesis would have a high probability of success.
The organizationalist one is not always the strongest anarchist camp, and if we don't seize the opportunity to work and grow together, we risk mutual degeneration, and the weaking of organizationalism as a whole.