Lessons Learned From a Year of Our Political Work and Notes on the Way Forward

In order to learn from our organizing efforts, rectify our errors and come up with our plans for the future, members of Revolutionary Youth Alliance drafted a summation of our political work over the last school year. We voted not to publish the full summation publicly to ensure the security of our members and avoid reactionary interference in our work. Instead we’re putting forward these general conclusions so that others can learn from our mistakes and have a better idea of what we’re planning to do in the future.

j20posters
Young revolutionaries in the belly of the beast

Main Problems

Most of our problems stemmed from not understanding and utilizing the mass line. We did not immerse ourselves among the masses. Our mass outreach put us in contact with some revolutionary students, but it was limited to the largely petit-bourgeois student body. We did not perform a thorough class analysis of Ann Arbor, so we didn’t know where exactly working-class community members work, live, and spend time. Instead, we relied largely on protests put on by other organizations to meet people. This error goes hand-in-hand with our failure to identify a fixed site of struggle. We tried to organize the whole school at once instead of identifying and reaching out to proletarian students or university workers. Because we did not conduct mass line work, we were also unable to create concrete long-term goals. For example, the Protection Not Police campaign had vague ideas about community self-defense, but we did not have contacts within the communities affected by state violence and fascist terror, and, importantly, we did not know what they wanted and needed. In order to stand in solidarity with the masses and elevate their power, we must be embedded with them and know them and their struggles. We did not do this, which is why our campaigns could not get off the ground.

RYA made internal errors as well. To a degree, we suffered from commandism. Decision-making largely fell to a core leadership group, contrary to the principles of RYA and of communist organizing. Not enough emphasis was made on democratic centralism, which would require all members to vote on actions, and if an action were approved, all members would be required to carry it out for a period of time, and afterward, the whole membership would assess and critique it. This issue was caused by a lack of formal structure to our meetings. A clear structure could encourage all members to consider key questions and provide their understandings.

The root of RYA’s problems this first year is simply a lack of experience. Through criticism, we are able to carefully consider exactly what we’ve been doing wrong, and then we must find specific solutions to address our errors so we can improve as an organization.

Future Goals, Plans, and Direction

Since most of our problems stemmed from not putting enough emphasis on the mass line, we have a number of ways we want to try reaching out to proletarian students around U-M and dramatically increase the amount of contact we have with them. Our goal is to locate (or create) as many avenues as we can for working-class students to gather and share their concerns collectively. In order not to spread ourselves too thin, we will work on a class analysis of our conditions in order to locate a fixed site of struggle that we can focus our energy on. To carry out the mass line effectively it’s important that contacts be created and that we establish ourselves in the community.

It is also important that general members of the organization receive training in order to carry out mass work. Before doing social investigation members should be educated on the general political line of the organization (including points of unity, platform, constitution, and some further details on the theory) and educated on the PEPSI (Personal, Economic, Political, Social/Cultural) method of social investigation. That way all members will be able to answer questions about RYA and explain our org confidently and they know what the right questions to ask are.

Last year we did not put enough emphasis on developing a revolutionary culture. We are trying to build a whole new world, which means we need a new way of thinking and interacting to go along with that. We want to foster an atmosphere of discipline and accountability, but also solidarity, cooperation, mutual aid, selflessness, and humility—the opposite of the capitalist culture we’re leaving behind. We will start holding social events weekly or every two weeks for members to bond in such an environment and help new people feel secure coming into the organization. It’s also important for students to get out of the stuffy petty-bourgeois atmosphere of the University and engage more with the community. Internally, we will put more of an emphasis on criticism and self-criticism and integrate this into our regular meeting structure.

To deal with the problems of commandism and a lack of democratic centralism it is important that we keep stack during the meetings and set goals for when we meet. It may be helpful in some cases to have people take turns speaking during a meeting to make sure everyone has a chance to speak and and feels comfortable so they can participate meaningfully in decision-making. We will also send out points to consider before the meetings for people to think about. To properly exercise democratic centralism, we’ll create a time frame for a decision to be carried out once we’ve voted on it so we can see what its effects were, then reconvene, criticize the decision, and vote again. That way we can study our actions scientifically.

Antifascism statement: On the “March Against Sharia”

Last week, fascists across the nation took to the streets to protest against Islam under the guise of “anti-Sharia.” This was clearly an attempt to draw in “moderate” conservatives and right-center liberals who used the facade as a justification for their white supremacist violence, as it is much more socially acceptable to be “anti-Sharia” than anti-Islam. Of course, those who attended these events had no idea what Sharia actually is. It was truly ironic to witness neo-Nazis waving American flags and complaining about alleged anti-semitism, slavery, and lack of women’s rights in Islam, as if their entire ideology wasn’t embedded in them.

Fascism marks the decay of capitalism and the mirage of “individual liberty” and “freedom” that comes with bourgeois democracy. Under fascism, the forces of the state are turned inwards onto its own population to violently suppress and exploit the most vulnerable segments of the population as scapegoats, as part of the hypernationalism and xenophobia that goes along with it. Fascism builds off the structures formed by capitalism, such as the centralized state, patriarchy, racism, colonialism, etc.

Of course, the only sustainable way to fight against fascism is through organized revolutionary action. Fascism can only be (and has only ever been) defeated through revolutionary violence. It is useful to remember that 80% of all Nazi soldier deaths during WWII were inflicted by the revolutionary Red Army. This comes in opposition to the normalized liberal narrative of bringing change through electoral politics and voting. Revolutionaries and anyone who considers themselves a “leftist” must cast aside all illusions that simply voting for a new candidate in 2020 is going to stop fascism, as voting is likely the least meaningful political action one can take. Hillary was just as much of a white supremacist as Trump, and the entire foundation and status quo of the US is rooted in white supremacism. Electing certain officials to office doesn’t change the structure of the system, and ultimately classes rule—not individuals. The u.s. is standing on over 200 years of slavery, genocide, and war, and electing just another face or another platform cannot realistically change this, regardless of how much a certain candidate may want to. Thus, we must move past the myth of electoral politics bringing about concrete change, and confront our problems with the power of the people—not the power of the bourgeois system.

The fight against fascism is a fight for self-defense and the protection of the people.

 

On the demonstration in Lansing

Fascists brought their racist rally to Lansing this Saturday and some members of Revolutionary Youth Alliance participated in shutting them down and screwing up their plans. This march brought a number of problems to our attention that we felt needed to be addressed.

Firstly, security is something of critical importance for antifascists in the modern world, where smartphones are omnipresent and the internet is a greater part of public life. Facial recognition technology has gotten a lot better and people have been identified through this software and arrested before. Doxxing (putting people’s personal informatoin on a public internet forum) is a real threat to antifascists who are willing to engage in militant demonstrations. Comrades have been harassed before by pigs and fascists alike because they did not pay enough attention to security. As a general principle in RYA, we think think that any time you go out in public for a revolutionary action where you might be drawing the attention of pigs or reactionaries, you should always wear a mask. Keep yourself and your comrades safe! But we also need to use the fascists’ tactics against them. They’ll try to dox us, so in response we need to dox them right back.

It’s important not to underestimate the enemy or take chances with them. We’re not here to debate with them, we’re here to shut them down and deny them a platform. Trying to debate with fascism is liberalism, like thinking that you can solve the world’s problems through discussion and intellectual arguments. We have nothing in common with people who think genocide is a good idea.

Though we outnumbered the fascists and reactionaries, we were still unfortunately outgunned. There was a fear of escalation as a result among the side of the antifascists that seriously needs to be dealt with. Our tactics should always be “10 against 1,” we should never have to take chances if we can help it. That is not to say that it was wrong in this instance to fight back, of course it was the right thing to do, but mass mobilization and showing up are absolutely critical.

A more militant perspective needs to be taken at rallies like this. The left needs to get serious about self-defense and keep pace with (and eventually overtake) the fascists. Liberal chants aren’t going to be enough, it’s important to mobilize as much of the community as possible under proletarian leadership and politics to defeat fascism.


Guest post

To go along with this statement we are publishing a guest post on our website from a supporter of our organization who was able to show up to confront fascism with us in Lansing, titled “Counterdemonstration in Nazi Land.”

Guest Post: “Counterdemonstration in Nazi Land”

This post was written by a supporter of Revolutionary Youth Alliance and as such does not officially reflect the political line of our organization. Still, we think the perspective the author provides is valuable and we’re hosting it for others to enjoy. This is the first of hopefully many more guest posts to come.

 

Saturday, June 10th, Lansing, Michigan

 

“Is that police?”

“What?”

“There. The ones with the guns.”

“Those are the fascists,” Comrade Thomas said. “That’s the Michigan Militia.”

I blinked. “Oh.” Well then.

I didn’t recognize the fascist crowd when we were upon it because there were so few of them. I did notice the people with automatic rifles, though, because they were facing us, standing still, and wearing camo uniforms. They seemed very self-righteous and proud of themselves.

The police did not tell the fascists to leave, nor did they seem interested in photographing, profiling, or arresting them. What they did do was create a 1.5-ish meter gap between us, achieved by propping up orange and white folding signs and stringing two lines of police tape in front of each crowd. On the folding signs were the words “PUBLIC SERVICE” across the top, which I thought was ironic.

While we chanted We love our Muslim neighbors and glowered at the fascists, I wondered how many of them were actual genocidal maniacs (the self-aware Nazis) versus how many were just local racists that felt like doing something on a Saturday (the not so self-aware Nazis.) I searched the small but growing crowd across the rift to look for them. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but assumed I would know it when I saw it. Swastikas? Pepe pins, maybe? Let’s check it out. A detail that stuck out to me was the recurrence of the American flag, which I thought was interesting. I remembered the call-and-response chant we did on the way there about racists belonging in “Nazi Land,” and Thomas sarcastically employing a curious tone of voice, saying, “What’s Nazi Land?” (America, I guess.) I spotted a narrow post with a celtic cross printed at the top, propped up by a white man with a fuzzy brown beard and gas station sunglasses. Ah. There’s one, I thought.

I implicitly decided to buddy with comrade Sam (read: follow them around.) Sam intimidated me because I was acutely aware of how much smarter they were than me. However, they were also the person I had spoken to the most by far out of everyone I knew in RYA, which I felt gave me permission to be clingy for a couple hours. They didn’t seem to mind; antifascists, in my experience, don’t tend to mind it when people need help or support–or, in my case, somebody to cling to at their first counter-demonstration.

When we migrated to the front–an exciting place to be–to our immediate left, a comrade was in the middle of yelling at the fascists and not caring about her slow steps forward. Her waist tugged the yellow police tape taut. That made me a little nervous. I imagined her breaking that tape, followed by images of red spray, diabolical machinery noise, and screaming. I poked her bare shoulder with my index finger, wanting to beckon her back a little, but she didn’t notice. Only then two chauvinist pigs on the other side of the gap started yelling at her about female hysteria, and I didn’t want to invalidate her anger like how they were doing. Okay, know what? Fine, I thought. Let whatever’s going to happen happen.

“I’m taking away your seven. You’re a six,” one of them said, spitting his words out like he was punishing her. His friend, holding an American flag on a pole, gave a throaty laugh. The sound was vaguely reminiscent of a stalling engine. “There was a bitch with a mask on handing out fliers and taking pictures over there. She was an easy two.”

I remembered hearing high school boys rate the high school girls on a scale of 1-10 similarly, carelessly, and I remembered all of the violence at the hands of men that some of my female-identifying comrades and friends have told me about. Violence from misogyny, from entitlement, from dehumanization. I stared at the men across the line and thought violent thoughts.

It wasn’t just this one comrade; there was a lot of shouting all across the gap in front. It wasn’t unbearably loud, since the fascists had maybe 30-40 people and we had upwards of 60, but the raised voices less than two meters in front of my face made it a lot to absorb at once. My takeaway was that the fascists are very full of misunderstandings about the city of Dearborn, Sharia law, the Quran, the gays, and clitorises, and are very very emotional (rabidly angry) about all of it. At one point, I saw a Nazi with a yellow “Don’t Tread On Me” flag point at a comrade holding a sign that read “HALAL” on it in English letters: “Is that ‘halal’?!” He screamed, “Is that fucking ‘halal’?!” At this, a stranger with a violet bandana came up next to me and started shouting back at him. “Shut the fuck up, you Nazi piece of shit! Fuck you, you fucking Nazi!” I turned my head and looked up at him. Standing profile to him, I could see his eyes behind his sunglasses; they were the color of unforgivingly cold weather. I saw fury. I wondered who he was thinking of at home.

When I started acclimating to the commotion, I thought about the people they were talking so much shit about–Muslims, mostly. That was the point of their demonstration; to come together and have an Islamophobic ass-wiping party. My mind went back home, to the people who make home; Muslim friends, queer-trans friends, immigrant co-workers, and my immigrant family, and I looked across at the crowd and thought of violence again.

At around 1:00, we marched away from the fascists and went back the way we came. Most of us left, but maybe 15-20 comrades stayed behind. I was somewhat worried for their safety, but told myself that the Michigan Militia wouldn’t fire at unarmed antifascists because that would make for bad press. While we walked, I reconvened with Elizabeth, a comrade I met at the May Day festival the previous month. Elizabeth reminded me of my (very nice) old kindergarten teacher, so naturally, I puked up all of my thoughts on her on the way back. I talked about how caring for the people has to be the same thing as hating some people sometimes, and how I was stupid for not really getting that before today. She occasionally validated me with a breathy-voiced “yeahhh…” and a sympathetic nod. I noted dependence on others as a motif for the day.

On the walk back, I remembered how I tried to distinguish the blatant fascists from the moderate fascists. I realized that the fascist that “felt like doing something on a Saturday” is the same fascist that was holding up a Celtic cross, who is the same fascist that was rating our female comrades on 1-10 scales, who is the same fascist that started screaming after reading the word halal.  As we came to the parking lot where we’d started from, I looked at the people giving each other water and sharing food. I looked around at all of us and felt safe. For placebo confidence, I threw my head back like I was drinking a shot, inhaled the atmosphere, and I looked up.

International Workers’ Day “Festival of Resistance” Summation

march1faceedit

The real name for May Day (May 1st) is “International Workers’ Day.” It’s a socialist day of celebration for the workers’ struggle for freedom from capital, chosen by a multinational coalition of socialist and communist organizations to commemorate the Haymarket Affair in 1886. The Haymarket Affair grew out of a general strike for an eight-hour workday on May 4 and in protest to the murder of several workers by police a day earlier. During the protest someone threw a bomb at the cops, who responded by opening fire on protestors. At least four innocent people were killed and many more were injured. Afterwards, eight anarchists, Albert Parsons, August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Michael Schwab, Oscar Neebe, George Engel, Adolph Fischer and Louis Lingg were convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Neebe got 15 years in prison, Fielden and Schwab’s sentences were commutted to life in prison and Lingg committed suicide before the state could execute him. Engel, Fischer, Parsons and Spies were hanged. The Haymarket martyrs died for the people and as long as the workers’ struggle continues we will remember them as heroes.

Every year, May 1st is an international day of celebration, solidarity, and proletarian internationalism recognized by organizations fighting for revolution around the world. But in the spirit of the event that it commemorates, we hold that May 1st must be militant and that May Day events must bare the teeth of the working class. For this reason, Revolutionary Youth Alliance joined the May Day Collective, a coalition of anarchist and leftist groups in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, to participate in working on the Festival of Resistance to have an unauthorized demonstration that would not cooperate with police. The May Day Collective’s aim was “to build a mighty movement of all people dedicated to freedom” and to “strike, rally, and resist.” We joined the Collective for its principles of non-cooperation with police, anti-capitalism, refusal to endorse or give a platform to political candidates, and commitment to sending a strong message, all of which are things we take very seriously.

We hold that this demonstration was principally a success, though obviously not without its faults. There was adequate and full non-compliance and anger shown to cops, with the crowd at multiple points proudly screaming “Fuck the police!” as we marched through downtown Ann Arbor, the belly of the beast. The event had a militant and internationalist message, with comrades chanting “One solution, Revolution!” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” while at the same time fostering an environment of community and solidarity, thanks to the volunteers who gave their time and effort to the Open University in the Diag and the impromptu drum circle at the end of the last march. The Open University was a way for community members and radicals to share their knowledge together and help each other learn. We held a workshop on the Mass Line for others to learn about our methods of work in RYA and try some of the strategies we talked about in their own organizing.

The May Day Collective was a functional coalition of leftists of many different ideologies and tendencies who came together to work on a common goal, and, most impressively, it was one of the first attempts to organize an event like this in recent memory. Many bystanders in downtown Ann Arbor were very surprised to see the red flags and black flags, masks, black clothes and various banners marching through their streets and hearing our militant cries. However, it would be a serious mistake to participate in events without learning something from them and trying to understand what could have been done better or differently.

For the coalition in general, we thought there were two primary errors, which we hold ourselves as participants responsible for as well: firstly, there was no one issue in particular that was centered, which would have given the march more focus and purpose, and secondly, the march did not go through many working class areas so the message we were sending mostly fell on deaf ears. Because our base is the working class we should have our events centered around them, the issues they are primarily concerned with and the areas they live in, so they can participate to the fullest. We believe these were principally mistakes, but we are open to other perspectives that see these as good tactical decisions.

On our end, there are a few things to go over.

As for our workshop on the Mass Line during the Open University, a workshop we’d like to build on and expand in the future, we can say:

  • that our voices weren’t loud enough and some of the participants in the workshop couldn’t hear us;
  • that we weren’t adequately prepared, since this was our first time doing something like this and we weren’t sure how it would go, preferring instead to go with the flow and see how it worked out;
  • that we didn’t spend enough time talking about social investigation, which is one of the main things people are going to take away from the workshop, so many of the participants left the workshop without a clear idea of how to actually do the mass line;
  • that there were limitations to the format—the politics of the attendees were a bit scattered so it was hard to make sure we were all on the same page, which we consider to be principally our fault;
  • and that it’s hard to talk about the advanced, intermediate, and backwards in our area without doing a class analysis with people first.

For those of you who attended our workshop, if you find our summation lacking please let us know and send your criticisms to us at revolutionarystudentsa2@gmail.com!

As for our participation in the coalition, we should have strived to have the politics of RYA more present in the demonstration, via things like banners, public internet posts, and literature to be distributed throughout the day. We could have offered to stop and talk about certain landmarks in Ann Arbor during the march so issues that concern the working class could be centered from a revolutionary perspective. It’s important to note here that by this we don’t mean we wanted to drown out others’ voices or dominate the conversation, just to have our ideas present as a full member of the coalition. We should have offered to have more information about our organization present and establish why our activity and our politics are meaningful and valuable.

We should have tried to establish stronger unity between ourselves and the rest of the coalition, putting in more work for others and being more supportive. At one point we attempted to offer a criticism that was not taken well; we believe this was largely because we did not make the purpose of our criticism clear enough and we were not trusted as members of the coalition. We think that ideological disagreements are normal and healthy and that they should be brought into the open, but it’s wrong to struggle when unity has not been fully established.

In general, we should strive to take on a leadership role in coalitions like this. Again, we don’t mean forcing ourselves into leadership by being bossy, telling others what to do, putting down others; we mean that we want to prove ourselves to win the respect and trust of the people and our comrades and accumulate enough experience for us and others to trust us and feel as though we can handle being leaders, which is a great honor and a great responsibility. This is a natural process, and not something that can be achieved easily.

Our goals for our participation in this action were, generally speaking, to put on a show of force, participate in a coalition with other leftists and work towards a common goal so we could gain experience in this area, and send a militant message to break with spineless old reformist strategies of collaborating with pigs and watering down our politics. In these areas, despite our criticisms, we think we met these goals and we’re eager to work with everyone in the coalition on future actions.

Long live the workers’ struggle! Organize for revolution and people’s war!

Revolutionary Youth Alliance
Ann Arbor, MI
May 31, 2017

SETTLERS ARE NOT IMMIGRANTS

Statement and criticism of the “Immigrants March” in Ann Arbor

If we have shortcomings, we are not afraid to have them pointed out and criticized, because we serve the people. Anyone, no matter who, may point out our shortcomings. If they’re right, we will correct them. If what they propose will benefit the people, we will act upon it.

The duty of every revolutionary is first and foremost to serve the people heart and soul. We believe that criticism is a gift that if used correctly will help us rectify errors and be more efficient in our work. We want to approach the struggle against oppression scientifically without holding back, pointing out errors so we don’t repeat past mistakes, and encourage criticism and self-criticism on the part of all who want to serve the people. We are interested in uniting with anyone who genuinely wants to work in the interests of the people and hope that they will adopt a similar attitude.

It is for this reason that Revolutionary Student Alliance, Ann Arbor has drafted this statement and criticism of the Immigrants’ March that took place this Saturday. A few RSA members were in attendance, and we noticed that many aspects of this march, which was supposedly intended to support the people most endangered by the increasingly reactionary Trump administration, in reality reinforced white supremacy and imperialism.

When we say “immigrants’ march,” who are we talking about? Going off the signs held by many of the people in attendance at this march, “America” (stolen land) is a “nation of immigrants.” Imperialist American flags were being flown and settler chants like “this is what America/an immigrant looks like” were repeated with glee. One person even held up a sign with a picture of a Muslim girl with the imperialist American flag draped around her head—the same flag of the country that has been bombing and destroying majority Muslim and Arab countries for decades while closing its borders to them.

Let’s be very clear: “America” is not a nation of immigrants. This narrative erases indigenous people from the reality of the settler-colonial “United States.” Furthermore, white settlers are not immigrants. Equating European settler-colonialism with the actual problem at hand completely whitewashes the issue and covers up the dangers faced by actual immigrants at-risk of deportation, especially Arab, Latinx and other non-white immigrants who risk being racially profiled because of their appearance or accent. Settlers are not immigrants—they stole this land, carried out a horrific genocide against its indigenous population, stole millions of Africans and enslaved them here, and now have the audacity to claim this is a “nation of immigrants.” The pilgrims were white terrorist colonizers, not immigrants being persecuted by a fascistic state. Their settler flag doesn’t belong at a march for immigrants unless it’s on fire.

Furthermore, the imperialist actions of the United States and western Europe are what’s causing immigration influxes in the first place. Nobody wants to leave their home unless they’re forced to, thanks to the imperialist wars in the Middle East, imperialist exploitation of South America, the Latin American debt crisis in the 80s, NAFTA in the 90s, overthrowing of democratically elected governments and leaders like Salvador Allende, installation of fascist dictatorships like those of Pinochet; the list goes on.

At one point during the rally on the Diag, a group of people began to sing “This Land is Your Land,” claiming ownership to the very land their ancestors stole from the indigenous population, once more asserting their dominance over the scene. An RSA member and a young black woman called them out and shouted them down, putting them in their place. We have no affiliation with this person and others who joined in, but applaud their resistance and encourage further actions like this.
“America” is not for white people
We understand that the organizers of this event couldn’t have known what kinds of signs people were going to bring to the march, but they should have made the politics behind the march clearer to avoid white supremacy entering this space. The target audience for a march like this is not white people who think the march is about them, it’s the most oppressed strata of our society who need our support now more than ever.

This settler influence made the march look more like a white pride parade than a militant demonstration of the power and rage of the oppressed. These marchers were not taking the deportation crisis seriously. There was a complete lack of militancy at this march: signs that read “Make America Kind Again,” lukewarm chants like “This is what democracy looks like,” and worst of all, collaboration with the pigs. The organizers of this event got a permit for the march and obediently led the protesters through the street, being careful not to disrupt anything. The solutions to ICE tearing families apart were to call your representatives and attend city council meetings—legalist strategies that appeal to the oppressors, without a broader perspective or an “or else” to intimidate the ruling class.

What are these kinds of tactics going to accomplish? The state and other bourgeois institutions are only going to become more reactionary over time. We know full well that legislators and pigs don’t give a damn about the people—pigs beat, murder, imprison and deport millions of black and brown people while upholding the law or getting acquitted despite breaking it. A true protest must be a show of force, antagonistic to the system it opposes. Getting a permit and nicely following the rules isn’t going to change anything. The state is destroying homes right now—the people can’t afford to sit on their hands and wait.

The worst part was when one of the organizers gave a pig apologist speech encouraging pigs to get more involved in the community, coming into our schools, coming into our spaces so they can “start a conversation.” This is dangerous and can get people killed. This is an anti-people pig line that puts the masses more at-risk. The police descended from colonizing slave patrols, they’re foot soldiers of a white supremacist capitalist-imperialist state run by corporations and rich white men. These are the people we want coming into our communities? Why, so they can profile us, beat us, interrogate us, and deport our people if they don’t have documentation?

We criticized this organizer after the rally, expressing our concerns, but this person continued to uphold the pig line. This is an egregious error on the part of the organizers of this event who should have made sure not that they did not engage in pig apologism and put the masses in danger because of their march. Pigs are murderers and class traitors. We don’t talk to police, we don’t work with police, we don’t call the police and we don’t argue with our oppressors.

At the rally, a member of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE), the youth wing of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), gave a speech. We believe the harmful nature of this organization deserves comment. First of all, this person’s speech was class-reductionist workerism that erased the actual struggles of non-white immigrants by saying the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration were an “attack on the entire working class.” Were they? Are white workers really the target audience here? This is erasing the entire issue at hand—this march isn’t about the “entire working class,” it’s about some of our most vulnerable people needing support and solidarity at a crucial time. This person took some time to prattle on about the Russian Revolution and other issues totally unrelated to the immediate concerns of the masses while continuing to preach their reductionist line. Secondly, the Socialist Equality Party tried to claim the murder of Trayvon Martin was fundamentally not about race (https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2012/04/pers-a05.html) and has on numerous occasions apologized for rape, for example by defending human filth Brock Turner (https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/06/11/stan-j11.html). This organization would sooner side with the Klan than with the people—it has no business at any ostensibly pro-immigrant events. SEP is a racist, sexist organization and no organizers should be working with them.

The march ended sooner than the listed time and people began to disperse. We were not aware of this at the time, but One Michigan for Immigrants Rights, an immigrant-led organization based in Detroit, was scheduled to talk before the rally ended. They were not informed that the rally had ended despite having drove from Detroit to speak and were greeted by an empty Diag with no rally in sight. This put members of this organization and actual undocumented people at risk, wasted their time, cost them money, and completely disrespected them. When a member of One Michigan called the main organizer, Brad Adam, they were confronted with chauvinism and poor allyship on his part. Brad claimed there was nothing he could do and instead began to argue with One Michigan, failing to comply with the very people he claimed to support. He apologized but would do nothing else, not realizing the harm he had caused. It wasn’t until One Michigan confronted him with this issue that he switched sides and offered to reimburse them—after claiming he couldn’t, of course. This poor leadership and chauvinist behavior is alienating and puts people at risk. The organizers of this event should have sought the guidance of immigrants and immigrant-led organizations who have direct experience with this issue, rather than chauvinistically acting as though they know better. On the phone call, Brad even said he had never even been to a march before, and yet felt he was in a place to organize one. People like this should not be organizing events—they have no business organizing or advocating for people who they are incapable of standing up for.

There are a number of areas that we could improve in as well. We failed to use this time to conduct agitation and hand out propaganda. A revolutionary must always have the mass line in the forefront of their mind, and always be looking to gather the ideas of the people and hear their concerns while raising their level of consciousness. We did not interact enough with oppressed—nationality people and actual immigrants in the march, and in the future we must always think of new ways to serve the people. We should have gone further in calling out and confronting the more egregious white supremacist and imperialist signs we saw at the march, and we should have arrived with revolutionary chants in mind to further agitate and push the demonstration in a more militant direction. We also could have given our criticisms to the leadership of the event sooner and more comprehensively, while also looking for a basis on which we could unite to further the cause of the people.

Fight ICE with fire!

Revolutionary Student Alliance
Ann Arbor, MI
March 28, 2017

PROTECTION NOT POLICE!

Statement Announcing RSA Winter 2017 Campaign

PROTECTION NOT POLICE: Burn All Paper Tigers!

 

INTRODUCTION

“The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.” — Antonio Gramsci (loosely translated)

U.S. capitalism-imperialism is in decline. Since the 2008 financial crisis, there has been essentially no recovery for the vast majority of the U.S. working class, and the empire is struggling to maintain its stranglehold on the world. When the ruling class struggles to rule in the same way, a resurgence of reaction arises in the absence of a revolutionary movement to counter it. The neoliberal Democratic Party ran a campaign without any appeal to the people and there was no legitimate solution to their problems. At the same time, the Republican Party went even further to the right and propped up the proto-fascist Trump, who is himself a symptom of growing fascist trends in the United States.

On our campus, and in the country more generally, we have seen many spontaneous actions opposed to these reactionary trends and the new administration. At these protests, and outside of them, we noticed a serious concern expressed by students for their safety. But if the police choose to collaborate with ICE, a Sanctuary Campus standing alone is useless. In the Revolutionary Student Alliance, our goal is to serve the people, and all of our work follows the formula “from the masses, to the masses.” In response to these concerns, we have decided to launch the following campaign to oppose reactionary and fascist events and institutions at the University of Michigan, including the increasingly reactionary police, and to build avenues for community self-defense.

THREE-PRONGED ACTION

1. Pressure the University administration to defund its police and invest in scholarships for undocumented and proletarian students.

2. No platform for fascists: militantly oppose and silence fascist and proto-fascist activity.

  • Disrupt events held by reactionaries
  • Tear down and counter reactionary propaganda
  • Shut down fascist and proto-fascist talks and rallies
  • Protests must bare the teeth of the working class
3. Build avenues for community self-defense
  • Personal self-defense (workshops, lessons, teach-ins, etc. — fascists or right-wingers NOT ALLOWED)
  • Community organizations (a system for people who suffer the most from capitalist oppression to walk with comrades who will protect them, antifa response team, rapid response network, etc.)

WHY OPPOSE THE POLICE?

“The worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker.” — Leon Trotsky

The police as an organization of professional, armed actors of the state did not exist until the emergence of capitalism. The original function of the police was never to “protect and serve” as liberals like to say, but to crush working class unrest in urban areas without martyring people (Whitehouse, 2014). Any actions that the pigs do to protect the people is incidental at best—their main function is to protect private property and to preserve “order.” But the preservation of order in an unjust and violent system is just the reinforcement of oppression, and the pigs are going to be the ones carrying out the racist, sexist, fascist policies of the Trump administration. The pigs are the ones who keep black people and people of color in ghettoized communities and enforce gentrification. They execute and harass black people on a daily basis and face no repercussions. They deported over 2.5 million people under Obama and will continue to deport more. The pigs’ union endorsed Trump, and they have a history of collaboration with fascists and nationalists.

They are enemies of the people.

All pigs enforce this oppression and uphold a white supremacist patriarchal system. Therefore, we are calling on the University to divest money from its police force and use it to fund financial aid services for undocumented and proletarian students.

We will not collaborate with or talk to the police, and our demonstrations must militantly oppose them. The purpose of a working class demonstration is to bare the teeth of the working class, not to obediently abide by the rules of the state and keep ourselves under control.

WHY NO “FREE SPEECH” FOR FASCISTS?

“If fascism could be defeated in debate, I assure you that it would never have happened, neither in Germany, nor in Italy, nor anywhere else. Those who recognised its threat at the time and tried to stop it were, I assume, also called “a mob”. Regrettably too many “fair-minded” people didn’t either try, or want to stop it, and, as I witnessed myself during the war, accommodated themselves when it took over … People who witnessed fascism at its height are dying out, but the ideology is still here, and its apologists are working hard at a comeback. Past experience should teach us that fascism must be stopped before it takes hold again of too many minds, and becomes useful once again to some powerful interests.” — Franz Frison, holocaust survivor

Fascism is capitalism in decay, the open terror of nationalist reaction and imperialism. It is not to be debated with, it is to be smashed. We already know the effects of fascism: genocide, war, destruction, and the all-out terror of reaction on the people—except this time, Auschwitz won’t be in Poland, it’ll be in Ferguson or Baltimore. The rights of the oppressed are not up for debate, and the growing fascist trends in the United States (and elsewhere!) need to be stopped in their tracks. It’s one thing to convince a Trump supporter they’re wrong; it’s another thing when the so-called “alt-right” Neo-Nazis are openly advocating for the ethnic cleansing and genocide of black and brown people. We reject the liberal idea that the only way to handle the recent wave of reaction and fascism in the United States is to debate nicely. We will work to shut down any platform for fascists to spread their violent ideas.

WHY ADVOCATE FOR COMMUNITY SELF-DEFENSE?

“The policemen or soldiers are only a gun in the establishment’s hand. They make the racist secure in his racism.” — Huey P. Newton

We can’t rely on the University and the bourgeois state to enforce laws that serve the interests of the people. As we’ve stated earlier, the point of the police isn’t to protect the people but to suppress them. Instead, it’s up to the oppressed masses and proletarian students of Ann Arbor to protect themselves. Workers and proletarian students need to be organized to best carry out this task.

What good is it to make our school a Sanctuary Campus if it can be repealed at any time? The only solution is to reject the power of the state and build community self-defense. We don’t need the pigs; they need us.

CONCLUSION

“Everything reactionary is the same: if you do not hit it, it will not fall.” Mao Zedong

Our goals with this campaign are twofold: to serve the people and act in accordance with their needs and desires, and to increase the level of class struggle in our environment. By pitting ourselves against the pigs and fascists, we are drawing a clear line of demarcation between ourselves and the enemy. Between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, there can be no compromise. The interests of these classes are irreconcilable; the only resolution to this contradiction is the overthrow and eradication of the bourgeoisie and the complete political rule of the proletariat. All of our activity works to this end and seeks to advance the primary motor of social change and revolution: the class struggle. But we are sure to make mistakes in fighting on the side of the oppressed if we act from our own subjectivity and not from the needs of the masses. Correct ideas come from the people, not from our subjective wishes and desires.

From this point, we loudly declare:

All cops are bastards!

Destroy fascism!

Power to the people!

“It is right to rebel!”

Revolutionary Student Alliance
February 2, 2017
Ann Arbor, MI

Statement on the Future of Our Political Activity as an Organization – 1/1/17

This statement was originally published on our Facebook page on January 1, 2017.

For the sake of transparency, members of the former Ann Arbor chapter of Students for a Democratic Society have drafted and ratified the following message. After much deliberation, we have decided it is in our best interest as organizers to break away from the national SDS organization and become an independent, revolutionary anti-capitalist organization dedicated to political activity and study.

Firstly, we want to break away from the structure of Students for a Democratic Society which limits the organization’s activity to making demands of the University of Michigan administration. While this can be useful, we don’t think it should be the organization’s sole realm of activity. The simple fact of the matter is that we aren’t just fighting for students, but for the USAmerican working class and oppressed nations. Our activity must get out of the stuffy atmosphere of book worship and petty bourgeois ideas in the University so we can immerse ourselves in the masses. We need to analyze our material conditions in the larger community of Ann Arbor. We should care about campus and university issues, but our primary concern is not the “map” that is the University’s insulated world, but the “territory” the University actually occupies.

There are things we can provide for ourselves that the University can’t. Earlier this year, many students expressed concern for their safety following the results of the election. This is something the University can’t provide, because they can only use the police, a violent organization that is antagonistic to the people and squarely on the side of capital. We could work to create a network that could protect students ourselves as students and community members, independent of the University. There’s no demand we could make of the University that would suit this problem we learned about in our social investigation.

Secondly, we believe that real leftist political activity can only be explicitly anti-capitalist. We don’t agree with Students for a Democratic Society’s decision to remain ambiguously “radical.” We need to be open with our politics and loudly declare that our enemy is capitalism and the USAmerican ruling classes. Politics should not just be made clear, they should be at the forefront of all revolutionary activity. A healthy relationship with the masses can only be cultivated through absolute transparency in our activity and our aims. We’re here to serve the people, not lead them astray.

Thirdly, Students for a Democratic Society does not permit theoretical study. This is a serious error. Our actions must be informed by a larger understanding of the system we’re fighting against. We need to be able to understand revolutionary theory and study it together. Avoiding theoretical study because it risks scaring away liberals is useless and opportunistic. We are not interested in hiding theory from the masses, who need a method to analyze their conditions, lift themselves up, and destroy the white supremacist cisheteropatriarchal capitalist-imperialist society that keeps them pinned to the ground, we want to share it with them.

We will also comment briefly on the role of Freedom Road Socialist Organization-Fight Back! (FRSO-FB) in Students for a Democratic Society. This has been a subject of debate within our chapter for some time and we have been quiet on the issue up to this point while doing independent research and making up our minds.

SDS is often called a “front group” for FRSO-FB, which, though not entirely correct, does have some merit. The most active leadership of SDS seem to be FRSO-FB members or have close ties to FRSO-FB. It is impossible to work in SDS without also being influenced by this organization. For several years now, FRSO-FB has been the subject of accusations which have denounced the organization for harboring sexual predators/abusers and silencing critics, as well as lacking transparency on this subject. We have done investigation into this matter. To our knowledge, FRSO-FB has never issued a formal statement explaining the actions of its members or the situation at hand, much to our dismay and concern. We believe this is a serious error. A lack of transparency with the masses is opportunistic at best, and this has strained our trust in FRSO-FB. We disagree very strongly with the way FRSO-FB handled this issue. We also learned that FRSO-FB currently has a member who has received some kind of discipline for multiple instances of predatory behavior—though the precise details are not available to us—and yet this person remains in the organization. Again, this knowledge has strained our trust with FRSO-FB. We think the political activity of FRSO-FB, i.e., planting its membership into unaffiliated organizations in an attempt to guide them, is at best ineffective and we are not convinced their methods, nor their political line, are correct. We have therefore decided that we are no longer interested in working directly with this organization and this has contributed to our split with Students for a Democratic Society. We say this not to be “wreckers” but for the sake of transparency, because the reasoning behind our decisions should be known to the public.

Going forward, we are re-establishing ourselves as an independent, anti-capitalist, anti-reformist, trans feminist, anti-racist and revolutionary organization, guided by communist principles that serve the people in their fight for emancipation from capital. Anyone who agrees with our main principles of revolution and anti-capitalism is welcome to join.

“The world is yours, as well as ours, but in the last analysis, it is yours. You young people, full of vigor and vitality, are in the bloom of life, like the sun at eight or nine in the morning. Our hope is placed on you. The world belongs to you.” — Mao Zedong

Revolutionary Student Alliance
Ann Arbor, MI
January 1, 2017