Circulation of Struggles

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by Alex Knight:

" I believe a revolutionary politics requires a strategy to open up pathways for millions of ordinary people to mobilize and empower themselves. Undoubtedly this does not require everyone to do the same thing, but for each of us to pursue the endeavors which liberate our knowledge of the world, and of ourselves. Everyone who reads this essay is probably already doing this – creating projects which uplift us in tangible if insufficient ways, whether gardening, organizing a single-issue campaign, or writing a blog.

What is missing is the alternation of currents, or better put, the circulation of struggles. It serves no one for us to specialize in one revolutionary niche and become entrenched experts of that stationary role. The movement depends upon the interplay of divergent forces, and most basically on the strengthening of relationships across difference.1

How are we constantly challenging ourselves to learn new ways of making change? How are we socializing our projects so that they don’t depend on our own individual efforts? How are we encountering those who view the world from a contradictory perspective, and actually embracing them into our lives? And like magnets, how are we building long-term momentum by alternately mobilizing both negative energy in the forms of anger and rage against the system which dominates us, and positive energy in the forms of communal reproduction and survival outside the system?

In practice, given how deflated social movements in this country have become, we must be realistic about the challenges facing such a two-directional strategy.

How do we fight the profit system to provide for our survival (and stop doing so much harm), for example through universal health care, at the same time that we build communal reproductive structures that provide food, shelter, health care, child care, information, mental health support, etc. outside the logic of profit? All while selling our alienated labor to our day jobs to be able to just survive and keep our families intact? Where will we find the energy?

Can we avoid the pitfalls of holier-than-thou posturing and accept that people have real and perceived needs that they can only meet through participation in the system? Can we implement transformative justice practices to hold ourselves accountable for oppressive attitudes and behaviors without relying on the prison system? Can we keep our revolutionary hearts aflame with hope for a liberated future when the system is so successful at ignoring and stifling our efforts, and even when our movements self-destruct from our own failings and cowardice?

I believe we can, if we accept the challenge of forming a magnetic, self-reproducing revolutionary strategy. If we continue to tinker with our practices so as to best align ourselves with the shifting social and ecological needs around us, I believe it will ultimately bring us more energy than it asks – in the forms of new relationships, new knowledge, and new self-confidence. If we can orient our movements such that they offer people outlets for true autonomy and self-realization, if they can discover themselves and a deeper humanity through involvement in struggle, then I believe more and more folks will be pulled into the process and real power can flow.

What do we mean by power? We are not attempting to construct a new system of power-over that can overcome the old capitalism and create a more efficient domination. Our aim is the decentralization of power in the form of power-with.2 This means that as our efforts circulate and combine with one another, they must do so in non-hierarchical and probably non-permanent ways. The goal is not for a few of us to figure everything out and save the world on behalf of anyone – the goal is for each person, each community to empower themselves in connection with a swirling, dynamic process of self-liberation.

We live in a paradoxical world; the most important truths are the hardest to uncover, and the entire world is drowning in lies. How can we expect any easy, unipolar answers to our current quagmire? The simpler and more commodifiable an idea, the emptier it tends to be. Truth lives in complexity and contradiction. To liberate the world and ourselves, we must be able to hold two opposites in our minds at the same time, recognizing that neither is sufficient and yet both are necessary." (