What’s Interesting in Upping the Anti #9

uta_8_final_cover.jpg picture by adam_freedom  Upping the Anti out of Toronto, Canada is perhaps the hottest and best radical left theory/movement journal since it first began publication in late 2005. Releasing its eighth issue as of May 2009, the journal has provided a steady content of articles, interviews, reviews and topic based roundtables by and with movement activists and organizers on the radical left.

  With the tag line “a journal of theory and action” the journal leans towards the more academic side. But unlike some of the more dense and long running left journals (Monthly Review comes to mind), the editorial collective and contributors are nearly all folks engaged in struggle and much of the theory and discussion comes directly out of movement organizing work. It’s not another left journal for radical college professors, but for folks in the movement trying to grapple with many of the difficult issues and conversations that those seeking to create revolutionary change should be. Perspective wise they maintain a pluralistic and non-party stance combined with anti-capitalism, anti-imperialist and anti-oppression politics (the three antis as they call them). Read reviews of issues #3 here and issues #2 and #3 here.

  With this issue UTA brings us an interview “Contour of the Crisis” with three political economy instructors at York University in Toronto on the realities and opportunities for the left in the current financial meltdown (discussed above);  “Movements Where People Can Grow” is an interview/discussuion with Helen Hudson (who among other groups is a board member of the Institute for Anarchist Studies, see their new spiffy website here) with her thoughts on building long-term and sustainable movements; a roundtable with former activists of SLAM (Student Liberation Action Movement, audio archive here) active in opposing tuition increases in the New York public university system in the 1990’s and discussing their strong leadership from women of color; and another roundtable with members of various study groups/circles taken up by radicals in a number of cities.

Helen_Keller.jpg picture by adam_freedom Also, here’s a quote from the back cover of this issue that warms my heart from Helen Kellar, the advocate for the blind. Often left out of history is her radical politics as an anarchist and member of the IWW.

  Capitalism will inevitably find itself face to face with a starving multitude of unemployed workers demanding food or destruction of the social order that has starved them and robbed them of their jobs. in such a crisis the capitalism class cannot save itself… Its police and armies will be powerless to put down the revolt. (1918)

  Here is also a quote on how she first moved towards radical politics from her Wikipedia entry…

   I was appointed on a commission to investigate the conditions of the blind. For the first time I, who had thought blindness a misfortune beyond human control, found that too much of it was traceable to wrong industrial conditions, often caused by the selfishness and greed of employers. And the social evil contributed its share. I found that poverty drove women to a life of shame [referring to prostitution and syphilis] that ended in blindness.

Article Reposts: A New Old Left and the Left States of Latin America

Everybody Wants A New Old Left

By Elliot Liu, http://www.linesblog.com/

Left_1.jpg picture by adam_freedom

A response piece by Elliott Liu of APOC-NYC to two proposals for new directions, along with cohesion and regroupment among the socialist left. The first piece, Which Way Is Left is by Freedom Road Socialist Organization, a nationwide soft/post-Maoist group formed during the 1980’s with the merger of several New Communist Movement remnants. The second, Manifesto For A Left Turn, was put together by a collection of professors from the east coast including Stanley Aronowitz and Rick Wolff. This piece makes me look back on my own attempt to respond to the resurgence of party building attempts in the left, which can be found here and is sorely in need of a re-write.

While I have major differences with the proposals put forward in Which Way and Manifesto, I know [the] anti-authoritarian movement in the U.S. has a long way to go before it can demonstrate that building struggle from below is more effective than strategies that rely on parties and the state. To critique the latter approach carries with it an implicit challenge: to build new kinds of horizontal power, capable of meeting people’s needs while outmaneuvering or outfighting the state form. We have our work cut out for us.

Everybodywantsanewleft.gif picture by adam_freedom


Lessons Learned: Latin American Left Has Much to Teach Obama Supporters

Written by Daniel Denvir
January 2009, The Indypendent

ObamandLA.jpg picture by adam_freedomAn interesting, but sadly all too brief overview on the election of left-wing governments across Latin America and their relationship with social movements. Raises interesting parallels and questions about the relationship between Obama and left social movements in the US.

In this context of ambiguous electoral victories, movements throughout the hemisphere have come to the conclusion that despite the importance of electing and defending progressive governments, real change cannot come without struggles in the workplaces, schools and streets. Workers making windows and doors in Chicago and landless farmers occupying oligarchs’ landholdings in Brazil and Bolivia legislate their own reality. While social movements in the U.S. should fight to hold Obama accountable for his business friendly tendencies, we must also fight to transform the political landscape from below. After all, it was the massive social movements of the 1930s and not the president’s ideological disposition that pushed FDR to enact his New Deal reforms. But an “inside-outside strategy” holds both promise and pitfalls, as movements navigate the blurry line between critical engagement and cheerleading. As Uruguayan writer Raúl Zibechi writes, “In love as in cooptation, you need two.” The same goes for social change.

Thoughts on ‘Which Way Is Left?’ by FRSO

April 10, 2009 Note: Right-wing bloggers  quote and link this article in their attempt to attack individual members of some of the left-wing organizations discussed below. This blog condemns these shameful acts of McCarthy-esque red-baiting and in no way supports them.

Below are some thoughts on what seems to be a minor upstart today in third-world Maoism drawing inspiration from the New Communist Movement. Here I offer some thoughts on this through commentary on the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and the now defunct Bay Area-based STORM. I close with a few thoughts on an November 3, 2007 forum FRSO held to discuss their recently released “Which Way Is Left?” pamplet. Also see the link for the audio panel at the 2007 US World Social Forum held in Atlanta, GA which featured former or current members of these orgs. -AW

Download a PDF of “Which Way Is Left?”

US Social Forum Panel on Revolutionary Strategy ~>lin


Perhaps an interesting development on the left is a flare up of discussion and effort on the part of those on the left who identify as revolutionaries and Marxist, yet are independent of the traditional left parties such as Communist Party-USA, the New Communist Movement (NCM) [1] or the fractured family of Trotskyist parties that descend from the Socialist Workers Party. Many are late 20’s to early 30’s activists involved in recent bursts of social movements over the last decade and include many people of color. I don’t see it as a large discussion, but it certainly has the ears of certain layers of radical activists across the country who feeling stronger affinity and interest in revolutionary politics, though who don’t identify with any particular strand of revolutionary politics specifically.

Freedom Road Socialist Organization/Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad [2] (or just FRSO for short, not to be confused with a more hard-line split several years ago FRSO- Fight Back! based largely in the Mid-west) is maybe the only organization that managed to catch a certain layer of these folks into their ranks. To give an example of this, if you remember following the break up of Love and Rage Anarchist Federation in 1998,[3] a small group emerged called Fire by Night Organizing Committee. This included members of L&R who were part of the working class student organizing at SUNY and after criticizing anarchism[4] wound up merging into FRSO. The politics of the group are a sort of “Mao-light” if you will. They have origins in a merger between several NCM groups, but have adopted a more pluralistic set of politics which draw from Gramsci, Fanon and feminism among others. Like many Maoists they carry a more nuanced perspective on popular organizing then much of the Marxist left, but their main emphasis is the process they call Left Refoundation, whereby left socialist organizations build political and practical unity in an effort to reach a future merger into a larger party formation or umbrella type organization (they are open to where the process might take them).

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: