Last week’s Everything for Everyone (E4E) conference provided an opportunity for people from diverse tendencies across the country to engage in political discussions and debates in comradely ways. Seattle was the hosting city of the conference, and it’s also a city in which the past year of struggle has produced a positive culture among diverse revolutionary tendencies that emphasizes in-person discussion of political differences, common work among people with diverging politics, and a holistic infusion of art and culture within the movement. We all learned a lot from engaging with folks in the Northwest and appreciated the careful attention and labor that comrades have put into maintaining and developing the radical networks that exist.
What follows is a contribution to the discussions around revolutionary organizations and networks that didn’t start in Seattle, but which took important steps forward through the engagement of people from across the country. Written by a member of the Red Spark Collective, the following piece attempts to address several questions raised by documents discussed at E4E, in addition to debate unleashed during the plenary at the end of the festival.
Since everyone’s been talking about revolutionary organizations lately, I’d like to lay out a few thoughts of my own on the subject. I think it’s important that other members of Red Spark do the same, as we ourselves have key disagreements that need to be openly aired and productively debated.
We should approach the role of revolutionary organizations as we might the role of single species within an ecosystem.
It is important to have a great diversity of species in that ecosystem, a few large and complex megafauna, as well as a vast majority of other organisms that are more dispersed, liquid and dense, like the abundant networks of bacteria or fungi undergirding a forest. No matter what, that revolutionary ecosystem relies on this horizontal network of basic community more than anything. The disciplined revolutionary organization is, like the vertebrate animal or the flowering plant, a minority when it comes to biomass or number of species—but it has an undeniable ability to expand the bounds of its ecosystem and to cause sea-changes in the basic forms of life possible within it.
The old theory of the vanguard sought to make one species dominant—to grow that species until it incorporated all others. The result, of course, is a cancer, followed by the intrusion of the desert. The humans shoot all the wolves and the green fire goes out in their eyes and then the deer overgraze the mountain and starve in next year’s famine, leaving their bones to dry in a dust-locked wasteland.