Noel Ignatiev's Blog

Unite or Perish!

I propose that Advance the Struggle, Bring the Ruckus and Unity and Struggle merge their organizations, lock, stock and barrel, as quickly as practicable. I understand that this suggestion flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which holds that groups have to go through a period of working together to develop trust before considering merger, but I think adopting the course I propose would make it possible to discover and work through problems more effectively than a protracted period of joint local work.

It is obvious to me that the three groups share a commitment to the principle of the autonomy of mass movements while affirming the importance of revolutionaries organizing themselves to perform their distinctive tasks. Moreover, the three groups are engaged in discussions of the same questions internally and with their peripheries. I know there exist different opinions on various questions among the groups, some of which could conceivably lead to splits, but none of the differences among the groups are greater than differences that exist within each, particularly BTR, the group I know best. Merging them would help all the participants clarify their views. In my opinion, what the groups have in common outweighs practical differences which, for all anyone knows, could be due simply to varying local conditions.

The greatest danger in an immediate merger is that differences due to the groups’ different histories could become blown out of proportion and assume a political dimension greater than necessary, but that danger can be addressed by making an effort to be sensitive to what others mean when they use terms in a new and unfamiliar way.

Noel Ignatiev

From Bring the Ruckus:

Dear Advance the Struggle and Unity & Struggle,

      We’ve received the note from Noel Ignatiev urging all of our groups to merge.

      This call came as a complete surprise to everyone in Bring the Ruckus. Some of us have known Noel for decades. All of us in Ruckus know of his writings, which, in one way or another, played a part in the political shaping of our organization.

      The note strikes many of us as having all the grace of an auntie shoving an adult across the dance floor to meet a stranger with the urging, “Go, go dance with them. They’re nice and their parents are nice. You’ll make a good marriage.”

      Beyond the obvious problems with situations like that – some of us don’t dance very well, a lot of us are queer and many of us won’t be getting married – nobody likes to get shoved. But, in this case, we’d all shown up at the dance already. So let’s ignore the manner in which the ‘introductions’ were made.

      Bring the Ruckus has recognized in our founding document the limitations of most of the current approaches to revolutionary organizations in the U.S. We’ve gone our own way until recently, since we wanted nothing to do with the ‘party’ formations, academic groups fronting as revolutionary organizations and cults masquerading as a ‘Party’, as well as the various anarchist groupings, most of
which are proud to flounder in the tyranny of structurelessness.  We knew what was there.  It made us more eager to work with the class and the dispossessed.

      That situation has changed.

      We believe a new period has been reached which requires us to act differently, both in our thinking and in our organizational practice. We still believe, with our theoretical predecessors, that the class and the dispossessed will create the organizations that they need, but that doesn’t absolve us from our tasks.

      Some of that should have been obvious in our invitation to other organizations to observe at our national meeting in May, 2010.  It should also have been clear that we did not invite some groups, even though we’ve worked with them more than, say, we’ve worked with Unity & Struggle. But that invitation, which was controversial within our own organization, succeeded.  It would have led to further invitations to discussion and work and, we hoped, to something different.

      We have not had time to put enough words to what that different thing would be, other than to refer to it as a ‘tendency’ and to attempt, in New York City, Portland, the Bay and elsewhere, to act like it existed.  We hope that it is clear that we are not recruiting to Bring the Ruckus; we are seeking to become part of something different.

      So, in that manner, we think we can begin this discussion as equals. Three months ago we were not ready for this. We are now.  We’d like to talk with Advance the Struggle and Unity & Struggle as well as other groups and individuals about the ways in which we can work more closely together to attack white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism.

      We are not yet ready to merge lock, stock and barrel.  We don’t think this all works as easily as all of us getting together in a room and coming up with a new name and marching forth (Do we sing the Internationale? Ani Difranco? White Riot? Manu Chao?  Tupac?  What about those who don’t sing?).  But, at the same time, we want to make our attitude clear: we are open to joint work and discussions up to and including merger. There are further steps to be taken. We have some very concrete suggestions, but we’ll hold them until we hear a response.  You should be clear that you’re dealing with an elected leadership body from Ruckus  and we would like to know who we might be dealing with, but we think knowing what your collective attitude is the crucial step here.

      Any response from your organization will be available to all of our members.  We make decisions democratically, so all future steps will be at the decision of our organization.

Cordially and Comradely, Coordinating committee of Bring the Ruckus

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