By Kali Akuno
Navigating the Storm
January 17th, 2022
It is my honest assessment that as of this writing we have a little less than two years before the neo-confederates and neo-fascists install a reactionary dictatorship by the end of January 2025. In light of my comments regarding this development, many people have been asking, and rightfully so, what should be done to confront the advance of this ultra-reactionary dictatorship over the US empire.
What makes this question so hard to answer is the low level of organization existent in the US “left” at present. What further complicates the matter is the degree to which a significant number of forces nominally on the “left”, perhaps even the current majority, have been captured by the reformist ideology and politics of social democracy, which has a less than stellar track record at successfully confronting fascist and ultra-nationalist forces the world over. In the absence of organization and in a context dominated by the politics of bourgeois formality, respectability, identity politics and accommodation, by both social democrats and liberals, what can be done?
Let’s start with the material response. First and foremost, I would encourage us all to take some very small, but critical steps towards self-protection and fortification. This entails acquiring the necessary tools and supplies needed for this endeavor (which includes self-defense tools, communication tools, generators and fuel supplies, repair tools, etc.). And just as important, learning how to properly use them. Second, it is critical that everyone stock up as best as you can on essential goods, supplies, and medicines – enough to last 3 solid months if possible. And in the time of an ongoing pandemic, this means stocking up on masks, sanitizers, disinfectants and test kits as well.
Building on this, it is critical to establish community based mutual aid and self-defense networks in your immediate vicinity. The purpose of these networks are to address safety and material needs for yourself, those you care for and those who you are in an intentional community with. Remember, we are not just making familial choices in this context, but political ones as well. By immediate, I mean within a geographic area no greater than 10 miles apart. This is to affect immediate response and support times in case of emergency.
When and where there is access, it is critical that we engage in as much autonomous food production as possible. This is essential, as food is a fundamental weapon of war, and can and will be used against our communities immediately if the neo-confederates and neo-fascists consolidate their power by January 2025. To the greatest extent possible this work needs to intersect with the mutual aid networking described above, in part to determine the concrete caloric needs of folks in your networks and communities, with the aim of coordinating the amount of labor needed to scale up the production of existing food security and sovereignty networks that can be allied with and relied upon in your current communities.
What must link all of these basic material response efforts is democratic planning and coordination initiatives “to scale”. The scale question here relates specifically to accessible geography. And again, I would advise no more than a 10 mile radius in distance, as this is a distance that can easily be traversed, even if there is no public transportation, or if gas is restricted, or access to vehicles is limited. As for the form, anyone who has been following my work over the last decade or so knows, I’ve been an advocate of People’s Assemblies, and remain so. With security modifications (as in keen knowledge of the individuals, families, and/or organizations involved for heightened security reasons), this is a critical process to employ in the tumultuous times ahead to coordinate our collective production, mutual aid, and self-defense measures on the one hand, and help forge a collective consciousness on the other.
Now on the question of a political response. This again is challenging to comment on, given the low level of organization on the left at present. But, without question a political response is required as the self-defense, mutual aid, and food security efforts described above are not going to be enough to forestall the terror of the rights advance. If anything, they might help us survive what’s coming, but they won’t change the terms of our social existence. Acquiescing to this potential onslaught is not an option.
It is clear that the most immediate answer that will be provided by the liberals, progressives, and social democrats is going to be voter mobilization for November 2022 and November 2024, in the form of unprecedented voter registration drives, get out the vote operations (GOTV), and non-stop litigation. This will all be topped off by a massive fear campaign that will undoubtedly dwarf their 2020 efforts in this vein, both in terms of money spent and airtime provided by the likes of CNN, MSNBC, NBC, the NY Times, Washington Post, and other major liberal media outlets. In fact, it’s clear that their fear mongering campaign is already in overdrive, as the liberal media rapidly shifted into high gear in November 2021 in prognosticating about a pending civil war. This comes after the liberals spent decades largely ignoring the threats of a resurgent white supremacist politics, Christian nationalism revauncist patriarchy, blatant xenophobia, Islamophobia, and climate change denial. This disregard has been in order to uphold both major political parties’ unequivocal support for capital’s neo-liberal project of profit maximization and social reconditioning through the disciplining of labor and the evisceration of public goods and what remains of the commons and the earth’s natural resources.
Given the current balance of forces, I would not challenge the standard liberal prescription. Within the confines of the limited bourgeois democracy that we are currently contained within we have to use every tool presently at our disposal to try to halt the advance of the forces of neo-confederalism and neo-fascism. However, it must be noted that if successful, victories for the Democrats in 2022 and 2024 would, at best, only delay the advance of the forces of the far right, not close the door on their victory. Why? Because liberalism, particularly it’s US variant, and the forces that ascribe to it cannot defeat the forces of fascism. US liberals, as their track record clearly demonstrates, are first and foremost focused on preserving the US empire as the primary means to maintaining the US position of hegemon within the capitalist world-system. This means that when push comes to shove, they will compromise with the neo-confederate and neo-fascist forces in order to preserve the capitalist system and their shared elevated position within it (see Kysten Sinema’s statements on January 14, 2022 against changing the filibuster for how this plays out). So, while finding tactical, short-term common cause with the liberals and progressives might buy some time, we need to be clear that it is not a solution.
Further, I would caution against putting much stock in the efforts of progressives and social democrats, particularly those of the DSA (Democratic Socialists of America), to seed the Democratic Party with its members in the hopes of creating a left wing within the party or to take it over ultimately. Popular Front strategies, meaning strategies that call for and depend upon cross-class alliances such as this rarely if ever work to halt the advance of the right (Germany between the two world wars is not the only sad case to learn from). We only have to look at the recent debacle of the Progressive Caucus in its efforts to pass Biden’s flawed package of false solutions (such as the promotion of net-zero and market oriented solutions to the climate crisis) dubbed the “Build Back Better” initiative in the fall of 2021 to see the blatant shortcomings of this strategy. Failures to organize in one’s own self-interest always leads to the inability to act in one’s own self-interest. But, even if the strategy was more effective, it is clear that the present assortment of social democrats, progressives, and revolutionary nationalists that engage in running candidates either in the Democratic Party, the Greens, or as independents are in no position to field enough candidates, let alone win enough seats in the next two election cycles to make a quantitative shift at almost any level of government (save perhaps a few local areas on the municipal and county levels). And without prior organization and a united front to bind these forces into a coherent political force, there is even less of a probability that a left oriented electoral effort could mount a qualitative challenge to the right, meaning one that could mount an effective narrative challenge to its politics that could fracture their forces.
So, where does this leave us? Being frank, what the present space, time and conditions outlined above therefore honestly orients us towards is mass mobilization. This mobilization must have a radical orientation and the moral force of the George Floyd rebellion, to not just reach, but exceed its scale. And it will have to be infused with the political ingenuity of Indignados and the Occupy Movement. As for tactics, we will need to have a diversity of them, and be committed to this diversity in principle. But, the movement will have to be prepared to deal with the ubiquitous threats of physical violence from the right, and not cower or bow to them under any circumstances. This does not mean always trying to fight fire with fire, but to be prepared for the worst and to counter it with clear strategy and clear tactics decided on a democratic and public basis to the greatest extent possible.
Now, before anyone wails about how impractical this is, first consider this: nothing described here is outside of the realm of the direct experience of the left oriented social movements in this empire over the last decade. There are millions of people who have participated in one or all of the movements and moments described herein, and we will need to call on them all to draw upon these experiences in the days ahead to resist what’s coming. Further, while few lasting political parties came out of any of these movement moments, they have produced a plethora of loose networks and communication tools that can be called upon to mobilize millions of people. And while few of these networks fully mobilized to confront the coronavirus in 2020, despite efforts of formations like the People’s Strike, I wager this fight could elicit a profoundly different political response. In part, because where fighting the forces of capital and the state against a virus seemed abstract, fighting against segregationists, white supremacists, and outright fascists and their open-air efforts to dominate the empire are much more concrete.
Unlike the largely spontaneous mass resistance efforts of the last decade, this mass movement must act with greater intentionality and foresight. All of the various forces opposed to the neo-confederate and neo-fascist forces need to pledge themselves to resistance before, during, and after the two-year nexus between November 2022 and November 2024, prepare for it within your networks (locally, statewide, nationally and internationally) incorporating the material dimensions of security mentioned above, and coordinate with as many like minded individuals, organizations, and allied forces as possible. To be effective, this movement must make it clear that it will not acquiesce to the rule of these reactionary forces, and it will not allow them to conduct business as usual. It will have to execute strikes, walk outs, blockades, civil disobedience, occupations, and much, much more.
Now, everyone should be clear that the initial success of a mobilization of this nature will only heighten the contradictions that exist with these forces, and more than likely hasten the civil war that they have planned and prepared for. But, like it or not, it realistically cannot be avoided so we must see our way through this and make it to the other side. We must ensure that whatever comes next will not be a return to the old bourgeois horror we are presently living through. Should we lose, the forces of reaction will do their worse to return us to the horrors of the 16th century. But should we win, a new world could be possible, one guided by the socialization of production and the democratization of society. This variance is at the heart of the conjunction we find ourselves in.
To get to the other side, one where a regenerative society is possible, will require turning this mass mobilization into a coherent social force over the next two years. This congealing will require organizing and organization building on a mass scale. Building a revolutionary organization with a mass character capable of confronting, and ultimately defeating the utter reactionary neo-confederates/neo-fascists and the neo-liberals alike is what is needed. Being able to do this within less than two years, while highly improbable, is not wholly impossible. It has happened before in other periods of high contention in history and there are present day examples of scattered and fractured mass movements beating back the forces of reaction, such as the Sudan in 2018 – 2019 and Bolivia in 2020.
There are signs all around us that lend themselves to some hope that this type of development could be possible inside the US empire, like the seven months of mass mobilization and mass action that occurred in 2020 following the extrajudicial killing of George Floyd. And the wave of mass strikes from 2019 to the present. Then there was the explosion of mutual aid efforts in response to the COVID pandemic in the winter and spring of 2020 that demonstrated that not all sense of community in the US empire is lost. Then there is the Great Resignation that many of us are currently participating in and supporting in one form or another. The challenge is organizing this incoherent energy into an organized, revolutionary force. This organized force must be capable of acting in its own interests on its own terms and through its own democratic institutions and imperatives.
This mass organization will need to be able to tap into the deep roots of our communities, be multidimensional, and centered in all of the places that we live, work, play, and pray. The revolutionary forces that ground it must struggle to center this organization in a transformative practice that is both guided by revolutionary theory and shaped by the practical knowledge and experiences of the people in overcoming the forces of reaction and the various systems of oppression they are confronted by. This force must have a long-term vision and objectives. Just being opposed to the agenda of the reactionaries is not going to be enough. The reactionaries are just the forward column to a much more critical and ominous threat – climate change. In the face of the comprehensive challenge, this organized force will have to craft a vision and a narrative, i.e. one hell of a good story, to provide us with the animus needed to build a transformative movement, one with the will and determination to defeat its enemies.
Without question, building a force of this nature is the critical challenge of our age. As Frantz Fanon once prophetically stated, “each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.” The question is which one of these will we choose? The choice is ours. We can panic and follow the liberal road to ruin, either intentionally or by default. Or we can rise up, build on our experiences, move from our strengths and forge a new path. Let’s choose the latter.
For a more thorough analysis along these lines, please read:
- Shifting Focus: Organizing for Revolution, Not Crisis Avoidance, Part 1, by Kali Akuno, Brian Drolet, and Doug Norberg https://navigatingthestorm.blogspot.com/2021/11/shifting-focus-organizing-for.html
Be on the lookout for Part 2 of “Shifting Focus” in March 2022.
Also be on the lookout for the forthcoming “Build and Fight Formula” by Kali Akuno that attempts to provide analysis on how to use the tools of the solidarity economy to build eco-socialism from below.
Suggested Reading and Viewing List
- Trump’s Next Coup has already begun, by Barton Gellman https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/01/january-6-insurrection-trump-coup-2024-election/620843/
- The Coming Coup: How Republicans are laying the Groundwork to Steal Future Elections, by Ari Berman https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2022/01/how-republicans-are-taking-over-election-system-big-lie/
- Why the US Military isn’t Ready for Civil War, by Stephen Marche https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/01/04/american-civil-war-january-6-capitol/?fbclid=IwAR2U8chWybvHm0CJthURd2989wa7ADHGaqU3_BcNfjRIHRTYtw9p93oDkUc
- Millions of Angry, Armed Americans Stand Ready to Seize Power if Trump loses in 2024, by David H. Freeman https://www.newsweek.com/2021/12/31/millions-angry-armed-americans-stand-ready-seize-power-if-trump-loses-2024-1660953.html
- Expose each and every level: Lawmaker makes promise for January 6th hearings, CNN https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIjREddNZjU
- Day of Rage: How Trump Supporters Took the US Capitol, NY Times Visual Investigations https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWJVMoe7OY0
- Preserving Democracy: Pursuing a More Perfect Union, PBS Documentary https://www.pbs.org/video/preserving-democracy-pursuing-a-more-perfect-union-xpblv8/
- America is Now in Fascisms Legal Phase, Amanpour and Company https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xkcCmdE1u4&t=1s
- US Democracy may be running out of luck, Amanpour and Company https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4_J5yf0VBU&t=37s
- Former Top General Warns of Potential ‘2024 Insurrection’, Amanpour and Company https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0W3kUSV3pic
Jackson Rising Redux: Lessons on Building the Future in the Present