Love and Rage

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For the 1998 film, see Love and Rage (film).

The Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation was formed in the United States in 1993 out of the remaining groups in the Love and Rage Network.

Background[edit]

The Love and Rage Network had its genesis in a November 1989 conference to launch a North American revolutionary anarchist newspaper.[1] The "newspaper project" grew out of a series of North American Anarchist Gatherings in 1986 (Chicago), 1987 (Minneapolis), 1988 (Toronto) and 1989 (San Francisco). At the 1986 gathering, a network of groups began to cohere. At the 1987 gathering the loose Mayday Network was established and the following year discussions of a North American Anarchist Newspaper led to the production of two one-shot newspapers, 'Rage' and 'Writing on the Wall', that were precursors of 'Love and Rage/Amor y Rabia.'

The main initiative, however, came from the Minneapolis-based Revolutionary Anarchist Bowling League (RABL). The formerly Trotskyist Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL) (who disbanded immediately before a faction of their members participated in founding the new project, and gave them their tax-exempt non-profit organization, the Aspect Foundation) was also one of the main forces behind this. The initial supporters included anarchist collectives from Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, Atlanta, Toronto and Knoxville. Another strong influence on the organization was the "Free Society" collective which was influenced by the social ecology theories of Murray Bookchin. They began publishing their bi-lingual newspaper - Love and Rage/Amor y Rabia – in January 1990. Some anarchists were wary of the network and their federation, wondering if they were truly anarchist, some anarchists even wondered if the RSL was a Trotskyist group performing some kind of entryist tactic. More lifestyle-oriented anarchists, particularly those at Fifth Estate had accused Love and Rage of being a secretly Leninist sect from its very beginnings. While some members of the New York City local did eventually become Leninists, this accusation did not make sense to most members of the group, who defined themselves as anarchists and rejected Leninism. Subsequent developments revealed the former RSL members to be among the most orthodox anarchists in the organization. For members of Love and Rage, the "Trotskyist" influence on the group never made much sense, as the ex-RSL group tended to be a generation older than the 20-30 something base of the rest of the group, and not directly involved in the ongoing activist work that occupied the time and energy of most members.

Activism[edit]

In its various incarnations (as newspaper, network and federation) Love and Rage had a strong activist orientation and its members participated in a variety of struggles around different issues. The first major action supported by Love and Rage was the 1990 Earth Day Wall Street Action, a day of direct action targeting the ecological consequences of capitalism. Love and Rage called the first national black bloc in the United States as a breakaway from the main body of a January 1991 March on Washington DC against the first Persian Gulf War which attacked the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund.

From the beginning Love and Rage members showed little regard for anarchist orthodoxies, and adopted positions heavily influenced by several varieties of Marxism, most notably support for national liberation struggles and embracing a white privilege analysis of racism in the U.S.[1] that argued that the material and psychological benefits received by white workers at the expense of non-white (especially African American) workers undermined the basis of multi-racial working class unity and therefore had to be confronted directly if such unity was desired. These ideas came into the organization especially because of the role of prison-solidarity work, which forged personal relationships between Love and Rage members and former members of groups such as the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army, the Weather Underground Organization, and the George Jackson Brigade. The theory has complex roots in Black nationalist and American communist thinking and became influential in the New Left through the writings of Noel Ignatiev, and Ted Allen. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Ignatiev and Allen were both members of the Provisional Organizing Committee, a proto-Maoist breakaway from the CPUSA. Ignatiev became active in Students for a Democratic Society and was later a leading figure in the Sojourner Truth Organization, an organization influenced by Maoism and Italian Autonomist Marxism. He briefly joined Love and Rage but denounced the group as "incapable of building dual power" at its 1994 conference, and left after less than a year. Some members of Love and Rage also echoed Lenin in arguing for the need for disciplined forms of revolutionary organization. The two most clearly opposed positions: one calling for a cadre type organization and the other for a more federated and localized group were based roughly in New York, where members involved in organizing within the multi-national and largely working class student movement at the City University of New York(CUNY) came to question some central tenets of anarchism, and Minneapolis, where the political environment was more focused on community organizing projects. The emergence of two opposed trends was one of the factors that led the group to split.

In 1991 the groups putting out the newspaper formed the Love and Rage Network. That same year an anarchist gathering in Cuernavaca, Mexico led to the creation of the first Amor y Rabia group in Mexico City. In 1993 the Mexico City group, with the support of others in Mexico, began publishing their own newspaper, Amor y Rabia. The U.S. based newspaper became mono-lingual at this point and the Mexican paper was distributed to Spanish readers in the U.S..

Youth involvement[edit]

In its early stages, Love and Rage enjoyed significant support from younger anarchist activists, many of them coming from the anarchist punk scene, and drawn by the paper's confrontational militancy and coverage of topics such as environmentalism, the autonome movement, and animal rights. The initial Love and Rage political statement expressed the paper's stance on youth liberation: "Love and Rage will support the struggles of youth against their specific oppression. Love and Rage makes a special effort to provide a platform for youth. We recognize that the revolutionary future lies with the youth."

From the start, Love and Rage included coverage of the Youth Greens, Youth Liberation gatherings, and the punk-oriented Anarchist Youth Federation (AYF). Contributors and supporters included AYF and Youth Green members as well as such anarchist punk stalwarts as Profane Existence and Felix von Havoc.

However, at the June 29-July 1, 1991 "Governments don't fall by themselves" organizing conference, tensions between older and younger activists came to a head, leading at one point to a walkout of young activists. The desires of these youth for greater consideration and participation in the project led to several changes in the wake of the conference: the election of 5 AYF members to the 10-person coordinating group, the creation of a monthly AYF page in the paper, and an expanded anti-ageist section in the political statement.

The AYF page continued through the end of 1992, when AYF internal disagreements led to its temporary suspension. Further reorganization by Love and Rage made this a moot point, although the paper continued to cover youth issues up until the end.

Renaming[edit]

In 1993, the core New York, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Mexico City groups and others expressed the desire for a tighter federal structure, which caused some other groups to leave and new people to join. This is when the Love and Rage Network was renamed the Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation. At this time Love and Rage members were very active in doing anti-Klan and anti-Nazi work and in building up Anti-Racist Action (ARA).[1][2] Others were active in defending abortion clinics and doing prisoner solidarity activism.

The 1994 Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico focused much of the attention of the organization on Zapatista solidarity work. Members of Amor y Rabia made quick contact with the Zapatistas and Love and Rage members in the United States were early participants in setting up Zapatista solidarity groups and in disseminating English translations of their communiques. At the 1994 convention of Love and Rage, "Mexico Solidarity," "Prison Abolition" and "Anti-Fascism" (including anti-police brutality, anti-KKK, and abortion/gay rights) were decided as the three main areas of work for the organization.

Love and Rage members also participated in a variety of fights against neo-liberal measures in the U.S.. These included the fight against budget cuts and tuition hikes at the City University of New York (CUNY), connections with Welfare Rights organizers in Minneapolis,and a Living Wage campaign in Vermont.

The Livable Wage campaign in Vermont (conducted by the Number Ten Collective) resulted in Love and Rage's most lasting and grand legacy; the creation of Vermont Workers Center. Today the Vermont Workers' Center, a left wing grassroots workers' organization, includes as affiliated members the Vermont AFL-CIO and most of the other labor unions in the state. In addition to this, they have hundreds of non-union members, local chapters across Vermont, and entail a total constituency in the tens of thousands. As of 2010, the Workers Center is the Vermont Labor Movement

Divisions[edit]

By 1996 major divisions began to appear in the organization. One or two of the most active members were moving away from anarchism. Another trend made up mainly of older former members of the Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL)[1] who argued for an anarchist politics focused on the working class, in opposition to two other factions, both which focused on race: one which wanted to make "white skin privilege" the central concern; the other of which focused more broadly on what some would call a Third World Marxist program which included an endorsement of nationalism by non-white racial groups, combined with a focus on gender and sexuality. The regional division in the organization, related to differing priorities in the locals based in New York City and Minneapolis also played a role. The Minneapolis local focused primarily on building relationships with local organizations, building a large and regular copwatch project, playing a significant role in local efforts around Mumia Abu-Jamal's case, police brutality, Zapatista solidarity, and abortion rights. As the fight over Marxism took off between ex-RSL, many in Minneapolis found the debate to be irrelevant to organizing work, and began to leave the organization. The Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation formally dissolved in 1998. The Marxist-influenced trend based in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area formed the Fire by Night Organizing Committee, a non-anarchist cadre group which had chapters in San Francisco and New York.[1] Two other New York members (one of whom had been a Maoist before joining Love and Rage) entered the Marxist organization Freedom Road Socialist Organization. A second group - those who endorsed the idea of 'white privilege' and were grouped around Joel Olson - formed the Bring the Ruckus! federation,[3] who described themselves as between Leninist party and an anarchist network. Another group, made up of former members of the RSL began publishing The Utopian, and some of them later entered the platformist anarchist federation NEFAC. And many other individuals went on to be active in anarchist and non-anarchist forms of activism.

While the formal membership of Love and Rage never exceeded 150 at any one time (and fewer than 40 attended the final conference), several times that many people passed through the organization and it enjoyed an even larger circle of sympathizers and readers of its newspaper (the print run of the last issue was 9,000). Love and Rage had a very lively culture of internal debate that, for most of its life, successfully avoided sectarian bickering. While they largely rejected its emphasis on building a disciplined revolutionary organization, Love and Rage influenced the political perspectives of a fraction of the young activists who would go on to play major roles in the anti-globalization movement, in particular their understanding of the distinct role of racism in the workings of U.S. society.

Resources[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "LOVE AND RAGE BREAKS UP FIRE BY NIGHT ORGANIZING COMMITTEE LAUNCHED". Spunk Library. Fire By Night Organizing Committee. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  2. ^ Suzy Subways. "A New World In Our Hearts: 8 Years of Writings from the Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation". Goodreads Inc. AK Press. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  3. ^ bajin (16 May 2012). "On the Passing of Joel Olson". Bring the Ruckus. bringtheruckus.org. Retrieved 29 July 2012.