Tag Archives: redneck revolt

Autonomist Antifascism: An Interview With Kevin Van Meter

This is an interview with Kevin Van Meter, the author of the new book Guerrillas of Desire: Notes on Everyday Resistance and Organizing to Make a Revolution Possible.  Van Meter draws on the Autonomist Marxist tradition to discuss how the concept of “everyday resistance” can inform antifascist struggle.

Pick up Guerrillas of Desire from AK Press.

 

AFN: You have written about the fragmentary position of the left, especially the state of the labor movement and the changing tide of class consciousness and composition. What do you think left and revolutionary organizations should do now?

 

Kevin Van Meter: I think it is remarkable to note that the labor movement predates things like the 1886 Haymarket Massacre. It really goes back to the 1850s in the United States and Europe. It took capitalism a hundred and seventy-five years to smash the labor movement. From it’s rise and development, the formation of the American Federation of Labor, from the development of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1905 and its initial suppression in the 1920s. But we have never had a weaker labor movement than we have right now, and it took capitalism a fucking long time to destroy it. That is remarkable and worthy of our attention.

With that said, the activities which lead to the formation of the IWW, the rise of feminist consciousness raising collectives, of the Black Panthers, and similar formulations was the expression of prior forms of self-activity, which the left and labor in our contemporary period ignore. I make this claim in Guerillas of Desire that left organizing assumes that the people are unorganized and not resisting in their everyday lives. I think I’ve shown empirically that this assumption is unfounded. Any good union organizer is going tell you when they walk into the shop for the first time they want to see where those existing power relationships are. Who’s the trusted worker that fellow workers talk to when looking for advice? Who is taking really long bathroom breaks? Who is punching in their drunk friend? These forms of organization, communication, and resistance are already taking place.

I open Guerillas of Desire with a story about how I went on a job interview with Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, better known by it’s acronym ACORN. We knocked on doors to get people to sign our petition, give donations, and support legislation around getting child care. Well, it is a fundamentally different thing when you’re going around knocking on doors asking for the state to provide child care than to actually acknowledge that the people who are surviving under very difficult circumstances and are, in fact, already addressing the childcare needs in informal ways. The question should instead be about how we can assist people so that they can survive more efficiently and have a better quality of life […] from those initial methods of survival to something that’s expressed on a higher level of organization or composition. So I would argue that it’s a fundamentally different thing to demand that the state provide child care than to organize child care collectives or take existing survival methods of child care and further organize them to a higher level and then make the state pay for it. Those are not the same thing. The first is how the left behaves regularly, leading to chagrin and failure. The second is the road that is not regularly taken, to see the existing forms of self-activity and everyday resistance as the real core of effective organizing.

I’m interested in how we further struggles, how we circulate struggles, and how we understand how particular communities are surviving. Even under the horrible fucking conditions of the capitalist state and the massive deprivation of resources. So we need to understand that and to then internalize what those communities’ needs and desires actually are. Maybe they need and desire revolutionary organization or maybe they need a “survival pending revolution” programs. Who are we to decide ahead of time? Where do our needs to reproduce ourselves connect the needs for other people to reproduce themselves […] for education, for housing, for childcare, and other necessities. We also need to put the reproduction of our movements and the self-reproduction of the class on our political agenda. Those are two important questions.

 

 

AFN: How do you think the concept of “everyday resistance” applied to antifascist struggle?

 

KVM: I think these new antifascist formations must connect to the self-activity of the working class, and then we hear of projects like Redneck Revolt or the Bastards Motorcycle Club that argue just this. These things actually are emerging out of existing working class formations and new working-class organizations are forming. These new antifascist projects are coming out of some existing social sphere, so the question is what that sphere is. What things are taking place in our communities that could provide new approaches?

These antifascist groups are also going to have to address their own self-reproduction of their members and their own survival. If that is slush funds for legal counsel, if that is safe houses for organizers and marginalized people, if that’s creating infrastructure, those are all important. One of the lessons I learned from the “Green Scare” is the density and strength of social relationships among the thousands brought to revolutionary activities, and then the movements relationship to the larger community, is vitally important.  Because you want the larger community to come to the defense of antifascist forces when they’re under attack, you need that connection.  It’s one thing for someone to say they support person “X” because they’re an antifascist. It’s a totally other thing for them to say they support a particular individual, a member of their community that they know intimately. That is a different kind of social relationship. We’re going to have to consider those and I think what’s exciting about the new formulations that are coming out, like Redneck Revolt, is that they are coming out of a different social relationship and community than we often have had in the past.

I mean we have to ask ourselves what else is coming out of that community. What kind of working class needs and desires are being expressed in other ways that might not be antifascist, but are still critically important.  Something simply like “survival pending revolution” programs, these could be educational projects or workplace organizing, it could be a referral service for collective houses. All kinds of projects that meet the needs of that community. Antifascist work is just one of those needs, but not the whole need. The mistake would be to only look at what’s coming out of antifascist activity and not all the needs and projects that are emerging.  Other things are coming out to they might not be expressed yet, that aren’t fully formed, but still will be where the needs, activity, and consciousness of the class is at.

 

AFN: How do you think the broad resistance to Trump and Trumpism plays out in this context?

 

KVM: I think that’s also dangerous because that’s focusing on an abstract enemy instead of the kinds of struggles that are actually taking place.

 

We have rising rent in a lot of places. We have the eroding structure of the welfare state. People are surviving in some way, and we don’t really know what that looks like.   How do we connect the needs with the projects people are creating to survive so we can further develop alternatives to capitalism? Community gardens, alternative schools, or other projects people create to just survive. And I think we need to ask some of these larger questions.

Also, and this is more theoretical, but in fact the desire to liberate and the desire to oppress are, in fact, the same desire. We have this terrible idea that “fascist bad,” “lefties good.” But there are fascistic desires that exist that circulate. For example, the anti-Semitism currently being expressed by certain sectors of the left is a fascistic desire. Anti-trans politics (i.e. TERFs) by certain sectors of the left is a fascistic desire.  It’s a desire to oppress and I think what we need to ask ourselves how is the desire to liberate and the desire to oppress emerging and formulated in such a way to create different kinds of power relationships and organizational forms. I think we have to constantly ask ourselves where the desire to repress is coming from and how it is manifesting.

 

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Stand Against Islamophobia: A Report Back from Lansing Class with “Sharia Law” March

About thirty Islamophobes convened in Lansing, MI to protest “Sharia Law” in a multi-city action organized by ACT for America on Saturday, June 10th. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, ACT for America is the largest anti-Muslim hate group in the country and just like many other cities, a massive counter-protest was organized by several different anti-fascist and anti-racist groups to stand up to their hate. The counter-protestors who showed up considered their action a complete victory. They easily outnumbered the Islamophobes by four to one, remained peaceful, and were able to keep the protestors from fulfilling their main objective of marching through a local Muslim neighborhood.

The Lansing State Journal covered this story with a photo montage that didn’t truly capture the visuals of just how much these protestors were outnumbers and failed to provide the context of a dramatic picture at the end that showed two men hugging at the end of the protest.  The man on the left is Michigan Militia member Chas Brothers from Vandalia, MI and the man on the right is Timothy Grey of the Traverse City chapter of Redneck Revolt, an anti-racist outreach group. Redneck Revolt is a relatively new organization that’s only a year old, but already has thirty chapters across the country. Per their website: “Redneck Revolt is a national network of community defense projects from a broad spread of political, religious, and cultural backgrounds. It is a pro-worker, anti-racist organization that focuses on working class liberation from the oppressive systems which dominate our lives. In states where it is legal to practice armed community defense, many branches choose to become John Brown Gun Clubs, training ourselves and our communities in defense and mutual aid.”

Along with Redneck Revolt, the other counter-protest organizers decided it would be for the best for them to not bring arms to this protest, but they did come out on the front lines and introduced themselves to several members of the Michigan Militia before the rest of the counter-protest showed up in block formation to oppose them. According to Timothy Grey, they introduced themselves to a few guys in the Michigan Militia and both sides agreed that they wanted the day to go peacefully. As Timothy explained, they knew that a lot of these guys were old vets and that they would be more likely to uphold this promise on the honor system if it was established ahead of time. Prior to that Timothy and the rest of Redneck Revolt had been involved in providing the counter-protestors with the intel they needed to determine which groups had shown up and exactly where they finally decided to convene, which was a half a mile away from the Muslim neighborhood they were originally targeting. The Michigan Militia was there, along with the Proud Boys, some older people who’ve watched too much Fox news, and a few Trump frat-boys.

The counter-protest arrived with chants of “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” and “No Hate! No Fear! Muslims Are Welcome Here.”  They kept their chants going for about two hours as police barricaded the two sides from each other. During all of this though, activists from Solidarity & Defense broke into the “Anti-Sharia” side and began passing out pamphlets to people, letting them know that there was a verifiable neo-Nazi amongst their ranks. He was with the Proud Boys crowd, which should be noted were not particularly proud, because several of them chose to cover their faces while they attempted to sling incoherent insults to counter-protestors.

Once the Michigan Militia got word that the neo-Nazi was trying to pass out literature of his own and had an obviously anti-Semitic sign he was planning to pull out, they made him put it all away. Despite their racist fears of “Sharia Law,” they had decided that blatant Nazism was just taking it too far. Timothy Grey and the other guys from Redneck Revolt then began a conversation with some of the militia members. Timothy asked them “You guys are veterans right?” and then looked at each of them sizing them up by age: ” You were in Desert Storm, you were in Vietnam, and you were in Korea right? The people a generation before you gave their lives to defend the people you are now defending on U.S. soil,” referring to the soldiers who fought on the Western front during WWII against the Nazis.

After that the militia members began to defend themselves by expressing their concerns about “Sharia Law.” Timothy and his friends challenged them to find a real bill where this was actually proposed. He told them they were fighting a specter, something that didn’t exist. One of them told him that this was a “Christian nation” and they refuted that you had to support everyone’s right to freedom of religion. Then to everyone’s surprise the cop who was standing near them agreed and said this country had freedom of religion. The militia men had expected full police support.

As the counter-protest decided to pick up and march back to the front of the Muslim neighborhood they were trying to protect, Michigan Militia man Chas Brothers crossed the police barricade and said “Sir I need to talk to you,” to Timothy. Timothy walked back over to him and Chas said “I want you to know that my grandparents, aunts, and uncles were in Dachau. Only two out of my seven aunts survived.” He told him how one of his aunts was the meanest person, but he knew it was because of her horrible experiences in a concentration camp. Finally Chas, who Timothy described as a Vietnam Vet in his 70’s said, “You really started me thinking today. Thank you for coming out here and sticking up for my grandparents.” Then he teared up and asked if it would be alright to give Timothy a hug and that is how the Lansing State Journal captured a really powerful moment that never got fully explained.

Afterwards Timothy reflected to his friends in Redneck Revolt that although the idea of counter-recruting is part of their mission “I have to say I underestimated the power of counter-recruiting.” This exchange showed that there are many ways to connect with people and reach across the divide to counter hate and increase better understanding.

Timothy, who works as a filmmaker,  said he got involved with Redneck Revolt this past year. He had previously been involved in anti-racist organizing over the years and had most recently worked on helping change Traverse City’s Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. He said that he was inspired by their success to see what else he could do and had a friend who suggested Redneck Revolt.  Their chapter currently has 12 members and is still growing.

Some people have asked them why they embrace the term redneck. According to their website “Today, the term redneck has taken on a demeaning connotation, primarily among upper class urban liberals who have gone out of their way to dehumanize working class and poor people. Terms like ‘white trash’ and ‘hillbilly’ have come to signify the view among these same upper class liberals of poor rural folks. To us, the term redneck is a term that signifies a pride in our class as well as a pride in resistance to bosses, politicians, and all those that protect domination and tyranny.”

This is a group that is trying to find a way to connect with other disenfranchised working class people and help them learn that their real oppressors are not immigrants, people with different ethnicities, or different religions all without the typical academic rhetoric. Timothy says that if you would like to find a Redneck Revolt chapter near you check out redneckrevolt.org. If there isn’t a chapter within an hour of you, you can apply to start a new chapter yourself.

 

You can also follow their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RedneckRevolt