For Class Struggle, Against Whiteness: Where We Are And Where We Should Go.
By Gus Breslauer
Author's Note: This article was written in Summer 2018 as a strategy paper around questions and debates within the national Redneck Revolt / John Brown Gun Club network, it is now being made available publicly. I am no longer a member and it is no secret the organization is a fraction of the size of when this wide-eyed paper was written, however I think this paper may serve to 1.) bring clarity to the questions contained in the organization at the time, and 2.) provide guidance to community defense organizations and anti-fascist groups who may find themselves questioning their current practices.
“Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year. It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow.” - WEB Du Bois
Redneck Revolt/John Brown Gun Club (henceforth RR) is quickly approaching our second anniversary, however in this quickly growing organization, most of us are approaching or passing the first birthday of our locals. We certainly have a lot to be proud of, we held ground in Charlottesville when its streets were taken by fascists, protecting the injured among us. We brought people together and pushed back against NGO forces who descended upon disaster affected areas for their own gain. We have deployed dozens of different service projects, which alleviate some of the suffering and loss we experience under capitalism. We've faced down some of the most dangerous reactionaries in America, at times out-armed, out-trained, and outnumbered, and come out on the other side more determined than ever.
However, there is still much work to do. It is worth talking about what has not been done. RR has very few “victories” of our own to claim, without resorting to a subjective, abstract analysis . Our projects are distant from actual political fights. They typically do not entail targets or demands. We do have, to our credit, a wide net cast and are good about reaching out to the most oppressed sections of the class, however whereas the terrain might be in our schools, neighborhoods and workplaces, the activity has thus far been symbolic, service or educational related. These kinds of activity are vital and essential parts of what we do; However, none of them are within a class struggle method in my opinion, and very few of them pose any challenge to the capitalist social order.
My informal and open proposal is that we make a new effort towards class struggle organizing, while first and foremost retaining all existing educational and service projects (it is not the my intention to propose we abandon any existing work). There are a ton of questions that are likely raised by this. What activity meant by a class struggle method? Wait, I thought that food distro I did last week was the class struggle? Isn't class struggle for unions and stuff way bigger than RR? I will attempt to address most of this as we go, however none of this meant to attack the composition of our make-up (we are very predominantly working class by most any measure), but rather bring to question what we do as a collection of armed and advanced workers.
What are the pitfalls of activist/non-profit based organizing?
“One of the tasks of any revolutionary movement is to turn fighters into thinkers and thinkers into fighters.” General Baker
RR is mostly a group of self-selected leftists, even if (much like the rest of the revolutionary left) we seek to do work with workers unaffiliated with the left and have a healthy degree of distance from it. We are working class and poor people, therefore we are mostly a part of the class, however we are also politically an advanced element, therefore it's an objective condition that we have something that sets us apart from the people we want to fight with. This is not a criticism, it's just a fact and there's no forcing any other condition to somehow become less “leftist”.
There is a strain of activism in the organization broadly, that repeats decades of wash and repeat (maybe changing the formula here and there) of work that can easily be taken up by non-profits (in fact, some have left RR as their local service project becomes bigger than RR) and what some of us have called “low hanging fruit” work. This is definitely work, driven by the roughest margins of the division of labor and time, the service work we do shouldn't be devalued. We have big hearts and we should continue to use what little time and labor we have to simply help each other and people like us. However, the last thing I want to do is invite RR recruits into the rituals of the activist left.
The tendency, however, is for leftist activists to reproduce the conditions of the class rather than build organizations that actively lead a fight against them. Activists feed the homeless, so that they do not go to bed hungry. This is a good thing to do, however it is unfortunate they wake up the next day after Food Not Bombs in the same exact conditions which created their hunger the day before. In order to truly challenge these conditions, longer term work has to be done in which the people who attack this vulnerable section of the class are targeted, and the exploited themselves formulate demands against them. This can be applied to the family being evicted, the coworker that just got fired, etc. Possibly for being black, for being poor, for being queer, etc.
Education, skills-sharing and consciousness raising are vital and necessary things, however most revolutionaries know this to be insufficient, ultimately it is not simply our minds and ideas that need to change. Yet what more of a bunch drenched in idealism is there than the left? We can bring people to think critically about the world in a number of ways, but it is another to actually make the changes we want to see. We believe in a need for revolution, that the system is fundamentally oppressive at its core, and we cannot change it from within or reform it, without retaining its basic premise of exploitation and oppression. That's abstract, but I personally care less about if someone has all the same view of everything, as much as I care that they want to fight the same enemies as me, and they have my back.
Volunteerism and service-work should be understood as something that's not really all that political. I would encourage us to really evaluate this and the other things that we put our labor towards. I'm of the opinion that NGO/Non-profits that function like capitalist institutions should be mostly left to their own, they will often do the work better than radicals trying to make it radical. However, there is a political advantage from these activities from a more radical organization that seeks mass appeal and can spare the labor, eventually if the class struggles with all it has and is really fighting with its labor power, it will depend increasingly on each other to reproduce itself. However out of the context of a fight, the kind the class struggle organization wages, it is just using unwaged labor and unused property to alleviate the social problems that come from wage labor and used property. If we are revolutionaries, we should be consistent and be clear that these things are not solutions, and that the solution to social problems can be located in class struggle.
What is class struggle organizing and how does it fit into RR?
"Labor in the white skin can never free itself as long as labor in the black skin is branded.” - Karl Marx
The class struggles on a number of sites as a part of institutions, these are workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods, but also within the home, in prisons, as patients, etc. It is within these institutions, the class society reigns supreme, the ownership class uses these to maintain systems of exploitation. On occasion, when under attack, the exploited within these institutions organize to fight for themselves, which can look a number of ways and take a ton of different strategies, the net can still be cast very wide here.
More specifically this would have us actually building fighting formations against rent hikes, tuition hikes, evictions, workplace discrimination and harassment, wage theft, cuts to race and gender studies, landlord neglect, police brutality, campus bathroom policies, deportations and a myriad of other forms of direct attacks on working and poor people's livelihoods and labor. Fighting formations are groupings of militants who are prepared to take up struggles and fight alongside working class people for demands against targets, over common grievances we have with the capitalist class. A class struggle approach to community defense in line with RR's network principles and current capacities, looks as simple as finding one or more people under attack in the above situations that is/are willing to fight and use people power as their main resources. We facilitate them doing outreach, and match supporters of their broader communities from that of our own, we help form demands and deliver them with such displays of people power, and escalating the campaign and socializing the struggle, as it goes, and try to reproduce ourselves as organizers in working and poor people unaffiliated with the left. That is making something usually much more complex with many more nuts-and-bolts sound very simple.
This kind of organizing is not the easier, softer way either. However, the methods, when carefully and critically deployed, are tried, tested and proven. Direct action gets the goods. Also, I am not in theory an advocate of “non-violence”, but this work tends to be within most workable understandings of “non-violence” and also “above ground”. Seattle Solidarity Network is one of many examples from recent memory. In the first 2 years, there was at least 50 victories, usually around a wage theft or housing grievance. I am in no way proposing a copy-paste of the SeaSol model into Redneck Revolt, that would not work, nor would that be necessarily desirable, however their method and experience is useful as a starting place for what is possible within our own work.  Later in the piece, I will elaborate on starting small and how to get the most class struggle out of a small capacity. I can attest personally that I have also been a part of and central to multiple moments when we fought back and won, and I will say there are few experiences that have brought me greater joy. I've been in workplaces where average working class people have overcome prejudices to fight alongside each other in ways that are more meaningful than any idealistic call out. I've seen real results that also make a difference in people's lives, and I've seen people grow and become revolutionaries.
The most recent wave of fascism and reaction generally, when put through a class analysis, reveals a great deal of factors that cannot be covered in full here. However, let's touch on a few. Would-be reactionaries turn towards the far right out of a perceived loss of power. It's 2018 and the situation is dire for all working and poor people, to an increasing degree, and standards of living across the board are starting fall across the class quickly. Racism, ultra-nationalism, and misogyny provide would-be reactionaries a narrative to explain the attacks that are listed above. One cause of this has been the historic decline of class struggle organizing: there are no organizations fighting for these people on a basis where class interests can prevail over racial interests, where white people are offered a path to betraying their interests as white people, by uniting with the demands of black and brown workers. There has been a complete void of political organizations that unite the interests of the racialized working class, as a force capable of fighting. We've viewed counter-recruitment a great number of ways, intervening against them at gun shows, trying to drive at the cracks in the militia movement, and develop relationships with individual militia formations, and strategically weaken the alliances these groups have with the far right. However, I think the most meaningful intervention we can make will be in developing our locals as fighting formations.
The organization recently engaged in conversations over if we should change our propaganda and literature from a “white working class” focus to that of a purely working class rhetoric. The white working class, when organized as such, is mostly a dangerous and reactionary element, however this is never what I have seen RR as. Such a change on paper, especially when we have simply been radio silent on the question for so long, would be a somewhat surface level, superficial change. I do not see the point of revolutionaries coming together in America without specific politics and a way of thinking about race. This has been the central question for all revolutionaries in America. It also would leave the counter-recruitment strategy in a very odd place. I suggest a much longer, harder road, to becoming a class struggle organization which deploys a “treason to whiteness” strategy based on currently existing conditions and the potential for people to break out of them.
I see reaction as a part of a historical process, and counter recruitment as a strategy of intervention for all the stages prior to fighting them head-on in the street as emboldened Nazis. With all respect due to nazi-punching, fascism is built on our failed interventions and defeats. By the time we are fighting fascists head on, the most viable stage at which to intervene has largely passed. RR has thus far seen counter-recruitment as a vast array of activities, however building class struggle fighting organizations is the best long-term strategy for counter-recruitment. A common phrase of the early German Social Democrats (which was a “big tent” organization) prior to Hitler’s rise to power was “anti-semitism is the socialism of fools”. While I think there’s more nuance to unpack here, and it’s not a clean transfer, but the idea is the same. Reactionaries thrive in times and places where class struggle has failed them.
The following is from the founding political document from an organization that existed from 2001-2012 called Bring the Ruckus. The group came from the fall out of the Love and Rage Anarchist Federation , and was heavily informed from debates on race inside and outside of Love and Rage:
“...White supremacy, then, unites one section of the working class with the ruling class against the rest of the working class. This cross-class alliance represents the principle obstacle, strategically speaking, to revolution in the United States. Given the United States' imperial power, this alliance has global implications.
The central task of a new organization should be to break up this unholy alliance between the ruling class and the white working class by attacking the system of white privilege and the subordination of people of color. This is not to say that white supremacy is the "worst" form of oppression in this country, nor is it to imply that if white supremacy disappears then all other forms of oppression will magically melt away. Instead, it is a strategic argument, based on an analysis of U.S. history, designed to attack the American death star at its weakest point. The glue that has kept the American state together has been white supremacy; melting that glue creates revolutionary possibilities.”
It is on the terrain of class struggle I think where we have the best shot at “melting the glue” that Bring the Ruckus is talking about. I think Bring the Ruckus mostly wanted to deploy this in formations made up of mostly non-white people, as seen in their organizing criteria , and all of their specific positions aren’t easily transferable to RR. However we do come from the same point of departure, it is an objective fact. Is there any way to avoid this reality? The cross-class alliance can only be liquidated by an organization that deploys class struggle in a way which challenges the alliance, with targets and demands and mobilizing a network of working class people. I think the preference is for this to be a multi-racial organization, but in RR’s case, one which prioritizes the process by which white people betray their interests as white people.
Why should we make this shift now?
“I place my own hope for the United States in the growth of belief among the unqualified that they are in fact qualified: they can articulate and be responsible and hold power.” - Stokely Carmichael
The issues with activist-based organizing aren't exclusive to RR. There's lots of other organizations and general sections of the left which have seen a lot of growth without turning to class struggle based organizing. People are dressing up in black bloc and handing out ice cream and fixing up potholes. The DSA has locals that are hundreds strong, whose central campaigns in many places is changing brake lights. I don't think the DSA should stop changing brake lights because this practice creates an important culture of mutual aid and relationship with the general public, however we can see how this practice poses no challenge to the capitalist system. Right now, we’ve seen a growth of interest in anti-capitalist politics, but all at once, people do not know what to do next. We have to begin thinking around the next corner.
Every organization has seen it's “trump bump” and RR is somewhat related to this phenomenon as well. We've been heavily supplied by thus far by a wave of mostly-leftist joiners who agreed with the organizations politics on paper, at a time in history where people flocked to leftist organizations, seeing the rightward turn in mainstream politics and the reactionaries coming out from the fringes. We have been supplied with recruits via some very good press (although we know they almost always get at least one thing wrong) and optics, combined with these historically politicizing events (the election, Charlottesville, police brutality, etc.) have moved thousands in recent years which are sort of beyond our control. That is great: we made an organization of 400+ like-minded working and poor people most whom would consider themselves revolutionaries, in a very short time, and that it is quite the accomplishment. However, I think we're pretty much at where we're at, I can't perceive another wave that is going to bring more of the same into the organization. Whatever pink cloud we had around the conference last year, has long since evaporated. We need to start having some serious big picture, long term conversation about what we should do as an organization of 400+ revolutionaries, because I think we can do a lot as this many people, and we're at where we're at. I don't have a crystal ball, but the “join a leftist organization” wave is winding down, and we are in serious trouble if we don’t have a critical look at how we can effectively fight with what we have. Fortunately, we can figure this out. We’ve taken a critical look at our vetting structure and found that it needs some expansion in order to maintain a quality of incoming organizers.
Most of us perceive Redneck Revolt as a long-term organization, which is good because that is all the more reason for a shift. I am optimistic that we can maintain this as a long-term organization (pending !bylaws), however I am of the opinion that much of the service-work is not sustainable long term. We saw a very active local leave recently (and this isn't meant to be anything personal to them, I wish them the best regards) because their service project had outgrown their capacity as an RR local, and they needed to pursue an NGO path essentially. Others have left RR as well to focus on other NGO/Non-profit work. We need to prove to the class (without being hard sellers) that we are not only people who care deeply about our neighbors and co-workers, friends and families, but also people they can trust to fight and win alongside them. Recruitment this way (and we will still attract leftist joiners when they see good work as well) will undoubtedly lead to recruiting better militants, and our relationships with each other will also deepen. We will ultimately build an organization of people willing to fight and win.
Armed struggle is not right around the corner. No aspect of our armed orientation should change as a result of this, but I am talking less about activity that we can do a lot of weaving of guns into; RR's future hinges on people power, rather than fire power. I definitely have been grateful to see all the development; everyone's aim and knowledge has likely improved, and while I have always “liked” guns, RR has taken that to another level. We should not look to downgrade our armed work, but if we're talking community defense, gentrification and poverty wages are an increasingly pervasive threat to working people. Regardless, we already have a great deal of knowledge and skills contained within the organization, but we do also need the kind of worker with the heart and willingness to fight that we have, and to arm them and ourselves not just literally, but also with the kind of action that confronts those structures directly.
How do we implement a turn towards class struggle organizing?
“The working classes in every country only learn to fight in the course of their struggles.” - Rosa Luxemburg
This can't be done through a simple proposal, which is why the position piece was written. Any RR that sees validity in this position and wants to implement it will need to carry the position within their locals and pursue the work themselves.
In the section describing class struggle organizing, there were a range of activities listed. In no way do I suggest that we have the capacity for them all from the get-go. There is an entire scale that we do not have the capacity for, most of this work means building an organizing committee that puts in a lot of work in flyering and outreach, and maybe doesn't win its first fight that makes it all the way to a demand letter delivery or other action for several months. Starting very small is where I am suggesting. Look to your current situations for oppression that seems against the odds that you can find. Often the first campaign comes from someone the organizers know.
Start very small. Workplace organizing is specifically high-stakes and takes a long time, and while student organizing might be very relevant, that’s a terrain limited to some members. My suggestion is with housing, or something with a similar level of stability or simplicity. Most of the working class is housed somewhere and mostly in relation to other people in a similar socio-economic status, and often across racial lines . Housing struggles tend to have the best track record I have seen, in terms of not requiring a lot of overhead or outside labor. It starts with things easy to do with a small overhead (SeaSol said those 50 victories were won with mostly very few funds necessary for printing and other resources, and at times with very few central organizers, I believe 2-3 for good deal of time). Be ready to print thousands of flyers to get 1 or 2 phone calls from people looking for something we don't necessarily do. It is usually best to spend time concentrating in one neighborhood and flyer and canvass heavily.
It's really hard generally to do this work without experience, making getting the first fight off the ground even harder. To be upfront, as RR Houston, we came close to a couple of potential organizing campaigns coming out of RR's work during relief efforts after Harvey, however they also did not reach a demand delivery stage. Recently, I did also meet with a friend in my neighborhood who was served an eviction notice, we were planning a joint campaign to fight it with the GDC, however he was able to work out a deal with his landlord. We're not in a rush and we don't recommend rushing it to others. We're very small as far as RR locals go, having lost recruits to moving and life changes and not having been able to replace them, so right now our time is preoccupied simply meeting the security and medic needs of our comrades, but we have our ears to the ground and are eager to find political fights of our own.
Before doing anything, I would suggest in the same way we try to socialize firearm and medic trainings (and so much more), we should try to take advantage of the fact that the IWW offers a 20ish hour organizer training for free or low cost to non-members (the only union that does this!). Like the 20 hour medic training many are familiar with, the IWW OT101 is very good (depending on the trainer) and can really help with thinking about the nuts and bolts of an organizing campaign. I am not suggesting we become the IWW or join them en masse, however this would greatly increase our capacity to organize. We should also begin by reading the SeaSol “How to Build a Solidarity Network” , to see the ways in which their model operate, much of which was very effective.
I'm more than willing to put forth more planning and resources that can help us move towards this shift for those that see such a thing as a good direction. Here's a step by step breakdown of the anatomy of a organizing campaign. This is extremely rough and has a ton of holes, but I think it is best in this kind of strategy essay be as concrete and specific as possible.
1.) Gather the resources, materials, labor, base and knowledge. We have a lot of this, but we will need to be able to gather anywhere from 15-50 people on short notices. Establishing phone trees and layers of involvement is vital to this, but some of us are in locals around this size as it is, and some of us are smaller but have a broader base of supporters.
2.) Establish a scope and identify a neighborhood, school or workplace, preferably where RR members already exists within the local, and do more research above on political economy of the terrain that we focused on.
3.) Commit outreach, lots of flyering , if it is a neighborhood or school (2 sessions a week with 4-6 people should do), canvassing, continuing to build the base and outer layer as you go,and journal and report to the local on your efforts. Make sure to try to reach out to workers, tenants and students in some kind of dispute with their boss, landlord, administration, depending on what terrain you are organizing. Have patience because this stage takes the most time and work.
4.) Locate a fight that can be seen to a logical conclusion and won , and focus outreach in that direction, expanding it to other fighters as need, and develop demands, and research the target (boss, landlord, school administrators, landlord's other business, etc.). At this stage the person(s) that the campaign is centered around will need to do their own organizing amongst their friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, etc., for the demand delivery. We want to organize with people not for them.
5.) Activate the base that has been developed to commit to a show of force as demands are delivered, to as many parties involved. Escalate and coordinate activities included scripted phone zaps, more pickets similar to demand delivery, bad reviews, and a lot of things the organization can assist with nationally, until demands are met. This is the stage where direct action is implemented.
6.) Once victory is met, continue to develop long term fighting formations at the same sites of struggle, and socialize the struggle as fights are continued, building towards more long term organs of struggle as new fights are waged, and incorporating the previous fighters into new fights.
I have seen the worst tyrants, abusers and exploiters of the working class, come crashing down. We can make them cry. I’ve seen them take economic losses and immediately want to talk. We can see lives changed and organizers come alive. This is very serious work however, the stakes are high and we should not expect everyone to see fighting back with people power as a solution to their problems.
There’s no neat way a shift like this can be made, but I would see it as a real direction for us to move in. We’ve employed a big tent of activities thus far, which would all be amazing components of a class struggle, fighting organizations. However I do not think that we can sustain putting a radical image on them while we are not taking up fights of our own. I worry without this kind of shift, we run the risk of becoming more directionless and insular, a club of leftists. I believe we can be the kind of people who can raise the temperature of existing struggles, fight back and win.
Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity! Melt the glue of the cross-class alliance!
If you have questions, feel free to discord me @gusselsprouts#1621 or email me email@example.com.
Some elaboration and links:
 In the grand scheme of things (what I mean by abstract analysis), every good decision we’ve made can be understood as a “victory”. However, if we’re seeking to apply this to a concrete and objective look at things, a victory is something that can’t be understood as anything else, that can’t be taken back from us, etc. I’m talking about moments where people come together and fight to obtain some piece of control of the material conditions of their lives, if even just one aspect, from the capitalist class.
 I am in no way trying to elevate SeaSol’s “model” as if it is not subject to critique. In fact, one of the main things that many of us who worked in Solidarity Networks in other cities saw in SeaSol that we did not want to reproduce was their actual replication of the “service organization”, they won so many campaigns, their fights were a legitimate alternative to working class people’s problems. It started to be that they had trouble retaining the people who organized their campaign with. They started to have a membership policy where you committed to actions oriented to the follow few campaigns after winning. I think it’s just best to think about how to retain the fighters. This wasn’t meant to be a elaborate critique of SeaSol.
 https://www.akpress.org/newworldinourheartsak.html There is not a PDF of the book on Love and Rage, however it is highly recommended I think for any revolutionaries in North America to understand its history as it had long term impact in the form of making and developing many lifelong revolutionaries. There are many summaries of the Love and Rage experience from NEFAC, Bring the Ruckus, and many other perspectives on Libcom.
 The text is an excerpt of: http://bringtheruckus.org/?q=about, by organizing criteria, http://bringtheruckus.org/?q=6_crit Phoenix members might remember this as the organization which was a big part of the anti-Arpaio “Repeal Coalition”, and also Joel Olsen, author of “Abolition of White Democracy”.
 There is a thing about neighborhoods and poverty that means organizing on the terrain of housing means grappling with race significantly. Most poor and working class white people live in multi-racial neighborhoods or black or brown neighborhoods. There is a white working class, but there are no white working class neighborhoods (there are in fact cross class neighborhoods that are majority white). Obviously, this is a lot more gray when you put into maps and charts, but even in the spaces between to the biggest cities in America, segregation today looks like white poverty being spread out, and black and brown poverty being concentrated. That means that most poor and working class white people live in places with non-white people, and work in housing often provides a way for white people to betray their interests as white people and fight in unity with the demands of black and brown workers.
See key findings, particularly: “Poverty became more concentrated—more than one in four of the black poor and nearly one in six of the Hispanic poor lives in a neighborhood of extreme poverty, compared to one in thirteen of the white poor.”
Section IV paragraph 2 after the table is most relevant here:
 Here is a demo flyer we made for our local. Notice we’re calling this an “organizing committee”. You might flyer and do the work directly out of your local, others might call what they are doing a “project”. This should be adapted to your local conditions and scope:
 To reel things back to the SeaSol model, this was one thing other Solidarity Networks wanted to take with a grain of salt, while it was worth considering, it is sometimes better be with whatever the militancy of the workers are and their demands, and put winnabillity to the side. Here is SeaSol’s take, and we think we shouldn’t necessarily turn away fights we can’t win:
“When we don’t think we can win a fight (or don’t have the capacity, and have too many fights ongoing already), we don’t take it on. Moving from victory to victory keeps the group energized and growing. Getting bogged down in unwinnable fights would do the opposite. As we grow stronger, fights which are unwinnable now will become winnable in the future.”
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