Moving Forward from Crisis

First of May Anarchist Alliance
August 3, 2018

On July 7 and 8, 2018, members of the First of May Anarchist Alliance came from across the country in order to discuss the state of our organization, and to have a frank discussion of whether or not we could or should continue it. This document summarizes the general direction of our conversations. In the interest of building a broad anarchist and revolutionary trend we decided to share our current perspective and invite response from a range of comrades.

Where We’ve Been

We must acknowledge that M1AA has been in crisis for at least the past year, if not longer. While our members have been active in numerous struggles, especially in antifascist, housing, anti-ICE and workplace organizing, our internal functioning and our ability to collectively engage with broader society as a small anarchist organization have been low. Meanwhile, the stresses of these struggles have taken their toll.

Internally, our already small organization has lost members rather than gaining them. An escalating interpersonal conflict between two members, which the rest of M1 did not adequately address in its early stages, culminated in a serious physical altercation. This paralyzed our organization both locally and nationally. Ultimately, neither member was willing to engage a reconciliatory process offered by the rest of the Alliance, and both left the organization. Meanwhile, a broader trend of demoralization, frustration, and hopelessness has caused members to feel increasingly burnt out and to become inactive or leave the organization.

In this time we have been repeatedly unable to advance political discussion in a collective fashion. In an outward-facing context, our web and social media presence has suffered, and we have not produced the amount and type of public communications we have been proud of in the past. Our correspondence and interaction with like-minded groups and individuals has been spotty at best.

While this crisis has been severe, it has not been based in ideological differences or splits. We retain a strong political coherence as anarchists deeply engaged in broader social struggles. We also understand that the crisis inside M1 is reflective of a broader crisis in the US left and the world as a whole. Our disorientation is not unique, nor is our demoralization. On a global scale, conservative, far-right, fascist or quasi-fascist, and deeply authoritarian populist forces have taken power from Hungary to India to the Philippines to Brazil. And, of course, in the US the Trump era has given state sanction to a range of white supremacist and hetero-patriarchal efforts, both through official policy and street violence. M1 has long worked to develop an understanding of an insurgent right, but generally with the assumption that such forces would remain excluded from power by an elite neoliberal consensus. While many of the attacks have been a continuation of prior activity, the speed, scale, and open brutality with which it is carried out lends itself to a unique sort of unease, anxiety, and sense of powerlessness.

In response to the surging right, mass movements have sprung up in defense of immigrants, survivors of sexual assault, and other marginalized and targeted groups. But these movements have struggled to push beyond immediate action plans, coordinated rallies, and electoral machinations that push everyone concerned closer to the Democratic Party. Revolutionaries operating on the fringes of these movements have often had difficulty doing more than making banners and flyers, etc. Just when it seems that an opening has emerged for the development and dissemination of new and dynamic radical politics, our failures stare us in the face, and temper any temptation to celebrate success. Our organization must address these failures if we are to advance our work and contribute to developing liberatory movements.

Where We Are Going

When we met in Chicago last month, our existential crisis had peaked: following the resignation of a founding member, we focused our discussion on whether or not to continue existing as an organization. Our conversation was open-ended and wide ranging, without any predetermined agenda. It was also deeply honest in ways that were necessary and frankly had been lacking in many previous conferences.

In the end, we unanimously agreed that we believe the First of May Anarchist Alliance has a sound, coherent, and important orientation toward engaging in many struggles, and that we feel this approach is worth furthering and developing. We believe this method includes at least four key components that can be applied in a wide variety of contexts: 1) an outward orientation, toward people in struggle rather than toward the left per se; 2) collective action in and through united fronts; 3) building connections across diverse struggles (housing, workplace, immigrant defense, and so forth); and 4) open and transparent participation, both in united fronts and within M1 itself.

While looking back to our work over the past few years, we identified a common thread across areas which is unabashedly revolutionary and anarchist. This work has contributed to powerful challenges to the state, capital, and the far right while combating the pull of nonprofits, political parties, vanguard organizations, left subcultures and anti-organizational trends.

In short, we agreed to continue as an organization, because we believe that the group and its politics have value.

At the same time, we also agreed that we need to change a great deal about our Alliance in order to function better and make our commitment meaningful. This involved reflecting on how we might better address intra-organizational conflicts in the future. On the most essential level, it involves recognizing that we have not previously prioritized the reproduction and promotion of our own organization, letting that take a back seat to our engagement in various struggles. We agreed to help support each other as we develop ways to prioritize M1 and our distinctive strategic orientation. Mutual support and accountability are the cornerstones of this redoubled effort.

We made a series of specific decisions that should result in an increased public presence for M1 in the coming months, while also rebuilding our morale and determination to fight for a free society. Look for us on social media, at public events, and in the streets.

In keeping with our method and approach described above, we decided to be open and transparent regarding our problems and our attempted solutions. Our guess is that we are not the only anarchists struggling in the Trump era. We welcome political engagement and we look forward to working alongside you as we move forward. Join us!