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Another Politics

Another Politics: Talking across Today's Transformative Movements

CHRIS DIXON
With a Foreword by Angela Y. Davis
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by:
Pages: 384
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt6wqbrn
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  • Book Info
    Another Politics
    Book Description:

    Amidst war, economic meltdown, and ecological crisis, a "new spirit of radicalism is blooming" from New York to Cairo, according to Chris Dixon. In Another Politics, he examines the trajectory of efforts that contributed to the radicalism of Occupy Wall Street and other recent movement upsurges. Drawing on voices of leading organizers across the United States and Canada, he delivers an engaging presentation of the histories and principles that shape many contemporary struggles.

    Dixon outlines the work of activists aligned with anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, and anti-oppression politics and discusses the lessons they are learning in their efforts to create social transformation. The book explores solutions to the key challenge for today’s activists, organizers, fighters, and dreamers: building a substantive link between the work of "against," which fights ruling institutions, and the work of "beyond," which develops liberatory alternatives.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95884-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    ANGELA Y. DAVIS

    As a member of the jury for an important social justice prize in 2013, I had the opportunity to hear presentations by emissaries from fifteen phenomenal organizations chosen as finalists for the award. They had come from all over the world—Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe, as well as Central and North America—to speak about their leadership and organizing strategies in relation to a wide range of movements, including economic justice, food sovereignty, HIV/AIDS, and prison education. Together they were a vibrant microcosm of global social justice activism.

    After two days of presentations and the final announcement of...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xx)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    We are in a moment of tremendous crisis and possibility. Recent years have seen a sustained global economic slump that has caused tremendous suffering for many, especially the poorest and most marginalized. The ecosystems that sustain life on the planet are in undeniable danger, as is evident from superstorms to melting polar icecaps. In the overdeveloped world, there has been a massive expansion of policing, prisons, militarized borders, and detention facilities, all of which have particularly targeted working-class people of color and migrants. The U.S. government and its allies are regularly carrying out devastating military interventions around the globe, creating...

  7. PART 1. POLITICS

    • 1. ʺFighting against amnesiaʺ: Movement Histories of Another Politics
      (pp. 23-56)

      At one point during my conversation with Clare Bayard, she beautifully laid out the essential basis for any discussion of movements and radical politics. As an organizer and educator with the Catalyst Project in San Francisco, Bayard assists activist groups all over the United States with political education and organizational development. Based on her experience, she has a finely honed appreciation for history-telling and a grounded understanding of how rarely it happens, even in movement spaces. ʺIʹm always trying to fight against this historical amnesia of ʹthis is just the moment that exists by itself,ʹʺ Bayard explained.

      This sort of...

    • 2. ʺDefining ourselves in oppositionʺ: The Four ʺAntiʹsʺ
      (pp. 57-81)

      When i asked leila pourtavaf how she described herself politically, she had a thoughtful response. ʺI donʹt often call myself an anarchist,ʺ she said, ʺbut I do use a lot of terms like ʹanti-capitalist,ʹ ʹanti-authoritarian,ʹ ʹantiimperialistʹ—I come up with a lot of ʹantiʹs.ʹʺ At the time I interviewed her, Pourtavaf was deeply involved in organizing in Montreal, primarily with the radical queer group Anti-Capitalist Ass Pirates and the local No One Is Illegal collective. The ʺantiʹsʺ she mentioned are, in fact, at the heart of NOII-Montrealʹs basis of unity, which asserts, ʺNo One Is Illegal acts to expose and...

    • 3. ʺOrganizing now the way you want to see the world laterʺ: Prefigurative Politics
      (pp. 82-106)

      In my conversation with RJ Maccani, he emphasized the essential reconstructive aspect of another politics. Drawing on his extensive organizing history in New York—with Critical Resistance, Regeneración Childcare, the Challenging Male Supremacy Project, and many other initiatives—Maccani observed that ʺthereʹs a lot of prefigurative work going on and thereʹs a lot of this organizing around new social relations, prioritizing stories, listening, and trust-building.ʺ This work grows out of a shared commitment to what is frequently called ʺprefigurative politics.ʺ¹ This term names activist efforts to manifest and build, to the greatest extent possible, the world we would like to...

  8. PART 2. STRATEGY

    • 4. ʺDo you want to have a chance at winning something?ʺ: Developing Strategy
      (pp. 109-124)

      ʺWhatʹs the connection between concrete activities and vision?ʺ This is a provocative question longtime New York housing and HIV/AIDS organizer Michelle OʹBrien posed in my interview with her. Chapter 3 offers one way to answer this question: we can attempt to manifest our vision in how we carry out our activities. This is vital. But as much of a proponent of prefigurative praxis as she is, OʹBrien was getting at something else. She was expressing a concern that increasingly preoccupies anti-authoritarian organizers: How can our activities tangibly build toward future revolutionary transformation on a large scale? This, fundamentally, is a...

    • 5. ʺIn the world but not of itʺ: An Emerging Strategic Framework
      (pp. 125-154)

      As i spoke with him, Ashanti Alston had a lot of clarity to offer around conceptions of strategy. This isn’t surprising. Known for his wisdom and commitment to complexity, Alston is a former member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army who spent more than a decade in prison for revolutionary activities. Now a widely respected anarchist elder, he has significantly influenced many younger radicals through his organizing, public speaking, and mentorship. When I asked him about vision and strategy, he offered one of his characteristic gems: ʺItʹs like the biblical thing: we can be in this...

  9. PART 3. ORGANIZING

    • 6. ʺBringing people together to build their powerʺ: Anti-authoritarian Organizing
      (pp. 157-174)

      When i spoke with her in San Francisco, Sonya Z. Mehta highlighted one fundamental implication of the ʺin the world but not of itʺ framework. Drawing on her extensive experience in anarchist politics and labor organizing with Young Workers United, she asserted:

      I have a very clear vision of what I would like to see, and I also understand now that thereʹs no way to do it besides a mass movement. Without really mass support of the people, weʹre not going to change anything. And even say, amazingly enough, we had a revolution. To really sustain that kind of democracy...

    • 7. ʺLeadership from belowʺ: Taking Initiative and Building Capacities
      (pp. 175-198)

      When i interviewed Jill Chettiar, a veteran anti-poverty organizer in Vancouver, she was bursting with useful ideas and stories. One was about her struggle with political designations and organizing realities. With characteristic bluntness, she told me that her biggest hesitation about identifying as an anarchist has to do with ʺthe leadership issue.ʺ As she put it, ʺI really think [leadership] is important and needs to be acknowledged.ʺ But anarchist politics, she argued, frequently falls down in this regard.

      Chettiar makes a crucial point. Leadership is a big unresolved issue not just for anarchism but for anti-authoritarian organizing more generally. Developing...

    • 8. ʺVehicles for movement-buildingʺ: Creating Organizations
      (pp. 199-219)

      As i spoke with Andréa Maria, I was struck by her clear-eyed view of the anti-authoritarian current. Her clarity comes in part from her extensive movement experience, which includes deep involvement in La Convergence des luttes anti-capitalistes/Anti-Capitalist Convergence in the mobilization against the 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec City and then years as an organizer with NOII-Montreal before moving into work as a radical journalist. As she and I discussed strategy, she introduced the piece so often missing from such conversations: organization. ʺWrestling with organization- and institution-building,ʺ she stressed, ʺis part of a strategy that needs to happen.ʺ...

  10. Conclusion: ʺImagining ourselves outside of what we knowʺ
    (pp. 220-234)

    What iʹve written in this book doesnʹt fit together smoothly and may well be contradictory in places. Iʹve made some big claims, and yet what Iʹve offered is stubbornly open ended. This is deliberate. It reflects the various—and not always compatible—ways Iʹve come to see another politics based on my interviews and experiences. I group these ways of seeing into two main understandings: one sees another politics as a political pole and the other, as an open political space. As far as I can tell, these understandings broadly resonate with how many anti-authoritarian organizers think about our developing...

  11. Resources for Movement-Building
    (pp. 235-238)
  12. Organizations and Projects Mentioned
    (pp. 239-242)
  13. Biographies of Interviewees
    (pp. 243-250)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 251-308)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 309-346)
  16. Index
    (pp. 347-363)