A Sketch of an Anarchist Revolutionary Strategy
(Excerpted from my essay "Seeing the Inadequacies of
ACF’s Strategy Statement", February, 1999)
Some persons become convinced that they are oppressed. They study and ponder the situation to discover the sources of that oppression; who is doing it and how they are doing it. They also imagine a situation in which they would not be oppressed; what it would be like, and how it would differ from the way things are now.
Let’s assume that they decide that the key thing, the essential factor, in their oppression is that they are not free and that they have no control over their lives or communities. That is, they realize that they are slaves, wage-slaves, being controlled and exploited for the profit of someone else, and therefore that it is very far from a democratic society they are living in. They decide that they would prefer having some control over their own lives and communities, and prefer not to slave away for someone else’s benefit, or have some government somewhere making all the rules. They would prefer to get together with their neighbors to decide things in common, and similarly at home and at work, they would prefer to assemble together with their work mates and household mates to decide how to do things, what to do with the things they make, how to divide up the work, and so forth.
So this is what they start doing. They start assembling together to try to govern their own lives, at work, in their households, and in their neighborhoods. It turns out that the ruling class is not too happy about their meetings, and in fact gets very angry that they are meeting like this. So the ruling class tries to bust them up. Naturally, these persons take steps to defend themselves and to get the ruling class off their backs. They learn how to defend the social arrangements they have created. They invent social weapons to neutralize the military might of their oppressors.
They are also aware of course that friends and neighbors of theirs don’t all agree that they are oppressed, or that they are slaves, or that the society is not democratic. So they argue with these friends and neighbors, trying to convince them of the validity of their perception of the situation.
In the meantime they go on trying to establish these new decision-making arrangements they have dreamed up. But disagreements emerge about how to proceed. Some have been frightened and intimidated by the attacks of the rulers. They want to back off a bit, and to settle for what they think is realistic, for what they think they can get. So they start pushing for this, and laying out their arguments. But the arguments don’t fly too well. Everyone has been through this so many times before. They have watched as the world has slowly disintegrated, as the social situation has degenerated toward collapse, with the environment spinning toward irreversible life-threatening decay. They have seen again and again that compromises gain nothing, except defeat. And time is short. So for once the faint-hearted lose out. Those who want to settle for less are out politicked by those who want it all.
They are aware however that they have to rally wider support, outside the neighborhood, in order to win. So they publicize what they have been doing. They try to inform as many people as possible about their struggles, dreams, defenses. They especially shout to the far ends of the earth all the details about every attack the ruling class makes against them. They take their case to the court of world public opinion, trying to gain the upper hand morally, in the hearts and minds of people everywhere.
They also begin to withdraw from and to stop participating in (as this becomes possible) all the hierarchical, ruling class institutions that they now see as onerous. They especially try hard to stop being wage-slaves and to embed themselves instead in cooperative communal labor. More and more workplaces become cooperatively owned and operated. Fewer and fewer of the necessities of life are being produced by wage-slaves.
They also increase their efforts to persuade more people locally that the course they have chosen is the road to freedom and greater happiness and well-being. They establish contacts with other neighborhoods and try to work out agreements with them regarding common interests and problems. They work out trade agreements.
Slowly, more and more people begin to perceive the situation in a new light, by seeing the examples before them and the direct action that others are taking to gain control over their communities and to set up new social arrangements. More and more wealth and power begins to be taken away from the ruling class and returned to the communities from which it had been stolen. The attacks of the ruling class become more intense and frantic, and this of course has the effect of clarifying the situation even more, although at a terrible price.
As more wealth and power become available, these neighborhoods, now rapidly becoming autonomous, cooperative, and democratic, can publicize their experiences even more, and begin to make a dent in the cultural hegemony so long held by the masters, and can promote more intensely the democratic, autonomous, self-governing, decentralized, communal (that is, anarchist) way of life. This way of life becomes a concrete reality in more and more neighborhoods, and then in millions and millions of neighborhoods, villages, and small towns throughout the world.
At long last, the institutions of the ruling class, all those weapons of oppression, all those corporations, governments, schools, churches, cinemas, newspapers, armies, hospitals, museums, universities, courts, malls, police stations, television networks, and law firms, are nothing but empty shells, with no power to hurt anyone. They are relegated to the dustbins of history, buried and forgotten, by the wondrous new world full of free communal peoples. New statues are erected to honor the martyrs. New holidays are chosen to celebrate the victories, commemorate key battles of the war, and highlight the achievements and dreams of free communities. People dance and sing and play and love. Ten hundred thousand traditions bloom. And a Jubilee begins, which lasts until the end of time.