The Rise of the Party for Revolution and Evolution [U.S Social Transformation in the Post War Period]

*this is the third piece of speculation political fiction in a series written with just a hint of satire in the form of a Wikipedia article form the future. You can see the first piece here. The second piece is here. The purpose is imagine what all this craziness from the White House might be building to while envisioning how peace might come out of chaos and tragedy. We should not take Trump’s idiocy or bluster lightly. When the autocrat says he is coming for you believe him! I believe we can prevent violence in the long run if we build for transformation and autonomy now*

 

Overview:

 

The Party for Revolution and Evolution [PRE] is a political party and revolutionary group founded in 2021 in Detroit during WW3. It was founded during a joint effort between the Grace Lee Boggs society, an underground political group prominent in Detroit during the Enlightened Retreat, and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement to take over Detroit’s political establishment. The party rose to prominence by taking the best practices for mass mobilization from several preceding social movements and political campaigns including Occupy, Bernie Sanders failed nomination run and the M4BL and mixing it with a revolutionary analysis of autonomy and transformation. The party was also protected and supported by its clandestine arm, the Maroon Society.

In just four years, the PRE went from an unknown speakeasy in Detroit to a major political party in America. Though the folk narrative focuses on organizers and political agents who have become legend and of the rise of the Maroon Society, most historian agree that the party was an idea whose time had come. Decades of ineffective government culminating in the Bush/Obama cultural war era created mass disillusionment with government that had two sides: apathy and anger. Bernie Sanders had used one in his failed bid to use win the Democratic Party nomination before the enlightened retreat while Donald Trump had used both against each other to get elected.

Beneath this national narrative there was a lot of work being done in smaller local third parties across the country during this time. As the enlightened retreat slowly developed spiritually grounded networks of engaged people at a time when most ideologies from socialism to liberalism were at best not clearly understood or at worst becoming irrelevant, the PRE was able to assemble many long simmering organizing campaigns together with progressive and radical organizations into a political powerhouse based on few revolutionary principles:

  1. Addressing harm without causing more harm
  2. Moving beyond non-violence
    1. Moving away from debates on violence vs. non-violence and towards seeing peace and self-determination as means not just ends
  3. Centering autonomy as interdependence
    1. organizing where you are at, with your people, for your own needs while supporting your neighbors
  4. Centering consent as radical co-creation
    1. Valuing the co-creation of political, economic, social, spiritual and sexual experiences with an eye towards addressing differences in power, resources, desire and ability so that everyone is fully powerful
  5. Repairing harm
    1. Embracing multi-lateral reparations in a diversity of forms for the history of slavery, genocide, mass patriarchal violence, forced migration and accumulation by dispossession
  6. Differential Political Movement
    1. Using the strategies of previous social movements as tactics to build accountable-power-with
    2. Embracing tradition while leaving what no longer serves us behind
  7. Being Holistic
    1. Addressing all issues holistically by simultaneous examining the intrapersonal, interpersonal, communal and structural aspects of a situation
  8. Emergent Strategy of Being
    1. Moving from a problem solving/deficient centered strategy to an emergent strategy based on embodying values and moving towards what we actually want
  9. Moving from a place of love
    1. Being gentle with ourselves so that we can be constructive with others
    2. Focusing on the power of love to remind us of our positive vision of the love, support and joy we want, not merely the hurt we want avenged
  10. Diversity of Strategies
    1. There is no one correct path to liberation. We seek to strengthen every front against oppression not to merely hold a party line. It’s more effective to coordinate everyone contributing the way they know how towards a common goal than to try and convince everyone that you have the one right path.

 

 

The key to these principles were that they were few, straight forward and fractal. It meant that they guided the interactions between individuals as much as they would the U.S government’s relationship to the rest of the world under the nearly 30 year democratic majority rule of the PRE. The principles, along with their strategy of connecting the mutual aid networks that were emerging into regional assemblies quickly made them a powerful alternative political force.

Their non-sectarianism that focused on embodying social/ethical/political values and shared visions for another possible world rather debating over how society is structured allowed for them to encapsulate many divergent political tendencies across the left-center spectrum while constructively engaging moderates on the right. It was also a key to their counter-organizing strategy to out organize far-right elements in the South and West.

Many scholars believe that the true fuel for the rise of the PRE wasn’t even political in the traditional sense. The vast majority of U.S residents cared little for political theory and much more about the food, housing, medical and worker cooperatives that the PRE stitched together. The PRE’s focus on hyper-local community-controlled direct service was its real strength.

Rather than build local mutual aid networks from scratch, PRE organizers applied the self-governing skills they had developed in their speakeasies to help facilitate meetings and complex democratic decision making processes for local groups. They were more conveners, networkers and facilitators than traditional revolutionaries. They linked the small, nearly illegible acts of everyday resistance and mutual aid that communities were already doing on their own into something more intentional on a large scale. Most importantly, they rarely focused on confronting the state they usually just out competed it for legitimacy by better meeting the needs of local people.

 

Political and Economic Context for the Rise of the PRE

For the spiritual and cultural context see the enlightened retreat

The U.S duopoly of Republicans and Democrats were so locked in a pitched battle of name-calling and responsibility shrugging that they neither party had been able to legislate a complete agenda for decades. The only faction that was consistently able to put forward its agenda were the corporate neo-liberals whose desire to deregulate, liberalize and privatize was accepted by both parties in various forms.  Even Presidents Trump bombastic rhetoric against renegotiating the “bad deals” of NAFTA and TPP didn’t lead to any substantial changes to those agreements. In fact, his Infrastructure bill was nearly entirely written for and by neo-liberal billionaires and their supporters.

However, the ongoing competition between individuals of the billionaire class and the political oligarchy of America’s ruling families meant that while they universally recognized the crisis of both capitalism and liberal democracy they had vastly different ideas of how to deal with either. This lack of class unity meant that they were slow to curtail the rise of cooperative economies and mutual aid groups nationally.

Corporations saw the threat to their bottom line but were unwilling to allow any regulatory body authority over business, even if it disproportionately affected their competitors. Attempts by organizations such as ALEC to bring about consensus on how to combat cooperatives was thwarted by the campaigns of corporate sabotage by the Maroon Society and eco-direct action groups like Gaia’s Progeny.

Movement scholar Jasmine Nwampa posited that “corporations were also unprepared for the dramatic shift to organizing at the point of consumption instead of production. Many capitalist saw the crisis of capital coming and assumed that either social democracy or some form of semi-privatized commons would have to be instituted to save industrial capitalist society. They did not expect people to merely take over and transform the market in the way that they did. By the time the writing was on the wall, they busy putting out literal fires up and down their supply chain.”

Most corporations were moving towards flexibility and sense and response supply chains that we able to respond to the market changes in record time. Amazon is a great example of this trend and its ultimate weakness. Amazon sought to use advances in internet usage, cloud storing, off shoring, automation and the gig economy to get cheaply made products, delivered equally cheaply by contractors within hours of being ordered.

They were largely successful in this effort. In addition, they were experts in trying to assess the consumer’s need in real-time and respond in addition to using big data to predict it. Their mass conglomerations of website, T.V stations and newspapers also gave them significant control creating new needs in consumerism while they forced their competitors to sell on their network.

Many contemporary scholars assumed that this model was the model of the future. Many leftist predicted an age of the super corporation that controlled the means of production and the market itself. However, few people foresaw the massive cultural shift away from consumerism that was precipitated by the enlightened retreat. While corporations like amazon were able to push forward the narrative of more and better, the cultural shift towards various self-reflection techniques made people want more autonomy and higher ethical standards in production.

It turns out that simple questions of Americans asking themselves where they hurt and what was causing it turned them away from seeing more consumption as the answer. Matched with corporate sabotage, boycotts and the rise of cooperatives even Amazon’s state of the ark monopoly collapsed into financial ruin.

While national right to work devastated labor unions, the movement for economic justice and self-determination emerged through consumer unions, cooperative associations,  CSA’s and the rise of increased worker-center and alt-labor organizing. Undeniably, the lack of powerful organized labor caused wages to drop severely and workplace accidents to increase just as fast. However, the resulting economic anxiety and anger was first expressed ass wildcat strikes and spontaneous boycotts that disrupted corporations enough to allow for the emergence of consumer unions and worker cooperatives.

Eventually consumer unions started boycotting companies with bad labor practices and launched buying campaigns for worker-owned cooperatives. Similarly, the rise of free-lancers guilds changed the face of the gig economy by widely boosting the desired prevailing wage and training workers on how and why to negotiate higher pay.

The rapidly increasing effects of climate change also devastated the political establishment and corporations. This time period in history saw an increase in massive natural disasters that devastated cities across the U.S. The Ryan Regime privatized FEMA in response to the abysmal job FEMA did during the Hurricane Jasmine humanitarian crisis of 2021. While ‘crisis capitalism’ saw an opportunity in climate change, they were out organized by far more effective mutual aid systems.

Meanwhile the rich paid millions of dollars for ex-special forces to extract them from climate change ‘red zones,’ the poor built environmental defense teams, survival camps and developed mesh networks that could be booted up in a crisis. Integration of the Rising Tide and Occupy Sandy networks with the PRE expanded these programs while building an effective alternative to both corporation and the state which in turned caused more people to turn to mutual aid.

Lastly, the PRE was also able to escape the brunt of political repression of the era due to federal government and corporative interest’s pre-occupation with combating the maroon society and by counter recruiting against fascist and white nationalist elements. The PRE’s greatest success was in creating the illusion that the PRE and the Maroon society were two separate and mutual antagonist organizations. However, it is now known that the Maroon Society was the clandestine arm of the PRE throughout most of its history. Not only were many Maroon Society members PRE members but the PRE funneled money to the Maroon Society and turned a blind eye when Maroons took refuge in their houses of hospitality.

Most historians agree that the Maroon Society created the political opportunities that the PRE took advantage of. The Maroon Societies devastating campaign of industrial sabotage, agit-prop campaigns, and prison/detention center breaks deeply unsettled the Ryan Regime and prevented them from ever consolidating power. The Maroon Societies “Rainbow Coalition” also counter recruited so effectively that White Supremacist organizations that were so powerful during the Unending March were marginal just six years later. For more on the Maroon Society visit “The Second American Revolution.”

 

 

General Strikes

 

The beginning of the end of the Enlightened Retreat was the general strike of the defense industry in 2021. Most scholars agree that the general strikes helped set the ground work for the PRE. The strike was organized by collaboration between the East Coast chapters of the Black Lives Matter [BLM] Network who partnered with International Workers of the World [IWW] across the country. While most historians agree that the general strike only effected a handful of factories and did not significantly threaten the war effort they also agree that it was a major symbolic victory.

It showed the maturation of the fight for racial justice with one the first major multi-racial attacks against racialized capitalism and imperialism. It also gave an example of effective organizing to all the networks of mutual aid that had been building over the last 3 years.

The subsequent trial of the BLM leaders was meant to instill fear in other dissidents. The leaders of the campaign were pulled from their houses at night and brutally detained. The police feared brutality against young white people would back fire against the state, especially considering that the IWW had their largest presence on elite college campuses that were doing Department of Defense research. Thus they rounded up the white IWW organizers gently and in secret. This tactic actually backfired as it showed blatant racism and racial disparities of policing as well as deep class differences.

Attorney General Rudolf [Ruddy] Giuliani charged the organizers with treason, a tactic that was meant to scare off further organizing but seemed more like government overreach as the penalty for treason was death. The trial was the most watched television event of the century and rather than discourage protests it inspired them across the country. The BLM leaders who were sentenced to life in prison all became leaders in the Maroon Society after their storied prison break in 2022.

As dead American men and women returned home from WW3, the organizing within the defense industry got more and more wide spread. After Teen Vogue released an exposé on the U.S government’s use of South African contract killers in the oil fields of Nigeria, public opinion turned against the war sharply. Despite the motion to bring back the draft failing in the house, the U.S saw anti-war protests that far outstripped the Vietnam era.

The speakeasies of the enlightened retreat planned strikes and rallies just as they had the rolling black outs. They sent messages through the farmer’s marches and during concerts. In later years, PRE workers organized churches to created packed lunch services for the workers on Easter Sunday and placed pamphlets that said “The lord commanded ‘thou shalt not kill’ don’t do the devils work for him. Strike for Peace and God on May 1st.”

Many PRE chapters sprung up in response to these mobilizations after the D.C PRE merged the analysis of the party with their own mass organizing trainings in 2023. The synergy of the PRE guiding principles with the DAT analysis that had gained popularity during the Enlightened Retreat allowed for thousands of activists to learn how to effectively organize and build political, economic and cultural power.

This allowed for distributed organizing on a massive scale as each city ran its own team of organizers coordinating thousands of volunteers also running their own campaigns. After three consecutive years of month long general strikes in the month of May, it was estimated that 35% of the industries workers took part and the United States signed the Beijing Accords ending WW3 in 2025.

 

Down But Not Out: Labor Unions and the PRE

For more on the Labor Movement in the 2020’s and 2030’s see the 21st Century Knights of Labor

 

Though devastated by National Right to work legislation, traditional labor unions played a significant role in the rise of the PRE. Most notably, the reconstructed Knights of Labor utilized solidarity unionism on an international level. Historian Stuart Le’Mark surmises their shift during the period thusly “previously ‘international unions’ weren’t actually that international at all. They usually meant the U.S and part of Canada. They were generally based on a model that could be summed at using the dues of 90% of the workers to focus on 10% of the workers; the 5% of that are active and the 5% that get in trouble. After national right to work, unions transitioned to a more worker center model of training working activists.

They disrupted production through direct action, mostly blockades on the entrances of workplaces and strategic slowdowns in which one or two key workers would stage a protest that prevented the other workers from working. Often they would do protests in stages, so that production would be disrupted for a whole day. Though much shorter than traditional strikes or slowdown’s, the shift to immediate delivery of products meant that companies could lose millions if products were delivered after their 3 hour guarantee.”

Additionally, groups like the Knights of Labor worked with organizations that managed to survive right to work like United Electricians and the Nurses Union to fund the organizing of workers further down the production line in countries that were termed “third world.” Unions were able to send money to worker centers and unions in other countries where a worker made several times less than a U.S worker and pay a whole factory to go on strike for a week.

Often times, these would be tied with boycott’s and slowdowns in the U.S. Eventually, the Knights of Labor would organize international strikes, factory blockades and work with free-lancer guilds to disrupt the gig economy that many companies relied on. These combined attacks were paired with combined demands that crossed sections of a company and locations across the world. Eventually, Knights of Labor and groups like Gaia’s Progeny would collaborate to make demands on entire industries.

All told, the smaller but still resurgent economic justice movement put capital on the defense for the first time in decades just as they seemed their most triumphant. Corporations were unable to rebound in time to stop the rise of the cooperative movement.

 

Accomplishments of the early PRE

 

By the formal end of the War in 2025, the PRE had 40 congressional seats, 6 senate seats, 10 mayoral positions, and the governorship in California. While it would not get a majority until 2030, its economic and cultural cooperatives fundamentally reshaped the country. The PRE had massive political power and used it to lobby governments at the local, state and federal level. Its deep cultural base and value of participatory democracy politicized its membership more effectively than any America political party since the communist party of the 30’s. Yet the real strength of the PRE was in the alternatives to the government it fostered.

PRE chapters run soup kitchens, childcare centers and crisis prevention teams across the country. Borrowing from the Catholic Worker Movement, chapters ran houses of hospitality that provided both affordable housing and refuge for immigrants on the Underground Railroad. The PRE’s great strength was working with ordinary Americans and taking the next step. They didn’t try to politicize people into their analysis, rather they went into communities, saw people helping each other out and asked if they could support them in any way. The mass radicalization happened mostly due to police repression. As grandmothers who opened up their homes to orphaned children were arrested, communities become more militant than any reading group or manifesto could have made them.

The PRE’s task was merely to build the infrastructure to support and develop people who were being radicalized and grow the techniques to coordinate all the projects they self-organized.  This was no small task. It was accomplished largely due to traveling facilitators and popular education teachers of the era. These trainers [often called griots in Black communities] went from city to city observing successful mutual aid programs, writing about them online and traveling to other cities to teach people how to do them. Cooperation Jackson and the British Columbia Cooperative Network played a leading role in creating best practices for cooperative development.

Due to the repression of the Ryan Regime and Proud Boy Brigades, these trainers were often travelling artists or Djays who used their art to cover the political nature of their work. Their teach-ins would often happen after the show. Some troupes like the Puppet Posse, incorporated their political education into the art itself. Despite these precautions, these traveling artist were the most often detained revolutionary actors of the period and would later become leaders of the prison riots of the 2030’s.

Most of the political accomplishments of the early PRE were at the local level. The massive increase in social engagement after the Enlightened Retreat kicked off a revolution in governance and civil society often called the “Civic Renaissance.” The PRE ended bans of rent control, instituted new local tax codes for consumer and worker cooperatives and abolished bail and ticketing as alternative sources of municipal income.

As a result, worker cooperatives went from barely statistically relevant in 2018 to nearly 20% of the economy in 2030 playing the same role in raising wages as unions formerly did. Many areas raised local corporate tax rates and, with the Financial Services Reform Act of 2026, established public banks and credit unions so that city budget would no longer be tied Wall Street’s whims. The PRE followed the blue-print in the Jackson Kush Plans and the Gar Alperovitz’s Pluralist Common Wealth for their local development schemes.

Many localities had radical experiments with different financial and political institutions. Seattle, D.C and Montgomery County all passed participatory budgeting of at least 15% of the budget in 2025. By 2035, 30 major American cities based similar initiatives. The entire states of Washington, California, New York and Connecticut developed land bonds that paid for public housing throughout the state. Oakland, CA, Jackson M.S and Washington D.C all passed Community Control Board for their police departments in 2027 and by 2035 this was a standard practice in most cities.

Healthcare saw one of the most complete overhauls under after the end of the Enlightened Retreat. The Nurses Union emerged as one of the strongest unions after national right to work legislation devastated the AFL-CIO. The nurses unions were pivotal parts of many of the community controlled direct service providers at the time and helped move America towards the Burtzorg model of homecare used in the Netherlands.

The National Patients Association was founded in 2027 as a federation of local patient care groups that forced major concessions from hospitals and insurances companies by launching a medical bill payment strike in 2028-2029. They forced hospitals and insurers to agree to medical patient’s bills of rights, which capped costs, made many services nearly free and forced insurance companies to pay for non-western medical treatments at the patients’ request.

Due to rise of Freedom Schools during the enlightened retreat and the abolition of the Department of Education under President Ryan, many localities passed voucher programs that allowed parents to choose which school to send their children and in many cases provided startup money for “small community schools” administered by local PTA’s.

When the Department of Education was re-established in 2032, 25% of children went to alternative schools of some form. Instead of returning to old system of public education, the PRE invested heavily in parent education and organizing and strengthened local parent associations and mandated parent centers at every school that received voucher money. With increased flexibility religious schools, free schools and ethno-centric educations became much more common to mixed results.

By 2040 however, there was revitalization of the American education system. With a decrease in consumerism, increase in the average wage and wide spread rent control parents had much more time to engage with their child’s education. With the mandated parent centers at each school, neighborhoods developed support systems to educate parents and support them in guiding their own children’s education.

This led to an informed community driven school model that changed from testing based, high pressure schooling to more project based learning that focused on nurturing whole children. The emphasis on math and science was replaced by an emphasis on emotional learning, appreciate inquiry and conflict resolution. As the technical aspect of educations was destressed, America saw arise in apprenticeship programs and comprehensive job training for college graduates.

In the 2020’s consumer organizing started to play a larger role in corporate regulation as organizations like Safe Food Network and Consumers Against Sweat Shops launched boycott and buy campaigns that created new markets for Fair Trade, Sustainable and High Wage industries throughout the United States. In the 2030’s, worker centers launched worker defense teams that fought for higher wages and better conditions on the shop floor. The consumer protection act of 2030 gave legal sanction and funding to these activities so worker centers, free-lancer guilds, and consumer unions replaced Worker Unions as the backbone of the economic justice movement. By 2040, the sustainable, fair trade goods produced with high labor standards had become the norm.

The progressive development of the United States was fairly uneven though much of this period and republican control areas in the American South and Midwest hampered much of the PRE’s work. However, with the election of 2030, the PRE took control of both houses of the federal government while the Democrats controlled the presidency until the election of Kelly Hadad in 2036.

With control of the House, the PRE immediately checked executive power by repealing the War Powers Act and Patriot Act in February of 2031. The PRE went on to slowly devolve much of their federal authority to states while increasing federal protections for marginalized people. Once in control of the U.S. government, the PRE would become well known and revered for its bottom up strategy to dealing with the catastrophic effects of climate change.

The PRE strategy of “empowering the people” revolutionized the role of the government in society as its general assemblies pushed for a constantly devolving of federal and eventually state authority to local mass assemblies. Often times the PRE politicians were at odds with the will of the people’s assemblies yet because the PA’s were the core of the party they won nearly every political disagreement.

 

Building Transformation Engines for [R]Evolution pt 2: Differential Politics

*check out the first essay in the series here*

Differential Politics

“We seek a world in which there is room for many worlds.”

Sub commander Marcos

Zapatista Army of Liberation (EXLN), Mexico

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Words used by Lilla Watson, Aboriginal elder, activist and educator from Queensland, Australia.

“After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world, – a world which yields him no self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.”

W.E.B. Du Bois Souls of Black Folks

“In attempting to repossess identity and culture, U.S. feminists of color during the 1960’s and 1970’s, U.S. punks during the early 1980s, peoples of color and queers during the 1990’s developed survival skills into technologies for re-organizing peoples and their collective dreams for empowerment into images-turned-facts…

Dominated populaces realize their subjection to power (that people are the words the social order speaks). The radical form of cognitive mapping that differential consciousness allows develops such knowledge into a method by which the limits of the social order can be spoken, named, and made translucent: the body passes through and is transformed.”

Chela Sandoval Methodology of the Oppressed.

“Who or what is the collective subject of history? Is it the nation? Civilization? Class? Is it Hegel’s Cunning actor, Reason? Each of these categories of comprehension, while determing present phenomena as meaningful, comes to us full of residues of the past, containing the sedimented history of utopian dreams and cultural blind spots, political struggles and power effects. Historically inhereted concepts form the collective consciousness of actors who, in turn, create history. Paradoxically, even when collective actors proclaim themselves the standard bearers for universal history–indeed, especially when they make this avant-gardist claim–they establish their identity in contrast to others, to outsiders. This brings our inquiry back to the thought with which the essay, “Hegel and Haiti,” came to a close. Is it possible to reimagine universal history out of bounds of exclusionary conceptual frames? Can we humans, in a kind of reversal of Hegel, refuse to see ourselves as history’s instrument, our particular actions meaningful only when subsumed within some overarching concept as it historically unfolds–even when that concept is human freedom? Can collective subjectivity be imagined as inclusive as humanity itself? Is there a way to universal history today?” Susan Buck-Morss “Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History.”

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Differential: To be Differential is to utilize political, emotional and spiritual discernment for revolution.

Perhaps now that state power seems so unreachable to progressives in the wake of the election of Trump they will finally be open to leftist non-state centric solutions to our problems. Likewise, I am excited by the number of people who are trying to understand why people voted the way they did on both sides. Not only can this election unveil what America has always been but it can also force us to look deeply and analytically at each other’s social position to understand why we do what we do. In this exercise of trying to understand each other’s social location I am hopeful that many of us will learn to see past the veil of ideology being spewed by mainstream society. This essay, like all of the ones in this series, hopes to provide fodder for these “what do we do next” conversations. I hope it can exist as a generative launching point for collective discussion and action.

Like the Zapatistas, I believe that the way forward is “below and to the left.” That is to say that we should organize communal power structures outside the confines of the state along anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist lenses. We need to have control over our resources and communities not just control over the liberal political structures that legislate the businesses that control the resources. I believe there are many ways to do that. Groups like the next system project outline possible alternatives to way we currently organize society.

This essay, like most of the rest of the essays in this series, is more concerned with the how than the what. How do we move from where we are to where we want to go? How do we evaluate one possible vision from another? How to we work together to manifest that vision without ending up at each other’s throats? How do we overcome the social constructs of race, class, nationality, gender and ability to build a shared vision of the world capable of holding the complexity of human experiences, contexts, desires and needs?

There are many analyses of the way forward with complementary visions of the future from Marx-Leninism to Revolutionary Nationalism to Ecofeminism. This essay suggests a way to use those analyses in tandem to create complicated maps of the terrains of power that show us multiple possible ways forward. In addition to creating maps, we must also develop a political consciousness capable of seeing our place in the terrain of power rather than accepting the place we are told we live in. This is especially true at a moment when we are all being asked to give Trump “an open mind.”  Armed with these maps and consciousness we can head toward the world we want not merely the worker revolution or nation our analysis says is the goal. Most importantly, with differential politics we are able to see every individual as a historical actor and envision worlds that can encompass many different visions for liberation, joy and freedom.

The book Radical Dharma contains a poetic description how our analysis created from a single view [Black people or the working class] often hem us into thinking we are fighting different battles or worse, that only one side has any real skin in the game. It is about the cops policing of Black bodies but it could be extended to include the policing of bodies in many ways including gender, sexuality, ability, respectability, class etc.

“Whose Liberation?

We’re in a moment in which the attention of our nation is rightfully turned to the policing of Black and brown bodies. From above, it looks like just Black and brown folks are being policed, and, while you may feel bad, at least you are free.

The policing we are witnessing is expressing itself through the State. The police force is the state institution carrying out a specific mandate. The mandate expresses an energetic need of the construct we inhabit.

The mandate is to control Black bodies.

The need is to have the constant specter of the other.

When the other exists, it strengthens your need to belong.

Your belonging is necessary for compliance.

Your compliance maintains the system.

You are policed, too.

You are policed by your need for belonging.

Your need for belonging requires control of the other.

…Or at least the illusion of it.

You are policed through the control of my body.

You are policed, too.

Once you are aware of how you are being policed, you can begin the process of self-liberating, from the position of realizing the mutuality of our liberation rather than suffering under the delusion that you are doing something for me. There is intimacy in that realization. And because Dharma is ultimately about accepting what is, it can undermine the need for control that keeps you invested in the policing of my body, thus freeing yours.”

This multi-focal approach, this attempt to view the system from seemingly opposing perspectives at once is, to me, at the core of differential modes of organizing. Not only does it allow for polycentric analysis of policing but also connects the visceral and emotional world that policing penetrates that is often left out of our analysis. The differential modes of resisting domination is a concept I first encountered outlined by Chela Sandoval in “The Methodologies of the Oppressed.” Differential movement, in this political sense, is to be able understand one’s own and one’s opponent[s] social location deeply while also being able to read power in complex ways and to use this reading to subvert, hide from, retreat from or disrupt domination and oppressive power thrusts.

A boxer, if they are any good, is hyper aware of their own body and its ability to move, dodge and fight. In order to win, a boxer must be able to read their opponent’s body and capacity with equal precision. You have to see not only the jab but the hook that the jab is trying to set you up for. The bobbing and weaving of boxer as well as the combos and breathing techniques, is all differential movement.

At it’s best differential movement exist in non-binary terms, when there are multiple combatants. This is something I always loved about the X-men comics. Sure they had superpowers and [sometimes] cool costumes. Yet what made them great was their teamwork, Cyclop’s detailed action plans and their opposition research. They had to put together all of their powers in order to exploit the weakness of their opponents. The had to fight opponents who shifted and changed and adapted while learning to see the positive side of their most volatile and unhealed teammates [i.e. Wolverine’s berserker rage or Magik’s fractured soul]

Differential movement is like the improvising of a musician. Improvising only works within the context of boundaries. What separates improvising from random notes is an understanding of the underlying structure of notes, rhythms, harmonies and melodies that are possible. One might decide to play off key or without discernable rhythm but it is the decision that makes its improvisation and not chaos. Improvising is better when you understand the science of music and the art of the instrument you are playing. This is why most Jazz musicians are classically trained. In order to, as Miles Davis said, “play what’s not there” you have be able to see what is there and know how slide beauty and quirks into the gaps.

Whether the task is fighting or making music, differential movement takes both feeling and study and practice to be effective. Differential movement is not purely intuitive even if it is driven by our visceral experience. Perfect pitch, a musical ear, naturally deft hand eye coordination are all helpful but are basically meaningless without knowing how to read music, knowing how to play an instrument or heading to the gym.

All of this is true for differential political movement. Tools like dialectical materialism, intersectionality, social reproduction feminism, and de-colonial lens all help organizers read power and determine their own social location. Ideologies like Marxism, Revolutionary Nationalism, or Anarchism help provide models of the terrain of power in which you are struggling. Boycotts, rallies, speeches, agit-prop distribution, shut-downs, strikes, campaigns, twitter storms, canvassing, bird-dogging, insurrections, people’s war and sabotage are the strategies and tactics that constitute political movement. They are the notes and combos that organizers must learn to employ effectively.

Perhaps most controversially, spiritual, social and emotional techniques like meditation, yoga, conflict resolution, thought-stopping, restorative processes, emotional intelligence, generative somatics, visioning, manifesting, healing praxi etc are all skills [human technologies] crucial to the interpersonal aspects of differential political movement. They allow us to ask us where it hurts and then map those answers to the terrains of power that political tendencies create. If our politics is geared towards ending human suffering then it should include the emotional and spiritual technologies we have developed to name, process and soothe human suffering. If our politics is not geared towards ending human suffering then it is not geared towards liberation.

To be differential is to not be dogmatic. It is not to follow a map blindly. One does not organize to seize the means of production just because we read it in a book. Just like one should not try to jump across a canyon because it looks like a small ditch on our map. We should not organize our political strategy over what the polls say.  We have to learn to use our eyes and use maps only as extra information to aid us in our journey. In a negotiation you cannot just assume that a white male capitalist is going to react a certain way based on an ideological understanding of the world, you have to read their body language, have empathy [though not necessarily sympathy] with their situation in order to decide how, which and when to press demands.

By understanding our social position in such a complicated way, we all have the tools to create a compelling narrative of personal and communal freedom. It opens up the possibility of a multi-front campaign against domination in which we are experts in our chosen field of battle. Rather than have those with “privilege” stand as “allies” in other people’s fights, differential politics allows people to understand where their fight is.

This is the essence of what is meant by political discernment. When we tie this discernment and analysis to our visceral unease with our way of life we are prepared to change our circumstances. When we connect a polycentric political analysis to a practice of asking ourselves where it hurts a seed of oppositional consciousness is created. Oppositional consciousness is knowing that there are more ways forward than society wants you to believe. It is knowing that Trump is still dangerous and autocratic regardless of the conciliatory tone he and the establishment are presenting. It is realizing that however real white supremacist institutions might make its effects, race is a social construct whose rules need only be noted, not abided by. Oppositional consciousness is knowing that bullshit is bullshit. It’s being able to see that what we are being feed is lies and recognize the truth of our own power. Hip Hop and Black Folk religion are two great examples of human technologies for transmitting the oppositional consciousness that arises in Black autonomous spaces.

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Hip Hop is culture based on radical self-expression and living against the grain of anti-Blackness and urban deprivation. Black folk religion is a set of human technologies that allowed enslaved people to build community and celebrate their collective humanity and individual worth in the most soul crushing of circumstances. At their most authentic, they help Black people choose freedom over slavery and radical hope over crushing despair and helped Black people survive a system we were not meant to survive. Hip Hop and Black Folk religion were many Black communities’ way of playing the notes the system denied us but that we knew we needed to survive. Of course, no technology is perfect. Like both Jazz and Vodun,  Hip Hop and Black folk religion have been co-opted, revised and repackaged to suit purposes antithetical to their creation. This is one reason that Black communities constantly create new genres [human technologies] for spiritual, cultural and political expression.

This is one reason why culture is an important terrain of struggle. Culture holds us down and makes our organizing spaces sustainable. Culture also reminds of who we are and our history. Rather than disdain the joy that folks get from a Beyonce video, radicals do and should understand the importance of Black popular music to oppositional consciousness. We should push our artist to be more radical and systemic in their analysis and support artists whose radical content makes them marginal. We should also consider what cultural strategies we could use to tell polycentric stories about the world we live and and the world we want.  What human technologies can we create to navigate power in the age of Trumpsim and the internet? What will be the caperoria of our Black abolitionist movement?

Oppositional consciousness is crucial to sustained differential politics in the coming era when neo-liberalism will sell prison to you as affordable housing and a jobs program. Differential political movement is developing a strategy of reading corporate and state invasions into our communities and assessing the power dynamics that make them work in order to disrupt them with strategies from previous eras of social movements used as tactics. For instance, when Wal-Mart tries to enter your community you can either fight to unionize them as a labor organizer might have in the 70’s or take a strategy from a more liberal play book and try to get community members elected to the zoning board. This choice is based on which tactic better suits your community’s needs, abilities and long term goals rather than a dogmatic theory of change from an earlier era. The liberal approach might not bring liberation but it might be an easier way to keep the homes where you plot liberation.

Central to differential politics is the understanding that all systems analysis is fiction, a good story and useful map. Marx-Leninism views the oppression of Black people in one vein and revolutionary nationalism in another. Neither of them actually explain the full range of Black political, social, emotional, spiritual, physical and sexual experiences. Like all stories the questions is not whether they are true or false but whether they are accurate and useful. Just like Newton’s Laws of Physics, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity or Quantum Mechanics are all accurate at specific scales for specific questions and uses, so too are Marxism, Nationalism, Anarchism and yes even identity politics. Differential political movement is the discernment to know when to use which tool and how, never confusing accuracy for truth.

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One great example of effective differential movement is Black Lives Matter Cleveland’s Campaign against the District Attorney Mcginty. After the DA refused to prosecute the cops who murdered Tamir Rice, it would have been easy to simply run another candidate. Yet, BLM: Cleveland understood the limits of electoral organizing and the limits of getting anyone, even a movement leader, in office. Thus, instead of backing a better political candidate, launching their own campaign or trying to build a campaign to reform government they simply ensured that the local democratic party did not endorse any candidate. This meant that candidates had to go directly to communities in order to raise the funds and awareness to be viable. This made politicians accountable to Black communities without wasting energy trying to influence a fatally flawed system. The base that was built to pressure a non-endorsement can now be utilized towards more revolutionary goals. This is a brilliant example of differential political movement.

In order to be effective, differential political actions must be made from a place beyond domineering ideology in order to not reproduce oppressive social relationships. Take over your zoning board if you need to but don’t confuse proximity to power or bureaucracy with autonomous power. As mentioned in previous essays to be beyond oppressive ideologies is not to be beyond ideology itself necessarily. Rather, it means to be able to read the ideological context within which one is organizing and set one’s strategies to oppose the naturalization of oppression and domination. It also means to move without the blindness of narrow sectarian ideologies.

By using tendencies as models for terrains of power, we can use them like overlays to create more complex maps of our social location. These new maps allow us to see the different intersections of structures of oppression. With this intersectional power mapping we can strike where we are strongest and empire is weakest. This intersectional power mapping is what allows for the Palestinian Student Movement to stand in solidarity with M4BL Black August actions against mass incarceration. An anti-imperialist lens makes the international-personal connection while a marx-leninist allows you to hit the Imperialist in the pocket book where it hurts.

In our planning sessions and debrief as well as in the streets we also create a new communal identity of solidarity that can, at times, transcend the limiting social constructs we live in.

Lastly, differential political movement is a skill that is learned over time. Like most skills it takes practical experimentation and the fruits of scientific observation to master. Once base level differential action has been mastered and studied aspects of it can be written down and general principles can be learned in a book. Yet, there is no preparation like experience doing it. Fortunately, most oppressed people naturally learn differential political skills. Anything from code-switching, to learning to navigate welfare offices to learning to avoid the police is differential movement.  Organizers must recognize, name, praise and nurture the preexisting differential strategies in the communities we organize.

Likewise, we have to remember that scientific observation has very concrete limits and the context within which we experiment is constantly changing anyways. Thus it generally better to create space for people to recognize their pre-existing differential skills. Then we can set people up to learn as much of the general principles as possible and to support them in gaining the practical experience necessary for mastery. This is where Autonomous spaces are useful. In an autonomous space, away from the hegemony or mainstream views, it is easy to analyze the terrain of power. Once you have removed yourself from the mist of capitalist, white supremacist, cis-hetero-patriarchal ideology and its values it is easier to decide how to combat it.

What does this mean practically speaking?

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“What if every time that the consciousness of individuals surpassed the confines of present constellations of power in perceiving the concrete meaning of freedom, this were valued as a moment, however transitory, of the realization of absolute spirit? What other silences would need to be broken? What undisciplined stories would be told?” Susan Buck-Morss “Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History”

At its most basic level, differential politics allows us to move past sectarian divides that no longer serve us. It also allows us to be more strategic by providing us with a better sense of the terrain and our place in it.  At its highest level differential politics, with its oppositional consciousness and intersectional power mapping, allows us to swarm our enemies with expertise. Rather than have allies off on the sidelines in support roles or trying to lead on someone else’s front line it allows for a total war against domination in which our tactics come from the human technologies we have learned to navigate empire.

Earlier in the essay I asked what will be the Capoeira of our generation. To me, this is not a rhetorical question. What human technology will we create to bring tribes together, away from state supervision and practice revolution? How might we attack the supply chain of domination from where we currently stand instead of constantly rushing to other people’s communities from call to action to call to action? What would happened if we held onto the “absolute spirit” of freedom and visioned the polycentric world of the future with that lens?  I think these are questions that need answers and I think differential politics can go a long way in doing that.

In today’s movements, I think you see differential politics helping people make critical connections between movements. At standing rock you see it connect environmentalism, anti-racism and national sovereignty into a powerful movement for autonomy that is sparking fires in many communities across the globe. We have chance to come together in these moments strike a powerful collective blow to empire.

What might be the result if low income Black and Brown communities shut down the trains carrying pipeline equipment to protest the invasion of Native land AND the fact that trains run through their already polluted neighborhood? What if middle class Black homeowners owners launched lawsuits against the financial backers of the pipeline who happened to also be same banks that redlined them into “less desirable” neighborhoods and higher interests rates? What if people who were raced white threw massive cultural festivals geared towards creating a new culture based neither in whiteness nor in cultural appropriation that simultaneously raised awareness of the cost of assimilation and funds for standing rock? What if a contingent of south asians held teach-ins on eastern religions to decolonize the practices of white burners who appropriate their culture will raising funds fo Standing Rock? What if all of this work was considered historically important and we stopped fetishizing [or demonizing] those with the resources, time and inclination to chase calls to action?

What if we coordinated events with same guiding questions, spiritual grounding and sense of liberated culture? What if worked to build a shared polycentric understanding of our shared human skin in this fight? Might those who have been stolen from their lands or whose nations have been so destroyed by imperialism that we left to come struggle against extermination and assimilation  connect with those whose lands have been stolen to assert a way forward that heals the wounds of our ancestors and suggests a new way to live liberated right now. At it’s core, differential political action is about this kind of radical possibilities in context.

The next essay in the series will dive more into the what: autonomous spaces. As always, please give me any feedback, pushback or questions you have. Feel free to write a response! I think building a culture of critique and rigorous engage with political issues is necessary to develop differential politics.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Breathe.

Take a deep breath in. Let the air fill your stomach. Hold for a count of 4.  Exhale.

Shit is real. Donald Trump was just elected President of the United States. You are currently feeling all the feels. Allow yourself to feel it. Ask yourself, where does it hurt? Even if you are only experiencing anger right now, ask yourself what lies under the anger. Is it possible you are only feeling anger so that don’t feel deeper, more vulnerable emotions?

What are you afraid to let yourself feel?

Sit with that.

Ask yourself where it hurts.

What do you need? A nap, food, water, comfort, intimacy?

Go and get that. Take a drink. Cuddle with a friend. Call your mother to process. Take a twerk break. Eat food and come back to this. Take care of your needs.

Now that you are little more centered, let’s talk about what happens next. The election last night didn’t change everything. Nothing that exists today wasn’t around, in some form, last week or last month. America did not lose its mind. Racism did not “win.” Social forces of insecurity, deprivation, separation, anger, fear, resentment, disinvestment and hurt coalesced into a 30 minute up or down vote.

This is not to say that you are overreaching. This is only to say that we are not in the beginning, or end, of anything. We are in the middle of a long process of American politics which has always been fraught with anger, racism, sexism, violence and hurt [not to mention genocide and slavery]. Yet this development is serious and there are changes coming ahead that unless we intervene will be scary, dangerous, violent and hurtful.

Moving forward we know that we will have to hold each other. Regardless of what Trump does during his administration we know there will likely be some crisis in the coming months and years. Climate change, mass migration, infrastructure failure, and rising inequality were already potential humanitarian crises we were ill prepared for. America is already involved in 5 wars abroad. Unions are under attack and labor has been the red-headed step child of the Democratic Party since Nixon’s “Southern Strategy.”

Trump and his white nationalist supporters will make all of these things worse unless we come together and stop them. Our communities will be further divested from. Our water is already poisoned and our infrastructure will only get worse. Perhaps the most often unspoken part of the Presidential election is the narrative shift that occurs. Obama’s hope and change narrative was fundamentally different than Bush’s. Obama’s America was lauded as a post-racial society in which America was an “unfinished pyramid,” not perfect but getting closer every year. He re-defined what it meant to be American and what American values were. Some of this was window dressing, but some of it was substantial.

Reagan similarly changed our vision for American life.  His invention of myths like the welfare queen and the need to escalate the war on drugs retooled Lyndon Johnson’s view of government as a social worker to that of a part time cop – part time venture capitalist. Instead of building towards a great society by addressing inequity, we needed to attack those that were “living off the system” [as if anyone wasn’t in some way]. This is not to suggest Johnson’s great society was not fraught with issues. Rather it goes to show you that the bully pulpit extends into our view for the role of government and vision for America. Ultimately, it bleeds into what we expect from each other and ourselves.

I think Alexis Pauline Gumbs states it best in the book she co-edited Revolutionary Mothering.

“I was born in 1982 in the middle of the first term of a president who won by demonizing “welfare queens,” in the global context of “population control,” a story that says poor women and women of color should not give birth. A story with a happy ending for capitalism: we do not exist. The queer thing is that we were born; our young and/or deviant and /or brown and/or broke and/or single mamas did the wrong thing. Therefore we exist: a population out of control, a story interrupted.”

The economic conditions of de-industrialization made Black and poor working families disposable and would have under any president. Yet, Reagan weaponized white supremacy to infuse neo-liberalism into the American ideology. Reagan used the myth of the welfare queen to dismantle systems that mostly benefited poor white people. His narrative made their hurt invisible, in some cases even to themselves, or turned that hurt to anger and misdirected it to inner-city drug users. This is a real danger of Trump. We’ve seen inklings of this with Reagan’s and Clinton’s welfare reform but nothing of Trump’s vitriol and violence.

The point here is that some of us have been here before. Some of our communities have known that America hated us for generations. Some of us are just now realizing what America has already been. What happens next will be a cycle of crises, weaponization of hate and furthering of the crises. Marginalized people will be scape-goated in schemes to dismantle what is left of the safety net. Middle class white families will face the same sort of economic insecurity that has been a fact of life for Black and brown communities for generations. Those marginalized communities will face new levels of disinvestment that resemble the crack infused Reagan years.

So what do we do? Where do we go from here?

We need to ask ourselves where it hurts and support each other. There will be no bailout or reinvestment plan for our communities in the next four years. There will be no politicians willing and empowered to halt the mass deportations. There will be no fireside chats and WPA programs to deal with the Trump recession. Like the great depression, Black communities who have been under attack are more psychologically equipped to deal with this lack of stability and persecution.Not because we’re superhuman, we’ve just been here before and some of us have developed certain skills and practices to survive.

One of the reasons why Black people seem to be less distraught by Trump is because to us he is clearly our comb-over chicken coming home to roost. Many white people aren’t ready to acknowledge the truths that Black people have been long prepared for. Yet psychological preparation doesn’t obscure the fact that Black people and other marginalized groups will face the brunt of this crises. Not being so surprised doesn’t mean that as Black people we also don’t need to ask each other where it hurts and ask what are we afraid to feel.

It will be a rough couple of months. The communities Trump decides to target will be devastated and that devastation will be felt by all of us. We need to build autonomous communities that can provide the stability and safety to counter the insecurity Trump will engender and try to use for his own purposes. We need networks of support where we can ask ourselves where it hurts and communally manifest political, economic, spiritual and emotional balms. As the Zapitista’s say, we need a movement from “below and to the left.” Building these autonomous communities will take time and hard work, but they will be how we survive this.

This is not to say that we don’t also need to build alternative political parties and social movements. Yet, as leftist Latin American movements or Greece’s Syriza show us, without communal autonomy we will be ill equipped to survive austerity whether it is imposed by the IMF or a result of Trump’s terrible policies. We have to invest in our communities in order to build the resiliency they will need to survive the next four years. The main political aspects of what I think we should do to move forward are outlined in my essay series Differential Autonomous Transformation: Building Engines of [R]evolution.

There will be a time for serious organizing in the next few weeks. Yet many of us are shocked and that shock needs to wear off before we organize. We need to begin to support each other and give ourselves time to feel the magnitude of the moment. We need to allow ourselves to feel that which we are afraid to feel. We need to ask each other where it hurts.

Here are things you can do today to begin moving forward:

  1. Don’t shame people for how they voted or for choosing not to vote.  Voter shaming has no place in transformative politics. No matter how bad some behavior might be, the internalization of shame never leads to sustained positive change. Shame can make someone change tactics but it rarely changes hearts and minds for sustained action. Shamed people either become reactionary or internalize the shame to become apathetic or feel powerless over time. No one demographic group caused this outcome. White supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, the limits of liberal democracy and a culture of lovelessness are the problem. People who voted for Trump, Clinton or Stein still are complicit in those systems regardless of their vote. This outcome is not a reflection of who we fundamentally are as individuals but rather our system of government and our social relationships. It’s not us, but it is our shit to clean up.
  2. Take care of yourself. Like truth telling, organizing is serious business, and only truth telling and organizing will allow us to combat Trump’s agenda. We need to engage in a communal marathon, not a series of individual sprints. Self-care has to be the center of any organizing strategy. Tired, hangry, unhealed people make for reactionary, short sighted and unstrategic organizers. Create a list of things you do to destress, decompress and cultivate joy. Create a list of “Signs That I Am Not Taking Good Care Of Myself” and use it as a reminder that self care is a practice, not a one off thing.  Put that list somewhere you will see it often. Use it as a reminder to check in with yourself. Remember to love up on yourself.
  3. Reach out to your network. Create a list of all the people you love, all the people whom you are afraid for, all the people you turn to in times of deep pain. Reach out to the people on the list. Tell them you love them, ask them where it hurts, asks what support they need and tell them how they can support you. Be explicit about being willing to support your network and specific about the support you need. These personal networks will be crucial in the coming years. They will be the central hub in our autonomous networks.
  4. Don’t let Trump create a new normal. Carve out space in your home, or room, to create an “Altar To The World I Want.” Place symbols of what you are determined to keep under a Trump presidency on the altar. This is not a place to continually mourn, rather it’s a living visual reminder of why we fight. As the weeks go by, add things to it that symbolize things that come under threat or that disappear (proof of what we had). It’s important that we don’t buy into all the people telling us it will be okay, especially since they are the same people who said this would never happen. It’s also important to have a north star, to remember the world we want as we build it.
  5. Support the organizations that are already building community autonomy. Many of these organizations planned for Trump winning. Most of their plans would be the same under a Clinton Presidency, and many of them will be developing plans to tell folks what is coming. All of them will need more resources, members and volunteers. You can donate to Black Lives Matter DC here.
  6. When you are ready, centered and have a strategy get to organizing!