Editorial: Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better
This journal is the product of an arduous collective process. It is the end result of hours of intense discussions, multi-city meetings, collective research and writing, followed by more intense discussions and late-night editing sessions. It is also, we hope, a contribution towards a broader conversation amongst anarchists and anti-authoritarian revolutionaries – particularly here in Canada, but also amongst our international comrades – on where we're at, and how we can best move our struggles forward.
Many of the arguments and conclusions presented in this journal will be controversial. While it is not our intention to offend, we have nonetheless sought to look at hard questions, and to draw honest conclusions. In doing so, we are motivated by a sincere desire to shift not only the discourse of the revolutionary Left, but also our praxis. We find that our members are shaped and influenced by many of the problems that we identify as existing within the broader activist culture, and we hold no illusions that we are somehow exempt from the criticisms we outline in these pages. This journal was initially conceived of, and continues to serve as a tool for sharpening our politics and our members' individual and collective development. This is often a painful process, but one that we believe is worth the effort. Many of these articles will be self-referential, and sometimes the themes will overlap. In constructing our criticisms of what are often taboo subjects within the anarchist and broader activist Left, we have opted to speak from our own experiences. We believe that this is the only principled means of framing our arguments, and also the most useful in terms of analyzing our own shortcomings. We hope to elicit feedback from other organizations and individuals, both from those who agree with the conclusions we have reached, and even more crucially, from those who don't.
We kick off this volume with an article that begins with an examination of anti-organizationalist sentiment within the North American anarchist movement, then shifts into a brief history of Common Cause's structural and political development over the past six years. It concludes with some projections on the form and direction of future urban struggles, and shares some of the concrete lessons we've learned from our study and recent experiences with neighbourhood organizing in southern Ontario.
We then shift our sights to a critique of anarchist struggles against, and often paradoxically in support of, the Welfare State. This article focuses on the reformist strategies pursued by much of the activist Left around social assistance programs – strategies that are often uncritically adopted by many anarchists engaged in labour and anti-poverty organizing. In contrast to these strategies, we examine alternative approaches to welfare provision that centre around the anarchist principle of mutual aid, and which can fit into part of a broader strategy of building revolutionary dual power.
The third article will continue this exploration of the so-called “anarchist community”, drawing inspiration from Luigi Fabbri's classical polemic text Bourgeois Influences on Anarchism. In attempting to bring this analysis up to date, we focus on the influence of conspiracy theorists, health and care mysticism, and academic obscurantism on both the contemporary anarchist movement and the broader working class. We also explore how our own response to these influences has often been insufficient, and can often lead to a crude class reductionism and bitter denunciations. Both of which amount to unproductive, and eminently negative reactions to what should be issues of grave concern to us.
Next, we explore our own often inadequate experiences of attempting to contend with sexual violence – both within our own organization and the broader Left, and as a structural underpinning of patriarchal capitalist relations. We critique several problematic tendencies that we see as common to contemporary community accountability processes, while stressing the need to build a shared politics around sexual violence that incorporates a more realistic understanding of the interlocking systems of oppression and structural forces that give rise to rape culture. We end this article by looking at how organizing against Men's Rights Activists (MRAs) and struggles around reproductive justice can be catalytic in the development of a feminist movement that can more effectively contend with sexual violence in society at large.
We conclude the journal with an examination of anti-oppression politics, as they have come to be understood and practiced within much of the radical activist community. In this article, we interrogate the role of academia and the Non-Profit Industrial Complex in recuperating the dynamic struggles of the 1970s and1980s, leading to an increased focus on discourse that often obscures the underlying structural conditions that reproduce systems of privilege and oppression. We contrast these political approaches with examples of struggles against racial and gender-based oppression that have achieved material successes, while attempting to distill lessons that can be used to inform struggles waged within our own context.
As we stated in the editorial for the first volume of Mortar, the conclusions drawn within these pages should not be read as the definitive word of Common Cause. Though they are conclusions that have been reached, to as great an extent as possible, collectively, they are not set in stone, nor are they shared equally by all members of our organization. For us, anarchism is a social and political process of development. We hope that readers will see this journal as an invitation to honestly question their own analysis and practice, and to share with us any misgivings or disagreements that our conclusions have provoked. You can get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.