The Radical Education Department was founded approximately one year ago, and it has developed in myriad unforeseeable and exciting ways, while also confronting obstacles and limitations along the way. By providing an overview of what I consider to be our successes, as well as an outline of goals for the coming year, it is my hope that I can contribute to the autonomous process of collective education that is crucially important to the revolutionary Left. Just as we have learned and continue to learn from so many of the radical groups at work around the world, I hope that others can take inspiration from our model, and also help us reach our goals for RED Year II!
Doing Something with Nothing
The basis for RED’s success to date is the recognition that you can make a significant political impact with limited resources and no monetary support. We have, since the very beginning, been a small group, and each person has contributed according the their abilities and what their time commitments allow. Everything has been extremely shoestring, but there is a common egalitarian energy and anti-capitalist drive that invigorates us to pick up the RED torch whenever we can find time. This means—and it was an important lesson for all of us to learn experientially—that any tiny group of a few people can dive in and get things moving. There is no need to wait around until the time is ripe, the revolution is on our doorstep or the Establishment pushes things too far. The time is now!
In the coming year, it would be great if we could find a few more dedicated torchbearers. At times, we have been spread too thin, and it is important for our group to maintain a stable core, as well as concentric circles of dedicated, as well as more or less intermittent, collaborators. Some of our early members have had to step back for numerous reasons, but others are also stepping up. We look forward to integrating them into RED and building up our concentric circles of collaboration in the coming year!
A Focused Organization Not a Political Party
We knew from the very beginning that we did not want to develop a mass organization, and we conceive of our role more as a radical groupuscule that can push the envelope, work more flexibly and intervene incisively, while simultaneously working with and across other groups. Our mode of organization is neither strictly hierarchical, nor is it purely horizontal, as we discussed here. In order to maximize the autonomy of our members, we decided that RED activities would be those supported by at least two members, which does not require group consensus or a single leader.
As we develop, we would like to shore up and clarify our modes of organization based on our experiences thus far, and also in order to fine-tune our decision-making process. It is a delicate operation to move beyond the extremes of verticalism and horizontalism, and many of us are convinced that this is an extremely important tactical shift that needs to be further theorized and put into practice. Given our past experiences in various political groups and in Occupy, we recognize the enormous strengths of this transversal mode of organization and would like to be able, through experiential knowledge, to be able to model it for other groups, while also continuing to learn more about all of the interesting organizational models that are already in practice.
A Thinking Tank
As a revolutionary leftist organization, one of our projects has been to function as a research collaborative that collectively produces informative and insightful articles on contemporary politics and organizing. We have successfully forged collaborations with some of the most important venues for the radical intelligentsia and general public (such as CounterPunch and Truthout) as well as for activist communities (such as It’s Going Down and Enough Is Enough), which has allowed our articles to circulate in much broader circles. The content that we have collectively produced has arguably had an impact in at least two ways. On the one hand, we have diagnosed and conceptually dismantled the standard liberal framework used to make sense of contemporary media debates on such things as violence, antifa, direct action and free speech. On the other hand, we have increasingly been invested in asking and providing responses to timely tactical questions of organizing, encouraging our readership to always be thinking about how we can move our actions to the next level (see our work on anti-ICE mobilization, radical struggle in Philadelphia, insurrectionary councilism, the insurrectionary campus, antifa on a conservative campus and popular-front antifa). It is very difficult to know how much of an impact these interventions have had, but they have at the very least been extremely helpful for our own political education, and they have led to a series of productive discussions and interviews (like this discussion of revolutionary strategy on IGD, or this one on violence and antifa on KPFA).
In the coming year, we would like to continue doing this kind of writing, while also adding additional fronts of struggle and connecting to new publication venues and audiences across the hard Left. Our recent launching of a zine project has successfully brought together significant voices on timely issues, and we would like to continue to develop our zines, which will include printing and distributing them free of charge. We have also begun discussing the possibility of launching RED press with short booklets, and many of us are invested in the long-term project of seizing the means of intellectual and cultural production. In this regard, we would also like to develop the aesthetic contributions to RED by collaborating more with artists and creative cultural producers, which will also allow us to reach different types of audiences
Revolutionary Coalition Building
RED is not committed to a single party line, and most of us would identify—or be identified—as anarchists, communists or revolutionary socialists (or some combination thereof). This has allowed us to work broadly with numerous other groups in order to avoid the siloing that has sometimes plagued the revolutionary Left. Some of our most successful public events—like this one on revolutionary coalitions or this one on antifascist education—have brought together people who work with various different groups in order to share their experiences and brainstorm about the most productive models for future collective work. We have also enjoyed the opportunity to serve as a platform for activists around the world, and we have developed ties over time with like-minded groups with which we have begun collaborating, such as Cutting Class.
In RED Year II, we would like to see our project of revolutionary coalition building deepen and expand. Taking inspiration from Fred Hampton and other radical organizers, we would like to establish innovative but workable frameworks for coordinating between different radical groups in such a way that they can maintain their autonomy but maximize their impact by working with others. Much of this work will be local to the Philadelphia area, as we explore the options for creating umbrella structures, but it will also involve greater coordination with other groups around the country and the world for more expansive modes of solidarity and support.
RED emerged out of direct action and the joy of working together for a common cause when you have to put something on the line. It has continued to be important as an intermittent reference point for our struggles, but we have been less successful on this front largely due to time constraints and a concern for avoiding undue penalization.
Direct action is an area where we really need to develop our strengths by tapping back into some of our earlier work and finding the time to make incisive and important interventions that nonetheless keep our members safe. In the coming year, we would like to develop our abilities to immediately be present on the scene for important issues in our area, following the lead of our friends at the Philly Coalition for REAL Justice and others. We would also like to be more proactive in planning ahead for important moments and organizing significant contributions on the part of RED. This can range from participating in major marches or events like May Day to making contributions to the latest flashpoints of struggle, such as anti-ICE organizing or the prison strike. Finally, we plan on launching a guerilla education series that will bring radical education to the streets and corporate universities in and around the Philadelphia area. We are looking forward to blowing some minds!
RED has always recognized that the struggle against global capitalism needs to be international, and many of our group members work across various geographic regions. We have drawn on these experiences in myriad ways and made some important connections to groups abroad. However, this is also an area where this is ample room for growth.
In developing our international connections, we would like to collaborate and coordinate more with other radical groups around the globe. We would also like to forge connections to some of the most important reference points for radical Left organizing in our conjuncture, such as the ZAD in France and the Zapatistas in Chiapas. This will allow us to learn more from their experiences and also help us spread their major work to even larger audiences.
It is remarkable for us to be able to celebrate so many accomplishments by such a small organization with no financial resources, which speaks to the radical anti-capitalist spirit that animates us. There is, however, much work to be done, and RED Year II will require energy, commitment and creativity. We are excited to move forward!