Critical Reflections: Unity, Affinity, And Social Ruptures

UNITYThere exists a discourse, and strategy, that has existed longer than the ‘left’. It has existed since the first revolutionary group decided to wage war against their masters. They wondered, “hmmm, what if we were all united against this single enemy? That would be more effective no?” Alas, false unity was born. Putting aside ideological or personal differences for the sake of similar ideological goals. Pretending like tensions between two schools of thought don’t exist, and burying those feelings deep down. Like a sad alcoholic who does the same thing over and over. False unity has been repeated so many times, and like the sad alcoholic, it pretends problems can be pushed down by those facing them. If you ignore it long enough, and numb it, it will disappear. False unity is strategic alcoholism, but unlike most strategies, there is never a scenario from which it can succeed.

It attempts to white-out tension lines between groups, ideologies, or schools of thought. It pretends like the ride doesn’t  matter, only the destination. Imagine taking a road trip with your whole family, in the same car. It would be horrible!  On the ride they would be nagging me, annoying me, and generally pushing my buttons. When, and if we ever reach the destination, I would feel like crap. I’m here, now what? That is what false unity does to us. When we take a ride with our enemies to achieve a singular goal we build up rage, and build it up and build it up, until finally we explode in a ridiculous and emotional fury. Once said destination is reached, it would be hell. Imagine working with every single Leninist to smash capitalism, just imagine that. It sounds like torture. Imagine all the rage you would build up, and all the hatred you would feel when they suddenly declare, “Nah homie, lets use the state!”

We pretend like our individual grievances are nothing within the grander scheme of things. It is a homogeneous rhetoric that ignores our individual merits, and only focuses on the merit of our ideologies. It’s based around the belief that everyone who subscribes to a singular ideology is exactly same, not an individual. It treats everyone as like minded, with the same motivations, goals and desires. Unity comes from the word unit, which is a singular object with no cracks or divisions.

We are not all of the same pie, not even within our own respective tendencies. We are unique individuals that all contribute to our schools of thought through our theory and through our actions. To pretend that we don’t differ individually, even under the banner of ideology is silly. Not all Maoists are Maoist, and not all anarchists are anarchist. All Maoists however, are individuals with personalities and subjective interpretations of communist doctrine. Likewise all anarchists are unique individuals with subjective interpretations of anarchist doctrine.

This is what is missing from the preaching of left unity. How do we know every individual will be the same under all ideologies? How the hell would we all get along?

When we look at unity, it obviously focuses on collective cohesiveness rather than individual merit. Well, of course an opposite has to exist! This opposite is known as affinity. Unlike unity, which focuses on the destination, affinity focuses on the ride. Instead of judging ideologies, affinity judges individuals based upon them as a person. Rather than working with others because they have a similar goal, you work with individuals who you share like minded beliefs with, regardless of goals. This is nice, and better than false unity of course, but it still has it’s problems.

Affinity forgets that individuals are very much a product of the social environment, and not actually unique. They have their merits, but all of their actions are influenced by their school of thought. Individuals NEVER act without outside influence on an idea. Every action we take is influenced by our social environment. It pretends social groups do not exist and ignores collective experience outside of the affinity circle. It’s political isolationism.

Now, I identify as an insurrectionist, but the current node of insurrectionary affinity based collectives are not really informally connected. They are isolated action wise while connected by a formal theory, the theory of constant revolution. They isolate their actions from each other for the sake of being unique and insurrectionary rather than communicating and breaking down the barriers of false dichotomies, and even go as far as to separate their goals from their beliefs. They don’t exist within affinity based groups on a long term scale, only intermediate goals exist. Again, this is the exact opposite of unity. Unity only focuses on long term goals and treats short term goals as unneeded and “counter-revolutionary.”

This is where the problem lies – there is no nuanced analysis, but a reproduction of past theory. A totality of for and against. The main problem with a totality of affinity as an organizing praxis is the limitation and dogmatic continuation of uselessness. It exists purely in a special snowflake form.

An analysis missing from both of these theories is the organicness of both. We all participate in unity politics, and we all participate in affinity politics. When we choose a roommate we do not ask ourselves “Can we not fight for as long as we live together?” We ask ourselves, what do we have in common? What affinity do we have and on what grounds?

Within a riot we do not care about the ideologies or school’s of thought, we do not care about what organizations the person handing us rocks are apart of. We only care about the moment. In a riot, we are a unit, albeit extremely temporary, but we exist together, and fight together, and burn together.

The riot is also an experience of affinity. Our affinity is the riot itself. We are voluntarily partaking in social insurrection, and with smiles on our faces.

A riot is the destination, and the ride. It is the embodiment of all our programmes (or lack thereof). This brings me to my final point; A riot is a social rupture.

A social rupture is a vacuum of power, and a destruction of social order. A social rupture is the effect of consistent negation to the point a space of freedom opens in a world of none. It is the creative nothing, the temporary autonomous zone, but in an urban confine (urbanism). No order, no police outside of their attempts of repression. Only you, I, and everyone who wishes to expand the rupture.

A social rupture is not organic, it does not just magically happen. It needs consistent agitation and collective efforts to flare up. Propaganda (by the deed), direct action, and community agitation. It is a mechanical construct created by us revolutionaries, sustained by our communities. We create the ruptures.

Because of their forced nature, organic organization thrives. Within a social rupture our political goals outside of intermediate action do not exist, unless you wish to end the rupture. The rupture ends when we attempt to force a politic behind it, and use it as an apparatus to hoist their organization or collective to a platform of control, a platform of power.

Only when containment of the rupture is attempted by outside or inside forces, do we care about affinity versus unity. When we try to enforce a totality of organization and movement building, we break the expansion of social insurrection. When we force a mechanical ideology, within a mechanical rupture, we end insurrection and retreat into attempts at relevancy.

Affinity and unity both have their merits, and their faults. Neither is better or worse, rather both are subjective realities for one to pursue their unique, to chase after their own destination. We cannot force either unto each other, rather we must let either happen organically.

Organizations will unite with each other if they so chose, not when they feel obligated to for sake of politics. Individuals will find affinity organically, not when they feel pressured by dogmatic party lines to have specific points of affinity.

We will choose what we want, when we want. We will exist how we want where we want.

See you at the next riot.

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Armeanio Lewis

Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Armenio Lewis has been a proud advocate of anarchy since the age of 14. High school dropout, Elder god of insurrection."Leader of the gang known as black bloc"- Portland police chief Mike Reese