Friday, January 29, 2010
Joining the dots: some thoughts on alliance-building
I've been thinking a lot lately about ways to achieve total liberation for all - for animals and the earth as well as people and what that entails. Currently, in Aotearoa, movements for radical social change seem to be really isolated from each other. There's pockets of activists all working on different things and attacking the same system on different fronts but little effort is made to build alliances and bridges between struggles that can potentially bring down this oppressive system if we all work together.
There is a lot of truth in 'strength through unity', despite it's Orwellian connotations. Perhaps a better slogan way of saying it would be "strength through solidarity". But I think before this unity/solidarity can be effective in fighting all forms of domination, internal hierarchies and privileges need to be addressed and people need to be open to being challenged on oppressive behaviour which is naturalised through ideological justifications.
There's nothing more annoying that single-issued liberals who can see how fucked up one form of oppression is but chooses to ignore other forms of oppression even when it's layed out right in front of them. Viewing certain oppression as more important or imminent than others is another problem that gets in the way of alliance-building, like :
"we'll deal with womyn's issues after we destroy class society"
"womyn's liberation is more important than fighting animal abuse"
"animal liberation is more important than stopping climate change"
...but these attitudes at least recognise other forms oppression as issues, sometimes this doesn't even happen.
I think this mode of thinking reinforces capitalist competition and imports that kind of behaviour to movements for radical social change. It creates an US vs. Them division that sees anyone not included as "us" as immediately an enemy Other.
I know a few anarchists and anarcha-feminists that are really anti-working class, believing in shit like "workers are just all striving to be middle class" or "i hate workers, they just prop up the rich" and therefore they're have no potential to be involved in revolutionary social change and we shouldn't waste our time with them. This is mainly coming from Pakeha students and beneficiaries. Of course the poor want to be richer 'cause it fucking sucks being poor and not having access to necessities and a key myth that can hinder people from revolting is that anyone can "make it" and get rich if they work hard enough. And if they've been fed capitalist lies their whole lives, and whether they believe them or not, is that most people in this world have NO CHOICE but to work and sell their labour as a means of survival. In a lot of places in the world, there is no such thing as social welfare, and if you're not a permanent resident or citizen in NZ, you don't have govt benefits to fall back on. I've met workers from China who had to put up with so much abuse in NZ workplaces from managers and bosses rather than risk dismissal and/or deportation. Workers are in a position where their managers and bosses have the power to cut off their means of subsistence. If you're against oppression, I think it's pretty fundamental to try and build solidarity with workers and support the empowerment of people to fight their oppressors.
Likewise, there's also socialists, and some feminists who don't see the exploitation of the animals as anything worth fighting against. Liberation only extends to human animals and the systematic abuse and slaughter of animals is not as important or not even a real issue to care about. Anthropocentrism (view of the world where humans are most important and at the centre) and speciesism (assigning different values or rights to beings on the basis of their species membership) are just as institutionalised and naturalised in industrial capitalist state societies as other forms of oppression and are ideologies and systems that need to be challenged.
I want to share a quote from an activist scholar primarily in the field of animal liberation. Writing a manifesto for radical abolitionism, Steve Best proposes that the animal rights movement needs to go beyond promoting lifestyle veganism and "by any means necessary" achieve total liberation for all through forming alliances with radical social and environmental movements:
"We must link the liberation of other animals to human and Earth liberation, and build a revolutionary movement strong enough to vanquish capitalist hegemony and to remake society without the crushing loadstones of anthropocentrism, speciesism, patriarchy, racism, classism, statism, heterosexism, ableism, and every other pernicious form of hierarchical domination. Humanity may not succeed in this endeavor, but it is one that we must undertake. It is no longer the classical choice between “revolution or barbarism,” but now that of revolution or ecological collapse and mass extinction."
This is what needs to happen from those involved in the animal rights movement. But likewise, the interdependency of liberation and oppression needs to be realised to overthrow the capitalism, the state and all forms of domination.
In the context of Aotearoa, I think it's gonna take a lot of hard work to be able to build strong alliance and for us to be able to trust each other, to be able to fight capitalism and the state together. The least we can do is not undermine each other's liberation projects, and it's probably not strategic or sustainable for all of us to be organising in all areas simultaneously, but here's small things we can do to show solidarity with each others struggles by recognising all forms of oppression and incorporating it the way things are organised, being mindful of how each movement can support each other e.g by challenging social hierarchy within, for predominantly pakeha movements to take notice of white privilege and racism, unlearn colonial power dynamics and support TR and Mana Motuhake etc.
It involves being open and listening with humility and encouraging a culture of co-operation rather than competition, mutual aid rather than undermining each others efforts, solidarity instead of segregation, alliances instead of factionalism.
'Cause it really is "one struggle, one fight".