Red Braid Alliance is a social revolutionary organization. The purpose of our organization, and of the work of our members in our campaigns and organizational spaces, is to intervene with revolutionary politics in the class and decolonial struggles that appear, for the most part, as depoliticized everyday life. But these everyday spaces and processes are the definitive spaces of politics: of domination, of accommodation and reform, and of revolutionary possibility.
Politics, according to Stuart Hall, is “the level which condenses all other levels of practice [economic, social, ideological, legal, etc] and secures their functioning in a particular system of power.” Through political action and analysis we identify how systems of power—colonialism, white supremacy, imperialism, cis supremacy, capitalism—move and reproduce in space and time, so that we can disrupt and destroy them. We see, wherever there is conflict and contradiction, the urgency of critical and practical politics, so all of our protocols and processes are grounded in our political work and analysis.
We strive to balance the practice of creating a new world out of the throes of a violent one, recognizing that individual will and agency mean very little outside of the context of collective struggle. Our group is accountable to more than just its members, because we exist to advance the power and revolutionary consciousness of Indigenous and working class people. This means that our expectations of one another take place within the context of a broader political project. Below are the practices we strive toward to build and safeguard a culture of accountability, trust, and respect that supports our political goals and work.
We take ownership over the direction of the organization
As a social revolutionary organization, we exist to make a new world. We see ourselves not as sovereign individuals volunteering our time to an external project, but as social and historical beings who are ourselves transformed in the critical practice of transforming the world. Though our levels of commitment, capacity, and energy may vary, it is nobody’s job to lead the organization for us. While we recognize that we have varying degrees, roles, and styles of leadership within the organization, we reflect critically on the ways we shape the group. Our group is more than the sum of its parts, and each of us feels responsible for and committed to bringing political contributions forward.
We treat one another with kindness and good faith
We trust our mutual commitments to our Basis of Unity, and work to recognize the best impulses and interests in one another’s actions. We vocalize our disagreements with intent and care, recognizing the importance of creating spaces where debate builds trust, rather than removes it. We value and listen to hesitancies that arise amongst members and think critically about why they exist, working to develop countering opinions rooted in thought out analyses. Where a breakdown of trust is impacting the group, we address that breakdown politically, in order to identify the differences, disagreements, or discomforts causing the distrust. When debates or disagreements are tense, we aim to resolve them in person, rather than online.
We are accountable for our behaviors and self-reflexive when given feedback or criticism
We all have flaws and blind spots that others are better able to recognize than we are, and so we trust others to hold us accountable when we’ve behaved harmfully or in ways that disrupt our work and hinder our ability to trust one another. Some harmful behaviors emerge from using systemic power; some emerge from the trauma of suffering from systemic power; some are patterns of behavior rather than a single harmful action. When we feel harmed by other members, we work to phrase those criticisms clearly, concretely, and politically, to best enable others to cultivate their self-reflexivity.
We support one another emotionally, while recognizing one another’s boundaries and the group’s accountability to a broader political project
There is no clear line that separates the “emotional” from the “political” within our beings. The work of transforming the world has a deeply emotional nature which, as much as it energizes us, can at times be draining. Many of us are coping with traumas that result from the violent systems that Red Braid seeks to destroy: colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and cis supremacy. We support one another, emotionally and politically, so that we can participate in the group’s work in the ways we need and want to, including when that means stepping back. We ask for help if we need it and reach out to our comrades when we feel saddled by doubts and pessimism, so that we can explore the political basis of our feelings. We recognize one another’s boundaries and limitations around emotional support. We aspire to collectively share the work of caring for one another and ourselves.
BASEBUILDING THROUGH CAMPAIGN WORK
Red Braid’s relations of community accountability are cultivated through direct (though informal) democratic (and dialectical) exchange in the form of social revolutionary political activism. Our organization is dedicated to building the power of the social bases we fight alongside and hold ourselves accountable to it. Our power comes from the credibility and trust we build with these communities through the actions we engage in. We operate on an informal level of accountability to members of our social base, and continually work to increase mutual trust and build stronger connections to them while working with them to develop and build upon their political analyses. Community campaigns are the social base of our work, where Red Braid is held accountable.
Red Braid theorizes our social base in two ways: “conceptual” and “tangible.” The “tangible” social base are those who are involved in Red Braid campaigns carried out at community levels. We analyze the feedback, critiques, and participation that we have with our tangible social base as information about the feelings, ideas, and desires of the communities that they come from – the broader, “conceptual” social base. For example, people who show up to Stop Demovictions Burnaby meetings are the campaign’s tangible social base, and we interpret the contributions those community members make in these meetings, and their reactions to our ideas, as important information about the consciousness of the broader, conceptual social base. Basebuilding is key to our political project. We aim to politicize the struggles of the subaltern by offering infrastructure, analytic lenses, and support as individuals continue to develop consciousness through action and study.
We work to shift the “conceptual” social base into the “tangible” social base. While we value and encourage the leadership development of the tangible social base, we do not restrict our engagement with the social base overall just to those who show up. We publish and distribute leaflets, newsletters, newspapers, and posters throughout the social base in order to draw more people out of passive engagement with our work into tangible, direct activity. And we organize protest actions and public meetings in order to activate the conceptual social base and to expand the tangible social base so that the quality and range of information we get from communities expands.
FREEDOM OF DISCUSSION & UNITY IN ACTION
Our organization exists to spur on and express the revolutionary movements of working class and Indigenous peoples. This means that our practice of democracy is rooted in our social bases. We understand and analyze the movement of our social bases as a starting point to discuss and decide what to do. Three principles that guide this process are curiosity, openness, and relevance.
Organizational curiosity is the regular and organic interaction of our members with the communities involved in struggle, and a thoughtful, not predetermined, organizational discussion and investigation about the meanings of difficulties and feelings that we encounter in struggle.
Our curiosity leads us to draw organic leaders from struggles into our group and prioritize building a democratic process around their participation and leadership.
If information flows only one way then we would be guilty of using community struggles to build our organization, rather than the other way around. Our disagreements and decisions must be considered as of vital interest to the communities involved in the actual movements that we are oriented towards.
This places a double burden of openness on us. First, to fight the urge to be conspiratorial and secretive and to make our political discussions open and vulnerable to those outside our group. And second, to translate and make accessible the political differences and decisions that we make so that these communities can understand and register their agreement or disagreement with these ideas.
Our openness leads us to regularly publish and distribute materials in community spaces.
Finally, all this discussion and analysis is only commentary unless we can convert it back into action, and particularly to increase the power of the actual movement with the political tools we are able to add: organizational infrastructure and skills, political analysis and consciousness raising, and militant activist support in moments of conflict with police and other antagonistic forces. But this presents a different set of challenges than the rule of curiosity and openness needed for good analysis and decision making. To be effective revolutionary political actors and especially as fighters when we face our enemies, we must be coldly calculating and ruthlessly disciplined – acting as a single unit that does not expose our disagreements or vulnerabilities.
Making revolutionary politics relevant to the actual movements in struggle requires unity in action; a strategic agreement to hold our differences and suspend them until we are out of danger. However, this unity in action must not be exaggerated into a virtue or a permanent exception. It does not mean that when we are criticized by opponents or enemies that we must double down and defend the organization at all costs. Completely the opposite. Moments of disagreement and critique, including from outside, are opportunities to deepen our understanding and analysis, not moments to harden and hide and sink disagreements below the surface of the group, where they will fester and rot. Unity in action must be restricted to moments of open confrontation with our enemies when discussion would be a distraction from the pressing tasks at hand.