Red Braid members do the great majority of our organizing work out of the public eye, in the spaces of community struggles. We refer to this work as supporting the struggles of our social base. We have met groups in the US who refer to this sort of organizational strategy as “basebuilding.”
Red Braid is dedicated to basebuilding in communities engaged in survival struggles because we think the previously load-bearing cables that linked working class communities and revolutionary socialist organizations have been cut. The end of the Soviet Union meant the decline of the Communist Party of Canada and its various related organizations. Even those revolutionary groups that defined themselves against the model of socialism in the USSR lost influence and membership, and many folded.
At the same time, neoliberal policies at the government policy level and shifts in the organization of factory production systems empowered the capitalist class to attack unions, weakening the formerly powerful worker’s movement. The union bureaucracy, already a conservative force in the movement, turned further inwards, protecting itself and its own interests, disinvesting from broader class struggle.
A longer process has been underway against the organization of Indigenous peoples. Settler colonial assaults on Indigenous nationhood have attacked the organizational structures of Indigenous peoples socially and politically as a fundamental of rule through domination. In 1884 the government of Canada amended the Indian Act to ban potlatches, criminalizing, eventually through Criminal Code provision, the social, cultural gathering, and economic common exchange of Indigenous peoples.
Outside of feast halls, Canada also criminalized the activity of Indigenous peoples against the Canadian settler public and state. A 1906 amendment to the Criminal Code declared it a crime “to incite or ‘stir up’” Indigenous people to “riotous or disorderly behaviour,” or to “make any request or demand of government in a disorderly manner.” And a 1927 amendment to the Indian Act made it illegal for Indigenous nations to raise money for legal proceedings against the government of Canada.
During the high periods of working class organization like the Depression of the 1930s, when revolutionary working class organizations were deeply interwoven into the cultural and social life of working class communities though the Communist Party’s “language organizations,” Indigenous peoples’ potlatch and feast halls were padlocked and guarded by redcoats.
While the Communist Party’s third period organization, the Relief Camp Workers’ Union, created a theatre for poor workers to strike, march, occupy government buildings, link together, and blow fire towards the Prime Minister’s Office from the back of freight trains in the On To Ottawa Trek, Indigenous peoples were blocked from even raising funds to challenge Canada through its courts.
Revolutionaries today have inherited a long legacy of struggle that begins first with making revolutionary politics relevant to subaltern people. By “subaltern” we mean those in outcast groups; those who are shut out from bourgeois civil society as neither middle class administers of bourgeois power nor as the relatively privileged group of workers in the labour aristocracy; and who feel shut out.
This does not mean that we think that subaltern people are not already in struggle. We know, as well as anyone, that everyday life for subaltern people is defined by struggle. But the character of this struggle, as it emerges organically from these decades of disorganization, is atomized, fragmented, individualized, and pathologized.
What Red Braid hopes to offer is our revolutionary analysis – that says to people that it is not their fault that they are poor, addicted, sick, facing eviction or already unhoused, or beaten by police. We offer an analysis that says they are part of a growing global group of peoples attacked by the genocidal violence of colonialism and imperialism, and of workers exploited and used up until they are discarded by capitalism. And we offer the solution of organized, collective struggle.
The goal of our basebuilding work is to ‘braid’ together a powerful link between revolutionary politics and subaltern communities; breaking the hegemony of conservative institutions like the NDP and middle class institutions like social service and professional lawyer agencies who speak for subaltern people and seek to capture their alienated rage in bullshit state policy reform projects.
We do not imagine Red Braid as the single organizational vehicle of subaltern struggle. All around us this year there has been proof to the opposite; peoples’ movements are blossoming everywhere and Red Braid’s work is but one expression of a new upsurge in rebellion. Most inspiring are Indigenous land based struggles, united across many nations under the slogan #landback. Alongside and as part of our basebuilding work, we hope to make contributions to these struggles in the communities where we are active, in whatever humble way we can.
But all that said – a problem we face is that our regular community struggles and organization building work has been done pretty quietly. We don’t hope to make it loud. People themselves must be the ones who make noise, who burn this world down and build a new one in its place.
The goal of our new Red Report is to create a public archive of the work that we are doing quietly, and sometimes not so quietly, day after day and week after week. To receive weekly Red Reports, sign up for the Red Braid email announcement listserve and check the Red Braid website under “reports.”