Fighting oppressive power along the continuum of harms
The Volcano is publishing a series of excerpts from documents prepared for Red Braid Alliance for Decolonial Socialism‘s 2021 Winter Assembly, where we reflected on our successes and failures in 2020 and articulated visions and strategies for the coming year. Among the strategy documents, there are a number of theoretical pieces that expand on Red Braid’s vision of multiplicity. Find them all here.
In a July 2019 resolution, Red Braid said that we must commit to “unsettling ourselves: If we can’t unsettle ourselves, we can’t unsettle the state.” We have always discussed our transformative justice processes in this light, that while we were born into violent systems of power that we did not create ourselves, those systems are part of our creation. So while each of us is committed to the revolutionary overthrow of colonialism, capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy, we know that the marks of those systems are imprinted on our beings. Part of our work as revolutionaries is to disentangle the threads of oppressive power from our human, living beings, and from the culture and practices of our organization.
Minor harms can be major in their influence on the group. Racist comments express that the group is white people’s property and that racialized members have to shelve their Black, Asian, or Latinx selves to participate. Sexual objectification tells women members that the organization is a men’s space where women pass through as transitory guests. Colonial deference that patronizes Indigenous members offloads the risk and responsibility of anti-colonial work onto Indigenous members, taxing them so they cannot approach decolonization as practice. Everyday harms set systems of dominating power more deeply in place and make them harder to dislodge, discouraging those who feel them there, cutting into their skin.
We invest in accountability processes in order to arm Red Braid with instruments that can identify the threads of dominating power woven through the internal life of our group, and to excise or destroy those threads. The person who caused harm, in any given instance, may be the vehicle for that form of power, but they are not its origin. As the vehicle, they have a special role in chasing the devil out of the house, but it is the whole group that bears this responsibility. And if the person who was acting as the vehicle for the oppressive harm refuses their role in evicting that harm, then the group will have to evict them along with it.
Hearing that we have deterred from the project or have hindered our comrades’ organizing capacity is uncomfortable. It is common to feel defensive, misunderstood, or want to shut down. But we need to shed our fragility: for when our comrades voice their disagreement to us, and work with us to process the action politically, it means we have tools to understand what we have done so that we may transform. Being shown when we are harming the project, and having comrades willing to work through the lessons with us are invaluable gifts. What happens through political struggle is the type of healing we can offer.