A few days ago, a 69 year old European named William Van Spronsen approached the Tacoma, Washington state, U.S., detention center (where mostly Indigenous people are being detained illegally, immorally, and with all of the racist and anti-human backdrops that define this backward society) and allegedly threw incendiary devices at the building. For his efforts, Mr. Van Spronsen was confronted by police and quickly placed into his final resting place.
For us, the critical question here is what about Mr. Van Spronsen's actions has so many people (mostly white and left, but there are a significant number of colonized people chiming in support also) praising him as a "martyr" and the first person to take action against the detentions. Of course, the last statement is absolutely absurd. People have been taking action and liberating people escaping repression created by this country by entering this country for decades, centuries, but that's a side point. The main focus of this piece is about why we should hesitate to reap praises on actions that provide very little inspiration and guidance towards achieving legitimate liberation.
We understand that the actions and work of the majority white left is so paltry and pitiful that most of them are desperate for anything that they can claim as a victory. We also understand that much of this white left culture, illustrated by the "punch a nazi" popular phenomenon, reveals to any critical minds observing that for most of these people, their objective isn't to eliminate oppression, but to feel ok about having to coincide with it. We can say this confidently because if they wanted to eliminate oppression they would be taking steps to build capacity to do so. Instead, they consider actions like that of Mr. Van Spronsen as "brave and courageous examples of people taking the war to the state." Really? The man threw some devices that burned up somebody's automobile and he was killed for it. He did nothing to penetrate the building. He did nothing to help a single person inside. In fact, he probably caused more heartache for the families as I would imagine they were prohibited for a time from receiving visitors as a result of his actions. He didn't even disable a single ICE agent for not even 10 seconds. Sorry, and no disrespect to the dead, but there's very little beyond the symbolism of striking out that gives his action even the slightest bit of credibility. Actually, his actions represent a clear example of individualistic white male adventurism. And, the reason we started out this piece by suggesting that is we believe the individualism and entitlement that defines most white males today is the same dominant driving force that not only led Mr. Van Spronsen to carry out his "actions", but its also the driving force that carries out any white supremacist anywhere to do the same.
This discussion is primarily irritating for us because due to this type of adventurism, we are forced to spend so much of our time defining and redefining what revolutionary organizing actually looks like compared to individualistic adventurism because most people don't know the difference. There are plenty of people praising Mr. Van Spronsen because in their minds, his act was a revolutionary act. We couldn't disagree more.
Revolutionary struggle is about mass organization to dislodge the oppressor classes and insert the people's classes. The key word is mass. Revolutions do not consist of a tiny minority of "leaders." Nor can they be actualized by the actions of individuals independent of any organized process. You can't name one revolution that has been carried out that was initiated based on the approach Mr. Van Spronsen took. And, if revolution wasn't his objective that does nothing to diminish the point because we don't know what his objective was because he didn't take time to work with others who could clearly articulate it. He didn't work with others to organize a group of people who could have strengthened his efforts. He, like most of us, did nothing to build the type of movement we need to successfully wage these types of struggles.
Individual actions like this really represent an elitist strand of thinking anyway. A bourgeoisie concept that "if I want something done, I have to do it myself." This anti-people's class thinking advances the false notion that the masses cannot be trusted. Its elitist and with elitism always comes impatience, another cornerstone of bourgeoisie ideology. In fact, what Mr. Van Spronsen did is not different than any number of actions carried out by the great white left that did slim to none towards alleviating the suffering of the masses of humanity.
Revolution differs sharply from these individualistic egotistical elitist actions. Revolution is about engaging people. Obviously to do that successfully, humility is essential. And, its that humility that gives us the foundation to successfully build capacity among people. Its the more difficult route to action, but its the only route that completes the mission. Individualism, the staple ideology of capitalism, has never liberated anyone, despite capitalism's efforts to convince us that it has. Revolutionary organizing takes humility, patience, love for people, and an unshakable determination to overcome all adversity, and there will be lots of adversity because capitalism has convinced us (even those of us who believe we know better) that people cannot be trusted. And, very, very few people have to political maturity to own their shortcomings so instead, revolutionary work consists of spending an inordinate amount of your time navigating through people's emotional s - - t. The only way anyone can gain the necessary skills to continue to work through all of those challenges is through consistent and constant political education because its that process that gives you the fuel to see the finish line. The more challenges you have, the more you have to regroup and see that finish line. All of this is the work that's necessary to build revolutionary capacity. Most people today don't seem much interested in doing this work because they want the easy way out and to them, individualistic actions seem like that easy way because it makes them feel good, but for us, feeling good is ill-relevant. Our objective is victory for humanity. Whether we are there for it is not the question. The only question is what contribution we can make towards moving us closer to victory.
Finally, the reasons we say "nah" to the individualistic European man model of action is that this model has not only failed millions of colonized people, LGBTQ people of all genders, and the overwhelming bulk of humanity, but most of us have plenty of trauma due to this model. The best way to ensure no colonized people, and even many white women, stay away from supporting your work is to throw out a white man with a gun. No thanks. And because history has prepared me to anticipate the haters and their absurd responses, I should use this time to remind you all that we are in no way avoiding the eventual need to challenge the state on physical levels. We just believe that time should be based on strong on the ground organizing principles that result in collective action to move our struggle forward. Not actions that end up being mostly suicide actions by another white man. Long before most white people even had dreams about physically challenging the state we should remind you that we were doing it. In fact, our organizations like the Black Liberation Army (BLA) have provided us with ample analysis to critique their actions in productive ways. Their assessment of the failed Brinks takeover in 1981 included many references to decisions on the part of participating persons to take a much more individualistic arch during the action which led to a complete breakdown of the plan. The result was valuable comrades like Mutulu Shakur, Marilyn Buck, David Gilbert, (tow true white comrades), and others, spending decades in prison. The BLA has also given us just enough ideas about the 1979 successful liberation of Assata Shakur from prison (this November 2, 2019, represents 40 years since her liberation). It doesn't take a genius to figure out that busting someone out of a maximum security prison would require a number of people in order for the work to be successful. It would require a clear plan of where to go, what to look for, how to address challenges, etc. All to which those who carried out that action clearly understood on all levels, together. This is not to mention the multitudes of people who helped protect Assata once she was out of prison. Its possible that she spent three or four years operating within the U.S. from 1979 until 1984 when she officially surfaced in Cuba where she resides today. The point being she is free, and a clear symbol of resistance against an imperialist system that prides itself on suffering few loses. And, her liberation clearly only happened because of collective action involving all types of people of different nationalities, genders, etc.. The exact opposite of the individualistic white male model.
We understand how much people desperately want to see victory against this backward and oppressive system, but that victory can be achieved if we just accept the reality of what's required to generate it. The longer people hold onto to fantasies of victory based on Hollywood John Wayne models, the longer victory will allude us. As the state demonstrated again with Mr. Van Spronsen. They are more than ready to give us suicide if that's all we have properly prepared our actions for.