I first got in touch with Redneck Revolt through the Internet.
Shortly after major rioting events in a nearby city, in response to racist and classist police violence there and elsewhere, a brief period of feeling out happened. Since around the time of Occupy in 2011, self-described socialists and anarchists, individuals and groupings, have become noticeably more prominent in my area. Some of these groups decided to venture out their comfort zones following the major rioting I mentioned before. Some statements from blogs were shared on the Internet and emails were exchanged.
I was initially in contact with a group called “Workers Assemble” (you know, like Voltron) who were claiming to have started an actually existing commune of working-class folks. Even though this sounded cooky, I’m desperately isolated, and haver been for years. I leapt at the prospect of having friends in my life who share my values.
What had initially interested me was a rejection of status quo politics and even democracy itself. But the fledgling group was clearly full of idealism, and I guess out of being sick of talking to me, having to listen to my criticisms regarding this political determinism (they were basically edgy Bookchinites), they referred me to another group nearby me. This group was Redneck Revolt.
The first thing I did after being referred was read everything I could from anything or one I could who was involved with the organization. There were some encouraging things, although, I’m honestly having a hard time recalling them right now. The website is very design savvy. The whole effort seems and looked really “cool”. But as I continued to read and reread position pieces, blog posts, semi-randomized bits of posts, I began to see certain weaknesses, places where the group was lacking, and tossed these weakness up initially to them being “new”.
I didn’t know at that point like I do now that the organization had been around for almost a decade.
So after maybe five email exchanges, full of a lot of brown-nosing on the part of the RR organizer, I agreed to meet with the group in person. I will say there is a certain openness, a “counter-paranoia”, I initially found very refreshing with the organizer I was in contact with. Unlike with other groups in decades long my journeys, and even the group I mentioned before, there seemed to be a very good grasp on what security measures were reasonable for meeting new political contacts. I mean, it’s just common sense stuff. People who are doing felonies don’t talk about felonies. I’m not scared of the cops kicking down my door for reading revolutionary material, even for discussing revolutionary material, and I think the organizer I was put in touch with also understood this. We can’t be too careful to be social.
Things seem to be off to a decent enough start during our discussion over dollar tacos. I remember bringing up a number of things that would disqualify my participation with the group, something I’ve learned now should be done before becoming deeply involved with or joining an org.
First and foremost I made it clear that it is my understanding that democracy and fascism are two sides of the same coin, that fascism is could be considered a highly evolved form of the liberal democratic state, and that I would have no part in so-called “antifa” actions. I was consoled immediately and reassured that the Silver Valley Redneck Revolt, as well as those in the know in the internal working groups of the organization, had no interest in this sort of activity. This ended up being unremarkably false. The bulk of Redneck Revolt’s activity revolves around “antifascist” actions and counter-demonstrations of strength, and American service rifles.
Getting back to the day I joined up…
We also briefly discussed race. Talking racial politics in America, especially with “white” socialists is almost always inviting a shit storm of a certain type of politics, which I don’t see as revolutionary, or proletarian.
So, without getting too deeply into it, I inquired about the racial makeup of the group. I wondered if it was all white people.
“No, no…Well, I mean. No. Yeah, you can have Black rednecks, too. I think there are few guys up in Ohio, the chapter up there.”
Perhaps this was the point where I should’ve jumped out of my seat in protest, but at the time and in that environment I wasn’t in my best of thinking minds, and even though it did seem at the time like a “harmless” version of “my best friend is black”/“my favorite teacher is black”… Plus, I mean… Maybe there are Black rednecks.
I mean haven’t you heard Hootie & the Blowfish?
Most of the people in my life who might get called “rural”, and are non-“white”, sure as hell wouldn’t identify as ”rednecks” except in a sarcastic, joking manner. A manner intended to highlight, even if “unconsciously”, the inherent exculpatory nature of the “redneck” identity. In fact, they simply refer to themselves as “country”.
Also, the origin of the term doesn’t “originate” in the West Virginia Coal Wars. It was a derogatory term that ended up being recuperated on the basis of common experience of oppression; this is just like the words (trigger warning!) bitch, queer, or nigga.
This is something I find interesting.
Perhaps what constitutes being a redneck is not seen as racial by certain white people, even though the wider consensus is that the term definitely racial.
I mean who hears the word redneck and doesn’t think white person? White people have that understanding, black people have this understanding, Asian people have this understanding… I mean of all the words that we need to reclaim, why go after redneck? Is it not hard enough in the American anti-communist climate when describing ideas as anarchist? Communist?
Here’s a more practical case examination. I’m not Anglo-Saxon, and I have an uncle who teases me and calls me “the Arab redneck”. This is a reference of course to my rustic nature. I think the peasantry, or today what should be more accurately called the rural proletariat, is more than a little revolutionary. I like farming, I like growing things. I like animals. So… I might be a redneck? Dear Jeff Foxworthy. No, I’m not the long lost Arab-American missing on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.
Sorry to disappoint.
One thing is clear; my uncle was making fun of me; being just a bit cruel, saying to me, “Look how much like these white Americans you have become”.
If you’re not white, being called a redneck is not exactly a term of endearment. Maybe it should be. But it’s not. Welcome to this place we call reality. Sure, you’re awesome, supposedly correct, and original, definition sounds awesome. Sure I’d like to revise history and make redneck into some rebellious, proletarian term that stabs at the neck of the bourgeoisie. But as long as we have Tea Party conservatives, there will always be a dimensional “other” that the word redneck refers to.
By the way, the local chapters charged $8/mo for dues.
Anyway, let me try to keep this account moving.
So… After agreeing to participate, moving closer to the local chapter and discussing our aims for political practice, I started to feel a bit unsettled about the racial issues again. Everyone in the chapter except for me was “white”.
I come from a city, more like a town, where the racial makeup is pretty diverse. Especially for the South. I don’t think “white” people even constitute a majority in my hometown, although that’s not true for my state. But the South as a whole for my experience tends to have a lot more non-white people, at least in proportion.
I mean, I know New York City is not like this, but I was quite amazed at how less diverse in many places up north and in the Midwest are. I almost feel like we down here are somehow less segregated in the South. But not by much.
I have no problem with the fact that my local chapter of redneck revolt was only a fifth non-white. Doesn’t this kind of reflect a national average? In the workplace? On juries? No. What bothered me was how we were orientating our political activity almost exclusively towards “white” people. We were reaching out to “white” people. We were organizing in areas that were predominately full of “white” people, even “white” racists. Our barely existent literature discussed “whiteness”. The whole approach was to drop a friggin’ bucket of racialized Tums directly into the reactionary indigestion of the post-November 2016 political climate.
I mean, say what you want about the tactic of organizing in the belly of the beast. I don’t see it as having any a special effectiveness either way. But there’s something to be said for racial education on anti-racism disseminated by “white” people, tailor-made for “white” people. It just all seems too…cozy, and in the era of Trump, too. Seeing this rise of “white” ethno-nationalism and “white” supremacy during the campaigns of this bourgeois asshole does not make me want to run up to “white” people with open arms strictly based on an anti-racist conception of “whiteness” that just does not have a firm foundation in reality.
One of my best friends, voted for Trump and still can’t get over their WASP-y fucking behavior. I mean you can take the most proletarian of “white” workers – do anything that threatens their privilege – and the result is “fuck the proletariat, I’m worried about me.”
The only folks I know, with stable jobs, stable places to stay, and in stable relationships are “white” Christians in good health. And they are easily the most susceptible to Trump’s vitriol and the ones most likely to be oblivious, unaware, or just plain ignorant about the things happening in the United States. It’s almost like being a healthy “white” Christian individual just totally blinds you. Healthy “white” Christian individuals, the people arguably least affected by bourgeois austerity, the bourgeoise base, their core, these people are the foundations of this society. They’re the foundations of patriarchy, the stalwarts of reaction.
Plus “white” isn’t a race. Kinda like how Kendrick Lamar says on a track on his album DAMN!: “I’m a Israelite/ don’t call me Black no more”. Both “whiteness” and “Blackness” are arbitrary modern demarcations which denote the bad side of the “melting pot” ideology. Where there was once Irish, Welsh, Scottish, Prussian, Polish, Russian, Nigerian, Ghanaian, Ethiopian, Congolese, Celt, Bantu, there is now only ambiguous words more appropriate for crayon boxes than ethnology.
Furthermore, all this racial shit it is a trap. It’s so stupid, it’s so fucking stupid. The color of a person’s skin should have no more significance than the color of their eyes. But in this world, the darker the shade of skin-tone someone has, the more likely they are to be poor. “The fact I have melanin/Automatically/Makes me a felon” (Jeru Tha Damaja).
In the United States of America, the powers that be love to blur the lines. Turn on the TV and you might see an episode of Empire. Turn on the TV and you might see Sons of Anarchy or Breaking Bad; perhaps a news-story about a struggling white working-class family in rural America. The bourgeoisie will do and give us anything to distract us.
Moving ahead a bit…I think that people can change. But people change in the “afters”.
The person who loses their legs only misses running when the legs are gone. The shady boyfriend only regrets his mistakes when you take his cookie away from him. And then he wants it back.
The person with lung cancer wishes they never started smoking. The abused are a shell of what they once were, in some cases.
My point here is that shit happens. But things don’t change until they start changing.
You want to stop racist white people? End capitalism. It’s the only way.
So, a week or two after our first meeting of the local chapter, I finally got around to creating a Facebook account (I didn’t have one before and was coerced into it) in order to start participating in the national level discussion and working groups. I was given access and lurked for a few days. They had a “shit chat” which was deplorable. It was like being in a high school boy’s locker room. I lurked, I read, I researched, I reflected… Nothing happening in these Facebook groups was good. I felt pressured to be involved now that I had been added, but had nowhere to start. No idea of where to even begin.
So I figured, fuck it, I’ll just pop in the main chat channel and ask what the procedure for this kind of thing was. I did absolutely nothing but inquire as to how one would properly go about eventually suggesting changes in the group.
I cannot emphasize the amount of hostility these types of requests were met with. One of the chiefs of the organization, someone very visible at the national level and in past interventions by the group, just completely got after me. They asked me all these questions: Who are you? When did you join? What chapter are you in? Why are you asking these questions? All this hostile shit. I was basically told you don’t get to join and come up in here and start changing things, or even start suggesting to change them, as a new member.
I decided right then this was not the group for me.
I mean what the fuck? Who the fuck did they think they are? Great ‘revolutionaries’, surely.
I can make whatever suggestions that I feel like should be made. What the seniority issue had to do with it is beyond me.
I was being asked for credentials. I was being made to prove my credibility, something we workers are familiar with doing everyday, to our managers, our bosses and society itself. But I was being made to prove my credibility inside one of our institutions. Fucking travesty,
I started asking, is this group even anarchist? Is this group even communist?
That’s the response I received. I was told this was a group of “leftists”. I was told people were not to be excluded. I was told the group was committed to “legal action”, civil disobedience. I was told a lot of things. And then messaged by another member and reassured the opposite. This was at its core an “anarchist” group, there were “communist” members, they did stand firmly “opposed” to reformism. But it was all just talk.
It’s all hollow talk in Redneck Revolt. They need to get the fuck off the shitty parts of the Internet, put down the rifles and ammo, and read of fucking book or two: or ten. Then try and come up with some ideas worth defending with those guns they parade around so proudly, because as it stands, there are none.
I get it. I really do. You think Trump and company are Hitler and Mussolini-style fascists and there are really scary and they are all about to take over the world.
As an Arab-American, as the first of a generation of immigrants (someone with a shit ton more to fear from the Trump admin), I am less scared of Trump than Redneck Revolt. Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn and Don Jr. can all go fuck themselves! Hah!
You know what is nevertheless pretty scary, though? The number and types of people who identify with the “redneck” identity.
I’m no coward. I’m also not blind. Redneck Revolters: You want Spanish Civil War 2.0. Well, there’s one big thing missing – communities. In 2017, they barely exist anymore. We have to build not only a revolutionary movement, not only revolutionary networks and groups, not only our own individual theoretical strength, but communities. The now mythological legendary revolutionaries, the Malatestas, the Durruitis and Mahknos, the Volines – these people came from a time when they were a part of something. They belonged to something. They belonged to tribes who belonged to them. It was organic. They weren’t middle class “white kids” volunteering to tune-up people’s bikes and help people at the shooting range, even though those activities were happening. There was no time to waste sitting behind a keyboard in an Internet chat room on Facebook all day, no Internet to waste it on. They were from the neighborhoods they were in. There was a rich anarchist tradition full of vitality and potential because of this.
Today in the age of austerity, the lack of open mass struggles – acute battles with the prospect of the improvement of daily life – there has been an exaggeration of this separation between pro-revolutionaries and communities. We have to fix this. And organizing along racial lines, no matter how much of the American way it is, is the wrong way to go about it.
Smash capitalism, first, internationally. Then we can chat.
Written by a former member-candidate of Redneck Revolt active with those folks during Winter 2017