A Report on the Black Rose/Rosa Negra 4th National Convention
By Romina, Lisette and Ollie
On a Saturday afternoon in Rochester, NY, fifty members of the Black Rose Anarchist Federation gathered outside The Flying Squirrel Community Space to take a group photo. Members from 14 locals, as well as many at-large members, travelled from across the country to participate in the organization’s fourth convention. As the group walked back inside, one member was quoted saying “the convention so far was one of the best conversations we’ve had in the federation on strategy, the current moment and our next steps.”
This convention represented a turning point for Black Rose/Rosa Negra (BRRN), the largest anarchist-communist political organization in the US. Founded in November of 2013 in Chicago, BRRN was born following a series of conferences known as the Class Struggle Anarchist (CSA) conferences. Four conferences took place from 2008 to 2012 and participating organizations included Amanecer based in California, Collective Action based in the Pacific Northwest, Four Star Collective based in Chicago, Miami Autonomy and Solidarity (MAS), Wild Rose Collective based in Iowa, Worker Solidarity Alliance (WSA) and what became the the First of May Anarchist Alliance (M1). The CSA meetings represented a sector of class conscious anarchists who believed in the need to create a specific anarchist organization to better coordinate their struggles politically and strategically. Some of the organizations were inspired by the writings of South American anarchist-communist organizations such as the Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro (FARJ) in Brazil and Congreso de Unificación Anarco Comunista (CUAC) in Chile. While not all participating organizations and individuals in CSA went on to form BRRN, since the federation’s first convention in 2013 it has grown in terms of its political development and in locals and individual militants – with twice the number of locals since founding and a 50% increase in members since the previous year. This year’s convention was a step forward in solidifying those advancements.
The group recalled many of the challenges that the federation had experienced in its early years. The first of those challenges was that there existed a political gap in which a large percentage of members have had little experience working within a political organization or in mass social movement spaces or assemblies. US radicalism in the last several decades has been plagued by short-lived activism, with many militants dropping out of politics by their late 20s, so there has existed a tendency towards reactive activism instead of long-term movement building. Second, after its founding, BRRN militants had to undergo the challenge of organizing with a group of people who were brought together by ideological agreement with minimal experience in common political work outside of their cities and regions. Third, the majority of those who founded BRRN were politically trained in spaces that were either networks or locally based collectives that often functioned in large part by individual initiative. Thus began the sometimes difficult journey of adjusting the political work of our militants to a more fully developed political organization based on collective discussion and accountability. Lastly, over the course of the last three conventions, BRRN has struggled with constructing a national analysis of the current political moment, while understanding the complexity of social movements and worker struggles whose character vary geographically. In other words, BRRN has battled with coalescing local politics to national developments and moving away from activism and towards reflective and intentional militancy based on a shared strategic framework.
Steps Forward – Strategy and Sectors
Despite growing pains and bumps along the way, BRRN conventions are a place to reconvene, reflect, and strategize as well as learn from these challenges. The overarching goal of this year’s convention was to agree on a national strategy, as well as for committees – BRRN’s social movement base – to create multi-year plans with intermediate goals. BRRN committees include labor organizing, territorial/community organizing, anti-criminalization committee, and international relations, as well as several others. By focusing on achievable committee goals and strengthening the relationships between locals, Black Rose/Rosa Negra has taken a substantial step in coalescing its political strengths, exchanging experiences, and providing much needed support in on-the-ground organizing work. It also reflects a move to set priorities in the organization’s political work that is foundational to maintaining and building a revolutionary libertarian socialist movement.
Throughout the weekend, many conversations quickly centered on topics such as accountability and racial analysis, making it apparent that there was a need for increased attention on these subjects. This motivated some BRRN members to meet and discuss how to move forward on those issues in the coming year. The convention drew many positive takeaways, including the broad discussion on the current political moment, also called conjunctural analysis or análisis de coyuntura, based on a document titled “Below and Beyond Trump: Power and Counter-Power in 2017.” It highlighted the agreement between delegates and other participants on the overall analysis and BRRN’s role as political and social movement actors. The discussion also illuminated the organization’s internal challenges, areas for development and focus in the coming year. We asked one member from Boston, a long time organizer, to give their thoughts: “The discussion following the presentation was one I’d never seen before in the federation and I believe showed the maturity of the organization. We were discussing an analysis by our own members, written about the current context of the US but rooted in cross-border traditions. It was a very uplifting and hopeful moment.”
Feeling inspired from the day’s discussion on federation history, accomplishments, and strategy, members began to break out into various committees based on the strategic sectors and social insertion work they were engaged. These sectors reflect broad social movements that unite popular subjects across the multitude of causes that affect them. They also allow BRRN to gauge where the organization can begin to build popular power. During this time, members began to work towards drafting short, mid, and long term goals for each sector. Amid this workshop, news came flooding in from the Charlottesville that a fascist had driven a car into crowd of counter-protesters.
Don’t Mourn, Organize And Struggle
The room became somber as it was announced that one person was confirmed dead and that several others had been injured. We heard reports at the time that the person killed was marching with and might have been a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), an organization with close ties to BRRN and that many members are also involved in. Local Rochester members began planning with other left organizations for a vigil later that night and a committee of members from various locals quickly drafted a solidarity statement, “Mourn the Dead, Fight Like Hell for the Living.”
It was imperative that as comrades everyone come together in solidarity – not only as members of BRRN from different parts of the country – but as a community in mourning. As members later gathered at Washington Square Park in Rochester, they took turns speaking along with dozens of others who were mourning the loss of a comrade in the struggle against white supremacy and fascism. The noticeable effect of the tragic incident carried throughout the rest of the weekend – not in mourning but through a sense of solidarity and seriousness to our work.
On Sunday, the last day of convention, delegates voted on proposals that would either become official documents or changes made to BRRN’s constitution before everyone headed back to their respective communities. The impressive persistence and debates to the topics at hand granted the opportunity to deal with most of the organization’s critical propositions. As the weekend came to an end, all attendees had a list of projects and tasks to follow through and bring back to their locals and committees. The overall feedback from BRRN militants, as well as integrating members (those in the process of joining), was that the convention had fulfilled or exceeded their expectations in terms of productivity and strategy with aspirations to continue the growth of their organization and its commitment to libertarian socialism.