Adapting Our Praxis For This Moment

Estelle Ellison
8 min readMay 31, 2024

There is an intense amount of push and pull felt now between the forces of fascism and our unrelenting determination to get free. Within the imperial core, most are content to continue compromising with state-sponsored genocides at home and abroad in exchange for a sense of normalcy. Widespread complacency and collaboration with fascist violence make the task of ending oppression for good more daunting than it has seemed in recent years.

Through practice and discussion, we’ve seen a number of uses of urgency during this critical historical moment while fascism remains largely undeterred. Liberals continue to cling to electoral politics and many are content to preserve oppressive institutions in exchange for minimal symbolic gestures towards barely a desire to end fascism and genocide. Diplomacy between states similarly seeks courses of action that prove merely symbolic and limited in scope, always leaving the framework of imperialism and fascism intact. Due to global anti-Blackness, the rest of the world refuses to accept how genocides and reactionary violence people in Sudan, Haiti, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are facing demonstrates that no part of the status quo is salvageable. As if these developments were not bad enough, we also have so-called leftists participating in the state’s attempts to make life even worse for disabled people and those still taking covid precautions.

There are far too many interpretations of what this moment demands of us that invariably fall short of what will stop fascism in our lifetimes. With so many ongoing horrors in the world, carving out time and space to assess the efficacy of these different approaches may seem impractical or ineffective. This is especially the case given that the day-to-day needs of these actions shift and change as waves of fascist obstacles and violence are summoned to suppress any disruptions to the status quo. However, our limited time and space to reflect and process our past actions are precisely why it benefits us to learn as we go and gain what insight and wisdom we can from all our recent attempts at liberatory strategies.

As we struggle within and against this fascist historical period, we are also struggling with tensions arising from conflicting and incomplete approaches to the task at hand. In many cases, the path forward is as simple as refusing to compromise with our oppressors and those who sympathize with fascist and reactionary tendencies. In other cases, our next steps are harder to parse out when we have shared passion and righteous rage toward common enemies, but cannot reach a consensus on what is the best use of our collective capacity.

It is the latter of these situations, with less obvious means of moving closer to our goals, that tends to result in critical errors that compromise our ability to get free. For this reason, exercising diligent discernment as we seek out and decide upon movement strategies that embody the totality of our aims and needs is vitally important. This moment requires us to synthesize and stand by a coherent and complete set of values and practices that neither bends to the will of the state nor sacrifices the needs of one oppressed group for another. With this objective in mind, we can arrive at an actionable and accessible praxis that links all our struggles together.

In pursuit of this ambitious goal, we can still break down this task into smaller relationships and tensions for us to analyze separately before identifying how they overlap and inform each other. To begin, we have the tension between de-escalation and escalation which can be found in pacifist approaches to the state and confrontation with the state. A common example of pacifist movement organizing we’ve discussed before is of course “peace police” who operate under a generalized and oftentimes co-opted notion of “safety.” They act to de-escalate any attempts to escalate antagonism with the state during actions that are planned to focus on optics rather than impact. We see this tendency take form in evocations of “outside agitators” who are frequently assumed to be white people.

The “outside agitator” tactic aims to discredit and erase Black, brown, and indigenous people who choose to escalate and confront the state directly, while also lending tacit support to the state’s repression of anyone choosing to antagonize the status quo. State repression, in the imagination of liberals, is justified against white people who choose to destroy property or engage in self-defense because they are not the intended targets of fascism. In this way, people from “outside” a given community are seen as deserving of repression as well, creating a local scale example of xenophobia. These are unambiguous lies that are intended to reinforce pacifism as the only “valid” protest strategy, and liberals internalize this even when pacifist protests face police repression. It’s also important to note that moderates, conservatives, and especially reactionary liberals maintain that Black, brown, and indigenous folks who engage in property destruction, sabotage, and self-defense are deserving of repression, however just we believe our cause to be.

We’ve seen this dynamic play out many times in recent months, where pacifism aims to prevent escalation. However, some leftist tendencies opportunistically utilize these clear-cut examples of how pacifism has an overall reactionary impact to then try to justify ableism and eugenicist normalcy. Ableism disguised as merely being in favor of escalation tactics has led people to see masked demonstrations as having a de-escalation impact or they believe mask requirements exemplify some form of pacifism. This is despite instances of sabotage that require more serious counter-surveillance methods. Attempts to criminalize masks and expand the scope of existing mask bans alongside televised arrests of masked protestors who were forcibly exposed to covid have further revealed the faulty logic of this argument. Despite the unambiguity of these recent developments, the perception of masking as a force of de-escalation continues.

It is especially unfortunate that this pattern persists given how many years disabled folks have been cop-jacketed and called cowards for taking precautions appropriate for this ongoing pandemic and not being “brave” enough to participate in superspreader events. There is a cruel irony in the fact that would-be leftists have decried that mask requirements are “carceral,” as masked folks face real and increasingly carceral consequences. Again, we recall that this mirrors how supposed leftists have labeled anti-abuse actions and survivor support “carceral” in tandem with their being explicitly and de facto criminalized by both the state and techno-fascist platforms. The plain fact of the matter is that masking during this eugenicist normalcy and ongoing pandemic is escalation and confrontation with a state that insists on extracting exploited labor from us, however lethal it may be to labor under capitalism. It cannot be overstated that refusing to mask in day-to-day life ushered in this particular fascist period.

Masking during some campus occupations was a notable course correction from previous parades and superspreader events that hoped to stop ongoing genocides. However, this development in many ways has proven to be too little too late as fewer and fewer people mask in general, and we are gradually losing more health information needed to mitigate the risks of this pandemic we are struggling to live through. We didn’t need people to mask “only” during protests, we needed people to continue masking when they go outside, when they go to work, when they pick up groceries. We needed people to refrain from filling restaurants and concert halls.

Sadly, out of the few people who masked during these recent demonstrations, it seemed that a significant amount of them did so opportunistically, just to elude the surveillance state but not to avoid continuing this pandemic. The result is that far too much emphasis has been placed on the surveillance mitigating effects of wearing a mask and far too little on why masking combats today’s eugenicist normalcy. At the same time, this was the only possible outcome given that the vast majority of leftists have long since abandoned disabled people struggling to survive this pandemic. Opportunism was inevitably going to be the predominant motivation to mask when so few even recognize this ongoing pandemic constitutes a genocide in the first place.

These dynamics are why a reductive language of de-escalation vs. escalation can now more easily disguise ableism in movement spaces. This is in addition to liberal pacifism which is all but too happy to compromise with the state in exchange for cultural legibility as a “progressive”. Things didn’t go down this way out of nowhere. Ableist resentment has persisted uncontested in leftist circles for decades. It is just deeply unfortunate that the stakes have gotten so much higher during this pandemic.

While this dynamic primarily concerns those who are more inclined to embrace a romanticized vision of militancy rather than embody a practical militant care, disguised ableism may seem more reasonable and justified in the face of unchecked anti-Blackness, classism, and individualism in some covid conscious and disability justice networks. This fact simply reinforces the fact that our struggles are linked. Ignoring one struggle for another, rather than accepting the interconnectedness of all our struggles, is simply negotiation with our oppressors and not a rejection of them.

The tension between hierarchy and autonomy, or centralization and decentralization also needs to be examined. It is true that this overlaps with the escalation and de-escalation we just discussed. Peace police are often hierarchically organized and defer to designated leaders of a movement or action. Autonomous affinity groups have been responsible for the vast majority (if not all) of direct actions against the state and funders of genocides abroad. Still, the tension between hierarchy and autonomy is not entirely limited to this context.

Autonomous and less formal networks can still relate to each other in hierarchical ways, and divisions of labor are often one way that hierarchy exerts its influence when left unchecked. Presuming that it is possible to accurately and effectively assign people roles, without already established collective care practices, can very rapidly result in burnout, gendered divisions of labor, ableism, ageism, and patterns of harm and abuse. All of these consequences endanger the efficacy of our liberatory aspirations. When we assume that the work that needs doing will get done, without planning, discussion, and care, the result will only ever be the same work falling to the same marginalized people who society most frequently expects to provide the same labor.

This refers to disabled people constantly having to advocate for accessibility as much as it refers to marginalized genders being expected to do conflict work or Black people being expected to keep quiet about their needs as we labor for others. This differs somewhat from older leftists who condescendingly insist they must be the ones providing political education to younger leftists. Still, in each of these examples, the presumption that roles can always be appropriately assigned to others remains and this constitutes hierarchy regardless of intentions.

Getting free now of all times necessitates that we reach an understanding of both our collective capacity and the many obstacles to our liberation. Adapting our praxis for this moment means recognizing where we could be better and how we might leverage what we’re already good at. Simple adjustments like remembering that our best self-defense strategies should be utilized on behalf of the most vulnerable of us, that Black workers face the greatest risks working during eugenicist normalcy, or that abled-bodied folks shouldn’t need disabled people to remind them why accessibility is important can all go a long way. Where people who would have us call them comrades and claim to speak for our interests refuse to address these reactionary tendencies, they will find us confronting them as we would any other obstacle to our liberation.



Estelle Ellison

Time dissuades us from getting free... Black Trans Disabled Writer (She/They)