“So then an egoist could never embrace a party or take up with a party? Oh, yes, only he cannot let himself be embraced and taken up by the party. For him the party remains all the time nothing but a gathering: he is one of the party, he takes part.”
– Max Stirner, The Ego and Its Own
“But this force does not appear spontaneously: it must be transmitted. All objects, beings, or consecrated places exist only through the acquisition of (ashe). It is understood that the Ile, it material contents and initiates must receive (ashe), accumulate it, maintain it, and develop it…
To receive (ashe) means to incorporate the symbolic elements that represent the vital and essential principles of all that which exists, in a particular combination that individualizes and permits a determined signification. It is an endeavor to incorporate all that which constitutes the aiye and the orun, this world and the world beyond…”
– Juana Elebein Dos Santos, “Os Nago e a Morte.“ Translated by Medahochi Kofi Zannu
Spend approximately 2.5 minutes on the internet and it will become clear to you: the Left can be the most toxic, hate-filled “community” you’ve ever had the misfortune to experience. Outright lies and willful ignorance abound, and right behind them are usually threats of violence and mass murder. Communists will get the bullet, Anarchists go straight to gulag; the Left often has a lot more in common with warring wings of the Latin Kings, Bloods, Bandidos, and Crips.
Except of course all those organizations are actually feared. They also actually do things, often violent things, and are quite capable of returning on any threat to even a score. They have power and control territories that run across multiple states.
I knew of no leftist organization that could match the tenacity, strength, and cunning of the average street gang. That wasn’t the point. I drove 180 miles into the heart of Tampa Bay to see whether or not the Left was capable of doing anything besides shitpost.
It was May Day, the holiest of days for hearts both black and red. I cracked open another beer, gulping down the frothy brew as I did eighty in a forty-five, reaching for my voice recorder.
“The event has been put on by traditional unions, Maoists, Marxist-Leninists, Wobblies, and the local DSA chapter. It is a perfect laboratory, a window, into the disparate wash of various strains of Leftism. I am unsure of what to expect.” I paused for a moment, watching the trailers and cattle zoom by, as much as piece of the landscape as the acres of oaks, pines, and palms. “The event could be a total wash, an abject failure; it could kick off a riot and potentially get me killed; it could be nothing more than one big hugging match where everybody feels good and goes home as if they’ve actually accomplished something when in reality nothing’s changed.”
Shadowy tendrils began to capture my tone. “Whatever it is…whatever I see out in Tampa today will be of great significance. If anything will happen in Florida, maybe the country….if ever there was an ideal setting for this kind of thing, this is the place. If today comes to nothing?”
I rolled down my window and turned up the cumbía. The thumbing tropical beat brought a grin from ear to ear. I set down the empty beer can and reached for another.
“Then…there is no hope. And at that point it won’t really have mattered anyway, would it?”
The assignment started with a simple message. In my inbox, from a name and face I did not recognize, was an invitation:
“Yo are you doing anything for May Day? We’re planning to have a huge-ass event in Tampa and are trying to get leftists from around the state to show up. It’s gonna be militant as fuck.”
I was intrigued. Truthfully I had no plans of my own and had been wondering what exactly I was going to do for May Day. There was no leftist presence where I was, not even an inkling; I knew if I wanted to see real human beings even vaguely challenge the ruling order I’d need to put many miles under my feet.
The location seemed ideal. I had roots in the city and kin buried out that way, having spent the most poverty-stricken years of my youth in nearby New Port Richey. I knew Tampa was big enough to probably draw a crowd and remembered an energy there uniquely suited for revolutionary politics.
Everything in Florida cities revolves around money: Tallahassee is all about borrowing it, Miami is all about spending it, Orlando is all about taking it, and Tampa?
Tampa has always been about making it.
From the late 1880’s all the way to the 1930’s cigar manufacturing completely dominated the local economy, hundreds of firms fighting tooth and claw to outproduce and outmaneuver each other. A proudly immigrant city, Tampa also boasted its own division of the Italian Mafia, and had a stranglehold on every racket, hustle, and scam from Havana to New Orleans. The Tampa Bay mob became notorious early on for a peculiar method of making a point to anyone that stood in the way of profit: a shotgun blast directly to the face, done in broad daylight and right in the street. The violence may be gone, but the killer instinct familiar to hustlers everywhere still survives: Tampa has gone from from cigars and bolita rackets to become the industrial, commercial, and financial hub of Florida’s entire west coast.
Electronics, medical equipment, beer, paint, steel, fertilizer, citrus products, livestock, processed shrimp, all roll through Tampa and its eighteen lines of railway. The port of Tampa handles 50 million tons of cargo every year and, thanks to its status as a “foreign trade zone,” goods can be unloaded for repacking, storage, or transshipment without being hit with additional taxes.
In a state dependent on cattle and tourism, Tampa alone had taken the Capitalist model and ran with it.
That naturally creates problems.
In the Tampa Bay area a black third-grader is half as likely as a white counterpart to read on grade level. Just a few years ago it had the nation’s highest homelessness rate. Tampa, along with Miami, is in the top ten every year for the prized position of highest income inequality in America.
Money, power, corruption, violence. Tampa was the real deal, a quiet powerhouse of global trade long reliant on a dispossessed and oppressed population. No matter what happened I’d at least get a good story out of it.
I just needed to cross the dangerous and uniquely odd territory known as the Floridian interior first.
The Sunny Place for Shady People
I lived on the eastern side of the peninsula, and mere miles outside my town lay a vast and unforgiving wilderness. Danger. Death. Dismemberment. Towns long since dropped off maps and shambling, inbred creatures. Concrete castles and roads where cars rolled uphill. A trip through the Florida interior could bring one or all of these things.
Tampa was going to be easy. I could expect electricity, antibiotics, even basic literacy. Even if there was a riot, even if I got arrested, I was fairly certain I wouldn’t get cancer from the water.
No such guarantees exist in the interior. Perhaps that’s what gave Tampa a better revolutionary chance. The rest of Florida was simply too wild, too cutthroat, and too focused on eating one another to give a damn.
After packing up the essentials I hit the road…