1704 N. 2nd St. Occupied Lands, Flagstaff, AZ 86004

Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex

An Indigenous perspective & provocation.

pdf-128Printable version available here. (PDF | 3.3MB)
Print friendly cover w/corrections here. (PDF | 3.2MB)

This provocation is intended to intervene in some of the current tensions around solidarity/support work as the current trajectories are counter-liberatory from my perspective. Special thanks to DS in Phoenix for convos that lead to this ‘zine and all those who provided comments/questions/disagreements. Don’t construe this as being for “white young middle class allies”, just for paid activists, non-profits, or as a friend said, “downwardly-mobile anarchists or students.” There are many so-called “allies” in the migrant rights struggle who support “comprehensive immigration reform” which furthers militarization of Indigenous lands.

abolish-ally-industrial-complexThe ally industrial complex has been established by activists whose careers depend on the “issues” they work to address. These nonprofit capitalists advance their careers off  the struggles they ostensibly support. They often work in the guise of “grassroots” or “community-based” and are not necessarily tied to any organization.
They build organizational or individual capacity and power, establishing themselves comfortably among the top ranks in their hierarchy of oppression as they strive to become the ally “champions” of the most oppressed. While the exploitation of solidarity and support is nothing new, the commodification and exploitation of allyship is a growing trend in the activism industry.

Anyone who concerns themselves with anti-oppression struggles and collective liberation has at some point either participated in workshops, read ‘zines, or been parts of deep discussions on how to be a “good” ally. You can now pay hundreds of dollars to go to esoteric institutes for an allyship certificate in anti-oppression. You can go through workshops and receive an allyship badge. In order to commodify struggle it must first be objectified. This is exhibited in how “issues” are “framed” & “branded.” Where struggle is commodity, allyship is currency.
Ally has also become an identity, disembodied from any real mutual understanding of support.
The term ally has been rendered ineffective and meaningless.

Accomplices not allies.

ac·com·plice
noun: accomplice; plural noun: accomplices
a person who helps another commit a crime.

There exists a fiercely unrelenting desire to achieve total liberation, with the land and, together.
At some point there is a “we”, and we most likely will have to work together. This means, at the least, formulating mutual understandings that are not entirely antagonistic, otherwise we may find ourselves, our desires, and our struggles, to be incompatible.
There are certain understandings that may not be negotiable. There are contradictions that we must come to terms with and certainly we will do this on our own terms.
But we need to know who has our backs, or more appropriately: who is with us, at our sides?

The risks of an ally who provides support or solidarity (usually on a temporary basis) in a fight are much different than that of an accomplice. When we fight back or forward, together, becoming complicit in a struggle towards liberation, we are accomplices. Abolishing allyship can occur through the criminalization of support and solidarity.

While the strategies and tactics of asserting (or abolishing depending on your view) social power and political power may be diverse, there are some hard lessons that could bear not replicating.
Consider the following to be a guide for identifying points of intervention against the ally industrial complex.

“Salvation aka Missionary Work & Self Therapy”
Allies all too often carry romantic notions of oppressed folks they wish to “help.” These are the ally “saviors” who see victims and tokens instead of people.
This victimization becomes a fetish for the worst of the allies in forms of exotification, manarchism, ‘splaining, POC sexploitation, etc. This kind of relationship generally fosters exploitation between both the oppressed and oppressor. The ally and the allied-with become entangled in an abusive relationship. Generally neither can see it until it’s too late. This relationship can also digress into co-dependency which means they have robbed each other of their own power. Ally “saviors” have a tendency to create dependency on them and their function as support. No one is here to be saved, we don’t need “missionary allies” or pity.
Guilt is also a primary ally motivating factor. Even if never admitted, guilt & shame generally function as motivators in the consciousness of an oppressor who realizes that they are operating on the wrong side. While guilt and shame are very powerful emotions, think about what you’re doing before you make another community’s struggle into your therapy session. Of course, acts of resistance and liberation can be healing, but tackling guilt, shame, and other trauma require a much different focus, or at least an explicit and consensual focus. What kind of relationships are built on guilt and shame?

“Exploitation & Co-optation”
Those who co-opt are only there to advance self interests (usually it’s either notoriety or financial). As these “allies” seek to impose their agenda, they out themselves. The ‘radical’ more militant-than-thou “grassroots” organizers are keen on seeking out “sexy” issues to co-opt (for notoriety/ego/super ally/most radical ally) and they set the terms of engagement or dictate what struggles get amplified or marginalized irregardless of whose homelands they’re operating on. The nonprofit establishment or non-profit industrial complex (NPIC) also seeks out “sexy” or “fundable” issues to co-opt and exploit as these are ripe for the grant funding that they covet. Too often, Indigenous liberation struggles for life and land, by nature, directly confront the entire framework to which this colonial & capitalist society is based on. This is threatening to potential capitalist funders so some groups are forced to compromise radical or liberatory work for funding, others become alienated and further invisibilized or subordinated to tokenism. Co-opters most often show up to the fight when the battle has already escalated and it’s a little too late.
These entities almost always propose trainings, workshops, action camps, and offer other specialized expertise in acts of patronization. These folks are generally paid huge salaries for their “professional” activism, get over-inflated grants for logistics and “organizational capacity building”, and struggles may become further exploited as “poster struggles” for their funders. Additionally, these skills most likely already exist within the communities or they are tendencies that need only be provoked into action.
These aren’t just dynamics practiced by large so-called non-governmental organizations (NGOs), individuals are adept at this self-serving tactic as well.
Co-optation also functions as a form of liberalism. Allyship can perpetuate a neutralizing dynamic by co-opting original liberatory intent into a reformist agenda.
Certain folks in the struggles (usually movement “personalities”) who don’t upset the ally establishment status quo can be rewarded with inclusion in the ally industry.

“Self proclaiming/confessional Allies”ally-badge
All too often folks show up with an, “I am here to support you!” attitude that they wear like a badge. Ultimately making struggles out to feel like an extracurricular activity that they are getting “ally points” for. Self-asserted allies may even have anti-oppression principles and values as window dressing. Perhaps you’ve seen this quote by Lilla Watson on their materials: “If you come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. If you come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” They are keen to posture, but their actions are inconsistent with their assertions.
Meaningful alliances aren’t imposed, they are consented upon. The self-proclaimed allies have no intention to abolish the entitlement that compelled them to impose their relationship upon those they claim to ally with.

“Parachuters”
Parachuters rush to the front lines seemingly from out-of-nowhere. They literally move from one hot or sexy spot to the next. They also fall under the “savior” & “self-proclaimed” categories as they mostly come from specialized institutes, organizations, & think-tanks. They’ve been through the trainings, workshops, lectures, etc., they are the “experts” so they know “what is best.” This paternalistic attitude is implicit in the structures (non-profits, institutes, etc) these “allies” derive their awareness of the “issues” from. Even if they reject their own non-profit programming, they are ultimately reactionary, entitled, and patronizing, or positioning with power-over, those they proclaim allyship with. It’s structural patronization that is rooted in the same dominion of hetero-patriarchal white supremacy.
Parachuters are usually missionaries with more funding.

“Academics, & Intellectuals”
Although sometimes directly from communities in struggle, intellectuals and academics also fit neatly in all of these categories. Their role in struggle can be extremely patronizing. In many cases the academic maintains institutional power above the knowledge and skill base of the community/ies in struggle. Intellectuals are most often fixated on un-learning oppression. These lot generally don’t have their feet on the ground, but are quick to be critical of those who do.
Should we desire to merely “unlearn” oppression, or to smash it to fucking pieces, and have it’s very existence gone?
An accomplice as academic would seek ways to leverage resources and material support and/or betray their institution to further liberation struggles. An intellectual accomplice would strategize with, not for and not be afraid to pick up a hammer.

“Gatekeepers”
Gatekeepers seek power over, not with, others. They are known for the tactics of controlling and/or withholding information, resources, connections, support, etc. Gatekeepers come from the outside and from within. When exposed they are usually rendered ineffective (so long as there are effective accountability/responsibility mechanisms).
Gatekeeping individuals and organizations, like “savior allies,” also have tendency to create dependency on them and their function as support. They have a tendency to dominate or control.

“Navigators & Floaters”
The “navigating” ally is someone who is familiar or skilled in jargon and maneuvers through spaces or struggles yet doesn’t have meaningful dialogue (by avoiding debates or remaining silent) or take meaningful action beyond their personal comfort zones (this exists with entire organizations too). They uphold their power and, by extension, the dominant power structures by not directly attacking them.
“Ally” here is more clearly defined as the act of making personal projects out of other folk’s oppression. These are lifestyle allies who act like passively participating or simply using the right terminology is support. When shit goes down they are the first to bail. They don’t stick around to take responsibility for their behavior. When confronted they often blame others and attempt to dismiss or delegitimize concerns.
Accomplices aren’t afraid to engage in uncomfortable/unsettling/challenging debates or discussions.

Floaters are “allies” that hop from group to group and issue to issue, never being committed enough but always wanting their presence felt and their voices heard. They tend to disappear when it comes down to being held accountable or taking responsibility for fucked up behavior.
Floaters are folks you can trust to tell the cops to “fuck off” but never engage in mutual risk, constantly put others at risk, are quick to be authoritarian about other peoples over stepping privileges, but never check their own. They basically are action junkie tourists who never want to be part of paying the price, the planning, or the responsibility but always want to be held up as worthy of being respected for “having been there” when a rock needed throwing, bloc needs forming, etc.
This dynamic is also important to be aware of for threats of infiltration. Provocateurs are notorious floaters going from place to place never being accountable to their words or actions. Infiltration doesn’t necessarily have to come from the state, the same impacts can occur by “well meaning” allies. It’s important to note that calling out infiltrators bears serious implications and shouldn’t be attempted without concrete evidence.
“Acts of Resignation”
Resignation of agency is a by-product of the allyship establishment. At first the dynamic may not seem problematic, after all, why would it be an issue with those who benefit from systems of oppression to reject or distance themselves from those benefits and behaviors (like entitlement, etc) that accompany them? In the worst cases, “allies” themselves act paralyzed believing it’s their duty as a “good ally.” There is a difference between acting for others, with others, and for one’s own interests, be explicit.
You wouldn’t find an accomplice resigning their agency, or capabilities as an act of “support.” They would find creative ways to weaponize their privilege (or more clearly, their rewards of being part of an oppressor class) as an expression of social war. Otherwise we end up with a bunch of anti-civ/primitivist appropriators or anarcho-hipsters, when saboteurs would be preferred.

Suggestions for some ways forward for anti-colonial accomplices:

Allyship is the corruption of radical spirit and imagination, it’s the dead end of decolonization.
The ally establishment co-opts decolonization as a banner to fly at its unending anti-oppression gala. What is not understood is that decolonization is a threat to the very existence of settler “allies.” No matter how liberated you are, if you are still occupying Indigenous lands you are still a colonizer.

Decolonization (the process of restoring Indigenous identity) can be very personal and should be differentiated, though not disconnected, from anti-colonial struggle.
The work of an accomplice in anti-colonial struggle is to attack colonial structures & ideas.

The starting point is to articulate your relationship to Indigenous Peoples whose lands you are occupying. This is beyond acknowledgment or recognition. This can be particularly challenging for “non-federally recognized” Indigenous Peoples as they are invisiblized by the state and by the invaders occupying their homelands.
It may take time to establish lines of communication especially as some folks may have already been burnt by outsiders. If you do not know where or how to contact folks, do some ground work, research (but don’t rely on anthropological sources, they are euro-centric), and pay attention. Try to more listening than speaking and planning.
In long-term struggles communication may be ruptured between various factions, there are no easy ways to address this. Don’t try to work the situation out, but communicate openly with consideration of the points below.
Sometimes other Indigenous Peoples are “guests” on other’s homelands yet are tokenized as the Indigenous representatives for the “local struggles”. This dynamic also perpetuates settler colonialism. A lot of people also assume Indigenous folks are all on the same page “politically,” we’re definitely not.

While there may be times folks have the capacity and patience to do so, be aware of the dynamics perpetuated by hand-holding.
Understand that it is not our responsibility to hold your hand through a process to be an accomplice.
Accomplices listen with respect for the range of cultural practices and dynamics that exists within various Indigenous communities.
Accomplices aren’t motivated by personal guilt or shame, they may have their own agenda but they are explicit.
Accomplices are realized through mutual consent and build trust. They don’t just have our backs, they are at our side, or in their own spaces confronting and unsettling colonialism. As accomplices we are compelled to become accountable and responsible to each other, that is the nature of trust.

Don’t wait around for anyone to proclaim you to be an accomplice, you certainly cannot proclaim it yourself. You just are or you are not. The lines of oppression are already drawn. Direct action is really the best and may be the only way to learn what it is to be an accomplice. We’re in a fight, so be ready for confrontation and consequence.

If you are wondering whether to get involved with or to support an organization:

Be suspect of anyone and any organization who professes allyship, decolonization work, and/or wears their relationships with Indigenous Peoples as at badge.

Use some of the points above to determine primary motives.
Look at the organizations funding. Who is getting paid? How are they transparent? Who’s defining the terms? Who sets the agenda? Do campaigns align with what the needs are on the ground?

Are there local grassroots Indigenous People directly involved with the decision making?

Comments (171)

[…] commitment to collective liberation demands that we dig deeper than the white savior model of “allyship.” Our solidarity should be selfish without becoming self-centered: it should speak deeply to our own […]

[…] want to act. And years of experience make clear that this is not desired learning; this is not wanted action, this thing that I am […]

[…] that interrogates complicity (conscious or not) in interrelated forms of domination, that prefers accomplices as opposed to allies. Alacorn references the “politics of unity” to describe the unfortunate result of the denial of […]

[…] reading before you begin (and just in general): Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex, Listen Up! 50 Provocative #DearNonNative Tweets, Decolonization is Not A […]

[…] power, which will feel like disequilibrium for many. But if you’re a true white ally or accomplice, you’ll understand that the way things have been centered around you, isn’t even good for […]

[…] more information on the ally-industrial complex, read the article from which Tab found her […]

The pamphlet was good. Then the author used irregardless, that was distracting. Irregardless is not a word.
Regardless is correct.

irregardless IS a word and isn’t exactly the same as regardless albeit closely related.

ie. regardless of the outcome, the directions are the same for both methods.
ie. irregardless of what he does, she will still have to make a decision that affects both of them.
Not sure those were the best examples, I’m not an English teacher but irregardless is a real word as well as regardless.
🙂

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[…] it is less of a burden, finally, than a blessing. It makes you feel stronger.” To be anti-racist, to be an accomplice, requires being a stone […]

[…] for krui.fm describes many types of Allyship (summarizing the writings of an woman anonymous over indigenousaction.org) that are less than affective in creating real meaningful change for marginalized individuals. If […]

[…] isn’t a static label; it’s a series of actions, an investment. You should be doing this work because you care, because it will help move us all […]

[…] isn’t a static label; it’s a series of actions, an investment. You should be doing this work because you care, because it will help move us all […]

[…] isn’t a static label; it’s a series of actions, an investment. You should be doing this work because you care, because it will help move us all […]

[…] Don’t wait around for anyone to proclaim you to be an accomplice, you certainly cannot proclaim it yourself. You just are or you are not. The lines of oppression are already drawn.” (Accomplices not allies: Abolishing the ally industrial complex, May 4, 2014) […]

[…] isn’t a static label; it’s a series of actions, an investment. You should be doing this work because you care, because it will help move us all […]

[…] isn’t a static label; it’s a series of actions, an investment. You should be doing this work because you care, because it will help move us all […]

[…] PS: Decolonial work needs to be happening year round, not just on the holidays that remind us of our complicity in genocide. This is one of many helpful resources for showing up in indigenous solidarity work. Accomplices Not Allies […]

Was considering how I might make my contribution to this piece funny, yet that may be more difficult, given the serious nature of matters, than I’d like.

Briefly, by way of introduction, over the decades, I’ve had varying experiences with different factions of community. Including, of course, various local native factions. I’ve naturally fallen into activities or projects, generally speaking, geared towards improving the challenging scenario so many of us face. I’m not here to go into the details of a lifetime of this or offer some sort of resume on action taken. (Though I’ve personally not had any funding, done any workshops or had membership in any NGO’s – some of which have dubious connections btw.)
I’m here to offer some constructive criticism, in regards to when things go wrong. This requires a better understanding of what can happen, than what I’m seeing here. Proper communication & follow up is important for refining action in the future.

Firstly, in regards to the criticism of anarchism.
Anarchisms history has a lot offer with it’s countering of colonial structures. There is of course, a great deal of disinformation on this by vested interests.
So here’s some links that may assist.

These first two docos give an account of the Spanish anarchist experience:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e07FtLHK_tw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5gXMZYfYsk

This short clip regards indigenous cultures as being anarchist, make of that what you will:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki2sn_qpOq0

Here’s a starter on common myths:

http://news.infoshop.org/opinion/myths-about-anarchism

I’m pretty disappointed with your casual slander of this cultural movement. (There as some subgroups of it I don’t agree with of course – I’m wondering here if you’re implying that you’re ok with upwardly mobile anarcho capitalist types – who don’t seem at all anarchistic to me, given their affiliation with the values of colonialism – groups can have all sorts of factions.)
You would leap on me in a hot minute if I referred to your cultural or ethnic group as “downwardly mobile natives” or “hipster indigenous peoples”… You demand respect be given, yet seem to offer none in return here.
Cultural exchanges are important & need to be a two way street. Misunderstandings can easily occur. There will be differences. I find, in my experience, the claim there isn’t any “listening” to be laughable. I’ve listened to some for years, yet did not receive the same regard in return. Hierarchical, authoritarian, patriarchal, paternalistic, patronising attitudes are hallmarks of the system of empire. Embodying them, does not encourage me to respect or work with someone, regardless of their background.
Know also that people cooperating, to work towards common goals, can be “burnt” just as much by some indigenous factions, not to mention other factions.

I’ve grown up multiculturally & find some sort of assumption of there being an apartheid style history to be inaccurate. A divisive false assumption of separation, discounts a lifetime of family & personal history with all sorts of peoples & cultural groups. This seems a flawed framework, a false narrative & a disrespectful disregard of longstanding lived experience & relationships.

I have no interest in labels or acting roles. “Activist” “Ally” “Accomplice”
We have more in common than not & the challenges we face are old & powerful.
We are all indigenous to somewhere, many of us to many places. Before this version of empire, we all lived in ways somewhat similar. This brings me to what seems too often ignored, that prior to the invasions over the last 5 centuries – such had been going on elsewhere, for thousands of years. This is where approaches were honed, tactics developed & there are so many peoples touched by this. So many have histories of being invaded, enslaved & having land stolen.

One of my experiences involved some serious cointelpro style activity. There were many groups, over time, making their influence felt. From government institutions, secret services, secret societies, military, religious, corporate institutions & others.
Serious targeting, propaganda, smear campaigns & the like, ensued.
Set ups, staged events, threats, coercion, stalking, manipulation of community factions occurred. We need to do better in regards to the complex realities of these matters. Serious abuses can take place – racism, sexism, sexual harassment, rape, assault, gas lighting, attempted religious conversion & brainwashing, theft, destruction of property, incarceration, health problems, exploitation, loss of work opportunities & ultimately, destruction of lives. Some people will throw others under the bus to promote themselves.
Transformative justice techniques can be employed to sort these matters out – yet you really need to get a proper understanding of what has really happened, to make sure the process isn’t hijacked & used to commit further abuse.

I don’t have any experience of having my hand held.
I have found myself holding the hands of those who have attacked me with their ignorance, cruelty & arrogance. Frustrated by their lack of understanding.

I also have gratitude to family, friends & community factions, who take the the time to get a more accurate perspective & treat me with respect.

A renewed focus on tactics to deal with malicious vested interests that seek to divide & conquer, to hinder cooperation & collective power, seem from here, a good way to move forward on all this.

If you’d like me to go into further details, let me know.

All the best.
Monique.

Pingback and Monique: Do you think we need ‘cultural competency’ training? The ‘cultural competency’ training is a small step, albeit a step towards, an open mind, receptive to comprehension, therefore, awareness, therefore the initiation of change, and for addressing a deeper programming. We have to have some place to start. I am asking you, because what you have written above, resonates with me (Monique). I too, prefer to maintain, a day to day focus on commonalities as opposed to societal ‘corrective’ action; since there has to be a starting place for awareness to begin…. if not in harmony with others; then it seems the alternative, is we travel this journey in pain with more trauma…. certainly NOT a promise of change rather continuation of what has gone before. Are the AVAILABLE CULTURAL COMPETENCY training options, enough? Do we turn it down, as suggested if there is government funding attached or a ‘hidden agenda’ by some (other) Indigenous community/individuals (NOT) original land dwellers where we attend? It is all very complex, we must have a starting point. We wouldn’t be involving ourselves if we didn’t have a yearning to understand and develop greater awareness, being grateful people to start with. Seeking feedback by all / any who are able to communicate with a layperson lacking degree in poly sci. thanks, (and apologies Pingback for heavy referencing of academic resourcing’ without it I never would have been referred to your page…. despite my level of concern (FOR US ALL, and wish for solidarity…. ) M. Cryer (I got this link via speaker Craig Chalquist explaining and recommending, ‘ activist archetype’ and referencing Mary Watkins abstract; ‘psychosocial accompaniment’ – ) – Craig Chalquist webinar

[…] it is appropriate to dissect the complexities of scenes such as this by referencing the 2014 paper Accomplices not Allies : Abolishing The Ally Industrial Complex: “The ally industrial complex has been established by activists whose careers depend on the […]

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[…] is no substitution for anti-colonial action from settlers on stolen land.  As stated in Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex: “No matter how liberated you are, if you are still occupying Indigenous lands you are still a […]

[…] In order to commodify struggle it must first be objectified. This is exhibited in how “issues” are “framed” & “branded.” Where struggle is commodity, allyship is currency. (Indigenous Action Media) […]

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[…] it is appropriate to dissect the complexities of scenes such as this by referencing the 2014 paper Accomplices not Allies : Abolishing The Ally Industrial Complex: “The ally industrial complex has been established by activists whose careers depend on the […]

[…] and who is just an attention-seeker. It has also been suggested that allies are not helpful – what is needed is accomplices.   I don’t call myself an ally. I am against oppression of marginalized groups. I hope my […]

[…] Indigenous Action. “Accomplices not Allies- Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex, An Indigenous Perspective,” Indigenous Action, Feb 2014, pp. 1-10, http://www.indigenousaction.org/accomplices-not-allies-abolishing-the-ally-industrial-complex/ […]

[…] Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex […]

Need to include the Jetsetters in this one too, some of these so called allies spend all their time traveling to exotic locations to build “Solidarity” but really just on vacation lol

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