After quite some months of narrowly making rent on the space, and a protracted struggle against our landlord (who refused to repair the plate glass windows smashed out during a late-night attack this spring), our collective made the difficult decision to close the event space on 24th Place that had been home to Breakaway and Haymaker.
Nothing is over. Everything continues, along new paths and lines.
Haymaker has moved into a beautiful loft space in the Second Unitarian Church facility in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood. The project just increased its course offerings, adding Thai Boxing to its already wide range of free martial arts classes. Since it must pay rent and insurance to use its current space, the organizers are accepting donations through their Patreon page. For the most current updates, check their Twitter or their Facebook.
Although the weekly Breakaway potlucks and assemblies have gone on hiatus for now, the bi-monthly discussion series that we first launched in our space in the fall of 2016 continues to this day, with a full series of events planned for this fall. Updates can be found on the Building the Commune blog or on its Twitter page. A new series of events focusing on contradictions around environment, class and race in South & East Chicago has also been put together this fall, with more events coming soon. Food and zine distro’s have been appearing, a solidarity network exists, a medical supply-chain project, and prisoner outreach efforts all continue under various guises.
It would be impossible to express the gratitude we feel to all those who helped us make Breakaway the wild and life-changing experiment that it was over these past three years. We will never forget the afternoons of rich discussion, the joyful nights spent cooking together or watching ‘films’ (riot footage), the dance parties interrupted by smoke bombs, the long nights of banner-making, conspiring and making plans, and the countless guests and speakers the space welcomed, from far and wide. Our lives have been changed forever, we have imprinted ourselves upon one another in ways that will not soon be undone.
When we opened Breakaway in September of 2016, our goal was simple: to create the material conditions under which 50 comrades could find one another, deepen their connections, and begin weaving their lives and moving on a common strategic plane. Breakaway was designed to be a space of encounter, moved by a faith in the richness of a life unfettered by economics and policing: a catchment for the lost, a hope for the hopeless, a place of warmth and convivial experimentation, marked by a restless search for the premises of a non-catastrophic future, and a impatient desire to begin working out strategies and proposals.
There is no doubt that we accomplished this goal. The networks of comrades that exist today vastly exceed the situation existing when we set out. We have fought together, lived together, faced down state repression together, criss-crossed continents, and learned to take risks on one another in ways that exceed any superficial ideological agreement.
Like all collective experiments, Breakaway ran into a whole host of limitations, both logistical and ethical. Many of these are perennial issues that informal autonomous spaces routinely confront: How to continue fundraising over a long period of time? How to retain the creative spirit of informal organizing while avoiding clique-ishness and a confused sense of nonbelonging? How to avert the entropy that so often divides collectives in a de facto way into producers and consumers? How to avoid a narrow sense of what counts as initiative, thereby failing to draw upon the singular strengths of each individual? How to draw the benefits of having our own space, while avoiding the political insularity, habitual routine, and ideological homogeneity that allow such spaces to close in on themselves? Was it unrealistic to imagine embedding ourselves in a neighborhood, while so many of us continued to live spread-out across the sprawl of this city? How does an emphasis on efficacy and ‘projectuality’ get in the way of developing deeper and more intimate ties to one another? How to proactively interrupt stereotypically masculinist behavior before it unravels our shared common purpose, and pushes people away? One thing is certain, which is that collectives that fail to cultivate internal models of communication and mediation to work through such issues only invite the inevitable.
In our first large assembly at Breakaway, a week after Trump’s election, we distributed a statement that began by stating a truth we hold in common:
“We take it as evident that there is nothing to be hoped for from the classical politics of reasoned dialogue and popular democratic consensus. At the same time, in the face of accumulating catastrophes (ecological, social, political, etc.), the Left has nothing to offer but pacifying moralisms and dead-end strategies that only obscure the civil war that grips us. If we want to see a revolutionary force rise up to face the present nightmare, there is no one else to turn to, and no model or map to follow but the ones we invent together. We must begin from where we are at, and give ourselves the time and the means to patiently grow our forces, even if it takes three generations. We see revolution not as a single event, but as the whole-life project of building-up partisan bases in local areas and across regions, collectively overcoming obstacles that confront them, and defeating whatever threatens their existence or weakens them.”
Whatever the obstacles that may come from closing this specific space, we will continue moving forward. Our determination to answer the call of our time remains unwavering. We must, therefore we can. In any case, there is no one coming to save us. The impasses bequeathed to us by our rudderless and catastrophic world can only begin to be answered provided we learn how to drag them down to earth, by giving ourselves the collective means to begin living and acting together in collective, dignified, and strategic ways. A strategy is nothing but a sober attention to the potentialities of our situation, developed together over time. For those who see things as we do, there will be many opportunities to link up in the coming weeks and months. Let’s find each other, and keep going.