Writings of the F5

The Writings of the Furious Five Revolutionary Collective

 

The Furious Five Revolutionary Collective was an Anarchist-Communist collective in San Jose, CA founded in December 2003 until its disbanding in late 2005 as part of the building of a larger California based organization. The group was involved in labor organizing as well as organizing with community college students, especially around budgets cuts and fee increases and was the first North American group to espouse an influence from the especifist current of Latin American anarchism. During the life of the group, members wrote and distributed a series of well produced pamphlets. Several texts appear below.

Contents

  • Who We Are, Furious Five Revolutionary Collective
  • Senzala or Quilombo; Reflections on APOC and the Fate of Black Anarchism, Pedro Ribeiro
  • From Reforms to Revolution, Ian Martin
  • Why Anarchist Communism?, Adam Weaver
  • Race, Gender and Class; Structure of the Global Elite and World Capitalism, Pedro Ribeiro
  • Especifismo: The Anarchist Praxis of Building Popular Movements and Revolutionary Organization in South America, Adam Weaver

Who We Are

 By The Furious Five Revolutionary Collective

 

The Furious Fice Revolutionary Collective, based in San Jose, California, was formed in 2003. Brought together by mutual organizing work, the collective united around a shared belief in the continued validity of anarchist communism, but only if it committed itself to serious organizing, tactical/ideological unity, and a return to [the] idea of the base of anarchism being in the struggles of everyday people and especially oppressed communities. The Collective is not based on ideological purity. On the contrary, it is constantly striving to help in the revising of anarchist communism and its reconstruction where necessary in order to make it relevant to the present (much needed) context.

The Furious Five Reovlutionary Collective also considers itself an especifista collective, meaning that it believes in the necessity of anarchists working within popular, mass organizations. We committ ourselves to learning from whatever groups or struggles are out there, no matter where on the map or where in time they may be.

Currently, we work in several areas of organizing: student, labor, and community organizing. We believe that the purpose of the collective is to constantly debate the effectiveness of working in whatever area of organizing and provide a venue for accountability, review, self-criticism, and mutual support. We also believe that we should help in the propagation of anarchist and anti-authoritarian ideas. That being said, the Furious Five Revolutionary Collective is not imbued with a missionary spirit. We wish to help in the creation of an anarchistic movement, not necessarily a movement of anarchists.

SENZALA OR QUILOMBO
Reflections on APOC and the fate of Black Anarchism

By Pedro Ribeiro

Furious Five Revolutionary Collective, San Jose, CA

Note for our international comrades: APOC is the Anarchist People Of Color organization based mostly in the US.

In years past, when the slavery of the children of Africa was carried out by chain and whip instead of uniforms and patrol cars, black people in Brazil had only two places where they could be – in the Senzala or the Quilombo. The Senzala was a small hut placed outside the master’s house, a shack in which the slaves would stay from after sunset to before sunrise, chained to the walls and behind locked doors. The Senzala was their home; there they raised their children and grew old. In secret, they practiced their language, religion and culture away from white eyes. The window of the senzala would always face the main quad of the plantation where a single post could be seen emerging from the earth’s belly. The Pelourinho – the mast in which rebellious slaves where tortured into submission or death, whichever came first. This was the Senzala.

But, every once in a while, a laborious and dedicated group of slaves would defect from the generosity of the slave master’s whips and chains and senzalas, and go into the jungle. They would run, day after night after day after night, into the mata, deeper into the forest; away from the treacherous Capitaes to Mato, the black or mulatos overseers responsible for capturing escaped slaves. In the jungle, they looked for hope. In the jungle, they looked for freedom. In the jungle, away from the white man, they looked for the Quilombo.

Quilombos were city-states created in the heart of the mata by escaped slaves. The most famous – the largest and the one whose name was whispered in secret in the dark by those in search of freedom – that was Palmares. Palmares had a estimated population of twenty to thirty thousand, structured in eleven different villages. In Palmares, as in other Quilombos escaped slaves held the majority. Natives and poor whites were also accepted into the Quilombo, with and shared the same rights and duties as anyone else. Decisions were made by village assemblies, in which every adult, man or woman, of every race, could (and most would) participate.

No, Palmares was no utopia. It was no communist society in which the decisions where as horizontal as possible and in which all were seen as equal. Palmares had chiefs, one for each village. The chief of the capital, Macacos, was the king of Palmares. But this is neither here nor now. The now is the quilombo as opposed to the senzala.

Palmares died in flames. It fought until the last person was dead. It had been fighting for its sovereignty and independence for over one hundred years. It gave its blood to defend what it cherished most – its freedom and its self-determination.

Whatever drove the Palmarinos to fight is what I am interested in talking about. A friend of mine said something that struck a cord in me. He said: “People are always talking about dying for this or that. You gotta die for the cause if you are militant enough, if you are really bad ass you should die for your beliefs. But nobody asks, what are you living for? Not dying, but living – what is your life for?”

The Palmarinos were living for something. They were living for their freedom and their collective autonomy. They were living for their right of self-determination, to do away with the chains that held them slaves in the past and to decide by themselves the path of their life. If they died fighting for that, they died for what they were living for. They died the death of free people.

We now call ourselves Anarchists. We say we want the end of all chains and the extermination of all oppression. Yet, in the Anarchist “movement”, black folk and other folks of color are still in the senzala. We are still having to disguise ourselves, call whitey “Massa” and chain ourselves to the wall. No, don’t talk about racism unless is in that very abstract sense of “we-are-all-equal-let’s-sing-kumbayas-and-pretend-the-color-of-our-skin-does-not-matter” racism. While there might be nobody yelling “die, nigger, die!*”, you can hear a very clear “shut the fuck up, nigger, just shut the fuck up.”

We pretend that racism is just a minor problem, something that, like the Leninist State, will wither away if we will it to. The intrinsic racist characteristics that infect Anarchism, specially North-American Anarchism, cannot be questioned without one being seen as some kind of authoritarian nationalist, or even worse, a Maoist. Red-baiting, of all things!

Like in the real senzala, our resistance to racism needs to be covert. It needs to be hidden and made like it is something else. It cannot be what it needs to be, it cannot do what needs to be done, or the senzala would break apart and the master’s house would be set aflame. No. Like capoeira, our fight against white supremacy inside North American anarchism needs to disguise itself as a dance in order to become a martial art.

And you know how the rap goes: if we talk about empowerment we are power hungry. If we assert our self-determination, we are authoritarian nationalists. When we expose how white Anarchism is, elitist white Anarchists generally come with excuses like “Hey, I saw a black anarchist once!” or the classic, “well, we need to outreach to communities of color.”

Let me tell you something, the reason why the masses are not flooding to your Anarchism is exactly that one – it is your Anarchism. It is a white, petty-bourgeois Anarchism that cannot relate to the people. As a Black person, I am not interested in your Anarchism. I am not interested in individualistic, self-serving, selfish liberation for you and your white friends. What I care about is the liberation of my people. The collective liberation of the children of the African Diaspora, those that have been beaten down and treated worse than dogs all across the world.

So, no, we are not interested in your anarchism. We need to create our own. Understand this, if the whites in Palmares were allies and died with the blacks and the natives it is not because they invited the blacks and the natives into their structure, into their society and said unto them: “We are all equal.” It was because the blacks and the natives created their own structure – their own society – in which power relations were different so that whites could no longer by the sheer force of their privilege impose their view of how the society should be run. To try and integrate people of color in your society or your movement, like there would be no culture clash and no confrontation – it is naive, senseless and can lead nowhere but into deception.

In the senzala of contemporary Anarchist theory and practice, the only place for Blacks and other folks of color is the chain in the wall or the Pelourinho. To question the structure of this “movement”, why is it really composed mainly of white suburban boys, is an invitation to the Pelourinho – or to the Quilombo.

Some escaped slaves decided to create their own Quilombo in the forest of North America, and they called it A.P.O.C. – Anarchist People Of Color. APOC was a necessary step on the beginning of the self-determination of people of color inside the movement. This self-determination we seek is to analyze the problems of race inside and outside the movement in our own perspective. To create our own analysis of authority and what it means for us to be Anarchists. What does it mean for those that have always felt odd at an Anarchist event while looking around and thinking are they made the wrong turn somewhere and ended up in a white only area of segregated Mississippi.

When an anarchist tells me about how the cops are fascist pigs, I stop for a second and think. A lot of times I’ll of some experience in a protest against this or that corporate meeting or something, in which the cops tear gassed the crowd and whoop some ass and I think, man, you got it easy. I remember in my neighborhood in Brazil, where if you got only an ass-whooping, you would consider yourself lucky. I remember the day they shot my uncle dead. I remember this one cop that used to follow me around and scare the life out of me because I thought he was going to cap me and there no way in hell I was approaching no authorities to complain because then I would surely wind up dead. I remember the police invading my grandma’s house, guns in hand, while my cousin was still a baby and was sleeping in my aunt’s bed. Even here, in my neighborhood in East Palo Alto, you can always hear the cops fussing around at night and you know they are not looking for no black-bloc kid from some protest or another. So tell me again how the cops are fascists…

The fact is, we know oppression. We live it, we experience it. In one form or another, one extreme or another. We do not conceptualize it. We do not sit down and intellectualize about pain because our people have been hunted down and shot, and burned and beaten and we lost the need to understand pain philosophically when we learned it physically.

So why are the people not filling the ranks of the Anarchist movement? What it is that prevents those people of color that have been feeling the brunt of police brutality, and have been living off the scraps of what capitalism leaves behind, why have they not joined the movement?

The answer is simple: because is not their movement. It can never be their movement while it is being created by and for white middle-class kids with a Jesus complex who think they can save the world (or the ones with Buddha complex who think they can get wet by talking about water). You cannot hustle the movement and you cannot hustle the people. Revolution is not a game in which you can pretend to listen to the voice of the people of color only when is convenient and shut them off when they start questioning your privilege.

APOC, as any revolutionary step, spurned an immediate reaction, a counter-revolutionary step. The amount of voices in the Anarchist “movement” that have been raised to criticize, put down or, in any other form, discredit APOC (most, if not all of them, white, by the way) have been, if small, consistent and bold. To incur and cite these criticisms is irrelevant to today’s discussion. I am not here to defend APOC. I am here to talk about why I don’t need to do it.

APOC is our Quilombo. Our keep, our fortress, where we can meet as people from oppressed background and not only share our experiences and how they are relevant to each other, but also how they are relevant in the larger scheme of things. APOC is more than a safe zone for people to feel good about not being in a room without white folk, but is a conscious project of self-determination for people of color. It is a step closer to our freedom as a people and the materialization of the idea that community comes from something in common, something we can share.

No, APOC is no utopia. It is not even close. But that is neither here nor now. We may stumble, we may fall, we may even break our heads wide open. But at least we are walking on our own two feet.

It is pointless for me to try and convince white Anarchists of the need for APOC because white anarchists have not experienced what we a people of color have experienced. It is like trying to convince my boss of the need for Socialism – a more often then not fruitless endeavor.

And while there are white Anarchists out there who remember that only the oppressed can liberate themselves and the end of white supremacy cannot be brought about by white people – there are those that, in their arrogance and shortsightedness, will not yield and cannot tolerate the thought that maybe there is something that Anarchist people of color need to discuss that does not include white people.

And if, for a moment, I thought that APOC needed to be approved by the white anarchist scene that would be the moment in which APOC would lose its appeal to me. Because is not about being accepted, being cherished, being “on the good side” with the white Anarchists – that is the Senzala. It is about self-determination and it is about resistance. It is about creating our own culture, our own analysis and dictating our own future. APOC for me is not about seeking a way to make white people love us, or hate us.

I have to tell you a secret about APOC: it is not about white people at all. It is not, and it should not be ever. I am tired of talking about white people, thinking of white people, analyzing white people and worrying about white people. I want to know what I have in common with my Korean sister and my Guatemalan brother. I want to know about the great struggles for liberation in Uganda and how the Filipino resisted imperalism. What can we learn from each other as people of color? What does my bairro in Rio de Janeiro has in common with a Latino barrio in East Side San Jose?

This is something I wrote for my sisters and brothers at APOC. We need to understand ourselves in order to understand the world around us and be able to fight and destroy the bourgeois plague which eating away our homes, our lives and our cultures.

As a black person, my anarchism is Black Anarchism. As a member of the exploited class, my anarchism is Class-Struggle Anarchism. As a person who wishes for a better future, my anarchism is Anarchist-Communism.

Vamos a ela, porque temos muito, muito para construir.
Não tá morto que peleia!
Viva a Anarquia!

Pedro Ribeiro, a class-struggle anarchist.

From Reforms To Revolution

Ian Martin

Furious Five Revolutionary Collective, San Jose, CA

“Reformist!”  What a dreaded word for any self-professed revolutionary to be attached to.  It is one of those accusatory labels that ends intelligent debate and is designed to intimidate one into silence.  Much like the labels of “communist!” or, more recently, “terrorist!” used by those in power and their propagandists.  These labels serve as ideological “whips” to force someone into the proper mindset, god forbid someone does not spout the proper theories or rhetoric.  It is amazing how much activity is considered “reformist” by some, leaving one to wonder exactly what can be done that is considered revolutionary besides running around with gun and bomb in hand, attending meetings with the necessary scowl, or dancing around a campfire.  Reformist vs. revolutionary.  The eternal debate.  And while we stand around fighting over which actions are which, we accomplish no action, and the world goes to hell.

The Zapatistas, while enjoying support from many people throughout the world, have also met with criticism.  When coming from the radical community, this criticism most often takes the form of, you guessed it, accusations of reformism.  What is the basis for these accusations?  Well, some do not like the fact that the Zapatistas did not try to march on Mexico City after their initial revolt, and that they have not tried to take power.  In fact, they state very plainly that they have no intention of doing so.  As for a march on Mexico City, I would very much like to see those who propose this course of action lead it.  The Mexican Army outnumbers and outguns the Zapatista forces, not to mention that it has the full support of the United States.  American officials have routinely intervened to stop insurrections in the farthest reaches of the globe, so it is safe to say that one in the U.S.’s southern neighbor would engender the harshest response possible.  This is not to say that revolution is impossible in Mexico, but some practicality is necessary.  A Zapatista march on Mexico City in 1994 would have been suicide, and it is unsettling to see certain individuals so willing to throw away lives, especially ones not their own.  As for not wanting to take power, this is a philosophy and mindset to be commended, not derided.  To be unwilling to seize power and impose one’s ways on others is a trait that was sorely lacking in certain other revolutions in the twentieth century.

Criticism from anarchists, however, is most often directed at the Zapatistas because of their simple demands for food, housing, education, health care, land, democracy, liberty, and autonomy.  It may be easy for middle-class rebels to haughtily shrug off these things as “reforms” to be mocked, but to the indigenous peoples of Chiapas, and many others throughout the Global South, these demands are anything but “simple”.  In many cases, the situation is dire, and these reforms may be the difference between survival and destruction, either literally or figuratively.  It’s pretty hard to have a revolution if there is no one to revolt anymore!  Sure, they are reforms in the sense that they are demands made to a government, and do not fundamentally change the economic or political system of Mexico, but they will fundamentally change the situation of the indigenous peoples of Chiapas.  And who can doubt that the Zapatistas’ “reformist” struggle has radicalized many in Mexico, and provided them with the inspiration to make their own stand against those in power?

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, formed in the 1960’s, was also criticized and continues to be criticized to this day as reformist for some of the same reasons as the Zapatistas.  The BPP’s Ten Point Program was indeed a simple statement of desired reforms to strive towards.  But again, the situation of African-Americans then (and now) was extreme, with extraordinary levels of violence, police brutality, infant mortality, poor health, and poverty common.  As the Black Panthers conceived it, the Ten Point Program was a program for survival, to keep the community alive long enough to form some kind of revolutionary movement.  Perhaps some may scoff at demands such as affordable housing that is not squalid, crowded, decaying, and in horrible condition, or not having to be at the whim of capricious, uncaring, and greedy landlords, but to the poor, these things are essential.  It is difficult for any human being to pay attention to and fight against relatively nebulous concepts like militarism and the State when they are forced to fight concretely for the very necessities of life everyday.

I do not defend the Black Panthers with blinders on to their Marxist-Leninist leanings and hierarchal structure, nor by defending the Zapatistas do I necessarily agree with every single aspect of what they do or who they are.  But that is not the issue.  The issue is that people seem to have a misunderstanding of what “reformism” actually is, to the point where they fail to see that reforms, or more accurately the process of fighting for reforms, are a necessary step toward social revolution.  The transformation of anarchism into a counterculture has led to a counterculture mentality, where anarchists worry more about the lifestyle of rebellion and the appearance of rebellion than actually working towards it in any concrete fashion.  Anarchists can spout off until the end of time about the social revolution, but without serious discussion and implementation of a strategy to get there, we are nothing more than a joke.  Its as simple as this: we are here at point A, the society we want is at point B, what steps do we need to take to get there?  Despite how elementary this question is, it is the most neglected in the anarchist discussions of today, at least in the way of any concrete, serious answers to it.  Therefore, this article is my attempt to bring the question to the forefront, and explain why reforms should form an integral part of our revolutionary strategy.

Reforms are vitally important for a whole host of reasons.  One is just to help people in need survive and have a better life in the present.  Both the BPP and Zapatistas, as I mentioned, adhered to this idea and advanced “survival programs”.  While many believe that this is actually an indictment of reforms because it takes the edge off “revolutionary anger”, not only is this a callous and classist argument, often coming from middle-class radicals who do not have to experience this deprivation, but it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the causes of revolution.  Revolutions do not spring from despair or deep deprivation, they actually occur when expectations are rising, there is a belief in a better world, and this belief chafes against the reality of government as a hindrance.

Another necessity if revolution is to occur is that people must be freed from having to fight daily battles for simple things, so that they can then become interested in and join bigger ones.  Reforms are useful for this purpose, such as the 4-hour day advocated by the IWW.  Reforms are also necessary to impart, for lack of a better phrase, revolutionary consciousness in a community.  Many oppressed groups probably feel a bit irritated and annoyed that “radicals” spend so much time on certain subjects and so little time on others, like fighting for people of color and the poor, in a concrete way.  It is one thing to spout off the necessary rhetoric about fighting for the “oppressed masses”, but it is quite another to join them in the battle for rent controls, an end to police brutality, decent housing, and the establishment of social programs.  By fighting with them, one can not only demonstrate that radical philosophies do pertain to issues that concern them, but also can explain how they do so, so that these reforms do not end as merely reforms, but become stepping stones to bigger and bigger battles.  Now, this is not to imply any kind of vanguardist attempt by radicals to come into a community and “educate the ignorant population”.  Notice I said “join the battle”, not “lead the battle”.  But a presence is necessary to establish contacts with communities, and solidify those connections over time.  These kinds of attempts at outreach have been ignored for far too long, when they are the real meat and bones of any attempt at a revolutionary movement.

Many seem to act under the assumption that a population can go from zero to revolutionary in a day.  This does not and will not happen.  It especially will not happen if we go on having protests, meetings, groups, and political discussions and expect people to come to us.  We have to go to them.  We must not force our priorities and pet battles onto them (though we can certainly mention them), but instead must fight for the things that are important and vital to them, even if they are reforms.  Our purpose will be to use these battles to show them their own power.  Many do not even believe that they can win a fight against their landlord, let alone capitalism, the military, and the entire state machinery of the United States of America!  But if they can start winning these smaller skirmishes, then a sense of their own power and ability to effect change will take hold and ferment.  However, as mentioned before, there has to be the constant reminder and push to make sure that reforms, once gained, never satisfy.  Reforms can be problematic, and though I have been hard on those who speak out against reformism, I can sympathize with where their viewpoint comes from.  Oftentimes, once a movement or group has won a reform, they are content and go back to their regular lives.  Indeed, governments and institutions grant reforms for this purpose: to pacify.  And this is exactly why we have to be part of movements fighting for reforms.  To build a revolutionary presence in communities and movements striving towards reforms is the beginning of radicalizing those communities and movements, and placing those reforms in the proper context.  Some scoff at the idea of trying to work within reformist struggles, and proclaim that the only way to achieve change is from the outside, by creating revolutionary organizations.  But there is a necessary newsflash for all: the vast majority of the population will not join revolutionary organizations and does not have a revolutionary mindset.  It is absolutely absurd to expect them to make the effort, as I said, to come seek out these organizations, when they are busy with their own struggles.  Not to say that revolutionary groups do not have a place, they most definitely do, but it is time to go where the fight is.

The ghettoization of anarchism and radical politics has by this point been lamented by many, and for good reason.  Relationship with communities is what makes or breaks a movement for change.  It is an irony that a revolution based on anarchism is the type that needs the broadest support by the most amount of people (otherwise it would be a vanguard group coercing the rest of the population to follow their way – not anarchist), yet some (not all) of its adherents seem to abhor the idea of associating with “regular” people and rarely make attempts to establish a presence in anywhere but their own circles.  There is a woeful lack of outreach.  A lot of this has to do with not wanting to be “reformist”; well let me put those fears to rest.  Fighting for reforms is not inherently reformist, and is indeed the basis and springboard for revolution.  If nothing else, fighting with others for needed reforms can inspire sympathy.  Say, Anarchist A fights with a community against the demolishing of housing to make way for condominiums.  From now on, even if Person A from that community hears bad things in the media about anarchists, maybe now he or she will say, “You know, I don’t think that’s true, Anarchist A was a good person and fought with us”.  The media and government paint anarchists and radicals as irrational fanatics, basically inhuman and unnatural, which makes it easy to suppress us without public outcry.  We only make this more effective by remaining aloof and being “abnormal” in most people’s eyes, but we can dispel this misconception by simply being around.

Ideally, the “reforms” we fight for should actually be independent institutions outside the State that meet a community’s needs.  While supposedly fighting for reforms, in this case the community would actually be establishing self-sufficiency and embarking on the road to the transformation of society.  In working with communities, not only is our goal to demonstrate to people their own power, but also to give them a taste of the society that could be built with that power.  There is a wrong-headed notion going around that people are clueless about the ills of society and we need to just bombard them with enough logic and facts until they see the light.  Instead of focusing so much time on illustrating the various problems, which many people know about already, we should be focusing on convincing people that an alternative is possible and that they have the strength to make it a reality.  Most people are attached to the current system more out of a lack of faith in the possibility of an alternative than any love for it.  The key to revolutionary consciousness is sparking that fire in people’s hearts that makes them believe in a new society, want it with all their soul, and feel that it is within their power.  Unfortunately, even in left and anarchist circles, there dominates the Western fetish of logic and rationality.  We need people who believe in revolution with their hearts and not just with their heads, and in fact, that’s the only way in which we can truly reach them.

The final point is just to say that there is a current in anarchism that views anarchists as some sort of enlightened, elite group separate from everyone else.  But the fact is that the people are not out there somewhere, we are the people.  Many anarchists have class and skin privilege and quite rightly assert that attempts by them to enter a community made up of people of color would be ineffective to say the least and likely resented.  But this is not an excuse for inaction or maintaining the insulated cult of anarchism.  There is much work that anyone can do; it’s just a matter of seeing where one fits into the struggle.  There should be no place in anarchism for those who despise the “masses” as cattle.

Huey P. Newton said that “revolution is a process, not a conclusion”, and I agree wholeheartedly with that statement.  What it means is that revolution is happening everyday, and we can fight for it everyday.  Fighting for reforms is not preparing for a “future revolution” tomorrow; it is fighting the revolution now.  We must stress effective actions that accomplish concrete objectives instead of miring ourselves in alienating ideological debates, symbolic guilt-assuaging protests, or choosing battles that accomplish little in furthering the transformation of society.  Revolution is not a course of study where one must read the proper textbooks, it is not the basis for a new elitism and hierarchy of more and less revolutionary individuals; it is the cry of the human spirit for freedom and justice whose language is passion and action.

Building a Revolutionary Movement: Why Anarchist-Communist Organization?

 

by Adam Weaver

Over the past few years anarchist-communist organizations have been budding across the globe from South Africa South America to North America. Yet few people, even within anarchist and revolutionary circles, have a good grasp of the beliefs, motivations and purposes behind this movement. Often times with an emerging movement it is not until the egg hatches, producing concrete and visible results, that people begin to give it its name and tell its story.  This article aims to give a brief outline the lessons to be learned from our revolutionary histories and show the roots from which the current movement of Anarchist-Communists in North America and world-wide stems from and further argue the case for this movements vision of a coherent Anarchist-Communist organization based on a strategic orientation towards social movements of the working class and oppressed.  While hard to believe now, the ideas of anarchism once held center stage in the mass revolutionary movements during the turn of the century on every continent. Through labor unions, cultural centers, women’s groups and popular newspapers, the libertarian ideal of a free, horizontal socialism created by the people inspired millions of people across the globe. Anarchism and expressed through revolutionary and anarcho-syndicalism were the dominant revolutionary ideology of mass movements in most countries, while the vast majority of the Marxist current was organized into reformist social democratic parties that were oriented towards electoral change, or, “socialism at the ballot box.” Marxist writer Eric Hobsbawm notes that: It became hard to recall that in 1905-14, the marxist left [sic] had in most countries been on the fringe if the revolutionary movement, the main body of Marxists had been identified with a de facto non-revolutionary social democracy, while the bulk of the revolutionary left was anarcho-syndicalist, or at least much closer to the ideas and mood of anarcho-syndicalism than to that of classical Marxism. Marxism was henceforth [after the Russian Revolution] identified with actively revolutionary movements… Anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism entered upon a dramatic and uninterrupted decline.[1] But as history has shown in numerous countries, despite the popularity of anarchist ideas and the high level of involvement and even leadership of anarchists in the popular struggles of their day, anarchists were not able to effectively organize themselves during important revolutionary moments. The loosely knit anarchist movement was not able to develop the strategic and tactical unity necessary to deal with massive state repression, moves toward state accommodationism of social movements (such as advent of the welfare state or government mediation of workplace struggles) or the rise of Bolshevikism. Together these forces sounded the decline of anarchism and the role of anarchists in mass movements, along with a number of anarchist militants who were swayed into the forming Communist Parties of the early 20’s. The Russian Revolution of 1917 profoundly swayed the orientation of the global revolutionary movements towards the statist politics of Marxist-Leninism. Many began to see Russia, under Lenin, Trotsky and later Stalin’s leadership, as the leading hope of revolution. The new soviet state opened up training institutes, offered advisors and contributed financial resources to emerging Communist Parties throughout the global south, vastly expanding the once small role that Marxism held throughout the world.[2] This factor of Marxism’s growth has unfortunately yet to be sufficiently examined and taken into consideration in looking at the origins of Marxism globally.   By the early 1930’s the majority of the revolutionary movements, with the great exception of Spain, were strongly influenced if not in the hands of the Communist Parties. The Communist Parties affiliated with the Third International, or Comintern, with Stalin at the helm, directed or created strong poles in the ideology of the oppressed and working class movements in numerous countries through the popular front strategy which led to their historic defeat. Where the CP’s were “successful” in erecting Marx’s idea and Lenin’s model of dictatorship of the proletariat, the result was dictatorial state-capitalist regimes that oppressed workers, ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples. Now that the dust has settled on the great struggles of the 20th century, the weight of Marxist and reformist narratives of history have buried most of the spectacular history and struggles of anarchists worldwide. But now as a new epoch of 21st century struggle is beginning, signs of resurgence are surfacing in response to new crises and popular movements are again bursting forth with new examples of popular rebellion and organization. In this climate a few dedicated individuals have begun to brush off the dust and bring these stories of anarchism and popular movements to light again.

The new world in our hearts.

We are standing at a moment of historic juncture, a moment that promises to bring ever more frightening realities. Yet, with this frightening reality comes the opportunity for new movements to resist imposed social crises and reshape society in a new image. Following the Cold War and the collapse of the communist ‘alternative’, the US was left as the sole world superpower. It has now begun to enact, through treaty or tank, the globalization of hyper-exploitative capitalism and US hegemony into every corner of the world. Globally the economy is in shambles. Following Asia’s economic crises, a typhoon has carried across the pacific, hitting South America. Now reaching America, millions are jobless or being squeezed into the low wage service and retail sector, while the economy is floated by massive military spending and an accompanying national debt. Further, the extremist leadership of President Bush, has expanded America’s agenda to one of empire building through neo-colonial militarism abroad and US protectionism at home, putting the US into potential conflict with other emerging powers such as the EU and China. Important reforms of previous struggles such as welfare, social security, accessible public education and affirmative action are being slashed or nearly eliminated.  The years ahead will likely see a growth in massive social movements challenging these crises of unemployment, war, public services, economic restructuring and concurrent repression and serious anarchists will be challenged to put their beliefs into practice and turn these coming rebellions into international social revolution. Already we can some of this in new Anarchist-Communist organizations that have formed and in the syndicalist unions in Europe and the US that are reviving out of dormancy.   This requires not only a new analysis of our current world and the realities of the oppressed and working classes, but a strategy of how the revolutionary forces will act as catalysts towards social revolution, which inevitably leads to the question of how these forces will organize themselves as a vehicle to implement and undertake this strategy.  Traditionally the movement of Anarchist-Communism within anarchism has defined itself by fighting for a positive vision of social revolution. They have avoided the pitfalls of moving into reformist mutualism and while involved in the social movements, rejected “pure” anarcho-syndicalism that denied any necessity for separate anarchist organization. Within the FAI of Spain, the Makhnovistas of the Ukraine, the PLM of Mexico and the anarchist federations of South America, Anarchist-Communism represents the leading ideological force of these social revolutionaries.   While classic Anarchist-Communist beliefs were built on the simple theorem of, “From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs,” the new emerging movement of Anarchist-Communists is expanding their framework of analysis. While anarchism offers timeless principles, much of its political, social and organizational theory is outdated and thus serious anarchists have begun the process of historical revision and reexamining concepts of race, gender, social oppression, nationalism and imperialism.

The Basis of Organization

Based on these historical conclusions and assessment of the current situation emerges the rising Anarchist-Communist movement within anarchism based around two central themes: 1) the organization of militants into a coherent federation and 2) the interaction and active participation of anarchists within the social movements. While these ideas have only recently come into North American anarchism, they are historically rooted in the anarchist movement and have formed independently in different countries. For example the same concept was called “organizational dualism” in the Italian anarchist movement of the 20’s and a similar concept has emerged in the South American anarchist movement they call “especificismo.”[3] Today’s current borrows loosely from the Platformist current in the belief of rejecting an anarchist catch-all federation combining different tendencies within anarchism, called a “synthesis federation,” and instead advocating an organization based on common ideological belief. This type of federation interacts in ideas with the broader anarchist movement and may work with similar minded anarchists, but does not seek to speak for, represent or recruit the whole anarchist movement.     In the ‘Organizational Platform of the Libertarian Communists,’ document written by Nestor Makhno and the Dielo Trouda (Workers Cause) group after the Russian Revolution, the term they coined to describe their proposal for anarchist federation is one based on “theoretical and tactical unity.” This does not mean having a rigid, all encompassing ideological hegemony within the organization (as many Marxist-Leninist and especially Maoist parties do), but rather the organization brings its members together to develop a common strategy towards building a revolutionary movement. This important strategizing work can only occur in an organization with a high degree of trust, commitment and political unity. Theoretical and tactical unity is not something imposed, but is an ideal that is always strived towards and developed out of a process of critical thinking, strategizing, action and evaluation. It is a concept born out of necessity as revolutionaries realize that a successful revolution requires a strategy along with dedicated work. Of course the way particular groups implement a strategy may be different because of local circumstances and different approaches.   This process of developing a revolutionary strategy and ideological discussion within the organization allows the members and groups who make up the federation to constantly be engaging themselves in the process of revolutionary theory and practice. Then by taking their discussions, reflections and conclusions into media forms, such as the federation publication, it creates more discussion and influence within the larger revolutionary and social movements. Further, the federation can act as a historical well of experience for new militants brought into the movement and allow the members to hold themselves accountable to the mistakes they make.  Based on the analysis and strategy of the organization, day-to-day work is focused around working within broader social movements. While social movements are broadly defined as movements of affected groups of people brought together for social change, the social movements that Anarchist-Communists specifically refer to are movements of oppressed people that seek not only social change, but a breaking down of existing structures and oppression. They must have the potential to counter pose oppressed people’s own collective power and vision (also called dual power). The movements should be horizontal, participant led and democratic in structure as much as possible. They should be oriented towards direct action and more importantly create the type of conditions that transform the participants into self-conscious thinkers and organizers amongst their peers. The classic example of social movements is radical labor organizing, but contemporary examples could also be working class student and community organizing.  The Brazilian FAG (Federação Anarquista Gaúcha or Gaucha Anarchist Federation) describes their view on anarchists involvement in social movements: On the political-ideological level (political groups, including the FAG) should enhance the social and popular movements, but without trying to make it “anarchist”, more militant. The social movement[s] should not have a political ideology, the role should be to unite and not belong to a political party. In social movements it is possible to unite militants and build a unified base, which is not possible in an ideological level.[4] This is counter posed to the work that most of the US left is engaged in of cyclical activist work which lacks strategy and is divorced from everyday experience and relevance to oppressed and working class people. Most of this work amounts to issue based advocacy by small groups of political activists that orient themselves to other political activists. The Anarchist-Communist vision of social movements is also counter-posed to those movements that while seemingly popular and seemingly based on struggles of oppressed and working class people, are leadership orchestrated, top-down movements where participants are passive actors of their own fate or where a movements true function is acting as a conveyor belt of electoral or party politics. Unfortunately too many anarchists find themselves plowing every garden but their own and doing this very type of work. The role of the Anarchist-Communists is not to wrestle the leadership of movements into their hands, which assumes a presumptuous leadership of the masses or vanguardist role, but to work as a catalyst of ideas and action within. Like baking soda to vinegar, a catalyst works to create a reaction when it interacts with something else. Anarchist-Communists would play key roles as active participants, helping push the social movements forward in organization, strength and militancy. They would also work to maintain the popular character by arguing against electoral politics, their accompanying party organizations and vanguardist elements.

In Conclusion

Just as history is putting everyday people into the line of fire, it is forcing them to step up to the plate to resist the attacks of capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy. But these attacks and the growing resistance are neither isolated events, but are all elements of historical forces at work. These forces are also calling forth the ideals inspired by anarchism and Anarchist-Communism: that of a society reshaped in the image of a popular, horizontal socialism created by the people. As revolutionaries our moment is now and we cannot afford, nor can all of our people and communities, to abdicate our responsibility and ignore the lessons of our histories. We must accept this challenge by coherently organizing ourselves and putting our ideal into practice of mass, popular and militant social movements that will have the power to bring about the social revolution.


[1] As quoted by Arif Dirlik, Anarchism and the Chinese Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 2

[2] Citing just a few examples of China, Vietnam and Cuba:

John King Fairbank, The Great Chinese Revoltuion (San Francisco: Harper Perenial, 1987), 208, 212

William J. Duiker, Ho Chi Minh, A Life (NY, Hyperion: 2000), 89

Frank Fernandez Cuban Anarchism (Tuscon, AZ: See Sharp Press, 2001), 55

[3] The Global Influence of Platformism Today (Johannesburg, South Africa: Zabalaza Books, 2003), 24 (Interview with Italian Federaione dei Comunisti Anarchici for  Organizational Dualism), 50 (Interview with Brazilian Federação Anarquista Gaúcha for especificismo) www.nefac.net or www.zabalaza.net/zababooks

[4] Ibid, 50

RACE, GENDER AND CLASS

Structure of the global elite and World Capitalism

Let’s put one lie to rest for all time: the lie that men are oppressed, too, by sexism – the lie that there can be such thing as ‘men liberation’ groups. Oppression is something that one group of people commits against another group specifically because of a ‘threatening’ characteristic shared by the latter group – skin color or sex or age etc. The oppressors are indeed fucked up by being masters (racism hurts whites, sexual stereotypes are harmful to men) but those masters are not oppressed. Any master has the alternative of divesting himself of sexism or racism – the oppressed have no alternative – for they have no power—but to fight. In the long run, Women’s Liberation will of course free men, but, in the short run, is going to cost men a lot of privilege, which no one gives up willingly or easily. Sexism is not the fault of women; kill your fathers, not your mothers.

Robin Morgan

I look at their faces, I see reflection and masks that sometimes repeat my own in a strange cyclic pattern of power. Because in here, I am but a wage-slave, condemned to sweating and hurting for eight bucks an hour, forced to smile and accept condescend behavior from the all-smiling, ever merry elite of the capital. Out there, they might call me a brother, an equal. We are not.

The system of class and the European system of white dominance and colonialism fused to became one single straight brute force, a giant juggernaut that tramples over the working-class worldwide and its two legs are racism and sexism.

Let us be realistic.

While I work at Stanford University, serving food for the sons of the elite and the future elite, it is increasingly strange for me to realize that this elite sometimes has skin darker than mine, accent thicker than mine, visible cultural roots sometimes more apparent than mine. The strength in which this realization affects me cannot be easily described – it is an eye-opener and is a mind narrower, it is both an epiphany as it is of such an obscurity. This multicolored, multicultural bourgeoisie is always the enemy and sometimes the most unexpected and always undesired ally, which forces its “diversity” and its “oppressed situation” down my throat, in an obscene mockery of the plight of the workers of the world.

Let us be realistic.

Racism – white dominance, is not an American phenomenon. The “white race” supports a global system of racial inequality and prejudice where, worldwide, the white male has a hegemonic dominance. It is the new capitalist model, and it is the old. Imperialism is a stream that never dried because it is vital for the World Capitalism.

THE WORLD ELITE – WORLD CAPITALISM

The capitalist globalization process that everyday kills and destroys the lives of millions and millions of people around the globe serves the political, social and economic agenda of a very well structured global elite. This global elite is composed essentially of capitalist white males, power-hungry and with no desire whatsoever of relinquish or divide power. It is paramount to their institutions of power to ensure the security of the ‘invisibility’ of the fact that the elite of the world is composed of one class, one race and one gender. This elite controls the levels of government and the levels of  business. They are the church (the moral authority) and they are the creators of culture. They are the philosophers, the educators. They are too the most pernicious and dangerous group of people.

This elite has across the centuries used the divisions and social inequalities in society. In fact, they are the creators and the maintainers of this oppressive structure, and the sole beneficiaries of it. Through a structured and systemic misogynist, racist, homophobic, brutal capitalist protocol, they ensure the maintenance of their global empire and especially, the maintenance of their privilege domain over the majority of the people on earth.

It is, it always was, in the interest of that elite that we, the people, do not understand their affairs and could have no access to their domains. The institutions of race, class and gender are notably set to the advancement and comfort of these people and the exploitation of others.

This elite maintains nowadays a global system of exploitation, a structure that interlocks racism, sexism and “traditional” capitalist exploitation – which, for lack of a better word, I shall call World Capitalism.

Traditional Marxist and class struggle analysis have always had a very bad understanding of the race and gender – the concept that those two systems of exploitation were a “fruit” of capitalist society and would be eliminated when the class struggle is resolved fails to analytically criticize a culture based in racism and sexism – both of which came into the picture way before capitalism was around – and how the power structure of privilege does not have to be ratified by the police, the capitalists or even the State. Culture alone can be a catalyst of exploitation and submission, and the change and the complete revolution in the bourgeoisie social fabric cannot be done by simply taking the bourgeois out of the picture.

The understanding of the concept of privilege and how privilege imposes itself is necessary to understand why is that racism and sexism are so strong in our societies, why is that we to fight for the “right” of getting jobs (not goods jobs, just jobs in general), why it is two or three times scarier for us to walk at night, why is that, even when economically would make sense to alleviate the tension around race and gender – our society is adamant in keeping those tensions alive and burning.

This elite beneficiates threefold from the system of World Capitalism – the system devised, planned and structure around the white male bourgeois privilege, a system that connects the different levels of exploitation in one single machine.

RACE

Different from others, I firmly believe that the structure of the World Capitalism could not do without racism and sexism. The reasons for the existence of this two can be slightly different but the end result is the same – the submission of the oppressed levels of the people to the elite of the capitalist society.

For the purpose of this analysis, racism and sexism shall be broadened to comprehend a multitude of other correlated subjects that are intrinsically tied to and share the same roots of those concepts. Racism, in this essay, refers (unless noted) to race dominance and privilege, national identity, nationalism, imperialism, colonialism and cultural repression. All those share a basic identity of a dominating ethnic/national group and a subordinated one.

To understand Race and Capitalism in a broader sense of the American concept of race, it is paramount to us to analyze race in its historical context.

Racism in Europe started before Capitalism. The feudal lords and the crown of Spain (absolutist and mercantilist) already obsessed over the concept of “limpieza de sangre”, the purity of blood. This concept became strong in Spain in the 1400’s, when the Spaniards fought against the Moors invaders. A national liberation struggle, if you like.

These concepts of race and the purity of blood, however, were deeply ingrained in European culture. Europe was a continent driven by conquest and tribal wars. The Romans regarded the tribes of Germans and Francs to be barbarians, brutes of low intelligence and destined to be submitted to the rule of the roman fasciae.

Examples run back in history ad nauseaum, in demonstrating a racist culture and a racist system as an integral part of the European culture. Why should we be shocked that they, when spreading their empire, spread too their racist system?

It is sometimes a fairly common misconception that other cultures had no racist background until the arrival of the Europeans. That is not true. Long before Europe, the Americas saw war for territory become more and more a creed of race.

What seems then to be the purpose of racism? In classical dialectical materialistic analysis, the constant struggle over power between forces of society shapes the format of the future and the present of the said society. In the case of the disappearance of race and gender in our society, the only struggle to be faced would be the class war – and against a united working class, the capitalist are bound to lose. The need of a different struggle, the need of race and gender inequality for the capitalist is to engage the working class in different battles, to divide and conquer it.

Based on that, one could argue that, in the long run, racism has always been a structure designed to maintain the power of a certain class over another by creating a platform of “equality” of sorts, making them “brothers” of the oppressed class. This definition of racism carries more weight than we can initially imagine, but it fails to recognize that racism can outlive class oppression – and be still the source of power to a few that would dominate the hierarchy that from that would emerge.

Racism and Sexism are more culturally rooted in the world than Capitalism, more than the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Some cultures are feudal systems, other monarchic dictatorships (But I deny the Marxist evolutionism of societies in the sense of feudal-to-capitalist-to-communist-to-free-socialist as being an evolutionary process that is absolute to any society). Racism and Sexism are two paramount structures of domination with which the world dominant class maintains its power, and, without them, the structure of World Capitalism would collapse.

It is part of the strategy of the global elite to actively support and maintain white dominance worldwide.

The idea that white supremacy is an American phenomenon, that it is a national issue to be dealt nationally, and that racism in the U.S. have origins in American Capitalism is, in essence, a very American idea. At the same time, the complex aspects of race in the U.S. and the current debate on racism and classism might be the catalyst for the change in the perception of race and white dominance.

Global white dominance appears in two different aspects: privilege and de facto ruling.

The privilege of the white race is an absolute in the world’s politics and economics; nowhere in the face of the world are people of European descent the oppressed minority (or majority) to an elite of color. The “white race” enjoys a privilege that does not falter by geographic means.

The white colonial/imperial power stretched itself  through the process of capitalist globalization. The consolidation of global capitalism is not only rooted in racism but dependant on it. From Brazil to India to Mexico, the lighter skin carries a lighter burden and occupies the higher place.

The de facto ruling of a white elite that controls the global capitalist state enforces the privilege of the “white race”. Transnational corporate forces are massively concentrated in the U.S. and Europe and so are the powerful nation-states. The “white race” enjoys a position of privilege in these two segments.

Token gains on race and gender are not so much to pacify race and gender struggles, as it is to foment further struggle. The idea is to give the exploited a little taste of what they could get, but to make it clear that would have to carry a certain burden in order to get it. Just like a mule that tasted a piece of the carrot once is bound to want to eat the whole carrot, and will work with all its strength to reach the unreachable carrot, and carry the weight of the cart in its back. But, apparently contradicting themselves, the capitalist class shows its contempt by race and gender equality by openly attacking any form of improvement in the situation of the oppressed genders and races. This makes the structure, in the eyes of people of color, a racist one, instead of a purely classist one. It is necessary to keep people thinking that a) gains can be achieved inside the structure and b) racism is everywhere (which is true, but it needs to be really thrown at people’s faces all the times). The objective of this exercise is to demonstrate both that power is in the side in the elite and that the oppressed situation can improve if only they submit enough so the elite do not seem them as a threat but as something they can thoroughly control, while at the same time they need to keep the distance between those that have privilege, and those who do not.

It is interesting to see that the elite of color too benefits from the racist structure, and if racism were to simply be wiped out of the whole scenario, they would be in bad waters. It is of their interest that the white elite dominates – that would eagerly try to take over if they thought that they could do it without tearing the fabric of social control that the white capitalist elite maintains.

The racist structure of the system allows the elites of color to maintain their power and give them other possibilities. Imperialism has been used as a shield by every single dictator that had its power threatened by the bigger shark, from Castro to Hussein to Milosevic, dragging into direct or indirect the defense of their oppressive regimen millions of people of color, working class people and anti-imperialist militants (this is not a justification to the U.S. actions, is just an example of how racist structure benefits not only the white elite and is therefore supports directly or indirectly by the elites Worldwide). It is a case of opportunism, where oppressors assume an “oppressed” mask to defend themselves against the taking of dominance against another.

A very concrete example of that is the role that Brazil plays now in the FTAA meetings. Lula and the PT (Brazilian Worker’s Party) have been repeatedly trying to sell this image of a defiant Brazil, which is concerned with the imperialist role that the U.S. would play in South America in case the FTAA gets approved. What they are really concerned is that Brazil might lose its hegemonic dominance over the South American market, and then, if the U.S. does not open its market to Brazilian products, the Brazilian elite of land owners would lose power. They are not concerned with the effects of the FTAA on labor, environment and the people. It is just very convenient that those issues show up so they can rally public support.

This pattern repeats itself around the globe. Besides, the majority of this “elite of color” are actually descendent of Europeans. Just look at South America, the diversity and richness of races and cultures in it – then look at the elite of South America, a very white and European class of bourgeois. The elites of Africa, while not European in skin, are mostly educated and raised in Europe or the U.S. The pattern repeats itself.

In maintaining the white supremacy, the elites of color try to escape guilt-free. In the fight for racial and gender equality, the working class remains bound. It is not that these fights are not important; if anything, alongside with class, they are the most important ones. It is only that, without the fall of the Capitalist system as a whole, any fight becomes just filler.

Other part of the elite of color takes a more aggressive position in the defense of the interests of the World Capitalist elite; the elites of Japan thrive over the complete subjugation to the American Empire. Make no mistakes, this is hardly a submissive elite – they were imperial forces for centuries and held an elitist racial position over their neighbors. However, in this game they play the subordinate elite because is very much in their interest to keep the status quo, the rest is inconsequential. Japan, defeated on WWII, is reborn as a Global potency, but in submission to the white empire. Their pop culture, their dream, their means of production – everything about modern Japan cries – slave!, but this condition of slave to the elite of the World Capitalism asserts their hegemony and dominance over other nations – and more than that, it asserts the dominance of the Japanese elite.

The Left Worldwide have, for decades now, struggled with race and class and gender – which liberation should take precedence over another – without realizing that if any take precedence, the whole fight in itself is almost a moot point. Racism is not only a pillar of class oppression, its is one of the single bases of oppression itself.

GENDER

In this essay, when referring to Sexism, it is incorporated in the concept (unless noted) issues like – women’s rights, women’s position in the bottom of the scale of the capitalist society, homophobia and male violence against women.

Sexism – Male dominance, is the less addressed and consequentially the most widespread system of oppression in the world. The roots of sexism in societies cannot be easily traced and I will not even attempt to dwell in its history to avoid any fallacy. However, in this essay, we shall analyze sexism in its relationship with Global Capitalism and the struggle for liberation.

The revolution of the Capitalists was a revolution of economics and politics – not social. The French Revolution, the fall of the Absolutists in Europe, the social changes that followed were design to enforce the rule of the bourgeoisie and strengthen the influence and power of this rising class against outside forces. Representative democracy, liberty and freedom and all the other promises that the revolution made to the people were designed according to which form would create a favorable atmosphere for the establishment of capitalism.

It is interesting then to notice that the revolutionary leaders were quick to crush the women’s movement that was born during the revolution. The establishment of Capitalism could not allow the development of such a movement, especially since, in order to satisfy what those women were demanding, a distribution of power was necessary. One pamphlet distributed by those women during the revolution was called Request for Women to be Admitted to the Estates-General, and had the following quote: “”Man is born egotist…he reduces us to managing his household affairs and to partaking of his rare favors when he feels so inclined.” Nothing could be more true and it exemplifies the relationship between the elite and women – the relationship of power and the need of a structure that ‘justifies’ and maintain such a relationship.

The strained relationship between Capitalism and women have a lot to do, in a modern setting, with the fact that the elites of the World are – no matter their “color” – a oppressive majority of males. The male dominance is not only a “cultural trait” as it is one of applying a simple rule of power – those hoe have power will not give it up for free. Concentrated power is limited – the more you share the less you have and the elites of the world will not relinquish power for women.

The relationship of power between men and women needs to transcend race and class in other to be effective. Albeit one could argue that this is just another classist plot of the bourgeois to keep their economic rule over the working class, it is very interesting to notice that misogynist thinking is part (in different levels) of a multitude of cultures, even before they got in contact with each other.  Hunter-gather societies had their good share of misogyny – they were hardly the utopia that certain people picture them to be. The dominant gender in our societies has been exploiting women’s work and women in general for millennia after millennia. Sexism is not a capitalist invention – it is not accident that the bourgeoisie power is composed essentially of males, this is merely a consequence of the fact that even when the class struggle between the nobility and the bourgeois aristocrats was being fought in the French Revolution, in one thing they agreed – that was a fight between men, to see which men was going to be the ruler. It is obvious then why the views of women like Olympe de Gouges, a French Revolutionary woman, were so threatening to them that she was guillotined in 1793 as a reactionary royalist. Robespierre and Marat and the men of the Revolution were most certainly terrified of losing their power for a woman that advocated not only the necessity of full legal equality between the genders, job opportunities for women, schooling for girls and the creation of a national theater were only plays written by women could be performed, but the creation too of the National Assembly of Women, emphasizing the need for women of self-governing and equal power.

Gouges understood that – because the culture of sexism – a structure that “embraced” men and women as “equals” would do nothing to actually satisfy women need and desire for liberation – it would be a token act. The need of self organization for women came from the realization that in a social structure, every single relationship is one of power, and if the social structure was constructed by men, it would be inherently sexist. Only women could devise a structure that would really beneficiate women.

Sexism always had a condescending tone to its rhetoric, a view that men’s subjugation of women was actually a necessity for the welfare of women. What is interesting is that this view is deeply ingrained in the social fabric of our society, and too ensure this, it is necessary that all men participate consciously or unconsciously in terrorizing women – much like the State, the function of manhood is to terrify women into accepting men’s ‘protection’ for the price of their total submission. As Susan Brownmiller puts it, rape “is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear”. Domestic violence, violence against women and rape are forms of intimidation and bullying through which, firstly, male dominance is imposed, and second, male ‘protection’ is made ‘necessary’. Culture reinforces the dominant role of the male and its ‘need’ of violence.

The cult of violent behavior by men, against women and against each other, is more than just assertion of power against the recipient of violence – it is too part of the engine that feeds of the terrorizing of women to keep them submissive. Is the double use of the rod – it can beat you up or beat someone else to protect you. And, as Susan Griffin notes in the book Rape – The All-American Crime, “if the professional rapist is to be separated from the average dominant heterosexual [male], it may be mainly a quantitative difference.” The level to which dominance and violence are exerted to the domination of women may vary in quantity, but not in substance.

The idea of our social fabric reinforcing gender roles of violence/passivity is to create an atmosphere of fear so overwhelming that the mere presence of the male becomes threatening. Male attitudes – tone of voice, way of sitting, conversation, clothing – everything is designed in order to keep women guessing and consequentially, afraid. Why is it then surprising that our movement and our spaces are normally male dominated if why do not critically analyze the balance of power in the attitudes and presence of men and women inside the movement?

A woman in a room full of men, no matter how strong, outspoken and determined she is, and no matter how much the men are determined to treat her as an equal – is definitively in a position of less power and thus will not have the same weight in her voice, unless structural changes are made to prevent that. And with the institutions are not conscious of this power imbalance and do not work actively in reverting this situation – the maintenance of the status quo is inevitable.

The oppression of women by the working class males is a phenomenon that can be traced back to almost every single culture. To see the feminist struggle as separate and a “division of forces” of the working class is a ludicrous statement – a reflection of a poor understanding of the nature of oppression and the nature of the working class.

Indeed, to separate these three fights is to divide the working class, but to set priority in any of them and have the others as a tag along is to totally destroy any hopes of liberation that the working class might have.

The gender-based oppression serves a political purpose too. It serves the elites that women have no political power for the same reason that it serves the elites that people of color do not enjoy political power. There is, however, a difference between the gender elite and the elite of color. The male-dominated elite of color is, globally speaking, fairly stronger and definitively more aggressive in its pursue of power than the gender-elite. The gender-elite lives in a much more subordinate position (to their male counterparts) than the elite of color – thus putting them in a closer position with the women of the working class. An abused woman will identify with the plight of another one – independent of class or race; a queer person can identify with persecution and prejudice.

It is however, very important to notice that, empathy and de facto equality are a far cry from each other, and while the bourgeois women might have in common with the working-class women their subordinate position, they are enemies of class and therefore not allies.

CONCLUSION

The union of the working class in one fight will not happen without the acknowledgement of the levels of oppression inside the working class itself and the actual facing and destroying of the power imbalance in the movement that proposes to change the reality of oppression lived by the working class nowadays. A forced union of the working class, with disregard of the real issues of gender and race except in a superficial way is bound to fail.

A world revolution is necessary – a complete change of structure, a social, economical and political revolution that destroys class, gender and racial oppression.

I disagree with the idea that the class struggle should take priority over the race and gender struggle – this centralist and elitist view of disregarding the concerns of women and people of color have been seen thousands of time before, and we have been betrayed and stomped on enough to realize that those with power will not relinquish it, it must be taken from them. Only the oppressed can liberate the oppressed, and it is vital that we understand that people of color, women, queers and all the other oppressed people inside the working class have not only this motto repeated in their heads like a mantra, but that they actually need to exercise that line inside the movement and draw their own conclusions of where they want to go and what needs to be done.

I too disagree with the idea that race and gender should be taken a priority over the class struggle – the simple idea that race and gender issues could be solved inside the capitalist system in any frame is simply ludicrous. Inside the capitalist system, we have no real say in the affairs of business and very little (in the most optimistic of the views) in the affairs of the government. A feminist or a race movement that did not have as priority to smash the capitalist system would fall sort on its legs – gender and race justice are impossible inside the capitalist system. The capitalist system is not only a system based on class dominance, but one too that maintain women and people of color inside that class and oppressed inside of it.

The means must be coherent with the ends. A movement that disregards any of the oppression-systems is bound to be limited and to create a society based on elitism. Unless the movement is committed to be one that will be addressing those three issues seriously and not sidestepping it with “we are all equal” condescending behavior, its range is going to be limited and it will turn off people that see themselves as not only working-class, but feel other pressing form of oppression crushing them.

It is time to reevaluate the movements approach on issues of race, gender and sexuality – it is good to see that there is a movement of people that are already working in that direction. It is time for us to have a revolution in ourselves to change our perception on what a real liberation of the people means.

I see their faces – their smiling brown faces – and there is nothing of me in there. We shall build a different World.

Especifismo: The Anarchist Praxis of Building Popular Movements and Revolutionary Organization in South America

by Adam Weaver

Throughout the world anarchist involvement within mass movements as well the development of specifically anarchist organizations is on the upsurge. This trend is helping anarchism regain legitimacy as a dynamic political force within movements and in this light, Especifismo, a concept born out of nearly 50 years of anarchist experiences in South America, is gaining currency world-wide. Though many anarchists may be familiar with many of Especifismo’s ideas, it should be defined as an original contribution to anarchist thought and practice.

The first organization to promote the concept of Especifismo—then more a practice than a developed ideology—was the Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU), founded in 1956 by anarchist militants who embraced the idea of an organization which was specifically anarchist. Surviving the dictatorship in Uruguay, the FAU emerged in the mid-1980s to establish contact with and influence other South American anarchist revolutionaries. The FAU’s work helped support the founding of the Federação Anarquista Gaúcha (FAG), the Federação Anarquista Cabocla (FACA), and the Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro (FARJ) in their respective regions of Brazil, and the Argentinean organization Auca (Rebel).

While the key concepts of Especifismo will be expanded upon further in this article, it can be summarized in three succinct points:

The need for specifically anarchist organization built around a unity of ideas and praxis.

The use of the specifically anarchist organization to theorize and develop strategic political and organizing work.

Active involvement in and building of autonomous and popular social movements, which is described as the process of “social insertion.”

A Brief Historical Perspective

While only coming onto the stage of Latin American anarchism within the last few decades, the ideas inherent within Especifismo touch on a historic thread running within the anarchist movement internationally. The most well known would be the Platformist current, which began with the publishing of the “Organizational Platform of the Libertarian Communists.” This document was written in 1926 by former peasant army leader Nestor Makhno, Ida Mett and other militants of the Dielo Trouda (Workers’ Cause) group, based around the newspaper of the same name (Skirda, 192-213). Exiles of the Russian revolution, the Paris-based Dielo Trouda criticized the anarchist movement for its lack of organization, which prevented a concerted response to Bolshevik machinations towards turning the workers’ soviets into instruments of one-party rule. The alternative they proposed was a “General Union of Anarchists” based on Anarchist-Communism, which would strive for “theoretical and tactical unity” and focus on class struggle and labor unions.

Other similar occurrences of ideas include “Organizational Dualism,” which is mentioned in historical documents of the 1920’s Italian anarchist movement. Italian anarchists used this term to describe the involvement of anarchists both as members of an anarchist political organization and as militants in the labor movement (FdCA). In Spain, the Friends of Durruti group emerged to oppose the gradual reversal of the Spanish Revolution of 1936 (Guillamon). In “Towards a Fresh Revolution” they emulated some of the ideas of the Platform, critiquing the CNT-FAI’s gradual reformism and collaboration with the Republican government, which they argued contributed to the defeat of the anti-fascist and revolutionary forces. Influential organizations in the Chinese anarchist movement of the 1910’s, such as the Wuzhengfu-Gongchan Zhuyi Tongshi Che (Society of Anarchist-Communist Comrades), advocated similar ideas (Krebs). While these different currents all have specific characteristics that developed from the movements and countries in which they originated, they all share a common thread that crosses movements, eras, and continents.

Especifismo Elaborated

The Especifists put forward three main thrusts to their politics, the first two being on the level of organization. By raising the need for a specifically anarchist organization built around a unity of ideas and praxis, the Especifists inherently state their objection to the idea of a synthesis organization of revolutionaries or multiple currents of anarchists loosely united. They characterize this form of organization as creating an

exacerbated search for the needed unity of anarchists to the point in which unity is preferred at any cost, in the fear of risking positions, ideas and proposals sometimes irreconcilable. The result of these types of union are libertarian collectives without much more in common than considering themselves anarchists. (En La Calle)

While these critiques have been elaborated by the South American Especifistas, North American anarchists have also offered their experiences of synthesis organization as lacking any cohesiveness due to multiple, contradictory political tendencies. Often the basic agreement of the group boils down to a vague, “least-common-denominator” politics, leaving little room for united action or developed political discussion among comrades.

Without a strategy that stems from common political agreement, revolutionary organizations are bound to be an affair of reactivism against the continual manifestations of oppression and injustice and a cycle of fruitless actions to be repeated over and over, with little analysis or understanding of their consequences (Featherstone et al). Further, the Especifists criticize these tendencies for being driven by spontaneity and individualism and for not leading to the serious, systematic work needed to build revolutionary movements. The Latin American revolutionaries put forward that organizations which lack a program

which resists any discipline between militants, that refuses to ‘define itself’, or to ‘fit itself’, … [are a] direct descendant of bourgeois liberalism, [which] only reacts to strong stimulus, joins the struggle only in its heightened moments, denying to work continuously, especially in moments of relative rest between the struggles (En La Calle).

A particular stress of the Especifismo praxis is the role of anarchist organization, formed on the basis of shared politics, as a space for the development of common strategy and reflection on the group’s organizing work. Sustained by collective responsibility to the organizations’ plans and work, a trust within the members and groups is built that allows for a deep, high-level discussion of their action. This allows the organization to create collective analysis, develop immediate and long term goals, and continually reflect on and change their work based on the lessons gained and circumstances.

From these practices and from the basis of their ideological principles, revolutionary organizations should seek to create a program that defines their short- and intermediate-term goals and will work towards their long-term objectives:

The program must come from a rigorous analysis of society and the correlation of the forces that are part of it. It must have as a foundation the experience of the struggle of the oppressed and their aspirations, and from those elements it must set the goals and the tasks to be followed by the revolutionary organization in order to succeed not only in the final objective but also in the immediate ones. (En La Calle)

The last point, but one that is key within the practice of Especifismo, is the idea of “social insertion.” (1) It stems from the belief that the oppressed are the most revolutionary sector of society, and that the seed of the future revolutionary transformation of society lies already in these classes and social groupings. Social insertion means anarchist involvement in the daily fights of the oppressed and working classes. It does not mean acting within single-issue advocacy campaigns based around the involvement of expected traditional political activists, but rather within movements of people struggling to better their own condition, which come together not always out of exclusively materially-based needs, but also socially and historically rooted needs of resisting the attacks of the state and capitalism. These would include rank-and-file-led workers’ movements, immigrant communities’ movements to demand legalized status, neighborhood organizations’ resistance to the brutality and killings by police, working class students’ fights against budget cuts, and poor and unemployed people’s opposition to evictions and service cuts.

Through daily struggles, the oppressed become a conscious force. The class-in-itself, or rather classes-in-themselves (defined beyond the class-reductionist vision of the urban industrial proletariat, to include all oppressed groups within society that have a material stake in a new society), are tempered, tested, and recreated through these daily struggles over immediate needs into classes-for-themselves. That is, they change from social classes and groups that exist objectively and by the fact of social relations, to social forces. Brought together by organic methods, and at many times by their own self-organizational cohesion, they become self-conscious actors aware of their power, voice and their intrinsic nemeses: ruling elites who wield control over the power structures of the modern social order.

Examples of social insertion that the FAG cites are their work with neighborhood committees in urban villages and slums (called Popular Resistance Committees), building alliances with rank-and-file members of the rural landless workers’ movement of the MST, and among trash and recyclables collectors. Due to high levels of temporary and contingent employment, underemployment, and unemployment in Brazil, a significant portion of the working class does not survive primarily through wage labor, but rather by subsistence work and the informal economy, such as casual construction work, street vending, or the collection of trash and recyclables. Through several years of work, the FAG has built a strong relationship with urban trash collectors, called catadores. Members of the FAG have supported them in forming their own national organization which is working to mobilize trash collectors around their interests nationally and to raise money toward building a collectively operated recycling operation. (2)

Especifismo’s conception of the relation of ideas to the popular movement is that they should not be imposed through a leadership, through “mass line,” or by intellectuals. Anarchist militants should not attempt to move movements into proclaiming an “anarchist” position, but should instead work to preserve their anarchist thrust; that is, their natural tendency to be self-organized and to militantly fight for their own interests. This assumes the perspective that social movements will reach their own logic of creating revolution, not when they as a whole necessarily reach the point of being self-identified “anarchists,” but when as a whole (or at least an overwhelming majority) they reach the consciousness of their own power and exercise this power in their daily lives, in a way consciously adopting the ideas of anarchism. An additional role of the anarchist militant within the social movements, according to the Especifists, is to address the multiple political currents that will exist within movements and to actively combat the opportunistic elements of vanguardism and electoral politics.

Especifismo in the context of North American and Western Anarchism

Within the current strands of organized and revolutionary North American and Western Anarchism, numerous indicators point to the inspiration and influence of the Platform as having the greatest impact in the recent blossoming of class struggle anarchist organizations world-wide. Many see the Platform as a historical document that speaks to the previous century’s organizational failures of anarchism within global revolutionary movements, and are moved to define themselves as acting within the “platformist tradition”. Given this, the currents of Especifismo and Platformism are deserving of comparison and contrast.

The authors of the Platform were veteran partisans of the Russian Revolution. They helped lead a peasant guerilla war against Western European armies and later the Bolsheviks in the Ukraine, whose people had a history independent of the Russian Empire. So the writers of the Platform certainly spoke from a wealth of experience and to the historical context of one of their era’s pivotal struggles. But the document made little headway in its proposal of uniting class struggle anarchists, and is markedly silent in analysis or understanding on numerous key questions that faced revolutionaries at that time, such as the oppression of women, and colonialism.

While most Anarchist-Communist oriented organizations claim influence by the Platform today, in retrospect it can be looked at as a poignant statement that rose from the morass that befell much of anarchism following the Russian Revolution. As a historical project, the Platform’s proposal and basic ideas were largely rejected by individualistic tendencies in the Anarchist movement, were misunderstood because of language barriers as some claim (Skirda, 186), or never reached supportive elements or organizations that would have united around the document. In 1927, the Dielo Trouda group did host a small international conference of supporters in France, but it was quickly disrupted by the authorities.

In comparison, the praxis of Especifismo is a living, developed practice, and arguably a much more relevant and contemporary theory, emerging as it does out of 50 years of anarchist organizing. Arising from the southern cone of Latin America, but its influence spreading throughout, the ideas of Especifismo do not spring from any call-out or single document, but have come organically out of the movements of the global south that are leading the fight against international capitalism and setting examples for movements worldwide. On organization, the Especifists call for a far deeper basis of anarchist organization than the Platform’s “theoretical and tactical unity,” but a strategic program based on analysis that guides the actions of revolutionaries. They provide us living examples of revolutionary organization based on the needs for common analysis, shared theory, and firm roots within the social movements.

I believe there is much to take inspiration from within the tradition of Especifismo, not only on a global scale, but particularly for North American class-struggle anarchists and for multi-racial revolutionaries within the US. Whereas the Platform can be easily read as seeing anarchists’ role as narrowly and most centrally within labor unions, Especifismo gives us a living example that we can look towards and which speaks more meaningfully to our work in building a revolutionary movement today. Taking this all into consideration, I also hope that this article can help us more concretely reflect on how we as a movement define and shape our traditions and influences.


Footnotes:

1. While “social insertion” is a term coming directly out of the texts of Especifismo influenced organizations, comrades of mine have taken issue with it. So before there is a rush towards an uncritical embrace of anything, perhaps there could be a discussion of this term.

2. Eduardo, then Secretary of External Relations for Brazilian FAG. “Saudacoes Libertarias dos E.U.A.” E-mail to Pedro Ribeiro. 25 Jun 2004

Bibliography:

En La Calle (Unsigned article). “La Necesidad de Un Proyecto Propio, Acerca de la importancia del programa en la organizacion polilitica libertaria” or “The Necessity of Our Own Project, On the importance of a program in the libertarian political organization.” En La Calle, published by the Argeninian OSL (Organización Socialista Libertaria) Jun 2001. 22 Dec 2005. Translation by Pedro Ribeiro.

Original Portuguese or English

Featherstone, Liza, Doug Henwood and Christian Parenti.”Left-Wing Anti-intellectualism and its discontents” Lip Magazine 11 Nov 2004. 22 Dec 2005 .

Guillamon, Agustin. The Friends of Durruti Group: 1937-1939. San Francisco: AK Press, 1996.

Krebs, Edward S. Shifu, the Soul of Chinese Anarchism. Landham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998.

Northeastern Anarchist. The Global Influence of Platformism Today by The Federation of Northeastern Anarchist Communists (Johannesburg, South Africa: Zabalaza Books, 2003), 24. Interview with Italian Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici.

Skirda, Alexandre. Facing the Enemy, A History of Anarchist Organization from Proudhon to May 1968. Oakland, CA: AK Press 2002.

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at the roll of a dice, reality rearranges. somewhere far away

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