Friday, April 27, 2007

Violence and Social Change

These are some thoughts that I posted at the Carnival of Anarchy

1. I am in total agreement that individual and small group acts of violence such as attentats, bombings and vandalism serve no purpose, either in advancing the cause of anarchism or social change. In fact, such actions only hold back social change, and anarchism, to this very moment, has to endure the caricature of the mad bomber, due to the actions of a tiny minority more than 100 years ago.

2. Ideally, social change would come about without violence, and our approach, whether one that encourages or discourages violence, does have an effect upon the amount of violence that occurs. But our responses are only one aspect of the situation. We do not control the playing field. History and culture are major determinants. A society with a long history of violence and little history of peaceful change will not be positive ground for a successful non-violent movement. How much support the ruling class has, how great the level of disintegration of the old order determines how peaceful change will be. Mass movements involving violence, but in a limited manner, such as mass insurrections, or dual power situations backed by armed groups, may be the inevitable form that social change takes in most situations. We have seen this recently in Mexico with the Zapatista Movement which began as an armed insurrection, and the Oaxaca Commune where a certain amount of defensive violence occurred. In both cases, they faced an opposition that would not hesitate to engage in massacre, yet the movements engaged in minimally violent response.

3. Hence, barring a situation like East Germany where even the ruling elite's supporters abandoned the state en-mass, it appears the most we can ask for is a minimization of violence during mass social change.

4. This does not mean that pacifists ought to be criticized for their total rejection of violence, or that they can not, and would not, play a significant role in a social revolution. Even a revolution entailing a great amount of violent conflict involves much action that is non-violent in nature. Think of the Cuban revolution where the Directorate engaged in urban guerilla warfare and the 26th of July Movement fought in the mountains. General strikes – a non-violent method – were also used and were an important aspect in the overthrowing of the Batista dictatorship.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Anarchists and the Ultra-Left– the Mine Canaries of the Revolution.

You all know what a mine canary is. The bird was brought down into the mine and if it passed out this showed gas was present and the mine was unsafe. So how are anarchists and ultra leftists the mine canaries of the Revolution?

Should a successful revolution be overtaken by an authoritarian or undemocratic party, which group truely threatens their power? Not the reactionary right, though it may commit terrorist acts. For the simple reason that it is discredited. Workers and peasants do not wish to see this lot back in. Furthermore, authoritarian revolutionary states tend to coopt many members of the old ruling class, putting them back in charge of the masses, but now working for the new state rather than old system – think of the Tsarist officers and bureaucrats coopted by the Bolsheviks and Mao's "Patriotic Capitalists". No, the parties and organizations to the left of the revolutionary rulers are the threat to their power. Such groups appeal to the egalitarian and libertarian desires of the people and of the revolution itself. They oppose the centralization of political and economic power and speak of popular power rather than party dictatorship. Hence, the first groups to be attacked by an authoritarian revolutionary state are the anarchists, left populists and ultra-left marxists.

Barely six months into the October Revolution, Lenin's Bolsheviks were harassing anarchists. Soon after they went for the Maximalists (far-left populists) By 1921, most anarchists and left-populists were in concentration camps or exile. Finally, in 1922, left-Bolshevik factions like the Workers Opposition were banned. Mao suppressed the anarchists and Trotskyists. The Viet Minh slaughtered Vietnam's large Trotskyist party. Soon after Castro's turn toward the Cuban Communist Party, the anarchists were all in exile or in prison.

There is nothing inevitable about this process. Revolutions do not necessarily "devour their children." The Costa Rican Revolution of 1948 and the Bolivian Revolution of 1952 did not see the liquidation of the far left, even though the Bolivian regime did eventually fall into corruption and was overthrown by the military. Not all left groups supported the Sandinistas. The Nicaraguan Maoists considered them "bourgeois", created their own trade union federation and ran as a separate party in elections. The Sandinistas, while not liking the Maoists, did not suppress them

This is the test we must apply when judging the new revolutionary governments such as in Venezuela, Bolivia and perhaps now Ecuador. How do they treat the Left Opposition? Do they let it be or persecute it? Since they let it be, stories about them being "dictatorial", "undemocratic", or "totalitarian" are nothing but neocon propaganda. But should the day come that the mine canary passes out, I will be the first to attack these governments.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Anarchist Advances In Uruguay and Brazil

This information is taken from Organized Anarchism In The South American Cone, an 8 page special supplement of Rojo y Negro, weekly newspaper of the CGT-E 10 de enero del 2007.

The two major anarchist groups in the Souther Cone are the Federacion Anarchista Uruguaya (FAU) and the Brazilian Federação Anarquista Gaúcha. (FAG) According to Rojo y Negro,

Their understanding of anarchism coincides with the CGT, their actions are not conditioned by intractable dogmas, they do not stand in a watchtower and relegate anarchism to the margins of society. But they intervene in society in order to transform it... (and) collaborate with other organizations acting in the neighborhoods, the work place and the countryside.

Anarchism has a long history in Uruguay going back to the 1870's. But in 1945 the syndicalist union federation, FORU, the main center of anarchism, collapsed and there was not much organized anarchist activity. There were a series of major strikes 1952-3 which created an impulse to revive anarchism. FAU was formed in 1956 and from its day of creation was involved in trade unions and workers struggles. 1957-8 saw FAU invoved in factory occupations, expropriations, and the formation of coops and a student organization. A radical union center, the Uruguayan CNT, was founded in 1965 largely by FAU militants.

All this activity made the government nervous, so in typically democratic fashion, FAU was banned in 1967 and the members went into clandestine action which included putting out an "illegal" newspaper. 1971 saw FAU involved in armed actions alongside the MIR, (Tupamaros) though they did not adopt the Guevarist foco ideology. The miltary took over in 1973 and the FAU was heavliy involved in the three week long general strike which followed. Subsequently, thanks to Plan Condor, the group was to lose more than 50 comrades who were tortured then murdered. Many others spent years in prison and were also tortured.

With the return to the parliamentary system in 1986, FAU immediately re-involved itself in the union, neighborhood and student movements. Today, FAU is involved in "all sectors" - PTA's, coops, neighborhoods, as well as work place actions. As a result, they have created 6 community radio stations, 4 community centers and three libraries. Their Solidarity and Mutual Aid organization unites and co-ordinates a host of social organizations.

The Federação Anarquista Gaúcha (FAG) developed out of contacts made between FAU and young Brazilian militants during the 1995 Puerto Allegre Meeting. After the return to "democracy", a decade of anarchist activities ensued, but no national movement arose. Meeting with FAU helped change that. One of FAG's major activities involves the National Recycling Workers Movement – there are about 800,000 recyclers in Brazil and some 40,000 belong to the movement. According to Rojo y Negro, The comrades of FAG developed a vast work of education with the recyclers as well as other workers of the poorer neighborhoods. They also created a Forum of Organized Anarchism (FAO) to unite and co-ordinate all the Brazilian libertarian-oriented groups. FAO has groups in the majority of Brazilian states including Bahia and Sao Paolo. FAO and FAG both work in conjunction with the MST (Landless Peasants Organization) to confront the poverty and corruption of the Brazilian system.

FAU and FAG helps to coordinate and gives an impulse to the libertarian movement in South America. Both were instrumental in setting up ELAOPA (Popular and Autonomous Organizations in Latin America Encounter) in 2003 to promote and co-ordinate anarchist ideas continent-wide. The meeting in Bolivia in 2004 saw 400 delegates from 59 organizations. 2006 saw the meeting in Uruguay with similar attendence.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

13 Year Old Girl Arrested For Writing On Desk!

This is truly unbelievable. When I was a kid we would write on the desks all the time. No one thought anything of it. More proof that the people in charge of the US are dangerous lunatics and that the society is in free fall.


Workers Initiative Polish Anarcho-syndicalist Union

This is a small, but nonetheless functioning, anarchist trade union in Poland. This web site is in English

Friday, April 06, 2007

Coops In A Sustainable City

This video discusses coops in Emelia-Romagna and the application of the coop model to the city of Vancouver. See

CGT Anarcho-syndicalist Video

La Lucha Sigue En La Calle! Here is what it is like to have a REAL movement. Thousands of anarchists demonstrating in Barcelona.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Proudhon's Ghost Stalks Venezuela

I translated this article from the Venezuelan Blog Libertarian Communist Initiative.

Bolivarian Socialists do not want socialism like "there was in the USSR" nor socialism according to the bourgeoisie. Which socialism, then? A socialism that detests both property and "Communism". This is the socialism of Proudhon that he himself, in fashion of his time, described as "scientific". There is a "Proudhonian scientific socialism" and a Marxist "scientific socialism.” "Neither property nor Communism" said Proudhon. For him Communism was authoritarian Communism, nothing like the Communism which, later, Kropotkin would adhere to. (we remember that Kropotkin was initially Marxist). -

2- The are several socialist experiments advanced in Venezuela: cooperativism; social production; co-management; worker control; alternative mass media; public television; etc. In the political order "communal councils" , "workers councils", "popular power", “communal power"; now all those experiments are immersed in a society in which the production relations continue being bourgeois: that is to say, the collective work, social labor, is expropriated by the capitalists. Therefore, the Venezuelan society continues being a capitalist society, the multinationals can invest - and they invest in the country (and they export its gains), and still there are social classes.

3. - Always, in all social Revolutions, new forms arise from political, economic and social organization within a frame where the forms of the old regime survive which are generally the connections with world-wide commerce, commerce of goods and commerce of capital. It has never been possible to install a "new society" because simply all the regions of the world work within the world-wide division of labor. However, the Bolivarian Socialists look for a route to transform the Venezuelan society so that it is less unequal, more productive - creative of wealth - and more democratic and less dependent on the imperial centers! (But, not to postulate an autarkic society, because we are a small country and, in a certain way, have a small population, and for that reason we must play with the forces of multinational financial capital.

4. - There is nothing like a "Totalitarian State" in the Venezuela of 2007, nowadays you find that with the federal government of the United States of America. And, it is so, simply because the Venezuelan idiosyncrasy is libertarian and egalitarian, from the times of the American Emancipation (principles of XIX century). On the other hand, at any time we can lose the presidential elections, by means of a revocatory referendum or because the presidential election of 2012 is lost and the right wins. Then, will continue the "neoliberal capitalist revolution" of which already we know its fundamental lines: privatization of all the public sector; minimization of the State, that is to say, its conversion in Para-State to repress to the popular forces; reversion of forms of property that are not private; installation of a new consulship of the central empires; etc., that is to say, the civil war by other means. -

5. - The Bolivariano Socialism looks to fortify the Venezuelan nationality. The mother country, the nation, are categories of the Bolivarian process; as much as the integration of all South America.

6. - The formation of the United Socialist Party has revived all the contradictions that are present in the Bolivarian Process; we should not be alarmed by the existence of "contradictions", in all social Revolution they have appeared. And, in general, contradictions always will exist. The Hegelian-Marxist dialectic aims "to surpass" the contradictions, but, simply, the contradictions are the result of social realities and you cannot surpass them by suppressing them because we are neither in an autocratic regime nor in a despotism but in a democratic society. Proudhon said that Justice was indeed in that dialectical game between the social and economic contradictions: in effect, the Proudhonian dialectic is neoKantian non-Hegelian. The contradictions cannot be suppressed if they are the result of the relations between women and men at the moment of the creation, distribution and consumption of the social wealth!

7. - For that reason the Partido Communista V. does not dissolve and unite with the PSUV. The PCV is "Marxist-Leninist" and the PSUV is not. The PCV describes to the Bolivarian Revolution as an "anti-imperialist revolution"; whereas the PSUV esteem that the Bolivarian Revolution is a "socialist revolution". Really, the comrades of the PCV cling to their dogma; of course, this is also an anti-imperialist revolution, but it is something much more that that.

8. - In no region of the periphery you can not think about social change if you hope that the empires will give their approval to you to do them. Every route to social change involves confrontation with the empires. All..

9. - The federation of "communal councils" and the "Communal Bank" are other conceptions that evoke Proudhon. The Bolivarian Socialists call to this "empowering the people", that is to say, to give the power to the people. Now, this comes slowly and with all the permissible and probable errors; but the intention is indeed to go towards a libertarian system. The Bolivarians are trying to disassemble the "bourgeois State" - that has been said -, one does not have cause to doubt their word. Proudhon was in this dilemático: "other alternatives cannot be conceived: government of all and handled by all or government of all and handled by one would be the regime of the authority; government of each one with the participation of all or government of each one by itself would be the libertarian system. "[ Proudhon, 1987, 232].

10- Elsewhere I have said that as much Proudhon as Bakunin starts from an unprovable philosophical axiom: that the individual is previous to the society. Comrade Kropotkin, on the contrary, part of the community, of the society, admitting the Aristotelian axiom according to which " society is previous to the individual". Proudhon is platonic (of Plato; the "ideas" of Plato) whereas Kropotkin is Aristotelian (Aristotle was a taxonomist; Kropotkin comes from natural sciences, geographer, anthropologist, for that reason he goes to the "multitude" and not to the "mass"). Proudhon and Bakunin start off from God; of the Bible, you might say; Kropotkin starts off from the world of the human organization, who sees "mutual aid " as factor of evolution and not "the struggle for survival" - that is to say, Social Darwinism, so assessed by capitalist philosophers and their anarco-liberal derivatives -.

11 - Peculiarly, Bolivarian Socialism starts off from "the community". But it is a community of Venezuelan individuals. It is communitarianism; not the individualistic liberalism of the neoliberalism and liberal anarchism. In that complex dynamic, so rich in new thoughts and rethinking that in the Bolivarian Revolution, contradictions are suppressed not by means of the Gulag nor by means of a shot in the nape of the neck, nor shutting the dissident in Guantánamo; but that which is invested by republican and democratic harmony; the harmony that is Justice. Proudhon also favored Natural Law, the Bolivarians also. Commit many errors daily? Good, that is a Revolution: test and error. A socialist revolution is not the coherent truth of a dogma; nobody has steered a socialist revolution with a Book - neither with the "Communist Manifesto" nor with "the Conquest of the Bread"; only Israel made "its revolution" with the Old Testament and present-day Iran with the Korán in the hand.

Floreal Castilla.-Venezuela, 29 de Marzo de 2007.-

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