Communiqué nº 71 of the Anarchist Popular Union – UNIPA, July 5, 2020.
“Revolutionary workers must not shoulder official posts, nor establish themselves in the ministries.[…] We must have no part of combinations devised by bourgeois politicians acting in concert with foreign chancellories. That would be tantamount to strengthening our enemies and tightening the noose of capitalism. No more portfolios. No more ministries. Let’s get back to the unions and the nitty-gritty of work tools.”
Jaime Balius, Towards a fresh revolution (1938)
The term “libertarian” is used here in the sense of its origin within the left, mostly associated with anarchism and used in Brazil by a self-styled “libertarian” movement. Not to be confused as it is nowadays used, mostly in the United States, in its right wing ultra economic liberalism, minimal state meaning.
The term union or unionism is used interchangeably with syndicalism or generically as in any form of working class organization. Where as the “union” in “Anarchist Popular Union” (UNIPA) falls into the more broad sense of the word.
You will see the term “tendency” being used in the text.
“What do we mean by “Tendency”? We can say that a tendency can be considered an well delimited organizational structure, just as a set of, not necessarily centralized, organizations that work according the same parameters and act with similar strategies. In general we can say that a tendency: a) shares a view or theses that explain how society works, its relations between economics and politics, society and State, social classes and its contradictions, conceives a certain hierarchy between them in a way to guide its decisions and actions; b) shares a view of objectives, methods of action and organizational forms, and specially certain organizational and struggle practices, which allows that it (even without a sole or centralized structure) merges into similar objectives; c) shares not only immediate demands, of certain trades or particular professions, but a project of society, with universal demands and certain ideological values that make it more than a corporatist or economicist organization. That is, a tendency, be it as a formalized and consolidated organization, be it as a net of autonomous local groups, always presents this characteristics”. (Source: These 1: The working class and its dilemmas, FOB)
Notas da tradução:
O termo “libertário” is usado aqui no significado de sua origem na esquerda, principalmente associado com anarquismo e utilizado por um autodenominado movimento “libertário” no Brazil. Não confundir como utilizado, principalmente no Estados Unidos, no seu significado da direita ultra liberal de estado mínimo.
O termo “union” ou “unionism” é usado com indiferença de “sindicalismo” como qualquer forma de organização de trabalhadores. Enquanto que “union” em “Anarchist Popular Union” (UNIPA) segue o sentido mais abrangente da palavra.
Você verá o termo “tendência” sendo utilizado no texto:
“O que é uma tendência? Podemos dizer que a tendência pode ser considerada tanto como uma estrutura organizativa bem delimitada, quanto um conjunto não necessariamente centralizado de organizações que funcionam de acordo com os mesmos parâmetros e agem com estratégias similares. Em geral podemos dizer que uma tendência: A) compartilha uma visão ou teses que explicam o funcionamento da sociedade, das relações entre economia e política, sociedade e Estado, classes sociais e suas contradições, concebe certa hierarquia entre eles de maneira que essa visão orienta suas decisões e ações; B) compartilha uma visão de objetivos, métodos de ação e formas de organização, e especialmente certas práticas organizativas e de luta, que permite que ela (mesmo sem uma estrutura única ou centralizada) conflua para objetivos similares; C) ela compartilha não somente reivindicações imediatas, de categorias ocupacionais e gruposprofissionais particulares, mas um projeto de sociedade, com reivindicações universais e certos valores ideológicos que fazem com que ela não seja simplesmente uma organização corporativa ou economicista. Quer dizer, uma tendência, seja como organização formalizada e consolidada, seja como uma rede de grupos locais autônomos, apresenta sempre essas características.” (Fonte: Tese 1: A classe trabalhadora e seus dilemas atuais, FOB)
Since its birth, our organization fights an ideological and political battle against revisionism and “libertarian” reformism. We don’t do it for sectarianism of perfectionism, to the contrary, we develop our critiques and self critiques with the only purpose of serving the cause of the people, anarchism itself and the social revolution in Brazil.
As the group Friends of Durruti and Jaime Bailus taught us: traitors to the revolution and the working class must be judged and fought by the revolutionary and the masses. But, just as they recognized through their harsh self-critique, this battle must not be merely passional/vindictive or just under the wire, it must be prepared ahead and guided by a revolutionary theory, so it can be victorious.
As the systemic crisis (pandemic, economic, political and social) deepens and distinct sectors of the working class come to look towards anarchism as an alternative for thinking and understanding reality, it is fundamental to separate the wheat from the chaff, separate anarchism from revisionism and activism, in order to deepen the development of anarchism and revolutionary syndicalism that already spreads and roots itself across the country.
Firstly, we must briefly define what we consider to be eclecticism, activism and liquidationism:
1) Eclecticism is characterized by the theoretical and practical attempt of conciliation between revisionism and anarchism, which by its own nature favors revisionism. For eclecticism, revisionist individualism and the anarchist collectivism are the same thing, as the revisionist evolutionist scientism and the anti-scientism materialism from anarchism are also the same, the revisionist petite burgeois educationism and the anarchist proletary classism do not clash, neither does the revisionist lirical romantism and the anarchist programactical concreteness. For eclectics, this antagonistic positions are not only equivalent, but constitutes an harmonic unit in a supposed “anarchist movement” extensive to infinity. (See Communiqué nº 15, 37 and 42)
2) The activist doctrine was always an eclectic field, grouping ideas much more from radical liberalism from the new left and different kinds of marxism and post-modernism. While doctrine and practice, it settled through 90’s and 2000’s to a critique of capitalist society in its keynesian, neoliberal form and stalinism also. It had some key ideas: 1) A profound critique of centralization and a distrust of workers organizations and political parties; 2) An evocation of the idea of direct action, here understood as an appeal to violence of the popular masses as a form of protest; 3) Assimilation of a multicultural ideology and sympathy for the struggles in the “Global South”, assimilating issues of gender, anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism. (See Communiqué nº 56)
3) Liquidationism is the deviation that is founded on the rupture with the main strategical element from anarchism, to know: the need of an anarchist political organization (the anarchist party) to conduct the revolutionary process. Liquidationism can assume, as it has, many forms, but main one is anarcho-syndicalism, that liquidated the anarchist organization and/or its role as initiator-conductor on behalf of a supposed “anarchization” of syndicalism, historically conducting a sort of extra-parliamentary and “libertarian” reformism.
Regarding Brazilian reality, both activism and liquidationism are more incipient and diffuse. They have not reached a high degree of organicity and systematization as in other countries. Therefore, its results are much more contradictory, occasionally mixed within other better structured projects. That does not mean they don’t exist and don’t fulfill a role within class struggle, on the contrary, this lack of organicity (in case of activism) has acted at times a coward and purposeful way of running from critiques and not taking on the consequences of its positions and acts. Eclecticism, on the other hand,, while still incapable of reaching high degrees of basic theoretical and tactical unity that it proposes, expresses it self through the Brazilian Anarchist Coordination (CAB, ex-FAO).
Historically the radicalization of class struggle, in times of crisis and revolutionary situations, has taken revisionism and libertarian reformism to highlight its limitations and contradictions, that already existed but were covered by time of relative social peace. It’s easy to see “revolutionary” discourse in times of peace. It is in moments of crisis and conflict that we can concretely assess the theory and praxis of groups and people. It was in those moments that the basis of revolutionary anarchism cemented itself. Today, in the face of both systemical crisis and the great plague of Covid-19 that spreads around the world, the great dilemmas from anarchism and the revolution return.
1 – War or revolution: An strategical debate about democratic and national fronts with the bourgeoisie
“The petit-bourgeois parties and the official Marxists were the ones who vented the most steam in disassociating the revolution from the war. They say to us, us anarchists, that we have to wait until the war is won, to carry out the revolution. They tell us not to be impatient, that there will be time enough for everything. But during this time, those who defend the position that the revolution must be deferred until after the war strive to monopolise the positions of command and the levers of power in order to strangle the revolution. We, anarchists, cannot play the game of those who pretend that our war is only a war of independence with a few purely democratic aspirations. To these pretences we, the Friends of Durruti, respond that our war is a social war. The armed war which the Spanish workers are waging is identical to the epic saga of the Parisian workers who in the 18th century gave their lives fighting against the oligarchy of crowned heads. Our war is comparable to the Paris commune. Our war possesses the same social sense as the struggle waged by the Russian workers against the whole world.”
Friends of Durruti, El Amigo del Pueblo (1937)
The critique exposed above by the Friends of Durruti highlights the connection of anarchist politics with fundamental historical processes as the Paris Commune (1871), Russian Revolution (1917) and the Spanish Civil War (1936). Despite the differences between them, in all of them revolutionary anarchists have rejected class conciliation with the national or “progressive” bourgeoisie in governments or fronts; rejected the separation of national/democratic aspects from social/revolutionary aspects.
At the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune juncture (1871-1870), the french anarchists and the internationalists inaugurated a line of mass action that would later systematized by Bakunin: 1) It is not the upward alliance with the bourgeois republicanism and state centralism that will create the resisting force against foreign invasion; 2) It is autonomous and revolutionary action of the working masses, the insurrection and the construction of communes, that will create the forces capable of resisting the imperialist war; 3) The cowardliness and impotence of the national republican bourgeoisie is expressed by the fact it it is not willing to sacrifice private property and the State to win. According to Bakunin, all of those that actually want victory should submit to those premisses. Its underneath these politics that the Paris Commune emerges in 1871, but also the communes of Creusot, Limoge, Lyon, Marseille, Narbonne, Saint-Etienne and Toulouse in 1870.
During the First World War (1914-1918), this question resurfaces. A large part of the european socialdemocrats are captured by state, nationalist and militarist (chauvinist) politics. Kropotkin, an important anarcho-communist leadership, also surrenders to the defense of the Ally in the war, writing in 1916 the Manifesto of the sixteen. Kropotkin made explicit the nefarious consequences of revisionism, being accused of treason and even “anarcho-chauvinist” by Lenin. Throughout the world, the great majority of anarchists and revolutionary fought against Kropotkin’s vision and enacted an anti-war, anti-imperialist militancy, with a highlight for CNT, FORA, COB and IWW. The Russian Revolution and Makhnovitchina were a direct development of revolutionary politics in front the war which translated to the slogans “All power to the soviets” and “Peace, land and bread”. In other others, they transformed the imperialist war in social revolution.
In the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the initial victory over the fascist military coup of Franco and subsequent victories against fascism in the battle fronts were achieved thanks to the self-organized armed proletariat in CNT and FAI. The advancement of the working class over fascism (national and foreign) was secured thanks to the partial annulment of the republican state power and the start of collectivization of land and factories. In fact this happened at the beginning, and self-government temporarily took power in cities and fields of Span (nipping fascism in the bud). But statists and bourgeoisie forces soon reorganized in the rearward under the badge of class conciliation and, hence, the separation of war and revolution.
For spanish stalinists and republicans, the fight against fascism should be enacted in alliance and under the direction of republican bourgeoisie through the maintenance of the State, Army and Private Property. According to them, making revolution would be breaking this unity and favor fascism. Important “anarchist” leadership from CNT capitulated to this treasonous politics and even took positions on the bourgeoisie government ministries. From this moment, the instances of popular power (militias, collectives and neighborhood revolutionary committees) were brutally destroyed by republicans and communists, with the silence and cowardice of CNT’s ministers. Revolutionary moral and power from the masses, that were fundamental to win and defeat fascism at first, were undermined by counterrevolution in the rearwards. The defeat of the war and the revolution were the result of this politics of class conciliation. (See Communiqué nº 15 and 65)
Today, under the overwhelming consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and the spreading social crisis, this political debate is again taking place in the class struggle under different ways. Its most evident expression is through the policy of reinforcing the myth of the protective state and the conciliation of classes from the “democratic fronts” to combat fascism and the Bolsonaro government in Brazil. (See Communiqué nº 70)
This conciliation policy had already been rehearsed in June 2013 with the failed “left units” (when the left was in the federal government), where union and party bureaucracies tried to control autonomy and direct action on the streets. At that time, organized sectors of activism and eclecticism reproduced, in timid or explicit ways, the capitulating discourse of the “unity of the left”, in evident contradiction with the demands and methods posed by the insurgent masses. The MPL-SP (“Free fare movement”) publicly called for the abandonment of the streets. FAG and FARJ , anarchist federations from Rio Grande do Sul and Rio de Janeiro respectively, corroborated in texts the analysis of “cooptation of acts by the right” and defended the union and party bureaucracy as part of a “left field”. OASL (“Libertarian Socialism Anarchist Organization”) and FARJ also attacked the “black blocs” claiming that “violence” kept workers from the struggle and the streets (reversing cause and effect). In 2015, as a continuation of this conception, the FARJ defends the non-inclusion of the freedom of political prisoners in the agenda of struggles for transportation in Rio de Janeiro on behalf of the unit with PT (“Workers party”) and PcdoB (“Brazilian Communist Party of Brazil”) governists. (See Communiqué 42)
These are some examples that demonstrate that these dilemmas and errors are not as far away as they seem. They demonstrate that the theoretical and political struggle against “libertarian” revisionism and reformism is not “sectarianism” on our part.
2 – CAB eclecticism and its reformist union policy
The so-called Brazilian “Specifism”, which today assumes the characteristics of a theoretical and political eclecticism, arose through the Uruguayan Anarchist Federation (FAU) in the 90’s. At that time, organized anarchism was practically extinct in many countries in Latin America. In addition to recognizing that anarchism should be “organized”, “Specifism” recognized that it should resume its activity in popular movements through “social insertion”.
But basically the discoveries stopped there. The endless repetition of the generic need for “organization” and “social insertion” has meant to this day the lack of an autonomous mass line and an impoverishment (and distortion) of the contributions of Bakunin, the Dielo Trouda Platform, etc. to fit the fragile and eclectic project of “Specifism”. That was what UNIPA found in 2004 and what motivated its rupture with the construction process of eclectic anarchism in Brazil. (See the commemorative edition of “The Peoples Cause”, nº 67)
As of CAB’s eclectic characteristic, the systemic crisis tends to polarize within its ranks some sincere and committed militants and nuclei committed to the Brazilian revolution and the reformist and revisionist hegemonic line. This is evident when CAB itself or its nuclei make partial copies of the theoretical and political conceptions of Bakuninism and revolutionary syndicalism, or when sincere militants carry out isolated combative actions and analysis. In such cases, exceptions only confirm the rule.
2.1 – Social insertion and the “libertarian” tendency
As already mentioned, Brazilian eclecticism arises from a post-dictatorship historical process of the rise and hegemony of social democracy. The concept and task of “social insertion” or of resuming the “social vector” of anarchism emerges without deeply problematizing the movements and entities to which they belong. The process of social insertion in movements is carried out in a fetishized and pragmatic way and, therefore, without being able to formulate a political line in the face of the divisions and concrete problems of the massess movement.
Some examples help to visualize how this policy of “social insertion” takes place: 1) In the union movement, CAB’s adherence to the governist sectors policy of Intersindical / CUT (“Unique Workers Central”), and composition of union election running tickets with reformist and government parties, etc. The result is the most shameful silence without a serious public review of these processes; 2) In the social movement, eclecticists claim to have a role in the MST, but they do not even outline a critique of their national bureaucratic and electoral leadership. We know the result of this messianic and pragmatic policy of FAG in the waste pickers’ movement; 3) In the student movement, eclecticists never really fought against UNE (“National Students Union”). In the UFSC (“Federal University of Santa Catarina”) student strike in 2019, for example, the eclecticist line was to delegitimize the autonomous instances that actually led the strike through the grassroots to ally themselves with the “left” student bureaucracy.
And why does this happen? Eclecticism believes in the existence of a broad “popular field” open to all ideologies (communists, anarchists, reformists, democrats, Christians, etc.) belonging to this field. This popular field materializes in its entities: unions, student entities and social movements. For them it would be enough for anarchists to organize themselves (in specific organizations and / or tendencies), insert themselves and democratically dispute their positions. The problem is that this thought is based on a myth, a farce: the myth that official unionism (the set of workers organizations sanctioned and regulated by the State) in Brazil is an autonomous working class institution, when in fact it is an institution created and/or protected by the State; moreover, the myth that union, student and popular entities are the materialization (neutral, unitary, broad) of this abstract “popular field”, when in fact its forms and contents express the social democratic and conservative model.
Thus, eclecticists take these bureaucratic and social democratic entities as their own as well. They do not want to destroy them in order to build new organizations, but only to reform them so that they work better, and limit themselves to a policy of counselors and pedagogues to burocracy in favor of a “culture of participation”. As CAB said in its May 1, 2018 manifesto: “The central issue is that the union culture that has been mobilized for many years distorts direct participation”. After so many years they maintain the faith that the construction of popular power will be the result of the culturalist revitalization of State unionism.
It is within this general conception of eclecticism that the strategy for creating a “libertarian tendency” of an active minority emerges. Within this conception, these tendencies have clear limits for their development. In most cases, they limit themselves to enunciating general “libertarian” principles and proposing a culture of participation with the aim of re-legitimizing the “left field”, with the hope of resuming the “old days” of the height of the Brazilian left. In practice, these tendencies are directly controlled by eclectic organizations, much like the tendencies directed by traditional parties. As eclecticism does not have an autonomous and much less national mass movement line, “libertarian tendencies” are limited to localism, informality and superficiality.
This whole idea of CAB stems from a mistaken principle that there is an unideological, neutral, unitary mass movement in the “popular field”. This idea arises from the poor and empiricist schematism of eclecticism: if anarchism and communism are ideologies that operate within the same union, then the union is (or should be) a mere receptacle for ideologies external to it. It would be like saying that a church because it has people from both the left and the right does not have its own ideology. The same for zapatismo, or democratic confederalism, and so on. For us, there are no “pure” entities, that is, exclusively corporate or professional that do not express the great ideological struggles of the social democratic, revolutionary and conservative tendencies.
This conception of eclecticism denies the capacity of the mass movement and grassroots militants to build their own revolutionary ideology. Despite the “libertarian” and “humble” phraseology, specifism , by denying the anarchist theoretical formulation, assumes a conception as self-centered and elitist as the Marxist one. They do not understand that the pluralism of revolutionary syndicalism (as well as direct action, classism, internationalism, etc.) is part of a system of ideas, aspirations and values, that is, of an ideology, built by the historical experience of the people. The fact that anarchists, Christians, communists, socialists can act within the unions does not change this fact. A revolutionary mass movement can and must have a life of its own, constituting itself. That is autonomy. But to assume this would mean recognizing that the current hegemonic entities are not neutral, but the result of the dominant power structures and controlled in recent history by the bureaucracies of CUT / PT.
2.2 – Syndicalism of revolutionary intent
For some years now, as a demonstration of a supposed theoretical and political adva study nce, we have observed in some pamphlets and, more precisely in CAB’s union training textbook No. 1 (2017), the emergence of the concept of “syndicalism of revolutionary intent”. But from the analysis we realize that for eclecticism this concept makes perfect sense, even if for revolutionary anarchism it is unacceptable.
CAB’s concept of “syndicalism of revolutionary intent” includes not only anarcho-syndicalism and revolutionary syndicalism, but, in general, all the strategies used by anarchists to act in the mass movement. The leveling center becomes “social insertion” again. It’s like going in circles. A redundancy and stagnation that gives a false appearance of coherence.
CAB points out as references of this “syndicalist movement of revolutionary intent” Neno Vasco and Errico Malatesta (sic), important historical militants but with positions, if not antagonistic, at least contradictory with regard to union organization and struggle. It is eclecticism under the naked the eye. Let us look at an important text by Malatesta (1922), criticizing the Italian Syndicalist Union (USI) and the Bakuninist conceptions, where he explains his position on unionism:
“In a word, the Trade Unions are, by their very nature reformist and never revolutionary. The revolutionary spirit must be introduced, developed, and maintained by the constant actions of revolutionaries who work from within their ranks as well as from outside, but it cannot be the normal, natural definition of the Trade Unions function. On the contrary, the real and immediate interests of organised workers, which it is the Unions’ role to defend, are very often in conflict with their ideals and forward-looking objectives; and the Union can only act in a revolutionary way if permeated by a spirit of sacrifice and to the extent that the ideal is given precedence over the interest, that is, only if, and to the extent that, it ceases to be an economic Union and becomes a political and idealistic group. And this is not possible in the large Trade Unions which in order to act need the approval of the masses always more or less egotistic, timorous, and backward.” (Malatesta, Sindicalismo e Anarquismo, 1922)
Later in the same text, Malatesta (1922) states that Bakunin’s conception of the revolutionary role of unions and the International Workers Association (IWA) is an error. The “anarcho-communist” revisionism could not be more explicit and harmful. We can summarize Malatesta’s conception in the following points: 1º) The struggle and the organization of the working class, by themselves, can only result in reformism and limitations; 2) The revolutionary or anarchist idea, therefore, is not the result of this activity of self-organization and workers’ struggle, it must be introduced from outside; 3º) The function of the revolutionaries is to place the “ideal” above the material “interests” of the always “egotistic, timorous and backward” masses, that is, the previous conceptions lead to an idealistic, educationist and elitist method. As Malatesta himself openly states, this is a denial of Bakuninism and revolutionary syndicalism.
These revisionist elements are incorporated by CAB in its eclectic union proposal. Let us look at their unitary conceptions of the union struggle:
“a) The nature of syndicalism and the necessary struggle for immediate issues; b) The union as mean, not the end; c) The challenge of breaking with corporativism of the trades working in solidarity; d) The importance of not reproducing the sectarianism in the unions, because, under the “libertarian” point of view, we should know how to deal with diversity; e) The pedagogy of example for the social construction of the new subject and syndicalism as something essentially practical” (CAB, Union Training Textbook No. 1 )
We see that the concrete conclusions of CAB’s union line come directly from Malatesta’s central idea: syndicalism can only be a “means”, limited to immediate and reformist issues. The eclectic union conception lives up to the epithet “intention” since it is, after all, a denial of the fundamental basis of revolutionary syndicalism and the political capacity of the working class. Like Malatesta’s conception, it is almost a copy of the hegemonic and erroneous conceptions of social democracy / communism. The “libertarian” (sic) element enters through the vague idea of diversity and anti-sectarianism.
This conception serves to justify any act by anarchists according to the conveniences and facilities of the moment. The choice of the correct path is left to chance, it is not properly discussed. The important thing is to keep walking, “to act”, even if it is towards the precipice. It is this opportunism that led the FAO (current CAB), for example, to abandon the process of breaking with the CUT / UNE governism (materialized at that time in the creation of Conlutas) and tthen join PSOL, ASS and PT in the creation of Intersindical / CUT. In practice, they ended up strengthening the governist hegemony in the popular-syndical movement.
Thus, what we see with the theory of syndicalism of revolutionary intention is an attempt to justify and naturalize the opportunistic “libertarian” action within State and social democratic unionism. And so, once again, they avoid the task of breaking with the paradigm and the general structures of social democracy. Certainly other elements must and will be analyzed at other times, but we believe to have evidenced the central aspects of the contradiction of such revolutionary “intention” unionism.
Unlike eclecticism, Bakuninism clearly and radically defends the importance of the anarchist party and the mass movement for the revolutionary process. There is no hierarchy between them, despite an important differentiation. One cannot move forward without the other. Both must (and can objectively) be organisms of the revolutionary transformation of society. The anarchist revolutionary party and revolutionary syndicalism are like the soul and the body. As we have said since our inception: in Bakunin’s thought “there is a dialectical relationship between the central sections and the trade sections. One complements the other, and separate from each other they lose their revolutionary strength” (See “A Alma e o Corpo”, UNIPA, 2004).
More generally, self-centered or centralist conceptions have led to historical mistakes that we must fight: 1) The classic Marxist idea of the party as the only agent capable of achieving social transformation, which generated reformism and Stalinism (and generated “Specifism”); 2) The idea of the military/guerrilla/army body as the revolutionary agent, which led to the Foco theory; 3) The idea of the union or the mass movement as the sole agent of a revolutionary process, which generated union purism. UNIPA understands that the integral revolution must be the result of a “harmonious and global strategy” (see COPEI, 1972) of the collective forces of the proletariat, in its political, union, theoretical and military aspects.
2.3 – The Front of the Oppressed
In view of all that has been said, what is the discursive function of the proposal (already almost abandoned) of the “Front of the Oppressed” in the line of masses of eclecticism? We say that it still fulfills an essential requirement of opportunistic conceptions: the idea that long-term work is being done for the “revolution”, for the “front of the oppressed”, converting these objectives into a comfortable, opportunistically manageable myth, isolated from concrete, habitual and daily political practice.
Therefore, in view of the fact that there isn’t any program or current, concrete, daily strategy on this Front of the Oppressed, the central issue that is demonstrated for anarchists and revolutionaries is that it is a panacea, a discursive distraction that at the beginning may have been defended with some sincerity, but that today only serves for the feast days, for the exalted and empty speeches that need some “beautiful ideal” to justify themselves.
Bakuninism claims that the dilemmas and revolutionary tasks do not occur in an abstract future. Strategic battles (political and ideological) for the liberation of our people are taking place right now, in daily practices and real conflicts. As Durruti said, “we carry a new world in our hearts, this world is growing right now”.
It is thus clear that CAB eclecticism does not have a program and strategy for reorganizing the Brazilian working class. In the superficial and compulsive idea of “socially insertion” this question of reorganization is not even taken seriously.
3 – Activism and the bourgeois influences in post-2013 struggles
In Brazil, we can say that activism gained more organicity in movements such as the MPL (“Free Fare Movent”) and in the conceptions, actions and organizations during and after the June 2013 protests in the various collectives and local groups. One of its main expressions was the organizational fluidity during the 2013 uprising, which allowed the movement at that time to not be captured by central and hegemonic parties. But at a later time, when the reflux of the struggles occurs, this anti-bureaucratic criticism does not consolidate in organizations of a new type, guaranteeing the resumption of hegemonic politics. And therein lies the central dilemma that currently makes activism an expression of libertarian reformism.
The resumption of this hegemonic politics, as an expression of power relations, does not occur concurrently with activism, it occurs: 1st) through systemic integration, co-opting activists and small collectives to social-democratic and / or conservative politics. It is symptomatic that militants and movements with an autonomous origin have transformed themselves, in a lot of places, into auxiliary forces of social democratic parties. An example was the 2018 elections, in Brasília “autonomist” MPL leaders called for an “anti-fascist” plenary to conduct an electoral campaign for Haddad (PT); 2) Through the cyclical disintegration, that is, through the internal disruption of these activist groups and the external repression by the state and bourgeois. An entire atmosphere of fragmentation, slander, liberalism, was used and induced by the dominant power to prevent the continuation of post-2013 insurgent struggles.
It is no wonder that a large number of these activists have disbanded to an individualistic and disorganizing posture of virtual “hot takes”, the only terrain in which their vanity and fake radicalism could continue. It is the trendy phenomenon of “left wing” youtubers who need to feed their controversies and intrigues daily. The concrete questions of the collective organization of the exploited are far away from this “radical”, vain individualism that has no use for the liberation of workers, black people and women.
Thus, by not taking on a broad and coherent project to reorganize the working class, activism was defeated or integrated into hegemonic politics. Today, what is left of activism is in a political position that obstructs the progress of the revolutionary struggle.
A part of this activism still tries, mostly in a superficial way, to sustain a “combative” (in relation to political action), “anti-bureaucratic” (in organizational terms) and “marginal” (in social aspects) discourse. But this is where it finds its biggest contradictions. This is because the activism phenomenon represents all these elements only in an apparent and, at most, circumstantial form. These symbols do not represent, for this sector, a revolutionary project, but a problem of self-affirmation and identity of individual or small groups. It is a factor of social distinction, hierarchy and division among the oppressed, and not of collective and revolutionary struggle.
That is why in the activist idea: 1) combativeness is displaced from the organization and the grassroots work (and vice versa); 2) the criticism of the bureaucratization of unions and movements is absurdly disconnected from the need to build mass organizations of a new type; 3) the defense of the “poor” and “minorities” degenerates into policies that are sometimes messianic, entrepreneurial, cultural or individualistic. That is, in none of them there is the formulation of a real anti-systemic policy of constructing direct action and the self-organization of the marginal proletariat. It is symptomatic, for example, that this activism does not take part (or even sees the potential) of black and female strikes by workers in outsourced labour, delivery and transportation apps, commerce, street sweeping, and restrict the issue of “oppressions” to culturalism and individualism .
In other words, in all these aspects, activism tends to keep intact the political and social structure of reformism, bureaucracy and inequalities of income and power that they claim to combat. It is the other side of the coin of reformist politics: the perfect strawman / caricature for the union and party bureaucracy to keep the working class under its control. Thus, this degeneration of activism becomes one of the obstacles to an autonomous working class politics. Even more so in relation to the marginalized proletariat, which in the current systemic crisis is driven to a direct and explosive confrontation with the State and the Capital, and needs real and effective instruments of struggle and organization.
4 – Anarcho-syndicalist liquidationism, its mistakes and self-criticism
The attempt to build anarcho-syndicalism in Brazil arises in the 1980s /90s with efforts to “rebuild COB”. Even if it carries mistakes, that process must be differentiated from the current counter-culture collectives pro-COB (incipient in quantity, but mainly in a political line). We can say that history was repeated, first as a tragedy, then as a farce. Sincere militants of the 1980/90 generation made self-criticisms about its mistakes, in some places they even joined the revolutionary syndicalism project.
In our view, what characterized “Brazilian anarcho-syndicalism” was: 1º) a misinterpretation about the historical COB, greatly influenced by the hegemonic Marxist narratives, whether adhering or denying, but without presenting its own and consistent theoretical basis; 2º) The lack of a theory about the working class and the Brazilian revolution that could formulate a broad and strategic project of reorganization; 3º) The idealization and fetish from a distorted narrative about the “European model” of anarchosyndicalism; 4º) Related to the previous ones, it degenerated into a localist, idealistic and decontextualized policy, succumbing to a naive and sectarian parallelism.
This prevented in the 1980s/90s this anarcho-syndicalist nucleus from developing a dispute over the directions of union oppositions and the birth of the CUT (fighting the social-democratic / communist tendency), as much as building real parallel organizations.
Many of these mistakes were also, and are, reproduced within the “anarcho-syndicalist international”, the self-styled AIT. The central problem is that it had an organizational structure that tried to reconcile antagonistic political conceptions within it: a) a culturalist and petty-bourgeois sector, that cared more with an “anarchist” ideological sectarianism than with the real problems of class struggle (which would be the case with “pro-COB”); b) a sector that defends the centrality of the class struggle and the need for unions / associations (whether revolutionary or anarcho-syndicalist) to resume their protoganism of popular masses in real conflicts (represented by CNT, FORA, USI and FAU).
From this antagonism, an important rupture and self-criticism will emerge about the anarcho-syndicalist experience of the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. This self-critique will materialize itself in the creation of the International Confederation of Labor (ICL-CIT), a proposal to unite revolutionary union organizations and anarcho-syndicalists. This process, despite having contradictions, presents two fundamental aspects: 1) a popular masses line based on classism and internationalism, but which is built from the bottom up, based on the concrete realities and conflicts of each country, trade, etc. . and for that very reason have the conditions to become popular; 2) the international and national rupture with the social democratic and conservative unionism and, therefore, the affirmation of the revolutionary capacity of the workers themselves.
However, the recognition of an advance does not mean the elimination of differences with anarcho-syndicalism, nor that new controversies or retreats may not arise. But it does mean that there is a new unitary base on which the construction of a revolutionary popular masses line can develop. This is where the paths of ICL and revolutionary syndicalism in Brazil meet. But this encounter can only be fruitful through the permanent exercise of unity, critique and self-critique. Brazilian revolutionary syndicalism has something to say, it has a program, a strategy and a history. This must be valued. It can be an active and propelling element of this new international unity. But it would be a serious mistake to fetishize and idealize the process, bringing into the national organization the mistakes of other organizations, such as the idea of “anarchizing” the unions.
Therefore, in the countries in which there is a tradition of mass popular anarcho-syndicalism (which is not the case in Brazil) and which is following the process of reorganization and self-criticism of the ICL, revolutionary anarchists must act within it by: 1) Deepening and leading self-criticism to its limits; 2) Defending a concrete political line for its massification (fighting ideological sectarianism); 3) Using as basis the International Platform of the Revolutionary Anarchism (UNIPA and OPAR) and the Theses for a Classist and Internationalist Tendency (FOB). Furthermore, anarchists around the world should never put the construction of the revolutionary anarchist party in the background, doing so would be a betrayal.
The places where revolutionary syndicalism is in its early stages of structuring, as in Brazil, the potential is great, but so are the difficulties. Liquidationism must be combated (in the form of verbal and merely “ideological” radicalism, sectarianism). These “anarcho-syndicalist” deviations are not only negative for the construction of the anarchist party, but mainly for the development and massification of revolutionary mass organizations. And everything that hinders or limits the development of revolutionary syndicalism in Brazil, however “radical” it may appear, does nothing more than serve to maintain the hegemony of the reformists and the right.
5 – A call to anarchist and revolutionary workers
“Certain people defend such a state of play b saying that in such a way is explained the variety of anarchist ideas. Well, let us admit it, but what interest can this variety represent to the workers?
They struggle and suffer today and now and immediately need a precise conception of the revolution, which can lead them to their emancipation right away; they don’t need an abstract conception, but a living conception, real, elaborated and responding to their demands”
Piotr Archinov, The Old and New in Anarchism (1928)
Comrades, we must prepare each day for the struggles and revolts to come. There can no longer be room for hesitation, confusion and reformism in our ranks. Fraternal criticism, although radical, is not an enemy of unity, on the contrary, it is one of its conditions and its bases. Revolutionary and proletarian unity will never be achieved with false complacency and diplomacy. And that is why this is also a call to unity, a call to build the struggle, organization and unity of our people.
As we have already said at other times, an authentic revolutionary syndicalism, even though some of its embryos emerge within the current hegemonic structures (and it is normal for this to happen in the conditions of Brazil), must necessarily move towards a rupture with them, building representative entities of a new type. But it is also born by organizing the unorganized, the marginal proletariat, the precarious, who without a broader and clearly defined project of mass organization will tend to be caught again in the leaky boat of official and social democratic unionism. We cannot let this crime be committed again before our eyes and, worse, we cannot contribute to it.
Therefore, in relation to the line of masses that we defend, it is not a question of “converting” to anarchism. It’s not about this. It is a question of building a new paradigm of class struggle and mass organization outside of social democracy and official unionism that obstructs and boycotts popular struggles every day. This unity can only develop by building a revolutionary, plural, autonomous and effective syndicalist movement for the interests of the people.
But for this to happen, it is imperative to break off from the framework of thought and action of libertarian reformism. Comrades must review their positions. The new proletarian unity will not come about with a cowardly and sectarian diplomacy of the “libertarian clubs”. It will be given by the commitment made in the field of practical and strategic action by those who honestly want to serve the cause of the people. This does not mean that in order to build revolutionary syndicalism you have to be an anarchist. On our journey we met many Marxists, Christians, Umbanda, autonomists a thousand times more honorable, combative and coherent than self-proclaimed “anarchists”. And that still won’t makes us renounce of criticizing the conceptions that we consider to be wrong.
Thus, the reconstruction of revolutionary syndicalism cannot take place in the form of a “tendency” of a restricted active minority and as property of a “specific” party/organization (organization with a particular restricted and set specific ideology). Furthermore, it cannot be an agreement from the top between heads of parties. Even if it is open to the influence of the most diverse ideologies and groups, no one has or should have the official direction of revolutionary syndicalism (even if it naturally expresses majority and minority disputes and concepts within it). It belongs to the popular masses and its capacity for self-organization and emancipation. Organizations that serve this sacred cause in an honest and healthy way will be recognized. Organizations and individuals who shut themselves up in their cowardice and sectarianism will be judged by history.
On the other hand, the construction of the revolutionary anarchist party is a fundamental task of the emancipatory process, nationally and internationally. We will not repeat here the arguments in favor of this construction (See Communiqué nº 2, 21, in addition to the Platform written with OPAR-Mexico). Anarchism, defended by UNIPA, is a continuation of the ideological and political struggle developed in history by the Alliance, the Makhnovists, the Dielo Trouda group, the Friends of Durruti and so many revolutionary anarchist organizations. All of these processes had contradictions, including ours. But we educate ourselves, from each of our militant, each of our cells and across the country to continue advancing and overcoming our weaknesses. We do not accept turning those weaknesses into doctrines, that would be opportunism. We do not accept bourgeois infiltration, or of liberalism and reformism in our ranks.
We bakuninists are followers of Bakunin, Louise Michel, Lucy Parsons, Makhno, Archinov, Ida Mett, Durruti, Jaime Balius and many others. Not because we will copy them in an idealistic and sectarian way. We want to learn from their critiques and self-critiques. We want to understand and overcome their limitations and keep moving forward. Thus, Bakuninism is not an admiration of the “classics” as a museum piece, as symbols of an alleged “anarchist movement” as heterogeneous as useless for workers. We were never afraid to criticize the classics, modern or postmodern that betrayed the revolution. Bakuninism is a revolutionary instrument for destroying the powers of domination and exploitation. It is the ghost that threatens the bourgeoisie, its reaction and reformism in whatever terrain they present themselves. Contrary to what our adversaries say, we are the true shatterers of myths and icons.
We affirm that the great Russian revolutionary, Mikhail Bakunin, more than an empty icon that adorns walls and catch phrases, systematized a new and vibrant revolutionary theory and ideology: anarchism. Bakuninism, therefore, is synonymous with anarchism.
What most frightens the enemies of Bakuninism is exactly that its advance throughout Brazil represents the destruction of the true, nefarious, stagnating founding myths of this petty-bourgeois and social-reformist “libertarian movement”. And Bakuninism advances by helping and learning from working people to break free from the secular currents of oppression of the State and Capital. It is with the same spirit that we were born, “against everything and everyone”, only committed to our people and to the revolution, that we face the challenges of the current crisis.
And it is for all this, and with a serene look at the storm on the horizon, that we reinforce once again the call: help build the Popular Anarchist Union! (UNIPA) Let us build an International Anarchist Network! Let us build the Revolutionary Syndicalist Confederation! Let us spread Bakuninism and revolutionary syndicalism to the four corners of our country and the world! Let us gather and train the best children of the people, the initiator-leader elements, the soldiers of the social revolution! Those who do not expect posts, wealth, or anything in return, just the certainty of serving revolution, socialism and freedom!
Anarchism is fighting!
Bakunin lives and will be victorious!
Down with Marxist and “libertarian” reformism!
Death to State and Capital!