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(en) A Batalha nş191, jan-feb. 2002 - ON REVOLUTION; A NOWADAYS PERSPECTIVE (pt)

From Manuel Baptista <NetBapmanuel@netscape.net>
Date Tue, 21 May 2002 05:17:11 -0400 (EDT)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

by Manuel Baptista

I present some personal views on the ways revolutionaries should work to 
achieve their task.

I want to focus on the anti-authoritarian, libertarian, anarchist 
movement at the beginning of this XXI Century.

There are various approaches to this issue. I don't pretend to have the 
exclusivity or the even the best view on this.

1) Our experience showed us that late twentieth century capitalism was 
redirected to a most aggressive trend, after the fall of the Soviet Empire.
The so-called neo-liberal policies consist in the ever-increasing 
domination of the parasitical, speculative capitalists on every aspect 
of human life, especially in countries that were not fully integrated in 
the world capitalist markets.
Now, the regions found worth investing by the capitalists are the ones 
were they can achieve the fastest reproduction of capital, and this 
means the wildest workers exploitation and the control of the 
technological processes by an array of so-called protections to 
"intellectual property", of patents, for which WTO is assuming the role 
of legislator, judge and policeman.
WTO is an essential piece of imperialist control over the world economy.

The nations and states (most of them are recent constructs, mainly 
during the last two centuries) are now devoted to a new role.
Before, they were a mean to secure it's own bourgeoisie internal market, 
avoiding part of the concurrency in commerce, industries and capital 
investments from external capitalists.
Now, the state has been confined to the role of making the way easier to 
external investment, to predatory and speculative "venture capitalists", 
to worldwide monopolies, destroying whatever frail protection the local 
capitalist enterprises still had, and the rights that workers obtained 
through two centuries of hard-fought class struggles.

Many regions of the world are considered non-interesting for industrial 
investment. These are left to be plundered and devastated by local war 
lords, as is the case in a huge part of sub-Sahara Africa, and in this 
case the state is a mere fiction, just good to cover the preying of 
natural richness by transnational companies.

The capacity of each country workers class to react to these attacks has 
been hampered by the long held conceptions of reformist and revisionist 
parties that took an hegemonic role during most of second half of last 
century, during the period of cold-war.

With the implosion of the Soviet system and the conversion of China to 
plain capitalist market rules, the attacks on workers rights and 
revenues became more aggressive. We witnessed the dismantling of welfare 
systems, the forced increase of jobless and precarious workers taking as 
pretext "rationalization" and "reorganization to face concurrency", all 
resulting in a decrease of workers wages. We also saw the privatization 
of water supply, electricity, railways, hospitals, schools and every 
state-owned industry or service yielding enterprises that could be made 
profitable to the finance and speculative capitalism.

In the so-called Third World countries the nationalistic regimes, heirs 
of the national liberation movements of the sixties and seventies, were 
threatened either by local ethnic or religious fundamentalism, taking 
advantage of the despair of the people, as the promise of "development" 
in these countries became just a bad joke.

The "Third-World" nationalism, making a sacred union, and led by local 
bourgeoisie, in terms of achieving formal independence from colonial 
powers, was completely unable to fulfill it's promises of increasing the 
living standards, accomplish agrarian reform, building a national 
industry, building a state organization equivalent to the rich world 
countries. They remained with the armed power and state bureaucracy, but 
lost the sympathy of the workers and peasants. These were victims for 
more than a quarter of a century (and after centuries of colonial rule) 
of brutal exploitation, of destruction of any structure left by the 
colonizing power. They were the victims of civil wars, murdered or 
enrolled forcefully in state or warlord armies.

The historical failure of authoritarian, self-proclaimed vanguard 
parties, most from one or other brand of Leninism, led to the discredit 
amongst the oppressed people of the possibility of a radical change, 
towards a classless society, towards what we call the Social Revolution.

In the poor countries of the South, some populist, nationalist or 
religious inspired movements exploited the despair brought by 
imperialist-capitalist globalization to challenge the local 
establishment, but in a counter-revolutionary fashion. In these 
countries where such nationalistic or religious fundamentalist elements 
succeeded taking power, liberty of expression and organization, and 
social rights, disappeared completely. The possibility of winning them 
again, in foreseeable future, is often low.

This situation is maintained through a network of post-colonial ties and 
the extremely disruptive "structural adjustment programs" under 
IMF/World Bank supervision.

The oppressions make the organizing and educating work harder for 
revolutionaries. Nevertheless, it also isolates the ruling class from 
the population, and new movements arise creating new fronts on the 
multiform class war that is increasing in extension and shaping a new 
anti-capitalist coalition. It often escapes traditional "left" or 
"leftist" parties, and bureaucratic unions' control.

The movements against the precarious and low paid jobs and resistance 
against privatization of social security are increasing and obtaining 
some partial victories in E.U. . This resistance increased the discredit 
of union bureaucracy and the "left" parties, as it becomes quite clear 
that they have no real commitment to fight for anything, except for 
votes in electoral campaigns. But the European libertarian, 
anti-authoritarian camp hasn't, for the moment, become strong enough to 
put at risk the system.

We can expect that -- as the crisis inside the different "left" parties 
will become deeper -- new organizations, emerging from the loose 
coalitions originated from anti-globalization mobilizations (in Europe 
and elsewhere) shall take an increasing role in daily social struggles.

As the aggressive behavior of the strongest imperialist power is forcing 
other powers to comply with their worldwide hegemony, it becomes 
increasingly fragile and subject to attacks from many former allies, 
financed, trained and armed to fight against Soviet Union, as it was 
shown on the last 11th September. The chaotic behavior of global 
capitalism will become more and more destructive. The global environment 
is already at risk and issues arising directly from environmental 
degradation, global warming, water supply, soil erosion, rural exodus, 
etc will cause severe social crisis and wars.

2) The most suffering part of the world hasn't got the means yet to 
emancipate itself from the rich predatory countries from the North. 
It's hard to imagine how can the most fragile countries do so. To be 
able to follow a non-capitalistic pathway these countries would need 
technical autonomous capacity, yet their school system is far from 
meeting these demands in many cases. The capitalist globalization is 
there to extract from those countries the cheapest labor costs, be it 
child labor, to maximize profits. In this context, we cannot rule out 
the possibility of a steady decline in all kind of "civilization 
standards", with a steadfast turn to increasingly authoritarian rule in 
the so-called western-democracies (mainly North America and Western 
Europe). The "Fortress Europe" is being built, stepwise, as if it were 
'invaded' by 'a horde of poor people' from South and East countries. 
This increasingly violent World can be destroyed because of the 
impossibility to overcome capitalism, by any mean available. It is 
therefore necessary to build or to rebuild relentlessly the 
non-capitalist relationships at every level. To subtract from capitalist 
greed all that can be subtracted, from daily shopping to children 
education. But how? There are various ways to build cooperatives and 
associations and run them in a true "egalitarian" mode. There is a huge 
work to be done at our doorstep. We can fulfil a very positive role in 
our community, in our job, in our family just by endorsing the 
responsibility to work in a non-competitive way, in a loving and caring 
and sharing way. Heroism at the barricades was possibly an expression of 
altruism in the romantic era. Now it is just a pitiful dream of 
well-fed, violence-fed kids in the affluent world.

It is necessary instead to adopt a pragmatic and principled behavior, 
something that could be expressed as:

- To be in this world, but without belonging to it: meaning, we are 
inside the capitalist society but we have a non-capitalist mentality and 
we try to be coherent with ourselves and not indulging in the 'worship' 
of the 'non-values' that such society secretes.

-         To be 'as reformist as needed, and as revolutionary as 
possible': meaning, we have many things positive to do here and now, 
even if these are not 'revolutionary' actions. They may give us -- 
proletarians -- confidence in our strenght, in our self-organizing 
capacity, and experience for the times when the revolution has come and 
everything must be run by us.

Only then, has the dream of "liberty-equality-solidarity" a chance to 
become true.

3) In fact, many people in anarchist circles, are satisfied with 
themselves by making such activities that are supposedly 
'revolutionary', meaning they are a strong show off of dissent from the 
capitalist society and a symbolic threat to international institutions 
like IMF, G8, WTO... Nevertheless, these activities are not revolutionary 
at all if we use "change" as criterium: is it changing something 
irreversibly and in the way of a greater social justice? The same 
applies to the direct action criterium: these demonstrations attack 
symbols of wealth, of corporate interests, but as long as it is symbols 
it is not direct action at all. Direct action means to address one's 
problems (generally or mainly collective ones) and to find solutions for 
it or to try to solve them without using intermediate powers or 
instances, without endorsing the responsibility of their solution to a 
"neutral" third party (like the State or State agencies). This approach 
can be, and is the most often, conflictive but the important thing about 
it is that workers assemblies are and remain the last decision instance.

  We should favor a flexible mode of organization, taking advantage of 
the local realities, not confined to a strict ideological affinity, 
allowing people of various anti-authoritarian trends to meet, to 
exchange views, to work together whenever possible and desirable, to be 
in touch with each other. We should come out of the ghetto were we put 
ourselves. These little circles of people basically sharing the same 
cultural identity and even fashion as if this was the important thing to 
stress, as if to dress or to eat according to this or that code, could 
make the slightest difference to the inner self transformation. The fact 
is it has nothing to do with the commitment to social struggles, it is 
just life-stylish anarchism from people too lazy to go to the root of 
our radical transformation theory.

Likewise, there is a wrong attitude towards "mass-organizations" and 
towards people under the influence of authoritarian thinking and 
practice. We are --in such cases -- falling in the trap of a special 
form of elitism and vanguard myths, even more dangerous as it is 
perverse and doesn't acknowledge itself with it but rather of being the 
opposite. Not that we should cooperate inside the mass organizations 
with the authoritarian: this would be the best way to be manipulated and 
defeated. But instead, to fight them inside those mass-organizations. To 
show to all the union associates that the self-perpetuation in union's 
direction and bureaucracy is a clear abuse of power. That they are in 
charge just to ascertain that the fights will not go out of control and 
that the bosses are accepting them because they acknowledge this, etc. 
To have no fear to discuss with militants from their ranks, with 
arguments, not with rigid slogans, not with paternalistic words, neither 
with aggressive ones: just like we figure a conversation between 
brothers and sisters with different views on many important aspects, but 
nonetheless still loving each other. I can tell by my own experience, 
that it is irresistible and it has lasting effects in the other person's 
mentality. Furthermore, what do we anarchists, can be afraid of to be 
open-minded, to be tolerant, to be humble? Isn't it the natural 
disposition of mind of someone really committed to our model of society?

The first thing to do is to perform self-education to be empowered with 
as much self-sustaining capacities as it is possible at a certain point, 
in some place. We cannot accept to rule out the possibility to organize 
cooperatives just because it is impossible or nearly so in some places. 
It is so today, but tomorrow it may be totally different. The people 
that erroneously despise these self-organizing methods may say that it 
will never change the power relation in our societies, it will never 
challenge the capitalist domination, and if it did it would be swiftly 
destroyed. This is a way to avoid looking to things as they are, and to 
postpone the possible today's work in the name of a 'misty' uprising age 
that nobody can tell how it will come or even if it will actually come. 
The truth is that we cannot conceive how can the worker fully realize 
the basic facts concerning class society if not confronted with social 
fight, actively engaged in social struggles. The same applies to the 
capacity to function inside non-hierarchical groups, collectives of 
equals, really devoid of leaders. The big energy that some anarchists 
spend fighting each other for stupid reasons should be redirected to 
confront the authoritarian wherever they are. Show no fear, no respect, 
unmask them in front of the workers and the people. In fact, the 
appearance of legitimacy they keep at some people eyes may be an 
important factor blocking the way out to the revolution.  This said, it 
is of the utmost importance not to put in the same 'bag' the leaders and 
bureaucrats of the authoritarian parties with the rank-and-file. If we 
build coops, unions or 'single-issue' collectives as non-hierarchical 
and autonomous structures, we must keep it non-sectarian otherwise it 
will be like the front mass-organizations the authoritarian build.

I am not talking above of specific organizations. The libertarians 
should make their propaganda and education in total independence, and 
therefore specific organizations are something very natural. The problem 
arises when we mix this with the role of mass-organizations.

We -- anarchists -- should have a distinct way to relate with each other 
and with every human being. We favor cooperation and reject competition. 
We are for free and mutual agreement in the decision-making processes. 
We deny the legitimacy of the group to force the individual to behave 
against his/her own will. We want to put in practice equality of rights, 
something that naturally favors and enhances individual freedom of 
choice. Because we are free, we accept the responsibilities and to be 
permanently accountable to the collective. If such behavior is not only 
assumed theoretically but also in practice, what a great potential for 
social change we, individually and collectively, have!

4) To us, the most urgent and necessary task is Social Revolution. This 
means the destruction of the foundations of class-society and the 
emergence of            non-hierarchical, self-managed mode of 
organization in every aspects of social life. It is therefore something 
that cannot be completed in a very short period of time. We must have 
the capacity to devise the right strategies to achieve this task. We 
cannot just sit and build beautiful theoretical constructs that have not 
whatsoever applicability. We must be able to make a permanent 
reassessment of our conceptions, of our strategies and tactics. As 
important, we must be able to persuade the vast majority that it is the 
path to happiness, to real social justice, to a decent future for 
Humanity. We cannot achieve any of these goals if we confine ourselves 
in tiny circles, unable to communicate with the non-anarchist majority. 
Neither if we can't make a real experience, even though limited in scope 
and area, of the ways we put to practice our views on self-management 
and organization. I defend therefore that we build and revive all sorts 
of 'institutions' of our own, 'institutions' in the sense of permanent 
organizational structures that address and try to offer an alternative 
to all sort of problems the workers face in today society. To be bold in 
theoretical conceptions cannot avoid its counterpart in experimenting 
fresh and new processes of widening the basis of informed adherence to 
our ideals. We can see in the History of Anarchism a tendency to perform 
this. We know that many institutions of today (coops, unions, cultural 
centers, etc) and many aspects of our societies were 'invented' and 
developed by people from the anarchist, anti-authoritarian socialist 
movement. We often forget that in most or all the nineteen century, in 
Western countries there was no right of association, no liberty of 
organizing our own press, no social wage, no equality of citizenship 
between men and women, etc.  It is clear that these historical examples 
are brought here, just to stress the need of inventing our contemporary 
institutions. We can draw examples from the past, but we must be aware 
that in our time the most efficient and meaningful ways to organize 
ourselves must stem from within the society as it is, not as it was 
centuries or even decades ago.

       Manuel Baptista
[first published in Portuguese in "A Batalha" nş191, jan-feb. 2002]

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