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(en) Union Communiste Libertaire Bruxelles - An anarchist conception of popular power (de, it, fr, pt)[machine translation]
Sun, 18 Oct 2020 09:34:29 +0300
The following article was published under the original title "Our Concept of Popular Power" (Nossa Concepção de Poder Popular) in June 2012
by the Brazilian Anarchist Coordination on the occasion of the publication of the first issue of the journal Socialismo Libertário . ----
Specifism, our current of anarchism, particularly in Latin America, has been looking for more than half a century on the problem of popular
power . In this text, we try to formalize the relevant elements of this discussion, which are today shared by the organizations that make up
the CAB (Brazilian Anarchist Coordination). ---- Our conception of popular power constitutes both an objective and a strategy , both of
which form the basis of a political practice anchored in the historical and geographical context in which we operate, in order to strengthen
our intervention in all the forces at play. It is not therefore a question of a purely theoretical or philosophical discussion, which aims
only to know reality or to think about it in an abstract way. For us, anarchism is an ideology: "a set of ideas, motivations, aspirations,
values, structures or systems of concepts that have a direct link with action - what we call practice. Politics".[FARJ. Social anarchism and
We think that anarchism must necessarily conceive of this political practice in order to transform the reality in which we are inserted, and
it is in this sense that we conceive our proposal for popular power, based on a determined strategy of social intervention. , of a political
practice, which can stimulate our revolutionary and socialist objective.
Anarchism and popular power
Anarchism appeared during the nineteenth century as one of the forms that socialism can take , that is to say as one of its currents, which
today has a long history of the struggle of the oppressed. es , involving confrontations, conquests, defeats, pleasures, sufferings and
" There are sacrifices, struggles, blood and dreams in this concept of socialism. There is a long history of resistance. It is a historical
production linked to the aspirations of those below. It is not a science, but an aspiration, a hope of the human being, of the classes, of
the collectives and of the oppressed peoples ".[FAU / FAG. Wellington Gallarza and Malvina Tavares]
This long history of anarchism, inseparable from the struggles that have taken place and that still take place in the system of domination
in which we are inserted, constitutes an intense memory, on which we constitute our ideological certainties, based on the principles which
were the basis of anarchist ideology. The long history of anarchism has accumulated knowledge, in more than a century of intense battles,
lived and constructed collectively, from a very rich set of experiences which aimed at the same end goal: to promote social revolution and
consolidate a socialist and libertarian system, historically called libertarian socialism, libertarian communism or simply anarchism . "The
final goal which emerges from the socialist project is the establishment of an egalitarian society, a society[...]without classes".[CAZP.
Alagoas and People's Power]This objective foresees the end of domination in general, both economic exploitation and other types of domination.
For us, it is essential to go beyond discussions on the form, on the terms in question, and to adopt an approach which takes into account
the fundamental content of the anarchist proposition . We are convinced that anarchism has always been based, since its emergence, on
popular power strategies . When Bakunin, for example, proposed an anarchist intervention program within the International Association of
Workers (IWA), he did nothing other than propose a popular power project, which could transform the society by a revolutionary practice of
workers. We can say, contrary to what has been said, thatanarchism has never been against power, but has developed a critique of a certain
type of power (domination) and developed proposals for another type of power .
All the anarchist practices forged within the oppressed classes and which aimed and still aim to make them the protagonists of their own
struggles and of their own process of emancipation and liberation were and are, for us, projects of popular power . There are seeds of
popular power proposals in popular struggles of the past and present. Therefore, we do not understand that the idea of popular power is
something new; anarchism, as we emphasize, in its long history, has developed projects of popular power, always located in the frameworks
characterized by its principles.
When we think about the question of popular power, in reality we are taking up an important part of the theories and practices developed by
anarchists throughout history but, at the same time, we choose some of them rather than some of them. other. In addition, we have developed
our own positions in order to revitalize the issues that we consider fundamental for adequate political practice with the context in which
we find ourselves.
The concept of power
There are different interpretations of the concept of power in the left, and since we defend the concept of popular power, we understand
that it is necessary to define our conception of power with some precision.
We see power as a social relationship established from the confrontation between different social forces , when one or more forces impose
themselves on others.
Every society has a dynamic and permanent relationship between the forces at play. Therefore, every society has power relations.
Individuals, groups, social classes with the capacity to flourish, may or may not become social forces. Thus, we distinguish these two
concepts: "a social force has a certain capacity for realization . The capacity for achievement can be understood as the possibility of
producing from a certain social force, when it is put into action by the agent who holds it " . Thus, the capacity for achievement is placed
in the field of possibilities; an agent, a group can have a capacity of realization, but it will transform this capacity into a social
forcewhen it intervenes in the forces at play. Social force implies that capacity leaves the field of the possible and integrates itself
into the field of reality.
The social force can not be confused with power. " Power cannot be a simple synonym of social force, because in order to have power, you
have to use your force and it must have an effect - or at least be able to use this force (when it suits you) and that this is sufficient to
obtain an effect ". Power exists, in fact, when there is the imposition of the will of an agent or a group of agents by means of the social
force that they manage to mobilize to overcome the forces mobilized by those who oppose to him.
Power and domination
To say that all societies have power relations does not mean that all societies, and all social relations, are based on domination. This is
why we consider it fundamental to distinguish the concepts of power and domination .
Domination is a type of power, which we characterize as authoritarian power , against which we have historically mobilized. Domination is a
hierarchical power relationship that can be institutionalized, with some deciding what concerns others and / or everyone. It explains
structural inequalities, implies a relationship of command and obedience between the dominated and the dominated, the alienation of the
dominated, among other aspects. It is the foundation of class relations, although domination cannot be reduced to class domination.
Anarchism, since its emergence, struggles against distinct domination relationships: between social classes, genders, races, imperialists,
etc.Anarchism is therefore against a type of power characterized by domination which, unfortunately, characterizes the hegemonic model of
power of capitalism.
In opposition to domination and the model of power that characterizes it, the dominant power, we defend self-management and libertarian
federalism , characterized by a model of self-management and federalist power, called by us popular power . Self-management and federalism
are the opposite of domination and involve participation in planning and decision-making processes, in proportion to their impact,
personally, as a group or collectively. Its widespread application involves the replacement of a system of domination by an egalitarian /
"We can say that self-management would be, in general terms , the effective decision-making power over all political, economic and social
questions; it would not be done from top to bottom, but from bottom to top. Definition which covers several areas: forms of political
organization, organization of production processes and services, education, cultural and ideological aspects. Self-management, thus
conceived, with the magnitude that we believe it implies, is a global conception which needs coherent elements for an authentic development
. It implies a radical transformation, not only economic but also political and ideological. Self-management does not discipline the organs
of submission, obedience and command, but tends to destroy, to interrupt the current notion of politics as something reserved for a caste,
by giving another content to this concept: taking in hand by the various social organizations, at all levels and without intermediaries, of
the matters which fall to him, with the aim of building a social order on these bases. It also implies socializing politics, not to
deconstruct its specific space, but to conceive it in another way".[FAU. Power, self-management and class struggle: an approach to the theme]
As we will seek to demonstrate, our conception of popular power is based on the notions of self-management and libertarian federalism as
opposed to domination. This is why we differentiate power from domination; the power we defend, built on the idea of self-management and
federalism, forms the basis of our concept of popular power and is radically opposed to domination.
The concept of popular power
As we have already pointed out, we understand that " power is not necessarily something anti-popular "; " Legitimate popular power must
exist to oppress the plans of tyranny, which always appear in the minds of certain agents ". Thus, our popular power project becomes a tool,
a kind of counter-power to the existing power, characterized by domination.
In macro-social terms, we can say that we conceive of popular power as a generalized model of power based on self-management and established
by the oppressed classes compared to the dominant classes, which forms the basis of a new society. Popular power, thus conceived, aims at
the suppression of capitalism, of the State and of relations of domination in general, to replace them by a new structure of power,
established from the places of work and housing; it can therefore only be consolidated by a revolutionary process.
Opposing our popular power project to domination necessarily implies an arduous struggle against the social forces mobilized, fundamentally,
by the dominant classes. In the midst of the class struggle, which characterizes the system of domination in which we are inserted, we have
a very clear position, as a part of the oppressed classes - since we understand anarchism as an ideology of the oppressed classes - to lead
a process which, according to the capacity of these classes to become a social force, and from their intervention as popular movements,
manages to impose our force on the dominant classes, to put an end to domination and to establish this power popular, based on widespread
self-management. Popular power must therefore be built by the strength of the oppressed, on the basis of the communion of certain
principles, united in solidarity in their diversity and with the same objective.
" It is not a question of putting the name of popular power on the old and well-known forms of political action and representation which
exclude the people from all fundamental decision-making bodies. It is therefore not simply take the current centralized political power to
the ruling classes, but of the spread , of the decentralization in the popular organizations to transform into something else, turn it into
a new socio-political structure.To take power is to take power in factories, in fields, in mines, in workshops, in schools, in hospitals, in
power stations, in the media, in universities, and in power. is that of the workers and the people when they are organizations controlled by
them, largely democratic and participatory, where those who take charge of them take over the tutelary functions exercised from the state
sphere ".[FAG. Declaration of Principles]
Popular power is therefore both an objective and a strategy advocated by a specific anarchism . It brings our libertarian ideal closer to a
power project that is essential to achieve the ruptures that imply the achievement of our final objective and has no relation to the current
conceptions of "seizing power" of institutions of domination, as in the case of the state, whether in a revolutionary or reformist way.
The strategic project of our current
The strategic coherence which marks the anarchist intervention in reality is based on the idea, which seems obvious to us, that the
objective must condition strategy and tactics . That is to say that the means we use will necessarily lead to ends consistent with these
means. If we place popular power as a strategic objective to be achieved through a revolutionary process of mobilization and struggle , it
is impossible not to design strategies and tactics which are compatible with this objective and which lead us towards it. This strategic
project of anarchist specifism is essentially characterized by what we have called the construction of popular power.and the creation of a
strong people. It is in this sense that popular power also acquires a fundamental strategic function.
We affirm that the basis of popular power is self-management and libertarian federalism; therefore, in this strategic process of
mobilization and struggle, we understand that self-management and federalism must underpin our program of intervention in the creation and
participation of popular movements. Among the various strategies historically defended by anarchists, our popular power strategy is
characterized as a mass strategy . This means that we want to contribute to the organization of the masses so that they can be the
protagonists of their struggles., in the short and long term, taking responsibility for their daily achievements and improvements, as well
as the revolutionary transformation process that will emancipate and liberate them completely.
"Although popular power is a long-term project (when the strength of the oppressed classes exceeds that of the ruling classes), it begins to
develop and strengthen from experiences of short-term mobilization and struggle, forged on the immediate needs of the population. Therefore,
the construction of popular power requires immediate action and not to wait for other factors that can achieve it without further efforts,
because it is in the current society that the embryo of the future society develops " .[OASL. Specialist in anarchism and popular power]
For this reason, we maintain that popular power must begin to be built in the popular struggle , organized and led by the different sectors
of the oppressed classes, around the most immediate questions , targeting the deepest processes of rupture. Building popular power and
creating a strong people implies, in addition to short-term struggles, to move towards medium and long-term struggles, and it is for this
reason that we have defended popular organization in a front. of oppressed classes, which can permanently strengthen the social strength of
the dominated classes, placing them in direct opposition to the forces mobilized by the dominant classes. Such a process of popular
organization must be forged " as the result of a process of convergence of various social organizations and different popular movements,
which are the fruit of the class struggle".[FARJ. Social anarchism and organization]It is a question of rearranging the oppressed around a
common project of social transformation.
Among the various existing tools to increase social strength, we find organization. When we propose to organize popular movements and
participate in them with a determined program, we believe that we are empowering the oppressed class forces to express themselves with this
important tool. " The construction of popular power implies, from now on, the organization of new social movements and the integration of
existing movements, defending a position of permanent strengthening. And they can only emerge and be realized with and by the people, as a
class ". In our intervention to create popular movements and to join them,we rely on principles that allow us to promote mass struggles that
can contribute to the strengthening of our popular power project: class independence and solidarity, combativeness and direct action, direct
democracy, self-management and federalism . These principles, historically defended by anarchists in the context of popular struggles, serve
as inspiration and guide for the self-managed organization to build popular power.
Building popular power means building other power struggles that defeat the dominant powers , their economic, political, legal, military,
ideological and cultural structures and institutions; in short, the status quo. It is a question of daring to overcome the system of
domination and of achieving, in the full solidarity of the popular struggle, the accumulation of the social force necessary to unbalance the
social relations imposed by the dominant classes and, through conflict. social, advance, accumulate, potentiate and break with current
systemic structures. This strategy can only contribute to this process of accumulation of forces and ruptures if it works in our own
political practices, which must demonstrate a harmony between speeches and actions.
We understand that the creation of a strong people can only be done if the struggles of popular movements are based on self-management . It
is only by expanding the mechanisms of participation, which implies libertarian and egalitarian means, that we understand that we can
stimulate popular empowerment in order to create the subjects capable of carrying out such a broad social transformation. To organize the
different expressions of the popular struggle according to our principles is to create a strong people; an essential factor for the success
of our strategy.
Revolutionary subjects are not historically given by a determinist and mechanistic historical position; nor will they reach consciousness
and light by the action of the moralizing vanguard.
" To build a strong people and a popular power, it is necessary to build the subjects of change, because these are not given a
priori.[...]As for revolutionary subjects, the economic-political structure is a starting point, but it does not automatically define
transforming social agents.[...]However, the workers, as long as they do not recognize themselves and as long as they do not have a will of
their own, remain reproductive parts of the machinery of the system. To create political capacity in people is to develop their
organizational and practical potential, which people themselves already have in a latent state since they face daily work situations and
problems of everyday social life.".[CAZP. Alagoas and the power of the people]
The new subject, capable of constructing the popular power project that we are defending, must therefore necessarily be (re) constructed.
The intervention that we have through our political practice seeks this reconstruction in the fight against the fragmentation of the social
fabric, completely unraveled by the practices of domination, and by the accumulation of daily struggles, which generate relevant knowledge
and practices, with transformative potential. " It is therefore within the struggles that popular power is built and, consequently, another
historical subject, both personal and collective. A subject which is not determined a priori, but historically, within the struggles of
social movements ".We must be convinced that this new subject must take with it the idea of a new world, of another form of social
organization, and that it is capable of giving itself the means of action, of protagonizing and transform the reality in which it is inserted.
The role of the specific anarchist organization
Even if we defend popular power as a strategy of the masses, this does not mean that we are giving up another essential element, in our
opinion, in the construction of popular power; it is about the specific anarchist organization .
" The problem of power, decisive in a profound social transformation, can only be solved at the political level, by political struggle. And
that requires a specific form of organization: revolutionary political organization. Only its action, rooted in the masses, can achieve the
destruction of the bourgeois state apparatus and its replacement by mechanisms of popular power .[FAU. The anarchist political organization]
The specific anarchist organization, this revolutionary political body, is therefore a central element of our popular power strategy. Not in
the authoritarian and substitutive sense, which subjugates the capacity of the oppressed classes in the process of social transformation, or
wants to replace them in this struggle. The anarchist organization is understood by us as an agent which functions as a leaven or a motor of
popular struggles: "the political organization is not a direction, but above all a motor of struggles. This is a differentiation between the
character of active minority, which we attribute to our political organizations (political level), and the avant-garde character of
authoritarian political organizations, with regard to their relations with popular movements (social level).
" Unlike the vanguard organization, the political level organized as an active minority, which acts ethically, has no hierarchical
relationship or domination over the social level. For us, as we emphasize, the political and social levels are complementary.[...]The
political level complements the social level, just as the social level complements the political level. Contrary to what the authors
propose, the ethic of horizontality that functions within the specific anarchist organization is reproduced in its relationship with social
movements. When in contact with the social level, the specific anarchist organization acts ethically and does not seek privileged positions,
does not impose its will, does not dominate, does not deceive, does not ally itself, does not believe itself superior, does not fight for
social movements or at their head.[...]The objective of the active minority is, along with ethics, to stimulate, to be together neck and
neck ".[FARJ. Social anarchism and organization]
It is therefore a matter of maintaining a relationship of complementarity, in which the anarchist organization values popular movements
and these, in turn, constitute the privileged terrain of anarchist political practice . In this self-managed relationship between the
anarchist organization and the movements , the anarchist program, based on its fundamental principles and strategy, is promoted in order to
rebuild the social fabric, to organize the oppressed classes, to stimulate self-managed practices among them and to advance towards the
construction of popular power.
For us, specifist anarchists, the construction of popular power therefore implies a double practice: as members of the oppressed classes, we
organize ourselves in popular movements around large associations, which bring together activists of different ideologies; at the same time,
as anarchists, we organize ourselves, according to our ideological positions, to intervene in reality more adequately. For this, we defend
as fundamental the ideological, theoretical, strategic and practical affinity of these anarchist organizations, which are based on the
responsibility and discipline of their members, always guided by anarchist ethics.
The system of domination and the anarchist project of popular power
The struggle against domination involves methods of analysis and theories for a critical understanding of the reality in which we operate.
We characterize the contemporary system of domination as a dominant structure, based on the social relations of the different spheres, which
has its most relevant expression in the struggle between classes with antagonistic interests.
Capitalism, the state and the various structures and institutions that contribute to the establishment of this system must be abolished. We
have the duty to analyze and criticize the realities, the forces at play, the agents in question, our enemies, the concrete and potential
allies. This analysis, together with our final objectives and our set of strategies and tactics, constitute our strategic plan for
intervention and transformation of the company .
We believe that as long as there is a system of domination, there will be struggles for the emancipation of the oppressed, which are real
lessons for our project for popular power. It is in the midst of these resistances that we believe that anarchism must be found , with all
the diversity which characterizes the different popular fields in which we operate; we must reinforce the libertarian values which make
this project ideologically possible.
Economic dominations, characterized by capitalist exploitation; political dominations, characterized by the division of society into rulers
and ruled and by oppressions achieved by brute force, by coercion, both led by the state; cultural and ideological dominations, based on the
ideas that circulate and reinforce this system - all these dominations must be fought by us. The culture and ideology produced by systems of
domination create individualistic subjects, without identities that link them to the oppressed classes, fully integrated into the capitalist
system; it is also a relevant problem, which we also have to face.
The popular anarchist power project is opposed, at all levels of domination, to the adversaries of self-managed struggles, "creating spaces
and stimuli for participation in unions, cooperatives, community and student centers, protest organizations and demands: for work, health,
housing, land. In these distinct practices, it is fundamental that we support the recovery of economics and politics by the oppressed
classes , as well as the stimulation of the development of class identities and cultures of the different oppressed, and also the
dissemination of an ethics based on values; means that should support our popular power project.
The CAB and the construction of popular power
Our proposal for anarchism, as a yeast and engine capable of leading popular struggles, at national and continental level, therefore becomes
completely linked to this popular power project that we continue to lead; a strategy and a goal that we believe to be consistent for the
time and place in which we operate.
Anarchist ideology constitutes, for us, the fundamental basis of our political practice; we conceive, therefore, that our transformative
ideas possess, from our practical intervention in reality, the materiality necessary to intervene in the play of forces which characterizes
the system of domination in which we are inserted and we seek to transform with the practices of revolutionary intention that characterize us.
It is not enough to desire the utopia of libertarian socialism, we must walk towards it. Our popular power project seems adequate to meet
this challenge, by basing our tireless interventions, from the most common, daily, short-term issues, to t
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