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(en) US, black rose fed: THEORY, IDEOLOGY AND POLITICAL PRACTICE: THE FAU'S "HUERTA GRANDE"
Mon, 2 Jul 2018 08:22:25 +0300
Image: Chilean Frente de Estudiantes Libertarios (FEL) marching in 2013 with banner "10
years building popular power." ---- Huerta Grande, or "Large Orchard," was written in 1972
as an internal discussion document of the Federación Anarquista Uruguaya, after the
Tupamaros, a Guevarist group, had failed in their armed strategy of foquismo and right
before the brutal military coup of June, 1973. The piece looks at the nature of theory
and strategy asserts that an essential aspect of revolutionary political organization was
having a deep understanding of material reality informed by practical theory and political
praxis. This may not seem new or novel but the implications of this have since had a
profound impact on Latin American anarchism and become a seminal document of the
The Federación Anarquista Uruguaya, known as the FAU, was founded in 1956 and was the
first organization to promote the organizational concept of Especifismo (for more on
Espeficismo see "Building a Revolutionary Anarchism" and "Especifismo: The Anarchist
Praxis of Building Popular Movements and Revolutionary Organization in South America").
The FAU envisioned the purpose of their organization as the coordination of militants
towards strategic "social insertion," which is the mobilization of militants to work with
a common strategy both within and in building mass organizations. The intermediate goal
being the construction of popular power of mass organizations and ultimate being the
creation of a wide scale libertarian movement which could create a rupture with the state.
In the decade of the 1960s the organization was crucial in the creation of the Uruguayan
CNT, a national trade confederation which united 90 percent of organized workers; the
Worker-Student Resistance or ROE, a federation of militant workplace and student groups
which numbered around 12,000 members; and the FAU's armed wing, the OPR-33. More recently
in the last two decades the FAU has aided in the creation of several similar anarchist
organizations in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile and has inspired other anarchist
organizations around the world.
Note: The use of the term "party" here is consistent with how the term is used by Errico
Malatesta as a synonym for political organization: "by the word ‘party' we mean all who
are on the same side, that is, who share the same general aspirations and who, in one way
or another, struggle for the same ends against common adversaries and enemies."
Original English translation: Pedro Ribeiro (2009, Amanecer: For A Popular Anarchism,
California), revisited translation by Gabriel Ascui (2018, SOL, Chile).
To understand what is going on (the conjuncture), it is necessary to think correctly. To
think correctly means to order and adequately treat the data that is produced about
reality in huge bulks.
To think correctly is an indispensable condition to correctly analyze what is going on in
a country in a given moment of this or another country's history. This demands
instruments. For our task, the instruments are concepts and to think coherently, a series
of concepts coherently articulated between them is required. Thus, a system of concepts, a
theory, is required.
Without a theory one runs the risk of examining every problem individually, in isolation,
starting from points of views that can be different in each case, or examining them based
on subjectivity, guesses or presentation, etc.
The party was able to avoid serious mistakes because we have been able to think based on
concepts that have an important level of coherence. It has also made serious mistakes due
to insufficient development of our theoretical thinking as an organization.
To propose a program, we must know the economic, political and ideological reality of our
country. The same is necessary in order to create a political line that is sufficiently
clear and concrete. If we have insufficient or incorrect knowledge, we will not have a
program but only a very general line, difficult to implement at all the places the party
is inserted. If there is no clear line, there is no efficient political practice. The
political will of the party then runs the risk of getting diluted, "voluntarism" in action
ends up becoming just doing whatever comes up out of sheer good will, but does not
determine the outcome of events, based on its inaccurate previsualization. We are
determined by them[the events]and by them we act spontaneously.
Without a line for the theoretical work, an organization, no matter how big it is, will be
bewildered by circumstances that it cannot affect nor comprehend. The political line
requires a program, understood as the goals to be achieved at each stage. The program
indicates which forces are favorable, which ones are the enemy and which ones are only
temporary allies. But in order to know this, we must know profoundly the reality of the
country. Therefore, to acquire this knowledge now is a task of the highest priority. And
in order to know, we need theory.
The party needs a clear picture in order to be able to think coherently about the country
and the region and the struggles of the international workers movements throughout
history. We must have an efficient framework to organize and rank the growing mass of data
regarding our economic, political and ideological reality.
We must have a method to analyze this data, to see which is more important, which ones
must come first and which ones later, in order to correctly marshal our forces in this
insertion front. A conceptual scheme that allows us to connect one thing to another in a
systematic and coherent order is vital to our goals as militants of our party. Such a
scheme must be able to draw examples of how to act using these concepts for others that
act in other realities.
But this work of knowing our country we must do it ourselves because nobody is going to do
it for us.
We are not proposing inventing theoretical schemes from scratch. We are not going to
create a new theory and all of its ramifications. The reason for this is the general
backwardness of the milieu and its specialized institutions and our lack of availability
to take on this task.
Therefore, we must take theory as it is elaborated, critically analyzing it. We cannot
just accept any theory with blind eyes, without criticism, as if it was a dogma.
We want to realize a complete transformation of our country and will not adopt as a way of
thinking theory created by the bourgeoisie. With bourgeois conceptions, we will think as
the bourgeoisie wants us to think.
We want to study and think about Uruguay and the region as revolutionaries. Therefore,
amongst the elements that are part of the different socialist currents, we will adopt
always those elements that aid us in doing exactly that: to think and analyze as
revolutionaries, the country, the region, and other regions and experiences.
We will not adopt a theory just because it is fashionable. To live repeating "quotes" that
others said in other places, in another time, regarding other situations and problems is
not theory. Only charlatans use it like this.
Theory is an instrument, a tool, that serves a purpose. It exists to produce the knowledge
that we need to produce. The first thing that we care about knowing is our country. If it
is not capable to produce new helpful knowledge for our political practice, theory is
absolutely useless, it is only a theme for idle babble, for sterile ideological polemics.
Someone who buys a big modern machine instead of working on it, that spends all day
talking about it, is playing a bad role, is a charlatan. Just like the one that, having
the machine available and would rather do it by hand, because "that's how it was done
Image: Rally of FUNSA members in circa 2004 , a tire workers union which FAU historically
played a strong role and which participated in various general strikes and factory
Some Differences Between Theory and Ideology
It is important to point out a few differences between what has commonly been called
theory and ideology.
Theory aims for the elaboration of conceptual instruments used to think rigorously and
profoundly understand the concrete reality. It is in this sense, that we can refer to
theory as an equivalent to a science.
Ideology, on the other hand, is made up of elements of a non-scientific nature, which
contribute dynamism to action based on circumstance that, although having something to do
with the objective conditions, do not strictly emerge from them. Ideology is conditioned
by objective conditions although not mechanically determined by them.
The profound and rigorous analysis of a concrete situation, in its real and objective
terms, is a theoretical analysis as scientific as possible. The expression of motivations,
the proposal of objectives, of aspirations, of ideal goals - all of that belongs to the
field of ideology.
Theory refines and defines the conditioning elements of political action, as ideology
motivates, impulses, and configures its "ideal" goals and style.
Between theory and ideology there is a very tight connection, as the proposals of the
second are founded and supported by the conclusions of the theoretical analysis. The
efficiency of an ideology as a motor for political action is as much as it's firmly based
in the conclusions of theory.
The Reach of Theoretical Work
Theoretical work is always a work that is based and supported in the real processes, in
what goes on in the historical reality, in what happens. Nevertheless, since it is work
that is located completely in the realm of thought, and therefore, there are no concepts
there that are more real than others.
It is important to point out two basic propositions:
The distinction between the existing, concrete reality, between the real, historical
processes and on the other hand the processes acquired from knowledge and understanding of
that reality. In other words, it is necessary to affirm the difference between being and
thought, between reality as it is, and what we can know about it.
The primacy of being over thought, of reality over knowledge. In another words, the
sequence of events is more important - it weighs more as a determinant -in what actually
happens in reality than what we think or know about this reality.
Starting from these basic affirmations, it is important to understand the precise reaches
of theoretical work, that is, the effort of knowledge guided by the purpose of acquiring
rigorous, scientific knowledge.
Theoretical work is always based in a pre-determined raw material.[Theory]does not come
out of the real concrete reality as such, but comes out of information, data and notion of
that reality. This primary material is treated, in the process of the theoretical work, by
certain useful concepts and certain instruments of thought. The product of this treatment
In other words, there are only real, concrete and singular objects (determined by
historical situations, determined societies, determined times). The process of theoretical
work seeks to know them.
Sometimes theoretical work aims towards abstract objects that do not exist in reality,
that only exist in thought, and however are indispensable instruments, a pre-condition in
order to know real objects (for example the concept of social classes, etc.). In the
production of knowledge, raw material is transformed (superficial perception of reality)
into a product (a rigorous scientific knowledge about it).
The term "scientific knowledge" must be defined in its relationship with the social
reality. Applied to reality, it alludes to its comprehension in rigorous terminology, the
best approximation to reality as it is.
It must be said that this process of comprehending the social reality, as with any other
real object of study, is susceptible to an infinite theoretical depth. As physics,
chemistry and other sciences can infinitely deepen their knowledge about the realities
that constitute their respective objects of study, in the same manner social science can
indefinitely deepen knowledge about social reality. Therefore, it is inadequate to expect
a "finished" knowledge of social reality in order to start acting on it in order to change
it. Nor less inadequate is trying to change it without profoundly knowing it.
Rigorous scientific knowledge of social reality, of social structure, is only achieved
through working with information, statistics data, etc., through the means of more
abstract conceptual instruments, given and constituted in theory. Through practice of
theoretical work we seek the production of these conceptual instruments, each time more
precise and concrete, leading us to knowledge of the specific reality of our surroundings.
Only through an adequate theoretical comprehension, profound and scientific, can
ideological elements be developed (aspirations, values, ideals, etc.) that constitute
adequate means for the transformation of this social reality with coherence of principles
and efficiency into political practice.
Political Praxis and Knowing Reality
An efficient political practice therefore demands: knowledge of reality (theory), the
harmonious postulation of it with the objective values of transformation (ideology) and
concrete political means for attaining such transformation (political practice). The three
elements are fused in a dialectical unit that constitutes the effort for transformation
that the party aims for.
One may ask: Should we wait for a finished theoretical development in order to start
acting? No. Theoretical development is not an academic problem, it does not start from
zero. It is founded, motivated and developed by the existence of ideological values and of
a political practice. More or less correct, more or less incorrect, these elements exist
historically before theory and motivate its development.
The class struggle has existed long before its theoretical conceptualization. The struggle
of the exploited did not wait for the elaboration of a theoretical work. Its existence
precedes knowledge about it, it was there before being known about, before the theoretical
analysis of its existence.
Therefore, from this basic statement, it becomes fundamental and essential to act, to have
a political praxis. Only through[praxis], through its concrete existence in the
established conditions of its development, can we elaborate a useful theoretical
framework. A framework that is not a worthless accumulation of abstract statements with
some coherence in its internal logic, but without any coherence with the development of
the real processes. To theorize efficiently, it is precise to act.
Can we do away with theory with the excuse of practical urgency? No. There may exist,
shall we say, a political praxis founded solely in ideological criteria, thus, unfounded
or insufficiently founded in adequate theoretical analysis. That is common in our environment.
Nobody can argue that, in our reality or the reality of our[Latin]America region, an
adequate theoretical analysis exists, that is a sufficiently conceptualized comprehension,
not even close. This ascertainment also applies to the rest of our reality. Theory is only
in its initial stages. However, for decades and decades there have been struggles, a
confrontation. This understanding should not lead us to disdain the fundamental importance
of theoretical work.
To the question previously asked we must then answer: The priority is praxis, but how
effective this praxis is depends on a more rigorous knowledge of reality.
In a reality like ours, in the social formation of our country, theoretical development
must start, as in everywhere, from a group of efficient theoretical concepts, operating on
data as massive as possible, that will constitute the raw material for theoretical
Data on its own, examined in isolation, without an adequate theoretical conceptual
treatment does not adequately represent reality. It simply decorates and dissimulates the
ideologies in which service this data is functionalized.
The abstract concepts, in and of themselves, adequate background information, do not give
further knowledge of reality either.
The theoretical work that exist in our country usually fluctuates between these two
For a related theory and strategy articles we recommend "Especifismo: The Anarchist Praxis
of Building Popular Movements and Revolutionary Organization in South America," "For a
Theory of Strategy by CAB (Brazil),"
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