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Social Anarchism and Organisation - Translator's Introduction
brazil/guyana/suriname/fguiana | anarchist movement | review Wednesday February 08, 2012 21:03 by Jonathan Payn - ZACF | apoio FARJ
Translator's introduction to the English version of Anarquismo Social e Organização, by the Anarchist Federation of Rio de Janeiro (Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro – FARJ).
This document, first published in Portuguese under the title Anarquismo Social e Organização and adopted at the first Congress of the Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro in August 2008, seeks to map out the FARJ’s theoretical conception of an organised, class struggle anarchism and, “More than a purely theoretical document, [...] reflects the conclusions realised after five years of practical application of anarchism in the social struggles of our people”.
Social Anarchism and Organisation
Translator’s introductionThis document, first published in Portuguese under the title Anarquismo Social e Organização and adopted at the first Congress of the Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro in August 2008, seeks to map out the FARJ’s theoretical conception of an organised, class struggle anarchism and, “More than a purely theoretical document, [...] reflects the conclusions realised after five years of practical application of anarchism in the social struggles of our people”.
In it the FARJ traces its historical and organisational roots through the militant histories of Carioca  anarchists such as Ideal Peres, who struggled to keep the flame of anarchism alight during the dark days of dictatorship, to militants such as his father, Juan Perez Bouzas, Galician immigrant anarchist who participated decisively in the Battle of Sé in 1934, “when the anarchists rejected the Integralistas  under bursts of machine gun fire”.
In what is perhaps one of the most comprehensive elaborations on the Latin American concept of especifista anarchism now available in English, Social Anarchism and Organisation traces and outlines the theoretical and practical influences on the FARJ’s conception of anarchist organisation and its strategy for social transformation. It advocates a conception of anarchism that divides anarchist activity into two levels of activity – the social (social or ‘mass’ movement) and political (specific anarchist organisation) – arguing that this dual-organisationalist approach to anarchist organisation is consistent with, and can by traced back to the ideas and practices of Bakunin himself in the Alliance of Socialist Democracy. The FARJ traces this common political lineage back to Bakunin through the experiences of the Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU) and those of the 1918 Aliança Anarquista and 1919 Partido Comunista (libertarian in content); through the experience of the Magonistas during the Mexican Revolution and the radical phases of the Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM); through the experiences of the Federación Anarquista Iberica (FAI) and Friends of Durruti group during the Spanish Revolution, and those of the authors of the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists (Platform); to those of Errico Malatesta in his conception of the anarchist party.
Drawing from the experience of the loss of what it terms the “social vector of anarchism” (anarchism’s social influence) at the end of the glorious period of anarchism, the FARJ advocates the need for a specific anarchist organisation – tightly organised, comprising highly committed militants sharing high levels of theoretical and strategic unity – that, through participating in and supporting popular movements and struggles against exploitation and domination, seeks to influence these movements with anarchist principles and in a revolutionary and libertarian direction. The final objective thereof being the recapturing of the social vector of anarchism as a necessary step towards the introduction of libertarian socialism by means of social revolution.
In seeking to increase the social influence of anarchism the FARJ re-asserts the need for anarchism to come increasingly into contact with the exploited classes, thus identifying the class struggle as the most important and fertile terrain in which to attempt to spread anarchist principles and practices. For these to take root, however, it is essential for organised anarchists to carry out permanent and consistent propaganda, organisational and educational work within the movements and organisations of the exploited class and – critically for the FARJ – to always act in a manner consistent with what it terms a “militant ethic”. Social Anarchism and Organisation outlines the FARJ’s conception of the various tasks of the specific anarchist organisation, as well as its structure, processes for attracting new members and its orientation towards social movements – all according to the logic of concentric circles.
In formulating strategic answers to the questions, “where are we?”, “where do we want to go?” and “how do we think we can leave where we are and arrive at where we want to be?”, Social Anarchism and Organisation articulates the FARJ’s understanding of social classes under “the society of exploitation and domination” – capitalism and state – as well as its final objectives – social revolution and libertarian socialism – and how these may look. In so doing it explains the FARJ’s conception of “the popular organisation” which – uniting social movements struggling for freedom and accumulating the experiences and gains made in the daily class struggle – would, rather than representing the simple sum of the forces of isolated social movements, constitute a far greater social force that, at the moment in which it becomes greater than that of the state and capital, should make a decisive break with the current system and, using violence as a necessary response to the violence of the state and capital, initiate the transition to libertarian socialism by means of social revolution. Since initial publication of this document, however, the FARJ has taken to using the term “popular power” as a substitute for “the popular organisation”, and has further developed its understanding of this concept so central to especifismo.
In the more than three years since adoption of this document the FARJ has undergone a number of theoretical developments, such as: deepening its conception of class based on the category of “domination”, while considering economic class as one kind of domination; new research and understanding of the history of Brazilian anarchism in the decades of the 1940s and 1950s; theory and method of analysis and the deepening of some topics on anarchist organisation. There have also been some practical developments, including the development of “social work” with the following movements: Grassroots Unemployed Workers Movement (MTD-Pela Base), Landless Movement (MST), Popular Councils Movement (Movimento Conselhos Populares) and participation in the creation of a “Popular Organisation” tendency.
Although this document, located within a particular Latin American context, was first published and adopted over three years before this translation it remains an insightful and instructive contribution to global contemporary anarchist theory and practice; relevant to anyone committed to finding in anarchist praxis the most suitable response to the question, “how do we think we can leave where we are and arrive at where we want to be?” I hope this translation does it justice.
Johannesburg, March 2012
1. Someone who comes from Rio de Janeiro
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