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Production and Reproduction of Theory

category brazil/guyana/suriname/fguiana | anarchist movement | policy statement author Monday February 13, 2012 22:51author by Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro - FARJ Report this post to the editors
Another important activity of the specific anarchist organisation is the production and reproduction of theory. We understand theory as “[a] set of concepts coherently articulated between themselves [...], an instrument, a tool, [that] serves to do a job, that serves to produce the knowledge that we need to produce”. Theory is fundamental both for the conception of strategy, as well as for the propaganda that the organisation performs. Strategy seeks to increase the efficiency of work of the anarchist organisation while propaganda is very important in the sense of promoting anarchist ideas.

SOCIAL ANARCHISM AND ORGANISATION

THE SPECIFIC ANARCHIST ORGANISATION: PRODUCTION AND REPRODUCTION OF THEORY

Another important activity of the specific anarchist organisation is the production and reproduction of theory. We understand theory as “[a] set of concepts coherently articulated between themselves [...], an instrument, a tool, [that] serves to do a job, that serves to produce the knowledge that we need to produce” [152]. Theory is fundamental both for the conception of strategy, as well as for the propaganda that the organisation performs. Strategy seeks to increase the efficiency of work of the anarchist organisation while propaganda is very important in the sense of promoting anarchist ideas.

Thus, we understand this set of coherently articulated concepts – theory – as an indispensable tool for practice, in order to perform a specific job. Therefore, “if it does not serve us to produce new knowledge useful for political practice, theory is useless” [153].

On being produced within the specific anarchist organisation, theory formalises concepts in order to make the organisation: 1.) understand the reality in which it is acting, 2.) deal with making a prognosis of the objectives of the process of social transformation and 3.) define the actions that will be taken in order to put this process into practice. We call this scheme strategy, and will discuss it below in more detail.

In seeking to understand the reality in which one operates theory arranges information and data, formalises the understanding of the historical moment in which we operate and the definition of the social, political and economic characteristics. That is, it performs a complete diagnosis of the reality in which the specific anarchist organisation operates. In this case it is important, beyond general reading, to think regionally where one acts; as if this is not done you run the risk of applying methodology that is incorrect for the process of social transformation (the "importing" of ready-made theories from other times and other contexts). However, for us theory does not end there. It is through it that the anarchist organisation makes a prognosis of the objectives that the social transformation intends to imprint on the capitalist system. The conception of libertarian socialism and the revolutionary process of transformation can only be thought of, today, from a theoretical perspective, since in practice we are not living in a revolutionary time.

Thus, theory organises the concepts that define the transformation to the future society as well as that society itself, which are the final objectives of the specific anarchist organisation. Theory also defines how the anarchist organisation should act within the reality in which it finds itself in order to reach its final objectives. In this way, all the reflection that we do today about the complete process of social transformation that we intend to imprint on society is a theoretical reflection, since, despite being put into practice it does not happen completely, but partially, with the development of the steps concerning the beginning of the process. Other steps are reserved for the future and, today, can also only be thought of in a theoretical way.

Theory is also very important in the process of propaganda, since to promote anarchist ideas it is necessary to articulate concepts coherently. Besides propaganda taking place – more broadly – in practice, theory also has a very relevant role therein. When theory is used for propaganda it formalises the past with the study and reproduction of anarchist theories, which have as an objective to deepen the ideological level and make anarchist ideology more known. It can also take place in relation to the present and the future with the theoretical spread of materials that explain our critiques of the present society, our conception of the future society and of the process of social transformation. It is also important that the production of theory aims to update obsolete ideological aspects or seeks to adapt ideology to specific and particular realities. This whole process of theoretical propaganda is fundamental to gather people around our cause. The more theory is produced and distributed, the easier will be the penetration of anarchism throughout society.

We understand that theory is fundamental to practice. When we work with correct and well-articulated concepts, the practice is much more efficient. “If there is no clear and concrete [theoretical] line, there is no effective political practice” [154] and the political will of the organisation runs a serious risk of being diluted.

Besides this, we do not believe that in order to act the anarchist organisation needs, before anything else, to have a deep and developed theory. In fact, there are organisations that believe that the big problem of anarchism is in the resolution, almost mathematically, of anarchist theory. For us, although we defend with emphasis that theory is very important for an efficient practice, we do not believe that theory produced without concrete and prolonged contact with practice can bear any promising fruit. The theory promoted by intellectuals removed from struggle or with little social work – intellectuals who think they have understood theory more than anyone else and have found definitive answers to the theoretical questions – is of little use, since it is in practice that we verify whether the theory serves for anything; practice that necessarily contributes to the theory. We do not believe, like many of these intellectuals, that just with theory we will necessarily have an efficient practice. If this theory was not constructed with ample and permanent contact with practice, the chance of it having little use is enormous.

When we started the introduction to this text with the subheading “to theorise efficiently it is essential to act” [155] we were referring exactly to the idea that for coherent and efficient theoretical production, there is no other way than to produce it, too, from practical experiences. In this case it is not always theory that determines practice. We believe that theory and practice are complementary and that from theory you practice, and from practice you theorise. If we can theorise today about our ideology it is because we are putting it to the “test” in our daily practice and verifying what works, what doesn’t work, what is current and what needs to be updated. We know that, often, “in practice, the theory is other” and this applies above all to anarchism. Not everything that was produced or is produced theoretically within anarchism serves the practice we want. This also applies to aspects that are less ideological such as analysis of the conjuncture, evaluation of the political forces at play etc. that can even be interesting theories, but if they do not find coherence in practice, will not serve us for anything.

The important value that we attach to practice gives absolute importance to the process of social work and insertion. It puts anarchist ideology to the test, allowing the anarchist organisation to better think of its possibilities and horizons, to be much more programmatic, to act with its feet on the ground and to get on with life as it is, and not how we would like it to be. For this reason, social work and insertion enables one to perform with better precision all the theoretical production of the anarchist organisation.

From this relation of theory and practice we understand the theoretical way of the specific anarchist organisation as a constant way to theorise, practice, evaluate the theory and, if necessary, reformulate it, theorise, practice, and so on.

Many anarchist organisations define theory only as comprehension of the reality in which they are acting. In this way they separate theory from ideology, the first being this “set of concepts coherently articulated between themselves” that would serve only for the elaboration of answers to what we call “the first question of strategy”, that is, “where we are”. In this sense theory would come down to seek a deeper understanding of the reality in which you operate. On this we agree. However we believe, as we have specified above, that theory also serves to answer the second and third questions of strategy, that is, “where we want to reach”; and “how do we think we can leave where we are and arrive at where we want to be”.

Thus, in this strategic framework theory is not limited to the first question, but also seeks to answer the second and third questions. Moreover, this theory implicated in strategy necessarily has ideological elements and, therefore, in this case theory and ideology, despite being distinct concepts, cannot be clearly separated. Theory necessarily carries ideological aspects and ideology necessarily carries theoretical aspects. There is, therefore, a direct link between one another.

From this understanding of the relation between theory and ideology we think that the specific anarchist organisation must work with what we call ideological and theoretical unity. This unity occurs through the decision-making process of the anarchist organisation and has as an objective to determine a clear political line (theoretical and ideological) that must, necessarily, guide all the activities and actions of the organisation which, “both as a whole as well as in the details, should be in exact and constant agreement” [156] with the line defined by the organisation. We do not believe that it would be possible to work with multiple theoretical and ideological conceptions without this signifying permanent conflicts and inefficient practices. The absence of this theoretical and ideological political line leads to a lack of articulation or even to conflicting articulation in the set of concepts, the result of which is incorrect, confusing and/or inefficient practice.

With this well-defined political line everyone knows how to act and, in case of having practical problems, it is well known that the line should be revised. When the theoretical and ideological line is not well defined and there is a problem, there are difficulties in knowing what needs to be revised. It is, therefore, the clarity of this line that allows the organisation to develop theoretically.


Notes:

152. FAU. Huerta Grande: a Importância da Teoria.

153. Ibid.

154. Ibid.

155. Ibid.

156. Dielo Trouda. “Organisational Platform for a General Union of Anarchists”


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