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Social Work and Insertion

category brazil/guyana/suriname/fguiana | anarchist movement | policy statement author Monday February 13, 2012 17:02author by Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro - FARJ Report this post to the editors
Social work and insertion are the most important activities of the specific anarchist organisation.



Social work and insertion are the most important activities of the specific anarchist organisation.

As we have already dealt with, we live in a society that puts the ruling class and the exploited classes on opposing sides. Let us also remember that our struggle is for the establishment of a classless society – libertarian socialism. And that the way to reach this new society, in our opinion, is through the struggle of social movements, their conformation into the popular organisation and through the social revolution. To this end, this whole process must take place within the exploited classes, which are the true protagonists of the social transformation that we advocate.

Thus, if the struggle of anarchism points towards the final objectives of social revolution and libertarian socialism, and if we understand the exploited classes to be the protagonists of the transformation towards these goals, there is no other way for anarchism but to seek a way to interact with these classes. For this reason,

anarchism can no longer continue trapped within the confines of marginal thought and claimed only by a few small groups, in their isolated actions. Its natural influence on the mentality of human groups in struggle is more than evident. For this influence to be consciously assimilated, it should now be in possession of new means and start the path of social practices now. [130]
In the class struggle the exploited classes are always in conflict with the ruling class. This conflict can manifest itself in a more or less spontaneous, or more or less organised way. The fact is that the contradictions of capitalism generate a series of manifestations of the exploited classes and we consider this to be the best terrain to plant the seeds of anarchism. Neno Vasco, speaking of the seed sower, used a metaphor to say that anarchists should plant their seeds in the most fertile terrain. As we have already emphasised, for us, this terrain is the camp of the class struggle.

Since we intend to plant our seeds within the class struggle, and because we understand the exploited classes to be the protagonists of the process of social transformation, we assume that for anarchism to reach its final objectives the exploited classes are essential. When we explain this point of view we are not idolising these classes or even assuming that everything they do is always right, but we are emphasising that their participation in the process of social transformation is absolutely central. Therefore, we anarchists, "must always be with the people" [131].

The way in which the specific anarchist organisation seeks interaction with the exploited classes is through what we call social work. Social work is the activity that the anarchist organisation performs in the midst of class struggle, causing anarchism to interact with the exploited classes. Social work gives to the political level of anarchism a social level, a body without which anarchism is sterile. Through social work anarchism is able to realise its function of being a motor for the struggles of our time. The social work of the anarchist organisation occurs in two ways: 1.) With the ongoing work with existing social movements and 2.) With the creation of new social movements.

Since our founding we have considered social movements to be the preferred terrain for our activity, as put in our Charter of Principles when we affirm: "the FARJ proposes to work – immediately and without inter-mediation – in the direction of intervening in the diverse realities that make up the universe of social movements" [132]. As we have discussed above, we understand the social movements as a result of "a tripod made up by necessity, will and organisation." Thus, organised anarchists must seek to stimulate the desire and organisation for a movement that is based primarily on the needs of the exploited classes. These, in most cases, are demobilised by "not having the sense of their rights, nor faith in their strength; and as they do not have this feeling, nor this faith, [...] remain, for centuries, powerless slaves" [133]. In this process of mobilisation we have to encourage this sense and this faith. From then, the question of need becomes central because it is through this that mobilisation occurs. Few are those who are willing to fight for an idea that will only bring long-term results. Therefore, to mobilise the people we must, before anything else, deal with the concrete issues and problems that afflict and are close to them. To earn their trust and adherence

[...] We have to start talking to them, not about the general evils of the whole international proletariat, nor the general causes which give birth to it, but their particular misfortunes, daily and private. It is necessary to speak to them about their profession and the conditions of their work, precisely in the locality in which they dwell; of the duration and the vast extent of their daily work, the inadequacy of their salary, the wickedness of their boss, the scarcity of food and their inability to properly nurture and educate their family. And proposing to them the means to combat their misfortunes and to improve their position, there is no need to talk too soon about general and revolutionary objectives. [...] Firstly, it is only necessary to offer them objectives the usefulness of which their natural common sense and everyday experience cannot ignore, nor repel. [134]
In the same way, in the process of mobilisation you can pose the question of people not having jobs, of not having a place to live etc.. Therefore, the role of anarchist organisation is to explain necessities and to mobilise around them. Be it in the creation of social movements or working with existing movements the central idea is always to mobilise around necessity.

Social movements are the instances in which mobilisation of the exploited classes takes places and, therefore, it is these movements that cause them to have a political practice. Their political practice is developed through "any activity that has as its object the relationship [of confrontation] of the exploited and oppressed with the bodies of political power; the state, government and their various expressions" [135] besides other supporting bodies of the capitalist system. Political practice seeks to put the people in combat against the forces of the system that oppresses them and, therefore, incites the facing-off of these forces, "the defence and expansion of public and individual freedoms, the capacity for proposals that correspond to the general interest of the population or partial aspects of it." Political practice can also be "insurrection as an instance of violent questioning of a situation we want to change [... and also] the proposals which, taking in the popular demands facing the bodies of power, can present solutions to general and specific questions and require those bodies to be able to adopt them and make them valid for the whole of society".

Through their political practice social movements must impose all their conquests on the forces of capitalism and the state. The people themselves must demand, enforce and realise all the improvements, conquests and freedoms desired as is felt necessary, by means of organisation and will. These demands must be permanent and increase progressively, each time demanding more and seeking the full emancipation of the exploited classes.

Whatever the practical results of the struggle for immediate improvements may be, their main usefulness lies in the struggle itself. Is it through it that workers learn to defend their class interests, that they understand that the employers and governments have opposing interests to theirs, and that they cannot improve their conditions, much less emancipate themselves, if not by joining together and making themselves stronger. [...] If they can get what they want they will live better. They will earn more, work less, have more time and energy to reflect on the things that interest them; and they will suddenly feel more needs and desires. If they were not successful, they will be impelled to study the causes of their failure and to recognise the need for greater unity, increased energy; they will understand, finally, that in order to win, securely and definitely, it is necessary to destroy capitalism. [136]
The political practice of social movements translated into the struggle for short-term gains brings the pedagogical sense of increased consciousness to the militants, in the event of victories or even defeats.

The political practice of the specific anarchist organisation works the same way. We stated earlier that we understand anarchism as an ideology and, in this case, "a set of ideas, motivations, aspirations, values, a structure or system of concepts which have a direct connection with action – which we call political practice." Social work is the principal part of the political practice of the anarchist organisation that, in this case, interacts with the exploited classes organised into social movements, withdrawing anarchism from small circles and widely supplanting its ideas within the class struggle.

Besides this, for us, more than simply interacting with social movements the social work of the specific anarchist organisation must seek to influence them in practice, causing them to have certain operating characteristics. We call the process of influencing social movements through anarchist practice social insertion. Thus, the anarchist organisation has social work when it creates or develops work with social movements, and social insertion when it manages to influence movements with anarchist practices.

Social insertion is not intended to "ideologise" social movements, turning them into anarchist social movements. By contrast, it seeks to give them certain determined characteristics so that they can proceed towards the construction and development of the popular organisation, and point towards the social revolution and libertarian socialism. It seeks to make social movements go as far as possible.

We do not want "to wait for the masses to become anarchists" in order to make the revolution; even more than we are convinced that they will never become (anarchists) if initially we do not overthrow, with violence, the institutions that keep them in slavery. As we need the concurrence of the masses to build a sufficient material force, and to achieve our specific objective which is the radical change of the social organism through the direct action of the masses, we must get close to them, accept them as they are and, as part the masses, make them go as far as possible. This for we want, of course, to actually work to realise, in practice, our ideals and not to be content in preaching in the desert, for the simple satisfaction of our intellectual pride. [137]
We recall that we have advocated the position that it is ideology that should be within social movements, and not social movements that should be within ideology. The specific anarchist organisation interacts with social movements seeking to influence them to have the most libertarian and egalitarian forms possible. [138] Although we treat anarchism and social movements as different levels of activity, we believe that there is a relationship of mutual influence between the two. This complementary and dialectic relationship causes anarchism to influence social movements, and social movements to influence anarchism. When we deal with social insertion we are talking about the influence of anarchism within social movements. In this respect, despite sustaining a separation between the political (the anarchist organisation) and social (social movements) levels, we do not believe that there should be hierarchy or domination of the political level over the social level. We also do not believe that the political level struggles for the social level or in front of it, but with it – this being an ethical relationship. In its activity as an active minority the specific anarchist organisation struggles with the exploited classes and not for or in front of them, seeing as though "we do not want to emancipate the people, we want the people to emancipate themselves" [139]. We will discuss further on, in a little more detail, this relationship between the specific anarchist organisation and social movements.

When dealing with social insertion as the influence that the specific anarchist organisation exerts on the social movements, we understand that it is important to elaborate a little more on what we mean by "influence." To influence, for us, means to cause changes in a person or a group of people through persuasion, advice, examples, guidelines, insights and practices. First of all we believe that in society itself there are, at any given time, a multiplicity of influences between the different agents who influence and are influenced. We can even say that "to renounce exerting influence over others means renouncing social action, or even the expression of one's own thoughts and feelings, which is [...] tending towards in-existence" [140]. Even from an anti-authoritarian perspective, this influence is inevitable and healthy.

In nature as in human society, which in itself is nothing other than nature, every human being is subject to the supreme condition of intervening in the most positive way in the lives of others – intervening in as powerful a manner as the specific nature of each individual permits. To reject this reciprocal influence means to conjure death in the full sense of the word. And when we ask for freedom for the masses we do not intend to have abolished the natural influence exerted on them by any individual or group of individuals. [141]
In practical work that influence must occur from the characteristics we seek to give social movements. Previously, when dealing with social movements and the popular organisation, we discussed these features in greater detail. So we are not concerned at this point with detailing them all again. We will only point out, once more and briefly, what the characteristics that we must sustain in the social movements are. They are: force, class struggle, combativeness, autonomy, direct action, direct democracy and revolutionary perspective.

Social movements must be strong, without falling inside an ideology, since imposing the cause of anarchism on social movements "would not be anything but a complete absence of thought, of objective and of common conduct, and [...] would lead, necessarily, to a common impotence "[142]. They should be class struggle in orientation and have a class line, which means to seek broad participation of the exploited classes and support the class struggle; they should be combative, establishing their conquests through the imposition of their social force; they should be autonomous in relation to the state, political parties, bureaucratic trade unions, the church, among other bureaucratic and/ or authoritarian bodies, taking their decisions and acting on their own.

In addition, they must use direct action as a form of political action, in opposition to representative democracy. "Fundamentally it comes to giving priority to the protagonism of the popular organisations, fighting for the least possible mediation and ensuring that the necessary mediation does not result in the emergence of separate decision-making centres separated from those concerned" [143]. Social movements must also use direct democracy as a method of decision-making, which takes place in horizontal assemblies in which all the militants decide effectively, in an egalitarian way. Direct democracy does not give space to "any kind of privilege, whether economic, social or political, [... and constitutes] an institutional framework where the recallability of the members is immediately secured and where, therefore, there is no room for the habitual political irresponsibility that characterises representative democracy" [144]. Finally, revolutionary perspective, which "should be introduced and developed in it [the social movement] by the constant work of revolutionaries who work outside and within its bosom, but which cannot be the natural and normal manifestation of its function" [145].

The social insertion of the specific anarchist organisation in social movements that occurs through influence should point, in a second instance, towards the connection of struggles and the creation of the popular organisation, seeking permanently to increase their social force.

To carry out social work and insertion the anarchist organisation should pay attention to some questions.

Mobilisation must take place mainly through practice, since it is in the midst of struggle that the people notice that they can win more and more. Much more than talking, we must teach by doing, by example, which is "better than the verbal explanations that [the worker] receives from his comrades; quickly recognising all things by his own personal experience now inseparable and united with that of the other members” [146]. It is very relevant for us to consider that the process of mobilisation and influence passes, beyond the objective aspects of the struggle, through the subjective aspects. Our practice has shown that in order to mobilise and influence social movements it is very important to use not only the rational and objectives aspects, but also emotional and subjective aspects, these being the affective bonds and friendships or relationships that are naturally built within struggles. It is also important to identify people in the neighbourhoods, communities, movements, trade unions etc. that have influence over others (local leaders oriented to the grassroots and legitimised by them) and focus efforts on them. These people are very important to assist in grassroots mobilisation, to give potential to anarchist influence, or even to integrate into the groupings of tendency. Done in this way, the mobilisation ends up functioning as a kind of "conversion", it being important to note that

[...] you can only convert those who feel the need to be converted, those who already have in their instincts or in the miseries of their position, either exterior or interior, all that they want to give them; you will never convert those who do not feel the need for any change, not even those who, wishing to leave a position in which they are discontent, are impelled, by the nature of their moral, intellectual and social habits, to seek a position in a world that is not of your ideas. [ 147]
In this process of mobilisation the specific anarchist organisation should always, no matter what, act ethically, trying not to want to establish relations of hierarchy or domination with the social movements; to tell the truth and never deceive the people, and always support solidarity and mutual aid in relation to other militants. Likewise, it should have a propositive posture, seeking to build movements and cause them to march forward and not just be presenting critical positions.

Even when the positions of the anarchist organisation are not the majority they must be shown, making clear the views it advocates. When in contact with hierarchical movements the anarchist organisation should always keep in mind that what interests it is always the grassroots of the social movements. Therefore, for any type of work, the organisation should always approach not the leaders and those who hold the power structures of social movements, but the rank-and-file activists, who are generally oppressed by the leadership and form the periphery and not the centre of the movements.

Another issue that must be observed is that the militants of the specific anarchist organisation must be very familiar with the environment in which they are working, maintaining a constant presence in the social movements in which they propose to carry out social work. The knowledge of the "terrain" on which one operates is critical to knowing what the political forces at play are, who the potential allies are, who the opponents are, where the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are. Constant presence is important in order for the anarchist militants to be fully integrated with other activists from the social movements, such that they have recognition, legitimacy, are listened to, are wanted, are welcome people.

In a strategic framework we can understand that the specific anarchist organisation must carry out social work, since "as anarchists and workers, we must incite and encourage them [the workers] to struggle, and to struggle with them" [148]. Inciting and encouraging the people, we must seek social insertion and ensure that the social movements work in the most libertarian and egalitarian ways possible. With social insertion in social movements we must connect struggles and build the popular organisation. Thus will we be able to stimulate the permanent increase of social force and prepare the exploited classes for the social revolution, because "our goal is to prepare the people, morally and materially, for this necessary expropriation; it is to try and revive the attempt, as many times as revolutionary agitation gives us the opportunity to do so, until the final victory" [149], with the establishment of libertarian socialism. We can say, then, that the function of the specific anarchist organisation in its social work and insertion is to be the "engine of social struggles. An engine that neither replaces nor represents them" [150]. We think it possible to construct this motor "participating militantly in the day-to-day of the struggles of popular movements in activity, at first, in Brazil, in Latin America and especially in Rio de Janeiro." [151]


130. Nestor Makhno. "Our Organisation". In: Organisation and Anarchy, p. 32.

131. Errico Malatesta. "Programa Anarquista." In: Escritos Revolucionários, p. 23.

132. FARJ. "Carta de Princípios."

133. Mikhail Bakunin. "Some Conditions of the Revolution." In: Conceito de Liberdade, p. 127.

134. Idem. "Militant Education." In: Conceito de Liberdade, pp. 145-146.

135. FAU. "Declaración de Principios." The quotes in this paragraph are from this same document.

136. Errico Malatesta. "Programa Anarquista." In: Escritos Revolucionários, p. 18.

137. Idem. "The Purpose of the Revolution." In: Anarchists, Socialists and Communists, P. 55.

138. In "Em Torno de Nosso Anarquismo," Malatesta stresses: "To provoke, in as much as possible, the movement, participating in it with all our forces, by giving it a more egalitarian and libertarian character, that is; to support all progressive forces; to defend what is better when you cannot obtain the maximum, but always keeping very clear our anarchist character. " [Emphasis added] See Escritos Revolucionários, p. 80.

139. Errico Malatesta. "The Organisation of the working masses ...". In: Escritos Revolucionários, p. 40.

140. Mikhail Bakunin. "Liberty and Equality." In: G. P. Maximoff (ed.). Writings of Political Philosophy Vol. II. Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1990, p. 9.

141. Ibid.

142. Idem. "Tactics and Revolutionary Party Discipline." In: Conceito de Liberdade, p. 192.

143. FAU. "Declaración de Principios."

144. Ibid.

145. Errico Malatesta. "Los Movimientos Obrero y los Anarchists." Excerpt from New Umanità, April 6, 1922. In: Vernon Richards. Op. p. 114.

146. Mikhail Bakunin. "Militant Education." In: Conceito de Liberdade, p. 146.

147. Ibid. "Workers, Peasants, and Intellectuals Bourgeois." In: Conceito de Liberdade, p. 110.

148. Errico Malatesta. "Programa Anarquista." In: Escritos Revolucionários, p. 18.

149. Ibid. p. 17.

150. FAU. "Declaración de Principios."

151. FARJ. "Carta de Princípios."

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