Relaunch and Recommended Readings

Insureccoinpopularya

Machete 408 is back serving you up with a new series of postings after a summer hiatus. A continuing state of joblessness and downgrading to a slower internet connection both put a bit of a damper on the political juices that went into the blog. But despite these, there’s a nice backlog of recently published pieces that I hope Machete 408 readers will check out. Below is a collage of recommended and recently published articles and commentaries.

Did anyone notice a coup happening somewhere? Writing on the recent coup in Honduras, Jose Antonio Gutierrez of Ireland’s Worker Solidarity Movement (WSM) as well as the Frente de estudiantes Libertarios (FeL) in Chile, provides analysis with “Coup in Honduras: The Return of Guerillas or the Tactics of Attrition?.” Also is a piece on the potential of the recent popular uprising in Iran in response to stolen elections. “The Iranian Election, A ‘Legacy of Martyred Flowers’” is by Farah, an Iranian whom is also a member of the WSM. Both pieces appear on the Anarkismo international anarchist news and publishing site and Farah’s is followed by a lively debate in the comments section.

Looking at a global trend is “Workers Creating Hope: Factory Occupations and Self-Management” by Shawn Hattingh from Monthly Review Zine, which gives a brief overview of the growing factory and workplace occupations around the globe. The piece concludes, “The actions of these workers [involved in occupations] are inspirational. It seems likely that more and more workers will begin adopting and adapting the idea of factory occupations as a viable way to save jobs and reclaim the dignity that bosses have tried to take away from them. Perhaps what we are also seeing through the occupations, takeovers, and self-management is a glimpse of what a post-capitalist world, created by the workers and the poor themselves, would look like.”

Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity? On the movement and political analysis tip is the Advance the Struggle blog, founded earlier this year and written by Bay Area writers influenced by various strains of Marxism. Of interest are several pieces debating the movement that surrounded the killing of Black, 22 year old Oakland resident, Oscar Grant at a BART station on New Years Day 2009. Included is three pieces. “Unfinished Acts” is an insurrectionary anarchist piece created in the format of a composite narrative play; “Justice for Oscar Grant: A Missed Opportunity?” is a solid piece with excellent critical analysis of both the role of the RCP and the non-profit dominated CAPE coalition that led much of the community response; and “Bring the Struggle, Advance the Ruckus” a response to “Missed Opportunity” by Oakland members of the revolutionary group Bring The Ruckus is also worthwhile as well. I won’t link the pieces individually, instead you should go to their blog and find them.

For all those in the labor movement disillusioned with the lack of passage of EFCA (suprise, suprise) is the article “Introducing the Employee Liberation Act” by Daniel Gross of the IWW. There is much to be critical about of the EFCA (See the Machete 408 piece on EFCA here), but what Gross provides us with is a total rethinking of what ails the labor movement and what changes in the legal arena might actually allow for advances by workers instead of card check recognition. Its a bit of a wish list, but what he proposes is a three pronged bill that would: 1) Make discrimination against organizing in the workplace on par with federal civil rights protections around race and gender discrimination. This would make worker rights a recognized civil right as it should; 2) End the second class, modern Jim Crow status of undocumented immigrants in workplace across the US; and 3) Eliminate legal barriers and restrictions on strikes, which would unleash worker’s most powerful weapons against the power of bosses: that of solidarity and the ability to bring profits to a halt.

On an uplifting note is an AK Press blog picture report on the 2nd Annual LA Southern California Anarchist Conference, with nice shots of the jewlery, cultural and publishing vendors, as well as some of the performers and presenters for the event.

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Finally, on the anarchist political organization theory front we have the long awaited English translation of “Huerta Grande” by a good comrade at The Left Winger blog. The 1972 piece is considered a seminal theoretical text of the Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU), which played a leading role in spawning the especifist current within the South American anarchist movement. Also be sure to read this “quick and dirty rought history piece” on the FAU for background and context.

As well, we have a recent translation of South American Anarchist philosopher Angel Cappelletti (1927-1995) posted on the AK Press Blog “Revolution by the Book.” Cappelletti was born in Argentina and spent the later half of his life in Venezuela, becoming a key intellectual figure in the libertarian left, authoring several works on philosophy, anarchism and Latin America. Supporters have recently created a Spanish language archive site of his work. And last but not least is another piece from Jose Antonio Gutierrez, who again offers us some worthwhile thoughts, but this time on strategy and the role of anarchist organization with his Considerations About the Anarchist Program. Here’s an excerpt:

The essence of the Platform is how to build an organisation that unites like-minded anarchists based on concrete proposals and tactics – that is, a “political organisation” as opposed to what is a purely ideological group. In this tradition, it is perfectly fair that we ask ourselves how many of our organisations, leaving aside any pretensions, have actually managed to reach the level of development of a political organisation. At present, the majority of these groupings are only propaganda groups. The principle difference between a political organisation and a propaganda group is not its number of militants nor its level of militancy, nor even the political insertion of its members. The principle difference is the simple answer to the question: what can we offer the people? While propaganda groups can not offer more than a political and ideological vision and, in the best cases, a few slogans, the revolutionary political organisation can offer a course of action; a programme; a tactical line; a strategy; short-, medium- and long-term objectives.

Latin American Anarchism

 juntoscreando.jpg picture by adam_freedom

 A street mural by a Chilean anarchist cultural/muralist group (Read an interview with them in Spanish here).

  There’s a rich history and tradition of anarchism in Latin America that is still largely waiting to be translated and brought to the attention of the left and others who focus on the region. Below is a review by Chuck Morse of negations.net (also staff with AK Press) of three Spanish language works on the history of Latin American Anarchism by authors from the region. While none of the books reviewed are comprehensive treatments by any means, each work has a strong focus on the heavy role that anarchists played in the labor movement of Latin American countries as well as the tranformative cultural impact that anarchists had as well. You can also check out the Latin American Archives of negations.net, with .PDF of over 50 issues of several anarchist publications from 1917 to 1940 including Alborada, Hombre de America, La Humanidad, Nervio, Prometeo, and Suplemento Quincenal La Protesta.

 

Latin American Anarchism

(From The New Formulation, February, 2003)

Review by Chuck Morse (original link)

Cronica Anarquista de la Subversion Olvidada by Oscar Ortiz
and Contribución a una Historia del Anarquismo en América Latina by Luis Vitale
Santiago, Chile: Ediciones Espíritu Libertario, 2002

Anarquismo y Anarcosindicalismo en América Latina
By Alfredo Gómez
Paris: Ruedo ibérico, 1980

Anarquistas en América Latina
By David Viñas
Mexico City: Editorial Katun, 1983

- – -

  There are important reasons for anarchists in English-speaking parts of North America to study the history of Latin American anarchism.

  One reason is political. We need to form principled, collaborative relationships with our Latin American comrades to fight global capitalism globally and, to do so, we obviously need be able to identify our real comrades among the countless groups in the region that make claims upon our solidarity. Should we “defend the Cuban Revolution” or toast Lula’s social democratic victory in Brazil? Should we adopt the Zapatista ski-mask as our emblem or devoutly align ourselves with small anarchist groups? A genuine confrontation with these questions requires a deep appreciation of the history of Latin American opposition and certainly the anarchist movement has played a significant role in this history.

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Especifismo, Social Insertion and Recent Anarchist Organization

Workermeeting.gif picture by adam_freedom

  A new edition of the “Especifismo Reader: Anarchist Organization and Praxis” has been made publically available. Topping 120 pages, the updated reader includes several newly translated pieces such as the short political statement “Who We Are, What We Want, The Path We Follow” by Coletivo Comunista Anarquismo in Brazil, the article “Anarchist Advances in Uruguay and Brazil” and the “Interview with the Rio de Janeiro Federation” not included in the first edition of the reader,  as well as several excellent though yet to be translated pieces in Spanish. The next steps for this reader are the inclusion of several more pieces by Latin American anarchists and a organization in Mexico, as well as a section of articles called “Towards a North American Especifismo,” with pieces written by North American anarchists influences by the Especifismo Latin American Anarchist tradition. 

  One of the key concepts of the Latin American Anarchist tradition of especifismo is “social insertion.” I admit there is a bit of a funny sound to it, but this is the concept they use to define the relation to mass struggles and movements. To them anarchist involvement in the social struggles must be firmly rooted, argues for anarchist values rather the conversion of movements to “anarchism itself” or a specific political line, and which aims to build popular power (horizontal power and “of the base” I think are similar concepts from Latin American traditions that readers might also be familar with).  

  My friend Nate of What the hell…?  blog takes up the topic with a response/reflection piece after reading several pieces by written by especifist groups as well as my own piece included in the reader above,  “Especifismo: The Anarchist Praxis of Building Popular Movements and Revolutionary Organization in Latin America.” With heaps of comradely respect I feel Nate is missing some of the arguements and the context for the discussion on especifismo and in some part I think he is perhaps pointing out sections of the writings that are unclear and can lend themselves to misinterpretation. Check out his thoughts and my response and I encourage folks to leave comments on his page with their own.

  In fact, Nate is on a bit of a roll as of late. Here’s another discussion posting on contemporary anarchist politics with Nate’s review and comments on the mission statements and points of unity of current anarchist organizations in North America. Even better is that it includes links if you would like to read more. Next, is his piece discussing the importance of mass organizing work, along with a draft an article where he hopes to better lay out his perspectives on this. Finally, he writes reviews/quick responses  to several of the Furious Five Revolutionary Collective, a 2003-2005 Anarchist-Communist collective based out of San Jose, CA that was influenced by the ideas and writings of the Latin American Especifist anarchists. Their writings are archived on this blog

Thinking about hegemony

Hegemony.jpg picture by adam_freedom  Today a friend handed back to me a long borrowed copy of Arif Dirlik’s Anarchism and the Chinese Revolution (University of California Press, 1991). Full of nuggets and insights, the work is composed of several essays discussing the influence and role of anarchism from about 1900 to 1930; a period of tremendous social upheaval in China. During this period anarchism occupied center stage in the radical left and had a wide impact in the themes and discourse of the left as a whole; which is only being slowly acknowledged in history and by those in the contemporary left.

  The role of culture and ideas and the role they have in either supporting or resisting oppression is widely seen as crucial for most revolutionaries today. But this wasn’t always the case up until a few decades ago as the writings of Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937) became wider known. In this passage from Dirlik’s conclusion, he takes up the question of hegemony and the important place it held within Chinese anarchist discourse, as well as their particular stance on the matter, which differs from Gramsci. The anarchist writer Dirlik quotes, Italian Anarchist Errico Malatesta (18531932), wrote the excerpted piece from Anarchy in 1891, the year of Gramsci’s birth.

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Anarchism and Radical Governments

How should anarchists relate to revolutionary or left-wing populist governments? Should they denounce them out of hand? Should they join in the movement? What are the traps to avoid? This is an important question as radicalized populations are creating movements which give rise to alleged progressive governments. As capitalism goes into ever-deeper crisis we can expect more of these movements to develop. 

  The below article from the international anarchist news site Anarkismo.net asks some good questions and is a good first step towards getting to an answer. The author, Larry Gambone, charactorizes anarchist reaction to radical governments into largely two camps. The first, where anarchists essentially give up their own political organization and values to dissolve themselves into participating and joining the radical government or party, which he called liquidationism. The second, is a stance of sectarianism, whereby ararchists become ‘side line snipers’ of sorts and alienate themselves from the participants of social movement who are supportive of enacted reforms.

  This is a stepping point I think. Perhaps this article better speaks to the situation in Latin America, but let’s look at the campaign and election of Obama in the US. Of course a key difference is that while Latin American leaders such as Chavez in Venezuela and Morales in Bolivia both profess a support for socialism, Obama is a difference story. While his style and rhetoric have provoked a deep sense of connection with many facing the brunt of the economic collapse and those disillusioned with the Bush administration, his glittering words of hope and change stand in contrast to what looks to be his comittment to a more populist flavored continuation of Clinton administration neo-liberalism.

 While the many usual suspects on the left (some anarchists included) have surely taken a sectarian stance of derision and attacks on Obama, other aspects of the left haven’t quite taken a stance or approach that could be call liquidationism entirely…. (more to come)

  For folks looking to learn more about the debate around Hugo Chavez and Venezuela specifically, you can find a number of articles I assembled here.

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Reader on Especifismo

Mujer20Zapatista2.jpg picture by adam_freedom

 

An informal reader has been put together on especifismo, the anachist tradition and practice from Latin America that speaks for the need to form specifically anarchist orgnaization and for ‘social insertion’ within social movements. With similarities to the currents of Anarchist-Communism and Platformism, the especifists argue for a particular understanding of the charactor of anarchist organization and relationships with social movements. With roots going back to the period of dictatorships in the 1980′s, knowledge of the especifist tradition has only reached North America within the last several years.

The reader can be found here and begins with introductory articles (though I think the second one it could do without) and is followed with a series of interviews and translated documents and theory peices. Other projects to translate and gather documents and history related to this tradition are underway.

Below is the table of contents for the reader:

Introductions

  1. Especifismo: The anarchist praxis of building popular movements and revolution organization in Latin America – Adam Weaver
  2. Building a Revolutionary Movement: Why Anarchist Communist Organization? – Adam Weaver

The organizations

  1. The Social Question: Latin American Anarchism and “Social Insertion” – Michael Schmidt (Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation, South Africa)
  2. NEFAC Interviews The Federacao Anarquista Gaucha (FAG Brazil) – Red Sonja (North Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists-Boston)
  3. Who We Are, What We Want, The Path We Follow – Coletivo Comunista Anarquista (Brazil)
  4. Anarchist Advances in Uruguay and Brazil -from Rojo y Negro (CGT, Spain)
  5. The Principles of the Forum of Organized Anarchism -Fórum do Anarquismo Organizado (Brazil)

Theoretical discussions

  1. The Need of Our Own Project – Libertarian Socialist Organization (Argentina)
  2. The Specific Organization – Jaime Cubero (Centro de Cultura Social, Sao Paulo)
  3. Materialism and Idealism – Anarchist Collective of “Zumbi dos Palmares” Forum of Organized Anarchism (Brazil)

Theory, Ideology, and Historical Materialism - Internal Education Secretary of Libertarian Socialist Organization (Brazil)

Article Reposts: A New Old Left and the Left States of Latin America

Everybody Wants A New Old Left

By Elliot Liu, http://www.linesblog.com/

Left_1.jpg picture by adam_freedom

A response piece by Elliott Liu of APOC-NYC to two proposals for new directions, along with cohesion and regroupment among the socialist left. The first piece, Which Way Is Left is by Freedom Road Socialist Organization, a nationwide soft/post-Maoist group formed during the 1980′s with the merger of several New Communist Movement remnants. The second, Manifesto For A Left Turn, was put together by a collection of professors from the east coast including Stanley Aronowitz and Rick Wolff. This piece makes me look back on my own attempt to respond to the resurgence of party building attempts in the left, which can be found here and is sorely in need of a re-write.

While I have major differences with the proposals put forward in Which Way and Manifesto, I know [the] anti-authoritarian movement in the U.S. has a long way to go before it can demonstrate that building struggle from below is more effective than strategies that rely on parties and the state. To critique the latter approach carries with it an implicit challenge: to build new kinds of horizontal power, capable of meeting people’s needs while outmaneuvering or outfighting the state form. We have our work cut out for us.

Everybodywantsanewleft.gif picture by adam_freedom

 

Lessons Learned: Latin American Left Has Much to Teach Obama Supporters

Written by Daniel Denvir
January 2009, The Indypendent

ObamandLA.jpg picture by adam_freedomAn interesting, but sadly all too brief overview on the election of left-wing governments across Latin America and their relationship with social movements. Raises interesting parallels and questions about the relationship between Obama and left social movements in the US.

In this context of ambiguous electoral victories, movements throughout the hemisphere have come to the conclusion that despite the importance of electing and defending progressive governments, real change cannot come without struggles in the workplaces, schools and streets. Workers making windows and doors in Chicago and landless farmers occupying oligarchs’ landholdings in Brazil and Bolivia legislate their own reality. While social movements in the U.S. should fight to hold Obama accountable for his business friendly tendencies, we must also fight to transform the political landscape from below. After all, it was the massive social movements of the 1930s and not the president’s ideological disposition that pushed FDR to enact his New Deal reforms. But an “inside-outside strategy” holds both promise and pitfalls, as movements navigate the blurry line between critical engagement and cheerleading. As Uruguayan writer Raúl Zibechi writes, “In love as in cooptation, you need two.” The same goes for social change.

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