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

What’s Interesting in Upping the Anti #9

uta_8_final_cover.jpg picture by adam_freedom  Upping the Anti out of Toronto, Canada is perhaps the hottest and best radical left theory/movement journal since it first began publication in late 2005. Releasing its eighth issue as of May 2009, the journal has provided a steady content of articles, interviews, reviews and topic based roundtables by and with movement activists and organizers on the radical left.

  With the tag line “a journal of theory and action” the journal leans towards the more academic side. But unlike some of the more dense and long running left journals (Monthly Review comes to mind), the editorial collective and contributors are nearly all folks engaged in struggle and much of the theory and discussion comes directly out of movement organizing work. It’s not another left journal for radical college professors, but for folks in the movement trying to grapple with many of the difficult issues and conversations that those seeking to create revolutionary change should be. Perspective wise they maintain a pluralistic and non-party stance combined with anti-capitalism, anti-imperialist and anti-oppression politics (the three antis as they call them). Read reviews of issues #3 here and issues #2 and #3 here.

  With this issue UTA brings us an interview “Contour of the Crisis” with three political economy instructors at York University in Toronto on the realities and opportunities for the left in the current financial meltdown (discussed above);  “Movements Where People Can Grow” is an interview/discussuion with Helen Hudson (who among other groups is a board member of the Institute for Anarchist Studies, see their new spiffy website here) with her thoughts on building long-term and sustainable movements; a roundtable with former activists of SLAM (Student Liberation Action Movement, audio archive here) active in opposing tuition increases in the New York public university system in the 1990’s and discussing their strong leadership from women of color; and another roundtable with members of various study groups/circles taken up by radicals in a number of cities.

Helen_Keller.jpg picture by adam_freedom Also, here’s a quote from the back cover of this issue that warms my heart from Helen Kellar, the advocate for the blind. Often left out of history is her radical politics as an anarchist and member of the IWW.

  Capitalism will inevitably find itself face to face with a starving multitude of unemployed workers demanding food or destruction of the social order that has starved them and robbed them of their jobs. in such a crisis the capitalism class cannot save itself… Its police and armies will be powerless to put down the revolt. (1918)

  Here is also a quote on how she first moved towards radical politics from her Wikipedia entry…

   I was appointed on a commission to investigate the conditions of the blind. For the first time I, who had thought blindness a misfortune beyond human control, found that too much of it was traceable to wrong industrial conditions, often caused by the selfishness and greed of employers. And the social evil contributed its share. I found that poverty drove women to a life of shame [referring to prostitution and syphilis] that ended in blindness.

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:


  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)

Lenin, Wallerstein and Understanding Imperialism

Leninsweepsup.jpg picture by adam_freedom

Lenin cleans house, but I think he missed a spot



Rough Draft

  What is the best way to understand what we call imperialism, which is basically the economic and political relationship between the first and third world? Lenin has been the main starting point around this question for most on the revolutionary left. Are there basic problems with the understanding of imperialism that derives from Lenin? I think so.


  Below Wallerstein describes the centrality of unequal exchange to capitalism as a system, which is the process of how profits are reaped from the third world (which he calls the periphery zones within the capitalist world economy) and the western or first world nations (which he terms the core zones). First are several points that I think are worth highlighting based on how Wallerstein explains this process and which are in contrast with the much of the left’s understanding of imperialism as it is derived from Lenin.


Feedback is welcome.


a)      Capitalism has always been an international system and as much so today as it was in the sixteenth century.

b)      Capitalism as a system has always been based on the relationship of core and periphery regions in the world whereby through the process of unequal exchange surplus flows from periphery to core regions.

c)      As production processes move down a hierarchy of processes they move from core to periphery regions.

d)      Core regions use their accumulated capital to build strong states and ensure that states in periphery area remain or become weak and therefore compliant in accepting the relationship of unequal exchange.

e)      There are no stages of capitalism whereby capitalism as a system moves from a presumed more localized, peaceful and competitive phase to a more international, militaristic and monopoly based phase, which what Lenin asserted in his writings on imperialism, which he called the ‘highest stage of capitalism.’

f)        While Lenin’s analysis is useful to explain the political moment that faced the world at the early twentieth century, it does not explain well the system of capitalism as it has existed historically.

g)      Lenin’s analysis of imperialism, which is focused on economics and how the imperialist states must use violence in colonization and will eventually resort to war in competition between each other over colonial spoils, offers a weak explanation of how imperialist and colonial states relates to one another.


LeninChillaxin.jpg picture by adam_freedom


Continue reading

Wallerstein’s essential analysis

Notes on Wallerstein’s “Historical Capitalism”

immanuel_wallerstein.jpg picture by adam_freedom

Why the hell do I find Wallerstein so interesting? To be honest, when close friends have told me that I’ve been stuck on him for the last year or so, they are absolutely right. So now I aim to explain to them and others why this is the case and why I think Wallerstein is nearly essential to any critical and revolutionary understanding of the world and how it works. I wish I could offer an outline of sorts, but below are choice quotes that I found most interesting.


Continue reading

Revitalizing Labor: “Another World is Possible” by Staughton Lynd

I love Lynd’s radical and critical perspective on the proposals that people are floating for the labor movement. On reform efforts he says: “Current efforts to revive the labor movement in the U.S. define their objectives so narrowly, that even if successful, they would not change anything fundamental.” Beautiful!

The 2nd half gets into debates on labor history, but it is exactly on point: everybody is waiting for a leader, but it is the bottom up organzing with a radical vision that moves change.

Another World Is Possible

Staughton Lynd lectures to Missippissi Freedom School teachers.

By Staughton Lynd

WORKING USA – March 2008

What is the problem? What needs to be set right? The
mother of all wrong solutions is card-check voting,
which would give more access to unorganized workers for
the same top-down unions, with the same
unaccountability to the membership because of the dues
checkoff, with the same ever-readiness to give up the
right to strike. Equally misguided in my view is the
notion that Taft-Hartley represented a decisive turning
point and that its repeal would release the original
pristine impulse of the Congress of Industrial
Organizations to flower again. All major trade union
leaders beginning with John L. Lewis have devised means
whereby workers would give up the right to collective
self-activity embodied in Section 7 in exchange for a
mess of pottage. So we, labor lawyers and labor
historians, can only begin to be useful when we forego
our endless apologies for the latest hoped-for
“progressive” union leader. Our task is to envision an
institutional” “embodiment of the class self-activity
discovered and imagined by E.P. Thompson and colleagues
and partially realized by the IWW in work that
desperately needs updating.”

The new worldwide movement against “globalization,”
meaning, U.S. imperialism, and for a better day, has
come up with a defining slogan: Another World Is
Possible. The words remind us that a social movement is
unlikely to bring about what it does not even try to
achieve. Current efforts to revive the labor movement
in the U.S. define their objectives so narrowly, that
even if successful, they would not change anything

Continue reading

The Central Valley California: “The Beautiful and the Damned”

This is a excerpt from my manuscript on 2004/2005 Intermodal trucker organizing in the Stockton area. It is still rough. Below are the sections on the Central Valley. I’m really interested in the question of how might we charactorize a place like the Central Valley. The stats on poverty in the area- making it one of the most impoverished region in the US- are shocking. You can read an earlier draft of the introduction in one of the older posts below.

2. Gritty Realities: Intermodal Truckers in the Central Valley


“We’re getting paid the same as 10 years ago, but everything else keeps going up. Insurance goes up. Everything goes up. And now gas. We make no money”

 -Jatinder Singh, Oakland port trucker



            What struck me hardest in organizing with the truckers in Stockton was the convinced resolution of the truckers of the need to fight their companies. Even the reluctant or scared drivers would not deny the reality of the conditions they faced. It didn’t seem anything like what might be called the trade union consciousness that urban workers I had previously organized with might develop. Perhaps owning, or at least mortgaging, their own trucks gave them a greater attachment to the industry as would any skilled worker who owned the tools that their employer depended upon. I would describe it as more of a gritty class consciousness than anything else, a consciousness that understood the daily necessity of the trucking companies to squeeze the truckers for profit and to maintain their competitiveness in relation to the logistics brokers.


Continue reading

Reflection on “Poor People’s Movements” and Review on Piven’s Latest: “Challenging Authority”

“Poor People’e Movements; Why They Succeedd and How They Fail” By Piven and Cloward was an instant classic for me once I started to read it. A professor from my community college recommended it to me. The conversation began with me lamenting about a figure on our campus left who generally defiled radical activism and upheld the social-democratic electoral reform models of Pual Wellstone, GROW by USAS, and the one he ran at our college. He now sits on an education board in the East Bay.

 In our student organizing around the budget cuts and fee increases in the community college system, he always chided our efforts as unsystematic, unpragmatic and after a large march and protest of students in Sacramento he scolded us as leading the ‘booos’ against the politician who took the stage (we participated, but certainly did not lead- the feeling was widespread). Being unsystematic, unpragmatic had nothing to do with it. We had an eight month campaing timeline we were following, organized the student government to hire one of our former members as a paid organizer (unprecedented in to my knowledge) and with buses and carpool brought nearly 500 students to Sacramento the week before finals, among a number of accomplishments leading up to that.

Continue reading

Say Hello To My Little Friends: The Three Spirits of Marx


The Three Spirits of Marx:

A Discussion on Divergent Legacies


The conflicting ideas present in the writings of Marx as both philosopher and social revolutionary have supplied over the last 150 years the rivers and tributaries of discussion around the contradictory elements present in his work and where we might take them. He has served as a starting point from which much of the tradition of critical philosophy springs from. Above all in developing a critical philosophy he stressed that “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it”[1]

      Moving forward with this imperative, I aim to elaborate the divergent legacies of Marx with the goal of answering which legacies of Marx are useful in building a pragmatic understanding of the world as well as libratory praxis towards radical social transformation (social revolution). I have identified three spirits of Marx, though perhaps there can be found more, which I will describe as the Determinist, Reformist and Subjective or Humanist spirits present within his writing. I also hope to speak to the role of subsequent figures who have contributed to these conceptions after Marx’s death.


Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: