A brief history of anarchism of the especifista matrix in Brazil.
Ten years of the Forum of Organised Anarchism (Fórum do Anarquismo Organizado – FAO) were commemorated with the foundation of the Brazilian Anarchist Coordination (Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira – CAB), uniting organisations from nine states around especifista anarchism as well as others that are progressively approaching and deepening organisational ties with us.
In this text, we present a first contribution, with a few elements for a historical reconstitution of our current, that is, anarchism of the especifista matrix, in Brazil.
We hope that other contributions can help boost it or, possibly, correct the information presented here.
Re-articulation and contact with the FAU
The political opening of the end of the military dictatorship enabled the return to the scene of some anarchists and for others who were new to approach it.
This re-articulation occurred, fundamentally, around journals, publications, public spaces and debates; all guided by a synthesis notion of organisation, with the objective of grouping together all those who identified themselves with the anarchist proposal – a position that prevailed in Brazil, at least until the 1990s. It was the time, as the militants of the time believed, for resuming contacts, re-articulating people, rebuilding anarchism.
We can cite some significant initiatives of the anarchism of the 1980s. The oldest, of the newspaper Inimigo do Rei (Enemy of the King), from Bahia (1977-1988), served – already at the end of the 1970s – to open public discussion on anarchism. Another of these experiences was the Libertarian Study Circle (Círculo de Estudos Libertários – CEL), from Rio de Janeiro, which included the decisive participation of Ideal Peres who, in the 1980s, joined the Association of Residents and Friends of Leme (Associação dos Moradores e Amigos do Leme) to develop community work with the neighbourhood of Morro Chapéu Mangueira, and who stimulated the creation of other groups like the José Oiticica Anarchist Group and the magazine Utopia (1988-1992). Also noteworthy is the Novos Tempos (New Times) Publisher, from Brasilia, with the publications realised during this period and also the lectures promoted by it throughout Brazil with the Frenchman Jean Bancal about the ideas of Proudhon. Another relevant initiative was the reopening of the Sao Paulo Centre for Social Culture (Centro de Cultura Social – CCS-SP), in 1985, with the participation of militants like Antonio Martinez, who had a history of experience with the union struggle, and Jaime Cubero, who was involved in the reactivation of the Brazilian Workers’ Confederation (Confederação Operária Brasileira – COB), another relevant initiative of this period. About the COB, Cubero affirmed: “Even during the dictatorship we found ourselves with about 90 people […] in clandestinity, but we managed to resist”; yet the initiative did not meet with much success. It was also in this period that the anarchists returned to commemorating the First of May. Anyway, it was a period of the public reappearance of anarchism in the country and of an attempt at “picking up the pieces” and beginning to articulate something.
The militancy that would organise especifismo, in the second half of the 1990s, had contact with some of these experiences; some of them generated more admiration and others, more criticism. On the one hand, the contact with distinct conceptions and organisational experiences motivated the creation of a new proposal for anarchism. On the other, relations with older militants afforded, for some, a gain in experience that would be crucial later. Still in the 1990s, a relevant local experience also stands out, that of the Mutirão Group from Rio de Janeiro, which published a newspaper by the same name, and was already pointing towards the need for an organised anarchism with social insertion. With the participation of their militants in some popular movements, particularly in the struggle for land, Mutirão affirmed in 1991:
“We anarchists reaffirm: socialism is built by direct popular action, by free community organisation that prepares and educates the population to enable them to take care of themselves freely, without hierarchies or centralisation of power in any capital, but in free and federated communities […] Our fight is for the seizure of land, machines and services in the hands of the people. From there, the workers build socialism according to the simplest of theories: solidarity.”
For these militants it was about linking the community work with union initiatives and giving anarchism a social character, of struggle with popular movements. It was not very clear, however, how this should be done.
In 1994, the first contacts with the Uruguayan Anarchist Federation (Federación Anarquista Uruguaya – FAU) were made with a trip to this country by a comrade. These relations deepened during 1995 in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, culminating in the foundation of the Gaúcha Anarchist Federation (Federação Anarquista Gaúcha – FAG) in November of the same year. These relations with the FAU, which were established in a rather fraternal way, tightened over time. Among Brazilians, the FAU model drew a lot of attention for advocating and practicing a militant, combative and organised anarchism which was reflected in its own history of struggle. Since the 1950s, the FAU had had day-to-day participation in Uruguayan popular struggles, within relevant mass movements, and had been developing interesting positions regarding the specific anarchist organisation. This struggle, suppressed during the recrudescence of the Uruguayan dictatorship, responsible for the death of several of the organisation’s militants, had even included participation in the armed struggle against the dictatorship.
The especifista model adopted by the FAU defended a particular conception of revolutionary political organisation, the specific anarchist organisation, which drew the attention of Brazilian militants and appeared increasingly suitable for this intended recovery of the social ties between anarchism and the popular movements. In addressing this conception of the anarchist organisation, the FAU says:
“to be a political expression of the dominated, exploited and oppressed classes; and, to put itself at their service, to aspire to be a motor of social struggles. A motor that neither replaces nor represents them, but that aims to dynamise and organise them, to contribute to overcoming the merely spontaneous aspect, to transcend the vagaries of the conjuncture and to ensure the continuity of rebellion, of daily struggles, of expectations, aspirations etc. For us, the political organisation is also the ambit in which the experience of popular struggle is accumulated, both at the national and international level. An instance which impedes the knowledge that the exploited and oppressed acquire over time from being diluted. […] It is through organised militant work, and only through it, that one can promote consistently and with redoubled force the creation, strengthening and consolidation of popular grassroots organisations, which constitute the nucleus of revolutionary popular power.”
It was an inspiring model which could channel the energies latent among some Brazilians, around the need for union and community action, through a concrete experience unknown to most Brazilians. At the same time organising both at the social level, of popular movements, and at the political, of the anarchist organisation.
Brazilian Anarchist Construction
In Brazil, “various groups that sought an anarchism with popular roots and a militant-combative-collective-organised characteristic” were at the forefront of relations with the FAU, allowing for a deepening of ties and the emergence of the proposal for the Brazilian Anarchist Construction (Construção Anarquista Brasileira) between the end of 1995 and the beginning of 1996. The proposal was presented in Brazil through a document titled “Struggle and Organisation: for the Brazilian Anarchist Construction” (Luta e Organização: pela Construção Anarquista Brasileira). Conceived by Brazilian militants who operated in Uruguay, this document was written in May 1996 and later circulated among Brazilians with the help of the contacts of those who received the newsletter Libera, published since 1991 by the Ideal Peres Libertarian Study Circle (Círculo de Estudos Libertários Ideal Peres – CELIP), in Rio de Janeiro – with the death of Ideal Peres in 1995 the CEL changed the name, including this homage to its founder.
The idea of the “Construction”, as it became known, was to create, in the short term (from 1996 to 2001) “specific instances of anarchism as an organised political force” at the local, micro-regional and state/provincial level with the objective of constructing, in the long term, an anarchist organisation at national level. For this, the document suggested two dimensions for the organised political force of the anarchists: the organisational group – simple structure with few militants, functioning as the embryo of an organisation – and the anarchist organisation – with a larger number of militants, internal bodies and capacity to potentiate. In both cases, it would be necessary to seek a strategy for militant growth and the deepening of roots in the popular movements, creating in common: “method, concepts, internal dynamics, programme, platform, project, procedural bodies, coordinated work, strategy, style, always appropriate for the reality of each location”.
In addition to launching the Construction, “Struggle and Organisation” was intended to present the bases for the creation of organic groups and anarchist organisations and, therefore, made proposals on the following principles: participation, free agreement, mutual aid, self-management, federalism, internationalism, direct action, self-defence and a class struggle position. The establishment of these principles, besides being related to the principles of the FAU, was based on a booklet produced by the Libertarian Seed (Semente Libertária) group, from Rio de Janeiro, in 1994. The document goes through the history of social struggles in Brazil and performs an analysis of the context of the time. It then presents the idea of the Construction, introducing the method of the organic group with definitions, internal division of tasks, basic infrastructure, internal bodies, orientation on social insertion, struggles, popular movements and revolutionary process and discussions about revolutionary theory and anarchist ideology; discussing the relations between social groups and movements, the fronts of insertion and organisational growth, support networks and militant commitment. It tried, in reality, to promote the anarchism of the FAU, known as especifismo, adapting it to the Brazilian reality.
Relations with the FAU and the dissemination of the proposal of the Construction in Brazil stimulated organisational development in the country. Besides the creation of the FAG, in Rio Grande do Sul in 1995, several other initiatives developed in this period: in Sao Paulo, the formation of the Vermelho e Negro (Red and Black) nucleus and, with the incorporation of militants from other cities, the formation of the Libertarian Socialist Organisation (Organização Socialista Libertária – OSL); in Rio de Janeiro, the articulation of militants from the Mutirão group and the course itself of the debates of CELIP; there was also approximation by individuals and groups from the states of Paraná, Bahia, Distrito Federal, Mato Grosso and Pará, some of whom had been involved in the attempt to reactivate the COB.
Libertarian Socialist Organisation
With the development of groups and organisations in these places, despite the planning that envisaged a national anarchist organisation for the “long term”, in 1997 the Libertarian Socialist Organisation (OSL) appears, which “is born as the first fruit of the process of the Brazilian Anarchist Construction” and is the “result of two years of much discussion, in which [its] practice gained consistency and matured”, according to what its own militants affirmed. The groups from Rio Grande do Sul, Sao Paulo, Pará and Rio de Janeiro became nuclei of the OSL, also aggregating individuals from Bahia, Mato Grosso, Goiás and Distrito Federal.
The OSL openly advocates the positions of the anarchism of the FAU and tries to turn the organisational proposal of “Struggle and Organisation” into a reality. It advocates anarchism “as something alive and current, capable of responding to the social problems of our class”, and adds, also inspired by the Uruguayans, that this can only be achieved through the practice of social insertion and of grassroots work – realised through the fronts of the anarchist organisation, and of the class struggle positions that are implanted in the daily struggles of the most diverse of subjects and in the most diverse popular sectors. One of the nuclei of the OSL stated in 1997:
“For us, practice is essential, and this means action, social insertion and grassroots work with unions, neighbourhood residents’ associations, cooperatives, academic centres and student unions. […] In our understanding, anarchism can not remain in critique alone, in analysis or propaganda; it must, above all, know how to propose working solutions. […] It is, therefore, for us to find concrete solutions for the daily struggles of our class. Be it in the unions (rural and urban), in the popular student movements, by means of direct action at all levels, having in site perspectives of short, medium and long term, always relating them to the strategies, tactics and methods of action on the following fronts: the student movement, the union/labour movement, the popular (neighbourhood, homeless, etc.) movements and the landless movement.”
The charter adopted at the founding of the OSL, an event that had the presence of a FAU delegation, holds a model of “federalist anarchist political organisation of horizontal structure”, which would work “outside the bodies of bourgeois representative democracy”. It would be an organisation with the character of active minority, “acting and proposing its ideas within the various movements and tendencies of the class in which it belongs and, never from outside or from above, always aim to imprint a combative and revolutionary character on these” and advocate libertarian socialism as final objective.
The OSL existed from 1997 to 2000 and, in this period, performed a series of internal works – such as congresses, councils, political training, organisational discussions – and external works, of social work – which included: community and student work, recycling and scavenging of recyclable material, struggles for land, for housing and participation in cooperatives. Meanwhile, in Rio de Janeiro, the Libertarian Studies Laboratory (Laboratório de Estudos Libertários – LEL) is founded which, besides publishing the magazine Ruptura (Rupture), develops some practical work in social movements. The anarchists involved with the OSL participate and drive various student encounters, among which the National Meeting of Tendencies (Encontro Nacional de Tendências) stands out.
Groupings of Tendency – Popular Resistance
The foundation in January 1999 of Popular Resistance (Resistência Popular – RP), driven by the especifista anarchists, should also be noted. RP, a grouping of tendency – putting itself between the political organisations and mass movements – has, at the time of its formation, the objective of grouping militants of different ideologies together from the point of methodological affinity, for grassroots work in the union, community and student fronts.
One of the internal critical reflections of the OSL was about the need to potentiate, in the most effective way, the work of social insertion and RP emerges as an organisational instrument capable of grouping anarchists and other sectors of the autonomous and combative left around common principles – class struggle, direct action, non-participation in bourgeois democratic representation, federalism, class solidarity, popular power and revolutionary orientation – to deepen grassroots work. It was necessary to create new movements and to join others, enhancing the libertarian proposal for social insertion. RP, therefore, adopts a class struggle discourse for mobilisation at the social level: “on feeling that this society is unjust as it is, on having the need to struggle for life itself there is resistance on the part of many people […], on knowing that only by resisting and fighting will we have a dignified life there is Popular Resistance”.
The national project of this tendency spreads through Brazil, managing to aggregate militancy in Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Pará and having some operations in Mato Grosso and in Goiás.
This initiative, in fact, also had influence of the FAU’s strategy, which addressed the issue of groupings of tendency in the 1970s and defined it as such:
“Participation in the tendency implies accepting a set of definitions that can be shared by comrades of diverse ideological extractions, but which entrench certain exclusions (of reformists, for example), essential when looking for a minimum of real operational consistency. […] Hence the need for the most consequently combative sectors, those that have come to a greater understanding of current requirements, to join and group together at another level: the tendency. […] Its possibilities spill over the framework of exclusively union activity. There are many people in the neighbourhoods that are not recognised at the union tables, but who are willing for combat, who organise to fight. […] [The tendency should open] concrete possibilities so that all those who are willing to do so participate in the struggle; whether or not they are affiliated to a union. Non-unionised factory and workshop workers, students from the area, unemployed, housewives must have the opportunity to participate in combat.”
RP, with this intention of gathering together allied popular sectors and deepening social work and insertion, constituted the principal militant effort of the Brazilian especifista anarchists in the period from 1999 to 2002, when the anarchist organisations received less attention and the focus was completely directed at popular mobilisation and grassroots work.
Forum of Organised Anarchism
In the 2000s especifismo in Brazil had other landmarks. Nationally, we can highlight the formation of the Forum of Organised Anarchism (Fórum do Anarquismo Organizado – FAO), in 2002, with a basis in the “need to build a national anarchist Organisation/Party”.
The FAO is a sequel to the organisational process initiated with the Brazilian Anarchist Construction, which carried out a step between the years of 1995 to 2000, including the experience of the national OSL. In fact, the experience of the OSL ended up being analysed as something precipitated by organised anarchists, who underwent the self-criticism that the “house” had begun to be built “before the foundation”.
At the social level, the very creation of RP in 1999 demonstrated the need for the deepening of grassroots work and of social insertion for the anarchist project. The emphasis given to RP and the end of the OSL reflect this self-criticism and, with the process of RP strengthened, the possibility of starting a national construction begins to be discussed again; but this time from the base, from the fundamentals. At the political level, the militancy was believed to be necessary to add more people to the process, to create new groups, new organisations.
To this end, the foundation of the FAO constituted the consensus to take a few steps back and aggregate militancy around two fundamental axes: organisation and social insertion; it deals with an attempt to ward off individualist, anti-organisationalist anarchists opposed to working in popular movements and to initiate a more frank dialogue with those who saw the need to link themselves politically to relevant social work. Besides adding to this militancy, the FAO proposed: to stimulate the debate on organised anarchism in Brazil, pointing towards the construction of a national organisation; to support the formation of anarchist groups; to approach and link these groups; to engage the struggle in the different levels and fronts; to connect Brazilian anarchism with other organisations, especially in Latin American.
“The FAO was formed with the focus and reason for being having a presence in this grassroots social movements militancy, be it student, union, popular-community. Thus, ‘organisation and social insertion’ were departure points, an initial starting point to draw the line, to aggregate and build with those that understood these needs and from there to move on to new challenges, and were therefore never regarded as an arrival point. […] Aggregating groups and organisations with distinct degrees of accumulated experience in anarchism and in grassroots movements, the FAO understands that the pursuit of political fine tuning between the groups passes through the fine tuning of its social militants and their theoretical construction. The affirmation that anarchism is struggle demands the need to construct an anarchist organisation based on the unity of theory and action, built on the basis of internal organisation based on political federalism and on collective responsibility. These points, which touch more on the problem of organisation and its functioning, are fundamental and indicate a well delineated path towards a broader construction. This is the goal to which the FAO moves, that is, the building of a revolutionary anarchist organisation active in struggles. Revolutionary not by self-proclamation, but by being guided by the construction of the social revolution, deploying its militant activity in the grassroots social movements under this finalist strategy while, of course, not ceasing to perform the necessary analysis of the historical reality and its conjuncture.”
The FAO was founded in 2002 at a meeting in Belém, in Pará, and accomplished ten years in 2012, commemorated with the founding congress of the Brazilian Anarchist Coordination (Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira – CAB), which represents a significant organisational advance. In agreement with the initial project of the FAO, it was necessary to begin discussions around the axes of organisation and social insertion and to advance. Between ebbs and flows, the FAO has carried this discussion out and in recent years has been preparing this organisational growth.
The first more concrete step in this direction was the rapprochement carried out during the years 2009 and 2010, which included the intervention and the participation of innumerable comrades in order to overcome an impasse generated by a conflict in 2003, responsible for separating especifismo in Brazil into two “currents” that, until this time, had developed in parallel. On the one hand, the FAO itself and the organisations that participated in it. On the other, the FARJ and, later on, the organisations that have emerged with its support and influence. The solution to this problem was fundamental in order to be able to resume contact, resolve the differences, solve old problems and from there, in 2010, for the national unification process.
The second step was the change in the principles of the FAO, adopted in 2010, when the axes of organisation and social insertion were deepened.
“After intense discussions, we have deliberated that we should take a qualitative leap and go beyond the two previously proposed axes: organisation and social insertion. Understanding that they are already incorporated in our groups and organisations and that the questions of organisation and social insertion are no longer as polemical in the anarchist milieu – and the activities of the groups and organisations and of the FAO itself contributed significantly to this – we have decided to take another step towards the construction of an organisation of national dimension, which was always one of our objectives. The next step is, for us, to deepen organisation and it was thus that we decided to adopt especifismo as a form of anarchist organisation for the groups and organisations of the FAO, establishing political and ideological principles that define, in our conception, both anarchism as well as this organisational option. With this objective, the National Encounter reformulated the definition of the FAO (although it continues to be a forum), established its principles, as well as the strategy to be upheld, and revised its commitments. Below are the resolutions of the Encounter on these issues.”
It was decided to adopt especifismo, characterised by a set of principles and a general strategy, consolidated in 2010 by the organisations that comprise the FAO.
The third step was the broader discussion, with almost one year of intense discussions, for the adoption of an Organisational Charter (Carta Orgânica) which would regulate the functioning of the FAO and permit organisational deepening, providing rights and duties for all the participants of this national organisational body.
A fourth step, parallel to the discussion on the Organisational Charter, constitutes itself with a social and political organisational deepening. It sets up a council of FAO organisations, with regular deliberative meetings emanating from the grassroots delegations. Regular visits and meetings between the organisations take place, which allow for an approximation in relations and an advance for the national project. It aims to strengthen political development, with the holding of local seminars and the integration of social work, with constant reports and initiating the establishment of broader coordinations for grassroots work at national level.
A fifth step, established at the beginning of 2012, was the resolution on the work that would have to be undertaken in order to found the CAB in June of that year.
During a decade of the FAO many things have happened.
At the political level, Brazil has witnessed the founding of organisations and groups that have remained in the forum, or at least in its orbit, for a few years. Noteworthy is the Libertarian Struggle Anarchist Collective (Coletivo Anarquista Luta Libertária) from Sao Paulo, founded in 2001 initially around an editorial proposal and later advancing to build a political organisation that constituted, in 2006, the Libertarian Socialist Organisation, ceasing to exist some time later; the foundation, in 2001 in Pará, of the CaboclaAnarchist Federation (Federação Anarquista Cabocla); the foundation, in 2002, of the Zumbi dos Palmares Anarchist Collective (Coletivo Anarquista Zumbi dos Palmares – CAZP) in Alagoas, which since 2005 has been part of the FAO; the foundation, in Rio de Janeiro in 2003, of the Anarchist Federation of Rio de Janeiro (Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro – FARJ), which joined the FAO in 2010; the foundation of the Insurrection Anarchist Federation / Anarchist Popular Union (Federação Anarquista Insurreição / União Popular Anarquista) in Rio de Janeiro, also in 2003, which remained for a short while in the FAO then disassociated due to disagreements; the foundation, in Bahia in 2005, of the Red and Black (Vermelho e Negro) group and, in Goiás in 2006, of the Pro-Anarchist Organisation Collective of Goiás (Coletivo Pró-Organização Anarquista de Goiás – COPOAG), both of which remained in the FAO for a while; the foundation, in 2006, of Rusga Libertária and its subsequent integration into the FAO.
Other initiatives also appear in these and other states. Starting in 2006, the newspaper Socialismo Libertario (Libertarian Socialism) becomes the national organ of the FAO, continuing until the present. From 2008, initiatives stimulated by the process of the FARJ develop: in 2008, in Ceará, the Libertarian Resistance Organisation (Organização Resistência Libertária – ORL) emerges and, in 2009 in Sao Paulo, the Sao Paulo Anarchist Federation (Federação Anarquista de São Paulo – FASP), which later changes its name to the Libertarian Socialism Anarchist Organisation (Organização Anarquista Socialismo LIbertário – OASL) and joins the FAO in 2011; initiatives in Santa Catarina are also encouraged, which culminate in the foundation of the Black Flag Anarchist Collective (Coletivo Anarquista Bandera Negra – CABN) in 2011, and in Paraná, which would culminate in the foundation of the Class Struggle Anarchist Collective (Coletivo Anarquista Luta de Classe – CALC) in 2010. A process in Pernambucu also emerged, including the foundation of the Black Nucleus Anarchist Collective (Coletivo Anarquista Núcleo Negro – CANN) in 2012. During this period the Mineiro Popular Anarchist Collective (Coletivo Mineiro Popular Anarquista – CMPA), from Minas Gerais and a group from Espírito Santo are approximated; in Alagoas, the Delmirense Libertarian Collective (Coletivo Libertário Delmirense) approximates the CAZP; the COPOAG expresses itself again; in Bahia, the Ademir Fernando Anarchist Collective (Coletivo Anarquista Ademir Fernando – CAAF) initiates contact with the FAO. During these ten years, annual meetings are held in various Brazilian states.
At the social level, the work is innumerable: the creation or strengthening of organisations that have the decisive participation of anarchists, such as the groupings of tendency – Popular Resistance (Rio Grande do Sul, Alagoas, Mato Grosso), Popular Organisation (Organização Popular, Rio de Janeiro), Aymberê Popular Organisation (Organização Popular Aymberê, Sao Paulo), among others; participation in the organisation of the Latin American Encounter of Popular Autonomous Organisations (Encontro Latino-Americano de Organizações Populares Autônomas – ELAOPA); participation in the union movement, working in Intersindical and in other unions; distinct community work, with relevant spaces that have anarchist interventions, like the Centre for Social Culture in Rio de Janeiro (Centro de Cultura Social-RJ), the Committees of Popular Resistance (Comitês de Resistência Popular) in Rio Grande do Sul, the headquarters of Popular Resistance in Alagoas; participation in urban social movements, such as homeless, unemployed, struggles for transport, recyclable waste collectors, community radios; participation in agrarian movements, the struggle for land and cooperatives. Although a modest work, the list is significant.
The CAB and especifista anarchism
Anarchist especifismo, since its emergence in Brazil in the 1990s, has been gaining maturity and moving in an organisational direction. It managed to find its historical references, reinserting anarchism in the camp of class struggle and overcoming its own problems generated through practical and theoretical elaborations that have demanded significant involvement of the militancy.
The Congress of June 2012 and its prior preparation will contribute to the gains of the next period. At the political level, the establishment of a national coordination with nine states being integrated and with others in the process of articulation. Continuing to publish the newspaper Socialismo LIbertario and initiating the publication of a magazine of the same name. Deepening political education, relations (within and outside Brazil), organisation and propaganda. Deepening the discussion of conjuncture and of programme. At the social level, tightening contacts between the fronts of social work and discussing common ways to intervene in popular social movements.
We believe that the CAB will fulfil its task of serving as a way to the construction of a national organisation of especifista anarchism.
Our expectations in relation to the future are the best possible!
Long live the CAB!
Long live especifista anarchism!
Organização Anarquista Socialismo Libertário (OASL)
Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro (FARJ)
Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, 2012.
Translation: Jonathan P. – ZACF