Text on Structures: theoretical analysis material developed by FAG- FAU and currently CALA's base material
opinion / analysis
Sunday October 03, 2021 16:16 by FAG-FAU - FAG-FAU
More stable and slowly changing structures condition the camp of social relations proper. They are a totality where each sphere has a specific and differentiated form of relationship. The separation for analysis always suggests two things: that they belong to a common whole and that they have their particularities.
Text on Structures: theoretical analysis material developed by FAG- FAU and currently CALA's base material.
More stable and slowly changing structures condition the camp of social relations proper. They are a totality where each sphere has a specific and differentiated form of relationship. The separation for analysis always suggests two things: that they belong to a common whole and that they have their particularities.
Politics Economics Ideological-cultural
The set of interrelated structures and a marginal camp transversally crossed by this dominant structural set. The marginal (white) camp would represent the area for action from the margins; from those “points” where the system has no force for its consistent reproduction; from all that there is of struggle from below in the different spheres. This whole camp can be thought of as resistance.
Field of social practices (parties, trade unions, social organisations) in their constant interaction. Interaction is not thought of as a determination, indeed, epistemologically it is something distinct and the preponderant influence of one level over another is not given a priori but must be found by the analysis of the stage or the conjuncture. Of course in a system that we have already configured as Capitalist.
A network of practices (an abstract approach to their existence in the reality of concrete social formations). It is assumed that power circulates in all “colours”, even when it belongs to the oppressed in their specific and “own” practices. Of course, this requires a redefinition of the concept: Power.
The field of social practices at the level of the conjuncture in a concrete social conformation. Here, the category of everyday social life is incorporated, which is graphed in different circles in the same framework. Only those social groups that form or have the potential to form social forces are taken into account here. There remains to be seen a range of collective social experiences which are of a different magnitude but which at given moments can constitute another character or reinforce existing social forces. These circles can be: indigenous communities, workers’ unions, housing cooperatives, land occupations, demands for various rights, environmental movements, immigrants movements, etc.
Elements for the construction of a strategy of rupture
The material would be composed of three levels of abstraction:
a) Theory, “hard core of capitalism” at the system level;
b) Concrete social conformations;
c) General elements of the conjunctures (and everyday social life)
It would work on the basis of a system of domination in which oppression and exploitation exist.
This capitalist system of domination would be composed of the different spheres: economic, political-legal-military, disciplined bodies-ideology (ideas-representations-behaviour-“mode” of information, technologies of power linked to it) and culture. The constellation of structures of domination circulating in the social body, which is not conceptually the same as “centres of power”, should perhaps be dealt with in what we will call: everyday social life. Prior analysis of the social forces that possess degrees of antagonism. From this constellation, priority will be given to those which seem to be able to constitute social forces which have degrees of specific or general confrontation with the system.
The ideology sphere requires a determined development of its analysis so that it is not trapped in the ideological apparatus of super- and infra-, nor in that character so commonly adjudicated as: distorting, masking of “reality”, of “rationality”. It is a task to face.
The Foucaltian concept of the body, although initially taken especially at the level of the hard core, for macro considerations would also be observed in terms of general disciplining. Clearly in relation to the passage from one system to another, from feudalism to capitalism, for example. Once the human being has been incorporated into a system, it remains to be seen how, at certain stages of it, other disciplines take place. For example, the military in the institutional sphere, or policies that tend to do so for strategic reasons. Or others that are detected in this stage of capitalism, where, for example, exclusion is a salient characteristic and which demands certain behaviours from the system, a daily life without being able to satisfy elementary needs, in which the existence of a large number of people is spent. Perhaps more than 20% of humanity today. There is also a reproduction of this disciplining that is born with the system, perhaps a reproduction that expands with productions in the same sense and in different camps... This is a subject to be explored.
The “sensibility”, the thought-feeling-power of these bodies could then be studied at the level of concrete conjunctures, within class sectors, collectives and the excluded world (new poverty), in the new collective forms of social expression, in military and educational institutions and others.
About the global structure concept.
The concept of structure would take theoretical distance from both infra and super as well as Althusser's a-dominant. The determination of one structure over the others would not be established a priori. This dominance would be the product of the respective analyses and not a priori. In other words, it would be a global structure without a pre-established predominance. The "determinant", if one wants to use the term, would be the matrix that this global whole possesses. Capitalist in our present period. Taking distance from reductionism as well as pluralism. With neither of these -isms.
The concept structure would be applied, initially, in two ways: for slower changing relations and for faster changing relations. For example, structure such as the state would belong to the slower changing ones and political practices to the faster changing ones. Nor is there any attempt a priori to establish homogeneity of time between the different spheres that make up the social totality. Their pace of change, put in "theoretical" terms, is a matter of careful precision. Some scholars claim that the pace of ideological change is "slower" than political or economic change.
Structure, also in principle, would be defined as: a set of articulated regular relations.
In this way we have a system, the capitalist system, which goes through several historical stages, maintaining structural elements that reproduce it in its different variants in its historical development.
The character of "relative autonomy (or "independence") of the different spheres (with elements that within them constitute, for their specificity, other spheres that we will call minor for the moment) would be maintained, an autonomy that exists intertwined in perpetual articulation and inter-influence. In this sense, we accept the term sphere to replace that of level, which gave more the idea of separate blocks. This is only provisional, because this concept of sphere does not graph things well either. But it is valid as a first option.
The ideological-cultural aspect presents its own problems. First of all, how does one establish the relationship between body and ideology or ideologies, domination and ideology, practice-ideology? Here Foucault's concept of the social construction of the subject seems to be of primary importance. In other words, the subject as a historical construction. By ideology we mean, as we have already pointed out, not only ideas, representations and behaviour. If ideology is composed of internal systems which also have their "relative autonomy", ideas-practices, technologies of power, representations and behaviours, it would be necessary to see how the concept of disciplining can be articulated for the more direct functioning of the system in general (panopticon type) and for specific behaviours. We reiterate something that we consider important: everything that has to do with the concept of Resistance would cross both ideological systems without belonging to such a camp, since it is a more general category that appears in all spheres. Ideology that we think initially has an existence with less weight of "classical" reproductive production in the camp of the "excluded" and other social collectives, for example: indigenous communities, peasants, landless, homeless, recyclers, etc. Places where ideological elements are being produced in terms of the social practices they have to carry out in their daily lives.
More than one theorist asks for precautions in using the notion of ideology, some of them are: not to find it always in virtual opposition with something similar to truth; not to make the difference between what, in a discourse, falls under the concept of scientificity and truth, and what falls under some other, but to see historically how truth effects are produced within discourses that in themselves are not true or false; finally not to consider it in a secondary position to any infra. However, this does not imply the identification of science and ideology. It also implies a refusal to divide ideas and actions into separate domains.
It has been argued that this view of the ideological shifts the focus of attention from the lofty ideas of the intellectual elite to the mundane discourses of the various disciplinary institutions that directly affect the everyday lives of the masses.
In today's studies, this ideological problem is referred to as "mentalities" on the one hand, and "sensibility" on the other, as in the case of Barran. We will have to work on this concept further in order to establish the primary criterion and to see if this has any functionality in our discourse.
The whole media world remains to be seen, where we place it, yes, within the ideological terrain. We think, in principle, of its location in a camp of its own. The media today seems to penetrate with relevance in all spheres, producing very specific and relevant effects in each of them.
That thing called the State in real Marxism
The state deserves special treatment because it is linked to a whole historical strategy of the Marxist current: the seizure of state power. The concept of power is in these conceptions, more than anything else, related to the state. This suggests the idea that power is in the political sphere and that it does not circulate in the other spheres. So for social democracy as well as for Marxism-Leninism, access to the state was the main strategic path. A strategic criterion which, moreover, has been, and continues to be, a central theme in the various guerrilla groups. What is different in this respect is the approach of Zapatismo, which has certain affinities with the libertarian conception.
Linked to this approach, to this conceptuality, is the concept of the vanguard. In fact there was only one direction: from the party to the class and the population as a whole. The belief that the population, and its historical subject the class, should remain subordinate to the party and that alone it was incapable of creating instances of liberation. Also the belief that within capitalist society it is not possible to generate, from below, basic conditions for its rupture. The degree of development of self-organisation and self-management of popular bodies was not important. It was not, in the end, a question of creating a strong people but a strong party. Total political reductionism, the offspring, moreover, of a whole general reductionist conception.
The real socialism of the USSR, China and Cuba sheds light on this phenomenon and the conceptuality that serves as a cover for it. Today Fidel Castro says, for example, that the revolution can be destroyed from within because the existing mentality is not prone to socialism.
The beliefs that the main thing is to generate changes from the "infra-structure", the economy, in order to change mentalities, that the fundamental thing is to take state power and operate from there, and the importance of the vanguard to lead this process are today more than questioned, one could say torn to shreds in any rigorous descriptive analysis. This description must be articulated in order to produce hypotheses of a theoretical nature.
Theory at the service of a strategy for today
Theoretically locating the strategic path for change seems to be a matter of the first order. The libertarian socialist camp, with various gaps, is the one that has historically insisted on this order and proposed some general orientations. This is a lot compared to what is falling apart.
We believe it is pertinent to reiterate here fragments of opinions already expressed by the FAU in 1970 on the subject of strategy; they are general concepts as if to provide a framework for working on the subject, but at the same time they contain a general orientation which can be said, today, to be valid, it contains a knowledge which clarifies the general camp to which it refers. The appropriate adjustments and changes will be the subject of the work process we are currently engaged in. Let us see:
"The activity of a political organisation presupposes a forecast of the possible course of events over a more or less prolonged period of time, a forecast which includes the line of action to be adopted by the organisation in the face of these events in order to influence them in the most effective and appropriate way.
These forecasts are called a strategic line. A strategic line is usually valid as long as the general situation to which it corresponds continues (e.g. the strategy of protracted struggle, of creating the conditions and developing actions of armed struggle within the framework of the process of economic-social deterioration with its foreseeable derivation of a hardening of the struggles).
Naturally, if the general situation were to undergo major changes, these would alter the conditions within which the organisation has to operate and, if it wants to act effectively, it would have to revise its strategy to adapt it to the new situation.
Note that all this does not imply changing the objectives pursued, the goals, or the ideological principles. The strategy remains on a more modest but decisive level, which has to do with the organisation's operational and political practice.
It is worth pointing this out because there are often those who tend to turn into "principles" what are and can only be strategic formulations, valid to the extent that they are appropriate, that they are effective for operating in a given situation. But they can become dangerous to the extent that they are converted into universally applicable and useful dogmas.
In these arbitrary and dogmatic extensions of the validity of strategic experiences, endless discussions have been generated around what we might call "false problems"....
...Sometimes these issues have for years animated discussions in which the various "arguments" have been repeated and thoroughly picked apart. And as these discussions have developed, they have created rigidity in the positions, they have given them an importance they did not deserve, they have turned what was only a strategic problem into a problem of principle. They have made us lose sight of the fact that the only adequate method of resolving these questions is to refer to the analysis of the concrete situation (economic, social, political) in which we have to act.
The situation, the reality (which is dynamic, in the form of changing and successive situations) is the only "judge" suitable for deciding these controversies.
But strategy provides only general guidelines for a period. It is the tactic that embodies it in concrete, current reality, that translates it into facts.
Tactical options, insofar as they respond to more precise, concrete and immediate problems, can be more varied, more flexible. However, they cannot be in contradiction with strategy.
An adequate strategic-tactical conception has to take into account, as we have said, the real situation of the period for which it is envisaged. But that is not enough. Facts, practice, "pure" experience are not enough. What is more, "pure" experience does not exist. "Pure" experience does not exist.
Every organisation that acts politically arrives at a strategic-tactical conception on the basis of certain presuppositions (implicit or explicit) which are ideological, theoretical.
There can be no such thing as an apolitical, ideologically neutral strategy. Nor is it possible to deduce it from an allegedly "objective", ideologically aseptic analysis. Those who trust in the possibility of such an analysis, of a definition devoid of ideological orientation, limit themselves - almost always - to accepting as the maximum level of "political" development that which can be derived from spontaneous development. Ideology is supplemented by conceptions emanating from mere "common sense", always inevitably penetrated by the "common" ideas and beliefs disseminated by the dominant social groups. The only way to overcome these "common" ideas and beliefs is to confront them with an organically structured and as broad as possible set of positions, an ideology. This constitutes an essential engine of political action and an inevitable component of any strategy.
All political practice presupposes determined motives and a meaning which only become clearly discernible to the extent that they are made explicit and organised as ideology.
It has been, and quite often is, the case that these are understood as schemes of actuality, transferred from other realities in a more or less mechanical way, and can therefore operate as a kind of substitute for the real reality, the true reality. For a very long time (and there are many who continue to do so) strategic and tactical lines have been drawn up not on the basis of a careful analysis of our reality, but on the basis of what "so-and-so" said, usually in relation to situations in distant and different regions...
In Latin America, this way of proceeding according to pre-fabricated "models" has wreaked even greater havoc because, due to our cultural backwardness, we have had and still have great difficulty in arriving at our own creative elaboration. Even mere information about local or regional conditions and circumstances often comes up against great obstacles.
In such a situation, the "copying", the mechanical transfer of "recipes" proven by experience... from others becomes a quick and attractively "easy" expedient.
The persistent relapse into these modalities, especially in certain sectors of the educated petty bourgeoisie, has generated, through an explicable but erroneous reaction, a criterion of underestimation of the ideological, considered as dispensable "theory".
Overcoming this criterion is now a task. This is where we must start from. And to advance along the path of the most effective knowledge and theoretical elaboration as an increasingly firm foundation of an already defined strategic-tactical line".
At Congresses in the early 1990s, our Organisation specifically addressed the issue of strategy. There, in principle, it was considered that strategy could well be divided into two "territories", the one corresponding to the more general and slow-changing aspects and the ones linked to the more rapid changes that cannot be reduced to the realm of tactics. This second "territory" was called "strategy in the strict sense". This hypothesis was left for further development at future congresses. It was a question of finding a logical response to an earlier statement by the Organisation in which it said: "There is only one strategy, what changes in times of ebb and flow is the tactic". It seemed to us that not only tactics but also certain aspects, or zones, of strategy were changing. For strategy was conceived in constant articulation and interaction with tactics.
How we moved towards the creation of the new
The old socialists spoke of building a new civilisation, Che made it fashionable to speak of the new man. Durruti said we carry a new world in our hearts. These things allude to values, to a new way of life, to new social relations. If history teaches us anything (as El Padrino says), it is that this does not happen from above, it requires the construction of a new social subject. And for this construction, the active, transformative participation of that subject is fundamental. If the social subject has not made contact with new, albeit incipient, social relations, it cannot have other references than those it is familiar with and those it tends to reproduce.
Michel Foucault (M.F. hereafter) uses the concept of social force, in a certain Nietzschean sense. A concept that has been used a lot in politics, but in a confused way, in our opinion. It emerges in him in a clearer way. To his concept of the construction of the subject it is perhaps necessary to add, as a necessary link, this concept of social force. It is by building social force and taking an active part in it that embryos of the new civilisation or of the "new man", of another subject, can be formed. Let us say that this is the subject of how consciousness is transformed, to use classical language. As far as we have seen, the economy by itself does not transform consciousness. What the subject experiences and how he experiences it on a daily basis, historically, within the framework of certain devices, would be the main element of change in his consciousness.
Alongside this concept of social force could go that of the construction of popular power, which is so much in vogue today. But it would be necessary to rework it in order to give it coherence. We find it more than once mixed up by those who believe that it is compatible with choosing the revamped electoral path or those who trust in pure spontaneity as a path in itself (the multitudes etc.).
Of course, this brings us hand in hand with the treatment of another concept: that of power. An indispensable tool and a crucial one, no doubt. The studies that seem to be the most rigorous indicate some fundamental questions: that power circulates throughout the social body, throughout the different structured spheres. In other words, through all social relations. We would thus have power in the economic, legal-political-military, ideological-cultural spheres. We would have power at the micro and macro levels. On the micro levels power becomes important also in the light of the formation of embryos of new civilisation, in the interweaving of different forms of self-organisation or self-management. The macro would be in places of greater "volume", concentrated, with also greater irradiation. There is a suggestion by structuralists to consider power from a certain threshold, where it has a socially "relevant effect", they say. They would leave out a series of behaviours, also ideas and representations, which make up the variety of the human animal and the slow changes that ideology has. A whole range of interpersonal relations. It is a suggestion to keep in mind and at the same time to take with a pinch of salt. For there is a social universe of the everyday, of a small dimension, which is a factory for the production of new notions, resistances and techniques of popular power.
Power. What power?
Studies tell us or suggest that power is not in institutions or apparatuses. But they are never amorphous and are always penetrated. That is to say that power circulates within them, that this is its real form of existence. Here the classic Marxist thesis and that of economists and scientists who separate economic structures, almost always the structure of production, as preceding power or separate from it, come to nought. Articulated with the structure of production, for example, are power, classes, struggle, resistance. They exist simultaneously and thus unfold. Following this example, to say production in the capitalist system is to say classes, to say surplus value is to say exploitation, to say classes is to say degrees of resistance.
Finally, something rather complicated for the libertarian: power transforms or dissolves. Are there organised forms without power? Power is only: the capacity to realise. Does it mean at the same time the capacity to break? Power as repression and power as production and reproduction.
Bachelard tells us that epistemological changes occur through ruptures and discontinuity of the previous. He says this especially for the sciences. For the social-political it seems that it is also valid as a premise. It is necessary to dismantle what is coming in order to give birth and possibilities to the new, to dismantle it is necessary to make ruptures. Perhaps every day and in various fields.
It is said that how something is "seen", what theoretical-political ideas are adopted, what social technology is put into operation, is of paramount importance for the practices that are to be implemented and deployed. In this context, theory has a major impact on the field of practice. Logically, it should also do so for itself. For its own production. It is worth emphasising the particular character of theory, its character as a "toolbox".
M.F., other theorists too, dismiss "Man", they call it idealistic philosophy, ideological fetishism of "Man". Man as the maker of things such as history. They break with a whole humanist philosophical tradition. In fact, this also means breaking with the classical notion of "civil society", the concept of a society made up of the sum of individuals, of citizens, of free people, etc. We are now interested in this topic in relation to its historical implications.
In the same line of thought, M.F. said that we talk a lot about class but little about class struggle. If the process has no subject, in the classical sense of the term, then it has mechanisms, devices, social forces. The makers of history would be masses and classes. Especially classes (social ensembles), large collectives, operating as social forces.
A set structured in a certain way, a system, would place the agents in different places and functions. To avoid any misunderstanding, we are always talking about human beings in certain social and historical contexts and mechanisms.
Since the 18th century, a capitalist system has placed people in a position to produce and think, after disciplining their bodies, in specific places. Broadly speaking (and as a model) in the bourgeoisie, in its different fractions, and the working class and social sectors linked to it, the unemployed for example. A structure of domination that is reproduced not only in the economic sphere but in all spheres: legal-political, ideological, cultural. It is believed that this ideological part (in a broad sense) is of the first order in its reproduction and deployment as a system. It is present in different nodes of power that encompass and enable the functioning and maintenance of the system.
The architectural metaphor of infra and super structure does not account for this totality and its inner workings. It is a reductionism that could not explain multiple and relevant problems of our time and not even many of the transcendent problems of the industrial period of capitalism. Nor does it explain how the different classes are grouped and function within it. Everything is attempted to be explained by economics, by productive forces and exploitation.
When M.F. says that there is little talk of class struggle he is saying that Marxists separate, idealistically they themselves would say, classes as a separate moment of the class struggle. Everything seems to indicate that classes were constituted at the same moment and during the struggle. The problem of so-called "class consciousness" remains to be seen out of this. For Kausky and Lenin class ideology, its consciousness, came from outside the class. The intellectual petty bourgeoisie, now socialist, took on this difficult task. It seems that nobody takes this thesis seriously any more. But there coexisted with this thesis another one which established that the material conditions of existence almost automatically generate an ideology, in the case of the proletariat, well, the proletarian ideology, i.e. the consciousness of belonging to an antagonistic sector within the dominant system.
M.F. warns about this: "the capitalist system penetrates much deeper into our existence. This regime has been forced to elaborate a whole set of political techniques, techniques of power, by means of which man finds himself bound to a reality such as labour; all these techniques constitute a whole which makes men's bodies and time become labour time and labour power.... But for there to be surplus value, there must be sub-power; there must be a microscopic, capillary web of political power, rooted in the existence of men, which has been set up to fix men to the apparatus of production.... Man's link with labour is synthetic, political, it is a link established by power.... We thus see how the destruction of surplus value necessarily implies the questioning and attack on sub-power...". The same seems to be true for the analysis of the system of domination as a whole.
Power and the state
And here it is, it seems to us, essential to look at the issue of state power, state apparatuses and ideological apparatuses of the state. Althuser uses these terms, but there is in him an approach that takes a toll on his Leninist identification in this question of the state. He separates state power from state apparatuses, much of which is intended to convey the thesis that the state has to be used anyway. Apart from the conceptual implications that this has. I think that following M.F. and others one could look at this issue in a different way, for example: state power and state apparatuses. Power would thus only be in social relations, in the different spheres of social relations, and the state apparatus would contain in macro, circulating within it, a certain synthesis of dominant power. This being so, power resides neither in the structures nor in the institutions, but in the realm of social relations. And not only in the political, but also in the economic, ideological, legal and all the institutions of the system.
In any case, there remains the problem of the state as a place of "condensation" (coagulation, as M.F. would say) of diverse powers, as a specific place that has its own "relative autonomy" and is capable of maintaining and reproducing privileges of different orders. Its centralising dynamic, suitable only for domination, its repressive and controlling function. Perhaps with supremacy over other powers that fulfil functions of the same category. Moreover, its macro production and certain specificity as part of the dominant power.
But most studies of state power focus heavily on the empirical part, on the state apparatus. An apparatus: parliaments, police and military institutions, educational institutions, bureaucracy which, despite being penetrated by the dominant power, also have their relative autonomy, even if conditioned by this framework. It is undoubtedly important to see how this game is played out. Of "things" that are fluid and not mechanical.
It has been said by several researchers that the theoretical production on the state is small and somewhat confused. Wrong, many times.
Premises that have value for the state in general, i.e. for the state in the various historical systems, do not emerge with much rigour. But what does emerge, and which has a fairly general consensus, is that it has a monopoly on organised repressive force, that it is the defender and upholder of privileges, and that it possesses a centralising dynamic which cancels out the "spontaneous". These general premises are undoubtedly important.
There is also a certain consensus that the state takes on different forms in each of these historical systems, that its articulation with the rest of the elements is specific to each of these opportunities. Moreover, the way in which it is articulated is a constitutive element of the system, which breaks with the idea that it is a simple relationship between one element and another. Far away is the notion of a simple superstructure determined by the base. Likewise the concept of a class moulding at will the preferred form of state and using it at will. The state, the states, are constituted and articulated in complex processes in each historical system. For example, the bourgeois class has to reshape a state that comes from before and has its own things.
Perhaps this ultra-simplistic concept, to say the least, which identifies the state with society, does not even deserve rigorous consideration. "We are all the state " "The state belongs to all of us " and other such imaginative witticisms.
The libertarian conception, by not being imprisoned in the scheme that came to be imposed and even catalogued as scientific, dives freely, with much richness on the problematic state. To the extent that even some studies from the old days say a lot.
It is still of paramount importance, especially in political theory, to establish the relationship between the state, power in general, social classes and the best ways to arrive at socialism.
Some historical libertarian considerations about the state
Somewhere along the line, socialism lost its way and filed away themes and rich hypotheses that were left for future archaeological work. We think that a political archaeology can draw a great deal of juice from this. We will take up some historical questions, not to say that yesterday can enlighten us today and give us a direction, but to take up again transcendental things that were discontinued, for different reasons, and that today allow us to continue an interrupted work. There are discontinuities, but areas of the past can be taken up again with the gaze of the present and much can be suggested to us. We have chosen here considerations by Bakunin on the state that are well over a century old. Reading and re-reading them raises issues that need to be taken up again.
Bakunin's cautions against statist socialism and vanguardism are of value. He does not believe in the state to bring about changes in social organisation and sees the need for another form of organisation. He sees the state as a perpetuator of privileges and is identified with the existing system which in one way or another wants to perpetuate them. He sees the repressive character of the state and the whole legal-military and ideological apparatus that is linked to it. From his proposition only possibilities of building popular power to bring about change emerge. He does not believe that the state is a viable way to socialism. His analysis, episteme apart (not relevant in this case), starts from the historical plane and from there draws theoretical conclusions. He says in this respect:
"Revolution by Decree is Doomed to Failure.
Against the ideas of the authoritarian Communists - fallacious ideas, in my opinion - that the Social Revolution can be decreed and organised by means of a dictatorship or a Constituent Assembly, our friends, the Parisian Socialists, maintain that the revolution can only be undertaken and brought to its full development through the continuous and spontaneous mass action of popular groups and associations..... For, in reality, there is no brain, however brilliant it may be, or - if we speak of the collective dictatorship of a few hundred supremely gifted individuals - no combination of intellects capable of embracing all the infinite multiplicity and diversity of interests, aspirations, desires and real needs which constitute in their totality the collective will of the people; there is no intellect capable of projecting a social organisation which can satisfy each and every one.
Such an organisation will always be a Procrustean bed into which violence, more or less sanctioned by the state, would force the wretched society. But this is an old system of organisation, based on force, which the Social Revolution will abolish in order to give full freedom to the masses, groups, Communes, associations and individuals, destroying once and for all the historical cause of all violence: the very existence of the State whose fall will entail the destruction of all the iniquities of juridical law and of all the falsehoods of the various cults - rights and cults which have always been the complacent canonisers, both on the ideal and on the real terrain, of all violence represented, guaranteed and authorised by the State.
It is evident that only when the State has ceased to exist will humanity obtain its freedom, and that only then will the real interests of society, of all groups, of all local organisations and, consequently, of all individuals forming such organisations, find their true satisfaction".
Bakunin goes on to say of what we now designate as popular power or people's power, the opposite relation which this process bears to all that is constitutive of every state:
“Free Organisation Will Follow the Abolition of the State.
Society can and must begin its own reorganisation, which, however, must not be effected from the top down, nor according to some ideal plan projected by a few wise men or philosophers, nor by decrees promulgated by some dictatorial power, or even by a National Assembly or elected by universal suffrage. Such a system, as has already been said, would inevitably lead to the formation of a governmental aristocracy, that is to say, to a class of people who have nothing in common with the masses of the people; and this class would most certainly return to exploit and subjugate the masses under the pretext of the common welfare or the salvation of the State..... Indeed, what do we see in history? That the State has always been the patrimony of a privileged class, like the priestly class, the noble class, the bourgeois class; a bureaucratic class, in the end, because when all classes have been annihilated, the State falls or rises like a machine; but for the good of the State there must be a privileged class which is interested in its existence, and it is precisely the solidarity interest of this privileged class which is called patriotism".
In passing, Bakunin does something of what M.F. says: "to emphasise, rather than the fundamental element of sovereignty... (patriotism)... the relations or operators of domination...". A theory of domination, of dominations, rather than a theory of sovereignty... to start from the relation of power itself, from the relation of domination in what is factual, effective, and to see how it is itself what determines the elements on which it rests. Consequently, not to ask the subjects how, why and in the name of what rights they can accept to allow themselves to be subjected, but to show how the concrete relations of subjection fabricate them... I do not mean, of course, to say that there are no great apparatuses of power.... I believe, however, that they continue to function on the basis of these devices of domination....".
Violence as a constitutive element of the system
Politics as war by other means
And M.F. adds suggestions for analysis and opens up very important questions: "But if it is clear that the relations of domination must be the way of access to the analysis of power, how can this analysis of relations of domination be carried out? In what sense can a relation of domination be reduced or assimilated to the notion of force? In what sense and how can the relation of force be reduced to a relation of war? War can effectively serve as an analysis of power relations and as a matrix of the techniques of domination.... War can be considered as the point of maximum tension, the very nakedness of power relations. Is the power relation at its core a relation of confrontation, of struggle to the death, of war? Underneath peace, order, wealth, authority, underneath the peaceful order of subordinations, underneath the state, the state apparatus, the laws, etc., is there a kind of primitive and permanent war to be heard and rediscovered? The fundamental question... how, since when and why did we begin to realise or imagine that what works underneath and in power relations is war?.... Who sought in the noise, the confusion of war, in the mire of battles, the principle of intelligibility of order, of the State, of its institutions and its history?... politics itself is not, perhaps, war waged by other means...".
The state and its violence of war according to Kropotkin
For his part Kropotkin makes an analysis of the historical genesis of the state, the genesis for a theory. . In it he tries to locate fundamental and constant features, that which is proper to it and without which it cannot exist: "war", the domination which it carries in its bosom. Let us see:
"On the one hand, there are those who hope to effect the social revolution within the state, maintaining most of its powers, even extending them and using them for the benefit of the revolution. On the other side there are those who, like us anarchists, see in the State, not only in its present form, but even in its essence and in all the forms it could take, an obstacle to the social revolution, an obstacle par excellence to the development of a society based on equality and liberty; a historical means of preventing this flourishing, and who work, therefore, to abolish and not to reform the State.
It is therefore very important, after having so often criticised the present state, to investigate the reasons for its emergence, to examine the role it has played in the past, and to compare it with the institutions it has come to replace.
First of all, let us first understand what we mean by the name "state".
It seems to me, however, that in the State and in Government we have two notions of a different order. The idea of the State implies something quite the opposite of the idea of Government. It includes not only the existence of a power placed far above society, but also a territorial concentration and a concentration of many functions of the life of societies in the hands of some or even all. It implies new relations between members of society.
This distinction, which perhaps escapes us at first glance, comes to the fore especially when we study the origins of the state.
There is only one way to understand what the state is: to study it in its historical development.
And if, leaving aside the ancient civilisations, we study the origins and developments of the young barbarian civilisation up to the periods which, in turn, gave birth to our modern States, we shall be able to grasp the essence of the State better than if we were to embark on the study of the Roman Empire or that of Alexander, or that of the despotic monarchies of the East.
Taking these mighty barbarian wreckers of the Roman Empire as our starting point, we can trace the evolution of the whole of civilisation from its origins to its phase: the State.
And thus gradually arose the first concentration of powers, the first mutual security for domination, that of the judge and the military chief, against the commune of the people. A man dreams of these two functions and surrounds himself with armed men to execute judicial decisions, fortifies himself at home, accumulates in his family the riches of the time - bread, cattle, iron - and gradually imposes his rule on the surrounding peasants.
And the sage of the age, i.e. the sorcerer or the priest, was not slow to support him and to share the domination, or, adding the spear to his magician's power, they used both to their advantage.
M.F. says something that is pertinent and sheds more light at this point of this discourse: "We could ask ourselves, and we would have to ask ourselves in addition: are military institutions and the practices surrounding them - and in a general way all the procedures that are put into action to wage war - to a greater or lesser extent, directly or indirectly, the core of political institutions?
And Kropotkin goes on to consider:
"How the free men gradually became serfs forced to work for the lay or religious lord of the castle; to explain how authority was constituted, by trial and error, over the villages and districts; how the peasants revolted, coalitioned, fought to combat this growing domination and how they succumbed in these struggles against the strong walls of the castles, against the iron-clad men who defended them...".
It is easy to understand that modern historians educated in the Roman spirit and bent on tracing all institutions back to Rome find it difficult to understand the spirit of the communalist movement of the 12th century. This movement, a virile affirmation of the individual who succeeds in constituting the city by the free federation of men, peoples and cities, was an absolute negation of the unitary and centralising Roman spirit by which history is explained in our universities. This movement is not linked to any historical personality or to any central institution".
M.F. also analyses how official history masks problems of this kind by highlighting themes and "theories" such as sovereignty. He says: "The political legal theory of sovereignty - theory that you have to get rid of if you want to analyse power - dates from the Middle Ages, it dates from the revival of Roman law; it was built around the problem of the monarchy and the monarch. And I believe that, historically, this theory of sovereignty - this is the great trap into which one risks falling... it served as an instrument and also as a justification for the constitution of the great administrative monarchies... from the 16th and especially the 17th century, already at the time of the wars of religion, the theory of sovereignty was a weapon that circulated in one camp or the other, that was used in one direction or the other, either to limit or, on the contrary, to strengthen royal power... Finally, in the 18th century, we find again this same theory of sovereignty, as a revival of Roman law, in Rousseau and his contemporaries... at this time it is a question of constructing, against the administrative, authoritarian or absolute monarchies, an alternative model, that of parliamentary democracies...".
Kropotkin goes on to emphasise transcendental themes which have remained historical "loopholes" of little importance for certain globalising theories anchored in concepts which belong more than anything else to the field of domination...:
"The municipality of the Middle Ages, the free city, has its origin, on the one hand, in the commune of the people, and on the other, in these thousand brotherhoods and guilds which were constituted apart, outside the territorial union. The federation of these two types of union perfected the commune of the Middle Ages under the protection of its fortified enclosure and its towers.
In some regions it was a natural development. In others - and this was the general rule in Western Europe - it was the result of a revolution. When the inhabitants of a certain village felt sufficiently protected by its walls, they formed a conspiracy. They took an oath to each other to abandon all pending matters concerning insults, quarrels or injuries, and they swore never to have recourse, from then on, to any other judge than the trustees they themselves appointed, in any quarrels that might occur. In every guild of art or of good neighbourliness, in every sworn brotherhood, this had long been the regular practice. Such had been the custom in the past in every village commune, before the bishop or the kinglet came in and later imposed his judge.
And how many hoaxes have the statist historians spread for the benefit of the State about this period!
Indeed, were we not taught, for example, at school, that the State did us the mercy of building on the ruins of feudal society these national unions which were previously impossible because of the rivalries of the cities? We were all taught this hoax at school and almost all of us have continued to believe it since we grew up.
And yet today we know perfectly well that despite all the rivalries, the medieval cities worked for four centuries to form these, desired unions, freely consented to, by means of federation, and, what is better, that they succeeded in doing so.
But the State, by its own vital principle, cannot tolerate free federation. It represents what horrifies the legislator most: the state within the state. The State cannot recognise a freely consented union functioning in its midst; it and its sister Church alone have the right to serve as a bond of union between men.
Therefore, the State must necessarily annihilate cities based on direct union between cities. The federative principle must be replaced by the principle of submission, of discipline. This is its substance. Without this principle, it ceases to be the State...".
A line of analysis closely related to new research. M.F. says: "In modern societies, from the 19th century to the present day, we have, on the one hand, a discourse and an organisation of public law articulated around the principle of the sovereignty of the social body and the delegation that each person makes of his sovereignty to the State, and, at the same time, a tight grid of disciplinary coercion that ensures, in fact, the cohesion of this same social body. However, this grid can in no case be transcribed in this law, which is, however, its necessary accompaniment. A right of sovereignty and a mechanics of discipline: between these two limits, I believe, lies the exercise of power.
Kropotkin goes on in this profound analysis:
"Where serfdom was abolished it was again reconstituted under a thousand diverse and new forms; and where it had not yet been entirely destroyed, it was modelled under the aegis of the State in a ferocious institution, containing all the characters of ancient slavery....
Could anything else have come out of statist misery, when its first concern was to annul the village commune, then the town, to destroy all the ties that existed between the peasants, to place their lands at the mercy of the plunder of the rich, and to subject them, individually, to the official, the priest, the lord?
To annul the independence of the cities; to rob the rich guilds of the merchants and artisans; to centralise in their hands the foreign trade of the cities and ruin it; to seize the whole administration of the guilds and subject the internal trade, as well as the manufacture of all things down to the smallest detail, to a cloud of officials, and thus to kill industry and the arts; to take over the local militia and the whole municipal administration; to crush the weak for the benefit of the strong by means of taxation - all this was the role played by the nascent state in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the face of human agglomerations.
The same tactic was evidently employed with the peasants. As soon as the state felt that it had the strength to do so, it hastened to destroy the village commune, to ruin the peasants who fell into its hands, and to hand over the lands of these communes to plunder.
Historians and economists in the pay of the state have taught us that the people's commune, having become an antiquated form of land tenure which hindered the progress of agriculture, had to disappear under the action of natural economic forces. Politicians and bourgeois economists have not ceased to repeat it to this day, and there are even revolutionaries and socialists - those who pretend to be scientists - who even recite this agreed formula, learnt at school.
Never was such an odious hoax asserted in science. It is an odious lie, since history is full of documents to prove to anyone who wants to know them - as far as France is concerned, it is enough to consult Dalloz - that the commune of the people was first deprived by the State of all its attributes: its independence, its legal and legislative power, and then its lands were either simply stolen by the rich with the protection of the State, or directly confiscated by the State....
It is estimated that in the following century, at least half of the communal lands were appropriated by the nobility and the clergy under the protection of the state. Nevertheless, the commune continued to exist until 1787. The village assembly met under the elm tree, rented the land and distributed the taxes. See the documents collected by Babeau in his book The People under the Ancien Régime. Turgot found in the province where he acted as intendant that the assemblies were too tumultuous and abolished them in his intendancy to replace them with assemblies elected from among the wealthiest of the people. The State generalised this measure in 1787 on the eve of the Revolution. The mir was abolished and the business of the communes thus fell into the hands of a few trustees elected by the richest bourgeois and peasants.
The Constitution hastened to confirm this law in December 1789, and the bourgeois then replaced the lords in dispossessing the communes and what little communal land they had left. And it took one Jacquerie after another to force the Convention (1792) to confirm what the revolted peasants had just accomplished in the eastern part of France, namely, that the Convention should return the communal lands to the peasants, as it did, but only where it is, revolutionarily, actually accomplished. This is the case, as you know, with all revolutionary laws; they only come into force where the fact has been consummated.
The Convention, however, added to this law something of its own making, by ordering that these lands recovered from the lords should be divided equally among the active citizens only and exclusively, that is to say, among the bourgeoisie of the people. In one fell swoop he thus dispossessed the passive citizens, that is to say, the mass of impoverished peasants who most needed these communal lands, which, fortunately, led to a new Jacquerie and a new law of the Convention, ordering in 1793 the distribution of the lands per head, among all the inhabitants, something which was not put into effect and which served as a pretext for new thefts of communal lands.
Were these measures not enough to bring about what bourgeois economists and historians call the natural death of the commune? As if that were not enough, on 24 August 1794, the reaction that seized power gave this death the coup de grace. The State confiscated all the lands of the communes and turned them into a guarantee fund for the public debt, putting them up for public auction and putting them at the mercy of its supporters....
These are the facts, and this is what some people have called in scientific language the natural death of communal possession under the influence of economic laws. It would be the same thing to call the destruction of a hundred thousand soldiers on the battlefield a natural death.
But what happened in France happened also in Belgium, in England, in Germany, in Austria, everywhere in Europe, except in the Slav countries.
The periods of the upsurge of the robbery of the communes correspond to each other all over Western Europe ...
In Belgium, Germany, Italy and Spain, we find the same procedures. In one form or another, the personal appropriation of formerly communal land was almost entirely perpetrated in the fifties of this century. The peasants have kept only a few pieces of their communal land.
This is how this mutual insurance between the lord, the priest, the soldier and the judge - the state - has proceeded against the peasants in order to deprive them of their last guarantee against misery and economic slavery.
But could the State, while organising and sanctioning this robbery, at least respect the institution of the commune as an organ of local life?
To allow the citizens to form a federation among themselves, appropriating some of the functions of the State, would have been, in principle, a contradiction in terms. The State asks its subjects to submit directly, personally, without intermediaries; it wants equality in servitude, it cannot admit the State within the State.
Thus we see that, from the time the State began to be constituted in the sixteenth century, it worked to destroy all the bonds of union that existed between citizens, whether in the village or in the town. If it tolerated, under the name of municipal institutions, some vestiges of autonomy - never of independence - it was only with a fiscal aim, so as not to tax the central budget too much, or else to allow the rich men of the provinces to enrich themselves even more at the expense of the people, as has happened in England up to the present day and is still happening in institutions and customs.
And this is perfectly understandable. Local life is customary law, while the centralisation of power is Roman law. The two cannot exist side by side, and the latter had to annul the former.
The Jacobin Code of the Convention, known as the Code of Napoleon, does not recognise customary law, it only recognises Roman law, or rather Byzantine law....
But there is something worse at the bottom. There is the principle that has killed everything. The peasants of a village have a thousand common interests; interests of home, of neighbourliness, of constant relations. They are obliged to unite for a thousand daily things. But the State does not want, cannot allow them to unite. It thinks it should be enough to give them the school, the priest, the civil guard and the judge. And if other interests arise, it wants them to pass through the hands of the State and the Church.
Until the end of 1883, French peasants were strictly forbidden to join together, even if it was only to buy chemical fertilisers or to irrigate their fields. In 1883-86 the Republic decided to grant this right to the peasants, but not without voting with many precautions and obstacles the law on trade unions.
And what a degree of brutalisation we have reached with our distorted education, initiated by the State, and with our statists!”.
Bourgeois institutions can only serve the bourgeoisie
A history with an end we know well
The following documents are opinions that our organisation gave in its weekly "Letters". They correspond to the year 1970. We are making an extract of several works that have thematic unity, as it is our material we will spare it from the cumbersome ellipsis here and there. There are themes which are repeated, which open up and finally there are theoretical-political themes which have already been raised in the past, and are presented almost as new or as questions which have been discussed within the left for a long time. With these materials, it seems to us, we complete this primary focus on the structure of domination, its "components" and the techniques of reproduction that they bring into play. Unlike the earlier material by Bakunin and Kropotkin, the order of analysis is less descriptive of the historical and more focused on categories. We have tried to remove what has a very specific reference to the place, trying to leave what is of more general rigour. Let's see:
"Many years ago, when the world was ruled only by kings, there were many people who had illusions about parliaments. Kings, a couple of centuries ago, did what they wanted, their will was law in the regimes of absolute monarchy that existed in Europe and elsewhere in the 1700s or early 1800s. Then it seemed to many that the solution to all problems was to have the laws made by parliamentarians, made up of elected representatives of the people, instead of kings.
'If it is the people who choose, in free elections, those who will make the laws,' they said, 'they will have to contemplate the interests of the people. It will be the popular majority and not the whim of the privileged - then it was the nobles - governed by the mouth of a king, which will rule the destinies of all. It was a beautiful illusion! And that is why it lasted so long. It was a good intention and that is why the people went, again and again, to struggle, to revolution, seeking to impose liberal regimes, which enshrined 'consultation of the people, government by the representatives of the people, democracy'.
But the liberalism that wanted this had a major flaw, which in time would become clear. Democratic liberalism focused only on the political aspect, on equal political rights. All it demanded was that everyone should have the right to vote. It looked only at political inequality, which it wanted to turn into equality, into democracy, and did not look at other, equally or more important aspects of inequality. Social inequality, inequality of wealth, the fact that, in the capitalist world that was being born, some were exploiters and others - the vast majority - were exploited...
And this did not happen by chance. It is because behind the liberal doctrines was the bourgeoisie that was then emerging as a class, already socially powerful because of its wealth in trade and industry, and which also wanted to be predominant in the political sphere. It wanted power. But in power were the kings and the old nobility, who owned the land more than anything else. To fight against them, the rising bourgeoisie needed support, and it looked for it among the people. And it found it, because bourgeois ideology, the political theories of the bourgeoisie allowed the people precisely what all the people have desired, what all the people have aspired to throughout the history of the world, justice, equality for all. But the theorists, the bourgeois ideologies, the bourgeois critique of the old society of the landed nobles, were partial and therefore misleading. They only pointed out the political inequalities and in that they were right, that's why the people were right... but they did not point out the other inequalities, the social and economic inequalities.
Bourgeois preaching, bourgeois thinking was, let's say, one-eyed thinking. It looked only one way. It looked at the political, but closed its eyes to economic exploitation. Because to see that, to show that did not suit the bourgeoisie, who had their source of power in the exploitation of the labour of others. That is why they considered this decisive aspect of the problem. When, as time went by, the bourgeoisie began to win, when liberal regimes with parliaments, with presidents, began to be imposed, things began to become clearer. The workers began to see that, under the liberal regimes, there were still inequalities, sometimes greater than before, there were still injustices and exploitation and poverty.
And the last kings had not yet fallen - some of them still remain today - and already the first socialist thinkers were saying that political equality was impossible, that it was a utopia without socio-economic equality. As long as there were rich and poor, exploiters and exploited, there was no point in having equality in the vote. That true equality, which the people have always wanted and always want, cannot be achieved by voting. That it has to be won by fighting for it.
The liberal democratic utopia of government 'of the people, by the people and for the people' has remained just that: an appearance, an illusion. How could it be otherwise when these same classes are the ones who concentrate wealth, economic power and social predominance?
The bourgeoisie, owner of the means of production, also of popular sovereignty.
It organised and promoted its parties, created its newspapers, controlled the entire advertising apparatus. Through it, it managed the electoral campaigns with the same criteria and the same methods with which they promote campaigns to sell a television set or a coke. Just as a commercial product is 'placed', so too is a candidacy 'placed'. We all know how advertising mechanisms make the ignorant suddenly appear as a wise man, the most furious reactionary as a defender of the people. How, through persistent and 'technically' advised propaganda, suitable 'images' are constructed, tailor-made, of the candidates for whom the popular vote is being sought. All this under the cover of a fundamental situation: the systematic alienation of the people, their careful and methodical removal from anything that is participation in the 'problems of government'. The exclusion of everything that has to do with deciding the real problems.
The participation of the people in deciding the problems that affect them, the exercise of their 'sovereignty' is limited, within the bourgeois constitutions and laws, to voting every few years and then meekly obeying what their 'representatives' decide. In deciding big things, as in small things, the people, once the elections have been held, are not consulted at all. Once they have elected their 'representatives', they have to abide by what they decide. And if, as usually happens, they act against the interests of their 'electors', because in reality they are representatives of the privileged minority, one has to be patient and wait until the next elections to try to make a 'change'.
It is suggested to the people that the big problems of the country are too complicated for 'anyone' to come in and decide about them. The only ones who can decide are a few 'representatives' who seem to be endowed, it is not known by whom, with intelligence and superhuman faculties to know, themselves, all kinds of problems and their 'best' solutions. Reality belies this assumption. It is not ability but loyalty to certain interests that ensures politicians their sometimes very long dominance in public administration.
Moreover, in reality, the real power left to the 'representatives of the people' is diminishing. Authority tends to be increasingly concentrated in the hands of the executive, in the hands of presidents and their ministers, advised by the teams of technicians (sometimes not so technical) that surround them. 'Technical advice by trained people and quick decisions by a strong executive' is the 'modern' recipe for governance. Parliament is an institution in decline. Parliaments, elections, which the bourgeoisie demanded when it fought against the old ruling classes in order to win the support of the people, today play a very secondary role.
Elections are mere publicity stunts, carnival-like, to achieve the 'painless extraction' of the vote. Parliament, an increasingly hollow institutional form, which is used as a screen to hide from the eyes of the people the manoeuvrings of those who really move the puppets from behind.
We have seen this more clearly than ever in recent times. Those who know this best are the ruling classes and, of course, the parliamentarians themselves.
Nevertheless, every five years, the newspapers, the radio stations, the 'commentators' and 'publicists' and 'politicians' of all colours, who always criticise strikes, who always agree with repression, start, in unison, to make a fuss about the elections. And the others, those who say they oppose repression... when they are not in government, are not far behind.
And there is no lack of those who from 'left-wing' positions help to decorate the farce".
The State, Sovereignty, Voting and the Problem of Power
It is not easy to define, exhaustively in a few words, what the state is. Especially in countries where it has so many functions and tasks. The state is responsible for a wide range of activities. It opens schools and barracks. It sends the police, who beat and shoot, and it also maintains hospitals and pays the public health doctors who, all of a sudden, treat the same bruised and wounded. Of course, it is between all of us, through the taxes paid by the people, that we finance the salaries of teachers and doctors, and we all agree on that. But it turns out that with the same taxes we pay, we also finance the salaries of the police and soldiers, who then repress strikes, beat up and murder us. And they never repress those who exploit these people. The thieving financiers, the landowners and the big sharks of commerce and industry.
They say that the state 'embodies popular sovereignty', but the 'sovereign' people do not agree with most of the things that are done, but they are done anyway. Why is that? The state has two faces. One that ensures necessary functions. The other ensures the maintenance of 'order' for the benefit of the ruling classes. And it so happens that the latter function is always by far the most important for them. Schools and hospitals can be closed, but you will never see soldiers and police being dispensed with. For as they always say, 'the primary function of the state is the maintenance of social order'.
The state comprises, here, a number of institutions. Army, police, judiciary, industrial enterprises, health and education services, and so on. Also president and parliament. All these institutions have theoretically fixed tasks in a general, 'legal' order, very wide-ranging powers. Precisely because, as in all periods of crisis, they need someone to 'command', to act in order to maintain 'order'. When economic and social deterioration occurs, with no solution within their system, when unemployment and poverty grow, they know that this produces discontent and so they extend the repressive functions of the state.
Some may think: 'but if there are elections, we can, by 'voting well', put in a president from us, a president from the people, who is on the side of the people, and everything will be sorted out'. That's what many people think, and that's why so many people vote. It seems easy.
Is it always the people who are 'wrong'? What happens is much worse. In the current system, whoever comes to power has to act in the interests of the ruling classes or else he doesn't make it... or he is overthrown. Every time a president has gone against the interests of the ruling classes, they have had a coup d'état and been overthrown. It has been seen many times in Latin America and everywhere. Because in reality - and this is the crux of the matter - no matter how much they say that the state is the 'embodiment of popular sovereignty', it is not so. Within the current system, the state represents the interests of the ruling classes.
The state is not neutral. Much less an emanation or representative of the people. It is not a simple 'machine' that can be run by whoever gets a majority in elections. It would be a very particular machine, which accepts only one driver, who always pulls for the same side: that of the defence of the ruling classes.
The truth is that the state is not simply a 'machine'. It is a constituent part of the system, certainly one of the most important. It is part of a system. The central function of the state, what justifies its existence, is the function of certain power. The function of imposing on the people compliance with the existing social order.
The state monopolises the exercise of so-called 'legal' violence. If in a demonstration, in any 'disorder', a policeman kills a person, it is said that he acted in defence of 'order'. If the dead person is a policeman, the one who killed him will go to jail as a 'murderer'.
The state monopolises 'legal' violence, but this violence is not neutral, it is not blind. Just as justice is not blind. Violence from above, like justice from above, has its eyes wide open and is almost never wrong when it acts. You will hardly ever see policemen murdering bourgeois or judges measuring poor and millionaires with the same yardstick. And when something like that happens, it is other bourgeois, other millionaires who are using the police or the judges to their advantage. And we have said that among them there are also often disagreements and contradictions, 'family quarrels', let's say. But their fundamental, permanent fight is against the people. Their main concern is to keep the people quiet. That is the essential task of the state.
Where there is a capitalist system, the state cannot be neutral. It is a capitalist state. The whole legal order (constitution, laws, etc.) is based on that. It is designed to maintain and consolidate the existing system. So much so, that in the state enterprises the workers are also exploited... When the state began to set up companies and create public services, there were those who believed that it was moving towards a more just future. But this was not the case. The bourgeois state also exploited its wage earners. The state, even if it does not necessarily identify itself with any particular bourgeois sector, represents the interests of the ruling classes as a whole. Sometimes the interests of certain landowning groups predominate, sometimes those of certain bankers, sometimes those of others. But they are always the interests of the upper classes. The state hierarchs themselves (from generals to high officials) are, in general, bourgeois. Although they may sometimes 'come from below', they become bourgeois precisely by holding high positions, which give them power, good salaries, and which are sometimes even the open door to very lucrative, though not very clean, business. The 'state machine', of which some speak, is not neutral, it has a heart and a conscience. It has a bourgeois heart and conscience.
When a 'piece' appears in this 'machine' which is out of tune with the machine itself, it makes it explode".
Discarding the state in all its forms and expressions
In the light of the fall of so many paradigms and with so much raw material that history provides today, it is necessary to recreate in these concrete historical conditions the strategy of change outside and against the state of a large part of the libertarian conception. With this conceptual and historical root, by adding to it new research and social facts, the fundamental proposition is fully valid.
There is no state above society or above classes, however much it may wish to present itself as such. Nor is the state neutral or amorphous. It is a complex instrument of class domination, equipped with mechanisms for that domination, while at the same time fulfilling other social functions that indirectly contribute to the perpetuation of that domination. And it is fit for precisely that, for exercising domination and not liberation.
At this time of debate, and also of confusion, of tragic urgency for projects that are designed to change this brutal and perverse practice and logic of a system that is already undoubtedly genocidal, the socialist alternative must re-emerge. Why socialist? In the history and imagination of those at the bottom, there is nothing similar that has that force. Despite its use, discredited in part by real Marxism, it is what suggests the alternative of another world, a different one, and one that has to do with those at the bottom.
The strategy was and is for us to build a strong people. As they say now, the need to work towards the empowerment of the population, of all the collective expressions that those at the bottom are creating or that can be promoted.
What political organisation for this historical period?
This brings us hand in hand to the question of the role of political organisation in this historical period. The "vanguard" parties, those that "represented" the proletariat and the people, seem to be more bankrupt than ever. If we take our Latin America in these last decades, there are rich examples of how these parties were on the margins or in positions of reproduction of the existing, in the many transcendental mobilisations and puebladas carried out by the people from below, largely driven by social organisations of a broad spectrum. Bolivia has been the most paradigmatic. But at the same time as leading social-political struggles of relevance, and beyond the approach of the "left" parties, there comes a moment when they take on water, leaving a vacuum that is immediately filled by the usual familiar faces. Almost all the evaluations of this vacuum are based on the logic of the absence of vanguard parties that aim to take over areas of the state or the current state functioning with a view to initiating a process from there. In other words, they analyse or propose from the same logic that made the "left" parties absent or denied these popular paths as valid. It hardly appears that the issue is another way of doing politics and another way of conceiving political organisation, the role that politics should play today in the light of past historical experience. The "caboose" no longer works, and I don't think the "transmission pulley" does either; maybe the "small engine" does. The role of the political organisation is still valid and covers a space that is different from that of the action of social organisations. But it seems increasingly necessary to specify its area of action and the practices that correspond to it.
Some quick general considerations about who we are and what we want to do today
The vision of anarchism advocated by the FAU is based on a critique of the relations of domination in all spheres of social activity (political, economic, legal, military, educational, cultural, etc.), a critique that is constantly redefined according to the society and the specific historical moment in which it takes place.
At the same time, it is a project for a different society based on other social relations and values. In its practical action, anarchism stood out especially as part of the struggles and achievements of a section of the international workers' movement. It was also active in various struggles for demands and revolutionary struggles. An example of this is the strong participation of anarchist militants in the Spanish Revolution. It was there that it embodied real anarchism at the level of the global functioning of zones.
The anarchist revolutionary project is a logical consequence of the critique and our aspirations for a new form of coexistence among human beings.
Anarchism as a critique of capitalism and its state, which presents itself fictitiously as a separate power above society, as a critique of the bourgeoisie and bureaucracy, as a critique of domination and authoritarianism, necessarily becomes an attitude of struggle and finds its reason in the social struggles of the oppressed classes.
Our critique and our project are not exhausted in uprising, protest and rebellion but mature into an unmistakably socialist model of libertarian society, into a strategy of revolutionary rupture and into a militant style of struggle and permanent agitation in the direction of large-scale social transformations. This project is channelled through the specific revolutionary organisation and is therefore organised struggle.
We understand a form of relationship in society, a relationship that makes the individual compatible within the framework of the collective. And at the same time, we understand freedom as based on responsibility and not on coercion. Therefore we understand the realm of freedom as a responsible and permanent effort of work, self-discipline and conscience.
The realisation in concrete social and historical terms of the fundamental principles and values of libertarian thought leads us hand in hand to the political problem: the breakdown of the present system and the creation of another social order.
In our conception there is no contradiction in our assertion that this process must be exercised and realised by the real and basic organs of society, that it must not be a monopoly of the state, but neither must it be subordinated to, or dependent on, any political party. It must be based today on the production of Popular Power.
It is entirely political because what our Organisation is proposing is a process that makes the most possible socialisation in all spheres of collective activity feasible. A socialisation that includes the means of production, distribution, credit and exchange and, at the same time, the socialisation of political power, of education, of the administration of justice, of defence organisations, of the sources of knowledge and information. The suppression of domination in the different spheres.
This project, which is at the same time the suppression of all structures, mechanisms and devices at the service of dominant classes and/or groups, seems to us to be the path to the historical realisation of our principles.
For the FAU, reintegrating political power into society means replacing the state and the government in their tutelary and usually repressive functions. In its role as a "cog" in a system.
It is to socialise the mechanisms of expression and decision-making that should belong to the people (Commune, society) and to abandon mechanisms of repression and violent coercion in favour of relations of coexistence based on responsible freedom and the commitment emanating from real participation. Participation to produce all the functions that a society needs at the level of its development.
In terms of libertarian realisation, this means that political power takes the form of direct democracy, exercised from grassroots institutions and the globalising bodies that express them. The installation of a Popular Power.
This is why we think of a democracy that is different from the merely representative one. By direct democracy we mean a new institutional framework, where there is no room for any kind of privilege, be it economic, social or political. In an institutionality where the revocability of members is immediately assured and where, therefore, there is no room for the usual political irresponsibility that characterises representative democracy, nor for the creation of that caste that so many people now call with disdain: "the politicians".
A practice and an institutionality that must reflect the rights and obligations of all members of society. Their right to be elected and to vote, and also their obligation to be accountable in an effective, practical, day-to-day way. And this must apply both to the wider social globality as well as to the grassroots. This is how we conceive democracy as a construction, a collective endeavour and a collective will that has no limits in time. Our political vision of society is not the end of history or the end of certain conflicts. It is its continuation in the most harmonious, free, fair and responsible way possible.
In what context should our political project develop? Our aspirations are totally opposed to a society of disciplined, passive, regimented, uniform and obedient beings. But our political action must confront concrete historical situations in which we will find the effects of centuries of domination and the constitution, especially in recent times, of the formation of many different segments of ideology, of social collectives, emanating mainly from fragmentation and in line with the stage the system is going through today.
The failure of socialism, which wanted to be real, shows once again that the utopia of equality, freedom, justice and effective participation is the necessary nourishment for hope, an essential tool in the struggle for liberation.
Humanity has not lived and will not live without hope. It is true that scepticism seems to be invading some parts of the world, that individualistic hedonism is trying to establish itself as a belief. But in the face of closed, despotic, authoritarian systems, sowers of misery and despair, resistance reappears again and again, in different forms.
In fact, there is a common situation and a common condition among the oppressed classes that can make possible solidarities and projects that transcend particularisms, even national and cultural borders.
At the same time we have the existence of particularisms that act as enriching elements of social reality and that establish greater complexity for joint action. With this, only one theme has been stated. We will come back to it.
Direct action. The method of socio-political action advocated by the anarchist movement has been and remains direct action. Although direct action is automatically associated with the use of violent forms of resistance and struggle, the concept encompasses a richer content. Fundamentally, it is about making the protagonism of popular organisations prevail, striving for as little mediation as possible and ensuring that the necessary mediation does not imply the emergence of decision-making centres separate from those concerned. In this sense, direct action is the logical consequence of our final objectives. Since direct management of the various branches of social work is the goal, strictly and consistently, only direct action can be the methodology that corresponds to this goal. In this sense, direct action is the complement to the direct democracy referred to above.
To the extent that workers and other oppressed sectors increase the possibilities of a practice of direct action and direct democracy, they can responsibly assume the defence of their interests and acquire the necessary capacity to strengthen their decision-making capacity, they mature to the extent that they take responsibility for their successes and their mistakes, assuming them as their own and avoiding subordinating themselves to external and foreign approaches that place them in a subordinate situation.
The methods of direct action must encompass all areas of social, political, ideological, cultural, economic, etc. activity, which constitute the capillarity and the whole of the social body.
Process of popular power. If the grassroots popular organisations are restricted to the role of passive audience and mute witness to the initiatives of others, if an artificial differentiation is made between "cadres" capable of taking decisions and "masses" in charge of implementation, little can be expected from those same "masses" who are invoked.
The gestation of a consciousness and a protagonist will is a priority demand insofar as it aims at subverting the ideological and practical roots that the bourgeoisie has scrupulously taken care to instil in the oppressed sectors, who thus accept their domination as "natural". The brutalisation, indifference, passivity, feelings of inferiority, fatalism and blind obedience, which capitalism administers and stimulates with a business mentality, are questioned in action when it is born as the expression and reflection of a exercised and manifested collective will. Producing another culture from the mechanisms of self-management and resistance.
Political practice itself. The points developed above constitute a rich methodological nucleus and a not inconsiderable guide for revolutionary action. However, they are in themselves insufficient to give complete answers in each concrete moment. Both for the action of grassroots popular organisations and above all for that of the specific organisation of anarchists, it is necessary to introduce and further develop the concept of political practice.
For us, political practice is any activity whose aim is the relation of the exploited and oppressed with the organisms of political power, the state, the government and its various expressions. Political practice is confrontation with the government as an expression of imposed power, the defence and extension of public and individual liberties, the ability to make proposals that concern the general interest of the population or partial aspects of it. And political practice is also insurrection as an instance of violent questioning of a situation that we want to change. Political practice is the proposals that take up popular demands and confront the dominant power bodies, present solutions to general and concrete issues and force those power bodies to adopt them and make them valid for society as a whole. Thus, for example, mobilisations that extend popular rights. Of course, these gains achieved by a social force can only be maintained and extended if there is a corresponding social force.
We must be present in the whole of this political camp, because it is this presence that justifies us, day by day, as a Political Organisation. Because the role of a Political Organisation is not and cannot be that of a cenacle of reflection or ideological meditation, of doctrinarism. Only our participation in the daily drama of the people justifies our existence.
Just as there are reactionary, conservative, liberal and reformist political practices, there must be a revolutionary political practice based on other foundations.... And it is the permanent presence in political activity, with a revolutionary or combative profile, which allows us to accumulate the necessary forces capable of nourishing a process of rupture.
A second and important aspect designated by political practice is that which has to do with the concrete analysis of concrete political conjunctures and fundamentally with what is deduced from this, that is to say: the relationship, disposition and orientations of the main forces in struggle, the fundamental lines of agitation at each stage and, therefore, the fundamental centres of action of our organisation.
We intend to be a political expression of the interests of the dominated classes: the oppressed and exploited, and places itself at their service, it aspires to be a small engine of social struggles.
Our vision of political organisation is contrary to the various forms of "vanguardism", of "depositories of consciousness", in short, of self-chosen groups. The Organisation, by maintaining and promoting the spirit of revolt, assumes as its own all the present and future demands of a revolutionary process. It is from organised militant work, and only from organised militant work, that the creation, strengthening and consolidation of grassroots popular organisations, which constitute the nuclei of revolutionary popular power, can be promoted coherently and with redoubled force.
The political organisation is not a finished thing, it is subject to various influences that demand adjustments. It is also a special instance of learning in relation to the social struggles with which it articulates its actions.
Action today. Deconstructing the present to build the future.
It is necessary to emphasise that there is a set of activities that can and should be carried out within capitalist societies. These are social and political activities that allow the population to participate and solve problems. They produce, at the same time, notions and experiences that lead to the growth of consciousness and confidence in one's own strength.
The greater the possibilities for forms of organisation towards genuine socialism, the more the people's participation has been developed in the run-up to fundamental changes.
However, we have in mind something that seems to be well-founded: that the de-structuring of a system opens up new possibilities, makes new combinations emerge. New ones that were not in the previous order. Therefore, the limits cannot be seen only with a glance at the horizon we have before us today. In the face of certain changes, possibilities must arise that could not have been imagined in the previous situation. There are situations that produce "leaps". But they are not magical "leaps", they are related to what precedes them.
In accordance with the model of society we want to build, our action now and in the future of the transition is based on two interdependent and indivisible axes: popular power and specific political organisation. On the first, as we have already said, every act of direct democracy, of participation, every self-managing instance is a contribution to this construction. But at the same time it is important to take on board the lesson of history that it is impossible to arrive at a libertarian socialist society, or to have a strong influence on a given process of change, without a strong anarchist organisation inserted in the popular reality of our time.
The complexity of a process of transformation demands a high level of understanding of social mechanisms. It forces us to proceed with a finalist project with such ductility that it can be operative in the most diverse conjunctural circumstances. It is necessary to pose and solve problems, to plan periods of action, to be attentive to changes, to estimate one's own forces, those of the enemy and of certain friends. To develop a capacity for analysis that allows one to visualise events in order to be able to operate more effectively in them. To work for a technical and political development that allows for relevant influence.
The construction of a socialist and libertarian society is a voluntary task linked to real processes and cannot be achieved overnight. It requires discarding old and vigorous myths that everything seems to indicate that they are ready to go very slowly and without giving up the previous struggle.
Obviously, we reiterate that we reject the confusion about what is political action, which is identified only with mechanisms and practices proper to the system or inherited from the "knowledge" produced and adopted by so many without changing its foundations.
For us, political action is an instance, at the same time as globalising, of synthesis that society must offer itself in order to solve problems of a general and national nature. It is an instance that goes beyond and encompasses much more than the merely corporate, partial or regional. It is through it, articulated with a strong people, that it becomes possible to resolve the set of global needs and problems of a country's population.
Political action is a specific and differentiated instance and constitutes a particular space of practice. We do not know, wishes do not apply here, that in an emancipated future this sphere will disappear. Or will it just take another form?
Something about this conjuncture. The fluidity of social events and processes does not contradict, but rather affirms, what is permanent at the level of the capitalist system. There is also a powerful game of illusions, a game of mirrors, which distort, deceive and "create" paths and solutions that correspond almost to the realm of magic. It has a logic that rests on the ideology of domination. From that place we will try not to look at the current stage and juncture.
It is clear. The configuration of capitalism at this stage has its particularities: a "globalisation" never seen before, an overcoming of the "Fordist" stage, a form of state clearly differentiated from the so-called "welfare state"; a clear hegemony in the imperial core: the USA; deep penetration of the media trying to be producers of notions and "concepts" functional to the system in general and in relation to its different moments; emptying of the classic circuits of bourgeois democracy; process tending to annul certain functions of the so-called "national states"; planning from world centres of power for fundamental questions of the life of the countries and peoples; exclusion of multitudes of people; a sharp increase in the misery of the populations, especially in poor countries; violent and open repression of anything that goes against the brutal imperialist project; a single way of thinking, trying to erase from the horizon any ideas that question the established order; demonising any form of popular resistance. This reality, schematically stated here, will have a general effect on the sphere of social relations and will bring to the fore a broad spectrum of classes that we have designated as oppressed. Their greater visualisation, not only, perhaps, can be achieved in that space which we have provisionally designated as: Everyday social life.
Yes, there are new phenomena that constitute a variant in the global and Latin American context and there is an obligation as a political organisation to analyse their specificities.
Popular Power from an anarchist perspective
People's hopes and dreams of emancipation will never be extinguished; social experience is creating new concepts of justice and freedom that have nothing to do with the perverse constructions disseminated by a system that confuses them with rapacity and oppression.
There is the intention to attend to the fluidity of social events, the particularities of the processes, the diversity that makes up one society and another, but with an intention and conviction that today is supported by history: that within this system there is no place for the poor of the world and that socialism is with freedom or it is not socialism.
We know that man's social life is framed in organised forms of existence, yesterday and today. We neither reject nor doubt the complexity that the different spheres of the social camp have acquired today, how rigidly organised and disciplining the functioning of this system is. How in its structuring genesis, in the hard core of its configuration, there is domination, exploitation, privilege for a few, the disciplining of bodies in order to adapt, we see how the symbolic means run through the social body, the interior of different institutions, saying what is correct, what is normal, what ideas should be used to have a "good" way of thinking and behaving... A system that constantly, in all fields, both micro and macro, produces things with the intention of reproducing itself.
As anarchists, as libertarian socialists, we are heirs of a historical current: socialism, which, as we have said, is not a purely academic product, an intellectual creation, an intelligent test-tube experience. It is a theoretical elaboration of a long struggle of the workers and the people. It is the realisation of those at the bottom that this place is not suitable for them to achieve a life worthy of the name. There are sacrifices, struggles, blood and dreams inside this concept of socialism. There is a long history of resistance. It is a historical production linked to the yearnings of those at the bottom. It is not a science, it is an aspiration and hope of human beings, of oppressed classes, collectives and peoples.
It has its theoretical elaboration, this does belong to the terrain of science, which tries to establish mechanisms, devices, genesis, constitutive elements, strong and weak zones in reproduction, stages, class formation, production of knowledge, the game established by the different key components of the system, the creation of diverse constructions in order to maintain the control of the peoples. This is a vast field for social science, which today has produced more working hypotheses than anything else. These are questions that must be constantly improved and enriched, not dogmas of things said once and for all. Errico Malatesta, with great perspicacity, expressed his opinion on this field of scientific work, which at some point in time, within the framework of a certain epistemology, was called philosophy, saying approximately: we must have an attitude of philosophical ignorance, of uncertainty. He suggested the rejection of square dogmas and called for an attitude of openness to research and new knowledge as it arrives. Certainty in what we want, in what we fight for, and uncertainty in the field of the tools we use in our work; those that are useful today may be replaced tomorrow by others that are more fruitful.
It is in this spirit that we insert these notes on Popular Power.
Lessons of capitalism and the cause of the people at the bottom
Especially this last century of capitalism and peoples' struggles left much material for reflection and study. They have taught us that the system has a very great capacity to develop and to overcome its difficulties or to digest its internal struggles; that these sinuous practices do not give rise to deep crises, that they may even be constitutive elements that give it life, that ensure its deployment. It seems to indicate that such a system does not commit suicide. It also indicates that its internal process cannot be expected to facilitate the task, that such a process creates elements for the arrival of socialism. Its whole strategy of existence is contrary to the foundations needed for a society of another type of social relations such as the one thought of in terms of socialism.
The devices, the mechanisms, the technologies of power, the institutions, the habits, the behaviours, the ideas with which it floods social life, the very way of approaching the production of goods and services, its relation to nature, demand that such a system be turned upside down in order to make another form of social life possible. But to turn it upside down with the use of other tools. From this social and organic universe no good product comes out for those at the bottom. The old ideas of growing progressivism in the measure of the development of capitalism have been buried by history.
We use the concept "those at the bottom" or "the people" in a precise sense. It has nothing to do with that meaning of "civil society" which makes a clean slate of the classes and class fractions that exist within it. That "civil society" that excludes the dominant power structures that circulate within it and that are also the mainstay of the system. That "civil society" that equalises different interests while it sequesters, masks, a brutal reality.
From the present but changing. Creating People Power.
It is true that we must make the transition to a different society within this system. But experience shows that there are means, orientations, use of instruments, use of institutions, forms of organisation of social activities, which must be discarded if we want to build social forces capable of truly producing changes in the forms of social organisation. Another approach is an essential alternative if we want to build a different society. One that aims at shaping a different way for the whole of the social relations that make up a society.
There is a long experience of trying to choose short paths by socialism and movements that postulated the overthrow of capitalism. All this in the name of realism, of the need to see the path towards change pragmatically, of choosing supposed routes where the mechanisms of reproduction of the system can be hybridised in our favour of aspirations for change; saying that we can be in the circuits of power, those that were historically constituted to ensure greater efficiency for domination, so that from there, working and producing in them, we can make changes that stifle that same dominant channel. An almost unbearable logical contradiction.
What history shows, including rigorous theoretical productions, is that these devices of power absorb, squeeze and make functional whatever enters into their circulation. It is also clear that with the logic of the system it is not possible to think of problems contrary to it. The experiences of the social democracies are paradigmatic in this sense: using the logic of the dominant power, they ended up thinking in the same way, looking at social life through the same prism, and thus became anodyne even for minor reforms. What happened to the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat, to real socialism, which took structures, institutions and even logic itself as a legitimate inheritance for its own process, is not essentially different. All these mechanisms, this whole institutional set-up is not empty, indeed, it is full. Full of constant productions in favour of maintaining and reproducing a type of social order. To maintain domination. It doesn't seem to be a good strategy to choose those routes, those places and paths that have owners and the power to stamp their stamp on what enters them. How many political organisations, how many fighters full of ideals and dreams ended up thinking with the logic of the system and seeing their dear comrades of yesterday as enemies. How perverse these devices are, how they trap, how they change the head and the sentimental structure and what a painful picture they can present us with!
The road to socialism demands a different path, a different production.
So what is the way? This may well be asked, and it is the right question. As a starting point it is, the historical experience of this century seems to indicate, not to go into the hard core of the system with a view to change. Not to pick and choose the elements that have the reproductive force to create something totally different. To look strategically for the points where the system is most vulnerable and where its control is relative, somewhat weak and has "viruses". What is this concretely? It can also be rightly asked. Well, a still synthetic and initial answer leads us hand in hand to a neuralgic issue.
The system does not only produce reproduction of its fundamental relations. By basing itself on domination and exploitation, the highest possible profit, ruthless competition, atrocious individualism, the market as the great god, the constant physical or psychological repression of the oppressed agents, wealth and power for one class only, a "cultural" industry that tries to impose certain values, it is at the same time producing, without intending to, another universe, another situation. Everything it does also produces certain effects at the same time. Effects of constant resistance. Of different degrees and "contents", but resistance in the end.
An enormous amount of the population appears outside the basic usufruct of goods and services. This system of domination plunges the majority of humanity into misery and gradually excludes them. This universe deprived of everything (destitution) or almost everything (poverty) or with access to very little of what it aspires to (lower middle class) is today made up of about 80% of the world's population. In this universe, a certain number of cultural changes have been taking place: survival mechanisms; original forms of mutual support; living with transitory forms of work. In such everyday conditions of existence, new techniques and ways of thinking and feeling appear. Many social behaviours appear that are not wanted and are fought against by the system. Certain discourses, institutions and social and political practices are disbelieved. There are degrees of change in notions of justice and rights, changes whose contents are distancing themselves from the consecrated ones. Another historical subject is being produced, both personally and collectively.
Reproduction is not total, nor is the officially established discipline. The struggle, the resistance, has been present throughout history. Even if it has taken different forms.
The subject of change must be produced in order to move towards Popular Power.
"The subject is also a historical production", scholars warn us, and therefore it is necessary to put into operation liberation practices that produce and organise it. Or strengthen those that are already functioning. The set of practices of the system, plus those inherited from other brutal previous systems, have been oriented towards creating an individual-collective subject that fits as deeply as possible into the existing order, into the values that sustain it. There is no doubt that they have managed to "internalise" much in them-us.
This being so, another historical subject will not come from nowhere, it will not appear as if by magic, it must be the fruit of practices that internalise other issues that clash with the dominant. Effective participation, self-management, direct action, the federal form of truly democratic functioning, solidarity and mutual aid need mechanisms, organisations, regular practices for their development. And only if it takes place in the people will it be able to make change a reality. It seems clear that it needs constant organisation in the heart of its active creation. The continuity it needs, for a deployment that enables change, requires a sustained strategy. A coherent strategy, so that what is woven at any given moment does not unravel. A strategy that has within it a different world that unfolds from within another that is antagonistic to it. The famous "use all means" can be an effective way of ensuring that no antagonistic strategy can be deployed that carries the elements of destructuring the current system. This is why the established strategy and the tactics that correspond to it are of primary importance. Both socially and politically, this strategy must circulate within all its practices. It must tend to form the corresponding social force. It must make the discourse-practice a reality in a process of rupture.
This does not imply all or nothing or ploughing in the desert. It is necessary to locate as precisely as possible what the starting point is, the specific character of the set of social relations that shape and sustain the system and each precise historical social formation in which we must act. We must start from what is today a crude and brutal social reality; it is no use elaborating solutions through independent mental processes that bear no relation to how certain concrete social processes are and are taking place. Realities should not be fabricated to suit our own tastes or to fit in with our dogmas or schemes, as this would be more playful than political.
When the shortest roads are the longest and most deceptive ones
Building a strong People is politically the most important thing.
The timing of processes cannot be decreed by the mind alone. Short, "pragmatic" paths, the "concrete" when starting from a strategically wrong point, are siren songs and only produce more of the same. That is why it is important to speak of a new way of doing politics, of building a strong people, of articulating these two instances in a coherent camp. It is also important that strategy (at its different levels) and tactics have a relationship of reciprocal influence. For tactics must exist within strategy, and strategy is realised through tactics. Although they are different camps, they must be permanently connected. It is clear that strategy sets general camps, guidelines for action, fundamental coordinates, while tactics must zigzag according to the fluidity of concrete historical action, but this zigzagging must be done within certain frameworks and with certain contents, otherwise it will not be included in any project for change. The construction of "A Strong People", as our organisation said shortly after its foundation, requires a certain regular social work and a political organisation that articulates this work. We will use the concept of social to describe activities such as: Trade unions, co-operatives, neighbourhood work, human rights, general and specific issues of a vindicative nature or for immediate improvements such as health, housing, etc. By political organisation, an instance of synthesis, which tries to ensure the continuity of the strategy, theoretical elaboration, the development of technical instances, the general orientations in the conjuncture, the provision of efficiency for the confrontations, the general vision on the partial struggles, the location of the enemy's strategy in each moment, the constant learning of what the popular struggle throws up, the propitiation of the alliances that the process requires. Also to build a proposal for social functioning for the present, for society as a whole, where change is processed without interruption. Locating as precisely as possible the state as the special political structure of the class enemy; all its repressive capacity, all its institutions of "perverse fantasy": elections, parliaments etc., but bearing in mind at the same time that the dominant power is not only there, that it runs through different arteries of the social body.
We thus situate the social and the political as two simultaneous and duly articulated planes of action. But each with its relative independence, with its own specificity. We are thus in favour of simultaneous work, within the same project: of libertarian political organisation and of work in the entire social camp. We are in favour of the construction of popular power, as already announced by the Organisation in materials from 1960 onwards.
But we must say that, but with the intention of thinking about the present, the fundamental part of this approach is inscribed in the very dawn of the libertarian conception of socialism. Social revolution; the state as the expression of the class enemy; a society based on solidarity as opposed to the cruel selfishness of capitalism; the non-use of the mechanisms of the system: elections, parliaments, not taking state posts; the non-institutionalisation of trade unions. It was these social-political proposals and practices that set a general course out of the deadly embrace of the system, out of its sticky, tricky and at times so attractive web for many. Graphically they used to say it in the language of the time: "not to enter the enemy's corral of branches". Undoubtedly, these general orientations found forms of instrumentation in accordance with their historical epoch; today's context is different, and while bearing them in mind, it demands other knowledge, other articulations, other pertinent adaptations.
When a new way of doing politics is only rhetoric.
And when we must seriously go in search of it.
But a new way of doing politics or building popular power should not be phrases for cute rhetoric or to put a bit of good-coloured cosmetics on old and reiterated discourses that eventually lead to the same port over and over again. Slow down because I am in a hurry, the historical experience that aspires to real emancipation could say. For haste has led us, in a circular march, repeatedly to take the same turns, to dead ends, or to push those at the bottom, and those who aspire to represent them, deeper into this domineering and oppressive system.
Our project of revolutionary intention includes today, as yesterday, the choice, the coherent search for ways to go. Without dogmas as to the theoretical tools to be used, any rigorous production that allows a better reading of reality must be taken into account. To go on the scene with that freshness and openness that allows us to live our time, bearing in mind all the changes it has brought and continues to bring. In short, to equip ourselves with a reading that locates the real problems of our time without blinkers. At the same time, with firmness and intransigence to confront everything that produces and sustains the current system, with the heart and determination for a future that must be built every day in the different militant ambits.
Without elitism or vanguardism, which are two ways of hierarchising practices and slipping, possibly unconsciously, values that do not belong to the camp of the oppressed or to a process that needs to be bathed in the light of new values so that its progress is not confused and even negative. Otherwise, we would not be ideologically deconstructing those hierarchical values so closely connected with domination and obedience, but rather riveting foreign productions on the possible historical subject. We do not understand political organisation as synonymous with vanguard or "enlightened" elites without whom the poor "ignorant people" cannot get out of the capitalist labyrinth.
We have no doubt that political organisation is a substantial part of the construction of this way out, but from other values, from other ideological and ethical practices, from another social sensibility. Efficient organisation is not synonymous with hierarchy. Political organisation always inside and forming part of the process with the people, coexisting with their level of consciousness. Aspiring to contribute to their "elevation" or positive modification with a feeling of belonging to that people on an equal footing and not from the "heights" of knowledge.
Political organisation which we conceive as different from certain "horizontalisms" which contain anti-organisational germs and which have no valid proposal for rupture or even for producing social forces.
The self-proclaimed vanguards, with a classic conception: that they are the bearers of the future, that they come to the heart of the people with the new good, deserve to be an endangered species if we judge them in the light of history. Ideology does not come from outside, it is produced in the very heart of the practices, in the ideas and behaviours that the people bring about through their various confrontations. The production of a new social-political technology and "discourses of knowledge" corresponding to liberation cannot take place without displacing those of domination. They are discourses that must enter into confrontation and that must draw from all the instances of resistance where the people are engaged in struggles. In this sense, the political organisation is also in constant re-education.
They say that "power exists in acts", the same can be said of revolution. It is not an entelechy or something that comes with a certain conjuring. It is not an isolated act. It demands modifying practices, of rupture, of discontinuity, in fields such as the economic, the ideological, the political-legal, the general cultural. It is to strike and break through this vast network of domination. All of this is concretised in a process with active popular participation. A people that we would compose as a broad spectrum of the oppressed and exploited that we designate in this historical stage as a collection of oppressed classes. A people that suffers, within the structural changes that have taken place, an important fragmentation that must be overcome. Where structures of domination have developed and emerged in other places than the traditional ones. We need to forge links of solidarity that bind people together, that make the unity of their struggles a foundation of the first order so that they can form a social force capable of fighting effectively and taking qualitative steps forward. We are not talking about gradualism, nor linearity, nor about taking over enemy barracks one by one. We are talking about systematically, strategically opposing another globality. A globality that understands the new historical reality, the changes that were emerging in complex processes.
Independence of the oppressed classes
"In any society, multiple power relations cross, characterise and constitute the social body. These power relations cannot be dissociated, nor established, nor function without a production, an accumulation, a circulation, a functioning of discourses".
A conception and practice of popular power has its own specific production, its own discourse. It has its own production. In order for it to play as a transforming force, conditioning conjunctures, producing destructuring advances, there is a necessary condition: it must maintain its independence at all times. Class independence was said at other moments of historical development, today we would say, in keeping with the new context: independence of the oppressed classes, that is to say of all social movements.
But we would like to stress that when we refer to this category, we take special account of the particular characteristics of each social formation, its history, its transformations, without neglecting what it has in common with other countries, especially with those of the region, and obviously the conditioning factors established by the structures of world power.
It is well known that the meshes of the dominant power crush, manipulate, mould. They insert parties, ideologies, movements and histories into their midst, knead them and then return them as good followers of the old and reproducers of the present. The mechanism is repeated over and over again. And an immeasurable number of forces are reiterated, turning on this crazy wheel. It is these devices that must be targeted with proposals and actions of a different content. With a coherence that allows a firm footing.
For it goes without saying that the endless circulation of the same dynamics and logics cannot create something new, but only recreate the existing, with greater or lesser imagination.
In order to make other social relations possible, the facts seem to indicate the need to use other materials for this new construction. Another approach, another perspective, another logic, other practices, other mechanisms. Another starting point. Nothing original, it is the new civilisation sketched out by the old socialists. This process must rest and unfold on the iron independence of the oppressed classes. Of a people building its destiny at the pace that historical conditions allow. The pitfalls, relations, tacit and explicit alliances must be made from this perspective of independence. As it cannot and must not isolate itself, as it must be in the "tumult" and the complex and variable social events, this factor acquires a strategic importance of the first order.
As we have already seen, outside the traditional channels, the populations have begun to make their claims, their protests, their demands.
But it is not only in macro struggles, which have overthrown governments or prevented right-wing coups d'état, but also in direct action struggles for various specific issues and sometimes exercising popular justice.
In recent times, neither governments nor social democratic parties have been able to effectively stop the neoliberal onslaught. As this recent piece of history shows us, the only social forces that really acted to block, resist and even overthrow neoliberal regimes were those of the movements of the oppressed classes winning the streets. Then came "progressive" governments of different hues. But that is another matter.
Those anchored in the paradigms of a past that no longer exists, talk and try to analyse the way in which this popular expression could be channelled so that it can direct its struggle through the authorised avenues; they do not want to be convinced that they only domesticate bodies but that they are perverse for attending to popular urgencies and yearnings. They want to lead the resurgent energy and hope to dead ends.
A process of advancement towards socialism will be the work of certain practices that allow a real formation of consciousness of one's own purpose, in which solidarity will play a very important role, as well as the mobilisation and organisation of the different popular expressions. From the whole universe of those at the bottom.
It is known that socialism is not decreed and will not be achieved on its own by the parties that define themselves as such. A political organisation in tune with its time and the popular movement has a role to play, but the strength lies in the people themselves. Both in the run-up and in the period thereafter.
The independence of the popular movement, of all its organisational forms: self-management, self-organisation, effective participation, federalism are what will give solidity to the process and real possibilities for a change towards socialist forms.
Yes, there are also others who venture somewhat daring opinions. They tell us that these popular mobilisations are the seed of the new, of the "post-capitalist" society. And that it is an unstoppable process. No fatalism is a good thing. It will take the organisation and will of social forces to bring about profound changes, to set a line for a consequential process.
The top and the bottom as homogeneous camps
Destructuring of the old
A revolutionary process has as a condition that its direction be from the bottom upwards and not the other way round as is almost always the case. From below and above, as Bakunin referred to, and which does not imply hierarchy but social organisational bodies. From the people themselves, from below, from those who suffer the rigours of the system, from those who resist, create and seek organisational forms to defend themselves. This implies in militancy the production of a culture for the proposed social change. It also implies, let's say it in passing, certain changes, internalisation of the project, conviction in the militant "style" and behaviour. For, as a Creole would say: with potatoes it is difficult to make pumpkin jam.
The task of removing the old, displacing it, deconstructing its structure, is a daily task and not a one-off, episodic one. We are part of the constitution of a conjuncture and its utilisation depends on what we have done before. This is a daily task that must be carried out in the heart of the various popular expressions and by trying to be as attuned as possible to the concerns and urgencies felt so that this necessary condition of popular participation is present. This should not be the practice of loners or of those who, operating on the fringes of popular sentiments, only manage in the end to get angry with the people. It is not the following of habits imposed by centuries of building a subject for a system, it is a daily task, of fighting for the deconstruction in the very heart and from within the people, with so much already done by the people to which we belong. It is to be attacking structures that have their genealogy, their deployment and reside in different "territories" of the system.
A task within the framework of the enemy territory, linked to multiple resistances and struggles, most of them claims or demands for improvements. Asking for reforms with respect to what already exists. But as our theoretician Malatesta rightly said: the point is not to go on conquering improvements but with what spirit, against what backdrop. He added that it is not the same thing to achieve reforms as to be a reformist. Whatever popular power is built has to have a direction from the outset: socialism. Without that direction there will be no emancipatory future. This process of building popular power can start with improvements and does not fit in with the somewhat magical premise of "so much the worse, so much the better". Nor with so much the better, so much the better. For the latter has posed a hard problem, especially in the highly industrialised countries: in fact the institutionalisation, a high degree of integration into the system, of certain sectors of the people.
Why do we want a revolutionary process? It is not a romantic or nostalgic choice. It is an almost starkly rational, logical choice. It is based on a logic that this century of capitalist functioning indicates to us, which today is more than eloquent in its horrors. There is no other way out, indeed for those at the bottom there never has been any other way out.
What things are so horrible that they require us to change from the ground up? Some data can be illustrative in relation to our proposal. We want to endow it with data so that it does not remain too abstract. And here we incorporate the category "exterior" (that which conditions imperialistically) which in the reality of the social conformations of our Latin America are one more part, and what a part they are. Let's see.
What imperialist capitalism produces.
The policy of the present imperialist structure with the USA at the head has been more and more plundering and brutal during the last three decades, it has increased the exclusion of large parts of the population, condemned billions of people to misery, invaded and murdered populations. The South was almost destroyed, its natural resources were squeezed to the utmost, everything possible was appropriated, unemployment and hunger were spread on a gigantic scale. The policy of the USA and its partners towards the South does not seem to have stopped despite the destruction it has caused. It should be noted that it did not stop striking the poor inhabitants of its own countries either. The geo-political strategy of imperialism intends to continue to control everything, even increasing in recent times a certain deliberate action of the symbolic-informational. It wants to continue to deepen its plunder, they went for neuralgic zones around oil, they already have water in their sights, all this within the framework of a world power design that encompasses other social spheres.
In relation to agriculture, half of humanity oppressed
It would, it seems to us, be worthwhile to take a look at some of the data on some of what has happened and see how the trend of such a brutal social policy is intended to expand. Let us initially look at agriculture as a sector that comprises almost half of the world's population.
Agriculture and food production are to be treated like any other form of production subject to the rules of competition in an open and deregulated market, it was decided in principle at the WTO meeting in Doha.
With this orientation it is given that the food brought to the market by today's three billion peasants, after securing their own subsistence, would be the reverse of that produced by twenty million new modern farmers.
Already now, in the peasant societies of the Third World, a massive number of people are excluded and relatively few are included. The question that arises here is precisely that if this trend were to continue in relation to the three billion people who still produce and live in peasant societies in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the results would be obvious.
The oppressed popular “clases”
On the other hand, the popular classes represent three quarters of the world's urban population, the subcategory of the precarious represents two thirds of the popular classes on a global scale. Needless to say, the social consequences of this are tremendous.
Today, an estimated 900 million to 1 billion people are estimated to live in poverty and hunger.
Other figures show that more than a trillion dollars are spent annually on military expenditure and that 11 million children die every year from preventable or curable diseases.
Another trillion dollars are spent on commercial advertising, while 860 million human beings in the world cannot read or write.
The multimillionaires. Today, the total is 793, with an increase of 102 since last year alone. The number of millionaires in Asia increased by some 700,000 between 2000 and 2004. In the same period, the population of millionaires in North America increased by 500,000, and in Europe by 100,000. According to Merrill Lynch, China will become the largest source of luxury goods buyers in 2009.
That small handful of multimillionaires and millionaires are linked to the world's most powerful transnationals. So much for so few!
There is a globalisation of poverty: the industrialised countries of the North are home to less than a quarter of the world's population and consume 70% of the world's energy, 75% of the world's metals, 85% of the world's timber and 60% of the world's food, according to the UN.
According to a UNICEF study, 27% of children living in "developing countries" are underweight, meaning that nearly 146 million children are malnourished. For every visibly malnourished child, there are others struggling with a disfiguring condition. Many are severely deficient in vitamins and minerals such as iodine, vitamin A and iron.
They seek to subordinate the entire South to their projects. There are attacks and campaigns ranging from subtle to grotesque on every country that attempts some degree of minimal independence policy. At the level of our Latin America, imperial penetration is multi-pronged, economically, first through treaties, the FTAA in the previous stage, and then, in the face of the resistance offered, substitutes appear, the FTAs and the TIFAs. In the military sphere, they are the multiple policies of the Southern Command. We discount the traditional intervention of the IMF, the World Bank, the former World Trade Organisation and the IDB. The global designs of the G7-8.
The states of the industrialised countries commanding a whole policy that opens up space at the global level for the ruthless intervention of transnational corporations, be they financial, productive or commercial.
Transnationals, neoliberalism and imperial power.
Certainly, on this issue, the assessment made at this year's Vienna Counter-Summit is of interest: "Transnational corporations wield enormous power in the world - a power that affects everyone's lives. TNCs go around the world pitting workers, communities, even entire regions or countries against each other, and generating cut-throat competition where human rights are undermined everywhere. Transnational corporations are undisputed actors in the promotion of neoliberal ideology, the road companion of 'this globalisation'. Latin America and the Caribbean are two of the regions of the world that have suffered the most from its devastating consequences: unemployment and job insecurity, growth of poverty and marginalisation, destruction of agricultural systems in pursuit of the monopoly of agribusiness, violation of the rights of indigenous and peasant populations, plundering of natural resources, privatisation of public services, deindustrialisation, shrinking of the space of states and governments to regulate their economies.
Those who left imperialism for dead are no good for gravediggers. Imperialism lives and oppresses as never before. At the same time the states of the most industrialised countries have multiplied their functions in various areas. It is true that it is another form of capitalist state, it has stopped taking care of some former functions and has taken over others. It is a form of state that corresponds to this stage where the big transnationals play a different role to that of the classic enterprise of previous stages. Where international financial capital intertwines with the political level on a daily basis. These are economic, legal-political and ideological-cultural structures that today have a very specific articulation.
Where are they and who are these mental and overpowering transnationals, so integrated and gravitating to the imperialist practice of our days? In the last year or so, information was disseminated about how this element, the big transnationals, of the imperialist structure was composed. What were the 500 most important transnationals. Let's look at this briefly.
The USA among the top 500 MNCs has 227 (45%), followed by Western Europe with 141 (28%) and Asia, 92 (18%). These three regional blocs control 91% of the world's top transnationals. These three power blocs can mobilise capital, and control trade, credit, finance and entertainment. Nearly three quarters
(73%) of the major corporate institutions are in the power sphere of Europe and the US.
Latin America, the Middle East and Africa account for a total of eleven of the top 500 transnationals. In Latin America, only Brazil and Mexico have global transnationals; Saudi Arabia controls four.
The few transnationals that have appeared in Russia and Latin America are mainly privatised state-owned enterprises, created out of public savings and investment from former state-led regimes.
A closer look at the "top" of the giant transnationals clearly illustrates the high concentration of US power: Of the top 10, eight belong to the US and two to Europe. Of the top 20%, 75% are US companies, 20% are European, and 5% are Japanese.
The US has the largest transnationals in the following sectors: industrial production (General Electric), oil and gas (Exxon-Mobil), software and services (Microsoft), pharmaceuticals (Pfizer), banking (Citicorp), retail (Wal-Mart), insurance (American International Group) and information technology components (Intel). The total capitalisation of these transnational giants amounts to one trillion nine hundred and seventy-nine billion (1,979,000,000,000,000) dollars.
There is no doubt that they have the credentials to be part of the imperial structure. It will not be easy to argue with those who represent them politically.
Our Latin America and the construction of popular power
We felt it necessary and illustrative, before going into Latin America, to give the background to the "external" forces. Even if it is only a glimpse. Useful to remove any prejudices about the popular power approach we are basing ourselves on.
We return, then, to the oppressed of our Latin America.
There are diverse social mobilisations. Indigenous movements with certain partial and general demands; armed struggle as for example in Colombia and Mexico coexisting with social movements; popular uprisings against governments and demanding nationalisation of natural resources against imperial plundering; popular plebiscites against government decisions or in favour of certain social and political situations; repeated insurrections as in Bolivia; resistances that cross borders and become a single voice, as against the FTAA; environmental movements in defence of nature, so abused and torn apart by the system; discontent that is expressed in traditional elections, with people voting against what is already repugnant and feeling hope, to varying degrees, waiting for the arrival of new, better things. Elections, which in general, soon disappoint small or big expectations. It can be seen that many different elements are intertwined for the time being. For many "progressive" governments come after strong struggles or discontent.
Let's say it in passing, this that is linked to institutional, electoral processes, which do not directly build popular power, are also phenomena that should be kept in mind as a fact of a reality that is different from that of other historical moments. A situation that came from the hand of the people and that will not realise their aspirations but at the same time there are governments facing the need to open up new spaces, which happens to constitute a different context with peoples with more experience, participation and creators of mechanisms of popular functioning.
As we have said on other occasions, elections can also be taken as surveys that reveal discontent and searches on the part of the population. Where the election itself and all the political technology of those at the top, which is used in it, do not finally manage to annul a state of consciousness that is temporarily expressed in this mechanism of dominant power. An electoral mechanism that obviously does not correspond to struggles waged for other horizons, as in the case of Bolivia, for example.
In spite of all the media coverage that this electoral poll presents, it can be seen at times that important active social sectors with organised or spontaneous expressions are decidedly in favour of fundamental changes and that for the moment they also play a card here, in this electoral terrain, because of all the symbolic power that exists in this web, among other things. At other times, popular rejection of government policy also speaks volumes.
If we take data for example in relation to Peru, we have that for four years President Toledo did not reach 10 percent popularity. Humala, who had no presence four years ago, has jumped from zero to 45 percent of electoral support.
Of course, in all these electoral processes we have to discount the mechanisms of right-wing and centre-right alliances, the tremendous role played by the mass media, the multinationals, the North American Embassy and others. This Humala won in many Andean cities with majorities of 85 percent, for example in Cuzco, the famous city of the South; in Arequipa, in Ayacucho, in Puno and other places and only the full vote of the big bourgeoisie and the middle classes of Lima managed to defeat him and impose the candidate who is expressly inscribed in a policy obsequious to the imperialist directives. All this bearing in mind that Humala's background did not speak of a man linked to the people, far from it.
In this sense we have the current situation of Lopez Obrador in Mexico. The fraud worked by the government and all the mechanisms that the US could use is massively repudiated, especially by all the poorest people. A repudiation that generated an original institutional situation and this because the people won the streets in a massive way. But what is important here is the anger that underlies a population that has seen its living conditions worsen overwhelmingly. A Mexico that also has expressions of armed struggle, free municipalities, the Zapatista anti-electoral proposal and popular power, the recent confrontations in Atenco and Oxaca. Social combinations and disbelief in a political form that leads to the emergence of revolutionary voices in different places, some already speaking, from indigenous movements, that the people must take power: "because the electoral route is blocked, it is corrupt".
Yes, the electoral aspect appears mixed with various different expressions of the construction of popular power, of direct action by social movements in the search for new forms of social organisation, and with a very different degree of popular participation. Reacting against old practices. At the "opportune" moments, all the electoral paraphernalia and speeches appear, even exaltingly mentioning the central point of the people's demands. And in this episodic electoral terrain, as has been happening, there is a preference for figures who truly represent little or nothing and who quickly try to dismantle the ingredients with the greatest transformative potential. There is a whole perverse symbolic world that continues to play with force and that will continue to be projected for a long time, preventing authentic changes. It is known that the production of a historical subject opposed to the one manufactured in these centuries will not be modified from one day to the next, it has its rhythm of change, it requires participation, struggle and other practices, while the other has infamous centuries of existence and has achieved internalising efficiency. But the level of resistance of the peoples has increased and that is no small thing.
For various reasons, it does not seem rigorous to argue, with a lot of elitism-vanguardism, that all these expressions and struggles for popular power are of little use if they finally end up in electoral channels without any significant achievements.
The achievements must be located historically and in another camp. At a pace perhaps not suitable for the anxious, they will bear fruit: the multiplication of expressions of direct action, of self-management in various areas, of popular organisation with forms that do not aim to become institutionalised, the growing disbelief in classic bourgeois democracy, in the political "caste" and in a way of doing politics.
For example in Bolivia, they overthrew Sánchez de Lozada and Mesa came in, who followed an essentially similar policy, but the popular movement took to the streets again and overthrew Mesa, an indicator that its organisational experience and its consciousness of participation had not died in the face of frustration. The MST has not abandoned the struggle because Lula and his party betrayed promises. The popular movement in Ecuador recovered.
It has been seen that because of these regressions promoted mainly by parties designated as progressive, the struggles from below, which already have roots of a certain depth, do not die.
They are tremendous reactionary structures and political proposals full of "new" promises that make this relatively new universe that has been emerging choose paths that sometimes lead it to stumbling blocks; provisional paths that are presented in concrete and tricky instances and that are not yet abandoned. They will abandon them when they manage to shape their own general proposal for processing new social relations, something that will not come from outside, but is constructed from within. And it needs a certain social-political force to give shape to it. But a new political form with a different root.
The struggles for popular power, as we have seen in Latin America, often begin with everyday struggles. The mass movements have at times had a great capacity to accumulate forces, in neighbourhoods, in commissions for concrete issues such as the water issue in Cochabamba, for demands for land and respect for the community life of indigenous populations, workers' and peasants' unions and indigenous movements. At some points they all appeared to form a strong, combative social network, winning the streets and raising slogans that in general no left-wing party had on its agenda.
The various popular expressions with decisive influence of social organisations that have marked a form of struggle against the system in this decade and a half are well known. In Argentina, "all of them must go"; they overthrew two governments in Bolivia; in Ecuador, three in the last five years. Another in Peru. They played a key role in stopping the attempted right-wing coup in Venezuela. This is a place where today a set of tough reforms are being carried forward by the government and with popular impetus, and where popular power is growing.
There are varied expressions of the capacity of social movements to act and challenge the worst government regimes and the measures they produce. They have confronted police and military repression in the streets with blood and fire.
Movements that have given themselves organisational forms. Today, social movements act on social and economic problems, struggles for health, water, employment, roads, electricity, human rights, the specific rights of indigenous populations, ecology, women's rights. These are movements that constantly turn from social to political because their demands touch on the interests of the dominant power and the state quickly intervenes to repress them and in the medium term to try to return them to the path of bourgeois institutional domestication.
What we have mentioned, that it is said more than once that after these expressions there is little or nothing favourable left, is a measurement that the least that can be said is that it is made with categories of old discourses that have no principle of reading for the present. It would be implicit in these speeches that: if the old vanguard party, with its group of professionals and technicians, is not there, there can be no way out. They cannot conceive of any other way of doing politics, there has to be this enlightened elite to guide everything.
Yes, the political organisation remains of primary importance for liberation and for the rupture, the de-structuring of capitalism and the beginning of another process on a different basis. But it is another political form that must be sought and it must not feel itself to be the vanguard but a different level or camp of this same struggle, and operating from within it is an essential condition.
All these struggles, demands, confrontations, imply a process of active participation of the population, accumulation of knowledge from experiences and approaches that ferment in pursuit of legitimate solutions, all questions that are fundamental in the construction of Popular Power, within which the political organisation must be at all times, inside and not outside, having the double articulation that a process of this nature demands.
The graphs that go at the end of the pre-draft
The graph below is coarsely constructed but data-driven. As with all work, it will need to be refined in due course. But for our purposes it fulfils its basic task: it gives an idea of the global social situation and has the basic rigour. It takes one hundred percent of the existing population in the first graph, then there is the situation in which the majority of the rural population, peasants, agrarian communities live, it is estimated that poverty here is above 40%, followed by what for now we will call the "excluded" (with inverted commas because of the arbitrariness that this contains) in this sector we find people in a state of destitution and those who are treading on this threshold. Next come the precarious, which means nothing more than people who live on irregular work, on starvation wages, or in conditions that barely cover the basics for survival. And finally that 20% who have an enjoyment, in very different conditions, of what humanity has produced up to the present day. This segment is very unequal and needs to be reworked, because it is made up of: the big bourgeoisie, the middle class, the upper middle class, the techno-bureaucracy, the high wage workers and the workers with stable wages and not low wages.
What is missing is a graph, however rough, of Latin America and its social situation. It will undoubtedly not be very different from the one we see here, as there is the general fact that about half of its population lives in conditions of misery.
Of course, the concept of misery, poverty, does not only refer to the economic aspect, but includes everything that is linked to it: education, health, housing, expansion, communication, etc.