Forum of Organized Anarchism - Declaration of Principles
A process in the building
The Declaration of Principles of the Forum of Organized Anarchism, an initiative which is seeking to foster greater cooperation and unity amongst organized anarchist groups in Brazil.
Fórum do Anarquismo Organizado
Forum of Organized Anarchism
Um processo em construção
CARTA DE INTENÇÕES
What is the FAO?
The Fórum do Anarquismo Organizado [Forum for Organized Anarchism] is a discussion and development forum for anarchist organizations, groups and individuals who work or who intend to work in an organized way, acting socially.
The first Forum was held in the city of Belém do Pará in 2002, moving then to Porto Alegre in January 2003 for its plenary session, and São Paulo in November 2003 for the national meeting. This was followed in January 2005 by a meeting in Porto Alegre and the 3rd national meeting in July 2005 in Goiânia.
The main objective of the FAO is to create the conditions for the creation of a real anarchist organization in Brazil. It is a goal which we know will not be achieved immediately, but it must be started now.
The FAO has committed itself to the following:
1. To stimulate and carry out debate on organized anarchism in Brazil given the need to create an anarchist organization.
2. To support the formation of organized anarchist groups.
3. To work so that these groups can come closer together, work together and eventually merge on a state or regional level at first.
4. To work as far as possible in different areas of the revolutionary anarchist struggle: propaganda, theoretical development and, most importantly, social militancy within the various struggles (neighbourhoods, homeless people, students, labour organizations, social ecology, the struggle against the FTAA, and so on).
5. To work towards the creation of a Brazilian anarchist organization with a shared political programme, a real presence within the social struggles and the greates possible national visibility.
6. To establish fraternal, solid relations with anarchist organizations in other countries, above all in Latin America, whose local situation is similar to ours.
Fight to Organize!
"We repeat it again: without organization, free or imposed, society cannot exist; without conscious, desired organization, there can be no freedom nor guarantee that the interests of those who live in society are respected. And those who are not organized, who do not seek the cooperation of others and who do not offer theirs, in reciprocal conditions and in solidarity, place themselves necessarily in a state of inferiority and there remains an unconscious gear in the social mechanism that others work in their way and to their advantage
." (Errico Malatesta, 1897)
The question of organization is a very old subject in the anarchist milieu. It is over a hundred years since Malatesta broached the theme. No matter how much it may seem to us to be a simple subject, there is still a lot of confusion regarding it and there are a lot of people who sincerely think that anarchism is against any form of organization, which would be bureaucracy, authoritarianism, etc. That is understandable. After all, the concrete organizational models that people have seen (such as authoritarian, centralized and electoral parties) do not encourage anybody to think about it.
But it is necessary to break with that, to notice that these were just *one* form of organization and not *the* form. Anarchism has always had other organizational forms: horizontal, participatory, federative. Just think of Bakunin, Malatesta, Makhno, the Federacion Anarquista Iberica, the Federacion Anarquista Uruguaya, the syndicalist anarchists, and so on. Now is the time we need to be organized, to overcome the fear of bureaucratization.
Discussing organization nowadays is not only a question of re-taking anarchist history, but above all a real need. We cannot remain atomized in the face of an articulate, well-informed system with a great operational capacity. To "remain isolated, acting or wanting to act each off his own bat, without understanding each other, without preparing ourselves, without gathering together the fragile forces of the isolated, means condemning ourselves to weakness, to wasting our energy in small ineffectual acts, to losing faith quickly in our objectives and to complete starvation" (Malatesta, 1897).
Besides, organization multiplies our forces, allows us to take precautions and to defend ourselves from the increasing repression and turns into a reality the solidarity that we have written and spoken about so many times. We know that there are some anarchists who are contrary to the idea of organization, mostly individualist anarchists. They are not more or less anarchist than us as a result, just anarchists of another type, of another conception. Let them follow their path. We will follow ours, and with every right to do so.
Because we believe that in order to face this capitalist system, it is necessary to be organized.
Building an Organized Anarchist Group (OAG)
In the whole of Brazil there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of people that identify with or are sympathetic to anarchism. It is a potential force that is often not effective due to the dispersion of anarchists. We will not form an anarchist organization by magic: first it is necessary for there to be organized anarchist groups (OAGs) with some form of coordination between each other.
The organized anarchist group is the seed of the anarchist organization. The FAO is willing to support anarchist individuals who feel their blood boil in the face of injustice and who are tired of doing little or nothing or who are isolated. We propose a path by which individuals can set up an organized anarchist group (OAG):
1) Number of people:
Identify people that you know, who may be interested in the project. Call a meeting to debate the setting up of a group, supported by reading material. The more people the better, but it is not necessary to wait for a group - 3 people is enough to begin with, aiming at working for more people to enter.
2) Identity of the OAG:
With the proposal under way, the OAG can already have a name, a flag and its symbols, so that it is recognized by other people.
3) Division of basic tasks:
The regular internal tasks of the group can be shared between the members. This avoids some people being over-burdened with work and others doing little, and helps to keep the group more horizontal. Here are some suggestions for sharing out tasks in groups of at least 5 people (smaller groups will need to adapt to their possibilities).
a. organization: the comrade with this task is responsible for recording the agreements and decisions made during meetings, relaying them to the others, establishing the calendar, calling meetings, organizaing the group's internal materials;
b. propaganda: the comrade with this task is responsible for writing and suggesting communiqués and propaganda material, e.g. group bulletin, website, pamphlets;
c. finances: the comrade with this task is responsible for acting as group treasurer, collecting membership dues, fund-raising and so on;
d. relations: the comrade with this task is responsible for correspondence, PO Box, e-mails, dealing with other anarchist groups, leftist groups or popular movements;
e. political education: the comrade with this task is responsible for fostering the internal political education of the group, deciding what is required, gathering material, preparing courses, in order to improve the political education of group members.
This division of tasks is by no means rigid. The comrade responsible for propaganda, for example, coordinates the group's bulletin, but nothing can stop others from coming up with ideas, writing, commenting, etc. The same is true for the other functions.
Is is most important that meetings be regular as they are the only opportunity for the group to debate and plan its activities collectively. They can be weekly or fortnightly, preferably in a fixed place where the group can be relazed and where there will be no interruptions.
5) Group communications:
A post-office box should be opened for correspondence, and the group should obtain an e-mail address and also publish a bulletin, even if it is only a modest, 2-page photocopied news-sheet. It is a great beginning and it allows the group to be known by the people. Another important thing is to write a declaration of principles for the group.
6) Decision-making method:
Consensus should always be sought, with everyone participating in the debate in an egalitarian way. When consensus cannot be reached and the subject demands a decision, the point is voted and the whole group accepts the result. The minority position and its arguments should remain on the record for subsequent evaluation.
7) Basic tasks of each member:
An internal function (organization, finances, propaganda, relations and political education); external social militancy in some front (see below); participation in the group's meetings and contributing to the group.
Moving from the Group to the Organization
This big change can come about in two ways.
i) Through growth of the OAG
In states and regions where other anarchist groups do not exist or where there are other anarchist groups that are contrary to organization and social militancy, the only way to constitute an organization is through the growth of the OAG, whose objective is always to move forward.
The maturity of the OAG can be seen in several ways: through numeric growth (more or less 20 regular militants), regularity, affinity and trust developed amongst the members, expansion of the social fronts, the improvement of political education, etc. If this is the case, the whole OAG can go a stage further, dividing itslf into nuclei, creating a council of delegates of the various nuclei and enlarging its sphere of action.
It is vital that the change from OAG to Organization reflect a real step forward and not just the desires of the members. Just being a group in name only, with maybe a name for an organization or federation, is simply deceptive propaganda, a voluntarism not based on reality, easily prone to ridicule.
The transition from Anarchist Group to Organization is a process, however, the groups are defined autonomously. The transition implies a qualitative difference in the construction process, not a hierarchical one.
ii) By various OAGs coming together and unifying
In states and areas where two or more anarchist groups exist, it should be possible for them to maintain links with the other individuals and anarchist groups involved in the FAO. We are speaking here about neighbouring regions, that do not necessarily need to be in the same State, just close (for example, Goiás and Distrito Federal), groups located along the borders between 2 states, etc.
These contacts can develop to a greater or lesser extent. Some may reject our project categorically, others may show interest and at the same time have doubts and partial criticisms. With these latter, dialogue should be promoted and if possible a state-wide or regional FAO be formed to link these groups, develop united practical tasks, debate the project and work for unification.
Organize to struggle!
Insertion and social militancy
" (...) to nurture popular organizations of every type is the logical consequence of our fundamental ideas and, therefore, it should be an integral part of our programme". (Malatesta, 1897)
Anarchism is composed of a diversity of currents, it is true. But it is also true that not all of them are disposed to work closely with our class, our people.
Historically, there have been moments of very strong anarchist presence in Ukraine with the Makhnovshchina, in the Spanish Revolution, the Mexican Revolution, with revolutionary syndicalism throughout Latin America, not to mention the countless other experiences. In all these cases, which are a reference point (at least theoretical) for all anarchists, there have been organized anarchists, who had class-struggle positions and definite social practices. It can be said that in every case where anarchism had an importance presence, there was also insertion and social militancy.
We live in an age where poverty is getting ever worse. The abyss betwen the classes is today greater than it was a hundred years ago. 85% of the world's population is poor or living in poverty. In Brazil alone, 40 million people live below the poverty line.
The manifestations of this poverty are brutal and they are there for anyone who wants to see. We have not lost the capacity to get angry, to revolt in the face of these permanent attacks; we will not "keep to our own kind" or stand by with an "each to his own" attitude, because it is only us who have to suffer this situation.
We believe that anarchism has answers to this situation, that anarchism lives in this situation and is not closed off from the situation.
Anarchists have been carrying on several forms of activity. We maintain relations with each other, publish bulletins, promote libertarian meetings, maintain internet sites, publish books and create channels for alternative information, etc.
All this is important and necessary. But have we been giving due attention to a type of militancy that is fundamental: community action together with the popular movements, in the neighbourhoods, schools, universities, workplaces, etc?
Happily, there are anarchists who already do this in several ways, but we sincerely think that it is too little, and we do not only say this about other anarchists, we include ourselves among those that need to improve and to increase their work in the communities, their social insertion. We believe that all the activities of contacts, publications, encounters and books would be greatly enriched if they were linked to community activities on the part of anarchists.
There are several anarchist groups and organizations that have been seeking to expand their social insertion for several years and a fair amount of experience has been accumulated over recent years, from the homeless movement to the students' movement, from the inner-city neighborhoods to union work, in the fights against the FTAA and free trade areas, anarchists have been present. This is something which allows us to discuss us the subject better.
Therefore we believe that at this time it is essential that we discuss how anarchists can act within the community, what relationships can be established between anarchists and the social movements, and what types of action would be more or less interesting, etc. Above all, we believe that anarchists alone will not make the revolution, and that if we do not have a militant presence in the struggles of our class, we will have no chance.
Getting involved in community work and social militancy
All the members of the OAG should work in the social movements. The internal tasks already mentioned are important, but they are not enough and cannot serve as an excuse for the militant "to get out" of social militancy. This is important if we are to avoid some members concerning themselves just with internal or "nicer" matters, and others with social militancy, a situation that can create "informal bureaucrats".
It is important that the group evaluates its forces so that the social work can give results and avoid taking on more than it can sustain. That makes it necessary to make priorities in choosing the area in which we work. When we say "priority", we do not mean that one area or another is naturally destined to accomplish the social revolution, simply to concentrate our forces in some work that we believe has more transformation potential.
However, with growth and experience, we should seek to involve ourselves in the widest range of areas. The idea is that the OAG discusses the type of work to be done, verifying what is viable (in the neighborhood, school, university, factory, squat, etc.) on the basis of the situation of each group. It is always advisable to begin social insertion in grassroots initiatives where militants are naturally involved or where it is easier to become involved.
Some examples of fronts and areas where we can work
Fronts are those places where our militancy is made concrete. For example: the students' movment, the labour movement, the homeless movement, community radio, associations and struggle committees in inner-city neighbourhoods etc.
In the community fronts, we can work in such areas as housing, healthcare, food, water, electricity supply, basic sanitation, transport, social ecology, communication, culture, education, human rights, racism, gender, etc. Everything will depend on the specific demands of each place and of our political project.
In this Declaration of Principles of the FAO, we have limited ourselves to discussing our insertion and social militancy in a general way, as it would be impossible to describe, even in general lines, detailed propositions for each area. There is a great deal of material being produced by the members of the FAO on these various fronts, experiences to share and support for those involved. Materials and information about the work of each specific front can be obtained through contact with the members of the FAO.
Want to know more? Want to participate?
If you have read this material and are interested, it doesn't matter if you are just an individual or if you a member of some group or organization; it doen't matter if you are already a declared anarchist or someone who has just recently become interested in anarchism - get in touch with us. You can certainly play an important role in the struggle and there is much you can contribute!
The 6 commitments of the FAO represent the level of agreement that we have currently reached. However, we recognize that within the FAO differences do exist and disagreement can exist among our groups, individuals and organizations. This fact is quite understandable and should not be seen as a problem, but as a starting point for dialogue and construction. It would be absurd to imagine that FAO members, geographically distant and with few opportunities to enjoy direct contact and act jointly, be perfectly in tune with each other.
We want to emphasize these aspects of our relations because this is a collective job of construction in which, so far, the members themselves are responsible for the agreements reached within the FAO, not to individual actions and proposals of its membership. For us, the anarchist project is above particular or personal issues.
The FAO is already up and running, but it is not ready and finished and is never closed to anyone who is interested. We are the first to wish to see our mistakes corrected, to perfect the project and to incorporate new contributions and more people in the discussions. If you have any doubts or disagree partly with what has been stated here, we invite you to dialogue, to get to know us better.
In short, the FAO has a constructive ethos, open to dialogue and is against sectarianism. We believe that only on this basis can the conditions be created for the construction of a true anarchist organization, one that is not a mere acronym or a ghetto.
Signatories to this Declaration of Principles:
Coletivo Anarquista Organizado (MA)
São Luís MA Cx. Postal 306 CEP: 65001 970
Coletivo Amazônida de Estudos Anarquistas (PA)
Belém PA Cx. Postal 643 CEP: 66017
Coletivo Anarquista Zumbi dos Palmares (AL)
Cx. Postal Cep: 57020-970 Maceió - AL
Grupo de Estudos Libertários Babilônia (AP)
Cx. Postal 32 Cep: 68906-970 Macapá - AP
Pró Grupo Anarquista Organizado Vermelho e Negro (Feira de Santana, BA)
Cx. Postal 280 Cep.: 44001-970 - Feira de Santana - Bahia
Coletivo Pró Organização Anarquista em Goiás (GO)
Cx. Postal 92 Goiânia-Goiás CEP: 74003-901
Federação Anarquista Gaúcha (RS)
Cx. Postal 5036 CEP: 90041-970 Porto Alegre - RS
Fórum do Anarquismo Organizado Estadual de São Paulo (SP)
Luta Libertária (SP)
Cx. Pt. 11639 São Paulo, SP CEP: 05049-970
Rede Libertária da Baixada Santista (Santos, SP)
Cx. Pt. 99 Santos, SP CEP: 11010-010
CONTACT ADDRESS FOR THE FAO SECRETARIAT:
ANARCHISM IS STRUGGLE!
Original Portuguese version available as a downloadable PDF file:
Translation by FdCA - International Relations