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Brazilian anarchism interview on the Crisis, World Cup, Especifismo
brazil/guyana/suriname/fguiana | anarchist movement | feature Friday April 26, 2013 02:11 by Paul Bowman - Irish Anarchist Review | Workers Solidarity Movement
In a wide ranging interview Paul Bowman talked to Felipe Corrêa (FC) a Brazilian anarchist who is member of Organização Anarquista Socialismo Libertário [Libertarian Socialist Anarchist Organization] (OASL) about anarchist orgainising in Brasil, just how global the crisis really is and the forthcoming World Cup.
Brazilian anarchism interview on the Crisis, World Cup, Especifismo
IAR: First of all could you tell us a little about yourself and your involvement with Brazilian anarchism and how you came to be involved?
FC: I became an anarchist in the end of the 1990s, in the wave of what people used to call the “anti- globalization movement”, after a past of Marxist affinities, both with reformists and revolutionaries. I knew about anarchism in the “counter-cultural” movement – ie. I used to be straight edge – and then started to get involved with collectives in São Paulo that were very active in the resistance movement against neoliberalism, like Ação Local por Justiça Global [Local Action for Global Justice] and Centro de Mídia Independente [Indymedia Center]. I also got in touch with anarchist social/ cultural centers, both Centro de Cultura Social [Social Cultural Center] (CCS) and Instituto de Cultura e Ação Libertária [Institute of Libertarian Culture and Action] (ICAL).
Later I was part of an anarchist collective called Terra Livre [Free Land], that still exists as a library (Biblioteca Terra Livre). During this process, I had some contacts with São Paulo especifistas of an organization called Luta Libertária [Libertarian Struggle] (LL), that after became Organização Socialista Libertária [Libertarian Socialist Organization] (OSL). After some conflicts concerning the model of anarchist organization and its role, I left Terra Livre and started to get involved with Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro [Anarchist Federation of Rio de Janeiro] (FARJ), in which I was integrated as an organic member and developed some interesting work by 3 or 4 years. As I was living in São Paulo, and as I had to go frequently to Rio de Janeiro to work with FARJ activities, we decided to start a process of reorganization in São Paulo (LL/OSL had ceased to exist) and then we organized the process that culminated in what is today OASL. Parallel to these works I was directly involved in the foundation and management of Faísca Publicações [Spark Publications] and other anarchist projects.
Now, I’m part of the Communitarian Front of the organization and the current Political Education Secretary.
IAR: Here in Europe we have a very self- centred view of world such that if we sneeze we think the world has a cold. Here we speak of "The Crisis" in referring to all that has happened since 2008 and assume that the way it is affecting us must make it a global catastrophe. But what has been the experience of the last five years from a Brazilian perspective?
I think this is common to Europeans. If you see the history of anarchism, at the same time we had great experiences in Americas (mainly Latin America), Africa and Asia, the books always discusses, mainly, European experiences!!! So it’s kind of normal the Europeans generalize their reality as it was the world’s reality.
I think this crisis shows a change in the correlation of world forces. Brazil is, at least apparently and until now, relatively “safe” from the crisis. The government is investing in the expansion of the credit system and in social programs, trying to stimulate the economy. The analysts are divided. Some of them maintain that this shows Brazil’s new reality as a world power, others say that the crisis is just arriving.
According to our Relationship Secretary, who is most involved with this discussion, “both of these analyses are correct. Brazil, thanks to historical facts, did not completely liberalize its financial system and healed its public debts in the beginning of the 2000s. So, the global financial crisis has not directly reached Brazil. But, in the measure that the crisis is aggravating and impacting the real economy, with recession in production and consumption, this will make the commodity prices of Brazilian exports to fall, and the country will be without external savings to develop the projects that are guaranteeing the small rates of growth we’re having. So, crisis will arrive, but, for secondary effects, it’s not here yet.”
Anyway, the point is that: - it’s difficult to deal with a reality where people, in general, think they’re living better; - we are not “catastrophists” and we do not maintain that a crisis will necessarily lead to something better; - so, we think our aim is to continue our work through our anarchist organizations inserted in social struggles and to reinforce our mass strategy, because, for us, any change, smaller or bigger, to approximate our revolutionary and socialist long-term objectives, has to be strongly permeated with a class culture based in self-organization practices, democratic initiatives, combative movements and so on. Any movement, whether motivated by a crisis or not, to approximate our aims, has necessarily to count on these “libertarian” features.
IAR: Is the imminent arrival of the World Cup in Brazil next year creating any tensions or struggles over land and resources?
Sure! Like a lot of other countries that received the World Cup, Brazil is also facing these kind of problems. It’s possible to indicate two of them: the first, a priority of investment by national and local governments in projects that will only have any function during the World Cup; the second, some social “consequences” of the World Cup, especially evictions and attempts to mask Brazilian poverty and social issues.
I think that this priority of governments is completely improper, taking into account the social problems we still facing in Brazil and the public who will really make use of the works that are being done for the World Cup... This will not be a popular event, in our class sense of the word.
In terms of the social consequences, a lot of communities are mobilizing against evictions, in places that will be used for works and the whole left is denouncing the attempts to hide our poverty; every place where tourists will pass are being “cleaned” in a process that some specialists are calling gentrification”.
IAR: I guess you must get tired of being asked this all the time by people from outside of Latin America, but still our readers would never forgive us if we didn't ask you: what is Especifismo?
FC: No way! It’s always a pleasure to expose our project of which I’m a huge enthusiast! I think that “especifismo” is a word that we use to express a set of anarchist positions.
Especially our mass strategy, that is focused in building and participating in popular movements (syndicalism, communitarian, rural/peasant and students movements) with some clear positions: its class struggle and combative positions; the position against “ideologization” of the movements (for us, similarly to classical revolutionary syndicalists, popular movements should not be anarchist, marxist or something like); the clear defense of class autonomy and independence from political parties, State, and other institutions that push back against what we call popular movements “protagonism”; the defense of the necessity to reinforce democratic features of the movements, with decisions being taken by the grassroots militants, with self management and federalism serving as the main tools of organization; the revolutionary aims of the movement, reinforcing that we seek a social change in which the main agents are the popular movements, even when we are struggling for reforms – that’s what But mainly, especifismo is related with our conception of anarchist political organization, or anarchist “specific” organization.
We maintain that anarchists should be organized on two levels: as workers, in the popular movements, and as anarchists, in the anarchist organizations. We defend what could be called a “programmatic model of organization”. Basically, we think that there are lots of differences and contradictions among those who consider themselves anarchists and the solution for that is to create a strong organization with huge political affinity among its members to intervene in an adequate way in the mass struggles, before, during and after the revolution. We also defend a self-managed and federalist organization, with its “organicity” well defined, with equivalent rights and duties, self-discipline and responsibility, unity in terms of ideological, theoretical and strategic/practical issues, trying to use consensus, but using majority vote when necessary.
IAR: When you spoke about the recent history of especifismo in Brazil at the St. Imier Congress last year, you mentioned that at a certain point in your recent history you made a transition from a "traditional" style of anarchist grouping, which you characterised as based on allegiance to an "abstract" politics, to a new model of organising. Can you tell us something about when and how that transition took place and the change of philosophy and practice it led to?
This is basically the way we see anarchist recent history in Brazil. In the 1980s, at the end of the military dictatorship, anarchism re-emerged, mainly focused in cultural centers and affinity groups, investing, we could say, almost all of their time in cultural work (lectures, editions and so on). Although we consider this “first phase” really important, we also see its main limitations.
In the middle of the 1990s, when our current started to develop in Brazil, influenced by some Brazilian experiences and the contact established with Federação Anarquista Uruguaia [Uruguayan Anarchist Federation] (FAU), the main issue was: this cultural work could be interesting, and even very relevant, but we saw that in the field of the social struggles anarchism did not exist. In our analysis, one of the reasons that all popular movements of that time were involved with the Partido dos Trabalhadores [Workers Party] (PT) and/or adopting authoritarian forms of organization, was that anarchism was not a political force in these movements.
So, what we’ve been doing since then is to do, what we have called, “to reinsert anarchism in the social struggles”, the place where anarchism came from and should never be separated from.
To use another expression we like here, we think that anarchism has to “regain its social vector”, that is, a concrete and effective mass line. I think, not without lots of problems, we have been able to develop this project a lot since then.
IAR: Again in Europe part of our political landscape is a bipartisan neoliberal consensus between centre-left and centre- right political parties. But in Brazil for over ten years now, and more recently in other Latin American countries, you have governments that come from the anti- neoliberal left and promote a "progressive" line against neoliberalism, at least in words. How does this affect your work of social insertion, for e.g. in MST, do you find problems with support for the PT government amongst popular organisations, based on past loyalties?
I think Brazilian PT experience have to be studied, because we can find some interesting things. PT was formed in the 1980’s, basically by the unions, communitarian movements (linked, in lots of places, to Liberation Theology) and exiled militants that participated in the armed struggle against the dictatorship. In the beginning, it was a party with a huge mass base and a radical democratic proposal to enter into parliament, with politicians “responding” to the grassroots positions of the movements. Something like the “Greens” in Germany. But the political process since then showed something that we, anarchists, sustain since Bakunin. The state is not a “neutral” institution, it’s an institution of domination. And the process of institutionalization that occurred with the PT is showing that, doing that, the party adapts more to the system it proposes to change, instead of the contrary.
A great part of the social movements and left unions are today linked to PT. So, this is something we have to deal and the defense of class autonomy and independence is a banner that we constantly defend in these movements; we try to show that State bureaucracy is our class enemy, not a possible ally. But sure we point it in the same time that we try to reinforce these movements; so it’s not a sectarian position or just a radical discourse. We are part of these movements and we still use a phrase that we also like a lot: “it’s better to take one step with a thousand, than to take a thousand steps with one”.
IAR: From the outside it looks as if there has been something of a renaissance of anarchism across Latin America in the last ten years. Is this the case? What do you make of the prospects for the movement over the next ten years?
Coms, at the same time that I’m a great enthusiast of anarchism, I also know that we’re doing a long term job. Looking for our last 20 years, at least in Brazil, we’ve started from small and sporadic cultural activities to a stage that we are present in almost 10 states of our country, with our Brazilian Anarchist Coordination (CAB), that aims to be a national organization in some years.
We are now is some popular movements: unions, landless movements, peasant movements, communitarian movements, homeless movements, student’s movements, involved with lots of struggles. Even as a minor force, anarchism starts again to reappear in these spaces and also to be respected by other political forces. Things are going in this direction. But we have a lot of work to do...
So, by my point of view, in the next 10 years, the objective, at least in Brazil, is to continue firmly growing in terms of our anarchist organization and its “social insertion” in the struggles. If we can deepen this, I think it will be great.
IAR: Do you have any final words or some tips to our comrades that want to know more about Especifismo and its theory and practice in Brazil?
I would like to thank you very much for this opportunity and I also put here some links where people can find some material in English:
• CAB. Declaration of Principles
Interview by: Paul Bowman.
* Felipe Corrêa (FC) is a Brazilian anarchist who is member of Organização Anarquista Socialismo Libertário [Libertarian Socialist Anarchist Organization] (OASL), which is part of Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira [Brazilian Anarchist Coordination] (CAB).