Anarchism versus fascism and the electoral debate (2023)


Neither Bolsonaro (Liberal Party) nor Lula (Labor Party) He can secure a supermajority on October 2ndIn Brazil's presidential election, both advance to the second round scheduled for October 30Tag. There are many fear and tension There has been extreme political polarization surrounding the country's electoral process, unlike what happens in the United States.

This article is a response to an article titled "Anarchists Defend Lula's Vote" previously published in the magazine Jacobin Brasil. In the previous article, he defended the use of the vote to defeat Bolsonaro as a tool in the fight against fascism, which is the main topic the author discusses here.

The author of this article is associated with the study of anarchist theory and history,Project supported by Black Rose / Rosa Negra.


Anarchists understand that a radical transformation of society in the form of emancipation and self-government is possible only if the social power of the oppressed classes is increased in the internationalist project. Fascism must be crushed, but the ballot box can do nothing. We will continue to oppose fascism, without sectarianism, with those who voted and those who did not.

We all have to live more or less the opposite of what we believe. but we are socialists and anarchists precisely because we live with this contradiction and try to minimize it as much as possible. The day we get used to this environment and of course have no desire to change it, we become ordinary citizens. an unmarried bourgeois perhaps, but likewise a bourgeois in deeds and intentions.

erico malatesta

In my weekly DAB lectures I will explain the legal meaning of anarchism, both as a bourgeois creation and as a revolutionary creation. In fact, there are two laws: one represents the pressure of the possessor on the non-possessor, and the other, the submission of the non-possessor to his master. These are the laws imposed by the revolution, e.g. B.: Magna Carta, Declaration of Human Rights, 13 years of lawTagMay etc [...] But for such a law to come out, it never had to be represented in Parliament. Taxation is done on the streets, in factories, mines, work centers and barracks.

– Jose Ottica

This article is a response to the article "Anarchists defend Lula's right to vote" published in Jacobin Brasil on September 6, 2022. -Authoritarianism: "There is as much anarchism as there are anarchists", anything a self-proclaimed anarchist defends can be part of of "anarchism". But this is wrong. Despite this diversity, if we examine the history of the 150-year struggle of anarchism on a global scale, we can identify a number of principles and elements that have shaped it historically. Defending these principles and criticizing the deviations of reformism—for anarchism has always had a revolutionary point of view—is not dogmatism or absolutism. We cannot allow others to try to impose strategic views on anarchism that have nothing to do with our ideology.

Let me talk about the case of Brazil where anarchism confronts Varguism[1]and union corporatism. In 1930, when Getúlio Vargas came to power, Brazil experienced a political change that included many trade unionists, socialists and anarchists who had fought hard against the Coronelista[2]The policy known as "coffee and milk democracy".[3]– to meet the new government. This is partly because, in addition to promoting certain workers' rights, Barguismo represented a struggle against the previous political and economic phase, which emerged from the struggle of many radicals of the period.

When the crackdown on the more radical elements of the left began and trade union corporatism came into open confrontation with the revolutionary trade union movement, most of these fighters found their original positions wrong. However, in those years, even before this raid, other anarchist fighters entered[4]In their economic and political institutions the phantasies of Varguism were condemned. In this context, the Federation of Workers of São Paulo (FOSP) and Rio Grande do Sul (FORGS), together with the newspapers The Plebe, The Syndicalist and The Lantern, are developing a strategy to consolidate the impending attack.

In 1934, these radicals attempted to reorganize the Confederation of Brazilian Workers (COB).[5]With the aim of "forming a body of the working class united against the common enemy which is sovereign and tyrannical capitalism" and "respecting the organization of local federations merging into national federations and uniting all industrial unions in the federation". The call for collective action was intended to strengthen the collective power of the class as "the united worker acquires the power necessary to defend his own interests." This basic expression could allow the working class in Brazil to have strong institutions of defense and struggle capable of raising our class organization to the level necessary for our emancipation movement.

During the same period, anarchists allied themselves with socialists of various persuasions against fascism and then Vargusta's authoritarianism. In dialogue with the Alliance for National Liberation (ANL)[6]They warned: "While the trade unionists are fighting fascism, the hacienda is."[7]and the tyranny of government [...] not to idolize the people, but to fight for ideas, to debate and argue for principles, and the anarchists and syndicalists will fight side by side.'

This situation, and others in which anarchists discuss their own emancipatory processes with the working class, show that anarchists, not just "dogmatic" or "religious," are able to adapt their theory to current reality and adapt the ideas. In the context of forging they forge bonds and alliances with other forces, offering criticism, recommendations and, above all, practices and experiences that provide a framework of struggle for the oppressed. At the same time, it prevents them from being swallowed up and diluted by other ideologies, as they are not simply "swayed" by the decisions of their rivals or political opponents. Its base (trade unionism) is discussed as well as its political and ideological family. Those who did not were politically weakened, even shifted to other ideological classes (it was not uncommon for anarchists to become varguists or corporatist trade unionists) or faced repression without defense.

pillars of capitalist rule

We should understand the dominant system of society and state capitalism from a broader perspective. Anarchism and its theoretical currents throughout history attempt to understand social reality in three spheres: economic, political/legal/military, and cultural/ideological. Social reality is a result of the totality of these areas and their interdependence. The state capitalist system of government is maintained through the dominance of these three spheres and elections are part of this system. It would be an illusion to think that the ritual of the electoral process is a ritual of social change or "choosing the best scenario" every two years.

We don't choose our judges, we don't control the repressive apparatus, we don't control the economic system, and we don't participate in the myriad non-voting institutions of government. Moreover, countries like Brazil, which are on the fringes of the capitalist system, are exposed to the actions of imperialism and its political and economic tools. Agreements and coalitions – including progressive candidates – also significantly limit the scope for navigating the system. The electoral system is open to a degree, but the "choice" of the masses is always limited and protected.

According to the Uruguayan Anarchist Federation (FAU):

“One of the things that socialist thought has produced, and which has been largely confirmed by social experience, is the theory of the mechanisms of reproduction of existing institutions. Even in highly polarized social environments, the basic mechanisms operate in a similar way. As a principle of related, well-defined "parts" they make certain things possible and prevent others. For example, they enable the growth of wealth and poverty. various key powers remain in the hands of a privileged few. media go along with "ideals", "values". "and the 'culture' that reinforces the current system." Talking about elections is thus 'part' of a larger power structure.'

A story of anarchism versus reformism

Anarchism is a revolutionary, socialist, anti-capitalist, anti-state, anti-authoritarian political ideology. From the critique of different forms of rule, anarchists understand that only the development of the social power of the oppressed classes in the internationalist project can revolutionize society in the sense of emancipation and self-government. This transformation can never be done by the machinery of the ruling class.

The emergence of anarchism in the second half of the 19th centuryTagThe century was a historical creation, taking place not only in the context of the trade union struggles of the 1850s and 1860s, but also against the background of the disenchantment of a section of the working class, many of whom later became anarchists, with parliamentary disputes and republican revolutions. Anarchism matures into a form of socialism that has no illusions about the state or its governing mechanisms - parliaments, elections, etc. Therefore, it makes no sense for anarchists to use or strengthen these mechanisms as a political solution without questioning their own principles and rule. criticism of the capitalist system. To use an analogy, wanting to take over a country and change the dominant system is like wanting to be the boss and change capitalism.

From the 1860s, anarchism became established as an ideology within the International Workingmen's Union, its political profile closely linked to the strategy of revolutionary trade unionism. a strategy of anti-parliamentary struggle supported by the leading projects of social transformation. Thus was born and developed anarchism, which rejected parliamentary action. This is an integral part of their political practice and not a factor that can be debated as it is an inevitable historical fact.

Since the conflict within the International Working Men's Union (IWA), one factor, among others, has distinguished anarchists from Marxists: the use of parliamentary elections as part of a strategy of working class emancipation. Marx and Engels, then representing one sector of the labor movement, were reasonably optimistic about the use of voting instruments, while Bakunin and his Union organization, then representing a different sector of the labor movement, were optimistic about the use of voting tools. NO.

Our plan is socialist and liberal and aims to replace the current system of government with an autonomous political system: self-government. To this end, anarchist activists throughout history analyzed reality and, based on this analysis, developed strategies of struggle (different for each internal current of anarchism) in order to push the mass movement towards this proposal. Anarchism was not a stagnant idea, but proved a powerful material tool for real social change on four occasions: the Mexican Revolution (1911), the Ukrainian Revolution (1921), the Manchurian Revolution (1929), especially the most famous revolution the Spanish Revolution (1936). In all four of these revolutions (and even others where anarchist influence was minimal), the electoral process came close to sparking the revolutionary process. The focus is always on the accumulation, building and strengthening of mass movements whose goal is a revolutionary and anti-capitalist rupture.

Someone will say, "But we're not talking about a revolution, we're talking about ensuring minimal reforms and preventing counter-reforms." Okay. Utopia is replaced by pragmatism whenever the revolutionary point of view disappears from the perspective of society's fighters. Conference agreements replace grassroots decisions, and anti-capitalism is replaced by "not too bad" reform policies. But even on this side of reformism, our vote seems secondary. We are listing only two episodes here so as not to waste our readers' patience.

The first concerns the victory of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1951. In an attempt to impose agrarian reform in the country, a measure that was not even entirely anti-capitalist, Arbenz was overthrown in a government-orchestrated coup. In fact, a young medical student living in Guatemala at the time began developing his thesis on revolutionary rupture based on his disillusionment with electoral tactics: Ernesto Rafael Guevara.

Another example in Chile was the election of Salvador Allende in 1970, perhaps the most important historical example of using electoral tactics to promote reform and thwart reactionary advances, leading to another coup that overthrew the government.

Therefore, reformism does not solve political, economic and social problems.

On the other hand, we have different examples, through the strategy of revolutionary trade unionism (which had its roots in anarchism) and militant struggles in various countries where no revolutionary process was invented: various labor rights were won, forcing the state to maintain the victory. through the organization of strikes and other revolutionary tactics and demands through the direct action and self-organization of the working class.

real warfare

The important internal debates (that is, those that have recurred throughout history and divided anarchism) were never between voting and not voting, but revolved around the following issues: organization, the role of short-term struggles, and the use of violence.

In terms of organization, anarchism has historically been divided into organizers and anti-organizers, with the former advocating anarchist action in mass groups: trade unions, popular movements, etc. special anarchist organizations. Anti-organizationalists, on the other hand, reject formal organization into ideological (anarchist) and social (mass movements), although many of them have maintained ties to various unions throughout history. It should be noted that the anti-organizers are always a minority.

We speak here as anarchists in the organizing camp because we support the accumulation of social power in mass groups as the main driver of genuine revolutionary change. However, this did not end with a short election calendar. Without sectarianism, we are and remain with other comrades in these popular movements every day after the election, regardless of their electoral politics. This will be the greatest contribution to the defeat of Bolsonaroism: a strong unity of the people in their struggle for the right and against the reactionary sectors.

Regarding the role of short-term struggles, anarchism is divided into the most likely and the most unlikely. The former argues that an anarchist society cannot be achieved overnight and therefore short-term struggles (for better wages, housing, jobs, land and various other demands that meet the needs of the oppressed classes) play an important role in building a such an anarchist society. Company. The prospect of revolutionary change in society, especially when it is achieved through direct (mass) action and social struggle. The idea was known in anarchist circles as "revolutionary gymnastics". Dissatisfiers, on the other hand, argue that minor reforms will divert the revolutionary course of the working class and help the capitalist system adapt without endangering its very foundations.

We stand on the side of the odds and understand that the struggle for better living conditions is fundamental to the revolutionary path and that reform and significant progress in social rights will only come if we fight for it.

Finally, the divide between anarchists on the use of violence does not exist between the pacifist sector and those who support the use of revolutionary violence. This is because pacifists play an entirely negligible role in the history of anarchism, although they are often over-hyped in literature that does not view anarchism globally. This theme makes a clear distinction between those who understand that revolutionary violence must work and work in concert with previously established mass movements (so-called mass strategies) and insurgent strategies which claim that violence can be action. Trigger, a form of propaganda capable of inciting rebellion among the oppressed classes.

We are on the side of the mass strategy in this matter and believe that any rupture process, even a serious confrontation with fascism, is impossible without a discussion on this matter. The hardline republicanism of our establishment left completely blocks discussion of this issue, which is yet another symptom of the depravity created by electoral focus. At a time when fascists are arming themselves and threatening left-wing public figures, our self-defense should already be actively discussed.

We present a history of 150 years of anarchism and a global panorama to confirm that the debate about whether anarchists voted in municipal elections is completely artificial and has no relevance to the history of anarchism. If in Spain the Confederation of Labor (CNT) unleashed the militancy of voting at least twice (instead of campaigning), although the organization had about 2 million members, more than 20 years of continuous struggle, a program of transition to socialism and an autonomous Economy, Mr. the purpose of which is the release of political prisoners. The CNT and the Federation of Iberian Anarchists (FAI) had to organize the fight against fascism at all levels, the opposite of what we see today in Brazilian social democracy.

Other (more important) controversies continued to emerge and consume far more anarchist combative energy than the voting issues. In short, the field of anarchism we are joining has strategies for transforming reality: the accumulation of social forces into mass movements, the use of reformist struggles as "revolutionary gymnastics," the development of advanced forms of struggle, the incorporation of revolutionary violence. in thematic Discusses the construction of a revolutionary rupture as a horizon. Any debate against fascism should also follow these tactics and not be a personal decision about whether to vote or not.

The slow integration of the working class as 'citizens' into the European bourgeois-democratic scene in the early 19th centuryTagThe liberal part of socialism does not see the century as a victory, but as a way to end the radical struggle to take over Europe. In this sense, anarchism has been validated as universal suffrage has tamed the revolutionary class and created a strong consensus that profound change could be effected every two years without substantial exploitation and domination of society. The structure is still intact.

To support our argument, we will mention two structural factors that shape the Brazilian reality. The first is structural racism, the result of the genocide and slave trade imposed on our territory by Portuguese colonialism. Second, the concentration of land in my country is high. Which government in Brazilian history (the same center-left government) made major structural changes to promote the end of the hacienda and the genocide of blacks and the poor? We mention these two aspects of reality because we believe they are at the heart of all revolutionaries, the core aspects that nurture proto-fascists and fascists. How will this choice affect you?

Learn about fascism to crush it

There are different interpretations of the characterization of Bolsonism. Some consider it a far-right movement, not fascist. Others describe it as proto-fascism, and there is another sector that sees Bolsonarianism as a neo-fascist movement. Regardless of the characteristics, Bolsonarianism can be said to be a far-right, misogynistic, patriarchal, militaristic, racist and reactionary movement, supported mainly by the landed gentry, a section of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, and rightly so.

Bolsonism has also taken root in the working class and is spread by guns, neo-Pentecostal churches, low and high ranking officials of the security and armed forces (paramilitary or military), conservative units and reactionary media. The Bolsonaro coalition includes neo-Pentecostal leaders, slavish sections of the military high command, agribusinesses who support environmental crime policies, the proto-fascist business community, and anyone who supports an institutional coup against this rampant tropical Trumpism.

The lessons of Bolsonaroism and its challenges to society in all areas (cultural/ideological, politico-military and economic) prove that fascism only develops because fascists decide to take over the country through elections (ruling class political apparatus) to compete for the community. For this reason. This is evidenced by the beginnings of fascism in Germany and Italy. Their right to vote was a result of the conservative and reactionary political work among the masses that brought the movement to power.

Fascism also arose in a historical context of erosion and crisis of progressive governments. Examples include the rise of Nazism after the crisis of the Weimar Republic and the Bolsonaro Doctrine, coined thirteen years after the PT[8]Government. Popular protests in 2013 (falsified as part of a hybrid war)[9]Alleviate the PT government's unmet social needs (in terms of public transport, health, education, etc.) and bring the PT governance model into crisis. It must be said that this model of government was supported not only by the progressive movement, but also by the neo-Pentecostals, the bankers, the national bourgeoisie and the large landowners associated with agribusiness.

Unable to deepen the reforms demanded by the bourgeoisie, it was decided to abandon the Labor Party's model of class reconciliation in favor of governments opposed to reforms (such as Temer).[10]and the Bolsonaro government) which has put the oppressed classes on the defensive since 2013.

mass line strategy

As anarchists, our strategy is to strengthen the grassroots and reconcile popular struggle in all sectors of society by encouraging the oppressed classes to break free from their current defenses and advance their struggle, even if on a small scale at first , so as not to order a new A wave of class reconciliation and a moderate right wing that wants to strengthen our position in the class struggle.

It's not enough to just hold your nose and side with the liberal right. These alliances have shown the limits of what the next administration will tolerate. The progress of anti-fascism and our rights can only come through the actions of mass movements that confront the main fascist bases (rural and urban) and must not remain trapped in counter-cultural or niche strongholds. To be effective, the political action of anarchist activism must emerge from the social fronts of struggle, organize from the bottom up, engage in distributive conflicts, and not impose the ostensible legitimacy of democratic institutions through electoral rituals.

There is a need to establish, create and strengthen popular movements and trade unions, which should have an increasingly revolutionary perspective. We are certainly not alone in these efforts and of course we know that they are planned for the medium to long term. The old grassroots project is a sea of ​​anarchist struggles. This daily work is not limited to election day. The necessary front of the oppressed classes urgently needs to win in the streets and advance the struggle for rights. We know that fascism can be defeated this way.

However, we also understand that at the same time we need to have a serious discussion about social democracy and the hegemony of the Labor Party in trade unions and organized popular movements. It is this hegemony that paralyzes any further militant action and limits the political horizon to a minimum.

The trap has been set: if we do not build social power on the current horizon, the prospect of "simple" and immediate solutions will grow, ultimately defeating the prospect of revolution. For self-styled revolutionaries, this is dangerous pragmatism: "If we can't do something about it now, we will capitulate to electoral reformism and abandon the competitive society."

It is this reformist view that has prevailed on the left since the 1980s that has contributed to the demobilization, bureaucracy, and domestication of mass movements. An example of this is the extremely low mobilization capacity of the Judicial Assembly coup in 2016 and Bolsonarism in 2018, which is a result of abandoning the priority of grassroots work and collective building with the working class. Barely able to mobilize, sections of the left began to defend the legalism of urban institutions almost as a consolation prize, until conservative institutions such as Rede Globo[11]The Supreme Court was increasingly seen as a "regular ally".

At the same time, Bolsonaroism went on the offensive, engulfing the entire social fabric of Brazil and challenging the system from the perspective of "internal rebellion", while the hegemonic left was reduced to defending the institutions and legitimacy of bourgeois democracy and everyone questioned it. .

The long-term strategy is based on the short-term expansion of the accumulation of social power, a strictly general strategy or a limited time frame. None of this implies persistence in the campaign, criticism or otherwise. But it must be at the heart of the fight against fascism. In this fight against fascism, both debate concepts and fight to get the far right out into the streets. The most important thing, however, is to be present in the most exploited and oppressed sections of society and not allow the working class and sections of the Brazilian people to be at the mercy of corrupt priests, paramilitary militia police forces and other degenerates. civil society. This is what we need to talk about and not insist on a personal and depoliticized vote.

The day after the election will not disband the reactionary political forces in the country. If we do not weaken our program in an alliance with the liberal right and the center right - with Alckmin[12]and companies. Our position requires a program of struggle against mass movements and unions that puts on the agenda the most important issues facing the Brazilian working class.

If we want to build a comprehensive socialist and revolutionary vision, we must inevitably abandon reformist and electoral illusions. Whenever the left embraces parliamentary reformism, it degenerates into harmless politics, making professional MPs and politicians more powerful than the collective base of popular organizations and movements.

There is no point in pressuring or intimidating anarchists to vote. Our discussion must go deeper and analyze the implications of this complex system of governance. That is why it is important that we anarchists maintain our internal coherence so that we do not raffle off our projects. Indeed, if anarchism today had the proper power to decisively influence this election, the ruling class would be less concerned about the "possibility" of our election than the actual threat to this system of government.

We anarchists will continue to vote: in popular movements (to make decisions), in trade union conferences, community/student associations and our anarchist political organizations to build a different kind of power: people power. We will continue to fight fascism without sectarianism, allying with the radicals who disagree with us and choose to vote in this election. As long as they are with us at the base and define the horizon, we will be allies.

[1][Translation] Vargasism is the ideology of supporters of Brazilian President and dictator Getulio Vargas, who played a key role in the development of the modern Brazilian state, whose fascist-populist ideology combines right and left elements. The Vargas dictatorship led to a historic crackdown on anarchists and sections of the left.

[2][Example] This refers to a system in which "sovereigns", usually non-military figures of agricultural land barons, rule corrupt fiefdoms through a network of patronage and dominion, uniting local groups within their fiefdoms. capitalism and political power. It is associated with extreme corruption, violence and abuse of power and remains to this day, still in some parts of Brazil and in altered forms in other parts of society.

[3]【Translator】The coffee-milk republic refers to the distribution of power between the state of São Paulo (mainly a coffee plantation capital) and the state of Minas Gerais (mainly a dairy) before the rise of Vargas in the old republic agreement, with delegation of power in both states rotating the state as president and relying on regional chiefs to maintain their power.

[4][Translator] Insertion is a political term that roughly means being present, organized, and agitated in a social movement, not just being placed in it.

[5][Translator] The Brazilian Revolutionary Trade Union Federation was founded and dominated mainly by anarchist radicals.

[6][Translator's note] Vargas was an anti-fascist and anti-imperialist organization founded and dominated by the Communist Party in response to the rise of fascism in Brazil in its early years.

[7]【Translator】 The colonial feudal lord who ruled the land.

[8][Translation] Partido dos Trabalhadores, Labor Party. Formed towards the end of the dictatorship from a coalition of various left-wing groups focused on trade union struggles, it evolved into the center-left political force that ruled from 2003 to 2016.

[9][Example] A common narrative of the Brazilian left is that the popular uprisings of 2013 were part of a secret war by imperialist powers (mainly the United States) to drive out the left due to transportation costs and general living conditions.

[10][Translation] Temer is a center-right politician who became an unelected president after Dilma Rousseff (PT) was impeached in what many on the left saw as a constitutional coup and austerity measures were introduced.

[11]However, like Trump and other mainstream media, the virtual media monopoly traditionally associated with dictatorships and the right is attacked by Bolsonarians for any criticism or challenge.

[12][Translation] Geraldo Alcmin is Lula's current vice-presidential candidate for the 2022 general election. In the past, he has often been anti-left, known for his attacks on the labor movement, the landless movement, and the plight of the working class in São Paulo. Lula's decision to join Alkmin sparked unrest on the left, but met little opposition during the election cycle.

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