NEFAC interviews the Federação Anarquista Gaúcha (FAG)
The Federação Anarquista Gaúcha has been around since 1995, and is named after the “gaucho” region of southern Brazil, namely in the state of Rio Grande do Sur where this organization is from. The capital city, Porto Alegre, is well-known for its annual hosting of the World Social Forum (WSF). I was in Brazil at last year’s WSF and got to meet a few FAG members, and in that short amount of time was very impressed with the organizational work and dedication of the group, who were simultaneously hosting the ‘Jornadas Anarquistas’ Conference during the WSF, and continuing with their own work. Below is an interview with Luciana, the FAG’s international secretary.
Interview by Red Sonja (NEFAC-Boston)
Translation by Tony.
NEFAC: The FAG, in its formation, was influenced by the Uruguayan FAU, and is currently a part of the SIL (International Libertarian Solidarity). What anarchist groups do you work with closely in South America? Has the SIL been a beneficial international network for groups in the southern hemisphere? What kind of solidarity work is necessary from the anarchist groups in North America and Europe?
FAG: The FAG maintains relations with various Brazilian and Latin American groups thru the internet and regular mail with newsletters and bulletins. In Latin America, we maintain relations more frequently with OSL from Argentina, CUAC from Chile, the Libertarian Youth from Bolivia, Indigenes Community Flores Magon de Oaxaca from Mexico, Quilombo Libertaria from Bolivia, and of course the FAU in Uruguay, with whom we have an organic relation.
In Brazil we have a direct relation with Anarchist Federation Cabocla from Belem do Para (north of Brazil – Amazonia), Libertarian Struggle from São Paulo, Student Movement from Mato Grosso do Sul, Libertarian Construction Goiana from Goiana, Quilombo Cecilia from Bahia and lots more. All the Brazilians here mentioned adhere to “specifismo.”
To the FAG, the ILS was a big landmark to overcome sectarianism and begin building solidarity thru some basic principles shared by both “specifismo” and anarcho-syndicalism, or through other anarchists and revolutionaries that are part of ILS. The class solidarity, direct struggle and intervention in the social movements represents a big gap where the global dominant class tries to fragment the revolutionary will. We have received solidarity from organizations like SAC (Sweden), Apoyo Mutuo (Spain), the French section of ILS (Alternative Libertaire, No Pasaran, OCL), the OSL from Switzerland, and the FAU itself.
We think that the type of support that Latin American organizations need the most is good structure and political support in their campaigns for the liberation of political prisoners and other campaigns where we can count on international solidarity. Structurally, every organization in the peripheral countries has problems: it is a great effort to make a simple newsletter. Here in Brazil our big need is without a doubt a printing press.
NEFAC: Does the FAG adhere to “specifismo” like the FAU in Uruguay? This seems to be a brand of platformism particular to the southern cone of South America. Could you elaborate on the differences and what influence each has in the principles of FAG?
FAG: Today, “specifismo” is more a practice than a theory. FAU and FAG have tried very hard to build the definition of the same theory. Before they got to know platformism, the FAU started to elaborate on “specifismo”. Not too long ago we got access to the text of Delo Truda, and the first translation was done to Brazilian Portuguese texts of Russian anarchists serves as a base, showing the need for anarchists to organize themselves. To act as anarchists inside the social movements, maintaining a distance of discussion and development of politics – this Malatesta also talks about.
This section of the text is the most important to us. Today, the “specifismo” covers the following concepts:
- Structured anarchist organization in a federal manner, such as a delegation system and executive proceeding, functional so that it can be spread in a large geographic area without the need of assemblies and frequent meetings; practice and theory directed to this era and for a place where the organization is implemented; anarchist organization concentrated to the Principles of Declaration, Organic Charts and Strategies directed to the General Strategies. Exact strategies are the short-term objectives of the organization, and the General Strategies are the long term objectives. Our action, in conjunction with the social movements, is balanced to the differences of political-ideological on a social level.
- On the political-ideological level (political groups, including the FAG) should enhance the social and popular movements, but without trying to make it “anarchist”, more militant. The social movement should not have a political ideology, the role should be to unite and not belong to a political party. In social movements it is possible to unite militants and build a unified base, which is not possible in an ideological level.
Because we know that we are not going to make the revolution by ourselves, we need be aware that we need to unite with other political forces without losing our identity. This identity is the anarchist organization, and is the avenue by which we want to build unity with other political forces in the social movement. The FAG has structures in the nucleuses in neighborhoods and cities where it acts, and those nucleuses contain autonomous tactics but not strategies. The strategy and the work plan are frequently reevaluated and readjusted within the analysis of the whole in our Federal Association, bringing together delegates from each nucleus.
NEFAC: The FAG has developed some relationship with “rank and file” of the MST (Movemiento Sem Terra – Brazilian landless movement), a group which is truly a reflection of Brazil’s particular political climate. In what other ways is FAG trying to put forward an anarchist agenda and alternative given the particular situation of Brazil?
FAG: We have contacts with MST but we are not members of MST. MST is without a doubt the biggest and the most combative popular movement from Brazil, although, it is a tool of organization for the farmers. FAG concentrates its activities in the urban zones of south Brazil. In the urban zones, the struggle to bring the workers together has not been accomplished, like the MST has done in the rural areas. The MST has tried to create alternatives for the struggles in the city but has not been able to accomplish this. We believe that with the big unemployment rate in Brazil, the oppressed urban class in large part is not concentrated in factories but rather in small towns, villages and slums. 70% of our people live with miserable jobs, what we call “bicos”. They are construction workers, “camels” (street vendors), trash collectors, maids, security guards, repair workers, etc. Therefore leaving the majority of the population away from factories; they work nearby where they live and start families.
Therefore the FAG acts in their peripheral communities through what we call “espaos solidairios” (solidarity territories), the Popular Resistance Committees. These territories have the mission to bring the people together to fight for their rights, work for the community, little by little, discussion and action will build an understanding of popular power and self esteem. We live in villages, slums and projects, and as residents we get other residents for the struggle, local gatherings, to educate mutually and go for a drink together.
From the simplest activities to the complicated ones, we build what we call “tecido social” that today it is worn out by the fragmentation of the oppressed class. The committees have the role of speaking and building relationships not only between the residents but also between the popular organizations in the region: Mothers? Clubs, Community Radios, Soccer Clubs, Cultural Groups, Neighborhood Associations, Unions, etc. This way we try to form a solidarity group between all the organizations in the community, increasing strength mutually in direction of the struggle.
We also act in Student Associations in Universities, with a group of students that work in social movements, and we also intervene in the Independent Media Center (IMC). We do this in order to give them more popular character and to make them a truly popular movement. Also we support local radio stations, and we avoid just putting bunch of information over the internet because only 3% of the population has access. Beyond the work at the social level, there is also the work on the ideological level. The FAG holds frequent debates in our headquarters, and does graffiti, murals, and other public activities that express our anarchist ideology and our position against the government.
NEFAC: How does a revolutionary anarchist organization relate to the social democratic power of the Workers Party (PT)? This will always be a contradiction anarchists face: we hope for a growing left movement, and a general shift left, yet we will simultaneously be in opposition to these forces which maintain liberal and/or authoritarian tenets. Does the FAG hope to be the “thorn in the side” of the PT which provokes them to move farther Left? Or does the FAG hope to siphon off the more radical support of the PT into anarchist ranks?
FAG: The PT is a very fragmented party. In the social movements like the MST and MTD (The Unemployment Movement) there are valuable militants that belong to PT who are completely disappointed with the course that the party has taken. However, because they do not see an alternative yet, they still believe that the PT can change to the real left. There are also others who are disappointed and are gathering strength to build a new workers party with a more revolutionary character based on Marxist-Leninist and Trotskyism.
In our opinion, the PT is today the official left party of the country that needs to exist to legitimize a false and corrupt democracy, was helped by the Brazilian bourgeois to win the presidential elections. They are the only political party able to create a social pact that calms down the social conflicts, calming down the MST, shutting up the hungry and miserable without force (at least for the moment). We can observe this with our long experience of the PT in the capital of Rio Grande do Sul.
What the PT is able to do is to calm down the social conflicts with the phrase of “estamos todos governando” (“We are all governing”) and planning social projects that will quiet down those movements that are most combative. Misery and unemployment are still the same, with the disguise that we are all participating, everything will get better. One way the PT does this is to participate in bureaucratic channels of popular participation where the “hungry” population sits down to dispute a miserable 10% of the government budget. If the demand is approved by popular vote, it still has to be approved by the executive. In turn the executive alleges lack of funds and rejects the project, postponing the promise project for three years.
The popular movement from Porto Alegre and the State as a whole, today is the most lawful and controlled institution in the country. This is the meaning of the “conscious citizen” of the PT.
NEFAC: Does the FAG maintain an open forum with other anarchists in Brazil, especially those who are detractors of platformist and “especifista” ideas? How can organized anarchists offer dialogue with those other anarchist tendencies, hopefully persuading them to our position, yet maintain an even course in our organizing work?
FAG: We maintain a relationship with groups and organizations of “specifismo” which we call FAO (Forum of Organized Anarchism) that started in Belam do ParaÂ¡ in 2002. Before that, we had what we called National Coordination of the Organized Anarchists but due to the difficulty of travel and the number of meetings, was not able to sustain itself.
In fact, we have tried various ways of national organizing and have not found the best way. Our country is very big and the price to travel is not accessible. It is easier for us to go by regions, like us from Cone Sul, the people from Center West, East and North, but because there are not many of us “especifistas” that were able to maintain the work thru the years, we feel the need to get together.
We also feel the need to have space to meet and educate people and let groups know our experiences in case they would like to form anarchist organizations. For this, the FAO formed which is a once a year event. We are going to do an FAO Assembly now during the WSF because it is easier for our “companheiros” from other states to come to Porto Alegre for free.
Another open space for educating which is open to the anarchist of all tendencies and also militants with other ideologies are the ‘Jornadas Anarquistas’, where we can expose our work. The opportunity to gather a large number of people from our country to talk about FAG , “specifismo” and to create new organizations is rare. The Internet has its limitations, therefore making it hard for our “companheiros” to take advantage of our accomplishments and learn from our mistakes in the same manner that it is hard for us to take advantage of the experiences of other groups and organizations.
NEFAC: What kind of contradictions has FAG faced in dealing with such issues as sexism and racism? Do we need to have a united class based revolutionary movement, or is there room for others to organize separately in class-based anarchism?
FAG: Theoretically, we are building a new concept of social class. We believe that the struggle for social class still exists, but the concept that class is based only on economical level is not a true reality today, both in Latin America and the rest of the world.
We have been discussing and seen in practice that the oppressed class is composed of different factors, not only economic; social factors, ideologies, geographical, political, gender, ethnicity, these factors, or some of these factors combined, define who is the oppressed and who is the oppressor. In the social and political level, we believe that a discussion about gender and ethnicity is absolutely necessary but we must have a discussion and practice that does not isolate us within. This way, the different oppressions are identified, but they should communicate between themselves and not create more separation of the people that are already very much separated by capitalism. This destroys solidarity and cooperation. Men should discuss and act regarding the oppression of women. Whites, Indigenous peoples, Blacks and Asians should coordinate actions about ethnic discrimination.
NEFAC: Is there any parallel to the Argentine model of assemblies that could take hold in Brazil in the event of an economic downturn? And what is FAG’s opinion of anarchist involvement in the Argentine situation?
FAG: It is very possible to have a crisis in Brazil like in Argentina; it is in our assessment for the new year. One of our comrades went to Argentina for a meeting of popular movements and was very impressed with what is being developed by the people.
The “solidarity spaces” that we try to do here, is being done there with intent of class independency (independency from political parties, governments and business people). At this point they hate the politicians, including the ones from the left, that are always expelled from the assemblies, except the ones that work together with the people. Those who are not side-by-side or working daily at the picket lines and in the solidarity spaces are immediately expelled and ridiculed.
What the people are building in Argentina is an example for the other Latin American countries that are still sleeping like Brazil. We believe that this situation is an example for any anarchist organization to use to create a strategy for building a parallel power. In our opinion, what is missing in Argentina is a project of popular power, a strategy, so that a social transformation takes place. There is spontaneity by the people, but there is not (one or more) political groups that are able to fight or build a project to manage the country in every level, building dual power.
We do not have information of the actions of our Argentine companheiros in the popular movements from there, what we have is reports from the social movements only, but not from the anarchists in these movements. We would like to know more about the actions taken, like how the anarchist organization survives all the social demands, where they are integrated, if they are building ‘popular power’, how they work with the other leftist movements. We would like to have all this information because it would be educational for us as we most likely will go through similar situations in the near future and we are very much interested in work at the social level with the movements where our Argentine companheiros are integrated.
NEFAC: It has been noted that the World Social Forum has become increasingly watered down with liberal politics. The WSF seems both a boon and a hindrance to FAG as an organization in your home state of Rio Grande do Sul. How has the group continued to maintain a level of participation in the Forum? Will there be another ‘Jornadas Anarquistas’ in 2003?
FAG: Our criticism towards the WSF is still the same: it is a propaganda forum for the leftist governments, where they try to obtain political and structural support at the international level for their humanitarian projects of capitalism (national-development), by using the social movements as a front for the supposed “democracy and popular participation”. FAG will not participate in any shape or form in the WSF this year.
We are organizing from the popular organizations where we are integrated, the Latin American Gathering of Autonomous Popular Organizations. That will take place during the WSF, but it is not part of the program or the structure of the WSF. It is a gathering of combative organizations that are positioned against the dependency of the political parties, governments, and corporations and will discuss the different actions that we can build from our active locations. FAG will be present through committees of popular resistance, student groups, IMC and the Trash Collectors Movement, these are the social organizations where we are integrated and are organizing the Gathering. We have organized interventions in the World Social Forum Rally with are own forces that will act in a distinguished manner, trying to express our criticism to WSF.
We will also have the second edition of the ‘Jornadas Anarquistas’ as propaganda of our ideas of organized anarchism and social integration. In this year’s ‘Jornadas’ we will have the opening of workshops, and if groups are willing to offer workshops and talk about their experiences, they will have the opportunity for this.
This interview is from the “The Global Influence of Platformism Today” series in The Northeastern Anarchist #6 (Winter/Spring 2003). Further interviews include platformist-influenced anarchist groups from Ireland, United Kingdom, Italy, France, Czech Republic, South Africa, and Chile. The NEA is the English-language magazine of the Northeastern Federation of Anarchist-Communists (NEFAC), covering class struggle anarchist theory, history, strategy, debate and analysis in an effort to further develop anarchist-communist ideas and practice.