Social Anarchism and Organization


Translator’s introduction

This document, first published in Portuguese under the title Anarquismo Social e Organização and adopted at the first Congress of the Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro in August 2008, seeks to map out the FARJ’s theoretical conception of an organised, class struggle anarchism and, “More than a purely theoretical document, ... reflects the conclusions realised after five years of practical application of anarchism in the social struggles of our people”.

In it the FARJ traces its historical and organisational roots through the militant histories of Carioca 1 anarchists such as Ideal Peres, who struggled to keep the flame of anarchism alight during the dark days of dictatorship, to militants such as his father, Juan Perez Bouzas, Galician immigrant anarchist who participated decisively in the Battle of Sé in 1934, “when the anarchists rejected the Integralistas 2 under bursts of machine gun fire”.

In what is perhaps one of the most comprehensive elaborations on the Latin American concept of especifista anarchism now available in English, Social Anarchism and Organisation traces and outlines the theoretical and practical influences on the FARJ’s conception of anarchist organisation and its strategy for social transformation. It advocates a conception of anarchism that divides anarchist activity into two levels of activity – the social (social or ‘mass’ movement) and political (specific anarchist organisation) – arguing that this dual-organisationalist approach to anarchist organisation is consistent with, and can by traced back to the ideas and practices of Bakunin himself in the Alliance of Socialist Democracy. The FARJ traces this common political lineage back to Bakunin through the experiences of the Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU) and those of the 1918 Aliança Anarquista and 1919 Partido Comunista (libertarian in content); through the experience of the Magonistas during the Mexican Revolution and the radical phases of the Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM); through the experiences of the Federación Anarquista Iberica (FAI) and Friends of Durruti group during the Spanish Revolution, and those of the authors of the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists (Platform); to those of Errico Malatesta in his conception of the anarchist party.

Drawing from the experience of the loss of what it terms the “social vector of anarchism” (anarchism’s social influence) at the end of the glorious period of anarchism, the FARJ advocates the need for a specific anarchist organisation – tightly organised, comprising highly committed militants sharing high levels of theoretical and strategic unity – that, through participating in and supporting popular movements and struggles against exploitation and domination, seeks to influence these movements with anarchist principles and in a revolutionary and libertarian direction. The final objective thereof being the recapturing of the social vector of anarchism as a necessary step towards the introduction of libertarian socialism by means of social revolution.

In seeking to increase the social influence of anarchism the FARJ re-asserts the need for anarchism to come increasingly into contact with the exploited classes, thus identifying the class struggle as the most important and fertile terrain in which to attempt to spread anarchist principles and practices. For these to take root, however, it is essential for organised anarchists to carry out permanent and consistent propaganda, organisational and educational work within the movements and organisations of the exploited class and – critically for the FARJ – to always act in a manner consistent with what it terms a “militant ethic”. Social Anarchism and Organisation outlines the FARJ’s conception of the various tasks of the specific anarchist organisation, as well as its structure, processes for attracting new members and its orientation towards social movements – all according to the logic of concentric circles.

In formulating strategic answers to the questions, “where are we?”, “where do we want to go?” and “how do we think we can leave where we are and arrive at where we want to be?”, Social Anarchism and Organisation articulates the FARJ’s understanding of social classes under “the society of exploitation and domination” – capitalism and state – as well as its final objectives – social revolution and libertarian socialism – and how these may look. In so doing it explains the FARJ’s conception of “the popular organisation” which – uniting social movements struggling for freedom and accumulating the experiences and gains made in the daily class struggle – would, rather than representing the simple sum of the forces of isolated social movements, constitute a far greater social force that, at the moment in which it becomes greater than that of the state and capital, should make a decisive break with the current system and, using violence as a necessary response to the violence of the state and capital, initiate the transition to libertarian socialism by means of social revolution. Since initial publication of this document, however, the FARJ has taken to using the term “popular power” as a substitute for “the popular organisation”, and has further developed its understanding of this concept so central to especifismo.

In the more than three years since adoption of this document the FARJ has undergone a number of theoretical developments, such as: deepening its conception of class based on the category of “domination”, while considering economic class as one kind of domination; new research and understanding of the history of Brazilian anarchism in the decades of the 1940s and 1950s; theory and method of analysis and the deepening of some topics on anarchist organisation. There have also been some practical developments, including the development of “social work” with the following movements: Grassroots Unemployed Workers Movement (MTD-Pela Base), Landless Movement (MST), Popular Councils Movement (Movimento Conselhos Populares) and participation in the creation of a “Popular Organisation” tendency.

Although this document, located within a particular Latin American context, was first published and adopted over three years before this translation it remains an insightful and instructive contribution to global contemporary anarchist theory and practice; relevant to anyone committed to finding in anarchist praxis the most suitable response to the question, “how do we think we can leave where we are and arrive at where we want to be?” I hope this translation does it justice.

Jonathan Payn

Johannesburg, March 2012


The first Congress of the FARJ was held with the principal objective of deepening our reflections on the question of organisation and formalising them into a programme.

To theorise effectively it is essential to act.
Uruguayan Anarchist Federation (FAU)

The first Congress of the FARJ was held with the principal objective of deepening our reflections on the question of organisation and formalising them into a programme.

Since 2003 the debate around organisation has been taking place within our organisation. We had produced theoretical materials, developed our thinking, learned from the successes and mistakes of our political practice and it was becoming increasingly necessary to further the debate and to formalise it, spreading this knowledge both internally and externally.

The practical work of our two fronts – occupations and community – was absolutely central to the theoretical reflections that we made in this period. It even contributed to the creation of our third front in early 2008 – the agro-ecological front, called Anarchism and Nature.

One year ago we decided to have a debate around organisation, in necessary depth, with the aim of formalising the conclusions into a document that would be validated at the 2008 Congress. For this reason, still in 2007, we took some actions to contribute to the necessary theoretical maturity that would be essential to this path we wanted to take:

• Activation of the Political Education Secretary
• Carrying-out of Internal Education Seminars
• Development of Education Handbooks for Militants

These actions sought to give to each militant of our organisation the structure, space and necessary support so that this debate would be able to take place in the most desirable way possible. We made a great effort to read, write, debate, revisit materials already written, deepen discussions, make clarifications; in sum, to plan in the fullest we thought necessary for this debate.

However, we did not only want to provide a forum for debate. We wanted to reach more conclusive positions, or deepen the political line of the organisation. As one of the features of our organisational model is theoretical and ideological unity, we wanted to use this time for the deepening of certain theoretical and ideological questions, and ultimately arrive at concrete positions, to be defined and disseminated by the whole organisation.

In these five years we had always thought that in order to develop a political line we necessarily need to think of the mutual influence that exists between theory and practice, since we consider them inseparable. When both interact reciprocally, and in a positive way, they enhance the results of all the work of the organisation. With good theory you improve practice, with good practice you improve theory. There is no way to conceive the anarchist organisation as with only theory and no practice, or even developing a theory and trying to completely adapt the practice to it.

From the beginning we thought it would be fundamental not to construct an organisation that, distant from struggles, writes documents and then goes into practice with the objective of adapting it to the theory. Likewise, it never appeared possible to us to conceive anarchist organisation with only practice but no theory, or even assuming as theory everything that happens in practice. We always sought a balance that, on the one hand, did not have as an objective to theorise deeply in order to begin acting and, on the other, sought to ensure that the action was in line with the theory which, in our understanding, strengthens the result of militants’ efforts without unnecessary loss of energy.

In this debate, which took place in the last two years and which is formalised in this document, we desired to develop a proper theory that was not simply a repetition of other theories developed in other places and at other times. Obviously, our whole theory is imbued, from beginning to end, with other theories and of other authors that lived and acted in other contexts. It would be impossible to conceive of a consistent anarchist theory without the contribution of the classical anarchists, for example. However, we made a point of having a long reflection on these – the theories and thoughts of these authors – and whether they make sense in our context today. We seek to create proper concepts, aiming to give original character to the theory that we wanted to create, and in this endeavour we think we have been very successful as we, in our view, construct and formalise a coherent theory, articulating classical and contemporary theories, as well as our own conceptions. Nevertheless, we do not believe that this is a definitive theory. Many aspects could be improved. Lastly… the most important thing is to make it clear that we think we are taking the first steps along this path we wish to follow.

Finally, we desired to build this discussion and its formalisation in a collective manner. It is not enough for us that one or another comrade writes all the theory of the organisation and that others simply observe and follow their positions. It was because of this that we sought, throughout this period, to consider all the positions of the organisation and not just of one militant or another. This too, in our view, adds value to the text. It does not come from the head of one or other intellectual that thinks of politics detached from reality, but on the contrary is the result of five years of struggle and organisation of anarchism in permanent contact with the struggles of our time, seeking a revolutionary social transformation towards libertarian socialism. In sum, it is the result of five years of practical activity.

With the purpose of contributing one more step, of formalising theoretically that which has accumulated in our short history, we held the first Congress – which occurred in conjunction with the commemoration of five years of the FARJ – on 30 and 31 August 2008. The main reflections of which are recorded below.

Ethics, commitment, freedom!


Anarchism is, for us, an ideology; this being a set of ideas, motivations, aspirations, values, a structure or system of concepts that has a direct connection with action – that which we call political practice.

... because anarchism is an ideology
which refuses to create new central systems
with new peripheral areas.
Rudolf de Jong

Anarchism is, for us, an ideology; this being a set of ideas, motivations, aspirations, values, a structure or system of concepts that has a direct connection with action – that which we call political practice. Ideology requires the formulation of final objectives (long term, future perspectives), the interpretation of the reality in which we live and a more or less approximate prognosis about the transformation of this reality. From this analysis ideology is not a set of abstract values and ideas, dissociated from practice with a purely reflective character, but rather a system of concepts that exist in the way in which it is conceived together with practice and returns to it. Thus, ideology requires voluntary and conscious action with the objective of imprinting the desire for social transformation on society.

We understand anarchism as an ideology that provides orientation for action to replace capitalism, the state and its institutions with libertarian socialism – a system based on self-management and federalism – without any scientific or prophetic pretensions.

Like other ideologies, anarchism has a history and specific context. It does not arise from intellectuals or thinkers detached from practice, who pursued only abstract reflection. Anarchism has a history which developed within the great class struggles of the nineteenth century, when it was theorised by Proudhon and took shape in the midst of the International Workers Association (IWA), with the work of Bakunin, Guillaume, Reclus and others who advocated revolutionary socialism in opposition to reformist, legalist or statist socialism. This tendency of the IWA was later known as “federalist” or “anti-authoritarian” and found its continuity in the militancy of Kropotkin, Malatesta and others.

Thus it was within the IWA that anarchism took shape, “in the direct struggle of the workers against capitalism, from the needs of the workers, from their aspirations to freedom and equality that lived, particularly, in the masses of workers in the most heroic times” 1. The work of theorising anarchism was done by thinkers and workers who were directly involved in social struggles and who helped to formalise and disseminate the sentiment that was latent in what they called the “mass movement”. Thus Over the years anarchism developed theoretically and practically. One the one hand it contributed in a unique way to episodes of social transformation, maintaining its ideological character such as, for example, in the Mexican Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Spanish Revolution or even in Brazilian episodes, like the General Strike of 1917 and the Insurrection of 1918. On the other hand in certain contexts anarchism assumed certain characteristics that retreated from the ideological character, transforming it into an abstract concept which became merely a form of critical observation of society. Over the years this model of anarchism assumed its own identity, finding references in history and at the same time losing its character of the struggle for social transformation. This was more strikingly evident in the second half of the twentieth century. Thought of from this perspective anarchism ceases to be a tool of the exploited in their struggle for emancipation and functions as a hobby, a curiosity, a theme for intellectual debate, an academic niche, an identity, a group of friends, etc. For us, this view seriously threatens the very meaning of anarchism.

This disastrous influence on anarchism was noted and criticised by various anarchists from Malatesta, when he polemicised with the individualists that were against organisation, to Luigi Fabbri, who made his critique of the bourgeois influences on anarchism already in the early twentieth century 3, up to Murray Bookchin who, in the mid-1990s, noted this phenomenon and tried to warn:

Unless I am very wrong – and I hope to be – the social and revolutionary objectives of anarchism are suffering the attrition of reaching a point where the word anarchy becomes part of the elegant bourgeois vocabulary of the next century – disobedient, rebellious, carefree, but delightfully harmless 4.

We advocate that anarchism recaptures its original ideological character, or as we previously defined it, a “system of concepts that has a direct connection with action, ... of political practice”. Seeking to recapture this ideological character and to differentiate ourselves from other currents in the broad camp of contemporary anarchism, we advocate social anarchism and therefore corroborate the criticisms of Malatesta and Fabbri and affirm the dichotomy identified by Bookchin; that there is today a social anarchism returning to struggles with the objective of social transformation, and a lifestyle anarchism that renounces the proposal for social transformation and involvement in the social struggles of our time.

For us social anarchism is a type of anarchism that, as an ideology, seeks to be a tool of social movements and the popular organisation with the objective of overthrowing capitalism and the state and of building libertarian socialism – self-managed and federalist. To this end it promotes the organised return of anarchists to the class struggle, with the goal of recapturing what we call the social vector of anarchism. We believe that it is among the exploited classes – the main victims of capitalism – that anarchism is able to flourish. If, as Neno Vasco put it, we have to throw the seeds of anarchism on the most fertile terrain, this terrain is for us the class struggle that takes place in popular mobilisations and in social struggles. Seeking to oppose social anarchism with lifestyle anarchism, Bookchin asserted that

social anarchism is radically at odds with an anarchism which focuses on lifestyle, the neo-situationist invocation of ecstasy and the increasingly contradictory sovereignty of the petty bourgeois ego. The two diverge completely in their defining principles – socialism or individualism. 5

Commenting on the title of his book Anarquismo Social (Social Anarchism) Frank Mintz, another contemporary militant and thinker emphasised: “this title should be useless, because the two terms are implicitly linked. It is likewise misleading because it suggests that there may be a non-social anarchism, outside of struggles” 6. In this way we understand that social anarchism is necessarily implicated in the class struggle.

Within our vision of social anarchism, as “a fundamental tool for the support of daily struggles” 7, we also need to clarify our definition of class. While considering the class struggle as central and absolutely relevant in society today we understand that the Marxists, by choosing the factory worker as the unique and historic subject of the revolution, despise all other categories of the exploited classes, while also potentially revolutionary subjects. The authoritarians’ conception of the working class, which is restricted only to the category of industrial workers, does not cover the reality of the relations of domination and exploitation that have occurred throughout history and even the relationships that occur in this society. Just as it does not cover the identification of revolutionary subjects of the past and present.

Starting from the need to clarify this conception of class, we include in the camp of the exploited classes – which can and should contribute to the process of social transformation by means of class struggle – other categories that have in large part received the attention of anarchists throughout history. This definition of the conception of class does not change the class struggle as the main terrain for the action of social anarchism, but offers a different way of seeing our goal: the transformation of centre-periphery relations, or more specifically, the transformation of the relations of domination of the peripheries by the centres. Based on the classification of Rudolf de Jong 8 and on our own recent history of struggle, we conceptualise all the exploited classes starting from the centre-periphery relations. Thus, taking part in this group are:

a. Cultures and societies completely estranged and distanced from the centre; not at all “integrated”, and “savage” in the eyes of the centre. For example, the Indians of the Amazon. b. Peripheral areas related to the centre and belonging to its socio-economic and political structures that attempt, at the same time, to maintain their identities. They are dominated by the centre, threatened in their existence by the economic expansion thereof. By the standards of the centre they are “backwards” and underdeveloped. For example, the indigenous communities of Mexico and the Andean countries. Other examples in this category – perhaps we should talk of a subgroup b.1 – are small farmers, skilled workers and peasants threatened in their social and economic existence by the progress of the centre and who still struggle for their independence. c. Economic classes or socio-economic systems that used to belong to the centre, but returned to a peripheral position after technological innovations and socio-economic developments in the centre. For example, the lumpen proletariat, precarious informal workers and the permanent army of the unemployed. d. Social classes and groups that take part in the centre in an economic sense, but that are peripheral in a social, cultural and/ or political sense: the working classes, the proletariat in emerging industrial societies, women, blacks, homosexuals. e. Centre-periphery relations of a political nature, whether between states or within them: colonial or imperialist relations, capital* versus provincial relations etc. Such relations in the capitalist system are developed in parallel with the economic relations mentioned above – or, group e.1: neo-capitalist domination, internal colonisation and exploitation.

Accepting this classification, and being conscious of its limitations, we define the category of exploited classes as the peripheral areas that are dominated by the centre. It is important to stress that we do not consider as part of this set of exploited classes individuals who are in theory in peripheral areas, but that in practice establish relations of domination over others, thus becoming new centres. Hence the need for all the struggles of the exploited classes to have a revolutionary perspective, in order that they do not seek simply to make parts of the peripheral areas constituted into new centres.

Proceeding from this definition, there are two ways of thinking about social transformation: one, authoritarian, historically used by the heirs of Marxism (revolutionary or reformist) and another, libertarian, used by the anarchists.

Authoritarians, including some who call themselves anarchists, think of the centre as a means, and orientate their politics towards it. For them, the centre – considering this to be the state, the party, the army, the position of control – is an instrument for the emancipation of society, and “the revolution means in first place the capturing of the centre and its power structure, or the creation of a new centre” 9. The authoritarians’ very conception of class is based on the centre, when defining the industrial proletariat as a historical subject – which is described in the letter “d” in the definition cited above – and excludes and marginalises other categories of the exploited classes that are in the periphery like, for example, the peasantry.

Libertarians do not think of the centre as a means, and struggle permanently against it, building their revolutionary model and their strategy of struggle in the direction of all the peripheries – explained by the letters that go from “a” to “e” in the definition above. That is, in its activity in the class struggle anarchism considers as elements of the exploited classes traditional communities, peasants, unemployed, underemployed, homeless and other categories frequently overlooked by the authoritarians. “Thus the struggle would be taken up by someone who really feels the effects of the system, and therefore needs urgently to abolish it” 10. Anarchists stimulate social movements in the periphery from the grassroots and seek to build a popular organisation in order to combat – in solidarity – the existing order and create a new society that would be based on equality and freedom, and in which classes would no longer make sense. In this struggle anarchists utilise the means that contain, within themselves, the germs of the future society.

The anarchist conception of the social forces behind social change is much more general ... than the Marxist formula. Unlike Marxism, it does not afford a specific role to the industrialised proletariat. In anarchist writings we find all kinds of workers and poor, all the oppressed, all those that somehow belong to peripheral groups or areas and are therefore potential factors in the revolutionary struggle for social change 11.

With this conception of revolutionary forces, we affirm that “everything indicates that it is in the periphery, in the ‘margins’, that the revolution keeps its flame alight” 12. Therefore, our conclusion is that anarchism has to be in permanent contact with the peripheries in order to seek out its project of social transformation.


1. Dielo Trouda “Plataforma organizativa por una Unión General de Anarquistas”. Translation to Spanish, revised and corrected by Frank Mintz. We use quotes from this translation made directly from the Russian, as the versions available to us in Portuguese and Spanish, both translated from the French, have several differences from the Russian original. Although the title of the document here is Spanish, we are referring to the same document translated into English as “The Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists”.

2. Errico Malatesta, “Anarquismo y Anarquia”. Excerpt from Pensiero and Volontà, May 16, 1925. In: Vernon Richar

3. Luigi Fabbri, “Bourgeois Influences on Anarchism”

4. Murray Bookchin, “Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: an unbridgeable chasm”.

5. Ibid.

6. Frank Mintz, Anarquismo Social. São Paulo: Imaginário/Faísca/FARJ/CATL, 2006, p. 7.

7. FARJ. “A Propriedade é um Roubo”. In: Protesta! 4. Rio de Janeiro/São Paulo: FARJ/CATL, 2007, p. 11.

8. As the author states, this classification is not intended to exhaust the relations and there are categories that overlap. The term “area”, also according to the author, refers more to a social than a geographical concept. Rudolf de Jong. “Algumas Observações sobre a Concepção Libertária de Mudança Social”. In: Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro. “O Estado Autoritário e Movimentos Populares”. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1980, pp. 305-353. The original classification is on pages 309 and 310 of the book. This text was reissued in 2008 by Faísca Publications, in co-edition with the FARJ, with the title “A Concepção Libertária da Transformação Social Revolucionária”.

9. Ibid. p. 312

10. FARJ. “Por um Novo Paradigma de Análise do Panorama Internacional”. In: Protesta! 4!, p. 31.

11. Rudolf de Jong. Op. Cit. p. 324.

12. FARJ. “Por um Novo Paradigma…”. In: Protesta! 4!, p. 31.

Anarchism in Brazil: Loss and Attempted Recovery of the Social Vector

category brazil/guyana/suriname/fguiana | anarchist movement | policy statement author Friday February 10, 2012 20:08author by Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro – FARJ Report this post to the editors

Part 3/16 of “Social Anarchism and Organisation”

The emergence of what we call the “social vector of anarchism” began at the beginning of the 1890s, driven by a growth in the social insertion of anarchism in the unions, which culminated in the second decade of the twentieth century.


Social Anarchism and Organisation
Anarchism in Brazil: Loss and Attempted Recovery of the Social Vector

We are combatants of a great war.
All combatants mutually “understand” how to fight,
assuming “commitments”, without which there cannot be
unity of action. Those who “understand” this with others are
no longer masters of their will entirely, held
by a few threads to a signed agreement.
If the threads break, the agreement is broken,
if “you misunderstand, desist from the common fight”,
you flee the struggle, you evade your comrades.
José Oiticica

Anarchism arose in Brazil in the nineteenth century as an order-destabilising element, with some influence over the revolts of the time – as was the case with the Praieira Insurrection of 1848 – over the artistic and cultural environment as well as with the experiences of the experimental agricultural colonies at the end of the century. The Cecilia Colony (1890-1894) being the most well-known of these experiences. There are reports of strikes, workers’ newspapers and the first attempts at organising centres of workers’ resistance in the same century.

The emergence of what we call the “social vector of anarchism” began at the beginning of the 1890s, driven by a growth in the social insertion of anarchism in the unions, which culminated in the second decade of the twentieth century.

We call the social vector of anarchism those popular movements that have a significant anarchist influence – primarily with regard to their practical aspects – irrespective of the sectors in which they occur. These mobilisations, fruits of the class struggle, are not anarchist as they are organised around questions of specific demands. For example, in a union, the workers struggle for better salaries; in a homeless movement, they struggle for housing; in an unemployed movement, they struggle for work etc. However, they are spaces for the social insertion of anarchism that, by means of its influence, confers on the most combative and autonomous practical movements with the use of direct action and direct democracy, aiming at social transformation. The mobilisations constituted in the social vector of anarchism are made within the social movements, considered by us as preferred spaces for social work and accumulation, and not as a mass to be directed.

In Brazil, the social vector of anarchism began to develop in the late nineteenth century with the growth of the urban network and the population in the cities, and then with industrial growth which, of course, also saw the growing exploitation of workers; victims of exhausting days, unhealthy working conditions and low wages in factories that also employed child labour. With the objective of defending the working class from these conditions of practically unbearable exploitation arose several labour organisations, riots, strikes and uprisings – all of which were becoming increasingly common.

The intensification of class struggle in Brazil was occasioned by the coachmen’s strike of 1900, a number of strikes in 1903 that peaked in the general strike initiated by the weavers and the uprisings that culminated in the 1904 Vacina Revolt. In 1903 the Federation of Class Associations (Federação das Associações de Classe) was founded in the state of Rio de Janeiro. It followed the revolutionary syndicalist model of the French CGT and was later transferred to the capital and named the Brazilian Regional Workers’ Federation (Federação Operária Regional Brasileira – FORB) in 1906, some time after a visit by members of the Argentine Regional Workers’ Federation (Federación Obrera Regional Argentina – FORA) and a solidarity campaign with Russian workers.

By 1904 we can say that anarchism was able to present itself as an ideological tool of struggle and it “was, without a doubt, revolutionary syndicalism that was responsible for the first social vector achieved by the anarchists in the large Brazilian centres” 13. In 1905, in Sao Paulo, shoemakers, bakers, carpenters and hatters founded the Labour Federation of Sao Paulo (Federação Operária de São Paulo- FOSP) and, in 1906, came the Labour Federation of Rio de Janeiro (Federação Operária do Rio de Janeiro – FORJ), which led in 1917 to the General Union of Workers (União Geral dos Trabalhadores – UGT) and brought together the “resistance unions i.e. militant, combative” . In 1919 the UGT became the Federation of Workers of Rio de Janeiro (Federação dos Trabalhadores do Rio de Janeiro – FTRJ) and, in 1923, the FORJ was re-founded.

In April 1906 the Brazilian Regional Labour Congress (Congresso Operário Regional Brasileiro), later known as the First Brazilian Labour Congress (Primeiro Congresso Operário Brasileiro), took place in Rio de Janeiro receiving delegates from several Brazilian states, representing diverse categories. The Congress approved its adhesion to French revolutionary syndicalism, adopting labour neutrality, federalism, decentralisation, anti-militarism, anti-nationalism, direct action and the general strike. The Second and Third Congresses took place, respectively, in 1913 and in 1920. In 1908 the Brazilian Labour Confederation (Confederação Operária Brasileira – COB) was founded.

The choice of revolutionary syndicalism occurred through the adoption of the economic camp of mobilisation and by the interesting proposal of federalism, which permitted the autonomy of the union in the federation and of this (the federation) in the confederation. Besides this, there was an international influence from the adoption of this model in other parts of the world. The means of struggle made by the mobilisation around short-term issues serves as a “revolutionary gymnastics”, which prepares the proletariat for the social revolution.

The anarchists hoped that in concrete action, in solidarity, and in the empirical observation of the contradictions between capital and labour, evidenced in conflicts, was the great lesson to be learned by the workers. That was the guarantee, they said, of the acquisition of ideological principles, not by rhetorical preaching or manuals, deprived of sensible experience, but by the practice of revolutionary and daily action by the masses. 14

The first decade of the twentieth century counted more than one hundred strike movements, which acted, principally, in relation to the salary question. During the years of 1917 to 1920 more than two hundred demonstrations and strikes took place between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo alone. This whole conjuncture of mobilisation occurred with ample influence of the anarchists, who tried to carry out their propaganda in the unions; not circumscribing these within the anarchist ideology – the unions were for the workers and not for anarchist workers – but utilising them for the propagation of their ideas.

All this expectation placed on the social revolution, which was becoming more and more real since the mid-1910s, culminated in three relevant mobilisations. Firstly, in 1917 in that which became known as the 1917 General Strike, when workers of Sao Paulo, in a large way organised around the Proletarian Defence Committee, struggled against famine, carrying out sabotage and boycotting products from the Crespi, Matarazzo and Gamba industries. Among the victories of the strike movement are the eight hour work day and wage increases won by sectors of the movement. In 1918 the mobilisations continued and, in Rio de Janeiro, the Anarchist Insurrection took place. With strikes taking place in the carioca (Rio de Janeiro) factories and Campo de São Cristóvão occupied by the workers, the insurgents wanted the seizure of government buildings and the establishment in the city of the first soviet of Rio de Janeiro. Finally, in 1919, the Civil Construction Workers Union (União dos Operários em Construção Civil – UOCC) had the greatest gain of all, winning the eight hour work day for the whole sector. Besides this, outside of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, significant mobilisations took place in other states of Brazil: Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná, Santa Catarina, Minas Gerais, Pernambuco, Alagoas, Paraíba, Bahia, Ceará, Pará and Amazonas.

There was even a large cultural movement that worked together with the union mobilisations and was very important: rationalist schools inspired by the principles of (Francisco) Ferrer y Guardia, social centres, workers theatre and other initiatives that were fundamental in forging a class culture, an object of union in times of struggle.

There was also, at this ascendent juncture of struggle, the formation of two political and ideologically anarchist organisations which sought to work with the union movement. The first of these was the Anarchist Alliance of Rio de Janeiro (Aliança Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro), founded in 1918 by the need for an anarchist organisation for working within the unions, and which was important for the 1918 insurrection. However, with the repression that occurred the Alliance was disbanded, returning to organise in the first Communist Party, of libertarian inspiration, founded in 1919. Both the Anarchist Alliance and the Communist Party grouped together members of a sector of anarchism which is called “organisationalist” and which understood as necessary the distinction between levels of action – the political level, ideologically anarchist, and the social level, of union mobilisations. These militants understood as necessary the existence of specific anarchist organisations to act together with trade unions. It is important to emphasise that, at this time, anarchists already had a preoccupation with their specific organisation.

We can say that the social vector of anarchism was on an upward curve until the beginning of the 1920s when the crisis of anarchism, parallel to unionism itself, began to develop. Culminating in the 1930s in their demobilisation and in the loss of this social vector. For us, the loss of the social vector of anarchism is the result of two contexts of crisis: one of the situation and the other of anarchism itself.

The context of the situation was marked, firstly, by the repression both of trade unionism as well as anarchism, which can be seen in the third revision of the Adolfo Gordo law of 1921, which provided for the repression and deportation of anarchists, in addition to the deportation of militants to the penal colony of Clevelândia, located in the current state of Amapá, between 1924 and 1926. Besides this, there was also an ebb of social struggles around the world and frustration with the result of the struggles that came after the Russian Revolution of 1917. Also significant was the end of the First World War and the recovery of European factories, which returned to export (including to Brazil), reducing the workers contingent in the cities and the growth of the Communist Party, founded in 1922, which from 1924 began to most strongly dispute the unions and ally itself with the reformists, proposing electoral participation as a form of political expression. Finally, the harnessing of the unions to the state which was legalised in 1930 and 1931 by the Vargas government, culminating in 1932 when the unions were obliged, by law, to have government approval and to follow operating rules determined by the state.

The context of anarchism was marked, primarily, by the confusion between different levels of activity. For many militants unionism, which was the social vector, the medium of action that should lead to an end – expressed by the social revolution and the constitution of libertarian socialism – ended up becoming the end itself. This phenomenon was already being noticed in anarchism and was the subject of fierce debate, already in 1907 at the Amsterdam Congress, between Malatesta and Monatte. Monatte, defender of “pure syndicalism”, saw great similarity between syndicalism and anarchism and argued that “syndicalism is enough in itself” 15. Malatesta, with a diametrically opposed position, considered syndicalism “a camp particularly favourable to the spread of revolutionary propaganda and also as a point of contact between anarchists and the masses” 16. Thus, Malatesta argued for the need for two levels of activity: one politically anarchist, and the other social, within the union, which would be the means of insertion.

The positions of Malatesta and Monatte summarise the positions of the Brazilian anarchists. On one side, a part of the anarchists defended the need for specifically anarchist organisation, which should seek social insertion in the unions. On the other, anarchists who had understood militancy within the unions as their only task, and thus “forgot to form specific groups capable of giving support to revolutionary practice” 17.

Our position in relation to the social events of the early twentieth century is aligned with that of Malatesta, which was taken up in Brazil by José Oiticica who, at the time, regarded the lack of specific anarchist organisations as the problem. In 1923 he already warned of the fact that the anarchists had been dedicating themselves completely to the activities of the unions and renouncing ideological activities, confusing unionism, which was the means of insertion, with the end they wished to achieve. For him it was essential to create “anarchist federations outside of the unions” 18, such as the Alliance of 1918 and the Party of 1919 which, despite being groups or federations of this type were, unfortunately, insufficient for the task it was necessary to realise.

For Oiticica, as we have already partially referred to, it was important at that time to direct forces towards the formation of “closed” groups, with a definite programme of action and commitment tacitly assumed by the militants 19. The “centralisation” of the anarchist forces in the struggle against the bourgeoisie, he continued, should not be confused with the “decentralisation” typical of libertarian organisations. He then claimed two urgent steps for the efficiency of anarchist action: “selection of militants and concentration of forces”. And he concluded: “Only this will give us unity of action”. 20

We believe that the lack of anarchist organisations that could lend support to the class struggle, expressed most notably at that time by the unions, was also largely responsible for the loss of the social vector of anarchism. As the ideological organisations were not sedimented, the context of the crisis of unionism eventually extended to anarchism itself. Thus, a crisis at the social level also condemned the political level, since there was no real difference between the two at the time.

For us it is normal that the social level, represented at that time by unionism, has ebbs and flows, moments of ascent and descent; and the specific anarchist organisation serves precisely to accumulate the results of struggles and, sometimes, to seek out other spaces for work, other spaces for insertion. The problem is that, without anarchist organisations, when the social level – or a sector of it – enters into crisis, the anarchists are not able to find another space for social insertion.

Once the social vector was lost, and without specific organisations capable of sustaining an ideological struggle of longer duration, it was not possible for the anarchists to immediately find another space for insertion. ... The prestige achieved through the entrance into trade unions very probably led them to believe that the potential of the class associations was inexhaustible, even superior to the changing circumstances. 21

Thus, the crisis in revolutionary syndicalism also took the social vector of the anarchists, who then started to “organise themselves into cultural groups and for the preservation of memory” 22.
The FARJ claims to continue the militancy of Ideal Peres and the work that originated from his history of struggle. Ideal Peres was the son of Juan Perez Bouzas (or João Peres), a Galician immigrant, anarchist and shoemaker who played an important role in Brazilian anarchism from the end of the 1910s. He was an active militant of the Alliance of Craftsmen in Footwear (Aliança dos Artífices em Calçados) and of the Workers’ Federation of Sao Paulo (Federação Operária de São Paulo – FOSP), having been active in numerous strikes, pickets and demonstrations. In the 1930s he was active in the Anticlerical League (Liga Anticlerical) and, in 1934, participated decisively in the Battle of Sé – when the anarchists rejected the Integralistas (fascists) under bursts of machine gun fire. The following year anarchists also participated in the formation of the National Liberator Alliance (Aliança Nacional Libertadora – ANL), a co-ordination that supported the anti-fascist struggle, combating imperialism and landlordism.

Ideal Peres was born in 1925 and began his militancy in that context of crisis, when the social vector of anarchism had already been lost. This happened in 1946 when he participated in the Libertarian Youth of Rio de Janeiro (Juventude Libertária do Rio de Janeiro); in the periodicals Ação Direta (Direct Action) and Archote (Torch); in the Anarchist Union of Rio de Janeiro (União dos Anarquistas do Rio de Janeiro); in the Anarchist Congress (Congresso Anarquistas) that took place in Brazil; and in the Union of Brazilian Libertarian Youth (União da Juventude Libertária Brasileira). Ideal Peres had relevant participation in the Professor José Oiticica Study Centre (Centro de Estudos Professor José Oiticica – CEPJO), site of a series of courses and lectures that used anarchism as a “background” and which was closed down by the dictator in 1969, when Ideal was imprisoned for a month in the former Department of Social and Political Order (Departamento de Ordem Política e Social – DOPS), first in the Galeao Air Base and then in the barracks of the Military Police on Barao de Mesquita road, torture centre of the military dictatorship.

In the 1970s, after prison, Ideal organised in his house a study group that had as its goal to bring in youth interested in anarchism and, amongst other things, to put them in touch with former militants and establish links with other anarchists in Brazil. This study group would constitute the nucleus of the Libertarian Study Circle (Círculo de Estudos Libertários – CEL), conceived by Ideal and his partner Esther Redes. The CEL functioned in Rio de Janeiro from 1985 to 1995, having close to (or even inside) it the formation of other groups like the José Oiticica Anarchist Group (Grupo Anarquista José Oiticica – GAJO), the Direct Action Anarchist Group (Grupo Anarquista Ação Direta – GAAD), the 9th of July Anarchist Student Collective (Coletivo Anarquista Estudantil 9 de Julho – CAE-9), the Mutirão group; in addition to publications such as Libera…Amore Mio (founded in 1991 and which still exists today), the magazine Utopia (1988-1992) and the journal Mutirão (1991). Besides this, the CEL promoted events, campaigns and dozens (if not hundreds) of lectures and debates.

With the death of Ideal Peres in August 1995 the CEL decided to honour him by modifying its name to the Ideal Peres Libertarian Study Circle (Círculo de Estudos Libertários Ideal Peres – CELIP). CELIP gave continuity to the work of the CEL, being responsible for aggregating militancy in Rio de Janeiro and continuing the theoretical improvement thereof. Additionally, CELIP emerged with the publication of Libera, through which it developed relationships with groups across the country and abroad. It brought forward important libertarian reflections on issues that were on the agenda in Brazil and the world at the time, and served for the spread of texts and news of various groups in the country. The lectures and debates continued attracting new militants, and the relations that some militants had with the Uruguayan Anarchist Federation (Federación Anarquista Uruguaya – FAU) ended up significantly influencing the model of anarchism that was being developed within CELIP. It was co-organiser of the State Encounter of Libertarian Students of Rio de Janeiro (ENELIB) in 1999; participated in the International Meeting of Libertarian Culture in Florianopolis in 2000; and contributed to the activities of the Institute of Libertarian Culture and Action in Sao Paulo (ICAL). It also took up the struggle of the oil industry workers, re-establishing ties between anarchists and unionists in the oil industry – ties that date back to 1992/1993, when they occupied the head-quarter buildings of Petrobras (Edifício Sede da Petrobrás – EDISE) together in the first occupation of a “public” building after the military dictatorship. In 2001 this struggle of the anarchists and oil industry workers was resumed, culminating, in 2003, in the more than 10 day encampment by anarchists and oil industry workers fighting for amnesty for comrades politically dismissed. Besides this, CELIP did a range of other activities.

In 2002 we initiated a study group in order to verify the possibility for the construction of an anarchist organisation in Rio de Janeiro, the result of which was the foundation of the FARJ on 30th of August 2003. For us, there is a direct link between the militancy of Ideal Peres, the construction of the CEL, its functioning, the change of name to CELIP and the subsequent foundation of the FARJ.

When we speak of seeking the “social vector of anarchism”, we necessarily make reference to the work initiated by Ideal Peres who, even in the 1980s, started working with social movements with a view to withdrawing anarchism from the strictly cultural realm to which it had been constrained since the crisis of the 1930s.

In the first half of the 1980s, Ideal and Esther Redes entered a social movement, as founders and members of the Leme Friends and Residents Association (Associação dos Moradores e Amigos do Leme – AMALEME). In the 1980s a number of federations of neighbourhood, favela (township/slum) and community associations appeared in Rio de Janeiro, and Ideal participated in AMALEME, trying to influence it to use self-management practices and to demonstrate solidarity with the poor community of Morro do Chapéu Mangueira. In 1984 Ideal is elected vice president of the association and in 1985 president. His attention to neighbourhood associations having been born in another association, ALMA (Residents Association of Lauro Muller and Surroundings), perhaps the first association to demonstrate combative and self-management impetus, which ended up influencing other associations 23.

The stimulation of Ideal Peres and the very development of militancy in Rio de Janeiro showed a practical need for social work and insertion of the anarchists, which had deepened after the contacts we had with the FAU in the mid-1990s. Through Libera and contact with other groups in Brazil we assisted the initiative of the Brazilian Anarchist Construction (CAB) in 1996, disseminating a document entitled “Struggle and Organisation,” which sought to give support to the creation of organisational groups that would defend the idea of “especifista” anarchism. We can say that all especifista anarchism in Brazil has been influenced by the CAB and FAU itself, and this is no different with us.

Since then the idea of social insertion and recovery of the vector was becoming larger all the time. The history of Brazil and a more strategic observation about anarchism’s own reason for being were leaving us increasingly convinced that especifismo was the form of anarchist organisation most suitable to our purposes. For us, the path to the recovery of the social vector passes, necessarily, through a specifically organised anarchism that differentiates the levels of activity and is present in the class struggle. However, unlike the early twentieth century, when the preferred terrain of class struggle was the unions, we now consider that unionism can be a means of insertion, but that there are others far more important. As previously defined there is today a very broad exploited class which permits the social work and insertion of anarchists: the unemployed, peasants, landless, homeless etc. For us, to be well-organised at the political (ideological) level will allow us to find the best path to bring back this social vector of anarchism, be it where it may.

All of our actual reflection aims to think of a strategic model of organisation that enables a recovery of the social vector, in that this points to our objective of overcoming capitalism, the state and for the establishment of libertarian socialism. What we seek, in this context, is only a station in the struggle: as we emphasised at our foundation: “Here we present the FARJ, without asking for anything other than a fighting station, lest righteous and profoundly beautiful dreams die.”24


13. Alexandre Samis. “Pavilhão Negro sobre Pátria Oliva”. In: História do Movimento Operário Revolucionário. São Paulo: Imaginário, 2004, p. 179.

14. Ibid. p. 136.

15. Pierre Monate. “Em Defesa do Sindicalismo”. In: George Woodcock. Grandes Escritos Anarquistas. Porto Alegre: LP&M, 1998, p. 206.

16. Errico Malatesta. “Sindicalismo: a Crítica de um Anarquista”. In: George Woodcock. Op. Cit. p. 207.

17. Alexandre Samis. “Anarquismo, ‘bolchevismo’ e a crise do sindicalismo revolucionário”. (Still unpublished).

18. José Oiticica in A Pátria, 22 of June 1923.

19. José Oiticica, Fabio Luz and other anarchists radicalised in Rio de Janeiro took part in a specific group of anarchists called Os Emancipados.

20. Alexandre Samis. “Anarquismo, ‘bolchevismo’ e a crise do sindicalismo revolucionário”.

21. Ibid.

22. Idem. “Pavilhão Negro sobre Pátria Oliva”. In: História do Movimento Operário Revolucionário, p. 181.

23. Felipe Corrêa. Anarquismo Social no Rio de Janeiro: breve história da FARJ e de suas origens. Lisboa: CEL/Cadernos d’A Batalha, 2008, p. 25.

24. FARJ. “Manifesto de Fundação”.
Final Objectives: Social Revolution and Libertarian Socialism
category brazil/guyana/suriname/fguiana | anarchist movement | policy statement author Friday February 10, 2012 20:46author by Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro – FARJ Report this post to the editors


Having drawn a brief diagnosis of the current society of domination and exploitation, we affirm two objectives that we understand as final: the social revolution and libertarian socialism.

We carry a new world in our hearts.
Buenaventura Durruti

The political and social project of anarchism
is a free and anti-authoritarian society that conserves freedom,
equality and solidarity between all its members.
Nestor Makhno

But the universal revolution is the social revolution,
it is the simultaneous revolution of the people of the fields and the cities.
It is this that it is necessary to organise –
because without preparatory organisation,
the strongest elements are impotent and void.
Mikhail Bakunin

Having drawn a brief diagnosis of the current society of domination and exploitation, we affirm two objectives that we understand as final: the social revolution 55 and libertarian socialism. The objective of the social revolution is to destroy the society of exploitation and domination. Libertarian socialism is that which gives constructive meaning to the social revolution. Together, the destruction – as a concept of negation – and the construction – as a concept of proposition – constitute the possible and effective social transformation we propose. “There is no revolution without profound and passionate destruction, salvaging and fruitful destruction, because from it, and only by it, are new worlds created and born.” 56 However, destruction alone is not enough, since “no one can wish to destroy without having at least a remote idea, real or false, of the order of things that should, in their opinion, replace that which currently exists” 57.

The social revolution is one of the possible outcomes of the class struggle and consists of the violent alteration of the established social order, and is considered by us the only way to put an end to domination and exploitation. It differs from the political revolutions of the Jacobins and Leninists by supporting the alteration of the “order” not just with a political change, through the state, exchanging one directing minority for another. As we emphasised earlier the state, for us, is not a means for the emancipation of the exploited classes, nor should it be removed from the hands of the capitalists, through revolutionary means, by a supposed vanguard that claims to act on behalf of the proletariat. A political revolution such as the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution, which does not terminate the state in order to produce equality in its midst, becomes a bourgeois revolution and ends, “unfailingly, in a new exploitation, wiser and more hypocritical, perhaps, but that does not lessen the oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie” 58.

Unlike political revolution, social revolution is accomplished by the people of the cities and countryside who bring the class struggle and its correlation of forces with capitalism and the state to the limit, by means of popular organisation. Social revolution occurs when the social force developed in the heart of the popular organisation is greater than that of capitalism and the state and, put into practice, implants structures that support self-management and federalism; wiping out private property and the state and giving rise to a society of complete freedom and equality. It is the social revolution that will bring popular emancipation, as repeatedly stated by Bakunin:

It is precisely this old system of organisation by force that the social revolution must end, returning complete freedom to the masses, to the communes, to the associations, to individuals themselves and destroying, once and for all, the historical cause of all violence, domination and the very existence of the state ... The social revolution is the abolition of all exploitation and political oppression, juridical or administrative and governmental, including the abolition of all classes by means of the economic levelling of all wealth .... 59

The social revolution is not a “grand night” on which the people revolt, spontaneously, and produce a new society. It is undeniable that the class struggle produces a series of uprisings or even insurrections, spontaneous events of great importance. However, if there is no intense and hard prior organisational work these episodes will pass, sometimes with gains for the exploited classes, but they will not manage to overthrow capitalism and the state, nor give body to a new society. The construction of the popular organisation will develop the spirit of struggle and organisation in the exploited classes, seeking the accumulation of social force and incorporating within it the means to struggle in accordance with the society that we wish to build. Thus, we do not understand the social revolution as simple evolution nor as an obligatory consequence of the contradictions of capitalism, but as an episode that marks the rupture and is determined by the will of the organised exploited classes.

We emphasise that in this revolutionary process it is necessary to use violence, because we do not believe that the expropriation of the capitalists or even the destruction of the state can be accomplished without the ruling class promoting violence. In fact, the system in which we live is already a system based on violence for its maintenance, and its exacerbation during revolutionary moments only justifies the use of violence on the part of revolutionaries, primarily as a response to the violence suffered in the past and present. “Violence is only justifiable when it is necessary in order to defend oneself or others against violence.” 60 The ruling class will not accept the changes imposed on it at the moment of the realisation of the social revolution. So it is necessary to know that, although we are neither promoters nor lovers of violence, it will be necessary for the blow that we intend to deliver against this whole system of domination and exploitation.

Since revolution, by force of circumstance, is a violent act it tends to develop the spirit of violence rather than destroy it. But the revolution conducted as conceived by anarchists is the least violent possible; it seeks to stop all violence as soon as the need to oppose, by force, the material force of the government and the bourgeoisie ceases. The anarchist ideal is to have a society in which the violence factor would have completely disappeared and this ideal serves to halt, correct and destroy this spirit of violence that the revolution, as a material act, would have the tendency to develop. 61

The violent action of the social revolution must, at the same time as the expropriation of the capitalists immediately destroy the state, giving place to self-managed and federated structures, tried and tested within the popular organisation. Therefore, the authoritarian conception of “socialism” as an interim period in which a dictatorship is established within the state is, for us, nothing but another way to continue the exploitation of the people and must be rejected absolutely, under any circumstance.

As the social revolution must not be made only by the anarchists, it is important that we be fully inserted in the processes of class struggle in order to be able to orient the revolution towards libertarian socialism. This is because the experiences of the revolutions of the twentieth century show us that if this does not happen, the authoritarians will decimate emancipatory experiences in order to occupy the state, ending the possibility of self-management and federalism, and constituting more tyrannical regimes than the previous ones. For this reason the revolution is a risk because, if the anarchists are not sufficiently inserted to be able to give it the desired direction, they will work in order that another regime of domination and exploitation be implanted. A culture of self-management and federalism should already be well developed in the class struggles so that the people, at the revolutionary moment, do not allow themselves to be oppressed by authoritarian opportunists; and this will be through class-based practices of autonomy, combativeness, direct action and direct democracy. The more these values exist in the popular organisation, the less will be the possibility for constituting new tyrannies.

As much as we reject completely the conception of Marxist “socialism”, of dictatorship in the state, it is undeniable that there would be a post-revolutionary moment of adaptation towards libertarian socialism. This may still be a time of many conflicts, and so must rely on the specific anarchist organisations – which will only merge with the social organisations at a later period of the full development of libertarian socialism, when the threat of counter-revolution has passed and libertarian socialism is in full operation.

When we treat our conception of social revolution, or even when we think of a possible future society, we want to make clear that we do not seek to determine beforehand, absolutely, how the revolutionary process or even libertarian socialism will occur. We know that there is no way to predict when this transformation will take place, and therefore any reflections must always consider this aspect of strategic projection of future possibilities from the point of possibilities, of references, and not of absolute certainties. The characteristics of the revolutionary process depend on when and where it occurs.

Thus, the reflections explicit here about the social revolution, and especially about libertarian socialism should not be understood as formulas or predictions of what will necessarily happen. We work with the possibilities that come with our theoretical expectations. However, if on the one hand we do not want to be too assertive, on the other we think discussions about the future society and the possible functioning of libertarian socialism are important. On this point, we believe that practical revolutionary experiences have much to teach us.

To advocate libertarian socialism as a proposed future society implies, for us, relating two inseparable concepts when it comes to a political project. On the one hand socialism, a system based on social, political and economic equality, and on the other hand, freedom. For us, “socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality” 62, a system that degenerates into authoritarian regimes, as we have known well throughout the twentieth century. At the same time, “freedom without socialism is privilege, injustice” 63, a way of continuing domination and exploitation in a society of class and authoritarian hierarchies. Therefore, a project for a future society that promotes equality and freedom can only be, for us, libertarian socialism, which takes shape in the practices of self-management and federalism.

Despite being terms that have arisen at different times 64, self-management and federalism are today necessarily linked and should be understood as complementary concepts. Self-management is a form of management, a model of organisation in which decisions are made by the workers themselves, to the extent by which they are affected by them either in their workplaces or the communities where they live. Federalism is a method of linking self-managed structures, enabling decision-making on a large scale. Contemporary interpretations of self-management and federalism separate the first as the economic and the second as the political system of libertarian socialism. We do not understand the separation between the economic and the political in this way when it comes to self-management and federalism.

The self-managed and federalist society of libertarian socialism has as one of its goals the alienation and ending of the relations of domination and exploitation of labour. The critique of work today, including by libertarians, is for us a critique of work within capitalism and not a critique of work as such. Under libertarian socialism free labour should be a means of liberation for workers who, through self-management, will bring back to themselves the wealth that they have been usurped of by capitalist private ownership. Thus, the socialisation of labour, of the products of labour, the means of production, the forms, rhythms and tempos of work would contribute to the creation of a model of work as the “intelligent action of men in society with the preconceived end of personal satisfaction” 65. In the new society all those that are able to would need to work, there no longer being unemployment, and the work would be able to be performed in accordance with personal ability and disposition. People will no longer be obliged to accept anything under threat of experiencing want and not attaining their minimum living conditions. Children, the elderly and those unable to work will be assured a dignified life without depravation, all their needs being met. For the most tedious tasks or those perceived as unpleasant, in some cases, there could be rotations or alternations. Even in the case of the carrying out of production, where the co-ordination of some specialists is needed, rotations in function and a commitment to the training of other workers with similar skills will also be necessary for more complex tasks.

Under libertarian socialism, it will no longer be possible to have power or higher remuneration by reason of being the owner of one or more means of production. This is because private property would have been abolished, giving place to the collective ownership of the means of production, which can be thought of in two ways: 1.) no one would effectively be the owner and the means of production belong to the collectivity as a whole, or 2.) all the members of the collectivity will be owners of a portion of the means of production, in exactly the same proportions as the others. “The means of production being the collective work of humanity, they have to go back to the human collectivity from which they came.” 66 In a system of collective ownership; rights, responsibilities, wages and wealth no longer have a relation with private property and the old class relations, based on private property, must also disappear. Libertarian socialism is, therefore, a classless society. The ruling class will no longer exist and the whole system of inequality, domination and exploitation will have disappeared.

In the cities there are different types of workers. Firstly, there are those that perform activities with simple tools, with almost no division of labour in which production can be performed, often, by just one worker. For this type of worker collective work is not a necessity, but it is desirable since it saves time and labour, besides helping a worker to enhance themselves with the skills of others. Then, there are other workers who perform their activities collectively, with relatively simple tools and machines in small companies or factories. Finally, a third category of workers of large companies and industries in which the division of labour is enormous, structured to produce on a large scale with high technology and large capital investments. For the latter two categories collective work is absolutely necessary due to the nature of the work itself, since all the technology, machinery and tooling must be collective. Thus,

every workshop, every factory will therefore organise itself into an association of workers, which will be free for them to organise in the way they see fit, provided individual rights are guaranteed and that the principles of equality and justice are put into practice. ... Wherever an industry needs complex equipment and collective labour, ownership should also be collective. 67

In the country there could be two situations: that of peasants that have worked on large properties that must be collectivised in the same way as the large companies and factories; and that of peasants that would prefer to have their own slice of the land and cultivate it themselves. In this mixed economy,

... the main purpose of the revolution was achieved: the land has become the property of those that work it and peasants no longer work for the profit of an exploiter that lives from their suffering. With this great victory obtained the rest is of secondary importance. The peasants can, if they choose, divide the land into individual parcels and give a portion to each family. Or they could instead institute common ownership and the co-operative cultivation of the land. 68

It is important to mention that we do not consider state ownership as collective. For us, collective ownership is self-managed by the people, and not managed by the state which, when it centralises ownership – as in the case of the USSR, for example – does nothing more than become a state employer that continues to exploit workers. But in the case of the persistence of the individual property of the peasants, of those that work the land themselves, it would be more appropriate to understand this situation not as property, but as possession. Thus, property would always be collective, and possession individual. Possession because the value of the land would be in its use, and not trade. And relations with this would be guided by the needs of the producer and no longer that of the market. Such a situation alters everything, so it is necessary to establish a new category.

There is still a fundamental question that should complement the end of private ownership on the path to equality, and that is the end of inheritance with the goal of preventing any kind of accumulation that has consequences on the starting point early on in one’s life. So, true equality is a goal, since

while inheritance exists there will be hereditary economic inequality; not the natural inequality of individuals but the artificial inequality of classes, and this will always be necessarily translated into the hereditary inequality of development and of the culture of the intelligencia, and will continue to be the source of the consecration of all political and social inequalities. 69

The economy of libertarian socialism is conducted by workers and consumers. The workers create the social product and the consumers enjoy it. In these two functions, mediated by distribution, the people are responsible for economic and political life, having to decide what to produce, and the consumers what to consume. The local structures of libertarian socialism in which workers and consumers organise themselves are the workers’ and consumers’ councils.

Councils are social bodies, vehicles through which the people express their political and economic preferences and exercise self-management and federalism. In them daily political and economic activities are decided and carried out.

Each workplace will be able to be managed by a workers’ council in which all workers have the same rights, the same responsibilities and decide its management equally, since there is no hierarchy. If necessary smaller councils could be formed by staff, teams, small divisions or even larger councils for big divisions, work locations or industries. In these councils the workers and others involved in the production process make all the decisions.

Consumers can organise themselves into consumers’ councils that occur within the communities. Thus individuals are organised in families, these into block and then neighbourhood committees, and so on. These councils would be responsible for pointing out to the producers what they would like to consume, as we believe that it is need that must guide production, and not vice versa.

The workers’ council organises production and the consumers’ council organises consumption. Obviously, this explanation aims to be instructive on the reality and problems that are likely to mobilise the future self-managed society; but, once in this new context, the consumers will also be the workers themselves, and the task of the councils will therefore occur more easily, since profit will no longer be the imperative in the relations of production.

Under libertarian socialism the workers’ councils might still not have eliminated the separation between manual and intellectual work, and this should be done as soon as possible. The argument which holds that both manual and intellectual work are important, and that, therefore, they should be equally recognised and rewarded is not true. Many tasks, primarily those involving manual labour are completely unpleasant, harsh and alienating, and it is not fair that some workers are fully occupied with them, while others are dedicated to performing enjoyable, pleasurable, stimulating and intellectual tasks. If this happens then certainly the class system will be rebuilt, no longer based on private property, but on a class of intellectuals that will command, and another of manual workers that will execute the commands.

Seeking to end this separation the workers’ councils could have a balanced set of tasks for each worker, which would be equivalent for all. Thus, each worker will be responsible for some pleasant and stimulating tasks, that involve intellectual work, and other harsher and more alienating tasks, that involve manual labour. This does not mean that everyone will be doing everything at the same time, but that everyone performs a set of tasks that, when compared, have the same level of intellectual and manual labour. In practice this process would function, for example, with a worker in a school that performs the task of a teacher for some of the time, but also that of the cleaner. Or someone that works in industrial research part of the time, and the rest of the time helping with the manual labour of production. Another person could work the whole time in a job that involves some manual and intellectual activities.

Obviously the scheme is simplified, but the idea is that all the workers of each council have the same level of manual and intellectual work, according to a ratio of time devoted to the execution of tasks and the level of these tasks (manual and intellectual labour). It is important that the councils also have between them equivalent levels of manual and intellectual work, so that a worker from one council has a balanced set of tasks similar to that of another. If eventually there are only manual tasks in a given council, then the worker must work in more than one council.

That is, both internally as well as between the councils one should seek an equivalent level of manual and intellectual labour in the set performed by each worker, which may have one, two or many other tasks. This would obviously mean a decline in productivity, but we shall see later how other elements of the future society would compensate for this.

The goal is not to eliminate the division of labour, but to ensure that people should take responsibility for a sensible sequence of tasks for which, most of the time, they have been properly trained and that no one enjoys constant benefits, in terms of effects of the training for their work. ... Everyone has a set of tasks that together make up their job, so that the full implication of the entire set of tasks is, on average, like all the implications for the enabling of all other works. ... Every worker has a job. Every job has many tasks. The tasks are adjusted to the workers and vice versa. 70

The goal in libertarian socialist remuneration is that it be guided by the communist principle “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need”. However, we understand that to implement this principle libertarian socialism should already be in full function, with production in abundance. Until this is possible, remuneration can be done according to work, or effort – this being understood as personal sacrifice for the collective benefit. Remuneration by labour or effort would mean that everyone that has a balanced set of tasks would receive the same and could choose how to spend it. Some would prefer to acquire a thing or two, others would prefer to invest in leisure, free time, less stressful work etc. A model that is closer to the classic collectivism advocated by the federalists who worked in the IWA of the nineteenth century.

For us, therefore, it would be a case of functioning collectivism, using the maxim “from each according to their ability, to each according to their labour”, and, at the moment in which it becomes possible apply the communist principle, giving “to each according to their need”. In fact this “becomes a secondary issue, since the question of property has been resolved and there are no longer capitalists that appropriate the labour of the masses” 71.

The market would be abolished and in its place put the self-managed planning system, with pricing being done between the workers’ and consumers’ councils, along with their federations and associations which would facilitate this interaction. This planning model differs from the authoritarian form where states plan the economies in the “socialist” countries. It would enable the workers and consumers themselves to decide completely on distribution, wiping out the problem of competition.

For all this to work we believe the role played by technology to be fundamental. Unlike some libertarian tendencies which believe that technology contains in itself the germ of domination, we believe that without it there is no possibility for the development of libertarian socialism. With the advent of technology and it being used in favour of labour, not capital, there would surely be a gain in productivity and consequently a significant reduction in the labour time of people, who could use this time for other activities. These technologies could also be regarded as “the marvellous application of science in production, ... whose mission it is to emancipate the worker, relieving human labour and constituting a progress of which civilised man is justly proud” 72. Obviously, we understand that there are good and bad technologies and that, therefore, society

need not reject advanced technologies on a large scale, but shift them, really necessitating further development of technology in agreement with ecological principles, which will contribute to a new harmonisation of society and the natural world. 73

This concern with using technology that is in accordance with the environment should be considered in all spheres of the future society, meeting the demands of a social ecology.

To defend this ecological consciousness does not mean that human beings would be constrained by a system of natural laws, since man is part of nature and as such should not be subjected to it. Obviously we also do not hold that the relationship of domination between human beings and nature should continue. On the contrary, it must cease as soon as possible and give way to an egalitarian relationship between humans and nature.

Ecological consciousness should be developed from the time of struggles that precede the revolutionary rupture and in the future society itself, based on the relations of mutual aid theorised by Kropotkin. This development could have as a principle reference the premise that we, human beings, are an integral part of nature “which becomes consciousness of itself”, as Reclus put it.

Human beings differ from other natural elements and other species by establishing social relations with everything surrounding them, because they possess the capacity to think about themselves, to make theories about reality, and with these aptitudes have managed to drastically modify the environmental setting that is their surroundings. In this way the capitalist system, by the very reason of its existence, means that the capitalists exploit natural resources in a way in which these cannot regenerate themselves at their natural rate. In the future society this will no longer be able to happen. The development of human beings brought about by libertarian socialism should stress the importance of the relations of mutual aid between species and nature.

It is worth emphasising that our ecological proposals differ radically from “conservationism” and “primitivism”. From the former, because this means the maintenance of class society and the complete commodification of nature. From the latter, because we consider the “anti-civilisation” proposal a complete absurdity, seeking a romantic return to a distant past or, even worse, a kind of suicide of all humanity and a negation of all our contributions to the maintenance and well-being of nature.

We believe that a society that completely respects the principles of social ecology will only be possible at the moment in which capitalism and the state give way to libertarian socialism. Therefore, with libertarian socialism we hope to harmonise society and the environment again, considering that “if we were not capable of founding an ecological society it is, besides the disastrous consequences that would result therefrom, our moral legitimacy that would be at stake” 74.

With the use of technology in favour of workers and its development; with the end of capitalist exploitation and the fruits of labour going completely to the workers; with full employment in place workers will have more time that could be spent in three ways. First, with the natural loss of productivity that the balanced set of tasks will cause, seeing that it will “de-specialise” labour a bit. Second, with political decisions, which will demand time for discussions and deliberations that would have to be made in the self-managed workplace and community. Finally, with the remaining time – and we think that with these changes time off will be much greater than that of today – everyone will be able to choose what to do: rest, leisure, education, culture etc.

Decisions under self-management do not have to obey a specific model. The workers’ and consumers’ councils can choose the best application of direct democracy, horizontal discussions and deliberations being fundamental, with the clear exposition of ideas and the discussion of questions presented. Clearly, consensus should not be used in the majority of decisions, since it is very inefficient – especially if we think about decisions on a large scale – besides giving a lot of power to isolated agents that could block consensus or have a lot of impact on a decision in which they are a minority. Questions can be decided on by vote, after due debate, it being variable as to whether who wins is who has 50% +1 of the votes, or if who wins is who has 2/3 of the votes, and so on. We must bear in mind that the decision-making process is a means and not an end in itself and, therefore, we also have to concern ourselves with agility in this process.

In the decision-making process self-management and federalism imply direct democracy with the participation of everyone, collective decisions, delegation with imperative mandate, rotation and recallability of functions, access to information and equal decision-making power. Both worker and consumer councils would use self-management as a form of management and decision-making, both in the workplaces and in the communities. Federalism would link both labour as well as the communities, allowing for decisions to be made on a large scale. “Federation, from the Latin foedus, genitive foederis, means pact, contract, treaty, convention, alliance” 75, in which those that are organised “are equally bound to one another for one or more particular objective, the burden of which falls specifically and exclusively on the delegates of the federation” 76.

The linkages within federalism would permit decision-making on a large scale, from the smallest instances of self-management to the most extensive. In the work environment federalism would link units, small divisions, large divisions, workplaces or even entire industries. In the communities federalism would link families, neighbours, blocks, neighbourhoods, cities, regions or even countries. These linkages would be performed by delegates that would articulate and discuss the positions deliberated in the councils. Delegates that would have imperative mandates, that is, they would represent the collective positions of the councils and not their own positions, as occurs under representative democracy. In addition, the delegates’ mandates would not be fixed and would be revocable at any time. Since “the federalist system is the opposite of hierarchy or administrative and governmental centralism” 77, we believe that it would be responsible for the structure that would replace the state and through which, together with the self-managed councils, politics would take place under libertarian socialism. The councils, as voluntary associations,

would take on an even greater extent in order to replace the state and all its functions. They would represent an interwoven network, composed of an infinite variety of groups and federations of all sizes and levels, local, regional, national and international, temporary or more-or-less permanent – for all possible purposes: production, consumption and exchange, communications, sanitation, education, mutual protection, defence of the region and so on; and, on the other hand, for the satisfaction of a number of increasingly scientific, artistic, literary and social needs. 78

In this way the state and representative democracy would depart and self-management and federalism would take their place; and politics would take its proper place, which is in the midst of the people, there no longer being the separation between those that do politics and those that don’t – since under libertarian socialism it would be the members of society themselves that would realise politics on a daily basis.

Consciousness should accompany the pace of growth of struggles and be stimulated by pedagogic processes whenever possible. Besides not believing that in order to make the revolution all the people must be educated we recognise that, at the moment of the social revolution, the higher the level of consciousness of the people, the better. Increasingly, society should develop its culture in a libertarian direction and this should not only happen at the moment of the social revolution and after it; but already at the moment of struggle, of the construction and the development of the popular organisation. It is undeniable that ideology, already transformed into the culture that capitalism has introduced into popular imagination, will have to be undone bit-by-bit and this will occur through a long process of popular education. Positions such as racial and gender prejudice, patriarchy, individualism etc. will have to be combated as much as possible, both in the processes of struggle as well as at the moment of social revolution or even afterwards. Under libertarian socialism we understand that self-management and federalism will have to contribute to this process in practice. Besides this, one should invest heavily in educational and cultural activities for the whole of society, stimulating “teaching that should be equal in all ways for everyone; and consequently must be integral” 79, providing theoretical and practical knowledge for children and adults of both sexes.

Thus, we believe that the system of domination and exploitation of the state and capitalism will have been ended – no longer will anyone accumulate power thanks to the social force obtained by the exploitation of other people – and the new system will support itself on the pillars of social, political and economic equality and freedom. An equality that will occur with the establishment of collective ownership, self-managed councils, balanced sets of tasks, equal pay, self-managed planning, collective decisions, and the constant struggle against prejudice and discrimination. Freedom both in relation to the system of domination and exploitation, as well as in relation to what we wish to attain. A freedom that will be collective, considering each one free to the extent that all others are free; “freedom that consists of the full development of all material, intellectual and moral potential that is found in a state of latent faculty in everyone” 80. Libertarian socialism will bring a luxury ignored by everyone: “the luxury of humanity, the happiness of the full development and freedom of each one in the equality of all” 81.


55. We work with the classic conception of social revolution, developed by Bakunin, which considers it a transformation of the economic, political and social aspects of society. When we distinguish it from the political revolution we seek, in the same way, a classic differentiation that treats the political revolution as a transformation that only occurs on a “political” level, through the state.

56. Mikhail Bakunin. Statism and Anarchy, p. 52.

57. Idem. “Protesta de la Alianza”. In: Frank Mintz (org.). Bakunin: crítica y acción. Buenos Aires: Anarres, 2006, p. 33.

58. Idem. “Cartas a un francés”. In: Frank Mintz (org.). Bakunin: crítica y acción, p. 22.

59. Idem. “La Comuna de Paris y la Noción del Estado” and “Estatismo e Anarquía”. In: Frank Mintz (org.). Bakunin: crítica y acción, pp. 22-23. There are Portuguese translations of the two texts, done by Plínio A. Coêlho. That of Estatismo e Anarquia, in the publication already cited, and that of “A Comuna de Paris e a Noção de Estado”, in the publication: Mikhail Bakunin. O Princípio do Estado e Outros Ensaios. São Paulo: Hedra, 2008.

60. Errico Malatesta. “A Violência e a Revolução”. In: Anarquistas, Socialistas e Comunistas, p. 40.

61. Idem. “Uma Vez Mais Sobre Anarquismo e Comunismo”. In: Anarquistas Socialistas e Comunistas, p. 70.

62. Mikhail Bakunin. Federalismo, Socialismo e Antiteologismo. São Paulo: Cortez, 1988, p. 38.

63. Ibidem.

64. The term “federalism” has been used by anarchists since Proudhon, who formalised his theories about the subject in Do Princípio Federativo of 1863, and other books. Federalism marked the libertarian socialists of the twentieth century, primarily those that acted in the IWA. Do not confuse this libertarian federalism with statist federalism. The term “self-management” arose only a century later, in the 1960s to substitute others like self-government, self-administration, autonomy etc. Today, the two have different meanings, possessing a complementary meaning in economy and politics.

65. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. De la création de l’ordre dans l’humanité. In: A Nova Sociedade, p. 26.

66. Piotr Kropotkin. “As Nossas Riquezas”. In: A Conquista do Pão, p. 30.

67. James Guillaume. “Ideas on Social Organization”. In: Daniel Guérin. No Gods, No Masters. San Francisco: AK Press, 1998, p. 213.

68. Ibidem. p. 210.

69. Mikhail Bakunin. Federalismo, Socialismo e Antiteologismo, p. 37.

70. Michael Albert. PARECON. London: Verso, 2003, pp. 104-106. For a discussion on complex balanced tasks see this book pp. 103-111.

71. James Guillaume. Op. Cit. p. 211.

72. Mikhail Bakunin. Federalismo, Socialismo e Antiteologismo, p. 18.

73. Murray Bookchin. “Um Manifesto Ecológico: o poder de destruir, o poder de criar”. In: Letra Livre 31, p. 8.

74. Idem. Sociobiologia ou Ecologia Social? Rio de Janeiro: Achiamé, s/d, p. 71.

75. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Do Princípio Federativo. São Paulo: Imaginário, 2001, p. 90.

76. Ibidem.

77. Ibidem. p. 91.

78. Piotr Kropotkin. “Anarchism”. In: The Encyclopaedia Britannica.

79. Mikhail Bakunin. A Instrução Integral, p. 78.

80. Idem. “A Comuna de Paris e a Noção de Estado”. In: O Princípio do Estado e Outros Ensaios, pp. 114-115.

81. Idem. “Moral Revolucionária”. In: Conceito de Liberdade. Porto: Rés Editorial, s/d, p. 203.