Huerta Grande

A comrade translated Huerta Grande, a once seminal and often cited text from 1972 in Uruguay. Below I give a quick and dirty rough history of the uruguayan anarchist movement in the 2nd half of the 20th century in hopes of elaborating some of the context. Huerta Grande is here.

The Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU) is an organization of anarchist communists that has existed for over 50 years now. One of the things that makes the FAU unique is that it is one of the few organizations to have peaked after WWII, and has a continuous line from the heyday of anarchism in Spain and Italy in the 20s and 30s up to present day. 

For reasons I have never been able to figure out, anarchists fleeing fascism in Spain and Italy largely settled in Uruguay. This included luminaries like Luigi Fabbri and his daughter Lucce (who would go on to help found the FAU). Carrying with them the lessons of the Red Years and the Spanish Revolution, it is a conjecture though perhaps not unfair that the Uruguayan anarchist movement contained within it a more mature practice than many other places in the world. Though Fabbri, the theorist of dual organizationalism, died in 1935 shortly before there were experiments in regional and national predecessors to the FAU on a dual organizationalist basis. 

The rise of the FAU came after the death of hope for the FORU, the uruguayan anarchosyndicalist union with a once glorious history, though unlike the North American deviationism hostility of anarchist communists to the FORU was not present. The FAU was born in a time not that dissimilar to our own. Uruguay had industrialization, bourgeois democratic state, and the presence of legalistic bureaucratic unions existing alongside an institutionalized left.  

At the time Huerta Grande had been written, a split had already occured in the FAU. The FAU was formed of militants of the workplaces struggles and FORU, academics especially from the school of medicine, and cultural anarchists. In the early 60s a split brewed with a grouping around Lucce Fabbri and the majority amongst the FAU leadership of Gatti, Mechoso, and the like. The split has been characterized in a number of ways: pro-cuba vs anti-castro, "syndicalist" (i.e. mass workplace struggle) vs culturalist, bourgeois vs proletarian. I think some element of each is true and distorted. Ultimately the majority kept the FAU, pronounced support for the Cuban revolution and Castro, and focused on workplace and student mass struggles. The minority created GEAL, an educationalist anarchist grouping and were active in Comunidad del Sur, a large comune outside Montevideo, both of which continue to exist to this day. 

Huge transformations occured across the FAU’s existence. The prosperity of Uruguay, due to its cattle industry, relative wealth of natural resources, and high degree of industrialization, hit a brick wall in the 60s. Mass struggle exploded onto the scene in the 60s as real wages declined and cost of living skyrocketed. The FAU helped set up the CNT, a new union federation though not explicitly anarchist while have libertarian features, alongside marxists and other revolutionaries. The FAU constituted an active minority within the CNT and had a strong presence in some locals. 

Amidst these struggles Tupamaros began their armed struggle. Interestingly enough, Tupamaros took much of their theory and practice from Abraham Guillen, a spanish anarchist who had been a member of the FIJL (federacion iberia juvenil libertaria). Guillen fought in the civil war, fighting to the end he was sentenced to death and imprisoned by franco. He escaped in 1945, and fled to France. Eventually he settled in Argentina in 1948. He was involved in the Uturuncos, an armed struggle movement in Argentina, and was imprisoned in 1961 because of this. After a few months in jail, Guillen sought asylum in Uruguay in 1962. Guillen became the primary theorist of armed struggle in the Southern cone of Latin America. His treatise on the topic, philosophy of the urban guerilla, was published in 1966 as a direct response to Che Guevara.

Guillen’s anarchism is an interesting testament to the times. Guillen came to believe in a form of anarcho-marxism combining the discipline and unity of armed revolutionary marxism with the decentralization, democracy, and libertarian values of anarchism. His arguments, which I believe he abandoned according to an interview with a comrade who knew him (anecdotal I know), were that marxism of the 60s represented a scientific advance in proletarian struggle, but suffered from limitations of the authoritarianism of leninism. In a way his essays read not unsimilar to the Friends of Durruti or even the FIJL’s take on the CNT’s lack of organization in responce to the attacks of Franco and the Bolsheviks in Spain. Guillen felt the need though to break with traditional anarchism, and resort to the caricature of anarchism being identified with being opposed to coordination. 

Guillen’s writings focused on urban warfare, and he argued successfully in the Southern Cone that Guevara’s program of rural struggle would be suicide (which Che proved shortly in Bolivia). Instead Guillen argued to act within the urban environment using the mass anonymity to vanish into the proletarian neighborhoods as cover. Guillen, true to his anarchist foundations, had a different conception of armed struggle from the foco-theory types. He saw armed struggle as being merely an arm of the popular movements. He saw armed action as a tool of strengthening workers’ struggles but not as an outside force acting for workers, instead as an organized proletarian grouping accountable to and acting within proletarian movements. Likewise he opposed some of the senseless brutality of armed groups (including some actions by Tupamaros which he criticized strongly) that served only to elevate their sense of militancy, but served no strategic role in furthering the mass struggles.

The FAU was in the middle of these debates. Uruguay in the 60s faced a crisis as Tupamaros launched an urban guerilla struggle independently from the masses and ultimately with a militancy they were not in a position to back up. FAU aligned with the left, in what we can now see to be essentially a populistic manner. Viewing the revolutionary left as new (as opposed to the old Uruguayan communists who were institutionalized social democrats), scientific, and having vague connections to libertarianism. The FAU worked within a number of left unity projects including publications, unions, housing mass organizations, students, etc. Likewise as the military repression sharpened and the dictatorship loomed, the FAU inched towards armed struggle and marxism. 

Huerta Grande was written at this pivotal time, in 1972. In 1968 the State declared a state of emergency because of Tupamaros. In 1972 civil liberties were further suspended, and in 1973 a military dictatorship was implimented. The FAU had gone underground in 1971 to deal with the repression. It was restructured into: the FAU (clandestine organization), OPR-33 (subordinate armed wing of the FAU), and ROE (a student front for FAU & OPR-33 activity). The FAU had changed through its close work with other left groups. Little written material is available for the period so it is somewhat speculative and pieced together by the survivors to assess what went on. It appears that the FAU was made up of anarchists friendly to some variants of marxists, marxists attracted by the FAU’s work in the proletarian neighborhoods, and anarchists who had moved to a castroist interpretation of anarchism. The OPR-33 throughout its life carried out actions alongside popular struggles, rather than autonomously from them. Bank robberies, kidnappings (though lacking the violence of other left groups of the time notably), and armed actions against the military were launched throughout those years.

While these differences are interesting it is worth noting that by 1974 half of all FAU militants had been murdered by the Uruguayan and Argentinian militaries. Fleeing Uruguay, some in fact literally fleeing on foot from concentration camps, Operation Condor ensured that the military would be able to do whatever it pleased in any of the countries of the Southern Cone. This is where things get hazy. In 1974 el Partido por la Victoria del Pueblo began to be formed. Some accounts say it occured in France in exile, while officially the PVP claim it was formed in Argentina. Either way this party was formed by the majority of the FAU, elements of Tupamaros, and unaligned marxists. It claimed to be a synthesis of libertarianism and marxist theory. Drawing strongly from people like Poulantzas, the FAU had become  transformed. Accounts of militants vary though. Some went along with it, though expressing criticism of working with outright Leninist authoritarians. Others considered it merely an extensive of anarchism. Still others expressed complete transformation, and the irrelevance of anarchism. A minority of the FAU remained anarchists and disappeared from print anyways until after the dictatorship.

Ultimately though all these projects faltered. The FAU, Tupamaros, and PVP were all effectively crushed. It wasn’t until the end of the dictatorship and in 1986 that the FAU would re-emerge. When it did, it was recreated mostly by young people embracing anarchism for the first time. The PVP is today apart of the ruling center-left coalition, and ruling class partakers in the management of capitalism. The FAU reborn repudiated past positions on Cuba, elaborated the theory of especifismo, and eventually helped found especifista groups across the southern cone. In this way we can see that the FAU has lessons and experience unique to it as a group formed at the 2nd half of the 20th century, living through the rise and fall of armed struggle and dictatorship, and elaborating its own unique take on the problems of anarchism and organization. 

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3 thoughts on “Huerta Grande

  1. I am wondering how unique the history you outline here is. Altough it’s definetly rooted in a different context, I dont think it is that much different from the route taken by other anarchist-communists forces elsewhere, most notably in France, Spain and Italy.

    In France too, the anarchist-communists tryed to renovate anarchism many time and several generations indeed moved to marxism and armed struggle. This is the story of the FCL who embrassed marxism, participated in elections with dissident communists, materialy supported the FLN and the antifrancoist forces then went underground only to see a section around Fontenis reemerge as a purely communist force for a time and then going back to libertarian communism after 1968. There where other groups –from the same FCL– too that mooved from anarchist-communism to communism to anarchist-communism again (see the story of Noire et Rouge and the GAAR / UGAC / Tribune anarchiste-communiste around Guy Bourgeois).

    In Italy we can see the same story with the GAAP and latter Azzione Rivolutionaria (or something like that). Same in Spain with the FIJL then MIL.

    Look like the infantile disorder of platformism to me… Definetly worth studying anyway.

  2. thanks for the comment Phebus. That is interesting history I wasn’t aware of. Sounds like there’s a need for another off the cuff history 😉

  3. Thanks for the quick and direty history of the FAU… can’t wait for the book 😉 Though I want to make the suggestion of amending the text to explain the reference to “dual organizationalism.”

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