Abraham Guillen on Crisis

Abraham Guillen was a spanish anarchist who fought in the revolution of 1936 as a member of the CNT and libertarian youth federation FIJL. Interestingly the FIJL held the same position as the friends of Durruti regarding the role of organization, though I’ve never found their positions in print. Guillen continued underground work against Franco until he was caught, imprisoned, and sentenced to death. He escaped to France, and made his way all over South America though mostly to Uruguay and Argentina. He was a founding member of the Federacion Anarquista Uruguaya, and continued to be one of their main theoretical influences. During the 60s and 70s he served as the military theorist and participant in guerrilla war throughout latin america including Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Argentina, Dominican Republic, etc., and dodged dictatorships along the way. He worked primarily as an economist and journalist, and never abandoned his anarchist beliefs obtained in the spanish revolution, which kept him advocating for a self-managed socialism, and a social revolution against the state. He was an unorthodox anarchist however drawing from the marxism of his time (though not uncritically), and proposing a unity of mass syndicalist movements and armed revolutionary organization. Almost none of his writings are in English. This is a short excerpt of a section of his longer book Philosophy of the Urban Guerrilla, which despite the name is mostly about anarchist analysis and strategy of the economy, the world setting, and latin america.

This post is a placemaker for other articles I’m writing, and I keep loosing the passage so here it is.

“The apparently revolutionary or demagogical slogan “Let the rich pay for the crisis!” is negative, self-defeating and unsuited to a period of general depression, when both the objective and subjective conditions are present for a socialist revolution.

During a period of crisis it is pointless to demand from the capitalists what they do not have to give. It is demagogical and hardly revolutionary to demand that the bosses shoulder the burden of depression when the workers are being locked out or dismissed as supernumerary. A work stoppage is a consequence of the overproduction of wealth by an economic system based on the dictatorship of capital over labor. Among other causes, an economic crisis is produced because of disparities resulting from the social character of capitalist production for the whole people, but for the purpose of ultimately benefitting a few. This structural antagonism between social production and private appropriation sharpens the class struggle to the point of revolution: it becomes the principle motor for the transformation of capitalism into socialism.

In a capitalist regime a crisis is always paid for by the poor, i.e., the workers. Consequently instead of demanding the impossible, that the rich pay for the crisis, the workers should insist on a definitive solution through the socialization of the means of production and exchange. In times of depression the Marxist parties which understand what is happening, and the revolutionary trade unions which are not bureaucratized, must elaborate an economic, political and social program for moving the economy forward as the basis for introducing a socialist system and guaranteeing the right to work. In contrast, the Social Democrats and the modern revisionists, who practice the coexistence of classes, propose to nurse depressions instead of applying surgery…”

Guillen, Abraham. Translated by Hodges, Donald C. Philosophy of the Urban Guerilla. 1973. Morrow Paperback Editions, NY.


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