Communication is a Revolutionary Act: Thoughts on communication and media for liberation

fight-for-15Traditionally many radicals have looked at communication and media as tools for implementing their ideas, programs, and lines on populations. Adopting the same model from capitalist marketing theory and propaganda models, communication is thought of as transmitting information from sender to receiver, with most of the thinking centered around how we can best transmit the information to our receivers, how to achieve the greatest numbers, etc. Different media are debated, and today fascination with the emergence of social media and internet culture has captivated political actors of all stripes. After the development of mass industrialized media around a century ago, the model of media and communication as a megaphone still is dominant in the actions and thinking of our time. Continue reading

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Lost Conversations: Questioning the legacy of anarchosyndicalism

voz de mujerThere is more interest than ever in anarchosyndicalist unions, their history, and lessons for doing organizing in today’s context. During its peak, anarchosyndicalism engaged millions of workers on every continent except Antarctica. Though the Spanish experience through the CNT and 1936 revolution stands out, anarchosyndicalism was perhaps stronger in Latin America and Asia than in Europe. Despite the depth of those experiments and today’s interests, our knowledge of anarchosyndicalism is still poor. Continue reading

On Uneven Ground

bilde“We had a major success with staffing! The company agreed to staffing ratios”. Applause erupts, smiles from the tired faces wearing our glorified pajamas.

Her words swirled about in my brain. I saw images- the faces of patients-, hours of the day- lifting, bending, pressing syringes, rushing down halls-, and all the moments of crisis I’ve carried with me through the years. The weight of the hospital pulls on your soul.

The hall was set with folding tables and cheap plastic tablecloths decorated the sad displays of institutional food. Bizarre textured wallpaper seems wrapped around the whole room, blanketing the scene in dull flesh colors. The union meeting took place in one of the conference rooms of the hospital, the same place where we receive trainings about how to smile, how much money is being lost, and why our work is never enough.

Staffing is a word, but in hospitals it’s everything. It means how many patients a nurse takes care of. Bad staffing can produce situations of such intense work that you literally have no idea where you are, responding second-to-second without any view of what happened or what comes next. Staffing is why we cry in the break room for patients who died in shameful avoidable situations, when we grimace in pain in the bathrooms having suppressed our bodies to complete too many tasks, and when we feel the emptiness of futility to help human beings face-to-face with reasonable needs and nothing to be done. Senseless. Continue reading

Translation of The Resistance to Capitalism

This is the translation of the first chapter of an essay in an out of  print text by Emilio Lopez Arango, one of the premier theorists of the FORA up through the 20s when he was assasinated.

 

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The Resistance to Capitalism by Emilio Lopez Arango

The workers movement is determined by the assembly of moral and material factors that form and give life and reality to the social system, and that in the process of the capitalist civilization enslave humanity to the rule of necessities. But the proletariat, if pushed to struggle for bread, isn’t limited to aspirations of gaining a better wage; they aspire also to break the yoke of economic exploitation and liberate oneself from the domination of the privledged castes in the political sphera; in the struggle against the state.

If for the anarchists every immediate solution is relative, because it is limited by the law of capitalist equilibrium, in consequence syndicalism can’t be a theory of the future. This does not mean that anarchism opposes revolutionary objectives as an expression of the absolute to the contingent reality. On the contrary, it’s about facts and experiences that libertarian theories should create a base for direction, searching in the working masses for the necessary elements to promote the advancement of history and decide social progress against the reactionary currents. Continue reading

Syndicalism and Anarchism- translation of Emilio López Arango

This piece has a number of intriguing ideas that were circulating in the FORA. One element is the rejection of the traditional understanding of the union, including the label of anarchosyndicalism. The FORA never took on the industrialist structure of a union, favoring instead a different path with it’s resistance societies. Likewise we see the rejection of the post-revolutionary role of unions. Lopez Arango counterposes a static view of unions and anarchism to one inherently grounded in trajectories of struggle, and puts the dynamics of change in struggle at the core of revolutionary work. Though this is only fragmentary, it provides a rare insight into another side of anarchism and unions, and one that gives a refreshing departure from more schematic and purely moralistic or ideological orientations.

From the weekly supplement of La Protesta, July 13, 1925

Emilio López Arango (translated SN Nappalos)

In a translation of “Pensiero e Volonte” from Rome, an article by Malatesta was published about the relation in theory and fact between anarchism and syndicalism. The aforementioned comrade raised a point of contradiction between those two terms, describes the role of the labor movement and activity of anarchists inside and outside of the unions, and in a final note subtlety gathered words written in La Protesta[1]. The article of Malatesta generalizes a problem not yet sufficiently discussed and clarified.

He expresses his point of view that deserves the greatest respect, and despite offering some suggestions to share we don’t rush to pick it up with the only intention of outlining our thesis on the subject. But the note added at the end there of comrade Malatesta, forces us to clarify the value of some words that may have different meaning in Italy and Argentina, as terms now in vogue lend themselves to frequent and unfortunate confusion.

When we refer to the cultural work of political anarchism, we don’t want to say that specific anarchist organizations (like the Italian or French, for example) are limited to making propaganda via the book, pamphlet and newspaper, or capturing adherents with conferences in social centers, ateneos, etc. We also don’t want to be guilty of attributing the intention of these militants to wait for all workers to develop before social revolution is possible. Yes, we note the existence of a cultural movement diluted in the environment, imprecise in its form of activity with tendencies of covering all of humanity with ideals of redemption. And we do not believe in the efficacy of that medium, which for it’s own inaccuracy goes unnoticed by the workers themselves. We oppose systematic propaganda in the union and the anarchist objective in the economic organizations that Malatesta and other comrades consider neutral ground in the struggle of tendencies that divide the proletariat. Malatesta concludes that from this interpretation of the labor movement, particularly held by us in this country, our opposition to political anarchism-of party or cultural center- follows and is inspired by the anarcho-syndicalist perspective. That is precisely his error, that anarcho-syndicalism is a combination of the anarchist and syndicalist tendencies, a hybrid product of this confusing period. In that grammatical compound is disguised the old reformist tendency applied to the labor movement in some way the product of preaching ideological neutrality in the unions. Without wishing to insult the old master, we declare that Malatesta as Fabbri-the theorist of the unity of the classes and of the doctrinal disregard in the workers movement- is closer than we are to anarcho-syndicalism. Continue reading

Political Leadership or Ideological Orientation of the Workers Movement

I’ve been reading and translating the works of the Federación Obrera Regional Argentina, which is a pet interest of mine. There’s almost nothing written of their history, works, and theory in English despite it having been one of the more significant revolutionary movements in South America and within anarchism more generally. I don’t necessarily support all the elements here, but find some threads really interesting. In the work of Emilio Lopez Arango you see a nuanced understanding of the relationship between struggle, ideas, objective conditions of history. The comes out less in this piece, but note that within the whole discussion it is the trajectory of struggle and products of the clashes within struggle that drives his argument. That is significant, and somehow is usually lost in most discussions. 

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