Paraguay 1968--Dictatorship and Democracy: Terror, Politics and the Lie of the Vote

(Over the past few years, anarchists internationally have been debating the issues of democracy, pro and con. As a response I offer the following pamphlet written in 1968, by Ciriaco Duarte (1908-1996), a Paraguayan anarcho-syndicalist living in exile in Argentina at the time of its production. Ciriaco’s situation was unique, Paraguay, a brutal, repressive dictatorship, was propped up by virtue of claiming to be a democracy—one where abstention from voting was illegal–punishable by fine or imprisonment—and where the various political parties agreed and acceded to the absolutely certain election of the dictator Alfredo Stroessner, again, and again and again-for almost 35 years. It is this surreal mix of democracy and dictatorship, ballots and bullets, violence and voting, that Duarte describes and criticizes so well. It should be noted that Duarte was arrested by the Argentine authorities for producing this pamphlet but was eventually released as its contents fell under the general rubric of freedom of political speech. The lessons and critical analysis of the pamphlet are, for anarchists today, perhaps even more poignant, even more relevant, than they were in 1968. Democracy can easily be used to justify the most intense evil, the ugliest reality. In the end I find myself agreeing with Ciriaco’s exhortation—Vote Blank. Or to place it in the context of the United States of America—Vote? Not. Even. Once. –pzs)

Cultural Charter
For the Development of Social Democracy in Paraguay
Writing Secretary Ciriaco Duarte, Asuncion, February 1968, Vol. 1, No. 2

A Necessary Comment
Universal Suffrage and the Pre-Cooked Vote

Under the auspices and with the pressure of the great vested interests, a total understanding has been reached among the leaders of the four parties for the elections, with bargaining on the part of the government, that to maintain the alertness of their oppressive and repressive institutions, the government still holds in force a state of siege in large parts of the national territory with political prisoners and the exiled, which shows how great interests have priority over moral values and culture.

The four parties are ready to “elect” the president of the Republic and “representatives” for both houses on the 10th of this month. Among them, one, from the most rancid conservative tradition is the real candidate for the presidency, unique, pre-agreed and chosen by the others as the winner — and scraped for 10 more years according to the arrangements made in advance in the new constitution– the other three remaining parties, although they have their own candidates, are collaborators with the governing party, and are integral parts of this outdated regime of capitalism and oligarchic economic liberalism.

The old and hackneyed electoral propaganda argument is a boom: reciprocal accusations – rags dirty in the sun – promises, commitments of words, and lies marketed by both expensive and average means of diffusion; meetings, parades, sugar cane, wine and meat. The result, however, is predetermined; they come to power with more or less the same political responsibility, and in an obvious conspiracy the four parties–under the command of the ruling party, and the auspices of the political oligarchy, latifundists, industrialists, commercial enterprises, and bankers … with the oversight of the Great Lender [the USA].

Certainly this masquerade no longer has many addicts-it is justified by a draconian Electoral Law, with penalties–fines or imprisonment for those who abstain–neither is there any enthusiasm or interest in the fake and interested cliques. Some 600,000 registered voters, according to the official data, recruited by compulsory extortion with or without colored handkerchiefs, with or without a civic booklet, do not justify the legitimacy or honor of universal suffrage in Paraguay. These appearances make half of the people deaf. And it does, indeed, some in prisons and exile and a reluctant part are in ignorance and poverty, discouraged, and without faith.

It is also true that it will not be the last mandatory vote, but we are witnessing the end of an institutionalized fiction to deceive the people with more than 200 years of universal repression, which has only served as a pretext for the ruling classes to obtain power, and from there, in no way forgetting their promises and duties, to deepen the divide of class difference–more and more enriching the wealthy and accentuating the poverty of the poor and abandoned class of society; under the tyranny of a voracious and arrogant statism with democratic decorations.

Planned Development for an Economy Without Social Content

There is a veritable avalanche of developmental theories, and studies of finances which expose the capitalist’s and even the communist’s rapidly developing ideas in a varied exchange of knowledge which produces an unusual intellectual movement whose reflections flood us, sometimes in the form of projects that get stuck in the official paper mills, and a few that are transformed into the reality of progress without transcendence of petty ends, without social and human sense, without benefits for the community and eventually turned into irritating injustice.

We have had disappointing examples, such as the investment of the “Alliance for Progress” funds, whose purpose, sounded by John Kennedy, has been totally distorted with the monies and profit given to perverted, irresponsible and unscrupulous rich bureaucrats without producing the long-awaited improvement in the standard of peasant, village, and worker life; in its most minimal expression, neither spiritual nor material. We certainly did not have any illusion about the results of the investment of some of these loans that we knew in advance would be stolen.

CITIZEN, repudiate oligarchic electoralism and continue the struggle for a democratic revolution. Your slogan is: Vote Blank

Translation and edited by El Errante (pzs)