March 4, 2021

The unbearable lightness of guarapero anarchism

from Anarquía.Info, English translation by Anarchist News.

—Open letter to presumed Cuban anarchists

To Canek Sánchez Guevara, six years after his departure

«… in my impenetrable night

everything collapses … »

is screaming the impossible

The angelic and other poems,

George Bataille

First of all, I want to express my solidarity with those anarchic expressions and individuals that, despite multiple adversities, make inroads against all authority in the Cuban archipelago. To those men, women and others who have never read The Coming Insurrection or don’t even know who the hell Bakunin was, but they confront Power every day in all its presentations and instinctively repel everything that smells of authority (be it uniformed or civil, public or domestic, academic or illiterate, divine or secular). To those who –beyond races and sexual preferences– flood the prisons and asylums of the “First Free Territory of America ”and nurture the spirit of negation against everything that makes our lives miserable. Those who promote subversive indiscipline and propagate illegalism, living Anarchy beyond ideologies, aspiring to freedom over rhetorical discourses and politically correct verbiage. For them, my everlasting adhesion.

From the first moment that various libertarian initiatives raised their voice far and wide across the territory dominated by the Cuban State, giving life to the Alfredo López Libertarian Workshop and, more recently, to the ABRA Social Center – with its successes and stumbles, mistakes and good judgment – , I have expressed my solidarity and respect for these initiatives. I have never questioned their actions or made a single critical comment, despite disagreements of various kinds. However, remain silent today, after the stunned reading of the Statement from the Alfredo López Libertarian Workshop in Havana [1], would entail an act of cowardly complicity in the face of such a blatant distortion.

It goes without saying I acknowledge the difficult conditions faced by these initiatives under the banana national socialism that has held power for more than 60 years, but I also identify adverse scenarios for anarchic comrades around the world. There are plenty of examples of like-minded people on the run or, sentenced to long sentences (and even assassinated) for takin on the anarchic struggle to its ultimate consequences in all the corners of the Planet.

I got bored of the spiel about the alleged exception of the “Cuban case”, not so much because of the imminent convenience of the arguments but because it no longer represents any novelty. On the contrary, for many years it has become a beaten path, rather commonplace, filled with opportunists and social climbers; which is why I consider it inadmissible to continue nurturing uncritical solidarity with the Alfredo López Libertarian Workshop in Havana.

I wonder what meaning does anarchism have for these alleged comrades who a priori reject “the social explosion”? As they cynically point out in point number 2, describing as “tragic” that probable explosion in ” the current circumstances of organizational deterioration of the working classes and the most precarious segments of society .” Is there a place on the face of the Earth where this ” organizational deterioration of the working classes and the most precarious segments of society ” is not verified ? Do they consider that the organization of the “working classes” is more important than social insurrection?

Truly, I find this sort of bootleg anarcholiberalism (or inverted Leninism), which openly privileges form over content and bets on the development of the fictitious movement of the oppressed, prioritizing the form of organization as a virtually decisive factor in the process of the struggles for total liberation, repulsive.

What you call the “working classes” are stuck –by their identification with work– between unemployment and precariousness, abandoning the alleged “historical function” that the eldest of the Marx brothers had assigned them by decree. Today, the most vivid image of these “classes” is found exemplarily portrayed in the feature film Parasite, by the South Korean Bong Joon-ho. This photograph is repeated from Havana to Timbuktu, staging that revolution that the “proletariat” never produced and that invariably ends in the restoration of capital.

However, the ruin of the old labor movement – once its “historical function” has been transcended – far from afflicting us makes us happy, because it indicates the need for the new and prompts us to extend the real struggle; that is, it induces us to widen the permanent insurrection, giving way to immediate anarchy (here and now), as the only horizon, throwing away the tedious wait for the accumulation of forces and faith in utopian society (where it is preserved workers’ condition instead of being overcome).

As anarchists, we conceive of our struggle as the immediate destruction of the State and the capitalist relations of production, and this only materializes through the spread of illegalism and the social explosion (they so repudiate).

The good news is that “social explosions” do not require the authorization or approval of these anarcholiberals to occur. They usually occur unpredictably and almost always run over them. They are generated from specific situations that are exacerbated – as if by magic -, without the consent of these “social architects”, eternally committed to daily retreat and political accommodation.

The “social explosion” that shook the territory controlled by the Chilean State –without political leadership or revolutionary programs–, from October 2019 to February 2020, was not “programmed” in the calendar of “revolutionary actions” of any mass organization . It came up suddenly; in “the current circumstances of organizational deterioration of the working classes and the most precarious segments of society”. It began with the innocuous protests of a handful of high school students who carried out a massive evasion in the Santiago Metro, as a peaceful protest against the increase in the rate of the public transportation system. But that little spark, when aided by the necessary gasoline, was enough to set the prairie on fire, causing in a matter of hours the “state of emergency” in sixteen regional capitals.

The anarchist comrades in the region cared little about the original motivations for the conflict. They soon went out to incinerate churches and confront the cops in their own burrows. As expected, the left immediately acted as a fire extinguisher, recuperating the revolt and facilitating the continuity of State-capital. By then, the anarchic street fighting had consciously withdrawn, retaking the selective attack in the dead of night.

Undoubtedly, the vitality of events is always more powerful than any process of accumulation of forces. These spontaneous situations give us the (unique) opportunity to put into practice what has yet to be rehearsed, away from the “alternatives” that, without exception, ensure the continuity of what already exists.

Insurrectionary events occur without asking permission and (fortunately) overtake the organizers. This is what happened in Paris from February 23 to 25, 1848. It all started with the banning of a banquet, motivating reformist demonstrations in the Plaza de la Concorde. Moods flared and the “social explosion” spiraled out of control. More than a thousand barricades were erected throughout the city. Insurrectionary vandalism took hold. They burned public buildings, expropriated weapons, raided shops. Thousands of students and artisans, along with the petite bourgeoisie and the nascent “working class”, marched in anger to the Tuileries Palace. Soon the insurrectional fuse for the rest of Europe was lit: Vienna, Pest, Buda, Bucharest, Berlin, Milan… That event would later be known as the “Springtime of the Peoples” but the various nationalisms knew how to recuperate the revolt and consolidate their domination.

In 1871 the “social explosions” would again unleash insurrectionary passions. The Paris Commune resisted two months making a stand, shaking the world, without the help of leaders or revolutionary programs, until these imposed themselves, becoming their limit. Then the programmed revolutions would come. That is to say, the October revolutions (that of 1917 in Russia and that of 1922 in Italy), imposing red and brown fascism.

After the National Socialist uprising of July 17 and 18, 1936, the “social explosions” in the Iberian Peninsula animated the last and most unique of the revolutionary projects in the history of the West. However, this time the counterrevolution would be administered by the workers’ organizations themselves and executed through the front lines, militarism and calls to achieve “maximum productive performance” and “establish order”, repressing the expropriation of banks, the assault on institutions and the destruction of the economy.

After this brief summary, we could roughly define “social explosions” as a practice of struggle by the excluded, quite recurrent in their drive towards total liberation. From the very particular anarchic perspective, the “social explosions” deserve to be defined as a kind of springboard that allows us to carry these struggles even further, extending the insurrection to experiences that have not yet been rehearsed.

The “social explosions” are intrinsically related to the contradiction between the dominated and dominating; therefore, they are the essential oxygen of liberating fire. Consequently, it is up to us anarchists to provide all the fuel necessary to prevent their extinction. That is our specific purpose.

So then, I reiterate the question, but now with more impetus: what meaning does anarchism have for these alleged comrades who reject a priori “the social explosion”? And I add new questions: who dictates the score? And what do they intend to consolidate?

As if that were not enough, the aforementioned lapsus calami ; in point number 3, they demand “that the country’s institutional framework give priority to self-organized entities, such as promoting the creation of cooperatives and other collective self-managed production and service projects over capitalist micro-enterprises and other ventures based on social asymmetries, especially authoritarianism, bureaucracy and economic inequality.”

Obviating the paradoxical interest of these alleged anarchists in playing within the “institutional framework”, the catalog of mental gymnastics they undertake with the intention of promoting co-management and giving continuity to the banana capitalism that reigns in the archipelago under military rule is truly amazing.

This specific topic, together with the subsequent points (4 and 5), soon shows us the theoretical-practical position of the undersigned who, without hesitation, advocate the development of new managers of capital, anticipating the announced failure of this farce.

Evidently, they confuse the mode of production with the form of management. Capitalism is a mode of production and this does not change depending on who or who runs it. That it is managed (co-managed or self-managed) by capitalists, technocrats, bureaucrats, military, trade unionists or cooperatives, is completely inconsequential: it does not interrupt the movement of the law of value (Saint Karlitos of Trier, dixit).

Definitely, emancipation is not where you all insist on digging. We will only achieve total liberation by destroying the capitalist mode of production; that is to say, breaking down the economy, destroying work and the social relations that determine it.

But, leaving aside these “innocent” remarks; what alarms me even more is the underlying discourse in points 6 and 12:

“6. If it has been possible to recognize the legitimacy of representatives of liberal tendencies within the Cuban statist political opposition, we consider ourselves bearers of full legitimacy as libertarian socialists and part of the organization of the working classes in Cuba; If such recognition has not been possible, we will require it for all political opinions.”

“12. We are on guard against any move that, parting from collectives, processes or efforts that aspire to liberation, could lead to the emergence of new and dangerous dominations .”

The demand for recognition “within the Cuban statist political opposition” by the State and “all political opinions” as “bearers of full legitimacy as libertarian socialists and part of the organization of the working classes in Cuba”; outlines the guidelines of a VERY sui generis “anarchism”, to say the least, and illuminates the true intentions of these alleged comrades, not only aimed at the aid of systemic cosmetology (which aims to present the regime under the new make-up of democratic tolerance) but rather shows the participatory eagerness of the signatories, begging for the crumbs of the cake.

To top it off, at the last point of this pathetic statement, they stand as volunteer police “against any move that, parting from collectives, processes or efforts that aspire to liberation, could lead to the emergence of new and dangerous dominations .” Here, they not only reveal themselves as gifted fortune tellers but also join the cult of continuity, fueling the “fear of the boogeyman”. That mythical character who always threatens to appear if we misbehave and who is constantly used by Cuban National Socialism to preserve Power.

There is no doubt that these presumed anarchists need to reflect deeply about Power.

Anarchism cannot be defined if it is not from a permanent state of confrontation with Power. Contemporary anarchic criticism is necessarily based on the recognition of the present historicity of Power, which is intrinsically linked both with its institutionalized distribution (through relations of domination) and with its condition of strategy, always associated with certain regimes of power and of production of truth.

The possibility of “new and dangerous dominations” has never been a limiting factor for the anarchic struggle. We are aware that Power is constantly being transformed, which imposes on us the need to relocate the problem: it is not about being “on guard” against moves, “processes or efforts that aspire to liberation” but about being on guard and confronting each and every one of the different strategies of Power, knowing that our struggle is permanent.

In the mid-fifties of the last century, Cuban anarchism energetically joined the fight against the dictatorship of general Fulgencio Batista, stating – in countless statements and printed documents – the obvious risks “of new and dangerous dominations” about to emerge, pointing out the characteristics of the future dictator, as well as his recognized links and commitments with the Catholic Church, his ultra-nationalist militancy and the gradual Stalinist penetration in the July 26 Movement. However, all these implicit dangers did not prevent them from pursuing their aspirations for freedom. Consequently, they fought to depose Batista as they prepared to confront the dictator in the making.

We anarchists love freedom and we try to procure it for ourselves, even knowing that it is an ephemeral space in the endless sequence between tyranny and Anarchy. Hence the proposal for permanent insurrection. When we renounce these longings for total liberation, we abandon the essence of anarchic struggle.

An “anarchism” that rejects the ” social explosion “; that it demands the recognition of its “ legitimacy ” before the State; that advocates the co-management and continuity of the capitalist mode of production; that is preparing to put makeup on the regime; stands ” on guard against any movement that, from groups, processes or efforts that aspire to liberation “; and renounces fighting for fear of the “ new and dangerous dominations ” that might emerge; it is a toothless “anarchism”, without claws or heart, that bets on political survival, without risks or shocks, regardless of events and with its back to the struggle. Such an “anarchism” does not deserve that name.

Gustavo Rodriguez,

Planet Earth,

As of January 18, 2021.

Postscript (clarification in anticipation): After the publication of this critique, I would not be surprised to hear some voices defending the indefensible from the shadows of ambiguity, in a kind of act of atonement; in such a way, only the unbearable lightness of sappy bootleg anarchism and its regrettable reach in our camp would be verified .

Postscript (for consolation): I am aware that nothing is determined in advance. It is up to you – from now on – that the initiatives of the ABRA Social Center link up with the current cycle of anarchic struggle and move towards giving life to Anarchy or, degenerate, without pain or glory, in the Lawton Social Club and, end your days singing “Cuba, how beautiful is Cuba” (under the World Circuit label) on each tragic anniversary of the pavement.

[1] Available at: https://centrosocialabra.wordpress.com/2021/01/03/comunicado-del-taller-… (Consulted 01/19/2021)

[Translator’s notes:

1. The original title uses the word “guarapero” as a qualifier for anarchism. This has very specific connotations not conveyed by the translation of “sappy bootleg”, that of an autochtonous and traditional drink, ”guarapo” -freshly squeezed sugarcane juice in Cuba, or lightly fermented in other countries since it ferments quickly- held dear in the imaginary of Cuban national folklore. The production of this drink is usually produced in an artisanal manner, “guarapero” could be referring to those who make it and sell it, or to those who drink it, being called “drunks”.

To convey as much of the subtle insult as possible and to make more general the application of its underlying critique the words “sappy” conveying the sweetness of the sugarcane juice, and “bootleg” which can be associated with the production of moonshine (word which can also be used to mean “empty talk” or “nonsense”) and can also mean “knockoff” an inferior copy. Since this is itself a “bootleg” translation, not consulted with the author, I can only make an educated guess of the specific sense in which he meant it, and how best to convey this to international English speaking readers.

2. “Cuba, qué linda es Cuba” (“Cuba, how beautiful is Cuba”) is referring to the name and the lyrics of said patriotic song which attained the level of a sort of unofficial national anthem.]

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