Beware Venezuela’s false ‘anarchists’: unmasking El Libertario

From Roar Magazine - by George Ciccariello-Maher

Not everyone who calls themselves anarchists are worthy of the name. Before expressing our solidarity, we should be clear who it is we are supporting.

When it comes to the Venezuelan protests of recent weeks and months, misinformation reigns supreme. Just as liberals and progressives have been misled by desperate hashtags like #SOSVenezuela and simplistic comparisons to Occupy, so too has the radical left been tempted by the some self-described Venezuelan anarchists, and El Libertario in particular.

This is not a critique of anarchism in general or even of all Venezuelan anarchists (I will discuss others below). I have always been very close to the anarchist milieu and, while frustrated by href="http://libcom.org/library/between-infoshops-insurrection-us-anarchism-movement-building-racial-order" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','libcom.org']);">certain anarchist blindspots, I am influenced by anarchism as a doctrine of revolutionary struggle that understands the inherent contradictions of the state. The liberal, middle-class anarchism of El Libertario, however, represents not the fulfillment but the betrayal of this revolutionary anarchist vision. Condescending toward the poor and utterly absent from concrete struggles, it has instead allied itself—as it does today—with style="color: #0000ff;">reactionary elite movements.

In a recent piece published in English both by Libcom.org and style="color: #0000ff;"> href="http://roarmag.org/2014/02/anarchist-perspective-protests-venezuela/" >ROAR Magazine, El Libertario figurehead Rafael Uzcátegui (not to be confused with the former guerrilla of the same name), put forth a highly misleading but also revealing account of the recent protests to provide an “anarchist perspective” for the “poorly informed.” Unfortunately, the piece leaves us even more poorly informed than before, and lacks any anarchist perspective whatsoever. (While this is not the time to fully dissect Uzcátegui’s book, translated into English as Venezuela: Revolution as Spectacle, let’s just say that—as the title suggests—it’s more Debord than Magón or Bakunin.)

What is misleading is that Uzcátegui repeats mainstream misrepresentations of how the protests started, claiming police repression when the police only acted in response to a href="http://www.laverdad.com/politica/45875-encapuchados-atacan-casa-del-gobernador-del-tachira.html" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','www.laverdad.com']);">February 6th attack on the governor of Táchira’s house. He uncritically reports arrests and torture allegations, despite the fact that most of these were never actually reported to the competent agencies, and href="http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/10536" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','venezuelanalysis.com']);">some are under investigation. While rightly mentioning the role of intelligence officials in deaths of both protesters and Chavistas on February 12th, he fails to mention that the officers responsible were promptly arrested and charged (the number of officials arrested for excessive force has now reached 17).

He invokes a common refrain that there is no press freedom in Venezuela while noting that it was the most important Venezuelan newspaper, Últimas Noticias (which is sympathetic to the government) that released a style="color: #0000ff;">crucial video investigation showing the actions of security officials on February 12th. He critiques president Nicolás Maduro’s suggestion that a coup plot similar to the one that briefly overthrew Hugo Chávez in 2002 might be in the works, but leaves out El Libertario’s own ambivalence toward that coup when it happened (see below).

What is revealing, however, is the fact that Uzcátegui positions El Libertario as “simple spectators” and condescendingly blames “low levels of political culture” for the absence of a truly independent left. For anyone who has spent even a week in Venezuela, and especially for those of us from the US who have lived there extensively, this last statement is utterly incomprehensible, since the political culture of Venezuela, the constant flurry of vibrant critical revolutionary activity, is at times overwhelming. But this, alongside Uzcátegui’s demonization of popular revolutionary organizations (colectivos) as “militia groups” speaks volumes about El Libertario’s opposition to popular struggles and the self-activity of the poorest Venezuelans and support for middle-class notions of social change that are ultimately complicit with the right.

Who Are El Libertario?

1. A middle-class organization…

As one former member puts it, El Libertario’s constituency and membership consists of “total upper-class snobs (sifrinos), unos hijitos de papá, pampered rich kids.” Uzcátegui himself comes from a family with money and became even more “gentrified through student politics in the university.” (Uzcátegui has even worked a day job under the former mayor of Baruta in wealthy eastern Caracas, none other than right-wing opposition leader Henrique Capriles, formerly of the US-funded opposition party Primero Justicia). Origin is not a curse, however, and many a revolutionary has committed “ style="color: #0000ff;"> href="http://libcom.org/library/amilcar-cabrals-theory-class-suicide-and-revolutionary-socialism-tom-meisenhelder" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','libcom.org']);">class suicide” to join the struggle—not so for El Libertario.

2. … with liberal, middle-class politics…

In the words of a former member, El Libertario “operates more like an NGO than a group, it’s not a grassroots movement,” and this should be no surprise since members have close relations to liberal human rights NGOs like PROVEA, where Uzcátegui works. Whereas revolutionaries worldwide have become increasingly aware of the limitations and even dangers of human rights discourse—which in recent years has been strategically co-opted by right-wing forces worldwide—El Libertario has seemingly moved in the opposite direction. All of which raises an interesting question for self-professed “anarchists”: when the all-out class war comes, will El Libertario be there to defend the human rights of our enemies? This is not to celebrate repression: I have been tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, attacked with concussion grenades, arrested, and assaulted by police—but I have never heard this described as a “human rights violation.”

Inherent limitations of human rights discourse aside, Uzcátegui and PROVEA have gone further in recent weeks by circulating href="https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/advocacyciat/ZFqP6Z47COw" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','groups.google.com']);">one-sided denunciations of the Maduro government that make no mention of the href="http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/venezuela-who-are-they-and-how-did-they-die" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','www.cepr.net']);">many deaths at the hands of the opposition protesters. You would have no idea that two motorcyclists had been decapitated by barbed wire seemingly hung for that purpose, or that bystanders had been attacked and even killed when crossing barricades to get to work. Thankfully, a number of human rights defenders—some formerly working with PROVEA and Amnesty International—have recently denounced this manipulative use of human rights discourse.

3. … that upholds middle-class leadership…

Even more astonishingly, in a country in which the poor majority—both the traditional working class and the informal sector—have become increasingly organized and revolutionary, Rodolfo Montes de Oca from El Libertario even openly supports the idea that it is the middle class that should lead the struggle. In an article replete with the obligatory references to “counter-power” and citations of Graeber and Holloway, we find the astounding suggestion that it is “the college-educated middle class, and perhaps owners of small means of production and service providers, who are the best suited to assume leadership within emerging organizations and social movements, since their basic necessities are covered and their autonomy won’t be put at risk [hipotecada].”

Montes’ choice of words is revealing, as hipotecada refers literally to mortgages, implying that the poor will simply sell their political loyalties to the highest bidder. In On Revolution, Hannah Arendt href="http://books.google.com/books/about/On_Revolution.html?id=C8GoV3xOVbIC" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','books.google.com']);">argued that the French Revolution was doomed by “necessity and poverty” because its supporters were drawn from “the multitude of the poor.” Here we have so-called “anarchists” trotting out the same tired argument: the poor, it seems, can’t be trusted to lead their own social struggles, since their empty stomachs will only get in the way. El Libertario aspires to be, in the href="http://kaosenlared.net/america-latina/item/12234-la-farv-la-revolución-bolivariana-y-los-despropósitos-de-el-libertario.html" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','kaosenlared.net']);">words of one critic, “The boss in the workplace and the boss in the revolution.”

4. … and is absent from popular struggles…

As a result of this middle-class composition, liberal middle-class ideology, and emphasis on middle-class leadership, it is little surprise that El Libertario would be absent from popular grassroots struggles and allied instead with the more middle-class struggles of increasingly conservative students in elite and private universities. In the words of a former member, El Libertario “has never had a presence in the barrio,” and when small projects were attempted in the past, their vanguardist method of work—in which they sought to enlighten the poor—was “self-isolating” in practice. Other Venezuelan anarchists href="http://kaosenlared.net/america-latina/item/12234-la-farv-la-revolución-bolivariana-y-los-despropósitos-de-el-libertario.html" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','kaosenlared.net']);">similarly insist that El Libertario is “never seen by communities in struggle.” Even El Libertario sympathizers href="http://threewayfight.blogspot.com/2005/07/que-se-vayan-todos-venezuelas.html" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','threewayfight.blogspot.com']);">have observed that “they have only the most marginal presence in many key sectors of social struggle,” a characterization which fits Uzcátegui’s admission that they are “simple spectators.”

For example, when revolutionary organizations engaged in direct action in 2004, tearing down a statue of Columbus in Plaza Venezuela in the name of decolonization, some were arrested and Chávez denounced the organizers as “anarchists.” Rather than participating in the action or showing solidarity with those arrested, El Libertario instead chose to mock the action as somehow—here revealing their longstanding obsession—simply a spectacle, and href="http://es.scribd.com/doc/76617639/El-Libertario-nº-40-noviembre-diciembre-2004" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','es.scribd.com']);">blamed those arrested for naively presuming the government would support them. In the complex dialectic of the revolutionary process, it’s worth pointing out that despite Chávez’s initial denunciation, these and other radical direct actions pushed the Bolivarian government toward emphasizing indigenous genocide and eventually declaring October 12th the “Day of Indigenous Resistance.”

After a similarly combative action on the anniversary of the Caracazo in 2008 which Chávez similarly criticized as “anarchistic,” again El Libertario did not express solidarity but instead issued a href="http://divergences.be/spip.php?article1065&;lang=fr" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','divergences.be']);">statement insisting that Chávez did not know what the word meant. href="http://kaosenlared.net/america-latina/item/12234-la-farv-la-revolución-bolivariana-y-los-despropósitos-de-el-libertario.html" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','kaosenlared.net']);">According to participants, he had evidently “touched their sacred word,” and they couldn’t allow anyone else to be accused of anarchism, and so they misrepresented the slogan of the action—“we don’t want them to govern us: we want to govern”—as simply a demand for state power.

5. … and more likely to join forces with the right…

The list goes on and on: while revolutionaries (who supported Chávez) were repressed by the National Guard while participating in a 2008 caravan to support indigenous Yukpa rights, El Libertario was style="color: #0000ff;"> href="http://kaosenlared.net/america-latina/item/12234-la-farv-la-revolución-bolivariana-y-los-despropósitos-de-el-libertario.html" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','kaosenlared.net']);">nowhere to be seen (despite paying lip service to the Yukpa struggle), but was instead in the streets with middle-class students, defending the right-wing style="color: #0000ff;">TV station RCTV. This all points to a troubling trend: instead of submerging themselves in revolutionary popular struggles, El Libertario has moved increasingly toward student struggles that tend toward the right. This trend has only been confirmed in recent weeks, as members of El Libertario have openly celebrated the middle-class and largely right-wing protest movement. Uzcátegui has even gone so far— style="color: #0000ff;"> href="https://twitter.com/fanzinero/status/434763219144437760" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','twitter.com']);">according to his tweets—as to mistake this middle-class crowd (which other “libertarians” href="http://www.aporrea.org/autores/roland.denis" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','www.aporrea.org']);">argue is hegemonically fascist) for the networked multitude, thereby committing the cardinal error of forgetting that style="color: #0000ff;"> href="http://multitudes.samizdat.net/spip.php?page=imprimer&id_article=269" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','multitudes.samizdat.net']);">for old Antonio Negri, the multitude is above all a “class concept.”

6. … due to a caricatured “three-way fight” politics…

El Libertario like to position themselves as being equally opposed to both Chavismo and the right. While this invokes in some ways the “three-way fight” logic in the form of the lucha tripolar, or “tripolar struggle”, it is in a brutally caricatured form (although, let’s be real, three-way fight is capable of its own style="color: #0000ff;">ridiculous caricature). This was as clear during the right-wing coup of April 2002 as it is today: confronted with a coup that removed not only Chávez but also the progressive 1999 Constitution, and which left dozens dead in the streets before it was reversed through popular mass rebellion, El Libertario again stood on the sidelines, unwilling to even condemn this quasi-fascist assault on the people. (Issues 26 and 27 of El Libertario, published around the time of the coup, are conveniently missing from the web archive, but I have myself interviewed former members who left El Libertario after it took this “reactionary position”).

7. … making any mass-revolutionary outlook impossible.

Uzcátegui insists that “The Revolutionary Independent Venezuelan Left (anarchists, sectors that follow Trotsky, Marx, Lenin and Guevara)” are “simple spectators”—but what about revolutionary socialists like the Marea Socialista current? What about revolutionary anarchist-libertarian militants like Roland Denis, who rather than admiring the networked creativity of these protesters urges us instead to take radical measures to “ href="http://www.aporrea.org/actualidad/a182411.html" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','www.aporrea.org']);">deactivate fascism”? And what about revolutionary Guevaraists like the new href="http://www.kaosenlared.net/america-latina/item/82835-*corriente-bolivariana-guevarista-nacimos-para-construir-el-socialismo.html" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','www.kaosenlared.net']);">Bolivarian-Guevaraist Current or the La Piedrita Collective, one of those popular collectives that Uzcátegui smears as a blindly Chavista militia, despite the fact that they predated Chávez by decades and frequently clashed with the government in practice.

Rather than humbly seeking a basis in mass work, El Libertario condescendingly insists that if the masses don’t join them, so much the worse for the masses. Accordingly, it smears those who disagree as oficialistas, supporters of the government, in an attempt to erase the very real history of revolutionary autonomy within the Bolivarian movement. Thus while El Libertario parrots tired mantras of the opposition that there is no press freedom in Venezuela ( href="http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/2010_12_venezuela_media.pdf" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_track Event','outbound-article','www.cepr.net']);">which is a blatant lie, incidentally), it ignores the flourishing of popular grassroots media in recent years, as well as the fact that revolutionaries href="http://kaosenlared.net/america-latina/item/12234-la-farv-la-revolución-bolivariana-y-los-despropósitos-de-el-libertario.html" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','kaosenlared.net']);">were demanding that media be “neither private nor state-run.” Anyone who happens to also support the Bolivarian process, or to see it as worth defending despite its limitations and defects, is according to El Libertario a sell-out and a pawn.

But this view is not revolutionary and certainly not anarchist. Any anarchist revolution will be a mass, class-based phenomenon or it will be nothing at all. This doesn’t mean that anarchists and anti-authoritarians should simply uncritically toe the Chavista line, but instead engage directly in building revolutionary movements, spaces, and ruptures within and against the mainstream of the Bolivarian movement, as thousands of Venezuelan revolutionaries have been doing for years if not decades.

Will the Real Anarchists Please Stand Up?

While capital-A anarchism has never been a major force in Venezuela, the liberal anarchism of El Libertario does not enjoy the monopoly on the term that it would like you to believe. A good example was the Revolutionary Anarchist Federation of Venezuela (FARV), which unfortunately dissolved last year. The FARV represented the voice of revolutionary, decolonial, class-struggle anarchism in Venezuela, but like most non-middle-class movements, this was not a voice that was amplified by translated books or US speaking tours, and so I will quote at length from the FARV to compensate.

In a 2012 article, Luis from the FARV provided an exhaustive analysis of the “ href="http://kaosenlared.net/america-latina/item/12234-la-farv-la-revolución-bolivariana-y-los-despropósitos-de-el-libertario.html" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','kaosenlared.net']);">absurdities of El Libertario” and, rejecting El Libertario’s attempts to “hoard” and “monopolize” the name anarchism, sketched the parameters for a truly revolutionary anarchist alternative. This alternative sets out from a firm rejection of the middle-class ideology and leadership that defines El Libertario. Noting that “we have always been under the leadership of the privileged classes,” the FARV insists that to uphold middle-class leadership is to maintain the traditional reproduction of the system whereby academic institutions legitimate those “predestined to guide the country… this is exactly the same as the opposition discourse that speaks of a so-called meritocracy, loaded with racism, classism, liberalism, colonialism, and fascism.”

Further, suggesting that those possessing the means of production are rightful movement leaders is to “validate exploitation, difference, and privileges rather than combating them, which we understand to be the reason we are anarchists to begin with… Proudhon cried ‘property is theft,’ and so that small property… is therefore a small theft, a small parasitic action.” Worst of all, to openly celebrate middle-class origins by embracing middle-class politics is to contribute to discrediting of anarchism itself by reinforcing the oldest caricature of anarchism in the books, “sustain[ing] the fallacies Bolsheviks have woven about anarchism… that anarchism is a petit-bourgeois ideology.” For the FARV,

The anarcho-liberals [of El Libertario] are part of the middle class and proud of it, so we know that they will never work against their own interests… [But] fortunately, the popular movement doesn’t let anyone act in its name, much less the middle class. Fortunately, social movements are not the same as the popular movement. Fortunately, the popular movement continues to advance toward collective forms of leadership.

The correct position toward these popular movements is not of course the passivity of “simple spectators” as Uzcátegui would have it, and the FARV rejects the three-way fight insofar as it represents “the posture of the ‘enlightened third way’… which does not participate in struggles but only watches, criticizes, and pretends to give the orders because it believes it possesses a luminous truth. An arrogant and authoritarian ‘anarchism’ that we do not share.”

The FARV “expresses ourselves from the position of concrete popular struggles. It is from this difference that all other differences stem.” They spread libertarian ideas “not only with the word, but with everyday constructive action alongside the children of the people. With humility and as equals, since there is much we have to learn from communities in struggle.” As the FARV recognized in a style="color: #0000ff;"> style="text-decoration: underline;"> href="http://farvespecifistas.blogspot.com/2012/09/por-una-sociedad-libertaria-y.html" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','farvespecifistas.blogspot.com']);">2012 communiqué, to position oneself alongside concrete communities in struggle is not to oppose the Bolivarian process—understood as something that began long before Chávez and will continue long after him—but to embrace aspects of it while pressing it in ever more revolutionary directions:

Our struggle is for libertarian communism, and so we are not willing to go back to a ‘state of affairs’ in which: we will be persecuted, where alternative media will be closed, where lands and businesses today under communal control will be returned to large landholders and businessmen, where there will be systematic violations of human rights, where the juridical instruments that can help the popular cause [i.e., the 1999 Constitution] and the future construction of truly horizontal and assembly-based communal spaces will disappear… to regress to a past that, scarcely concealed, awaits a fascist backlash.

Instead, from this position in concrete popular struggles, the FARV embraces a different sort of three-way fight:

We are equally against those supposedly ‘leftist’ positions that want us to believe that ‘this is more of the same’ as we are against those top-down accommodationists who insist that ‘this is a true revolution’… and even more certain ‘personalities’ who take refuge in anarchist ideas (and certain Trotskyist positions) to cover up the fact that they speak from a bourgeois perspective, and thereby to invisibilize struggles and processes of change… We also say to these anarchists-turned-hucksters, commercializers and tourists of ideas, that fascism shall not pass.

This does not mean that the state is not powerfully dangerous and contradictory, of course: according to href="http://farvespecifistas.blogspot.com/2012/09/por-una-sociedad-libertaria-y.html" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','farvespecifistas.blogspot.com']);">the FARV, “no state is revolutionary,” but “as anarchists we know that this process… is constituted as a collective and common task of the Venezuelan people, and therefore that the conditions of possibility today posed by connecting tactically to the Bolivarian state must not be abandoned.” Anarchism can only be built through the collective struggle of the masses, and for reasons both defensive (avoiding repression) and offensive (laying claim to new spaces opened by the process), this mass struggle emerges through the Bolivarian process (although in a tense and often conflictive relation to the government).

This means resisting the automatic solidarities and stifling confines of a capital-A anarchism that limits itself to those self-described anarchists:

In the present moment there exist many examples of spaces that, while not defining themselves as anarchist, are nevertheless engaged in everyday libertarian practices: communities that possess a certain degree of social production, self-government, and self-defense… [like] Collectives in 23 de Enero, Alexis Vive Collective, Montaraz Collective, among others.

El Libertario, faithful to their class background and class politics, “are more afraid of Chavismo and the revolution than fascism, the oligarchy, and the Venezuelan right-wing, with which they gladly march.” So it is no surprise that these collectives celebrated by the FARV for their tacitly anarchist activity are the very same collectives that are today demonized by a fearful bourgeoisie as well as their anarchist collaborators who mimic elites in their denunciation of “militia groups.”

The FARV’s reply to El Libertario’s strange right-wing bedfellows is blunt:

No, we have nothing in common with the bourgeoisie. El Libertario and the FARV are not the same thing. It is very different to say ‘social movements’ (meaning NGOs and foundations) vs. ‘popular movement’ (collectives and working groups, campesino fronts, land occupation movements, indigenous movements, health committees, land committees, etc). Bakunin is right, the middle class is one thing, with its aspirations and conceits; the children of the people with their struggles, dreams, and victories are another thing entirely… As children of the people we don’t hope for anything of the middle class, and much less its leadership… We choose not to be on the side of a class that fears the revolution…

We prefer instead to be with the popular movement, with its rebellious, disobedient, and ungovernable temperament; with its self-managed experiments, with its steps toward socialism, with its libertarian yearnings and its anarchist intuition… we need to look for [this anarchist impulse]—not in the middle class, not in the communiqués of the bourgeoisie, not on the internet or in the official speeches of university professors, not on television or in Chávez’s statements or actions, but in the barrios, in the communities in struggle, at the heart of the popular movement.

In style="text-decoration: underline;">We Created Chávez, I wrote that “Far too often, discussions of contemporary Venezuela revolve around the figure of the Venezuelan president. Whether from opponents on the conservative right or the anarchist left or supporters in between, the myopia is the same.” Similarly, the FARV argue that:

The acolytes of Chávez-centrism, whether Chavistas or from the opposition, share the determination to circumscribe everything in the figure of Chávez, either by denying the accomplishments of the Bolivarian process and saying that everything bad is due to the style="text-decoration: underline;"> href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zambo" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','en.wikipedia.org']);">zambo of their nightmares, or by fomenting the idea that these accomplishments are the gifts of power or the result of Chávez’s benevolence.

We, on the other hand, consider these accomplishments to be the product of the historic struggles of the popular movement, which have cost us and continue to cost us blood and sacrifice… Although El Libertario, along with the right-wing opposition and the red [Chavista] bureaucracy attempt to erase all traces of the autonomy of popular action, we the children of the people will continue organizing, they will hear our voices more often and will have to get used to seeing our faces.

Not everyone who calls themselves anarchists are worthy of the name, and before revolutionaries in the U.S. or elsewhere re-post articles, translate books, or organize speaking tours, we should be clear what it is we are supporting. Especially in Latin America, moreover, we must be attentive to the thousands engaged in revolutionary anti-state activity that don’t even call themselves “anarchists.” To support middle-class, liberal anarchists like El Libertario is to be against the revolution, against concrete popular struggles of the Venezuelan poor, and even against anarchism itself.

George Ciccariello-Maher is the author of href="https://www.dukeupress.edu/index.php" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','www.dukeupress.edu']);">We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution (Duke University Press, 2013).

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Comments

Real Venezualan anarchists drop banners with Sean Swain quotes on them and block Google buses.

Here's the official description of this asshole's hagiography of fucking Hugo Chavez:

"Based on interviews with grassroots organizers, former guerrillas, members of neighborhood militias, and government officials, Ciccariello-Maher presents a new history of Venezuelan political activism, one told from below. Led by leftist guerrillas, women, Afro-Venezuelans, indigenous people, and students, the social movements he discusses have been struggling against corruption and repression since 1958. Ciccariello-Maher pays particular attention to the dynamic interplay between the Chávez government, revolutionary social movements, and the Venezuelan people, recasting the Bolivarian Revolution as a long-term and multifaceted process of political transformation."

The folks at El Libertario may not be the best anarchists (I don't know), but their criticisms of Chavez and Chavismo have been spot on. This academic shithead wouldn't know a real anarchist if he fell over the ones he's been shoving to the ground.

This is what I am talking about, I want to a reading group once time and there was Mister Grumpy-in_Real-Life, and he was always really serious like in the his real posting.......and so I was pretty high, I could stop staring at his gum line while he was speaking because it looked like dracula's hairline

Mr Grump-Handjobby

Yeah, I'm sure you, as a person in the US, know way more about what's best for Venezuela than the millions of Venezuelans who uphold Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution.

maoist

The author of this article wrote a book called "We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution" as we can see at the bottom of this article. From the title one can expect that this article was written by someone who went as far as to write a whole book on how great the "bolivarian revoltion" is and so we can very well declare him a chavista.

¿Why does anarchynews.org publish a piece by someone who even went as far as to write a whole book propagandizing for the chavez regime?

As far as the FARV organization defended by the author of this article as i check their website they are clearly a platformist organization. But when Chavez died they went as far as to say that they lament the death of "comrade Chavez" (http://farvespecifistas.blogspot.com/2013/03/comunicado-farv-frente-la-d...).

How can an anarchist declare a populist president of a state to be their "comrade"?

Not surprisingly this article was published by the platformist website "anarkismo.org

As the history of the actual practice of platformism has shown us, that position was not only influenced highly by marxism but in fact by leninism. Pathetic episodes such as the Fontenis episode in france (http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/giovanna-berneri-the-french-anarc...) should remind us how platformism is not very far from something like trotskism.

In fact el libertario denounced a sad episode where the chilean platformists of the FEL defended the Maduro regime so much that they could very well be called "anarcho-maduristas" (http://periodicoellibertario.blogspot.com/2014/02/desde-chile-se-lanza-d...).

El libertario has done well in denouncing and distancing themselves from both the Maduro/Chavez regime and from the right wing who converges around the MUD. The author of this article instead wants anarchism to align with the Maduro regime.

anarchistnews has published both articles of "anarcho" capitalists and now of "anarcho" chavistas. I have criticized befor "anarcho" nihilists and riot porn insurrectionists but reading this article i have to confess i miss good old riot porn anarchism.

I'm not defending Chavez or the douche' bag author of this article, but it is important to understand that Chavez is to the Venezuela poor what Mandela was to South African blacks. Chavez overcoming to US coup attempt was a huge game changer for Latin America and was essentially the final nail in the coffin of the Monroe Doctrine, which is precisely why he is fuckin' worshiped throughout all of South America.

Likewise and regardless of if we like it or not, chavistism remains a grassroots political force that dominate the organizing where @'s should be, but generally being middle class they are not. This is shit that includes Chavez calling for and supporting mass squatting and the community takeover of tenement buildings.

This is why there seems to be a lot more @ criticism against @'s who do not denounce Chavez strongly enough than there are against Chavez himself, because it's actually easier.

The point is that Chavez was not some corporate stooge Obama "left" president but a cultural icon (like Mandela) and you need to look at the context to understand why there is still a bit of respect for the dude amongst radicals in latin america, much like the unquestioned respect for Mandela after his death, in spite of him being a real mother fucker once in power.

So yes he was a statist and a motherfucker, but he was also a statist and a motherfucker that did some pretty cool things, and whether justly or not, will always be regarded as the beginning to the end of US imperialism in Latin America, which of course leaves a profound impact on the psyche of the people.

Social anarchists are really the fucking scourge of the movement, and that includes YOU.

there IS no movement without the social anarchists, just a bunch of pompous assholes with blogs and other addictions … on this continent anyway.

The only true anarchists are the Judean People's Front!

The People's Front of Judea!

SPLITTER!!!

bleh... Judeans feck off! Only authoritarian committee-based organizing and abstract declarations work!

pretty much since the repression of the spanish revolution, the international anarchist movement has been dominated by middle-class academics. for one thing, they get published. for another, they have the protection of their institutions to - many times - rely on to help protect them from the state. and, most importantly, they often survive waves of state repression, which thereby proves the superiority of their lifestyle choices, at least in their minds.

this is exactly the opposite of praxedis guerrero's famous quote "it's better to die on your feet than to live on your knees."

so, taking the opposite stance greatly increases one's chances of survival in a hostile political environment. and sadly enough, these cowards in black sheep garb are the ones who write the books about anarchism we read.

sure, we can focus our studies on the words of people, like emma goldman and piotr kropotkin, who were activists, lecturers, and prolific writers and publishers. and learn a great deal. but they did not live in a world of instant communication across the world, nuclear weapons, and food with poison embedded in its DNA. things are not like they were in the 19th century, and whereas we can learn a lot of lessons from the past about how theory and action are both very necessary in our struggles, very, Very, VERY few academics will endanger their professorships, much less their lives, in order to move their ideas off the printed page and manifest them in their lives.

thus, we get academics who are praised for both their strongly-worded support for (let's just say at random) the EZLN, AND for their condemnation of local activists who begin to agitate for the creation of liberated space in a more local sense. the academic is well aware of the damgers of armed rebellion and can very likely quote statistics about the repression of such uprisings. so, the academic can only cower in fear when confronted with insurrrection in the streets of their college town, hide in the ivory tower of academia, then write criticisms about the misguided idiots acting like spoiled brats in the streets, and can then make a reputation and earn a permanent, long-term niche in the academic world by writing the obituary of the movement when it has been sufficiently repressed that the academic can return to public life without fear of reprisal by those he decried, or by the police.

i gotta say, though, that during times when anarchists are not seen as actively engaged in public debate or social movements, these academics can be the only thing we really have going for us. and the explosion of books on the subject of anarchism and anarchist history since the 1980s was very welcomed and exciting to see happen. especially considering how this was also the time i took an interest in anarchism and began reading up on it.

i regret now that i spent the past 25 years or so since then hanging out in college towns and organizing with students and youth. because when i went to prison, i met so many people who inherently felt anarchy in their hearts and souls. complete disregard for authority. almost compulsively disobedient of rules. and close to fearless about suffering from the consequences. the reason being that they know they are poor. they know they will never have the "good life." they know the only place "the system" has for them is a prison cell. so, they live their lives accordingly, knowing full well they will one day end up in jail. and they, their families, lovers, and friends realize this as well, and make allowances in their lives for both jailtime and hiding from the police.

it's only in the u.s. and academic circles that being arrested and imprisoned for acting on your anarchists ideas is seen in a negative way. palestinian men who have never been arrested or injured by the israelis live in shame. it's a right of passage. of course, for palestinians, a person's social standing is little protection from israeli bombs.

in the u.s., academia dominated and came close to defining the anarchist movement in the '80s and has never given up its fight to maintain and strengthen its hold over anarchy - mainly because the movement was being revived by the punks and student activists, thus the Elders felt a need to guide the movement.

this meant channeling the youth's energy into "safe" areas that would not endanger academic's grants, tenures, or book deals. which has resulted in the position we are all familiar with; any attempt to move past empty rhetoric or reformist platforms and take control of lives from the captialist system or challenge their methods of repression.

which leads to humiliating, self-destructive sabotage, like the idiocy of murray bookchin's "lifestyle anarchism - vs - social anarchism" artificial schism. a healthy anarchist movement has room for all tendencies. except the ones that parrot, mimic, or otherwise recreate the institutions of power used to control us.

and there lies the heart of this rant: that so much of what passes for anarchist thought these days is shaped by people in academia who are more suited for life in an isolated pocket of privilige than they are for life as a free, wild being on a planet that provides everything you have or ever will need.

so to bring this to a conclusion, if being a middle-class academic- who is careful not to stick his neck out so far as to make a tempting target - is an offense to the anarchist movement and such people are to be shunned and disparaged, the american anarchist scene is DOOMED!

more and more, it is looking to me like the biggest danger the american anarchist scene is faced with is becoming irrelevent to the anarchic people's movements arising around the world in response to unchecked corporate and military power.

sorry - kept being distracted by fascinating, heated discussions at home, forgot to finish a thought or two:

"this meant channeling the youth's energy into "safe" areas that would not endanger academic's grants, tenures, or book deals. which has resulted in the position we are all familiar with; any attempt to move past empty rhetoric or reformist platforms and take control of lives from the captialist system or challenge their methods of repression is met with denunciations by pies-and-just-us liberals, if not accusations of "provocatuer!"

You can't blame your problems on academics. There are a lot of reasons why there is not insurrectional upheaval in the US. It has more to do with geography, white supremacy, individualism, state-of-the-art policing et cetera than with academic anarcho-liberalism. Anarchists in the US have been anti-intellectual, plan-less, and cynical for decades. The beautiful stuff happens when this norm is broken.

While it would be nice if the above poster did not throw out that useless term white supremacy(which is a Marxist construct and part of the problem, I mean anarchism was at its peak in more culturally racist times) He is right about looking at certain underlying structures going back to at least WW2.

I am hoping that the 68 epoch that gave us this version of anarchism is coming to an end. With things like the internet being the new printing press and the whole blockchain crypto currency thing we are I think heading for a new 1789 like structure. This is what will make the next wave of anarchism better or worse.

I can tell you in the classic days there never was a capital S social anarchist movement steeped in formal mass movement organizational theory. Only anarchists that were social, individualistic, both or iconoclastic.

please don't generalize

...Please

George Ciccariello-Maher is a point person for the Maduro government. My trust in him tumbled when I saw his interview on Al Jazeera (right after the shooting of unarmed protesters) in which he blames the deaths of the protesters on the protesters themselves. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFw-0II-_SA).

Since that interview Maduro has arrested police suspected of killing some of the unarmed protesters. (http://www.sbs.com.au/news/storystream/venezuela-police-facing-murder-pr...).

So the Al Jazeera interview shows Ciccariello-Maher in full damage control mode for the Maduro government until its position pivoted. However, since the killings of opposition protesters, there have been lists published online that suggest that though the victims of state violence were largely opposition protesters, there are also deaths that are being blamed on opposition sabotage. (http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/venezuela-who-are-...)

Whatever your position on Chavez or Maduro, I'm wary of any anarchist that is not willing to admit the U.S.'s long term hostility towards non-compliant governments in Latin America; the existence of the CIA's meddling; and current shadowy orgs like the National Endowment for Democracy which sponsored Leopold Lopez, the last opposition candidate against Maduro. Lopez is a slick neoliberal bastard with degrees with Harvard and the Kennedy School of Government.

Here's the link for Leopold Lopez's 2006 power point presentation on how he's going to destabilize the Chavez government. I'm not sure if it's part of the linked clip but in the same talk he boasts of how he will use student movements to help him destabilize Chavez. (http://maxblumenthal.com/2014/02/who-is-leopoldo-lopez/)

It concerns me that the only anarchist voice that is being presented here is from El Libertario. I'm not familiar with the country and have no contacts in it so I can't trust a single collective or voice. It's also no help that the "real anarchists" that Ciccariello-Maher quotes from are the Revolutionary Anarchist Federation of Venezuela (FARV) which is no longer operating as a collective. Jerome Roos of ROAR seems to have swallowed whole FARV's argument of "strategic collaboration" with Chavism. But even though it's a seductive argument, it's basically a ghost argument since it's no longer backed by an existing organization which can respond to Ciccariello-Maher's appropriation of their political line in this context.

I don't understand why Ciccariello-Maher is publishing this rant against anarchists since the El Libertario piece is a relatively tepid critique of the Maduro government's crackdown on protesters. It seems to me to be aimed at Western anarchists. Anarchists have basically neither fully supported Chavism not fully denounced it. I'm one of them as there was much that I admired in Chavism. If Ciccariello-Maher is propagandizing for anarchist fellow-travelers for the Maduro government then he's certainly going about in an odd way. And if Maduro, unlike the Chavez government, makes the mistake of sustaining itself largely through police and governmental violence rather than legitimate populism then no one is going to support it except for the most hardcore left idealogues.

Bingey - I didn't, and wouldn't, blame unarmed protestors for being shot to death by police (anyone can watch the linked video and see that), and I am glad to see security forces being held accountable for those killings and excessive use of force. But moreover, everything I said in that early interview/debate has proven accurate: whereas the right-wing commentators like Emiliana Duarte were insisting that no protestors were armed, this quickly became untenable, and no one would argue it anymore since 6 national guard have been shot dead and a number of Chavistas attempting to clear barricades from their neighborhoods, including the Chilean Gisela Figueroa (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDa_jC_UNgc)

"I'm wary of any anarchist that is not willing to admit the U.S.'s long term hostility towards non-compliant governments in Latin America;"

Why should anarchists care about what organizers of daily violence do to other organizers of the same(Government on Government)

Oh Einzige, pompous and dismissive as always. I care about lots of developments far outside the realm of anarchism … the whole geopolitical chessboard. Thinking like machiavelli helps you understand the context in which we struggle and the motivations of our enemies.

Of course theres distinctions between "caring" and actual sympathy or empathy, etc.

The attempts at political engineering by the CIA and affiliates in latin america in the last few decades is so fucking relevant to any serious anarchist project, it's like a what-to-expect manual for large popular movements OR armed insurrections.

Its part of the double-talk rhetoric to try and keep everyone unsure and confused hombre!

The worst part is the author´s accusation of El Libertario as "false anarchists" while he is defending a populist center-left government.

"Not everyone who calls themselves anarchists are worthy of the name, and before revolutionaries in the U.S. or elsewhere re-post articles, translate books, or organize speaking tours, we should be clear what it is we are supporting."

So someone who defends the Maduro regime is a "worthy" anarchist". Clearly another episode in the long list of platformist disasters due to their not too secret adherence to marxism-leninism. Even the Venezuelan trotskists of the Socialism and Liberty Party are not supporting the Maduro regime but have adopted a position of autonomy from both the Maduro regime and the right wing. Check (http://www.laclase.info/teoria/que-esta-pasando-en-venezuela).

So the platformist George Ciccariello-Maher is even more supportive of the Maduro regime than the venezuelan trotskist themselves. I used to say that platformists were more or less the same as trotskists. Now i apologize to the trotkists. In fact some platformist seem so be even more collaborative with capital and state than the trotskists.

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