On July 18th, around 40 people crammed into the upstairs floor of the Tamarack bar, social center, and library in Oakland, California for the launch of Anarchist Popular Power: Dissident Labor and Armed Struggle in Uruguay 1956-76. With so little space in the upper story of the building, some attendees stood in the stairwell to listen to the presentation on the history and activity of the Anarchist Federation of Uruguay (FAU) made by author and historian Troy Andreas Araiza Kokkinis. For over an hour Araiza Kokkinis covered in harrowing detail the activity of the FAU in the years preceding and during the civic-military dictatorship in Uruguay.
From interventions in massive labor unrest at places like the Seral Shoe factory, to involvement in the Worker-Student Resistance Organization (ROE), to clandestine operations undertaken by the federation’s armed wing “OPR-33”, the history of struggle undertaken by FAU militants covered during the brief talk was extensive and captivating.
But, as both Araiza Kokkinis and introductory speaker Juan Vera-Luz (a militant of Black Rose / Rosa Negra) made clear throughout the evening, the presentation was not meant as a mere lesson in history.
Juan Vera-Luz: “Historically, reigning approaches to politics–especially of the reformist and reactionary variety–have unsurprisingly emanated from the North down and from West to East. Europe’s imperial & colonial projects throughout much of the last several hundred years enabled its state agents and capital investors to “make” that history, and access networks, resources, and lackeys to spread their visions, structures, and narratives. Perhaps the most consequential contemporary example of this is the entrenchment of bourgeois democracy throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries, all but “ending history” as they consumed the former Soviet bloc.
Revolutionary socialist politics that aim to transform how we relate to one another and the world around us have often bucked this trend, but primarily latitudinally. Specifically in the 20th century, the leading model for overthrowing capitalism–vanguard Communist Parties seizing state power–traveled from East to West. Similarly, Mao Tse-Tung’s “protracted people’s war” against Imperial Japan and China’s ascendent bourgeoisie put armed guerrilla struggle into revolutionaries’ tactical and strategic toolkits. Again, though, the southern hemisphere was largely left out of the political equation.
One of the few instances of a political strategy traveling from south to north comes by way of especifismo. In the years since the FAU re-emerged after the Uruguayan dictatorship’s fall in the 1980s, anarchists near and far have adhered themselves to this approach. Contact with FAU militants inspired South American camaradas to form groups like the Anarchist Federation of Rio de Janeiro (FARJ) among many others in Brazil, the Anarchist Federation of Rosario (FAR) in Argentina, and the Anarchist Federation of Santiago (FAS) in Chile. The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front in South Africa, the French Union Communiste Libertaire, and Germany’s Die Plattform, among many others, have also woven especifista tenets into their activity. Throughout Oceania, growing groups of revolutionaries share lessons about their experiments with especifismo via the Red and Black Notes blog. And in the United States, Black Rose / Rosa Negra adapts the FAU’s contributions to practically orient our social insertion in mass movements.[…]
As Black Rose argues in our program Turning the Tide, capitalism and the nation-state offer no solutions to the compounding crises that underlaid Occupy Wall Street’s explosion. Those crises have since forcefully erupted in similar forms: mass mobilizations to secure Black lives against all instantiations of white supremacy; airport shutdowns to oppose xenophobic, anti-Muslim policies; direct confrontations with anti-LGBTQ fascist footsoldiers; and more. But short-term victories have often been temporary reprieves against these systems’ worst excesses, and once the heat in the streets simmers, business as usual typically returns.
The struggle for sustained wins have pushed veteran and newcomer militants alike to reassess our strategies, and commit to long-term organizing projects. Hundreds of thousands have started and joined labor unions over the last several years, and the number of strikes grew over 50% since the pandemic began. Tenant unions of, by, and for ourselves have coalesced into a multinational network, coordinating cross-regional campaigns to support shared struggles. Despite these important inroads we have made towards rebuilding popular power, our movements have still struggled to wrest major concessions. Some have even concluded revolution is impossible, that oppressive ways of structuring social life and their tendencies to crisis are here to stay.
I and many others disagree. So how might we maximize the momentum of organizing our coworkers, neighbors, and communities towards a world without capital accumulation, state violence, and hierarchical coercion? How might we replace the everyday drudgery of domination with lives worth collectively living? Troy’s investigation of the FAU offers some glimpses into how that might look.”
Despite the severe repression faced by its members throughout the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80s, FAU continues to exist into the present. Originating the strategic and organizational theory of especifismo, FAU has projected an outsized influence on the global anarchist movement in recent decades–including on our own organization, Black Rose / Rosa Negra (BRRN). Today BRRN maintains close ties to FAU, which we consider our sibling organization, through international formations which allow us to collaborate on matters of theory, strategy, and analysis.
Given the resounding success of the launch event for Anarchist Popular Power, we have begun working to organize subsequent presentations by Araiza Kokkinis – please be on the lookout for announcements regarding this!
Finally, we want to extend a gracious thank you to the book’s publisher, AK Press, for their help in co-sponsoring this event. AK Press is a standard bearer in publishing on topics related to anarchism and other revolutionary politics; without their assistance this event would not have been possible!
If you enjoyed this report, we recommend Troy Andreas Araiza Kokkinis’ obituary of FAU militant Juan Carlos Mechoso, who passed in October of 2022. We also recommend ‘Theory, Ideology, and Political Practice: the FAU’s “Huerta Grande”‘.