Anarchist interventions in brazil’s winter of discontent

Exclusion of people from the means of life is internal to capitalism.  If the social relations that constitute capitalism’s fabric allow some to benefit from the domination intrinsic to those relations, the many are exploited and/or rendered superfluous as befits domination.  This does not thereby lead to a refusal of capitalism, but it can.  “[T]he relations of mutual support that are created in such situations can easily become the material basis for a sort of flip-over, a real détournement in which victims suddenly emerge as rebels, and the structures of suffering are suddenly transformed into anticipations of a better world.” (John Holloway, Crack Capitalism, p. 24)There are of course differences between those who consciously resist capitalism and those who perhaps find themselves obliged to do so because of circumstances.  “However, the differences should not be exaggerated.  It is often difficult to distinguish choice from necessity … What is important is not to draw dividing lines but to see the lines of continuity”. (Ibid. p. 25)

So many of the protests, rebellions, insurrections of our time could be described desultorily as the children of necessity.  Born of indignation, caused by an immediate crisis, momentary and ultimately ephemeral because sustained by no consistent political self-consciousness, the movements have passed away and failed.  Such judgements however betray arrogant certainty about what actions are rebellious or even revolutionary, and which are not; arrogance shared both by the radical and the conservative.  And such certainty is without justification.

The Brazilian protests which erupted last June, initially in opposition to bus fare increases, quickly spilled into much more extensive and radical protest.  The movement, in its origin and “social” composition, was complex from the beginning.  And the many political interests that were expressed from within it and from without that sought to master it (most notably, right-wing opponents of the Dilma Rousseff government) defied any single political identification.  And yet the movement continues, in a plurality of different forms (ongoing struggles over access to collective transportation, protests against the dislocation of communities demanded by the organization of the World Cup and the Olympics and its parallel real estate speculation, teachers strikes, and the like), animated by the resonances of the events of June/July, but also by agents of older struggles and new agents born in the ferment of the current protests.  To then describe the protests in Brazil as either a middle class movement against corruption and nepotism, or as a revolution in the making, in the moulds of some kind of imminent seizure of state power, is absurd, for it is neither.  There is within the ongoing protests a process, a process of radicalisation that fails to fit neatly into either of the two aforementioned judgements.  And it is in this light that the following text reads the role played by anarchists, a role that they should play and continue to play, in a possible revolution towards autonomy.

What follows is a translation of a text that appeared on the site of the Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro (27/10/2013), and was originally published in Libera N° 159, Jul-Aug-Sep 2013.

Constructing Popular Power !

The voice of the oppressed, in actions from June until the present

June and July were months of large popular demonstrations, where workers, students, the unemployed and various sectors of the oppressed classes took to the streets in various cities of the country to fight against the abuses of capitalist corporations and the government.  A force emerging from the roots of the oppressed classes found a global echo, and as could not have but been the case, found reactionary adversaries along its path: the Rede Globo,(1) other capitalist media, and other right-wing sectors, tried to empty the demonstrations of any social contestation, either with generalisations of the type “against corruption”, or with vain calls of the kind, “the giant awakened”.  Notwithstanding, strong popular pressure forced the lowering of the fares of collective transportation in various cities, representing an incontestable victory of the people against the oppressing classes.


We have witnessed the rise of new mobilisations and resistance in the favelas during the months of August and September.  Locations that organised themselves and also took to the streets  to denounce the violence that they have suffered for decades at the hands of the State, a lackey of capital, and which in these instances does not use rubber bullets.  These initiatives in turn generated new groups/collectives: Movimento Favela Não se Cala and the Fórum Popular de Apoio Mútuo (formerly Favela Nunca Dormiu).  This experience teaches us the necessity of strengthening social movements from below.

The popular indignation and rebellions before the precariousness of the train system should also be remembered.  With the authorisation of Sérgio Cabral and the Secretary of Transportation, Júlio Lopes,(2) the population is treated indecently, literally with the use of whips, by Odebretch, the company that holds the concession.  The population no longer tolerates the daily violence imposed by the poor service offered.  The incompatibility of quality in public services when these are given over to private control, and their mafias, which aim at nothing but profit and the exploitation of workers, is made clear.

October arrived and with it new demonstrations broke out.  On strike now for two months, teachers of the municipal and state education systems struggle for adjustments in salary, for clearly stipulated workloads, career plans and wages, so that the work of all is dignified.  They struggle for a politics of quality education against the measures imposed by the Secretary of Education and the government that penalise both the teachers and retired teachers.  It is a struggle against a regime of meritocracy with a capitalist logic that renders responsible and places all of the guilt for the structural problems and for the chaos experienced in public education on the workers.  To this, the mediocre PMDB (Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro) government responds with threats and violence, batons, rubber bullets and gas bombs.

The development of the demonstrations, in Rio de Janeiro, in a conjunction of moments of expansion and contraction was therefore in general positive.  Above all when they were marked by social demands mirrored in the reality of the oppressed.  It is also noteworthy that a new generation formed politically in the heat of the struggles and street protests is also emerging and reacting vehemently against bureaucratised practices that demobilise the working class.  But much remains to be done and constructed at the base of diverse popular sectors and categories of workers, where it is necessary to continue an organised and daily struggle.

Violence is the true law of the State

As was already stated, the bourgeois democracy was not intimidated and made use of repressive apparatuses and mechanisms inherited from the dictatorship.  It created the nefarious Comissão Especial de Investigação de Atos de Vandalismo em Manifestações (extinct during the popular protests), criminalised the use of masks, planted false evidence, arrested minors, sought out and arrested activists, and formed “gangs”.  In the favelas, the State satiated its desire for the blood of workers and the oppressed: 13 inhabitants were assassinated in the Complexo da Maré and in the Rocinha, Amarildo de Souza, a mason, disappeared (a case that was taken up in street protests). (3)

The forms of resistance and self-defense of the people against oppression are therefore legitimate and should not be criminalised.  They are not comparable to the violence carried out by the State, organised militarily, politically and judicially and given unconditional support by the bourgeois media.  When the struggle becomes a mass struggle, as was the case with the teachers strike, the workers need to defend themselves against this orchestrated police repression.

We recognise the importance of the self-defence initiatives of the Black Block, that fulfils the necessity of resistance in demonstrations and that carries with a symbolic demand against what capitalism and bourgeois democracy represent.  We are attentive to the efforts of the bourgeois media to polarise demonstrators between those who are “vandals” and those who are “well ordered, and we reject the general and conservative opinions that disqualify the role and the necessity of self-defence in demonstrations.  We seek a broad analysis of the events, including all of those who take the streets, who organise from the ground up, who are activists in popular movements and political organisations who do not surrender to government rule and who confront the force of the bosses in the streets.  We therefore accordingly defend that the organisation of the forms of self-defence should have as protagonists the people, sectors of the working class and the oppressed.


We take the violence of the State not to be the exception, but the rule and its principal instrument is the police, whether civil, military or the Municipal Guard.  In this sense, we cannot see the police merely from an economic perspective, as “salaried” workers, without understanding that there is an indissociable ideological dimension to the role carried out by the police in the system of capitalist domination: defence of private property, control and assassination of the poor and blacks, and the repression of all popular organisations that threaten the reigning order.  Before just causes, the lackeys of the State did not retreat before the demonstrations.  We therefore believe that to defend the police as salaried workers is to nurture illusions or to be an opportunist.

Our position during the conjuncture and proposals to advance

We and other organisations of the CAB (Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira), before the present conjuncture of demonstrations that took place from June to the present, seek to participate and adjust our strategies to the distinct contexts that arise and rapidly change, which is not always easy.  We do not sacrifice our principles and we follow our militant conception and manner of political practice, as an active minority.  Erring and learning from our errors; getting things right and building on that experience.

Distinct from vanguard practices, our minority is grounded in the perspective of a rooted “rearguard”, that is, we propose to always be with the oppressed.  Our program leads our activism to respect the autonomy of the popular grass roots in relation to the construction of their forms and their decisions;  We act as ferment in the struggles, proposing to organise what is not organised, and helping to strengthen and empowering the popular sectors already organised, having self-management, direct action and federalism as our methods.  We do not delegate popular power; we construct it in daily struggle and with grass roots organisations, which are the seed of the future society that we wish to cultivate.

A modest action, collectively constructed, is preferable to spectacular proposals only realisable by passing over and disrespecting the protagonism of the grass roots in an organisation and in decision making.  We are conscious that we are not going to carry out alone a radical transformation of society.   Consequently, we propose solidarity in struggle with other revolutionary forces and against all forms of oppression.  For us, freedom does not mean isolation.  This solidarity and alliance is given for us principally through the social movements that we help to construct.  In the same way, we repudiate actions that bureaucratise struggles, shifting political action from grass roots organs into the hands of legal experts, economists, bureaucrats or politicians.  This undermines the protagonism of the workers.


We believe that this is our role in the demonstrations and the social movements which count with our activism, such as the Movimento de Orgnaização de Base (formerly MTD-Pela Base!), the Movimento Passe Livre – RJ, the Cooperative Roça, the Associação dos produtores Autonomos do campo e da Cidade (APAC), the Movimento de Pequenos Agricultores (MPA), the Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), and the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) in Rio.  We strengthen the initiatives that help to construct and organise popular power.  We understand anarchism and political organisation as tools in the service of the struggle for social transformation, in conjunction with popular and class based organisation of the workers.  In this way, with modest steps, but acting ethically and with quality, we walk shoulder to shoulder with the workers of the country side and of the city.  We give priority to raising the banners of the social movements and the grass roots organisations when they participate in struggles, such as: Fórum de Lutas, Favela Não Se Cala, Fórum Popular de Apoio Mútuo and in the support of the teachers’ struggle.  We act together with our comrades from other organisations that make up the CAB in peasant, community, labour union, and student struggles, and against all kinds of oppression.  We believe that anarchism i meaningful only when put into practice, creating roots on the basis of popular mobilisations.  We call upon all who are in agreement with our proposals and who wish to take part in our project, to become active in their places of study, habitation, work.  We invite all to construct a socialist and libertarian project of society.  We invite all to organise strategically and firmly the struggle for the construction from this moment of popular power.

To struggle, to create, Popular Power!!!

Long live the demonstrations and the struggles of the people!!!


1. Brazil’s largest media conglomerate.

2. Governor and Secretary of Transportation of the State of Rio de Janeiro, respectively.

3. In early October, in relation to this disappearance, 10 military police were indicted for torture, murder and obstruction of justice (in hiding the body).  (See: Publico, the Guardian)


Video: Hino à Rua/Anthem to the Street, by Baderna Midiática …

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