Felipe Corrêa is a Brazilian anarchist. In the following piece, translated by Paul Sharkey, he argues that the only viable alternative to conventional party politics is an anarchist politics of direct action based on the principles of self-management, federalism and a libertarian ethics. Originally published as “An Anarchist View of the Country’s Political Crisis,” in Protesta! N° 1, VIII 2005, in response to the Mauricio Marinho bribery scandal in Brazil.
From Party Politics to Libertarian Socialism
It is high time that we agreed that institutional party politics have no answers to offer to society’s most pressing problems, the ones that revolve around well-being, happiness, freedom and equality for us all. Which is why we can see that the libertarian socialist alternative might be on the right road. Our conclusion being that politics should be conducted outside of the parliamentary forum, by people in the streets, by means of direct action. In this way, as a movement, we should constitute something that offers a real alternative to the institutional politics which is in tatters. Three essential principles, set out roughly below, will inform action in opposition to parliamentary politics:
1. Self-management. Self-management is a precept that seeks to eliminate hierarchy from workplace and community alike, ensuring that everybody receives the full fruits of the efforts they make and can have a say in matters affecting them. It is self-organization, an alternative to wage labour and to the delegation of politics to politicians. Decisions are made by those affected by each issue, by means of horizontal assemblies facilitating full participation (in the actual deliberations) by everyone. Self-management makes it feasible for people to have control of their own lives, organizing and discussing politics, the object being to wrest the decision-making powers back from the hands of a few politicians and give it back to the people. It amounts to repossession of the policy-making powers that were stolen from us by that sort of parliamentarian.
2. Federalism. Given the shortcomings of the structures of representative democracy… the system that should take its place is federalism. Federalism is a political arrangement designed to replace party political representation by something different, built from the ground up and rooted in the people’s actual needs. In this arrangement, individuals federate into communes, communes into broader organizations and so on and so on. Within these federations there is no hierarchy, decisions are made at non-hierarchical assemblies and delegates are selected — with rotating and revocable mandates — that merely convey the decisions taken at those assemblies to more wide-ranging bodies. Federalism is, so to speak, self-management in politics. It recognizes no boundaries and confers complete autonomy upon members, creating a political context wherein the populace can actively participate in a political life that offers it respect. As with self-management, we do not entrust our wishes to another who then goes off to “do politics” on our behalf. We ourselves will handle such significant decision-making.
3. Ethics. We consider politics and ethics to be inseparable. The meaning of the word, in that it reflects our moral values, should be reinforced by a theoretical system that cannot be implemented in practice or as a set of norms. Ethics ought to be understood as a principle that looks beyond individual or sectional interests. It involves something greater than the individual and ought to be understood as being universal, which is to say, it should pay as much heed to others’ interests as to ours and be universally applicable. An ethical policy should concern itself with all who are affected by it and it should boost the interests of those people, being a means of selecting those actions that best suit them. Ethics also requires an approach whereby the ends we pursue determine the means we employ. We advocate freedom and condemn all forms of oppression and authoritarianism, and the means by which we operate politically fit in with this ideal. Hence the horizontalist approach, direct action, and striving to realize the potential of every person and as much of his happiness as possible, are always stimulated in our political action, and these things are too important to be left to a future that never comes.
These principles are not about to become a reality overnight or next year. The great lesson we draw from them is that they can (and should) inform our day-to-day practices, so that we work politically — albeit outside the context of parliament — in order to build a real democratic alternative (in the sense of direct democracy) that can organize society, in the workplace as well as in our communities, so that it is permeated by ethical relationships, thereby bringing pressure to bear on government and forcing it to make concessions in the name of our welfare and driving society along the freedom road, this being understood as: a) the meeting of all of the material needs of each and every one of us; and b) that done, achievement of the unfettered development of all our potential, free from the oppression of Capital and State; freedom for all and not just for a specific group. Let us leave elections to one side. They serve no purpose. Let us engage in politics right where we live. This quotation from Jaime Cubero speaks volumes:
“The entire live charge of the masses, ready to explode, is skillfully siphoned off by electioneering. But were that effort to be directed into direct action by the masses and into libertarian socialist education — and to us socialism just means freedom — and practical means of struggling and organizing economically for a libertarian socialist life, the upshot would be very different. The anarchist critique of the election contest is far-reaching and its arguments could fill volumes. The struggle for one’s goals is Direct Action. Libertarian socialists find that preferable and embrace it” (Jaime Cubero, The Workers, Politics and Elections).
Hence the urgent necessity of our asserting the politics of libertarian socialism as a way out of the implosion of parliamentary politics. That, rather than demotivating us or spurring us on to “vote more wisely” in the coming year, should spur us on to direct action, propaganda on behalf of our ideals and to work with the communities and movements all around us. We have a duty to come up with a response to the politicians who run this country and the world!