I’ve been reading and translating the works of the Federación Obrera Regional Argentina, which is a pet interest of mine. There’s almost nothing written of their history, works, and theory in English despite it having been one of the more significant revolutionary movements in South America and within anarchism more generally. I don’t necessarily support all the elements here, but find some threads really interesting. In the work of Emilio Lopez Arango you see a nuanced understanding of the relationship between struggle, ideas, objective conditions of history. The comes out less in this piece, but note that within the whole discussion it is the trajectory of struggle and products of the clashes within struggle that drives his argument. That is significant, and somehow is usually lost in most discussions.
Political Leadership or Ideological Orientation of the Workers Movement
Emilio López Arango
What concerns supporters of the workers organization, whatever their political or ideological tendency is the problem of the leadership of the unions. From this point of departure, the different directions that carry the proletariat and the antagonisms caused by the bifurcation of the modern labor movement in opposing tendencies depends not only on the path of struggle at the economic level, but also the very meaning social significance of each conquest of the organized working class.
It is not easy though, to give a solution to the problem of the leadership of the workers movement. The political parties seek to apply their discipline to the unions, while at the same time excluding in them any doctrinal divergence achieved only by surrounding the proletariat with the old authoritarian walls and creating functional copies of the rules of the state to govern the conduct of all workers under an absurd mechanical principle. And as the hierarchy of committees is fixed in the spirit of discipline of the masses and all independent views are choked by majority votes unfit for the necessary role of thought, results in an orientation of the workers movement that depends on fortuitous circumstances or interests almost always opposed to the interest of the working class. The problem of the leadership of the unions is a matter of ideological orientation, by this we mean to say that political parties, as they subordinate their ideology to the partisan strategy and always reduce to a precarious interpretation of immediate interests, can not lead the movement to conform to ethical principles opposed to parliamentary opportunism and reformist illusion.
Less can therefore the neutral unions, with their theory of minimal effort, channel the forces of the proletariat into a direction against the currents of Marxism or the economic imperatives of the bourgeoisie. Can anarchists manage to realize their own ideas or identify themselves with the organized workers, disregarding all the propaganda in the unions, and lay out the divergence of convictions, activities, and means to address the struggle against capitalism and the state? We won’t say that anarchism should raise competition in unions with political parties to assume the work of maintaining union discipline and enforcing on the workers all functional forms of the organization. We want only show that the labor movement is not governed by mechanical norms, let alone by a conscious sovereignty, even when the form of its functioning conforms to democratic rules, and that workers act either driven by their political opinions or allowing themselves by ruled by the most prestigious leaders which destroys union discipline and makes each union a particularity of a collective personality, it is necessary to hold the leadership of union bodies to a process of free discussion on the orientation of the workers movement. And the clash of antagonistic tendencies, that divide the disciplined bodies, balances the struggles of the working class. Here we find the true base of revolutionary activity of the anarchists within the bosom of the militant proletariat.