A pamphlet that will be released in three parts concerning the formation of a latine libertarian socialist/anarchist movement within the United States of America. This pamphlet will concern the basics of libertarian socialism, its history both abroad and in Latin America, and the problems facing the latine people in the US that can be remedied by libertarian socialism.
Latine (Lah-teen-eh): A non-gendered demonym for describing a native of Latin America or a person descended from Latin America.
Latin America: A region of the Americas generally understood to consist of the entire continent of South America in addition to Mexico, Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean whose inhabitants speak a Romance language.
La tierra libre, la tierra libre para todos, la tierra sin capataces y sin amos.
Resistance. Our entire history could be described as resistance. A state of resistance since the time of Columbus, maybe even before. We have been resistant to all that wishes to oppress us and the rest of the world’s people. We have been resisting the Spanish, the British, and the US. Whatever name it takes on we will resist it. Until the whole of humanity is free.
This pamphlet is dedicated to one question: Where is our resistance? In a time where we and millions of others are at risk of being crushed under a jackboot, what are we doing? This pamphlet does not contain a plan of what we should be doing. It does however contain the call to create that plan. A plan that will include all oppressed peoples. It is time we said ya basta! Enough is enough!
Part 1: The Basics of Libertarian Socialism
What is Capitalism
Now, before we go on describing the solution to capitalism we must first describe what exactly is capitalism. While it is practically impossible to put down a single definition for a system as large and ubiquitous as capitalism, I will submit the definition that capitalism, for this pamphlet's purposes, is the selling of men, materials, and ideas for profit most of which goes to private property and enterprises.
Capitalism’s goal of accumulation of profit at all other expenses has been disastrous to the planet and its people. It is detrimental and antithetical to humanity in ways we are only now discovering. While I cannot cover every element of capitalism and how it is contradictory to humanity I will explain two of its most basic and largest traits. Artificial scarcity and infinite economic growth.
Artificial scarcity is the practice of producing less of a certain object or resource despite the clear production capability to do more. It is often used by capitalist society to make a profit on otherwise durable or abundant goods and turn them into a form of property.
An example in the US is the production of 360 million tons of food each year and yet despite this fact, more than 33 million people in the US are food insecure. Another less dire example is the planned obsolescence of smartphones, particularly of the iPhone brand from Apple Inc. where these phones are specifically designed to fail early on either from software updates or built-in hardware, forcing the average person to spend more on another smartphone despite the hypothetical lifespan of the device is much longer.
Now onto infinite economic growth. Infinite economic growth is the concept that in order for capitalism to sustain itself it must infinitely grow in terms of profits and commodities (a commodity in this case is simply an economic good such as a product or service).
Now we can instantly see the issues that arise with this. We live on a planet with limited resources. Even if we expanded into space we would eventually run out of resources to sustain ourselves even if we found a way to make more and more efficient methods of resource recycling. Therein lies the problem. We are not even prolonging the inevitable. Capitalism as an economic system is such a wasteful machine that our world will be long dead from other consequences long before we run out of energy and materials. Capitalism thrives on waste as it produces unimaginable profits and frankly, it’s going to kill us all.
What is the State
Now that we have identified and cataloged one of libertarian socialism’s enemies we must now turn our attention to another facet libertarian socialism completely opposes: the state. As with capitalism, a single all-encompassing definition of the state is next to impossible considering its practically universal nature but for this pamphlet’s purposes I will use the definition (with minor modifications to better fit this pamphlet) as forwarded by Daniel Baryon better known by his internet moniker ‘Anark’.
The state is a political body controlled by a small group of people vested with central control over the functions of governance within a given territory and the legally legitimate power to force others to abide by that control. 1
Every time I refer to the ‘state’ or sometimes the ‘nation-state’ I will be referring to this definition. If you are reading this, then 99% of you are currently in a territory that a state governs. Every modern country in the world is a state.
As we have seen with the Cold War, WW2, and a myriad of other global crises the state cannot tolerate even the idea of opposition and competition for its power but the greatest threat the state sees is not of other states but of its people. The people have inherent power with their numbers and the fact they are the reason the state functions at all. This is why the state has formed a habit of constantly viewing the people as inherently dangerous and suppressing their power except when it serves the state's purposes.
What is Libertarian Socialism
First things first, I do hope a fair few uninitiated to libertarian socialism will be reading this so this is specifically for them. Now I know some of you have preconceived notions about socialism, especially concerning the states that have proclaimed themselves to be leaders in socialism but trust me when I say what I believe and am advocating for is not a recreation of the USSR, Mao’s China, or Castro’s Cuba. You will learn if you continue this pamphlet, that libertarian socialism is in staunch opposition to all those experiments.
Libertarian socialism simply put is stateless socialism. It is the political system where all people can come together freely in a directly democratic fashion that will emphasize social ownership of all that exists, individual liberty, and autonomous self-management of social, economic, and political life. While this means many things, it primarily means the abolishment of money, debt, and of course the state.
If you want some examples of what libertarian socialism will practically look like in the modern day I urge you to research both Rojava in Northern Syria and the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities in Southern Mexico. Both have shown to be vastly object improvements to their statist counterparts, Baathist Syria and the Mexican government.
The Broad History of Libertarian Socialism
Libertarian socialism is a fairly new ideology. Coming out just after the formation of anarchism by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in 1840 in France. Anarchism particularly of the leftist variety is incredibly close to libertarian socialism as is so I will be folding it under the libertarian socialist name. There are even earlier accounts of something similar to libertarian socialism appearing out of the Digger movement during the English Civil War. From 1649 to 1650, the Diggers squatted on empty lots of land in South England and set up free communities to share crops grown, share land commonly, and live communally. 2
Libertarian Socialism proceeded to ramp up in popularity in what is now known as the ‘Classical Anarchist’ period. Ranging from 1864 to 1939. While I will not be touching up on the entire history I will discuss a few high points. If you would like to learn more I highly recommend George Woodcock’s ‘Socialism from Below: A History of Anarchism’ book. Two of the largest libertarian socialist projects this world has seen came out of this period. 3
The Free Territory of Ukraine was a specifically anarchist-communist territory between Soviet Russia and the various Ukrainian governments of the time. It was headed by Nestor Makhno and lasted from 1918 to 1921 and played an incredibly important role during the Russian Civil War against the White Army and later the Bolsheviks and it's Red Army.
The second one was Revolutionary Catalonia, an area in Spain during the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939 that for most of its existence was under the control of the anarchist-syndicalist labor union CNT (Confederación Nacional de Trabajo) and under the protection of the allied FAI (Federación Anarquista de Ibérica) as they fought against Francisco Franco’s Fascist Nationalists. Since the two often heavily worked with each other, any future mention of the two will be under the acronym CNT-FAI.
After the fall of Revolutionary Catalonia and the massive increase in power and prestige, the Soviet Union had at the end of World War 2, libertarian socialism slowly slipped into irrelevance as the Cold War began. The modern ideological war would be Capitalism vs. Marxism-Leninism. An authoritarian form of socialism that was the state ideology of the Soviet Union, it is the complete opposite of what libertarian socialism advocates for. It advocates for an intensely strong state to lead the people to socialism and then communism. So far, almost every Marxist-Leninist state collapsed once the Soviet Union fell or in China’s case abandoned it and turned to capitalism. Not before countless atrocities were committed and thousands of people murdered, silenced, or otherwise disappeared. Libertarian socialists all over have often opposed Marxism-Leninism, sometimes violently, as they are often the first killed once they gain power.
Libertarian socialism has enjoyed a modern resurgence after the fall of the Soviet Union as two of the most prominent revolutions of our time: The Zapatista Revolution of 1994 and the Rojava Revolution of 2012 have been libertarian socialist-led/oriented or adjacent. As of writing this, libertarian socialists are currently on the ground fighting in Ukraine against the Russian invasion and are the largest force of anti-invasion resistance in Russia. For more information, I highly recommend research on the ‘Combat Organization of Anarcho-Communists’ as well as the YouTube channel ‘Popular Front’ and their video on Ukrainian Anarchists in the modern age. 4
A Brief History of Libertarian Socialism in Latin America
Libertarian Socialism arrived on the shores of Latin America almost as soon as it began to gain coherency within Europe. The massive flood of European immigrants all over Latin America carrying the ideals of libertarian socialism began an incredibly rich tapestry of history based on struggle and resistance for the people in Latin America. Utopian socialism, a form of socialism whose main focus is imagining future socialist societies, was the first to be taught in Latin America mainly by French immigrants. The works of Bakunin and Proudhon and their theories on Social Anarchism and Mutualism would follow suit as Iberian libertarian socialists rapidly translated their works. Iberian libertarian socialism would be close companions to Latin American libertarian socialism even up to today, partially due to colonial legacy but mostly due to the shared languages between the two. By the late 1800s, two main libertarian socialist currents had formed in Latin America. Anarchist-Communism and Anarchist-Syndicalism 5
Many famous libertarian socialists would have extended stays in Latin America usually because of repression in their native homelands. In 1885, one of the most famous Italian libertarian socialists of this period, Errico Malatesta, would arrive on the shores of Buenos Aires in Argentina, and worked tirelessly for the formation of the movement in Argentina. By the time he left in 1889, he had established Latin America’s first militant libertarian socialist trade union and his writings had left their mark on the labor movement in the area for years to come. A small quirk of his legacy is the fact that many pastries in Buenos Aires have quite peculiar and even offensive names (Friars Balls and Little Cannons to name two) due to the power the bakers union had which was run exclusively by libertarian socialists at this time. 6
By the turn of the century, Latin American libertarian socialist movements had reached their historical peak. Socialists came to the fore during the 1910 Mexican Revolution, influenced primarily by the thought of national heroes like Emiliano Zapata and Ricardo Flores Magon. Magon in particular was a dedicated Libertarian Socialist who, with help of the IWW (Industrial Workers of The World), assisted in the liberation of Baja California. Emiliano Zapata is more controversial on his libertarian socialist leanings but in practice, he executed its principles very effectively to the point the territory he helped set up, the Morelos Commune has been called ‘the sister government to the Free Territory of Ukraine’. Both experiments would sadly end in tragedy however with Ricardo Flores Magón's libertarian socialist territory in Baja California being almost immediately overrun in June 1911 and Emiliano Zapata infamously betrayed and killed in April 1919 leading to the slow downfall of the Morelos Commune.
After the end of the Mexican Revolution libertarian socialism in Latin America, like the rest of the world, began to weaken. The legacy of the Mexican Revolution and its libertarian socialist influences would not die down so easily however as in 1927, Augusto César Sandino and the EDSN (Ejército Defensor de la Soberanía Nacional de Nicaragua) began a 6-year campaign against the US, particularly the US Marine Corps in Nicaragua. Sandino was a veteran of the Mexican Revolution and was heavily influenced by libertarian socialism and Anarcho-Syndicalism in particular. The black and red flag of the EDSN in particular shows his fondness for libertarian socialism. His legacy was carried by the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (better known as simply the Sandinistas) which is most famously remembered for overthrowing the Somoza regime in 1979 and instituting a revolutionary democratic government until its corruption by neoliberal capitalism.
Libertarian socialism after the 1940s in Latin America began to slip into obscurity as Marxism-Leninism began to define Latin American struggles against imperialism and oppression during the Cold War. That is not to say libertarian socialism completely died during this time as they still contributed greatly to one of Latin America’s most famous national liberation struggles: Cuba. Many libertarian socialists fought on the side of Fidel Castro’s M-26-7 (Movimiento 26 de Julio) and were one of the largest non-Marxist currents in the Cuban Revolution. After the end of the Batista regime and the installation of Castro, he began repression against any libertarian socialists as the new Cuban government began to slide towards Marxism-Leninism and the Soviet Union. One of the largest Cold War libertarian socialist movements, while not destroyed, was heavily weakened and has only started to revive itself since the 2010s. To date, it remains Latin America’s worst betrayal of libertarian socialists and one of its largest campaigns of repression against the movement.7
Libertarian socialism became dormant in Latin America after the near-destruction of the Cuban libertarian socialist movement. That is until the 26th of December, 1991 when the Soviet Union officially dissolved. This and a long line of many other Marxist-Leninist states imploding on themselves marked an explosion in interest in libertarian socialism as Marxism-Leninism became discredited as the ideology that collapsed in on itself. This was not the end of the danger of the main enemy of capitalism, however. It simply became empowered by its complete dominance of the world now that it had no major immediate enemies to contend with. Modern capitalism would be transformed into neoliberalism.
Libertarian socialism quickly began to return to the mainstream of radical politics in Latin America as organizations like the Uruguayan FAU (Federación Anarquista Uruguaya) 8 who went to formulate the libertarian socialist organizational principle of Especifismo and taught the next generation of Latin American libertarian socialists who later went on to organize in its northern neighbor, Brazil and set up many trailblazing organizations such as FARJ (Federação Anarquista do Rio do Janeiro) and the larger CAB (Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira). 9
Chile as well which was the site of the brutal 1973 coup where democratically elected Marxist Salvador Allende was killed and the infamous dictator Augusto Pinochet installed with the help of the US government, has one of the largest libertarian socialist networks within Latin America to date starting in 1998 with the setup of CUAC (Congreso de Unificación Anarco Comunista) and while it has suffered numerous setbacks after the 2019-2020 general protests it is still going strong. I must remind the reader that while the current Chilean President, Gabriel Boric, calls himself a libertarian socialist the wider libertarian socialist movement does not believe him in the slightest as his election to the president is a betrayal of one of the highest principles of libertarian socialism: the smashing of the structures of state power not becoming part of the structure of state power no matter how high the position is.
Perhaps the biggest libertarian socialist experiment in our time, indeed the whole post-Cold War world, has been that of the EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional) better known simply as the Zapatistas. An important note must first be given on the Zapatistas' ideological leanings before we continue, however. While it is not incorrect to call them libertarian socialists, the group rejects any political label that is not of their ideology: Neo-Zapatismo. Neo-Zapatismo is a homegrown ideology that combines elements of libertarian socialism, Marxian theory (not Marxism-Leninism), and Maya tradition into one cohesive ideology that can best be described as an ideology devoted to resistance. 10
The EZLN rose on January 1st, 1994 all over the southern Mexican state of Chiapas in armed protest of the signing of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). A neoliberal “free trade” agreement between the US, Mexico, and Canada meant the cheapening of labor, the destruction of local economies, and for the indigenous people of Mexico the cancellation of Article 27 of the 1917 Mexican Constitution. One of the only demands of Emiliano Zapata the Mexican government honored even partially. Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution stated that indigenous communal landholdings or ejidos were protected from sale or privatization. This Article was incompatible with the complete strangulation of the people of Mexico, especially of its poorest so it had to be removed for NAFTA to be signed. While actual violence against the Mexican government has stopped since the initial uprising in 1994, the EZLN has remained vigilant against the Mexican government and the ever-expanding drug cartels.
Their territory of MAREZ (Municipios Autónomos Rebeldes Zapatistas) has been the site of a radically different society than its Mexican-government-controlled surroundings. The local government is based on the Juntas de Buen Gobierno which is a popular assembly made up of the surrounding communities that use consensus and direct democracy as well as public services often being based on federated and democratic principles. Running water has become more and more common in Zapatista communities than in government-held territories as well as before the 1994 uprising when running water was practically nonexistent. Zapatista communities also have high-quality universal healthcare that is said to be less racist to indigenous people and better equipped than government-controlled healthcare. For more info, I highly recommend the various communiques issued by the Zapatistas themselves and the book ‘Autonomy is in our Hearts: Zapatista Autonomous Government through the Lens of the Tsotsil Language‘.
- 1 What is the State? | The State is Counter-Revolutionary (Part 1) - Anark
- 2 Communalism: from its origins to the 20th century - Kenneth Rexroth - Chapter 10: Winstanley, The Diggers
- 3 Socialism from Below: A History of Anarchism - George Woodcock
- 4 Ukraine's Anarchist Militants Fighting neo-Nazis - Popular Front
- 5 Anarchism in Latin America - Ángel Cappelletti
- 6 The surprising origin of Argentina’s brazen pastry names - BBC
- 7 Cuban Anarchism: The History of A Movement - Frank Fernández - Chapter 4: Castroism and Confrontation (1959–1961)
- 8 65 Years of Revolution - the Anarchist Federation of Uruguay - Tommy Lawson
- 9 Libertarian socialism in Latin America - Enrique Guerrero-López
- 10 A Commune in Chiapas? - Aufheben - Part 3: A Commune in Chiapas?