In Defence of Associative Specificity – Concerning (Inherently) Anarchist “Sectarianism” Part I.

[London,] November 23, 1871 “[…] The International was founded in order to replace the Socialist or semi-Socialist sects by a real organisation of the working class for struggle […], the Internationalists could not have maintained themselves if the course of history had not already smashed up the sectarian system […] So long as the sects are (historically) justified, the working class is not yet ripe for an independent historic movement. As soon as it has attained this maturity all sects are essentially reactionary. […] And the history of the International was a continual struggle on the part of the General Council against the sects […] At the end of 1868 the Russian, Bakunin, entered the International with the aim of forming inside it a second International called the  “Alliance of Social Democracy”.  Bakunin – a  man  devoid of theoretical knowledge – put forward the pretension that this separate body was to represent the scientific propaganda of the International, which was to be made the special function of this second International within the International. His program was a superficially scraped together hash of petty bourgeouis ideas from here and there: […] atheism as a dogma to be dictated to the members of the International, etc., and as the main dogma, (Proudhonist) abstention from the political movement. This children’s fable found favour (and still has a certain hold) in Italy and Spain […] and among a few vain, ambitious and empty doctrinaires in French Switzerland and Belgium […] Resolutions 1(2) and (3) and IX now give the New York committee legal weapons with which to put an end to all sectarian formations and amateur groups and if necessary to expel them […]”
  1. Marx, Letter to Friedrich Bolte, November 23, 1871 (1).
Since the defeat of Spanish anarcho-syndicalism, reiteration is a frequent occurrence in the babelic context in which the life of the so-called “anarchist movement” painfully takes place.(2) As if it were Groundhog Day,(3) we are condemned to repeat the same experience indefinitely. Again and again, ideological displacements and external conceptualizations gain presence in our shops. Thus – once again -, the notions of “sect”, “sectarianism” and “sectarian” emerge in the debate. We do not have the slightest chance of escaping this vicious circle. Like Phil Connors (Bill Murray) in the famous comedy, every day we are hit with the same song (at six o’clock in the morning!), forced to repeat ourselves in an infinite cycle from which not even suicide can save us.

Perhaps, for those who come from the so-called “left” – who happily have already evolved into “libertarian” positions – and today share the same barricade side by side, these imprecations have always been there, within reach. Ready to be wielded at the slightest provocation. So they assume that such curse words are part of our lexicon or that they are part of a sort of universal vocabulary that we are obliged to use.
For those of us who have been in the struggle for some years, the feeling of déjà vu that the remastering of this slapstick operetta provokes is unavoidable. Indeed, this is not the first time we have had to face these epithets and it will definitely not be the last. They are repeated like a mantra invoking the “crushing march of history” (St. Charlie of Trier, dixit). The sad fact is that this liturgy takes place even in the intricacies of the praxis – alive and active today – of the Informal Anarchic Tendency (TIA). A tendency where there is no room for uniformist practices, nor for repetition; that is to say, for attempts at forming a front nor attempts at “tactical unity” and “collective responsibility”.
The TIA reaffirms itself in the critique and permanent conflict with each and every form and strategy of power; in the constant experimentation and the relentless search for total liberation; in the framework of the war against all that exists through the continuous practice of individual insurrection. All of which should be understood as a constant tension – not an achievable end -, incited by those who do not harbor hopes for savior Revolutions or regimes to come, and set aside ALL mythography. Aware that Anarchy cannot be reduced to the nineteenth-century “assault on heaven” nor to the outdated “transformation” of certain structures; much less to the establishment of a system of (self-)government nor to the mode of (self-)management of production. Read: the onanistic practices around libertarian Communism.
However, these annotations should not be conceived as a pontificate exercised from the comfort of neutrality and/or ideological abstraction, but aspire to be a reaffirmation of deeply self-critical principles. I too (at some point in my life) fell into the trap of “tactical unity” and disavowed our “sectarianism” for the sake of “the unity of revolutionary struggles”, whose concreteness turned out to be the desideratum of the reflections of the time. A quick reading of Guillén’s frontist rantings (4) is enough to assay the monumental size of the ’60s, ’70s and even ’80s distortions of the recently baptized “revolutionary anarchism”, strongly influenced by Leninist Autonomy.(5)
But those experiments, which today seem to us entirely absurd – four decades later -, were not the product of repetition. On the contrary, they were intended to reorganize the field of understandings and meanings of an anarchist cosmovision that was facing conceptual displacements and relocations in search of favorable conditions that would allow it to abandon the immobilism to which the “movement” had been condemned. A societal transformation was being faced with profound changes in the configuration of classes, actors and potential “revolutionary subjects”; in a context where labor began to lose its central condition.(6) The State itself was moving away from that vigorous role that supported the principle of authority, undergoing a process of redefinition of its historical role.
In the light of these events, the resurgence of anarchical brazenness animated a set of transgressive practices impregnated with hedonism – with its blatant fondness for intransigent freedom, its stubborn insurrectional breath and its patricidal talents – which immediately and without too many charges of conscience replaced the acetic and sacrificial models of the traditional organizational containers (be they libertarian unions, synthesis federations or specificist parties), animated by the informality and pleasure of anarchic action. At the same time, it placed on record the imperious effort of recruitment, refutation and even secession from the revolutionary hegemony of the time (defined by the Marxian-Leninoid orthodoxy), highlighting the elements of theoretical-practical distinction that have made us, since time immemorial, into a “sect”; that is, a distinct species and a radical expression of rupture; which has always allowed us to recognize and develop our singularity.
That heresy earned us then, as it had earned us before and earns us again now, the appellative “sectarian”. That is to say, those who nurture the “doctrine that departs from orthodoxy” or “section” themselves.
This accusation was not only imputed to us from the totalizing ecclesiastical vision of red fascism that subdued the struggles of those years, but it was also wielded from the pragmatic deviations of anarcho-leninism, in impudent harmony with the grammar of anti-imperialist frontism. Unfortunately, many comrades fled from our “sect” flying other people’s flags and joined the fold of the “Church”. Some offered their lives, impregnated with faith, consolidating dictatorships; others today serve in electoral parties such as the Party for the Victory of the People.(7) Of course, beyond their hegemonic pretensions, these ideological and organizational “options” – traced in each of these areas -, were too closely related to vanguardist specialization, social-democratic reformism and populist demagogy (depending on the case), for the “sectarians” of yesterday, today and always to find them attractive.
Gustavo Rodriguez,
Planet Earth, October 19, 2021.
(From the booklet “In Defense of Associative Specificity”).
  1. Briefe und Auszüge aus Briefen von Joh. Phil. Becker, Jos.” Translated from German. Dietzgen, Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx und A. an F. A. Sorge und Andere, Stuttgart, 1906; available in Russian in Marx, K. and Engels, F.; Selected Works, 1st ed., t. XXVI, Moscow, 1935. In Spanish it is contained in C. Marx and, F. Engels, Obras Escogidas, in three volumes, Editorial Progreso, Moscow, 1974, t. II. An unabridged version of this letter is available in the digitized edition of KCL, Bakunin, Mijail; La Libertad: (accessed: 18/10/2021).
  2. An extremely heterogeneous entity, incapable of producing the critical, methodological and organizational modifications that would permit the reappearance of Anarchy as a protagonist in our time and the development of its negative potency.
  3. Groundhog Day (El día de la marmota in Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Venezuela; Hechizo del tiempo in the rest of Latin America and Atrapado en el tiempo in Spain), is an American science fiction comedy, made in 1993 under the Columbia Pictures label. It was directed by Harold Ramis, with a screenplay by Ramis himself in co-authorship with Danny Rubin and starring Bill Murray (Phill) and Andie MacDowell (Rita).
  4. Vid., Guillén, Abraham; Desafío al Pentágono. La guerrilla latinoamericana, Editorial Andes, Montevideo, 1969; Estrategia de la guerrilla urbana, Ediciones Liberación, Montevideo, 1970 and; Lecciones de la guerrilla latinoamericana, in: Hodges Donald C. and Guillén, Abraham, Revaloración de la guerrilla urbana, Ediciones El Caballito, Mexico, D.F., 1977.
  5. Let us not forget that the Marxist-Leninist hegemony is more than seven decades old; during this prolonged period it has imposed its model expressions in the name of “revolutionary unity” producing enormous distortions in our tents. Such distortions led the June 2nd Movement to dilute itself into the Red Army Faction (RAF) and the Revolutionäre Zellen (Revolutionary Cells) – fleeing from “sectarianism” within the framework of revolutionary frontism – and to operate with the support of the Stassi and the KGB, until concluding its days as mercenaries at the orders of Saddam Hussein and Al-Fatah, boasting the most pedestrian anti-Semitism. Undoubtedly, for these anti-imperialist groupings there was no contradiction in collaborating and coordinating with the henchmen of the German and Soviet secret police. From their fraternalist perspective, against “sectarianism”, all these repressive agencies were “tactical” allies. As Joaquín Sabina would say: “Whenever the KGB fights against the CIA, the final winner is the CIA”.
  6. This was so, at least in those societies that possessed an extraordinary accumulation of available goods and had reached “an astonishing technological development” (to express it within the aspirations of the time).
  7. A shameful example is the former Uruguayan Anarchist Federation (FAU) and its degeneration – fleeing from “sectarianism” – into an electoral party (Partido de la Victoria del Pueblo). For further information, see (accessed on 18/10/2021).
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