Part IV: In Defense of Anarchist “Sectarianism”

Note of ANARQUÍA: This is the fourth part of a series of articles by comrade Gustavo Rodriguez, in response to the critiques of Marxism and some anarchist individualities, who seek revolutionary unity and label those of us who do NOT forget the objective and the path we must create for anarchy as a sect.


The Marxian religion was imposed in Russia by blood and fire with the Bolshevik coup d’état. Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov (alias Lenin) would be in charge of canonizing the dogma -glorifying its metaphysical character with ontological and metahistorical pretensions- and implementing it as a disciplinary instrument and tool of domination. As could not be otherwise, the institutional faith produced its high priests who, in the end, would turn out to be “more papist than the Pope”; reaching its dogmatic paroxysm with the rise of Soviet orthodoxy after 1930 and the development of the schools affiliated with Stalinism (read: most of the Marxian currents that were implanted in the so-called Third World). Certainly, in this context, the “struggle against sectarianism”1 was exacerbated in the defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

Circus-trials, mass imprisonments, state surveillance and extrajudicial executions – by means of Cheka -,2 were the response to “sectarianism” in the land of the “soviets” during 70 years of red fascism. Thousands of anarchists, critical Marxians, Mensheviks, social-revolutionaries and other “sychophants” went to the concentration camps created by Trotsky, accused of “sectarianism”. In those same extermination camps, the survivors of the Kronstadt massacre served their sentences, under the same accusation. In East Germany, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, China, North Korea, Mongolia, Cuba, Cambodia and Ethiopia, “sectarians” were persecuted and killed by their respective states/churches.

The fate of “sectarians” has not been (nor is it) different in the various guerrilla armies and/or armed parties. In Africa, Asia and Latin America, there are plenty of irrefutable examples to corroborate this. “Sectarianism” and its equivalents (“factionalism”, “divisionism”, “diversionism” and “fractionalism”) -always equated with “treason” by Marxian dogmatists-, are “typified crimes” expiated with death. The profuse rite of capital punishment against their militants, for having incurred such “faults”, is generally justified by these authoritarian organizations as a “disciplinary penalty aimed at educating and organizing the masses”. In fact, these “arguments” are supported by contemporary Marxian pedagogy; Paolo Freire himself – showing his attachment to St. Charlie’s doctrine – states that sectarianism “has a preponderantly emotional and uncritical matrix; it is arrogant, anti-dialogical and therefore anti-communicative. It is reactionary […] the sectarian creates nothing, because he does not love”.3

This “crime”, susceptible to the ultimate torment within the guerrilla organizations, is frequently the “cause” used to condemn the theoretical-practical discrepancies in the “revolutionary trials”. Over the years, countless assassinations have been accumulated in guerrilla tents (not always by firing squad), under the accusation of “factionalist”, “divisive”, “diversionist”, “fractionalist” or “sectarian” behavior; such as that which occurred in 1967 in Colombia against some militants of the National Liberation Army (ELN)4 or; the vile assassination in 1975 of the poet Roque Dalton within the People’s Revolutionary Army (ERP) – first accused of “sectarian actions” and later slandered as a “CIA agent” – and the massacre of 164 guerrillas in Tacueyó, executed on the orders of the commanders of one of the fronts of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), infamous for its spectacular nature. 5

The “fight against sectarianism” does not stop inside the prisons either. The hunt for “sectarians” continues behind walls and bars, having to watch our backs not only for the repression of the henchmen of domination but also for being stabbed by one’s “companion”. As a general rule, whoever thinks differently from the Marxian dogmatists (almost always dominant among the so-called “political prisoners”) is subject to harassment if he does not adhere to the predominant Church. This persecution does not apply only to individuals who openly claim to be anarchists, but also includes the members of these armed parties themselves, who are constantly watched in order to detect “factionalist”, “divisive”, “diversionist”, “fractionalist” or “sectarian” behavior. In these matters, the Communist Party of Peru-Shining Path (PCP-SL) took special care in applying its “disciplinary instruments” inside the prisons. The so-called “hierarchical inspection”, “ideological examination”, “normalizing sanctions” and “punishments” are some of the most frequent tools used to correct “sectarianism”.

Although the fascist horror of the PCP-SL deserves to be included in the Guinness records, the use of these “dynamics” is not limited to the Maoist-Indigenist swill, nor is it confined to the Latin American region; on the old continent there are also plenty of examples of authoritarian organizations with identical conduct. This confirms -once again- that “sectarianism” is only pursued from the grammar of power. That is to say, from the dogmatic and flattening logic of hegemonic thought that we have always confronted from the anarchic perspective.

That is why it is surprising that there are those who assume themselves to be anarchists and resort to the condemnation of “sectarianism” as a means of evading debate with comrades who disagree (sincerely and publicly) with their theoretical-practical accommodations. But it is even more astonishing that there are those who are distressed by sharing tents with “sectarians” and are not bothered by the presence of notorious rapists in our environments. It is striking that “purist” positions are uncomfortable while “practice for practice’s sake” is worshiped without making major distinctions between fascists and comrades. It is implausible that those who were once capable of identifying “autism” in certain insurgents -unable to react to events and abandon paralysis-, today suffer from severe “bipolarity”, to the extent of forgetting everything they were, renouncing passion and its venom for the sake of political alliances and unitary fronts.

It is regrettable that instead of refuting a certain theory or a specific practice with arguments, we tend to disqualify a priori using a string of leftist clichés that we thought were banished from our circles. It is the old “scarecrow” fallacy. They appear to refute by imposing an idea that does not correspond to the line of argumentation of the debate, thus avoiding addressing the underlying issue by attacking the straw man. It afflicts the contempt for debate and the refusal to reflect. It grieves the use of moral and sentimental patterns. It is worrying to see that so much ballast survives. The paradoxical thing is that they present themselves as the “new anarchism” having so many similarities with the old.

I expect that everything will be reduced to momentary sensations in the face of the constant pressures of the environment and the ups and downs of the anarchic war. Lapses characteristic of individual transformations; a sort of fleeting stumble that vanishes once we resume the black path of Anarchy and rekindle our principles.

To identify “practice” as a place of encounter “with others (not necessarily anarchists)”,6 where we have been “enriching and empowering our visions and capacities”7 and prioritizing “links based on common practices rather than on empty labels or repeated slogans”8, is to reduce the anarchic war to politics. Seeking alliances that offer “possibilities for growth”9 only contributes to the exaltation of the “law of numbers”. Indeed, “paper holds absolutely everything”10 : We may be told that these alliances are not established in an “indiscriminate manner” or that some “type of filter” is contemplated at the time of forging them but, concretely, those of us who have “ventured along the paths of conflict” and do not live on “daydreams in front of the computer”11, have learned in the course of the struggle that “practical alliances” -certainly, “tactical alliances” in fact- require the most absolute candor or the most shameless political accommodation of those involved. Aware that the “political revolution” only produces new leaders, new social pacts and new states, Bakunin always opted to dispense with politics.

To remain stranded on the “practical” plane shows the lack of our own thinking and, above all, the absence of praxis. To abandon the field of theoretical elaboration in favor of “practice” is to surrender beforehand -like puppets- to the movements of power. It is to place ourselves at the mercy of the enemy; it is to give the anticipated victory to fascism (black, brown or red). Practice and theory, from the anarchist perspective, are inherent. One feeds the other. It is precisely in these two dimensions that our specificity is sustained. There is no such thing as “practical anarchism” just as there is no such thing as “theoretical anarchism”. Whoever assumes exclusively one of these sides can be anything except an anarchist.

Invariably, every time “practice” is separated from theory, or vice versa, anarchist war plunges into a decadent phase and exhausts itself. As comrade Alfredo Bonanno reminds us, every time practice is renounced and action is abandoned, theoretical production proliferates and academic conferences and café chatter multiply. However, in an inversely proportional manner, every time that theoretical elaboration is abandoned, bland activism abounds, the number of chores increases a hundredfold, and anarchic war degenerates into armed vanguard and is diluted in the black waters of practices limited to specialists.

While it is true that Anarchy is insurrectionary by nature, not all insurrectionaries nor all insurrections are anarchic. The various shades of fascism also wagered on insurrection through the dysphoria of the “masses”. The misery, desperation and anxiety of the multitude are the vehicles of resentment that inevitably lead to fascism. It is not by chance that the National Front in France calls for settling differences and overcoming “sectarianism”, nor is it fortuitous that we coincide in many objectives. Today, the struggle against post-industrial hell, the struggle against the fifth techno-industrial revolution, the defense of biodiversity, the struggle against precariousness, even the struggle against the health dictatorship imposed globally in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the anti-capitalist revolt itself, have various points of encounter with fascism.

If we forge our affinity by prioritizing “links from common practices” we may be paving our way to the scaffold and/or oiling the guillotine with which they will cut off our heads. Undoubtedly, it is difficult to walk on such slippery ground, but the conditions of the pavement have always been the same since time immemorial.

In the 19th century, we coincided in our objectives with Blanquists, populists (wrongly called nihilists), nationalists and Marxians; also in the 20th century, countless contingencies put the same objectives in our sights as the fascisms of the time. Only those who forged “bonds from common practices” without further reflection ended their days in the ranks of Blanquists, populists, nationalists, Marxians, fascists, Bolsheviks and National Socialists. There are plenty of examples of “converts” who abandoned the anarchic “sect” and joined Blanquism, populism, nationalism, Marxism, motivated by “practice”. Not to mention the defections during Italian fascism and the enlistments in Bolshevik ranks during the first days of the Russian Revolution. The links in the name of “practice” of certain sectors of Spanish anarcho-syndicalism with Falangism deserve honorable mention. It is a matter, then, of affirming the differences or, rather, affirming oneself in the differences; hence our intrinsically “sectarian” vocation and our propensity for “purism”.

Anarchic theory and practice are opposed to all utilitarian and instrumental logic, which makes it impossible to weave “links from common practices”. Our bonds are embroidered – not woven – through ethics which, in truth, is an etiology; that is to say, a motive, a cause, an excess of principles committed solely and exclusively to Freedom. That is why, for those of us who claim to be anarchists with premeditation and malice aforethought, there are no “means” but “ends”; concrete and immediate ends that endow Anarchy with life and give us those ephemeral moments of absence of authority and feed our passions and desires for total liberation in every attack on domination, its infrastructures and its personages. That is why I take up -consciously and decisively- our “sectarian” character and I am ready to defend it as anarchic intransigence to the last consequences.

Gustavo Rodriguez,
Planet Earth, October 19, 2021.
(Excerpted from the booklet “In Defense of Associative Specificity”).

Via Anarquia

  1. The great paradox of the Marxian dogma is to have promoted the “sectarian” development among its followers, engendering an infinity of “sects” that claim among themselves to be the authentic heirs of the life and work of Saint Charlie.
  2. “Extraordinary Commission” conceived by Lenin after the October Revolution and set up in December 1917, under the direction of Felix Dzerzhinsky, as a repressive body in charge of the security of the new socialist state. Over time this secret police agency changed its name, until it became the KGB (Committee for State Security) in 1954.
  3. Freire, P., La educación como práctica de la libertad, ICIRA, Santiago de Chile, 1969, p.51.
  4. This fact has been collected in different texts, for more information see: Correa, Medardo; Sueño inconcluso, Artes Gráficas Caviher Ltda., Bogotá, 1997, p. 67 and ff. and; Medina Gallego, Carlos; ELN. Una historia de los orígenes, Rodríguez Quito Editores, Bogotá, 2001, p. 231-247.
  5. Between November 1985 and January 1986, 164 guerrillas belonging to the Comando Ricardo Franco Frente-Sur (CRF-FS) of the Coordinadora Nacional Guerrillera (CNG) were assassinated by orders of their commanders after a summary trial, accused of “treason” and “factionalism”. Vid., Cuesta Novoa, José, Vergüenzas históricas, Tacueyó, el comienzo del desencanto, Intermedio Editores, Bogotá, 2002.
  6. Chile: Communiqué by Mónica Caballero and Francisco Solar. Available online: (accessed: 18/10/2021).
  7. Id.
  8. Id.
  9. Id.
  10. Id.
  11. Id.