Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Class, Gender, Race, and Hierarchy

[From a broader article about anarchism, domination, and inequality.]

Surprisingly, I have met and read the writings of numerous sociologists and anarchists that claim that one of these major forms of inequality—class, gender, and race—are the central or ultimate forms, trumping the others. Sometimes this prioritization is a subtle implication one senses by the words used, but in other instances people have come out and stated the supposed omnipresence of one form over others. While the character of these forms has changed overtime and are not the same in all places, it is improper to dismiss some inequality at the expense of others. Authors and activists tend to make interesting and good arguments, but the fact that these three forms of inequality are continuously argued over and on behalf of is a sign that they are all formidable and not “minor” in respect to others. Different, yes, but not more or less important. To rank the importance of one form is to begin the exclusion of others, regardless of the empirical validity of the original argument. Decades of recent sociological research, as well as the far longer experience of social movements rooted in struggle against these forms, illustrates just how complex and deep-rooted each form is in modern societies.

Care should be taken to not “essentialize” one group’s experience as the normative experience of all others. For example, the experience of all men is not that of “pure” dominators. Black men and working-class men are disadvantaged in certain aspects of their lives, thus differentiating them from upper-class White men. Considering the impact of all forms of domination illustrates the multiplicative effect of disadvantage upon people. Then, individual conditions of disadvantage unique to one’s own life may be considered. Sociology considers average patterns between human groups, and generalizes those experiences and positions of disadvantage or privilege. Even averages, though, ignore differences since not all people share the exact same characteristics and conditions of those in their group.

In the following, I apply the six propositions offered above, in light of the dynamics of class, gender, and race inequality. As such, I explore an anarchist interpretation of these three major forms of inequality of interest to sociologists. Like sociologists, I argue that these are irreducible forms that are influenced by each other, but are independent. Unlike sociologists, however, I emphasize how an analysis based on mere inequality between “haves” and “have nots” often misses the hierarchy and authority relationships inherent in each. Also, I think it is important to note the shortcomings in efforts to “equalize” income, wealth, or resources between groups, and how anarchists aim to eliminate the entire hierarchical mechanisms underpinning each form of inequality. I discuss class, gender, and race in alphabetical order.


Class inequality is premised upon the hierarchical institution of capitalism that allows an owner class to give orders to middle- and working-classes. Power is thus rooted in economic relations of exploitation. Sometimes capitalists do not give middle-class managers and professionals direct orders, and, due to socialization that causes them to identify with the owner classes, these middle-classes run society on behalf of capitalist interests. Capitalists do not have the unquestioned right to their inherited wealth, luxurious lifestyles, or inexpensive laborers to boss around. Class domination results in negative consequences for those in the lowest class strata, including exhaustion and alienation. Yet, it is not just the working classes who suffer under capitalism—although they clearly suffer most—since class domination also creates desperation, jealousy, property crimes, and other phenomena that adversely affect everyone in society.

While class societies are generally founded upon myths of class mobility, it is very debatable how much mobility actually exists, how regular such mobility is, and whether existent mobility improves the overall state of affairs for all in a society. Mobility is usually aided by various forms of capital (economic, social, or cultural). But, since capital is monopolized by those who are already at the top of the class hierarchy, the wealthy can transmit capital to their children and thereby recreate class hierarchy.

Debate about class mobility is largely a shell-game. Capitalism is premised upon having workers under the control of managers and owners. Whether these workers are in the same society, or live overseas, some group must be in a disadvantaged position, thus experiencing a lack of empowerment, efficacy, autonomy, and self-management. Tinkering with symptoms like class inequality without addressing capitalism is bound to be a still-born or failing endeavor. Consequently, efforts like improving mobility, forming business unions and collective bargaining units, social welfare programs administered by the state, or progressive taxation of the wealthy do not change the fundamental relationships in capitalism between upper-, middle-, and working-classes. Anarchists have been very forthright with their demand for working-class power, by any means necessary, especially as these efforts further the dismantling of capitalism. The labor movement has been the entity to most seriously and vigilantly challenge capitalism, particularly through the mass actions of workers and their allies, using a variety of tactics ranging from protest to strikes, and sabotage to factory seizures.

Ultimately, class inequality can only be eliminated by removing the hierarchical relationships between classes, not just creating maximum and minimum wage laws, or allowing workers and managers the chance to sit-down at a table to discuss grievances. Instead, workers need to control not only the means of production, but also the decision-making apparatus necessarily to work. This emphasis differentiates anarchists from social-democratic efforts to narrow wage differentials, state socialist systems that collectivize productive power and give control to bureaucrats or technicians, and unionists that seek greater say in the workplace without possessing ultimate ownership of their efforts.

Class inequality not only involves unequal power relations between owners, management, and workers, but also union bureaucracy, government regulators, and all others who can intervene within the workplace. If politicians, party officials, specialists, or union officials are in the position to make decisions on behalf of workers, then workers cannot completely and directly control the things that matter greatly to the lived experience of class inequality. However, this does not foreclose the principal ways in which workers have traditionally used the labor movement to gain political and economic power in the past—through syndicalist unions democratically-run by all members. Anarcho-syndicalism has been the radical response to the problems of capitalism for working people seeking to express cross-industry solidarity, manage their own labor, and remain autonomous from both their [soon to be former] bosses and parasitic union leadership (Schmidt & van der Walt 2009).

Anarchists have also tended to reject any work done for the benefit of authority figures. Consequently, in a capitalist society, anarchists desire freedom from the necessity to “work”. The motivation to work in capitalist society is not for creativity, self-expression, or joy, but survival—people need money in order to buy food in order to live. Work is forced upon people and anarchists have often advocated “zero-work” beyond that immediately necessary to survive or that done for creative, community-building. In this zero-work conception of anarchism (expressed most eloquently by Bob Black’s The Abolition of Work), class mobility within the capitalist system is less desirable than autonomy from the entire class system. True worker self-management is achieved by being able to choose whether one labors or not, for whom, and how.


Inequalities between men and women predate class inequalities, as they are rooted in the millennia-old institution of patriarchy (literally: father rule). Power is derived from sexual relationships and gendered roles. Here, hierarchy is ordered in a way as to benefit men over women, elder men over younger men, and heteronormative performance over non-heterosexual behavior. Anarchists recognize that like all other forms of social domination, these arrangements are not biologically-determined, but created by unequal interactions between those with and without power in human societies. Many past societies have had more egalitarian social orders between sexes, illustrating that the present order can be changed by human initiative and struggle.

Gender is the socially-constructed characteristics attached to perceived biological sex that lead males to be socialized in a masculine fashion and females to be socialized in a feminine fashion. In Western, industrialized societies these forms of gender socialization help to exaggerate any meaningful biological differences (essentially in reproduction, size, etc.) and justify unequal behavioral patterns. It is perfectly possible for men to adopt so-called “feminine” characteristics and be compassionate, nurturing, and sociable. In fact, anarchists suggest that one way to improve the level of mutual aid, cooperation, and solidarity is to emphasize these traits over the competitive, aggressive, and dominating traits of masculinity. Men are clearly capable of such preferable behaviors, but are socialized to act in ways that perpetuate a variety of forms of domination. Other supposedly “masculine” characteristics like bravery or courage are appropriate for all people, and are not only held by men.

Beyond the gender inequality created by patriarchy, the very categories of female and male, feminine and masculine are socially-constructed. Patriarchy—along with heteronormativity—compel doctors and parents to force children into one sex or gender category of the other. Especially in the case of children with sex ambiguous characteristics, the drive is even more aggressive to clearly emphasize—through surgery or performance—one binary over the other. Patriarchy thus serves to subjugate transsexuals, transgender people, and even those with more “normative” attributes to standards that force individuals into predetermined acceptable behaviors and identities.

Domination results in negative consequences for women, such as a taken-for-grantedness, sexual abuse and rape, and objectification. But, gender domination also impacts men and the broader society, too, especially through widespread machismo and violence. Gender inequality manifests itself in numerous realms. Perhaps the most intimate domain is the family, where there are clearly gendered roles that hold women accountable for the majority of housework and child-rearing. Patriarchy also enables men to be in greater control over family resources and thus to make major strategic decisions independent of women’s input. Gender domination is a major factor within amorous relationships, witnessed by domestic battery, sexual assault, rape, and other forms of sexual manipulation and control that men wield over women—again due to their gendered socialization, greater resources, independence, and physical size. Men do not have an inherent right to unrestricted sexual access to woman, nor the right to free house-cleaners and babysitters.

Outside of the family and domestic sphere, gender inequality disadvantages women in the workplace as they are relegated to low-ranking jobs where they do “female-gendered” work that is less well-paid, creative, and under their own control. Culturally, women are regularly viewed as the sole figures responsible for child care. And, due to their “feminine” characteristics, women find themselves the subject of paternalism where men speak and act on their behalf.

Unlike the sociological ideas of class mobility, there is no real upward mobility for women in society, except as a result of the in-roads made by the liberal feminist movement. Also, unlike Marxian views of class revolution, overturning the gender hierarchy to establish women on top and men on the bottom does not produce a desirable outcome. Anarchists and feminists have been clear advocates of removing barriers between men and women, empowering women to exercise more self-determination, and removing the avenues by which men may dominate. To be clear, anarchists do not advocate merely eliminating male privileges, but expanding the realm of freedom to include female participation in those privileges. By doing so, the range of freedom does not merely increase, but also change character to include freedom that tolerates others, enables cooperation and solidarity, and reduces the potential for power over others. Pro-feminist men are important allies in the struggle for greater gender equality in so far as they defect from male privilege. But, equally important is the need for more women to openly embrace radical feminist consciousness, not only by witnessing their own subjugation to patriarchy and how inaction perpetuates it, but also the empowerment gained by assuming a feminist identity. However, feminism is not enough to end gender domination, especially if feminism is only liberal in character and premised upon women having equal representation in other hierarchical institutions like capitalism or the state. To exist within such institutions founded upon hierarchy and domination, women must usually adopt masculine traits of domination, competition, and aggression. A greater presence of women within hierarchies does not achieve true gender equality, nor liberation. Having a woman president or CEO does not change the fundamental nature of the hierarchical state or corporation.


Racial inequality results from the exercise of racially-determined power—in most modern societies this indicates a hierarchy based upon White supremacy. Race is understood to be the artificially-created categories based upon perceived (and supposed) biological differences between groups of people. These categories are actually socially-constructed and have little to do with genetics (despite popular belief). Consequently, “race” is a fluid idea and has more to do with prevailing arrangements of power than with any substantive differences. For example, in the United States, race has been legally-created to offer privileges (political, economic, and social) to some people and not others. The state—through legislation and court decisions—has created one group (“Whites”) as a superior group, benefiting from the best access to political power, property ownership, legal protection, social status, and so forth. At the same time, other groups—namely Native Americans and African slaves—were denied access to these resources, as were many incoming immigrant groups. Race is premised upon the hierarchical institution of White supremacy, which creates a strata of races, with Whites at the top. Yet, this arrangement is no more “god-given”, natural, or inevitable than class or gender hierarchies—as changing legal interpretations of racial categories has clearly shown (López 1996).

While race describes artificially propped-up dimensions, it still has a real-world salience. Racial minorities, although not in any way inherently inferior, have received fewer privileges in all societies than have dominant races. Specifically, White supremacy results in negative consequences for individual racial minorities, including shame, targeted profiling, and fewer life chances.

The problems of White supremacy are considered by anarchists to be wider than just “racism” (prejudicial attitudes of superiority by dominant group members). Individual racists are—on the whole—rather insignificant in comparison to massive institutionalized racism. Therefore, a true analysis of racial inequality would have to include all the institutions that perpetuate racial inequality: housing markets, the “criminal justice system” (aka “deviance response processes”), law enforcement, exploitative corporations, government policies, etc. Even during modern times where supposed “civil rights” exist in law books, there is de facto racism and racial inequality rooted in centuries of past discriminatory practices. Racist ideologies perpetuate many of these practices and help to justify inequality as somehow the “natural” consequence of minority stupidity, laziness, or ineptitude. In actual fact, White supremacy is the villain that creates racial inequality.

Minority groups deserve racial autonomy from dominant groups, whether through increased collective power, broadened rights and freedoms, or through independence (in a cultural, spatial, or political sense). To the extent that conditions and experiences have improved for minorities, it has only been through the in-roads created by anti-racist and civil-rights movements (which include national liberation organizations). The individual mobility of a few individual minority group members is not heralded by anarchists as an end to White supremacy or racial inequality, but merely as evidence demonstrating the flexibility of capitalism and the state. In the end, collective struggle in movements is the true means of eliminating White supremacy, whether through race-conscious education and action or through racial disobedience or race riots.

Ultimately, these forms of inequality and domination could be expanded to other categories, such as ability, age, sexual orientation, and others. In countries outside of the United States, inequality may rest upon still other factors, such as religion, nationality or citizenship, language, indigenous status, region of residence, caste, or any of an increasingly wide array of factors. Regardless of the form of domination, how are we to understand and study the broader phenomenon in societies?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Feeder Marches and "Diversity of Tactics" in Northeast Ohio Anti-war Activism

The time period of Fall 2002 to Spring 2003 saw unprecedented anti-war activism throughout the world. In Cleveland, an organization called the Northeast Ohio Antiwar Coalition (NOAC) formed to counter the US push for war against Iraq. Cleveland anarchists organized with NOAC, but also independently, sponsoring “feeder marches” that “fed into” the official NOAC events. Feeder organizers did this to project an autonomy of action and promote a broader philosophy. Their un-permitted and radical events marched under the banner of “Stop the War – Fight the System!” The public announcement of the first feeder provoked a long-standing fear from mainstream peace activists of “anarchist violence” and property destruction, concerns that were eventually proven to be un-substantiated. These events grew the anti-authoritarian movement in Cleveland and helped to lay the groundwork for mass civil disobedience after the war began.

Anarchism and Social Movements
The anti-war movement in the US has included the organized presence of anarchists. Anarchists believe in and work towards the two-fold goal of (1) dismantling oppressive institutions, hierarchies, and authorities, and in their place, (2) creating cooperative and horizontal social relationships based upon the principles of self-determination, mutual aid, direct action, and voluntary association.

Fitzgerald and Rodgers (2000) offer one of the best scholarly models for classifying anarchist organizations. Radical social movement organizations (RSMOs) are non-hierarchical and participatory organizations, which use diverse tactics and alternative communication channels, and are very likely to have few resources and intense institutional opposition. This typology works well even with anarchistic “non-organizations”.

There are two main ways in which anarchists have contributed to radical activism in recent history. First, anarchists themselves have become an important presence in protest movements. Secondly, anarchist thought has influenced the general aesthetic of direct action politics. For example, affinity groups, spokes-council arrangements, black blocs, and now feeder marches – tactics widely known in radical activist circles – are either modeled upon or owe a substantial debt to anarchist principles.

Two of these key anarchist principles are autonomy and solidarity. Although it may seem contradictory, anarchists regularly practice both concurrently. These two ideas converge most with the concept of a “diversity of tactics” (DoT). This concept suggests that activists will respect and not publicly criticize others who chose tactics different than what they chose. Some recent large demonstrations have been organized with this concept in mind; the anti-Free Trade Area of the Americas demonstrations in Quebec City in 2001 had a “three-tiered, color-coding of events to indicate varying possibilities of arrest risk and militancy” (Milstein 2001).

Very little has been written in academic circles about DoT specifically, possibly since it is a relatively new term.[1] Albertani (2002) and Starr (2006) stand in relative isolation in academic literature when favorably discussing the use of aggressive tactics in protest situations. In activist literature, however, the debates surge both strongly against (Lakey 2002, Schutt 2003) – though often on pragmatic grounds – and loosely in favor of (Starhawk 2002).[2] Lakey and Schutt conclude that “DoT” is code for “violence is permissible if not recommended”. Starhawk does not make this assumption, but instead demands more clarification. None of the above writers embrace the concept fully or without clarification.

To further muddy the waters, social movement theorists regularly conflate property destruction with “violence”, in fact so repeatedly that I will not reference the scores of works doing so. Yet, since anarchists are a central component to the upcoming discussion, I will adopt the basic anarchist assumption that property destruction is nothing other than property destruction, while violence is harm caused towards living beings.

... in Northeast Ohio
Cleveland activists began organizing against the Bush Administration’s “War on Terrorism” after the US invasion of Afghanistan began. Disputes within the local anti-war movement, specifically between anarchists and liberal anti-war-veterans, spurred a publicly-held activist dialogue to discuss differences and look for common ground. An event entitled “Building Bridges” was, according to some activists, later dubbed by some as “Burning Bridges” for the way that “conversations” took place without others listening, particularly in regards to DoT.

Faced with the growing need to counter the Bush Administration's intensified saber-rattling regarding Iraq, the Northeast Ohio Anti-war Coalition (NOAC) was formed. Participation was drawn from traditional leftist groups, anti-war and pacifist organizations, socialist and communist parties, ANSWER and NION-affiliates[3], and anarchists circles.

Social movement participants often have very strong preferences and assumptions for organizing.[4] Those who participated in NOAC were no exception and conflicts were clear from the start, with debates over whether to apply for a city-approved march permit. Interviewed activists pointed towards age/generation and ideology as the greatest source of conflict within NOAC. But the two primary differences between NOAC at-large and the anarchists were in the area of message and tactics.

NOAC's general message is reflected in the slogans it eventually settled on for its first permitted march (and all subsequent events): “Stop The War On Iraq!”, “No War for Oil!”, “Not In Our Name!”, and “Money for Jobs, Health Care & Education ... Not for War!”.

Approximately 10 days before NOAC's planned anti-war march in Cleveland November 16th, the Burning River Revolutionary Anarchist Collective (BRC), composed mainly of young adults in their twenties, made a general call on the Internet to activists for an unpermitted “feeder march” to begin beforehand, that would “feed into” the main NOAC march:

The Burning River Collective hopes to see everyone that opposes this war [at the NOAC event]. In addition to the demonstration, we are calling for a feeder march and contingent within the march under the slogan, "Stop the War, Fight the System!"

At the same time as the Bush administration is threatening war on Iraq, it has already bombed Afghanistan, stripped Muslims, Arabs, and South Asian immigrants of any semblance of civil liberties, passed policies nearing police state-like measures, and rained batons and bullets on the urban warzones of our communities. We say that we not only need to stop this war but we need to fight the entire system that is pushing it!

Join the "Stop the War, Fight the System" contingent and feeder march on Saturday Nov. 16th at 11:00am at W.44th and Lorain as we march through communities drumming up opposition to the war on our way to the larger demonstration. (NEO-RAN message 2308.)

This declaration sparked immediate concern with NOAC activists. Some thought it was a call for street violence (possibly due to the words to “fight” the system). Some were likely concerned because it was an anarchist group that had called for it. Others feared that demonstrators were cryptically declaring their intention to destroy property or cause confrontations with police. One expressed a strong concern about the anti-war movement being marginalized by “extreme messages/tactics” that would “scare off” those who were just entering the anti-war movement (McLellan 2002).

The main NOAC concern ended up being a fear that media attention would be distracted from the NOAC event, since such a march organized by anarchists was guaranteed to attract the attention of the Cleveland Police Department. NOAC organizers felt that conflict with the police – especially if resulting in arrest – would have surely become the media story of the day, blotting out the rest of NOAC's message. This concern was informed by other large protests in the US that had recently resulted in mass arrests.

Thus, concerns over public image and “protester violence” dominated the attention of key organizers in NOAC during the last week of planning the march and rally.[5] One NOAC leader later estimated that these concerns could easily have been put to rest with a face-to-face meeting amongst key organizers of NOAC and the feeder.

In response to many of the above concerns, the BRC circulated the following notice on various activists email lists:

Organizing for the "Stop the War, Fight the System" feeder march and contingent on Nov.16th in Cleveland are going well. There have been concerns brought up to us about our intentions and message. While our message may very well be different than others, we think diversity in the anti-war [movement] is a strength not a weakness. We will be marching into the larger to be a PART of it. This feeder march is to create more of an effect in the community and to bring forth our politics at the same time. (NEO-RAN message 2362)

As one anarchist elaborated, opposing a single war is not itself enough, since war is “tied to the systems of capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and unnecessary hierarchies”, and to not oppose that entire system is to miss that “war is the health of the State”. BRC members hoped that the feeder would inject this more radical critique into the anti-war movement and also reach other Clevelanders along the feeder route.

About 30 activists showed up for the feeder march, which went without police engagement until it turned onto Lorain Avenue a few blocks from the NOAC march's starting location. Police attempted briefly to contain the feeder, but quickly gave up and settled on blocking traffic for the marchers. The march lasted just under one mile in length (Turner 2002). Feeder organizers and participants stated that most activists responded favorably to their actions and analysis (when it was offered) during and after the event.

The NOAC march ended up being the largest anti-war event in Cleveland since the Vietnam War—the Cleveland Plain Dealer estimated that nearly one-thousand people took part (Stephens 2002), while other local media estimated more. As the march crossed over the Detroit-Superior Bridge into downtown, the crowd swelled to the point where the Cleveland Police Department had to close down the entire 4-lane bridge. This closing was, in addition to an earlier incident with the feeder banner briefly in front of the NOAC banner, the only problem cited by NOAC organizers about the march.

Anarchists wanted to expand their ranks and chose an “exciting” method for doing so. Traditional anti-war activists were in the majority within NOAC and were concerned mainly with the overall anti-war movement’s public portrayal in the mass media and with attracting more mainstream participation. These differences in method, with slightly different short-term goals, had similar long-term goals. The usage of both tactics – large march and smaller feeder – clearly constituted the practice of DoT, as well as a diversity of messages.

BRC called for another feeder march for a second NOAC march and rally in Cleveland in December. The call issued beforehand hinted more clearly at the organizers’ strategic motivations:

We... are appalled by the blatant disregard for humanity that imperialist war, imperialism and capitalism entail. We want to see a lively, militant, creative movement emerge that paves new ground on the road to liberation.

Although the typical, formulaic protest is a good way to show the U.S. government the sheer numbers of people who oppose its policies and is a needed demonstration of solidarity among progressive, radical and revolutionary forces, there are also many other forms of protest we can engage in and a plethora of tactics we can use that might be just as effective or more effective. Furthermore, using a wide and creative assortment of tactics allows us, as a movement, to not stagnate. (NEO-RAN message 2501)

These non-permitted marches laid the groundwork for a “day-after” march that started at downtown Cleveland’s Public Square.[6] Anarchists and other anti-imperialists led a crowd of 300 – mainly youth – into the streets, marching throughout downtown for approximately an hour. The marchers faced a strong police response, but no resistance and were essentially escorted through the streets by police on foot and squad cars blocking intersections. After these subsequently larger and larger youth-based responses to the war, the police struck back a few days later, arresting half a dozen people for doing essentially the same thing.

Olzak and Uhrig (2001) point out that the viability of a social movement increases when there is no competition from other movements. In this case, the feeder and NOAC organizers were drawing upon (usually) separate resources and audiences. The tactics used reflected a choice of repertoires, which is based upon the breadth and structure of the tactical options available. Ideology and cost-benefit analysis can influence how a protest repertoire is chosen (Ennis 1987), an analysis that rings true in Cleveland's case.

There was a general consensus amongst the activists I interviewed that the feeders were not “a problem” – at least in retrospect. Most lamented not conversing more with each other or being more involved in solidarity organizing. They appreciated the need for diverse methods of resistance and personal expression, and gained (or retained) a tolerance for each other's choices. As a Vietnam-era activist put it plainly, “anarchists are part of the anti-war movement in Cleveland” and that anarchists always participated within the accepted parameters of the NOAC events. Thus, despite their different approaches, both liberal and radical tactics permitted diverse people the opportunity to participate in protesting war on the basis of their interest and comfort level.

Activist debate on the efficiency and effectiveness of certain tactics in creating mass movements of resistance will likely continue. As with other movements, this injection of radical participation and action can and did re-frame the typical mode of anti-war protest and organization. The experience in Cleveland shows that diverse tactics and messages can be useful to social movements, granted there is a certain degree of transparency and dialogue between activists.

End Notes
[1] However, it is often pointed out that few tactics are actually “new”, and DoT is likely not an exception.
[2] Incidentally, all three are nonviolent direct action trainers.
[3] ANSWER (Act Not to Stop War and End Racism) and NION (Not In Our Name) are national organizations, initiated by the International Action Center/World Worker's Party and Revolutionary Communist Party, respectively.
[4] What James S. Coleman might refer to as “zealotry”... which is not to denigrate the level of their concern and passion.
[5] Later, the usage of profanity would also become a key concern. See McLeod and Detenber (1999) on media selection bias.
[6] Many communities through out the US preplanned “day after” protests (that often included civil disobedience) that would go into action the day following a US invasion of Iraq – an event that activists had been predicting for months prior.

  • Albertani, Claudio. 2002. “Paint It Black: Black Blocs, Tute Bianche and Zapatistas in the Anti-globalization Movement”. New Political Science, 24 (4): 579-595.
  • Ennis, James G. 1987. “Fields of Action: Structure in Movements' Tactical Repertoires”. Sociological Forum, 2 (3): 520-533.
  • Fitzgerald, Kathleen J. and Diane M. Rodgers. 2000. “Radical Social Movement Organizations: A Theoretical Model”. The Sociological Quarterly, 41 (4): 573-592.
  • Lakey, George. 2002. “Diversity of Tactics & Democracy”. clamor, March/April: 62-63.
  • McLellan, Nina. 2002. “Open Letter”. Distributed via email, by nina@apk.net.
  • McLeod, Douglas M. and Benjamin H. Detenber. 1999. “Framing Effects of Television News Coverage of Social Protest”. Journal of Communication, 49 (3): 3-23.
  • Milstein, Cindy. 2001. “Something Did Start in Quebec City: North America's Revolutionary Anti-Capitalist Movement”. The Northeastern Anarchist, 2, Summer.
  • Northeast Ohio Radical Action Network [NEO-RAN] electronic mailing list. Yahoo!Groups.
  • Olzak, Susan S. and C. Noah Uhrig. 2001. “The Ecology of Tactical Overlap”. American Sociological Review, 66 (5): 694-717.
  • Schutt, Randy. 2003. “Well-Designed Strategic Nonviolent Actions”. www.vernalproject.org.
  • Starhawk. 2002. “Getting Our Tactics Right: Lessons from the Calgary G8 Mobilization”. www.starhawk.org, July. http://www.starhawk.org/activism/activism-writings/tacticsright.html
  • Starr, Amory. 2006. “’Excepting Barricades Erected to Prevent Us From Peacefully Assembling': So-Called 'Violence' in the Global North Alterglobalization Movement”. Social Movement Studies, 5 (1), May: 61-81.
  • Stephens, Scott. 2002. “Many Voices, 1 Message: Avoid War”. Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 17.
  • Turner, Patrick. 2002. “1000 People Take to Streets, Oppose War on Iraq”. Cleveland Independent Media Center. November 17. http://cleveland.indymedia.org/news/2002/11/2462.php

Thanks to the unsung activists who organized against war and gave their time to be interviewed. And, for all those who continue to make the effort to resist the Bush Wars – using all tactics. Paper also presented to the North Central Sociological Association (NCSA), Cleveland, Ohio. April 2, 2004.

This piece was accepted as an entry in a yet-to-be-published book, edited by Nom(a)d, entitled The Anti-War Movement and its Discontents: A Reader on Social Movement Theory and Practice. It was/is to include other essays by: Clive Gabay, Lori Baralt, Tom Good, Bill Weinberg, Jim Macdonald, Jeff Gibbs, the Catalyst Project, Nom(a)d, and Peter Gelderloos.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Anarchism in Cuba

[Entry in the International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, 1500-Present, edited by Immanuel Ness (2009).]

Anarchism in Cuba predominantly took the form of anarchosyndicalism and was largely indistinguishable from the militant labor movement. Anarchism influenced the independence movement, the growth of the labor movement, and general strikes in particular during the early 1900s. Anarchists were continuously repressed by Cuba’s dictators, and particularly in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution of 1959, which caused many to go underground, into prison, or into exile.

The first trace of anarchism in Cuba may be found in the 1850s and 1860s, when followers of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon created a mutual aid society. Some of the first worker newspapers and organizations were created at this time; the first anarchist paper, El Obrero (The Worker), was started by anarchists Enrique Messonier and Enrique Roig San Martín in 1872, as well as the Centro de Instrucción y Recreo (Instruction and Recreation Center). A flurry of anarchist activity occurred during the 1880s. Messonier was the secretary of the Círculo de Trabajadores (Workers’ Circle), which was dominated by anarchist participation. Roig San Martín began another newspaper called El Productor (The Producer), a weekly anarchist paper that was Cuba’s most important labor periodical and lasted until 1890, when it was closed. Alianza Obrera (Workers’ Alliance) helped to coordinate anarchist activity in Cuba as well as Cuban communities in Florida, especially Key West and Tampa.

The influences upon Cuban anarchism are diverse and unique. Spanish anarchism was influential within Cuba, particularly the ideas and writings from Catalonia, Spain. Commercial trade between Catalonia and Cuba aided in the transportation of anarchist periodicals from Spain to Cuba during the late 1800s. Spanish workers in Cuba also helped to transmit ideas from Europe. Yet Cuban anarchism was not strictly analogous to Spanish anarchism. A major Spanish anarchocollectivist organization – Federación de Trabajadores de la Región Española (Workers’ Federation of the Spanish Region) – continued to be an important model for Cuban anarchists, even after it folded in Spain. The influence of slavery and colonialism also created distinct conditions that separated the Cuban experience from the Spanish one. According to Casanovas (1998), most of the island’s first anarchists initially came from reformist labor organizations and made the eventual transformation to anarchism, often due to interactions and experiences within the labor movement. Reformist labor leaders such as Saturnino Martínez were relentless in their critique of anarchism, going so far as to characterize “anarchism [as] an evil spreading throughout Europe . . . [and that to] avoid social upheaval, workers had to become small property owners” (Casanovas 1998: 155). Still, anarchism took deeper root in Cuba’s labor movement than reformism or Marxism did. The inability to influence colonial elections stymied reformist labor efforts for power, and thus encouraged collectivism and unionism independent of political parties.

After Spain outlawed slavery in 1886, Cuban anarchists allowed ex-slaves, called Afro-Cubans, to enter their organizations following anarchist congresses in 1887 and 1892. Anarchists also used the imagery of slavery to their advantage to characterize other exploitive relationships as akin to slavery. Anarchists considered Cuban society to be rife with a “slavery” (namely industrial and colonial capitalism) that transcended the abuse of Afro-Cubans and affected those of all races. In order to strengthen the position of labor groups, anarchists tried to incorporate workers of all races into the Alianza Obrera and other groups, since all workers were needed in order to exercise labor strength during strikes. While most labor leaders remained white, the 1888 cigarmakers’ strike brought some Afro-Cuban labor leaders to the forefront, including Fernando Guerra and Eduardo González. The Alianza even demanded in 1889 that a particular factory allow workers of all races to work there. Thus, racism became an important target for anarchist organizers in the post-slavery period of the early labor movement.

The Alianza was the first union to criticize and focus upon the unique oppression and exploitation faced by women workers in the tobacco industry. The poor treatment of tobacco workers also included sexual abuse of women. Even though the increased employment of women had begun to depress male wages, the largely male labor movement still fought for improved working conditions for women. There were paternalistic attitudes expressed by some labor and anarchist leaders – such as Roig San Martín, who thought women should support their husbands and sons – but the movement largely supported women’s efforts. Female worker grievances were aired in newspapers (even when the focus was upon abusive male workers) that also promoted the unionization of women workers. The anarchist-led labor movement was unable to unionize women, even though female leafstemmers went on strike in 1889 to demand higher wages and a stop to sexual abuse by foremen, as well as joined other strikes led by men. Instead, anarchist-feminism in Cuba tried to encourage women to take an active role in public life. It also advocated “free love,” argued for the right of women to choose their romantic partners, and criticized the exploitation faced by housewives.

As Cuban nationalists advocated for independence from Spain, they met growing resistance from workers influenced by anarchism’s socialist ideas about socioeconomic independence from capitalism and the bourgeoisie (Spanish or Cuban) more than just independence from a colonial power. José Martí, the leader of the independence movement, modified his rhetoric to address the anarchist emphasis upon class struggle by incorporating demands for a classless society and other matters of social justice into his propaganda. Anarchists distributed literature to Spanish soldiers, encouraging them to not fight against the Cuban independence movement and to instead join anarchists fighting for freedom. Separatists, including anarchists, planted bombs to destroy pipelines and bridges, and tried to assassinate the Spanish officer Valeriano Weyler – who was also the governor of Cuba at the time and had imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Cubans in concentration camps. Spanish repression followed these efforts, with the closing of labor organizations, forbidding of certain political events, and the deportation of Spanish anarchists.

However, anarchists were torn over participation in the independence movement. Proponents of joining the struggle for independence saw greater opportunities for freedom in a strictly Cuban polity. Others believed in Martí and his rhetoric of a future classless Cuba after independence. However, Martí died before independence, so the accuracy of such promises cannot be ascertained. Opponents of the independence movement noted the participation (and active funding) of Cuban bourgeoisie elements that were sometimes the target of labor movement struggles. An independence movement led by Cuba’s wealthy would be unlikely to end in freedom for the Cuban working class, with just a replacement of one system of domination by a more indigenous leadership.

The eventual independence from Spain led to control by the United States. The US immediately exerted its influence over Cuba as well as other lands formerly controlled by Spain (Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines), after paying $20 million to Spain for the islands. American business interests invested heavily in Cuba and the US military itself occupied the island from 1898 to 1902, and subsequently intervened from 1906 to 1909, 1912, and 1917 to 1922. These repeated interventions, justified by the US Congress’s Platt Amendment and the Cuban Constitution itself, fueled Cuban nationalist sentiment, called cubanía, as well as anarchist opposition to US imperialism.

After independence, anarchists began to organize Cuba’s most profitable industry: sugar. Anarchist influence spread throughout the rest of Cuba as well, with anarchosyndicalism being the ideology of choice within much of the labor movement. The Cuban republic’s first general strike, in 1902, was led by Gonzalez Lozana and other anarchist tobacco workers, who aimed to end the system of apprenticeship that kept apprentices bound to employers in exploitive ways that amounted to indentured servitude. The strike was crushed by the threat of US intervention, but it set the pattern for growing strike activity up to World War I. During this period, anarchists assisted in the formation of worker cooperatives throughout the island; 200,000 people were members of the cooperative system, who paid dues to have access to recreation and cultural facilities, and medical services. In addition to producer and consumer cooperatives, anarchists also led a movement for the creation of agrarian cooperatives (such as the later Asociaciónes Campesinas), although these were later largely replaced with state farms by the Castro government.

Government repression beginning in 1913 by General Mario García Menocal – the island’s first dictator – was severe. Anti-anarchist laws were passed in the years prior to World War I. Spanish anarchists in Cuba were deported before and after the war began. During the war, despite Cuban anarchists’ neutrality, general strikes provoked a response by the US, which sent the navy to Havana. Cuban law enforcement gave the US government a list of Cuban unions and leaders’ names. The Centro Obrero was closed and anarchist publications were prohibited.

During the postwar lull, Cuban anarchists convened a workers’ congress, which decided to form the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (National Confederation of Labor; a similarly named organization existed in Spain). Many anarchist periodicals began during this period. For example, ¡Tierra! (Land!), which had been Cuba’s longest-running newspaper at the time, in print from 1899 to 1915, began a second run. Alfredo López, a key member of the Federación Obrera de La Habana (Workers’ Federation of Havana), helped begin an anarchosyndicalist campaign to unite all worker and campesino organizations into a single organization, regardless of ideology.

The Bolshevik victory in Russia created a schism in the Cuban Left. As in countries around the world, many anarchists in Cuba were initially sympathetic to the socialist-led revolution and some began to change their ideological affiliations to communism. According to Shaffer (2005), during the 1920s, anarchists debated the merits of aligning with the Marxists, with anarchosyndicalists in greater favor of such a move than anarchocommunists.

During the 1920s the Machado government cracked down on anarchists, closing the Sindicato de la Industria Fabril Industrial, arresting anarchosyndicalist leaders Margarito Iglesias, Enrique Varona, and López (all of whom were later murdered or “disappeared”), deporting strikers, and prohibiting all strikes. In response to repression the anarchist movement went underground. Militants formed various groups, including Espártaco (Spartacus), Los Solidarios (Those in Solidarity), and the Federación de Grupos Anarquistas de Cuba (Federation of Cuban Anarchist Groups). Anarchists struck alliances with university students and some politicians, fought against the government in street battles, and failed in a number of attempts to assassinate Machado. In 1933 a US-backed military coup forced Machado from office. In the wake of Machado’s overthrow, communists and anarchists aligned with the Federación Obrera de La Habana engaged in a gun-battle after anarchists denounced the Partido Comunista Cubano (Cuban Communist Party) for its assistance in ending a general strike that year that was started by transportation workers. Thus, the tentative relationship between the communists and anarchists was permanently torn asunder. Fulgencio Batista became the dictator of Cuba and the PCC subsequently created an alliance with his government.

In 1940 anarchists formed the Asociación Libertaria de Cuba (Libertarian Association of Cuba), which involved itself in labor organizing, publishing Rumbos Nuevos (New Paths), and distributing anarchist propaganda, and which even gained leadership within certain major unions. Anarchosyndicalists during this time had near-control over transport, culinary, construction, and electric utility unions. Through the end of the Batista dictatorship, the Solidaridad Gastronómica (Culinary Workers’ Solidarity) was able to keep publishing its anti-communist, anticapitalist, anti-imperialist, and anti-fascist views.

Some anarchists fought with Castro’s Movimiento 26 de Julio (July 26th movement) and when Batista fled in late 1958 all anarchists – and most everyday citizens – rejoiced. However, the Castro government, having taken over the major labor federation, Confederación de Trabajadores de Cuba, expunged leading anarchosyndicalists from their strongest unions, issued authoritarian dictates for the unions and stacked union meetings with pro-Castro non-members, suppressed a critical pamphlet by German anarchist Augustin Souchy, and arrested “counter-revolutionary” critics. The suppression and restriction grew pronounced after Castro declared his government to be Marxist-Leninist and moved toward closer relations with the Soviet Union. While some anarchists tried to join in guerilla actions against Castro, some anarchists joined the Castro government and others fled into exile in Florida (where many Batista supporters had gone). Since this time there has been no active anarchist movement within Cuba itself.

SEE ALSO: Anarchism and Culture, 1840–1939; Anarchism and Gender; Anarchism, Puerto Rico; Anarchism, Spain; Anarchosyndicalism; Castro, Fidel (b. 1926); Cuba, Anti-Racist Movement and the Partido Independiente de Color; Cuba, General Strikes under Batista Regime, 1952–1958; Cuba, Struggle for Independence from Spain, 1868–1898; Cuba, Transition to Socialism and Government; Cuban Post-Revolutionary Protests; Cuban Revolution, 1953–1959; Cuban Revolutionary Government; Martí, José (1853–1895) and the Partido Revolucionario Cubano; Russia, Revolution of February/March 1917; Russia, Revolution of October/November 1917; Souchy, Augustin (1892–1984)

References and Suggested Readings
Casanovas, J. (1998) Bread, or Bullets! Urban Labor and Spanish Colonialism in Cuba, 1850–1898. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Dolgoff, S. (1976) The Cuban Revolution: A Critical Perspective. Montreal: Black Rose Books.
Fernández, F. (2001) Cuban Anarchism: The History of a Movement. Tucson: See Sharp Press.
Poyo, G. E. (1985) The Anarchist Challenge to the Cuban Independence Movement, 1885–1890. Cuban Studies 15, 1: 29–42.
Shaffer, K. R. (2005) Anarchism and Countercultural Politics in Early Twentieth-Century Cuba. Gainesville: University of Florida Press.