Spectators No More

By BD of M1 Michigan Collective

The uprisings continue in Iraq, in Chile, in Lebanon, in Haiti and beyond. The governments, the politicians, the ruling elites attempt to repress the uprisings or propose some “changes” to make the protesters leave the streets.

In Iraq, the government and the security forces murder more than 300, but the protests, the barricades, the occupation of Tahrir Square continue and expand. In Lebanon, the president tells the protesters to emigrate, if they don’t see “decent people in the state.” The protesters, in their thousands march on the presidential palace and tell the elites to leave. In Chile, the workers and the people shutdown the country in a general strike, and the president and politicians promise a vote in April on whether to make a new constitution, hoping to get the people off the streets. And in Bolivia, a right-wing and racist coup takes place against the government of Evo Morales, forcing him into exile and opening racist attacks on the indigenous people of Bolivia. Trump and the U.S. imperialists recognize the new, racist government in Bolivia and support the coup. 

As revolutionaries and anarchists and anti-imperialists, we support these uprisings and oppose the ruling elites, the governments and the U.S. imperialists. It’s necessary to expose and oppose the role of U.S. imperialism in supporting the ruling elites, the security forces and the governments which oppress and exploit the people in the countries where these uprisings and struggles are taking place. 

In Iraq, the U.S. imperialists invaded the country in 2003, took control of the country with an occupation army, massacred tens of thousands of Iraqis and then set up a puppet government. This new government in Iraq, established by U.S. imperialism in 2004, continues to govern and control the people of Iraq. Politicians come and go, but it’s the same government, the ruling elites and U.S. imperialists all around. One protester said: “You politicians have destroyed the country. You have plundered our wealth for 16 years. It’s enough. The people don’t want you. Get out.” 

The people of Iraq are right to demand the end of this government. The government needs to go, the ruling elites need to go, and the U.S. imperialists and all imperialists and including the regional power Iran must go. The people of Iraq have the right to decide on their own futures. The people of Iraq have the right to self-determination. 

In Chile the people are rising up against the government which was established in 1990 at the end of the Pinochet dictatorship. The coup of Pinochet and the army and the elites in Chile in 1973 overthrew the elected government of Salvador Allende and attacked, with violence and brutality, workers and students and active opponents of capitalism and dictatorship and supporters of Allende. U.S. imperialism through the CIA and the government of Richard Nixon and the ruling elites of the U.S. and Chile, organized and supported the coup, backed Pinochet and helped to institute the neoliberal “reforms” which increased the wealth of the elites and the imperialists in Chile, while increasing the misery of the people. 

The people of Chile are right to demand the end of this government. The government needs to go, the ruling elites need to go and the U.S. imperialists and all imperialists need to go. The people of Chile, like the people of Iraq, have the right to decide on their own futures. The people of Chile have the right to self-determination. The Mapuche people have the right to self-determination. 

In Haiti, U.S. imperialism has dominated for decades and has occupied and carried out coups and backed the dictatorships. The U.S. imperialists and the organized imperialists through the U.N. dominate Haiti today and prop up the government in Haiti. The people of Haiti are rising up and have been rising up demanding an end to this government, and they are right to do so. The government, the security forces, the U.S. imperialists, the U.N. all need to go. The people of Haiti have the right to determine their own futures. The people of Haiti have the right to self-determination. 

Lebanon is more complicated. The government there needs to go, and the imperialists, U.S., Israel, and all need to be driven out. The people also are rising against the influence of the government of Iran and of the Assad dictatorship in Syria. The people are rising also against the sectarian divisions imposed on the people and used to divide the people. The people are right to rise up against the government, the ruling elites, the imperialists, and the people of Lebanon have the right to determine their own futures, the right to self-determination. 

It’s important for anti-imperialists and anti-capitalists and revolutionary anarchists in the U.S. to oppose U.S. imperialism and support the right of the people of Iraq and Chile and Haiti and Lebanon and Bolivia and worldwide to oppose and overthrow their governments and the ruling elites, including U.S. imperialism. Here in the U.S., we need to demand that the U.S. imperialists get the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan and Chile and Haiti and Lebanon and Bolivia and worldwide. We oppose U.S. imperialism, and we stand with the fighting people, the workers and oppressed, who are rising up across regions and around the world against governments and elites and imperialists. 

This is the starting point, but hard lessons have been paid for in blood by the working classes and the people. The people of Egypt rose up to bring down the dictator Mubarak, but the army and the courts and the elites and the imperialists remained, and within just a few months and after one election, the new dictator, el-Sisi, took control. So long as the state, the army, the police, the courts and the ruling elites and the imperialists remain in place, then the people cannot be free. The answer is not a new government, with new faces, while the state remains in place, while the ruling elites and the capitalists and the imperialists retain control. 

The fight now, the task now in Iraq, in Chile, in Haiti, in Lebanon, in Bolivia, in Iran and worldwide is to end this system, to overthrow the governments and put an end to the army, the 

police, the courts, the prisons, the ruling elites. This is not the time for transitional governments which include the army command as in Sudan or for any governments which include the same ruling elites and police who have oppressed and exploited the people for all these years. 

The task now is to end and destroy the states and the system in all these countries, in the U.S. and worldwide. The task now is to seize the wealth of the ruling elites and the imperialists, to seize the banks and the factories and the utility companies and the corporate farms and the landed gentry and the corporate wealth and the hospitals and schools and the mines and the oilfields and all of it, and to put that wealth to use for the people and for the good of us all, and to guard the resources and defend the earth in every country. 

There is no blueprint for how to do this. It hasn’t been done before. We have to base ourselves on the experiences and the lessons learned through the class struggle, the struggle for freedom for all these years. 

We know that many of these struggles are described as “leaderless,” which means the traditional political parties, the traditional unions are not in charge. Even radical or organizations claiming to be revolutionary or anti-capitalist have been taken by surprise. These are uprisings from the base, from the communities, from the grassroots, from the bottom up. And this is the great strength and the great hope. 

People are building barricades and blockades. People are storming government buildings. People are fighting the police and the security forces. People are organizing general strikes and shutting down the economies of countries. This is self-organized. This is heroic. 

We have heard of neighborhood and community assemblies meeting in Chile. We have heard of ongoing assemblies in Lebanon. We have heard of neighborhood committees in the Sudan uprising of the past year. We have heard of the self-organization in Tahrir Square in Iraq and across the country. It’s the self-organization, it’s the new formations organized by the participants which are the most important now. These are the organizations in the communities, in the schools and the workplaces, among specific groups and oppressed groups, by protesters in the public spaces, this is where the revolution can succeed. The traditional parties and union leaderships will attempt to take control of these groups, of these organizations of the uprisings and will attempt to steer the uprisings into safe channels, into moderation, into compromise with the authorities, into being practical. 

Capitalism as a worldwide system is in crisis. This system cannot meet the needs of ordinary people, and everywhere exploits and oppresses ordinary people. This system is destroying the planet and cutting the forests and making the air unfit for breathing and the water undrinkable and causing the planet to warm and the ice caps to melt. We have to end this system, all of us, and across all borders and in solidarity across all borders. 

U.S. imperialism has profited from the exploitation of people and resources in Haiti, in Chile, in Iraq, in Bolivia and worldwide. The people of the world have every right to demand that U.S. imperialism pay the price for the wealth and the resources stolen from the people of the world and including from oppressed peoples and nations and their descendants and members in the U.S. The immediate goal of the social revolution must be to meet the needs of the people, with the first focus on meeting the needs of those most oppressed and living most precariously. And this is part of the fight in all of these countries and for us in the U.S. 

The answer is not a more humane capitalism or a more democratic capitalism. People everywhere hope for a democratic system, a humane system, but capitalism cannot deliver on this. While the rulers control the wealth, the rulers control the governments and the states. Under threat of revolution, these rulers offer new elections and new faces and discussions and compromises and promises of improvements, but these are all attempts to prevent revolution and maintain the system. And the rulers can even have a president or dictator step down or promise a new constitution and so on. And once the immediate threat of revolution passes, the rulers can reassert their direct control and keep all discussions in safe channels and the appropriate legal frameworks, while the system of oppression and exploitation remains and continues. 

The problem is not just neoliberalism and austerity. The problem is capitalism. And the problem is not just fascism or dictatorship, the problem is capitalist democracy and popular front alliances with the liberal or “progressive” wing of the ruling class, as well. The answer is not social democracy covering over the capitalist system, and the answer is not state capitalism instead of traditional capitalism. The answer is ending the capitalist system once and for all. 

Some hope that a constituent assembly or new elections or a new constitution is the answer. But if the economic system remains, if the capitalists and the ruling elites retain control, then exploitation and oppression will continue. And anarchists and revolutionaries must say this and discuss this in the spirit of finding the way way forward to liberation and freedom and revolution. 

In 1924, Malatesta, the Italian anarchist, in the article “Republic and Revolution” was discussing what was needed if and when the Italian and international workers overthrew the dictatorship of the fascist, Mussolini: 

“There is a need to make a clear distinction between the revolutionary act, which overthrows as much as it can of the old regime, replacing it with new institutions, and governments that follow to halt revolution and suppress as much as they can of the revolutionary conquests. 

History teaches us that whatever progress is made by revolution occurs in the period when popular activity is at its height, when either a recognized government does not yet exist or is too weak to set itself against the revolution. Then, once government is established reaction invariably sets in, serving the interests of the old and new privileged classes, and seizes back from the masses everything it possibly can seize back from them. 

Thus our task is to make, or help to make, the revolution, taking advantage of all the occasions that come our way and from all available forces. To push the revolution as far forward as possible, not only in terms of destruction but above all in terms of reconstruction, and to remain opposed to any embryonic government, ignoring it or fighting it to the best of our ability. 

We shall no more recognize the republican Constituent Assembly than the monarchist parliament. If the people want such an assembly, so be it; in fact we could find ourselves alongside the republicans in resisting any attempts at restoration of monarchy. But we ask, we demand, complete freedom for those who think as we do, to live outside state protection and oppression and to spread our ideas by word and deed. 

We are revolutionaries, yes, but above all we are anarchists.” 

June 1924 

And from “Further Thoughts on Republic and Revolution:” 

“But, it will be asked, if you don’t want the Constituent Assembly, what do you want? Revolution. And by revolution, we don’t mean the insurrectionary phase alone, which would be indispensable, save in the highly unlikely eventuality that the regime, collapsing from within, falls of its own accord. But insurrection would be sterile if it were not followed by the liberation of the people and would serve merely to replace one state of violence by another. 

Revolution is the creation of new institutions, new groupings, new social relations. Revolution is the destruction of privilege and monopoly, a new spirit of justice, solidarity and freedom which must renew the whole of social life, raise the moral level and the material conditions of the masses by calling upon them to provide for their own future through their direct and conscious action. Revolution is the organization of all public services by those who work within them in their own interests, as well as in those of the wider public. Revolution is the destruction of all coercive bonds, and is the autonomy of groups, communes and regions. Revolution is the free federation, brought about by solidarity, by individual and collective interests and by the needs of production and defense. Revolution is the establishment of a myriad of free groupings based on the ideas, desires, needs and tastes of all and every individual. Revolution is the formation and dissolution of thousands of representatives, neighborhood, communal, regional and national bodies, which lacking any kind of legislative power, serve to make them known and harmonize the wishes and interests of the people near and far, and act through propagation of information, advice and example. Revolution is freedom proved in the crucible of events – and lasts as long as freedom lasts, that is, until such time as others, profiting from the weariness that overtakes the masses, the inevitable disappointments that follow on exaggerated hopes, possible mistakes and human error succeed in creating a power, which, backed by an army of conscripts and mercenaries, makes laws and blocks any forward movement – and reaction sets in.” 

June 1924 

In summary, we oppose U.S. imperialism and all imperialism and colonialism. We support the right of the people of Chile to overthrow the government established by the coup and the CIA 

and which serves the interests of the army, the ruling elites and the imperialists. We support the right of the people of Iraq to overthrow the government established by U.S. imperialism and the U.S. occupation of their country and which serves the interests of the ruling elites, the security forces and the U.S. imperialists and all imperialists. In these countries, as in Lebanon and Haiti and West Papua and Bolivia, we support the right of the people to independence and freedom and liberation and self-determination. This is a matter of international solidarity and standing with the people of the world opposing imperialism, colonialism, neoliberalism and austerity. 

The U.S. imperialists, the imperialists of Europe, and, increasingly the imperialists of Russia and China attempt to dominate, control and exploit the people and resources of other countries and regions. And local and regional powers such as Iran and Israel and Saudi Arabia and Turkey and Indonesia and India attempt to control and exploit the people and resources of other countries and those designated as “other” in their own countries. And this othering within these countries continues in the U.S. and across Europe and in China and Russia, as well. 

Within these countries, within the U.S., it’s necessary for anti-imperialists and anti-capitalists and anarchists and all those who support freedom and liberation and equality to stand with the people and the uprisings now taking place around the world. And it’s necessary that we acknowledge that the wealth and power of the ruling class and the imperialists in the U.S. and beyond are built on the exploitation of people and resources worldwide. And that U.S. imperialism and all imperialists and the ruling classes in all countries who have profited from imperialism and colonialism must pay and must compensate and transfer wealth and resources to the nations and peoples who have been oppressed. Inside the U.S., we have to make the fight to smash U.S. imperialism and to transfer wealth and resources back to the people who have been robbed, the countries which have been robbed, and to the oppressed people who have been robbed worldwide and including in the U.S. 

As Malatesta said in 1924,”We are revolutionaries yes, but above all we are anarchists.” We support the fight against imperialism and for self-determination. We recognize the lesson of Egypt that it is not enough to overthrow the dictator or to have an election, while the ruling elites, the imperialists, the army remain in power and control. While the state remains, while the ruling elites, their army and their police and prisons and courts remain, then the people and the oppressed cannot be free. People demand freedom and dignity, but the capitalist system cannot provide freedom and dignity to the ordinary people of the world. A new face, a new government, a reshuffling will not work. The system remains, and the power and control remain with the ruling elites, the wealthy few, the imperialists. 

As anarchists, we have to say that there is no lasting answer within this system. While the ruling classes retain their wealth and their power, we cannot be free. If masses of people are demanding a new government, a constituent assembly or a new constitution, we don’t withdraw from the struggle. We support the right of oppressed peoples to self-determination, and we defend that right against all those who attempt to deny the right. But, as anarchists, we also say that there is no answer within the legal framework of the worldwide capitalist system. A new 

government or a constituent assembly or a new constitution will not mean freedom or liberation for the masses of people if the capitalist class and the imperialists retain their wealth and power. If the army and the police and the prisons and the courts of the ruling classes remain in place, then the people cannot be free. If the factories and the mines and the banks and the wealth remain in the hands of the capitalists and the billionaire class, then the people cannot be free. 

And so, as anarchists and revolutionaries, we have two important tasks in this period of uprisings around the world. First, to support these uprisings, to be in active solidarity, to oppose the ruling elites and the imperialists everywhere, to oppose U.S. imperialism everywhere, and to support the right to self-determination and freedom for the people everywhere. And second, to be honest and clear, that no new government, no new constitution, no new faces can provide freedom and liberation and self-determination. It is only the people themselves, organized themselves and seizing the wealth and the resources and putting an end to the ruling elites, the imperialists, the police, the army, the prison, the courts, the legal framework, the state, who can take freedom and liberation and self-determination into their own hands by ending the system of capitalism and imperialism once and for all. 

In the early days of the uprising in Lebanon, a woman in her fifties and in the protests said: “They took all our fundamental rights … We are dying at the hospital gates. I will stay in the street. … Since I was born, we’ve been spectators to their quarrels and corruption.” 

Spectators no more. 

She and others are calling for the overthrow of the entire political class, of all the ruling elites. And this sentiment is shared across Lebanon, across Iraq, across Haiti, across Chile, across Iran and beyond. 

In Chile, on November 12th, leading up to the general strike there, 300 homeless families and supporters attempted to expropriate land from a vineyard to build needed housing. The police attacked those occupying the land. This movement in Penalolen, Chile, listed as members of the commune: Unitarians Movement, Organized Housing Movement, CEAVI El Parral, Community Housing Committee, Land Territory and Housing Group Luchadores Lo Hermida, and popular organizations of Lo Hermida issued a statement which included: “Chile woke up: it’s not time to wait for solutions, it’s time to conquer them.” 

This is not the time for reforms or new wallpaper to cover a crumbling system. This is not the time to wait for some promised reform to take place after the people leave the streets. This is the time to participate in the movements, to support the struggles against the governments and the ruling elites and the imperialists, to defend the demands of the people for basic rights and for the right to self-determination, to support the fight for liberation and freedom and revolution. 

And it is also the time, for us, as revolutionary anarchists, to be truthful and honest. The answer is not in constituent assemblies or new constitutions or new leaders of the government. The answer is in revolution, seizing the land and the wealth and the workplaces, and destroying the government, the police, the army command, the courts, the prisons, the legal framework. And all of us in local communities and workplaces and local assemblies and public spaces and neighborhoods are the future. All of us, organized together, replace the current system and end the current system of oppression and exploitation and capitalism. 

All of us together, across all borders for social revolution and anarchism.