The Process of the Initial Construction of FEL (Libertarian Students Front - Chile)

The Process of the Initial Construction of FEL
[Translated from the original document.

Acronyms
ACES: Asamblea Coordinadora de Estudiantes Secundarios/Coordinating Assembly of High
School Students
ACL: Asamblea de Convergencia Libertaria/Libertarian Convergence Assembly
Bandera Negra/Black Flag
Confech: Confederación de Estudiantes de Chile/Chilean Student Confederation
CRA: Corriente Revolucionario Anarquista/Revolutionary Anarchist Current
CSL: Colectivo Senda Libertaria/Libertarian Path Collective
CUAC: Congreso de Unificación Anarco Comunista/Unified Anarcho Communist Congress
FAC: Frente Anarquista Cordillera/Anarchist Cordillera Front [Cordillera means Southern
Andes]
FECh: Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad Chile/Student Federation of Universidad de
Chile
FEL: Frente de Estudiantes Libertarios/Libertarian Students Front [also known as Fel]
JJ.CC.: Juventudes Comunistas/Young Communists [also known as “la Jota”]
K.A.P.A.: Kolectivo Actúo, Pienso y Aprendo/Act, Think, and Learn Kollective
MLJM: Movimiento Libertario Joaquín Murieta/Joaquin Murieta Libertarian Movement

Fel's formation takes precedent to a distant time, embedded in the diverse social experiences by anarchist/libertarians in the Chilean student movement, which in this document we are not able to review. We will, however, discuss recent experiences within the cycle of struggle by the university student movement of the mid 90's that are relevant to the reached understanding by various groups and collectives within the anarchist/libertarian current.

Notable were the 1997 mobilizations to stop the approval of the Higher Education Merits Law. The first semester of the school year was marked by marches and occupations in which a new type of political organization could be noted anchored in the social movement that exerted and asserted new ways to construct politics from below that took distance and criticized traditional leftist organizations. Thus, the process of the student movement of the late 90's and early 2000 can be read on two levels. First, at the leadership level, it was characterized by a marked presence within the leadership of the main federations by the traditional left (especially JJ.CC.) which prevented the movement from radicalizing further. In this way, the movements leadership moved toward alternative proposals within the left (e.g. “la zurda”) that despite presenting a renewed discourse, "neo-left" and "autonomy," did not differ much from the previous leaderships, especially for its conciliatory character and leadership directives. The student movement leadership, besides not manifesting the radicalization zest by large segments of the student base, acted (and still continues at that) as a buffer to the clashes between the student movement and la Concertación government. [La Concertación, or the Concert of Parties for Democracy, is a leftist coalition that includes the Socialist Party and Christian Democratic Party that governed Chile from 1990 to 2010.]

On the other hand, it is possible to establish a document about the movement that represents the makeup of students’ organized. Gradually, they became more radical (especially in their speech) but lacked the ability to expound their own project. The grassroots movement reacted to what the leadership expressed, abnegating dialogue as the way yet unable to give coherence and consistency to the possibility of direct action in the social struggle.

In this context, several anarchist/libertarian clusters germinated in parallel form (although there was some level of contact but not highly influential) that began to develop a loosely-based campaign aimed at enhancing the dynamics of a movement from below that sought to impart libertarian discourse and practice.

During that time, particular ascriptions of native (Chilean) anarchism were created without being able to speak specifically of a libertarian movement as such. In 1999 the Unified Anarcho Communist Congress was founded in Santiago and transpired one of the most significant experiences. In later years of this organization, which expanded to Valparaiso, plus to other such groups (Joaquin Murieta Libertarian Movement of Temuco or the Libertarian Convergence Assembly in Concepcion, as examples) work to confluence and promote activism within the university spaces.

In this process, one must add the expectations that came about from the mobilization of high school students in 2001, the emergence of new clusters (such as ACES)--which will be addressed in a future memo.

A higher level of contact took place between the aforementioned groups and with the 2002 university protests it became clear that there was desire for greater coordination and discussion between the different clusters mobilizing in various cities. The confluence of demands debated and the national mobilizations underscored that every day the libertarian presence increased in which the difficult notion was assessed that we could achieve more by acting autonomously. The increased presence and libertarian influence could be monitored in the growing ability to fill the directive void within the student base, as seen in the election in late 2001 of a few members of CUAC as low level advisers to the FECh. [FECh is the most influential student union in the
country.]

A document from the student Front of CUAC-Santiago notes: "Our Front, which commenced its work during the first half of 2001, began to discussion its initial components in order to address the various challenges that lay ahead during this initial period of student organization ( ...) The questions appeared alongside student milestones of the period and in this document we will attempt to address the most essential issues. How to be protagonists for the majorities in defense of democratic demands, stalled for years by FECh directives? How to make the FECh a real expression of the struggles from below? How to build student power objectively, restoring
the FECH as a true organic federation?"

As noted, the active anarchist organizations began to structure internal clusters of different spaces for political discourse, as in ACL and CUAC with the creation of their respective "student fronts," which gave eventual impetus toward national convergence. In Santiago, some comrades who belonged to K.A.P.A. (Act, Think, and Learn Kollective) initiated some fledgling student work and decided to strengthen this space of ​​convergence in conjunction with CUAC colleagues.

During the 2002 mobilizations, political discussion quickly accelerated between organizations who were working within this level. Around that time a call was made to comrades in each region [the Chilean states’ political/geographic form of organization is regional--15 in all], who were not necessarily politically active in the aforementioned organizations, but participated in the same libertarian political sensitivity, i.e. they were related to this project because they felt part of the student movement from below. We can say that from its inception, one of the main features of Fel, at least in Santiago, is that its foundation represents not only the political discussion by anarchists and anarcho-communists, but responded with equal regard to the needs arising from the student struggle base.

In this context it became clear that there was a need for the configuration of a national grouping that would unite the student work displayed disparately. A work by a comrade who had considerable influence in this process noted as follows: "The main obstacle we faced in the last year was the lack of coordination at the national level, the dispersion and atomization. It is necessary that we begin immediately to overcome these shortcomings and to have further coordination with our demands and struggles."

With that in mind, the same comrade said: "On the 21st, we experienced a natural convergence in Valparaiso along with the comrades of that city (CUAC members and independents), comrades who came from Santiago (CUAC-FE and independents), comrades from Serena (Libertarian Path Collective) and comrades from Concepción (ACL). While we held some differences, we saw that we were basically in agreement in regards to the mobilizations [referring to the students mobilizations] and that our proposals pointed toward the same
direction that we were all part of the fight and wanted to collaborate in action, as well as consolidate forces on the way. We began to discuss the possibility of higher levels of coordination needed to face a struggle that, by necessity, must be given national consideration. Shortly after comrades from Temuco (MLJM) joined and along with the them the idea emerged of ​​convening a national meeting of libertarian university students. The idea was to create a basic form of coordination among university students that held similar practices, who knew each other for some time, and shared certain basic principles in order to outline a libertarian alternative for the mobilizations to come."

Throughout this process there were elements in common yet it is not possible to speak of a common political perspective. We sought to specify basic objectives that would enable to solidify this convergence project. The same comrade noted that in the face of the common convergence of the 2002 mobilization and in the face of the proposal to conduct the first national gathering of libertarian students: "We have taken important steps today to discuss on the table our demands in the drafting of a petition that serves to unite all students in the country under some basic demands. This will further facilitate the unity of the revolutionary left and anarchists in terms of specific objectives, but we must prepare for a long struggle that has just begun. We will encounter different stages and we cannot be confined to the narrow confines of the classroom. The struggles on the horizon should seek alliances with the affected social groups by this [capitalist] model of exploitation and exclusion, so as to give definite blows to the system (...)"

Parallel to this discussion, among the various anarchist groups at that time there was a process undergoing of meetings and un-meetings [disagreements] about organizational and political horizons. That process took place through the "Anarchist Initiative Encounter" that included participating members from CUAC, KAPA, Black Flag, and MLJM--to name the most noted. This process with all its flaws (because there was not much of an actual discussion) helped to define two different areas (in which we operate today) between the groups that claimed
anarchism and libertarianism. The most noted result was the exclusion of some individuals in CUAC who formed the CRA. We will not go into this, I mention this to explain the process of estrangement by the MLJM of Temuco, who despite having raised the need for a gathering of libertarian students chose to stay out of that [political] space during Fel’s foundation because of its disagreements with the positions taken by the comrades involved at the time.

There were two positions that could not meet agreement because, in my opinion, responded to quite distinct conceptions of the political libertarian. While MLJM argued (and the other groups who were not involved in the student movement but acted in concord in other actions) that the convergence of the anarchist groups was the main task and that through this confluence greater influence of anarchist ideas could filter into society (conceived as "anarchist propaganda" rather than as social integration). The CUAC axis formed (especially the student front) along with KAPA individuals argued for the need to organize fronts of political activity in each sector where there was social integration. Example was the convergence taking place among students and among the people (Anarchist Cordillera Front). Thus, the Temuco MLJM withdrew from the Fel converge in the first congress held in May 2003 in Valparaiso. The majority of those involved [in Fel] sought to create a single organization on a national level, the MLJM only aspired to create coordination between the groups that had presence in the student movement. Once out of the process, they decided to proceed with the project that resulted in the creation of the "Anarchist Coordinator" from the years 2003 and 2004.

As already stated, the first Congress which formally founded our organization was held on May 21, 2003 in Valparaiso. In this instance, general points defined the convergence including the name, the idea that it was a social political space, the organization's regional sections, defined tactics like the demand for a tariff that differentially provides [for it] to be gratuitous [believe to be referring to education], the co-government [not sure what this means], and, as previously mentioned, it was a common space and not an organizational form of coordination between anarchist groups. Those involved were comrades from Serena, Valparaíso, Santiago and Concepción.

As we understand, the convergence process enabled the involvement of more comrades who shared the delineations being fostered that led to the addition of the Arica [city] section-- a process that began in late 2003 and finalized in 2004. Also, the continuity of the Fel project not only progressed qualitatively on a merely student level, but also signified an important shift in the political arena for a larger cluster of comrades from a libertarian horizon who worked in different social spheres. A comrade from Arica pointed shortly before their inclusion: "We find it fantastic, we were one of the last to join this process of unification which we are willing to devote ourselves fully.. We believe that it contributes greatly to avoid the atomization of libertarian student organizations at the high school level and higher and contributes toward a discussion of a uniform nationwide program that can transcend with anarchists and that can directly intersect not only in the Us [universities] and colleges but society as a whole."