Biofilo Panclasta

Vicente Rojas Lizcano (Chinácota, Colombia, 1879 – Pamplona, Colombia, 1943), known as Biófilo Panclasta, was a political activist, writer, and Colombian individualist anarchist. In 1904 he began to use the pseudonym by which he was later known: Biófilo, lover of life, and Panclasta, enemy of all.[1] He traveled to more than fifty countries, agitating for anarchist ideas and taking part in worker and union demonstrations, in the course of which he befriended such people as Kropotkin, Maxim Gorky, and Lenin.


Early life

The son of Bernardo Rojas and Simona Lizcano, a working-class woman, Biófilo began his studies in Pamplona, a city close to Chinácota. From 1897 to 1898 he was in the Escuela Normal of Bucaramanga, from which he was expelled for publishing a small periodical in which he denounced the re-election of president Miguel Antonio Caro.[2] Here is a popular quote of his: "Being ruled over is just as repulsive a thought to me as being ruler. Each man must be his own road, I don´t follow and I´ll never ask to be followed"

Participation in the Venezuelan Revolution

In 1899 he left school and traveled to Venezuela, where, with Eleazar López Contreras, he founded the first Public School in the town of Capacho Nuevo, the capital of the Independencia municipality (State of Táchira). That same year he signs up for the army of the Venezuelan Cipriano Castro, which had as its goal the downfall of president Ignacio Andrade. He soon left this group behind and wandered around Venezuela with other revolutionary groups that prowled through Trujillo, Portuguesa, Cojedes and Carabobo.[3] He arrived at the city of Valencia in January 1900. In November 1904 he traveled to the Colombian city of Baranquilla, now as a coronel in the army of Cipriano Castro; he offered his support as a fighter to the Colombian forces against the Panamanian separatists supported by the United States.[4]

First contacts with Anarchism

In 1906 he traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina. There his contact with anarchist and socialist thought began as he attended meetings and wrote for partisan newspapers. That same year, he left for Europe as a delegate of the Federación Obrera Regional Argentina to the Workers' Congress in Amsterdam.[4] In the Netherlands he was invited by the Social Studies group to give the opposing opinion to a talk by Bestraud called "Anarchy Against Life."

Revolutionary Activity in Colombia

In 1908 he was exiled from Spain at the request of the Colombian president, Rafael Reyes. He arrived in Puerto Colombia with the plan of continuing to Bogotá; however, he chose to travel again and take refugue in Panama, from which he was once again exiled by order of Rafael Reyes. He was imprisoned and turned over to Colombian authorities.[4] From then on Biófilo Panclasta would only leave one prison to enter another: he was jailed in Cartagena (1909), Barranquilla (1910) and Bogotá (1911). Certain national newspapers such as Maquetas demanded the death sentence for him, stating that he was a danger to public order.

Return to Venezuela: Valencia Prison

"The prisoners who had seen me enter into the cell were careful, in their entrance, not to trip over my cold, weak body. One of them felt with his hand my flesh, which did not shudder because I had already suffered all pain, and observing that I neither moved nor spoke, exclaimed sadly and softly, 'They hung this one in the Police Station and brought him to die here.'" [5]

Biófilo returned to the Venezuelan city of Valencia in 1914. There he was imprisoned giving a speech in praise of the French nation in a public square, days after the beginning of the First World War. The real reason he was imprisoned was the orders given by the underlings of president Juan Vicente Gómez, who had succeeded Cipriano Castro, Panclasta's friend, in a coup d'état. During the seven years he remained in prison, Biófilo was subjected to forced labor, deprivation, and hunger, according to each successive warden's wishes. He spent his prison years with various Venezuelan political prisoners, many of whom died in that jail. In 1921, thanks to a warden assigned by the recently named governor of the state of Carabobo, José Antonio Baldó, Biófilo was transferred to Castillo Libertador, where he was treated more humanely and set free in a few months.

Revolutionary activity around the world

In 1923, two years after leaving the Valencia prison, Biófilo was selected as delegate of the Mexican Anarchist Association to a congress in Barcelona. There he proposed a project named Operation Europe, which had as its goal:

... the formation of an international committee charged with ordering, planning and executing in a single day the assassination of the Czar of Bulgaria, the King of England, the King of Italy, the King of Egypt, the Archbishop of Mexico, the President of France, the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo and Léon Daudet.

— "Seven Years Buried Alive". Seattle: Ritmomaquia, 2013. p202-203

The following year he traveled to São Paulo to help organize a coffee-growers' strike, but was once more jailed and transferred to the city of Cayena, from which he escaped. The League of the Rights of Man sent him to Martinique; having secretly visited fifty-two countries, he returned to Colombia. There he was imprisoned together with the syndicalist Raúl Mahecha, in the city of San Gil. The following year, in Bogotá, he founded the Centro de Unión y Acción Revolucionaria [Center for Revolutionary Unity and Action], whose lemma was: "Revolutionaries of all ideals, unite!"

Last years

In 1934, Biófilo Panclasta began cohabiting with Julia Ruiz, a well-known fortune teller who worked in Bogotá. He dedicated his time to writing for newspapers and granting interviews, also sending letters to some Latin American presidents. His companion died in January 1939. One year later, Biófilo attempted suicide in Barranquilla, electrocuting himself and cutting his throat with a straight razor.[4] In December of that year, the Bucaramanga police banned him from the city for being a derelict and an alcoholic. He died on March 1, 1943, in the old folk's home of Pamplona, from a tremendous heart attack.

Anarchist Thought

Biófilo Panclasta's ideas on anarchism were quite idiosyncratic. He oscillated between individualist anarchism and social anarchism, which can be seen in a series of letters he wrote from Barranquilla prison in 1910. At first, Biófilo presented himself as an extreme and radical individualist, echoing the ideas of his favorite philosopher, Nietzsche. Biófilo hated the herd:

My neopagan and artistic soul, my rebellious and individualist temperament, my horror toward multitudes could not instill admiration in this great human foule (mass) who have achieved nothing other than having been hurried from the hands of their masters of yesterday into those that today free them to be under their own weight.

— "Seven Years Buried Alive". Seattle: Ritmomaquia, 2013. p4

For Panclasta, the social struggle he carried out was not for others, but for himself, to feel alive. Fighting for others allowed him, he said, to unfold all his capacities for action, for love or hate.

But Biófilo was just as capable of identifying with social anarchism. Biófilo's opinions on both currents of anarchism are of a piece with his overall way of thinking, that of someone who hated absolutes and extremes, who thought that people are neither completely social nor entirely individual. He tried to distance himself from any form of political militancy, even anarchist organizations. He wrote of a conversation with Kropotkin where he told him:

I am not an anarchist. I am I. I do not abandon one religion for another, one party for another, one sacrifice for another. I am a freed, egoist spirit. I do as I feel. I have no cause but my own.

— "Seven Years Buried Alive". Seattle: Ritmomaquia, 2013. p2

Biófilo Panclasta's way of thinking shows that, more than a man of ideas, he was a man of action. Biófilo used the need that people have to free themselves from oppression to act from; for him, organizations are effective only in practice, not in a programmatic sense. They work based on human interests, which he called situational interests.


Books in English translation

  • Seven Years Buried Alive. Seattle: Ritmomaquia, 2013.

Books in Spanish

  • PANCLASTA, Biófilo (1932): "Siete años enterrado vivo en una de las mazmorras de Gomezuela". Tipografía la Libertad, Bogotá.
  • VILLANUEVA, Orlando; VEGA, Renán; GAMBOA, Juan, CLAVIJO, Amadeo; FAJARDO, Luis (1992): "Biófilo Panclasta, el eterno prisionero". Ediciones Alas de Xue.


  1. ^ "Seven Years Buried Alive". Seattle: Ritmomaquia, 2013. p60
  2. ^ VILLANUEVA, Orlando; VEGA, Renán; GAMBOA, Juan, CLAVIJO, Amadeo; FAJARDO, Luis (1992). Ediciones Alas de Xue.
  3. ^ PANCLASTA, Biófilo (1932): Siete años enterrado vivo en una de las mazmorras de Gomezuela. Tipografía la Libertad, Bogotá.
  4. ^ a b c d "Seven Years Buried Alive". Seattle: Ritmomaquia, 2013.
  5. ^ "Seven Years Buried Alive". Seattle: Ritmomaquia, 2013. p95

External links

Anarchism and Friedrich Nietzsche

The relation between anarchism and Friedrich Nietzsche has been ambiguous. Even though Nietzsche criticized anarchism, his thought proved influential for many thinkers within what can be characterized as the anarchist movement. As such "[t]here were many things that drew anarchists to Nietzsche: his hatred of the state; his disgust for the mindless social behavior of 'herds'; his anti-Christianity; his distrust of the effect of both the market and the State on cultural production; his desire for an 'übermensch'—that is, for a new human who was to be neither master nor slave".

Anarchism in Venezuela

Anarchism in Venezuela has historically played a fringe role in the country's politics, being consistently smaller and less influential than equivalent movements in much of the rest of South America. It has, however, had a certain impact on the country's cultural and political evolution.

Anarchist schools of thought

Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds ruling classes and the state to be undesirable, unnecessary and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority and hierarchical organization in the conduct of human relations. Proponents of anarchism, known as "anarchists", advocate stateless societies based on non-hierarchical voluntary associations. However, anarchist schools of thought can differ fundamentally, supporting anything from extreme individualism to complete collectivism. Strains of anarchism have often been divided into the categories of social and individualist anarchism or similar dual classifications. Anarchism is often considered a radical left-wing ideology and much of anarchist economics and anarchist legal philosophy reflect anti-authoritarian interpretations of communism, collectivism, syndicalism, mutualism or participatory economics. At some point "the collectivist, communist, and liberal and individualist strands of thought from which anarchists drew their inspiration began to assume an increasingly distinctive quality, supporting the rise of a number of anarchist schools". Anthropologist David Graeber has noted that while the major schools of Marxism always have founders (e.g. Leninism, Trotskyism and Maoism), schools of anarchism "almost invariably emerge from some kind of organizational principle or form of practice", citing anarcho-syndicalism, individualist anarchism and platformism as examples.

Egoist anarchism

Egoist anarchism is a school of anarchist thought that originated in the philosophy of Max Stirner, a 19th-century existentialist philosopher whose "name appears with familiar regularity in historically orientated surveys of anarchist thought as one of the earliest and best known exponents of individualist anarchism".

Ignacio Andrade

Ignacio Andrade Troconis (31 July 1839 – 17 February 1925), was a military man and politician. He was known as a member of the Liberal yellow party, and served as President of Venezuela from 1898 until 1899 - his election was declaredly clouded by fraud.


Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that emphasizes the moral worth of the individual. Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance and advocate that interests of the individual should achieve precedence over the state or a social group, while opposing external interference upon one's own interests by society or institutions such as the government. Individualism is often defined in contrast to totalitarianism, collectivism, and more corporate social forms.Individualism makes the individual its focus and so starts "with the fundamental premise that the human individual is of primary importance in the struggle for liberation." Classical liberalism, existentialism, and anarchism are examples of movements that take the human individual as a central unit of analysis. Individualism thus involves "the right of the individual to freedom and self-realization".It has also been used as a term denoting "The quality of being an individual; individuality" related to possessing "An individual characteristic; a quirk." Individualism is thus also associated with artistic and bohemian interests and lifestyles where there is a tendency towards self-creation and experimentation as opposed to tradition or popular mass opinions and behaviors, as with humanist philosophical positions and ethics.

Individualist anarchism

Individualist anarchism refers to several traditions of thought within the anarchist movement that emphasize the individual and his will over external determinants such as groups, society, traditions and ideological systems. Individualist anarchism is not a single philosophy, but it refers to a group of individualistic philosophies that sometimes are in conflict. Benjamin Tucker, a famous 19th century individualist anarchist, held that "if the individual has the right to govern himself, all external government is tyranny".

Individualist anarchism in Europe

Individualist anarchism refers to several traditions of thought within the anarchist movement that emphasize the individual and his or her will over external determinants such as groups, society, traditions, and ideological systems. European individualist anarchism proceeded from the roots laid by William Godwin, Individualist anarchism expanded and diversified through Europe, incorporating influences from American individualist anarchism.

Early European individualist anarchism was influenced by many philosophers, including Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Max Stirner, and Henry David Thoreau. Proudhon was an early pioneer of anarchism as well as of the important individualist anarchist current of mutualism. Stirner became a central figure of individualist anarchism through the publication of his seminal work The Ego and Its Own which is considered to be "a founding text in the tradition of individualist anarchism." The philosophy of Max Stirner supports the individual doing exactly what he pleases – taking no notice of God, state, or moral rules. To Stirner, rights were spooks in the mind, and he held that society does not exist but "the individuals are its reality"– he supported property by force of might rather than moral right. Stirner advocated self-assertion and foresaw "Union of egoists" drawn together by respect for each other's self-ownership. Thoreau emphasized the promotion of simple living, environmental stewardship, and civil disobedience were influential in European individualist anarchists.An important tendency within European individualist anarchism in general is the emphasis on individual subjective exploration and defiance of social conventions. Individualist anarchist philosophy attracted "amongst artists, intellectuals and the well-read, urban middle classes in general." As such Murray Bookchin describes a lot of individualist anarchism as people who "expressed their opposition in uniquely personal forms, especially in fiery tracts, outrageous behavior, and aberrant lifestyles in the cultural ghettos of fin de siecle New York, Paris, and London. As a credo, individualist anarchism remained largely a bohemian lifestyle, most conspicuous in its demands for sexual freedom ('free love') and enamored of innovations in art, behavior, and clothing.". In this way free love currents and other radical lifestyles such as naturism had popularity among individualist anarchists. Other important currents common within European individual anarchism include free love, illegalism, and freethought.Influential European individualist anarchists include Albert Libertad, Bellegarrigue, Oscar Wilde, Émile Armand, Lev Chernyi, John Henry Mackay, Han Ryner, Adolf Brand, Miguel Gimenez Igualada, Renzo Novatore, and Michel Onfray.

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