Anarchism and nationalism
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Anarchism and nationalism both emerged in Europe following the French Revolution, and have a long relationship going back at least to Mikhail Bakunin and his involvement with the Pan-Slavic movement prior to his conversion to anarchism. There has been a long history of anarchist involvement with nationalism all over the world, as well as with internationalism. Some anarchists argue that the achievement of meaningful self-determination for all of the world's nations requires a political system based on local control, free federation and mutual aid.
Although anarchism is generally considered a movement of the left, the nationalist and anti-semitic side of Proudhon's and Bakunin's thought influenced some 20th-century far-right parties and movements. The national syndicalist movement in Italy, a group of a few thousand former members of various anarcho-syndicalist labor unions who split with the larger anarchist movement over their support for Italian nationalism, was cited by Benito Mussolini as a major source of inspiration, though he had a mixed relationship with the movement in his socialist leftist phase. Nazis like Willibald Schulze cited Proudhon as an inspiration for National Socialism.
In early- to mid-19th-century Europe, the ideas of nationalism, socialism, and liberalism were closely intertwined. Revolutionaries and radicals like Giuseppe Mazzini aligned with all three in about equal measure. The early pioneers of anarchism were a product of the spirit of their times: they had much in common with both liberals and socialists, and they shared much of the outlook of early nationalism as well. In 1880 and 1881, the Boston-based Irish nationalist W.G.H. Smart wrote articles for a magazine called The Anarchist.
Anarchists in China during the early part of the 20th century were very involved in the nationalist movement while actively opposing racist elements of the Anti-Manchu wing of that movement. During the Mexican Revolution, anarchists such as Ricardo Flores Magón participated enthusiastically in what was indisputably a left-nationalist revolution.
- 1 Anarchist opposition to nationalism
- 2 Bakunin and nationalism
- 3 China
- 4 Italy
- 5 Ireland
- 6 Mexico
- 7 Har Dayal
- 8 Völkisch anarchism
- 9 Black anarchism or Panther anarchism
- 10 Post-colonial anarchism
- 11 National-Anarchism
- 12 See also
- 13 Notes
- 14 References
- 15 External links
Anarchist opposition to nationalism
Social Anarchists militantly oppose nationalism, as they view nationalism as a form of authority. Contemporary Social Anarchists consider nationalist-anarchism to be a contradiction, and recent fusions of anarchism and nationalism have been characterized as outside the larger anarchist movement. The general perception of nationalism; its approach to the of liberation of a people by means of a national identity based around shared culture, values, language, history and symbols; has shifted from being considered a left-wing ideology at the beginning of the 20th century, to being seen as a right-wing ideology today. Post-colonial Anarchism in particular denounces nationalism for its statism and links to authoritarian ideologies. Other contemporary anarchists oppose all nationalism and national liberation struggles from a class struggle perspective.
A critique of nationalism from an anarchist point of view is Rudolf Rocker's book Nationalism and Culture. American anarchist Fredy Perlman wrote a number of pamphlets that were strongly critical of all forms of nationalism, including Anti-Semitism and the Beirut Pogrom, a critique of Zionism, and The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism, which argues that nationalism is a process of state formation inspired by imperialism, which capitalists, fascists and Leninists use as a mean of controlling their subjects.
Andrew Flood wrote in An Anarchist Perspective on Irish Nationalism,
Anarchists are not nationalists, in fact we are completely against nationalism. We don't worry about where your granny was born, whether you can speak Irish or if you drink a green milkshake in McDonalds on St Patrick's Day. But this doesn't mean we can ignore nations. They do exist; and some nationalities are picked on, discriminated against because of their nationality. Irish history bears a lot of witness to this. The Kurds, Native Americans, Chechins, and many more have suffered also - and to an amazingly barbaric degree. National oppression is wrong. It divides working class people, causes terrible suffering and strengthens the hand of the ruling class. Our opposition to this makes us anti-imperialists. ... So fight national oppression but look beyond nationalism. We can do a lot better. Changing the world for the better will be a hard struggle so we should make sure that we look for the best possible society to live in. We look forward to a world without borders, where the great majority of people have as much right to freely move about as the idle rich do today. A worldwide federation of free peoples - classless and stateless - where we produce to satisfy needs and all have control over our destinies - that's a goal worth struggling for.
The Anarchist Federation views nationalism as an ideology totally bound up with the development of capitalism, and unable to go beyond it:
...At heart, nationalism is an ideology of class collaboration. It functions to create an imagined community of shared interests and in doing so to hide the real, material interests of the classes which comprise the population. The 'national interest' is a weapon against the working class, and an attempt to rally the ruled behind the interests of their rulers ... Anarchist communists do not simply oppose nationalism because it is bound up in racism and parochial bigotry. It undoubtedly fosters these things, and has mobilised them through history. Organising against them is a key part of anarchist politics. But nationalism does not require them to function. Nationalism can be liberal, cosmopolitan and tolerant, defining the 'common interest' of 'the people' in ways which do not require a single 'race'. Even the most extreme nationalist ideologies, such as fascism, can co-exist with the acceptance of a multiracial society, as was the case with the Brazilian Integralist movement. Nationalism uses what works – it utilises whatever superficial attribute is effective to bind society together behind it.
More recently post-left anarchist Fredy Perlman wrote a work on the subject of nationalism in 1984 called The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism In it he argues that "Leftist or revolutionary nationalists insist that their nationalism has nothing in common with the nationalism of fascists and national socialists, that theirs is a nationalism of the oppressed, that it offers personal as well as cultural liberation." And so "To challenge these claims, and to see them in a context," he asks "what nationalism is - not only the new revolutionary nationalism but also the old conservative one." And so he concludes that nationalism is an aid to capitalist control of nature and people regardless of its origin. Nationalism thus provides a form through which "Every oppressed population can become a nation, a photographic negative of the oppressor nation" and that "There's no earthly reason for the descendants of the persecuted to remain persecuted when nationalism offers them the prospect of becoming persecutors. Near and distant relatives of victims can become a racist nation-state; they can themselves herd other people into concentration camps, push other people around at will, perpetrate genocidal war against them, procure preliminary capital by expropriating them."
Bakunin and nationalism
Prior to his involvement with the anarchist movement, Mikhail Bakunin had a long history of involvement in nationalist movements of various kinds. In his Appeal to the Slavs (1848), Bakunin called for cooperation between nationalist revolutionary movements across Europe (both Slavic and non-Slavic) to overthrow empires and dissolve imperialism, in an uprising of "all oppressed nationalities" which would lead to a "Universal Federation of European Republics". He also agitated for a United States of Europe (a contemporary nationalist vision originated by Mazzini). Later, exiled to eastern Siberia, he became involved with a circle of Siberian nationalists who planned to separate from Russia. They were connected with his cousin and patron, Nikolay Muravyov-Amursky, the Governor General of Eastern Siberia, whom Bakunin defended in Herzen's journal The Bell. It was not until a full four years after leaving Siberia, however, that Bakunin proclaimed himself an anarchist.
Max Nettlau remarked of this period in his life that: "This may be explained by Bakunin's increasing nationalist psychosis, induced and nourished by the expansionist ideas of the officials and exploiters who surrounded him in Siberia, causing him to overlook the plight of their victims."
Anarchists formed the first labor unions and the first large-scale Peasant organizations in China. During the roughly two decades when anarchism was the dominant radical ideology in China (roughly 1900-1924), Anarchists there were active in mass movements of all kinds, including the nationalist movement.
A small group of Anarchists - mostly those associated with the early 'Paris Group', a grouping of Chinese Expatriates based in France - were deeply involved in the nationalist movement and many served as "movement elders" in the KMT right up until the defeat of the nationalists by the Maoists. A minority of Chinese Anarchists associated with the Paris Group also helped funnel large sums of money to Sun Yat-sen to help finance the Nationalist revolution of 1911.
After the 1911 Nationalist revolution, Anarchist involvement with the Kuomintang was relatively minor, not only because the majority of Anarchists opposed nationalism on principle but because the KMT government was more than willing to level repression against anarchist organizations whenever and wherever they challenged state power. Still, a few prominent anarchists, notably Jing Meijiu and Zhang Ji (both affiliated with the Tokyo Group) were elected to positions within the KMT government and continued to call themselves Anarchists while doing so. The response from the larger anarchist movement was decidedly mixed. They were roundly denounced by the Guangzhou group; but other groupings that favored an 'evolutionary' approach to social change instead of immediate Revolution, such as the 'Pure Socialists', were more sympathetic.
The "Diligent Work and Frugal Study" program in France, a series of businesses and educational programs organized along anarchist lines that allowed Chinese students from working-class backgrounds to come to France and receive a European education that had previously been only available to a tiny wealthy elite, was one product of this collaboration of the anarchists with nationalists. The program received funding from both the Chinese and French governments as well as raising its own independent funds through a series of worker-owned anarchist businesses, including a Tofu factory that catered to the needs of Chinese migrant workers in France. The program allowed poor and working-class Chinese students to receive a high-quality modern university education in France at a time when foreign education was almost exclusively limited to the children of wealthy elites, and educated thousands of Chinese workers and students - including many future communist leaders such as Deng Xiaoping.
Following the success of the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution anarchism went into decline in the Chinese labour movement. In 1924 the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) allied itself with the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT). Originally composed of many former anarchists, it soon attracted a mass base, becoming increasingly critical of anarchism. When the Kuomintang purged the CPC from its ranks in 1927, the small group of anarchists who had long participated in the KMT urged their younger comrades to join the movement and utilize it in the same way that the Stalinists had been using it - as a vehicle to gain membership and influence.
Partly because of the growing power of the right-wing within the KMT and the repression of workers movements advocated by that right wing, the Anarchists opted not to join the KMT en masse or even work within it, instead, the result of this last collaboration was the creation of China's first Labor University. The Labor University was intended to be a domestic version of the Paris groups Diligent Work and Frugal Study educational program and sought to create a new generation of Labor Intellectuals who would finally overcome the gap between "those who work with their hands" and "those who work with their minds." The goal was to train working-class people with the skills they needed to self-organize and set up their own independent organizations and worker-owned businesses, which would form the seed of a new anarchist society within the shell of the old in a Dual Power-based evolutionary strategy reminiscent of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.
The university would only function for a very few years before the Nationalist government decided that the project was too subversive to allow it too continue and pulled funding. When the KMT initiated a second wave of repression against the few remaining mass movements, anarchists left the organization en masse and were forced underground as hostilities between the KMT and CPC – both of whom were hostile towards anti-authoritarians – escalated.
The anarcho-Platformist Workers Solidarity Movement (WSM) has produced a number of articles and essays on the relationship between Anarchism and Irish Republicanism over the years. Their position, roughly, is that Anarchism and Republicanism are incompatible and opposed to each other but that Anarchists can and should learn things from Ireland's long history of struggle. In their analysis Republicanism has always been split between rich people who want to rule directly and working class movements that demand social equality and community self governance instead of simply trading foreign bosses for local ones.
In Ireland in the 1790's we had a mass republican movement influenced by the American and then the French revolutions. That movement included those who favored a radical leveling agenda as well as the democratic agenda of mainstream republicans. Edward Fitzgerald, the military planner of the rising was one such proponent. But it also contained those like Wolfe Tone who saw an independent Ireland as opening up its own colonies in the Caribbean. In the north Henry Joy McDonald had to remove the existing United Irish leadership paralyzed by fear of the mob seizing property before the rising there could get underway, weeks after it had begun in the south. After its defeat and before his execution he warned future republicans to beware that "the rich always betray the poor."
...This process was mirrored in republican movements elsewhere. Left republicans would build real popular struggle but then be confronted with the need to preserve national unity in the face of the wealthy republicans whose funds were often needed for arms backing off because they feared for their privilege. And this is where we find the roots of the early anarchist movement... So in terms of historical development anarchism and republicanism have a lot in common, in fact anarchism is arguably an off shoot of republicanism, an off shoot that emerged for the first time in the 1860's but has emerged on other occasions since then including in 1970's Ireland where some of those leaving the official republican movement became anarchists while other anarchists were joining both provisional and official republican movements.
According to this analysis, Anarchism is the successor to left-nationalism, a working class movement working to achieve the liberation that the Republican movements that toppled the worlds monarchies in the last two centuries promised but never delivered. So even though the ideas of Anarchism are fundamentally different from those of Nationalism it is still possible to learn from nationalist movements by studying the working class elements of those movements that demanded more than the bourgeoisie leadership was willing or able to deliver.
Ricardo Flores Magón, one of the early leaders of the Mexican left-nationalist movement which eventually culminated in the Mexican Revolution, based his anarchism primarily on the works of early anarchists Mikhail Bakunin and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, but was also influenced by his anarchist contemporaries: Élisée Reclus, Charles Malato, Errico Malatesta, Anselmo Lorenzo, Emma Goldman, Fernando Tarrida del Mármol and Max Stirner. However, he was most influenced by Peter Kropotkin. Flores Magón also read from the works of Karl Marx and Henrik Ibsen. Kropotkin's The Conquest of Bread, which he considered a kind of anarchist bible, served as basis for the short-lived revolutionary communes in Baja California during the "Magonista" Revolt of 1911. In addition to his work with the Partido Liberal Mexicano, Magón organised with the Wobblies (IWW) and edited Regeneración, which aroused the workers against the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz.
In the 1910s Lala Har Dayal became an anarchist agitator in San Francisco, joining the IWW before becoming a pivotal figure in the Ghadar Party. A long-time advocate of Indian nationalism, he developed a vision of anarchism based upon a return to the principles of ancient Aryan society. He was particularly influenced by Guy Aldred, who was jailed for printing The Indian Sociologist in 1907. Aldred, an anarcho-communist, was careful to point out that this solidarity arose because he was an advocate of free speech and not because he felt that nationalism would help the working class in India or elsewhere. The National Bolshevik, Fritz Wolffheim was also involved with the IWW at the same time as Har Dayal.
A concept of nationalist anarchism independent of anti-semitism or far right input can be traced back to the populist revolutionary nationalisms of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as the Russian narodniks (themselves a cradle of many political strains and tendencies with anarchistic leanings) and the völkisch movement of Germany and Austria. The latter inherited its Romantic outlook from Johann Gottfried von Herder whose own philosophy, which also inspired Mazzini (Hearder 1966: 44, 46), affirmed both the particularity of national cultures (nationalism) and their value within a universal context (internationalism).
As the völkisch movement developed, sections of it focussed on to theories of anti-semitism and racial supremacy which claimed a foundation in biology. Others, however, repudiated racism and preserved Herder's emphasis upon the equality of all nations. Among these prophets of internationalism was the German-Jewish völkisch anarchist Gustav Landauer.
A recent revival of völkisch anti-racism can be found in the Alternative Socialist Movement, an alliance of British radicals formed during the 1970s in which Keith Motherson (formerly Keith Paton) and the controversial artist Monica Sjöö were key members. Alternative Socialism sought to synthesise a range of seeming contraries: dissident Marxism with anarchism, socialism with libertarianism, Christianity with paganism, and reformism with revolution.
It espoused the love of homeland and country from a nonviolent and feminist perspective which Motherson dubbed 'matriotism', and drew upon an interpretation of German völkisch thought as an essentially cosmopolitan current of ideas celebrating ethnic and cultural diversity. The movement rejected every form of patriarchal machismo from the left as well as the right, and therefore it advocated countering fascism through dialog.
Alternative Socialism is an evident precursor to a similar concept of völkisch anarchism which surfaced briefly in Britain in 1982 when the Black Ram Group (formerly Derby Anarchist Group) published the only edition of its journal Black Ram. This publication made connections between anarchism, neo-paganism and völkisch nationalist ideas (Landauer in particular), with further exploration of these themes promised. However the group disbanded in the following year without further elaboration.
The Black Ram Group remained within the mainstream anarchist consensus of anti-racism and anti-sexism. Its positive evaluation of nationalism derived not from any roots in far right political organisations, but from the theoretical consideration that:
the pseudo-'nationalism' of the 'nation-State' - which anarchists unequivocally oppose...must be distinguished from the nationalism of the people (Volk) which in its more consistent expressions is a legitimate rejection of both foreign domination and internal authoritarianism, i.e. the State.
The term anarcho-nationalist is introduced in Black Ram 1: 12 to describe the outlook of American Odinists with whom the paper's editors were in sympathy and, since then, it has been reused as a general term covering nationalist anarchisms. The term national anarchism was also used in the title of an article projected for publication in the second edition, "Towards an Anarchist Nationalism: provisional manifesto of the National Anarchist Pagan Resurgence", but no further editions appeared and so it was never formally defined. Wotan, 'Fylfots for Freedom', Black Ram 1: 7-8 sets out a programme aiming to subvert fascism by reclaiming symbols and concepts for libertarian ends. The group's emblem was a circled A in the centre of a swastika ('anarcho-swastika').
Black anarchism or Panther anarchism
Black anarchism opposes the existence of a state and subjugation and domination of people of color, and favors a non-hierarchical organization of society. Black anarchists seek to abolish white supremacy, capitalism, and the state. Theorists include Ashanti Alston, Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin, Kuwasi Balagoon, many former members of the Black Panther Party, and Martin Sostre. Black anarchism rejects the traditional anarchist movement.
Black anarchists have criticized both the hierarchical organization of the Black Panther Party, and the anarchist movement, on the grounds that it has traditionally been European and/or white-based. They oppose the anti-racist conception, based on the universalism of the Enlightenment, which is proposed by the anarchist workers' tradition, arguing that it is not adequate enough to struggle against racism and that it disguises real inequalities by proclaiming a de jure equality. For example, Pedro Ribeiro has criticized the whole of the anarchist movement by declaring that: "It is a white, petty-bourgeois Anarchism that cannot relate to the people. As a Black person, I am not interested in your Anarchism. I am not interested in individualistic, self-serving, selfish liberation for you and your white friends. What I care about is the liberation of my people."
Black anarchists are thus influenced by the civil rights movement and the Black Panther Party, and seek to forge their own movement that represents their own identity and tailored to their own unique situation. However, in contrast to black activism that was, in the past, based in leadership from hierarchical organizations, black anarchism rejects such methodology in favor of developing organically through communication and cooperation to bring about an economic and cultural revolution that does away with racist domination, capitalism, and the state. From Alston's @narchist Panther Zine:
Panther anarchism is ready, willing and able to challenge old nationalist and revolutionary notions that have been accepted as 'common-sense.' It also challenges the bullshit in our lives and in the so-called movement that holds us back from building a genuine movement based on the enjoyment of life, diversity, practical self-determination and multi-faceted resistance to the Babylonian Pigocracy. This Pigocracy is in our 'heads,' our relationships as well as in the institutions that have a vested interest in our eternal domination.
Post-colonial anarchism is a relatively new tendency within the larger anarchist movement. The name is taken from an essay by Roger White, one of the founders of Jailbreak Press and an activist in North American APOC circles. Post-colonial anarchism is an attempt to bring together disparate aspects and tendencies within the existing anarchist movement and re-envision them in an explicitly anti-imperialist framework.
Where traditional anarchism is a movement arising from the struggles of proletarians in industrialized western European nations - and thus sees history from their perspective - post-colonial anarchism approaches the same principles of mutual aid, class struggle, opposition to social hierarchy, and community-level self-management, self-government, self-management, and self-determination from the perspective of colonized peoples throughout the world. In doing so it does not seek to invalidate the contributions of the more established anarchist movement, but rather seeks to add a unique and important perspective. The tendency is strongly influenced by indigenism, anti-state forms of nationalism, and APOC (Anarchist People of Color), among other sources.
The most recent current to combine nationalism and anarchism is National-Anarchism a position developed in Europe during the 1990s. Among its first advocates were Hans Cany, Peter Töpfer, and former National Front activist, Troy Southgate, founder of the National Revolutionary Faction, a since disbanded UK-based organization which cultivated links to certain far-right circles in Britain and post-Soviet states. National-Anarchist groups have also arisen worldwide, most prominently in Germany, the United States of America, and Australia. In the UK, National-Anarchists worked with Albion Awake, Alternative Green (published by former Green Anarchist editor, Richard Hunt) and Jonathan Boulter to develop the "Anarchist Heretics Fair". While many mainstream anarchist groups condemned them, SchNEWS ran advertisements for the Fair.
National-Anarchists advocate a society that allows separation to exist along ethnic and religious lines, and even along lines of sexual orientation. Like other anarchists they oppose the totalitarian state typically advocated by stalinism and fascism. Such autonomous zones would allow communities to set their own rules and qualifications for acceptance into permanent residence in a community, and are not necessarily limited to the strict ethnic divisions advocated by white nationalism and black nationalism. Cultural pluralism and the right to self-determination are key tenets of National-Anarchism. Genocide, murder, and social conformism (as typical of America and Western societies on the whole) are denounced by National-Anarchists as tyrannical and an affront to libertarian-minded people. Each collective would be free to practice the economic or political structure of its choosing as long as it does not interfere with the rights of other communities to follow their own lifestyle choice (excluding the above mentioned crimes); however, National-Anarchists generally believe that environmental protection and conservation are things that all people should coordinate on. Areas without significant human development and borderlands would be maintained collectively and the existence of free zones allowing trade and sharing between communities would be established with the agreement of all parties involved.
- Post Colonial Anarchism, by Roger White. Anarchism, nationalism, and national liberation from an APOC perspective.
- The birth of fascist ideology: from cultural rebellion to political revolution, Zeev Sternhell, Mario Sznajder and Maia Ashéri, pg. 145. Books.google.pt. Retrieved 2010-09-20.
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- Hearder 1966: 46-7, 50.
- The Raven 6.
- Anti-Semitism and the Beirut Pogrom by Fredy Perlman. Detroit : Black and Red 1983
- The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism by Fredy Perlman.Detroit : Black & Red, 1985.
- An Anarchist Perspective on Irish Nationalism, by Andrew Flood. Workers Solidarity Movement (Ireland).
- Against Nationalism, by the Anarchist Federation (UK)
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- @narchist Panther Zine October 1999, 1(1).
- The name is usually, but not always, hyphenated and is not to be confused with the earlier 'national anarchism' of the Black Ram Group.
- Unattr. "NA-Internationale, der internationale Nationalanarchismus und etwas zu seiner Geschichte". Nationalanarchismus.
- "New Right Australia/New Zealand". Newrightausnz.blogspot.com. 2010-02-26. Archived from the original on 12 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-20.
- Aldred, Guy. 1948. Rex v. Aldred. Glasgow: Strickland Press.
- Bakunin, Mikhail. 1848. Appeal to the Slavs. Translated in: Sam Dolgoff, 1971, Bakunin on Anarchy.
- Billingsley, Philip. N.d. "Bakunin, Yokohama and the Dawning of the Pacific Era".
- Hampson, Norman. 1968. The Enlightenment. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books.
- Hearder, Harry. 1966. Europe in the Nineteenth Century 1830-1880. New York: Longman. ISBN 0-582-48212-7.
- Knowles, Rob. N.d. "Anarchist Notions of Nationalism and Patriotism". R.A. Forum.
- Motherson, Keith. 1980. "The ice floes are melting: the state of the left". Peace News 5 September 2127: 9-11.
- Nettlau, Max. 1953. "Mikhail Bakunin: A Biographical Sketch". Reproduced in: The Political Philosophy of Bakunin: Scientific Anarchism 42. The Free Press.
- Puri, Karish K. 1983. Ghadar Movement: Ideology, Organisation and Strategy. Guru Nanak Dev University Press.
- Rocker, Rudolf. 1998 Nationalism and Culture. Black Rose Books (Reprint of 1937 Edition).
- West, Pat V.T. 2005. "Monica Sjoo" (obituary). The Guardian September 23.
- Anarchist Integralism
- Anarchist Notions of Nationalism and Patriotism by Rob Knowles
- The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism by Fredy Perlman
- Anarchists against nationalism and Anarchists and nationalism at flag.blackened.net
- Are anarchists against nationalism? at the Spunk Library
- Beyond Nationalism, But Not Without It. Nationalism and anarchism from a Black anarchist perspective, from Anarchist Panther by Ashanti Alston.
- Post Colonial Anarchism, by Roger White. Anarchism, nationalism, and national liberation from an APOC perspective.