Anarchism and imperialist war (part 4): Internationalism, a crucial question in today’s debates

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Today, the crisis-ridden capitalist system is revealing the barbaric impasse which confronts humanity, and the proletariat is gradually returning to the road of struggle. In this historic situation, a new process of decantation is taking place within the milieu coming from anarchism.

Decantation in the anarchist milieu

The importance of this process is illustrated by the fact that it is often focused on the question of the attitude to adopt faced with imperialist war. Internationalism is a fundamental principle of the proletariat, one which determines whether or not an organisation belongs to the proletarian camp.

Let's examine the positions that express this in the anarchist milieu through two examples:

We have the position of the KRAS (Revolutionary Anarcho-Syndicalists, Russia), which takes an authentic internationalist stand, for example on the war in Georgia in 2008:

"The main enemy of ordinary people is not the brother or sister of the other side of the frontier or another nationality. The enemy is the leaders, all types of bosses, presidents and ministers, businessmen and the generals, all those who provoke wars to safeguard their power and riches. We appeal to the workers in Russia, Ossetia, Abkhazia and Georgia to reject the yoke of patriotism and turn their anger against the leaders and the rich, whatever side of the frontier they are found."[1]

On the other hand, we find the French Libertarian Communist Organisation (OCL) on Iraq, with its appeals for: "material and financial support (for) the progressive forces opposed to the occupation" of which the "limited military means allows them all the same to organise some ‘liberated zones' in the popular quarters where the American army doesn't venture" while "in the countries which maintain troops in Iraq, outside of the United States, notably including several countries of the European Union (...) the principal task is to confront the government in order to obtain a withdrawal, to block troop transports and military material."[2]

This is not a simple tactical divergence about how achieve the same aim, as some libertarians like to tell us.

The position of the KRAS expresses the interests of the proletariat to fight as a universal class beyond divisions of colour, nationalities, culture or religion, imposed on it by capitalism. The other position gives its support to the ‘resistance' of peoples, Iraqi, Lebanese, etc., that's to say some sectors of the bourgeoisie. This position constitutes a betrayal of internationalism from a double point of view: not only towards the proletariat of the big powers, since it masks the real antagonisms between the larger imperialist sharks and the real stakes involved in these antagonisms; but also in regard to the proletarians in the weaker countries, who are called upon to submit to imperialist war and kill each other for the defence of the imperialist interests of their bourgeoisie. The disappearance of the blocs in 1989 has not meant the disappearance either of imperialism or the war-mongering of the ‘official' anarchism of the OCL!

These two positions have nothing in common: they express diametrically opposed and completely antagonistic class positions. They are separated by a class frontier.

It can be seen here that anarchism constitutes a place where overtly bourgeois and nationalist positions and internationalist proletarian positions come up against each other. In this process of differentiation between the two opposed tendencies, the question of war in the Middle East occupies an important place. After decades in which the unconditional defence of the Palestinian cause reigned in the libertarian milieu, this idea no longer stands alone. Some of those coming from anarchism are beginning to call into question the classical positions adopted up until now and distance themselves from them. Thus, in an article confronting the question of "why we will never support Hamas, Hezbollah or any armed group of the so-called ‘anti-imperialist resistance'", Non Fides affirms: "How can the majority of the extreme left and a part of the libertarian movement show solidarity with these totalitarian and ultra-religious parties? This solidarity is the anti-imperialism of imbeciles (...) The deplorable policies of the Israeli Command pushes them to support any form of contestation against these bellicose policies and this frees them to operate alliances with political Islam, the ultra-religious, nationalists and the extreme-right, sometimes including neo-Nazis."[3] Others clearly affirm the internationalist position of the proletariat towards the Middle East. Thus one can read an anarchist poster campaign in Belgium affirming that "From Gaza in Palestine to Nasiriya in Iraq, from Kivu in Congo to Grozny in Chechnya, the massacre of thousands of human beings is happening daily. Under the different forms that it takes in the four corners of the world, this capitalist and authoritarian system is devastating entire zones of the planet by famine, privation, pollution, war (...) To oppose the logic of a war of the ‘people' against the terror of the Israeli state only serves to make the rejected of Gaza, like the exploited of Tel Aviv, forget that there remains only one way out: to fight against all authority, whether in the uniform of the Israeli soldier or the Palestinian police, the religious robes (...)or the suits of the democratic and usurious capitalists (...) Against the war between states, between religions, between ethnicities ,we urgently need to affirm the social war against all exploitation and all domination."[4]

When conceptions as alien to each other as internationalism and concessions to nationalism find themselves face to face within the same current or even organisation, their completely irreconcilable character forbids any cohabitation and makes any unity impossible. That is why we unreservedly support the KRAS-AIT of Moscow in the combat undertaken to reject "cultural and ethno-identity" conceptions, which are nothing other than an expression of nationalism and incompatible with the objectives of the social revolution.

The defence of the "third front", a formula of confusion

We sometimes find that, within the anarchist milieu, the same vocabulary can hide diametrically opposed positions. This is the case concerning the appeal for the defence of a "third front" or of a "third camp" in imperialist conflicts. When this position is formulated by KRAS, for example, it undoubtedly corresponds to the internationalist position, extolling the necessity to develop the common struggle of the proletariat beyond all national divisions and against all the bourgeois camps involved.

On the other hand, for the organisations of ‘official anarchism', the ‘defence of a third camp' is nothing other than a formula destined to derail the exploited classes towards one of the protagonists, towards choosing one imperialist camp against another. Such an example is shown by the position on the Israeli intervention in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. When the French Fédération Anarchiste affirms that "in this bloody military escalation, between on one side the imperialist forces of the United States and Israel and the other the reactionary militias of political Islam, the men and women workers, and more broadly the peoples of the region, have nothing to gain but everything to lose (...) (and that) as internationalist men and women workers, one of (its) urgent tasks is to support the development of a third camp, the camp of the workers in the Middle East both against imperialist domination and Islamic oppression"[5], what is happening here in reality? Has the FA become internationalist? Absolutely not! It's only continuing the drive to make the choice for Arab resistance against Israel, but under another form than that taken by the direct protagonists! As in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite "Hamas and Islamic Jihad coming to power through elections, profiting from the corruption and the discredit of the Fatah of Yasser Arafat and the delinquency of the PLO, drawing profit from the anger and frustration of the Palestinian majority by transforming the anti-Zionist combat into a religious combat", the pseudo-internationalism with which they dress themselves up in only serves to give publicity to a hypothetical secular political leadership of the ‘resistance'. Anti-Zionist combat, yes, but not with the Islamists of Hezbollah or Hamas! For the FA, ‘the third camp' is that of the parties of the left, of the secular and democratic bourgeoisie into which it tries to drive the workers.

In the same vein, Alternative Libertaire (AL) directly affirms that "the Lebanese people will find a way to resist Israeli imperialism, while disengaging from the interference of the Syrian state and from the religious reaction incarnated in part through Hezbollah. It is dramatic that this retrograde organisation has been hegemonic in the Lebanese resistance faced with Israeli aggression." [6] Thus the sister group of AL in Lebanon finds itself standing alongside "'traditional' and denominational political parties" of the "14 March current", qualified as "a relatively innovating movement" that could "open up perspectives for another future for Lebanon", opposed to the "corrupt purveyors of Syrian tutelage and nostalgia for the grim past of Lebanon."[7] Anarcho-chauvinism really has nothing to learn from the patriotism of its bourgeois friends and serves them as a supplier of cannon fodder in the battles which fragment the dominant class!

In the fourth and last part of this series, we will look at the idea of ‘a-nationalism' defended by several anarchist elements, who often oppose it to ‘internationalism'.   

Scott 1/10/9

see also

Anarchism and imperialist war (part 1): Anarchists faced with the First World War

Anarchism and imperialist war (part 2): Anarchist participation in the Second World War

Anarchism and imperialist war (part 3): From the end of the Second World War to the end of the counter-revolution


[1] Federation of Education, Science and Technical workers, KRAS-AIT.

[2] Courant alternatif, no.154.

[3] Non Fides, no.2, September 2008.

[4] Poster "In Gaza as elsewhere..." signed "Some anarchists" distributed at the beginning of 2009 in Belgium.

[5] Union Locale CNT of Besancon, Syndicat CNT interco 39, FAU-IAA Boers (Germany), Fédération Anarchiste francophone, 28 July 2006.

[6] Alternative Libertaire, 18 August 2006

[7] Alternative Libertaire no.154.

See also :