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A history of North American anarchist group Love & Rage

category north america / mexico | history of anarchism | feature author Friday April 13, 2007 19:16author by Wayne Price - NEFAC Report this post to the editors

Nine Years of the Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation

A new wave of radicalization is spreading around the world. Federations of anarchists are being organized in the U.S and Canada, and in other countries. The ‘platformist’ť current within international anarchism, with its emphasis on the need for anarchists to organize themselves, is having worldwide effects. In these conditions, it is not surprising that there should be an interest in the last major attempt to build an anarchist federation in North America: the Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation (L&R). Founded in 1989, it lasted to 1998, almost ten years, with branches in Mexico (Amor y Rabia) and in English-speaking Canada.

[ Castellano]

A new wave of radicalization is spreading around the world. Federations of anarchists are being organized in the U.S and Canada, and in other countries. The ‘platformist’ť current within international anarchism, with its emphasis on the need for anarchists to organize themselves, is having worldwide effects. In these conditions, it is not surprising that there should be an interest in the last major attempt to build an anarchist federation in North America: the Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation (L&R). Founded in 1989, it lasted to 1998, almost ten years, with branches in Mexico (Amor y Rabia) and in English-speaking Canada.

It came out of a very amorphous anarchist movement, whose main continental organization had been almost yearly ‘gatherings’. In various cities around the U.S. and Canada, anarchists would get together, attend workshops, talk with each other, eat vegetarian food, play together, engage in ‘pagan rites’ť, and then go home. Decisions were not made and lasting structures were not set up.

In this milieu, a minority began to call for the establishment of a continental anarchist newspaper. There were, of course, already a small number of anarchist periodicals, each expressing the views of the individual or small group which put it out. The idea was for a newspaper which reflected the views of a continental body of supporters, who existed to participate in putting it out and distributing it. The supporters of the newspaper projectť soon realized that this implied some sort of organization.

People of various backgrounds and anarchist persuasions met to establish the Love and Rage Federation. A key role was played by a group from Minneapolis, Minnesota, calling itself the Revolutionary Anarchist Bowling League (RABL or ‘rabble’ť). Another group came from the former Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL). This was a group which had evolved from Trotskyism to anarchism. The RSL (of which I was a member) had never regarded the state-capitalist Soviet Union as a ‘degenerated workers’ State, as did orthodox Trotskyism. It had interpreted Marxist orthodoxy in the most libertarian manner possible, such as emphasizing Marx’s writings on the Paris Commune, or Lenin’s State and Revolution. When this became impossible to continue, it moved toward anarchism. The RSL officially dissolved at the time of the founding of Love and Rage; most ex-members leaving politics. Some of us became involved in the setting up of the L&R and its newspaper, which was also called ‘Love and Rage’

Love and Rage was distinguished from most of the anarchist movement in a few important ways. First, obviously, was the very idea that anarchists should form an organization, and, related to that, should put out a newspaper. These concepts were vigorously, not to say viciously, denounced by many in the anarchist movement. A relatively prominent anarcho-syndicalist came to the founding meeting only to denounce the very idea of founding an organization. The anarcho-primitivist Fifth Estate denounced L&R from the beginning. Many others agreed that it was wrong of anarchists to form organizations, or at least to form organizations beyond the local level. There was a widespread suspicion that the ex-members of the ex-RSL were really doing a Trotskyist ‘entry’, worming their way into the anarchist movement in order to emerge with a new and larger Leninist party. Considering the course of events, this was quite ironic. However, the issue of organization was never quite settled.

There was a constant tension in the federation over how far to go in unifying and coordinating it. A large minority broke off because they really wanted a loose ‘network’, not a more coordinated federation. Over time, this continued to be an issue. Due to its decentralized heritage, people were chosen for positions on the basis of geography, not politics. The continental committee which made decisions between conferences was picked this way. So was the smaller body which coordinated between that committee’s meetings. Influential people were often left out of these bodies, in the hope that this would prevent the formation of a ‘leadership’, but instead (of course), the real leadership was kept informal and undemocratic.

Editorial decisions for the continental paper were not made by any politically responsible body, but by the production crew. This was composed of random people who volunteered and lived in the city where it was put out. At the same time, L&R was never a real federation, because it never had more than a few real local groups. Mostly it had about 200 members scattered throughout North America. There were a few significant collectives in a few cities, and many individuals who were willing to distribute the paper.

Besides being pro-organization, the other distinctive feature of the L&R was its left-wing focus. It was for the struggles of the oppressed. It supported national liberation struggles (although there was tension over attitudes towards the nationalist leadership of such struggles). It supported women’s liberation, queer liberation, struggles of prisoners, of poor people, of youth, and of African-Americans. This may seem obvious, but much of the anarchist movement denounced this as too ‘left’ť. The left was seen as old-hat and out dated. This was the explicit conception of the primitivists. Even among anarchists who were consciously leftist, such as anarcho-syndicalists, many were for workers’ struggles but did not support national liberation wars or women’s struggles. Too many of these rejected non-working class struggles as irrelevant diversions.

Aside from that, there was little theoretical agreement among L&R members and little effort to develop a theoretical program. Their theory, or program, was something vaguely called, ‘revolutionary anarchism’. That is, we were anarchists who were “for” revolution. This distinguished us from pacifist anarchists and reformist anarchists, but otherwise was not too specific. L&R was against capitalism, but would not commit itself to ‘socialism’, which was associated with State ownership.

There were different views on other issues, such as African-American liberation. A minority was for the Race Traitor program: racism was the main issue in the U.S.; everything else was secondary; white anarchist should not raise their views in the African-American community. Other people had other views which also revolved around similar white-liberal guilt feelings. The problem was not so much this or that opinion on any particular topic but the lack of a serious attempt to study past theory and to develop it further. From the beginning there were people who regarded any attempt to root L&R in anarchist tradition was something ‘old’ť. There were no required readings for all members nor regular study classes. Even by the end, there were people who insisted that theory was something which they would develop out of their experience. Theory is, ultimately, nothing but the codification of many people’s experience. But this approach meant constantly reinventing the wheel, and repeating previous generation’s errors. However, it is not surprising that U.S. anarchists should have followed the empiricism and crude pragmatism of U.S. political culture.

The organization had an empirical ‘laundry list’ of good causes it was for (such as women’s liberation, queer liberation, prison abolition, and so on). It tried to work out a better, more thorough and lengthy, program. For years, at the conferences, it discussed parts of an improved program. But this process was inconsistent. By the time L&R dissolved, the program was still unfinished. Ron Tabor, an ex-member of the old RSL, tried to do serious theoretical work. He sought to rethink the meaning of Marxism from an anarchist perspective. While his previous pamphlet, A Look at Leninism, was widely distributed, the organization stopped publishing his articles critiquing Marxism in the newspaper. People just weren’t interested enough, they said.

Nevertheless, good work was done. A small number of real collectives existed and were tied together throughout North America. A real effort was made to support a Mexican group in producing a Spanish paper and literature.

We organized important U.S. support for the Zapatista rebellion (although politically this never went beyond being radical cheerleaders, instead of discussing the possibilities of a Mexican revolution). A continental anarchist paper was produced for nine years, on a more-or-less monthly basis. Some activities were done on a federation-wide basis, including participating in several national U.S. demonstrations.

However from the beginning there had been certain undemocratic aspects of what many members meant by ‘revolutionary anarchism’. One was a widespread sympathy for Leninist-Stalinist movements of the 60s and 70s. Many members admired the Weatherpeople, the German Red Army Faction, the Black Liberation Army, and other groups who wanted to create revolutionary dictatorships over the mass of people. The very last L&R issue included a very favorable article about imprisoned members of the Weatherpeople, titled, Enemies of the State. It would have been better titled, Enemies of This State, Friends of a New State.

The other undemocratic weakness was the lack of interest in, or orientation to, the North American working class. At most there was a patronizing acceptance that some of us were interested in workers as workers. As an influential member told me, workers did not identify as workers. When a major student strike broke out in New York City public colleges, our members did excellent work in organizing and leading it (‘leading’ in a non-authoritarian way). But they sneered at the idea of orienting the student struggle toward the workers (who, at the time were also struggling against the city government over comparable issues).

Later, our Detroit members got involved in support work for the striking newspaper workers. Our people put out a flyer raising the general strike. L&R people in New York did not want to cover this in the continental paper. One member asked if the ‘general strike’ was a ‘Trotskyist idea’, so little did they know anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist history.

Ultimately, contempt for the workers, their organizations (unions), and their struggles, must be undemocratic. It leads to a view that a little group of young radicals, mostly college students and ex-students from the middle classes, can transform society by themselves - without going deep into the working class and the oppressed sections of society. This is consistent with an identification with radical Stalinism.

A final conflict broke out during the last two years of L&R. Chris Day, a founder and influential member (that is, a ‘leader’) had concluded that it was time to abandon anarchism. He told people informally that we had reached the limits of the anarchist milieu and it was time to move on. He wrote a paper on The Historical Failure of Anarchism, emphasizing the programmatic weaknesses of anarchism. He declared that no revolution could succeed without a centralized, regular army and a revolutionary state. A group formed around him, particularly of people who had never had to chose between anarchism and authoritarian Marxism. Although they suddenly discovered the value of the international working class, their new-found Marxism was not of any of the libertarian or humanistic varieties (autonomes, council communism, CLR James, Eric Fromm, Hal Draper, etc.). It was Maoism - one of the most Stalinist, authoritarian, versions.

A small number of us began to resist, at first by writing counter documents. We were mostly, but not entirely, former members of the RSL, and were mostly older than the average member. What was upsetting and confusing to us was that most L&R members did not react to the dispute. They stayed out of it. This nonreaction was helped by the neo-Maoists maneuver of rarely stating openly that they rejected anarchism. Instead the group talked around this. They made hints, and then denials, and then direct statements, and then withdraw the statements. If people wanted to ignore the issue, it was made easy for them. We, the group that said there was a crisis, were treated as troublemakers.

As we saw it, the issue was the rejection of anarchism for Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. We were accused of being dogmatic, not active enough, being troublemakers, wrong on any number of other issues, and so on. There is a myth in the present anarchists movement that L&R collapsed due to weakness over African-American liberation. This was never a major dispute inside the organization, although perhaps it should have been. It was raised at the last minute, the main supporter of Race Traitor politics blocing with the Maoist faction. But it was never the issue in the faction fight, that being anarchism versus Maoism.

Behind the fight and then collapse of Love and Rage was broader historical trends. About the same time that L&R dissolved, our Mexican section also came apart. The Quebecois network which had put out the anarchist Demanarchie also broke down. And the British group, the Class War Federation, also dissolved. While there were specific issues in each case, behind them all was the long lull in the broader movement. People were discouraged. In our case, anyway, people were looking for some alternative.

Marxism had been discredited by the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the officially pro-market turn of the Chinese. But it still had the attraction of its history of revolutions and its vast amount of theoretical work, unlike anarchism. It was, and still is, a real pole of attraction for many. L&R had a brief meeting to formally dissolve the federation. The Maoist group, and those it had attracted, formed Fire By Night, for a short time. Soon they were to dissolve into the Leninist milieu. Our group has put out the anarchist journal, The Utopian ( Otherwise individuals have continued to engage in the anarchist movement in various ways. Within two to three years of L&R dissolution, there was a large upturn in the anarchist movement, but there was no continental anarchist federation to participate in it. Lessons of the Love and Rage Federation

When I think over my experiences in L&R (as well as earlier experiences), I reach the following three main conclusions:

(1) There is a need to balance activism with theory. An activists’ program needs to be based on a theory of the world, what causes oppression, what would liberation mean, what sectors of society can overturn oppression, and what can we do to help them to move toward liberation. Otherwise we are just actively jumping around. If anarchists are not to be outdone (once again) by the Marxists and other authoritarians, we have to know what we are doing. Not that every member of an anarchist federation has to fully agree with the same ideas, but there needs to be a core of members with a common approach. This does not mean that we can do nothing without a full-grown theory. Unlike the Marxists, we do not have a set of sacred books to learn from. But as we participate in struggles, anarchists should be simultaneously working on theory. There should be study groups, a common set of readings, and a lively theoretical journal.

(2) There needs to be an orientation to the working class. This is not only for theoretical but for strategic reasons. There is no other oppressed group which has the potential ability to shut down capitalist society - and to start it up again. Only workers - as workers - can do this. No other grouping is oppressed at the heart of the process of production or has the self-interest to create a classless society. This was the insight of anarcho-syndicalism.

Anarchists must continue to participate in and champion the struggles of women, queers, of oppressed races and nations. Their oppression is as real as that of workers. Their movements are as essential for liberation. But just as their issues must be raised in the class struggle, so the class struggle must be raised in them. This means participation in workplace concerns. We need to develop a serious and positive view of unions, and a set of tactics for dealing with them.

(3) There is a need for a democratic organization of revolutionary anarchists - if we are not (once again) to be outorganized by the Marxists. There can be no abstractly preordained structure for such a democratic organization, except that it be democratic. Much depends on the circumstances. The principle is that it should be as decentralized and directly democratic as possible but as centralized and coordinated as is minimally necessary. This is not a party, which is an organization for taking power (by election, or by control of a revolution). This is an instrument for participation in popular struggles and for encouraging the people to take over themselves. An anarchist organization is part of the process of popular self-organization, not its opposite. But, as is said in the Organizational Platform of Libertarian Communists, it needs some personnel chosen by the membership. They should be elected on the basis of their politics, not their personalities or their location! s. I believe it is essential for such a democratic, programmatic body to be elected to oversee publications, and other literature, as well as to do a certain minimal amount of coordination and reacting to emergencies.

All these points are controversial among anarchists. But I have seen, all too often, the victory of the authoritarians, statists, and Marxists, over the anarchists and libertarian socialists. We have a chance to change that awful history, if we are prepared for it.

First published in Northeastern Anarchist #3 Fall 2001

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author by Ned Luddpublication date Fri Apr 20, 2007 05:46Report this post to the editors

Mr. Price says:

"Anarchists must continue to participate in and champion the struggles of women, queers, of oppressed races and nations."

That last sounds like national liberation to me! Champion the struggles of "oppressed nations"? No thanks. I don't support bourgeois mofos no matter what country they're from. Should anarchists have supported Ho Chi Ming and the Vietcong? No. Should anarchists support Kurdish nationalists? No. The bourgeois, anti-working class resistance in Iraq? No. The Taliban? Fuck no!

National liberation and nationalism are huge threats to the working class, recruiting us to back one ruling class against another ruling class. One of the sacred tenents of leftism is "national liberation struggle." Libertaran communists should aways be opposed to nationalism, in whatever form. There is NO SUCH THING as an "oppressed nation." All nations are imperialistic, all nations are bourgeois.

Mr. Price, you sound very much like a trot. I'm amazed NEFAC allows one of its members to go around writing articles supporting national liberation. I thought the idea of platformism was NOT to have such radically huge differences of opinion within a group (ideological unity) - if the group does not support national liberation, is in fact OPPOSED to it, then why... ???!!

author by Joepublication date Fri Apr 20, 2007 19:22Report this post to the editors

The claim that there is 'no such thing as an oppressed nation' is extraordinary unless you are simply pointing out that nations like races are imagined rather than biological facts. While that is true you cannot take the political meaning of it that anarchists should be neutral on racism because race's do not really exist. And the same applies to national oppression.

Indeed like racism you can oppose national oppression without either being a nationalist (just as opposing racism does not make you a 'racist ' imagine making that argument in relation to race!) or advocating that the best or only method are all class alliances based on or around national or racial identity.

The usual leftist communist approach that you appear to be replicating is to pretend that somehow national oppression does not impact on workers of that nationality or that if it does the simple act of raising the slogan of workers unity will magically overcome nationalist divisions. The first claim in simply untrue, a US missile will kill an Iraqi workers as easily as an Iraqi boss and the soldier firing it will probably be indifferent if not unaware of the class of his target. And the second simply fails to recognise a reality that when the bombs are being dropped on your workplace the fear of death you share at that moment with your boss is a real thing.

The task for anarchists is not to sit around and come up with the most radical sounding slogans - radical slogans sound militant at a meeting but if they don't receive an echo on the streets they are useless. The task is to tackle the realities imposed above (we can't wish them away) and come up with an anarchist program that answers them. Such a program can only be built around an opposition to national oppression that puts the interests of the working class of oppressed and oppresser nations first.

In actual fact the aims and principles of NEFAC contain this "Although we support working class struggles against political and economic imperialism, racism, genocide and colonization, we are opposed to the creation of a new ruling class. We believe that the defeat of imperialism will only come about through a social revolution waged against both the imperialists and the local ruling class."

author by Ned Luddpublication date Sat Apr 21, 2007 03:15Report this post to the editors

All nations are imperialist - I start with that. "Imperialism" is just the dynamic between nations. Therefore, "anti-imperialism" as such is not enough, because it's merely defending one (imperialist) nation from another (imperialist) nation. If the Iraqi resistance drives the U.S. out tomorrow, what will happen. Perhaps you could claim that, strengthened by "their" "victory" the Iraqi working class would realise their collective power and throw off the ruling class, wage-labour, the state, etc. Bollocks. That's a trot line - that's what they thought would happen in Vietnam. "Critical support" - load of cobblers. Well, the Vietnamese threw of "U.S. imperialists" and, what, now they have President Bush traipsing over there to make trade agreements with them. Excellant, eh?

The Insurgent Makhnovist Army in the Ukraine in the '20s showed how to fight the good fight. They fought the "imperialists" (both Red and White) and fought the nationalists too (Petliura and Gregor'ev). They held a firm internationalist position, identifying themselves first as workers, then as "ukranians" or "jews." They defended themselves and their communities but never waxed lyrical about some bollocks "national culture" or something. It was NOT a national liberation movement - it was a working class movement, fighting against imperialism, capitalism AND nationalism. That's what anarchists should support. It IS pragmatic - all nationalism does is recruit us to get killed for one or another ruling class.

Joe wrote:
"The task for anarchists is not to sit around and come up with the most radical sounding slogans - radical slogans sound militant at a meeting but if they don't receive an echo on the streets they are useless."

Yeah - great. Internationalism is a "radical sounding slogan." No, it's a hard-nosed, pragmatic position hammered out by hard knocks and very real experiances.

NEFAC wrote:
"Although we support working class struggles against political and economic imperialism, racism, genocide and colonization, we are opposed to the creation of a new ruling class. We believe that the defeat of imperialism will only come about through a social revolution waged against both the imperialists and the local ruling class."

Yeah, but I think that's idealistic. A revolution CANNOT survive (and this is pretty bloody concrete) if it does not spread to other countries, infact ALL countries, and a movement is not very well equipped if they are working on a nationalist basis rather than an internationalist basis. In other words - recognizing that the working class as a global whole are in the same boat for good or bad, and not banging on about "oppressed nations" vs "imperialist nations." That inevitably leads to the trot theory of the "labour aristocracy" of the "imperialist countries" - that inevitably leads to Third Worldism.

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Sat Apr 21, 2007 07:08Report this post to the editors

Wayne writes: "among anarchists who were consciously leftist, such as anarcho-syndicalists, many were for workers’ struggles but did not support national liberation wars or women’s struggles. Too many of these rejected non-working class struggles as irrelevant diversions."

the problem i have with this is that it gives the impression that anarcho-syndicalists in general in that era did not support women's struggles or were averse to struggles around non-class forms of oppression. But in the late '80s when R&B was formed, Workers Solidarty Alliance, an anarcho-syndicalist group, was around and had about 40 to 50 members, and one of our areas of focus at that time (1989-91) was defense of reproductive rights, and several of our groups were involved in defense of abortion clinics. Also, one of our members in San Francisco was involved in Hostess, a gay street patrol in San Francisco formed to prevent gay-bashing. WSA's political statement has a lengthy analysis of gender oppression, and gay oppression, and our support for struggles in these areas, and how links between these struggles and worker organizations can be developed. Talking about "many anarcho-syndicalists" while ignoring these activities of WSA at that time is misleading.

author by Waynepublication date Sat Apr 21, 2007 09:10Report this post to the editors

(1) Ned Ludd has a common confusion. It is one thing to recognize that nations exist, that some nations oppress other nations (there are oppressed nations), and that there should be no oppression of one nation by another. But this is not nationalism.

It is another thing to believe that the solution to national oppression is the program of nationalism. Nationalism means that we believe that the ruling class and workers of an oppressed nation have fundamentally similar interests, and that we give political support to that ruling class against the imperialists.

It is perfectly possible to accept the first set of ideas (that there are oppressed nations which should be liberated) without accepting the second set of ideas (that the nationalist ruling class should be supported). This is the position of anarchist anti-nationalism (internationalism).

In Love & Rage, many people were supporters of overt nationalism, at least as a supposed "first stage" of the revolution. Our opposition group fought tooth and nail against these ideas and were roundly denounced for them! (The same goes for our opinions on racism.)

(2) Ned is also wrong about the Makhnoist movement in the Ukraine, which very much based itself simultaneously on the peasants desire for the land and their Ukrainian desire to keep out the invaders. But they were not nationalist. See Skirda's book on Makhno

(3) Tom is correct and my summary of anarcho-syndicalists' position was too summary. His group, WSA, did oppose support for the Nicaraguan people against U.S. imperialislm, however.

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Sat Apr 21, 2007 13:51Report this post to the editors

in regard to Nicaragua, I have no idea what Wayne is referring to. at the time of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, WSA participated in a group called Libertarian Support for Latin America, and worked on the magazine No Middle Ground. In that magazine collective there was a bitter fight over the position to take in regard to Nicaragua, which caused the demise of the magazine. A woman who went to Nicaragua wrote a balanced piece that brought out positive aspects of Sandinista base organizations, such as their support for workers' management, and was supportive of the revolution, in a popular sense, against US imperialism, while critiquing the comandantes and the FSLN party. In that internal debate, WSA sided with her against her critics who denounced her for being "soft" on the Sandinistas. WSA published a piece in ideas & action at the time that was critical of the concept of a party-controlled guerrilla army gaining power to run a state, while at the same time critiquing US state terrorism in central America. So what is Wayne talking about?


author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Sun Apr 22, 2007 01:29Report this post to the editors

Probably what Wayne is referring to is the fact that WSA does not support the formula of "national liberation". I would point out that it is possible to "support the people of Nicaragua against US imperialism" -- which WSA did do, being internationalist -- without supporting the coming to state power of parties under the rubric of "national liberation". But Wayne's comment about anarcho-syndicalists didn't just refer to "national liberation".

Said Wayne: "Even among anarchists who were consciously leftist, such as anarcho-syndicalists, many were for workers’ struggles but did not support national liberation wars or women’s struggles. Too many of these rejected non-working class struggles as irrelevant diversions."

As I pointed out, WSA has always supported struggles against non-class forms of oppression, in particular, against racism, structural gender inequality, and gay oppression.

author by Ned Luddpublication date Sun Apr 22, 2007 05:24Report this post to the editors

Mr. Price wrote:

"Ned Ludd has a common confusion. It is one thing to recognize that nations exist, that some nations oppress other nations (there are oppressed nations), and that there should be no oppression of one nation by another. But this is not nationalism."

Nations will always "oppress" each other - thats par for the course. I personally wouldn't say "there should be no oppression of one nation by another" because that seems utopian. As long as there are nations they will "oppress" each other to greater or lesser degrees.

Mr Price wrote:

"It is another thing to believe that the solution to national oppression is the program of nationalism. Nationalism means that we believe that the ruling class and workers of an oppressed nation have fundamentally similar interests, and that we give political support to that ruling class against the imperialists"

But NATIONAL liberation makes ruling classes because the NATION is an institution of class society.

Mr Price wrote:

"It is perfectly possible to accept the first set of ideas (that there are oppressed nations which should be liberated) without accepting the second set of ideas (that the nationalist ruling class should be supported). This is the position of anarchist anti-nationalism (internationalism)."

Sure it's possible to believe that, but it isn't very realistic and, I'd say, pretty thick.

Here's a lengthy quote from Solidarity (UK) on the subject of national liberation:

"Lenin's theory of imperialism, written in 1916, is usually quoted by all the trad left groups to sanction their support for national liberation. The theory holds that a Western 'labour aristocracy' has been created out of super-profits squeezed out of colonial countries. This is a bourgeois concept because it places national factors above class analysis. Concepts such as 'proletarian nations' versus 'imperialist nations' flow naturally from such an analysis - they were in fact peddled in the 30's by fascists. Nowadays, Gunder Frank with his theory of 'the development of under-development' and Emmanuel's 'unequal exchange' provide fresh examples of the bourgeois-leninist attitudes so deeply entrenched in the left.

"Nationalism and class struggle are irreconcilably opposed. A nation is a bourgeois reality: it is capitalism with all its exploitation and alienation, parcelled out in a single geographical unit. It doesn't matter whether the nation is 'small, 'colonial', 'semi-colonial' or 'non-imperialist'. All nationalisms are reactionary because they inevitably clash with class consciousness and poison it with chauvinism and racialism.

"The nationalist sentiment in the advanced countries is reactionary, not only because it facilitates the plundering of the colonial workers and peasants, but because it is a form of false consciousness which ideologically binds the western workers to 'their' ruling classes. Similarly, the 'nationalism of the oppressed' is reactionary because it facilitates class collaboration between the colonial workers and peasants and the 'anti-imperialist' nascent bureaucracies."

Lastly, about the Makhnovists - that's what I was saying.

author by Waynepublication date Sun Apr 22, 2007 11:17Report this post to the editors

Ned (Mr. Ludd) quotes me as believing that there are oppressed nations which should be liberated but that the way to do this is not through supporting their ruling classes (nationalism) but through international working class anarchist revolution. He responds, "Sure it's possible to believe that, but it isn't very realistic and, I'd say, pretty thick." I guess I am that thick. Right or wrong, thick or thin, however, the point is that support for national liberation does not necessarily mean support for nationalism. At least we can agree on that.

It is unrealistic, he thinks, because "NATIONAL liberation makes ruling classes because the NATION is an institution of class society." True, it is. But races are also an institution of class society. Does he support African-American liberation? Gender (in its bourgeois-defined way) is an institution of class society. Is he opposed to women's liberation? For that matter, the working class is an institution of class society--it only exists as a distinct class in relation to the capitalist class, and it will not exist under socialist anarchism. By his own argument, he should be against working class liberation! (which I am sure he is not). Indeed, there are U.S. "post-Leftists" who argue exactly this position.

Perhaps under international libertarian communism, nations will eventually wither away. But not immediately after a revolution. For a period, there will continue to be differences between the British and the French, starting with language. And right now the whole world is seething with national conflicts and resentments and oppressions, which must be dealt with by revolutionaries through tactical methods and not just waved away.

Tom explains that the "WSA does not support the formula of 'national liberation' " but did "support the people of Nicaragua against US imperialism." What, if anything, is the difference between supporting a people and being for the liberation of a nation? Apparently he thinks that "national liberation" means "supporting the coming to state power of parties". As I have just explained, there is no such necessary connection. Perhaps our differences are just a matter of terminology or formulation: I will accept "supporting a people against imperialism" as a way of expressing what I mean.

author by mitchpublication date Mon Apr 23, 2007 07:23author email wsany at hotmail dot comReport this post to the editors

Hello. Perhaps Wayne was refering to the discussion between the former Libertarian Workers Group (now NY WSA) and the former Revolutionary Socialist League. The contents o0f this discussion appears in #5 -- Winter 1985 of ideas & action under the title "Anarchism & Marxism: A Dialogue by Wayne Price and Mike Harris". I don't believe this has been transcribed yet.

Anyway, having participated in that discussion, I can say that we were clearly against "national libertation" as commonly understood by marxists and semi-marxists. We against political party attempts at leading and blue prinitng a revolutionary struggle. We not in favor of revolutionary organization that promotes centralist, party dominated government.

Our position has always been "neither imperialism or statism".

At the time of the discussion, the RSL supported the Sandinistas and the FDLM in El Salvador. The anarcho-syndicalists did not.

author by Joepublication date Tue Apr 24, 2007 01:35Report this post to the editors

Neds points to me look like evasions. For instance its rather obviously not true that all nations are imperialists because rather a lot of nations don't get a chance because they are occupied or simply weaker than the neighbors. So why attempt to excuse imperialism in this manner?

That given a chance any nation might become imperialist is true but politically meaningless - indeed it is very like the sort of white racism that seeks to excuse itself on the grounds that if some other 'race' were on top they would be the same thing. This also misses the point - our role is to engage with the real world not the imaginary world of alternate realities.

We should be fighting oppression rather than excusing ourselves from that struggle just in case todays oppressed turn into tomorrows oppressors. Of course this can always happen, even a worker on strike for more pay today can tomorrow be promoted to a manager who tries to impose wage cuts on his former comrades. Does this potential reality mean we should also stand aside from wage struggles? Likewise a women denied abortion rights can also be a boss in a workplace or a migrant worker can have sexist attitudes. Do we need to only stand and fight alongside those who are ideologically pure in the present but also in posession of some magic gurentee of such purity in the future. Putting such concerns first clearly results in standing on the side lines.

The long quote from Solidarity simply suggests to me that Ned doesn't understand the argument. Anarchists do not in general hold with Lenins theory of imperialism. Imperialism and theories of imperialism existed before Lenin and developed anarchist theories of imperialism today do not draw on Lenin. See for instance

And the point about the Makhnovists is just introducing a strawman. No one here has "waxed lyrical about some bollocks "national culture"" so whether or not the Makhnovists did is irrelevent to this discussion. To me the Makhnovists provided a positive example of what an anarchist anti-imperialist struggle should look like - they did not seperate the fight against imperialist occupation from the class struggle they fought one as part of the process of fighting the other. Their willingness to fight imperialism did not translate into nationalism - something Ned seems to think is inevitable.

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Tue Apr 24, 2007 02:09Report this post to the editors

mitch's post brings out the fact that "support for national liberation movements" was often interpreted as support for a party aiming to take power, or a guerrilla movement controlled by such a party, such as FSLN and FMLN in the '80s. Not supporting the FSLN party, however, is not the same thing as not supporting the Sandinista base organizations or not supporting the struggle of the people of Nicaragua against U.S. imperialism. That's part of worker internationalism and anti-imperialism. It's possible the dispute is merely semantic, if Wayne does not interpret "support for the national liberation movement in Nicaragua" as support for the FSLN party.

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Tue Apr 24, 2007 02:18Report this post to the editors

One further comment: in regard to national liberation organizations acting imperialist in running a state, we have the example of Nicaragua under the FSLN. Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. Yet in fact the FSLN took an imperialist stance towards the Atlantic coast. The Atlantic coast was a region that had only been incorporated into Nicaragua in the 19th century. It's population was English-speaking descendants of African slaves and American Indians. The FSLN used manipulative and repressive means to deny the autonomy demands of the population of the Atlantic Coast, which they saw as threatening the integrity of the Nicaraguan state. In this case the elite classes of the majority Latino nation, through their state, dominates the Afro-caribbean and American indian population of the Atlantic coast.

author by Ned Luddpublication date Tue Apr 24, 2007 05:45Report this post to the editors

Fighting against imperialism (as the Makhnovists did) and fighting a national liberation struggle (as the Makhnovists didn't) are two seperate things. National liberation struggles in fact normally latch on to a rival imperialist power (i.e. fight the U.S. and get into bed with the USSR). Perhaps if you could give me a few examples of national liberation struggles and national liberation organisations of which you think anarchists should approve, I'd have a better idea of where you're coming from. Do you, for instance, support the IRA, FARC, Hizzbollah, Hamas, PLO, EZLN, Al-Queda, etc.? Let's get down to earth here.

author by Joepublication date Tue Apr 24, 2007 15:29Report this post to the editors

Ned to be honest your question simply tells me that you haven't bothered reading the document I linked to. Your post is a bit like responding to someone who says they support workers right to organise with a list of union leaders and asking which they intend to support. As if defence of one has to mean support of another - quite clearly it does not.

Because you have moved the goalposts on the course of this discussion - you started off objecting to the phrase "oppressed .. nations." I'm also quite cynical about you apparent failure to get the point.

I would suggest that rather than jumping around we return to your original post - your claim that people cannot be oppressed because of their perceived 'nation' in a manner similar to the way people are oppressed because of their perceived 'race'. This seems an extraordinary claim to me, I've outlined why and I'd appreciate a response.

author by Ned Luddpublication date Wed Apr 25, 2007 02:48Report this post to the editors

I didn't bother reading the document. Looking at it again, I realise I've already read it. I would point out a number of points. In the first bullet it says "Imperialism is the ability of countries to globally and locally dictate trade relations with other countries." Well all countries do that with one another to a greater and lesser degree. I don't have much to say really about that document exept that it certainly isn't the last word on anything.

"I'm also quite cynical about you apparent failure to get the point." says Joe. Huh, well that's a bummer.

Right, back to "oppressed nations." You compare national "oppression" to race oppression. A race is a group of people defined by common appearance and/r heritage - a nation is a bourgeois institution of class society. As I said.

Let's use an example here, a concrete example. So far you won't get concrete, so I will. In the north of Iraq, Kurdish nationalists such as the KDP and the PUK preached national liberation. They attacked arabs, attempted to draw Kuurdish workers into a sectarian fight, and desperately wished to create a seperate nation of Kurds. During the 1991 uprising, Kurdish nationalists attacked Iraqi soldiers who were deserting the army in droves and were fleeing north. Meanwhile, arab and kurdish working class people were fighting side by side against both the Iraq state and the Kurdish nationalists.

"Like all nationalist movements the Kurdish nationalists defend the interests of the propertied classes against the working class. Most Kurdish nationalist leaders come from very rich families. For example, Talabani comes from a dynasty originally set up by the British and his parents own luxury hotels in England. The KDP was set up by rich exiles driven out of Kurdistan by the mass working class uprisings of 1958 when hundreds of landowners and capitalist were strung up. As a result of these disturbing events a meeting of exiled bourgeois in Razaeia, Iran, organised nationalist death squads to kill class struggle militants in Iraqi Kurdistan."

When working class unity was most needed... in stepped the forces of national liberation. National liberation is reactionary because it's very premise is reactionary --- liberation of a nation. Therefore it must be class collaborationist. That's where we disagree.

author by Waynepublication date Wed Apr 25, 2007 05:59Report this post to the editors

(1) Ned still does not see the question. It is not whether the nationalist leadership, of , say, the Kurds, is bad, or whether we would like Kurdish-Turkish worker solidarity. (Yes to both.) It is whether the Kurds exist as a nation, whether this nation is oppressed, whether we anarchists oppose this oppression, and whether the Kurdish people (overwhelmingly workers and peasants, and half female) has the right to decide whether to unite or secede from Turkey. Yes or no?

He writes, " A race is a group of people defined by common appearance and/r heritage - a nation is a bourgeois institution of class society." Apparently he believes that race is independently real, not an institution of bourgeois society, while nation is an artificial social creation of bourgeois society. No such distinction can be made. Both are real (will not automatically vanish with the overturn of bourgeois society) but both are creations (institutions) of bourgeois society. And racism can be just as divisive as nationalism. It is absurd to have to even argue this.

(2) I find it difficult to discuss the issue of Nicaragua with Mitch and Tom as well as others. I am willing to accept the above compromise, of support for the people (of the nation) against U.S. imperialism, because this mostly says what I mean. But the whole thing is confused because, like Ned, they do not accept that there are different types of "support." This is the whole issue!

For example, I "support" the Communist Party and even Fascists against attempts by the capitalist state to outlaw them. I do not want the state to have such powers because I expect them to be used against us more than against Fascists. Does this mean that I "support" the politics of the CP or neo-Nazis (or that I am against working people beating up Nazis)? No, I am a political opponent of the CP and the Fascists. There is support and support, and it depends on the context.

Neither I nor anyone else in the semi-Trotskyist R.S.L. ever gave political support to the nationalists, statists, and/or Stalinists in Central America. We were always their political opponents. We advocated international working class revolution. (This was why we could not join CISPES or other solidarity organizations.) My opinions have not changed one bit in this area.

But BETWEEN the U.S. forces and the nationalist-statists, we were not neutral. The statists (unfortunately) led the mass movement. Better that the statists should win and so weaken U.S. imperialism. (In Trotskyoid lingo this was "military-technical" support.) This is quite separate from any practical proposals; if we had had co-thinkers in Central America they might have joined the official forces, as (perhaps hidden) oppositionists or they might have organized independently. The question here is one of political orientation.

So do I support the FSLN? Or the Hezbollah today? No and yes. More no than yes. I am a TOTAL political opponent of these forces, or at least their leaderships and programs, but would rather see them win than see the imperialists win, for the sake of the people of the world.

The world is a better place today because the the Vietnamese won; the defeat of the Central American forces has not improved the world. Or does anyone think that it did not matter that the Vietnamese won, inspite of their Stalinist rulers?

author by Ned Luddpublication date Wed Apr 25, 2007 06:57Report this post to the editors

Mr Price said:

"So do I support the FSLN? Or the Hezbollah today? No and yes. More no than yes. I am a TOTAL political opponent of these forces, or at least their leaderships and programs, but would rather see them win than see the imperialists win, for the sake of the people of the world."

Nuff said.

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Wed Apr 25, 2007 10:50Report this post to the editors

Wayne says there are different forms of support. Let me make the analogy between the current anti-war movement and the issue of Nicaragua. We opposed the U.S. war on Iraq, even tho it was essentially a fascist, anti-labor regime, because it was an example of capitalist, imperialist plunder. To not oppose the U.S. attack would be to support U.S. imperialism.

Now, in the case of Nicaragua, we had even stronger reasons for opposing the U.S. because there were actual mass organizations of workers in struggle, a popular revolution had overthrown a dictator put in power by the U.S. There were thus aspects of the Nicaraguan revolution we could support, even tho we did not support the FSLN party. But opposing the U.S. contra war, a form of state terrorism, and opposing U.S. imperialism against Nicaragua in general, does not imply "support" for the FSLN party government as such.

We might even have gone so far as to support some of the actual measures that the FSLN government implemented, such as providing materials for housing to poor people. But just as we would not be supporting Democrats in office in the U.S. who do things we want, like pass card check, the same is true for the FSLN's progressive measures. If i had been a Nicaraguan working class person, I might have given some element of support to the FSLN as a lesser evil, for example voting for them against the right wing. But it seems to me that supporting a "national liberation movement" in that context would imply support for the strategy of the FSLN gaining control of the government and running things. In that era that's what "support for national liberation movements" typically implied, it seems to me. But, again, it may be that the difference here is merely over words to use. Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere and it has historically been dominated by the USA. But the conflict is with a particular class, since the US federal state works internationally as an arm of corporate capital.

It is also a conflict with a particular nation-state, but that is itself a class institution. Certainly we don't want the Nicaraguans to be an oppressed, dominated nationality. And the people there in the '80s were waging a struggle to try to reduce that domination, by elimination of a dictator installed by the USA, and engaging in more independent course in the world, with benefits for its people. States often do end up doing things to benefit the people in periods of conflict and mass upsurge. The US federal state doesn't just do things for the benefit of the dominating classes, but also has provided various benefits for the working class, in reaction to periods of conflict like the 1930s, when Social Security was created, and such. BBut that doesn't lead us to say we support the state.

author by Joepublication date Wed Apr 25, 2007 21:06Report this post to the editors

Ned how would you feel if in confronting a KKK supporter they said 'blacks can be racist too' or in confronting a sexist they said 'some women hate men'. I'd like to presume you'd recognise these as poor excuses to justify their own racism or sexism.

I'd also like to presume that if on proposing a demonstration against racism or the sexism to a liberal they replied 'well both sides as bad as each other' you'd be capable of seeing the flaw in this 'do nothing' argument. That is that the actual relations of power in society mean the impact of white racism against black people is very much more significant that its reverse. The main problem is one of the power of one 'race' to control another.

Yet in response to a position paper that points out that a tiny handful of imperialist countries run the world you seem to imagine that "Well all countries do that with one another to a greater and lesser degree" is a reply. On that basis US imperialism is the same sort of problem as Icelandic imperialism so we shouldn't worry about it.

You might see this as a coherent theoretical position but really it fails the number one test of any theory, to describe the world as it actually is. Icelandic bombers do not fly across the world to destroy workplaces and homes of those who displease the Icelandic government. US bombers do. The reason we focus on US (and other imperialisms) is because in the real world these are the forces that dictate the world economy and bomb into submission those who refuse this dictate. It may be that the government of Iceland dreams of doing this to the USA but they can't.

Because anarchism went through a long period of marginalisation many fell into the temptation of retreating to the sphere of abstract theory where the only measure of success or failure was a theories internal consistency. Continuing on that path is a recipe for continued marginalisation. If we can't address the real issues that effect workers - and these issue include being bombed by imperialist powers - then we have nothing to say. We have become hobbyists whose sole role is boasting to other hobbyists about how good we consider ourselves at our hobby.

You go on to say "A race is a group of people defined by common appearance and/r heritage - a nation is a bourgeois institution of class society"

I'm not at all sure where you pulled those different definitions from - I suspect you made them up to try and defend your argument. As I already pointed out neither 'races' nor 'nations' are real. Both are constructs of class society drawn up on very similar methods in order to seperate one set of people from another by selecting supposed shared characteristics. But both can be real in the sense of people who have these characteristics are oppressed because of this. So just because neither race nor nation are real in an objective sense does not stop us opposing racial oppression or national oppression.

Because this oppression exists then there will be a fight against this oppression - and both the fights against national and racial oppression will tend to be cross class because significant aspects of the oppression happen regardless of the class of the person being oppressed. Under apartheid a black worker was quite likely to identify with a black shop keeper even if the white cop shooting at them was working class. Likewise if your district is getting bombed by US bombers then it probably seems sensible to team up with the banker who will pay for the SAM rather than the US worker dropping the bombs on your head.

Your 'analysis' attempts to turn this on its head so that in fact it becomes the worker taking the money off the banker who is responsible for the bomb being dropped. Your 'solution' to the whole problem consists of telling the worker not to take the money - put this way I think its easy to see why I consider such sloganeering to be ineffective. In fact it is the need of those fighting national or racial oppression for resources that puts them under the control of the local boss - and you can't wish that need away. Well aware of this dynamic the local boss class will often try and heighten sectarian conflict to cement this relationship but this is not the same thing as them creating it in the first place.

So how do anarchists deal with this? Do we suggest that the workers do not need to defend themselves from the bombers? Do we assure them that the simple act of raising a slogan of class solidarity will cause the US pilot to turn around and drop his bombs in the sea? This seems to be what your position amounts to. Its a lovely position but in almost all circumstances would not survive first contact in a conflict.

Or do we recognise that the workers threatened by the bombs have a right to defend themselves? On that basis we can say 'well why not use the power you have developed to fight the imperialists to take over society - if you need the bankers money why strike a deal with him when you have the power to simply take it'? This is an argument that does not collapse the moment the first bomb falls because it provides a response for what to do if the pilot bombs anyway.

And on the other side of the equation we argue with the pilot as to why he should not drop the bombs. We ask him why should he fly half way around the world to bomb workers that are much like him? Perhaps he would use your excuse of 'they would do it to us if we did not do it to them'. Certainly this is what he will have been told - US personnel was assured that Iraq was being bombed for just this reason. But our role is not to say 'your right' but rather to point to the reality of the power relations which mean that it is one imperialist power that carries out the bombing, again and again.

Then if we talk him out of dropping his bombs our comrades in the area under attack have something to say to the resistance. We can say in this case class solidarity has stopped the bombs - as yet this is not always the case but this shows that the pilot is not the enemy but the system that sent him is. We can ask how do we get more pilots to take the same decision. Class solidarity now starts to look like a convincing strategy.

Class solidarity can stop the bombs but it is not a slogan to be waived like a magic wand. It is something that only has meaning as it is built. In this case both sides may be influenced by nationalism but unless we can see beyond this to the realties of the situation, and argue accordingly, our slogans will have no meaning.

author by Joepublication date Wed Apr 25, 2007 21:19Report this post to the editors

I'm inclined to agree with your point which seems to be that it is important to distinguish between defence of a national liberation struggle (the right to fight back) and support for whichever individuals or organisations are the current leadership. I also think Wayne tends to confuse these not necesserly because he is confused but because he tends to use a tool kit of leninist terms that delibertely fail to distinguish one from the other. This is a common problem of adopting leninist terminology, the more familar example for anarchists being the all too common attempt to impose lenin's definition of the state on discussion about the state.

For that reason I'd encourage the use of the term 'defend' to get over the concept of a 'right' to resist imperialism but only use 'support' with regard to those organisations or individuals who we would actually support, critically or otherwise. I would defend the right of the workers of Lebanon to resist Israeli/US aggression - and as part of that say who they choose to lead such a struggle is up to them (and not the US or Europe) - but I wouldn't support, critically or otherwise their de facto choice of Hezbollah. And in the right context I'd have no hesitation in criticising them

This would mean that those organisations we critically support would be few and far between. A case for critical supports could be made for the Zapatistas in Mexico or in Iraq for the WCPI and the Southern Oil Workers Union or in Afghanistan for RAWA. All of these are national liberation organisations that platformists have fund raised for or provided a platform to which are clear examples of such critical support in practise.

author by Ned Luddpublication date Thu Apr 26, 2007 02:14Report this post to the editors

Just so nothing goes on behind anybody's back, there is a discussion on the web forum "libcom" on the subject of nationalism and NEFAC.


author by Waynepublication date Thu Apr 26, 2007 05:41Report this post to the editors

I am mostly in political agreement with Joe. If you want to use "defend" to mean be on their side in a military conflict, then I agree. And if you want to use "support" to only mean political support (be on their side in political conflicts, form united fronts with them, or even vote for them), well, okay. But, so we do not fool ourselves, when an imperialist power invades an oppressed nation, and the oppressed nation fights back, this includes the (no-good) rulers of that nation, who are invaded and whose right to fight back we defend, even as we are its all-out political opponents.

Similarly, in the U.S., if a military coup overthrew a Democratic Party government, I would defend ("support") the Democrats against the military, defending their right to be elected, but would not "support" the Democratic Party government as such. (using Tom's phrases). I would not vote for the Democrats under any conditions.

Tom says he opposed the U.S. contra war. DID HE ALSO OPPOSE THE FSLN'S WAR? Ned probably would, because he regards both sides as equally imperialist and bad. If Tom opposed only one side of war, then I do not care whether or not this is called "defence" or "military support" for the other side (the oppressed nation and its nationalist leadership). In that case we have the same actual position.

Ned refers to me as "Mr. Price" , I suppose, to show that I am not his comrade. How childish.

author by Joepublication date Thu Apr 26, 2007 19:30Report this post to the editors

Wayne I think the terminology used is of considerably less important than the positions behind those terms. However because leninists don't need to make the level of distinctions that anarchists do on this topic its hard to express an anarchist position in those traditional left terms. There are similar cases (eg using workers self management as opposed to workers control)

I think your use of the terms makes it much easier for sectarians to misrepresent what you write - they would do so anyway but it would be a little bit more transparent with a different terminology.

author by Ned Luddpublication date Fri Apr 27, 2007 03:06Report this post to the editors

"Wayne" wrote:

"Ned refers to me as 'Mr. Price' , I suppose, to show that I am not his comrade. How childish."

Sorry if you took it that way, I was just trying to be respectful, seeing as I'd never met you before or knew you or anything. Also, I'm just a young whipper-snapper, and so feel if I'm going to disagree with you I should do so in the most polite way possible. I'd be honored to be your comrade - even if we disagree on some things.

Best wishes

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Fri Apr 27, 2007 13:00Report this post to the editors

We would oppose the U.S. attacks, via their contra terrorist proxies, against Nicaragua. We don't have to support a government to oppose the US attacks on it. We didn't in any way support Saddam Hussein despite opposing the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He was a murderous fascist. In the case of Nicaragua, at least there were positive aspects to what the FSLN in power was doing, and we could support those, like the housing program, for example. Similarly, we can support the Dems passing card check even tho presumably we don't support the Dems. We could also support the actual fight of the people of Nicaragua against the contras, again, without this meaning that we support the FSLN party.

author by Chacalón - Anarkismopublication date Fri Apr 27, 2007 21:56Report this post to the editors

author by Waynepublication date Sat Apr 28, 2007 05:13Report this post to the editors

(1) Apologies to Ned Ludd because I misunderstood his use of the honorific "Mr." before my name. He should feel free to call me Wayne.

(2) Joe and I agree that terminology is not as important as the underlying meaning of what you believe. But I do not in fact find anarchist terminology to be clearer than the classical Leninist terminology on this topic. That is too bad, from my point of view. We could discuss this some other time.

(3) Tom does not answer my question. Of course we oppose U.S. imperialism when it wages war against Central American or Middle Eastern nations (even those with nationalist leaderships). But do we ALSO oppose those Central American or Middle Eastern countries when they wage war against U.S. imperialism? Ned says yes. I say no. What does Tom say?

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Sat Apr 28, 2007 07:52Report this post to the editors

Wayne asks if we should support countries that wage war against the USA. Maybe I'm not clear about what Wayne has in mind. Were the people of Nicaragua "waging war on US imperialism" when they fought against the contras? I'd support them doing that.

Let me take a concrete example. In 1936 the Catalan anarchists made contact with a bourgeois national liberation group in Morocco, the Moroccan Action Committee. They got the popular front parties and government in Catalonia to agree to recognize the independence of Morocco and agree to provide arms to the MAC. That is an example of supporting a national liberation movement against imperialism (Spanish and French). The MAC would have "waged war" against both the French and Spanish armies. I think that would have been a very wise thing for the Spanish anarchists to do. (Their proposal was vetoed by the Socialist leader, Largo Caballero, after the French government got wind of the proposal.)

But this was a case of a revolution and the Spanish working class was desperate for allies. This doesn't mean they'd support the Moroccan elite running that country, tho, even if that might be the practical effect in the short run.

author by Waynepublication date Sat Apr 28, 2007 14:24Report this post to the editors

Excellent. Now we are getting somewhere. Tom says he would "support" "the people of Nicaragua" when they waged war against the U.S.-backed contras. (He does not acknowledge that the Nicaraguan people were--unfortunately--led by the statist Sandinistas and therefore this means--in practice--defending the right of the Sandinistas to lead the Nicaraguan people against the contras--until anarchists could overthrow them.)

Tom agree with the Spanish anarchists who tried to get the Catalan state to recognize the independence of Morocco and to give bourgeois Moroccan nationalists arms (military support). This was at a time when many of the fascist forces were Moroccans and the fascist military bases were in Morocco. Indeed an excellent thing to do!

However, I did not ask " if we should support countries that wage war against the USA." I asked, since we oppose the U.S. waging war, "do we ALSO oppose those Central American or Middle Eastern countries when they wage war against U.S. imperialism?" This seems to me to be a simple question. It does not raise the terms "support". I note that the sectarians, such as Ned Ludd and the majority of those who write on the site, would oppose both sides, the oppressor and the oppressed. What is the opinion of Tom and his fellow anarcho-syndicalists?

author by Kdogpublication date Sun Apr 29, 2007 00:34Report this post to the editors

Some quick thoughts:

1. Thanks to Wayne for writing this. It is too bad the discussion of Love & Rage has been reduced to simply discussing national liberation. But apparently this continues to be a point of contention among revolutionary anarchists, and since this was one of the distinguishing features of Love & Rage I guess it is appropriate.

2. I want to give support/defense ; ) to Wayne's broad position on National Liberation: That nationally, ethnically & racially oppressed people fighting against imperialism are not the same as Imperialism. That nationalism is not a full break from Imperialism (and capitalism, patriarchy, etc.). And that anarchists should intervene/participate in struggles against imperialism ("National Liberation Struggles") countering nationalist politics with revolutionary anarchist politics.

3. In my opinion, anarchists who refuse to deal seriously with Imperialism, racism, White supremacy, etc. on the basis that the opposition is nationalist, actually do more to strengthen nationalism, since they abandon the playing field to the nationalists, helping ensure that grassroots struggle against imperialism only develops into projects for new capitalist or state-capitalist states.

4. Finally a disagreeement with Wayne's approach:
Wayne asks comrades to clarify whether their opposition to the US funded/directed wars in Central America in the 80's included opposition to the FSLN's defensive war against these attacks.

I don't think this is an effective way to pose the problem. I support and I think others should support the people of Nicaragua resisting the US contra-revolution- even through the military of the Sandinista state. However, there are lots of aspects of the FSLN's war I do not support (and the fact that the war against the contras could only be effectively conducted throught the FSLN military was a problem).

For instance, as Tom has highlighted, we should not have supported the Sandinista state's authoritarian encroachment of the Atlantic Coast and Miskito Indian communities. We should not have supported the Draft. We should not have supported the FSLN's efforts to militarize production, education, and society as a whole.

We may be able to seperate out the different aspects of the war conducted by the FSLN, but to the FSLN they were all part of the same war effort, with the same goals. So I don't think a simple YES-NO answer suffices.

Instead I think we should argue for, and CREATE where possible Liberatrian alternatives to nationalist and marxist conceptions of national liberation. This neccesarily involves seperating out the different aspects.



author by Waynepublication date Sun Apr 29, 2007 13:30Report this post to the editors

Kdog and I are in agreement--even in the part where he thinks we aren't.

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Mon Apr 30, 2007 05:04Report this post to the editors

I guess I'm not clear what Wayne means when he asks whether we should oppose countries "who wage war on the US". What exactly is he referring to here? For example, the people of Iraq oppose the US occupation. Does he mean, should we oppose the Baathist or Islamist insurgent groups attacking US troops? The thing is, we don't support the US troops being there to begin with. We were and are opposed to that.

author by Waynepublication date Mon Apr 30, 2007 10:43Report this post to the editors

Tom seems to have difficulty with my simple question. He asks what I mean. " Does he mean, should we oppose the Baathist or Islamist insurgent groups attacking US troops?" Yes, that is precisely what I am asking. This is not the same thing as asking if we give support to the politics, programs, leadership, or structure of Baathist or Islamist insurgent groups. Just, do we oppose their attacking U.S. troops. We condemn them for attacking other Iraqis. Do we also condemn them for resisting U.S. troops?

For example, if the U.S. was fighting a war with another imperialist power, we would oppose both sides, we would (at least in principle) be for a peace movement in each country. Ned Ludd and the "left communist" majority on the site believe that this applies also to, say, Iraq, Palestine, or Nicaragua (countries I regard as oppressed). I, on the other hand, do not. Tom is having a lot of trouble responding.

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Tue May 01, 2007 01:55Report this post to the editors

I'd say I neither support nor oppose the particular armed resistanance groups in Iraq. That's because we oppose the occupation, and therefore there is good reason that people there might fight back. This is true even if we might not like any particular armed group who is doing so. We support those members of the armed forces who choose to refuse to go there, who refuse to fight.

author by Waynepublication date Tue May 01, 2007 02:52Report this post to the editors

(1) Then Tom and I are more-or-less in agreement.

(2) Readers of Anarkismo should be aware that there is an international campaign being waged against me and my organization, NEFAC in North America, on the site (see Ned Ludd's post above for the email address). On the basis of my opposition to the oppression of imperialized nations (that is, my support for national liberation), it is declared that I am pro-nationalist (even if I claim to be anti-nationalist). Since platformism claims to be for theoretical unity, and since NEFAC is against nationalism, it is asked why NEFAC does not expell me. While some of the writers are genuinely curious, there are several who are clearly malicious. Politically these writers, who identify with "left communism," are anti-union, deny the reallity of imperialism centered in a few countries, deny that countries can be oppressed, and are opposed to the slogan, "U.S. Withdrawal from Iraq!" Generally they seem to overestimate my importance to NEFAC, because they do not live in northeastern North America and mostly have contact with us though the internet. I suppose the principle is that "any stick will do to beat a dog." The last time I looked, this thread had reached 23 pages. An odd development.

author by Irving da Nailepublication date Sun May 20, 2007 01:49Report this post to the editors

I'm afraid I don't see the distinction between "military/technical" support and "political" support. Let's face it, if a particular statist organization or regime wins the military struggle they will be in the position to carry out or continue to carry out their political program. How do you get around this little condundrum?

author by javierpublication date Mon May 21, 2007 01:24Report this post to the editors

Through keeping a separate organization with clear political positios, critizicing those of the organizations you support and coordinate with, in the fight of a common enemy, where you disagree with them and trying to build up your own forces.

It will not magically change the relation of forces but not cooperating would be sectarian and playing into the hands of this common enemy and would alienate you from the people who support that struggle. It is not an option. Say, your country is being invaded you coordinate with the rest the resistance to the invasion while keeping your forces separate knowing that after the dust settles the fight will continue along different lines. It is different form your country invading another, in wich case you should boycott and try to generate political unrest (if you can´t topple the government because the masses are not willing to start the revolution) trying to force the government to retreat in fear of its rearguard crumbling.

author by Waynepublication date Tue May 22, 2007 06:48Report this post to the editors

Javier makes the right answer. Let me add: "Let's face it..." if a union goes on strike and we revolutionary anarchists support (defend) the strike, and if the union wins (with higher wages for the workers), won't this mean the victory of the union bureaucracy? So, if we defend the union and its strike, then isn't this the same as being political supporters of the union's reformist leadership? Or if we support the struggle for women's right to an abortion, which is (unfortunately) mostly led by bourgeois feminist reformists, is it possible for us to also be political opponents of the bourgeois feminist leadership? I could go on. The methodology used by Irving applies to all struggles short of the worldwide anarchist workingclass revolution, and leads to a sterile sectarian passivity. Our method is to make a distinction between the mass struggles and the bougeois misleadership. We defend the popular struggle but oppose the bourgeois leaders.

author by José Antonio Gutiérrezpublication date Tue May 22, 2007 17:55Report this post to the editors

I'll start by saying that I agree fully with the opinions of both Javier and Wayne. That said, I want to call on the attention that the way in which the debate around the national question (or union bureaucracy to a lesser degree) is posed, deals with our movement only as mere spectators. "Anarchists support others or anarchists condemn others". The way in which Irving posed his question is symptomatical of this.

Is as if it seems that anarchists are unable to build an alternative of their own. The problem is this kind of positions lead, as Wayne correctly says, to "sectarian passivity". An therefore, it becomes more and more difficult to build an alternative.

Since the decline of anarchism in the mass movement in the first half of the XXth century, anarchists seem to have become accustomed to their role as satellites, doing politics around others (whether the USSR & the CP, the guerrillas, Chávez, etc. the list is endless), condemning most of the times and less frequently, cheering.

With the re-emergence of the anarchist movement and the new social context that seems more and more favourable for a libertarian alternative, this is starting to change. But there's still a long way to go in defeating this culture, and the main problem we find is that, for long, our movement stopped doing politics around concrete problems of the day. And as other political options took the lead in reflecting and constructing proposals around those problems (one of the biggest having been the anti-colonial struggle of the XXth century), many anarchists seem to have confused the problems themselves with "someone else's politics".

While accepting the importance of national liberation and anti-colonial struggle (and also, accepting the particular nasty form of oppression that imperialism and colonialism are), we have to accept the right to oppose it by all sectors of the oppressed population. This does not mean to ignore our politics, both to analyse and criticise. And also it does not replace the biggest issue that Javier states: the organisation of an autonomous libertarian political force. This is the really crucial matter. Unfortunately, only seldom, this question is posed in those terms.

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