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<html>
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<title>D.7 Are anarchists opposed to National Liberation struggles?</title>
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<p>
<H1>D.7 Are anarchists opposed to National Liberation struggles?</H1>
<p>
While anarchists are opposed to nationalism (see <a href="secD6.html">last section</a>), this does
not mean that they are indifferent to national liberation struggles. Quite
the opposite. In the words of Bakunin, <i>"I feel myself always the patriot of
all oppressed fatherlands. . . Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact
which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general
acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that
which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is
not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every
nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to
live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of
the general principal of freedom."</i> [quoted by Alfredo M. Bonanno in
<b>Anarchism and the National Liberation Struggle</b>, pp. 19-20]
<p>
More recently Murray Bookchin has expressed similar sentiments: <i>"No left
libertarian. . . can oppose the <b>right</b> of a subjugated people to establish
itself as an autonomous entity -- be it in a [libertarian] confederation.
. . or as a nation-state based in hierarchical and class inequities."</i>
[<i>"Nationalism and the 'National Question'"</i>, <b>Society and Nature</b>,
pp. 8-36, No. 5, , p. 31] Even so, anarchists do not elevate the
idea of national liberation into a mindless article of faith, as much
of the Leninist-influenced left has done this century, calling for
support for the oppressed nation without first inquiring into <i>"what
kind of society a given 'national liberation' movement would likely
produce."</i> To do so, as Bookchin points out, would be to <i>"support national
liberation struggles for instrumental purposes, merely as a means
of 'weakening' imperialism,"</i> which leads to <i>"a condition of moral
bankruptcy"</i> as socialist ideas become associated with the authoritarian
and statist goals of the "anti-imperialist" dictatorships in "liberated"
nations. [<b>Ibid.</b>, pp. 25-31] <i>"But to oppose an oppressor is not
equivalent to calling for <b>support</b> for everything formerly colonised
nation-states do."</i> [<b>Ibid.</b>, p. 31]
<p>
Thus anarchists oppose foreign oppression and are usually sympathetic
to attempts by those who suffer it to end it. This does not mean that
we necessarily support national liberation movements as such (after all,
they usually desire to create a new state) but we cannot sit back
and watch one nation oppress another and so act to stop that oppression 
(by, for example, protesting against the oppressing nation and trying 
to get them to change their policies and withdraw from the oppressed 
nations affairs).
<p>
A major problem with national liberation struggles is that they usually
counterpoise the common interests of "the nation" to those of an
oppressor, but assume that <b>class</b> is irrelevant. Although nationalist
movements often cut across classes, they still seek to increase autonomy
for certain parts of society while ignoring that of other parts. For
anarchists, a new national state would not bring any fundamental change in
the lives of most people, who would still be powerless both economically
and socially. Looking around the world at all the many nation-states in
existence, we see the same gross disparities in power, influence and
wealth restricting self-determination for working-class people, even if
they are free "nationally." It seems hypocritical for nationalist leaders
to talk of liberating their own nation from imperialism while advocating
the creation of a capitalist nation-state, which will be oppressive to
its own population and, perhaps, eventually become imperialistic itself
as it develops to a certain point and has to seek foreign outlets for
its products and capital in order to continue economic growth and realise
suitable profit levels (as is happening, for example, with South Korea).
<p>
In response to national liberation struggles, anarchists stress the
self-liberation of the working class, which can be only achieved by its
members' own efforts, creating and using their own organisations. In 
this process there can be no separation of political, social and economic
goals. The struggle against imperialism cannot be separated from the
struggle against capitalism. This has been the approach of most, if 
not all, anarchist movements in the face of foreign domination -- 
the combination of the struggle against foreign domination with the
class struggle against native oppressors. In many different countries
(including Bulgaria, Mexico, Cuba and Korea) anarchists have tried, by
their <i>"propaganda, and above all <b>action</b>, [to] encourage the masses to
turn the struggle for political independence into the struggle for the
Social Revolution."</i> [Sam Dolgoff, <b>The Cuban Revolution - A critical
perspective</b>, p. 41 - Dolgoff is referring to the Cuban movement here,
but his comments are applicable to most historical -- and current --
situations]
<p>
Moreover, we should point out that Anarchists in imperialist countries
have also opposed national oppression by both words and deeds. For
example, the prominent Japanese Anarchist Kotoku Shusi was framed
and executed in 1910 after campaigning against Japanese expansionism.
In Italy, the anarchist movement opposed Italian expansionism into Eritrea
and Ethiopia in the 1880s and 1890s, and organised a massive anti-war
movement against the 1911 invasion of Libya. In 1909, the Spanish
Anarchists organised a mass strike against intervention in Morocco.
More recently, anarchists in France struggled against two colonial wars
(in Indochina and Algeria) in the late 50's and early 60's, anarchists
world-wide opposed US aggression in Latin America and Vietnam (without,
we must note, supporting the Cuban and Vietnamese Stalinist regimes),
opposed the Gulf War (during which most anarchists raised the call of
<b><i>"No war but the class war"</i></b>) as well as opposing Soviet imperialism.
<p>
In practise national liberation movements are full of contradictions between
the way the rank and file sees progress being made (and their hopes and
dreams) and the wishes of their ruling class members/leaders. The leadership
will always resolve this conflict in favour of the future ruling class.
Most of the time that makes it possible for individuals members of these
struggles to realise this and break from these politics towards anarchism.
But at times of major conflict this contradiction will become very apparent
and at this stage it's possible that large numbers may break from nationalism
<b>if</b> an alternative that addresses their concerns exists. Providing that
anarchist do not compromise our ideals such movements against foreign
domination can be wonderful opportunities to spread our politics, ideals
and ideas -- and to show up the limitations and dangers of nationalism itself
and present a viable alternative.
<p>
For anarchists, the key question is whether freedom is for abstract
concepts like "the nation" or for the individuals who make up the
nationality and give it life. Oppression must be fought on all fronts,
within nations and internationally, in order for working-class people to
gain the fruits of freedom. Any national liberation struggle which bases
itself on nationalism is doomed to failure as a movement for extending
human freedom. Thus anarchists <i>"refuse to participate in national liberation 
fronts; they participate in class fronts which may or may not be involved 
in national liberation struggles. The struggle must spread to establish 
economic, political and social structures in the liberated territories, 
based on federalist and libertarian organisations."</i> [Alfredo M. Bonanno, 
<b>Anarchism and the National Liberation Struggle</b>, p. 12]
<p>
So while anarchists unmask nationalism for what it is, we do not disdain
the basic struggle for identity and self-management which nationalism
diverts. We encourage direct action and the spirit of revolt against all
forms of oppression -- social, economic, political, racial, sexual,
religious and national. By this method, we aim to turn national liberation
struggles into <b>human</b> liberation struggles. And while fighting against
oppression, we struggle for anarchy, a free confederation of communes
based on workplace and community assemblies. A confederation which will
place the nation-state, all nation-states, into the dust-bin of history
where it belongs. 
<p>
And as far as "national" identity within an anarchist society is concerned,
our position is clear and simple. As Bakunin noted with respect to the
Polish struggle for national liberation during the last century,
anarchists, as <i>"adversaries of every State, . . . reject the rights and
frontiers called historic. For us Poland only begins, only truly exists
there where the labouring masses are and want to be Polish, it ends where,
renouncing all particular links with Poland, the masses wish to establish
other national links."</i> [quoted in <i>"Bakunin"</i>, Jean Caroline Cahm, in
<b>Socialism and Nationalism</b>, volume 1, pp. 22-49, p. 43]
<p>
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