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Lessons for the anarchist movement of the Israeli-Lebanese War
international | imperialism / war | feature Friday August 25, 2006 18:56 by Wayne Price drwdprice at aol dot com
The Anarchist Debate About National Liberation
The war between Israel and Hezballah is temporarily over. The left has taken a range of positions on the Israeli-Lebanese war. Anarchists have opposed the U.S.-Israeli aggression, pointing out the reactionary nature of both sides in the war. However, many have tended to equate the two sides, to treat them as equally bad, and to call for opposing the war on both sides. While there is a good deal of confusion on this issue among anarchists, it is my impression that most have failed to support the oppressed against the oppressor in this war.
Ver en Castellano Lecciones de la Guerra Israelí-Libanesa
Lessons of the Israeli-Lebanese War
The Anarchist Debate About National Liberation
The war between Israel (with full backing by the U.S.) and Hezballah (and the rest of Lebanon) is over--temporarily. “Temporarily” because no major issue has been settled, particularly Israel’s colonialist role in the Middle East. Meanwhile the war between the U.S. and Iraq has intensified, while the Iraqi sectarian civil war also increases. The U.S.-Afghanistan war continues. And there is good evidence that the Bush administration intends to attack Iran. Peace is not at hand.
The Left, such as it is, has taken a range of positions on the Israeli-Lebanese war, as part of its positions on the Middle Eastern wars in general. First, the liberals have continued to support the U.S. state as well as the Israeli state, but have wanted them to clean up their acts, to show smarter and more sophisticated behaviors. For years, the liberal wing of the U.S. antiwar movement has fought to keep the issue of Israel vs. the Palestinians out of antiwar protests. Now that they had to directly address U.S.-Israeli aggression, they claimed that, while Israel had the “right” to “defend itself,” it was being “excessive” and “disproportionate.” Instead, these pro-Israeli doves advocated a “cease-fire,” equating the two sides, the aggressor and the victim. They should both stop fighting. Mostly liberals supported the demand for Hezballah to disarm (but not a call for Israel to disarm!). They cheer on the current (temporary) resolution of the war by which various imperialist powers and other states intervene as sheriffs to “keep the peace,” more or less.
Secondly, the radical Left mostly became a cheering squad for Hezballah, as well as Hamas, as it had for the fundamentalist-led resistance in Iraq. (No one is cheering on the Taliban in Afghanistan; this would be too much even for most radical Leftists, I guess.) I am speaking of the Workers World Party and its fronts and splits, as well as the International Socialist Organization in the U.S. and its co-thinkers, the Socialist Workers Party in Britain--among others. They have focused on the undeniable evils of the Israeli attack and on the popular support for Hezballah which has swept Lebanon and the rest of the Arab and Muslim world.
This has a somewhat odd effect. During the U.S.-Vietnam war, it was possible to portray the “Communist” side (Stalinist-totalitarian nationalists) as “socialists.” But there is no way to put a progressive spin on Hezballah and like-minded forces. They are for theocratic dictatorships, with no rights for dissident religions, minority nationalities, workers, or women. In the absence of an alternative, they have become the leaders of movements for national defense against foreign occupations. This can and should be said. But for secular Leftists to uncritically hail them as though they were proletarian socialists is bizarre. For anarchists, the point is not just that we do not like such ideas, but that these programs will not liberate Lebanon and other countries from imperialism. Only the anarchist program can do that.
Thirdly, the anarchists have clearly opposed the U.S.-Israeli aggression. They have pointed out the reactionary nature of both sides in the war. However, many have tended to equate the two sides, to treat them as equally bad, and to call for opposing the war on both sides. While there is a good deal of confusion on this issue among anarchists, it is my impression that most have failed to support the oppressed against the oppressor in this war (and in the other Middle Eastern wars).
Instead, I propose a different anarchist approach: Revolutionary anarchists should, at the same time, (1) be in solidarity with the people of the oppressed nation against the oppressor (in this case Lebanon against the U.S.-Israel), while (2) politically opposing all bourgeois-statist (nationalist, Islamist, etc.) programs and leaderships (here Hezballah, other nationalists, etc.) in favor of revolutionary, internationalist socialist-anarchism. By “solidarity” I mean being “on the side of” the people of the oppressed nation, supporting them against attacks from their oppressors. (Which does not prevent us from sympathy for Israeli--and U.S.--soldiers, but this is a sympathy due to their humanity and their working class background, not a solidarity with their being soldiers.)
It does NOT mean slogans such as “Victory to Hezballah!” or “We are all Hezballah!”, slogans which imply political agreement with Hezballah. Recently a group of Gay anarchists in New York City called off a demonstration at the Iranian embassy against the persecution of Iranian Gays. They did not want to play into the hands of U.S. government preparations for war against Iran. I would have preferred that they demonstrated, with signs saying, “U.S. State, Hands Off Iran! Iranian State, Hands Off Gays!”
Class and Non-Class Oppressions
This issue is an aspect of a broader question: the relationship between class issues and specific nonclass issues when seeking liberation. The problem of oppression may be divided between class exploitation and other, nonclass, forms of oppression. Class exploitation refers to the way the capitalists pump surplus value out of the workers (and also to the exploitation of peasants by landlords and capitalists). Nonclass oppressions include the oppression of women (gender), of People of Color (race), of Gays and Lesbians (homophobia), of minority religions, of youth, etc., as well as national oppression. Working class oppression is specific to capitalism and its resolution requires socialist revolution. The other oppressions (even that of the peasants--who are still a large proportion of humanity) are often remnants from pre-capitalism. They are forms of oppression which capitalism, in its revolutionary youth, “promised” to abolish. This was the bourgeois-democratic program as raised in the great capitalist revolutions of England, the U.S., France, and Latin America.
Of course, the capitalists never lived up to their democratic program. They have rather integrated specific oppressions into their system as bulwarks of capitalist exploitation. Some of these oppressions may have been started by early capitalism or by pre-capitalist class exploitation (that is, by economic forces)--but they have taken on lives of their own and exist on their own inertia. All forms of oppression, including class, are intertwined, lean on each other, and prop up each other.
Historically, the class struggle tendency within anarchism (anarchist-syndicalism and most anarchist-communism) has focused on the workers’ class struggle against the capitalists. They have often treated nonclass oppressions as unimportant, as illusions created by the capitalists to trick the workers, to split and weaken the working class. Once this is pointed out to the workers, supposedly, they would see through this trick and unite against the bosses. This simplistic view is also raised in a crude version of Marxism.
In the radicalization of the 60s and 70s, there were upheavals by African-Americans, women, Gays and Lesbians, and other oppressed people, including worldwide struggles by oppressed nations against imperialism. In our current period of radicalization, the vital importance of the working class has been recognized by many radicals. Only the workers, as workers, could stop all society in its tracks and start it up on a new, nonexploitative, basis. The working class overlaps with and includes all other oppressed groupings: women, most People of Color, and so on. To the extent that it is true that the working class is conservative, or at least nonrevolutionary, this is the same as saying that most of the population is nonrevolutionary. There is no other, nonclass, majority capable of overthrowing capitalism.
However, the true lessons of the sixties remain. It is impossible to ignore the importance of the special, nonclass, oppressions. For example, racism was created by early capitalism as a justification for African enslavement (that is, of exploitation of a form of labor). And it continues to have class advantages for the capitalists. But it has also taken on a life of its own. Racism is real. The prejudices, and even hatred, which many white workers hold for People of Color does not depend on rational causes and will not immediately vanish with good arguments about the value of class unity. We cannot call on African-Americans to stop fighting for their specific democratic rights until the white population gives up its racism.
An understanding of the reality of special oppressions does not deny the valid insights of historical materialism. It does not deny the importance of class analysis. To repeat, many oppressions were created by current or past material (class) factors. All of them interact with capitalism (that is, the capital-labor relationship). All are affected by capitalism, as they affect it in turn (dialectically, shall we say). For example, the oppression of women predates capitalism, and may even predate class society of any type (we really do not know). But it has been greatly modified by capitalism to fit the bourgeois family and the capitalist economy.
National Oppression and Liberation
Most anarchists today (with certain sectarian exceptions) accept the reality and importance of specific, nonclass, oppressions. Mostly anarchists are committed to the struggle for specific democratic rights by women, African-Americans, Native Americans, Gays and Lesbians, prisoners, and other oppressed groups.
But strangely enough, many anarchists who champion nonclass liberation struggles often refuse to support national liberation (here meaning the same as national self-determination: the right of a people to determine its own fate). National liberation is also not a direct class struggle, even though its connections to capitalism are pretty clear. That is, the big capitalists of the industrialized nations seek to expand their wealth by dominating the weaker, “underdeveloped,” nations. The international capitalists seek to super-exploit the workers of these nations (workers who accept lower wages), to sell goods to their states and populations, and to loot their natural resources--oil being the most important resource but not the only one. This is imperialism. Since the imperialist states no longer directly “own” colonies, this is its neocolonialist phase. The oppressed people of these nations are mostly workers, peasants, and small shopkeepers. But they also include “middle class” and upper class layers. These either aspire to be the local agents of imperialism or to replace the imperialists as the new rulers (or both).
In reaction to foreign oppression, the people of these nations develop a desire for national freedom. First they want their “own” state, and then other measures of independence from the imperialists, such as not being invaded, as well as not being economically dominated. In the absence of an alternative they turn to nationalism. Nationalism is not just a love of one’s country and a desire for its freedom. As a developed program, it means the unity of all sectors of a country, the rich and poor, capitalists and workers, landlords and peasants, patriarchal men and women, the dominant nation and minorities, all “united” against other nations, including THEIR workers, peasants, women, and national/racial minorities. The aim is an independent national state, with its own army, secret police, flag, and postage stamps, and its own national rulers. Meanwhile the capitalists of the imperialist countries encourage nationalism (or patriotism) among their workers, to maintain their rule and use the workers as soldiers against the oppressed nations.
As a program in oppressed nations, nationalism may win some benefits for the people, and even more benefits for its aspiring new rulers. But it cannot free any nation from the world market or the power politics of great states. It cannot achieve real independence. As can be seen from the fate of China and Vietnam, as well as India and the African states, nationalism has resulted in new oppressions. Franz Fanon wrote penetratingly about this. The worst example of the way the nationalism of an oppressed people has resulted in new oppression, is Zionist Israel. Only an international revolution by the working class and all the oppressed can free the oppressed nations. (I am asserting this here, not arguing for it.)
But nationalism is not the same as national liberation. Similarly, bourgeois varieties of feminism are not the same as women’s liberation. Black liberation is not the same as liberal integrationism or Farakhan’s nationalism. It is possible to be for national liberation without being for the program of nationalism. An example of a national liberation struggle being waged with a non-nationalist program was that of Nestor Makhno’s anarchist-led effort in the Ukraine from 1917 to 1921. This was fueled by the Ukrainians’ hatred of foreign occupation by German-Austrian imperialism, Russian Bolshevism, and Polish aggression. Makhno’s anarchist biographer calls it “a savage war of national liberation.” (Skirda, 2004, p. 44). But Makhno never ceased to raise class issues (domination by the capitalists and landlords) and to advocate socialist-anarchist internationalism.
The Makhnovist movement declared (in October 1919), “Each national group has a natural and indisputible entitlement to...maintain and develop its national culture in every sphere. It is clear that this...has nothing to do with narrow nationalism of the ‘separtist’ variety....We proclaim the right of the Ukrainian people (and every other nation) to self-determination, not in the narrow nationalist sense of a Petliura, but in the sense of the toilers’ right to self-determiantion.” (in Skirda, 2004, pp. 377-378)
Arguments Against National Liberation
Most anarchist arguments against supporting national liberation are based in anarchism’s well-founded opposition to nationalism. Anarchists do not believe that founding new states will free oppressed people. Class struggle anarchists emphasize the centrality of the class struggle, and also point out the other (nonclass) conflicts within each nation. Anarchists oppose the politics and organization of bourgeois-statist erstwhile rulers, whether they call themselves Ayatollahs or socialists or Little Brothers of the Poor. All this is absolutely correct.
But it does not mean that anarchists must oppose national liberation or be neutral when an imperialist or colonialist state attacks an oppressed (“Third World”) nation. Anarchists must be on the side of the oppressed. Once again: there is no contradiction between solidarity with the oppressed people under attack and being in political opposition to the misleaders of that people. Similarly, we can support a workers’ strike and stand in solidarity with the workers and their union, while being the bitterest foes of the union bureaucracy. If anarchists can do this, then they can do the same with national wars by oppressed nations.
Some anarchists have made the argument that they should not support oppressed nations because...there are no such thing as nations. Nations do not exist! As if France and Argentina are not real. It is true that nations are social constructions--that is, they are created by people as opposed to being biological categories. It is true that the boundaries of nations are often unclear: is Quebec a nation? If so, then is Canada a nation? Is India a nation or a conglomeration of many nations? These points are valid but apply also to other categories. Classes are social constructions. The boundaries between classes are unclear. Are the unemployed part of the working class or are they “lumpen proletarians”? Is the “middle class” a class? The same is true of other categories. Even gender, biologically based as it is, is socially constructed in how society interprets that biological given. This does not mean that class or gender is an illusion any more than nations are illusions.
People believe they are in nations and act on that belief. An institution is nothing else than a pattern of mass behavior. Michael Bakunin wrote, “Nationality, like individuality, is a natural fact. It denotes the inalienable right of individuals, groups, associations, and regions to their own way of life. And this way of life is the product of a long historical development [a confluence of human beings with a common history, language, and a common cultural background]. And this is why I will always champion the cause of oppressed nationalities struggling to liberate themselves from the domination of the state.” (Dolgoff, 1980, p. 401) By “nationality...is a natural fact,” he means, not that nationality is a biological fact, but that it is created mostly by unplanned, unpurposive, social history.
Another argument is that national self-determination (liberation) is a democratic right, and anarchists should not be for democratic rights or for democracy. Democracy and its rights were, after all, raised by the capitalist class as a weapon against the feudal lords. It has served, and continues to serve, as a cover for capitalist rule. It has also been raised by Leninists (Trotskyists and Stalinists alike) as a cover for their state-capitalist rule. Again, these points are true.
It would be disasterous for anarchists to position themselves as antidemocratic. Anarchism should be presented as the most radical, thorough-going, and consistent form of democracy. Democracy did not begin with capitalism. The very term comes from classical Greece. It goes back to tribal councils of early humanity. It includes the struggles for freedom of the bourgeois-democratic revolutions, including the later struggles of the abolitionists. It includes the hope of workers’ democracy.
The problem with capitalism (and Leninism) is not democracy but a lack of democracy and of democratic rights. Capitalism has betrayed its own democratic promises. Anarchists will make good those promises: free speech and association; no racial, national, or gender discrimination; land to the peasants; popular control of all institutions; and self-determination for all nations--among others.
Internationalism is Our Goal
Internationalists say “Workers have no country!” and “Workers of the world, unite!” But international working class unity is not yet a reality. It is a potentiality, something which can happen. And it is a goal, something we wish to happen. How shall we get there? Do we ask the oppressed to downplay their interests for the sake of a false unity? Do we ask People of Color or women or oppressed nationalities really to subordinate themselves to the better-off layers of the working class (the “labor aristocracy”) of the imperialist countries? Or do we seek to build working class unity by the better-off expressing solidarity with the most-oppressed? It is not the Lebanese Shiites who should give up their fight but the Israeli oppressors to whom we place the demand to give up their national privileges. Let the workers of Israel give up their support for national superiority and a “Jewish state”--then the workers and peasants of southern Lebanon can justly give up their need to defend themselves from the Zionist aggressors.
The differences between the world-spanning power of U.S. imperialism and its junior partners and the weak, poorer, oppressed nations of the Middle East and elsewhere has been made clear for all the world to see. It can be seen in the smashed cities and villages of Lebanon, as in the war-torn streets of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. It is absurd to treat a war between the U.S.-Israel and Arab peoples as the same as a war between France and Germany, two imperialisms. In the last case, workers should oppose both sides equally. Many anarchists misuse the slogan, “No war but class war!” This applies to wars among imperialist states (as in World Wars I and II) but not to wars between an imperialist state and an oppressed people. I would say, “No war but the just wars of the workers and oppressed!”
As Peter Kropotkin wrote, “True internationalism will never be obtained except by the independence of each nationality, little or large, compact or disunited--just as [the essence of] anarchy is in the independence of each individual. If we say, no government of man over man [Note], how can [we] permit the government of conquered nationalities by the conquering nationalities?” (quoted in Miller, 1976, p. 231)
As we are in solidarity with a strike while opposing the union bureaucracy, so we should be in solidarity with the people of oppressed nations while opposing their nationalist leaders. The world is a complex place, with much interconnection and overlapping of systems of oppression. We need concrete analyses of each situation (for example, the situation in Quebec is quite different from that of Iraq). Slogans are not enought. We need a sophisticated effort to express our politics.References
Dolgoff, Sam (ed. and trans.) (1980). Bakunin on Anarchism. Montreal: Black Rose Books.
For further on this topic, see my “The U.S. Deserves to Lose in Iraq but Should We ‘Support the Iraqi Resistance’? at http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=1016
Written for http://www.anarkismo.net
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"Natinal Liberation" and "self determination" can include both cases where external power exploit, suppress, and harase a population - including the working class in it. But it can also include cases where the suppress, and harased are mainly the upper class. In the middle East, the Israeli settler colonialist state exploit and suppress and harase The whole population. thus,
the struggle against it is in the interest of both classe.
In contradiction, In Tibet, the interests of the Feodal-religious elite jeopardized by the Chinese occupation, but it seems the serfs who were freed by them had gained mainly.
In Spain, it seems the the Katalan, and Basks the ones interested in the struggle are mainly the elite, and so is in Sardinia.
As for Lebanon, it was a battle ground for war of interests of others.
Though some extremists in Israel wanted the anexation of the Litany river for its water, it was never a real issue.
The 82 war was an onslought of Israel to defeat the PLO Palestinians who struggled about the Palestinian lands - not these of Lebanon.
The present war is too not about the Lebanese lands but between Israel and the Hizballah who act in the interest of Syria against Israeli occupation of south Syria and Iran regional interests.
The huge destruction of Lebanon by Israel and its temporary occupation is a big power imperialist act to force the Lebanese state to stop the use of Lebanon as base for war against Israel.
It stinks - but it has nothing to do with national liberation of Lebanon nor with self determination of its people.
I think that you’re off-mark here with your analysis of national liberation.
I do certainly agree that there are cases when the government of one nation is an aggressor, for example in an imperialist war, and that in such a case there is a clear case for recognizing one side as oppressed. You rightly point out that if such is the case, one should be careful not to support future ruling elites or nationalist leaders.
However I believe the issue is much more complex than you present it. In current global relations, there is often a struggle between foreign and domestic capital and this struggle often relies on the workers buying into the mythology that domestic capital will treat it better than foreign. This is certainly not the case. Second, there is a decreasing line of demarcation between foreign and domestic capital. In many places, this distinction is long obsolete as corporate interests are controlled by shareholders who may span the globe. The registered seat of a company may determine its “nationality” irrespective of its owners. Despite this, national minded people around the world look to support local capitalist concerns in the false notion of fighting against foreign economic imperialism. This economic element is most certainly brought into most movements against imperialism.
From what I have read, you should be in agreement with this idea that changing the hands of capital does not necessarily bring any effect.
So a more clear cut case for “national liberation” would be to rid oneself of a foreign occupier. But this would only make sense in the case where locals are more repressed by the foreign occupier, for example, the are disenfranchised, not allowed to engage in certain activity or are to be plundered of property, displaced or ethnically cleansed. Clearly there are cases in the Middle East where homes have been destroyed, populations attacked and forceably moved and people have been surrounded by fences, policed and limited in their freedoms. Ostensibly, “national liberation” in that case would mean simply fighting off the aggressor and recapturing land and resources which were stolen.
But what do you actually mean by “national self-determination”? What are they determining and by what means? You quote Bakunin, who in my opinion is an extremely bad choice in view of his confusion on the national issue. He often believed that people inherited stiff personal qualities according to their “nationalities” and was a firm believer that national groups would be “better off” in their own independent nation states. In his Appeal to Slavs, he called for a “democratic state” although throughout it, there are undertones of something else being possible? But what? Young Bakunin never said it. With this lack of specifics, one can imply that “national self-determination” in and of itself was the end goal. And the question remains “why”? Looking through the course of development of Polish history, one has to wonder what, besides a nation state, did fighting for independence give people. (In the case of the Warsaw Uprising, the struggle against the occupier was more clearly linked to physical survival.) Most of the other forms of domination experienced still exist, although sometimes in slightly different forms.
If liberation is to be something different, not just the transfer of power from elite to elite, then there ARE class differences and interests to be overcome. I am curious why anybody should believe that nationality is the most logical binding factor and why people should organize around it. Probably there are neighbours and regions in the world where there might be able to organize popular self-rule, but in such a case, they might be opposed by their own nation-states. People living in similar conditions, for example Polish and Slovak Highlanders living in the Tatra mountains, without a doubt have much more in common with each other (in terms of lifestyle and economic level), despite a national border, than they have with yuppies in Warsaw. So why it may be clear that a concerted effort is needed to get ride of invaders and plunderers, it is not clear why this need by “national” instead of international, and why insist of the formula “national liberation”. What if an invader occupies the territory of two or more ethnic groups which have trouble cooperating? Does “national liberation” refer to the liberation of a state composed of multiple nationalities? If the struggle relates to a geographical area rather than one particular nation, than why “national liberation struggle”? Given the modern history of much of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, one truly wonders how to approach this question in the framework of “nation”. So the Latvians “liberated” themselves from the Russians and joined NATO and discriminate against Russians who live there now. It’s all shit because the people don’t determined anything through direct democracy anyway – and even if they did, nothing good would come out of it.
You point out that the goal is always internationalism but that international working class unity is not a reality yet. Well, neither is national unity a reality. National unity in any country with big class divisions is a great myth – and it’s the myth that obfuscates our divisions and keeps us thinking in false categories. It’s what keeps the American working class from thinking they have a common cause with the elites and it works in a similar way in most rich countries around the world. International working class unity is not as far off as you think and the potential is growing at an enormous rate due to labour mobility and the fact that people have more contact with each other. Of course the thing that prevents it all from happening is the capitalists ability to pit workers against each other and this ability is held together by national borders, with control of the labour market and labour mobility.
I do not think we disagree on what the main goal should be, but why the insistence on such terms like “national self-determination”. Such a term, as it is used now, is virtually meaningless because it is the language of the nationalist elites. By using such an imprecise term, we are not distinguishing our goals from those of the nationalists and, as I know, they are indeed very different.
Perhaps there is some context which I am missing; I have not been following the discussions in the US anti-war movement so closely but so far I haven’t witnessed a lack of solidarity with the oppressed from the part of anarchists. Let us hope that in the future people do not fall into unreasonable positions like being pro-Hamas or like skirting the borders of anti-semitism (as we see here in Poland), or of being so anti-Islamic that one cannot empathize with the victims of aggression (as we sometimes see in nearby parts of Europe). The real hope for peace is of people coming together across borders and recognizing their common struggle and fighting from without and within.
One thing that is constantly mixed up in all the discussions around such issues is the Nation concept. It is worth recall there are many Nations without State.
Humanity liberated from capitalist rule will still group herself according to the cultural, linguistic and ethnic affinities.
It was not the product of capitalism, Nations exist in a greater or smaller scale, since humanity herself exists.
But Nation-State is another concept: totally distinct, but most of the disctinction is not made and even purposeful confusion is searched using the word Nation for meaning Nation-State.
We have the Nation-States as they are represented in UN, for instance. These are States made up with different Nations but most often presented as «home» to such or such kind of people alone, forgetting there are allways many ethnic, etc. minorities within those States.
In fact -as we all know- "nation" itself is a concept that was mostly developed in accordance with the expansion of capitalist relationships. On the other hand I believe both "culture" and "ethnicity" are quite different from that. "Nation" is just a fake concept formed within the "national borders" of any state; so we should better use/talk about different "language groups". Maybe better to say "ethnicities" in this sense.
For e.g. millions of Kurdish women living in north Kurdistan (southeast Turkey) cannot speak and understand Turkish. On the other hand, related with the feudal "culture", they cannot learn how to read (in "any" language), they are lack of many rights men have. So "their culture" is not the one that's worth to fight for-it is their "freedom".. Firstly their language's freedom, not the (freedom of) culture of Kurds nor Turks or Palestanians. "Cultures" worth nothing as long as they are related with capitalist, hierarchical, sexist, homophobic values.. Liberation from capitalist rule means nothing as long as it does not care about the existence of authoritarian relationships within any "ethnicity" ("culture" or "nation" if u like).
If we talk about liberation, then we must address the various forms of oppression, which are mingled together in this society that one can describe as global capitalist, where capitalist rule has reached it's maximum expansion, only letting out some aereas either too remote or without any valuable materials, or both.
So, if «national» liberation is an issue that we MUST address, it is also clear we must do it in a way that links «national» oppression to capitalist rule in the imperialist age.
In fact, the «Empire wars» are also neo-colonial wars, where US super-power tries to impose national rulers submitted to their general domination. This is clearly percieved both as an attempt to increase the extraction of plus value from this countries' working classes and as «national» oppression, meaning there will be no way of a people to choose freely it's own government and even to organise it's daily life.
It is really a general rule that the foreign domination, either direct or indirect, is disastrous to the liberties an to fighting capacities of the workers class.
The organisations fighting for their own land and self-government, in Middle-East, include various secularist nationalist ones, either in Lebanon, Palestine or Iraq.
Of course we may only agree on just about 20% of their principles.
But the other factions are religious fundamentalist ones, with most reactionary concepts concerning State, Women, Civil Liberties,etc.
So, promoting the secularist factions in this situation seems to be the wisest step to be coherent with our general anti-capitalist and anti- any kind of oppression positions.
Imagine! This essay has just been put up and already there are several responses, some lengthy. I seem to have touched a nerve.
Ilan writes, "In the middle East, the Israeli settler colonialist state exploit and suppress and harass the whole population. thus, the struggle against it is in the interest of both classes." I agree. He is an expert on Israel/Palestine, no so much on Tibet, however. From what I have read, most Tibetan peasants would also like their independence from China--but who knows, under the dictatorship?
L. Akai agrees, " I do certainly agree that there are cases when the government of one nation is an aggressor, for example in an imperialist war, and that in such a case there is a clear case for recognizing one side as oppressed." He just doesn't think that this is true under most cases of today's globalized world, if I read him right. This amounts to claiming that there is no more imperialism (as Hardt and Negri write in Empire). I disagree. Global capital is more than just "foreign" capital seeking to displace "local" capital. It is imperialist capital rooted in the more industrialized capitalist nations seeking to exploit and loot the poorer nations. I cannot argue this here, but that is my belief and it is one of the bases for our fundamental disagreement.
Another issue is over a matter of method, which several writers display. Maybe it is true that the workers of these poor nations would do better to not fight for national liberation but to only struggle for a classless, nationless, stateless world. Yes, I would prefer that. Unfortunately, they do not see it this way. It has been almost 200 years and marxists and anarchists have repeatedly failed to persuade people to just drop their attachment to their nations and their opposition to foreign domination. Too bad! So we have to deal with it as a fact and try to persuade them that the best way to end foreign domination and oppression is through the program of internationalist anarchism. Like it or not.
Manuel Baptista indicates that national oppression makes it harder for workers to organize on a class basis. I agree anyway that national oppression is bad for the workers. However, he also says, "promoting the secularist factions in this situation seems to be the wisest step...." I disagree. We may make limited alliances with these forces for limited goals, but never forget that the secular nationalists are also for the state and capitalism (maybe state capitalism). They too are the class enemies of the working class.
«However, he also says, "promoting the secularist factions in this situation seems to be the wisest step...." I disagree. We may make limited alliances with these forces for limited goals, but never forget that the secular nationalists are also for the state and capitalism (maybe state capitalism). They too are the class enemies of the working class.»
I agree with you. My English is not so good. What I meant was that we should not despise our local comrades tactics when these decide to engage a limited alliance with secularist nationalist groups.
After all, if I did understand well the meaning of your text (correct me if I am wrong) you are saying that when a national liberation struggle takes place our people shouldn't stay appart from it.
I may add another thing: if we are not able to produce our own strategy towards national liberation issues, we cannot complain that a people involved in such struggle doesn't care about our proposals, including the class struggle «stricto sensu».
Thanks to Wayne for the article and for those who have commented on it, in particular for preserving a serious and respectful level of discussion on a difficult and emotive issue.
If I can find the time I'd like to put together some thoughts but for now I just wanted to say thanks.
an interesting an timely article. i agree with the authors criticism of some anarchists for failing to support the opressed against the oppressor. this suggestion sounds good as well: "I would have preferred that they demonstrated, with signs saying, “U.S. State, Hands Off Iran! Iranian State, Hands Off Gays!”"
one thing i was wondering about is the author's and many others' claims about what Hezbollah is and what Hezbollah is for, as valid as they may happen to be. my question to the author is: "Have you read any single book by anyone from Hezbollah OR any single academic study of Hezbollah and it's tactics, organization and goals?" judging soley from your endnotes, the only thing you've read in preparation for writing this article is anarchist writers Bakunin, Dolgoff, Skirda and an academic study of Kropotkin by Miller. Why didn't you read any Lebanese scholars' writing on Hezbollah, like professor Ahmad Nazir Hamzeh's "In The Path of Hizbullah" (Syracuse University Press 2004)?
also, it is quite possible to put a "progressive spin" on Hezbollah. for example, read this article called "Habitat for Hezbollah" (Foreign Policy; by Brown University assistant professor Melani Cammett, recently back from research trip to Lebanon )
"...Hezbollah, it should be recalled, emerged during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and gained legitimacy not only through military feats but also through reconstruction and development work. It emerged as the premier advocate and provider for poor and middle class Shia in a society that had long marginalized them. Over time, the organization took on schooling, healthcare, loans, and other forms of social assistance. Since 1988, Hezbollah has implemented more than 10,000 projects to promote agricultural development, build homes and businesses, and provide water, sewage, and electricity. Supporters and critics alike have long acknowledged that Hezbollah is the most effective welfare provider in Lebanon—far more effective than the state.
Hezbollah’s social work has focused on Shia areas, but it is a broader movement than is often acknowledged. To be sure, some services are reserved for the families of “martyrs,” or fighters who died in struggles against Israel. But Hezbollah and its network of affiliated charities reach beyond the Shia community. In the early 1990s, when Christian families began to return to Haret Hreik in the southern suburb of Beirut after the civil war, Hezbollah helped them rebuild their homes and businesses. During visits to health clinics this summer, I spoke with non-Shia beneficiaries who chose Hezbollah’s medical services on the basis of quality and cost. Given the choice, of course, most Maronite Christians would probably not send their children to a Hezbollah-run school, but they are willing to accept healthcare and financial assistance from the organization.
Persistent state weakness and a strong tradition of denominational politics have given Lebanon a long history of faith-based social welfare. During the 15-year civil war, many state agencies collapsed, while international and local nongovernmental organizations, as well as militias, cared for the civilian population. Current relief efforts largely follow this pattern. Civil society organizations have taken the lead in setting up and running centers that house, feed, and provide medical care to displaced Lebanese.
Hezbollah is at the forefront of these efforts. Despite the destruction of many of its hospitals, schools, and community centers in this summer’s fighting, the organization proved adept at relief operations. International organizations participating in the effort attest that Hezbollah is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars per day to do everything from delivering hot meals and medicines to organizing recreational activities for displaced adults and children living in temporary shelters. Within 24 hours of the cease-fire, a Lebanese television station reported that Hezbollah had set up hotlines to help refugees based on their place of residence and had dispatched teams to assess damage and plan for reconstruction. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has pledged to assist anyone whose home or business was destroyed with rebuilding and living costs. The breakdown of Hezbollah’s financing is hotly contested, but it’s clear that official and private funds from Iran and charitable contributions from supporters within Lebanon are critical sources.
Money is not the only factor facilitating Hezbollah’s relief operations. Its social service infrastructure draws on the human capital of its cadres, who have applied their organizational and technological skills to document and address the needs of thousands of displaced families. Secular organizations and other religious institutions, including many that have long opposed Hezbollah’s political and military role in Lebanon, view the organization as a legitimate and effective partner in the current relief operations..."
I'd like, as well as Andrew did, to thank Wayne for his great article on the issue of national liberation and the current context in Lebanon. I think it was sorely needed, to deal with some issues that obviously are creating debate among anarchists -and that are usually dealt in quite a simplistic fashion (class struggles, nations and State, religions and culture, and so on). I'll come back later to the debate, as don't have much time now, but I want to say thanks again to Wayne for his great contribution to this subject, and to this site. It is a real honour to count him among our contributors.
In relation to makhno_dal, etc... question, I have not talked with Wayne, but it seems quite obvious: because the article is not about Hizbullah, indeed. It has not much to do with them but only to the level of how the current conflict poses again the question of national liberation to anarchists. Quite simple. If you had read the article (and not only the Q'uran) you might have realised that. So please try to contribute to the actual debate and not to take it away from what the author is dealing with. Cheers.
Wayne, I looked up the quote you gave about Bakunin, and I think you are using it in a somewhat misleading way. Yes, he does say "I will always champion the cause of oppressed nationalities struggling to liberate themselves from the domination of the state.” BUT immediately afterwords, in the same two pages, he furiously denounces the State form, calling it "the accursed state" and referring to "the crushing tyrnanny of the state", which "obliterates the natural living unity of society".
What he is getting at is that oppressed nationalities must take on a FEDERATED and non-state political position: his example, in fact, is the fededrated Paris Commune, and he goes on to denounce Italian federalism as being top-down instead of bottom-up. The piece is called, after all, "On Nationality, the State and Federalism".
So while Bakunin DOES recognize the existence of "nations" and their struggle for "self-determination", this passage does NOT lead me to believe that he would tolerate or support a struggle that sought to establish a State form - in fact, just the opposite. (This is not to say that he doesn't do this elsewhere).
[ps Hi AK-47! haven't seen you since Moscow '98..]
I'm glad to see Wayne's piece, largely because he's right that there has been a conspicuous lack of anarchist analysis of the situation in Lebanon. Unfortunately, I found some of what he wrote to be confusing, if not confused. In particular, I’d like to address two issues, one of which I think Wayne bungles, the other of which he marginalizes.
First, Wayne offers definitions for the terms “nationalism” and “national liberation,” in an attempt to create a middle ground for anarchists between the simplistic anti-nationalism exemplified by Class War’s “Hezbollocks” statement ( http://www.londonclasswar.org/newswire_hezbollocks.php ) and the uncritical embrace of Hezbollah that he associates with much of the Western left. I wholeheartedly agree with the goal of getting ourselves beyond simplistic and unhelpful positions, but I think Wayne’s middle ground is untenable. As I have argued in the past, anarchist attempts to separate out the good from the bad elements of nationalism/national identity consistently fail because these elements are so tightly bound together in a single set of concepts.
In Wayne’s case, the attempt to separate things out takes the form of contrasting definitions of “nationalism” and “national liberation.” These definitions feel forced, and part of the reason is that in Wayne’s conception “nationalism” is burdened with all the bad aspects – statism, class collaboration, xenophobia, etc. – while “national liberation” gets the good aspects – autonomy, self-determination, cultural survival. The problem here is that nationalism and national liberation aren’t the same kind of concept, and can’t be used to parse these constituent elements: the former is a type of ideology, while the latter is a strategic objective. In reality, nationalism is a highly malleable concept, which always includes a contradictory mix of elements, while articulating national liberation (or, alternately, national preservation) as its end-goal. From my perspective, anarchists should not embrace nationalism, but should – as Wayne suggests – strive to clearly understand the problems and opportunities present in various “progressive” nationalist movements. Unfortunately, Wayne’s own attempts to draw distinctions between good “national liberation” and bad “nationalism” only confuses things even further.
(Interested readers can get a better sense of my own position from a piece I wrote in the aftermath of September 11, currently on view here: http://www.illegalvoices.org/bookshelf/onward/nationalism_definitions_and_clarifications.html )
Second, Wayne is so focused on the theoretical aspects of the question that he marginalizes some specific issues in the Lebanon discussion. In this regard, I’m sympathetic to the question posed by makhno_dal, etc..., and I was disappointed by the toss-off dismissal of Hezbollah “and like-minded forces.” This grouping together produces shoddy thinking. Without embracing Hezbollah, I think it is essential to examine their actual politics and practice. I’m more than willing to own up to not being an expert on this stuff, but I haven’t seen any evidence that Hezbollah stands “for theocratic dictatorships, with no rights for dissident religions, minority nationalities, workers, or women.” It seems to my novice eyes that Hezbollah, while clearly an Islamist movement in broad terms, functions very differently than Hamas, or Al-Qaeda, or the Somali Islamic Courts Union. According to some, this is a sort of real-politik response to the multi-ethnic and multi-religious make-up of Lebanon. Whatever the cause, we do ourselves no favors by mis-reading the situation on the ground. This problem is only exacerbated by focusing on the rather inconsequential question of which slogans we should embrace. (More analysis of these questions can be found on the blog http://threewayfight.blogspot.com )
Thanks for the positive remarks by Jose Antonio, who has recently written well on this topic in the comments to other articles at this site, and by Andrew, whose piece I look forward to reading.
I think that Manuel Baptista and I are in agreement. I am probably in agreement with Batur Ozdinc that the Kurdish women living in Turkey need both national liberation and women's liberation, not to mention freedom from capitalism. Systems of oppression are all mixed together and need to be addressed together.
It is true that Bakunin advocated a nonstate solution to national oppression, as Spencer points out. So do I, as my essay says. I do not know what tactics Bakkunin would have advocated in national struggles for the age of imperialism, which he did not live to see. (His earlier writings advocating pan-slavism are irrelevant; he was not yet an anarchist then.) However, the only point of my quote was to show that Bakunin recognized the reality of nations and was for their liberation and independence.
Michael criticizes me for supporting national liberation (self-determination) while opposing nationalism. Yet he says, "nationalism and national liberation aren’t the same kind of concept,...the former is a type of ideology, while the latter is a strategic objective." Exactly right. National libertion is the goal, nationalism is one political program for achieving that goal. Anarchists should have a different political program for achieving national liberation, as Spencer points out was also true of Bakunin: the international anarchist revolution to establish nonstate federations. Therefore it makes perfect sense for me to support the "strategic objective" of national freedom while completely opposing the political program of nationalism. (Also, as I implied, the full political program of nationalism has elements which we should accept, such as love of one's country, pride in its contributions to world culture, and hatred of foreign oppression. But we should seek to channel these into a different political program.)
The three references at the end of the essay were there only because I had cited quotations from each of them. It is true that I need to learn much more about the specifics of Hezballah (not to mention Tibet, referred to by Ilan). Who could criticize the call, by Michael and by makhno_dal_by_vam_v_zhopoo, for more knowledge? However, I am dealing with general principles. I doubt that anyone will deny that Hezballah is pro-capitalist and pro-statist. Of course, the more we know, the more sophisticated and subtle can be our political tactics and strategy.
I agree absolutely with the spirit of Wayne's article. It is a very interesting contribution and while maybe not adding much to the specifics of the current conflict (nature of Hizbullah, nature of the Lebanese state, Israeli imperialism and so on), it gives a much needed general framework for any serious discussion to start on the matter. Still I'd like to point out things that I think should have been clearer, and that in no way contradict the mentioned spirit of this excellent article:
1. The importance of where to put the emphasis in our denunciations -what we have talked about the proportions in some previous comments. Of course there might be (and there certainly are) things we seriously don't like in movements that oppose imperialism all over the world; many have a religious base, others might have serious patriarchal or sexist biases, others can be stronlgy authoritarian, others can be pro-capitalist. That's why it is not always recommended to align with them in their political objectives (what deals with another political discussion -that on alliances).
Still in the face of imperialist aggression (as Wayne states), it is unacceptable to equal those negative aspects of the movements and political forces that might resist imperialism, to the very acts of imperialism. This for both political and tactical reasons.
When it comes to the political reasons, there are levels in which oppressions overlap and there are levels of oppression that includes a much bigger group of people. Imperialism affects both man and women, weak and strong, children and adults in an oppressed country, making it a much bigger problem for more people and by its very nature, it is felt more brutally by the bulk of the population. We can't ignore that fact, though it doesn't mean that other types of oppression are unimportant or that they can be somehow justifiable.
To put it simple, we cannot denounce as equivalent the sexism of a movement with an act of militaristic invasion. With reserves, we should always side with the oppressed when they are suffering from that oppression. If a sexist man is being brutally beaten up by the police... can we ignore his oppression and say "well, he's a sexist after all"? To denounce his status of oppressed in front of the State doesn't mean that we should remain silent in front of his own role as oppressor of women. But we need to know how and when to denounce and to defend. If the house of that man was burned, let's say, for the fact that he is black, we will defend him on that specific issue. When the man is beating up his wife we will condemn him with all of our strenght on that particular issue as well.
The same is true for a movement at large: we defend the right of Hizbulah to legitimate resistance, while this doesn't mean that we support their attitude towards women. We cannot mix up this issues, especially in the face of a crude invasion as the one we saw.
This act of siding with the oppressed (while not politically aligning with their "mis"leaders) allows us to play a role and to be able to have an influence on the movement instead of creating a wall of blind resistance to our voice. The important thing, after all, is not to become cheerleaders of this or that group, but to manage to raise our own voice among the people. This is the tactical reason.
I think it is quite relevant, on this respect, a story that Dave Douglass, the former trade union leader of the 1984 English miners' strike, was once telling me: he said that when the gay groups arrived to give their support to the strike, many miners were all weird about it... if the gay hadn't remained firm on their support (not to the miners' sexism, but to their just struggle), and had assumed a moralistic view in tune with those "anarchists" who would not support the strike because the miners were meat-eaters, for the next year gay pride parade, probably there wouldn't have been a group of miners demonstrating with them. Through struggle and solidarity, the oppressed came together under the banners of working class unity and left behind their prejudices. In this respect, those gay fellas gave us a great lesson in working class solidarity.
We need to develop a coherent, anti-bourgeois, socialistic, anti-imperialist force, that's beyond discussion. We need to develop criticism in order to make sure that we get reception for the validity of our alternative -that is beyond question. But if we fail to have a critical voice against imperialism above everything, and remain trapped in moralistic positions, when this problem is seen as the most urgent factor in struggle by the oppressed nation, we will only alienate people that will potentially listen to what we have to say and send them to the swell the ranks of nationalist movements -that do have a clear an immediate answer to what they see as the most pressing problem. In the case of Israel's imperialism, the pressure of it is just unbearable and intolerable for those who are victims of it, and this, and only this fact (not foreign aid), explains the steady growth of those movements who have uncompromisingly fought against it -no matter they can be dreadful when it comes to their social project.
Can't we speak louder than those movements against imperialism? If we fail to do so, then it means we are no viable alternative for the Lebanese people, especially in the south. Can't we do this while at the same time we don't forget the other side of the struggle? But for that we need a starting point: and that point, is definitely not to criticise Hizbulah before anything else, but to criticise more than anything the biggest, most pressing and most urgent problem facing the region: US-Israel imperialism and thuggery. Then people might pay heed to what we have to say on other issues.
The other tactical issue of not paying the right attention to anti-imperialism, is that while under foreign occupation or aggression the workers and peasants of the oppressed nation not only have their local bosses, ayatollahs, priests, patriarchy, landlords, government, etc. above them, but as well, the foreign bosses, ayatollahs, priests, rabbites, patriarchs, landlords, government, etc. plus the military forces of occupation. This fact makes the weight of oppression much harder on the shoulders of our brethen, and this is a major factor to legitimate their rebellion, on the hope that this will go beyond the foreign faces of oppression and attack the local ones as well. but at the end of the day, this gives even moral legitimacy to resistance.
2. On democracy, I'd like to point out something in relation to Wayne's article that I think it is important to keep in mind and in relation to what I have a minor disagreement with him (I beg your pardon, for this might take the focus of the debate a bit out of the main subject, that is national liberation -if that happens it was not my intention at all). When it comes to democracy it should be said that while leninism and capitalism have used it as a "tactic" we have defended it on principle, in its purest sense. That's a major difference.
For the capitalists had to create their own version, a la carte, of democracy, bourgeois democracy, that is standing on a very different ground to our concept of democracy: while they defend a concept of freedom that is an individual phaenomenon (with all that this implies: private property rights, competition, etc.) we raise our own version of democracy, pure and without double meanings, on the concept of collective freedom -with all it implies, as well (collective property, solidarity, etc.). As Bakunin pointed out, our freedom is only guaranteed by the freedom of all in our environs.
So I think it is quite wrong to say that their version of democracy has failed their promises: they never assumed our concept of democracy or of freedom, but assuming freedom (the natural enviroment for democracy to have any meaningful sense) as a number of prerogatives of the "citizen", with their own internal hierarchy, being at the top the right to own individually his/her property, the form of democracy we know as bourgeois-democracy, was a quite natural result of it. Never denying the right to property, and giving priority to this above anything else, they didn't betrayed any promise: to defend it, they have, if necessary, to supress all other of their claimed rights -while having the need to protect (their) democracy always on the tip of the tongue.
At the end of the day, democracy is just a political form that is based on the ground of the economic system we have. If it is based on private capitalism, necessarily it will be a democracy limited by the bourgeoisie. Is it rests on State-capitalism, it will necessarily and unavoidably be limited by the State bureaucrats, often in the form of the Party leadership; if it lies on the ground of communism (true communism), it will only be limited by the wishes and desires of the people at large -guaranting that freedom can really flourish.
To finish I want to thank Wayne once again for this brilliant article and for the fact of writing in such and orderly fashion his views on the issue, allowing the discussion to take a new character, a discussion that up to now has been of a quite good level and full of comradely respect.
Jose Antonio and I are in agreement, with slight differences. (1) When the Israeli Defence Forces are dropping U.S.-made bombs on the heads of southern Lebanese, it is not the time to pass out leaflets denouncing Hezballah. Over time, we have to say everything, but not all at once at all times. However, the main point is that we denounce Hezballah, not for fighting the colonialists, but for its weakness in opposing Isreal and imperialism. Put generally, none of the nationalist and/or Islamist forces can establish a society free of imperialist domination or great-state power politics. (Similarly, we oppose bourgeois-feminists, not for organizing women against sexism, but because they do not have a program for effectively ending sexism.)
(2) The capitalists had a more limited conception of democracy than anarchists do. They accepted a society based on a heirarchy of wealth. However, they proposed to end all other heirarchies: those based on family bloodlines (basic to feudalism), race, gender, etc., and also to provide land to the peasants and self-determination to oppressed nations. THESE are the "promises" of bourgeois democracy which the capitalist class has never fulfilled. These will be fulfilled by the working class socialist-anarchist revolution.
I want to ask Wayne how he values the history of those anarchists that went to fight either in guerrilla groups or in military divisions against Hitler and the fascists during the second world war. They integrated themselves in structures led by authoritarians (led either by «communists» or people from bourgeois background such as de Gaulle). Many of those were Spanish CNT and FAI members. For them the fight against fascism was continuing in the ranks of these organisations/armies.
Are they less anarchist because of that? No !they remained anarchist, and it is precisely the point.
In liberation wars (these are class wars violently fought, after all) it is important to make a decision on which of the multiple sides you are aligned: because, normally these imperialist wars become soon civil wars too. Well, it seems to me important not to forget there are people, workers, women, secularist people fighting mostly without arms, resisting against simultaneously the US led invasion, the puppet government and the fundamentalist guerrilla groups in Iraq. I don't know if there are some anarchists amongst them (probably a few or at least people with left anti-authoritarian mind). What I do know is that if I was in such scenario, I would without hesitation join the securalist front. Of course, knowning there are people in that coalition that would persecute me, perhaps, once the peace came back, if they took power.
But on the other side, it would be impossible for me to stay aside saying...«look , these people are not my kind, they are statist, nationalist, authoritarian, etc». we have nowhere in those countries a strenght remotely enough to organise an authonomous guerilla, an in most Latin America neither.
Concerning Lebanon, the local anti-capitalist anti-statists group Al Badil showed there is a front refusing the islamization of society and of the State, a front that includes bourgeois people. Well, these people have some potential for a circunstancial alliance with anarchist or similar comrades.
It is not to promote them. No, it is to accept forming an alliance with these and not with Hezbolah.
Secularism is something that is on the agenda there; it is not achieved in most of the Middle East societies. One that was more or less secularized was Iraq.
To fight against some imperialist oppressors and their local agents its not enough for us, if it is to pave the way to another kind of despotes.
It is quite clear in Iraq. If the outcome of Iraq bloody mess is a full islamist state (a shia one) there will be no chance for workers, for their unions, for women, etc.
Ilan writes,... I agree. He is an expert on Israel/Palestine, no so much on Tibet, however. From what I have read, most Tibetan peasants would also like their independence from China--but who knows, under the dictatorship?
I am not expert on Tibet, but I read a lot about it many years ago - including about the religious-feodal serf system that was there before the Chinese occupation.
The Cinese occupation easily abolished the serfsdom system, but could not erase people religious believes.
I have not read a lot on Tibet lately, but I suspect most of the Tibetans are not dreaming on returning to their old serfsdom.
For sure they will be glad not to be rulled by the Chinese.
As for the Hizballah developped in Lebanon, they succeeded to replace the Amal as the dominant political power among the Lebaneze Shi-ah due to their support of the Syrian power in Lebanon and resources they got mainly from Iran.
I do not think any progressive person should call for support to the Hizballa, or to any reactionary movement just because they fight against foreign oppressor.
Our relevant call regarding Lebanon is "heands of Lebanon". Against all powers involved who use Lebanon as an arena to fight between them - Israel, Iran, Syria... Though Syria and Iran have specific interest in Lebanon too:
Iran teocratic elite see it as a lever to gain dominance among Muslims. Syria have various economic interests and "nationalist" agenda against the colonialist tearing the Lebanon from the great syria.
When there is struggle between to reactionary powers, we should not support the lesser eavel - we just expose both and struggle more against the greater eavel.
In Israel we cooperate indirectly with the national leadership - Hamas and PLO, but we clearly opposing the occupation and suppression by Israel, but not promoting any Palestinian political party.
(I think anarchist supported the struggle of the catholic communities of North Ireland for equality and against suppression by Britain and the Protestant elite, but not the IRA bombings and other measures.)
Manuel writes, "I want to ask Wayne how he values the history of those anarchists that went to fight either in guerrilla groups or in military divisions against Hitler and the fascists during the second world war." My answer is, I think, the same as yours. The anarchists should have participated in the resistance forces and should not have only rejected both sides, the Axis and the Allies, as two imperialist sides (which, of course, they were) but found ways to maneuver in the mass struggles which were stirred up (mostly on the Allied side in Europe, but also on the other side in the "Third World"). At least potentially this made it possible for anarchists to have been part of the post-war revolutionary upsurge.
How to specifically, tactically, relate to the secular bourgeois nationalists depends on more information than I have (although the point about Iraq's secular past shows the dangers: that was under the Ba'athist regime, after all). Also a lot depends on how many people are in this hypothetical anarchist group. Are we assuming one anarchist or 1000? The more we have, the more maneuvering room we have.
Ilan writes, "In Israel we cooperate indirectly with the national leadership - Hamas and PLO, but we clearly opposing the occupation and suppression by Israel, but not promoting any Palestinian political party." I agree completely.
This is - in my view - the core of the discussion here.
Wayne wrote: [...]«How to specifically, tactically, relate to the secular bourgeois nationalists depends on more information than I have (although the point about Iraq's secular past shows the dangers: that was under the Ba'athist regime, after all). Also a lot depends on how many people are in this hypothetical anarchist group. Are we assuming one anarchist or 1000? The more we have, the more maneuvering room we have.»[...]
We have to know how to make alliances - and what type of alliances- that allow us to have a presence in the mass- movements.
Sometimes, we can fight by ourselves, alongside others; for this, we must have a strong enough force to operate by ourselves.
If we have a national group of one thousand, we are probably strong enough to have an autonomous action in this particular country.
But not allways: in local terms, it may be not enough, if our forces are widely scattered in small groups geographically dispersed and with difficult coordination with each other.
This is valid to war context as for any other situation.
When there is no real capacity for an autonomous action, the strategical goal should be to acquire such capacity.
Therefore, to perform the political choices in alliances and in militancy investment that will allow our ranks to engage autonomously in action, be it in war or otherwise.
Concerning Iraq :
Yes, the Baahist party and Saddam's regime HAD TO be a secular nationalism because Iraq was allready a secularized country . It had strong communist influence and other secular political forces, before the coup that put in power Saddam and his party.
i agree on most of your article , but i just wanted to precise from my point of view as an anarchist born in raised in lebanon .
Hezbollah is a party that matured through out the years , and i think it s a false statment to say that they follow syrian or iranian interests . these interests counts ; but hezbollah grew up to become an independent ( state ) . although i disagree with their ideology i cant denie that they re becomming more and more progressist . in order to understand hezbollah ; people should understand that hezbollah is about many fractions , religious ; social , military .......
i do agree that this war wasnt about national liberation ; the way i saw it , it was about releasin the pressure on palestinien who were bein opressed drasticly in gaza , and it was then about retaliation .
for us to win is about you guys in israel and us in lebanon askin and demandin and overthrowin society towards true form of democracy , about gettin rid of religious hate ; sectarism and militaristic nations .
to see such a thing as an 'oppressed nation' takes at face value the bourgeois concept of a nation. while there is such thing as oppression on 'national' grounds, our response cannot be to call for national liberation but the abolition of the nation as a relevant concept - just as our response to racial oppression is to seek to abolish race as a concept. Anything else just reaffirms the bourgeois narrative of the nation and thus cannot but support the bourgeois nationalists who claim to represent it.
This is all very abstract... I ask all comrade anarchists... would you have picked up your gun if you lived in Bint Jbail or Aita al-Shaab? I believe the majority of anarchists would have no doubts about defending their homes against such an attack (many of the resistance fighters were locals as point of fact and did not belong to any party... that is what the Israelis failed to understand!)
Lebanese anarchist I have spoken to are in no doubt whatsoever... and have thrown themselves into helping the resistance.
This means in practice working for the victory for Hizbollah... which you seem to confuse with the Tailban etc ... well they are all Muslims after all, so they must be the same!
Truth is Hizbollah are a party of resistance that emerged out of the most downtrodden of Lebanese communities. Anyone who has had dealings with them and their supporters will quicky realise that they are not an "Islamist group" like Al-Qaida or the Taliban.
It is worth remembering that Lebanon needs its own special analysis, rather than just trying to force western notions on it. It is a country ribboned by class, religious sect and competing nationalisms.
On some issues you cannot stand on the sidelines. The victory in the south was a victory over US imperialism... it was not a war for the imposition of the Sharia. (It's worth noting Hizbollah's position on this: they don't see it as a solution for the country only as the personal practice of their supporters). Go to any Shia area, especially south Beirut, and you will find some women are veiled some are not...
Hizbollah has anetwork of shop stewards, environmental activists and they even sit on the Aids awarness committee run by Gay rights group. No-one thinks twice about this... but then sex and sexuallity are viewed differently here (that's why western gays historically sought refuge in the Middle East).
The danger is always painting the Hizbollah with the Taliban brush. It is an easy mistake. But as soon as you study the social composition of movements you can begin to understand their structure and ideas are different.
There are two dangers... the first is painting Hizbollah as something that it is not, then attacking it on this notion. The second is assuming you could stand aside why you hope something better will come along that you could paint as "progressive". Bad idea when the country is being hammered...
Israeli bombs did not distiguish the political, religious, or class divisions of its victims (most of the south is dotted with the holiday homes of well-to-do Shia families... they are all in ruins)... so those in the resistance did not ask who was passing the ammunition...
We must always be with those standing against imperialism... whether we paint them as romantics (like the Native American Indians)... as "progressives" like Ho Chi Mihn, or "Islamist" like Hizbollah.
Everytime I have been arrested at demos etc in the UK, there is always an Anarchist who got nicked trying to help me. lol.
I think it is always best to go with your instincts.
T.F. writes: "while there is such thing as oppression on 'national' grounds, our response cannot be to call for national liberation but the abolition of the nation as a relevant concept"
Shouldn't we try to stop the oppression on national grounds too? Or are we only to oppose oppression when the oppressed agree entirely with our long term goals? That's a recipe for complete irrelevance.
To Simon Assaf: I am writing from New York City and there is not much I could have done to support the military struggle in Lebanon. This is why I preferred to say we should be *in solidarity with" the southern Lebanese rather than that we should have "supported" them (or "given them military support," in the Trotskyist phrase). But to answer your question (as I already wrote), yes, I would have "picked up the gun" in Lebanon. Since Hizballah was the only force effectively fighting Israeli-U.S. aggression, I would have been in de facto alliance with them (for now). However I would not have given them any political support. Maybe they are not Taliban-like theocratic types. But it cannot be denied that they are supporters of the state and of capitalism (whatever they think they are doing). That is, they are nationalists, and revolutionary anarchists are opposed to even the most democratic and secular of nationalists (for reasons I will not spell out here).
To TK: Yes, I take at "face value" the existence of nations. I know about their artificial creation (such as Lebanon) and their role under capitalism. But you see, the mass of workers and peasants also believe in nations. And resent their oppression. Shall we ignore this? Pretend that nations do not exist when everyone else says they do? Or shall we try to turn this oppression into one more explosive force to turn against international capitalism? But this can only be done if we fight for an anti-nationalist, internationalist, anarchist revolution of the working class and ALL oppressed.
the point is what is different about a 'foreign' military occupation and a domestic military coup? i'm sure anarchists would resist either, as a militarisation of the ruling class. but i wouldn't feel the need to invoke 'the nation' in either case - what is being defended is peoples homes, lives - their material existence, not an abstract imagined community.
Yes many (most) people accept the concept of the nation, but most people accept the 'need' for a state too - i'm unaware of a *national* liberation struggle that hasn't lead to a new (or the same) ruling class in power. So as someone opposed to class society i do what i can to dissuade struggle on 'national' lines because 'the nation' is neccessarily a cross-class identity which means we can only risk our lives for our own re-enslavement.
In this way i don't think support for a 'nation' - as opposed to actual people defending their material existence - is separable from support for nationalism, as 'the nation', in the modern european sense, and certainly in contempory lebanon, is *nothing but* a claim to state power. Bear in mind that the 2004 general strike saw the lebanese army fire live rounds on striking workers, killing several, which caused many workers to compare them to the Israelis - the notional 'nationaity' of the bosses men was irrelevant to them and we shouldn't offer solidarity on 'national' grounds.
This text is now available (along with "The Palestinian Struggle and the Anarchist Dilemma" text by Wayne Price) as .pdf pamphlet from Zabalaza Books at the following link.