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Anarchism and nationalism

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Anarchism and nationalism

Anarchism and nationalism both emerged in Europe following the French Revolution, and have a long and durable relationship going back at least to Mikhail Bakunin and his involvement with the Pan-Slavic movement prior to his conversion to anarchism. There has been a long history of anarchist involvement with nationalism all over the world, as well as with internationalism. Some anarchists argue that the achievement of meaningful self-determination for all of the world's nations requires a political system based on local control, free federation and mutual aid.[1]

Nevertheless, anarchism as a political movement was very supportive during the early 20th century of [2][3] After the Spanish Civil War, Francoist Spain persecuted anarchists and Catalan nationalists, among whom the use of Esperanto was extensive,[4]


  • Anarchist opposition to nationalism 1
  • Bakunin and nationalism 2
  • China 3
  • Ireland 4
  • Har Dayal 5
  • Black anarchism or Panther anarchism 6
  • Post-colonial anarchism 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Anarchist opposition to nationalism

[2][3] After the Spanish Civil War, Francoist Spain persecuted anarchists and Catalan nationalists, among whom the use of Esperanto was extensive,[4] Anationalism (Esperanto: sennaciismo) is a term originating from the community of Esperanto speakers which passed to anarchism from there. It denotes a range of cosmopolitan political concepts that combine some or all of the following tendencies and ideas:

  • radical antinationalism,
  • universalism,
  • "one-world-ism",
  • acceptance of the historic trend toward linguistic homogenization on a world scale, and in some cases even a striving to accelerate that trend,
  • the necessity of political education and organization of the world proletariat in accordance with those ideas, and
  • the utility of Esperanto as an instrument of such political education.

A critique of nationalism from an anarchist point of view is Rudolf Rocker's book Nationalism and Culture. American anarchist Fredy Perlman wrote a number of pamphlets that were strongly critical of all forms of nationalism, including Anti-Semitism and the Beirut Pogrom, a critique of Zionism,[5] and The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism, which argues that nationalism is a process of state formation inspired by imperialism, which capitalists, fascists and Leninists use as a mean of controlling their subjects.[6]

Andrew Flood wrote in An Anarchist Perspective on Irish Nationalism,

Anarchists are not nationalists, in fact we are completely against nationalism. We don't worry about where your granny was born, whether you can speak Irish or if you drink a green milkshake in McDonalds on St Patrick's Day. But this doesn't mean we can ignore nations. They do exist; and some nationalities are picked on, discriminated against because of their nationality. Irish history bears a lot of witness to this. The Kurds, Native Americans, Chechins, and many more have suffered also - and to an amazingly barbaric degree. National oppression is wrong. It divides working class people, causes terrible suffering and strengthens the hand of the ruling class. Our opposition to this makes us anti-imperialists. ... So fight national oppression but look beyond nationalism. We can do a lot better. Changing the world for the better will be a hard struggle so we should make sure that we look for the best possible society to live in. We look forward to a world without borders, where the great majority of people have as much right to freely move about as the idle rich do today. A worldwide federation of free peoples - classless and stateless - where we produce to satisfy needs and all have control over our destinies - that's a goal worth struggling for.[7]

The Anarchist Federation views nationalism as an ideology totally bound up with the development of capitalism, and unable to go beyond it:

... At heart, nationalism is an ideology of class collaboration. It functions to create an imagined community of shared interests and in doing so to hide the real, material interests of the classes which comprise the population. The 'national interest' is a weapon against the working class, and an attempt to rally the ruled behind the interests of their rulers ... Anarchist communists do not simply oppose nationalism because it is bound up in racism and parochial bigotry. It undoubtedly fosters these things, and has mobilised them through history. Organising against them is a key part of anarchist politics. But nationalism does not require them to function. Nationalism can be liberal, cosmopolitan and tolerant, defining the 'common interest' of 'the people' in ways which do not require a single 'race'. Even the most extreme nationalist ideologies, such as fascism, can co-exist with the acceptance of a multiracial society, as was the case with the Brazilian Integralist movement. Nationalism uses what works – it utilises whatever superficial attribute is effective to bind society together behind it.[8]

More recently post-left anarchist Fredy Perlman wrote a work on the subject of nationalism in 1984 called The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism[9] In it he argues that "Leftist or revolutionary nationalists insist that their nationalism has nothing in common with the nationalism of fascists and national socialists, that theirs is a nationalism of the oppressed, that it offers personal as well as cultural liberation."[9] And so "To challenge these claims, and to see them in a context,"[9] he asks "what nationalism is - not only the new revolutionary nationalism but also the old conservative one."[9] And so he concludes that nationalism is an aid to capitalist control of nature and people regardless of its origin. Nationalism thus provides a form through which "Every oppressed population can become a nation, a photographic negative of the oppressor nation" and that "There's no earthly reason for the descendants of the persecuted to remain persecuted when nationalism offers them the prospect of becoming persecutors. Near and distant relatives of victims can become a racist nation-state; they can themselves herd other people into concentration camps, push other people around at will, perpetrate genocidal war against them, procure preliminary capital by expropriating them."[9]

Bakunin and nationalism

Anarchist theorist Mikhail Bakunin embraced nationalist causes such as pan-Slavism and Siberian separatism.

Prior to his involvement with the anarchist movement, Mikhail Bakunin had a long history of involvement in nationalist movements of various kinds. In his Appeal to the Slavs (1848), Bakunin called for cooperation between nationalist revolutionary movements across Europe (both Slavic and non-Slavic) to overthrow empires and dissolve imperialism, in an uprising of "all oppressed nationalities" which would lead to a "Universal Federation of European Republics".[10] He also agitated for a United States of Europe (a contemporary nationalist vision originated by Mazzini).[11] Later, exiled to eastern Siberia, he became involved with a circle of Siberian nationalists who planned to separate from Russia. They were connected with his cousin and patron, Nikolay Muravyov-Amursky, the Governor General of Eastern Siberia, whom Bakunin defended in Herzen's journal The Bell.[12] It was not until a full four years after leaving Siberia, however, that Bakunin proclaimed himself an anarchist.

Max Nettlau remarked of this period in his life that: "This may be explained by Bakunin's increasing nationalist psychosis, induced and nourished by the expansionist ideas of the officials and exploiters who surrounded him in Siberia, causing him to overlook the plight of their victims."[13]


Anarchists formed the first labor unions and the first large-scale Peasant organizations in China. During the roughly two decades when anarchism was the dominant radical ideology in China (roughly 1900-1924), Anarchists there were active in mass movements of all kinds, including the nationalist movement.

A small group of Anarchists - mostly those associated with the early 'Paris Group', a grouping of Chinese Expatriates based in France - were deeply involved in the nationalist movement and many served as "movement elders" in the KMT right up until the defeat of the nationalists by the Maoists. A minority of Chinese Anarchists associated with the Paris Group also helped funnel large sums of money to Sun Yat-sen to help finance the Nationalist revolution of 1911.

After the 1911 Nationalist revolution, Anarchist involvement with the Jing Meijiu and Zhang Ji (both affiliated with the Tokyo Group) were elected to positions within the KMT government and continued to call themselves Anarchists while doing so. The response from the larger anarchist movement was decidedly mixed. They were roundly denounced by the Guangzhou group; but other groupings that favored an 'evolutionary' approach to social change instead of immediate Revolution, such as the 'Pure Socialists', were more sympathetic.

The "Deng Xiaoping.

Following the success of the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution anarchism went into decline in the Chinese labour movement. In 1924 the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) allied itself with the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT). Originally composed of many former anarchists, it soon attracted a mass base, becoming increasingly critical of anarchism. When the Kuomintang purged the CPC from its ranks in 1927, the small group of anarchists who had long participated in the KMT urged their younger comrades to join the movement and utilize it in the same way that the Stalinists had been using it - as a vehicle to gain membership and influence.

Partly because of the growing power of the right-wing within the KMT and the repression of workers movements advocated by that right wing, the Anarchists opted not to join the KMT en masse or even work within it, instead, the result of this last collaboration was the creation of China's first Dual Power-based evolutionary strategy reminiscent of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

The university would only function for a very few years before the Nationalist government decided that the project was too subversive to allow it too continue and pulled funding. When the KMT initiated a second wave of repression against the few remaining mass movements, anarchists left the organization en masse and were forced underground as hostilities between the KMT and CPC – both of whom were hostile towards anti-authoritarians – escalated.


The anarcho-Platformist Workers Solidarity Movement (WSM) has produced a number of articles and essays on the relationship between Anarchism and Irish Republicanism over the years. Their position, roughly, is that Anarchism and Republicanism are incompatible and opposed to each other but that Anarchists can and should learn things from Ireland's long history of struggle. In their analysis Republicanism has always been split between rich people who want to rule directly and working class movements that demand social equality and community self governance instead of simply trading foreign bosses for local ones.

In Ireland in the 1790's we had a mass republican movement influenced by the American and then the French revolutions. That movement included those who favored a radical leveling agenda as well as the democratic agenda of mainstream republicans. Edward Fitzgerald, the military planner of the rising was one such proponent. But it also contained those like Wolfe Tone who saw an independent Ireland as opening up its own colonies in the Caribbean. In the north Henry Joy McDonald had to remove the existing United Irish leadership paralyzed by fear of the mob seizing property before the rising there could get underway, weeks after it had begun in the south. After its defeat and before his execution he warned future republicans to beware that "the rich always betray the poor." ... This process was mirrored in republican movements elsewhere. Left republicans would build real popular struggle but then be confronted with the need to preserve national unity in the face of the wealthy republicans whose funds were often needed for arms backing off because they feared for their privilege. And this is where we find the roots of the early anarchist movement... So in terms of historical development anarchism and republicanism have a lot in common, in fact anarchism is arguably an offshoot of republicanism, an offshoot that emerged for the first time in the 1860's but has emerged on other occasions since then including in 1970's Ireland where some of those leaving the official republican movement became anarchists while other anarchists were joining both provisional and official republican movements.[14]

According to this analysis, Anarchism is the successor to left-nationalism, a working class movement working to achieve the liberation that the Republican movements that toppled the worlds monarchies in the last two centuries promised but never delivered. So even though the ideas of Anarchism are fundamentally different from those of Nationalism it is still possible to learn from nationalist movements by studying the working class elements of those movements that demanded more than the bourgeoisie leadership was willing or able to deliver.

Har Dayal

In the 1910s Lala Har Dayal became an anarchist agitator in San Francisco, joining the IWW before becoming a pivotal figure in the Ghadar Party. A long-time advocate of Indian nationalism, he developed a vision of anarchism based upon a return to the principles of ancient Aryan society.[15] He was particularly influenced by Guy Aldred, who was jailed for printing The Indian Sociologist in 1907. Aldred, an anarcho-communist, was careful to point out that this solidarity arose because he was an advocate of free speech and not because he felt that nationalism would help the working class in India or elsewhere.[16]

Black anarchism or Panther anarchism

Black anarchism opposes the existence of a anarchists seek to abolish white supremacy, capitalism, and the state. Theorists include Ashanti Alston, Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin, Kuwasi Balagoon, many former members of the Black Panther Party, and Martin Sostre. Black anarchism rejects the traditional anarchist movement.

Black anarchists have criticized both the hierarchical organization of the Black Panther Party, and the anarchist movement, on the grounds that it has traditionally been European and/or white-based. They oppose the anti-racist conception, based on the universalism of the Enlightenment, which is proposed by the anarchist workers' tradition, arguing that it is not adequate enough to struggle against racism and that it disguises real inequalities by proclaiming a de jure equality. For example, Pedro Ribeiro has criticized the whole of the anarchist movement by declaring that: "It is a white, petty-bourgeois Anarchism that cannot relate to the people. As a Black person, I am not interested in your Anarchism. I am not interested in individualistic, self-serving, selfish liberation for you and your white friends. What I care about is the liberation of my people."[17]

Black anarchists are thus influenced by the

  • Anarchist Integralism
  • Anarchist Notions of Nationalism and Patriotism by Rob Knowles
  • byThe Continuing Appeal of Nationalism Fredy Perlman
  • Anarchists against nationalism and Anarchists and nationalism at
  • Are anarchists against nationalism? at the Spunk Library
  • Beyond Nationalism, But Not Without It. Nationalism and anarchism from a Black anarchist perspective, from Anarchist Panther by Ashanti Alston.
  • Post Colonial Anarchism, by Roger White. Anarchism, nationalism, and national liberation from an APOC perspective.

External links

  • Aldred, Guy. 1948. Rex v. Aldred. Glasgow: Strickland Press.
  • Bakunin, Mikhail. 1848. Appeal to the Slavs. Translated in: Sam Dolgoff, 1971, Bakunin on Anarchy.
  • Billingsley, Philip. N.d. "Bakunin, Yokohama and the Dawning of the Pacific Era".
  • Hampson, Norman. 1968. The Enlightenment. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books.
  • Hearder, Harry. 1966. Europe in the Nineteenth Century 1830-1880. New York: Longman. ISBN 0-582-48212-7.
  • Knowles, Rob. N.d. "Anarchist Notions of Nationalism and Patriotism". R.A. Forum.
  • Motherson, Keith. 1980. "The ice floes are melting: the state of the left". Peace News 5 September 2127: 9-11.
  • Nettlau, Max. 1953. "Mikhail Bakunin: A Biographical Sketch". Reproduced in: The Political Philosophy of Bakunin: Scientific Anarchism 42. The Free Press.
  • Puri, Karish K. 1983. Ghadar Movement: Ideology, Organisation and Strategy. Guru Nanak Dev University Press.
  • Rocker, Rudolf. 1998 Nationalism and Culture. Black Rose Books (Reprint of 1937 Edition).
  • West, Pat V.T. 2005. "Monica Sjoo" (obituary). The Guardian September 23.


  1. ^ Post Colonial Anarchism, by Roger White. Anarchism, nationalism, and national liberation from an APOC perspective.
  2. ^ a b "Anarkiistoj estis inter la pioniroj de la disvastigo de Esperanto. En 1905 fondiĝis en Stokholmo la unua anarkiisma Esperanto-grupo. Sekvis multaj aliaj: en Bulgario, Ĉinio kaj aliaj landoj. Anarkiistoj kaj anarki-sindikatistoj, kiuj antaŭ la Unua Mondmilito apartenis al la nombre plej granda grupo inter la proletaj esperantistoj, fondis en 1906 la internacian ligon Paco-Libereco, kiu eldonis la Internacian Socian Revuon. Paco-libereco unuiĝis en 1910 kun alia progresema asocio, Esperantista Laboristaro. La komuna organizaĵo nomiĝis Liberiga Stelo. Ĝis 1914 tiu organizaĵo eldonis multe da revolucia literaturo en Esperanto, interalie ankaŭ anarkiisma. Tial povis evolui en la jaroj antaŭ la Unua Mondmilito ekzemple vigla korespondado inter eŭropaj kaj japanaj anarkiistoj. En 1907 la Internacia Anarkiisma Kongreso en Amsterdamo faris rezolucion pri la afero de internacia lingvo, kaj venis dum la postaj jaroj similaj kongresaj rezolucioj. Esperantistoj, kiuj partoprenis tiujn kongresojn, okupiĝis precipe pri la internaciaj rilatoj de la anarkiistoj.""ESPERANTO KAJ ANARKIISMO" by Will Firth
  3. ^ a b "Proliferarán así diversos grupos que practicarán el excursionismo, el naturismo, el nudismo, la emancipación sexual o el esperantismo, alrededor de asociaciones informales vinculadas de una manera o de otra al anarquismo. Precisamente las limitaciones a las asociaciones obreras impuestas desde la legislación especial de la Dictadura potenciarán indirectamente esta especie de asociacionismo informal en que confluirá el movimiento anarquista con esta heterogeneidad de prácticas y tendencias. Uno de los grupos más destacados, que será el impulsor de la revista individualista
  4. ^ a b La utilización del esperanto durante la Guerra Civil Española, Toño del Barrio and Ulrich Lins. Paper for the International Congress on the Spanish Civil War, (Madrid, 27–29 November 2006).
  5. ^ Anti-Semitism and the Beirut Pogrom by Fredy Perlman. Detroit : Black and Red 1983
  6. ^ The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism by Fredy Perlman. Detroit : Black & Red, 1985.
  7. ^ An Anarchist Perspective on Irish Nationalism, by Andrew Flood. Workers Solidarity Movement (Ireland).
  8. ^ Against Nationalism, by the Anarchist Federation (UK)
  9. ^ a b c d e 'The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism'' by Fredy Perlman"'". Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  10. ^ Bakunin 1848.
  11. ^ Knowles n.d.
  12. ^ Billingsley n.d.
  13. ^ Nettlau 1953.
  14. ^ The Republican Tradition - A Place to Build From? Accessed 11/26/2010
  15. ^ Puri 1983.
  16. ^ Aldred 1948.
  17. ^ "Senzala or Quilombo: Reflections on APOC and the fate of Black Anarchism". Anarkismo. 2005-05-11. Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  18. ^ @narchist Panther Zine October 1999, 1(1).


Where traditional anarchism is a movement arising from the struggles of proletarians in industrialized western European nations - and thus sees history from their perspective - post-colonial anarchism approaches the same principles of mutual aid, class struggle, opposition to social hierarchy, and community-level self-management, self-government, self-management, and self-determination from the perspective of colonized peoples throughout the world. In doing so it does not seek to invalidate the contributions of the more established anarchist movement, but rather seeks to add a unique and important perspective. The tendency is strongly influenced by indigenism, anti-state forms of nationalism, and APOC (Anarchist People of Color), among other sources.

Post-colonial anarchism is a relatively new tendency within the larger anarchist movement. The name is taken from an essay by Roger White, one of the founders of Jailbreak Press and an activist in North American APOC circles. Post-colonial anarchism is an attempt to bring together disparate aspects and tendencies within the existing anarchist movement and re-envision them in an explicitly anti-imperialist framework.

Post-colonial anarchism

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