Archive for the 'Nationalism' Category

James and Grace Lee Boggs on race, radicalism, and standpoint perspective (1974)

Most rebels, black or white, react to an idea purely in terms of the social position of the person advancing the idea. Usually they will not even consider an idea unless it comes from someone in the most oppressed strata of society. They never stop to consider that any ideas of serious value will have to be highly advanced ideas — they cannot be ideas of the past, because, like it or not, the United States is a highly advanced country, and one in which the contradictions are not material or economic, but within the realm of human choice. ….
How to project an advanced idea in tune with our unique stage of human development is a serious revolutionary problem…. Malcolm X used to chide the masses, because he began with the idea that the masses are not perfect, and that they had to be transformed. He had the courage to attack the Establishment while chiding the masses for their backwardness, their superstitions, their myths and fears. Malcolm realized that the masses would have to repudiate much of what they had accepted as normal and natural, and transform themselves into new people with new values, and with a new vision, of new tasks to be performed, if black people were ever to be free. In fact, Malcolm repudiated his own past as inconsistent with a new life and new values.
But in the years since Malcolm’s death, when we should have been developing a new revolutionary vision, we have wasted our time in so much rhetoric that black and white radicals today make a virtue of irresponsibility and a virtue of vice – so long as it is the vice of an oppressed person. Today anything can be called revolutionary, regardless of how inhumane it is, so long as an oppressed militant is involved. The result is that, despite the spreading militancy and rebellion, we are moving further away from, rather than closer to, the revolutionary goal of building a new society.
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James and Grace Lee Boggs, Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1974), 191-92.

Jason Adams, “Nonwestern Anarchisms: Rethinking the Global Context” (2001)

“The future of anarchism must be appraised within a global context; any attempt to localize it is bound to yield a distorted outcome. The obstacles to anarchism are, in the main, global; only their specifics are determined by local circumstances.”
– Sam Mbah

“To the reactionists of today we are revolutionists, but to the revolutionists of tomorrow our acts will have been those of conservatives”
– Ricardo Flores Magon



The purpose of this paper is to help anarchist / anti-authoritarian movements active today to reconceptualize the history and theory of first-wave anarchism on the global level, and to reconsider its relevance to the continuing anarchist project. In order to truly understand the full complexity and interconnectedness of anarchism as a worldwide movement however, a specific focus on the uniqueness and agency of movements amongst the “people without history” is a deeply needed change. This is because the historiography of anarchism has focused almost entirely on these movements as they have pertained to the peoples of the West and the North, while movements amongst the peoples of the East and the South have been widely neglected. As a result, the appearance has been that anarchist movements have arisen primarily within the context of the more privileged countries. Ironically, the truth is that anarchism has primarily been a movement of the most exploited regions and peoples of the world. That most available anarchist literature does not tell this history speaks not to a necessarily malicious disregard of non-Western anarchist movements but rather to the fact that even in the context of radical publishing, centuries of engrained eurocentrism has not really been overcome. This has been changing to an extent however, as there here have been several attempts in just the past decade to re-examine this history in detail in specific non-Western countries and regions, with works such as Arif Dirlik’s Anarchism in the Chinese Revolution, Sam Mbah’s African Anarchism and Frank Fernandez’ Cuban Anarchism. It is within the footsteps of this recent tradition that this paper treads further into the relatively new ground of systematically assessing, comparing and synthesizing the findings of all of these studies combined with original investigation in order to develop a more wholly global understanding of anarchism and its history. To begin our inquiry we first must make clear what it is that is actually meant by the term “Western anarchism.” Going back to the debates within the First International, it quickly becomes apparent that this term is a misnomer, as it is actually the opposite case that is true; anarchism has always been derived more of the East / South than of the West / North. As Edward Krebs has noted “Marx (and Engels) saw Russianness in Bakunin’s ideas and behavior” while “Bakunin expressed his fears that the social revolution would become characterized by ‘pan-Germanism’ and ‘statism.’” This debate has led some to characterize it as largely between Western and Eastern versions of socialism; one marked by a fundamental commitment to order and the other marked by a fundamental commitment to freedom (1998, p. 19). So in this sense anarchism can be understood as an “Eastern” understanding of socialism, rather than as a fully Western tradition in the usual sense of the term. At the same time it should be remembered that there also developed an extremely contentious North / South split between the more highly developed nations of England and Germany and the less developed semi-peripheral nations of Spain, Italy and others. This split was based on differences of material reality but developed largely along ideological lines, with the northern Anglo-Saxon nations siding primarily with Karl Marx and the southern Latin nations siding with Mikhail Bakunin (Mbah, p. 20). So in both the East / West and the North / South sense, anarchism has often been the theory of choice for the most oppressed peoples; particularly in those societies whose primarily feudal nature writes them out of historical agency in the Marxist understanding of the world. This may explain a good deal of why anarchism became so popular throughout Latin America, and why immigrating anarchists from the Latin nations of Europe were so well received in country after country that they visited, attempting to spread the anarchist vision.

Continue reading ‘Jason Adams, “Nonwestern Anarchisms: Rethinking the Global Context” (2001)’

Bakunin: the “reactionary” consequences of national liberation movements (1866)

“Today no revolution can succeed in any country if it is not at the same time both a political and a social revolution. Every exclusively political revolution – be it in defense of national independence or for internal change, or even for the establishment of a republic – that does not aim at the immediate and real political and economic emancipation of people will be a false revolution. Its objectives will be unattainable and its consequences reactionary.”

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from Mikhail Bakunin, “National Catechism,” 1866. In Bakunin on Anarchism, edited by Sam Dolgoff (Montreal: Black Rose, 1972/2002), page 99. The entire essay is online here.

RADICAL ARCHIVES NOTE: There are is shortage of workerist anarchists who wish to turn Bakunin and classical anarchism into a bottom-up version of the Marxist-Leninism that many of these workerists are strongly influenced by. One of the more outrageous claims they attempt to marshall evidence for, usually by selective quotations of Bakunin’s work on federalism, is that he supported national liberation movements (eg after his pan-Slavist period). Since Bakunin made explicit denunciations of national liberation struggles that were not also thoroughly and completely radical struggles, these writers are clearly banking on most anarchists’ ignorance of their own tradition.

Neighbors Network – “Hatred In Georgia” and other publications (1989-1994)

Radical Archives is delighted to present the monitoring publications of the Neighbors Network, including Hatred in Georgia. These publications, covering the years 1989 to 1993, document the extensive far right organizing in that state.

The Neighbors Network was an independent, Atlanta, Georgia-based grassroots anti-Klan/anti-Nazi group; it was founded in 1987 and disbanded in 1996. These years were a high-water mark for far right organizing in the post-Civil Rights era of the U.S., and Georgia was one of its centers.  The traditional distinction between various independent Klans (then experiencing their own revivals) and the Nazis was eroding. In 1987, a small march in Forsyth County (which had been reputed to be all-white since multiple lynchings in 1912) by local residents and civil rights activists was forced to flee when attacked by a stone-throwing mob, despite protection from both State and local law enforcement. A follow-up march by anti-racists the next week was met by thousands of angry counter-protestors, in what many consider to the largest pro-segregation demonstration since the 1960s.

Emboldened by the often lackadaisical response from local governments or communities, Nazi and Klan groups, often in conjunction with old time segregationists or Populist Party members, held frequent public events in towns across Georgia. These ranged from flyering at shopping malls to cross burnings and Nazi skinhead rallies that drew hundreds of attendees. There were numerous assaults on queer folks, people of color, immigrants, the homeless and anti-racist activists — as well as a number of murders. These far right factions ultimately lent their support to “legitimate” right-wing activity, such as Cobb County’s 1993 anti-gay resolution. It was in this context that the Neighbors Network was formed.

An extensive interview with Neighbors Network founder Walter Reeves is now online at the Political Research Associates website.

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Hatred in Georgia, 1989-1993

Hatred in Georgia, 1989: A Chronology of Hate Activity, written and compiled By Patrick Kelly, edited By R.S. Cross (Atlanta: Neighbors Network, 1990).

Hatred in Georgia, 1990: A Chronology of Hate Activity, compiled by Patrick Kelly, edited by Eva Sears and R. S. Cross (Atlanta: Neighbors Network, 1991).

Hatred in Georgia, 1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Hate Activity, compiled by Patrick Kelly; text by Steve Adams, Patrick Kelly, S. Stanton, W. B. Reeves, and Eva Sears; edited by S. Stanton (Atlanta: Neighbors Network, 1992).

Hatred in Georgia, 1992 Report: A Chronology and Analysis of Hate Activity, written and compiled by Patrick Kelly, Marcy Louza, W.B. Reeves, Sandra Garrison, Eva Sears, Steve Adams and Norman Burns (Atlanta: Neighbors Network, 1993).

Hatred in Georgia, 1993 Report: A Chronology and Analysis of Hate Activity, written and compiled by Patrick Kelly, W.B. Reeves, Eva Sears, Janine Landon, David McBride, and Steve Adams (Atlanta: Neighbors Network, 1994).

Neighbors Network reports:

Hidden Agenda: The Influence of Religious Extremism on the Politics of Cobb County, Georgia, compiled and written by W. B. Reeves; produced for the Cobb Citizens Coalition (Atlanta: Neighbors Network, 1994).

Shadow of Hatred: Hate Group Activity in Cobb County, Georgia, written and compiled by: W. B. Reeves, Patrick Kelly, and Steve Adams; produced for the Cobb Citizens Coalition (Atlanta: Neighbors Network, 1994).

Eldridge Cleaver (Black Panther Party): “Jews were able to do precisely the same thing that Afro-Americans must now do” (1968)

“The parallel between the situation of the Jews at the time of the coming of Theodore Herzl and the present situation of black people in America is fascinating. The Jews had no homeland and were dispersed around the world, cooped up in the ghettos of Europe. Functionally, a return to Israel seemed as impractical as obtaining a homeland for Afro-American now seems. Renowned Jewish leaders were seriously considering transporting Jews to Argentina, en masse, and developing a homeland there. Others seriously considered obtaining from England the territory of Uganda in East Africa for the same purpose.

The gravitational center of the Jewish population at that time was in Eastern Europe. With the outbreak of the massive pogroms in that area near the end of the nineteenth century, the Jewish people were prepared psychologically to take desperate and unprecedented action. They saw themselves faced with an immediate disastrous situation. Genocide was staring them in the face and this common threat galvanized them into common action.

Psychologically, black people in America have precisely the same outlook as Jews had then, and they are therefore prepared to take common action for the solution to a common problem. Oppressed because of the color of their skin, black people are reacting on that basis. A nationalist consciousness has at last awakened among the black masses of Afro-America.

The facts of history show that the Jews were able to do precisely the same thing that Afro-Americans must now do. When Theodore Herzl founded the Jewish National Congress, he virtually founded a government in exile. They would build their organization, their government, and then later on they would get some land and set the government and the people down on the land, like placing one’s hat on top of one’s head. The Jews did it. It worked. So now African-Americans must do the same thing.

In fact, when he moved to found the organization of Afro-American Unity, this is precisely what Malcolm X was doing, founding a government in exile for a people in exile. Stokely Carmichael and Rap Brown are now speaking in the name of that sovereignty, in the name of a nation.”

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Eldridge Cleaver in Post-Prison Writings and Speeches, edited by Robert Scheer (NY: Ramparts/Vintage, 1969), pages 67­–69. Essay is dated April/May 1968.

Anarchists Against National Self-Determination, Part 1 – Joseph J. Cohen: “The Right to Self-Determination” (1951)

Joseph J. Cohen

Words are bound to be the first victims in any era of great social disturbance. Their meaning and content are interpreted in various ways depending on the angle from which the person or group using them looks at the trend of general development.

Viewed in the light of the vanishing past, in which subjugated national groups were forcibly held together in the Hapsburg Empire of Austria, or in the Ottoman Empire of Turkey, the right to self determination of nations,  promulgated by President Woodrow Wilson in his historical Fourteen Points, appeared a progressive step leading to greater freedom and a better chance for the peaceful development of international relations. To the nations on the checker board of Europe at the conclusion of the first World War, the right to self determination appeared to be a just solution of the many complex problems arising out of the breaking up of the gigantic combinations of empires competing for supremacy in a world of power politics.

But when we study this problem from present-day experience and the standpoint of the new social order slowly but surely emerging from the chaos of repeated world wars, we find the solution proposed by President Wilson is in reality a stumbling block to lasting peace.

Parceling of each continent into separate hegemonies walled in by guarded boundary lines, tariffs, competing valuta and restrictions against foreigners, tends to insulate the peoples of the earth into antagonistic national sovereignties, suspicious of one another and hostile to everything cloaked in unfamiliarity.

The small, independent governments in Europe, created by the treaty of Versailles as a result of President Wilson’s formula, did not contribute to the solution of a single one of the problems confronting the western world at that time. Rather did the problems become more complicated. The racial groups of Europe are so integrated and blended that nothing short of uprooting and resettling whole populations could separate them into their component parts. Whether they like it or not, they must live together. And any encouragement toward separatism, toward self-determination, is bound to lead to more harm than good.

The baneful tendency of the right to self-determination manifested itself in the newly created states which had owed their very existence to the promulgation of the principle. No sooner had they become autonomous than they began to limit the rights of their minorities. Poland, which had suffered oppression under the Russian tsar, the German kaiser, and the Austrian emperor, immediately set out to oppress, and curtail the freedoms of, millions of Jews and Ukrainians who had lived within her borders since time immemorial. The same thing happened in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, and all the other newly created states.

The concept that a nation is endowed with the right to determine its destiny and regulate unhindered the conditions of life within its territory is based on the outworn principle of absolute right to property and on the fallacy that the rights of a nation are parallel to that of the family. Since the law recognizes the individual’s right to own and dispose of property in his own way, people are willing to grant the same right to a nation. The result is demonstrated in Australia, where 7,500,000 people occupying a territory nearly as large as the United States, by reason of their right of self-determination, do not permit people to settle there unless the latter qualify in certain limited classifications. In like manner, the 13,000,000 citizens of Canada occupying an area much larger than the United States feel justified in shutting their doors against newcomers.

Yet this is absurd. It can find no support in morals, ethics, or human usage based on any principle other than force. And any social arrangement depending solely on force must sooner or later lead to conflict and a test of arms. We are slowly coming to realize that, if we are to survive, our existence will depend on the unification of the peoples of the world and their integration into one family. One world or none is not merely a well sounding phrase, it is the sine qua non imposed upon our race by its historical development and the invention of such tools of destruction as the atom bomb and gas and bacterial warfare, which threaten to annihilate us all. Every effort to divide and separate human beings, even when based on the most idealistic of slogans, is a step backward and a hindrance to progress.

By the very nature and logic of its concept, the right to self-determination is applicable only to the basic human unit composing society, the individual. He is perfectly justified in claiming for himself freedom of action and conduct with the sole qualification of not infringing upon the rights of others, and being willing to limit his freedom by the equal right to freedom of his neighbor. Large groups of peoples, whole nations organized as sovereign states, based as they arc on compulsion and guided by raison d’etat, can hardly be expected to do justice to the term. Any recourse to the right of self-determination on their part must bring only discredit to a principle once cherished by well-meaning idealists.

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from “The Right to Self-Determination” in the anthology The World Scene From The Libertarian Point of View (Chicago: Free Society Group of Chicago, 1951), pp 56–57.

The anthology’s “Notes on the Authors Herein” says Cohen “was formerly editor of the Jewish weekly Freie Arbeiter Stimme in New York City” (p 95).

RADICAL ARCHIVES NOTE: We took the basic content of this essay from a somewhat garbled, text-recognition scan of the whole anthology, which  is available here, and corrected it against the original.

G. P. Maximoff on nationalism (1951)

“Nationalism cannot be abolished; it can only be shaken off in a life of close co-operation.”

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from “The State of the World” in the anthology The World Scene From The Libertarian Point of View (Chicago: Free Society Group of Chicago, 1951), p 8.


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