Non-Western Anarchisms: Rethinking the Global Context
By Jason Adams
“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.”
“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.
So by employing the label “Western” I am not referring to the actual history of anarchism but rather to the way in which anarchism has been constructed through the multiple lenses of Marxism, capitalism, eurocentrism and colonialism to be understood as such. This distorted, decontextualized and ahistoric anarchism with which we have now become familiar was constructed primarily by academics writing within the context of the core countries of the West: England, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Canada, United States, Australia and New Zealand. Since there was virtually no real subversion of the eurocentric understanding of anarchism until the 1990s, the vast majority of literature available that purports to deliver an “overview” of anarchism is written in such a way that one is led to believe that anarchism has existed solely within this context, and rarely, if ever, outside of it. Therefore, the anarchism that becomes widely known is that which has come to be identified with the West, despite its origins in the East; Kropotkin, Bakunin, Godwin, Stirner, and Goldman in first wave anarchism: Meltzer, Chomsky, Zerzan, and Bookchin in second and third wave anarchism. Rarely are such seminal first wave figures as Shifu, Atabekian, Magon, Shuzo, or Glasse even mentioned; a similar fate is meted out for such second and third wave figures such as Narayan, Mbah, and Fernandez — all of non-Western origin. This construction of anarchism as Western has unfortunately led to an unintentional eurocentrism that has permeated the writings of many second and third wave theorists and writers. Their work then becomes the standard-bearer of what anarchism actually means to most people, as it is printed and reprinted, sold and resold perennially at anarchist bookfairs, infoshops, bookstores and other places, as it is quoted and analyzed, compared and debated in reading circles, academic papers, at socials, parties, demonstrations, meetings and on picketlines. Clearly, there has been a great deal of reverence in second and third wave anarchist movements for this “Western anarchism” — the result has been that much of anarchism has moved from being a popular tradition amongst the most exploited in societies the world over to being little more than a loose combination of an academic curiosity for elite Western academics and a short-lived rebellious phase of youth that is seen as something that is eventually, and universally, outgrown.
This paper demonstrates an alternative understanding in the hope that this fate can be overcome; that anarchism, in the first quarter of the 20th century, was the largest antisystemic movement in almost all parts of the world, not just in the West. Upon considering that over three quarters of the global population is situated outside of the West, it quickly becomes clear that anarchism actually claimed the greatest number of adherents outside of the West rather than within it as well. Therefore, it is fair to say that not only has anarchism been a globally significant movement from its very inception, it has also been a primarily non-Western movement from its inception as well. This basic fact was reconfirmed with the rise of second wave anarchism, spanning from the late 1960s and on into the early 1970s in India, Argentina, Mexico, and South Africa (Joll, 1971, pg. 171). In turn, third wave anarchism, which has risen to popularity from the late 1990s to the present, also reconfirms this in resurgent movements in Brazil, Argentina, Korea, Nigeria and elsewhere. The relevance of this particular essay, however, is to critically reexamine the first global wave of anarchism in order to enable anarchists to think more holistically and effectively about the relevance of the past and its long-term effect on the present. This attempt to critique the narrow vision of “Western anarchism” should of course result in a more accurate understanding of the significance and potentiality of second and third wave anarchism in both the present and the future as well. Indeed, it was a similar motivation that drove the critique of Leninism / Stalinism that came out in the wake of the largely anarchist inspired events of May 1968, as well as the critique of Maoism that came in the wake of the Democracy Movement of the late 1970’s in China; both of which contributed greatly to the development of second and third wave anarchism worldwide.
In working to critique our understanding of the past though, there are several points that should be kept in mind at all times. A cursory reading into the contextual history surrounding these waves of anarchism could easily seem be to unearthing several “historical stages.” For instance one might get the impression that first wave anarchism universally fell into decline worldwide with the rise of the Bolsheviks, or that the decline of state socialism since 1989 has been the “lynchpin” that brought anarchism back in its third wave. While both statements are indeed true to a certain extent, the temptation to systematize and essentialize global social movements in order to make them easier to digest is one that should be undertaken with great care and discrimination; indeed, often it is a step that should not be undertaken at all. The reason is that one cannot ever fully understand the nuance and complexity of the thousands of social movements that have pulsed through non-Western societies through the lens of any singular overarching theory; even seemingly small factors of social difference can render them worthless. For instance, while anarchism declined in much of the world after the October Revolution of 1917, in large sections of the planet this was precisely the point at which anarchism rose to a level of unprecedented popularity. In these countries this was largely due to the saturation of anarchist-oriented periodicals in a particular local language — which meant of course that anarchism became the major filter for general alternative understandings of the nature of events in the world. In other words a rather minor variation in language and social conditions from one region of the world to the next rendered any broad statement on the global significance of Lenin’s rise to power completely indefensible. Or, for instance, if one was to posit that primitive communism “inevitably” has given way to feudalism, followed lockstep by capitalism, socialism and finally communism, that person would be rendering the entire history of hybrid African socialisms non-existent. These attempts at constructing universal laws in the understanding of history are the sorts of things that need to be deliberately avoided in order to understand the significance of difference in the creation of the whole. Indeed, as Theodore Adorno has shown in Negative Dialectics, it is only through negation and difference that one can conceive of the historical process in its entirety (Held, 1980, p. 205).
So, while the world has been connected on the global level for several centuries now, and there are many patterns that seem to present themselves as a result, it is important to remember that this connection has also been entirely uneven, chaotic and unpredictable. As a result, what is true for one particular region is not true for another, and what is true for a particular country within a particular region is often not true for a sub-region lying within it. Therefore universal declarations about history tend to crumble quite easily when put to the test of criticism. This critique becomes especially simple amongst the representatives of the worst of such deterministic thinking. For instance, as Sam Mbah has pointed out, many Marxist-oriented academics have even gone to such an extent as to argue that colonialism can be understood as being a “good” thing as it has allowed all parts of the world to reach the capitalist “stage” of history, a “necessary” precondition of course, to the dictatorship of the proletariat. In order to avoid this sort of univeralistic absurdity, I have chosen to focus in this paper not just on the positivism of sameness and homogeneity between disparate regions, but equally so on negation, heterogeneity and difference. That is, I attempt to discover that which makes the anarchisms of various non-Western countries, regions and subregions unique, with an eye as well to what aspects they may have in common and how they have been interconnected. It is my hope that in this choice I will have made a greater contribution to the future of the global anarchist project by consciously choosing not to define the histories of non-Western societies for them. Instead I let the individual histories speak for themselves, drawing connections where they actually exist, while allowing contradictions to arise freely as they must. I do this deliberately, as this is the approach of one who would be an ally.
Despite my decision to avoid adopting any one overarching theory, I have decided to focus primarily on one particular time period; from the late 19th Century up until the end of the first quarter of the 20th Century. While second and third wave anarchists typically describe this time period as the being the domain of what they call “classical” anarchism I argue that anarchism has always been a decentered and diverse tradition. Rather than essentializing an entire time period as being of one persuasion or another I choose to focus instead on the primacy of contradiction and difference, using the “wave” concept as a means of understanding the wax and wane in the global spread of anarchisms rather than as a way of defining the nature of the anarchisms themselves. While this would seem to put a temporal framework over the development of a historical ideological current that is not necessarily bound by such frames, my approach in this regard is not related to the pursuit of temporal frameworks but rather to the refutation and deconstruction of the concept of “classical” anarchism as a homogenous body of thought that can be located in a specific time and place. This is because I believe that this notion of classical anarchism plays a key role in the construction of the concept of Western anarchism, as it is in the context of the West that this conception has developed and it is never in reference to non-Western anarchism that such terminology is used. Ironically, by focusing on a particular time period, I actually am attempting to deconstruct the false dichotomy of “classical” vs. “postmodern” currents of anarchism in order to show that such temporal understandings of the “progressive” development of anarchist currents are ultimately flawed. This is because they do not recognize anywhere near the full spectrum of thought that has existed on the global level in the history of anarchist ideas; nor do they recognize the direct connections between early ideas and more recent ideas.
If “Western anarchism” is a eurocentric construction, then of course, “non-Western” must also be somewhat problematic. By employing it, I do not mean to give the impression that non-Western societies can or should be seen as some homogenous singular “world” in any sense. Nor am I implying that within the West itself there are not peoples who are originally or ancestrally of non-Western societies or that these peoples have never engaged in anarchist activity. Indeed, a more complete study of non-Western anarchisms would investigate additionally the history of anarchism amongst indigenous peoples and people of color within the borders of Western countries. However, I do make a particular point to focus on the considerable impact global migrations and the resultant ideological hybridity has had on the development of anarchism – some of this has even been within the borders of the Western countries, notably Paris and San Francisco. Another criticism that I anticipate is my inclusion of Latin America in the context of this study and what exactly the term “the West” is supposed to mean here. To this question I reply that by including Latin America I am denying that the region can be understood as being wholly a part of “the West” simply because much of the region’s populations identify strongly with the colonist culture – or perhaps it could be said that it is the colonist culture that identifies them. Rather, in the tradition of Guillermo Bonfil Batalla, I recognize the “deep” indigenous context that these largely mestizo societies were born within and the lasting impact this has had, and continues to have on these societies. In this way, Latin America can indeed be seen as being part of the context of non-Western societies. For the purposes of this study, which is to attempt to piece together a history of anarchism in those countries in which it has been largely ignored, I would define the term “the West” as essentially being comprised of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. These regions and nation-states are grouped together because they have represented the heart of world domination from the late 15th Century to the present, both in opposition to the self-determination of the rest of the world, and in opposition to the self-determination of indigenous peoples, people of color and working class people within their own borders.
All nation-states in the world are today hybrids of both Western and non-Western as the phenomenon of globalization has enforced the hegemony of the neo-liberal capitalist project the world over. This is not just a result of the force of arms: it is also because non-Western countries largely responded to encroaching domination by the Western world by both emulating it and by adopting its basic values and ideas. But what the West never counted on was that by promoting and enforcing “modernization” through the Social Darwinist cocktail of neo-liberalism, colonialism, industrialization and capitalism, they were also indirectly legitimizing the anti-Social Darwinist versions of modernization, that is to say, the socialist and anarchist projects. However, as Turkish anarchists have recently pointed out, non-Western “socialism” often fell in line with the modernization project, even allowing neo-liberal capitalist Structural Adjustment Programs. In contrast, they have pointed out that “anarchism was born of the Western and modern world, yet at the same time it was a denial of these things…anarchism was a denial of modernity and Western domination” (Baku, 2001). So throughout the world, many non-Western peoples saw their governments bowing to the pressures of the West and took the only options that came within that modernist package which seemed to offer either a modicum of liberty or equality, anarchism or socialism. In this way, it can be said that the modernist project was turned inside out and against itself by those it would intend to victimize and place under its control. This inside-out
modernism (or anti-modernism) was spread through the global migration of anarchists and anarchist ideas, more often than not a result of forced exile. Erricco Malatesta for instance, helped to spread anarchist communism from countries a far apart as Lebanon and Brazil, and Egypt and Cuba. Kotoku Shusui almost single-handedly delivered anarchist syndicalism to Japan after spending time organizing with the American IWW in San Francisco in 1906. And Kartar Singh Sarabha became a major influence influence on the Indian anarchist Bhagat Singh after organizing Indian workers in San Francisco in 1912.
Throughout this work, which will consider anarchism in its Asian, African, Latin American and Middle Eastern regional contexts, there are three primary areas of investigation that we are interested in. The first of these is a consideration of what specifically local social conditions lead to the rise of anarchism as an ideology and how these conditions shaped its growth into a uniquely hybrid manifestation of the world anarchist movement. The second is to map and to analyze the influence of the migrations and inmigrations of peoples and ideologies and how these differing social contexts influenced each other through a hybrid exchange. The last area of investigation, which is contained in the conclusion, is to assess which unique aspects of first wave non-Western anarchisms carried over into second wave anarchism, as well as to consider what valuable aspects of first and second wave anarchism have to the continuing anarchist project, now in its third wave.
Asian Anarchism: China, Korea, Japan & India
In order to begin to challenge the predominant Eurocentric understanding of anarchism and its history, one should begin first with the most populated continent on the planet, Asia. With over half of the global population, to ignore the volatile political history of the region is to engage in the worst sort of eurocentrism; this is of course, not to mention the shallow and warped understanding of anarchism that one then arrives at as a result. Throughout many parts of Asia, anarchism was the primary radical left movement in the first quarter of the 20th Century. This should be considered quite significant to the anarchist project because within the global context China is by far the most populated country with a population of over 1.2 billion people. India comes in second in population at just over 1 billion. The two countries hold over 1/5 of the world’s population respectively, and in each, anarchist thought has risen to a level of political importance unparalleled in the other smaller nation-states within Asia. In terms of population share alone, these facts make a rethinking of the global context extremely valuable, and this is why I begin here. Within the continent, we will begin first with China then move on to the other countries of East Asia, and then I will proceed to India.
There were multiple locally specific reasons why anarchism gained such widespread popularity in China. Many have pointed out the “limited government” (wuwei) element in traditional Chinese thought, ranging the gamut from Taoism to Buddhism to Confucianism. In line with this view, Peter Zarrow claims in Anarchism and Chinese Political Culture that anarchism was “created out of the ruins of Neo-Confucian discourse.” Building on this belief, he goes on to trace the connections between Taoist ideas of “order without coercion” and the later emergence of anarchism (1990, p. 5). While there certainly is some truth to Zarrow’s claims, what must be deliberately avoided is any overfocus on the “anarchistic” elements contained within Chinese traditional thought to the detriment of an understanding of the important role played by global migration and by colonialism itself. As Arif Dirlik has remarked, an overfocus on traditional thought can also be said to be somewhat Orientalist, as it attributes “everything new in China to Chinese tradition…another way of saying that there is never anything significantly new in China.” Alternatively, Dirlik posits that “the Chinese past is being read in new ways with the help of anarchism, and conversely there is a rereading of anarchism through Taoist and Buddhist ideas” (1997). In other words the development and spread of ideas is never a completely one-way process, it is always an exchange.
In any case, this is just one part; another major reason was that practically no Marxist theoretical works had been translated into Chinese until around 1921, and even then a movement based around it failed to materialize until around the end of the decade. As a result, anarchism enjoyed a nearly universal hegemony over the movement from 1905-1930, thereby serving as a sort of filter for developments in the worldwide radical movements. Even Russia’s October Revolution of 1918 was claimed as an “anarchist revolution” as a result, though this distortion did not last. So unlike in the rest of the world, the anarchist movement in China did not fall with rise of the Bolshevik victory in Russia, but instead rose in popularity along with it (Dirlik, 1991, p. 2).
In China, anarchism arrived at the apex of its popularity during the “Chinese Enlightenment,” also known as the New Culture Movement. It was through the conduit of influential Western ideas of liberalism, scientism and progress that anarchism was able to gain a foothold. And ironically, it was from the new realization of China as a nation-state in a decentered, cosmopolitan world of nation-states, rather than as the center of all culture, that brought about the rise of an ideology that called for the abolition of the nation-state (p. 3).
The concept of “cultural revolution,” which is the very definition of variance between Chinese socialism and that of the rest of the socialist movement, can be traced directly back to this heavily anarchistic “New Culture” period when Mao himself was a member of the anarchist People’s Voice Society and enthusiastically endorsed the thinking of the important anarchist leader Shifu amongst others (Dirlik, p. 195; Krebs, p. 158).
Of course, the anarchist conception of cultural revolution varied greatly from the Cultural Revolution which Mao actually put into practice, as by then he had been thoroughly convinced of the need for centralized, absolute authority after extensive contact with the Comintern. It is from the anarchist movement of this period that most of the later leaders of the Chinese Communist Party would later emerge.
When speaking of “Chinese anarchism” one might be tempted to think of it as simply that which developed within the actual borders of the country. But to do so would be to disregard the important influence migration has had on the movement, which was quite internationalist in scope. On the mainland, Chinese anarchist activity was concentrated primarily in the Guangzhou region of southern China, as well as in Beijing. In Guangzhou, Shifu was the most active and influential of the anarchists, helping to organize some of the first unions in the country. Students from Guangzhou formed the Truth Society, the first anarchist organization in the city of Beijing amongst many other projects. But like other nation-states around the world at this time, China was quickly becoming a more dynamic, diverse nation marked deeply by the repeated invasions of foreign powers as well as by the global migrations of it’s own peoples. Anarchists lived and organized in Chinese communities the world over, including Japan, France, the Philippines, Singapore, Canada and the United States; of these, the two most significant locations were the diaspora communities in Tokyo and Paris.
Of the two, the Paris anarchists were ultimately the more influential on a global level. Heavily influenced by their European surroundings (as well as whatever other personal reasons brought them there), they came to see much of China as backwards, rejecting most aspects of traditional culture. Turning towards modernism as the answer to China’s problems, they embraced what they saw as the universal power of science, embodied largely in the ideas of Kropotkin. In this spirit, Li Shizeng and Wu Zhihui formed an organization with a strong internationalist bent, called “the World Society” in 1906 (Dirlik p. 15). In contrast the Chinese anarchists in Tokyo were such as Liu Shipei were blatantly anti-modernist, embracing traditional Chinese thought and customs. Living in a different social context, for many different reasons, they were far more heavily influenced by anarchism as it had developed in Japan; which brings us of course, to the question of Japanese anarchism.
As in China, the October Revolution in Japan did not carry the same downward impact on the movement as it had in so many other parts of the world. In fact, the period immediately following 1917 became the apex of Japanese anarchism in terms of actual numbers and influence (Crump, p. xvi). Anarchism in Japan was quite diverse, but from amongst the broad array of anarchisms were two major tendencies; the class struggle ideals of anarchist syndicalism, promoted by figures such as Kotoku Shusui and Osugi Sakae, and the somewhat broader tendency of “”pure anarchism” promoted by activists like Hatta Shuzo. Both tendencies attracted a sizeable number of adherents, and both had their heyday at different points in the first quarter of the twentieth century.
The anarchist-syndicalists followed in the footsteps of the Bakuninist tradition of collectivism, which was largely based on exchange relations: to each an amount equal to their contribution to the greater collective. In addition, the syndicalists were largely concerned with the day-to-day struggles of the working class, reasoning that the larger goal of revolution had to be put off until they had reached a significant degree of organization. After the revolution, the revolutionary subjects would retain their identities as “workers” as they had been before the revolution. The most prevalent embodiment of this tendency was the All-Japan Libertarian Federation of Labour Unions (Zenkoku Jiren), an important anarchist-syndicalist federation of labor unions founded in 1926 that boasted over 16,000 members (Crump, p. 97).
In 1903 Kotoku Shusui resigned from his job as a journalist in Tokyo when it announced its support for the Russo-Japanese war and the occupation of Korea. He went on from there to start the anti-war Common People’s Newspaper (Heimin Shinbun) for which he would soon be imprisoned. While in jail, he made contact with anarchists in San Francisco, and became more and more intrigued by anarchist theory. After getting out of jail, Shusui moved to San Francisco, organized with members of the IWW, and returned to Japan with the intellectual and practical seeds of syndicalism. This development would soon influence figures such as Osugi Sakae and lead to the formation of Zenkoku Jiren (Crump, p. 22).
In contrast, the pure anarchists were more similar to anarchist communists in the tradition of Kropotkin, combined with a strong anti-modernist, pro-traditionalist bent. As a group they were embodied largely in the militant organization the Black Youth League (Kokuren). Historically, the mid-19th Century “agricultural communist anarchist” theorist Ando Shoeki is considered by many to have been their primary philosophical predecessor. The pure anarchist critique of anarchist syndicalism was focused largely on the syndicalist preservation of a division of labor in the administration of the post-revolutionary society. This division of labor meant that specialization would still be a major feature of society that would lead to a view that focused inwardly on particular industries rather than blending the intellectual and the worker. The pure anarchists also sought to abolish exchange relations in favor of the maxim from each according to their ability, to each according to their need. In a sense, they can be seen as attempting to develop a more uniquely Japanese interpretation of anarchism. For instance, they questioned the relevance of syndicalism to a society that was still largely peasant-based and had a relatively small industrial working class (Crump, p. 7).
Despite the variance between syndicalist and pure anarchisms, in general the one thing they had in common was that all Japanese interpretations of anarchism were hybrid theories, made relevant for the local situation. That situation was an extremely repressive one; meetings were broken up, demonstrations suppressed and anarchist publications banned on a regular basis throughout the life of first wave anarchism. The Red Flags incident of 1908 is a good example of this, when dozens of anarchists celebrating the release of political prisoner Koken Yamaguchi were brutally attacked and arrested simply for displaying the red flag. Translation and publication of anarchist texts were often done secretly in order to avoid repression, as was Kotoku’s translation of Kropotkin’s The Conquest of Bread. Another aspect of unique local conditions was that texts that described Western realities had to be made relevant to the local population. For instance, in the widely available Japanese translation of Kropotkin’s Collected Works, the European “commune” was transformed into a traditional Japanese farming village (Crump, p. xiii). But this process also occurred partially through the conduit of Western anarchists, and through the migration and inmigration of people and ideas. This is of course, is the way in which these essays became translated into Japanese. Kropotkin corresponded directly with Kotoku several times and agreed to allow him to translate several of his major works, while his travels to San Francisco resulted in dramatic changes in Japan’s anarchist movement as well. So this global connection of anarchists was extremely important, but as I have demonstrated, it was made relevant to people on the local level.
Another local condition that shaped the development of East Asian anarchism was that Japan had its own “Monroe Doctrine” of sorts over most of region. As has often been the case elsewhere, Japanese anarchists used their relative degree of privilege as a means to spread anarchism throughout the region. These efforts throughout Asia led to the formation of the Eastern Anarchist Federation, which included anarchists from China, Vietnam, Taiwan and Japan. This is in fact, how anarchism first reached Korea after Japan’s 1894 invasion in order to “protect” it from China. Korean migrants living in Tokyo came under the influence of Japanese anarchism and engaged heartily in the anti-imperialist movement. As a result, over 6,000 were rounded up after incredulously being blamed by the authoritarian Japanese state for Tokyo’s 1923 earthquake. They were beaten, jailed, and two were even sentenced to death along with their Japanese comrades in the “High Treason Case” (MacSimion, 1991). Later, during the 1919 independence struggle, in which anarchists were prominent, refugees migrated into China, which was at the height of anarchist influence as a result of the New Culture movement. At the same time, Japanese anarchists at the time continued their solidarity work with the Korean liberation movement.
By 1924, the Korean Anarchist Communist Federation (KACF) in China had formed with an explicitly anti-imperialist focus and helped to organize explicitly anarchist labor unions as well. At the same time, anarchist tendencies were developing within Korea itself. For instance the Revolutionists League is recorded to have organized around this time and to have maintained extensive communications with the Black Youth League in Tokyo. By 1929, their activity had materialized fully in Korea itself, primarily around the urban centers of Seoul, Pyonyang and Taegu. The apex of Korean anarchism however came later that same year outside the actual borders of the country, in Manchuria. Over two million Korean immigrants lived within Manchuria at the time when the KACF declared the Shinmin province autonomous and under the administration of the Korean People’s Association. The decentralized, federative structure the association adopted consisted of village councils, district councils and area councils, all of which operated in a cooperative manner to deal with agriculture, education, finance and other vital issues. KACF sections in China, Korea, Japan and elsewhere devoted all their energies towards the success of the Shinmin Rebellion, most of them actually relocating there. Dealing simultaneously with Stalinist Russia’s attempts to overthrow the Shinmin autonomous region and Japan’s imperialist attempts to claim the region for itself, Korean anarchists by 1931 had been crushed (MacSimion, 1991).
Throughout East Asia, anarchists demonstrated a strong commitment to internationalism, supporting each other and reinforcing each other’s movements rather than thinking simply in terms of their own nation-states. The “nationalism” of Chinese and Korean anarchists can thus be seen as a form of anarchist internationalism dressed up in nationalist clothing for political convenience. In both of these countries, the anarchist movement sought to reinforce nationalist struggles insofar as they cast off imperial domination; but they were decidedly internationalist in that the long term goal was to abolish both the Chinese and Korean nation-state systems as well. The same can be said for Japanese anarchists who lent their solidarity to the anti-imperialist movements in Japan, Korea and other parts of East Asia. As noted earlier, the rise of the Eastern Anarchist Federation and its paper “The East” (Dong Bang) is testament to the global nature and focus of anarchism during the early 20th century.
Though India is located on the Western border of China, connection and communication between the anarchisms of both are relatively unknown since in India anarchism never really took on much of a formally named “anarchist” nature. In India, the relevance of anarchism is primarily in the deep influence major aspects of it had on important movements for national and social liberation. In order to understand the development of the heavily anarchistic Satyagraha movement in India, one must first consider the objective local conditions in which it developed. India is the second most populated country in the world, weighing in at over 1 billion people. Going back into ancient Hindu thought, one can indeed find predecessors to the concept of a stateless society; the Satya Yuga for instance, is essentially a description of a possible anarchist society in which people govern themselves based on the universal natural law of dharma (Doctor, 1964, p. 16). But at the same time that a stateless society is seen as a possibility, much of Hindu political thought is focused on the inherently evil nature of man and the therefore “divine right” of kings to govern, so long as they maintain protection from harm for the people. If they do not govern on the basis of dharma, however, the Chanakyasutras allow that “it is better to not to have a king then have one who is wanting in discipline” (p. 26). This of course is a major contrast with the Western notion of a universal divine right of kings regardless of the consequences.
Anarchism finds its first and most well-known expression in India with Mahatma Gandhi’s statement “the state evil is not the cause but the effect of social evil, just as the sea-waves are the effect not the cause of the storm. The only way of curing the disease is by removing the cause itself” (p. 36). In other words, Gandhi saw violence as the root of all social problems, and the state as a clear manifestation of this violence since its authority depends on a monopoly of its legitimate use. Therefore he held that “that state is perfect and non-violent where the people are governed the least. The nearest approach to purest anarchy would be a democracy based on nonviolence” (p. 37). For Gandhi, the process of attaining such a state of total non-violence (ahimsa) involved a changing of the hearts and minds of people rather than changing the state which governed them. Self-rule (swaraj) is the underlying principle that runs throughout his theory of satyagraha. This did not mean, as many have interpreted it, just the attainment of political independence for the Indian nation-state, but actually, just the opposite. Instead, swaraj starts first from the individual, then moves outward to the village level, outward further to the national level; the basic principal is that of the moral autonomy of the individual above all other considerations (p. 38).
So overall, Gandhi’s passion for collective liberation sprang first and foremost from a very anarchistic notion of individualism; in his view, the conscience of the individual is truly the only legitimate form of government. As he put it, “swaraj will be an absurdity if individuals have to surrender their judgement to a majority.” While this flies in the face of Western notions of governance, Gandhi reasoned that a single sound opinion is far more useful than that of 99.9% of the population if the majority opinion is unsound. It was also this swaraj individualism that caused him to reject both parliamentary politics and their instrument of legitimization, political parties; he felt that those who truly wanted a better world for everyone shouldn’t need to join a particular party in order to do so. This is the difference between Raj-Niti (politics of the state) and Lok-Niti (politics of the people). Swaraj individualism meant that everything had to be rethought anew: for instance, the notion that the individual exists for the good of the larger organization had to be discarded in favor of the notion that the larger organization exists for the good of the individual, and one must always be free to leave and to dissent (p. 44).
However, Gandhi’s notions of a pacifist path to swaraj were not without opposition, even within the ranks of those influenced by anarchism. Before 1920 a parallel, more explicitly anarchist movement was represented by India’s anarchist-syndicalists and the seminal independence leader, Bhagat Singh. Singh was influenced by an array of Western anarchisms and communisms and became a vocal atheist in a country where such attitudes were extremely unpopular. Interestingly, he studied Bakunin intensely but though he was markedly less interested in Marx, he was very interested in the writings of Lenin and Trotsky who “had succeeded in bringing about a revolution in their country.” So overall, Singh can be remembered as something of an Anarchist-Leninist, if such a term merits use. In the history of Indian politics, Singh is today remembered as fitting somewhere between Gandhian pacifism and terrorism, as he actively engaged in the organization of popular anti-colonial organizations with which to fight for the freedom of India from British rule. However, he was also part of a milieu which Gandhi referred to as “the cult of the bomb” — which of course he declared was based upon Western notions of using violence as a means to attain liberation. In response, Indian revolutionaries countered that Gandhi’s nonviolence ideas were also of Western origin, originating from Leo Tolstoy and therefore not authentically Indian either (Rao, 2002). It is in fact likely that Singh was influenced by Western notions of social change: like his Japanese counterpart Kotoku Shusui, Singh’s comrade and mentor Kartar Singh Sarabha organized South Asian workers in San Francisco, leading both of them to eventually commit their lives to the liberation of Indians the world over.
Notable amongst this milieu was the Hindustan Republican Association as well as the youth organization Naujawan Bharat Sabha; both of which Singh was involved in. Despite his earlier reluctance, by the mid-1920s Singh began to embrace the strategy of arming the general Indian population in order to drive the British out of the country. In service to this mission he traveled throughout the country organizing people’s militias, gaining a large following in the process. In 1928 this strategy of organized armed revolt gave way to an open support for individual acts of martyrdom and terrorism in an article Singh published in the pro-independence paper Kirti. In other issues of this same paper he published his famous essay on “Why I am an Atheist” as well as several articles on anarchism. In the anarchist articles, Singh equated the traditional Indian idea of “universal brotherhood” to the anarchist principle of “no rulers,” focusing largely on the primary importance of attaining independence from any outside authority whatever. Though he had been influenced by the writings of Lenin and Trotsky, Singh never did join the Communist Party of India even though he lived for six years after its original founding. (Rao, 2002). Perhaps this was due to the anarchist influence in his ideas; either way anarchist ideas (if not anarchist ideology as a whole) played a major role in both Gandhian and Singhian movements for swaraj.
African Anarchisms: Igbo, Egypt, Lybia, Nigeria and South Africa
Early African anarchism developed along the extreme continental margins, primarily in the context of ethnically diverse North African and South African port cities. Other than the small amount of literature available on these movements, very little has been published on the subject. As in the Indian context, this is partially because there is less of a history of anarchism here as a coherent ideologically based movement. But it is also partially due to the hegemony of either capitalist-imperialist nation-state systems or post-colonial “African socialist” sytems throughout the region. The largest anarchist movement on the continent in the first quarter of the 20th century was that of South Africa. Indeed, recent studies conducted by Nigerian anarchists such as Sam Mbah have noted that anarchist thought as an ideology did not in any substantial way reach much of the African continent until the mid-20th century (1997, p. 1). However, while acknowledging the lack of an ideologically coherent form of anarchism, throughout their study anarchistic social elements found amongst many African tribes are greatly emphasized. In this way tribal “communalism” is understood as a non-Western form of anarchism, uniquely and specifically within an African context. In their own words “all…traditional African societies manifested ‘anarchistic elements’…the ideals underlying anarchism may not be so new in the African context. What is new is the concept of anarchism as a social movement or ideology” (p. 26).
In this usage, the term communalism is used somewhat similarly to Marx’s conception of “primitive communism” – a stateless society that is post-hunter gatherer and pre-feudal — though such grand narratives are not taken seriously. This is because this “historical stage” is one that most of Africa never “advanced” beyond, especially in the rural areas of the continent. In this context, elders in the tribal community are recognized as leaders on the basis of experience, but not as authorities with access to any form of a legitimate use of coercion, per se. Religion and “age-graded” groups of males who performed specific tasks for the village acted as methods of maintaining an internal social cohesion, though some stateless societies were also matrifocal (p. 33). In particular the Igbo, Niger Delta Peoples, and Tallensi are well known for being marked by anti-authoritarian, directly democratic social formations. They organized primarily around the supreme authority of mass village assemblies in a form of direct democracy, tempered with the advice of the council of elders. Though these societies were primarily patriarchal, women played certain roles in the governance of society through their own organizations as well (p. 38).
The advent of so-called “African socialism” emerged out of the colonization, industrialization and urbanization of the continent. This began with the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 in which Europe carved Africa up into nation-states, placed over and between the stateless societies that had formed the basis of decentralized continental social administration in the past. These colonial nation-states facilitated the extraction of natural resources to the benefit of European elites, destroying, displacing, dividing and undermining stateless societies. In many African nation-states, the anti-colonial movement was led by “African socialists” such as Muammar Gadhafi of Libya, Gamel Abdel Nasser of Egypt and “negritude socialists” such as Senghor. The one thing most of these had in common was that they were very quickly co-opted and subjugated to the interests of Western capital. But while such African socialisms were largely controlled by a Marxist orientation, shaped and guided by outland capitalist interests, not all were.
After Nigeria gained independence in 1960, it implemented a nationwide collective farming system based on a synthesis of elements of traditional African communalism and the Israeli Kibbutzim system. Likewise it can be seen that Gadhafi’s well-known “Green Book” was as influenced by his reading of Bakunin as it was by his reading of Marx. His concept of jamarrhiriyah was also quite similar to that of the Nigerian collective farming system. But far more exemplary than either of these is the theory and practice of Julius Nyerre’s Ujamaa system. In this system, where capitalism is opposed as much as “doctrinaire socialism,” a renewed form of African communalism became the basis of postcolonial Tanzanian society. Unfortunately the Ujaama system ultimately failed as a result of a rapid degeneration into state control over the peasantry under the watchful tutelage of the World Bank (p. 77). On the African continent, Tanzania was by no means alone in this development, which curiously occurred as often in the “socialist” nation-states as it did in the capitalist nation-states.
As mentioned earlier, one country that did have a significantly large organized anarchist movement in the early 20th Century was South Africa. A white Afrikaner by the name of Henry Glasse had helped to organize the earliest rumblings of an anarchist movement in the country in the late 19th Century. Shortly after the turn of the century, the Social Democratic Federation was founded in Cape Town by a coalition of anarchists and other anti-state socialists, followed by the emergence of the short lived South African IWW. The one thing that stood out about these formations at the time was that they were overwhelmingly made up of whites, in a nation-state in which the vast majority was not. Most of the higher paying skilled labor jobs went to whites, while Indians, coloureds (mixed-race people), and poor whites took the “in-between” jobs and blacks were stuck with the most labor intensive unskilled labor jobs (van der Walt, 2002).
This situation finally changed in 1917 when members of the International Socialist League helped to organize the mostly black syndicalist organization, the Industrial Workers of Africa. While heavily influenced by the IWW, it retained the early pro-political DeLeonist elements that had been abandoned in the IWW after the split between syndicalists and DeLeonists in 1908 (Mbah, p. 66). When some began to question the efficacy of engaging in electoral politics the Industrial Socialist League was born with an explicitly direct-action, anti-electoral orientation. From 1918 to 1920, the African National Congress had several anarchist syndicalists amongst its leadership. But by 1921 first wave anarchism was on its last feet in South Africa, as leading activists abandoned anarchism in the service of building the Communist Party of South Africa. As has been shown already, anarchists in many countries became important communist leaders in China, and as we will soon see, such was also the case in Brazil and other Latin American countries as well.
As in South Africa, North African port cities on the Mediterranean played a major role in the spread of anarchist ideas as well. The Egyptian anarchist movement is a good example of this trend, for here anarchism was almost entirely an immigrant phenomenon. As early as 1877, the Egyptian anarchist movement began to put out the Italian language anarchist journal II Lavoratore, which was followed shortly by La Questione Sociale. Its primary audience was Egypt’s thriving Italian immigrant community concentrated primarily in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. As Alexandria was a port city, it was quite diverse and would act as a reservoir not only for anarchist activity but for anarchist exiles from around the Mediterranean region as well. In the late 19th Century Malatesta sought refuge here after the attempted assassination of King Umberto I, as did Luigi Galleani in the year 1900. Soon, the anarchist ideas of the Italian community would spread to Greek immigrant workers, who would then go on to organize an anarchist-oriented labor union for shoemakers in Alexandria. However, there is little evidence that anarchist ideas spread in any significant way out of the immigrant communities and into the indigenous Egyptian communities themselves (Stiobhard).
Tunisia and Algeria were the two other countries where anarchism gained a foothold. The port city of Tunis in northern Tunisia featured an anarchist movement amongst Italian immigrants, and as in Egypt, they engaged in publishing several journals including L’Operaio and La Protesta Umana. The latter was published by the well-known pamphleteer Luigi Fabbri, who was living in Tunis at the time. In addition, the port city of Algiers in northern Algeria was a major repository for anarchist activity featuring several anarchist newspapers including L’Action Revolutionnaire, Le Tocsin, Le Libertaire, and La Marmite Sociale. Though there is little information available about the interim period, it well documented that after the failure of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, many anarchists relocated to Algeria around the port city of Oran (Stiobhard).
Latin American Anarchism: Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Cuba
The development of anarchism in Latin America was a process shaped by the unique nature of each country within the region, as well as by those factors which many of them had in common. One thing they all had in common was their subordinate relation to the 1823 Monroe Doctrine which held “the Americas” under the tutelage of the one country that arrogantly refers to itself as the only “America” — that is, the United States. As such, shortly after independence was achieved from Spain and Portugal, the Western Hemisphere was promptly re-colonized — unofficially – in the name of U.S. interests. It was in this subordinate context that the first anarchist movements in Latin America arose, all too often under the iron fist of dictators imposed from above, in El Norte. In addition, it is important to note that the Latin American governmental context was far more influenced by the thinking of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas than it was by liberalism, the largest philosophical influence in the Anglo-Saxon democracies (Erickson, 1977, p. 3). Here, corporatism was the major philosophical force, espousing a view of the state as “organically” reflecting the moral will of the people, rather than as a “referee” for different political forces in society as in North America. The ironic result of this was that all oppositional forces would be seen by much of society as essentially anti-liberatory. The ideological process of corporatism involved a sly combination of officialistic cooptation of revolutionary movements and violent repression of those who would not accept such moves. The prevalent role of the Roman Catholic Church in society combined with the tradition of Roman law made up the other two primary factors that set Latin American societies apart from much of the North. This meant of course, that the anarchisms that developed there were qualitatively different as they arose in a significantly different political environment.
In Latin America, the anarchist movement was without a doubt strongest in South America; and in South America, anarchism was without a doubt strongest in the “southern cone” countries of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. It was the largest social movement in Argentina from around 1885 until around 1917 when state-socialists took control of the large union federations (Joll, 1971, p. 218). The movement was extremely contentious due to the prevalence of the latifundia system in which a very few families controlled almost all of the land. This extreme social stratification set the stage for Peronism, a system in which the old elite families ruled with impunity over the masses of newly arrived immigrants in an extreme aristocratic fashion. Since the only legal means of affecting change in this society was voting, the fact that up to 70% of the urban population was legally disenfranchised did not endear many to the system; in fact, it created a social situation ripe for the development of anarchism.
Anarchism was most popular amongst Argentina’s working class sectors: it really never attained a high degree of organization amongst the peasantry. However, there were some attempts to organize anarchist student unions in addition to anarchist labor unions (Joll, p. 222). Stirnerist individualist anarchism never found much audience here and so as in many countries around the world, the movement was a balance between anarchist-communists in the tradition of Kropotkin and anarchist-collectivists in the tradition of Bakunin; however there was very little conflict between the two streams. The Italian anarchist-communist Erricco Malatesta immigrated in 1885 and within two years had organized the country’s first Baker’s Union in 1887. This move helped to set the stage for the organizing of the Resistance Societies, an affinity-group form of worker organization that was the backbone of the FOA, which in 1904 became the FORA.
From 1905 — 1910 the anarchist movement exploded in popularity, generalizing into the popular movements and pulling off general strikes in Buenos Aires and other places. Society became so unstable that martial law was routinely imposed for short periods of time. Workers were shot at Mayday demonstrations, others imprisoned at Tierra Del Fuego, and torture was rampant. Simon Radowitsky, a youth who threw a bomb at the Chief of Police’ car quickly became a well-known martyr when he was sentenced to life in prison. In fact he was so popular that eventually determined comrades organized to a plan to successfully break him out of jail (p. 219).
La Semana Tragica— the Tragic Week — was an important event that occurred in 1919 when a general strike was declared but was brutally put down by Colonel Varela, resulting quickly in his assassination. By 1931, the military had taken over and the anarchist movement was suppressed through a combination of death squads, prison sentences and general intimidation. When martial law was finally lifted nearly two years later, all the anarchist newpapers and organizations that had previously been at odds discarded with the past and published a joint declaration called Eighteen Months of Military Terror. The intense repression in Argentina had resulted in a great deal of solidarity and mutual aid amongst different types of anarchists, leading to a number of joint publications and actions that transcended diverse ideologies. It was from this new solidarity that both the FORA and other anarchist organizations sent delegations to the International Brigades for the Spanish Civil War against Franco. But soon Argentina would have it’s own fascist government to contend with. General Peron officially seized power in 1943, forcing the FORA to go underground again, along with La Protesta Humana. When the Peron regime finally fell, another joint publication involving all anarchist tendencies was issued called Agitacion. Other publications included El Descamisado, La Battallaand La Protesta Humana, the paper with which Max Nettlau and Erricco Malatesta were involved. In the face of such repression, much of the population had accepted the strategic cooptation of popular movements by the Peronist state; those who didn’t accept it often looked to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia as proof that anarchism was no longer a viable idea. The eventual failure of the Spanish Civil War didn’t help matters either, and eventually anarchism became of marginal influence (p. 230).
As in Argentina, Uruguay’s anarchist movement was largely composed of immigrant European workers who had come from industrialized societies, this meant that anarchism was in the early years primarily a working class rather than a peasant movement. Here too, it was the largest revolutionary movement in the first quarter of the 20th Century. The movement was largely based on affinity group based Resistance Societies affiliated to the FORU, which formed in 1905. Malatesta soon became involved in the FORU as well, influencing it away from Bakuninist collectivist anarchism and towards Kropotkinist communist anarchism. The FORU worked on a wide variety of issues, well outside the scope of the business unions. For instance, a major campaign against alcoholism was initiated, as well as initiatives to set up cooperative schools and libraries. These developments came largely due to the anarchist focus on the importance of creating a parallel anarchist culture. While much of this came out of the FORU, most anarchist culture, including plays, poetry readings and other events of the time, came out of those affiliated with the Center for International Social Studies (CIES) in Montevideo (p. 224). The CIES was heavily involved as well in the anarchist press, with such publications as La Batalla – presumably named after the earlier Argentine paper of the same name — which was published continuously for over fifteen years.
Dynamic in many ways that other anarchist movements were not, the Uruguayan anarchists were very internationalist in scope as well; some would say too much so. When the Mexican revolution erupted onto the global stage in 1910, Uruguay’s anarchist movement sent delegations to help the Magonistas; they likewise aided the CNT-FAI with International Brigade soldiers in the thick of the Spanish Civil War (p. 226). The eventual decline of anarchism in Uruguay stemmed primarily from the successful Bolshevik revolution and the enormous ideological loyalty-based splits that emerged in the movement between the FORU and the USU as a result.
The final anarchist movement of the southern cone countries we will examine that which developed within the massive nation-state of Brazil. Within the context of Brazilian latifundia, corporatism and authoritarianism in which large landholders held great sway over the destiny of the vast majority of the population with the backing of the military and the state, mutual aid societies and cooperatives were the only recognized legal form of organization. But as in Argentina and Uruguay, clandestine affinity-group based Resistance Leagues formed the backbone of militant Brazilian unionism, protecting anarchists from repression. However, this anarchist unionism was limited largely to skilled artisans and other workers, leaving the majority of other types of workers such as immigrants and women without union representation.
As in China and South Africa, the Brazilian communist party, the PCB, grew out of the ruins of the once-volatile anarchist movement (Chilcote, p. 11, 1974). However, anarchism had the greatest influence in Brazil primarily from 1906 to 1920, mostly amongst urban immigrant workers. It was in this context it became the predominant stream within the labor movement by 1906, far more important in fact, than state-socialism (p. 19). Anarchist labor militants, active in the Congresso Operario do Brasil (COB) are remembered for helping the Brazilian working class to win the eight-hour day as well as significant wage increases across the board. The Sao Paolo General Strike of 1917 marked the first of three years of militant anarchist activity within the labor movement. During these years, a strategy of repression combined with cooptation became the strategy of the corporative state. Anarchists did not initially call the General Strike, rather it was initiated by those masses of female textile workers whom anarchist organizers had ignored. At first this self-activity of working women and other sections of the industrial working class put male anarchist leaders on the defensive. But ultimately the anarchists accepted female leadership and chose to work with them rather than against them (Wolfe, 1993, p. 25).
The anarchist movement in Brazil began its decline for several reasons; one was that it often failed to adequately reach out to the rural majority population. Another is that the success of the Bolshevik revolution spelt the beginning of the end anarchist ideological hegemony. As in Argentina and Uruguay, anarchist movement split evenly into two camps: pro-Bolshevik and anti-Bolshevik. Many of the most active anarchists would soon move on to become heavily involved in the activities of the PCB as a result of this split. The party shunned those who did not do so, and internal purges eventually ousted those who retained some anarchist sympathies (p. 33). The final nail in Brazilian anarchism’s coffin was the Revolution of 1930, which marked the beginning of a new era of the officialistic, paternalistic, cooptative system of “corporatism.”
While anarchism in the southern cone countries impacted the global movement to an extent, the anarchist movement that most affected and influenced the direction of anarchism throughout Latin America and much of the rest of the word as well was that which developed in Mexico. This began in 1863, when a Mexico City philosophy professor of Greek descent named Plotino Rhodakanaty formed the first anarchist organization in the country, a coalition of students and professors called the Club Socialista de Estudiantes (CSE). The CSE proceeded to spread their ideas through organizing anarchist labor unions amongst the urban working class; shortly this lead to the first strike in Mexican history, to organizing amongst Indian populations in southern Mexico and eventually to a new organization called La Social, which featured activists from the Paris Commune in exile, eventually reaching a peak level of 62 member organizations nationwide (p. 9). For all of this considerable activity, Rhodakanaty and many of his comrades were eventually executed at the hand of Porfirio Diaz.
As elsewhere in Latin America, the postcolonial period had been marked by dictatorship after dictatorship and then finally a major social revolution in 1910. In this revolution, the cause of the Mexican worker and peasant was taken up by a temporary alliance between Ricardo Flores Magon, Emiliano Zapata, Pancho Villa and Pascal Orozco. Of these, Magon can be characterized most accurately as being an anarchist; his brother Enrique and he published a popular anarchist newspaper called Regeneracion beginning in 1900. Of Zapotec Indian background, the two were driven largely by a determination to ensure the autonomy of Indian peoples in whatever social arrangement would arise out of the revolution (Poole, 1977, p. 5). By 1905, they had formed the anarchist-communist oriented Mexican Liberal Party (PLM); named as such in order to not drive people away, while still remaining thoroughly anarchist in demands. This strategy worked well eventually leading to two armed uprisings that involved members of the IWW as well as anarchists from Italy (p. 22).
Activists with the PLM crossed borders freely to relocate to Los Angeles, San Antonio and St. Louis, several cities in Canada, as well as numerous cities throughout Mexico. In doing so, a loose network of anarchists from all over the world participated in the project of building an anarchist contingent within the Mexican Revolution. Yet this relationship was not always healthy: at one point Magon was even forced to write an angry anti-racist essay in response to a statement by Eugene Debs that Mexicans were “too ignorant to fight for freedom” and that they would surely lose any attempt to rise up (p. 88). The essay pleaded with North American anarchists to take the PLM seriously; “Throughout the world the Latin races are sparing neither time nor money to assist what they recognized immediately as the common cause. We are satisfied that the great Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic branches of the army of labor will not lag behind; we are satisfied ignorance due to language difficulties alone is causing a temporary delay” (p. 90) Then in 1910, Francisco Madero published his “Plan de San Luis Potosi” which called for an uprising starting November 20 of that year; the uprising spread quickly until it became a nationwide revolt led by Magon, Zapata, Villa and Orozco.
Amidst the uprising, one of the few honest elections ever to occur in Mexico took place, which Madero won easily. Before the election occurred, however, Magon, Zapata and their followers had already broken sharply with Madero over the issue of land reform and Indian autonomy and as a result had published their own Plan de Alaya. The Zapatistas and Magonistas took up arms together, bound by a common southern Mexican tribal background that within a few years had lead to the successful encirclement of Mexico City. Huerta’s dictatorship continued as the revolution continued to grow, then, when Huerta resigned and Venustiano Carranza became president in 1917, the Mexican Constitution also came into effect. Due to the influence of Zapata and Magon, many extremely progressive features were included such as the right to an education free of charge, the right of Indians to collectively run farms (ejidos), and other social and land reforms. Unfortunately, Carranza exploited the divisions between anarchist-syndicalists and anarchist-communists and successfully bribed the anarchist-syndicalist Casa del Obero Mundial to organize “Red Battalions” to fight against Zapata and Villa. By 1919, Mexican Col. Jesus Guajardo had ambushed and murdered Zapata, ridding the Carranza regime of their main populist enemy. But once Carranza had been overthrown, Obregon, Calles, as well as a long line of other centrists came to power, opposing the domination of the clergy but supporting foreign investment into Mexico; this development marked the beginnings of the PRI dictatorship and the end of first wave anarchism.
Cuban anarchism developed in the mid-19th Century due to the early intellectual influence of Proudhonian mutualism in the workers movement. By the late 1800s it had reached a higher level of maturity with the rise of the anarchist leader Roig San Martin, the paper he edited El Productor, and the national anarchist organization Alianza Obrera (Fernandez, 2001, p. 20). As with Chinese, Indian and Mexican anarchism however, Cuban anarchism cannot be properly understood solely within the confines of the Cuban nation-state; much important activity occurred in Cuban immigrant communities in Key West, Merida (Mexico) and Tampa as well. In fact, in October 1889 a general strike broke out in Key West with solidarity and support from Cuban workers in Havana, Tampa and Ybor City. Just months before this historic strike, San Martin had died of a diabetic coma, with over 10,000 Cubans coming from all over the island to attend the funeral.
By the turn of the century, the fight for Cuban independence had become a major source of division within the anarchist movement; the working class anarchists accused the independentistas of “taking money from tobacco capitalism” (p. 30). Eventually however, most anarchists rallied around Jose Marti and his Partido Revolucionario Cubano (PRC) which was analogous in its advocacy of democracy and decentralization to Mexico’s PLM. In Europe, anarchists such as Elisee Reclus helped to helped to form international solidarity organizations to support the independence movement. But shortly after independence the United States occupied the island; Errico Malatesta decided to move from New Jersey to Havana to help the anarchist movement there. The Mexican Revolution deeply impacted Cuba’s anarchist movement, and the Magon brothers found their way over to Cuba several times both in the pages of Regeneracion and in person. But the Cuban anarchist movement finally fell into a period of steep decline with the rise of the October Revolution (p. 51). It is remembered however, that it was the anarchists who paved the way in Cuba for both the trade union movement and the socialist revolution that occurred later.
Middle Eastern Anarchism: Armenia, Lebanon, Turkey, Palestine
In light of both historical and recent events, it could easily be argued that the Middle East is and has been of central importance to many developments around the world. As in Africa, this region saw first wave anarchism develop primarily along the margins of the region; Armenian anarchists, for instance, were already being brought under control by the Ottoman Empire by the late 19th Century due to their widespread agitational activity. Of the Armenian anarchists, Alexandre Atabekian maintained the highest international profile and had the most connections to the international anarchist movement, befriending Petr Kropotkin, Elisee Reclus and Jean Grave while studying in Geneva. His friendship with Kropotkin was so great in fact that he was actually with him at his deathbed and subsequently helped to organize the famous funeral procession through the streets of Moscow. Atabekian translated several anarchist works into Armenian and published and distributed an anarchist journal called Commonwealth (Hamaink) that was translated into Persian as well.
Atabekian made a serious attempt to make the politics of anarchism relevant to the political situation of the Middle East. Throughout his writings there is a clear pattern of opposition to both the domination of the Ottoman Empire over Armenia and to European intervention and domination over the region in general. These culminated eventually in the development of the Revolutionary Armenian Federation (Dashnaktsouthian), which was a coalition of anarchists, nationalists, and socialists who amongst other activities, published and distributed several anarchist tracts throughout Armenia. Though their manifesto was early on compared to the rhetoric of the Russian nihilists, Dashnaktsouthian anarchism seems to have been largely replaced by Marxism-Leninism within a few years. However, even as Marxism-Leninism rose to popularity in Armenia, anarchist ideals became popular amongst Armenian immigrants heading to the nation-states of the West, as is evidenced by the publication of several anarchist journals in the Armenian language in the United States around the same time (Stiobhard).
Apart from Armenia, Malatesta is known to have spent time in anarchist communities in the port cities of Beirut, Lebanon as well as Izmir, Turkey (Stiobhard). However, very little is known about the nature of these communities or the extent to which these communities were successful in building an anarchist movement locally amongst the non-immigrant populations. As we have seen in the case of Alexandria and Tunis, Mediterranean port cities were often very diverse and chances are that these anarchist communities were primarily composed of Italian immigrant workers. But there is one more country that anarchism has been present in that has not been discussed: that is Palestine / Israel.
Before the creation of the Israeli state, in the first quarter of the 20th century, an anarchist movement had already begun amongst both Palestinians and Jews which resisted the creation of the Jewish state and worked instead for a stateless, directly democratic, pluralistic society of both Jews and Arabs. Anarchist sections of the “communitarian” movement, inspired by the collaboration of notable Jewish anarchists such as Gustav Landauer and Rudolf Rocker, formed the basis for the early Kibbutzim movement in Palestine, and according to Noam Chomsky, was the original meaning of the term “Zionist.” The original communitarian Zionists opposed the creation of the state because it would “necessitate carving up the territory and marginalizing, on the basis of religion, a significant portion of its poor and oppressed population, rather than uniting them on the basis of socialist principles” (Barsky, 1997, p. 48). Of the anarchist-communitarians at the time, Joseph Trumpeldor was one of the most important, drawing members of the first kvutzot over to the anarchist-communist thought of Petr Kropotkin. By 1923, Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid had become one of the first books ever to be translated into Hebrew and distributed throughout Palestine; this early anarchist groundwork by activists like Trumpeldor became a major influence in the thought of Yitzhak Tabenkin, a leader in the seminal Kibbutz Hameuhad movement. The anarchist-communitarian newspaper, Problemen was the only international anarchist periodical to be published in both Yiddish and Hebrew, and was one of very few voices calling for the peaceful coexistence of Jews and Arabs in the communitarian manner that existed before the creation of the Israeli state. This movement began to die out after 1925, with the creation of the movement for an Israeli state and the solidification of the party (Oved, 2000, p. 45).
Conclusion: Implications for the 21st Century High Tide of Anarchism
Through this work it has been demonstrated that one of the most fundamental factors in the development of anarchist ideas and movements has been that of global migration of peoples, which is of course the result of the development of a capitalist and imperialist world-system. Throughout East Asia, it was demonstrated that global anarchist networks between San Francisco, Tokyo and Paris were of prime importance in the development of both anarchist syndicalism as well as “pure anarchism” forms of anarchist communism. In the South Asian context, we know that Gandhi first became involved in his lifelong struggle against British rule while living in South Africa; this was at a time when the anarchist-syndicalist Industrial Workers of Africa were at their prime. The development of African anarchism itself arose originally from imported movements of European immigrant workers in the country, both in South Africa and in the Mediterranean port cities of North Africa. What little anarchist movements there were in the Middle East were largely the result of Italian immigrant workers who had been attracted to anarchist thought primarily within their own community. Throughout Latin America, migrations of peoples were especially important as well with Malatesta’s residence and agitation in Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Mexico and Cuba being the prime example.
It has been further demonstrated that in the non-Western context, first wave anarchism arose both as part of the “package” of the modernity project and as a reaction against it, ironically providing subject countries with a “modern” weapon with which to fight modernity and Westernization itself. A similar dialectic is present within second and third wave anarchism, both of which arose largely around the global countercultures of the late 1960s and again in the late 1990s. In the 1960s the United States was busy securing its position as the only superpower on the planet; brutal interventions in Southeast Asia and several other regions demonstrates the importance this goal had for the United States at the time. Yet, not content with simple military operations to secure this power, the promotion of American culture as universal – also understood as the activation of “the spectacle” – became a centrally important part of this strategy. As in the first wave, tucked in along with the society of the spectacle was its antidote; spectacular counterculture. This counterculture had arisen as part and parcel of the broader rise of spectacular culture; but as with the rise of modernity, it also was understood that it was a reaction against it. For example, in Middle Eastern countries like Israel, anarchist organizations such as the “Black Front” arose out the youth counterculture, and published journals like Freaky. These journals, while ostensibly part of the general spectacular culture of Pax Americana, were also some of the only publications in the country to actively oppose and critique wars such as the Yom Kippur War (Do or Die, 1999).
Third wave anarchism is largely regarded as having roots as a cultural phenomenon as well; its gestation period beginning in the decline of the 1980s with the globally networked independent punk counterculture. Unlike second wave anarchism, this counterculture prized independence from corporations at least as much as it did internationalism and worked to build independent networks between punks, bands, zines and local scenes the world over. Small self-produced fanzines became the medium for exchanging ideas and non-corporate record labels, record stores and distribution services. In countries like Brazil, Israel and South Africa the punk counterculture was instrumental in the rebuilding of the anarchist movement. While the encroaching Pax Americana brought a McDonalds to nearly every city on the planet, it also brought – through its distributive arms, cultural magazines and ceaseless promotion of English as a lingua franca – anarchopunk bands like Crass, Conflict and others to the local record store. For many, the 1991 Gulf War provided the first real opportunity to put these ideals into action by organizing mass demonstrations and direct actions all over the world. The very next year this was followed by the actions surrounding the 500th year anniversary of the colonization of the Americas by Europe. And just a few months later came the Los Angeles riots; in the ensuing continental and global reverberations, anarchist punks began to get more involved in direct social activism and organizing. This meant not only a politicization of punk, but also a concomitant ‘punkification’ of radical activism as well as both played off against each other.
The Zapatista rebellion in January 1994 solidified this trend as decentralized, internet-based support networks were formed that spanned the globe, helping to ensure the otherwise unlikely success of a largely non-violent autonomist movement in southern Mexico. By the late 1990s many anarchist punks had diversified their cultural affiliations and began to identify more with activism and anarchism itself than with the independent punk counterculture, which was largely dying. Many engaged themselves with the Zapatista struggle, travelling to Chiapas and working as international observers, or attending the International Encuentros held in Mexico and Spain. The new anti-political tradition of Zapatismo, with its rejection of the universalism of both socialism and anarchism, had a large influence on anarchists the world over. By the time the 1999 WTO uprising in Seattle occurred, many anarchists were already entering the post-Western anarchist paradigm, refusing to label themselves as anarchists per se but still strongly identifying with its basic ideas. Many began to refer to themselves as “autonomist” rather than as specifically “anarchist” per se. The real change brought about by this development was that countercultural resistance had been transcended as a morphing process in the attainment of the “new anarchism” which can be characterized as “post-hegemonic” or as some have called it “post-Western.”
In conclusion then, I would like to briefly assess the results of the synthesis between the social nests which first wave anarchism has formed and the rise of second and third wave anarchism as a counter-spectacle amongst non-Western anarchisms. Despite the common dismissal of almost all anarchism from the early 20th Century as a monolithic “classical anarchism” and therefore worthless and outdated in the context of anarchism’s current third wave, this study of early non-Western anarchism demonstrates that in fact anarchism at the time was no less diverse ideologically than it is today in the early 21st Century. The “pure anarchism” of Japan for instance, in many ways prefigured the current development of a more green anarchism, elements of which are present in anarchist currents within both deep ecology and social ecology. Indeed, John Crump remarked on the remarkable similarities to pure anarchism between Bookchin’s balance of economic self-sufficiency and intercommunal trade (p. 203). Early Japanese anarchism also helped to set the stage for the development in the late 1960’s of Zengakuren, a militant student organization that was praised by the Situationists for its uniting of student and working-class struggles. In its focus on culture, the anarchist movement in China prefigured Mao’s Cultural Revolution but even more so the Democracy Movement of the 1980’s, and it may have helped to inspire the Tiannemen Square incident. Certainly the reassessment of the socialist history of China has been informed by a renewal of interest in anarchism even today in the country. Korea’s early anarchist movement can be seen as a precursor to the Kwangju Rebellion of 1980. As George Katsiaficas has remarked, “like the Paris Commune, the people of Kwangju spontaneously rose up and governed themselves until they were brutally suppressed by indigenous military forces abetted by an outside power” (2001). That military power, was, as one might guess, the United States. The anarchist influence on Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement in India carried through into Vinoba Bhave’s and Narayan’s Sarvodaya movement in the 1960’s and can be seen in more recent movements as well.
In the late 1960’s Argentina experienced a resurgence of its ongoing anarchist tradition through the student movement. The split between the FORU and the USU in Argentina after the Bolshevik revolution meant that not until the 1960’s would anarchism regain somewhat of a constituency. This time around however, it was not based primarily in the working class movements. Rather it was in the student movements as a result of the 1956 formation of the Uruguayan Anarchist Federation (FAU). Some of those originally involved with the FAU, which would eventually move towards more deterministic Marxist tendencies, would go on to form anarchist-oriented student organizations. These activists later helped to build the Center for Popular Action (CAP) as a means to engage wider sectors of the population in anti-authoritarian struggles without the ideological pressures of being explicitly anarchist per se. This tendency shied away from ideological universalism and in favor of a more subjective pluralism or “panarchy” — which would interestingly foreshadow the direction of antiauthoritarian movements at the dawn of the 21st Century all over the world. One of CAP’s pamphlets stated ” in place of hypocritical ‘unity’ we provide an open arena for everyone to do what they feel is necessary…let positions be defined and each work his own way (p. 232).” One other change in the 1960’s was the branching out of anarchists into non-working class sectors such as the peasant movement. All the anarchist groups, indeed all of the left, were involved in building the Movement for the Land (MT) thus uniting both working class and peasant movements in alliance for the first time. Unfortunately, the vision that these new tendencies displayed would ultimately be short-lived due to the imposition of a long series of military dictatorships, meant to serve U.S. corporate interests.
But it is only recently, since December 2001, that these ideas have been seriously tested after the overthrow of the neo-liberal De La Rua regime. First the government destroyed the lives of millions throughout the country by accepting several successive austerity measures handed down from the IMF and World Bank. And on top of state employees not being paid for months in a row, many workers were only allowed to withdraw a limited amount of money from their bank accounts. But then came the final straw: the government took away the full freedom of people to protest by declaring a state of siege. It was at this point that the movement took the radical turn of calling for all politicians to be ousted, and not to be simply replaced by a “more acceptable” set of suits. This is also the point at which people began to take power into their own hands by creating self-governing, horizontally structured neighborhood assemblies, as well as city-wide, regional and national networks of these neighborhood assemblies. Whenever various ideological factions would attempt to seize control of the assemblies, they would be told that no one wanted to follow their ideology, they just wanted direct control of their country (Federacion Libertaria Argentina).
In the Middle East today, anarchism has grown especially in those countries where relatively small movements had emerged in the early 20th Century, largely amongst immigrants. Italian anarchist communities in Turkish and Lebanese port cities have spread since the 1980’s to the local populations, often through the conduit of punk culture. For instance, since the mid-1990’s a Lebanese group called Alternative Liberty (Al Badil al Thariri) has been sending delegates to international anarchist meetings, as well as composing reports on the local anarchist movement and translating anarchist works into Arabic. From around the same time period, anarchism has become a recognized force in Turkish politics as well with the appearance of anarchist contingents at May Day celebrations, and their appearance amongst international anarchist meetings as well. Anarchist Italian and Greek immigrants helped to spread their ideas around the Meditteranan region into the North African countries of Tunisia and Egypt, mostly in the port cities. Though their activity at that point seems not to have had a major effect on the local populations, by the mid-1960’s it seems that at least some Tunisian national was open to anarchist ideas. In 1966, a Tunisian Situationist by the name of Mustapha Khayati helped to write the seminal text On the Poverty of Student Life while studying in Paris. The Algerian section of the Situationist International was represented by Abdelhafid Khatib at its 1958 conference (Stiobhard).
African anarchism has built on first wave anarchism as well as on the traditional society. In Nigeria, the communalist nature of certain traditional tribal societies formed a social environment that would provide a framework for the transformation of the once-Marxist Awareness League in 1990 into a 1,000-member strong anarcho-syndicalist branch of the International Workers Association based primarily in the southern part of the country. In addition to indigenous communalism, the fall of Marxism also formed an important basis for the rise of the Awareness League. Interestingly, Awareness League members have expressed interest not only in the anarchist-syndicalism of the IWA but also in the newer ecological anarchism as expressed by both Murray Bookchin and Graham Purchase. The Awareness League was preceded by an anarchistic coalition in the 1980s that went by the name of “The Axe” (Mbah, p. 52). In 1997, amidst major social upheaval, over 3,200 workers in Sierra Leone are said to have joined the IWW, according to local delegate Bright Chikezie who had come into contact with British IWW member Kevin Brandstatter. A military coup later the same year resulted in mass exile of these IWW members to the neighboring country of Guinea where Bright immediately set about attempting to organize metal workers into the union. After arrival in Guinea, the General Secretary Treasurer of the IWW traveled to Guinea to meet with him and discuss the situation (Brandstatter, 1997).
The strong South African anarchist movement in the early 20th century lead also to the current proliferation of anarchism in the form of anarchist media organizations, bookstores and other organizations. Bikisha Media Collective is an example of this, as is the South African Workers Solidarity Federation. Much of this came out of white and Indian members of the urban punk scene who wanted to put their ideas into practice. The high point of this renewal was the year 1986, which saw the largest general strike in the history of the country when over 1.5 million workers and students struck, demanding recognition of Mayday as a public holiday (Mbah, p. 64). Throughout Africa in general, capitalism is becoming more and more unworkable; a downward development from which “African socialism” already has largely fallen from as a result. Beyond the crises of capitalism and socialism, the post-colonial nation-state system further threatens to give way under the weight of imminent pressure from below; the stateless societies they were propped on top of in order to facilitate imperialism and capitalism cannot function in the context of such a foreign body. Indeed, Mbah has stated quite clearly that the ethnic violence and riots that are seen throughout the continent spell “the beginning of the collapse of the modern nation-state system.” He goes on to say “the rise of a new angry generation during this chaos is an important factor in determining how and in which direction the present crisis is resolved” (p. 104). Such a situation is ripe for the (re)introduction of the decentralized, democratic, self-determined nature of an anarchist system synthesized with the indigenous African system of autonomous yet interconnected stateless societies.
In the final judgement, the relevance of this work to the future of social movements may not be so complex but alternatively, it might be simply to “keep the maps that show the roads not taken” as Edward Krebs has put it (1998, p. xiii). Academics often have a tendency to see everything they develop as being new and unprecedented; I believe this work has demonstrated that while there are several new currents within anarchism today, many of them were preceded by other roads that were not taken or that were conveniently forgotten in the construction of what has become the phenomenon of Western anarchism. In league with the other more specific attempts at such a project in the recent past, I say “let the deconstruction begin.” While we may not know exactly where this project will ultimately lead us, we do know that it will be a place radically more holistic, global, and aligned with the origins of anarchism as a counterhegemonic force than what has developed in the tradition of Western anarchism in the past several decades.
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[Accessed on 20 January 2014]