Anarchism, Internationalism and Nationalism in Europe, 1860-1939

By Levy, Carl | The Australian Journal of Politics and History, September 2004 | Go to article overview

Anarchism, Internationalism and Nationalism in Europe, 1860-1939


Levy, Carl, The Australian Journal of Politics and History


Introduction

This article will focus on the internationalism of the European anarchist and syndicalist movements during the "classical" period of anarchism (1860/70-1939) (1). Even if anarchists and anarchism are assumed to be antithetical to nationalism and national movements, they, like socialists and the ideology of socialism (and even Marxism), lived in close and symbiotic relationship to both nationalism and the nation-state. (2) And this is shown precisely in applying an old theme from the history of socialism and communism in Europe: the dilemmas posed by nationally based political parties or movements, which are also officially committed to an internationalist ideology. (3) This is merely one approach to interrogate the relationship of anarchism and nationalism in Europe between the middle of the nineteenth century and the start of the Second World War. In another article I will compare the roles of regionalism, nationalism and the national question in the Italian and Spanish anarchist movements. (4) A second article will examine the relationship between the anarchists and popular anti-Semitism in Paris from the 1880s to the turn of the century. (5) A third will discuss the role of minorities and especially the Jews in the Makhnovschina (the Ukrainian "anarchist" army of Nestor Makhno, which on occasion controlled significant swathes of Ukraine during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1921). (6) A fourth article investigates two anarchist intellectual theorists of nationalism: Gustav Landauer and Rudolf Rocker, two Germans who paralleled Austro-Marxists' efforts to defend the right of national cultures within a cosmopolitan framework. (7)

This article will focus chiefly on the First and Second Internationals and the birth of the Third. I will examine the ideology and political culture of Internationalism, which was the nursery of the modern anarchist movement. The linkage between federalist or regionalist republicanism and the anarchists is stressed and influence of the Paris Commune of 1871 is highlighted. I will then conclude the discussion of the First International by examining the cosmopolitan political economy that sustained the "anti-anthoritarian" Internationalists of the First International (and indeed linked them to its Marxist opponents). The desire to secure a global level playing field in labour markets spurred on and ultimately limited efforts at promoting labour internationalism. This will be followed by a discussion of the internationalism of the anarchists and syndicalists during the eras of the Second and early Third Internationals, in which both the "patriotic legacy" of the Paris Commune and the logic of the global level playing field moulded and limited anarchist and syndicalist internationalism.

The First International and the Ideological Force-Field of Anarchism in the late Nineteenth-Century Europe

Anarchism, as a distinctive ideology and set of social practices, is the product of the era of the First International and the Paris Commune. Indeed, well-defined Marxist and Anarchist ideologies are only really evident in the late 1870s or even 1880s.s Marxism as "scientific socialism" took decades to permeate into the socialist movement of Europe. (9) The political thought of Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin became flesh when adopted by social movements, in much the same manner that German and other social democrats found Marxist or Engelsian "scientific socialism" congenial to their growing political parties after 1880. Thus in a parallel fashion to the spread, reception and appropriation of Marxism, certain social movements in France, Italy, and Spain were predisposed to anarchist rather than Marxist ideology. Detailed monographs of the "Bermuda triangle" of anarchist history (the 1870s and 1880s) have studied in depth the evolution of anarcho-collectivist and anarcho-communist doctrines within the context of uniquely receptive political sub-cultures. (10) In this respect the term "anarchist" was less interesting than the terms "collectivist", "communist" and, later at the turn of the century, "libertarian". …

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