Anarchism, Reformism, and Struggles of National Liberation

Recently, a review of Barricada in Green Anarchy (Barricada #3 in the Spring 2001 issue), while generally positive, accused of falling "into the usual leftism trap of rightly opposing nationalism, then in the next breathe supporting it." While we of course do not agree, we do admit that our stance on nationalism and struggles of national liberation has not been made clear and, as one person put it, could be defined as "yes, but no, so maybe." This, combined with our support of the struggles of the Basque and Catalan revolutionary separatist movements have left many confused as to where the Barricada Collective stands on this issue.

First of all, we would like to make it perfectly clear that, as anti-statists, we are necessarily opposed to all forms of nationalism and our objective is, quite simply, the creation of a classless, stateless society. We are however, not only anti-statists, but also, anti-imperialists. As such, we believe it the duty of every anarchist to show solidarity with people struggling against imperialism and the destruction of their culture by imperialist aggression and expansionism. Therefore, we support, critically, struggles of national liberation provided that they also maintain a revolutionary perspective. This essentially means movements that wish not to replace a foreign set of rulers and oppressors with a local one, but to rid themselves of all oppression and exploitation, putting in their place a system based on equality and co-operation, as is the case with the Basque and Catalan socialist movements towards independence.

We believe that the anarchist movement has long held a rather hypocritical stance towards movements of national liberation. On one hand, we are willing to go out of our way to build alliances and create a positive image among mild reformers who are usually from relatively well-off backgrounds and are likely to abandon us and return to their respectable comfort as soon as their particular reforms are achieved, and who after all do not have all that much in common with. All this in the hopes of radicalizing a few of them and pulling them over to anarchism. However, when it comes to revolutionary movements of national liberation, which are usually composed of firmer working class elements, are staunchly anti-capitalist, have shown themselves to be uncompromising in their resistance to oppression, and essentially have the same eventual goal in mind as ourselves, anarchists tend to be wholly critical and unsupportive.

We believe this to be unjustifiable as, while we should remain critical and urge revolutionary separatists to reject nationalism all together and develop a more internationalist outlook, we have a duty as anti-imperialists to support all people struggling against oppression, both foreign and local, and to defend their culture and identity, as nationalism is one thing, but culture and identity are something wholly different.

Not only do we feel that it is important to act in accordance with our anti-imperialist beliefs, but we are also after all trying to build a larger movement. And, if we seek to build, not only a larger movement, but a successful and militant larger movement that refuses to allow itself to be watered down and pacified by reformism, then we need to pick our allies carefully. This is not to imply that we should reject working with reformists, as we shouldn’t, but by the same token, we should also open ourselves to working with revolutionary movements of national liberation. They are, after all, firmly entrenched on the same side of the barricade as we are, used to uncompromising resistance, and likely to fight to the end. Can we say the same about our reformist friends!?

- The Barricada Collective