Are Anarchists Giving in to War Fever?

From Anarkismo by Wayne Price

In Defense of Anarchists Who Support the Ukrainian people

My response to an article, “British Anarchism Succumbs to War Fever” by Alex Alder. That article expresses dismay that many anarchists, in Britain and Eastern Europe and elsewhere have come to support the Ukrainian side of its war with Russian imperialism. It regards this perspective as a betrayal of anarchism, internationalism, and anti-militarism.

I, on the contrary, think that this solidarity with the Ukrainians is a very good thing. It is completely consistent with revolutionary anarchism.

This is my response to an article, “British Anarchism Succumbs to War Fever” by Alex Alder. It appeared on the libcom site and has been promoted by the Anarchist Communist Group. It was published on anarchistnews.

Its author is dismayed that so many revolutionary anarchist-socialists are in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. “How is it that today the anarchist movement in Britain (and elsewhere) is supporting one nation’s military against another, ideologically justifying and materially provisioning the Ukrainian war effort? … From the long-standing anarchist paper Freedom and anarcho-communist Anarchist Federation (AFed), to the anarchist ‘scene’ around antifascist and other activist groups, war fever is rife.” From my perspective it is a very good thing that so many Western anarchists are supporting the Ukrainian people against the Russian imperialist attack. So are most Ukrainian, Russian, and Belarusian anarchists. “Many of the anarchists in Ukraine, and across Eastern Europe, have thrown themselves behind Ukraine’s war effort.” Alex Alder sees this as a betrayal of anarchist internationalism and anti-militarism. I do not.

If two slave masters get into a brawl, freedom-loving people will stay out of it. We don’t care who wins. But if a slave master is fighting with a slave who is trying to escape, freedom-loving people will support the slave. If another slave master (an enemy of the one fighting) throws a club or knife to the slave, we who love freedom will still support the slave and help him or her escape. (The metaphor does not present the “slave” as the Ukrainian state but as the Ukrainian people.)

Nationalism and Internationalism

Alder argues that supporting Ukraine contradicts anarchist opposition to nationalism. He quotes with favor a previous statement by the British AFed against nationalism: “As anarchist communists, we have always opposed nationalism…including that of ‘oppressed nations’. While we oppose oppression, exploitation and dispossession on national grounds, and oppose imperialism and imperialist warfare, we refuse to fall into the trap … of identifying with the underdog side and glorifying the ‘resistance’— however ‘critically’.”

Surely this is an odd statement. On the one hand it opposes national oppression and exploitation and imperialist warfare, while on the other hand it refuses to identify with the “underdog,” the oppressed and exploited. Why should anarchists, opponents of all oppression and exploitation, not identify with the underdog, and support (if not “glorify”) the popular resistance?


Categories: Geopolitics

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