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ADAMS, Jason. "Non-Western Anarchisms: Rethinking the Global Context". -5-
Middle Eastern Anarchism: Armenia, Lebanon, Turkey, Palestine. - Conclusion.- Bibliography
Article published on 26 December 2005
last modification on 23 April 2015

by r-c.
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Asian Anarchism: China, Korea, Japan & India

African Anarchisms: Igbo, Egypt, Lybia, Nigeria and South Africa

Latin American Anarchism : Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Cuba

Middle Eastern Anarchism: Armenia, Lebanon, Turkey, Palestine

Mustapha Khayati and Alice Becker-Ho

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.

Bibliography

Baku, H. (2001) Anarchism in Turkey

Brandstatter, K. (1997) Update on the Sierra Leone IWW

Chilcote, R. (1974) The Brazilian Communist Party: Conflict and Integration 1922-1972 New York: Oxford University Press

Dirlik, A. (1997) Dimensions of Chinese Anarchism: An Interview With Arif Dirlik

Dirlik, A. (1991) Anarchism in the Chinese Revolution Berkeley: University of California Press

Do or Die (1999) Direct Action In Israel

Erickson, K. (1977) The Brazilian Corporative State and Working-Class Politics Berkeley: University of California Press

Federacion Libertaria Argentina (2002) Argentina: Between Poverty and Protest [Leaflet]

Held, D. (1980) Introduction to Critical Theory. Berkeley: University of California Press

Joll, J. (1970) Anarchism Today New York: Anchor Books

Katsiaficas, G (2001) Myth and Implications of the Kwangju People’s Uprising

Katsiaficas, G. (1987) The Imagination of the New Left: A Global Analysis of 1968 Boston: South End Press

Poole, D. (1977) Land and Liberty: Anarchist Influences in the Mexican Revolution — Ricardo Flores Magon Montreal: Black Rose Books

MacSimion (1991) The Korean Anarchist Movement [Lecture in Dublin, Ireland]

Meltzer, A. (1998) The Floodgates of Anarchy

Munck, R. (1987) Argentina; From Anarchism to Peronism; Workers, Union and Politics 1855-1985 London: Zed Books

Oved, Y. (2000) Kibbutz Trends [Journal] No.38, pg. 45

Rao, N. (2002) Bhagat Singh and the Revolutionary Movement

Stiobhard, (2001) Libertarians, the Left and the Middle East

Van der Walt, L. (2002) (Personal Communication)

Wolfe, J. (1993) Working Women: Working Men: Sao Paulo and the Rise of Brazil’s Industrial Working Class 1900-1955 Durham: Duke University Press

Zarrow, P. (1990) Anarchism and Chinese Political Culture. New York: Columbia University Press


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