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(en) Britain, Organise! #65 - The international of anarchist federations: striving for a global anarchist movement in thought and action

The IAF fights for:
- The abolition of all forms of authority whether economic,
political, social, religious, cultural or sexual.
- The construction of a free society, without classes,
States or borders, founded on anarchist federalism and mutual aid.
(from the Statement of Principles of the International Anarchist
Federation founded in 1968 in Cararra, Italy)
The above statement of principles sets out learly what the IAF hopes to achieve- an
ambitious programme, but the only one that can achieve the goals of freedom, peace and
justice that humans have struggled for, in different ways, since the beginning of our
existence as a species. Though not calling
themselves anarchists, people with anar-
chist aims and practices have always
existed in every part of the world. However,
it is only in the 19th century that organised,
theoretically-explicit anarchism emerged
with the founding of the first International
Federation of Anarchists in St. Imier in
1871. It was founded by both workers
(many from the watchmakers in St. Imier
itself) and international anarchist activists
such as Kropotkin who had had enough of
the authoritarian nature of the Marxist
international. It is significant that even
though anarchists formed a relatively small
movement in each country, they immedi-
ately sought to organise on an international
level. The IAF considers itself the heirs of
this tradition.
Early anarchism had an international aspect
for many reasons. With repression in
different countries at different times,
anarchists often found themselves forced
into exile. Though obviously not something
they wanted, it did have the effect of
bringing anarchists from different countries
more in contact with each other. Interna-
tionalism was also the only way to deal
with the continual nationalist conflicts in
Europe, culminating in the two world wars.
Though a test for many anarchists, an
internationalism that supported no State
was a vision that they had to cling to.
Anarchism also spread outside Europe as a
result of the waves of immigration in the
late 19th and early 20th century. In the
`New World' workers of every nationality
had to band together in order to organise
against horrific working and living condi-
tions. The capitalists relied on the fact that
there would be language and cultural
barriers between different national groups
as a way of ensuring that they wouldn't
organise against their treatment. An
international approach was therefore crucial
to the success of any workers' organisation.
The Spanish Revolution also required
international support, both during the
struggle itself and afterwards when many
anarchists were killed, imprisoned or
Today, the need for international solidarity
and co-operation amongst anarchists is as
vital as ever. Ever aspect of our lives is
woven into a global system of economic,
political and cultural domination. This can
lead to a feeling of helplessness as our
anger cannot be vented directly against
those making decisions affecting our lives.
The people of Afghanistan and Iraq are
thrown into turmoil as a result of the
interference of both the US military
intervention and Saudi Arabian- imported
Islam. GM crops are imposed on reluctant
farmers from Brazil to Poland. Islands in
the Pacific are on the verge of disappear-
ance because of the greed for energy
elsewhere. People's jobs and security
depend on fickle international money
markets. And even remote tribal people are
losing their very way of life as a result of
world demand for the resources on their
land. But we are not helpless. We need to
make international anarchism our weapon.
The most obvious form internationalism
takes is international solidarity, protests at
global summits and conferences that bring
together anarchists from many different
countries. The IAF has always been
dedicated to helping comrades from
countries who are less well-off financially,
such as raising money for the Argentineans
or supporting Russian and Eastern Euro-
pean comrades in their efforts to attend
international meetings. Support can also be
much more concrete like when the Italians
helped to organise the first meeting of
anarchists of both east and west.
The IAF, through its member federations
has also been involved in helping to
organise international protests in Evian,
Brussels, Genoa, Paris, Scotland and
Prague. Comrades also have travelled to
support the anarchist May Day in Poland
and the meet with comrades in Russia.
An international perspective, however, does
not mean that we spend all of our time
supporting other people's struggles or
flying off to global meetings and protests.
Firstly, there is a limit to how much
financial support comrades from the richer
countries can give. The country as a whole
may be well-off, but anarchist comrades are
usually not. It is a struggle to find money to
produce newspapers and magazines as well
as finance campaigns. Also, travelling to
other countries for political purposes can be
as great a burden on an unemployed British
comrade as it can be on someone from
Eastern Europe or Latin America.
In addition, power may appear to lie in the
hands of those who attend the `global
summits', but in fact, this is really only the
public face of power. Organising anti-
summit protests is also only the public face
of anarchism- all dependent on how the
bourgeois media want to portray us. That
doesn't mean that these protests aren't
important; they provide anarchists with the
opportunity of feeling something of our
collective power on an international level.
The power of the ruling class lies else-
where- manifested in every aspect of our
lives. We feel it when we keep our mouth
shut rather than talking back to our boss, in
the advertisements that bombard us to
consume, when we can't get access to
clean water because it is someone's private
property and when we are forced to
conform to an exam system because it is the
only way we can `get ahead'. It is the daily
resistance to this power that will lead to the
building of a movement that can take on the
ultimate objective of overthrowing capital-
ism and the State. And this resistance
necessarily takes place on a local level. So
what is the role for anarchist international-
The IAF provides a means for comrades
from around the world to communicate. We
are confronting the same enemy every-
where and learning about the struggles of
others can give us ideas for our own
struggles. Within Europe, the vast experi-
ence of comrades from Italy, Spain and
France can help those who have a much
shorter history of anarchist struggle such as
those in Eastern Europe. However, the
comrades in Eastern Europe, not weighed
down by tradition are able to offer new
perspectives and ideas for struggle.
Good communication can also be revolu-
tionary if it inspires. Just to know that
people elsewhere are fighting back is
important to those who may be experienc-
ing a downturn in struggle. This knowledge
can help people just keep going or it could
motivate people to launch a major fightback
themselves. The most important thing is to
hear of successes. Spreading these stories of
successful resistance is a major role of
international anarchist propaganda. The
struggles of the Argentinean working class
were welcomed enthusiastically by people
in Europe. Hearing about workers just
ignoring bosses, banks and politicians and
just doing things themselves confirmed the
faith anarchists have always had in the
power of workers to self-organise.
It is also important to have an international
forum where more theoretical discussions
can take place. Learning about what is
happening in a variety of countries can help
us to develop our analysis of the situation
facing us. We need to have a thorough
understanding of the political, economic
and social realities so that we can organise
more effectively and anticipate the strate-
gies of our enemy. The experience of
Venezuelans with Chavez, Brazil with Lula,
Britain with Blair all help to reinforce the
anarchist antagonism to reformism, a
doctrine that seems to think that a govern-
ment can bring about social change. The
Italian experience of `insurrectionism',
where a few self-proclaimed saviours of the
working class have contributed to repres-
sion of the anarchist movement, should be
useful for those who are tempted to
undertake such individualist action.
Internationalism remains vital as a weapon
against the rise in ethnic and national
conflict just as it was during WWI and
WWII. Comrades in the former Yugoslavia,
though organised as separate national
federations, are beginning to come together
on a wider basis, showing that anarchists
are above the tragic divisions of the rest of
the working class that have caused so much
pain and suffering. By providing a frame-
work where anarchists from different
countries and ethnic groups can come
together, IAF can facilitate the building of
an undivided workers' movement.
The IAF recently had its Congress where it
reconfirmed its commitment to international
solidarity and developed a number of
initiatives to facilitate better communication
and co-ordination. This Congress also
welcomed the presence of so many com-
rades from the former Soviet Union and
Eastern Europe as well as delegates from
Latin America. We hope to greatly increase
our links with these areas. We can all
benefit from learning from the wealth of
experience of those comrades, who have
had to struggle in such difficult circum-
stances, and would like to increase our
ability to offer support and solidarity.

For International Solidarity,
The IAF Secretariat
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