International Anarchist Unity

A red banner that says "the anarchists" with a woman in a dress holding it

A harshly critical look at the current fragmentation of the global anarchist movement and some potential ideas to help rectify the issues.

The global anarchist movement has fallen into disarray. We often descend into angry, petty and sectarian arguments that don’t matter in the bigger picture of things. There is nothing wrong with lively debate and discussion, and even some degree of hair splitting is without issue. The problem comes when we cease acting as comrades having a debate and become openly hostile political enemies of one another for seemingly minor reasons.
We live a time when the forces of capitalism are rapidly destroying the planet’s ecosystem to such a degree that climate refugees in the millions will be the norm in the next few decades.1 The rate of unemployment around the world is intolerable, and the current youth generation (my generation) has a higher opinion of socialism than capitalism.2 The time to build an international anarchist movement is now: Anarchism or Barbarism!
The current anarchist movement is extremely fragmented and needs to come together. There are multiple anarchist internationals but they don’t work together enough, and recently there is even competition and animosity between the International Workers Association and International Confederation of Labor. This is a serious problem and must stop. The faction of the CNT that left the International Workers Association (IWA) should immediately drop the legal charges and lawsuit against the CNT faction in the IWA.3 I suggest that the two factions of the CNT take serious action to mend their condition, preferably through a neutral outside mediator.
Then we have the International of Anarchist Federations as well as the Anarkismo network. There is also the Anarchist Black Cross as well as many autonomous anti-fascist groups that are heavily anarchist influenced or outright anarchist. In some places, there are regions such as the Zapatista Municipalities in Chiapas and the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (aka Rojava) that are not anarchist but lean towards libertarian forms of socialism.
I bet that I will probably be accused of proposing a hollow false sense of unity, but I do not believe this is the case. I feel that purely anarchist organizations should work with other organizations of similar belief or tendency such as platformist federations, anarcho-syndicalist unions, unions like the Swedish SAC, or the IWW as well as synthesis anarchist federations. We should not have a fragmented anarchist movement. The success rate of a social revolution can be best increased when we have multiple regions of geographically separated populations in a single unified international federation. We should work towards eventually uniting the International of Anarchist Federations, International Workers Association, International Confederation of Labor, Red and Black Coordination and Anarkismo as well as other anarchist groupings. We as anarchists can never expect to agree on everything, but we certainly agree on enough.
A few more suggestions that could help the anarchist movement:
• A formal coalition or alliance between the different anarchist internationals
• Coordination between anarchist groups in a locality that are from different Internationals.
• Holding International Anarchist Congresses open to all anarchist organizations from different international affiliations.
• Working in close cooperation with non-anarchist syndicalist groups like the IWW or SAC.


Jun 25 2018 11:35

The thread is about international unity rather than unity in a particular jurisdiction where the laws will be identical, many will probably understand the same language and there will be a lot of common cultural understanding about how discussions happen and decisions get made.

In a single jurisdiction this means the costs of unity are much much lower than they are if that unity is international. Consider the limited space of Europe where there are many languages and very different cultures of discussion and decision making. There is some common jurisdiction for most countries at the level of the EU but not every country is in the EU and in any case a lot of law is local. So for instance the laws around a unions right to represent workers is radically different as are minimum wage laws, workplace hours etc. So the terrain for common action can be quite limited unless it is very broad (when it might become meaningless.

As an example a demand for a common European minimum wage would be very complex as wages and living costs differ so much between say Norway and Portugal. And the discussions around agreeing action & demands to be meaningful would need to be translated into over a dozen languages and take place in a cultural manner that would be compatible to those in Ireland was well as those in Greece and Norway. Anyone who has participated in European organising meetings understand how difficult it is, because of these factors, to agree meaningful action beyond slogans and mutual aid pickets, both of which are useful but are very limited.

Basically to be effective you'd need a lot of administration, in particular translation work and a fair bit of cross border expertise to translate contexts. Which means the constituent parts would have to be willing to put a lot of time and money into the project. Thats only really possible where their is a high level of political/ organisational agreement and accumulated trust.

R Totale
Jun 25 2018 12:42

Fwiw, I can't help thinking that concepts like "solidarity", "mutual aid", or even just plain old "cooperation" or "having mutual respect" are probably more useful than "unity" here. I think One Big Organisation is probably a dream, but that still leaves a lot open in terms of how different groups can relate to, and potentially work, with each other.

Jun 25 2018 12:52

Actually Andrew, the thread is about international ANARCHIST unity. You are giving an example of unity around one issue - working conditions. But not all anarchists are interested in uniting around such an issue. The OP confuses anarchism, anarchosyndicalism and syndicalism, presuming they are somehow joint projects, but there are differences, especially in different orgs.

Here in Poland there are unions that are against a European minimum wage because they believe that workers benefit from employment which is outsourced or moved here because it is cheaper. Many workers support this idea though, since they feel grossly underpaid compared to their counterparts nearby. There are bigger problems though - for example, the lack of any ability to mobilize on the necessary level.

Then there is a bigger issue. What then if it were to actually exist. Capitalism being as it is, I imagine many jobs shifting east and south and price adjustments on everything, making the cost of living more expensive. Focusing on one issue like this could be fine, certainly it is very concrete, but without a deeper knowledge and desire to overthrow capitalism, it may not have the desired effects. Certainly we can hear about places where people earn more but can be worse off.

But maybe that is off topic.

Jun 25 2018 14:56

I don't want to derail this interesting thread in any way but just a reference of response to a point in AndrewF's June 13 post about pro-Assad "apologists":

Jun 25 2018 15:18

Sure, just used the minimum wage as a relatively easy to understand example of why things get a lot more complex when it comes to multiple jurisdictions - indeed your argument around it also illustrates why to have a real discussion you'd need to have some pretty good translation into lots of languages and explanations of how the contexts might well be different in different places.

R Totale
Jun 25 2018 18:38
baboon wrote:
I don't want to derail this interesting thread in any way but just a reference of response to a point in AndrewF's June 13 post about pro-Assad "apologists":

This will definitely turn into a derail if continued (tbf, largely my fault for starting it), but: FFS, et tu, ICC? How is it that you can denounce pretty much everyone alive as being integrated into the state or duped by the bourgeoisie or whatever, with the sole exceptions of Robert Fisk and Piers Robinson? You need to tell your close sympathiser to give their head a good wobble if they really think that the sodding World Socialist Website is a reliable source on the subject of conspiracy theories.

Mike Harman
Jun 26 2018 20:42
Jun 28 2018 19:53

People are raising some good points, I may have be being a bit stubborn out of the frequent existential dread and despair I think we all feel (or should be feeling, because things are fucking worse and worse) often.

In regards to my strawman point I think people are sort of misunderstanding my point. What I was saying was that using examples of people with really shit politics that call themselves anarchists but are very obviously not as a reason why anarchist unity (i.e lumping the 2 together) is unworkable is something I don't think makes much sense at all.