A Note on Libero International

If the activities of anarchists in the west have been overshadowed and overwhelmed by those of opportunistic politicians and premature revolutionaries, those of their Asian comrades have been almost obliterated.

Submitted by Spartacus on January 27, 2011

The experience of Asia in the first half of the 20th century, where the predominant trend was the nationalist struggle against foreign control, demanded that revolutionaries of all creeds pool their resources in the fight against imperialist domination. This has made it difficult to assess the range of political activity which took place in each individual country. In China the movement was upstaged by the Communist Party, following the success of the revolution in Russia; in Japan the assumption of the trappings of a bourgeois state after 1868 created social-democratic trends in the labour movement very early on; in Korea, efficient control by the Japanese occupation authorities after the 1910 annexation drove most political activists out of the country to Japan and China, where their energy, particularly that of the anarchists, often merged with that of the local movement.

Nevertheless, taking each country individually, there was much more variety of political belief than is immediately visible. Anarchism was an important element in all three countries. Many of the Chinese intellectuals who later founded the Chinese Communist Party had originally been anarchists, and the labour unions organised by Mao Tse-tung in his native province in the 1920s were in fact built on existing anarchist ones. The first intellectual to declare himself independent of the pacifist and Christian tendencies in Japan was the anarchist Kõtoku Shüsui, while the Oriental Socialist Party (founded in1881), Japan's first socialist organisation, was comprised largely of anarchists and was heavily influenced by the Russian Narodniks. Koreans exiled in Japan formed many anarchist and anarcho-communist groups among students and workers, many of the latter tending towards syndicalism, although the tenacious nationalist fostered by forty years of rule by Japan persuaded many anarchist groups to attempt to work within the political structure.

Part of the reason for launching Libero International has been the belief that the facts about the energetic libertarian history of Asia should be marshalled and made available for Western as well as Asian comrades. Much of the historical material will be based on translations of existing materials in Chinese, Japanese and Korean. At the same time, we will try to bring together the general threads of the Asian situation by producing chronologies, summaries, book reviews, biographies, and so on.

Libero International will not be entirely given over to historical material, however. As a general rule, we will try to divide historical and current material on a fifty-fifty basis, on the principle that although the struggle for human dignity now being waged throughout Asia is of crucial importance to a world free of political, racial, economic and psychological oppression, it is equally essential for libertarians to become acquainted with the history of that struggle. Much of the current material will come from Japan, where this magazine is being produced, and where most of our contacts are. For information from other parts of Asia we rely upon comrades to write to us and tell us of conditions where they are active.

By confining the above notes on Asia to the three countries of China, Korea and Japan, we don't mean to invite any assumptions, but simply to express the limits of our knowledge and experience. Once again, we look forward to hearing from comrades with knowledge or experience of historical or current struggles in other parts of Asia. The primary focus of Libero International will be on libertarian movements, broadly defined, both historical and current.

Other things which Libero International hopes to achieve are, first, an annotated list of the few available English language writings on Asian libertarian movements; second, to keep abreast of publications in Asian languages and, by summarizing or reviewing them, make their contents more internationally available; and third, to introduce the activities and viewpoints of local libertarian groups to non Asian readers. Yet again, we rely on the cooperation of comrades to let us know about English-language materials and to send us information about local activities in Asia.

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CIRA-Nippon is a federation of autonomous libertarian groups, one of them being the Section for International Correspondence (SfIC), which is a small group of comrades living in the Osaka-Kobe area. As the name suggests, the SfIC works as the communication link between domestic anarchist groups associated with CIRA-Nippon, and various groups outside Japan. To achieve its aims of enhanced international communication, understanding and, hence, solidarity, the SfIC has three main functions:

  • to deal with the day-to-day correspondence between groups outside Japan and CIRA-Nippon;
  • to publish news and materials concerning the anarchist movement in Japan and East Asia;and
  • to translate or summarize published materials received from outside Japan so that they may be made more readily available to our comrades in the movement here.

Publication of Libero International is meant to achieve the second aim. We are hoping that libertarian publications outside Japan will agree to an exchange of literature, to help us in achieving the third. Materials which are new or largely unknown in Japan will be summarized, translated, etc., by SfIC, after which they will be sent to Fujinomiya to become part of the CIRA-Nippon collection (see introduction to CIRA-Nippon in this issue). We hope that our friends overseas will be interested in not only receiving Libero International and what other pamphlets and materials as we may produce, but will also help us in making information relating to their theory, practice and experience as widely available in Japan as possible.

Our present plan is to publish bi-monthly. Future issues will probably be about the size and format of this one. Sole editorial responsibility for the contents lies with the Editorial Collective of the SfIC, the publisher. Correspondence relating to the contents, requests for further information, subscription inquiries, or letters dealing with other matters relating to the anarchist movement in Japan and Asia, should be addressed to the SfIC, whose address appears on the back cover.