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what is the difference between "anarchist" in europe and "anarchist" in the u.s.?

+3 votes
and between "communist" in both places?

groups like those involved with tiqqun in france (who identify as communist), and the people who have promoted those ideas in the u.s. (who identify as anarchist?), seem to have muddied the waters.
can folks who have experience with both explain how the labels (at least) are used differently in different places?
(and where does canada fit into this too? and mexico?)

edited to correct tags (good grief)
asked May 18, 2014 by dot (51,150 points)
edited Oct 9, 2014 by dot

1 Answer

+3 votes
Not sure I get your question really well, but I can answer for what I know of europe and more precisely in france.

So basicaly I think that the big difference with the US is that anarchism is both linked with a "linear" tradition of struggle syndicalism and "revolutionnary syndicalism" on the one hand, and the recent history of various and different autonomous movements on the other hand (and what we used to call "the autonomy" - there are several definitions of the term).

About syndicalism, I think that the difference is that the tradition here is very contradictory because in the same time some unions (at least "class struggle" ones) share a big history of resistance and strikes and stuff. But in the same time, they were completely integrated in the game of politics and were the major tool of the state to sell the worker movements to the bourgeoisie. The big contradiction is that strikes or social movements, and even "general strikes days of action" remains really symbolic and spectacular cause everytime, in the meantime the workers are striking (on the call of unions) the bureaucrats go to sit around the table with the bosses and the governement and sign law projects with the bourgeoisie.

Since May 68, there were two main answers to this situation from the anarchists. The famous one, was to create new revolutionnary organisations and unions so as to "refound" a kind of revolutionnary syndicalist and anarcho-syndicalist perspectives. Even the french AF, that is very synthesist, and pacifist, tend to join this strategy or support it.

The other main answer were the various experiences of anarchists through the autonomous struggles and the autonomous movements : "marginal people" and oppressed minority struggles, post-situationnist groups, direct action movement (in general), armed struggle (many groups involved, the most famous being the organisation "Action Directe", that wasn't specifically anarchist, but many anarchists took part to it), assembleism, autonomous participation to class struggles, "auto-reductions" and "reprises" (taking food for low price or for free in the store), riots, squat movements, etc. All of these different kind of initiatives crossing their roads, some times making sense together, sometimes fighting violently with each others (for example post-situationnists were mostly opposed to "action directe" organisation and some of its methods, and people who supported it : which leads to violent clashes) .

I didn't really mentioned the different kind of "ideologies" or tendencies because I think that it's less revelent that this main dichotomy as there were various kind of anarchists (individualists, communists, eco, etc) both in formal organisations and in the autonomous movements.

And more complicated than this, some anarchist organisations (such as the "O.R.A" -Revolutionnary Anarchists  Organisation- or "O.C.L" -Libertarian communists organisation-) claimed to be part to the autonomous movement even often regarded as strangers, as "militants" by the rest of it.

It think that there are similar histories in many european countries.

And the big difference in the U.S (I guess) is again that there isn't such a very formal organisation and anarcho-syndicalist continued tradition (I think that the history of the wooblies is connected with anarcho-syndicalism, but not only - especially now a day - as the IWW isn't anymore what it used to be), and no big national anarchist federation or organisation being influent. Which is still the case in france for example with the CNT and some other "anarchist" or libertarian organisations (for the best and worst ;-)). Even the CNT is a minor union, it's still the biggest organisation with anarchist claimed influences and principles (very vague to me ;-), but let's be generous) in france.

The fact is also that almost all the anarchist formal organisations are mostly made with self-proclaimed libertarian communists and anarcho-syndicalists, and that most of communists in autonomous circles don't claim to be anarchists or even libertarian.

Most of them being post-councilist/post-situationnist and other leftist and anti-leninist communists tendencies. But not only. We also unfortunatly have some orthodox marxists, especially maoists or "post-crypto-maoists" being often very authoritarians and sectarians -of course- (We call them "veuves Mao", which means "Mao widows", as Mao is dead ;-)). They are unfortunately part of the autonomous history especially in france since May 68. Not many of them here, but I heard that there were many more in Germany for example. I read german autonomous and anarchists complain about it.

Many others autonomous, or radicals usually define as anti-authoritarian communists (being sometimes very close to anarchism) or autonomous communists. But unfortunatly often closer to marxism than anarchism.

The tiqqun tendency is very hard to define because it's really a unique kind of syncretism of a lot of autonomous ideas (italian, and french mostly), litterary communism (surrealist, dada, situationnist), romanticism, mysticism (from the Talmud, where their name comes from), some anarchist ideas, french school theories (Foucault), anti-industrial tendencies, and blanquism (from Blanqui, who was absolutly not an anarchist, but a kind of insurrectionnary radical populist socialist, and theorician of the vangard, before and after the french Commune). A striking point is that its one of the rare tendencies of the autonomous movements to totally reject marxism and claiming to be communists, but not anarchists. Which is a curiosity.

The most problematic with them (the tiqqun) I think, being this vangardism. Their "informal" organisation being theorized around very leftist perspectives and a blanquist insurrectionism that is definitly not anarchist.

Most of anarchists and other autonomous and radicals often look at them with suspission notably for the fact that they often act on their own pre-determined agenda, and rarely share anything about their intentions acccording to their principles ("the imaginary party", the "offensive opacity", etc...). Even we sometimes met and do stuff together on "large" specific struggles or local ones, incidentally. For example during counter-summit, or international gatherings, or big squats, or the anti-nuclear movement, or the Z.A.D, etc.

So basicaly the hard thing in france (I guess it's pretty similar in the rest of europe) is that people claiming to be anarchist communists (or defending these two perspectives) are a minority outside organisations. In fact let's say that people who assume to be autonomous anarchists with "radical" perspectives are a minority inside the minority (in the "whole revolutionnary movement", all confused). Even an important one that might eventually be significant.

 On the one hand you have a lot of anarchists with affinities with the idea of communism, or "collective way of life" and similar perspectives, or most of them being at least against property in general; and on the other hand a lot of the autonomous communists claiming to be anti-authoritarian (not always true on my own experience ;-)) but rarely both.

I guess that in Spain, in Italy and in Greece for example it's different as many many autonomous anarchists are also communists or have big influences from the historical anarchist-communist movements in their own country.

And I also heard and read a bit about a curious phenomenon. That in Greece, as in Mexico or Chile for example, a lot of ancient marxist-leninists or communists engaged in radical activities or armed struggle becames anarchists after their organisations disapeared or just changing their mind with the actual "big come back" of various anarchist activities and initatives all around the world. I hope that answer a part of your question. But I really think we may write an encyclopia.
answered May 19, 2014 by okapy (2,120 points)
edited May 19, 2014 by okapy
thanks so much!
definitely still more to be said, but this is awesome.

(i will read that encyclopedia :) )
Or you can help writing it ! I propose "The anarchist international all around the world : organisations, collectives, autonomous groups and movements from the XIXth century to nowaday, Encyclopedia In Twenty Volumes", each of them of one thousand pages.

What do you say ?  ;-)
yay?

:)

more characters of emptiness
... LAWL ... ;-)
...