The International Revolutionary Solidarity Movement
A study of the origins and development of the revolutionary anarchist movement in Europe 1945–73 with particular reference to the First of May Group
Edited by Albert Meltzer
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The First of May Group has been one of the best known of the anarchist activist groups of the period under review. It represents a continuation of the work of Sabate and the post-war Spanish resistance, and a bridge-head into the next period when revolutionary activism in many countries (Germany, USA, Italy, and South America) consisted of many strands some of which were authoritarian Marxist—usually Maoist, sometimes Council-Communist, occasionally Trotskyist others were Anarchist. In many cases the Press seized on the name ‘Anarchist’ and inflated the actual participation of the Anarchists (since anarchism now is the same bogey for Right Wing extremists that fascism is for left Wing extremists) so that in Turkey, for instance, where it is a much smaller grouping than any other (though decidedly militant) it appears that all activists are anarchists and all anarchists are activists, which is by no means the case.
The First of May Group is entirely anarchist, though it too has been less sharply differentiated from other revolutionary factions than is normally the case with anarchist movements, feeling that the major task was the achievement of the revolutionary situation, and endeavouring to make the revolutionary organisations as libertarian as possible. This lack of sharp differentiation is reflected in its communiqués.
The difference between activism of the anarchist variety, and the terrorism of Nationalist or other groupings, may be seen if one compares the chronology of ‘May the First’ attacks with—for instance—the record of events in Northern Ireland, or that of the Palestine guerrillas, let alone with the facts of governmental terrorism in almost any country—pick at will. The struggle is not, for the anarchist, an attack on peoples, whereas by definition the Nationalist struggle is. Marxism, though denouncing the activism of Anarchists, excuses the terrorism of Nationalists with appropriate phraseology.
For Governments, of course, terrorism must be wholesale (and legal) and not ‘retail’ (and illegal). Wholesale murder is legal war — the struggle against tyranny is individual rebellion.
It may seem surprising to the casual reader of newspaper propaganda that the anarchists should have had consistently so ‘bad a press’. When one considers over the past fifty years the record of anarchist activism, for instance, individual attempts on Mussolini, the stand in Bolshevik Russia against tyranny, by individual attempts as well as by armed resistance in the Ukraine and other risings, the various anti-fascist struggles in Spain and elsewhere, the fight against tyranny in South America and so on — none of it would seem in any way to justify the persistent vilification of anarchism in the press except as deliberate propaganda. When one considers the mass psychopathic murders associated indelibly with fascism; the governmental wholesale slaughter both in war and in internal oppression perpetrated by powers, capitalist and state communist alike, and the wholesale brutalities in suppressing opposition, (especially of a national character) even by nations democratic within themselves, but oppressive to minorities or subject peoples, one wonders where the journalists got the idea that they could treat the Anarchists as if they were automatically the worst of all possible villains.
But of course the sycophantic nature of journalism makes it see attacks upon authority, and upon persons in authority, however tyrannical, as a far greater menace than the genocide of peoples or the imposition of injustice.
Of late years this has been helped by the nature of totalitarian Gandhi-ism, which chooses to describe itself as non’ violent’ and goes on to describe all who do not share its views as ‘violent’. The ‘violentists’, of course, from a pacifist point of view are every single person except themselves; but the small ‘anarcho-pacifist’ cult in England and America describing themselves as being ‘non-violent anarchists’ with the corollary that others are ‘violent anarchists’ have been at least a contributory cause of the confusion of anarchist activism with any form, or if one wishes to put it that way, any other form, of terrorism. People like Sabate or Durruti did not ‘believe’ in violence; had they ‘believed’ in violence they could have joined the Falange or the Requete and had their fill; they believed in resistance to those who were imposing their violence upon the people. It was this resistance which led to their activism taking a violent turn. It was their belief in the libertarian humanities that made this violent activism so much nearer and so much an integral part of the people than the struggles of the ‘Third World’, let alone the wars of the Great Powers.
(via Elephant Archives)