arch/ive/ief (2000 - 2005)

"No" to All Wars!
by Jason McQuinn Tuesday May 13, 2003 at 05:10 PM
C.A.L. Press, PO Box 1446, Columbia, MO 65205-1446

Anarchists are the only consistent opponents of war between nation-states. This is first and foremost because anarchists oppose not only all of the nation-states that currently exist, but also any possible nation-states that various socio-political and military movements might wish to newly create.


"No" to All Wars!

Not just to Some Wars

Cover of issue 55

Anarchists are the only consistent opponents of war between nation-states. This is first and foremost because anarchists oppose not only all of the nation-states that currently exist, but also any possible nation-states that various socio-political and military movements might wish to newly create. Genuine anarchists oppose all wars because all wars between nation-states primarily benefit nation-states, often regardless of whether they win or lose. Randolph Bourne's cogent maxim, "War is the health of the state," also directly implies that war is antipathetic towards the elements of social life whose health is inversely related to that of the nation-state: free individuality, free community and all the modes of free intercourse amongst people without regard for nationality, ethnicity, class, race or gender.

Modern warfare with its associated techniques of mass-murder and mass-destruction, along with its related goals of mass-plunder of resources and mass-humiliation of survivors, is obviously detrimental to any practical, rational or emotional commitment to international—or better, nonnational—forms of human community. Modern war between nation-states appropriates imperialist economic and political benefits to the strongest economic and military powers in proportion to their victories, alliances and convincingly maintained threats of attack. While all the feeble ideological appeals to nonexploitative, nondominating or nonmilitarist values like "freedom," "equality" and "democracy" function primarily to hide the enormity of the crimes committed by the victors and the enormity of the suffering of the defeated or subjugated.

Simply put, all war is international predation. And all the justifications for launching wars necessarily require the massive degradation of language and communication in order to prevent people from understanding this.

Internally, within the nation-state, the threats of external enemies are used to help maintain an artificial internal solidarity. A focus on external enemies hinders or prevents any focus on internal problems and contradictions, no matter how much more directly they affect the population. External threats, whether credible or not, are useful for increasing the amount of repression, militarism and general misery that people will tolerate in their lives. And they're especially useful for combating any attempts by people to fight for their own desires, values and goals, including the abolition of capitalism and nation-states.

But, however much it can appear that war is the greatest strength of nation-states, the reliance on war as a solution to social, economic and political demands also always conceals some of the greatest weaknesses of nation-states. Aside from the obvious catastrophic breakdowns suffered by the losing nation-state in any war, the extreme dependence on external enemies to marshal internal social solidarity can allow internal contradictions to strain beyond their normal breaking points, such that either victory or defeat (or even stalemate) can often unpredictably lead to upsurges of riotous, mutinous and insurrectionary—or even revolutionary—movements as wars end. A multitude of historical examples are available, from the Paris Commune following the Franco-Prussian War, to the widespread revolutionary upsurge across Europe following World War I, to the recent outbreaks of insurrection in Algeria following the long civil war in that country between Islamic insurgents and Algerian military forces.

As a result many Marxist radicals, including Karl Marx himself, have often made the mistake of actually calling for and supporting wars between nation-states in the interest of furthering the supposed historical development of one side or the other, or even anticipating the social breakdown and potential revolutionary response that might accompany a war's end. Some would-be revolutionaries also argue that revolution is itself impossible without war, and that therefore people should oppose capitalist and imperialist wars between nation-states, but support "people's wars" or "revolutionary wars." However, this predominantly Marxist perspective depends upon the assumption that nation-states can actually be revolutionary, which has been consistently disproved by history in the sense of genuinely anti-capitalist revolution. (Nation-states can, of course, facilitate capitalist or fascist "revolutions.") Anti-capitalist insurrection and revolution only end in war when they have already failed. The sad fact is that many amongst the dwindling numbers of contemporary Marxists still continue to maintain a misguided belief in the "scientific" nature of the long-discredited ideology of historical materialism which legitimates war, despite the fact that many, many thousands, tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands have died in the wars of the last century without any of us ending up one step closer to the creation of a genuinely free human community.

Unlike Marxists, the vast majority of anarchists are never tempted to fool themselves into thinking that social or historical or scientific or revolutionary "progress" requires war between nation-states. (Outside of the Spanish Civil War, the small minority of anarchists who have at some point thought otherwise have generally either done so from despair or the pernicious influence of Marxism.) Thus anarchists have almost always been in the forefront of every modern anti-war movement. Though the numbers within the anarchist milieu may have been small at particular times or in particular places, anarchists have generally made outspoken opposition to war, nationalism and militarism a key part of their practical activity. Which is why we can expect that in proportion to overall numbers, we will continue to see much more anarchist opposition to George W. Bush's long-planned war on Iraq than from any other group.

"No" to all wars, not just to some wars!

- Jason McQuinn, Editor