« The fight against war »
Evert Arvidsson’s article in Dagstidningen Arbetaren (SAC’s magazine), published in 1956
The activity of the SAC in the cause of peace is as old as the organization itself. Probably, there is no movement in our country that has proportionately done such a great job for peace and international fraternization as the SAC. This interest continues to exist to the same degree. The current basis for the struggle of the SAC in favor of peace is given by the declaration of principles voted in 1952. In it it is noted that the movement fights for a federalist order of international law which suppresses nationalism and makes the superfluous militarism. It is further stated that the SAC considers the struggle against militarism and war as one of the most important cultural tasks, and it is also underlined that the trade unionists members of the SAC are supporters of common actions of free popular movements against the war.
In the resolution on tactics adopted by the 1953 Congress, which defines and interprets the content of the Declaration of Principles in this point, that the SAC appeals to popular solidarity wherever it is possible to mobilize it to ensure peace among the peoples through negotiations. In the event that this is not successful, the SAC recommends direct action against, war. This means that the SAC, in case the people in the country which represents the threat of war can do the same, will try to prevent the war by sabotage of mobilization, general strike against the own government, etc.
This is the known attitude of the SAC which has always been the same. We are ready to apply it under the conditions which make it possible. In case the situation is quite different, the tactics of the SAC also change. Indeed, the situation has changed radically since the emergence of modern totalitarianism, the new despotism of our time. We quote the tactic resolution:
« The difference between the social situation of democracy and dictatorship is so great that it acquires a decisive importance for libertarian trade unionism. State despotism liquidates all free popular movements and thereby destroys the basis of the struggle of libertarian trade unionism for peace (that is, the pacifist struggle in its traditional forms). To the extent that any activity for peace is carried out under dictatorship, this activity will be the work of the state itself. But the defense of democracy as an institution is the basic condition not only for the pacifist struggle of libertarian trade unionism, but also for all activity of our movement. This is why libertarian trade unionism unhesitatingly takes the side of democracy when it comes to the fight against dictatorship in all its forms. «SAC resolution on tactics, 1953
This is the attitude of the SAC which is very much in line with its position on all other issues. SAC unionism has never been pacifist in a superficial sense; but a movement of struggle. Its struggle is directed against all forms of injustice, violence and oppression. We have demonstrated this in practice. Trade unionists and anarchists have always been in the forefront of the defense against all oppressive power, be it old-style capitalist violence, Bolshevism or fascism. It is enough to remember the initiatives of the trade unionists, and of the Spanish anarchists, of their important interventions in the struggle against the aggression of Spanish fascism and German and Italian fascisms. Blood has been shed many lives have been sacrificed.
But we must look closer at the idea of defense accepted by libertarian unionism. We will never fight for « the homeland », for a specific territory. For us, these are social systems without considering national borders. Libertarian trade unionism defends freedoms where they exist and it stands against oppression wherever it comes from. “This also applies to the case, to quote once again the resolution on tactics « where state despotism invades the country to crush any form of freedom in the sense of libertarian trade unionism ».
This is something essential for us. Libertarian unionism does not want to fight oppressive forces that may appear within the country, but to remain passive when it comes to oppression that comes from outside. This is the origin of the resolution on tactics of the SAC. Since the SAC never wanted to play the role of a « Qvisling » (1) it was obliged to clarify these ideas in order to find a position which was acceptable in the face of the new situation. Already in 1938, confronted with the threat of Hitlerism, the SAC saw that a new situation demanded a new tactic and in 1953, the resolution of tactics that we have just explained was voted by the national congress of the movement with 64 against 8.
(1) Quisling: founder of the Norwegian fascist party before WWII, main architect of collaboration in Norway with the Nazi occupier during World War II. His name is passed in common parlance in Norway and in the Scandinavian world as a synonym of « traitor »
Reply from Christian Lagant of GAAR (Anarchist groups of revolutionnary action ) published in issue number 2 of “Noir et Rouge magazine”(black and red magazine)
The proletarians have no homeland
Black & Red n ° 2, summer 1956
In our last (and first) issue, we published two texts from the Swedish libertarian trade union movement, the S.A.C. (Sveriges Arbetares Central Organization) concerning: 1) the problem of nationalizing a company, 2) the position of our comrades in the face of war.
(…), the case of attitude of S.A.C. facing with an international war conflict also seems to us to justify the publication of a more in-depth study on a subject whose topicality can become hot from one moment to another, and this, in spite of the friendly toasts of a Khrushchev or the good smile of an Eisenhower.
It goes without saying that the point of view of the comrades in Sweden provoked reactions and discussions in libertarian circles. In two words, let’s recall this one:
- SAC has always fought for the cause of peace. In the event of war or the threat of war between two democratic countries, S.A.C. will fight to demand negotiations. If these fail, the S.A.C. recommends direct action by the masses of the warring countries against their own governments.
- In the event of a conflict between a democracy and a dictatorship (fascism, Bolshevism, etc.) S.A.C. sides alongside democracy, without however opting for any notion of « Fatherland ». SAC just choose democracy as a lesser evil.
We do not believe that we have distorted the thinking of the comrades by so succinctly recalling their position. By stating ours here we do not think we will either definitively decide the question because if it is relatively easy to express general principles, how many of us can say with certainty what they will do at the time of the supreme choice? Regardless, the merit of the comrades of S.A.C. will be for having opened a dialogue by clearly specifying a position with which libertarians in many countries disagreed.
This is the case of G.A.A.R., for example, and we were already expressing our opposition to the text of S.A.C. writing recently:
« The text tends to prepare ‘The Sacred Union » (national union] even before the outbreak of a conflict. Recently an agency report announced that according to an opinion poll in Sweden, around 80% of the population was ready to defend the country in the event of an attack. It is therefore, to say the least, astonishing for us to see libertarian trade unionism not to rank among the 20% who, consequently, “will not line up”.
Indeed, how can we not feel astonished, to put it mildly, at the choice of libertarians in favor of « democracy »- in fact of capitalism. Yes, of course, we understand that S.A.C. disregards any idea of « fatherland », any idea of defense of a specific territory, and takes without « hesitating the party of democracy against dictatorship ». But the result is there and all the details and reassuring justifications for our internationalist concept will not change anything. And first, what do our comrades understand by « democracy »? The right to meet in a back room of coffee to discuss politics whereas the reciprocal is prohibited in the countries known as of behind the Iron Curtain? That the right to assembly, to speak, to publish is greater in our « democracies », okay, we would be stupid to den stupid to deny it (although these elementary rights in democrats are dwindling day by day, see the situation in France for example) but this is precisely where the mistake begins. Yes, for a certain number of libertarian comrades, seeing this difference between capitalist and bureaucratic regimes is tantamount to « choosing » the lesser evil. A whole part of our perspective is distorted by an erroneous dilemma, by an arch-lame formulation: « Shall I choose plague or cholera? » Then it might make more sense to try not to be sick.
A few years ago a number of us helped launch a campaign for the « 3rd Front ». What do we mean by that? Simply that it was time to try to demystify the workers and that the notion of an inevitable suicide choice between the Russian and American blocs, there was a 3rd common fighting front, that of the exploited. No doubt our formula was not perfect because it was repeatedly interpreted in various ways. However, the G.A. A.R. have not given up on their spirit if they changed its form slightly. They indeed note the division of the world into two antagonistic blocs, the impossibility for revolutionaries to subjugate themselves to one or the other of these blocs, nor to support them. The only field of struggle is that of the classes, which is waged on the international and proletarian front, (extract from a resolution on war adopted at the first Congress of G.A.A.R.).
Of course, we will be told that these are just a few words and the reality is simpler. Indeed, it is very simple to take the gun in the event of war to defend democracy against dictatorship. On the other hand, it is much more complicated to try not to behave like servants of the STATES where we live, than whatever they are (since there is not yet a country in a libertarian regime, as far as we know) and this second attitude is obviously in direct relation. with the « big words » quoted above.
We are wary of « Sacred Unions » and the defense of a lesser evil regime sank many revolutionaries into militarism with strange underlying elements, including Kropotkin and Jean Grave at the start of the « Great War » (sic) and in 1939 the Hitlerite danger could also be a justification for taking up arms and the khaki livery to defend « democracy ». We will be allowed to say that considering the problem from this angle is very primary for libertarians because before the effects, we must see the causes and we do not believe that the comrades who left in Spain in 1936 to fight in the Durutti column were less anti-fascist than the government troops fighting for a « democratic » republic. If the comrades of S.A.C see anti-fascism in Spain from this perspective, we obviously agree. As for Hitlerism and to take the situation in France, some fought in the maquis without joining Leclerc or the F.F.L., trying to give their combat as much class character as possible. It is true that on this last point the statists that are the Trotskyists often taught the anarchists a lesson, but this is another story which we hope to return to in more detail.
In summary, it emerges from these various observations that we disagree with the position of the comrades of S.A.C. We would like the dialogue to continue and expand, the stakes are serious enough.