IAF Seventh Congress, Besancon, France 2004

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Sep 14 2007 11:15
IAF Seventh Congress, Besancon, France 2004

IAF-IFA Seventh Congress 2004 (translated from Italian)


The Seventh Congress of the International Federation of Anarchists (IAF) was held over three days in April 2004 in Besancon, France. It gathered over a hundred comrades, representing the member organizations as well as other groups with whom IAF co-operates and collaborates. In this way, it was possible to have delegates from the 'historical' federations (those which have been in IAF since its foundation in 1968), such as the Iberian Federation of Spain and Portugal, the Francophone Federation from France and Belgium, the Italian Federation and the Argentinian Libertarian Federation, but also of those more recently formed -such as the Forum of German speakers- and those which have joined this very year, like the Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, and the Czech and Slovak Federations. There was also a delegation from the Association of Movements (ADA) from Russia, a group, which has been active since the mid nineties in different places of this extensive country. Their membership application was accepted at this Congress.

Other groups represented include delegations from the Belarusan Federation, the Commission of Anarchist Relations of Venezuela, Anarchist Workshop from Uruguay, the historical British fortnightly, Freedom, and Swiss from Space Noir. Others had expressed an interest in attending but were regretfully unable to do so. These include the Federation of Anarchists from Serbia, the Slovenian Anarchist Federation, the Korean anarchists and Libertarian Utopia from Bolivia. There were many greetings received in support of the Congress: from the IWA secretariat to the Brazilian Libertarian Movement, from the Poznan Group of the Polish Federation to the A-infos Collective, from the Anarchist and Anarcho-syndicalist of Minnesota to the Anarcho-syndicalist Magazine from Philadelphia in the United States, from the Workers Solidarity Alliance of New York to the Woorder van Rebellen of Amsterdam, from the Bulgarian Youth Federation to the Community of the South of Montevideo, from the Sao Paulo Libertarian Collective to the Rio de Janeiro Federation, from the Germinal Group from Pecho in Chile to the OSL of Argentina, from the Portuguese magazine Utopia to the many, many individuals who we can't mention here. The Besacnon group of the French Anarchist Federation did an outstanding job of dealing with the practicalities of the Congress, organising food and accommodation and simultaneous translation in four languages. Member federations contributed to the costs, though the French Federation, as host federation took on a major part of the financial responsibility. The wide spread participation in this Congress is an indication of the inescapable need for internationalism in order to effectively confront the warmongering aggressiveness of capitalism and the State.

The Congress was prepared over the last three years in a series of meetings held in a variety of European cities, including Milan, Montpelier, Mannheim, Prague and London, of the Secretariat and the 'Relations Commission' of the International.The Besançon Congress took place in a particularly constructive atmosphere, enlivened by the large numbers of young people present. The positive atmosphere enabled the delegates to clarify the issues facing the international and to develop common strategies and points of reference for our activities in the near future. A special public meeting on Proudhon, a native of Besancon, was held on the eve of the Congress, well-advertised onthestreets of the town. The Congress, itself, alternated work in general assemblies and small discussion groups, enabling the biggest possible participation in the debates and common plenaries. The Congress ended at midday on Monday the twelvelth, with the approval of the documents drawn up by the participants, some of which are reproduced in these pages, and the transfer of the IAF secretariat from the Italian Federation to the Anarchist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.

However, apart from the resolutions that were approved, it is important to highlight the presence of a clear will to co-operate, to build up a dynamic, linked to political and social realities, without concessions of any kind or abandonment of anarchist principles. In the same way, exchange between the generations is a sign of the vitality of today's anarchism, which confirms itself, again, as the most stimulating thinking, in terms of defining new action parameters to bring about the society of the free and equal. We've left certain of having made the acquaintances, gathered the knowledges, shared the intentions and lived together the (few) festive moments- the joint singing of anarchist songs- all of which have characterised the congress and which will certainly bring new spirits to IAF´s actions, as well as repaying us for the effort of getting to Besançon.

M.V. (outgoing Secretary- Italian Anarchist Federation)


The Congress of the IAF, meeting today in Besancon , confirms that anarchism is the relevant response to the problems in the global situation. Anarchism, if it wants to be involved in its environment, must not forget that it evolves constantly in relation to the social reality and it must define its practices and its strategies for action in relation to these same realities.

Oppression and exploitation knows no borders, and anarchism will not be achieved except at the world level. It is for this reason that organised anarchists have created an appropriate tool- the IAF. We are unanimous in considering that the IAF cannot be an end in itself. Rather, it is an instrument to co-ordinate international struggles and for this reason should contribute to organising federally the international anarchist movement. The increase in membership of the IAF, as well as the emergence of new groups that look with interest towards the IAF project, are a sign of the vitality of organised social anarchism.

The IAF is a federal organization, which exists through its local sections. The autonomous development of these local federations is a guarantee of their freedom and their capacity to effectively struggle within their own territory. It is inside actual political and social situations in which they find themselves that each federation chooses its own path which it judges to be the most appropriate at any given moment of the development of anarchism.

The momentum given to anarchism in the new social and cultural struggles has produced a growth, not only in numbers, but also in the capacity to organise anarchist actions. However, these do not always translate into clear objectives and libertarian practices. On the one hand, there is the persistence of nihilist groups without political and social perspectives, and on the other hand, there is the temptation to adopt reformist practices and to collaborate with ruling class institutions and organisations.

We think that anarchist organisations must pre-figure the future society. We cannot help but reject the principle that the majority can impose their policies on the entire organisation as well as the logic of electoralism that comes from this. This critique constitutes the basis of anarchism as it was expressed at the St. Imier Congress of 1872.

It is in reinforcing our links, in exchanging information and co-operating with multi-faceted anarchist organisations, in the framework of the associative pact of our International, that we can construct social anarchism relevant to the contemporary world. We reaffirm the importance of the development of practices, which are non-hierarchical and based on self-organisation. These are far from vanguardist practices, which are foreign to organised social anarchism.

The emancipation of the workers will be the work of the workers themselves. The coherence between the means and the end is not only an ethical issue, but a distinctive feature of a libertarian social and political organisation. This observation leads the IAF to adopt an open and constructive attitude with regards to the components of the anarchist movements in the world.


Permanent war as the paradigm of state and capitalist domination

Today the logic of domination and profit have the support of all the powers behind it, united only in their will to starve, humiliate and massacre the dispossessed classes. In addition, ideological mechanisms, the very same neoliberalism prevailing every where, are relatively secondary to the staging of a vicious fight to control and dominate, where the aims are immediate survival and the destruction of the enemy at any costs, even if that implies the destruction, in the short term, of the very possibility of life on the planet.

In rcent years we have seen the reaffirmation of the paradigm of 'permanent war'. Emerging after the spectacular attacks on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers , it was perfected in the following period, defining a scheme that makes war a permanent feature of the political scene. The pretext for this war on terror has become the pivot of a warmongering politics aimed at asserting the 'right' of the strongest, even if in contraction of the feeble international law, bringing into disrupute any residual media use of the UN.

The permanent, preemptive, global war is but the latest way in which the domination of the strongest is secured, asserting the goals of those using, exploiting and oppressing the biggest part of the planet's population. These objectives are defined according to positions in a very obvious game, even if they are ignored on the propaganda side. The main one is the control of the energy resources (not only oil, but also water and the necessary minerals for satellite control technology, either civil or military) and of the infrastructure of supply and communication.

The war machinery used in the most strategic areas by North American interests guarantees that the USA maintains a primary role, on a purely economical level, in their competition with Europe, Japan, Russia, China and India, who do not have the military means or the autonomy required, to counter the hegemonic pretensions of Washington. A plausible consequence of this could be the reshaping of the ambitions of the historical allies of the USA , leading to rethinking of the relationship with the hawkish American administration.

European countries, in the past few years, have played the role, always more difficult and ambiguous, of allies-competitors of the United States and of their warmongering policies. Having neither an offensive military force, nor the capacity for effective political coordination, the European Union countries gravitate between the intention of making their own military pole and, the alliance, on a competitive ground, with the belligerent policy of the USA .

Italy has left behind the non-interventionist role typical of the Christian-Democrat period and that of supporter of Anglo-American imperialism, which was implied in its mediation between it and the Arab world. Today it has an active imperialistic role in the European and world chessboard, with interests of its own to pursue, facilitated by its Mediterranean location: from the Albanian protectorate to the reconstruction intervention on the war-devastated areas ( Bosnia , Kosovo , Afghanistan ...) through the lucrative participation in the manufacture and trade of weapons. The reshaping of the Atlantic alliances by the centre-right government is, in fact, complementary to the regional imperialistic role of the Italian government, which in this way can try to be allowed a 'free hand' on its protectorates, in exchange for the active support of the United States' warmongering policies.

From humanitarian war to permanent war.

The end of the Cold War represents a very important change, not only because of the change from a bipolar world to a monopolar one, but also, and mainly, because of the need to reformualte the idea of the enemy. In fact, the fall of the 'Empire of Evil' makes it impossible to continue thinking of the enemy as someone who threatens your existence, displaying a military power capable of destroying the planet and humanity. Of the two main features of the idea of the 'enemy', that it be evil and have the ability and the will to be a direct threat, it is the second one that seems to be less relevant now, as no important danger directly threathens the only superpower. It was therefore impossible for the United States and its allies to think of war as of some extreme measure in the face of a deadly threat. From this point of view a new war paradigm starts forming, a new conception of the role and purpose of war machinery, which otherwise risked having its purpose quite redefined, as a result of a loss of legitimacy.

In this way, the logic of 'humanitarian' action is outlined. Instead of conflicting with the old rule of 'non-interference in the internal affairs' of a country, curiously enough, it reinforces it. 'Humanitarian' action turns out to be the useful excuse, always ready to be formulated in a more precise way in international law terms. The humanitarian principle invoked to justify the war in Kosovo contrasts with the 'non-inference in the internal affairs' rule when it came to the massacre taking place in Chechnya or the war on the Kurds, not to mention the always bitter conflict between Palestine and Israel. The paradigm of humanitarian war points to the issue of the 'just' war, that which is fought to impose a truth, an order and a world vision. It is however, a 'dirty' war because its victims are the civilian refugees and inevitably leads to more deaths, tortures, rapes, more homeless people without hope, unwilling pawns in a game decided somewhere else, in the name of someone else's 'truth'. This propopaganda tool has been only marginally useful for the emotional mobilization needed to produce consensus in western populations, particularly Americans, because the 'humanitarian' is clearly unable to achieve the stated aims of the conflict. The experience of 'humanitarian' war has shown abundantly that it is a perverse mechanism, which increases the evils that is meant to cure, staging a drama in which blood and destruction are the obscene scenery which hide the backstage from the viewer, the empty space behind the curtains.

September the eleventh provided the occasion, whether directly orchestrated or ignobly used, to make the qualitative jump needed for the development of the United States imperialist will: its assertion of unchallenged military superiority on the boardgame of the international relations. The idea of the enemy is again reshaped: it is evil, in fact very evil, and in a position to directly and defiantly strike against in the Unites States territory and that of its allies. It cannot be identified with any state institution, but is able to infiltrate, direct, adapt itself and make alliances with all those states which are not ready to accept the global leadership of the United States . An enemy like this opens the path to permanent war, against the 'rogue' states and against all those who, from the interior, threaten the world order. This enemy adopts the form of the Islamic extremist. Islamic extremism makes it possible to define an enemy, on the basis of the classic opposition between friend and foe in western culture. It is an empty category, which only exists in opposition, because it lacks a sense and an identity of its own. In fact, it revolves around conservative Christianity, whether Catholic or Protestant, the most nihilistic liberalism and all the traditional forms of nationalism, racism, populism and democratic culture.

In this war, which in its most recent version can also be 'preemptive', the enemy does not need to prove its evil nature by any deeds, but it must be fought because it IS evil. The reasoning around which the attack on Iraq was organised is a good example of this. The presupposition of the possession of weapons of mass destruction is reason enough to declare a war. The evident dissymetry between the attacker (who they 'know' possesses weapons of mass destruction) and the attacked, falls in the realm of 'just war' as it is carried out because the enemy is evil and, therefore, potentially dangerous. It is evil and therefore a natural ally to the terrorism which attacks women, children and defenseless men. Never mind that this same definition could be applied to the policies of the United States and its allies. Is it not, in any instance, the aim in war to terrorise the population of the enemy State in such a way that resistance is crushed? The immoral nature of war leads to the immoral nature of state and to the impossibility of making a fair world order by just reforming the structure.

External war and internal war.

The paradigm of permanent war makes victims not only amongst the populations of the 'rogue' states of the time, but also amongst oppositionists of the existent order. Pacifists, antimilitarists, workers on strike, and antiracists are equated to terrorists in a propaganda operation that is reminiscent of the accusations of collaborationism made during the last century to anyone not accepting the logic of war, militarism or the State. In the United States, the passing of the Patriot Act, which opened the possibility of extrajudicial detentions of mere suspects, as well as the later and substantial militarisation of American social life, are the unmistakable signs of the fact that the politics of never-ending war have finally infiltrated the very core of the biggest power. Security policies in recent years have seen a worldwide increase, demonstrated in the repressive measures on the 'internal front', aimed to forcibly discipline workers, indigenous peoples and immigrants, and to crush any opposition.

Internal war.

The very terms of the internal war changed immediately after the collapse of Soviet 'communism'. The fall of the 'alternative' to private capitalism allowed the Statist system to present capitalism as the only future. In the same way, the threat of a popular coup has been redefined. Capitalism, firmly supported by the State, has launched a staged attack against the modest workers' victories, characteristics of the social-democrat legacy. Thatcherism and Reaganism fully speeded up this attack, which, after the fall of the Soviet régime, has been a constant feature of the political and social scene. The neoliberal offensive has been applied to many fronts. The causalisation of working relationships has ended the stable employment conditions, which had enabled workers to develop collective, self-organised methods of struggle. Under the pretext of modernization and reduction of costs, many areas, traditionally left of capitalist logic, are now opportunities for exploitation. Privatisations of services, from healthcare to education, transport to communications, are examples of this process.

The answer to this war front opened by capitalism against humanity has been an increase in social confrontation on a global level with the working class fighting back with strikes and other froms of resistance. The anarchist movement has always been present in these struggles, its role strengthened by its original initiatives and its capactity to shed light on the global nature of the ongoing processes. Our resistance must be as global as capitalism is.

Both the external and internal war have the same fronts and have been fought with the same determination and ferocity. The militarisation of social life has instigated legislation that goes beyond the limits of democratic normality, without facing much opposition from internal conflict. These are made possible thanks to the gigantic anesthetic operation emerging out of the terrorist 'emergency'. Fear is a powerful factor that permits the criminalisation of any social resistance, however minimal. The recent security bills passed in France and Great Britain are examples of this, as they equate terrorism with any social struggles that are happening at this time in those countries.

Globalisation of struggles.

So-called economic globalisation is but another stage in capitalist development, as it seeks to expand and spread the tentacles of exploitation more efficiently on a planetary level. For us, globalization must mean globalisation of the class struggle.

Inside the antiglobalization movement, as is shown by the media, there are Christians, Marxists, Social- Democrats and other reformist groups which have too often collaborated with capitalism to make globalisation stronger. These are often the same groups which work for the development of capitalism in the Third World, interfering in communities and pushing them to destroy their own identity and self-sufficient economies. The consequent migrations from the poorer societies turn out to be only a cheap workforce in the First World, bringing down overall costs. A world in which immigrants are defined as 'illegals, their freedom and human dignity denied, exists because of the lack of a piece of paper. Facing this, the IAF cannot help but keep its identity and objectives: generalised self-management of society, abolition of private property and the construction of an anarchist society. It is therefore very important that we back the anarchist movements in the poorer countries, opening autonomous communication and knowledge channels, beyond the systems´s mass media, as a first step towards a more widespread implantation of anarchism.

War against life.

Capitalist production has lead to the declaration of a war against life itself; a war that threatens the survival of the whole planet. This is happening on two fronts. On the first, is the looting of resources, pollution and environmental devastation, the consequence of capitalist production. This system only considers profits, ignoring the fact that human beings are part of the ecosystem as well and that no one eats or breathes money. The other front is that of technological development following the agenda of the powers. On one side there is nuclear energy, whether civil or military, which can lead to a slow radioactive death or a devastating destruction. On the other, genetic manipulation colonises life, looting traditional knowledges. The duty of anarchists is to side with those peoples fighting these aggressions.

Against moral order and religion.

Every form of institutionalised belief is hierarchical and authoritarian, trying to impose its own moral rules on every person. Anarchists are strongly opposed to all such belief systems. Pretending to represent a non-existent monopoly on moral values, religions subtely try to interfere in individuals' private lives. Religions threaten their autonomy, denying their ability to directly solve their own problems. Those who believe in a heaven to come willnot do anything to get better conditions now!!! Religion wars are still being fought in the name of a God, hiding ambitions of domination and conquest, very evident in the close relationships between churches and States. Anarchists oppose all religions: Christian, Muslim...and any others. Our deep consideration for personal freedom does not prevent us from opposing religious beliefs and any form of hierarchy. As well as attacking individual autonomy, there is also the proliferation of rules eroding the freedom of, mainly, women and sexual minorities. These rules, that in many cases are also accepted by self-styled secular sectors of society, signal the reaffirmation of a religious and conformist ethics. They also bring about a strengthening of patriarchy, which is opposed by the anarchists as are all forms of domination.