Anarchism, Internationalism & the Euro Zone Crisis


The euro zone crisis, and the mainstream opinion formers’ response to it, raises the question of nationalistic understandings of the way the world works, and how these understandings frame our perception of where our interests lie.

Commentators and politicians insist on explanations of the crisis wracking the Greek state that are rooted in perceived national characteristics; in this view the Greeks - all Greeks, rich and poor - are exuberant, colourful, corrupt, inept, inefficient etc. and therefore to blame for “their own” crisis. The same, often racist, stereotypes are applied to the millions of Greeks protesting against their political and economic elites and the austerity measures, which, just as in Ireland, are the means by which working class people are being made to pay for “ their” political elite’s fuck-ups. While the protesters are right in clearly identifying the culprits as being the rich elites in Greece and in the world of finance, the Greek government is using a nationalist frame to try to get them to go along with the austerity; “we all have to tighten our belts, we are all in this together, for the good of the nation”.

The same process is used in Ireland, with nationalism being invoked (“we are all in this together”) and, from abroad, national stereotypes are similarly being used to tar the Irish working class (“lazy, inefficient, corrupt, overpaid, incompetent, greedy”) with the same brush as the gombeen political class. This is part of a concerted effort to make it take the blame and shoulder the burden for the screw-ups of the Golden Circle and international finance capital.

In this way, capitalism uses nationalism to marshal the working class to go along with the wishes of national elites and accept austerity and other measures. At the same time capitalism uses nationalism to actively discourage the working class in Ireland from identifying with their working-class sisters and brothers in Greece, Portugal or Spain.

An anarchist worldview rejects nationalism as an ideology that is ultimately rooted in authoritarianism and bigotry, recognising that it is an ideology that came into its own with the flourishing of the capitalist state. Anarchism, which upholds the value of solidarity among the working class, instead advocates internationalism to break down ideologically-imposed national divisions in order to reveal the real divisions which our rulers are constantly trying to mask; the division between rich and poor, between capital-owners and workers, between the international financial elites and the rest of us.

As ordinary people we must struggle to break from the nationalist framework that opinion-formers propagate. We must see that our interest is really the same as the interest of the working class internationally. We must find ways of expressing solidarity with our Greek sisters and brothers, of standing beside our Spanish sisters and brothers, and so on. The capitalist rulers of the world know their interests lie in working with each other more than with the workers they keep in line with nationalism. It’s time that we did the same and recognised that our fundamental interests are defined by the fact that we are workers, not Irish or Spanish or Greek or Nigerian or Colombian. It’s time we saw ourselves for what we are; the international working class.


This article is from Workers Solidarity 122 July 2011
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