(written by long-time Brisbane anarchist Barbra)

“Nationalism has never been anything but the political religion of the state” R.Rocker

Over the last 25 years the Australian anti-war /peace movement has followed either an Anti US imperialism line or a moral line that war is immoral, violence is wrong. While acknowledging the truths in these analyses, both approaches fail because they don’t take into account the role of the nation state in Australia and elsewhere and its use of nationalism and militarism in creating the conditions that allow our different governments to go to war to support US imperial adventures in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Consequently, their appeals to various Australian governments to stop particular wars has met with failure.

Modern states are quite artificial entities based on the idea originally of one people inside the borders, or one language or religion or “race”. The Tamil and Rohingya  refugees are fleeing nation states that are ideologically driven by a nationalistic form of Buddhism that sees no place for people who are not part of the dominant ethnic group.Both of these states have been accused of genocide. Meanwhile, in the civil war, Tamil leaders were fighting under their own form of nationalism

In modern Australia we claim to be multicultural so do not promote these ideas but instead claim to share “certain values” but these values are largely defined by key opinion makers and politicians and can be manipulated to fit situations that arise like economic down turns, influx of refugees or the election cycle{remember Howard and Abbot}. In fact one of the ways that the state has historically increased its power has been by creating crisis like the “weapons of mass destruction” and then offering to protect the population while at the same time curtailing civil liberties and increasing militarization of civilian life e.g. the creation of Border Force. Another example was the military intervention in indigenous communities in the Northern Territory

While we live in the age of economic globalization, the nation state has the purpose of keeping the population in an acquiescent state, one in which business and investors have confidence. Its role in providing services for the population has been reduced by neoliberalism so other aspects of its role, like controlling the borders,  have become more prominent. Its role in this regard has been accompanied by a growth of nationalism stirred up by moral panics from time to time and fueled by an increase in militarism over the last 25 years as successive governments have poured money into history research and teaching in schools about the Anzacs. Fighting in overseas wars has been presented as a key element in “who we are”. Other narratives like our record in the 20th century in stopping wars {World War 1 anti- conscription campaigns, Vietnam War} and in struggling for a more just society have been ignored.

Moreover nationalism allows the ruling elites to avoid the question of economic and political exploitation and to instead focus on the “good of the nation”. Class struggle is hopefully replaced with a nationalistic sense of belonging so that we seeracist attitudes among people who have little power themselves but who identify as ‘Aussies”.

The nation state sees “border protection” as a core role of any government. For example it’s not refugees as such that are seen as a threat but refugees who don’t follow the rules of entry as defined by the state. There are Syrians on Nauru while Syrian refugees are welcomed when the government wants to show its “generosity”. Workers are brought into the country to suit business needs under special visas but to be judged an economic refugee will get you deported if you come to Australia by boat.


“The greatest bulwark of capitalism is militarism” Emma Goldman

Militaries like multinationals are extractive institutions. In the case of the military they consume enormous resources and produce nothing. However, as explained by Noam Chomsky in many of his books, the state gives public funds to the military for research, development and building of war materials and the corporations can then benefit from this research by installing the new technology with minimal expenditure to themselves. Building submarines in South Australia was presented to the public as important for workers jobs although workers would benefit in the long run by their re employment in jobs that are environmentally friendly and sustainable.Undoubtedly local and overseas corporations were the real beneficiaries.

Moreover, the reliance of capitalism on growth and exploitation of people and the planet has led to imperialistic interventions which have fueled military growth and the growth of state power. No matter which party is elected they have to support the armed forces which are the final force to be brought in if people take part in civil disturbances or widespread strikes in their attempts to change the inequality of power in the economy or society. First action a new state makes is to set up an army and police force to protect the people and institutions that hold economic and political power.

The situation of offshore detention centres and attempts to place refugees in other countries like Cambodia illustrates the coalition of these forces of State policing of national borders, imperialism and capitalism. Multinational companies that run offshore detention and onshore centres have interests in many different industries in Australia and overseas. For example, Serco employs100,000 people worldwide in 30 countries and Transfield operates in 25 countries. Serco also runs private prisons in Australia.

As we all know prisons contain a disproportionate number of indigenous people and people from low socio-economic backgrounds’ people who have suffered from colonialism   and the effects of capitalism.

Australia , as a wealthy first world country can use its power to find poorer countries who will host our offshore detention centres or in the case of Cambodia, take refugees that Australia wants to offload. Locals in Manus and Nauru resent this Australian neo colonialism


How then to break this cycle? Here are some actions which people are carrying out and ideas for other approaches.

Anarchists believe that greater participation by the people in making decisions in areas that affect their lives–the workplace, the family, school, the community, the allocation of resources etc will lead to a decrease in nationalism as anger and resentment over inequality and lack of power will lessen.  Therefore any action that promotes an egalitarian, non- authoritarian and non- hierarchical practice and organization will promote the growth of a counter power to capitalism, militarism and the state. We promote direct action rather than appealing to governments and political parties. We do this not because we are opposed to “reforms” and small gains but because we want governments to be forced to concede by popular opposition as this increases our confidence and strength and because we recognize that whatever a government grants, it can at some future date take away unless the strength of popular power prevents this happening.We believe that such actions reflect our values and promote our vision of a future society.

Obviously these general idea needs to be brought down to some practical application. Here are some things which have been used by activists.

  • Direct action at nuclear facilities, mines and dumps
  • Direct actions at arms fairs, joint military maneuvers like Talisman Saber, army recruiting centres, protesting warship visits
  • grass roots workplace organizing-start discussion groups or online blogs that look at how unions in the past have used direct action against war e.g.
    • The IWW in WW1,
    • the wharfies refusing to load iron ore that was being sent to Japan before WW2,
    • the wharfies preventing Dutch troops embarking for Indonesia after WW2
  • Making links with workers internationally who are in the same industry or who have similar politics e.g. the anarcho-syndicalist IWA-AIT, Industrial Workers of the World.
  • actions at work against capitalism –go slow campaigns, work to rule, sabotage, sickies, general strike.
  • Workers should demand redeployment from industries producing war materials to industries that benefit people
  • university students during the Vietnam War investigated the military’s connection with research on campus and exposed the influence of the military industrial complex’s links with universities. They demanded the end to such links. Moreover, they questioned the role that universities play in society and the type of knowledge gained there. Student movements in Canada and South Africa have been engaged in grass roots organized struggle recently
  • Counter propaganda. Many of us are teachers, parents or grandparents. We have the right to have a say in schools through parents and citizens meetings. Demand that schools teach other narratives about Australia rather than  just ANZAC triumphalism—the war between indigenous peoples and settlers/police following the invasion of Australia, the long history of anti- war activity and the fight for social justice over the last 150 years by workers, women, LGBTIQ people, environmental activists,students and indigenous people
  • For those of you who believe in non- violent direct action –discuss social defence options which by their nature are participatory, involving all sections of the population not just the young and fit.
  • People who are antiwar but not pacifists can read up about the working class citizen’s militias that fought in Spain in the Civil War while at the same time taking over the industries and farms and running them directly without bosses or landlords. Their militias were organized on non- authoritarian lines without the hierarchy of a national army.
  • promote egalitarian organizations that will work alongside groups like refugees in a spirit of mutual aid to change the present migration policies. Always ensure that such work promotes self organization by the refugees themselves and not the growth of NGO style organizations
  • Think about linking refugee struggles with other struggles e.g. indigenous struggles against colonialism. Another group is the unemployed and under employed who must “work for the dole”. The use of ‘ work for the dole” and the use of the “basics card”is another way by which the state separates people and creates“borders” around these groups by treating them differently to the rest of the population with sanctions for “unacceptable” behaviour. This is all part of creating “borders”/division in the general population. While we are divided, the state and capitalism is secure
  • Beware of supporting struggles that are national liberation struggles that aim to set up a new nation with a new set of “leaders”.


Suggested Reading—most of this can be found online.

*Nationalism and Culture by Rudolf Rocker –see Anarchist Archives.org

* Free Women of Spain by Martha Ackelsberg {available online}

*War is the Health of the State by Randolph Bourne

*No War but the Class War –Libertarian Anti War Writings

*Against the Nation by Robert Ogman

*Anarchists Against the Wall    [eds} ObalGreitzer& Uri Gordon

*Against Nationalism—Anarchist Federation http://www.iaf-ifa.org

*Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe by Noam Chomsky

*The Anzac Myth by Joseph Toscano

*What’s Wrong with ANZAC? by Henry Reynolds & Marilyn Lake {ed]

*The Continuing Appeal Of Nationalism by Fredy Perlman

*How the World Works by Noam Chomsky or any other of his many books



About happyanarki

This is about me and my perspective of the world. My rants, views, and actions. View all posts by happyanarki

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