Federative Futures: Waterways, Resistance Societies, and the Subversion of Nationalism in the Early 20th-Century Anarchism of the Río de la Plata Region

Geoffroy de Laforcade

Abstract


The discussion of anarchists’ relationship to nationalism and internationalism is often marred by the omission of a key tenet of their ideological disposition: the rejection of political and territorial nations, and of the institutional guarantors of their hegemony in social life. In the spirit of the First International, the Argentine FORA (Federación obrera regional argentina – Argentine Regional Workers’ Federation) adopted the term “regional” in 1904 precisely to designate its range of spatial and organizational activism as trans- (rather than inter-) national. In the early years of anarchist longshoremen’s labor organization into resistance societies, delegates from Uruguayan and Brazilian ports were regularly present at meetings and involved in strikes; not as representatives of national movements but as fully equal participants in a drive to extend the geographic tentacles of the FORA, which routinely sent agitators across borders to Paraguay, Chile and even Peru. This was theorized in a “Solidarity Pact” according to which localities were to be freely associated with local federations, provinces with provincial federations, nations with regional, national federations, and, the entire world with an international federation – the International Labor Association (Asociación Internacional de Trabajadores – AIT, revived in 1922). Social solidarity was thus represented as inherently supra-national (i.e., oblivious to parliaments, bureaucracies and borders), while activism to transform capitalist society into a more cooperative and egalitarian model of economic and political organization was grounded in local situations and circumstances. In the case of the Argentine FORA, local activism (not all of it nominally “anarchist”) was connected with far-flung networks of working-class militancy throughout the Rio de la Plata region, as powerful labor organizations among longshoremen and mariners in Buenos Aires sustained the

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