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Review of Eyes to the South: French Anarchists and Algeria

By christa | June 29, 2012

We were very pleased to see this review of David Porter’s Eyes to the South: French Anarchists and Algeria by Javier Sethness-Castro.

It is held in some circles that anarchism, like Marxism, is a form of thought and praxis that originated in nineteenth-century Europe and as such is inseparably related to this social milieu; interventions and mobilizations taken outside of this geographical-historical intersection, however strongly critical they be of patriarchy, the State, and capital, are in patronizing manner considered not to be anarchist. This raises the question of ethnocentrism among self-identified proponents of anarchist social philosophy—a concern that is not without its historical basis, given that even the Spanish anarchists of the CNT and the FAI refused seriously to consider emancipating Spain’s colonies in Morocco as part of the radical socio-political program it would counterpose to feudalism and capitalism in the Iberian peninsula.1 These glaring trends are ones that anarchist academic David Porter confronts and challenges strongly with his Eyes to the South: French Anarchists and Algeria, an extensive work that examines the various dramas of modern Algerian history and the engagement by French anarchist observers of this. In broad terms, it can be said that Porter in this work seeks to advance a mutual enrichment between established Western anarchist perspectives with the effectively anarchist practices seen in the Algerian context after the military defeat of Nazism in Europe, in addition to challenging the reactionary tendency of residents and workers of core Western societies to identify with the colonial projects promoted by their ruling classes as well as showing the potential of anarchism’s relevance to the lives of the social majorities of the world—following in the example of the CNT-FAI in Spain.
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