In 1936, the whole of Europe was confronted by one, extremely threatening enemy: totalitarian fascism.
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Many countries were already lost, and more were destined to succumb. Italy had already been under the fascist heel for more than a decade, Portugal for exactly ten years, Germany had been conquered by the Nazis just three years before and countries like Britain were heavily flirting with the possibility of shifting towards similar types of regimes.
In that year, general Francisco Franco launched his attack against the Spanish Republic, quickly gaining the support of Italy and Germany and threatening to impose fascism on yet another European country. Although European civil society was facing the same enemy on numerous fronts, the choice of Spain as the ultimate battlefield became immediately apparent. Having identified one specific battle as the heart of a broader struggle, thousands of anti-fascist militants, who were powerless in their own countries, joined forces and traveled to Spain. On the wave of the Communist International, they named their joint effort the International Brigades.
The example of the Spanish Civil War is a reminder that, in certain historical moments, it is necessary to identify one shared battlefield, in which radical forces from all countries converge. Where could today’s anti-austerity, anti-capitalist, anti-totalitarian International Brigades focus their forces?
Some might say Greece, the first EU country to officially join the New Third World. Already equipped with hundreds of anarchist groups, countless social movements and organizations, Greece is certainly a good candidate for the place where all our struggles could converge. Others might say Italy, where a corrupt, plutocratic government is finally crumbling under the weight of the economic crisis, while student and migrant riots are growing by the day. Italy too has a strong, historic tradition of resistance struggle, together with a widespread anarchist culture, especially in the southern regions.
To this list, I would like to add the United Kingdom: the laboratory for tomorrow’s post-crisis Europe. The UK is a pacified, normalized, First-World country and I suggest we focus our energies here because if the totalitarian capitalist project succeeds in Britain, the rest of Europe will have a “functioning” model to follow. A defeat in the UK would be an extremely dangerous step towards a general defeat across the whole continent. For this reason, I believe that just like Spain in the 1930s, the United Kingdom should become the destination for the New International Brigades.
How can we imagine International Brigades to function today? I believe that rather than armed conflict, the practice of struggle today is that of “prefigurative politics,” in the sense of an immediate implementation of models of life that are already utopian. Partly because of the Schengen Agreement for free circulation within the EU and the availability of cheap transport, it is now possible to imagine internal migrations on a scale that were once inconceivable. Any young, unemployed person in any European country could quickly and cheaply move to the UK for an indefinite period of time. We could flood the UK with masses of radicals with little to lose and “a world to win.”
Considering that youth unemployment rates in most European countries are around 20%, the numbers we are talking about are truly astonishing. Once in the UK, this wave of political migrants – aka New International Brigades – could gather around countless local projects in every area of the country from the suburbs of London to Manchester, Liverpool and Brighton. Social centers would spring up in most cities and of a strong network of cooperation would be laid across the whole island. Furthermore, the encounter of like-minded activists for an extended period of time – well over the short-termed experiences of anti-summit contestations – would spark new strategies of struggle and life, the mixing of concepts, practices and solutions and the creation of a truly grassroots alternative to the current structures of economic and social life.
Unemployed youth of Europe, look around! What do you have to lose? A miserable life? Frustration? Powerlessness? Submission? We, the people of the United Kingdom, migrants and subjects of the Crown, need your help today! Come in the thousands and flood this land! Let us, together, experience liberated lives. We shall take them by surprise!
As Sun Tzu once said, “appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected.”