Global anarchists return to Swiss birthplace of Anarchist International

Hundreds of anarchists from all over the world gathered Aug. 8-12 in the town of Saint-Imier in the Jura region of Switzerland to mark the 140th anniversary of a congress which saw the anarchists break with the workers’ movement dominated by Karl Marx. The International Anarchism Gathering called for public protests and strikes to oppose austerity measures imposed in response to the European debt crisis. “Capitalism goes from crisis to crisis, so this is an opportunity for us,” said Aristides Pedraza, one of the event organizers.

Saint-Imier was the scene of an historic anarchist worker congress in 1872—a year which, like the present one, punctuated a crisis of capitalism. Hosted by the Jura Federation, an affiliate of the First International that was expelled by Marx for its anarchist leanings, the conference saw the founding of a breakaway “Saint-Imier Anarchist International” that embraced the ideas of Marx’s great rival in the workers movement, Russian revolutionary Mikhail Bakunin. The Jura Federation was mostly made up workers in the watch industry, which remains a mainstay of the region’s economy today. In contrast to Bakunin’s followers, the new Saint-Imier conference explicitly embraced nonviolence. (AP, SwissInfo via Anarchist News, Aug. 8; Anarchisme2012, Jan. 24)