Today the term ‘nation’ is equated to the nation-state of the (French) bourgeois revolution of 1789. However, this misleading definition totally ignores the original meaning of this term. The term ‘nation’ stems from the Latin language and means in its most literal sense: people. So it is in this context we have to see the nation within communitarian anarchist thought.
Also for Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876), the father of contemporary anarchism, the national question did not leave him indifferent. Although Bakunin strongly rejected bourgeois-nationalism, he did not reject all forms of nationalism. Bakunin made a clear difference between the state and the fatherland (the nation). He defined the fatherland as “the sacred and indisputable right of every human being, every human group, association, commune, region and nation to live, feel, think, want and act the way they want. ”
Against the bourgeois-nationalism of the authoritarian State he placed the liberating nationalism of the people. Acocording to him the people knew “a natural and real love” for their fatherland. According to him this was not merely a false abstraction imposed by the bourgeois-State, but a social reality. In his latest work, ‘Statism and Anarchy (1873)’, Bakunin wrote: “Every nation, however small it may be, has its own character, its own ways of life, to speak, to feel, to think and to act the way that they wish.And this character, their particular way of life, is what forms the basis of their identity. It is the result of the whole of historical life and all conditions of the people their environment; a purely natural and spontaneous phenomenon.”
The fatherland was that what a community of individuals had agreed upon what it was. For Bakunin the principle of selfdtermination stood central: “Just like any individual, every nation is necessarily is what it is and enjoys the unquestionable right to be itself.” The communitarian anarchism of Bakunin called for a brotherhood of free nations; anti-autoritarian organic communities that grew from the people and which co-operate on the basis of autonomy and mutual respect.
Another important thinker for communitarian anarchism was the German anarchist Gustav Landauer (1870-1919). Landauer was one of the pioneers within the Munich Councilrepublic, because of that he was murdered by the Freikorps in 1919.
Landauer his anarchism strongly opposed Marxism and build mostly on Proudhon his mutualism. Just like Bakunin he saw the people as a natural phenomon. For him the family, community and the people represented “the only real natural social units, from which a truly inclusive, harmonious and organic society without coercion could grow.” He believed that the nation was the special manner on which human nature and the unique characteristics of the individual, were expressed within the community.
He also made a clear distinction between nation and State. In his vision the nation was in essence anarchist. During Medieval times, when the State slowly began to dominate society, the natural social solidarity of the nation, was slowly but surely replaced by coercion and oppression. It replaced voluntariness with autoritarian sytstems and laws.
Foremost anarchism represented a return to nature for Landauer, a re-unification with the ‘volksgeist’ (the spirit of the people) and the regaining of social relations. In contradiction to Bakunin, Landauer did not see the revolutionary destruction of the State not as an absolute necessity. For him it was much more important that individuals once more become conscious and found back the spirit within them. Then these individuals could found alternate societies, which had the opportunity to resist the State.
For communitarian anarchists the nation is something natural and organic. It represents a free community on the basis of a shared linguistic, cultural and historic background. It are the collective feelings and thoughts of the community which give shape to the nation. So nationalism in the anarchist sense of the word, is not a illusion created by the State, but arises from the free choice of the individuals who are part of it.