Sunday, October 08, 2017

So anyway......

...SamFanto (Fantomas, get it?) of Dialectical Delinquent, a person I don't know but whose website I enjoy and like, "attempted a dialogue" (he calls it) with me, back when I pulled out of Libcom for its decision to maintain access on its site to the works of that brave black flag anarchist and incidental white supremacist, race-war mongering, fascist Michael Schmidt. At the same time, Libcom was busy deleting the work of the late Chris Harman for being, horror of horrors, a "Leninist."  Leninism was not, of course, the real issue.  The "real" issue was that Harman was a member of the UK SWP, a leading member of the UK SWP, and thus according to Libcom-ers, responsible for the sexual abuse and cover-up of sexual abuse by another leading member of the SWP.  The fact that Harman had died a couple of years before the abuse came to light; that no accusations either of abuse or cover-up were directed at Harman was as immaterial as the fact that the book removed contained nothing advocating or protecting sexual abuse.

Schmidt, on the other hand, denied and for a substantial period of time, assertions that he was doing a bit more than role-playing on various white supremacist websites; that he was advocating race war.  In that he was aided by some comrades who, despite knowing of his activities for years, maintained that the recent accusations were unfounded; that Herr Schmidt was innocent until  proven guilty; that Herr Schmidt deserved a full hearing, the benefit of the doubt and a commission of inquiry given his meritorious service to the cause of the blag flack, I mean black flag.  Besides, how could Schmidt be considered a racist?  He had had girlfriends who were women of color!  And photos to prove it!

Then even after Schmidt admitted his "dual identity"-- blaming it on mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, previous head injuries, some of those same individuals and  groups set out excusing, apologizing, recuperating Schmidt on the basis of his earlier service, earlier writings in the service of blag flack.

Libcom in maintaining access to those writings on its site plays directly into that attempt at recuperation.

That's why I "broke," not because I give a rat's ass about Chris Harman, or Chris Harman's writings; nor if it's legitimate for an anarcho-communist website to archive, and offer, the writings of Leninists, or Bordigaists, or Marxists, or Bakuninists-- but because Libcom was playing and being played for the recuperation of a white supremacist.

So anyway...DD thought breaking with Libcom over censoring a dead Leninist was ridiculous; that there were a million better reasons to break with Libcom, like his own reason-- that Libcom defended, and continues to defend a leading member of the Pretentious Twit Aufheben group who just happens to advise the UK police.

That's a good reason to break, too.  I have no problem with that.  But there's something else going on for DD.  I think DD wants to make some sort of "critique" of Marxism as authoritarian, anti-revolutionary, "unwoke" and/or just plan inadequate/obsolete because of Marxism's "recognition" of  the "state," or rather the necessity for the proletariat to organize itself in a struggle for state power; to execute the abolition of capitalism, which means to execute the abolition of the capitalists through its own state power.

So can read DD's version of the "attempt at dialogue" here.   You can read my version below, parsed between paragraphs of the DD version.   I don't think this is very important, but I do hope it's a bit interesting, and clarifies, if nothing else, how little the "ultras"-- "anarcho-communists,"  "libertarian communists,"  situationists,  pre or post-modern whatevers-- really get about Marx's critique of capital and the immanent condition for its abolition:

DD: In this epoch the will to separation takes many forms, but often the security of a separate identity and the desire to maintain it (in his case, “Marxist”) is classically conventional characterological armour, the un-self-questioning self-justification for sneeringly rejecting anything that tries to question a petrified ideology. Whilst maintaining his Marxist role, and close-to Leninist role, he pretends he can contribute to fighting alienation with alienated means, in an alienated form.

SA:  Priceless.  You got any fries to go with that shake?  Any indication that I’ve used Marxism as “un-self-questioning self-justication for sneeringly rejecting anything that tries to question a petrified ideolgy.”  Any evidence of that in say my analysis of Greece, or Brazil, or the US, or.......even the discussions on Libcom?  Any indication that I ever dismissed any argument out of hand for not being “Marxist” or “Marxist enough.”  Or is simply the fact that I don’t accept the terms of the discussion as you want to define them evidence enough?  Come on.  a paragraph before this one, you’re complaining that I’m reading into a perfectly innocent comment and using that misreading to tell you, ambiguously, to go fuck yourself.  Now here you are “reading in”  nonsense and explicitly using that nonsense to deal with the substance of what “my” Marxism actually demonstrates.  It’s this sort of junk that makes me tell some people, “go fuck yourself.” 

DD: However, of all the reasons to break with libcom, this has to be merely indicative of as ideological an attitude as libcom’s – i.e the classic and roughly 150-year old split between Marx and Bakunin, Marxism and anarchism. In other words, no prospect of some critical supercession: rivalry turned into the essence of the revolutionary perspective. A typical expression of the retreat from the revolutionary question relevant to this utterly counter-revolutionary epoch, based on positions related to events way way back in the past, which only become obstacles in the present if one chooses to make them so.

SA: My reading of Hegel is probably a bit different than yours.  I don’t think “critical supercession” is a category that applies to the “conflict” between Marx and Bakunin, between Marxist analysis and anarchism.   FWIW, I mean if you’re going to get all “dialectic” about this stuff, I don’t think there’s any “critical supercession” to be had i.e. Bakunin and Marx.  For that to occur there would have to be some necessary, self-reproducing relation between the two, where each, so to speak requires, produces, the other, in the material conditions of the reproduction of society.  Doesn’t play that way with anarchism and Marxism. I did not, and do not now, engage in “theoretical”  “ideological” posing of the opposition of Marxism to anarchism.  I never did anything like that anywhere.  Never on Libcom.  What you cite is what I wrote to you in an email about the charges of Leninism certain "anarchists" made against me based on my acceptance of Marx's.......labor theory of value.  I am not kidding.  What differences I have, and they are profound and legion, are practical differences—practically involved with the analysis of capitalism and the practical development of the struggle against capitalism.  Do certain anarchists at certain times make practical contributions to the development of social revolution against capitalism? Most definitely.  Is there an anarchist critique of capitalism that “compares” to Marx; that explores the self-generating limits to accumulation that resides in the very condition of social labor that defines capitalism?  No.  

DD: Whilst most self-styled anarchists are prepared to criticise Bakunin in some ways, it appears that far more self-styled Marxists (Marx was, famously, “not a Marxist”) consider their guru untouchable. I don’t think anyone calls themselves a Bakuninist or Kropotkinist or Durrutist, but for those who call themselves Marxists Marx, despite all the horrendous state-capitalists and others who have called themselves some version of a Marxist, is somehow treated as the provider of “revolutionary theory” whose application to today we must all carefully study.

SA: Fuck no, I don’t consider Marx “untouchable.”  I just don’t consider remarks made in correspondence, their (Marx and Engels) flaws, mistakes, racial expressions as fundamental, necessary, essential, to their critique of capital and the prospects for capital's overthrow.  Engels supported the US in the slaveholder precipitated Mexican-American War;  Engels flat out endorsed Prussian victory in the war against Louis Napoleon’s France.   What counts however, IMO, and what accounts for my “fidelity” to Marxist analysis, is the critique of capital as a social relation of production; is the exposition and development of historical materialism as an instrument for comprehending and advancing revolutionary struggle.  

DD: Thus he unthinkingly dismisses (and caricatures) those who criticise the connection between Marx and Lenin:“Marx’s analysis, leading as it does to class struggle for power, requiring a dictatorship of the proletariat, was “statist;” and led inexorably to Lenin to Stalin blahblahblahblah… the usual nonsense and bullshit.” Whilst saying Marx’s analysis led inexorably to Lenin to Stalin is bullshit, it’s the inclusion of “inexorably” which is bullshit.

SA: You assume what you need to prove. Where exactly is my caricature of the typical Libcom-anarchist critique of Marx and Marxism?   Of course there’s a “connection” between Marx and Lenin—it’s called capitalism.  And of course there’s a connection between Lenin and Stalin.  The problem comes when you, or the Libcomers, or the "anarcho-libertarian-communists"  take “connection” to mean “identity”  and thus inevitability—to the point where Marx’s work can be dismissed, discounted because it inevitably leads to.........Stalin; to the point where the Russian Revolution itself is dismissed, with the benefit of highly developed hindsight,  as “capitalist”  or “state capitalist” or a “fraud” or the result of “German gold.”  As you yourself demonstrate in subsequent comments you adhere to the very inexorability you decry as caricature. 

DD: Certainly Marx was contradictory – but his belief in the State certainly was a contributory factor leading to Lenin etc. And this is confirmed by S.Artesian’s defence of a conventional hierarchical army, which clearly did lead to Kronstadt, etc. Armed struggle is certainly necessary, but there have been lots of instances of armed groups doing damage to class power without having a formal hierarchy (for instance, Spain in the 30s, or those parts of the French resistance not subservient to either the Gaullists or the Stalinists, of which little is known). And even during the Russian revolution, Makhno’s army, though obviously criticisable, was not the same kind of rigid hierarchy as the Red Army or the Whites. He says he rejects “the two critical elements of so-called Leninism– the vanguard party, and Lenin’s explanation of imperialism” but fails to mention the seizure of state power as being intrinsic to Leninism, and thus defends the creation of the Red Army, the epitome of fighting alienation in an alienated way, fighting against the forces of hierarchy in a hierarchical manner, an authoritarian way of trying to destroy authority.

SA: Really?   Can you show us where and how “Marx’s belief in the state was a contributory factor leading to Lenin etc. with the "etc" being what? Define the "etc."  What exactly does that mean?  That because Marx believed the proletariat had to organize itself as an armed force to break up the bourgeoisie's state machinery and replace it with its own state machinery to suppress counterrevolution, and impose, by force, its rule, its organization of social labor, that led to...Kronstadt? Clearly, that's precisely what you mean by the etc.... and you'd rather use the "etc" to avoid using "inexorably." 

By "Lenin etc"  you mean Stalin, don’t you?  So get to the nits and grits, and show us, how, regardless of the material conditions which propelled, determined, and constrained the Russian Revolution, “Marx’s belief in the state” contributed to Stalin, and the defeat of the revolution in China, Spain, Britain, France, Vietnam, Germany    I don’t think you can, just as I don’t think others who make this argument can.  Doesn’t stop them, of course, from making the argument, but why should it?
Was the creation of the Red Army the result of Marx’s “belief in the state”?   Or was the creation of a Red Army a necessity imposed on the revolution by the material conditions, advanced and backward as they were and were simultaneously—that’s what the meaning and legacy of uneven and combined development are—in which the revolution was enmeshed from the getgo?  FWIW, the “emotional” determinants, for lack of a better term, that drove Lenin and Trotsky and the Bolsheviks toward the establishment of the Red Army were, IMO only, a commitment that the revolution NOT go the way of the Paris Commune, but hold on to power no matter the cost until the revolution conquered power in the “advanced” countries of Europe.  Maybe you disagree with me.  Maybe you disagree with them but that makes a bit more sense, given the background of each in Marx's work and the real concrete circumstances they faced, than this nonsense about "the State." 
Was there a civil war in Russia after the October Revolution? I think there was. Does that require a centralized, commanded labor force to successfully pursue.  I think it does.  The simple logistics of supplying and resupplying revolutionary armies in the field impose that upon any class pursuing power.  You offer, in a near hilarious confirmation of exactly what you want to dispute—“there have been lots of instances of armed groups doing damage  to class power without having a formal hierarchy.”  No shit.  Except we’re not talking about “doing damage” while leaving the class structure essentially intact, which is precisely what did occur in popular front Spain, or in France during WW2, we’re talking about a revolution seizing power and liquidating a counterrevolution  That quite simply requires centralization, concentration, and will produce, as dangerous as it is—and it is extremely dangerous—hierarchy.  Organization is, in the last analysis, determined by surplus and scarcity, and the Russian Revolution was operating within conditions of extreme scarcity, not just material (which itself was extreme) but historical, as the historical determines the material; in the case of the Russian Revolution that historical scarcity was the scarcity of the extension of the revolutionary wave.  That, not the so-called connection of Marx with Lenin or Lenin with Stalin, was the issue.
Of course I “fail to mention the seizure of state power as being intrinsic to Leninism”—because I don’t disagree with the seizure of state power and because while intrinsic to Lenin, it’s not unique to Lenin.  Lenin’s theory of the vanguard party, and the practice of that theory; Lenin’s “theory” of imperialism (which hardly warrants the term “theory”) are intrinsic and unique to Lenin.  You can after all recognize the necessity of seizing state power without being a Leninist, although your point, I guess, is that you can’t: that once you accept the necessity of seizing state power, of breaking up the state machinery of the bourgeoisie and “critically superseding” that state power with the state power of the proletariat, you’re already down at the bottom of the slippery slope and a........Leninist? Nope, not good enough, Stalinist?  Much better, no?  Except if that’s the case you’ve proven what I said at the getgo about “inexorably” being the key component to those who “connect”  Marx to Lenin to Stalin, and the bullshit, such that it is, is all yours. 

DD: But then he treats Marx as an authority. In S.Artesian’s dogmatic defence of him, every true revolutionary must bow down before Marx’s past interpretations, rather than develop their own theory and practice, in part based on critiques of previous theories and practices, and the reasoning behind them. 

SA: Bow down?  This where I usually say to someone raising that accusation, unambiguously—go fuck yourself.    I don't think I've ever written anything, anywhere, anytime, demanding that anyone anywhere ever genuflect before the “one, true, revolutionary Marx.” Claiming I have is either deliberate distortion or complete ignorance.  Yeah, I accept Marx as an authority—on the history, development, and mechanisms of capital accumulation.  And to abuse an analogy, I accept lots of authorities—I accept Einstein as an authority on the general theory of relativity  (I even accept the speed of light as an absolute authority in this universe).  I accept Trotsky as an authority on uneven and combined development, as well as the critique of the popular front.  I accept Darwin as “an authority” on the evolution of the species.  Newsflash, comrade, accepting an authority is not identical to uncritical, slavish, adulation.  So ever so gently, and with all earned respect.....go fuck yourself.

DD: Thus S.Artesian can rhetorically ask“Do you call Marx a capitalist because he endorsed Lincoln and the US north in the civil war?” The vital question of the moment, on absolutely everybody’s lips. However – given I feel forced to answer an essentially irrelevant question – the question would be a little bit more relevant to ask whether this endorsement was typical of Marx’s politically mediated view of revolution. He himself is unlikely to have seriously believed that Lincoln was anything other than an opportunist aiming to develop the “more progressive” forms of class power represented by the North by manipulating those who hated slavery (the blacks, especially) into supporting his war. After all, Lincoln in his election speeches, sometimes supported slavery, sometimes opposed it, depending on where he was giving his speech – typical 2-faced politician. And even after the war had started he did not come out with a clear statement that the war was against slavery until he very obviously needed to recruit blacks (“In the spring of 1862 [ie a year after the war had started] he signed bills abolishing slavery in the territories, and proclaiming emancipation with compensation for the slaveholders, in the District of Colombia. But he continued to grope for a policy which would not alienate the Border slave states, whose loyalties were crucial to Union success, and not aggravate northern fears that emancipation would result in a flood of freedmen coming to the North…Lincoln decided that emancipation was the only measure which could bolster the sagging spirit of the Union army, provide a fresh pool of manpower for the armed forces and convince world opinion that the Union cause was something more than an attempt to suppress the South’s desire for independence.” – Eric Foner’s introduction to W.E.B. Du Bois’ really interesting text on the struggle and development of blacks’ power within the Union army – “The General Strike” –which can be found here). It’s possible Marx had no knowledge of this. But it’s also possible that it was another example of Marx putting “forward openly reformist ideas because they would draw the masses to his party where they would eventually learn the whole truth. Modern day Bolshevism is the logical outcome of this mediated view of revolution. Political consciousness is no longer a means to an end, it becomes an end in itself” (Cronin & Seltzer, Call It Sleep). And we now know full well, what with Jim Crow and all the other shit, that whilst US capitalism continues in whatever form, blacks there will be treated like dirt. Whether this was clear in the 1860s is another question. However, such a discussion seems just typical student politico point-scoring unless it relates to the present. And if the same attitudes as Marx’s then were applied to now they would end up with the same kind of idiotic Leftism that S.Artesian constantly, and obviously rightly, denounces – support for Syriza in Greece, Chavism in Venezuela, etc.  

SA: Yes, indeed,  Marx had a politically mediated view of revolution. Question:  what's a soviet if not a "political mediation"?    

So... if we can indulge a bit in historical materialism—what does your “unmediated” revolutionary theory tell us about the US Civil War? That it was a battle not worth engaging?  That the Union, the capitalist union, would hesitate, back track, retreat, cower, when confronting the slave power, because of the allegiance the capitalists held to property?   Not to put too fine a point on it: 1) all struggles are politically mediated  2) the recalcitrance of the bourgeoisie does not detract from the importance of the struggle to abolish slavery.  Do Marxists acknowledge, grasp that the bourgeoisie would not follow through on the struggle?  Would abandon Reconstruction?  Would  restore the former Confederates through Redemptionist governments?  Of course, we do.  We grasp those things on the basis of understanding the limits, the class limits, to the political mediations, the property, that determined the war from jump street.    You turn to a  Foner, who certainly employs Marx's historical materialism  and  produces a very concrete and critical analysis precisely based on a grasp of the political mediations to prove...what?  That Marxism because of its linkage to political mediations is ignorant, incapable of grasping the limitations that political mediations impose on historical conflicts.  That’s almost hilarious. 
As for this:  “And if the same attitudes as Marx’s then were applied to now they would end up with the same kind of idiotic Leftism that S.Artesian constantly, and obviously rightly, denounces – support for Syriza in Greece, Chavism in Venezuela, etc” that’s just nonsense.  Now it’s nonsense social democrats, democratic socialists, Lenin tombstoners, Gindinites, etc. etc. would like you to believe—“Oh, in supporting Syriza we’re just doing what Marx did in 1861”  but it’s still nonsense.  There’s this “thing” called history, like 155 years of capitalist development, like the conflict between relations and forces of production that, determined by the social conditions of labor, in turn determines the class struggle.  The problem isn’t some abstract notion, or supra-historical allegiance  to “political mediation” as a thing in itself—indeed there is no “political mediation” as a thing in itself.  The problem isn’t that Syriza or Maduro have a “politically mediated” view of revolution, but that they are capitalist formations, designed and determined to maintain capitalist political mediation.

DD: S.Artesian clearly does not in any way respond to any critique of Marx except to say it was Engels who said this, that or the other (it was certainly NOT just Engels). This idealisation of Marx as not being intrinsically racist conforms to the pure image of his hero (as I said, Marx was not alone in this racism – he was similar to the vast majority of thinkers of his epoch, revolutionary or otherwise, and the basis of some of his, and others’, racism was an ideology of progress; Marx’s approval of many of Tremaux’s theories of superior and inferior races is an additional aspect of this). Taking Marx as an influence amongst other influences is too wish-washy and undevoted an attitude to take amongst those who pride themselves on an anti-anarchist rivalry utterly unconscious of its useless consequences.

SA: The issue is not now, nor was it ever, if Marx personally expressed racist sentiments.  The issues are:  1) does any theoretical, practical, ideological  support for the hierarchical segregation of human beings by race form any part of Mar'x critique of capitalism; Marx's explanation of the conditions immanent in capital that lead to its overthrow; Marx's analysis and concept of class struggle; and Marx’s socialism?   2) does Marx’s critique of capital, Marx’s analysis of the necessity for the overthrow of capital, involve maintaining and perpetuating notions of  “race” “racial superiority”  “racial dominance”? 3) does Marx’s critique of capital provide the tools to explain the basis for the institutions developed by capital that maintain and expand notions of racial superiority, dominance, and hierarchy? 4)does the necessity for the abolition of capital as Marx  presents it actually require a struggle against and the overthrow of the institutions, and the ideology, of racial superiority, dominance, and hierarchy?

I think the answers are 1) no  2) no  3) yes  4) yes. Hence I conclude Marx was not a racist, and Marxism is not racist.  On the contrary, Marx’s analysis for the overthrow of capitalism requires a relentless struggle against the institutions and ideology of racial superiority. 

DD: S.Artesian also doesn’t respond seriously to the idea that libcom including Michael Schidt in its insanely eclectic library is no worse than including that of a Stalinist’s account of his participation in the Spanish (counter-) revolution or Bordiga, the guy who continued to defend the Kronstadt massacre. Or loads of other dangerous nasty nonsense using “revolutionary” language. Fascists are not worse than Stalinists or other defenders of state capitalist mass murder. Even though historically individuals who aligned themselves with Stalin or Lenin might have been more human, “better intentioned’ than fascists, from the point of view of the struggle for the self-emancipation of the working class, Stalinism and Leninism have been more devastating and more demoralising since they expropriated radical language and turned it into its opposite. And still do.

SA: One mo’ time:  I objected to the removal of Chris Harman’s work.  That work was removed after a person demanded the removal on the basis that Chris Harman was member of the hierarchy of an organization that tolerated, enabled, the sexual abuse of female members.  Since Harman had died a year or two before the information was made public; since the information did not identify Harman as having been a participant, a facilitator or an apologist for the abuse; and because Harman’s work in no way advocated sexual abuse, I found it ridiculous to remove the ebook from Libcom’s library.  Others on Libcom argued that since Harman was a Leninist the work shouldn’t have been in the library in the first place.  I thought that too was ridiculous, given the wide range and dubious political and personal lives of authors so represented.  As the argument evolved, I pointed out that Libcom still maintained the writings of Michael Schmidt who while “covered” as a bona-fide black flag anarcho communist (presumably one who doesn’t believe in political mediations), actually functioned  as a white supremacist militant in various right-wing locations.  In addition, Schmidt supporters had known about this, covered it up, and actually utilized Libcom to defend Schmidt.  Furthermore Schmidt’s current supporters were attempting to use his previous written “contributions” to anarcho-communism as “grounds” to maintain ties and connections with Schmidt, rather than break all connection with him.   I pointed out then, and do again, that on the whole, I could care or less who is or who is not in the Libcom “library”  but the issue has become the fact that those works by Schmidt are being used as an apologetic, almost as “character references” in order to prevent the exclusion of this person due to his white supremacy activity.  Under those circumstances, every communist, anarchist, situationist, mediated or unmediated, has the obligation to demand the removal of the works.    This isn’t a case of “well Leninists and Stalinists did evil things.”  What the fuck does that have to do with anything?  This has everything to do with the practical reality of Libcom being willing to remove a book based on "guilt by association" while preserving a different book and thus contribute to an effort designed by others to preserve a known white supremacist in the “communist movement.”  The fact that you still refuse to engage with that critical issue means that, quite frankly, the distance between you and Libcom is less than you imagined, and the distance between you and me is more than you will ever know. 

So anyway... that's today's entertainment.

October 8, 2017

1 comment :

  1. Anarcho-libertarianism-Communism. Spot the odd one out.