an attempt at dialogue with a marxist

An attempted dialogue with S.Artesian, who publicly broke with libcom in July this year

(covering libcom, Marx, Bakunin, Michael Schmidt, Abraham Lincoln, the Russian Revolution and other stuff)

I reproduce some emails I exchanged with S.Artesian  in response to this – explaining his break with libcom:

Sent: Saturday, July 29, 2017 5:21 AM
To: S.Artesian
Subject: Re: Anti-Capital

Hi –

Though I often find your reflections quite interesting and nicely written, to break with Libcom over their apparent opposition to Leninism
is absurd. You’re reverting to the security of your (Trotskyist?) past,
rather than going forward into the partially unknown, the terrain of
relative insecurity.

Lenin – like so many anarchists or other politicians – played a dual
role in 1917, trying to win over anarchists (and fairly successfully, if
only temporarily) whilst preparing for “the party of class consciousness”
for its seizure of state power and the development of state capitalism,
which he later admitted was what he was doing (
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/apr/21.htm ). As a
model of what revolutionary activity was – full-time professional
cadres, the role of “revolutionary”, hierarchy, the party form, the
desire for state power, democratic centralism, the rule of the
collectivity over the individual, the ideology of progress inherited
from Marx and the whole of 19th century ideology (meaning the
development of the productive forces) – it was everything the revolution
is NOT, or, at least not in its essence. In other words,   a revolution
might in some cases develop productive forces, but the essential thing
is the development of the masses of individuals’ capacity to determine
the use of their own lives, which cannot be constrained by  productivist
ideology. The development of the Red Army was horrendous – its brutal
attack on Kronstadt and on the Makhnovists indicative of its fundamental
function as an arm of the class power of the Bolsheviks.
Aspects of libcom in fact reproduce these attitudes even if they wish to
pretend that Lenin’s were something quite different. See Part 3 of my
text “Cop-Out…” – ANARCHO-LEFTISM & THE POLITICS OF LIBCOM – here:
http://dialectical-delinquents.com/articles/uncategorised/cop-out-the-significance-of-aufhebengate/

As for denying Marx’s racist expressions, it doesn’t take much to find
them, and seems disingenuous to have denied them, even if Proudhon was far worse:

https://www.slavorum.org/forum/discussion/6399/marx-and-engels-on-slavic-people

“These wretched, ruined fragments of one-time nations,  the Serbs,
Bulgars, Greeks, and other robber bands or, behalf of which the liberal
philistine waxes enthusiastic in the interests of Russia, are unwilling
to grant each other the air they breathe, and feel obliged to cut each
other’s greedy throats… the lousy Balkan peoples . . ….The
Scandinavians and the Germans have in this way found that they cannot
base their respective national claims on the feudal laws of royal
succession. They have had the even stronger experience that they, the
Germans and the Scandinavians (who both belong to one overall race) will
only pave the way for their hereditary enemy, the Slavs, if they fight
with one-another rather than uniting….We repeat: apart from the Poles,
the Russians, and at most the Turkish Slavs, no Slav people has a
future, for the simple reason that all the other Slavs lack the primary
historical, geographical, political and industrial conditions for
independence and viability. Peoples which have never had a history of
their own, which from the time when they achieved the first, most
elementary stage of civilization already came under foreign sway, or
which were forced to attain the first stage of civilization only by
means of a foreign yoke, are not viable and will never be able to
achieve any kind of independence. And that has been the fate of the
Austrian Slavs. The Czechs, among whom we would include the Moravians
and Slovaks, although they differ in respect of language and history,
have never had a history of their own…But up to the present time, the
Russians of all classes are too fundamentally barbarous to find any
enjoyment in scientific pursuits or head-work of any kind (except
intrigues), and, therefore, almost all their distinguished men in the
military service are either foreigners, or, what nearly amounts to the
same, “ostzeïski,” Germans from the Baltic provinces….The Slavic race,
long divided by inner struggles, pushed back to the east by the Germans,
subjugated in part by Germans, Turks and Hungarians, silently re-uniting
its branches after 1815 by the gradual growth of Pan-Slavism, it now
makes sure of its unity for the first time, and with that declares war
to-the-death on the Roman-Celtic and German races, who have ruled Europe
until now.”

When the United States annexed California after the Mexican War, Marx
sarcastically asked, “Is it a misfortune that magnificent California was
seized from the lazy Mexicans who did not know what to do with it?”

In a letter to Engels, in reference to his socialist political
competitor Ferdinand Lassalle, Marx wrote:
“It is now completely clear to me that he, as is proved by his cranial
formation and his hair, descends from the Negroes who had joined Moses’
exodus from Egypt, assuming that his mother or grandmother on the
paternal side had not interbred with a nigger. Now this union of Judaism
and Germanism with a basic Negro substance must produce a peculiar
product.”

The basis for his racist notions was a hierarchy of “progressive” races
with the Germans at the top, because they seemed to have developed the
productive forces furthest. Though England and the English were probably
on the same level for Marx.
Which maybe accounts for this absurd comment on the Indian mutiny:
“A motley crew of mutineering soldiers who have murdered their officers,
torn asunder the ties of discipline, and not succeeded in discovering A
MAN ON WHOM TO BESTOW SUPREME COMMAND are certainly the body least likely to organise a serious and protracted resistance.” –  Marx,
New-York Daily Tribune in 1857.

As for anti-semitism:

“On the Jewish Question,” 1844, Marx asked:
“What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his
worldly God? Money. … Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of
which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man—and
turns them into commodities. … The bill of exchange is the real god of
the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange. … The chimerical
nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of
money in general.”

1856, Marx  in “The Russian Loan” for the New York Daily Tribune,
wrote, Marx opined: “Thus we find every tyrant backed by a Jew, as is every
pope by a Jesuit. In truth, the cravings of oppressors would be
hopeless, and the practicability of war out of the question, if there
were not an army of Jesuits to smother thought and a handful of Jews to
ransack pockets.
“The real work is done by the Jews, and can only be done by them, as
they monopolize the machinery of the loanmongering mysteries by
concentrating their energies upon the barter trade in securities,” he
added.

And don’t pretend that this doesn’t have an influence on loads of
anti-semitic attitudes amongst “revolutionaries’ (Dauvé, Os Cangaceiros,
etc.).

This is not to say that Marx wasn’t also contradictory (probably getting
his information on the MIR from Bakunin, he – late in his life – said
that Russia could  skip the capitalist mode of production, a perspective
which contradicted all of his previous notions). Marx, of course, was
intellectually quite experimental and obviously – for his time –
contributed to a revolutionary movement, but 150 years later, it seems
idiotic to treat him as some guru (and was idiotic at the time, of
course).

On my site I only put up things with which I am in essential agreement,
and mostly only things that do not appear on other sites. I found
putting up stuff from very crude leninists like Chris Harman – which
anyway were already on other sites – fucked up. But then there are a lot
of things on Libcom that are fucked up ( including an uncritical text on
a Stalinist who fought in Spain in the 30s – not going to bother to find
the link, but i remember it), and including their ambivalent attitude to
the Stalinists of Rojava. But that doesn’t mean they should also put up
other Leninist crap.

I’d like to have a serious answer to all this.

take care –

Sam

 

He replied:

 

 2017-07-29 15:16, S.Artesian a écrit :

1. I didn’t break with Libcom over the opposition to Leninism. I am
not a Leninist.  I broke with Libcom over the presence of the writings of Michael Schmidt in their  archive.

2. The argument with Tom Henry,  El Psy, and the other idiots who
claim to be anarchists was not about Lenin, but about the nature of
the Russian Revolution, and whether the steps the Bolsheviks took were
essential to advancing that revolutionary struggle.   Those steps were
1) formation of a military revolutionary committee by the Petrograd
Soviet 2)dispersing the Kerensky government  s) dispersing the
Constituent Assembly  4)organizing a revolutionary army to defend
against the counterrevolution.     I happen to support each and every
one of those steps.  I asked the “anarchists” what they proposed,
particularly as the Provisional Government of Kerensky, if it was to
survive, had to remove the revolutionary garrisons from Petrograd and
crush the soviets.

3.  I didn’t deny Marx used racist expressions.  I denied that Marx
was a racist– racism being something different than expressions of
prejudice, but actually proposing political actions targeting a
particular “race” as an enemy.

4. Think you better check the original source on those quotes– think
the one on the Slavs is from Engels; also think the “pro-US” quote in
the US-Mexican war is from Engels.  There is a difference between Marx
and Engels.  Regardless, this issue is program, strategy as they
contribute and organize a class struggle .  Do you call Marx a
capitalist because he endorsed Lincoln and the US north in the civil
war?   Or a militarist?

5. As for their correspondence, it’s their correspondence; racism
involves something other than half-assed pseudo-scientific crap in a
letter.  Again, it entails program, actions, analysis that targets
race as a cause, problem, solution.

6. Libcom didn’t remove the Chris Harman piece because he was a
Leninist. It was taken down after Battlescarred made the complaint
that Harman had been a member of the SWP, and the SWP had protected a
rape culture.  If Libcom prohibited all works by all Leninists, I
wouldn’t give a shit.  But Libcom doesn’t.   There are works by Lukacs
for example who certainly ranks as one of the scummiest of scumbags
ever.

7. You ignore what I thought was the central issue, which was that I
refuse to participate in Libcom not because of anti-Leninism, but
because of its continued tolerance for Michael Schmidt and van der
Welt, and the attempt to “reinstate” Schmidt by promoting his link to
Black Flame.  Sorry you  missed that point, but that was the central
point.  And I did make that explicit in the discussions on Libcom.
The article in AC was meant to point out how “anti-Leninism” is used
as a stalking horse among our dilettante anarch-communists.

That’s about as serious as I can get.

best,

SA

I replied:

Saturday, July 29, 2017 11:16 AM
To: S.Artesian
Subject: Re: Anti-Capital

I’ll respond in greater detail tomorrow or the day after, when I have
more time.

For the moment, I’m just (re-?)sending this – from 15th October 2015,
when the Michael Schidt scandal first broke – which I got this from a
black guy in South Africa (as far as I know, though I may well be wrong,
the only black guy from South Africa who commented on the whole thing, at least up until that point) – which I put up on the “What’s new?” page on my site:

As for Schmidt my immediate reaction was that he is going to be
getting a lot of flak for at least trying to address consciously the exact
same
dynamics that are simply taken for granted in pretty much every
anarchist and leftist organisation. The way he did so was obviously completely
wrong
but hardly ‘fascist’ as the allegations state. What better
explanations do
all the members of these little groupscules that are jumping to
condemn him
have to offer for the fact that you can observe exactly the same
sort of
shit in their own relations? The division between unofficial leaders
and
followers seen in all leftist scenes around the world often takes a
uniquely racial form in SA, and Schmidt is one of the few who dares
to face
up to it. Sure, he does so in a pretty stupid way, but how different
is his
attempt “to have this divide [of] explicitly recognized (white)
rearward
collectives …[from] (black) frontline collectives” from Bakunin’s
invisible
dictatorship? What stands out with Bakunin and Schmidt is not that
they
accepted the existence of hierarchical practice despite their
professed
anti-authoritarian theories, but that they did so “explicitly”
whereas most
anti-authoritarians are either too delusional or too cowardly to do
this
and prefer to accept it “implicitly”.

It seems to me that Schmidt’s position regarding blacks is similar
to what
you considered the reactionary position of Knabb towards women: if
they
have thus far been unable to participate fully as equals it is their
responsibility to try harder rather than expecting the more capable
to
stoop down to their level. The difference being that (in theory)
Knabb
adopted this position so as to “refuse” any hierarchical relation
whereas
for Schmidt it was a means to adopt such a vanguard role
“consciously” rather
than attempt to “paper over the cracks between members’ vastly
disparate
levels” (of understanding, competence, activity, participation, etc)
as
most anti-authoritarians prefer to do.

In general much of this has to do with the entirely ahistorical
attitude
most leftists adopt towards questions of organisation. To be able to
ask a
question as stupid as “whether the black proletariat is more
“politico-culturally” inclined towards Marxist-Leninist or African
socialist
authoritarianism” you have to completely ignore the question of
whether the
present society is more historically inclined towards conditions
favourable
to forms of organisation dominated by passive and spectacular
relations –
conditions that can and must be consciously subverted. Indeed for
most
leftists, anti-authoritarian or otherwise, such a question will be
the last
one ever to enter their heads. And it shows.

As long as leftists remain determined to keep the relation between
themselves and their own practice at the level of the unconscious
their associations will remain fundamentally reactionary both internally
and externally. This is what happens when you try to imagine
revolutionary activity can carve a niche for itself outside the
spectacle. It is the inevitable result of separating subversion from
everyday life. Don’t expect 99% of these self-righteous libtards to
benefit in the slightest from this latest in the long list of
pseudo-scandals.

One half of them will simply use it to score points in the usual
sectarian
way (‘libertarian communists’ yapping about how this proves the
inadequacy
of ‘platformism’, etc) while the other half will try to say that
this bears
no reflection whatsoever on anything beyond the ‘purely individual’
attitudes of Schmidt and anyone that says otherwise is sectarian.

I must admit that his talk about “the physical and intellectual
rigours of
the anarchist communist organisation” made me smile. The fact that
this
person can even mention “in the case of the SACP/YCL, the sale of
branded
communist gear’ in the context of serious ‘attempts to (re)build a
popular-class counterculture through something other than toyi-toyi”
says a lot about what his idea of “physical and intellectual rigours”
might be.
Then again in the very same breath he says that because “logical
process,
self-discipline and autonomous strategic thinking has been strangled
at
birth” (of course this strangulation is in fact perpetrated by the
spectacle against “all” individuals “on a continuous basis”) every
rebellion “naturally” reverts to authoritarian, leader-led,
anti-autonomous modes of behaviour. Thus, a libertarian socialist
Revolution is impossible in SA under current and foreseeable
internal
“politico-social” conditions.

Now, you might as well stop here. What more is there to say for a
vanguard
that puts itself at the head of a revolution pre-emptively condemned
to
abortion by its own leading theorist? What is there to say for a
self-professed anti-capitalist who believes the propaganda that
capitalism,
conflated with human nature, ‘naturally’ renders all attempts at
revolution
impossible? In that case, as the surrealists suggested, why not try
suicide? It’s precisely due to his ahistorical perspective that he
adopts
this self-defeating determinism. The idea that unfavourable
historical
tendencies can be strategically and practically subverted in the
everyday
lives of the masses – masses of individuals who are no more or less
stupefied than their self-proclaimed vanguards, vanguards composed
of those
who were once just as ‘unconscious’ as the masses but came to adopt
revolutionary positions in an “unnatural” historical process that
might
equally embrace masses of individuals, and has done so before – such
an
idea has clearly never occurred to this physically and
intellectually
rigorous comrade.

Lastly, it should be pointed out that the various reactionary
aspects of
this guy have everything to do with a tunnel vision where the point
of
reference is shifted from “the real movement” to a ‘revolutionary’
subculture/scene/organisation. It was as if the real problem were
the
absence of black cadres in his groupscule rather than the fact that
his
‘movement’ is not now nor ever has been even slightly significant to
the
actually existing class struggle in this country. The international
furore
produced by this entire scandal is equally symptomatic. The amount
of
attention, emotion and verbiage expended on this non-event is
exponentially
greater than the amount of interest displayed, judging from the
written
evidence, towards the real developments fraught with possibility
blossoming
in countless interesting actions among millions of people on the
ground all
around the world. For all the condemnation of ‘substitutionism’
among
these supposedly ‘theoretically advanced’ people it is undeniable
that idle
gossip and inconsequential scandal is today a substitute for
anything
resembling intelligent and informed discussion and debate about real
social
contestation.

I see from here [
https://antifascistnews.net/2015/10/07/people-and-organizations-speak-out-on-michael-schmidt-accusations/]
that there is apparently much more to the fascist allegations than is
mentioned in chapter one ‘from the author of the forthcoming book
Against
the Fascist Creep (AK Press) [pre-order your copy now!]’… basically
that
he created facebook accounts  and a ‘white supremacy’ website called
Stormfront posting apparently very racist content as well as formed
some
sort of national-anarchist group. His explanation being that he was
infiltrating NA networks, rather than working as a NA infiltrator of
anarchist-communist networks. Since I’ve yet to see any evidence
that NA =
fascism even this information is hardly serious. If he were an
undercover
fascist obviously that potentially puts a lot of people in danger so
I can
understand why a lot of the anarchist ‘community’ would be very
concerned
by it, but I have yet to see evidence for anything of the kind.
Also, his
comrades from Zabalaza have apparently already seen all this NA
infiltration stuff and believe his story. Then again the fact that
Zabalaza
could recieve a discussion paper like that and make no comment
certainly
demonstrates a more than questionable judgement. So I guess we’ll
have to
wait for this promised definitively damning evidence. How pathetic
it all
is!

PS
Just read ‘Anarchism as Spectacle’ [
http://anarchistnews.org/content/anarchism-spectacle ]  and pleasantly
surprised that somebody beat me to the punch saying this stuff, some of
it, like the bit about gossip v. news of opposition, almost word for
word!

He replied:

2017-07-29 17:43, S.Artesian a écrit :

I read it in 2015.  The point I’m making that taking down Chris
Harman, but leaving up Michael Schmidt, given the attempt to
recuperate Schmidt based on his association with Black Flame, is
unconscionable.

I replied:  Saturday, July 29, 2017 11:52 AM
To: S.Artesian
Subject: Re: Anti-Capital

So what else is new? Libcom has been unconscionable for a long time…

He replied:

OK.  But that’s why I left.  I could not care less whether any Leninist, or any anarchist, or any Marxist is in their library.  I do give a shit if they are enabling the reinstatement of a nazi based on “previous” writings.

I also don’t give a rat’s ass over Libcom’s opposition to Leninism.  That’s not why I “broke.”  Nor do I give a shit if they think the Russian Revolution was capitalist from the getgo.  More than willing to stay and argue that until a proletarian revolution makes the discussion pointless.

I was answering your questions.  I think you have a mistaken understanding of the nature of the “dispute.”

 

I replied:

Apologies for not replying instantly – my daughter was with me and I
won’t see her for several months, so replying was not top of my priority
list.

If I (apparently mistakenly) understood your split from libcom as being
to do with their attitude towards Lenin, it’s not entirely my fault –
you take several paragraphs to get to Michael Schmidt, and, in your
jokey style, it seemed that Lenin was someone you admired. Certainly
your affirmation of the creation of a so-called “revolutionary” army,
the Red Army, as positive is not at all compatible with any kind of
revolution I want – generals, officers, hierarchy, obedience without
question, a monopoly of arms, etc. have nothing to do with anything
other than a defence of state power, and were part of the
Leninist/Stalinist counter-revolution. Whilst “positions” on a
century-old conflict is not my way of judging individuals’ relation or
contribution to the current class struggle, it would be indicative of a
massive insuperable obstacle between us if you were to apply this
utterly conservative vision to the present or the future: I would oppose
such a proposition, even if it merely had a snowball’s chance in hell of
being accepted, with everything I’ve got (not much, admittedly).
Moreover,  the vast majority of libcom  would never dismiss the Russian
Revolution as “capitalist from the getgo.”: I’d guess that, like me,
they’d say that there were clearly independent proletarian aspects to it
not tainted by any state capitalist ideology ( though admittedly even
the ideology of self-management failed to subvert wage slavery or the
value form, which is partly because of the situation of scarce resources
at that time….but that’s another question).

Schmidt might well be a fascist – but I have always found Zablaza’s
writing even without such obvious fascistic tendencies  utterly banal at
best. Bordiga – a man who defended the massacre of the Kronstadt
mutineers up until his death – is also in Libcom’s library. Fuck their
library. Whilst there are some things that are useful in their library
there are also useful things in the British Library in London but that’s
no reason to defend the British state or the bourgeoisie who set up this
library, and a library that claims to be a contribution to a libertarian
revolution that is so eclectic as to include obvious
counter-revolutionary shits like Bordiga or even some Stalinists merely
contributes to confusion, with or without Michael Schidt.

There are clearly some tendencies within Marx that led to both the 2nd
and 3rd International and there is very little  worth defending in them,
and ultimately their contributions have clearly been
counter-revolutionary. There are also tendencies in Marx that have led
to ideas by people who often had some basic integrity  (Korsch,
Pannekoek, Josef Weber, Debord etc.) but if we critique the past it’s
not just to use and develop previous  critiques of hierarchical social
relations but also to critique the contradictions that  helped create
the counter-revolution, which should be obvious. Bakunin wrote some
anti-semitic stuff – but it was hardly policy, and probably less
developed as a theory than marx’s stuff. And, by the way, the quote on
the Mexicans was his, and even if I have attributed some quotes of
Engels about the Slavs to him, I know for sure that he said some very
similar stuff as Engels – can’t be bothered to find the quotes, but I
read them back in 1999 during the Kosovo war. To dismiss Bakunin because
of his anti-semitism would be to dismiss almost every writer in the 19th
century (including Marx), which was the century of racism (and,
inseparably, imperialism) par excellence, which – as I’ve already said –
was intrinsic to the ideology of progress at that time, an ideology that
Marx was utterly immersed in. I think there were very few people who
opposed racism (the anarchist Louise Michel was one the rare individuals
who did, and was despised by many fellow-anarchists for her – in 1878
she was one of the few sho supported the Kanak rebellion in New
Caledonia where she’d been deported ). There’s a tendency by Marxists to
automatically reject (and not bother to read) anything by Bakunin (and,
in fact, very little has been translated in English), just as there’s
been a tendency amongst anarchists to reject (and not bother to read)
anything by Marx.

In fact, the argument over Harman (whilst another SWP hack – Nigel
Harris – continues to be in their library) was just a pretense of
showing their difference with other political tendencies, a distraction,
a foil,  whilst remaining utterly political (ie manipulative,
censorious,  ideologically petrified, lying, etc.) in their attitudes,
which was already shown (for me, definitively) during Aufhebengate.

If you reply, I’d rather you took your time to do so: I’ve often found
that instant replies are just a way of getting something irritating out
of the way and not seriously reflecting and not really responding to the
various points.

He finally replied:

If you’re talking about my “split” from Libcom, then you didn’t look at any of the threads referenced on Libcom, where I explicitly stated what the “break” was about.  The charges of “leninism” were originally raised against me in a thread concerning the law of value, in which (typical) anarchist assholes tried to show that 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.

I’ve been called worse things than a marxist; and worse than  a leninist. The former I am, the latter I am not as I reject the two critical elements of so-called Leninism– the vanguard party, and Lenin’s explanation of imperialism.”

Yeah, I support the creation of a red army to fight the counterrevolution. Given that, I don’t see how anyone who does recognize the necessity for such an organization can they say… “but I don’t support a Red Army, as the Bolsheviks developed because it had……..officers, discipline, monopoly of arms, discipline…. or forcibly requisitioned grain from the peasantry. The Russian Revolution had to deal with the conditions that made it, and those conditions included almost a complete collapse of the economy, disintegration of relations between city and countryside, and the need to centralize authority to organize opposition to counterrevolution.   The image of decentralized militias, galloping around the countryside, fighting the Whites, and the international expeditionary forces, might make for good literature.  It doesn’t win civil wars.

Maybe the fact that the Russian Revolution had to develop officers; even, horror of horrors impressed former officers of the Tsar’s army to organize and lead its armed forces amounts to “betrayal,”  but before we call it betrayal– or not betrayal but the “truth” of the Russian Revolution– we need to grasp whether the necessity besides such use, such hierarchy, was “ideological”– as in the Bolsheviks were really state capitalists, a new bourgeois class from the getgo– or material– these were the elements at hand that the revolutionary forces had to use to defend itself.

What the clowns on Libcom did refuse to answer until well after I “broke” was   a) did advancement of the Russian Revolution require the overthrow of the Provisional government   b) did advancement of the RR require the waging of a civil war   c) did advancement of the RR require suppression of the Constituent Assembly.  Remember the discussion was derived from the “anarchists” objection to the dictatorship of the proletariat and Marx as a statist.

So… let’s answer those questions.   I say yes to a,b,c.  What do you say?

“Schmidt might well be a fascist”?

There’s no “might be” about it.  He’s a fascist, and he and his cohorts are attempting to reinstate his “bona fides” among anarchists through any number of subterfuges– his “mental illness;” his “past work;” and even the fact that he’s had girlfriends who are “of color.”— shades of  Thomas Jefferson really being a abolitionist because he fucked his slave–and Strom Thurmond too for fathering a child with an African-American women employed by his family.

Who gives a fuck about the Libcom library?  Nobody– except Libcom used the excuse of “appropriateness” for their library when deciding to remove Chris Harman’s work.  That, plus the attitude on Schmidt, should tell you what’s really going on.  Call me slow, but it certainly made it clear to me.

On a personal note,  This:  “If you reply, I’d rather you took your time to do so: I’ve often found that instant replies are just a way of getting something irritating out of the way and not seriously reflecting and not really responding to the various points.”  is such arrogant, self-serving bullshit that it makes me wonder why you even bother.   Exactly what in my previous reply do you consider not seriously reflecting and responding to various points.  And what makes you think if I take an extra hour or two, it’s going to make a fucking bit of difference?  Details, details, detail.

Really, get over yourself, or not, but don’t tell me how to respond, or when to respond?  You don’t like the response?  That’s fine.   You don’t think there’s any point to further discussion?  We’ll both survive.  But don’t waste my time telling me how irritated you are that I respond the way I do.

A less kind, open, amiable person would tell you to go fuck yourself. Fortunately I’m that that person.

I then wrote:

“A less kind, open, amiable person would tell you to go fuck yourself.
Fortunately I’m that that person.”

At first glance I assumed, in your jokey style, that you meant to write
“Fortunately I’m that person.” On 2nd reading I thought maybe, though
probably not, you meant to write “Fortunately I’m not that person.”
Which is it?

He replied:

I intended to write ” I’m not that person,”  but the subconscious will have its say, won’t it.   I am that less kind, less amiable person.  Guess the real me didn’t get, and didn’t want, my own joke.

***********************

My own reflections on this polemic

Seems a strange misreading of “If you reply, I’d rather you took your time to do so: I’ve often found that instant replies are just a way of getting something irritating out of the way and not seriously reflecting and not really responding to the various points” to say that this is telling him “how to respond, or when to respond”. Stating my preference for a considered response is not an order, and the fact that he takes it as such implies an almost adolescent attitude to a parent – “It’s cold outside – maybe you should put on something warm” – “Fuck you, you arrogant self-serving bullshitter – don’t tell me what to do – I’ll do what I want”. But then bad unconscious habits, and reactive “rebellious” attitudes, develop at a young age. Does he take every suggestion this way? Perhaps he saw what I was saying like one might see a teacher, and though maybe I should have been more direct, I was thinking about my own impatience when I said this, and in a sense it was a suggestion to myself as much as to him.

I did not bother to reply. Obviously. Even if he kind of pretended he wasn’t saying « go fuck yourself », he basically was, though saying it in such an ambiguous way that – perhaps deliberately – made it hard to really respond. To tell someone to go fuck themselves might be in order if that person is gratuitously aggressive, or blatantly conformist, but I was neither. And his response showed a complete and utter indifference to the conversation. No point in continuing it.

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.

But I will reply here, in a more public form:

“If you’re talking about my “split” from Libcom, then you didn’t look at any of the threads referenced on Libcom, where I explicitly stated what the “break” was about.” The only thread in which he’d not suppressed his own comments was there in the 5th and final link: I think I could be forgiven for having given up on ploughing through this, the final thread, when I’d already gone through all the other threads which had nothing of substance written by him.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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. 

S.Artesian’s belief in the necessity of the construction of the Red Army in 1917 follows the same logic. « The image of decentralized militias, galloping around the countryside, fighting the Whites, and the international expeditionary forces, might make for good literature.  It doesn’t win civil wars. » he says, even though this was the same dismissively contemptuous conservative logic that the Stalinists used against the anarchists in Spain (and with disastrous results). Moreover, in April 1919 there was a largely autonomous “wildcat” mutiny by French sailors in Odessa , which also had support in the naval base of Toulon,  which effectively scuppered France’s involvement in the expeditionary forces intervening on the side of the Whites in Russia – so hardly the stuff of “good literature”: truth is stronger than fiction. There are no expedient short-cuts to an anti-hierarchical anti-commodity struggle. However much that was unclear to Marx and others 150 years ago, with the enormity of struggles since then, it’s deliberate self-deceit stemming from his semi-Leninist ideology that makes Artesian believe that a hierarchical army can provide such a short-cut.

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.

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. No lines (red, red and black or simply black) have ever been drawn by libcom except the obvious expedience of excluding Chris Harman (or an ultra-leftist text I once, rather unthinkingly, put up). So, to attack them for their inconsistency is the least of their contradictions. After all, they long ago defended a cop crowd control consultant with lies and evasions. Hence my “so what else is new?”. He might – in his own words – be “slow”, but I’d guess that the real reason he constantly put off any decisive critique of the mish-mash confusionism of libcom, and on the most “outraged” but ultimately flimsy politico-ideological grounds, is that he loves abstract inconclusive debate – like millions of others, he’s probably addicted to online polemics because it gives him some illusion of not being alone. It’s not entirely an illusion, of course, but these days it so often just becomes some male student-type flexing of intellectual muscles meant to impress but which rarely connects.

All of which is why I suggested he take his time before responding – which this dismissively « can’t be bothered with all this » character obviously didn’t think was worth it. Anyone who wants to treat someone else’s opinions with respect normally takes their time to respond, to look at the angles, not respond with something they’ve thought about for 10, 15, 20 years or so and are incapable of re-thinking. S.Artesian showed clearly he has no respect for my point of view, and in the end I felt the same – so obviously no dialogue was possible.


PS Much of the above covers a similar polemic on libcom – https://libcom.org/library/a-critique-of-the-german-social-democratic-program-bakunin – initiated by Red Marriott. Coincidentally, because all of this section of this text (apart from the reference to “Marx’s approval of many of Tremaux’s theories of superior and inferior races “) was written before I saw the debate. An attempt, a bit over-stylised, to challenge the conflict between Marxists and anarchists can be found in an article called Toward the abolition of an absurd blood feud .

PPS However, there are some things on his site that have some use – e.g. this, and his other site is often funny though, with both,    his “correct” positions often prevent him from seeing things that fall outside of those positions.


13 Responses to an attempt at dialogue with a marxist
  1. Email from S.Artesian:

    thanks for all the ink and attention. I’m a bit embarrassed by both, but appreciate the interest… and seriousness of the exposition. FWIW, here’s a reply in the old parsed format, to parts of your post:

    DD: Seems a strange misreading of “If you reply, I’d rather you took your time to do so: I’ve often found that instant replies are just a way of getting something irritating out of the way and not seriously reflecting and not really responding to the various points” to say that this is telling him “how to respond, or when to respond”. Stating my preference for a considered response is not an order, and the fact that he takes it as such implies an almost adolescent attitude to a parent – “It’s cold outside – maybe you should put on something warm” – “Fuck you, you arrogant self-serving bullshitter – don’t tell me what to do – I’ll do what I want”. But then bad unconscious habits, and reactive “rebellious” attitudes, develop at a young age. Does he take every suggestion this way? Perhaps he saw what I was saying like one might see a teacher, and though maybe I should have been more direct, I was thinking about my own impatience when I said this, and in a sense it was a suggestion to myself as much as to him.

    I did not bother to reply. Obviously. Even if he kind of pretended he wasn’t saying « go fuck yourself », he basically was, though saying it in such an ambiguous way that – perhaps deliberately – made it hard to really respond. To tell someone to go fuck themselves might be in order if that person is gratuitously aggressive, or blatantly conformist, but I was neither. And his response showed a complete and utter indifference to the conversation. No point in continuing it.

    SA: I wasn’t pretending. I was indeed telling you to go fuck yourself, and I don’t think I said it in any way shape or form that could be mistaken for anything other than…….go fuck yourself if you think the reply I seriously offer is not serious enough. Maybe others don’t see “”If you reply, I’d rather you took your time to do so: I’ve often found that instant replies are just a way of getting something irritating out of the way and not seriously reflecting and not really responding to the various points” as how to respond, etc. I do.

    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 triers 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 it 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: (SA wrote) “If you’re talking about my “split” from Libcom, then you didn’t look at any of the threads referenced on Libcom, where I explicitly stated what the “break” was about.” The only thread in which he’d not suppressed his own comments was there in the 5th and final link: I think I could be forgiven for having given up on ploughing through this, the final thread, when I’d already gone through all the other threads which had nothing of substance written by him.

    SA: Most of the excised comments had a “replacement” comment submitted, which said something like comment removed in protest of Libcom maintaining Michael Schmidt’s racist tracts. I clarified that in our first exchange, but that’s not the issue that you want to engage.

    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. I did not, and do not now, engage in “theoretical” “ideological” activity posing the opposition of Marxism to anarchism. What differences I have, and they are profound and legion, are practical difference—practically involved with the analysis of capitalism and the practical development of the struggle against capitalism. 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. 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 its 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, which unfortunately is precisely what those maintain the so-called connection between Marx and Lenin, that is to say that Marxism leads inexorably, and ahistorically, to—not Lenin, because that’s not the real target—but Stalin. 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 question is that you 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.” Or any of that….. bullshit.

    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? Got any fries to to go with that shake? Can you show us where and how “Marx’s belief in the state was a contributory factor leading to Lenin etc.”?? And btw, what exactly do you mean 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 “Lenin etc” ? Unfortunately, you don’t. 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 war 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. Obviously, I can’t say I blame them

    Was there a civil war in Russia after the October Revolution? I think there was. 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 over thousands of miles of territory. 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 identity 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: Now that’s complete, total, and utter bullshit. Bow down? This where I said unambiguously—go fuck yourself. Got any fries to go with that shake? Can you point to anything I’ve ever written anywhere in which I a demand anyone anywhere anytime ever genuflect before the “one, true, revolutionary Marx”? You cannot. Can you point to anything where I’ve abjured developing theory and practice in favor of uncritically repeating as religious dogma Marx’s work? 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. I accept Darwin as “an authority” on the evolution of the species. Newsflash, comrade, accepting an authority is not identical to uncritical repetition. So…..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. So… if we can indulge a bit in historical materialism—what does your “unmediated” revolution 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? Maybe your view is that of Internationalist Perspective that, no uncritical Marxists they, denounces the US Civil War for causing the deaths of 600,000 “proletarians on both sides.” Is that your unmediated view. WTF? Your unmediated view is what? That if the struggle is “mediated” it must be capitalist?” 1) not to put too fine a point on it: 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 not abandon Reconstruction? Would not 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. Short version? You turn to a Marxist, Foner, who’s very concrete and critical analysis is precisely based on a grasp of the political mediations in an attempt to find some sort of alternative to……political mediations. 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 support to “political mediation” as a thing in itself—indeed there is no “political mediation” as a thing in itself. There are class relations. 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.

    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.

    The issue is not now, nor was it ever, if Marx personally expressed racist sentiments. The issues are: 1) is the hierarchical segregation of human beings by race part of 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 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.

    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.

    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, 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) operated as a white supremacist militant on Stormfront. In addition, Schmidt supporters had known about this, covered it up, and actually utilized Libcom to defend Schmidt; and that 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 avoid the exclusion of this person for his white supremacy activity. Under those circumstances, every communists, anarchist, situationists, mediated or unmediated, have 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, eager even, to remove a book based on nonsense innuendo while preserving a different book and thus enabling an effort designed by others to recuperate a known racist into 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.

    best regards,

    S.Artesian

  2. Whatever. May reply one day, though it’s hardly priority.

  3. Selah Posner says:

    I doubt whether S.Artesian or Sam Fanto will ever read this shit after it has been dropped into cyberspace, let alone anyone else. I flicked through it because I was a little bored

    “The basis for his racist notions was a hierarchy of “progressive” races
    with the Germans at the top, because they seemed to have developed the
    productive forces furthest. Though England and the English were probably
    on the same level for Marx.”

    Pure fantasy, Fanto.

    ‘ “A motley crew of mutineering soldiers who have murdered their officers,
    torn asunder the ties of discipline, and not succeeded in discovering A
    MAN ON WHOM TO BESTOW SUPREME COMMAND are certainly the body least likely to organise a serious and protracted resistance.” –  Marx’

    The fact that you call this perfectly reasonable remark absurd demonstrably proves it as far as I can tell.

    I recommend Sam goes back to the starting line and reads the manifesto of our party. I recommend Artesian changes his career; it is a non-starter.

    • If Selah Posner seriously believes for revolutionary movements to develop, or indeed for his/her own development, they/he/she do not need to tear asunder the ties of hierarchical discipline and that it’s necessary to discover “A MAN ON WHOM TO BESTOW SUPREME COMMAND” I recommend s/he join some Leninist or Stalinist party. I also do not in any way understand why s/he bothers to be interested in things on this site, when the whole of it implies a refusal to bestow “supreme command” on anybody, man or woman.

  4. Artesian has published this on his site in response to the original article:
    https://thewolfatthedoor.blogspot.fr/2017/10/so-anyway.html

    As I said – I may reply some day, but it’s hardly priority. I usually find better things to do than getting involved in head-bashing political polemics.

  5. I think the very term anti-Semitism is racist of itself. To equate a tiny remnant of the nation of Israel (descendants of Jacob) with the whole nation of Israel , let alone the whole Semitic speaking peoples is to negate the existence itsef of the great portion of the Semitic people’s.

    If we instead make the proposition that Marx was anti-Jewish, what are we saying? That he was anti himself? The use of his book, On the Jewish Question as a proof text of this proposition is even more preposterous. On the Jewish Question is not a book about the Jews. Only someone that has not read and understood the book — because surely one can read without understanding — would do such a thing.

  6. S.Artesian says:

    Selah,

    Not looking for a career.

  7. Selah Posner says:

    That is good, Arty. As for myself I am currently pursuing a career as a museum director and a screenwriter.

    One thing jumped from the page as I was just scrolling down to get to your reply to my comment. It is these remarks:

    “…tendencies within/in [the works of] Marx that led/have led..”

    If Marx was here today he would surely deal with this himself but as he isn’t I am duty bound to state that this is fallacy. Call it a matter of family pride.

    Firstly, I don’t think Marx’s work led to anything but communism itself. Secondly,can we reasonably ascribe the actions of the living to dead writings?

  8. S.Artesian says:

    Selah,

    I agree. I don’t think Marx’s critique of capital contains “tendencies.”

  9. Selah Posner says:

    Just a correction to what I wrote above:

    I don’t think Marx’s work leads to anything but communism…

  10. Selah Posner says:

    And a short subnote on James MacBryde’s comment:

    Just as On the Jewish Question is not a book about the Jews but about human relations, so The German Ideology is not a book about Germans but about the nature of the proletarian revolution.

  11. Arty,

    What distinguishes the Left from the movement of communism is that it ascribes a belief in a future or coming revolution and rejects the ongoing proletarian revolution; Leninism is a too narrow characterisation of the charlatons.

    James

  12. Just to clarify, these comments by ourselves are not an attempt at dialogue,merely a few random footnotes on bourgeois history.

    Good morning all.

    Anyone know the one about the rabbi who goes to market to buy a crucifix? Long time me bah hear that one

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