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
Subject: Re: Anti-Capital
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
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:
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:
“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
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
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
“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
And don’t pretend that this doesn’t have an influence on loads of
anti-semitic attitudes amongst “revolutionaries’ (Dauvé, Os Cangaceiros,
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
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 –
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
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.
Saturday, July 29, 2017 11:16 AM
Subject: Re: Anti-Capital
I’ll respond in greater detail tomorrow or the day after, when I have
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
dynamics that are simply taken for granted in pretty much every
anarchist and leftist organisation. The way he did so was obviously completely
but hardly ‘fascist’ as the allegations state. What better
all the members of these little groupscules that are jumping to
have to offer for the fact that you can observe exactly the same
shit in their own relations? The division between unofficial leaders
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
up to it. Sure, he does so in a pretty stupid way, but how different
attempt “to have this divide [of] explicitly recognized (white)
collectives …[from] (black) frontline collectives” from Bakunin’s
dictatorship? What stands out with Bakunin and Schmidt is not that
accepted the existence of hierarchical practice despite their
anti-authoritarian theories, but that they did so “explicitly”
anti-authoritarians are either too delusional or too cowardly to do
and prefer to accept it “implicitly”.
It seems to me that Schmidt’s position regarding blacks is similar
you considered the reactionary position of Knabb towards women: if
have thus far been unable to participate fully as equals it is their
responsibility to try harder rather than expecting the more capable
stoop down to their level. The difference being that (in theory)
adopted this position so as to “refuse” any hierarchical relation
for Schmidt it was a means to adopt such a vanguard role
than attempt to “paper over the cracks between members’ vastly
levels” (of understanding, competence, activity, participation, etc)
most anti-authoritarians prefer to do.
In general much of this has to do with the entirely ahistorical
most leftists adopt towards questions of organisation. To be able to
question as stupid as “whether the black proletariat is more
“politico-culturally” inclined towards Marxist-Leninist or African
authoritarianism” you have to completely ignore the question of
present society is more historically inclined towards conditions
to forms of organisation dominated by passive and spectacular
conditions that can and must be consciously subverted. Indeed for
leftists, anti-authoritarian or otherwise, such a question will be
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
One half of them will simply use it to score points in the usual
way (‘libertarian communists’ yapping about how this proves the
of ‘platformism’, etc) while the other half will try to say that
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
the anarchist communist organisation” made me smile. The fact that
person can even mention “in the case of the SACP/YCL, the sale of
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”
Then again in the very same breath he says that because “logical
self-discipline and autonomous strategic thinking has been strangled
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
Now, you might as well stop here. What more is there to say for a
that puts itself at the head of a revolution pre-emptively condemned
abortion by its own leading theorist? What is there to say for a
self-professed anti-capitalist who believes the propaganda that
conflated with human nature, ‘naturally’ renders all attempts at
impossible? In that case, as the surrealists suggested, why not try
suicide? It’s precisely due to his ahistorical perspective that he
this self-defeating determinism. The idea that unfavourable
tendencies can be strategically and practically subverted in the
lives of the masses – masses of individuals who are no more or less
stupefied than their self-proclaimed vanguards, vanguards composed
who were once just as ‘unconscious’ as the masses but came to adopt
revolutionary positions in an “unnatural” historical process that
equally embrace masses of individuals, and has done so before – such
idea has clearly never occurred to this physically and
Lastly, it should be pointed out that the various reactionary
this guy have everything to do with a tunnel vision where the point
reference is shifted from “the real movement” to a ‘revolutionary’
subculture/scene/organisation. It was as if the real problem were
absence of black cadres in his groupscule rather than the fact that
‘movement’ is not now nor ever has been even slightly significant to
actually existing class struggle in this country. The international
produced by this entire scandal is equally symptomatic. The amount
attention, emotion and verbiage expended on this non-event is
greater than the amount of interest displayed, judging from the
evidence, towards the real developments fraught with possibility
in countless interesting actions among millions of people on the
around the world. For all the condemnation of ‘substitutionism’
these supposedly ‘theoretically advanced’ people it is undeniable
gossip and inconsequential scandal is today a substitute for
resembling intelligent and informed discussion and debate about real
I see from here [
that there is apparently much more to the fascist allegations than is
mentioned in chapter one ‘from the author of the forthcoming book
the Fascist Creep (AK Press) [pre-order your copy now!]’… basically
he created facebook accounts and a ‘white supremacy’ website called
Stormfront posting apparently very racist content as well as formed
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
fascist obviously that potentially puts a lot of people in danger so
understand why a lot of the anarchist ‘community’ would be very
by it, but I have yet to see evidence for anything of the kind.
comrades from Zabalaza have apparently already seen all this NA
infiltration stuff and believe his story. Then again the fact that
could recieve a discussion paper like that and make no comment
demonstrates a more than questionable judgement. So I guess we’ll
wait for this promised definitively damning evidence. How pathetic
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
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
I replied: Saturday, July 29, 2017 11:52 AM
Subject: Re: Anti-Capital
So what else is new? Libcom has been unconscionable for a long time…
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.”
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
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
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?
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.