(December 29th, 2017)
It’s that holiday time of the year again where things seem to slow down a bit for a moment and we try and look back on the year in review. This has without a doubt been the year of the antifa and all the social media posts, podcasts, book reviews, and interviews are full of the pundits pontificating making and selling their latest books of concisely curated content.
One such writer who recently dropped their new book into the marketplace of ideas is Shane Burley, who describes themselves as a “filmmaker, educator, and writer”. Going alongside the book he published “Twenty-Five Theses on Fascism” via The Institute for Anarchist Studies which was shared as a story on ANEWS recently. Paul Z. Simmons wrote a response text and then Alexander Reid Ross wrote a rejoinder to Simmons, coming to the side and perspective of Burley. Among Burley and Reid Ross, Mark Bray also seems to be the other big name in writing about antifa, fascism, and the surrounding world of ideas for an anarchist audience. I haven’t had the time to digest the writings of Burley, Reid Ross, and Bray but as a fellow traveler (I mean, they’re anarchists right?), I’m sure there is a lot of good things to digest within their respective texts.
I’m sure there are also some things I may strongly disagree with. For example, ANEWS is directly called out by Reid Ross in their rejoinder text as being an infiltration point for “anarcho-fascist” tendencies because “fascism, in its earliest phases, relies on insinuating itself within subcultures and left-wing factions to grow, those tendencies must remain actively aware of these basics, or else fall prey to its machinations.” So basically, what I understand from this statement, because honestly it seems confusing enough on its own, is that the people behind ANEWS, which includes yours truly are in bed with “anarcho-fascists” or worse we are the “anarcho-fascists”…? Jesus. Well, thanks for letting me know. Taken another way, could not the exact same statement cover every single anarchist website/space in the world theater? What’s so specific about ANEWS that you really dislike? Be honest.
For one, I’m not sure I’ve heard a bigger oxymoron recently than the term “anarcho-fascist”. An anarchist that is a fascist? Well, I’m sorry but that just doesn’t make much sense similar to the much maligned and totally contradictory term of “anarcho-capitalist”. Perhaps, I’m taking things too literal in my reading and need to be more creative like you. Two, if these people who you are calling “anarcho-fascists” believe they’re anarchists (which they’re not), why are you giving them the benefit of the doubt by using their terminology? Three, why are you lumping ANEWS, which is a non-sectarian anarchist news site, into the likes of people we all despise? Why is it that the other “anarchists” hating on ANEWS so much also seem like the most partisan actors in everything they do and at the same time extremely popular? Is this how you sell books? 2017 could also be the year in review of anarchists attacking other anarchists, but I’m pretty sure that happens every year unfortunately. Not only is it sad to hear ANEWS and projects you work on and put your heart into attacked, but it’s also extremely upsetting to see it being done by other so-called anarchists with an axe to grind. Critique is healthy, but this kind of mud-slinging is just lazy asinine sectarian capital P for Politics.
While I’ve never spoken personally to Reid Ross, I have had the overwhelming displeasure of having a private conversation with some other well known antifa writers, where I was absolutely shocked by their opinions of other very successful and popular anarchist projects (and I’m not talking about ANEWS anymore). I wonder if they know that their publisher AK Press has also published some other writers who we may deem bad? Among the handful, did you know that Noam Chomsky recently gave a bunch of money to Bernie Sanders? I recently learned that the Chomsky’s co-writer of “Manufacturing Consent” Edward S. Herman who just passed away held some controversial positions on the Srebrenica [sray-bren-nitz-ya] massacre. Where is the outrage? This is mostly a tongue-in-cheek critique to make a point about the complexities of everything. I actually don’t mind AK Press, but seriously this kind of drama is a huge turnoff for people coming into anarchism and those of us who have been here for many years, just tiring and a distraction to who the real enemy is.
Let’s dig a little deeper and visit another controversy from some years ago that has recently been brought up on our Twitter feed. In George Ciccariello-Maher’s 2014 essay for Roar Magazine entitled, “El Libertario: beware Venezuela’s false ‘anarchists’”. He wrote:
“Not everyone who calls themselves anarchists are worthy of the name, and before revolutionaries in the U.S. or elsewhere re-post articles, translate books, or organize speaking tours, we should be clear what it is we are supporting. Especially in Latin America, moreover, we must be attentive to the thousands engaged in revolutionary anti-state activity that don’t even call themselves “anarchists.” To support middle-class, liberal anarchists like El Libertario is to be against the revolution, against concrete popular struggles of the Venezuelan poor, and even against anarchism itself.”
Soon after, in 2014 longtime anarchist writer Charlatan Stew responded herein:
“In the midst of the flood of conflicting sources of information and analysis, one of the collective members of the new journal, “Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics”,  George Ciccariello-Maher, recently wrote an article titled: “El Libertario: beware Venezuela’s false ‘anarchists’”.  It is not irrelevant that Ciccariello-Maher is an unashamedly Chavista government and “Bolivarian Revolution” supporter, as is clear from his book, We Created Chavez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution, and several articles and interviews. Reading what he writes it becomes clear that we cannot take him seriously as a significant critic of centralized rule from the top down, nor as an advocate of anarchist goals or methods of egalitarian self-governance from the bottom up. The article is meant to convince us of the revolutionary credentials of the state he supports by discrediting El Libertario in the eyes of anarchists and anti-authoritarians, and to convince us that those “false anarchists” are endangering this good state and the gains made through it.”
In all of this, who do you believe? I can honestly say I’m not well versed enough in the Venezuelan space to tell exactly who is being the most dishonest here. Ciccariello-Maher is a pretty well-respected professor who just left their job and Charlatan Stew is a long-time writer who also seems to make some convincing points. I’m sure many people already have their minds made up and have chosen their side in the battle of ideas, between the good and bad anarchists. Obviously I have my research cut out for me. Maybe I’ll write a book about it.
I guess that’s 2017 for me. Welcome to the hate factory, where people on the same team treat their co-conspirators like the enemy. Of course, this is not everyone, but I must say it feels more and more prevalent nowadays, at least online, than the previous occasional snide comment in a meeting somewhere. Happy New Year everyone!