Translation: Our Analysis And Theirs, by Christian Lagant

Noir & Rouge n°4, Winter 1956

Our Analysis And Theirs

It is obvious that Marxist analysis (or so-called Marxist analysis) is the only valid one, in order to study given situations in a complete and serious fashion. This analysis embraces and automatically solves all problems, human as well as non-human, and when a “Marxist” has spoken, deduced and, of course, proven, the anarchist has nothing to do but be silent. Yes, we know that, we have been told this for years, and yet…

Yet, Anarchists will not remain silent, which is also a fact, and, despite their own mistakes, their weakness in numbers, the authoritative argument represented by Stalin’s Russia for the sub-Marxists of the Communist Party, they fail to be moved by the savant explanations of the certified professors in workers’ ideology. More than that, they are not satisfied with staying placid, faced with the historical-materialist grace, they allow themselves, with great humility, obviously, to find a few contradictions in the attitude of our thought-masters, and more specifically about current events.

Of course, Marxists can be divided in very distinct species, but we will only retain two: the intelligent species, with whom we can discuss despite our differences, the other comprises the narrow-minded Stalinists: with those, no possible discussion! For the latter, the “USSR” argument trumps everything else, and Marxism is necessarily right since it has given us this super-state reality, the full weight of which the Hungarian Soviets can now feel, by the way. What could libertarians oppose, they claim, to all this concrete, factories, these model kindergartens? (bureaucracies, cops, the army and its privileged officer corps are rarely mentioned, but these are simply insignificant omissions). Words, simple theories? And the memory of the syndicalist achievements of the early 20th century, the crushing of Denikin by the Makhnovtschina, the Kronstadt comrades, the Anarchist input in the Hungarian revolution of 1919, the libertarian experiment in Spain, all of this is amiably shrugged off by our new type of believer. And, as the 1939 edition of the “History of the USSR Communist Party (b)” says about the repression of Kronstadt: “… and the riot was put down”1. If we really wanted to debate, we would not hesitate, to answer that state-building has nothing specifically Marxist about it, and that the reality of the USSR is just as valid, following this argumentation, as the reality of the US. The bourgeois also created states, and certainly did not need Marx to lead them!

But let’s leave aside this second category, we will come back to them in a while, and let’s consider the intelligent Marxists. There, we can find people with whom we can sympathize, which we consider honest. For example, the “Socialism or Barbarism” group, whose journal has come out regularly for several years. Even though, when they started, these dear comrades considered Anarchists (as well as Trotskyists and Council Communists) as “historical left-overs, minuscule scabs on the wounds of the class, condemned to perish as the new skin is prepared in the depth of the flesh”2, friendly relationships were still established between members of the group and some libertarian elements, among which we were already counted.

In the end, our comrades from “Socialism or Barbarism” were not wrong when they spoke of a class whose new skin was also one of our major concerns, despite our scabby appearances. But then why is the working class in Hungary now making its new skin under the form of these Soviets and workers’ councils, the significant role of which “S or B” precisely denied during the lengthy polemics which opposed Chaulieu, one of the main writers of the journal to his fellow Marxist comrades of the Dutch “Spartakus” group? Why must it be that during a meeting, a comrade very close to “S or B”, a Marxist himself, who writes for the English-language journal “Correspondance”, claims about Hungary: “the Hungarian revolution triumphed because no party was leading it!” and the comrade to go on and insist on the role played by the Soviets during the insurrection. Although it is true that, as Libertarians, we are happy to see such an evolution, it does not explain the hesitations and the mistakes of the comrades who identify with a doctrine, the infallibility of which was in principle proven, and to finish about the comrades from “S or B” we think there is also a contradiction when they claim: “It is obvious that the difference and the opposition between political organisations as such (parties) and the mass organisation as such (Soviet, factory council) will soon lose its importance and the reason for its existence, since its perpetuation would be the warning sign of a degeneration of the revolution”3. Let’s note that this position was voiced in 1949 and, since then, a lot of water has flown under the bridges of the Seine and the Danube, but it is hard to understand how the opposition between the Party and the Soviet would simply disappear by some unmentioned magic trick! There are 2 options: either the Party will lead and the working-class of a few countries has already experienced the wonderful results of such a state of affairs, or the Soviets will prevail, and it will soon be the collapse of the Party, and of all the state apparatus with it. Let’s add straightaway that the Hungarian Soviets, despite their awesome work for the demystification of the global working-class, will in the end not be able to triumph precisely since they are under the yoke of Stalinist Russia, and consequently of the Russian Communist Party and its lackey, Kadar’s Party.

If we start this discussion with some good comrades it is that we find useful to fraternally (sic) debate of some issues, and we will always be ready to confront our viewpoints, in the pages of this journal if necessary. Consequently, when we speak of Marxists with whom we can discuss, we make a very special place for the comrades we just mentioned and it is obvious that we could not place all political organisations, and individuals, on the same level. We do not find useful, for example, to debate with “France Observateur”, the politician positions of which are well-known and we are satisfied with simply listing the historical mistakes made by these Marxists; their unflinching support for Mendès-France, for example. Presenting lists in elections when the minimum conditions for success were not even met also showed how serious their analysis of current events was. In this series of famous dupes of their rigorous application of Marxist dialectics, we will not be cruel enough to insist on Trotskyists of all kinds. Let’s just remind people of the formal support, followed by the just as formal attack on Titist Yugoslavia, always with the best dialectics. Their famous hesitations over the grounds for a Socialist Party/ Communist Party government, on its unconditional (it’s always unconditional!) support or not, are still in the memory of all revolutionary militants.

We will pass on the other diverse nuances who identify with Marxism, and will end this article on the case of an individual we had already mentioned in the first issue of our journal, the most-distinguished professor André Ribard, more Stalinist than the worst Stalinists, although not a member of the party. For this gentleman, which can be filed under category number 2, as he is one of these people who can debate as long as you agree with them, the current situation allows him to give Anarchists irrefutable Marxist explanations. According to him, be ready for this, if the Hungarians workers revolted, if they fought in the streets, if they formed Councils, if they died weapon in hand, it is because they were lacking… revolutionary passion4! All is there, and no doubt Marx has dedicated striking pages to Passion, considered as a specifically materialist science. We would still like to know, as, in our naivety, we had never thought possible such values could be claimed by a grave magister for whom Anarchism can be explained by… deserts! Yes, and if Arabs have an Anarchist tendency (thanks, Mr. Ribard), it is that solitude develops their individualist, hence Anarchist instincts QED. It is true that the same professor cannot explain (after a precise question from us) how our Spanish comrades grouped over one million of them in the CNT and in the FAI, fought and built in a most collective, community-based way between 1936 and 1938. There are some mysteries in the face of which even the most confident Marxist remains silent. These enigmas, however, do not prevent the elegant assemblies in front of which our man dialecticizes, to know how worthy they are and when, about Hungary, an innocent asked: “Do you not think that the rule according to which the ends justify the means is paid with sometimes too much blood?” The half-outraged, half-amused exclamation from the multitude which, silk ties adroitly tied and drowned in furs, ironically pities such trifles, is a sight to see. Because they, Ribaud and his friends, they have it, that Passion! And closer to their hearts than any member of a workers’ Soviet.

But let’s leave our heroes where they are, that is, in their armchairs, and let’s remind ourselves that libertarian analysis, if it seems, and is, less systematic than many heavy schemes which are often disproved by facts, this analysis persists, and will persist, in denouncing the State without pity, and, in so doing, it will necessarily attack any government system and any party since the real power is the power of workers, grouped in Councils and federated. It will have taken some faraway comrades (because they spontaneously took this form of organisation) to fight and die enveloped in a shroud of silence heavier than any Iron Curtains, for some ‘analyses’ to be revealed lacking, faced with the simple action of men (sic).

Christian

1 Histoire du Parti Communiste (b) de l’URSS [History of the Communist Party (b) of the USSR], page 236, under the title “The difficulties (sic) of the recovery period”.

2 Socialisme ou Barbarie, n°1 page 9.

3 Socialisme ou barbarie n°1, page 45.

4 Conference at la Mutualité, December 3, 1956.

Anarchists and Trotskyists

[Trigger warning: mention of moral harassment]

Over the past 5 years, it has become harder and harder to be an anarchist. There are always more comrades in jail (or worse), governments start using the phrase ‘terrorist training camps’ in relation to anarchist journalists visiting Greece, in the UK, an anarchist got detained at a London airport by anti-terrorist cops when he came back from the St. Imier gathering. Dark times indeed. Oblivious of all this, Trotskyists get a bit jealous they are not treated as a threat. I remember when I was at uni and someone set fire to a banner which was hung outside our office and left a sticker from a right-wing group; a Trotskyist friend came round and was very supportive, but he mentioned his belief that the arsonist had got our office confused with his… A strange thing to be jealous of. Anyway, there is a regain of interest (whether sincere or tactical, misplaced or not) from trotskyists for anarchism (or what they identify as anarchism, but can be anything from squatting, to Occupy, to activism).

I have a general policy of avoiding Trotskyists. Last time I reached out to them, I ended up on a show-trial that examined my life and ruled that I was guilty of Zionism, among other things. The worst is that I am not even the real victim in that story, I only wanted to (re)join their union after some comrades (mostly female with mental health issues) complained about harassment. Being an arsehole is sometimes a character trait in anarchists, but for Trotskyists, it is a valid tactic.

Of course some Trotskyists are probably decent people for real, and not just when it serves their purpose, but enough of us have been hurt by their love of tactical political games for even those lucky enough to have never experienced it directly to be wary and shun any unnecessary contact.

The second problem about engaging with Trotskyists, is that you never know what you sign up for. What starts off as a friendly cross-ideological chat over coffee ends up taking more and more space in your life and your email inbox until it is simply unmanageable. Debate is good, and any sincere revolutionary should always be open to new inspection of their ideas, but this does not mean that people can simply use you as an always available punching-ball for testing their half-baked, often rather offensive ideas about what you believe, what they think you believe, and everything you or people you know have ever been directly or indirectly involved in.

Failure to reply in a couple of days to their never-ending requests obviously means you are wrong and they are right (sometimes just directing them to some reading on the subject means you have “no argument”, and quick replies outlining the general idea so they can do their own elaboration on it invariably spurs them to ask for the full development). We cannot think for them, we cannot be their librarians, and it is not “our responsibility” to educate them. Your duty is to examine your own political beliefs, not to rebut a young Trotskyist’s strange elucubrations about things which have little or no relevance to you. It does not trump your need for time and space to develop your own thoughts or do anything else, or just to keep your sanity and well-being by avoiding one-sided, sometimes almost harassing and abusive, relations.

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One of the worst examples of how someone can be wasting your time and abusing your good will is when the answer they are looking for is sometimes to be found simply in Marx or even Trotsky (or in extremely widely available anarchist texts, for some reason Christopher Hitchens puts Emma Goldman in an anthology, but referring to her is “sectarian” as you cannot possibly expect a non-anarchist to have read or heard of her). You can never be sure, however, if they are trying to trick you in some kind of maieutic way, or if they are simply very bad Trotskyists; but in both cases it is not a worthwhile honest discussion between equals.

I have quoted Marx and Trotsky at “Trotskyists” before, just to be ridiculed for what they thought was my deviant anarchist ideas. The party does not encourage debate, so they love the idea of ‘debating’ with you, rather than following the arid teachings of their party which they just skip and nod to whatever the party intellectuals say. I think that is why most of them are from the bottom of the intellectual food-chain of their organization. If they want the free space to develop their ideas they don’t get in their organisation, that is good; but mostly they tend to want someone they can treat as intellectually inferior and of less value to the revolution, just like they are treated by their “comrades”. As anarchists, we train ourselves to consider anyone’s ideas on their own merit and show no more deference to an elderly published author of our preferred political tradition than to a young girl we have never heard of from a political tradition we know little about, and we expect to be treated in the same way. Sadly enough, we sometimes fall short of that, and most political movements do not even recognise the leadership of ideas, formally or informally. Having had bad experiences with Trotskyists is an acceptable reason to not seek them out, but not to abuse them in response for some harm another has caused you. There is a thin line between caution, and sectarianism/prejudice.

All this talk of the Jesuits in the news made me think of Their Morals And Ours (the sum of my knowledge about this religious order comes from searching for “jesuitism” in the dictionary when I first read it), and what Trotsky says in it (after his rather valid, if lacking in nuance, condemnation of the betrayal of the CNT leadership of the Spanish Revolution): To base ends correspond base means. Anyway, all this to say, this is why I will soon review the AWL book on anarchism.

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Friendly-face PS: If I have not made a disclaimer saying that “some of my best friends are Trotskyists”, it is that it would be a lie, or at least a gross overstatement. I have an enduring fascination for Victor Serge, who was in some ways close to Trotsky, and I remember being quite admirative when I first met Gabriel Llesta, a former member of the Juventud Libertaria (Libertarian Youth) who became a Trotskyist, when I asked why, he claimed he was wowed by the transitional plan, I tried to follow in his footsteps but I must say it left me quite unconvinced. The kind of people depicted in the second part of this article are based on (the worst sides of) a handful of people met in real life, and a plethora of online people. To the best of our knowledge and memory, they are all male, but from different age-groups and countries.

Jappe translation and anarchist women on Wikipedia

So, here is the first chapter of the translation I am ‘proofreading’.The whole first part of the book is a critique of capitalism and its traditional critics, so it is quite ‘negative’. That’s my excuse for working on it so slowly. The second part, which tries to find solutions, is much more fun, so I am looking forward to that.

Let me know what you think, especially so we can see if disagreements arise from imprecise translations and correct them!

Another reason why I am procrastinating is that I have been doing related work like trying to improve the Wikipedia article on Jaime Semprun (to whom Jappe’s book is dedicated). I started translating the French existing article, but it is a mess, so I am thinking it needs a complete reworking.

And I went on another tangent when I realised Maria Isidine did not have a Wikipedia article at all. I tried to get people interested in helping create one, but all I got was a reply that another woman anarchist, Clara Gertrud Wichmann, did not have a page in English… And I am sure we could make this list longer, and please leave a reply about this. This needs to change, and no-one but us will care and can change this. I don’t have much experience writing Wikipedia articles, apart from the Jaime Semprun fiasco, the only article I wrote was about Lawrence Storione, so any help is more than welcome!

I think the anarcha-feminists at the St. Imier congress in August 2012 decided to organise an international anarcha-feminist congress some time in the next two years, although it seems to be the best kept secret in anarchism. Obviously, it needs preparation, and I was contemplating how creating/translating articles about anarchist women on Wikipedia could be part of this work.

To help write this article in English on Clara Wichmann.

To help with the article on Maria Isidine.

To help with the article on Marie Ganz.

To help with the article on Anna Sosnovsky.

Anarchists without Wikipedia pages:

Libertad Rodenas

Fanny Breslaw

Clara Rotberg Larsen

Mary Abrams (Domsky)

Other wikipedia articles about anarchist women that could be translated/augmented/etc:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnes_Inglis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_Pesotta

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madeleine_Pelletier

Comments on AFAQ 2: Who do anarchists see as their “agents of social change”?

An Anarchist FAQ, published by AK Press, is too colossal, too intimidating to ‘review’, I have never read it. I doubt anyone ever has, apart from the editors and proof-readers who truly deserve some kind of medal. But I sometimes leaf through it, especially now that I claim to write ‘anarchist reviews’ which are really just my personal opinions, and I feel I sometimes need more insight on ‘what anarchists think of this’ (usually though, I just ask a couple of anarchists who care about whatever issue I’m writing about and that’s all). AFAQ is sometimes very English-speaking world oriented, and it is also geared towards a Trotskyism vs. Anarchism debate, because the people who frequently ask those Frequently Asked Questions are frequently Trotskyists. And really they are rhetorical questions aimed at making us maieutically realise the awesomeness of the vanguard leaders, and that is why I have so much admiration for people who actually answer them.

AK000019

Anyway, as I started my quest to show that there are important convergences between anarchism and value critique, I was confronted with two over-simplifications: on the one hand, anarchists saying that value critique was post-marxist and rejected class struggle altogether, on the other hand supporters of value critique saying that anarchism had the same approach as orthodox Marxists when it came to the centrality of the class-struggle and the proletariat as revolutionary agent. The truth is, both currents agree on Marx’s analysis of class, capital and class-struggle within capitalism, and both disagree with traditional Marxist interpretations of how to break from capitalism.

I was wonderfully relieved to see that the question of anarchism’s view on class struggle and its link to social change was mapped to some extent by AFAQ H.2.7 “Who do anarchists see as their “agents of social change”?” (link here: http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/the-anarchist-faq-editorial-collective-an-anarchist-faq-09-17#toc17 ). I think this answer needs to be completed and made more actual (a large part has to do with establishing that Bakunin did indeed want the IWA to be a mass organisation of most of the proletariat. Establishing historical facts is good, but I think it is fair to say that is no longer the case of most anarchists, as it is no longer even the case of all members of the IWA afaik).

After this discussion, we will expose briefly the value critique view on the proletariat, class struggle and social change. To simplify, class struggle exists, it is often good, but it does not necessarily lead to emancipation for all, we need to emancipate ourselves not only as workers in the capitalist mode of production, but also as subjects in commodity society.

Eventually, I hope to show that both positions, if not identical, have a certain number of things in common.

An Anarchist review of Robert Kurz’s No Revolution Anywhere, Chronos Publications

2013 promises to be an interesting year for anarchist theory, on top of the AK Press release of The Value of Radical Theory: An Anarchist Introduction to Marx’s Critique of Political Economy, and the upcoming English translation of Anselm Jappe’s Crédit à mort (no publisher or title found yet, though), Chronos Publications have undertaken to finally publish some of Kurz’s essays in English. Under the title The Substance of Capital, it is expected for the end of June 2013. For the impatient though, they have already published a short pamphlet, titled No Revolution Anywhere in October 2012, introducing some of Kurz’s work, previously unpublished in English. For the curious, Libcom published quite a few of Kurz’s essays, and the Exit! website does have some English translations of their articles.

No Revolution Anywhere, Robert Kurz

No Revolution Anywhere, Robert Kurz

The quality and pertinence of Kurz’s writings have ensured its progressive dissemination across language barriers among anarchist circles for a long time now, leading to his planned conference at the St. Imier congress this summer. Sadly enough, he died shortly before. But English-speaking anarchists will be happy with this attempt at publishing Kurz, although the quality of the proofreading and some of the translation are somewhat lacking (for example, the substitution of “the coming revolt” for “the Coming Insurrection” obscures the meaning of a paragraph, and some sentences must be tweaked to make any grammatical sense at all). Last but not least, a text that the publishers claim was written in 1999 mentions the 9/11 attacks. However, technical difficulties are to be expected in any first publication like this one, and we have complete faith that they will be resolved by the release of the longer, better Substance of Capital later this year.

Another ‘technical detail’ to get out of the way, is the introduction in the presentation by the London group of something problematic that I have never witnessed in Kurz’s own writing: the depiction of political enemies as ‘pathological’ and ‘neurotic’. Of course, there was nothing ‘pathological’ and ‘neurotic’ about Marx’s work (or Kurz’s, for that matter) and tolerating mental distress sufferers to have any part at all in the elaboration of theory could only lead to its ruin by infecting the work of healthy minds… We have no doubt the writers were simply not thinking when they borrowed those images which are sadly common in the English language and made them their own. Still, it got me pretty upset, so be warned, it sounds more intelligent than calling them ‘gay’, ‘dwarves’ or ‘sissies’, because that’s the power of words of more than three syllables, but I’m not convinced it is fundamentally different. However; this slip should not tarnish Kurz’s work which, if it sometimes falls heavy into name-calling, remains to my knowledge quite politically correct about it.

 

Review of the introduction

In their introduction, I don’t think we can reproach the editors their lumping of Anarchists among the footsoldiers of the TUC. It is not true, but to the outside viewer, despite the involvement of many well-intentioned anarchists, the anarchist position has remained invisible in the anti-cuts movement. A comrade remarked:

we have been too timid in our critique of the “solutions” that other “lefty” groups propose.

I would disagree with the use of “other”, as we are not a lefty group, no matter how many quote marks you add, but I agree with the sentiment. Anarchists have been seen regurgitating the anti-austerity rhetoric, despite it being at odds with the anarchist view that austerity is not what we are fighting, but capitalism. This has always been a complicated position to present to the general public. In the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, even bourgeois newspapers announced the end of capitalism. Now, only a few years later, the TUC discourse did its job, and ‘radicals’ don’t dare fight anything more than ‘austerity’.

Obviously, we cannot blame the individuals involved in this campaign if they failed to make an anarchist analysis heard: on top of the lack of perspective in this movement, there was also a lack of alternative decision-making spaces, which meant that the TUC and leftist sects remained in complete control of the movement and its discourse. Of course, for a movement to develop demands or perspectives, from the most reformist to the most revolutionary, they need some structure in which to discuss and decide, call them councils of war or general assemblies (and we don’t mean the so called popular assembly launched in the Guardian by ‘personalities’ to assemble union delegates). There was very little achieved that questioned the control of unions and parties over the movement (and it is not going to get better, as apparently now ‘horizontalism’ is conveniently attached to the worst excesses of the Occupy movement by people like Paul Mason or David Harvey), consequently the whole movement was on the nonsensical format of the one-day strike, repeated up to every three month, with a central rally in London (sometimes Glasgow as well, where the possibility of any serious discussion of the real issues of capitalism are further drowned by the buzzing of the campaign for an independent Scotland who shamelessly highjacked the demo, promising free public services, no benefit cuts and/or full communism for all after the rapture/referendum). This format presents strictly no danger/opportunity to overflow into something more, and that is why the TUC sticks to it despite its total lack of effectiveness.

Once again, I must say that UK anarchists really should point out the fundamental difference between a one-day strike decreed by union bureaucrats and a strike until demands are met (or an unlimited strike!) instead of using a rhetoric of ‘it’s better than nothing’. One-day strikes only lead to ‘Vote Labour and you won’t have those days of disruption anymore’ (and to well-meaning people losing one day off their wages, while others just ignore it, which is justifiable, but can lead to complete disillusion and people scabbing when it actually matters, that is, when a strike needs to hold). How can anarchists make it so that instead of ending in a speech by Ed Milliband, a demo ends with a general assembly deciding on whether or not to go on strike again the next day? Not by being bussed out to London for the day would be a good start. Rant over.

However, the editors show some quite obvious intellectual dishonesty when they reduce the Cuts Café, which was lauded by the Guardian as “set up by UKUncut-types to foster face-to-face debate about protest and capitalism in the run-up to last Saturday’s TUC demonstration” to one internet comment on their page stating:

Lets hope to god this place actualy just makes some solid plans instead of having, as is more probable, 20 ‘meetings’ every day, concenring which topics to have for other ‘meetings’, to consist of bickering and hand signals. Dialogue Kills.

Now, the Cuts Café is quite an easy target, that the Guardian celebrates it in an article titled “The return of leftwing café culture” is ominous enough for people who remember the ATTAC alter-globalization cafés, but the truth is, it is a place that existed for 2 weeks, and failed to be the place where people could theorise together a sensible approach to this movement. Instead, they sat in circles listening to people give talks, playing guitar and painted banners. Being lectured, listening to music and painting do not sadly suffice to develop theory. I strongly suspect that a lot of people involved in this Café were either lefties (who think theory is the realm of the party, let’s not worry footsoldiers with it, we have dedicated thinkers paid to tell us what to do) or activists (who think theory is everyone’s private business, lets’ not start an argument but a show of hands who is up to do this or that, without discussing the theory behind it). Many things can be said about the limits of such a place, I am sure, both in a general way and for the precise example of the Cuts Café in London. However, taking a stupid comment on a webpage, that is not in any way ‘typical of the general tone’ (the rest of the comments are an Occupy-style declaration that instead of talking between radicals, they should invite “the plutocrats” to listen to their grievances, and a very mature discussion of disability and accessibility) is disingenuous. It is all the more stupid that if this one commenter complains about the fact that there is too much dialogue, it is indicative that there are in such places at least (numerous) attempts at dialogue. This is a very low level of argumentation on the part of the editors, which reminds me of some of the worst “Occupy is wrong” articles, which managed to be just as appallingly vacuous as the Occupy movement itself. It is not because you’re taking on an easy target that you can dispense with the normal rules of argumentation and resort to strawmen, bad rhetorics and insult.

Kurz

About insults, I will say something here about why I think Kurz is so important for anarchists, but also what I find the most annoying about Kurz. I think Kurz is important because the fight between anarchists and orthodox marxists is so old, that we rarely express it in terms that are more than insults. This causes many problems, like young people who flee organisations like the SWP because they lack internal democracy to join anarchism. This can be a good thing, but it can also be the creation of a whole group of ‘anarchists’ who basically want a more democratic SWP. That is better than not realising the problem with the organisation of the SWP, but anarchism has other profound differences with orthodox marxism. The main one has to do with the relationship between class-struggle and the revolution. And that is the point where orthodox marxists lash out at you, calling you a petty bourgeois individualist, and why anarchists feel like they have to remind people that, yes, they do have a class analysis of society every two lines.

Kurz re-reads Marx in a way that reconciles Marx and anarchism, in a way that means we no longer have to claim that Marx is unparalleled for his description of capitalism, but that we differ on how to do away with it, which is the general simplified version anarchists give to the curious. And that is why Kurz is great. I am not saying his ideas are especially innovative, but they can be used as reference, in a way that ‘that conclusion we reached in our discussion after taking part in that dead-end campaign’ cannot.

Now, what is annoying when you read Kurz as an anarchist, is that he does not stop at exposing his reading of Marx positively, but goes on at length about why people who developed other more traditional readings of Marx are absurd. As anarchists, we have not waited for Kurz suddenly to realise that orthodox marxists were absurd and faced a dead-end with no communism in sight, and this aspect of Kurz is frankly quite tedious. And depending on the text, he can argue very well how Stalinists make no sense, or just be angry at them without much ground. As another comrade said:

Kurz just lashes out at others (quite narcissistically at times) and often just insults them: his analyses can be fab, his presentation and style of argument is shite.

However, the selected texts are not too bad in that regard and mainly just have bits that are a bit boring if you’re looking to sharpen your own understanding of capitalism and revolution rather than find yet another reason why orthodox marxists/ Coming Insurrection-types/ etc. make little sense.

By Way of Presentation

This interview sums up in short paragraphs some of the main points that Kurz makes in his articles: this is not just another cyclical crisis of capitalism, this does not mean this is the only ever time we could have a revolution, capital has reached its limit, and so on and so forth. I don’t see what objections anarchists would have to this which would have any kind of practical consequence (there are always other objections, but, although interesting, like in the case of question 5 contrasting his and Postone’s value critique, they do not lead to major disagreements in real life), apart maybe in number 8 where he lumps together alternative economy-types, Primitivists, but also what sounds like more anarcho-friendly anti-industrialism, which imho is concerned with “the abolition the capitalist rationality of the social synthesis operated by value, and of the calculation resulting from this rationality which is that of the economy of the firm”. I think there is possibly a convergence there, which is masked by Kurz’s ‘them vs. me’ style.

No Revolution Anywhere

This text owes its title to the abuse of the word Revolution to designate anything from ‘the Arab Spring’ to ‘the Occupy movement’. Kurz offers a more down-to-earth short analysis of recent social upheavals and reminds us of a few obvious facts, like the fact that violence is not in itself a sign or radicality, ‘theoretical renewal is long overdue’, ‘whoever is unwilling to grasp and fight against capitalist totality has already lost’ which will rejoice any anarchist. He then concludes on a call to everyone to support EXIT and its theoretical positions.

Now there is another text, which was aimed especially at anarchists, about why value critique is important. It was not previously released (I get the feeling the author thought that anarchists were unredeemable after all, but I might be wrong). I think it is interesting to compare and contrast this text to Kurz’s No Revolution Anywhere.

Beneath Contempt

This text is about capitalism and war. I have been trying to find some kind of impressions on the September 2012 “War starts here” anti-militarist camp in Germany (call here, http://warstartsherecamp.org/en/call-war-starts-here-camp ) to compare and contrast, but no luck so far.

The text starts with a long presentation of moder-day capitalism and the place of states, North and South in it. Then it criticises both the “regressive anti-Imperialists” and the “ideological supporters of crisis imperialism and lobbyists for the humanitarian-industrial complex”, and claims that we need to break free from capitalist ontologies, as usual.

Conclusion

These reviews are quite far from the text, mainly because the text as established in this pamphlet seems very erroneous. My German is pretty bad so I’m not always sure, but definitely compared with the French translation available on Exit’s website, there are significant discrepancies. This present edition is hard to get excited about, but I hope anarchists will build on this attempt, and publish and read Kurz in English.

Queering Anarchism

AK000010

I thought about writing a review of this, but I don’t really have enough to say. Besides, I mention it in the review of Quiet Rumours (they even have collaborators in common). So have a cat instead. Any comments on it are welcome though!

Turns out people apparently find this blog searching for this book, so I feel like I need to say a bit more about it. First of all, its goal is laudable, to bring together queer politics and anarchism. The anarchist discourse on issues on LGBT issues nowadays is often influenced by liberal identity politics, usually because anarchists don’t realise there are more options than liberalism or conservatism. This intellectual laziness is not excusable, especially with such books available. Queering anarchism is not an academic book, it is easily accessible, and at the same time, it does not appear to dumb down issues. In that sense it follows the best tradition of anarchist writers (on them, the quote by Bakunin about destruction and creation appears countless times, and the other references are Emma Goldman… a little variety could have been good).

The only thing that I would say this book is missing is perhaps a few contradictions. Most of these texts (especially in the first half of the book) are so similar that it left me thinking that organizing them into a book rather than a collection of essays would have made more sense (having shorter, independent texts to distribute is good, but that’s what the internet is for). Also there needs to be a disclaimer that this Queering Anarchism is very much about the English-speaking world (our very own Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh gets a mention!), with no text translated from any other language. In this sense, it does demand to be expanded!

Personally, the text I had most difficulties with was Harm Reduction as Pleasure Activism, because its mention of Dionysus cults is too vague to be of any use, and it fails to give any space to anti-alcohol anarchist campaigns (especially in Spain at the start of the 20th century), which would have been interesting to contrast. It is interesting to point out how anarchism and harm reduction converge, but it would also have been interesting to see how they historically diverged.

Also, here is a link to order it: http://www.akpress.org/queeringanarchism.html

Some people are bound to ask ‘But, what about the class struggle?’ Well, one article is all about its importance, which will rejoice or reassure them: the queers will not take your proletariat away.