Anarchist purges anarchist, no news at 11: “What’s Left?” August 2014, MRR #375

It’s an infamous MRR cover. Number 130, March 1994. Tim Yo designed it, although I don’t remember who put it together. A slew of Marvel Comic style action figure characters surround the headline “Superheroes of the Underground??” A bald buff super skinhead labeled Hawdkaw Man, further marked with A.F. for Agnostic Front, growls: “I stomp da pussies wit an attitude as big as my 20 eyelet Docs!!” Str8 Edge Man, a caped Superman clone with Shelter on his chest, proclaims: “I convert the hostile flocks with a 1-2 punch of Religion & Republicanism!” Pop Man, aka Green Day, reveals: “I lull my opponents into complacency with dippy love songs!” And the snark continues with snide remarks from Metal Man (The Melvins), Emo Man (Still Life), Vegan Man (Profane Existence), Grunge Man (Nirvana), and Arty Farty Man (sporting an Alternative Tentacles logo).

Tim put this cover together for the issue in which he announced MRR’s Great Purge, in which Tim proclaimed that nothing but the most primitive, the most basic, the most raw rock and roll would be deemed punk. That’s how punk rock began in the mid-to-late 70s; two or at most three chords, distorted and undifferentiated, loud and fast. Ignoring the debate over whether punk first began in the UK or USA, and disregarding whether it was the Ramones or the Sex Pistols that started punk, punk did not remain primal or simple or crude for long. Musicians brought their histories and influences to the music, the music cross-pollinated and hybridized with other music, and both the music and the musicians got more sophisticated with time. By 1993, punk was a welter of styles, categories and scenes. And by the end of 1993, Tim had decided to purge punk rock down to its roots and to restrict the magazine he ran, MRR, to this limited musical content.

I’ve described when Tim Yo announced the firing of Jeff Bale at a year end General Meeting in December of 1993. I’ve called that the Great Purge when, in fact, the most contentious agenda item at that meeting for most of the shitworkers present was Tim’s decision to severely curtail the kind of music MRR considered reviewable as punk. And Tim’s Great Purge was indeed two-fold—firing Jeff Bale and purging punk music. Tim was by no means a raving Maoist when he ran MRR, but he’d had his political upbringing in the New Communist Movement of the 1970s. I remember Tim discussing afterwards his strategy going into the December 1993 meeting, and I’ll liberally paraphrase it from a previous column: “I combined an attack on the right with an attack on the left. I cut down the stuff we would review as punk, knowing that Jeff would be one hundred percent behind my decision. At the same meeting I took out Jeff. I played the right and the left against each other, just like Stalin did.”

That Tim Yo might have been involved with the RCP at one time, or admired Stalin, or even sometimes ran MRR as Mao might are such a small part of what the man was or what he did. But it does help me to segue into my broader subject. While it is hard to apologize for Tim’s overtly authoritarian tendencies, it isn’t hard to admire his appreciation for punk rock’s musical purity. The urge to purify, the impetus to purge an individual, organization, art form, culture, politics, or society of incorrectness, error, impurity, deviance, corruption, decadence, or evil; that’s what I’m talking about here. For a recent and particularly insidious example of this, lets turn to anarchist politics in the San Francisco Bay Area and the efforts of identity anarchists to purge post-left anarchists.

I have little sympathy for either of the two tendencies acting out this sordid drama. Post-left anarchism categorically rejects the Left, from the social democracy and Marxism-Leninism of the Old Left to the Maoism and Third Worldism of the New Communist Movement that devolved from the New Left, as well as any anarchism that is in the least bit influenced by the Left. This is not merely a refusal of the Left’s ideological content, but of its organizational forms as well, from meetings run by Robert’s Rules of Order to various kinds of party-building. But nothing unites post-left anarchism beyond this negation, leaving a disparate gaggle of personalities in Hakim Bey (ontological anarchy/TAZ), Bob Black (abolition of work), John Zerzan (primitivism), Wolfi Landstreicher (Stirnerite egoism), et al, to frivolously romp through post-left anarchism’s vacuous playground. In contrast, identity anarchism is all about a positive if problematic relationship with the Left, from its ideological borrowings from Marxism-Leninism (imperialism, colonialism, etc.) to its lineage on the Left (via the quasi-Maoist Black Panther Party). The lame debates within the heavily Maoist New Communist Movement regarding the staid National Question contributed to the formulation of a “white skin privilege” theory (by way of Sojourner Truth/Noel Ignatiev) which, when suitably tweaked by proponents of “male privilege,” conjugated a critique of patriarchal white supremacy fully embraced by identity anarchism. Thus, identity anarchism’s embrace of Panther anarchism (of Alston, Ervin, Balagoon, Barrow, Jackson, N’Zinga, White, Sostre, following the BPP’s demise) seems almost an afterthought, offering no serious counterweight to the Marxism, Leninism, Maoism and Third Worldism it enthusiastically embraces.

I will use post-left anarchism and identity anarchism in the remainder of this column as convenient shorthand for generic categories, which means I will also overly simplify who belongs to what camp.

Post-left anarchism has a decent presence in the East Bay through Anarchy, a Journal of Desire Armed, the annual BASTARD conference, and the Anarchist Study Group. The Study Group has been meeting weekly at the Long Haul in Berkeley for over a decade. It is structured through reading and discussing agreed-upon texts, publicly advertises locally and online, and is open to anyone to attend. At the beginning of 2013, the Study Group embarked on several months of investigation into Maoism, focusing on the New Communist Movement, reading primary documents related to the RCP, MIM, the BPP, STORM, and a plethora of alphabet soup Maoist organizations. Needless to say, these post-left anarchists were highly critical of the NCM and Maoism. Aragorn! went so far as to publish a lengthy criticism on his self-titled blog based on their studies in mid-March.

A group of identity anarchists “intervened” during a regular Tuesday night Long Haul Anarchist Study Group meeting sometime after that blog post. Hannibal Shakur, an activist in Occupy Oakland’s Decolonization tendency who is fighting vandalism charges after participation in the Trayvon Martin riots, was prominent in the newly organized Qilombo Social Center in Oakland. He and his crew attended the Study Group meeting, it seems not merely to dispute their post-left anarchist critique of Maoism, the NCM and the BPP, but also to challenge their right to pursue such independent study at all. The identity anarchists harassed and harangued the post-left anarchists, and in the heat of the argument between the two sides, post-left anarchist Lawrence Jarach made a categorical statement so typical of orthodox anarchism. To paraphrase, Jarach contended that: “All churches must be burned to the ground.” An identity anarchist demanded: “But what about the black churches?” To which Jarach responded: “The black churches must be burned … all churches must be burned.” The disagreements only got nastier from there, with open acrimony escalating into implied threat.

At some point, passionate ideological disagreement turned into calculated sectarian purge. The annual San Francisco Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair set up operations at the Crucible in Oakland on May 22, 2014. The one-day bookfair gathered a multitude of anarchist tendencies, among them the AJODA/CAL Press vendor table and the Qilombo Center table. An “attack initiated by three people (and about ten supporters) from Qilombo began around 3:40pm when I was cornered near the restroom,” reported Lawrence Jarach, “and continued after I walked back to the CAL Press/Anarchy magazine vendor table, ending at around 4 when we decided to leave.” AJODA has since issued an Open Letter to Bay Area Anarchists protesting the Qilombo assault as well as the general anarchist apathy toward this successful purge. Those associated with the attack on Jarach in turn have communicated the following: “Qilombo was not involved in the altercation you mention that took place at the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair, and the space has no comment on the matter. Lawrence Jarach came by the Qilombo table and antagonized a few of our volunteers, so those volunteers took it upon themselves as autonomous individuals to call him out for something that occurred at an another venue, at another point in time, and requested that he leave the bookfair. If you would like more details, you will need to reach out to the actual parties involved.”

Tim Yo would have called this final evasion candy-assed.

Last column, I mentioned the feminist “intervention” at the May 9-11, 2014 Portland, Oregon Law & Disorder Conference and the increasingly acrimonious debate between Kristian Williams and the organizers of the event Patriarchy and the Movement, over the tactics of individuals and groups professing identity politics within larger leftist political circles. That the victims of patriarchal sexism and violence and their defenders are so outspoken in speech and print about the need to purge the perpetrators from The Movement only underscores the clarity of their actions. I suspect that, amongst themselves, Shakur and his identity anarchist/Qilombo brigade have summarily convicted Jarach of racism, exercising his white skin privilege, and supporting white supremacy in insisting purely on principle that all churches need to be burned down, even the black ones. Yet they won’t publicly cop to running him out of the anarchist bookfair for such reasons. That they haven’t openly taken responsibility for their thuggish behavior to, in effect, purge Jarach and AJODA from the Movement is low, even for Maoism masquerading as anarchism.

These concerted efforts to purge people from The Movement based on their ideology, or their behavior, are the self-righteous acts of those who would be judge, jury, and executioner. When Tim Yo made his futile attempt in MRR to purge punk rock back to its basics, the results were predictable. The magazines Punk Planet, Heart attaCk and Shredding Paper started publishing circa 1994 to challenge MRR’s definition of punk and hegemony over the scene, followed shortly thereafter by Hit List. However, I doubt that Qilombo’s attempt to purge Lawrence Jarach and fellow AJODA members will have similarly salutary effects.

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18 Comments

  1. A couple of quick clarifications. The event where I made an easily misinterpreted statement about churches (viz. that they all should be burned — not “must,” but *should*) was a semi-invitation only anarchist community meeting that took place at “Outta Line” back in December, not the Study Group in March. I have never encountered Hannibal in person.
    My “antagonism” of Kristen and Autumn went something like this:
    “Hey Autumn, what’s up with the name change?” (She was the point person for the Free Skool, and with her assistance I had started an anarchist study group there; in addition, I had assisted the Holdout logistically on several occasions as well as attended meetings and community education events with Occupy Oakland medics.)
    No response from Autumn, who crossed her arms over her chest and grunted at Kristen.
    Kristen said something like, “We decided to change the direction and vision of the space to reflect our new orientation toward the community.” (That’s the shortened paraphrase)
    “So, no more anarchism?” I asked.
    “Not the kind of anarchism that advocates burning black churches!” was Autumn’s reply.
    “You know that’s not what I said, and you know my email address Autumn, if you want to talk about it.”
    And I walked away.

    My offer of a mediated resolution, pursued through two different people, was rejected.

    • white boys be talking always talking blah blah

      • how about fuck you.

  2. Dear Whoeverthefuck Is Reading This,

    In what can only be described as another absurdist screed by Lefty Hooligan, I found more of the same bullshit I’ve come to expect; white power masquerading as “rational thought”.

    I’m not writing just to insult him though. I’m writing because the crap that Lefty Hooligan wrote for his blog and for Maximum Rock n Roll (“anarchist purges anarchist; no news at 11”, issue #375) is irresponsible, ill-informed, poorly researched and full of way too many parenthesis and quotation marks!

    I generally believe that unless you were at some event or another you shouldn’t attempt to report on it or analyze it UNLESS you have done your homework, reached out to as many people who were there as possible, verified facts, checked on quotes, etc. Apparently Lefty Hooligan heard a story, heard another story, heard something else and then formulated some half-assed theory about it, and that is not anything that hasn’t happened since the beginning of time, or at least, since the beginning of social networking on the internet, however, it was incredibly irresponsible.

    The problem is that Lefty Hooligan used someone’s name and then indicated that said person “took part in a riot,” which is possibly damning for a person fighting charges and trying to stay out of jail. I don’t expect that Lefty Hooligan would know anything about that, but still, there it is.

    Hooligan goes on to claim (using as his sole witness the accounts of Lawrence Jarach) that people from Qilombo space assaulted Jarach. This is also incredibly irresponsible. Not only does this implicate these unknown others in random acts of violence, but it also upholds the narrative of some white guy as correct while the explanation given by folks from Qilombo space (a space run primarily by Black and Brown people in Oakland) as “candy-assed”. Further more, Hooligan goes on to accuse the person he named in his column “and his brigade” of “purging the movement” and of “thuggish behavior”. Do you see what he just did there? Hooligan continues this attack on “identity anarchists” (remember my careful clarification) when he accuses them of attacking Lawrence Jarach at the Anarchist Bookfair this past year.

    This kind of easy racism is what seeps into and back out of the pores of everything and everyone in the u.s. It’s the kind of thing that only people who are forced to be vigilant around these things ever call attention to.

    Throughout the rest of his column, Hooligan attempts to make distinctions between what he terms “post-left anarchists” and “identity anarchists”. While he claims no affinity for either, he definitely makes it known that he considers “identity anarchists” the more irredeemable of the two. This notion of “identity anarchists” is also highly problematic and is a way of discarding any analysis by any people of color as “divisive” (I see you, Rebecca Solnit). Let’s be clear that in the context that Lefty Hooligan is using, “identity anarchists” really means Black and Brown people.

    Hooligan uses an incident where one group of folks challenged the notion from another group of folks that all churches, even Black churches should be burned as a place from which to attack “identity anarchists”. He doesn’t investigate – even in theory – why people would find that position to be problematic. Since he wouldn’t give it a thought, allow me to summarize the position; Black churches have long been places where the Black community can come together safely and for the most part, unhindered. There is no other institution that exists within Black communities and neighborhoods that serves that function. The Black church is far more than a house of religion. But, if you’re just a white person existing in your all-white fantasy world, that would never have occurred to you.

    Attempting to describe very real riffs and divisions within “the Movement” by using a poorly strung together anecdote about a punk rock magazines growing pains in the early 90’s is yet another example of how hoplessly inept Hooligan’s column is. Unless you have any idea what Maximum Rock n Roll is, or who the fuck Tim Yo was, or why punk rockers spend so much time talking about what is “really punk”, then the analogies made within the article are completely useless, unless again, you’re speaking to your all-white fantasy world.

    Let me briefly recap:

    Using someone’s name and publicly implicating them in some type of crime or another is irresponsible.

    Doing that to a Black person is doubly irresponsible.

    All other points can be found above.

    Sincerely,

    Melissa (or Shakes)

    • Dear Melissa(Shakey lady)

      Speaking as a person of color…GO FUCK YOURSELF. I, a POC think that not only is LJ correct, but so is Bob Black in his take down of quilolololodubmbo. I don’t give a fuck if such a group is all white or all black n’ colored, nationalism is nationalism and non anarchism is what it is. Buy not rejecting these yahoos in the same way you reject the BANAs you are just a tokenizing bitch that isn’t really helping the growth of more colorful authentic anarchist intellectual ventures.

      I could care less if this nationalist little thug stays in jail quite frankly is all he is going to be is an ideological shit disturber in anarchist setting using Marxist derived analysis.

      so sincerely fuck off thank you.

      • The brilliance of your response is multi-fold;
        1) You are defending a faulty premise. I have heard many people discount Lawrence Jarach’s version of events. All of those people were both at the “semi-public community meeting” as well as the ABF.

        2) I never once, not one time, mentioned nationalism of any sort.

        3) A so-called anarchist who doesn’t care if a Black person goes to jail behind bogus charges is more likely a democrat. Supporting the state’s prison industrial complex does not an anarchist make.

        4) you seem personally offended, as though I called you out. I don’t know you, at all. I’ve done nothing at all in fact to deserve being called a bitch or being told to fuck off. Your defensive response says way more about how you practice anarchism (and tokenism, by the way), than anything I could have written.

        Good job demonstrating the hyper-colonialized mental perspective. You’re a walking thesis waiting to be defended. Good luck with that.

      • Wow, such an “authentic” anarkist you are! Commiting ableism (“quilolololodubmbo”), white supremacy (“colored”) and misogyny (“bitch”) and this all-in-one-racist-and-support-of-prison-industrial-complex statement (“nationalist little thug stays in jail”)… you are fucking hypocrite oppressive piece of fecal matter!!

      • the idiocy of your manifesto is multi-fold
        1. you are defending a faulty perspective. who are these many people who discount jarach’s version? aren’t you just relying on the biased opinions of people you already agree with?
        2. your celebration of the leadership of people of color is a de facto nationalist position. you may not understand it that way, but real anarchists know the difference between leading by example and leading by skin color.
        3. a so-called anarchist who doesn’t care if a black person throws his weight around to solidify his street activist cred is more likely a stalinist. supporting a hostage of the state does not an anarchist make.
        4. you seem personally invested, as though you were being called out by lefty and saying that he is taking sides in a dispute that matters to you. lefty isn’t an authority, he’s a columnist, and plenty of what he targets are anarchists even though he isn’t one. why are you so butt hurt by a column in mrr? your defensive response (and it’s been said that a good offense is the best defense, so you’re doing pretty well i guess) says more about your loyalty to a spiteful clique of identity politicians (which could also be seen as tokenism white girl) than to anything having to do with anarchism.
        good job demonstrating the hyper-guilt-ridden white ally perspective.

  3. Apparently, everybody has a tendency to hear a story, hear another story, hear something else and then formulate some half-assed theory about it. This is not anarchistnews dot org. This back-and-forth is hereby capped.

  4. “I will also overly simplify who belongs to what camp.”

    That right there is the work of a snitch! FUCK YOU lefty hooligan!!

  5. And cowardly piling on will also be capped.

  6. Oh, for fuck’s sake. I leave this site for five minutes and you can’t stop sniping at each other. This is not, I repeat, this is not anarchistnews fucking dot org! If you have something substantive to say, I’ll post it. Otherwise, the comments are closed.

  7. Really Lefty? Why do you have a comment section then? Is it only for kudos?

    I’m actually curious, not just being snarky.

    • Your first comment was hardly kudos. I’m not interested in the idiot back-and-forth “fuck you’s” of the insipid internet.

  8. FYI, I now have a commenting policy in place.

  9. Well…. I knew you would write something about this, having recently met you and reading your bored demeanor…. Of course, why would any of you, presumed armchair-anarchists (Bob Black, Lawrence, Wolfi [Feral Faun]), listen to any of us who are the first victims, targets of the State? What for? Because you didn’t like the tone of our voice? And what’s worse, the tone of our voices all together, finally being heard? Our voices, since being foreign to you? …So, what do you suppose, Hooligan, to get out of this, this column? Some accountability from the subject in which this column is directed toward? The stirring of a pot to rile the punks (majority of that social scene and your audience is white so it makes sense for you to easily target a Black man in your column) to easily target a black man, a Black man this community sincerely cares about? Would you all take this person to the guillotine for not agreeing to your column, burning a dialogue with you, and to hell with your clergymen and trial? To even impose, in your article, over this Black man, a guilty-until-proven-innocent verdict of some situations, in which it is claimed in the threads you know nothing about, is repeated history we’re use to seeing, a tactic the state of white supremacists have used against us for centuries (if you care to remember), is not only a loss for you, giving yourself away, but a proven account of negligence on your part of the struggle of the Blackbirds of Oakland…. It seems as though you are, covertly, interested in worsening or defaming this one Anarchist who has done nothing to you nor to anyone, and has gained awareness of the people throughout Oakland, for building a resistance, against all forms of silencing (including your form of silencing) without any strings attached. Because of something this Black man holds that is terrifying to you affirms the blind racism in your column…. I don’t believe you are at a place of understanding the feebleness of your situation, but you do have a lot of homework to do still concerning your position. A better analysis of where you belong in all of this would be good for you. Perhaps, in your assumed position, on a couch somewhere, far away, miles from the metropolis, totally removed, away from the situation, you can give it all up on a neglected street, filled with potholes, somewhere in East Oakland, switching positions with a homeless man, to leave the comforts of your awesome righteous, anarchist life…. No, I don’t think you would. I don’t think you cam bare the reality. In fact, I will assume that you can and have glossed over such a question. That being said, this being why, as another voice that will be heard, I have never taken those like Bob, Lawrence, Wolfi, Jenson, Zizek seriously, because you all cannot ever know the reality and are mentally restricted in the confines of your mansions, the bars of your futon. All you have ever feared is Nationalism, all you stood up for was your right… to dual-citizenship. …The only thing I pity most that you have stirred in me is why have you existed this long without getting your card pulled…. Probably because what you allow in your environment? What sees fit? Wine and white people?

    Either you get it, or just get out the way.

    • “I have never taken those like Bob, Lawrence, Wolfi, Jenson, Zizek seriously, because you all cannot ever know the reality and are mentally restricted in the confines of your mansions, the bars of your futon. All you have ever feared is Nationalism, ”

      This person of color(me) doesn’t fear nationalism nor so some of those mentioned. I and they simply don’t like it and neither does anarchism as a whole. Why don’t you shack up with the Andrew Yeomans of the world and stop wasting my time trying to bring that nationalist maoist-marxist black panther garbage into anarchism.

  10. May Allah guide you and all your misconceptions.


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