I am wrong

I stated as fact, in my MRR #375 column, that Hannibal Shakur participated in the massive Trayvon Martin protests in Oakland on July 13-15, 2013. I was wrong. I do not know who did or did not participate in those actions. I am reprinting one of the more eloquent take downs of my column below, without further comment:

Another thing

I’m imagining sitting in a room with all of this conversation going down. I’m reading a book that no one seems to have ever heard of in a quiet corner. Some dude rips it out of my hands and says, “You’re reading Gerald Horne! You’re not an anarchist! You don’t know what you’re doing!”

I think to myself, in this imaginary moment, that whoeverthefuck, that guy who just ripped the book from my hands, must have just crawled out of a time capsule. I think I should be patient and hold his hand and gently outline for him what has gone down and what continues to pass for the last several hundred years, leading to now – 2014. I tell him that here in this part of the globe, people are still starving, are still being beaten and killed – often times just because they exist. I tell him that he will emerge from his capsule and that he will move through the world and if his skin is not considered to be “white” by people who don’t know him, that he is in danger every second of his life because this is what has been occurring and what continues to occur.

I’m still imagining his imaginary face, so I tell him what I believe; people should be free to make their own decisions about their own lives without repression; that no power should hinder their ability to live without suffering, because that’s what I believe (in a nutshell). For some strange reason I want to show him what I mean. I want to walk down a street with him at night and I imagine that he would be totall invisible and he would see how I’m treated and how others are treated and how we treat each other and he would know what I mean. As I think about how much time this would take, to really see how far the breach of white supremacy is, I recognize that at this point in time the would have already sought out many books by academicians who wish to shape his mind and the minds of others with stories and theories of old. They say, “Back in the 19th century, this is how people chose to think, and so we will hold their thoughts with the utmost fidelity, never questioning how or if we can apply their thoughts to what is happening now. We will only revisit the past when it affirms our collective right to radical thinking.” In this imagination, he is questioning who is a revisionist and who is thinking in the now? He doesn’t really know, and how could he? He’s only recently emerged and his head has been buried in the dusty chapters of by-gone revolutionaries who at once mattered and then ceased to exist. If he never lifts his head from pure theory, he will probably never truly exist in the world as it is now, for those of us who do not have the luxury to simply exist.

I take a deep breath. I’m exhausted. I have to stop imagining. I think about this ambling thread. I realize that many of these folks have never had to second guess their thoughts or beliefs. I don’t have all day to write and cite and write again.

I wake up and remember that what I did was write a response to a column I found dangerous and egregious, and rather than discuss the points made in my paltry letter, folks would rather re-hash and re-write history, all the while avoiding the multiple premises of my letter which of course makes me feel like I should continue to clarify my points:

In the 21st century, within the borders of the so-called u.s., Black and Brown people are incarcerated, beaten and/or killed because “society” basically thinks that they are less than people. While an ethos of color-blindness can be considered admirable, it is delusional. Even Black and Brown people view each other with suspicion and derision because the dominant cultural norms dictate that we are dangerous, uncivilized, and should be caged. I refer to the footnotes of history for a deeper study in the ways and means by which people considered non-white have been subjugated by the state.

Another point that I made is that writing a column in a widely read magazine, which states (not supposes, not imagines, not wonders) that a Black man participated in a riot and attempted to physically harm another person is irresponsible. The reason that this is irresponsible is that the state – the current state, not the theoretical one – has been persecuting, lynching, jailing and killing Black people since its inception in order to maintain an order of white supremacy and free-market capitalism. This is not a theory, this is a reality. The state has never hesitated to use whatever it can find to implicate Black people in crimes in which the state then uses as an excuse to confine or kill them – all for the purpose of making money. Implicating Black people in state-defined crimes in order to make a political point serves the state and keeps all of the masses in line, absolutely.

Lefty Hooligan attempted to define the discourse about leftist separatism on the backs of Black and Brown people, naming as hero Lawrence Jarach and as foe, “people from Qilombo”. In doing so, he also attempted to passively paint “people from Qilombo” as not anarchist enough while painting Lawrence Jarach and his “post-leftists” as somewhat closer to the real deal. This is not necessarily important in the grand scheme of things.

His analogies (using pieces of the history of maximum rock n roll) were aimed at a particular crowd.

Over all, I deduced that his writing reflected modes of eurocentrism, which I interchange with white supremacy.

I related the anecdote about “burning all churches, even Black churches” because it was glossed over in Lefty Hooligan’s column. I did not intend to defend christianity on any level. I said that Black churches could be santuaries for people within Black communities when they needed respite from white influence. I did not say, at any point, that christianic practices in Black churches are in anyway practical, useful, or revolutionary. I do not conflate Black churches with the practices of christianity.

I’m tired and going to bed now.

Melissa/Shakes

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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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