Anarchist purges anarchist, no news at 11 by “Lefty” Hooligan

Hooligan Header
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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NO MORE WATER, THE FIRE NEXT TIME! By Bob Black

Bob Black: Post-Left Anarchism

Bob Black: Post-Left Anarchism


NO MORE WATER, THE FIRE NEXT TIME!
By Bob Black

The latest – I dare to hope, the last — Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair (Marxist-Opportunist) took place on March 22, 2014, in Oakland, at “The Crucible.” This long-running event was previously the San Francisco Anarchist Bookfair, until high rents forced it to relocate to the East Bay. Its ostensible sponsor is the Bound Together, nominally-anarchist bookstore in Haight-Ashbury. Traditionally, Bound Together fronted for AK Press, supposedly a collective, which was founded, funded, and dominated by a foreign businessman named Ramsey Kanaan whose immigration status remains mysterious. When, after a few years, the AK Press collective came to be not in complete agreement with Kanaan about policy, he left and founded, funded, and dominated, PM Press, which, to the outside observer, is, in its publishing decisions, indistinguishable from AK Press. I don’t know which publisher now controls this Bookfair. This is one of many things which the victims of the recent outrage at the Bookfair probably know, but which they do not disclose. But it is unmistakably under the control of anarcho-leftists who are far more leftist than anarchist, and who only grudgingly allow post-left anarchists to table.

Several post-left anarchist projects are active in the East Bay: C.A.L. Press; Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed [AJODA]; and LBC Books/Distribution. They were at the Bookfair. Their publications and distribution have challenged AK Press and PM Press both politically and commercially. The Bookfair management (which does not identify itself) would really rather that these anarchists weren’t there, but, it can’t think of any reason to refuse their being there. It can, however, quietly encourage terrorist actions to get rid of the real anarchists.

At the end of this Bookfair (close to 6:00 PM), a mob of Politically Correct vandals – according to the tablers (John, Lisa and Lawrence), a dozen goons – launched a surprise attack on the table shared by C.A.L. Press and Anarchy Magazine. The thugs, as they screamed threats, poured water all over the table, destroying many books and magazines – including copies of at least one of my books! there will be retaliation for this! And I will send them a bill! The people at the table, surprised and heavily outnumbered, cannot be blamed for not fighting back. But the bystanders can be blamed. But, they can be blamed – as I shall go on to do – for covering up for the thugs, and for not telling what they know about the background to this story, and for not publicly identifying those involved.

I strongly protest the complete cover-up of who did this, and why. Even I, from afar, with scant help from the victims, can relate more about this incident than its victims have made public – and even more than they have privately related. I strongly object to the failure of the victims’ “Open Letter to Bay Area Anarchists” to explain the back story to this attentat. It can’t be justified, but it can be explained.

Once upon a time, in some anarchist context which (once again) I don’t know about, Lawrence Jarach got into an argument with some black anarchist about the Anarchist Persons of Colors’ practice of collaboration with reactionary black churches. He reportedly said something like, “we should burn the black churches, and the white churches too.” I hardly need to say – or do I? – that Christian churches have historically been the allies of the state and the enemies of anarchists. That is why the great classical anarchists, such as Proudhon, Stirner, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tucker, Malatesta, Goldman, etc. have been, not only anti-clerical, but anti-religious too. That is why, in the early period of the Spanish Revolution, the anarchists burned hundreds of churches, and put the others to better uses. The APOCs’ know nothing of this, as they know nothing about anarchist history, and as they know nothing about anarchism, and as they are not anarchists. A pox on APOCs!

Something else they know nothing about is what they scream about there not being: racial equality. To advocate the burning of all churches, black and white, as Lawrence did, for them means that Lawrence is a “white supremacist.” Racial equality is racist. Only whites can be racist. All you have to do is, if you are white, ride public buses in the lower-income areas of American cities, as I have done thousands of times, to find out otherwise.

But all that the “Open Letter to Bay Area Anarchists” (signed by Lawrence, John [Henri Nolette], and Lisa [L.D. Hobson] – the members of the Anarchy Magazine editorial/production group) says about this is, basically that in ostensibly anarchist “spaces,” such intimidation, bullying, etc., should not be tolerated. Let’s be warm and fuzzy! Let’s be very California! Let’s make nice! But some people are not nice. These thugs are not nice. And, for the record, neither am I. I am very not nice to people who are not nice. And my not-niceness is not limited to verbal unpleasantries. Nor am I forgiving. Water on my books isn’t water under the bridge: not now, not ever. Certain faces will also be watered – with tears.

I’m not saying that – although I’ve sat at that table twice – I would have responded more violently. At my age (63), I probably shouldn’t have. But I think I would have got into it anyway. And if two or three other people had joined me, I’m sure that I would have, and we would have, kicked some ass. All bullies are cowards. If it that got messy, that would probably have been the end of this Bookfair, and that would be a good thing. But I appreciate that the people at the table, outnumbered and caught by surprise, understandably didn’t fight back. But why is the back story a privately circulated secret? Especially since it has been so much gossiped about?

However, the anarcho-racists’ antagonism to Lawrence, even aside from its being irrational and anti-anarchist, does have a back story. The victims have concealed this, except for saying that this was done to them by “people associated with” Qilombo. They do not publicly identify the individuals involved. But privately, one of them has identified, as the ringleader, somebody calling himself “Hannibal Shakur.” I am sure that this is not the name under which he collects his welfare checks. However, he was one of the speakers on the anarcho-racist panel at the end of the Bookfair. I had to find this out by Googling. It’s obvious that at the end of the racist panel, Hannibal and his entourage just went over and trashed the CAL Press/AJODA table, although, no CAL Press publication, and no issue of AJODA has ever said anything against black racist pseudo-anarchism – an oversight, perhaps. It’s not just a cause for complaint that the thugs “were not asked to leave the bookfair” – they were its invited guests. This was an inside job. Imagine what would have happened to me if I watered the tables of AK Press, PM Press and See Sharp Press!

The “Open Letter to Bay Area Anarchists” should be circulated more widely than to Bay Area anarchists (who are mostly feckless). It should go to every group which tabled at the Bookfair. But it needs revision. The hmuliating offer to “mediate,” which was anyway predictably ignored, should be deleted. There should be a call to boycott the Bookfair until it publicly repudiates the “Qilombo” mob (which can’t even spell correctly!), and bans their future presence and participation, and financially compensates CAL Press and AJODA for their losses. Why should they pay? Because they are liable, at least for negligence, more likely for recklessness (consciously ignoring what they should have expected to happen), or even for authorizing the attentat. They are guilty until proven innocent.

In the “Open Letter,” the victims say about the thugs that they are “not actually their enemies.” Why not? You may not be their enemies – although you should be – but they are your enemies. It’s okay to be the enemies of anybody, even Persons of Color, if they are Negro Nazis. And it’s stupid not to be. I am literally, physically nauseated by the way the victims are covering up for their oppressors. I want to know names, and addresses, and phone numbers. I want to know where they work, in the unlikely event that they do, and where they go to school. Their employers (or their professors) should be identified and informed. It might be useful to obtain, and circulate, their criminal records. And I want to know (as I have heard conflicting versions) the race of these racists because they played the race card. Why not send a demand to the “black churches” on whose behalf this all supposedly happened to repudiate the action? If they don’t, they indeed deserve to be burned. You could send the demand to the white churches too. That’s racial equality. Burn, baby, burn!

In the words of that eloquent Negro slave song (alluding to the Flood and to the Last Judgment): “No more water, the fire next time!” First water; then fire.

The back story on Qilombo itself should be told, not just hinted at in private E-mails. This was apparently originally a punk anarchist type infoshop which, once it got going, was taken over by black militants, as recently as January. Its website states: “In January of 2014, the Holdout temporarily closed its doors to do some serious cleaning.” Yes: ethnic cleansing, It is not as if what happened at the Bookfair came out of nowhere. It came out of this vipers’ nest, at 2313 San Pablo Avenue. Who’s the landlord? Are these desirable tenants? It sounds like a soft target, much easier to trash than a table at a bookfair with hundreds of people around, even though those people were sheep. Two or three people with a car could do the trick. The Black Bloc could deal with these black blockheads. Out of town activists could do the job (I can think of some people who might be interested – one guy in particular), to whom blame could be assigned (“outside agitators”). I offer to my Bay Area friends, plausible deniability. And nobody will be extradited for the crime of trashing a Negro anarchist pesthole, although the police will regret the loss of their agent provocateurs. (Isn’t this an obvious possibility?) I wonder if Qilombo is also a weapons arsenal and a crackhouse.

From hints and scraps, I suspect that what happened at the Bookfair goes back to what happened at Occupy Oakland. This was one of the largest, and clearly the most radical of the Occupy actions. I have no doubt that every effort was made to involve all activists and all communities in Oakland. The later interlopers had every opportunity to get in at the beginning and shape the development of the project. But they didn’t. They put in no effort. They took no risks. But when Occupy Oakland got going, and got a lot of publicity, then these lazy POC opportunists butted in with their irrelevant, absurd “Decolonize” demands – as if Occupy was colonizing anything. That takeover attempt failed. But the pattern of parasitism continues. Were the Qilombo louts the Decolonize Occupy louts? I’m going to assume that they were, unless I see evidence to the contrary. Heah come de judge – Judge Dredd!

And what solidarity have Bay Area anarchists provided, since the “Open Letter” was circulated? None, unless the victims are turning this into yet another secret. On Facebook, a prominent East Bay post-left anarchist chieftain has dismissed the outrage as “drama.” Instead of taking action, he plays Kriegspiel. Several years ago, I discussed, with this same notable, my having been run out of the Bay Area in 1985 by leftist thugs. He assured me that such a thing could never happen again (if I returned), because then I had no defenders, but now I had allies to defend my back. Ever since I was driven away, I wanted to return. I liked living there better than anywhere I’ve lived before or since. The first time I visited, publicly, I tabled, at the San Francisco Anarchist Bookfair, with CAL Press/Anarchy Magazine. Because there had been threats, it was made clear to the Bookfair managers that any violence offered to me would have serious consequences. I was even provided with a bodyguard! And so my enemies (white leftists of the Processed World stripe) didn’t attempt anything. They too are, like the Qilombo bullies, like all bullies, cowards.

I no longer want to live in the Bay Area. I was moving toward this decision already, but this Bookfair outrage was decisive. I’ve observed the astounding rise in rents and in the cost of living, which has already forced all of my friends out of San Francisco (where I lived for four years) to the East Bay (where I lived for three years). Now the East Bay is becoming economically impossible, except for those of my friends who are so fortunate as to own houses. I see no way I could live there without sacrificing too much of my small income to housing. I was thinking about doing that anyway. Not now. If I have some friends in the Bay Area, I still have enemies too. The friends are not as reliable as the enemies. If I am assailed, my friends will dismiss my difficulties as “drama.” Since they don’t even defend themselves, or each other, they won’t defend me. And I am less than ever able to defend myself all by myself.

This announcement will delight my enemies, and it will probably also come as a relief to most of my “friends.” I am equally indifferent to both reactions. The enemies, however, might want to consider that, if I’m not local, I can strike at them and they can’t strike back. As for the friends, my respect for them has greatly declined.

I expect that, as a result of circulating this statement as widely as possible, the result will be absolutely nothing.

Bob Black
Abobob51@verizon.net
April 28, 2014