There’s a specter haunting Libcom, and it’s the specter of Leninism. Knickers all a-twist and in a red-scare panic last seen back when J Edgar Hoover was warning patriotic US citizens to check under their beds for big C communists, Libcom has hosted no less than three separate threads in three weeks about the dangers of creeping, crawling, walking, running, leaping, flying………….Leninism.
No exorcism of Lenin, of course, can be complete without casting Lenin as a German agent, bought and paid for with German gold. So we get “Was Lenin a German Agent?”
Apparently, it’s not quite enough for the anarcho-communists, anarcho-syndicalists, anarcho-libertarians, anarcho-autonomists who populate Libcom to criticize Lenin as a vanguard party loving, elitist, anti-democratic, uber-centralist, state-capitalist dictator megalomaniac Communist. To be all of those things, Lenin must surely have been the spawn of the devil, and nothing spells d-e-v-i-l like German g-o-l-d.
Stalin accused Trotsky, Tukachevsky, and all the old Leninists of being the agents of Germany. Nothing says anarcho-communism better than restaging the play with anti-Leninists as Stalin and Lenin as……Trotsky. Tell me again how history doesn’t have a sick sense of humor.
What Babo was to the slave-ship captain Benito Cereno, Lenin is to the anarchists of Libcom– the dark, sinister, constant, inescapable presence, with a razor at the throat of all that is democratic, libertarian, cooperative. Lenin dead 93 years. The Soviet Union dead 26 years. Still, it’s the ghost of Lenin that prowls the slave ship of capitalism, haunting our anarcho-communists. The modern story of Cereno and Babo might now ask …”what has cast a shadow on you?” and the answer forthcoming in a single word: “Lenin.”
Of course, no anarcho-anything in any of the three threads bothers to define what Leninism is, or what a Leninist is. While some anarchist-somethings regard Rojava as a great experiment in anarchism, anarcho-others regard those who support and endorse Rojava as engaging in creeping Leninism.
This might make it a bit difficult to figure out where the Leninism is creeping in from, but confusion, uncertainty, lack of definition are always elements of panic. After all, conspiracy is as universal, silent, and invisible as simply breathing together.
Functionally, or rather dysfunction-ally, it is evident that all who support in concept, and in practice– as practiced in particular in Russian beginning in October 1917– the dictatorship of the proletariat, as the seizure of state power, which in Marx’s analysis and in the revolutionary practice of 1917 is not simply taking over the old machinery of the state, but the supplanting of that machinery and its destruction by organs of a new class power– a revolutionary army; a revolutionary state– are Leninists.
With this pedigree, the bloodline is secured– Lenin is the real heir to Marx, and we know who Lenin’s real heir was.
In this, the anarcho-anythings of Libcom give evidence that for them, like for some Leninists, for all Stalinists, for all Maoists, history, that is to say class struggle, is nothing but property, a petty estate to be handed down, and I do mean down, from father to son. It’s all about lineage, patriarchy for our anarchists. Marx begat Lenin who begat Stalin who begat Mao who begat…..Bob Avakian probably.
Those of us with a bit of a firmer grasp on Marx’s critique, as well as the mechanics of begetting would point out– “Hey, where are the women? You left out the women.”– meaning of course lineage and linearity are ideologies, values designed to obscure the real relations, conflicts, antagonisms, that bring revolutions into being; that made, for example, the Russian Revolution a proletarian revolution; that made the overthrow of Kerensky’s Provisional Government by the Military Revolutionary Committee of the soviet a necessity before that Provisional Government moved the revolutionary garrisons out of Petrograd, replacing them with legions loyal to fathers big and little; that made it a necessity that the proletarian revolution organize itself as a Red Army to conduct a civil war; and that made it a necessity that absent the expansion and triumph of the proletarian revolution internationally, the Russian Revolution would turn back on itself, would become an analogue to capitalism and the capitalist revolution– of different origin, but serving the same function. Uneven and combined development is a tough mistress. It’s not that she demands “Do or Die.” It’s more like “Do or Decompose.” Over time, like Dorian Gray.
The immediate context for the conspiracy of Leninists on Libcom was the brief addition in electronic format of Chris Harman’s A People’s History of the World to the Libcom archive of texts. Although the book was posted to the archive in 2014, it took some 3 years for the ever alert anarcho-communists of Libcom to tumble to the fact that the book was available for use without the presence of a parent or adult guardian. The shock of recognition, of course, proves only how stealthy, and sneakily the creeping Leninists are; and how far they had crept in.
What’s three years in the measure of history? The blink of an eye? Twice the gestation period of an elephant? Maybe, but that’s female, and we’ve already established that for the lineage-fetishists of Libcom, women don’t count.
Anyway better late than never, the righteous and battle-scarred warriors of anarcho-communism demanded the Chris Harman text be removed from Libcom’s electronic archive because Chris Harman had been a member, a prominent member of the UK’s Socialist Workers Party.
In 2013, the SWP was pretty much consumed by the fire resulting from charges that the leadership had covered-up accusations of rape and sexual abuse made by a female member against a “senior” male SWP member. The SWP “thought” it could handle such charges as a matter for internal investigation and internal resolution rather than immediately removing the accused from all positions in the organization and advising both parties to seek legal counsel as the matter was one of felonious assault. Stupid is as stupid does.
That Harman was a member of the SWP was considered sufficient ground for removing the book, despite the fact that Harman had died in 2009 one year prior to the raising of the first complaint of sexual abuse against the senior male SWP member, known as comrade Delta.
Picky, picky, picky.
The Libcom collective was not quite so detail oriented, so after a brief but intense exchange of posts, it decided to remove the book and the entire thread containing the arguments offered by numerous parties for and against the removal.
Now I would never call such a removal, obliteration, editing of history “Leninism.” It isn’t. But I would call it Stalinism, and with a capital S.
While association with a Leninist party which, after your death, covers-up abuse is grounds for censorship, deletion; the digital equivalent of expulsion and exile– “get your Leninist 1s and 0s outta here”– having a current association with fascism, white supremacy, race-war mongering is not sufficient reason for the Libcom anarchists to remove an author’s work from the anarchist ebibliotheque.
Michael Schmidt of South Africa, well known in anarcho-communist circles as co-author of Black Flame, was recently exposed as maintaining a “separate identity” participating in right wing, nationalist, racist, fascist activities on the internet. You can read the whole dreary tale of his outing, the rush to his defense, the discounting of those who exposed him, and the attempts to restore him to his anarchist “bona fides” in yet another thread, here
Debate about keeping the work of a fascist, race-war mongering, self-described mentally-ill “anarchist” followed on this thread.
Rather than remove the work of this titan of anti-Leninist anarcho-communism, the Libcom collective decided to attach a parental advisory of the type recommended by Tipper Gore and her Parent’s Resource Music Center– you know, “Explicit content. Lyrics may not be suitable for all audiences.”
NOTE: In 2015 it came to light that one of the authors of this work, Michael Schmidt, has advocated merging anarchist and white supremacist ideas both privately under his own name and publicly under pseudonyms. We are not aware of such themes in this work but readers should be advised.
Note: that as discussed in the comments under this post, Michael Schmidt has recently been criticised for defending ‘national anarchism’ (which similar to ‘national bolshevism’ attempts to reconcile anarchism with racist and xenophobic politics in order to reconcile with working class fascists). libcom.org is absolutely opposed to ‘national anarchism’ or any attempt to defend it. This book does not discuss ‘national anarchism’ but as also noted in the comments, the sections on race and gender and the particular ways it treats (for example) Connolly positively and Marxists negatively should be read critically with this in mind.
Not a word mentioned how Schmidt tried to cover up his role; how those who finally broke through the cover-up were smeared; how those associated with Schmidt had known about his “national Bolshevism” for years and covered it up; how Schmidt’s colleagues are still attempting to establish a “commission of inquiry” rather than break all ties and shun any association with Schmidt.
One member of the Libcom collective actually had the arrogance and ignorance to argue:
You know we host loads of text by Marx, right and that he was a racist? See also: Bakunin and Proudhon, who were anti-Semites. Not to mention a bunch of stuff written by people in the early 20th century whose politics changed and they became fascists later on.
Actually, I don’t know that Marx was a racist. Marx never targeted a particular race as the source for social ills; Marx never proposed a racial solution to issues of poverty, exploitation, oppression.
I do know that Bakunin and Proudhon were explicitly anti-semites…. and so why are their works maintained in the Libcom archive?
Bakunin was explicitly anti-semitic in his writings on the ills of capitalist society. Proudhon explicitly misogynistic in his writings on the ills of capitalist society. Kropotkin explicitly endorsed one side over the other when the capitalists decided to burn the workers in the oven of imperialist war.
Clearly, for the anarcho-communists around Libcom, Bolshevism warrants immediate defenestration but National Bolshevism is entitled to a parental advisory and possibly a commission of inquiry.
It’s all enough to gag a maggot, except to the Libcom crew. To them, it’s a regular chef’s tasting menu.
July 25, 2017