Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism - Lucien Van Der Walt and Michael Schmidt

Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism - Lucien Van Der Walt and Michael Schmidt

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.

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Lucien Van Der Walt and Michael Schmidt Black Flame vol 19.54 MB

Comments

Joseph Kay
Jul 13 2017 11:33

Fwiw we're discussing a policy on what we take down at the moment. Thus far we've dealt with it in an ad hoc way but we're trying to formalise it, as there's people like Schmidt or Harman, but also issues like platforming abusers which come up too.

Rob Ray
Jul 13 2017 12:27
Quote:
Why that treatment rather than what was done with the Chris Harman book-- simply removing it because of the author's association with the SWP?

For me that relates to subject matter — libcom's not a Leninist site, so no need to carry Leninist texts. That said, personally I'm actually fairly relaxed about putting stuff up which offers insights, again as long as shortcomings are prominently noted.

As for not publishing arseholes generally, I mean does everyone demand takedowns of all Kropotkin texts because he was a pro-war agitator in WW1? Bakunin because he was an anti-semite? Berkman because he was a cradle-snatching creepy old bastard? Goldman because she spent half her time slagging off the working classes as morons and published numerous eugenicist tracts through Mother Earth? If not, why not?

Are people working on the assumption that libcom taking these things down will make any difference to whether people can access them? Why is it a better thing to have people go elsewhere to read such pieces with no context or notes (or worse, active misinformation)?

I'm not arguing that any old shit should go up, but seems to me people often leap on the easy fix of a takedown, when actually that's a really shit approach which doesn't encourage critical understanding at all and tbh, sometimes seemingly edges into a sort of paternalistic approach of old political hands deciding what the easily-led public should be reading.

And I wonder, would Schmidt be more unhappy that the book he's trying to sell has been taken offline, or that the most prominent place people can find it has a damn great warning on the top saying "watch out, this guy's a white supremacist"?

S. Artesian
Jul 13 2017 12:46
Quote:
As for not publishing arseholes generally, I mean does everyone demand takedowns of all Kropotkin texts because he was a pro-war agitator in WW1? Bakunin because he was an anti-semite? Berkman because he was a cradle-snatching creepy old bastard? Goldman because she spent half her time slagging off the working classes as morons and published numerous eugenicist tracts through Mother Earth? If not, why not?

Why not? The demand for Harman to be taken down was based on his association with and his leadership role in the SWP during the time sexual abuse was going on. So yeah, why not take down Bakunin for not just being an anti-semite, but for promoting anti-semitism? Why not take down Kropotkin for being pro-inter imperialist war in the 20th century?

Rob Ray
Jul 13 2017 12:51

Well based on that I suspect a very large chunk of the Libcom library will have to go — those were just off the top of my head. Also someone will need to go through the forums stripping out posts by dickheads. I look forward to the positive effect this mass information purge will have on future anarchist and working-class activity.

Which books am I allowed to recommend to people, in your view?

S. Artesian
Jul 13 2017 13:17
Rob Ray wrote:
Well based on that I suspect a very large chunk of the Libcom library will have to go — those were just off the top of my head. Also someone will need to go through the forums stripping out posts by dickheads. I look forward to the positive effect this mass information purge will have on future anarchist and working-class activity.

Which books am I allowed to recommend to people, in your view?

I'm just trying to figure out how Michael Schmidt's books, works by a fascist, race-war advocating white supremacist can be allowed to remain in the Libcom library, but the book by Chris Harman can trigger the demand for censorship based purely on his association with the SWP.

If anyone can explain that rationally, then swell; then we might be able to understand the rationale for keeping advocates of inter-imperialist war and anti-semitism in the pantheon.

That's one.

As for two, I'm not advocating anything regarding posts by dickheads. I'm questioning maintaining an archive of works by supposed libertarian communists that includes works by known fascists; works by non-communists; works by anti-semites; works by supporters of inter-imperialist wars.

If it's a matter of personal dislike-- as in "we like Michael Schmidt's anarchism, and think that outweighs his contribution as a racist; we don't like Chris Harman's Leninism and that outweighs his contribution as an anti-capitalist...." then just say that, and spare us the rest of the bullshit about what books I think are acceptable.

And three:

JK says Libcom is now trying to formalize its "policy." Amazing how no such need for formalization was required before removing Harman's book. Few posts of protest, and voila! the book disappears.

Now that's "libertarian communism" hard at work, isn't it?

Talk about dickheads.............

Rob Ray
Jul 13 2017 14:15

Well I ain't an admin, or their keeper, so I can't help with stuff to do with their decision-making.

On the specifics of Schmidt though, one problem (as with say, striking Mother Earth from the record) is that some of his writing is on topics no-one else has written much about (or sometimes at all). Black Flame isn't Mein Kampf, it's a book about anarchists which, before the other stuff came out, was widely lauded (and critically read) by other anarchists. Clearly it had useful aspects. The references alone are a goldmine. Do we ignore all that and start over from scratch because it was Schmidt who found them? Or do we accept those writings are tainted by strong biases, criticially re-read it in the light of that, and grab the useful bits?

Personally, one of my formative books was a Kropotkin. His writing on a huge range of subjects is provocative and thoughtful, and still informs some of my politics. His views on inter-imperialist warfare do not, because I'm capable of making up my own damn mind on what's useful and what isn't. I tend, overall, to think that other people are capable of doing so as well, when presented with all the facts.

What I might have found dickish, back in the day, is someone grabbing the book out of my hand on the grounds I shouldn't be able to read the reactionary bits. I also might not have become an anarchist in the first place.

William Everard
Jul 13 2017 15:56

I'm pretty sure I'm being called a dickhead by someone in this thread, so I'll try to keep my comments polite.

This is not like the other circumstances for three reasons (at least) not being addressed:

1. We all know that Black Flame is considered one of the most prominent, recently-published histories of the anarchist intellectual tradition. For better or worse, through platformist eyes, with notably clumsy or bad inclusions. Libcom admins and community were happy to be in the company of Lucien and Michael, have them be contributors, be interviewed, etc. even after a scuffle over publishing the full book as PDF here. But, that publishing became something of a badge of honor for Libcom, and made it the most accessible place to find the popular text. The reticence to remove Black Flame is coloured by these facts, which should not be glossed over like this is an obscure text, or a Kropotkin book in circulation for a century.

2. Schmidt's status as an anarchist is hinging largely on this book and he is still able to operate publicly as an anarchist, like Keith Preston but with more "street cred", in one of the most racially-divided countries on Earth, where he is still doing damage. Hosting BF is doing positive PR for him, and I'm not convinced a note about his white supremacy would be strong enough or powerful enough; not to mention the problems with this PDF being the top hit on Google without any need to read such a warning, tendency for people not to read intro text before clicking, direct linking, etc.

I for one don't think it's okay for him to be running combat/firearms trainings in SA for left-leaning orgs, preaching tolerance and racial unity at conferences, hamming it up backstage with black artists who don't know his background, and running international conferences for at-risk journalists (many of whom are people of colour). Without a concerted campaign to just bring the truth to light (something orgs like Anarkismo seem committed to keep buried/obscured), Schmidt would be even more prominent right now... there are plenty of people and orgs quite shocked and embarrassed to be associated with him, who only met him *after* Karelianblue-Strandwolf came to light. They only find out because some antifa reaches out directly, a sort of "Schmidt Watch".

Now, this person is writing a *second volume* which was announced by the first volume and eagerly awaited for almost a decade (Global Fire/Wildfire/Counter-Power volume 2). It is planned to be a massive 1000 page tome, and excerpts are appearing on Schmidt's blog, explicitly "anarchist" and "definitive" etc. The Anarkismo "commission proposal" has some weasel words in it that hint at "rehabilitating" Schmidt, in some warped version of transformative justice, seemingly in an effort to legitimize this new sequel and rescue the first volume. Are we going to allow Schmidt to carry a banner for us? Or at least one that represents us to the wider world?

Removing Black Flame and all his interviews etc, with a clear post why it's happening (as other orgs have done) would at least make Libcom less of a patsy for Schmidt and, dare I use this pun, cease to become his platform. Interested parties can read such a statement by Libcom and look elsewhere, period... we're not stunting anyone's intellectual growth by refusing to promote a *living and black-flag-waving* fascist-racist.

3. Less important but still notable: Lucien van der Walt hid in these very Libcom forums as user RedBlackWritings, self-promoting the book and addressing critics. When Schmidt's white nationalism came to light for the public, Lucien started logging in again and defending Schmidt with some comments that should not be forgotten. He was only identified by the same "dickheads" the admins deride in posts above. FFS, this thread has two comments from RedBlackWritings on it. That has to be the violation of *some* kind of conduct but, even if forgivable and not enough to remove BF and the interviews etc., the context is important: Lucien pissed on an international community that was largely giving him the benefit-of-the-doubt, asking politely for him to give some sort of response (even if it weren't a detailed statement). But, hey, let's hop on Libcom and defend a fascist instead.

Can we at least address these points before descending into a philosophical discussion about which century-dead anarchist is okay to publish because of known transgressions?

Spikymike
Jul 13 2017 15:58

Note to S.A. For the record I was in the end persuaded that the Harman book should stay together with the subsequent discussion criticising the author's links to the SWP and preferably with a note to that effect added. However I have always been critical of people posting books and other authors substantial articles without giving an explanation of the reasons for doing so and preferably a short critique of the content. That doesn't mean I expect the admins to spend time trawling through the whole library for corrections and removals.

William Everard
Jul 13 2017 16:05
Rob Ray wrote:
What I might have found dickish, back in the day, is someone grabbing the book out of my hand on the grounds I shouldn't be able to read the reactionary bits. I also might not have become an anarchist in the first place.

No one is claiming this should be done, and equating this to pulling Black Flame off of Libcom in digital form is a false analogy, begging for a visceral response.

The book is all over the place on the web, in libraries, etc. and Libcom doesn't have to be its keeper.

Oh, and before I forget it, it's being distributed as part of the Libcom library *completely with no context* in bittorrent form. No "warning, be critical" intro text will be able to provide context there, unless the file is modified which, as I already noted, it can't for legal reasons.

Actually, I'm not sure permission from the authors is enough for Libcom to keep providing AK's typeset/graphical version, legally, after AK has pulled it, but that would be an issue for AK to press. There's an interesting hypothetical: if AK asked for it to be pulled and Lucien and Michael blessed a manuscript of the book to be hosted by Libcom rather than the AK version, should it be accepted? Because otherwise you'd be "ripping it from the hands of nascent anarchists"?

Remember, Keith Preston is still an "anarchist", "whether anyone likes it or not" in his words. He's quoted and linked to Schmidt both in his real persona and as Francoise.

S. Artesian
Jul 13 2017 16:34

I'm with comrade Everard on this-- don't hold it against him.

zugzwang
Jul 13 2017 17:31
S. Artesian wrote:
If anyone can explain that rationally, then swell; then we might be able to understand the rationale for keeping advocates of inter-imperialist war and anti-semitism in the pantheon.

Kropotkin was hardly the only anarchist to support the first world war, though it did cause some divisions, and most anarchists were in favor of internationalism instead.

Quote:
Kropotkin's espousal of the Allied cause won the approval of some of the most eminent anarchists in Europe; in 1917, Varlaam Cherkezov, Jean Grave, Charles Malato, Christian Cornelissen, James Guillaume, and ten others joined him in signing the "manifesto of the Sixteen," which set forth their "defensist" position.

It would make no sense to remove all works by Kropotkin or Bakunin on an anarchist site just because they might have made some controversial statements (which play no part in their larger political contributions or have anything to do with people citing them today). Meanwhile it makes perfect sense to remove Leninist works or to at least throw a disclaimer on those works when they are being hosted on an anarchist site.

Rob Ray
Jul 13 2017 17:39
Quote:
The reticence to remove Black Flame is coloured by these facts, which should not be glossed over like this is an obscure text, or a Kropotkin book in circulation for a century.

I'm not trying to gloss over anything (or personally insult you, btw, and again, I'm not an admin). In fact whether it's a "badge of honour" for libcom or not (I'd tend to think the opposite at this point, it's not like Schmidt's got cachet in the movement these days) is itself something of a red herring imv. As is talking about his new one, which isn't out, isn't on libcom and is unlikely to be put up here any time soon.

On addressing points, I don't think just saying you're "not convinced" really deals with mine.

- How would the absence of Black Flame on libcom "send a strong message" when by its very nature removal would simply mean searchers don't see libcom's view on the matter any more?
- Why is it a better thing to have people go elsewhere to read it with no context or notes (or worse, active misinformation)?
- Why would Schmidt be more unhappy that a book he's trying to sell has been taken offline, as opposed to that the most prominent place people can find it has a damn great warning on the top saying "watch out, this guy's a white supremacist"?

One thing which I think is fair that you've noted is that the direct link to the PDF has no similar note — that could stand to be fixed. Otherwise, I don't see the advantage in removing it, just seems like a rhetorical gesture no-one will give much of a shit about outside of libcom's own regulars (who mostly already know about and find Schmidt's vies on race abhorrent), but which will potentially have a downside in driving people to find it in other less critical places.

Khawaga
Jul 13 2017 17:44

I say leave it up and the admins ask William Everard to write a disclaimer.

William Everard
Jul 13 2017 18:05
Khawaga wrote:
I say leave it up and the admins ask William Everard to write a disclaimer.

+1 but not gonna happen. I don't think a statement will ever happen; agreement is a rare thing in these forums and even minor points are distorted and dissected until they're meaningless.

William Everard
Jul 13 2017 18:40

Here's what I said, in context.

re: "badge of honor" -

Quote:
But, that publishing became something of a badge of honor for Libcom, and made it the most accessible place to find the popular text. The reticence to remove Black Flame is coloured by these facts, which should not be glossed over like this is an obscure text, or a Kropotkin book in circulation for a century.

*became* a badge of honor. There is friction here about removing it because hosting Black Flame was a big deal (I bet it shows in the web stats for example). Beyond that, many people view "the discrediting of Black Flame" as a tragedy for anarchists, and others still have rose-coloured glasses on.

re: "not convinced" -

Quote:
Hosting BF is doing positive PR for him, and I'm not convinced a note about his white supremacy would be strong enough or powerful enough; not to mention the problems with this PDF being the top hit on Google without any need to read such a warning, tendency for people not to read intro text before clicking, direct linking, etc.

Right, it's not strong enough or powerful enough to add a couple paragraphs of "disclaimer", for the reasons stated above. You disagree... my experiences with this whole affair in the past couple years doesn't lead me to believe a disclaimer will work when there is so much cognitive dissonance in our "community" as well as active campaigning by Anarkismo et al to help Schmidt (check out the massive censorship on Anarkismo.net in the past few days in regard to "the commission", which I talk about in the "Anarkismo Down" thread here https://libcom.org/forums/news/anarkismo-down-13072017 ).

Rob Ray wrote:
- How would the absence of Black Flame on libcom "send a strong message" when by its very nature removal would simply mean searchers don't see libcom's view on the matter any more?

I suggested a clear, concise, strong statement that would replace this book. It could have the same URL, the same keywords, but different content and no PDF (archive this page of course and refer to it in the statement, but again no PDF). That would cover the people who actually will sit and read such a statement, which is not a huge number, if my experience means anything.

Is it the duty of Libcom to offer a caveat *along with the book* for some reason? And then there are still the articles/interviews up here.

Rob Ray wrote:
- Why is it a better thing to have people go elsewhere to read it with no context or notes (or worse, active misinformation)?

Again, is it the duty of Libcom to offer a caveat along with the book for some reason? That's a very slippery slope.

Rob Ray wrote:
- Why would Schmidt be more unhappy that a book he's trying to sell has been taken offline, as opposed to that the most prominent place people can find it has a damn great warning on the top saying "watch out, this guy's a white supremacist"?

People clearly aren't reading such caveats all over the web when doing business with him, and I'd argue presence of the book on Libcom at all might give him enough cred in a search engine summary. But the most important point here, which you also agree on, is that people grab the PDF via direct linking and bittorrent etc. As I said earlier, I don't think many will read a disclaimer even if they get to such a page; they'll scroll down and click on the PDF link, then move on. It's what we as web users are trained to do, and what pages like this one are designed to do (because we almost always aren't worried about such "author disclaimers").

The PDF itself can't be modified, legally, with any introductory additions even. I would wager that it's currently being hosted without AK Press's consent, but I don't know the dealings... I bet they'd ask for it down now if asked.

I don't really like the idea of Schmidt being able to point people to a URL on libcom and do hand-waving, saying "oh that's just a faceless campaign to call me fascist because I went undercover", either. So far, it's been very successful as a strategy (even getting him 4-out-of-5-star reviews for another book in SA's most-read newspaper, *after* the reviewer was contacted about Strandwolf).

S. Artesian
Jul 13 2017 21:09

zug--

Kropotkin isn't the main issue here, and we can argue about that later, but.....

1. this is not an anarchist site; the "learn more" field says this an libertarian-communist site, and regards anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndicalism as influences, as it does Marxism.

2. Lenin's not the man issue here, either, although Libcom cites approvingly the influence of CLR James, an avowed Leninist, on its collective view of class struggle. I have a different problem with CLR James, namely that he, for a short time, was a member of a bourgeois nationalist government; that he advocated Pan-Africanism as a way forward for revolutionary struggle.

Schmidt is the issue here-- a man advocating white nationalism and racial superiority and "sympathy" for the Boer, and advocating the three both explicitly as a fascist, and implicitly as a radical anarchist.

If that's considered a legitimate influence on this site, then I would suggest the admins make it possible for participants on the site to close their accounts; and rather than put a disclaimer up about the book, we could explain why we are "resigning" from Libcom.

Believe me, if the admins would make such a feature available, and keep Schmidt's material, and that of his defenders, I'd be gone in less than 2 heartbeats.

jef costello
Jul 13 2017 21:23
William Everard wrote:
Khawaga wrote:
I say leave it up and the admins ask William Everard to write a disclaimer.

+1 but not gonna happen. I don't think a statement will ever happen; agreement is a rare thing in these forums and even minor points are distorted and dissected until they're meaningless.

There already is a disclaimer, so a new improved one would probably be accepted. Post it in the thread and it will get read by admin in the end.

Also keeping the page but removing the PDF defeats the purpose as the pdf is what brings the links in.

zugzwang
Jul 13 2017 23:00
S. Artesian wrote:
zug--

Kropotkin isn't the main issue here, and we can argue about that later, but.....

1. this is not an anarchist site; the "learn more" field says this an libertarian-communist site, and regards anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndicalism as influences, as it does Marxism.

Yes I know this is not technically an anarchist site (as I've stated before). But as you know the anarchists were first to adopt the "libertarian" label politically, which is seen by many as just another way of saying anarchist (North America is a different story where the word has been taken over by "free-market" Right-wingers). It's basically an anarchist site, especially if we're not being pedantic with words and allow the use of both terms to those in the Marxist tradition.

I don't know who C.L.R James is but as long as his works don't explicitly advocate the tactics of Lenin and the Bolsheviks then I don't see what the problem is (I'm still waiting to be refuted in the other thread by the way); it depends on what those works are. Others have already pointed out that the Harman book was bad in every respect, whereas this book has merit content-wise but a controversial and possibly fascist author instead. I think the disclaimer should suffice.

S. Artesian
Jul 13 2017 23:30
Quote:
don't know who C.L.R James is but as long as his works don't explicitly advocate the tactics of Lenin and the Bolsheviks then I don't see what the problem is (I'm still waiting to be refuted in the other thread by the way); it depends on what those works are. Others have already pointed out that the Harman book was bad in every respect, whereas this book has merit content-wise but a controversial and possibly fascist author instead. I think the disclaimer should suffice.

Priceless. No further comment necessary.

zugzwang
Jul 14 2017 00:00
S. Artesian wrote:
Quote:
don't know who C.L.R James is but as long as his works don't explicitly advocate the tactics of Lenin and the Bolsheviks then I don't see what the problem is (I'm still waiting to be refuted in the other thread by the way); it depends on what those works are. Others have already pointed out that the Harman book was bad in every respect, whereas this book has merit content-wise but a controversial and possibly fascist author instead. I think the disclaimer should suffice.

Priceless. No further comment necessary.

Which part exactly? Regarding Lenin and the Bolsheviks, I just wanted to know how you respond to anarchists/historians like Berkman and Avrich. You can direct your condescension to Rob Ray who just said this:

Quote:
Black Flame isn't Mein Kampf, it's a book about anarchists which, before the other stuff came out, was widely lauded (and critically read) by other anarchists. Clearly it had useful aspects. The references alone are a goldmine. Do we ignore all that and start over from scratch because it was Schmidt who found them? Or do we accept those writings are tainted by strong biases, criticially re-read it in the light of that, and grab the useful bits?

if you think this is just a poorly researched, badly written book.

S. Artesian
Jul 14 2017 01:34

Condescension? You admit to not knowing who CLR James is. Or knowing what the content of his works are-- but it's ok as long his works don't explicitly advocate the tactics of Lenin. You'll have to read his works-- which I greatly encourage you to do; and read them critically-- because James claims he's a Leninist, but was willing to become an official in Eric E. Williams Popular Nationalist govt. in Trinidad-Tobago; which didn't stop Williams from jailing him when James advocated a little too much Leninism.

The point being, you have to actually know what you are talking about before declaiming on what's OK and what's not OK.

The objection to Harman's book was made solely on Harman's relation to the SWP. Others chimed in later about the book not being very good; the book being too Leninist etc. etc. Now the admins may claim they took it down because of the book's "poor research" or "bad politics" but that's just bullshit. It was taken down because of the objection that its presence was unconscionable given the author's connection to the "rape culture" tolerated in the SWP. There wasn't a shred of evidence offered that Harman participated, covered-up, acted one way or the other regarding that culture. Somebody said that he "heard" that Harman was known to come on to women.

Now Schmidt is an outright fascist, white nationalist, who when initially exposed, denied it, lied, and sought support and testaments from his co-author and comrades among anarchists and anarchists organizations. I think that some of those organizations are still trying to protect him-- see Everard's posts on the anarkismo site.

That's not a horrible enough "association" to warrant removal of a book that has been used to burnish this person's reputation?

I think maintaining the presence of the book amounts to protecting Schmidt from the complete shunning, isolation, and opposition that is required under such circumstances.

I sincerely hope that if the admins keep that work available on this site, they provide an opt-out feature, allowing participants to close their accounts and remove themselves for Libcom. In the immortals words of Hudson in Aliens: "How do I get out of this chicken-shit outfit?"

zugzwang
Jul 14 2017 02:49
S. Artesian wrote:
Condescension? You admit to not knowing who CLR James is. Or knowing what the content of his works are-- but it's ok as long his works don't explicitly advocate the tactics of Lenin. You'll have to read his works-- which I greatly encourage you to do; and read them critically-- because James claims he's a Leninist, but was willing to become an official in Eric E. Williams Popular Nationalist govt. in Trinidad-Tobago; which didn't stop Williams from jailing him when James advocated a little too much Leninism.

Then say that than the condescending "priceless." Is there something wrong with that condition? This is not a website for Leninists as others have again pointed out. I said it depends on what that work is -- never said any action should be taken against C.R.L James (and I'm sure the admins are plenty annoyed already with people going around wanting works removed; just waiting for someone to ask for Conquest of Bread to be removed which will be the climax of all this).

Quote:
The point being, you have to actually know what you are talking about before declaiming on what's OK and what's not OK.

True, but I'm not invested in this work or the so-called "People's History of the World" (is that in honor of Howard Zinn or something? edit -- oh, Zinn actually praised the book); I'm just giving others the benefit of the doubt and stating that if so and so is the case then these responses would seem reasonable. If the contents of those works don't fall in line with Libcom's aims, then removal or disclaimers seem reasonable. I could pose that back to you and ask whether you've read either of these works.

Quote:
Now Schmidt is an outright fascist, white nationalist, who when initially exposed, denied it, lied, and sought support and testaments from his co-author and comrades among anarchists and anarchists organizations. I think that some of those organizations are still trying to protect him-- see Everard's posts on the anarkismo site.

That's not a horrible enough "association" to warrant removal of a book that has been used to burnish this person's reputation?

I think maintaining the presence of the book amounts to protecting Schmidt from the complete shunning, isolation, and opposition that is required under such circumstances.

I think there's something to what others have been saying about putting a disclaimer on instead of removing anything (which maybe could have been done with the Harman book as well), which this already has but might need to be updated. That way people know why a work is controversial and won't be deceived in any way or ask if they can upload it to the site, and as stated before others don't seem to think this is a completely rubbish book.

Fleur
Jul 14 2017 03:01

*fwiw, I'm not willing to get drawn into a protracted argument about this*

I'm assuming that when people upload books to the library they have already read the book and therefore know it's contents and anything which may be problematic about it and can write a short, accompanying paragraph to go with it and anything they were not aware of can be edited in later. I appreciate that this is already standard practice but perhaps this could be made more explicit in the posting guidelines, something along the lines of a content note.

I am also assuming that we are all adults, or near as damn it, and are capable of drawing our own conclusions from what we are reading. I doubt if there are many libcom users who do not read books and articles written from different political perspectives, especially given that would mean only a small pool of material to draw from. I'm currently reading a history of Appalachian coal mining and it's perspective is annoying the crap out of me but it's still a worthwhile read because I am capable of drawing my own conclusions from it. I think we are capable of taking what is good and disregarding what is bad.

This site has a vast collection of material and it's probably a little unreasonable to expect a small group of people to be fully aware of the contents of everything. IMO, it's up to the users of this site to manage it's contents and anything here should be up for discussion.

As for Schmidt, I would rather that people were talking about him, letting people know about his white suprematism, then trying to expunge him from the internet, which is impossible anyway. He's still out there, people he comes into contact with should be aware of this, rather than trying to disappear him.

S. Artesian
Jul 14 2017 04:11

Zug, it's hare not to be condescending when you (repeatedly) write things like:

Quote:
True, but I'm not invested in this work or the so-called "People's History of the World" (is that in honor of Howard Zinn or something? edit -- oh, Zinn actually praised the book);

The things you are not "invested in" "interested in" or know about would fill volumes. And you claim that as qualification for giving opinions on what should be on the site and what shouldn't be.

Fleur wrote:
I am also assuming that we are all adults, or near as damn it, and are capable of drawing our own conclusions from what we are reading. I doubt if there are many libcom users who do not read books and articles written from different political perspectives, especially given that would mean only a small pool of material to draw from. I'm currently reading a history of Appalachian coal mining and it's perspective is annoying the crap out of me but it's still a worthwhile read because I am capable of drawing my own conclusions from it. I think we are capable of taking what is good and disregarding what is bad.

OK that's fine.

But what was it that compelled the admins to take down Harman's book?

And if Harman's presence was intolerable, why would the admins tolerate Schmidt's book?

Serge Forward
Jul 14 2017 07:03

Couple of questions from someone who hasn't read this to those who have...

Is this a fascist, white supremacist, racist or nationalist book? If yes, then such shite should immediately get binned off. If no, then leave it up with a heavy disclaimer and, of course, all the above comments.

Does it contain ideas, research, anything of value that is not covered in other writings? If yes, keep it with a disclaimer. If no, shred it.

zugzwang
Jul 14 2017 18:53
S. Artesian wrote:
Zug, it's hare not to be condescending when you (repeatedly) write things like
...
The things you are not "invested in" "interested in" or know about would fill volumes. And you claim that as qualification for giving opinions on what should be on the site and what shouldn't be.

"Things like this" It's actually very easy, you're doing it again by the way, putting condescension in place of substance. Yes, my condition that if a work is a straight up Leninist work it should not belong on the site is something I stand by. I don't see what your point is.

Rob Ray
Jul 14 2017 11:53
Quote:
check out the massive censorship on Anarkismo.net in the past few days

But again, if Anarkismo are campaigning for him surely the best way to counter any efforts to revitalise his reputation is to control the most popular pages linked to his work and make sure they explain about his background, rather than end up buried on page 10 of a Google search with some strong "libcom statement" that no-one will care about beyond the first week or so while Anarkismo holds the key pages?

Quote:
People clearly aren't reading such caveats all over the web when doing business with him

And they certainly won't be if their go-to places to find out about him are run by his supporters (NB// I say "if" because from experience, what things look like from outside a process can be very different to what's going on inside it).

Quote:
Again, is it the duty of Libcom to offer a caveat along with the book for some reason?

You're missing where I'm coming from here. I think Schmidt has no place in the movement, but Black Flame has some useful aspects for anarchists. My suggested technique for making sure that the useful information isn't lost while also making sure Schmidt's background is very clear is to host the book with prominent disclaimer. It's not about duty, it's about strategy and making the best of a bad job.

Quote:
The point being, you have to actually know what you are talking about before declaiming on what's OK and what's not OK.

Yes. And yet here you have been simultaneously bollocking someone for not being well-read enough while demanding that libcom make it harder to become well read by taking down everything and anything with problematic aspects, rather than offering the extra knowledge needed to contextualise it. Do you not see the difficulties there?

Quote:
Is this a fascist, white supremacist, racist or nationalist book?

No, with caveats - it has national liberationist leanings which were highlighted early as odd for an anarchist-communist book and which with hindsight could well have been informed by Schmidt's "other" life. And as a specific example it has some excellent pointers on the spread of syndicalism across black communities in South Africa but also only really names white organisers.

Quote:
Does it contain ideas, research, anything of value that is not covered in other writings?

On balance, yes. Syndicalist writing tends to focus on Europe and the US, but they do make an effort to cast the net wider. Much of it involves pulling together disparate strands of research into one narrative, which makes it a useful one-stop shop for early researching.

S. Artesian
Jul 14 2017 14:31
Serge Forward wrote:
Couple of questions from someone who hasn't read this to those who have...

Is this a fascist, white supremacist, racist or nationalist book? If yes, then such shite should immediately get binned off. If no, then leave it up with a heavy disclaimer and, of course, all the above comments.

Does it contain ideas, research, anything of value that is not covered in other writings? If yes, keep it with a disclaimer. If no, shred it.

Serge,

As straightforward as your questions are, I think they miss several key points, if not the key point. Namely that Schmidt's connection with Black Flame was used to protect him, shield him, defend him from his exposure as a fascist.

And.... the book is still being used for that purpose; as "evidence" that there must be some validity of Schmidt's "mental breakdown" defense.

The book's "unique" content is irrelevant to its use as a political tool, an ideological weapon, in the attempts to "recuperate" Schmidt, retrieve his credibility, and allow him to continue his practice of his own particular pathology within the libertarian anarcho-communist milieu.

Now I don't think that it serves Libcom and its participants to be party to that; to that "weaponization" of anarchist credentials as a cover for fascist action. I sure know I don't want to be associated with any platform that engages in that.... so maybe it's a win-win. Libcom can keep Schmidt and get rid of me at the same time.

William Everard
Jul 14 2017 13:06
S. Artesian wrote:
As straightforward as your questions are, I think they miss several key points, if not the key point. Namely that Schmidt's connection with Black Flame was used to protect him, shield him, defend him from his exposure as a fascist.

And.... the book is still being used for that purpose; as "evidence" that there must be some validity of Schmidt's "mental breakdown" defense.

The book's "unique" content is irrelevant to its use as a political tool, an ideological weapon, in the attempts to "recuperate" Schmidt, retrieve his credibility, and allow him to continue his practice of his own particular pathology within the libertarian anarcho-communist milieu.

Now I don't this that it serves Libcom and its participants to be party to that; to that "weaponization" of anarchist credentials as a cover for fascist action. I sure know I don't want to be associated with any platform that engages in that.... so maybe it's a win-win. Libcom can keep Schmidt and get rid of me at the same time.

THIS. +1

Though, the June 22 announcement etc. is pulled from Anarkismo.net and the commission may have been called off. Anyone know if that is actually the case?

William Everard
Jul 14 2017 13:13

Also, before the issue is dropped... shouldn't libcom pull Schmidt's other interviews etc. here and block his old accounts? Have to go and dig up the usernames, but they weren't clandestine.

If Libcom keeps the interviews, they need a very strong disclaimer that is impossible to ignore before reading the content... that may require contacting the submitter first I assume.