Response to TPTG

A response to an open letter by Greek group TPTG.

TPTG have chosen to publically identify the real name of an Aufheben contributor, a method we have previously only encountered from the right-wing press. They have done this despite an email circulated in August clarifying the numerous factual errors and false claims they make. They make extremely serious charges of ‘collaborating with the state and repression’ and ‘pacifying class struggle’, despite knowledge that this is just a smear, and added to this with unfounded speculations of their own. We regard it as ridiculous that at a time of unprecedented class offensive by capital, some of Europe's ultra-left have chosen to focus on ten-year-old gossip about Aufheben, and we resent the fact we've had to waste time on dealing with this when there's any number of more pressing things to be involved in. Nevertheless, we are obliged to respond.

The research work
J did not write the ‘Policing’ paper or any part of it – yet despite knowing this the TPTG piece chooses to refer to this as J’s paper and quotes from it extensively as if it represents J’s views. We obviously reject fully the liberal-reformist assumptions, language and aims of the paper. J was added as an author by the first author as a ‘favour’, because part of the paper refers to J’s research on identity-change in crowds. Being added as an author is a standard academic practice; and sometimes published papers contain statements that some of the named authors don’t agree with. But in this case it was a mistake by J to allow his name to be added to a paper that he was against in principle.

TPTG take the word ‘consultancies’ on J’s university profile too literally. The ‘NATO’ reference is actually a literature review by the Department of Health which cites J’s research on a mass emergency. The review and the research are about psychosocial care and nothing to do with crowd control (this can be checked by the link on his research website); J had nothing to do with anyone from NATO; and J is not responsible for the views expressed by the document authors or any of their statements or recommendations. As TPTG know, The talks to the ‘policing major incidents’ meeting, the CBRN centre, and Civil Contingencies Secretariat were each about his research on mass emergencies. They were part of the dissemination of his research to the emergency services and other relevant organizations that he is expected to do as part of his work at the university. The ‘blue light services’ work closely together; and so talking about emergencies means probably talking to cops as well as the others. His University encouraged this, and it would have looked odd to refuse to communicate with the cops. So he accepted this as a small cost of the overall job of research work.

The mass emergency talks consisted of a critique of irrationalist models and assumptions, and describe his research evidence that membership of a psychological crowd in an emergency is a source of resilience and adaptive response (such as coordination and cooperation). This argument provides a possible justification for emergency response strategies prioritizing communication and provision of information (lack of which survivors find distressing and frustrating) over control. He stands by this research work as worthwhile and even humane.

The supposed dangerousness of the liberal reformists
The TPTG letter is factually incorrect. J’s two colleagues do ‘lobby’ for less violent policing. All such liberal-reformist lobbying addresses the cops in their own terms - and this is what we disagree with. But it is simply wrong and confused to say that this equates with ‘support’ for the use of force; it is precisely because the two colleagues do support ‘anti-capitalist demonstrators and football fans’ that they seek to reduce police violence, arrests and jail sentences.

More importantly, however, J rejects his colleagues’ reformist project: we cannot contribute to the communist movement by using ‘enlightened’ expert advice to alter policing methods, or through any other such mediations, but rather through imposing ourselves collectively. The research he does with his two colleagues, and the fact that his name is sometimes attached to publications by them that are used to put forward their liberal-reformist arguments, is politically irrelevant, rather than practically or ideologically damaging.

TPTG suggest that the ideas in the ‘Policing’ paper have helped in tactics of repression. This is based on a misunderstanding. The premise of the paper is the cops’ own role in (inadvertently) contributing to the development of a riot. In plain English, ‘guiding the cops to act in ways which maximizes the opportunities to engage crowd members’ in processes of de-escalating conflict means suggesting to the cops that it’s in their own interests not to use force as their first choice method. The research on which the paper is based shows that policing perceived by crowd members as illegitimate and indiscriminate brings them together against the police; the premise, therefore, is those situations where people are not already united against the police. The research and ideas don’t explain how the police’s actions can create difference in a crowd where it didn’t exist previously.

Giving the cops the ‘insight’ that their own (‘illegitimate and indiscriminate’) behaviour can contribute to crowd conflict is not at all the same thing as giving them the ability to undermine our struggles. In the first place, there are obvious limits to the extent to which the cops can take on board and act upon this knowledge. For one thing, due to their social location, the police are in a sense right to fear ‘the crowd’ (and therefore ‘rational’ to resist the overtures of the liberal reformers, as many of them do): at the end of the day, the state is threatened by crowds of angry proletarians and reacts accordingly. They will therefore still tend to act ‘against the crowd’ on occasions, even when given the ‘insight’ that beliefs about crowd dangerousness can be a self-fulfilling prophesy.

The ‘Policing’ paper cited by TPTG only aims to “hinder … crowd members’ unification” by arguing against brute force repression. But it is simplistic to understand by this that there is a straightforward relation between repression and the development of struggles, in the same way that there is no simple relation between ‘facilitative’ policing and the falling back of struggles. There are too many mediations. Experiences of police ‘illegitimacy’, rather than spurring people on, can actually be ‘disempowering’. There is not much use being anti-police if you can’t do anything about it. On the other hand, struggles can sometimes take off when policing is experienced as soft or ‘fair’. For example, the UK student movement was boosted by events at Millbank in 2010, when police held back. The crowd event remained buoyant but did not escalate; but the movement itself did escalate through that event.

In short, TPTG are simply wrong to state that the ‘Policing’ paper, and by extension J, help the cops practically with ‘correct repression’. Ultimately, the police are forced into repressive strategies by proletarian militancy regardless of such ‘insights’, and in any case the relationship between soft/hard policing and advance/retreat of struggle is highly mediated and contingent on numerous factors. By association TPTG have implicated J in collaboration with repression - a very serious charge with no basis in fact. Just as we disagree with his liberal reformist colleagues’ view (that working to soften the state through the mediations of expert opinion is a part of social change), so we also disagree with TPTG when they suggest that this expert intervention is an active impediment to social change.

After this decade-old gossip resurfaced back in January 2011, TPTG said they didn’t want to use the Aufheben group e-mail to contact us. Another friend, P, requested and was given one of our personal e-mail addresses in February; but no-one has used this or any other means to get in touch with us about this except through this public ‘outing’. TPTG have made extremely serious charges against one of us (“cop collaborating”), but made no attempt to clarify the facts – for example by contacting us with a simple e-mail. We circulated an email back in August explaining these facts. It seems to have been ignored. But why let the facts get in the way of a good smear story?

Aufheben
7th October 2011

Aufheben
Brighton & Hove Unemployed Workers Centre
PO Box 2536
Rottingdean
BRIGHTON BN2 6LX
UK
www.libcom.org/aufheben

Comments

Nate
Oct 7 2011 22:12

I appreciate this clarification and think TPTG are out of line. I for one could use a bit of context and back story here. There are some hints of past issues - reference to an email in August that attempted to clarify things and other communications, 10 yr old gossip. That makes it sound like this is old news, whereas the open letter (admittedly I barely skimmed it) makes it sound this like this something they just discovered.

Also, question on these two bits -- "J did not write the ‘Policing’ paper or any part of it – yet despite knowing this the TPTG piece chooses" and
"As TPTG know, The talks to the ‘policing major incidents’ meeting, the CBRN centre, and Civil Contingencies Secretariat were each about his research on mass emergencies"

Both of these are claims about what TPTG knew when they were writing their open letter. How do you know that they knew this stuff? That's not a hostile question, I just want to understand better.

Joseph Kay
Oct 7 2011 23:25
Nate wrote:
makes it sound this like this something they just discovered.

They 'discovered' it cunningly hidden away on J's faculty page. J's job has been common knowledge in the ultra-left scene for a decade (I'm told, I wasn't around then, and perhaps neither were TPTG).

Nate wrote:
Both of these are claims about what TPTG knew when they were writing their open letter. How do you know that they knew this stuff? That's not a hostile question, I just want to understand better.

Apparently this first re-emerged in January, and since then various sections of Europe's ultra-left have been drafting polemics and gossiping amongst themselves. None of the protagonists have taken the courtesy to contact Aufheben, apparently on the delightfully circular logic that they're accused of being cop collaborators, and they refuse to speak to cop collaborators. Despite all this, word made its way via the grapevine to Aufheben (and at a similar time, libcom). In August, Aufheben drafted a letter which was sent to interested parties, including TPTG. That seemed to be the end of it. Then this text appeared, repeating accusations they now know to be false (not even attempting to refute the explanations, simply ignoring them in favour of scandalous claims).

bootsy
Oct 8 2011 11:25

Why has the libcom group immediately labelled the TPTG letter a smear? The whole matter seems far more ambiguous than that.

Fall Back
Oct 8 2011 13:40

Because it is - it knowingly states stuff the authors explicitly know to be a lie. Even if you thought there was a real issue here (and there isn't), that alone makes it a smear.

Dangerfield
Oct 8 2011 13:44

I had the exact same question. How does an open letter is coined a "smear" as lightheartetdly as that! Apparently your eagerness and impatience to reply illustrates clearly that the "king" is as naked as a naked featherless chicken ready for the oven( I hope I am wrong about this assumption).
Concerning the reply by Aufheben, it really fell short of what I would expect as a carefully written well-argumented answer! It has all the necessary "ingredients" that would allow someone to accuse it of wallowing in denial and superficiality. I will be waiting for something better..

Joseph Kay
Oct 8 2011 19:18

This has been doing the rounds since January (and before that, on and off for a decade). libcom admins are well apprised of the facts. As were TPTG before they published information they know to be false.

bootsy
Oct 9 2011 09:09

edit

Joseph Kay
Oct 8 2011 20:46
bootsy wrote:
If there is more information here which is not public then fine. But from what is available over the internet I don't see how the TPTG letter is merely a smear.

It is a smear because snitchjacketing someone as a police collaborator is pretty much the worst thing any revolutionary can do within the realms of discourse. TPTG not only made no effort to verify the facts, when further information was sent to them they ignored it.

bootsy wrote:
Its not false though.

Yes it is. Categorically. The most that can be said honestly is a million miles away from "pacifying class struggle" or collaborating in state repression, and far more banal. These kind of accusations are extremely serious. In the past they were sown by the state to get people killed. The stakes aren't that high here, but people have been attacked at the anarchist bookfair over far less. There's plenty of unhinged types about with a grudge against the cops.

bootsy wrote:
Why did this person allow their name to be attached to such an article?

I don't know. Maybe he needed publications to keep his bosses happy. Maybe he never read the piece. Maybe he figured the only harm done would be to himself as and when some gossiping ultra-lefts got hold of it. It's patently obvious he rejects the article though, and TPTG were told this back in August.

bootsy wrote:
Why are they working closely with the writers of such an article?

I don't know how he chooses his colleagues. I think ESIM research is a pretty small fringe field. But again, we're back to guilt-by-association. 'He has worked with people who have written for the policing journal which is read by cops' is pretty weak, and nowhere near substantiates the headline claims of "pacifying class struggle" and so on.

I've had several comrades smeared in the press over the last few years. People straight away saw through the twisting of facts, the speculation, the innuendo when it was penned by right-wing hacks. The sophistry's no less when it's penned by libertarian communists.

Wellclose Square
Oct 8 2011 21:06

Agree with bootsy and Dangerfield on this - what TPTG have brought out into the open can't simply be brushed aside as a 'smear', and Aufheben's response seems rather too eager to attempt to 'explain away' the (self-proclaimed) involvement of one of their members in the development of the theory and practice of public order policing. I think there's rather more 'explaining' to do (beyond shooting the messenger), though whether it will wash is another matter... At the very least, the Aufheben member's academic role raises eyebrows (well it did mine).

bootsy
Oct 9 2011 09:08

edit

Joseph Kay
Oct 8 2011 21:33
Bootsy wrote:
The response here from Aufheben, and you JK, simply smacks of collective denial.

No, the charges smack of dishonesty. Unless everyone's suddenly become an expert in ESIM, J's academic output, the allegations against him etc in the last 24 hours, it's reckless to be repeating the charges against him. The libcom collective looked into this in some detail over a month ago. Please think twice about accusing people of being in denial from a position of ignorance. This is precisely why smears work: rebuttal is interpreted as proof of denial! It's ducking stool logic. If you're not as well informed as you'd like to be, that fine, ask questions etc. But don't start repeating the false accusations in the guise of wanting to know more, because that's exactly how smears become rumours which become folk truths.

Bootsy wrote:
JK there is harm done to the individuals who police successfully arrest and prosecute as a result of knowledge gleaned from J's research

But J's research has nothing to do with arresting people. I cannot emphasise this enough. Have you read any of it? This is the problem with smears: people are already repeating as fact these very dangerous claims.

bootsy
Oct 9 2011 09:08

edit

Juan Conatz
Oct 9 2011 00:25

The way it was explained to me by someone in academia is that it is standard practice to include as co-author, those who's research forms a significant basis for study.

For example, one academic puts out a paper on A. Then a second academic puts out a paper on B, but uses A as a significant basis for B. That second academic puts the first academic's name as co-author, even though they had no part in that work other that their paper on A was used as a major part of the research for paper on B.

tastybrain
Oct 9 2011 00:40
bootsy wrote:
The issue that TPTG raise is that he appears to be, albeit indirectly, providing the police with knowledge and information which might be of use in putting down a riot.

I can't comment on the actual issue at hand, since I haven't read either the initial letter by TPTG or the response, but I would like to point something out. Couldn't the same be said of many articles on Libcom? We have hundreds, probably thousands, of articles which provide detailed analysis of various riots, rebellions, social disturbances, and uprisings. Any cop or police-collaborating academic could come on this site and probably glean a lot of important information. While we are providing this information in the hopes of furthering unrest and dissent, they could use it to suppress these things.

A big part of academia is it (supposedly) revolves around knowledge production, with free access for anyone that wants to use that knowledge. Academics really can't control how people use this information once it is out there. I'm currently working on a paper about spontaneous strikes and non-hierarchical forms of organization in the labor movement. I'm hoping, once I'm finished, that it can provide rank and file trade union activists, average workers, or dissident intellectuals with knowledge about the history of non-bureaucratic class struggle and help them participate in or facilitate such struggle in the future. It could just as easily, however, be utilized by some union-busting firm or capitalist union bureaucrats to more effectively smash the tendencies I hope will be furthered by the paper's dissemination.

bootsy
Oct 9 2011 09:07

edit

Rob Ray
Oct 9 2011 01:12

Well look at it this way, in this thread you start a conversation about how university struggles can be placed on a more militant footing. It can also be read in reverse by anyone wanting to undermine such tactics.

Was that the original intent of the post? Of course not, but you put it out in public for discussion. Anything we discuss in public, be that through academia or forums, is open to misuse. If we get into the field of "don't research stuff because it can be used against us" we might as well give up and go home.

And it's not like we don't do it the other way round - hell half my ideas for publication content and technique are taken from capitalist training.

bootsy
Oct 9 2011 09:06

edit

jesuithitsquad
Oct 9 2011 03:55

Right, but taking all other things at face value, imagine yourself in this situation in which a friend or a person who is a known & trusted millitant had some manner of questionable background. This background comes up & he sends out an email giving more information on the background (not that it would really be anyone's business outside of those he works closely with anyway). Then a group of people half way across the world write a denunciation about the background, completely ignoring your friend's email and using his real name and giving identifying information. Don't you think it's more than a little bit possible your response might end up a bit ott?

And none of this even touches the fact that loads of communists throughout history have had less than stellar backgrounds...

(Written from half-way around the world.)

Joseph Kay
Oct 9 2011 07:45

bootsy, libcom have 'blatantly taken sides' because we've taken it upon ourselves to become well-apprised of the facts. Barely anyone chipping in their opinion has read any of the material in question beyond googling for 30 seconds, uncritically repeating TPTG's distortions and regurgitating university press releases at face value.

This is utter bullshit. You don't pronounce someone guilty of collaboration with the state, then demand they prove innocence. Even bourgeois courts are better than that, and even the bourgeois press first put allegations to the party before publishing. If TPTG really think they are uncovering a mole why didn't they contact Aufheben to confront him? Instead, this gossip has bounced around the ultra-left echo chamber for the best part of a year and now public, a string of people with literally no idea what they're talking about are tripping over themselves to have an opinion from positions of ignorance.

This is the fouth time someone I know has been exposed in the past year or so, although the first time by 'friends'. What those clamouring to pronounce on J's guilt don't seem to understand is libcom wouldn't allow these kind of smears on any of you either without significant evidence. We looked into this well before it was published, so when it was we acted swiftly. It's a basic question of principles. Perhaps people will only understand that when it's their own name being dragged through the mud by a string of polemical distortions and known falsehoods.

bootsy
Oct 9 2011 09:18

Fine JK I have edited all bar one of my posts. In hindsight I regret getting into a back and forth over this and admins can feel free to delete my posts if they wish. Nevertheless I do feel profoundly uncomfortable with all of this.

Dangerfield
Oct 9 2011 14:39

Obviously bootsy, what we are dealing here, has already surpassed libcom and their futile attempts to give a "satisfactory" explanation about the subject matter.. I still haven't made up my mind where the truth lies but what I can certainly say is that aufheben should come back with a more convincing, well-documented reply.
Sentimentalism and denigrating comments do not constitute a reliable and responsible answer to these kind of serious accusations.

Leo
Oct 11 2011 23:33
Quote:
it knowingly states stuff the authors explicitly know to be a lie.

Actually it doesn't. It states stuff which the accused claim that the authors explicitly know to be a lie. There is a difference.

Quote:
It is a smear because snitchjacketing someone as a police collaborator is pretty much the worst thing any revolutionary can do within the realms of discourse.

Aside from actually collaborating with the police within the realms of discourse, of course.

Quote:
It's patently obvious he rejects the article though

Actually, it isn't patently obvious he rejects the article. What is patently obvious is that he says he rejects the article in his political life. In his personal life, whether he wrote it or not, it is something he obviously defends as his name is on it. It is true, of course, that he may well have co-signed this article if not co-wrote it to please his bosses. The question is how far can revolutionaries go to please their bosses.

Quote:
The libcom collective looked into this in some detail over a month ago.

The libcom collective is in England as is Aufheben. I would be very much surprised if the libcom collective sent someone to Greece to inquire with the TPTG.

Of course the way the critics of the official libcom line were treated was no different from any other time. The aggressive tone used reeks of loyalty and makes me think that the libcom collective or at least some people in it has rather close personal relations with Aufheben and none whatsoever with the TPTG.

And because of this, the libcom collective is doing a very bad job trying to defend this person.

And with all the accusations of smears, slanders, lies and so on, I think it is telling that neither Aufheben or the libcom collective has said anything about why the TPTG is doing this if there is no fire to the smoke.

As for what I personally think, I don't want to comment on the accusations of the TPTG themselves, because I know little about the situation and don't personally know anyone from Aufheben.

I do know the TPTG, and I do know that they are very active, experienced and serious people with a history of involvement in the struggles in Greece. They are not political novices, and I don't think that they would do something like this without thinking it through, based on gossip or with malicious intent. This said, however, although they are fairly good English speakers, English is their second language as it is mine and anyone who speaks English as a second language is more prone to misunderstanding phrases and so on.

Yet at the end of the day, what Aufheben itself says is problematic enough on its own:

Quote:
TPTG take the word ‘consultancies’ on J’s university profile too literally (...) The ‘blue light services’ work closely together; and so talking about emergencies means probably talking to cops as well as the others. His University encouraged this, and it would have looked odd to refuse to communicate with the cops. So he accepted this as a small cost of the overall job of research work.

"It would have looked odd to refuse to communicate with the cops"? Really? What would have happened if it looked odd, would he be shot or sent to a prison camp? Would he even be fired from his job? Or would his colleagues simply have a doubt that maybe he doesn't like the cops? Most people generally tend to dislike the cops after all.

There can be movements when revolutionaries might have to communicate with the cops. For example, if someones house is robbed and a police report is necessary to get insurance money, I don't think anyone can condemn a revolutionary for having to do this (and would probably advise them to clean up the publications etc. before reporting the robbery).

Of course none other than the accused know how literal the word ‘consultancies’ should be taken and what this guy said to the police. However talking to the police from a scientific position about their job because it would "look odd" otherwise is not an acceptable argument unless there was an actual risk of something happening to the person if it did indeed look odd.

bootsy
Oct 12 2011 00:11
Quote:
And with all the accusations of smears, slanders, lies and so on, I think it is telling that neither Aufheben or the libcom collective has said anything about why the TPTG is doing this if there is no fire to the smoke.

I asked that question in this thread.

Fall Back said this:

Quote:
Well, I'd suggest the most obvious is that the international ultra-left scene is a tiny incestuous scene, and scene's like that love gossip and scandal?

The truth is banal and boring. Having uncovered a secret police agent is sexy and attention grabbing.

Leo
Oct 12 2011 08:39
Quote:
Well, I'd suggest the most obvious is that the international ultra-left scene is a tiny incestuous scene, and scene's like that love gossip and scandal?

The truth is banal and boring. Having uncovered a secret police agent is sexy and attention grabbing.

Unconvincing.

Jason Cortez
Oct 12 2011 22:33

But what is TPTG's motive. The "open letter " does not clearly state what they think should happen now or why they have 'exposed' J except being surprised at his research. So what is your 'convincing' explanation of their motive.

It looks like it maybe necessary to de-construct the "open letter" to untangle claims, attributions from 'facts' and then tease out the possible contradictions and tensions in J's work and his political engagement.
But then what? What are "we" to do with this knowledge , how are "we" to apply it? To what purpose?

Nate
Oct 13 2011 01:08

Joseph Kay, thanks for elaborating and sorry this is happening. Admin: no flaming. I am the peacemaker.

Wellclose Square
Oct 13 2011 06:06

Admin: no-flaming.

And which admins allowed this straightforward abuse to go up? I'm despairing of the role of the 'libcom collective' in its approach to the situation - the same outright denials repeated louder and louder ("Move along, nothing to see here"), a peculiar indulgence towards undoubted complicity with elements of policing policy... and I'm being called a 'dumbfuck' for quibbling with what seems to be a concerted (and, at times, aggressive) attitude of denial. Other posters have questioned the integrity of those who may or may not have assumed 'extra identities' to post their opinions on this and the other thread... if it's a way for certain 'regular posters' who are known personally by J's defenders in order to circumvent personal abuse directed at them for taking a stand then I'm not surprised.

Shame. Shame.

Joseph Kay
Oct 13 2011 11:25

Wellcose, most of the admins are based in the UK. These posts were made late at night here, and they were moderated as soon as people saw them in the morning. Please try not to respond to flaming with flaming, use the report button and as soon as a moderator sees it we'll sort it out. Conspiracy theories about admins allowing personal abuse to further some pro-police collaboration agenda are just that, conspiracy theories. And people are denying the charges because they're not true. Taking denials as proof of guilt is ducking stool logic.

Nate
Oct 19 2011 04:56

Shame! Shame!

Lulz.

Edit: Seriously, no flaming. We only have so much time a day to work on this site, please don't unnecessarily increase our workload for lulz. - Admin.

whatisinevidence
Oct 19 2011 05:15
Quote:
And people are denying the charges because they're not true.

Which charges aren't true? Even you admit that J.D. did in fact consult the police. You just said his particular sort of cop consulting was okay. Others in the Libcom group have denied he was a police consultant. If you guys are going to lie about this together (or be delusional about this together - I can't tell which it is), you should at least stick to the same story.

The evidence is overwhelming and damning: http://libcom.org/forums/general/cop-consultant-reading-list-17102011

And Aufheben acknowledges in their letter that this topic has been circulating for at least a decade. A poster sympathetic to J.D. posted on the other thread saying this was discussed in the mid-90's. If they were criticized for this a decade ago, Aufheben and J.D. can't claim ignorance or just silly mistakes. If J.D. was criticized for this a decade ago, what possible excuse could he have for writing or letting his name be put on those papers (I refuse to believe he didn't write them, but with everything else it doesn't really matter either way)? If they wanted to put this to rest, why wouldn't Aufheben bring up the shit from the 90's? If J.D. supposedly doesn't have control over this online academic profile, why did it suddenly change in response to being called out?

Every attempted defense digs the whole deeper.