Is libcom.org sectarian ?

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Harrison
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May 24 2011 08:53
Is libcom.org sectarian ?

I'm just posting this because i've read a few recent things around the web that have basically posited libcom.org (and maybe implicitly the organisations that take part in libcom.org) as being bitchy and sectarian.

FWIW, i think it is just that people get shot down on libcom if they have bad politics. some posters can be overly flippant when think they are right (me included), but i wouldn't say it is sectarianism, more just genuine disagreements.

seems better than the alternative which is to muzzle debates over theory and praxis (how we go about putting our theory into practice) for the sake of an artificial unity ...

although this said, i have appreciated the attempts to go easy on new posters (exempting nutters)

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Joseph Kay
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May 24 2011 09:54

lots of people in the anarchy scene hate libcom, mostly due to something someone may have said to somebody in a pub in Shoreditch in 2003, or something. nobody really seems to know. most recently i saw a long-term hater cropping up on the David Icke forums to line up with the tabloid press against a libcom poster. not all the haters are Icke-mentals, but it helps.

the forums have also had some pretty heated debates, which in the past often had a pretty uncomradely tone* (this was just as much from all sides though if you look back at them, not 'libcom' ganging up on people). but even the most uncomradely criticism isn't in itself "sectarian"; sectarianism is putting your group before the struggle, not criticising other groups/people/ideas. especially when those other groups/people/ideas seem counter-productive, it would be sectarian to bite your tongue out of spurious 'unity'.

and in terms of moral high ground, 'libcom' has never organised a posse to march around the anarchist bookfair dressed as bouncers from the 1980s to carry out physical attacks on people who said things on the internet.

* we've made efforts to improve the forum culture, but culture is pretty organic and can't just be imposed from the top down.

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soc
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May 24 2011 10:25

It might be a bit of on off topic, but sectarianism is often mentioned criticism against anarchist/communist groups from the left in general. In fact, this is the ultimate curse word when you criticize certain (lefty) movements. This is based on that we dare to argue and putting ourselves against the popular movements and ideas of the times.

IMO libcom is one of the counter-example of a sect-based thinking for it is one of the widest collection of anarchist/communist resources, historical analyses and such material so that many of us could find tools for her own political interest and allowed to express critical thoughts own materials published by others.

I would not give any credit to such accusations since it is a rather whining of social democratic influenced, democracy fetishist milieu who can not in fact accept that others can have different opinion and deeper political agenda than their passive cries for "3rd world babies" (sarcasm).

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May 24 2011 10:48

I actually think that, by and large, everyone gets along fairly well on Libcom - especially compared to a lot of other online forums.

I definitely don't think 'sectarianism' is the problem. Libcom was actually my entry-point into Anarchism. I posted a thread saying that I was looking to get involved in a group. When I detailed my political leanings, I remember members of another group (I think they may have been AFed members) directing me towards SolFed as they said it would probably suit me better. Now that doesn't sound like the actions of a sectarian milleu to me.

As JK says though, sometimes the tone of debates on Libcom can be a bit uncomradely sometimes* (this goes for all groups involved, including SF). I don't think that stems from a sectarian 'my group's better than your group' attitude, but simply from a lack of understanding of where different groups stand. A bit more comradely debate would probably help build better understanding of where the various groups stand.

*and it is 'sometimes'. By and large I think we get good, open debate - the post-Office Angels discussion thread is a good example of this.

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Rob Ray
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May 24 2011 11:15

A good chunk of it is old ire as well I think - there's been a lot of effort gone in on the boards by both admins and long-time users to improve things from a few years ago when there definitely was a lot of aggro, but a bad reputation takes a long time to wear off.

If you look at the use statistics, there was actually a massive tailing off of posts in 2009 which has recently started to recover, which was in part because some of the shoutiest people had either left or moderated their writing, so there are less 300-post bunfights to push up the post count! Entertainingly, this has led to some of the old complainers labelling the site "boring as fuck" grin.

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May 24 2011 13:28

well, when we are not comparing other anarchist groups to the SS (jokes jokes jokes) I would say its fine.

With the coming across as an asshole in front of new member thing it is difficult though isn't it. Like that Zeitgeist shit storm, my history with hating on TZM goes further back then that thread. So do many issues covered in threads, so your already going to have a solidified opinion. Just because people don't agree I don't think that is sectarian, sectarian is often used as a cuss word to black mail your interlocutor into being more 'reasonable' (basically making them bite their tongue and 'see your point' so as not to look like a dick).

Mike Harman
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May 24 2011 13:34

Another person who mis-uses Sectarianism to mean "disagrees with me and says so" is everyone's favourite liberal Sunny Hundal: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/11276 - although in this case it's used against an SWP member so he's right for the wrong reasons.

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May 24 2011 13:41

oh c'man don't be hard on Hundal, he *likes* John Lewis!

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Ellar
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May 24 2011 13:46

I think that when it comes to politics theres always going to be heated debates which can degenerate if people aren't careful but the whole situation tends to be made worse when it happens on internet forums. I've spoken to people face to face that I have quite serious disagreements with politically but rarely does it ever get as nasty as when the discussion goes down hill on the internet. I think apart from everything else it's just the part of the nature of internet forums, when your typing your message your not looking at another human being but just a computer screen and some silly user names, so allot of people don't tend to act the same way they would if they were talking to somebody face to face.

Having said this the angry atmosphere of a forum can change, it just takes a bit of a conscious decision on the part of the users, i've noticed a big difference on libcom since I first lurked on it about two years ago.

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Ellar
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May 24 2011 13:47

You bloody bastards wink

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Ellar
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May 24 2011 13:55

I will say that posters need to recognise when somebody's new to the forum and potentially new to radical politics and allow a bit of space for them to move when it comes to making mistakes and growing politically.

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Entdinglichung
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May 24 2011 14:10

from http://nobeliefs.com/jokes.htm

Quote:
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said, "Stop! Don't do it!" "Why shouldn't I?" he said. I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!" He said, "Like what?" I said, "Well, are you religious or atheist?" He said, "Religious." I said, "Me too! Are your Christian or Buddhist?" He said, "Christian." I said, "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?" He said, "Protestant." I said, Me too! Are your Episcopalian or Baptist? He said, "Baptist!" I said, "Wow! Me too! Are your Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord? He said, Baptist Church of God!" I said, "Me too! Are your Original Baptist Church of God or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?" He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God!" I said, "Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?" He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915!" I said, "Die, heretic scum!" and pushed him off.

wink

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Juan Conatz
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May 24 2011 15:10

libcom certainly had that reputation, and to a certain extent still does, even though its gotten a lot better. If you look through the old threads, some of them degenerated into flaming and banter and you had to wade through a lot to get anything meaningful. People with bad or differing politics were ruthlessly dealt with. One of the reasons Anarchist Black Cat was set up, I believe, was to create a forum where that wouldn't happen, although I'm not sure long term if the way they did it was the best, because that forum has been pretty dead for the last year.

When I started posting here more frequently, some people asked me if it had gotten better before they started or restarted posting here. If folks are still saying that libcom is sectarian (notice how haters always lump 'libcom' in as a homogenous group) are saying that based off the old days or are part of the Class War/primitivist/insurrectionary/parecon/mutualist/activisty milieu that get relentlessly challenged if and when they show up here.

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May 24 2011 15:20
Juan Conatz wrote:
People with bad or differing politics were ruthlessly dealt with. One of the reasons Anarchist Black Cat was set up, I believe, was to create a forum where that wouldn't happen, although I'm not sure long term if the way they did it was the best, because that forum has been pretty dead for the last year.

And why not? There are a lot of self described libcomist with awful politics (just look at some of the threads on national liberation). As far as I am concerned revolutionist politics shouldn't just be a cosy place where you 'find yourself' by vanishing into a network of the socially like minded and then feel threatened by honest and genuine debate seeking to make sense of your world view.

nastyned
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May 24 2011 15:20
Joseph Kay wrote:
* we've made efforts to improve the forum culture, but culture is pretty organic and can't just be imposed from the top down.

As the moderators can, and do, impose things from the top down I've never been very convinced by the 'everyone had a share of the blame when the libcom forums were a cesspit' argument.

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Joseph Kay
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May 24 2011 15:34
nastyned wrote:
Joseph Kay wrote:
* we've made efforts to improve the forum culture, but culture is pretty organic and can't just be imposed from the top down.

As the moderators can, and do, impose things from the top down I've never been very convinced by the 'everyone had a share of the blame when the libcom forums were a cesspit' argument.

well people are responsible for their own postings. if people get into massive flamewars it's difficult to contain, especially since there's only a handful of admins and even an hour's delay in spotting something can mean a multi-page bunfight. thing is, we have taken action to improve board culture, but it's a process that takes time, not something that can just be imposed by diktat. And every time we do take any action, it spawns a big thread about how this was how the Nazis started etc.

tbh, we've had loads of abusive posters over the years and many of the worst offenders were quick to blame 'libcom' without taking any responsibility for their own actions. it's meant to be an anarchist forum, not a childrens playpen that needs constant parental discipline and interventions to make people play nice. admins have some responsibility, but so do the people being abusive dickheads, trolling, baiting etc.

Again, this is a process. When the forum was started it was defining itself against various other tendencies (activism, primmos etc), which meant big spats. As the politics/identity of the board emerged and matured it moved away from the flamefests, and we've made conscious efforts to make that happen (including admins no longer participating in spats etc, for the most part).

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Juan Conatz
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May 24 2011 16:22

Another thing you guys have in the UK seemingly is that the activisty/insurrectionary/Class War element constitute an action faction which frowns on long or sometimes any discussion of tactics or strategy or vision, where in the States the activisty/insurrectionary/primmo (we don't have anything like Class War) write extremely long, incomprehensible theortical pieces. It's like you have to have read at least 3 pretentious French lifestyle communist books if you wanna get in on a black bloc.

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May 24 2011 16:26

Well (I say this very tentatively) class composition and the 'sociological' sense of class are quite different in the two countries right? You could expect political forms to respond in different ways to this. It is a bit annoying when someone brings something to the table and it is denigrated for being too 'intellectualist' or whatever. I think there could probably be a happy medium, and I think this site often does it quite well

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Steven.
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May 24 2011 17:35

Yeah, we did get this label quite early on. To be honest, I think it was mostly because especially early on we were extremely critical of all the ridiculous stupid shit that dominated the anarchist movement back in around 2003. Which did serve to anger some people who were quite happy in their self affirming, self-referential backslapping.

I don't think it is a valid label for several reasons. Firstly, as others pointed out "sectarian" does not mean "disagreeing with me" but means putting the interests of your sect before those of the class. And of course libcom doesn't have a sect. Us admins are in a couple of groups, and none. And our 4000 odd active users are in loads of groups. Our critics often lump in all of our users in one homogenous block, even though there is so much disagreement amongst our users.

Secondly, many people who have denounced us as sectarian, actually post here as well and criticise others on here. And usually critics of the atmosphere on libcom have been among the worst behaved people on libcom - see the people who started Anarchist Black Cat, for example.

We are strict on being polite and welcoming to new people. But as Joseph says we can't control everything all of the time. Our users have to take some responsibility as well.

I also find it quite funny when people on other websites, like Ian Bone's blog, and anarchist news criticise libcom for being "sectarian" and critical. But of course they are criticising other anarchists as well. And they both contain untrue smears on other anarchists, which are not permitted on libcom (we delete them and people who post them are banned). And anarchist news, for example is full of comments from people slagging each other off, threatening to anally rape each other, etc, again neither of which is permitted on libcom.

That said, we try not to be too heavy-handed without moderation because that would kill real discussion, like happened on ABC.

Sir Arthur Stre...
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May 25 2011 22:34

I think people sometimes see sectarianism when really there is just a difference of opinion. The problem is that anarchist philosophy is so all encompassing, that debates on the small print can seem rather anal. This is annoying if you think that these relatively pointless exercise detracts from the struggle. I don't think it does, unless comrades end up falling out over it, which doesn't seem to be happening.

However I don't think libcom is particularly open or welcoming to newcomers. Obviously it is frustrating for members to go over old ground, spell out a concept they find obvious or generally deal with people who don't seem to have a thorough grasp of anarchist ideas. This is an issue in the anarchist movement as a whole, where potential comrades can be dismissed for not having as complete a grasp of our ideas. Afterall, anti-state/anti-capital and all that implies is a very radical position that takes a while to fully understand and apply(at least it did for me). So, for example, when new members post 'liberal' sentiments on the thread discussing the events of March 26th perhaps they shouldn't be so viciously dealt with. Anarchists are attracting more attention these days and the default sneering aggression towards outsiders needs to change.

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May 25 2011 22:56

I thought the post-26th stuff was dealt with quite well :-8

Sir Arthur Stre...
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May 25 2011 23:28

Well its a general impression I get, though probably not backed up by substantial evidence...

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May 25 2011 23:45

I'd agree with JK (and others) that the charge of sectarianism is usually levelled at groups that make political criticisms.
Libcom was very vehemently anti-activist and this often ended up with piss-taking and mockery which many people, unsurprisingly, didn't like. This tended to allow people to obscure the criticisms made and in all honesty most people who complained about it did the same thing or posted without engaging which is as bad if not worse.
Most forums tend to rise and fall, libcom's large user base (for example MATB had a similar post count at one point but fewer users) and the other things available has seemed to stop this happpening. In terms of keeping the site going a decent atmosphere is necessaty and so is new blood, more importantly if the site is to make a political contribution it needs this.
Also a site requires people to behave themselves, in the same way as someone can ruin a meeting because they love the sound of ther own voice, someone online can do the same and they need to have some self-control. I think a few of us have learnt that over the years.