Hold Your Tongue Demagogue : Turning A Deaf Ear To Pure Bufe-oonery
Lawrence Jarach (August 3, 1961) is an American anarchist known for his political activism and writing. (From : Wikimedia.org.)
Hold Your Tongue Demagogue
We don’t know about you but when someone commands us to do something, there’s an internal subjective mechanism that immediately turns down the volume. This works nicely in getting through a day at work or when confronted by demagogues, until the din gets to a certain shrill pitch, then we react rather than turn a deaf ear — especially when aspects of the rant have to do with us personally or friends.
Demagogues, like bosses, are not interested in sharing and contrasting their thoughts and feelings with people they merely want to club them into line with their own. Along the way they develop an arcane jargon — sometimes with common words — in order to dazzle and mystify the uncritical. So it is with Chaz Bufe in his recent pamphlet, Listen, Anarchist! (L,A). This tract could have been subtitled “From Bookchin to Lenin (or Moses)” since he borrows elements of style from all three. In the end he tells people what they must do to succeed as a certain exclusive category of human — anarchist.
A number of people who began responses to Bufe’s diatribe decided it just wasn’t worth the effort. Others, notably Fifth Estate, felt that his pamphlet was “comedic parody of authoritarian anarchism.” Their reactions are quite justifiable and we also have the concern that responding gives more credence than is due to an otherwise narrowminded tract. This response is longer than L,A primarily because we thought it necessary to deal with his omissions, distortions, and falsifications of specific events, as well as, to try to cover the general topics more thoroughly than the simplistic way in which he does so.
L,A’s author seems to be an angry and bitter guy with little or no sense of humor or irony (maybe it’s the company he keeps) who says he is concerned about credibility (for anarchists and anarchism), science, rationality, and against marginalism, obscurantism, abuse of terms, sectarianism, mysticism ... but who fails to set a very good example right off. Well, just because Chaz is no fun doesn’t i mean we can’t be.
For someone who insists that “We (sic) should take great care ... to employ simple, clear language” and who thinks that “use of abstractions should be avoided” Bufe has made his pamphlet rife with ambiguous words. While the language may be simple, his use the following terms in the context of L,A is very unclear since he refused to define them: Anarchism; Marginalization; Work; Technology; Mysticism; Violence; and too many more to take up space disputing.
The fact that there is not even a minimum definition of anarchism, the practitioners of which he is supposedly directing his comments at, is a conspicuous omission. He never bothers to define this category’s fundamental elements as he understands them let alone how others around him do. This underlines Chaz’s most obvious failure — throughout his tract he fails to define his terms while ranting about others’ alleged failure to do the same.
One working-definition of anarchism might be that it is an opposition to all forms of coercion and authority. ln fact, that is one dictionary definition. But dictionary definitions are never adequate ... A slightly different view on the term was provided by a Polish sympathizer/critic of anarchism who visited Bound Together last year and said that anarchism is just another system, and Hector Subirats, a Mexican symp/crit/author, who finished the thought years earlier when he said that he was not for anarchism but for anarchy.
Why a serious anti-authoritarian rebellious culture has Dot been sustained in the world at large and the U.S. in particular is worthy of some investigation. Why the prosylitizers of Anarchism have not taken the country by storm is of somewhat less interest. ln any case, Chaz seems to miss the mark considerably.
As far as credibility goes he begins his tract talking about North American anarchists but later states that he is really speaking only of Canada and the U.S. forgetting Mexico. Whether this was purposeful or whether he forgot Mexico is part of North America is not clear. If it’s the latter what happens to his credibility as a someone involved in “l.atin American solidarity work” (and what”s that mean anyway?).
That Chaz hasn’t come to terms with his own irrationality is reflected in his hypocritical pseudonominous contacts with Fifth Estate because he was “afraid of what their response would be” if he used his real name after he wrote to them asserting he no longer wanted to deal with them; let alone his tendency toward sectarianism reflected in his own dismissive contempt and condemnation ofothers apparently not so gifted as himself; his rewrite of simple local history with half-truths and pure distortions; all of his contradictory appeals to higher authority (“Oh God!” is a frequent one for this avowed atheist); and his Old Testament Anarchism reflected in his Ten Commandments and his compulsive quoting of corpses to validate his position — whatever it is .... Chaz brings up serious matters, too bad he fails to discuss them seriously — we will try to remedy that.
His first section promises to be about marginalization but he never does provide anything remotely resembling a definition of what “deliberate self·marginalization” is in this section and provides only the barest outline of what he thinks it is. These hints are that this involves a person on welfare (practicing “parasitism” which he then says is not to be construed as an attack on welfare recipients — oh yeah?) who eschews work (and workers) and who is anti-organizational. Much more than that we will not learn in this pamphlet. lt is much much too easy to pick on straw men and women than deal with real personalities since it turns out much of what he attributes to “marginal” types is advocated by people he was once friends with most of whom also happen to work — as if that matters.
Until Chaz, pop sociologists have tended to refer to people as marginal who chose to leave the upward mobility rat-race which often means working “below” what their training and education would indicate. Even this validity of this definition is arguable since is no real marginality to society other than actual wilderness living and cavedwelling.
I (Lawrence) share a concern with what Chaz calls the “marginalized milieu.” I would consider “marginal elements” to include the following: artists, musicians, poets, writers ... your basic bohemians. They put themselves on the “margins” (outside the “mainstream”) of society because they see major contradictions between their desires and the reality that hundreds of years of Western cultural inertia has presented to them. Some prefer not to work; some work despite their desire to restructure immediately the premises of labor; some don’t need to work. Many “marginalized” individuals eventually become “mainstream” when they realize that their activities cannot, by themselves, foment the radical changes that they desire. “Marginalized” people have existed throughout history and will continue to exist so long as social relations among people remain unchanged; indeed, such folks will probably exist even after a genuine social revolution. Bufe’s main concern seems to be what he perceives as a misrepresentation of anarchism through the more visible and outspoken “fashion anarchists.” I agree. The “fashion anarchists” — often just frustrated liberals — seem to be the ones Chaz claims “couldn’t offer a coherent definition of anarchism to save their lives;” they are the ones who will be embarrassed by or remember fondly their juvenile trappings such as seven pierces in an ear (nose pierce optional), their circle·A tattoos, and spray»painted jackets. I’m sure that there may be those who won’t be embarrassed by it, and who may even be proud to still be looked at funnily when they walk down a street in 1995 with a spiked blue mohawk, but they still probably couldn’t give anyone an idea of what anarchism, as a historical philosophy, is. These people are quite different than “marginals,” and Chaz does his own bit of misrepresentation here. Again, he has never (as far as we know) provided “a coherent definition of anarchism” in anything he’s written which merely serves to trivialize his condemnations.
It is probably safe to presume that the “bourgeois lies” to which he refers are those quoted from his corpse friend, Luigi Fabbri, but he doesn’t say, so we are left to wonder and in any case Eabbri never describes them either. Are the underpinnings of anarchism aristrocratic lies because people like Bakunin and Kropotkin were aristocrats? Or anti-semitic lies because the first person known to have said “]e suis un anarchiste!” (Prodhoun) was anti·semitic? Does it really matter?
... pay homage to the worker,” seems to be one of Chaz’s mottos but Hitler said it first. And all leaders/organizers, East and West, have their own version. Ah, sweet slavery.
It is curious that he attributes the anti-work perspective to the “marginalized milieu” (the jargonny word “milieu” is used by many including Chaz here, as one form of club or another — more on this later). It is known that he acted as an SSI payee for a guy who holds an anti-work position (and considering Chaz’s obvious disgust for this person’s life-style one would have to ask why) but he has also had much contact with people who work, like the collaborators on this response, and who don’t think it’s anything to write home about.
It doesn’t stop with us. If you keeps your ears open, it is not uncommon to hear conversations like the following on the bus during commuter hours:
Student to commuter: So how are you this evening?
Student: That’s what you said this morning and what you always say whenever I see you. Is there any time that you’re not tired?
Commuter: Yeah, when I don’t have to work.
Nor does it stop there what with people in Poland, not unlike protesters in Tanzania, chanting the slogan “Prohibit work, prohibit pay.” And earlier this year, a dissident press in Yugoslavia announced its intention to publish a several hundred page book on the history of the struggle against work. The struggle against work is an international one.
Chaz’s characterization of the “anti·work attitude” as, “What you’re doing (work) is worse than useless, and you’re stupid for doing it,“ is ridiculous. That is not the attitude of any of the “anti-work” people we know (it is not unlike the anti-war attitude of pacifists toward soldiers and sailors, however); the attitude of people who are “anti-work” in effect states: “it sucks having to work because most of what we’re doing is worthless, and the upholders of this economic system are stupid for compelling us to do it.” Chaz ignores the people whose occupations are even more “parasitic” than that of a welfare “bum”: bankers, landlords, lawyers (and the entire legal apparatus), social workers, psychiatrists, and art critics...
Apparently, since those who perform these functions are working, they are ok by Chaz. “Work” is never defined; it is stated that it Must be performed “in order for society to exist.” Chaz probably used the generic scientific definition of work (remember it from 7th grade?): the expenditure or transfer of energy. This is pure reductionism (what is praised by scientists) and again has no context. As I write this I am expending energy but I don’t consider it as “work.” Perhaps a quick look at the etymology of the term would be useful. “Work” comes from the Latin laboris, meaning toil, pain; in other words, not an activity one would engage in voluntarily if one believes that life should consist of the pursuit of one’s desires.
Work, then, is something one does because one is compelled or forced to do it.
How would Chaz’s anarchist society compel anyone to work? How could anyone in such a society be forced to do anything and still have that society considered anarchist? An anarchist society would be one in which force cannot play a useful part in social relations because anarchy by definition is a condition of existence based on voluntary associations.
There is a literature about the desirability of and possibility of play instead of work. Chaz has access to it but it’s not where his heart is; he’d prefer to mistake his perspective and own lack of aspirations for that of the class, with his multitude of degrees, of which he claims to be apart. This literature includes the Situationists, Marx’s son·in»law’s The Right to be Lazy, Bob Black’s recent pamphlet on the topic, numerous anthropological studies, a recent book-called Children of the City gives some coverage...
And once again Chaz grasps at straws (men and women) when he asserts that it is “rather difficult to take seriously those who rail against work while grasping a black flag in one hand and a welfare check in the other,” since many of those, perhaps most, who rail against work work (and again so what — continued slavery is no argument for nobility).
The question of how we get from here to there merely underlines the immensity of the task at hand, but does not, as Chaz asserts, render the argument for play moot. lf he thinks it does then he must apply the question to the advocacy of an end to all government or even simply to wage slavery. That there is a question of how to get there doesn’t render the aspiration to get there moot at all-it merely emphasizes what a formidable task is ahead for anyone with those aspirations. And for some it leads to despair at the seeming impossiblity — beware anyone who has easy (or simple) answers.
In his section on “anti-organizational bias” he links up his undefined “deliberate self-marginalization” and an anti-work attitude and then asserts that this comes from a “lack of study of anarchist theory.” This really flies in the face of the reality he knows, and exposes his grasping at straws since all the people we are aware of, including the “parasite” he was a payee for (and who incidently has produced his own response to Chaz’s distortions, half»truths, and hypocrisy) and the people at Fifth Estate, have studied anarchist theory — “virtually all of the most prominent” too. Chaz studied them and agreed, others studied and disagreed, with how he interprets their position on organization. But if you think of the many tasks you do during a day that are not formalized that is organized, it is really not too tar to go to be able to assert that there might be something positive in this kind of spontaneous process — and it does get things done.
At this point Chaz brings up a remark that has been attributed to me (Brian) elsewhere to the effect that I said all organization is inherently capitalist. I don’t have the benefit of total recall here but I’ll wager this remark was not made in a completely serious context which points out a serious problem with Chaz’s attributions — he leaves out context which is extremely important in any endeavor geared toward understanding a given circumstance. Nonetheless I am not interested in completely disowning that remark since in the current (anti)social organization of things (capitalism if you will) every formal organization accumulates capital, property and power which with very few exceptions only a few people in the organization control — even allegedly “democratic” ones or those that act in the name of the people, the collective or the (office) workers. It is of further interest that one of Chaz’s pseudonominous namesakes, Alexander Berkman, also had a concern about and against the “hypocrisy of organized society.” (cf. The Match, Fall, l985).
It is also in this section that Chaz first makes reference to an anarchist “movement” but it’s facile since there is none. It is however representative of his mindset that there is some closed circle of people that can be blanketed with the label “milieu,” “movement,” “community,” or “’We” absolutely distinct from and different than the rest of society. Once having created this edifice he can attribute the failings of major projects to those anti-organizational twits within it — ho hum. In his section “Sectarianism” he belittles it for Sally Frye (while pointing a finger at her he also fails to name her even though she is rarely willing to hide behind pseudonymnity and who it also happens is not “anti»organizational”) but here he veritibly whines that “when through dint of hard work you do succeed in organizing a project, you’ll almost certainly be attacked by” he says “the anti-organizational fringe.” But Sally got to experience it from what I guess should be construed as the organizational mainstream (more on this under “Disparate Elements”).
Since Chaz is so hung up on the problem of organization versus the anti-organizational fringe how come he never bothers to tell us what the hell he means by the terms — or does everybody know already. What he does bother to do however, is hide behind a veil (skirt) of anonymnity in order to cite “a politically active friend” of his as though she were an unimpeachable source. But what is attributed to her is never elaborated on. What’s it mean to label anarchists as uncooperative, irresponsible and selfish because of chance meetings “with several of the local marginalists?” There are many people we know who would label political activists the way Chaz’s friend labeled anarchists and worse (adding at the very least self-righteous and overbearing).
To his “friend” it is a negative quality to be uncooperative. But one needs to explore the roots of this uncooperativeness. Are people labeled uncooperative because they were unwilling to submit to some political action on her terms? Did their failure to follow make them irresponsible? And their insistence on being treated as equals to the “politically active friend” render them selfish? We’ve seen it happen. Knowing too many of Bufe’s friends, it is not an implausible script.
Chaz’s remarks on violence in the abstract are about the only ones that have any value for real discourse, but even here he misses the mark if he is groping for an understanding of why there is no sustained rebellious and anti-authoritarian culture in this society. It is true enough that epithet “anarchy” is used by the media to describe some leftist terrorism, the violence of South Africans against apartheid, and the violence against police on the part of Europe’s squatters.
However, it is just as true that they have used the term to describe some completely nonviolent activities such as those of Solidarnosc in Poland, and most recently those of the Sanctuary movement in the U.S. And in any case would he argue that all the above acts ofviolence are hud? As for the uncritical praise given authoritarian groups by avowedly anti-authoritarian publications — well so criticize them. But the harm such writing does is probably only incalculable on the minuscule side.
In the section called “Violence” Chaz avoids discussing what “violence” actually means, he ties violence to terrorism as inexorably as liberals, pacifists, and “the media,” and offers the most lame argument for not engaging in armed struggle. As usual there is the irritating lack of definition and context which leads directly to his equating “violence” with “terrorism.”
His analysis of the Vancouver Five and Open Road is also irritating: to imagine that the Five were spurred into action by reading “articles romanticizing violence” (in Open Road) coupled with “desperation or misplaced idealism” gives them absolutely no credit for having brains. Each action they admitted committing showed how concerned and careful they were about possible injury to people (except perhaps the Litton bombing), proof of deliberation, not desperation; “misplaced idealism” may have been the case for Gerry and Julie, but not for Doug, Anne, and Brant, all of whom were experienced political activists. And now his friend at The Match is even insinuating that Open Road is State-financed. (lt should be emphasized that he is insinuating it i.e. not saying it directly, honestly, nor with any factual or personal information to support the assertion. Hopefully, but doubtfully, Chaz has something to say about that!)
The argument that such bombings “create an atmosphere of hysteria which gave the Canadian government a perfect excuse to ram through repressive legislation” is quite silly: no government ever needs an “excuse” (perfect or not) to “ram through” repressive laws. Such laws can be rammed through” (that is without much public awareness) with- the help of the self·imposed silence on the part of organs of communication. An example of this is the lack of public awareness in the U.S. of the several “anti-terrorist” bills circulating in Washington D.C.; more “domestic terrorism” may or may not accelerate the passing of these bills into Federal Laws but the mere fact that they exist at all shows that those who govern don’t need an “excuse” to implement them.
To attach even more ambiguous and vague notions onto the question of violence, Chaz demands (in the Ten Commandments again) that “wee (sic) should avoid the use of violence except in self-defense and in revolutionary situations.” That’s a perfectly clear thought with no possibility for differing interpretations. One could wonder if Chaz thought it was “self-defense” or a “revolutionary situation” when he and about 20 other people (including me, Lawrence) wanted to confront fascist skinheads with heavy objects in hand (I had a stick, Chaz had a hammer)? Or, one could wonder why Bob Black’s actions, for which Chaz has a blanket condemnation, don’t fall under the euphemism “self-defense?” Black thought they did.
Chaz’s sections on “Sectarianism,” “Violent Attacks,” and “Misuse of Terms” are some of the worst one-sided rewritings of hystery we’ve seen. The first element of curiosity is that this member of the Anarcho-Syndicalist sect would point the finger at others for being sectarian, flying in the face of the normal meaning of the term.
Not only does he resort to a claim that “internal relations within the anarchist movement are in terrible shape” (only possible if there were an anarchist movement to be inside which there ain’t) but resorts to scapegoating and regurgitates the labeling of an individual, Sally Frye, whom he chooses for unknown reasons not to name, and who had “through dint of hard work and investment of her limited free time and money succeeded (with others) in organizing a project” (and about which one could reasonably expect her to feel a personal or in Chaz’s words “proprietary interest” — her love and labor were deeply invested) in this case No Middle Ground, and then was verbally attacked, and finally purged, as being sectarian because she wanted ber feelings and reflections represented in‘the pages of that magazine — nothing more nothing less. She never ever stated that only articles reflecting her point of view should go in (which would have been sectarian) and in fact the one that she responded to was one she advocated going in even though she found it very disagreeable — hardly sectarian in any common understanding of the word. For her trouble she was threatened “You’ll be sorry ...” but was never told what that meant even though she asked the people involved what they meant. She had the cops called on her (merely threatened it turned out) and the extent of the solidarity of her fellow NMGers was to encourage her to leave rather than confront the cop-caller (who also happened to be Caitlin Manning the author of the article Sally criticized), and ultimately along with Caitlin they purged her. There can be no other word since despite Chaz’s claim there was not an “unspoken consensus that the project was dead.” Sally herself was discouraged from finding out just what the consensus was at the time the machinations against her were proceeding by someone she still thought of as a friend. As a matter of fact the concept of “unspoken consensus” is a travesty on the term consensus which must be active, not passive, and open, spoken if you will, if it is to be anything resembling democratic.
It appears that Chaz and his cohorts still can’t face up to their own abusive behavior toward people though they certainly churn out a lot of rhetoric against others who are reacting to theirs. Purge certainly should conjure up images of Stalin — that’s why it was an unacceptable process.
As to the reference to Processed World being Leninist, well Manning for one has been heard to make statements about her presence in “the vanguard”, and whatever its alleged advocacy, and that remains unclear, PW is a hierarchical group. And if Chaz is the antichrist that would certainly be a plus — too bad he misses on all three counts.
It goes without saying that we have little sympathy with his rants about Fifth Estate suffice it to say the editors are often satirical — and humor is irrational. Chaz’s remarks about them are filled with his characteristic humorless interpretations; when we read the horrible and defamatory letter in FE by “Tall King AZ Hole” we didn’t for one moment think that Woodworth had written it. Of course we have two advantages over Chaz in regards to FE: l) we understand their satire and “fabrications” (blatant farces) such as Manual for Revolutionary Leaders and a circulated letter about Chaz Bufe being a pseudonym for a witches’ coven! and 2) we have senses of humor.
When someone does take strong umbrage with something they’ve printed they seem to provide their readers the opportunity of contacting their critic if they wish. They have done this with Ferd Woodworth and The Match. By the way this something that his beloved Processed World has bent over backwards not to do. So who is sectarian?
The Case of the Shrieking Violets: Coercion, Intimidation, Violent Attacks...
The section “Violent Attacks” is so full of holes that the only remedy is to get a copy of The Baby and the Bathwater (available from BT) because in it are documentations of every “attack” and “counter-attack” by Robert C. Black, jr. and by PWers.
Scientists, even social ones, tend to believe in something known as cause and effect. Not Chaz. According to “Violent Attacks” Black acted in a total vacuum as far as the behavior of Processed World people were concerned. That Chaz was not around to witness very much of everyone’s activities ought to be mentioned. Some of us have been here for the whole show. Even though many are the people who have been coerced and intimidated and threatened by PW principles he wants judgment suspended. For him “An injury to one is an injury to all” seems to mean “An injury to Processed World is an injury to all, but an injury to anyone else by them — fuck ’em.”
When Caitlin threatened to call the cops no one exhibited any solidarity with Sally against this statist (and proprietary) aggression. And when Caitlin assumed a Sumo wrestler position in Brian’s path on Haight Street one evening and began spitting “coward, coward” at him to his amusement, Chaz’s only (serious) response to this silly childish behavior was that he “wished there was not so much conflict” but of course not to her face only to Brian’s and he had not said a word.
When your friends are calling the police and using the courts, as Chaz’s have, it is a bunch of hypocrisy to FBI-bait as he does in his “VA” section and did in his resignation letter to Bound Together in May (1985). Both Black and PW have tried to use the courts and police (with PW, as in many of the forms of harassment they resort to, leading the way, one needs to add) to their “benefit” each with some modicum of “success” (for lack of better words). Chaz states definitively that he is a part of that which is known as Processed Wrirld though that couldn’t be said about those of us he prefers to think of as “siding with Bob Black.” As far as the Feds are concerned, it seems that Chaz can’t understand that differences in temperments, priorities, and predispositions will inevitably yield conflicts and disturbances. The FBI doesn’t need to do anything to Bay Area “dissident groups” in order “to cause disruption and infighting;” they can screw each other up quite well without FBI intervention.
In fact, even in the alleged death threat telephone-call that has been attributed to Black, however one might disagree with the tactic like we did, the caller made his intent completely dependent on the cessation of intimidating and harassing being carried on by PWers. In other words, if the harassment of his friends stopped, no problem. Of course, it didn’t and things devolved from there.
Also, in this section Chaz refers, out of context, to a comment Brian made about understanding anger and frustration but in fact it had nothing to do with Processed World it had to with him and the anger and scorn he expressed toward Sally Frye on the phone one day (she still operating under the assumption the two of them could somehow resolve their differences) and the reaction that generated in a close friend of hers which was not a death threat as Chaz claims but more like crank call to the effect that “You’ll get yours Stalinist” (a passing reference no doubt to the purging that was going on — as Chaz correctly understands). Stalin died of natural causes so it is certainly open to speculation as to what this “threat” meant which so far is nothing. The “Fuck you, Sally ... click” which preceded this crank call wasn’t exactly a very personable way of handling oneself either. But this is lost on Chaz.
And once more, he makes it confusing as to what a marginalist is since those of us who “sided with Bob Black” work (Brian & Freddie in P/W’s target office industry as a matter of fact.)
Although his whole tract is fraught with the misuse of terms, that doesn’t stop Chaz from dedicating a section to it. First there is that ever-present “movement,” then the question of “censorship” and then that of “Bob Black”s allies,” and finally marginalism, anarchism, and numerous other terms remain undefined as to Chaz’s definition of them let alone anyone else’s.
His comments on censorship lean toward being meaningless due to his failure to address the question directly in the context of BT as a bookstore for the dissemination of anarchist/anti-authoritarian/alternative literature, history, analyzes, and theories. As such an outlet, some collective members (again including the collaborators on this response) felt that since BT carries PW, there was a responsibility to provide people who get PW at BT with access to The Baby and the Bathwater, the only written critique of PW (as well as Bay Area “anti-authoritarians” in general and BT too). As for Bob Black being “vulgar, psychotic, personal attacks,” Chaz admitted the night of discussion that he hadn’t even read it! At the meeting where this was discussed and where the word “censorship” caused so much flak, it was also suggested by some of the same folks that if BT collective members refused to carry B&B, then we should also discontinue stocking PW. For Chaz to equate this with a refusal to sell Maoist and Stalinist garbage is dishonest and insulting and skirts the issue of how BT is to function as a space specifically geared to making anarchist ideas available. Besides, if the writers at Revolutionary Worker or Breakthrough started making attacks on anarchists or anarchism consistently (they usually only do so in passing) it would make sense for BT to be used as a place of access for that as well.
Anyway, whatever else Bob Black does in the way of sarcasm, ridicule or whatever it offers a history and critique of a group of people who have engaged in the “prevention of (numerous people) freely expressing (themselves) ... through the use of coercion, intimidation, and/or force.” That someone also makes some disagreeable remarks or takes some disagreeable actions, too, is reason enough to criticize but not reason enough to participate in the process of restrictive availability especially when otherwise respected members of the collective were interested in having it available because elements of it do reflect their experience of PW and the inquisitorial brand of Manning’s political activism. The fact that [they] wanted the book in no way made them ipso facto “Bob Black’s allies.” ln this case it meant that the people Chaz refers to, specifically Freddie Baer and Brian Kane, had had experiences with PW which were reflected in Baby in a more honest way than PW was dealing with them. Some of these experiences involved censorship as he defines it in his last paragraph of his “Misuse” section, though Chaz doesn’t see it that way.
Actually the whole question of censorship is really not developed here complexly enough. For instance, reports are that more people read the underground press in Poland than the official press, but few, except for Party hacks, would argue that Poland doesn’t suffer from censorship. And, many stories go un- or underreported in the U.S. due to subtler mechanisms than coercion or force but certainly which amount to a type of censorship.
When an author, artist, or anyone else for that matter, is required to have their work reflect other people’s point of view before it gets to see the light of day in a project they too are working on or otherwise helping with or responding to, the individual disappears under the tyranny of “self-management” where the key word becomes management not self.
In addition to being the author of Listen, Anarchist!, Chaz, when a member of the Bound Together Collective Bookstore, wrote two letters in two consecutive days (May I5 and I6, l985) which he placed in the store’s journal. In them he displays what are to be his hallmarks in the pamphlet: use of the imperative tense, lack of definitions for the (sometimes ambiguous) terms he uses, confusion concerning the meaning and use of the term “censorship,” attacks on straw people, and agent-baiting.
Quoting from his first letter: “let’s... quit calling Bound Together a ‘collective’ ... Collectives normally have a high degree of cohesiveness and mutual trust among members...” He uses the imperative tense and fails to define what he thinks a “collective” is, although he does provide two characteristics he associates with the concept. Unfortunately, characteristics are not definitions so the concept of a collective and how that relates to the context of BTQ remains obscure. Interestingly, this upholder of the anarchist faith goes on to disparage disparateness.
Still later he explains an incident at a collective meeting: “I found it rather interesting that when I was jumping all over Freddie for apparently knowing who destroyed some ‘collective’ property, but refusing to tell the rest of the ‘Collective’ who did it, that people jumped on me. (Some jerk even called me a ‘cop’ — a comment I deeply resent.)” This refers to three copies of PW which were slashed at BT (see the Slasher’s letter in Rabies), Chaz’s intoxicated third degree interrogation of Freddie (which included getting flushed, using an accusative and hostile tone of voice, and waving his pointed finger in her face), and my (Lawrence) angry question to him: “When did you become a cop, Chaz?”. His behavior toward Freddie was cop-like and I responded accordingly, effectively shutting him up; he can resent the accuracy of my characterization of his behavior all he wants,
I don’t care. But I do care that rather than attacking me in return he chose to attack “some jerk.” Chaz knows me and my name, so why does he avoid using it and laying the responsibility for the accusation on me where it belongs? The only interpretation I can come up with is that he deliberately omitted my name because he didn’t want people asking me what the context of my comment was.
Unlike what he states in the pamphlet, he doesn’t seem to be that interested in avoiding dishonesty.
This letter and other writings contain another thing we can’t brook. That is the psychobabble with which Bufe, PW and their cohorts attempt to discredit their critics. It just doesn’t strike us Reich. While anti-authoritarians generally Laing for an end to psychoterror including its jargon these pop-psychiatrists search for modern straight-jackets. Anyone who has ever dreamed will see they just aren’t Jung enough to understand. For that we think they should be Freud in their own juices.
It’s not difficult to agree that under most circumstances the more simply something can be phrased the better. But language like life is complex, and is not merely utilitarian. It can be played with as in poetry or in the quote of Black’s letter in Chaz’s section entitled “Obscurantism.” Contrary to what Chaz says and except for the last sentence it seems fairly crystalline. In fact, it seems to be about some elements of daily life that Bob argues are central to “social life at its (con)sensual best.”
Parenthetically, since Orwell has often been used to support conflicting perspectives, his own writing has failed his transparency dictum. The lack of understanding of EE’s definition of technology on the part of Chaz and his coworkers only indicates that they are uninterested in thinking about technology and analyzing the importance of separation, domination and dependence. Things that have a hell of a lot to do with day-to-day life!
Anyway, the polling of one’s workmates, who were undoubtedly provided a most neutral context in which to judge the piece on technology, while it may offer some insight into some people’s feelings, is as about as poor a support for the truth or falsity of an argument as one can give. lt would be interesting to know if Chaz has shared his L,A tract or the writings of the Old Testament Anarchists he quotes, or Marx, or whether he has run past concepts he uses, like bourgeoisie or bringing an end to government, wage slavery, money, markets and exchange, past his workmates, and what their enthusiastic response was. Maybe he’s not into ending some of those things. Or maybe, just maybe, he realizes that there is no particular reason for us to believe under the circumstances he provides that these workers are any more “tational” than those who voted for Hitler-or any less so ...
After he has said that the Fifth Estate quote (out of context yet again) was impossible to “make head nor tail of,” he then concludes that it is representative “of blind rejection of science, rationality and technology” (none of which terms does he bother to define, by the way, so we don’t know if it is or isn’t by his account). He shows his complete ignorance when he equates technology with machinery. “Technology” is an umbrella term which of course covers tools and machines, but more importantly, it includes the ideology or mind»set that allows or makes necessary those very tools and machines. For example, “computer technology” is not just PCs; the term must include the production methods which allow and even necessitate working with toxcic solvents, a complete disregard for the health dangers of looking at VDTS, and the ideology of bookkeeping and computation. Computer technology dangers cannot be dismissed by saying that “Under socialism (or communism, or anarchism) these dangers will disappear because they only exist due to the capitalist system of production.” This is nonsense. VDTs will always pose health threats; and if it were easier to manufacture components without toxic solvents, it could be done even under capitalism. But more importantly, it is the ideology of computation that creates the “need” for quick and accurate bookkeeping, a “need” fulfilled by computers.
Whatever the extent of FE‘s rejection of technology it could hardly be said to be blind considering the lengths to which FE editors have gone to describe various forms of and the systematic (anti)nature of many forms of technology in their writings and the ways in which these degrade humanity.
It is also untrue that they have merely “picked the easiest possible targets” like nuclear power and automotive tech (it’s not even true that these are particularly easy since some of Chaz’s current cronies are fond of both). lt is nice however to know that Chaz at least hopes that these might be eliminated in any type of “sane” (psychobabble) society. FE for its part has talked about technology being systematic and systemic and they have talked about how it fits in factories and fields from Detroit to Bhopal. They have even questioned what it means to use environmentally degrading technologies to produce their project and about how they haven’t resolved the apparent contradiction, either. Despite his degrees onecan only wonder if Chaz has ever learned to read from his failing to have found this in FE’s writings. As far as is known, Chaz knows no cavemen even neo.
On the other hand it is not uncommon for Chaz’s cronies to wax uneloquently about their vision of self-managed factories, liberatory computer technology, robotics without blinking an eye or giving much thought to the degrading aspects of these technological processes. They merely declare that it is not a political question and that is that.
Even his reference to medical technology contains no inkling into the controversies about the directions in which the blind acceptance of high technologies have led. lt turns out that even chimpanzees been able to discover powerful antibiotics the knowledge of which for scientists has “emerged only gradually.” So it is not a given that health and cures are dependent on modern technologies, and in our haste to modern it may be that we have forgotten and lost more than we could afford.
The question of which technologies, why and when can only be decided by an unfettered society. But no matter how it is decided their use and abuse will always be a political matter — i.e. a concern about relationships of power.
Bufe claims to be opposed to what he terms “mysticism” (once again he provides no definition, so the reader must infer what Chaz is talking about) but L,A contains ideas that only a moralistic person would entertain. He asks, “once you abandon rationality, how do you determine right from wrong?” A question for him and to all moralists to consider is: How can you even conceive of the notions of “right and wrong” without using mysticism or metaphysics? There is no rational, objective foundation for distinguishing what is “good” from what is “bad.” Whether determined by “mystic abstractions such as god and country” or by “Society,” the bases of morals are found in such external and superstitious concepts; moralism is a system of beliefs in standards of behavior which necessitate judgments to be passed over individuals. What allows anyone the privilege to do this? How can one be a consistent anarchist and maintain such stupid ideas as standards of propriety and morality?
Also in his “Reversion to Mysticism” section, Chaz makes a curious claim to omniscience. He knows why the German working class supported l·litlet — because it “felt right.” lf they had only possessed his capacity for pure and correct reason they would not have done that. lt is curious that at least some of the anarchists at Casas Viejas in Spain thought themselves irrational after the fact of the failed rebellion against Spainish authorities. But I’d wager that Chaz would have supported their “irrational” struggle even though in retrospect the uprising was certainly against their interest — especially those who died.
Since his tract calls on people to dispense with certain elements of choice and subjectivity and sets out to establish rather rigid and austere rules of behavior especially with regard to written material, what’s to stop him, should he ever get the chance, and those who have said they agree with him without qualification, from applying similar standards for other aspects of life like art and music — a sort of Anarchist Realism not unlike the Socialist version. We shudder to think.
His last section is, ironically enough for this atheist, a Ten Commandments of what the politically correct anarchist should and must do in order to have credibility in Bufe’s eyes. If you Sin, you won’t be allowed into the Church, and the way to accomplish atonement for past Sins is unclear.
In Commandment Four he says that “we must refuse to tolerate personal abuse, physical harassment...” which happens to be why PW has found itself in the pickle it is in because it has dealt out such abuse regularly. He’s right: such attacks have poisoned the atmosphere and a number of those who have been subjected to their abuse have supported each other despite and even because of other differences they have.
In Commandment Five he says that “we should not cower behind pseudonyms...” but that is what he did after his calumny with FE — what after all were they going to do all the way in Detroit. etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum.
It is highly significant that Chaz’s diatribe ends with the word “preach,” since that is the essence of what is contained in Listen, Anarchist! From the rant against “deliberate self-marginalization” on page 1 to the Ten Commandments, as written by the Anarchist Lawgiver at the end, the tone is of a moral fervor that reminds one more of an evangelist than an anti-mystic rationalist. Sadly, once all is said and done, this evangelist preacher without a Church looking for pulpit, like all other evangelists, is ultimately only worth ignoring and/or laughing at as the self»parody it is.
* * *
The opinions expressed in the above response should not be construed as other than those of the authors. They especially should not be considered to be the opinions of any other Bound Together members.
From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org
No comments so far. You can be the first!
<< Last Work in Anarchism
Current Work in Anarchism
Hold Your Tongue Demagogue
Next Work in Anarchism >>
All Nearby Works in Anarchism