EGOMANIA! A Response to My Critics on the Post-Left

 

By Alexander Reid Ross

 

My piece, “The Left-Overs: How Fascists Court the Post-Left,” has been shared on Facebook more than 2,000 times now and numerous interpretations have made the rounds. I feel like I must apologize for the inappropriate uses of “Left-Overs,” which unfortunately came across to some as against the post-left specifically. I would like to use this space to humbly correct what has been written about me and the subject of my article.

Those who are familiar with my work recognize that I outted Michael Schmidt, a fascist in the platformist tendency. During the heated first months of that episode, a number of post-leftists managed to condemn me for perpetuating “call out culture” while using my work to launch sectarian attacks against platformism. Meanwhile platformists attacked me for being a post-left primitivist. Since then, Schmidt has admitted, “my mind was toying with [national-anarchism’s] disastrous, racist arguments” (a taste of the truth, but not the buffet to be sure).[1]

Now, post-leftists who reveled in the controversy of “Schmidtgate” find in my present work “the very definition of a sectarian attack.” Although some of the critical engagement with my work bears the marks of sincere inquiry, much of it comes from rage. The recent 5,500 word piece, “Post-Left vs. ‘Woke’ Left,” by Dr. Bones, takes the reader on an extended tour of the latter. I have done my best to counter his efforts by taking on the former.

Forget that Bones antagonized me personally, admitting in a public apology, “I took something I’m sure has no truth to it whatsoever and threw it in his face not because I believed it but because I wanted to hurt him… This was not a fair or even a civil tactic, this was just stupid, cruel, and mean.” When one is dealing with a milieu with a reputation for troll tactics, reddit politics, and chan behavior, it helps to have a thick skin. Apology accepted.

What truly matters is that, in his vitriolic critique, Bones gets most facts plainly wrong and his essay is chock full of spurious accusations. I am, in fact, not “calling for the abandonment of any ideas [fascists] might steal to be thrown away,” whatever that means (it sounds like it would rid the world of ideas altogether and make us all a bit more like Bones).

Let’s look at my most daring claims and see whether or not they deserve the kind of animosity I have faced over the past week:

 

  • “[I]n imagining that anti-capitalism and ‘individual liberty’ maintain ideological purity, radicals such as my own dear editor tend to ignore critical convergences with and vulnerabilities to fascist ideology.” This claim stands up based on evidence I provided, including the correspondence that I had with my editor, as well as the defensive reaction to the piece. I am also clearly positing “radicals” not “post-leftists” specifically.

 

  • “[T]his situation [of ideological cross-over] has provided ample space for the fascist creep.” I am not marking the post-left as “particularly” vulnerable to entryism, nor am I saying that the post-left is, itself, fascist.

 

  • “[The] presence [of fascists among former Earth Liberation Front members] serves as food for thought regarding important radical cross-over points and how to approach them.” All I am implying here is that cross-over points in ideology and practical work should be recognized as important in the struggle against entryism and the clarification of anarchist ideas.

 

  • “[A]lthough in some cases prescient about the subcultural cross-overs between fascism and the post-left, post-leftists have, on a number of occasions, engaged in collaborative relationships.” I list a number of examples, and there are many more to boot. In recent twitter correspondence, one of my critics insisted, aside from the invective they aimed at me, that they agree with my thesis, but did not like the fact that I provided supporting evidence. As the Latin aphorism goes, “Precepts guide, but examples drags along” (Præcepta ducunt, at exempla trahunt).

 

To clarify, reviewing my central points, I never called the post-left fascist, called any of its leading figures fascist, or even made a claim that it is “particularly” vulnerable to fascist entryism.

 

What is the Point?

 

Perhaps the crux of my article is here: “It stands to reason that defending fascists and collaborating with them are not the same, and they are both separate from having incidental ideological cross-over points. However the cross-over points, when unchecked, frequently indicate a tendency to ignore, defend, or collaborate. Defense and collaboration can, and do, also converge.” I am saying it would be wise to check those cross-over points to ensure they are not putting a group or person in a vulnerable position in relation to the fascist creep. For example, I know plenty of pagans; many fascists are also pagans; it is wise for my pagan friends to avoid pagan groups tending toward fascism, like the Asatru Folk Assembly. With this in mind, it is incumbent on antifascists to expose fascist groups or persons and the cross-over points that they exploit—this should be seen as a service and a duty, not an attack.

Yet Bones takes me to task for putting anarchists on notice that “scary individualists are particularly weak to ‘entryism’ and the fascist creep.” If this were true, I would agree with my critic, “This is patently ridiculous.” I have worked and played with post-leftists for the last ten years, including direct action groups, reading groups, and black blocs, and I have published most of my work on Trump in It’s Going Down and Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, both of which have generously published my articles in zines. My experience shows that I am no sectarian. Before ten years ago (roughly between the years of 1999-2004), my political alignment was basically post-left anarchist and even up to 2009, I was participating in things like a post-left reading group with green anarchist, Dan Todd, at the Dry River Radical Resource Center in Tucson, Arizona, that hosted post-left anarchy luminary, Lawrence Jarach, following his interesting piece, “Why I’m Not an Anti-Primitivist.”[2]

I am ecumenical in observing the cross-overs with the far right among collectivists as well as individualists, or as post-leftist, William Gillis, puts it in his review of my book, Against the Fascist Creep, I am “equal opportunity in [my] work.”[3] I clarify in the third sentence of my offending piece, “Fascism comes from a mixture of left and right-wing positions, and some on the left pursue aspects of collectivism, syndicalism, ecology, and authoritarianism that intersect with fascist enterprises.” The next sentence reads, “Partially in response to the tendencies of left authoritarianism, a distinct antifascist movement emerged in the 1970s to create what has become known as ‘post-left’ thought.”

So when I write about the post-left, I am clearly describing an antifascist tendency that emerged from a rejection of left-wing authoritarianism that shared common traits with fascism. The subtitle of my work is, “How Fascists Court the Post-Left,” not “How the post-left turned into a writhing cesspool of fascist ugliness.” Those who accuse me of authoring an anti-post-left “hit piece” ignore that I call it a “rich milieu” in “Left-Overs.” Oversights happen, but let me note that I have faced criticisms from antifascist post-leftists telling me I should not have pulled as many punches as I did. Suffice it to say that the defensive reactions have been instructive, in no small part, for the facts they get wrong.

 

Does the Post-Left Exist?

 

The principle critique of my work is that I have misunderstood or misconstrued the post-left milieu and the thought of its important intellectual rock stars—particularly Max Stirner. This is quite tricky, because post-leftists often insist that the term, “post-left,” amounts to nothing more than a sticky signifier—a place-holder that brings together a variety of tendencies based on temporary affinities.

Due to this loose system, which developed amid affinities between nihilists, green anarchists, individualists, egoist communists, and insurrectionaries, Bones claims that I am “literally chasing a ghost, a spook, a figment of his imagination. Egoists see no need to join with anybody. Alexander has decided we’re kin to primitivists simply because we don’t want to work in a goddamn factory or uphold the wretched consumer society he clearly sees worth saving.”

This denial of post-leftism as a milieu is not entirely accurate. According to Bob Black’s “Notes on ‘Post-Left Anarchism,’” “Among the people I was thinking of as post-left anarchists were Fredy Perlman, John Zerzan, Dan Todd, Hakim Bey, Max Cafard, Michael William, John Moore, the Fifth Estate writers of the 70’s and 80’s (such as George Bradford/David Watson and Peter Werbe), Wolfi Landstreicher (he had other names back then), the Green Anarchism writers (especially John Connor), and several regular contributors to Anarchy: A Journal of Desire including its editor Jason McQuinn (then known as Lev Chernyi), Lawrence Jarach, and Aragorn.”[4] With the caveat that the post-left exists on its own terms, our readers will hopefully recognize, against dissemblances, that I am not higlty-piglty scrabbling together a discursive field out of little else but hot air and black ink. Bones even insists (repeatedly) on the importance of understanding “why a Post-Left even exists.”[5]

 

A Bit About Stirner

 

Bones accuses me of never having read Stirner or Nietzsche, although I have read virtually all of Stirner and Nietzsche. The sensitivity is incredible, given that I devote only one sentence to Max Stirner in “The Left-Overs,” writing that he held a “belief in the supremacy of the European individual over and against nation, class, and creed.” For this, I have been subjected to some of the most intense invective I have ever experienced in my life. Bones calls me a “fucking asshole” in his piece and a leftist “class struggle” meme page attacks me as a liberal antifa cuck, deploying the racist vocabulary of the alt-right to denounce antifascism as if they were not proving my point.

Bones does not deny the Eurocentrism of Stirner’s insistence on a “really Caucasian” age following the purging of “innate Negroidity” and “Mongloidity.”[6] Yet he refuses to acknowledge the tacit racism, despite the fact that Stirner’s editor and translator, David Leopold, wrote in his introduction to Cambridge University Press’s 1995 edition of The Ego and Its Own, “Individual and historical development are the two primary forms of the Stirnerian dialectic, but in order to clarify its form he inserts ‘episodically’ a racial (and racist) analogue of the historical account.”[7] Those calling my interpretation of Stirner “dishonest,” “disingenuous,” and “dirty” must hurl the same invective at Dr. Leopold, an Oxford University fellow and professor entrusted with the leading edition of Stirner’s main text (available through Libcom).

Can we chalk this up to blind ignorance, friends? Stirner’s historical account runs parallel to the then-popular Aryan myth, wherein the passage of humans from Africa to Asia to Europe signifies a cultural-linguistic process of evolution. Bones posits Stirner’s rejection of nationalism as a defense against the charge that he was racist. Yet recall now that I mentioned that Stirner held a “belief in the supremacy of the European individual over and against nation, class, and creed.” Race and nation are different subjects, and looking at the complex history of ideological cross-overs, we can see fascinating outcroppings of the work of Stirner and Nietzsche that reject modern nationalism while reinforcing racist imperialism. The inability to detect this exposes a crucial vulnerability to racist anti-statism, which we will come to shortly.

 

Stirnerists and the Foundations of Fascism

 

In the 1860s, Stirner would become a topic for historians and philosophers of the mind, from Friedrich Lange’s History of Materialism to Hartmann’s Philosophy of the Unconscious. There is little doubt that perhaps the most influential thinker of nihilism, Friedrich Nietzsche, was familiar with Stirner, familiar as he was with those two influential texts. He lent his student, Adolf Baumgartner, a copy of Ego and Its Own in 1874.[8] Less than ten years later, shortly before publication of his most essential work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche confessed to his friend Ida Overbeck the deep influence of Stirner on his thinking before worrying, “they will be talking of plagiarism.”[9]

Like Stirner, Nietzsche asserted the philosophical importance of iconoclasm—of destroying dominant paradigms that contain the individual. Nietzsche looked at the spirit of his day—the decadence of urban expansion, mundane philosophy, the herds of nationalism and flocks of the Church—as a form of passive nihilism. To overcome it, he predicted a new Superman would come about to annihilate the falsity of everyday life through an “active nihilism” perhaps evocative of an “eternal return” of human freedom.[10]

Anarchist writer George Woodcock notes, “Nietzsche himself regarded Stirner as one of the unrecognized seminal minds of the nineteenth century.”[11] By the end of the 20th Century, Nietzsche and Stirner formed fundamental pillars of radical thought. Writer and editor, Benjamin Tucker, discussed the significance of Stirner to anarchism, while Emma Goldman popularized Nietzsche.[12]

Aside from these influences, Stirner and Nietzsche also had a tremendous effect on Dora Marsden, a feminist leader who held the Aryan female genius responsible for breeding humanity into the New Order.[13] Aside from being a Stirnerist, Marsden was also influenced by the anti-Semitic and misogynistic individualist, Otto Weininger, who counted Stirner, with Ibsen and Nietzsche, as the only scholars to ever understand true ethics and individualism.[14] Though she was an egoist and an important member of the women’s movement, her agreement with Weininger led her to essentialize the sex binary in her writings. Weininger would also influence the Nazi regime and Evola openly admired him.[15]

As Stirner’s work gained traction, it also garnered increasing attention from the right. In his 1908 text, Gospels of Anarchy, and Other Contemporary Studies, Vernon Lee observed a similarity between Stirner’s “psychology” and that of anti-Semitic reactionary, Maurice Barrès.[16] This similarity was not an anomaly—Barrès was aware of the Young Hegelians and Stirner through the works of Saint-René Tallandier, and Stirner’s influence could be found in the first two volumes of Barrès’s Cult of Myself as well as Enemy of the Law.[17] By the 1920s, James Huneker’s book, Egoists: A Book of Supermen, could place Stirner and Nietzsche alongside Barrès within the same individualist milieu without controversy.[18]

Significantly, Barrès and his reactionary ally, Charles Maurras, would forward the earliest prefigurations of fascism. In his journal, La Cocarde, Barrès sought to reach out to “the proletariat of bacheliers, to those youths whom society has given a diploma and nothing else.”[19] To achieve such a goal, Barrès included the left-wing voices of Eugéne Fournière and Fernand Pelloutier, along with nationalist compatriots. In the spirit of La Cocarde, Maurras joined with the former anarcho-syndicalist, Georges Valois, to launch the Cercle Proudhon with Eduard Berth, a close associate of the famous syndicalist, Georges Sorel. Despite Maurras’s importance, Valois would later claim Barrès as the progenitor of original fascism.[20]

Here in its germ, at the merger of individualism and collectivism, nationalism and socialism, fascism could be found. Following the developments of the day, Benito Mussolini called Sorel the “notre Maître (Master)” and encouraged his followers to return to Stirner.[21] In Germany, conservative revolutionary, Ernst Jünger, conjured up the figure of the “magic zero,” exhorting readers to annihilate the modern world and produce the New Age of the “Anarch”—who “embodies the viewpoint of Stirner… that is, the anarch is unique.”[22]

It was the desire for the New Man and the New Age that created the conditions for fascist palingenesis (the ideology of rebirth). This movement was facilitated by avant-gardists like Filippo Marinetti, who praised the “destructive gesture of the anarchist,” and Gabriel D’Annunzio, who theorized an aesthetic, poetic and spiritual unity of the nation.[23] Hence, there is no doubting the influence of Stirner in the seedbed of fascism—from Barrès, Mussolini, and Jünger to Marinetti, D’Annunzio, and Weininger. But wait! There’s more!

 

The Problem with Bataille

 

Another critical mistake my critics have made is denying that avant-gardist, Georges Bataille, was influenced by Stirner. This fact is supported by among the most basic works on Bataille.[24] Not only was Bataille influenced by Stirner, but his reading of Stirner came during the crucial window between his denunciation by the Surrealists in 1930 and his publishing of “The Psychological Structure of Fascism” three years later, in which he calls fascism, “the constitution of a total heterogenous power whose manifest origin is to be found in the prevailing effervescence… the emanation of a principle which is none other than that of the glorious existence of a nation raised to the value of a divine force (which, superseding every other conceivable consideration, demands not only passion but ecstasy from its participants).”[25] Since “fascism is an imperative response to the growing threat of the working class movement,” for Bataille, those who believe in the “liberating subversion of society” must recreate the process through which human lives would be emancipated.[26]

The problem with Bataille is that this recreation looked a lot like fascism. In 1934, a year after writing “The Psychological Structure of Fascism,” Bataille attended the “Exhibition of the Fascist Revolution” in Rome. In response to what he saw as the inevitable rise of fascism, in a letter to his friend Pierre Kaan, he declared, “I have no doubt about the level on which we will have to place ourselves: it can only be that of fascism itself, which is to say the mythological level. It is therefore a question of posing values participating in a living nihilism, equal to the fascist imperatives.”[27] In the words of scholar Rainer Friedrich, “Doubtlessly, at that point, Bataille’s discourse displayed a strong affinity to fascism.”[28] As did members of his coterie.

A member of Bataille’s 1935-1936 group, Counter-Attack, wrote, “We prefer, in any case, and without being duped, the anti-diplomatic brutality of Hitler, which is surely less fatal to peace than the drooling excitation of diplomats and politicians.”[29] A few months later, Surrealists who had participated in Counter-Attack released a statement attacking the “so-called group, within which had emerged some tendencies called ‘superfascist’ whose purely fascist character has become more and more evident.”[30] Identifying Bataille’s outlook as “surfascisme” and calling him “more fascist than the fascists” was not necessarily inaccurate.[31] In the translator’s introduction to Bataille’s own book, On Nietzsche, Stuart Kendall notes, “There was more than a little truth to the accusation, and intentionally so.”[32]

It is interesting that Bataille deploys the nihilist meta-narrative, which in a lot of fascist ideology functions as a part of the palingenetic core of rebirth. Although fascists often reject nihilism, individualism, and egoism, those denunciations come in connection to multiculturalism, liberalism, and democracy. On a deeper level, fascists like Jünger and Martin Hiedegger celebrated the dialectic of passive and active nihilism found in Nietzsche.[33] For Julius Evola, Stirner epitomized the first stage of a two-step process of emptying modern civilization of meaning—his form of “passive nihilism” is carried forward by philosopher Friedrich Nietszche into a New Age of spiritual realization by the New Man through “active nihilism.”[34]

It is crucial to recognize that Stirner’s rejection of modern nationalism is supported in fascism. Evola also championed the spiritual superiority of the “Aryan race” vis-à-vis “culture” and against modern civilization, which he identified with petty nationalism. Mussolini’s squadristi attacked nationalists as well as leftists.[35] Mussolini’s party saw palingenetic ultranationalism as the only way, a kind of organic rebirth of Ancient Rome in the height of Imperial grandeur under Scipio Africanus.[36] Fascism is Imperial rather than national, so Stirner’s call for a “truly Caucasian” age had its resonances on the right and left.

 

Individualism and Nihilism in Post-War Fascism

 

Stirner could not (and cannot) easily be shelved as left or right; his influence was perhaps more liminal and affective than direct and intellectual. As anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker lamented, “While the atomization of the individual is the constant, while humongous buildings populate the cities, while avenues are designed for machines, while collective transportation is designed for cattle and not human beings, anti-social/anti-communitarian actions will certainly remain present, expressed with the bitter angst shown throughout Stirner’s work.”[37] As much as his prejudices can be considered a symptom of his time, Rocker viewed Stirner’s reception by nihilists and individualists as similarly conditioned by the environment.

After the War, Stirner’s work was preserved in perhaps the definitive text on US individualism, James J. Martin, Men Against the State: The Expositors of Individualist Anarchism in America, 1827–1908. Published in 1953, Martin’s text noted Stirner’s influence in upholding the individual over and against the notion of natural rights in anything other than their voluntary manifestation.[38] Going on to publish anti-interventionist texts, Martin fell into the circle of a young Murray Rothbard, whose own writings on “anarcho-capitalism” in his journal Left & Right attempted to draw anti-war radicals toward free market ideals.[39]

Rothbard and Martin connected on their appreciation for Holocaust denier, Harry Elmer Barnes, who called Martin’s work “the most formidable achievement of World War II Revisionism.” Following Barnes’s death in 1968 (and a glowing obituary in the final issue of Left & Right), Martin founded his own publishing house and published texts on anarchy, Holocaust denial, and anti-interventionism.[40] Martin’s individualism and Rothbard’s incipient neoliberalism formed no small part of the seedbed from which the most right-wing faction of the libertarian movement sprang into being.

On a speculative note, Stirner’s influence might make sense here due to his translation of Jean-Baptiste Say’s free market works into German.[41] For this same reason, echoes of his thought are often seen in Ayn Rand’s ruthless “objectivism” by scholars and observers. Yet Stirner cannot be placed exclusively among neoliberalism, as his legacy continues to inform nihilists, individualists, insurrectionary anarchists, and ultra-leftists who believe in communization. Perhaps due to this mixture, the philosophies of individualism and nihilism continued to find even broader audiences in the cross-over between left and right ideas in the 1970s.

Perhaps the most functionally fascist of these influences came as Evola’s work was received by a new generation of fascists who made a concerted effort to infiltrate the left and restore the foundation of fascism. This work of the “European New Right” included the Evolian rejection of nationalism in favor of local cultures composing a larger, federated “spiritual empire.” European New Right leader, Alain de Benoist, returns to the process of “positive nihilism” whereby Europeans will “build on a site which has been completely cleared and leveled…. If a new right is to be brought into being we have to start from scratch.”[42] While Benoist and his project generally denounce “abstract” individualism, their “communitarian” project arguably tends toward the spiritual reclamation of the Evolian “universal individual” through its tacit elitism.[43]

Much of this was stated relatively plainly in “The Left-Overs,” which has been maligned by one respected anarchist as “that insane article.” The negative reaction is largely a mixture of defensiveness and inability to understand the central, palingenetic core of fascism, but again the willingness to jump to hostility and invective is extremely telling of the blindspot. If I am insane, I am like Diogenes the Cynic holding a lamp in the daylight in the search for an honest man, taking the winding path of history past those influenced by Stirnerist individualism and nihilism who set the foundation for and participated in fascism, such as Weininger, Marinetti, Barrès, D’Annunzio, Mussolini, Schmitt, Jünger, and Martin (i.e., some of the most important fascists in history).

 

Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil

 

Looking up Stirner in the fascist blogosphere today, one finds the most important cross-overs. In the Counter-Currents article, “We Are All Egoists—and Why That’s a Good Thing,” by former anarchist “race realist,” Aedon Cassiel, Stirner’s egoism avoids the “immature, anti-social, or sociopathic” approach, moving instead toward a synthesis of individualism and collectivism that provides for “a flourishing social commons.” This, of course, is not to say that a reading of The Ego and Its Own that permits such a synthetic social relationship of individuals is automatically fascist, but rather that it has significant weight across the spectrum.

In another article from Counter-Currents, Stirner is referred to approvingly at the beginning of the tradition of Nietzsche and D’Annunzio as developing the “consumate individualist”—“in the space beyond Left and Right, as well as beyond good and evil—with the aristocratic radical on the common ground of Life.” It is significant that the first citation used by the author of this piece refers to the exuberant chapter dedicated to D’Annunzio in Temporary Autonomous Zone, a seminal text in the post-left milieu by spiritualist, Hakim Bey (i.e., the text that praises proto-fascist right-left cross-over is then used by a fascist to talk about a “space beyond Left and Right”).[44]

Stirner’s mercurial attitude and iconoclastic attack on all structures of everyday life quickly elevated him to star-status in the online forums of the post-left during the 2000s, as his cyber-influence extended to the internet subcultures of trans-humanism. Stirner became a reference point for neoreactionaries who joined other interested individualists in message boards like 4chan’s /lit/ section. As meme wars grew, Stirner memes emerged from chan boards and neoreactionary websites, along with post-left anarchist forums, green anarchist platforms, nihilist groups, and occult circles.

In some cases, this cross-section produces meme wars of antifascists against fascists and/or anarcho-capitalists against anti-capitalist egoists and/or green anarchists against trans-humanists, and so on. In other cases, there are convergences between otherwise different factions. For instance, in retaliation for “Left-Overs,” the admins of Anarchist News posted a hoax article purportedly authored by me but compiled from plagiarized copy-and-pastes of different articles of mine to create rambling nonsense—of course, a fascist posted in the comments. Why not? Am I damned for expecting something more from a site that “repeatedly published ‘national anarchists’ despite widespread condemnation,” according to Gillis?[45]

With the development of the alt-right, newer syntheses of Stirnerism became possible. Stirner soon became a topic of interest, a conversation piece between Stirner-influenced nationalist Jonathan Bowden and alt-right founder, Richard Spencer. Alt-right accounts like “Darth Stirner” emerged, encouraging young radicals to abandon “rose-colored glasses” and open their eyes to the need for interning the enemies of the white race.[46]

 

Final Thoughts

 

Despite their recurrence in fascist ideology, I would not leap to the conclusion that nihilist or individualist thought are essentially fascist. Was Marsden proto-fascist? Was Stirner proto-fascist? These may seem like interesting questions, but they’re rather superficial. Rather than casting blame against one or another individual, I prefer to think of proto-fascist conditions. Perhaps this is not individualist of me, but it is by no means an attempt to brand the post-left as a fascist milieu. Rather, my article was an attempt to illustrate the conditions that brought and bring about fascism. Recall, I have never claimed that individualism and nihilism were the sole or even the principle influences for fascism, nor that the post-left is “particularly” susceptible to cross-over as opposed to the authoritarian or even anti-authoritarian left.

Now, instead of reflecting on the true, stated intension of my articles, my detractors have jumbled together innumerable conjectures that continue to miss the mark. To attack me for pointing out vulnerabilities to fascist entryism in relation to ideological cross-over points and switch the conversation to utterly false denial of the racist tendencies of white, Eurocentric philosophers is to fall into ignorance. It suggests that one is less concerned with the presence of racism than the accusation (and who is making it). And it indicates a deeply disconcerting pattern of “defending the bros” as opposed to careful consideration of the facts.

In a world where fascists attempt to enter radical milieus and draw people to the right, it is imperative to understand their methods. I have provided (or attempted to provide) a historiographic roadmap through which we can contemplate the cross-over points that act as entryways for the right into the post-left and exit paths from the post-left toward fascism. We must understand these aspects of fascism and its relation to radical politics if we are to defeat it. If we do not respect and uphold the value of truth, we are no better anyway.

Volentem ducunt fata, nolentem trahunt (Fate guides the willing, and drags the unwilling).[47]

 

 ***

Alexander Reid Ross is a journalist and lecturer at Portland State University. He has been published in Truth-Out, ROAR Magazine, and Upping the Anti, and is the author of Against the Fascist Creep (AK Press, 2017).

***

 

[1] Michael Schmidt, Letter to the Council of the Institute for Anarchist Theory and History (IATH), Mary 7, 2017. The council refused his resignation and instead terminated his position.

[2] Jarach may recall that he took me to school over the correct dates of the Paris Commune.

[3] William Gillis, “Against the Pull of Simplicity and Disconnect,” Center for a Stateless Society, April 2, 2017, https://c4ss.org/content/48385.

[4] Bob Black, “Notes on ‘Post-Left Anarchism,’” Anarchist Library, 2015, https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/bob-black-notes-on-post-left-anarchism.

[5] He also, somewhat awkwardly, makes the claim that the post-left is more amenable to resistance movements around the world and particularly in Latin America than “HIS [my] anarchy”—an interesting perspective given the abundance of organizationalist anarchism in Latin America, and the fact that my first book, Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab, is dedicated to assessing non-sectarian, popular resistance movements on their own terms. Ed., Alexander Reid Ross, Grabbing Back: Against the Global Land Grab (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2014).

[6] Max Stirner, The Ego and Its Own, trans: David Leopold (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 62-63.

[7] Ibid, xvii.

[8] Albert Lévy, Stirner et Nietzsche, trans. Mitch Abidor (Paris: Societé Nouvelle de Librairie et d’Édition, 1904), https://www.marxists.org/subject/anarchism/levy/stirner-nietzsche.htm.

[9] See Rüdiger Safranski, Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography, trans. Shelly Frisch (New York City: WW Norton & Co, 2003), 127.

[10] Friedrich Nietzsche, Nietzsche: Writings from the Late Notebooks, trans. Kate Sturge, ed. Rüdiger Bittner (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 120-121.

[11] George Woodcock, Anarchism : A History Of Libertarian Ideas And Movements (New York City: Meridian Books, 1962), 94, http://rebels-library.org/files/woodcock_anarchism.pdf.

[12] Benjamin R. Tucker, Instead of a Book, By a Man too Busy to Write One (New York City: Benjamin R. Tucker, 1897), https://archive.org/stream/cu31924030333052/cu31924030333052_djvu.txt; Andrew Cornell, Unruly Equality: U.S. Anarchism in the Twentieth Century (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2016), 39.

[13] Lucy Delap, The Feminist Avant-Garde: Trans-Atlantic Encounters of the Early Twentieth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2007), 277.

[14] Otto Weininger, Sex and Character, trans. (London: William Heinemann, 1906), 96, http://www.theabsolute.net/ottow/schareng.pdf.

[15] Racist and anti-Semitic aspects of the women’s movement were ported through the post-war period by Nazi mystic, Savitri Devi, who asserted a kind of green philosophy not unlike today’s Deep Ecology. One can still detect today inflections of a reductionist women’s movement in the “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists”, who aside from engaging in some cross-overs with far-right hate groups also infect tendencies within the radical green movement (specifically the group Deep Green Resistance). See Michelle Renée Matisons and Alexander Reid Ross, “Against Deep Green Resistance,” no. 28 (Oakland, CA: Institute for Anarchist Studies/AK Press, 2014), https://anarchiststudies.org/2015/08/09/against-deep-green-resistance-by-michelle-renee-matisons-and-alexander-reid-ross/.

[16] Vernon Lee, Gospels of Anarchy, and Other Contemporary Studies (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1908), 31.

[17] Ida-Marie Frandon, Barrès: Precurseur (Paris: Éditions Fernand Lanore, 1983), 17-21, 50-57, 70-73.

[18] James Huneker, Egoists, a Book of Supermen: Stendahl, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Anatole France, Huysmans, Barrès, Nietzsche, Blake, Ibsen, Stirnern, and Ernest Hello (New York City: Scribners, 1921).

[19] Maurice Barrès, quoted in Judith Surkis, Sexing the Citizen: Morality and Masculinity in France, 1870–1920 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006), 98.

[20] Zeev Sternhell, Neither Right Nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France, trans. David Maisel (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 1986), 107.

[21] Mussolini, Opera Omnia, 35 vols. (Florence, Italy: La Fenice, 1951–1963), 15:194; A. James Gregor, The Ideology of Fascism: The Rationale of Totalitarianism (New York: Free Press, 1969), 156; Stephen B. Whitaker, The Anarchist-Individualist Origins of Italian Fascism (Bern: Peter Lang 2002), 86. I note in my book that “One should resist the temptation to make too much of Fascism’s syndicalist or individualist tendencies.” See Alexander Reid Ross, Against the Fascist Creep (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2017).

[22] Julien Hervier, Ernst Jünger, The Details of Time: Conversations with Ernst Jünger, trans. Joachim Neugroschel (New York: Marsilio Publishers, 1995), 82.

[23] Barbara Spackman, Fascist Virilities: Rhetoric, Ideology, and Social Fantasy in Italy (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 49, 123-126; Zeev Sternhell, The Birth of Fascist Ideology: From Cultural Rebellion to Political Revolution (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 187-188.

[24] Michael Richardson, Georges Bataille (New York City: Routledge, 1994), 21.

[25] Georges Bataille, “The Psychological Structure of Fascism,” trans. Carl R. Lovitt, New German Critique, No. 16 (Winter, 1979), 81.

[26] Ibid, 76

[27] Stuart Kendall, Georges Bataille (London: Reaktion Press, 2007), 127.

[28] Rainer Friedrich, “The Enlightenment Gone Mad (I) The Dismal Discourse of Postmodernism’s Grand Narratives,” Arion 19 (3):31-78 (2012), http://www.bu.edu/arion/the-enlightenment-gone-mad-i-the-dismal-discourse-of-postmodernisms-grand-narratives/

[29] Jean Dautry, “Sous le feu des canons français at alliés,” Contre-attaque, March 1936, (Mélusine de l’université Paris-III Sorbonne Nouvelle), http://www.andrebreton.fr/work/56600100744230. My translation.

[30] Quoted in Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi, Rethinking the Political: The Sacred, Aesthetic Politics, and the Collège de Sociologie (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011), 142, ^152.

[31] Kendall, 127.

[32] Georges Bataille, On Nietzsche, trans. Stuart Kendall (Albarny, NY: SUNY Press, 2015), xiii. These are not at all hidden threads, and are all too well known by Bataille aficionados of the right like Nick Land. At the same time, it might help to remind the reader that I never accused Bataille of being a fascist; I simply noted in “The Left-Overs” that he “experimented with fascist aesthetics,” and followed that up with quotes. Yet for such a modest suggestion, I received outlandish (and revealing) vitriol.

[33] Martin Heidegger, Neitszsche, Vols. III & IV, trans. David Farrrell Krell (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), https://taradajko.org/get/books/Heidegger_Nietzsche.pdf. For more on Jünger’s nihilism, see Ernst Jünger, Das abenteuerliche Herz. Erste Fassung: Aufzeichnungen bei Tag und Nacht, in mtliche Werke, Vol. 9 (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1979), 116-117. Several people have attacked my evidenced claim of the attraction that Carl Schmitt felt for Max Stirner by referring to his post-war work, avoiding his youth and the inter-war years when he did things like paraphrase the Proudhonian axiom, “whoever invokes humanity is cheating.” See Safranski, 125.

[34] See Julius Evola, Ride the Tiger, trans. Joscelyn Godwin, Constance Fontana (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2003), 18-19, http://www.cakravartin.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/Julius-Evola-Ride-the-Tiger-Survival-Manual-for-the-Aristocrats-of-the-Soul.pdf. See

[35] George P. Blum, The Rise of Fascism in Europe (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998), 22.

[36] Peter Bondanella, A History of Italian Cinema (New York: Continuum, 2009), 47.

[37] Rudolf Rocker, Anarchy and Organization, trans. Libcom (Libcom, 2003), https://libcom.org/files/Rudolf%20Rocker-%20Anarchy%20and%20organisation.pdf.

[38] James J. Martin, Men Against the State: The Expositors of Individualist Anarchism in America, 1827–1908 (Colorado Springs: Ralph Myles Publisher, 1970), 201, 215.

[39] John Payne, “Rothbard’s Time on the Left,” Journal of Libertarian Studies 19, no.1 (Winter 2005): 10–11.

[40] Murray N. Rothbard, “Harry Elmer Barnes, RIP,” Left & Right 4, no. 1 (1968), 3; StephenMeansMe, “Reason Magazine Addresses That 1976 “Holocaust Denial Edition,” LittleGreenFootballs, July 27, 2014, http://littlegreenfootballs.com/article/43649_Reason_Magazine_Addresses_That_1976_Holocaust_Denial_Edition.

[41] John Powell, Biographical Dictionary of Literary Influences: The Nineteenth Century, 1800-1914 (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2005), 397.

[42] Alain de Benoist, “Regenerating History,” in Fascism, ed. Roger Griffin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 169-170.

[43] Although Evola credits Stirner, Weininger, and Nietzsche, he states that Carlo Michelstaedter’s individualism trumps them all. See Joscelyn Godwin, “Forward” to Julius Evola, Men Among the Ruins, trans. Guido Stucco, ed. Michael Moynihan (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions), 5, http://cakravartin.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2007/02/julius-evola-men-among-the-ruins.pdf.

[44] Among the most hysterical claims is that I accused people like Hakim Bey of being a fascist. Such a brainless misreading of my text distorts my thesis and its supporting evidence. Bey romanticized the imperial occupation of Fiume by D’Annunzio that effectively set the stage for fascism, and compares it to Paris in 1968 and the Autonomia movement of the early 1970s—but that does not make him a fascist. Regardless of whether his comparisons ring true, his description of Fiume is just another example of how post-leftists occasionally find themselves tolerating proto-fascism or even acting (wittingly or unwittingly) in league with fascists. Hakim Bey, Temporary Autonomous Zone (Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 2003), 123-126.

[45] Gillis, op. cit. National-anarchists are fascists. See Graham D. Macklin, “Co-opting the Counter Culture: Troy Southgate and the National Revolutionary Faction,” Patterns of Prejudice 39, no. 3 (September 2005): 301–26, http://slackbastard.anarchobase.com/?p=2439.

[46] Matthew Lyons, Ctrl-Alt-Delete (Political Research Associates, 2017), http://www.politicalresearch.org/2017/01/20/ctrl-alt-delete-report-on-the-alternative-right/#sthash.CQimN0ES.dpbs.

[47] “Fate guides the willing, and drags the unwilling” – Seneca

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12 thoughts on “EGOMANIA! A Response to My Critics on the Post-Left”

  1. I have no interest in this controversy you’ve provoked with your calumny against people in the anarchist movement. I’m just pleased that our Fifth Estate editorial group unanimously decided against running your essay.
    I didn’t read the posting on this site, the responses, nor your retort above. You must have a lot of time on your hands. In both of yours, I word searched Fifth Estate and to my horror discovered myself and our magazine on a laundry list of who you call post-left.
    First, I don’t want to be part of your list. Second, I don’t consider myself post-left nor is that how the Fifth Estate identifies itself, so please scratch us off, ok?
    Anarchist is an honorable and adequate enough definition.
    This statement is mine alone and I do not speak for the Fifth Estate editorial group. I only respond because somehow my name got mixed into the soup.

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    1. Dear Peter,

      Hi, I’m only responding because the editors of this website contacted me to tell me about what they called “an especially shitty comment.” In the general world of shitty comments, to be fair, I think yours is not that shitty. However, I have a lot of respect for you and FE over the years, as someone who used to read your magazine with great interest.

      I was really excited when y’all approached me to write an article. And worked for many hours along with your dogged collective-mate to iron out the nuances. You say that “I’m just pleased that our Fifth Estate editorial group unanimously decided against running your essay.” OK, but that’s not quite a good faith claim. Y’all became rude and unprofessional with me, and tried to get me to submit my article with extreme changes. When I refused to resubmit (ie, pulled my article), we left it at that, so it seemed more mutual to me. The fact that you are trying to score points off of the impression that my article was rejected is just mean-spirited.

      I’m glad you admit to not having read the article(s) at all. I guess Fifth Estate really understood the point to begin with. However, to call it “calumny” now, after your editor and I struggled to craft a better piece and after my repeated good faith efforts (see above article) to set the record straight… well that doesn’t seem like you. If you haven’t read the article, how would you know?

      That’s why so much of this seems like a big misunderstanding. First of all, I didn’t allege that you are part of the “list” of post-leftists. I quoted Bob Black, who made that assessment. Yet you must admit it is a bit awkward to distance yourselves as though you never had anything to do with the post-left. Gavin Grindon, who wrote an article for FE on “Second Wave Situationism,” stated in his 2008 book, “Since the mid-1980s, in magazines such as Fifth Estate and Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, anarchists have developed a variety of Post-Left Anarchy.”

      I don’t see how you could deny this, given the FE editorial collective statement from 1998: “Our definition of revolution has evolved with the years, from new left through ultra-left to post-left, to a perspective difficult to sum up in a few words.” I do appreciate your attempts to distance yourself from the post-left as a matter of clarification but I don’t think it’s fair to malign me.

      Anyway, I hope that you can see through the smog of accusations and painful misconstructions of my work so that we can go on the same page. I’m not saying the post-left is/was fascist, nor am I saying it is/was particularly vulnerable to fascist entryism. I am saying that it is just as vulnerable, however, as other milieux and that is something to watch out for. I have reached out to four other publications often associated with the post-left, and they have said that they weren’t upset at all, even criticizing me for not going far enough.

      I wish you well, Peter Werbe. I hope your magazine enjoys success. Your experience and your intellect deserve respect. If you would like to discuss my articles in greater depth, I’d be happy to do that after you read them.

      Warm Regards,
      ARR

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  2. humans will adopt a global biosphere mindset,whether billions die in the collapse before we awaken from the constructs of race,nations,denominations,consumer capitalism and all false divisions no one knows but it appears that we won’t.Horrible short term losses but huge long term gains.IMAGINE NLRBE,a system for the well being of all.

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  3. “The line between Individualism and Fascism is razor thin.”

    I read that in movie review once but I think the same could be said of your point. I still disagree with you on Stirner but I think you hit the nail on the head when it comes to calling him out on his racist tendencies. He was very much an antisemite and had racist interpretations of history. I do respect you for bringing this to my attention and it really helps inform my reading of his work. It shows that in our pining for our own freedom we tend to distance ourselves from others who in all other regards meet our definition.

    In this way, I think it’s a necessity to remember that even philosophers are subject to the prejudices of time and place. I learned that the hard way with Nietzche. Really, I have no problem what you had to say it’s just that some truths are difficult to swallow.

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