Letter to Anarchy

Well, I seem to have pissed off Lawrence Jarach of Anarchy magazine. Not sure how, exactly. Maybe it was my letters critiquing their attacks on Platformism a few years back. If you are interested, they are:

http://anarchism.ws/writers/anarcho/movement/AJODAletterPlatform.html

http://anarchism.ws/writers/anarcho/movement/AJODAplatform2.html

http://anarchism.ws/writers/anarcho/anarchism/postleft/sentbb.html

I gave up in the end, as it seemed a pointless task. While not a Platformist, I take objection to inaccurate critiques. Just as I take objection to Jarach's inaccurate and petty "review" of the last issue of Black Flag. It would have saved space if his review said "I don't like Iain McKay"!

Anyway, I've sent off a letter correcting the inaccuracies of the non-review. Is there any point? How influential is Anarchy in American anarchist circles? It seems marginal in the UK, but I assume it has more impact in North America. Is that right?

I must admit that I did laugh when I first read the review. It really is petty. But the inaccuracies are terrible -- and I would not like some future historian using that review as evidence on how Black Flag took over Freedom or on anything else.

It does raise one unanswered question, though. If Andrew is my "doppelganger", which one of us is the evil one?

Here is the letter:

Dear Anarchy

My, how my "dreary" existence was brightened to discover that I had my own "tendency." (Anarchy, no. 65, p. 56) This came, I must admit, as a surprise to me but, still, it is nice to have my "dreary" life brightened by such news! Unfortunately, as I read the so-called review of Black Flag that spark of sunshine quickly flickered and died. Given its inaccuracies and contradictions, I can only surmise that this "tendency" of mine’s is just as much nonsense as the rest of Lawrence's non-review.

I was amazed to discover that we had organised a "take-over" of our "erstwhile bitter rival Freedom." I'm not sure how we managed that, as no member of the Black Flag collective has become an editor of Freedom. If anything, it’s the opposite as an editor of Freedom joined our collective for the last issue. He kindly did the new layout Lawrence loved so much. Yes, people who are, or have been, members of our collective do write for Freedom, but they have had no control over whether it goes in and, as such, are treated exactly the same as other contributors (as it should be). I doubt that has changed, or will change.

Still, why commend increased co-operation in our movement when, instead, it can be used for a petty little dig at others?

Equally astonishing was the discovery that Andrew Flood is my "doppelganger." As we are physically unalike, I assume Lawrence means our politics. Yes, we are both communist-anarchists but Andrew is a (neo-)Platformist and I am not so there are important differences. I'm also not aware of Andrew ever being a contributor to Freedom, never mind the extremely regular one Lawrence thinks he is. Suffice to say, if Andrew has contributed to that paper he has done so so infrequently that I cannot remember him ever doing so. Perhaps he is, anonymously or under a pseudonym, but not being an editor I have no way of knowing -- like Lawrence, unless he wants to add telepathy to his list of talents.

As for my contributions to Freedom, yes, a few years back I did write a significant amount that the editors did deem good enough for inclusion. These days, I write for it infrequently and get published most, but not all, of the time. So, apparently, others do not think my work is "stodgy". Perhaps I should be flattered that Lawrence thinks me so productive, but I refuse to take credit for the hard work of others.

I'm at a lost to see how myself and Andrew could hav "allotted" ourselves a "full third" of Black Flag, given that Andrew is not part of its editorial collective. And Lawrence even gets its size wrong – it is 40 pages (making 10 pages a “full” fourth). As for the 8 pages I contributed, the decision to include those rested with that collective. I do think it extremely insulting for Lawrence to suggest that the others had no input in the decisions we collectively reached. I would say an apology to them is in order, but I will not hold my breath waiting for it.

Channelling our editorial, Lawrence notes that 8 pages are by "two dead guys," Murray Bookchin and Maurice Brinton. Somewhat contradictory, he lambastes us for printing the works of a non-anarchist (Brinton) while ending his so-called review by stating "the nicest thing that can be said . . . is that they did the Brinton reprint"! What is it to be? Why attack us for the reprints then admit that one is of interest? The nicest thing that can be said is that Lawrence is ignorant of the massive contribution that Brinton had in the post-war libertarian movement in Britain. Marking his death with a reprint of an article not included in his "For Workers' Power" collection made perfect sense. Or so we thought.

Then there is Bookchin. We thought that his decades of work as an anarchist contributed immensely to our movement and should be (critically) celebrated rather than ignored. And to correct another of Lawrence's many errors, Bookchin still considered himself an anarchist in 1998 when he wrote his article on the Communist Manifesto. He may have had private doubts over his "self-professed allegiance" but he openly broke with anarchism in 1999 (last year I had thought it was later than that, but I have since discovered otherwise). The article itself shows none of the inaccuracies and pettiness towards anarchism his subsequent work was marred with. Moreover, given that as far as we knew, this article had never been published in Britain we thought that it would be of interest to our comrades, which it appears to have been.

Which is the most important criterion, surely, rather than some ideological fetish over whether Bookchin considered himself an anarchist at the time it was written?

I feel that I have to end by saying that I resent having to waste my time writing this letter. The best which can be said of Lawrence's petty, vindictive and inaccurate non-review is that it will bolster sales as news that he dislikes Black Flag (or, more
accurately, me and my writing) becomes better known. Although they hardly need help as this issue has sold remarkably well – suggesting that Black Flag does meet a need in the British movement.

Iain McKay

Comments

I have the idea I may have

I have the idea I may have written one article for Freedom four or more years ago although I'm not 100% certain that is the case. I seldom see Freedom so it may be that other stuff was re-printed off the net. The AJODA has a pretty weird obsession with me, someone told me I even got a whole article denouncing me a couple of years back which was odd as I was in a country where it didn't have any circulation.

  


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