* *

ANARCHISM AND THE BOLSHEVISATION OF CULTURE: A reply to "Leigh Starcross" & the Anarchist Studies editorial board who accepted her paper 'Anti-Art: The Limits of Critique' for publication

"The root of fascist agitation is the fact that there is something rotten in language itself... We must beware of the idea that the fascist use of language is something new in our society... The distrust of the peasant against the city-dweller with his mastery of language... is an element of anti-Semitism... in the prehistory of what you explain as the fascist handling of language." Horkheimer in a letter to Lowenthal of July 1946.

The journal Anarchist Studies has the misfortune of being peculiarly misunderstood. Among academics, its contributors have the right to be bad "scholars" because they are reputedly committed to political emancipation. Among political activists, the reactionary views of Anarchist Studies contributors are overlooked because these "scholars" are thought to be engaged in academic work of some worth. Although "I" am neither an academic nor an anarchist, by "reviewing" the "review article" 'Anti-Art: The Limits Of Critique' by "Leigh Starcross" run in Anarchist Studies Volume 4 #1 (March 1996), "I" wish to protest against this double error.

Taking her cue from "Lyotard", "Starcross" chooses to read "my" Neoist Manifestos, which are bound back to back with a selection of Art Strike Papers assembled from diverse hands, as a "critique" which through "inversion" simply reproduces 'the rigid hierarchies of the bourgeois capitalist sign systems concerning cultural production that it seeks to undermine'. Obviously, these texts have a productive power of their own which "Starcross" struggles to grasp. The so-called product also produces the so-called creator; and both "Starcross" and "myself" occupy a similar position in relation to these works. It should go without saying that "Starcross" constitutes a part of the means of production of the work. The meaning of these texts is not fixed and "Starcross" can read "my" writing any which way she likes. Nevertheless, "Starcross" has to live with the consequences of the reading she has chosen to make.

Perhaps somewhat predictably, the charge of "inversion" and "critique" which "Starcross" levels against "my" texts, fits her Anarchist Studies paper far better than any of the documents that have played a part in conjuring up the alleged "individual" "Stewart Home". The Neoist Manifestos kick off with the statement that 'to practically examine the question of truth, I spread ideas that I consider fallacious and carefully watch other peoples' reaction to them.' Thus what Starcross "deceitfully" "presents" as a "deconstruction" of various texts which she chooses to view as "critiques", does no more than reiterate aporias whose "creation" could just as well be viewed as having been the conscious aim of their alleged "author". In 'Anti-Art: The Limits Of Critique', the "criticisms" levelled against various "terms" "I" have employed in "my" Neoist Manifestos - for example, "plagiarism" and "identity" - show that "Starcross" has failed to grasp even the most "basic banalities" concerning the fluidity of "meaning" that permeate the poststructuralist discourse within which she attempts to situate the "theoretical" aspects of her "anti-critique".

"Starcross" even goes as far as claiming the term "identity" is used "erroneously" in "my" writing, as though - height of absurdity - "meaning" can be fixed! Likewise, "I" do not use "plagiarism" in any "common sense" manner which implies an "original" as "Starcross" naively chooses to assume. In "detourning" the situationist "concept" of "detournement", that is to say by "replacing" it with the "word" "plagiarism", "I" am very "actively" engaged in the "creation" of aporetic "confusions". The "common sense" "meanings" of the "terms" "plagiarism" and "detournement" are at complete "odds" with the "sense" of "identity" they "attain" in "my" texts. "Starcross", on the other hand, sinks to claiming that 'the whole dialectic of plagiarism/originality is rendered obsolete simply by the introduction of the poststructuralist concept of intertextuality'. In making this absurd claim, "Starcross" falls way behind the premises upon which she is attempting to base her "anti-critique". The utterly gross "common sense" reading "Starcross" makes of "my" texts rests on the assumption that not only am "I" attempting to set up a dialectic rather than "consciously" engaging in the creation of aporias, but also that "I" am not "consciously" aware of the role intertextuality plays in the "material" "production" of the very "works" that conjure "me" up. In effect, "Starcross" is ludicrously "claiming" that as the "author" of a text which she has naively "constructed" around the twin poles of "critique" and "anti-critique", she can simply "introduce" the "concept" of "intertextuality" as a rhetorical device, as though it wasn't an active factor in production of the "meanings" "ascribed" to the work before she "slyly" "conjured" it up! Since intertextuality is already accepted as a given in "my" "work", I see "fatal strategies" of this type as being doomed to "failure" unless they are "consciously" employed for the purpose of "creating" aporias, which is something "Starcross" "apparently" "lacks" the "sophistication" to carry off. If "Starcross:" had bothered to familiarise herself with the "object" of her "anti-critique", she would have realised that in the Neoist Manifestos nothing remains but an immense web of reading and writing, folding, unfolding and refolding indefinitely. The reading of it is no longer external to the writing, its adventitious substitute, what comes after the writing and necessarily presupposes that the writing itself is the exterior and transitory substitution of a thought already always identical with itself before any substitution.

In the course of her "anti-critique", "Starcross" resorts to all the rhetorical tricks one would expect from someone ensnared in a reactionary "identity politics" which sees the "creation" of a "viable" "anarchist movement" as being more "important" than the ongoing "need" for "social transformation". Thus "Starcross" complains that 'issues concerning sex and gender are noticeably absent' from "my" Neoist Manifestos. She might just as well criticise a horse for not being a zebra, and if "Starcross" wishes to know "my" "views" on these "subjects", she could try looking at some of "my" other writings. "For the record", in "my" "opinion" all "human beings" carry within "themselves" an ever unfolding "idea" of "who" "they" "are" and "what" "they" are "capable" of "achieving". The "individual's" "sense" of "self" is not determined by chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role.

Tellingly, "Starcross" resorts to allegations of 'sexism' by drawing attention to what she claims is 'the selection of a quite definitely gendered pseudonym' (i.e. "Karen Eliot") that has been appended to some of "my" writing, and which she further asserts reinforces those stereotypes that associate "creativity" with "masculinity" and "unoriginality" with the "feminine". Even judged by the "common sense" criterion adopted by "Starcross", this claim involves quite "conscious" deception, since among the selection of texts that form the focus of her "anti-critique", "plagiarism" is most heavily emphasised in those that date from the period when the collective "pseudonym" attached to them was "Monty Cantsin". "Starcross" remains silent about this precisely because the suppression of "evidence" is the only means by which she can make the "facts" "fit" her Stalinist "anti-critique". "Naturally", she "appears" completely at "ease" employing the totalitarian technique of systematic deletion.

Given the absurd "malfunctions" in the "signifying" "system" of 'Anti-Art: The Limits Of Critique', it is hardly surprising that "Starcross" fails to sustain the illusion of "academic objectivity". Instead, she uses fear and an elitist desire to become part of a transcendental history as lures to draw the naive into apocalyptic fantasies designed bolster the fetish of activism. This manifests itself most obviously in tedious clap-trap about 'anarchist engagés' and 'monumental time wasting while we head toward global environmental destruction and ever increasing techniques of domination on the part of the control complex'. For a more detailed examination of "contemporary" Bakuninist variants on "end of the worldism" see The Green Apocalypse by Luther Blissett and "Stewart Home" (Unpopular Books, London 1995). Finally "Starcross" observes that: 'Interestingly, it must be noted that nowhere in the text does the word "anarchy" or any cognate terms appear.' Such an assertion may seem strange to those unfamiliar with Bakunin's writings on organisation, which represent the core ideology of "revolutionary" anarchism. However, since Leninism is the "realisation" of anarchism in its Bakuninist form (see The Green Apocalypse), it is hardly surprising that "Starcross" should conclude her paper with a statement that implies the bolshevisation of culture.

Lenin's demand for Tendenzliteratur (partisan literature) was codified by Zhdanov at the 1934 Soviet Writers' Congress and resulted in the sterile orthodoxy of "socialist" "realism". The same process can be seen at work in the nazification of "German" "culture" under Hitler and the Anarchist Studies paper to which "Starcross" has appended her name. Given this, it is hardly "surprising" that "Starcross" privileges words derived from "Greek" like "anarchy", over those with a "Latin" etymology such as "plagiarism". By the end of the nineteenth-century, Bakuninism was ensnared in a number of the racial myths from which national socialism later emerged. It is not necessary to go into the issue of declensions to see how "Starcross" "unconsciously" reproduces elements of "Aryan" ideology in her absurd privileging of terms derived from Greek. Thus despite her ridiculous posturing, "Starcross" fails miserably as she attempts to transcend the "limits" of "critique" through the "absolutisation" of what were already "absolute" Bakuninist "positions". Ultimately, "anarchism" is a "simple" inversion of "statism", and if we accept the claims "Starcross" makes about "critiques" reproducing the ideologies that they "rhetorically" "oppose", then Bakuninism "must" be viewed as one of the "57 varieties" of "red" fascism. "Starcross" has been outwitted by the half-digested rhetoric she has appropriated from various "poststructuralist" "sources". Since both anarchists and nazis fetishize the state, the "argument" "Starcross" employs "must" "necessarily" "lead" those "individuals" who "make" a "close" reading of "her" text to the "conclusion" that rather than opposing each other, fascist and Bakuninist ideologies represent minor variations on the same ludicrously reductive instrumental assumptions. In a way, "Starcross" is correct to end her paper by stating that 'anarchism is not a critique'; in the Bakuninist form in which it is propagated by "Starcross", anarchism is not merely a "critique", it is the "source" of the counter-revolution.

"currently unknown" as "Stewart Home", "London" "August 1996".

First published in Disputations.

My Tactics Against Anarchist Studies

A curious exhange of letters with Anarchist Studies

Back Letter from Stewart Home to Art Monthly of 13/11/96

Next: Sucked


Stewart Home on the toilet photo by David Goodchild

Stewart Home tells it how it is. This photo of Home taking a shit in the toilets of The Cube Cinema in Bristol was taken by David Goodchild.