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ANARCHIST INTEGRALISM: Aesthetics, Politics and the Après-Garde

Those involved in recent debates about Martin Heidegger and Paul De Man no longer think it strange to talk about fascist modernism. (1) It is less fashionable to speak of anarchist integralism, despite the fact that this is no more of an oxymoron than fascist modernism. While the majority of modernists and anarchists have never adhered to full blown mystical fascism, certain strands of anarchism embrace far-Right individualism, while yet others promote ideologies of integral nationalism. It is thus not surprising that a good number of self-styled 'national revolutionaries' - i.e. fascists - have been attracted to anarchism in recent years. Such a convergence of the 'left' and right was also a feature of earlier epochs such as Russia in the 1860s or France and Italy in the 1910s. Then, as now, this 'convergence' took place on the far-Right's terms.

Within anarchism and fascism the state is fetishised from both negative and positive perspectives. This polarisation takes place within rather than between these creeds. If the Italian fascist movement was able to arrive at the altar of state worship through a combination of Mussolini's widely praised translations of Kropotkin and an engagement with anarcho-syndicalism, certain strands of the Nazi movement were able to oppose the interests of the state with those of the nation. One of the principle errors in the seemingly antagonistic positions defended by anarchists and fascists is the idea that the state is the source of all social power. During the middle ages, feudal modes of class exploitation were maintained despite weak or non-existent states. Likewise, today, capitalist social relations are anchored in economic institutions which can and do function independently of the state. Capital reproduces itself not only within nation states but across nation states.

In the article 'Anarchism And Nationalism In East Asia' included in Anarchist Studies Volume 4 # 1 (2) John Crump states: 'Most anarchists were shocked by Kropotkin's rallying to the war effort in 1914 precisely because for years prior to the First World War they had ignored signs of incipient nationalism in his ideas... Similarly, most anarchists outside Korea would find no less shocking the long-standing flirtation of many Korean anarchists with nationalism and conventional politics.' (3) Crump's claims would be more convincing if he hadn't prefaced them by playing down the collusion between the Chinese anarchist movement and the Guomindang before stating: 'The contrast between the Korean anarchist movement, on the one hand and the Japanese and Chinese movements, on the other, is thus quite clear with regard to practice.' (4) Contra Crump, Arif Dirlik rather shamefully admits in Anarchism In The Chinese Revolution: 'It may be no coincidence that the meeting in Shanghai at which anarchists drew up their plans for activity within the Guomindang followed shortly on the heels of Chiang Kai-shek's suppression of communism, followed by a massacre not only of Communists but of Shanghai laborers as well.' (5) In other words, in 1927 some of the leading figures of the Chinese anarchist movement entered into an alliance with the nationalists at the very moment Chiang Kai-shek's forces were slaughtering ordinary workers!

The apostolic attitude prevalent among anarchists often results in the so called 'libertarian left' covering up flaws in the theory and practice of those who've brandished the 'black flag' of anarchism. Given that anarchist beliefs cover the entire left/right political spectrum this state of affairs is extremely dangerous since it allows all sorts of reactionary ideas to take root within the anarchist milieu. Reviewing a recent academic edition of Max Stirner's The Ego And Its Own edited by David Leopold (6) for Anarchist Studies Volume 5 #1, Robert Graham reports Leopold as having written: 'Proudhon played an anti-democratic and counter-revolutionary role in the 1848 French Revolution, accepted slavery in the American South, supported violent strike-breaking, made detailed plans to suppress dissent among his supporters and was a vicious anti-semite.' (7) Immediately after this quote, Graham complains: 'No other attempt is made to summarise Proudhon's views, nor does Leopold offer any evidence in support of his claims.' Graham's words are tantamount to a cover-up since Proudhon's anti-semitism has been cause for considerable comment. Even if one is prepared to believe that Graham is genuinely in the dark about Proudhon's racism and other reactionary views, it strains credulity to suggest the editors of a refereed academic journal devoted to anarchism do not know the score on this point. Proudhon is, after all, one of the major 'theorists' of anarchism.

With regard to Prouhdon, Zeev Sternhell notes in The Birth Of Fascist Ideology that: 'The Action Française... from its inception regarded the author of La Philosophie de la misère as one of its masters. He was given a place of honor in the weekly section of the journal of the movement entitled, precisely, "Our Masters." Proudhon owed this place in L'Action française to what the Maurrassians saw as his antirepublicanism, his anti-Semitism, his loathing of Rousseau, his disdain for the French Revolution, democracy, and parliamentarianism: and his championship of the nation, the family, tradition, and the monarchy.' (8) Stewart Edwards, the editor of the Selected Writings Of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon remarks: 'Proudhon's diaries (Garnets, ed. P. Haubtmann, Marcel Rivière, Paris 1960 to date) reveal that he had almost paranoid feelings of hatred against the Jews. In 1847 he considered publishing... an article against the Jewish race, which he said he "hated." The proposed article would have "Called for the expulsion of the Jews from France.. The Jew is the enemy of the human race. This race must be sent back to Asia, or exterminated. H. Heine, A. Weil, and others are simply secret spies. Rothschild, Crémieux, Marx, Fould, evil choleric, envious, bitter men etc, etc, who hate us" (Garnets, vol. 2, p. 337: No VI, 178).' (9)

Graham's disavowal of Proudhon's anti-semitism is particularly sickening given the way it chimes with the proto-Nazi conspiracy theories of Michael Bakunin - the founding father of 'revolutionary' anarchism - and other articles in the same issue of Anarchist Studies. Bakunin's notorious calumnies are well illustrated by a short quote from his Rapports personnels avec Marx: 'This whole Jewish world, comprising a single exploiting sect, a kind of blood sucking people, a kind of organic destructive collective parasite, going beyond not only the frontiers of states, but of political opinion, this world is now, at least for the most part, at the disposal of Marx on the one hand, and of Rothschild on the other... This may seem strange. What can there be in common between socialism and a leading bank? The point is that authoritarian socialism, Marxist communism, demands a strong centralisation of the state. And where there is centralisation of the state, there must necessarily be a central bank, and where such a bank exists, the parasitic Jewish nation, speculating with the Labour of the people, will be found.' (10)

While the academics running Anarchist Studies remain coy about the reactionary opinions of Proudhon and Bakunin, there is an overtly racist current within the contemporary anarchist movement which is becoming abusively outspoken on such matters. Bob Black in Anarchy After Leftism, a diatribe against Murray Bookchin - who is referred to as 'the Dean' in the text - deals with the suggestion that modern anarchism has a fascistic strand by quoting his publisher John Zerzan, then citing one of Bakunin's notorious anti-semitic outbursts from Statism And Anarchy and redirecting these slurs against Bookchin: 'As John Zerzan remarked in a book the Dean claims to have read: "Behind the rhetoric of National Socialism, unfortunately, was only an acceleration of technique, even into the sphere of genocide as a problem of industrial production. For the Nazis and the gullible, it was, again a question of how technology is understood ideally, not as it really is. In 1940 the General Inspector for the German Road System put it this way: 'Concrete and stone are material things. Man gives them form and spirit. National Socialist technology possesses in all material achievement ideal content' ". ' (11)

Immediately after this quote from Zerzan, Black - who has written for the neo-Nazi Journal Of Historical Review - opines: 'I'm not one of those who cries out in horror at the slightest whiff of anti-Semitism. But the Dean sees fit to insinuate that even the promiscuously pluralistic Hakim Bey is ideologically akin to Hitler, and that the primitivist quest to recover authenticity "has its roots in reactionary romanticism, most recently in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, whose völkisch 'spiritualism,' latent in Being and Time, later emerged in his explicitly fascist works." So let's consider whether Bookchin-vetted classical anarchists are ideologically kosher. Proudhon was notoriously anti-Semitic but since Bookchin dismisses him, however implausibly, as too much the individualist, let's set Proudhon aside. Bakunin, the Russian aristocrat who "emphatically prioritized the social over the individual" had a notion what was wrong with his authoritarian rival, Karl Marx. Bakunin considered Marx "the German scholar, in his threefold capacity as an Hegelian, a Jew, and a German," to be a "hopeless statist". A Hegelian, a Jew, a sort-of scholar, a Marxist, a hopeless (city-) statist - does this sound like anybody familiar?' (12) On the basis of this, and his other writing, it is clear that Black is a racist.

Returning to Anarchist Studies Volume 5 #1, alongside an article on 'The Revolutionary Underclass Of Bakunin and Marcuse', there is an equally bizarre piece credited to Derek Gatherer and entitled 'Feyerabend, Dawkins And The Politics Of Cultural Diversity'. In this, Gatherer mobilises the New Right ideas of geneticist Richard Dawkins in a manner that parallels the contemporary version of fascist modernism being peddled by rags like Radical Shift, where coded forms of discourse are utilised to propagate a 'cultural' racism based on 'ecological' 'arguments' about biological 'diversity'. Gatherer writes: 'A memetic diversity project is a pressing necessity, both because the European meme pool is in crisis as we struggle to find the answers to the questions that technological development has thrown up, and because it may soon be too late to save many indigenous meme pools. These meme pools may appear 'primitive', 'superstitious' or 'tribal', but their alternative, and highly unEuropean way of viewing the world, makes them a precious resource. Just as our own European past has been a source of continued renewal in the sciences, so non-European memes may contain the germs of ideas that could save our culture from extinction...' (13)

The buzz words favoured by anarcho-integralists may shift over time and geographical location, but Gatherer's ideas are really not very far removed from the obnoxious clap-trap of Proudhon, who wrote in a letter to Pierre Leroux dated December 7, 1849: 'My only faith, love and hope lie in Liberty and my Country. That is why I am systematically opposed to anything that is hostile to Liberty or foreign to this sacred land of Gaul. I want to see my country return to its original nature, liberated once and for all from foreign beliefs and alien institutions. Our race for too long has been subject to the influence of Greeks, Romans, Barbarians, Jews and Englishmen. They have left us their religion, their laws, their feudal system and their government... Those of you who accuse me of not being a republican do not truly belong to your land. You have not heard from childhood, as I have, the oak trees of our druidic forests weep for their ancient country. You do not feel your bones, molded with the pure limestone of the Jura, thrill at the memory of our Celtic heroes; Vercingetroix, dragged in the dust of Caesar's triumph, Orgetorix, Ariovistus, and old Galgacus who was vanquished by Agricola. You have not seen liberty appear to you at the brink of our Alpine torrents in the guise of Velleda the Gaul... You are not children of Brennus. You understand nothing about restoring our nationality. This goes far beyond economic reform and the transformation of a debased society, and appears as the highest aim of the February Revolution. You are on the side of the foreigner. This is why you find liberty, which for our ancestors was the source of all things, so odious.' (14)

When various renegade French syndicalists abandoned proletarian internationalism in favour of fascism, the forum in which they began mingling with the outer-wing of Action Française was infamously named the Cercle Proudhon. Looking back on the period immediately prior to the First World War in 1936, the fascist ideologue Drieu La Rochelle recalled: 'one sees that certain elements of a fascist atmosphere came together in France around 1913, before they did elsewhere. There were young people from various classes of society who were filled with a love of heroism and violence, and who dreamed of fighting what they called the evil on two fronts: capitalism and parliamentary socialism, and who were similarly disposed toward both. There were, I think, people in Lyons who called themselves socialist-royalists or something of that nature. A marriage of nationalism and socialism was already being envisaged. Yes, in France, in the groups surrounding Action Française and Péguy, there was already a nebulous form of fascism.' (15)

The same wretched mixture of moralism and the glorification of violence that characterised the words and deeds of those French and Italian syndicalists who became fascists, can be found in the contemporary publications of the Green Anarchist Network. For example, an article entitled 'The Irrationalists' appeared in Anarchist Lancaster Bomber #17, inviting readers to contemplate what proportion of the population needs to be exterminated before the 'system' can be overthrown: 'How can anybody inside the fuhrerbunker be innocent? Under a narrow interpretation of this (the 5% solution), the Circle of Guilt (CoG) for what is happening is confined to the top echelons of the state and system: the level of politicians, cabinet ministers, senior civil servants, military and police staff officers, boardroom executives and such. This position is unrealistic in that the oppression requires the co-operation of many more components. Ordinary factory workers, maybe even your next door neighbour, make the CS gas and electric torture prods, apply the telephone taps, operate the CCTV cameras and feed information into the blacklist system. Under a wide interpretation of the Circle of Guilt (the 95% solution), the fuhrerbunker extends virtually everywhere, the oppression is found in every layer of society and so the majority of people are implicated. Most people pay tax of some sort, 13 million people voted Tory in 1992, etc. etc. etc. Activists adopting the 95% solution would have no difficulty over a subway sarin attack, city wide water supply contamination or a biological warfare attack on a fast food restaurant. Such activists see subway commuters or fast food customers as of no value and no loss to the moral universe... Now just one person, perhaps, can send out razor blade letters (the Justice Department), or one person can send lethal parcel bombs to scientists (the Unabomber), or financial institutions (Mardi Gra). Perhaps we might have a few people driving a fertilizer explosive truck to a government office block (Oklahoma). Perhaps we will have a crazy cult putting sarin down the subway (The Aum Cult). Each of these actions, though imperfect, has the capacity to inspire better ones. Each effective strategy can be copied and improved on.' (16)

The preceding quote from the Anarchist Lancaster Bomber might sound like the deranged fantasies of a lone fascist psychopath, but as a part of Green Anarchist, the anonymous editor of this rag collaborates with other 'libertarian' groups such as the Primitivist Network, run by John Moore and someone using the name 'Leigh Starcross'. When not attacking welfare claimants in leaflets such as JSA: So What?, (17) or penning articles for the eco-fascist Green Anarchist newspaper, Moore sits on the editorial board of Anarchist Studies alongside the likes of Noam Chomsky, Janet Biehl, Murray Bookchin and - equally bizarrely - L. Susan Brown. (18) Reviewing the anonymously edited Prolegomena To A Study Of The Return Of The Repressed In History in the most recent issue of Anarchist Studies, Moore makes the following dubious comment: 'this text sits proudly alongside other anthologies of ultra writing, such as Black and Parfrey's Rants And Incendiary Tracts: Voices of Desperate Illumination 1558-Present and Green's Black Letters: 300 Years of 'Enthused' German Writing.' (19) One only has to flip open Bob Black and Adam Parfrey's Rants (20) to discover it is a collection of extracts from such 'libertarian' 'classics' as Louis-Ferdinand Céline's obscene anti-semitic fantasy Bagatelles Pour Un Massacre, Ezra Pound's war time propaganda broadcasts from fascist Italy and the ravings of American white supremacist Kurt Saxon!

It will surprise no one who is familiar with the machinations of 'libertarian' politics that Green Anarchist was accepted as a full participant in the recent Anti-Election Alliance alongside the Anarchist Communist Federation (ACF) and London Class War. (21) Likewise, Anarchist Studies, Anarchist Lancaster Bomber and Green Anarchist are all on sale at the Freedom Bookshop in Angel Alley, Whitechapel, E1. (22) While it has long been a cliché that if the anarchists will tolerate each other, they will tolerate anyone and anything, such aphorisms do little to illuminate the roots of anarchist integralism. To unravel this ideological trope it is necessary to recall that the emergence of the modernist conception of 'Europe' took place at a time when virtually the only type of negation imaginable to those conjuring up this abstraction was the denial of God.

Malcolm Bull suggests in The Ecstasy Of Philistinism (23) that once atheism won acceptance as a viable intellectual position, new negations become possible. This said, these negations, including those proposed by nascent anarchism, are more than simply negations, they are simultaneously bound up with positive assertions about the world. Terry Eagleton observes in The Ideology Of The Aesthetic that: 'The ultimate binding force of the bourgeois social order, in contrast to the coercive apparatus of absolutism, will be habits, pieties, sentiments and affections. And this is equivalent to saying that power in such an order has become aestheticized. It is at one with the body's spontaneous impulses, entwined with sensibility and the affections, lived out in unreflective custom. Power is now inscribed in the minutiae of subjective experience, and the fissure between abstract duty and pleasurable inclination is accordingly healed. To dissolve the law to custom, to sheer unthinking habit, is to identify it with the human subject's own pleasurable well-being, so that to transgress that law would signify a deep self-violation. The new subject, which bestows on itself self-referrentially, a law at one with its immediate experience, finding its freedom in its necessity, is modelled on the aesthetic artefact.' (24)

What the aesthetic is, then, is a form of internalised legislation, and if (wo)man is ruled by this kind of 'inner harmony', then the very forces that conjure up the nation state bring with them the possibility of the anarchist negation. It has been claimed by Walter Benjamin and others, that fascism as an aestheticisation of politics can be combated by the politicisation of aesthetics. This is mistaken, the aestheticisation of the political, as well as everyday life, can be traced back at least as far as the emergence of anarchism, which in its turn is inextricably linked to nationalism. Nations and nationalism are cultural creations, like anarchism they are inescapably bound up with modernist notions of the aesthetic. This holds good not only for liberal states but also totalitarian dictatorships. The Nazi regime may have suppressed particular types of art but it was, nevertheless, heavily reliant on culture as an ideological glue capable of holding the 'German' nation/empire together. (25)

Inevitably, anarchism is intimately bound up with numerous forms and practices that played a crucial role in the consolidation of the nation state. The fact that many major figures of the anarchist movement - including Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin - were also freemasons, is further evidence of a congenital weakness within the anarchist creed. (26) As M. Mann has observed: 'Whether they serve the interests of the state managers by protecting ruling-class concerns or serving as foci of opposition to state rule, secret societies employ the same power strategies as the state to neutralise opposition, guard against repression or destruction and to maintain internal discipline. State power strategies are merely centralised versions of power found in secret society organisation or other social structures.' (27) For all their empty invective 'against' authority, the freemasonic shenanigans of the three major 'theorists' of ideological anarchism demonstrate that while some anarchists have yet to grasp how power actually functions, others - most notably Bakunin - simply resorted to demagoguery to cynically manipulate their followers. (28)

Given the origins of the anarchist 'negation' in the aesthetic, it is not surprising that most anarchists simply accept art as a given that is either to be praised, ignored or much less commonly, denounced. To do anything else would mean unravelling the ways in which both nationalism and anarchy are produced and mediated by each other. Taking one of the more monumental anarchist texts from the first half of the twentieth century, Nationalism And Culture by the syndicalist Rudolf Rocker (29) and comparing it with the nineteenth-century outpourings of both Matthew Arnold in Culture And Anarchy (30) and Mikhail Bakunin in Statism And Anarchy, (31) one discovers that the similarities between the views of Arnold and the two anarchists are as striking, sometimes more striking, than the differences.

While Rocker uses 'anarchy' as a synonym for 'order' and Arnold employs the same term to mean 'chaos', both men ground their social criticism on an opposition between culture and philistinism. In Nationalism And Culture Rocker opines: 'The citizenry of the Netherlands, which once carried on a desperate fight for the liberation of the country from the yoke of Spanish despotism, came out victorious in that struggle. A new spirit entered into every class of the population and brought the little country to an undreamed of height... But this unbridled spirit was rather quickly curbed; the desire for orderly conditions became more and more noticeable among the citizens, and with the rising development of business and of mercantile capital these assumed more and more stable form. Thus there developed gradually that comfortable Philistinism that lived only for its material interests... To Rembrandt this bourgeois-national orderliness became the curse of his life. So long as he tried, as he did at first, to satisfy the taste of his unimaginative public, he got along after a fashion. Until the artist in him was aroused!... The artist became a rebel against his time and drew with keen clarity the boundary between his art and the national Philistinism of his land.' (32)

Thus in Nationalism And Culture, Rocker reiterates the identification of philistinism and wealth previously made by Arnold in Culture And Anarchy: 'Never did people believe anything more firmly than nine Englishmen out of ten at the present day believe that our greatness and welfare are proved by our being so very rich. Now, the use of culture is that it helps us, by means of its spiritual standard of perfection, to regard wealth as but machinery, and not only to say as a matter of words that we regard wealth as but machinery, but really to perceive and feel that this is so. If it were not for this purging effect wrought upon our minds by culture, the whole world, the future as well as the present, would inevitably belong to the Philistines. The people who believe most that our greatness and welfare are proved by our being very rich, and who must give their lives and thoughts to becoming rich, are just the very people who we call Philistines.' (33)

While Arnold sees the cultural and ethical development of the institutions of the state as the principal bulwark against philistinism, and Rocker views the state as the source of all philistinism, Mikhail Bakunin's Statism And Anarchy can be read as reproducing either of these two positions. However, when it comes to the identification of wealth with philistinism, Bakunin's views seem to contradict those of both the 'anarchist' Rocker and the 'statist' Arnold: 'We said that Lassalle was not a man of the people because he was too much of a dandy to mingle with the proletariat outside of meetings, where he usually mesmerized his audience with his clever and brilliant speeches; he was too spoilt by wealth and its attendant habits of elegance and refinement to find satisfaction in the popular milieu, he was too much of a Jew to feel comfortable among the people; and he was too aware of his intellectual superiority not to feel a certain disdain for the uneducated crowd, to which he related more as a doctor to patient than as brother to brother.' (34)

Written in 1873, just four years after Culture And Anarchy was first published in book form, Statism And Anarchy presents the same difficulties of interpretation as Bakunin's entire corpus of writing. Isaiah Berlin simultaneously grasps and fails to grasp the thrust of Bakunin's prose when he asserts in his Russian Thinkers that: 'All that clearly emerges is that Bakunin is opposed to the imposition of any restraints upon anyone at any time under any conditions... The search for something more solid in Bakunin's utterances is unrewarding. He used words principally not for descriptive but for inflammatory purposes... he is not a serious thinker... There are no coherent ideas to be extracted from his writings of any period, only fire and imagination, violence and poetry, and an ungovernable desire for strong sensations, for life at a high tension, for the disintegration of all that is peaceful, secluded, tidy, orderly, small scale, philistine, established, moderate... He wanted to set on fire as much as possible as swiftly as possible; the thought of any kind of chaos, violence, upheaval, he found boundlessly exhilarating.' (35)

Contra Berlin, Robert M. Cutler states in his introduction to The Basic Bakunin that: 'Bakunin's social milieu influenced the manner in which he expressed his ideas, because he tried always to tailor them to those to whom he spoke, promoting so far as possible the revolutionary consciousness and socialist instincts of his audience...' (36) Cutler may not agree, but the real key to Bakunin is his activism. Bakunin constantly adjusted his positions in order to influence those listening to him. Thus despite his active participation in Freemasonry, Bakunin would denounce this movement as reactionary when addressing supporters of the International. (37) Therefore when Bakunin uses the term anarchy, one cannot assume that this use is synonymous with order. Against Rocker, Bakunin often sides with Arnold in the identification of anarchy with chaos. In doing this, Bakunin reverses Arnold's perspective. Rather than abhorring chaos, Bakunin is enthrawled by it. Likewise, Bakunin's position on philistinism shifts during the course of Statism And Anarchy, but while the state is linked to both philistinism and culture, the 'herd-like' (38) Russian peasants are more consistently depicted as being less cultured than those they must overthrow. Thus as Statism And Anarchy reaches its climax, Bakunin declaims: 'The people are neither doctrinaires nor philosophers. They are not in the habit of concerning themselves with a number of questions simultaneously, nor do they have the leisure to do so. When absorbed in one question, they forget all others.' (39)

Bakunin is every bit as keen to denigrate 'Germany' as attack the State, both of which are identified with culture, even if this identification isn't adhered to with complete consistency: 'In the history of the development of human thought, Hegel's philosophy was in fact a significant phenomenon. It was the last and definitive word of the pantheistic and abstractly humanistic movement of the German spirit which began with the works of Lessing and achieved comprehensive development in the works of Goethe. This movement created a world that was infinitely broad, rich, lofty, and ostensibly perfectly rational... the fervent adherents of Lessing, Schiller, Goethe, Kant, Fichte, and Hegel could, and still can, serve as obedient and even willing agents of the inhumane and illiberal measures prescribed by their governments. It can even be said that in general the more elevated a German's ideal world, the uglier and more vulgar his life and actions in the real world.' (40) Bearing in mind Bakunin's almost religious atheism, rather than transvaluing Anrold's values, Statism And Anarchy reverses the perspective of Culture And Anarchy while reproducing its critique: 'Thus, in our eyes, the very framework and exterior order of the State, whoever may administer the State, is sacred; and culture is the most resolute enemy of anarchy, because of the great hopes and designs for the State which culture teaches us to nourish.' (41)

In the book Apostles Of Revolution, (42) Max Nomad demonstrates that Bakunin's organisational methods and innovations made him a key player in the tradition of Russian Jacobinism that ultimately led to the tragedy of Bolshevism. (43) Arnold has no time for Jacobinism but nevertheless quietly echoes Bakunin's militant anti-semitism when he attacks Jacobin tendencies in Culture And Anarchy: 'Jacobinism loves a Rabbi, it does not want to pass on from its Rabbi in pursuit of a future and still unreached perfection, it wants its Rabbi and his ideas to stand for perfection, that they may with the more authority recast the world; and for Jacobinism, therefore, culture - eternally passing onwards and seeking - is an impertinence and an offence... He who works for machinery, he who works for hatred, works only for confusion. Culture looks beyond machinery, culture hates hatred; culture has one great passion, the passion for sweetness and light... This is the social idea, and the men of culture are the true apostles of equality. The great men of culture are those who have had a passion for diffusing, for making prevail, for carrying from one end of society to the other, the best knowledge, the best ideas of their time; who have laboured to divest knowledge of all that was harsh, uncouth, difficult, abstract, professional, exclusive; to humanise it, to make it efficient outside the clique of the cultivated and learned, yet still remaining the best knowledge and thought of the time...' (44)

Although Rocker scatters his 'anti-Jacobin' shots widely - even citing Sorel's remark that: 'Robespierre took his part seriously, but his part was an artificial one' (45) - his most immediate targets are Hegel and Marx, as was also the case with his mentor Bakunin. This contrasts sharply with the focus of Arnold's 'anti-Jacobin' rhetoric, which is deployed principally against liberal 'system builders' such as Mill and Bentham. Mirroring his differences with Arnold over the status of the term 'anarchy', Rocker adopts a pro-liberal but anti-democratic position, claiming in Nationalism And Culture: 'socialism vitalized by liberalism logically leads to the ideas of Godwin, Proudhon, Bakunin and their successors. The idea of reducing the state's sphere of activity to a minimum, itself contains the germ of a much more far-reaching thought, namely, to overthrow the state entirely and to eliminate the will to power from human society.' (46)

Rocker draws a stark contrast between liberalism and democracy, and vehemently rejects the latter: 'With the spread of democratic ideas in Europe begins the rise of nationalism in the various countries... In the pre-democratic period such a belief could take root only in the narrow circle of the privileged classes, remaining entirely alien to the great mass of the population... democracy differs essentially from liberalism, whose field of view embraces mankind as a whole, or at least that part of mankind belonging to the European-American circle of culture... Democracy not only endowed the "national spirit" with new life, it also defined the concept of the national state more sharply than would ever have been possible under the reign of absolutism.. With the beginning of the democratic period all dynastic assumptions disappear and the nation as such becomes the focal point of political events...' (47)

Despite Rocker's invocation of Bakunin in Nationalism And Culture, in echoing the Pan-Slavist's opinions on various matters, the syndicalist never degenerates into reproducing the wretched anti-semitic declarations of his mentor: 'But vigorous, intelligent, truly powerful reaction from now on will be concentrated in Berlin and disseminated to all the countries of Europe from the new German Empire... This reaction is nothing other than the ultimate realisation of the anti-popular idea of the modern state... It signifies the triumphant reign of the Yids, of a bankocracy under the powerful protection of a fiscal, bureaucratic, and police regime which relies mainly on military force and is therefore in essence despotic, but cloaks itself in the parliamentary game of pseudo-constitutionalism. To achieve their fullest development, modern capitalist production and bank speculation require enormous centralised states... They get along very nicely, though, with so-called representative democracy. This latest form of the state, based on the pseudo-sovereignty of a sham popular will, supposedly expressed by pseudo-representatives of the people in sham popular assemblies, combines the two main conditions necessary for their success: state centralization, and the actual subordination of the sovereign people to the intellectual minority that governs them, supposedly representing them but invariably exploiting them... The modern state is analogous to capitalist production and bank speculation (which ultimately swallows up even capitalist production). For fear of bankruptcy, the latter must constantly broaden their scope at the expense of the small-scale production and speculation which they swallow up...' (48)

While differing sharply in their estimations of liberalism, and thereby the value of the state, Arnold, Rocker - and even Bakunin - all ground their antagonistic positions in a desire for human community. Thus Arnold writes in Culture And Anarchy: 'And because men are all members of one great whole, and the sympathy which is in human nature will not allow one member to be indifferent to the rest or to have a perfect welfare independent of the rest, the expansion of our humanity, to suit the ideas of perfection which culture forms, must be a general expansion. Perfection, as culture conceives it, is not possible while the individual remains isolated. The individual is required, under pain of being stunted, and enfeebled in his own development if he disobeys, to carry others along with him in his march towards perfection, to be continually doing all he can to enlarge and increase the volume of the human stream sweeping thitherward...' (49)

Rocker's appeal for human community takes on a more obviously negative turn when he launches an attack on Kant: 'Kant, whose quiet Philistine existence never diverged from the prescribed paths of state guardianship, was not of a social nature, and could only with difficulty surmount his inborn aversion for any form of communion. But since he could not deny the necessity of associations, he accepted them as one accepts any necessary evil. Consequently, society appeared to him as a forced union held together solely by duty towards the state. Kant really hated every voluntary union, just as every good deed done for its own sake was repugnant to him... One with such tendencies was hardly the proper man to formulate the fundamentals of a great social ethics, which is inherently the product of communal social life, finding its expression in every individual, and continually vitalized anew and confirmed by the community. Just as little was Kant capable of revealing to mankind great theoretical social insight. Everything he produced in this field had been surpassed by the great enlightenment in France and England long before it saw the light of day in Germany.' (50)

Since Bakunin's real mania is for destruction, it is perhaps predictable that his conception of 'human community' is considerably more chilling than that of his naive disciple Rudolf Rocker. Echoing The Catechism Of The Revolutionary, which he seems to have composed with Sergei Nechaev, Bakunin concludes Statism And Anarchy with the command that revolutionaries 'should regard themselves as precious capital belonging exclusively to the cause of the people's liberation...' (51) Bakunin and Arnold's self-confident nineteenth century assertions contrast sharply with Rocker's nostalgia for a vanished age. Writing about the period which encompasses both feudalism and early capitalism, the syndicalist primly states: 'the victorious communities won their "charters" and created their city constitutions in which the new legal status found expression. But even where the communities were not strong enough to achieve full independence they forced the ruling power to far-reaching concessions. Thus evolved from the tenth to fifteenth century that great epoch of the free cities and of federalism where European culture was preserved from total submersion and the political influence of the arising royalty was for a long time confined to the non-urban country. ' (52)

Despite Rocker's heartfelt attacks on biological racism, which number among the best passages in Nationalism And Culture, his passion for preserving European culture was more than a passing fad. In the Epilogue To The Second American Edition of his major work, Rocker announces: 'The power politics of the national states, and particularly of the dominant powers, with their secret diplomacy, their political and military alliance, their colonial policy and their methods of economic pressure, which in the past so often hampered, if not totally thwarted the social development of smaller nations, added to the perpetual intrigues of high finance and the international armament cartels, has continuously subjected the political and economic life of the peoples to increasingly intolerable periodical convulsions, establishing war danger as a permanent condition. No one who learned his lesson from two world cataclysms can deny that this problem must be solved if we wish to create a new relationship among the peoples... Only a real federation of European peoples is today still able to bridge the hostile rivalries between European national groups, fostered and encouraged by a narrow-minded nationalism, detrimental to all civilisation. A European federation is the first condition and the only basis for a future world federation, which can never be attained without an organic union of the European peoples.' (53)

Arnold and Rocker's works are products of the same intellectual heritage, which Bakunin's ravings reproduce in an inverted form. The ideology of the aesthetic shaped both the modern nation state and the possibility of its anarchist negation. A key feature of both Culture And Anarchy and Nationalism And Culture is their attack on philistinism. Rather than operating from antithetical positions, these two books illustrate the complex ways in which nationalism and anarchism are produced and mediated by each other. Likewise, Statism And Anarchy comes no-where close to being a negation of Arnold's positions, in reversing the perspective of Culture And Anarchy, Bakunin unconsciously reproduces its assumptions.

The contemporary anarchist movement is every bit as prone to unreflexively reproducing the social dogmas of its day as was its historical counterpart. Among the more sophisticated tendencies, this can occur in inverted form. Thus John Zerzan, one of the father figures of 'anarcho-primitivism', replicates Bakunin's identification of culture and civilisation. (54) While Zerzan's rhetorical primitivism might be treated as a joke, (55) the effects of other pieces such as Rank-And-File Radicalism Within The Ku Klux Klan Of The 1920s (56) are more serious due to their author's unwillingness to deal frankly with how reactionary movements function. Zerzan writes: 'A survey of Literary Digest (conservative) and The Nation (liberal) for 1922-3 reveals several reported instances in which the Klan was blamed for violence it did not perpetrate and unfairly deprived of its rights. Its enemies frequently included local or state establishments, and were generally far from being meek and powerless victims... just what was the nature of this strange force which grew to such power so rapidly and spontaneously... The orthodox 'nativist' answer asserts it was just another of the periodic, unthinking and reactionary efforts of the ignorant to turn back the clock... But a very strong pattern about the Klan introduces doubts about this outlook, namely, that militantly progressive or radical activities have often closely proceeded, coincided with, or closely followed strong KKK efforts, and have involved the same participants...' (57)

Here, Zerzan fails to deal with the fact that the function of hate groups such as the KKK is to create a climate of fear in which racial attacks may take place. Initially at least, creating an atmosphere of terror tends to take precedence over actual attacks formally organised by the group with the active participation of its own members. Since the KKK in the 1920s was a secret society with something approaching a mass base, whose members masked up in order to retain their anonymity, one would not expect it to have played a prominent role as an identifiable organisation in local lynchings, which are public spectacles of murder. It should go without saying that KKK members as individuals, outside their ritual participation in this odious secret organisation, were nevertheless eager participants in beastial acts of racially motivated murder. (58) Zerzan fudges the issue and in this way plays into the hands of right-wing popularists who wish to pretend that fascism and/or racism are somehow 'radical'. Zerzan is probably aware that he is doing this since his article carries an ineffectual disclaimer stating that: 'In no way should this essay be interpreted as an endorsement of any aspect of this version of the Klan or any other parts of Klan activity. Nonetheless, the loathsome nature of the KKK of today should not blind us to what took place within the Klan 70 years ago, in various places against the wishes and ideology of the Klan itself.' (59)

Moving on, the aesthetic attitudes of a different strand of contemporary anarchism are typified by an unsigned article on 'Anarchism And Surrealism' in Organise! # 44, which sketches the shifting of surrealist political affiliations from Leninism to anarchism, without ever attempting to unravel surrealism's relationship to modernist art. Instead, the reader is confronted by the following: 'Together with Trotsky and the Mexican painter Diego Rivera, he (André Breton) drafted For An Independent Revolutionary Art which announced that "The revolution is obliged to erect a socialist regime with central planning, for intellectual creation it must, even from the start, establish an anarchist regime of intellectual liberty... No constraint, not the least trace of command." This contradictory and bizarre document seems to have been written by Breton and amazingly Trotsky, with Rivera substituting for Trotsky's signature when he got cold feet. It is not clear when Trotsky helped write this document what he thought he was doing, as it went against everything he had ever done or said.' (60)

It is telling that the Anarchist Communist Federation (ACF), who correctly execrate Trotsky for his suppression of the Kronstadt Soviet, should publish an article which demonstrates such pitiful ignorance of the Bolshevik leader. The author of this piece is probably lapsing into typically thoughtless libertarian rhetoric, since it is unlikely s/he really believes that 'a socialist regime with central planning' really went against 'everything' Trotsky 'had ever done or said.' What's more likely is that the Organise! feature writer is expressing genuine surprise that as one of the more cultured Bolsheviks, Trotsky is able to advocate freedom- even 'anarchy' - in the intellectual realm. However, this merely reveals the author's ignorance, since before his collaboration with Breton, Trotsky had already written in Literature And Revolution: 'But in its essence, the dictatorship of the proletariat is not an organization for the production of the culture of a new society, but a revolutionary and military system One must not forget this... The main task of the proletarian intelligentsia in the immediate future is not the abstract formation of a new culture regardless of the absence of a basis for it, but definite culture-bearing, that is, a systematic, planful and, of course, critical imparting to the backward masses of the essential elements of the culture that already exists.' (61)

Clearly, someone as ignorant of the ideology of a rival sect as the Organise! writer is of Trotskyism is also incapable of rooting out the integralist dogma that festers within the anarchist milieu. Likewise, s/he is unlikely to see that ultimately Trotsky is much closer to Bakunin than the positions of Matthew Arnold. Similarly, ideologues of the ACF variety show no interest in why it is not possible to reject the doctrines of nationalism, anarchism or culture in the name of 'transcendent Reason'. Unfortunately, it is still necessary to spell out the fact that the romanticism which shapes the various contemporary versions of these ideologies is an outgrowth of the 'Enlightenment'. Zeev Sternhell wantonly overstates his case when he concludes The Birth Of Fascist Ideology by claiming: 'Cultural rebellion was not itself fascism, but its undermining of the principles of modernity as they were formed in the eighteenth century and put into practice at the time of the French Revolution laid the path to fascism. And indeed, more than any other historical phenomenon, the emergence of fascism forces us to notice the part played by... the destructive potential of a rejection of the rationalist utopia of the Enlightenment... to this day no better basis has been found for a human order worthy of the name than the universalism and humanism of the Enlightenment.' (62)

Sternhell's position is every bit as Eurocentric as that of Arnold and Rocker. The result of such pseudo-universalism is anything but 'universally' valid, since it rests on an a priori privileging of the products of 'European' life over other modes of thinking and doing - such as the vibrant plurality of cultures still to be found in Africa, India, China, Amerindia and aboriginal Australia. Plainly, full blown and outright romantic rejections of reason are every bit as silly as deifying the rational. What's actually required is the selective employment of analytical and/or correlative thinking as is appropriate to a specific situation. Likewise, it would be absurd to assume that everything said by all of those who still cling to nineteenth century creeds such as anarchism is necessarily invalid. Nevertheless, one of the many problems with anarchism is that it offers ready-made dogmas for those who want to pose as rebels. Anarchism has thus become a form of identity politics, where mindless activism and an uncritical identification with other self-selected members of the libertarian 'elect' takes precedence over a proper appraisal of the patch-work of beliefs which come with a circled A branding.

To admit that 'libertarian' idols like Proudhon and Bakunin have feet of clay completely defeats the purpose of identifying with this band of 'extremist heroes'. People who have been so de-individuated that they adopt anarchism as a ready-made identity, prefer the stench of the reactionary ideas that fester in their millieu to the pleasures of allowing theory and practice to mediate and cross-fertilise each other. Self-styled anarchists should be encouraged to understand that Bakunin and Proudhon are now historical figures, and that their texts are the refuse of a by-gone age. Both Bakunin's Pan-Slavism and Proudhon's Gallic-Celticism, are merely two illustrations of the rampant nationalism which deformed the historical - and still deforms the contemporary - anarchist 'movement'. (63) Obviously, there are several distinct forms of anarchist integralism, and some of these are simple variants and inversions of fascist modernism. (64) While the anarchist writings of Bakunin - in particular - are a source not only of Bolshevism, but also National Socialism, those who imagine that as a consequence fascism and Leninism are identical to each other, merely reproduce the fallacies of cold war propaganda. (65) The complexity of the relationship between Bolshevism and fascism is considerably more elaborate than most anarchists are prepared to admit. (66)

Luther Blissett, London 21 June 1997.


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Record breaking rises on the stock exchange at the end of last year demonstrate that there are still fortunes to be made from investment in a low-interest and low-inflation economy. Since we are living through an era of prosperity and stability ushered in by the national socialist policies of Tony Blair's New Labour government, investment risks are lower than usual at the moment. However, it is still risk-takers who will reap the greatest rewards from current financial opportunities. One of the most exciting and potentially lucrative areas of speculation right now is the commodification of rebellion. This is an area that until the middle of the century was considered pretty small potatoes, but with the advent of rock and roll it exploded into a multi-billion dollar market.

Records provide a perfect example of one commodity leap-frogging to success on the back of another. The vinyl from which rock and roll records were pressed was a by-product of petroleum, and both youth culture and cars were marketed with the promise of freedom. Today vinyl has become a luxury item and the mainstream of the music industry issues its product in the form of cassette tapes and CDs. Nevertheless, the rave and punk music favoured by anti-roads protesters is usually sold as an exclusive craft product made from DJ friendly vinyl, and thus provides a hidden subsidy to the besieged British oil industry. In a further twist to this scenario, buying cars abroad has become a hot issue among British drivers, with the Consumer Association announcing it is launching a scheme to help people import from the continent. This is an instance of the survival of the fittest under capitalism, with lean and efficient enterprises cutting costs, stimulating demand and killing off the incompetent dinosaurs who currently dominant the car market. In this way disgust at the excesses of capitalism can be transformed into money making operations that service the commodity economy.

To really understand the relationship between rebellion and finance it is necessary to look at the so called  J18 anti-capitalist riots in the City of London last year. Anyone who has studied this event from the perspective of finance cannot fail to see that while it requires a capitalist to make a profit, before any money can be made capitalism must first be produced by anti-capitalist rebels. The anti-capitalist rioter produces not only crime but also criminal law, the courts and the now highly profitable privatised prison service; the rioter produces media commentators who denounce disorder, as well as employment for surplus labour in the form of both a police force and those individuals required to clean up and repair damaged buildings. Increased employment in these service sectors not only integrates surplus labour into consumer society, it simultaneously stimulates demand within the capitalist economy by providing wages for workers who might otherwise be unemployed and thereby boosts profits.

For the investor, the advanced laboratory of research for future trends in rebellion is the art market. The recent success of Tracy Emin and the widespread media coverage of her bed wetting escapades indicates that anti-capitalists are becoming increasingly infantile. As a result stocks in firms that make baby dummies look set to rise, since a fashion amongst teenagers for all things childish is predicted. Other sectors of the economy that look set to benefit from this trend include baby food manufacturers and firms producing gripe water. One restaurateur has announced plans to open a cafe in Shoreditch serving nothing but pureed food, while another is looking into supplying supermarket chains with diced carrot and formula milk ready-meals for adults.

Canny investors also watch lesser known but nonetheless key art world indicators to gain advance notice of trends that are on the wane. For example, the obscure Art In Ruins collective are notorious among financial insiders for jumping too hard and too late onto fashionable bandwagons - starting with their adoption of an aggressive post-modernism in the mid-eighties. Recently Art In Ruins have been exhibiting a series of works entitled ‘We Live Here: Reclaim The Streets’, documenting their involvement in anti-roads protests. The involvement of Art In Ruins in this type of activity is a sure sign that the real action has moved on elsewhere, and the prudent investor will avoid all financial speculations involving road building. Another area that should be shunned is rock music, since bands such as the Manic Street Preachers have inspired many recent works by Jeremy Deller, an artist who is best known for missing out on the Brit Art craze.

However, you don't need to be a financial guru to know that the future of capitalism lies in cyberspace. So the best way to find out what's happening with rebellion is to look it up on a search engine. You'll get thousands upon thousands of entries, but listings for stuff like the peasants' revolt or the International Communist Current  are best avoided. Instead try Decadent Action since this is a group of anarchists whose strategy for overthrowing capitalism plays directly into the hands of those seeking financial benefits from economic growth. Decadent Action describe themselves as a consumer-terrorist organisation who fully embrace the marketplace. Rather than ignoring and boycotting capitalism, Decadent Action hope to make it destroy itself through overspending and over-consumption.

As any serious investor knows, there is no such thing as overspending and over-consumption. Decadent Action encourage credit card fraud, which will provide extra employment within the criminal justice system, as well as boosting the prospects for credit agencies, so these are areas that look like they will provide substantial returns. However, green issues remain the principal area of growth in this sector. Having poisoned the environment, capitalists can now turn a profit from selling consumers healthy organic produce. So whatever way you look at it, the long-term future of rebellion is assured. For those who understand the phenomenon and are prepared to take risks, rebellion will provide a solid base for the generation of substantial fortunes.
First published in Sleazenation vol 3 no. 1, February 2000.

Some things never change and this certainly seems to be true of the clobber sported by those attending fetish clubs. If leather is your thing, you don't even need to go to a club to get your kicks, every other teenager in the East End of London is geared up in the fetishist's favourite material. As for that other fetish standby, the Nazi uniform, recent years have witnessed a growing obsession with the camouflage gear worn by the soldiers of the Third Reich. Nazi camouflage is seen as attractive by the sad bastards into it because it enables them to hide amongst the more general clubber taste for combat gear, and thereby avoid flack for glorifying fascist scum.

Now that sado-masochism has become passe, foot fetishism has regained it's traditional place at the forefront of sexual perversion. From the binding of Chinese women's feet to the ongoing fashionability of the stiletto, foot sex has a long history. However, today's fashion conscious fetishist tends to be fixated on trainers rather than leather boots and shoes. I was recently picked up by a girl who'd managed to spill beer over my running shoes. On the bus back to her place in Islington, she explained that when we got in she wanted me to take off my imitation Nikes and push her face into them, while I took her from behind doggie style. Apparently my cheap footwear had attracted her attention because budget trainers tend to produce a cheesier smell. She even told me later that she'd deliberately poured lager over my feet to ensure my footwear really stank by the time she'd got me home. As far as perverts are concerned, you can forget Adidas, just buy yourself a pair of inexpensive sneakers from a market stall.

Nevertheless, if boots are your thing, there's no shortage of ways to indulge that interest on the gay scene. These days there are even gay bars that host Boot Nights. Clubbers strip on arrival and spent the evening buck naked except for their boots and a purse slung around their neck on a string. Boots are also playing a growing role in both gay and straight sado-masochistic sex. There's a swelling band of masochists desperate to be kicked around by sadists geared up in eighteen-hole Doctor Marten's. Serious injury is unlikely if the kicker knows what they are doing. Basically going for the thigh of the masochist with the entire sole of the boot is the tip for knocking them over without causing any serious injuries.

Moving away from what is currently fashionable and looking at future trends, if what artists have been getting up to in recent years is anything to go by, then all things fetish are going to become really wild. For some bizarre reason it seems to be Canadian citizens who are way ahead on the fetish fashion front. Cannuck Rick Gibson used to do performances wearing a clear vest containing hundreds of worms that would writhe about under the heat of stage lights. But this pales in comparison to some of his other high-jinx. After exhibiting a pair of earrings made from freeze dried human foetuses  at the Young Unknowns Gallery in 1987, Gibson was fined £500 at the Old Bailey. Less controversially, Canada Council backed performance artist Istvan Kantor sports a nifty line in gutted carp hats. Kantor has also been known to wear flaming loaves of bread as headgear. The trick is to coat the bread with glue, so that the solvent burns and the loaf insulates your head.

Other performance artists have placed gerbils inside the heels of platform boots made from clear perspex. This is something that might well appeal to fetishists, since it isn't unknown for goth clubbers to take their pet rats out with them. Likewise, since a gay cult already exists around gerbils,  foot fetishism being combined with pet shop sex is a crossover waiting to happen. As far as fish hats go, my own experience is that they tend to be a bit smelly, but they might be found attractive by bi-sexual men cruising gay clubs and wanting the best of both worlds. Certainly, sporting a carp as a fashion accessory is less emotive than wearing dead babies as earrings. Similarly, we might as well forget about flaming bread hats, they break club fire regulations and bouncers have a real downer on them.

One fetish item that never goes out of fashion is edible underwear, and this is an area where I can see room for enormous development. At the moment eatable panties tend to be sold to men to give to their wives and girlfriends. While I think this gender divide needs to be overcome, my personal fetish fantasies entail far more than rice paper Y-fronts. I'd like to go out dressed in an array of finger foods. So, for example, it ought to be possible to fabricate a pair of trousers from Frankfurter sausages and a waistcoat from several packets of sour cream Pringles. My secret desire is not just to go out clubbing in this gear, but to run into a drunken hen party who'd dance around me slowly eating away my clothes.

Judging by the recent resurgence of foot fetishism, some lucky entrepreneur could make a fortune from edible socks. It would appear that socks are the new jock straps, but with a cross-gender appeal. I'm told by those who appreciate these things that there is nothing like stuffing a pair of sweaty socks into your mouth while your sexual partner sticks a finger up your bum. While I'd imagine the sensation contrasts sharply with imbibing a ten year-old malt whisky, I've no real desire to test this impression. However, if people want to lust after unwashed socks belonging to professional rugby players, who am I to be judgmental? One person's fetish is another's perversion, and those in the know say that this season any fashion item connected to foot sex is a proposition with legs.
First published in Sleazenation vol 3 no 2, March 2000.

Does terrorism have an image problem? This question raised itself long before the Ariana airlines hijack, with 79 out of 163 hostages applying for political asylum after an internal Afghanistan flight was diverted via Moscow to Stansted in Essex. With much of the media raising a racist chorus against allowing those caught up in the drama to stay on here, it is difficult to see this particular event as an act of terrorism. No one was hurt and if the reports of bigoted British journalists are to be believed, everyone on board the plane was happy to be hijacked. Far more troubling than this incident is the proliferation of art terrorism. To take just one example, a group calling itself Molotov recently claimed responsibility for a 'guerrilla exhibition' in the toilets of the ICA in London. Shelves were hastily installed with fruit and vegetable animals placed upon them. The result was so crap that it made the works officially on show at the ICA look good in comparison.

The appeal of terrorist images to a certain type of artist is obvious. Both self-styled art extremists and political incendiaries like to think of themselves as an elite that somehow rises above the common mass of humanity. While armed gangs show little regard for human life, art terrorists have even less respect for human intelligence. Activists of all types claim to oppose the current organised-for-profit ways of the world, but beyond the greater destructiveness of regular armies, there is little to differentiate the methodology of terrorists from that of the military-industrial complex they allegedly oppose. Indeed, national security services are deeply implicated in much of the terrorism that has taken place over the past hundred years. Intelligence agencies require terrorism to justify their existence, so they are not averse to manufacturing it. Likewise, arms companies make handsome profits from the sale of guns to both regular armies and itinerant terrorists.

I showed a video of Molotov actions to veteran art shocker Al Ackerman and he wasn't impressed: "No wonder they wear ski-masks, if my work was that embarrassing, I wouldn't want to be easily identifiable. There's nothing to what they do. It simply pales in comparison to old school performance art. Back in the seventies I used to do these performances where I'd apply for dismal-sounding jobs under an assumed name like Friedrich Engels. I made a big point of exhibiting different types of weird behaviour at each office I visited. For example, when I applied for the post of retail banking specialist, I answered the questions at the interview in a nebulous way, making sure that with every sentence I uttered my voice crept up the scale and became louder. Towards the end I was shouting. However, because the increase in volume was gradual I don't think the interviewer ever realised what was going on. That sort of thing takes skill, and I wouldn't demean a virtuoso performance by calling it art terrorism."

Currently describing himself as a 'gold card anarchist', Toby Mott used to be a member of the now defunct Grey Organisation and in this capacity he was involved in various actions against cultural institutions. The best known Grey Organisation stunt took place in 1984, when its members painted the windows of all the art galleries in Cork Street grey. Mott isn't nostalgic about his days as an art terrorist: "I wouldn't do what we did in the eighties again. Everything has changed since then, it would be pointless. These days you've got to take Brit Art into account because it has changed the rules of the art world. A lot of people today, like those responsible for messing up Tracey Emin's bed at the Tate, are just wanting in on the art world. That isn't interesting. But I'm all for bringing down bourgeois idols. If there is a point to what people do, then I'm all for it. Destroying art works misses the point, it just provides work for someone making a replacement or replica. Matthew McCarthy of Molotov hasn't fallen for that trap and I like what he does."

Working in a different medium entirely, Benedict 'Dutch' Spinoza publishes a fanzine called The Yorkshire Mutineer from rural Ingleton. Spinoza used to sell his publication in a handful of shops but lost his distribution deal after running a feature praising the neo-Nazi bomb attack in Oklahoma which killed 169 people, then going on to suggest a similar campaign against British dole offices would end welfare dependency. According to Spinoza: "The people who were distributing The Yorkshire Mutineer were left-wing dinosaurs. They were happy enough when I gave communist and anarchist terror groups positive coverage, but I brought things a little nearer home and they shat themselves. I don't see anything wrong with offing government automatons, and it is really stupid to get upset about a few dead yanks. Especially when, at the end of the day, what I do is just a joke. I'm an armchair terrorist, I've never killed anyone, I just like reading about revolutionary violence. Censorship won't stop me publishing this stuff, I've still got some mail order subscribers and it doesn't cost much to xerox an issue of my magazine."

The Yorkshire Mutineer is merely an extreme example of a trend that runs through the whole of society. There is a long history of pop stars exploiting terrorist chic to sell records, and while Dutch Spinoza abhors the culture industry, his activities neatly mirror the crassest elements of what he claims to despise. By aligning themselves with the gestural politics of terrorism, artists and rock singers are hoping to come across as authentic. However, anyone who has ever looked at how sad and futile the life of a terrorist like Carlos The Jackal was in reality, is hardly going to be impressed. To return to the question with which I started, terrorism doesn't just have an image problem; when all is said and done, it is stupid. Spectacular gestures might grab headlines but they also add to the sum of human misery in the world. The emancipation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves. There's absolutely nothing radical about a handful of idiots deciding to engage in 'armed struggle'. Attempting to simulate these infantile and ultimately impotent forms of rage in an art gallery is also obnoxious.
First published in Sleazenation vol 3 no 3, April 2000.