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In a letter to me dated 14 November 1996, Anarchist Studies editor Sharif Gemie made the following threat: 'I think we've resolved the difficulties you felt about the review of your book. The book reviews editor has told me that the Spring 1997 issue will include a positive review of your What Is Situationism?. I consider that any hurt that we may have done you in the last issue has now been absolved, and I do not see any reason for publishing any further discussion about the last review.' It is one thing to counter the absurd allegations made by contributors to the sad and reactionary 'academic' journal Anarchist Studies - see for example my 'Anarchism And The Bolshevisation Of Culture' in Disputations On Art, Anarchy & Assholism - it is quite another to receive a favourable review in this pathetic publication.

Fortunately, I knew exactly how to counter the hapless Gemie's attempts at replacing critical debate with mutual back slapping. It wasn't difficult to work out that Karen Goaman had been assigned the task of giving me a good review - she'd written favourably about me in the past and was on the Anarchist Studies editorial board. Goaman also subscribed to my Neoist Alliance newsletter and as I often enclosed additional material in these mailings, I made one copy of Gemie's missive and added it to the next bundle of bumph being sent to the would-be mediator. My reasoning was that Goaman would conclude Gemie's letter was being widely circulated and that instead of giving me a good write-up, she'd pan my activities in a pitiful attempt at avoiding the embarrassment of having her academic objectivity called into question. While I had Goaman down as being too stupid to realise I was leading her by the nose, my sporting instincts led me to leave her an escape route. If Goaman had wanted to avoid cutting a very sorry figure indeed, she'd have refused the review assignment once I'd made its patently compromising nature apparent to her.

Goaman's review article 'Youth Culture, Situationism and Anarchy' in Anarchist Studies vol. 5 #1 (March 1997) could only have been composed by an incompetent academic seeking career advancement through publication. For example, in the course of 'reviewing' What Is Situationism? A Reader, Goaman wrongly claims that Dave and Stuart Wise's piece 'The End Of Music' is previously unpublished. In fact, it is clearly stated in What Is Situationism? that the essay originally appeared as an undated pamphlet put out by the Glasgow based Calderwood 15. Likewise, Goaman refers to the first British publication of Jean Barrot's 'Critique of the Situationist International' instead of its initial publication in a Californian magazine, which is the credit given in the book.

Equally ridiculous is Goaman's claim that: 'part of the differences between the Situationists and those who now write about them is in terms of audience. Situationist texts are intellectually demanding to read because they draw on philosophical and political discourse in which French intellectuals are often well versed. But the Situationists wrote to a potentially universal audience, and incorporated a romantic, creative and inspiring and engaged spark into what they wrote and did. By contrast, this book is written mainly for a small milieu of devotees. In this collection... there is no spark, no creativity, no passion, no engagement.' In making these claims, Goaman comes across as a latter day Fourierist - but instead of the seas turning to lemonade, after the revolution we will all find ourselves speaking French - her vision of 'radical' activity is a Eurocentric Tower of Babel in reverse.

The potentially universal audience Goaman claims the Situationists addressed had shrunk somewhat by the time Guy Debord - the group's best known theorist- opened his Comments on the Society of the Spectacle with the observation that: 'These Comments are sure to be welcomed by fifty or sixty people; a large number given the times in which we live and the gravity of the matters under discussion. But then, of course, in some circles I am considered to be an authority. It must also be borne in mind that a good half of the interested elite will consist of people who devote themselves to maintaining the spectacular system of domination, and the other half of people who persist in doing quite the opposite. Having, then, to take account of readers who are both attentive and diversely influential, I obviously cannot speak with complete freedom. Above all, I must take care not to give too much information to just anybody... Some elements will be intentionally omitted; and the plan will have to remain rather unclear. Readers will encounter decoys, like the very hallmark of the era...'

Thus with all the intellectual penetration and regard for evidence one would expect from an anarchist, Goaman mews: 'there is a significant rupture here between, for example, the Situationists and the kinds of interventions that people like Home have set up, and it has to do precisely with the question of engagement and audience outlined above. Parodying earlier movements, Home has constructed a pseudo-relation with a libertarian left tradition of genuine engagement, but has in reality abandoned this tradition, whose aims involved a broadscale critique of culture and values addressed to anyone, a potentially universal audience. Home's texts or activities, by contrast, speak only to a small group who are in the know, and who may or may not be laughing up their sleeves at everyone else...' Here Goaman uses the phrase 'libertarian left' to paper over the fact that rather than being anarchists, the Situationists were critics of anarchism. Indeed, two American Situationists - Robert Chasse and Bruce Elwell - attacked the anarcho-bolshevism of the Anarchist Studies editorial board member Murray Bookchin in their 1970 pamphlet A Field Study In The Dwindling Force Of Cognition.

If Goaman were prepared to make a little bit of intellectual effort, it would not be necessary to point out that her moralistic appeal to authenticity - 'genuine engagement' - is actually a mark of its absence from the reactionary activities in which she is embroiled. Despite all the faults in their theorising, the Situationists were - at least on occasion - capable of critical debate; since Anarchist Studies is patently unable to engage in activity of this type, it is Goaman in her review article who is forging a pseudo-relationship with the Situationists. Ultimately, Goaman's review article is an apology for popularism and a plea for the restriction of discussion to the level of her stunted intellectual faculties. If Goaman's thought were not deformed by anarchist ideology, she might find thinking less of an effort. While I am happy to concede that anarchists are stupid, it is nevertheless extremely patronising of Goaman to assume that the vast majority of people alive today lack intelligence.

Anarchism And The Bolshevisation Of Culture

A curious exhange of letters with Anarchist Studies


Stewart Home topless photo by Chris Dorley Borwn

Stewart Home tells it like it is...