Anarchist Web site libcom.org (the name of which is short for “libertarian communism”) has posted an article, “Free speech and its limitations in response to dealing with the far right” in a response to an article by one of our writers, “The Question of Freedom of Speech Facing Socialists“. While our Web site (as of now still new, with much more to come in the future) is composed of several different writers, with different backgrounds and perspectives, and I do not agree with the exact formulation of what our article said, the libcom article is essentially a cloaked anti-Marxist polemic, wrongly abusing the name of Marx to support their perspective. They are right to support their politics, but why not openly state themselves as contrary to Marxism and clearly state their perspective?
Our article worked from a perspective in favor of free speech and critical of the anarchist tactics of direct action and individual-terrorism, while theirs took the opposite position. Right off the bat, their article is wrong in claiming that “free speech” is only about not being censored by the government, and “censorship” is only about government censorship. That’s a nonsensical view. Any elementary (even bourgeois) analysis, including a Marxist analysis, recognizes that gangs, ad-hoc (spontaneously formed) or not, being violent against people who say certain things is censorship and a violation of free speech, and free speech requires protection from violence. Or is fascist groups going around and beating socialists not a violation of free speech? Please. One may not agree with free speech, but this is what free speech is. This is merely logical extension of a general conception of rights. Another example, is society truly protecting the right of gender expression of a trans woman if nothing is done against her being physically attacked by transphobic individuals every time she comes out in a dress, but the government doesn’t discriminate against her directly?
The writer would probably claim that this is “censorship” if socialists are being censored, but not agree that it’s censorship if it’s the right-wing being censored. That’s the kind of fallacies and manipulative language which is employed at libcom. If they agree with censoring the right-wing within capitalist peacetime through direct action, they should state that plainly, instead of claiming it’s not censorship. A Marxist says the truth directly. We’re not the bourgeois press. But of course, the writer of this article is no Marxist, despite invoking the name of Marx.
While the libcom article perhaps has a point in that our author was wrong to cite Berkman, it is entirely wrong to suggest that Marx and Luxemburg would have supported the brand of direct-action, individual-terrorist anarchism that the writer of the libcom article seems to be aligned to.
Our perspective, like that of Marx, is that of a social revolution. While this revolution may involve violence if the capitalists violently defend their rule (though violence is not our preference), this violence has nothing to do with direct action, individual-terrorist anarchist nonsense. Direct violent action is not a socialist tactic in the environment of liberal capitalist countries today, and therefore our article would have been right to criticize the shutting down of Milo Yiannopoulos’ event.
Yiannopoulous is not a fascist, but rather merely a right-wing, reactionary provokateur. To claim that Yiannopulous is a fascist is to indulge in the same kind of wrong analysis as the discredited cult of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, which claims that Trump is a fascist, engages in. Extending the logic of the libcom polemicists, violent terrorist direct action should be engaged in against conservative politicians. While their anarchist politics may very well consider this an appropriate tactic, Marxist socialists, and therefore we, have nothing to do with such nonsense. If Marx would’ve agreed with that, he wouldn’t have said that socialists would disapprove of an assassination of Bismarck in a 1879 interview. (among other things, because it is not a socialist tactic and because it would in fact be politically counter-productive)
Violence against organized fascists within capitalist society makes sense. That’s because fascism, in our analysis, does not refer to a certain type of speech, but rather is a movement based on organized paramilitary gangs which wage violence against the working class, such as the SS, SA, etc. The libcom article mentions that it would be “hypocritical” to support the working class in the Battle of Cable Street, but not support the shutting down of Yiannopoulos’ speech. There’s nothing necessarily correct in that assertion. Mosley’s BUF were fascists, Yiannopoulos is not. Mosley’s BUF was in the process of forming an organization to wage violence and terror against the working class, through their Blackshirts paramilitary, and the working class defended against it.
Mosley and the BUF.
Of course, to criticize the shutting down of Yiannopoulos’ speech and to state the truth that it was not a socialist tactic doesn’t mean we are “on his side”, like libcom suggests. Nor does it mean we are not socialists. Nor that we misuse the words of Marx and Luxemburg. On the contrary, precisely we criticize libcom’s anarchist tactics because we are Marxist socialists. We detest Yiannopoulos’ politics. That they suggest we are on his side is evidence of how thuggish their perspective is. As a matter of fact, their article is a version of a forum post by one of their members, edited to remove the hostile, belittling, intimidatory-like language bordering on insults that they used to criticize us. This kind of fallacious, fanatical attitude is exactly what’s wrong with part of the left. They seem to think that, for example, someone who truly is against Yiannopoulos needs to write silly insults against him, but we don’t. Judging by their forum, constant usages of the words fuck, asshole, jerk, etc. are language that they need in order to understand a position. But just because we do not use such language, which only serves to lower the debate level of everyone, and which they use primarily against other left-wing individuals and groups, in order to feel powerful (really showing weakness) in their arguments, in no way means that we agree with Yiannopoulos.
If libcom was debating legitimately, it would merely say that their position differs from ours, and give arguments for it. But, in a tone of humiliation against our writer taking place in their forum posts but not their article, they imply that we are simply totally wrong (and in fact knowledge-less and stupid), and it is not a matter of perspective, unless we agree with Yiannopoulos. That’s exactly the fallacious rushing to make false statements and accusations, uncaring about the truth attitude of part of the left which we heavily criticize.
The libcom writer, in one of their forum posts, went as far as to cite the U.S. Constitution in order to claim that free speech refers only to protection from censorship by the government and not violent gangs. Evidently, our analyses do not take bourgeois documents at the starting point. But even from a bourgeois perspective, the libcom user is wrong. While the First Amendment only serves to ban censorship from the government, obviously the meaning of “free speech” and “censorship” for the bourgeois revolutionaries who drafted the U.S. Constitution does not end here. They intended for the government to protect any individual from violence by any other individual, and placed a great importance on protection of an individual from other violent individuals who may attack him for his or her speech. They considered this a core part of their liberal conception of free speech. Only the most simplistic kind of analysis would lead to other conclusions. By making this kind of argument, he or she is putting themselves on the opposing side of every scholar, every historian, every student of law, every person with a rudimentary understanding of bourgeois society.
In conclusion, libcom arguments through obscuring logic, manipulating language, and emotionalistic bullying, and what truly angers them about us is that we ignore their fallacies and assumptions and just state our opinion, which clashes with several of their positions, which in a frustrated fashion they try to prove to be internally illogical, but fail to do so. Their fanatical attitude shows that they would’ve done so against any individual or group which did so. But what else would you expect from the other RevLeft?