Why Richard Tate should be part of something less confusing

Chuck0's picture

by Lawrence Jarach

In Richard Tate's diatribe against the recent Bay Area Anarchist Conference, he makes so many incoherent observations/complaints within a context that is thoroughly confusing that it's difficult to know how to respond. But respond I will, as the reviewer of The Beast Reawakens, as one of the co-organizers of the conference itself, and as the facilitator (or chairperson or whatever the position is called) of the workshop entitled "Should Anarchists Be Part of the Left?"

What my review of the book has to do with the activities of the Southern Poverty Law Center and their attacks on anyone outside the liberal anti-fascist agenda is beyond my understanding. The author of the book doesn't mention the SPLC, nor did I in my review. How is no mention of them "characteristically uncritical"? A typical way that Tate showcases his confusion is with this statement: "Elsewhere…we explain how anti-fascists help reinforce the power of the state." Does he mean all or some anti-fascists? Surely some anti-fascists support legislative solutions to the problem of fascism and other forms of right extremism, but what about extraparliamentary anti-fascists? The author of the book is in the liberal camp, but what does that have to do with his documentation of the links between international fascists and their counterparts in the US?

His impressions of the conference are also confused. Tate talks about "the panel," but which one? (There were two.) Zerzan and Wolfi were part of the morning panel. Who were the "liberal academics and students" to whose presence Tate objects? Later he mentions "one of the sessions." What happened to "the panel"? We organized workshops between and after the two panel discussions. Then he complains about "the meeting" degenerating into a mutual love fest of green anarchists. Surely he means one of the workshops, but which one? We'll know why he left his hand up for 30 minutes to no avail, but then was able to ask Zerzan some excellent questions; but I know why-it was because it happened in the next workshop. The one I facilitated was about the unhappy historical relations between leftists and anarchists. My point is that it's time to stop trailing after leninists and social democrats. Many anarchists today think that we are numerous and strong enough to have our own agendas instead of working in self-defeating coalitions with the left wing of capital. What does that have to do with "find[ing] a way to trick the working class into doing what you want"?

If I hadn't been there, I would be hopelessly confounded by Tate's recounting of his experiences of the day's events. "The panel," "the meeting," and "one of the sessions": he makes it sound like the day was a disorganized free-for-all. It was not.

Tate correctly states that it's important for this (re)new(ed) revolutionary current "not to degenerate into a new [left]." So why the title of his piece? It's contradictory.

With that said, I appreciate that he rips apart the neo-malthusian misanthropy of some primitivists. The internally contradictory nature of positing that humans in general are somehow to blame for the greed and rapacity of a minority, while at the same time extolling the egalitarian and non-destructive conditions of 99% of human history, should be clear by now. But since there were plenty of non-primitivists there, how does this critique fit into his irritation at the conference? It belongs somewhere else.

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