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Statement on the Schmidt Case and Proposed Commission of Inquiry

category international | anarchist movement | feature author Tuesday March 28, 2017 18:50author by Anarkismo - Anarkismo network Report this post to the editors

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In our last statement on the Michael Schmidt case and accusations by journalists Alexander Reid Ross and Joshua Stephens that he is a fascist and white nationalist that attempted to infiltrate the anarchist movement, we said that the Anarkismo network had decided “to call for a commission of enquiry to investigate more closely both the accusations and the defence, and to make recommendations to the broader anarchist movement based on their findings”.

Regrettably it has been over a year since we announced our intention to convene a commission of inquiry and it has not yet materialised.

While we have recently started making progress once again on the call for a commission and will continue to work towards finalizing our proposal and framework, however, we have also had enough time now to debate aspects of the case both within and between some of the organisations in the network.

New developments and information concerning the case have also come to our attention that must be addressed immediately.

Statement on the Schmidt Case and Proposed Commission of Inquiry

In our last statement on the Michael Schmidt case and accusations by journalists Alexander Reid Ross and Joshua Stephens that he is a fascist and white nationalist that attempted to infiltrate the anarchist movement, we said that the Anarkismo network had decided “to call for a commission of enquiry to investigate more closely both the accusations and the defence, and to make recommendations to the broader anarchist movement based on their findings”.

One of the reasons for doing so was because we felt it was difficult for us as a network “to draw definitive conclusions about this case based on the evidence provided so far by both sides […] because to do so would require translating all the material, accusations and defence, into numerous languages in order to allow debate in each organisation, with organisations then debating each other through their delegates to the Anarkismo network”. A process we knew would be “impossible to carry out with our current capacity […] without sacrificing other daily activities”.

We therefore felt that an international “commission of inquiry” or “ethics commission” that would “include members of other tendencies and non-affiliated anarchists in order to avoid partiality” and that would be able to evaluate all the relevant evidence and information, without first having to translate it all into numerous languages, and then present its findings and recommendations to the broader anarchist movement would be a more efficient process while still adhering to democratic and federalist principles. This was because we wanted to resolve the matter without delay because “the accusations against Schmidt are extremely serious and we take the issue of fighting racism and white supremacy as high priority”.

But, regrettably, it has been over a year since we announced our intention to convene a commission of inquiry and it has not yet materialised.

While we have recently started making progress once again on the call for a commission and will continue to work towards finalizing our proposal and framework, however, we have also had enough time now to debate aspects of the case both within and between some of the organisations in the network. These debates have not been extensive but they have exposed some common concerns. We can not deny, for example, the fact that Schmidt has been unable to provide convincing explanations for some of the evidence and allegations against him (the meaning of his tattoos, for example), that there are gaps in his defense and that he has been evasive or dismissive. While we stand by what we said previously that “Both sides must be given a fair chance to have their say” as a matter of principle – a criticism we still have with the way AK Press handled the accusations – we also note that what Schmidt has chosen to say so far in his defense has been unconvincing.

New developments and information concerning the case have also come to our attention that must be addressed immediately.

We were recently informed by our comrades at the Institute for Anarchist Theory and History (ITHA-IATH) that they had received a letter from Michael Schmidt in which he confessed to having been influenced by right-wing positions and racist arguments while maintaining his “anarchist” public persona and relations with the left; and that he concealed this from the broader anarchist movement, including from Anarkismo and its associated organisations and militants. ITHA has since put out a statement which provides a more detailed outline of Schmidt’s letter. At our request ITHA has also sent the letter to Anarkismo and we will supply it to the commission when or if it takes place.

However, as he has now admitted to at least some of the allegations against him there is no need to examine and weigh up the evidence and defense to know that he is guilty of holding and expressing some racist and reactionary beliefs and ideas completely in opposition to the anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-imperialist and internationalist principles cherished by Anarkismo. We fully reject and distance ourselves from any and all of the racist and reactionary statements, ideas or activities Schmidt is responsible for – regardless of their alleged motivations. He has admitted to deliberately concealing this from us and to deliberately frustrating previous investigations into these and similar allegations in the past. This is not ethical or acceptable behavior to us and we have decided to cut all ties and not to have future relations with Michael Schmidt. He has been informed of this decision and that we will not interact with him further. In his letter we also note that Schmidt has admitted to the “lesser” accusation of having been influenced by noxious racist and rightwing ideas but he has not admitted to the very serious accusation of trying to infiltrate the anarchist movement. It is up to the commission to investigate and determine whether he is also guilty of the "greater charge" of being an infiltrator but this will not affect our decision to cut ties with him based on what he has already admitted to.

These new developments not withstanding we still believe the proposed commission of inquiry has a necessary and important role to play and we will continue to pursue it. There are several important reasons for this. While at least some of the accusations against Schmidt have been proven to be true by his own admission, we noted in our previous statement that the methods of the accusers “raised an internal debate about how we deal with such situations”; that we “cannot ignore that the methods used by the accusers – especially the lack of a criteria for minimum of justice – could be used one day in an unjustified accusation against any one of us in order to defame a militant, an organisation or a whole movement”, and that; “the way we deal with the current situation will have consequences for similar situations in the future”.

The promised process of working “internally to figure out the commission's composition, the parameters of what decisions are within its range and on the questions of how we define justice and ethics in a way that does not reproduce the modus operandi of mainstream society […] in order to propose a methodological and ethical framework for this commission” has been longer and more difficult than we anticipated – and we are not yet finished. But it is not something we can rush or circumvent because “if this commission has no clear criteria, it will end up adopting, as a result of a dynamic of social pressure, those of the movement in general. And unfortunately, we cannot say that the criteria of ethics and justice today in our milieu are the best.” Developing proposals for a framework and criteria of ethics and justice for the commission, translating, circulating, discussing in our organisations, submitting and incorporating feedback in as participatory and democratic a manner as possible has taken much time and energy, which we have had to balance with the many other demands and commitments of our organisations and struggles.

We have now finalized a proposal for a framework for the ethics commission and a statement on convening it which has been accepted by some of our organisations and is still being discussed by others. After that we will allow some time to incorporate any amendments arising from this round of consultation before publishing the statement convening the commission and extending the invitations to participate. The purpose of this commission, as before, will be to analyse the whole case, including Schmidt’s partial confession and give a final verdict – taking into consideration the now known fact that we have no doubt he adopted rightwing positions concomitant to his anarchist ones – particularly as regards relations to him from now on as well as developing some general procedure on how to treat similar cases in the future.

Whilst we have cut ties and distanced ourselves from Schmidt now because of his confession we recommend to him that he makes himself available to provide documents and information and answer questions for the commission in the interests of resolving any unsolved issues. Any such correspondence or cooperation will be done directly with Schmidt by the commission itself and not through Anarkismo. We similarly appeal to all implicated or affected parties to cooperate with the commission as requested. As we have said in the framework under discussion, “The proposed commission is not intended to decide or pronounce on whether Schmidt or anyone else involved in or implicated by the case is anarchist or not. It is not about punishing or exonerating anyone. It is about breaking the mentality within the anarchist movement of ‘giving medals to who is really an anarchist’, or to who exposes someone as not being an anarchist. It is about establishing whether people’s conduct and the way it has been dealt with generally have been constructive, consistent with anarchist values and principles and congruent with our vision of non-hierarchical social transformation. It is about setting a precedent and drawing lessons from the experience to help us as a movement deal with similar cases in the future in a mature and constructive way consistent with our goals and principles”.

We will make a final verdict after the commission has been concluded and publish another statement taking its findings and recommendations into account.

The Anarkismo network
March 2017

Related Link: http://Anarkismo.net

 #   Title   Author   Date 
   A Great Man     Lao Tzu    Wed Mar 29, 2017 18:17 
   Link to IATH statement     Link to IATH statement    Wed Apr 05, 2017 22:06 
   Black Flame vol. 2 being written by Schmidt alone     William Everard    Tue Apr 11, 2017 00:21 
   letter from Michael Schmidt to the IATH in which, among other things, he blames AK for promoting his racist Creed and claims to not be white     about schmidt    Wed Apr 12, 2017 03:04 
   Statement from Lucien van der Walt     Johnny    Wed Apr 12, 2017 16:45 
   Schmidt lies again     lies    Thu Apr 13, 2017 06:25 


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