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Lucien van der Walt – 2017 Statement on Michael Schmidt Affair

category southern africa | anti-fascism | press release author Wednesday April 12, 2017 01:52author by Lucien van der Walt - IATH / ITHAauthor email l.vanderwalt at ru dot co dot za Report this post to the editors

10 April 2017

On 11 February 2016, I issued an initial personal statement on the Michael Schmidt affair.[1] I completely rejected the irredeemable racist and right-wing statements attributed to Schmidt, which were mainly posted under false names online. They represent positions I have consistently opposed, for decades, to the best of my abilities. I noted problems with his explanation, centred on the claim that his posts and false personas were solely means for infiltrating the radical right for undercover research. I raised serious ethical problems with his actions, including his admitted role in repeatedly frustrating earlier investigations into his actions by myself and others. I also laid out my emotional turmoil over the affair, the gulf between the Schmidt I knew and trusted, a man active in left and black working class circles, and another Schmidt, increasingly exposed.

On 11 February 2016, I issued an initial personal statement on the Michael Schmidt affair.[1] I completely rejected the irredeemable racist and right-wing statements attributed to Schmidt, which were mainly posted under false names online. They represent positions I have consistently opposed, for decades, to the best of my abilities. I noted problems with his explanation, centred on the claim that his posts and false personas were solely means for infiltrating the radical right for undercover research. I raised serious ethical problems with his actions, including his admitted role in repeatedly frustrating earlier investigations into his actions by myself and others. I also laid out my emotional turmoil over the affair, the gulf between the Schmidt I knew and trusted, a man active in left and black working class circles, and another Schmidt, increasingly exposed.

In early 2017, Schmidt sent a confession and apology to the Institute for Anarchist Theory and History (IATH) / Instituto de Teoria e História Anarquista (ITHA), a Global South-based research project. IATH / ITHA has made the letter available on request, and a copy can be found here.[2] The IATH / ITHA has also urged Schmidt to publish the letter.

In this letter, Schmidt admits for the first time that he drifted towards the radical right. He claims this took place in a period of deep personal crisis, and states that he has a history of mental illness and severe emotional and personal problems. He says he became secretly influenced by the right and its racist arguments, while maintaining sincere public positions on the left. He denies any project of infiltrating the anarchists, insisting that his views and actions became increasingly incoherent. He again affirms that he deliberately concealed this situation from a wide range of people and organisations. Lastly, he apologises for his actions, and the harm he caused, claiming to have repudiated the right, citing his ongoing current work in anti-racist and human rights causes.

In describing the letter, I certainly do not endorse it or promote it. There are important gaps in the confession, issues and problems elided. The apology is inadequate, coming after 18 months of denying any guilt. It also comes after years of deception and reprehensible behaviour. I do not accept or condone what Schmidt has done. His desire to make amends is noted, but must be weighed against what has happened.

I reiterate my position: I reject racist and right-wing positions as abhorrent and unacceptable, and as contradicting the anti-colonial, anti-fascist, anti-imperialist and anti-racist politics and history of anarchism and syndicalism. My political commitment remains to the complete national liberation of the black working class in South Africa, to an anti-racist, internationalist, egalitarian, bottom-up left politics, to a radical change in society based on a massive redistribution of wealth and power,

These are the reasons I have severed ties with Schmidt.

I add that, as a Council member of the IATH / ITHA, I am signatory to the IATH/ ITHA statement of 23 March 2017. [3] This announced and explained our decision, made well before Schmidt’s letter, to escalate Schmidt’s suspension from IATH/ ITHA to complete removal. It outlines our repudiation of Schmidt’s actions, reservations about his letter, and our decision to reject his request to be allowed to resign of his own accord.

Schmidt’s actions have, I know, cast a shadow over the book “Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism.” “Black Flame” was written over ten years ago; it went to the publishers at the start of 2006. Schmidt played a very limited role in the book, a point that he has repeatedly admitted. I was primary author, and poured into it my heart and soul, many years of work and debate. It is not a perfect work, of course. What is? Many people have asked me to keep the book in print, but for some, the Schmidt affair unfairly taints the reputation of the book. That is a sad reality. The fact is that what Schmidt acted in ways fundamentally at odds with the emancipatory positions, history and tradition championed in “Black Flame.”

Finally, while I have made up my own mind, I still support the Anarkismo network’s call for a commission into the Schmidt affair. It is important to examine what happened, to reflect on what it reveals, to seek resolution, and to use the situation to help develop libertarian ethics and justice. [4]

In solidarity,
Lucien van der Walt, Makana, South Africa,

[1] https://ithanarquista.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/archive-...2016/
[2] https://pastebin.com/dXbMUWMF
[3] https://ithanarquista.wordpress.com/2017/03/23/2017-sta...midt/
[4] http://anarkismo.net/article/29047

Related Link: https://ithanarquista.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/lucien-van-der-walt-2017-statement-on-michael-schmidt-affair-10-april-2017/
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