As I think this is all a comedy, I’m going to start it in true comedy movie trailer-style.
Meet Michael Schmidt! I’ve never heard of him, and nor have you! In spite of apparently being kind of a big deal in the world of anarchist theory, the group he founded in had only six members and his best-known book has sold maybe 4,000 copies. He does have many leather-bound books and an apartment that smells of rich mahogany, though (probably).
But then Michael…met Racism. (Shot of Racism endearingly tripping over the kerb and dropping a pile of books, and Michael helping her to her feet). And started having strong feelings for her. And now Michael’s anarchist life is going to get…a lot more complicated! (Shot of Michael and Racism speeding down a steep road on a bike with no brakes going “Woooaaahhh!”).
Yes, this is all true, or at least it’s true that these allegations have been made (the linked page of the article links in turn to a five-part article that sets things out in exhaustive detail, although staggeringly the authors don’t seem remotely to see the funny side of all this) :-
Briefly, Schmidt is a well-known South African anarchist and co-author of a weighty tome on that subject who late last year was alleged by other anarchists to have been leading a double-life for years as an active poster in favour of racism and white nationalism on Stormfront and other websites. He claims that it was all done for research purposes, as part of his investigative journalism. I have to say the whole exercise comes across as a bit too prolonged, and the opinions expressed too sincere, for that to be true. Besides, if it was, where’s the big expose of fascism that took years to research?
The linked article debates the question of whether this was all some sort of fiendishly cunning infiltration exercise of anarchism by fascists. It concludes it wasn’t, and certainly if the best strategy white nationalists can come up with is “try to poach members from even more marginal groups than us by persuading them racism is cool” then they’re even more laughable than I always thought they were.
Actually, the most uncomfortable thing the whole saga points up for anyone on either extreme of the political spectrum is how they both tend to attract similar people – unhappy with society, emotionally mixed-up, looking for comforting fantasies about what might be possible and very lacking in any sense of self-awareness. And if you’re like that, it must be very easy to end up lapsing into the opposite extreme simply because you aren’t capable of looking at yourself objectively enough to realise that your behaviour is starting to depart from your beliefs or, if you’re Schmidt, that your various beliefs are starting to contradict each other wildly. Hence the long history of people happily calling themselves “conservative revolutionaries”, “national anarchists”(which, allegedly, is what Schmidt is) or, most infamously, “National Socialists.”
Even more depressing is the thought that you actually need to be like that to enjoy “success” on the margins of politics, where being too pragmatic would probably mean giving up. After all, if you find yourself leading a miniscule political faction, maybe your first thought should be “Hold on, should I actually be in politics if I can’t get more than a handful of people to agree with my opinions anyway?”