Alexander Reid Ross and Joshua Stephens
How a White Nationalist Seduced Anarchists Around the World
The Basest Service to the Revolution
On a sunny day in July 2008, six months before the publication of Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism (Counter Power, Vol. 1), co-author, Michael Schmidt, met with fellow members of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) at his cozy bungalow in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was a gorgeous day, so the four collective mates sat down comfortably on Schmidt’s wooden furniture in his spacious garden, near a lemon tree while his White Swiss Shepherd puppies, Loki and Freya, came out to sniff their guests.
There was a lot going on in Schmidt’s life. He was in the midst of working on Black Flame alongside academic Lucien van der Walt — a work that, since publication in early 2009, has sold roughly 4,000 copies. According to Charles Weigl, a collective member at the book’s publisher, AK Press, “the average nonfiction book in the US sells less than 250 copies a year, and 3,000 over its lifetime.” Sales-wise, Black Flame stood shoulder to shoulder with recent editions of works from some of anarchism’s most recognized names, and Weigl told us that Black Flame was “still selling steadily,” until late this past September.
However, as internal secretary of the ZACF, Schmidt had taken time out of his busy schedule to host a meeting in a different context. Part of the business of the meeting was a “confidential discussion document” circulated by Schmidt titled “Politico-Cultural Dynamics of the South African Anarchist Movement” (which will be referred to as “Politico-Cultural Dynamics” from this point on). One person at the meeting, who asked not to be named for this piece, recalled, “Michael asked about thoughts on the document. Everyone was awkwardly quiet and pretended they hadn’t read it.”
The text at the center of discussion that July day was his take on why anarchist organizing had foundered in post-apartheid South Africa. “Blacks,” he wrote, are “incapable of other than the basest service to the Revolution.” Schmidt explained that while the best anarchist militants “have almost without exception been proven to be whites,” black anarchists, “while good comrades, have not been up to the exacting standards” required of them. He goes on to state that “in [South Africa], where race is often more important than class as a determining factor in consciousness, we find that white anarchist militants are the de-facto leading echelon, while most black anarchist militants merely follow.”
Due to “Bantu national education” and economic disparities facing black people in South Africa, Schmidt claims, “logical process, self-discipline and autonomous strategic thinking has been strangled at birth.” He goes on to list an alphabet soup of different international groups that he claims gain strength from cultural homogeneity, and presents the ZACF as “a white politico-cultural anarchist movement” that cannot “merge” with “the black politico-cultural anarchist movement… at this stage of history.”
Schmidt states that white culture is not culturally identical by calling on his relationship with Black Flame co-author, van der Walt: “For example, Lucien considers himself a ‘European settler,’ despite his Afrikaner heritage, whereas I consider myself an ‘Afrikaner’ or ‘white African’ despite my Anglophone heritage.”
“So, are [South African (SA)] black anarchists unequal to the task [of revolutionary organizing]?” Schmidt asks, well into the document. “After 16 years of activism, I’m forced to say no — as long as the task is established for them under the influence of SA white anarchists.” In other words, black South Africans are equal to the task, but only if the terms of struggle are defined by South African white anarchists. The platform, in this case established by Schmidt and a cohort of white colleagues, becomes a compass to lead allegedly feeble-minded Africans toward their own liberation.
Black Flame, White Blindspot
Such a compass was in the works, as Schmidt and van der Walt worked on their book through the coming months. At five hundred pages, Black Flame is widely considered the first major (non-anthology) work in some time — perhaps ever — to provide a global historical account of anarchist movements. Many viewed the work as a kind of “Anarchist Bible,” or what Immanuel Ness, a professor at City University of New York and author of New Forms of Worker Organization: The Syndicalist and Autonomist Restoration of Class-Struggle Unionism (PM Press, 2014), had described as “perhaps the most important contribution [to] the global history of working class movements from an anarchist perspective.”
While its proletarian message rang true to many, Black Flame did not come without its controversy. The construction of anarchism one finds in its pages is keenly specific, and strikes a deliberate contrast with contemporaneous anarchist literature seeking to grapple with the gritty realities of anarchist practices increasingly deployed by on-the-ground struggles. Alongside the influence of prison-abolition movements, post-structural theory, and leftist solidarity for Indigenous uprisings like the Zapatistas in Mexico, a variety of shifts reaching back some two-decades had effectively put the anarchist tradition’s classical preoccupations with capitalism and the State on equal footing (and in conversation) with struggles around patriarchal and racial domination, Indigenous and gender self-determination, colonialism, and disability. In contradistinction, the construction of anarchism put forth by Black Flame reasserts a temptingly simple primacy of class struggle and workers’ movements with the not inconsiderable force of “big A Anarchism.”
Black Flame maintains historical roots in what its authors deem the “broad anarchist tradition,” drawing from what is known as platformism. Andy Cornell, formerly the Anarchist Studies postdoctoral fellow at Haverford College and author of Unruly Equality: U.S. Anarchism in the Mid-20th Century (forthcoming, University of California Press), argues the tendency emerged in the first decade of the Russian Revolution, reckoning with the direction of the left in the hands of the Bolsheviks. “[Platformists] felt the Russian anarchist movement, and the international movement more generally, was theoretically weak and had insufficient organization to push the revolution in an anarchist direction,” Cornell explained. “So they argued for an anarchism that was more clearly committed to class struggle, and that accepted formal organizations. [Basically,] figure out an organizational structure, develop a strategy, [and] stick to it.”
In Schmidt’s view, the politics of race, gender, sexuality, and other forms of what he calls “identitarianism” are implicit within revolutionary class struggle, so centering them rather than class leads to compromises and half-measures. Perforce, reading Black Flame, one is hard-pressed not to discern this contempt for “identity politics,” and in its indictments, the voices cited are conspicuously white.
Noel Ignatiev, the white firebrand behind the journal Race Traitor, figures as often and substantively in Black Flame as W. E. B. du Bois. Curiously, Schmidt and van der Walt misidentify Ignatiev as a “former-Maoist.” In fact, Ignatiev’s big claim to fame came in 1967, with an article critical of the Maoist tendency within Progressive Labor, published along with Theodore W. Allen’s famous essay, “The White Blindspot,” recalling du Bois’s brilliant book, Black Reconstruction (published in 1935).
A Sordid History
Like most white men until conscription was abolished in 1993, Schmidt was drafted into the South African military, which was putting down black unrest during the end of apartheid. This, he claims, radicalized him, and he visited Rwanda as a journalist just after the genocide of 1994, growing increasingly politicized. Professionally, he appears to have been respected more for his administrative capabilities than his journalism. He founded the Professional Journalists’ Association of South Africa (ProJourn) and The Ulu Club for Southern African Conflict Journalists, and has a personal network of associates that spans an influential set of counter-culture celebrities and highly-regarded media figures.
In conversations with some who’ve known him personally, Schmidt is described as warm and sensitive — a beguiling and experienced man, with a gloominess carried from his time in Rwanda, where as a journalist, he witnessed horrors such as “piles of dead bodies” stacked in warehouses. He is open about his PTSD. From other, less-sympathetic accounts, he figures as an intellectual gatekeeper prone to contrarianism and rowdy outbursts during bouts of drinking. He is known to have come to blows with at least one friend during heated arguments fueled by alcohol.
“Politico-Cultural Dynamics,” however, offers a more intimate portrait of Schmidt’s organizing career. During the 2003 drafting of the constitution for the previous incarnation of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation, Schmidt declares that he proposed a strategy based on the Brazilian group Federação Anarquista Gaúcha, which maintained a “‘specific’ core, with outlying nodes of social insertion.” With this structure in mind, Schmidt called for distinguishing racially distinct collectives for whites and for “less ideologically convinced black cadre.”
He continues, “My attempt during the drafting of the ZACF Constitution to have this divide explicitly recognized as (white) rearward collectives and (black) frontline collectives was defeated as it was felt this would unduly emphasize the race/class divide in the Federation.”
The defeat of Schmidt’s attempt to create ideologically and structurally separate collectives for white and black cadres is important, inasmuch as it shows that Schmidt’s racialized understanding of platformism was and is not widely shared. While the relative silence that followed the defeat of his proposal raises critical questions, it appears that Schmidt’s explicit use of “the platform” as an intellectual power structure best understood and controlled by whites was of his own making.
This was a major change that broke down the collaborative aspect of the federation — in particular, doing away with action groups in places like the 99%-black township of Umlazi. Within two years of his initial, rejected frontline/rear guard proposal, the Federation had been cut in half; two years after that, in 2007, it was dissolved completely. According to Schmidt, this change took place, due to its black members’ “ill-discipline, inactivity or a lack of theoretical understanding.”
However, the Federation was re-founded as the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front with a new structure. Schmidt explains the implications: “[T]he organization lost its last black members in Swaziland, reducing it from a biracial ‘international’ organization to a white ‘national’ organization.” The ZACF had gone from a six-branch, multiracial anarchist Federation that was too broad to have a membership roster, but was engaged in activities throughout South Africa and in Swaziland, to an all-white group with only six members dedicated specifically to the development of ideology and propaganda.
According to Schmidt’s “Politico-Cultural Dynamics,” he had been there every step of the way — first advocating unsuccessfully for a racial divide in the Federation in 2003, then arguing for a political hardening into three collectives in 2005, then finally re-founding the group as a “white ‘national’ organization” in 2007, with some six members and three “supporters.” Considering what Schmidt named as his own cultural understandings of his Afrikaner identity, it is clear that he puts “national” in quotations to connote white South Africans who share a common “culture,” which he understands as a standard for organizational specificity and unity.
“[T]he underlying ideology at work here, [is] a more or less direct inheritance of the European New Right. That is why the ‘culture’ / ‘race’ nexus seems so important to him,” says Peter Staudenmaier, an historian at Marquette University and co-author (with Janet Biehl) of Eco-Fascism: Lessons from the German Experience, reflecting on Schmidt’s internal document. “There is a lengthy tradition, especially after 1945, of shifting ‘race’ talk to ‘culture’ talk without really changing the content, and it’s that same conceptual fuzziness that the far right plays on (the radical left hasn’t done much to clarify the fuzziness either). In that sense, this story is a good example of anarchists’ failure to work through the complexities of race not only at a political level, but at an intellectual level.”
Schmidt’s conclusion of “Politico-Cultural Dynamics” is summed up in one telling passage: “[P]erhaps we should not be too quick to seek partially-qualified black members, or be ashamed of our whiteness — for we after all reject both the Maoist theory of ‘white skin privilege’, and the radical counter-theory of ‘race-traitorship. Instead we should proudly recognize that we are (currently, and presumably temporarily) a white anarchist movement.”
Thus, Schmidt encourages the “white ‘national’ organization” to be proud of itself as forming the “white anarchist movement” after purging black militants, who he describes as ill-disciplined, lagging, and incapable of meeting “the exacting standards of platformism.” It was those “exacting standards of platformism that Schmidt would attempt to explain with Lucien van der Walt in Black Flame, gaining greater influence throughout the world through their widely read book. Through Schmidt’s attempts to reconstruct the platform, it would seem as though he saw himself as leading the whites in laying out the “task” of revolution for the “ideologically less convinced” people of color whose “inactivity” had brought about the failure of the anarchist movement in South Africa. However, across more than a hundred pieces of evidence, we located far more sinister ideas at work in Schmidt’s own handiwork whittling the ZACF from a multi-collective federation down to an all-white intellectual “front,” and blaming it on people of color.
Errata: The authors would like to note that Ignatiev does in fact seem to have been briefly a member of a tendency close to Maoist analysis. This, however, does not change the fact that “white privilege” analysis developed from WEB du Bois on, and in a critical relation to Maoism. It is not “Maoist,” as such.
Michael Schmidt, posing for a photo which he posted under a pseudonym on white supremacist clearinghouse Stormfront
Storm Clouds over the Battlefront
This past September, in response to incontrovertible evidence of Michael Schmidt’s racist activities, AK Press announced it was cutting ties with him and ceasing all printing of works connected to him. He quickly responded, mounting a preemptive defense in which he admitted opening and managing an account with Stormfront, arguably the preeminent online white supremacist forum, linked to some 100 racially-motivated killings.
Michael Schmidt’s personal profile on Stormfront
The account dates back to the summer of 2006 — three years before the publication of Black Flame. In the lifespan of the account, he logged nearly 300 posts. Curiously, his explanation of it dated its origin a full year prior:
[S]ince 2005 until I shut it down recently, I maintained a profile on the white supremacist website. Let me explain: I am an investigative journalist by profession and in 2005 was working at the Saturday Star in Johannesburg. My beat included extra-Parliamentary politics — social movements, trade unions, and political organizations from the ultra-left to the ultra-right. My editor Brendan Seery allowed me to set up a Stormfront account under which I could pose as a sympathetic fellow-traveller in order to keep an eye on what the white right-wing in South Africa was talking about: in other words, this was professionally vetted by my editor.
Schmidt went on to state that he lied consistently for years about a group connected to his Stormfromt account, called Black Battlefront. In his statement, he openly confessed that he ran both the Stormfront account and Black Battlefront, but his admission makes confidence in his explanation difficult. Simply put, the details are bizarre. The deception in question, according to his mea culpa, included using a bout of anterograde amnesia in order to pass off a character he allegedly created on the internet, and then portrayed as an acquaintance in the employ of a shadowy private security company. According to this story, this character may or may not have hacked his Stormfront account to plant a post about Black Battlefront to frame him.
The defense goes on to mysteriously discard that fabrication while retaining a tale about another unnamed intelligence agent from South Africa’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA), who he says had recently come out to him after spying on a friend for two full years. He could not admit to the Black Battlefront profile at the time, he claims, for fear that the NIA would learn of it, and retaliate. Since Schmidt has claimed journalistic privilege over his “source,” we cannot substantiate the story about the NIA agent who suddenly had a change of heart and came clean to the close friend of the anarchist on whom she’d spent two years spying. However, the Facebook page for Black Battlefront, as well as one of its moderators, retained several friends in common with Schmidt’s own more public profile. There seem two plausible readings of the narrative, each equally bizarre. Either he was attempting to entrap his own friends, or Black Battlefront remained a well-kept secret between Schmidt and a close circle of like-minded peers. There nonetheless remains one thing his story oddly fails to establish in any way: that it was a personal page used to infiltrate the virtual networks of white supremacists and national-anarchists.
It’s further confounding that Schmidt did not inform anyone about either of these apparent agents (the one he invented, as well as the one purportedly real) until suspicion began to swell around his links to white supremacist and white nationalist websites and groups. It also defies explanation that Schmidt is adamant in protecting a person who spied on the South African anarchist movement for years. What we know for sure, beyond Schmidt’s hazy memory, is the truth about his Stormfront profile, which appears lockstep with Schmidt’s public life when examined in closer detail.
As well as a possible reference to a kind of cigarette, Schmidt’s preferred Stormfront profile name, “KarelianBlue,” suggests a reference to his blue eyes and purported ancestry (the Karelians were an ancient people from Northern Europe, a reference echoed in the Norse names of his dogs), as well as a popular white supremacist pop band, Prussian Blue. On Stormfront, he details his tattoos, describes his neighborhood, holds forth on his (deeply flawed) knowledge of leftist and fascist movements, and even hosts a smiling photograph of himself with a shaved head in front of a Boer filling station, appearing to repurpose the sign in a macho, racist joke. Another photo on the Stormfront profile of KarelianBlue shows a blonde woman wearing a Nazi sidecap that one source confirmed to us Schmidt owns. If the intent was to go undercover, all the personal details Schmidt shared on Stormfront would undermine the anonymity of a simple “research” project.
Publicly, he enjoyed hot rod culture and his old Mustang, going to metal shows, and drinking beers with friends. Privately, he indulged in ignominious racism through an anonymous profile on at least four white supremacist sites. To what extent these scenes overlapped, it is not entirely clear, but on his profile, KarelianBlue lists as interests, “history, militancy, rockabilly, fast cars” — perhaps a clue that he shared his white supremacist views with communities beyond anarchists.
One of the sites in the white supremacist blogosphere that KarelianBlue visited and commented on is a blog called The Spoils of War managed by someone calling themselves, “the accidental ‘racist.’” Commenting in 2007 on an article comparing the analysis of white privilege to medieval witch trials, KarelianBlue waxes prosaic:
Although Schmidt describes his posts on Stormfront as “pretty neutral in tone,” we found them to be consistently otherwise. They regularly refer to Africans as “k*ffirs,” a highly derogatory slur, when they do not refer to them as a “subspecies”; they also lament the dying out of the white race, “white genocide,” and call for potentially violent “fascist skinhead” intervention. Well afield of mere research, Schmidt’s Stormfront profile and other interventions in the white supremacist blogosphere encourage white supremacist organizing, offer strategic options and critiques of antifascist analysis, and discuss historical trivia about the “Good Guys of the Waffen SS,” as well as provide links to Nazi paraphernalia for sale online.
In posts marked with the black and red Nordic cross backed by green — the flag of the short-lived Republic of Karelia on the border of Russia and Finland — KarelianBlue corrects other users about the radical history of the Soweto riots, while also deriding the Black Consciousness movement for reverse-racism. Publicly, in writing done under his own name, Schmidt has shown no compunction about smearing African politicians with allegations of “black racist” and anti-white “hate speech.”
To put what Schmidt describes as “occasional” posting into perspective, it yielded an average of more than one Stormfront post per week for the first four years. Many were more informative than inquisitive. Often, they were deeply personal, almost introspective. Stormfront seems to have functioned for him as a forum for a kind of soul searching, where he sought to identify problems holding him back from securing a romantic partner or some other variety of success. His activity depicts an isolated, deeply frustrated radical blowing off racist steam.
Desperate, esoteric, sad windows into an incredibly turbulent soul, described on his profile as a “lonely Aryan redoubt”.
Networking as a Skinhead
On his profile, KarelianBlue declares that his heroes are those “who stand their ground and fight back,” and his earlier posts are full of a sense of alienation in a neighborhood that is decaying. He writes vividly about an ongoing turf war in his neighborhood between whites and blacks, in which it appears the whites are losing.
In a post dated August 20, 2007, he writes about defending his white neighbors from potentially “dangerous” people of color:
I don’t have firearms as that attracts the attention of the authorities: instead I prefer bladed weapons, my favourite being a vicious, curved Gurkha kuki [a Nepalese blade]. A month ago, the white American student across the road heard a noise and called me for help. I ran out, around the block, with the kukri tucked back against my forearm (out of sight, but perfect for CQB [Close Quarters Combat]) and found nothing, but I sure impressed the Yank.
The same blade appears in a selfie on one of Schmidt’s Facebook profiles.
In a post from April 10, 2009, KarelianBlue brags, “it’s hard to be an open white racist in south africa, but i’m an obvious skinhead.” Indeed, photos on his profiles from the time period show him to be presenting as a skinhead. Less than two weeks later, KarelianBlue posts about wearing the traditional skinhead gear — boots and braces — and walking into a mostly-black, formerly-Scottish bar to make his presence known:
These posts appear to reveal significant and corresponding details about his own private life, defining himself a fascist skinhead defending his neighborhood with lethal weapons in the unfriendly territory of South Africa under the “k*ffir state.” If Schmidt let these feelings show in public, the presentation was usually masked and indirect, often during drinking bouts with close friends. According to a source who was close to him, his drinking would often result in revealing utterances. “Why do they get to call us white trash, when we don’t get to use our words for them?” Occasionally, he would raise his voice and make racial slurs as though relieving himself of a burden. But for whatever reasons, he generally kept KarelianBlue bottled up. One former friend of Schmidt’s described his personality as “compartmentalized.” Sober, the racist beliefs, the championing of “white trash,” and the feeling of victimhood at the hands of Affirmative Action and the black majority were generally vaulted.
Ideological and Political Alignments
One revelation that Schmidt alerted us to in his lengthy, public statement was that he used his Stormfront profile to enter into correspondence with Troy Southgate, who he describes as “the founder of ‘national-anarchism.’” Schmidt revealed not only correspondence with Southgate, but that he had “talk[ed] on a personal level with Southgate and his cronies.” That Schmidt made no attempt to disguise his identity on Stormfront is both conspicuous and mysterious, for the simple fact that, had any of his anarchist peers recognized him (as some eventually did) his open visibility throws into question the status and function of his relationship with Southgate and his national-anarchist circle.
More shocking still, if only for Schmidt’s own openness about it with sources who spoke to us, was that while self-identifying as a “fascist skinhead,” he publicly supported the Freedom Front Plus Party (Vryheidsfront Plus, FF+), voting for them in the 2009 elections. The party is a political splinter group from the white nationalist paramilitary group Afrikaner Volksfront led by former army commander Constand Viljoen. As a right-wing coalition of groups, the Volksfront included the Boerestaat Party, and other ultranationalist white separatists. The FF+ currently proposes a Volkstaat in western South Africa that would provide land reform to shelter whites from Affirmative Action and the “black majority.” Since Africans did not occupy much of South Africa when the Dutch settlers came, FF+ members claim, a considerable amount of land is authentically Boer territory.
In a post from this time period (pictured above), dated April 23, 2009, KarelianBlue laments the high number of voters he saw at the ballot box in 2009, and claims he voted for “the only white rights party available.” A month after his account of voting for the FF+, KarelianBlue posted a demographic survey that breaks down class divides among whites, stating that they present “not quite the picture of white rule that is so often peddled by our k*ffir state.” Interestingly, while the statistics show that there are more poor whites than affluent whites, they also show that the white “emerging middle class” outnumbers the white poor. His statistics also fail to show the proportion of whites making up the ruling class as opposed to non-whites, who The Economist described as composing a mere “sliver” of the South African economic elite.
As pertains leftist rhetoric and theory, one does well to examine a November 15, 2009 post by KarelianBlue at length, if for no other reason than it clarifies Schmidt’s public analysis:
Though the characterization of Maoism is at best mistaken, KarelianBlue offers something of a class analysis in the post. “Our enemy in short is liberal capitalism which drove the deindustrialization process in what, for workers globally, amounts to a lose-lose situation,” he writes. Just over four months later, on March 6, 2010, in a post related to Iceland’s resistance to austerity, KarelianBlue exposes the nature of his anti-capitalism, asking the rhetorical question, “Is this not a Semitic-banker plot to destroy one of the world’s most homogenous Aryan cultures?” The anti-Semitic, anti-capitalist analysis lines up with what’s sometimes called “Third Positionist” fascism, defined by some as “neither left (Marxist) nor right (capitalist), but something else.”
Elsewhere, KarelianBlue delves deeper into racist terrain through additional reflections on demographics. On December 22, 2012, he looks into the South African Census, claiming that it “shows the decline of our race in South Africa,” and complaining that “White women are so prone to race-mixing (at least in the ‘cosmopolitan’ parts of our cities).” He goes on to say, “While the numbers of Whites marrying other sub-species is very rare, this is the thin end of the wedge.”
In a post created less than a year ago, KarelianBlue expresses delight that “Afrikaner women are far more racially-aware” than “English-speaking-White-South-Africans,” but laments:
As goes his own identity, KerelianBlue declares on November 17, 2007:
For Schmidt, the nation is a cultural development marked by centuries of wars and slavery; hence, his designation between white and black culture and the “white ‘national’ organization” in his “Politico-Cultural Dynamics” memo.
Detailing his practice of cultural identification, KarelianBlue declares on April 10, 2009:
He finishes the post “sig heil! 14!” To the casual reader, the number 14 is at best obscure, at worst almost meaningless. In the world of white nationalists, it’s code for the “14 words” of neo-fascist terrorist, David Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.”
Corroborating the information in this post, we found photos of Schmidt on one of his Facebook profiles wearing the mjolnir:
His surreptitious wearing of the sidecap in public was confirmed by a source who knew him. Furthermore, KarelianBlue writes about where he purchased his Nazi paraphernalia: the War Store at the Military History Museum. An eyewitness source confirmed Schmidt’s patronage of the store.
Fascism to Schmidt is neither costume party nor fetish, however. It runs as deeply as white nationalist beliefs in pan-European ancestral spirituality. KarelianBlue describes his tattoos on July 25 of last year, declaring, “my uniform is my skin… Every race has historically marked its skin with symbols relevant to its culture and whites are no exception, whether they align spiritually as Christian, Norse, Teutonic, Celtic or other.” He discusses his “14th Century family crest, which includes two crescent moons as symbols of the crusades my ancestors fought in.” Regarding his “Scythian chieftain’s tattoos,” he explains, “the Scythians were a white horse people who ruled the steppes from present-day Ukraine to the Altai mountains).” In truth, the Scythians were a nomadic people originating in modern-day Iran, and have become an important figure in the narrative of the emergence of the Indo-Aryan white race and the “birth of Eurasia,” which features prominently in neo-fascist literature.
He also lists his “lebensrune” tattoo. While the actual Nordic-German Algiz rune is not itself related to racism, it was only dubbed the “lebensrune” in twentieth-century Germany, first by occultists and then by the Nazi Party, who utilized it in Stormtrooper uniforms. It has been employed regularly since by neo-Nazi and white nationalists groups, the militant fascist skinhead group, Volksfront International, the the US National Alliance, and the Flemish nationalist Voorpost. Of his tattoos, Schmidt proclaims, “It means I’m serious about my heritage.”
These tattoos, taken in full, represent a deep expression of pan-European traditionalism and pride, linked to crusades and ancient warriors. The narrative inked on Schmidt’s flesh is in keeping with the cultural pride of colonial Europeans in Africa, bearing what scholar Tamir Bar-On calls an “ultranationalist or pan-European, pro-colonialist and militaristic tone calling for the revival of elite, chivalric warrior societies where honor and courage superseded material considerations” (2007, Ashgate). Schmidt’s honest descriptions of pan-European cultural signifiers based in crusades and German mysticism seems to provide a fuller picture of the white cultural identity staked out in 2008 ZACF internal document.
In a post from May 10, 2009, KarelianBlue tells his Stormfront forum that he “attended a private boy’s school in joburg [Johannesburg] for the full 12-year-stretch, matriculating in ’84.”
Recalling the system of seniority that carried over to the army when he signed up after school, KarelianBlue connects the hierarchical structures to the British system: “i was in favor of a mentoring approach and when i was an ouman myself [I] had a throw-down fight with another ouman [superior] who was being needlessly vicious towards his roof [inferior].” When he went to university, KarelianBlue claims, “[I] resolved i’d get extremely violent with anyone who even dared” to demean him. “In sum,” he announces, “i’d say my attitude is that if the system teaches respect, self-discipline, cleanliness and upstanding character, then okay. if it just serves to brutalise and crush the spirits of the younger then i’m opposed to it.” The question of anarchy hovers in the midst of this moral and ethical question: if a hierarchical system utilizes mentorship in an organic and orderly fashion, then it can be considered healthy; otherwise, the order must be disrupted.
Less than a month later, KarelianBlue strikes out against the enemies of such an ethical order — figures who promote disorder or, perhaps worse, an order of shame and guilt. Unable to limit his response to just one enemy under an illustratively titled thread:
Mandela was later the subject of a weird article from Schmidt published shortly after his death, titled, “From demonic terrorist to sainted icon: the transfiguration of Nelson Mandela,” which describes the late President of South Africa as the satanic-angelic leader of a politico-religious cult.
The Battlefront Analysis
While receiving accolades for Black Flame in 2009, Schmidt distanced himself from the ZACF. Former friends told us he was complaining of a lack of time, money, and personal interest. One piece of what he had been developing at that time frame was the analysis anchoring Black Battlefront:
Schmidt’s use of the term “political soldier” is significant, developed by the Strasserist faction of the English fascist party, National Front, to describe both rural paramilitaries and urban skinheads. Otto Strasser, the guiding theorist, had been a member of the original Nazi Party before being kicked out in 1930, at which time he formed a group called Black Front in order to grow a clandestine base of “true national socialists” against the Hitler faction. That the group Schmidt created took the name Black Battlefront suggests a nod to some sort of similar clandestine operation within the South African anarchist scene, through which he could encourage privately racist analyses among key friends. Put another way, his group seemed intended to function like a secret social club for anarchists who believe in militant white separatist ideology in keeping with what some neo-fascists call “ethno-pluralism” — the need of different ethnicities to live in separate racial enclaves in order to preserve true cultural diversity. In a post to his profile, KarelianBlue included three red, circular patches with different “Black Battlefront” logos:
In his September 27th public statement regarding the revelation of this “network”, Schmidt claimed that the site was initiated in 2009, as he stepped up research into the “national-anarchist” movement. Nobody else could know about this group, he insisted, not even his ex-wife — lest the NIA catch wind of his investigation. Again: Schmidt’s more-public Facebook profile shared friends with both the group and its moderator (another top-secret profile Schmidt created) before the site went down; unless Schmidt was working to entrap his own friends, he was clearly using it as a focal point for a “racially aware” cell within the anarchist movement. Furthermore, the site was actually initiated in 2006, three months before his Stormfront profile, exposing another timeline anomaly in Schmidt’s account. According to a web designer we talked to, Schmidt and a friend pitched him the idea for developing a similar white nationalist internet site as early as 2003, but they were refused. This was a year before Schmidt proposed a division between white and black collectives in the ZAC Federation. The first post in Black Battlefront, published March 3, 2006, was the “Platform of the Anarchist Communists of Bulgaria, 1945.”
His identity for Black Battlefront is “Strandwolf”:
the brown hyaena found on the lonely Atlantic beaches of the Namib desert: with more powerful jaws and greater stamina than a lion, the hyaena hunt in matriarchal packs and, inverting their clitori, are impossible to rape. They are viewed by the indigenous people as spirit-animals… Strandwolf is a ghost in the machine of the African night, a spectral flicker on the shores of the Skeleton Coast, a low-slung hunter on the night-time highway that stretches away from the rolling smokes of Johannesburg into the bleach-and-acetate reaches of the platteland where gaunt wind-pumps scratch stars in the sky.
The analogy evokes the militant, lone-wolf character advocated by Louis Beam, a famous Texas Klansman who advocates for “leaderless resistance” through acts of political assassinations, individual murders, bombings, and general terror. It was Beam’s ideology and his relationship with San Diego-based white supremacist Tom Metzger and his acolyte Dave Mazzela, that helped shape the consciousness of the early west-coast skinhead movement through an organization called White Aryan Resistance.
The “creed” advertised on the Black Battlefront blog is practical:
Strandwolf calls for revolutionary anarchism as an answer both to the modern multicultural project and the apartheid era exploitation of poor whites and blacks, alike. The postings on Black Battlefront were sparse between from 2006 to 2009. However, after midnight on February 17, 2010, two posts appeared, authored separately by “white African national anarchist” and a shadowy, Ukrainian woman named “Ardent Vinlander.” Vinlander’s article is dedicated entirely to a cultural reading of race and class, as well as a sense of nationalism rooted in conquest. In the other article, “white African national anarchist” explains:
‘Medieval’ is the closest that blacks have come to civilisation, while some still today languish 10,000 years behind the Europeans who gave Africa its science, industry, infrastructure, education, medicine and large-scale agriculture, most of it fallen into terrible disrepair under black rule since the late 1950s. In order to, if not forestall this decay, at least build the bulwarks of a white redoubt strong enough to stand against this darkening tide, we require organization.
The same post declares that revolutionary anarchism must be informed by Jim Goad, Nestor Makhno, and Troy Southgate, realizing that:
in order to be truly grounded, we need to be scrupulously egalitarian and what this means in the southern African battlespace is that we are compelled to judicially recognize the right of white anarchists and black anarchists to establish their own separate, culturally-distinct formal organizations and informal networks.
Schmidt’s cultural racism carries over from his “Politico-Cultural Dynamics” memo within ZACF, to Black Battlefront, which appears to show that the latter was formed through his disaffection with the former. Furthermore, Schmidt’s desiderata of a “white anarchist organization” to develop independently as a “national” group seems to be at work in his writings as Strandwolf at this time. While we can’t be certain how much support Schmidt had during this endeavor, his admission that he fell in with Troy Southgate and his “cronies” seems to imply that his blog was more than just an isolated project. Instead, it was an outreach tool with some (perhaps extensive) network behind it.
Schmidt, of course, has claimed that this elaborate, circuitous trail — as often confused as confusing — was ultimately nothing more than an investigative ruse carried out for the purposes of journalism. Setting aside the correspondence between the sentiments of his allegedly undercover persona and his own publicly-stated beliefs, and his bizarre attributions to conspiratorial counter-intelligence operations and selective amnesia, there is nothing in his online activity that, in principle, anyway, conflicts with a (perhaps staggeringly overzealous) long-con for the sake of investigation.
Only, it wasn’t.
When we tracked down Brendan Seery — the editor Schmidt claims authorized his journalistic foray into the depths of the white-nationalist internet — he seemed bewildered by Schmidt’s story. “Mike did work for us as a senior reporter and on a number of big stories,” he told us. “[A]nd because of his seniority and the way newspapers work, I would not have to give him permission at all to investigate. That would be something a good investigative journalist would do off his own bat.”
Schmidt having laid oversight at Seery’s feet aside, it was never likely Seery would’ve authorized such an undertaking, if only because gathering information through deception, while standard for police, is at odds with basic journalistic standards. “My style as an editor is that journalists should be as upfront as possible in order to get a story with subterfuge only as a last resort,” Seery told us. “If, however, you mean that we ordered or gave permission to him to pose as a right-winger, then I certainly don’t recall that.”
Since Seery ran the Saturday Star until 2007, after Schmidt left and after the Stormfront account went up, there’s zero chance that a subsequent, incoming editor approved Schmidt’s alleged project.
Strangely Quiet and Troubled
After the publication of Black Flame, Michael Schmidt began distancing himself from and finally left the ZACF. According to one source within the group, they’d done their “best to recruit new people, including a ‘colored’ member who joined in 2010… Michael [Schmidt] left at around the same time because he had ‘ideological differences.’ That was shortly after he voted for Freedom Front Plus in the national election.” Speaking to the double standards of the organizational culture Schmidt had helped create at the ZACF, a source told us that Schmidt received no official criticism about voting for the FF+, but a female member of the ZACF was disciplined around the same time for wanting to join a feminist reading group.
The ZACF has since continued its transition from Schmidt’s era to a far-more inclusive group, and it was during the lengthy debate around members joining collectives with ideological differences that Schmidt issued his parting letter to the ZACF on March 12, 2010, declaring he would no longer be a member or supporter (except in spirit). “I’m burned out after 20 years of activism and am feeling pretty emotionally damaged by the longer-term effects of my divorce, of my disillusionment with the working class as a result of the 2008 Pogroms, and of all the killings and heavy stuff I have seen over 20 years of journalism.” Schmidt’s divorce took place before 2006, but was still as fresh in his mind as Rwanda in 1994, and what he calls the 2008 “Pogroms,” in which a wave of xenophobic riots swept South Africa. However, there was more in the air at that time than Schmidt let on.
Less than a month after the Black Battlefront posts on February 17th, and a week before Schmidt left the ZACF, Eugene Terre’Blanche, a founding leader of the white nationalist paramilitary group Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), was killed by farmhands. It had been less than a year since Schmidt had voted for the FF+. The links between these two groups are important to note in understanding Schmidt’s rationale: the FF+ was founded by the leader of a paramilitary Afrikaner Volksfront group called the South African Defense Force, which joined the AWB in 1994 to violently disrupt the vote that dissolved the segregated Bantustan of Bophuthatswana — one of the final victories over apartheid. The two groups had connections, but they remained distinct and, like many white supremacist groups, often combative.
Eugene Terre’Blanche, backdropped by the AWB flag.
On his Stormfront profile, KarelianBlue vented his spleen over the Terre’Blanche murder:
I have yet to go out and read what the mainstream yellow press has to say about this, but i’m certain the black genocidaire parasites will be celebrating this cowardly hate-crime murder. This is where the ‘kill the Boer’ and ‘kill for Zuma’ hate-speech leads: to the very real slaughter of aryan South Africans.
The post is followed by four, red-hot angry emoticons. Within a matter of days, Schmidt had penned and published an article warning of potential “Boer genocide.”
With a lengthy and difficult title — “Death and the Mielieboer: The Eugène Terre’Blanche Murder & Poor-White Canon-fodder in South Africa” (Mielieboer roughly translates to “maize farmer,” a symbol of Boer nationalism) — Schmidt’s article, published via the anarchist website Anarkismo, contemplated the murder of genocidal killer and pro-apartheid paramilitary leader, Eugene Terre’Blanche, as an act consistent with a movement toward genocide against white South Africans. Even the title seemed to associate Terre’Blanche with the Mielieboer, the archetypal hero of the rural, white Afrikaner nationalists who supported apartheid.
Casting “a strangely quiet and troubled” shadow over the death of Terre’Blanche, Schmidt relayed that his hatred of the white nationalist leader had “all but drained away.” Schmidt explained that he was especially put off by the fact that “the way Terre’Blanche died was the way so… ordinary; it was the way many poor rural whites die, hacked to death in their beds for reasons grand and petty, criminal and (despite strong government denials) racial” (his ellipses).
“It’s not that there is a ‘Boer Genocide’ (as yet) as many on the far right already proclaim,” claimed Schmidt, “but some powder-keg combination of race and class is killing our white farmers at an alarming rate.” The combination of race and class at the root of “farm killings,” Schmidt claims, is actuated by the “link between [African National Congress (ANC)] hate speech calling for the killing of the Boers and, well, the actual killing of Boers.” These claims of hate speech resonate with Schmidt’s rhetoric of “black racism,” “white rights,” and “Boer genocide” to formulate an ideology that sees racism not as a power relation developed through the historical narratives of colonial Europe, but as a static relativist doctrine that views white people as victims of racist oppression.
Schmidt followed this statement claiming that “Against [the] tense backdrop [of failed land reform], the murder rate of white farmers is four times higher than the rest of the population — in a country with the highest murder rate in the world of any country not at war — and the viciousness which accompanies many killings belies purely criminal motive.” These farm killings are racist crimes against whites stoked by the ANC, Schmidt insisted, and in his first draft of this article, he defiantly ended his piece with the lines, “Will I not speak out merely because I am not a Boer? No; I’ve said my piece. But will I celebrate, knowing it will be presumed to endorse the slaughter of poor rural whites? Hell no!”
Schmidt’s statement reads like a searing indictment of the ANC, which he believes is stoking angry “black genocidaires” into militant action against poor whites in order to turn the working class against itself. However, according to the SAPS National Planning Commission, the number of white murder victims in police analysis of murder dockets is a mere 1.8% (disproportionate to the 9% of the population that is white), many of whom are not rural poor, putting to rest the idea of incoming genocide. The number of murders per 100,000 people in South Africa in 1970 was 32.12; the number reached a peak around 1994, during the transition to democracy, and had actually declined below 1970 levels by 2011/2012, so violence in South Africa, far from reaching terrifying new heights, was declining.
With regard to the rate of farm killings, Schmidt’s claim that Afrikaner farmers are being slaughtered at four times the average rate was rejected even by Genocide Watch, the only human rights group that has entertained claims of genocide. In their July 12, 2012 report, Genocide Watch listed the situation in South Africa as “polarization,” two stages away from actual genocide. However, these terms are contestable, according to the fact-checking organization, AfricaCheck, since numbers of killings between 1994 and 2012 by the Transvaal Agricultural Union do not take into account that nearly 40% of those killed in farm attacks were non-whites — even though the one tenth of South Africans who own more than 80% of the land are overwhelmingly white. Putting things into a crisper class perspective, the South African Institute for Race Relations explains that commercial farmers are twice as likely to be killed as the average citizen.
Genocide is defined as “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.” Since white farmers do not make up a nationality or ethnic group, and since the rate of killings correlates to class position, no other respectable group has agreed that “Boer genocide” is a phenomenon worth studying. In fact, Human Rights Watch has criticized not only the term “Boer genocide,” but the term “farm killings,” denouncing the amount of focus given to farm killings in South Africa, as opposed to the crimes committed against black farm workers:
Violence against farmworkers and residents is perpetrated not only by farm owners and managers, with whom they are in daily contact, but also by private security companies and vigilante groups hired by farm owners. Those seeking to uphold farmworkers’ interests have also been harassed and assaulted when they have sought access to farms.
The discourse of “white genocide” rose to prominence during the 1960s and ’70s, as the colonial grip of the North Atlantic began to loosen its hold. Novels like Camp of the Saints by Jean Raspail (much appreciated by the former-leader of France’s radical right populist party, the National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, among others), stoke fear of a terror rising in the South — from India to Algeria, wherein the maniacal, sub-human barbarians begin raping and slaughtering whites by the thousands, and suddenly, off the Mediterranean coast, an invasion fleet appears from Africa preparing to exact a phantasmagoria of revenge. The notion that African self-rule would mean the genocide of all whites has since become standard fare for white supremacists, and has even helped shape neo-fascist rhetoric around “the immigration problem,” rather than “the Jewish question.”
A former leader of the Nazi Party of America, Harold Covington lived in then-Rhodesia during the mid-1970s, and has become one of the foremost spokespeople on the subject of “white genocide” in the US. After living in Rhodesia, Covington moved to North Carolina where he purportedly took part in organizing the 1979 Greensboro Massacre — the brutal shooting of five members of the Communist Workers Party during an anti-Klan rally in broad daylight. Covington claims to have fled the US in search of asylum in the UK, where he helped create a violent, racist skinhead group called C18. Finally settling in the Pacific Northwest, Covington became a leading exponent of a white secessionist movement under the slogan of the “Northwest Imperative.”
Another important promulgator of “white genocide,” Dylann Storm Roof proudly wore the flags of Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe) and apartheid-era South Africa on his jacket before carrying out the June 18, 2015, massacre of six black parishioners in a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina. After the shootings, Covington weighed in: “there will be more of this kind of thing in the future as our people finally begin to respond, sluggishly and spasmodically and incorrectly, to the ongoing genocide.”
Frazier Glenn Miller, the white supremacist who murdered three people outside of a Jewish Community Center in Kansas City on Passover Eve last year, argued during his sentencing that “diversity is a code word for white genocide” and that the killings were justified on the basis of preventing its ongoing threat. Schmidt’s language of “white genocide” is the same rhetorical device used in his Stormfront posts, and the same deployed by Covington, Roof, and Miller.
Rather than the killing of Terre’Blanche as an opportunity to discuss the harsh, racist climate faced by African farmhands, and call for increased solidarity to end the conditions of farm killings, Schmidt brushes off the history of exploitation of Africans in order to rehabilitate an ultranationalist caricature of the Boer:
True, they were and often remain an austere, narrow people: one of their Calvinist sects, the Doppers, is deliberately named after the tin cap or dop used to extinguish a candle, the message being the need to extinguish the Enlightenment. And true, they often beat ‘their blacks’ with an offhanded cruelty, and at best established a paternalistic overlordship over them known as baasskap (boss-hood). But in their warfare with, suffering at the hands of, and eventual enslavement of the Bantu, a strange relationship developed: alone among all white settlers on the African continent, they self-identified en masse as Afikaners, as Africans, not Europeans, and severed their ties to their distant motherlands. The they [sic] and their black neighbours lived, ate, thought and died, merged and became inextricably intertwined: well over 10-million more black South Africans today speak Afrikaans, the slave’s idiom-rich, story-telling pidgin-Dutch of old, than do whites; while platteland (big-sky farmland) Afrikaners are fluent in African vernacular languages.
Schmidt’s declaration that Afrikaners have become “inextricably intertwined” with Africans obscures a rather glaring lacuna in his own historical approach. On the one hand, he argues that militant apartheid supporter Terre’Blanche is a representative of the Mielieboer, and on the other, he claims that the Afrikaners mixed with the Africans to create an authentic form of nationalism. In Schmidt’s view, Terre’Blanche somehow figures as a representative of Afrikaners intermixing with Africans — an unlikely prospect, but one worth investigating.
Considering the paradoxical manner by which the Boer “inextricably intertwined” with “African neighbors” (presumably not those forcibly removed to Bantustans, the equivalent of “Indian Reservations” in apartheid-era South Africa), it might be helpful to recognize that Terre’Blanche’s hero was, ironically, Shaka Zulu. This kind of appropriation of an African leader by white Afrikaners represents a synthetic identity pegged to colonial conquest, not of true respect or “intertwining.” (It is also the same sense of identity ideated by Strandwolf.) That more Africans now speak Afrikaans, the language of their former slave masters, does not go far to prove the authenticity of Afrikaner nationalism — the “stolen dream” of the Afrikaner Volksfront, which attempted to have Afrikaners identified as indigenous peoples of South Africa by the UN. Rather, it reveals the sheer historical magnitude of colonial rule.
While apartheid was by no means forced on poor whites from above, Terre’Blanche still does not represent the broad majority of Afrikaners. His death did not imply their death, or even a sign of their coming death. Rather than representing poor whites, Terre’Blanche represented a specific tradition of poor white extremists in South Africa that fought, through extralegal means, to deepen apartheid in order to better the economic situation of poor whites (less than 10% of the population at its height). These are the same kind of extremists who united to fight against the dissolution of apartheid Bantustans in 1994, and who Schmidt voted for in 2009.
Furthermore, Schmidt’s article obscured the fascist roots of Terre’Blanche’s AWB in order to present a völkisch apology for Afrikaner nationalism. According to The Routledge Companion to Fascism and the Far Right (2005, Routledge), the AWB represented “probably the most famous post-war fascist movement on any continent.” According to Schmidt, however, “Despite the childish shock-value of their swastika-like flag, they aren’t neo-Nazis (pagan Nazism gained little purchase in Protestant South Africa)” (his emphasis). Of course, numerous non-pagan examples of fascism have existed and continue to exist throughout the world. There have also been non-pagan neo-Nazis, like the American Nazi Party, among other groups, which adopted Christian Identity during the 1960s. Yet Schmidt confines his discourse to specifically-pagan National Socialism in order to cleanse the stigma of Nazism (and implicitly fascism) from the AWB, something he would attempt later and more controversially with national-anarchism. Instead, the AWB are depicted as “ultra-conservative Calvinists who dream of a separate white bantustan of their own — this being the same stolen dream of generations of Boers.” Given the horrifying crimes of the AWB, Schmidt’s sympathetic take on their “stolen dream” of a Boerestaat, is chilling.
Schmidt admitted his belief in the prospect of a Boerestaat to us in an interview: “A proper ‘Boerestaat’ would be a multiracial autonomous territory — as they always were — except that it would have to guarantee equal rights to all.” This call for a majority-white state in South Africa that would grant equal rights to racial minorities was virtually identical to his post less than a month before in Black Battlefront.
Rather than manifesting a neo-Nazi threat against the state, Schmidt claims, Terre’Blanche “was viewed by the radical right — and most anarchist-communists in SA probably can only concur — as a conservative buffoon, useful to the ‘New South African’ political-economic establishment as a scary outsider” who could motivate people toward a “moderate,” neo-liberal political option. While aligning anarchist perspectives with the radical right in a telling “red-brown” analysis, Schmidt (perhaps unwittingly) raised an interesting point: Terre’Blanche was among the most recognizable symbols of the Boerestaat, but he gave it a negative connotation, which it seems Schmidt resented. Schmidt sought to play down Terre’Blanche’s fascism, and attempts to rekindle his “stolen dream,” as an answer to the allegedly growing potential of the “Boer genocide” — a classic white nationalist narrative.
Perforce, after Schmidt published his article on Terre’Blanche, he received an incredible amount of positive attention from white supremacists online, who characterized him as a strong journalist speaking out against purported “white genocide.” In a very public way, racist white separatists all over the country were posting Schmidt’s articles to their blogs dedicated to “white genocide,” declaring that Schmidt was speaking for them. In an article on one right-wing blog called Why We Are White Refugees, the author intriguingly claimed that Schmidt declared his intention to form a vigilante group to protect white journalists from killings: “[Schmidt] has informed the ANC that should these journalists murders continue, he and his journalist followers shall be forced to step in to defend these defenseless Journalists their husbands, wives & children.”
While he did not appreciate so much exposure in the white supremacist blogosphere, Schmidt was still comfortable enough in our interview to use the notion of “white genocide” in terms of culture: “I wholeheartedly support the destruction of structural whiteness, that is, the race-supremacist structures of the European-originated part of capitalism (bear in mind that [S]ino-supremacism prevails in state-capitalist China where Uighurs, Tibetans, Manchus etc are racially suppressed). But as a white person living in Africa as a minority the bulk of which are working class (3,2-million out of 4,5-million), I taste a smack of genocide in the desire by race fanatics to destroy even cultural whiteness.” As elsewhere, we found Schmidt insisting that white culture must be preserved against the specter of racist, anti-white, Maoist traitors who apparently come with some whiff of genocide.
The Breakdown Begins
According to a South African web designer who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity, Schmidt and a friend checked in to ask if he could create a white nationalist anarchist website for them. The request was unceremoniously refused, but this was likely the beginning of what would become the media organ of “Black Battlefront.”
As Schmidt left the ZACF, Black Battlefront maintained a Facebook presence administered by an account that he now claims to have created named Ardent Vinlander. A female of Ukrainian origin, Ardent Vinlander was the person who Schmidt had originally identified as the brains behind Black Battlefront. Based on our research, it appears her Facebook account was initiated in 2009. She seems to have been Schmidt’s fantasy Aryan woman, who he invented out of thin air — a modern, Scythian woman of the Steppes of Eurasia who hates feminism and loves guns; a Steppenwolf come down to join the white African movement as a Strandwolf.
At one point in our interview, Schmidt told us that the architect of the site was “Ardent Smith.” When we mentioned that he had earlier stated the site’s architect was Vinlander, he did not respond. When we looked up Smith online, we could not find him (categorized as a male, not a female like Vinlander); however, we looked with a different account, and he was there with a faceless avatar. Among his posted links was an article called “Why Liberals Are Terrified of Anders Breivik,” by Robert Henderson, a radical-right columnist who has also written for a notorious neo-fascist publication of the “New Right” ilk, The Occidental Observer. Among Smith’s likes was the racist English Defense League. Far from a Ukrainian South African woman, Ardent Smith seemed to be an English man — likely created by Schmidt in order to communicate among neo-fascists in the UK without being detected by anarchist peers.
Another sockpuppet account, François Le Sueur, was initiated just a couple of months after the Terre’Blanche article. Based on photographs of his family with the last name Le Sueur, as well as confirmation from former friends and Schmidt’s own admission to us, we have concluded that Le Sueur is likely Schmidt’s given last name. Michael Schmidt is presumably an adoptive family name. Very much like his Stormfront profile, with its photographs of Schmidt and its personal information, the Facebook account he uses for Black Battlefront contains obvious personal information. This seemed to us to indicate that Black Battlefront and Stormfront were, in fact, closer to Schmidt’s personality than his more-nominal personas.
Le Sueur’s Facebook account profile bears a photo of a totenkopf — the “death’s head” skull and crossbones insignia used by the Nazi SS. His inaugural post is about a National Socialist named Louis Weichardt. The month after Le Sueur came into the world, however, Schmidt was struck down by a terrible case of meningitis, and then broke his spine during seizures caused by the virus.
On his more-public Facebook account, Schmidt stated in late-July, three weeks after going to the hospital, that it is his last day as an in-patient. He declared in his public response to AK Press dated September 27, 2015, “[I]n the subsequent months, due to heavy pain medication and perhaps some brain damage caused by the meningitis/seizure, my memory is patchy about what I posted online under my Stormfront and Facebook aliases[.]” In our interview, he told us that he stayed with a photographer and his wife for the following month. In fact, according to his Facebook profile at the time, on July 28th, the day he left the hospital, he claimed he was “convalescing with friends,” and by August 2, he was “back at home with a prodigious amount of chocolate to wade through.” According to another public statement, he was “cared for by some friends,” and in a different public statement, he claimed he was “visited” by friends, who he didn’t remember. On August 10th, about a week after returning home, he told his Facebook friends that he would be going to Cape Town for a week, and added with a sense of humor, “be prepared for a party.”
On August 20th, less than a month after leaving the hospital, he reported (via Facebook) that he was “walking without crutches at last (and [...] back from a very chilled week in Cape Town, for those of you who want to hook up in Joburg)!” By this point he was posting twice a day, lucidly, about a variety of subjects, including going on a date —one commenter told him to wear a condom, and he responded with full emotional maturity that the date was likely to be a platonic occasion. He described himself as “busy proof-reading Zabalaza: a Journal of Southern African Revolutionary Anarchism #11” by late-August (a post commented on by Ardent Vinlander). In early September, he was appearing on FM radio with Lucien van der Walt and posting comments critical of the “reactionary ideology of ‘wimin centered’ identity politics that preaching that men and women are enemy species.”
Why did Schmidt tell this story about his two-month “delirium” in which he might have posted anything on Stormfront or Facebook? The answer is right in his public response: “as a result of one of those posts in that period, in 2011 some anarchist comrades came across a Black Battlefront link to my Stormfront profile and in shock recognized my face.” There were two posts, actually, which came in early October and late-November, October having been more than two months and November having been about three months after Schmidt was released from the hospital in late-July.
According to two documentarians, Aragorn Eloff and Steffie, they became suspicious after Ardent Vinlander contacted them in late 2011 to suggest that they consider including proponents of national-anarchism in a film they were making about anarchism. They checked Schmidt’s more-public Facebook profile, and discovered Vinlander had commented on his Facebook profile at around the same time that new posts came up in Black Battlefront. This connection between Black Battlefront and Schmidt led them to Schmidt’s Stormfront profile, which they asked him to explain.
When approached about the content of his Stormfront profile and Black Battlefront, Schmidt now says he lied, claiming he did not have any connections to Black Battlefront. He also stated that his Stormfront profile went active after being “vetted by [his] editor” claiming he still used it for research. In his statements to Eloff, Schmidt revealed the original version of his story, which interestingly switches out the names “Ardent Vinlander” and “Ardent Smith” again:
“Some years ago, I ran into a curious character at a club who claimed to be of part Ukrainian descent, and who expressed an interest in the Makhnovists, so naturally we chatted. She was a late-30s woman called Ardent Smith, though she used another name when she befriended me on facebook. It turned out she works for a private intelligence firm called Erebus. She’s not often in SA, so we corresponded mostly by fb. Then some time later, she defriended me (fb didn’t alert me, but she’d just disappeared). That was the last contact we had [in fact, Vinlander posts on his profile in August, 2010]… In mid-2010, meningitis and breaking my spine laid me low for three months. At this time, my Stormfront profile posted a link to a “national-anarchist” fb group run by Smith and some others, called Black Battlefront. I suspected my profile had been hacked, but never got a satisfactory answer from the Stormfront moderators. This is, I believe, what alerted you to what was going on?… As a result of that single post, I was formally approached by the ZACF… to ask what was going on. I informed them of all of the above. By curious coincidence, a close friend of mine, who I don’t wish to identify, had just confessed to me that she had previously been employed for years by the NIA to spy on Dale McKinley — and by extension, friends of his like myself and the ZACF coms. In other words, it was confirmation for me that I was, in part at least, an intelligence target… So, all taken together, at a time when I was vulnerable (ill and in bed-ridden), I may have been subject to some kind of counter-intelligence game played by Smith and her spook friends (who may include the NIA; my ex-NIA friend says she doesn’t know Smith). Its objective may have been to smear me within the movement, and in this it appears successful[.] :-P Either way, it did not recur, I gave a full explanation to my ZACF coms, and I believe I have proven what side I am on by my continual production of articles for anarkismo, work o n the anarchist books Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism, Global Fire, Springwaters of Anarchy, and The People Armed, plus a new series of pamphlets I am working on: On the Waterfront, Critical Mass, Uruguayan Anarchism Armed, etc. Hardly the output of a hostile party, I hope you’ll agree?”
There seems little way around the conclusion that Schmidt used anterograde amnesia as part of an elaborate lie to deny involvement with Black Battlefront at the time, and claims that Smith/Vinlander (the sockpuppet account(s) he claims to have invented on Facebook, but who he also claims to have met at a bar) may have been in cahoots with a close friend of his who came out as a spy. Hence, in his public statement, he insists, “[I] could not risk my penetration of the ‘National-Anarchist Movement’ becoming known in activist circles in case other [South African National Intelligence] agents got wind of it and used the information for their own ends.” However, Schmidt’s affiliations with the “National-Anarchist Movement” did continue on Stormfront, and again percolated up to his public articles.
While Schmidt navigated what he described to us as a “whisper campaign,” Le Sueur was so active online that Keith Preston, who runs the pan-secessionist blog, Attack the System, even quoted him in his book of the same name, calling him “one of my readers.” Preston is a former-anarchist who believes that if everyone, left and right wing (inclusive of fascists and neo-Confederates), supports secession, humanity will break apart the greater evil of the federal government, and create metropolitan regions dominated by the Nietzschean ubermensch. Specifically, Preston quotes Le Sueur’s rebuttal of antifascist writer Matthew Lyons’s brilliant critique of pan-secessionism:
The questions raised by [Lyons] appear to reduce to one single fear: the question of power; that decentralizing power allows for no comprehensive/universalist (totalitarian?) enforcement of social norms. And this is clearly what the author wishes: some universal enforcement mechanism that can punish communities for their ‘deviant’ social choices. Surely that is true authoritarianism, writ large, compared with the possibility of some communities choosing authoritarianism writ small as a much lesser threat to civilization?
These communities would include, for Preston, Russia’s fascist National Bolshevik groups and Christian Identity fascist groups, which provides, in Lyons’s words, “a recipe for warlordism.”
Le Sueur and Preston embraced national-anarchist formations, along with other red-brown secessionist assemblages, as an opportunity to join together in dismantling the perceived greater threat of the US federal government and Zionist imperialism. Not only was Michael Schmidt quoted by Keith Preston as François Le Sueur, but he was quoted as a critic of antifascist analysis, indicating to us that if he was doing “research” with his fascist personality, it was in service of and not to infiltrate the pan-secessionist and national-anarchist tendencies. Schmidt’s own appreciation for Keith Preston’s Attack the System blog was laid bare in an article written by Preston and shared on February 27, 2011, by the Le Sueur Facebook page called, “Am I a Fascist?” Preston and Le Sueur were also “friends” on Facebook.
In November 2010, while purportedly in the throes of amnesia, Le Sueur proclaimed he was “working on a Black Battlefront position statement on the reasoning behind the establishment of a white anarchist organization,” the exact term Schmidt publicly used to describe the ZACF in 2008. At the same time, KarelianBlue outlined his plans for a Boerestaat on another post to Stormfront:
[first, to] promote the secessionist Cape Party… then to expand the concept of the ‘Cape’ upwards into Namibia… and lastly to radicalise it by decentralising power in the Cape/Namibia… with the finance-capitalist elements removed and returned to popular control.
The idea was that white supremacists would enter into the secessionist party to mobilize control over a larger territory, effecting a recolonization process of white nationalism under the condition that they would later decentralize and socialize the means of production. On his own post, KarelianBlue commented that a new entry in his Black Battlefront blog was available.
The transition to using Black Battlefront as an organ occurred in direct relation to Schmidt’s leaving the ZACF during a debate over the inclusion of feminism and the recruitment of people of color. Since he was losing authority over the ZACF (which grew increasingly open to people of color after Schmidt’s departure), he designed his own clandestine group to carry out the interests of a “white ‘national’ organization” by promoting a white separatist party. According to one of the most prominent advocates of national-anarchism, Troy Southgate, the appropriate strategy for so-called “national-anarchists” to gain power is called entryism:
Entryism is the name given to the process of entering or infiltrating bona fide organisations, institutions and political parties with the intention of either gaining control of them for our own ends, misdirecting or disrupting them for our own purposes or converting sections of their memberships to our cause.
It would appear that KarelianBlue’s plan to promote the Cape Party matched this strategy perfectly.
Schmidt’s desire to promote the aims of a “proper Boerestaat,” which he admitted to us, combined with his testament to his own Boer/Afrikaner identity in his reflections on Terre’Blanche, prove that, after publishing Black Flame, voting for the FF+, and leaving the ZACF, he began to reissue his concerted effort to push for a “white anarchist organization” more independently. He had created a group where he could explicitly discuss his desired themes of racialized “cultural differences” and advocate for a separate, white anarchist organization. Moreover, through Black Battlefront, he would have an opportunity to link up with national-anarchists and pan-secessionists around the world. As this process continued, his open promotion of the Cape Party and FF+-style secessionism would turn toward increasingly-obvious displays of neo-fascism.
Lightning bolt used by the British Union of Fascists, posted by one of Michael Schmidt’s sock puppet accounts on Facebook.
Michael Schmidt’s Complicated Relationship with National-Anarchism and Pan-Secessionism
According to a source, after being exposed for his Stormfront posts in 2011, Michael Schmidt entered a phase of presenting himself a journalist with an interest in anarchism, but not an anarchist. In the book he was working on during this period, Drinking with Ghosts, he describes anarchists in passing as one of the many extreme groups of people with whom he has made friends during his journalistic career: “My craft over this period was one hell of a rollercoaster ride; along the way I made friends with arms dealers, anarchist revolutionaries, Special Forces operatives, community activists and intelligence agents” (2014, BestRed). While he continued to write for Anarkismo and other anarchist publications, Schmidt’s presence in anarchist circles would make for increasingly messy reconciliation with the other social circles in which he was allegedly rubbing shoulders.
He began to dial down his “KarelianBlue” Stormfront profile, likely as a result of the investigation into his activities by the ZACF. At the same time, however, his “Le Sueur” profile escalated his Facebook engagement. He posted about USSR gulags, a Flemish separatist party, British crimes in Ireland, and an article from an anarchist platformist site. Among cryptic statements like, “The good dream of what the bad do,” and edgy articles from the controversial Russian ex-patriot news site, The eXile (which boasts neo-fascist, Eduard Limonov, among its columnists), one finds Le Sueur posting flags with the British Union of Fascists’ lightning bolt, as well as the crypto-fascist neo-folk band Sol Invictus, boasting known ties to neo-fascism. A hot rod magazine (a hobby that he told us about) is posted along with Nazi paraphernalia like a Sturmfuhrer T-Shirt, Anarkismo articles, as well as an article from the neo-fascist site, The Occidental Observer.
Black Battlefront also saw a great deal of activity in 2011, including some passages copy-and-pasted from Schmidt’s Stormfront account listing the “propagators of [white] guilt” and “debasers of Aryan culture.” The administrator of Black Battlefront’s posts, Strandwolf, maintains the line about the Cape Party already expressed in Stormfront by KarelianBlue:
And in dispossessing our enemies, what then should our territory be?… We can rather lay claim to the western portions of the Old Cape and its hinterland, settled from 1652… Surrendering the gold- and coal-mining, industrial and financial hinterland plus the eastern ports, farms and plantations to majority-black South Africa would nevertheless leave us with a coherent territory, predominantly Afrikaans-speaking, with a white and coloured majority[.]
[W]hile all black and Asian residents of the territory shall automatically be deemed without prejudice to be foreigners, most of the blacks presumed to be South African citizens, all Aryan, Coloured, and Bushmen residents of proven Old Cape/Karras heritage shall automatically be citizens, with preferred residency and citizenship offered to Aryans of any origin[.]
After KarelianBlue floated a strategy of entryism into the Cape Party to the Stormfront community, Strandwolf elaborated on the idea in Black Battlefront, discussing the dispossession of “black and Asian residents,” along with some awkwardly egalitarian concessions to present a clean face of white separatism to the world.
However, Schmidt’s writings on white nationalism and anarchism had been compromised by an internal investigation, and his reputation was on the line. In 2012, he produced another article for Anarkismo, this time publicly addressing the contradictions between nationalism, statism, and anarchism in a review of two texts by anarchist scholar Maia Ramnath. Titled “South Asian Anarchisms: Paths to Praxis,” Schmidt’s review posits that the mixture of right and left political ideologies intrinsic to certain aspects of national liberation and separatist movements creates a precarious balance. Schmidt critiques Gandhi’s right-to-left ideology as a “völkisch nationalist decentralism” and “something of a forebearer of ‘national anarchism.’”
To explain national-anarchism (N-A), Schmidt attempts to distinguish perceived misconceptions from reality:
Misdiagnosed by most anarchists as fascist, ‘national anarchism’ fuses radical decentralism, anti-hegemonic anti-statism (and often anti-capitalism), with a strong self-determinist thrust that stresses cultural-ethnic homogeneity with a traditional past justifying a radical future; this is hardly ‘fascism’ or a rebranding of ‘fascism,’ for what is fascism without the state, hierarchy and class, authoritarianism, and the führer-principle?
Although his quotation, in context, seems critical of N-A, ironically it has been trumpeted by national-anarchists as something of a rare defense, and can be found on the N-A Wikipedia page (likely due to the removal of the stigma of fascism).
Whether he did so deliberately or not, to say that Schmidt misread Ramnath’s work is to understate things considerably. Over coffee in Brooklyn last Summer, Ramnath reflected on Schmidt’s reading of her work, after being shown a sample of his Stormfront activity. “When I first read it, I just thought — OK, he doesn’t get it. Whatever. Now, when read in the light of this new information, it’s just gross,” she said. ‘His approving reference to my “rediscovery’ of ‘my people’? Ew. I don’t have any ‘my people,’ I would never attempt to identify myself that way, and I would not attempt to glorify them or highlight their special contributions even if I did,” she explained. “That’s exactly the kind of ethnonationalist narrative that my work tries to get away from.”
Interestingly, however, Schmidt contradicted his position on “the state, hierarchy and class, authoritarianism, and the fuhrer-principle” in our interview earlier this year, stating that, “at one point even the [Nazi Party] was antistatist.” If Schmidt believes that the Nazi Party had been antistatist, then his entire argument distinguishing N-A from fascism falls apart. Hence, it is more likely that Schmidt was hedging his bets in the article by taking a measured public distance from national-anarchism while at the same time defending its reputation against claims of fascism. This position was likely taken in order to shield himself from accusations that he was, in fact, a national-anarchist, while still maintaining key N-A principles like that of the “proper Boerestaat.”
However, Schmidt’s attempt to delink N-A from fascism is rejected by most analysts (1, 2, 3, 4), and those who openly insist that N-A is not fascist are more often than not national-anarchists, themselves. According to anti-fascist thinker Don Hammerquist in Confronting Fascism, national-anarchism and other forms of neo-fascism represent a kind of “fascism from below,” which emerge as “thinking fascists universally see both the state and the ruling elites as active enemies” (2002, Kersplebedeb). The strategy deployed by N-A’s founder, Troy Southgate, explicitly calls for “entryism,” whereby N-A activists enter leftist groups and movements to co-opt them if their boundaries are weak, distort them if their message is ambiguous, or destroy them if infiltrators have no other option. Given Southgate’s fascist past and the coupling of an explicit strategy of entryism with the “abandonment” of the fascist tendency for a “revolutionary conservative” line, it is difficult to imagine how his national-anarchism could be taken as anything other than either fascist infiltration into the anarchist movement or an attempt to join forces with anarchists against the state while disseminating ideals of racial separatism and ultra-nationalism. In a telling contradiction, Schmidt confessed to us his belief that, rather than “misdiagnosed as fascist,” national-anarchism lies, in fact, “on the fringe of the neo-fascist camp.” Again, Schmidt’s own contradictions indicated that his original quotation distancing N-A from fascism represented nothing but another cryptic misdirection, an attempt to avoid accusations of N-A sympathies while also taking potshots at his ideological enemies within anarchism.
In perhaps his most brazen move, Schmidt attempted to affiliate N-A with “small-a anarchism,” in attempts to avoid suspicion. He told us in our interview:
The real horror for many self-described ‘anarchists’ today is not that [N-A] has misappropriated key aspects of true traditional anarchism such as decentralism and anti-statism — but rather that it has borrowed from their own much fetishised ‘post-anarchist’ / ‘small-a anarchist’ notions of subcultural semiotic rebellion (instead of mass-cultural pragmatic revolution), and of ephemeral Temporary Autonomous Zone / “Occupy autonomy” from capital (a petit-bourgeois palliative illusion in place of working class autogestive counter-power).
In other words, N-A should have given anarchists insight into the problem with “little-a anarchism” as a failure to develop a more mature class analysis. Schmidt’s own version of white nationalist anarchism seeks to create a “true Boerestaat” in which the majority of the population is white, guiding it to “true traditional anarchism” grounded in syndicalist decentralization. There is little room in this theory for feminism and “white skin privilege” analysis of “little-a anarchism.”
Schmidt’s strategy for entryism into the Cape Party to steer its largely English, liberal base toward an Afrikaner volkstaat would seem to link it to N-A and pan-separatism, but with a “big-A” twist. “By my reading,” he told us, “there is barely even a remnant of the racist ‘white labourism’ of the 1970s white power skinhead movement in N-A; class, having been eradicated from the far right and neo-fascist movements’ key agendas[,] did not make the transition into N-A along with its key theorists such as founder Troy Southgate of the UK and his fellow travelers; ethnic mysticism made the transition, but class did not.” On one level, Schmidt is correct — N-A functions more broadly on the level of pan-separatism and a mystical, traditionalist return to ancestral cultures. At the same time, these are all traits exhibited by Schmidt in his Terre’Blanche article and in private via his KarelianBlue profile as confirmed by anonymous sources. Schmidt would take another step toward public advocacy for pan-secessionism in 2014, but not before perfecting his presentation on Stormfront. The recurring themes reappearing on his various social media and white supremacist outlets show that Schmidt’s closeted writings in Stormfront and Black Battlefront served as springboards for strategic developments of white nationalism to be published for the public in sanitized form.
KarelianBlue explained his approach in a Stormfront post in July, 2014:
I believe the path of territorial self-determination, that relies upon the Atlantic Charter and subsequent UN resolutions on national self-determination (and I’m not naive about the falsehood in many of these promises), echoed in current debates around Scotland, Catalonia, the Basque Country, etc, needs to be seriously pursued in SA relating to the Old Cape. Put simply, we need to put forward to the international community a serious proposal for Old Cape (W Cape & N Cape) separatism based on cultural-liguistic [sic] history — and yes, that of necessity must be both white, coloured and indigenous — but NOT black. This will at least give us a true white majority in many areas of our historic heartland[…] Only a mass-level territorial secession that gives us the cities, population, media, armed forces, universities, farmlands, industry and fisheries necessary to sustain a modern territory can address that historial [sic] demand.
KarelianBlue’s post about reclaiming the Old Cape for whites reflects a practically identical position to Black Battlefront, as well as the focus on “cultural-linguistic history” present in Schmidt’s public article about Terre’Blanche. It also introduces the idea of UN self-determination clauses, which would be exercised publicly in an article Schmidt published two months later in The Daily Maverick ironically titled “The Two Faces of Global Separatism.”
After detailing some of the more horrifying aspects of what he calls separatism in Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, and Ukraine, Schmidt states, “Separatism can be a painful, even murderous, business. But sometimes it evolves from terrorism into democratic dissent.” Schmidt uses the Front de Libération du Québec, the Basque ETA, and the IRA as models for democracy-facilitating apparatuses. He also looks to the independence movement in Scotland, claiming “Many South Africans have sympathy for the cause of Scottish separatism as many Scots fought on the side of the Boers against the British Empire a century ago,” in an obvious attempt to reveal some potential pan-secessionist solidarity for mutual advancement of Boer and Scottish secession. Then he turns to South Africa, finding promising developments:
Boers certainly loved the 19th Century Irish for their resistance to Britain and for their support during the Boerevryheids Wars [translated as Boer Freedom Wars, also called the Boer Wars in English], but the socialist tinge of the Provos scared off the politically conservative Boers in the 20th Century. Now, however, the neo-Boer right such as Front Nasionaal is quite happy to look to national secessionist movements of all political stripes as justification for their renewed calls for the establishment of a Boerestaat, basing its argument on Article 235 of the Constitution and similar self-determination clauses in international conventions such as the United Nations Charter.
In this paragraph, one can already notice identical positions to KarelianBlue’s Stormfront posts. As well as the pan-secessionist solidarity involving the Boer, Schmidt locates self-determination clauses within the UN’s legal structure as an appropriate inroad toward separatism. By identifying more democratic secessionist movements and comparing them with the Front Nasionaal’s call for a Boerestaat, Schmidt presents his approval of the pan-secessionist route.
“The Two Faces of Global Separatism” continues: “The Soutie left also produced a secessionist formation, the Cape Party, which argues for independence for the old Cape Province, basing its argument on the same legal grounds (but not on ethnic hegemony), making a very Catalan-like complaint that the Cape’s tax contribution to the wealth of South Africa is disproportionately spent elsewhere by Pretoria.” Again, Schmidt’s comparison between what a democracy-facilitating Catalonian nationalism and the “proper Boerestaat” presents itself through what can easily be seen as the same kind of democratic promotion of the Cape Party called for by KarelianBlue.
Schmidt is, however, wrong in depicting the Cape Party as “left.” The Cape Party has, in fact, eschewed right or left labels; has listed “black economic empowerment, affirmative action and housing allocation policies” as “racist policies” against whites; and has been criticized as racist, itself, given the noted racism and classism of the place that it represents. It would appear that the associations with the “left” would make the Cape Party the more attractive brand of secessionism in South Africa.
“But neither party [Front Nasionaal or Cape Party] won seats in this year’s general election,” Schmidt’s article proceeds, “leaving it to the conservative right Freedom Front Plus to carry the Vierkleur [the four-colored flag of the Transvaal Republic of the Boer] forward — a dubious proposition given that it’s [sic] leader was seduced into cabinet by the previous Zuma administration).” Using the Boer name for the Boer War (Boerevryheids), as well as the Boer word for the four-colored flag of the Boerestaat, the Vierkleur, as well as the Afrikaaner slur for Englishman, Soutie, Schmidt’s article obviously manifests his prejudices toward a Boerestaat. His article seems to express the most appreciation for the more hard-line Afrikaner group, Freedom Front Plus (FF+); however, he also discloses a possible reason for his disenchantment with the FF+ after voting for them in the 2009 elections, and his movement toward entryism into the Cape Party by late-2010. Namely, the FF+ leader joined the administration of ANC frontman, Jacob Zuma, who Schmidt sees as the main perpetrator of “white genocide.”
Schmidt concludes, “Serious separatism involves a lot of shrewd economic and political calculations — and hard realpolitik horse-trading — but ultimately, it rests on mobilizing the historically-rooted sentiments of a defined populace, of tapping into their ‘oral and intangible heritage.’” In the end, “The Two Faces of Global Separatism” seems disaffected with the different parties, while at the same time striving for a “proper Boerestaat” based on “historically-rooted sentiments” and “intangible heritage.” In short, Schmidt strives for a territory reflective of his own Afrikaner identity, expressed in the Terre’Blanche article and “Politico-Cultural Dynamics,” but clearly sees the Cape Party as the most probable entry-point for people who have a left-to-right analysis.
Neither Left nor Reich
Although Black Battlefront and KarelianBlue had fallen off by 2012, Schmidt continued writing increasingly bizarre and contradictory texts regarding national-anarchism, fascism, and pan-secessionism. In an unpublished article presented to us by Schmidt over the course of our interview, titled “Neither Fish nor Fowl: Populism, Red Overalls and Black Shirts,” Schmidt criticizes the new political party in South Africa, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), for playing too close to a Chavista brand of populism and instigating “black racism.” His article ends, however, in a strange cluster of fascist references and references to fascists that can only be described as crypto-fascist.
Comparing the regimes of the late Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro to the parafascist regime of Juan Peron, Schmidt’s article identifies as fascist “everything from the openly neo-fascist Golden Dawn in Greece, to Morales’s ethnic-capitalist ‘Evoism’ in Bolivia, to the ultra-conservative Tea Party faction within the Republicans in the United States, in sum, a counter-hegemonic movement that has distinct left and right wings, both of which draw their oxygen from populaces disillusioned with the exhausted politics-as-usual of the ballot box.” While this incredibly broad definition of fascism is both unfocused and demonstrably inaccurate (neither Mussolini’s Fascist Party nor Hitler’s Nazi Party had any compunction using the ballot box as part of a broader strategy, and any number of populist political forms can be presented as a counter-hegemonic, extra-parliamentary movements with left and right wings), it has a certain shotgun-blast appeal that presents all enemies as united through a common, easily identifiable grouping.
Placing Bolivia’s social populist leader, Evo Morales, as fascist on the same level as Greece’s sig heiling political party, Golden Dawn, seems particularly inadequate considering that Schmidt goes to great pains to distinguish both N-A and Terre’Blanche’s AWB from neo-fascism. However, perhaps in a gesture back to his earlier estimation of the AWB as conservative rather than fascist, Schmidt goes on to declare that “this is not to say that even right-wing populism automatically converges with fascism: Julius Evola, a leading Italian ultramontane critic of the original Fascists, wrote in 1925 that ‘The so-called Fascist revolution’ is merely ‘an ironic revolution,’ because it has ‘formally accepted the existing constitutional, parliamentary, and legal order’ adding that ‘one can hardly trust’ these ‘pseudo revolutionaries to have the power to execute a real coup d’etat.’” What he does not disclose is that, while Evola may have been an aristocratic critic of Mussolini’s Fascist Party, he was also an early fascist and remains a key influence in neo-fascist thought. Using Evola’s critique of fascist parties against Morales, who he describes as both capitalist and fascist, is bafflingly difficult to unpack.
In A History of Fascism, 1914–1945, scholar Stanley Payne records that “Down to his death in 1973, Evola stood as the leading intellectual of neofascism and/or the radical right in all Europe” (University of Wisconsin Press, 1996). Troy Southgate, leading ideologue of national-anarchism, edited a 288 page anthology about Evola in 2011, published through his Black Front Press, named after Otto Strasser’s secret fascist organization. Importantly, Evola was a leading progenitor of the cultural and spiritual theory of race, rather than the biological theory of race, just like Schmidt’s own outline of cultural racism in “Politico-Cultural Dynamics” and Black Battlefront, as well as reflected by Schmidt’s own pan-European, quasi-spiritual tattoos.
Quoting Evola in relation to an apparently-anarchist critique of a fascist party has always been standard faire for national-anarchists (1, 2, 3). Citing him in relation to “the power to execute a real coup d’etat” (an inflammatory term for the Latin American left) fits with what fascist theorist Alexander Dugin calls the “fourth political theory,” which calls for a “fascist fascism” that identifies party-style fascism as a kind of vulgarization of the true fascist Idea. This idealist perspective on a “new spirit,” or a fascism that could not be dogmatized, is actually a core element of original fascist theory, from the early theorists Giovanni Gentile and Camillo Pelizzi, who called the fascist state “more than a state, a dynamo.” Such a supra-national anarchic Idea or dynamo was subverted by established parties, according to The Fascist Revolution by scholar George L Mosse: “fascism became a mass political party, which stifled creativity in the name of its truth and showed a willingness to assimilate the values of the bourgeois age which those advocating a ‘Third Force’ could not readily accept” (1999, Howard Fertig, 116). Again, national-anarchists tend to deny that they are fascists, associating fascism, as such, with vulgar populism, while evoking Evola in order to, in the words of Southgate, “transcend the beyond.”
Hence, Schmidt presents the “original Fascists” as populists in the same way that he presents Morales as “fascist” — a populist component of the capitalist system that should be overthrown, perhaps by a “real coup d’etat.” The fact that Evola maintained infamous connections to Lopez Rega’s famous AAA paramilitary group that helped overthrew the Peron regime in the 1970s and install a military junta should not be lost on us when we read Schmidt’s citation of his position on the “coup d’etat.” It should also not be lost on us that in Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism, Schmidt admiringly describes the idea of an anarchist “junta” to coordinate the military repression of counter-revolutionaries (2014, AK Press, out of print). As if to make sure that the reader understood he is not quoting Evola by accident, Schmidt goes on to quote the psychologist of crowds, Gustave le Bon, who was also a key influence on original fascism, and along with Evola is currently the subject of efforts by the fascist New European Right to revive the fascist and conservative revolutionary tableau.
Schmidt ends the article with an insistence that “EFF is playing with fire, because while it is totally correct in challenging oligarchy, monopoly and the continued dominance of the white elite of some 320,000 people (plus about 1,500 people of color), it’s [sic] ethnicisation of the country’s troubles promises to sow dragon’s teeth in our red soil.” It is difficult to parse through the mixed metaphors in this sentence. First, “our red soil” evokes the mixture of the blood of the Boer and the “blood and soil” nationalism of Schmidt’s Afrikaner identity, which he sees as “inextricably intertwined with Africans. The fire seems to represent “the continuing dominance of the white elite,” while the “dragon’s teeth” seems to represent prospective forces of white genocide. The only apparent reading of this is that Schmidt is claiming that the EFF would ignite a kind of race war, in which the “fire” of the white elite would fall on the side of the Afrikaners, ultimately destroying the EFF and its followers.
Schmidt’s final, unpublished phantasmagoria presents an alarmist rendering of a coming race war, which is perhaps the ultima ratio of the pathology of fascist ideology. Attempting to use Evola as a critical voice in an article calling for a coup d’etats against the purportedly fascist regimes of Morales, Castro, and Chavez (grouped together with the Tea Party and Golden Dawn) was, perhaps, the absurd end result of an impossibility — Schmidt’s attempt to merge lone wolf white nationalism with a broadly accepted, leftist revolutionary position. From his argument for an apartheid system in anarchist organizations to his defense of Afrikaner nationalism, his support for the FF+, and promotion of the Cape Party, Schmidt’s crypto-fascist usage of Evola and le Bon only add to the list of deceitful maneuvers in the fading career of an international political antihero, desperate to establish an intelligible politics distinct from — and capable of competing with — the “small-a” and “identitarian” iterations of anarchism that he saw as popular adversaries.
How he actually got that far is another question entirely. One to be taken up in the final installment of this series.
According to AK Press collective member Charles Weigl, the information hit the publisher’s desk in two phases. “In May, a trusted comrade told us that there were rumors circulating that Michael Schmidt was some sort of neo-fascist or white nationalist. We obviously took it seriously, but also know how weird, and wrong, the political rumor mill can be,” he explained. When one of the authors of this series, Alexander Reid Ross, was researching his forthcoming book on entryism for AK, Against the Fascist Creep, the information — much of it hiding in plain sight — caught eyes once more. “[AK] got the ‘I’ve got some bad news’ email [from Ross] in June,” Weigl explained.
The revelation saddled AK with the weight of an extensive investigation, in addition to its normal workload. “Zach and I were the point people to evaluate new information as it came in, decide if and when we thought the ‘truth-threshold’ had been crossed, and then share what we knew with the full collective,” Weigl explained. A short way into the process, the other author of this series, Joshua Stephens, contacted AK, revealing over a year of looking into Schmidt. “We decided that the best way forward would be to put [both authors] in contact to combine [their] research,” Weigl said. “It felt like the research itself should be conducted independently of AK Press.”
Despite the fact that AK’s announcement in late August was little more than a public cutting of ties in light of information contained in a developing story — about which its staff knew nothing until June — the assumption persisted, and was actively circulated, that AK Press had commissioned the story. And their decision to leave substantiation to those who’d actively researched the story left many feeling as though a grenade had been negligently tossed into a crowded space. “All the options seemed bad, but in the end we picked one,” Weigl lamented. “I’m not sure it was the best decision. Of course, I might be saying the same thing if we’d decided to wait. I now realize how naive this was, but I had imagined that people would actually wait for all the evidence to be released before jumping into the fray.”
In the intervening weeks, anarchists around the world sounded off, calling it everything from a liberal slander to a “Stalinist show trial” (a bit of hyperbole with which anyone who lived through one might beg to differ). Demands for evidence to be “released” resounded across social media, as though an investigation was not ongoing, and the fairer thing to do was rush a process that would have enormous consequences.
Some of the reaction seemed justified by the tragic history of FBI bad-jacketing in leftist movements. However, much of it was baffling, if not disturbing in its own right. At every turn, as much outrage was directed at the series itself (from its degree of analytical detail, to the mere delivery method in serialization) as was voiced in response to the revelation of long-running white supremacist activity on the part of a widely-read anarchist voice. Some insisted that AK should have waited for a full report, while also declaring they should have come forward earlier — an alarming contradiction indicative of the level of felt shock, disbelief, and denial.
One instructive contradiction at the core of these demands is that less than half of the evidence in question was ever embargoed. From Schmidt’s preemptive defense (following AK’s public statement), his Stormfront profile, Black Battlefront page, and Ardent Vinlander profile had all been outed, along with the name of his editor, Brendan Seery, in case anyone felt like fact checking. Outside this series, there appears no indication anyone bothered.
A majority of the material that went into the story began with evidence that was publicly accessible. The Terre’Blanche piece trading in “white genocide” language concocted by white nationalists; the romantic overtures to fascism and national anarchism buried in his review of Maia Ramnath’s work; the pan-secessionist article. Fully none of it was ever hidden or embargoed.
On some level, the unwillingness to get hands dirty in research is understandable in retrospect, given not just the unsettling nature of the findings, but the extremely disturbing process of uncovering them — not to mention the incredibly volatile prospect of revealing them to a public not altogether ready or willing to accept them. On another level, it was not difficult to detect a kind of sympathy for Schmidt’s position among some of his closer defenders — a sense that, as scholar J Sakai writes in Confronting Fascism, “In the new globalized multicultural capitalism, in the new computer society, the provincial, sheltered white settler life of America is going to be as over as the white settler life of the South African ‘Afrikaners’ is.” (Kersplebeded) As we conducted our research into Schmidt’s profiles, and communicated with him via email and personal messages over the period of a month, the interplay of his numerous identities flickered in the gaslight of suggestion; the allusions to white supremacist themes, hide-and-seek, and the maneuvering he deployed within this private world seemed to bring out the various disguises and subterfuges that marked his public persona. With so many layers and contours, it’s not entirely surprising he was able to seduce so many for so long. He was measuring us up to find out where we stood. He seemed to believe it was a game, one he wanted us to play along with — a “catch me if you can,” coy bravado.
While on a public level, his articles clearly seemed to be attempts at shifting his base of anarchist followers to the right, involving all the same kind of interplays, he’s also enjoyed adequate clout in the anarchist movement to shut down any accusations as “sectarian smear campaigns.” Membership within his inner-circle functioned almost like a temptation. The more we spoke to people who contributed their narratives to this series, the more it came into view how he’d used his influential position in the South African media and the anarchist scene; trading favors, shutting certain people out, and cultivating a rather powerful persona.
Schmidt’s game appears to have been composed of unwritten rules and strictly enforced codes, through which he fashioned from anti-racist positions within platformism his own racist objectives and rationalizations. He warped democratic ideas into anti-democratic positions that explicitly excluded people of color on the basis of the false premises that “blacks are incapable of other than the basest service to the Revolution” by pretending he understood the ideology and history better than those around him.
Politico-Cultural Dynamics of Denial
That others went along with his false stories and methods suggests a larger subversion at work. When we talked with local long-time South African leftists, their reflections dialed in on a broader vulnerability across the international left. “Honestly, the ZACF is an irrelevance. Within the larger irrelevance of the South African left, I mean,” one told us, continuing, “Look at what is happening at the moment with the mass student protests, and look at the non-role of the ‘left’ in it — especially the white left… There’s a social disconnect between many left groups and the underlying tensions of South African society.”
The present movement in South Africa began with a prairie-fire of student actions contesting a hike in university fees. The protests swelled into a nation-wide phenomenon, with the state attempting to diffuse them by freezing the fee increase. It proved, however, too late; the protests continued to build, proliferating through social media under the #NationalShutDown hashtag, threatening the very political order of South Africa. While leftists have been involved in supporting and forwarding the movement, like most global popular movements, its spontaneous character took the established left by surprise.
The subtle, passive forfeit buried therein is hardly new. Through its own intellectual pursuits, its adherence to dogma focusing on “tightening up,” hardening the line, and disciplining its members, many groups on the international left repeat the same methods of forcing out or proudly peacocking their way into irrelevance for those they actually claim to serve, stagnating in stifling whiteness. Disproportionately impacted communities are reduced to the value of a token, both socially and politically.
Racial lines on the South African left are clearly drawn, according to Ntsika Gogwana, a young activist based in Eastern Cape currently participating in the #NationalShutDown movement in the University of the Western Cape under a lock-in/lock-out crackdown. “I don’t spend much time with white leftists — in SA, race has been constructed in such a way that it is synonymous with class,” he told us. “And the nature of whiteness preempts real class solidarity. But yes, racism is widespread among white leftists — even though it may not be conscious or expressed in crude, overt terms.”
When Schmidt was publicly exposed, the combination of defensiveness and ad hominem attacks that emerged in reaction seemed to reflect the same patriarchal and racially charged conditions that empowered him in the first place. As a chilling example, Gogwana was met with vitriol on Schmidt’s Facebook page for pointing out the problems of Schmidt’s open use of the terms “black racist” and “k*ffirskietpiekniek” (the paramilitary pro-Apartheid groups’ term for “k*affir shooting picnic”).
One of Schmidt’s friends intervened, inveighing against Gogwana:
Tellingly, Schmidt stood by, and said nothing — a tacit approval of this vicious harangue.
When we asked Gogwana if he had noticed warning signs of Schmidt’s racism before the incident, he responded with an emphatic “Yes!! He posted pictures of himself and his white friends playing with guns, statements about not being interested in the ‘Bantu’ narrative of the colonization of South Africa, and a lot of other racially problematic statements on his Facebook profile. But I had no idea how deeply held his racist views are/were and how organized he was.”
A Garden Neglected
Similar warning signs screamed from between the lines of the 2008 ZACF discussion document circulated by Schmidt, in which he declared blacks in South Africa incapable of living up to the “exacting standards of platformism.” Although it was a federation after its founding in 2003, the ZACF’s chapters were very small. One group in Soweto was composed largely of one man — a young black South African named Philip who went by the name of Karl Marx before joining the ZACF. He was unemployed, living in Motsoaledi, a poorer area of Soweto, and he was interested in cultivating urban gardens. His main project was a community garden in the dilapidated area behind Baragwanath Hospital, which he sought to transform into a social center.
Through this project, Phillip became dependent on ZACF, which used him as the “face of anarchism,” according to three long-time activists. Sooner or later, the ZACF decided that he had become an encumbrance to the image they sought to cultivate. After paying him to keep the garden up, the ZACF finally cut its ties with Phillip and the social center project.
Schmidt did not support the multiracial constitution of the ZACF, but attempted to work with Phillip. When Phillip began to spiral into personal crisis, Schmidt became angry, and used the incident to cast broad speculations about the general shortcomings of black comrades. The problem here was not simply an exhibition of what the ZACF did wrong, and Michael Schmidt’s role in using that incident as a springboard to claim that all black people in South Africa are unworthy of anarchist practice (unless their terms are set by whites).
“It’s almost a formula,” one independent activist told us. “White dominated organization recruits Black comrade, overstates the significance of whatever Black/township thing they’re involved in, and whatever organization is built is entirely dependent on the white folks’ funds.” While the formula described by this seasoned veteran of the South African political scene is specific, he reminded us that its implications are replicated around the world.
Why would a white supremacist overstate the significance of working with a person of color? The simple answer is that it affords the appearance of equality on the left, and the left enters a snug dream of anti-racism, even when its white-dominated projects exist only for the sake of assuaging consciences and exploiting opportunities to gain prestige. In spite of his attempts to avoid them, according to critics, these implications resonate with the metrics that drive much of Schmidt’s worldview — particularly his understanding of multi-racial labor struggles laid out in published works going back to Black Flame.
The problem with such a methodology for assessing the anti-racist character of given movements is that membership does not imply power, much less any role in determining organizational priorities. Nor does it inoculate these spaces from the deleterious effects of institutionalized power disparities. It’s insufficient to tag a struggle as anti-racist when its members of color have little to no role in determining objectives, and face problems of dependency and exploitation within the struggle itself.
In the case of Phillip and the ZACF, when white members pulled the plug, the garden project and its coordinator became symbols for Schmidt of the failure of black anarchists to organize and develop revolutionary projects autonomous from white direction. By advocating in favor of an “all white” anarchist movement rather than treating people of color as equal contributors to the revolutionary cause and addressing and attempting to solve the crisis as systemic, Schmidt sought to institutionalize this otherwise implicit vulnerability for people disproportionately impacted by racism as an organizational centerpiece. It was not merely “politically incorrect” as Schmidt described it following the first installment of this series; it was a strategy with effects on real people’s lives and bodies.
One inroad for Schmidt was his reputation. Many people respected Schmidt for his work as a journalist, and were able to shake off his racist outbursts thinking that they simply manifested symptoms of post-traumatic stress. He talked openly about his experiences in Rwanda, Darfur, and Lebanon, and more than one local activist in South Africa came to us with the belief that Schmidt had actually seen the killing fields during the Rwandan genocide. In the words of one South African activist, “He always wants to come across as a tough guy… The thing is, if a journalist says, ‘I was in Rwanda,’ everyone assumes it was during the genocide.”
When we asked Schmidt’s former editor, Brendan Seery, he was dumbfounded at the insinuation. “My newspaper, the Sunday Tribune, never sent anyone to Rwanda in 1994. There was too much going on in South Africa. And, as far as I know, Schmidt was either still in college or was a junior reporter at that stage.” Later, when he was news editor of The Sunday Independent, he did send a reporter and a photographer to Rwanda, “but that was after the genocide,” Seery clarified. “I am aware that [in 2004], Schmidt went there on what I characterize as ‘genocide tourism.’”
Yet Schmidt’s heroic declarations of his journalistic ventures not only in Rwanda, but Lebanon and Darfur, and the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) he incurred from it, suggest an extensive experience in some of the most horrifying regions of the world. Seery explained, “As far as Rwanda was concerned, he only went there as a tourist. In the case of Darfur and Lebanon, it was the next best thing: he went with the charitable organization Gift of the Givers.” Many other journalists have accompanied Gift of the Givers into war-torn areas (only after peace has returned). “[T]o my knowledge, none has claimed to have come down with PTSD as a result.”
Schmidt’s experience in Lebanon was, in the milieu of conflict journalism, relatively light. In a self-glorifying Anarkismo article titled “Eyewitness in Lebanon: In the Land of the Blind,” published September 2, 2006, Schmidt describes his experience traveling apparently relatively quickly through the country. The article largely focuses on his own experiences and opinions, providing little in the way of news, and much in the way of analysis that stems from his understanding of history, rather than actual events he witnessed. Schmidt somewhat coldly characterizes a dead girl he sees in the morgue as a “statistic,” including a picture of the back of her head with the article. He describes a funeral procession as a “very nerve wracking experience,” centralizing his own feelings.
He ends the article, which is replete with sectarian attacks against ideological opponents, with a call for “pragmatic solidarity and a functional network of councillist [sic], left communist and anarchist communist organizations in the region” as the only “real anarchist communist option for Lebanon.” In short, he uses the fact that he was in Lebanon for a relatively brief period of time to bring greater clout to his ideological argument for the proper political destiny of a land with which he has had only a passing relationship.
In one of a number of unfavorable comments, a Lebanese journalist named Simon Assaf called Schmidt’s piece “a bit of war tourism,” and went on to state in another comment regarding Schmidt’s usage of the term “choirboys” to describe Hezbollah:
Sorry Michael, but you should refrain form [sic] flippant comments about one million refugees… Do [you] think that the Lebanese are just puppets on the big man’s fingers? You need to read a little about our history, and the part played by mass movements, maybe then you will be less inclined to commit such basic errors. A little more humility is in order… don’t you think?
In a very similar article published again in Anarkismo the next year, Schmidt writes about Darfur with the authority of “spending time in el-Fasher and Nyala, the capitals of North and South Darfur respectively, last month.” In the first part of the article, Schmidt reports on basic facts of International Monetary Fund involvement and the Sudanese oil industry. He then provides some very basic “thoughts on the situation,” which culminate in a final insistence that peacekeepers not be sent to the region. Schmidt states simply that the “USA alleges genocide,” while the National Congress Party denies “any genocidal campaign.” For someone so sensitive toward the perceived genocide against whites in South Africa, his apparent skepticism toward genocide in Darfur and insistence on non-intervention seem awkwardly at odds.
From Rwanda to Lebanon to Darfur, Schmidt’s reporting did not meet the expectations of those who knew him, and were chastised by other journalists and editors as “war tourism” and “genocide tourism.” “What I believe,” remarked Seery, “is that he is a fantasist — and a wannabe trying to claim some illustrious journalism career for himself which never existed. That is an insult to those of us who did the hard yards and risked our lives.”
Tactics of Dissimulation
In the end, aside from his pattern of baiting, suggestion, allusion, and hide-and-seek, Schmidt walked a tightrope of ideological insinuation, co-optation, and denial common among that part of the white supremacist movement that justifies neo-fascism under the rubric of “left nationalism” and “national anarchism.” His most obvious tactic, made clear by the correlation of fuming Stormfront posts sanitized into public tracts, is a classic method of denial and co-optation.
A clear example of this strategy appears in Schmidt’s understanding of nationalism and anarchism in terms of syndicalist thought. “I don’t think that there is any real correlation between anarchist syndicalism and national syndicalism,” Schmidt told us in our interview — a strange denial given that a number of origin voices within national syndicalism, including Mussolini, Valois, and De Ambris, either had been or were supporters of anarchism. However, Schmidt did admit, in a rather glaring contradiction of his own stated views, “I do feel that there is the possibility of purist syndicalism in the post-revolutionary period approximate [to] national syndicalism[.]” In other words, as in the case of the “proper Boerestaat,” a de facto white nationalist state in Africa could function on the basis of syndicalism — i.e., there is not only a correlation, but a positive correlation between national and anarchist syndicalism.
In his article on Terre’blanche, Schmidt performs a similar operation of disassociation from fascism and co-optation of its principles. By distinguishing Terre’Blanche’s group, the fascist Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), from neo-Nazism, he creates the conditions for a more sympathetic reading of the brutality and violence of pro-apartheid militants. Through that reading, he provides an ultranationalist narrative of his own Afrikaner identity, thus co-opting the demand of the AWB for a separate white state, while watering it down in the form of what he calls a “proper Boerestaat.”
The tactic of disassociation and co-optation appeared again in 2012, after Schmidt was called out for his Stormfront profile. He published a prolix article distancing himself from national anarchism, even while denying the latter’s relationship with fascism, thus redeeming its character and providing a safe measure of separation for himself. In his article, “The Two Faces of Global Separatism,” Schmidt goes on to co-opt the main positions of national anarchism through a pan-secessionist overview.
Finally, in his unpublished article, “Neither Fish nor Fowl,” Schmidt moves even further in his pattern of denial and co-optation. He begins by casting accusations of fascism against his political enemies on the left, which are grossly inaccurate and politically irresponsible, and his ensuing attempt to cite Julius Evola as a critic of fascism once again repeats the pattern of disconnecting the ideological content of fascism from its name in order to develop an analysis consistent with “alternatives” like national syndicalism and national anarchism while undermining that same leftist “ideological unity” which he claimed so ardently to support.
These tactics are part of a larger strategy of manipulation and distortion well-known to some of those who appeared on various Facebook threads to defend Schmidt. One of his most vocal supporters, for example, is an open member of New Resistance, the rebranded American Front neo-fascist group that today describes itself as “left nationalist.” Even while falsely denouncing “black racism” as rooted in a Maoist cultural genocide of whites, Schmidt’s own pan-secessionist white nationalism retraced the figure of “left nationalism” first sketched out by Jean-Francois Thiriart’s “fascist-Maoism,” colored in by the “fourth political theory,” and outlined by Schmidt’s most ardent neo-fascist supporters.
On the Question of Infiltration
Within hours of the first article in this series, which revealed Schmidt’s call for apartheid in the anarchist movement, numerous activists began rationalizing Michael Schmidt’s racist ZACF memo as everything from a bland and colorblind analysis, “no different than Emma Goldman’s position on French Canadians,” to an inexplicable spin on it as an argument against the very activist paternalism it laid bare. Barbed requests emerged for corroborating documents that had been linked right in the article, as did unqualified conjecture about the authors’ ideological bias — accusations echoing Schmidt’s own dismissive language of “identity politics.”
Schmidt’s own response came via Facebook, on October 13th:
In reality, the investigation had been underway since early 2014, more than a year before Schmidt’s former publisher had any inkling of it. What AK did do was exactly what any reasonable person would’ve expected of them: perform due diligence, facilitate an exchange of information, and send out a public alert as soon as they felt the evidence unequivocal.
With similar bluster, the next day, Schmidt posted a telling comment on his earlier Facebook response:
As is elementary to anyone who has read a piece of reporting in their lifetime, selected pieces of the memo were quoted — a fact one would venture is not news to Schmidt, whose own self-narrative is bound up with years of near-mythical journalistic output. Inasmuch as one author of this piece converted Schmidt’s memo to PDF, personally uploaded it to a public PDF-sharing site, and created the link to it in the body of the story, the article was rather demonstrably not “based on selective extracts.” Again, the zealous demands for the empirical shouted from the proverbial rooftops failed to translate into actual initiative. Even for Schmidt, himself.
When the second and third installments of this series pointed to increasingly damning evidence that Schmidt not only enjoyed a secret life as a white supremacist, but even organized and advocated for white nationalism, the questions gradually turned from the authors to whether Schmidt, himself, was a white nationalist infiltrator or just an unpredictable maverick — an adventurist with racist ideas who seeks to transform anarchism from the inside?
The definition of infiltration is “to enter or become established in gradually or unobtrusively usually for subversive purposes.” Given the options of Schmidt either simply acting out his desires on Stormfront and through Black Battlefront or actively promoting the ideals of nationalism within the anarchist milieu through subtle intrigue and subversion, it seems clear that Schmidt’s case contains a mixture of both. However, that mixture itself remains quite opaque.
The creation of Black Battlefront alone indicates that, unhappy with the failure of his attempts to create a racial division in the ZACF, Schmidt decided to form his own group, but he did not leave ZACF at the same time. Instead, he appears to have worked within the ZACF to mold it into a “white ‘national’ organization,” which had been his stated intention. While there seems to have been an evolution in Schmidt’s ideology toward pan-secessionism after leaving the ZACF in 2009, his advocacy for a “white ‘national’ organization” had been present in the movement since the early 2000s, if not before.
Given the openness of his political views on white nationalism and the foundation of what he calls a “proper Boerestaat,” however, it would seem as though infiltration would miss the mark. At the same time, when one digs more deeply into the aspects of Black Battlefront, itself, the group cannot be taken at face value as a forthright attempt at building an anti-racist whites-only organization. It also cannot be seen as a kind of anarchist strategy of “social insertion,” and Schmidt denied such a point outright in our interview. Given the extreme nature of Schmidt’s racist screeds on the same Stormfront account that he used to advertise for Black Battlefront, the rhetoric of “anti-racism” explicitly to win over “the court of international opinion” must be read as critically as Schmidt’s open promise of a “proper Boerestaat” with “equal rights for all.”
On Black Battlefront, he called for the territorial reconquest of the Old Cape, and on Facebook as Ardent Vinlander, he posted on the page of the separatist Cape Party, declaring Black Battlefront’s support for Cape secession.
This first commenter immediately seems to have picked up on the fact that Vinlander was not who she seemed to be. The second commentator chimed in with a racist tone, demanding “freedom from communist Azania.”
Matched with his attempts to use the Vinlander profile to encourage documentarians to promote national anarchism in their documentary about anarchism, the open courting of the Cape Party marks a pivotal moment of attempted entryism. In the former case, Schmidt attempted to sway anarchists toward national anarchism by using a false name; in the latter case, he attempted to generate mutual support between his own national anarchist group and a secessionist political party. In the aforementioned Facebook post, he also admits that Black Battlefront was an actual group with membership and meetings, not a top-secret research tool — a point buttressed by the fact that his own Facebook friends showed up on Black Battlefront’s roster of members.
On its blog, Black Battlefront provided a kind of bridge between overt racism and more subtle insinuations and innuendos in public statements and articles. “[It’s] a disconcerting example of left-right crossover with race — in the guise of ‘culture’ — as the central axis,” historian Peter Staudenmaier explained, when presented with material Schmidt produced under his various pseudonyms. “And it is noteworthy that Schmidt considers this approach anti-racist.” Whether or not we can believe Schmidt’s claims of anti-racism aren’t merely preemptive posturing for public consumption is another question.
Where the initial public statement from AK Press characterized Schmidt as a white nationalist infiltrator in anarchist movements, it may have figured as an overly-concise shorthand in a moment where time felt of the essence, or that it was the effect of a more limited, circumscribed reading of the evidence to which they had access. Or, in a perhaps more literary reading they opted for an accurate, Merriam-Webster application of the term “infiltrator” where a more precise, lexiconic understanding remains elusive. The actuality, in the opinion of these researchers, is quite messy, and in truth, that messiness is far more deeply instructive than any clear, either/or account of Schmidt’s history.
For Schmidt to have functioned as an infiltrator in the simplistic sense would imply some discernible arrival at a given, static political identity, the politics of which he would then have carried into anarchist milieus. It is difficult to read the extensive documentation of his various identities, and locate such definitive arrival. The erratic jockeying and sometimes-violent swings Schmidt displayed in the material we reviewed, as well as the interviews we conducted with him, indicate general mental health crises. However, one can locate a breaking point after the launch of Black Flame, the death of Terre’Blanche, his vote for the FF+, and abandonment of the ZACF to focus on Black Battlefront. While he had advocated for racist platforms before then, from the Terre’Blanche article on, he would become much more public and much less self-aware with his ultranationalist rhetoric. Meanwhile, his sock-puppet accounts would become more brash, as his slide to pan-secessionism grew more obvious.
According to Mathieu Desan, a political sociologist at the University of Michigan studying French socialists who moved to fascism in the 1930’s, Schmidt’s trajectory isn’t terribly unique. “It’s not so much a conversion. That’s a specific, and highly loaded term, and I don’t use it,” he explained to us. “The moment when these people flipped from left to right, wasn’t ever a single moment. It was more like a series of steps.”
For Desan, Schmidt’s story recalls that of Jacques Doriot, a major figure within the French Communist Party in the early 1930’s. “The French Communist Party of this time was much like contemporary anarchist circles, in that it was somewhat self-enclosed milieu, had its own culture, its own language, its own standards of status,” Desan explained. Doriot was a metalworker by trade, owing his entire political identity and career to the very party that wound up disowning him for advocating an unorthodox strategy not unlike the Popular Front, which would be adopted the very next year by the Comintern.
His ensuing move away from the left was a direct result of this exclusion. As if channeling Schmidt’s interview with us, in which he staked out good and bad anarchists, Desan explained that “being in a milieu where political arguments take an absolute form, where you’re either right or completely delegitimized, that kind of milieu lends itself to pretty radical reversals of political allegiances.” For Doriot, this meant going on to create the most important fascist party in France, but not immediately. “He tried to create a sort of alternative left wing, but he was consistently labeled a fascist, if only because he was a kind of populist figure. And very quickly, he ended up embracing that label.”
Schmidt had sought to establish an “authentic” anarchism sufficiently intelligible as to compete with the articulation(s) already taking root and developing among anarchists in grassroots movements. In particular, Schmidt saw his version of anarchism as a classical challenge to an “individualist” and “insurrectionary” movement stemming from social justice organizing inclusive of class on the same level as feminism, ecology, sexual diversity, and other goals. His point, whatever one thinks of its implications, was not without merit.
Anarchism as a movement was becoming, from the 1990s forward, inextricably bound up with a self-reflection around issues of oppression that intersected with the economic grievances at the core of the alter-globalization movement. Largely due to the fierce insistence of people disproportionately impacted, organizing ventures gave greater and greater space and agency to struggles led by people of color. The prison industrial complex. Police brutality. Immigration. While constructions and legacies of race, gender, and sexuality vary across geographies, that anarchism’s development at the turn of the last century was profoundly shaped by them is undeniable.
On the other hand, the politics on which Schmidt staked his very identity (or at least a profile of it), and to the articulation of which he owed his stature and visibility within the international anarchist milieu, did not enjoy sufficient traction, to his mind. In our interview, Schmidt attacked Occupy Wall Street as the latest manifestation of this alternative trend of anarchism. To Schmidt, Occupy manifested “the exact same middle-class complaint against a narrow speculative sector of capitalism that was so widely voiced in Germany in the 1920s and which gave so much fuel to the Nazi fire. Ironies upon ironies.” Ironies indeed.
Far from proposing some generative reconciliation of class struggle with racial, sexual, or colonial oppression — something some class-oriented anarchists have been taking up for years, as is now well underway within low-wage worker organizing in the US, now joining with the Black Lives Matter movement — Schmidt sought to forward white nationalism using an approximation of anarchist syndicalism as leverage to reopen the colonial legacy of the Afrikaner volkstaat.
“All of these people who move from left to right — they’re people who lose,” Desan explained to us. “[T]hey lose out in a fight within their circles about the definition of what the correct line or strategy or what have you should be. But there’s also something about those circles, where to lose out is consequential. It’s a delegitimizing, marginalizing experience.”
Schmidt was brought down by his own devices; forced into the closet by his own repressive, doctrinaire behavior; left dropping hints and clues in a desperate attempt to get free. We may never fully know what really brought him from the military to anarchism, or for how long he held his white supremacist views. We also may never fully understand the extent to which Schmidt and national anarchism leader Troy Southgate exchanged notes on people, ideas, and organizations. Perhaps it’s too easy to say that Michael Schmidt was or was not an infiltrator. Either way, we would have to separate him from his context, taking part in another game of denial, ignoring that he may be just a very sad, messy product of a self-involved pattern in which many people still play a role. In all the bizarre, duplicitous games he manufactured, the only narrative that holds everything together is of a person in the midst of a very strange, very experimental process of reinvention and revision requiring a web of lies and deceit unprecedented in recent memory.
It offers less in the way of clean, convenient conclusions from which we can stake some safe distance; more a rather pregnant point of pause for collective self-reflection.
Appendix: AK Press Facebook Post dated September 26, 2015
We have some ugly and upsetting news...
About six months ago, we started hearing some disturbing rumors that one of our authors, Michael Schmidt, was an undercover fascist. Soon after, another one of our authors, Alexander Reid Ross, provided us with actual evidence. We helped him investigate further for several weeks and then put him in touch with another writer. Over the past months, we have received and compiled what we consider to be incontrovertible evidence that Michael Schmidt is a white nationalist trying to infiltrate the anarchist movement.
Alexander will soon be publishing an article that presents all the details in a more comprehensive manner, but we are not comfortable sitting on this information any longer. We have always drawn strength from the history of anarchism as an internationalist movement concerned with the destruction of capitalism, the state, and hierarchal social relations. Those social relations clearly include racism and white supremacy. We are committed enemies of fascists and their sympathizers. The anarchist movement won’t tolerate their sick credo and, when they are found hiding in our midst, they must be dragged from the shadows.
We have cancelled Schmidt’s upcoming book and have put the two books of his that we’ve already published out of print. Please stay tuned for the whole story.
The AK Press Collective
Appendix: Michael Schmidt Responds to Allegations of White Nationalism
In the last few days, those in anarchist, platformist, syndicalist, and related circles have been reeling from the accusations from AK Press that their Black Flame author, Michael Schmidt, is a closet white nationalist. The accusations were made while they were getting ready to publish the sequel to Black Flame, Global Fire, which he would begin book tours on shortly. As of yet the main evidence has not been made available as the author, Alexander Reid Ross, is still working on the story. Since then many organizations have put out responses, with many asking for evidence before taking the accusations as fact.
In response, Michael Schmidt responded to the accusations directly with a lengthy statement outlining a defense to these accusations. He states plainly and without ambiguity that the claims are untrue and a misreading of the ‘evidence.´
Two swallows don’t make a summer – Michael Schmidt’s reply to AK Press allegations, 27 September 2015
Right up front I want to state that the hurtful allegations made against me by the AK Press Collective – that I have been masquerading as an anarchist while I am in fact a fascist – do not only have an impact on me, but directly damages more than two decades of hard work on behalf of the anarchist movement by my closest comrades. This is especially true of Prof Lucien van der Walt, my co-author of Black Flame, who has committed the past 15 years to researching and writing its as-yet unpublished sister volume, Global Fire, a huge synthesis of world anarchist organisational and ideological history. I must stress in the strongest possible terms that Lucien and others such as my comrades at the Institute for Anarchist Theory and History (IATH) in São Paulo, Brazil, https://ithanarquista.wordpress.com/ are entirely faultless in this affair and so cannot possibly be tarred with the same brush: the allegations relate solely to myself and to no-one else.
Secondly, thanks for all the messages of support from my friends and comrades around the world, including those that have taken a “let’s hear the evidence first” approach, because that’s the polite way to do things. I initially thought AK Press had gone public without contacting me first, but on trawling through my alternate email I found a message from Zach Blue – so thanks to the AK Press Collective for attempting to alert me to the pending allegations.
Researching the white ultra-right
AK Press has yet to produce its evidence against me, but I know what it consists of. The allegations arise from a lengthy interview conducted with me by the writer Alexander “Sasha” Reid-Ross over June to August 2015. Sasha told me he was researching a book on that weird and worrying new entryist tendency called “national-anarchism” for publication by AK Press under the title Against the Fascist Creep (I have a record of the entire interview if needed). I expected that he had approached me because for some reason, Wikipedia cites me as a source on “national-anarchism” because of a paragraph extracted from a very long review of two brilliant books on South Asian anarchism by Maia Ramnath in which I say that Gandhi’s thought, far from being anarchist, appears more as a precursor to “that strange hybrid of recent years,” as I called it, “national anarchism”; the full review is online here: http://www.anarkismo.net/article/23404 .
It is definitely an unusual take on Gandhi, but it is obvious that I in no way support “national-anarchism” nor find it has anything in common with genuine anarchism. Bear in mind that the article was peer-reviewed by both Lucien van der Walt and the anarkismo editorial collective before being published. In any case, I was eager to assist and Sasha is very knowledgeable and a thorough researcher. I’m now not sure if he really is planning such a book, or whether he was simply tasked by AK Press with investigating allegations that I was involved with the “National Anarchist Movement,” but that is irrelevant to the issue at hand.
The allegations have their origin with the fact that since 2005 until I shut it down recently, I maintained a profile on the white supremacist website Stormfront. Let me explain: I am an investigative journalist by profession and in 2005 was working at the Saturday Star in Johannesburg. My beat included extra-Parliamentary politics – social movements, trade unions, and political organisations from the ultra-left to the ultra-right. My editor Brendan Seery allowed me to set up a Stormfront account under which I could pose as a sympathetic fellow-traveller in order to keep an eye on what the white right-wing in South Africa was talking about: in other words, this was professionally vetted by my editor.
For the next decade I kept my finger on the pulse of the right by reading and occasionally posting on Stormfront. Most of my posts were pretty neutral in tone, though I did have to take an essentially racist stance in order to fit in and not arouse suspicion: this was distasteful, but is part and parcel of doing undercover work. I have since shut the account down, but some of the results of my work on the white right are included in the first chapter of my new book, A Taste of Bitter Almonds, which is due out in November (see Background below); these make it clear that while I attempt to understand the white right, I am no friend of theirs.
In 2009, with Black Flame published, I started researching contemporary claims to the anarchist label, including “anarcho-primitivism,” “post-anarchism” and “national-anarchism” for a section in the up-coming volume with Lucien van der Walt, Global Fire: the intent was to critique and discredit their claims to anarchist legitimacy, but I needed to get to know their materials properly first. I used my Stormfront profile to make contact with Troy Southgate, the founder of “national-anarchism”. In order to establish my bona fides with him and his circle, I established two false Facebook profiles, one of a woman, another of a man, and a blog purporting to be that of a Southern African “national-anarchist” outfit called Black Battlefront set up by the couple.
I fleshed things out by inventing back-stories on the couple, the guy as a white Namibian, and the woman as a risk analyst of Ukrainian-American descent; I also had them write two detailed pieces, one a “Creed” of Black Battlefront in order for the false organisation to sound plausible in a “national-anarchist” context, and another a critique of Jared Diamond’s great book Guns, Germs and Steel, to establish the woman as a serious thinker who would be of interest to Southgate. This positioning allowed me to talk on a personal level with Southgate and his cronies and so round out my research.
To be frank, though I readily admitted my Stormfront profile to Sasha, I lied to him about those profiles when he asked me because although I finished my research on “national-anarchism” more than a year ago, I still wanted to maintain the links to Southgate and his “National-Anarchist Movement” just in case – and the first rule of undercover work is you only tell who you absolutely need to, so I did not even tell my former comrades in the ZACF. Sorry for lying, Sasha, Lucien and the rest, but intense confidentiality is my practice as an investigative journalist; for example, in the 2000s, I never even discussed with my then-wife what I was working on until it was published (do I need to state that she’s an Indian woman and that she very kindly did the hard work of proof-reading Black Flame?). But now that my cover is blown, it makes no difference.
My life took a dramatic turn for the worse in July 2010 when I was hospitalised with meningitis – and as a parting gift, the meningitis provoked a massive seizure that broke my spine in five places. In the aftermath of that, I spent a month in hospital, mostly in a delirium caused by the virus and the medication. In the subsequent months, due to heavy pain medication and perhaps some brain damage caused by the meningitis/seizure, my memory is patchy about what I posted online under my Stormfront and Facebook aliases – Sasha questioned me in detail about this period, but, for example, I remember absolutely nothing about the entire first month out of hospital when I was apparently cared for by some friends (thanks, guys, but my mind is still a blank!). Although I initially thought my account had been hacked, because I couldn’t remember making some of the posts, I now accept that I must have posted what is there.
In any case, as a result of one of those posts in that period, in 2011 some anarchist comrades came across a Black Battlefront link to my Stormfront profile and in shock recognised my face. My ZACF comrades hauled me onto the red carpet and grilled me about this – and rightly so! I admitted to them that the Stormfront profile was mine, but explained that it had been vetted by my editor and that I still used it for research; I did not admit to the Facebook profiles because a few months before, a good friend had confessed to me that for years she had worked as an agent for the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), actually being paid to be the girlfriend of one of our comrades, to keep an eye on us; I could not risk my penetration of the “National-Anarchist Movement” becoming known in activist circles in case other NIA agents got wind of it and used the information for their own ends. Nevertheless, the ZACF accepted my explanation. What AK Press has now discovered, I believe, based on Sasha’s questions, is exactly what the ZACF discovered back in 2011; I infiltrated the far-right; it did not infiltrate me!
Background: my position on race & nationalism
I won’t detail my anarchist activism, save to say that in 1992 I joined what became the Durban Anarchist Federation (DAF) in 1993 – while apartheid was still in force and I was ducking the Military Police who were trying to force me into part-time military service – and was in Chiapas in 1996 as a DAF delegate, then switched to the anarcho-syndicalist Workers’ Solidarity Federation (WSF) in 1997, following its key comrades into the Bikisha Media Collective in 1999 when the WSF disbanded, and again into the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (ZACF) when it was founded in 2003, taking with me the Anarchist Black Cross (South Africa) which I founded in 2002. It goes without saying that all these organisations were multi-racial and anti-fascist.
After two decades of activism in black working class and poor townships, I resigned from the ZACF in 2009 to focus on my research and writing. Apart from numerous Workers’ Solidarity and Zabalaza journal and online www.anarkismo.net articles, which serve to affirm my anti-racist credentials, my published books are:
Anarquismo Búlgaro em Armas (Brazil, 2008). This, on the Bulgarian Anarchist Communist Federation over 1919–1948, is the first in a series looking at anarchist mass movements that defended themselves by force of arms. The next in the series will be on Uruguay in 1956–1985, and on Manchuria in 1929–1945 – which shows that not all such movements were “white”.
Black Flame: the Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism (AK Press, USA, 2009), with Lucien van der Walt. A controversial attempt to discover the coherent heart of anarchist theory by looking at the historical record, it has been translated into German (Nautilus, Germany, 2012), and translations are pending in Spanish, French and Greek. This book remains my core statement of political belief and I have not wavered from it (note the positions in Chapter 10 in particular on the intersections of race, nationalism and class, which are profoundly anarchist). Its unpublished sister volume Global Fire stresses the practical internationalism of the anarchist movement and its practical engagement with race and national liberation particularly in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Oceania and Asia.
Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism (AK Press, USA, 2013), which is the English translation of the French original (Lux Éditeur, Canada, 2012). This is in some ways a pocket version of Black Flame & Global Fire together: a potted history of the international anarchist movement in five waves from 1868, it stresses the multi-ethnic, transnational nature of the movement across the decades and is unique for its non-Western scope.
Drinking with Ghosts: the Aftermath of Apartheid’s Dirty War (BestRed, South Africa, 2014). This looks at the continuing damage done by the legacy of apartheid transnationally in Southern Africa – it avoids most local books’ narrow nationalist perspective and is explicitly anarchist in perspective.
A Taste of Bitter Almonds: Perdition and Promise in the New South Africa (BestRed, South Africa, due November 2015). This takes the controversial position that the corporate entity that is “South Africa” was established on the bones of the genocide of First Nations people here, stresses the multi-ethnic and mixed-race nature of all South Africans including myself, and consists of interviews across the country with the poor and excluded, mostly black, majority from an anarchist perspective.
Two swallows don’t make a summer, and the fact that I maintained a Stormfront profile and some fake Facebook accounts does not make me a fascist: they need to be seen in their proper context of my exhaustive research into the international anarchist movement over the past 15 years – work that is pretty much unique in terms of the breadth and depth of its non-Western (ie: non-white) materials. In 26 years of paid journalism and 23 years of unpaid anarchist activism, I don’t believe I’ve ever written an article that had even a whiff of white supremacy, fascism or racism to it – yet I do realise I am saying this as a white South African who continues to benefit directly from centuries of institutional racism. I won’t make any claim about how many back friends I have, but the fact is that my most beloved friends and comrades hail from diverse cultures across the planet. I truly hope that this response is taken by those friends and my comrades at AK Press in a constructive spirit and that, even if we only finally manage agree to disagree over my methods of research, at least then part with no ill feelings.
Red & Black regards
The rumors and evidence pieces are numerous at this point, but without a coherent claim we will just say that the accusations have been made by trusted sources, but we have yet to see exactly what is being accused.
About the authors
Alexander Reid Ross is a moderator of the Earth First! Newswire, the editor of Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab and author of the forthcoming book Against the Fascist Creep (AK Press)
Joshua Stephens is a former collective member with the Institute for Anarchist Studies, and a writer whose work has appeared with The Atlantic, Gawker, AlterNet, Truthout, NOW Lebanon, and The Outpost.