Thursday, 26 November 2015


Michael Schmidt: An African Anarchist Biography

Michael Schmidt (born in Johannesburg, South Africa, 1966) is an anarchist journalist, grassroots organiser, ideologue, historian, media trainer, researcher, consultant, and international free press and human rights activist. He was raised by a middle-class family of working class origin that was classified “white” – and as a result was uplifted by apartheid to the middle class. 

For foreign readers, it is important to state that South Africa has a very complex social structure, distorted and fragmented by a multiracial yet racialised colonial, dominion, and apartheid past but that unlike white-majority settler-colonial societies such as the USA, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand where the middle and upper classes are dominated by whites, it is more similar to Brazil in being a black-majority country where most of the white minority (alongside the black majority) are actually working class. Africans hail from a huge diversity of cultural backgrounds and can be of Chinese, Arab, Indian, European or other descent – as a staunch anti-nationalist, Schmidt has always referred to himself simply as an African rather than as a South African – and of course the continent is home to black people, differentiated broadly between, in scientific terms, Bantu, Nilotics, Pygmies and Bushmen (the latter is their own self-description: the supposedly scientific term “San” means vagrant). But science makes it clear that there is only one human race and that the “races” of popular discourse are social constructs, that is, are shaped by certain acquired cultural traits and shared realities: it is in this sense in his works that Schmidt has consistently used the terms referring to South Africa’s main cultural groups, blacks, whites, Indians, Asians, mixed-race “coloureds” (a contested term, but not seen as pejorative by most of these people), and the indigenous Bushmen and Koekhoen. It is in this sense of a social construct – and not as some sort of biological reality – that such terms must be read in the text below.

Schmidt was educated at the private St Stithians College in Johannesburg and was drafted into the apartheid South African Defence Force in 1985 at the outset of the 2nd Insurrection (1985-1991). It was this experience that radicalised him, demonstrating to him the emperor unclothed – the naked, unadorned force upon which the state was founded, especially in repressing black aspirations – and introducing him to layers of society he had not encountered before: poor white conscripts from rural South Africa; and the coloured bandiete (prisoners) who worked as labourers at 97 Ammunition Depot in De Aar in the desolate Karoo in the centre of the country. Resistant to the Army’s propaganda, disappointed by PW Botha’s reactionary Rubicon speech – which had been expected to announce the dismantling of key aspects of apartheid – and suspected by the depot’s security officer as a communist, Schmidt accidentally discovered the existence of South Africa’s nuclear weapons in July 1985 – secretly registered in the Depot’s inventory as “Category 16” weapons.

After being demobilised and while training as a journalist at Technikon Natal in Durban, Schmidt became a conscientious objector and in 1992 faced a military tribunal of SADF officers chaired by a Supreme Court judge in Pretoria for refusing to serve any further in the apartheid army. That experience drove his ideology leftwards and he embraced anarchism, then re-emerging as an organised current in South Africa, initially flavoured by insurrectionism. In the watershed first all-race elections in 1994, he voted tactically for the black revolutionary socialist Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC), one of only a handful whites to do so (in future years he would mostly abstain from the vote but twice voted tactically for small Marxist/Trotskyist parties as a challenge to the stultifying hegemony among the working class of the African National Congress, ANC, and South African Communist Party, SACP).

Schmidt is today a Council Member of the Instituto de Teorea e História Anarquista / Institute for Anarchist Theory and History (Brazil): He has authored the following books: Anarquismo Búlgaro em Armas: A Linha de Massas Anarco-Comunista (Brazil, 2009); Black Flame: the Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism (USA, 2009), with Lucien van der Walt, which was translated into German (2013) with translations into Spanish, French, Greek and Portuguese under way; Cartographie de l'anarchisme révolutionnaire (Canada, 2012), which was translated into English as Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism (USA, 2013), with translations into Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Farsi under negotitation; Drinking with Ghosts: the Aftermath of Apartheid's Dirty War (South Africa, 2014); and of A Taste of Bitter Almonds: Perdition & Promise in South Africa (South Africa, 2015).

Schmidt remains a frequent contributor to the international anarchist news and analysis website which he helped found in 2005, and of the Southern African anarchist news and analysis website run by the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF). Most of his other written works over a 26-year journalist and 23-year anarchist career can be found either in the archives of the newspapers for which he wrote – The Natal Mercury, TheSaturdayPaper, Sunday Times, ThisDay, and Saturday Star – in the Southern African Anarchist Collection, which is about to be launched at the South African History Archive (SAHA), on the ZACF’s own Southern African Anarchist & Syndicalist History Archive (SAASHA), or on this blog and his two other blogs, Black Flame and Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism

LEGAL NOTICE: This biography was originally drafted as a contribution to SAHA’s Southern African Anarchist Collection, which Schmidt and van der Walt compiled but is published now as a response to libelous allegations made on social media by his now-former publishers AK Press (USA) via their agents Alexander Reid-Ross and Joshua Stephens over September-October 2015 under the title of About Schmidt: How a White Nationalist Seduced Anarchists Around the Worldthat Schmidt is a “white nationalist,” “fascist” and “racist”. These charges are based on slender circumstantial “evidence,” on misrepresenting his undercover research as a journalist, cherry-picking quotes and misquotation, on claims made by largely faceless informants, the presentation of hearsay as fact, on dubious journalistic practices, personal attacks and guilt-by-association techniques, and on ignoring all of the evidence, including the vast bulk of Schmidt’s writings and activities, that did not fit these claims. In this regard, all his legal rights including his right to sue his accusers, their agents and their sources for defamation and loss of earnings, and his contractual rights to his works published by AK Press are reserved – though AK Press should be aware that its location in the global imperialist centre makes it prohibitively expensive for a self-employed African to sue for libel in the American courts.

Because none of these allegations were published in a peer-reviewed journal, or through professional periodicals, they have been freed of basic oversight, fact-checking, and standard journalistic ethics and good practice. It is our opinion that the accusations were published in a drawn-out fashion in five installments over a month in order to try and bait our client into engaging in a sporadic debate which would undermine both the coherence of his riposte and of his right-of-reply (e.g. or

As a result, this biography constitutes a full refutation of the defamation against Michael Schmidt by AK Press, its agents Reid-Ross and Stephens, and their faceless sources, he reserves all rights to his reputation and works, and no further correspondence will be entered into without the mediation of legal counsel.

1. Early Activism, Research and Writing: 1992-2003

As a result of my radicalisation as a conscript, in 1992, I joined the Anarchist Awareness League (AAL), based in the South African port city of Durban while working as a journalist for a family-owned daily newspaper, The Natal Mercury. The following year, the AAL initiated the Durban Anarchist Federation (DAF), a synthesist organisation with white, coloured and Indian members that focused on environmental, gender, anti-militarist and anti-authoritarian propaganda, and included among its collectives the AAL, forerunner of today’s Zabalaza Books.  Also in 1993, I began a decade of work as a trade unionist, serving as shop steward for the South African Union of Journalists (SAUJ) over 1993-2003, which gave me a solid grounding for my emerging anarcho-syndicalism. In 1995, I started dating Mamta, an African of Indian descent, who I got engaged to in 1997.

In early 1996, at the age of 30, I took the plunge into serious internationalist revolutionary politics when I was delegated by the DAF to go on a month-long fact-finding mission in Zapatista-held Chiapas at the time of the San Andrés Peace Accords between the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) and the Mexican government. I also visited Guatemala in the dying phases of its murderous civil war, during which the Guatemalan army was massacring entire villages of indigenous Mayan peasants (I write about the experience in the concluding chapter of Drinking with Ghosts), which inflamed in me a passion for understanding massacre and memory. The trip also sparked a life-long love affair with Mexico – to which I would return – and the liberation cause of its indigenous peoples, with a special focus on the struggles of First Nations peoples in post-colonial societies such as my own. Over this period, 1996 and 1997, my investigative footwork on the docks in Durban for Sunday Times, then the largest-circulation African newspaper, helped send to jail two neo-Nazis who had injured several black dock-workers in drive-by shootings (this story is told in A Taste of Bitter Almonds). I would carry this anti-fascism with me for life.

Top, my friend and colleague Philani Mgwaba (at left), in Ixopo, rural Zululand, early 1990s; he was one of my earliest guides to crossing South Africa’s terrible racial divide. Bottom, one of my photographs from San Juan Chamula in Chiapas during the 1996 peace accords between the Zapatistas and the Mexican government.

I left the DAF in 1997 and joined the more tightly organised anarcho-syndicalist Workers’ Solidarity Federation (WSF) where I started my long activist relationship with anarchists such as Steve Dhlomo, Siyabonga Mgenge and Lucien van der Walt. The WSF, formed in early 1995, had done sterling work producing an exhaustive series of new African anarchist analyses of the South African transition, on race and class, women’s struggles, trade unions and syndicalism, etc. The WSF identified itself with the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists written by Nestor Makhno, Peter Archinov, Ida Mett and others, saw the black African working class as the engine of change, and sought to build an anarcho-syndicalist current in the trade unions. “Platformism” argues for the need to build unified anarchist organisations with common positions, to influence the working class masses. I joined the Durban branch of the Federation, began writing for its journal, Workers’ Solidarity, and increasingly used my experiences and travels as a journalist in Africa to inform my anarchist writings and analyses, such as my coverage of the 1997 general strike in Swaziland, which remains one of Africa’s last two absolute monarchies, in the process establishing a relationship with the pro-democracy movement that would endure for a decade and result in the pamphlet A Bitter Taste to the Sugarcane: A Decade of Anarchist Writings on Swaziland (Zabalaza Books, 2009).

In 1998, I was sent on a 26-hour bus trip as a WSF delegate to Lusaka, Zambia, to give a talk to the Socialist Caucus on the similarities between the neo-liberal turns taken by both Zambia’s and South Africa’s union-linked leftist governments, at the invitation of Zambian anarchist Wilstar Choongo, who was in contact with the WSF. The result of the trip was the establishment by Choongo of the Anarchist Workers’ and Student’s Movement (AWSM) in Zambia. The intention was initially for the AWSM to federate with the WSF, but the initiative was stillborn as Choongo died the following year of meningitis – and I had the sad task of writing his obituary. Yet I have remained life-long friends with the Socialist Caucus’ Malele Dodia who I visit whenever I work in Lusaka. The WSF in South Africa meanwhile grew to about 40 members, mainly black trade unionists, with a smattering of university students, black and white. WSF distributed thousands of leaflets and pamphlets, produced around nine issues of Workers Solidarity, translated materials into Zulu, and participated in many struggles. In this period, I contributed numerous articles on African anarchism to the US-based Anarchist People of Color (APOC) website, which were graciously accepted for publication by their editorial collective including Ernesto Aguilar and Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin.

Top, with Wilstar Choongo (standing far left), Malele Dodia (crouching second from right) and members of the Anarchist Workers’ and Student’s Movement (AWSM) and Socialist Caucus in Zambia, 1998. Bottom, with my fiancée Mamta, Ballito, 1998.

In 1998, I used a work trip to France to meet as a WSF delegate with both the International Workers’ Association and breakaway factions of the anarcho-syndicalist Confédération Nationale du Travail (CNT-IWA, and CNT-France): at this stage, both factions were friendly towards us as one of the few anarchist organisations on the African continent, and certainly the most active in South Africa. It was a 1998 bilateral agreement between the WSF and the Workers’ Solidarity Movement (WSM) of Ireland that, alongside multilateral discussions on the international “Organize” anarchist email list, laid the groundwork for the establishment of the international multilingual anarchist news and analysis website Anarkismo,, established in 2005. At this stage, the WSF was deeply influenced by the Irish WSM and by northern sister organisations such as the Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici (FdCA) of Italy, and also increasingly by other Southern organisations, notably in Brazil, a country like ours that had recently emerged from an autocratic regime, and which had a poor black majority and an anarchist movement interpenetrated within radical social movements. South Africa shared with both Brazil and Ireland a history of colonialism, repression and social divisions.

Also in 1998, I covered the South African-Batswana invasion of Lesotho to supposedly suppress a coup, whereas in fact it was a pro-democratic mutiny, but the new South African National Defence Force (SANDF), like its SADF predecessor, acted to impose South African power across the southern African region. This was the start of my war and defence correspondence.

In late 1998, I was transferred to Sunday Times’ main bureau in Johannesburg; I was devastated that Mamta was unable to follow me but we maintained a close and passionate relationship over the next years.

The WSF dissolved in August 1999 for a number of reasons (read the dissolution statement here: Several new initiatives followed, arising from the WSF. These included the Bikisha Media Collective (BMC) as an anarchist nucleus and three BMC members including myself were elected to the committee of the Workers’ Library & Museum (WLM) in Johannesburg as part of a radical coalition. We rescued the WLM from R97,000 debt run up by the previous committees, and revived it as an autonomous, non-partisan working-class space, also establishing a radical bookshop and t-shirt printing facility. Numerous public events drew in the black working class. This was at a time when the room for alternative dialogue was being shut down by the rightward turn of the ruling party, and the growing control that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) sought to exert over the allied Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

Towards the end of 1999, for Sunday Times’ “Living Here” project on lived South African experiences at the turn of the millennium, I chose the Bushmen’s experiences of attempting to revive their shattered culture; as a result, I spent two weeks interviewing Bushmen scientists, activists and communities, including some of the remaining /Nu speakers, those who of which are still alive I make a point to visit every time I am in Upington in the Northern Cape.

In 2000, a year in which I repeatedly worked in Mozambique (initially in the devastating January floods during which myself and photojournalist Themba Khumalo of City Press helped rescue scores of black peasants by helicopter from the floodwaters), the BMC affiliated to the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF), an umbrella group mainly of township-based community movements. The APF started as a merger, that year, of two movements: the Anti-Igoli 2002 Forum, fighting against ANC-led privatisation in greater Johannesburg (which includes townships like Alexandra and Soweto), and the Wits Crisis Committee, fighting against the onset of outsourcing and privatisation at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). BMC members were heavily involved in the latter and founder members, therefore, of APF. The APF was generally anti-capitalist, with anarchists, dissident Marxists and Trotskyists, and autonomists, and its mass base consisted mostly of women-led poor black African township community organisations.

In April-May 2000, three BMC delegates including van der Walt and myself attended the international Autre Futur (Another Future) anarchist congress organised in Paris by the anarcho-syndicalist CNT-France union. It proved a vital conference for solidifying north-south relations and was attended by delegates from Africa, Latin America, Europe, North America and the Middle East. A multilateral discussion held between the anarcho-syndicalist trade unions and the anarchist political organisations laid the ground-work for the establishment in Madrid the following year of the International Libertarian Solidarity (ILS-SIL) network of 20 participating organisations including from Africa, Asia and Latin America. The BMC became a member. Although the ILS-SIL did not survive for very many years, it did important solidarity work in establishing anarchist printing presses in Latin America, for example, a continent in which alongside Africa, I had developed an intense interest. While in Paris, I visited the Père Lachaise Cemetery: its Holocaust and Paris Commune memorials, and the crematory vault of Nestor Makhno, the Ukrainian anarchist revolutionary who died in France. Van der Walt and I placed Zulu-language ZACF materials at Makhno’s plaque.

The BMC had black members, ran numerous Red & Black Forums – public discussions of anarchism – in Johannesburg’s townships, and actively participated in the anti-war demonstrations that followed 9/11. It continued to publish materials. A multiracial team of BMC delegates attended the anarchist and syndicalist summit at the anti-EU and anti-Bush protests in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2001, with a multiracial delegation to the World Conference against Racism (WCAR) in Durban, South Africa, that same year. At Durban, BMC comrades worked with the Zabalaza Action Group, also known at the Anarchist Union, and Zabalaza Books, and were part of the APF marches and camps, as well as publishing and efforts to organise a 60-member “workers council” amongst black security guards. Earlier that year, BMC and Zabalaza Books started a new journal, Zabalaza, to help fill the gap left by Workers Solidarity.

In this period, I sent box-loads of French anarchist journals via a radical trade union contact in Kinshasa into the Democratic Republic of Congo, and maintained correspondence with South Sudanese militiamen interested in anarchism, and with anarchist organisations and individuals in Latin America, Europe, and North America, as well as in Africa such as Brahim Fillali of Morocco, and Sam Mbah, co-author of the influential book African Anarchism (for which Zabalaza Books secured the rights for a Southern African edition) and founder of the 1,000-member-strong anarchist Awareness League (AL) in Nigeria (he died in 2014 or we would still be in contact today). Mbah had previously intended to undertake a speaking tour of South Africa, organised by the WSF in 1999, but this was not possible in the end.

In October 2000, I was transferred Port Elizabeth as the Sunday Times’ Eastern Cape bureau chief; this occurred in the same month that Mamta finally relocated to Johannesburg as we had been talking about getting back together; it was a terrible blow and in the two years I spent in Port Elizabeth she started dating another man who she subsequently married; I still regard her with immense love and respect.

The WSF had previously sought to stress the history of anarchism and syndicalism outside of Northwestern Europe and North America. This included a 1997 introduction to anarchism, largely authored by Lucien van der Walt.  In 1998, the WSF national secretariat issued Breaking the Chains: A History of Libertarian Socialism, with an amended version May 1999. In Port Elizabeth, I began writing a global history of the anarchist movement because I was irritated by the North Atlanticist (that is, Western European and North American) bias of most anarchist histories including Peter Marshall’s Demanding the Impossible which reduced the dominance over decades of the anarchist movement in Latin America to a chapter at most and which totally ignored the African, Middle Eastern and many Asian movements. With the collaboration of van der Walt as co-author, over the following 15 years, this unpaid labour of love evolved into the two-volume Counter-power study, of which Black Flame is the first volume. In 2001, a draft called Black Flame: Revolutionary Anarchism 1864-2001 was completed: 144 pages, single spaced, replacing an earlier revision, called Breaking the Chains: A Workers’ History of Revolutionary Anarchism, 1864-2000. The title Black Flame referenced the historic black (and black-and-red) anarchist flags, as well as signaled the role in anarchist and syndicalist history of people of colour.

In 2001, I began writing for the new BMC/Zabalaza Books journal Zabalaza: A Journal of Southern African Revolutionary Anarchism, and, while I was in Port Elizabeth, made efforts to link up with the local Left and union movements, the city being a hub of the automotive industry.

Top, BMC at the World Conference Against Racism, Durban, South Africa, 2002. Bottom, Awareness League (AL) founder, theorist and historian Sam Mbah.

In 2002, I was back in Johannesburg working as one of two seniors in the Sunday Times’ main bureau. Faced with intensive police repression of the new social movements of the multiracial working class and poor during the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, I founded the South African section of the international Anarchist Black Cross (ABC-SA) prisoner-support organisation – making it the 64th ABC in the world – which in turn established the non-partisan Anti-Repression Network (ARN) which was soon adopted by the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI), and started writing for the ABC-SA bulletin Black Alert! See for example: .

The ABC-SA provided physical security for Indymedia during the WSSD and provided activists with a constant newswire on police repression; it soon established contact with a network of about 200 self-described political prisoners, mostly black former Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO) members who had not been amnestied under the transition to democracy. Over time, the ABC-SA and I would work with many people arrested or jailed for involvement in the new protests – sometimes under spurious charges, sometimes for public disorder or protest actions.

This work was both done for solidarity, and also to promote class-struggle, revolutionary and anarchist perspectives. It drew in prisoners too: a key ABC-SA organiser was the prisoner Abel Ramarope, formerly pf the PAC armed forces, but recruited to anarchism. He died in in Pretoria Central Prison in September 2005 under mysterious circumstances. Meanwhile, a young black Zimbabwean journalist who the ABC-SA was about to relocate to a safe house in Umlazi (a Durban township) disappeared, presumably “disappeared” by the Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) of the Robert Mugabe ZANU-PF regime.

This work was both done for solidarity, and also to promote class-struggle, revolutionary and anarchist perspectives. It drew in prisoners too: a key ABC-SA organiser was the prisoner Abel Ramarope, formerly pf the PAC armed forces, but recruited to anarchism. He died in in Pretoria Central Prison in September 2005 under mysterious circumstances. Meanwhile, a young black Zimbabwean journalist who the ABC-SA was about to relocate to a safe house in Umlazi (a Durban township) disappeared, presumably “disappeared” by the Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) of the Robert Mugabe ZANU-regime. The ABC-SA continued to raise funds for the bail and legal defence of (mostly) black, indigenous, coloured and Indian social movement activists, and I personally conducted prison visits such as that to “Professor Jota,” Jaime Yovanovic Prieto of the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR) of Chile, who was deported from South Africa in 2002 to stand trial before a fascist military tribunal for his alleged role in the MIR assassination of Major General Carol Urzúa Ibañez, Pinochet’s military governor of Santiago in 1983.

Having met a new layer of black self-described anarchists living in Soweto, the giant township south-west of Johannesburg, I and other BMC comrades assisted them in establishing the non-partisan Phambili Motsoaledi Community Project (PMCP) food garden, social centre and community library in the squatter camp of Motsoaledi, Soweto, in 2003. Run by the black anarchist Black Action Group (BAG), and with BMC support, the PMCP provided a model that was to be replicated with less success due to ANC Youth League thuggery, in the formal township of Dlamini, Soweto, and in the KwaMasiza Worker’s Hostel in industrial Sebokeng to the south. The combination of garden/centre/library as site of activism located in the black working class community was not unique to BMC/BAG/PCMP (and later, ZACF). It was a model also used by, for example, the Orange Farm Crisis Committee in the vast Orange Farm squatter settlement south of Soweto. Like the WLM before it, the point of activities like PCMP was to focus was on the black working class and townships, rather than the mostly white middle class suburbs in the old white towns. These were not simple “survival” projects or NGO initiatives or vehicles for party patronage, but were sites of grassroots political activism, in this case driven by BAG/ZACF militants like Philip Mzamani Nyalungu and myself. For an indication of the PCMP/BAG activities in the subsequent years, including photos and its publications and statements, see here: I spent many weekends in these areas in long discussions with black comrades involved in anarchism.

In 2003, after dating a black Zimbabwean named Debbie with whom I remain close friends, I started a relationship with Shelomi, an African of Indian-Lebanese descent, who I would marry in 2005, and she accompanied me on several township jaunts, including helping dig the terraces for the PCMP’s community food garden that fed not only the PCMP’s 100-odd members, but neighbours in need also.

In 2003, I was sent to Brazil for a month as a BMC delegate to the Jornadas Anarquistas (Anarchist Days) – held in parallel to the World Social Forum – where I attended an International Libertarian Solidarity (ILS-SIL) and met with delegates from Europe and Latin America, visiting Federação Anarquista Gaúcha (FAG)-linked social movements. I was invited to address the 1st Encounter of Latin American Autonomous Popular Organisations (ELAOPA) on lessons from the rise of the new social movements in South Africa; ELAOPA consisted mainly of mestizo, black and indigenous American members (I am delighted to see that ELAOPA is still going strong, having held its 11th Encounter in early 2015).

Top, Shelomi, later my wife (note the anti-fascist T-shirt). Bottom, meeting with members of the anarchist Shesha Action Group (SAG), a ZACF collective, Dlamini, Soweto.

It was there that I made firm friends with Raúl Gatti of the Consejo Indígena Popular de Oaxaca “Ricardo Flores Magón” (CIPO-RFM) in Mexico – who would shortly be forced into exile in Canada (assisting exiles would later become a key theme of my activism via the ABC-SA, but also in advocacy via my journalism) – and with veteran Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU) militant Juan Carlos Mechoso. Mechoso in particular grilled me at length on the BMC’s and my own politics until satisfied. The FAU is closely identified with the especificismo, a Latin American-originated approach very similar to Platformism. Founded in 1956 and still active today the FAU is one of the most important post-war anarchist organisations (by 1972, it had established a 400,000-strong trade union central and its own guerrilla force against the Bordaberry Dictatorship), has been very influential in re-establishing revolutionary anarchism in Latin America, is one of the “grandmother organisations” to which I most look up, and is the subject of the next in my Anarchist Communist Mass-Line series (after Bulgaria and before Ukraine).

Top, with members of the Federação Anarquista Gaúcha (FAG) and other Latin American anarchist and grassroots organisations at Jornadas Anarquistas in Brazil, 2003. Bottom, my portrait of anarchist guerrilla radio and cultural activist Leny Oliviera of the Pixi group, Bolivia; we remain friends today.

In 2003, I worked for Sunday Times in Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho as my focus on African current affairs expanded before being recruited in October as defence correspondent for the Nigerian-owned quality newspaper ThisDay. I left the Sunday Times with regrets and on the best of terms, but ThisDay was positioned as a quality, investigative paper and I believed this was ideal for my interests. Although my trade union activity sometimes put me at loggerheads with management, neither at the Sunday Times nor elsewhere did I ever face any complaints of racism, sexism or any other sort from my colleagues. The Sunday Times was at that time edited by Mathatha Tsedu, currently the director of the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) with whom to this day I remain on great terms. ThisDay was edited by Justice Malala who remains by agreement on my CV as a key character reference.

The early 2000s saw a massive upsurge of struggle in SA, centred on what many called the “new social movements,” “new” meaning post-apartheid, black and township-based. These were based on struggles around privatisation and neo-liberal restructuring in municipalities, state industries and higher education. The rise of the APF was one part of this wave, and it was mainly active in Gauteng province, but there were similar coalitions around Cape Town and Durban (the latter now part of the eThikwini municipality). The WCAR and WSSD provided spaces they could flex their power, although efforts at a national structure were filled with conflicts. In this time, anarchism was on the upsurge. Besides the BMC in Johannesburg and Soweto, the Black Action Group (BAG) in Motsolaedi and the closely linked PCMP, the Zabalaza Action Group (ZAG) and Zabalaza Books in Umlazi and Durban, as well as ABC-SA, there was the Shesha Action Group (SAG) in Dlamini, Soweto. By this stage, the BMC had left the WLM, and was focusing on the APF.

Comrades from these groups had met at various actions and marches, and a decision was taken, following meetings, notably in Dlamini, to form a new Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (ZACF) on May Day 2003 to federate the existing groups and consolidate the rising movement. Influenced by the (Brazilian) especifist and (Irish) Platformist traditions, the aim was to build anarchist influence in, primarily, the unions and the new social movements. Zabalaza became the ZACF paper. The existing collectives continued to operate, although united in a federation. In theory, the ZACF was Platformist, although the reality was more complex, as people joined through existing collectives with varying approaches. It adopted extensive Position Papers, committing it to a focus on the black African working class, to anti-imperialism, to non-racialism, to fighting for gender equality and against racism and national oppression, to defense of immigrants etc., drawn from those of the WSF. These are archived at

I was a founder member and helped draft the ZACF Constitution which states that it “considers itself the heir of the anarchists and syndicalists of all colours who built the first black and Indian trade unions in SA from 1917, as well as inspired by the massive union and neighbourhood rebellions of South Africa in the 1980s.” The ZACF, like the BMC before it, affiliated to the APF, as did the Motsoaledi Concerned Residents (MCR) initiated by BAG and PCMP comrades in 2005, while a SAG member was actively involved in the APF’s (illegal) “guerrilla electrician” reconnections of an estimated 25,000 township households cut-off from electricity by the state. Meanwhile ZACF became part of ILS-SIL, as successor of the BMC.

The ZACF Treasurer’s and my own records over the following seven years until 2009 show I personally contributed funds of more than R24,000/year, a large part of my income (US$3,5420/year at the October 2003 rand:dollar exchange rate) to the ZACF’s township projects and its ABC-SA defence funds, while its meeting minutes will show I spent most weekends with my black comrades in their township homes and projects, balanced against time doing prisoner support work and writing.

In 2004, I travelled to Rwanda for the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the “Hundred Nights Genocide” that had killed around 800,000 people in 1994. Let me stress that I have never claimed to have visited Rwanda in 1994, a “claim” invented by AK Press agents Alexander Reid-Ross and Joshua Stephens). As indicated above, I was at that time not a senior journalist nor a war or conflict journalist, and South African developments were my beat, with 1994 a watershed year for the country. But the memorials I saw in Rwanda in 2004, the testimonies, the horrible legacy of massacre shocked me deeply, as had the events in Gautemala and the Holocaust memorials at the Paris cemetery. In Rwanda I visited the killing fields in Butare where the shattered corpses of a thousand children, women and men are preserved in lime in the twisted postures in which they died – an intensely sobering experience that reaffirmed my intention to understand the drivers of genocide, and to grapple with memory and massacre.

As a ZACF delegate, I took the opportunity while in Rwanda to distribute French anarchist materials such as Courrant Alternatif and Combat Sindicaliste in Kigali. Meanwhile, I was serving mostly as the Federation’s International Secretary (there is no such post as “internal” secretary, despite what Reid-Ross and Stephens claim in their first chapter), and driving its establishment of ties with anarchists in Swaziland (where a semi-clandestine ZACF section was established), and in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Morocco and further afield.

I continued to write for Zabalaza, now the ZACF journal. My anarchist writings over 1997-2003 included:

Workers’ Solidarity Vol.3 #2, Johannesburg, Second Quarter, April-June 1997:
- Swaziland: General Strike for Democracy

Workers’ Solidarity, Vol.4 #1, Johannesburg, First Quarter 1998:
- Swaziland: Phambili Basebenzi!
- The ANC and the South African White Right in Mozambique

Workers’ Solidarity, Vol.4 #2, Johannesburg, Fourth Quarter 1998:
- Zambia: “Democratic” Politicians get Fat as the Workers Starve
- Lesotho: Was it Revolution?
- Right-wing “social movements for unemployed”
- Bad Boys’ Club: the “Non-Aligned Movement” and Mass Murder in the Third World

Zabalaza #1, Johannesburg, April 2001:
- Zimbabwe: Land Invasions and Lessons for the Working Class

Zabalaza #2, Johannesburg, March 2002:
- The Black Bloc: a Disposable Tactic
- Religious Fundamentalist Regimes: a Lesson from the Iranian Revolution 1978-1979
- Obituary: Hamba Kahle Wilstar Choongo!

Zabalaza #3, Johannesburg, August 2002:
- From Protest Movement to Social Revolution: Deepening the Roots of the Anti-Capitalist Movement
- Revolutionary Joburg
- SA Anarchists Go Global (on joining the ILS)

Zabalaza #4, Johannesburg, June 2003:
- Fat-cat Nationalism vs. the Ultra-Hungry
- Latin American Voices: Leny Olivera

In this period, my journalistic writings on the white far right and the overlapping milieu of former apartheid security forces apparatchiks, my articles, all very unsympathetic, included:

- Pretoria, 2003 (the state bugs right-wing radio station to monitor hate speech)
- Baghdad, 2003 (demands to keep a leash on SA mercenaries working abroad in defiance of the law)
- Guinea, 2004 (coup plotters linked to Guinea's national security director)
- Kwazulu-Natal, 2004 (convicted right-wing criminals standing in National Elections)
- Pretoria, 2003 (apartheid spies still working for government and private contractors)
- Potchefstroom, 2004 (the release of Terre'Blanche and the decline of the AWB into a "Christian cultural organisation")
- Pretoria, 2004 (former apartheid foreign minister Pik Botha doesn't grieve the demise of the New National Party)
- Harare, 2004 (Equatorial Guinea coup plotters jailed in Zimbabwe)
- Johannesburg, 2004 (mercenary recruitment centre may have been a scam)

Not to mention stories like:

Sunday Times:
- Kareedouw, 2001 (the persistence of apartheid Group Areas planning in small SA towns)
- Parys, 2003 (“vanished” Bushmen still survive, living rough as migrant farm workers)

- Johannesburg, 2003 (Auschwitz commemoration: "Jews outlived the Nazis")
- Windhoek, 2003 (Germany apologises for Herero Genocide)

2. Later Activism, Research and Writing: 2004-2013

In 2004, I went to Aotearoa/New Zealand as a ZACF delegate, met with the Anarchist Round Table (ART) and spoke to anarchists in Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington about progress on the research that would become Black Flame. In 2005, I handed the manuscript (now called CounterPower) over to van der Walt, who overhauled it, and took care of subsequent revisions. The now-substantially revised and expanded work went to AK Press on 18 January 2006. AK Press then requested that CounterPower be split into two volumes: for the first one, we went back to the older name, Black Flame. These and other requested revisions were undertaken by van der Walt in 2006 and 2007, with copies of volume one sent for peer review 6 December 2006. The first proofed chapters came AK Press on 28 June 2007, with the first iteration of the publication sent from AK Press on 1 November 2007. Meanwhile, while van der Walt played the key role in working on Black Flame / CounterPower from 2005, I worked on what was now volume two, called Global Fire (a play on Black Flame). Van der Walt was recognised as the primary author of Black Flame, while I was to be the primary author of Global Fire.

In November 2004, I was hired as one of three group special investigative writers for the Independent Newspapers group (along with Chiara Carter and Angela Quintal), with my home newspaper being Saturday Star in Johannesburg, the country’s largest-circulation Saturday newspaper. Initially under the editorship of Brendan Seery of Zimbabwe, I had three fields of focus, or “beats” as we journalists call them: the first was defence, intelligence and African affairs; the second was science, culture and heritage; and the last was extra-Parliamentary politics (social movements, trade unions, and the ultra-left and far right).

It was in the latter capacity that early in 2005, I asked Seery if I could use my work computer to create a false profile on the international white supremacist site Stormfront as it maintains a South African section that I wanted to monitor to keep my finger on the pulse of what the white right here was talking about; it’s not intensive work, just what journalists call a watching brief. Seery agreed and the fact that he now, as an editor on a very busy newspaper that produces five editions a day cannot remember such a verbal agreement of a decade ago does not dispel the fact that I went undercover using an office computer – the usage of which was monitored by a multiracial IT department who would have alerted Seery if they had found me doing anything unauthorised and in breach of our code of ethic; and membership of a racist website would definitely constitute a cause for disciplinary action unless it was authorised, as mine was. Investigative journalism requires playing one’s cards close to one’s chest, so the only person who I informed about my undercover work was my editor, Seery.

Why act undercover? There was no way, given my public profile as a member of the extreme left that I could openly access the white far right in South Africa, which is deeply anti-communist and views anyone white person who supports people of colour as a race-traitor. Undercover investigative journalism, was, in my view, also the necessary method to be used to infiltrate the radical white right and networks in South Africa in the 2000s that journalists could not normally reach: in case anyone has forgotten, there was an ongoing treason trial of the white right Boeremag terrorist group at the time, following a spate of bombings of black targets, and the movement was high on the list of those being watched by the ANC government. The radical white right closed ranks against the press and outsiders at the time. The notion that such groups could have been investigated without subterfuge at this stage is ill-informed.

Note that this undercover work was only a tiny portion of the journalism that I did for Independent Newspapers. Still, I compiled detailed notes on the far right and on former apartheid apparatchiks, especially death-squad operatives. It also needs to be noted that in 2008 I left print journalism, and moved into journalism training (see below for why), so not all of the material I compiled could be used at the time, and my journalistic output generally declined. I am, admittedly, also a bit obsessive in compiling data, with an eye on later use, and some of the material I initially compiled for newspapers has since fed into Drinking with Ghosts (2014), A Bitter Taste of Almonds (2015) and some drafts of Global Fire (ongoing). Last (as I will discuss in the next section), my writing output in all areas declined substantially in 2009-2011 due to illness, burn-out, personal losses and my new jobs in training. The vast bulk of posts at online forums like Stormfront were in the period corresponding to my work as a full-time journalist and writer. I made some sporadic posts outside this period to keep my finger on the pulse.

My articles on the far right, which overlaps with former apartheid security forces apparatchiks, including death-squad operatives are quite extensive, and for this period include:

Saturday Star:
- Pretoria, 2005 (SA Secret Service chief claims his agency foiled the Equatorial Guinea coup)
- Johannesburg, 2005 (64 freed Equatorial Guinea mercenary suspects face a grilling at home)
- Pomfret, 2005 (the dumping ground for Angolan 32 Battalion vets that became a breeding ground for mercenaries)
- Baghdad, 2005 (easy money lures SA men to work as mercenaries in Iraq)
- Johannesburg, 2005 (ex-President PW Botha's lunatic fringe comes home to roost)
- Windhoek, 2005 (no prosecutions for apartheid SA's worst war-crime, the murder of 200 SWAPO POWs)
- Ovamboland, 2005 (disinterring the mass graves of SWAPO operatives in Namibia)
- Johannesburg, 2006 (neo-Nazi thug threat to Soccer World Cup in SA in 2010)
- Pretoria, 2006 (the apartheid CCB plot to assassinate Rev Frank Chikane)
- George, 2006 (Ghosts of apartheid haunt George: PW Botha dies and leaves a conflicted legacy)
- Nelspruit, 2007 (Scott-Crossley, the man who threw a black worker to be eaten by lions, languishes in jail)
- Johannesburg, 2007 (revisiting the Cassinga battle/massacre: recognising colonial terror)
- Cape Town, 2007 ("Charge me if you dare" says FW de Klerk on his apartheid past)
- Johannesburg, 2007 (De Klerk was at Caprivi Trainees meeting)
- Musina, 2007 (white right-wing farmers wand Zimbabwean refugees detained in camps)
- Pretoria, 2007 (former Police Minister Adriaan Vlok rats out top apartheid cop)
- Johannesburg, 2007 (new study links the apartheid murders of the Smit couple to Swedish PM Olaf Palme)
- Pretoria, 2007 (Adriaan Vlok denies he drew up apartheid death squad hit-list)
- Vlakplaas, 2007 (healing the nations wounds at former death squad HQ, Vlakplaas)
- Pretoria, 2007 (former apartheid agent fingered in Palme's assassination)
- KwaZulu-Natal, 2007 (after a long battle, an AWB farmer finally agrees to sell farm to his black neighbours)
- Pretoria, 2007 (missing apartheid Security Branch files "a paper Auschwitz")

Not to mention stories like:

- Mueda, 2004 (remembering the Mueda Massacre by Portuguese colonial troops in 1960)

Saturday Star:
- Cape Town, 2005 (row over the retention of Khoekhoen and Bushman bones by Iziko Museums)
- Johannesburg, 2005 (Zimbabwean refugees tortured at home and humiliated in exile in SA)
- Johannesburg, 2005 (Burundian whistle-blower illegally deported by SAPS faces grave danger at home)
- Johannesburg, 2005 (column on free speech: "nothing nice about fanaticism")
- Johannesburg, 2005 (feminine forebears of freedom: on the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Charter)
- Bloemfontein, 2006 (Basotho woman activist kidnapped and interrogated by the police)
- Johannesburg, 2006 (in Africa we are all one big family: on the Human Genome Project)
- Johannesburg, 2006 (how Bulgaria prevented the Nazis from deporting their Jewish neighbours to the camps)
- Johannesburg, 2006 (attacks on Somalis are put down to jealousy and racism)
- Johannesburg, 2007 (refugees flee persecution - then face xenophobia)
- Pretoria, 2007 (column: Who can join Mbeki in saying "I am an African"?)
- Harare, 2007 (echo of Pol Pot in Mugabe's wasteland)
- Johannesburg, 2007 (on racist violence and the many other victims of the Nazis)
- Johannesburg, 2007 (court victory for 140,000 asylum-seekers)

It should be abundantly clear from the above that I did put much of the material gathered to good use: claims to the contrary are false.  In order to establish my online persona, I openly admit – as I have before – that I made distasteful racist statements online, invented events, and groups to try ingratiate myself with the members of the online radical right (foreign readers should note that the South African white right is ultra-conservative, anti-communist, and deeply Christian: skinheads are not welcome, nor would “third position” left/ right blends. To the extent it has a “look,” it is that of a conservative, beefy middle-aged white settler farmer wearing khaki and shorts – and not a tattooed youth subculture as predominates in North America and Europe).

I completely disassociate myself with the Stormfront statements made under my false persona: they are completely at odds with my real views, deeply offensive, and making made me feeling unclean.  Against claims that they represent my real views, must be weighed all of the articles and work I did that damaged the white right through public exposure (see above and in the following sections). I have readily admitted to using false personas online for my journalistic and activist investigations, including to Reid-Ross, and on social media, following AK Press’s initial statement denouncing me. The operation was distasteful but part and parcel of the undercover work.

To claim that these abhorrent statements constitute my true feelings on race and politics is disingenuous, and totally at odds with all of my published work of the past quarter century. It is by cherry picking my works, taking quotes out of context, getting facts wrong, and ignoring all contrary evidence, including the actual content of all four of my published books, and relying on faceless sources and hearsay, that Reid-Ross and Stephens paint the caricature that they have painted. That said, it is just not reasonable to suggest that a member of the white right would spend his time, money, and energies in mostly black protest movements, as I have done.

In my initial response to AK Press – written the day after I read their slanderous accusations and a full 16 days before they provided any “proof” of their libel (Two Swallows Don’t Make a Summer, 27 September 2015 ) – I also stated clearly: “Most of my posts were pretty neutral in tone,” but “I did have to take an essentially racist stance in order to fit in and not arouse suspicion.” (emphasis added). In the hands of Reid-Ross and Stephens, this is misquoted to set up a straw-man: “Schmidt describes his posts on Stormfront as ‘pretty neutral in tone,’ we found them to be consistently otherwise.” The fact is that I never denied the posts were “essentially racist” or even “fascist”: obviously they were, for the simple reason that was exactly the point if I was to create a viable fake persona. But I emphatically deny that they represent my true views and politics.

Without these online statements I made as a journalist, using an invented persona, being taken as literally true, Reid-Ross, Stephens and AK Press have very shaky grounds for their claims against me. They have to rely heavily on claims by largely faceless, anonymous sources. In professional journalism, anonymity is used great care, especially when it involves serious allegations as well as pejorative and disparaging statements about individuals, and cannot form the core of a defensible case. This is because anonymity allows people to make damaging statements without any consequences to themselves, and without other journalists being able to check the validity of the statements, whether the sources are in a position to credibly make the claims, whether the sources were misquoted or asked leading questions, and whether the sources were misled (see for e.g.

Anonymity is not granted to sources by journalists as a matter of course, but is mainly used to protect sources especially whistleblowers from credible threats to their persons, families or livelihoods. In these cases, unless anonymity is granted the information needed would not be accessible. But not one of these sources is in any danger whatsoever from their involvement in AK Press’ “investigation.” (This concern for sources did not, however, stop Reid-Ross and Stephens from posting clear pictures of the faces of three of my women friends sourced from a Facebook page of mine, in the initial posting of part 2 at – their faces have since been blocked out but reposts of the original version can still be found online).

A further attempt, by Reid-Ross and Stephens, to show that the online rightwing personas I created for my investigation, were the “real” me, involves claiming I sometimes posted personal details on far right sites. They claim, in their second chapter, that my Stormfront persona was in “lockstep with Schmidt’s public life when examined in closer detail” ( The fact of the matter is that most everything I wrote about “myself” there was invented nonsense, although sometimes I extrapolated from reality in order to give credence to the false persona.

To try prove the contrary, Reid-Ross and Stephens rely on a selective use of evidence, skip over contradictions and indulge in some amateurish psycho-analysis, part of a larger pattern of speculation and mind-reading that appears across their chapters: “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” etc. (

Since they do not know me, and have not met me, have not apparently even been to South Africa, and are not qualified shrinks, it would be astounding if they could prove this: the reality is that analysis is complete nonsense.  But it serves the obvious rhetorical purpose of a personal attack, which surely has no place in any serious journalism, let alone comradely anarchism. “Seems,” “likely” and “plausible” are terms that pepper that the articles, along with efforts at mind-reading about my “real” motives. Here, speculation, not facts, are at play. Meanwhile, the two authors play dangerously fast and loose with dates, for example, referring to a Stormfront post of 22 December 2012 as appearing “last year” i.e. 2014, and another from 2012 as “created less than a year ago” i.e. 2014 or 2015 (e.g.

Why have a photo on Stormfront? I wanted to show I was a real person. My aim was not “anonymity,” as Reid-Ross and Stephens keep asserting, but the creation of credible false persona that would allow monitoring, infiltration and investigations (see ). Reid-Ross and Stephens display a sore misunderstanding of the demands of undercover investigative journalism: spending a year with the Hells’ Angels to research his book Hell’s Angels did not actually make the journalist Hunter S. Thompson a Hells’ Angel, after all; and when journalist Nellie Bly checked herself into a mental asylum as an inmate to expose conditions, no one claimed subsequently that she was really mentally ill.

I also need to be clear that I never once met in person with any of the Stormfront members or other right-wingers nor gave any actual support or benefit to any white supremacist individual, project or organisation. In 2005, in fact, I was involved in founding the multilingual international anarchist news and analysis website Anarkismo,, and often served as the ZACF’s delegate to the Anarkismo editorial committee. I increasingly threw myself into historical research and ideological work: for example, in 2005, I wrote the pamphlet Five Waves: A Brief Global History of Revolutionary Anarchist Communist Mass Organisational Theory & Practice, a historical overview of five key anarchist positions on how the militant minority relates to the proletarian masses (this would later form the core of what became Cartographie de l’anarchisme révolutionnaire). I also established links with the underground anarchist Edris network in Tehran and Persepolis, Iran, which I was supposed to visit in 2005 though the trip fell through, and maintained relations with Iranian exile anarchist-communist Payman Piedar, founder of the Farsi-language Nakhdar journal (Nakhdar comes from the Farsi for Na Khoda/Dolat/Rahbar, or No God/State/Master).

In 2008, I wrote with the assistance of Bulgarian anarchist veteran Jack Grancharoff the first in my Anarchist-Communist Mass-line series, Bulgarian Anarchism Armed, the first of a series of pamphlets analysing anarchist-communist mass organisational praxis (the Bulgarian text was published in Portuguese in Brazil and the next in the series will be on the Uruguayan movement); and in 2008, I wrote a comparative analysis of the transitions in South Africa and Chile, PW and Pinochet: the Dictatorial Roots of Neoliberal “Democracy” in South Africa and Chile, which would in part become the introduction to Drinking with Ghosts.

In 2006 as you may have picked up on, I was involved in the Human Genome Project, not merely writing about it as a journalist, however, but participating as a guinea-pig: I was one of five Independent Newspapers journalists who submitted our DNA for testing by Project scientists who had established the brilliant Origins Centre on human ancestry and indigenous Africans at the University of the Witwatersrand. As a man, both my mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosomal DNA could be tested and the results were fascinating and were published in Saturday Star: while the maternal line of mitochondrial tests produced a rather slender set of markers that showed I am in part descended from Basques, Tuscans and other Europeans – but included two Mongolian matches – and the paternal line of Y-chromosomal tests produced 682 identical matches, including 134 Germans, 89 Spaniards, 66 Portuguese, 35 Colombians (including blacks, no doubt the descendants of slaves), 28 Italians, 25 Argentines (including one Guarana native), 23 French, 23 Belgians, 18 Brazilians (including one Pardo creole), as well as two Basques, two indigenous Bolivians and a lone Buryat – a Mongol from the shores of Lake Baikal; my bona fide African matches embraced all the peoples of Mauritius: white creole, mixed-race Métis, black Malagasy, and Malabar Tamil.

I have no white “race pride” or racial separatist commitments. As stated in my Saturday Star article after the tests, that “I was ‘coloured’ and not ‘white’ was a fact that I’d come to accept more than a decade ago” as a result of discovering that my paternal great-grandmother was Belizean and presumed by family lore to have been Mayan.” The full text of the Saturday Star article which detailed my test results was included in a painting by Cherylee Powell that has hangs in my lounge to this day. Hardly the sentiments or actions of a white supremacist! 

Top, Cherylee Powell’s painting on my mixed genetic heritage, 2006, that features the pull-quote “Despite the allure of the exotic, the plain truth is I am more mongrel than Mongol.”  Centre, with girlfriend Tanya, 2007. Bottom, Georges Saad of al-Badil al-Shuyu’i al-Taharoui (ABAT), wearing my gift of a Zabalaza T-shirt, Lebanon, 2006.

At the same time, however, my marriage to Shelomi fell apart. I remain in contact with her to this day and view her as one of the most wonderful women I’ve ever met. A little over a year after our July 2006 divorce, however, I was dating Tanya, an African of Indian descent.

The years 2004-2007 saw me report from several war-zones and post-conflict societies: Rwanda in 2004, the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2004 and 2005; the “Summer War” in Lebanon in 2006 – which was terrifying for the Israeli use of over-the-horizon aerial and naval bombardments – and the Darfur War in Sudan in 2007, the latter two of which I wrote about in the articles Eyewitness Lebanon – In the Land of the Blind: Hezbollah Worship, Slavish Anti-imperialism and the Need for a Real Alternative (, 2006, online at:, and Blood, Water and Oil: Fallacies of the Darfur War (, 2007, online at During the war in Lebanon, which I travelled to via Egypt, Jordan and Syria, my first experience of the Middle East, as bombs fell all about us in Beirut, I was able to meet with Georges Saad, one of the militants of the anarchist-communist al-Badil al-Shuyu’i al-Taharoui (ABAT), and establish relations between ABAT and the ZACF.

The article Eyewitness Lebanon grappled with how anarchists should conduct anti-imperialist work without simply following local nationalist movements. Engagement with these issues has a long tradition in the historic anarchist movement, as I have shown in several pieces. They did not arise from the 1990s in the USA, as Reid-Ross and Stephens suggest, when they say that “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,” when it supposedly started to give “greater space and agency to struggles led by people of color … Police brutality … Immigration” ( ). This story only makes sense if most of the history and politics of anarchism, not least in the Global South, and its central role in struggles against national and racial oppression is left out – only in this way can “anarchism’s development” to embrace these issues be seen as new, or read in a US-only context.  This is precisely the sort of narrow North Atlanticist thinking (“Eurocentric” would be an exaggeration, since most of Europe itself is left out), that is challenged in much of my writing – and by the praxis of groups like the ZACF, the Awareness League in Nigeria, ABAT in Lebanon, and others.

Reid-Ross and Stephens do correctly note in their fifth chapter that the Lebanon article at anarkismo spurred a debate – but they miss what the debate was about. They make much of the fact that I was criticised by a Lebanese-based journalist called Simon Assaf for some arguments ( But they leave out the fact that Assaf wrote for the British Socialist Worker, and that his criticisms (some of which, by the way, I conceded in the Comments section on Anarkismo) were part of a larger debate between anarchist-communists like myself and al-Badil al-Shuyu’i al-Taharoui, classical Marxist strands, including that of Assaf and Socialist Worker, and the more purist (or “ultra”) views of left-communists on the question of national liberation. Reid-Ross and Stephens are also correct that there were other “unfavourable comments,” but they just fail to indicate these were largely by other Marxists, who took positions different to mine, and by left-communists who oppose all national liberation movements in principle. And, of course, many comments agreed with my views: this is not mentioned in chapter five. Finally, Reid-Ross and Stephens leave out the core of my article: the importance of national liberation and class-based revolution in the Middle East, which are hardly the positions of a radical white nationalist.

It is important to note here that 2006 saw the start of a rough period for the ZACF – as well as for social movement coalitions like the APF. Levels of activism were declining across the country. Many of the new social movements were facing serious problems. COSATU remained a powerful force, but got swept up into internal ANC politicking, and swept along by the tide that saw the Jacob Zuma ANC faction eventually oust the Thabo Mbeki ANC faction at the party’s December 2007 congress. This led directly to COSATU withdrawing all criticism of the state, and throwing its energies into helping the ANC win the next general election.

In the ZACF, the PCMP was struggling, the anarchist-initiated Motsoaledi Concerned Residents (MCR) had been captured by a rival ANC-aligned group, and the numbers of BAG activists were falling. The SAG had withered away, one of its leading figures moving to a Marxist group working in the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee (SECC), a key APF affiliate. By mid-2007, activists like Nyalungu and van der Walt left the ZACF, the former now pursuing a degree (I assisted with paying his fees).

In December 2007, the ZACF transformed itself from a federation of collectives into a unitary organisation with stricter membership requirements based on individual recruitment, and the Swaziland section became an autonomous and separate group, although still linked in practice to the ZACF and its militants through political and personal ties, For example, I maintain contact with these black comrades to this day. Technically, the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation was dissolved and replaced by the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front, but the new organisation had the same assets and political line and members (except the Swazis, now a separate but linked group) – just a revised structure, as reflected in its constitution.

The original ZACF model had been designed to bring together existing groups, but had serious limitations, and these contributed to the problems in the organisation. Recruitment of members was a bit ad hoc, as ZACF collectives had different expectations and processes. In theory, the ZACF before December 2007 was a tight Platformist organisation, but in reality was much looser. In response to claims by Reid-Ross and Stephens that I was involved in “purging black militants,” the fact is the ZACF never “purged” any black member even after it’s restructuring (see the contrasting claim in The only person ever formally asked to leave the organisation was a young white man. However, the late 2007 restructuring did not solve all the ZACF’s problems, and it declined further in 2008 (see below).

In 2008, after 19 years as a field journalist, I secured my dream job: Africa correspondent for Independent Newspapers’ seven daily and seven weekly titles. I negotiated with foreign editor Peter Fabricius that I would not merely cover political summits and conflict in Africa, but cover the continent in all of its aspects, including social events such as Carnival in Angola, and all its scientific and technical innovations. I was very excited to begin – but to my utter dismay, the post was frozen by the company’s cost-cutting accountants.

Disillusioned, I resigned from Saturday Star and began training journalists across the African continent for a private agency frayintermedia, run by famous coloured feminist Paula Fray (who remains on my CV by agreement as a key character reference), and which conducted pan-African work on the ground in countries such as Kenya and Botswana. As a result, I worked on establishing new black community newspapers such as Penelopele News and mentored established township newspapers such as Alex Pioneer whose editor Patricia Hlungwane remains a close friend. In 2008 and early 2009, I worked for the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) in Mali – just about my favourite country in the world – as well as in Uganda and Zambia, training journalists on reporting on the critical role of women in African agriculture.

In February 2008, as a result of my international liaison work, the first edition of Afrique sans chaines (Africa without Chains) was published by the anarcho-syndicalist CNT-France, as part of a joint project with the ZACF to produce intelligent anarchist analysis of African struggles. The journal was published over the following year until April 2009 and I still sorely regret that it no longer exists. In the same period, I established the African Anarchism page on Facebook as a ZACF project to promote African anarchist perspectives and to encourage active engagement in the multiracial working class struggles of the day; still run by the ZACF, it has 550 members today. 

Top, the October 2008 edition of Afrique sans chaines. Bottom, with girlfriend Eve, 2009. 

But as progressive movements declined, reactionary forces surged: in April 2008, a rash of so-called “xenophobic” violence swept over South African townships – including areas the ZACF and our associated APF and other radical social movements had been involved in for years. The grim result was 62 black people, both foreigners and locals, murdered by ethno-chauvinist vigilantes, and 100,000 people displaced. The public burning to death of Mozambican immigrant Ernesto Nhamwuave, gruesomely captured on video, sent shockwaves across the world. But after years of state repression, the social movements were in disarray (the Landless People’s Movement was imploding fast, and the APF was in decline, dissolving in 2011).

I was seriously tormented by our failure to prevent what under the 1949 UN Convention on Genocide equated to genocide. The slaughter of our African sisters and brothers also provoked an intensely gloomy introspection on the part of the left more generally: how had we, so closely connected with these communities as we were, failed to prevent this horror?  Even a section of the APF was implicated in some attacks, which the left viewed as “pogroms” or “xenophobia,” depending on the analysis. By mid-2008, I was shocked and unhappy. I had left behind my treasured job as a pan-African journalist, my divorce was through, my organisation, the ZACF, was struggling and shrinking, and the unions and new social movements in which we had placed such hope were failing at their basic communal ethics.

During the 2008 Pogroms, I wrote a deliberately provocative but sometimes badly formulated internal discussion document which I submitted to the ZACF in July, called Politico-Social Dynamics of the South African Anarchist Movement. The document was never ignored by ZACF, as implied by Reid-Ross and Stephens, nor do I endorse it today. There was a lengthy debate on it in December at the ZACF’s 2008 Congress, the organisation’s annual policy-making plenary. The minutes make it explicitly clear that I rejected some of my formulations:

 “MI [myself]: I wrote this during the chauvinistic killings and was disillusioned by the involvement of social movement activists. Having re-read it this week, the paragraph on the inability of many black activists to grasp logical process strikes me as bordering on racism.” I stand by that position today, too. And the same Congress did not adopt any part of Politico-Social Dynamics of the South African Anarchist Movement. The full Congress, and I myself, repudiated the discussion document and it did not become part of ZACF policy.

But in using cherry-picked extracts from the document (the aforementioned “paragraph on the inability of many black activists to grasp logical process” that I later thought was “bordering on racism”), to justify the claim that I was a racist or infiltrator, Reid-Ross and Stephens miss out on the core issue the document raised: why had the ZACF failed, in five years, to build a significant black core membership as we had managed to previously achieve with the WSF? The organisation, in its decline, had become largely white, or as I put it, it “lost its last black members in **Swaziland**, reducing it from a biracial ‘international’ organisation to a white ‘national’ organisation.”

Reid-Ross and Stephens completely misrepresent this sentence, asserting I put “’national’ in quotations to connote white South Africans who share a common ‘culture’” ( This is a bizarre and self-serving reading, at odds with the facts. I simply meant that the ZACF was now “national” in the sense of being solely South African, as opposed to “bi-national” as previously, when it was both South African and Swazi, and that it had obviously declined by 2008 to a small, white group. I used the inverted commas around “nation” to signal an anarchist distance from the very concept of the “nation,” and have certainly never called “white South Africans” a “nation,” which they are not. (Since Reid-Ross and Stephens are unclear on what the white far right in South Africa actually stands for, it could be mentioned it aims, not at an independent white nation, of all white ethnic groups, but at an independent “Afrikaner / Boer nation,” slightly over 60% of the whites – yet embracing only the conservative Calvinist / Christian Identity element of that group).

The conspiracy theory of ZACF history Reid-Ross and Stephens then provide – “Schmidt had been there every step of the way” in turning the ZACF into a white group – will not fly. It was precisely the decline of the ZACF in 2008 into a white group that I objected to! And the theory just does not make sense. Since I was a founder-member of the ZACF why would I (if I was indeed the nefarious character they claim) be so active in building the ZACF into a majority-black group, as it was until sometime in 2007, in recruiting black members and in working with black comrades? If my aim was a “white anarchist movement,” I could presumably have achieved this easily enough by not helping found the ZACF at all. Why would I do all this work, in BMC, ABC-SA, and ZACF, only to then “purge” the very people I had helped recruit? And of all places to infiltrate in South Africa, a group like the ZACF would be at the very bottom of the South African white right’s list, way below even the much-reduced PAC or AZAPO.

I also never argued for a “racial divide in the Federation in 2003,” as they claim, but simply that the leading “frontline” collectives of the ZACF should be the BAG, SAG and ZAG, all of which were primarily black working class groups facing the fists and fines of the state on a daily basis. This meant that the BMC, Zabalaza Books and ABC-SA collectives should provide support services for these frontline groups. It was a functional distinction in support of black working class and poor struggle’ nothing more, nothing less. There was no deep-laid infiltration plan on my part, expressed in “purges” (which never happened) or a white nationalist project (which was never proposed and never existed).

What I grappled with in Politico-Social Dynamics of the South African Anarchist Movement was the question of how to build a united, broad working class movement in a divided and wounded society like South Africa, with its awful history. I do not want to defend every line of a document that I wrote eight or nine years ago, in a period where I was heading for burn-out, and I as I said I repudiated the document in 2008 – as did all of my ZACF comrades.

It was very flawed but it was not a “white nationalist” manifesto, and it argued not for a whites-only organisation, but rather critiqued why it was that the ZACF was in reality a small white group, “presumably temporarily” only. The document stressed social, not biological, factors, such as the decapitation of the black working class movement by co-option into the new state, and the disastrous education system inflicted on the black working class; and it also stressed that white cultures in South Africa were as authoritarian as any others, and that white nationalism was divisive.

The flawed and repudiated 2008 document did not have a way forward. And at the 2008 Congress, for example, I stated: “We need to recognise the [racial] divide and work to bridge it, but without coming in like white knights with graven tablets of wisdom, and without creating dependency.”

Top, at a refugee camp in El Fasher, Darfur, Sudan, 2007, with, left to right, Jean-Jacques Cornish of Radio France International, our guide, and Izak Khomo of Channel Africa. Bottom, with rural farmers outside Bamako, Mali, 2008.

It is also worth noting that after the 2008 Pogroms, and before and after the 2008 ZACF congress, I threw myself into ABC-SA (ZACF) work within the social movement’s Campaign Against Xenophobia, that in this period my article on the 1976 Soweto Uprising in a book edited by Holger Marcks & Matthias Sieffert, Die groβen Streiks: Episoden aus dem Klassenkamp (Unrast, Münster, Germany) was published, continued to do solidarity work with my Swazi anarchist comrades, and as an aside, that over two years in this period, I was dating Eve, an African of Indian descent; we remain close friends today.

Also, over March to December 2008, I facilitated with Press Ombudsman Joe Thloloe a series of monthly Journalism Dialogues on topics such as how the media covered race after the Skierlik Massacre of blacks by a young white gunman, and on whether tabloid journalism fueled hate-speech and the 2008 Pogroms, and on the tensions between free speech and hate speech; as a result, I was interviewed on 14 radio programmes about these issues. (At no point, let me note, was I interviewed on “FM radio with Lucien van der Walt” as claimed by Reid-Ross and Stephens: we have never done a joint show. See

In early 2009, I increased my work on defending black African migrants by running workshops on health and migration for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in South Africa and Zambia (meeting again with Malele Dodia), and in July 2009, I delved further into my migrant-defence work, running workshops in Johannesburg and Durban for the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) on assisting activists and journalists understand human trafficking; my ILO work continued into 2010 (today the chief of CNN’s anti-trafficking Freedom Project has agreed verbally that I may be called on to consult to them from time to time on trafficking in Africa).

None of this work even comes close to fitting the image of my work and views that Reid-Ross and Stephens have created. None of it indeed is even mentioned in their articles. Like the vast bulk of my writings, activism and activities, it is completely absent from their tracts. None of this material is particularly hard to locate: contacting the ZACF would have probably led to minutes being provided; my various online CVs and career descriptions also indicate these activities; and, if asked about them directly, I would certainly have explained them in depth.

In late 2009, however, I temporarily retired from active political work in the ZACF as a result of the collective stresses of my divorce, and of my war correspondence in the DRC, Darfur and Lebanon. I would later (January 2011) be diagnosed by a psychiatrist as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That Reid-Ross and Stephens question whether my experiences were serious enough to cause PTSD is completely irrelevant, as well as malicious, and they are not qualified to judge, unlike the psychiatrist who diagnosed me (see ).

At the time all I knew was that I was burned out and was no longer able to work at meetings and on the streets as required by the pretty demanding ZACF membership rules, so maintaining close personal and political ties with its members, I left the organisation I had co-founded, but leaving the demands of the townships behind gave me far more time to do research and writing in support of the anarchist movement.

In 2009, the first, theory, strategy and tactics, volume of van der Walt’s and my two-volume Counter-power project, Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism, Counter-power Vol.1 was published in the United States by AK Press to mostly positive critical comment from the academy and from the organised labour press – in fact, Black Flame became a political science set-work in several South African and United States universities, and has also been used in trade union education and anarchist courses. It has also spurred substantial debates around the world. Critics have argued that it is heavily centred on class struggle and workers’ and peasants’ movements (we do not deny that), although they have praised its focus on the Global South and on the sweeping coverage of anarchist and syndicalist history and theory it provides.

But of course, Reid-Ross and Stephens have to skip over this substantial key text (as with the bulk of my activism and writings), since it just does not bear out, in any way, the image of me that they wish to paint. Translated into German, it was published in 2013 by Edition Nautilus (Hamburg), Black Flame has also been translated into Spanish and was set be published by Virus Editorial (Barcelona), and is being translated into French to be published by AL Éditions (Paris). Further translations in planning include Portuguese, Mandarin, Greek and Arabic. After holding launches in South Africa with van der Walt, I launched Black Flame in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2009 where I had been invited by the Tecnológico de Monterrey to train a multiracial class of journalism and foreign affairs students in conflict reporting.

Once Black Flame was published, I threw myself into fleshing out Counter-power Vol.2, tentatively named Global Fire: 150 Fighting Years of Anarchism and Syndicalism, which details the ideological and organisational lineages of anarchist movement history globally over the past fifteen decades. A massive work expected to be at least twice the size of Black Flame when finally published, it is the most comprehensive overview of the international anarchist movement yet produced in any language. A YouTube video of a talk I gave in Canada on Black Flame in 2010 is available here: (the final part is missing).

Bear in mind that it has taken 15 years of work – without a cent being paid in advance by AK Press of our own time and expense to do this research. Let me stress here, too, that serious political works do not generate masses of money: they are undertaken, at great personal expense in time and money, and the royalties, such as they are, could not support an individual. These works are not undertaken for cash, but from personal and political commitment. Publishers like AK Press do not fund them with research grants or support: they proofread and advise on the manuscript, and then publish.  In fact, my annual earnings from Black Flame are less than half what I spent on my contributions to the ZACF’s township projects.

By 2009, the Global Fire manuscript already had a thematic a section in the post-war era that related to new claimants to the title of anarchist, including tendencies calling themselves “anarcho-primitivist”, “post-anarchist” (sometimes called “neo-anarchist”), and “national-anarchist”. Some of these existed in the initial drafts of Black Flame Also, but were transferred to the second volume. On the first two tendencies, it was easy enough to read journals like Three-Eyed Goat and Fifth Estate which were mailed in hard copy to the ZACF, or to read materials produced by the likes of Crimethinc online, or to engage with “post-anarchist” theorists like David Graeber. 

Top, a poster for a Libertære Socialister Black Flame study group in Denmark. Bottom, with members of my conflict-reporting class in Guadalajara, Mexico, 2009.

But the third claimant to the title of anarchist, “national-anarchism,” was presumed by most anarchist commentators to be a dangerous entryist form of neo-fascism. This current was viewed with great alarm in Western anarchist circles, although it now seems clear that it is a very marginal force. Certainly we never encountered any such formations in South Africa, where, as indicated, anything smacking of the left is complete anathema to conservative as well as hard right whites.

But given all the hullaballoo, I decided to find out more, extending my infiltration work beyond the white radical right in South Africa to try and research so-called “national-anarchism.” At that stage it was a new tendency and its writings were slender, and, if critics’ claims were to be believed, its writings and public statements were not a reliable guide to its true project. So I set up two false Facebook accounts, one purporting to be that of a woman of Ukrainian descent living in South Africa and another that of a Namibian man, who were interested in “national-anarchism”. Under such guises, I befriended the key “national-anarchist” theorist, the English former National Front fascist Troy Southgate. This was an expansion of my journalistic work on the far right, already mentioned, which I continued although writing for newspapers was no longer my primary work.  I wanted to hear from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, what the movement was really about, rather than rely on secondary texts by its critics, or on slick propaganda by “national-anarchists” themselves.

My fake couple’s personas set up a completely imaginary South African “national-anarchist” Facebook group called “Black Battlefront” (this, let me stress, was a private joke: the name was that of a Japanese anarchist group of the 1920s, alluded to in my books, but something I presumed, correctly, no white supremacist would pick up). In order to make the group seem real, I fleshed out a policy statement called the “Creed” which “I” (or rather, my invented personas) used to “prove” (bogus) credentials, posted on a blog called “Strandwolf” which got just about zero traffic.

Of course the Facebook and blog pages used symbols of the radical right (this is not some astounding fact uncovered by Reid-Ross and Stephens): they were after all intended to provide a portal for me to investigate “national-anarchism” undercover, and not a portal for “national-anarchists” to recruit anyone. I deliberately brought some elements into the Creed that no white right-winger in South Africa would easily accept: a multiracial separatist Cape home to Coloured, indigenous and white residents. The traditional demands of the white far right are for a separate all-white Afrikaner/ Boer Volkstaat in the centre of the country, involving the old Transvaal and Orange Free State which were conquered in 1902. I would never accept any secessionist project, black or white, which did not create a multiracial territory with equal rights for all, as I made clear to Reid-Ross in a lengthy interview, first on Facebook chat then email, that ran from June to August 2015: see 20 July 2015). In other words, the false organisation was designed so that no real South African right-winger would accept it; a fact that I knew would be lost on Southgate and his cohorts.

Instead the obvious aim of this activity, which did not take very long, was just to get “national-anarchists” to open up to me. It must be stressed that as a fake organisation, “Black Battlefront” never had any actual meetings or events let alone members, though people like Southgate joined its Facebook page; its “National Congress,’ reported online, was a complete fiction; the non-existent group naturally made no attempt to proselytise anyone and had only a tiny group of online “friends,” most of them in the USA and Europe.
If it was, as Reid-Ross and Stephens claim “a focal point for a ‘racially aware’ cell within the anarchist movement,” why would this “cell” be public and why would it not actually be based “within” the actual South African anarchist movement? What were its supposed activities? This statement by Reid-Ross and Stephens about the “cell” is pure speculation, and, as before, their speculation ended up with inventing the worst possible interpretation (For the “cell” argument:

Some sense of my evolving thinking on so-called “national-anarchism” can be found in my lengthy 2012 review of Maia Ramnath’s two excellent books on South Asian libertarian socialism (South Asian Anarchism: Paths to Praxis, online at Here I argued that Mohandas Gandhi’s romantic socialism, with its stress on ancient and seamless “Hindu” culture, was similar to today’s “national-anarchism” in that it mixed calls for decentralism, national separatism, and a return to an authentic and homogenous village community. I also suggested that so-called “national-anarchism” just did not fit entirely neatly into the “fascist” model: “national-anarchism” was “misdiagnosed” “as fascist,” but its stress on “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” was “hardly ‘fascism’ or a rebranding of ‘fascism,’ for what is fascism without the state, hierarchy and class, authoritarianism, and the führer-principle?”

This analysis may be correct, or it may not be. A good deal depends on how we define “fascism” (an extremely controversial issue in the academy), for example, and this not helped when anarchists and others slap the “fascist” label on anything they disapprove of. But, in suggesting that this analysis was some sort of apologia for so-called “national-anarchism,” Reid-Ross and Stephens come close to insisting that anyone who does not accept their own view of the relationship between “national-anarchism” and “fascism” is themselves a fascist or “crypto-fascist.” That is a very slippery and dangerous slope to get on, and it closes down real debate by using labels. That I argued that so-called “national-anarchism” could not be entirely reduced to fascism is not the same as defending this current, or denying that it has a lineage in the radical right.

In fact, the same review article expresses my disagreements with both Gandhi (for example: “Gandhi’s libertarianism leads easily into right wing romanticism,” while Gandhi’s Sarvodaya heirs accept “archaic rights and privileges, traditional village hierarchies and paternalistic landlordism”) as well as “national-anarchism” (described as a “strange hybrid of recent years” that shares the same problematic “völkisch” leanings as Gandhism). But by cherry-picking quotes from the review article, and forcing them to fit their story, Reid-Ross and Stephens misrepresent what I said (see 

A further example of their manipulative gutter journalism is provided in the same chapter. Reid-Ross and Stephens state that they contacted Ramnath sometime in 2015, and showed her “a sample of his [my] Stormfront activity,” leading Ramnath to say of my review article: “Now, when read in the light of this new information, it’s just gross.” Her statement was then quoted. The two authors never indicated to Ramnath the context and debate over the “Stormfront activity,” nor my side of the story: their version was presented as self-evidently true, and through this sort of leading questioning, they set up a situation practically guaranteed to alienate Ramnath from me.

Further examples of questionable journalistic methods can be seen in the lengthy interview I had with Reid-Ross from June to August 2015: a full copy will be published on this site. At no stage did Reid-Ross indicate that he was in fact working on an expose of me: instead he stated (17 June 2015) “Hi there, I'm researching National Anarchism for a book I'm writing for AK Press … There are a lot of opinions on National Anarchism, and I wanted to follow up with you … to chat about aspects of nationalism, anarchism, and ideology.” Later: “Thanks very much for all your work writing and organizing to spread anarchy and better the world. Thanks again for your contribution in this interview, which will go a long way in putting together the pieces on anarchism, class struggle, and race for my forthcoming book and possibly an article” (24 July 2015). Obviously this misrepresentation also meant I was not given a right-of-reply since no charges or claims were levelled against me until AK Press made their initially entirely unsubstantiated statement on 25 October 2015. My request (27 July 2015) to “be given the opportunity to read the relevant parts of your text before publication” and “negotiate a rephrasing” of parts if I felt I had been misunderstood or had not expressed myself clearly was also completely ignored.

Important parts of the interview were completely left out: for example, I stated clearly (23 July 2015) that so-called “national-anarchism” was “a neo-fascist entryist tactic… an ideological Trojan horse,” proceeding from an “original neo-fascist impulse.” I added that that the “gut feeling among anarchists and neo-anarchists is, however, that such N-A enclaves are racist and not merely ethnic, and in this their instincts are totally correct: in the final assessment, N-A is a racist (anti-POC [People of Colour]) as well as a racial (ie: race-defined) romantic countermodernist movement with ‘a traditional past justifying a radical future,’ and this totally incompatible with both revolutionary classical anarchism and radical neo-anarchism.” In another answer, I also drew a distinction “fascism” proper, and its “neo-fascist” derivatives, which have some but not all of its features, with “national-anarchism” an example of “neo-fascism” that moves away from reliance on the state as its vehicle (24 June 2015).

Reid-Ross stated in his correspondence to me that this was “quite adroit, and I think your clarifications regarding your Ramnath piece deserve to see some light” (24 June 2015). Of course they have not seen “some light,” for the obvious reason that my hostility to so-called “national-anarchism” and my linking it to “neo-fascism” would not fit the claims made by Reid-Ross and Stephens. Also left out of the material cited from the interview were my unequivocal statements on my core politics, stressing mass-based class struggle and revolutionary classical anarchism as outlined, for example, in Black Flame and Cartography (e.g. 25 July 2015), as opposed to racist so-called “national-anarchism.” That too did not fit the straw-man argument.

But this commitment to class struggle and anarchism, including anarcho-syndicalism and Platformism, is of course, the position I have taken in pretty much every book or political article I have written over the last 20-plus years, and lies at the heart of my militant work. But it does not fit Reid-Ross’, Stephens’, and AK Press’, preconceived notion that I has some sort of Machiavellian infiltrator of the anarchists, and is discarded in place of a caricature. Confirmation bias, only seeing what fits what the investigator wants to find all along, and not dealing with compelling but contradictory evidence, is what marks their interventions.

I readily admitted in Two Swallows Don’t Make a Summer – before Reid-Ross and Stephens published the first of their series of accusations –  that I did not initially admit the false Facebook profiles either to Reid-Ross when he asked me (nor to the ZACF of which I was no longer a member when the matter was raised) as I had made no preparations for myself to be outed as having done such undercover work. This has now been given as evidence of proof of my guilt as a “national-anarchist” infiltrating the anarchist movement – and not, as my huge body of anarchist work clearly suggests, the other way around! This is merely Reid-Ross’s unbalanced interpretation and does not constitute any sort of proof that I am a “fascist” or “national-anarchist”. 

Reid-Ross and Stephens also suggest my undercover work was not in line with “basic journalistic standards” ( But what then can be said of the “basic journalistic standards” of Reid-Ross and Stephens themselves, with their selective quotations and cherry-picking, leading questions, misrepresentation of the aims of an interview, pseudo-psychology and speculations and mind-reading, heavy reliance on faceless sources, and failure to grapple with mountains of evidence contradicting their claims? If I had at least some justification for undercover work (for example, investigating dangerous right-wing currents that were, in the 2000s, involved in a treason trial for a bombing campaign against blacks in South Africa), what possible justification would they have for misrepresenting themselves to me?

Much has been made of the length of time I spent on investigating both the white right (Saturday Star, 2005-2007) and “national-anarchism” (Global Fire, 2009-2013), yet neither probe was a full-time engagement, but rather sporadic and drawn out investigations that, given my immense other workload which you will see a part of in this text, did not enjoy primacy. It was a small fire I kept burning, but amidst an exhausting work schedule, serious personal difficulties and ongoing progressive political commitments. Even so, as I have indicated, I did produce materials on these topics. My narrow targeting of theorists like Southgate, and non-proseletising attitude towards Black Battlefront shows that my real aim was to gather information on the “national anarchists”, not to advance their cause.

At this time, my anarchist writings also included a very clear critique of anarchist revolutionary praxis versus retro-tribalism, whether of a “national-anarchist” or other sort, in which I drew on Brahim Fillali of Morocco: Nostalgic Tribalism or Revolutionary Transformation?, Zabalaza #9, Johannesburg, South Africa, September 2008, online at

Top, working on the street in Jeppestown, Johannesburg, interviewing African migrants for the Reporting on Xenophobia, Diversity and Migration workshops, 2008. Bottom, a French newspaper article on Brahim Fillali with the headline A libertarian journalist faces an employer’s mafia.

Also in this period, in 2009, I planned the Holding Politicians Accountable pre-election training and seminar sessions which comprised political landscape debates between 80 participants, journalism master-classes and a broadcast SAfm radio debate between political party policy-makers committing their parties to take a stand against xenophobia in their election campaigning, and in the same year, co-planned and facilitated a series of Reporting on Xenophobia, Diversity and Migration workshops in four townships in Gauteng, South Africa, for community journalists for the Open Society Foundation (OSF). Out of this came the anti-xenophobic article Sharpening the Pangas: Understanding & Preventing Future Pogroms (Zabalaza #11, Johannesburg, September 2010): And the Portuguese-language edition of Bulgarian Anarchism Armed, Anarquismo Búlgaro em Armas: A Linha de Massas Anarco-Comunista (Faísca Publicaçiões Libertarias, Brazil), was published in 2009.

Other anarchist writings of this period of 2004-2009 include:

Zabalaza #5, Johannesburg, May 2004:
- A Makhnovist in Africa: Shalom Schwartzbard (reprinted in Jewish Affairs, Vol. 59, No.4, 2004)
- Fire-ants & Flowers: Revolutionary Anarchism in Latin America, republished as one of the articles in A Reader on Especifismo, Adam Weaver (editor), 2009, online at:

Zabalaza #6, Johannesburg, April 2005:
- The President from the Skies v. the Auntie who says “No!” (extract from report on Social Movements congress. Full version online at:,28,10,1472 )
- Doing the Liberation Lang-arm: Africa and South Africa after African “Socialism” (extract from interview of ZACF – Jonathan Payn, Steve Dhlomo and Siyabonga Mgenge – by Black Flag, UK)
- Swaziland: a Bitter Taste to the Sugarcane (with Mandla Dlamini, a Swazi ZACF member)
- ABC-SA protests the murder of CIPO-RFM activists
- Anarchism, Alternative Unionism & Workers’ Struggles in Iraq (further notes)

Zabalaza #7, Johannesburg, December 2006:
- Collective Bargaining by Riot: Election Day in South Africa
- The Anti-Liberation Movements (editing of and introduction to the talk by veteran Jewish anarchist Alan Lipman)
- Swaziland After the Bombings (with Mandla Khoza)
- The New American Imperialism in Africa
- Is China Africa’s New Imperialist Power? (with Lucien van der Walt)

Zabalaza #8, Johannesburg, December 2007:
- Now is the Winter of our Discontent: SA Public Sector Strike Stokes the Fire of Popular-Class Unity and Reveals “Communist” Weakness (written jointly for The Northeastern Anarchist #13, New York City, USA, April 2008)
- Blood, Water & Oil: Fallacies of the Darfur War
- A New Guantanamo in Africa?
- Misrepresentation of Self-Management in the Caribbean (Introduction with Lucien van der Walt, and a few footnotes)

Zabalaza #9, Johannesburg, September 2008:
- Only the Kenyan People can Heal the Rift in their Society torn by Squabbling Elites, introduction to the piece by Juliana Omale-Atemi

Zabalaza #10, Johannesburg, March 2009:
- The Jacob Zuma Cargo Cult and the “Implosion” of Alliance Politics
- A Bitter Taste to the Sugarcane (introduction to the Zabalaza Books pamphlet of the same name)
- The Anarchist Movement in North Africa 1877-1951 (with Lucien van der Walt)
- Jalan Journal: a New Asian Anarchist Voice is Born, introduction to the Jalan Journal founding statement
- Something Smells Different in Cuba, introduction to the May 2008 piece by the Movimiento Libertario Cubano, Cuban exile, France/Spain/Mexico/Venezuela
- ABC-SA Footnote to Against Political Terror in Russia, We Mobilise! by Alternative Libertaire, France/Belgium
- Channeling Obamania, introduction to the piece Change We Need: an Anarchist Perspective on the 2008 US Election by NEFAC USA.

Zabalaza #11, Johannesburg, September 2010
- Death and the Mielieboer: the Eugène Terre’Blanche Murder & Poor-White Cannon-fodder in South Africa
- Industrial & Social Foundations of Syndicalism, extract of (De)constructing Counter-power talks given in Canada, March 2010
- Massacre as a Tool of the African State [on the September 2009 massacre in Conakry and Guinea’s first democratic elections]
- Short-changed: Egyptian Struggle for Democracy Founders on Obama’s Stinginess

Online articles I wrote in this period included:

The Sulphurs of Santiaguito: Reflections on the Guatemalan Civil War (originally written in 2003, looking back on the tail-end of the war in 1996),, 2007, online at:

Power, Politics and Identity in South African Media, review of the Human Sciences Research Council book by that name, Focus #51, Helen Suzman Foundation, Cape Town, South Africa, 1 September 2008, online at:

PW & Pinochet: the Dictatorial Roots of Neoliberal Democracy in South Africa and Chile,, 2009, online at

As will be evident, I wrote a lot. Some of my views have changed over time, and sometimes I got things wrong. That is the reality of evolving as a human being and anarchist. But to pick out, of all this work, including books like Black Flame, selective, decontextualised sentences from a few pieces, completely misrepresents the scope and coherence and themes of my work as a writer and a militant.

3. Recent Activism, Research and Writing: 2010-2015

In late 2009 and early 2010, I travelled to Zambia (meeting with Malele Dodia again), Tanzania, Malawi, and Botswana, conducting workshops called Poverty, Food Security & Social Protection for journalists and activists for the Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme (RHVP) on the importance to poor people of social protections such as a basic income grant, concluding with a workshop in South Africa. In January 2010, I was appointed Managing Director of frayintermedia (which post prevented me rejoining the ZACF should I have wished).

In early 2010, I was invited on a speaking tour of Canadian universities and activist social centres on the Counter-power project, during which I met with militants of Common Cause (CC) of Ontario, Union Comuniste Libertaire (UCL) of Quebec and the Organización Popular Anarquista Révolucionaria (OPAR) of Mexico, and attended immigrant dignity protests. The talks were well-received by anarchists, “post-anarchists”, left communists and working class people in my audiences. As I always try to do when I travel, I stayed with local activists to get a better idea of their daily struggles and to cement our friendships. I was asked as a result of my Black Flame presentation in Montreal to write a pocket history of the global anarchist movement as part of a series to which Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and David Graeber had already contributed, that was a substantial revision of Five Waves.

Left, Zimbabwean Foster Dongozi (right) delivers the keynote address at the founding of the Professional Journalists’ Association of South Africa (ProJourn), Johannesburg, 2010. Right, meeting with Canadian and Mexican anarchists – Common Cause and Organización Popular Anarquista Revolucionaria (OPAR) – in Toronto during my 2010 Black Flame tour of Canada.

In March 2010, five years after the collapse of my former trade union, the SAUJ, and after two years of broad negotiations and consultations, I founded the Professional Journalists’ Association of South Africa (ProJourn) that at its launch was endorsed by all the main media organisations in the country and addressed by Foster Dongozi, president of the Southern African Journalists’ Association (SAJA). With a directly-democratic Constitution based exactly on the ZACF Constitution, a non-voting Oversight Board of veteran journalists of all colours, and a multiracial voting Secretariat of which I remain the Administrative Secretary, ProJourn today has a support base of more than 3,280 journalists from all cultures, has engaged in numerous initiatives including starting the transnational Ulu Club for Southern African Conflict Journalists and making submissions to the Press Freedom Commission, and is today a member organisation of the Alliance of Language and Media Practitioners (LAMP), a media industry lobby on professional standards and working conditions. In early 2010, I also ran a workshop in Namibia for HIV-AIDS non-governmental organisation Desert Soul, assisting journalists on how to report on the pandemic.

This was to prove a very tough period for me, however, as in mid-July 2010, I was rushed to hospital, dying of meningitis. I narrowly survived, but as a parting gift, the virus provoked a major seizure which bent me in half backwards, breaking my spine in five places. Over July-August, I slipped in and out of consciousness in hospital; it was not at all clear that I would live. When I was finally released in a wheelchair, wearing a back-brace, I was taken care of for two months by friends and of mine, and my memory is patchy. The medication used seems to have affected my moods, and while some days I functioned well, on others I was not. I mention this it intersected with my (as yet) undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and personal burn-out. I would forget basic things, and what I did from one day to the next, and vacillate between grand plans and personal disorganisation. I tried to keep up with my work, and though I posted under my false identities on Stormfront and Facebook in this period, but I do not really remember it very well, possibly as a result of lesions on the brain caused by the seizure. I became moody, depressed and aggressive at times.

The fact that my accounts of what happened in this period are inconsistent, is simply because my memory of it is patchy and poor. (Reid-Ross and Stephens of course charge me with lying, and make light of my illness and state, although they stop short of claiming my illness and trauma were fabricated: As one example, because I could not remember some postings, I thought my Stormfront account had been hacked, although I suppose I did make those posts: whatever their content, however, I naturally (and yet again) repudiate such comments and stress I was playing a role, as an undercover journalist.

When an actress plays Lady Macbeth, the audience understands that the actress is not in real life an instigator of murder, so why is it so hard for AK Press and its two agents to accept my undercover roles for what they were? It is grossly unfair of Reid-Ross and Stephens to now suggest these comments reflect my true character and state of mind at a time when I suffered massive memory loss, or mock the trauma I went through. I believe I am correct in assuming that neither are neurological professionals and have had no access to my medical records, so neither is in any position to comment, from afar, on my illness and trauma.

During 2010, I wrote another article of which Reid-Ross and Stephens have made much political capital. This was “Death and the Mielieboer: the Eugène Terre’Blanche Murder & Poor-White Cannon-fodder in South Africa” which appeared after editorial peer-review in Zabalaza and at, online at

The article stressed that South Africa in 2010 was dangerously racially polarised, a not terribly controversial point: the country’s persistent, deep racial divisions and fears of a breakdown into all-sided violent conflict are a central of not always openly stated theme in its politics. The death of Terre’Blanche took place in the context of a court case against elements of the ANC, centred on now-expelled figure Julius Malema, for “hate speech.” The case centred on a song with a chorus usually translated as “Kill the Boer,” the court ruling that the song was, in fact, “hate speech.” In South African law, to put it another way, blacks can indeed be racist and their hate speech has the potential to incite racial violence.

My article made another main argument: most whites were working class, many poor, and that while this layer had been privileged (like all whites ) under apartheid, it had also served as “cannon fodder” for the white ruling class in its oppression of black people. This despite the fact that rural Afrikaners, many blacks and most coloureds share an almost identical culture (10-million home-language speakers of Afrikaans are black, and about 3-million each for whites and coloureds). Polarising South Africa on racial lines, as figures like Terre’Blanche and Malema did, helped divide the working class, and turn it against itself, in much the same way as the anti-immigrant 2008 Pogroms, spurred by ruling class propaganda and miserable social conditions, had led to clashes within the working class.

Reid-Ross and Stephens, however, presented this article as a right-wing tract, in their third chapter. They noted, first, that certain right-wing websites carried the article, or extracts from it. But that does not make the article right-wing: I have no control over who cites or reproduces my work – and it they totally ignored the fact that, as with their own practice, the right-wing site simply cherry-picked paragraphs they liked, ignoring my anti-racist argument. Besides, the article was also and in fact far, far more carried widely on anarchist and left-wing blogs, boards and lists, something not mentioned by Reid-Ross and Stephens.

I specifically denied in the article that there was a “white genocide” in South Africa, and linked farm killings (like that of Terre’Blanche by farm labourers) to class issues, in a statement that Reid-Ross and Stephens themselves cited: “’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’” ( around-the-world-chapter-3-7d288d84b170#.3aqv35ixm). A few lines down, however, the two writers flatly contradict themselves, now claiming that I was arguing that “Boer genocide” was taking place. With this straw-man firmly in place, they quickly moved on to list a series of appalling radical rightists and white supremacists, like the murderer Dylan Roof, who claimed there was a “white genocide.” This sets up guilt-by-association, linking me to people with whom I have nothing whatsoever in common. The same method is used in chapter five to bring up the names of everyone from Alexander Dugin to the Golden Dawn (see

Reid-Ross and Stephens also misattributed to me the statement that the ANC “is stoking angry ‘black genocidaires’”: this statement, claim and quoted text do not appear anywhere in the Terre’Blanche article. (In chapter five, they would also claim I saw “ANC frontman, Jacob Zuma … as the main perpetrator of ‘white genocide,” a complete fabrication as I have never said anything of the sort, let alone in this article: see ).

But back to chapter three: Reid-Ross and Stephens went on to dispute my statement in the 2010 article that “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.” They stated that “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.”

Unfortunately for Reid-Ross and Stephens, there is no such refutation at Genocide Watch, and the link they provide to the Genocide Watch website ( does not link to any such statement: the citation is fictitious in other words. The figure of “four times higher” is also not “Schmidt’s claim” but from the reputable Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa which reports that “it is more than twice as dangerous to be a farmer than a policeman in South Africa, and a farmer or someone working on a farm is almost four times more likely to be murdered than the average South African” (  That 40% of victims in these attacks are farmworkers (as Reid-Ross and Stephens correctly note) does not refute this, since this means that white farmers (comprising a tiny minority within the 10% white minority) comprise a massive 60% of victims. That the land question plays into farm killings is not a controversial point either.

In attacking me, Reid-Ross and Stephens continue with their deeply problematic use of sources. They dispute claims that South Africa was dangerously polarised in 2010, saying that “In their July 12, 2012 report, Genocide Watch listed the situation in South Africa as ‘polarization,’ two stages away from actual genocide.” Note that I did not cite in my article this organisation, whose assessment of South Africa is quite different to mine. But Genocide Watch’s analyses, far from confirming Reid-Ross and Stephens, in fact contradict their claims and are worth mentioning as an example of how Reid-Ross and Stephens use sources. Stage 5, “polarization,” on the scale used by Genocide Watch, is a situation where “Extremists drive the groups apart. Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda.… Extremist terrorism targets moderates …” ( Note also that Reid-Ross and Stephens cite a mid-2012 Genocide Watch statement to challenge a 2010 article, and skip over a key statement on the page they cite (, in which Genocide Watch stated it had put South Africa “back” to Stage 6 on the 14 August 2012, the same as in 2010, and this is the “preparation” stage before the “extermination” stage: "Victims are identified and … Death lists … drawn up … Members of victim groups are forced to wear identifying symbols… expropriated … segregated” etc. (

Reid-Ross and Stephens seem to have spent rather more time on this article of mine than I did, because it involved, for me, only a brief interlude in an awful year. In late 2010, though I was barely recovered, while I was walking my dogs at Emmarentia Dam, I heard a gunshot – first the muzzle report, then the bullet whizzed past my ear, then it struck the shrubbery behind me. As an experienced war correspondent by this stage, I knew exactly what I had heard. But I hadn’t seen anyone fire the shot and had no idea what it could be about, though investigative journalism is dangerous work and one does make enemies. Searching my mind for someone who would have cause to kill me, I remembered the two neo-Nazis who my stories had helped jail back in 1997; I called contacts of mine in Durban and they confirmed the men were now free, and, in defiance of a court order that they never again be allowed to own firearms, had bought illegal arms. I realised the University of Johannesburg had on their website a transcript of a talk I had given there in which I had named the men and discussed the case. I asked the university to remove the men’s names from the text. Three brushes with death in as many months – the meningitis, breaking my spine, and a possible assassin – put enormous stress on me. 

But I needed to get back on my feet and make a living and as a result of my interest in restorative justice in transitional societies, and based on my experience covering South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), I was invited by the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) to conduct training for journalists in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific on covering their own TRC, convened after a bloody war between the islands of Guadalcanal and Malaita – and to speak to the TRC commissioners about how to engage the journalists. I managed to pull this off, and felt inspired to get my life back on track. 

Top, visited by anarchist comrades in hospital while still contagious with meningitis, 2010. Bottom, wearing my back-brace, with my conflict-reporting class of journalists in the Solomon Islands, South Pacific, 2010.

Shortly afterwards, I was appointed by the board of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism (IAJ), chaired by veteran anti-apartheid journalist and Press Ombudsman Joe Thloloe, as the IAJ’s executive director; by agreement, Thloloe remains on my CV as a key character reference. My staff was an eclectic mix of all of South Africa’s many creeds and colours, and yet we got on exceptionally well: I would serve there for the next four and a half years, modernise and professionalise the Institute and drive its expansion of work into the African continent: we subsequently worked on the ground in countries such as Botswana, Egypt, Malawi, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe and worked with journalists from all of Southern Africa plus Nigeria, Rwanda, and elsewhere – and I was directly involved with exiled Ethiopian journalist Girma Tesfaw Fantaye in attempting to set up a research and human rights monitoring hub in Uganda for exiled Horn of Africa journalists from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, and ex-Somalia. Again, hardly the work profile of a “fascist” or “white nationalist.”

In January 2011, I was diagnosed as suffering from PTSD and started what was to be two years of psychological counselling which in its final year included prescribed “happy pills” because the prescribed opiates I took as pain medication for my broken spine made me depressed and aggressive. But my depression took a deeper dive when in May 2011, my friend and former Saturday Star photographer Anton Hammerl was killed outside Brega in Libya by pro-Gaddafi forces (I had staged a candlelit vigil for his safe return at a time when we thought he had merely been captured).

Then, in early 2011, the ZACF became aware of the Stormfront profile which I had maintained for purposes of my research. I had left the ZACF in April 2010, having dropped out of active work in 2009 (see above). I was not a member, but ZACF nonetheless investigated the allegations and rumours that were now being made against me – the same allegations now published, years later, by Reid-Ross and Stephens. I was grilled, on a range of issues, and the ZACF decided to accept my explanations of my undercover journalism. It must be stressed that as I was no longer a ZACF member, and the ZACF up until that date had no idea of my undercover work, and so the organisation bears no responsibility for my actions.

At that point, I did not inform the ZACF about my false Facebook profiles (a non-disclosure I have admitted in Two Swallows Don’t Make a Summer, 27 September 2015  My reasoning, rightly or wrongly, was this: in the previous year or so, a woman activist had confessed to me that for three years she had been paid as a National Intelligence Agency (NIA) plant to monitor the radical social movements in general. She was not specifically tasked to monitor the ZACF, and had not been part of it, but the ZACF was part of the scene that included formations like the APF that she had monitored. She had since parted from NIA on bad terms, wracked with guilt over her duplicity. I felt then I could not reveal her name, and that, with our comrades (the radicals, not just the ZACF) under watch from the state, the fewer people including the ZACF that knew about my research into the far right the better.

I still will not reveal her name as it would then expose her former targets – including close comrades of mine – to unwarranted harrassment that has nothing to do with AK Press’ allegations. Some may question my decision not to name a former spy, but I trust in the truth of her repentance. In contrast, Reid-Ross harassed a veteran activist who had infamously been grievously tortured by the South African police – demanding to know if she had been the spy! This is precisely the sort of harm I wish to avoid. It is very revealing of Reid-Ross’ and Stephens’ underhanded approach that at no point in their investigation have they ever approached the ZACF – not even to warn them of a supposed infiltrator in their midst!

In 2011, I organised the first of a series of IAJ public policy Sparks Seminars on the topic of hate speech – with special reference to the “corrective rape” and killings of township lesbians, and subsequent seminars over 2011-2014 covered issues as diverse as human rights and genocide in South Sudan, press freedom in South Africa, and land restitution to dispossessed blacks in South Africa. Later that year, I attended a networking partners meeting of the International Institute for Journalism (IIJ), now part of the Deutsche Welle Akademie, in Berlin, at which I befriended fellow journalism educators from Senegal, India, Ghana, and elsewhere – in particular becoming very close to Ledrollen Manriquez of the Peace & Conflict Journalism Network (PECOJON) in the Philippines to whom I remain deeply indebted for sharing their excellent work on journalism safety and conflict reporting training which I incorporated into my own. I toured the sombre memorials to the Holocaust and to victims of the Gestapo, being delighted to see that the place where Hitler’s corpse was burned is an unmarked and pretty playground for children. I was also able to meet with a ZACF member living in Berlin who set up a meeting with militants of the anarchist Mötmakt organisation from Norway and we visited a local hangout of the Freie Arbeiterinnen- und Arbeiter-Union (FAU).

After Berlin, I made a trip to France, met in Paris with Alternative Libertaire (AL) historian Guillaume Davranche for my self-funded multimedia project The People Armed: Anarchist Fighters Verbatim (which AK Press had agreed to publish – again with no advanced fees being paid; as an international project that requires face-to-face interviews, it is entirely self-funded). I also met in the south of France with sole surviving member of the Spanish Confederación Nacional del Trabajo’s (CNT’s) Interior Directorate which was detailed with assassinating General Francisco Franco, Octavio Alberola Suriñach, and his anarchist partner Ariane Gransac Sedori. The meeting was facilitated by veteran Scottish anarchist and would-be Franco assassin Stuart Christie who I consider a friend and who kindly wrote the introduction to Black Flame; I interviewed Alberola on video for The People Armed, met with the local of the CNT-France and was wonderfully assisted for my research into the anti-Franco resistance by their archivist, and also met with the local of the Coordination des Groupes Anarchiste (CGA). I sadly did not manage to meet with veteran Algerian liberation fighter Léandre Valéro of the Mouvement Libertaire du Nord Africaine (MLNA) of 1947-1957 at his home just outside Paris (he died a month later, robbing The People Armed of its sole African interviewee), but on my exit via Paris again, I befriended the sister of Algerian anarchist protest singer Lounès Matoub who was assassinated in 1998 by Salafist fascists. 

Later that year, fellow journalist Pathiswa Magopeni and I were selected to attend a Clive Menell Media Fellowship at Duke University in the USA, during which trip we became firm friends, partying in the wonderfully multicultural environment of New Orleans. On that month-long visit I had the opportunity to write what became Cartographie de l’anarchisme révolutionnaire (Lux Éditeur, Montreal, 2012); its English edition was published as Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism (AK Press, Oakland, 2013) and I have now substantially rewritten it for a Spanish-language edition to be published in Argentina.

Left, anti-racist and anti-fascist stickers that I photographed at a FAU local in Berlin, 2011. Right, with Ariane Gransac Sedori and Octavio Alberola Suriñach in France, 2011.

At the conclusion of the fellowship during which I paid my respects to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC and purchased the book Hitler’s Black Victims, I made a side trip at my own expense to New York City where I visited the Occupy Wall Street sit-in, and stayed with anarchists in Harlem and Brooklyn such as the wonderful anarchist author and thinker Wayne Price, formerly of the defunct North Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists (NEFAC), and his talented folk-singer wife Anne. It was wonderful to be accepted by black folk in Harlem as a fellow African.

In January 2012, I was to have attended a Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF) conference in Morocco, after which I planned to meet with veteran Moroccan anarchist Brahim Fillali at his home in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, but sadly the Moroccan Embassy did not issue my visa in time. In early 2012, I was invited to Stockholm, Sweden, to attend the General Assembly of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), which is an international network of cities and regions providing safe haven for persecuted writers, journalists and editorial cartoonists (today, also musicians and visual artists). There, I networked and made friends with ICORN exiled “Guest Writers” from around the world, in particular with leading Iranian feminist Parvin Ardalan, Algerian poet Noufel Bouzeboudja, Moroccan pro-democracy activist and journalist Zineb El Rhazoui, and Kenyan poet Philo Ikonya. I remain close friends with all of these people today; all of them are aware of and flatly reject AK Press’s allegations against me.

During this trip, I spoke at length to comrades of the Sveriges Arbetaren Centralorganisation (SAC) about their return to their anarcho-syndicalist roots, was interviewed for their newspaper Arbetaren on my anarchist research, visited anarchist locals, and met with ex-guerrillas from Sweden and the Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU) for The People Armed and for Uruguayan Anarchism Armed. On my return to South Africa, in conjunction with the South African PEN writers’ guild, I established the South African Cities of Refuge Project (SACRP), the aim of which is to convince the cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg and the university towns of Stellenbosch and Grahamstown to sign on to ICORN as cities of refuge. Also in 2012, I was scheduled to give an address on Anarchist Revolutionary Models: Argentina and South Africa at the St Imier International Anarchist Gathering in Switzerland, but sadly did not have the funds to attend; the ZACF sent a coloured delegate, however.

Top, photographed for the SAC’s Arbetaren, Stockholm, Sweden, 2012. Bottom, ICORN guest writer Parvin Ardalan of Iran speaks at Stellenbosh University, South Africa, as guest writer Ramy Essam (right) of Egypt listens, during the South African Cities of Refuge Project tour I organised, 2015.

In April 2013, on the basis of my innovative historical framing of the anarchist movement in Cartographie de l’anarchisme révolutionnaire, I was invited to Paris to be interviewed at length for a new documentary on anarchist history, Ni dieu ni maître (Temps Noir), directed by veteran Bolshevik Patrick Barbéris and scripted by the anarchist Tancrède Ramonet. I also met with Alternative Libertaire (AL) militants from France and Morocco and with an anarchist from the Dominican Republic where the movement is newly-established, paid my respects as I always do when in Paris at the monuments to the Communards, to victims of Nazi concentration camps, and to Nestor Makhno, and participated in the anarchist May Day march, being delighted to see how the CNT-France had noticeably gained many members of colour since my last May Day march with them in 2000.
In June 2013, I was invited by the Union of African Journalists (UAJ) to observe its training workshops in Cairo, Egypt, and for the UAJ, I conducted a conflict journalism course for journalists from Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, Senegal, Mauritania, Madagascar, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. During this trip, I made contact and attempted to meet with anarchist militants of the local Libertarian Socialist Movement (LSM) but was unsuccessful. Shockingly, two weeks after my trip, military staged a successful coup.

In late 2013, based on my record of more than a decade of research into the anarchist movement, I was invited to become a Council member of the multilingual international Institute for Anarchist Theory and History (IATH), based in São Paulo, Brazil, ITHA describes itself as “an international, multilingual research body that aims to encourage, collect and disseminate historical and theoretical research on anarchism – free, horizontally federated direct democracy – plus research on theoretical and methodological conjuncture issues realised from a libertarian communist perspective, as well as primary sources of material produced by the anarchist movement from its inception in the 1860s until today.”

In 2014, I toured Aotearoa/New Zealand, speaking at the Wellington Anarchist Bookfair on IATH’s research under the title How Anarchists Build Counter-power and at the Museum of City and Sea on After Mandela: The Implosion of ANC Alliance Politics?, and Australia, speaking at Melbourne’s Victoria Trades Union Hall, and at the Sydney Anarchist Bookfair, on IAITH’s research, meeting along the way with my hosts such as Rebel Press and the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group (MACG). On this tour, I made a point of interacting with Maori, Aboriginal Australian, and Torres Straights Islander activists to learn about their struggles and compare them to those of the Bushmen in Southern Africa, insights I shared with my friend, Namibian indigenous-rights activist Delme Cupido, on my return, which interactions gave me background understanding for a new book I was writing that had a significant focus on Bushman experiences.

Top, my pan-African Union of African Journalists (UAJ) conflict-reporting class taking a tour, and bottom, with one of my Egyptian students in front of the burned-out Mubarak Hotel in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, 2013.

In 2014, I was invited by ICORN to attend its General Assembly in Ljubljala, Slovenia, where I renewed my friendships with ICORN Guest Writers and organisers from across Africa and the Middle East and established new relationships with Latin American activists wanting their cities to join the network. At the Assembly, I presented on progress in getting South African cities on board ICORN: in particular, the City of Cape Town had offered us a Guest Writer residence’ I was also invited to present on How Anarchists Build Counter-power at the University of Ljubljana by the Federacija za Anarhistično Organiziranje (FAO). Shortly after my return, my younger brother Tauca was killed in a motorcycle accident, which threatened to see a return of my PTSD.

In August 2014, I attended the wedding in Portugal of one of my closest Angolan friends, Paula Roque, and took the opportunity to travel to Spain where I because of the holidays, I was unfortunately not able to meet with the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT), the largest of the organisations arising out of the historic CNT, which has a strong focus on working in African countries such as Morocco, but I did meet in Barcelona with an anarchist local and spoke to them about IATH’s research and about the looming vote on Catalan independence out of which came an opinion piece on the double-edged sword of separatism, The two faces of global separatism, Daily Maverick, Johannesburg, 22 September 2014, online at:

This is another of the small number of my articles that Reid-Ross and Stephens actually cite, and in which they again sift for “evidence” of my supposed sinister right-wing views ( But the article itself, published in the mainstream press, is straightforward enough: I argued that one “face” of global separatist and national autonomy movements was progressive, and sometimes included a radical, even revolutionary edge, represented by movements such as that in the Basque country and Catalonia. The other “face” was that of separatist movements descending into blood-letting and “fratricidal war.” I did not see elements of the former face in South African separatist movements, and added that such movements had, in any event, no real traction.

But undeterred by what appears on the page, Reid-Ross and Stephens insist on seeing coded support for an Afrikaner or white Volkstaat in the article. They claim, for example, that my aside that some Afrikaners might feel sympathy for Scotland’s autonomy, because “many Scots fought on the side of the Boers against the British Empire a century ago,” is “an obvious attempt to reveal some potential pan-secessionist solidarity for mutual advancement of Boer and Scottish secession.” Since the article at no stage speaks in favour of “Boer secession,” this is far from “obvious.” Then they claim I see “promising developments” when I mention two obscure white South African splinter movements that call for some sort of secession. Wrong again: I state these secessionist currents had “died on the vine.”

Reid-Ross and Stephens then claim that my mention of the ridiculous attempts of the obscure Front Nasionaal to invoke UN law constitute an “appropriate inroad toward separatism.” By that logic, their mention of fascist writers like Julius Evola in their own articles must make them supporters of fascism. They then state that since I used the term Vierkleur and the term soutie, my article “obviously manifests his prejudices toward [sic] a Boerestaat.” That is a nonsensical inference, not least because the Vierkleur is the only name the old Transvaal flag has ever had. Then it’s back to false attribution: for example the spurious attribution of the “national-anarchist” catch-phrase “pan-secession” to me by Reid-Ross and Stephens is an obvious attempt to link me to so-called “national-anarchists” who use the phrase. The problem is that I do not use this phrase, but the result is again guilt-by-association.

So, where there’s a will, there’s a way: it seems clear that Reid-Ross and Stephens are not willing to let facts stand in the way of a good story. For example, they leave out that in May and June 2014, I staged launches in Johannesburg and Cape Town respectively for the South African Cities of Refuge Project (SACRP): in Johannesburg, Norwegian documentary film-maker Beate Arnestad presented her film Silenced Voices on exiled Sri Lankan journalists, and in Cape Town, French film-maker Marion Stalens presented her film Silence or Exile on ICORN Guest Writers in exile; the latter launch lead to a meeting between an ICORN/SACRP delegation and the City of Cape Town at which the city offered the SACRP a house as a Guest Writer residence.

In late 2014 I had hoped to visit the United States on work for a narrative journalism summit and use the opportunity to do presentations on IATH’s research to members of the new Black Rose Anarchist Federation (BRRN), which had in some cities replaced the old NEFAC, as well as to conduct interviews for The People Armed but as a non-profit, the IAJ was unable to raise funds for the trip.

Top, with ICORN guest writers from Africa, and bottom, poster for my How Anarchists Build Counter-power talk, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2014.

In November 2014, my third book, a retrospective on my reportage regarding the long shadow of apartheid on democratic practice, covering the years 1960-2014, Drinking with Ghosts: the Aftermath of Apartheid’s Dirty War (BestRed, Cape Town, 2014), hailed by veteran anti-apartheid editor Max du Preez as “the best reporters’ notebook I’ve ever read,” was published to acclaim. It was launched by Rian Malan, author of his famous self-interrogation of his Afrikaner family’s role in colonialism and apartheid, My Traitor’s Heart, and was long-listed for the 2015 Alan Paton Award, South Africa’s annual non-fiction award (and trust me, you can’t achieve that list with a racist text!).

My fourth book, by the same publisher, an analysis of the continued conditions of exclusion in South Africa over the 21 years of democracy, 1994-2015, A Taste of Bitter Almonds: Perdition and Promise in South Africa has just been published in November 2015. Controversial black polemicist Eric Miyeni, author of O, Mandingo! The Only Black at a Dinner Party, has said of it: “Michael Schmidt will challenge you in this book. He will enlighten you too. You will want to embrace him for going so far out on a limb with his truths. You will also want to punch him in the face for some of those revelations, and draw blood. There is, however, one thing you will never do. You will never say of this man: ‘Michael Schmidt never was any good as a writer.’ He gripped my attention… and never let it go.”

Both books are written with an anarchist sensibility, and display an inherently (and in the latter, explicit) anti-racist stance. In fact, I argue in A Taste of Bitter Almonds, using examples from my own family history showing that we were in part descended from freed Bengali slave Anna de Koning, that all South Africans are related by blood, that we are all in effect “coloured”. I also make it clear that despite their multiracial origins, my ancestors engaged in colonial depredations such as the enslavement of people of colour, and go further to suggest that it is likely that they were involved in the 19th Century Genocide of South Africa’s First People, the Bushmen. Here is a podcast of a radio interview on Drinking with Ghosts and here, a podcast of my first radio interview on the contents of A Taste of Bitter Almonds which make my attitudes to race, class – and the delusional white right-wing  explicitly clear:

The back-stories of some of my journalistic writings on the far-right that were published in Drinking with Ghosts include:

- Durban, 1989 (the Chesterville Four inquest reveals the SAP's Section C-10 death-squad – “Vlakplaas”)
- Durban, 1996 (on the failed “Trial of the Generals” for the KwaMakutha Massacre)
- Durban 1996 (I cover the TRC Amnesty Hearing of Vlakplaas commander Dirk Coetzee and his henchmen)
- Pretoria, 1999 (I masquerade as a priest to find hear patients of biochemwar chief Dr Wouter Basson)
- Jeffries Bay, 1999 (I trace & interview the man accused of murdering 200 SWAPO POWs)
- Chiredzi, 1979 (French Legionnaire witnesses Dr Basson doping guerrillas)
- Pretoria, 2002 (photojournalist Sydney Seshibedi and I gatecrash Basson's acquittal party)
- Cape Town, 2013 (claims of chemwar use in Angola during Dr Wouter Basson HPCSA hearing)
- Pretoria, 2013 (on Dirk Coetzee’s death, I remember meeting his gangster friend Rashied Staggie)
- Cape Town, 2013 (Dr Basson is convicted by his professional body of weaponising drugs)
- Johannesburg, 2014 (death squad commander Eugene de Kock is being considered for parole)

Left, Drinking with Ghosts, centre, one of my direct ancestors, freed Bengali slave Anna de Koning, about whom I write in my new book, at right, A Taste of Bitter Almonds, in furtherance of my argument that all South Africans are genetically and culturally interrelated.

And relevant stories that have been published in A Taste of Bitter Almonds include:

- Durban, 1997-1998 (my story on the drive-by shooting of black stevedores results in the neo-Nazis going to jail)
- Bloemfontein, 2003 (I interview in court the neo-Nazis accused of plotting to bomb the Gariep Dam)
- Ventersdorp, 2010 (the Eugene Terre’Blanche murder and the demise of the AWB)
- Modimolle, 2007 (the strange support for the Boeremag terrorists and the popularity of the De La Rey song)
- Pretoria, 2013 (judge hands down long sentences for high treason to Boeremag)

4. My Work for the Anarchist and Pro-Democracy Movements Today

I resigned from the IAJ at the end of February 2015 to take up freelance journalism, research and consulting, but continued to consult to them for three months. In May 2015, my SACRP work lead to my organising that the ICORN City of Refuge of Malmö in Sweden send on a tour to Cape Town two Guest Writers, my friend Parvin Ardalan of Iran, and famous Tahrir Square protest singer Ramy Essam of Egypt. The visit included a free Essam concert, a visit to the proposed Cape Town Guest Writer residence, meetings with anarchist activists, with the University of Stellenbosch and the town’s mayor, and a proposed partnership with the South African Holocaust and Genocide Foundation. At the time of writing this – November 2015 – I am preparing to present to an international human rights conference to which I have been invited in Sweden on refuge for persecuted academics, journalists and creatives on progress on getting the City of Cape Town on board ICORN. ICORN’s head office is aware of AK Press’s allegations against me, rejects them, and stands by my continued involvement with their projects.

Meanwhile, A Bitter Taste of Almonds has come off the presses. I am also busy working with van der Walt on polishing the second, narrative history, Counter-power volume, Global Fire: 150 Fighting Years of Anarchism and Syndicalism. I am refining a new book proposal which I have now withdrawn from AK Press, with the draft title Black Crowbar: Anarchist Counter-power in Theory & Practice, which draws together all the lessons of my last 15 years of research, integrates new research, and examines the theory and praxis of statist versus anti-statist conceptions of how critical mass is achieved in order to change society from the bottom-up  – and the radical divergence between the exercise of centralised corporate and state power,  and that of decentralist anarchist counter-power and self-management. Uruguayan Anarchism Armed remains an active project. I am also putting together, along with a former ANC exile, a book proposal to BestRed on untold stories of South Africans’ fight for democracy.

Last year, a chapter by van der Walt and I was published in Felipe Corrêa et al’s Teoria e História do Anarquismo (Editora Prismas, Curitiba, Brazil), on defining the anarchist canon has already been published. This year, I also wrote the introductions to two new Latin American anarchist books which have just been published: for Emilio Crisi’s brilliant and groundbreaking Revolución Anarquista en Manchuria 1929-1932 (Libros Anarres, Buenos Aires) on the barely-known Korean/ Manchurian anarchist revolution; and for Felipe Corrêa’s Bandeira Negra: rediscutindo o anarquismo (Editora Prismas, Curitiba, Brazil), on overhauling anarchist theory. 

Two of the great new books produced by ITHA members in 2014 and 2015 to which I have contributed text, at top, Felipe Corrêa’s Bandeira Negra, and at bottom, Emilio Crisi's Revolución Anarquista en Manchuria.

I am currently writing a fifth book, Isandlwana: a Love Story, a collection of songs, paintings and stream-of-consciousness writings on love, and am working on two multimedia projects: The People Armed: Anarchist Fighters Verbatim (which AK Press had agreed to publish before the current debacle and which I need to note has been entirely funded by myself though it involves international travel), which is a project of film and text verbatim interviews with post-war anarchist guerrilla veterans from North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and the Far East; and Not Night, but An Absence of Stars, a global online visual and verbal arts project with Arab Lebanese writer Rasha Salti, focusing on forensic meditations on massacre and memory. I also meet on a weekly basis with Zimbabwean activist Taurai Mabhachi, co-ordinator of the Media & Technology Trust (MTT) on its Radio Freedom project which aims to get at least 11 community radio stations on-air in Zimbabwe – despite intense government resistance.

At the time of writing this, I am refining a new book proposal which I have now withdrawn from AK Press, with the draft title Black Crowbar: Anarchist Counter-power in Theory & Practice, which draws together all the lessons of my last 15 years of research, integrates new ITHA research, and examines the theory and praxis of statist versus anti-statist conceptions of how critical mass is achieved by anarchists in order to conquer power – and how these conceptions diverge radically between the exercise of centralist corporate power and that of decentralist anarchist counter-power. It is telling that as a key part of the Black Crowbar proposal, I was to have travelled to Rojava at my own expense to analyse the libertarian communist social experiment there – and the fight against Salafist fascism; in other words, I was prepared to put my life on the line and at the least risk a return of my PTSD in the most deadly region of the world for journalists for an anti-fascist AK Press Book without a cent being paid in advance; perhaps that fact alone should have tempered their enthusiasm to tar and feather me in furtherance of a whispering campaign by nameless sources? Lastly, I am also putting together, along with a former ANC exile, a book proposal on untold stories of South Africans’ fight for democracy.

My writings of this period, 2010-2015 include:

The Kurdish Question: Through the Lens of Anarchist Resistance in the Heart of the Ottoman Empire 1880-1923,, 2010, online at:

Africa’s Purchase of the French Presidency,, April 2012, online at , and on Pambazuka as How African Dictators Corrupt European Politics, online at, with a shortened French translation, Comment l’Afrique se paye la présidence française, Alternative Libertaire, France, April 2012.

The Wallpaper War: the United States a Decade After 9/11,, June 2012, online at

South Asian Anarchism: Paths to Praxis, meditations on Maia Ramnath’s Decolonizing Anarchism: an Antiauthoritarian History of India’s Liberation Struggle, AK Press, USA, 2011, and her Haj to Utopia: How the Ghadar Movement Charted Global Radicalism and Attempted to Overthrow the British Empire, California World History Library, USA, 2011,, June 2012, online at

Keeping the Public’s Interest at Heart, The Media, Johannesburg, South Africa, January 2011

No Compromise on Journalist Safety, The Media, Johannesburg, South Africa, July 2011

Storming the Bastille of the Bourgeois Media, Jozi Book Fair Catalogue: Issues in Debate, Johannesburg, South Africa, August 2011

Believe the strength in numbers of unbelievers, on the quiet but large atheist presence in South Africa, Page 6, City Press, Johannesburg, South Africa, 8 April 2012

Press Needs Urgent Surgery, The Media, Johannesburg, South Africa, May 2012

A little of that human touch: journalists look at the process, reporters at the event; we need more journalists, The Star op-ed on the Marikana Massacre, Johannesburg, 30 August 2012

Bakunin’s Women: a partial review of Mark Leier’s Bakunin: a Biography,, 12 November 2012, online at

Internet & Ideology: Against the Nationalist Fragmentation of Cyberspace & Against "Astroturf Activism",, 31 May 2013, online at

The Sulphurs of Santiaguito, the muds of KwaMakutha: if Latin American countries can successfully prosecute their murderous generals, why did South Africa fail?, Daily Maverick Johannesburg, South Africa, revised version of the 2003 article, 3 June 2013, online at

Nelson Mandela: Reappraisal of an Icon,, 12 December 2013, online at

From Demonic Terrorist to Sainted Icon: the Transfiguration of Nelson Mandela, Daily Maverick, Johannesburg, South Africa, 13 December 2013, online at

Nigerian Tragedy: should "Prophet" be indicted for mass-murder?, Daily Maverick, Johannesburg, South Africa, 17 September 2014, online at:

Migration: the push of landless poverty and the pull of transnational trade, Daily Maverick, Johannesburg, South Africa, 10 October 2014, online at:

The neo-Makhnovist revolutionary project in Ukraine, 5 December 2014, anarkismo, online at:

Jacket Notes on Drinking with Ghosts, Sunday Times Books guest column, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2 February 2015, online at:

The Forgotten Tradition of French Sovietism, a review of David Berry, A History of the French Anarchist Movement 1917-1945, anarkismo, 30 March 2015, online at:

Recovering Portugal’s mass anarchist history, a review of João Freire's Freedom Fighters: Anarchist Intellectuals, Workers, and Soldiers in Portugal's History, anarkismo, 30 March 2015, online at:

In search of early Italy's "lost" Bakuninist organisations, a review of Nunzio Pernicone's Italian Anarchism, 1864-1892, anarkismo, 27 May 2015, online at:

The Failed German Revolution of 1918-1919, a review of Richard J. Evans, The Rise of the Third Reich, anarkismo, 9 June 2015, online at:

Digging a little deeper in Darfur, The Star op-ed on South Africa’s failure to detain Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir for the International Criminal Court, Johannesburg, 17 June 2015, online at

Lesotho: the hole in SA’s heart, The Star op-ed on South African responses to continued unrest in Lesotho, Johannesburg, 10 July 2015, online at

Unequal Siamese Twins, a review of Felipe Fernández Arnesto's The Americas; A History of a Hemisphere, Goodreads, online at:

In this period, my very stern attitude towards so-called xenophobia was made explicit inn an article on a worrying return to immigrant violence in 2015, It's not a phobia, the crime is genocide. The Star op-ed, Johannesburg, 22 April 2015, online at:

Industrially, I remain Administrative Secretary of the Professional Journalists' Association of South Africa (ProJoun) and its project The Ulu Club for Southern African Conflict Journalists, and remain the convenor of the South African Cities of Refuge Project (SACRP) and curator of the Not Night, But An Absence of Stars project. I continue to write for Anarkismo as well as for the new pan-Affrican current affairs journal Ogojiii

5. On the Remaining Spurious Allegations

Having dealt exhaustively with the substance of my life’s journalistic and anarchistic output – which demonstrates very clear anti-racist, anti-fascist, anti-imperialist and staunchly anarchist ethics – I now have to unfortunately turn to gossip, supposition, and ephemera dragged up by my AK Press accusers in trying to establishing what is in essence a juvenile sub-cultural argument instead of a mature political analysis.

I have to sigh deeply when an item of my jewellery is raised as a “proof” of racism, but unfortunately for my accusers, the supposed Thor’s hammer (Mjölnir) pendant is in fact an Icelandic “wolf’s cross,” the meaning of which is so obscured it is not even known if this is pagan or Christian; I know of no right-wing interpretations of it and simply bought it because I liked the gargoyle-like face on it and have worn it for decades without it being of concern to any anarchists I have met. AK Press seems to deliberately ignore other items of jewellery that I wear constantly such as the Turkish ring on my right hand – is this because a Turkish item does not fit their construct of my “white nationalism”? (See

I have NO racist tattoos. The sum total of all my ink is: my family and a radical Chilean firefighter’s emblem (back); a Chris Achilleos siren and the slogan “No Fate” (right shoulder); the names of two life-long women friends I love, one Indian, written in Sanscrit, the other white, written in Elder Futhark (left and right shoulders); an inverted Renaissance printer’s mark in red – this is not a runic tattoo (left shoulder); recreations of the oldest tattoos known, of the Scythians from the 5th Century BC – remember, science tells us the Scythians were a blend of peoples including European and Asiatic so these cannot be construed as racial tribal tattoos (left and right upper arms and elbows); a naval anchor with the name of my brother Tauca who was killed last year (right forearm); Anarchist Black Cross – South Africa emblem (left forearm); and the line from the IWW song There is Power in a Union, “Money speaks for money; the Devil for his own. Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone?” (right forearm). All of these tattoos were done well before AK Press started its investigation. See Happily, I had not started my planned tattoo of the AK Press logo of a crossed dagger and quill; I’ve changed my mind on that now – unless I have the dagger drawn as if sunk in my back!

My former house was a modest one, and does not fit the image either of luxury painted by Reid-Ross and Stephens claim or the apocalyptic imagery I conjured up in a Stormfront post in my bogus persona (see and

I took out a bank bond on the house in 2007 after my divorce in a peaceful, lower middle class, predominantly coloured neighbourhood. When I could have lived elsewhere, I lived there in complete harmony for five years with Giles and Mimi Nojang, a Cameroonian couple, and their children, and before that with a white/coloured couple; both the Nojangs and I often entertained guests there from across Africa and abroad on a grand scale, such as my annual Dios del Muerte parties and their frequent football parties. And as the shamefully nameless sources of AK Press know well – because they have been house guests of mine – my house was (and my current apartment remains) decorated with Bushman, South African, Zimbabwean, Mozambican, Cameroonian, Senegalese, Malian, Tuareg, Kwakwaka'wakw, Hopi, Mayan, Aztec, Hawai’ian, Maori, Aboriginal Australian, Nepalese, Indian, Chinese and Japanese indigenous art – with no European art in evidence.

As for the reference to the bar I hang out in, the Xai-Xai Lounge, AK Press deliberately ignored the fact that this is a well-known multicultural bar, owned by a lesbian couple and run by South African and Zimbabwean staff, where straights and LGBTI people, former uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) guerrillas, journalists and musicians, locals and foreigners, and peoples of all colours and creeds interact wonderfully: and this has been my watering-hole for the past 13 years. In fact, lesbian friends such as Angela Meuwsen and Lynn Sterling at whose recent wedding I was best man, and black ex-MK friends such as Mpho Kettledas and ex-ANC exile friends such as Crosby Nyembezi have laughed hard at AK Press’ allegations – and they have all bought me many drinks there as a result!

As for the bits and pieces of military clothing I sometimes wear, it is hardly unusual for an anarchist to wear items of military surplus because of their durability. I am not a collector but have odd items from South Africa (including my late brother’s naval jacket), Angola, Australia, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Russia, the USA, and the Zapatistas. As an antimilitarist, I have never since I became a military objector worn again a full uniform of any designation. I acknowledge that some items have caused confusion: I removed the skull-and-bones badges from a modern black tank commander’s pea-coat as people mistakenly thought it was WWII SS (remember Zapatistas and Makhnovists have all used the skull-and-bones); and I have added an anarchist black star and ABC badge to a recreation of a Spanish Revolution-era black field cap of the anarchist Malatesta Battalion as it was also mistakenly thought to be WWII German (though a Polish friend thinks it looks Russian!). I admit that several years ago I wore to a fancy-dress party an old Swedish military jacket made up to look like a WWII German jacket – the theme of the party, hosted by a black-and-white couple, was “Evil Masterminds”; though my outfit was obviously not convincing as someone else won the award for best costume, this was ill-advised and I regret having done it. Nevertheless, I have also worn women’s dresses to other costume parties and no-one accused me of being a girl as a result!

Lastly, the names of my dogs – which are tan-coloured mongrel SPCA rescues and not purebred “White Swiss Sheperds” as alleged – are totally irrelevant; the inference in AK Press’s attempted slur is that their names reveal me to be an Odinist where as I am well-known to be an atheist; that a friend of mine named her cat Chairman Meeow does not make her a Maoist! (See

Left, a member of the Malatesta Battalion wearing a black field cap with skull-and-bones during the Spanish Revolution. Right, my friend Zona wearing my black Malatesta Battalion field cap – with anarchist star and ABC badges replacing the skull-and-bones.

6. Conclusion

In summary, I have maintained a polite and comradely tone throughout my engagements with AK Press though this has not been reciprocated. Stacked up against a quarter of a century of intensive international anarchist networking, progressive activism, pro-democratic work and organising (especially within Africa) – that has included substantial anti-fascist, anti-xenophobic and pro-immigrant work – and a huge volume of research and writing, my accusers have my accusers have relied heavily on nameless and faceless sources (I believe there are in fact only two main sources), on cherry-picking quotes and on misquotations and fabrications, on speculation and amateur psychology and mind-reading, on the selective use of evidence, using only what seems to confirm their claims and ignoring the mountains of material that refute them, the Stalinist tactics of guilt-by-association, ethically dubious and sloppy journalism, in series of articles filled with factual errors and contradictions. They have created a straw man of circumstantial evidence that they beat to fit and painted to match their preconceived anticipation of my guilt, in a polemical anti-political character assassination that makes one wonder at the state of the American anarchist movement.

In a bizarre and self-defeating conclusion to their lengthy series of articles, Reid-Ross and Stephens conclude by stating that they cannot, after all, prove their core claim, the very grounds cited by AK Press itself to withdraw my books from publication: “Perhaps it’s too easy to say that Michael Schmidt was or was not an [fascist] infiltrator … 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” (

Indeed. But this has not stopped them from publishing five libellous pieces in their self-imposed mission to police and interrogate African anarchists like myself. AK Press has meanwhile stunningly failed to prove that any benefit of any sort accrued to the racist right. Where is the “national-anarchist” or “third position” presence I have generated? The texts, the books, the recruits? But on the other side, I have shown conclusively that I have produced scores of articles exposing the far right and the overlapping milieu of the former apartheid regime’s killers and their masters, articles that were surely not to their benefit, but to the benefit of an open, multiracial democracy. I have also, of course, written thousands of pages recovering the history of anarchism and syndicalism worldwide, especially in the Global South, especially amongst people of colour, and for decades fought for equality and the freedom of the working class, black as well as white. How the radical right could possibly benefit from, say, Black Flame, is the sort of question that AK Press simply cannot answer. It beggars belief that a member of the radical white right would spend decades working in the small, multi-racial, mainly black, South African anarchist movement, all the while helping edit anarchist papers, assists township organisers, do prisoner support work, serve as a shopsteward, train African journalists and expose the radical right in the press.

This would make me the most useless white supremacist or fascist ever, for I have demonstrably spent most of my spare time, much of my hard-earned money (and journalists earn poorly), organising, arguing, researching, and writing, for the anarchist movement and for nothing else that was not progressively pro-democratic and multiracial. In the process, I have deliberately sought work across Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Europe and the Antipodes. To compound what white supremacists would see as the lynching offence of my “race-traitorship,” I hang out in gay bars and black squatter camps, promote the cause of radical black revolutionary prisoners, dance in coloured jazz clubs and pogo at the annual punk gig in Soweto, attend pro-Palestine marches and Holocaust remembrances (and believe me, the Jewish security details have done extensive background checks on me!), buy John Lee Hooker CDs and tickets to Skunk Anansi concerts, spent loads of money on building black township community libraries, have trained literally hundreds of editors and journalists of all cultures across Africa, Mexico, the Solomon Islands and the USA, work, party and holiday with people of all ethnicities. I challenge my accusers over the rest of their natural lives to work in half the African countries I have.

AK Press and will continue to fail, to produce any evidence whatsoever that I have ever met with or worked with a single right-winger for political purposes. The reason is simple: such meetings never occurred. If I was truly a fascist, where is the celebration by the fascist movement at their stunningly successful 23-year infiltration of the anarchist movement? Where are the results of that penetration, the fascist exposés of the secret minutes and plans of anarchist organisations? The recruits? I have never betrayed a single internal document to another organisation or to the public or engaged in long personal attacks in public, working instead with a wide range of progressive people. This is, I might add, very different to what my accusers have done, pillorying the ZACF – now a vibrant multiracial organization – leaking documents, opening up divisions in the anarchist movement, and promoting a witch hunt. None of this has done international anarchism any favours: any outsider viewing this affair must see the movement as a complete mess.

Who benefits? I imagine I can hear the white right, fascists and so-called “national-anarchists” snickering over how the anarchist movement is weakened as a result of a slander campaign, conducted in the manner and tone of a Stalinist show-trial, against one of organised anarchism’s theorists and historians.

I have tried to avoid raising the plaintive “but some of my best friends are black” defence, but mentioning the names of my numerous key comrades of colour over the decades has become unavoidable given the – for an anarchist outfit – deliberately anti-political nature of AK’s assault. And the fact is I have had at least one serious black girlfriend, three serious coloured girlfriends, four serious Indian girlfriends (one of whom I was engaged to, one of whom I married), six serious white girlfriends and some Jewish and Muslim girlfriends; if I harboured the intense distaste that white supremacists have for mixing with people of colour, surely my lovers would have picked this up?; rather, such sexual proclivities alone would have the white right reaching for their baseball bats. That said, the people of all colours mentioned here can speak in their own words regarding their relations with me; I carry no mandate to speak on their behalf.

So let me turn the question around: who benefits from Reid-Ross’s and Stephens’ slander against one of the most prolific anarchist theorists and historians working today? I can say, with certainty, who does not: the anarchist movement. Instead of the white right benefitting from my rather desultory and sporadic undercover engagements with it, work like mine has challenged the race-flavoured North Atlanticist bias in conventional movement histories, reinstating the leading role played by Latin American anarchism and by our militant forebears in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

iIs it not unavoidably more likely that this work and all my associated writings derived from it benefits the anarchist movement itself? So when, in AK Press’s libelous words, “a white nationalist seduced anarchists around the world,” it appears I achieved this seduction by the cunning device of a huge output of anti-racist, internationalist, anti-fascist works over more than two decades on the global anarchist movement! Again I repeat that it is telling that at no point during its shoddy investigation did AK Press or its agents directly approach the ZACF – not even to warn them of a supposed infiltrator in their midst! This suggests a deeply uncomradely attitude towards a reputable anarchist organisation of 12 years’ standing – as well as an avoidance of a confrontation that might challenge their preconceived notions of my “guilt”.

As African writers, van der Walt and I have totally overturned convention – not because we want to substitute the global South for the North, but because we want to rebalance anarchists’ understanding of our history, theory and praxis in a truly transnational, internationalist and thus multiracial context. This work, while welcomed by the serious political science academy, organised anarchist movement and labour press.

I know that as a white-classified person in South Africa, I still today benefit from the aftermath of apartheid privilege, and I do not deny that I have sometimes gotten things plain wrong on race, class and other issues. But hopefully I’m learning, not to adhere to truly root out racism in myself on a daily basis, and to work in a wounded society. The deliberate direction of my chosen work, having had for decades a pan-African perspective that I was able as I became more senior to put into practice from Egypt to Mali, from Namibia to Uganda, from Darfur to Mauritius, has helped me in that quest, as has my innumerable interactions with activists from across the globe, some of them named in this text.

Lastly, I am humbled that in this awkward time of having such damaging things said about me, I have retained the loyalty of scores of anarchist comrades, activists as well as apolitical friends of all cultures. I am particularly indebted to those involved in the ICORN, Anarkismo, ITHA, Not Night, but An Absence of Stars, and Radio Freedom projects for unreservedly standing by me. It is that fact – and the realities of my multicultural life so far removed from my accusers’ assertions as to seem B-grade science fiction – that has meant I have lost no friends to AK Press’ slander, nor have I changed my lifestyle one bit. Rather I renew my endeavours to bring to the anarchist movement an internationalist – and thus necessarily anti-racist – view of its multinational history, theory and praxis.

And to repeat the LEGAL NOTICE: All Michael Schmidt’s legal rights to his reputation and works are reserved. This biography constitutes a full refutation of the defamation against Michael Schmidt by AK Press, its agents and sources, and no further correspondence will be entered into without the mediation of legal counsel.