I was pleasantly surprised to see that Bob Black had released his recent work The Myth of Human Rights, partly because I had weeks prior purchased a zine copy of his The Abolition of Work and intended to reread it. Black, along with Jarach and Crimethinc, was one of my first encounters with post-left anarchist thought, and at one time I really valued his thought. I have read both works since the publication of the more recent and am going to share (lazily) some of my thoughts on (the myths in) both.
The Myth of Human Rights –
Factual-Realism: Black’s embrace of this (myth/)mode of argument is intensely disappointing. Claims of “objectivity” are incredibly weak attempts at posturing some notion of authority. It seems to go with a form of Humanist theology that I’d have hoped Black wouldn’t turn to.
Humanism: Black misses the first point of destroying the myth of human rights; destroying the concept of “human” species-being. As such, the piece reads like an ode to human-being.
Contradictions = bad: Black positions contradictions as something bad, when being-contradiction – contradiction being difference – is a core aspect of anti-totalitarian praxis. To not contradict the system is to accept this culture. Black’s anti-contradiction logic strikes me as weak, at best.
Conflict-harmony dichotomy: I find this dichotomy to be an entirely false one and Black’s appeal to it instantly reminded me of Hobbes and his anti-wild ideology.
Chomsky Name Calling: Black’s belief in the myth that calling Chomsky names makes him more interesting is just sad. Nothing more can be said on the matter.
Utopian Anarchism: Black appealing to romantic sentiment regarding utopian anarchism is (also) just sad, and (sadly) suggests to me that Black is a disappointed optimist, still hoping wishful thinking might come true.
The Abolition of Work-
Suffering is caused by work and is bad: I find this myth to be both victim posturing politically and ontologically false, as I encounter suffering as a basic aspect of being alive. In both of these ways, I encounter Black as pathetic and moralistic.
At Work People Aren’t Free: Black’s posturing this myth strikes me as utter bad-faith and again victim posturing (again pathetic). I find freedom to be ontologically prior to productive narratives – you can’t escape your freedom Bob!
Life Will Become A Game?: Life is a game Bob. If you’re not having fun, maybe you need to get better at playing it!
Final thought –
Perhaps it is unfair to critique an individual whose obituary has been written before they died, after a stark decline – https://aragorn.anarchyplanet.org/in-defense-of-bob-black/ . I certainly don’t want to deny that Black was one of my early anarchist influences and I will never forget (nor stop loving) the reaction of local members of the SWP and ML party, when I handed them prints of Groucho Marxism, at a local vegan cafe when I was 17. I do feel that to critique – not necessarily to comment on – is to affirm some value in a work (even a lazy critique).
And here I’ll end this.