I suppose, at its core, this is a labor story. If you’re looking for some sort of refutation of the politics of William Gillis, or of the C4SS, I’m afraid that you will be disappointed. This is a personal story, not a political one, though I’m sure that there are those who can and will find some sort of political meaning in it.
Until recently, I worked for the C4SS, though my pay was so small as to be purely symbolic — between $5 and $50 dollars a month, or so. All this for, at times, writing half of their content and editing the other half. When I slacked off on my efforts, people I knew commented to me that they thought that the C4SS was dying.
However, it isn’t really true that I worked for them for money. I saw it as essentially an internship — I was helping them out so that I could say that I was associated with them, for the byline, for the leg up towards better-paying positions, for the clout. It was a resume builder. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t genuinely like the institution, or that I didn’t have genuine loyalty to them — at least, at first. Still, I was under the impression that I was going to benefit from my labor, long-term. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted a fat Patreon, like William Gillis (he had ~$700 a month in his for most of the time I was writing, and I’m not certain where all of the support has gone. As of this writing, he has $165 a month) or Kevin Carson ($803 a month, as of this writing) had. Something that I could use to move out of the my parents’ place, or perhaps simply use to pay off my student loans. Something that could make my dream of being a paid writer come true.
It’s also not really true that I worked for the C4SS. I worked for William Gillis. The C4SS is not a non-hierarchical institution. It has an inner and outer circle — the coordinators, and the writers. Within that inner circle, William Gillis held sway. Almost nothing happened without his approval, and if it accidentally did, he would throw a tantrum and get his way. Informal, or pseudo-informal, power rules at the C4SS. In all my months of association with the C4SS, no one ever handed me a list of rules — though, it seemed, there were certainly rules that were being followed. I did my best to pick them up as I went along. One of the few formal rules I was ever explicitly informed of was that William Gillis, and William Gillis alone, has authority over whether or not someone is kicked out of the C4SS — his title of ‘Director’ intitles him to this power. I was never informed as to how someone might be replaced as Director, though I do know that it has happened.
My association with the C4SS started as follows:
However, I should note, I had been a reader of the C4SS for quite some time before this.
For those who hated my first essay (link to a copy— hopefully, they didn’t change anything in the version on their site. I didn’t catch it, if they did) and see my disassociation from the C4SS as some sort of victory, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news: I think (but cannot quite prove) that Gillis mostly kept me around for as long as he did because I agreed with him more than almost anyone else at the C4SS, and he liked that I was willing to say things that he thought but did not want to be seen saying — he could then reiterate those same ideas in softer terms, and be seen as the reasonable moderate offering a compromise. For example, he published Insurrection in Omelas less than a week after my initial essay. At the time, I saw it as a sign that Gillis and me were in conversation, and was delighted to be treated as such by my idol. At this remove, I think that I was just really dumb.
All that, of course, is unprovable. At the least, he certainly approved everything that I wrote for the C4SS — and, if he disliked anything I was saying, he had me change it.
Alex McHugh is the Editor of the C4SS. He was, at least in some senses, my main contact at the C4SS. I certainly worked with him most closely. When I submitted my first article to him, as Editor, he told me:
I was quite excited about this, as $25 for a couple of hours work is damn good pay for a writer. It’s even what they promise on their website:
Of course, it was too good to be true.
As he would later explain to me:
I eventually accepted this offer, as it was my senior year of college, as I ran out of money with which to pay for food.
As an example, the C4SS’s financial report for April 2019 clearly shows my pay for that month:
The C4SS’s records clearly show that they published two of my pieces that month:
Meaning that my received pay was 27.4% of what I’d been promised.
Here is an appendix to this article, covering the full discrepancy between what I was promised and what I actually received. By the most generous possible accounting, the C4SS owes me $117.15 in backpay.
At the time, despite misgivings, I chose to believe that this had been an honest mistake. The C4SS wouldn’t intentionally lie to me! They were the good guys!
Of course, looking back, there’s no way that Alex McHugh didn’t know full well that he was lying to me. Those financial reports came out every month, emailed straight to his inbox — and, what’s more, Alex (as Editor) was a Coordinator, and thus was a part of the financial decisions of the C4SS. Alex always must have known what my pay rate was supposed to be, because Alex was one of the people setting my pay rate.
There are a lot of mistakes that I made, along those lines. If nothing else, this story illustrates that I’m far too patient and far too trusting — this story, at best, paints me as a real sucker.
Despite all this, I asked if I could become an assistant editor.
Alex, the Editor, was always overworked and extremely slow. I figured that if I took some of the load off of him, my stuff would get published faster, which would let me pick up more twitter followers, which would eventually translate into Patreon supporters, which would eventually translate into financial independence and real adulthood. I’m aware that this dream was always a long-shot, but it was the path that I was trying to walk.
Thus began my tenure as an assistant editor at the C4SS.
I have met with Gillis a total of 3 times. The first one was before my association with the C4SS, and I’m not confident that Gillis remembers it.
I do remember thinking, at the time, that Gillis was much more obnoxious in person than he was in writing. He has a habit of talking at you, a mile a minute, for extremely long amounts of time. When you meet Gillis, it’s not like you’re having a conversation — it’s like you’ve gone to a lecture, but the lecturer is manic and stands somewhat too close to you.
The second time was when he invited me out to a bar, to size me up:
When I met up with Gillis, it was not at all what I expected.
Instead of talking about anything that any reasonable person would care about, he gave me a three-hour-long lecture about the history of the C4SS. This, essentially, consisted of him explaining to me a series of relationships and disputes between people I had never heard of before. I remember essentially nothing of it, beyond the general tone — boastful, and with a recurrent theme of people that Gillis was delighted to have bested socially. One thing that I do remember is Gillis admitting that most of his hatred of anarcho-nihilism stemmed out of personal hatred of Aragorn. He seemed not to understand why this was an incredibly silly position to take, and I didn’t particularly feel like arguing with him over the matter.
As a side-note, I should mention that Gillis had me tell him my real name when we met up — if I get doxxed in the recent future, you should probably assume that it’s his fault.
The subject of indigenous nationalism came up in our DMs several times, which is of special interest given how things ended between me and the C4SS.
So, to summarize: if Gillis supports someone, or a position, on the Left… he’s probably doing so strategically. He was absolutely aware of my opinions on indigenous nationalism months before anything happened, and he expressed that he shared them — while, also, telling me not to publically express them. In 4chan terms, he was telling me to hide my power-level. In other terms: William Gillis is a virtue-signaller.
For all those who hated my piece on Cascadia, and were shocked that the C4SS published it:
It should really be kept in mind that just because Gillis publically says one sort of thing does not at all mean that, privately, he doesn’t believe something entirely different.
He’s publically boasted about how dedicated he is to free speech and open minds, by publishing nihilists and syndicalists. Not the case:
Gillis doesn’t give a fuck about being good or right — he cares about building social capital. That’s why he does, easily, half of what he does.
Even on tiny things, he is always constantly triangulating. When I saw this, I was surprised:
This rhetoric is stripped nearly verbatim from “Blessed is the Flame: an Introduction to Concentration Camp Resistance”. Given Gillis’s widely-noted blind and incoherent hatred for anarcho-nihilism, I was confused — confused enough to message him about it.
Why is he so against simply acknowledging that the nihilists have some good ideas, even if those ideas have historical roots outside of anything (at the time) called nihilism? Why not simply let bygones be bygones, and admit this?
The simplest answer, the answer I believe to be true, is that Gillis cares far more about political positioning than he does about truth.
A couple months into my “intership” (as I had come to see it) at the C4SS, and I was — understandably — starting to look for the door. I figured that I should build up an audience of my own before things got even weirder with Gillis. I put a link to my Patreon in the body of an article, “ How Anarchist Theory Explains the Death of the ISO, the Defeat of the Red Guards, and the Struggles of the DSA”.
For the first time, I started getting Patreon supporters.
Then, a couple of days later, I did it again, more obviously. No one had objected to it the first time, and it had started to actually provide me with income — income that the C4SS was unable, or unwilling, to pay me as promised.
I got another Patron or two out of it, and then this:
Gillis, predictably, didn’t like that I was doing something that might help me move on.
He seemed to believe that I was emulating his behavior. I was just trying to get paid.
The C4SS had me screw over [Redacted] over, something that I have since notified her of and apologized to her for. I shouldn’t have done it. I felt like I was too caught up in events to say no. I felt like this was just how markets worked, and that I should embrace that. I knew that it was wrong at the time, and I did it anyway.
I had previously reached out to her to see if I could get her to write something for the C4SS if the C4SS was willing to pay her appropriately. Negotiations stalled out, largely due to the C4SS’s working group being unable to quickly come to detailed decisions.
So, I dutifully messaged her, and asked her what her fee was. She had no idea what a podcast appearance from her was worth, and eventually asked for $150.
This is the closest that this article will come to any sort of broader, political, point. [Redacted] had no idea what she was worth, and I was too cowardly to tell her and risk the C4SS knowing that I hadn’t done my best to negotiate. This really was the market being a site of moral danger. I can think of various institutional set-ups that could have prevented this, but… it wasn’t.
What’s more, there was an element of patriarchy to this — women, very commonly, undervalue themselves. One could easily argue that, by treating [Redacted] this way, the C4SS was taking part in the structural benefits of a sexist society. And, of course, I bare responsibility as well.
I couldn’t quite believe that this was what I was supposed to be doing, and so I messaged Alex to confirm:
I was, in the end, fired from the center.
I wrote an article, on medium, which aroused some controversy. It’s been interpreted as being against indigenous nationalism, but all that I actually said was that I was against protest marshalls, regardless of their racial background. Though, as a side-note, I am also against many variants of indigenous nationalism — and I think that it functions as a back-door through which Red-Brown ideas have infiltrated the Left.
Gillis began to symbolically denounce me publically for it, but in private he wasn’t upset about the opinion itself — but about the threat to his social capital:
As I noted earlier in the article, he’s always known about my opinions on this matter, and he’s expressed agreement — any outrage on his part is a performance for the sake of social capital.
I guess, if I have any grand point here, it’s that it is not worth it to chase Gillis’s clout. He breaks his promises, he’ll expect you to prioritize him over yourself, and he’s just generally obnoxious.
If you’re a young writer, just starting out, clout-chasing is simply part of the game. It’s unfortunate, but you will end up working for exposure — either for yourself or for other people. You can tweet stuff out of your hundred follower account, or you can get a respected publication to tweet your stuff out of their ten thousand follower account — the proper choice, here, seems obvious.
But Gillis, and the C4SS, is not that proper choice. They will take advantage of you, they will promise you money that never shows up, and they will — in the end — denounce you to go and chase clout of their own.