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We need an organization, and a goal, that are real

Posted 12th March 2012 at 12:00 by Ben Seattle
Updated 13th March 2012 at 15:17 by Ben Seattle

Hi folks,

I will soon be posting this response to Frank on the BOC
"Longview" thread. I am going to postpone doing that for
a few days because Mamos posted to the thread last night,
asking readers to contribute their thoughts. It seems
appropriate to wait for a short while to allow readers to
digest his comments and hopefully contribute something
of their own experience concerning forms of organization.

In the meantime, I am posting this here, to my blog.

-- Ben

We need an organization, and a goal, that are real
Contents:
---------
1. There will be authority
2. There will be self-organization
3. There will be ideology
4. There will be no little blue flags
5. Are we doomed or are we toast?
6. The need for distributed authority
7. A concrete example: Carl Davidson on Kasama
8. We need political transparency
9. Collaborative filtering will provide little blue flags
10. No overnight solution
11. Do we need a party or a prison?
Hi folks,

The nature of revolutionary organization is an important
topic and discussion of this is valuable. The best kind
of discussion is intelligent and productive, where we can
learn from one another and where it is easy for readers
to join the discussion.

I would like to see this discussion be of that nature.

Frank lists about a dozen questions which he claims
I either evade or don't deal with. One of the problems
here is that if I were to attempt to answer all of the
questions which Frank claims I evade, it would take 20
pages, and what I write would be so lengthy that no one
would read it.

I am committed to being accountable. This means that I
answer questions. My suggestion to Frank is this:

If you want to see me reply to questions or issues,
then list them, up to 3 at a time, like this:

.... Q1: blah, blah, blah
.... Q2: blah, blah, blah
.... Q3: blah, blah, blah

Other than this, to simply accuse me of evasion and so
forth, may look to many readers like some kind of personal
attack (or meaningless squabble between people who like to
argue) that would a total waste of time designed to drive
away readers.

So if this is an important topic, let's treat it as such,
and make our best effort to respect the time of readers.

For my part, I will try to keep my posts as concise as
practical and focus on a few important points at time.

So, of the various issues in Frank's most recent post,
what are the most important?

------------------------------------------------------------
1. There will be authority
------------------------------------------------------------

Let's start here:

> what about Ben’s network? If it were really a political
> center in the movement rather than a debating society
> composed of anarchists, social democrats, anarcho-syndicalists,
> pseudo-Marxists, part-way Marxists and others (which [is] not
> far fetched since all “activists will have the RIGHT to be part
> of this network,” and the work teams won’t be “ideologically
> based”) then it’s in fact going to be advocating analyses
> and courses of action in the mass movements “from above.”

Yes, the network (and the work teams that grow out of and
with help from this network) would become political centers
that would have authority. This authority wouold flow from
two sources:

(1) the analysis they put forward will be a product of open
public discussion and debate in which all the best and most
respected activists have fully participated, and

(2) the analysis will conform to the material circumstances
of the movement and the nature of our revolutionary tasks.

Frank says that this kind of analysis would be (as he puts
it) "from above".

And this is true. But so what?

"From above" and "from below" work together all the time in
the life of the movement. They are both essential and we
need both, just as We need to walk, so to speak, on both legs.

What is unhealthy are not actions or analysis that have
authority based on respect--but rather the failure to fully
recognise, respect and appreciate the energy, initiative
and organization that come from the bottom up. This is why
the idea of "self-organization" is necessary if we are to
fix everything that is rotten in our movement.

------------------------------------------------------------
2. There will be self-organization
------------------------------------------------------------

One good example of what happens when "self-organization"
is not appreciated is the paternalistic "community" centered
around the Kasama web site. As a participant in the community,
I attempted to create a "left opposition" with others
there--so there could be better coordination of effort to
oppose some of the bourgeois and social-democratic ideology
that often comes up. My efforts resulted in a series of
collisions with Mike Ely, who systematically used one bullshit
excuse after another (ie: accusations of "spamming" and
"attempting to divert discussion", etc) to shut down my
participation on "his" forum to zero.

But a community cannot be self-organizing if participants have
no practical way to freely interact with one another except
under the guidance, supervision and approval of a central
authority which feels threatened by their actions.

And no revolutionary mass organization can emerge to overcome
the current crisis of theory and organization without the help
of activists who have the ability to freely interact with one
another in a self-organizing community.

And this has been a problem with the forms of organization
(ie: CVO/SAIC) that Frank has worked on--which have never
recognized in any real way (ie: other than lip service) the
need for self-organizing community. Frank's efforts have been
focused instead on: (1) control, (2) control and (3) control.

SAIC, for example, stopped having public meeting because
activists who came to these meetings often thought that my
criticisms of SAIC might be valid. I could give many similar
examples (and I have written about all this at great length).

------------------------------------------------------------
3. There will be ideology
------------------------------------------------------------

I will correct one comment by Frank in the passage above.

> the work teams won’t be "ideologically based"

Clearly, since activists will be free to create any kinds of
team they want, some teams will be more ideologically based
than others.

An ideology is a set of mutually reinforcing ideas. For
example, there is the idea that all the problems of our world
have their root in the control of society by the bourgeoisie
(otherwise known as the one percent) and that our revolutionary
effort must be aimed at overthrowing the system of bourgeoisie
rule. I support this idea (as probably do many readers). And
this idea is interwoven with and supported by a number of other
ideas, including that the system of bourgeois rule is the
inevitable result of the capitalist system which, in turn, is
the inevitable result of the system of commodity production.
So many or most of the work teams (and most of the open
network) will probably be ideologically based in the sense of
supporting ideas like this.

And there is another set of ideas that are important. These
ideas are based on the need to oppose the influence of social
strata (ie: liberal-labor politicians, trade union bureaucrats,
religious misleaders, poverty pimps, "progressive" media
personalities and professional "opinion leaders" who are in
orbit around the Democratic Party) that the bourgeoisie has
nurtured for the purpose of diverting revolutionary energy
into a black hole. These ideas are centered on the need to
oppose the influence of social democracy.

Not all work teams that emerge will be based on opposing the
influence of social democracy. But the teams that are_ based
on this, that seethe need to oppose this influence as a core
part of their mission, will become, in my view, the most
important, the most central to the life of the open network.

And, over time, the open network will increasingly take
a stand against social democracy, and will recognize
that social democracy must be fought tooth and nail.

------------------------------------------------------------
4. There will be no little blue flags
------------------------------------------------------------

This brings up an interesting (and important) question:

Frank notes that the open network I have described will,
at least initially, include a section of social democrats.
And this is true, if only for the simple reason that social
democrats do not all carry little blue flags that say "I'm
a social democrat". Instead, there will always be a section
of social democrats who will describe themselves as
"revolutionary".

So what do we do about them?

How do we keep the social democrats from dominating and
hijacking the open network (ie: as they normally do with
any project that contains revolutionary mass energy)?

If our network is open to all revolutionary activists,
how can we exclude social democrats who pretend to
be revolutionary in order to smuggle in their bourgeois
reformist ideology, traditions and influence?

More concretely, how can we keep social democrats out of
our network while still maintaining the open character
that our network will need in order to draw in an emerging
generation of activists?

The activists who must be welcome to our network are not
hardened social democrats. However, because of the nature
of our society, these activists certainly will be heavily
influenced by social democratic prejudices and ideology
(ie: nearly all revolutionary activists start out with
social democratic ideology and only become revolutionary
as they break with social democratic thinking).

------------------------------------------------------------
5. Are we doomed or are we toast?
------------------------------------------------------------

There would be several big problems with having a central
authority in the network with the power to exclude fake
revolutionaries.

(1) The first problem is that determining who is (and who
is not) a "fake revolutionary" is not simple and, in many
or most cases, deciding who is (or is not) a fake would be
beyond the competence of any single work team.

(2) The second problem is that giving that much power to
any work team is inherently corrupting. At first they
might only exclude social democrats. Soon enough they
would be excluding anyone who dares to criticize them.
Lord Acton said it best: "Power corrupts and absolute
power corrupts absolutely".

(3) The biggest problem is that having a central authority
with this much power would, by itself, change the character
of our open network and open community into a paternalistic
network and community. Once that happens, our "revolutionary
mass organization" will have acquired what is commonly known
as a single point of failure. Once that "single point of
failure" becomes incompetent or corrupt--the rest of the
organization--will be toast.

------------------------------------------------------------
6. The need for distributed authority
------------------------------------------------------------

Our revolutionary open network must be able to defend itself
from social democrats--without making use of a centralized
authority with the power to exclude its critics. This
requires that the necessary authority be widely distributed
to all activists who have experience and recognize the need
to fight social democracy.

An example of "distributed authority" is found on Ebay. If
a seller on Ebay defrauds you, you have the authority, as an
individual, to "flag" the seller as fraudulent. Anyone else
who uses Ebay will have the ability to see your flag. In
a somewhat analogous way (very roughly) anyone in the open
network will be able to flag anyone else as a social democrat.

Of course there will be clueless people who raise flags on
anyone they disagree with. But, over time, activists in
the network will learn who raises reliable flags and who
(ie: which people or work teams) do not.

There are lots of different variations (in the details) on
how this would work in practice. I cannot predict the details
of how activists will do this--other than to express my
conviction that something like this will happen because it is
necessary. Everyone in the open network will be on a public
domain database (ie: generally with their political pseudonym
rather than their legal name). Anyone would be able to create
their own matching public list of who is a social democrat
(or who is, in general, anything other than what they claim to
be). And all activists would be able to make use of these
matching lists to gain insight into who is (or is not) a
revolutionary activist.

------------------------------------------------------------
7. A concrete example: Carl Davidson on Kasama
------------------------------------------------------------

To better appreciate one way this might work, we can consider
how this idea could be applied, in the present circumstances,
to a community that considers itself revolutionary but which
has been dealing with social democracy for some time: the Kasama
community.

Of course, as many of my readers know, I am blocked (not
formally banned, but blocked in practice by post deletions,
moderation delays and threats of ex-communication, etc) from
posting to the Kasama blog. But one person who can (and does)
post there quite often is a fairly well known social democrat
by the name of Carl Davidson.

Just about everyone who posts regularly on Kasama has figured
out by now that Davidson is a social democrat. The only
person who has not figured this out--is Davidson himself.

There is a logic to why Davidson cannot see what everyone
else around him can. The social democratic ideology serves
the bourgeoisie. This is its nature. This is what defines
it. This is the reason it was brought into this world.
Someone who has given in to this ideology has, essentially,
allowed their mind to be controlled by the bourgeoisie.
Davidson does not understand that he is a social democrat
because the bourgeoisie does not want him to understand
this. It is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie, as a class,
that a section of their social democratic flunkies really
believe they are revolutionaries. Why? So that they may
more convincingly fool those who are naive and inexperienced.
(Some readers, undoubtedly will say that I am oversimplifying
this. Say whatever you want. I will call things as I see
them.)

Participants in the Kasama community have figured out that
Davidson is a social democrat as a result of a large number
of encounters in which, fairly consistently, Davidson has
advocated channeling revolutionary energy into useless
directions (for example: electing Obama, and so forth).
But the process of discovering that Davidson, so to speak,
"plays for the other team" (ie: Team Imperialism) has been
slowed down by Mike Ely, who will not allow anyone to
actually say out loud what everyone knows: that Davidson
is a social democrat. Ely even forbids anyone to call
Davidson by his last name, because this is not "comradely".
According to the paternalistic Kasama culture, it is
more "comradely" to require that everyone leave their
comrades in the dark concerning who is a social democrat.

And this, in my view, is the wrong way to handle the most
important political contradiction of our era.



------------------------------------------------------------
8. We need political transparency
------------------------------------------------------------

Carl Davidson actually often has interesting things to say.
I was running an email list a few years ago and I invited
Davidson to come to the list and defend his social democratic
views. He accepted my invitation. I did this, I should note,
on a principled basis. I introduced him to everyone on this
list as a representative of an ideology that serves the
bourgeoisie. I explained that we are not actually going to
get big capitalists or bankers on the list who will defend
the capitalist order. In their place however, we could get
Davidson. We now had a living opportunity to gain experience
confronting, in the struggle of ideas, a skilled expert
who would defend the class interests of the bourgeoisie.

This had a very good effect on the list. Some members
of the list found it difficult, at first, to understand
and believe that someone who described himself as a
"revolutionary" (as Davidson does) and knows all the
marxist lingo and catchphrases would defend, in such a
consistent way, the bourgeois political system. Was I
simply making up some kind of fantastic story?

After a few email exchanges with Davidson, however, it
became clear to all that Davidson was exactly how I
described him. One member of the list used a vulgar
personal insult to describe Davidson at the moment he
realized that Davison really did represent the ideology
of our class enemy. (This same person apologized an hour
later, and said that he would keep his comments political
and give Davidson the respect that would be due to an
enemy soldier.)

I give this background to help make it clear that I do not
advocate banning Davidson from Kasama. What I do advocate,
however, is political transparency. It should not be
necessary for participants in a community of aspiring
revolutionaries to discover, one by one, in a lengthy process,
the social democratic nature of skilled ideologues who serve
the class enemy. It should be the opposite: activists must
have a way to share and aggregate their knowledge.

------------------------------------------------------------
9. Collaborative filtering will provide little blue flags
------------------------------------------------------------

At some point, as activists develop more advanced types of
forums, everyone who posts will have, next to their pseudonym,
all the flags that other activists feel there is a need to
raise. If you see a post a post by someone like Davidson in
a more advanced forum (ie: the kind of forum that does not
exist yet--but most likely will exist eventually) there will
be a little blue flag next to his name at the top of each of
his posts. The blue flag will indicate that a lot of
experienced activists (whose opinion you respect) think the
guy is a social democrat. And, as a reader, you will have
the option, when you read the comments on a thread, to filter
out the posts (and the replies to those posts) that come from
social democrats.

Sometimes you will want to read the posts of social democrats
(and other kinds of time-wasters) to see what you might be
missing. But most of the time, serious political activists
will want to read posts by other serious serious activists.

This method of leveraging the experience of others (ie: in
order to avoid wasting your time looking at shit which is
created for the purpose of wasting your time) has a name.
It is called "collaborative filtering". Activists in the
future will develop and make use of collaborative filtering
so that they will be able to invest their limited time and
attention in the places that will best serve the revolutionary
movement.

As I noted above, I am not going to go into the details of
how collaborative filtering may work, or the various ways it
has been used in the last fifteen years. I am sure that
there will be some activists who will raise all kinds of flags
on people like me, attempting to warn others that my posts are
"spam" and attempts to "divert discussion" and so forth. I am
not worried about this. Readers will have many ways to learn
which flags are worth their attention and which flags they
want to filter out.

------------------------------------------------------------
10. No overnight solution
------------------------------------------------------------

No method of organization can be a substitute for activists
gaining political experience. I have outlined some ideas
for how an open network (based on political transparency
and the disciplined work teams that will emerge from such
an open network) will help to raise the consciousness of
activists concerning the struggle against social democracy.
And I have outlined some of the ways that activists will
learn how to "say no" to the efforts of time-wasters to steal
their attention. And I have shown, or at least suggested in
outline, how these things can be done without creating the
kind of centralized organization that would be based on a
"single point of failure" and would eventually become corrupt.

These are important principles, but it is also important to
recognize that there is no magic bullet, by itself, that will
solve these kinds of problems.

Activists will learn to hate social democracy on the basis of
their bitter experience with it. This is primary. Activists
will gain experience with social democracy as social democracy
attacks the movement. And social democracy will attack the
movement as the movement grows, becomes powerful and threatens
the class interests of the bourgeoisie. This is a lengthy
process that will unfold over many years.

So I want to be clear that I am not offering some kind of
instant or overnight solution. Rather, I am simply describing
some of the ways that we may be able to better do what we are
already doing in terms of developing the movement and our
political consciousness. By getting everyone, so to speak,
on the same page (ie: a common, public database) with open
communications, we will be able to increase the rate of what
I call our "information metabolism" (ie: the speed at which
we will be able to collect and digest information, and
organize a response: in other words, understand and react to
events).

Some forms of organization will tend to undermine political
transparency and restrict our ability to self-organize.
Other forms of organization will go in the opposite direction
and will allow us to create healthy and powerful alternatives
to social democratic and sectarian corruption. And that is
what we need.

------------------------------------------------------------
11. Do we need a party or a prison?
------------------------------------------------------------

Frank:

> But how is a network composed of anyone who calls them-self
> revolutionary (and where "rights and responsibilities will
> tend toward the minimal," no less) going to better fight
> against revisionism in the course of advancing the class
> struggle than a M-L party can? Ben doesn’t even raise the
> question, much less answer it. Yet this is the key question.

I have answered this question partially. Disciplined work
teams will make use of the open network in the same way that
steam-powered locomotives made use of the railroad network in
the 1800's. Railroad tracks would be useless by themselves,
without trains. And an open network (which any self-described
"revolutionary" would be free to join) would be useless
without self-organizing work teams. At the same time, it
should be clear that trains could go nowhere without tracks.
And disciplined work teams will be able to go further and
faster (and carry greater weight) when an open network (based
on the tradition of political transparency) exists. One
technology, so to speak, rests on and is enabled by another.

But there is one part of Frank's question which I have not
answered. I have not explained why the "M-L Party" that
Frank proposes is doomed to failure.

I will explain that now.

There are a lot of myths about "Marxism-Leninism". The biggest
myth of all is that "Marxism-Leninism" is based on the work of
Marx and Lenin. The opposite is true. "Marxism-Leninism" is
a political religion that was invented by Stalin in order to
justify the permanent suppression of the independent political
voice and independent political life of the proletariat.

The idea that today, in the 21st century, we must base our ideas
of a society run by the working class on such a political religion
(ie: based on the permanent suppression of the proletariat) is a
stinking corpse. The stench is making people sick. It is time
we buried it.

We need an organization with the ability to represent the
interests of the proletariat for class independence. Once we
have this, everything else will tend to fall into place: We
will have a banner to which millions will be able to rally.

Such an organization is traditionally called a "party",
although the word "party" has been corrupted to mean something
else. The word "party" has been corrupted, over many decades,
to mean a "prison" for revolutionary aspirations.

The kind of party that Frank advocates would be a prison
because it would be based on a deeply pathological fear of
the masses. Frank cannot understand this and can point to
a mountain of words that he and his comrades have written
which deny that they are afraid of the masses, and so on.

But the problem cannot be washed away by a river of denial.

The "M-L Party" that Frank advocates would be based on
the goal of a single-party state with the power to suppress
the voice of its critics. And, because this deeply pathological
religion cannot defend itself in open, public debate, supporters
of this religion are inevitably reduced to people who have
systematically trained themselves not to think.

That is not what we need. We need an organization, and a
goal for our movement, that are healthy and real.

And we will have them.


For our common victory in the struggle for
the overthrow of the system of bourgeois rule

Ben Seattle
Total Comments 3

Comments

  1. Old Comment
    I'll start on a light note: Ben's concern about words.

    "There are a lot of myths about 'Marxism-Leninism'."

    Obviously.

    "The biggest myth of all is that 'Marxism-Leninism' is based on the work of Marx and Lenin."

    Well, if it's real or true or genuine or anti-revisionist Marxism-Leninism it's certainly based on the pioneering work of Marx and Lenin.

    But oh no, says Ben,

    "The opposite is true. 'Marxism-Leninism' is a _political religion_ that was invented by Stalin in order to justify the _permanent suppression_ of the independent political voice and independent political life of the proletariat."

    Well, that's only true if you accept Ben's definition, which he shouts at us with bold lettering. Moreover, Stalinist revisionism was not (and is not) simply a political religion. It was (and is) based on a set of definite anti-M-L (or anti-proletarian) theories and practices. Furthermore, Stalinist revisionism was not simply "invented" by Stalin, which is a ridiculous idea. Nevertheless, what Ben is apparently referring to is the claim that Stalin either "invented" or first popularized the phrase "Marxism-Leninism" around the mid-20s.

    But whether a group or party chooses to conveniently use a hyphen between Marx and Lenin, or says it's based on the scientific socialist ideas of Marx, Lenin and others, or says something else, it still must be judged by its politics, not on how it refers to its theory.

    Of course, according to Ben, when we eventually have a revolutionary party in this country we dare not call it a party because that word "has been corrupted, over many decades, to mean a 'prison' for revolutionary aspirations."

    Scary, so let's see. Divided between those who think in terms of an electoral party; those who think in terms of a party that backs electoralism with mass actions; those who think in terms of parties like the Workers Communist Parties of Iran, Iraq and Tunisia, or like the Labour Party of Pakistan; those who think in terms of a socialist working-class party that leads the masses in the class struggle; and those who think in still other terms, there are probably millions of people in the U.S. who're already saying they want a new party. Furthermore, as part of transforming themselves during the course of the class struggle many others will come to this conclusion.

    And, in fact, that's what happened in the 1960s. The decade started in conditions of virulent bourgeois anti-communist hysteria that is nothing like today, while on the left the practices of the CPUSA and SWP (which were then larger than any group we now have) certainly discredited the idea of a party. But the 60s ended with a national movement of many, many thousands of activists who'd concluded that a new, genuine communist party was necessary. I think those activists were right, and that when a new generation of revolutionary activists reaches this conclusion on a mass scale they'll also be right, and that this will change everything.


    The issue isn't that Ben worries too much about the movement being misunderstood because it's associated with the words "party" and "Marxism-Leninism;" it's that he opposes those words' contents.

    New political groups have been forming around the country for some time, and there will be more. They're looking into various revolutionary theories and trying to apply them to the class struggle in their locations, and they're investigating the theories and practices of groups in other areas (with aims like learning from the other groups, forging practical collaboration, etc). Marxian revolutionaries are excited about this real world development, and do as much as they can to help its farther development. That's why in this thread I made some modest comments about the labor bureaucrats and raised the issue of having a party perspective even though I know the latter is not presently popular with many. And it's why I used the quotations from Marx:

    "In its struggle against the collective power of the possessing classes the proletariat can act as a class only by constituting itself a distinct political party, opposed to all the old parties formed by the possessing classes.

    "This constitution of the proletariat into a political party is indispensable to ensure the triumph of the social revolution and of its ultimate goal: the abolition of classes."

    Of course, Marx arrived at this conclusion through study of the practical experiences of the proletariat: the revolutions of 1848, but also later. And Marx and Engels' conception of a proletarian party changed with their experiences in building one, as well as with changes in the broader workers' movement. For example, Engels participated in much of the preparatory work for the founding of the Second International, whose parties were organized quite differently than the parties of the First International had been, and were for the first time really mass parties. And after summing up the experiences from the Second International, the parties of the Third International were still different: More centralization and discipline, which fostered a higher level of independent activity from its members, a greater role in mass action, and a higher level of theoretical knowledge and consciousness. More attention to rooting the party in workplaces rather than organizing them by general territory. More attention to the nationally-oppressed workers in the industrial countries, and firmly planting the communist banner in the midst of the national liberation and anti-imperialist movements.

    So there is no blueprint for how to precisely organize a proletarian party, and can't be. Nevertheless, today it's valuable to continue summing up the experiences of the Third International, as well as our own experiences in organizing (which for some of us means summing of the rich experience of the MLP-USA).

    Meanwhile, life itself is continually teaching that "constitution of the proletariat into a political party is indispensable to ensure the triumph of the social revolution and of its ultimate goal: the abolition of classes." For example, organized into a few militant trade unions plus networks, last year the Egyptian workers were able to accomplish a great deal, i.e., topple the decades-old tyrant and force a political situation that gives them more room to organize in. But they did not have the ideological and organizational strength to overcome the military in what was only a democratic uprising (where they had many petty-bourgeois allies, as well as big bourgeois allies), not a proletarian revolution. So not surprisingly, a section of the movement therefore concluded from their experience that they needed more organization, and set about organizing not just new trade unions, but also new political parties. One of these is the Workers Democratic Party, which is rooted in the textile workers union, plus other militant sections of the class.

    Now I'm in no position to make an overall judgment of the WDP. But all Egyptian workers can certainly get behind its struggle against the neo-liberal class offensive of the bourgeoisie, its struggle to bring down the SCAF, etc. Moreover, this party's founding shows (again) that the modern class struggle inevitably becomes a struggle between political parties. And where the proletariat has a revolutionary party this is the vehicle for its own class liberation, as well as the liberation of all of the oppressed.

    But don't think that way, says Ben. And personalizing things he shouts with bold lettering:

    "The kind of party that Frank advocates would be a _prison_ because it would be based on a deeply pathological fear of the masses."

    "The 'M-L Party' that Frank advocates would be based on the _goal_ of a _single-party state_ with the power to suppress the voice of its critics. And, because this deeply pathological religion cannot defend itself in open, public debate, supporters of this religion are _inevitably_ reduced to people who have systematically trained themselves _not to think_." ("Deeply pathological fear of the masses." I liked that one.--Fk.)

    Further personalizing things, Ben makes the baseless and ludicrous charge that

    "Frank's efforts have been focused instead on: (1) control, (2) control and (3) control. SAIC, for example, stopped having public meeting because activists who came to these meetings often thought that my criticisms of SAIC might be valid..."

    True, SAIC stopped having public meetings for a long while, and I favored that. But my favoring it had nothing to do with considerations about what other activists thought about Ben Seattle's ideas and criticisms---which were usually rejected anyway! (For anyone who cares to look, I dealt more with this in "comment 2" beneath http://www.seattleaic.org/statements/eight-years-after-iraq-invasion-us-empire-in-trouble.)
    But for all that, capitalist society is ruled by invisible laws of political economy which result in its being out of the control of anyone, whether capitalist or worker. And based on the system of exploitation of wage-labor by capital, these laws are giving rise to continual economic crises and mass impoverishment, super-exploitation and oppression of national-minority, immigrant and women workers, wars, and destruction of Earth itself. Hence, I and all class-conscious workers fight for control (you God-damned right we do!), and not just to control individual workplaces, but to and control the entire economy through planning. There's no other way of overcoming the laws of the market (and fundamentally, the law of value) without workers control, and this requires proletarian organization.

    (Continued)
    Posted 14th March 2012 at 09:58 by Frank Arango
  2. Old Comment
    Let's now return to Ben's network, which he calls an organization, and implies is a party by another name.


    First of all, historical motion toward forming new proletarian political parties in the U.S., Egypt, or anywhere else does not fit into the framework. Indeed, since Ben only talks about "disciplined work teams" which he believe(s) will spring forth in considerable number" in the future, BOC, CVO, the Gathering Forces trend, Seasol and others are simply left out of the picture...unless we liquidate into a "work team" under the discipline of his network.


    But wait! Ben has yet to tell us who is accountable to who in this imagined network, and how anything gets decided. If it were not to immediately fall apart, logic would say that those doing the actual work should make the decisions, and Ben says those people would be in the work teams. And after first posing these teams against "the kind of ideologically based and mutually isolated fortresses which Frank proposes," Ben now concedes the obvious: his work teams would unite around various conflicting ideologies. Moreover, the more passive members of the network, which little would be required of, would also be divided between conflicting ideologies. (Of course, since they weren't on a work team, they would have more time to opinionize on the internet) So this leaves the problem I previously raised: who decides what "our revolutionary mass organization" does, and how?


    In fact, a network like this could only itself agree to the lowest-common-denominator kind of politics, and if were to include most of the anarchists it would have to do so by consensus. Thus, it couldn't be a fighting organization of the proletariat leading it forward.


    I think Ben senses this, which is why he spends three paragraphs worrying over how to "_exclude_ social democrats who _pretend_ to be revolutionary" (his bolding) while welcoming activists who "are not hardened social democrats." He spends three more paragraphs worrying that having a "central authority in the network with the power to exclude fake revolutionaries" would end it in toast, then more paragraphs arguing for a technical solution: distributed authority.


    But for all the worrying over how his scheme for organizing via the internet would work, Ben's network would just be one leftist network among many, and an attempted reproduction of part of the revolutionary movement in cyberspace.
    Posted 14th March 2012 at 10:00 by Frank Arango
  3. Old Comment
    Ben Seattle's Avatar

    Comrade Red Fox on a problem that needs to be confronted

    [I was pleased to receive the following calm and constructive reply
    by email, from comrade Red Fox. I will reply within the next week
    or so, after I have had time to give this thought. -- Ben]

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Red Fox
    Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2012 4:30 PM
    To: Ben Seattle
    Subject: Re: We need an organization, and a goal, that are real

    Ben,

    [I want to preface this reply by giving you permission to post this publicly.]

    I don't reply to most of your posts, though I do read most all of them and would like to respond more -- you often have very insightful things to say (I particularly find your arguments about sect-like model vs. open networks and cargo-cult Leninism to be useful, and have often argued them myself).

    That being said, I want to reply to this one because you are criticizing my organization in a few ways that I very seriously disagree with. I've heard you make these claims before on a number of occasions, but haven't previously responded.

    You say:

    "One good example of what happens when 'self-organization' is not appreciated is the paternalistic 'community' centered around the Kasama web site. As a participant in the community, I attempted to create a 'left opposition' with others there--so there could be better coordination of effort to oppose some of the bourgeois and social-democratic ideology that often comes up. My efforts resulted in a series of collisions with Mike Ely, who systematically used one bullshit excuse after another (ie: accusations of 'spamming' and 'attempting to divert discussion', etc) to shut down my participation on "his" forum to zero."

    I've talked with Mike and others in Kasama about your posts, and my feeling is that Mike's analysis of your participation is correct.

    Your assertion is that because you were either warned, or your posts were deleted, that this means that Kasama is "social-democratic".

    You've talked before about the need to have sober discussions with people about serious personal problems -- i.e., your old friend's alcoholism -- and that without having serious and often difficult discussions, people will often continue to act in a way that hurts or alienates them from others. In a similar way, I think there are some very incorrect ways in which you often engage with comrades in other organizations that alienates you from them, and as hard as it is to say, I think this is a personal problem of yours that needs to confronted. For the positives of your work to be seen, I think some of these issues need to be directly confronted.

    Mike's criticisms of your participation on the Kasama website were that you were posting things off-topic, that they were overly long, and the responses were often used as a way to pull people off of the forum and onto your own site; you were promoting yourself rather than joining in discussion. Though I haven't seen your specific replies, my previous participation with you in a study group a couple of years ago was indicative of very similar issues, issues that directly led to the collapse of that group.

    In our study group, we read a couple of books, one of which was State and Revolution by Lenin. Though you often participated in very thoughtful and positive ways, you would also often come to some study groups and attempt to hijack them by giving presentations on your own work, rather than the book at hand. I don't doubt that you saw it as related, but these interjections were often seen by every other person in the group as off-topic and a diversion to promote your own theories. Though we never talked at length about what led to the demise of the group, I will tell you now that this behavior is what eventually lead 4 different people to quit, and I was chastised for inviting you without getting permission from the rest of the group, first.

    At a recent talk given by Loren Goldner at UW that we both attended, you were called on. Rather than speak about the topic at hand (Loren's theories of Fictitious Capital) - you attempted to redirect the conversation into one about your own theories, and were quickly dismissed.

    Here's the thing: I do think that your ideas are valuable and worth discussion, but I think that you often are not conscientious of the context in which you are presenting them. From what Mike has told me, you aren't barred from discussion on Kasama, but replies that go off topic, are self-promotional, or graphic-heavy or overly-long, will be deleted. In all honesty, I do not think that this is because your ideas are dangerous to Kasama (as I believe you have asserted), but that they are seen as spamming and trolling, and I think this is true. I think that you should attempt to engage more with Kasama, but stick to the topic as much as possible, shorten your responses (and/or make multiple small responses), and leave graphics and links to your site off. Couldn't you communicate your ideas without doing this?

    So if this sole issue is why you are claiming Kasama is social-democratic, I think that you should reconsider. Especially considering that much of our current political work both as a group (Red Spark) and nationally (Kasama) and within the framework of Occupy with various tendencies, I believe, has a lot to do with how you see an open-network of revolutionaries (rather than a sect) operating. And, I think we could use your input.

    I've had this criticism about your engagement for a while. You've often encouraged me to communicate my criticism, but like with your old friend, this has been something difficult for me to say, so I hope that you will put some serious consideration into my criticism, as I'm aware that it is shared by others.

    If you reply, I'd be interested in continuing this discussion as time permits.

    Red Fox
    Posted 23rd March 2012 at 07:14 by Ben Seattle Ben Seattle is offline
    Updated 24th March 2012 at 12:54 by Ben Seattle
 
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