Fragments Of Comprehension

(semi-internal) Our consciousness and humility must reflect, refine and redeem every scattered fragment of the material world

Archive for October, 2012

► The self-organizing revolutionary community that we need will require political transparency, distributed authority and democratic moderation – [FoC.12.10.10]

Posted by Ben Seattle on October 10, 2012

I created this blog as a place to assemble, over time and with deliberation, scattered thoughts into coherent articles.  This blog is what I am calling a “lower” blog, which means (fancy media theory about “push” and “pull” aside) that this is a place where it is ok for me to post ideas which are half-finished or just plain wrong.  Of course, a “lower” blog does not make a lot of sense without an “upper” blog to go with it.  I hope to soon create an upper blog, and this lower blog will be helpful in putting together material for it.

It is also important, for several reasons, that this blog be public.  One reason is so that activists who would like to help me put together articles that are good enough for other activists to read–can do so.

Moderation policy for this blog is not yet decided.  The purpose of this post is to lay out some of the basic principles that will need to guide moderation policy for this blog–and maybe other blogs that aspire to serve the development of a revolutionary self-organizing community.

In the last few days an activist, Greg Butler, started to comment here.  Initially, his comments were helpful and I was glad to see him post.  Soon however, I lost confidence that it would be possible for me, at this time, to engage Greg in a way that would be productive.

I told Greg that I did not intend to engage with him and would prefer that he not participate in this blog, at least for a while.  Greg responded by accusing me of censuring his posts and acting in the way that Mike Ely (of Kasama fame) has acted against me.

I believe that the stand of revolutionary activists, as materialists, must be that everything that happens in the material world, happens for a reason–and (with sufficiently deep humility) can be harnessed to serve our mission.

Everything.  Every drop of rain.  Every drop of pain.  Every drop of sorrow.

So the recent friction between Greg and me does not need to be looked at as a bad thing.  We can see it as a good thing.  We can use this friction in many ways to deepen our insight into the powerful principles which must guide our action in building revolutionary self-organizing community.

What Principles Must Guide Moderation?

We must start from the needs of the revolutionary movement.  I assert that the revolutionary movement will assemble itself in the context of a self-organizing community.  This community must be open.  This means it must be (1) politically transparent and (2) all revolutionary activists must have a right to participate in it.  This means, for example, that the community cannot be controlled by a political trend that abuses this control to suppress the voice of its critics.  That’s the first principle.

An open community means that the struggle between political trends will take place in full view of everyone–who will, by the nature of this open struggle–have access to the views of all sides.

So how can my recent friction with Greg help to illustrate how these principles might work?

On the one hand, I have no desire to see Greg post here anytime soon.  He is (in my humble opinion) aggressive clueless, shallow, reactive and a waste of my time.  (At least that’s how it seems to me right now, since, as is probably obvious, I am writing these words in anger.  I should add that I see this as a symptom of larger problems in our movement that isolate individuals and deprive them of perspective.  I should also add that I am confident that, in the period ahead, Greg will learn how to engage with others in a productive way.)  So I don’t want to see him here (at least not for several months, until I have time to cool off).  Also (it would appear) that Greg intends to post here in the future regardless of my wishes.

Of course, the Word Press software allows me to block his posts.  And that may, eventually, become necessary.  But I want to avoid this, at least for now.  Because we need better methods of handling moderation–and because Greg’s participation here, and the antagonistic form it has assumed–offers us an opportunity to better understand how a self-organizing community would use democratic methods of moderation, based on political transparency and distributed authority.

It may be useful to discuss Greg’s accusation that I am behaving like Mike Ely.  To start that off–let me point out that there are two distinct principles that emerge here:

(1) Greg Butler, like all other revolutionary activists, must have a right to participate in the revolutionary community we need.  We need to create the kind of community where it is simply not possible for one section of the community (which has become exhausted dealing with Greg) to cut out Greg’s ability to participate in the community as a whole.

(2) Activists must also have the right to be protected from aggressively clueless people who attempt to steal their attention.

Can we find a way to satisfy the demands of both of these principles?  We can and we must.

My experience with the Kasama community is something I will describe soon, when I post part 3 of my reply to Red Fox.  But briefly, Mike (and his comrades) felt that my activity there was counter-productive to the development of the community and placed restrictions on my ability to post so that it would not be practical for me to participate there.  Basically, Mike got tired of dealing with me.  His time was limited and that was how he solved what he saw as a problem.

Two opposing models of moderation

Any significant forum of revolutionary activists will require moderation, of course.  But the issue here is that there are different models of how moderation is done.  The most common model is what I will call the “New York Times Kasama” model of moderation.  I use that name because it is used in a wide range of websites and forums, ranging from the corporate New York Times to the activist oriented Kasama.  According to this model, a relatively small and trusted team makes decisions about what comments are allowed.  Comments (and people) are banned in the context of secrecy.  The community plays no role (or, at most, a token role) in moderation decisions and often is simply kept in the dark concerning the real nature of moderation policy.

The “New York Times Kasama” model of moderation can be thought of as the top-down, paternalistic method of moderation.

There is a different model of how moderation can be done that is based on “bottom up” self-organization, political transparency and distributed authority.  That is the model that the revolutionary community that we are working to create will certainly need and use.  So we need to understand this model better and experiment with it.  This model will require a place where moderation can be discussed by everyone (including people who are being moderated).  This model will require announcements and updates of who has been put on moderation or suspended–and why.  This model will require public “trash bins” into which deleted posts are copied–so that all readers have the right to inspect, for themselves, any post which has been moderated–in order to assess whether or not the moderator is doing a good job.  The only kinds of material which would not be saved for public inspection would be material with potential for creating legal problems (such as threats or the kind of information which invites harassment by police or grand juries) or which violates security culture (such as personally identifiable information, or “PII” as it is known in the information technology industry).

The new model we need may also involve a system of blogs that make it difficult for any section (or sections) of our revolutionary community to abuse the authority of its editorial priviledge.  This model will eventually also require the use of custom software that would allow readers to rate and filter posts and comments as well as choose (for themselves, based on their own preferences) which moderator fits their needs (or become a moderator themselves if they conclude that existing moderators are simply not good enough).  And members of the revolutionary community will not only have the right to rate and filter posts and comments.  They will have the right to rate and filter one another.  If you are a social democrat, or simply an aggressively clueless, word-twisting, time-wasting, know-it-all then, whatever you are, your reputation will precede you, and your ability to steal time and attention from members of the revolutionary community will be cut down (in a democratic and politically transparent way, based on collaborative filtering) to whatever size is appropriate, including something that would be pretty close to size zero.

I have had ideas about these topics for years, and have written about them at length.  Solutions will be developed as problems assert themselves.  The transition from the old, top-down, paternalistic, “NYT-Kasama” model to the new model based on political transparency and distributed authority is inevitable as the revolutionary movement begins to grow and finds the old model to be slowing the necessary increase in its rate of information metabolism.  From a political perspective, we can see that the paternalistic top-down model is required any time a minority is exploiting the majority.  The most obvious example of this today is modern China, which has the largest and most rapidly growing internet population in the world.  The Chinese government is reported to employ an army of 30 or 60 thousand people who do nothing but censor internet posts.  But careful study of news reports about China reveals that the system of internet censorship there is already beginning to break down.

I have been harsh here with Greg, but I have done so in the conviction that he can take it.  I believe in Greg.  I know that he can do better and I want him to know he can do better.  And he will.  I want Greg to recognize that his participation in our future revolutionary community (that he wants to see develop as much as anyone) will be far more productive if he gives thought to doing this in such a way that those with whom he is engaged will feel respected.

— For the proletariat, Ben

Advertisements

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

►Open Network–Notes for Oct 7 mtg – [FoC.12.10.7]

Posted by Ben Seattle on October 7, 2012

NOTE: Meeting notes by Art, Damien and me are fragmentary and often written
quickly, so the notes here are not necessarily an accurate or reliable
summary of what we discussed, what questions we asked and what conclusions
(if any) that we did (or did not) conclude.

========================================
Art Francisco:
========================================

***Agenda:
>  What is to be done, ideas for studying it
>  Campus Pol (SCCC)-Student Solidarity Network
>  Discussions w/ other activists
>  Blog, blog tactics
>  News of the world:
>> Syria, Walmart, PIGS, Indonesia Factory Strike, FoxCon
>  Notetaking, avoiding stress, Infrastructure
>  Elections

—————————————————
(I) Notetaking, avoiding stress, infrastructure
—————————————————

(A)We hit a bump at the last meeting since not all notes were published.
Damien had some personal problems to deal with, so we are working on a way
to mitigate that. It is important to aleviate stress and not to stretch
ourselves out too thin. We discussed the need to sort out personal problems
and to prioritize getting our shit together as that will help the movement.

—————————————————
(II) News of the world:
—————————————————

(A) Indonesia: discussed the 2.5mil workers factory strike. Its significance
being that Indonesia has the world’s largest muslim population, its influence
on other muslim countries regarding class struggle, and the demands placed on
the govt for universal healthcare, higher wages, and an end to outsourcing
(ironic since indonesia is where work gets outsourced to, the context of this
is that outsourcing goes to a form of slave labor).

(B) PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain): Briefly talked about the
importance for partial demands and how that creates solidarity with the
working masses. Discussed how the PIGS inspires activists in Seattle, and
how it represents a split in bourgeois economic policy–whether to buy peace
with the masses or exert austerity.

(C) Syria: Syria is a bloodbath, there are now skirmishes with Turkish
military, we discussed how this struggle should be clarified into a news
website.

(D) Walmart: I (Art) stated that I believe this is one of the largest local
struggles of the year, will be a huge fucking deal. Walmart is the largest
employer in the United States, and is the crown jewel for unionization.
Seattle activists have paid lipservice for months about organizing casualized
workers, retail workers etc.. (89%) and now that it is happening they are
nowhere to be seen (although they recognize its imporance through facebook).
Unfortunately due to the extremely weakened state of rev activists they don’t
know what struggles they should be getting involved in, and have spread thin..
Example, energy is directed into Colombus Day instead of the Walmart struggle.
The victory will likely be handed to the Soc Dem unions like UFCW and rev
activists will miss the boat. We discussed how we could work with the struggle;
again a rev news service could be beneficial.

—————————————————
(III) Campus Politics (SCCC)
—————————————————

(A) Solidarity network (Kasama); student debt, panel discussions etc.
(B) SA running political campagin (very persistant)
(C) Student debt noise brigade (University of Washington), independent,
pseudo socialists
(D) Anarchists working on grandjury resistance
(E) Administration makes it difficult to form and keep student groups.
(F) Administration (through student government) wants to keep tabs on
student groups using volunteered documentation.

—————————————————
(IV) Ben’s Discussions with other activists (BB&RF)
—————————————————

(A) BB
(1) Ben’s encouragement for BB (and other activists)
to come to a meeting to open lines of communication.

(B) RF
(1) Correspondance is important but not urgent
(2) Differences are inevitable
(3) Important to explore each-other’s views
(4) Influence by social pressure.

Side note on Badiou by Ben:

A notecard with the words:
“How does Badiou keep an idiot busy for hours? (Turn over for answer).”
The other side of the notecard says:
“How does Badiou keep an idiot busy for hours? (Turn over for answer).”

—————————————————
(V) What is to be done study group
—————————————————

(1) Divide pamphlet into chapters, make sure everyone has copies,
we all agree to read the chapters.
(2) Each person gives a presentation on a chapter.
(3) Guidelines for group.
(A) Security culture
(B) Interruptions, person who is speaking must defend their own space.
(C) If someone thinks that something is relevant, they can bring it up,
if it is irrelevant, they can choose to ignore it.
(D) Everyone should contribute to moderation in keeping out
unproductive discussion.
(4) Study the material and treat it with respect
(5) Political contradictions with Ben and Frank should be addressed.
(7) Will we need a moderator? (plan B)
(8) Distributed moderation?

========================================
Ben Seattle:
========================================

Agenda:
——-
1. Notetaking, infrastructure and reducing stress
2. News of the world: Syria, Bahrain, Spain, Europe,
Walmart semi-wildcat, Indonesia strike, FoxConn China
Elections
3. Campus activism: Kasama, SA and Anarchists
4. Letters to Comrades BB and RF
5. How to Organize study group for WITBD (ie: “What Is To Be Done”)
6. Blog tactics

————————————————————-
1. Notetaking, infrastructure and reducing stress
————————————————————-

We will bring netbooks to meetings so we can enter notes before we leave.
It is not useful to allow work (or feelings of being obligated to do work)
pile up: this is demoralizing and unproductive.  We are only human.

————————————————————-
2. News of the world: Syria, Bahrain, Spain, Europe,
Walmart semi-wildcat, Indonesia strike, FoxConn China
Elections
————————————————————-

— Iphone strike in China is well positioned to catch attention.
— Indonesia: 2 and a half million on strike against outsourcing
(from Indonesia!) and for universal health care.  And what news do
we see in the check-out line at the grocery store?  Jessica Simpson
— Election: a “political” reality show to maintain illusion of democracy
— Syria buffer zone, Turkey, Kurds, US grooming and supporting “good”
opposition (ie: trustworthy flunkies) against independent opposition
— Spain, Greece: (1) split in bourg, Krugman notes that it would be
smarter for bourg to buy some class peace and that it can do so,
(2) drives (inspires) struggle elsewhere, including here in Seattle,
(3) until there is organized force with an alternative to bourg rule
— the bourg will rule and the masses will see no alternative
to social democracy.  So developing an alternative that does
not insult intelligence of masses would be good
— We need a revolutionary news service, so busy activists can find out
what is going on (locally, nationally and internationally) without
bourgeois bullshit or liberal whining

————————————————————-
3. Campus activism: Kasama, SA and Anarchists
————————————————————-

— SA focused on Sawant, — L and Kasama, regional student meetings
(may not be all that useful), — grand jury resistence activists,
— student noise brigade (UW and elsewhere)

————————————————————-
4. Letters to Comrades BB and RF
————————————————————-

Ben passed out copies of his private letter to BB and parts 1 & 2
of his public reply to RF

————————————————————-
5. How to Organize study group for WITBD
(ie: “What Is To Be Done”)
————————————————————-

— WITBD = THE major work, as relevant today as it was more than
a hundred years ago
— Study group should be open, announced publicly so activists
have opportunity to come.  (Too bad there is no place to post
the annoucement, we need something like that.)
— We should invite everyone who might have an interest.  Would
be good if Frank were to come.  If there is disruptive behavior
by either Frank or Ben because of their political contradictions:
we can deal with it by being political and acting like adults

————————————————————-
6. Blog tactics
————————————————————-

We should not give prominent links to the “lower” blogs because a
lot of stupid, half-finished (or unfinishable) stuff will be there.
We will give prominent links to upper blogs and low-key links to
lower blogs.

========================================
Damien Harris:
========================================

Tentative agenda:
1. On note taking stress, et al.
2. NEWS OF THE WORLD: SYRIA, BAHRAIN, INDONESIA,
SPAIN, PORTUGAL, WAL-MART STRIKES IN US ET AL
3. Political organizing at SCCC
4. Response: B of boc and Ben
4. Lenin: What is to be done?

—————————————————
2. NEWS OF THE WORLD: SYRIA, BAHRAIN, INDONESIA,
SPAIN, PORTUGAL, WAL-MART STRIKES IN US ET AL
—————————————————

-In China’s Apple factories, which are sub-contracted to Foxcon, there
are wildcat strikes, et al, transpiring amidst repulsive and draconian
working conditions.

-BAHRAIN’s relatively bourgeois democracy has become increasingly
autocratic and fascistic, as national insurrection and unrest occurs.
Their increasing fascism is illustrated by the recent sentencing of
doctors that treated protesters who were brutally hurt by pigs.

– Walmart is experiencing substantive protests and strikes in recent
weeks. ‘Our WALMART’, which is a main organizing body for the wildcat
strikes, et al, seems to be an organ, or at least recently co-opted, by
UFCW. Through a materialist analysis, it would seem like the trade union
bureaucrats will inevitably stifle the strike when they’ve determined
that they’ve sufficiently benefited from it.

—————————————————
3. Political organizing at SCCC
—————————————————

-On SCCC political organizing
: School administration has made it
particularly difficult to maintain clubs; this may be a response to
the particularly radical organizing that went on during O.S., and the
legitimazation of O.S. by faculty, clubs, student body et al. These days,
SA is concerned, almost solely, with propagating their campaign of
electing SAWANT. In contrast, Kasama people (among others) are oganizing
around the regional student union. While the non-aligned, especially
anarchists, are organizing around the grand jury resistors, et al.

-Incidentally, the school admin readily rented out the south campus
(where Occupy had its encampment) as well as the Broadway Performance Hall
to Decibel festival during class hours. This is especially interesting
because the admin [et al] constantly lambasted O.S. for disrupting classes..
Meanwhile, when  gaining capital is a prospect, it readily ignores the
so-called disruption of classes et al. This illustrates the blatant
hypocrisy and opportunism of the admin et al.

—————————————————
4. Response: B of boc and Ben
—————————————————

-On Red Fox, and others: We are wanting to engage in discussions with
particular people. However, this has not come into fruition because of
multiple things, including sectarianism and group pressures, as well as
[I have deleted a word here, which has potential to be offensive–Ben].
It’s, incidentally, silly to see self proclaimed dialectical materialists
negate antithetical analyses which aim to produces syntheses. So much for
dialectics!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

►The Road to Nowhere (reply to Red Fox, part 2) [FoC.12.10.6]

Posted by Ben Seattle on October 6, 2012

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. [fromRed Fox’s letter]

At some point the question needs to be asked: why was this (supposedly marxist) study group created in the first place?

I think that you, and the others in the group, were motivated by the idea of using the group to gradually attract activists together.  This seems, on the surface, to be a logical idea.  But these kinds of projects nearly always fail because our environment (ie: the left) is saturated with social democratic influence, traditions and taboos that no one is allowed to talk about.

Building organization by chasing numbers (ie: basing our action on what will attract people in the short run) has always been, and will always be, in the long run, the road to nowhere.  This follows from historical experience as well as from the nature of the class-divided society in which we live.

Let’s think about how this works.  The political culture in our bourgeois-ruled society is dominated by a host of unspoken taboos.  No bourgeois politician, for example, can question the need for imperialist war or the need to maintain respect for bourgeois institutions or any of the normal mechanisms of bourgeois rule.  If you violate these taboos, you suddenly lose critical support.  But the unspoken taboos do not disappear as soon as we enter the territory commonly known as “the left”.  What happens instead is that some taboos go away while other taboos replace them.

I violated a key taboo in the study group.  I advocated that we take seriously what we were studying, and work toward putting together a joint, public statement on the need for the working class to run society and the need for everyone (including real or imagined “counter-revolutionaries”) to have fundamental democratic rights so that the working class could effectively exercize its class rule.  The effect was the same as if I proposed a joint statement supporting Darwin at a meeting of creationists.  I was met with derision and disgust.  The study group fell apart.

We had been studying a book by Lenin, in which Lenin talked about the need for working class rule, and in which Lenin talked about the hypocrisy of the social democrats of his time, who were happy to “quite safely leave to the future” all fundamental questions concerning the nature of the proletarian revolution.  And yet, in the current period of extreme confusion on all questions related to working class rule, you and other members of this supposedly marxist study group dissolved the group rather than discuss the need for a public statement.

My effort to talk about the need for a public statement is now reflected, in your mind, as an attempt by me to “hijack” the group with my own theories: as if the incredible confusion which currently exists concerning the most important idea of our time (ie: the need for the working class to run society instead of the bourgeoisie) and the need for a public statement to confront this confusion, was mainly a product of my mind.

I criticized your attitude on this in my letter to the Red Spark collective a year ago.  It was in the section, in part 3, with the subtitle “Being popular vs. telling the truth”.  I don’t know how much of this letter you may have read or if you understood that part of the criticism was directed at you (I did not mention you by name) but I compared your attitude with Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.

I have a similar attitude, today, toward the Red Spark study group which, more than a year ago, announced that “the work of theoretical reconception” was decisive and “we see an essential way to carry this out being through developing a broader study group, through which people that wanted to contribute to reconception could be part of doing do”.

I would like to be part of this work of theoretical reconception.  I have written, and made public, hundreds of thousands of words on this topic.  Do I qualify to be part of your study group?  Probably not.  Because I have no respect for the dysfunctional taboos that have kept our movement helpless and on its knees.

If your study group has addressed any of the decisive theoretical questions of our time (in particular, those related to either (a) the nature of working class rule or (b) the nature of the revolutionary mass organization we will need to mobilize our class for the overthrow of bourgeois rule) has it made any public statements on its conclusions?  I have not seen any.

So, from my perspective, your actions, as an individual and as part of Red Spark, suggest that your study group (if it still exists) is more about gathering activists to your organization than confronting the theoretical crisis that has paralyzed our movement.

Most likely, Red Fox, my words sound harsh to you.  I am not telling you what you would like to hear.  But it is my responsibility to tell you how I see things.  I have seen self-deception among all kinds of activists.  I have seen the damage done.  I have seen activists who were so full of themselves that their considerable talent appears likely to amount to little.

My experience with you, Red Fox, is that each year you have become slightly less naive.  Each year your determination to break with everything rotten in our movement has grown a little bigger.  I want to support this.  I want to be gentle with you, but I need to do what I am able to help you remain true to your deepest aspirations.

There are different views, today, on how our movement will develop and grow.  The social democratic view is that we can unite around the lowest common denominator and aim our criticism at the forces “on the right” which we can all agree must be defeated.  The social democratic view is that we have no need for clashes and confrontation within our movement.  That’s not my view.

You met my wife once.  She joined us for a few minutes at the Vivace.  She was already frail by the time you saw her.  She was my treasure.  Maybe I am being subjective, but I feel like, in the two hundred thousand years that modern humans have walked on this earth, no man ever had a greater treasure.  So I count myself as pretty damn lucky.

During the period I was in the study group with you, I spent most of my time, with her, at the hospice, while she was alive.  I took time away from her so that I could be with you and with the others in the group.  Do you know why I did that?

She told me, as she was facing the end, to take down everything that had tormented her.  Within the limits of what is possible for a human being, I intend to contribute to this cause.  I am here for a reason.

And I want you to know that you are here for a reason.

We live in a culture that encourages arrogance.  We are bombarded 24×7 by lies and insults.  This can make it difficult to have humility.  I see arrogance in the movement, but I also see humility.  I have seen how our arrogance degrades everything that is precious to us.  But, in the long run, as our movement and our class experiences its share of rain and pain and sorrow, it is humility which will win.

So I was, three years ago, in a study group with people who did not appreciate my efforts to help them back up their beautiful words with meaningful action.  That is ok with me.  While humility floods my heart she is alive.

Coming soon: Part 3 of Ben Seattle’s reply to Red Fox

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

►We Are Here for A Reason (reply to Red Fox, part 1) [FoC.12.10.4]

Posted by Ben Seattle on October 4, 2012

Hi Red Fox,

First, thanks for your email.  It took time for you to think this through and put a letter together.  And I appreciate, in particular, your calm tone.

Also, I would like to thank you for your other email supporting my assertion that the ISO is basically a social democratic group.  I quoted your email when I replied on the BOC blog, and the BOC folks turned your YouTube link into an embedded object, so that readers could view the video by clicking start.  The video was quite effective.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, a good video is worth ten or a hundred thousand.

You and I have different views concerning how the Kasama community can develop the revolutionary side of its character.  It can be awkward, sometimes, to talk about disagreements, for several reasons.  There are often powerful emotions involved.  As activists we invest a considerable amount of our life energy and aspirations in certain ideas and certain organizations.  When these ideas or organizations are criticized, we may, because we are human, feel frustration and anxiety.

At the same time, in my view, there is no alternative to learning how to talk about our disagreements and to do so in public forums.  At a certain point in the development of our movement, events will be taking place quite rapidly, and there will not be time for activists to establish and build private channels of communication.  There is also a more important reason that we need to learn how to discuss our disagreements in public: if we keep things private–then other activists are kept in the dark concerning the contradictions in our movement.  But we need the help of these activists to help us resolve these contradictions–so it would be a terrible mistake for us to keep them in the dark.

Our disagreements, as I see them, concern two issues:

(1) How we can help the Kasama community develop the revolutionary side of its character, and

(2) The nature of revolutionary conduct at public meetings, online forums and within political organizations

It is not my view that you and I will necessarily resolve our disagreements and develop a common view on these topics in a short period of time.  That is not how things tend to work.  I believe it is likely that we will eventually develop a common view on these topics, but this will take time.  The truth about everything becomes more clear with time.  Five years from now, for example, I believe our views on these topics will be closer than they are today.

What is possible, today, is that we can explore and better understand one anothers’ views, and possibly draw the interest or attention of one or two other activists to these important questions.

What is “the topic at hand” ?

I would like to start with the 2nd issue I listed above (ie: the nature of revolutionary conduct).

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.

Were my actions at this forum correct or incorrect?  How do we decide?  And what was “the topic at hand”?  (That phrase is so rich in meaning.)

The key principle that applies here is simple: What serves the interest of the development of the revolutionary movement?

If my actions were useful in serving the development of the revolutionary movement, then they were correct.  If they we not, then they were wrong.

But how do we decide what serves the interest of the revolutionary movement?  Obviously, activists will disagree concerning what serves the interest of the movement.  So, when disagreements exist, who decides?

Do the people who host a forum decide?  My view is that every activist must decide for himself what serves the interest of the movement.  Our primary responsibility is to think things through for ourselves, and not allow anyone else (no matter who they are, no matter what they have done, no matter how much prestige they have) to do our thinking for us.  It follows from this that the only authority that should matter to us–is the authority of our own conscience.

Activists came to the Goldner meeting because it is becoming clear that the bourgeoisie made terrible mistakes in how they managed the flow of capital and plunged many millions into misery.  Activists want to understand this better (which is what Goldner’s talk was about).  But activists also want (and need) something else: activists want to know what alternatives exist to the present mismanagement of capital (and society as a whole) by the ruling bourgeoisie.

There are two competing views on this question:

(1) The social democratic view is that the bourgeoisie must be forced, pressured or persuaded to manage capital better.

(2) The revolutionary view is that the class rule of the bourgeoisie must be brought to an end (ie: overthrown) and replaced by the rule of the proletariat (understood to be the working class and oppressed) which will then create an economy which is not based on commodity production (ie: as commodity production inevitably leads to the rule of capital and the class rule of the bourgeoisie).

If there is no realistic alternative to an economy based on commodity production–then the only view that can be considered realistic will be the social democratic view.

This is the view that the Stranger’s news editor, Dominic Holden, expressed January 10, when he said that the militant core of the Occupy movement had “become introverted and distracted from an agenda to reform Wall Street”.  But Wall Street has been reformed many times, going back I think more than a century–and the reforms have always turned out to be illusions.  Don’t we need something deeper than this?

The entire culture of our society is based on the idea that there is no realistic alternative to the class rule of the bourgeoisie–and everyone must accommodate themselves to this eternal reality.

But many activists know, instinctively, that some alternative to bourgeois rule must exist, they just don’t know what this alternative is–and how it would work.  And this is something they need to know.  (If they don’t know this–then how in the hell can they work with confidence for the creation of a world that is not ruled by the bourgeoisie?)

My work has led me to the conclusion that the fundamental alternative to an economy based on commodity production (ie: production for the purpose of sale or exchange) is what I call the “gift economy”, where goods and services are created for use, and given to where they will be most useful–with zero expectation of getting something back (ie: “pay it forward” instead of “pay it back”).

So, during the question period, I asked Goldner (who had just described the recent problems that were the inevitable result of an economy based on commodity prodution) if he had ever considered an alternative to an economy based on commodity production.  And I described this alternative as the “gift economy”.

You describe this (above) as my attempting to redirect the conversation to one of my theories.  But does it make any difference whose theory it is?  For the record, I do not claim “ownership” of any of the theories or principles for which I fight.  I work for these theories because I have come to the conclusion that they serve the interests of the development of the revolutionary movement.  Nor is it necessarily the case that any of these theories originated with me.  The gift economy was practiced by early humans for probably more than two hundred thousand years, so I can hardly be the originator of this idea.  And as far as the idea that the gift economy can and will replace the commodity economy in modern society, it would be pretty damn unlikely that this idea originated with me.

Yes, it is true that Goldner dismissed the idea, and did not seem to have any interest in talking about an alternative to an economy based on commodity production.  So what?  What conclusions can we draw from this?  Goldner gave a good talk that was useful to activists and the movement, and we recognize and respect his contribution.  But Goldner is not the movement, and his views of what is (or is not) relevant to the needs of activists and the needs of our time cannot represent some kind of substitute for our responsibility as activists to independently sort these things out for ourselves.

Again: as revolutionary activists–the only authority that determines our actions is the authority of our revolutionary conscience and consciousness.  If this is not the basis of our action–then, in the long run, our action will never be more than dust in the wind.

The activists who attended Goldner’s lecture did not go there only to learn about fictitious capital.  They attended because they want to understand the world better.  And they want to understand the world better so that they will have the ability to change it.  That is the whole point.  If we overlook this–we lose everything.  Our movement must confront our need for an alternative to an economy based on commodity production–that is realistic.  And our actions must be based on the needs of the movement.

Coming soon: Part 2 of Ben Seattle’s reply to Red Fox

—–Original Message—–
To:     Ben
Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2012 4:30 PM

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 in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

►Nothing is as sexy as the revolutionary struggle for the liberation of humanity [FoC.12.9.23]

Posted by The Deep Time Ranger on October 4, 2012

Do these photos exploit women?  They do.  Let’s admit it.  (The exploitation, however, tends to be for a good cause)

(Most photos here are from Femen which, according to wikipedia, is “a feminist Ukrainian protest group” which “became internationally known for organizing topless protests against sex tourists, religious institutions, international marriage agencies, sexism and other social, national and international topics.”)

Feman, as an organization, may have many of the problems associated
with their kinds of politics (ie: for political rights, against
various forms of oppression, and with support from a section of social
democracy).  Overall, their work is useful, but some of their positions
and tactics appear to have problems.

But, what is of greatest interest to me is not the weaknesses of
their politics, but what we can learn from their work concerning
how open sexuality will, in the period ahead, increasingly be
used to attract attention to political movements in a period in
which the media landscape is undergoing an extremely rapid
evolution and a large number of independent projects are fighting
within an “attention economy”.

The bourgeoisie, of course, uses sexuality in its culture in
innumerable ways.  And the culture of the bourgeoisie, which bombards
us 24×7, even in our dreams, is aimed at keeping us unconscious:
unable to think, unable to understand that the world we want and need
is not only possible–but inevitable, and that we must wake up and
grab it.  And the revolutionary movement, as the class movement of 
the proletariat, will also, inevitably, make skillful use of sexuality,
as part of its efforts to grab the attention of the working class and
oppressed.  And when the proletariat takes up this cause, it will do so
far more openly, and with far less hypocrisy, than the bourgeoisie.

Readers!  — Don’t delay! — Your thoughts on this question are needed today!

Status:

How much work does this article need to be good enough for the upper blog?  Probably a lot:

  • It needs a better description of Femen, what it is and its strengths and weaknesses
  • Similar examples (ie: the famous Joan Baez poster from the 1960’s, see below)
  • More comments, to provide context

According to David Frum:  “The poster sought to counter the fear that draft resistance was unmanly by promising draft resisters the traditional rewards of the warrior: the, um, attentions of beautiful and admiring females.”  Proceeds from the poster sales went towards draft resistance.  Link: http://askville.amazon.com/Joan-Baez-question-remembers-poster/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=8933518

Related Links:

Femen’s topless warriors start boot camp for global feminism
Ukrainian activists set up an international training centre
in Paris to teach women the art of naked protest
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/22/femen-topless-warriors-global-feminism

Getting Naked to Change the World
http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/femen-activists-get-naked-to-raise-political-awareness-a-832028.html

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments »