Fragments Of Comprehension

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

►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

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

  1. Hi ben, thank you for posting the notes.

  2. […] (Parts 1 and 2 and posted here and here) […]

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