Fragments Of Comprehension

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

Archive for April, 2013

► Kasama, community and humility (reply to Red Fox, part 3) – [FoC.13.04.24]

Posted by Ben Seattle on April 24, 2013

Kasama, community and humility (Reply to Red Fox — part 3)

(Parts 1 and 2 and posted here and here)

Hi there Red Fox,

You sent me a letter a year ago (March 22) and I apologize for the delay
in this reply.  I posted parts 1 and 2 of my reply to you last October,
but they did not deal with my relationship with the Kasama community,
which appears to be your core concern.

There are also a number of related issues that you have brought up,
including in your more recent letter (ie: sent March 1 of this year,
which I am not posting because you have not replied to my request for
your permission to make it public).  I will make an effort to be concise,
because your time and attention are valuable and in short supply.

So let’s start with Kasama.  Currently, I am prevented from participating
in a meaningful way in the Kasama community.  Your opinion is that this
is because my posts are mainly spam, self-promotion and off-topic.

Could you give an example of this?  I believe it would be helpful if we
were to look at some concrete example.

I will give an example of a post of mine.  Comment number 31 (posted on
January 31, 2010 at 7:14 pm) on this thread:

http://kasamaarchive.org/2010/01/28/communist-revolution-without-inevitability-how-do-we-have-optimism/

got me put on permanent moderation, meaning that anything I post to Kasama
will: (1) be delayed a minimum of 2 or 3 days and (2) probably be deleted
before anyone can read it.

Do you find post # 31 (above) to be spam, self-promotion or off-topic?

Maybe you do.

The topic of the thread concerned whether or not our optimism requires
a belief in our inevitable victory.

To me, this is an important question.  Mike has one answer to this
question.  I have another.

The nature of our inevitable victory will be _core_ to the message
which, I argue, the future organization of the proletariat will
eventually put out in a news and culture service that will have
thousands of daily articles and reach millions of people.

This question (ie: whether a materialist understanding of economics and
politics leads to the conclusion that the victory of the proletariat
over the bourgeoisie is inevitable) is the _core issue_ which defines
the distinction between the proletarian and bourgeois ideologies.  This
was, for example, the key contribution that Marx made.  Many others had
previously described the class struggle.  It was Marx who showed that
this struggle must inevitably lead to the victory of the proletariat.

By arguing, in this thread, that the victory of the proletariat over
the bourgeoisie was _not_ inevitable, Mike was opposing this central
principle of the materialist world view.  This does not make Mike a
bad guy or anything.  It only means that he is mistaken, that he does
not understand this central conclusion that flows from the materialist
view of the class struggle.  But then Mike did something more …

I noted, in my January 31 post, that there were a series of questions
of similar character (ie: related to the irreconciliable proletarian
and bourgeois worldviews) which emerged, again and again, on the Kasama
blog.  And I invited Jan Makandal to explore these similar questions
with me on a related thread concerning the social-democratic
character of Kasama’s mission statement.

The issue here was simple: if Mike Ely was going to promote the
social-democratic worldview on key questions such as this–then it
would be best to oppose these expressions of the social-democratic
worldview in a way that was clear, concise, all-sided and timely.
In other words: in a way that was coordinated and organized.

It was natural for me to discuss this with Jan, because Jan was one
of the few in the Kasama community who had defended the proletarian
materialist worldview when Mike Ely had argued against it.  And it
was natural to raise this with Jan on this particular thread because
I had no other way to contact Jan and suggest that he and I coordinate
our efforts.

Mike’s action in putting me on moderation for this post makes it clear
that the Kasama community is not a place where it is possible for me
to reach out to someone like Jan Makandal, and give Jan my opinion that
we should coordinate our efforts to give clear, concise, all-sided and
timely replies on those occasions when Mike (or anyone else) promotes
social-democratic views and politics.

This does not mean that the Kasama community is not a useful place
for activists to discuss important issues.  Many important issues can
be discussed there–as long as this discussion does not involve an
attempt to organize a section of the Kasama community to take
coordinated action that would move the community in a direction which
Mike opposes.  That is the contradiction.  Mike is the boss.

Mike has a vision for the development of the Kasama community.  If
you support that vision–then you are free to post there and readers
will see your post less than a minute after you click the button.  On
the other hand, if you believe that Mike’s vision is flawed and want
to work with others in the community to oppose and correct these flaws
(for example: to advocate in favor of a sharper struggle against
social-democratic views and politics) in an organized way–you will
be dismissed as a troll–and treated as such.  That is my experience.

There will be a necessary and legitimate need for moderation in any
online forum.  But there is a distinction between the need for
moderation, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the abuse of
moderation authority.  Mike’s abuse of moderation authority (I am
giving only this example, but there are many) reveals that the
Kasama community has the nature of what is sometimes called a
“walled garden”.  And the limitations of such a closed system will
make themselves felt with time.

The history of the revolutionary movement of the working class is
a history of betrayal.  This is the bitter truth.  And this means
that revolutionary activists need an open community where no one is
above criticism–and no one has the authority to suppress revolutionary
criticism.  I think it is clear that the Kasama community can be many
things–but it cannot be this kind of open community.

I know, Red Fox, that your time is limited, so I will not bore you with
details of my experience with the Kasama community and my conclusion
that the community is paternalistic in its nature.  When I put together
my 5 part letter to the Red Spark Collective in June and July 2011, I
first collected (as preparation for my letter to Red Spark) a fair
number of notes (and links) concerning my experiences with Mike Ely and
his community.  My notes were posted in June 2011 and are here:

Kasama, Red Spark and the contradictions of movement:
Part 1: http://www.revleft.com/vb/blog.php?b=1608
Part 2: http://www.revleft.com/vb/blog.php?b=1653

I will briefly reply to two other issues that you raised.

— 1 —

You gave your opinion that I am a difficult person to deal with.
My opinion is that you are probably right.  I am lucky that anyone
puts up with me.  I drive even the people who know and love me crazy.

But that is not the issue here (even though it may appear otherwise
to you).

It is not that I enjoy hurting people.  And I do my best to avoid being
arrogant.  Rather, what you observe, in my opinion, is my refusal, in
my political work, to hold my breath, or walk on egg shells–for anyone.

Our movement is full of dysfunctional taboos of every description.  I
have no respect for these taboos.  These taboos originate from the
pressure of social-democracy and the pressure of cargo-cult religions.

I have contempt for these taboos and I refuse to apologise for trampling
on them.  This upsets a lot of people.  They feel the need to hold their
breath.  They feel the need to walk on eggshells.  Who the hell do I
think I am to actually enjoy moving around and breathing freely?  The
answer, of course, is that I am Spartacus.  And so are you, Red Fox.
We only need to realize it.  Heaven is doing the things we love with
the people we love.  We may be closer to this heaven than you think.

We are on this earth once, Red Fox.  We can stand straight up.  We do
not have to live as slaves to the nightmare of the past.

— 2 —

You give your opinion that my passing out leaflets at the
“Everything-For-Everyone” festival last summer was opportunist
and not a sign of humility.

Where does the name “Everything-For-Everyone” come from?  It comes
from a view of the world where everything is for everyone.  This
means a world that is not based on the commodity economy.

Many people today argue that such a world is impossible–and that
humanity will always exist on the basis of the commodity economy.

My leaflet, on the other hand, described how the economy will work
when it is not based on commodity production.  I call it the gift
economy.  As far as I am aware, the description I provided in my
leaflet was the only written description available at the conference
concerning how the economy will work when, in fact, everything is
created for everyone.

One of the core principles of the festival was that everything there
would be free (ie: food, music, lectures and workshops).  So, in that
sense, the festival was an example of a “gift economy” in miniature.

But having confidence that humanity can create a world where apartments,
hospitals, freeways and jet planes are also created for free, without
money, and where all labor is voluntary, without wages or money–is a
big step.  I believe that my leaflet represents a small step in this
direction.  Like I say, it was the only printed literature which
recognized and confronted the question of how the gift economy will
function on a large scale–as well as the related question of how
(politically and economically) humanity will make the transition from,
so to speak, here to there.

So, in that sense, I believe that my leaflets were fully in the spirit
of the festival and were part of the conversation and the exchanges of
ideas that motivated the festival and its attendence.  (see graphic below)

You also raise the topic of humility.

We all need more humility.  In fact, of everything we need, this is
the most important–because it is humility that allows us to see
clearly what is in front of us.

And one of the contradictions of humility is that the more we have,
the more we need.  This follows from the fact that the more humility
we have, the more clearly we can see and the more useful we become
to the movement.  But the more useful we are to the movement, then
the more our expanded potential usefulness is undermined by even small
mistakes and relatively small levels of arrogance.

Since humility is so important to us–we need also understand what
it is–and what it is not.  There is false humility and there is real
humility.  Some people are confused about what humility is and mistakenly
consider it to be the same as lacking confidence.

That is not my view.  Humility is the source of our confidence because
humility allows us to understand our limitations and, so to speak,
check our work ten thousand times over.  Every day I ask myself if I
am on the right path.  I check my work, again and again and again and
again and again.  I am available for any activist to question.  If you
want to talk to me and Art, we can meet at the Black Coffee, and I would
very much look forward to it.

All the best,
Ben Seattle

commody_exchange_vs_gift_economy

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