Fragments Of Comprehension

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

Archive for May, 2013

► A clean sweep by a new broom – [FoC.13.05.31]

Posted by Ben Seattle on May 31, 2013

Re: Synthesizing Revolutionary Politics:
Some Thoughts on Developing a New Socialist Hypothesis
by Smooth Broomhead, April 25, 2013

Hi Smooth Broomhead,

I just finished reading your paper on developing a “new
socialist hypothesis”. I was rather amazed because, in
a number of ways, your conclusions run parallel to my own.

We need a revolutionary movement. We do not have one
because of a crisis of theory that is so deep and so
profound that it has become essentially impossible for
activists to think in a realistic way about the kind of
future which we need to create.

Nothing fundamental is going to change until activists are
able to overcome this crisis of theory and develop a clear
understanding of where we need to go, as a movement and as
a society, and how we are going to get there.

Your work to look at, with fresh eyes, the history of
revolutionary thought and practice from the time of the
great French revolution to the Ocuppy movement–is
inspiring. In particular, it is encouraging for me to see
a new generation of younger activists roll up their sleeves
and look to the future with the kind of optimism and courage
that must have been required for the work that went into
your essay.

I will note here one or two comments concerning your
sweeping essay, and some ideas for practical ways that
activists such as ourselves can stay in touch with one
another and collaborate in the work to discover and spread
knowledge of the principles which have the power to make
possible the recovery of our movement.

— 1 —

I have many disagreements with points in your essay, but
these disagreements are all minor in comparison with the
territory you cover and the conclusions you reach. What I
will note here may shed some light on the period which
reached its climax in the spring of 1921 with the crushing
of the Kronstadt rebellion (which I am convinced was
necessary) and the suspension of fundamental democratic
rights and democratic openings in the party and in society.

> This analysis helps to explain the USSR’s degeneration
> on the basis of material reality as opposed to one of
> idealism and abstract freedom

Bingo. You nailed it. You hit the ball out of the park.

The basic problem at this time, as your essay implicitly
recognizes, at least in part, is that any other course of
action would have led to the collapse of the revolution and
the restoration of bourgeois power. Kollantai’s calls for
greater democracy and so forth would have made perfect sense
in almost any other imaginable circumstance–except for the
circumstances which existed at the time.

The contradiction during this period was that greater
democracy and democratic openings were necessary to prevent
the degeneration of the revolution–but greater democracy
and democratic openings would also have quickly led to
total collapse.

My study of this period (based mainly on Lenin’s writings)
indicates that Lenin was consumed by this contradiction
and he openly warned, in his last major address, at the
11th party Congress, in the spring of 1922, that the main
danger the revolution faced was the degeneration of the
party into an instrument that served an exploiting class.

I have written a lot about this and will not repeat
everything here, but I will include, in an appendix below,
the 1988 account by George Seldes of Lenin’s thoughts on
the necessity for a “two-party system” in Russia during
this period of extreme weakness and instability. I also
include my reasons for concluding that the account by
Seldes must be accurate.

— 2 —

> For Marx, an open and highly democratic organization
> of working people with a revolutionary consciousness
> could do little more than connect the daily struggles
> of working people with their long term interests in
> socialism.

So what can we say concerning practical steps forward
concering building the movement and the organization we
need?

First, I think it only makes sense that we should make
an effort to stay in touch with one another, and maintain
a familiarity with one another’s work. One way we can do
this is by reading and commenting on one another’s blogs.

Second, I will list here, for your consideration, the
four key areas of work which I have concluded will be
decisive in the period ahead.

(1) Our revolutionary mass organization

We must Understand the nature of the revolutionary mass
organization we need: based on political transparency
and “democratic communication” rather than “democratic
centralism”

(2) Our revolutionary goal

We must understand: (a) the nature of humanity’s long-term
goal: a gift economy rather than an economy based on
commodity production, and (b) the nature of the transition
period and the democratic rights of speech and organization
that will allow the development of the gift economy
following the overthrow of bourgeois rule.

(3) Independence from social-democracy

We must build the revolutionary movement without and
against the treacherous social-democratic trends which
skillfully work to lead us into the swamp and liquidate
our independent militant politics. At the same time we
must develop the ability to assist countless struggles
for partial demands in complex united fronts with these
treacherous forces–without losing our bearings.

(4) Digital infrastructure

We must create an open, public database that will serve
as an indestructable backbone of both (a) a democratic
communications system for all revolutionary activists and
(b) an open revolutionary news service that can bring news,
culture and solid, reliable analysis and theory to millions.

— 3 —

Conclusion: let’s stay in touch. I like your work and
appreciate the level of commitment from you that it
required. I have been around the block and, if you have
questions of any kind, I will be happy to give you my
opinion.

I maintain an “upper” blog (see URL below) and, also, a
“lower” blog which is only quasi-public and is mainly for
activists would have an interest in working with me in
some capacity. I do not post public links to the lower
blog, in order to maintain its character as a place for
drafts, one-sided analysis, problematic formulations and
thinking-out-loud. However anyone who has an interest
can find it on google.

That’s it for now. I do not know what kind of grade you
got on your essay (if it was graded) but I am giving you
an A+.

All the best,
Ben Seattle

My “upper” blog: (http, etc) WarForQuadrantTwo.wordpress.com
The main archive of my work: (http, etc) struggle.net/ben/

====================================================
Appendix: Lenin on a Bolshevik “two-party system”
====================================================

From “Witness to a Century” (George Seldes, 1988):

“For many weeks Oscar Cesare, the noted artist of The New York Times,
was privileged to sit in Lenin’s office daily and make sketches.
Sometimes Lenin talked. When Spewack of the World and I heard of
these conversations, we primed Cesare with questions–and thus had a
secondhand running interview.

“To our questions, ‘Will you ever permit another political party to
exist in Soviet Russia?’ Lenin replied:

“‘The two-party system is a luxury which only long-established and
secure nations can afford. However, eventually we will have a two-
party system such as the British have–a left party and a right
party–but two Bolshevik parties, of course.’

“Cesare said that Lenin’s eyes twinkled when he said ‘two-party
system,’ and that he finished his talk with a knowing laugh.”

Comment by Ben (1999):

Such an “interview” certainly contradicts the notion of our “Cargo
Cult Leninists” that Lenin stood for the rule of a single monolithic
party (ie: without factions) thruout the entire period of the D of P.
These people (and others) may question whether Seldes’ account can be
considered reliable.

I am personally confident that Seldes’ account is accurate. How do I
know? I believe we can know it is accurate the same way we can know
that Phoenician claims to have circumnavigated Africa in a three-year
voyage before 500 B.C. are accurate. The Greek historian Herodotus,
considering these claims fifty years later, doubted their validity
because the Phoenicians reported that in the far south the Sun [at
noon] was in the northern half of the sky. Herodotus felt this to be
impossible. Issac Asimov notes that we moderns know that the [noon]
Sun _is_ always in the northern half of the sky when seen from that
latitude. “The Phoenicians would not have made up such a ridiculous
story if they had not actually witnessed it, so the very item that
caused Herodotus to doubt the story convinces us that it must be
true.”

In a loosely analogous way, I believe that Seldes account is accurate
because Lenin’s remarks are _theoretically correct_ and I believe it
was beyond the power of someone with Seldes’ ideology to make up such
a formulation. (Note again, potential opponents–I do _not_ claim the
formulations are correct _because_ Lenin said them. On the contrary,
I claim that Lenin said them because they are correct.

I present the “interview” here as food for thought. This interview is
characteristic of how Lenin thought: Lenin was able to see phenomena
in the _process of development_. Lenin clearly saw that the _form_ of
working class rule would certainly change as it developed, as
conditions developed and experience was accumulated–just as the form
of capitalist rule developed from the stern Oliver Cromwell to the
modern bourgeois democracy.

We can’t know, from Seldes’ description, the exact words that Lenin
might have used nor what he really had in mind when he said “two-
party system” and his eyes twinkled. But the “interview” helps us to
grasp that the period of workers’ rule will have _stages of
development_ within it. The necessity of overcoming the extreme
problems that inevitably accompany such highly centralized power (ie:
the ease with which officials at all levels would be able to silence
the press to cover-up their incompetence, hypocrisy or corruption)
would probably find expression _first_ in a system which permits a
“loyal opposition”. As experience is accumulated–the boundaries of
oppositional behavior that serve the interest of workers (and the
workers’ state) would be determined experimentally.

–[]–

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► Yellow peril threatens Western civilization – [FoC.13.05.30-B]

Posted by Ben Seattle on May 30, 2013

As the role of China in world affairs becomes larger,
we will witness many more “yellow peril” articles like
the one below. The LA Times article (see below) is aimed 
at whipping up hostility toward China and preparing  
public opinion in the U.S. for a policy of more openly 
preparing for war with China.

Aside from the amazing hypocrisy of the article, and
the cold-war style hyping of the supposed desire of
the Chinese military caste to go to war with U.S.
imperialism (I have highlighted in boldface red below),
the article reveals a disturbing truth:

Both China and the U.S. are (obviously) preparing for
the possibility of an eventual war with one another.
Anyone who studies military history is probably aware
of this. And we must recognize, soberly, that such a
war may come about (although we should not view it as
inevitable) as the Chinese economy becomes larger than
the economy of U.S. imperialism and China asserts for
itself a role in world affairs that corresponds more
closely to the role it has played throughout most of
human history.

This article also (inadvertently) sheds light on another
topic that is in the news right now: the debate in the
highest circles of U.S. imperialism concerning how to
step up U.S. intervention in Syria.

An editorial in yesterday’s Washington Post [1] criticized
the Obama administration for “ceding the battlefield” in
Syria to “the United States’ more strategic enemies,
including Iran”. Note carefully the use of the word
“including”. Even this remarkably candid article (which
openly discusses the role of “public intellectuals” in
manufacturing “public opinion” in favor of imperialist
war) did not dare to list the most important strategic
rival that U.S. imperialism will confront in the 21st
century.

But, we should note that U.S. imperialist aggression in
the Middle East and the wars it is waging to dominate that
region–are aimed at its long-term strategic interests.
Primary among those interests is its strategic contention
with China.

Many students of history assert that the 21st century will
be the Chinese century. And this may be true. As activists,
however, we also recognize a different way to look at this.
The 21st century will be the proletarian century. This is
the century in which the working class and the oppressed
masses will overthrow the bourgeoisie in the U.S., China 
and every country on earth and eliminate imperialist war 
once and for all, and usher in a world of peace, abundance 
and genuine community for every human being.

— Ben Seattle http://struggle.net/Ben/

America’s China mistake

As Beijing becomes more bellicose, Washington clings to the hope that military-to-military relations will somehow relieve tensions. They won’t.

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-chang-chinese-navy-20130530,0,7560801.story

By Gordon G. Chang and James A. Lyons Jr.May 30, 2013

This spring, China’s navy accepted the Pentagon‘s invitation to participate in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific — RIMPAC — naval exercise to be held off Hawaii. This will be the first timeChina takes part in the biennial event.

Our allies should signal their intent to withdraw from the exercise if China participates. Failing that, the invitation should be withdrawn. RIMPAC is for allies and friends, not nations planning to eventually wage war on the United States. Russia sent ships in 2012, but while its senior officers may occasionally utter unfriendly words, they are not actively planning to fight the United States. Analyst Robert Sutter was surely correct when he wrote in 2005 that “China is the only large power in the world preparing to shoot Americans.”

That assessment, unfortunately, remains true today. Beijing is configuring its forces — especially its navy — to fight ours. For instance, China has deployed along its southern coast its DF-21D, a two-stage solid-fuel missile that can be guided by satellite signals. The missile is dubbed the “carrier killer” because it can be configured to explode in midair, raining down sharp metal on a deck crowded with planes, ordinance, fuel and sailors. Its apparent intent is to drive U.S. forces out of East Asia.

A pattern of aggressive Chinese tactics also points in that direction. Especially troubling is the harassment in international waters of unarmed U.S. Navy reconnaissance vessels for more than a decade, most notably the blocking of the Impeccable in the South China Sea in 2009. And there was the 2001 downing of a Navy EP-3 and the surfacing of a Song-class attack submarine in the middle of the Kitty Hawk strike group near Okinawa in 2006.

Since then, we have been hearing bold war talk in the Chinese capital, from new leader Xi Jinping to senior officers and colonels who say they relish combat — a “hand-to-hand fight with the U.S.,” as one of them put it in 2010.

Why do China’s officers want to go to war? There is an unfortunate confluence of factors. First, there is a new Chinese confidence bordering on arrogance. Beijing leaders, especially since 2008, have been riding high. They saw economic turmoil around the world and thought the century was theirs to dominate. The U.S. and the rest of the West, they believed, were in terminal decline.

The Chinese military also has gained substantial influence in the last year, perhaps becoming the most powerful faction in the Communist Party. Beginning as early as 2003, senior officers of the People’s Liberation Army were drawn into civilian power struggles as Hu Jintao, then the new leader, sought their support in his effort to shove aside Jiang Zemin, his wily predecessor who sought to linger in the limelight. Last year, the civilian infighting intensified as the so-called Fifth Generation leadership, under the command of Xi, took over from Hu’s Fourth. Like a decade ago, feuding civilians sought the support of the generals and admirals, making them arbiters in the party’s increasingly rough game of politics.

The result of discord among civilian leaders has been a partial remilitarization of politics and policy. Senior officers are now acting independently of civilian officials, are openly criticizing them and are making pronouncements in areas once considered the exclusive province of diplomats.

The remilitarization has had consequences. As Huang Jing of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy said: “China’s military spending is growing so fast that it has overtaken strategy. The young officers are taking control of strategy, and it is like young officers in Japan in the 1930s. They are thinking what they can do, not what they should do.”

What do China’s admirals want? They are supporting their nation’s territorial ambitions to close off the South China Sea to others. This brings them into conflict with nations surrounding that critical body of water and pits them against the U.S. If there has been any consistent U.S. foreign policy over the course of two centuries, it has been the defense of freedom of navigation.

According to a white paper it issued in April, China is building a navy capable of operating in the ocean’s deep water, and has 235,000 officers and sailors. Its navy last year commissioned its first aircraft carrier, and it is reportedly building two more. China has about a dozen fewer submarines than the U.S., but the U.S. has global responsibilities. The Chinese, therefore, can concentrate their boats in waters close to their shores, giving them tactical and operating advantages.

While the Chinese plan to dominate their waters and eventually ours, we are helping them increase their effectiveness with invitations to RIMPAC and other exercises and by including them in joint operations like the one directed against Somali piracy. The U.S. Navy at the same time is continuing to reduce its fleet, currently at 283 deployable ships. As Beijing’s behavior has become more troubling, the Pentagon has clung to the hope that military-to-military relations will somehow relieve tensions with the Chinese.

Yet as Ronald Reagan taught us, the nature of regimes matter. We are now helping an incurably aggressive state develop its military — to our peril. There is something very wrong at the core of the Obama administration’s and the Pentagon’s China policies.

Gordon G. Chang, a writer on Asian affairs, is the author of “The Coming Collapse of China.” Twitter: @GordonGChang. James A. Lyons Jr., a retired admiral, was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet from 1985 to 1987.

(See also graphics (below): (1) interactive poll by LA times
showing how many readers were incited by the article and
(2) cartoon by Horsey showing the simple and inevitable fact
that China is a rising power and will eventually eclipse the
U.S. — note by Ben)

13-05-horsey

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► [repost] Why You Should Support the Revolution Against Assad, And Why It’s “OK” If You Don’t – [FoC.13.05.30-A]

Posted by Ben Seattle on May 30, 2013

Why You Should Support the Revolution Against Assad, And Why It’s “OK” If You Don’t

I posted a comment:

Hi there Michael,

I learned of this blog by way of my friend and comrade
Art Francisco.

I thought your post was quite good. Nearly everything
in it is (or should be) common sense. Unfortunately,
the movement here in the U.S. is so dysfunctional that
this kind of common sense is not common.

Yes, the only thing that is important is that we build
a movement here in the U.S. to oppose increased
intervention in Syria by “our own” U.S. imperialism.

Your arguments against the various wrong positions that
are common in the left are logical and concise and
presented with clarity and depth. Particularly good
is your explanation for why the current upsurge in
Syria represents the aspirations of the masses there
for the democratic openings they need in order to
organize to defend their class material interests. And
your description of the various currents there strikes
me as thoughtful.

I hope to find a few minutes to look at some of your
other posts. It is refreshing to find posts such as
yours and I hope it is representative of the kind of
clarity which I hope will increasingly be emerging as
the revolutionary movement in this country begins to
find its footing.

Ben Seattle http://struggle.net/Ben/

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► Revolutionary struggle and cargo-cult marxism in India [FoC.13.05.30]

Posted by Ben Seattle on May 30, 2013

Revolutionary struggle and cargo-cult marxism in India

Hi Art,

I looked at a few pages of the PDF report [1], and read all of
section 4 as you requested. It looks like the PDF represents part
of a study of how the Indian government can more effectively
suppress the Maoist insurgency. The PDF documents a few cases
in which Indian politicians formed alliances with the Maoists
or helped them in various ways, including giving them information
on the layout of a major militarized police station that the
Maoists intended to attack. There were also cases where it
appears that the Maoists assassinated some politicians at the
request of other politicians.

These kinds of assassinations are certainly corrupt behavior,
but in the larger context of the complex movement in India,
this means little.

The report appears to oppose the evolution of the response of
the Indian government toward the insurgency in the direction
of “securitisation”. Securitisation seems to be the name of
the policy of relying primarily on military means to suppress
the insurgency, rather than political means–such as addressing
the demands of the insurgency, which it seems nearly everyone
agrees are entirely legitimate. The basic point of the report
is that if the Indian state does not address the demands of
the insurgency (such as land reform and social justice in the
affected areas) the insurgency will continue to enjoy popular
support and efforts to suppress it that rely mainly on military
means will be futile.

I did do a quick lookup in wikipedia after running into news
articles discussing the accusations that the BJP and Congress
parties in India are making against one another in the wake of
the recent ambush.

The Indian party which organized the ambush is the CPI(Maoist).
The party which I had read about years ago, that was led by
Charu Majumdar was the CPI(Marxist-Leninist), which was an
offshoot of the CPI(Marxist) which was an offshoot of the CPI.

The CPI(M-L) seems to have initiated the armed struggle in 1967 in
Naxalbari in West Bengal. I have not read all the wikipedia pages,
but I think there was mention that there were a lot of splits and
recombinations since the 1967 uprising, so it is possible
that the CPI(Maoist) is an offshoot of the CPI(M-L).

In fact, it looks like there are more than a dozen different parties
in India which call themselves the CPI(Marxist-Leninist). So it can
be somewhat confusing figuring out what is going on.

In general, even though India is such a different place than the U.S.,
the crisis of theory and orientation which has paralyzed effective
revolutionary work here–also affects the movement there.

The forces of reformism and sectarianism, the division into red
and blue, the inability to understand and explain the goal of the
revolutionary movement, the fetishization of words of Marx, Lenin
or Mao and the development of political (cargo-cult) religions,
the development of unprincipled and opportunistic alliances with
bourgeois political trends– all these things take place in both
India and the U.S.

We may not understand conditions in India. But our work to help put
the movement here in the U.S. on a solid footing can be part of the
work to put the movement worldwide on a solid footing. Progress in
one area will encourage and assist progress in every other area.

By the way, as a historic note, the power and energy of the Maoist
movement in India had a major impact on the movement in Canada
(which had a large population of immigrants from India) in the form
of Hardial Bains, in the 1960’s, and directly led to the formation
of the Marxist-Leninist Party here in the U.S.

Hardial eventually degenerated into a charlatan, and my 16 year old
page on his charlatanism came up in 2nd place when I just now googled
his name. The only page ahead of it was his page on wikipedia.

Here are some (of many) relevant wikipedia pages:

All the best,

Ben

Note [1]: Insurgency and the State in India: the Naxalite and Khalistan Movements, Shamuel Tharu, South Asian Survey 2007 14: 83

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► The most common wrong ideas about the state [FoC.13.05.27]

Posted by Ben Seattle on May 27, 2013

What is the state? What are the most common misconceptions?

Hi Art,

This letter will focus on Frank P’s questions about the state.
I will reply to his question concerning principles in a second
letter.

Frank Patino:

> “how do you define the state. . How do you explain the origin
> of the capitalist system ? And which author or thinker helped
> you answering that….

First, Frank’s questions demonstrate that even time-wasting idiots
may have the ability to ask good questions. All that is required,
in order to put these idiots to good use, is for someone else (ie:
a “finder”, or “refiner”) who can take the time to read their posts
and identify (and forward) the useful questions (or anything else
that may be useful) while being careful to avoid forwarding the
non-useful, word-twisting and dysfunctional logic.

————————————————————
My efforts to describe the state
————————————————————

The state was created as a machine to fill the need of the
ruling, exploiting class to maintain the suppression of the
exploited class.

This remains the primary purpose of the state. The state
is a machine in which the parts work together for a common
purpose. That primary purpose is to maintain the class rule
of the ruling class and to maintain the suppression of the
suppressed class.

The state also has secondary functions, and this often creates
confusion concerning what the state is and how it works.

Lenin noted (I forget where) that few questions have proven to
be more likely to be misunderstood than the nature of the state.
It is good to keep this in mind when reading my efforts (below)
to discuss this, because my formulations may be somewhat
approximate or sloppy.

Here is what I wrote in 2004:

> The state was developed historically as a tool, a machine,
> to protect the class interests of the propertied class which
> emerged from the economic division of society.

I will also add, here, that the primary class interest that
the state protects is the class rule of the ruling class
itself. This stands above all else, because without class
rule, the ruling class will lose everything.

Continuing with my comments from 2004:

> The state also served an important secondary function: it
> provided a means for the ruling class to resolve their internal
> disputes and help organize the life of society.

> In particular, the evolution of the modern economy (and money,
> capital, etc) required the development of a complex state machine
> to make and enforce the common rules which regulate (ie: make
> possible and make safe) the flow of investment and capital.

— Point 11 in The Laws of Commodity Production for Dummies

The words above represent my effort to define the state, in my
own words, as part of the Anarcho-Leninist Debate on the State.

The most well-known works on the state are probably “The Origin
of the Family, Private Property and the State” (Engels, 1884)
and “State and Revolution” (Lenin, 1917). These are both
powerful and excellent books and are not in the least tarnished
by Frank P’s annoying and stupid advocacy.

Engels’ book was based on the work of anthropologist Lewis
Morgan and showed that early human society was matriarchal,
up until the development of agriculture and class society
(ie: roughly speaking, about 10 thousand years ago) [1].
This is a fundamental idea, as important to a materialist
understanding of human development as evolution is to
understanding biology or the periodic table is to
understanding chemistry, although this idea is still not
universally accepted today, mainly because of the need of
the ruling bourgeoisie to keep the population saturated
with ignorance.

The well known book, “Sex at Dawn” can be considered something
of a popular (and more recent) introduction to Engels book,
although, naturally, Engels goes into these topics in vastly
greater depth. Engels showed that, in early human society, the
tribe (ie: the kinship group) represented the prototype of both
the family and the state. “Family” and “state” were the same
thing at that time.

With agriculture and class society, everything changed. The
state grew and the family shrank as the character of these
institutions was transformed to reflect oppressive class
relations.

The state emerged as a system of institutions and traditions to
maintain the suppression of one class by another. The family
emerged as something of a tiny version of the state, integrated
with it in various ways. In the story of Esther (in the Jewish
religious tradition) the Persian king consults his advisors
concerning what to do when his wife disobeyed him in front of
prominent guests. He loved her and did not want to lose her
–but they told him that he needed to execute her in order to
maintain the stability of social system (ie: based on male
supremacy in the family) and he did. In other words, if the
King’s wife could defy him, then other wives in other families
would take this as encouragement to do the same. The story
itself may be fictional, but it probably accurately reflects
the integration of family and state.

————————————————–
Formal state vs. deep state
————————————————–

The most common wrong idea about the state concerns identifying
the state with the “formal state” (ie: in a country like the
U.S., the federal, state and municipal governments). A more
realistic idea is to include what is usually called the “deep
state” that includes the informal institutions that are
integrated with the state machine, such as the press and many
other institutions. As an example, many of the stories in
the New York Times originate with government agencies,
including a regular system of leaks or “official sources say”.

The distinction between the formal state and the deep state
comes up sometimes in brutal fashion, such as Chile in 1973,
when the deep state reacted to “correct a problem” in the
formal state and a military coup killed Allende and tens of
thousands of progressive activists. Similarly, in countries
such as Brazil and Argentina the deep state, in the 1960’s
70’s and 80’s, carried out a “decapitation” of the progressive
movement, killing many thousands of activists. In fact, in
Brazil, the woman who is currently the elected president (ie:
the nominal head of the formal state) was imprisoned and
tortured by the military in the 1960’s.

The formal state is often subject to at least the pretense of
elections, but the informal, deep state may be protected from
even the charade of democracy. This was an issue only a few
years ago in Turkey (where only recently has the formal state
asserted control of the military) and remains an issue today
in Nepal.

Here in the U.S., the military is firmly under the control of
the formal state. This is reinforced as necessary. In 1974,
as the “Watergate crisis” reached its conclusion, the U.S.
Secretary of Defense sent a memo to all commanders reminding
them that, per the constitution, they are allowed to take orders
only through the official chain of command. This was in the
newspapers at the time. This was a signal to Nixon, who was
being forced out of office, as well as to all officers, that the
deep state would not tolerate any kind of hanky-panky. This was
also the issue in the recent firing of General McChrystal by
Obama and, before that, the firing of MacArthur by Truman, in
1951, when MacArthur began to publicly campaign for an invasion
of China.

In the U.S., much of the press and a host of other institutions
can probably be considered to be part of the deep state, inasmuch
as these institutions are an integral part of the system of
bourgeois class rule–even if there are disagreements concerning
how integrated these institutions are with the state.

For example, many liberal and social-democratic institutions
are tied to the state with a thousand strings (such as 501c3 tax
status–which means that wealthy donors can claim a tax deduction
for charitable contributions). Locally, Seattle Indymedia, which
emerged as the voice of the militant anti-WTO movement in 1999
(ie: a forerunner of the Occupy movement) ended up financially
entangled with the City of Seattle as a result of accepting
city-administered grant money for teaching computer literacy
classes at their fancy downtown headquarters.

So the voice of the street militants who fought the police ended
up in debt to the same local government that controlled those
police. And this kind of thing is not unusual.

At the same time, it would be absurd to claim that Seattle
Indymedia is part of the deep state, or that Chris Hedges or
Dominic Holden are part of the state, even if they did their
best to bend the militant core of the Occupy movement to the
will of the trade union bureaucrats. And it would be even more
absurd to claim that the ISO or the SA are part of the state.

Rather, it would be safer to say that there are not necessarily
clear lines defining what institutions or organizations should
be considered part of the state. Rather, we may want to think
of there being a gray zone between the black and the white.

I tend to view the New York Times as being part of the deep
state, because it is so higly integrated into the system of
bourgeois class rule. This integration is so developed that,
for example, when I am attempting to figure out what U.S.
imperialism is planning to do in Syria, I look at the NYT and
study the direction in which it is attempting to move “public
opinion”. When the NYT works to prepare public opinion to
accept stepped up intervention in Syria, this is a pretty good
indication that U.S. imperialism is planning to step up
intervention in Syria. I am not alone in this habit and
probably most experienced activists read the NYT in this way.

And this issue (ie: the press in the U.S. acting as if it
were an arm of the state) came up earlier this year when
news services in the U.S. reported on the state censorship
of China’s “Southern Weekly” newspaper after a New Year’s
editorial calling for the “rule of law” (ie: rather than
rule by China’s communist party) was killed. Initially,
the press in the U.S. made a big deal of this, but quickly
downplayed the whole thing when the ruling Chinese party
publicly pointed out their hypocrisy. Even in the U.S.,
it noted, the major newspapers do not dare to oppose the
state. And this is true. The NYT presents itself as
independent of the state (ie: by such things as the
publication of the “Pentagon Papers” in 1971, or the more
recent publication of excerpts from wikileaks). But this
kind of independence is shallow and cosmetic in comparison
to the simple fact, observable on a daily basis, that
institutions like the NYT function as part of the machinery
of bourgeois rule.

And what is our local “Stranger” weekly, but a small-scale
project with aspirations to be a local version of the NYT?
The NYT was a big cheerleader for the war in Iraq, but so
was (on a smaller scale) the “Stranger” (Dan Savage himself
wrote in favor of the invasion). The “Stranger” (a name
clearly choosen, when it was founded, to represent “outsider”
status) has become the total opposite, an “insider”, as
the “hip, cool” arm of the local Democratic Party machine.

And yet it would sound (and be) bizarre to call the “Stranger”
part of the deep state. So, as I noted, we need a concept of
a gray zone between black and white.

What we must keep in mind, however, is that what connects
these different parts of the state machine, whether formal or
informal parts, what provides the motor forces that makes
these parts work together smoothly, what works (often hidden
from view, behind the scenes) to adjust or replace parts that
are defective or causing problems–is the collective will and
class interest of the bourgeoisie as a whole.

However, there are also moments in history when certain parts
of the state machine get “out of control”. And this brings us
to the next topic.

————————————————————
The independence of the state
————————————————————

It happens, from time to time, that some part of the state
machine develops a certain amount of independence from the
ruling class as a whole. This is generally a relatively rare
and temporary event and is often associated with a period of
great crisis or war that forces the ruling class to grant
extraordinary power to some executive without the usual
safeguards.

Marx and Engels gave the example of Napoleon the Third in
France, who was allowed by the French bourgeoisie to appoint
himself dictator for life and whose drunken soldiers would
sometimes arbitrarily kill even members of the bourgeoisie.

A better and more modern example would be Hitler. The
German bourgeoisie put Hitler in power in a period of crisis.
The German bourgeoisie knew that Hitler presented them with
certain risks, and to reduce these risks, required that
Hitler eliminate what they considered a troublesome section
of his Nazi party before they could trust him with absolute
power. This led to the famous “night of the long knives”
(July 1934) in which Hitler eliminated the troublesome power
center in his party in order to prove himself to Hindenburg
and officials in the German army [2].

However, once Hitler was in power and had plunged Germany
into war–it was not easy for the German bourgeoisie to get
rid of him once it had become clear that the war was lost and
Hitler was leading Germany to ruin. They tried. This is the
significance of the plot to kill Hitler in July 1944. It
failed and the war dragged on for 9 additional months, during
which much of the industrial base of Germany was destroyed
and many of the German bourgeoisie lost their wealth.

——————————————————————————–
Cargo-cult distortions of the role of the state
——————————————————————————–

The cargo-cult Leninists (who can repeat verbatim Lenin’s
words but who do not have a clue what these words mean)
have two common misconceptions concerning the nature of
the workers’ state. Since the movement is saturated with
various kinds of cargo-cult Leninists (both the red kind,
like the CVO, and the blue kind, like the ISO and SA), we
need to be familiar with their wrong ideas.

1. The merger of party and state (ie: the theory of dopes)

The first wrong idea is that, under the “dictatorship of
the proletariat” (DoP) the workers’ state and the workers
party are merged, and that the party becomes the state,
or completely controls the state.

This idea is wrong from the point of view of theory and
practice. The state must be controlled, not by the party, but
by the working class. This, by the way, helps us understand
why the working class needs the fundamental democratic rights
of speech and organization–because without these rights,
there is no practical way for the working class to control
the state.

The party, on the other hand, is not controlled by the working
class. The party is controlled only by the most advanced
section of the working class (ie: a small section of the
working class) which are members of the party and have voting
rights within the party.

This distinction becomes important in the event that the party
becomes corrupted in one way or another by the tremendous
forces that put pressure on it when it administers society.

And the eventual corruption of any organization which
administers society in the absence of effective oversight
or competition is inevitable. It is something that will
happen with sufficient time. It is not a question of “if”
but rather is a question of “when”.

We need to be clear on this. The party may play the role
of an executive that runs a company for an owner. If the
executive (ie: the party) proves to be incompetent or steals
from the owner (ie: the class) then the owner (ie: the class)
will fire the executive (ie: the party) and find a different
executive (ie: another party) to manage society. But without
the fundamental democratic rights of speech and organization
the owner will not have the ability to do this–because it
will not be able to create another party if the corrupt
party can prevent it from doing so.

This is why the cargo-cult Leninists who preach that the
ruling party must have the ability to suppress the democratic
rights of free speech and organization are engaging in the
worst kind of public masturbation (I will substitute a less
offensive term for this if I move this letter to my upper
blog) because they refuse to think about how the fuck the
proletariat will be able to get rid of a party that becomes corrupt
if it does not have these fundamental democratic rights. And
the question that these masturbaters refuse to think about
is precisely the question that just so happens to be on the minds
of everyone else and is the primary reason that the idea of
the rule of the working class is almost universally regarded as
a dead, bankrupt idea.

This is the fruit of cargo-cult Leninism: it is a religion
that is aimed at dragging the idea of the rule of the
working class into the sewer.

We should understand part of the reason that the cargo-cultists
promote the idea that, under working class rule, the party and
the state will be merged: they were merged in Soviet Russia.

The reasoning here is that, if this merger took place in
Soviet Russia while Lenin was alive, and Lenin approved of
it, then this must (somehow) be an essential feature of the
dictatorship of the proletariat.

The truth is the opposite. This merger only took place with
Lenin’s approval because, during this period, the bolsheviks
had no fucking choice: conditions did not exist for the rule
of the working class itself. So, instead of the rule of the
working class, Lenin engineered the rule of an organization
that he hoped would be able to create the conditions that
would be necessary for the rule of the working class. And
the primary necessary condition, in this case, was a functioning
economy. More specifically, it was the ability for factories
in the cities to be able to produce goods that could then be
traded to the peasants for grain–so that it would not be
necessary to simply take grain from the peasants in exchange
for essentially nothing.

Until there was a functioning economy (as described above)
it would not be possible to restore the fundamental democratic
rights of speech and organization–because the unhappy and
ignorant peasants would have used these rights to get rid of
the bolsheviks and put in power the political trends that
would have made all kinds of false promises to get into power
and then would have surrendered power to the bourgeoisie.

The merger of party and state under Lenin was simply an
emergency measure taken to buy time for a revolution
that could only be considered to represent the dictatorship
of the proletariat in embryonic form. It was a desperate
measure taken because there was such a shortage of competent
and trustworthy people.

But an embryo is not a person. Not yet. And the “D of P”
in embryonic form is not the goal of the working class.
And the cargo-cultists who promote that idea that it is–
are actually promoting the idea of a “dictatorship of the
proletariat for the extremely stupid” (ie: “dopes”). And
their theory is only fit for dopes.

2. Will the state suppress the bourgeoisie or the proletariat?

The second wrong idea held by cargo-cult Leninists is that
what they call the “state” (ie: the ruling party) will need
to be able to suppress the right to free speech and
organization of their critics and opponents in order to
prevent the former bourgeoisie (or any newly rising
bourgeoisie) from subverting the rule of the working class.

Again, the truth is the opposite.

Only when the population has the fundamental democratic rights
of speech and organization–will the working class be able to
defend its class rule against the inevitable attempts by the
old or any new bourgeoisie from grabbing power.

On the other hand, when the working class is denied these
fundamental democratic rights, it will be rendered passive
and unable to oppose the efforts of old or new bourgeoisie
from corrupting and taking over the party-state.

The cargo-cultists sometimes quote Lenin, in “State and
Revolution” in an attempt to support their views. I looked
into this and concluded that this book, which I believe
Lenin wrote by latern-light while hiding in a barn in Finland
on the eve of the 1917 revolution (he never finished the book
because the October revolution was successful and he huried
back to Russia) includes several formulations which have not
passed the test of time, and need to be corrected. I wrote,
in July 2009, that Lenin’s “State and Revolution” is inadequate
and misleading and badly needs to be updated. This is posted
here: http://www.revleft.com/vb/blog.php?b=1368

More (hopefully) soon.

All the best,
Ben

—————————————-
Notes:
—————————————-

[1] Engels’ “Origin of the Family”

> Engels made an argument using anthropological evidence of the time
> to show that family structures changed over history, and that the
> concept of monogamous marriage came from the necessity within class
> society for men to control women to ensure their own children would
> inherit their property. He argued a future communist society would
> allow people to make decisions about their relationships free of
> economic constraints.

— source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Engels

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Origin_of_the_Family,_Private_Property_and_the_State

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Long_Knives

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► Why We Need A System of “Lower Blogs” – [FoC.13.05.25]

Posted by Ben Seattle on May 25, 2013

Hi Art,

So I am writing this letter to you in the form of a post
on my lower blog, “Fragments of Comprehension”. I should
explain why I am doing so.

We need to learn the habit of writing in public. If we
cannot learn to do this, there is no point in being part
of the struggle, because we will be useless.

The Vietnamese liberation fighters had a motto that defeating
American imperialism required learning how to build a fire
that did not create smoke. This is something that every
soldier had to learn how to do. Fire was necessary to cook.
Smoke, however, meant discovery and death. I guess it took
a while to learn how to do this, but every soldier learned.

Our situation, of course, is much better in many ways. We
can wake up each morning with the knowledge that we will
likely be alive a year or five or ten or more in the future.
It was not this way, of course, for the liberation fighters.
They understood quite well that they were unlikely to survive
the war.

But our situation, as revolutionaries, in one important way,
is more difficult than that of the Vietnamese liberation
fighters. Their task, in one respect was easier than ours,
because their path forward was more clear and they were
surrounded by social and emotional support and, often on a
daily basis, with reminders of why they fight: visible
evidence of the imperialist war and vivid memories of their
comrades who had died in battle.

We, on the contrary, are relatively isolated and our way
forward is usually not clear at all. We live in a society
where the idea of being a revolutionary activist is
incomprehensible to the overwhelming majority of the
population and the tasks that are decisive are difficult to
even imagine. We are not likely to be killed by bullets.
Rather, it is a kind of invisible bullet that kills us
politically: feelings of frustration and loneliness and a
creeping feeling that the sacrifice we make of our life
energy will not lead to anything more than the movement of
a few molecules in the air.

But, if we pour forth our feelings to one another in a public
way, this will also create problems. We can see (and study)
these problems as they emerge in our WITBD study group. I
consider the CVO, based on the nature of their theoretical
work, to be the “Charlatan Voice Organization”. But if I say
this publicly, they will get upset, and there is a risk that
they may withdraw from our study group, and there is a risk
that you may come to the conclusion that I am failing to
respect their feelings and am being unnecessarily antagonistic.

There are competing principles at play here: we need to share
our experience with one another and we need to learn how to
do it publicly. But doing so is guaranteed to upset everyone,
including people with whom we may want to work. People get
upset because they believe (rightly or wrongly) that we are
damaging their reputation in the eyes of other activists.

That is why we need a system of what I am calling “lower blogs”,
as a kind of blog that is public, but barely so. Here is how
I intend to do this with Fragments of Comprehension.

(1) I will post pretty much what I want to my lower blog.

If and when activists get upset by this–then, as far as I am
concerned, tough shit. I am here for a reason and I really
don’t give a shit about the feelings of those with thin skins
because, frankly, people like that tend to be fucking worthless
to the struggle.

(2) Activists for whom I have a lot of respect and who struggle
to understand their own limitations and to consistently choose
humility over arrogance–will have the right to post to my
lower blog.

This, for example, means that time-wasting, word-twisting
know-it-alls like Greg Butler, Frank Patino and Phil will not
be active on the blog (except, maybe, on a special thread I may
set up for disenfranchized time-wasting idiots who would
otherwise complain that my blog has no place for their golden
words of wisdom).

(3) Friends of the blog (ie: those who can post on the threads)
will agree not to publicly post a link to the blog (or to any
post on it) or to publicly post elsewhere a direct quote from it
without the permission of the author.

What we will do, instead of giving a direct link, is to refer
to posts on this blog by means of a “tag” of the following format:

[FoC.13.05.25] will refer to a post on the blog that was made on
May 25, 2013. In the event that more than one post to the blog
is made on a given day, they will be referenced as:
[FoC.13.05.25-A] or [FoC.13.05.25-B], etc and these reference
“tags” will be part of the title of each post.

(4) By making use of the “rules” listed above, knowledge and
readership of the lower blogs will be greatly reduced. The
only people who will know the name of the lower blog will be
either (a) friends, who we invite or (b) people who may learn
about the blog from someone else or (c) people who make the
effort to look for the lower blog on google. By taking these
measures, we can make it more difficult for activists who are
concerned about their reputation to take offense.

So I am going to give this a try and see how it works.
Currently, we are exchanging private emails and I would like
to experiment with carrying on those exchanges here.

All the best,
Ben

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