Fragments Of Comprehension

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

► My confrontation with Mike Ely over workers’ rule (2008 archive) – [FoC.13.06.01]

Posted by Ben Seattle on June 1, 2013

I am copying and pasting here a confrontation I had with Mike Ely in 2008.

http://kasamaproject.org/revolutionary-strategy/287-19how-do-people-rule-and-criticize-after-the-revolution

How Do People Rule and Criticize After the Revolution?

 

Created on Sunday, 24 February 2008 17:27

 Written by Mike Ely

By Mike Ely

So how will the socialist transition to communism look? What are the state forms and social institutions that correspond to a revolutionary overthrow of history’s oppressions?

In Letter 9 we wrote:

1) What are the constraints imposed on the revolutionary state by the needs of continuing revolution (including the need to prevent counterrevolution from both within and without)?

2) Is the a single “form” of state power that corresponds to the interests of continuing socialist revolution?

3) What are the rights of the people that correspond to ongoing socialist revolution? Are there political or social forces who should be excluded from “the people” and deprives of those rights?

4) In his notes, Ben referred to “fundamental democratic rights”? Is there such a thing? What makes them “fundamental” or universal?

5) Is it possible to have two or more revolutionary parties who (despite different programs, policies and histories) nonetheless represent the new socialist order, and perhaps different legitimate approaches to developing the new society? Can revolutionary states function as coalition governments

6) What kinds of political actions and speech should be considered criminal? How should they be handled institutionally — by public criticism and refutation, by police action…? For example should someone be able to freely argue that the bourgeoisie did a better job of running society, advocate a return to bourgeois rule and organize politically for such a return?

7) How should laws be made? How should laws be repealed?

8 ) Should there be a “socialist rule of law” that contrains all, including those holding high offices of political power? How are the frameworks of such “rule of law” modified as new crises, challenges and social developments emerge?

9) What views will be expressed on the airwaves and mass media — how will critical and oppositional forces get access to public opinion? Will there be competing sources of news? Where will the locus of decision-making be?

10) What about strikes, protests, disruption, confrontation of officials, petitions, civil disobedience, interaction with foreign reactionaries, receipt of funds from foreign forces, publishing criticisms of the revolutionary state abroad, and the whole range of different oppositional actions? What about oppositional subcultures (call this the Amish question, though obviously much more potent “dont’ tread on me” examples will emerge)? 11) How does a revolution maintain (and heighten) the participation and support of broad sections of the people?

12) Are the answers to these questions different in different countries? How much does the political history and traditions of various countries impact their new political institutions? How much of these things are determined by the expectations of the people, by international opinion and how much by the necessities of continuing revolution? How much are they determined by the particular crises and movements that produce the revolution?

13) How much can such questions be answered before the revolution (and before the actual post-revolutionary political configurations are known)? Does a revolution need to answer them differently — when it is consolidating itself? When it is challenged externally? When new forms of internal reaction threaten? When relative victories of various kinds have been won?

14) What is the role of subcultures and social experiments in the advance of socialist revolution?

15) How much do the answers to these questions impact how revolutionary movements are built now?

Comments (32)

  • There have been many different “forms” of capitalist state — including the Hanseatic league of city states, fascist states, Napoleon’s empire, parliamentary systems, oligarchies, military juntas, constitutional monarchies, colonial administrations, and so on. And yet, in all their forms, the state and superstructure reflect and (ultimately) serve the capitalist system — more or less, one way or another, better or worse, sooner or later.

    Views have often revolved around certain “models” from the past — the Paris Commune, Lenin’s State and Revolution, the Russian Soviets of 1905 and 1917, the Soviet state after 1922, the Chinese state forms (3 in one committees etc), the Wobbly vision of anarcho-syndicalism and so on.

    The Maoists of Nepal have caused controversy by suggesting that a new revolutionary “mainstream” can emerge (in opposition to, and by shattering, the old bourgeois/feudal political “mainstream”) and that on the basis of such transformations a new state can be rooted in competitive elections contested by a range of revolutionary parties. The Revolutionary Communist Party USA has opposed the Paris Commune model, the previous Soviet model and (less explicitly) the Nepali proposals — saying that the world revolution needs to embrace a view centered on Avakian’s theory of “solid core with a lot of elasticity” — that explicitly endorses the need for widespread debate, constitutional guarantees, “rule of law” and political freedom, but insists that power simultaneously has to be held tightly in the hands of those committed to the continuing revolution.

    These are only a few of the contending views (and these are only capsulized here is admittedly simple form).

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Ben Seattle)

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    I will post more comments here in the future when I have more time.

    The fundamental democratic rights are <strong>speech and organization</strong>. These are fundamental–because they are the foundation of the ability to self-organize. If you are not allowed to speak and organize–then you are in no position to do much of anything else–including learning what is really going on or determining the development of the economy, culture or politics of the new society.

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Jimmy Higgins)

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    This is a broad question, Mike, and you indicate many of the complex issues involved. I have thoughts on several, but want to restrict this comment to the question of the single party state under socialism.

    This form has some inherent problems which have not to date been overcome, but rather have led to collapse and/or the betrayal of the revolution.

    For one thing society after the seizure of power will have a huge range of forces. Classes, nascent protoclasses (with their own relationship to the mix of old and newly emerging productive forces and relations), oppressed nationalities and lots of other groups in society will have interests and grievances far from identical with those of the emerging proletarian class for itself (and that’s assuming there will be some way to determine exactly who is included in that last glorious category, and that many members of it do not identify themselves principally as part of other groupings). If there is only one vehicle through which those interests can be pursued politically, the party/state, that’s where everyone is going to wind up (all of necessity proclaiming themselves to be working for the interests of the working class). It may be hard for them to get in, but in the absence of any other option, get in they will.

    Second the party is not immune to the laws of dialectics. Contradictions will arise within it. Now before the revolution, there is a tried and true method for dealing with a situation where two divergent roads forward are propounded: You split. Each group puts its line into practice. The one with the correct line grows and flourishes and leads the insurrection. The oufit with the incorrect line dwindles and eventually gets the suffix “–ite” added to the name of its principal leader and defamatory passages written about it in the official history of the People’s Republic. It has the singular merit of actually working. Sometimes.

    However, when the working class holds state power (or leads the broad masses in ruling society, if you prefer a softer formulation) in the form of a state led–by definition–by the vanguard party, this option does not exist. You cannot have a split and put both lines into practice and see which works. Instead, the struggle over the road forward is won by the forces with control of the organizational secretariat, the security forces, the state apparatus, and/or the military. This is not a particularly good method for arriving at the truth.

    Third, the single party, with all the vast resources at its command, will tend, sooner rather than later, to wind up dominating any and all independent forms of organization among the masses. Let’s assume for a moment that we manage to avoid the unfortunate tradition of setting up sectoral groupings, (the women’s league, the trade unions, the neighborhood committees, the Esperanto society and so on) formally defined as a system of transmission belts led by the party: “In order that the vanguard of the class, i.e., the Party, may exercise leadership, it must surround itself with a wide network of non-Party, mass apparatuses to serve as its feelers, by means of which it conveys its will to the working class, and the latter is converted from a diffuse mass into the army of the Party.” Even if things start differently, surely the vanguard party with its relative monopoly on authority and resources will encourage its most active and enthusiastic members to enter whatever organizations sections of the people may form and “provide direction” to them, and the result will be similar.

    “So what’s your solution smart guy?” I hear you cry. Fucked if I know, but understanding the built-in, structural flaws in the method we have been using since 1917 is a necessary precondition for doing things better.

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Ben Seattle)

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    Hi Jimmy,

    Thanks for your comment.

    When I looked into this I discovered that the merged party/state that existed in early Soviet society was <strong>never considered to be normal or correct by Lenin</strong>. Rather, it was a <strong>temporary emergency measure</strong> taken in extreme circumstances. Several years ago I ran into, by accident, an account of Lenin describing the need to create a “two party” system. I wrote about this in 1999 and I am reposting what I wrote (please see below). This “temporary emergency” measure was later taken and proclaimed as an eternal necessity by Stalin and used as the model for other attempts at workers’ rule.

    Now that revolutionary activists have the internet it will be much easier for us to put our minds together and sort things out and clean up the “Augean stables” that have accumulated over several decades.

    Also, while I do not want to sound like a spammer endlessly repeating the same thing–I would be very interested in your thoughtful and considered comments on my most recent article titled “How to Build the Party of the Working Class” at http://struggle.net/Ben/2008/222-HowTo.htm

    — Ben

    <strong>=======================================
    Lenin on a Bolshevik “two-party system”
    =======================================</strong>

    (from “Witness to a Century” by 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:

    <blockquote>
    “‘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.’
    </blockquote>

    “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.

    about 5 years ago
  • the Bolsheviks considered many different forms for the transition from capitalism to communism. They called for “all power to the Soviets” (at a time when the soviets obviously had many different parties represented.)

    In addition it is clear that one wing of the Bolsheviks were willing to consider a broad coalition government — that would have included other socialist parties like the Mensheviks, Trudoviks etc. Zinoviev and Kamenev in particular opposed the October revolution on the basis that it would be the action of the Bolsheviks alone, and that it would therefore make forming such a coalition government difficult. Setting aside the merits of that “socialist coalition government” idea, it is proof that the Bolsheviks (as a party) did not arrive at 1917 with any preconceived notion of what kind of state or government they would form, and with open consideration given to the the possibility of coalition multiparty governments rooted in soviet elections.

    In addition, the Bolsheviks actually DID form a coalition government after October. they had maneuvered to win over sections of people infatuated with other parties: In particular large sections of politically conscious peasants were aligned with the Socialist Revolutionary Party — that had long done political work in the countryside. At a key moment, Lenin jettisoned the Bolshevik agrarian program and adopted the SR program wholesale — saying in effect to the peasant SR supporters: You support the SRs for this program, well we have the power to deliver it, come over to us.

    On that basis the Bolsheviks formed a coalition government with the left wing of the S-Rs (those SRs who proved willing to work with the new Bolshevik government). It lasted until the Brest treaty negotiations with the German High command.

    * * * * * *

    In another sense the Paris Commune was a formation where the supporters of many different left revolutionary parties and trends engaged in both unity and struggle. And in china the new peoples government (after 1949) included several parties in its structure — including especially the left wing of the KMT that provided so many officers and soldiers to the PLA’s effort. The four stars of the chinese revolutionary flag usually have two suggested symbolic meaning: the large one stands for the working class or the communist party. and the three smaller ones represent the three other progressive classes, or the three other parties involved in the new chinese government.

    * * * * * * *

    In both the case of the Soviet and Chinese revolution, the communist party ended up exercising major predominance of power over the state and society — and not having its policies, personnel or party influence challenged electorally. It is worth discussing both whether it is possible to form revolutionary governments with more than one party (I think it clearly is) and also what the dynamics of previous revolutionary processes were that pulled in a different direction. Part of it was that progressive forces in other parties ended up merging into the communist parties (Trotsky’s Interboroughites is just one example).

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Quorri Scharmyn)

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    I can see why counter revolutionary trends are uber dangerous to the revolution and that we would forever be needing to deal with these trends, but I can see no valid reason to actually stifle this type of dissent. I think that, in a well organized revolution, the cultural overthrow of the bourgeoisie is just as important as the physical and economic, yeah? This was what the GPCR in China was all about, no?

    It seems like the counterrevolutionary trends could be opportunities to promote critical and revolutionary thought by exposing the flaws within the various manifestations. This would really just deepen the revolution’s strength, in the end, so long as it was dealt with continuously and thoroughly.

    It’s messy, and maybe I’m wrong, but I think stifling voices would be so counterproductive eventually. I don’t know about all the “fundamental rights” junk but I do know that people are not happy when they feel they have no choice. It is better to lead people toward correct thinking than force it upon them, methinks.

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Alex)

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    Greetings.

    I don’t have a lot of time here, but I will jump in briefly.

    <blockquote>It is worth discussing both whether it is possible to form revolutionary governments with more than one party (I think it clearly is)</blockquote>

    It’s good that people here are willing to discuss this question.

    There are a couple of different possibilities of how a workers’ state might look in terms of political parties: on the one hand, you could have a multiparty system, and on the other, you could have one “umbrella” organization that has multiple, competing trends within it. We can discuss the merits of each, but looking at the big picture, they are both quite similar in the sense that they <b>both</b> require fundamental democratic rights, i.e. the rights to free speech and organization, as Ben has put forward.

    The party and state should remain entirely separate, because the role of the party and the state differ greatly. The state has the power of coercion and suppression while the party organizes people on a <b>voluntary</b> basis. If you merge the two, you get corruption. I believe history has demonstrated that in a way that is quite obvious.

    When the party has a monopoly over political power, it is implied that it has the right to use state power to suppress all opposing trends. When one party is given the state’s power of coercion, you are giving a <b>single organization</b> the ability to decide what is “good” and “bad” in culture, and as we all know, humans are not perfect. It is all-too-easy for this absolute power over politics to be abused. It has been shown time and again that when one party rules, the working class does not decide what is acceptable; rather, bureacrats in a single organization decides <b>for</b> the class.

    Further, even setting aside that giving the ability to outright ban “bad” trends to a single organization takes the decision to decide what is “good” or “bad” out of the hands of the working class, situations are never black and white, and often times, knee-jerk solutions like banning are a mistake. Banning “bad” trends only covers up the problem; it does not solve it. And when people are actually exposed to the “bad” trends (in today’s internet age, they will be anyway), they will be more vulnerable to them. This is my personal opinion, however.

    In a word, the party and state should be separate. The party is not the class, and when one party rules, the class does not. It’s that simple. When limitaions are put on the ability of the working class to <b>self-organize</b>, limitations are put on the ability of the working class to rule.

    The Party of the Proletarian Dictatorship in Russia goes as far as to say that state officials should be stripped of their party vote when elected. I was skeptical of this at first, but upon further study, it doesn’t actually sound like a bad idea.

    I think I should note that in practice, in may be the case that one party would have a sort of de facto monopoly over power, or that a coalition of workers’ parties would operate as more-or-less one party. The Democrats and the Republicans here in the US essentially operate as one party of the bourgeoisie. But even if in practice there was a similar de facto monopoly, it wouldn’t be legally a monopoly. Workers would still have the right to organize independently and say what they want. In other words, there would be <b>nothing</b> to say that you can’t organize independently of the party.

    To continue:

    I believe a coalition government, like the kind that existed for a bried period in Soviet Russia, would be an effective form of government, especially in stable, modern societies like the ones in which we currently live. Secondary parties outside the main party (or parties) can target specific issues or expose the falacies in the logic of the main party from outside of it. If the main party wants to stay in control, it would do best to either a) work to educate the masses that their position is really the right one, or b) adopt some of the secondary party’s platform to pick up their supporters.

    Either way, the solution to the problem that we will always have (i.e. that we will have disagreements about how to do things) is not to ban all of the opposition, but to allow these disagreements to be <b>brought into the light</b> so that they may be resolved.

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Jacob Richter)

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    ^^^ That MAY a bit too idealistic. For one thing, bourgeois democracy developed and matured only after an extensive period of more authoritarian rule. Even feudalism didn’t decentralize until after an extensive period.

    Perhaps a system of multiple “social-proletocratic” parties (perhaps each being an “umbrella”) and perennially marginalized-and-more-local petit-bourgeois parties may emerge afterwards. However, for the first couple of years or decades, there should be only one social-proletocratic “umbrella” party with the de facto ruling “stick.” The perennially marginalized-and-more-local petit-bourgeois parties (not so marginalized in under-developed areas, like those with lots of peasants) could emerge from the get-go so as to ensure that the de facto ruling party doesn’t become corrupt.

    I am for the separate of said ruling party (de facto) above and the state, except in certain key areas (the “prestige” senior heads of government and especially the “sword and shield” of the revolution).

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Alex)

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    <blockquote>^^^ That MAY a bit too idealistic. For one thing, bourgeois democracy developed and matured only after an extensive period of more authoritarian rule. Even feudalism didn’t decentralize until after an extensive period.</blockquote>

    Sure. But I don’t think we should go running around proclaiming that this stage (i.e. “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”-in-embryo) is our <b>goal</b>. The problem with a lot of organizations is that the <b>do</b> parade this as their goal. Plus, there are ways to prevent the bourgeoisie from retaking power without suppressing democratic rights. The bourgeoisie are the minority. If they do not have the ability to buy free speech in the media, they will have considerably less power. And an efficient workers’ state will demonstrate that it has the ability to “bring home the bacon,” if you will, making the arguments of the bourgeoisie seem a lot less credible. Further, if the workers’ state decides that there is a bourgeois TV station that needs to be closed because it exploits its workers and encourages people to take up arms against the government, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with closing it. I mean, any TV station that encouraged violent action against the government in the U.S. wouldn’t last five minutes. Every nation that has free speech puts qualifiers on it, i.e. you can say what you want as long as it’s true and it doesn’t incite violence. The role of the state is to protect class interests, and I don’t think anyone would object to this.

    But people <b>would</b> object (and rightly) to any government that limited their ability to self-organize. In other words, if limits were put on the ability of people to say and write whatever they want, or on their ability to organize freely, then people would be upset. These kinds of rights are also necessary for the working class to <b>rule</b>. Period.

    If you look at very early Soviet Russia, in clearly says in the constitution that not only will the working class have fundamental rights to free speech and organization, but that the state would <b>provide</b> the working class and the poorest peasants with the tools to publish newspapers, organize politically, etc. so as to give them a voice they never had before due to their lack of money. The participation in a particular organization was not a prerequisite.

    I think it is also somewhat short-sighted to assume that all parties outside of “the” main party would be “petit-bourgeois” parties. I see nothing stopping several parties of the working class from forming. Sure, there would be petit-bourgeois parties, but this doesn’t mean all people who will want to organize independently will be petit-bourgeois.

    From a practical perspective, I understand your standpoint, Jacob, that there should pretty much just be one party with multiple trends inside it. But such a thing has to develop on its own, i.e. by the process of self-organization. If this umbrella party really feels that it should be the only party, then, like I said before, it must work to either educate the masses as to why their platform is the right one, or they must adopt some of the platforms of other parties to pick up their supporters. Common sense, I believe, will dictate which strategy to use.

    One organization can only maintain this “de facto” ruling position if it does so by gaining the <b>real support</b> of the entire working class. For this to work, it will be necessary for the working class to have fundamental democratic rights.

    In modern societies, I think it is less likely that we will have to go through a long period of “DP-embryo.” This is because nations like the U.S. and Britain have enough wealth and resources to satisfy the working class and prove that workers’ rule really <b>does</b> work better than bourgeois rule. But if we do, it will have to be at the complete consent of the working class, I think. And either way, it’s not our goal, so we should not parade it as one.

    — Alex

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Jacob Richter)

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    “Sure. But I don’t think we should go running around proclaiming that this stage (i.e. “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”-in-embryo) is our goal. The problem with a lot of organizations is that the do parade this as their goal.”

    That’s true, too. [BTW, did you read my post regarding the difference between the RDDOTPP-in-embryo and the DOTP-in-embryo? One starts capitalism, while the other plays a key role in ending it.]

    “In modern societies, I think it is less likely that we will have to go through a long period of “DP-embryo.” This is because nations like the U.S. and Britain have enough wealth and resources to satisfy the working class and prove that workers’ rule really does work better than bourgeois rule.”

    The much longer transition will indeed be from a post-embryo DOTP to “socialism” (the new mode of production), and even longer from there to communism (because it may take some time for the state to wither away and the moneyless “economy” to become the only “economy”).

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Ben Seattle)

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    I know that illustrations can create problems for readers who get internet access over a phone line. But this illustration is only 18k and, if a good illustration is worth a thousand words–may be useful to the discussion of single or multiple parties (Mike maybe you insert it?)

    http://struggle.net/ben/2008/4_scenarios.gif

    The illustration is titled: 4 scenarios for working class parties following the overthrow of bourgeois rule. It is taken from an article I wrote last month.

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (SS)

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    I would like to hear peoples opinions on dealing specifically with organized reactionaries (racists, capitalists, etc. In other words the enemy) assuming they aren’t stockpiling arms. What type of power do people envision the state being allowed? I tend to lean one way, but overall I am rather undecided on this issue.

    Should the state ban the neo-nazi party from marching? Or is it safer to assume that good revolutionaries may make bad decisions somewhere down the line, and that some rights are inalienable (no matter who is excercizing them)? If we assume the latter, how do we maintain the trust of many who fought hardest to try and build a world where they wouldn’t have to be subjected to all that nastiness?

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Alex)

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    <blockquote>Should the state ban the neo-nazi party from marching? Or is it safer to assume that good revolutionaries may make bad decisions somewhere down the line, and that some rights are inalienable (no matter who is excercizing them)? If we assume the latter, how do we maintain the trust of many who fought hardest to try and build a world where they wouldn’t have to be subjected to all that nastiness?</blockquote>

    Most nations with democratic rights today allow the neo-nazis to march and hold demonstrations as long as they are peaceful. Many times, however, the presence of neo-nazi rallies has been offensive enough to the point where they have been stopped for things such as “disturbing the peace.”

    But people in nations such as the U.S., Canada, and Britain now have the right to protest and organize under pretty much any banner they want. These rights in capitalist nations can be limited by money, i.e. some groups simply won’t get their voice heard because they can’t afford to distribute leaflets, etc. But in principle, the ability of people to organize freely, no matter what they’re saying, is a fundmentally good idea.

    If neo-nazis went around insulting Jews, African-Americans, homosexuals, etc. in the U.S., they would probably be stopped on the basis that they are disturbing the peace and verbally (or possibly physically) abusing others. However, if they are simply distributing what they believe and not attacking specific individuals, it has generally been ruled that they have the right to do so.

    On the other hand, there have been a couple of instances here in the states where the neo-naizes rallied purposefully in notoriously Jewish neighborhoods. These rallies were stopped because it was obvious that the <b>intent</b> was to humiliate and offend the Jews in that neighborhood.

    In cases like this, it’s all about the intent. Many people get upset with the neo-nazis. But no one if forcing you to listen to them, and banning a rally of theirs simply because they are neo-nazis sets the <b>precedent</b> that the state can just ban people from organizing on the sole basis that they have certain beliefs. In other words, it sets the precedent for limitations on democratic rights. “If these groups were banned, why not ban this group?”

    So as long as the intent of the neo-nazis is to simply voice their views and not to insult and humiliate people, then I think allowing them to rally is acceptable. In cases where what they are doing may be offensive, the popular will will determine what to do about it.

    In short, people have to learn to coexist. If you don’t like what someone is saying, don’t listen to it. And for those vulnerable to believing anything they hear, the working class will be a far more powerful force than the neo-nazis because there are and will be far more workers than fascists.

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Quorri)

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    SS says:

    “Or is it safer to assume that good revolutionaries may make bad decisions somewhere down the line, and that some rights are inalienable (no matter who is excercizing them?)”

    I don’t know that there are many rights that are inalienable. I can’t think of a single situation where someone should be raped, so maybe it’s our inalienable right not to be raped.

    Anyway, if the people commonly decide to stop any and all neo nazis from splurting thier racist shit then more power to them. Especially if they do so from the standpoint that the roots of our racist divisions are firmly planted in capitalist relationships; awesome.

    Alex says:

    “So as long as the intent of the neo-nazis is to simply voice their views and not to insult and humiliate people, then I think allowing them to rally is acceptable. In cases where what they are doing may be offensive, the popular will will determine what to do about it.”

    The latter part of this statement is what I truly believe is important in these questions. We hope that society as a whole, with all of its individual members, is brought to the heights of understanding Communist relationships and new ways of thinking. We hope that people are forward thinking enough and actively engaged in soceity’s creation enough to stifle oppression wherever they see it.

    But the beginning part of your statement I think ignores that Neo Nazis are always trying to humiliate and offend when they are publicly declaring their backwardness. Just because our legal system doesn’t view it that way, that doesn’t make it less true. Since when was there a Neo Nazi who wasn’t foul and out to harm people who weren’t Aryan? Maybe I’m missing something here….

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Alex)

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    <blockquote>But the beginning part of your statement I think ignores that Neo Nazis are always trying to humiliate and offend when they are publicly declaring their backwardness. Just because our legal system doesn’t view it that way, that doesn’t make it less true. Since when was there a Neo Nazi who wasn’t foul and out to harm people who weren’t Aryan? Maybe I’m missing something here…</blockquote>

    Yes, I’m aware of this, but if Neo-Nazis are prevented from rallying, it must be because there is a <b>general consensus</b> that they are disrupting peace and order (i.e. by humiliating people) an <b>not</b> simply because they are Neo-Nazis.

    Like I said, banning a group for their beliefs sets the precedent that limiting democratic rights is OK.

    Basically, the principle in nations with democratic rights today is that you have rights so long as you do not intrude upon the rights of others. If people like Nazis are to be stopped, it will be because they intrude upon the rights or well-being of others, which of course, they have a tendency to do. But no organization can be banned because they think a certain way. This takes the decision of what is right or wrong out of the hands of the working class and into the hands of bureaucrats and planners.

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Quorri)

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    Alex, I feel like you are saying two totally separate things here. Correct me if I’m wrong,

    1)”…no organization can be banned because they think a certain way.”
    2)”…prevented from rallying, it must be because there is a general consensus that they are disrupting peace and order (i.e. by humiliating people)…”

    I guess it seems like these two things oppose each other. On the one hand, you’re saying that there are certain characteristics of a group that we can not decide to ban them on the basis of, like them being racist and eugenic loving, coming out of a capitalist mind frame about separations between the working class and the profit therein. On the other hand, you’re saying that if there were a general consensus, if the people chose to rise up and squash the nazi’s campaigns, that would be ok because it wouldn’t be the state who was doing it.

    But what if the people chose to shut the nazis up <i> because </i> they were racists and <i> not because </i> they had disrupted the peace or embarrassed someone or whatever? Are you saying we should somehow disallow this?

    I am not clear on the issue. I would think that we would support any correct thinking, culturally appropriate decision such as the people’s decision to simply ban nazi-ness altogether, period. As I’ve said before, I’m really not of the opinion that there are inalienable, democratic rights that all humans should get all of the time…. so maybe that’s where I’m having a disconnect. In other words, I think it is ok to sometimes limit these so called “democratic rights”.

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Ben Seattle)

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    <strong>The masses will shut up nazis as well as deal with reactionary opinion of all kinds</strong>

    The key principle here, in my view, is that the a nazi march would be stopped by a counter-march. This would be an action that involved <strong>mass mobilization</strong>. There would be no need for the workers’ state to send out armed men in uniform to stop the nazis. (And if it did so–this might tend to help the nazis portray themselves as “martyrs”.)

    In capitalist society neo-nazi movements represent a real threat because they have support from the rich and their state. When the neo-nazis march they are protected by the police. They also often receive money from wealthy racists. And they often have connections with the police.

    When workers run society the state would belong to the workers. The state would not protect a nazi march. Nor would the state allow capitalists (which will still be around for a while) to fund or support nazi activities in any way.

    But it is important to keep in mind that the workers will not need or want the state to suppress peaceful marches or suppress the expression of opinion. (The state will only restrict or regulate commercial expression that is created by wage labor or other commercial resources–in order to prevent commercial resources from artificially amplifying reactionary opinion.)

    This is because the question of “what needs to be suppressed” is too complex to be made by the state–and the potential for the abuse of such authority is too high (ie: giving the state this authority would represent an extreme risk and would be completely unnecessary). The working class and masses will not need the state to make the decision of what to suppress. The state will simply “cut down to size” reactionary opinion by removing its commercial support. Then the masses will oppose reactionary opinion in large numbers of encounters.

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Alex)

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    I agree with Ben here. I think I should have been more clear.

    The workers’ state will obviously not endorse or protect the Neo-Nazis. But it can also not ban the group from organizing peacefully, because for a third time, this sets precedent that this sort of thing is acceptable.

    A more accurate description of what would happen would be that the people themselves would stop the Nazis. I think Ben described this pretty accurately, so I’m not going to go any further into that, other than to say this: the state will prevent the flow of capital (which will still exist for some time) from finding its way into the hands of groups like the Nazis, but the actual “suppression,” i.e. the act of stopping the Nazis, would be encouraged by the workers’ party/system of parties and carried out by the masses.

    In a world where groups are not able to buy free speech (which the workers’ state will ensure), the popular will, i.e. the will of the working class, will be triumphant.

    I’d like now to address something which has been bothering me…

    It seems as though people here are skeptical whether or not there are any fundamental, inalienable rights. We all seem to accept that the concept of democracy is a good one, etc., but the need of many of us to have “the whole stage,” if you will, under workers’ rule, seems to be leading many of us to conclude that “sure, democracy is great, but I don’t know about democratic rights. Democratic rights are not inalienable or fundamental. It’s OK to limit them sometimes.”

    This is dangerous.

    So first of all, why are certain rights fundamental and inalienable? Rights are inalienable to the working class when the determine the <b>ability of the working class to rule</b> Without democratic rights of free speech and organization, the working class will have no means to oppose wrong decisions or corrupt decisions that take place in “their” government. Yes, of course, if humans were perfect, a workers’ state would never make a wrong decision, but we can’t count on that. It’s should be fairly obvious to all of us that democratic rights are necessary for the working class to rule. You cannot limit them in the sense that some of us suggest (i.e. banning a particular group from organizing) without, in the long term, limiting democratic rights in general and preventing the working class from really running things.

    Karl Marx once wrote,

    <blockquote cite=”Marx in ‘On Freedom of the Press'”>”Whenever one form of freedom is rejected, freedom in general is rejected… Absence of freedom is the rule and freedom an exception…”</blockquote>

    Sure, of course, in a perfect world, the workers’ state would only suppress “bad” trends, but once again, people aren’t perfect. Power corrupts. Such a power over politics in extremely dangerous.

    Instead, trends that the working class deems bad would be effectively suppressed by the working people themselves.

    This assumes that the working class is conscious enough to do this, but if the working class isn’t conscious enough, workers’ rule, as a whole, is probably doomed to fail anyway. This is why the party (or parties) of the working class works to raise consciousness before and after the revolution through <b>education</b>. The position that the working class is too stupid to organize against bad trends themselves and therefore “the party” must merge with the state and suppress bad trends by limiting democratic rights is, in my view, elitist and an example of “cargo-cult Leninism.”

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (SS)

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    What about the excesses of the masses? If the reactionaries do march, and the masses come to counter demonstrate, then an altercation occurs and a hundred relatively peaceful nazis (peaceful meaning not engaging directly violence) wind up dead? Is this in no way wrong? Some people will never change through patient struggle, but some will, is that possibility okay to throw away? Worse yet what if both sides come armed? The state isn’t allowed to have a peacekeeping force monitor these things? Why even have a state if the broad masses are always going to be capable of handling are situations like this appropriately?

    What about when things are a little more unclear, two oppositional left groups show up to demonstrate about an issue and things get heated (think cultural revolution on local level over a single issue)? What if people not wanting that sort of altercation get caught in the crossfire? What then? Are these necessary evils?

    I think the state should be able to intervene in some situations, not to just protect of the nazis (even though that may have merit in some cases), but also to protect the people.

    Think about the situation in Skokie (spelling?) Illinois. The nazis wanted to march through there because their original permit was rejected (and the ACLU defended their case on this), they did this specifically to cause outrage (above and beyond the norm). The government denied them that, because it was almost certain to lead to massive violence. They were however allowed to march through their original place and were largely ignored.

    I think in a similar situation, in a socialist society, I would rather have a large opposition show up to drown them out, and also later in response activists willing to organize and hold heartfelt public discussions and debate surrounding race and hate within the community. In other words more than just ignoring the problem. But I also would support a state presence to protect both sides. I think there should be a relationship between what the people and the state do in conjunction with each other. Going to either extreme (in this case) would be a mistake.

    about 5 years ago
  • Ben writes:

    <blockquote>”The key principle here, in my view, is that the a nazi march would be stopped by a counter-march. This would be an action that involved mass mobilization. There would be no need for the workers’ state to send out armed men in uniform to stop the nazis.”</blockquote>

    I think this is rather naive. You think that if the radical workers are mobilized (by who exactly) to confront the nazis that it is all that different from the state sending armed men in uniform?

    In fact, in history, you can mobilize the workers to shout down all kinds of reactionaries, but in practice it is not that much different from a state ban.

    There are tons of examples:

    In the chinese agrarian revolution, the masses of peasants were mobilized to denounce their landlords and mete out punishment for the most extreme oppressors.

    In the soviet union, during the collectivization, people were encouraged to speak their bitterness against the old church. This amounted to a ban on religion in many areas — whether the enforcement was carried out by police, or by organized groups of pro-revolutionary people.

    I am not saying such mobilizations are wrong. I am saying thinking there is a huge distinction between organized mass opposition and state ban is naive — and it misunderstands the degree to which the new socialist state rests on and relies on the advanced sections of the people. It also underestimates the degree to which the “armed men” at the beck and call of the state are (in many ways) those same radical working people organized as an army.

    In other words, you are inventing a distinction (and an abyss) between the organized revolutionary state and the organized revolutionary people that IN REALITY probably will not exist in that simple metaphysical dichotomy (and certainly we would hope will not exist).

    Ben writes:

    <blockquote>”When workers run society the state would belong to the workers.”</blockquote>

    this whole idea of “a workers state” is very odd to me. What in the world is that? Why in the world should the socialist state and the revolutionary transition be just the state of “the workers”? Isn’t socialism in the interest of broad strata of many kinds (and many nationalities)? Aren’t many different kinds of people involved in supporting (and administering and debating) socialist changes? Why in the world would we want (or build) something called “a workers state”?

    Are you under the impression that “the workers will rule” in some simple direct way? Which workers? And what about the rest of the people? Won’t the working class (in the U.S.) actually pretty inevitably split over socialism? And won’t there (hopefully) be powerful support for socialism among non working class strata (academics, teachers, black farmers etc.)? Won’t this be *their* state at all?

    I can’t conceive of the value of a state that “belongs to the workers” and not to the other revolutionary sections of society — and where these relations are not complex and dynamic.

    The “dictatorship of the proletariat” (as a concept and a transition period) has, in my understanding, little relationship to this “workers state” idea. The same goes for this idea of a “workers party” (which i can’t help but contrast to the idea of a revolutionary party or a communist party.)

    Ben writes:

    <blockquote>But it is important to keep in mind that the workers will not need or want the state to suppress peaceful marches or suppress the expression of opinion.</blockquote>

    The idealism of this whole set of notions jumps out sharply here. How do you know that “the workers” will neither want nor need to suppress peaceful marches or expressions of opinion? History is full of examples where the people don’t want what they need and don’t need what they want. And I have seen lots of examples (just in my own limited experience with class struggle) of people wanting to suppress expressions of opinion. I’ve personally had to restrain rather advanced workers who thought we should beat the fuck out of workers who dared speak against a strike at a mass meeting. Does that strike anyone as odd? It isn’t. There is no guarantee that “the workers” won’t want to crush racist marches, or ban them… this is a matter of struggle and controversy.

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Ben Seattle)

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    Hi Mike,

    Actually–there is big difference between opposing reactionaries by means of:

    (1) the energy of the masses or

    (2) the use of armed men in uniform who are paid to do what they do.

    The first example is far less susceptible to corruption and abuse.

    To see this–consider the example of a state officials who have become <strong>corrupt</strong> and who want to <strong>silence legitimate critics</strong> who have the interests of the workers at heart.

    An example of this would be the Russian worker-activists like Razlatsky and Isayev–who were imprisoned in 1981 for organizing workers in Samara to strike for better conditions [1].

    It would have been very difficult for the corrupt Russia state to mobilize the masses against Razlatsky and Isayev–who were regarded by many workers at the plant where they organized as heroes. Any attempt at mobilization would have <strong>given attention</strong> to Razlatsky and Isayev and the cause for which they were fighting.

    The work of Razlatsky and Isayev (in spite of its flaws) helps to remind us that, in considering the power and mandate that we want the workers’ state to have–we must <strong>always</strong> consider how this power can be misused and abused by corrupt officials. <strong>Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely</strong>. This is an important principle. If we cannot remember this principle–then we cannot expect activists to consider our views on future society as being worth even a moment’s thought.

    As far as your apparent opposition to the term “worker’s state”–I am not sure this is worth getting into. In the U.S. the great majority of the population is working class. This majority will likely be even higher after bourgeois rule is overthrown. Everyone (as I see it) will have fundamental democratic rights (ie: the right to speech and the right to create organization) which means, essentially, that the state will be controlled by the majority of the population. I call it the workers’ state because most of these people will be working class and the basic viewpoint and material interests of the working class will prevail. Since the material interests of the working class also corresponds to the material interest of the great majority of society–I do not see this as being a problem.

    <blockquote>
    How do you know that “the workers” will neither want nor need to suppress peaceful marches or expressions of opinion? History is full of examples where the people don’t want what they need and don’t need what they want. And I have seen lots of examples (just in my own limited experience with class struggle) of people wanting to suppress expressions of opinion. I’ve personally had to restrain rather advanced workers who thought we should beat the fuck out of workers who dared speak against a strike at a mass meeting. Does that strike anyone as odd? It isn’t. There is no guarantee that “the workers” won’t want to crush racist marches, or ban them… this is a matter of struggle and controversy.
    </blockquote>

    Yes–workers may darn well want to crush racist marches. And they will do so. Is this supposed to be some kind of a big problem?

    We should not lose sight of what is important. We do not want to give a few corrupt officials the power and ability to silence their critics. <strong>This power must remain with the masses</strong>. The masses may, on occasion, make mistakes–but these mistakes would tend to be rare and the mistakes would be relatively easy to correct. SS asked about situations like during the Cultural Revolution in China where two left groups show up at the same place and things get heated and there may be violence. Well this may happen. But it is not going to happen every day. It will be rare. The working class and masses will learn from these things and will accumulate experience and learn how to handle these situations–because they have <strong>a common material class interest</strong> in doing so.

    SS also asks:

    <blockquote>
    Why even have a state if the broad masses are always going to be capable of handling situations like this appropriately?
    </blockquote>

    The main function of the state during the transition period, as I see it, will be to assist things to run smoothy (including mainly the economy–so people have enough to eat etc) and provide a stable platform from which people will self-organize and experiment with better ways of doing things. I write about that in ” Politics, Economics and the Mass Media when the Working Class Runs the Show” (see my website).

    — Ben

    Notes:
    ——

    [1] The Life of Grigory Isayev: “They banged our heads against the pavement. ‘Only the ruling party can be right!'”
    http://leninism.org/stream/99/isayev.asp

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (The Cold Lamper)

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    Is it really the case that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”?

    What kind of power are we talking about? Isn’t the point of the dictatorship of the proletariat to exercise “absolute power,” or as-absolute-as-possible power, over the bourgeoisie? Is that a process which “corrupts” the proletariat? And if so, then what are we seeking to make proletarian revolution for?

    You might object that this formulation refers merely to the balance of power among individuals and groups within the ruling class. But is that really true even there? Are there not outstanding instances where the most powerful of bourgeois commit heroic (from a bourgeois standpoint) acts of self-sacrifice on behalf of the larger interests of their class (Nixon’s resignation, Gore’s acceptance of the 2000 election fraud, etc.)? Did their enormous (not “absolute”) power corrupt them? And shouldn’t the leaders of the proletariat be even more capable of such sacrifice on behalf of <i>their</i> class — whatever rank they may hold within the revolutionary movement?

    More generally, is there really such a thing as <i>absolute</i> power anywhere outside the realm of hypothesis? Even where there exist few or no institutional constraints upon the power of a particular leader or leadership group, it is still the case that said leaders are subject to the largely haphazard “checks and balances” imposed upon the class they represent by the objective situation it finds itself in.

    It was not inevitable that Hitler came to power or developed the specific policies he did — he had a tremendous personal influence on the motion and development of German imperialism (not just the de facto decisive influence of all bourgeois heads of state/gov’t, but also unprecedented de jure powers). And yet, if he had sought to impose a program which ran into fundamental conflict with the interests of German imperialism at that historical conjuncture — to the greatest degree that the imperialist bourgeoisie could then and there determine that to be the case — he would have somehow been deposed or subjected to greater control by his subordinates (think a “Xi’an Incident in the far west”).

    I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here — I’ll try to get back to you later on the meat of your arguments — but…tell me I’m wrong! This slogan — call it the “two powers” or “two corrupts” if you wanted to be really kitsch about it — is one of the most clichéd, unscientific assessment of reality in all of bourgeois political science. Do you think it means something different, something truer (or “truthier” to invoke Colbert), in a communist context, Ben?

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (SS)

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    Well, once again I’d like to bring up the cultural revolution. Although it can be easily argued that the decision to ban demonstrations in the long run wound up being the wrong decision, I can imagine many situations in which it could turn out to be quite beneficial. When we have state power, and there are situations that could result in massive acts of violence, why not excercize that power? If literal civil war is about to erupt, but we can maintain state power and resolve things peacefully, why not take that path? Is that not the point of institutional leadership? To sometimes coerce for the greater good (that’s not the only point of leadership, but it is one)?

    I don’t necessarily think this has to be some grim police state scenario like Ben imagines. When unarmed workers were sent to schools to resolve violent conflicts during the CR, that was state intervention. It was orchestrated by the state for a specific purpose. But it wasn’t armed thugs pointing their guns. I think a peacekeeping force that was divorced from the specific situation (advanced revolutionaries from a different city possibly?) could be organized by the state to try and keep things calm. This is assuming that the city has been informed ahead of time that the march will occur and can organize something of that nature… Which opens up a new question… Should there be permits for marches and demonstrations that are going to disrupt things (like block traffic, march through main roads, large ones etc)?

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Ben Seattle)

    PERMALINK

    hi Cold Lamper,

    Thanks for your comment.

    <blockquote>
    Is it really the case that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”?
    </blockquote>

    Pretty much, per the historical record, as I and many others see it. Lenin might have been the rare exception–but he died. <strong>Lenin</strong>, by the way, <strong>was extremely concerned that the bolshevik party would be corrupted by the economic forces it was attempting to control</strong>. He called this the “real and main danger” in his last major speech to the party (at the 11th Congress–two months before his stroke–see the section where he says that “History knows all sorts of metamorphoses” and that “the real and main danger” was that the party might degenerate along bourgeois lines but retain “communist flags inscribed with catchwords stuck all over the place”).

    This, more or less, is what happened.

    <blockquote>
    Isn’t the point of the dictatorship of the proletariat to exercise “absolute power,” or as-absolute-as-possible power, over the bourgeoisie? Is that a process which “corrupts” the proletariat?
    </blockquote>

    This kind of power will not corrupt the proletariat (because the proletariat is a class–you can’t corrupt a class). However this kind of power will corrupt just about any organization, given a few years (or decades).

    This is why Lenin was thinking about a “two-party system” (see comment # 4 above) at a time when it was (unfortunately) necessary to suppress the independent voices of the working class. As I put it in 1999:

    <blockquote>
    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”.
    </blockquote>

    You continue:

    <blockquote>
    what are we seeking to make proletarian revolution for?
    </blockquote>

    For the proletariat: for the class.

    The whole issue is whether the <strong>class</strong> rules–or an <strong>organization</strong> which may (or may not) represent the class.

    If an organization rules–then it can and (eventually) will be corrupted.

    The only way to prevent this is for the masses to have <strong>the right to self-organize</strong>. This means they must have the <strong>fundamental democratic rights of speech and organization</strong>. If the masses do not have these two fundamental democratic rights–then the “dictatorship of the proletariat” will not have a functioning <strong>immune system</strong> and will eventually be <strong>captured by the class enemy</strong>.

    That is what is shown by the historical record.

    <blockquote>
    Are there not outstanding instances where the most powerful of bourgeois commit heroic (from a bourgeois standpoint) acts of self-sacrifice on behalf of the larger interests of their class (Nixon’s resignation, Gore’s acceptance of the 2000 election fraud, etc.)?
    </blockquote>

    It was made clear to Nixon that he was going to go one way or another. The Secretary of Defense notifed all military commanders ahead of time that they would be convicted of treason if they accepted orders outside the normal chain of command. The U.S. bourgeoisie was not going to accept a coup.

    <blockquote>
    if [Hitler] had sought to impose a program which ran into fundamental conflict with the interests of German imperialism […] he would have somehow been deposed
    </blockquote>

    It was not that easy. The German bourgeoisie tried to remove Hitler in July 1944 (ie: the bombing-assassination attempt) when it had become clear (after Stalingrad, Kursk and then Normandy) that he was leading Germany to ruin.

    Classes generally rule society. But in exceptional circumstances they may appoint someone to rule who may, for a time, escape their effective control. Marx wrote about this in connection with Napoleon’s nephew in France. The Russian working class chose the bolsheviks to represent them–but the bolsheviks became corrupt and enslaved the working class. (Opinions differ on when this happened: most readers here believe it happened in the 1950’s; I believe it happened in the 1920’s.)

    <blockquote>
    I’ll try to get back to you later on the meat of your arguments
    </blockquote>

    No rush on this–I am trying to disentangle myself from <strong>all</strong> political work for a few weeks–so I will likely be unable to respond for a while. But do give this some thought–and get back to me eventually. You can always email me or post to the Ginger Group blog (http://thegingergroup.wordpress.com/ ) when you have replied since I may not be able to monitor this site on a daily basis.

    <blockquote>
    — but…tell me I’m wrong!
    </blockquote>

    You are wrong.

    <blockquote>
    This slogan — call it the “two powers” or “two corrupts” if you wanted to be really kitsch about it — is one of the most clichéd, unscientific assessment of reality in all of bourgeois political science. Do you think it means something different, something truer […] in a communist context, Ben?
    </blockquote>

    Call it kitsch or clichéd if you want.

    It is still true.

    Deal with it.

    –Ben Seattle

    ps: While I am “out of service” you may want to look at some of what I have written on these topics.

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Ben Seattle)

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    Hi SS,

    Your most recent comments concerning how the state might need to intervene in order to prevent conflicts from escalating to the point that society suffers massive disruption seem reasonable to me.

    Organizing unarmed workers (such as at Hinton described at Tsinghua University in “Hundred Day War”) may on some occasions be necessary.

    I am simply arguing that <strong>we ALWAYS need to consider the potential for abuse and corruption of power</strong>. If the state needs to organize large numbers of workers to suppress some action–this has <strong>less potential for abuse</strong> than if the state can simply send hired men in uniform to do the same. The difference is the <strong>mass character</strong> of the confrontation.

    For example–when Deng sent troops to crush the student movement in Tiananmen in 1989–the first troops to march in Beijing refused to take action (because people in the streets could talk to them, etc) and many gave their weapons to people in the street. (Things were different with the next wave of troops–that is when things got bloody–but that is another story.)

    — Ben

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (SS)

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    I agree with you on that point Ben, however I feel you underestimate the importance and necessity of sometimes protecting minority rights from “the masses”.

    There will be situations in the future where correct ideas come from the minority. In fact I believe that’s always how they emerge. They even will sometimes appear and feel uncomfortable to “the masses”. Consider the rights of blacks or LGBQT’s one hundred years ago in the U.S.

    “Yes–workers may darn well want to crush racist marches. And they will do so. Is this supposed to be some kind of a big problem?”

    “We should not lose sight of what is important. We do not want to give a few corrupt officials the power and ability to silence their critics. This power must remain with the masses.”

    Although overt racists are the most polarized situation (which is why I chose them) this get complicated when it comes to minority groups shining a big uncomfortable light onto a problem. The masses immediate reaction may be to crush those coming forward (I can’t imagine a situation like this, but I also cannot imagine how human counsiousness will develop in the future). There is a dialectical relationship between the masses, the state, and the individual. The masses cannot be given free reign “to crush” the opposition at their whim, but also corrupt officials should not be given free reign to do so as well. This poses a problem worth sorting out.

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Ben Seattle)

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    Hi SS,

    It is not that I am unconcerned with errors that the masses might make.

    Rather–I am <strong>more concerned with the potential for corruption if the state has the power and ability to suppress the voices of its critics</strong>.

    As long as everyone has the <strong>fundamental democratic rights of speech and organization</strong>–then there will be a <strong>solid basis for correcting any errors</strong> that are made. The sources of prejudice and discrimination (as well as violent repression) of minorities are found in the class interests of the bourgeoisie and their fundamental tactic of “divide and rule”.

    Suppose some progressive demonstration is mistakenly suppressed by a mass counter-demonstration. That is not the end of the story. It would only be the beginning. Discussion and debate would continue in many forms and forums–including the internet. The mass character of the conflict would tend to ensure that discussion and debate took place on a mass scale–along with explicit political organizing. So a mistaken verdict today would lay the foundation for a correction tomorrow.

    But for this to happen–the issue is that we place our faith and confidence–not in a paternal authority that does our thinking for us–put in the ability of the masses to <strong>self-organize</strong> and learn from their mistakes. And this requires that we clearly recognize (and fight for) the <strong>fundamental democratic rights of speech and organization.</strong>

    –Ben

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Quorri)

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    Ben Seattle says a lot:

    “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

    No really though, it doesn’t. I’m motherfuckin powerful and not at all corrupt. I’ve been given all sorts of actual material power over other people for years at a time and never been corrupted by it. I think we need to be more specific in what exactly we are materially talking about here and stop repeating old dictums like we have no ability to be critical.

    Just because you claim history has proven something true, doesn’t make it true. You can give me a million examples, I’m sure, about how much power has corrupted this or that individual or group throughout history. And I’m sure me or anyone else or yourself can turn around and give you a million or more counter examples throughout history.

    I think that it is likely that it is not power itself that corrupts but that when power is cordoned off from outside influences and open debate, scrutiny, and constant criticism from self and others it might be more likely to corrode.

    “This kind of power will not corrupt the proletariat (because the proletariat is a class–you can’t corrupt a class). However this kind of power will corrupt just about any organization, given a few years (or decades).”

    Where does this ungrounded statement come from? I’m sorry, maybe it’s very grounded but I don’t see any grounding of it proposed here. I think it’s unhelpful to make statements that allude to truth and concreteness without evaluating them. Putting forth the idea that the proletariat as a group is somehow incorruptible as a theory is fine, putting it forth like it’s fact is not as ok with me. I severely hesitate to agree with you. As I said above, I really think it has more to do with the objective conditions the proletariat might exist within at any given moment than it would have to do with some inherent, essential characteristic of “proletariat-ness” or something.
    Maybe I’m deluded.

    “As far as your apparent opposition to the term “worker’s state”–I am not sure this is worth getting into.”

    Everything, absolutely EVERYTHING, is worth getting into. If it’s not worth it to you I’d venture to say that’s because you may not be able to back up your assumptions here and might have to change your mind about something? I often tremble or become filled with trepidation when confronted with challenges to long held beliefs or assumptions, it can be scary. I think it’s always worth the scrutiny to grow, though.

    “Well this may happen. But it is not going to happen every day. It will be rare. The working class and masses will learn from these things and will accumulate experience and learn how to handle these situations–because they have a common material class interest in doing so.”

    Is it that they will learn from something because they have a material class interest or are they more likely to come to uphold the truth because of this interest but that they will learn from it because society and advanced members of society are fighting constantly to bring forward critical thought and forward movement?

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (SS)

    PERMALINK

    Ben,

    What stuck out to me earlier about your post in regards to the “crushing” the racists was, what appeared to me to be, its violent nature. If you merely meant a larger group coming to counter-demonstrate, I agree there would be no problem there. My point was not that the masses make simple mistakes on line, but that they may make mistakes in regards to actions (as in violent suppression of correct dissenting voices). To prevent that from happening the state could play the role as peace-keeper. But here’s the rub. The state must play that role universally, whether it be for racists or for revolutionaries with correct or incorrect lines because the state will make mistakes as well (on what to suppress/protect as you well know and agree).

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Alex)

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    SS,

    While I can’t speak for Ben, I’ll give you my opinion on your question.

    Yes: if state officials were present to prevent the situation from getting nasty, I don’t think there would be a problem. I think the three of us (Ben, yourself, and me) have agreed that if the working class makes a mistake on line, that it would be relatively easily corrected. With democratic rights, those who saw the mistake in the workers’ line would simply have to say so. While people can make mistakes, if there is no incentive to get it wrong, I think the masses will really want to get it right, and they will listen to reason.

    But you are correct, I think, that the workers could easily massacre their opponents in a counter-protest, especially if both sides were armed. It would be in the best interest of everyone, in my opinion, for some state officials to be around to make sure that things don’t get completely out of hand. But the state officials would make no attempt to limit anyone’s ability to self-organize, as long as they did so relatively peacefully (i.e. without killing anyone or massively disrupting social order).

    If the people are the ones doing the actual work (i.e. counter-protesting and drowning out groups like the Nazis), the possibility for corruption will be fairly low, because you have thousands–possibly millions–of people as a sort of “check-and-balance” in itself.

    We can’t ignore the time-tested assertion that when a relatively small organization maintains any power, it will most certainly become corrupt if the people are not there to provide a sufficient check and balance. For this, the people must have the rights to free speech and free organization.

    It may also be good to note that as inequality diminishes and workers begin to directly take control of state functions, the function of police would be completely made up of volunteers (i.e. the people) and even less subject to corruption.

    — Alex

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (SS)

    PERMALINK

    Agreed.

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Harsh Thakor)

    PERMALINK

    The works of Comrades Marx-Lenin -Stalin and Mao have to de defended like a hammer against tongs.Remember how the Paris Commune was defeated.Concepts like multi-party sytem distort the ideology of Lenin and and such intellectuals forget the role the Leninst vanguard party played in the Revolution and after the establishments of the Socialist State.Without it Socialism would not have existed in the U.S.S.R. between 1917 -1956 or in China from 1956-1978.Victory of U.S.S.R .in the great Patriotic War and the great achievements in literacy,health and production would never have taken place but for the leadership of the vanguard Bolshevik Party.It is a similar case for the great achievements of the Cultural Revolution and the mass Movements.Trotskyite and New Left trends created havoc to the International Communist Movement and several writers delinked Mao’s contributions from Marx,Stalin and Lenin.The errors of the great purges in Russia,the unfair persecution of people by red guards,the rise of Lin Biao and the gross personality cult of Comrade Mao,have to be analysed from a Leninist perspective.

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