Fragments Of Comprehension

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

► The Principles of Our Salvation – [FoC.13.06.03]

Posted by Ben Seattle on June 3, 2013

The Principles of Our Salvation

What Principles Will Make Possible the Recovery of Our Movement?

“I will die a Slave of Principles, not Men”– Emiliano Zapata

Hi Art,

I have been meaning, for a while, to get back to you
regarding Frank Patino’s second question. I also wanted to
discuss your response to Eric on the “What Is To Be Done?”
bulletin board. It occurred to me that these two subjects
may be so strongly bound together that it made sense to
combine my replies.

This is the most important question that Frank Patino has
asked:

> what are your concrete goals and principles that
> you would rather focus on than ideology? Have you
> discovered any principles so far?

— 1 —

First, I believe it is important to separate the question
of goals and principles. Our “concrete goal” at this
point is relatively modest. We intend to maintain a
discussion group that is open to all revolutionary
activists, in order to better understand the nature of
revolutionary work here in the U.S. in the 21st century.
As part of this, we intend to maintain the humility that
will be necessary in order to:

(a) recognize the limitations of our ability to understand
what is going on, what has gone on, and what needs to be
done, and avoid jumping to hasty conclusions, and

(b) avoid allowing ourselves to get sidetracked by any work
which distracts from this simple mission.

We have a deeper goal than this, of course, which is,
simply put, to help develop the revolutionary movement of
the working class. But that is not a particularly
“concrete” goal at this time. It can be nothing more than
an abstract, general goal until a critical mass of activists
have a deeper understanding of what this goal means.

Nor are there any clear concrete steps that are guaranteed
to help make this goal a reality–other than what we are
doing now–which is to develop discussion, open to all,
aimed at better understanding how to do this.

That may not be enough for someone like Frank Patino, of
course. But he has no plan either. Nor does he appear to
be engaged in any activity that is helping–other than to
engage in a crude sort of “bible thumping”. Frank also
talks about “ideology”, but it is actions such as his which
have given a bad name to words like ideology. Nothing is as
damaging to any system of self-reinforcing ideas (ie: an
ideology) as having idiots running around demanding that
people turn the ideology into a religion.

— 2 —

Principles are not the same as goals. Principles are
the basic patterns, or habits which guide our thoughts
and actions and help (or hurt) our efforts to reach our
goals.

We can learn to express these principles in the form of
words, in order to understand them in a more conscious way.

It is useful to do this–to struggle to find the words
which best the describe the most important truths which
guide our most important actions. I do this a lot. I hope
you will also. Principles are the source of all of our
power. Principles are our weapons. Armed with correct
principles, we are the equal of anyone on earth.

Stephen Covey tells the story of a British Admiral who was
informed that the night watch on his ship had spotted what
appeared to be the lights of another ship that was heading
toward them on a collision course. The admiral ordered a
radio message be sent to the captain of the other ship
instructing him to change course 30 degrees to port. But
the message that came back simply said: “Not possible.
You need to change your course 30 degrees to port”. The
admiral was enraged that some captain of a lesser ship
would defy his order, and repeated his demands, but each
time the reply was the same.

Finally, the admiral sent a message explaining who he was
and the size of the ship he was commanding, and demanding
to know the name of the captain and the ship that dared to
defy his orders. The message came back: “I am Seaman First
Class Jones, and I am in charge of this lighthouse.”

Principles are like that.

lighthouse-wave

It does not make any difference who you are talking to,
what experience or prestige they may have, if you are
standing on principle. You will “outrank” them–because
you are standing in a lighthouse.

But principles are not our most fundamental weapon. Our
most fundamental weapon is the humility that allows us to
recognize the power of our principles, and our determination
to serve these principles.

— 3 —

So what are our principles, precisely? What words do we
use to describe the principles which guide our actions and
which will guide the actions of our movement?

There is a relationship here, between these two sets of
principles, which guide, respectively, the microcosm and the
macrocosm. We struggle to find courage and determination,
and so does our movement. We struggle for clarity, and so
does our movement. We struggle for consciousness, and so
does our movement.

Our own mind and emotions serve as a laboratory to help us
test what works and what does not. Our actions are vastly
more powerful and effective when we are guided by a clear
sense of purpose. And so are the actions of our movement.

I assert that the primary principle which guides our
actions is that we are building a movement of the working
class that can overthrow the class rule of the bourgeoisie
and bring forth a world of peace, abundance and genuine
community for everyone.

This is our goal.

But where do we start?

I believe that we must start with ourselves, with our
emotions. Revolutionary work requires confidence in order
to be effective. We can only think clearly and understand
the long-term consequences of our actions when we are
confident–because the parts of our brain (mainly in the
right hemisphere) that have the ability to integrate the
large amounts of complex and contradictory information
necessary to understand the long-term impact of our actions
are, for evolutionary reasons, only active when we are
confident and relaxed (ie: if we are not confident, we are
like a rabbit being chased by a fox, and not particularly
focused on anything long-term).

So we need confidence. We need confidence that the
actions we take and the sacrifices we make will not be
wasted. It is as simple as that. Our work is our only
immortality. We want and need confidence that our work and
sacrifices will be immortal and will echo through human
hearts as long as men and women are alive.

Without this confidence we will inevitably fall victim
to demoralization and be unable to carry out revolutionary
work.

With this confidence, we can do anything that is
possible for a human being to do.

When we understand this, we can understand that it is our
need for confidence that makes us vulnerable to the “help”
offered by the social-democrats who (with their bourgeois
connections) can deliver to us the “visible results” we
need to see in order to be confident that our work and
sacrifices are not being wasted. And it is also this same
need for confidence that drives activists to create
thousands of cargo cult religions of every description.

We cannot ignore the need for confidence. There is a
slogan in the recovery movement that goes: “When we talk
about our emotions, they lose their power over us”. So,
rather than pretend that we have confidence when we don’t
(ie: part of a dysfunctional tradition in our movement of
“official confidence”) we must openly recognize our need
for confidence and work to develop a sober understanding
of where confidence comes from–so that we are not driven
in desperation to seek deliverance by means of illusions
(ie: either the illusions of social-democracy or the
illusions of a cargo-cult religion).

So where does confidence (ie: real confidence, not
confidence based on illusions) come from?

Confidence comes from our principles.

And our first principle (ie: our most immediate) our
alpha, is that we need confidence in order to have the
ability to calmly see our way forward. We must guard and
protect our confidence (ie: confidence in our ability to
contribute to our mission simply by working to sort out what
is decisive and by struggling to avoid fooling ourselves)
the way that a recovering alcoholic guards and protects
his sobriety. It is our number one priority as we
engage in our revolutionary work on a daily basis. This
means that what counts in our work is not necessarily what
we are able to accomplish, but rather what we learn. We may
fail at what we attempt to accomplish on any given day, but
we can succeed at learning. At this stage in the
development of our movement, anything we accomplish will
likely be small. But what we learn can be big.

And our final, bottom-line principle (ie: our most
important) our omega, is the goal of our movement
(ie: the overthrow of bourgeois rule and the creation
of a new world).

And now, having established, logically, the alpha and omega
of our principles, all we need to do is to carefully work
out the principles in between that will function, so to
speak, as the stairway that will make it possible for us to
storm heaven.

And these essential intermediate principles are not that
hard to figure out, if we recognize the need to take them
seriously. In fact, as I see it, understanding the nature
of these principles can be as easy as, so to speak, shooting
fish in a barrel.

— 4 —

What is it that we need to do in order to do the most to
build the revolutionary movement? We only need to do two
things:

1. Strive to sort out and work only
on the most decisive tasks

2. Strive not to fool ourselves

This may not seem like a lot. But it is all we need to do.

It may seem, sometimes, that as revolutionary activists,
we must work with extraordinary dedication, extraordinary
courage, extraordinary intelligence and so on.

But this is not true. Of course it would help if we had
extraordinary dedication, courage and intelligence; but
we do not need these things. We only need to make an
extraordinary effort to avoid fooling ourselves. If we
do this, everything else will fall into place.

We are at a place and time (the early part of the 21st
century) when all the elements necessary for the recovery
of the revolutionary movement of the working class will be
falling into place. All we need to do in order to do our
part is work with average dedication, average courage and
average intelligence–and avoid fooling ourselves concerning
what work is decisive and what work is not.

And if we do not know what work is decisive–then we simply
need to know that we do not know–and ask for help from
other activists (local whom we know, and non-local by means
of the internet) to help us figure it out. Because if we
do not know what is decisive–then what is decisive–is
figuring out what is decisive.

Of course I have my own ideas concerning what is decisive
(see appendix A below). I believe that what is decisive
is to develop clarity and a movement-wide consensus on the
nature of:

(1) our revolutionary goal, (2) the revolutionary
organization we need, (3) independence from
social-democracy and (4) the digital infrastructure
we need.

If we can help, over the next ten years or so, to develop
the clarity and the movement-wide consensus we need in these
four areas, then we will have done pretty fucking good work.

Of course, other activists may have other ideas concerning
which tasks are decisive for the revolutionary movement.
But, if so, this means that our movement needs open and
public discussion and debate concerning what tasks are
decisive for the development of our movement.

— 5 —

I don’t have a ready list of the principles that must guide
our movement. I have worked on such a list (see appendix B
below) but have, so far, been unable to come up with
something that I considered satisfactory.

In defense of my inability to come up with a list that
was satisfactory, I will note the obvious: it is a fairly
ambitious task to spell out in a small number of words
the principles that must guide the revolutionary movement
of the working class. And I did not have a lot of help.

My hope is that my work, even though incomplete and
insufficient, may be of help in putting something together
that is closer to what we need.

I was inspired in my effort to formulate the principles
that must guide our movement by the work of Stephen Covey.
Covey is the author of “The Seven Habits of Highly
Successful People”. I recommend this book to all activists
who are considering devoting their life’s work to the
development of the revolutionary movement of the working
class and to the organization we need.

It occurred to me that our movement is important enough to
warrant its own list of principles. This would be better
than having to recommend that all activists read Covey’s
book (ie: written with examples from capitalist business
culture).

—- Begin with the End in Mind —-

One of Covey’s principles is “Begin with the End in Mind”.
This is a simple principle and it should be (one might
think) common sense, but it is not. The application of
this principle to the revolutionary movement would hold
that all our work must be centered on and connected to
the goal of our movement. Nothing is more important than
the strength of this connection. And yet many organizations
(the CVO comes to mind here) pay only lip service to this
connection. Other organizations forget this connection
entirely or act as if this connection will eventually come
up in the future but is (supposedly) irrelevant to what
they do today.

The principle “begin with the end in mind” is useful in many
ways. On the basis of this principle, we can (in our minds)
start from the end and move backwards from there, rather
than start from where we are and attempt to figure out some
way forward. This difference in approach is profound.

The classic example of this difference in approach is the
example of attempting to build a tall building on a
foundation of sand. It will not work. The problems will
not necessarily be visible at first and it may feel safe
to ignore these problems. But the problems will catch up
with you as their weight gradually accumulates. You will
not be protected by your ignorance. If the problems cannot
be corrected–then the result will eventually be collapse.

In a complicated situation, the method of looking for “some
way forward” often will not work–because it means that you
do not have a clear idea of where you need to go. The
result of this method is often–that you end up lost.

Let’s consider how this works in relation to the decisive
tasks of our movement. We cannot overthrow the class rule
of the bourgeoisie without a powerful movement of millions.
And we cannot build a powerful movement of millions without
a mass revolutionary organization of many thousands. So we
need to think about what such an organization would be like
and how we can bring it into the world. This would be an
example of starting from the end and working backward.

In contrast to this, we can consider the method of starting
from where we are and looking for “some way forward”. This
method may also recognize that we need a movement and
organization but often (in practice) falls into the
assumption that the movement and organization we need can
simply grow from the movement and organization we may
already have (or be able to create) today. Activists who
fall into this trap often are unable to climb out of it.
And when their projects fail to grow as they hoped–they
tend to get demoralized and passive–and their career as
activists is over.

—- Work from the Inside Out —-

Another of Covey’s principles (not one of the “7 principles”,
but one of the principles he used to construct his “7
principles”) is the “inside out” approach he advocates. I
won’t go into that here, but this principle is fundamental
and corresponds to the principle in “dialectical materialism”
(I usually avoid that phrase, because it is so overused by
charlatans, but it is unavoidable in this case) that the
basis of change, development and motion is always
internal.

—- We need compact set of core principles —-

One of the reasons that I was dissatisfied with my earlier
attempt to formulate principles–is that there were simply
too many of them. Covey only needed 7 principles. A list
of 7 principles is short enough to remember. We need a
list of principles that is this short.

— 6 —

I think, in the years ahead, activists like ourselves will
be formulating hundreds or thousands of principles of
various kinds. Some principles will be important, and
other less so. Some principles will be core principles,
while others will be subsidiary. Principles will often
be in conflict with one another, and we will sort out, as
activists and as a movement, which principles are primary
and which are secondary.

As you write, Art, and engage in other activity, you will
be formulating your own sets of principles. You will be
revising these principles and developing your own sense of
which ones are important–and why. I may be able to help
you do this in some ways, but it will also become clear,
over time, that I am clueless on many things and that, on
many of the most important questions you will face, you
will be on your own.

But you will get lots of practice. For example, in our
WITBD study group, you have several times observed patterns
in the interaction between Eric and me in which there
appeared to be considerable room for improvement in our
behavior. In order for you to more effectively intervene
to promote a healthier interaction between Eric and me, it
will be helpful for you to formulate a slogan, or principle
that promotes the idea of comrades who work constructively
to resolve their political contradiction in a way that is
of benefit to the development of the conscious movement and
organization we need. How would this principle best be
formulated in words? I don’t know. But every time this
pattern of behavior between Eric and me comes up, you have
another opportunity to test out formulations concerning how
we can resolve our contradictions in a political and
conscious way.

In your response to Frank Patino (if you decide to respond
to him) there are several competing principles at work.
One principle is that you may not want to waste a lot of
time replying to someone who is not able to listen and who
tends to act like an idiot. But there is a competing
principle–that it is useful to develop the skill of being
able to put together a solid and concise reply in a
relatively small amount of time. If someone like Frank
asks a question–then someone else (who is deserving of a
greater investment of your time) may ask the same question
later. And your reply to Frank today may help you when
this other person asks you the same question tomorrow.

And there is another principle related to this also. This
principle involves, so to speak, educating your instincts
and your innate sense of having a little fun. We need to
enjoy our work in order to maintain a commitment to
revolutionary activity. We will encounter a great many
dysfunctional people in the course of revolutionary work.
Sometimes we may feel it best to bite our tongues or hold
our breath, but we don’t have to do this. We can also tell
people exactly what we think of them. We have this right.
It is a normal, healthy human response to level with
someone. On a construction site, if one guy is always
fucking up and creating extra work for everyone else–it is
normal and healthy (and necessary) to let him know. In
fact normal, healthy work relationships often involve a fair
amount of teasing (good-natured or otherwise). When I
worked in the shipyards I was called “Flash” because it took
me so long to get things done. One guy told me that he once
knew a guy who was slower with hand tools, but “he was dead”.

I was teased a lot in the shipyards (and in the Marxist-
Leninist Party) and, when this happened, I felt like I was
with the best people in the world.

— 7 —

I also wanted to talk about your reply to Eric on the
WITBD bulletin board, in the context of principles. Your
reply was good. Eric was not able to dispute anything you
have said (although he may attempt to do so in the future).

And you may have given him something to think about.

My opinion, however, is that if you had a deeper
understanding of the principles at stake, your response
would have been more powerful.

To illustrate this issue, which concerns the core of
revolutionary work, I have created a “Report Card” for
the work of the CVO as follows:

CVO_report_card

Basically, Eric was asking you if you thought that he (and
the CVO) were fucking up. Your comment suggested to him
that they were. If you had a deeper understanding of the
issue here, and had greater confidence, I believe you could
have said more.

The work to consummate the marriage between:

(a) the struggles for partial demands and
(b) the struggle to overthrow the class rule
of the bourgeoisie

is essential for revolutionary work. But the two partners
in this marriage are not equal. It is the struggle to
overthrow bourgeois rule which is the core. The struggle
for partial demands is essential, but it is essential
because it supports the core. It does so in two ways:

(1) It raises the consciousness of the masses concerning
… (a) the power of mass struggle and (b) who are their
real friends (other sections of the working class and
… the revolutionary party) and enemies (the capitalists,
… the police, the politicians of all other parties,
… the media and the treacherous social-democrats)

(2) It earns the revolutionary party the attention and
respect (also known as “the ear”) of the masses

However, separated from the revolutionary goal of the
working class movement, the struggle for partial demands
can never lead to the release of energy needed for a
revolutionary movement. The CVO (and Eric) are fucking up
big time. They have locked themselves into a
dysfunctional prison. And how can they find the courage
to recognize the way out of this prison if we lack the
courage to tell them, in a clear and unmistakable way,
that they are stuck in one?

I should be clear that your response to them was good.
But I hope that, as your perspective on this issue deepens,
that your responses to them can do more to help them
understand the depth of the hole that they have dug for
themselves.

Heaven, it is said, is doing the work we love with the
people we love. Our work to build the revolutionary party
of the working class can be part of this heaven on earth.
This work includes human relationships where we can breathe
easy and are relaxed and confident when we tell people that
we are standing in a lighthouse.

All the best,
Ben

=========================================================
Appendix A: Four decisive areas of work for our movement
=========================================================

I have concluded that these are the four areas of work
that are decisive for our movement.

(1) 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.

(2) 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”

(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 indestructible 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.

=========================================================
Appendix B: My previous attempt to formulate basic principles
=========================================================

The 12 Decisive Principles of Victory
September 2010 – January 2011

http://z11.invisionfree.com/Kasama_Threads/index.php?showtopic=1131

Below is just the outline. The article contains
additional text and illustrations for the first
six principles below. I never completed this effort
to formulate the basic principles of our movement.
This was partly because other work came up and partly
because I had no one with whom to discuss these principles.

Intro–The Fundamental Way Forward
…….. The Development of a Healthy and Powerful
…….. Revolutionary Movement Requires An Open
…….. and Democratic Consensus on Basic Principles
1. Unrelenting Focus on our Goal
…….. Nothing Can Distract Us from Our Goal of the
…….. Overthrow of the Class Rule of the Bourgeoisie
…….. and the Stable and Secure Rule of the Entire
…….. Working Class Over Every Sphere of Society
2. Create Communities of Struggle
…….. Our Movement Will Be Based On Open, Democratic
…….. and Self-Organizing Communities of Struggle
…….. Guided By Political Transparency and
…….. Resistant to Paternalistic/Sectarian Control
3. Determined Use of Information War
…….. Our Movement Will Make Determined, Effective
…….. and Systematic Use of the Emerging Revolution
…….. in Communications and the Online War of Ideas
…….. that Will Come To Be Known as “Information War”
4. Support Struggles for Partial Demands
…….. The struggle for partial demands is
…….. the great lever that will pull millions
…….. into the revolutionary movement
5. Eradicate the Sectarian Disease
…….. The revolutionary movement will
…….. eliminate the sectarian disease which
…….. isolates activists from one another
6. Puncture the Influence of Reformism
…….. The power of the revolutionary movement
…….. can never be more than a reflection of
…….. its ability to influence the working class and masses
…….. to make a decisive break with the reformist ideology,
…….. traditions, tactics, institutions and “progressive”
…….. misleaders

7. Resolve the Crisis of Theory that makes it impossible
to conceive, in a realistic way, of how a world without
bourgeois rule would function and how an economy would
work that was not based on commodity production.

8. Overcome the toxic and incapacitating legacy of
Cargo-Cult Leninism

9. Political Transparency will allow us to:
…. (1) build healthy organizations,
…. (2) defeat incompetence, hypocrisy and corruption and
…. (3) wage information war

10. A Revolutionary News Service will bring light to millions
and build conviction that a world without bourgeois rule
is both possible and necessary

11. We need democratic discussion forums (and wiki’s) that
will make effective use of collaborative filtering and
create discussion with a high signal-to-noise ratio

12. Revolutionary Mass Organization will mobilize and draw on
the energy of millions for the great class battles of the 21st
century.

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