Fragments Of Comprehension

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

► Work on Leaflet Against Police Murders – [FoC.14.01.02]

Posted by Ben Seattle on January 2, 2015

(below is email I sent to Art, who is working on a leaflet)

—–Original Message—–
From: Ben Seattle
Sent: Thursday, January 01, 2015 8:44 PM
To: ‘Art Francisco’
Subject: RE: The Pamphlet I have been working on..
Hi Art (and also XX),

[…]

I have a number of thoughts about the pamphlet, and will attempt to list some of them here:

(1) The leaflet draft is good. It still needs a lot of work.

(2) What is the scope of this leaflet project?

► I believe you should aim for distribution at the Jan 19 MLK march. That date puts a hard deadline on what can be done. There will not be time to make the leaflet perfect (or even close to perfect) but there should be time (if we are focused) to make it “good enough”. I think we should consider printing at least 200 copies (at 4 and a half cents per page on a 6 page leaflet, that would cost $54 + tax, or about $60 total).

► Distribution at the “Selma” movie might also be considered, although I don’t know when that might be showing in Seattle and whether it would be showing at a theater which would lend itself to leaflet distribution (ie: where the theater is next to a public sidewalk–unlike Pacific Place or any kind of mall).

► “Doing this right” would also involve giving other activists we know the opportunity for input before you put out the final version. You current version (draft 9.0) is good enough, in my view, to send to X, Y and Z.  You and I should meet this Sunday, Jan 4 […] and we should invite all the above activists to an additional meeting a week later, on Jan 11. I doubt that any of these activists would actually show up. But “doing things right” would require that we at least invite them. For similar reasons, I would like to make drafts and comments public on our lower blogs. No one really knows about our lower blogs–but we should get used to using them for these kinds of projects.

► I am not necessarily expecting that anyone will like or appreciate the large amount of work you are putting into this. But you are developing the basic line that connects all struggles for partial demands to the strategic aim of the proletariat of overthrowing the class rule of the bourgeoisie–and for this purpose the need of the proletariat for a mass democratic organization that it will use to, so to speak, connect every part of its mind–and (in the long run) mobilize millions. The experience of developing this line, of learning how to talk about this line, of learning how to think about this line–is worth its weight in gold.

(3) Formatting issues

Formatting, of course, is minor in relation to content. However I believe it is worthwhile to give this thought up front. Poor formatting is a distraction (just as words that are spelled wrong). More significantly, good formatting is part of the connection we want to make to thoughtful and serious readers. We use formatting to send a message to readers that we respect their time and are interested in earning their attention. I am including a PDF where I have reformatted (without changing any words) just the first page–where the “real estate”, so to speak, is most valuable. Please take a look at it and observe some of the changes I made.

0102--format_versions

(4) social democracy and black misleadership

The section on social democracy requires work. In many ways, this will be the most important section. You deal with bourgeois billionaries like Hanauver (which is good–excellent even) and the fraud of civilian review boards (also very good) –but have nothing about the black misleadership (such as Obama, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton). I think this deserves at least a mention, particularly in light of the growing recognition in the movement that identity politics are leading to a dead end. The (much shorter) CVO leaflet deals with this in a few sentences. If necessary, it is perfectly fine to crib their sentences and give the CVO a footnote.

Also (this is a general note) a great many of the formulations in the CVO leaflet are quite mature and represent a great depth of class perspective and a great economy of words and ideas–and are deserving of greater study.

(Also–a quick comment on XX’s email: “elected community committees of public safety” will inevitably be understood as another form of a civilian review board. The black panthers did not get involved in electoral work until people like Fred Hampton were dead and the organization had degenerated. So I think XX’s view on this is weak.)

(5) our organization must be democratic

This is the big question that I believe we must better explain.

XX raises this in his comments:

[comments are not shown here pending permission from XX]

I will have more to say about this (I hope) soon. But I believe XX is mistaken. If the party is not a revolutionary party–then it will not be a workers’ party: it will be a social democratic party on a bourgeoisie leash. If, in these circumstances, we call it a workers’ party, or we call it independent–then we are engaging in fraud–and we need to ask why we are engaging in all this hard work in order to pour shit down the throats the of the working class.

But XX raises an excellent point–that social democracy will be able to establish its own weight within this organization–and will skillfully and energetically throw its weight around for the purpose of undermining the fundamental character of the party (its mission and independence). Hence the need for the party to be democratic. This is not just a word (“democratic”) that we can throw around as if we understand it. It is fundamental. It is life and death. If the party is based on mass democracy–then the revolutionary pole will be able to win the struggle for influence (the model and proof of this is the Occupy movement–where the militant core won influence against the reformists in battle after battle in cities like Oakland and Seattle–and we should say this openly). If the party is not based on mass democracy–then the voice of the militant section will be shut down and cut off from its membership under a thousand excuses about making the party more powerful by means of “winning allies”.

So the democratic character of the organization is not just a nice idea–it will prove, on a thousand occasions, to be decisive–because this will make it possible for the revolutionary core of the organization to win a thousand battles against the reformists (and their external allies) for influence of the organization’s membership–and the working class as a whole.

The question of democratic character also comes up in the section dealing with a super-organism (such as ants). Your comments on this are completely correct–but this idea will never be able to win support unless it is understood in the context of the kinds of democratic principles that will make it possible for the revolutionary core to effectively fight to defend its independent and working class character.

And the principal principle here is political transparency. Political transparency will allow the struggle for the soul of the party to take place on terms that will allow the proletariat as a class to maintain control of its organization.

We should also mention (at least a sentence or two) the need for an information infrastructure (facebook alternative or public news and discussion forums) that will make it essentially impossible for members and supporters of the party (and the public at large) to be kept in the dark concerning the inevitably intense struggle within the party to defend its independent and working class character.

All the best,
Ben

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2 Responses to “► Work on Leaflet Against Police Murders – [FoC.14.01.02]”

  1. —–Original Message—–
    From: Ben Seattle
    Sent: Friday, January 02, 2015 7:07 AM
    Subject: RE: The Pamphlet I have been working on..

    Hi again Art and XX,

    (1) Reply to XX

    [… comments are not shown here pending permission from XX]

    Ok. Good point. I was mistaken (somewhat). Things went better in Seattle. But the larger point stands. There will be a series of intense fights (punctuated by a series of temporary truces) between the reformist and revolutionary poles. If the organization is based on democratic principles (such as political transparency) the revolutionary pole will win (sooner or later). There are two requirements here:

    (1) an organization based on democratic rules of engagement (such as political transparency), and

    (2) a critical mass of activists with a critical level of consciousness, who will make use of these democratic principles and political transparency to fight to defend the (a) independent, (b) democratic and (c) working class character of the organization.

    If these two requirements are met–then under conditions where the masses are drawn into struggle–the militant wing in the party will eventually win hegemonic influence in the organization. The struggle may be protracted, it may consist of a large number of battles. But if these two conditions are met–then victory is only a matter of time.

    [… comments are not shown here pending permission from XX]

    The key word above is “initially”. XX, I hope that you can raise your perspective to the necessity and inevitability of the victory of the working class in being able to not only create its own organization–but also to defend the independent character of that organization. If, for most of your life, you have witnessed only defeat–it may be hard to imagine victory.

    But that is what is needed.

    (2) Political Transparency

    I have posted most of my email from last night on my lower blog here at [FoC.14.01.02]. My lower blog is public but it is also “protected” in the sense that only “friends of the blog” can post comments there. The requirements to be a “friend of the blog” are simple:

    1. Comments, questions and criticism should be highly thoughtful, respectful and sincere
    2. Direct links to the lower blog or the posts there will not be posted publicly

    The second point above may appear unusual. It means, for example, that I may publicly refer to my post as did above (ie: FoC.14.01.02) but not provide a link. Anyone would, of course, be able to find the post by making use of google, but the principle would be established that work on the lower blog is not suitable for wider or more active distribution or promotion–and it enforces this principle of the basis of political agreement rather than technical means. The need for this distinction will become clear with time.

    XX, I removed your name and the quote from you in what I posted because I do not (yet) have your permission to include your comments. I am asking for it now. At this time, essentially no activists follow my lower blog except (occasionally) Art and me. However, the political issues related to the fight for the soul of the proletarian party are important–and I hope that you will consider giving me permission to add the quote. Eventually other activists will want (and need) to understand what this fight is about. I believe they will need access to the history of discussion of these principles. The quote from you represents, in concentrated form, fifty years of your observations of the struggle between reformist and revolutionary politics.

    (3) Clarity and our bond with readers

    Art, I disagreed with XX’s comment concerning the use of the word “bourgeoisie”. XX is correct that use of this word will rub many readers the wrong way. But since the purpose of our movement is to overthrow the system of bourgeois rule–then it must follow that a conscious movement must be able to know the name of the enemy that is intends to overthrow. Otherwise we do not have a conscious movement: we have a gutless, craven, wretched, apologetic and disgusting mess–undeserving of the respect of the working class.

    However XX does raise a good point: the way that the term “bourgeoisie” is introduced can be improved. Currently, the term is used in paragraph 1 but only explained in paragraph 3. For many readers, the distance between paragraphs 1 and 3 is probably too long–because they will be carrying the weight of that question (ie: what is the “bourgeois state”?) while they travel this distance. If we want readers to take this word (this idea) seriously, then we can introduce it in a more conscious way.

    Along similar lines, you make use of the term “partisanship” — without ever explaining what this word means. Presumably you are referring to taking sides in the class struggle between the working class and the bourgeoisie. But you don’t actually explain that. If we treat readers like this–then we make life difficult for them. Of course, even if we make our best effort, a lot of what we write is going to be difficult for readers–because the ideas we are describing and developing are unfamilar to them. So we want to develop our abilities and get good at this.

    Also, you use the name of Richard Feynman and my name as if readers will know these names. But many readers will not be familiar with Feynman and even fewer will be familiar with me. In both cases, you solve the problem by adding two or three words: Instead of saying “Ben Seattle” you can use: “A local activist, Ben Seattle”. And in the box quote, you can use: ” Richard Feynman, ‘Cargo-Cult Science’ ” (which tells readers that Feynman is the author of a book, article or talk on “Cargo-Cult Science”.

    (4) Title, subheads and clarity

    I will give thought to how the title, subheads and so forth can be shortened and improved.

    That’s it for now.

    All the best,
    Ben

  2. —–Original Message—–
    From: Ben Seattle
    Sent: Friday, January 02, 2015 10:42 AM
    Subject: RE: The Pamphlet I have been working on..

    Hi XX,

    Here is the problem:

    I find your arguments interesting and deserving of a thoughtful and considered response.

    However, when I write about these kinds of topics, I do so for the public domain.

    In practical terms, this means that I need your permission, since my reply would end up quoting your arguments.

    Essentially, you are doing two things:

    (1) arguing that

    (a) we should accept that a mass independent workers’ party will be neither independent
    nor a workers’ party at all–but will instead be controlled by a political trend that is on
    a bourgeois leash–and
    (b) we should restrict our thinking to a consideration of whether or not such a social democratic
    party would be a step forward.

    (2) insisting that your arguments, themselves, remain secret.

    Essentially, you are arguing that we should not even think about (or talk about) the struggle for the soul and character of the party that the working class needs.

    I asked you for permission to quote your arguments. Rather than openly refuse, you simply ignore my request. This is a passive-aggressive way of indicating contempt for me. What is the value of communicating this level of contempt? I am an activist, just like you, who has dedicated my life, and made many sacrifices, for the struggle for a world that is not ruled by capital. Wouldn’t it make more sense, and be healthier, to treat me with respect? I believe a better, and healthier, approach would be to explain why you refuse to give me permission to quote your arguments.

    You are also telling Art that young people will not read his work unless he throws out the essential message that must be its core–that the working class (1) needs its own independent organization so that it can (2) mobilize millions for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie.

    The end result of this kind of attitude is the domination of the our movement by social democracy. I would like to see you lift your eyes higher than this.

    [private comments by XX are not shown here–he refused to give permission]

    And here [above] you present matters as if the only real alternative to the domination of our movement by social democracy–involves working to build some kind of cult or would-be cult.

    It is true that history gives your arguments some support–as long as we take the view that nothing new can ever be possible.

    I have concluded that the revolution in communications, which is steadily increasing in its power, will make things possible that have never been possible before–including a movement that is not dominated by social democracy and a mass democratic organization that is not dominated by self-serving bureaucrats.

    Your arguments appear compelling, on the surface. But your refusal to allow me to make them public only goes to prove that they will not stand the light of day.

    Ben

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