Fragments Of Comprehension

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

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► 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.


(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,


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► Latuff against the brutal repression by SCAF in Egypt – [FoC.13.07.28]

Posted by Ben Seattle on July 28, 2013

Carlos Latuff has emerged as the movement’s cartoonist in this century.
His cartoons, against dictators and oppression around the world have
been powerful and, with relatively few exceptions, remarkably consistent.

One of Latuff’s recent cartoons on Egypt (see below) helps to sum up
the complex situation there–where the military authorities (ie: the
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF) murdered in cold blood
more than a hundred supporters of the ousted president Morsi (of the
Muslim Brotherhood, or MB) for the “crime” of staging massive and
largely peaceful sit-ins.

Make no mistake: Morsi is quite the reactionary himself, but the
liberals in Egypt who are supporting this brutal repression are
playing into the hands of the biggest enemy of the Egyptian people.
The tactic of shooting large numbers of protesters in broad daylight
will inevitably end up being used against progressive activists.

— Ben Seattle

Egypt: How SCAF Manipulated its Adversaries –

More from “The Guardian”:

On Friday hundreds of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters turned out in support of a call by Egypt’s army chief, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, for a crackdown on what he called terrorists – a move sceptics saw as a veiled threat to protesters at Rabaa.


Below I have posted just a few of the hundreds of cartoons that Latuff has created on a near daily basis–Ben

Civil War in Syria









231094287 229486256


More_troops_for_Afghanistan_by_Latuff2 Afghan_proverb_by_Latuff2

Other recent



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► … 123 Words of Power … and Now … the Tension Builds … – [FoC.13.07.13]

Posted by Ben Seattle on July 13, 2013

… 123 words of power … and now the tension builds …

Hi Eric,

In Ben’s comments he lays out what he believes
are the Four most decisive areas of work.

Do you agree or disagree?

If you disagree, what are the most decisive areas of work?


I agree with Ben that this is his most important question
to you.

I also agree with Ben that based on Phil’s comments that
forces do not exist to create a news service–you should
clarify your position on the matter.

Phil does not see the other anti-capitalists within
the movement as forces because they do not subscribe to
your version of Marxist Leninism. Instead, it appears
that he sees them as a lost cause, or opponents–and
thus writes them off.

What is your take Eric?

IV(45)<-  (.)

This unusual drawing (see below) came into my mind when I read the words above.

(click on image to see full size)


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► Work to popularize our proposed news service – [FoC.13.07.06]

Posted by Ben Seattle on July 6, 2013

(See full-size version of this graphic at bottom of post)


Hi Art,

I think we have been making good progress with the WITBD study group,
and with our other work, and it is time to give some thought to what
we have learned and our next steps forward.

The whole point of reading WITBD, in my view, is to understand that
the central task which will unite the revolutionary movement will be
the creation of a revolutionary news service.

This is a task for the present time. I am not saying that the two of
us should attempt to create such a news service at this time. If we
were to make such an attempt, we would simply be setting ourselves up
for failure–because such a task will require a critical mass of
energy and consciousness. This is a task for the movement to take up.

What we can do, however, is begin the work to inform the movement
(ie: all the best activists) that this is the task that we believe
will move overthing forward:

(1) will lead to the overcoming of the present isolation of activists
who are currently isolated from one another by geography, ideology
and ignorance, and

(2) will lead to the debates, on a national scale, that are necessary
on the most fundamental questions related to what we are struggling
for and why we are on this earth.

The most logical thing, in my view, would be for us to put together
a short article explaining our thinking and then send it to activists
who we may have the ability to contact. Many (or most) of these
activists have blogs or facebook pages, and we can ask them to post on
their blogs or “like” the fb post or whatever it takes to help the idea
go viral.

We can also ask for feedback, comments, questions and criticism
that may help us make the article better, more all-sided, easier
to understand and, in general, more powerful.

In the process of putting the article together, we can give thought to
which ideas are most important–and how to illustrate these ideas.

I like the idea of explaining that a news service will be useful on
all four of the “decisive fronts” (ie: our goal, independence from s-d,
infrastructure and organization). I created the graphic (see below)
this afternoon to illustrate these 4 decisive areas. I am not sure how
effective the graphic is. One way or another, we may need to create
graphics for the ideas we want to communicate which are most important.
Lenin, as far as I know, never felt compelled to create “theoretical
graphics”, but then I somewhat suspect that he did not have to cut thru
the amount of “distracting clutter” that clogs up thinking in the
movement today.

In order to support discussion on the nature of the news service we
will be proposing, what principles will need to guide it and how it
might acquire the critical mass of talent and dedication it will need
to get started–we can also create a joint blog (ie: you and me and
whoever might join us would be able to create front page posts)
segregated into upper and lower levels. We might use a branch of
the WITBD bb for the lower level–if we want to use a lot of graphics
in what we post–but this would be awkward for others because it would
require learning a new password, etc.

And we can create a YouTube video also. This would be good experience
for us. Anything we create at first will end up looking primative once
we have more skill, of course, but that is how we acquire the skill: we
learn war by waging in war.

Most of all, I suspect, we simply need to talk about this idea with
other activists (if we can find activists with whom we can talk about
this idea). That may help us sort out what ideas are the most
powerful in terms of winning support for the idea of a news service.

I doubt that any of the CVO comrades will be able to help much with
this project in any way other than the way they are doing now (ie: giving
us confidence in our project by demonstrating how naked and shallow are
their reasons for declaring it a “diversion” and so forth). But it is
not enough to show how naked and shallow they are. History will judge
us fools if we confined ourselves to that: activists in the future would
say: “Well then why the hell did they not take matters into their _own_
hands–and try to get the ball rolling?”

That’s how I see it. We have an opportunity, at this time, to act in
such a way that future activists will look at our record and aspire
to act with the same kind of decisive determination that guides our
action today.

So let’s not disappoint them.

All the best,

(Click on graphic below to see full-size)


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► Brazil – The Two Faces of Social-Democracy – [FoC.13.06.19]

Posted by Ben Seattle on June 19, 2013

Thanks to Art, who posted on this here:


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► How Our News Editing Software Will Work (Spartamind Scenario) – [FoC.13.06.18]

Posted by Ben Seattle on June 18, 2013

(1) This was inspired by Art’s article on the current mass protests in Brazil and the struggle against the treachery of  social-democracy.

(2) Lots of additional graphics and descriptive text describing our software is posted at:

(3) Click the image below to view full-size:


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► NSA Spying in the Proletarian Century – [FoC.13.06.09]

Posted by Ben Seattle on June 9, 2013

The NSA Spying Scandal:

Information War in the Proletarian Century

Who will have the upper hand in the information war
which will dominate the 21st Century? It will not be the NSA.

Yes, now it is official. The phone calls you make,
the emails and texts you type, the racy photos you
send to someone special, every digital trace of
anything that you create–is all being scooped up
into a gigantic database maintained by the U.S.

What will the government do with this information?

The imperialist-in-chief, Obama, assures everyone
that this information is needed to fight “terrorism”.

But we already know that, in the U.S., the fight
against “terrorists” included coordinated attacks
on Occupy encampments in dozens of cities and throwing
activists from Portland and Seattle into solitary
confinement for the “crime” of refusing to talk about
the political beliefs of their friends.

History tells us something different, including that
the information in these spy databases will be used,
increasingly often, to decide who to kill.

There has already been a steady increase, in several
countries, in what are called “signature strikes” by
drones. These are assassinations from the sky where
the people who guide the drones don’t really know who
it is that they are rubbing out. All they know is that
the target has some of the same “observables” as a “bad
guy”. Or, in simpler, everyday language, if it looks
like a duck and quacks like a duck, kill the duck.

So, just to make sure that you are not in danger, make
sure that you don’t hang out with, or visit the same
websites, as anyone who might do something stupid.
Maybe you should just keep to yourself, and spend as
much time as possible hiding under your bed. Oh wait,
history also tells us that that won’t keep you safe

Some of the liberal pundits are professing to be
“shocked” by these revelations. This is like the
famous scene in “Casablanca” where the corrupt police
inspector is informed that gambling is taking place
in Rick’s Cafe. Anyone who claims to be “shocked” at
any of this–is either naive or a liar.

A top secret security clearance was not required to
know what is going on. Anyone who followed public
information on these things (with their eyes open) knew
what was happening.

Polls show that most people are not terribly up-in-arms
about the revelation that “their” government is spying
on everything they do. The reason for this is simple:
there is not a lot that can be done to stop the massive

At least for now.

The liberal and social-democratic political trends
may make various kinds of noise, but they are not
capable of organizing a serious struggle on this.

That would be like expecting a poodle to kick the butt
of its master.

My view is that this spying will continue until the
class rule of the bourgeoisie is overthrown. But
the liberals and social-democrats are not going to
talk about that.

I think it is useful to put these things in context.

This is the century in which the proletariat will
overthrow the class rule of the bourgeoisie. The
bourgeoisie (of course!) will collect every scrap of
information they can, in order to understand what is
going on and disorganize, defeat or destroy their
enemies. By doing this, they will postpone their
overthrow (for a little while). But in the long run,
it will not help them.

And we do not need to be afraid of them, or of “big
brother”. It will be the opposite. As we learn how
to organize ourselves, it is the bourgeoisie which
will become increasingly afraid of us.

So, if you get nervous about the government snooping,
keep this in mind:

The bourgeoisie (by means of its intelligence agencies)
will know what kind of toothpaste you use. It will
know when you get up and when you go to bed. It will
know what kind of porn you like to watch. But it will
not do them any good.

They are doomed.

Yes, at some point later in this century, the
bourgeoisie that “owns” this country will likely
attempt to “decapitate” the movement here by the
same methods they have so freely used in Asia, Africa
and Latin America: death squads and the like.

But they will not be able to stop a living movement
that has learned what it is fighting for and how to
organize itself.

Let’s consider why the proletariat will win the
information war in every way that really matters.

Digital information, broadly considered, can be
categorized, roughly, as being either public or private.

The bourgeoisie, by means of the billions and trillions
of private phone calls and emails they suck up, will
have knowledge of most of this private information.

But it will not help them–because the most important
information will be public.

It is the bourgeoisie that has everything to fear.
Edward Snowden has now added his name to the roll of
honor next to that of Bradley Manning, whose leak of
a quarter million diplomatic cables helped touch off
the revolt in Tunisia–which helped ignite the rest of
the Arab world and the Occupy movement here in the U.S.

In order to maintain its secrets, the bourgeoisie must
steadily shrink the population of analysts who have
access to the most important information. The position
of the proletariat will be the opposite–as it learns
to steadily increase the population of “analysts” (ie:
experienced activists) who help it digest and understand
every important item in the news.

Even those organizations on the left which are saturated
with hypocrisy and corruption (such as the British SWP,
which attempted (I think, I have not followed the details)
to protect a rapist in its ranks, and the local Seattle
branch of the ISO, which suffered a leak of emails as it
discussed its plan to compete for influence with the
militant wing of the Occupy movement) are learning to
their horror, that the world is becoming transparent.

As the proletariat learns how to organize and
understand public information, as it learns how to
digest the news so that it can give an accurate,
reliable and comprehensive understanding of politics,
culture, economics, technology, history and military
affairs to hundreds of millions, it will eventually
overwhelm the ability of the bourgeoisie to wage the
online war of ideas and, as it does so, will ignite a
conscious fire that cannot be extinguished.

So, instead of wringing our hands about the inevitable
snooping by the political police, we can be relaxed,
and spend our time, instead, on learning how to
collaborate in public, in full view of friend and foe
alike, to build a public, centralized news and culture
service which will be open to contributions from all
revolutionary activists.

All Power to the Public Domain!

Ben Seattle

Appendix: Louis Proyect on why “internal” documents cannot be bottled up

Louis Proyect is a social-democratic, among other problems.  He is also a damn fine writer.  Here is an excerpt.

I imagine that if Martin Smith had not been such a sexist pig, the SWP would have meandered along in this fashion for a number of years. Like a match thrown into a room filled with gasoline fumes, the rape incident and the Central Committee’s role in covering it up has provoked a crisis threatening the very existence of the party.

Returning to Callinicos’s article, I was struck by his exasperation over how “internal” party matters have spilled over into the Internet:

One thing the entire business has reminded us of is the dark side of the Internet. Enormously liberating though the net is, it has long been known that it allows salacious gossip to be spread and perpetuated – unless the victim has the money and the lawyers to stop it. Unlike celebrities, small revolutionary organisations don’t have these resources, and their principles stop them from trying to settle political arguments in the bourgeois courts.

In a nutshell, this is the same mindset that is on display at MIT, the elite institution that insisted on prosecuting Aaron Swartz for purloining JSTOR documents. Like the Gutenberg printing press that made possible generations of revolutionary-minded print publications like Iskra, the Internet is the communications medium for 21st century socialism. If anything has become clear, the “internal” documents of the SWP cannot be bottled up behind a firewall. In the same way that a Madonna video will make its way into Pirate’s Bay, some controversial SWP document will get leaked to the wretched Andy Newman’s Socialist Unity website. I am not even taking a position on whether this is reflecting the “dark side” of the Internet–only that this is the reality we operate under.

But more to the point, there really is no basis for revolutionary socialist organizations to keep their business internal. This was not the case in Lenin’s day, nor should it be the case today whether we are communicating through the printed page or on the Internet. This idea that we discuss our differences behind closed doors every couple of years during preconvention discussion was alien to the way that the Russian social democracy operated. They debated in public. We are obviously more familiar with Lenin’s open polemics with the Mensheviks that some might interpret as permissible given that a cold split had taken place (a false interpretation as Pham Binh and Lars Lih have pointed out.) But even within the Bolsheviks, there was public debate as demonstrated over their differences on whether the bourgeois press should be shut down.

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► Open WITBD Study Group (reply to Eric) – [FoC.13.06.05]

Posted by Ben Seattle on June 5, 2013

From the bulletin board of the Open WITBD study group:

(formatting here is broken because of cut and paste incompatibility between WordPress and the bulletin board)


  1. The Theory of Dopes
  2. What Are the Decisive tasks?
  3. Life on Planet Earth
The Theory of Dopes
(Reply to Eric – part 1 of 3)

> What Kautsky writes is: “Accordingly, the old Hainfeld
> programme quite rightly stated that the task of Social-
> Democracy is to imbue the proletariat (literally: saturate
> the proletariat) with the consciousness of its position and
> the consciousness of its task.”
> You seem to interpret “its task” as nothing more than “to
> rule society”, but this is a little narrow. Sure, that is a
> stage in the path which Marx predicted for the development of
> human history. But it is only a stage.
Eric lays out, in a useful way, these stages:
(1) The proletariat becomes sufficiently organized
(2) The proletariat “wages the revolution”
… (ie: overthrows the class rule of the bourgeoisie)
(3) The period of transition to workers’ rule. This is
… the period, following the overthrow of the bourgeoisie,
… during which the proletariat “gets up on the horse”
… and learns “to take the reins of society”.
(4) The period of transition to classless society, during
… which the proletariat rules society
(5) Classless society, “from each according to his ability,
… to each according to his need”
It is useful that Eric is recognizing the distinction between
stages 3 and 4 in the list above. This is essential if we are
to talk, in an intelligent way, about any of this.
There has been of lot of confusion about this and many activists
throw around words such as “socialism” or “the dictatorship of
the proletariat” to describe both stage 3 and 4 as if they are
the same thing.It is useful to have words that are not confusing. If words or
phrases do not exist that are suitable, then we must create them.

Eric refers to stage 3 as “the transition to socialism” and to
stage 4 as ‘socialism”.

I refer to stage 3 as the “dictatorship of the proletariat
(embyonic)” and the “dictatorship of the proletariat (with
Immune System)”.

But, no matter what words we use to describe these stages,
understanding the distinction between these stages is decisive.

The main theoretical obstacle into which the CVO crashed, was
getting confused on the distinction between stages 3 and 4. As
a result, the CVO has assigned features of stage 3 to stage 4.

What are some of the different characteristics of these
two stages? In my view, here are some of the important

—- Timespan —-

… Stage 3 will be relatively short in comparison to stage 4.

—- Economic development —-

… Stage 3 will be where economic processes are stabilized
… or restored following the disruption which may take
… place during the overthrow of bourgeois rule, so that
… the conditions of life of the masses are tolerable and
… similar to (or better) than what existed under bourgeois
… rule. Stage 4, on the other hand, will be where the
… economic processes experience immense increases in
… productivity. It is in stage 4 that an economy that is
… not based on commodity production will grow and
… outcompete and eventually overwhelm the sections of the
… economy that are based on commodity production.

—- political development —-

… Stage 3 will be a period in which there will be
… extremely high risk of either bourgeois restoration
… or the emergence of a new ruling class, while during
… stage 4 there will be relatively low risk of this.

… During stage 3, society is ruled by a single organization
… or some kind of stable (or unstable) coalition of the
… same. During stage 4, society is ruled by the working
… class as a class, which has the ability to, so to speak,
… hire and fire organizations as it sees fit, and to create
… new organizations if and when it considers this necessary.
… Stage 4 will see the emergence of a very large number of
… organizations that play a role in the political, economic
… and cultural life of society.

… Stage 3 may (or may not) involve the suppression of
… the fundamental democratic rights of free speech and
… independent organization. Stage 4 will be “unthinkable”
… without free speech and organization.

The problem with the CVO’s theoretical work on stages 3 and 4
is that they are not able to recognize that the right of free
speech and independent organization will be necessary for
stage 4, and they are unable to understand the distinction
between the rule of an organization and the rule of the working
class as a class.

Eric is correct that, until humanity reaches stage 5, there
will be “risk” of the revolution being overturned. But not
all risk is equal. We would, for example, face one kind of
risk in the middle of intense, hand-to-hand combat, and
another kind of risk when crossing the street after looking
both ways. More than this, any realistic understanding of
how society will function when it is run by the working class
will recognize that the best and only way to defend the rule
of the working class will be by means of the rights of speech
and organization.

This should be particularly clear in situations where the
political organization or party which is closest to state
power becomes corrupt. If society is ruled by a single
 and the working class and masses do not have the
right of free speech and independent organization–then they
will have no way to defend their role as masters of society.

What do Eric or the CVO have to say about this? Not a damn
thing. When asked this question they simply become evasive
or stonewall. Essentially, they have learned to click
a switch
 in their mind–which shuts down their brain any time
this question comes up. Occasionally, before their circuits
fade to black, they may have time to accuse anyone who dares to
ask this question of being a “petty bourgeois”.

What is the result of this kind of self-imposed political
lobotomy? The result is that the masses see the stages
of development we outlined (above) as follows:

(1) The proletariat becomes sufficiently organized
(2) The proletariat “wages the revolution”
… (ie: overthrows the class rule of the bourgeoisie)
(3) A police state emerges, with hypocritical words
… about proletarian power, and creates an economy with
… low productivity and poverty and misery for most
… and luxuries for the new ruling class.
(4) The police state remains in power. Got any questions?
… If so, too bad for you. One way or another, you will
… learn to shut up–or you will be shut up.

This is why I think the best and most accurate name for the
CVO’s view, in which stages 3 and 4 are confused with one
another, is the “dictatorship of the proletariat for the
extremely stupid”, or the theory of “dopes”.

(to be continued …)

Last edited by Ben Seattle on Wed Jun 05, 2013 2:52 pm; edited 1 time in total

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PostSubject: What are the Decisive Tasks? (Reply to Eric – part 2 of 3)   Today at 2:52 pm

What are the Decisive Tasks?
(Reply to Eric – part 2 of 3)

> … there are many important questions, many areas where
> the working class must develop consciousness of its task.
> And the key question is, what are the most important
> tasks in front of the working class today? What is holding
> the class back today from taking up the struggle in a more
> conscious form, organized as a class?
I have identified the tasks that I consider decisive. I
believe our movement must develop clarity on these four
tasks (see appendix A below):
… (1) our revolutionary goal,
… (2) the revolutionary organization we need,
… (3) independence from social-democracy and
… (4) the digital infrastructure we need.
When he replies to me, Eric does not want to discuss these
tasks. He says they are “way off-topic” for a study of WITBD.
But Eric’s comments on this thread show the opposite. Eric
has brought up “the most important tasks” because they are
unavoidable: any serious study of WITBD in 1902 will be
inseparable from WITBD in 2013.The spectrum of our workEric:> Lenin goes into some detail about the role of agitation
> and propaganda and what is important for communists to
> disseminate into the class through those forms.

> agitation is meant to rouse the masses into action, by
> pointing out the outrages of capitalist society against
> all classes and social groupings

> the first priority of agitation is to address the whole
> spectrum of abuses of capitalism.

> beyond simply exposing abuses in every sphere of life,
> it is also necessary to draw the connection between a
> given abuse that we’re attacking and the whole capitalist
> system. Lenin emphasizes this work as being indispensable.

> agitation … in today’s conditions … is more effectively
> carried on via leaflets aimed at the masses.

In today’s conditions, most agitation will be done by means
of social media, especially the kind that have potential to
“go viral”. Leaflets are still useful, of course, but are, so to
speak, a bit “deeper” in the “spectrum” of our work (please
see graphic below) that extends from things that are small
and easy to understand – to things that are more complex.

> So this is Lenin’s conception of imbuing, saturating
> the proletariat with socialist consciousness, and I think
> it is a correct one. Agitation written in a popular form
> for the broad masses, more in depth theoretical articles
> focused on the nature of the capitalist system, why the
> problems we point to in capitalism are irresolvable within
> capitalism, the need for it to be replaced, etc.

Let’s take a look at this spectrum:

In the graphic above, we can see a continuum of work, ranging
from journalistic exposure type articles (or comments that
might be made on existing articles) to deeper theoretical
work. At the top of the graphic are types of work that are
relatively easy for many readers to understand, and as we
get deeper the work involves the integration of increasingly
 things, and becomes understandable only to a smaller

I will not discuss, right now, the details of what forms of
distribution (ie: blogs, facebook, twitter, YouTube, email,
paper or verbal, etc) may be best suited for each layer.

Now let’s consider two more aspects of our work: the
population of people who will be reading (or watching)
our work (or maybe helping it spread on social media)
and the population who will be creating it. There will
be some overlap between these two populations (ie: the
creators and the consumers of content), but we can
understand that, in general, the creators will have a
higher level of political consciousness. We can picture
this in graphical form in the following image (which I
created for another purpose two years ago, but which is
still useful).

In the chart above, the most conscious section of the
population is colored in green, and the less conscious
(but far more numerous) section of the population is
colored in black. We can understand that the creators
of our content will tend to come from the green section,
while most of the consumers of our content will come
from the black section.

But this does not mean that we should simply “chase
numbers” by aiming our work at the black section.

The reason for this is simple. We cannot reach the
“consumers” in the black segment of the population
until such time as we have a critical mass of “creators”
(who can create a critical mass of content) from the
green section.

Let me give an example of the kind of content to which
we could give wide (and maybe viral) distribution.

An example (from the 21st century)

From the Associated Press (May 25):Another teen suicide after alleged assault
leaves California town asking tough questions
SARATOGA, Calif. — One evening last Labor Day weekend, 15-year-old Audrie Pott walked up the driveway of a classmate’s home alongside other teenagers. She’d told her parents she was spending the night with a friend. The friend claimed she was sleeping at Audrie’s. Instead, the girls were having a party. A classic teenage ploy.By all accounts, Audrie was a gorgeous girl. Her lush brown hair framed a heart-shaped face. Light makeup outlined her sharp brown eyes, but round cheeks gave her a childlike charm. She was a soccer player, a painter, a girl who at age 4 had the gumption to stand in front of 1,000 people in church and belt out a solo.On that Sunday night, she was just another kid pushing the limits as she celebrated the last days of summer, getting drunk with her friends on vodka and Gatorade.Police and a civil lawsuit outline allegations of what happened next: Three boys came into a room where Audrie had passed out. When she awoke the next morning, her shorts were off. Pictures were doodled on her body with a Sharpie. On one leg was the name of a boy, followed by the words “was here.”“My life is ruined,” Audrie would tell a friend in a Facebook message over the coming days. “I can’t do anything to fix it.”Soon Audrie learned about a photograph apparently making the rounds — of an intimate part of her body, taken, a family lawyer says, while she was passed out. “I have a reputation for a night I don’t even remember,” she wrote in another Facebook message, “and the whole school knows.”Eight days after the end-of-summer party, the sophomore who dreamed of traveling the world took her own life, hanging herself in a bathroom at home. Now the three boys, only 16 themselves, stand charged with sexual battery.

If the story of Audrie Pott rings familiar, it’s because, tragically, it is. The federal government last year released data showing a rise in cyberbullying and youth suicide, including cases such as the 2010 death of Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old Irish immigrant who hanged herself after bullying by classmates in South Hadley, Mass. Five students later accepted plea deals.

In Ohio, the rape of a 16-year-old girl last year was recorded on cellphones and gossiped about online. Two high school football players were convicted in the incident. And last month police in Canada reopened the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, a Halifax, Nova Scotia, teen whose family said she was photographed while being sexually assaulted in 2011 and bullied after the photo circulated online. Parsons died in April after hanging herself.

“How can our society provide a safe haven for young girls? Why do young men feel that young girls are but objects for their sexual fantasies and pleasure? Why do teenagers avoid seeking help when they are depressed and suicidal?” asked the pastor who delivered the eulogy for 17-year-old Rehtaeh.

Such questions come easily in the wake of these cases. Answers? Less so.

Now another community is left grappling with the loss of another girl, and Saratoga is asking its own questions. About blame and morality — but also what, if any, lessons can be learned from losing Audrie.

I would like to draw particular attention to the questions
asked by the Canadian pastor:

“How can our society provide a safe haven for young girls?
Why do young men feel that young girls are but objects for
their sexual fantasies and pleasure? Why do teenagers avoid
seeking help when they are depressed and suicidal?”

Readers want answers to these questions. Only the revolutionary
movement of the working class can give answers to questions like
this that make any sense.

Capitalist culture is mired in its own contradictions. Capitalist
media is based on the objectification of women. Capitalist
culture is based on the objectification of every human being.
Every time you see or hear a commercial in which another
human being is pitching some product at you–you are being
objectified (and the person doing the pitching is also being
objectified). This kind of culture, based on insincerity, cannot
change under bourgeois rule, which is based on the idea that
insincerity (every man for himself) in part of (supposed) “human

And the toxic culture we experience under capitalism adds up to
a crisis of mental and emotional health that impacts, in one way
or another, everyone. This toxic culture will only be overcome
when we overthrow the system of bourgeois rule.

Readers are interested in articles like the one that I quoted above
for several reasons. The article is about a phenomenon that is
emerging because of the increasing interconnectedness of young
people through social media. The article is about our changing
culture (sometimes called the “pornification of culture”). The article
is about something that takes place when the emerging revolution
in communications intensifies all the contradictions in society.

The problem, it will become clear with time, is not the increasing
role of open sexuality in our culture, but that under capitalism,
relationships between human beings (including the sexual dimension
of relationships) are treated as commodities. At Burning Man, for
example, there is a large amount of open sexuality. But the open
sexuality at Burning Man is not commodified (for example, there is
no advertising at Burning Man, nor is there anything, with rare
exception, that you can buy). And so the open sexuality at
Burning Man has a profoundly different character than the
commodified sexuality which saturates capitalist culture.

Only the revolutionary movement of the working class has the
ability to answer the questions on the minds of readers, and
can give readers the ability to understand the direction in which
humanity must and will develop.

But in order to create a news service that can give a reliable
analysis in which to put news items like this are placed in context,
we need a critical mass of activists who understand that all news
, in one way or another, toward the need for the rule of the
working class

So we need people from the green segment (in the chart above) to
reach the black segment. And we are never going to recruit the
activists we need from the green segment if we cannot raise their
consciousness about the nature of workers’ rule. And we cannot
raise anyone’s consciousness by promoting the “theory of dopes”
as the CVO does.

(continued in part 3)

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

(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.

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Ben SeattlePosts: 24
Join date: 2013-01-24
PostSubject: Life on Planet Earth (Reply to Eric – part 3 of 3)   Today at 3:38 pm

Life on Planet Earth
(Reply to Eric – part 3 of 3)

> Nowhere does Lenin talk about painting a well-formed
> picture of what socialism or communism will look like,
> nor does Marx, nor Engels, nor any other of the
> theoreticians of the communist movement. Of course,
> you might argue this might simply be an oversight,
> maybe there’s a value to doing so even if they didn’t,
> etc. But it does warrant asking the question, Why did
> they never consider it a priority to do?
Eric asks this question, but he does not do much to
answer it other than this:
> In other words … Engels says, we should be skeptical
> of how much we can truly say about future understanding.
> In particular, to pretend that we can know today much
> of anything about the particular organizational forms
> that socialism will take is fruitless.Eric is overlooking the obvious reason that our movement
needs to raise consciousness concerning the nature of
workers’ rule in a deeper way than was necessary during
the time of Marx or Lenin.** The FAILURE of the Russian and Chinese revolutions.** The transformation of these revolutions into POLICE STATES.** The utter CORRUPTION of the ruling party-state, in both
these cases, into a weapon, used by a NEW EXPLOITING CLASS,
for the suppression of the independent voice and independent
life of the working class.

** The creation of the LARGEST FAMINES IN HISTORY.

Eric continues:

> Of course, you might argue this
> might simply be an oversight

It is an oversight, all right. But not an oversight by
Marx or Engels or Lenin. It is an oversight by Eric, and
the CVO, who are overlooking the bitter experience of
the last 90 years

Eric and the good comrades of the CVO have a simple
(and they believe effective) method of dealing with
this bitter experience. They simply refuse to think
about it

This is what happens when someone’s concept of being a
revolutionary activist is reduced to being (essentially)
bible thumper. If it is not in the “good book”, it must
not exist.

The question of whether or not workers’ rule will be the
rule of the working class, and based on the democratic
rights of free speech and independent organization, or
a permanent police state–is considered by Eric to be a
question that it is “fruitless” to consider. And he
even believes that even such an authority as Engels
would back him up.

This is what happens when attempts at revolutionary work
are based on quote-chopping from authorities rather than
the application of living principles to life on planet

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► Reply to Art’s post “On Majority Rule” – [FoC.13.06.04]

Posted by Ben Seattle on June 4, 2013

Reply to Art’s post: “On Majority Rule”

Hi Art,

Overall, this is a good post. It puts a lot of things
into perspective.

I thought I should make just a few comments.

> Because working class rule is our guiding principle,
> we must also fight for democratic rights of freedom
> of speech and organization. Freedom of speech and
> organization must be protected because they are the
> democratic rights that will allow the masses to hold
> those in positions of power accountable. They are
> the rights that all other rights will rest upon.

Very good. The idea that higher democratic rights
rest on the foundation of free speech and independent
organization is a necessary and powerful idea, in
terms of understanding the nature of the kind of
world we want and need to create.

Continuing with your next sentence:

> When I describe these rights as being protected,
> I mean in very concrete ways using various
> organizational and technical devices, not simply
> just jotted down on a paper

We should understand that there is only one
fundamental protection for these rights: a
situation where everyone knows that, if the
government or state attempts to violate the
right to free speech or independent
organization in a major way on a Monday,
that millions of angry people will be
marching in the streets on Tuesday.

It is a case of “use it or lose it”. The democratic
rights of speech and organization are more fundamental
than all other rights because they are necessary to
organize the mass actions that can defend everything
else. On the other hand, if we lack those rights,
then all other rights eventually beome meaningless,
because we can’t defend our other rights if we are
blindfolded and our hands are tied. Without speech and
organization–then as soon as the ruling organization
becomes corrupt, we will not know what is going on and
would be unable to do anything about it even if we did

(see photo and caption below that I added June 5)

> A secondary mission might be for example, to study
> a book with the intention to learn from it and apply
> what we learned to our work. Or, a secondary mission
> might be to journalize exposures for propaganda. The
> former example may be done with a high degree of
> informality and lack of “policy,” but the second may
> require more formality and “policy” in order to be
> more effective. Furthermore, the former may get by
> on majority rule for quick decisions, such as how to
> organize the study group, or an action; but it may
> require broader consensus for decisions that require
> nearly unanimous support such as risky major actions
> or public statements.

Very good.

— Also —

Our movement will need to develop an understanding of
the term “democracy”. Currently, this term means two
entirely separate things (which are often confused with
one another).

The most common usage of the term “democracy” is to
describe the system of bourgeois parliamentary democracy
as practiced in the U.S., Europe, Japan and various
other countries.

Basically, this means the rule of capital disguised
with the fig leaf of (supposed) rule by the people.

For example, in the book “Tombstone”, which describes
the great Chinese famine, the author advocates China
developing a system of government based on “democracy”
as practiced in Western countries. Many people naively
view this system as representing the rule of the
majority of the people in each country.

In fact, the idea of “democracy” is central to the
system of bourgeois ideology. It is what everyone is
taught in school here in the U.S. The real nature of
our system, as the rule of the largest capitalists,
who use their money and control of the media to make
it appear that they represent the popular will, is
clear only to a minority of the population in normal
times, but to much larger sections of the population
during times in which the popular mass movements are
in motion.

The term “democracy” is also often used to mean a form
of government in which everyone has the democratic
rights of speech and organization. This is a sloppy
and incorrect use of language, but it is unfortunately
also common among a section of know-it-all philistine

For example, many times on some forum, when I assert
that workers’ rule will be based on the population
having the democratic rights of speech and organization,
there are people who will insist that such a thing
amounts to bourgeois rule. Their logic is that

“democratic rights” = “democracy”

and also that

“democracy” = bourgeois rule

and therefore that

“democratic rights” = “bourgeois rule”

So I agree with you that anyone who wants to throw the
term “democracy” around in discussion–must be compelled
to explain what they mean by it–because otherwise the
discussion is unlikely to rise above the level of
ignorant prejudice and a waste of everyone’s time.

Charles asked how an organization or party will be able
to make actionable decisions without “majority rule”.

Your answer was good. If the decision is on something
important–then a strong consensus is necessary. The
system used in the general assemblies was good, and
helped the general assemblies make the best decisions
here in Seattle in chaotic circumstances where many
new people with little experience were flooding into
the movement. The system in use forced debate and
discussion. This is what we need. The ability of a
small number to veto an important decision was also
necessary, as well as the safeguards which existed to
prevent abuse of the veto system.

The principle here is that decisions must be made in
a way that raises the consciousness of the maximum
number of people to the maximum extent practical in
the circumstances which exist at the time. The
differences in opinion concerning which action to
take–are also differences concerning which principles
must guide the movement. If a bad decision is made
(which will happen) then the maximum number of people
can learn from the experience and learn which
principles serve the movement and which do not.


Use it or lose it (photo and caption from AP News) Police detain an opposition supporter during an unsanctioned opposition rally in downtown Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 31, 2013. The Russian opposition protests on the 31st of each month are a nod to the 31st article of the Russian constitution, which guarantees the right of assembly.


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► 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

> 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

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.


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

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

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

—- 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

—- 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:


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

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,

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

(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

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

► 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.

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)


    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)


    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)


    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

    — Ben

    Lenin on a Bolshevik “two-party system”

    (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:

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

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

    comment by Ben (1999):

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

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

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

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

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

    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)


    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)



    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)


    ^^^ 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)


    <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)


    “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)


    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?)

    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)


    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)


    <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)


    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)


    <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)


    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)


    <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)


    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)


    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)


    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.

    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.

    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:

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

    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


    [1] The Life of Grigory Isayev: “They banged our heads against the pavement. ‘Only the ruling party can be right!'”

    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (The Cold Lamper)


    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)


    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)


    hi Cold Lamper,

    Thanks for your comment.

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

    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.

    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?

    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:

    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”.

    You continue:

    what are we seeking to make proletarian revolution for?

    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.

    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.)?

    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.

    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

    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.)

    I’ll try to get back to you later on the meat of your arguments

    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 ( ) when you have replied since I may not be able to monitor this site on a daily basis.

    — but…tell me I’m wrong!

    You are 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 […] in a communist context, Ben?

    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)


    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)


    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)


    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>


    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Quorri)


    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)



    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)



    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)



    about 5 years ago
  • Guest (Harsh Thakor)


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

Posted by Ben Seattle on May 31, 2013

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

Hi Smooth Broomhead,

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

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

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

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

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

— 1 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— 2 —

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

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

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

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

(1) Our revolutionary mass organization

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

(2) Our revolutionary goal

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

(3) Independence from social-democracy

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

(4) Digital infrastructure

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

— 3 —

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

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

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

All the best,
Ben Seattle

My “upper” blog: (http, etc)
The main archive of my work: (http, etc)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment by Ben (1999):

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

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

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

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

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


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

Posted by Ben Seattle on May 30, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Ben Seattle

America’s China mistake

As Beijing becomes more bellicose, Washington clings to the hope that military-to-military relations will somehow relieve tensions. They won’t.,0,7560801.story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Posted by Ben Seattle on May 30, 2013

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

I posted a comment:

Hi there Michael,

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

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

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

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

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

Ben Seattle

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

Posted by Ben Seattle on May 30, 2013

Revolutionary struggle and cargo-cult marxism in India

Hi Art,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some (of many) relevant wikipedia pages:

All the best,


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

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

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

Posted by Ben Seattle on May 27, 2013

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

Hi Art,

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

Frank Patino:

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

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

My efforts to describe the state

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

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

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

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

Here is what I wrote in 2004:

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

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

Continuing with my comments from 2004:

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

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

— Point 11 in The Laws of Commodity Production for Dummies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Formal state vs. deep state

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The independence of the state

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

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

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

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

Cargo-cult distortions of the role of the state

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, the truth is the opposite.

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

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

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

More (hopefully) soon.

All the best,


[1] Engels’ “Origin of the Family”

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

— source:,_Private_Property_and_the_State


Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

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

Posted by Ben Seattle on May 25, 2013

Hi Art,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the best,

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

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

Posted by Ben Seattle on April 24, 2013

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

(Parts 1 and 2 and posted here and here)

Hi there Red Fox,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe you do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kasama, Red Spark and the contradictions of movement:
Part 1:
Part 2:

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

— 1 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

— 2 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You also raise the topic of humility.

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

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

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

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

All the best,
Ben Seattle



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

► Digital Infrastructure and the Emergence of Communist Transparency (November 1999) – [FoC.12.12.21]

Posted by Ben Seattle on December 21, 2012

I wrote this 14 years ago.  I am posting it here as a reminder to myself to read it again.

Some of the links in this post may still work.  Others will not.

The time is approaching when many of these ideas may become practical. — Ben

last updated: 17.Apr.99

Project Prometheus:Digital Infrastructure
and the Emergence of
Communist Transparency
How web-accessible databases
will assist the self-organization of
the anti-revisionist communist movement

Here is how we will use the web
to help progressive and communist activists
become more conscious of the activity of others
and better organize their own activity

— Based on discussion of Ben Seattle and John K — November 1998 —



  1. Project MAD  Media Abstract Discussion
  2. Project PAD  Progressive Article Database
    2a. public interactive margins
  3. Project IDOCC  International Database of Organizations Claiming to be Communist
  4. Project SPAR  Scientific Polemical Accountability for Revolutionaries
  5. Who is this guy?  (pages to assess people)
    5a. tickets  5b. the 3 axes  5c. registration for revolutionaries
  6. Forums  Arenas of combat and collaboration
    6a. structured posts  6b. attention levels  6c. no top-heavy trees  6d. response attachment zones 6e. collaborative filtering  6f. bozo filters  6g. node control by author of post  6h. reader override of node control 6i. compete-for-attention pages  6j. changing posts  6k. encryption
  7. FAQ  Interactive Glossary  Timeline
  8. Database of public meetings and demonstrations
  9. List of lists       (ie:
  10. Integration with existing email lists
  11. Web Hosting
    11a. Sub-domains  11b. Independent domains
  12. Updatable Task List  “TO DO” database
  13. A little philosophy
    13a. Open source and standards  13b. Our Basic Method: (start modestly and evolve step by step)

   Some Discussion (located on another page)

Public domain vs. GPL-type license  Registration (technical)  Developing Standards
 XML  Transition to post-prototype  First things first  Scouts

<% greenbox_title “intro”, “– Introduction –” %>

Go to table of contents

— Introduction —

Click on the image
above to see the
Architecture for Victory

The coming revolution in communications will, as decade rolls after decade, have an immense impact every sphere of human activity. In particular, the revolution in communications will profoundly transform the nature of the class struggle and usher in a period of information war which will lead to the victory, on a world scale, of the proletariat.The projects described on this page are intended to assist this process: (1) to assist theself-organization of the communist movement as a movement with the ability to cast off the bankrupt theories and practices which have accumulated since the death of Lenin, and (2) to assist the interaction (and mutual influence) between the emerginganti-revisionist communist movement and a large and ever-increasing section of the working class.

The particular projects described here may or may not ever see the light of day as vehicles capable of harnessing the revolutionary energy of thousands (much less millions) of workers or progressive activists. What is certain, however, is that eventually projects based upon similar principles will bring consciousness to the working class and lead to its final victory over bourgeois rule. And the experience gained on the projects here may be of real use to this process.

The most important of the projects below will be the creation of a functional prototypeof a future Workers’ News Network (see “Project MAD” below).

Other key projects will be a database of communist organizations (or at least organizations that consider themselves to be communist) and a system of forums that use collaborative filtering and are of greater practical use than current forums. <% greenbox_title “mad”, “1. Project MAD
— Media Abstract Discussion –” %>

Go to table of contents

1. Project MAD
— Media Abstract Discussion —

This will allow anyone to enter info (ie: a short review or abstract, with comments) about any magazine or newspaper article.  The items reviewed could be from either the mainstream press or the left press. The idea here would be (given a body of volunteers) to create organized and summarized meta information about both the bourgeois and left press. If, for example, you wanted to know what was going on with China, you would be able to query the database for all articles in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal that were about China in the last six months.  You could also, of course, do the same thing for the left press.  This assumes, as I have noted, that there is a sufficient body of volunteers to summarize many key publications in both the mainstream and left press.Hence, Project MAD would be a functional prototype for a future electronic news service that would contain “all the news that serves the proletarian revolution”.  Or, depending on how it was indexed and sorted, it could function as something similar to a Wall Street Journal for the working class.

Project Mad would also review books, web sites, movies and so on.  The future news service would, in essense, “reflect, refine and redeem” all that was truely important in the entire mediasphere.  I should add that I consider the development of such a news service to be inevitable.  It is my hope that such a prototype as I am working on could provide experience that may be helpful for more ambitious projects.

Project MAD would not censor contributions by anyone unless the item was rabidly racist, etc.  The selection of items to be seen by users would be determined by a series of filters that would be set by various political trends that would both compete and cooperate with one another.

The final project (ie: not Project MAD, not the prototype–but the future news service) would be highly distributed and replicated among a large number of different servers.  This would make censorship nearly impossible and would make it far more difficult for unfriendly forces to jam the servers.  Copyright would *not* be used because by making everything public domain–we facilitate the full use of the entire body of material by political trends which often are quite hostile to one another and not inclined to cooperate in the least.  Without copyright–it becomes extremely difficult for any “controlling authority” to emerge that could deny use of the database to anyone for any purpose.  On the contrary we are talking about something that is widely distributed and public domain–so that no control (either physical or legal) becomes very practical.  The cooperation between the different servers/groups/people involved would be facilitated by a series of standards that are worked out in the course of creating all this.  Hence our development and organizational model is patterned very loosely on the IETF/RFC methods used in the development of the internet.

Note also that all leftist political groups could use Media Abstract Discussion to index each and every article in their newspapers and journals.  So this would be a significant step in the direction of the unity of all revolutionary forces.  The various trends may still hate each other, lie about one another, fight with one another, etc–but now would be, for the first time, all on “one page”, so to speak.

Also (and this is very important) everything in the MAD database would be interactive.  This means that readers would be able to comment on articles, comment on other comments, and filter out comments by bozos. If you felt that some article contained a misrepresentaion or a lie, you would be able to say so.  Hence, every article would become, in effect, a forum of sorts.  And collaborative filtering would allow readers to have the choice of leveraging the filters and ratings of others like themselves.

go to contents
Current status

       Much of this has already been implemented in software
       and is available for beta testing at:


       The next step is to organize the creation and entry
       of database items -- so that we can work with more
       realistic data and also attact database contributions
       from progressive people.

<% greenbox_title “pad”, “2. Project PAD
— Progressive Article Database –” %>

Go to table of contents

2. Project PAD
— Progressive Article Database —

This would allow progressive articles to be uploaded using a standard format.  Just like articles in a database used by a newspaper, there would be standards for summaries, headlines, subheadings, etc.  When displayed on the web, each paragraph would have a number.  One model for this is the format I use in most of the web pages that are part of the “Self-Organizing Moneyless Economy”.  If I want to link to a particular paragraph from another page–it is easy to do so.In the system I used to generate the “SOME” pages there were 2 kinds of titles (a floating title and a main title), an abstract and 3 levels of headings (which automatically generated a table of contents) and the ability to automatically link back and forth to and from footnotes. There was also a standard way of handling bold and italic words or phrases. Not implemented (but which we would eventually need) was a method to highlight and enlarge a portion of text for use in a sidebar inserted in the text body (many magazines use this technique and it assists readers to find the “juicy” sections that help them decide if the article is worth reading).

go to contents
2a. public interactive margins

Comments made by readers could also be attached to particular paragraphs (and eventually particular sentences, words or phrases–just like the annotation feature in Microsoft Word).

Shown above: in Microsoft Word, readers can highlight a particular phrase and attach a comment to the phrase. Revolutionaries will need the ability to do this over the web.

I call this last feature “Public Interactive Margins”.  Readers would be able to decide for themselves, when they read an article, whether or not to display the public margins.  Naturally, the comments in the margins would be subject to the filters selected by readers (which would not only eliminate junk but sort the material by rating).  And readers would be able to make comments in the margins of comments, etc. The idea of “public interactive margins” is strongly related to the “response attachment zone” for posts to forums (see the “forums” section below). The main difference is that the response attachment zone would be a single zone where a response to a post is attached. Public interactive margins could be (at the discretion of the reader) displayed side-by-side with the paragraph of the original material. <% myTitle = “3. Project IDOCC
International Database
of Organizations” myTitle = myTitle & ”
Claiming to be Communist” greenbox_title “idocc”, myTitle %>

Go to table of contents

3. Project IDOCC
International Database of Organizations

This would be a database of organizations (or parties, or party chapters) that consider themselves to be communist.  Each entry would be updatable by the organization itself.  So if a reader wanted to know what communist organizations existed, what they believed and what they were doing–he could have one place to check (ie: “one-stop shopping”).  Presently, there are a number of web sites that provide lists of links to communist organizations.  But IDOCC would be the most comprehensive and would be updated by the organizations themselves.  It would give a concentrated summary of the activity and theoretical positions of the various organizations, using “structured posts” and “compete for attention pages” (see below).The IDOCC would also allow readers to make comments and criticisms (pro, con or neutral) about each organization.

The database could be queried.  If a reader wanted to know what organizations thought about Trotsky (or Stalin), for example, this would be easy to do.  It would be easy to list and compare the positions on any controversial person or issue.  It would also be easy to view the assessments that each organization had of any other organization.

Individuals could also be listed in the IDOCC.

It would be possible to sort and/or filter the list of organizations based many different criteria:

	(a) geographical location
	(b) claimed size
	(c) organizational form 
		(ie: party, branch, basic unit, collective,
		working group, study group, individual)
	(d) claimed adherence to one or another trend or theory
	(e) degree of interactivity and openness 
		(ie: how regularly they answer public questions 
		posed to them by friends, foes or readers and 
		entered into a public database of questions and
	(f) size or activity of associated forums 
		-- or -- number of articles (or readership of those
		articles -- or the ratings of those articles) in
		the MAD database
	(g) links to armed struggles or insurgencies  
		(ie: like in Turkey, Columbia, Peru, Myanmar, etc)
	(h) ratings, endorsements or complaints of various
	    kinds made by people or organizations
	(i) source of information 
		(ie: who entered the info: the organization 
		 itself, a supporter or a complete stranger)

We also would like to give each organization or person in IDOCC a web-based forum that they could control.All data in the database would be public. The database would be accessible from Like other projects here, the idea would be to start somewhat modestly and gradually “grow” the project as it attracted input and readership. <% myTitle = “4. Project SPAR

Scientific Polemical Accountability
for Revolutionaries” greenbox_title “spar”, myTitle %>

Go to table of contents

4. Project SPARScientific Polemical Accountability for Revolutionaries

The basic idea behind SPAR is simple. When you want to publically ask a question of some person or organization–this would be the place to do it. The items in this database would consist of structured posts with some additional fields for who is asking the question and who is being asked.The need for SPAR finds its origin in the saturation of the “communist” movement with charlatanism. Charlatanism is almost everywhere. And charlatanism is going to have to be punctured. SPAR is designed to be a weapon to do this. The motto here is: “Build a better weasel trap and the proletariat will beat a path to our door”.

SPAR was concieved as a tool to use within the communist movement and, in particular, for people and organizations that are part of IDOCC. The concepts involved may find application elsewhere but for now my focus is to confront charlatanism within the communist movement.

SPAR would consist of people or organizations who have a made a public commitment to make a public response to public questions (whether these questions are friendly, hostile or neutral).

Revolutionaries are busy people and cannot be expected to drop whatever they are doing anytime anybody asks them anything–so there would have to be very clearly defined “rules of engagement”. For example, the commitment may be only to reply to questions from others who have made the SPAR commitment. And there will be time frames involved. For example, if a question is asked in the month of November, the commitment might be to reply by the end of the following month, December. And the commitment might only be to submit a brief response, for example a reply of 200 words or so (ie: what in a structured post is called a “long summary”). There would also be agreed limitations on frequency of questions. The SPAR commitment (or pledge) might specify that only 6 questions a year (for example) will be answered from a particular person or group. The details of what would be practical would have to be worked out by real people as this develops.

And, a response to a question could be a statement to the effect that: We will not reply to you because we consider your question to be stupid or we consider you to be (a) a waste of our time, (b) a charlatan, (c) we are finished with you, etc.

The intent here is to implement a mechanism to force controversies and evasive manuevers out into the light of day where everyone can see them.

At present there is no such mechanism. When you ask a charlatan a question–he will often ignore you and it is difficult to compel these characters to reply. Further–when they are compelled to reply–you get a blizzard of words that say nothing and evade the subject.

But having questions and answers in a summarized form in a central public database makes such evasive manuevers increasingly difficult–because it helps to increase _transparency_. Anyone looking at the database can see who is being evasive and draw their own conclusions.

SPAR could also find application as a database of friendly or neutral questions and I expect that the majority of questions in it will not be hostile. But it is the need to have a central focus for questions with hostile intent–aimed at exposing stupidity, opportunism, cowardice, hypocrisy, evasion and treachery–that makes something like SPAR necessary.

Naturally, charlatans will not be eager to sign the SPAR pledge and have their web sites certified as “SPAR Compliant”. But, as the community of people interested in building a healthy and powerful communist movement develops–this community will exert a powerful pressure. People and organizations that are not SPAR compliant will lose prestige–will lose the ability to hold their heads high–and will lose the ability to play trusting activists for suckers. <% greenbox_title “whois”, “5. Who is that guy?
— Pages to assess people –” %>

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5. Who is that guy?
— Pages to assess people —

This is something that can be applied to both MAD and IDOCC. Each contributor (whether a person or organization) represents an item in our database. And, like other items, can be an attachment point for structured posts.In particular, it would be useful to create a compete-for-attention page (ie: a page where anyone can attach a single structured post and the posts are sorted by ratings) for each person or organization in IDOCC. That way, if you want to get a quick picture of what people think of this or that person (or organization) you could click on the associated page and find out what everyone thinks about them. This would also be a place for the person himself to tell people who he is: his background, experience and what organizations he has supported or currently supports.

Two additional features will also be helpful here:

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5a. Tickets

Currently, people who drive unsafely can be given tickets by police. In the future, as the communications revolution unfolds, tickets will probably be given to drivers by other drivers. It will probably be as simple as honking a horn is today. The power to give tickets will be _distributed_.

It will be useful to allow the readers and users of IDOCC to also give one another tickets. The tickets would be for specific “offenses” and would be linked to particular posts which were in violation.

What would the offenses be ? I am still studying this. One offense would be distorting or misrepresenting someone’s position on something. Another might be a big discrepency between someone’s “mission statement” (required when registering at IDOCC) and their behavior (ie: hypocrisy). We could even come up with categories such as “extreme stupidity” (altho I am not too sure about that). Each person would be able to issue up to 3 tickets a month (or something like this).

Anyone would be able to easily look up how many tickets any person or organization has received. That would give you a quick read on anyone or any organization. A reader would be able to read any of the tickets and link to the associated post for which the ticket was issued. By looking at the offending post the reader will be able to judge whether good judgement was used in issuing the ticket.

The software would probably be set such that no tickets could be issued for “casual” posts. Hence people would be able to act somewhat outrageously as long as their posts were “casual”. If you as a reader get tired of this–you would be able to set your filter to hide casual posts or simply hide the casual posts of certain people.

It would also be just as easy to look up all the tickets that a particular person has issued. Some people will issue a lot of worthless tickets (it can safely be assummed that for every feature we can dream up–there will be idiots who make every effort to abuse such a feature). People who write up tickets for stupid reasons will be recognized as such–and if, for example, you have set your bozo filter not to show tickets issued by Malecki–then you will not see those when you check up on someone.

Tickets will be resolved when the person who gets the ticket makes an apology that is satisfactory to the person who creates the ticket. At that point–the author of the ticket will mark it as “resolved”. If the ticket is not resolved it will be “outstanding”. When you look up someone’s ticket history you will be able to see both resolved and outstanding tickets (we can color code them or something similar).

Naturally, since everything here is a database, you would be able to sort a list of people by the number of outstanding tickets (or the ratio of posts to outstanding tickets) or by many other criteria.

Ticket history will undoubtedly influence the judgement of readers concerning who to put on their bozo filter. People who want wide readership will feel heavy pressure to make sincere apologies and get their tickets resolved.

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5b. The 3 Axes

Participants in IDOCC will also be “rated” in three separate dimensions. There are many things that people (or organizations) could be rated on–but I suspect that 3 axes are fundamental. One of these axes is personal and two of them are political.

The personal axis would be called “personal maturity and seriousness”. It would be related to how the person conducts himself. Is he careful not to exaggerate matters or incite or antagonize other people–he is likely to enjoy a good rating here.

The two political axes would relate to the practice of the person in relation to sectarianism and reformism. Sectarianism and reformism, I have concluded, represent the two principle diseases that infect the communist movement. Most other serious problems are related to these two diseases. Sectarianism essentially represents a failure to recognize the revolutionary potential of others–and a failure to, on this basis, engage in principled cooperation with others. Reformism represents a failure to oppose manifestations of the bourgeois ideology and practice (often known as “social-democracy”) that unfortunately saturate all progressive movements.

All 3 axes are separate from one another but it is likely that there will be a stronger corelation between the ratings on the “personal maturity” axis and the “sectarian” axis than between the “maturity” and “reformism” axis.

It will be possible to view all participants in terms of their ratings in this three dimensional space.

Eventually, as the process develops of separating authentic communists from people and organizations that call themselves communists, the ratings on the 3 axes will be helpful in viewing and understanding progress.

The most important of the axes will be the 3rd one (ie: reformism). But progress on this front, more so than the other two, will only take place as the class struggle heats up in society. It is only the unfolding of events in the world that leads political activists to have hatred for the treacherous and undermining role played by reformism.

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5c. Registration for revolutionaries

In the US everyone is given a “social security” number. This is essentially a national ID number. We are going to create something similar. I am thinking in terms of using the “logon” however instead of a number.

The registration for MAD or IDOCC will be able to function as something like an “identity check” for revolutionaries. It will be anonymous and free. But it will make it easier to know who you are dealing with, what people think of him, what he has written (such as looking up all posts by this or that person) and (very important) what complaints have been lodged against him.

Since registration is anonymous and free, it would not be possible to prevent someone from creating more than one identity. But it would be possible to prevent many people from creating a large number of identities (we can record IP address and browser type and language and hence would be able to enforce a few common sense rules to prevent most jerks from having dozens of different logons).

Jerks who end up on lots of bozo lists will find themselves compelled to create new identities. To a certain extent this may forever be a bit of a cat-and-mouse game. But we do not need to create a prefect system: we simply want something that allows most of the jerks to be exposed most of the time with the minimal effort. <% greenbox_title “forums”, “6. Forums
Arenas of combat and collaboration” %>

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6. Forums
Arenas of combat and collaboration

Nearly all of these projects would be linked to forums in one or more ways. For example, a news article in Project MAD would serve as a jumping off point for a forum on that article. Posts in one forum would also be able to link to posts made in different forums–so that all posts could ultimately be connected. Likewise, posts could be attached to an entry for an organization (or person) in IDOCC. In general, we want readers to be able to attach posts to just about anything including, of course, other posts. And we want to give readers the power to see the posts, filter them out, sort them, or assign the filtering/sorting decisions to some person or organization whose judgement they respect.go to contents
6a. structured posts

I am experimenting with what I call a “structured post”. This would consist of a series of informational fields, each about 3 or 4 times the size of the previous field. The current model is as follows:

    30 bytes
    120 bytes
    400 bytes
    1200 bytes
    5000 bytes

Anything longer than 5 KB could be part of a PAD item.We want to encourage posters to summarize their posts. Someone creating a post will never know the format in which it may be viewed by a reader–so a useful summary in each field will maximize awareness of whatever idea is being described and increase the chances that an interested reader will feel compelled to “drill down” for more information.

It is possible to summarize material using Microsoft Word’s autosummarize feature. I am not making this up. It actually does a far better job than you would expect. But I am sure that it cannot do as well as the authors of each post.

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6b. attention levels

Each person who creates a structured posts could assign it an “attention level”. A casual comment, for example, should not be regarded the same as a post where you have given a great amount of thought to a subject. This would correspond, roughly, to the difference between a casual comment you might make to a friend and the kind of comment you might make in a formal debate. In the structured posts that are part of Project MAD, there are 4 levels:

     (1) private
     (2) casual
     (3) reference
     (4) attention.  

The most common attention level is intended to be “reference”. The FAQ for Project MAD explains that reference-level posts should be political but are not expected to necessarily be all that thought out. The expectations for an attention level of “attention” are much higher. And the expectations of “casual” are very low. If you want to simply say “fuck you asshole” to someone–you should make sure your post is casual. At the other extreme, if you criticise someone in a post with an attention level of “attention” — you should write in an all-sided way–and point out what is correct and healthy in their thinking as well as what is not.

I plan to eventually add 2 more levels: (5) “serious attention” and (6) “life and death”. But readers and posters would need a fair amount of experience with what already exists before it would be productive to add these additional levels.

I have also given thought to adding a level intermediate between private and casual. This could be used to make a comment that is only visible to people of your choice. This would enable, in effect, a kind of private conferencing.<% bluehead “topheavy”, “6c. no top-heavy trees” %>

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6c. no top-heavy trees

The way that Project MAD works, no response can be made at a _higher level of attention_ than the post being responded to. This is one of the few “rigid rules” that it may make sense to enforce. The reason for this is to encourage a certain kind of tree structure in the discussion. We probably do not want “top-heavy trees”. If a casual comment is made, only casual comments (or private comments) may be made in response to it. An “attention” level post, on the other hand, could be replied to with a post at any level. Some intuitive thought may reveal the advantage of this: from the point of view of the reader–you know that if you want to find the important stuff–that it is not “hidden” or buried beneath several levels of responses to something that looks like it is not important.

This would help to reinforce the notion that attention levels of posts really do mean something–really do affect what can be done with a post. This may also help posters to understand that a casual post (ie: the lowest level that someone else will be able to see) will probably be safe from an “attention-level” post attacking it. We want to encourage people to understand that weaker ideas that are in the early stages of development–will be much safer at the lower attention levels. The higher attention levels are for ideas that reflect greater confidence and are ready for attack from any direction.

Now suppose you want to draw attention to what someone has said in a forum in a post that was at a “casual” or “reference” level. How do you do it ? You can’t attach an “attention” level post in response to a post with a lower level. So what do you do ? You would create an “attention” level post and attach it to the forum and in that post you could discuss the other post (ie: the one you want to praise or criticize) and _link_ to that post.

The details of how this would work will become more clear as this is implemented. Sometimes it is useful or necessary to call attention to an idea that is circulating more quietly. Lenin’s “What Is To Be Done?”, for example, revolves around criticism of the economist’s “Credo” which was something almost in the way of a semi-private draft and not intended to have a large circulation. But Lenin felt it was important to analyse the “Credo” because it laid out in clear form the thinking of the economist trend which had a very large and unhealthy influence among marxist circles in Russia. <% bluehead “razones”, “6d. response attachment zones” %>

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6d. response attachment zones

When a post is displayed, other posts that have responded to it are displayed in what I am calling the “response attachment zone”. How this response zone should be displayed–becomes a question of great interest.

At present, in Project MAD, posts that are attached (to a MAD item or to another post) are sorted either chronologically or by “attention level”. They are also shown several levels deep, with less information shown on posts that are deeper. But there are a great many ways to filter, sort and display posts and we will have to experiment with real data to find the methods that are likely to be of greatest use to readers.

We can sort posts by rating (using collaborative filtering) and also by what I call “accumulated weight” (where the ratings of a post’s children and grand-children, etc, are added up or play a role) so that posts that have drawn a lot of useful comments would tend to float up to the top like a bubble in a vat of sewage.

Also, if a hundred posts are attached to post “A” we might only want to display a very small amount of information about each post (maybe just short title). But if only 5 posts were attached to “A”, then our display might show much more information about each post (maybe short and long titles and short and long summaries). Our algorithms should be able to do these kinds of things automatically. Also–we might show more information about posts that are highly rated, etc.

John has noted that there will be a need for the user to see only his own posts (or only posts that have replied to his own posts). Or maybe you want to take a look at only the posts of a particular person. All this kind of functionality will have to made available. Once we make this functionality available, we will then continue to experiment with it–and distil those features of greatest use. Most readers prefer not to be confronted with an array of technical decisions on how to display stuff–so we will eventually need to settle on useful default formats that advanced users could customize.

Our goal is to find methods of showing the reader the maximum amount of *useful* information and shielding him from the maximum amount of information that he doesn’t want to look at. <% bluehead “collab”, “6e. collaborative filtering” %>

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6e. collaborative filtering

Collaborative filtering will be very important. Collaborative filtering gets around the problem that there are a lot of jerks and idiots who tend to rate stuff differently than I do–and I don’t want their ratings to affect what I see.

Let me briefly explain how it works. If everyone rates posts and you sort posts by the *average* rating–this is *not* true collaborative filtering. Collaborative filtering involves an algorithm that computes a “distance” between all the participants. For example, if João and I tended to rate the same posts in a similar way, the alogorithm would compute a relatively short distance between João and me in “ratings space”. If I were to look at a list of posts–collaborative filtering might then show me a listing of posts sorted by the ratings of the 20% of the participants who were closest to me in “ratings space”. Put in less mathematical terms–it means that greater weight would be placed on the ratings of *those people* who have tended to agree with me in the past. <% bluehead “bozo”, “6f. bozo filters” %>

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6f. bozo filters

[this section to be completed soon–Ben Seattle 17.Apr.99] <% bluehead “node”, “6g. node control by author of post” %>

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6g. node control by author of post

One concept that I have been considering–is to allow the author of each post to set default filters for the “response attachment zone” to his post. What this means is that if I create a post–I have control over whose posts show up as response to it. If, for example, I conclude that posts by Robert Malecki (a well-known hothead in the cyber-marxist millieu) are not welcome by the readers of my posts–then I would set a bozo filter such that Malecki’s responses to my post would not even show up when readers looked at the response zone for my post. <% bluehead “override”, “6h. reader override of node control” %>

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6h. reader override of node control

In such cases as described above–it would be important that the reader always have the final word on what posts can be seen. Hence the reader would be able to override the default filters set up by the author of each post. Most readers would not do this if the post author had a reputation of using good judgement in creating the default filters. Hence, this introduces a healthy dynamic tension. If an author sets his default filter to zap intelligent and thoughtful replies–he will find that readers tend to ignore his default filter and use their own. <% bluehead “caps”, “6i. compete-for-attention pages” %>

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6i. compete-for-attention pages

A variation on the forum idea is what I call a “compete for attention page”. This would be kind of like a forum but it would be special type of forum in which each person is allowed only one post. If you wanted to add something–you would have to either change your post or mark it as inactive so that you could add a new post.

Compete-for-attention pages would not be oriented towards a dialog between participants as much as presenting a quick overview of someone’s view on a particular subject. The usefulness of this can be seen in a scenario of a reader checking out IDOCC. The reader wants to know the positions of the various groups (and people) on Stalin or Trotsky or some particular issue. By going to the compete-for-attention page on Stalin, Trotsky, Mao or whatever the issue is–the reader could get a quick summary of everyone’s view.

Such pages could also be useful in organizing ideas on a wide variety of subjects. Like any “response attachment zone”, the posts could be sorted by ranking using collaborative filtering. This kind of thing would help to organize useful information because the various items of information would compete in this arena for the mindshare of readers.

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6j. changing posts

In Project MAD, once a post has been created–it cannot be changed. If a reader wants to change his post, he can _deactivate_ it and write another post. My reasoning on this was that a post should be a record of what was written, what other people have read and what they responded to. If a post can be changed after someone else has responded to it–then a reader begins to lose the chain of cause and effect–the “audit trail” that lets him know how the action has unfolded.

Since then, however, I have been considering whether our software should be more flexible. Several web-based discussion systems that I have looked at allow their posters a short period of time (ie: ten minutes on one system, 30 minutes on another) to modify their posts. This indicates to me that there must be a strong demand from users that they be allowed to modify their posts. If we want people to use our system–we will have to respond to this demand–or people will go and use some *other* web-based system 😦

I have concluded that there would really be no problem allowing someone to modify a post as long as the record of the original wording is preserved in the post’s history and is publically accessible. Hence, when a post is displayed, there would be a link (if the post has been modified) that would allow users to see the post as it was originally. If the post is modified more than once–then all previous versions would be visible using this history link. That way there will be no need for unclarity over what someone has said and someone else has responded to. The ability to change posts has not yet been implemented but I plan to do this next time I put on my programmer’s hat and fiddle with the code.

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6.k encryption

Since all the software and data for all of these systems would be public domain–we would have to use encryption to keep private material private. At the same time, however, there are numerous legal, technical and political problems that arise from the use of encryption. Facilitating secure communications among workers in many countries, including supporters of organizations that the US government considers “terrorist” (ie: FARC in Columbia and the DHKP-C in Turkish Kurdistan, etc.) may step on a some powerful toes that would take considerable offense. So we probably want to avoid making any decision on this for a few years or until there develops, in the community we are helping to assemble, a consensus that encryption is necessary and is worth defending from a legal, technical and political angle (see below).

In the meantime, we should educate ourselves on related issues such as the Wassenaar Arrangement (an international agreement between the U.S. and most of the developed countries on restricting the use of strong encryption by workers) and related technical issues–including what other progressive organizations are doing. One good starting point for this is:

What are some of the legal, technical and political issues?Legal: Technically, it is not difficult to implement strong encryption on either the server side (ie: our server in New Jersey) or the client side (ie: the encryption is done on the user’s computer via PGP implemented in Java script). Client side encryption has the advantage that the user’s password does not travel over the internet in unencrypted form where it would be vulnerable to a packet sniffer. From a legal view, however, putting client-side encryption on a web page that is stored on a server in the United States–could be considered export (which you are probably aware is still illegal in the US). There may be various ways around this. It is very much to our advantage to keep everything legal. And it is also desirable to use servers located in many countries, including the US. The law barring the export of encryption will likely be thrown out in a few years. The national security apparatus in the US is hell-bent on continuing to prohibit the export of encryption. But this runs counter to the economic interests of the computer industry and these interests will likely prevail. We could also openly defy the encryption export laws–but to do this sucessfully would probably require a well-organized campaign by hundreds, if not thousands, of people–and by the time we have that much support–I suspect the law will have long been junked.

Technical: It is easy to implement strong encryption that no one can break–but it is not necessarily easy at all to prevent someone from simply bringing down our server or hacking it so that the web pages we send have been tampered with to defeat security.

Political: It would be easy for hostile forces to have some stooge place encrypted material on our server that is related to child porn, biological warfare or nuclear terrorism. Then, at an appropriate moment, the material could be “discovered” and compliant news media would echo the charge that PIX/IDOCC is involved in kiddie porn and/or biological/nuclear terror. The defense against this would require that the project is large enough (and involves activists conscious enough) to mount a political defense that would make such an attack on us backfire.

What is our current status?MAD does not use encryption at present. Instead user’s passwords are scrambled in a non-reversable way before being stored on the server we are renting in New Jersey. This means that anyone who looks at our password file will not see any information that would be of any use even if they have access to our algorithms–because reversing the scrambling process is computationally infeasible (ie: even I do not know user’s passwords).

Because, no encryption is currently used, a user’s “private” posts are not really private. Anyone that looks on the directory can see all posts. The best way to handle this (for now) would probably be to simply inform the user (in the FAQ) that the privacy of these posts is limited–and is protected mainly by the software not making it easy for someone to read someone else’s private comments.

John told me that the patent for PGP expires in the year 2000. I had not realized it was quite that soon. This is good news. I suspect, however, that for the reasons given, it may be a few years before we need to make any decision on this. <% greenbox_title “faq”, “7. FAQ,
Interactive Glossary
and Timeline” %>

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7. FAQ,
Interactive Glossary
and Timeline

I have created a list of definitions on my web site. For IDOCC we could make such a list of terms updateable by every person or organization. Then readers could see a common glossary (together with competing definitions) for many widely used terms.We could do similar things with a common FAQ. Compete-for-attention pages could be helpful here.

We could also create a common “timeline” that people could update. It could contain years and months along one axis and countries (and other subcategories) along the other axis in a table. The table cells could contain links to more information or we could make all updating via structured posts. <% greenbox_title “demodata”, “8. Database of public meetings
and demonstrations” %>

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8. Database of public meetings
and demonstrations

This is self-descriptive. You live in city X. You use this to find out what is going on where you live in the next few days or weeks. Would be automatically updatable by anyone registered in IDOCC. <% greenbox_title “metalist”, “9. List of lists
(ie:” %>

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9. List of lists

I maintain at a list of email discussion lists where many of the participants consider themselves to be marxist. The functionality of this list may eventually be absorbed by MAD and IDOCC. But since these have been slow to get started–I created the “list of lists” so that something could exist in the meantime.If anyone would like to apply themselves to a project that could be useful (and less complicated than MAD or IDOCC) — this could be a good opportunity to gain some experience. Working on such a project would involve everything from design to promotion to maintenance.

The LOL could be either maintained by hand or automated (ie: so that list owners could update info directly). It could contain basic information about all the marxist-oriented lists, such as:

	a) what is the web page (if any) of the list ?
	b) how many people are subscribed ?
	c) how many posts per month on average ?
	d) what kinds of topics are discussed ?
	e) what is the list charter or mission statement ?
           (ie: what the basic rules are and what kind of people are welcome)
	f) who has been suspended or expelled and why ?
	g) who are the top ten contributors (by volume) ?
	h) how do you subscribe and unsubscribe ?
	i) who runs the list ?
	j) what is the general reputation of the list ?

In addition to email lists, there are also web-based lists and usenet. The number of such forums will eventually be in the hundreds or thousands. There should be a reliable central place so that activists can know about all the discussion forums related to marxism. There should also be links to information on any necessary software (for example with usenet).More than this– there should be a decent introduction to newcomers concerning what these lists are–and what they are not–and what we expect and hope them to be in a few years. John, if I am not mistaken, your expectations concerning what you expected to find at L-I were considerably different than what you found. There will be *lots* of new people joining these lists. We want to help facilitate this process and also to help iron out the problems. João might be able to help out in this respect also. <% greenbox_title “elists”, “10. Integration with existing email lists” %>

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10. Integration with existing email lists

A number of the email lists have very poor integration with the web. We may be able to help with this in many ways. It would probably not be too difficult to create an automated system whereby an email could be cut and pasted into a form and a button pushed to archive it so that it becomes permanently accessible over the web. Even better would be a system that would allow the posts to be organized by either author or thread.Once such a system existed–the next logical step would be to allow the participants to come to the web site and _rate_ posts by pressing a button. Then readers would be able to tell the web page: “just show me the posts which are highly rated”.

What would be better–would be a system that could _receive_ email and post it without human intervention. Unfortunately I do not know how to do this yet. We would probably have to have our own server and/or know more technically than we do now. If we had a system that could both send and receive mail automatically–we could use this to create mini-lists. For example: everyone could send their favorite post of the day to a special address and then the favorite posts (without duplicates) could be forwarded at the end of the day to those readers who only have time for the better posts.

(Note: I have recently acquired the ability to _send mail_ from our web site. We cannot, however, receive mail automatically.)

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10a. Meta-List digest

The other thing we can do here is to think about ways of systematically creating and distributing _meta information_ about the various lists. For example: a weekly or monthly summary of the most interesting or significant events on the lists would likely be highly popular. These lists are of great interest but–because of the high volume–most potential readers are shut out of them. A weekly or monthly summary that was of high quality (ie: from objective and trustworthy reporters who had the judgement and experience to understand the motion and internal contradictions on the lists) could be part of a “top-down” email list that might attract many subscribers. <% greenbox_title “hosting”, “11. Web Hosting” %>

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11. Web Hosting

We could also directly host some web sites at 9NetAve. This could help organizations in countries where it is difficult to have a web page. Activists who consider themselves communists should have something better than Geocities or Tripod.There are two types of hosting we can do. The first type would involve building an interface similar to what as Geocities does–so that users would not need to use FTP to control their site. The second type is to give people their own URL over which they would have essentially complete control.

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11a. Sub-domains

The first type would involve users having a URL of the type:


The latter type of URL (ie: hosting on the domain ) would require registration in IDOCC and the main page of the domain (ie: would give readers background information indicating that such a URL does not represent an endorsement of the accuracy or authenticity of any claim to be communist. This would be important because there is and will continue to be considerable controversy concerning what organizations are or are not “communist” — and we would want to make it clear that the domain is not taking a position on such questions which can only be resolved via a lengthy period of struggle. Our view is that we want this struggle to take place and we believe that we will encourage the healthy development of this struggle along principled lines by giving all claimants to the title “communist” space to make their arguments and participate in this struggle.go to contents
11b. Independent domains

The second type of hosting would make it easy for anyone interested in VB script or ASP pages to experiment. We want knowledge of this technology to get around.

Most of our hosting will be of the first type. But in some cases we will also do the second type. <% greenbox_title “tasks”, “12. Updatable Task List
‘TO DO’ database” %>

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12. Updatable Task List
‘TO DO’ database

We will eventually need a database to help us keep track of progress on various tasks. Especially as we gain volunteers who want to help out and take responsibility for various tasks, a database can help us gain transparency over our own projects (ie: “who is doing what?” and “how is progress going?”). Here are some of the fields that would be needed for each item:

     Task Number
     Task Name
     Task Description
     Task Priority
     Person Responsible (ie: who has volunteered for this)
     Estimated time frame for completion (ie:
          immediate:    ASAP,
          near term:    within six months
          medium term:  within two years
          long term:    within five years)
     Parent Task (ie: task number for which this task is a sub-task)
     Status (ie: Active Task, Future Task, Postponed Task, Suggested Task, etc)
     Comments (this would be a text field of unlimited length
               that would include: date, person and their comments)

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13. A little philosophy

[this section to be completed soon–Ben Seattle 17.Apr.99]go to contents
13a. Open source and standards

We should make our source code and database information available to everyone. John has asked if we should do this as GPL (ie: General Public License) or something similar rather than public domain. I will address this later. The main thing is that it is to our advantage to have lots of sites that replicate the information and that are free to make improvements over our methods. We need “competitors” in order to get really good. But we also need to agree on certain basic standards so that we can freely use one another’s ever-growing database collection.

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13b. Our Basic Method:
start modestly and evolve step by step

What I have sketched out here is both modest and ambitious. I have described various projects that are related to one another in various ways. Details will undoubtedly be different than I have described. Even my descriptions may be inconsistent. The point is that we should not get caught up in the details. What is important above all is to gain an understanding of the basic principles that will successfully guide projects of this kind. What I have sketched out is really just a few ideas that more or less automatically flow from a fairly small core of basic principles.

What we want to do above all–is to help show others the power of these principles.

The projects I describe here will certainly happen _in one or another form_. The particular projects that we work on, on the other hand, may come to nothing. I think our aim is to create working prototypes that actually collect and organize human labor and that are robust enough to work well with hundreds or even thousands of participants.

In doing so, we will be helping to lay the groundwork for more advanced efforts by others who have greater talent, resources, insight or dedication than ourselves. The principle of “transparency” will be invincible.But this will take time. In the meantime, we can best understand our own role–as scouts and explorers working to gain knowledge that will be useful to an immense and invincible army which will soon enough awaken and begin to organize itself.

Here is some discussion of these projects
by Ben Seattle and John K.
And, yes, we would very much like to hear your thoughts. Send email to
(email address no longer valid)
on these projects–or on any other subject.

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► Big character poster [FoC.12.12.15]

Posted by Ben Seattle on December 15, 2012


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