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The Anarcho-Leninist Debate on the State
# 159 • various authors • October 11-12, 2002

8 posts from the NorthWest Anarchy List
Leninists are trying to
grab our spotlight
with bullshit debates

My announcement that I intended to post installments of the Anarcho-Leninist Debate on the State to the NorthWest Anarchy elist provoked a spirited response:

  1. post 3150 "let's all go beat up and censor Ben Seattle and his gang of wannabe commissars"
  2. post 3151 "stupid asshole piece of shit--fuck you"
  3. post 3152 "calm debate is part of the struggle for principled cooperation"
  4. post 3153 "Do you have ideas...or do ideas have you?"
  5. post 3154 "Who the hell is this asshole Ben Seattle?"
  6. post 3155 "Leninists are trying to grab our spotlight by initiating bullshit debates"
  7. post 3156 "I am flabbergasted by the accuracy of all of this"
  8. post 3163 "The only species of Leninist I would consider working with ..."

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1 • Post 3150
"let's all go beat up and censor Ben Seattle
and his gang of wannabe commissars"

Date:  Fri Oct 11, 2002  12:22 am
Subject:  Re: [nwanarchy] Announcing: The Anarcho-Leninist Debate on the State

Comrades,

Why is it that we are supposed to violently attack, break up the meetings and censor Fascists, but we should be totally cool with the idea of in-depth thoughtful and rational discussion and "reaproachment" with Leninists?

A statist is a statist. A genocidal mass-murderer is a genocidal mass murderer. A military dictatorship is still a military dictatorship. To hell with how you dress it up and prettyify the concept, it is still brutal totalitarianism and authoritarianism. As anarchists this all should go totally without saying - we should already *know* this shit on a *deep and fundamental level*.

We need some fuckin *consistency* here in our anarchist theory and practice. If beating up and censoring totalitarian, genocidal, statist fucks is the way to go, then let's all go beat up and censor Ben Seattle and his gang of wannabe comissars. If calm, thoughtful, and rational debates and discussions is the way to go, then we should apply it to the Nazis and Fascists too.

You can't have it both ways and still maintain your integrity as an anarchist. One needs to find an approach to confronting and eliminating totalitarian, genocidal, authoritarian, statist bullshit and *stick with it consistently*. There should be no playing favorites with statist power-monger wannabes.

In Solidarity

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2 • Post 3151
"stupid asshole piece of shit--fuck you"

Date:  Fri Oct 11, 2002  10:21 am
Subject:  Re: [nwanarchy] Announcing: The Anarcho-Leninist Debate on the State

this is a stupid asshole peice of shit post fuck you

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3 • Post 3152
"calm debate is part of
the struggle for principled cooperation"

From: Ben Seattle
Date: Friday, October 11, 2002 7:16 PM
Subject: developing a mass movement for the overthrow of bourgeois rule (reply to xxx)

Hi there everyone,

In response to the announcement of the debate on the state xxx, from the nwanarchy elist, replies:

> Why is it that we are supposed to violently attack, break up
> the meetings and censor Fascists, but we should be totally cool
> with the idea of in-depth thoughtful and rational discussion
> and "reaproachment" with Leninists?
>
> A statist is a statist. A genocidal mass-murderer is
> a genocidal mass murderer. A military dictatorship is still
> a military dictatorship. To hell with how you dress it up
> and prettyify the concept, it is still brutal totalitarianism
> and authoritarianism. As anarchists this all should go totally
> without saying - we should already *know* this shit on a
> *deep and fundamental level*.
>
> We need some fuckin *consistency* here in our anarchist
> theory and practice. If beating up and censoring totalitarian,
> genocidal, statist fucks is the way to go, then let's all go
> beat up and censor Ben Seattle and his gang of wannabe
> comissars. If calm, thoughtful, and rational debates and
> discussions is the way to go, then we should apply it to
> the Nazis and Fascists too.
>
> You can't have it both ways and still maintain your
> integrity as an anarchist. One needs to find an approach
> to confronting and eliminating totalitarian, genocidal,
> authoritarian, statist bullshit and *stick with it
> consistently*. There should be no playing favorites with
> statist power-monger wannabes.
It is really simple. The bourgeoisie at this time is preparing to launch another brutal war against our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. One result of this is that a wave of activists want to get to the root of the problem. The root of the problem is the system of bourgeois rule that has spontaneously developed as a product of the capitalist system. Everyone who sincerely wants to eliminate the system of bourgeois rule should struggle to find methods of principled cooperation with others--to help develop a _mass_ movement for the overthrow of bourgeois rule. Such a mass movement will contain within itself different ideas about how to get rid of bourgeois rule and about what will replace it. Sorting out which of these ideas actually serve the interests of the movement and the masses--is one of the tasks of the movement. Calm and principled debate is part of this process.

The neo-nazis and similar racists have no legitimate place in this movement because they serve the bourgeoisie. They get money and protection from the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie helps them get organized, often controls them behind the scenes and uses them against the masses and the mass movements. The ideology of the fascists (race hatred and so forth) is designed to serve the bourgeoisie's purpose of divide and rule. The neo-nazis have also carried out murders and other violent attacks against Blacks, Asians, Muslims, Jews, immigrants and progressive people here in the northwest, as I'm sure xxx must know. This is why we must confront neo-nazis and racists and break up their meetings and marches.

Not everyone who considers himself a marxist is a genocidal mass murderer or an apologist for such. The history of the twentieth century, unfortunately, has left many groups who _do_ apologize for the crimes of Stalin and the general _conception_ of a state in which the masses are not allowed to think for themselves--or to have the most elementary democratic rights of speech, association and organization. More to the point, many of these groups are of mixed character (ie: half revolutionary group and half corrupt religious cult)--and use highly unprincipled and manipulative methods in dealing with activists. This has resulted in a lot of resentment, antagonism and knee-jerk emotionalism (which xxx seems to be doing his best to stir up).

The authentic revolutionary groups that emerge in this century will be different kinds of groups. These groups will be based on the principle of transparency. Bullshit of any kind (incompetence, hypocrisy, denial, manipulation, corruption, etc) within these groups will be publically exposed and denounced. This will help to keep these new kinds of organizations honest (and accountable to the masses)--because they will be compelled to respond in public to their public critics. The emerging revolution in digital communications will play a big role in helping make this all possible.

My attitude toward anarchist-minded comrades is similar to my attitude toward marxist-minded comrades. We are comrades. Activists who wish to maintain their integrity as anarchists will be more effective at this by (1) considering me to be a mistaken comrade and (2) joining the debate as it unfolds and confronting my ideas which they are confident are mistaken.

In parts 1, 2 and 3 (which will be sent out over the next few days) I will be asking my opponent in this debate, Daniel, some difficult questions. I am not sure how easy it will be for Daniel to reply within the 30 day limit on which we have agreed. If xxx believes all these matters are so simple and settled--maybe he can help out Daniel--and uphold the consistentcy and integrity of anarchist theory against me?

Sincerely and with revolutionary regards,
Ben Seattle

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4 • Post 3153
"Do you have ideas...or do ideas have you?"

Date:  Fri Oct 11, 2002  7:45 pm
Subject:  Re: [nwanarchy] developing a mass movement for the overthrow of bourgeois rule (reply to xxx)

Peace all,

So....

1. The economic crisis is worsening

2. We're about to be at war as a nation

3. The right is more visible and obviously stronger that they were before.

..and folks want to navel-gaze, preach to the choir, indulge in political cultism, and ultimately fight amongst themselves?

Brilliant! Where do I sign up? NOT!

Do you have ideas...or do ideas have you?

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5 • Post 3154
"Who the hell is this asshole Ben Seattle?"

Date:  Fri Oct 11, 2002  8:54 pm
Subject:  Re: [nwanarchy] developing a mass movement for the overthrow of bourgeois rule (reply to xxx)

Comrades,

What the hell is this asshole, "Ben Seattle", doing on this list??? He is a *LENINIST* - he is NOT an *ANARCHIST*.

Whoever is moderating this list should kick the guy off - he does not BELONG here, on an ANARCHIST list!!

In Solidarity,

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6 • Post 3155
"Leninists are trying to grab our spotlight
by initiating bullshit debates"

Date: Fri Oct 11, 2002 11:38 pm
Subject: Re: [nwanarchy] developing a mass movement for the overthrow of bourgeois rule (reply to xxx)

It's this "fight amongst themselves" that is precisely the issue. Some take the position that anarchism and Leninism inhabit the same half of some two dimensional ideological spectrum and that when it comes to battling capital, we're on the same side. Others feel differently. I'm one of those others.

Historically, in times of great upheaval, many anarchists have chosen to ally themselves with Communists (Leninists). The announcement of the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly (a liberal-democratic institution)in Russia 1917, which heralded the Bolshevik takeover, was made by an anarchist, Anatoli Zhelezniakov. How did this come about?

Well, the Bolsheviks, when confronted with an existing social revolution (seizure of the means of production by democratic committees of workers- i.e. soviets- etc.) that confirmed the popularity of anarchist (and/or council communist) ideals, simply coopted anarchist slogans, such as "All Power to the Soviets!" They cynically positioned themselves against the existing liberal-democratic order, such as it was, and deceitfully sought to portray that opposition as libertarian. It was anything but.

While thousands of anarchist militants headed for the frontlines to battle the Czarist reactionaries, the Bolsheviks concentrated on consolidating their grip on the industrial centers. This meant the forced liquidation of the instruments of worker control in the factories and the institution of one man rule in the factories. A rule backed up by the terror of the leather jacketed goons of the Cheka (secret police).

This was consistent with Leninist ideology that workers alone are incapable of making a revolution and need the stern guidance of a tight, ruthless group of professional revolutionaries. While Lenin was perfectly willing to skip the stage of liberal democracy, he wasn't skipping it toward socialism or communism. Rather. He was bent on creating state-capitalism and stated so explicitly. His goal was to turn the Russian empire into one giant corporation modeled on the one institution in the world he admired most- the German postal system.

Trotsky and his nascent Red Army were noted, in the early days of the conflict, for chiefly riding around in armored trains and rapidly retreating when encountering resistance.

I doubt too many people on this list are unfamiliar with at least the outlines of the Makhnovist saga in the Ukraine. There an army composed largely of peasants was brought into being under the leadership of anarchists like Nestor Makhno and Pyotr Arshinov. It was they who battled the reactionary forces and gave the Red Army the time it need to organize. Reds and anarchists then fought for awhile on the same side but when the tide had turned decisively against the reactionaries the Reds turned on the Makhnovist partisans, as they would turn against any regional autonomists. Thousand of anarchist militants died. Some horribly in the torture chambers of Lenin-Trotsky. And anarchy in the Ukraine was destroyed.

It was not only anarchist minded individuals that the Bolsheviks mobilized with their lying embrace of slogans whose principles they had no intention of honoring. They succeeded in enlisting numerous Muslim peoples, who had been forcibly incorporated into the expanding Russian empire, in their struggle with the Czarist reactionaries. They did this by promising them autonomy and even independence. Chechen Muslim autonomists, won over to the Bolshevik side by promises of autonomy, were credited by one of the reactionary generals with playing a decisive role in the defeat of his forces, by tying down a third of his army for several critical months. In fact, the troops who led the assault on the sailors in Kronstadt were Bashkiri Turkic Muslims from the Urals, brought in precisely because their inability to speak Russian would prevent them from communicating with the rebellious sailors and local people and, potentially, being won over to their side. Just as with the anarchists, as soon as the tide had turned decisively against the Czarist forces, the Bolsheviks turned their guns on the Muslims. The independent republics that had been set up were forcibly reincorporated in the new, Bolshevik Russian empire. During one of these campaigns the Bolsheviks were even accompanied by militant Christo-nationalists, the Armenian Dashnaksutiun, whose neo-Crusader sadistic rape and murder would be recounted in the 1970's by aged women survivors who had fled to Afghanistan, thus mobilizing popular sentiment there against the Soviet-allied Communists. Ultimately, these imperialist campaigns by the Bolsheviks, and the resulting famines caused by the upheaval and dislocation they inevitably involved, led to the deaths of several millions in Central Asia. They rank among the greatest crimes of the 20th century.

If anyone is interested in on-the-spot assessments of eyewitnesses about how alien Leninism is in practice to the values of anarchists, there is by Emma Goldman, the memoirs of Alexander Berkman, and accounts the Makhnovist movement by participants, Pyotr Arshinov and Voline (Vsevolod Eikhenbaum). There is also the letter written by Kropotkin to Lenin, detailing his own grave concerns about the police state Lenin-Trotsky had erected. Anarchists may choose to ignore the experiences of their forebearers who went to Leninist Russia fired with optimism and idealism, but they do so at their own peril. Arshinov at one point, decided anarchism wasn't going anywhere fast enough, and, despite everything he had seen, returned to Russia to work with the Communists. He died a few years later in a Soviet concentration camp.

And I'm sure I don't need to go into the outcome of anarchist- Communist collaboration during the Spanish Revolution and Civil War of 1936-39. Thousands of anarchists disappear into Communist torture chambers, Communist tanks turned against collectivised farms while anarchist militias are denied ammunition at the front, and on and on.

History? Or the future? When exactly is a Leninist not a Leninist?

Do I think we should work with Communists- locally the RCP, the ISO, the FSP, the SWP, etc.? No. Should we work against them. Not really. We should work *around* them. We don't need them. They're trying to catch our tailwind. Just like in 1917. They're copping our slogans, even appropriating our symbols. They're trying to grab some our spotlight by initiating bullshit debates. Whatever. They may make inroads with some people by latching onto causes like the War, Mumia, police brutality etc., but if you think they have anymore regard for minority rights or ethnic autonomy, or are opposed to imperialist war for territory and resources, than our current government has, just look at present day Tibet. Or Chechnya.

Their adopting the cause de jour, or their underlying principles, manifested in their behaviour then and now. It's your choice what you choose to be swayed by.

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7 • Post 3156
"I am flabbergasted by the accuracy of all of this"

Date: Sat Oct 12, 2002 5:14 am
Subject: Re: [nwanarchy] developing a mass movement for the overthrow of bourgeois rule (reply to xxx)

I am flabbergasted by the accuracy of all of this.

The only thing I would add, is, when you say, "should we work against these groups? not really, we should work *around* them".

I basically agree with this, but, as we "work *around* them" we should also make it a principled point to eradicate them. EXCLUDE THEM from taking over coalitions, EXCLUDE THEM from our organizing. It seems to me to be the only way. I say fuck debating leninists, just as I would largely say, fuck debating Nazi's. They are both just as dogmatic, except, in marxist-leninism, dogma is built in.

Oh yeah, you didn't mention "Socialist Alternative". Probably one of the most active Left Sect. Groups.

There is an interesting discussion going on on the UW activist list, and, anyone who is paying attention here, I would love some backup. (I sense some commie-leaning people are gonna try and wack me... ha).

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8 • Post 3163
"The only species of Leninist I would consider working with ..."

Date: Sat Oct 12, 2002 1:24 pm
Subject: Re: [nwanarchy] developing a mass movement for the overthrow of bourgeois rule (reply to xxx)

I completely agree that we should exclude them from our organizing. That's what I meant when I wrote: "Do I think we should work with Communists- locally the RCP, the ISO, the FSP, the SWP, etc.? No."

I'm glad you've mentioned the SA. I'm not based at a university so I'd forgotten about them. Another group worth mentioning is the Workers World Party. They were originally a Trotskyist group but broke with the rest of the 4th International over their support of the Soviet Union's crushing of the Hungarian revolt of 1956. They are quite simply the most pathological of all the sectarian grouplets out there. They have taken positions strongly supporting the perpetrators of genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda (on the basis of an utterly bullshit class analysis/anti-imperialist line), not to mention what their support for the Soviet action in Hungary '56 demonstrates about their position on worker control of the workplace. They currently have two quite prominent front organizations: the International Action Center of Ramsey Clark fame (whose members frequently contribute articles to Covert Action Quarterly) and A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) an anti-war "group" put together to deal with the current war situation. The WWP has developed quite a reputation for using physical intimidation/goon squad tactics in trying to take over coalitions and events and many student organizations refuse to do any organizing with them. They have, however, been successful in mobilizing large numbers of Muslims to attend their antiwar rallies. Rather darkly ironic when you consider their position on Bosnia. Obviously, no principled opposition to war and racism there.

The only species of Leninist I would even consider working with are the post-Trotskyist Marxists, represented in the English speaking world by CLR James and Raya Dunayevskaya- the so-called Johnson Forest tendency who authored . They focus on the "libertarian" propaganda of Lenin's period and on his denunciations of the USSR as a "frankenstein monster" and "pre-feudal" issued on his deathbed, for their concept of *true* Leninism. Raya Dunayevskaya's adherents are grouped under the moniker "Marxism-Humanism" and publish a newspaper called "News and Letters". They're really quite decent people. They're rather like progressive Muslims, Jews and Christians, who pick and choose the meritorious aspects of their creeds, read in a few that don't exist, and ignore all that is heinous. We work with those people as well.

As far as my stating that we should work around them, I meant that we should not strike up any opportunistic coalitions with them, and not engage in running street battles with them, but should appeal directly to the constituencies they're trying to mobilize.

Some activists locally have taken the same approach to dealing with the Neo-Nazis. They had planned a music tour of Idaho, Montana etc. in support of embattled anti-racists there. It was planned for this summer. I hope it came off. Quite a brave thing to do, because when you start stepping on what other people consider their turf you can expect confrontation.

I'm not on any UW lists but some excellent books for dealing with Leninists are The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control 1917-1921 by Maurice Brinton, A Look at Leninism by Ron Tabor- a former Trot of Love and Rage, and Before Stalinism by Samuel Farber. Only the first may still be in print. Ron Tabor has recently been expanding his critique to Marxism generally, available at http://www.utopianmag.com/ . For an excellent critical review of this recent work by John Clark, check one of the last two issues of the recently-being-republished Fifth Estate.

Speaking of Clarks, an expose of current radical media darling Ramsey Clark is available at http://shadow.autono.net/sin001/clark.htm , with another good article at http://www.geocities.com/pastorswatch/articles/ramsey_clark.htm