Go back to: We need mass democracy
posted on SAIC's blog at:

Who should oppose the Green Party? A small group?
Or the emerging consensus of militant activists?

Hi Edward,

It is good that you have replied to one of my posts.

I had said (see above) that it would be better for SAIC to write
a separate article on the Green Party than to give an assessment
in the unity statement that activists would be required to agree
with before they could join SAIC.

You replied, 14 months later, with the claim that I oppose SAIC
developing a collective line on the Green Party.

This is a half-truth.

I gave some thought to your reply and, in response to some of the
key issues involved, I wrote a lengthy article titled "How to
Build the Party of the Working Class" [1]. (I will put the link
in a separate post so that spam-moderation will not delay this

Basically--the issue of the Green Party (and how it plays a
special role in promoting illusions concerning the path forward)
is much larger than SAIC.

And the question of how we build a mass organization that opposes
the Green Party turns out to have answers that may not initially
be obvious.

My view is that we need to build two kinds of organizations at
the same time--one inside the other: an inner organization and an
outer organziation. My model for this is the historical
experience that gave birth to Lenin's party in the years
1903-1911. During this period the Bolsheviks built "a party
within the party".

I am arguing that we must do something similar today.

The struggle to understand the nature of the Green Party and
oppose the illusions it promotes will have little meaning unless
large numbers of activists are part of this struggle.

That is the key thing. This is not a struggle that will do much
good if it takes place behind a brick wall.

I devoted a section of my article to this--where I compare the
method of "building a brick wall" to "casting a wide net".

As I noted, I advocate building two kinds of organizations. The
inner organization would take a clear stand against reformism and
the outer organization would be open to activists with many kinds
of reformist illusions. The outer organization would be more of
a mass organization and its development would also greatly assist
the development of the inner organization.

I also advocate that the political struggles within both the
inner and outer organizations should be conducted in the open--in
full view of friend and foe alike--because knowledge of this
struggle is more helpful to activists and the movement than it is
to our political opponents.

Your position appears to be that we should create a single
organization that is only open to that section of activists who
have already come to fairly advanced conclusions. You oppose
this organization posting news on its website that helps
activists understand its internal struggles (for example: you
opposed my proposal that SAIC should have public posts on its
website for each public meeting where differences were
discussed). And you oppose this organization doing _anything_ to
discuss or attract attention to the theoretical crisis concerning
the nature of our _alternative_ is to the system of imperialism.

Not only this--you oppose this organization making public
information such as how many copies of each of its leaflets it
distributes (something that SAIC's predecessor, the Seattle
Anti-Imperialist Alliance, did regularly [2]).

That is a big part of the problem. Can you imagine a mass
organization doing extensive leaflet distribution in workplaces
and neighborhoods where the distribution numebrs were kept
secret? This would require keeping these numbers secret from
activists. But isn't it better for activists to understand what
the organization does and how it works? And aren't leaflet
distribution numbers and a public record of its public meetings
part of this?

I speak of "casting a wide net" in my article. It is important
to understand what this net consists of. It consists of
"information". Whether we talk to people in person, or via the
internet or by means of printed leaflet--these are _all_ channels
of information with their own unique potential and
limitations--and we should be making maximum use of all of them
consistent with the limits of our time and ability to do so.

One of the current traditions of the left is the creation of
coalitions where the important questions are never discussed and
the focus is deliberately restricted to narrow goals on which
everyone can agree.

SAIC is currently a coalition of this type.

Of course SAIC does discuss one category of important question:
the nature of the reformist influence and how to oppose it. But
even on this question--SAIC is unable to take many actions (such
as developing an email discussion list) that could assist in
taking the struggle against reformism to wider circles.

SAIC has had many successes of course and the work that it does
is both necessary and important.

But many similar efforts, that failed to do everything necessary
to overcome isolation, have resulted in failure. When you are
not doing the right thing the eventual result tends to be a
collapse into demoralization and passivity.

I hope you can give this some thought. I worked my ass off on
the article about building the party of the working class. It
may, of course, contain errors of one kind or another (I am
certain that Joseph and Frank will look at it carefully to see if
they can find any). But it represents an effort to publicly talk
about our goal. This is something, Edward, that you are not
doing. You are doing useful and necessary work. But I believe
it is also necessary to lift our eyes and talk about our
long-term goal of creating a revolutionary mass organization.
What is the road forward to this? How can we develop solid ideas
on the road forward if we do not talk about this?

I understand your enthusiasm for creating an organization that
can take a stand against the Green Party and its role in
promoting illusions. It is necessary to do this and so you see
it as a step forward for SAIC to exclude anyone who is confused
about the Green Party. I agree that we need to build
organization which is united on certain core values (such as
this) but we cannot create a mass organization on this basis if
we lose sight of the need to create a mass organization which can
help to incubate within itself another kind of organization which
can and must be a mass organization also.

In the community that I am working to develop one activist, Les
Evenchick, recently wrote [3]:

> "I also have been trying to develop an anti-capitalist
> grouping in the Green Party US which is also a cross
> class Party. The ISO and an eco-socialist grouping
> have also been active in the GPUS."

Les is mistaken if he believes that the nature of the Green Party
can be changed (he may or not actually believe such a thing--but
his comments suggest the possibility). But it should be clear
that we want and need an organization that includes activists
like Les.

Edward--your political work in the local area has been a catalyst
for a great amount of activity of various kinds. I know that I
may sometimes come off as arrogant or a know-it-all and I wish
that someone with greater social skill or humility could bring
these principles to your attention. I hope that you can give
these principles some thought and eventually take a more public
role in untangling the larger issues.

sincerely and revolutionary regards,
Ben Seattle

(Notes and links were in a separate post to reduce delays)

[1] How to Build the Party of the Working Class

[2] Leaflet distribution numbers can be seen on the website for
the Seattle Anti-Imperialist Alliance at

[3] Les Evenchick's post can be seen here:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pof-300/message/1900 )