Other Indymedia posts by Ben
Other work by Ben Seattle

NION vs. Mass Democracy

NION bans Ben Seattle
from its public meetings
after Ben posts criticism
on Seattle Indymedia

Excerpts from thread at: http://seattle.indymedia.org/en/2004/12/243476.shtml

The drama with NION begins following my post (see below) of January 3
where I reported on what took place at NION's meeting the nite before.

It's all here. This thread, in its original form, can be read directly from Seattle Indymedia by clicking the link above. To make this version of the thread more readable, I have removed a large number of posts from (1) trolls, (2) right-wings assholes, (3) people pretending to be cops, (4) many posts from an anarchist supporter of ANSWER who pretended to be me and Wilhelmina, (5) posts complaining about the above and (6) a few other posts. -- Ben • January 29

Does Seattle Have It's J-20 Act Together?

Anthony Vicari
Dec 10, 2004 10:03

What is Seattle doing on January 20th?

What is going on in Seattle? Portland, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, New York are all preparing for counter-demonstrations on the January 20th Inaugaration of Bush. Here in Seattle it is silent. I would like to know what kind of action is being planned and how I can help?


Right on!
Posted by: Wilhelmina at Dec 10, 2004 19:42

Especially would like to know if a MARCH is being planned, and not just a pacified gathering at the Fed. Bldg.

If a march is not being planned then real anti-imperialists are going to have to take matters into their own hands!

Defending the indefensible
Posted by: Wilhelmina at Dec 12, 2004 11:29

Anthony asked a simple and honest question, and I followed with another. Kaz answered both of us by saying that ANSWER is organizing a rally, and that there is a vaguely defined meeting at SCCC on the 16th. But beyond this I personally am treated with hostility and mocked, while all readers are treated to a big dose of opportunist weaseling.

To defend not organizing a march Kaz says “It is our plan to have a large, permited mass activity that people can feel confident is safe to bring their kids or grandparents. ” ABSURD! ANSWER itself has organized many large marches in this city that were “safe”.

Blackpeace continues the same line by lecturing about numbers. But if anti-war activists work hard there is no doubt that a large number of people can be mobilized for this event. For example, on November 6 1000 people marched at an downtown event called on short notice. (And, I would suggest that more people will come to a march than to a rally anyway.) But what are they to do?

Blackpeace talks about mobilizing the masses, educating and affirming, etc., but in doing so s/he sloughs over that there is a difference between a march and a rally in this regard. The main content of a rally is coming to listen to speeches (or coming to in various ways contest them), coming to have discussion with others who show up on such issues as how to advance the movement, etc. But while a march also includes these things (with many repetitive speeches if an opportunist coalition leads it), its main content is reaching out to and rousing the masses of people on the streets of the areas it goes through.

Black peace “forgets” this. S/he also “forgets” that the issue I raised was not rallies and marches vs. action groups, but MARCHING on January 20. The ANSWER defenders answers are indefensible.

Get to work!
Posted by: Kaz at Dec 12, 2004 14:59

ANSWER is organizing a rally instead of a march because this is what we feel we will be able to do, and do well, with our current resourses.

We fully support a march, and anyone who wants to organize one should go for it. If you insist ANSWER organize it then write us a big fat check and get a dozen of your friends to commit to doing some work.

Geez, pleeze, nothing like sniping from the sidelines.

Posted by: Wilhelmina at Dec 12, 2004 17:43

Interesting, but not at all what you said the first time. There you resorted to opportunist double-talk re: "safety", grandparents, ad naseum. Here you may be coming closer to the truth (i.e., I don't think ANSWER has many energetic people around it), yet you still hedge with the comment about just being able to organize a bunch of speeches and a sound system (a rally) well, while hailing any march that gets organized by someone else. But the issue I actually raised was what form of mass activity best serves the building of the movement at this time---an issue you’re still silent on. (Hailing a diversity of activities, as some do, merely sidesteps the question.)

So you’re wrong to be writing of sniping from the sidelines. (In reality this is a snipe at me for daring raise this matter.)

If you truly think a march is preferable then you should have explained ANSWER’s problems the first time around rather than putting up a transparent smokescreen. If the problem is truly money, then you should tell us how much, and for what? You might even be able to raise it at the meeting on the 16th if it’s solely for some kind of permit…or even on Indymedia!. But the problem can’t be needing 20 more people because if you call a march there will be lots of activists mobilizing people to attend….precisely because it is a march. They may not be putting up ANSWER posters or distributing ANSWER leaflets, but they’ll be doing their own political mobilization. For example, the group I associate myself with will have a leaflet out well beforehand that urges the workers and youth in particular to attend.

A march conforms to the tactics of mass action
Posted by: Ben Seattle at Dec 17, 2004 01:12

I have read every post on this thread and it is clear to me that a march is better than no march and that ANSWER and the organizers of the January 20 event should be pressured to call a march (rather than simply a rally) and to work to organize the action on that basis. If the event is advertized ahead of time as a march more people will come. Don't we all want more people to come? There is still a month to get a permit (in my view a legal march would be better at this time).

I was unable to attend the planning meeting earlier this evening. It would be useful if someone who was there could report on what took place and the decisions that were made.

The argument that we do not need to pressure ANSWER or the organizers to announce a march ahead of time -- because a march can supposedly be organized spontaneously -- is a poor argument. It is much better to organize a march ahead of time. Yes, a march _might_ be organized spontaneously. But that also might not happen. It is not necessarily easy to organize a spontaneous action at the last minute -- especially when the organizers of the event do everything possible from the stage to discourage this and instead encourage everyone to stand around and passively listen to their speakers (and the illusions they promote that we can supposedly transform the imperialist Democratic Party into a vehicle for the antiwar movement) until the cows come home.

Nor can the significance of a march (involving potentially hundreds of people) be fairly compared to the actions of a few "heros" who engage in a publicity stunt with red paint. The action of hundreds will have a far greater social and political weight than the actions of a few.

Wilhelmina has raised some very valid points and those who make childish accusations that she is a cop (or a troll) are acting in a way that is very immature. Those activists who are serious about building a powerful antiwar movement will recognize the necessity that we make an effort to treat one another with respect. And this includes taking a serious attitude concerning that tactics that will put the maximum number of activists on their feet.

Ben Seattle

New developments
Posted by: Frank at Dec 17, 2004 10:27

After discussion and struggle SCCC meeting did unanimously decide to support a march. It will leave from the NION convergence at Westlake around 4:45-5:00 and go to the Federal Building. Details re: this and many other of the day's events will be on a poster that is supposed to be out within a few days.

There was also discussion of a second march: from the Federal Building back to Westlake. It appeared that everyone in the room except ANSWER was enthusiastic for this too. But ANSWER expressed several "concerns", and those present went along with ANSWER's insistance that the decision be taken at a Dec. 23 meeting at the SCCC Student Activities Center, 7 p.m.

(I apologize if this goes through twice.)

YES or NO, blackpeace
Posted by: Wilhelmina at Dec 22, 2004 22:41

Over and over again we had blackpeace cutting paragraphs from his/her previous comments and presenting them as a “new” comment. Now “street walker” is cutting paragraphs from blackpeace’s comments and posting them as the latest in wisdom. This little game is an insult to readers.

We should ask blackpeace, since s/he is the original author of the weaseling words “A rally MAY morph into a march….”, does s/he support a publicly called and publicized march that leaves the Federal Building at 6:30 sharp? YES or NO?

We’ll see what ANSWER’s reply is to this tomorrow night at the SCCC Students Activities Center, 7:00. I encourage all who want to build a fighting and democratic anti-war movement to attend.--W.

March to Fed bldg at 5 pm, march back 6:30 pm
Posted by: Ben Seattle at Dec 26, 2004 06:05

Here is the plan (from the meeting Thursday):

Westlake plaza starting at 2 pm
March to Fed bldg at 5 pm
March back to Westlake at 6:30 pm

Both marches will have permits

Ben Seattle

Posted by: Bukarin at Dec 27, 2004 17:29

Ben you talk about treating people with respect then go on to trash them and the organizations they work so hard to build. You come across as an arrogant little white boy who thinks he can dictate to the movement. Have you ever built an organization? How about getting out there and talking to the working class rather than sniping at the choir?

I'm sure you are a committed person who cares deeply about changing the world. But all these unhelpful critiques are a waste of your and everybody else's time. Maybe the troll is in your mirror.

Criticism is oxygen (reply to Bukarin)
Posted by: Ben Seattle at Dec 27, 2004 20:10

Hi there,

> Ben you talk about treating people with respect
> then go on to trash them and the organizations
> they work so hard to build.
> ...
> all these unhelpful critiques are a waste of
> your and everybody else's time.

First -- I would like to say that I appreciate your sincerity.

It would be helpful if you gave me a concrete example. I am not, of course, infallible -- but I make a strong effort to make my criticisms fair-minded and objective. If I have been too harsh -- then maybe you could give the specifics so that I (and other readers) would be able to evaluate?

Sometimes criticism is necessary. Without open criticism our movement will be deprived of oxygen -- will suffocate -- will become nothing but a plaything in the hands of our enemies.

Some do have the idea that all organizations that are part of the "left" should never be criticized -- so that supposedly we can "all just get along". But this leads, in my view, to an extremely bankrupt kind of "unity" that is to the advantage of the ruling bourgeoisie (ie: the wealthy capitalists who really run this country) because it creates a weak movement that is incapable of doing anything and which will never be able to free itself of bourgeois influence.

If we cannot talk about the real problems -- and real solutions -- then these problems (and solutions) are _hidden_ from the masses -- who are left to play a passive (rather than an active) role.

> How about getting out there and talking
> to the working class rather than sniping
> at the choir?

What makes you think that I am unfamilar with the conditions of life, attitudes and aspirations of workers?

> Have you ever built an organization?


I have worked to help build the MLP, SAUSIES, Student Voice (which I helped found) and SAIA. The first of these was an explicitly revolutionary organization which collapsed in 1993 because the problems which were building up for years were not recognized and resolved in a timely way. The other organizations were antiwar or anti-imperialist organizations. They all collapsed.

I am not claiming to have great organizational skills -- but I have been around the block. How about you? What is your experience? Why is it that you believe that open, principled criticism will in some way hurt the movement?

Ben Seattle

Working with the Media Weapon community
Isolated from one another we are easily defeated.
Connected to one another no force on earth can stop us

Every Single One?
Posted by: Bukarin at Dec 27, 2004 21:11

Gee Ben,
Every single organization you worked in collapsed!? Wow! I am sure not going to tell you where I work, you might show up there.

The point I'm trying to make is I don't think the left needs fake unity either. In fact I don't think the left in this country needs unity at all, AT This Point.

There are no national or even regional independant working class organizations to unify. They have to be built first. There is ample opportunity for anyone who has an idea or a program to go out there and try it. See what works, test if the workers will respond to it. Build up a following.

ISO, SA and ANSWER are trying to do that. Indymedia is doing its thing. If you can't get with any of those programs and contribute in a possitive way then launch your own, see if it works any better.

Helping a group do something better is a positive contribution. "Pressuring" them to do things your way is not.

Mass democracy vs. Democratic Party influence
Posted by: Ben Seattle at Dec 28, 2004 19:07

Everything is now becoming clear.

All the drama on this thread revolves around a struggle over whether or not activists would march on January 20 -- and take their message to people in the downtown area -- or would instead simply listen passively to speakers and political experts (including from a section of the Democratic Party) in two disconnected rallies.

"Don't impose your will on me"

Bakunin (an anarchist-minded activist, it would appear) informs me that my contribution here was not "positive" because I, and a number of other activists, took action to impose our wills on the organizations involved (ie: NION and ANSWER) and pressure them to call a march.

Doesn't it suck to have someone impose his will on you?

According to Bakunin, demanding that a march be organized and publicized ahead of time (ie: so that it actually takes place -- rather than remain a daydream of spontaneous self-organization) is supposedly part of "trashing organizations" and a "mission to destroy the progressive movement in Seattle".

In retaliation for a clear stand in favor of pressuring these organizations to make a public commitment to a march, Bakunin (who appears to have posted here under a zillion different identities -- including pretending to be Wilhelmina trashing me and me trashing myself) has implied that Wilhelmina and/or me are "spooks" (ie: cops) or "trolls" (ie: people with no politics, or reactionary politics, who add insults or garbage to threads for fun or to disrupt progressive discussion).

Why does Bakunin act like this?

The simplest and most logical explanation is that he is a young activist, with limited political experience, who has been incited against activists such as Wilhelmina and me. I am not condemning the kid -- because I know that he is a committed activist and that, without bitter experience, it can be very easy to see the controversies in the movement in a distorted way.

It happens to the best of us.

I am glad that this guy has responded to my challenge to make his case openly using principled arguments. This is a step forward and I hope that, from this point forward, the discussion will be more calm without too much more name-calling or abuse.

The carrot and the stick

I believe that serious and calm discussion will, over time, make clear that the decisive issue for the development of the antiwar movement -- is the struggle of the movement to break free of the restrictions of bourgeois political ideas and tactics of passivity.

On one side of this struggle are the politics of openness (ie: political transparency -- in which all the important political disagreements in the movement are known to activists) and mass democracy (ie: where activists have an opportunity to discuss, debate and decide all the important questions) and a spirit of ruthless criticism of all that exists.

On the other side of this struggle -- is the Democratic Party -- an imperialist party which specializes in sucking the life energy and militancy out of the mass movements.

This is the great "secret" of how the bourgeoisie works to tame the movement:

The antiwar movement is attacked on two sides. The movement is attacked on one side by the agents of _force_ (ie: the cops -- who will do everything possible to frustrate, intimidate and humiliate activists) and is attacked on the other side by the agents of _political deception_ (ie: a section of the Democratic Party which promises the sun, the moon and the stars if only activists will do the "smart" thing and work within the "established channels" that have been engineered to corrupt or demoralize activists).

This is how it works: the carrot and the stick. On one side we are clubbed by the cops. On the other side the Democratic Party machine offers us unlimited power if only we give up our militancy and be "realistic" (ie: hitch our star to some savior from within the establishment). This is a tag team. This is an ancient con. This is how it is engineered to work.

If ANSWER or NION want to allow some saviors from within the Democratic Party establishment to speak from the stage -- they can do so. I don't like it and I look forward to the day when activists turn their backs on _anyone_ who promotes one of the most blood-soaked lies of our time -- the idea that the imperialist Democratic Party can be turned into a vehicle for the antiwar movement.

In the meantime, militant activists will oppose the influence of the Democratic Party in the realm of tactics for mass actions. The Democratic Party does not like to see mass actions. The Democratic Party does not like to see marches -- in particular marches against the blood-for-oil war against the Iraqi people that they support to the hilt. Most of all -- the Democratic Party does not like to see the antiwar movement turn in the direction of mobilizing the masses. The Democratic Party would prefer that we do something "safer" -- something less powerful and less effective -- like becoming doorbell ringers and election fodder for one of their "progressive" candidates.

Inevitable confrontation

The political organizations which serve the movement but are also married to a section of the Democratic Party are in the unfortunate position of serving two irreconcilable masters. This is why there will be conflict and why militant activists will often need to pressure these organizations to do the right thing -- because otherwise -- we will be letting the Democratic Party impose its will on the antiwar movement.

I think that is the key thing. Bakunin, the anarchist, is upset that militant activists use the weapon of mass democracy to impose their will on the movement -- but is unable to see that the alternative to this -- would be to let the Democratic Party (and the bourgeoisie) impose _their_ will on the movement -- and to turn the movement into their harmless plaything.

This is why it is important to make use of the weapon of mass democracy and to fight (including public criticism, public confrontation and public struggle) for the politics of mass action.

Ben Seattle
Working with the Media Weapon community - http://MediaWeapon.com
Isolated from one another we are easily defeated.
Connected to one another no force on earth can stop us

Report from NION J20 planning meeting

Posted by: Ben Seattle at Jan 03, 2005 10:29

I attended the NION meeting yesterday (Sunday, Jan 2). NION's attitude toward having a march is still somewhat ambiguous (at best). Officially, they are still "not committed to making it happen" -- but will announce it from the stage sometime after 4:30 pm (exact timing is still unclear) in order to help the peole who want to make it happen do so.

No one has yet gotten permits for the two marches (ie: from Westlake to Federal building and back) -- although someone said that this will happen and would not take long.

Sometime soon, NION and ANSWER representatives will get together and finalize a joint leaflet/poster that (hopefully) will announce the marches together with the time for each.

I raised the issues that the NION leaflets/posters should announce the March if for no other reason than that this would certainly draw more people to the event. I got three responses:

(a) one of the NION people indicated that the march would be announced on their new leaflets/posters once they were printed (they still have 2,000 of the old leaflets/posters to distribute).

(b) one of the people at the meeting (not a NION person--simply a volunteer with experience in the movement who was going to help put up posters) agreed with me that more people will go to the event if the March is announced on the leaflet/poster

(c) the most active and militant NION person, who was doing the real work of organizing poster teams, saw the March as being useless. "What do we have to tell the feds? Why march to the Federal building unless we are going to take it over?" he asked. (This kind of left-sounding opposition to doing what serves the development of the movement is usually called "left posturing". It is, unfortunately, very common.)

I replied to the militant guy that the purpose of the march would be to take our politics to the many people who would be downtown on First or Second Ave -- and to link together two different actions (ie: NION's and ANSWER's) that would otherwise be isolated from one another -- but was unable to make a dent in his thinking. His thinking may (or may not) change if more people told him that his attitude is mistaken.

If anyone has the time it may be worthwhile to go to their next meeting (Sunday, Jan 9 at 7 pm at 1609 19th Ave) and follow up on this. My time is limited so I may not be able to do so.

Ben Seattle
"Isolated from one another we are easily defeated.
Connected to one another no force on earth can stop us."
-- The Media Weapon Community -- http://MediaWeapon.com

Less Talk More Work
Posted by: Michael NION -Seattle at Jan 05, 2005 13:27

Ben it is extremely unethical and unwise and goes against the unspoken agreement of activism that we don't slander each other and that we don't post meeting information in a public forum for the authorities or anyone else who would obstruct us or use it against us. If you persist in this behavior then you will not be welcome at any future NION meetings.

If you want to criticize then please get your facts straight. NION has said again and again that we support a march and at the very first joint J20 meeting I said that if it came down to it and nobody stepped forward then NION would consider organizing one. We are LOW in finanaces and personnel because we are still recovering from a rather large Anti-RNC campaign in NYC and TWO rallies and protests marches we organized in Seattle on Nov 6th and 13th. Some of our key people are injured and have been sick. We have put out multiple calls to the activist community to help collaborate J20. We have no desire to control everything. We would prefer that these events be jointly planned and executed instead of us doing everything. There are a whole new generation of activists that need to know how to plan marches and rallies and experience is the best teacher.
This is why why we are holding out for someone else to organize the march.

NION was also instrumental in Feb15th and all the anti-war events that followed. It was NION who forced the issue with UFPJ of re-opening negotaitons with the City of New York because they said we couldn't march to central park. we fielded over 75 delegates to our National Office in NYC for the RNC and approximately one third spend time in Jail but we still regrouped and continued to fight on. If you goto the National website sand if you spedn any significant amount of time around us you'd know we don't deal in electoral politics as a matter of policy.

we have resisted many calls and outside pressure from other groups to defend the elections etc.
and for also allowing socialist and communst speakers at our rallies but we a policy of being open to working with anyome who is down with folling up their sleeves and working for change.

the Joint J20 poster will have the march info on it as promised and we will distribute it when it is ready. In the meantime anyone who is concerned about a march should get busy helping organize and advertise one. reading books and pontificating on political theory is cool but action is better. Put your life on hold for a couple of weeks and help out. ANSWER and NION have continued to be active and push the envelope when other groups in Seattle have chosen to remain silent and inactive. So less bickering, constructive criticism is okay, everyone is welcome at the meetings if they are willing to help out and treat others with the respect we SHOULD be showing one another.

If we want a different future we need engender hope where there is none and have the courage to manifest it through our actions.

Michael - NION Seattle

Re: Michael’s comment
Posted by: Frank at Jan 08, 2005 20:36

Along with every other progressive person, I entirely agree with you that political slander should be fought against tooth and nail. But this is an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT QUESTION than public discussion of movement controversies. On the latter you write that it is an unspoken agreement of activism that we …. don't post meeting information. I sharply disagree. The “information” you are actually referring to was discussion of a controversy that occurred at your own publicly-advertised meeting (which any cop can attend) and that is occurring in the entire anti-war movement. It’s sectarian and elitist to want to bury such a controversy behind closed doors. Such questions as the value of marching vs. just having rallies should be discussed as widely as possible in the movement.

I can’t speak to the question of the accuracy of Ben’s report. And, if one pays careful attention to broader questions in the left they will find that my political trend (represented by the CVO) has plenty to say about Ben’s political methods, including his having used political abuse and slander against us. (One can still find much of this stuff buried in his website.) But I vigorously defend Ben’s right to post a report of what occurred at a public meeting. In fact, I think that it’s a weakness of our movement that we don’t have more such reports. Banning Ben from your meetings on THIS basis---public meetings of a coalition no less---would be outrageous.

I would hope that you reply to this, or that we can discuss it more the next time we meet.

Principled unity needs principled criticism
Posted by: Ben Seattle at Jan 09, 2005 14:56

Hi folks -- I have been offline for several days -- but I see that someone got upset because I reported (accurately) on what took place at the Jan 2 NION meeting:

Michael NION - Jan 5:
> Ben it is extremely unethical and unwise and goes against
> the unspoken agreement of activism that we don't slander
> each other and that we don't post meeting information
> in a public forum for the authorities or anyone else
> who would obstruct us or use it against us. If you
> persist in this behavior then you will not be welcome
> at any future NION meetings.

First, Michael is calling my comments "slander" -- but fails to specify any concrete example of anything I said which is either untrue or in any way exaggerated. Michael cannot give a specific example because there are none. Everything Michael has posted (including his comment that NION would only "consider" organizing a march) supports my account of the meeting.

Nor does Michael give anyone a clue how anything I posted could be used against NION by "the authorities". Presumably we should all be afraid that the free flow of political information will be used against us by the supposedly all-powerful authorities (ie: the cops and their bourgeois masters).

The truth is the other way around: it is the ruling bourgeoisie who have something to fear from the free flow of political information -- because activists will be able to build a more powerful antiwar movement if they can more easily understand the real political content of public political meetings.

In my post (from Jan 3 -- see above) I had said that NION's attitude toward the January 20 marches was "ambiguous" and I paraphrased (concisely and accurately) the tone and comments that were made, at this public meeting, concerning whether or not a march conformed to the interest of the antiwar movement -- and about the need to give publicity to the march.

Second, Michael (who claims to be speaking in the name of NION -- an organization which includes activists of diverse views) has threatened to ban me from NION's public meetings if I "persist" in reporting to activists, here on Indymedia, on events at these public meetings which relate to (1) whether or not a march will take place on January 20 -- and (2) whether or not people in this city will have an opportunity (via leaflets and posters) to learn about this march ahead of time.

For anyone interested -- this threat from Michael appears to be an empty threat. Michael does not have the ability to enforce it because other, more militant, activists around NION are unlikely to support his threatened ban with their actions.

Third, Michael is correct about on thing: there _is_ in our movement an "unspoken agreement" that we not talk about the real reasons that things happen in our movement the way they do. I am glad to see that Michael, in his naivete, is admitting it -- because I want all activists who read this to see it.

This "unspoken agreement" is a major factor in keeping our movement weak and ineffective. This "unspoken agreement" is what helps the Democratic Party suck the life and militancy out of our movement and persuade inexperienced activists that they should place their valuable time and energy at the service of one or more "saviors" from within the establishment. This "unspoken agreement" runs counter to the fundamental principle of "political transparency" which will allow our movement to puncture the suffocating influence of reformism and become deserving of the respect and attention of the working class. This "unspoken agreement" will never stand the light of day -- and is long overdue to get smashed up.

The principle of political transparency (ie: where the important political principles, disagreements, projects and organizations are known to everyone -- and charlatanism, sectarianism and reformism have no place to hide) will enable our movement to overcome, one after the other, the innumerable obstacles which are used to block our development by the bourgeoisie and their various political trends (whether conservative, liberal or labor aristocracy). It can sometimes be confusing to discuss our differences in public -- but we can, and we will, learn to become good at this (ie: calm, concise and scientific when we discuss disagreements) -- because there is no other road forward for the development of a powerful antiwar movement.

Fourth, as far as Frank's comments: I appreciate Frank's support for my democratic right to participate in a public political meeting and to report to activists, here on Indymedia, what takes place -- in particular in relation to the question of the march on January 20 and preparations for it.

I will also note that Frank, like Michael, has also claimed that I have engaged in "slander" against his political trend (ie: the CVO). Like Michael, Frank also fails to specify how I have allegedly slandered his organization. Readers who are interested can go to my home page at: http://struggle.net/ben and look at the section on antiwar work (and the subsection within that where I describe my work with the Seattle Anti-Imperialist Alliance) and draw their own conclusions. The CVO, like many organizations on the left, writes very decent agitation and serves the movement in many ways -- but fails to encourage the kind of public criticism which would assist it to (1) overcome its errors and (2) engage at a deeper level the concerns and aspirations of activists. (I will add that Frank may not appreciate that I am talking about this matter here on this Indymedia thread -- but if Frank does not want this topic raised -- then he should not raise it himself because he knows, from his own experience, that I will reply to this kind of accusation).

Ben Seattle -- http://struggle.net/ben
"Isolated from one another we are easily defeated.
Connected to one another no force on earth can stop us."
-- The Media Weapon Community -- http://MediaWeapon.com
My views do not necessarily reflect the views
of other supporters of the Media Weapon community

Our movement will be built by mass democracy
Posted by: Ben Seattle at Jan 10, 2005 00:32

> Others organizing independent actions are invited
> to a special J20 convergence meeting being hosted
> by NION on Sunday, Jan 9, 7pm, Community Services
> Center, 1609 19th Ave, corner of 19th & East Pine,
> 1 block south of Madison. We'll share plans and
> coordinate support for each other.

Tonite I was prevented from participating in the meeting above. There were more than three dozen activists there -- mostly independent, like myself. I would have liked to hear what they had to say.

The NION folks, who do some very outstanding work for the movement, believe that my January 3 post here on Indymedia misrepresented the views and practice of their organization. I stand by what I wrote and I believe that activists have a right to know the real political issues that determine what goes on in our movement.

The real political issue that I reported on was NION's attitude toward organizing a march on January 20 (ie: rather than just a rally). I was uncertain (based on what I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears) about whether NION was going to commit to making sure that a march was organized and publicized ahead of time.

The NION representatives gave me a choice: I could attend tonite's meeting if I agreed not to write about what took place in it here on this Indymedia page.

I don't make agreements like that.

I am committed to the principle of mass democracy. And mass democracy cannot exist without political transparency.

The NION people showed me the door because my posts (to activists here on this Indymedia page) on the events of last week's meeting -- makes me a "reporter".

Of course it is true that I am a "reporter" -- but I am a different kind of reporter from the paid hacks who write for the Times, the P-I or even "The Stranger". I don't get paid, and I never will, for what I write about the movement. I am not responsible to the owner of any publication. I am an activist.

I am a "reporter" because my experience in the movement, over more than 25 years, has made it clear to me that all serious activists need to become reporters. (Not the paid kind of reporter who must write lies and distortions in order to make a weekly paycheck -- but a different kind of reporter -- one who is responsible only to their conscience and to our movement.)

And it is our movement. The movement does not belong to any organization -- even if the organization often does outstanding work for the movement. The movement belongs to the masses. And the masses will make use of the weapons of mass democracy and political transparency to assist our class brothers and sisters overseas in Iraq and here at home.

Ben Seattle -- http://struggle.net/ben
"Isolated from one another we are easily defeated.
Connected to one another no force on earth can stop us."
-- The Media Weapon Community -- http://MediaWeapon.com
My views do not necessarily reflect the views
of other supporters of the Media Weapon community

to those who are serious
Posted by: Someone Else at Jan 10, 2005 11:37

Ben, Wilhelmina...

While I have some fundamental differences with both of your perspectives, I respect that both of you are serious-minded individuals. Both of you are attempting to use this forum to raise the level of political discussion. But it's not worth it. Neither of you should waste time on the Seattle Indymedia site debating with trolls and children. Ben, you've got a forum. Keep plugging it. Wilhelmina, if you or your organization have a site where serious discussions are happening, please announce it. You will see me there.

Please be sure that you post any firm events in the future as posts, not comments. Any changes in times or venues should be reposted. I will only use this site to learn of events for now on. the children and trolls who mostly comment here have successfully destroyed any other value this site may have had.

What to do?
Posted by: Frank at Jan 12, 2005 19:53

The January 20 counter-inaugural demonstrations are a major national event.

In Portland, which does not have an ANSWER or NION, activists have so far planned three feeder marches that will unite at a main march which will then go through the city. The apparent form used to bring this about was a series of public meetings. (Portland, by the way, is a smaller city than Seattle, but it often has larger demonstrations than we have here. In fact I’ve been to several that were not even called on the same dates as those called by the big national coalitions and they were attended by 6-10 thousand people!)

In Seattle, neither ANSWER or NION were calling a march for J-20, even though they know, as everyone knows, that at this stage of the movement marches attract more people than rallies, they’re a better vehicle for reaching out to people and drawing them into motion, they create more excitement, and so on. Yes, yes, they didn’t oppose someone else organizing a march (or marches)---how could they!?---and NION said it might eventually call one if no one else did. But this would have been a late call that wouldn’t give activists adequate time to really mobilize the masses for it.

In defense of this they’ve said that their forces are down (which is especially true of ANSWER), but they seem to have enough people and energy to organize TWO long rallies with sound systems, plenty of speakers, music, etc. And, as several people told them earlier, if you want to get more people involved in organizing, call a march! Moreover, NION had enough people around it to call a march from the get-go.

My conclusion from this is that the leaders of both of these groups were putting their interests before those of building the anti-war movement, and the movement against Bush’s entire reactionary agenda. This is sectarianism, and I don’t use the word lightly. If these leaders were not sectarians, they would have united their forces and put out a call to all activists to join with them in planning a powerful manifestation for the 20th.

Well, one of the NION leaders recently accused me of being against DIVERSITY because I suggested that it would have been a better thing to have one big action on the 20th. This is nonsense. Can not a myriad of feeder marches, preparatory rallies, and other activities be organized around the major activity for a day? Can not every political trend, every women’s or student group, etc., do its particular thing around a central focus? (In Portland Code Pink has its feeder march, the IWW has another feeder, anarchists have other activities, etc, but they will all unite for the march through the city.)

A very good thing that has happened in the past few weeks, however, is that several activists and perhaps 3 leftwing groups said to themselves: “No march on the 20th? We have to do something!” Anthony Vicari’s Seattle IMC post “Does Seattle Have It's J-20 Act Together?” and the thread beneath it played a role in this. People went to the ANSWER-called coordinating meetings (which were also attended by an official NION representative) and pressed for marching. ANSWER and NION said they supported someone else doing it, but they weren’t going to call a march or get the permit (NION might call eventually call a march if no one else did). Two people volunteered to get a permit, and two short marches were called by the people in attendance. (There is likely to be a march from SCCC as well.) ANSWER and NION said they would publicize these marches…but they have been very slow in doing so. (NION has to put up a whole lot of its previously-printed posters first! Couldn’t run them through a printer again and add the march info., or couldn’t turn them over and add it.)

The second good thing that has happened is that the NION rep. agreed that it would be a good thing to call a public meeting to plan further anti-war activity at the end of the second march ( Westlake). I say that all who want to build the movement against U.S. imperialism’s brutal war for oil and empire should make sure this call is given, get the details, and attend!

We need to get a certain rhythm going in the movement, we need to know what’s coming up next so that we can plan and organize around it in our workplaces, schools, on the streets, etc. And the next big national event being called are the demonstrations marking the second anniversary of the “shock and awe” invasion of Iraq. This is on Saturday, March 19---just less than two months from J-20. I think that that is good timing insofar as pulling off a major local event, i.e., a long march that goes through areas heavily populated by working people and youth, i.e., those that we should be directing our anti-war work toward. Let there be much diversity in building for this. Let there be diverse activity on that day. But let us close it all into the powerful fist of a unified action.

You, my friends, may have alternative ideas. But to sort them out and plan something we have look hard at the experience leading up to J-20: if the ANSWER and NION leaders had had their way there would either have been no major march, or one that was called by NION very late. Moreover, often one had to go searching for meetings, or find out about them by luck to effect any change in the situation. (For example, I only found out about a meeting because I happened to see Anthony’s post on Indy) Yes, a thousand times yes, ANSWER and NION have called marches in the PAST, but we can now also clearly see that they cannot be depended on. My conclusion is that we need to a new form through which to organize mass antiwar actions in Seattle: mass meetings of antiwar activists. This would NOT be a coalition. Every activist would have equal say and equal vote. Whatever it called itself, this form would not concentrate on developing a lot of slogans or sophisticated posters or propaganda for the events it called. That would be left to the inspiration of individuals and groups within it, including present ANSWER and NION people. Everyone active against the ruling-class’s war program, or wanting to get active, would be welcome.

And we need to be active. Well over 100,000 of the Iraqi people have already been brutally slaughtered by Bush and Co., hundreds of thousands more are scarred for life, and the situation is grows worse for them each day. (This comes on the heels of Clinton and the Democrats for 8 years presiding over a sanctions regime that left up to 1 million Iraqis dead.) 1350 sons and daughters of the American working class have also perished, with many thousands being wounded. Meanwhile, many thousands of other soldiers are going AWOL, disserting, and refusing orders. So the Iraqi people need our help, the rebelling G.I.s need our help, the American working people need our help. We need to stand up to build a more militant and fearless movement. But look at what’s been going on locally!

NION is now kicking people (Ben) out of meetings if they dare to write meeting reports on Indymedia for the movement! What are they afraid of? Cops? No, they know Ben is not a cop. (And, since NION meetings are advertised the cops can sneak in people if they so choose anyway.) Michael (NION) wrote the following in the J-20 thread warning Ben that this would happen if he “persisted”:

[Ben‘s report] was “unethical and unwise and goes against the unspoken agreement of activism that we don't slander each other and that we don't post meeting information in a public forum for the authorities or anyone else who would obstruct us or use it against us”.

Of course activists should fight against slander! It’s a rightwing method that divides us. But we can not build a mass movement without mass meetings, their inevitable clashes of opinions, and mass discussion of divisions or controversies. And right now, Ben and Michael can‘t agree on who said what, or what the stand of the other really is on a controversy that affects ALL activists. One accuses the other of slander, and so on. So the old slogan “let the people decide!” would seem to apply. But we can’t decide if the controversy is hidden from us.

Michael rationalizes such hiding by pointing to a non-existent “unspoken agreement of activism” that preaches fear that the authorities or right-wingers might use the fact that anti-war activists are in disagreement on this or that issue to disrupt the movement. Yet there have often been bigger issues than this that we’ve publicly fought over in the anti-war movement, written polemics against each other over, named names over, etc. When not sectarian squabbles, these struggles often led to ideological advances for the movement, and to more people coming into it. Moreover, such public debates were sometimes even helpful in letting us know who the real cops were. The cops either led in slander campaigns (including calling OTHERS cops), behind the scenes back-biting and lies; disruption of meetings with nonsensical proposals, race-baiting, filibustering, etc.; or they were the silent ones who had no opinion.

For sure, despite our efforts and successes in ferreting them out, the cops are going to be there---especially as the movement grows bigger and more militant. Further, no organizational form is going to keep them out. For example, the decades-gone Seattle Liberation Front was organized in an anarchist fashion: an alliance of collectives and affinity groups. But the SPD got members into some collectives, and it even organized its own collective to join the front! But the young activists then---the very oldest of whom may have been 30---caught out the Mike Troys, Pat Littles, Red XXXs, and the 4th Street Collective. We can and will do the same if we persist in building the movement.

So, returning to Michael’s idea. One thing the cops can’t stand is reasoned and democratic discussion between activists on a mass scale. They can’t defeat us when movement arguments are kept on this plane. But we defeat ourselves if we start to warn against raising public discussion of controversies, or to hide controversy. We defeat ourselves if we don’t involve the whole movement (as best we can) in discussion of what should be done. For sure, Indymedia is read by the political police and reactionaries that would like to kill us. (So would a movement newspaper if we had one.) But we can’t let this stop us from using it and other widely-read media for reports, discussion, and debate. From our side, the more of these things we have the better: let them try to keep up with us! And let them steal our names (something the Indymedia staff could and should help us with), abuse us, try to pit us against one another. We have the power of truth and honesty behind us, and we’ll defeat them in the end.

Thus, I think that the reasoning in Michael’s warning to Ben has a fundamental flaw. Obviously, NION or any other group certainly has the right to kick out disrupters, known police and reactionary spies, etc., and should do so. But if the NION leaders kicked Ben out of their latest NION meeting simply because he would not agree to be silent about the meeting on Indymedia it’s a profound mistake. Michael says that Ben’s first report had the facts wrong. Fine. Correct them as you did, Michael. But “unwelcoming” him from your meetings on the basis that he wrote a report to the movement (even a factually wrong report as you say---or even a report that says some correct things but is written with sectarian motives), and that he wouldn’t bow to the demand that he not write another report, can’t be a movement policy. NION activists should rebel against this idea.

Is the new generation coming into the movement supposed to think that they can’t publicly discuss and wrangle out questions? Are they to think that they can’t rely on the experience and thinking of the whole movement to help them figure out what to do rather than just the leaders of NION or any other group that they’re initially attracted to? Are they supposed to be fearful of banishment if they dare do such a horrendous thing? The whole episode smacks of the bureaucratic methods used by sectarians, i.e., those kind of people who put group interest above the needs of the movement and therefore fear that really broad discussion in activist circles may expose that they’re pitting themselves against its development.

To advance from where we are now at in the movement I think we need to constantly be analyzing where it is at organizationally (the subject of this letter) as well as politically (especially vis-à-vis gaining independence from the imperialist ideas of the liberal Democrat politicians). More, we should act on our analysis. This means working hard to build for the J-20 actions, and then turning around to strive to bring into being a mass-democratic alternative to the present Seattle anti-war political set-up. Let us test such a form by planning and organizing a major March 19 event through it!

The Saga of Ben's Ego
Posted by: Michael at Jan 13, 2005 00:46

Ben I'm sorry but in trying to interact with you I feel like I'm dealing with an Alzheimer's patient. It's like you have some sort of selective memory and don't remember your previous rants. Let's review. In your post on Mass democracy vs. Democratic Party influence Posted by: Ben Seattle at Dec 28, 2004 19:07 you said…

"If ANSWER or NION want to allow some saviors from within the Democratic Party establishment to speak from the stage -- they can do so. I don't like it and I look forward to the day when activists turn their backs on _anyone_ who promotes one of the most blood-soaked lies of our time -- the idea that the imperialist Democratic Party can be turned into a vehicle for the antiwar movement."… the Democratic Party does not like to see the antiwar movement turn in the direction of mobilizing the masses. The Democratic Party would prefer that we do something "safer" -- something less powerful and less effective

Lie #1: the above statement by you insinuates NION and ANSWER are hacks for the Democratic party and do their bidding. This is slander and a lie. Since I have been with NION we have not had anyone from the democratic party speak at our rallies when in fact we have been recently criticized for having RCP and Socialist speakers at some our Rallies. We also participated in the Anti- DNC events in Boston last year. If you go to our National Website or local you will not see any formal statements regarding the election. You know why? It's because as a policy NION doesn't engage in Electoral Politics. While some members of NION vote, an equal amount don't. We allow ourselves to have varying opinions. We also know how to separate our personal opinion when we are doing work for the group. So for the last time NION is not part of nor do we work with or have ties official or otherwise with the Democratic party. Finally it would be a violation of our nonprofit status.

Lie #2 NION and ANSWER are against promoting and organizing Marches:
As I stated in my previous post NION and ANSWER have been significant players in the Anti-war movement in sponsoring rallies ands marches locally and nationally. Both groups played major parts and sponsored marches and rallies events at the start of the War. Recently we hosted a Joint Rally and March on Nov 6th which was very successful and got national coverage. We then hosted a Rally and March Nov 13th again the next weekend in opposition to the events in Fallujah.

NION played a key role in getting UFPJ to re-think it's acceptance of the NYC Police dept's terms for the Anti-RNC protest and NION re-opened permit negotiations with the city. If not for Local Seattle NION and National members of NION the Anti-RNC march would have been relegated to a deserted stretch of west highway in Manhattan. YOU MAY THANK US NOW OR AT YOUR EARLIEST CONVENIENCE.

Individual members of NION are allowed to have their personal opinions about a March but collectively we have agreed to support a March and said that we would consider organizing one if nobody else stepped forward. For some reason you don't seem to be sharp enough to distinguish between a NION member giving their personal opinion about a march and what we have said repeatedly
Was our group position to support a march. Again we wanted someone else in the movement to step forward and organize it because we are low on resources and also so we could concentrate our efforts into other aspects of J20 and making it a day of convergence for all groups. We wanted it to be a true collaboration with others and allow others groups and individuals to get experience with organizing a march. FYI as it turns out the march permit has officially been filed c/o NION. I have been working closely with the people filing the permit. Furthermore there is no controversy regarding march vs. no march except the one you have attempted to make. YOU MAY APOLOGIZE NOW.

An example of the inaccuracy of your first report is you said… (a) one of the NION people indicated that the march would be announced on their new leaflets/posters once they were printed (they still have 2,000 of the old leaflets/posters to distribute)….

WRONG. we never said the info would be on the NION poster. what we said was that the info would be on the joint poster which we would distribute. The reason being we had technical problems with the master of our poster and didn't want to go through re-editing it.

One example of your unethical behavior is you said… c) the most active and militant NION person, who was doing the real work of organizing poster teams, saw the March as being useless. "What do we have to tell the feds? Why march to the Federal building unless we are going to take it over?" he asked. (This kind of left-sounding opposition to doing what serves the development of the movement is usually called "left posturing". It is, unfortunately, very common.)

Labels like "militant" and statements about taking over a federal building are unwise to make in an open forum, were taken out of context and can attract unwanted attention. It can be interpreted as an obstructionist tactic aimed at hurting our organization by making it seem to the police state "trolls" as you like to call them that we are planning things which we are not. You should be ashamed of yourself, this type of thing serves no good end. What you did was attend ONE meeting with a preconceived notion and looked for proof of that notion in the opinion of one person.

Any group like NION or ANSWER has a right to set it's own policies regarding meetings. We are not a public institution or forum in the classic sense. We are not owned by the public and therefore not just anyone can walk into a meeting and take things or be disruptive or simply take over. In addition we have an obligation to protect the privacy of our members and people who show up to our meetings and to guarantee them a reasonable expectation of privacy and that their comments won't be misconstrued or misquoted and/or broadcast in forums they have not consented to. Protection of privacy of our members is something we take very seriously. It's not up for debate with you or any other self appointed saviors or reporters.

A word about transparency.... you said …This "unspoken agreement" runs counter to the fundamental principle of "political transparency"…yet you violate the principles of transparency by showing up to the J20 meeting and the NION meeting and not identifying yourself .when introductions were made you said you were not affiliated nor representing any group. You declared yourself just an individual who wanted to know what was being organized. Don't you think the people at those meetings had a right to know someone in the room had intentions of reporting what was said in a public web forum. I personally am not totally against this type of thing but it MUST be understood and agreed to by everyone participating. No consent was ever given. This is unethical behavior. It's almost like you've forgotten how to behave in a respectful and civilized manner with those who you pretend to be working with. Knowing how to work well with others is a crucial skill that I hope you would have learned along the way in your supposed twenty five years of activism.

A word about naiveté as you mentioned in your post. Is it naïve to think you can slander a group of people and then think they would welcome you with open arms? We were actually very nice and said if you persist in this behavior you are not welcome. For the naïve reader out there this translates into, we don't appreciate what you did but we would like to give you a chance to correct the situation.

At this point you know that on matters like this we speak with one voice. I wouldn't presume to take the very unusual step of excluding someone from meetings without first consulting with my colleagues. That would be disrespectful of me, we value respect and have the utmost respect for each other and the people who come to our meetings. This brings me to the reason I am the one responding to you. I take great exception to your slanderous comments and will not allow someone to tarnish the reputation and good work we have done not even in a trivial forum like this. These are some of the best people I have ever worked with and have a high degree of professional and ethical conduct. You Sir need to check yourself. The next time you come to a meeting and a female member of NION tells you that we have decided as a group that you cannot stay if you are going to spy on the proceedings then the proper response is for you to leave NOT that you need to check with a male member of NION first you pompous ass. As it is we spoke with you for fifteen minutes and allowed you to pass out your literature in our meeting.

While I doubt you are big enough to apologize, I do demand a formal apology and retraction of your slanderous comments. Don't think you can show up at any future NION meetings without one. As for myself you can ask around a lot of people know me. I've worked in this town for ten years as a woman and children's advocate in a DV shelter, Tenant's Union legislative committee, Volunteer for Tent City and Share/Wheel, Home Alive, No War Against Iraq Coalition etc. People that I've worked with will tell you I bring a lot to the table, I work hard, I keep my word and I make an effort to be respectful and to work in a constructive manner.

What I haven't done is sit around pontificating and navel gazing with my personal manifesto in one hand and a beer in the other. What you are doing isn't reporting, it's self aggrandizing obstructionism and you are trying to create controversy where non existed. If you don't like our politics or what we do then find like minded individuals and organize around principles you believe instead of trying to disrupt what we do. We put out a call many months ago for people to collaborate and few accepted. Now everyone wants to come at the last minute and criticize how we organized our part. Despite what you or Frank think it has taken a lot of effort to organize this Rally and has come a high personal cost (financial and personal) to those organizing it. We know what our limits are and we simply didn't have the steam to do it all. Frank is right people should stop depending on others to organize and start stepping up and taking responsibility for the kind of world they want to bring into existence. Incidentally I don't see any mention of some of the other prominent groups who have larger constituencies than either NION or ANSWER being taken for task for their total silence and refusal to endorse J20 events and the Anti-RNC.

In short your total approach sucks. You need to work on your people skills. My recommendation is if you have concerns by all means voice them public or otherwise but please practice a little due diligence with your facts. Don't just show up a couple of minutes before a crucial meeting in a confrontational mode. Do approach us on a one to one human level and you will get all the info you need.


mass democracy requires public criticism
Posted by: Ben Seattle at Jan 14, 2005 01:13

Hi everyone,

I have read both Frank and Michael's comments several times.

Obviously I am closer to Frank's view on this matter. I believe that his post was very helpful -- focusing on the crisis of organization in the antiwar movement and the need for mass political meetings in which it would be difficult for any single group to exclude activists with whom they have differences.

While I obviously disagree with much of what Michael has to say -- I consider it a step forward for her to explain in more depth her grievances against me. Readers deserve to hear from all sides before drawing conclusions.

I will focus today mostly on replying to Michael. But I would like to thank Frank because I believe that his post on January 11 helped to make it clear to Michael that NION will lose support from activists if it continues to act in such blatant opposition to the principle of mass democracy. Faced with this reality -- Michael has offered her explanation for why NION kicked me out of their January 9th meeting -- and offered her "terms" for me to be allowed to attend a NION public meeting.

Michael may understand the current disagreements as being about "personality" (ie: things like ego and people skills -- hence her title). But the disagreements are really over fundamental principles such as:

(1) differences over tactics in the movement and
the importance of giving advance publicity
to a March so that more people will come
(2) different attitudes concerning the influence in
the movement of the imperialist Democratic Party
(3) different conceptions of mass democracy as applied
to public meetings of activists.

I will do my best to overlook the somewhat personal tone that Michael has directed at me. Michael may not understand it at this time -- but I do respect her and NION and the considerable hard work and sacrifice that she and the organization have done. This does not mean, however, that I will refrain from criticizing what I consider the mistakes of her organization.

Actually it is sometimes the other way around: the more that an organization does to build the movement -- the more that an organization finds itself in the center of the tasks which are decisive -- the greater will be the harmful consequences of any mistakes which the organization makes -- and hence the greater will be the need for thoughtful, considered criticism of the mistakes. This will appear to many as a big contradiction. And it is. Our movement is full of such contradictions.

We need to learn to
"do our business" in public

Antiwar activists are in many ways in a difficult position today. Our movement suffers from many crises: a crisis of theory, a crisis of organization and a general crisis of orientation. These crises affect all of us on a daily basis.

On top of all this -- we are in a position of having to learn how to discuss our differences in public -- in full view of friend and foe alike. And this requires skill.

Michael has accused me of posting two "lies" (ie: regarding NION's promoting the influence of the Democratic Party and NION's attitude toward a march). This is an example of a somewhat unskilled presentation of matters. What Michael really meant to say is that I have expressed views which she disagrees with.

I run a small, low-traffic email list called pof-200. It is not a very significant list at this time although I hope it will grow. I do not allow subscribers on this list to accuse one another of telling "lies" unless they can back up their claims in a concise and entertaining way. Otherwise -- the whole thing becomes too boring for anybody to want to read. And it is important that we respect readers -- who find it boring when we transform differences of opinion into "lies" and "slander" and escalate what should be calm and scientific discussion into childish flame wars. (By the way -- if any readers are interested in my list you can read all about it at http://MediaWeapon.com )

How many people know about the march?

One of the supposed "lies" I have told is that "NION and ANSWER are against promoting and organizing marches".

The problem here is that I never actually said this. I never made such a generalization.

What I said is that, based on the evidence which I have personally witnessed, neither NION or ANSWER appeared to be very much into organizing marches in Seattle on January 20 -- and, in particular, of making use of these marches to mobilize people to these actions.

The evidence for this is literally all over town -- lot of flyers on utility poles informing people that a convergence is taking place at Westlake and the Federal building. And a relatively smaller number of flyers informing people that a March will take place.

Hopefully this is now getting corrected -- and the new joint flyers will be appearing in larger numbers although it appears to me, based on what I have personally seen, that this matter is getting corrected because a number of activists felt strongly about it and NION and ANSWER felt compelled to take these feelings into account.

So all the stuff (repeated twice now) about what a great job that NION did in New York appears somewhat out of place to me. Yes, NION undoubtedly did a hell of lot of hard, diligent, useful, work in New York and somewhere around a half-million activists protested against the Republican Convention.

Yes, Michael, this is great work. Yes I am very glad that you did all this great work in New York -- and also that you did all this great work here in Seattle on November 6 and November 13. I am confident that most activists feel the same way.

But no -- that does not mean that you get a free pass from criticism. If you have done great work in the past -- that does not make you free from criticism of your mistakes today.

The movement is bigger than NION and you will be better able to participate in building the movement if you recognize that criticism is necessary no matter how much hard (and useful) work you have done. This goes for NION. This goes for Frank's trend: Communist Voice. This goes for my work also. Without criticism we are all dead and useless because the complexity of life and the class struggle is greater than we will ever be able to understand without the assistance of criticism. It is really that simple.

Nor does the fact that you have done great and useful work in the past mean that we should overlook those aspects of your past work that were not great at all -- but which on the contrary hurt the movement and which undermine the ability of many new activists to understand the class nature of the society in which we are trying to build an antiwar movement.

The influence of the Democratic Party

And this gets into my other supposed "lie": the actions of NION which have promoted illusions in the imperialist Democratic Party.

We must deal with this question in a sober way. The influence of the Democratic Party in the antiwar movement is extensive and extremely unhealthy. This influence shapes every aspect of the antiwar movement in one way or another. We underestimate this influence, or make light of it, at great peril to our movement.

Michael tells me that NION has not had someone from the Democratic Party speak at a rally since she has been around it. I don't know how long Michael has been around NION. I believe I heard someone from the NION speakers' platform promote nonsense about the Democratic Party as recently as last November. I didn't take notes of this, unfortunately, so I can't tell you who it was or exactly what they said -- but it seemed to be the typical bullshit about the progressive Democratic Party saviors who were supposedly going to fight Bush for us if only we gave them more support.

I did a quick google search just now and did find this quote from our own Wilhelmina:

> Thus both A.N.S.W.E.R. and N.I.O.N. have many times
> invited McDermott, Kucinich and other deceptive
> imperialists to speak at large anti-war demonstrations.
> But the WWP and RCP speakers have refused to expose
> and oppose their demagogy before the mass audiences.

So is Wilhelmina mistaken about this? I don't consider her infallible by any stretch -- but she tends to pay careful attention to such things. Can NION tell me straight-up that none of this is true?

There is also a deeper question here -- a question which Wilhelmina's comments raise.

It is probably not practical to exclude all speakers who have illusions about the Democratic Party -- because of the extreme saturation of our culture with illusions about how the Democratic Party is some kind of force that has some degree of independence from imperialism. But we could counter the damage done to the consciousness of activists (who may place some degree of trust in speakers who talk at antiwar rallies) if strong, clear and consistent messages were sent out by other speakers who explained that the Democratic Party has its claws in the antiwar movement for no other reason than to tame the movement -- to suck the militancy and life out of the movement -- and turn the antiwar movement into something harmless to bourgeois interests -- into a "pro-war" movement that, like Kerry, would work to support a more effective imperialist war.

I would like to hear such speakers denounce the schemes of the Democratic Party from the NION stage. I would like to hear this more often than I hear bullshit about the saviors from the establishment who will supposedly fight Bush for us.

Any chance that my wish will come true on January 20?

Are we now afraid to use words like "militant" ?

Michael says that it was "unethical" of me to describe someone as "militant" who opposed a march on the grounds that it would not take over the Federal building.

Are we so afraid of the state that we can't use a word like "militant"? Fine. I will no longer use this word to describe anyone around NION. I hope it is OK if I describe myself, and people who think like me, as being militant in our attitudes. And daydreaming about taking over the Federal building? OK -- from now on I will make no mention of any such daydreams in a NION meeting. But the irony here is that the daydreams were being used by the individual involved to pour cold water on the idea of a march -- in favor of something that would be more tame: a rally.

I take the state, and the growing repression, seriously. But I am not going to stop using words like "militant" to describe my views on the desired direction of the antiwar movement. I want to see the movement advance in a revolutionary direction and for young activists to dream, in a realistic way (and openly talk about here on Indymedia and in a thousand other forums large and small) the need for millions of workers to overthrow the system of bourgeois rule.

Oops -- I think I hear someone banging on my door ...

What is good for the movement ?

Michael notes that any group like NION has the right to set it's own policies regarding meetings. This, of course, is true. But what is important -- is what policies are of benefit to the movement. For example NION has the right to kick me out of their meetings because I publically criticized what I considered to be their errors. But that does not mean that such policies benefit the kind of democratic discussion that the movement needs. Frank summed it up well. We need places where we can talk openly about the issues that are important. If NION is unable to provide such a place then activists will need to find another.

defending "privacy" in a paternalistic way

Michael also defends kicking me out of her meeting as being necessary to "defend the privacy" of the activists who attended. It was my proposal (when I was escorted into a back room and told that I could not attend the meeting unless I agreed not to write about it on Indymedia) that the issue be raised to all of the activists -- who could then decide what was appropriate. I explained my guidelines: I don't use people's names, I don't describe their appearance, I don't report on discussion of illegal actions (should anyone be be foolish enough to discuss such actions in a meeting which was widely advertised and which any undercover cop could easily attend) and I describe in general, concise terms that which is relevant to the most important questions in the antiwar movement.

But the dozens of activists in attendence did not have the opportunity to decide for themselves if it was OK that I intended to post a report of the meeting on this Indymedia thread.

Privacy is important -- but if the activists attending are left in the dark about how they are being "protected" -- it would appear that privacy is being used as an excuse for actions that oppose mass democracy. Frank said it well: why not "Let the people decide"? I am confident that activists at the meeting (if they had known what was going on) would have decided that it would be fine for me, or anyone else, to summarise the meeting for other activists here on Indymedia. And I believe that is why I was not allowed, under threat of physical violence, to raise the issue with the activists.

I surrendered only to credible threat of force

Finally, Michael is upset that when she told me I had to leave I "first checked with a male member". I am going to respond to this so that no one gets the impression that I fail to respect women.

It was my democratic right to tell the three dozen activists who were in the next room why I was being kicked out and to ask them what they thought about it. My democratic right was violated. I agreed to this violation for one reason only: because a credible threat of force existed. If I had not agreed to leave without talking to the activists there -- there would have been a physical altercation -- which would not only be stupid -- it would be bad for the movement. So before I agreed to leave I spoke to the one person there who had the physical ability to prevent me from telling the assembled activists in the next room what was going on. And I verified that a credible threat of force existed.

And, yes, I did insist on, before leaving, handing out the xeroxed copies I had made from excerpts of this Indymedia thread.

So it is not that I fail to respect women. It is that I respect democratic rights and only surrendered mine under credible threat of force.

They know not what they do

Michael has presented her "terms" for my being able to attend a NION meeting. It is useful that she has done so because this can be used to create clarity for activists. It is my considered opinion that Michael and the local NION leadership fail to fully appreciate the significance of what they are doing: banning me from their public meetings because, essentially, I have criticized them and refuse to retract the public assessments I have assembled based on hard observation and years of experience in bitter struggle.

Ben Seattle -- http://struggle.net/ben
"Isolated from one another we are easily defeated.
Connected to one another no force on earth can stop us."
-- The Media Weapon Community -- http://MediaWeapon.com
My views do not necessarily reflect the views
of other supporters of the Media Weapon community

Other Indymedia posts by Ben
Other work by Ben Seattle