written: Sept 20, 2005
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The Media Weapon community
does the antiwar movement need?
We need organization because without it we are powerless.
Individual activists, acting on their own, can do very little to overcome their isolation and effectively challenge the domination of the antiwar movement by the big coalitions which, in ways large or small, have allied themselves to liberal-imperialist political trends.
Only by combining our energies can serious, militant activists develop a clear alternative to liberal lesser-evil politics and bring this alternative to the attention of activists everywhere.
The antiwar movement can never become a powerful social force until it breaks free from the straightjacket of the bourgeois politics which are promoted by a reformist social strata (ie: liberal-labor politicians, trade union bureaucrats, religious misleaders, poverty pimps, "progressive" media personalities and professional shapers of "public opinion") which is dependent on the bourgeoisie and in orbit around the Democratic Party.
Organization is the difference between a demoralized movement attempting to elect the establishment savior who will betray us next and a movement which decisively breaks from liberal lesser-evil politics.
Organization is the difference between an antiwar movement which appeals to the conscience of liberal-imperialist politicians and a movement which works to raise the consciousness of the masses.
Organization is the difference between a movement that revolves around the hope of getting coverage on CNN and a movement which builds its own network of leaflets, newspapers and websites that connect to the masses.
Organization is the difference between the hope of going back to the mythical "democracy" that supposedly existed before 9-11 and the recognition that we live under a political and economic system which is imperialist to its core and which will launch one brutal war after another until it is overthrown.
In summary, organization is the difference between defeat and victory.
But there are several obstacles to effective organization. We must talk about these obstacles frankly and openly.
to unite with and what to unite around
The first obstacle to effective self-organization by activists is the lack of a clear understanding of what kind of activists and, more importantly, what kind of agenda, we must organize around.
If we are not clear on this we will end up with organization which is either (a) focused on unrealistic and demoralizing schemes to influence the powerful or (b) paralyzed by conflict and infighting between those who want an alliance with the reformist social strata and those who see the need to break with this strata.
Effective organization in the antiwar movement must revolve around an agenda of independence from (ie: breaking with) the entire reformist social strata and the reformist ideology which this strata promotes.
Breaking from the reformist ideology requires that we recognize the nature of the society in which we live. We live in a society ruled by the capitalist class (also known by its scientific name the bourgeoisie).
As long as the bourgeoisie rule society they will launch one imperialist war after another.
The only way to end this system of endless imperialist war is to end the system of bourgeois rule.
Activists have many different views on how bourgeois rule can be overcome (ie: whether it can be gradually reformed away or can only be eliminated by means of a revolutionary mass movement of millions). Activists also have many different views concerning how society will organize itself in the period after bourgeois rule is eliminated.
Activists who hold a wide range of views can play an important part in building the kind of organization which we need so long as they recognize (a) the necessity of breaking from the influence of the reformist social strata and (b) that the primary focus of the antiwar movement must be to tell the masses the truth about the need to end the entire system of bourgeois rule.
Other than the two core views above all other ideological divisions within the antiwar and/or anti-capitalist movement (ie: between anarchists and "authoritarians", between trotskyists and maoists, between this and that) are minor.
undemocratic methods of organizing
The antiwar movement needs a mass organization which includes activists with a wide range of views concerning the path forward. It will be inevitable, due to the crisis of theory and the profound ignorance which saturates our society that many wrong views (or views which are only partially correct) will exist in and around this organization. It will, therefore, be necessary to develop methods of sorting out, on the key questions, which views conform to the needs of our time.
It is the practical experience of struggle which determines which views are valid. But the experience of struggle is of no use if it cannot be talked about, summarized, debated and understood.
Our movement is weak at this time because activists are being kept unaware of the experience of struggle.
In a healthy revolutionary mass organization the experience of struggle would be known through calm and scientific discussion and debate.
Unfortunately the left (as it currently exists) is largely made up of groups which are engaged in an intense dog-eat-dog competition with one another over the warm, living bodies of activists who are new on the scene and are looking for some organized force to hook up with. These activists fuel, with their money and labor, the growth (and the centralized staffs) of the groups which are competing with one another for survival. In these circumstances of cut-throat competition the need for principled, transparent and long-term collaboration and for calm, scientific discussion and debate is discarded by these groups in favor of various forms of manipulation with each group attempting to isolate itself from healthy criticism. In this process, supporters of these groups, who are often intoxicated by sectarianism cast critics as "black hats" and respond with word-twisting, contempt, scorn and insults.
Most, if not all, of these groups in spite of the often considerable amount of useful work which they do have a poorly developed internal intellectual life and manifest many of the characteristics of a cult (including the expulsion and isolation of critics).
Multi-tendency organizations or coalitions which include supporters of more than one of these groups are typically characterized by (a) a form of unprincipled peace in which the important issues are never discused and (b) unprincipled manuevering and bloc voting (in which one group will pack a meeting with its supporters who will all vote as a unified bloc) in an effort to get their way and maximize their recruitment of new blood.
Because of the widespread manipulation and other unhealthy features of even the best of existing organizations many of the best activists are justifiably mistrustful of organization and, as a result, are currently isolated from one another.
This situation needs to be overcome. But we cannot move forward without taking into account the many existing unhealthy organizational practices.
My conclusion is that the kind of organization which our movement needs is organization which is somewhat informal and highly democratic in nature. We must make it easy for the best activists to get to know one another over the long term and to work together and compare experience. We must make it difficult for the control freaks to silence, intimidate or isolate critics.
Real organization can not emerge from any kind of "get rich quick" scheme it must develop on the basis of healthy principles and grow, over the long term, like a tree.
A real organization will develop around a core mission and program. But for this core mission and program to serve the needs of our movement it must be developed in an open way.
We need a form of organization where competing ideas and agendas are put on the table and defended in a calm and open way and there is open (ie: public) principled discussion and debate concerning the fundamental path forward. We need to develop the concept that we are accountable for our actions that we are committed to answering questions and replying (calmly) to public criticism from other serious activists. We can assist one another by developing a tradition of publicly reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of one anothers leaflets. We can deepen our understanding of key issues by discussing and developing, in public forums, joint statements and resolutions. We can make use of the emerging revolution in communications to bring the principles that matter to increasing numbers of activists so that we can reach a critical mass.
And our developing community of activists can develop a focus on our real tasks not by means of threats of isolation but through passion and a recognition that we are here to fight.
My own work to build organization along the lines I have described above is focused on what I call the Media Weapon community. At the present time, we are more of an email list than a real community of the kind which is needed. But we may develop over time.
All activists who oppose the war in Iraq are welcome to join our community by subscribing to our pof-200 email list. We also welcome those who we criticize in this leaflet. We need a movement where thoughtful criticism flows in torrents like water in a thunderstorm and where all activists have the right to reply and to defend their views.
the antiwar movement?
Some say we intend to weaken the antiwar movement by splitting it from its "natural ally" the left wing of the Democratic Party.
We reply that the antiwar movement can never become powerful until it turns its back on the imperialist Democratic Party and all of its flunkies and focuses one hundred percent of its attention on raising the consciousness of the masses.
Some say that we intend to polarize the movement. Our reply is that, in a class-divided imperialist society, polarization of the movement is inevitable. We work so that this inevitable polarization takes place in conditions of maximum consciousness and clarity so that the struggle between imperialist and anti-imperialist politics within the antiwar movement is no longer hidden from activists but is dragged into the light of the sun.
We welcome to our community even reformist apologists for the policy of alliance with the imperialist Democratic Party. Our experience has been that the struggle on our email list against the influence of these apologists for imperialist politics has been a powerful factor in waking up subscribers to the true nature of reformism and a valuable source of experience in principled polemical combat.
We also welcome supporters of the various sectarian "socialist" grouplets and anarchists of all kinds (including the most immature). Our community is not afraid of people with a chip on their shoulder or their head in a place that cant be reached by sunlight.
Our email list has not had problems with flame wars or word-twisting, time-wasting know-it-alls because we limit subscribers to one post per week (or two posts per week for activists who march in antiwar actions) and we require subscribers to act toward one another with respect.
We know that all trends include activists with some level of enthusiasm for doing the right thing and we want to accelerate the process of separating what is healthy from what is not. We want to be a refinery for the movement.
The Media Weapon community is intended to be an ecosystem which reflects and refines all the contradictions of the movement. This means that we want our community to include representatives of all political trends and currents of thought in the antiwar movement. We understand that any time representatives of opposing political trends are gathered together struggle is inevitable. That is fine with us. We are here to fight.
We understand that not all trends in the antiwar movement have the stomach for an open, public principled fight for their views and agenda. Our response to this is to work for the day when only those trends with the ability to openly fight for their views can expect to gain mindshare in the movement.
Any member of our community has the right to propose any project which they believe will be of value to the movement. And any member has the right to participate (or not) in any project. This follows from the fact that we are a community of autonomous individuals.
However we also understand that the challenges of the antiwar and anti-capitalist movements can only be successfully confronted by activists who are united by serious discipline.
There will be a need for groups with serious discipline and these groups may eventually emerge as smaller subsets of activists within the context of the broad and loose community we are creating. This broader and looser community of autonomous individuals may help to guide the development and evolution of healthy principles, such as political transparency, that are essential for the emergence of a genuinely revolutionary mass movement.
If the development of disciplined organization is essential to confront the demands of our time then possibly the Media Weapon community may play a helpful role in the emergence of such an organization by bringing into closer proximity an increasing number of serious, militant activists.
Nature provides for us the example of galaxies which give birth to stars when isolated atoms and molecules begin to concentrate in regions of higher density. Prehaps, in an analogous way, the Media Weapon community may eventually give birth to the mass revolutionary party of the future.
Ben Seattle, Sept 20, 2005
Disclaimer: I have used the word "we" in connection with describing the Media Weapon community. It is therefore necessary that I make clear that my views are not necessarily representative of the views of anyone else in the Media Weapon community. The views in this article are my own. I use the word "we" in the conviction that, in the context of the aspirations of activists in the movement as a whole, I am not alone.
Isolated from one another
we are easily defeated.
We need mass democracy
Real organization cannot be built
on a foundation of sand
Ben Seattle November 7, 2005
And a proposal for:
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