From: Ben Seattle
Sent: Saturday, March 04, 2006 3:30 PM
To: pof-200
Subject: [pof-200] CIW # 55 -- Ben replies to Frank:
         spontaneity / meatspace / my 3 point program for SAIC

 focus on building a community of information war # 55

          Ben replies to Frank:
	    spontaneity / meatspace / my 3 point program for SAIC

(1) why caro-cult Leninists fear "spontaneity"
(2) cyberspace vs. meatspace ?
(3) my three point program for SAIC

(1) why caro-cult Leninists fear "spontaneity"

Marik (March 3):

> After your initial exchange with Frank, [he] and I
> also had a few exchanges about the merits and
> foundation of Media Weapon. The questions he raised,
> all seemed to be of a theoretical problem with Media
> Weapon, mostly that it relied too much on spontaneity
> and not enough on the hard, conscious work of theory
> and political organizing.

Ben replies:

Ok.  I will make a reply here and then maybe you can ask me to
further elaborate in those areas which you believe might be of
interest to yourself and/or other readers.

why caro-cult Leninists fear "spontaneity":

The word "spontaneity" has become a code word for everything that
cargo-cult Leninists fear.  There is quite a bit of history
behind this.

The cargo-cultists take, as their justification, Lenin's "What is
to be Done?" (1902) where Lenin demonstrated that the reformist
(ie: what today we would call "social-democratic") ideology is
rooted in the worship of spontaneity.  The reformist opportunists
serve the bourgeoisie and oppose the organized intervention of
working class activists in the class struggle.  In order to
oppose organized intervention in the class struggle -- the
reformists promoted the idea that we should, basically, just sit
back and watch the working class self-organize.  The reformists
dressed this up, of course, in all sorts of fancy words and
philosphical justification.  But that was the basic message (and
it still is today).  It means that we can help the working class
in various ways -- but we should not even think about trying to
do anything fundamental -- since to do so would, essentially, be
to go against the laws of nature.  Basically it amounts to
following the prescription of John Lennon: "Let it be".  

(For more on this see: "The Ideological Roots of Opportunism",
chapter 6 of my unfinished work "How to Build the Party of the
Future" located at: )

It is correct to oppose the worship of spontaneity.  But _fear_
of spontaneity is something different.

Fear of spontaneity originates in the struggle of the ruling
regime in the Soviet Union to suppress the energies and political
life and consciousness of the working class.  In the period
between the end of the civil war (late 1920) and the time that
Lenin was incapacitated (1922-23) the ruling bolshevik party was
forced, by circumstances, to enact a series of temporary
emergency measures to restrict the political motion of the
working class to extremely narrow channels.  To restrict the
energies of the working class (ie: essentially to deny workers
fundamental political rights like freedom of speech and
organization) was extremely dangerous (a fact of which Lenin was
acutely aware).  However the only realistic alternative to this
(in the extremely harsh conditions of the time -- a shattered
economy, famine and widespread unrest) would have been an
immediate restoration of bourgeois rule.

The danger of suppressing the energies of the working class
emerged in full force in the period following Lenin's death.  The
ruling bolshevik party became preoccupied with its survival and,
over time, became corrupt.  The workers -- without the democratic
rights of speech and organization -- had no effective means of
opposing the steady corruption of the bolshevik party.

The corrupt bolshevik party, in its speeches, newspapers and
propaganda machine, transformed Lenin's temporary emergency
repressive measures into permanent principles which were
supposedly essential features of the rule of the working class.
This was (and still is) a huge lie.  The emergency temporary
measures were never part of the rule of the working class.  Lenin
had enacted these repressive measures in order to avoid an
immediate bourgeois restoration and preserve the _chance_ that
the ruling bolshevik party would have a window of time -- in
which it would be able to restore the shattered economy, lessen
the dissatisfaction of the peasants -- and bring about the rule
of the working class.  So the emergency repressive measures had
been a gamble made in desperate circumstances.  The gamble might
have been successful had Lenin lived (that's my personal opinion)
but that is not what happened.

During the period, after Lenin's death, in which the corrupt,
ruling bolshevik party worked to suppress the independent
political life and independent political voice of the working
class -- this corrupt party created a political religion, which
it called "Marxism-Leninism" (a phrase never used by Lenin), that
was used to justify the repression of the workers.  According to
this reactionary political religion, the rule of the working
class required (1) a merger of the party and state and (2) a
monopoly of power by the ruling party.  With this came the
ability of the ruling party to suppress all of its critics should
it find that necessary (which it did).

The result of this, of course, was political (and eventually
economic) stagnation.  The soviet working class, without
fundamental political rights, was largely helpless.  Without the
right to create independent organization, they could never become
masters of the new society.  (The only group of soviet workers,
of which I am aware, that was able to organize for genuine
communism under these police-state conditions was the small group
founded by Razlatsky and Isayev -- see for
more about this.)  Eventually, after many decades, the Soviet
economy was overwhelmed by western imperialism and the whole
project collapsed -- leaving untold suffering in its wake.

But this did not, by any means, end the problem.

The corrupt "marxist-leninist" religion has formed the
ideological basis for a large number of groups in the West (both
trotskyist and maoist) which have attracted revolutionary
activists.  It is very difficult for these groups to confront the
political principles which form the basis of the groups.  This is
true not simply because of a weak grasp of marxist theory
(although that is sometimes a factor) -- but also because any
group risks demoralization and disintegration if it tinkers with
fundamental principles that it has used to mobilze supporters.
If the leading circles of a group admit that they are mistaken in
a fundamental way -- they risk loss of confidence, crisis, splits
-- and loss of support.  This kind of pressure (and system of
denial) can distort the thinking of activists -- even those with
a high level of integrity.

So the fear of sponaneity (to return to the origin of this
thread) which originated in the corrupt ruling party in Soviet
Russia -- which greatly feared the soviet working class -- has
been transmited, via a corrupt political religion, to
revolutionary groups today -- which fear their own crisis and
disintegration if too much light is thrown on basic and
fundamental questions.

Of course, "hard, conscious work of theory and political
organizing" is necessary.

But this necessary work can be more effectively organized if we
do not fear sponaneity.  On the contrary it is necessary to
harness the spontaneous energy of activists who want to build a
movement for a better world.  And we can harness the spontaneous
energy of activists without falling into the reformist trap of
"worshipping" spontaneity (ie: a trap that would leave us unable
to see the necessity of organized conscious intervention in the
class struggle and a conscious attitude toward the decisive

Unfortunately, Frank (whom I very much respect) is a complete
hypocrite when he talks about the "hard, conscious work of
theory" because neither he nor the group he supports (ie: the
Communist Voice Organization) has said a single fucking word in
more than 10 years of "theoretical work" that recognizes that
working class rule cannot exist without workers having
fundamental political rights -- or that, under working class
rule, the party and the state are not merged.

These principles are the heart of the corrupt "marxist-leninst"
religion and they are the heart of the crisis of theory.  Until
this crisis is confronted the movement for a world without
imperialism can never become a genuine mass movement -- because
the prevailing idea (promoted by (a) the bourgeoisie and (b) the
social-democratics and (c) the "marxist-leninist" would-be
revolutionary groups) is that the only alternative to bourgeois
rule is a _police state_ with no fundamental democratic rights
and low productivity (ie: something which would be _worse_ that
present-day bourgeois rule).

Frank is not an armchair activist.  Frank has not shrunk from the
hard, conscious work of political organizing -- and he has made
the Seattle Anti-Imperialist Committee (SAIC) a reality.  As an
example of his work, readers who have not seen it are highly
advised to read this post of his on Indymedia:

But there is more to it than this.  Frank is also proof that even
activists of the highest integrity (I can think of no living
person for whom I have greater respect) can have their head
firmed wedged into a place that cannot be reached by sunlight.

(2) cyberspace vs. meatspace ?

> [Frank] was also concerned with
> it's internet/digital communication orientation. He
> believes the focus of anti-imperialists is on
> organizing politically via tried and true methods in
> the 'meat' world (pamphleting, meeting groups and
> discussions, rallies and demo's, etc).

It is silly to make an artificial distinction between
"cyberspace" and "meatspace".  The reality is that if you post an
article on indymedia or send it to an email list -- it is going
to be read by the human mind of an activist.

So why get in a bother over this artificial distinction?

The present members of SAIC got together as a result of the
internet.  Neither SAIC (nor its predecessor organization, SAIA)
would have come into existence without posts on indymedia.

This, of course, does not mean that we don't need traditional
methods (ie: pamphleting, meeting groups and discussions, rallies
and demo's).  Rather it means that we must add this extremely
powerful means of communication to our arsenal -- and recognize
the immense potential of this newly emerging weapon.

To fail to do this is to recoil from the demands of our time.

This is my criticism of Frank.  He has talent and immense
dedication -- but he is recoiling from the demands of our time --
and the issue is to guide him forward -- which may require that
we correct him from time to time.  Frank, by the way, has already
recognized that he was mistaken when he proposed that I be banned
from SAIC meetings.  This shows that we can help to guide Frank

The organizing concept and principle which I believe must be at
the center of our work is "information war".  Specifically -- we
must build a community of information war.  And our information
war, and our community, cannot not develop as
things-in-themselves or things-for-themselves -- but rather must
be focused on mobilizing the working class for the overthrow of
bourgeois rule.

Pamphlets, meetings and demonstrations are also a form of
information war.

I must add, however, that Frank is completely correct about one
thing: we cannot get so fascinated by the potential of
"cyberspace" that we get lost in it -- and forget that a real
world exists all around us.  What I am getting at, Marik, is that
I hope to see you at the Seattle antiwar action on Saturday,
March 18 and the Portland action on Sunday, March 19.

(3) my three point program for SAIC

> I think a reply to these questions is in order, but
> not necessarily for the sake of individuals (Frank
> or Ben or myself) but for the future of the community.
> I think these are tough questions that many future
> members, especially those already experienced and
> involved with the anti-imperialist movement, will
> have. The answers to these questions should be
> displayed and built in to our wiki. I've come to the
> conclusion that the Media Weapon wiki can serve a
> multitude of functions; it can be a place for new
> members to understand what Media Weapon strives to
> be, the theory and principles that are it's
> foundation, and a nexus/portal to all
> information/projects the community has to offer. 
> The Media Weapon community strives be more then an
> e-mail list of left activists - there are plenty of
> those. I think Frank, and others who have left the
> group, have trouble seeing beyond that. If you, or
> anyone else, can address these questions, I think
> that will be a good way to build the theoretical
> foundation of this community.

I have already exhausted my time and the attention of readers --
so I will make this short.

I have had three basic criticisms of SAIC.  These criticisms are
expressed in my "3 point program" for SAIC's development.

1) political transparency
2) national reach
3) theoretical depth

The first point of my program is already making progress.  SAIC's
new web site appears to be functional (mostly) at: and allows activists to post comments,
questions and criticisms of SAIC's leaflets or basic positions.
This is a major step in the direction of transparency.

National reach involves making use of indymedia, progressive
email lists and similar internet-based forums to reach activists
in cities across the nation with the news that an
anit-imperialist orientation is essential for building a powerful
antiwar movmement -- and freeing the antiwar movement from the
suffocating embrace of the big reformist coalitions.  National
reach will not necessarily be easy and it requires thought --
because it would not be enough just to post stuff in a lot of
places.  It would also be necessary to find means of making
timely and thoughtful replies to the questions (or criticisms) of

Theoretical depth -- I have already discussed.  Until we confront
the crisis of theory no mass movement for a world without
imperialism (ie: a world without bourgeois rule) can come into
existence -- because activists must have confidence that such a
world is possible -- and would be _better_ that what we have now.

For more on these topics, see:

Sincerely and revolutionary regards, 
Ben Seattle 

Isolated from one another we are easily defeated. 
Connected to one another no force on earth can stop us 

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