From:    Ben Seattle
Sent:    Sunday, March 26, 2006 9:30 PM
To:      pof-200
Subject: [pof-200] information war is central to building the movement
(Frank-Ben exchange following CIW #55)

hi folks,

Frank has replied to my CIW # 55 (see his reply below my
signature).  

For those who have not been following this thread -- I work with
Frank in the Seattle Anti-Imperialist Committee (SAIC) and admire
him greatly.

At the same time I have criticized Frank and other supporters of
the Communist Voice Organization (CVO).  I believe that, in order
to build a powerful movement, and in order to create genuine
organization that can confront the decisive tasks of our time --
frank criticism is necessary.  Even the best people will make
serious errors.  Errors cannot be corrected without criticism.

At this time I will reply to only two of Frank's comments.

If anyone is following this thread and would like to see me reply
to any of the other issues that Frank has raised -- I believe it
would be very helpful to speak up now.  I usually do not reply to
something unless there is a chance that someone will read what I
write.  In this case, Frank has indicated that he will read what
I write.  Will anyone else?  If so -- let me know.  The
differences that I have with Frank can be used to raise the
consciousness of our community concerning important principles.
This can be a valuable opportunity.  A conversation that is only
between Frank and I will be of limited value.  If others
participate -- this can be more valuable.

Frank -- March 24:
------------------

> Was handing out literature that did not
> have the address to an interactive website
> on it "useless" or "corrupt" work ... or was
> this a sectarian slur of Ben's?

Ben replies:
------------

Handing out leaflets that help activists understand how to make
the antiwar movement more powerful is not by itself either
useless or corrupt.  Obviously such work is necessary.

So why did I call such work useless?

When we compare such work (ie: handing out leaflets that have no
link to an interactive website and no connection to a campaign of
national distribution via electronic media) to what is needed --
we will find that this work is miserably inadequate.

An analogy may shed some light on this.

Leaflet distribution can be considered a form of information war.
And the analogy which might be useful is also from war.

Infantry weapons (ie: small arms, automatic weapons and so forth)
are useful in conventional war.

But if your side only has infantry and your opponent has
mechanized armor (ie: tanks) you might lose the battle.  (This
analogy does not deal with unconventional warfare such as
guerilla actions or the use of IED's.)

However if your side also has other kinds of weapons (ie:
artillery and airpower) then you may have the means the win the
battle.

In this analogy, however, in order to win the battle -- you must
actually _use_ the other weapons that you have (ie: the
artillery and airpower).

Small arms alone are of limited value against armor.  One might
even say that, in comparison to the more powerful weapons which
are needed to win the battle -- they are useless.

And that is how I used the term "useless".  I used the word
"useless" in a _relative_ rather than an _absolute_ sense.

Distributing leaflets that are unconnected to digital media -- is
not completely and absolutely useless in and of itself.  However
_in comparison_ to what we can and must do to build a powerful
movement -- this practice is useless.

When we make use of digital media to reach activists on a
nationwide basis -- and we make use of digital media to build
public forums and public communities with activists -- we will
greatly expand the size of our audience.  If we fail to take
these steps -- then we are restricting ourselves in such a way
that most of our potential audience will never hear our message
-- or find a practical means to interact with us in a meaningful
way.

My view is that we cannot build a powerful antiwar movement
without making systematic and determined use of digital
communications.

Frank also challenges my use of word "corrupt".  I will reply to
this only briefly -- and say that my view is that the reasons
that Frank and the CVO avoid the actions that are necessary -- is
related to a kind of corruption that is common among many
organizations that consider themselves to be revolutionary.  We
cannot build a powerful revolutionary movement without
understanding the nature of this corruption and sweeping it out
of the way.

The good news is that SAIC now has a website where readers can
post criticisms of the leaflets they receive (see:
http://seattleaic.org/?p=22 ).  This is a significant step
forward.  Because SAIC took this step -- I assisted SAIC and
distributed several hundred SAIC leaflets last weekend in Seattle
and Portland.

Frank:
------

> I allegedly don't recognize that working class rule
> cannot exist without workers having fundamental
> political rights!

Ben replies:
------------

Frank is a supporter of the CVO.  Since the time of its creation
more than 10 years ago the CVO theoretical journal has never
challenged the prevailing "marxist-leninist" view that working
class rule requires:

(1) the merger of the workers' party and the state, and
(2) the suppression of the right of workers to have
    an independent political voice and an independent
    political life -- as can only exist on the basis of
    the democratic rights of speech and organization
    (ie: including the right to openly voice even
    counter-revolutionary views and including the
    right to associate and work even with others who
    hold such views).

So Frank may assert (see above) that he recognizes that workers
will have fundamental rights.  But the theoretical journal of the
organization he supports has _never_ explained that democratic
rights (such as the right to speech and the right to
organization) will be necessary in order for the working class to
exercize its rule as a class.

This is hardly a minor or obscure question.

Unclarity on this question is the primary reason that hundreds of
thousands of activists are extremely suspicious of all talk of
"workers' rule".

Because the phrase "workers' rule" (or the equivalent phrase
"dictatorship of the proletariat") has for many decades (and is
still today) used as a way to prettify, and make apologies for, a
police state such as emerged in the Soviet Union and still exists
today in China, North Korea, etc.

Activists are extremely relunctant to endorse anything that
appears to be a scheme for the kind of extreme concentration of
authority as is repesented by a state in which a single
organization has a monopoly of power -- and the right to silence
the voice of its opponents.

Historically this extreme concentration of authority has invited
abuse and, in every instance, led to the suppression of the
working class.

If we want to make the concept of workers' rule a living idea in
the hearts of hundreds of thousands of activists -- then we must
be able to explain, in clear and simple language -- that workers
rule in the context of modern, stable conditions (ie: a modern
and functioning economy and infrastructure, a working class
majority, etc) does not require such an extreme concentration and
centralization of authority.

Until we can clearly and openly address the legitimate concerns
of hundreds of thousands of activists -- we cannot have "idea
superiority" in information war (ie: the concept of "idea
superiority" in information war is analogous to "air superiority"
in conventional war).

Until the revolutionary movement achieves clarity on this
question -- it can never achieve "idea superiority" -- can never
become a mass movement -- and hence can never overthrow the
system of bourgeois rule.

Finally, Frank asserts that my comments are, essentially, nothing
more than sectarian abuse and slander.  I believe that, on the
contrary, I am raising important issues of principle that are
vital to the development of a revolutionary mass movement.

What do you think?

Ben Seattle
http://struggle.net/ben


Frank's reply to:
CIW # 55 -- Ben replies to Frank: spontaneity
    / meatspace / my 3 point program for SAIC 
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pof-200/message/1069
is below:

________________________________________
Regarding Ben's M.F. #55 (by Frank)

After 4 1/2 months Ben has not replied to any substantive
question I raised in my comments on M.F. #51: 

Was handing out literature that did not have the address to an
interactive website on it "useless" or "corrupt" work.or was this
a sectarian slur of Ben's? Silence. 

How about my exposure of Ben's myth-making about why SAIA was
dissolved? Silence.

Were Ben's proposed organizational rules for the SAIC
bureaucratic rules that would act against democracy? Silence

Was Ben sowing division in SAIC ranks, as well as division
between the SAIC and activists outside of it with
gutter-incitements against the CVO members, i.e., (1) our
attitude regarding democracy is "Well the minority has the right
to hit the road. End of story. Love it or leave it." (2) CVO
people are only "paying lip service to the goal of building an
anti-imperialist pole of attraction and that their actual agenda
is (a) to use SAIC to recruit into their group and consolidate
those activists who are new on the scene and looking for some
trend to hook up with and (b) to then liquidate SAIC once it has
served this purpose."? More silence.

Instead, in M.F. #55 he just pours on more abuse and slander: the
CVO people are a bunch of "cargo-cultists" who fear spontaneity.
Furthermore, I'm a "complete hypocrite" when I talk about doing
theoretical work. Why? I allegedly don't recognize that working
class rule cannot exist without workers having fundamental
political rights! It's a bitter joke. I'm an anti-revisionist
Marxist, Ben, not a would-be elitist bureaucrat.

Who can take away political rights from a working class that
succeeded in smashing the bourgeois state and is consciously
embarked on the path of attaining a classless (communist)
society? (And, if the country or region is large enough, I would
like to see some elitists try!) But history has shown that if the
proletariat is not conscious and organized enough (especially if
it exists in a country with a huge peasant population producing
for a market), and it's party abandons allegiance to Marxism and
the working class for allegiance to the interests of a new
bourgeoisie arising on the basis of private interests in
ministries, state-capitalist enterprises, trusts, etc., then this
new bourgeoisie and revisionist party can. 

No rules, no oaths of fidelity to fundamental political rights
for the working masses can prevent this. Only a more organized
and theoretically conscious class can. Hence the necessity of
laying the basis for this: theoretical study of the real Marxist
views on communism and the transition to it, study of the
achievements but ultimate failure of the Great October Socialist
Revolution, study of what Stalinist state-capitalism was, etc.
Communist theory has to go beyond the original formulations of
the early '20s, and draw a clearer picture of the transitional
period. This is necessary in order to distinguish between a
transitional economy and the Stalinist economies, and it is
needed in order to help strengthen actual working class control
during the transitional period, so as to avoid the tragedy of the
Russian attempt. So, since the 90s the CVO has been engaged in
advancing work on this front, popularizing it, trying to inspire
other into it. (See, for example, the articles under
http://home.flash.net/~comvoice/00LeninistTransition.html, and
http://home.flash.net/~comvoice/00Stalinism.html, as well as
several of the articles against Trotskyism on the same site.)

We say that "through this work, the Communist Voice seeks to pave
the way for communism to once again become the red, fighting
banner of the revolutionary working class movement. Only the
influence of the real communist theory can help the goal of a
classless, communist society again spread among the workers and
oppressed here and around the globe." 

But Ben sneers at our work by placing "theoretical work" inside
quotation marks. From his narrow framework, it allegedly has
nothing to do with giving activists confidence that a better
world is possible. Why, it allegedly doesn't disprove "that the
only alternative to bourgeois rule is a police state" (another
form of bourgeois rule). From mine, understanding what the
Marxist socialist theory is, examining the world-historic
experience of the Bolsheviks in applying it, understanding how
and why the revisionists departed from this theory and turned it
into a travesty does this, among many other things. 

Ben says we fear spontaneity, and yet, strangely enough, in all
our literature we encourage the masses to take matters into their
own hands---be it in economic, political, or theoretical
struggles. We repeatedly agitate for serious study of the works
of Marx, Engels, Lenin and others, with particular attention to
their method. (I would add that among the "others" is early
Plekhanov, particularly his "Development of the Monist View of
History".) We agitate for forming study groups, setting up
anti-imperialist groups all over the place, etc. This is pretty
strange behavior for people living in fear of the working class,
fear of scientific truth, fear of having dogmas disintegrated.
Why, it might even be interpreted as meaning that we a lot of
faith in the basic masses being able to grasp and apply
Marxist-Leninist theory for themselves. It might mean that rather
than fearing ordinary activists doing this, we welcome it with
all our hearts. 



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