Ben Seattle
June 30, 2007
"Cargo-Cult Leninism" vs. Political Transparency:
What principles of organization will serve the antiwar and revolutionary movements?

Our weapon is mass democracy
The revolutionary mass organization that we need
will rely on the energy and experience of activists in open struggle to resolve
-- in full view of friend and foe alike -- opposing views on the way forward
Contents:
Part 1   • Introduction   •   "Information War" Program for SAIC   •   Where is my organization?
            • Is helping to distribute SAIC’s agitation parasitism – or principled cooperation?   •   Is Ben sufficiently "political"?
Part 2   • What is political transparency?  
(It means that activists can see what goes on behind the curtain)
            • The opposite of transparency  
(Stonewalling: the easy answer to all criticism)
            • The relationship of the revolutionary mass organization to the mass of activists
Part 3   • The problem with pragmatism   •   Is Ben a "black hat" ?   •   What is the “rate of information metabolism” ?
Part 4   • Cargo cults and cargo-cult Leninism
            • Join our group – We can do your thinking for you  
(Why do supporters of left-wing groups so often drink the kool-aid ?)
Part 5   • What is revolutionary theory?  
(GLUE to hold us together? – a STICK to beat heretics? – or a LIGHT that helps us see?)
            • The Spectre of Endless Discussion  
(We don’t need to live in fear of talking about our goal)
            • What is Ben’s idea of a “trend of trends”?
Part 6   • Is Ben an anarchist ?  
(Watch out for his Trojan Horse!)
Part 7   • Did Ben attempt to bury debate?  
(The showdown at the final congress of the MLP)
            • Right-wing demagoguery – or materialism?   •   Ben corrects himself
Part 8   • Confronting a refugee from the theoretical needs of the class struggle  
(Ben Seattle talks to Joseph Green)
Part 9   • The foundations of modern revisionism  
(“Marxism-Leninism” is anti-Marxist, anti-Leninist and revisionist)
Part 10   • Proletarism is anti-revisionist Marxism for the 21st century
Part 3 • The problem with pragmatism
• Is Ben a "black hat" ? • What is the “rate of information metabolism” ?
The problem with pragmatism

Frank's main argument is that readers need only look at the fruit of his work and compare it to the fruit of Ben’s work – and that is all you really need to know about our respective principles.

In other words, Frank points to the success of SAIC and compares this to the lack of success (so far) of our community-in-embryo. On this basis, Frank argues that his views must be correct and that the "information war" and "community" principles which I advocate must be worthless.

The problem with this argument is that it amounts to what is sometimes called "pragmatism".

It is true that, by its fruit, we can know the tree (ie: we can judge the effectiveness of competing principles by looking at the practical results of these principles when applied to the real world). This is the basis of the scientific method: you determine truth by experiment.

But "pragmatism" tends to take this principle too far. Some experiments may only produce results when there is:

    (1) a critical mass of talented and dedicated people
    (2) sufficient time and
    (3) favorable circumstances

So Frank may be deceiving himself when he claims that the "information war" and "community" principles are worthless. We have not yet proven that these principles are powerful but neither has Frank proven that they are not. So this question is not yet settled. [1]

Attempts to create light bulbs and airplanes were not successful except after many repeated attempts. Nor has there ever been a revolution that put the working class firmly into power. But we do not conclude from this that light bulbs, airplanes or proletarian revolutions are impossible.

Further, sometimes the results of an experiment can be misleading. The RCP, for example, has been able to put together a national organization and organize actions of various kinds. However this does not prove that the RCP's orientation is correct. On a larger scale, the Soviet people, under Stalin’s leadership, defeated Hitler. However this does not prove that Stalin's principles were all correct either.

Footnote 1: The sentence "So this question is not yet settled"
                    was added, for clarity, on July 14

Is Ben a "black hat" ?

Frank's secondary argument, in effect, is that I am a dishonest person -- so considering my arguments is really a waste of time. (This is not what Frank actually says – but this is the logic of his reply which spends a lot of words describing my real or imagined shortcomings.)

According to Frank, I am supposedly not honest, thoughtful or self-critical; I am supposedly an anarchist and a renegade; I supposedly don't give a damn about the antiwar movement; I supposedly fear collectivity and I supposedly committed this or that sin in 1993. These kinds of arguments are usually refered to as "ad hominum" attacks (ie: attacking a person rather than dealing with the arguments or principles which a person is making).

Of course, in the movement, we run into dishonest people all the time. We meet people who go beyond self-deception and are unprincipled in many ways. We want and need a movement where everyone establishes their own reputation. This saves us all a lot of time. If some people have a reputation for honesty and consistency and others have a reputation for evasion and deliberate deception – we want to give our limited attention to where it will do the most good.

So if I am really a dishonest person then it would be useful for Frank to make this clear in order to warn other activists that I am basically a waste of their time.

The problem with Frank's reply to me is that it spends so much effort attacking my supposed shortcomings that his reply becomes hard to read or understand. If disagreements between activists consist mainly of these kinds of personal attacks – then few people will bother to read them and attempt to make any sense out of them and the whole purpose of such exchanges (ie: raising the consciousness of readers concerning key principles – and encouraging people to join the discussion for this purpose) is defeated.

This is why we need discussion which is focused mainly on principles rather than on who is supposedly a "black hat".

What is the “rate of information metabolism” ?

• It is the speed at which opposing ideas confront one another in an intelligent and productive way so as to refute incorrect ideas and reduce them into their components – some of which may be of value. • It is the speed at which the basic idea cycle (ie: theses, antitheses, syntheses) takes place. • It is the speed with which charlatans are exposed. • It is the rate at which activists can sum up their practical experience in the movement and learn from one another.

Contents:
Part 1   • Introduction   •   "Information War" Program for SAIC   •   Where is my organization?
            • Is helping to distribute SAIC’s agitation parasitism – or principled cooperation?   •   Is Ben sufficiently "political"?
Part 2   • What is political transparency?  
(It means that activists can see what goes on behind the curtain)
            • The opposite of transparency  
(Stonewalling: the easy answer to all criticism)
            • The relationship of the revolutionary mass organization to the mass of activists
Part 3   • The problem with pragmatism   •   Is Ben a "black hat" ?   •   What is the “rate of information metabolism” ?
Part 4   • Cargo cults and cargo-cult Leninism
            • Join our group – We can do your thinking for you  
(Why do supporters of left-wing groups so often drink the kool-aid ?)
Part 5   • What is revolutionary theory?  
(GLUE to hold us together? – a STICK to beat heretics? – or a LIGHT that helps us see?)
            • The Spectre of Endless Discussion  
(We don’t need to live in fear of talking about our goal)
            • What is Ben’s idea of a “trend of trends”?
Part 6   • Is Ben an anarchist ?  
(Watch out for his Trojan Horse!)
Part 7   • Did Ben attempt to bury debate?  
(The showdown at the final congress of the MLP)
            • Right-wing demagoguery – or materialism?   •   Ben corrects himself
Part 8   • Confronting a refugee from the theoretical needs of the class struggle  
(Ben Seattle talks to Joseph Green)
Part 9   • The foundations of modern revisionism  
(“Marxism-Leninism” is anti-Marxist, anti-Leninist and revisionist)
Part 10   • Proletarism is anti-revisionist Marxism for the 21st century