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 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”?
The Spectre of
Endless Discussion

We don’t need to live in fear
of talking about our goal.
We can sort things out a little bit at a time ...

Recently, in response to my proposal that SAIC take steps to address the need for a clear vision of our revolutionary goal, X9 said that this raised the issue of “endless discussion”. This line holds that so-called “endless discussion” represents a threat – and will divert SAIC from other important work – as evidenced by numerous people who spend all their time talking on the internet instead of doing anything to build the movement.

I call this the "don’t drink water" argument. It is a scientific fact that drinking too much water will kill you. But no one uses this as an argument against ever drinking water. Sometimes water is essential. The way to avoid drinking too much water is to use a little bit of common sense. Then we don’t have to be afraid of drinking water.

It is true that if we spent all our time discussing our disagreements or controversial issues – then we would get nothing done. But this does not mean that we should not be able to participate in discussion in a measured way on an ongoing basis. The way to prevent long-term, ongoing discussion from undermining our work and focus – is to manage our time, focus and priorities so that the time we spend in discussion does not undermine other necessary fronts of work.

Frank makes a similar argument against developing SAIC’s web site. Frank argues that if we put too much energy and focus on developing our website – this will lead to neglect of other necessary fronts of work. And, of course, this is true. Here, again, the way to develop our website without undermining our work is be careful about what is “too much” – and to begin modestly, gradually putting work into our website and paying careful attention to the point at which other necessary work begins to be neglected.

What is Ben’s idea of
a “trend of trends”?

What is this thing which Frank so strongly opposes? It is “the existence of a number of centers” (ie: what Stalin opposed as “liberalism” in 1924 in “Foundations of Leninism”). More simply, it is democratic norms of open struggle – in which activists with minority viewpoints have the practical means to organize themselves on the basis of their views – and openly point out problems in the majority viewpoint – in order to win recognition and support for the correction of those problems. This is not rocket science. This should be understood to be the normal way that any mass democratic organization functions.

What is revolutionary theory?

– Is it GLUE to hold an organization together?
– or a STICK we use to beat heretics?
– or is it a LIGHT that helps us see?

Organizations based on cargo-cult Leninism often see revolutionary theory as a kind of “glue” (ie: a set of tribal totems and taboos) that holds their organization together. Frank appears to uphold this view in his description of the real “crisis of theory” faced by the MLP as it disintegrated. In his reply to me, Frank noted that at this time a number of weird and wrong views sprouted among supporters of the party. In Frank’s view the most important priority was to mobilize people around the party to condemn the heretics. Frank explains that this was “the only way to salvage anything from the situation”.

This was not my view. I dealt very heavily with theory during this period but, for the most part, I ignored most of these weird (and obviously wrong) views because it was clear that other theoretical issues were more important.

Frank hints at one of these issues when he describes one of the wrong views:

“Stalinism, it was implied by some, was
merely the logical product of Leninism.”

Now I am not in agreement with this particular wrong view that Frank cites – but I did consider this an important issue to investigate – and I have done so (see sidebar: “The Foundations of Modern Revisionism”). The suppression of democratic rights for which Stalin is well known did not begin with Stalin. This suppression began under Lenin’s leadership. The difference between Lenin and Stalin was that Lenin made clear that these measures were temporary emergency measures – while Stalin (without even waiting for Lenin’s body to get cold) proclaimed these measures as eternal principles of working class rule. But you can’t oppose the wrong view that Frank describes in a very clear way unless you understand this difference. And this difference was never understood by the MLP – and has never been written about by Frank’s organization, the CVO.

This is a key difference in how Frank and I view the role of revolutionary theory. Revolutionary theory is not a stick we use to beat or humiliate heretics. We use theory to answer questions – and to guide our work by helping us see the vital connection between our work in the day-to-day struggles today and our revolutionary goal tomorrow. If someone is hesitant to work for a future society that he thinks may be a police state – we can make use of this doubt to help us understand the theoretical questions for which the entire revolutionary movement needs answers.

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