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 7 • Right-wing demagoguery – or materialism?
• Did Ben attempt to bury debate? • Ben corrects himself
Did Ben attempt to bury debate?

The showdown at the final congress of the MLP

Frank claims that at the final congress of the MLP, in 1993, I sided with the majority which supposedly voted to "bury from public view the theoretical debate".

What is the scoop here? Joseph Green proposed that the congress set up a "temporary theoretical journal" to publish discussion that had taken place and to continue the discussion. Two-thirds of the Congress rejected this proposal. Why did it do so? It did so for 3 reasons:

  1. The journal and its editor would have supposedly represented and published the views of former members and supporters of the MLP. But the MLP, having dissolved itself, would have had no effective means of oversight concerning the objectivity (or the lack of same) of the journal or its editor.

  2. There was no genuine need to create an official journal because the relevant documents had been declared public domain and anyone who wanted was free to publish them (on paper – or on the internet which was then emerging).

  3. There was no genuine need to fund such a project because the cost of publishing was not significant.

So this was not a dispute over whether documents could or should be made public. This was a dispute concerning whether there was a genuine need to create an official position (for which there would have been no effective means of oversight) which would have supposedly represented, in an objective way, the views of former members of the MLP. The most likely candidate for the position of editor, by the way, was Joseph himself – who was already well on his way to being widely mistrusted for lack of polemical decency.

So the congress shot down Joseph’s proposal, basically, because the comrades in it were not so stupid as to trust anyone (much less Joseph) to represent them. For a similar reason, the congress passed a resolution that no one had the right to continue publishing under the name "Workers’ Advocate" (ie: the MLP’s newspaper & theoretical journal).

In the 14 years since that time, neither Joseph nor Frank has published these documents (it would not be difficult to put them on the web). So Frank’s outrage over supposedly "burying" these documents does not ring true.

In the period after the final congress most members of the majority refused to continue the discussion with Joseph on the grounds that Joseph was so dishonest that such an effort was a waste of time. I did continue the discussion and Joseph assisted me (in the form of challenging me to answer seven questions) in writing the foundation of my theoretical work: "The Self-Organizing Moneyless Economy". When this was complete and I repeatedly asked Joseph for the electronic copy of his side of the debate so that I could post everything to the web – he refused to provide it (for reasons that he refused to explain). Joseph only made this available 11 years later, most likely because his failure to do so had become an embarassment to him.

Right-wing demagoguery
– or materialism?

Frank says that it was "right-wing demagoguery" for me to advocate, in 1995, that Joseph should get a job and support himself instead of seeking to position himself as a "professional revolutionary" supported by others.

The simple fact is that I concluded that Joseph’s need to maintain his fantasy of being a "professional revolutionary" (supported by others) had led him down the road to charlatanism.

Sectarianism has a material basis. Groups on the left can get a lot more work accomplished and projects completed if they can afford to support a full-time staff. But supporting "full-time" people means that it becomes necessary to maintain the confidence of supporters who donate money and make this possible. And in this are the seeds of corruption – because a fine line exists between "maintaining the confidence" of supporters – and becoming a "confidence man" (ie: a con-man) who specializes in creating the appearance of serving the revolutionary movement while, in reality, he is mainly attempting to do something much less noble: feed his fantasies.

My experience with Joseph Green in the period 1993 – 1995 left me in no doubt that Joseph, unfortunately, had crossed that line. Maintaining the outward trappings of being a "professional revolutionary" had become more important to him than serving the revolutionary movement. In fact, these kinds of fantasies were damaging the movement in a number of ways – and my observations of the fondness of Frank and Joseph for the external appearance of being revolutionaries led me to coin the phrase: "cargo-cult Leninism".

Ben corrects himself

1) In my May 2006 letter to Edward "The Road to Information War" I said: "The current orientation of SAIC will eventually reach the limits of its effectiveness (if it has not already done so)". Frank has asked me to recognize that I was mistaken. SAIC has not yet reached the limits of its effectiveness and there is reason to believe that SAIC will continue to grow (even if it fails to work toward what I consider its necessary & vital long-term objectives) for two reasons: (a) the success of SAIC’s policy of concentrating its work in a definite material base (SCCC) and the actions of an energetic supporter there and (b) the exposure, by current events, of the Democratic Party as a die-hard supporter of the war in Iraq holds potential to radicalize hundreds of thousands of activists.

2) Frank has pointed out an oversight in point 8 of my March 24 letter "10 things that SAIC can do to gain attention from activists and build anti-imperialist consciousness". Based on Frank’s comments I will correct this point by adding the words in boldface below:

"Recognize that the anti-imperialist movement will remain crippled as long as the general idea that there exists no viable alternative to the political and economic system of imperialism (and the capitalist economy from which imperialism is inseparable) - dominates the thinking of activists - and take meaningful steps to address the crisis of theory under which a police state ruled by a single party is seen as the only possible revolutionary alternative to the continued rule by the bourgeoisie."
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