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Conscious Forces Will Bring Us Certain Victory

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Annual Report for Ben Seattle

Including how, in the coming period of intensified class struggle,
activists will use open communities and information war
to win ever-increasing attention and support and
create the conscious forces that will bring us certain victory

– November 22, 2009 –

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I believe it is useful for revolutionary activists to post, each year, a summary of their activity over the past year and plans for the coming year.

Capitalist corporations give a public annual report to stockholders every year.  Our "stockholders" are the workers and oppressed of the world who, by their own struggles, inspire us and give us strength.  A tradition of annual reports can assist revolutionary activists to better understand the work, activity and priorities of other activists.  This can be a small step in the direction of transparency and eventual greater coordination of effort.

This is my 11th annual report [1].  This year, since I have been on an extended sabbatical (ie: a period of time off) from political work—the formal part of my annual report will be quite short.  However, since the few activists who read me on a regular basis often expect something more substantial from my annual report—I am also including this year an overview of how, as I see it, the revolution in communications will assist the efforts of activists to self-organize over the next few years in countries like the United States, where I live.

My annual report

The formal part of my annual report always consists of three sections: (1) What I have done in the past year (2) What I plan to accomplish in the coming year and (3) Problems that came up and solutions that were developed.  The informal part of my report will be the overview.

(1) What I have done in the past year

Since I have been on an extended sabbatical, I have done very little and my annual report has been delayed six months.  Among the things I have done are the following:

(A) I wrote a short and highly concentrated essay in July 2008, "SAIC and the struggle for sobriety" [2], which attempts to confront the most fundamental problems related to building revolutionary organization.  I recommend this short and easy-to-read essay to all of my readers.  It includes the following key passage:

The only realistic and reliable way to overcome self-deception and maintain a clean and sober perspective is to strive to develop a depth of humility equal in magnitude to our confidence in our principles and the boldness of our vision. This means, above all, that we must ask for help from one another for the purpose of keeping ourselves honest. We need mass criticism. Mass criticism is a matter of life and death. Mass criticism equals victory. The lack of mass criticism equals defeat.

(B) I wrote a short essay [3] with the aim of correcting some of the formulations Lenin used in "The State and Revolution" that have not stood the test of time.

(C) I created a chart [4] (as part of preparation for my upcoming reply to Eric of the CVO) showing a timeline of humanity's transition from capitalist rule to classless society.

(D) I have also participated, to a limited extent, in four political communities: (1) The Media Weapon community-in-embryo, which exists mainly in the form of the Party of the Future (POF) email discussion lists, (2) the Seattle Anti-Imperialist Committee (SAIC), (3) a local self-styled marxist study group and (4) the Kasama blog site--a community of activists centered around refugees from the RCP-USA, (a decaying Maoist group known for having a number of the features of a cult).

I will say more about some of these communities below, after the formal part of my annual report.

(2) What I plan to accomplish
in the coming year

My extended sabbatical is winding down.  Marx noted that men make history, but not in conditions of their choosing.  I do not know to what extent I will contribute to the making of history—but my future work will be in conditions that are not of my choosing—where, after a lengthy illness, I gave my final goodbye to my darling—the woman of my dreams and my partner for 16 years.

I have no specific plans at this time other than to put together my shattered life, as best I can, and to fight to transform each and every injury she suffered into unshakable determination.  However it would be logical for me to focus on the Attention Refinery project [5] (ie: a system of integrated blogs and wiki's that will use collaborative filtering) and to devote at least some attention to online communities such as RevLeft.

(3) Problems that came up and
solutions that were developed

Friction between activists is a normal part of any community.  And friction, in the form of confrontation, has accompanied my work with SAIC, Kasama and the local marxist study group.  The usual solution to this friction is community oversight and involvement (ie: healthy intervention by community supporters).  This kind of healthy intervention has not (yet) taken place in connection with SAIC (a very small community) and Kasama (where healthy intervention has been discouraged or disallowed) but it took place in the study group (before it collapsed).  For example, I once lost my cool and acted in an arrogant way with a study group member during the discussion.  Another member, grasping the situation, grabbed my hand and gently but firmly explained that we need to build relationships with one another based on greater respect.

This concludes the formal part of my annual report.  Following are some comments on how, in the coming period of intensified class struggle, I believe activists will use open communities and information war to create the conscious forces that will sweep away all obstacles.

Conscious Forces
Will Bring Us Certain Victory

How in the coming period of intensified class struggle,
activists will use open communities and information war
to win ever-increasing attention and support and
create the conscious forces that will bring us certain victory

A background of economic crisis
and imperialist war

The political conditions facing activists in the period ahead are likely to be dominated by two main factors: the continuing economic crisis and the imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The current economic crisis has affected all countries and thrown many tens of millions of people out of work.  The immediate cause of the crisis is well known: a section of the ruling class (ie: the big capitalists—the bourgeoisie—who own the corporations and the media and the politicians left and right) thought they could get away with creating trillions of dollars of what was essentially counterfeit money.  This has had the effect of poisoning the world’s money supply and crippling the normal mechanisms which make possible the flow of investment and capital.  In a capitalist economy, the flow of capital is like the flow of blood in the human body.  When this flow is disrupted it is bad news.  The practical effect of all this will be unemployment, homelessness, hunger and misery for untold millions.

At the same time, U.S. imperialism is in continuing its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan aimed at maintaining US hegemony over the strategic oil resources of the Middle East and Central Asia.  Bush launched these wars but the "progressive" Obama, as the new representative of the U.S. ruling class, is escalating the war in Afghanistan even as he withdraws a fraction of the troops in Iraq.

The objective factor

As materialists, we understand that the misery and pain of many millions and the continuing imperialist wars will eventually translate into an upsurge in mass actions and the class struggle.  The conditions of struggle are accumulating as both the objective factor (ie: material events in the world) and the subjective factor (ie: the ideas in the minds of activists—and the masses) are maturing.

So I want to talk about this.

I think that most of us are familiar with the idea of the objective factor.  The ruling bourgeoisie here in the U.S. is preparing to deal with the inevitable intensification of the class struggle with both lullabies and the big stick.  We have not yet seen much of the big stick (we got a small peek at it during the Bush years—but the big stick is being reserved for the future).  Right now we are hearing the lullabies—the sweet songs that everything wonderful will come if we only wait for deliverance from Obama.

The subjective factor

I am not going to talk much about the objective factor that will be radicalizing millions and driving everything forward in the years ahead.  Rather I am going to talk about the subjective factor—and the decisive developments that appear poised to shape:

(1) the emergence of a revolutionary movement—and
 
(2) the forms of organization, based on open communities
      (and digital communications) that I believe are bound
      to lead to the development of a revolutionary mass party
      of the working class.

The CPUSA was a revolutionary mass party

The United States has not had a revolutionary mass party for many decades—ever since the degeneration of the Communist Party USA in the mid-1930’s.  The CPUSA carried out a great deal of outstanding work and attracted to itself essentially all the best activists from all the trends on the left.  The CPUSA had a revolutionary character and was a mass organization.  What do I mean by mass organization?  Two things:

(1) It had a lot of people—more than a hundred thousand
      members and supporters.
 
(2) It included within itself a number of political trends
      and groupings which would cooperate as well as
      openly compete with one another.

If we are serious about building a revolutionary mass organization (and I write these words primarily for those activists who want, more than anything in the world, to see such an organization emerge) then we must soberly consider not only the strengths of the CPUSA—but the weaknesses which led to its degeneration into what it is today: a defender of bourgeois rule—an instrument and apologist for the imperialist Democratic Party.

The degeneration of the CPUSA

The CPUSA capitulated (ie: subordinated itself to liberal reformist politics) in the mid 1930's as a result of pressure from Stalin—who was desperate to make a deal with the western imperialist countries so that they would put a leash on Hitler.  But this brings up the question of why the CPUSA lacked enough of a backbone (ie: internal motion and integrity) to stand up to this pressure.

The CPUSA emerged in the wake of Lenin’s 1917 revolution in Russia.  The prestige of the Bolshevik revolution was very high in progressive circles at the time and the Bolshevik methods of organizing had proven to be very effective.  For these reasons the nature and structure of the emerging organization took shape under the guidance and influence of the Russian leadership.

Of course there is nothing wrong with progressive organizations in the U.S. recognizing the experience and knowledge of international comrades and accepting their influence.  But if an organization is not eventually strong enough to stand on its own two feet—there is going to be a problem.  If you live by imported consciousness, so to speak, then eventually you are likely die by imported consciousness.  The Russian leadership degenerated—and as it slid into the gutter in the 1930’s it took with it the organization in the United States (and communist organizations everywhere else in the world also).

Groundhog Day

As a result of the degeneration of the Russian and Chinese revolutions and their associated parties such as the CPUSA—today the idea of a revolutionary mass party of the working class has little attraction to most activists.

The material world being what it is, however, the need for a revolutionary mass party will assert itself.  The working class and progressive movements will never be able to challenge the domination and control of all of society by the ruling bourgeoisie until the working class has its own organizational weapon that will enable it to make itself conscious and mobilize tens of millions into action.  It is a bit like the movie, Groundhog Day [6], where the lead character (Bill Murray) finds himself compelled to live the same day over and over again—until he “gets it right”.  In a loosely analogous way—the working class and oppositional movements will never be able to find solid footing until they create a revolutionary mass party which is (1) aimed at the overthrow of the capitalist system and (2) resistant to the corrupting pressure to betray.

The good news today
-- conditions are maturing

The good news is that all the conditions for the emergence of such a revolutionary mass party are rapidly maturing.  These conditions include:

(1) the development of mass communications technologies (ie: an ever-increasing array of cheap and easy-to-use internet-based hardware devices and social-networking platforms) which will enable the mass of activists to more easily coordinate their efforts and maintain effective oversight and control of a new generation of organizations—and

(2) the total failure and collapse of the supposedly “socialist” revolutions in the Soviet Union and China—which have highlighted the theoretical bankruptcy of existing so-called “marxism” (centered around a police state with low productivity) and made clear the need for revolutionary theory centered on how the working class can run society better than the bourgeoisie.

The emergence of conscious forces

“Once the correct ideas characteristic of the advanced class
are grasped by the masses, these ideas turn into a material force
which changes society and changes the world”

-- Mao Tsetung, “Where do correct ideas come from?” [7]

The revolution in communications is leading to the emergence of conscious forces in the world and it appears to me that these forces appear poised to dominate the 21st century.  These forces, above all, will serve the class struggle of the workers and the oppressed and, I believe, in the long run, will prove to be invincible.

These conscious forces will be created within communities as ideas openly compete against one another.

These conscious forces will result from the actions of many people who have grasped the ideas and principles which are decisive for the healthy development of the revolutionary movement.

Conscious forces are not, of course, something new.  They have existed since before the dawn of civilization.  And, in particular, these forces have often played a powerful (or decisive) role in the events of the last two centuries.  These forces, for example, were ultimately the reason that Hitler lost the second world war and U.S. imperialism was driven out of Vietnam.

What is new about the conscious forces which are emerging today, I believe, will be their magnitude.  Often, a change in magnitude changes everything.  For example, an artillery piece can be thought of as a very large rifle.  But an artillery piece can do things in battle that a rifle cannot do.

Similarly, when hundreds of thousands of conscious soldiers have rifles, they can do things that cannot be done with even the largest artillery or the biggest bombers--as U.S. imperialism discovered in Vietnam.

Ever-increasing amounts of oxygen

Conscious forces are a product of the class struggle in society and, in turn, react back on and intensify the class struggle.  Conscious forces are created as a section of the exploited class organizes itself, sums up its experience and develops correct ideas and, in turn, takes these correct ideas in a systematic way to larger sections of the class.


Analogy: heat, fuel and oxygen create fire
Fuel = Conditions of exploitation/misery
Oxygen = Ease of communication
Heat = Conscious Forces

The best analogy for conscious forces may be that of the heat from a fire.  A sufficient amount of heat will lead to the combustion of available fuel.  The combustion of fuel, in turn, releases additional heat which leads to the combustion of additional fuel and so on in a chain reaction.

In this analogy, the fuel for the fire can be considered to be the conditions of exploitation and misery which affect the oppressed classes.  Historical experience shows that, as the class struggle develops and large numbers of people become conscious they will make any sacrifice for their class.

In this analogy, what is new and different in current conditions is an additional factor: oxygen.

Fire requires heat, fuel and oxygen.  A fire can burn quickly and generate a lot of heat, even if there is less fuel, if there is a lot of oxygen.  Oxygen, in this analogy, corresponds to the ease with which people can spread ideas to one another.

The powerful role that is played by the ease with which people can spread ideas was shown by the development of the antiwar movement on college campuses in the 1960's.  Never before in history had such a powerful movement against imperialist war developed within the imperialist country that was carrying out the war.  Of course in this case there was also considerable fuel on campus (ie: the threat of the draft was causing hundreds of thousands of students to think hard about these things).  And we should also keep in mind the positive factor of the powerful civil rights movement.  But the ease with which it was possible for students to organize and spread ideas played a big role also.

And the emerging revolution in communications, in this analogy, corresponds to ever-increasing amounts of oxygen being released everywhere on earth.

And this is setting the stage for a eventual explosion of stellar magnitude--a collision between classes that will lead to the overthrow of all existing social relationships.

The hangman and the priest
(media control in modern society)

It is often said that the dominant ideas of any society in any historical period have been the ideas which serve the ruling class of that society.  The reason for this is simple: no class can rule by force alone.  Force alone is not enough--it tends to break down over time as it is repeatedly contested.  Classes always rule by a combination of force and political deception.  Political deception requires that certain ideas (ie: it is useless to resist, things will eventually get better if we are patient and wait, we live in the best of all possible worlds, we should disregard our interests as a class and focus only on getting ahead as individuals, it is more effective to vote for some establishment "savior" than march in the streets and build a militant movement, etc) dominate the thinking of the oppressed classes.

The traditional description of the social roles associated with the factors of force and political deception has been that of the hangman and the priest.  The hangman makes an example those who dare to get out of line.  The priest works so that everyone else can accept that their fate is to suffer.

Modern examples: We can see how these roles work in the context of a developed country like the United States.  The role of force is carried out by the police and courts (or, on occasion, the military) and the role of political deception is carried out by a wide array of corporations and institutions in media, educational, non-profit and religious sectors.

Force: In the U.S., with its famous free speech rights, the role of force is normally kept in reserve--to be exercised only when necessary--as when a militant demonstration or action of the masses is attacked, on some pretext, by the police.  We will almost certainly experience naked brutal repression on a large scale in countries like the U.S. in the decades ahead.  But this is not going to happen anytime soon [8].

Control of the mass media: The control of the media in a country like the U.S. is exercised in fairly sophisticated ways.  There is no centralized bureaucracy which exercises censorship or determines the "correct line".  Rather, the will of the ruling capitalists is generally imposed by means of money and ideology as large numbers of individuals compete against one another for success and approval.

1. For example, there are good movies, which give a realistic view of class relations in society and which encourage organized struggle against oppression.  But these exist by way of exception (often in the form of independent films with small audiences).  The mainstream culture in a country like the U.S. is dominated by escapism and empty sentimentality which often goes to great lengths to invent situations (or even entire worlds) which are removed, as far as possible, from anything real.

2. And there are also the rabid media guard dogs (ie: people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck who are propped up and promoted and given charge of reserves of reaction) who bark and make a lot of noise and scare the timid liberal media personalities into line (the liberals only have a backbone when it comes time to wage imperialist war).

3. The general themes of bourgeois news are to create (a) a climate of fear in which individuals are easily manipulated into opposing supposed attacks on their sacred "values and culture" (ie: Fox News and the rabid right) and (b) a climate of passivity while waiting for things to get better (ie: the liberal side of the spectrum).

4. One of the general theme of bourgeois culture, in my opinion, revolves around the atomization of the individual as his or her inner world (and, in particular, the inner world of youth) is invaded in such a way as to as to systematically alienate the individual against others and even against the self.  (This would be a topic for an entire essay.)  This is related to the psychologically intrusive nature of modern advertising which aggressively seeks to capture our deepest needs for authentic connection with others and transform these healthy aspirations into something unhealthy: a craving that can never be satisfied for magic commodities that will supposedly give us the affection and appreciation we need.  In this process, we are reduced from subjects to objects, from masters of our world to slaves of commodity fetishism.  This is also related to the phenomenon of the bankrupt celebrity culture which saturates American society.  This is escapist culture from which there is no escape: we cannot watch anything on TV (or even pass the magazine rack at the grocery checkout line) without being bombarded with images from the unreal world of the rich and famous telling us what we are supposed to look like and what we should value.

Political Deception: Countries such as the U.S. have developed a large number of highly sophisticated institutions to promote the ideas which serve the interests of the ruling class.  As a result, many of us are used to thinking of “public opinion” as something that the bourgeoisie manufactures or easily manipulates.  For example, currently all the major media (both liberal and conservative) promote the need to continue the imperialist war in Afghanistan and maintain the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq.  (This may change as the strategic situation in one or both countries deteriorates.)  And, of course, we hear the constant sweet songs and chorus that, if only we wait patiently enough, we can expect the most that is possible to be delivered by Obama.

Stratum of influence: More than this, the bourgeoisie has enormous influence even within the mass oppositional movements in society (ie: such as the antiwar movement) by means of a social stratum of liberal-labor politicians, trade union bureaucrats, religious misleaders, non-profit honchos, poverty pimps, “progressive” media personalities and professional “opinion leaders” who are in orbit around the imperialist Democratic Party.  This social stratum has the resources to prop up activist groups by giving them publicity, money, connections, career advancement and "respectability" (if only they water down their militancy and adopt a more "realistic" attitude) and works to co-op and tame the mass movements and pull them away from the path of militant mass action and independence from bourgeois politics in favor of the "respectable" dead-end of ringing doorbells to elect some supposed savior from the establishment.  (And it gets worse: this stratum of politicians, bureaucrats, misleaders, honchos, pimps and professional personalities in turn has alliances with a string of supposedly "socialist" do-nothing organizations which are in various ways dependent on these alliances and loath to do anything that might upset their patrons.)

Combination: And the suppression and promotion functions work together.  For example: in Seattle in March 2003 police bullied and corralled antiwar activists who had taken to the street--and a few days later a well-known local journalist wrote an article on the event [9] supposedly sympathetic to the activists but with the conclusion that activists would get more attention and respect from decision-makers if they were registering voters instead of marching in the street.

Breakdown: The significance of the emerging revolution in communications is that it appears destined to lead to a breakdown in the normal mechanism of class rule.  Activists now have the ability to create communities that will eventually organize a systematic effort to challenge the political deception of the ruling bourgeoisie on all fronts and capture the imagination, trust and allegiance of tens of millions.

What do we do? As activists, this raises the question of how we can combine our efforts and give effective organizational form to such a systematic effort to tear down the political deception which is essential for the class rule of the bourgeoisie.

What kind of movement? We should also be aware, of course, that it is at the moment when political deception is torn down that the ruling bourgeoisie, with little to lose, is most likely to unleash the kinds of brutal force (ie: large-scale arrests in the middle of the night, torture and disappearances, racist gangs and death squads with hidden links to the powerful) that have always been common in less developed countries.  This is not an argument for inaction.  Rather this is a reminder that we must build the kind of movement that has the ability to withstand attempts at brutal repression.

The emerging power of open communities

As a student of modern society, I have concluded that the key principle that will help us understand the future development and evolution of the progressive movements today—will be the emerging power of open communities.

What are open communities?

Let’s start with the word “open”.  What does this word mean?  In the most simple sense, the word “open” means that anyone can join—all activists have a right to participate in the community, to know what is going on with it and to work to shape its future.

The significance of this is obvious: the fact that a community is open means that it is very difficult for incompetent or corrupt power centers within the community to expel, silence or isolate their critics.

And this, in turn, means that members of an open community will have the ability to learn about, challenge and correct incompetence and corruption.  Members of an open community will have the opportunity to self-organize (ie: organize from the bottom up) and attract the attention and support of the rest of the community.

Open communities will be instruments that capture free human labor (ie: labor that is donated for the purpose of doing something useful rather than in exchange for money or other forms of compensation) and transform this labor into goods and services serving humanity in large and small ways.

Open communities will be the fruit of the emerging revolution in digital communications.  Of course open communities certainly existed long before the internet.  But the internet is making communities possible and practical on a larger scale that has ever been possible or practical before.  And this is going to change everything.

Open communities will emerge in the coming period and enable activists to overcome all the corrupt and rotten traditions, practices and organizations which currently dominate the left.  More than this—open communities will provide favorable terrain for struggle and lead to the emergence of the revolutionary mass party of the working class.

Conscious forces will focus on building
a healthy revolutionary movement

The term "public opinion" has often been used to describe what, in this essay, I am calling "conscious forces".  Since these forces appear destined to play a heroic role and shape the events of this century I have attempted to give thought to how best to describe them.  One problem with the term "public opinion" is that it is so often used to describe something which the bourgeoisie and its flunkies can easily manufacture or control.  More than this, the term "public opinion" tends to imply something which is passive in nature.

A better term might be "revolutionary public opinion".  But I am more comfortable with the term "conscious forces" because it helps readers understand that we are describing something which by its nature is powerful and active.  Early civilizations in the Mediterranean developed when they learned to harness the power of the wind to move their ships, travel long distances and engage in trade with one another.  Our movement will also develop when we learn to respect and harness the power of conscious forces.  This has many implications for the nature of our work today.

We are only as sick as our secrets
(ie: the need to speak out)

I have on many occasions met activists who were reluctant to publicly confront practices in the movement which they knew were wrong.  I have never understood very well the kind of thinking that leads to this kind of behavior--but I see it a lot.  I used to think that maybe this reluctance reflected a lack of confidence (ie: maybe something only appeared wrong but was really ok) or some kind of fear of retaliation (ie: if I speak out about the problems in this organization they may say bad things about me).  But my experience has led me to conclude that the most important rationalizations (ie: internal lies we tell ourselves to justify our failure to do what we know is right) that many activists use to justify their silence boil down to two:

(1) it won't do any good (ie: why tell people what they
     are doing is wrong if they do not want to change?)
 
(2) it will make it more difficult to work with these people
     in the future

I should also note that the general attitude that we should not say anything bad about fellow activists (or activist organizations) is widespread in the movement.  Many feel that the progressive movements are so small and surrounded by enemies that we should refrain from saying anything that our opponents could use against the movement.  And many are so disgusted by sectarian name-calling (which, unfortunately, is also common in the movement) that they think they can oppose sectarianism by refusing to publicly say anything bad about anyone.  The fact remains, however, that this is an unhealthy attitude.  The antiwar and revolutionary movements will remain paralyzed by opportunism and powerless until this attitude is overcome.

The addiction recovery movement has a slogan that I believe applies here: "We are only as sick as our secrets".

Gene Viernes

Security culture is no excuse -- It is of course true that activist communities require a security culture in order to reduce or minimize harassment by police, employers, landlords or immigration officials.  Even in the U.S. (ie: a relatively safe country to be politically active) activists are sometimes arrested, fired, blacklisted, evicted, deported (or even murdered by gangs that have ties to police).

This is not abstract.  I met one activist, Gene Viernes, here in Seattle at a political meeting and sold him a newspaper.  I remember that he had a serious attitude.  He was later murdered as a result of his organizing activity in the Cannery Workers' Union [10].  Another local activist was attacked with a lead pipe by youth gang elements with ties to the police.  He was fortunate that he was able to relearn how to walk and talk.  I had seen him selling his newspaper at a political meeting at the University of Washington a few hours before the attack that left him with a large indentation on the left side of his head where a portion of his brain and skull had been removed.  Another activist, with whom I worked closely, was fired and blacklisted by a corrupt union boss when his workplace organizing activity was discovered.  These are only the incidents which happened to people whom I personally met or knew--from here in Seattle in the 1980's.  As activists we have a legitimate need to keep our names and many details of our work private.

But the political problems in our movement must be public.  And the principles which will lead to a healthy recovery for our movement must also be public.  And this means that activists who want to build a revolutionary movement and who have experience must discuss and sum up this experience publicly and on a regular basis.  This is one reason that I write an annual report every year.  This is not a very common practice at this time.  I believe it will eventually be more common.

We need to be open and honest about political problems -- There are many similar principles from the recovery movement, such as: "When we talk about our feelings, they lose their power over us".  I believe many readers will be able to understand why these principles are so important to building a healthy movement.  We need the unrestricted healing flow of consciousness to help us bind our wounds, heal our injuries and develop clarity and determination concerning the road forward.  Ill-conceived attempts to keep our political opponents in the dark about our problems--have the unintended consequence of keeping ourselves in the dark about our problems.  And this means our problems cannot be fixed.  And nothing is more helpful to our political opponents.

The simple truth is that all progressive organizations need criticism to be healthy and it is the best organizations that need criticism the most (ie: because these organizations are the most valuable to the movement and therefore the errors which undermine the work of these organizations are the most harmful to the movement).

I believe attitudes will change when the central importance of conscious forces (or "revolutionary public opinion") is better appreciated.  After all, public opinion can have relatively little affect when it is not public.  Activists who are new to the movement need to know what is going on.  That means that we (ie: activists who have been around for a while and have experience) have a responsibility to make our views known so that newer activists have a decent opportunity to know both what is strong and what is weak about every organization that seeks to recruit them and so that they will be able to develop a realistic perspective on the nature of the antiwar and revolutionary movements and the decisive tasks we must confront if we are to make these movements healthy and powerful.

Conscious forces will be invincible

What is new and emerging today, it appears to me, are the possibilities for revolutionary activists to make use of the open communities made possible by the internet to create revolutionary public opinion focused on:

(1) resisting the corrupting influence of the bourgeois-controlled stratum of bureaucrats, misleaders, honchos and pimps (described above) and overcoming everything rotten within the left and

(2) building a movement (and eventually an organization) focused on the overthrowing the capitalist system and creating a world of peace and abundance for all.


The creation of a revolutionary
news service will be the
central task that will unite all
the warring factions of the left

I have come to the conclusion that the conscious force that is emerging will, in the long run, prove to be invincible.  This new force will not only organize militant mass actions--it will (in order to accomplish the above) confront the following decisive tasks:

(1) overcoming both the reformist and sectarian diseases that have paralyzed the revolutionary movement

(2) overcoming the crisis of theory which currently makes it impossible for even the most determined activists to understand, in a realistic way, the principles that the working class will harness in order to overcome the system of commodity production (ie: the capitalist system) and run society better than the bourgeoisie.

(3) building a community united around the creation of a system of media channels [11] that will:

(a) provide comprehensive news, analysis, discussion and debate about politics, economics, technology and culture to activists and many millions of people

(b) be centered around delivering the core message that a world without bourgeois rule is both possible and necessary (ie: information war on the largest possible scale).

When a critical mass of activists understand the decisive principles that have the power to transform the left in a healthy way—then a new force, a conscious force, will have emerged.  This is what Mao described in the quote above (ie: "a material force which changes society and changes the world").

How open communities of struggle
will lead to the emergence of
a revolutionary mass organization

I can summarize my conclusions in three simple points as follows:

(1) We need a revolutionary mass organization dedicated to
     replacing capitalist rule with the rule of the working class

(2) Such an organization will emerge from an open community
     organized around the clear mission of making this happen

(3) Such an open community will be created when
     a critical mass of activists recognize that
     the sectarianism, reformism and theoretical bankruptcy
     that have paralyzed the revolutionary movement will
     only be overcome in the course of a great many
     public confrontations.

So how exactly will this happen?

So how will this all happen?  The answer to this question is not something that can be written by me.  It will be written by the actions of many thousands of activists over the next two or three decades.  These activists will create open communities and make use of information war to create the conscious forces that will bring us victory.

What I can do is far more modest: I can give a concise summary of my experience in the past year with five political communities (or proto-communities).

My experience in four
communities of struggle

Before I begin, I should first mention one community of struggle which I have not engaged significantly in the past year: the RevLeft web-based discussion forums.

-- 0 -- The RevLeft community

RevLeft, a web-based discussion forum with more than 13 thousand registered users [12], is a good example of an emerging left community.  As far as I am aware, not a lot of actual work is organized at the site—it is mainly (so far) only used for discussion.  But in a spot where so many leftists of different backgrounds talk to one another—practical programs of work are likely to eventually emerge, gain attention, compete and combine.  This would be the next step in RevLeft’s development because communities unite and develop around common work.

Many left trends with a full program of work have people on RevLeft who post or who check out what is happening.  So the forums serve as a gathering place for a fairly large number of people with a diverse range of views.  It is also run in a fairly democratic way.  For all of these reasons I believe the community there has a lot of potential—and I will eventually find ways to post to RevLeft on a regular basis.

Raising the signal-to-noise ratio -- The success of the RevLeft community has also created an interesting problem: RevLeft has attracted a large number of clueless people—who appear to spend a lot of time passing along useless and wrong facts and opinions to one another.  This problem can be seen as an important opportunity to develop methods of increasing the signal-to-noise ratio of the discussion on RevLeft.  A system similar (but better) to the one used at Slashdot (where it is easy to filter out shallow or clueless comments [13]) would allow readers to more quickly and easily find the posts (and authors) worth reading.

Steps in the direction of collaborative filtering -- The group which runs the RevLeft site has been experimenting with methods of increasing the signal-to-noise ratio, such as allowing posters to give reputation points (or "karma") to one another so that it is easier for readers to identify who is worth engaging and who should probably be ignored.  And it is also possible for any registered user to setup a personal "ignore list" so that they will not have to see posts from anyone on that list.  So far, there appears to be no means for readers to automatically filter comments on the basis of the rating received by the comment or the reputation of the author.  But RevLeft is an evolving community and may eventually discover and implement practical software design principles that implement collaborative filtering.

Unnecessary secrecy -- There is one issue with the way that RevLeft is run that raises a red flag (in a bad way, not a good way).  The group that runs it, the CC (this does not stand for "Central Committee" or "Control Commission" but rather "Commie Club") says that it maintains open and democratic discussion concerning its practice.  But in this case the word "open" does not mean "public" (ie: as this word is normally used in the english language) but rather means "secret".  The CC keeps its decision-making process (and discussion) secret.  Of course there will always be a need to keep certain things secret.  The need for a security culture is real.  In addition to this there are also issues of protecting personal privacy and sometimes there may be legal issues.  However the general practice of keeping day-to-day admin work and discussions secret is not a good one and will eventually limit the ability of RevLeft to serve the revolutionary movement.

Why is this?

"Voice but no vote" assists conscious intervention -- The main reason is that this makes it more difficult for RevLeft members who are not in the CC to become aware of struggles within the CC and to intervene in those struggles in a healthy way with their voice and the weight of their experience.  If RevLeft ends up playing any kind of significant role in the class struggle--then contradictions will emerge within the CC which will have better chance of being correctly resolved if they are widely known and the largest possible number of activists have an opportunity to participate in the resolution.  Hence, there would be a need for a "voice but no vote" role for non-CC members.  In addition, we must recognize that struggles represent conflicts over principles and often provide useful opportunities for activists to learn about important contradictions in the movement.

I should add that, of course, RevLeft at this time is nothing but a web-based bulletin board.  It is not an organization and it is not playing a significant role in the class struggle.  And, to my knowledge, the CC is doing a reasonably good job.  But there are many activists on RevLeft who do want to build a revolutionary mass organization that plays a significant role in the class struggle.  And, as a large and democratic community of leftists, RevLeft has potential to play a role in this--to become a center of consciousness and clarity and organizing.  And the more of a role it plays, the more important the principle of political transparency will become.

Core has no need for secret information -- So my suggestion, for those who would like to see the RevLeft community move in the direction of becoming more significant--would be to oppose any and all tendencies in the direction of creating a tier at RevLeft which is "in the know" or has exclusive access to privileged information relevant to RevLeft's internal contradictions and development.  Yes, it is certainly necessary that there be a leadership core of some kind that makes decisions.  This is necessary because we live in a class-divided society saturated with ignorance and otherwise RevLeft would eventually be flooded by (and fall under the control of) people who are attracted to its energy but have little understanding of or liking for revolutionary politics.  But making decisions does not require exclusive access to information.  There is no real practical need for the leadership core to have exclusive access to politically important information.  Secrecy should be limited to where there is an actual need.  Vague rationalizations for secrecy like "it would cause problems" or "might be misunderstood" or "it's not convenient" reflect an inability or unwillingness, in my view, to see the RevLeft community become a more significant center of consciousness, clarity and focused discussion and debate in the movement.

-- 1 -- The Media Weapon
community-in-embryo

The Media Weapon community-in-embryo [14] is the name I use to describe the few activists who participate in the Party of the Future (POF) email discussion lists [15].  I created these lists and my experience has been that when I do not have time to contribute to them on a regular basis—eventually no one posts there at all.  I have neglected these lists over the last year and, as a result, the lists are currently dormant.  I hope to eventually help to bring them back to life.

-- 2 -- The Seattle Anti-Imperialist Committee
(SAIC)

The Seattle Anti-Imperialist Committee (SAIC) [16] is probably the best political group in Seattle.  SAIC consistently creates and distributes hundreds (sometimes thousands) of high quality leaflets which tell activists (and other readers) the truths that they cannot get from any other left group in town.  SAIC makes it clear that Obama is the chieftain of imperialism—and that the antiwar movement must, above all, strive to be independent of the influence of the imperialist Democratic Party and it innumerable flunkies and allies in the movement.  SAIC deserves support—and I have supported SAIC by means of constructive and comradely criticism—mainly to the effect that SAIC would be more effective in the movement if it were more open and interactive and made use of things like an email discussion list and wiki to which activists could contribute.

Readers who have been following my writing will also know that my support of SAIC is not particularly appreciated, to say the least, by SAIC supporters.  I used to attend and report on SAIC's monthly public meetings.  I can't do that anymore because SAIC responded by ending the practice of having public meetings.

I did eventually meet up with two former SAIC supporters who gave up on SAIC because they felt that there was something wrong with it.  Neither of these activists made a public statement about their experience or conclusions.  This kind of silence is part of the attitude I criticize above.  A character in the movie "Bambi" sums up this attitude by saying: "If you can't say something nice about someone--don't say anything at all".  A better attitude was the slogan adopted by activists in the early years of the AIDS epidemic: "Silence = Death".  Our movement will remain paralyzed and powerless until lots of activists with experience recognize the need to speak out when they see things that needs to change.  Only in this way can revolutionary activists develop a healthy consensus concerning what principles must guide our work.

The end of impunity -- The core of SAIC is the Communist Voice Organization (CVO) which emerged from the wreckage of the Marxist-Leninist Party (MLP), as did I.  Over the years I have supported SAIC when it did the right thing but have also criticized many of the practices which limited its effectiveness.  In return, some of the SAIC comrades have responded in ways that I consider shallow and/or unprincipled [17].  One reason they have done so--is for the simple reason that they could.  They could act with impunity because others who could see and to some extent understand what was going on--choose not to "get involved".  I view this as a symptom of a movement mired in paralysis, passivity, demoralization and cynicism.  But time is on the side of the conscious forces, which are in ascendancy.  I look forward to the coming period when it will be more common for activists to recognize their ability to put the revolutionary movement on a healthy foundation and to take action on this basis.

-- 3 -- The local marxist study group

In March of this year I was invited to a local study group.  The group leaned in the direction of marxism and everyone in it has experience with self-styled revolutionary organizations.  The half dozen people in the group probably had a total of more than 100 years experience in the progressive or revolutionary movement.  We read a book by Paul LeBlanc (a well-known social-democratic intellectual) giving an overview of the revolutionary movement in the U.S. in the last century as well as Lenin’s “State and Revolution”.

The LeBlanc book was very useful (particularly the chapter dealing with the degeneration of the CPUSA) and was also useful in illustrating some of the limitations of LeBlanc’s social-democratic (ie: reformist) ideology.

The study group fell apart after reading "State and Revolution" when I proposed that some of us make a public joint statement that some of Lenin's formulations on the dictatorship of the proletariat need a correction or update in light of the degeneration of the 1917 revolution into a police state [18].  Lenin himself was clear that theory concerning the dictatorship of the proletariat was of decisive importance and that we need to speak out about it.  My view was that we should also treat this topic as if it were important.  Initially, it appeared to me that two of the study group members agreed with me on this.  It turned out however, that this was only agreement in an intellectual sense.

These two activists got cold feet as soon as it became clear that making such a statement would upset others in the study group.  I think their thinking may have been that the purpose of the study group was to make it possible for activists to meet regularly and get along (and that, gradually, in this way, we will build the movement).  If anyone got upset--then this purpose would be defeated.  That is not my view.  My political work is for the purpose of changing the world.  And, in a class-divided society, this cannot be done if our necessary actions are hostage to someone getting upset.

-- 4 -- The Kasama blog

The Kasama blog [19] is a community of activists centered around refugees from the decaying Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP).  It is headed up by Mike Ely, who used to be the editor of the RCP newspaper.

By means of diligence and hard work in writing interesting articles and developing useful discussion, Mike Ely and his supporters have created a site with a large readership here in the U.S. and internationally.  At this time, most likely, anyone in the world who considers himself a maoist, has an internet connection and speaks english is probably aware of the Kasama site.

The Kasama site is a good example of what happens when the revolution in  communications (and the idea of an open community) impacts a cargo-cult Leninist organization [20] like the RCP.  Those activists who are fed up with the sectarianism or cult-like nature of the organization discover they have a place to gather together which welcomes them and their criticisms of the organization they used to support.  For example, people who post are free to make fun of Chairman Bob (but after a while it begins to sound like a guy in a bar who will bend the ear of every available listener to complain about his ex-girlfriend).

Like a goldfish in a blender -- The majority of activists around the RCP have not yet given up on it in favor of Kasama.  After all, Kasama only has: (1) open discussion on a blog and (2) a criticism of the RCP which more or less proves that the RCP has become too much of a cult to ever find its way back to planet earth. 

In the long run, the cargo cult organizations have as little chance of surviving the revolution in
communications as a goldfish in a blender. Every dirty little manipulative stunt they pull to
pump up and hoodwink their supporters will eventually be analyzed and broadcast to the world.
On the other hand, the RCP still has: (1) a newspaper and (2) distribution networks and other visible signs of being an important organization.  For many of the activists around the RCP, these assets are more tangible and do more to allow them to maintain their illusions that this decaying cult represents the future of humanity.

In the long run, however, it appears to me that Kasama may have the upper hand.  From this point forward each ill-considered campaign or harebrained scheme the RCP launches will likely find at least a somewhat critical reflection on Kasama.  And it will be difficult for the RCP to implicitly threaten its supporters with excommunication and social isolation--because now they have an alternative place to go to hang out with other maoists who have similar politics--without having to put up with the stench of a rotting fish (ie: Avakian worship) hanging around their neck.  And speaking of fish--it is the analogy of a goldfish in a blender that best describe the long-term position of all of the cargo cult organizations in relation to the emerging revolution in communications.  Every dirty little manipulative stunt they pull to pump up and hoodwink their supporters will eventually be summed up and broadcast to the world.  In the long run--all the cargo cults will be running out of places to hide.

In many ways Kasama is like a version of the RCP without Avakian or the extreme sectarianism, manipulation and cultism for which the RCP is well-known.  But many of the basic political views of the RCP remain popular at Kasama.  For example, the main criticism to be found of RCP’s “World Can’t Wait” campaign (which eventually took the form of an alliance with the left wing of the imperialist Democratic Party) was directed at the campaign’s excessive hype and unrealistic expectations.  Few people who post at Kasama have any awareness that it was wrong for the campaign to give a "free pass" to imperialist politicians (ie: giving a platform to Democratic Party politicians to speak their trash without refuting their lies) [21].

Tectonic plates drifting apart -- The political trends most active on the Kasama site are more or less the same as are around the RCP: (1) left-wing social-democrats, (2) cargo-cult Leninists and (3) independent revolutionary thinkers who are attempting to sort out the way forward (actually there are not very many of the third category around than the RCP).  The cargo-cult trends will be increasingly irrelevant as time goes by, and the social-democrats and revolutionary thinkers will eventually discover (as the class struggle heats up) that they are on opposite sides, so to speak, of tectonic plates moving in different directions.

The best-laid plans -- Mike and the people who make up the Kasama organization want to create a revolutionary mass organization.  My perspective on their practice is that they have created some barriers that will make it difficult to move in this direction and will need to be considered from a revolutionary perspective.

Captured by the base? -- One problem is that a large part of the base readership of the site does not appear to want to move in that direction.  This is not necessarily a big problem by itself if it is consciously understood--because the solution is to move forward and if a section of the site readership does not like it--you move forward anyway.  On the other hand if you become too concerned about maintaining readership and posting activity--then there can be a danger of becoming captured by the needs of an audience that includes many readers with social-democratic ideology, prejudices and expectations.  I doubt that Mike and the Kasama leadership understand this with clarity because they appear to have strong social-democratic prejudices themselves [22].  Furthermore, I have seen indications suggesting this kind of weakness (as when Mike deleted a number of my posts for being too lengthy or "authoritative" in tone with the explanation that these posts might alienate readers).

Is the working class the problem? -- I will discuss the other problem in Kasama in a moment but first want to mention that Mike created a blog posting out of my article "How to Build the Party of the Working Class" [23] and, while I was happy to see this article get some attention--I was disappointed in the reception it received and the discussion which followed.  One of the points which became controversial was whether it was correct to base the party on the working class.  This basic principle of marxism received a lot of opposition and relatively little support in the discussion on Kasama.  Most trends of maoism have a problem with the working class and the "three-worlds" theory, in particular, tends to look down on the working class in countries like the U.S.  And the RCP, for many years, has denigrated the working class in favor of what it calls the "basic masses" and so forth.  So I suppose I should not have been surprised.  And that typifies in some ways my failure to successfully engage with many readers on Kasama.  The more active ones, in my experience, were enthralled by the emotions of the color red and idea of revolution--but deeply suspicious of the working class.  And those readers on the site who had more confidence in the working class--tended to keep their thoughts to themselves--at least during the period and on the threads in which I was active.

Kasama provides political space for its critics -- Any serious effort to create the kind of revolutionary mass organization that we need--that has the ability to mobilize the working class in their millions for the overthrow of bourgeois rule--must recognize the need to create political space for open struggle concerning its agenda and priorities.  People who are interested in the organization must have easy access to this space and an easy way to link up with others who share their views on how to move the organization forward.  The Kasama site does offers political space for its critics (except for sensitive topics like moderation--more on that below) in the comments section under each article as well as a "threads" forum--where readers can start their own topics--so it is important to give the Kasama project credit for doing this.

But the space has arbitrary restrictions -- I posted to the "threads" forum for a while but eventually lost conviction that this was a good use of my time for two reasons:

(1) I was unable to get much of a positive response from other posters and
 
(2) because even in this section (ie: with a much smaller readership and presumably less of a legitimate concern for alienating readers) my posts were getting tampered with and deleted by Mike for reasons that appeared to me to be increasingly capricious and arbitrary and for which effective oversight by the Kasama community was prohibited.

And this brings up the other barrier to Kasama’s healthy development--paternalism.

A paternalistic community -- A community of sorts has developed around the Kasama blog although I do not consider it to be a genuinely open community.  Rather, based on my experience, I consider it to be something of a paternalistic community.  I should explain my experience to readers.

Sword of Damocles -- I used to post to Kasama at least one or twice a month, on average.  I gave up on this (at least for now) about a year ago when my posts began to disappear without explanation.  Eventually it became clear that Mike, as the moderator, thought that some of my posts were (1) too long, (2) too short, (3) too repetitive, (4) too authoritative or (5) too full of links of articles I had written.  Mike, it appeared, was concerned that my posts would alienate or drive off a section of the readership he has been working hard to build.  My attempts to discuss this in private with Mike left me with the conclusion that if I post to the site—it would be with a Sword of Damocles [24] hanging over me (ie: a threat of permanent expulsion if Mike decided that one of my posts "disrespected the Kasama culture" or was “spam”).

Now some degree of moderation will always be necessary in any system of forums which aspires to maintain the attention of serious and busy people while also remaining open to posts from anyone.  And disputes between moderators and people who post are not uncommon.  And it is likely that Mike had some good points in his criticism of my posts.  The issue here concerns how the Kasama community can exercise effective oversight over disputes such as this.

For example, what happen if Mike, as a moderator, makes an error?  What happens if Mike deletes one or more of my posts because it criticizes him or the way he runs the site or the agenda he is pursuing?  What if Mike considers my posts on the need to fight reformism or the need for political transparency in revolutionary organization to be repetitive (ie: "spam") --and permanently bans me?  (This is certainly the direction things were headed.  I stopped posting when Mike threatened to permanently ban me and my posts kept getting deleted and I thought I had been banned.)

These things can happen because humans beings are making decisions and all of us will sometimes make mistakes.

Community must have ability to intervene -- An open community which is focused on the creation of a revolutionary movement and (eventually) a revolutionary organization—must recognize that there is a need for the community to be aware of these kinds of disputes and, when necessary, intervene to help resolve these disputes in a way that is healthy and helps to build the community and strengthen the focus of the community on the principles which are most important.

Basically, I recognize Mike’s authority as moderator but I also believe there is a need for the Kasama community to be aware of his actions in deleting my posts and to have an opportunity to hear the views of both Mike and me on this topic.  That way, if or when Mike goes overboard in deleting my posts (as I believe he has) cooler heads in the Kasama community can help everyone to maintain a calm and sober perspective.

Can you imagine chemistry
without atoms or molecules?

A thread on "moderation" where discussion of moderation is banned --
I proposed to Mike that a forum thread be set up where moderation could be discussed (because Mike had prohibited discussion of moderation in regular threads).  Mike created such a thread [25] but he also deleted my post to that thread (where I explained my side of this dispute to readers) on the grounds that while the thread was for the purpose of discussing moderation—he would not allow any discussion of specific disputes.

Chemistry without atoms or molecules -- To me, this is like creating a thread to discuss chemistry but prohibiting discussion of any specific atoms or molecules—in other words a silly waste of everyone's time.  If the Kasama community cannot be trusted to know anything about or discuss disputes concerning how the site is moderated (ie: something basic and simple)—then how can this community play its necessary role in knowing about and discussing the far more complex issues that will be involved in the creation of a genuinely revolutionary movement and organization?

Or, in other words, if Mike can permanently expel me from his site (as he has repeatedly threatened to do—to the point where I thought he had made a decision to expel me) without the Kasama community knowing about it or lending to this dispute the weight of its experience—then this is a community organized on the basis of paternalistic principles—where members of the community are treated like children and not trusted to know what is really going on.


Just relax and do your best work

Contradiction between words and deed – The Kasama project posted a leaflet intended for wide distribution which included the following appeal to activists:

Kasama [...] seeks to reconceive and regroup for a profound revolutionary transformation of society.  We are open to learning, [...] We seek to find the forms of organization and action for the people most dispossessed to free themselves and all humanity. [...] [...] we need a fearless debate and engagement. We need fresh analyses of the rapid changes shaping the world. We need to sum up a century of revolutionary strategies and attempts, victories and defeats [...] We need to re-imagine a radical politics [...] We need a movement that can listen [...] walk the revolutionary road with us.

Here we see the contradiction between word and deed. Kasama recognizes that there has been something deeply wrong with traditional communist organization as it been practiced for many decades. Kasama asks activists like me to be part of the community and help them struggle to find the correct path forward. Then my posts are deleted for being too long or too short or having too many links or having an “authoritative” tone or “disrespecting the Kasama culture” or being “repetitive” or not doing enough to engage and entertain and captivate and delight readers (many of whom, frankly, just do not like what I have to say) and I am repeatedly threatened with permanent expulsion--and all this nonsense is hidden from the community.
 
Yes, I could work under these conditions. But what would be the point? Kasama will never be able to acquire a critical mass of serious activists who work their hearts out under these kinds of stupid threats. Kasama should meet activists like me halfway and say: "We will treat you like you are an adult and not delete or tamper with your posts unless there is a fucking good reason because we recognize that real work and the interests of the working class require that we do not fuck with your ability to communicate with other members of our community and we recognize that you have a fucking right to communicate with other activists who are here. This may be complicated to Mike and the other members of the Kasama executive control commission for the maintainence and safeguarding of hygienic culture—but for normal human beings it is pretty fucking simple.

Kasama needs to make up its mind -- If Mike and Kasama want activists to come to their project and treat it as if it is for real—then they need to make up their minds that they are not the RCP and cut out this kind of petty, annoying and stupid childish crap. Yes, they can post a thousand entries on their blog criticizing Avakian. But it will not do them any good if they act like Avakian.

Cargo-cult mentality -- It is not a big deal that Mike made some errors as moderator and tampered with or deleted a number of my posts (after all he is only humans and mistakes are inevitable).  But when Mike insists that disputes over moderation must remain hidden (ie: secret) from the Kasama community—he has fallen victim to the cargo-cult mentality that saturated the organization (ie: the RCP) that trained him.  It is like Dr. Strangelove, in the famous movie of the same name, attempting to give a “Heil Hitler” salute with his right hand while furiously using his left hand to wrestle his right arm down.

The degeneration of Lenin’s 1917 revolution and the communist movement is inseparable from excessively centralized control and concentration of power.  These undemocratic emergency measures were necessary in Lenin’s time (ie: because in the conditions of the time the bourgeoisie would have returned to power within months if the most harsh and drastic measures had not been implemented) but later, after conditions had improved—these same undemocratic measures were then used to suffocate the revolution and enslave the working class in the period after Lenin died.  The revolutionary communist movement has been struggling to confront this poisonous legacy since that time.  Until we do this—we will never escape the swamp. Mike and his fellow thinkers can issue a thousand declarations claiming that they understand they need to reconceive. I will believe them when I see it in their actions.

Why should it be necessary to keep disputes over moderation secret?  Yes, you will need to keep moderation disputes secret if you are Avakian and need to hide a trainload of ugly truths from activists.  But an organization which has nothing to hide from activists will be able to find a way to engage the community in useful and necessary work related to moderation and the creation of a signal-to-noise ratio in discussion that is attractive to serious activists.

The road forward for Kasama -- I would like to see the Kasama site develop.  For this to happen, in my view, it will be necessary for the Kasama community to play more of role in determining how the site is run.  In particular there needs to effective (and public!) oversight by the community of moderation so that when moderators make errors (which is inevitable) or disputes over moderation become heated—cooler heads in the community can help find a resolution that recognizes the need for both:

(1) open struggle over principles and
(2) a culture of respectful engagement with
      a high signal-to-noise ratio so we do not
      drive off the serious people whom we need

Community oversight of moderation is not the only thing that will be necessary for Kasama’s healthy development--but it would be a good start and would make it easier for members of the Kasama community to engage in the necessary open struggle to move Kasama away from both social-democratic and cargo-cultist prejudices and influence.  I look forward to seeing this happen.

The best analogy for this process
is the formation of the earth

Fiery collisions
and eventual merger

The period ahead, in my view, will be characterized by a transformation of, essentially, all the existing left political trends which are currently engaged in cutthroat competition with one another.  This competition will continue--but each trend, faced with the alternative of extinction, will find itself compelled to transform itself, to a greater or lesser extent, into a different kind of trend with many of the features of a community.  The key feature of a community, as I noted at the beginning of this essay, is that communities are more difficult to control in a top-down fashion by a corrupt leadership than a more centralized cult-like organization.  The activists at the base of many of the competing political trends have a desire to join forces with other activists in a united effort.  As competing political trends are compelled to acquire the characteristics of communities--this desire of activists at the base to merge their efforts with those of other activists--will become more difficult to control.

I believe this development will have great significance for the healthy evolution of the left and the revolutionary movement.

I believe that communities will tend to collide and merge and, as they do so, undergo differentiation.  The best analogy here is the formation of the earth: clusters of rock formed and clumped together, planetesimals collided under the influence of gravity and, as a critical mass came together, differentiation followed as the heavier iron and nickel sunk down and formed the core while the lighter silicon and oxygen floated up and formed the crust.

I know some of my readers dislike what they call "argument by analogy".  So I will acknowledge that the above analogy, by itself, proves nothing.  I present this analogy because I believe I have a responsibility to the more serious activists to give them my view, with the greatest clarity of which I am capable, of the fundamental processes I believe will be shaping the left and the revolutionary movement in the period ahead.  When we understand the big picture we can better position our work to have the greatest impact.

If a single serious activist understands the significance of the principles I have outlined in this essay--then my efforts have been successful.  Ultimately, revolutionary organization will prove to be a matter of life and death.  And the principles that will allow us to create effective organization are, because of this, also a matter of life and death.

And to those readers who find my analogies interesting--I ask you to read some of my key related articles.

Conclusion:
the Alkali Lake Band of Indians

There is a group of Indians in Canada called the Alkali Lake Band of Indians [26].  The story, as I heard it, was that, at one point in time, every member of this group had become an alcoholic.  The recovery of the tribe started with a single Indian becoming sober and working to bring sobriety, one by one, to other members of his tribe.  This is a bit how I view my role within the revolutionary movement and the left.  I have focused on theoretical work because there was a need for it.  I believe I have essentially completed my theoretical work.  The issue for me now will be to help use some of the tools I have developed to bring others to sobriety.  My abilities (to the extent I have any abilities) are not because I am in any way brilliant.  Rather, in my view, circumstances have left me in the right place at the right time.  I have been left sober by the circumstances in which I have found myself (ie: the collapse of the organization, the MLP, to which I had dedicated my life) and I will work as best I can to bring sobriety to others with greater abilities who may turn out to be the real leaders of our movement.

Those who have followed my work for a while know that I have often written about what I call cargo-cult Leninism and that I am inspired by the recovery movement, composed of people struggling to maintain a clean and sober perspective on their lives.  I understand denial and the struggle against it.  And I will therefore leave readers with a link to what is possibly the most famous sketch on this topic every created, which effectively captures the thoughts and emotions of the cargo-cultists as reality closes in on them.  John Bellushi, Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase and Elliot Gould star in Saturday Night Live's "The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise" [27].

----  Notes  ----

[1] annual reports
All of my annual reports are available at: http://struggle.net/ben/
 
[2] SAIC and the struggle for sobriety
http://struggle.net/struggle/ben/2008/saic-sobriety.htm
 
[3] A criticism of some problems in Lenin's "State and Revolution"
http://seattlemarxist.wetpaint.com/page/Ben-State_and_Revolution
 
[4] Chart for my upcoming reply to Eric "Timeline of Transition to Classless Society" (see below)
 
[5] The Attention Refinery
The next step in the evolution of wiki warfare" at: http://attentionrefinery.com/
 
(from the introduction) We need a new kind of wiki with:
      ** individual zones of control
      ** a column on all pages where readers can post comments and criticism
      ** blog-like features
      ** the ability to rate and filter pages and comments
 
[6] Groundhog Day
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groundhog_Day_(film)
 
[7] Where do correct ideas come from?
http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-9/mswv9_01.htm
 
[8] A scenario for the overthrow of bourgeois rule in the U.S. in the middle of the 21st century
http://struggle.net/ALDS/part_03_content.htm
 
[9] Geov Parrish March 27, 2003:
 
> I guarantee that a thousand people registering
> new anti-war voters would get far more attention
> and respect, with more lasting impact, than
> last week's protests -- from the public, from
> decision-makers, and from those numbers opposed
> to the war and to freeway blockades.
 
For the full text of his article, please see Appendix 2 of "How the Reformists attempt to liquidate the anti-war movement"
http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/theorist/message/93
 
In the article, Geov also compared the protest to a "canine begging".  However, I am happy to say, Geov is now taking a much better stand and recently worked to help build for the October 17 march against Obama's war in Afghanistan.
 
[10] Murder of Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo
http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=411
 
[11] The creation of a system of media channels
 
See, for example, this passage from one of the sidebars of "How to Build the Party of the Working Class" at http://struggle.net/ben/2008/222-HowTo.htm
 
The creation of a revolutionary news service will be the central task
that will unite all the warring factions of the left.

 
The central task that will unite revolutionary activists will be
the creation of a revolutionary news service that will offer comprehensive
news, analysis and discussion from the perspective of the material interest of
the working class. This news service will be open to contributions from all
progressive trends (and from ordinary people) and will also provide a platform
for the struggle of trends. This news service will make use of both paper and
digital forms of communication but it will be the digital backbone of this
service that will eventually extend its reach to many millions of people on a
daily basis who will rate, filter and discuss articles from a wide range of
sources.

 
A more detailed proposal is at: http://newsrefinery.com/
 
[12] RevLeft -- http://www.revleft.com/
 
[13] Slashdot -- http://slashdot.org/
At Slashdot, each comment in a thread gets a rating from 1 to 5. Readers can then filter out the comments at any level and only look at the better comments.  This is useful when a topic receives hundreds of comments and you simply want to look at the best.
 
[14] The media weapon community
The most powerful truth of our time is that a world without bourgeois rule is both possible and necessary.  
http://mediaweapon.com/
 
[15] Archive of pof-200 email discussion list
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pof-200/messages
 
[16] Seattle Anti-Imperialist Committee
http://www.seattleaic.org/
 
[17] Time-wasting
One example is the response that was made to "SAIC and the struggle for sobriety" (see Note 2 above). Or, for example, read the storm of comments that followed in this thread after I made an accurate criticism of a SAIC leaflet:
http://www.seattleaic.org/leaflets/oppose_obamas_wars_with_mass_struggle
 
[18] Problems with "Lenin's 'State and Revolution'" (See note 3 above)
 
[19] Kasama Project -- http://mikeely.wordpress.com/
 
The following three wiki pages on Kasama were never completed.  I suspended work on them a year ago.
 
          1. Ben's illustrated page for issues related to the Kasama Project
          http://mediaweapon.wetpaint.com/page/Ben-Kasama
 
          2. Some of Ben's posts to the Kasama blog and "Threads" forum
          http://mediaweapon.wetpaint.com/page/Ben-Kasama-posts
 
          3. Uncompleted page on reformism and RCP's "World Can't Wait" campaign
          http://mediaweapon.wetpaint.com/page/Ben-Kasama-reformism
 
[20] Cargo-Cult Leninism --
See (for example): http://struggle.net/ben/2007/cargo-4-cults.htm
 
[21] The debate over RCP's "World Can't Wait" fiasco
(featuring Mike Ely, Frank Arango, Autocritique, Ben Seattle and others) can be seen here:
http://mikeely.wordpress.com/2008/02/10/election-illusions-the-mccain-attraction-and-revolutionary-hopes/
 
[22] (see above)
 
[23] How to Build the Party of the Working Class
http://struggle.net/ben/2008/222-HowTo.htm
 
          The Kasama page on this article, with discussion, is here:
          http://mikeely.wordpress.com/2008/03/01/on-the-party/
 
[24] Sword of Damocles
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damocles
 
[25] Moderation and Policy, How Kasama Works
http://z11.invisionfree.com/Kasama_Threads/index.php?showtopic=427
 
[26] Alkali Lake Band of Indians
http://www.4worlds.org/4w/ssr/Partiv.htm
 
[27] The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise
 
One of the best and most famous Saturday Night Live skits ever.
Links below are to the wikipedia description and two different video feeds:
** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Voyage_of_the_Starship_Enterprise
** http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/star-trek-the-last-voyage/280573/
** http://www.hulu.com/watch/19313/saturday-night-live-star-trek---the-last-voyage-of-the-starship-enterprise

Want to post your thoughtful and considered comments?
Go to this wiki page and post to the "threads" section
at the bottom of the page

Want to post your thoughtful and considered comments?
Go to this wiki page and post to the "threads" section
at the bottom of the page