Last updated: 8.Sept.2001
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Intro
Readers
respond
What do
you think?
Discussion
Lists
Mission
Statement
Related Topics
Related Projects

Proletarian Democracy

How will economics, politics and culture work
when the working class runs modern society?

Working class rule has never existed except in embryonic form
(the Paris Commune of 1871 and early Soviet Russia).
Nevertheless it will emerge triumphant in the 21st century.
How will a modern society suppress the former ruling bourgeoisie
without also suppressing the independent political life of workers?

It is to questions like this
that the discipline and focus of the
Proletarian Democracy elists will be dedicated.


Contents

      1. Introduction

      2. Readers Respond    What our readers have to say
      3. What do you think?    (post your views)
      4. The Discussion Lists   The Open ListThe Resonance List

      5. Mission Statement

      6. Topics
(related theoretically)
                        Bourgeois ideological warfare
                        The Transition Economy
                        Cargo Cult Leninism

      7. Projects
(related theoretically)
                        Proletarism
                        Participatory Economics
                        Self-Organizing Moneyless Economy
                        Links

      8. Other work by Ben Seattle

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1. Introduction

The primary obstacle to the development of a mass movement focused on the overthrow of bourgeois rule and its replacement with a system of workers' rule is the complete theoretical bankruptcy of nearly all conceptions of workers' rule.

Workers' militia defending the barricades--Paris, May 1871
In the wake of the degeneration of Lenin's October 1917 revolution into a police state in which a single party exercised a monopoly of power and controlled the political ideas that could be openly fought for, expressed or even known about--there are essentially no widely known conceptions of workers' rule that can pass the "stupid test" (ie: are suitable for people who have not had a lobotomy and are not in denial).

In order to clear the ground for a mass movement aimed at the overthrow of bourgeois rule we must start by smashing three myths, or common misconceptions.  These myths grew out of the experience of the October revolution and are tied, inaccurately, to the name of Lenin.

The first myth we must smash is that, during the period of workers' rule the workers' party and the workers' state are fused together or, equivalently, that one is a branch of or controlled completely by the other.  The second myth is that there will be a single workers' party. The third myth is that the suppression of the aspirations of the defeated bourgeoisie to restore their former power will require the suppression of the right of workers to:

(a) create independent political organizations and
(b) fight to influence the consciousness of the masses
      and mobilize mass support for their views.

competition of multiple workers' parties

From the point of view of scientific theory the functions of the party and state are completely different.  The party mobilizes people on a voluntary basis.  While the state, by its nature, is based on coercion, on force.


Poster honoring the Paris Commune--April 1871
Working class political organization will not assume the form of a monolithic party that stands united against the rest of society.  On the contrary, the workers' political organization (whether we call it a system of parties or a party composed of a system of trends) will concentrate the contradictions within the working class and will serve as an arena of open struggle in which all sides seek to influence the consciousness of the masses and mobilize their energy.

Once we grasp that the interests of the working class will be represented by a system of parties (or, equivalently, by interdependent trends within an umbrella organization) then the correct relationship between these parties and the workers' state becomes more clear.  The parties will engage in open struggle to win the support of the masses for their principles and for positions within the workers' state.

The competition of multiple workers' parties for positions of leadership within the state machine is consistent with the experience of the world's first dictatorship of the proletariat: the Paris Commune of 1871.  It is also consistent with the experience of the October 1917 revolution before the civil war, which began in the summer of 1918, shattered the economy and made necessary a serious of extremely harsh measures.

We must understand that a complex political struggle will continue after the initial defeat of the bourgeoisie.  Having this struggle in the open, in the full view of the masses, in conditions where the various contending forces are engaged in open competition for the support of the masses--allows for the maximum mobilization of the energy of the masses to help sort out who are (and who are not) the genuine friends of the working class.

Other than my own efforts I am only aware of one political trend that has undertaken serious work on this theoretical question. The PDP (based in Samara, Russia), has not only carried out valuable (if controversial) theoretical work--but has faced arrest and imprisonment for leading strikes and other militant actions of workers under both Brezhnev and Yeltsin.

stable,
modern
society
My theoretical work is focused on conditions as they will exist in the context of a stable, modern society after bourgeois rule has been broken and the proletariat has emerged victorious. Interestingly enough, the idea of workers running a stable, modern society is rarely given serious thought in the left--even though this is the supposed goal of the most serious section of the left--and is certainly the most important theoretical question of our time. Until this question is decisively resolved--until revolutionary theoreticians can develop a set of principles that can be defended in scientific debate--there can never be a mass consensus that a world without wage slaves is possible (much less would be an improvement over ordinary bourgeois rule) and there can be no central unifying idea around which a mass movement for the overthrow of bourgeois rule can be built. But it is precisely this shift in focus from the context of Lenin's Russia (a desperate, backward peasant country with a shattered economy that the imperialist countries were determined to strangle) to the context of modern, stable countries (with advanced, complex economies and infrastructure and a working class majority) that allows us to clearly see what today's cargo cult Leninists (whether Stalinists, Trotskyists, denizens of deep denial or simply sectarians with their heads up their butts) cannot see: The methods used by a revolutionary government in the 21st century to defend its existence--will have as little in common with the extreme methods that Lenin's Bolsheviks found necessary--as the conditions of modern first-world countries have in common with the extreme conditions of Lenin's Russia.

The most interesting question, therefore, is as follows: Without the use of obnoxious thought police--how will workers (in the era of the internet and the revolution in digital communications) prevent bourgeois views and ideology from dominating the mass media and culture?

ideological
warfare
There will undoubtedly be many difficulties in the period after bourgeois rule is overthrown and the working class struggles to create a new society. For profound economic reasons (mostly relating to the fact that it will take workers a fair amount of time to learn how to run the economy better than the bourgeoisie) the bourgeoise (as individuals and even, to a certain extent, as a class) will still exist for a considerable period, will have considerable resources, influence and leverage--and will attempt to organize campaigns of every concievable sort to convince the masses that they were better off under bourgeois rule and should hope for and struggle for a return to bourgeois rule. Furthermore, strong residuals of the bourgeois worldview and prejudices which so saturate society will continue to exist for a long time

So how will the working class, after the overthrow of bourgeois rule, combat the influence of the organized remnants of the bourgeoisie and the omnipresent bourgeois ideology?

"socialist" police state
or eternal bourgeois rule?
Revolutionary activists who give serious thought to these questions usually find themselves in a theoretically degenerate "left ecosystem" in which they are left with a desperate choice between one or another kind of extreme denial and stupidity:

a theoretically degenerate "left ecosystem"

  • On the one hand, the cargo cult Leninists promote a view of workers rule that makes no sense--in which a feudal-like political regime (impossible under modern conditions) maintains a monopoly on the political ideas that circulate in society--even if this requires a system of censorship and spying to monitor and control every word that people read--or even dare to speak in public, and

  • On the other hand, the overwhelmingly more numerous reformists make use of the cargo cultist view as an excuse to never even think (much less speak) of a world without bourgeois rule.

How long must humanity be held hostage to this paralyzing theoretical bankruptcy? What is the way out from these demoralizing and incapacitating perspectives?

The emerging revolution in communications will lead to the working class organizing itself and thinking for itself. And questions such as these will attract the attention they deserve and be solved. And even today we can put together a sketch or an outline of a solution.

separation
of speech
and property
Individuals, I have concluded, will have the "free speech" right to say anything they damn well please--to organize groups to promote their views and, in particular, to criticize and mobilize popular opposition against what they consider to be incompetence, hypocrisy and corruption of government officials or government policy. Individuals as well as organizations will also have the right to promote views that are wrong, unhealthy, harmful or reactionary. But corporations and people with money and resources (which will continue to exist for a considerable period) will not be allowed to buy position or influence within the sphere of media.

Commercial media (ie: media created by hired labor or commercial resources) will be subject to control. The creation and promotion of slick campaigns, prepared by armies of paid media workers, that saturate the airwaves and magazine covers to promote or advertise unhealthy or obnoxious food, politics, attitudes or worldviews--will be effectively opposed and shut down by the masses and their state. The bourgeois ideologues will be:

  1. Cut down to size
    by the principle of separation of speech and property
    (ie: they will not be allowed to use hired labor or commercial resources to amplify their voice) and then

  2. Drowned out
    by the combined anger, determination and class consciousness reflected in the innumerable voices
    of the masses.
mass-based
information war
On the other hand, free media (ie: media created by unpaid, volunteer labor) will be neither controlled nor regulated by the workers' state. On the contrary, the self-expression of the masses, and their myriad independent organizations, will be given the maximum possible support and encouragement, technical and otherwise, from a workers' revolutionary state that will have no need for thought police--but on the contrary will rely on mass-based information war--and will open the floodgates for the maximum release of mass revolutionary initiative and energy.

Ben Seattle
----//-// 10.May.2001
(Version 1.2 of this essay)
index to my elists, theory and infrastructure

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2. Our readers respond

Our bulletin board holds the views of readers
who posted using the form below.

From time to time I will select a few of
the better (or, sometimes, worse) posts
and copy the summaries to this page.

Dylan 5-Mar-2002
Free Thinker

My question is:

Globalization poses major problem to worthy idea

The globalization of economies makes a plan like the controlling of businesses by a less educated/ leaderless class difficult.
more of post 231 ...
Amanda 26-Apr-2002
Communist

The true wealth and beauty of our fine world will only be visible when the filth and corruption of capitalism is removed. Communism is the torch by which we will be led to freedom- freedom to live and enjoy nature without the scum of a corrupt society obscuring our view.
more of post 245 ...
Joćo 4-Jun-2001
Communist


On Pluralism in a Workers' Democracy


more of post 212 ...
Eight Floor 25-May-2001
open source enthusiast

Forking the revolution

The dynamics of the information war.

The principles of the information war demands that independent political organisations be allowed to exist, and also that these organisations are permitted to 'fork', reinvent and remerge themselves as a result of the internal struggle to win support of the masses.

Organisations that should not exist or are formed improperly dissolve quickly. Organisations which are relevant and useful to the masses stay so long as they remain so.

The result is a healthy ecosystem of political trends that debate along lines that matter - creating vital knowledge for the building of future societies.
more of post 211 ...
Ickle Che 27-Apr-2002
eutopist
TAKE THE POWRER BACK NOW!!!!!!!!
The revolution is close but not without the peoples' help.
In 1967 the one man who i belive was ever a credit to socialism died. But he left his work to be done. Che guevara wanted to change society and the capitilist regime, but could never manage to fulfill his dream. But now people are starting to think again and we are very very pissed off. We don't like the fact that we work day in and day out with out any questions and are then payed a pittance. We don't like the fact that politicians are throwing empty promises at us without any regrets. We don't like the fact that we work our hardest but are never appreciated.But now we can TAKE THE POWER BACK
more of post 246 ...
Greg 4-Jul-2001
Historical Materialist

Political Convergence

Democracy and strategy.

Comrade you are more on the right track than any I have yet come across. I particularily like your phrase about Proletarian dictatorship in a MODERN SOCIETY, in a nutshell it says it all about the outmoded views which have become associated with Lenin. On technology I concur while your view about the outward political nature of porletarian parties within the dictatorship of the proletariate is spot-on.
more of post 215 ...
Fisk 26-Mar-2002
Communist
A fatal flaw perhaps?
We should try to remember...
...that the flaw in all social programs such as this is the rule of enforcement. In the utopian communist view all members of society would conform freely in a democractic way. Right?

But, how do you create a society without overthrowing democratic principles? How do you re-distribute land and wealth without stealing it forcibly from its owners?

Just food for thought- personally, I think this is ample proof for the need of extensive discussion on the socialist stage of revolution.
more of post 236 ...
urfis 25-May-2001
communist

The Stalin Exam

A Do-It-At-Yourself Medical Procedure

Have you checked your head for a Stalin lately? If not there is a simple self-exam procedure
that you can perform in the privacy of your own home that may save costly medical expenses
later in life. The growth of dictators on the cerebrum can cause loss of ability to think clearly
and a difficulty in orienting oneself to the actual world.

more of post 210 ...

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3. What do you think?

What will the modern world look like when it is run
by the working class rather than the bourgeoisie?

Tell us what you think about the most
important theoretical question of our time.

Your views will be automatically
posted to our bulletin board.

Rate this essay
Really cool !!
Useful, but maybe a few problems
Not sure--will think about this
Some really serious problems
Sucks shit
Other ...
    
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4. The Proletarian Democracy Discussion Lists


two disciplined lists
Many people believe that they have something useful to say in relation to the functioning of a future society that is not ruled by the bourgeoisie. Experience, however, strongly suggests that many lack either the theoretical depth or the personal humility required to contribute to the kind of disciplined and focused list currently necessary--and which is aimed at overcoming the theoretical crisis that has led the movement for the overthrow of bourgeois rule into bankruptcy and paralysis. Therefore I am setting up two lists, with strict rules for one of the lists and stricter rules for the other. I will enforce these rules to maintain the character of these lists as a disciplined and serious effort.

The open list will be open to contributors from a variety of ideologies, subject to the condition that they will agree to respect other list contributors and work to develop the list focus (ie: How will economics, politics and culture work when the working class runs modern society?)

If you are reading this and like all or part
of the essay on this page you are invited
to subscribe to the open list.

In the event that the signal-to-noise ratio of the open list proves difficult to maintain the resonance list (designed to be small and to stay small) may prove useful. Participation in the resonance list will be by "invitation only" and will remain small (initially no more than 12 participants). Participation in the Resonance List will require agreement with the mission statement (see below).

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5. Mission Statement

Our mission:
To end the crisis of theory
that has left the movement
to overthrow bourgeois rule
paralyzed, naked and on its knees
in the presence of its enemies.

The aim of these lists is to help develop, test
and popularize a theory of workers' rule that is
fit for modern conditions (ie: stable countries
with modern economies and infrastructure)

More specifically, the aim of the Proletarian Democracy elists
is to work to develop a conception of workers' rule under
modern conditions
that:

  1. is not a "blueprint" but a robust set
    of well thought-out principles
  2. is not theoretically bankrupt
  3. can pass the "stupid test" and makes sense
    to supporters who have not had a lobotomy
    and are not in deep denial
  4. can be easily defended in scientific debate
    against representatives from all political trends
    (ie: anarchist, "communist", social-democratic or
    bourgeois, etc) whether they conduct themselves
    with principled integrity or as charlatans.
Towards this aim we will work to develop a FAQ
(ie: a list of frequently asked questions--together with
well considered and thoughtful answers) on the nature of
workers' rule under modern conditions that will be useful
for anyone to use in discussion or debate.