Rules of the road

Kasama

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January 27, 2007

Comments

jibaro

I just want to say first that I think that last post here (by base building) digs into some very crucial questions (that have been flirted with elsewhere on this site). So thanks for engaging on this.

Let me take a moment to answer, almost line by line.

* * * *

BB writes: "Unlike in Germany 1933, we don't have millions of workers in the communist movement. We don't have that "base". Jibaro seems to be arguing that this is irrelevent."

This statement by BB is rooted in a cluster of UNDERLYING AND UNSTATED assumptions that need to be excavated:

* that the "basebuilding" of the German party is an example of the kind of "base building" that is needed to aspire to being a major player in major events.

* That without such a base (built and conceived that way) we can't aspire to influence on event (or power).

* That the lesson of germany in 1933 starts with the fact that the KPD wad defeated WITH such a base, so what can we aspire to WITHOUT such a base.

My point is not that the example is "irrelevent" but that the lessons drawn are mistaken, and that the underlying assumptions are mistaken.

First, everyone needs to know that the KPD did not "build its base" over many years of small, economic struggle -- "serving the people" in a narrow, localist, reformist way. ON THE CONTRARY!

The old Social Democratic Party built an elaborate aparatus of trade unions, electoral ward organizations, mutual help associations etc. over decades (all with a brittle, thin and fading veneer of "socialist" and "revolutionary" and "marxist" politics.)

The KPD did not "build that base" -- they wrenched their mass following away from the SPD during revolutionary storms (from 1919 to 1923). They tore it away -- not on the basis of "we are better fighters for your interests in the day to day" -- but on the basis that "we the KPD can solve the madness of kaiserdom, war and depression in a REVOLUTIONARY way, while the SPD has turned "slow and gradual" into a mechanism for joining the status quo.

So, you assumption that their base of millions is vindication of YOUR line of "patient work in the base over decades" is exactly wrong.

The Democratic Party has a base of millions among the oppressed -- whose loyalty is now queazy, restless, and wrenched by objective contradictions. How wrong it is to propose to "win away that base" by being better at the bread-and-butter of reformism (i.e. we will be better trade union bureaucrats for you, we will be better NGO service providers, we will be more uncompromising lobbyists, we will be better at registering the new voters, etc.)

Second, the "problem" of the KPD was exactly that ONCE THEY GOT THAT BASE (during revolutonary storms that ended in 1923) they tried to hold and shape that base PRECISELY BY BEATING THE SPD AT THEIR GAME -- i.e. they created Red Electoral List to compete with the SPD electoral list. They created Red trade unions to compete with the pink trade unions... with the argument that communists would win loyalty as the "best fighters in the day to day" and with the false assumption that this loyalty could then be used to bring the masses to a revolutionary position when crisis emerged.

"Build support in the fight for bread, then turn the fight for bread into a fight for revolution."

The KPD's mechanical assumptions insisted that the Fascists COULDN'T provide bread. And to their horror, Hitler reduced unemployment and social chaos (by reving up the war machine) and much of the communist base lost its bearings (and chunks of the communist and SPD workers went over to the new fascist regime.)

[more to come]

leftclick

jibaro, I think you are making a lot of good points, but you are mistaken by reducing repeater's arguments to 'process.'

Here's how I understood repeater's points: what is keeping the masses from taking on this 'correct line' in droves? How do we account for our role in that process? It's not a pragmatic point but a practical one. In our present context, I agree that we cannot yet expect millions to support MLM politics, which does not mean we should not work to reach as many as possible. Focusing on numbers without context, ignores the dominance that liberal, democratic ideology still has among the masses. At the same time, the correctness of a line should not be an excuse for not finding the proper ways to popularize that line.

I believe repeater is correct to insist that there is a context when mass support IS the defining aspect of 'vanguard.' That context was laid out by Lenin in describing the three conditions that make up a revolutionary situation. Avakian discusses it here: Avakian on Lenin. If the masses do not gravitate towards the vanguard in this situation, it is, at a minimum, highly questionable whether they genuinely have a correct line or and whether they are a real vanguard.

jibaro

BB writes: "That "patient" base-building is very much an "urgent" necessity.Otherwise, what do we have?"

Let me break this down:

Note that what is "urgently" needed is "patience."

The patience to build a base over smaller issues, while patiently setting aside the major issues (like aspirations of power, and discussion of that) for the indefinite future.

In other words, what is "urgently" needed is the abandonment of "urgency" over major issues of power and the future -- and what is needed is "patience" to think small.... since that will "build a base."

As i pointed out in the previous post: that is not how the KPD got their base among the revolutionary (lower and unemployed) workers.

Second, no one has ever built a base that way, not a revolutionary base (at least). Those who "build a base" through such "patient" focus to everyday issues develop a patient movement that fights over everyday issues.

Waves of sincere activists have gone into the trade unions and communities over decades to "patiently" build this base. A whole split from the RCP happened, in which a third of the organization rededicated themselves to this (in 1977). The CP has done this for eighty years plus. And those are just two examples out of many. These forces don't develop a "base" for revolution, they become part of the base for the Democrats (over and over). Sum it up. How much "patience" can we have with such plans?

In fact we need to build our "base" among the oppressed over the life and death issues facing the people of the world -- on a revolutionary, partisan and internationalist basis. We need a movement of people who want a new world -- and increasingly use such a revolutonary people to influence more (hundreds to influence thousands, thousands to influence millions) -- in a dynamic and creative process. It is not curdely or simply "around revolutoin" as an abstract banner -- but around the burning issues of world politics and human events, around the major crimes of this system, and the new crimes it is about to commit.

More on "books not bombs": The masses of people have many highly justified complaints and demands that arise from their immediate situation. They DO need books, schools, opportunity, jobs, legalization for the undocumented, higher wages, etc. And I assume that millions will be motivated by those just grievances as they join and help make revolution. But... my point was that to form a movement that deliberately trains the masses to focus on this (on themselves and their grievances), is to create a movement that cannot and will not produce a revolution. The endless permutations of "books not bombs" (schools not jails, careers not combat, jobs not war....) is a way to make EVERY ISSUE IN THE WORLD AND SOCIETY appear through the prism of self -- it is the opposite of the diversion that is needed. It is the diversion of the left to the struggle for the ammeloration of the oppression, not the diversion of the masses from this struggle over immediate conditions to the fight to emancipate humanity.

BB writes: "Disconnected agitational groups freaking out because they think the whole weight of the world is on their PERSONAL shoulders."

Here again there is soo soo much to break down.

a) no one is calling for "disconnected agitional groups." What is needed is a growing and focus vanguard acting as a core of a much larger movement that (with increasing consciuosness) targets the system itself. And, of course, BB knows this.

So what explains the use of this phrase? "Discontented agitational groups"? First: there is the assumption that "agitation is just hot air." That people are not won over by ideas and the struggle over ideas. That this is not "how you reach people." To give weight to agitation, on newspapers (even while obviously organizing and leading real struggle in close conjunction!) is, to BB, inherently to be "disconnected." Because (to BB) the only thing that can possibly connect you to people is if you are identified with their most petty and personal grievances. (This is the logic that permeates BOTH identity politics AND economist/reformists.)

It is, in fact, false in its UNDERLYING AND UNSPOKEN assumptions.

People can be won over to sweeping universalisms, and to a vision of the future and society. And they can act on that basis. If you don't believe it, look at our most vicious enemies (the fundamentalists of a Christian and Islamic kind). The economist analysis is that these people "built their base patiently" through chruch social services and NGO activity -- and negate the analysis (made by BA in the Clinton article) of the root of this fundamentalism is the sweeping power their morality and ideology play in a world of chaos and disruption.

BB writes: "That's neither materialist or practical: it's moralism."

Well, here we have another set of UNSPOKEN AND UNDERLYING ASSUMPTIONS. To go to people with an analysis, to ask them to act on the basis of what is right, and what is in the interest of the people of the world is too abstract, too distant, too disconected for the masses. So it is (in the minds of economists) "moralism."

Well, i don't agree. I think that life on the bottom equipts people to contemplate and act on a sweeping vision of the world. I think there is a MATERIAL BASIS among those who are most oppressed to act as INTERNATIONALISTS (not people for whom "solidarity" is some extension of self -- i.e. "they are people of color like me," or "if we stand with them, they will stand with us.")

There is a morality for the class conscious proletarian -- that this is about the world, about emancipating all of humanity, about sacrificing self to lift the whole. This is alien to the UNDERLYING AND UNSPOKEN ASSUMPTIONS in everything BB writes.

Now look at the warning not to "think the whole weight of the world is on their PERSONAL shoulders."

Well, let me get all rock-bottom materialist on your ass:

Some things are on our shoulders (and some things are not.)

Emancipation is the act of millions. But the task of winning over millions to emancipation IS ON THE SHOULDERS of those who are class conscious.

There is a "weight of the world" on the shoulders of communists -- and if you don't see it, then you aren't paying attention. (Or you are assuming a "dios ex machina" that carries that weight for you -- as if the karma-machinery of "history" will always produce a solution. Believing that would be religion, not taking responsibility based on a materialist analysis.)

BB writes: "You can't separate the communist movement from the mass of working people except in your head, which may be why you have that panic."

BB is not complaining about the separation of the commmunist movement from the masses -- but the separation of the communist movement from "patient" and singleminded focus on the immediate needs of the masses (and from a single-minded insistance on portraying every event and struggle in the world THROUGH THE PRISM of the pettiest personal interests of your immediate audience.)

BB is complaining about the separation between communism and "bourgeois right." [I realize that many readers may not be familiar with the scientific term "bourgeois right" -- which should not be confused with terms like "bourgeois democratic rights" etc. Bourgeois right (from Marx) is the assumptions of what the self has a right to -- "coming for what's mine."]

The separation of communism from bourgeois right is a prerequisite and foundation of communism's new synthesis (if I understand all this correctly, which I may not!).

Previous "communism" has been highly eclectic on this basic point -- and this is part of the radicalness of the new rupture. (hence its controversy.)

There is a lot more to say on this issue, which we can get into later.

jibaro

BB writes: "If the only work that "counts" is what YOU YOURSELF are doing, then no doubt things must look very bleak to you even when the world is opening up."

First, no one argues that "the only work that counts is what I'm doing." We all live in a world where literally millions are striving for change. Where countless heads are straining for answers. Where many people are developing insights and innovations. Where movements OF MANY KINDS AND MANY DIFFERENT CLASS CHARACTERS emerge in protest, or resistance to oppression.

So don't create strawmen.

But in fact, such movements, in the main, cannot and will not solve the problems of the people -- UNLESS THEY ARE CONNECTED (i.e. led) WITH ALL-THE-WAY COMMUNIST REVOLUTION.

The complacency of "inevitabilism" jumps out here: "It doesn't all depend on us, in fact, what we do is not all that important. Things will happen in their own good time. and after all, what about the belief in *paper tiger*?"

So chill. Be patient. And put your nose back to focusing on the "small work" among the people.

And if someone says "uh, the ruling class is undermining the historic roots of their own legitimacy -- eliminating habeas corpus, launching wars based on lies, replacing liberal secular democracy with legally sanctified theocracy" -- here is what we get:

a) In an instrumentalist way this is accused of "panic" -- since what is needed is not "urgency" over global issues, but "patience" over petty ones.

b) We are told that if we don't ALREADY have a base, we can't win one in a telescoped way, so at best these changes in the world are either an unfortunate distraction from the petty, or a way of building our patient work over the small stuff. So the war is not about the murder and conquest of iraqis but the "budget cuts" we were fighting all along!

c) We are told that the fight over ideas (analysis of the war, analysis of the need to overthrow capitalism, a new communist morality opposed to theocratic morality etc.) is really just hot air, and is inevitably and inherently "detached."

Think about it: In their view people are INCAPABLE of grasping or engaging these matters. And think about what "socialism" then is for them! A welfare state where the workers produce, but get more of their "just returns" (i.e. bourgeois right without the basic relations being changed.) It is the "second model" -- in Cuba they went for "10 million tons," in the revisionist USSR it was "goulash communism" by "fulfilling and overfulfilling your quota".... and so on. "Socialism" in this view is the place where all your personal grievances get solved -- where you get books, and schools and a career! What place or necessity is there for ideas -- since in this vision the masses don't need to grapple with them!

When we use a word like "class conscious" -- to the economist it means "conscious of your class" (i.e. of your SELF and how people like you are fucked), it is the opposite of what COMMUNISTS mean by class consciousness (which is to be conscious of the world and history and the project of humanity's liberation from a communist perspective!)


jibaro

BB writes: What stands out to me about Jibaro, who makes many good points I agree with, is the disdain for people doing social activism. It's like Jibaro thinks that is the problem. Instead of decrying solid, community/work/social activism – why don't you learn how to talk to the people doing it, to lift the level instead of defining it down to whatever "lack" you see? Then we might get somewhere. Otherwise you're like a vanguard with no wave behind it, which is to say something else entirely."

BB thinks that to polemicize with someone is to distain them.

To criticize someone's ideas is to be offensive.

Anyone familiar with campus politics (and the influence of identity politics) is painfully aware of this:

If you criticize an idea, the reply is not engagement but a protest that you have "offended" (since you have no right to speak on this issue or whatever.) It is what communists call "liberalism."

I am not distaining or denouncing anyone. I am criticizing a line (a road) and its UNDERLYING AND UNSPOKEN ASSUMPTIONS.

BB talks of "solid, community/work/social activism" -- what the fuck is that? Where is that? What is so "solid" about it?

But here too there are UNSPOKEN AND UNDERLYING ASSUMPTIONS: "We can steer the truck once we get it moving."

First we "get the truck moving" -- then we can argue about where to go.

And since their "truck" never moves, the question of road (I.E. revolution, a new society, cardinal issues of the world) ALWAYS, PERMANENTLY AND INHERENTLY seems "disconnected" -- and in opposition to "solid activism."

So let's peel back the "common sense" of "solid activism" -- which is based on the idea that "nothing else is possible."

Stagism says we have to get to A, before we can talk about B.

First we get the base, through focus on the "community and workplace issues" -- then we use that movement to tackle larger issues (which now and forever are SEEN THROUGH THE EYES of the petties bourgeois right and self).

Revolution becomes devalued to a "demand for gimme" writ large. Revolution is the BIG anti-cutback movement.

That isn't a road to revolution.

On one hand I'm accused of "panic and pessimism" -- on the other hand I'm accused of "ultra-left" overestimation of what is possible in a relatively compressed period of explosive change.

What I'm accused of is an orientation that doesn't write revolution out of the picture.

We can "build a base" in a telescoped way -- and what we need among other things is a solid core of people focused on living and dying for revolution.

Ideas, and newspapers, breathtaking truthful and penetrating analysis, and a clear sharp vision of a liberated society are all KEY to repolarizing society that way.

We have a universalism, that is deeply rooted in reality, and that (actually!) has the solutions to the intense oppression and suffering that billions of people face. It can catch fire and race around the world.

Change (in the political landscape and the thinking of people) can seem to "come out of nowhere" (especially to those whose UNSPOKEN AND UNDERLYING ASSUMPTIONS are rooted in linear thinking, gradualism and the disbelief in leaps).

And everyone reading this needs to find a way to take part -- and NOT be PATIENT with themselves or the current polarization.

jibaro

LC writes: jibaro, I think you are making a lot of good points, but you are mistaken by reducing repeater's arguments to 'process.'"

First: I don't think it is helpful to vague refer to "a lot of good points" -- without actually indicating what you agree with. It makes engagement hard, especially when you pull one issue out of context.

Second: I hardly reduce repeaters arguments to process -- though (if I understand his argument correctly) he did say some version of "the line is right, the implementation is insufferable."

I think that BB (whoever that is) got into some core issues. And I believe that Repeater (elsewhere) has done so too.

But isn't it true that there IS a huge argument made that if you "try to argue sharply with people" you are being "an insufferable prick." If you tell someone that the path they are sincerely on is objectively complicity -- then you are told that this is so inherently offensive that its TRUTH is irrelevent. (think about the implications of that!)

LC writes: "what is keeping the masses from taking on this 'correct line' in droves? How do we account for our role in that process? It's not a pragmatic point but a practical one. "

I think the important practical point is how do we get the correct line to millions of people.

There is a mountain of reasons why dreams of revolution seem impractical (to the masses, to the active, and even to many who WANT revolution). It has to do with the "verdicts of the collapse of communism." It has to do with the absense of a socialist country in the world for thirty years. It has to do with the general collapse of "dreams of changing the world" among liberals. (Liberals used to believe they would eliminate poverty, now rejection such "utopianism" literally defines the starting point of "practical politics" for them.)

LC writes: "In our present context, I agree that we cannot yet expect millions to support MLM politics, which does not mean we should not work to reach as many as possible."

Do us all a major favor: take some time, think it through, and write down your thinking here.

This OFTEN UNSPOKEN AND UNDERLYING ASSUMPTION is like a shortcut lobotomy that RULES out of order exactly what should be central on our plate.

So if you would articulate your thinking, then we could have a productive engagement over thos UNSPOKEN AND UNDERLYING ASSUMPTIONS.

The dominance that "liberal, democratic ideology still has among the masses".... well, yeah. And why is "what is possible is only what now exists"? This is precisely a linear and non-revolutionary logic -- that is incapable of even imagining major leaps and discontinuities, or the collapse of old ways and beliefs.

I welcome that you articulated this assumption so very very clearly -- that the very idea of a communist upsurge and wave is impossible. So take a second. Think it through. And articulate your thinking.

LC writes: "At the same time, the correctness of a line should not be an excuse for not finding the proper ways to popularize that line."

Perhaps I am missing the point. Do you honestly believe that the van has a correct line, but a shitty method of exposition? I think that "if you really hate the way the line is being popularized, you actually uphold a different line."

The only way to dig into that question is for you to articular what you think is correct about the correct line -- ie. what YOU think that line is or should be.

The core issue is (i believe) "what line" not "which means and modes of popularization."

LC writes: "I believe repeater is correct to insist that there is a context when mass support IS the defining aspect of 'vanguard.'"

Then we disagree. And if you follow that logic then whoever has the support of the masses is their vanguard. Line evaporates. "The movement is everything, the final goal is nothing."

The correct leadership is whoever gets the truck moving (i.e. gets mass support for action of some kind) and so on.

You don't argue for your view, other than to claim (rather mistakenly) that it is lenin's view.

LC writes: "That context was laid out by Lenin in describing the three conditions that make up a revolutionary situation. Avakian discusses it here: Avakian on Lenin. If the masses do not gravitate towards the vanguard in this situation, it is, at a minimum, highly questionable whether they genuinely have a correct line or and whether they are a real vanguard."

This is wrong on many levels.

First, clearly a vanguard force becomes a "vanguard" of a much different kind when society is in revolutionary crisis -- and when it is seen as the "salvation" for many millions.

But BA's point is the need to do "revolutonary work of preparation in non-revolutionary times" -- i.e. you need a vanguard before the crisis, since it is very very hard to create one during an actual crisis.

Lenin's point is that one key difference between a mere crisis and a "revolutionary situation" is the existance of a vanguard with deep roots among a revolutionary people. (Deep roots are a basis for rapid changes in influence!)

He is not arguing that "we will see who is a vanguard by who gets support during a real crisis."

In fact, a vanguard force may FAIL to gain support during a crisis (because of mistakes, or simply because the dice didn't roll their way). The world would be a nice place if you could say "if this is really a correct vanguard we can count on GETTING MASS SUPPORT in a crisis." No you can't. It is not inevitable. The world is not that compliant. Sometimes you engage, through your heart into it and lose -- and sometimes that wasn't "mainly your fault" but mainly was rooted in details and accidental aspects of the objective situation.

The world does not guarantee "if you do everythig right, it will roll onto your plate." And therefore, we cannot conversely argue "the rolling onto our plate is the proof that we were right."

No, the world is more wooly and complex than that. We have to wrest influence and power -- against extremely adverse currents. We have to claw it out of the living flesh of living politics -- often DESPITE the attempt of forces to flop over onto "different plates."

Your assumptions here, LC, express the UNSPOKEN AND ASSUMED inevitabilism that has soaked previous "ML" religiousity.

As if we "inherit" our place in line. As if we "naturally" emerge as contenders once we have gathered enough forces.

No. there is nothing that "natural" or inevitable about it.

jibaro

LC writes: "In our present context, I agree that we cannot yet expect millions to support MLM politics, which does not mean we should not work to reach as many as possible."

It all depends on what you mean by "present." Like: do you mean by thursday? What about two years?

It also depends on what you mean by "MLM politics" -- do you mean that they have read and grasped the fundamentals of Marxism? Or that they support a revolutionary turn and are partisan toward the van?

Reach as many as possible?

Well, sure. But what does that mean to you?

Since you imply that millions is not practical (in a country where 8 million are homeless, or 30 million are undocumented, or 40 million may face a draft...!!)... well, what DO you think is possible?

Youwrite: "Focusing on numbers without context, ignores the dominance that liberal, democratic ideology still has among the masses."

I'm not sure what that means -- but it sounds like you think that this "dominance" (which is real) is NOT fragile or in motion, or even potentially in motion in the short run. Is that true?

I am not trying to answer you at this point -- because it is not clear to me what you are saying.

But what you raise is important -- and i believe the often UNSTATED AND ASSUMED basis for many people's politics is their assumption that revolution is really not possible.

So let us know what you actually think with a little more precision.

Obviously i think a common (and often unspoken) basis for some politics is the simple assumption that "this is all that is possible for the forseeable future"

repost

There is a theme of "let's get deeper..."

I was poking around

And i came across a posting by burningman from almost exactly a year ago.

It seems to answer all kinds of issues raised again in this thread -- and answer them rather well.

So what can we do to "dig deeper," not just recycle?

- - - - - - - - - - --

Posted by: the burningman | January 30, 2006 at 11:15 AM
http://www.leftspot.com/blog/?q=node/63

I don't see the arrogance that Chris is speaking of. The casual dismissiveness of social dems and opportunisists isn't the same thing as recognizing that such things exist -- and that many who hold those ideas don't have to be wed to them. The "movement" isn't defined by its lowest common denomenator anymore now that it has been in times past.

Challenging the holding pattern of established "movement-centered" activism isn't the same as insulting the people doing it. If anything, I'd argue that the RCP hasn't done nearly enough to seriously engage the insufficiencies of these methods and has written off far too much terrain. You are right in that they note what they think doesn't work, but they kind of leave it at that instead of starting the kind of conversations and struggles that really win people over and transform their worldview. That takes an engagement both intellectually AND personally.

There's something a little different going on than just willing a new movement and insulting those who don't run along. In several recent transcriptions (Chris's fav!), Avakian talks about working broadly without losing who you are.

In other words, there is a need to initiate a broad movement to check the Bush faction, and at the same time to really get that the liberals are exahusted and can't be relied on to make this move.

When they say it's Bush or Avakian, as far-fetched as that sounds if we just do a straw-poll, they really mean it. And what they mean is that the options within the system for some kind of democratic renewal or another round of social-movement side-lining will not stop Bush or construct a new alternative.

I think that the existing left will not be unified on some good platform. Does that mean I also think we need to "will" a new movement? Well, maybe. Something "new" certainly needs to hit the scene -- I just wouldn't assume that it won't involve winning over (and unleashing) many of the people who are already out there.

The options need to change, and those forces who are engaged in what Chris calls the "in-the-trenches movement builders" need to be challenged on exactly the social-democratic, liberal, and (calling a spade a spade) revisionist lines that will not win us through.

There are ideologies that properly belong to the enemy (such as liberalism) and others (particularly pragmatism, identity poltiics, economism, semi-nationalisms and anti-authoritarianism) that have held the day for decades of defeat. If the RCP isn't challenging them effectively, who will rise to THAT occassion?

This isn't a time to write anyone off, paticularly among younger activists, cultural workers and amorphous leftists. But there are real "leftist honchos" who have a very limited vision of what broad or "mass" work is that constrains it to the vices Chris mentions.

------

Reply1's comment that they aren't just incompetent but that imperialism is risking so much because of necessity is spot on.

I don't think it's just that the loonies have taken over the asylum. It's not just that Christian Fascists are crazy or "the NeoCons" or what have you. They can't just pull out of Iraq without endandering their whole international order.

Think about how much their defeat in Vietnam cost them, and Southeast Asia wasn't even part of the US sphere of influence before the war.

Right now, they are fighting in the oil-dripping heart of the empire and doing very badly. This is why they are speaking of escalation into Iran and Syria, not withdrawl, even of the Murtha variety.

This is the turning point, and the end of the America we knew. It's not going back -- and using the same activist playbook from before the current era, honed throughout the 1980s and 90s is a monumental misreading of where we are at.

One thing the Freedom Road document is really missing is that kind of larger analysis that puts these things in their perspective. Because I don't think we can pressure the ruling classes to "come to their senses."

What will they do to hold the military together?

What domestic changes are necessary to conduct indefinite, unpopular wars abroad?'

Again the question of necessity, not just "wars of opportunity" is the issue. They aren't doing this just to make a point. They are doing it because their grip is tenuous and they must defend it or face strategic defeat.

Maybe it's time to put the "crisis of socialism" to bed. Or at least recognize that with imperialism in crisis, socialists have an opening the likes of which we haven't seen in decades.

I know this is off topic, but I don’t know which thread would be more appropriate for this question. . .

Could someone tell me: what are the substantive differences between the RCP and the ISO? I know that one group identifies with Trotsky and the other with Mao but, besides that, how exactly do they differ? What is unique about their respective structures and aims?

Chuck Morse

by the way, the question about the RCP and ISO was from me. I forgot to add my name before hitting send.

leftclick

jibaro - sorry I didn't respond earlier but things got crazy on my end. I also apologize for the confusing terminology but I'm still getting used to the idea of 'blogging' for a larger audience.

You asked what I thought was 'correct' about a correct line. Good question. to begin with: a correct line is an accurate and realistic assessment of the state of class, and other social, contradictions: within the bourgeoisie, among the masses, between classes. Emergent and declining ideological/political ideas and organizations are a key part o this assessment.

What is correct about it? Two things: it must be based on the best available information that could be acquired, and it must be compared against material reality, and here's where it gets tricky. This could be taken for a pragmatic stand but it's not. It would be pragmatic if it were just a simple matter of comparing checklists: "we said this and it's happening so the analysis must be correct." Even if events seem to correspond to analysis we must continue to investigate until we have the the most rigorous understanding of causality possible. Only then can we be sure of our 'correctness.'

I'm not sure what relationship you posit between line and practice. Against pragmatism, I feel that practice does not automatically validate or confirm a line, but when there is a significant divergence, the line must come into question. As a reference, look at RCP's self-criticism regarding their stand on the USSR and the possibility of nuclear war.

You say: The world is not that compliant. Sometimes you engage, through your heart into it and lose -- and sometimes that wasn't "mainly your fault" but mainly was rooted in details and accidental aspects of the objective situation.

The world does not guarantee "if you do everythig right, it will roll onto your plate." And therefore, we cannot conversely argue "the rolling onto our plate is the proof that we were right."

No, the world is more wooly and complex than that. We have to wrest influence and power -- against extremely adverse currents. We have to claw it out of the living flesh of living politics -- often DESPITE the attempt of forces to flop over onto "different plates."

I am not making a moral argument, so 'fault' is not a concern. A correct line understands the fundamental contradictions and is not easily thrown off by contingency, what you call "the details and accidental aspects of the objective situation". By definition a line is wrong which claims to recognize a revolutionary situation but is not able to realize itself in a genuine force on the ground. By the end of August 1917, the Bolsheviks were looking to a lot of people like a dying political force, but by the end of September they were the leading revolutionary force. Lenin saw the fundamental contradictions facing Russia and was able to keep the Bolsheviks on track, despite the Central Committee I might add, and did not waver in the face of contingency. If these accidental facts are substantial and could not have been known while formulating the line, the line is still wrong even if the Party is diligent. Sometimes, as in the case of Rosa Luxemburg's Spartacist League, even though her line was correct in one sense of recognizing a revolutionary situation, her reliance on the German Social Democratic Party was wrong. In this case, a wrong line overwhelmed a correct one until it was too late for an alternative.

I am not pessimistic about the 'possibility' of revolution, nor do I think we should be limited by a cynical 'realism.' When I say 'present' I mean within a reasonably foreseeable future - say 3 months time? Why chastise me for not being more precise about this? Seems petty. You go from this to saying that I have basically taken revolution off the table. Fine, go out today and agitate as if the revolution could happen by next Thursday. Let me know how that works out.

You changed the meaning of my words when you said: Since you imply that millions is not practical (in a country where 8 million are homeless, or 30 million are undocumented, or 40 million may face a draft...!!)... well, what DO you think is possible? I said that expecting millions to support revolutionary politics [I said MLM, but this is more what I meant] in our present context is unrealistic. You removed my temporal qualifier, making it seem like I said that it would never be possible. Even with my confusing writing, that's just careless.

leftclick

Sorry, only the word 'never' should be bold in the last sentence.

Andrew J Silvera

Before I begin, may I just say that I'm English & only came across this site by accident. I was only looking for a Red Flag avatar to use on a horse racing forum (beginning to feel slightly outnumbered) & I for one don't mind waving it! Anyway, I'm certainly glad I found your site.

Demonstrations in America don't get much media coverage over here. Let's face it, demonstrations over here don't get much media coverage. The last one I attended, Feb24th, London, there must have been 100k but the Sunday Times put it at 3k with a write up as big - as this little square comment box - on page two. I'm sure there would have been more if there hadn't been a similar event going on in Glasgow as well. This was a joint do - Troops Out & No Trident Replacement.

The general feeling amongst people that I talked to was pretty much as you lot have mentioned above - somehow, these regular as clockwork (every 6 months or so) demos, just aren't enough! This site has inspired me a bit & given me a few ideas. We weren't listened to 4 years ago & still feel ignored. The only bit of excitement in London, was the speech made by George Galloway (former Labour rebel MP) but even that only gave more cause for concern, 'if they attack Iran, there will be riots!' I feel that is the mistake we made on the big Anti-war demo, Feb 15th 2003 - we didn't riot. I'm in no doubt that if a move is made against Iran - there will be riots but it will be too late by then won't it? I get the all round impression that it looks like Iran is next & I suppose it will have to happen before George War leaves office, leaving his successor another right mess. God! I'm depressed now, is it really all that predictable?

Anyway, a great site with some interesting links & I've no doubt, I'll be back.

Andrew J Silvera

In response to the comment directly before my previous. I am seriously pessimistic about the prospects of revolution. Sad to say but like I said to some kid at the aforementioned demo in London, he had written 'REV' on the paving slabs of Trafalgar Square, 'You're going to write 'revolution' aren't you? That's a no hope, non-starter. Write, Revelation, that's what is actually going on!'

That should liven up the debate.

Modern Pitung

This should stop the endless bolding.

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