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February 15, 2006

Comments

Ni! the Knight

Well perhaps you 2 can clarify things a bit. I assume you think that revolution as such is a monumentally historical event(also a mistake)

Do you believe that this historically objective revolution could have happened at any given time in human history? Do you consider capitalism to be inherently better then feudalism or slavery before it? Do you agree with Marx when he reluctantly states that the slavery of antiquity should be seen as necessary for modern socialism(which to me is another form of slavery)
How about when some Maoists excuse genocide in Tibet by screaming "BUT IT WAS FEUDAL!!!"

Answering these Qs can go along way to clarifying these things.

Ni!

I should add that a before and after view of revolution as such is abviously linear as well. This is of course a problem of ultra-left commies and insurrectionist anarchists who while not being crude as to see human history in progressive stages, still cling to that bankrupt view of a revolution.

the burningman

Speaking personally, I'd rather sell my labor power than be a serf or slave. Then again, I'd rather be free.

Maoists do not excuse anything in Tibet. You should actaully read what the people you are criticizing think before you run your trap.

Mike Ely, a writer with Revolution wrote a significant treatment of this question. Other leftists such as Michael Parenti have discussed the issue of lamas, feudalism and who misses the "good old days" at length.

Since you equate all states that call themselves socialist as essentially the same thing, (quite remarkable considering the restoration of capitalism in China!), no doubt you can't see the difference between abolishing a theocratic slave state and the post-Mao policy of Han settlement in Tibet.

But this is all par for the course with congenital anti-communists. You don't care about the truth because you don't believe in it, reducing all thought to opinion and narrative...

There is a common shared reality we are all part of. What you think about that common shared reality can be partial, subjective or scientific and essential. You can ignore "tendency" and other dialectical "tricks" all you want... you only hobble yourself.

I'd also love for you to produce a statement by Marx where he says that slavery is a necessary "stage" of development. It certainly WAS a stage of development, which in turn laid the grounds for its own negation... and not just in Europe, but in Asia as well.

Observing and coming to understand necessity is just getting to know the mother of invention. What you see as "linear" Marxists (and Maoists in a defining way) see as a "spiral" development. That is to say that the internal contradictions of ANY given phenomenon give rise to a negation which is NOT a zero-sum game.

In other words, the new.

Regarding revolutions: Again, equating all of class society as you do, the difference between living as a colonial object and a revolutionary subject may just be so many words to you. But I promise they are not to anyone who has actually gone through this process.

So, yeah -- I am a revolutionary looking to totally overcome class society through the conscious activity of oppressed people. For this task, scientific method and political organization are "necessary." That is to say: without them, we cannot achieve these objectives. No wheel of history will turn by its own "objective" motion.

Social liberation requires political revolution. If you are too cool for that school, then carry on with your onanistic proclamations and good luck.

Ni! the Knight

I'll start this reply by referencing the quote in question. Admittedly it's an Engels quote, however I have no reason to believe he deviated from his friend.

""We should never forget that our whole economic, political and intellectual development presupposes a state of things in which slavery was as necessary as it was universally recognised. In this sense we are entitled to say: Without the slavery of antiquity no modern socialism."

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch16.htm

Marx certainly does say this:

"For it is a fact that man sprang from the beasts, and had consequently to use barbaric and almost bestial means to extricate himself from barbarism. Where the ancient communities have continued to exist, they have for thousands of years formed the basis of the cruellest form of state, Oriental despotism, from India to Russia. It was only where these communities dissolved that the peoples made progress of themselves, and their next economic advance consisted in the increase and development of production by means of slave labour."

I think that settles that. Anyone who legitimizes that reasoning while proposing a libratory agency is bound to have problems. Interestingly enough I was having a conversation on this issue with an old 60s vet and I brought that point to his attention. He did not deny it and agreed that slavery should be seen begrudgingly as a good thing.

Now as to your personal preference to wage slavery over the past incarnations, I might personally agree with you on that account. However that view is hardly something that is objective but is something relative to our current discourse. We have been conditioned and become use to certain level of movement. Neither you nor I can really transpose ourselves to the everyday struggles of the past. In all likelihood people in feudal times were just as use to feudalism as people today are to capitalism. That's what someone like Parenti can never get in his analysis of Tibet. He's forcing his modern fixation on a culture that has never really shared it. I see no evidence that the inhabitants of Tibet don't prefer the "theocratic slave state" to the enlightenment fundamentalist rationality forced on them by the Chairman. The very beginnings of imperialism are when you ignore the contextual day to day existence of another culture and force yours on them. Ugly theory, murderous practice.

As far as truth goes, truth lies in existence not substance and subject as you appear to think. Hegel’s whole idea of substance and subject is ultimately derived from Descartes’ crude, subjectively narcissistic "cognito ergo sum". This is something that has been thoroughly debunked at this point(at least for anyone who has read Heidegger and beyond and is not stuck in 19th c philosophy)

As for revolution, how about getting beyond the monumental historical fetish of it(as nietzsche would point out). In a revolution the only things that should matter are your own everyday desires and acts of refusal against that which subjugates you. Ultimately if you want a new set of egalitarian relations you will have to find it outside of the capitalist/modern relation. That obviously means throwing the scientism and political ideology to the dustbin of hirstory.

the burningman

Speaking of "ugly theory, murderous practice" it is a little amusing that you uphold, well, Nazi and proto-Nazi philosophers, Mr. Ni!

We wouldn't want to pull out some of Hieddeger's choice quotations, to say nothing of Nietzche's domestic advice...

You confuse materialist observation with idealist prescription. Obviously that is your right, even if it turns reality on its head.

Again, you can't blame the physicist for gravity. As you fail to note the horror at despotism, so too do you fail to see that Marxism is an attempt to find WITHIN the existing world the seed of the new.

Without THAT history, THIS world world would not be as it is. Recognizing "dead weight" doesn't mean it still isn't heavy.

In history, this was a study of of the economic base of various societies and, shocking as it is to some, Marx and Engels were hardly immune to European chauvinism. This manifested in an incomplete understanding of imperialism, though their in embryo, and a belief that the particular developments in Europe were somehow universal.

"In a revolution the only things that should matter are your own everyday desires and acts of refusal against that which subjugates you."

Ignoring, of course, who "you" are and what your "everyday desires" are. And while you conflate "scientism" and science, so too does your own smotheringly ideological stance grant itself dustbin immunity.

a comment

Burningman:

Your last comment here, vis a vis the Knight who says Ni!, is trenchant.

Let me ask you a question though:

Can you explain to me how your conception of "popular agency" doesn't face the same problem (if not in the crude and even silly form) as his statement:

"In a revolution the only things that should matter are your own everyday desires and acts of refusal against that which subjugates you."

It seems to me that your discussions of "popular agency"

a) conflate "everyday desires" with "historic interests" -- so that it makes no distinction between "looking from the mountain" and "acting based on what you want and feel now."

And the one-sidedness of the expression "popular agency" has the same problem that you call "who 'you' are.

Avakian's point (made several times and worth thinking about several times) about the movie "Clash of the Titans" is that left to themselves, the parents and administrators of this high school would never have said "Lets hire a black coach and integrate our beloved football team." But in the context of a larger social event, and in the context of a degree of coercion brought to bear from without, some rallied to implementing the change and some foought to obstruct it.

In other words, the dynamic is not just "popular agency" -- but "making the people fit to rule" (as Marx put it famously) and then parallel to that "expanding the 'we'" that is actually ruling, (as Avakian put it) -- and not just expanding it in name.

Like clash of the Titans, Avakian doesn't think that the overall framework should be "up for grabs" after the revolution -- i.e. society has been wrenched onto a socialist road, and that context should be fought for (while certainly still debated, and hopefully at a high level with real ferment and considerable openness, but not put up for vote -- that is a difference between dictatorship of the prol and capitulation.)

In a complex country like the U.S., who are you talking about when you say "popular agency" -- "the people" as a classless whole? Or in an identity politics way, smaller "pieces" of "the people" who are somehow "controling their own lives" -- in a way that brings you closer to Ni's vision that you might like.

What is the relationship between "controling their lives" (as Ni focuses on, in an extreme and individualist way) and "controling the future development of human society" (in the most sweeping and historic sense)?

Isn't the latter what we are about? And isn't the former (however its packaged or conflaged) really a way of smuggling the lifestylism of anarchist individualism into the communist project (through the misleading assertion that DIRECT control over "their lives" is THE measure of socialism's progress and existance.)

a comment

Ni writes: "I see no evidence that the inhabitants of Tibet don't prefer the 'theocratic slave state' to the enlightenment fundamentalist rationality forced on them by the Chairman."

Every part of this is worth examining.

1) First, there is LOTS of evidence.

Just because many Tibetans continue to pray, and a chunk cherish the picture of the Dalai Lama does not mean (at all!) that many or all or even some "prefer the 'theocratic slave state'."

Various leftists make a contribution to the truth when they expose how horrible old tibetan society. But let's not go from there to a reductionist assumption that the program of the Dalai Lama and his forces is to "return to those old ways" -- this is somewhat uninformed.

If you read around (including in the reactionary Tibet movement's actual writings and debates) you can see that, no one, literally no one other than some ga-ga non-Tibetans, can get away with openly calling for a return to the earlier society.

This was one of the most awful medievalist societies in human history -- and EVERYONE who experienced it knew it (and I'm including even the former ruling classes in this!)

The population was rapidly declining from the nineteenth century to the twentieth (from disease and the crushing burden of having a growing chunk of the work-age men sitting on their asses spinning prayer wheels -- grinding the rest to the brink of extinction.)

One of the Lamaist's major problems (once they went into exile in India) is that virtually no one (among them, or among those gathered in 'camps") wanted to "go back." Being a worker on an Indian mountain road gang was vastly preferable to the lives they had led in Tibet.

So even the Dalai Lama had to announce (once he went into exile) that his immediate followers had to eshew many of the most longstanding customs of their society -- simply because if those customes and ways were insisted on -- there would be no way to rally ANY public support from non-Tibetans, the masses of Tibetan exiles or the masses in tibet. (And you can see this in his own writings, by the way.)

Some examples I think i read in Tom Grunfeld's book on Tibet:

Traditionally, no one was allowed to look at the Dalai lama above the knees, and the appropriate stance of underlings in his despotic audiences was prone with eyes cast down. This broke down quickly once "the outside world came in" and could not return.

Another point: in a society where people commonly starved, and where the main food was ground barley mixed with yak butter -- a huge proportion of the precious yak butter of the country (a third?) was burned in the monasteries for light and ritual. The lamaist offerings to the gods literally condemned large numbers of people to starvation.

Another example: women who gave birth to twins were commonly executed as demonic (though "execution" in a Lamaist society often did not take the direct "violent" form of beheadng, but the "non-violent" form of "expulson from settlements to die slowly on the hillsides.)

To repeat: No one advocates the return to the old ways. And even the Dalai Lama doesn't advocate this... He advocates maintaining the current capitalist economic base (complete with the products of industrial society, imperialist penetration, but with more control over the extraction of resources etc.) and some form of western-style "representative democracy" along with his return (as some kind of "constitutional monarch" on the british model), and some form of autonomy within China. (He does not advocate an independent tibet.)

2) You say "the inhabitants of Tibet"..... well, which "inhabitants"?

In fact, tibet was and is a starkly class divided society, and different "inhabitants" look at these things differently.

I don't mean to imply that things fall out in some simplistic and mechanical way: "former serfs want real socialism, former feudal pigs want old style feudalism."

But the fact is that (as I said above) there is a powerful set of forces in Tibet who would NEVER want the old society.

Now i'm not sure I "buy" the WHOLE analysis of Maoists like Mike Ely about the Mao period (which I suspect was not quite as liberatory in Tibet as in the lowlands of China for various reasons -- for reasons that are not mainly the "fault" of Mao or the CPC, and which were tied to difficult objective conditions and line questions that eventually fed into the GPCR and counterrevoution.)

But (having now expressed SOME skepticism)there were indesputably mass movements of imprisoned-monks who came streaming out of the monestaries to rejoin their families and get married!

There were serfs who got fucking wages for the first time (and had never heard of such a thing under the Lamaists, where forced labor similar to U.S. chaingangs was the way things got done.)

And there have been whole generations of youth looking to the outside world in various ways, who are not eager to have forced recruitment to the monasteries return (to put it mildly!)

3) As for your remark about "enlightenment fundamentalist rationality forced on them by the Chairman" -- there are layers to this:

First, your discussion of all this is confined to ideas (superstructure) as if society is a whirl of warring narratives (each of which has its own virtues). In fact, base and superstructure exist entwined.

But Tibet's future is not MAINLY a matter of picking "this set of ideas" over "that set of ideas."

Once Tibet got "opened" (like a medieval/feudal freezedried can of coffee) there was never any "going back" -- the old society crumbled like some ancient mummy exposed to air and bacilli for the first time.

And the only question was: which larger political entity would it be integrated into (socialist china or British empire?), and which social order would predominate (socialism or semicolonial/semifeudalism in one form or another).

What Chairman Mao brought was not JUST scientific ideology, precious and shocking though that was and is. (And you can mock this as "enlightenment fundamentalist rationalism" if you want -- but give me scientific thinking over Bush Christian fascist fundamentalism, jihadism, or Lamaist nightmares!).

Mao's armies brought (actually very slowly over a number of leaps and years) a different set of social relations (and within that production relations) that eventually included: land reform, the break up of the monastic/feudal estates, the liberation of serfs, wages for work, social status for women.

And if you think people don't notice that, if you think they sniff at such changes and say "nah, i prefer to be a serf thank you." Well, I don't think you have to be a dialectical materialist to see that there is something objective about social progress that PEOPLE WILL NOTICE AND EMBRACE (even IF they still prefer to pray, or even if they wish that Han immigrants didn't come to their highlands in such numbers.)

And what is revealed by this example of Tibet applies more generally:

The world is not just an airy battle of naratives. People don't just live out their subjectively chosen "ideas" about the world. There is a material base, with real and material impact on what people think and want and do.

the burningman

"A comment" -- please pick a name so the thread doesn't get entirely lost. You've commented here many times, and you are well beyond "a" comment...

This concept of popular agency does indeed need some meat on its bones, and you have neatly pulled at the aspects that are problematic.

I think a better way of putting it is "proletarian agency" to clarify matters, specifically in terms of putting class struggle at the heart of it, where it belongs -- as proletarian "class suicide."

Following your discussion of civil rights, this is exactly why I am a socialist (and republican), not an anarchist. But the degree to which the fight against white supremacy exists in the lifeblood of the people, in their daily lives and NOT just in an MLK Day/middle class affirmative action programs, is the degree to which there has been a real shift.

Part of the problem with looking at things from "the mountain top" is that this is exactly the vantage points of aristocrats and ruling classes. Literally. I appreciate the point, but can't help noticing that Poland looked very different from the "mountain top" of Moscow than it did from... Poland. Etc.

Promoting a worldliness (and will to power) among oppressed people is a good thing -- but the devil is in the details.

Namely -- counter-revolution has come from within the Communist Party, not generally by invasion without or simple restoration. This experience, and the attempts to respond to the danger, have defined socialism in the 20th Century. Failure to grasp that changes in not just the "line" of the leadership, but the means by which the proletariat as a class, not by mere representation, comes to rule is the essence of the issue.

It is this recognition by Mao, and his attempt to bring the people into political life in unprecedented (and still largely unique) ways that has bequeathed a revolutionary communist movement.

What that movement learns in practice is now the issue. With the recent release of their thinking by the CPN-M, it does seem that some positive breakthroughs are in the works!

The Eastern European and Central Asian experience with socialism hasn't been unpacked. The thing that was missing? Agency.

This does not negate a vanguard party, or several. It does not conflate felt needs with scientific understanding -- exactly the opposite.

Shit, I'm at work now and shit-to-do just came down the pipe... More later.

TM (formerly a comment)

As for "proletarian agency".... hmmmm.... that has its own probs.

Because, the "dictatorship of the proletariat" must not mean "the workers (reified) tell everyone else what to do."

It is not like "proletarians need agency" **over** the rest of society.

It is more like "when the proletariat acts in its highest interests, then it becomes the emancipator of humanity as a whole."

From the mountaintop does not mean "from the vantage point of an elite" -- it means "seeing things from the sweep of history, from the emergence of classes to their elimination -- and seeing, evaluating and interacting with phenomena, people, classes, strata movements, from THAT perspective and no other."

It comes from the discussion by Avakian on epistemology:

"Your attitude towards intellectuals has to do with the philosophical question of what you think we’re trying to do, and what is it the proletariat represents. What is the "godlike position of the proletariat," as I referred to it in "Strategic Questions"?5 On one level, you’re sort of sitting on a hill watching this procession go by of the development of humanity. Some of it you can see more dimly and some more clearly—-you look at this whole sweep and then at a certain point this group called the proletariat emerges from within this set of social relations that can take it to a particular place, to a whole different world. But you shouldn’t reify the proletariat: Yes, it’s made up of real people, but it’s not a matter of individual proletarians but of the proletariat as a class, of its position in society and of where its interests lie, in the most fundamental sense, as a class. On another level, looking at the sweep of history, you see the role of intellectuals as well. Are they basically making trouble for us? This is how some people see it—and this has been a definite tendency, and real problem, in the history of our movement. But from the standpoint of a sweeping view of history, you look at this a different way."

In other words, our approach can't be "workers for the workers" -- which doesn't rupture with bourgeois right or the revenge line.

What is significant about the proletariat? Not just that we are fucked over (lots of other strata are, some worse than even proletarians!) but that (historically speaking, not in a reified way) this class is connected with the potential to emancipate humanity, and it has no interest (historically speaking) in ANY oppression and in the existance of classes.

There is one of the "7 talks" that deals with this "revenge line" and economism. (The one that opposes the old line of "the last shall be first and the first shall be last" -- which is a form of "others have grabbed, now its our turn" -- and is fundamentally opposed to this view "from the mountain" that he is advocating (and articulating).


Ni! the Knight

Well bman, if I was restricting my reading to the personality traits of various thinkers, my growth would be pretty stunted. In regards to Heidegger and Nietzsche, the social contexts that bugged M&E as you noted can easily be applied to Heidi and Fred as well. In regards to the ontologist, I believe anyone who reads more honestly into the Nazi affair will find things were more complex then those who cry 'nazi nazi' would claim. At the worst he may have believed that there was some potential in the nazi program. So did some gays and Jews at one point. It's silly to look at Heidegger in a moralistic vacuum. If you look at the phenomena of eugenics for example, everyone was into that. Your dig at Heidegger is no different then how a social conservative of today would go after Margaret Sanger for her pro-eugenicist positions (Emma G had them too). I think it's better to look at the logic of enlightenment rationality and its role. Also enlightenment derived social Darwinism (which infected Nietzsche’s will to power). Certainly the counter enlightenment types while overall important in my view were not immune from this. My own view is that part of the problem with Heidegger is that he dichotomized nature and culture among other things. In general his views were probably a bit to fixed on such things as culture and nature (reading Stirner might have helped)

As for idealism, I prefer to take a discourse analysis which incorporates both views. Idealism and materialism tend to fall back on each other at the end of the day. While ideas are not separate farts in the wind and are mediated socially, what you call material (I presume the social mode of production) is the result of people acting on those ideas and likewise being affected by surroundings. A Cop is not an automaton to herself for instance; she is kept alive by peoples fixed attachments to 'the law'. She has a spouse who will fuck her when she goes home and she exists within a social relationship that accepts her. Destroy that behavior in your head, and she has no base whatsoever to be a cop.

And the problem with trying to find the new seed in the old is that it's a frivolous thing to do to begin with. The history of the world has always been constructed by direct agents, not those who try to predict the future. Why do you think the anarchists are the ones who defined the anti-globalization movement, because they realized, more then the leftover leftists who sat on their asses thinking about when the next "revolutionary" condition will come about(as it everyday isn't such),that history is something you create in your own immediacy.

And imperialism as such is still very much incomplete I would add. The very fact that black nationalists among others continue to look at supremacy in a vacuum without looking at the history of domination as a whole (take what the Bantu continues to do to the pygmies for example) attests to this continuing problem of imperialism.

"Ignoring, of course, who "you" are and what your "everyday desires" are. And while you conflate "scientism" and science, so too does your own smotheringly ideological stance grant itself dustbin immunity."

If there is anything I ignore it is "who" the state wants me to be and my everyday desires toward my own potentiality for being is the most dangerous thing the phenomena of capital and state held together by fixed ideas can imagine. As for science and scientism. Admittedly I have no problem with science as such so long as it is not reified and defined by specialists. Such a thing is only a relationship that capitalism and civilization would supply.

Ni!

Just to reply to the commentator, his/her charges don't really challenge what I said. I don't deny that there are reprehensible things in Tibet, and I certainly don't think that Tibetans want to go back(which is a really loaded term by the way) The point is that at one point or another, back when feudalism was more entrenched Tibetans were probably just as use to it as Americans today are to capitalism. I don't get into such traps as better and worse when it comes to social conditions. You and I make value judgments on these things based on the world we are thrown into. Sure Tibetans probably wanted out, that was obviously due to the fact that modernity was normalizing the new day to day relations. I certainly know that that they would be better off liberating themselves on their terms and not Mao's.

TM

Ni writes: "The point is that at one point or another, back when feudalism was more entrenched Tibetans were probably just as used to it as Americans today are to capitalism."

Of course, perhaps even more so -- given the feel of permanence and fatalism that oozes from the brutality, rigidity and info-starvation of feudal life.

They knew of nothing else.

And humanity had endured (!) serfdom for literally thousands of years (and, in that context, often saw settled farming villages of serfdom as far "superior" and "civilized" compared to the sometimes-nearby contrast to nomadic or so-called "savage" life! And anyone who has compared life with a granary to the precarious life WITHOUT a granary knows the basis for such sense of "superiority.")

But that is the trap created by your fascination with what people "want" in their everyday lives." The fact that a serf can't get the oversight to conceive (and therefore consciously "want") more than a good harvest or a good master or starvation-free life in heaven -- that he/she can't "want" liberation (or conceive of it other than occasionally storming the castle with pitchforks and then returning to the huts).... does not mean that this feudal mode of life is not horrific compared to more progressive ones (including for the serf who may not, yet, spontaneously see that).

It is objectively the case, even when not subjectively clear to those involved. And this existance of "objective reality" -- and its importance for liberatory thought and action -- is the issue we are debating.

The fact that their own lives are intolerable is something else that becomes revealed, for serfs (or, say, Black share croppers in the south) , when they get a sense that other modes of life are possible -- when they get into the army and see some of the world, (like in "Gay Paree" of WW1) for example.

Or when a Mao (based on knowledge, politics and ideology gathered by a whole world process of science and revolution) creates a liberated zone in the mountains, and creates a whole new way of living without masters -- right there in the midst of all that feudal warlord misery!

I.e. people view their own immediate lives and "wants" DIFFERENTLY when they get knowledge (especially synthesized knowledge!) of other things.

Consciousness does not arise, fundamentally, from the contemplation of self -- especially the kinds of consciousness needed for fundamental social change.

That is the heart of the MLM critique of the overestimating "spontaneity" (whether in the form of economism or anarchism).

The fact that these victorious programs of liberation CAN'T be generated internally to situations of everyday oppression -- doesn't mean that something new, liberated and far better isn't possible (especially when that oppressive situation is OBJECTIVELY outmoded -- i.e. objectively able to be replaced by something new because of advances in the productive forces of society.)

That (again) is the whole point of (what Avakian calls) the "godlike position of the proletariat" -- the fact that there is a propertyless class whose historic and most sweeping interests and position enable it to use and synthesize the knowledge accumulated more broadly in society (often by intellectuals like scientists, philosophers, historians) to conceive (through its political representatives and leaders) and carry through (in organized mass rev actions) an unprecedented global project of liberation.

Ni writes: "I don't get into such traps as better and worse when it comes to social conditions. You and I make value judgments on these things based on the world we are thrown into."

Well which is it? You don't get into such traps, or you make value judgements?

Of course we make value judgements based on "the world we are thrown into" -- but what exactly does that means?

For example, you yourself say (early on): "I don't deny that there are reprehensible things in Tibet..."

YOu don't? Why not? Based on your own logic, who are you to deny or not deny the reprehensibility of "things" in Tibet?

On what basis is the the starving of people for the glory of gods "reprehensible"?

Certainly it wasn't to the lamaist monks who did it (for them it was dharma and virtuous, when-and-if they even bothered to think about it)!

So on what basis then can you say you "don't deny it"?

Basically, you imply that you are free (like me) to make such "judgements" but that this condemnation is all merely subjective, no more correct than the UPHOLDING OF THESE SAME THINGS (by the lamaists!) and therefore virtually irrelevent.

I urge you to read "Marxism and the Call of the Future" (a conversation between Avakian and Bill Martin) which deals with the relationship between Marxism, science and the ethical -- and (from BA's part at least) sharply challenges such relativism.

But in fact, there are bases for such judgements:

First because there is objective reality -- so that, at some points in human history, unavoidable oppressions become outmoded, and humanity becomes capable of transcending them. Objectively capable of "abolishing the 4 alls." And so, the basis for a moral critique of the way people (serfs, or slaves, or proletarians) are treated and abused that is now rooted in objective possibilities. THAT IS WHAT MAKES OUR MORALITY MORE THAN MERELY SUBJECTIVE.

Ni writes: "Sure Tibetans probably wanted out, that was obviously due to the fact that modernity was normalizing the new day to day relations."

Just factually, the Tibetans (in the main) didn't actually "want" out -- because while YOU (speaking of Ni) can't (today, here) "deny" how reprehensivle that treatment was -- from WITHIN LAMAISTS FEUDALISM, and its fairly hegemonic ideology, the vast majority of people actually COULDN'T conceive of an "out" (other than reincarnated rebirth in a new body with higher status).

That is why there were almost no reds or internal support within Tibet when the revolution "arrived" (from "without") on foot.

And that is why MTT and his forces took a decade before they "touched a hair on the social system" -- they needed real forces, allies, supporters and cadre who DID WANT OUT, and for that people had to develop (and internalize) a sense that an "out" was possible.

It was this contrast and shocking sense of possibility that the PLA brought to Tibet when the army entered after the 1949 revolution (and built roads, brought medicine, paid wages, started literacy -- the very fact that red army soldiers casually SPOKE to serfs, and allowed the serfs to LOOK AT THEIR FACES brought a shocking sense of new possibilities, where virtually none had existed).

So Ni is exactly wrong (in practice and theory) when he says: "I certainly know that they would be better off liberating themselves on their terms and not Mao's."

First because there actually were (objectively) no other terms for liberation than the ones Mao was grasping and applying and offering.

Their choice (whether they knew it or not) was either socialism or semifeudal/semicolonialism -- given the growing interconnectedness of the world (accelerating ever since the rise of imperialism in late 1800s).

So the degree to which every grouping of people has their "own terms" for liberation (simply because they have their "own" heads and can therefore, presumably, reinvent their own reality) -- is what we are debating. It is rooted in a "denial of the objective" (and of the complex intertwining and interdependency of objective and subjective.) And therefore in a denial of science (and the existance of a science of revolution, i.e. MLM.)

In other words, a vanguard is not just an organizational necessity -- but it is a necessary means of grasping the ACTUAL "terms" on which liberation can happen -- and then working collectively on that basis. (Which is something BM's theory of multiple vanguards studiously ignores and objectively denies.)

People can't simply invent their own societies based on whatever ideas flicker across their synapses or arise from the subjective morphing of old ideas and new complaints.

One example: The Native people of North America often "wanted" to have both european commodities (steel tools, guns, pots) but also maintain their cultures and tribal structures. Well that option (those terms) did not actually exist -- it was possible to imagine but NOT implement.

It is true (I want to say for clarity) that people ultimately need to liberate themselves... (you can "export" revoluton, as mao did to Tibet, but someone has to emerge there to "import" it.)

But the self-emanciaption of people is not fundamentally a process of them "developing their own terms" (and their own "agency" in that sense).

It is a process of more and more grasping objective reality, class society, the possibility of a new society without the oppressions of today. I.e. it takes a growing grasp of the kinds of scientific thinking and methodology we call MLM for short. Applying that science to particular moments and societies is how the "terms" for liberation become clear.

And in that sense the Tibetan people could ONLY liberate themselves (and still today can only liberate themselves) by grasping the "terms" that Mao was bringing identifying. (i.e. New Democratic revolutin, socialism, transition to commmunism -- to put it in admittedly schematic shorthand.)

Again: you can see the linkage between the BM theory of "popular agency" and Ni's relativist view of "liberating themselves on their terms and not Mao's."

Both folks share a defining subjective idealism (i.e. a belief that ideas define reality, but that the reverse is not nearly as clear or established).

It is a denial of the fact that people can ONLY liberate themselves by grasping more and more deeply objective reality, and then changing it through struggle. And relatedly it is tied to a denial (to different degrees) that people even CAN grasp objective reality that way (i.e. BM sometimes claims that reality can, potentially, be grasped, but that any SPECIFIC project to do so is too flawed for any claims of truth to be more than arrogance and new obfuscation.)

These controversies are (as i understand it) central to what BA is fighting for now (in the 7 talks for example -- http://bobavakian.net -- but also in the epistemology talk, and in the Conversations with Bill Martin) -- i.e. an approach that fights for materialism (in opposition to dogmatic religiosity among communists, but ALSO the pervasive subjective idealism and relativism of radical democrats and identity politics.)

Relativism (everyone choosing "their own terms" -- based naturally in "their own ideas") won't work. -- either as an answer to religious dogmatism (of any kind) or as a guide to liberatory action. The fact that you believe we can't judge whether one society is an "advance" over another is a clear clue to that.

But the good news is that oppression truly is OBJECTIVELY outmoded in the world today -- and so if we follow Avakian's lead and dig into these matters we can identify those "terms" that actually can emancipate humanity, and then help people grasp them (and transform those ideas into a material force).

I was just reading K. Marx who said:

"At the entrance to science, as at the entrance to hell, the demand must be made:
Qui si convien lasciare ogni sospetto,
Ogni vilta convien che qui sia morta.

(translated from Dante:
"Here must all distrust be left;
All cowardice must here be dead.")

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1859/critique-pol-economy/preface.htm

Ni! the Knight

"Of course, perhaps even more so -- given the feel of permanence and fatalism that oozes from the brutality, rigidity and info-starvation of feudal life."

It's only that way because you have been conditioned on good old fashion modernity. As Marx once said, it's so easy to be liberal against feudalism (which actually benefited communal relations more the modernity has btw. Essentially the brutality that you speak of is a pretty immanent part of civilization. When you look at modernity for instance while there may be privileged zones that don't have as much suffering, it usually comes on the backs of other countries. This is essentially how the logic of modernity works. A clone of Avakians leading various parts of the world will not change this. Btw that positivist view that you hold of more primitive peoples was the cause of so much suffering by indigenous peoples at the hands of the 'Vanguards'. Bastardized communists they were.

"They knew of nothing else."

And we know of little more

"And humanity had endured (!) serfdom for literally thousands of years (and, in that context, often saw settled farming villages of serfdom as far "superior" and "civilized" compared to the sometimes-nearby contrast to nomadic or so-called "savage" life! And anyone who has compared life with a granary to the precarious life WITHOUT a granary knows the basis for such sense of "superiority.")"

Anyone who has read man the hunter or the real affluent society knows that description of "savage" people in nonsense. Interestingly enough when you look at examples of places in Africa during droughts, its the agriculturalists who tend to come running to the San and Pygmies for help.

"But that is the trap created by your fascination with what people "want" in their everyday lives." The fact that a serf can't get the oversight to conceive (and therefore consciously "want") more than a good harvest or a good master or starvation-free life in heaven -- that he/she can't "want" liberation (or conceive of it other than occasionally storming the castle with pitchforks and then returning to the huts).... does not mean that this feudal mode of life is not horrific compared to more progressive ones (including for the serf who may not, yet, spontaneously see that)."

Well the one thing I can day about serfs and all peasant based societies in general is that they tend to gravitate toward libertarian economic relations then the proles and their ideologists do. The Peasants of Eastern Europe did not need to be told about communal relations as they already lived it to a great extent even in feudalism. It’s the modern fetishists who never got this and took Eastern Europe even further away from anything decentralized. As for spontaneity, believe it or not I don't disagree that spontaneity will not inherently end capital and state, the difference is however that I don't pretend to think I harbor THE truth in my head that I need to shock into the masses. I let my own inter-subjectivity do the taking in this regard. Anarchy essentially starts with me when I break the rules and try to form zones with those who I find affinity with. If other people have different desires, so be it.

"Well which is it? You don't get into such traps, or you make value judgements?
Of course we make value judgements based on "the world we are thrown into" -- but what exactly does that means?"

I make value judgments based on my interpersonal views of the world; however it is not my place or even desire to be a missionary. I would much rather have Afghan Women save themselves for instance then have the "cold warriors" do such a thing. The reprehensibility of starving people to death has been a timeless aspect of humanity(particularly the past 10 000 years of civilized instrumentality). The thing to realize is that you should never localize these issues of power and domination. As such they are held together by a social relationship which has no localized nature of power. The Lamaist is no different then the capitalist of today, but these phenomena are fundamentally held by peoples will to power. People’s everyday behavior. As long as there is a will to keep the Lamaist of capitalists around, you get what you pay for. And when you try to play the role of missionary to save people, you become no different the overly burdened Xian white man.

"Just factually, the Tibetans (in the main) didn't actually "want" out -- because while YOU (speaking of Ni) can't (today, here) "deny" how reprehensible that treatment was -- from WITHIN LAMAISTS FEUDALISM, and its fairly hegemonic ideology, the vast majority of people actually COULDN'T conceive of an "out" (other than reincarnated rebirth in a new body with higher status)."

You're kind of proving my point TM, essentially you had an "enlightened" group of people telling the Serfs how repressible their life was even though they did not see it that way. Essentially one reprehensible treatment was taken for another. No different than what the Classical Christians did to Native Americans. Certainly the reality has changed for both groups of people, however should these things ever be forced only to continue the civilized nature of power and domination which in my view has getting worse and killing more of the biosphere.

"It was this contrast and shocking sense of possibility that the PLA brought to Tibet when the army entered after the 1949 revolution (and built roads, brought medicine, paid wages, started literacy -- the very fact that red army soldiers casually SPOKE to serfs, and allowed the serfs to LOOK AT THEIR FACES brought a shocking sense of new possibilities, where virtually none had existed)."

I certainly don't see any evidence that Tibetans want most of those things mentioned as their culture is being wiped out at an alarming level.

"First because there actually were (objectively) no other terms for liberation than the ones Mao was grasping and applying and offering.
Their choice (whether they knew it or not) was either socialism or semifeudal/semicolonialism -- given the growing interconnectedness of the world (accelerating ever since the rise of imperialism in late 1800s)."

I can think of a post-industrial reality that suits my fancy and probably most Tibetans much more the usually false dichotomy of socialism or death perpetuated by those who have brought plenty of the latter with their lovely leaps.

"So the degree to which every grouping of people has their "own terms" for liberation (simply because they have their "own" heads and can therefore, presumably, reinvent their own reality) -- is what we are debating. It is rooted in a "denial of the objective" (and of the complex intertwining and interdependency of objective and subjective.) And therefore in a denial of science (and the existence of a science of revolution, i.e. MLM.)"

Why should I deny spooks such as objectivity? As I said, these types of things are based on Descartes' first principles which have been intellectually obliterated by some of the names I mentioned 2 replies above. Science and revolution mean nothing libratory if they don't conform to immediacy.

"In other words, a vanguard is not just an organizational necessity -- but it is a necessary means of grasping the ACTUAL "terms" on which liberation can happen -- and then working collectively on that basis. (Which is something BM's theory of multiple vanguards studiously ignores and objectively denies.)"

The vanguard is a ghost which comes out of an bankrupt intellectual tendency that tries to carve a mushy middle between consciousness and reality. The vanguard wants to believe there is an objectivity that can act to transform people but he also wants to believe that he/she has a particular consciousness to help transform social relationships. Essentially if you believe that consciousness comes first then your own radical subjectivity is what you ultimately rely on, if you are a complete objectivist by believing that the spontaneity of the proles will lead to the end of capitalism. The former view is much more grounded in reality, while the latter leads to a lot of waiting around. The vanguard position on the other hand is really ugly in that it tries to force change on people, which basically continues to the whole nature of civilized domination. While the view that you tend to see from the ultra leftists plays the waiting for god game, at least it does not lead to a century of murder. As Schopenhauer said, "a materialist is someone who forgets to take account of himself"

"People can't simply invent their own societies based on whatever ideas flicker across their synapses or arise from the subjective morphing of old ideas and new complaints."

Sure they can, nothing in the universe is fixed and nothing in the human head has to be either. A Temporary Autonomous Zone is an obvious example of this. What is keeping this particular system alive is not an alien "real" force out their, its people’s mindset. That is what stops any spontaneous creative will.

"One example: The Native people of North America often "wanted" to have both European commodities (steel tools, guns, pots) but also maintain their cultures and tribal structures. Well that option (those terms) did not actually exist -- it was possible to imagine but NOT implement."

This is a predicament that a number of people face. Essentially it comes down to the question of technology in this regard. I don't blame Native Americans at all for taking an interest in various modern products as those mentioned. However eventually you have to realize that complex technics mean complex, non-egalitarian processes. Essentially if an egalitarian existence is what you want then the best option is probably a luddic existence which at most utilizes some modern products but only insofar that it does not mean a complex enforced division of labor and the return of work (which should be abolished obviously)

"And in that sense the Tibetan people could ONLY liberate themselves (and still today can only liberate themselves) by grasping the "terms" that Mao was bringing identifying. (i.e. New Democratic revolution, socialism, transition to communism -- to put it in admittedly schematic shorthand.)"

I think if that fucking Chinese state ever falls and Tibet finally does become autonomous then the societal form Tibet takes will probably be vastly different and more then likely luddic. Particularly when you look at what is about to happen via energy and ecology shakeups over the next century

"Relativism (everyone choosing "their own terms" -- based naturally in "their own ideas") won't work. -- either as an answer to religious dogmatism (of any kind) or as a guide to libratory action. The fact that you believe we can't judge whether one society is an "advance" over another is a clear clue to that."

Your own terms is all you really have at the end of the day particularly when you accept that this mess we are in is kept afloat by peoples fixations. I fundamentally only care about what works for me within my own everyday revolution. If at some capital and state fall, all the better for me and my own personal liberation. As for addressing whether a society is advanced or not, I'll leave you to join the logic of Rudyard Kipling.

"But the good news is that oppression truly is OBJECTIVELY outmoded in the world today -- and so if we follow Avakian's lead and dig into these matters we can identify those "terms" that actually can emancipate humanity, and then help people grasp them (and transform those ideas into a material force)."

Can he also split the red sea like Moses?

nick

The title of this post (if it had a title) would be "no just the opposite"

(Though when he ends with such a stupid "cheap shot" at Avakian it makes me just want to say "fuck off" and leave it at that. Really: fuck yourself, ok?)

When TM writes, "Of course, perhaps even more so -- given the feel of permanence and fatalism that oozes from the brutality, rigidity and info-starvation of feudal life."

Ni replies, "It's only that way because you have been conditioned on good old fashion modernity."

Do you deny that feudalism gives rise to a feeling of permanence and fatalism? Or that capitalism (while brutal in its own horrific ways) generates a constant feeling of IM-permance and rootless change?

Ni writes "Science and revolution mean nothing libratory if they don't conform to immediacy."

Uh, really? What happens if the world is at the brink of an "epoch of transition" -- where immediate horrors and demands INTERSECT with a protracted and historic process of change? And what if we can see that there is such a process using science? That is precisely why science is liberatory, because it frees the social thinking from the pettiness of immediacy.

Ni writes: "eventually you have to realize that complex technics mean complex, non-egalitarian processes."

Well, industrial life changed the nature of previous class society and social relations -- but it precisely lays the basis for "non-egalitarian processes" of a profoundly new type -- i.e. communist society where classes and oppression are eliminated.

The socialization of the world (the internationalization of production) undermines the nation-state. The socialization of production undermines the basis for now-outmoded private appropriation. The profoundly heightened productivity of humanity undermines the basis for scarcity.

something else is coming into being.

TM noted that no hunter-gatherer people rejected to commodities of industrial life -- but that doesn't mean that our choices are "early communalism or the horrors of capitalist industry."

Ni writes: "The vanguard position on the other hand is really ugly in that it tries to force change on people, which basically continues to the whole nature of civilized domination."

Well, the "on people" is deliberately vague. As Mao said "revolution is not a dinner party..." and he went on to say that one class overthrows another.

In our world, society can only be organized one way or another -- it can't be "everyone lives in the society they personally imagine and want." And so inevitably there are elements of coercion in every society and in every social change. But that doesn't make every society the same, or every social change equally oppressive.

TM made an important point: "People can't simply invent their own societies based on whatever ideas flicker across their synapses or arise from the subjective morphing of old ideas and new complaints."

Then Ni responds: "Sure they can, nothing in the universe is fixed and nothing in the human head has to be either. A Temporary Autonomous Zone is an obvious example of this."

Nothing is "fixed," but everything has objective material existance and so the ways they can change are "constrained" by material reality.

The fact that nothing is fixed, does NOT mean that "anything can be changed any way we imagine."

And is it just me, or is the mentioning of "Temporary Autonomous Zones" as "an example" a confession that needs no comment?

the burningman

It is not just you.

Ni! the Knight

"Do you deny that feudalism gives rise to a feeling of permanence and fatalism? Or that capitalism (while brutal in its own horrific ways) generates a constant feeling of IM-permance and rootless change?"

What one earth does it matter? I do not live in a feudalist society to give you a definitive answer to the question. All civilized epochs are alienating in their own way, but this is always contextual. What ultimately matters is the everyday struggle to get out of it.

"Uh, really? What happens if the world is at the brink of an "epoch of transition" -- where immediate horrors and demands INTERSECT with a protracted and historic process of change? And what if we can see that there is such a process using science? That is precisely why science is liberatory, because it frees the social thinking from the pettiness of immediacy."

I could care less about "the historic process" which is about as provable as god herself. If a heavy macro-level shake up happens let it be more then a change of power players. Let the instrumental power relations be abolished period. As for your 'liberatory' science, I think the likes of Horkheimer/Adornho and Bauman among others have show the 'liberatory' nature of your life sucking science.

"Well, industrial life changed the nature of previous class society and social relations -- but it precisely lays the basis for "non-egalitarian processes" of a profoundly new type -- i.e. communist society where classes and oppression are eliminated."

I would be interested in hearing how non-egalitarian technological processes=egalitarian social relations. I suppose one can skip this paradox by being an economic reductionist. In order to maintain such processes you inevitably need a complex process of bureaucracy and specialization processes which could only be born in an alienating context to begin with. Does the fact that we will sing songs of syndicalism change this? Will direct democracy make the pain of lost leisure time go away? Certainly its possible to get people used to their own oppression, capitalism, civilized work ethics, ect have done a good job at that. At the very best you would have to equal the job that capitalist societies do today, but I thought we were destroying that.

"The socialization of the world (the internationalization of production) undermines the nation-state. The socialization of production undermines the basis for now-outmoded private appropriation. The profoundly heightened productivity of humanity undermines the basis for scarcity."

The socialization of production has already happened, hardly something to recuperate. And internationalism coming from most Marxists (and anarchists) is a code world for a singular world. And as long as we don't live in a world of local subsistence and multiplicity, scarcity is guaranteed.

"TM noted that no hunter-gatherer people rejected to commodities of industrial life -- but that doesn't mean that our choices are "early communalism or the horrors of capitalist industry."

I'm not sure what grounds you or TM has to stand on with that statement. Certainly there are examples of the 'cargo lovers' in places like New Guinea; naturally humans are curious and creative to these types of things. But this does not typify all hunter-gatherers. There are many examples of resistance around the world to the contrary, the San, Pygmy, Mapuche Indians, Andaman Islanders ect, they clearly know what’s going on in the world but consciously reject not just the capitalist logic, but the civilized logic as well. Ever read Freddy Perlman?

"Well, the "on people" is deliberately vague. As Mao said "revolution is not a dinner party..." and he went on to say that one class overthrows another."

I'm aware of what Mao said, but as I said earlier, some authentic revolutionaries want more then a change of political power players.

"In our world, society can only be organized one way or another -- it can't be "everyone lives in the society they personally imagine and want." And so inevitably there are elements of coercion in every society and in every social change. But that doesn't make every society the same or every social change equally oppressive."

There is some truth to this; however I'm not a linear person in anyway. My agency of anarchy is a never ending everyday process that takes on domination in all its ubiquitous levels. I'm hardly contempt to say coercion exists in every society; I'll leave that to the politicians.

"Nothing is "fixed," but everything has objective material existance and so the ways they can change are "constrained" by material reality."

"Objective" material reality is hardly objective at all but simply discursive agency that people act on. Whether this reality persists or not is due to the power of attachments. The only constraints are your mind.

"The fact that nothing is fixed, does NOT mean that "anything can be changed any way we imagine."

I suppose that famous 68 slogan means nothing to you.

Been interesting

nick

I read your post carefully.

And on the second read, i realized that there was little more I had to say, that I hadn't already said earlier.

So, unless someone has something new to add, I'll leave you with the last word on this.

And leave it to folks reading this to sift through what they can draw from the exchange..

real john

Ni said "'Objective' material reality is hardly objective at all but simply discursive agency that people act on. Whether this reality persists or not is due to the power of attachments. The only constraints are your mind."

What can you say to that?

I manipulates the constraints of my mind, and decided that in "my reality" my arguments trumped Ni's arguments. And I haven't even participated in the exchange! What a powerful ideology! What an unrestrained gift to the imagination.

I manipulated my mind again, and decided that everyone was no longer oppressed. I got rid of that "oppression" constraint, in my mind.

So, in case you didn't notice it, you don't have to slave for some asshole today (thanks to my "free your mind instead"). You no longer have to endure the threats of that abusive boyfriend (or the wannabe rapist hiding in the hallway). Those of you who live in New Orleans no longer have to endure the nightmares from katrina or that dank mildew rising from your street and home.

Wow, Ni. You have freed me from that deceptive "collective hunch" called reality.

What every I want, is.

right?

Now, I also want to note that though not everyone online is as extreme as Ni, there is a related thinking: that there may be a reality but it is only knowable through direct knowledge -- so that you can't actually "know" much about anyone elses piece of that "reality" -- and so that what we really need to do is listen (very very well and patiently) -- because the truth will bubble up from everyone around us, and presumably not just the truths of their particular lives, but the larger truth of what we collectively need to do next. And because the "big picture truths" are so hard to see (or synthesize), it is really arrogance to think YOU (or ME or, say, our communist leaders) actually HAVE seen and synthesized anything. Nah, our job (as commmunists, and actually as humans) is merely to "listen." Truth isn't a process of synethisis (and a back and forth between theory and social practice in the global sense) but it is an accrretion from the whispers of those just "living their everyday lives."

This second view doesn't deny reality (as Ni does), it just denies that we can really grasp it and act on it. so that anyone's opinions is pretty much as good as anyone else's -- and so what we need to do is aggregate everyone's opinions (welcome to radical democracy, in the place of communist theory!)

One says there is no reality, the other says there may as not be any, cuz on the arrogant and dogmatic can claim to know anything firm about it.

Ni! the Knight

John(certainly not Zerzan) has it all wrong if he thinks I'm saying that an ideational assault on the dominating mindset will automatically mean freedom. Obviously others will have to do the same thing. The nature of social relationships is that they are heterogenious and antagonistic as opposed to homogenous and part of some "real" sum-totalized relationship as the orthodox marxist continues to believe.

real john

I want to inject a moment of agreement (in the midst of a clear philosphical "disconnect").

Ni writes, "Obviously others will have to do the same thing."

On this we agree, "obviously" we need to work in concert. And I am really getting a clearer and clearer sense of the intensity of the moment.

Bush calls on Congress to endorse the abolition of habeas corpus, the right of defendants to see evidence in court (even on capital charges) if they are "determined" (by the president unilaterally!) to be "unlawful enemy combatants" (the definition of which is expanding, if you read recent Rev article on this!!)

And so it goes... one day after the other. Where does this end, if we DON'T act together? I think, controversial though it is, there is something fundamental in the wind -- moves that won't "go back" after they go to a certain point (of law, precendent, concensus, and success.)

Leaving the philosophical aside... and all the disputes we have here...

I just wanted to throw in a word about doing it... about really "bursting our hearts" at this moment... to bring something into being (something that breaks through the mddle of that poisonous, mutually reinforcing conflict of McWorld/McCrusade vs. Jihad. Somethng powerful, visible, indpendent, vocal, uncompromising, fearless, and truly massive needs to break out.

This is objective -- but you don't necessarily HAVE to even believe in objective reality to see that it is NECESSARY. right?

Rosa harris

First, I have not read all the comments in this thread, but having read the article I wish to address a few things that were raised early on.

1) This is not flamebaiting. The structure of groups and the psychology of groups is a real issue - an objective one that Communist and Anarchist alike have to face.

2) exclusion of the 'working class'

This happens in both the movement in general and in specific groups. I have seen it in almost every group situation that I have worked in.

One example that I can give:

I was working with Refuse and Resist at the time and my son was still young. I did not have the money - being single and very low income - to afford to hire a baby sitter and the local group reacted to my bringing my son to the group with me not by trying to find someone who could watch him, but rather by telling me that he was distracting and that I should not bring him if I was going to attend.

In another situation with another group I was unable to attend important events and protest because I did not have the money for travel. So effectively, I was excluded on the basis of my income .

While working with and being a member of the RCP, I've found myself excluded from local events just on the basis of not having a car to get there and being physically unable to use the city buss system at the time to do so since these local events were often at someones house or somewhere that would require my walking a distance from the buss stops to get there.

The recommendation that I got was to get transportation from the city for disabled people however this was 5 dollars each way. Well, that is 10 dollars and at the time a significant part of the approximately 150 dollars that I had left over after bills. There were also issues over 'baby sitting' that could mean that one night at an event could get very costly for me - at least in terms of my income.

Another incident involved a party where people went out to a restaurant. The group had decided to deal with the situation 'democratically' and 'equally' and I was told that it 'would not cost much'. When I arrived, I found that the restaurant was quite expensive - 10 dollar and up a plate so I ordered a side dish and water. My concept of 'equal' was different than theirs and they proceeded to order a large amount of food and some rather expensive ( to me) wine that was about 30 dollars a bottle. At the end of the night I was told that my part was about 25 dollars for the nite. I protested that I did not have 25 dollars and that my bill should have been only about 5 or 6 dollars plus part of the tip. I was bothered by them for weeks to pay up my share.

Of course the result of this was that I was being unfair and I was excluded from future gatherings of the same type.

My reaction to this was that this group of individuals who claimed to be for the 'working class' actually had no room for the actual working class because they were unwilling to take into account the actually needs of lower income individuals to be able to participate in their goings on.

In many ways it can be difficult for lower income individuals to be active in political organizations and events.

Van and buss rides also require that you pay part and of course be able to have enough to eat on the road. Once I brought along a backpack of food and found that I was expected to share. I had bought the food with food stamps - only to find that on the trip back, no one had packed food to share and I had nothing to buy food with. One individual did eventually take some pity on me and buy me something at one stop on the 14 hour ride - but it is embarrassing to have to ask someone to help you buy something to eat or to complain that people had no problem eating up the food you brought along. It was equally embarrassing when people were asked to pay up at the end of the ride and pointed out that I had not paid even though it had been 'arranged' beforehand that I would not have to pay. The person who arranged this did not say that I was 'covered' or 'had paid' but rather announced basically to the whole group that I did not have the money to pay.

The local RCP group actually told me that living in a housing project was a security risk and that I needed to find a way to 'move to a better area' - in other words - and what was meant was 'move to a middle class area' but no one had any ideas as to how I was supposed to afford such a move or the rent! There was a LOT of pressure put on me to make such a move.

On top of this many organizations require dues - at least to some extent and are unwilling to wave this cost. Minimal cost are often set around 15 to 20 dollars which might not sound like a lot but keep in mind that it is not uncommon for a woman on the edge of poverty to eat a spoonful of peanut butter to quell her hunger so that she can feed her kids on the pittance that food stamps supplies - if she even qualifies.

Anyway, this is not meant to slam 'middle class people' but rather to show the need for understanding and some of the barriers to involvement that working poor and disabled people may have in being able to actually participate.

Being poor can in many ways also exclude a person from being part of certain groups of movement friends - or even friends in other situations. It is very hard to go out to a movie with a group when that movie is going to cost what is - to you - an arm and a leg - or even out for a night on the town. This type of thing can prevent you from making close relationships with people in the movement that may even resent you or feel that you are rejecting them.

Another example:

I worked with Rev books here and we decided that we would have a yard sale down in my neighborhood. When we put the stuff out the items were priced too high for most people to consider - 5 dollars for a pair of pants and so on. I tried to explain that the thrift store less than a mile away charged less than that and while this might do in their neighborhood - it would not do here. We sold almost nothing and the person who did it with me said 'its not that they do not have money, its that they do not want to spend their money'.This was directed at the fact that they would not buy a 30 dollar video set of Bob Avakian. Its a misconception - not everyone has 150 dollar shoes and rims on their cars. A lot of people's cars barely run and their shoes have taken quite a beating.

Rosa harris

Rosa harris

another note:

I would like to give kudos to those anarchist who went to New Orleans and actually did more than preach to the masses but actually helped them clean up and do some of the rebuilding that the masses needed help with. That is part of how you actually connect with people - how you build real relationships that help transform people's thinking and I believe that in many many ways it is far more important than trying to get them to come to some protest or another - not that protest are unimportant - but who is actually more likely to come? The person who got a flyer and a lecture on why they should come or the friend that you made helping them actually get things back together?

Of course, helping people and building relationships should not be approached with the short term pragmatism of just getting them to some event! You can leave people feeling very used.

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