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May 05, 2006

Comments

scorchedEarth

Here's how the latest New York times article characterized the state of the Other Campaign:
"Marcos's campaign for a new left-wing movement has not caught on. His speeches have attracted little notice in the news media and have not drawn big crowds." [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/10/world/americas/10mexico.html?_r=1&oref=slogin]. Of course we know how reliable they are.

Does anyone else have any idea what the actual state of events is? Just because the NYT reflects the views of the liberal bourgeosie, we should not be one-sided and only report what activists say. We need to get a real sense of the true balance of forces.

Yadadamean

One thing I forgot to mention: the people of San Salvador Atenco are fuckin heroic, and the Zapatistas should be commended for quickly coming to their defense.

the burningman

"One thing I forgot to mention: the people of San Salvador Atenco are fuckin heroic, and the Zapatistas should be commended for quickly coming to their defense."

Indeed, this is in sharp contrast to what happened when the women and children of the autonomous, pacifist community of Acteal were massacred by paramilitaries several years back...

Stan Goff made the Acteal Massacre the centerpiece of his analysis that the EZ was no threat to the Mexican state (with plenty of quotes from US military analysts arguing roughly the same thing).

When they didn't return to arms after that attack, it was clear that the Mexican army could ring ever autonomous municipality with troops.... which they did.

------

Yaddamean says " The question is about Marcos’ marketing of Zapatismo and the way in which it’s become a model for 'revolution' – or the post-modern, post-Central-America, post-Sendero, post-communist 'future of struggle.' I don’t think the problem is entirely anarchist and social democrats’ projections onto the Zapatistas. The Zapatistas seem to embrace a lot of that shit, and project it back to the world – a world desperate for inspiration."

True that.

And still...

I think of how the Nepalese revolutionaries are open to a variety of coalitions (the RIM, CCOMPOSSA, the Seven Party Alliance) and how -- at the same time -- they do not limit themselves to the the orthodoxies of any sector. They do not accept the limits of the SPA. They reject the "cult of personality." They insist on building power up from the people (armed).

So much of the thinking in Mexico, like here, is about "what can't be done."

What effect will victories have on not just the morale, but also the consciousness of radical anti-captialists who still, on a basic level, think there is no alternative... or who think the "state" is a neutral body undefined by class dictatorship... or who haven't grappled with the political implications of People's War (such as the EZ)...

We're all still in the mix. The EZ have demonstrated their ability to adapt and learn. They are neither merging into the PRD or symbolically laying down their arms.

Send them a letter if you've got something to say.

ezln@ezln.org

submarino

Yadadamean said: "come on, fair trade coffee to buy bullets??? Where does the money come from to pay extra for that rebel coffee? From imperialist super-profits… the kind of profits that are extracted from normal trade coffee plantations right next to the 'fair' ones in Chiapas."

Yeah, the irony is amusing, but are you saying the Zapatistas should try to fund themselves with currency that has never been touched by a single capitalist's dirty fingers? How would you suggest they (or any other rebel army or movement of any kind) accomplish that? By establishing a self-contained barter economy and making their weapons by hand? That sounds like the kind of hyper-autonomist or primitivist nonsense I'd expect you to disdain.

This may seem like a petty line of argument, but it brings up a very real problem: that any movement against capitalism, whether it is armed or not, whether it takes state power or not, has to exist in and interact with the rest of the (capitalist) world.

As Christopher Day and others have pointed out, the naive failure to confront this problem results in hopeless little utopian communities that either get crushed by their capitalist enemies or are left alone because the capitalists consider them harmless.

But all the ways of grappling with this reality have their own problems. For example:

1. Socialist and anarchist trade unions sign contracts with their members' capitalist employers. This allows them to maintain an organization with the resources to pursue the goal of organizing the unorganized, but sometimes, for the sake of preserving these contracts, they have to keep a lid on their most militant members. They could, instead, take over the workplace and attempt to operate it collectively without a boss, but then they'd have to compete in a capitalist market. They'd probably fail, and even if they broke even, they'd have precious little time or resources to help other workers organize.

2. Rebel armies sign cease-fire agreements with the governments they intend to overthrow. This allows them a period of relative security in order to gather forces for future offensives, but it means they allow the capitalist government to continue repressing, sometimes brutally, the inhabitants of non-rebel-controlled parts of the country. It also means they have to exercise, as Christopher Day pointed out "a sort of state power in the areas under their influence and control." This type of power comes with all the advantages and disadvantages of "real" state power.

3. Communist parties who take state power end up running into, as Chris put it, "the tendency of the socialist state to reproduce capitalist social relations." At the same time (for many of the same reasons) they enter into diplomatic and/or economic relations with capitalist countries. Hence the Hitler-Stalin pact; hence the various evils of the Popular Front period, including the USSR's temporary alliance with capitalist France, which led them to oppose revolution in Spain, at least in George Orwell's account; hence China's current status as a giant supplier for Wal-Mart. Different people call this phenomenon either "Stalinism" or "revisionism" or "capitalist restoration" or "a lie," depending on what party they belong to. Congratulations (somewhat in advance) to the Nepalese Maoists, but they will not be exempt from this dilemma. I give them props for intending to learn from the mistakes of the 20th century, but is one of these mistakes the attempt to establish "socialism in one country"? If not, what kind of socialism do they intend to establish, and how will their socialist state interact with other (non-socialist) states?

The point is that all of the various ways of "taking power"--whether it's political, economic, or military, whether it's complete state power, shared legislative power, or just a little tiny bit of local power--involve trade-offs. (And as different as a trade union looks from a rebel army or a socialist state, I would suggest that all these trade-offs have quite a bit in common.)

Mao and Trotsky were both accutely aware of this problem, and attempted to deal with it in different ways. The CNT grappled with it by establishing an army (a very non-anarchist form of organization) and participating in government with Communists and liberals. Yet the achievements the Soviets, the Chinese communists, and the Spanish anarchists have one thing in common: they exist today only as distant memories, as sources of inspiration and education for current revolutionaries.

No single form of struggle, or none that has ever existed in real life, has ever achieved the ultimate goal: a global classless society. I that sense, every movement, every rebellion, every organizing campaign or strike, every revolution is a "revolution to make revolution possible."

My point is not that "the movement is everything," but rather that a whole lot of humility is in order for those who are tempted to criticise those forms of struggle that differ from their own. And I'm counseling humility not merely as a personal virtue, but as a political necessity. Different forms of struggle will work to differing degrees at different times in different places. Therefore, if the struggle is to become truly global, and decisively successful, revolutionaries of different stripes will have to work together. Socialist governments in Nepal and Cuba will have to work with quasi-socialist governments in Venezuela and Bolivia; with quasi-anarchist indigenous armies in Chiapas and, well, Bolivia; with radical trade unions and electoral political parties in the United States and Western Europe; and with god knows who else. They will all have their respective "lines," and naturally each will advocate forcefully for his or his own line, but they will only work together effectively if they are willing to listen to each other, to learn from each other, to be creative, and ultimately to trust each other.

It takes some extraordinary leadership to earn that kind of trust, and some extraordinary faith to give our trust to those earn it. It's fine that our arguments are heated at times, but I'd suggest we all take a little time to meditate on how our egos get in the way of the trust required for collective action.

Christopher Day

What submarino said.

Link

I see my comments got Xed, I'll post most of it one more time seeing as I was largely responding to Day. It also deals with the points raised by the 2nd last poster.

I should respond lastly to monseur day. His logic only makes sense if you have an instrumentalized view of what constitutes "effective action" A more complex military structure might get you closer to state power, but why should any anarchist like myself want that? I desire a far less complex and more spontanious existance, and the military tactics that I would hypothetically use will mirror that accordingly. I seek not mirror the monster I slay.

Also there seems to be a fetish with a revolutionary centrifuge as apposed to a dispersal. Day loves to talk about duel power and its limitations, however if you accept the fact that social/power relationships as such are always antagonistic(as people like Mouffe and Laclau pointed out), then a duel power reality is not hard to accept. Don't get me wrong, I'd love it if more of mexico had a localized type look like Chiapas or Oaxaca, however situations are always different. And this difference also comes down to the Mexican people as a whole who probably have a bigger psychological attachment to the enlightenment then the indigenous people of Chiapas. It is a matter of agency at the end of the day. The only reason the state has not been wiped out is due to the fact that there is no will to it. The "limits" day speaks of are not due to anarchism, but power my friend.
This is essentially what makes Marxism so flawed at heart, this fetish with the homogenous whole. Lenin actually deviated from Marx a bit when he figured out that the workers will not magically transform into communal beings due to their "possition", however he still bought into that basic Marxian idea. He felt a leadership of ideas was needed to help this. He could never accept the fact that relations as such are heterogenious.

Anyway I won't be like Chuck0 and others and say that Day was a fake anarchist. However when he was one, he did by into a particularly narrow minded, crudely materialist view of revolution that you see from such groups as Nefac or the Syndicalists. I think the evolution of Anarchism is going into more post-structural directions. And it will be the better for it.

scorchedEarth

"His logic only makes sense if you have an instrumentalized view of what constitutes "effective action" A more complex military structure might get you closer to state power, but why should any anarchist like myself want that? I desire a far less complex and more spontanious existance, and the military tactics that I would hypothetically use will mirror that accordingly. I seek not mirror the monster I slay."

"Effective" means being able to realize one's goals - something you obviously won't achieve. Your absolutist approach to reality [what's that? According to Philip K. Dick, it is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away] is laughable and can only lead to the illusion that you're not mired in the muck with the rest of us. Poststructuralism does have a lot to offer as critical methodology, but it won't be slaying any monsters, just deconstructing their entrails after real revolutionaries have done the slaying.

Christopher Day

Link,
What you call the "homogenous whole" I call the totality. Like it or not, you are part of it. When the Federal Reserve raises interest rates people all over the world get hurt. Your temporary autonomous zone is an illusion. You "desire a far less complex and more spontanious existance"? Join the club. Seriously. Because that is what you have to do to realize that desire -- build something, join something. A club, a collective, a party, whatever. You don't want to mirror the monster you want to slay, but your nomadism is nothing but the reflection of the atomized existence of your commodified labor power. You ground yourself in your dreams without understanding that even our dreams have been colonized by this machine. We must move together, not in handfulls but in millions, if we really want to be free. Does that entail powerful risks that our collective efforts will reproduce what we ultimately seek to be done with? No doubt. It already has repeatedly. But if we really want it we have to keep trying, working out the bugs with each iteration, trying not to rush because it screws things up but knowing that we are in a race against time. It is easy to make cartoons of each other. It makes us comfortable in our certainties. I shouldn't have talked about you like a pet. I'm sorry.

leftclick

Sorry submarino and Day but I have to disagree with you about humility. Not that I think it's unnecessary or bad, just that it's not the issue here. But since it's been raised so many times lets get into it. I've seen your posts and you are certainly interested in critical discourse of some kind but obviously not when it comes to movements in other countries. That is when you go into a perpetual 'wait and see' mode. Politically this can only take the form of left nationalism - one in which you primarlily identify yourself as a member of a nation and then relate to other struggles in this manner. Contrast this with Lenin, who insisted that communists must be internationalists first and must approach struggle from this perspective [see Bob Avakian's long but interesting essay on this http://rwor.org/bob_avakian/advancingworldrevolution/advancingworldrevolution.htm]. Internationlism, however, is no excuse for intellectual laziness and certainly no substitute for concrete investigation. But empirical data and experience are no substitues for line either. At the heart of this is whether you believe in an objective truth or not? I'm not talking about a 'monolithic' truth with imperialist comfort as my standard but one that you can abstract from history. You muist believe in it or you would have no grounding to provide analysis but why put it aside for international struggles and the EZLN in particular? I understand not wanting to comment on struggles you know little or nothing about but that isn't the case here. So what gives? Also, in the case of the EZLN, its been 12 years. Still too early to offer a critical viewpoint?

submarino, you are right about different methods of struggle and the need for different revolutionary trends to work together. None of have succeeded and all have failed so far. We need to understand these failures to move forward. Can we learn nothing from international struggles? I don't mean on some superficial tactical level [I wouldn't suggest surrounding the cities from the countryside here] but on a more substantial universal level. We need to understand what was fundamentally flawed and what was historically conditioned. To simply point out that none of it has lasted is not helpful. Take a note from Mao who once pointed out that even if the Paris Commune had survived, it probably would have been bourgeois by the 20th century. A dialectical eye toward history is what we need, not agnosticism.

The popular saying: "an injury to one is an injury to all" has always been interpreted solely as an affirmation of identity and solidarity. Most people don't draw out the other implication which is that if someone else's pain has an impact on my life so does their response to that pain. Subsequently, I'm entitled not only to raise questions but to even suggest alternatives. Otherwise an injury to you is NOT really an injury to me at all.

What's telling is how people have defended the EZLN by saying that they 'challenge' and 'fight' the state. I never said they didn't. In fact that's what they've been doing from day one. Neither of you has addressed my question: what are the implicactions of saying they do not want to overthrow the state? Keep in mind, I am not talking about TAKING state power, just getting rid of the existing one. Wait and see, right? Like we have no historical precdents we can draw on to begin asking questions?

Since neither of you suggest a means of critical engagement from afar [I don't know about you but I'm not in a position to travel and participate in struggles all over the world] nor provide any examples, I can only interpret your call to humility as a more polite way of saying "shut the fuck up."

We must be open to learning new things but when we see the danger of history repeating as farce, should we just cringe and hope for the best? i am not interested in micromanaging popular struggles around the world. There is an integrity to national- and local-level struggles that do have to be respected since no conditions are exactly the same. But there are macro-scale questions that do not go away no matter how open-minded we might think we are. Tackling these questions is not arrogant or lacking in humility, but intenationlism. Revolution is STILL not a dinner party.

john

From the very start I want to make a disclaimer:
I have not been to Chiapas like some here.
I am not a close student of the writings and various "turns" of the Zapatistas.
I have read some analyses of mexico and its history -- but I consider myself far from knowledgable.

But in some ways, these weaknesses (which are real, and have a real impact on what I can possibly know or synthesis) enable me to raise a methodological point sharply.

I want to point out that one of the accomplishments of science (and here I mean natural science as well as the revolutionary social science of Marxism) is that we are freed from the most narrow extraction of knowledge from direct experience (like a calf extracts milk from a teat).

Why? Because science (built on experience, summation and abstraction) can identify trends and verdicts that have application beyond the narrow confines of immediate experience. (Otherwise what is the point?)

Let me give an example that may seem deliberately provocative:

I have never been to North Carolina. I know nothing about the local medical conditions. I have never interviewed the particular fundamentalist preachers who preach there.

BUT... if someone comes to me and say "miracles of healing are happening in North Carolina where inncurable fatal diseases are reversed by the intervention of the Holy Spirit" -- if that happens, I feel (on the basis of science and general knowledge) able to have a provisional verdict on those claims.

I don't ACTUALLY need to have been there. I don't need to actually interview the specific people who were "healed".... to know that these claims contradict how the larger world we live in actually works. (I.e. it is possible to conclude, WITHOUT HAVING BEEN TO NORTH CAROLINA, that there is not in North Carolina, or anywhere else, some "holy spirit" that comes in and heals people magically.)

This is not immodest. This is not offensive to the various people of North Carolina (who may have direct knowledge of these things). This does not replace the value of someone actually investigating the particular cases touted, to actually interview people, see their xrays, talk to witnesses, track their mortality, meet their doctors etc -- in order to flesh out (and simultaneously test) a PARTICULAR verdict THAT CAN BE DEDUCED FROM LARGER KNOWN SCIENTIFIC VERDICTS.

Being able to make particular conclusions based on larger scientific truths is (after all) the point of science. If I want to build a bridge in Zaire, I don't need to invesigate whether gravity works the same way there. I don't need to explore whether things fall up, or whether water causes rust in heat. I do need to investigate PARTICULARITIES that heavily impact on the building of that particular bridge (and there are many! and they can be decisive!) How high to the floods go? How hard is the soil? Where is the local bed rock? How far are the available steel resources? What is the likely load of potential traffic? and so on.

But even in those particular and specific questions rooted in locality -- I would approach and analyse them with a materialist scientific method THAT HAS BEEN DEVELOPED AND REFINED independent of those local conditions.

I may in the course of building that bridge learn some new things, and even make some discoveries that cause a refinement in the engineering laws we apply aroundt the world.

But basically bridge building in Zaire does not operate in a different universe. and the laws of motion of matter operate there in ways understandable based on what was deduced and extracted from human experience elsewhere.

Human knowledge (correct ideas) arise on the basis of practice. But it is deadly to insist that it arises mainly or fundamentally on the basis of direct, personal, immediate practice. Nope.

Science arises from a sweeping appraisal of human experience. And those who advance science basically (and fundamentally) develop their insights based on indirect knowledge, and the struggle over previous syntheses (not over their own personal direct experience and experimentation.) And, in fact this is not only true for scientsts, but for all of us.

In fact, it is one of the unique things about humans (compared to other animals without speech and culture) that indirect experience plays such a huge (and even principal) role in our thinking and knowledge.

This understanding of science (and human knowledge) and this approach to Marxism is very controversial.

The very idea of thinking you know something (and that someone else is "wrong" about something) is considered "offensive" (both epistemologically and personally) by some people trained in relativism and agnosticism.

The very idea that some things can be known from afar (as in my North Caroloina example, or as in many important examples from revolutionary practice and struggle in the world today) is consider immodest, even chauvinist, anti-selfdeterminist, and even inherently dogmatic.

some people think that the tentative conclusions by those DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN PRACTICE somewhere, must be (or at least must be treated!) as inherently superior to any thoughts or verdicts by those distant and removed from that local practice.

And such empiricism is itself rather influential, and crops up constantly.

It must be pretty obvious why I raise all this here.

the most important thing we have from a century of socialist revolution -- the most precious surviving accomplishment of hundreds of millions of fighters for revolution and communism -- is the scientific body of work we call Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. And It is crucial and decisive that all this is be treated scientifically (i.e. divided into two, developed, further synthesized, and defended) as Avakian is doing around the world-historic lessons and tasks we face.

I think much that has been said in this list goes in a completely different direction. It assumes that little is known, and little can be known. And that our major task (theoretically) is to dump a sense that Marxism actually "knows anything" and that it brings anything decisive to struggles where the people are literally robbed of real living Marxism (by those who despise and reject it.)

In fact, a starting point for successsful communist struggle ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD is struggling to grasp, promote, defend and (on that basis) apply the most advanced communist understandings of our time.

this notion is (pretty obviously) the target of much of the discusion on this thread. And I just wanted to call it out, and oppose it. To adopt the totally agnostic, empirical approach to the Zapatistas (in the name of a false "humility" or whatever other excuse) is to apply an approach that would mean defeat EVERYWHERE, and which would denigrate the most precious thing our movement has -- scientific communist theory, its body of work, its key developments by Avakian, and the approach and method that are such an integral part of that.

(there is another theme that is in here: which is to say that since Mexico is not ripe for a push for countrywide power, than a "wait-and-see" approach for any regionalist, reformist rejection of state power is understandable.

I won't go into that further except to make two points:

1) Even in times when the seizure of power is not on the horizon, there are urgent tasks of preparing for the seizure that press in. And if they are not consciously taken up, if they are denigrated and ignored, then there will never be an opportunity that is in hand.

2) If you are not preparing for revolution, you will not even be equiped to see the opening that does exist. This is because a core preparing for revolution is itself a power objective factor making revolutionary openings possible. Without that work, without a core focused on that (nation wide power, and communist transitionin the most sweeping sense) then any crisis of the system will be pissed away, as an opportunity for pathetic "structural reforms" and illusory attempts at change-short-of-revolution.

a comment

chris writes: "Join the club. Seriously. Because that is what you have to do to realize that desire -- build something, join something. A club, a collective, a party, whatever.'

This, especially the "whatever," is exactly what is wrong, and agnostic about the surrounding argument.

It is why you don't actually HAVE an organization or a party or whatever. (Not even a real club!)

Deep rooted pragmatism, agnosticism, lets-see-ism, who-knows-ism, whateverism -- it is all fundamentally liquidationism.

You peep at matter more and more closely, more and more narrowly, until the interconnections, trends and laws of matter seem to dissolve, and matter itself seems to have only a vague existance if at all. Nothing is real, nothing is certain, everything is relative.

You may not literally subscribe to it as raw and blunt as i characterized it above. But the theme and that direction runs through everything that you write.

And it is why any organization or party or any group of sad activists that actually heeded your advice and adopted your methods would cease to exist (certainly in the sense of being a communist vanguard, but even pretty quickly in any sense of being an organized cohesion.)

Deal with it.

5-card stud

"Narrow is the path of righteousness, broad the road to hell."

Where did I hear that?

reply

dunno. but it sure is profound.
and applicable here.

" 'Narrow is the path of righteousness, broad the road to hell.'

Where did I hear that?"

You probably heard it from someone trying to escape accountability for their actions.

Lurigancho

I have a lot of respect for the positions put out here by Chris, Leftclick, John and others who are trying to really grapple with the various issues involved here.

Fundamentally, I think the EZLN does not have a line that will result in the masses becoming the masters of their own fate in Mexico and in the world as a whole. (And I say this after taking into account the variety of lines within the EZLN, say, Tacho's line versus Marcos's line, for instance.) However, the EZLN has made a major contribution in setting into motion a process that is shaking things up in Mexico and can result in a much better situation for the masses overall. And, I do believe that that sort of end result does correspond with the subjective intentions of many of the EZLN leaders (although not all), even if they may not recognize how their own practice often subverts their intended aims. (That is what line struggle is for, after all.)

The sort of debate happening here is very healthy, and I think helpful. What is not helpful, is implications that people putting out Chris's sort of position are somehow some sort of loser whose line will lead nowhere by definition.

Now, I am not sure exactly what Chris meant by everything he said. Certainly, if his call for humility was really some sort of call for people to tail the EZLN or other such groups, then I think he was wrong. Humility is a healthy thing to have, and any close reader of Mao will find plenty of arguments in favor of it. But it shouldn't be an argument not to criticize people or groups that one disagrees with, even if one has a lot less 'political capital' than said groups.

But, let's look at this criticism of Chris from 'a comment' (and, by the way, it would be really nice if all the 'comment's on this website would start coming up with more original names for themselves, so the rest of us can tell them all apart). The overall thrust of this criticism is that, if anyone has Chris's position, then they will become some sort of pathetic agnostic who can never pull together any sort of organization and never really make any impact on the world. And, really, this is sort of a funny thing to say, because really, the sort of agnostics that 'a comment' is talking about are actually the leaders of much larger and more 'impactful' organizations than the RCP. This is, after all, the dominant line on the left in the USA. After all, wouldn't the EZLN solidarity movement as a whole fall into this category? And, really, haven't they, as a whole (certainly not per capita, but, as a whole) had a bigger impact than the RCP or similar groups? Indeed, I would bet that a lot more people have read Chris Day's better distributed works than anything written by Avakian, despite the fact that Chris never had any organization systematically working to promote him. (Indeed, I remember a conversation where a leading figure in Love and Rage suggested that it would be best if Chris wrote nothing for the newspaper for a year.)

So, if anything, Chris is a target here for the likes of 'a comment' not because he is a promoter of the sort of agnostic line that he is accused of having, but precisely because he is trying to bring some element of MLM science into this process, while trying to retain some sort of grounding in the real world (ie. a world not totally pre-determined by ideology). After all, isn't that really why he isn't leading a group today? If he had wanted to remain the leader of some sort of 'agnostic front', I'm sure he could have managed it. He is a capable guy.

So, let's cut out the BS here and discuss line, history, the issues, etc. for what they are, and not be accusing people of just being some sort of pathetic agnostic who gets all confused by looking at the issues too closely. Some of us will look at the issues closely and may even get temporarilty confused by some partial views of things. That is normal and the way to work it out is through arguing things out and through line struggle. But overall, I just don't see the agnostic view of things that Chris is being accused of here. Rather, I see an attempt to carry through the very difficult task of reconciling ideology and the real world in the name of science, and that is what we really do need to be trying to do, not imposing apriori determinations on the real world in the name of science but really in the practice of religion. I'm not really very sure Chris has suceeded in doing that in the case of the EZLN, but I can see that he is trying, and I think that is the way to go here.

a comment2

chris writes: "Nobody posting here is doing anything remotely as important or as interesting as what the EZLN is doing.... Whatever their limitations the Zapatistas have a hell of a lot more to teach all of us than we have to teach them and any criticisms we feel compelled to make should acknowledge this elementary fact."

Ironically, the arrogance of this call for humility (!), its presumptions, the rigidity of its verdicts, its implicit overvaluation of this movement (on the basis of objective size? location?), its denigration of theory is stunning.

Leaving aside that he rants in a sweeping scattergun way without actually KNOW what half of us are actually about! (And really, that means he assumes that NO ONE on an english-speaking North American list has anything to teach -- think about that assumption!)

Think what this opening verdict assumes about "learning" -- and why it assumes that the flow is only one-way (from this quasi-armed indiginist reform movement and their bullshit artist leadership direct to anyone thinking of social change!)

And its assumption about what determines, fixes, mandates the one-sideness of flow -- an argument whose profoundly anti-Marxist underlying structure should be undraped and studied.

And (to be clear) -- if these views were to be adopted by people wanting to change the world (here or anywhere else) we would not be able to accomplish shit.

Why? because it is, in fact, exactly wrong -- not just in the verdict expressed, but in the method it flows from, the assumptions it is rooted in.

5-card stud

to "a comment2"

Lurigancho is right about the name thing. You are speaking, but by not having a handle, you get the priv of standing in for a larger trend as if what you are saying is some kind of party line... which is may be inspired by.. but the execution is all yours...

So find a name. Redspierre?

As chance has it, I agree and disagree with some of what almost everyone is saying here. Maybe I'm in trouble, too...

Calling Chris anti-Marxist is silly, even if he overstates his case regarding what people are doing in the USA. I certainly disagree with him there, both on the issue of "humility" (Don't Ask, Don't Answer) and also about what people may or may not be doing.

There is certainly no force that has caught the imagination of people here in the USA like the Z caught fire (in the minds at least) of Mexicans.

Acomment2 is right-O about the fake humility, and it seems everyone posting here (exception noted) thinks the Z's mythography is related to a sloppy, strangely dogmatic insistence on vaguery and anti-Leninism.

It's not surprising how much of this discussion is about how "we" think and not "what" they are doing. Just because we "can" analyze the Z doesn't mean we are.

-------

What if the Z is not a vanguard, but is a leading resistance organization?

What if they do promote various forms of anti-Leninist thinking in response to their own knuckle-headed Guevarism?

From what I've seen, the Z doesn't even get what the concept, let alone reality, of People's War is.

That can change.

Christopher Day

Thanks again to Lurigancho for saying what I couldn't seem to get out.

I'm not an agnostic and I'm not arguing for agnosticism. But the science of revolution is nowhere near as settled as the science of bridge-building.

I absolutely agree that even (especially) under non-revolutionary conditions that revolutionaries should be making preparations for openings and that this changes the objective configuration of forces.

I think some things the Z have said have been foolish and like Lurigancho I'm not convinced they have a line that can lead all the way.

But there is an arrogance in some of the criticisms here that is an obstacle to really grappling with the particularities and complexities of the situation. Its difficult to tell where it is just unthinking chauvinism and where it is a dopey certainty that MLM is a more advanced science than it really is.

There has never been a successful socialist revolutionary seizure of power in a country as urbanized or industrialized as Mexico is today. The closest comparable situation may have been the revolutionary upsurge in Chile from 1970-73. What it will take to carry off a revolution under those conditions is much more speculative than, for example, what it takes in a largely (88%) rural country like Nepal, which is not to suggest that its a simple question in Nepal.

I believe that the agrarian and indigenous struggles in Mexico will play a critical role in any revolutionary process there. I also believe that there will be a need for armed struggle though precisely when and in what form I am far less certain.

I don't think a military strategy of protracted peoples war in the countryside and surrounding the cities makes much sense in a country that is over 70% urban and that has a comparatively well developed physical infrastructure of road, airports and communications. If anybody here does think this, or something like it, I'd like to hear the case.

While I believe in the need for a party that can offer revolutionary leadership, how much that would resemble extant models of Leninist parties developed under very different conditions is not so clear to me. The Leninist party reflects the application of the most advanced early-20th century military thinking to the problem of revolutionary organization. With various adaptations it proved an incredibly effective organizational form well into the 1970s and seems to still have some use in some of the still predominantly rural corners of the globe. Its record in more urbanized countries has been considerably less impressive. I don't claim to know of any better models, but I think some experimentation might advance the science in this regard.

The Leninist party form as generally understood relies heaviliy on vertical rather than horizontal flows of information and has proven most useful against certain highly brittle and exclusivist forms of regimes that rest on a very narrow social base and relies heavily on the most overt forms of repression. There are still some of those around, but their numbers are dwindling.

Without getting too swept up in fashionable anarcho-chatter about "netwar" and "swarming" I think there is a need to do some serious rethinking about the organizational forms that are appropriate to revolutionary struggle in largely literate, media-saturated, urban, (post)industrial, post-fordist countries with at least nominally democratically elected governments.

I don't think the Z has the answers to all the questions implicitly posed here. To their credit, neither do they. But they do seem to be aware of the questions and sincere about trying to navigate them. Which is why, until something better comes along, they have my support and my attention.

the burningman

Arrogance? I think "frustration" is more the word.

I also think your insistence on a certain level of what's being called "agnosticism" here, which I am sympathetic to (but don't embrace) for many of the reasons you state, is related to your take on party-building and leadership organizations:

"The Leninist party form as generally understood relies heaviliy on vertical rather than horizontal flows of information and has proven most useful against certain highly brittle and exclusivist forms of regimes that rest on a very narrow social base and relies heavily on the most overt forms of repression. There are still some of those around, but their numbers are dwindling."

You think?

I guess it depends on what you mean by "narrow" social base and "overt" forms of repression. Or from a different direction...

The vanguard party did not spread globally because, primarily, it is a defense mechanism against autocratic and repressive governments.

Rather... it is a theory of knowledge and action. The theory of knowledge part is what, I think, you are either missing or dismissing.

It also has to do with the bugbear of political "line." The catalyst Z most certainly do have a line, commanders and so on.But they continue to be vague to madness on the state! Not "city hall." The capitalist state. Which is why their openness to all forms of organization and struggle EXCEPT revolutionary communist is noteworthy and important -- both in terms of who actively supports them internationally, and what they are saying to the Mexican ruling class and US imperialism.

When Stan Goff excerpted the US military analysis of the EZ, I didn't see that one get reproduced by a single support organization in the USA -- or even discussed except to say "Stan's an old commie grumbling..." Which is about the level of debate when anti-authoritarianism's water found its level.

The Z's vagueness has its appeal, for reasons well enough explained in several comments above.

But it also means that either changes will come in this line, or THIS CURRENT line will not reap a regime change in Mexico.

A vanguard is (I hope) obviously no guarantee of anything but a fighting chance for state power. If that is off the table, or confused -- how does THAT develop?

Or, put another way, its fine for the Z to not be the vanguard (Chris's "whatever"), but that does not preclude such a development and is a problem when they are more or less OPPOSED to such a leadership organization with such reasonable goals.

leftclick

Day said: "I don't think the Z has the answers to all the questions implicitly posed here. To their credit, neither do they." It is NOT to their credit that they did not have an answer to the question of state power before taking up arms. While timetables, organizational forms and local strategies and tactics can be debated, certain key political goals must be set.

Day mentioned that Mexico had a disastrous history with vanguards. What he did not mention is Latin America's other disastrous history - with armed struggle formations whose goal was not the overthrow of the state, but winning concessions from it. If the EZLN's line is in response to failed vanguards, what did they learn from those failed efforts?

In order to get a handle on with the complexities of the situation we cannot hold onto the notion that the EZLN's politics are so completely new as to defy analysis from precedents. Of course some things will be new, that's how history works, but some fundamental things are not that new. I argue that the predominating features are the ones they share with anarchism, with all that entails.

Day also said: "I think there is a need to do some serious rethinking about the organizational forms that are appropriate to revolutionary struggle in largely literate, media-saturated, urban, (post)industrial, post-fordist countries with at least nominally democratically elected governments." That's putting the cart before the horse. I think we first have to do some serious thinking about political line and analysis of the objective system. This is why Day's criticism of the US revolutionary left is so voluntarist. In addition to the real weaknesses of the left, there are objective reasons why the struggle in this country is not at the level of the EZLN. For our part, could we do better here? Of course, MUCH better, but let's not decontextualize for convenient for polemical purposes. For instance, living in the center of the empire we have a pretty substantial middle class and a highly developed propaganda apparatus. This should have only negligent effect on revolutionary organizing? What have the EZLN done that leftists have not? Have many of us not immersed ourelves in communites of struggle? Some of us for decades? What does the EZLN have to teach us and how can we apply it?

I agree that we don't know how to make revolutions in the conditions Day has described, but there are fundamental goals that we have to be firm on. In armed struggle, are we storming the citadels or just trying to push them back a little? We'd better decide before we start loading the clips.

leftclick

Last line, second paragraph, I meant: "...those OTHER failed efforts"

Link

to chris:

Well Chris to begin with, my conception of the totality is far different then yours. Basically I'm with M&L that the particular infects the universal and vice versa reciprocally. Essentially when I conceive of any totality be it human power relations or within the universe, I tend toward Einstein's logic. Macro and Micro are inseparable for me. I presume you take the tired Marxian position that my views as such are part of a sum total expression of "real relations"(as Marx's failed critique of Stirner went). Not true. Discourses as such may construct relations but it does not necessarily express them. I do not deny at all that capitalism(along with many other things) effects and colonizes my daily life, but it is not run on agencies such as mine, or Theodore Kaczynski's or a San member in Southern Africa. And why should I march with millions when it is THEIR attachments that continue to enslave me. Any revolutionary discourse that ignores the conscious and unconscious psychological attachments to people and the need to overcome them is bankrupt as is the case with most of marxism and unfortunately, the strains of anarchist thought that(due to the intellectual vacuum of 1940-68) bought into it. Though people like Wilhelm Reich, Foucault, and the more subjective side of marxism tend to be the exceptions. There is no such thing as REAL conditions. The people who love to spend money, drive cars, receive modern benefits ect are what keeps capitalism alive. There is no objective gun to the proverbial head, simply people who remain attached to the current order of things and as such enslave people like me. Try as they may the objectivists can never tell why that class revolt to end all class revolts has not happened yet. The ultra leftists blame the managers of revolt for the failures of such events as Paris 68(I would partly agree), the vanguardists claim a lack of a "leadership of ideas" is the reason. Perhaps it's time to put both excuses to bed and deal with the hard question that social relations as such tend to be antagonistic, and in order to get that to that state of anarchy, you may have to admit that a change of agency and will is required which is obviously not easy. The idea that people can be shocked out of this through a change of "real" conditions is what I would call ACME level cartoons. So is the idea that people like automatons will revolt without consciously rejecting besides capitalism, various forms of power and domination. It also does not help that there are also many so-called revolutionaries who believe these modern realities can be administered differently. For this, thinkers such as Jacques Ellul and Paul Virilio are needed to combat that type of thinking which at the end of the day simply recuperates the systems of domination that capitalism and civilization brought on. And when it comes to temporary autonomous zones, they are far more real in terms of an actual communal non-hierarchical system then the ideas I see here. At the very least you have try and live your dreams on a localized level and not be some worldly missionary in this world of antagonisms. If there is not global communal existence(won't say communism because the word has become to damn muddied over the years) then at least live it local.

To lastly deal with scorchy,
He takes the old "after the revolution logic", Not something I take seriously anymore

scorchy

"There is no such thing as REAL conditions."

You are REALLY a dipshit.

Put that in your "ceci n'est pas une pipe" and smoke it.

This tangent: over.

scorchedEarth

Scorchy, when Link refers to 'Scorchy' I 'm pretty sure he's referring to me so please don't give the wrong impression.

Link says: "Essentially when I conceive of any totality be it human power relations or within the universe, I tend toward Einstein's logic. Macro and Micro are inseparable for me." You obviously don't know shit about Einstein and I can't seriously believe you subscribe to his realist scientific discourse. He believed that the micro and macro were related, not conflated - he was trying to figure out the connections, not collapse the distinctions. Oh, that's right, 'truth' is just a discourse too so I guess Einstein said whatever you want him to.

"At the very least you have try and live your dreams on a localized level and not be some worldly missionary in this world of antagonisms." Link obviously dreams of being an atomized individual. manipulated and exploited by the various machinations of capital. If he wants to eat shit and call it cake, let him. There's a lot of room in the Matrix

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