Rules of the road

Kasama

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January 08, 2007

Comments

repeater

Chuck,

Describe the Other Campaign to me. Was it the case that the EZLN and Marcos were travelling Mexico demanding that the people not take power? What was their goal? Was it to simply sabotage AMLO's campaign? No, it was to build an alternative power base. The process of doing that is in itself a process of contestation over power.

Yeah, Marcos has said that he doesn't agree with "vanguards", but if the EZLN is anything it is a vanguard in the most general sense. How could this be if they reject marxism-leninism? Because the vanguard isn't simply some ideological invention of Lenin, but an actual force in the class struggle. And it can take many class forms, as well as many different ideological and organizational forms. It means the advanced sections of the revolutionary classes in any particular context, or conjuncture, not a strict Leninist Party form. The EZLN, in many ways, constitutes and unites around it these advanced forces among the revolutionary classes of Mexico. I wish the same could be said of the RCP, though I don't believe it can be said of them at this point. Put it this way: there are vanguards and then there are "vanguards". You mistake the two.

[I would just add that the reality that Marcos is the launching pad of everything the EZLN says and does points to a great degree of centralism. Centralism communicated through ONE man, i.e. a leader.]

I wasn't clear ealier when I gave the impression that the EZLN is moving into a MORE centralized form. They in fact already are to a very great degree, but to correct myself: where I see movement in terms of convergence is more around the content of their politics than around the form. And this connects in terms of centralism, not in their movement towards becoming more centralized, but in their movement towards using that centralism that is inherent in the organization to do what centralism is necessary for, that is, to contest power.

This is where the EZLN is moving closer to the RCP. Where the RCP is moving closer to EZLN, is exactly in attempting to break with the aspects of marxism-leninism which the EZLN explicitly criticizes (though the criticisms are not necessarilly shared). That is, reductionism, essentialism, workerism, chauvinism, dogmatism, inflexibility and stagnation.

So that's one level of the convergence. The other and more significant level regards the question of "what do we do differently"? That is, both groups, and many others in the world, are converging around the question of the New Synthesis.

To share the same questions is a much deeper form of unity at this stage of the struggle, than to have the same answers. Though in certain respects both organizations recognize that they don't have THE answers just yet, despite what some RCP supporters, and anarchist supporters of EZLN, would have you believe. The contradiction between this and the fact that both organizations are enacting very specific political programs is interesting, but doesn't really deny the self-realization on the parts of both organizations that THE answer is not readily available, to say nothing of whether it ever will be.

The EZLN have abandoned the narrow horizons of indigenous autonomy. And in doing so they have implicitly taken up the question of power, they have become political. As far as evidence to support the claim that the EZLN exercises centralism and top-down organizational principles, not to the exclusion of decentralized and bottom-up principles, but in relation to this, I have offered the Declaration of the Red Alert in Chiapas. That document, at least, seems pretty straightforward to me.

Keep repeating the "dictatorship of the proletariat", as if the phrase in and of itself proves anything. If you're going to deal in caricatures, you're free to waste your time.

repeater138

Chris that last comment, regarding communist participation and attempts at excluding it, is right on. There was a recent article which threw out an attack of sorts against the EZLN because there were "people with pictures of Stalin" at some of the Other Campaign's meetings, and they were allies.

"Delegate Zero's demonization of left-center presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) divided the left at a critical juncture and La Otra's refusal to participate in the post-electoral struggle after the fraud-marred July 2nd election was stolen from AMLO led to charges of sectarianism - the ubiquitous presence of portraits of Joseph Stalin at Other Campaign marches and rallies lent credence to the allegation."

http://counterpunch.com/ross01122007.html

That fact alone is probably enough to send Chuck into apoplectic fits. Probably won't be too long till Chuck is thinking EVERYONE is an "authoritarian", but himself.

Christopher Day

The people with pictures of Stalin weren't just at SOME Otra events along the tour. As I understand it, they were at ALL of them. I don't know what group it was, and the fact that they were free to do that should not be read as an embrace of Uncle Joe by the EZLN. But Marcos was quite clear that they had as much right to be there as the anarchos demanding their exclusion. IMHO its a sad commentary that the anarchos made the folks who thought carrying banners of Stalin was a good idea look reasonable and non-sectarian.

In defense of Chuck, he's not prone to apoplectic fits. While he falls back on some tired anti-communist tropes, he should be credited with being a very good sport here. Differences aside, he's done a lot of good work over the years to push the anarchist movement in a better direction and deserves respect.

Chuck Morse

Thanks, Chris.

+++

Repeater, I’m beginning to wonder if you have some personal need to argue with me, given your tendency to challenge me on views that I don’t hold and polemicize on issues that you don’t know much about it. If you have a personal problem with me, then why don’t you save the list from your vitriol and contact me through my blog. We can sit down over a cup of coffee (if you live in NYC) and you can tell me all about your issues. Don’t be afraid. I’m a pretty easy person to talk with. I won’t bite.

With respect to the Zapatistas, there is simply no evidence of a growing convergence between them and the RCP or similar groups. They’ve been emphatic about their rejection of the vanguardist ML politics for years now (a rejection, they say, that began shortly after their arrival in the jungle in the 1970s). They have neither made statements nor done anything to indicate a change in their views and, if anything, have grown even more distant from the insurgent guerrilla model since the 1994 uprising.

Your comments about the Other Campaign don’t make sense either. The point of the Other Campaign was not to seize power, but to build a social movement that demonstrated another way of doing politics during an election year. And, yes, some people put up Stalin posters at their rallies. So, what? The Zapatistas are super pluralistic. That’s not exactly news. And, while the Zaps stayed aloof from AMLO’s shadow government, they spoke out against the electoral fraud as soon as suspicions began to arise (within hours). So, what?

And, no, the Zapastistas never talk about the “new synthesis.” You won’t find any language to that effect in any of other document and, besides, the type grand theoretical scheme celebrated by the RCP runs counter to their whole approach.

I think YOU believe that the Zapatistas need to become more like the RCP, but there is no evidence to show that THEY feel that way. Indeed, they are one instance of a much more general tendency on the left to pull away from vanguardist ML politics.

the burningman

Yeah, in some ways the Zapatistas would do well to learn from the RCP. I said it. They could use some of that "new synthesis," though their facilitative vanguard approach is different, there are certainly elements in common with the "solid core with a lot of elasticity." There are, even if the EZ remains constrained by a consensus model that doesn't allow for "synthetic" breaks (also known as revolution) from their "organic" base.

Whoever Marcos is "shitting on" is his business. That the terrorists of the ETA would be equated with an MLM vanguard is silly to me, as they are fundamentally different in what they are seeking to accomplish and the means by which to do it.

People's War, and political insurrection, are both strategies that are, by necessity, carried out by people in their millions. It requires a conscious social choice on the part of oppressed people to, for lack of a better term, commit class suicide through revolution.

Marcos and Avakian certainly agree that self-conscious, organized forces are necessary to foster, and in different ways lead such a process. Where they differ is in the depth of the discussion, and I think Avakian the ideological leader is considerably more advanced, sharp and tough-minded in his assessments of what this means.

No doubt Marcos, with his early Guevarist (commandist, substitutionist, instrumentalist, moralist) roots never quite got that difference. In fact, I'm sure he doesn't from my reading of his extensive musings, declarations and provocations.

Marcos never got the Mass Line. If Maoists had done a better job of practicing this key, defining aspect of MLM – we might be having a very different discussion.

In any case, Marcos is not shitting on anyone willing to take up the fight against the Mexican state these days, and that's something their US PR office might want to think about.

-------

HERE WE ARE in a strangely similar situation. We have a government run amok – causing great and immediate harm, with the threat of worse to come. But here, the party which has looked to build a BROAD, DIVERSE and DETERMINED movement to drive out the Bush regime isn't anarchist – even where it is working for resistance to real, live authoritarianism in the Bush regime's rejection of the rule of law.

We have much to learn from the APPO, which seems something like a social soviet in the classic sense.

We have much to learn from the concept of a facilitative vanguard, and the EZ's declaration of making a revolution to make revolution possible.

We have something to learn from the concept of the Horizontal (dropping the ISM which is the fetish of the ecstatic limit), that Marina Sitrin collected in her recent oral history the Argentine movement.

And in the critical sense, we can learn that "power" as a term has no more meaning than "sex." What they are is determined by the relationships that make it coherent. Just as Andrea Dworkin was left essentially reducing sex to rape, and all the nihilism that implies – so too have anarchists confused capactity for dominion, and the exercise of proletarian dictatorship for tyranny. The people have the right to rule.

I prefer the Spanish word. Poder. To be able.

I hope that the people inspired by the EZLN should think about how this "other" can manifest here. AGAINST THIS GOVERNMENT.

More movement. Less "space." We have no jungles.

To get specific, there will be a summit of organizations (and trends) in five or six weeks here in New York to plan a "full court press" against the Bush regime. It is being initiated by World Can't Wait, but they will not be the only primary sponsor. Initial outreach is beginning NOW.

You know, dialogue, discussion, "from the bottom up" – and by bringing as many coherent trends to the table – we can effect the WHOLE political climate in this country right now and ACTUALLY drive Bush out. The escalation of the war and repression program are shocking to many people who voted for the Dems (those who don't vote, and even many earstwhile conservatives).

If you think that the RCP alone, or World Can't Wait as an initiative can't take on Bush single-handedly then YOU AGREE WITH THEM.

I very much hope that direct action radicals, anti-capitalists and social movement activists re-visit this question of a political fight against Bush, and how we can exert magnified torque on this off-balance regime.

I hope that you, Chuck, and the networks of radicals, activists and thinkers you are immersed in take this opportunity to stand on your own and work in tandem with not just the folks I admire and take leadership from – but "unite with all who can be united."

This summit, should a number of different forces work out a range of tactics and orientations to bring Bush down and repudiate the whole program, could be "earth shaking."

But you are right. One small, revolutionary leftist group CAN'T do it alone. They know that better than anyone.

So the cards are on the table. I hope you're not just bluffing.

-------

Also, Chuck, I think you're getting your talking points from 1999 mixed up with today. No doubt the ML whithered during the 80s and 90s. But for ten years there has been consistent growth and development you seem unconcerned with.

It's not just Chavez and South Asia. It's here.

We are building a communist movement worth fighting for. The days of defining socialism down are over.

Besito Luchando

"The left" has NEVER been mainly Marxist-Leninist. Never, anywhere on earth except... important note here... except those countries that have had socialist revolutions.

There is nothing surprising about the demoralization and limiting of horizons that happened after the restoration of capitalism in China and the "death of communism" drumbeat at the collapse of the Soviet empire.

Revisionism long dominated huge parts of the international communist movement, to the extent that in large parts of the earth Revolutionary Communism (once called Bolshevism, now called MLM), did not exist!

Not for nothing was it audacious for Lenin make Kautsky's first name Renegade. Not for nothing did Mao break with the Soviet Union when they embarked firmly on the (state) capitalist road. Not for nothing did Avakian risk it all to help bring together revolutionary communists after the defeat in China, and work on a new synthesis. Not for nothing have Prachanda, Bhattarai and the leaders of the Nepalese revolution ripped apart the ways in which the Comintern-era party we inherited attempted to substitute itself for the masses of people.

And for all this, that "solid core" that Avakian talks about will not give up its ghost. We will not give up the fight for communism, and the dictatorship of the proletariat as the foundation of socialism.

But even in the 20th Century haydays of ML politics – it was almost always a minority position even within the left!

Where it was not: there were revolutions, or solid attempts.

True as it ever was today.

Every communist I know respects the EZLN exactly as far as they fight capitalism and the Mexican state. This has been true since that New Year's Day.

The then Revolutionary Worker immediately sent a reporter to Chiapas to investigate the situation. His coverage noted the limits Marcos prescribed, and supported the rebellion. A World To Win magazine put it on their cover and took a similar position. The Naxalites for their part took a similar position as well.

No MLM force has acting in any way against the EZLN or any of its supporters anywhere on earth.

We are what we do, and what we are becoming – whether we break bread and share wine or not. Marcos can shit on us, and we will wash it off and continue to support what deserves to be supported – what is correct in their line – and critically engage what is not. And we will not define ourselves through the inadequecies of others, recognizing our duty to put new facts on the ground here, in Mexico and everywhere on earth.

We will struggle like comrades whether it is returned in kind, or not. And these days, after the 6th Declaration and the Other Campaign in Mexico – as has been here noted – the Zapatistas are breaking bread with all kinds of people.

As we should too.

Or is that authoritarian?

repeater

Chuck wrote: "Repeater, I’m beginning to wonder if you have some personal need to argue with me, given your tendency to challenge me on views that I don’t hold and polemicize on issues that you don’t know much about it. If you have a personal problem with me, then why don’t you save the list from your vitriol and contact me through my blog. We can sit down over a cup of coffee (if you live in NYC) and you can tell me all about your issues. Don’t be afraid. I’m a pretty easy person to talk with. I won’t bite."

It's nothing personal. How could it be? I don't know you, I've never met you, etc.

What's your point? Because it seems to me that your point is that doing things like what Sunsara and WCW are doing, along with a broad array of people working with them, is not only pointless, but counterproductive? Why? Am I right in understanding that you answer this question with three letters, i.e. RCP?

And so when you're asked how it is exactly that we should do something, you point to EZLN, and you do so as an implicit counterpoint to the RCP and its "authoritarianism". But you point to EZLN on a basis that simply doesn't exist, if it ever did. And the fact that you have to go so far abroad indicates to me that you don't have much going on close to home.

Sure, I've generalized on what I think your overall stand as an anarchist is, but this is exactly because I don't know you, but on the other hand I do know the arguments. I do know the line. You have basically argued for paralysis, and admiring the EZLN at a distance, and the two are very connected in the general anarchist milieu. At least one of the ways that they're connected is that many anarchists use the "model" of EZLN to attack other forces in the U.S. They pose the EZLN as a laundry list of ideological positions (decentralism, indigenism, anti-authoritarianism, consensus, etc.) against the opposing laundry list of ideological positions (authoritarians, centralism, whity, majority rules, etc.). But these oppositions are essentially false. You've been shown over and over in this thread that the EZLN behaves hierarchically, has a central governing body, and is organizing outside of the bounds of indigenism and localism. Just as you've been shown the way that you distort the record of the RCP. Trotting out "dictatorship of the proletariat" and a Marcos line about shitting on vanguards, really doesn't match-up with the effort and insight that has been put into this discussion by others. Nor does playing silly games about whether it's personal, or not.

And I have to remind you that I don't beleive that the EZLN is exactly the same as the RCP. They're not mirrored reflections of eachother. Nor will they ever be. What I have said is that I see movement towards eachother, and it goes without saying that such a thing could happen without any direct interaction between the two groups. I outlined where I thought that movement was coming from at both ends, but I also pointed out the ways in which the EZLN is actually much more RCP than RCP, if the defining aspects (which you've insisted on) are questions of authority, and centralism.

I do think that the EZLN could stand to be more like the RCP, but I also think the RCP could, in many ways, stand to be more like the EZLN. But my point is not simply that there is a need for such a thing, but that it's happening in significant ways.

"vanguardist ML politics"

Chuck, here is an instance where I don't even have to ask you what you mean by this, because it is derogatory short hand for your entire position in this thread. I think that not only is Burningman right as to the significant differences in the ML milieu today as compared to the past, but that your understanding even of ML of the 60's and 70's is determined by an apriorist approach which defined ML before it investigated, or understood it. What I'm trying to say is, when you can fit the most diverse and influential revolutionary movement the world has ever seen into three words, and then stick those three words into a box with one word on it (Authoritarians), you're not dealing with reality. And when you pose that box against another one with anarchism, and for some odd reason EZLN, in it... well it's kinda stupid.

Repeating Repeater

Wowzers!

repeater

To Chuck:

I wish to take you up on your offer. I have sent you a message via your blog.

To "repeating repeater":

I don't know what "wowzers!" means. And I don't appreciate the implication that we're keeping score here. Not to be a grinch, but seriously...

r. john

"And I don't appreciate the implication that we're keeping score here. Not to be a grinch, but seriously..."

well put. This is not a game.

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