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January 11, 2007

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friendly advice

Thank you for posting this ANSWER statement.

Radicals should join anti-imperialist coalitions. Without gettting into the whole set of issues related to UFPJ, they are effectively working for the Democrats at this point and will obstruct efforts to raise the resistance to this war.

Attend UFPJ events. If you are in a member/participating organization, start fighting for an orientation that doesn't subordinate antiwar mobilizations to what the Democratic Party can bear.

Question the domination of the Communist Party, USA and their immediate entourage in the National Office since its inception.

Send money and resources to groups which challenge the imperialist foundation of this war, that do not pussyfoot around with "understanding" Israel, and that call the Democratic Party for the enemies they are.

This call by ANSWER has a broad level of support and they are moving in the right direction.

See you in DC for the UFPJ march.

See you in the meetings planning for the March 17 Day of Action at the Pentagon.

come on

Now you support ANSWER? What crack are you smoking, Jed.

the burningman

ANSWER has done great work building mobilizations against this war, and the racist, repressive domestic program of the Bush regime.

The depth of the sponsors is apparent. In the belly of the beast we need to oppose empire.

So I'll be there, and I hope you are too.

the burningman

Crack is not what I burn.

100% natural.

Red Star Mafia

I support this ANSWER protest.

100 buses from New York City.

shinethepath

lol 100% natural? Free Base?

No kidding of course.

But I shall probably try to attend this mass protest. ANSWER has done some significant work.

Jimmy Higgins

Look, I'm not interested in getting ensnared in this damn International A.N.S.W.E.R. vs UFPJ debate. Certainly not now.

But let me just point out that waiting for March 17, and the fading symbolism of the 4th anniversary of the intial aggression, to move on DC is fucking irresponsible. To their credit, UFPJ's national steering committee analyzed the situation early last year and said that directing protests against Bush was an exercise in futility if we actually want to end the occupation. The movement, they felt, must target Congress.

As part of this orientation, they called a major demonstration for Washington on January 27. The Democrats were dreaming of their "First 100 Hours" of passing domestic legislative gimmees and finding a groove that didn't require them to do much of anything about Iraq. UFPJ decided to confront them before they could get too comfy in that groove.

Now, that decision has proved extremely wise. The botched lynching of Saddam Hussein, followed by the 3000th troop death and now Bush's "new way forward" escalation has created a promising new situation. The people of the US are getting restless, the Congressional Dems (and increasingly Republicans as well) are trying to find a way out and the MSM is carrying much more anti-Bush, anti-occupation material.

I don't know that the ruling class in this country is split (as Max Elbaum argues in the most recent War Times), at least along clear sectoral or blocs-of-capital lines. I do think they are in disarray and even panicking, and they are finally being forced to confront a very basic contradiction: they can't afford to stay in Iraq and they can't afford to leave Iraq.

This is the time to strike. I agree the main blow should be aimed at jacking Congress to take steps that defund the war and that have the effect of further weakening and isolating Bush.

In closing let me make a point regarding this generic blah-blah about escalating street protests and turning dissent to resistence. Sounds dandy, but what the fuck are we actually talking about?

Me, I'm kind of impressed by the Sacramento Coalition to End the War, which has been occupying the office of Representative Doris Matsui (D) all day, every day since Monday, demanding she stop voting to fund the war. The number of occupiers is growing and rallies are being staged outside the office.

The core of this effort, according to local media, is Sacramento for Democracy, a chapter of Progressive Democrats of America. Somehow I don't think they're an affiliate of A.N.S.W.E.R.

Much as I enjoy trashing, even at my advanced age, this is the single spark I'd like to see spreading like a prairie fire across the US right now.

And if you're not ready to do that, or lack the ties among progressive forces in your area to even contemplate doing it, at least you should be working to get your ass, and as many of your contacts as possible, to DC on January 27.

the burningman

I'll be in DC.

But I'm not sending around UFPJ analysis.

Protest should roar in the capital, and everywhere we live, learn, work, find spiritual solace and community.

We should encourage splits in the ruling class, and apply pressure where there is strain. They do seem disoriented.

What we do matters.

Anyone who voted for a Democrat now backing the war, who voted for the Military Commissions Act, who refuses to press towards an impeachment of the current administration for war crimes and other crimes against humanity, which ARE NO SECRET AND MUST BE REPUDIATED, then you should be in charge of organizing those occupations.

If you're part of a self-consciously leftist organization that pushed for the Democratic Party ideologically or provided logistical support – you should now make your position clear.

That would be great.

I don't know who is talking about "trashing." After Quebec City, the old trashing tactics looked brittle.

We could spark millions around a repudiation.

We'll see where ANSWER is going. There are decent radicals and revolutionaries working there. People I respect. People I trust want to break this empire.

Jimmy Higgins

Esteemed and beloved burningman, like you I post in haste (though not at 2 in the ayem). Though I've a lot to say (surprise, hunh?) on this general topic, I'm going to limit myself here to one question and one strong disgreement.

Twice in a shortish post you speak of repudiating (presumably the Bush regime), once in caps and once in italics. What does this mean in tactical or strategic terms? (The first reference appears to suggest that the movement re-orient itself around impeachment as the main demand. As you know, a variant of this was tried last fall with middling results. It's entirely possible that conditions are changing and, if you think so, I'd be interested in hearing the arguments.)

My real unhappiness is with this statement of yours, responding to the ballyhooing in my first post on this thread of the occupation of Rep. Matsui's office:

"Anyone who voted for a Democrat now backing the war, who voted for the Military Commissions Act, who refuses to press towards an impeachment of the current administration for war crimes and other crimes against humanity, which ARE NO SECRET AND MUST BE REPUDIATED, then you should be in charge of organizing those occupations."

This strikes me as more moralism than Marxism, than Mao's Mass Line. First it makes any Democrat, and presumably any elected official, who is not working right now for impeachment, the target. Sure, the crimes of this administration and its enablers deserve a new Nuremberg, never mind impeachment. This, however, broadens the target and weakens the effort to isolate Bush right now and to cripple his efforts to carry on and escalate US military aggression in the Middle East.

Second, and far more important, it explicitly leaves the task of organizing building occupations and other actions targetting members of Congress who won't pledge to vote against new appropriations for Iraq to...those who voted for them. Is this supposed to be some kind of punishment or repayment of a karmic debt?

I admit I know fuck all about the inside story of what's happening in Sacremento right now, but if media reports are correct, it's a powerful and growing occupation. Ought revolutionaries not to be in the middle of such actions, helping shape tactics and messages, and drawing lessons with the advanced?

Such militant actions, like earlier, shorter-lived office occupations of the Portland offices of Maine's senators, garner a lot of local press and popular support, even if they are ignored at a national level. I have corresponded with a sister in a state in the Southwest who is trying to organize such activities and know of others being discussed. I don't think the fact that I didn't vote for a single one of them, or for any other Democrat, means I am mistaken in paying some practical attention to this.


the burningman

These are some real questions, Jimmy.

But first I'll make a note on my own early political education.

"Jimmy Higgins" was the epitome of everything a communist shouldn't be to the Maoists I first learned from. While I'm sure you can share the back story on this, he was an activist archetype promoted by William Z. Foster of the old Communist Party.

He always took the heavy load, kept his nose to the grindstone. Didn't really ask too many questions. He lacked not just ego, but critical consciousness.

George Orwell also made him a character in Animal Farm, the Horse.

That is a whole discussion, and one I'd be interested in at some point.

But here we are.

--------

I'm glad you picked out that paragraph from my initial response. It was written for you.

""Anyone who voted for a Democrat now backing the war, who voted for the Military Commissions Act, who refuses to press towards an impeachment of the current administration for war crimes and other crimes against humanity, which ARE NO SECRET AND MUST BE REPUDIATED, then you should be in charge of organizing those occupations."

And no, not "whatever" with impeachment – press directly and clearly for (all caps alert!) IMPEACHMENT.

This orientation comes exactly from a mass line orientation – it's what it looks like, and shit I'm being called away from this discussion right now.

Back later, but rather than having a general discussion – I'd like to focus it in on why Jimmy Higgins, to play off of Orwell, should aim to be a wild mustang, not a draft horse for "the movement."

We have choices to make, individually and organizationally that can change this game.

In short, we do not need activists to triangulate to the exigencies of social movement consensus – but to DIVERT general outrage to targeted resistance.

Jimmy and his friends have an important role to play in this moment, and not (only) through playing within the Democratic Party sandbox, simply joining and promoting the best forms of antiwar resistance or trotting on a long, slow road of patient accumulation.

If the revolutionary left can focus here, we will have an outsized influence in the void left by the Democratic Party's enabling program.

[more to come]

Jimmy Higgins

Hey, this is getting to be fun. My thanks to burningman for keeping this discussion going. It has been a little dismaying (though not surprising) to find that he and I are the only ones posting here.

I understand that this topic lacks the frisson of critiquing the tactics of the CPN(M) when they are at a historic juncture and "at close quarters with the enemy." Nor does it arouse the passions like that perennial favorite--debating the unique merits or lack thereof of Chairman Avakian. Still, we are dealing here with the largest and broadest mass movement in many years in this country, with the internationalist duty of communists to end "our" ruling class's aggression and with the role of reds in the belly of the beast.

To start with I wish to gently chide burningman for a bit of slight of hand. Since I post as Jimmy Higgins, it's fair to delve into what that nom du blog means and implies. But in the post above, I am suddenly trasported into "Animal Farm" and accused of being the draught horse Boxer (if memory serves, named after the Boxer rebellion against imperialist domination of China). Who does our host feel would be better to identify with in Orwell's little meet-the-new-boss fable? Napoleon? Surely not Snowball?

It does make for a handy contrast between the plodding workhorse and a hypothetical "wild mustang" of the revolutionary struggle, but such a simple metaphor inevitably breaks down upon any detailed examination.

So let's instead look at Jimmie Higgins (my own name, Jimmy, being a variant to put a modest space between the virtues rather than the sortcomings of the original).

My own assumption was somewhat like what burningman portrays above--the comrade who hands out the leaflets to build the public meeting, sets up the chairs beforehand, and sweeps up and locks the joint up afterwords. I did a little quick rereading to refresh my fraying memory and damned if I don't feel like an arrogant poser for having taken the name--kind like calling oneself Mao or Marx.

Foster, to whom I will get in a moment, did not coin the name. It was current in Socialist Party and related circles as far back as the first decade of the 20th century and referred to an ordinary dedicated rank and file comrade (a male ordinary dedicated comrade, to be sure--I know of no "Jenny Higgins" equivalent.) The stereotype burningman so dislikes may owe more to Upton Sinclair's 1919 novel "Jimmie Higgins." You can download this puppy on-line for free at Manybooks(dot)net, inter alia.

Sinclair's protagonist, as the name implied at the time, is a rank and file Socialist Party member, a machinist who is not, perhaps, the sharpest pushpin in the corkboard. Sinclair's view of working people is always sympathetic, but rarely without condescension. His misadventures, sometimes gently comic, often melodramatic and once in a while deeply moving all start from the premise that he constantly looks to "wiser" comrades for guidance.

However, even though he is often misled, again and again his class stand and ability to eventually cut through the bullshit lets him "get his bearings in a situation." Near the end of the book he is serving with the US occupation forces sent to Siberia after WW1 to smash the Bolshevik revolution. Jimmie makes contact with the local reds in Archangel and commences agitation among his fellow soldiers against the occupation and for returning to the US.

Though he pays a horrific price for his efforts (the last chapter forcefully and presciently brings to mind Gitmo, Jose Padilla, habeus corpus, waterboarding and other timely topics), he has lit a small fire among the troops that burns the capitalist dream of sweeping the revolution from Russia.

This does raise a point on the "wild mustang" front. Not all of us are--by reason of temperment, intellectual gifts, experience, life situation or available time--going to be magnificant pathbreakers creating the new revolutionary road forward.

Now that's not to argue that we ahould all be "monks tolling the bell," either, but being part of a democratic centralist or even reasonably disciplined revolutionary organization requires a division of labor and certain amount of grunt work, of carrying out assignments upon which the execution and summation of strategy rests.

Moving now to Wm. Z Foster, whose knowledge, unlike Sinclair's, of work and working class life ws first hand. He writes of Jimmie Higgins in a short piece reprinted in his autographical collectionof essays, "Pages From A Worker's Life."

Foster describes Jimmie Higgins thus:

"He is the type of tireless, devoted, disciplined, self-sacrificing and brave worker--the very salt of the working class. Wherever there us hard, slogging work to be done, Jimmie Higgins is on hand."

(Here again the jarring gender assumptions here should lead not to self-congratulation over how far we've come but reflection on what howling failures of vision may now be plaguing us all unrecognized.)

Okay, so far we are in keeping with the stereotype. But Foster goes on to say:

"The Jimmie Higgins' are the natural heads of the toilers. All dynamic working-class leaders have been of this category...In making a Communist of Jimmie Higgins, the party enormously increases his efficiency by teaching him the true meaning of Labor's struggle, by infusing him with class consciousness, by transforming his primitive proletarian militancy into burning revolutionary zeal."

Now it is I who must run, but writing this has clarified what may be an important part of our difference here, and that is the question of who exactly are the advanced among the masses with whom Chairman Mao urges us to unite. This is a debate which raged within the NCM of the '70s. Is it the individuals with the most developed political understanding, whatever their relationship with their fellow workers, or is it those who are most consistently active in struggle, even if they still retain some illusions about the system?

I'm looking forward to the to-be-continued burningman promised above, and live in hope that others may find this stuff interesting enough to comment on.

r. john

JH writes:
"I understand that this topic lacks the frisson of critiquing the tactics of the CPN(M) when they are at a historic juncture and "at close quarters with the enemy." Nor does it arouse the passions like that perennial favorite--debating the unique merits or lack thereof of Chairman Avakian. Still, we are dealing here with the largest and broadest mass movement in many years in this country, with the internationalist duty of communists to end "our" ruling class's aggression and with the role of reds in the belly of the beast."

First on points of agreement:
This is a decisive moment to energetically build mass response to the war. Not for the reasons JH gives, but because we are truly at a historic moment -- where the response should be "Kent State" like.

After millions thought they voted in a new congress to stop the war -- they get an escalation! At a time when literally millions think things have "gone too far," this Bush regime moves a new nuclear naval battle group into the Persian Gulf -- sticking their pistol into Iran's ribs.

And from the democrats? Insistance that impeachement is "off the table." Cutting war funds is "off the table." And their own growling support for attacks on Iran. (Should we now call him Barak Gobomba Nation for his remarks on Iran??)

Democratic leadership now says "let's keep our eye on the prize." By which they mean 2008, and getting THEIR brand of imperialism to the fore. As if the people of the world (of Iraq, of Iran, of the U.S. border crossings) have two years to fuck around, and as if the people of the world have any reason to expect or welcome a shift to Hillaryism.

All this makes mass independent historical action (including at the street level) both urgent and possible. Against the war, against the escalation and for driving out the Bush regime (now!)

And it creates a whole new level of interest and potential support to a revolutionary communist solution and movement.

So for those reasons, I think January 27 is center stage. (And for those reasons, waiting for March seems nuts. Iran could well be smoking by March -- if you read Seymore Hersch in the New Yorker.)

I don't want to spend time on points of disagreement....
a) the rather phillistine distain for discussion of communist theory (at a time in history when new leaps in communist understanding in the world are needed.) That menshivik sneer around anything but the most immediate bleeds through.

b) the upholding of Jimmy Higginism! Whew. The cult of the loyal and hardworking -- in opposition to the struggle for consciousness. As if the world needs proletarians to graft "zeal" onto "militancy" -- taking their basic "class stand" and slathering a few platitudes about ultimate goals on it.

It was the bannister ride (under Foster and Browder) from revolutionary politics to CIO unionism, and from there straight into the trenches and marine invasion fleets of World War 2.

From hardworking leafletter to storming the beaches of the Solomons and New Guinea.... what was that "the true meaning of Labor's struggle" that the CP taught? A house in the suburbs? A scramble for hiding places at the first puffs of McCarthyite smoke?

I remember Foster's insistance (mid-fifties at the congress where a young Gus Hall rose to power) that the last thing to take up was any notion of actual revolution or dictatorship of the proletariat.

What ever else they were debating.... THAT was "off the table." And their party of "jimmy higginses" with their slinky spring necks bobbing in loyal agreement and undisguised confusion just went along.

That someone today would mock debate over Avakian's work and resurrect Jimmy Higgins (all in the same thread!!) is not just a line, it is a manifesto to knuckleheadism!

provocation accepted, returned!

LOL.

btw – who said anything about "waiting" until March?

What I see is rolling thunder, not a zero-sum game.

r. john

I don't think (and didn't say) that anyone HERE advocated "waiting" until March.

My point is that regardless what anyone thinks of UFPJ -- the event they scheduled is an occasion to seize.

Jimmy Higgins

Look, r. john, I didn't write anything bad about Avakian, haven't in quite a long time in fact, but for heaven's sake--reeling in offense that his name was used in the same post as that of a fictional character? Sheesh.

Well, lemme back off and respond on the current situation in this comment, as that is my main concern. I'll try in the next couple of days to get to the questions around my Jimmy Higginism--Is that your coinage? First time I've heard it.

As I didn't lay out a detailed argument on the importance of this historic moment, I'm not sure what you think we disagree on within our overall agreement.

So I will start from your proposed points of agreement--yes, a historic moment. Nope, it's not gonna be "'Kent State' like" no matter how much we think that's what "the response should be." The events of May, 1970 were the product of years of organization and struggle on campus (and in the broader society) around a range of questions with the Vietnam War central by the late '60s. Hundreds of campuses around the country had already been shut down before May 4. The National Guard was sent to Kent State because the ROTC building there was burned down in a mass action after years as a target of local and national anti-ROTC agitation and protests.

And it needn't have been Kent: 30 ROTC buildings burned or were bombed in the first week of May, 1970, several of them in mass collective bonfires. Do you really think this movement, heartening as it is, has somehow reached that stage without the equivalent of the half-decade plus of SDS organizing?

We agree that part of what has created this favorable new terrain of battle is the shock of an "anti-war" majority in the 2006 elections morphing into an escalation in practice. We agree that the Democrats are by and large a bunch of barking dogs and little can be expected from their Congressional leadership. We may well disagree on the value of legislative initiatives like the Wolsey-Waters-Lee "Bring Our Troops Home and Sovereignty of Iraq Restoration Act" or Republican Congressman Walter "Freedom Fries" Jones' bill to ban any attack on Iran without an act of Congress.

I think that these are valuable educational tools in building anti-war sentiment and action, and that they will hold down an anti-occupation, anti-Bush pole, if and when when the horse trading starts around how to execute and publically project the retreat from Iraq.

We agree that it's nuts to focus on March 17 at a time like this. (Incidentally, r. john and provocation accepted, returned!, I never claimed anyone was arguing directly for waiting until March. I merely responded to the fact that of the original January 11 (!) post and first six responses only one even mentioned the UFPJ march, and then I suggested that anyone who didn't make that the top priority at this time was off base.)

We also agree that action both at the street level and elsewhere are needed against the escalation, against the occupation and to "drive out the Bush regime." If I were to formulate it, I probably wouldn't put points one and three on the same level as two. Yes, hammer the escalation, but use anger at it to build sentiment for mmediate withdrawal of all troops.

Yes, anger at the Bush regime is reaching the level where a majority of the ruling class may decide to ditch him as they did Nixon under similar circumstances. They'd rather find some other way out of the slow-motion trainwreck the occupation has become and the crisis of legitimation facing their administration and even their system, but they'll do it if they have to. Scandal, impeachment, Constitutional crisis, resignation, "sudden health emergency"--they've got options. And they'll exercise those options if they are compelled to.

I would certainly oppose making this the principal thrust of the January 27 March. I suspect that things may have changed for the better since the heavily-promoted fall "World Can't Wait" events. What was the summation of them, and what do folks who built them think about them now? Within that, how much effort should be spent on avoiding the word "impeachment," since that or the threat of it will be a major factor in how this plays out?

Finally, on the rolling thunder point, absolutely! I'm not sure, but I think UFPJ has called for local/regional type actions on the 4th anniversary and I want to see what how things unfold before I commit to heading back to DC or doing something else. More to the point, March 17 is still along way away. We need lots of activities between now and then to keep the heat on, express the growing anger among the people, and figure out in practice how the movement should be encouraged to deeply its varied forces.

I think we may be at a point where UFPJ or the "super-group" assembled briefly at the call of US Labor Against the War in Spring 2006 should put out a call for an Iraq Moratorium! One day a month where millions of people do something, as much as they are individually prepared to do, against the war, even if that's just signing a petitioon or calling a Congressional office. Collective actions like vigils or teach-ins are better, militant actions like high school blowouts or building occupations better still (though here clarity around why some person or institution is a target is particularly important).

One day a month, and for any ortho-Trots who may have ventured onto this blog, I personally am adamantly opposed to a meaningless call for a general strike. Pull out a couple of workplaces or locals to show how it's done and we'll talk. (And I don't mean the Bay Area ILWU. I've read their contract.)

jibaro

JH writes: "ut for heaven's sake--reeling in offense that his name was used in the same post as that of a fictional character? Sheesh."

R. John was (obviously) being somewhat provocative. But what he felt provoked by was not "using two names in the same post." And you kinda misrepresent his point when you imply that kind of petty "offense" was his point.

He was saying that your tone denegrated theoretical discussion impatiently, while you were at the same time promoting Jimmy Higgins as a symbol -- and that the two points you were making formed a whole that denigrates consciousness and promotes "head down" activism that can't lead "anywhere good."

Jimmy Higgins

OK, jibaro--criticism heard. I am by no means alone on this list in my dismay that more time is spent, by at least an order of magnitude, on debates over the uniqueness and irreplacible nature of Bob Avakian's thinking--debates which never seem to go anywhere and are instead repeated anew in thread after thread--than is spent on the immediate tasks before reds in the US. My formulation of "that perennial favorite--debating the unique merits or lack thereof of Chairman Avakian" is accurate but framed snottily, thus entitling r. john to his response.

Again, I shouldn't have zapped back at his "somewhat provactive" remarks, like calling me via my namesake, a bobblehead and a knucklehead, if only because I genuinely do want to hear and engage his views and those of folks he works with on the direction and tasks of the anti-war movement. (I have no intention of resorting to name-calling myself and will try and curb my '70s RU/RCP polemical training as well).

Finally, as for the frustration and motive you impute to him, I did say in the post he responded to that "I'll try in the next couple of days to get to the questions around my Jimmy Higginism..."

And I will.

Christopher Day

The Sacramento occupation sounds great as a model for turning protest into resistance, whether the demand is for cutting funding to the war, impeaching Bush, both or something else (closing Gitmo, signing Kyoto, ...). I'm not suggesting that the demand doesn't matter, but rather that we are at a point of popular disgust where any demand brings the others in its wake.

We are in a new moment. For anybody who doesn't think elections mattered, this one mattered. Not in the sense that it elected people who are going to do what needs to be done, but in the sense that millions feel that they voted against the war, that they are being ignored and that therefore perhaps the time for further action has arrived.

I'll work with anybody who wants to take over the offices of Senators and Congresscritters. I hope Jan 27 is huge. I hope UFPJ doesn't issue a competing call for local action on March 17 and that that action is huge as well. And I hope WCW is able to pull together the broader forces needed to give the demand for impeachment legs. And in between I hope local groups of every shade take over the local offices of deserving elected officials. Rolling Thunder is exactly what we need. I agree that we aren't looking at a Kent State situation (is that the best example?) yet, but it could very well be a very interesting Spring. And there is no reason all these things (and more) can't happen, though they may well be weakend by petty sectarianism.

r. john

Jimmy Higgins wrote:
"A historic moment. Nope, it's not gonna be "'Kent State' like" no matter how much we think that's what "the response should be." The events of May, 1970 were the product of years of organization and struggle on campus (and in the broader society) around a range of questions with the Vietnam War central by the late '60s. Hundreds of campuses around the country had already been shut down before May 4. The National Guard was sent to Kent State because the ROTC building there was burned down in a mass action after years as a target of local and national anti-ROTC agitation and protests."

Chris wrote: "I agree that we aren't looking at a Kent State situation (is that the best example?) yet, but it could very well be a very interesting Spring. And there is no reason all these things (and more) can't happen, though they may well be weakend by petty sectarianism."

Let me join this. And I suspect we may have both new agreement and new disagreement at the end.

First, my reference to Kent State was an ANALOGY, and like all analogies it pointed to similarities and ignored inherent differences.

Here is my point:

Objectively, at a time of deep disillusionment with war, the government is responding by escalating. And that opens a sharp rift in many people's thinking -- like "WTF, i thought this was a representative democracy where the will of the people is listened to?" And it opens a sharp rift between many people and "their" government. And it opens a sharp rift between many people and the Democrats who they thought they were in vibe with.

I was using "Kent State" as a shorthand for a whole range of explosive responses to the U.S. invasion of Cambodia (which expanded the war to "yet another country.")

Now it is UNLIKE 1970 in the ways that have been pointed out: The campuses are far too close to dead, not intensely alive. There has not been a draft, making the war a direct personal concern for many. The U.S. casualties in this war (while real and awful) are on a different scale than the 300 a week in Vietnam.

But on the other side, this has much more the feel of a slide to world war than vietnam did. World Wars 1 and 2 didn't start off with big banners reading "world war." They started off as a scrimmage in the Balkans, or as a Hitlerian invasion of Poland. and there was a slide to globalized conflict.

Isn't there a feel now (after Afghanistan, Iraq, then Somalia, and now potentially Iran) that it all may slide out of control, and "other powers" may be forced to act and take sides... And other forces (like Israel) might be emboldened to act?

This far i assume (or expect) we will mostly agree.

And I will state a sense of disagreement with a quote from Lenin who talk about those who thought the art of politics was the art of the possible, and that what was "possible" was what existed.

In other words, like Kent State, huge issues of unpopular escalation are posed, and a sense of a vicious government run amok is common.

And yet, the level of action among the people is far lower.

What are the assumptions behind insisting "we aren't looking at a Kent State situation." And who says that a huge eruption can ONLY come about through years of incremental buildup? Mechanical thinking rules out a whole spectrum of possible outcomes, including many outcomes we should be specifically advocationg and fighting for.

What should be said on the campuses? "Well we can't aspire to a Kent State level, but perhaps with perseverence the spring might be 'interesting'"?

I too don't think it will all "come out of nowhere" -- but I think the combination of our work AND CURRENTLY UNFORSEEN LEAPS IN THE RULING CLASS MOVES can make things jump to a new level.

Imagine if the U.S. (or Israel with open U.S. backing) uses tactical nukes on Iranian installations. Walk through that. Walk through what happens in fifty capitals. To homeland security. To the possible discussion of a draft.

the idea that "it can't happen now," especially the LINEAR assumption that it has to go through xxx number of years and xxx number of stages and xxx number of conferences before it can be comparable to "kent state."

Another point: Kent State happened because Nixon WANTED to bring the hammer down -- and pressured his supporter, Ohio Governor Rhodes, to take the gloves off.

This government is of a like mind -- they think the "mistake of the 60s" was that the 60s were allowed to happen. they think such protests are and were treason.

In other words, I am arguing that the situation is (potentially, not certainly) much more volatile than some folks here seem to imagine. And that (potentially, not certainly) things could jump off in a telescoped way. And that we need to start by grasping THAT real and wide range of potentialities, not limit our thinking to the assumptions of plodding "organizing" taken as a prerequisite for anything.

I think we agree on the need to act. and i think we agree on the profound injustice of what the imperialists are about. And those agreements are worth pointing to (and also exploring and deepening through struggle).

But i want to argue for a nimbleness and a truly visionary sense of possibilities -- things can jump off in many DIFFERENT WAYS. I am not "selling best case/worst case scenarios" here.

But our politics should not be "the art of the possible" in a framework where that "possible" is defined mechanically in terms of what now exists. this world is a fluid, interconnect, jumpy, surprising, even explosive place.

And frankly if we don't prepare growing sections of the masses to ACT in response to sudden and unexpected moves ... we will wake up to find ourselves in a terrible situation, unprepared to even think through the challenges that real life throws up.

r. john

On our
side thread on Jimmy Higgins.

First an aside on clarity:

Yes, I believe the promotion of Jimmy Higgins is precisely wrong today. It is to promote many of the worst errors and assumptions of a previous communist movement -- at a time when we can sharply see the need to operate in a profoundly different way.

We need communists who are communists (in a full sense of that word), not hard-working-trade-unionists with a little class revenge in their guts and a thin veneer of goulash socialism in their heads.

JH, in this thread, wrote i had called him "via my namesake, a bobblehead and a knucklehead."

This (as anyone can read) is not true. I was pointing out that the workers trained by the CPUSA lost all communist and revolutionary orientation and science and were REDUCED to bobbleheads. This is obviously not a comment on our poster here on this thread, but an undoubtedly true observation about the movement where "Jimmy Higgins" was a role model.

I wrote that UPHOLDING the symbolic CPUSA Jimmy Higgins today is a "manifesto to knuckleheadedness" -- not that our JH is a knucklehead but that he is promoting that as a model. (It is clear that our JH is not, in fact, a real Jimmy Higgins, but an intellectual of sorts who PROMOTES the symbol of jimmy higgins for others, and for the movement!)

so lets discuss the real, and not argue by putting words in people's mouths.

Anyone who had any contact with the old CP,or who has studied them from history, should be able to see that mindlessness and blind obediance and an absense of scientific critical thinking were a HALLMARK of their party and movement -- and that it was devastating. And the very idea of "Jimmy Higgins," the glorification of "class instinct," the confusion of petty revenge with class consciousness... all of that was exactly wrong and produced a movement that couldn't POSSIBLY overthrow oppression, even if it fuddled its way to some kind of power.

Think about the phrase "the true meaning of labor's struggle." This is intended (and used) by Foster et all as a replacement for, and a fuzzying of, the need for socialism (and communism!) It suggests that labor has a "struggle" (i.e. for unions and better conditions and better labor laws) but that it has (beyond that) a "true meaning" -- which is what? At best a little goulash communism. A welfare state run by union hacks. Imagine for a moment what movies would be like in a society run by its William Fosters, or what the chances would be for real debate and experiment!

Criticizing, understanding and transending all this is a central point of Avakian's new synthesis.

Now let me cut and paste JH's remark on this:

"I am by no means alone on this list in my dismay that more time is spent, by at least an order of magnitude, on debates over the uniqueness and irreplacible nature of Bob Avakian's thinking--debates which never seem to go anywhere and are instead repeated anew in thread after thread--than is spent on the immediate tasks before reds in the US."

Now many of us feel "dismay" over how the debates on Avakian and communist theory have gone... not because they usurpt needed bandwidth from "immediate tasks" (which JH seems to raise as the most important and perhaps only thing worth discussing.)

You can "immediate task" yourself to death... but that too will "never seem to go anywhere" unless a communist core emerges on a qualitatively larger scale, unless a section of people emerge who want a radically different society and have a fresh and materialist vision of what that will be.

Why are the discussions of Avakian's work so frustrating here?

Well, don't claim to speak for everyone JH. My frustration with them is that they are superficial. A chunk of the voices here don't think anyone is "unique and irreplacable" -- they are wedded to ideas of agency that contradict the burning need for a new synthesis. If radical democracy can put the people's needs center stage, then we don't need a synthesis (or a theroy at all!) we just need the structural forms and mechanisms of radical democracy (through which the people will then speak).

so we never really GET TO WRANGLING OVER THAT SYNTHESIS.


I don't think we should be surprised, of course. the discussion of real communist theory always has to wade through a goop of dismissal and distain -- and not just here but in the general culture.

But i do think we should persevere.

Not shunt discussion into "immediate tasks" -- a recipe for pissing away this moment and the very future.

the burningman

Jimmy Higgins rains fire from the mountain with: "Let me make a point regarding this generic blah-blah about escalating street protests and turning dissent to resistence. Sounds dandy, but what the fuck are we actually talking about?"

Indeed, but, etc & caveats:

Sure it sounds dandy, but this has not been the dominant theme coming out of some sections of the antiwar movement... it's why the "movement" part is so often put in scare quotes.

From the lead up to the RNC forward, leading sections of the left have attempted to put a chill on not just determined protest, but any systematic analysis of what is happening here. Whether this was to avoid embarassing (pro-war) candidate John Kerry, or because tactical militancy ran its course without expanding the ranks post-911, or because some people really are Democrats, whatever private networks and vocabularies they deploy day to day.

------

Regarding the January 27 protests in DC: I'll be there, and I'm helping to send buses down. But not just to pack the numbers... oh no.

Spring 2007 is a time to ORGANIZE resistance, not just "attend" events... I'm going down specifically to TALK and STRUGGLE with every single person there to do three things.

1) STOP THE WAR: IMPEACH BUSH FOR WAR CRIMES.
This slogan is specifically about the lacuna of anti-war work. Bush isn't going to stop the war, and the recent placement of surveillance back under FISA is an example of what he will do. Much of the same program, suited to the rule of law – but essentially the same. This is what is meant by opposing the "new normal" and the need for "repudiation."

2) BUILDING FOR A BROAD SUMMIT OF GROUPS & ACTIVISTS FOR IMPEACHMENT
In five or six weeks there will be a "summit" of groups beyond World Can't Wait to politicize this fight, to stop the "wait for 2008" bs before it picks up steam, and develop a "full court press" for impeachment. Fellows like you, Jimmy, can play an important role in making that happen. I know you're not convinced, but perhaps we can engage this a bit more here.

3) FULL COURT PRESS: 2007 is the year to join. Build or create EVERY form of mass organization, working group, network that brings resistance into community and that provides no peace for injustice.

That means build SDS, for example. It means community-based organizations should adopt at least one working group for impeachment, and for public, politcial resistance. It means fostering respect and support for GI resisters. It means letting a hundred flowers bloom, and not just "letting" this happen – but sowing the seeds, while dealing with the weeds of "spontaneous" strategies that plug people back into carrying baggage for the Democrats.

The example JH gave of the Sacramento actions... GREAT! Excellent. More! Seriously. But... more than that, seriously.

March 17? Good. That's enough time for another crack of rolling thunder to hit. The WCW campus teach-ins... support them, spread the word to student activists and radicals to get an event going on their campus. If you don't want to do it behind the WCW banner... then do it anyway!

A diversity of activities, and perspectives, will make us all STRONGER. We aren't (here) just bickering over the orientation of a few activists – but how we engage exactly those millions that are in motion, but not yet resistance.

That's what I really appreciate about what R. John is saying here, and why Jimmy may want to also engage in the discussion about Lenin, politics and pedagogics that I posted last week.

What I despised about the UFPJ/ANSWER turf-fencing is how too often the fight seemed frankly opportunist. Point scoring and jockeying for legitimacy by dueling protest bureaucracies. I still think that...

At the same time, recognize that everybody is in motion – and that we can influence and win each other over to better, more correct positions.

We don't just need to surf the resistance that is coming.

We need the return of the gangster: that is to say, be the vanguard we need, not the barometers we already have.

Jimmy Higgins

Okay, y'all, I'm happy: discussion of the conjuncture, the tasks--and the prospects. Unfortunately, I've a lot on my plate at the moment and my own blog to tend, so please don't think I'm ducking the discussion if my posting here is a bit sparse for the next few days. (And in an aside, burningman has crossposted here an older piece at Fire on the Mountain on the Belgian Party of Labor, which I thus have an obligation to comment on. Aiyah!)

And I pledge that I will defend myself against the truly absurd accusation that I am an intellectual, even if that charge is qualified by r. john to "an intellectual of sorts." I was accused once of being a "proletarian intellectual" but that was clarified by the speaker as meaning that I got up in the morning and THOUGHT about heading in to work...

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