Rules of the road

Kasama

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July 29, 2007

Comments

r. john

zerohour writes: "The language [of 'lockdown'] used here is reminiscent of anti-communism. It invokes images of a monolithic party clamping down on individual thought and relies on old stereotypes and misconceptions about democratic centralism."

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

If you re-read my posts, it is the description of an acutely NON-monolithic party -- where the bulk of cadre are viewed and treated with active suspicion.

That, in itself, is not proof of an incorrect line. And I am not assuming or asserting that those cadre are therefore consolidated around a common, articulated and better opposing line.

friendly observation

Mr. "John" – perhaps you should introduce yourself. There's enough telling tales out of school going on that associating the depth of your reports to an actual personage would be helpful... and principled.

Bonnie Black Hat

On the issue of Bob Avakian’s "irreplacability"…

Each individual communist has a history, a set of individual experiences that makes them unique and not easy to replace. In fact communist are rare in the world today and individually precious. This is no less true of Bob Avakian and in fact he has made some great contributions despite his recent mistakes. As a person with certain a certain history and understanding he cannot be replaced… that is a particularity that can be applied to every human in general.

However, raising him above other communist to the point that it creates the feeling that we cannot develop new people who are skilled in analysis and theory is extremely detrimental. It is the opposite of educating the party in the method of Bob Avakian and instead training them in the recitation of Bob Avakian. This is very religious. In fact if you are taught that you cannot catch up with him then what is the point of trying?

We HAVE to not only catch up with him but if the whole Communist project will ever be successful, we must actually continue to develop Marxism and yes (shock and horror) we must surpass HIM! This is a process that has to continue well into socialism and beyond if Marxism is to remain a science and not a canonized dogma that is worthless in trying to change the world.

Fact is that one of Lenin’s failings was that for some reason or another, and I don’t blame him in the conditions but it was still a short falling, he and the party were unable to train new communist that were able to get deeply into things with the same method that Lenin and Marx had used. It is a sad thing in our history that there was NOT a leader of the caliber of Lenin until Mao.

My point, making Bob Avakian untouchable crushes striving to actually striving to learn to actually apply a Marxist understanding to reality… it makes playing around with ideas in new, innovative and creative ways suspect. Yet, science takes a lot of play. It takes a lot of getting in and getting messy, learning the ideas not just from a textbook but also through application to reality. No progress in science has ever come out of just memorizing the things that have already been discovered.

But then again, new ideas have historically been treated as suspect and subversive. Yet, this is not something that should happen within the culture of a truly Communist party… and if it does then that party is not being very Red.

Beneath the Surface

How does something like Michael Slate's radio show fit into this RCP clamp-down scenario?

srogouski

Speaking of an anti-colonialist resistence not needing an industrial army.

LINK

The Pentagon cannot account for 190,000 AK-47 rifles and pistols given to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, or about half the weapons earmarked for soldiers and police, according to a government report.

You can always steal one.

the dude

R. John, there's something deeply wrong with your methodology that I'm trying to pinpoint here. On the one hand, a lot of what you say has some truth to it, but your negative judgements are completely off.

Take the question of the phrase, "have the humility to be led." Yes it could have the oppressive meaning that you, relying on knee-jerk 1984-esque anti-communism, attribute to it. But that's not what is meant by it.

Take your point about lack of mass bases in Oakland and Watts, and recruitment of ones and twos, which you call a "stunning failure" over the last 35 yrs. While it is true that the P doesn't have mass bases of support anywhere... your conclusion/judgement about failure is completely off again. It seems like I have to make the obvious point that the subjective forces are not responsible for all (or even most) revolutionary shortcomings, no matter how good their theory is. What other revolutionary group has a mass base of support in the ghetto? Yours (I'm asking since your criteria of truth seems to be size of organization)? What other group is recruiting (at ths point in history) the way the bolsheviks recruited on the eve of the revolution, and not in ones and twos. What other group has had success over the last 35 yrs? Do I need to go through the objective difficulties of the last 35 yrs? In fact, you're conclusion should actually be flipped, because the rcp has remarkably persisted and improved itself where other groups taken the low road or (mostly) gotten off the road altogether.

I could go on about your Emma Golmanisms and one-sided negative judgements, but here are a few other questions:Are you on the central commitee of the RIM R. John? How do you know it's on the brink of collapse? Sure seems to have gotten stronger in the recent period with developments in Nepal. Where has the CPN publicly told Bob to butt out? They printed his epistemology article in their most recent journal. So did the RIM. Why the doom and gloom???

the dude

R. John, there's something deeply wrong with your methodology that I'm trying to pinpoint here. On the one hand, a lot of what you say has some truth to it, but your negative judgements are completely off.

Take the question of the phrase, "have the humility to be led." Yes it could have the oppressive meaning that you, relying on knee-jerk 1984-esque anti-communism, attribute to it. But that's not what is meant by it.

Take your point about lack of mass bases in Oakland and Watts, and recruitment of ones and twos, which you call a "stunning failure" over the last 35 yrs. While it is true that the P doesn't have mass bases of support anywhere... your conclusion/judgement about failure is completely off again. It seems like I have to make the obvious point that the subjective forces are not responsible for all (or even most) revolutionary shortcomings, no matter how good their theory is. What other revolutionary group has a mass base of support in the ghetto? Yours (I'm asking since your criteria of truth seems to be size of organization)? What other group is recruiting (at ths point in history) the way the bolsheviks recruited on the eve of the revolution, and not in ones and twos. What other group has had success over the last 35 yrs? Do I need to go through the objective difficulties of the last 35 yrs? In fact, you're conclusion should actually be flipped, because the rcp has remarkably persisted and improved itself where other groups taken the low road or (mostly) gotten off the road altogether.

I could go on about your Emma Golmanisms and one-sided negative judgements, but here are a few other questions:Are you on the central commitee of the RIM R. John? How do you know it's on the brink of collapse? Sure seems to have gotten stronger in the recent period with developments in Nepal. Where has the CPN publicly told Bob to butt out? They printed his epistemology article in their most recent journal. So did the RIM. Why the doom and gloom???

srogouski

What other group has had success over the last 35 yrs?

Well certainly the anarchists who organized the anti-globalist and environmental movements.

Their success in Seattle in 1999 forced the state to roll out new methods of repression in Miami and New York a few years later. And the success of environmentalists in the headwaters protests, for example, forced the state to respond with teh "green scare".

If you read the NYPD's RNC spying papers (whatever you can see that hasn't been redacted) you can see pretty clearly that they're not really worried about the RCP.

the dude

I should've said: What other REVOLUTIONARY group has had success. Besides the anarchists had some success after the "death of communism" post-1991, but they barely exist anymore post-9/11(except through identity politics, lifestyles, and low expectations [see above thread]). As far as headwaters goes, I have to admit I kinda like the right wing position (as seen on pick-up truck bumper stickers): "Against logging, try wiping your ass with a spotted owl!"

the dude

Funny, but not very good politically: "Earth First! We'll log the other planets later"

srogouski

I have to admit I kinda like the right wing position (as seen on pick-up truck bumper stickers): "Against logging, try wiping your ass with a spotted owl!"

Yeah. I saw the same crap when I lived in Southeast Alaska. They used to sell "Spotted Owl Soup" T-shirts at the Ketchikan airport for the senior citizens doing the Inside Passage in their "Golden Years". Har Har Har.

It seems funny when you look at it from New York. It gets tiresome when you're around it all the time.

But the Headwaters protests weren't about spotted owls. They were about S&L money being used to buy up logging companies and blackmail the taxpayers into paying them off by threating to rape the old growth forests.

but they barely exist anymore post-9/11(except through identity politics, lifestyles, and low expectations [see above thread]).

But that's because their initial success forced the state to turn up the repression. OK. They weren't "revolutionary" enough to solve the problem of the increased repression, but, then again, neither is the RCP, World Can't Wait, Not in Our Name, Answer, UFPJ or anybody else.

We're all in the same bad spot.

off the shoulders

Off the shoulders. I don't mean this as an insult but your remarkably imprecise language seems to me that you haven't thought through your arguments.

Take this for example.

There are people in the world who were personally butchered by the soviets who will tell you the world is better off without them.

Do you talk to the dead? Obviously not. But (having grown up in the West) you have a vague emotional sense that communism is bad and that in order to argue about it you have to have the right kind of authenticity (ie be a dead right wing East European). But you don't bring any arguments to the table that back up you points. In fact, you're just factually wrong in two of them.

Take this:

If you really want a succesfull socialist state be honest about what your means will be next time, means that will include slavery and brutality to borrow a Bakunin phrase.

Lenin (and most Marxists) tend to be brutally honest about their intention to use brute force. Have you read Lenin? Anarchists and Libertarians, on the other hand, don't honestly confront what actually existing anarchy (post Communist gangster Russia, the Sudan, Somalia) looks like. And "classical liberals" mostly won in the twentieth century precisely because they could bullshit their way around their own brutality. "The Exile" describes the process pretty well.

http://www.exile.ru/2007-June-29/war_nerd.html

The Brits were the best for all kinds of reasons, but most of all because of the way they handled the propaganda side of colonizing the world. When they had to, they wiped out troublesome tribes all over the map, but instead of rolling home with bloody scalps and gory stories like some dumb Nazi boaster, they soft-pedaled the killing and only talked about their own casualties, even if there were only a handful. They used the press to turn their losses into martyrs on a scale no clumsy Shia amateur could ever manage.

This is also just factually wrong.

The fact is your were bad at the game of civilized rationality and were even worse at anything resembling an egalitarian form of existence.

Did the Sandanistas use death squads or genocide the way the USA's allies did in Central America. Have all Marxists (eg Alende) just acted like carbon copies of the imperaliasts? Has even an authoritarian like Castro used brutality gratuitously?

Why not look at the actual history?


Srogouski its really hard for me to take you seriously when you reduce grievences against the Soviet Union to "rightwing eastern europeans". Beyond this you trot out this nonsense about hatred for communism(and there is contention about what this means ranging from situationist perspectives or a vanguards)being fueled by american living. Quite frankly it doesn't take much to have a philosophical disgust for your kind of communism. Ultimately this stems from this whole comparison of hegeonomies something that as I'm arguing should never have been a topic within revolutionary discourse.

On the issue of state violence I am not talking about revolutionary violence, I'm talking about the day to day violence that ANY state will commit to keep its logic intact. You don't think some anarchists had their own brand of violence(Bakunin for instance). Lenin in his binaried logic will talk about destroying counter revolutionaries he will not talk about violece as such which his state must and indeed did revel in as much as anyother state.

As far as actual existing anarchy as you call it these are things that happen in vacuums after years and years of statist authoritarian logic, the way to handle it is not to create another state which will at best delay the cork poping again. These are issues that an everyday idea of revolution such as Vanegeim describes is better for handling. Besides some of that lawlessness is good for budding teporary autonomous zones.

And finally on 'non-violent' marxist regimes, you are correct that not all acted like the
imperialists though neither does denmark and like denmark these regemes are not the forbringers of modernity either, its the brits, the french and the germans. The only way your type of state can go toe to toe with them is to emulate them which is pricicely what the USSR and China. China is of course on the verge of knocking the US off of its empire status, whether it did this in an egalitarian manner is another question.

srogouski

Srogouski its really hard for me to take you seriously when you reduce grievences against the Soviet Union to "rightwing eastern europeans".

I was talking about your lack of specificity. You phrased it as "people personally butchered by the Soviets". How can *I* take someone seriously who uses language that badly. If you want to be more specific than the zombie anti-communists, by all means do so. Until then, your agument just looks like generic anti-communism.

As far as actual existing anarchy as you call it these are things that happen in vacuums after years and years of statist authoritarian logic,

You mean like the way the Great Leap Foward happened in a vacuum in a country that never had opium wars? You mean the way Stalin happened in a vaccum? You mean the way the Cuban revolution happened in a vacuum that didn't include the American embargo?

Besides some of that lawlessness is good for budding teporary autonomous zones.

You're playing fast and loose with your own logic. On one hand, capitalism has the advantage because of the weight of history. On the other hand, "autonomous zones" exist in a vacuum without Islamic fundamentalism or gangers or warlords.

China is of course on the verge of knocking the US off of its empire status, whether it did this in an egalitarian manner is another question.

I wouldn't be so hystical about the Chinese. The US has been shooting itself in the foot over the past few years but the Chinese don't have a navy and they have fewer nukes than Israel does. The assumption that economic/imperial power can exist without a military to enforce it just ignores history. The United States, the British, every other imperial power built its wealth on state and military power. The Chinese aren't anywhere near being able to project their power outside of their immediate vicinity.

off the shoulders

Zerohour

"So anarchism cannot overcome any of its political opponents or the social conditioning of the population? What use is it other than to provide condescending liberalism with a radical veneer, not to mention keeping Doc Marten in business?"

Well the 1st thing that needs to be adressed is wheter social conditioning has a primary source, the fact is those people who end up in those specialized roles of of controlling the information airways are themselves a product of the social conditioning of the day. The fact of the matter is your opponents are everyday people(proles included)as much as they are the central state specialists. When you understand this it forces you to put things in perspective a bit more.

"As far as political aims go, perhaps your abandonment of oppressive Enlightenment rationality has prevented you from seeing that you are just re-hashing an old argument: revolution hasn't happened yet so it will never happen. I'd recommend that you put away Lyotard and pick up Fukuyama - you might feel a sense of familiarity."

Contrary to what you think I do think the revolution is possible and has happened to a certain degree if again we look at places like Barcelona or Chiapas. The latter example shows how after a state aperatus has been destroyed you can disperse to a localist subisistance based agency. Its not perfect but it broadly shows what should be done and is possible on a larger scale. As for Fukuyama he bought in to the western idea of hisory like everybody else. The fact is outside of a multiplicity of contexts there is no primary capital H history. It never began in the 1st place.

srogouski

Contrary to what you think I do think the revolution is possible and has happened to a certain degree if again we look at places like Barcelona or Chiapas.

This is an area where you can't generalize.

Sure Chiapas (and maybe the Ogoni in Nigeria) are one thing.

What happened in Afghanistan? What's happening in the Sudan.

Look to your own theory of history. The weight of history militates against any egalitarian or liberating solution.

How can you deal with Islamic fundamentalists or warlords or drug gangs without a state army?

Now you could say that this is just imperialism in another form. But is it? What would happen to an anarchist feminist collective just outside of Kandahar if they weren't armed?

srogouski

The fact is outside of a multiplicity of contexts there is no primary capital H history. It never began in the 1st place.

You totally contradict yourself above.

As Foucault pointed this will always put your kind of states at a disadvantage(with the retoric of a classless society and all) In practice it does give it a go however. If you really want a succesfull socialist state be honest about what your means will be next time, means that will include slavery and brutality to borrow a Bakunin phrase.

Above you're saying history always works one way. Now you're saying there's no such thing as history.

And don't try to say it's "human nature" that works outside of and seperate from history. Human nature means nothing without an interaction with history.

Bonnie Black Hat

srogouski,

Lack of any other group having success over the last 35 years is just an excuse. Their failure should not be the standard by which we judge an organization. The standard has to be their political line and if it is correct or not. An incorrect line leads to incorrect practice and failure to be able to meet the goals that you set.

Fact is that if you are accurately assessing the situation then you should be able to move forward, not backward although it is true that nature and history proceeds in a wave like motion.

Now in talking about democratic centralism, it should not be everyone saying the same thing and acting in the same way. Democratic centralism is supposed to allow for wide and varied debate inside the organization and a great deal of personal freedom in express while at the same time having the unified will to act together when the situation arises. This is not my experience around the RCP as of late. In fact the only open debate as of recent happened OUTSIDE the party when there was the online discussion of the Draft Programme.

I do not think that r. johns comments are one-sided at all. In fact they appear to me to be extremely accurate. However, right now I have to run but I want to address this more later.

Christopher Day

Okay, so lets talk about Chiapas and Barcelona. It seems to me that what these events have in common is that in both cases the failure or inability to deal with the necessity of taking state power prevented heroic revolutionary initiatives from moving forward or consolidating their gains.

In the case of Barcelona, the CNT found itself in de facto possession of state power after its militias defeated the fascists. The CNT leadership was literally offered the keys to the government. But being good anarchists they turned it down. The problem of course is that states aren't just things that can be "smashed." They are expressions of the existing social relations. And since these persisted, it took very little time for the bourgeois state to reconstitute itself (with the Communist Party taking a leading role) and then to impose its logic on the situation, effectively strangling the revolution before collapsing itself before the fascist onslaught.

The failure of the Spanish anarchists to grasp the social reality they lived in and the fact that if they didn't take the reigns of the state that whoever did would crush them condemned the people of Spain to 40 years of fascist terror.

Chiapas presents a different situation. The EZLN were not, unlike the CNT, unaware of the importance of state power, but rather were presented with a situation in which they quite simply did not have anything like the forces needed to take it. A close reading of their early documents, especially the First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle reveals that it was very much their intention to take power. Unable to do so, but having established conditions of dual power in much of Eastern Chiapas they embraced a contradictory strategy of continuing a revolutionary process within the areas of their control while attempting to advance an agenda of radical constitutional reforms, particularly around the question of indigenous autonomy, on the national level. Understood in this manner, the Zapatistas supposed "anti-statism" is not really the anarchist position that many of their international sympathizer imagine, but rather a condition of a certain (unstable) modus vivendi with the Mexican state. The Zaps were permitted to conduct their social experiment in the hinterlands (with much interference by paramilitaries to be sure) in exchange for a renunciation of ambitions for the armed seizure of power. In this manner they skillfully put off a final reckoning with the Mexican state, but the contradictions have not gone away. After the collapse of their reformist agenda following the Marcha in 2001 they retreated into building up their own capacities via the Juntas, but its become increasingly clear that, in the face of counterinsurgency efforts that have peeled away many of their supporters with development assistance that international solidarity efforts can not match (again the question of state power is in play), this strategy is not viable in the long run. The Sexta and the Otra is an attempt to break out of this logic. Marcos is talking a lot more these days about the need for a national uprising and the like. Should this move beyond talk, the Zapatistas will be presented with the same inescapable logic that confronted not just the CNT in Barcelona, but Zapata and Villa after they marched into Mexico City back in the day. Namely, when you find power laying in the street, if you don't pick it up someone else will and they will then use it to come to crush you.

Anarchists tend to fixate on moments of dual power like Barcelona and Chiapas without facing up to their fundamental instability and the question of what follows them. Dual power doesn't last forever. In most cases it doesn't last very long at all. Every communist revolution has also involved a phase of dual power. The difference being that the communists understood the need to keep moving forward, to defeat the remnants of the old state and to take responsibility for the reorganization of society in a hostile world environment that requires the use of the capacity for organized violence that is the essence of the state. The results of these efforts have been decidedly mixed to say the least, but the idea that one can simply leap over this transitional period has no grounds in historical experience as the outcome of the events in Barcelona clearly demonstrates, and as an honest assessment of the pickle that the Zapatistas are in should as well.

zerohour

"The fact of the matter is your opponents are everyday people(proles included)as much as they are the central state specialists." Are you equating a store clerk, waitress, bank teller or college professor with Dick Cheney? The problem with the lazy reading of Foucault's dispersal of power is it fails to see how power coalesces into certain forms with varying amounts of influence, with the state being at the pinnacle. It's as absurd as saying that atoms exist while denying the existence of human bodies or planets.

Your examples of Barcelona and Chiapas reflect the problem with the "temporary autonomous zone" approach to anarchism which effectively DOES deny revolution. You say" The latter example [Chiapas - zh] shows how after a state aperatus has been destroyed you can disperse to a localist subisistance based agency." How interesting that you do not state the obvious lesson form the first example, Barcelona in which the anarchists got crushed and Spanish fascism was able to fully consolidate: anarchism cannot face serious opposition. When looking at Chiapas, one should keep the lessons of Spain in mind. Outside of Chiapas, the state very much does exist and as long as it does, Chiapas is under constant threat. Talk about "overthrowing the state" when it's right outside one's door leads to a dangerous and often fatal misunderstanding of the real, not theoretical, relations of power. Whyt the TAZ approach to anarchism will never be taken up by the majority of humanity should be obvious: who can afford to risk their lives for "temporary" liberation? Revolution is a a bloody process [Mao summed it up pretty succinctly] and anyone who undertakes it should not do so without some idea of lasting continuity. But you've already declared the majority so you're already expecting a wholesale rejection. This once again confirms my point about anarchist dogmatism: when theory and reality collide, theory must be preserved. When people reject your way of thinking, they are "the enemy" because your theory must be right.

As for the lesson from Chiapas, no one has denied this. The more pressing challenge is how they will maintain their existence and integrity over the long-term. Will they be able to continue living by principles of decentralization while resisting the state? Unless the Chiapas rebellion becomes nation-wide, the Mexican state has time on its side. Either way, it's too soon to tell, so why rush it?

Chuck Morse

I’ve been having a good time watching people tear apart the RCP. It will be ever more fun when you start asking why it became a nutty, irrelevant sect and what relationship that has to Maoism as a whole.

But, Chris, there are some falsehoods in your post that deserve to be corrected.

First, it is absurd to claim that the Spanish anarchists were responsible for the rise of Franco. (And the anarchists were never “offered the keys to the government” and Barcelona is a city not a state).

Second, Communist seizure of power has always led to the destruction of the social radicalism that made their coup(s) possible.

Third, it is no longer possible to transform an economy (or a society) by seizing state power.

Finally, the Zapatistas are not Maoists and have been relevant only to the extent that they have broken with Maoism.

JB

Well, I guess that settles it.

lol

JB

Responding to Chuck Morse, who for those unfamiliar is an expert on the events in Spain, and has recently translated the writings of the Spanish Civil War hero Durruti into English.

"it is absurd to claim that the Spanish anarchists were responsible for the rise of Franco."

Uh, no it's not. There was blame to go around, and if the best the anarchists ever had it (and, I suspect ever will) resulted in a 40-year fascist reign because of their inability to put their fact on the ground – it has to be dealt with, whatever the issues with the Spanish "CP" (and the Soviet assistance to the Loyalists).

"It is no longer possible to transform an economy (or a society) by seizing state power."

Right, that's the why the bourgeoisie is so uninterested in state power... because it is "now" irrelevant. Thank you... Thomas Friedman.

"Communist seizure of power has always led to the destruction of the social radicalism that made their coup(s) possible."

Sure. Tell it to the Romanovs, or better, why don't you bother to even read the Chinese marriage reform laws, discuss the land reform of China, deal with the end of open White Supremacy as du jour world system of government or... oh, you don't even care. That's all jibber jabber, history and stuff.

"the Zapatistas are not Maoists and have been relevant only to the extent that they have broken with Maoism"

The EZ didn't break with "Maoism," and from what I've read of theirs, they never engaged it, in theory or practice. They broke with "foco" theory and Guevarism, which was always profoundly at odds with the People's War theory advanced by Mao, and placed a detached military (and putchist) vanguard as the active force. That statement says a lot more about what matters to you, Chuck, as an anarchist ideologue and a lot less about what actually matters (in other words, what actually happens.

The monolith is in your head.

Chuck Morse

Jed, to say (as you do) that “there was blame to go around” in the Spanish Civil War is very different from saying (as Chris does) that the anarchists “condemned the people of Spain to 40 years of fascist terror.” In any case, even a cursory look at the historical record will make it clear that Franco would have seized the country within twenty-four hours if not for the anarchist resistance and that the Communists played a decisively reactionary role.

Likewise, I am arguing that the Leninist strategy for transforming society is no longer relevant on its own terms. I did not say that the state is irrelevant, just that it is not sufficient (unless you want to make a new North Korea). This is a material consequence of the interdependence of the global economy (and, as an aside, the RCP's failure to confront this is one of the reasons why it is so nutty).

Something Rotten

In totally unrelated matters: Off the Shoulders – you clearly know nothing about Denmark.

JB

I'd argue that Franco played the "decisive" reactionary role... call me old-fashioned.

I'd argue the Spanish CP was neither a proletarian, nor a revolutionary organization and that it was hobbled by the enforced Popular Front politics of the period that subordinated the revolutionary imperative to "defense" of the Soviet Union.

I'd argue further, that through the defeat of fascism in most of Europe, the greatest gains in human history occurred in rapid succession across the earth, both in terms of socialist revolutions, anti-colonialism, welfare state and democratic reforms even in those countries where the communists didn't come to power.

The anarchists of Spain were the revolutionary party, with decades of solid work building a mass movement in both the countryside and Barcelona, were unable to act in such a way to realize their potential.

I'd further argue that while the successes and failures of communism have been manifold, with anarchism they are remarkably similar despite time or place.

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