Letter in reference to 'End Notes' in Fall 2017 issue of NYC journal 'n+1'

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Vince
Letter in reference to 'End Notes' in Fall 2017 issue of NYC journal 'n+1'
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In response to a lengthy critique of the ultra-left theoretical journal End Notes by Tim Barker in its previous issue, this letter appeared in the Fall 2017, issue #29 of the New York City journal n+1:

DEAR EDITORS,

There was a factual error in your review (“The Bleak Left,” Issue 28) of the ultraleft journal Endnotes. The ultraleft theorist Gilles Dauvé was not involved in the journal Invariance. Since the 1970s, Dauvé has been involved in publications ranging from Le Mouvement Communiste and Mordicus to Troploin. Jacques Camatte was one of the main authors of Invariance and there is a world of difference between Dauvé’s perspectives and those of Camatte. A wrong answer on something as crucial as this could get you bounced out of the final round on Jeopardy.

Regarding Endnotes: my understanding is that after Marx died, Engels reminisced that when the two began their partnership as young men, they resolved to write all their works at a level that would be readily comprehensible to persons of average intelligence and educational level. Anything other than this they regarded as being irrelevant to the real movement to abolish existing conditions. A set of theories that can contribute to a liberatory downfall of the global market order must emerge from ongoing involvement in public action that has some potential to generate this. It must try to suggest practical strategies and tactics of use to nonacademic working people. It has to grow and adapt as it engages with the complex, contradictory reality outside a theorist’s comfort zone. This does not take place in Endnotes.

It is difficult to imagine anyone who doesn’t have a doctorate in advanced Marxoid studies reading Endnotes. It is even more difficult to see how its insights can be put to use. If transit-system operators, transit-system riders, supermarket cashiers, and enlisted people in the armed forces will never encounter Endnotes, then in real-world subversive terms, Endnotes does not exist. Pessimism about the possibility of global revolutionary change is understandable, but the specific kind of pessimism exhibited in Endnotes is consistent with its subjectively insurrectionary authors’ lack of a credible will to act on what they believe — outside a cosseted academic echo chamber, in contexts where they can be taken seriously by friend and foe alike.

For all its undoubted brilliance, Endnotes inadvertently proves that there is an impermeable firewall separating all college Marxist theory, no matter how subjectively radical, from life outside academia. What happens within the precincts of the bourgeois academy stays there. Ongoing collective action against what capitalism does to our lives has never been more necessary, and the conditions that give rise to it in the United States grow more promising by the day. If a body of supposed revolutionary theory does not contribute to mass collective resistance to capitalism however, this theory adds up to nothing.

Kevin Keating

Non ex hoc mundi
Activism

Marx once infamously described the role of philosophers as an activist role. The purpose of thinking critically, he said, was to change the world, to affect it. This and the rest of his ideology, which of course has become known broadly as Marxism today, has failed in its goal of communism-- but it has changed the world, and capitalism, for the better. And the real purpose and value in critical inquiry is the simple act of the query itself. Circular argumentation is a cancer and the only real and useful "intelligence" within Marxism originates soley with the info gleaned from those "outsiders" who interact with the theories.

No individual or organization can correctly be called "revolutionary" today. There's no revolution anywhere to be found. There's barely class struggle on the collective level; there's certainly none on a massive scale.

No amount of clever propaganda will suddenly trigger a total cessation of capitalist production. No program, no matter how minimalist or maximal, can end domestication and capital. The most likely coup de grace at this point seems relate to the depletion of some critical resource(s). As the nihilism of various communists have pointed out, we are set the problem of becoming butterflies without ever having a proper caccoon. We need global communist consciousness now, yesterday, in fact.

I don't consider myself a councililst nor do I fetishize spontaneous forms of syndicalist "class action". But whatever deus ex machina ends up as potentially the catalyst for the downfall of capitalism, or perhaps civilization itself, would be more thoroughly and effectively understood and utilized by proletarians in the span of 5 minutes versus the whole two-hundred year history of Marxism.

"The philosopher must always present what is not the case, and in so doing attempt to break the constant tendency towards 'praxis'."

Vince
Your perspectives has no

Your perspectives has no practical component, and it leads nowhere.

Thank you -- next!

 

Non ex hoc mundi
Going nowhere

You're making desperate pleas for collaboration on the ICC's obscure and rarely visited Internet forum and I'm not sure you're qualified to say what leads places and what doesn't. Your "practical component" you reference has a long, flagrant history of helping to establish a highly centralized and authoritarian State, kill workers and help usher in a way more efficient form of capitalist production and exploitation. I'd much rather be nowhere than the place authoritarian socialists like yourself want to take us.

Vince
Hi, I don't want to be too

Hi,

I don't want to be too antagonistic right off the bat -- there's plenty of time for that later!

You can be the judge of how pro-state and pro-exploitation these efforts are:

SMALL EFFORTS TO ENCOURAGE WORKING CLASS RESISTANCE TO CAPITALISM IN TODAY'S UNITED STATES.

Since the early 1990's, actions in the San Francisco Bay Area around mass transit, described here,

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/love2.html

The initial impetus behind this,

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/muni_social_strikeout.html

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/muni_farestrike.html

The efforts to disseminate this among US military personnel,

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/love3.html

and the anti-gentrification Mission Yuppie Eradication Project

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/myep_criticism.html

have been elements in an ongoing effort to establish a new kind of anti-state/anti-market, autonomous class struggle praxis among mainstream working people in the contemporary United States.

1. These efforts take place "on the terrain of everyday life" of the wage-earning class, where we confront what market relations do to our lives, and where the market system's antagonism to human needs gives rise to the possibility of an organized, conscious, mass collective response. These efforts have not been directed towards the left-liberal protest ghetto, or toward academic, anarchist or self-styled Marxist subcultures.

2. Mass collective class struggle includes the fight against the boss in the workplace, but is not limited to the workplace.

3. The methods used to help create a new politics of working class resistance to capital and it's political apparatus have to be qualitatively different from the politics of the left. In all its statist, populist and directly democratic flavors the left is simply the left-wing of capital.

4. Authentic enemies of capitalism in the 21st century cannot use strategies, tactics or communication methods used by pro-wage labor leftists in the 20th century.

5. The armed forces are themselves vulnerable to social forces at work in the larger society that spawns them. Revolt in civilian society bleeds through the apparent hermetic separation of the military from mainstream civilian life into the ranks of enlisted people. The relationship between officers and enlisted people mirrors the relationship between bosses and employees, and similar dynamics of class conflict emerge in the military and civilian versions of the workplace.

6. With the virtual disappearance of the conventional left, and the accelerating decline of the United States as a world power, the way is now open for the creation of a new type of autonomous working class oppositional praxis. We can borrow from the best insights of authentic revolutionary working class tendencies in the past. We can use these insights as a point of departure, but not as an end-point. Anarcho-syndicalism and council communism were both useful in their day. That day has passed. Everything has to be recreated fom scratch.

Efforts like the ones around mass transit described in the articles above have a much greater future subversive potential than the Mission District anti-gentrification efforts of the late 1990's. They have the potential to directly involve a larger number of working people over an entire urban area, and under the right circumstances these actions can also have a "bleed-through" effect, spreading resistance in other areas of contemporary life.

What's being examined here is mostly a method of communication. These methods can be a template for similar anti-state/anti-capitalist proletarian actions elsewhere, including but not limited to fights around housing, social space and against austerity measures targeting employees and passengers of mass transit systems.

[email protected]

Vince
The efforts described here

The efforts described here can be easily reproduced, and with a little luck, greatly improved on.

I was in London for five weeks 17 years ago.  I met more people with advanced communist politics there than I've encountered everywhere else I've been, before or since.  But all they seemed capable of doing was sitting on their hands moaning that the working class has forgotten its historical task. There was a shared lack of energy and a total lack of any capacity for initiative.

The London underground would be an ideal place to apply efforts like the ones asserted in the past in the San Francisco Bay Area's BART and in San Francisco's MUNI public transit systems, examined in the links above. Use these efforts and attendent leaflets, posters and other communications methods as a template.

Aggressive agitation and propaganda among transit system employees, and, as the opportunities present themselves, among tube riders, over a long term period -- five, ten, twenty years -- could have some kind of major unexpected positive results. High public visibilty and staying power are the key to potential subversive effectiveness. The exploiter class can spatially deconcentrate many or most workplaces, but they cannot do without mass transit. Low wage working people are not going to quit riding the tube and just take Lyft instead. The tube can be the Putilov metalworks of the 21st century.  Think big.  Be visionary.  Today the tube -- tomorrow the world...

[email protected]

Non ex hoc mundi
Mr. Selkirk (or whatever

Mr. Selkirk (or whatever other alias you're using now)

It's pathetic you think this idea and others like it will somehow magically become the deus ex machina that brings down capitalism. You complain about Marxist dogma and proceed to spew your own dogmatic mess. It's straight up delusional. Wake up and smell the hummus you seem capable.

Vince
So, what's your alternative.

So, what's your alternative.  Let me guess: zip, zed, ningun, nada.  Nothing.

Those that can, do, and those that can't are apparently you.

Vince
A long-term agitprop effort

A long-term agitprop effort among London tube employees, akin to what's described here:

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/love2.html

Extending to tube riders as the opportunities present themselves, and avoiding the pitfalls the effort must inevitably encounter when leftist dolts glom onto the effort, as described here...

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/muni_social_strikeout.html

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/muni_farestrike.html

...can, under some fortunate confluence of circumstances that are impossible to predict, take off in an unprecedented big way.  

There are more than enough people in London who are acquainted with advanced communist politics to get an effort like this going, and sustain it over a long period of time.  

In London the tube is definitely the way to go.

 

Non ex hoc mundi
Re: alternatives

Those like me have no concerns about alternatives to the usual; about who is doing what and how. There will always be dilettantes and activists to fill these roles.

I understand perfectly well how all shit in this reality continues irrelevant to and outside of my own individual power or efforts -- and there's nothing I can do to change this fact -- Mr. Original here seems to consider themselves above this type of mentality, which is unfortunate. Communism cannot and will not emerge from you or anything you end up doing, pal.

Our tasks as communists in this period is not to "affirm" the agendas of the Marxist organizations, but instead to "query" them at every given opportunity.

Vince
Since you so obviously have

Since you so obviously have nothing to say, you can now refrain from saying anything more.  Go find another inline sandbox to play in.

Vince
"inline" should be "online."

"inline" should be "online."  Sorry about that.

Vince
The fact that there are as

The fact that there are as many individuals in London who claim some sort of alleigance to revolutionary class struggle perspectives should make what I've suggested extremely possible among tube workers of the London undergroud -- and, under the right confluence of circumstances, extremely fruitful as well.

Again, see the links referred to above for style models of leaflets, stickers, posters, and how to start at the center and work your way outwards.

Examination of some of the pitfalls seen here can be of use as well:

https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/01/11/18729952.php

Alf
Linc: are you familiar with

Linc: are you familiar with the London tube workers' experience described here?https://libcom.org/library/workmates-direct-action-workplace-organising-london-underground

By the way, there is a comrade who already posts here as Link, albeit with a 'k'; so to avoid confusion it might be better if you changed your name....

Vince
Hi Alf, I haven't seen that

Hi Alf,

I haven't seen that London tube worker's direct action workplace organzing article before, thanks for it.

Also, I'll go for your suggestion about changing my handle to avoid confusion.

Non ex hoc mundi
D E L U S I O N

Just one more subway strike until the revolution, comrades!

Vince
"Though cowards flinch and

"Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer..."

Non ex hoc mundi
Lookout for the badass

So because I think flyering the bus drivers at UC Berkeley is stupid I'm a traitor and coward.

I've read your accounts of your activism -- over a year ago now. It utterly failed -- by your own fucking standards. You didn't move anyone closer to communism (not that anyone can), especially from the supposedly unidentifiable, indistinguishable, uniform mass of people which you all refer to in one breathe as "the class" -- it's ridiculous.

P U R E D E L U S I O N

Vince
Does anyone with something

Does anyone with something worthwhile to say care to comment?

Demogorgon
Tone

I have nothing substantive to say on the topic, but I would encourage those who do to keep it civil. Calling someone a traitor because they disagree with your very specific prescription for the class struggle isn't going to get you very far. Similarly, calling someone delusional before you've really engaged with the substance of their arguments won't get you very far either and simply provoke them to respond in kind.

We all sometimes get frustrated in discussions, but it's a bit disheartening to see it happen in less than 20 posts.

petey
thank you demogorgon. i've

thank you demogorgon.

i've long wondered at the venom i see in posting in our milieu. i prize the discussion here b/c it's civil. we are few and I'd think comity was the way forward.

BD
The problem on this thread

The problem on this thread isn't that eveybody isn't being equally polite to each other, but that one poster has nothing to say about the substantive proposals of another, and insists on repeatedly saying it.  

 

Non ex hoc mundi
Slusha

The sheer amount of times this conversation has happened on these forums, and others, with the ICC and its comrades would be comedic if it were not so tragic.

I wish no ill towards anyone here. I do not even advocate for anyone, Vince included, to cease their activity or anything else.

The problem I have is with the incessant need of Marxist communists to "other" those like me (anti-authoritarian communists) for pointing out something you all know is true; for certain there is no question over “what to do” in this moment. But talking never hurt. Nor is there any “revolutionary movement” which one can participate in. Our task right now is to make as many inquiries as possible, and to interact first and foremost with that which the Marxists and anarchists disregard.

jk1921
The venom is not limited to

The venom is not limited to the milieu, it is an increasingly pernicious phenomenon of daily life in decomposing captialism, where the possibility for fruitful discussion and the exchange of ideas is constantly diminishing, replaced by the clash between hardheaded idealogues, who can't even agree with one another about the color of the sky. It is something the bourgeois media constantly feeds and plays up, even as it professes lament at the situation. Still, there are times when there really is a "clash of absolutes" between which no compromise or exchnage is possible and different people/groups/tendencies, etc. will have different notions about where this line is located. Nevertheless, there does seem to be some specific cultural issues affecting the milieu where many issues on which there might be a possibility of development are never explored, because a clash of absolutes is assumed from the start. Part of this is trauma from the past, part of it is the idiosyncracies of individual personalites, but it is an problem that although there is not an easily apparent answer, needs to be confronted.

BD
Now that the Emily Post stuff

Now that the Emily Post stuff is out of the way, back to the issue at hand:

Anyone who might be planning to act on the more susbstantive aspects of what's suggested in this thread, among contemporary working people, in the real world, is invited to comment at length.

MH
and the issue at hand is?

BD wrote:

Now that the Emily Post stuff is out of the way, back to the issue at hand:

Anyone who might be planning to act on the more susbstantive aspects of what's suggested in this thread, among contemporary working people, in the real world, is invited to comment at length.

Hm, interesting. Personally I thought jk made some very valid and pertinent points about the state of discussion in the proletarian milieu, but apparently this is all just a matter of "proper etiquette and manners" (I had to google Emily Post, sorry, I'm English).

Surely "the issue in hand" should at least involve discussing the objective conditions for workers' struggles and the role of revolutionaries in this unprecedented historical period of capitalism? Or have I just rudely interrupted a private conversation? Pardon my manners.

 

 

BD
Yes, your second paragraph is

Yes, your second paragraph is somewhat to the point here.  

 

Demogorgon
MH wrote:Surely "the issue in

MH wrote:
Surely "the issue in hand" should at least involve discussing the objective conditions for workers' struggles and the role of revolutionaries in this unprecedented historical period of capitalism?

Of which the capacity for revolutionaries to discuss with each in a comradely fashion is certainly an element. This links with both the history of the communist left (and the workers movement in general) as well as the general condition of society today, as JK eloquently observes.

The inability to discuss has been a weight on the communist movement and the wider class since the 70s and is surely both a cause and a symptom of the failure of the workers' struggles of that epoch to radicalise. Today, the poisonous results are obvious for all to see - a supine working class struggling to even recognise its own existence and a revolutionary milieu slowly staggering towards extinction.

We ignore questions of discussion at our peril. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is probably the pre-eminent question of our age.

BD
You are predicably going in

You are predicably going in circles -- and very small circles at that.  This is characteristic of life in a Planck-scale ideological echo chamber.  

Try to say something of substance about the uselessness of supposed revolutionary theories that are militantly invisible to the entire wage-earning class, the real world efforts examined and critiqued in the links above that follow -- and more importantly, the suggestion that these real world efforts be followed up on, improved upon and surpassed in the near future in a context of the London underground by self-styled "revolutionaries" in London.  

A person repetitively regurgitating fiery sentiments in the safe spaces an internet discussion board is not a "revolutionary;" they are a person voicing some opinions on an internet discussion board, and for the most part chanting mantras at that. For a person to be taken seriously as an enemy of the social order they would have to be involved in a very specific kind of ongoing action in the real world, action that is relevant to contemporary living and breathing exploited people.  A measure of real world credibility is that your actions are visible in the world at large and get taken seriously by friend and foe alike. And when your efforts have been going nowhere for a long time, you have to retool.  I see no evidence of present or past experiences of involvement in anything like this among people posting here.

Non ex hoc mundi had nothing to say, kept saying it, and kept saying it poorly.  Responses like that aren't credible and with repetition they merit sarcastic harpooning. And that's the last I'm saying about that.

Try to say something clear and concise about your lived experiences trying to assert what you claim to be about in the corporeal reality around us, instead of repetitively detouring into the burning issue of how internet discussion board "revolutionaries" can have a more pleasant time fingering each other's belly button lint.

jk1921
What the heck is going on in

What the heck is going on in this thread? Linc/Vince/BD's aggressive denunciation of others as "traitors" and "not real revolutionaries," along with his general sense of self-superiority about acting in the "real world," while others supposedly merely discuss online is surely not helpful to any recovery of a productive culture in the milieu. He has no idea idea what others on this thread do in the "real world" (or elsewhere), but beyond that such a methaphysical seperation between real world actions and online discussion reflect all kinds of activist confusions that fundamentally misunderstand the tasks before revolutionaries today--at the top of the list being to repair trust and confidence in the milieu and establish a culture that understands the necessity of open discussion and debates. The kind of recriminations, toxic confrontation and sneering seen in this thread will get us nowhere. Meanwhile, NEHM continues to evidence a troubling persecution complex where in the middle of an argument with some unknown element, he finds a way to take a shot at Marxists broadly for "constantly" "othering" him. Surely, this is a gross exaggeration, but what does it even mean--other than being a buzzword borrowed from bourgeois leftism?  It is precisely this kind of troubled culture that we need fix, even if threads like this suggestion it will be far from easy.

BD
"traitors" : this line from

"Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer..." : this line from an old song was offered in an appropriate context, as any functional adult who operates in the real world -- and not just in a hermitically sealed ideological echo chamber -- would be capable of grasping.

"...He has no idea idea what others on this thread do in the "real world"..."  

Got that right -- big time!  

And eight billion-plus others don't, either.  You've got all the space in the world to remedy that here. My extrasensory perception skills are mighty rusty, so I am afraid we will have to make do with the written word.

Be my guest.  Please take all the space you need. And I sincerely hope you will be persuasive as hell.  I'd rather not be forced to apply principles akin to reverse-engineering based on what I'm seeing here so far.

A friendly suggestion: try to use clear contemporary language, not secret-handshakes-at-the-Masonic-Lodge-lingo.  It may work better than you think.

Non ex hoc mundi
Blaming what's happening here

Blaming what's happening here on "venom" seems like a distraction.

Don't know about you all, but life for me is a mess -- a true struggle. It's a bit like that movie "I, Daniel Blake" for me, except their is rarely any merciful coup de grace at the end of a long week. What I do here and other places -- talk about communism -- it's just some obsession I have: just like you all.

We're not revolutionaries. There's no revolution! We're militants and ex-militants -- fundamentalists, obsessionists.

There's plenty of space for fruitful discussion and it happens all around us. I participate in some in other places. A few times a year this happens in the flesh and sometimes builds good relationships. Mostly in one on one correspondences online and occasionally on the more traditional social media sites.

But as I keep insisting, and as the postmodernists have already made very clear, Marxism, in it's lack (or rejection) of the cultural, the symbolic, the semiotic explanations of everyday life today, fails at many different levels. I'm not persecuting anyone. Marxism does not extend to the period we're in and no one has really continued Marx's work -- they've only botched it more and more. I don't understand why for jk and others considering non-Marxist theories is bourgeois leftism? I can think for myself and sort out what ideas I like. How about you? Reading whoever used the term "othered" and borrowing it (Hegel? Sartre? Lacan? Laing? Said?) does not make me a bourgeois leftist. What perhaps needs to happen today is to lay out all these recent philosophic and economic developments, bourgeois or not, and level a critique of the direction capital/mass society is headed in. This is what Marx did, right?

I sympathize a lot with what jk and others are saying. MH is correct to highlight the need to discuss "objective conditions"; for me the biggest ones are ecological. MH also mentions the role of revolutionaries and the "unprecedented"-ness of the current "period". These are all important questions, I think.

I know for sure people like BD and Vince will always be organizing their strikes and other activist functions. There's nothing wrong with it. It's possible their movement could win meaningful reforms -- healthcare, wages/UBI, green capitalism, etc.

But I guess I'm just too hardcore of a maximalist to care about these programs and this type of crap.

Looking at history, Marxists are the most efficient capitalists. They're called in to fix the economy and have their revolution when the bourgeoisie's exploitation gets too out of hand and wrecks the whole thing. This explains Podemos, Syriza, JC, Bernie, and even right wing populists like Bannon who calls himself a Leninist. Does that make him a commie, jk? Haha.

In response to MH -- the role of revolutionaries is to subvert. Where people want to act, we must stop them and have them reflect. Where people want to attack us we have to dodge, parry, run away. Fighting and going to war is not going to win us communism. Marxist revolutions are aces in the pocket of the bourgeoisie.

LBird
'Matter' produces 'venom'

Non ex hoc mundi wrote:
In response to MH -- the role of revolutionaries is to subvert. Where people want to act, we must stop them and have them reflect.
[my bold]

Yeah, Marx's revolutionary, subversive scientific method is 'theory and practice'. This requires conscious, critical thought, prior to any 'act'. 

However, this is the exact opposite to that of the 'materialists' (who follow Engels, not Marx), who argue that the correct method is 'practice and theory', in that order. That is, that 'doing stuff', merely 'being active', and not clarifying our interests, needs and purposes before we move 'to act', will somehow produce the requisite 'consciousness' in the wider class.

This whole issue should be an important point of revolutionary discussion, since the Engelsist Materialist method of 'practice and theory' has consistently and completely failed over the last 130 years to produce 'class consciousness' (as opposed to an elite 'party consciousness'). But these arguments are always met with intense hatred and personal (more than political) abuse, by the 'materialists', because Marx's arguments are fundamentally democratic, and the 'materialists' wish to believe that they alone have a 'special access' to 'reality', and so that they alone can provide the requisite 'consciousness' and thus leadership to an essentially passive proletariat.

Of course, as we have seen over numerous threads, I can back up my claims by quotes from Marx, who argues that we create our objects - that is, that 'objective reality' is our social product, and that's why we can change 'objective reality'.

There is no 'objective reality' out there, which will produce 'consciousness' within workers, and so we can supposedly be sure that 'The Real World' will eventually itself produce the 'material conditions' for communism.

Any 'objective reality' is a socially produced 'objective-for-us'. And if the bourgeoisie build that 'objective reality', the 'Real World' we all live in will remain 'Objective-For-Them', and so a world working to their design.

The problem for the 'materialists', is that Marx's views undermine the Leninist notion that there is a special minority who 'Know Reality' before the proletariat has built it. And this argument produces venom in the 'materialists', who wish to believe themselves part of a 'Knowing Elite', and thus denigrate workers' democracy.

BD
This discussion is taking a

This discussion is taking a predictable and comfortable detour into wholly abstract stuff.

I don't like to quote myself.  But, the point as I see it here is this:

"Try to say something of substance about the uselessness of supposed revolutionary theories that are militantly invisible to the entire wage-earning class, the real world efforts examined and critiqued in the links above that follow -- and more importantly, the suggestion that these real world efforts be followed up on, improved upon and surpassed in the near future in a context of the London underground by self-styled "revolutionaries" in London."

LBird
'wholly abstract stuff'? Or vital clarification?

BD wrote:

This discussion is taking a predictable and comfortable detour into wholly abstract stuff.

That's the nature of politics, BD - especially democratic, revolutionary, communist politics.

Unless we begin with some attempt to theorise what action we should take, so that the prospective 'action' is known by us to be suited to our democratic, revolutionary and communist politics, then the outcome of that 'action' will probably have nothing whatsoever to do with democratic, revolutionary and communist aims.

It's not in the gift of an elite minority (or even worse, the outcome of unconscious 'activity') to produce what we all desire.

For example, can you name a 'communist party' that has ever done as it is told by the workers that that 'party' supposedly is aiming to help develop communism?

To my mind, the intellectual clarification of the nature of the political relationship between any 'party' or 'council' and the class itself is a precondition to any 'activity'.

I'm not sure of your political views about this, but do you simply assume that 'activity' alone will develop into a suitable political consciousness amongst those who participate? If so, that is the method that I mentioned earlier, of 'practice and theory', which has been followed since the 19th century without ever helping to produce class consciousness within the proletariat.

It's time to think, first.

Non ex hoc mundi
BD: I fail to identify

BD: I fail to identify anything abstract going on here. Who appears to be lagging far behind? Catch up.

It doesn't matter how smart or committed or resourceful or clever you claim to be or you become, BD. You could raise an army of anti-capitalist zombies; they would eventually be turned into an energy source, which capital/mass society would use to perpetuate and perfect itself.

BD is trying to play Jenga, theoretical Jenga.

BD tries to figure out which pieces to remove from the game board to cause a collapse, because that kind of death, war and famine seems perhaps an exceptible puritan sacrifice for our great Communist future.

To me, LBird appears correct in saying the following:

Quote:
There is no 'objective reality' out there, which will produce 'consciousness' within workers, and so we can supposedly be sure that 'The Real World' will eventually itself produce the 'material conditions' for communism.

Any 'objective reality' is a socially produced 'objective-for-us'. And if the bourgeoisie build that 'objective reality', the 'Real World' we all live in will remain 'Objective-For-Them', and so a world working to their design.

So perhaps we are tasked with discovering an escape trajectory that does not inevitably lead us back into the orbit of class society? We must have consciousness where there appears to be none. In order to get from point A to point B, we must first visit point X -- but we can never arrive there.

BD wants to crash the system and is terribly uncreative. If BD or anyone else represented an actual threat to Big Brother, this whole discussion forum would be erased in an instant and made to seem like it never existed.

No, this isn't about abstractions. It's about a lot of the Marxists present here facing the reality nothing they do as a individual militant will ever set off a domino effect that will bring communism. It's only a mixture of subjective and objective conditions which can. Any theory that claims to know the exact mixture for revolution is snake oil.

BD
ME: "This discussion is

ME: "This discussion is taking a predictable and comfortable detour into wholly abstract stuff."

"That's the nature of politics  (sic), BD - especially democratic, revolutionary, communist politics..."

Wrong.  This is the nature of a gas generation phenomenon that exists:

1.  Only on the internet, and,

2.  Is hermetically sealed inside a Planck-scale ideological echo chamber of people who -- for obvious reasons! -- have nothing to say about when, where and how they have ever made any effort to assert what they claim to be about in the world outside of their role-playing safe spaces.

At this point it can clearly be assumed that not one of you have any actual lived experience of asserting what you claim to be about outisde of a long-running relentlesly self-indulgent role playing game. We might as well be debating the finer points of Star Trek or Dungeons and Dragons. 

If you had anything more to say on this score, on the terms I've repeatedly put forth above, and that I won't keep typing again, you would have said it by now.

LBird
'Gas' or 'theoretical precursor to effective action'?

BD wrote:

At this point it can clearly be assumed that not one of you have any actual lived experience of asserting what you claim to be ...

[my bold]

Well, your 'clear assumption' is certainly wrong in my case, and I'm pretty sure also in the cases of the other comrades here, with whom I have many fundamental political disagreements, but also I'm sure have something to contribute to a political discussion.

What makes you think that your 'actual lived experience' is so much more valid, as a basis for political discussion, than everyone else's here?

Why do you consider thinking about prospective action to be mere 'gas generation'?

Surely the mere need for organised action requires some prior debate, discussion and agreement, amongst those who are determined to 'act'? So that the 'action' has the aims and purposes suitable to those to help self-develop our class?

LBird
'Escape trajectory' and its determination

Non ex hoc mundi wrote:
To me, LBird appears correct in saying the following:
Quote:
There is no 'objective reality' out there, which will produce 'consciousness' within workers, and so we can supposedly be sure that 'The Real World' will eventually itself produce the 'material conditions' for communism. Any 'objective reality' is a socially produced 'objective-for-us'. And if the bourgeoisie build that 'objective reality', the 'Real World' we all live in will remain 'Objective-For-Them', and so a world working to their design.
So perhaps we are tasked with discovering an escape trajectory that does not inevitably lead us back into the orbit of class society? We must have consciousness where there appears to be none.

This is a key point, NEHM.

I think that it's the role of communists to clarify this 'escape trajectory', but it's only as workers ourselves that this 'route' can be actualised. I think that this view of the relationship between communists and workers is also that of Marx.

There are no communist 'parties' or 'sects' that can 'actualised' a 'theory' without the mass of our class.

'Social theory and practice' is just that. A political method of 'society', not of an elite minority. According to Marx, only the class can build communism by their own 'theory and practice' - thus, this 'theory and practice' is always determined by a democratic class. If our suggested 'theory', as communists, is rejected, then that's how it should be - ie. wrong for the class at that point. There is no 'elite' who 'Know Reality', a 'reality-for-us' that we workers haven't even created yet.

Of course, one could argue that workers will never develop such a consciousness, but then that's the end of any hopes by Marx for a democratic communism, built by the vast majority of workers, themselves.

baboon
I agree with the posts above

I agree with the posts above that stress the necessity for discussion on fundamental issues and for these discussions to take place in an ethical and serene fashion even if we all get carried away sometimes. I think that the posts above that talk about the weakness of discussion in the revolutionary milieu are correct, from individuals with ideas to groups, like the CWO and ICC, with well-worked platforms. Small step though it is, the joint working participation of both in the meeting on the Russian revolution is to be welcomed.

I want to look at the point Demo made earlier in the discussion where he talks about a working class today that hardly recognises itself and a revolutionary milieu "staggering towards its own extinction". I think that this area has an enormous potential for discussion (condition of the working class, role of the bourgeoisie and revolutionaries) and I don't disagree with Demo's characterisations. A point on this from Darwin: I've made the observation before that Darwin never used the term "evolution". Not only that, he didn't like the term with good reason and good materialist reason. He thought that it would be taken to mean, as it was in various guises, that the march of society was always upwards, incrementally securing a future, always going forward. But this decidedly was not the method of Darwin (nor Wallace) or Marx. The other side of advance was retreat; progression was regression, victory was defeat. Nothing, absolutely nothing is laid out in advance (there was the "this and that" as Darwin called it) and this applies to the class struggle. On the other hand Darwin said that "if man were dead", i.e., became extinct, then, if conditions allowed, another probably bi-pedal entity would move into the vacated space. "If man were dead" it would take many millennia for any sort of conscious replacement so that need not bother us here. But the method is still valid for the working class and its essential revolutionary minorities in the shorter term. If you are not up to the task for whatever reasons then, providing human life on earth remains sustainable, others will fill the breach and be stronger on the basis already laid for the "red thread" and the work of its defence.
 

BD
"What makes you think that

"What makes you think that your 'actual lived experience' is so much more valid, as a basis for political discussion, than everyone else's here?"

 

Because by now its apparent that none of the rest of you have any actual lived experiences to examine or discuss.  Repeatedly invited to discuss something clear and specific on these terms, you dodge and evade, and dodge and evade, and dodge and evade some more. 

These links, posted above, describe a small number of mine:

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/love2.html

The initial impetus behind this,

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/muni_social_strikeout.html

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/muni_farestrike.html

The efforts to disseminate this among US military personnel,

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/love3.html

and the anti-gentrification Mission Yuppie Eradication Project

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/myep_criticism.html

 

Your turn.  

LBird
How does 'apparentness' appear?

BD wrote:

LBird wrote:
What makes you think that your 'actual lived experience' is so much more valid, as a basis for political discussion, than everyone else's here?

Because by now its apparent that none of the rest of you have any actual lived experiences to examine or discuss.  ...

Your turn.  

You're just repeating yourself, BD. You said that earlier, about the 'apparentness' of other posters' 'actual lived experiences'.

My question was 'what makes you think' that it's obvious that the political experience of the rest of us is either non-existent or not relevant, as compared with yours?

If you're simply stating that, 'critical thought' about our own experiences, doesn't count in your eyes, well, we could say the same about yours, if we wished to block any further discussion. But we don't do this.

It's open to you, of course, to disagree with us, when we say that critical thought upon our past experience is a necessary pre-condition to go forwards, but then you have to explain why you disagree with any attempt to theorise a way forward, prior to 'acting'.

If your method is 'practice and theory', then that's your political choice, but you should say openly that that is your method, rather than claiming that nothing that any of us have ever done in the past counts as 'activity'.

BD
You've proven, by your

You've proven, by your compulsive inability to say anything about it, that your "revolutionary" activity is nothing but an online Mobius strip. 

You've repeatedly been given the opportunity to show that you have some credible pattern of asserting what you claim to be about in the larger world outside of your online echo chamber.  You haven't done this.  You evade and evade and evade.  Any functional adult can see that you are saying nothing because you have nothing to say.  Real world collectice direct action is so alien to your Cargo cult reality that you don't appear to have the minimal cognitive chops to engage with the concept.

 I'm typing this again slowly:

"Try to say something clear and concise about your lived experiences trying to assert what you claim to be about in the corporeal reality around us, instead of repetitively detouring into the burning issue of how internet discussion board "revolutionaries" can have a more pleasant time fingering each other's belly button lint."

Try to stay on topic.  Best of luck.

LBird
Insulting people isn't very political

BD, why not just tell us your method?

If your method consists of nothing other than dishing out personal insults, I'm not sure how you expect to get anyone to listen to what you have to say.

Perhaps you don't have anything to say, which could be helpful for workers seeking to build towards Democratic Communism.

BD
Here you are again,

Here you are again, LBird:

These links, posted above, describe a small number of mine:

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/love2.html

The initial impetus behind this,

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/muni_social_strikeout.html

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/muni_farestrike.html

The efforts to disseminate this among US military personnel,

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/love3.html

and the anti-gentrification Mission Yuppie Eradication Project

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/myep_criticism.html

Your turn.

Paying attention now?

 

 

LBird
Attention-seeking paid off

You'll have to continue this discussion with yourself, BD.

Demogorgon
Conceptions of class struggle

It seems to me that the real debate to be had here is about differing conceptions of the class struggle, so I'm going make a few comments on that and try to explain the ICC’s conception.

First, though, I want to say that no-one on this site is obliged to report or justify their political activity (or lack thereof) to BD or anyone else for that matter.

But, as it happens, many comrades here have a long history of direct activity in struggles. They may not have responded to this thread – why should they? – but they have shared their experiences of the years both here and on other sites.

I would consider myself the least of these comrades in terms of such experiences but I have stood on picket lines (both at my own workplaces and others) and put my job at risk to do so; leafleted train stations, local factories, colleges, universities, etc.

I came to militancy in an age when class struggle is the exception rather than the rule. Other comrades have far more extensive experience than I am, sadly, ever likely to acquire. That history of militancy deserves a little respect, I feel.

And that, of course, pales into insignificance to those of our comrades who put their lives at risk by militating in environments where the penalty can be a bullet in the temple.

As an organisation, the ICC has had a long history of intervention in struggles. In the UK, some may remember the coverage our organisation received for our activity during the student unrest over tuition fees.

But what is really at issue here is a voluntarist conception of the class struggle, accompanied by an individualist attitude that compares one militant to another, scorning the ones that don’t live up to arbitrary expectations. The ICC’s conception of class struggle is completely opposed to this “class warrior” vision, nobly battling alone against the system and reducing militant activity to how many leaflets you’ve handed out or how many clever books you may have read.

For us, what is at stake is a collective effort to build a political presence within the working class, to argue for and defend class positions. Revolutionaries have a responsibility to organise themselves toward this end, i.e. to build a revolutionary organisation.  And in that organisation, each individual comrade contributes what they can to a collective effort, when they can and according to their abilities and circumstances.

There is also the question of what the tasks of revolutionaries are.

At this point in history, when the class is largely in retreat, our task is not to attempt agitation towards a class that simply isn't ready to launch massive struggles. We don't avoid activity in struggle - as I said above, we participate as much as possible in the struggles that take place - but it is not our main role. It is a voluntarist delusion to think that agitation, even if the global communist left dedicated its whole capacity (which is not much) to it, would shift the current situation one iota.

Not only is such an attempt futile but we have a far more pressing task: preserving and enlarging the corpus of theoretical gains that the working class has acquired over the years.

Make no mistake: there is a real danger of the heritage of the communist left being utterly expunged. Everything we've learned - the futility of national liberation struggles, the role of the unions, the perils of democracy, the lie of the workers' state, the dangers of revolutionaries trying to "organise the class" - is in real danger of being lost. I do not want to say such a loss is irrevocable as these conceptions emanate from the working class, not simply its revolutionary minorities – but such a loss would make the process of relearning these lessons all the harder if and when the proletariat returns to the path of struggle.

To put it another way, we need to learn and preserve the lessons of the past to understand why we've been beaten in the past, in order not to be beaten next time.

The working class is not some unconscious mass just waiting for the right revolutionary leadership to appear or for that leadership to have the right ideas. It is the class that produces revolutionaries and ideas in accordance with its historic and social circumstances and capacities. At present, those capacities are very low but it is the responsibility of those few revolutionaries that have appeared to work to increase that capacity, albeit in a period when the mass of the class is politically dispersed.

At present, the number of revolutionaries the class is creating is very small. Our primary task, therefore, is to attempt to reach those potential revolutionaries before they get swallowed up by the left. This means our intervention must, above all, be political and aimed at political minorities, i.e. intervening in the process through which humans become "conscious of the [class] conflict, and fight it out".

But only the wider working class can turn the situation about and it has to do so as part of its daily, lived, class experience before it can expand its revolutionary capacities, both by producing more revolutionaries but also the environment where the activity of those revolutionaries can have an impact.

Only when the wider class has begun to struggle and revolutionaries begin to win the battle of ideas will anything change for the better. We cannot control the first factor, but we can lay the ground for the second.

The gulf between our conceptions of the class struggle and the role we see for its class conscious minorities raises several points for those who post on our boards. Firstly, what is it in the ICC site that has led you to argue for your politics here? Secondly, if your aim is to persuade us to support your strategies, you need to argue for them and argue against our conception, rather than starting from the point that your position is self-evidently correct.

For example, criticising people for their perceived lack of activity only has persuasive power if your opponent sees value in the sort of activity you are proposing. Unless you can persuade people that there is value in your strategy, you are unlikely to find any allies.

LBird
Critical reflections upon 130 years of 'Marxism'

I'd just like to say, Demo, that I agree with nearly all that you've said in your post, both in your criticism of the 'class warrior' approach (which denigrates other important forms of activity), and the need to learn lessons from the past. We've all (I think) been involved in strikes, picket lines, arguing with the police, being union reps, Leninist cadre parties, selling papers, leafletting, anti-fascism, marches, demonstrations (even riots), and writing about and criticising our own political organisations, and finally resignations from both union and party, due to unfolding problems.

Where we probably differ, is in the fundamental lesson which we think that we have learned from our political experiences, and after our critical reflections upon those experiences.

I've said this before, but I'll say it again, just in case anyone hasn't read it on other threads.

1. I regard 'materialism' as a bourgeois ideology, which from the outset is based upon 'elites' who 'know matter/reality' in a way that the wider class can't, and so 'materialism' can't be placed under the control of the class itself. That, is, the class is not allowed to vote upon 'materialism'.

2. I regard 'democracy' within the class' political organisations as the only basis for workers' power. There are no 'elites' who have a better knowledge of the needs, interests and purposes of our class than the entire class itself.

3. I regard Marx as an 'idealist-materialist', whose fundamental concept was 'social production'; Engels didn't understand Marx's ideas, and he reverted to 'old' materialism, the fundamental concept of which was 'matter'.

I think that you've probably drawn other theoretical and political conclusions from your own experience, Demo, and this probably means that there is no real political basis to any compromise or unity between 'Materialists' and Democratic Communists.

Put simply, I believe that only the revolutionary class conscious proletariat can determine whether 'matter' is of any conceptual use for its own social activity. That is, 'matter', as a social product, must be open to rejection by workers. There is not an elite who 'know better' what 'reality-for-us' actually is, and thus can dictate this to the class. This, I think, would be Marx's position: only self-determination by workers can lead to communism.