Monday, April 18, 2005

Antiwar Debate over Antiwar Democrats and 'Revolution' vs 'Reform'

[This is about a month's worth of debate on the pof-200 yahoo e-group run by Ben Seattle. The main topic is the strategy and tactics of the antiwar movement, the role of anti-war politicians, and general matters of reform vs revolution. Anyone interested in the complete discuss, and others can go to pof-200 on yahoogroups.com]


Response to Marik from Carl Davidson:

The key to [Ben's Seattle's] argument against me is a quote from Tom Hayden that Marilyn Katz and I put in an article 'The Road Ahead' on the future tasks of the antiwar movement. Here's the link for anyone who care to read the whole thing:

http://www.net4dem.org/cyrev/editorials/carl_editorial.htm

Your argument, Ben, seems to hang on this statement by Tom:

"We need to build a Progressive Democratic movement which will pressure the Democrats to become an anti-war opposition party."

First, notice that Tom calls for building a movement, not a party grouping or faction. Second he calls for that movement to pressure the Democrats to take a stand against the war in Iraq, implying that in that way they can become a real opposition to the GOP rather than the wimpy, faux opposition they are now. Third, notice that Tom is just talking about ending this war; he's not talking about the Democrats becoming an anti-imperialist party or an instrument for radical or progressive change in general.

My only criticism of Tom's statement here is that he only mentioned the Democrats; I would also argue for bringing pressure to bear on the GOP, the military and all other ruling class institutions to end the war. That's what an antiwar movement does, doesn't it?

Now Marik jumps in and starts of by commenting on my point, above, that what antiwar movements do is bring pressure to bear on the entire range ruling class institutions to end the war in question.

Marik says:

'Yes, when the bourgoise have pacified it. By going through 'normal' and 'legal' channels (lobbying corrupted politicians), revolutionary mass movement is prevented, as the mass movement is too busy writing meaningless letters. What we need is more mass movement, in order to move it into the revolutionary. This is also the core of Ben/Dj's discussion. The most important part to any mass movement, is not the idea behind, but the _movement_ of _masses_. Opposing a struggle to the draft is akin to Carl Davidson's idea of pressuring 'ruling-class institutions.' In both scenarios, mass movement is prevented. t is my belief that these mass movements will be the only way to spurn forth a revolution.'

Carl Replies:

Marik, if you read closely, you'll see I'm not limiting 'pressure' to 'normal and legal' means, and neither is Tom Hayden. I think we need a full range of tactics, including, at appropriate times, civil disobedience and other forms of opposition beyond the norms of legality.

But my first concern is mobilizing masses in the largest numbers, especially getting those who have up until now only been passively been critical of the war, to take the first steps of active opposition, and then growing that opposition as effectively as possible. By suggesting that the bourgeoisie has somehow 'pacified' the antiwar movement, however, you are suggesting that the vast majority of war opponents, not to mention those who haven't taken action yet, are somehow more militant and insurgent than the current antiwar leadership. I don't think so; perhaps for a minority of anarchist youth or some solidarity groups, but hardly for the large majority. In this way, you fall into the typical 'left' deviation of over-estimating the degree of radical or revolutionary consciousness of the masses.

I wish you were right and I was wrong on this estimate--we'd then both be further down the road of achieving our goals, either immediate or long-term--but I can't think of any measurable indicators to show it. You certainly haven't shown it.

The important lesson is that just because a given tactic has become passe for YOU doesn't mean its exhausted its effectiveness for EVERYONE who has yet to deploy it. Letter-writing? Not my cup of tea either, except an occaisional letter to an editor over some outrage or other. But in the struggle to get the Chicago City Council to Vote 'No' on the onset of the war, we organized dozens of neighborhood groups to bombard their Aldermen with emails to take the right stand, and a solid majority of Aldermen finally did so. Not only did almost all the letter writers later become demonstrators, we also asked a bunch of the Aldermen what was the most effective thing we did to get their vote. 'Flooding us with all those damn emails; it drove us all nuts," was a reply from more than one of them.

Marik says:

'Carl, I know your going to reply that by pressuring the 'ruling-class institutions' you really meant to say that pressure was mass protests against said institutions, with your good friends the "anti-war Democrats" as standard bearers.'

Carl replies:

I think I plead guilty on this one. First, I would like to see more antiwar Democrats, elected or otherwise, not less. And Republicans, too, for that matter. The idea is to utterly isolate the elected war supporters. Second, of the antiwar Democratic elected officials, I wish I was friends with more of them. They might listen to me more often! But I've only got 3 or 4 that I'm on a first-name basis with; perhaps things will change as time goes on, hopefully if and when they split from the DLC Democrats and work together with us to build a popular alternative.

As for standard bearers, we have a wide range of them in this antiwar movement. People are free to bring whatever standards they want to bear--religious, reformist, revolutionary--as long as they oppose the war. Other than trying to end the war, we don't march under a single standard. But you seem to suggest that we should, and that it should be your revolutionary standard for workers' rule.

Marik Says:

'Why should we, as people believing in the idea of workers rule, allow the bourgoisie to speak at mass worker protests?'

Carl replies:

First of all, Marik, these are not 'mass worker protests.' They are mass antiwar protests with people from all classes and strata--working class, students, elderly, middle class, small business owners, even an occaisional big capitalist. Allow the bourgeoisie to speak? If they break with the White House war policy and call for immediate withdraw of the troops, by all means, have a few of them speak, alongside those with views more to your liking. Why? Because it's a mass democratic method of work and it draws wider circles of people into the radicalization process in a step-by-step basis.

The basis of unity in the protests we are discussing is being against the war, against wider war, and against the costs of the war, not being pro-workers' rule and anti-capitalist rule. Again, your assessment is a 'left' overestimation of where things are at. The 'Million Worker March' people tried something close to what you are talking about a few months back, although even some of their leaders were criticized for not being pure enough. But it didn't get very far, did it?

That's because 'Which Class Rules?' is mainly a matter of propaganda work and revolutionary education with the advanced in today's conditions, rather than a matter of mass agitation and action for the vast majority. If you don't believe me, why don't you try to organize a militant, extra-legal revolutionary mass worker action against capitalism and war in your town, that takes a class vs class line, and discourages middle forces from 'bearing their standards,' and see how far you get? Let us know how it turns out.

Marik says:

'Should we not have enlightened workers, teaching other workers the truth of the society we live in, with the goal of making that protest into a revolutionary movement? I think if you were dedicated to a workers society, you would be forced to agree with me. But you do not agree with me.'

Carl Replies:

Marik, strategically, in the long run, I'm dedicated to a classless, stateless and marketless society, with a worker-run, mixed-economy, participatory democratic society as a form of transition to it. And I'm all for enlightened workers, and anyone else for that matter, teaching other workers, along with the whole population, the truth. The truth will set us free, along with an assist from popular power, full cybernation, and an appreciation for the interconnectness and impermanence of all beings. But, yes, 'forced agreement' is not my cup of tea. I prefer 'awakening' by summing up one's experiences, and with learning from the experiences of others. These forms of learning tend to last longer and take deeper roots.

Marik says:

'Remember here, that the goal of us Commie's, is a workers state.'

Carl replies:

That's a simple phrase, Marik, but just what does it mean? First, as already noted, I don't chisel it in stone. I think the 'workers' state' is a transitional goal, with the overall longer-term goal being the withering away of the state, including the workers' state. Second, here's some interesting questions for you: Where does the locus of sovereignty reside in your workers' state? In the governmental bodies? In the mass assemblies? Or in the people themselves? Is there a 'general will' that the individual is subordinate to, and if so, how is it determined? Is the punitive power of the state restricted or unrestricted in any way? Are rights natural and self-evident, or derived in some other way?

In case you haven't noticed, Marik, we've had a crisis in socialist theory of late that has made the term 'workers state' an essentially contested concept, sort of like 'Good Christian', meaning you have to define it in order to use it, and the definitions are all in dispute. I have some ideas of my answers to these questions, but that's a different topic from our current one.

Marik says:

'If we have the ruling elite speaking at our anti-war movements, we are not the ones winning, the elite are winning. Say that the anti-war movement is successful in 'stopping' the Iraq war, thanks mostly in part to our good friend, Said Democratic Senator. This 'withdrawal' of troops is done on the elite's terms. We do not have a say in how we withdraw because we are not in control. The elite have still successfully colonized Iraq. Their military bases will still be there, and their flunky politicians will be in power, just like Said Senator who wins election with the overwhelming support from pacified anti-war activists.'

Carl Replies:

This is a rather odd way to put things, Marik. When the elites split over whether to wage an unjust war or not, isn't the enemy camp weakened? If their camp is weakened and ours grows, does that means they are winning? Withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq, in the face of opposition here and oppsition in Iraq and the rest of the world, is really a victory for Bush and the bourgeoisie?

You also don't sound very hopeful about Iraq, even with US troops gone. Perhaps it's because you know that it's very unlikely that a secular 'workers' state' will be the result there, either. At best, we'll have an anti-West regime dominated by Kurdish nationalism and Shia religious perspectives. But the compelled early end of U.S occupation not a victory for popular forces around the world? I don't think so. But here's how you get to these strange notions:

Marik Says:

'Our goal, as Communists dedicated to a workers society, is not to stop the war in Iraq. It is to stop the rule of Bourgoisie. However, protesting the war in Iraq presents a mean to do this, through revolutionary mass movement aimed (by us) at stopping Bourgeois rule. The mass protests do not become revolutionary on their own. They have to be prodded in a direction. Presently, there are 2 directions it can go. With the Bourgoisie (Democrat influence) or us. Either we 'go-along' with the Democrats, or we turn our back on them, and end the war without their influence.'

Carl replies:

There is something REALLY odd with just about every phrase here. But before getting to them, let's ask a practical question: Suppose it takes longer to end the war 'without bourgeois influence' rather than with it. Would you still insist on doing it your way? How would you run down that line to a neighborhood group of Iraqi mothers, or, for that matter, a bunch of US GIs in a bar in Georgia?

But at least you're straight-foward in saying you're goal is not to stop the war, but to overthrow capitalism and, I suppose, although you don't say so, all wars. No wonder you're unhappy, and with this line you always will be.

It's a line called ultimatism, best represented in US history by Daniel Deleon and the SLP. Only DeLeon at least had the sense to realize that he and the SLP did not 'prod' the workers to become revolutionary. The workers became revolutionary at times of revolutionary crises, and it was their incredible suffering, their inability to live in the old way, and the ruling class's inability to rule in the old way, that brought them, en masse, to a revolutionary awakening.

'Prodding', Marik, is something best left to getting cattle out of a truck, not getting workers to do your bidding. Which leads to the next point, your option of 'with the bourgeoisie or (with) us?'

Just who, might I ask, is 'us'? Last time I looked, there wasn't any revolutionary party worthy of the name in the US, certainly not one that had won over and recruited any significant number of the advanced workers or had developed a revoltionary program that anyone knew much about, let alone had a chance to deliberate and decide upon. Without those conditions, your talk of 'them' or 'us' is just bluster, Marik. It just makes you look foolish.

Marik says:

'Cynthia (McKinney), probably a well-meaning woman, is not focused on ending Bourgeois rule. She's interested in continuing it, most likely because she doesn't know any better. If she is, somehow dedicated to workers rule, then why isn't she speaking with us, those who are also dedicated to it? Why does she endorse the corrupted system? Wow, she mobilized the black working class vote? But for what? To go out and support the corrupted system. The battlefield is not the poll booths, it is the mass movements. If you think you can turn her point of view, your a fool. She would never willingly give up her seat of power (as she proved by getting herself re-elected), which convorting with revolutionary activists would do.'

Carl Replies:

I think McKinney probably knows considerably more about class struggle, both in the streets and in the voting booth, than you do, Marik, so we'll just let your chauvinistic patronizing of her intelligence bounce right back on you. Endorsing the system? Listen to her speak sometime; check out her voting record. She doesn't support a corrupt system, Marik, she fights it, and has probably done more to enrage and upset the Democratic party bigwigs in a week than you ever have. Like I said to Ben, you talk and talk about class struggle, but you don't even know where the battlefield is, and if you did find it, you'd probably attack the folks on the wrong side. You don't have to analyze real conditions or develop a real game plan; you just have a little set of reductionist definitions you use to pin nasty labels of folks you should be getting to know, if you were serious, rather than playing, with revolution.

Here's what it all boils down to, Marik. Are we in a revolutionary or non-revolutionary situation?

To you, it probably doesn't much matter; you're going to try to 'prod' a revolutionary movement into being in any case.

To me, it makes a big difference. Strategy and tactics appropriate to one set of conditions are not appropriate to the other. Today, in my view, our tasks divide into two: socialist tasks and mass democratic tasks.

Our socialist tasks are primarily theoretical and propaganda work, especially in working to break through the crisis in socialist theory and developing an intermediate program, and building a global and national network of activist-theorists to do so in an organized fashion.

Our mass democratic tasks are developing the forms of struggle on all the issues of the day that enhance the degree of organization, understanding and fighting capacity of the working class and its allies, especially in developing the counter-hegemonic bloc of the majority of people to the most reactionary and powerful sectors of the bourgeoisie, finding ways for working-class people to fight that increases their capacity to rule society and create new wealth, both on the macro and micro level, rather than simply militantly demanding a redistribution of existing wealth, ie, redividing the pie through liberalism, however militant it may appear.

Reformism? I don't think so. Rather, it's trying to find the best way to do revolutionary work in non-revolutionary conditions, rather than either becoming the tail of liberalism or isolated in the cul-de-sac of ultraleftism.

Anyone interested can go to

http://www.solidarityeconomy.net

and read the piece, 'Where to Begin.'

***********

Now Marik's April 11 Rejoinder to Davidson:

Carl wrote: 'By suggesting that the bourgeoisie has somehow 'pacified' the antiwar movement, however, you are suggesting that the vast majority of war opponents, not to mention those who haven't taken action yet, are somehow more militant and insurgent than the current antiwar leadership. I don't think so; perhaps for a minority of anarchist youth or some solidarity groups, but hardly for the large majority. In this way, you fall into the typical 'left' deviation of over-estimating the degree of radical or revolutionary consciousness of the masses.'

Marik says:

I did not suggest the anti-war movement was pacified, I stated that, when you let Democratic speakers lead them, they become pacified because they do not become revolutionary. That is because the movements move away from threatening the system, but to endorsing it through whatever politician they stand behind. No current antiwar leadership promotes ending Bourgeoisie rule, that I know of.

You will notice throughout Carl's reply that he always moves away from mass protests (although he pretends to support them) and towards working through the system. I am saying we need to stand in the forefront as workers against this capitalist rule.

How do you plan on putting pressure on these institutions? You say you are for 'civil disobedience and other forms of opposition beyond the norms of legality' but only as a minor threat or a last resort.

I say these are our only weapons, our being people like me, who work for a living in this system of capitalism. Our weapons are not politicians that pander to the system, atleast, that's what I believe. You talk of raising revolutionary consciousness, but you choose the wrong means to do it. Why is it that it must be Democrats, supposedly caring about the workers, who raise the consciousness? Why shouldn't it be workers who refuse to endorse the system? Because they don't have 'influence'? We need not influence politicians. We need to influence the working-class.

Carl wrote: 'Letter-writing? Not my cup of tea either, except an occaisional letter to an editor over some outrage or other. But in the struggle to get the Chicago City Council to Vote 'No' on the onset of the war, we organized dozens of neighborhood groups to bombard their Aldermen with emails to take the right stand, and a solid majority of Aldermen finally did so. Not only did almost all the letter writers later become demonstrators, we also asked a bunch of the Aldermen what was the most effective thing we did to get their vote. 'Flooding us with all those damn emails; it drove us all nuts," was a reply from more than one of them.'

Marik says:

And has all this done anything successful? The U.S. is still, as of April 10th, killing Iraqi's opposed to the U.S. occupation. The U.S. still has military bases throughout the country in order to continue it's Imperialist goals in the middle east. The supposed Iraqi government still has yet to formally do a god damn thing. Have they even picked a speaker yet? Last I heard the hadn't but I digress. The point is, for all your 'successful' letter writing, I havn't seen much success in ending 'the war.' And when the war does 'end' it will be on the Bourgeoisie terms. The only way to change that is by directly threatening the system with mass revolt.

Carl Wrote: 'Second, of the antiwar Democratic elected officials, I wish I was friends with more of them. They might listen to me more often! But I've only got 3 or 4 that I'm on a first-name basis with; perhaps things will change as time goes on, hopefully if and when they split from the DLC Democrats and work together with us to build a popular alternative.'

Marik says:

I think you seriously underestimate the Bourgeoisie. I do not think you understand just how far they will go to keep their power. All your hopes lie in 3 or 4 democrats, that your hoping will split from their powerbase, and work with you? I would think that political suicide. Like I said in my previous post, I would welcome to hear a supposed anti-war Dem speak of their hopes with us for a class-less society, but I don't see them anywhere.

That, again, would ruin their reputation and make running for election difficult. That is precisely how they are Judas', so to speak. Because they are elected officials, in power under the current system, there is leverage against them. Will they give up their power? I don't think they will.

Carl wrote: 'As for standard bearers, we have a wide range of them in this antiwar movement. People are free to bring whatever standards they want to bear--religious, reformist, revolutionary--as long as they oppose the war. Other than trying to end the war, we don't march under a single standard. But you seem to suggest that we should, and that it should be your revolutionary standard for workers' rule.'

Marik says:

That is exactly what I say. If you let the Democrats in, they will turn it into a propaganda piece, pushing their platform. The media machine will descend, shouting how the Democrats got the U.S. out of Iraq. Now the workers have faith again in the Bourgeoise system - via the Democrats. Now, you seem to hope that, from here, the Democrats will split from the rest of their Capitalist allies, and push forth a popular workers agenda. It seems like a brilliant idea, but the Democrats who will be leading the movement will sabotage it. I doubt they will be willing to give up their precious seats of power to elevate those below them. A Bourgeoise lead movement will never overthrow itself. Only the massive amounts of workers can do that. That is why I say we should march under the standard of workers-rule.

Carl wrote: 'The basis of unity in the protests we are discussing is being against the war, against wider war, and against the costs of the war, not being pro-workers' rule and anti-capitalist rule. Again, your assessment is a 'left' overestimation of where things are at. The 'Million Worker March' people tried something close to what you are talking about a few months back, although even some of their leaders were criticized for not being pure enough. But it didn't get very far, did it?'

'First of all, Marik, these are not 'mass worker protests.' They are mass antiwar protests with people from all classes and strata--working class, students, elderly, middle class, small business owners, even an occaisional big capitalist. Allow the bourgeoisie to speak? If they break with the White House war policy and call for immediate withdraw of the troops, by all means, have a few of them speak, alongside those with views more to your liking. Why? Because it's a mass democratic method of work and it draws wider circles of people into the radicalization process in a step-by-step basis.'

Marik says:

Yes, the protests are anti-war, but the protest is made up of 'workers i.e. proletarians. That is what I meant by worker's protest. I get the feeling, Carl, that you would lead the masses through deception. You do not want to mention 'workers-rule' to them, although that is, supposedly, what you want. You will not march under an 'anti-capitalism' banner with them, although again you say that is what you desire.

I say we should march under said banners because that is honestly what I believe. If our goal is to eventually 'awaken' a revolutionary consciousness in the masses, we will not reach it by hiding our intentions from the very people we are trying to wake up! That is what is meant by transparency. Carl wishes to deceive.

You say "The truth will set us free, along with an assist from popular power" but why would popular power, willingly give itself up? For the good of man? Have you seen ANY instances of this in history? It will not happen. Only the workers can set themselves free, through an understanding of the truth of society. That truth cannot be taught by people supporting the very system we are trying to destroy. It will be tainted and distorted.

Carl wrote: 'Second, here's some interesting questions for you: Where does the locus of sovereignty reside in your workers' state? In the governmental bodies? In the mass assemblies? Or in the people themselves? Is there a 'general will' that the individual is subordinate to, and if so, how is it determined? Is the punitive power of the state restricted or unrestricted in any way? Are rights natural and self-evident, or derived in some other way?'

Marik says:

I don't pretend to know the answers to these questions. Your obviously a skilled debater, trying to lead me into some sort of word trap. But I do know the idea behind this list was to discuss these questions, which I advocated in my last post. You say you have answers to these but you wont give them? Yet you are dedicated to resolving the socialist theory crisis?
I would very much be interested in hearing what you have to say concerning these questions, as would I be interested in any one elses opinion on the matter.

Carl wrote: 'In case you haven't noticed, Marik, we've had a crisis in socialist theory of late that has made the term 'workers state' an essentially contested concept, sort of like 'Good Christian', meaning you have to define it in order to use it, and the definitions are all in dispute. I have some ideas of my answers to these questions, but that's a different topic from our current one.'

Marik says:

I very much have noticed the lack of socialist theory. And this would be a perfectly good forum for you to experss your answers. I think the answers will come from trial and error, through physically trying to make it happen.
You promote the idea of waiting for some far-off day, when the Masses will magically wake up, ready to shake off their invisibile chains. I promote the idea that the masses should push for that day NOW, instead of some random day in the future. We will not be able to practice revolutionary theory until we are in a state of revolution. I believe we must make that revolution happen, by turning protests (currently anti-war) into protests directly against the Capitalist system.

Carl wrote: 'When the elites split over whether to wage an unjust war or not, isn't the enemy camp weakened? If their camp is weakened and ours grows, does that means they are winning? Withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq, in the face of opposition here and oppsition in Iraq and the rest of the world, is really a victory for Bush and the bourgeoisie? You also don't sound very hopeful about Iraq, even with US troops gone. Perhaps it's because you know that it's very unlikely that a secular 'workers' state' will be the result there, either. At best, we'll have an anti-West regime dominated by Kurdish nationalism and Shia religious perspectives. But the compelled early end of U.S occupation not a victory for popular forces around the world? I don't think so. But here's how you get to these strange notions:'

Marik says:

You twist my words, Davidson. I said that when the ruling-elite speak at anti-war demo's, that is when they have won. They are not 'split' so to speak, over the war, they have simply used the movement against itself.

Perhaps there are a few Democrats who are genuinely dedicated to ending the war in Iraq because it is 'unjust'. They are definitely NOT the majority of Democrats, nor would they support a socialist agenda. That is where the corruption comes in. The fuel of the movement goes into those who supported it, in this case, the Democrats. They will turn it into a media frenzy, with convenient videos to run during election time. Now the workers, who've been duped once again, cast their votes for the continued existence of Bourgeoiuse rule. I do not have high hopes for Iraq because the withdrawal of U.S. troops will be done on the Bourgeoise's terms. They will not do a full withdrawal of all troops, nor dismantle all military bases. That is because we are not threatening them with the crippling of their system.
They will pat us on the head and say 'good job ending the war' and life will continue on.

You are daydreaming Carl. If the U.S. somehow, decides to pull every last soldier out of Iraq, and willingly dismantle its base of operations for the rest of the Middle East, then it STILL has its corrupt political flunkies in the Iraqi government.

Carl wrote: 'Prodding', Marik, is something best left to getting cattle out of a truck, not getting workers to do your bidding. Which leads to the next point, your option of 'with the bourgeoisie or (with) us?'

Marik says:

We are the workers. Do you not work for a living Carl? I'm pretty sure everyone on this list does. I am also opposed to Bourgeois rule, supposedly like you. We have a difference of opinion, but you say you are dedicated to eliminating Bourgeoise-rule. That is what I mean by the term 'us'.

I am a worker. Most people I know work for a living. You ridicule any movement of workers dedicated to a 'revolutionary program' saying they have done nothing, that there is no such movement worthy of the workers attention. I do believe that is what the purpose of this list is for.

Maybe you think bending over and sucking Imperialist dick will bring about social change, but I think discussions pointing out how you poison and sabotage the workers will do more to enlighten the workers then begging a few Democrats to speak at protests. This discussion worked for me. But your not going to be happy with that answer.

Carl wrote: 'I think (Cynthia) McKinney (D-Ga) probably knows considerably more about class struggle, both in the streets and in the voting booth, than you do, Marik, so we'll just let your chauvinistic patronizing of her intelligence bounce right back on you. Endorsing the system? Listen to her speak sometime; check out her voting record. She doesn't support a corrupt system, Marik, she fights it, and has probably done more to enrage and upset the Democratic party bigwigs in a week than you ever have. Like I said to Ben, you talk and talk about class struggle, but you don't even know where the battlefield is, and if you did find it, you'd probably attack the folks on the wrong side. You don't have to analyze real conditions or develop a real game plan; you just have a little set of reductionist definitions you use to pin nasty labels of folks you should be getting to know, if you were serious, rather than playing, with revolution.'

Marik says:

I do not try to denounce Mrs. McKinney, like I said, she's probably a very well-meaning woman. But I think it's a dire mistake of hers (and yours) to try to influence the Democrats. I think the battlefield is the mass protests, you think it is voting booths. That is simply the difference. I do not recall labeling Mrs. McKinney anything, but she does run as a Democrat. She did run with the support of other Democrats. It was the Democrats who sided with Republicans on war in Iraq.

You will say that it was because of the lies by George W. Bush. Personally, because I'm not mentally handicapped, or maybe because I'm a 'leftist-nutjob' I didn't believe in Weapons of Mass Destruction anymore then I believed any other lies from the current leaders, nor did I think it was a valid reason to occupy Iraq. But apparently, those naieve, foolish Democrats did. Why is that? Are they really stupid and naive? I get the sinking feeling they aren't..maybe it is people like you being naive, Carl? As for 'game-plan' I have said it over and over again; pushing mass movements into movements aimed against the Bourgeoise.

Also, as a side note to Mr. Davidson, I did do some researching on Cynthia McKinney. It is true, she did not support the Iraqi war, or even the Afghanistan war. She does seem to be on our side. But for all her hard work, where has it gone? We are still currently, 3 years later, killing innocent Iraqi workers, and those opposed to the U.S. occupation. I do not doubt the validity of Cythnia's beliefs but my point is that, because she works within the system, NOTHING HAS HAPPENED! That is what my point has been all-along. I did not ridicule her, I simply said that she is wasting her hard work by trying to convince the Bourgoise to pull out of Iraq. Again I say when this happens, it will be done on their terms, not hers or ours. I would be MORE then happy to have this very conversation with Mrs. McKinney herself, but she would never commit political suicide.

Carl wrote: 'Reformism? I don't think so. Rather, it's trying to find the best way to do revolutionary work in non-revolutionary conditions, rather than either becoming the tail of liberalism or isolated in the cul-de-sac of ultraleftism.'

This revolutionary condition will not appear while you pander to the corrupted leaders. Only by enlightening the workers will it ever appear. Yet you preach against it. You preach our need to support a few of your Democratic friends who have 'real power.' The real power is in the millions of masses. These could be extreme revolution conditions, but only if we try to create it. My belief is that we can create those conditions by changing our movements away from the Bourgoise and towards an idea of workers-rule.

You disagree. How do others feel?

I hope some of you will notice how Carl tries to turn everything I say into 'ultraleftism' because I simply argue that our emphasis should be on workers instead of politicians. When I say we need more mass movements, he says we need to pander to officials who supported the Iraq war (not too mention Afghanistan and a thousand other illegal warcrimes). Where I say we need to support workers, Carl says we should throw our support at these elected officials. He says he supports a class-less system, but not until the Bourgoise give it to us. They havn't given it yet, but he thinks they can be convinced. That is the only cul-de-sac I see.

Marik 4/11/2005

*******

Finally, Davidson's 4/17 Replies to Marik & Others

Marik: 'I did not suggest the anti-war movement was pacified, I stated that, when you let Democratic speakers lead them, they become pacified because they do not become revolutionary.'

Carl Replies:

Marik, since when is it a question of 'letting' anyone lead anybody, just by putting a range of speakers with opposing perspectives on a speakers platform? If I put only revolutionary speakers with revolutionary speeches on the platform, does that mean the crowd is 'lead' into 'becoming revolutionary'? Hardly, unless you think people are sheep. I think people chose their own leaders based on what they think and learn, through practice, makes most sense to them and will most help them achieve their goals. And a democratic method of work means that, in a mass democratic action, like an antiwar rally, the range of speakers should reflect the range of antiwar views among the participants, and those you would like to participate--reformist, religious and revolutionary. Otherwise, how do ALL the participants come to view the event as something that they want to build and as something that is not alien to them, at least in part?

Marik says: 'No current antiwar leadership promotes ending Bourgeoisie rule, that I know of.'

Carl replies:

Of course, ast least in their vast majority. That's because, in your view, there are only a teeny number of folks who are really revolutionary and not infected with reformism of one sort or another. If you tried to put just one of these true revolutionaries in every city of over 50,000 and every campus over 5000, there wouldn't be enough to go around, would there?

As I suggested, you're welcome to organize a revolutionary action of workers against war and capitalism that attacks and excludes people with reformist views or from other classes and strata, and calls for the end of bourgeois rule, if you like, but I don't think you'll be very successful. Why don't you try it and prove me wrong in practice, where it counts?


Marik says: 'You will notice throughout Carl's reply that he always moves away from mass protests (although he pretends to support them)
and towards working through the system. I am saying we need to stand in the forefront as workers against this capitalist rule. How do you plan on putting pressure on these institutions?'

Carl replies:

For someone who 'always moves away from mass protests', it seems a bit strange that I would help organize so many of them, over the years and up to today, doesn't it? But I'll just leave that with a chuckle...

How do you go about 'putting pressure?' Well, Marik, the Constitution says we have the right to peaceably assemble for the redress of grievances, bringing out hundreds of thousands, even millions, to demand an end to a war while its going on. Does that mean we're 'working through the system' when we do it? The same Constitution permitted some of us, in the 1960s, to walk 250 miles through Mississippi, getting teargassed by police and whupped by the Klan, for just walking and demanding the right of Blacks to vote in bourgeois elections. Well, I suppose that was 'working through the system,' too, by your definition, wasn't it? Especially since we weren't doing anything beyond the bounds of legality? In fact, the local forces of 'law and order' were doing illegal things to us! But we certainly helped mount a great deal of 'pressure' or social force against the bourgeosie anyway, didn't we?

Marik: 'You say you are for 'civil disobedience and other forms of opposition beyond the norms of legality' but only as a minor threat or a last resort. I say these are our only weapons, our being people like me, who work for a living in this system of capitalism.'

Carl replies:

'Minor threat and last resort' are your terms, Marik, not mine. I prefer 'a full range of tactics, using what is most appropriate to time, place and circumstances,' if you want a quote from me on the subject. But by saying 'these are our only weapons,' in the context discussing of extra-legal tactics like civil disobedience, you are not only partially disarming yourself, you are also falling into the one-sidedness of semi-anarchism. Believe me, you'll find plenty of support in Lenin for making the most of legal tactics, even if common sense doesn't make a good enough case for you without referring to an orthodox text.


Marik says: 'Why is it that it must be Democrats, supposedly caring about the workers, who raise the consciousness? Why shouldn't it be workers who refuse to endorse the system? Because they don't have 'influence'? We need not influence politicians. We need to influence the working-class.'

Carl replies:

It's not to hard to figure out, Marik. It's both/and, not either/or. Put simply, there are far more workers in Chicago that would come to hear both you and Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga) denounce the war, than would just come to hear just you, or a local worker here with your views, alone. You and McKinney each give the other a wider audience, and then all the folks in the audience get to decide for themselves who makes sense and who doesn't. It's called mass democracy--and no one person or group controls it completely; they have to win over their potential adherents, which is the point, after all, isn't it?

Marik says, in relation to getting politicians to oppose the war: 'And has all this done anything successful? The U.S. is still, as of April 10th, killing Iraqi's opposed to the U.S. occupation. The U.S. still has military bases throughout the country in order to continue it's Imperialist goals in the middle east. The supposed Iraqi government still has yet to formally do a god damn thing. Have they even picked a speaker yet? Last I heard the hadn't but I digress. The point is, for all your 'successful' letter writing, I havn't seen much success in ending 'the war.'

Carl replies:

I went to my first anti-Vietnam war protest in 1964, Marik. By, say, 1971, seven years out and millions of protesters later, I suppose I could have said, 'What good was it? Aren't Vietnamese still being killed? The U.S. still has military bases every, etc.' I appreciate your anger and impatience, but you just have to 'keeep on keepin' on' as the old civil rights slogan goes...

Marik says: 'And when the war does 'end' it will be on the Bourgeoisie's terms. The only way to change that is by directly threatening the system with mass revolt.'

Carl replies: Maybe, maybe not. But I would be careful of 'the ONLY way.' The Vietnam war certainly didn't end on the bourgeoisie's terms, and while there was considerable militant antiwar insurgency among Blacks, youth and GIs themselves, the working class itself was split over the war--probably about 60% antiwar and 40% prowar by 1970--and hardly 'directly threatening the system with mass revolt.' You may recall that Nixon won the elections in 1968 and 1972, and the electorate began shifting rightward. Still, the antiwar movement could justly declare victory when that last helicopter left the US embassy in Saigon.

Marik: 'That is why I say we should march under the standard of workers-rule...Yes, the protests are anti-war, but the protest is made up of workers i.e. proletarians. That is what I meant by worker's protest.'

Carl replies: I don't know what you've been smokin' at your protests, Marik, but in Chicago, we get all kinds of folks, workers, students, self-employed, employers, housewives, anarchist dumpster-divers and grandmas with baby carriages. Unfortunately, like many of the protests around the country, they suffer from being disproportionally white and middle class, and hardly what I would call 'proletarian.' I have been in mass proletarian actions and, believe me, as valuable as these peace marches are, they are not the same.


Marik says: 'I get the feeling, Carl, that you would lead the masses through deception. You do not want to mention 'workers-rule' to them, although that is, supposedly, what you want.'

Carl replies: No, Marik, there's no deception here. It's what's appropriate to the situation. I talk about socialism, or my version of it anyway, to workers and others all the time, but in the context of theoretical work and propaganda circles with the advanced elements among both workers and intellectuals. You can raise the slogan of socialism, or sell socialist newspapers and books, at antiwar protests if you want. There are at least a dozen groups who do, and they wave red flags as well. It just that I don't think socialism is a matter of MASS AGITATION at this time. It's not that I want to hide anything; it's just a waste of time in this venue.

That's what I meant when I asked if you though we were living in a revolutionary or non-revolutionary situation right now. It's also why I asked you some pertinent questions--'Where does the locus of sovereignty reside in your workers' state? In the governmental bodies? In the mass assemblies? Or in the people themselves? Is there a 'general will' that the individual is subordinate to, and if so, how is it determined? Is the punitive power of the state restricted or unrestricted in any way? Are rights natural and self-evident, or derived in some other way?'--on what a worker's state actually might be, to which you said you didn't know the answers.

That's fine and also honest, not knowing the answers. Neither do a lot of other people calling themselves revolutionary socialists these days. That's what a crisis in theory means, and we haven't even touched on the economic issues yet. That's also why none of the revolutionary groups--on this list or outside it--has a revolutionary program that answers these questions, or gives us any convincing outline of strategy and tactics appropriate to today's world.

Take the poor LRP: they call for 'Resurrecting Marxism.' The last thing we need is a resurrection of our program from the dead past. One thing I'll grant to Ben: At least he understands that there has been a revolution in the productive forces--cybernetics--and that something new has to be born, not the resurrection of old dogma. Unfortunately, he understands this in terms of media, but not much else.

As for DJ and 'party-building as the central task,' I know this line well, having worked to carry it out for at least ten years, and I know where all the bodies are buried around it, and I still work on it to a certain extent.

Here DJ likes the phrase 'the working class is objectively revolutionary' and that, therefore, the task is forming revolutionary leadership. But when you can't give sensible answers to the questions I posed above, this is just dogma imprisoning you in the ultra-left cul-de-sac. 'Objectively revolutionary' has nothing to do with the starting point and ABC of Marxism, the concrete analyis of concrete conditions--what are the trends of thinking in the working class today? What are the views on the issues of today of the advanced, middle and backward sectors? What actions are each sector likely to support? How did they vote in the last election? What is the proportion of strength of each sector?

Those are the tough questions that are passed over with the phrase 'objectively revolutionary,' which has been true since the early Marx first raised the idea that the working class was a class 'bound with radical chains,' meaning that by freeing itself, it would free all humankind and abolish all classes, including itself. This is wonderful philosophy, and an orientation on our final aims that will help us change the world, but it is no substitute for the answers to the concrete questions of program, strategy and tactics for today.

I would be more than happy to get into these matters, especially how to fight the theocratic right, which got me on this list to start with. But we can't seem to get beyond the 'Johnnny One-Notes' who think the Alpha and Omega of revolutionary politics is encapsuled in electoral tactics in the last and whether antiwar Democrats speak at antiwar rallies. Rather pathetic, I think. Again, for anyone who seriously want to look at my views and those I work with, go to:

www.solidarityeconomy.net
www.cyrev.net
www.noiraqwar-chicago.org

Carl Davidson

2 comments:

hooey said...

Nice blog Carl; very educational. I, too, have a blog; a very progressive one.
http://educationalvignette.blogspot.com/

Brian said...

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

I have a non reciprocal link exchange site/blog. It pretty much covers non reciprocal link exchange related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)

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