[This thread, starting with queries about white-skin privilege and the Weather Underground and ending with a science vs postmodernism exchange, took place October 2005 on Chicago Indymedia]
I would like to point out that the Weather Underground was an extremely authoritarian group, and the Prairie Fire Organizing League's politics seem to be in the same vein. When revolutionaries start calling for a 'united front' against 'white skin privilege', fascism, or anything else, watch out. That is an old tactic that has been used since Stalinist times to take over movements.
By Carl Davidson
If you really want to get into this, why not go to the source? Read Ted Allen's essay, 'Can White Radicals Be Radicalized?' He was the father of the term 'white-skin privilege' in the 1960s, and all factions studied this piece as a starting point. I have a hard copy if you can't find it on-line.
The Weather Underground didn't have the best line on this; instead I'd look to writings that came out of the RYM2 faction, which tried to implement it more seriously, along with Sojourner Truth Organization and Harper's Ferry Organization (of which I was a member).
Later, of course, the line was developed further by 'Race Traitor' journal, Noel Ignatiev and others.
But the mother lode is Ted Allen's 'Invention of the White Race' (two volumes, Verso) and WEB Dubois's 'Black Reconstruction in America' Re: Discussion on 'Racism and White Skin Privilege Politics'
My interest here is not so much in the idea of 'white skin privilege' per se (although that concept is of very questionable usefulness, as Alan Spector points out); so much as in the way such a notion has been used as an organizing tool by authoritarian political groups such as the Weather Underground to further their agenda.
By Carl Davidson
Naaaw...The idea, as one of the original people put it, is that 'treason to whiteness is solidarity with humanity.' 'White race' doesn't exist biologically (ask a biologist); it's a social construction that makes some ordinary folks feel more solidarity with their rulers than other ordinary folks. If you could truly get beyond thinking you're white, you could see the world more clearly.
But if you're in love with your special privileges and cling to them come what may, you'll love to discredit it however you can. The privileged often use the term 'underprivileged,' but you rarely hear them say 'over-privileged', do you?
And Makhno, if you're looking for the seeds of authoritarianism in the notion, I don't think you'll find it. If anything, it's biased toward leveling us all to our common humanity, albeit with all our glorious diversity.
Carl, again, it is not the specific ideology of 'white skin privilege' which I am critiquing here, but rather, its use by authoritarian political groups to further their agenda of gaining control of organizations and movements. The Weathermen's takeover of SDS is a perfect example of this, but the whole 'united front' concept goes back at least to the 1930s, with its use by the Communist Party in its Stalinist glory days. In addition to 'white skin privilege' other buzzwords used in calls for 'united fronts' these days are 'anti-imperialism' and 'anti-fascism'.
By Carl Davidson
I guess I'm just not in the same 'universe of discourse' here, Makhno.
Or I'm too far removed from the youth. When I was an anarchist in my 20s, when we chanted 'down with patriarchy,' we all thought 'right on!' because we had our fathers in mind. Later on, after we were parents -- and fathers ourselves with responsibilities to care for our young ones, well, it didn't seem quite so simple.
To me, who saw and participated in all this first hand, well, I could easily accuse the Weathermen of many sins, but 'authoritarianism' would be way down on the list, if I put it there at all. Hell, when I and my partner decided to get married in 1969, Bernadine and Mark Rudd sent us a post card threatening, partly in jest, to picket us at city hall for capitulating to monogamy and the state. Or when they stormed high schools, encouraging kids to walk out and rebel against the 'pig principals and teachers,' weren't they being more anarchist than authoritarian?
But some people think that if a group discusses a project, takes a vote on whether to do it, and the project gets a majority, then expecting everyone to lend a hand in carrying it out, no matter which side they voted on, well, that's somehow 'authoritarian.' They don't ever want to be obligated to do anything.
Besides, the Weather people hardly 'took over' SDS. When they were finished drawing their 'You're either with us or against us' lines in the sand, and precious few followed, there wasn't anyone left but them, so they just turned out the lights. You see, they hated the notion of the 'united front,' too.
Any united front, coalition, even mass organization itself, requires cooperation where everyone's interest is respected and everyone gives up a little autonomy in order to work, i.e., for everyone to gain a lot more than they would working alone. The authoritarian mindset wants everyone subordinated except oneself.
I guess I just don't see authoritarianism as a big problem in the left. First, no one has all that much authority on the left, and how does one go in for authoritarianism without much authority? That's what's so silly about the 'Chairman Bob' weirdness in the RCP. He's got some authority within its ranks, but hardly any on the outside. Yet they carry on as if he did, and just look foolish in the process.
Now on the right, authoritarianism is alive and well, since its core program is to restore the patriarchy and structures of privilege, white and male, that have been challenged and weakened over the last few decades.
If you want a fruitful place to harvest on the matter, I'd start there.
Carl, Your fond personal memories of the Weathermen aside, the fact remains that they espoused a rigidly authoritarian political line, as can be seen from the article I posted a link to earlier in this thread:
The last sections [of the Prairie Fire Statement] dealt with the necessity of building a new Communist Party based on the ideology of Marxism-Leninism. The tactics for building such a party were to be divided into two parts. The first part was the formation of underground cadre organizations that would begin attack against imperialist power positions within the US. These cadre organizations would weaken the government and inspire the people. The second part was the formation of above ground organizations that would lend support to the cadre groupings and educate the general public. As time went on and processes of internal criticism were carried out, the correct revolutionary position would manifest itself. With this position, a Party could be formed to lead the revolutionary War.
Other sections of the Weatherman position paper dealt with what it called 'United Front' politics. It stated that the revolutionary situation in the United States would necessarily be different from situations in the 3rd world colonies due to the fact that the United States was the homeland territory of imperialism. It stated that Class politics were different in the United States due to the spoils of imperialism; crumbs of which kept otherwise potentially revolutionary segments of the population from revolting. This section laid out which classes in the United States would be potential friends to the revolution and which class groups would necessarily be enemies. These enemy groups were marked for destruction.
As this article makes clear, the Weathermen made use of both the ideologies of 'white-skin privilege' and 'anti-imperialism' to further their authoritarian political goals, and did advocate a type of 'united front' strategy. While right-wing authoritarianism is a given, left-wing authoritarianism is all too often ignored or excused.
By Carl Davidson
Again, Makhno, I don't see from these quotes what you're driving at, unless it's the revolutionary process itself you find 'authoritarian.' In that case, it applies not just to Weatherman, but any socialist or communist. Google Engels 'On Authority,' where among other points, you'll find the following:
'But the anti-authoritarians demand that the political state be abolished at one stroke, even before the social conditions that gave birth to it have been destroyed. They demand that the first act of the social revolution shall be the abolition of authority. Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon -- authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?' And, yes, the 'white-skin privilege' analysis, while no one has a monopoly on it, is rooted in and consistent with an orthodox Leninist analysis of the relations between class and nation, oppressor and oppressed. Both Ted Allen and DuBois were communists and members of the CPUSA at one time or another.
Carl, It's funny you should use that quote from Engels, since it is the same one I posted on another site recently to support my point about the authoritarian nature of the concept of the 'dictatorship over the proletariat'. Yes, the revolutionary process is inherently authoritarian, if one accepts the traditional paradigm of revolution used by such groups as the Weathermen; however, one of the great advantages of the anarchist critique is our relentless challenge to that very paradigm, our rejection of political power, and all the hierarchy, bureaucracy, and mediation that comes with it.
Of course, not all Left groups subscribe to quite such an authoritarian ideology as the Weathermen did, although all of them, by definition, accept some form of State authority or political power as a given.
By Carl Davidson
Yes, Makhno, but this gets back to our old debate.
For me and at least every other Marxist of any sort, politics is about the 'Who: Whom' ,i.e., 'Who Can Do What to Whom.' In this sense, your revolution is non-political or anti-political. It's really a spiritual quest. Which is fine, but don't mix them up, or have one try to accomplish the tasks of the other.
It's too bad that the only alternative you can see to 'political' is 'spiritual'. As an anarchist, I'm not particularly interested in either option; what I am interested in is creating a society where people relate to each other and work together in a non-political, non-coercive, non-hierarchical way. Revolutionary violence, if there must be any, would only be a means, not a permanent condition, as it is for authoritarian leftist groups that believe in nonsense like the 'dictatorship over the proletariat'.
I do want to thank you for pointing out the Marxist-Leninist roots of such notions as 'white skin privilege' and 'anti-imperialism'.
Carl, It's funny that you mention that anti-Imperialism is consistent with Marxist ideology. I can't necessarily say that you're telling the whole truth, though.
Especially due to Marx's support for 'civilizing' the indigenous people of the Middle East, at the objection of his contemporary mainstream liberals. Also, the Stalinist USSR taking over neighboring countries is pretty indicative of this as well.
I can say, however, that your statements are true for many Marxists, especially later--after the USSR was done being a 'defunct worker's state,' as well as some people from the pre-Stalin era.
By Carl Davidson
Reply to 'Sabate.' First, Marx considered his work science, not ideology. When he used the term 'ideology,' it was a put-down. He would have distanced himself from anything like the frame of 'proletarian' ideology vs. 'bourgeois' ideology. He preferred science vs. ideology, if it had to be framed.
Second, there's no doubt Marx was considerably Eurocentric, although in a very critical way for his times. If you want to get at the heart of internationalism, though, read him and Engels on the Irish Question vis-a-vis the English. And remember, he was writing in an era before imperialism was full blown, which rose mainly after the U.S Civil War.
Lenin mainly defined the politics of anti-imperialism, enhanced later by Mao, the Cubans and the Vietnamese. Here the main art of politics is creatively combining national liberation with the project of class liberation.
Stalin's party was primarily a disaster for the Soviet Union. And Trotsky didn't offer anything realistic or better. The one who did was Bukharin, but Stalin put a bullet in his head. As for the 'deformed' and 'degenerate' workers state stuff, I never went in for it all that much. States are states, and they all have warts, even if they're needed for a while and no matter what 'class' they supposedly serve.
Finally, we now live in the era of globalization, and it's best to bracket all the old dogmas and take a fresh look at the world. Some of the old lessons will apply, some will not. Mainly, we should seek truth from facts, not from quotes.
I really do have to laugh when orthodox Marxists like to claim Marx was free of ideology or idealism for that matter.
There does indeed need to be a critical analysis of anti-imperialism and white skin privilege as it has been painted by a Marxist brush. The brush is usually an economic class reductionist one. Anarchism has always been better in that it was a power and domination critique as opposed to class and economics.
And you're not the fist to talk about 'objective' thinking and seeking facts. The fact is everything we know is constructed through discourse and linguistics.
By Carl Davidson
'The fact is everything we know is constructed through discourse and linguistics' Yes, Vigilante, 'everything we know,' plus everything we fancy, dream, and lie about. Wisdom lies in a method to sort them out. I'll stick with pragmatism and science over POMO any day of the week, especially, say, when choosing a doctor or a plumber or someone to help me troubleshoot computers.
As for Marx and ideology, my point was not that he was 'free' of it, but that he opposed it as best as he could, and better than most in his day. He was hardly free of Eurocentrism, as I pointed out.
I also don't think you'll find most Leninists 'class reductionists' when it comes to anti-imperialism, either. Lenin's whole point was to begin from the analyzing the world from the perspective of oppressor and oppressed nations, then bring in the matter of class and other factors. That was also part of the reason for the split between the 2nd and 3rd Internationals, where those in the 2nd International tended to be 'class reductionists' of a sort, but eventually capitulated to their own nationalisms.
As for the Weather Underground, they tended to be reductionist in favor of nations rather than class. They considered US workers counterrevolutionary and were nihilists towards their own nationality. Prairie Fire later backed away from some of this, but that was the core of it.
CD: 'Yes, Vigilante, 'everything we know,' plus everything we fancy, dream, and lie about. Wisdom lies in a method to sort them out. I'll stick with pragmatism and science over POMO any day of the week, especially, say, when choosing a doctor or a plumber or someone to help me troubleshoot computers.'
Well the fact that you stick with such blind faith in specialists really says something. There's certainly nothing wrong with pragmatism and science so long as it is always decentralized and contextualized and not put in overly materialist/economic shades.
CD: 'As for Marx and ideology, my point was not that he was 'free' of it, but that he opposed it as best as he could, and better than most in his day. He was hardly free of Eurocentrism, as I pointed out.'
He gave the world a grand narrative. That kind of says it all doesn't it.
CD: 'I also don't think you'll find most Leninists 'class reductionists' when it comes to anti-imperialism, either. Lenin's whole point was to begin from the analyzing the world from the perspective of oppressor and oppressed nations, then bring in the matter of class and other factors. That was also part of the reason for the split between the 2nd and 3rd Internationals, where those in the 2nd International tended to be 'class reductionists' of a sort, but eventually capitulated to their own nationalisms.'
The problem with anti-imperialism as defined by orthodox Marxists is that it was never multi-dimensional. The fact that the state was never seen as an imperialist project in itself from the Marxist perspective is proof of this. As a result you back Vietnam regardless of what the 'oppressed' might be doing to the indigenous peoples in that area. Things were not helped by the idiot vanguards redefining communism as state collective. Fundamentally anti-imperialism is way to narrow, and way to Manichean. It needs a good old fashioned anarchist style redefinition which looks at things from a more ubiquitous non-Manichean power analysis as opposed to economic.
By Carl Davidson
'Well the fact that you stick with such blind faith in specialists really says something. There's certainly nothing wrong with pragmatism and science so long as it is always decentralized and contextualized and not put in overly materialist / economic shades.' I don't think so, Vigilante. Blind faith is the postmodernist's or POMO's cup of tea, as in their effort to get rid of the rigors of science for the 'narrative' where everyone gets to be an expert, whether they know anything or not. They just have to be glib and against modernity.
And as for materialism, I'm more of a devotee of instrumentalism and the metaphysics of quality or The Tao, than the more 19th century notions of dialectical materialism.
Specialist? Goodness, I don't have blind faith in them, I AM one. That's how I make my living, troubleshooting networks and fixing computers. Faith has nothing to do with it. You have to suffer and sweat through mistakes, plenty of trial and error, and a little studying to get to be any good at it.
But back to the main topic, 'anti-imperialism.' I have my own issues with the term, in the sense of how it's used in the mass movement. It's at once both too 'left' and too 'right' -- too 'left' in its use as a way to narrow the antiwar movement into a left bloc, but too 'right' as a negative substitute or diversion from ones own's strategic goal, as in socialism or whatever post-revolutionary alternative you want to pose.
But have you guys seriously gone over the classical literature on the topic, rather than just listen to someone give a dogmatic speech or argue with you? It's hardly one-dimensional and has plenty to do with the state, from Marx and Lenin on the emergence of the labor aristocracy and the 'thousand threads' tying it to the state, to Seymour Melman on the Garrison state.
But if you want to add something new, go for it. Negri and Hardt certainly tried a neo-anarcho-syndicalist perspective, although you practically need an MA in philosophy to wade through their stuff. Don't go that route.
The orthodox, little-has-changed-since-Lenin Monthly Review crowd certainly needs a little shaking up. Some of us have been doing just that at the www.cyrev.net site for 10 years now. Our focus is on globalization, InfoTech, and the emergence of a truly global or transnational capitalist class, as opposed to an American multinational with lots of overseas branches. It has plenty of implications for the state, especially if the components of a truly globalized state are emerging. It adds a whole new level to the hierarchies, and weakness some of those underneath.
It's late but why not.
CD: 'I don't think so, Vigilante. Blind faith is the POMO's cup of tea, as in their effort to get rid of the rigors of science for the 'narrative' where everyone gets to be an expert, whether they know anything or not. They just have to be glib and against modernity.'
Rigors of science! lol. Perhaps monsieur Davidson can try and conceive of these rigors for 30 seconds without using language or discourse.
CD: 'And as for materialism, I'm more of a devotee of instrumentalism and the metaphysics of quality or The Tao, than the more 19th century notions of dialectical materialism.'
Instrumentalism is certainly another cup of piss that needs to be thrown.
CD: 'Specialist? Goodness, I don't have blind faith in them, I AM one. That's how I make my living, troubleshooting networks and fixing computers. Faith has nothing to do with it. You have to suffer and sweat through mistakes, plenty of trial and error, and a little studying to get to be any good at it.'
Well if you like doing things with those hands of yours fine, just don't construct an economic system where people are forced to service others.
CD: 'But back to the main topic, 'anti-imperialism.' I have my own issues with the term, in the sense of how it's used in the mass movement. It's at once both too 'left' and too 'right' -- too 'left' in its use as a way to narrow the antiwar movement into a left bloc, but too 'right' as a negative substitute or diversion from ones own's strategic goal, as in socialism or whatever post-revolutionary alternative you want to pose.'
First of all the fact that mass movement figures in anything is problematic. 2nd, it should not be enslaved to leftist or rightist ideological discourse, and 3rd, the goals should be in the means.
CD: 'But have you guys seriously gone over the classical literature on the topic, rather than just listen to someone give a dogmatic speech or argue with you? It's hardly one-dimensional and has plenty to do with the state, from Marx and Lenin on the emergence of the labor aristocracy and the 'thousand threads' tying it to the state, to Seymour Melman on the Garrison state.'
The problem is the state is subordinate to you overly narrow view of capitalism, and as a result many orthodox Marxists end up backing countries like Cuba and Venezuela. This shows a fundamental denial of the anarchist critique of the state as such. And what makes it one dimensional as I said is you will support the new rulers of Vietnam while ignoring what they do to the indigenous people in that region. As Nietzsche put it 'Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster...for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.'
By Carl Davidson
'Rigors of science! lol. Perhaps monsieur Davidson can try and conceive of these rigors for 30 seconds without using language or discourse.'
You miss a subtle point here, V. Science is something you have to DO first, (as in examine, investigate, experiment, test, etc.) then 'discourse about' what the doing has revealed. It's not the same as criticizing literature, where all you have to 'do' is read a text and deconstruct it in any way you please.
You think the 'rigor' of science is funny?
Fine, you can choose your doctors on whether they're into POMO discourse or not. That's make the ones' who sweated a little rigorously in the lab more available for the rest of us still stuck in the Enlightenment.
You want to throw out instrumentalism?
Fine, but then just how do you determine whether any given anarchist theory or the state is 'true' or workable or even desirable? Taking a vote would be a tyranny of the majority.
No, once you get rid of these things, then, like Makhno, your politics is collapsed into a spiritual quest at best or nihilism at worst.
Also, most, if not all, of us would-be Marxists know the state, like the market, have been around a long while before capitalism and will undoubtedly be around for a while afterwards. So it's intertwined with capitalism today, but hardly a subset of it. Among other things, the state's a function of scarcity and class divisions, and will leave the stage of history when they do.
As for the Vietnamese and their minorities, I know a bit about it, and had a long discussion with a Vietnamese general and some other cadres about 'Kinh chauvinism' toward the Mountain tribes back in 1969. They were quite self-critical, explaining how Uncle Ho used the negative example of the KKK to help them get their heads straight. And I and others didn't ignore it, but wrote and spoke about it over the years.
But my support for the Vietnamese people and the groups leading them was based on the justice of their cause and my internationalist duty, not on whether they had a 'state' or not, or on whether they were free from sin. You can distance yourself from that stand if you want, but you won't be in very good company. You find yourself lined up with a bunch infested with superpower arrogance.
It gets back to the original topic of this thread. The end game in Vietnam, according to Nixon at the time, was 'to change the skin color of the corpses,' sort of like what Bush wants to do in Iraq. It was a white supremacist war, and in that conflict, I'll side with the people of color with a just cause in defeating my 'own' bourgeoisie, whether the oppressed have a state or a party or not.
CD: 'You miss a subtle point here, V. Science is something you have to DO first, (as in examine, investigate, experiment, test, etc.) then 'discourse about' what the doing has revealed. It's not the same as criticizing literature, where all you have to 'do' is read a text and deconstruct it in any way you please.'
I know it's hard for Carl to admit this, but everything down to the concept of science as we know it is shrouded and social constructs. The examination, experimentation, and testing is based on these social realities and can never be separated.
CD: 'You think the 'rigor' of science is funny?
'Fine, you can chose your doctors on whether they're into POMO discourse or not. That's make the ones who sweated a little rigorously in the lab more available for the rest of us still stuck in the Enlightenment.'
First of all to begin with doctors are based on specialization to begin with. In a free society a combination of old and new forms of more natural health care should be administered in a more reciprocal way in relation to social and individual. The arrival of the doctor is part of the alienation of are own health and direct sustenance.
CD: 'You want to throw out instrumentalism?
'Fine, but then just how do you determine whether any given anarchist theory or the state is 'true' or workable or even desirable? Taking a vote would be a tyranny of the majority.
'No, once you get rid of these things, then, like Makhno, your politics is collapsed into a spiritual quest at best or nihilism at worst.'
Your first point is like instrumentalism itself is based on a more centralized view of society. I want a world where many worlds fit, and it need not have a blue print of any kind. Primitive society lasted over a 100 000 years without this.
And a bit of spiritualism and nihilism are not bad things to incorporate into ones subjectivity at all.
CD: 'Also, most, if not all, of us would-be Marxists know the state, like the market, have been around a long while before capitalism and will undoubtedly be around for a while afterwards. So it's intertwined with capitalism today, but hardly a subset of it. Among other things, the state's a function of scarcity and class divisions, and will leave the stage of history when they do.'
And equally speaking class divisions and scarcity are predicated on the state. The development of these things was reciprocal in nature. Thus the need for a revolution that destroys capital, state, along with work, industrialism and other oppressive things equally (some easier then others but non the less important)
CD: 'As for the Vietnamese and their minorities, I know a bit about it, and had a long discussion with a Vietnamese general and some other cadres about 'Kinh chauvinism' toward the Mountain tribes back in 1969. They were quite self-critical, explaining how Uncle Ho used the negative example of the KKK to help them get their heads straight. And I and others didn't ignore it, but wrote and spoke about it over the years.'
The 'meowist' self criticism I take with a grain of salt. This has not stopped the continued suffering of those peoples.
CD: 'But my support for the Vietnamese people and the groups leading them was based on the justice of their cause and my internationalist duty, not on whether they had a 'state' or not, or on whether they were free from sin. You can distance yourself from that stand if you want, but you won't be in very good company. You find yourself lined up with a bunch infested with superpower arrogance.'
LOL, Internationalist duty! What Leninist trash. The only duty one should have is too ones self or affinity. This is a perfect example of separating means and ends and the fucked up results that come of it.
CD: 'It gets back to the original topic of this thread. The end game in Vietnam, according to Nixon at the time, was 'to change the skin color of the corpses,' sort of like what Bush wants to do in Iraq. It was a white supremacist war, and in that conflict, I'll side with the people of color with a just cause in defeating my 'own' bourgeoisie, whether the oppressed have a state or a party or not.'
While fighting white supremacy is important, one must remember that a given race depending on the material situation could easily have made it Asian supremacy. Manichean binaries need not apply. And why side with the people of color who did the same thing to the mention indigenous peoples.
By Carl Davidson
Ah, Vigilante, what are we going to do about you...
Science and instrumentalism, like any other human endeavor, is connected to social constructs, but hardly reducible to them. Of course you can separate the accomplishments of science out. Otherwise, how would you ever make something like, say, a windmill, that works?
But with your romanticization of primitive society, maybe that's not your concern. But we needed a little instrumentalism, even at the dawn of our species, to avoid being eaten by the other carnivores, if nothing else.
Some doctors are specialists, but some are generalists, and study the earlier healing arts too. But if you have a youngster that gets appendicitis, I hope you bracket these notions and get him or her to a hospital licketey split, and find a resident who did well in the lab over literary criticism.
Internationalism is Leninist trash? Thanks for the backhanded compliment -- I'll plead guilty to such trash any day. But I thought you guys were into mutual aid and solidarity. But I guess it's only for your friends and your local affinity group, not of the 'an injury to one is an injury to all' variety.
Besides, my politics are value-centered, especially the core values of liberation and compassion. I try to start and end with the 'ends', with 'means' making the bridge, as in the impermanence and interconnectedness of all things.
And of course, in theory, any nation or people might think itself the dominant one, but that's beside the point. Which one has plundered most of the world's resources and practiced lording it over all the rest for the past several centuries? Or is it too 'practical' to deal with the matter at hand?
Well Carl, first of all the so called accomplishments that you speak of has always been part of abstract ends for civilization. The one thing that the early 20th century scientists such as Einstein and Heisenberg did was to demystify science from what it was, and what many people fell for (including Marx)
And I am hardly one to call primitive society perfect; however it has been the most egalitarian model that humans have operated on thus far. And hunter-gathering is hardly instrumental; it is more a spontaneous thing much like other forms of life.
On the point of doctors, in a future egalitarian society, I am hopeful that there can be more individual and reciprocally way of healing ourselves.
And as far as international solidarity goes, there is certainly nothing wrong with it. But an international system is what is hegemonic. The best thing we can do for each other internationally is to let communities exist locally with at the same time acknowledging a sense of oneness. Immanent multiplicity Agamben calls it I believe.
And just because the US is the baddest monster in the world at the moment is no excuse to support other states. All you do with that compromising attitude is give others room to rise.
By Carl Davidson
Well, vigilante, I suggest you take a look at 'Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War' by Barbara Ehrenreich, in order to get a better take on the situation of our species in the hunter-gatherer days. If their mode of staying alive in the face of their predators of other species was largely spontaneous rather than creatively instrumental, I doubt we would be here now. You might consider why old sabre-tooth is extinct, and not us.
As for Einstein and Heisenberg, I don't think they 'demystified' 19th century science, as much as they pushed the envelop to explain phenomena far from equilibrium and resistant to the Newtonian paradigm.
But if you're maneuvering curves on the freeway, Newtonian physics works just fine. Ignore it at your peril. Besides what would either of our quantum heroes done without Newton's calculus? I don't think science has to be demystified; rather, it's the universe that's the locus of mystery, and science helps push back the Veil of Maya, so to speak.
Your global localism, with all localities doing their own thing, wouldn't help much, say, in dealing with new emergent strains of influenza, would it? Or in the anarchist future, do even viruses and bacteria limit themselves to mutual aid?
We all support states these days, vigilante, if not directly then indirectly. You might gripe about it, but you go along with the program in the daily practical sphere with the rest of us nonetheless. Unless you're writing from prison for non-payment of taxes? So I certainly wouldn't make the fact that a liberation movement established governance in their liberated areas into a black flag that would signal me and others to withhold our support. Their values and practice within that governance, and where they aim their fire, is far more important, at least to me. Read more!
Sunday, October 16, 2005
[This thread, starting with queries about white-skin privilege and the Weather Underground and ending with a science vs postmodernism exchange, took place October 2005 on Chicago Indymedia]
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
This exchange, from NYC Indymedia, starts with comments on a post by Workers World Party calling for a united front against the war. Following are selected comments:
Why Should I Join You?
'Answer Me That' says:
I have been hearing this 'United Front' crap from your group for some time now. Well this is not the 1930's. Also you offer nothing more than supporting 'democrats' instead of a truly independent socialist alternative.
So how are you any different than the other social democrats (and closet social democrats) at the CP/COC, SP, DSA, ISO, SWP, and other small liberal or social libertarian sectarian groupings that still have stationary? ...WWPs staging events and inviting 'democrats' are well known, despite protestations to the contrary.
WWP a Shill for the Dems? Hardly.
Carl Davidson says:
Is our ultraleft really this bizarre? I'm hardly a WWP supporter, but backing Democrats is hardly one of their sins.
But their critic here seems to think that just inviting an elected Democrat who's broken with the war to speak at an antiwar rally is the equivalent of totally joining the campaign staff of Hillary or Kerry. Good grief, have we become a left made up of checker players rather than chess players? We suffer not from having too many elected officials on our antiwar platforms, but too few of them.
But I suppose I'm destined for an even lower circle in the inferno. Last week I worked with a coalition here in Chicago that got 29 aldermen -- all Democrats -- on the city council to vote for pulling out of Iraq, with 9 opposing -- 8 Dems and one GOPer -- and 10 abstaining.
But our ultraleftists, for some strange reason, seem to want Bush to have more allies rather the less.
Whose Contradiction Is It?
'Leon Trotsky' says:
When a Democrat speaks at an anti-war event, that's his contradiction against his pro-war party, not an inconsistency on the part of the event organizers.
WWP always tells the truth about where the Democrats stand and what they do. Which doesn't contradict the fact that some people, due to their anti-war politics, don't belong in the Democratic Party.
The contradiction also lies with WWP
'Oh no you don't' says:
One of the preconditions of speaking at a WWP event should be that the speaker gives up membership in any organization which promotes or supports imperialism and capitalism. That is called following ethical prescript.
Would WWP have a speaker who was a member of a club or organization that excluded women, Blacks or Jews? Of course not. So why would it have speakers who are not only members, but office holders in an organization or group which promotes imperialism and capitalism?
Perhaps to the Carl Davidson's and Leslie Cagan's of the world, who are just peachy keen apologizing for ethnic cleansers, there are no ethical contradictions having such speakers, but for those of us who have integrity that is not acceptable.
Exclude Capitalists or Promoters of Capitalism?
Carl Davidson says:
If you're going to exclude people who 'promote capitalism,' 'Oh no...', you're going to have a small circle indeed.
Take, for instance, all the people who are trying to get the Katrina exiles hired at rebuilding New Orleans or the Gulf Coast. The expansion of jobs for them is also going to mean the expansion of businesses, ie, growing some capitalists by growing the number of wage slaves-- union or not, prevailing wage or not. Or anyone who works on job training and workforce development programs anywhere.
Or take the small business owners and shopkeepers we have in our antiwar group. I'm sure they want to grow their little piece of capitalism. Would you kick them out of the group? But perhaps you like being small, pure and irrelevant. To each his or her own...
[A post by RN was deleted here, which contained a sexist jibe at Leslie Cagan]
Carl Davidson says:
I'm not the least bit tired, RN, I'm rather energized these days, especially after a big success on the 24th. But your ad hominem is certainly tired -- and sexist to boot. I feel like Diogenes with his lamp, searching for one ultraleftist with enough working synapses to carry on a reasonable debate, but to no avail. But I guess that's why it's called an infantile disorder...
'Ultra-Leftist' = people who see me for the fake that I am.
Carl, you are an example of what is left of formerly decent political organizations when they have for all practical reasons died. It is over. The CP/COC and its wanker allies should now agree to have the corpse buried.
the burningman says:
Carl, I think you've got the problem backwards. It's actually that your Irving Howe routine is totally uninteresting to young radicals. Most folks don't know who you are -- though the weariness and vacilation you represent are plain enough.
You confuse 'ultra-left' with 'left.'
That's cool, but your habit of misreprenting what people think... like myself... means that folks with a few 'working synapses' might not think it worth the time to engage an old fart trying to atone for his own past of making one wrong political decision after another.
The world has seen plenty of your type: those who were once revolutionary and were defeated, but now spend their energy limiting the range of the possible for those who aren't listening.
Here's a question: if having political principles consigns radicals to being 'small, pure and irrelevant' -- then what's your excuse for being TOTALLY marginal? I mean, loving Bukarin, Teng and Jesse should have gotten the masses all creamy about your cyberGoulash. So what gives?
For my own self, I don't think 'purity' has anything to do with it. That's your own dogmatic baggage. From what I've heard, you are anything BUT pure, so maybe you want to throw a little mud so you don't feel quite so dirty.
Know what I'm saying?
Nothing to say on the substance of matters
Carl Davidson says:
Sorry, Burningman, but I don't know what you're saying.
Nor, by the way, do I consider myself defeated or in need of atonement. Perhaps on personal matters, but I have no political regrets, even if I took too many unnecessary detours over the past 40 years. And I'm really not that concerned whether anyone recalls my glory days or not. It's the present and future that concern me.
But, apart from yourself, at least to a degree, it puzzles me why so many of our 'left' critics -- in this case UFPJ's and WWP's critics -- really have nothing to say when challenged, other than invective or ad hominems of one sort or another. Is it the medium, ie, posting in cyberspace with no eye contact? Or is it that they really don't analyze or think politically beyond the level of a few slogans?
I would agree with you that the entire socialist-minded left, including my sector of it, is marginal. The question is what's the best approach to getting out of the marginality cul-de-sac.
carping to the left
'the burningman' says:
Well, I can't speak for everyone you argue with. Undoubtedly you gravitate to corners where people say all kinds of loopy shit.
But I engaged you in depth on the question of Palestine and principled anti-imperialism and you chose to willfully, and intentionally, distort what I was saying when you re-posted the exchange on your weblog.
You say no one has anything to say but ad hominems? I pointed out that your political exemplars have been Bukarin (the architect of socialist-style state capitalism), the pro-capitalist/fascisto leadership of China and Jesse Jackson. It's noting what your positions are and what they yield.
You have indeed made one wrong decision after another, and as a leading member of the CoC, you haven't gotten better with time.
Permanently attaching the activist left to the Democratic Party domestically, and some of the grizzlier regimes internationally is an easy choice that many see no alternative to. Your self-selected responsibility is 'minding the margins.' It's a thankless task, no doubt -- and one that will get you verbally smacked up from time to time.
What do we need to be doing: raising the stakes.
This march in DC was the last 'easy' march. The majority of the population is now against the war, with some regions such as NYC developing an increasingly radical understanding of WHAT the problem is exactly. You may have decided that 'naming the system' is 'ultra-left.' But you are wrong.
Mass work shouldn't be 'lower level.' The truth of what we are facing is EXACTLY what we need to be bringing out. The masses are just about always radical, even if they aren't de facto on the left. People smell the bullshit of a soft-sell a thousand yards off.
My point about 'marginality' is that all the folks like you who think we need to soft-sell a critique of capitalism and empire in order to 'reach' some mythical mainstream are actually fighting against developing a radical movement out of antiwar activism. That's the dispute.
In my experience, fighting the full-spectrum battle against the Bush agenda (and the Democratic Party's TOTAL and ACTIVE complicity) is exactly what unleashes people not currently in the left.
Guys like you will chug along no matter what happens -- but your mockery of 'purity' doesn't explain why you are no more 'mainstream' than your supposedly ultra-left opponents. You position yourself (and your semi-party) within the acceptable range of bourgeois thinking on any question that arises -- and you still sit in a small circle. And the truth of it is this: despite all of UFPJ's attempts to limit the antiwar movement to narrow demands, and not address the systematic nature of the problem, it still requires all those 'ultras' out there to pull off a mass march in DC. I'm not the only one noticing this.
Getting beyond the margins
Carl Davidson says;
Well, Burningman, we may have some common ground, a little anyways.
As for our exchanges on Palestine, I mostly quoted you directly, and added my comments. Plus on the latest I pointed people to your own site. Interested people can make up their own minds as to whether you've been distorted.
Yes, Bukharin is someone I admire. He understood that the market doesn't go away because a party or government declares it out of existence -- and if you do so, it will come back to haunt you. He also argued for making use of it to develop a working class, a culture and productive forces appropriate to building a socialism worthy of the name. I think history has absolved him, especially contra Stalin and Trotsky. China is more of an open question, although my main hero there over the years was Chou Enlai. Jesse? He's one of the best of the left-liberal preachers, a great orator, agitator and civil rights leader. That's enough to say for him, I don't expect him to be a revolutionary.
The left, broadly speaking, is already hooked, to a certain degree, to the Dems, quite independently of me. I've rarely voted for them. I can count the Dem candidates at all levels that I voted for over 40 years on my fingers. But I have also voted communist, socialist, Citizens party and New Party. But I also believe in working with people who are Dem voters or activists, and winning them to more independent stands and activities. The problem is to develop a viable, independent alternative that people will break away to, not just to denounce people for voting for Dems when there's no alternative to speak of.
But just what is 'raising the stakes?'
More militant actions, getting arresting and fighting cops? Maybe, but politically, that's still liberal oppositionism, no matter how many heads are busted.
Naming the system? Fine, we did that years ago. But you can yell out its name with as many shrill adjectives as you want, but unless you present a viable alternative, viable in the sense of moving forward on workers empowerment in nonrevolutionary conditions, its still just oppositionism.
To get beyond oppositionism, I suggest getting deeply into Gorz, Gramsci and David Schweickart's new book, 'After Capitalism.' then we might get beyond the margins.
In the meantime, I think you're right about one thing. This may be the last 'easy' antiwar demonstration. I would stress organizing with the military and their families in the next phase.
On Reading These Posts
'Requiem for a 60's Maoist' says:
I see now Carl's problem. He substitutes popularity for principle-- and in doing so he will get neither. And if thinks that compartmentalizing (before dismissing them) those who see his mental mastabutory exercises in propaganda for what they are, as 'ultras' or 'purists', he has another coming.
Carl, life is too short for the likes of you. Now begone, toady.
Principle and Popularity
Carl Davidson says:
Life's too short for everyone, 'Requiem' -- I plead guilty to that...
But why is seeking mass support for one's political goals -- what you call popularity -- put in opposition to what you call 'principle?' Of course, one often has to go against the tide to win mass support, but mass support and mass participation is still the goal, isn't it? After all, it's the masses who make history, not just you and me.
I've long been an advocate of value-centered politics, especially a perspective centered in the values of compassion and liberation, and do my best to make them explicit in my life.
But I'm curious about how YOU decide what's a 'principle' and what's not. Are they listed in a book or chiseled in stone somewhere? Is there a common list for all true revolutionaries? If so, who decides which ones get listed and which do not? Read more!