The War for Quadrant Two

Quadrant two will prove to be the quadrant of victory for the proletariat

► On Marx’s 1843 Letter to Ruge – [WQ2.15.03.21]

Posted by Ben Seattle on March 21, 2015

On Marx’s 1843 Letter to Ruge

So I read this last night, and it gave some insight into Marx’s
thinking in the period leading up to the Communist Manifesto.

Manifestos are interesting. They represent the emergence of a body of thought that has developed to the point where it is ready to announce itself to the world. I wrote my own about 20 years ago. Since that time, it has probably been read by all of about 20 people. That is fine with me. I wrote it to stand the test of time. Maybe it will. More on that in a bit.

So let’s return to 1843. Parts of Marx’s letter, of course, were hard to follow, since there are so many references to books and schools of thought that were the all rage at the time, and which today are simply part of the debris of history.

The interesting part of the letter, to me, is where we can feel Marx’s excitement on realizing that humanity was approaching the culmination of the hopes and dreams that had been developing for thousands of years. I understand this feeling. I felt it, of course, in the 1960’s along with so many millions of others. I felt it in the 1970’s and 1980’s, as I was drawn into the orbit of an organization that thought it could help the proletariat become conscious of its mission. I felt it in the 1990’s as it became clear that the emerging revolution in communications was destined to give the proletariat the ability to make itself conscious and organized as a class. I felt it as the Occupy movement defied, for week after week after week, the efforts of the bourgeoisie to contain its energy and channel its consciousness into the black hole of traditional Democratic Party politics. Make no mistake. The inability of the Democratic Party to swallow up this movement put a fright into the bourgeoisie, and led to the decision to tenatively greenlight the first steps of the social democratic party which is now gradually being tested, trained and nurtured.

This is part of an ancient and necessary method of class rule. The Patricians of Rome enlisted a section of Plebeian politicians to help them quell Plebeian revolts. Force alone is never enough for the stable class rule of a small minority because, at a certain point, the oppressed lose their fear. So political deception is always required. If the Democratic Party is unable to fulfil this responsibility, then there must be a change: there must be a new party of political deception. But making this change involves a certain amount of risk for the bourgeoisie, because in the process, the nature of how this all works may become clear to increasing numbers of activists–and they will understand that the key to everything is an organization that is genuinely independent.

And this is what is happening now. The nature of the SA did not change when Kshama Sawant defended Larry Gossett. All that happened is that its nature became obvious. What is important to understand is that many activists will support an organization that appears to be doing good things as long as the betrayal is not obvious. But betrayal only becomes obvious when there is a high level of struggle. In normal circumstances, it takes a long time to become obvious. Our efforts will mean comparatively little unless we train ourselves to look beneath the surface, because lots of organizations betray.

And a lot of activists betray themselves.

The bourgeoisie has a primal fear that the proletariat will see the need to create its independent organization. It is this primal fear that is _d_r_i_v_i_n_g_ _e_v_e_r_y_t_h_i_n_g_ _f_o_r_w_a_r_d. So if we want this social democratic project to go forward (and we certainly do) our best tactic, so to speak, is to recognize this project for what it is and support only the actions of this project that are of benefit to our class while, at the same time, opposing the illusions and (instead of promoting illusions) make clear to the proletariat that the social democrats are simply the nice face of our class enemy, and that we need organization which our class enemy cannot control.

The proletariat can only make itself conscious by means of an independent organization. And as the misery of the proletariat increases (which appears to be on the agenda) the danger of independent organization grows, particularly as social media makes it easier for activists to communicate to one another their experience and conclusions. The ability to communicate independent of the traditional bourgeois lacky gatekeepers is like oxygen. Oxygen in the atmosphere is steadily increasing, decade after decade. The misery of austerity and the anger it creates is like heat. And as heat and oxygen both increase, history awaits a spark. That spark will be independent organization.

In reading his 1843 letter, we can see how Marx could feel that the world (the proletariat and oppressed) was ready for a solution to all the problems of humanity. That is still the case today, although we have a lot of historical experience to confront. The proletarian revolutions in Russia and China led to the largest famines in history and the substitution of one oppressive ruling class for another. Part of the debris of this history is the proliferation of cargo-cults in every country today that attach themselves to words, phrases or symbols of these great revolutions without understanding the theoretical contradictions (mainly surrounding the need for genuine democracy at every level) which must be resolved before we can move forward with a project which is deserving of the attention and respect of the proletariat.

And this brings up the other barrier to independent organization which we need to confront. Activists who create organizations often become intoxicated with their creations and, essentially, take themselves and their experience out of circulation, sealing themselves off from the decisive tasks of our time. I witnessed this with the creation of Mike Ely’s Kasama organization. There was an initial flurry of excitement because the revolution in communications had made it possible for Ely to consolidate much of the human debris that had been cast off by the RCP as Avakian turned it into the kind of organization that gives cults a bad name. But the problem is that the proletariat needs an organization that represents its material interest. And the material interest of the proletariat is an organization that has the ability to absorb all the best activists of the class. But this stands in contradiction to the accepted practices which Kasama inherited from the RCP–which is to absorb only gullible and obedient activists. In the end, they got rid of Avakian and the extreme cultishness, and opened things up to a limited degree, but the apple did not fall that far from tree. Some Kasama supporters, by the way, may not be happy with my frank description of their project. But I owe them the truth and would be betraying them if I failed to give it to them. And if they don’t like what I say–they can challenge me openly. Our movement needs open confrontation. When we are afraid of open confrontation–the result is that the proletariat does not have an independent organization. And, in the absence of a genuinely independent organization, the bourgeoisie will continue to have a free hand to implement austerity at home and wage imperialist war overseas. It really is better if we do not live our lives in fear.

Humanity is vastly closer to our goal than Marx was in 1843, but we do not know it. And we need to know it. Who is going to say this?

The many struggles for partial demands are important, of course. But it is not simply a matter of finding the right struggles in which to invest our life energy, or the best sections of the working class and oppressed to attempt to mobilize–because these things (by themselves, alone) will all fall apart with time if the proletariat continues to lack an organization that is genuinely independent. Without our own organization we ultimately will be left with nothing: the energy, consciousness, militancy and independence of the mass movements will be systematically siphoned off and flushed down the memory hole by our experienced class enemy. It is sophisticated. We are naive. It has historical memory. We have illusions. It has consciousness. We have nothing.

For the bourgeoisie, liquidating the mass movements is like taking candy from a baby. We can work our hearts out and devote our entire life energy to carefully building up these movements–and they will still melt away, in time, like snowmen in hell. This will not stop until we have our own organization. And this organization will mean little if its “independence” is nothing more than the typical fraud or it succumbs to intoxication and attempts to protect itself from activists who are not gullible and not obedient.

This is what every activist needs to know. And when every activist does know this–then no force on earth will be able to stop us.

Ben Seattle
March 21, 2015

ps: here is what I posted, probably in 1996:

The cyberLeninist Manifesto:

The principle that “information wants to be free”
fits Leninism like a bullet fits a rifle
in what turns out to be
the ultimate nightmare for the bourgeoisie.



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