The War for Quadrant Two

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

Archive for April, 2015

► Letter to the Red Party – [WQ2.15.04.19]

Posted by Ben Seattle on April 19, 2015

(To my potential comrades in the Red Party)

You can’t build anything real on a foundation of sand

https://warforquadranttwo.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/150419-red-party-v5.pdf

news_to_theory - 2

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► The Spartacus War (part 1) – [WQ2.15.04.09]

Posted by Ben Seattle on April 9, 2015

New series (maybe).  Whether it continues is up to you. — Ben

http://books.google.com/books?id=j3LowhKACVwC

spartacus war - 5

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► How will proletarian party defend its integrity? – [WQ2.15.04.06]

Posted by Ben Seattle on April 6, 2015

(From email sent April 5, 2015)

Hi Frank and Art,

This thread is winding down, but there may still be some principles that have come up and are deserving of clarification.

Frank:

> Today Ben admits, gee, “Frank raises an important point…How will the party,
> when necessary, cleanse these people [“people who oppose the mission of
> the party”] from its ranks?” But Ben can’t agree with “Frank’s” solution (actually,
> the solution of many generations of revolutionaries.) Oh, no, not that, it might
> require him taking a proletarian stand on a very simple question. So he rambles
> on, gee: “These are important questions…these questions need answers…our
> answers to these questions need to be carefully considered and consistent with
> the material conditions in the 21st century.” (Maybe we’ll get an answer from him
> in the 22nd century.)

In my previous email, I had said that I would be happy to reply to any questions. But, instead of asking me to elaborate or further discuss my views on this matter, Frank chooses to imply that I cannot or will not answer. This is not long after Frank talked about the importance of a culture of listening. But a culture of listening requires that we listen, and that we demonstrate, in our actions, that we have respect for others. I think that Frank finds it difficult to listen. Part of the reason is that he is so busy demonstrating his contempt, mainly for me, and to a lesser degree for you, Art.

Frank, I believe you view your contempt for me as an indication of militancy from the heights of your lofty perch. But it reads to others as weakness and insecurity.

So, Frank, if you reply, I would like to see you reply with basic human respect. Of course, you will do as you like, but I can point out that if you appear to be so anxious to paint me as a nefarious, manipulative, sneaky, underhanded black hat–this will only undermine your credibility with Art and demonstrate that you are more comfortable attempting to attack the character of people than to reply, calmly, to their arguments.

The party of the working class will cleanse its ranks by expelling those members who, by their actions, prove unable or unwilling to support its mission.

I think Frank, of course, would agree with this. The issue of principle is what is meant by “the mission of the party”?

Frank has argued that people who engage in “factional behavior”, and who, after being outvoted, persist in putting forth their factional line to the masses, would need to be expelled. But this kind of description is so abstract that it becomes essentially meaningless. For example, if you conclude that the majority of the party has a wrong view on some kind of secondary question–should you be expelled for writing an article that says what you think? That would be a typical cargo cult clusterfuck.

I gave an example, from February, of a local activist who felt it was necessary to quit the organization he was part of in order to make public his criticism. According to Frank’s definition, this might be considered factional behavior and taking his “own line” to the masses. If the party can simply expel those who criticize it publicly, then who will correct it should it veer off course? History shows us that every party that existed eventually veered off course. Don’t we have a responsibility to consider how to prevent this?

One reader of this thread sent Art these questions:

> Frank and you are carrying on a discussion about the political question of Party
> building and internal Party life, and that is an important question.
>
> the more-political questions that Frank is trying to address:
>
> How we should deal with a consolidated alien class trend in the Party?
>
> How we should deal with manifestations of wrong political ideas in
> the Party, ones not specifically (or not yet) consolidated around an
> alien class trend?
>
> How we should deal with it when political uncertainty and confusion arises
> internally around a question?

I thought these questions were formulated in a calm and considered way. Let’s start with the first of the 3 questions:

(1) How we should deal with a consolidated alien class trend in the Party?

I think the solution would be similar to the solution that Lenin advocated. And this solution was based on the circumstances of his time.

Before 1911, the solution was to create a party within a party. We can think of this as an inner party and an outer party. The inner party was known as the Bolsheviks. The outer party was the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party, which also included an opposite and opposing inner party known as the Mensheviks. The Mensheviks represented the consolidated alien trend within the RSDLP. So the solution was to keep the alien trend out of the inner party, but maintain the umbrella of the RSDLP.

Why did Lenin do it this way? Was he unaware that the Mensheviks represented the aspirations of another class? No. This organizational form was designed to make it easier for workers and supporters of the RSDLP (most of whom were initially not strongly aligned with either the Bolsheviks or the Mensheviks) to better understand and sort out the difference between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. If the Bolsheviks had simply split before 1911 (or, equivalently, kicked the Mensheviks out of the RSDLP) this would have been to the advantage of the Mensheviks in their competition with the Bolsheviks for the allegiance of the workers. These workers, the undecided (yellow in the diagram below) found it easier to understand the differences between these two poles when they were part of a single umbrella organization which facilitated public polemics between the two groups–where workers could more easily find and read the views of each side.

By 1911, things had changed, and most workers understood what was going on and saw no need to include the Mensheviks in an umbrella party (see below):

red-blue-yellow

So, my answer to question #1 is to keep the alien class trend out of the inner party until the nature of the contradiction between the proletariat and social democracy becomes more clear to a lot of people. This will represent the best conditions for exposing the nature of social democracy. Once lots of activists and workers understand the treacherous nature of social democracy, then there would be popular support for reflecting this reality in organizational form.

How would this work under modern conditions? If there were an open and widely recognized network of activists (both independent activists and activist organizations) as I advocate, trends like the SA and Kshama Sawant would probably be part of it, and widely recognized as “socialist”. But people like me would be very clear (just as we are now) and explain that, so to speak, she is really playing for the other team. We would say these things as clearly as we could, even while we recognized that few would have the experience that would be necessary to understand our point of view. Widespread recognition of the nature of Kshama Sawant will only take place after she has engineered a few major betrayals (the betrayals so far are all quite minor). These events will likely not unfold for several years. But the point is that proletarian trends would have the responsibility to clarify matters ideologically. And being in the same network would make it easier to challenge the opportunists to public debates–which will tend to expose them.

As the class struggle developed, the network would become increasingly polarized between the blue and red poles. Those activists and groupings that were clustered near the red pole would be in a better position to discover each other and overcome their differences as they engaged in common work. The common project of the network, I have concluded, will emerge in the form of a news and culture service that will also be a vehicle to assist (both with analysis and mobilization) popular and mass struggles and help to end the present isolation of so many activists.

(2) How we should deal with manifestations of wrong political ideas in
the Party, ones not specifically (or not yet) consolidated around an
alien class trend?

The main issue here is to develop clarity on the principles and topics involved. Even in instances where it becomes necessary to expel one or more people from the party, this will be a relatively small matter in comparison to the need for ideological clarification on the matter–which may be something that only develops over years. This clarification will be needed both inside and outside the party. If an expulsion can serve to attract the attention of activists to the principles involved–then this is good–because then the organizational measure can be used to raise the consciousness of activists both inside and outside.

Also, of course, a lot depends on the nature and importance of the matter involved. If someone, for example, supports U.S. imperialist war somewhere–this is a lot different than if they have some weird view on a cultural or artistic question.

(3) How we should deal with it when political uncertainty
and confusion arises internally around a question?

I think the most important thing is to demonize the people who raise problems, and subtly encourage weak-minded and obedient comrades to believe that the heretics should be hung from a lamp post.

Ok, excuse me, that is the line that emerged in 1993, as the MLP collapsed. I actually opposed that line. The principal organizer of this line was Joseph. One of the supporters in LA was so incited by Joseph, that he actually wrote that the heretics deserved to be hung from lamp posts. I am not making this up. No one could make this up. This was the “culture of listening” that Joseph organized. I replied that I was insulted that my name was not included on the list of people who deserved to be hung by the angry masses who inhabited this guy’s planet. What does a guy need to do to get on that list? More to the point, I opposed Joseph in what became the foundation of my theoretical work, which I titled: “Anti-Joseph”. Joseph quoted from it extensively (and selectively) in his increasingly frantic replies which called me a “neo-conservative”, an “anarchist”, and also an apologist for the idea of running society on the basis of the market. But despite my repeated requests, Joseph’s journal never provided readers with a link to my work, so that they could read it for themselves. The refusal of Joseph and the Charlatan Voice Organization (as I suspect it will be called by future movement historians) to provide a link to the article he was writing so many words to oppose–not only revealed that Joseph was afraid of my arguments–but also was the perfect symbol of his fear of principled polemics, his paternalistic view of his own readers–and his need to keep readers in the dark so they will not (as Phil memorably put it) “become confused”.

But, to answer question # 3 (seriously this time): if the question is important, there will be discussion and investigaton and, as schools of thought form, eventually productive debate. This will be public in nearly all instances. Complex questions often takes years to understand, and even then, the conclusions that are reached are often simply wrong.

Clear language can cut confusion about “factions”

Frank says that “revolutionaries and the broad masses” hate factionalism, just as they hate sectarianism, because they “divide, confuse and undermine” the movement and the party.

But it is necessary to make a clear distinction between (a) organized activity and (b) the kinds of unprincipled activity which divides, confuses and undermines the movement and the party.

Frank’s logic (if we look at it closely) fails to make this distinction. Unprincipled activity (including sectarianism) is generally organized activity. But organized activity is not necessarily unprincipled activity. Organized activity can be either good or bad. For example, revolutionary activity is also organized activity. Frank appears to be arguing that self-organization within the party itself is a problem (or, if it becomes necessary, then a symptom of a deeper problem). This is an example of the kind of confusion that can come up when we use a word like “factions” to describe self-organization.

Here is Frank:

> in January I stressed that the very organization of a faction
> means that the usual democratic methods of discussing
> and settling differences and furthering revolutionary theory
> that a revolutionary party has (not a revisionist one) have
> been set aside. I said factions have their own discipline,
> formally or not, and they play by their own rules.

This is why I think it is important to describe these principles with words that people can understand. Frank describes the activity of a faction as “factionalism”, and since some factions have behaved in a highly destructive way–Frank equates this destructive behavior with the activity of nearly any faction (except those that shut up and cease all organized activity when told). It is quite evident that the MLP, which produced both Frank and me, originated from the legacy of Stalin. I repudiated the idea of a monolithic party, with a single “party line” on things from A to Z, and which did not allow its members to criticize it in public.

So I favor the description of “self-organization”, rather than “factions”, because nearly everyone can understand what self-organization means. And just about everyone (except for cargo cultists) can understand that, if the party is genuinely democratic, then self-organization will inevitably take place, because genuine democracy is not possible without the right to self-organization.

Frank also said something else, which I believe is actually correct, concerning the internal discipline of a self-organized grouping in the party. This will, at critical moments, come up in the form of a question: to whom are you loyal: your grouping or the party as a whole?

At the congresses of the MLP, there was an announcement, as each congress convened, that the discipline of any internal grouping to which any members might be part of was _subordinate_ to the discipline of speaking and voting, on the basis of each individual’s conscience, to the needs of building the party of the working class. This meant that if any internal grouping attempted to pressure you regarding what you said or how you voted at the congress–then you could (and should) tell them to go to hell.

I think this is the correct and necessary perspective. Once the party has developed to the point that it can cleanly separate itself from social democracy, then your loyalty is to the party as a whole, not any internal grouping. This does not mean that your loyalty is to whatever group has managed to capture a temporary majority. Your loyalty is to building the party that the working class needs. This loyalty will be tested when the party begins to veer off course.

Ben


(From email sent April 6, 2015)

Hi Art,

I thought of a few more things that may be worth adding:

I will direct most of my comments to you, Art, because I doubt that Frank (or his enablers) will have much interest in them.

(1) As far as the red-blue-yellow diagram (in miniature below):

red-blue-yellow-small

An easy way to understand the dynamic that explains everything–is that the red and blue both, essentially, want nothing to do with each other–but are competing over the yellow. So we can think of the red and the blue as acting to repel one another (just as two protons would) but being attracted to the yellow (which is also attracted to them both). So the yellow acts as a kind of “glue”, holding the red and blue within the same overall framework. As the yellow is steadily converted into red and blue–then a point is reached where there is not enough glue left to hold the red and blue together. The analogy in physics is known as the strong force (one of the four fundamental forces in the universe: the three others being gravity, electromagnetism and the weak force). The particles that carry the strong force are called “gluons” (yes, they are called this because they act like glue, holding protons together at the core of every atom).

(2) One of the main distinctions between the cargo cult view of these matters and my own, is that cargo cult politics are often based on the principle of isolation, while my own are based on connection. When activists are isolated from one another–the movement is weak and divided, because we can’t understand the world if we cannot bounce ideas off of one another and keep one another informed.

I think, Art, that Frank’s view may be that, prior to 1911, Lenin did not understand the situation. I am not really sure if that is his view, because one of the features of Frank’s practice is that he only answers questions if he believes it is to his advantage in gaining influence with activists like you. But I think that is his view because he once accused me of attempting to disregard historical experience on this question–as if we need to do what Lenin did after 1911 because 1911 was in the past. Frank calls this kind of logic the “marxist-leninist stand, viewpoint and method”. Marx and Lenin, of course, would have called it bullshit.

(3) Frank made a useful point in that what he calls “factionalism” (ie: organized activity for a bad purpose) is similar to sectarianism, except that sectarianism is usually thought of as existing externally (ie: between groups outside the party).

Frank’s error is to think that the solution is to discourage self-organization in the party. The correct view is that self-organization for bad purposes will be opposed to a large degree by self-organization for good purposes (as well as more traditional methods). We cannot do without self-organization for good purposes, because so much of the struggle against wrong ideas and wrong practices will be ideological–and the idea that these kinds of struggles can be handled well only by top-down (supposedly democratic) methods alone is absurd.

Fundamentally, both sectarianism, as well as the kind of “internal sectarianism” that Frank calls “factionalism”, will be punctured by political transparency. All forms of sectarianism must inevitably be based on attempting to hide the contradiction between the agenda of the sectarians and the interests of the party/movement/proletariat. Political transparency will be unrelenting and merciless to those who attempt to hide the political contradictions that matter. It will smash them like a brick will smash an caterpillar on the sidewalk.

(4) I ran into a clue concerning why the CVO comrades were so hostile toward me, starting when I refused to condemn the MLP majority that was beginning to buckle and go passive. It is contained in some notes by Lenin in 1911 that I ran into on facebook last night.

At the Plenary Meeting Judas Trotsky made a big show of fighting liquidationism and otzovism. He vowed and swore that he was true to the Party. He was given a subsidy.
After the Meeting the Central Committee grow weaker, the Vperyod group grew stronger and acquired funds. The liquidators strengthened their position and in Nasha Zarya[1] spat in the face of the illegal Party, before Stolypin’s very eyes.

Judas expelled the representative of the Central Committee from, Pravda and began to write liquidationist articles in Vorwärts.[2] In defiance of the direct decision of the School Commission[3] appointed by the Plenary Meeting to the effect that no Party lecturer may go to the Vperyod factional school, Judas Trotsky did go and discussed a plan for a conference with the Vperyod group. This plan has now been published by the Vperyod group in a leaflet.

And it is this Judas who beats his breast and loudly professes his loyalty to the Party, claiming that he did not grovel before the Vperyod group and the liquidators.

Such is Judas Trotsky’s blush of shame.

I think that Joseph’s faction considered the MLP majority to be liquidators, and they treated it as something shameful that I would talk to (and be in a study group with) these “liquidators” (ie: former members and supporters who were going passive). A superficial reading of Lenin’s note above might lead a cargo cultist to the conclusion that revolutionaries are not supposed to talk to liquidationists. But Lenin had worked out the tactics that were necessary for specific circumstances. It was important that party representatives have nothing to do with the liquidators because the liquidators enjoyed legality (and could make their views public–while the Bolsheviks were being suppressed–the reference to Stolypin is that he was the Tzar’s infamous hangman) and were falsely passing themselves off to readers as if they represented the best of the party. Without the ability to publicly reply to the liquidators–the best way to make it clear to readers that the liquidators were not legitimate was to refuse to have anything at all to do with them. That, at least, is what I make of this. The irony here is that we can see how contemptuous Lenin was of otzovism. And otzovism is nothing but the Russian word for cargo cult.

(5) Joseph (on facebook as Fred) wrote a good concise summary of the situation in Greece that is understandable to a general audience. It was good so you and I both shared it. I think that Joseph was able to write about this matter for a general audience in a way that is better than either you or me could do. Does that mean that I am wrong to consider Joseph a charlatan? No. I believe that Joseph wanted, and still wants, to play a good role in the class struggle. But Joseph was probably driven to charlatanism because he felt it was necessary in order to maintain his organization. It was a gradual thing. This is how opportunism often starts: it is a slippery slope and initially is not very steep. For a long time, someone can feel like they are on a level surface. But once people are on it, it gradually becomes steeper. The irony today is that Joseph has now written an article that is deserving of much wider exposure–but his sectarianism has greatly limited his reach. But, in any event, we can learn from Joseph’s approach to a general audience, and his follow up article on the strengths and weaknesses of Syriza is likely to be quite good.

Also, this is now on my blog at: https://warforquadranttwo.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/288/

All the best,
Ben

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