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Building a Community of Information War (Ben Seattle)

Ben Seattle's annual report for 2007 is in the form of a letter to a comrade in Portugal
Stephen Covey's views on SAIC's vital priorities
Stephen Covey's views on SAIC's vital priorities
I welcome your thoughtful and considered comments here on Indymedia,
but may only have time to respond (within a week or two) to the place
where this report is posted at:
 http://struggle.net/ben/2007/annual.htm
-- Ben, May 5, 2007

Building a Community of Information War
(letter to Joćo - May 2007)

Hi Joćo,

Each year, on or about May 1st, I write an annual report to
fellow activists explaining what I have done in the past year and
what I intend to do in the coming year. I would like to
eventually see the habit of public annual reports become a
tradition among activists -- in order to help bring transparency
and self-organization to our movement.

This year I am writing my annual report in the form of a letter
to you. I am doing this both to save time (ie: combine two tasks
into one) also to encourage a tradition of open discussion
concerning the tasks which are decisive for the salvation of our
movement and the liberation of humankind from bourgeois rule.

The coming year will be, for me, a year of retreat from political
work. [...private comments omitted...]

Since my time and focus are limited -- I must prioritize. The
class struggle and organizing for the victory of the proletariat
remain the core of who and what I am. But I remain human. There
is a time and a place for everything and my long-term political
work remains on a solid foundation and will not be undermined by
a temporary period of retreat.

Contents:

* Theoretical weapons must be used
* What can we do today?
* The coming ocean of transparency
* No source of ignition
* Fear of transparency
* Being in the right place at the right time
* My annual report
* The heart of the matter
* My efforts to create a community
* The need for a open, focused community
* My Proposal
* SAIC -- trapped in Covey's first quadrant
* SAIC's strength: powerful agitation
* The need for sober criticism
* Vital to keep mind on long-term goals
* Stephen Covey's views on our vital priorities
* The sad results of urgency addiction
* Urgency junkies consider me an impractical dreamer
* Why SAIC needs transparency
* Transparency: threat or menace ?
* The road forward
----------------
* Footnotes
* Appendix: making the connection to better world

------------------------------------------------------------
Theoretical weapons must be used
------------------------------------------------------------

My theoretical work (beginning with the Self-Organizing Moneyless
Economy and culminating in 17 Theses, my essay and chart on
proletarism and my essays for the anarcho-leninist debate on the
state [1]) is, essentially, complete.

My contribution to marxist theory, in my view, is modest. I have
used marxist theory to cast a bright light on the significance of
the emerging revolution in communications (and vice versa). In
this sense my theoretical work is nothing brilliant -- deserving
of only a footnote in the book of marx's theory. I have earned
this footnote, in my view, simply for avoiding the usual bullshit
and formulating principles which will be seen as _obvious_ once
the ocean of shit which has accumulated since the death of Lenin
is swept away.

In a practical sense, however, it appears to me that my work may
be of significance because it will, as it becomes known, play a
positive role in resolving the crisis of theory which has
paralyzed the revolutionary movement and reduced this movement to
a plaything in the hands of treacherous social-democracy and
clueless sectarian cults.

So your action in translating my 17 theses (and key paragraphs
from the debate) for your web magazine [2] is most welcome and
useful.

But theoretical weapons have no meaning apart from being used to
build organization or build our movement. None of our work
(practical or theoretical) has any meaning apart from playing a
role in building organization or our movement.

The _good news_ is that opportunities are opening up _today_ that
will allow activists like us to take effective action to put the
revolutionary movement on a solid foundation so that it will,
once again, be deserving of the attention, respect and devotion
of the working class and, once again, command the actions of
millions.

------------------------------------------------------------
What can we do today?
------------------------------------------------------------

So what can we do _today_ to transform our aspirations into
actions that will create a solid foundation for a healthy
revolutionary movement capable of commanding the attention and
respect of millions?

The answer is simple. We can work to build an authentic
community of activists determined to make systematic and
determined use of _information war_ to awaken our god (ie: the
international proletariat) which alone is capable of righting all
the wrongs of the world -- of overthrowing bourgeois rule, ending
imperialist war forever and delivering a world of peace,
abundance, healthy culture and authentic community for all.

------------------------------------------------------------
The coming ocean of transparency
------------------------------------------------------------

The revolutionary movement (the product of the untold sacrifices
of millions from before the time of Spartacus through the Russian
and Chinese revolutions and the smaller current struggles) is
today in a period of quagmire and lull. That's the bad news.
The good news is that this will change.

The current US imperialist adventure in the Middle East is
business as usual. In reaction to it a movement has emerged here
in the U.S. The movement is not yet large or militant or
sufficiently politically conscious to make a decisive break from
imperialist politics. Movements like this emerge periodically
and usually they do not amount to much. What this movement will
amount to remains to be seen.

What is new at this time is the emerging revolution in
communications.

It has now been a dozen years since the internet, personal
computers and the web combined to become a mass phenomenon.

At this time more than 800 million people are online. The
explosion of teen-aged activity with music, personal blogs and
myspace pages has drawn in many millions but so far is not very
political (which means that the potential of these forms of
communication remains unrealized and unappreciated). The next
steps in the development of the revolution in communications are
clear: it will not take long for another billion people to come
online. Broadband communication is emerging. Internet radio
will eventually become a mass phenomenon (a potentially big
factor in a country like the U.S. where many listen to radio
while they commute to work and the "talk radio" is dominated by
the right-wing). Cell phones are beginning to emerge as a cheap
and popular communications platform.

Meanwhile the efforts of reactionary governments to hold back the
flood of open information from reaching the eyes and ears of the
masses becomes more difficult with each passing year. China
(probably the best example of this) will soon have more internet
users than any other country. It appears unlikely that the
reactionary Chinese government will be able to maintain for
another decade their current system in which a growing army of
censors constantly monitors chatrooms, deleting posts and
threatening and harassing teenagers and adults alike.

These things will all eventually have immense political impact.

A few months ago a cell phone in Egypt was used to capture a
video of the torture of a cab driver by the local police.
Apparently this video has been widely seen in Egypt and has had
some impact there. The Egyptian masses already knew that torture
by the police was common--but the video still had a big impact.
And incidents like this are only drops in what (maybe within our
lifetimes, Joćo) will become an ocean.

------------------------------------------------------------
No source of ignition
------------------------------------------------------------

What has not happened, Joćo, is for any revolutionary trend to
make systematic and determined use of the emerging revolution in
communications.

This has surprised me, Joćo.

The flammable material continues to accumulate but we do not yet
have a source of ignition.

Here in the U.S., the popular dissatisfaction with Bush is being
fed by a section of the ruling bourgeoisie which smells a looming
strategic catastrophe in Iraq that could undermine for decades
the regional influence of US imperialism. The treachery of the
Democratic Party (which "opposes" the war while continuing to
fund it as a "tactic") becomes more apparent each day to a
growing number of activists. And the possibilities of making use
of the internet to fuel and organize a revolutionary movement are
growing with each year. But so far there is precious little
fruit growing on this tree.

Why has there been such timid and half-hearted use of the
revolutionary possibilities of the emerging revolution in
communications by _all_ the self-styled revolutionary trends?

------------------------------------------------------------
Fear of transparency
------------------------------------------------------------

A big factor, it appears to me, is that they are all deeply
confused (in the best cases) or corrupt (in most cases) and sense
that the revolution in communications represents a threat to
their existence.

The overwhelming majority of these self-styled revolutionary
trends will be wiped out, it appears to me, in the period of
ideological turbulence and rapid evolution of the left ecosystem
that will be ushered in once the internet becomes an effective
weapon for the spread of revolutionary ideas and organization.

In the meantime the short-sightedness and timidity of the best of
the revolutionary groupings is typified (to me) by the reaction
of a CVO supporter when I proposed that SAIC make more effective
use of its website to attract the attention and participation of
activists:

We will "crash", he said, if we get drawn into "this website
thing" too much.

------------------------------------------------------------
Being in the right place at the right time
------------------------------------------------------------

I will discuss SAIC (and my proposals) in just a bit -- but I
must keep this letter focused. I am writing to you for a
specific reason: I need your help.

Possibilities are opening up which will give activists like us
the ability to do things which have never before been possible.
With a relatively minimal and modest amount of time and energy --
we can help to catalyze the release and focus of a relatively
large amount of revolutionary energy. We have this ability, it
appears to me, simply by being conscious and by being in the
right place at the right time -- of being effective on a scale
which has never before been possible during a period of lull in
the revolutionary movement.

As a revolutionary activist, Joćo, your time is valuable and I
will respect your time and get the point after giving just a
little bit more context.

------------------------------------------------------------
My annual report
------------------------------------------------------------

Normally, in my annual report I summarize what I have done in the
last year and what I intend to accomplish in the coming year [3].

Summarizing these things is easy for me this year.

What have I accomplished in the past year?

Essentially nothing.

What am I likely to accomplish in the coming year?

Probably nothing.

My long range plans, however, remain unchanged:

(1) I will work to encourage the development of a community of
activists focused on ending bourgeois rule and focused on making
use of _information war_ to mobilize the working class for this
purpose.

(2) I will work on projects that will make systematic use of the
internet to bring revolutionary politics to activists, connect
with these activists and draw these activists into this
community.

(3) I will work on digital infrastructure (ie: a new kind of
combined wiki-blog in which all activists have protected public
space to argue their views as well as the democratic right to
effectively challenge and criticize any posts or comments which
they consider to be bullshit [13]) in order to assist the
self-organization and transparency of this community.

------------------------------------------------------------
The heart of the matter
------------------------------------------------------------

Now I must get to the heart of the matter: how can you help with
this?

What can you do that would _not_ require much of your time and
_would_ allow you to most effectively leverage your skills and
experience to assist other activists (with more time and energy
but less experience) to focus on the tasks which appear to be
decisive for the liberation of humankind?

My proposal would require from you as little as one hour per
month.

With an investment of as little as one hour per month I believe
anyone with your experience could play an outstanding role in
creating a community of activists focused on using information
war to liberate humanity.

------------------------------------------------------------
My efforts to create a community
------------------------------------------------------------

The background to my proposal is that I have been working to
build a community [4] as I describe by means of an email list
[5].

So far there is little to show for my efforts. The email list
has 170 subscribers -- but most are completely inactive and few
have a clue. The noise level on the list is low (because nearly
all subscribers are limited to one post per week). But if there
is not much noise -- neither is there much signal.

The list has occasionally had on it activists with a clue. But,
generally, they have not stayed because they saw no reason to do
so.

Activists who are serious about changing the world will be
attracted to any community that has developed some kind of
program of revolutionary work (or at least some promising
projects) into which they can easily plug their individual
energy. Failing this, activists may maintain involvement with an
online community in which they can meet and maintain contact with
other serious, experienced activists.

The community-in-embryo which I have been working to develop has
neither of these attractants: there is no meaningful program of
revolutionary work nor is there any significant number of
experienced activists with whom to talk.

My own work may, at one time, have come close to providing these
attractants (at one time I was posting once a week -- and I also
began, with help from an activist named Marik, a modest project
to regularly post revolutionary analysis and essays to the
internet [6]) but now that I have been forced to scale back my
own activity (ie: for the last year and for some time in the
future) the community -- if not completely dead -- is in a state
of suspended animation.

------------------------------------------------------------
The need for a open, focused community
------------------------------------------------------------

I continue to believe that an open and relatively unstructured
community is a useful and necessary form of organization that has
been made possible by the revolution in communications and which
can be well adapted to a period of lull. The openness provides
an effective barrier to the efforts of sectarian cults to hijack
the entire project -- because sectarians generally do not respond
well to open challenge and criticism.

The experience of Proyect's list proves that intelligent
discussion can be a powerful attractant. But Proyect's list is
not really open -- as shown by the fact that activists such as
myself are not allowed to post there.

If we want to create a community that is:

(1) open -- where activists have the _right_ to participate

(2) committed to a reasonable signal-to-noise ratio

(3) favorable to the development of a
genuinely revolutionary program of work

-- then we must create it ourselves.

This is my conclusion. (The particular form of an _email list_,
in my view, is only a medium-term solution -- since a long-term
solution will require the development of methods of collaborative
filtering and other methods that protect both the right to
democratic criticism as well as the kind of signal-to-noise ratio
necessary to attract serious people.)

Until or unless some _other_ effort to develop an open community
of activists focused on the decisive tasks emerges (and I am
aware of none) then I believe it makes sense to work to develop
_this_ community. This requires a focus on (1) attracting a
critical mass of activists with a clue and (2) gradually
developing, in an open, public process, a _defensible consensus_
on the _principles_ and tasks which must form the foundation of
the revolutionary movement and of any organization committed to
making use of information war to build such a movement.

Since the development of a community such as I describe is a
long-term project and our time is sharply limited -- it makes
sense, in my view, to give thought to means by which, with
_modest_ but _consistent_ efforts over time -- we can assist this
effort without putting undue pressure on the time we have for
other political projects or for the issues in our personal lives.

With this in mind I have put together the following proposal
which I am asking you to consider.

------------------------------------------------------------
My Proposal
------------------------------------------------------------

I would like to see you make a commitment to do the following
four things:

(1) Post at least 4 times a year to the pof-200 email list (once
per quarter) and follow up (not necessarily at length) to any
serious and thoughtful replies that you might get [7].

(2) One of the posts would be your annual report (ie: at least
100 words describing what you have done over the past year and at
least another 100 words describing what you intend to do in the
coming year).

(3) Your other 3 posts would in some way relate either to (a)
your own political work, (b) the work or comments of others on
the list or (c) the mission of our community-in-embryo and/or the
principles which must guide it.

(4) Spend at least 20 minutes per month looking at some of the
pof-200 posts (via either the web or email) in order to have some
familiarity with the life of the list and the views of the people
on it who are more mature politically.

Your four posts per year would not, by itself, provide the
community with a critical mass of conscious energy -- but would
provide an example of how an experienced activist can assist the
community with a relatively low expenditure of time and energy --
and would help to encourage others to do the same. If ten other
experienced activists were to make a similar commitment -- then
the community would be generating, most likely, at least one
interesting post per week and would also likely be making
progress in the development of a consensus for a program of work
focused on the decisive tasks.

The movement needs leadership and organization. We do not have
the ability to provide these things but we can create a community
that could (a) draw together other activists with talent and
determination and (b) have the power to challenge or compel the
various would-be leaders to come and be accountable for their
actions.

------------------------------------------------------------
SAIC -- trapped in Covey's first quadrant
------------------------------------------------------------

That concludes the main part of my letter, Joćo.

I would like to add, at this time, some comments and observations
about my work with the Seattle Anti-Imperialist Committee (SAIC)
[8].

My experience with SAIC illustrates (to me at least) both what is
strong and what is weak with activist organizing in the U.S. and
some of the current barriers to the systematic and determined use
of information war to build the antiwar and revolutionary
movements.

In particular, the experience of SAIC may illustrate some of the
limitations of their kind of organizing and may highlight the
need for activists like us to build what is sometimes criticized
as a "useless talk shop" -- an unstructured and open community --
as a means of overcoming these limitations.

I will begin with what is strong about SAIC's work.

------------------------------------------------------------
SAIC's strength: powerful agitation on the need for
a decisive break from reformist/imperialist politics
------------------------------------------------------------

SAIC appears to be one of the best organizations of its kind in
the U.S. In the two years since SAIC was founded, it has
distributed many thousands of leaflets on a variety of topics to
mass actions, neighborhoods and schools here in Seattle. SAIC
has also organized two successful independent feeder marches from
a Seattle neighborhood to a larger antiwar action. What stands
out about SAIC, however, is that its leaflets and all of its
activity give clear and consistent voice to the need for
activists to make a decisive break with the politics of the
imperialist Democratic Party and its social-democratic allies in
the movement. This is something that none of the mainstream
reformist groups or the supposedly "socialist" groups have done
or will do.

The need for a decisive break from the reformist brand of
imperialist politics is the most important principle for the
development of the antiwar movement and SAIC's agitation not only
confronts this question directly -- it does so with a fair amount
of skill, drawing conclusions from an analysis of current events
so that readers of its leaflets can understand the treachery of
the Democratic Party (and its allies within the antiwar movement
itself) on the basis of daily events. SAIC has also participated
in joint work with other trends in a principled way -- without
promoting the typical reformist illusions that saturate the
antiwar movement and keep the antiwar movement relatively small
and passive.

In addition to this, SAIC has also taken significant steps to
open itself up to criticism: all of its leaflets and statements
are posted on its website in blog format and anyone can post
public questions or criticisms (moderation is only used against
apolitical abuse or commercial spam).

So there should be no mistake: SAIC is a big success, in my view,
and all serious activists in the Seattle area would do well to
learn from SAIC and to find ways to support its work.

------------------------------------------------------------
The need for sober criticism
------------------------------------------------------------

Building a serious movement, however, requires more than cheering
on groups like SAIC which work to help liberate the movement from
the straightjacket of reformist politics. A serious attitude
toward the movement, and toward SAIC itself, requires taking a
sober view of SAIC's shortcoming and weaknesses. These
weaknesses may be overcome, in my view, in the course of
protracted and conscious struggle. This struggle is necessary
for groups like SAIC to fulfill their potential to create an
anti-imperialist pole of attraction in the antiwar movement and
bring revolutionary politics to activists.

------------------------------------------------------------
Vital to keep mind on long-term goals
------------------------------------------------------------

My own role in SAIC is limited. I played a role in introducing
to one another the two founders (ie: an experienced CVO supporter
and an energetic student activist who was in the process of
breaking from a maoist cult (the RCP) as their defacto alliance
with the left-wing of the Democratic Party was becoming more
obvious). Since that time, SAIC has grown to include nearly a
dozen people who carry out work and attend meetings on a
semi-regular basis.

From the beginning, I have advocated that SAIC recognize the
_long term_ goals which are essential for any organization which
aspires to build powerful antiwar or revolutionary movements [9].
I have advocated that SAIC not lose sight of the need to:

(a) connect to activists on a _national_ level
using email lists or progressive web forums
such as Indymedia,

(b) develop an open _community_ of supporters
who can use the web or email to connect with
one another and have a _window_ into SAIC's
internal life (ie: the political trends
within SAIC and their struggle over SAIC's
direction) and

(c) confront the _crisis of theory_ which has
left nearly all activists with the view
that the only alternative to bourgeois rule
is a police state ruled by a single party
which suppresses the voice and independent
actions of its critics and the masses.

To a large extent, the response of SAIC supporters has been that
SAIC does not have the time or ability to tackle such issues and
must instead focus on more _urgent_ issues such as:

(a) the next leaflet or next action

(b) what needs to be done in the next 60 days

(c) what will keep people who are around SAIC
energized and excited

------------------------------------------------------------
Stephen Covey's views on our vital priorities
------------------------------------------------------------

The best way to understand the current situation, is my view, is
to consider the "quadrant" activity matrix popularized by the "7
Habits of Highly Successful People" author, Stephan Covey.

Covey popularized the idea of an activity chart divided into 4
sections (or quadrants). Quadrant 1 is for activities that are
both urgent and important and Quadrant 2 is for activities that
are important but not urgent. (We will ignore Quadrants 3 and 4
in this analysis as they are not important.)

In Covey's classification, Quadrant 1 (ie: urgent and important)
would include tasks like:

(a) putting out a fire
(b) going to the dentist to have
an infected tooth removed
(c) buying a car quickly so you
can get to work and keep your job
after your old car breaks down
(d) negotiating an emergency loan

while Quadrant 2 (important but not urgent) would include less
glamorous things like:

(a) fire prevention
(b) brushing your teeth
(c) changing the oil in your car
(d) saving money

Covey's view (and I am in complete agreement with him on this) is
that in terms of this activity matrix, where most people (and
organizations) run into trouble -- is that they get caught
spending too much time in Quadrant 1 and not enough time in
Quadrant 2.

Activity in Quadrant 1 is, of course, necessary. In war and in
peace, in sickness and in health -- issues come up all the time
which are urgent and must be dealt with. This is the nature of
life. But Quadrant 2 is the fundamental quadrant of investment
and of real power. Highly effective people, Covey argues,
maintain the habit of spending as much time in as possible in
Quadrant 2.

The struggle to spend more time in Quadrant 2 is not always easy.
Quadrant 1, by its nature, cannot be ignored. Each quadrant is
characterized by its own set of habits and emotions. Putting out
a fire is the stuff of heroism. And don't we all want to be
heroes? But the rush of adrenalin that can come from Quadrant 1
activity can be addictive -- and adrenalin junkies are in a weak
position from which to change the world.

------------------------------------------------------------
The sad results of urgency addiction
------------------------------------------------------------

In the MLP [10], I was told of how the Workers' Advocate editors
would work under great deadline pressure and feel exhilaration
when they met the deadline. But the MLP died, I am convinced,
because it got trapped in the first quadrant and could not find
its way to Quadrant 2.

My struggle with the SAIC comrades can, in this light, be seen as
a call to recognize the long-term necessity of greater investment
in Quadrant 2. The SAIC comrades, essentially, reply by
defending the necessity of their first quadrant work and act as
though work in the second quadrant means giving up entirely the
first quadrant work that keeps the organization alive.

I am not arguing, of course, for giving up all work in Quadrant
1. I am arguing against an exclusive focus on Quadrant 1. I am
arguing against losing sight of what is vital, over the longer
term, for the development of the antiwar and revolutionary
movements.

------------------------------------------------------------
Urgency junkies consider me an impractical dreamer
------------------------------------------------------------

However, to the urgency junkies, this makes me an impractical
dreamer.

At the last public SAIC meeting, we discussed my recent
suggestions: "10 things that SAIC can do to gain attention from
activists and build anti-imperialist consciousness" [11].

The student activist I mentioned earlier expressed to me his
disappointment and frustration that I was assisting SAIC's
Quadrant 1 work "this much" (he held his finger an inch off the
table) while everyone else was assisting like "that" (he held his
hands two feet above the table). I don't have time to help SAIC
with the things that are necessary to keep it alive, he argued,
while I have time to write lengthy arguments about things which
are not urgent. (I did not write down his exact words -- but
this more or less captures his tone.)

And of course he is correct.

I am not a slave to this kind of "urgency".

I was able to help this activist break from a maoist cult and
find more serious people to work with (ie: the basis of SAIC)
because I am not a slave to this kind of "urgency".

I have a different attitude than this comrade because I have
experience that he does not.

I have seen what was most precious to me in all the world, the
MLP, destroyed because the loyal comrades were unable to see
beyond what they thought was "urgent".

My conclusion is that we need an organization that is stronger
than this. Organizations which become trapped by the falsely
urgent -- are organizations which become brittle and which -- in
the long run -- are of little value to the working class --
because they will be blown away in the first stiff breeze.

Yes, the next leaflet is important -- and, yes, we need people
around the organization to be excited. But if our actions over
the long term fail to address the needs of the movement -- then
supporters of the organization will eventually sense (even if on
a less than fully conscious level) that what they are
accomplishing is not worthy of the personal sacrifices they are
making -- and the organization will be unable to escape
demoralization and a crisis of confidence.

------------------------------------------------------------
Why SAIC needs transparency
------------------------------------------------------------

One of my 10 suggestions was to post on SAIC's website a short
summary, in blog format, of our public meetings so that activists
can post comments and give their opinions on our disagreements.
I consider this a practical method for SAIC to increase its
political transparency and help create community. (And this
suggestion is not difficult to implement technically.)

But it's not going to happen. SAIC supporters were concerned
that this kind of thing would undermine a necessary focus on more
urgent work.

To my view, of course, it is silly to think that allowing
activists to post comments on summaries of SAIC's public meetings
would undermine any work that was truly urgent and necessary.
Rather, it is simply a part of the political life of any
organization which is serious about helping the movement break
free from the domination of the reformist brand of imperialist
politics.

More than this, I believe the suggestion would be a practical and
effective method to deal with the opportunist line that SAIC is
nothing more than a "front group" controlled by the CVO.

I think it is important to discuss this because SAIC's opponents
often make this accusation.

I should note, by the way, the hypocrisy of this accusation --
because the work and the organizations of the people who usually
make this accusation -- are on a _leash_ which is connected to
their social-democratic allies -- who, in turn, are in orbit
around the left wing of the imperialist Democratic Party. So
even if it _was_ true that the CVO controlled SAIC -- this would
still be a far better situation than that of SAIC's opponents --
who tend to be on a leash ultimately tied a section of the
Democratic Party.

The CVO does not have total control of SAIC but it's supporters
do have enormous influence. This influence within SAIC has been
earned by their hard work in building SAIC and their experience
in the class struggle (which gives these comrades great insight
compared to activists with much less experience).

But for activists to have greater confidence in SAIC and for SAIC
to be seen as an organization which belongs to (ie: is owned by
and serves) the _movement_ (ie: rather than a plaything subject
to manipulation by the CVO) -- then movement activists must have
the right to know about the struggles within SAIC -- and must
have the right (and the space on SAIC's website) to weigh in with
their opinions on these struggles. This is the kind of
organization (ie: open, transparent) which the movement needs.
And SAIC has potential to develop into this kind of organization.

------------------------------------------------------------
Transparency: threat or menace ?
------------------------------------------------------------

The core of the opposition to my suggestion was a CVO supporter
[12].

And nearly all of my other proposals (ie: that SAIC develop more
of a focus on vital long-term goals and expand its reach and
influence by making more effective use of the internet) were also
opposed in a similar way and for similar reasons: because (a) CVO
supporters opposed them and because (b) others in SAIC tend to
have confidence in the judgment of the people who have guided
SAIC and made SAIC a significant trend in the local antiwar
movement capable of standing up in a skilled and principled way
to the reformist coalitions and their opportunist "socialist"
allies.

What is the basis of the CVO opposition to my proposals?

Is it simply cluelessness or is it fear of transparency? Is it
ignorance of potential power of the internet or fear of this
power (ie: which might lead to exposure of their errors and the
kind of crisis of confidence that might threaten the existence of
their organization)?

I tend to think it is more than cluelessness (see appendix
"making the connection to better world" below).

------------------------------------------------------------
The road forward
------------------------------------------------------------

Ultimately, the motivations of CVO supporters do not matter. The
needs of the movement will make themselves felt over time. The
world will not end if the SAIC project does not yet offer
activists a larger window and a voice into the disagreements
which emerge at its public meetings. But in the meantime we
should work to build open community of activists that is less
constrained -- where disagreements are more open and where
everyone has the right to lend the weight of their opinion.

Ultimately an open and relatively unstructured community will
provide a powerful means to leverage and expand the work, and
influence, of an activist organization like SAIC. The use of the
internet is not a replacement for work "on the ground" anymore
than the development of cavalry was a replacement for infantry in
ancient warfare. Rather, successful armies in ancient times were
those which skillfully combined cavalry with infantry. In the
same way we must look for and experiment with ways to combine the
kinds of _open communities_ which are made possible by the
internet with more traditional forms of political organizing.
This is the road forward to victory after victory in a century
which will be dominated by information war.

And this is why, Joćo, I hope you will consider my proposal.

Ben Seattle
 http://struggle.net/ben May 5, 2007

-- Appendix follows footnotes below --

------------------------------------------------------------
Footnotes
------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Ben's theoretical work:
* 17 Theses:  http://struggle.net/17
* Proletarism essay and chart:  http://Proletarism.com
* anarcho-leninist debate on the state:
 http://struggle.net/ALDS
* Self-Organizing Moneyless Economy:
 http://Leninism.org/some
[2] Joćo's web magazine:  http://www.ocomuneiro.com
[3] Ben's annual reports, going back to 1999, can be found at:
 http://struggle.net/Ben/index.htm#annual
[4] Community:  http://MediaWeapon.com
[5] Email list: see pof-200 described in the page above
[6] Modest Project: see:  http://WeaponOfTransparency.com
[7] pof-200 public archive:
 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pof-200/messages
[8] SAIC:  http://SeattleAIC.org
[9] Ben's views on SAIC's long-term goals:
see:  http://struggle.net/mass-democracy
[10] MLP: The Marxist-Leninist Party (1980 - 1993)
originated from earlier organizations:
1967 - the Cleveland Draft Resistance Union
1969 - the American Communist Workers' Movement (M-L)
1973 - the Central Organization of U.S. Marxist-Leninists
(COUSML). "The Workers' Advocate" was
the newspaper of the MLP. Most of the supporters of
the MLP became passive after it dissolved itself.
Political work is continued by the Communist Voice
Organization  http://CommunistVoice.org (based on
former MLP supporters in Detroit and Seattle) and
by Ben Seattle  http://struggle.net/ben
[11] "10 things that SAIC can do to gain attention from
activists and build anti-imperialist consciousness"
is posted as a comment to SAIC's unity statement
online at:  http://www.seattleaic.org/?p=42
[12] Statements of the CVO supporters, explaining their
opposition to my proposals, in their own words,
can be found at:
 http://Struggle.net\Ben\2006\506-frank.htm and
 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2006/05/339379.shtml
Further comments are indexed at:
 http://struggle.net/mass-democracy
[13] a new kind of combined wiki-blog:
see:  http://AttentionRefinery.com

------------------------------------------------------------
Appendix: making the connection to better world
------------------------------------------------------------

In May 2006 I had a public exchange with Joseph Green (the editor of the theoretical journal of the "Communist Voice Organization" (CVO)) concerning the failure of his journal ("CV") to confront the theoretical crisis which has paralyzed the revolutionary movement of the working class.

My exchange with Joseph has been ongoing, in slow-motion, for more than a dozen years, ever since Joseph assisted me (in the form of challenging me to answer a series of theoretical questions) in a way that allowed me to write "The Self-Organizing Moneyless Economy", which became the theoretical foundation of all of my work that followed.

Following are a few excerpts from Joseph's comments in May 2006 together with my reply today. Joseph's May 2006 comments are posted as a reply to my May 2006 letter ("The Road to Information War") to comrade Edward, posted at:  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2006/05/339379.shtml

Joseph -- May 2006 (underscores added):
---------------------------------------

> You write that I fail "to discuss, or even mention,
> the necessity and decisive role of the fundamental
> democratic rights of speech and organization in
> making the dictatorship of the proletariat a reality
> in the period following the overthrow of bourgeois
> rule."

> In actual fact [...] our articles on the transition
> to socialism [...] point to the question of the actual
> control by the masses over the economy, the politics,
> and so forth. [...]

> the problem is that you don't see any _connection_
> between the control of the masses over the economic
> and politics and their democratic rights.

Ben replies - May 2007:
-----------------------

I don't see any connection?

My work over the last dozen years proves that I have studied and deeply appreciate this connection.

It is Joseph who fails to appreciate (ie: study, discuss or write about) this connection.

Democratic rights are essential for control. Control is impossible without democratic rights.

It is this fundamental truth that _must_ be made known to activists and the masses in order for them to have a concept of workers' rule that is realistic enough to be deserving of credibility. It is as simple as that.

This is where Joseph's journal fails in its responsibility to activists.

If Joseph really believes that democratic rights are essential for workers' rule -- then why will his journal not say so? Why will his journal not carry articles on the topic?

Or maybe Joseph believes that this principle (without which the concept of workers' rule is inconceivable) is not important?

But, if so, then this would indicate that Joseph believes that a concept of workers' rule that is realistic enough to be deserving of credibility -- that is credible enough to resonate in the minds of workers and activists and give workers and activists an unshakeable conviction that a better world is possible -- is not important either.

Based on Joseph's actions, based on the inability of Joseph's journal to lift a finger to defend a concept of workers' rule that is deserving of attention -- I conclude that Joseph and his trend (the supporters of which are complicit in this silly self-deception) have made their peace with the status quo: that workers and activists are unable to conceive of an alternative to continued bourgeois rule.

Joseph -- May 2006 (underscores added):
---------------------------------------

> You pretend that CV articles aren't _concerned_
> with the democratic rights of the masses, and
> that the CV _imagines_ that a shackled, bullied,
> and intimidated working class might yet be
> said to have control of the economy.

Ben replies - May 2007:
-----------------------

Joseph is well known for these kinds of somersaults.

The problem is not what CVO supporters _think_ but what they _do_.

If the CV articles were truly "concerned" with the democratic rights of the masses -- then the democratic rights of speech and organization would have been _openly discussed_ in the articles rather than _implied_ in the same darn evasive way that the apologists for the corrupt Soviet and Chinese police-states would claim that the workers in these countries really "control" politics and economics every time some critic was thrown in jail for "slander" or "insults" or some other action was taken to shackle, bully or intimidate the working class.

The problem is not what Joseph's trend does or does not "imagine" -- but that it is not doing any _work_ to show that the democratic rights of speech and organization are necessary for workers' rule.

Joseph's journal _refuses_ to specifically say this.

Activists _need_ to understand that worker's rule will be characterized by (ie: will be impossible without) the democratic rights of speech and organization extended even (for the profound reason that the authority to determine what is healthy and unhealthy in culture and politics must be distributed to and exercized by the entire working class rather than through a centralized point of control) to opponents of workers' rule.

1) This is vital and decisive in establishing confidence that worker's rule will be an _improvement_ over bourgeois rule.

2) And it is doubly vital and decisive in light of the brutal (and universally known) suppression of democratic rights by the Soviet and Chinese regimes (and in light of the history of our own trend, the MLP, which guided the formation of our political work and consciousness, in cluelessly applauding this suppression).

3) And it is triply vital and decisive in light of the need to make clear to readers that we understand modern society and understand how even the politics and economics of bourgeois society are beginning to be shaped by the emerging revolution in communications.

Joseph, who imagines himself to be a communist, has lost sight of the fact that one of the most important roles of theory is to give activists and workers a guiding vision -- of a world ruled not by the capitalists but by the working class. This guiding vision is not sustainable (ie: collapses, is bankrupt, cannot be defended) without the fundamental democratic rights of speech and organization.

In a dozen years Joseph's theoretical journal has not lifted a finger to confront any of the key questions (ie: the inseparability of democratic rights from workers' rule, the incompatibility of workers' rule with the dictatorship of a single party or organization, etc). This raises the question of whether Joseph's journal has been shaped by the theoretical needs of the class struggle -- or has become a refuge from the class struggle.

Joseph has the ability to be an asset to the revolutionary movement and to assist the international working class to confront and resolve the crisis of theory which has paralyzed the revolutionary movement and reduced it to an impotent plaything in the hands of treacherous reformists and clueless sectarian cults.

For Joseph to fulfill this potential, however, he must recognize the need for activists and workers to understand that a world without bourgeois rule is both possible and necessary. And this requires work which makes clear that worker's rule under modern conditions is inseparable from the democratic rights of speech and organization extended even to its opponents.

Joseph and the supporters of the CVO will never be able to say that no one ever told them, with clarity and skill, where they missed the connection between our present tasks and our future goal. I would like to see them make this connection. But this is a decision only they can make.

Ben Seattle
 http://struggle.net/ben May 5, 2007