The REDSTAR2000 Papers

Listen to the worm of doubt, for it speaks truth. - Leftist Discussion

Tracking the Reformists--A Difficult Task July 27, 2003 by RedStar2000

As you will see in this collection of posts, the reformist is an elusive creature that says many different things at different times. They don't "like" to be "pinned down" to specifics...inspite of the fact that "specifics" are supposed to be their "strength".

Patience is required to track them from one position to another...until it becomes clear where they really end up: self-appointed experts, advising the capitalist class how to make capitalism more "humane" and "acceptable" to the working class.


Since reformist ideas have recently been expounded at Che-Lives at greater than normal length and frequency, I thought it might be useful to summarize some contrasts between revolutionary communist ideas and the complex of ideas usually known under the rubric reformism.

Although these ideas are all "tied together", I've broken them apart into catagories to make them easier to grasp.

Ultimate Goal

Communists: classless society.

Reformists: unknown

The consistent reformist has no "ultimate goal" and rejects talk of such things as "idealist", "impractical", "dreaming", etc. If pressed, he will speak of "socialism" or use a more innocuous word that means the same thing--upon examination, this usually turns out to mean something not very different from capitalism; "market socialism" for example.

Primary Strategy

Communists: educating the working class to rise up and take direct control of the means of production, smashing the capitalist state machinery, etc.

Reformists: educating the working class and others to vote for a reformist political party in bourgeois elections.

Both trends will, resources permitting, produce as much propaganda as they can and distribute it as widely as they can. Both make strong appeals to rational arguments against capitalism; but communists emphasize resistance while reformists (normally) emphasize voting.

Secondary Strategy

Communists: participating in struggles involving direct resistance to capitalist hegemony.

Reformists: participating in various economic efforts--co-ops, worker-owned enterprises, etc.--to directly build alternatives to capitalism.

Note that primary and secondary strategies, in practice, are often "mixed together", especially for communists.

Defining Event

Communists: the proletarian revolution.

Reformists: winning a parliamentary majority for the reformist party.

Estimated Time Until Defining Event Takes Place

Communists: unknown (50 to 400 years?)

Reformists: unknown (less than 50 years?)

Since there is no known way of predicting the future in useful detail, my numbers, like anyone else's, are just guesswork. It is usually thought, however, that a revolutionary path "takes longer" than an evolutionary path to show measurable results...and I have "guessed" accordingly.

Pace of Significant Change

Communists: virtually zero prior to defining event, extremely rapid thereafter.

Reformists: very slow both before and after the defining event; the "evolutionary" path to socialism.

Post-Defining-Event Society

Communists: things will be rather disorganized for a while as the social order is completely reconstructed, top to bottom.

Reformists: things will remain pretty orderly as new socialist elites gradually surplant old capitalist ones.

Unity on the Left

Communists: willing to unify with non-communists around immediate resistance to capitalist hegemony; long-range political unity possible only with the most revolutionary and working-class-oriented strains of anarchism.

Reformists: willing to unify with almost anyone if that will help gain a parliamentary majority...or even a junior partnership in a bourgeois coalition government.

Imperialist War

Communists: always opposed, unconditionally.

Reformists: unknown; may support, be neutral, or oppose, depending on circumstances.


Communists: Marxism

Reformists: generally an unstable mixture of bourgeois ideologies with trace elements of Marxism. Ideology (a coherent way of looking at the world) is of only marginal concern to reformists who, by definition, are primarily concerned with the next step "towards" socialism.

The Role of the Working Class

Communists: they will make the revolution and run the new society.

Reformists: they will vote for a reformist party.

Communists rely on an active, class-conscious working class. Reformists are mainly concerned that the class votes the right way and is otherwise responsive to its "leadership".

Track Record (thus far)

Communists: virtually zero success

Reformists: zero success

The working class has held power briefly in a few cases, in line with communist expectations, but has never succeeded in consolidating a classless society.

Reformists have won (temporary) reforms, but they have either never attained the parliamentary majority they sought or, if they did attain it, never made any consistent or serious effort to build socialism.

Realistic Prospects for Success

Communists: unknown

Reformists: unknown

IF Marx was right, then we communists should win "in the long run". IF Marx was wrong, as the reformists maintain, then the prospects for communists are zero while the prospects for reformism remain unknown.

I hope this will be helpful.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 21, 2003

Yes, I do think a reasonable description of your views is contained within the word reformist as I have defined it.

That is based on three of the characteristics in particular:

1. Your stated intentions to attain power through victory in capitalist elections.

2. Your stated perspective of "buying out" the capitalist class over an extended period of time.

3. Your stated intention of introducing "market socialism".

I have no doubt that all the other things you express about your goals and purposes are meant sincerely; but that's not really the point.

When you say this...


Virtually all of the western world (except the USA) has hovered on the brink of becoming Socialist. Everywhere (even including the USA) has social legislation vastly superior to anything that existed 100 years ago. have done everything short of having "reformist" tatooed on your forehead. What more is required?

Your ambiguous attitude towards imperialist war also fits my definition--I did not "call" you a "lackey of imperialism", but I did suggest that your expressed willingness to support imperialist war "under certain circumstances" was certainly a big step in that direction.

You may have, at least in your own eyes, perfectly good reasons for the views you embrace; but by all reasonable definitions of the word "reformism" fit.

I don't understand your unwillingness to accept the logical consequences of your views...except, perhaps, you regard the word "reformist" as an "image" or "marketing" problem.


It does not sound anywhere near dramatic enough or martial enough to attract the young and fiery.

Yes, "re-branding" sounds like it would help your cause a good deal; I can't help you much there but I understand there are corporations that specialize in that sort of thing which you might want to consult.


It would benefit hugely from having a more dramatically attractive but related movement ally with it while interests co-incided (which would be at least as far off as the defining event)...

Yes, I dare say it would. It has often been the ambition of reformists to "use" revolutionaries as "bait" while preparing the "switch" to a far less radical scenario.

But I don't think that "works" any more.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 21, 2003

A single characteristic of reformism that there is apparent disagreement on...the matter of "ultimate goal"; as well as the matters of track record & prospects for success...which is spun in a highly positive direction whereas my evaluation is neutral.

The reformist says that he wants complete public ownership of the means of production and a market mechanisim in place to determine production, distribution, and compensation...this is what he means by the goal of "market socialism".

He further sees any "reform" or small change in the direction of his ultimate goal as a step "towards" that goal. Any political party that emerges with this goal to campaign in capitalist elections will perforce campaign on the need to take steps "towards" this goal. Likewise, the independent economic formations--"socialist businesses--that he proposes to establish would also be steps "towards" the goal of "market socialism".

This seems to me to be reformist by any meaningful definition of the word.

After all, the "ultimate goal" seems to me to be capitalism without capitalists. There is still a "strong state" apparatus--to make sure that competition is "fair". There is still success and failure in the marketplace and differential rewards and punishments for same. There is still the requirement that one must sell one's labor power to an employer (whether a collective of other workers or directly to the state does not make any difference), and surplus value will still be generated. It will be distributed differently; the workers in a "profitable" collective will presumably vote themselves additional compensation...the workers in an "unprofitable" collective will disperse with little or no reward for their efforts.

There will be no capitalist class per se...but the secondary effects of capitalism should all be present...the desire to accumulate wealth by any means necessary, inheritance, the wish to enhance market share through dishonest advertising, the use of the state apparatus to acquire special privilege, etc. However nominally "classless" this society might be on paper, divisions between fortunate and unfortunate (or competent/incompetent) collectives will be present from the beginning and can only grow sharper with the passage of time.

A "strong state" apparatus can mitigate these effects quite a bit for a while; and since the "losers" will outnumber the "winners", if the state is even moderately democratic, there will be a good deal of pressure on the "socialist parliament" to do so.

But there's also another kind of pressure involved. The successful collectives will accumulate some point, a part of this surplus will be used to "invest" in the political process to enhance the possibilities of accumulating even greater surpluses. It will seem advantageous to "lock in" existing gains through "law" as well as try for even more.

And thus a new capitalist class is born. It's far from being a "ruling class" and may not even be fully conscious yet of what it is really doing. Careful observers in that era may even warn the population of what is starting to happen...and that could slow the process considerably.

But the market is insatiable and, given time, devours all in its path; capitalism without capitalists will become capitalism with capitalists.

On the matter of "track record", the reformist simply "takes credit" for all the pro-working class reforms of the period 1880-1955 (roughly). He assumes that these are all steps "towards" his ultimate goal...even though few of these reforms were adopted by "socialist majorities"--they were instituted during periods of intense class struggle to "cool down" a turbulent working class.

On the matter of "realistic prospects for success", it is assumed that another period of "reforms" is a practical possibility...even though recent history suggests a trend in the opposite direction...reforms that benefitted workers are being dismantled, reduced in scope and funding, etc. Privitization and abolition of the "social safety net" seem to be the "wave of the future" for modern capitalism. The major reformist political parties are "on the defensive"...trying to save as much as they can, rather than striking out for further steps "towards" socialism.

I think there are sound material reasons for this; capitalism today is not the healthy and vigorous youth that it was prior to, say, 1950. If you read the intelligent capitalist viewpoints today (The Economist is a good source), they seem to be talking more about crisis than opportunity. And their general attitude toward the working class is one of growing hostility...rather than one that would feel sufficiently confidant to grant fresh pro-worker reforms.

Thus, it's my view that there will be no more steps "towards" socialism. That was something capitalists used to think they could tolerate; they don't seem to think that way any more.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 23, 2003

There appear to be ongoing contradictions in your views that admittedly make an informed critique difficult.

For example, if all profits from enterprises go directly to the "socialist state" instead of remaining with the individual enterprises, what purpose does the "market" serve?

Who is "competing" if it makes no difference? If there are no competitive enterprises, why bother with prices or money at all...just give the stuff away.

Likewise, you initially suggested that individuals could accumulate wealth based on their productivity...but if you can't invest it, purchase luxury goods with it, or leave it to your heirs, what's the point? Why have it at all?

If the central "socialist state" accumulates all surpluses (profits), then presumably it will have considerable incentive to directly intervene in the management of the means of production. Given that, we have a convergence with the situation in the old USSR...where a political elite gains the opportunity to siphon off some of that surplus for its own benefit.

Of course, you propose a much more democratic variant of "strong-state socialism" than the Leninists it's quite possible that an extended period of time will pass before this elite begins to "firm up" and become "corrupted".

Nevertheless, I think that's the most probable outcome of the new "ultimate goal" that you have proposed. People would attempt to campaign and vote against special privileges, etc. There would be, as a consequence, renewed class struggle.

But, as I indicated in my initial essay on this thread, what would really exist would not be all that different from capitalism...and would, most likely, devolve into capitalism at a later date.

The question of how revolutionary class consciousness develops prior to the revolution is a difficult one...but if we can postulate that it does (otherwise there'd be no revolution), then very dramatic changes would be "practical" simply because people saw that as one of the crucial reasons for making the revolution in the first place.

Historically, in revolutionary periods, people are "suddenly" quite willing to "question everything"...and the dramatic change in people's consciousness that you find so unbelievable is actually common and nearly universal.

Perhaps that is something that has to be seen to be believed; I certainly got a brief taste of it in the late 1960s. I understand that people in France are still slightly in awe of May 1968...when they had a brief glimpse of an entirely different world.

Thus, what seems quite literally unimaginable (a fairy tale) to the consciousness of a reformist is something that has (briefly) been demonstrated to exist.

When I suggested that no further steps towards socialism were possible, I referred, of course, to the kinds of reforms that would be consistent with your general outlook.

There are certainly "steps" toward the development of revolutionary consciousness that are possible, practical, and taking place even as we speak...the growth of active resistance to globalization and imperialist war being two of them. The spread of revolutionary ideas on the internet is helping things along as well. Those kinds of steps may not seem important to you at all...they have no "reforms" to their credit and, if any do happen to result, they will be seen as an incidental by-product of a more important process.

That being, of course, preparing for communist revolution and classless society.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 23, 2003

Actually, the purpose of a "market" is to reward and punish; those who produce what people "want"--or can be persuaded to "want"--are rewarded; those who don't, are punished. That's the purpose of competition in the marketplace.

A "market" without competition--which is what you now seem to suggest--would simply be a replication of the system of the old USSR. People are rewarded regardless of whether their products are desired or not.

So my impression of your "ultimate goal" is now a more democratic version of the USSR...that is, a society which had democratic parliamentary elections, an "independent" news media (like the BBC?), a "rule of law", etc.

Your "defining event" would be the formal and legal nationalization of the means of production, passed by a parliamentary majority of a party elected to do this. (I'm guessing that you would allow the capitalist class to be compensated for their nationalized property and may even insist on would be consistent with the "rule of law".)

It's difficult to imagine how anyone could object to such a smooth and near-seamless transition...indeed, I wonder who would notice?

To keep this new order from devolving back into capitalism, you propose rules and guardians piled atop rules and guardians...somehow, I suspect this version of socialism would become less democratic with the passage of time, as power drifted into the hands of the "guardians" or the "guardians of the guardians". That is, after all, what did happen in the USSR.

You reply, in engineering terms, "that's the best we can do...anything more is beyond the state of the art".

It reminds me of a maxim that engineering students are taught: "In engineering there are three options: fast, cheap, good--you get to pick two out of the three."

You want something good and you want it right will cost out the ass.

Communist revolution is costs people a lot, both materially and psychologically. And it takes people a long time before they're ready to do that, ready to pay the price for genuine liberation from wage-slavery.

Your methods are "faster" and "cheaper"...but I submit that the outcome of your "product development" represents no significant change from what we have now.

I think it "un-Marxist" to confuse nationalization of the means of production with communism; it seems to me that Marx intended that to be the first step in a sequence of many steps to follow, and follow rapidly.

But regardless of his opinion, it is obvious to me that much more is required than nationalization--in fact, nationalization is actually trivial. What is required is real working class power over the totality of the new society...preferably via direct democracy wherever practical. What that power must do is proceed at once to destroy all of the institutions of the old order and create new ones that are consistent with the new relations of production.

Yes, I know, that's just a "fairy tale" to you. Every reformist--including (as you noted) nearly all Leninists--would agree.

And what kind of engineer, social or otherwise--upon seeing a caterpillar, would ever imagine that it could turn itself into a butterfly?

Or that slaves could be free?
First posted at Che-Lives on July 24, 2003


I'm probably as close to an expert in evaluating socio-economic plans as you are going to see on this board. And my considered opinion is that Redstars 'direct to Anarcho-socialism' plan is not credible.

Without disputing your "expertise", aren't you in the position of a naval engineer trying to evaluate aircraft design?

After all, you are a reformist. Your expertise, such as it may be, is in the area of making credible modifications in the prevailing social order, modifications that are "obvious" and will "work".

Post-revolutionary societies are outside your field.

First posted at Che-Lives on July 24, 2003


I'm expert in evaluating things I often don't understand. There's ways of doing this.

To evaluate whether a totally novel form of society will work or not you need to know:

1) What things work in general , and very crucially why.
2) What the specific proposal is.

You then look for where the controls are to ensure that the types of behaviour required by the proposal happen.

You examine How those controls work (are they negative or positive feedback and how direct is the feedback)

And you end up with a list of things which are not controlled at all, just assumed.

Sounds like an interesting way to make a living. Do people actually pay you for this???

But seriously now, how would you be in a position to "evaluate" the plausibility of classless society when, by your own admission, you are an "expert" in "how things work" in class society?

The "assumptions" that I make would inevitably look and feel "wrong" to you...rather like an orange criticizing a grape's small size and weak skin. A grape isn't just a different (and inferior) kind of orange; classless society is not just a different kind of class society.

I'm quite willing to concede your good intentions; you want, in practice, a more humane form of class society...indeed, you see that as a necessary intervening stage on the way to what I want. In fact, one of your crucial assumptions is that change is incremental...based on observation and experience in class society.

If you are right in that assumption, then that's what will happen, and I can grumble and growl until I turn red in the face and it will make no difference whatsoever.

I just think you're wrong.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 24, 2003


I could happily work with the Marxist Leninists too. I don't share their belief that it would be neccessary for an armed proletariat revolution to take control; but if in fact it was (because democratic process was subverted) I'd support them. Nothing in what I'm saying would detract from their message. In fact it's the same message except that I dont think their 'ultimate sanction' would be needed.

That, at least, makes sense. In the advanced capitalist countries, nearly all of the Leninist parties have become reformist in practice.

That is, they either support "left" capitalist parties in bourgeois elections or they run their own candidates...they take the capitalist electoral spectacle seriously, just as you do.


In fact to all intents and purposes I am a Marxist Leninist in my approach to instituting socialism, just an optimistic one; and one with an alternative suggestion for economic planning post revolution/transition.

Well, I'm not in charge of credentials for who is "to all intents and purposes" a Leninist and who isn't; you haven't called for a vanguard party yet, and that's generally considered the defining characteristic of Leninist orthodoxy.

But your version of "strong state socialism" does appear to converge with that of the USSR in many respects...most importantly, the locus of power. So perhaps you may achieve the status of "potential recruit" if not "full member".


Rather ironically I'd say that this post revolution society I suggest actually would be essentially anarchist in character.

And I would "suggest" that this flagrantly contradicts many of your other statements about what you envision post-revolutionary society to look like...a "strong state" hopefully controlled by parliamentary delegates freely elected in competition with pro-capitalist candidates, running a nationalized economy, complete with an elaborate hierarchy of laws and guardians, inherited wealth and significant inequalities (economic and social).

Anarchism is an especially "fuzzy" word, but it's not that fuzzy.


The other thing you dont seem to like is being asked to explain how either your plan or your post revolution society are expected to work.

No, I don't mind being asked those questions and whenever I have thoughts on the matter, I'm quite willing to share them at considerable length.

But the implication in your remark is that we communists are either "engineers" or "prophets"...and we are neither, of course, though elements of both may play a part in our reasoning.

Part of our "prophetic" function, if you want to call it that, is the attempt to spell out in some detail our "wish list" (as you call it)...what we consider the "minimum requirements" for a genuinely egalitarian, classless society...and we use that to evaluate both ourselves and others.

Thus, we often find ourselves saying things like "racists are not communists" or "misogynists are not communists"...much to the distress of those who would like some changes in the present economic order but want to keep the police around to enforce their personal superstitions.

To wish to overthrow the totality of capitalist society is, indeed, a daunting task...much more difficult than Marx and Engels anticipated. There are many "how will it work?" questions that I don't know the answers to.

But I know more than I used to...and so do others. At such time that large numbers of people become seriously involved in over-throwing capitalism and establishing communism...they will learn what they need to do. They will probably try many different arrangements, extending the successful ones and discarding the unsuccessful ones.

But the criteria for "success" will be much different than what you imagine or even can imagine--there will be an "egalitarian" and "libertarian" standard applied that will certainly weigh as heavily on every social decision as "efficiency" or "productivity" and possibly even heavier.

Communist society is not "just about the money", it's about liberation.

And that, when all is said and done, is what is missing from your "plan", other reformist "plans", and Leninist "plans". I don't deny that, if implemented with reasonable competence, that your various schemes would "work" (sort of)...after all, capitalism itself "works" (sort of).

But what you propose is not what I want. And therefore I don't see why I should waste a nanosecond "supporting" it...or why any other real communist should either.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 24, 2003


Because doing it my way, you have a chance to get exactly what you want only much quicker. It really is that simple.

My way does not preclude doing it your way, even at the same time.

It does nothing of the sort and I don't see how saying it makes it "so".

Your way involves a "minimal program" that is circulated to win the widest possible support in the shortest possible time; to win votes for a parliamentary majority; and to, at best, nationalize the means of production.

Mine is rather more than that, a lot more.


In fact suppose I said that I was going to create a party to run in elections, not on my ticket of goals, but on yours. Would you object then? Why?

Because the very act of participating in capitalist elections sends the wrong message.

"Vote for me & I'll set you free" ran a song lyric from the 70s and it was meant to be sarcastic. Participation in capitalist elections has been historically demonstrated to be both corrupting to the advocates and ineffective in achieving any substantive change in the social order.

It sends the message that the bourgeois political process--I believe you prefer the term "liberal democracy"--is "legitimate"...which, of course, it is not.

The view of communists is, to all intents and purposes, that there is nothing "legitimate" about the prevailing social order.

The same objection holds, of course, for your ideas about "socialist businesses". Even if they "worked" according to your intentions, that would be "good" for the workers involved but bad for the class. It would be sending another message of "legitimacy" as well as implying that any ordinary worker who wasn't part of one of these "socialist businesses" had only himself to blame for his idea that easily resonates with the general capitalist philosophy--"if you're fucked in life, it's your own fault".


Your sole objection seems to be that I advocate a 'strong state'; says who? only you.

Well, actually you did.


All of which is why I do not think sensible anarchists should think that Anarchy is remotely the next step. A strong Socialist state is a must as an intermediate; then we can argue from there.
June 22, 2003


If you honestly believe that the weakest possible state of that sort is none at all, I'd like to see you answer the questions about who would determine and fund new investments; while you are at it you could try explaining how any Redstar state is going to co-ordinate a defence against an aggressor (any military person will tell you that an enemy which offers itself up piecemeal a bit at a time, or in uncoordinated fashion is a general's dream target).

I suspect that proposed new investments on a large scale will be debated and voted on in national referenda and the funding for them will be by special assessment approved at the same time. But it might be done other ways; predicting the features of classless society is "not easy".

In the event of aggression, the traditional communist strategy of guerilla war will almost certainly be the first resort. It has turned many a general's dream into a we see currently in Iraq. Temporary coordination will spread upwards as the magnitude of the aggression becomes apparent...there might eventually be actual armies in the field that will, of course, be disbanded after the conflict has ended. A permanent military establishment (other than the workers' militias) is "too dangerous" to keep around when unneeded.


My 'market socialists' all work at what they want to work at, they retain the product of their own labour (less a small bit to fund cooperative ventures)...

Now you return once more to the matter of competition in the marketplace, wealth differentials, etc. Even if they don't actually compete with each other directly (each enterprise produces something unique), the consumers still purchase one product and not another. Some enterprises prosper and others don't. Some grow richer, others don't (or even grow poorer). We've already discussed where that leads.

Before, you suggested that the central state would skim off the excess, keeping all the enterprises more or less equally prosperous. Now you say otherwise. But that course would mean the state apparatus--and the bureaucrats in it--would become a new capitalist class.

There's no way to make a market (competitive or non-competitive) "work" for communism. The production of commodities for sale undermines, slowly or quickly, and eventually destroys communism. It generates classes by virtue of its functioning.

Whatever is produced must be freely given to those who will use it.

Sounds outrageous, doesn't it?
First posted at Che-Lives on July 25, 2003


Winning a parliamentary majority is one way towards achieving the minimum goal in the shortest possible time. It’s not the only way, and I have quite explicitly said that if a faster method presented itself I’d take it...which is exactly why it is you that needs to drop your silly messianic objections to having any connection to any other movement. So that you can use those other movements as a bridgehead to where you want to be.

This is the same linear progression that you and other reformists (including most Leninists) have advocated for more than a century.

Step 1: win a parliamentary majority (or come to power by some other method).

Step 2: nationalize the means of production.

Step 3: then start working on the communist project (if that's what you want to do; otherwise stop at step 2).

Now, here is my "messianic" alternative:

Step 1: denounce the totality of capitalist society while encouraging resistance to its various forms of exploitation and oppression.

Step 2: proletarian revolution.

Step 3: begin communism at as rapid a transition as possible; no fooling around with "intermediate" stages except as temporary expedients.

I understand that you say you want the "same things" as I do (some of them, anyway). I understand that you think that your path is the "practical" and "realistic" way to get from where we are now to where I want to go.

What I am attempting to communicate to you (without much success, I have to admit) is that history has repeatedly demonstrated that your path does not lead in the direction I want to go. It may appear to do so, partly because of the use of similar terminology. But things haven't worked out the way that either you or other reformists or most Leninists thought they would...we never got to your "step 3" and, except for the Leninists in a few countries, never even made it to your "step 2".

My "step 3" existed for, perhaps, a couple of years in Russia and maybe a year or so in I'm not in a position to do a lot of boasting, and I'm willing to admit that.

But they went in the direction I want to go!

As to the "groups" that you wish me to "unite" with in some fashion, it seems to me they all pretty much want to go in your direction, not mine. The suggestion that I should "use" them to my advantage was intended to be helpful, I'm sure. However, you overlook the fact that they are, for the most part, professional users and manipulators of people; they'd eat people like me for breakfast...if I were so foolish as to choose to "play their game" on "their field" by "their rules".


However, you seem obsessed with process, not results here.

Guilty as charged...because process and results are connected. Not being a moral philosopher, I have no idea if the ends justify the means always, sometimes, or never; but I have absolutely no doubt that the means you use profoundly affects the results you achieve.

Of course, I "am obsessed" with "processes" for another, historical, reason. I am a revolutionary; the process of revolution is of extreme importance in my outlook. Any method of organizing people that "sends the message": "support us and we'll do it for you" has to be ruled out. It directly contradicts the whole purpose of my encourage people to do for themselves.


You are, I assume. going to using the ‘bourgeois media’ to communicate your message (certainly you are doing so now).

That's just silly; there have even been threads in Opposing Ideologies along the lines of "how can you commies use the capitalist internet, blah, blah, blah."

Yes, we use and will use capitalist technology to spread our message. A screwdriver does not have "an ideology" and neither does a computer. On the other hand, if you're suggesting that we purchase time on Fox Network or a full-page ad in The New York Times...well, it sounds like a bad idea to me. What do we gain by associating ourselves in public with known liars?


I’ve said probably ½ doz times that there is absolutely no intention whatsoever to run these businesses as socialist enterprises. They are intended as a strategic weapon, not as an early example of socialism in practise. If anything workers in these enterprises might be less well off than in others; because these enterprises are being run with the specific intent of undermining capitalist control over industry and media and it would be expected that at least some people would be committed to socialism in the future and prepared to make sacrifices for it.

I confess that this particular idea of yours is one that I find completely incomprehensible...I simply have no idea what the phrase "strategic weapon" could mean in this context. At the very least, your "socialists" would have to operate "as if they were capitalists"...and I think in practical terms, they would either be very "bad" at it or they would turn into capitalists themselves.

But perhaps it's moot; I can't imagine other reformists or Leninists (either one) going for this idea. Of course, I could be wrong about that...but it would shock me to see it happen.


As I’ve said many times before you demonstrate nothing honest by attacking ideas that are not mine.

The difficulty I have is trying to figure out what your ideas actually are...they seem very, well, plastic and difficult to pin down with any precision. In one post you claim to be close to "Marxism"-Leninism and in another, a kind of "anarchist". Sometimes you sound like you want a "weak USSR" and other times you sound like you want a more "radical" Sweden.

Perhaps that's endemic with reformism...the ability to appear to be different things to different people is an important part of its appeal.


1. Without a central admin of any sort you are not going to be able to organise your referenda or even phrase the questions to ask. 2. You are often not going to be able to identify the problems/opportunities in the first place.

Again, this is silly. There are probably [insert large number here] ways to accomplish those tasks. Shall I suggest one? Or ten? Or 100? Can you grasp that people in that period might very well choose a way that doesn't even exist now? (Making any and all of the methods I might suggest sound utterly archaic.) Could it be that someone besides me might think of a far better way to do it?

Like most (all?) reformists, you are stuck in the present. Whenever reformists try to envision the future, it's sort of like now only "more so". They can incorporate specific changes into their vision...but they cannot imagine any really fundamental differences between the present and the future. They are "used" to incremental change and that's really all they can think of.


You cannot leave major questions of communication undefined. Communication is essentially what human societies are all about, it is the thing that allows us to co-operate.

Good point. I'll note that communications have changed rather dramatically over the last few decades and the pace seems to be accelerating. What things will be like in this field by the end of this century is certainly hard for me to imagine.

My "provisional" conclusion: it will be harder and harder to lie...and easier and easier to expose the liar. I think that steadily increases the vulnerability of capitalism as well as the practical possibilities of communism.

But, admittedly, I'm speculating.


We are talking of resistance which allows us to retain the society we have just build up and created.

In that case, given the realities of modern military technology, you're talking about "pre-emptive" warfare...which means building up a large military apparatus capable of doing that...which results in, sooner or later, an ambitious general who thinks classless society needs some "firm discipline". You may have saved your infrastructure, but you've lost your revolution.

Once again, what you set up has "laws" of its own, develops an "ideology" of its own, etc. A "professional soldier" (private or general) is not just another "worker" who happens to be wearing a uniform and carrying a weapon; his material conditions shape his ideas. And those ideas, needless to say, are about as unfavorable to classless society as they come...being fundamentally fascist.


Personally I’ve no idea how co-ordination is supposed to ‘spread upward’. What does it even mean?

"Upward" was an unfortunate choice of words, wasn't it? I simply meant that as the scale of the invasion became clear, larger and larger numbers of resistance fighters from more and more parts of the country would be mobilized...coordination would embrace more and more of the country as the conflict escalated. There might even be temporary generals...military necessity is a harsh master. Neither the Russians nor the Spaniards were able to both save their revolution and defeat their enemies in the field.

Perhaps our fortunes will be better...but history offers no guarantees.


It is because they do not retain any profit themselves. If you wish to explore by all means do so, but please don’t have the bloody cheek to keep repeating stuff that has already been denied.

Yes, denied in this post. But this is what you said yesterday...


My 'market socialists' all work at what they want to work at, they retain the product of their own labour...

If they retain the product of their own labor, then some will prosper--get richer--and some will not. If the state appropriates all the profits, then those who run the state will prosper.

Either way you choose to go (from one day to the next), you still get the pre-conditions for the emergence of a new capitalist class.

And that is why it is not "dogma" but plain common sense to say that the market generates classes by its very functioning as a market.


Essentially all you are saying (very vaguely and indirectly) is that you believe that there is no possible system of controls that could prevent people who have any special responsibility for anything from exploiting that situation for personal ends.

True, I am not infatuated with "systems of controls"...I don't think there's any magic institutional formula "guaranteed" to prevent abuse. And phrases like "special responsibility" and "personal ends" are as "fuzzy" as any that I use.

But even a "vulgar" Marxist knows that where weath is involved, ways are found to make its influence felt...and what that leads to. The USSR had plenty of "controls" and so did "People's" China...they didn't help.

My conclusion is that communism is only practical with the conscious participation of the working class; without that, no amount of institutional engineering is going to make much difference and, in the long run, no difference at all.

You appear to believe that a new social order is something like a well-designed machine...once it's completed, you turn it on and it runs itself after that and you can go do something else.

Not exactly.


It assumes either an unspecified mechanism for determining what actually is wanted/needed, or alternatively that you are not concerned with producing what is needed at all.

As if people were unable to ask...or respond.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 25, 2003
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