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But what do I DO? You & Revolutionary Strategy August 16, 2003 by RedStar2000


So you want to be a communist...

Here is a longish piece that may help you, along with some other posts that I thought relevant.

Most of my advice is negative--what to avoid--rather than positive--what to seek out. This is probably because I think of a communist as one who, above all, takes a critical look around her/himself, who tries to see beneath the surface appearance of events and movements, who tries to figure out what is really going on.

It's unfortunately the case that many people--even those who are very sincere in their opposition to capitalism--take the "easy" way: they judge things by the words used to describe them or, worse, they let some "leader" judge for them.(!)

Don't do that!

Instead, and this is not easy, try to ascertain the real nature of political groups, movements, publications, etc. See if they are mounting a genuine resistance to the capitalist order...or at least have the potential of doing that.

Then, participate freely and openly as a communist. Encourage the people you work with to deepen and radicalize their resistance to capitalism.

That's what communists do.


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It's the question I hear more than all others combined; someone has developed some familiarity with the tools of Marxism, wants to do "something useful" to advance the revolution, and has no idea what that "something" might be.

And, of course, since I don't know you, I have no idea what you "should" do, either. But here are some things to think about.

First, a message that some will find reassuring and others depressing: as a Marxist, you know that any single individual will not make that much difference in "how things turn out" one way or another. In a population of more than six or seven billion, there will be plenty of volunteers for every social role.

Consequently, you can freely please yourself without worry that you have somehow neglected some "essential task" that will derail the revolutionary process. If it truly is essential, there will be others who will do it and who will be pleased to have the chance to do it.

Secondly, you must be honest with yourself about your personal material conditions. For example, if you are a 120 lb. computer nerd who is bored to madness by repetitive labor, you are not going to be an effective organizer in an industrial setting. On the other hand, if academia seems to you to be an utterly sterile word-factory, student and teacher organizing is not for you.

In fact, you may not be any kind of "organizer" at all...you may be one who brings needed technical skills, artistic skills, literary skills to the movement. In a real communist movement, there is no "special hierarchy" that says this person is a "better" revolutionary than that person because this person does X while that person can "only" do Y. (And if you happen to observe this kind of status game being played, seriously reconsider your membership in that group...it is probably only verbally communist.)

Given your own talents, abilities, skills, preferences, characteristics...you must look for--or even make--your own "niche" in the broad revolutionary movement of the working class. It must feel "right" to you in order for you to keep at it for decades, or even a lifetime. Because that is what is really crucial to being a revolutionary. Many have set forth--"with a flourish of trumpets"--to perform some dramatic revolutionary task...and in a year or two, quietly returned to the capitalist camp with their tail between their legs. It is possible that they did do something that was briefly useful...but that is nothing compared to a lifetime's patient effort to undermine the capitalist system.

And that, thirdly, is another crucial aspect of real communist activity: whatever you do must serve to undermine the functioning or the credibility or the legitimacy (or all three!) of the capitalist system. There are many efforts to "do good" in this world...but the only ones you should be interested in are the ones that do "good" by attacking the power of "evil". Simply "doing good" is quite acceptable to the ruling class; they've even been known to pretend to be doing it themselves while the cameras were on. From a communist standpoint, real "good" is a relentless and sustained attack on the capitalist system itself...in whatever form is consistent with your individual abilities and opportunities.

Fourthly, watch out for appeals to "self-sacrifice" or "willingness to endure hardship". These are rhetorical symptoms of what one communist called "the Aztec theory of revolutionary activity"--you know, you drape yourself over the altar and cut out your own heart as an offering to "history". You may, under certain circumstances, do something that is considered "heroic"...but never allow yourself to be rhetorically intimidated into such behavior. Even if you escape unharmed, you will (rightfully) feel "used"...and, thereafter, will either quit revolutionary politics altogether or become a cynical user of others yourself.

And be equally wary of those who portray revolutionary committment as some sort of monkish neo-puritanical "life" of utter deprivation or "iron" self-discipline. The "fleshly" pleasures of life, in moderation of course, are a natural part of human existence...even for communists. Just ask Engels, he'll tell you.

Fifthly, it is enormously helpful but not necessary to be a part of a communist group, formal or informal. A "good" group can bring out the best in you, can develop your capacities and capabilities far beyond what you thought possible. But sometimes people join "bad" groups because they feel like "a communist must be in a group, by definition." A "bad" group, of course, is a group that might be "communist" in words but is usually something much less in practice...a private club, a church, etc. Being in one, at its worst, is roughly like having a really shitty, low-paying job...and drives people out of revolutionary politics faster than any repressive measures by any government.

And lastly, is it possible to have "a regular life" and be a revolutionary? I suppose it might be, but it puts a severe strain on your politics if you try to do that. Part of you is trying to "shove" the present into the future while part of you is trying to integrate yourself into the present. Someone with a spouse, children, mortgage, etc. is under tremendous pressure to conform and submit to the prevailing social order; it is far more difficult to maintain an attitude of unrelenting hostility and persistent opposition under such circumstances. Marx himself, late in life, remarked that a revolutionary should never marry. He had a point.

But don't forget: have fun! What we communists are trying to do is immensely serious and important and all that...but, if properly done, should be enormously enjoyable as well. To know that you are playing a constructive role, even a very small one, in the greatest era of human civilization--the end of class society--should please you no end.

It does me.
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First posted at Che-Lives on August 6, 2003
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It strikes me that what we should be speaking of in the advanced capitalist countries (yes, including Scandinavia) is resistance now; revolution tomorrow.

That is, what is practical now is "lots of Seattles" and "mini-Seattles" on lots of issues...disruptive and disorderly behavior that confronts every aspect of the prevailing social order.

At the same time, we should miss no opportunity to condemn outright the existing system and call for its abolition.

I don't even think it matters all that much if one uses the "correct terminology"--that is "revolution", "communism", "anarchism", etc. But the ideas behind those words must be clear and unmistakable...no weaseling or pretended harmlessness when what we propose is not only harmful but deadly to class society.

And no pretense that our enemies are "honorable but mistaken"--they are neither.

My impression is that this approach has some significant appeal in western Europe, much less in the U.K., and almost none in the United States. For a number of reasons, I think that's to be expected for a while.

Well, no one said it would be "quick and easy"...especially within the fortress of world reaction.

But IF Marx was right, it will get easier.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 26, 2003
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quote:

You are not remotely in accord with Marx's thinking on method.


Perhaps not, but saying it doesn't make it so. Karl is not around to give his opinion on current matters, so we have to struggle along as best we can.

quote:

As it happens I think you are grossly wrong too about the nature of the opposition. Some of them are indeed neither honourable nor mistaken but downright malicious and self serving. Most however are not; they are at worst complacent and ill informed.


Perhaps you know them better than I.(!)

I think it makes better sense to treat them as conscious enemies of the working class...for one thing, that minimizes the chances of betrayal by a rich "friend". We won't have any.

And for another and much more important reason, their actual personal characteristics are irrelevant...they are constrained by the "laws" of capitalism to act "as if they were" our conscious enemies, regardless of their loving attitudes towards dogs and small children.

quote:

Your way polarises opposition.


Yes, it does! That's the point!

quote:

Call people enemies, let alone imply they have no honour or honesty and that's what they quickly become.


Perhaps a bit of history-reading would help you; the capitalist class has been the enemies of the working class for a long, long time.

quote:

If you wish to take a fortress with a mighty army you may besiege it and assault it. If you wish to do so with a small company you must infiltrate and attack from within


Is that relevant to anything? If it supposed to be a metaphor for class society, it is a very poor one.

Granted, I use it when I say that the United States is "the fortress of world reaction" because it does have a clearly military reference. But your seeming suggestion that a small group of revolutionaries can "infiltrate" the centers of power and destroy them is ludicrous...it sounds like silly quasi-Leninist coup fantasizing.

Maybe you mean something else by that...???

quote:

Nor is it I suspect a majestic strategy to try raising a mighty army from within the ranks of the opponent while declaring that they are all infidels.


Where have I ever suggested "raising a mighty army" from the capitalist class?

Were you sober when you wrote that?

quote:

All of your strategy is actually predicated on the basis that 'the enemy' will make no real attempt to oppose you; yet you actually make great noise about how deadly earnest and determined the enemy is to do so.

It makes no sense.


Neither do those two statements; I don't even understand what you're talking about.

quote:

With few exceptions 'capitalists' are merely hired mercenaries in the pay of Capitalism.


And another astounding and incomprehensible statement...unless you're referring to the army/police--which are mercenaries and which are certainly our enemies. Do you mean that most capitalists are not really capitalists but just "hired guns"?

What a weird idea!

quote:

But it isn't; the opposition's strategy is not 'Capitalism' but 'Liberal democracy'; that is a much better organised and flexible opponent. One that does have the capacity to moderate its actions in order to ensure its sucess.


Capitalism is not a "strategy"...it's a form of class society. "Liberal democracy" is not a "strategy"...it's a political form of capitalist class rule; a way to structure a state apparatus to give the appearance of democracy while keeping all substantive decisions in the hands of respected and trusted members of the capitalist class.

Certainly it has the capacity to moderate its actions...but that does not ensure "success". History offers no guarantees, remember? That goes for them as well as us.

quote:

Don't be confused. RS's Ideas MIGHT (only might) work against Capitalism; they have no chance against Liberal Democracy.


Yes, I daresay that as things get "heated", your "Liberal Democracy" will bestir itself and offer a few "reforms" (which you will be delighted to accept, no doubt).

Do you think we communists or those that we have roused to resistance will be fooled by that shit?

Really???
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 26, 2003
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quote:

Nobody who has the slightest familiarity with Marx's writing can possibly fail to be aware that he saw Communism arising from a prolonged interim state of socialism. You suggest going straight to communism. To pretend you dont know this is breathtaking in its audacity and deceit.


Once again, saying it does not make it so. Marx did speak of a "lower" and "higher" stage of communism with regard to distribution of the social product...but even in his own time, he always spoke, to the best of my knowledge, as if the dictatorship of the proletariat meant exactly that...a quasi-state that existed only for the purpose of wiping out the last resistance of the old ruling class and would thereafter begin to "wither away" at once.

What you refer to is, of course, the Leninist-Stalinist-Trotskyist-Maoist innovation that was tried unsuccessfully in the 20th century...the "prolonged interim socialist state" which, it turned out, never led to communism but, instead, back to capitalism.

quote:

Who are you going to treat as enemies? Everyone who owns any share in any 'means of production'? That's something like 80% of the people in the UK, maybe more.


As I recall, this particular reformist rubbish first surfaced back in the late 1950s under the name "people's capitalism". The thesis asserts that because people have a material interest of some kind in the capitalist system (usually a pension or a private home), they will no longer see it as an enemy.

Of course, most people don't really "own" a private dwelling; they own a small piece of one (like maybe one room)...the bank or mortgage company owns the rest. Likewise, their privately-funded pension plans (particularly if in the form of common stocks) exist only on paper and can be wiped out at any moment...as the poor sods at Enron found out last year. And, of course, a growing number of people are being shunted into temporary (often part-time) jobs as corporations down-size and out-source...which means no pensions or home ownership at all.

The idea that this flim-flam is some kind of insurmountable "barrier" to revolutionary class consciousness is just reformist wishful thinking. The idea that "people's capitalism" represents a significant change in class society is just nonsense...those huge accumulations of electronic "wealth" are and will remain firmly under the control of the real capitalist class.

quote:

Marx's clear class divisions simply don't exist today in the first world.


This from the chap who says that I have "deceitfully" departed from Marxist methodology.

The vast majority of people in the "first world" live by selling their labor-power to the capitalist class. They're workers.

quote:

Yes, mate, I did notice that Liberal democracy is an economic and political system. And that Capitalism is a part of that system.


No, that's still muddled up. "Liberal democracy" is not an "economic" system; the economic system is capitalism. "Liberal democracy" is a political system put into place to make decisions by and for the capitalist class as a whole while giving the appearance of popular sovereignity.

quote:

And opposition to your ideas will be based upon what can be done by people working within those systems. They'll call you non democratic; they'll put minimum wage laws in place; they'll maybe outlaw you as terrorists; they'll blah, blah, blah...


Yes, truly the ruling class is "all-powerful" and can "never" be defeated by revolutionary opposition.

Reformists generally have far more respect towards (and fear of) the ruling class than revolutionaries. That's one of the reasons why they're reformists.

quote:

Your total crisis in the first world won't happen. And if by a miracle it did all that would happen is that a different breed of liberal democrats (or even perhaps the fascists) would promise to put it right while leaving you still waiting eagerly in the wings.


So, says the reformist, Marx was wrong. But even if, by a "miracle", he was right, he was "still wrong" because the fascists will take over. Whatever happens, says the reformist, the capitalists will win. The only thing to do is infiltrate, try for a few reforms here and there, go real slow so you don't scare the ruling class into fascism, etc., etc., etc.

Such pathetic servility.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 26, 2003
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quote:

Liberal democracy is a socio-economic system incoporating an economic sub-system usually described as Capitalism.

Capitalism may also mean a socio-economic system (which in this case also includes, rather confusingly, the same economic sub-system as in Liberal Democracy, and itself known also, of course, as Capitalism)

Capitalism, the socio-economic system, virtually dispenses with democracy.


The reason I have to do so much "word-chopping" with your posts is that they consist of nearly impenetrable forests of verbiage. I try my best to hack my way through to some kind of clear meaning...and if I fail, I submit it might well be because the task is beyond my capabilities...or anyone's.

Look at that last sentence in the above quote, for example. What the hell is that supposed to mean?

Literally, it's wrong. Modern capitalism, the "socio-economic system", usually does operate with a bourgeois democratic political system--what you call "Liberal Democracy".

Perhaps this time you mean that "Liberal Democracy" is not really democratic so in that sense "capitalism dispenses with democracy".

Well, yeah, so...???

quote:

I'll close by asking anybody reading this to once again think about Redstar's assertion that Marx may not have predicted a socialist transition en route to Communism. To say this is an unorthodox reading of Marx is to understate it massively. Redstar flat cannot be unaware of this, yet he denies it.


That my reading of Marx is "unorthodox" by Social Democratic/Leninist standards of "orthodoxy" is not only something I've never denied but have boasted of.

I assert that the totality of Marx's work (and Engels' as well) says nothing about any lengthy "transition periods"...though I have not, of course, committed all of the things they wrote to memory, and it's therefore possible that a scrap or fragment might be produced to contradict my reading.

But if my "unorthodoxy" about Marx makes you nervous (and why would you care?), consider this: even if Marx did predict a lengthy transition period between capitalism and communism, that could be wrong. Perhaps such a prediction would have made "a kind of sense" in 1850 or 1875 but now be obsolete.

Since you are already "on record" as declaring that proletarian revolution is "obsolete", what do you care what communists think about the matter?

quote:

We normally say 'worker' and it allows us to mentally hide from the fact that very few of today's 'workers' in the west would be recognised by Marx as whom he was talking about.


Technically, Marx spoke of "productive workers" as those who sell their labour power to capital and the surplus value that is generated goes to augment capital.

Thus, he would exclude the vast army of public employees that exist today from his technical definition...even though a great many of them share the same conditions and experiences as all other workers do.

He would doubtless also exclude many "white collar" workers that are not directly involved in producing a good or service for sale in the marketplace...even though many of them also share common conditions and experiences with productive workers.

My hypothesis is a simple one: the pressures on the capitalist enterprise to "reduce labor costs" is unrelenting...and the consequence must be the one that Marx predicted, the deterioration of the conditions of the working class. I think this is already beginning to happen; you dispute that. But even if I am "wrong" now, I won't be...IF Marx was right.

I certainly don't dispute your contention that millions of workers--most workers, perhaps--accept for the present the capitalist system and even identify with it.

Historically, is that a permanent or a temporary situation?

As a reformist, you assume it's permanent. As a Marxist, I assume it's temporary. Time will show who is right.

quote:

I'm half expecting to hear you come out with your usual exposition of how you must wait until conditions are as you predict they will become before anything significant can be done. To my ears this sounds like an astonishing piece of double think (one of many); where you profess undying devotion to communism, say you want it, say you don't really want conditions for people to become bad; then say that if they don't you see no reason to push for socialism.

All of which really adds up to wanting socialism only contingently. Which to me is definitely not the attitude of a devoted revolutionary.


This is the third or fourth time I've heard this and I still don't really grasp it. Marxists do not "want" things to "get worse"...it's what capitalism does.

If I have suggested that the possibilities of proletarian revolution are "limited" until material conditions change for the worse, that is an observation...not the consequence of a "sadistic" desire to see people suffer.

Like most reformists, you confuse "desire" with reality; you think that simply "wanting" things to "get better" will suffice to make that happen...if you can just think of the right "plan".

But the convergence of social events that make proletarian revolution a realistic possibility is not a matter of desire or planning.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 27, 2003
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I think the central problem with the Weather Underground is that they saw their activities in opposition to U.S. imperialism--"Bringing the war home" -- as a "moral act" instead of any kind of revolutionary strategy.

They were rather like the kids who fought against the Czarist regime in Russia during the last quarter of the 19th century...they did not expect to "win"; they were more about "cleansing their own souls". By an act of violence against the old regime, they "proved" their moral superiority to evil incarnate.

In this task, any kind of genuine connection to the masses is essentially irrelevant. All that's required is a small group of trusted associates and the technical skills to fire a pistol or, at most, make a small bomb. In a pinch, you can dispense with the associates; the so-called "unibomber" was a one-man Weather Underground.

Moral outrage, while it's something we all feel, is almost totally useless as a "guide to action". There has to be some kind of connection to the real world...however tenuous that might be. A proposed activity, to be communist, must in some fashion send a communist message.

The Weather Underground never did that...with the possible exception of blowing up that statue honoring Chicago cops. (They did it twice!) The only message they ever sent was one of radical opposition to the war in Vietnam itself...a war that had already become deeply unpopular even among conservatives. When the U.S. lost the war, the Weather Underground was lost too. There was nothing more they could do except wait to be arrested.

I don't know enough about the German RAF or the Italian Red Brigades to say how much "better" they were than the Weather Underground...they certainly inflicted a lot more damage and made much bigger headlines.

But I know that Marx and Engels had a low opinion of "small group conspiracies" and I share that view. However "heroic" and "inspirational" they might appear, they have not, up to now at least, proven to be useful to the revolution itself...in the advanced capitalist countries, of course.

Ultimately, it really is the masses who make history, and who will make a proletarian revolution if there is to be one.

We should try to help them do that.
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First posted at Che-Lives on August 8, 2003
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quote:

...redstar2000, when is your 'proletarian revolution' that 'is defined as a rising of nearly all of the working class' going to happen? Do you think it is simply a matter of time? Do you think the left is today simply 'doomed to wait' for it to happen? And then, what is your prediction? Will we witness it? Will it happen within the next, let's say 100 years?


Well, if you want me to guess, I'm willing to take a shot at it: in France and Germany, sometime between 2050 and 2100.

But that's a guess! It could happen in Argentina in the next three years or Brazil in the next 15 years or Japan in the next 25 years.

The problem is that there is no way to reliably predict the future in useful detail.

We communists do whatever we can to help things along...but, as the Leninists generally fail to grasp, material conditions are the determining factor.

They believe that they can substitute their own will for the revolutionary class consciousness of the proletariat...something that simply does not work.

Does that mean that people "should" just "sit back and wait for the proletariat to rise"? Truthfully, it's up to you. If you want to be active in spreading communist ideas, that will help...a little. If you want to sit on your ass and wait, that will hurt...a little. And by "little" I mean too small to measure.

Subjectively, we naturally see our individual selves as crucially important. We can't help it.

In the "great sweep of history" we are drops of water in the ocean. Under certain conditions we are mostly calm; when conditions change, so do we. That's what it means when Marxists say that history is ultimately made by the masses.

When an individual communist tries to spread communist ideas, s/he is responding--whether s/he knows it or not--to the slow maturing of material conditions for proletarian revolution. If s/he gives up in despair or boredom and takes up some other activity, that's likewise in response to material conditions...a temporary period of "class peace" perhaps.

We really don't understand (and may not ever understand) exactly what the necessary combination of circumstances are that generate a sudden and dramatic upsurge in class consciousness in the working class--though there certainly are some plausible hypotheses. But we know it happens.

And IF Marx was right, it will happen again.
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First posted at Che-Lives on August 13, 2003
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quote:

But basically you'd say that it's just a matter of time. For you, if I didn't misunderstand you, there's no way the revolution is not going to happen, is there?

And then, do you think the majority of the working class needs no education at all? Do you think it is, so to speak, within the nature of their situation to one day revolt against the ruling class?


Yes, I think it is just a matter of time; material conditions will--all by themselves--compel workers to educate themselves and "do the deed". Communists can speed up that process...slightly. But the very existence of communists is itself a product of the maturing material conditions for proletarian revolution.

When there are only a few conscious communists...that's a sign all by itself that material conditions are far from ripe; when there are many conscious communists, that's a sign that material conditions have grown favorable.

I should add that this is not a linear process; material conditions can and do "ebb and flood"...become more favorable, then less favorable, then more favorable again.

It also seems as if very favorable conditions tend to accelerate into even more favorable conditions quite rapidly...sometimes within a period of days!

The way history works, in detail, is incredibly complicated...we may never really understand it.

quote:

Don't you think that there could simply never be a revolution? That the masses will simply starve in their 'stupidity'?


No, because, unlike the Leninists, I don't think the masses are "stupid". The course of history to this point shows that humans are painfully slow at learning...but learn they do.

If, as is now thought, the modern human species is 150,000 years old, look how long it took just to learn how to read and write?

And how much longer to read and write anything even remotely sensible?

Yet, in the end, it happened. And it's still happening, faster than ever. Evidently, it takes a very long time to learn how to use "a big brain"...but once you do, things really take off.

I really can't see anything short of global thermonuclear war delaying the proletarian revolution more than two or three centuries at the most. If there is massive nuclear war, then, of course the survivors will have a different agenda...the transition from savagry to barbarism.

quote:

And then, do you really think endless poverty will create class consciousness (the consciousness that the enemy are the capitalists)?


It's not really "endless"--"poverty" has a constantly changing definition. It has been observed that in the years immediately preceeding the great French Revolution, the living standards of ordinary people in Paris were actually rising...the catch is that they weren't rising as fast as people expected.

When people are degraded to the bare minimum of survival, it's survival that occupies every waking moment. When things get a little better, then they reflect on broader concerns...and perhaps reach revolutionary conclusions.

When the old ruling class weakens and things begin to improve may turn out to be the very time when people's demands rise at such a steep angle that revolution comes onto the agenda of history.

But there are many factors at work; as I said before, history in detail is horrendously complicated.

We do the best we can.
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First posted at Che-Lives on August 14, 2003
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quote:

You are giving up on democracy before you try.


Not true. Going all the way back to German Social Democracy in the late 19th century, communists and socialists have "tried" to win bourgeois elections repeatedly.

In fact, the vast majority of all "left" groups today still take bourgeois elections seriously enough to run candidates and devote serious resources to electoral campaigns. (I'm speaking of advanced capitalist countries here.)

The persistence of the myth of "bourgeois democracy" is quite incredible; in spite of all the evidence, people on the left still believe that it "means something."

It doesn't. It never has. And I see absolutely no reasonable argument that it ever will.

I fully agree that minority revolutions led by self-appointed "vanguards" are an illusion. Those things can and have happened in pre-capitalist and semi-capitalist countries, not in any advanced capitalist country...ever.

Why then can we not simply tell people the truth?

1. The only way to gain anything from the bosses is some form of resistance that is outside of the "official channels" of "dispute resolution".

2. The ultimate form of "outside" resistance is proletarian revolution...the massive uprising of the entire class to take everything.

It's not really a very complicated "message" when you stop and think about it. It appears and will appear to many as "utopian"...mostly because working people have been carefully indoctrinated with contempt for themselves and contempt for their co-workers through, of course, the bourgeois media, school system, etc.

"It's a great idea but people are too fucked up to do it"...as we have all heard many, many times.

This is where material conditions come in...teaching the working class the practicality of solidarity in the course of inevitable struggles against the ruling class. Only in the experience of class struggle do workers really learn that their class sisters and brothers are not "fucked up".

That's not something that we can "make" happen, though we can encourage it.

What does lie within our grasp, the power that we do actually have...is to tell people the truth about capitalism and communism. Tell it as many places as we can, through as many media available, use the most convincing language that we know, etc., etc.

But don't fool around, don't weasel...tell the truth.
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First posted at Che-Lives on August 18, 2003
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Is it really simply a matter of abstract non-violence "vs." violence?

In the United States, it could very well be that the end of "peaceful protest" is coming not because protesters have embraced violence in the abstract but because police attacks on peaceful protesters have become routine.

On the other hand, I've never seen any point to the macho strut that some have occasionally gone in for; "brandishing weapons" and yapping about "training camps" on message boards--in a period when armed struggle is objectively irrelevant--strikes me as childish.

It seems to me that we should take such measures of self-defense that seem plausible...and do so quietly, without boasting of our "militancy" or how "tough" we are.

As communists, our first objective is to put communism "back on the agenda"--making communist ideas once more part of public discourse. There's nothing "violent" about that at all.

I'm extremely skeptical of those who marry a tactic--violent or non-violent. I think we should "wait and see" what tactics are most appropriate in given circumstances.

In particular, I caution those who get caught up in a rhetoric or even a cult of violence...that can turn out to be a very short road ending in political oblivion.

Who knows or cares about the ideas of the "unibomber" now?
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First posted at Che-Lives on August 18, 2003
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quote:

Much has been said about the education of the working class to free themselves but how as marxists, communists or anarchists do we do this? I believe we should talk to fellow workers about why capitalism and wage slavery are wrong and why they should be outraged by it. But is this enough? What should and can we do?


It's difficult to be specific about these kinds of things without knowing about someone's specific situation.

But here are some things I would consider...

1. Don't preach! That is, don't be the local communist version of Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormons...bringing up communism and revolution "out of the blue" in every conversation.

2. Feel people out about their outlook on things; ask questions and listen to the responses carefully to see if there is an "opening".

3. If they're on line, give them some "left" but not communist news sources...something to get their feet wet...and then see how they respond to that. If they're not on line, you may have to invest in some printed matter that will serve the same purpose.

All of which is just another way of saying that people "convert" themselves; we just help the process along.

Remember that there is no point in wasting your time trying to argue with someone who is still vehemently anti-communist, patriotic, racist, etc. You will not convince them and you may be putting your personal safety at risk. At the first hint of those attitudes, stop talking politics with that person and never talk to them again about anything serious.

What about the "masses"?

My "bet" at this point is on the internet. A growing number of workers are "on line" and that number will increase as computer prices continue to decline. In particular, I think message boards are a terrific way to reach people who are "interested" in communism but who actually know almost nothing about it.

It would be "nice", of course, to have a communist daily newspaper with millions of readers or a communist television network with millions of viewers...but I don't really expect the bourgeoisie to permit that to happen.

But if, eventually, there are thousands and even tens of thousands of communist websites with millions of "hits"...then we have accomplished the first step towards making proletarian revolution a reality.

If you are lucky enough to live someplace where there is already resistance to some aspect of capitalist hegemony, then you have another forum for communist ideas...but it must be utilized carefully. You don't want to be perceived as a sectarian bore who wastes people's time with "abstract theoretical bullshit". You want to "nudge" people towards communism, not "shove" them.

Again, I think "pointed questions" are one of the best ways to do this; e.g., "Why can't we go ahead and just say 'U.S. imperialism' instead of fooling around with all these euphamisms?" or "Why don't we just go on strike now instead of waiting for the lazy fuckers in the leadership to get around to calling us out?"

For some reason, people are more receptive to questions than they are to outright declarations, even when they essentially say the same things. Perhaps it's because people like to be consulted...it's a form of respect.

Not something that most working people get very much of in capitalist society.
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First posted at RedGreenLeft on August 19, 2003
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quote:

We think that a reformist is someone who supports reforms.The way we see it, we think that the support of reforms will inevitably act as a bourgeois diversion to workers obtaining socialism. Reformism is futile...


That's not logical. If reformism is truly "futile", then how could it ever act as a "diversion"?

It seems to me that the "diversionary" aspect of reformism is methodological: it asserts that "playing by the (capitalist) rules" will actually gain something significant for you.

It seems to me that we as communists should not concern ourselves so much with the "content" of "reforms" as with the methods of reformism: bourgeois elections, ritualized "strikes", professional lobbyists, publicity campaigns, etc.

These are all methods of "struggle" that take the initiative out of the hands of ordinary workers and replace that initiative with "trust" (in one form or another) in the "leadership".

It seems to me that the recent wildcat strike at Heathrow illustrates this distinction. The demanded reform was trivial--what counted was that a group of workers took matters into their own hands instead of trusting their "leadership".

At this point in history, most workers "believe" in reforms; they haven't "given up" on capitalism. I think we should be telling them two things:

1. The "reform" that you want isn't really going to help much, if at all.

2. But if you really want it, you're going to have to take it...they aren't going to give it to you just because you ask for it "through channels".

It is in this sense that I think the working class "educates itself"...and I think it is a process we should encourage.
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First posted at Che-Lives on August 19, 2003
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Looking over this thread, it strikes me as a sad example of how even the left is influenced by bourgeois ideology.

Nine pages of yapping about image...it staggers the imagination!

If we can only find the right marketing tools, the right brand-name, the right image...well, then we can achieve [sound trumpets here] market domination.

Here's a hint: no one has ever achieved "market domination" without a product. You don't have one.

You're not communists and, to your credit, say so. But what's inside your package? It's empty.

Vague mumblings about "democratic socialism" don't cut it. A somewhat more egalitarian form of class society may have a limited appeal (a "market niche" in bizspeak)...but, for the most part, people will respond with indifference. Small changes generally boil down to no change.

I do not blame people for "grasping at straws" in periods of reaction, like this one. It's hard to be a tiny minority, a focus of scorn and laughter, etc. People will do almost anything to escape a sense of utter futility.

In a capitalist social order, the pressure to achieve "success" is overwhelming; "loser" is the most damning epithet that can be hurled. I can certainly appreciate the desire not to look like "losers", to "dress for success", to achieve "respectability", to appear on Sunday Morning television with the rest of the pundits, to receive invitations to write op-ed pieces for The New York Times and the Washington Post, to get on some "A-lists" for a change, etc., etc.

But I can safely predict that if you yield to that bourgeois concept of "success at any cost", it will cost you even the pathetic remnants of your political ideals. You'll end up becoming a "champagne socialist" and, in practice, a lackey of capitalism.

The technical term, I believe, is "recuperation"...the seduction of "opponents" of capitalism into becoming supporters of capitalism while they sincerely believe that has not happened.

It's a fate I wouldn't wish on a dog.
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First posted at Che-Lives on August 22, 2003
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