Fight fascism by…not focusing on fascism

I’m pretty tired of seeing everyone rave about fascism on their news feeds.  (For those without context, it’s mainly because of the fascists in the protests in Ukraine, but also the Golden Dawn in Greece.)

Stop freaking out and answer this question: what are you going to do about it?  Of course I suspect no one cares about this question because they’re not serious about winning, but just your typical Leftist who act like those dolls that say a random quote when you poke their bellies.  To many Leftists, socialism is not a religion of the path, but a religion of the book.  And in religions of the book, all that matters is  believing the right positions.

Taoism in practice: the way to fight fascism is not to focus on fighting fascism.  Instead focus on revitalizing an openly socialist Left.

Some people think that we can do everything at once – if not in practice, at least in terms of education or propaganda.  This is false.  Even mental attention is a finite resource.  We’re forced to choose.

For anyone who is confused about this, I’m anti-fascism.  I don’t want a red-brown synthesis.

However, the great lesson of the Spanish Civil War is that opposing fascism is not enough to stop fascism.  Why?

Because fascism grows out of crisis.  People only resort to fascism during extreme times, when they are willing to take extreme measures.

This means that rallying to defend the vanilla “democracy” of the capitalist state is a non-starter.  It will not sufficiently energize the masses, because that “democratic state” has obviously been failing them so much that they are willing to entertain some seriously crazy shit.  They won’t pour into the streets to defend a Congress whose approval rating has dipped into the single digits.

This means that when fascism is a threat, we need to offer an equally extreme alternative.  We need something that cuts through the red tape and actually goes as far as it has to go in order to solve people’s real problems – their economic problems.  We need to openly assert socialism, in its fullest, most democratic form.

Fascism is a vortex.  It defeats you with fear.  Once it rears its head, you can’t stop looking at it.  You get so bogged down in opposing it, that you forget to do the one thing that could actually defeat fascism – you forget to build your own side.

You must maintain your focus even in the midst of the vortex, even though the situation’s urgency and everything else around you begs you to take focus on the vortex, or focus on something else.  Resist the vortex.  Ignore it.  In the rare moments that it stops barking and actually tries to bite, bite back.  Fight it physically, with all your numbers and all your strength.

But that isn’t most of the time.  Most of the time, do your thing.  Rather than the urgency of the vortex causing you to give in and focus on fascism, it should give you that much urgency toward building the party.

The US Left is in a special moment.  Things are changing.  People are questioning old methods that haven’t gotten anywhere, and looking for something new.  People are finding and experimenting with different things — running for office, or non-union methods of class struggle, like solidarity networks, or Fight for $15.  People’s minds are a bit more open than they used to be.  Some of the old lines are melting, and blurring.  People are more interested in working together.

We have got to continue focusing on that, so when the brownshirts actually do emerge in the US, we have the numbers to kick their asses, instead of the typical Left disgrace of marginalization, powerlessness, and having nothing to fling at the enemy but words.

As Buddhists say, the arrow is cast.  This is the situation we find ourselves in; the only thing we can do is to keep on trucking and do what we can.  There are always going to be reactionaries.  Our job isn’t to focus on them — that’s their job.  Our job is to focus on us.

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Lead from the bottom

 

BASIC DEFINITIONS

People are so used to the concept of “leadership” as essentially top-down, bureaucratic, managerial administration, sometimes with charisma, that imagining a more democratic model of leadership can be difficult.

The fundamental difference boils down to this: giving orders versus making proposals.

This is a formal difference, not a stylistic one, though the lines can blur.  However, this is not to say a democratic leader merely “throws an idea out there.”  No, a democratic leader can stand behind their ideas very forcefully.  The key difference is the structure that surrounds the leader, and whether the leader supports or undermines that structure.

In a top-down situation, the administrator gives instructions, and any argument is seen as some kind of aberration, with the subordinates in the wrong for even raising their voices.  In a democratic situation, a leader brings forth an idea, and discussion and even debate over the issue are absolutely normal and expected.

This means that a democratic leader has a hurdle which administrative leaders do not: they must persuade the group of their ideas.  In fact, in democratic movements, leadership essentially boils down to having good ideas, having good plans to carry those ideas out, and being able to persuade the group to vote for your ideas and plans.  Vision, execution, and communication.  Also, depending on how intelligent your group is, persuasion can mean just giving an emotional speech, or it can mean actually providing sensible reasons for something.  Providing reasons and evidence for your ideas and proposals is critical for a democratic leader.  This may mean that a leader has a lot of research to do!

Depending on how much you want leadership to emerge in others (which makes for good democracy), a democratic leader needs to also know when to allow the visions and plans of other people to come forward.  Rather than having all the answers, a leader can act as a facilitator for a group discussion which collectively seeks answers.  It’s important not to lean too far in either direction – if you propose nothing, the group can become directionless, but if you dominate the conversation you can shut other voices down.

Administrative leaders don’t need to be so good at communicating.  Giving orders is easier than persuading people that those orders are a good idea.  Administrative leaders may be judged in similar or different ways, by similar or different groups of people.  Who does an administrative leader answer to?  Sometimes they may answer to an entire group, similarly to a democracy.  Not always.  Bosses command workers while answering to shareholders.  Politicians command their office staff, while answering to voters or campaign contributors.  However, something that both administrative and democratic leaders have in common is that they are typically expected to maintain group momentum toward the group’s goals.  So while administrative leaders may not be required to have good communication, they still share the democratic leaders’ requirements to have vision and execution, or ideas and plans.

 

ADMINISTRATIVE PERSUADERS, “DEMOCRATIC” TYRANTS

Often democratic groups will have formal leaders who play the administrative role, while allowing everyone to informally lead by proposing ideas and plans.  Often this is done for saving time – executives can take plenty of actions which most people in the group wouldn’t mind, but if disagreement arises, the group can override decisions next time the group is in session.  Other times, that’s how it’s supposed to be but in practice it’s a top-down organization where the administrators rule, with the chain-of-command overriding the democracy instead of the other way around.

Even people in positions of administrative power can continue to lean on democratic methods instead of giving commands, merely using their position as something which gives them a little prestige so their arguments are more likely to be heard.  Essentially they may be free to give commands, but choose not to, instead providing ideas and plans, backing them up with good reasons, and putting them to a vote.

As noted earlier, the lines can blur.  If someone has accumulated a great deal of authority within a democratic organization, they can undermine the democracy of that organization.  If someone disagrees with a leader and that leader becomes verbally aggressive, it can signal that they will not tolerate debate.  How things proceed from there depends on how the people in the group behave.  A leader may start ignoring democratic procedure and giving commands.  People are free to raise the issue of democracy and reassert collective control, and there is little one leader can do to stop them.  However, if enough people in the group cave in to the leader’s abuse, democracy can die.  Leaders who try to kill group democracy can use much more subtle methods of doing this, like whisper campaigns which ostracize a dissenter.

Making the effort to lead from the bottom will inevitably force you into a head-on collision with any undemocratic tendencies in the groups or organizations you work with.  The attempt to exercise your rights can end up proving you never had them to begin with.  It can get you kicked out or just treated like shit so much that no continued productive relationship is possible.

Sometimes there are ego issues as formal leaders face being contradicted.  They may have gotten used to giving commands, or having their proposals approved without debate, maybe because nobody objected most of the time.  Ultimately something comes up.  Leaders may become accustomed to having their vision shape group direction.  This can make them feel like the group is their private pet project.  If a group is truly democratic, they must always be willing to accept that sometimes it will be the opposite.  The process of reminding them of this can be ugly, but as administrators in a democracy, it is their duty to get over it and accept the fact that they aren’t dictators.

 

LEADING FROM THE BOTTOM AND THE FUTURE MASS PARTY

Who determines policy within the Republican and Democratic parties?  It’s pretty chaotic.  Rarely does any party come together and collectively decide on a set of principles or goals.  Since each politician is open to deciding policy on their own without a collective platform, this opens things up to the rightward drift created by the corporate campaign contributions each politician must seek.

My hope is that a future socialist party is more cohesive than that.

I don’t want a party where everyone has to agree on everything, but there should be a minimum – especially for the elected officials!  We should be able to hold socialist officeholders to this minimum.  Otherwise, if the party is just going to wander in any random direction, I don’t see the point in having one.  If we can’t decide as a party that we want all of our representatives in Congress to vote for universal healthcare, and realistically expect them to follow through, it will all have been for nothing.

Note I said decide as a party.

Typically, people view their officeholders as the party leaders.  Do the Republicans get together and decide what platform their presidential candidate should have?  No, not really.  It’s more like, a presidential candidate decides what platform they want to have, and then that becomes the theme of the Republicans.  There is a primary race, but it’s usually a farce which merely re-imposes “mainstream” ideological requirements, and only the players with corporate money even make it there.  Same with the Democrats.

A socialist party should function in the exact opposite fashion.  We should own our candidates.  They shouldn’t tell us what to think.  Instead the party should decide what they do, vote, and say – if they start acting like Democrats, we should disown them, refuse them future funding, and run challengers in the next election.  And who should control and lead the party?  All of us, its ordinary members.  We should lead it from the bottom.

Yes, all of us.  Our stereotype of leadership is that one person does it.  Me, I want a chaotic clusterfuck of ideas being promoted, exchanged, compared, and selected – a cacophony of leadership.  That is what free debate and democracy really are.

Have a blog?  You’re leading.  Do you speak up in meetings?  That’s leading also.  Do you openly state why you are for, or against, whatever is being handed down from the formal administrative leadership?  That’s leading too.  Actually, the most important, fundamental action you can take in order to practice the model of leading from the bottom is thinking for yourself.  Rather than ideas being handed from the top down, they should flow from the bottom up, from the membership to the administrators.

This is a very different kind of party.  Whereas the mainstream parties’ internal politics revolve around trading favors, our internal politics will revolve around a mass debate among ordinary citizen members.  Rather than being decorative, this will actually determine policy at the highest levels, down to how elected socialists vote or govern on major issues and maybe even some minor ones.  Instead of party bosses being bureaucrats who act as undemocratic gatekeepers over party resources, the party bosses of the future will be participants who don’t even possess any formal position, who are most influential because their ideas are good enough to be widely respected by the party’s membership.

 

PS: this post was inspired by watching House of Cards and realizing I have some differences from Mr. Underwood.  I would rather stay out of the spotlight of the executive branch, which turns you into a walking target.  I would rather own a majority “from below,” ie in this case the legislative branch, and force the executive to govern within the framework and limits I/we impose.  Like a shop steward with backing from my membership, I don’t need to be formally in charge.  I just want to build the power base which forces the people in charge to bend our way.

“Security culture”: a reactionary wave against leaking

 Continuation of why I support leaking leftist documents, related to reflections on organization/democracy

The arguments against viewing leaks as a violation of “security culture,” or unprincipled (as if transparency was not Lenin’s principle) are mostly so obvious that they don’t need to be stated.  Nobody should be putting their home addresses in this stuff; it’s not like anyone is leaking membership rosters with lists of names and locations.

So instead I think some of the Kasama people are sincerely worried that the Left’s internal “battle plans” are actually going to get out.

First, the government’s electronic (and other) surveillance is so omnipresent that any group which plans illegal or insurrectionary activity in writing is completely idiotic.  Learn from the anarchist direct action people here.  Such plans are discussed in-person.

Second, there is a deep misunderstanding of how we fight against surveillance culture.  We do not fight surveillance culture by burrowing deeper and isolating ourselves, or hiding anything.  Instead we follow the revolutionary example set by the LGBT movement, and by Wikileaks, and by anyone who lives out loud on social media: we fight surveillance with courageous openness.  Through our revolutionary honesty we turn the tide against anyone who would want to make us feel wrong about what we’re doing.  We shift the culture so that, even if someone is watching, social support is too strong for anyone to seriously consider taking repressive action.

Third – anyone who thinks that groups have internal discussions about insurrection, don’t actually know how insurrection works.  Fortunately Trotsky addressed this in Chapter 43 of his History of the Russian Revolution.

First, you need a situation of dual-power, in which the will of the workers/people is embodied in a political institution which acts as an alternative center of political-economic coordinating activity.  This entity uncomfortably co-exists with the old government for a time.

The key then is to get this new entity to shut down the old state, and to declare itself the new sovereign system.

However, to think that this new entity could have an open conversation on this topic, in concrete terms of “when do we have the insurrection?,” is naïve.  It would face instant, immediate repression.

The system often roughly tolerates revolutionary parties so long as they have no concrete plans to launch an insurrection.  So the key is to build up influence in the new people’s center of activity, winning a greater and greater share of it to the revolutionary faction.

Now does the revolutionary party ever have an internal discussion of “what day should the insurrection be?”  No!  Not ever!  Trotsky was absolutely clear on this.  This, too, would obviously be detected by government spies, and would be a practical invitation for repression.

So how does it happen?

Not the workers’ councils, not even the revolutionary party collectively, but a small leadership clique within the revolutionary party calls the insurrection.  Trotsky referred to this as the “military conspiracy.”  It waits for the idea of revolution to gain enough legitimacy within the people’s institutions, and then unilaterally makes contact with key groups of workers and military units to set a date for combat.

The sheer illegality of insurrection means that in no way can the insurrection itself be planned openly, which means it cannot be planned collectively or democratically.  Sorry kids, fact of life.

But all other discussion and “internal” life within a revolutionary party, besides such operations which literally cannot be discussed, ought to be wide open to the public – and this is what the Bolsheviks practiced, even during underground conditions.

To argue for this type of mummified culture of insularity goes against all the transparency and wildly-free debate that Lenin stood for, and to organize along those lines is to drag Bolshevism’s name through the mud.

Why I support leaking Leftist documents

If you want the short version, skip to the italics after the second heading.
continued here — the real role of secrecy in insurrection

This was triggered by the leaks of the ISO documents, which appeared on Ross Wolfe’s blog but also probably a million other places.  It’s also a response to Mike Ely’s reaction to Ross Wolfe.  Finally, at the true epicenter of all of this in my opinion is Jose Perez’s article on North Star, “Lenin was not a Leninist” – which mentions how the Bolsheviks actually operated in a wide-open transparent fashion in direct contradiction to the modern interpretation of “Leninism.”  An oldie about the dogmatic, position-on-every-issue nature of Trotskyism is also available here.

I want to see a revival of the Bolshevism of 1917, not that of the 1930s or the 1960s.  Leaking the documents was the Leninist thing to do.

First, to anticipate one argument, don’t even bring up the idea of “snitching.”  None of the Left are underground organizations.  We do not face police repression of our organizations’ existences at this stage.  If that changes, I may very well change my opinion on leaking, and I’m sure many others will.

Also don’t write me off as some wrecker.  I believe that this method of opening up the conversation improves the Left’s democracy.  I’m not trying to create some giant scandal to rip apart the ISO like the British SWP.  Unlike some who would just like to see these groups liquidated, I actually think that would be a bad thing.  I think the groups should evolve.  (Let me list the ways).   So don’t write me off as a force of random irresponsible destruction.  This is about challenging the Left’s authoritarian culture, not destroying the Left.

As far as “the right to a private conversation,” I think those rights are kind of propertarian and detrimental, or outweighed, by the reasons below.

 

“KEEP IT INTERNAL” — THE LOGIC OF REACTION

Who am I?  If I’m not a member of something, how can I dare comment on it?

Well, that unfortunately is part of right-wing cultural logic.  There are two options in life when dealing with things that need to be corrected – voice and exit.  Voice is the collaborative option, in which you actually attempt to communicate with people.  This corresponds to socialist logic.  It sometimes ends up imposing a sense of collective governance on entities that were previously enjoying their independent status.  Exit is when you leave and just go do something on your own.  It corresponds with capitalist logic.

Erecting artificial separations has often been the domain of reactionaries.  Slavers and segregationists uphold states’ rights, and so do modern libertarians.  Labor rebellion is blamed on outside agitators and radical immigrants.  Businesses believe that they have a right to govern themselves without any kind of interference.  A tragically large number of people believe that, if a man beats his wife, that’s private family business and nothing for the law or anyone else to interfere with.  “If you don’t like America, you can leave” – the logic of exit, used as a clobber against someone raising their voice.

For a Left group to treat its conversations as “internal” is to take a very capitalist, propertarian, individualist, private approach.  It’s not consistent with our goals for society, nor for the collaborative approach we should all be taking with each other.

 

THE LEFTIST SWARM AND ITS RIGHTS

In Marxism we believe in the concept of “totality.”  Everything is interrelated.  All forms of oppression are connected to each other, the economy in Brazil is connected to politics in Greece, kids watching The Hunger Games in the US are connected to people in Afghanistan being killed by drones.

It’s not just far-fetched though.  It’s directly related to Leftist politics.  Revolution or rebellion in one country sets an example for the working majority in other countries.  Resistance is contagious.  Unfortunately, so is crackdown.

In real life, each part is influenced by each other part.  This applies to the Left.  Many foreigners joke that they ought to be able to vote for the President of the United States, because in reality it affects them just as much or more as it affects Americans.  I feel the same exact way about Left groups of which I am not a formal member.

Let’s be real – the point of having a Left is not to divide it up into little territorial fiefdoms.  The point of a Left is that we are human beings who are, collectively as one, being oppressed and held back from our full potential by capitalism.  Anyone who raises their voice against this and advocates an alternative system is part of one community whether they like it or not.  Yes, the Cliffites have to sit next to the Stalinists – but also have the responsibility to steer them true.  We have no choice – the public will associate the two groups with each other, and we must endlessly clarify.

So I have unequivocal rights to comment on things in organizations I don’t “belong to,” because actually we all belong to each other, and have really no choice about it – I am forced to engage other people and groups, because other people and groups matter.  If other people screw up, that’s a waste of resources we can’t afford.  My liberation – and yours, and other peoples’ – depends on those mistakes being corrected.  It is not simply our right, but our responsibility, to raise issues that need to be raised, even if they occur on the other side of the artificial line of “membership” in the Left of which we are all, rather involuntarily, a part.

Unfortunately we have a situation where, rather than having a united socialist party, we have a bunch of fragments and particles.  This causes the same exact type of confusion and impossibility in planning which a capitalist economy suffers.  Instead of discussing things as a movement, we have a situation where one group often acts somewhat unilaterally, and everyone else is forced to get on board in order to catch up.  This is similar to cycles of production, where firms react to each other in an unhealthy, destabilizing race based on short-term private gains instead of the health of the economy.

Then there are the disgusting, petty nuances of the power games and nuances between the groups.  They are competing for recruits.  So if some new cause comes along – 15now, for example, which Socialist Alternative seems to be alternating between treating as its own property or as an open community effort – the order and timing in which groups choose to launch, get on board, or boycott such efforts winds up being part of their political game of trying to come to the forefront of the race for growth between the Leftist groups.

These power games undermine the collectivity, collaborative spirit, and openness of the movement.  They thus damage the movement and reduce its size, which means the choice of these organizations affect me, which means I have a right to comment on them, regardless of what I may or may not be a “member” of.  I am a member of the Left, the movement, and the society that is affected by these things.  Some may argue that the real sectarians are the outsiders and non-joiners who aren’t part of any group.  No; we independent socialists frequently do stuff and build things.  Just because I don’t want to join some group and have to tolerate its ridiculous rules and requirements, and suffer its heinous restrictions on the free flow of my own mind, doesn’t mean I’m the sectarian.  Because the Left is a real, materially existing collective phenomenon of which we are all part regardless of what membership walls anyone erects.

In corporate jargon, something called the “silo effect” happens.  It’s where one department has no idea what the other departments do and are completely self-absorbed in their own internal life.

This has been a problem on the Left, and fortunately it has been changing.  However I can’t honestly say the Left has risen to the challenge or anything.  Rather, it has been forced to evolve, by the shifting of material conditions – in this case, the explosive expansion in the means of communication.

 

THE RISE OF THE INTERNET AS A DEMOCRATIZING FORCE

Can you really control your organization when you don’t honestly know what is going on concretely at its local levels, in all of its localities?

Marxists often explain the rise of class society as a result of the division of labor, with some necessary division of labor being created for the management of society’s surplus.  The managers become a ruling class because effectively, we’ve all got our noses to the grindstone and the decisions are left to them.

Unfortunately this is also a good description of many Leftist groups with paid staff.

Members have no clue what is going on in the organization, really.  Their noses are to the grindstone, building movements, holding events, selling papers, trying to recruit contacts.  I appreciate a get-it-done attitude to an extent, but unfortunately it can function as an anti-democratic sentiment as well.  If people are consumed in activity, and don’t have time to really stop and reflect on what is going on, then the culture of the organization works counter to democracy.  This goes hand-in-hand with the unthinking culture of accepting perspectives formed by expert specialists at the top instead of originating perspectives on your own, by actually using your mind.  If we leave perspective-formation to the specialists, then we essentially leave decision-making to the specialists, and we are back to square one with capitalism instead of democracy.

However this has all changed with the rise of social media.  Now members actually hear about things going on within their own organization.  They don’t have to rely on the bureaucracy as a gatekeeper or go-between which censors out “counterproductive local noise.”  Branch to branch, word gets around.

It’s not just members who hear about it, but non-members.  Now even if you believe in a members-only sort of thing, the fact is, more members will hear about something if non-members are talking about it.  By limiting conversation to members-only, you are actually reducing the amount of communication within your own organization!  Suspicion of the Internet, or of openness, then only serves here to empower the bureaucracy and limit democracy.  Don’t bother with all those rumors flying around in other branches.  Just get your nose back to the grindstone, never you mind.

Part of the lack of democracy in Leftist groups is also due to the lack of room to breathe ideologically.  They insist that the organizations contain disagreements, but these disagreements are often highly theoretical disagreements which exist far away from the range of debate of ordinary people and sometimes lack connection to practice anyway.  (Sometimes I suspect that the ISO embroiled itself in the “intersectionality debate” to avoid having to talk about organizational democracy and real changes to structure in the aftermath of the SWP meltdown…if that was the goal, it worked really fucking well.)  Noam Chomsky once said “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”  That’s pretty much what is going on in socialist groups.

But the Internet changes that.  You keep bumping into, and inevitably having contact with, socialists who have perspectives very different from your own.  However, when the range of debate in an organization is so narrowed, it is sometimes important for dissidents within a group to receive external flows of support.  If democratic centralism is unity of action and NOT unity of thought, then it makes sense that dissidents within a group might have thoughts more similar to someone outside their organization than they would to the thoughts of the leadership (and therefore the current, but not rightfully, dominant opinion across the organization generally).  This should be okay.  People need to find courage and resolve in minority situations, so they deserve to receive the encouragement and moral support from people who are on the same page as them, even if they are on the wrong side of the wall.

Let’s face it, the first thing every cult does is discourage exchanging ideas with outsiders.  Limiting the flow of thought between people limits the flow of thought within people.  While we’re on the topic of the C-word – do I think modern socialist groups are cults?  I believe the only correct answer to that is yes-and-no.  Rather I would say they are complex, contradictory organizations having both healthy and cultish elements.  This is why I am not a liquidationist, but also not silent.

But it’s not just that the Internet opens you up to other perspectives – the Internet also even gives you a perspective of your own!

The Internet gives you a platform to share your thoughts.  In fact it practically begs you to, and the content you voluntarily generate (with lots of encouragement) probably makes someone a lot of money (wages for facebook).

This leads, on the one hand, to the obnoxious constant declaring of various political positions by Facebook status or Tweet.  It’s reminiscent of children’s toys that repeat a randomized, pre-programmed phrase every time you poke them.

On the other hand, something magical happens.  People who have thoughts which have never emerged in any other setting begin sharing them – and they are sometimes quite out of touch with the party line!  This creates an amusing micro-crisis, as party elders are forced to perform damage control over “differences” they didn’t even know a member had – until, of course, the member raised them in the most absolutely public of broadcasts.

Then there is the fact that this constant poking by social media to tell us what you think prompts people to actually ask themselves – well, what do I think?  It adds a spin of creativity and independence to people’s thoughts which is discouraged in party line groups whose definition of peace and organizational stability is unity in thought (as opposed to democratic centralism which is only supposed to require temporary unity in action).

So – what do you think?  No, not the perspective you’re waiting for the leadership to hand down to you, which you have trained yourself to use for replacing any self-originated cognition while pretending you didn’t.  What do you think?

 

THE RISE OF THE INTERNET AS A MIND-LIBERATING FORCE

Lukacs taught that it’s not membership numbers, but the collective development of revolutionary ideas in the minds of the proletariat, which is the real mark of progress.  Articulated, embodied consciousness is superior here, as opposed to the dispersed anonymity of the proletariat’s collective private thoughts.  By giving every human being their own printing press, social media has embodied consciousness in written form across all distances and saturates the population like never before.

As opposed to the pristine, cathedral-like mental order and homogeneity of the modern “Leninist” group, where there is a prim, proper, and precise answer for everything, the Internet is chaos.  The worst of the Internet is noisy stupidity.  It is the depths of the American subconscious plumbed and put on display.  (“Don’t read the comments.”)  However even this is a form of education for those participating.  Many receive their first exposure to ideas far outside their parochial localities, and many learn how to use their voice for the first time.  A “craggy melody” indeed, but a start, and a start is everything.

But then there is the best of the Internet – not a cacophony of Mass Opinion’s shortcomings, but a continual merciless comparison of the very best of theory and strategy, a constant overthrow at all theoretical levels in favor of endlessly-higher heights.  It shatters the mental grooves of people who have gotten used to having an opinion, and not really being forced to hear any contradicting thoughts or data.  Of course, it probably only does this for those who actually make the choice to engage and open their minds to it, but it’s always there, always waiting for when the cracks in your mental order begin to appear.

Alas, if you stick to the Internal Documents, you won’t see it, and if no one else can see the Internal Documents, you won’t bother to listen to what they’re saying, because it’s outside your canonical conversation.

We are still suffering, all of us, from being descendants of Trotsky’s sectarianism, which he probably himself contracted from his exposure to increasingly Stalinized conditions.  It’s okay not have a position on something.  It’s okay to not know.  It’s okay to be confused – confusion is radical.  Confusion is when, instead of relying on the safety of your schemas, you plunge your consideration deep into the depths of your gut, and allow your brain’s massively-multiprocessor parallel computation to engage in its cascading recombinant chaos.  Instead of beginning with clever and prepared words by circumventing intuition, true thinking – ie confusion – begins with intuition (honesty) and chokes.  Truth matters more here than being quick on your feet with a response.  The truth is always undeveloped, because it is always new; it never has established forces and their resources on its side.  We must always listen, even when the truth seems weak and has no one on its side.

Post-ISO Reflections: Essays and proposals on democracy and organization

Long story short, I’ve been sitting on these a while because I’m trying to promote socialist unification and thought that raising criticisms was the wrong move, but lately I’ve been thinking I don’t care because if people can’t take it then the problem is them not me.  They’re about the ISO but not just about the ISO.   Fuck it just read them, they’re short.

Internal democracy is first priority

The right to intervene in private membership organizations

Democratic structures, undemocratic culture

Who formulates group strategy: everyone, or the professionals?

The echo chamber

Discouraging joint leadership statements

Everyone must be replaceable, everyone must be replaced

Overcommitment destroys democracy

Respect the human infrastructure

Rip open and deprofessionalize the apparatus

Updating our formal democracy for the new millennium

A humorous rant by a fallen hero

A humorous rant by a fallen hero

part of Post-ISO Reflections: Essays and proposals on democracy and organization

movements that do actually get any shit done also cannot be criticized at all because you probably:
A. didn’t put in 100+ hours of work like the people who did Get the Shit Done and therefore your opinion is invalid (even if you put in 10 hours, or any hours at all), partially because:
B. don’t understand what went in to Getting All that Shit Done (because we purposefully kept you in the dark/un-involved/limited your involvement)
and
C. are being rude and hurtful with your criticism of the work of our hard-working cadres, who put on the very best action they could without major event-ending error and therefore are immune from any of that negativity talk
+
D. you probably are just one of those people who wants to sit around and bicker about 100 year old theories and not actually do any of the Real Work

but, really, let’s be honest here, you’re probably a police spy. Because the membership rolls of a branch, what dues are actually spent on, and planning process of events are critical information that only the Most Privvy Leaders are allowed to see/be a part of, and opening any of that up to analysis or discussion or (god forbid) a vote to the Lazy Unappreciative Pleb Members (who could also be Police Informants too) could potentially bring down the organization

Who Formulates the Group Strategy: Everyone, or the Professionals?

part of Post-ISO Reflections: Essays and proposals on democracy and organization

Many Leftist organizations have their leaders write and put forth internal documents, or internal discussion bulletins, or perspectives (which are, for some reason, private to the organization rather than radically transparent to the public).   Whatever the name, these tend to be essays which describe the state of US politics, generally.  This may seem neutral but it’s horribly undemocratic.  The problem is that socialists have a tradition of viewing macro-strategic perspectives as something to be articulated by the leadership and approved by the rank-and-file, rather than freely formed by every member.

Why does this matter?  Because your understanding of the US situation entirely determines what kind of political actions you think are either possible or sensible.

What this effectively means is that, if we leave perspective-formation to the professionals, we leave decision-making to the professionals.  Suddenly this sounds less like a democratically-run socialist group, and more like a corporation or nonprofit handled by professional managers.  But the sad truth is, this is how pretty much every group actually works, in real life and not in the way they imagine themselves.

If Lenin said “every cook must learn to govern the state,” then surely every rank-and-file member must learn to strategize for the whole organization!  Let’s face it, governing an organization is a smaller feat than governing a state.  It is not that members have the right to do this, as free individuals (yes that too), but actually that they have the duty to do this, to guarantee that the organization does not become an undemocratic affair essentially managed by the professionals.

People get used to this arrangement.  They stop doing any big-picture strategic thinking, partly out of laziness, and partly out of fear of being scolded for overstepping their bounds.  So it’s not just a case members needing to step up (it is).  It’s also the leadership who needs to drop the reins of perspective formation.

I recommend the radical notion of opening up organizational strategy entirely, with the main strategy/perspective documents written by anyone and everyone, possibly many competing takes on the state of things, and converging at conference as a truly democratic mess, perhaps the leadership going so far as to keep its mouth shut during pre-congress document exchange, or to simply raise which issues need to be debated.