Interview with House Vincent

 

vincent6

The face of royalty.  Bow down.

Why should I write about my distant Internet friends who believe themselves to be royalty?  Well, why shouldn’t I?  I could make some argument that it’s relevant to Game of Thrones, which is in turn relevant to our contemporary society because of its increased feudal-esque brutality as well as the rise of a new enchantedness to life as the blooming of the Internet creates a new world of imaginativeness and creativity across society.  Or I could just paraphrase Nietzsche that no artist ever tolerates reality, and while I don’t pretend to be an artist, perhaps I am one of those troublesome individuals of artistic temperament.

Without further ado, House Vincent.

 

How should I address you?

Duke Vincent: Grand Duke and Duchess.  Historically the title of King could only be granted by a high religious authority, as Kingdoms could only be created with the permission of God’s servants on Earth.

What is House Vincent?  What lands does House Vincent hold?

DV: We claim overlordship from the tallest mount to the final shore.

How does House Vincent function?  What would the rule of the Vincents look like in politico-economic terms?

DV: Anyone who fights to overthrow the masters will receive a parcel of their conquered land to administer in common.  We’re basically Nestor Makhno in that the army is the state and the state is the army.  Royal communism is underrated.

When did House Vincent begin?

So like most developments in history the ‘duchy’ thing started as a joke after I introduced some friends to Dune.  At the scene where Paul Atreides dons his father’s ring and announces himself as Duke of Arrakis de jure to his fanatical Fremen zealots, everyone looked at me like “that’s Tyler.”  So Duke became one of my nicknames, with my buds becoming my sworn swords.  That also developed from (what I thought) were my ancestral ties to Lithuania, once a Grand Duchy. Duchies, unlike Kingdoms, were usually de facto warlord territories that strongarmed the Catholics into recognizing their legal overlordship, circumventing the usual King nonsense.

Dukes also hold more theoretical control over those sworn to them; each individual Count, Baron, and Lord swears fealty to them, without a duchal middle man between.

Lady Vincent: And following suit with his title, I earned mine when we started courting.  As a whole, I prefer the Duke/Duchess to King/Queen pairing more seeing as I personally prefer to be second in command. Leave the blame to fall to the head of the empire, leave me as first to be promoted once they’re beheaded.

vincent5

Greatness is as greatness does, truly.  On these notes, (1) care to describe your sworn swords? (2) Over what lands does House Vincent claim dominion?

DV: 1. We create friendships based on a system of merit. The only brand of loyalty we’re interested in is unconditional. We don’t fool around with people whose self-interest comes into natural conflict with our own, and we only put our trust into people who have a vested interest in permanent bonds.  So the sworn swords are any of those who, if society collapses, we will call upon to defend the House.

  1. Part of the original plan was to purchase land in Scotland and start a commune there. Landowners in Scotland are technically nobility according to Scottish law and custom, and can assume the legal title of Laird. It’s a silly money grabbing scheme, but getting out of the country and becoming communal laird and ladies was the hope.

LV: Still is the hope.  Lexington is our current domain, but other places of possible conquest include Seattle, Canada, North Ireland, and Scotland.

DV: But the wider idea is to simply claim whatever land we are standing on, and everyone with it. Our philosophy is to immediately establish ourselves as the dominant social force in every situation, with the same goals and interests, and to subsume everyone else into our schemes. Generally we consider everyone else to be prone to weakness and without direction, and need our benevolence to guide them to a higher purpose.

vincent7

Truly it is so.

So the concept of the House is really as a philosophy: the strong lead the weak. In a monarchy, in a democracy, in communism, whoever shows up to do the work is the leader.

This is slightly even more unsettling than our usual sinister air.  How long ago did House Vincent begin?

DV: The moment we met. It was in a silly chatroom we were passing time in. I opened a new chatroom and invited her in because I recognized she had assimilated her own darkness.  We started courting – it was really old fashioned, actually, love letters and poetry and all thanks to the distance – and our relationship was founded on our mutual feeling of isolation/boredom.

How long ago exactly was that?

DV: Three years ago.

vincent3

Lady Vincent, what was the moment which caused you to decide, this is the young man for me?

LV:  He sent me a lot of poetry. And there was this one particular one that’s probably long lost to the void now that spoke of a world where chaos reigned alongside us. It was probably the thing that triggered the realization that he actually understood what I was talking about the entire time and the things I wanted.  Doubtful that the poem was written with us in mind, but the fact that it existed because of him was enough to prove that he knew about the trapdoors.  There were a lot of long nights in The Bastille.

Pardon me, the trapdoors? [shudders]

Sort of an inside joke. Around the time we met I was really into absurdist theatre, and my favorite piece was “Jacques ou la Soumission” by Eugene Ionesco. It’s the coming of age story of a man born into a world he knows is wrong for him, but has learned how to manipulate it well enough to get by. And once he tires of the game he realizes that others have finally caught on to his scheme, and trap him in a family and marriage and all these things. And upon rejecting the woman who is supposed to be his beloved Roberta, a homely girl with not enough noses, she tells him of her dreams of fire scorched towns and clay brick roads on the other side of the world. He, in turn, admits he never felt right in the world and that he’s been trapped his entire life, and all the ways he used to escape from his reality have been taken away spare one remaining trapdoor in the cellar. The Trapdoor in the cellar is how Roberta got into his life, and when it comes to light, he realizes that she will be his greatest escape from reality.  The trapdoors I mentioned are just a symbol of the things he and I need to believe in in order to continue on in this hellscape.

I am touched to the quick.  How should aristocracy conduct itself in matters of etiquette, pastime, way of life, and general bearing?

DV: The first task of the aristocracy, of course, is to abolish itself.

The siege mentality of class division weighs heavily on those of high breeding and forces them into conflict with those whose labor they exploit. Their precarious position also forces them into conflict with other sections of their own peers, to further cement their position and keep from falling down into the lower class. Or be destroyed.

Of those with a merely aristocratic worldview, or with a self-aware position in a great game, this is also true. Being better is useless if great works can’t be achieved for want of a great society. Creating more nobles from peasants and raising them to higher things ultimately eases the emotional toil of the superior.

So the aristocracy, in bearing, should pursue whatever seems proper, or good, or heroic, or virtuous. And it should make it easier for others to do the same.

Stirring.  A matter of procedure — may I use dignified images of the Duke and Duchess in the article resulting from this dialogue?  I’ll fetch the appropriate ones

accolade

What would be the fate of the capitalists under the rule of House Vincent?

LV: Let the fires consume everything.

DV: Bourgeois institutions are inherently parasitic and hold the toiling classes from rising from alienation. So I concur with my Lady.

Is your monarchy the rock of stability upon which the future revolutionary society’s viability rests?

DV: As for stability, we predicate our sovereignty on the dynamics of crisis. Chaos to the fly, order to the spider, etc.

What are the Duke and Duchess’ feelings toward immigrants?

LV: So long as you’re loyal to the House and don’t work as an active force against it. Let them come.

DV: It is not possible to immigrate into a universal sovereignty. We claim dominion over all who dwell between the waves and there is no distinction between them.

Permit an admirer to ramble: For a long time many weirdos on the Left like myself have longed for a Left with aesthetics and an ethos that are more hardcore than the usual hippie and hipster variety.  People influenced by black metal, for example, with its whole associational axis of Satanism, Odinism, fascism, and general brutality.  What is House Vincent’s relationship to this yearning?  What should we do about it generally?

DV: You said once upon a time that radical socialism appeals to the entire spectrum of human emotion. We are not the spiritual starvelings who step over their own apologies when faced with the option of heroism or greatness.

We both know that we are very dark creatures. We delight in awful things. We look up to awful people. We recognize that the entirety of human history has predicated itself on carving a bloody path through the nightmare of survival. When the light of the campire has expanded so far that people no longer fear the edge of the forest, they still fear the darkness itself. We assimilated our fears into our desire. Pain is an expression of crisis, and crisis is the engine driving the entire human narrative.

We also feel that leftism lacks the desire for strength, power, and darkness, and because of this it attracts of the most craven soldiers to its banners. Accepting that many people feel a compulsion toward domination is a prerequisite for channeling that compulsion into subjugating the bourgeois antagonist. Order demands violence.

Tl;dr: Bird-boned, noodle-armed hipsters armed with weed, trigger warnings and warped acoustic guitars are no match for cyberpunk dystopia.

LV: Basically, we feel nothing will be won with words and complaints alone. We need blood to the horses brow to take what is ours and nothing less should be tolerated.

DV: Woe to those who cannot swim.

What should I do about the West Philadelphian punks and metalheads who don’t mosh?
DV: Well, you can’t just start a new scene. And moshing by yourself wouldn’t be enough momentum to form a pit if too few others are down.  Loudly state “this fucking scene needs a pit” and see if someone agrees? I don’t know, Lexington never had that problem in the local metal scene.

LV: If not, Valar morghulis.

I have much to consider.

Many reactionary societies/ideologies, like Julius Evola (Evola on regality) drew an analogy between Platonic Idealism (concept descends into matter), or perhaps God’s creation of the world from his own conception, with the top-down nature of the feudal hierarchy.  This is counterposed to the Marxian idea of concepts arising from material conditions, which in turn perhaps correlates to a bottom-up political worldview.  So the model goes, philosophical orientation matches political orientation.

Do you subscribe to this analogy?  How does it affect the House Vincent concept?

DV: It’s difficult to articulate my thoughts on idealism, personally, other than to identify it as a primal feeling rather than philosophical stance. We do believe that concepts are primarily borne from circumstance, but that ultimately the material world is only understood through the distorted lens of the individual experience. We do not believe in ghostly Ideas that guide the world, but we do believe that nature of crisis (and moment-living) means that purely material calculations are only hypothetical.

I’ve not read Evola, only about him, and when it comes to Idealism I have to say I find the entire concept pretty absurd on its own. I also come from a primarily Marxian background philosophically, and am not well read on the Idealism vs. Materialism debate.

Are either of you familiar with neoreaction?  What do you think of it?

LV: No Comment

DV: The Lady doesn’t concern herself with the Dark Enlightenment. I think it’s a cute little club, kind of an analog to the left’s hyper-edgy tankies who dress up like Soviet commissars at pride parades. They put stock into long-failed, long obsolete social systems purely because they believe those systems were driven by ruthless, aristocratic pragmatism, and not simply the product of the times.

I have more to say about it but I don’t want to masturbate the topic when Aubree’ has so little interest in it.

LV: Feel free, love.

DV: I guess I’ll just say that I see neoreactionaries as feudalism-fetishists who have no concept of how often the peasants would erupt into massive murderfests against the aristocracy. Any ruling class that doesn’t ultimately wish to abolish itself is ultimately doomed to be abolished from the outside.

vincent1

Verily, all that exists deserves to perish.  Lady Vincent, what is your favorite ficton/fantasy/insanity in which to dwell?

LV: This one.

DV: Tell him about Apocrypha.

LV: Or AMOR

DV: Lol, AMOR is probably more fitting, honestly.

LV: It’s wildly more fitting. But I don’t know how much I’m allowed to disclose, considering the nature.

DV: I mean, go for it.

LV: A Madame Of Rome is a novel(la?) he’s writing that started out as an erotica. It’s House Vincent in all it’s glory, running an intricate red light district in Italia. It’s power and lust and violence and everything the House was built on if only we had the means to execute it the way we wanted.

How far have you gotten?

LV: Not far enough.

DV: I think I recently breached 60,000 words. I have no idea how many chapters. It started as a gift for Aubree’, a guilty pleasure erotica full of corruption, decadence, and rape. It’s blossoming into something between House of Cards and Game of Thrones and set in the twilight years of the Roman Empire.

LV: In all honesty, if you wanted a perfect picture of us as who we see each other as, you should read that. Though it’s not the prettiest picture.

DV: I perhaps wouldn’t go that far. It’s who we are when we go to our dark places, without any restraint or regard for the wellbeing of our enemies or even those who have proven their worth. It’s pure Sith.

LV: It’s beautiful.

What have the Duke and Duchess been listening to lately?

LV: Lorde

DV: Lorde, Lana del Rey, Caro Emerald.

LV: Lorde has been a recent addition to the line up. Lana Del Rey, Caro Emerald

DV: The Lady drew our House’s name from St. Vincent.

LV: St Vincent has been on the backburner only because I can’t access her new album.

DV: Vincentine anthem lol, thank you Tears For Fears

Any magickal workings of late at which one is at liberty to speak?

LV: What do you consider ‘magickal’?

Something specifically intended as magickal as opposed to just, stuff you normally do with the consciousness of your essence running through it.  Feel free to correct my criterion.

LV: Apocrypha Tarot cards, Bleeding Candles, Amber Runes, and a newfound interest in witchy cocktails.

apocrypha

DV: While she submerges herself into tarot, I’ve been essentially channeling my inner class hatred into rising through the ranks at work. I’ve gone into trances ruminating over castings of the futhark and ordering my will to align for the long game. It’s been really illuminating.

LV: Without a witch on call anymore, I’ve felt the need to take on a bit of the responsibility.

What is Apocrypha?

DV: Our Terabithia, in a sense.  We keep it mostly to ourselves.  Apocrypha is a world based on three assumptions:

  1. Victorian inspired steampunk is the playground of pussies

Thank god, it seemed so effete.  I speak as an outsider.

DV: 2. pretty ladies in dresses can have people drowned in blood just as well as hyper masculine dudes

and 3. in a world where magic exists, its primary function would be to dominate others

Are we going to get into Kentucky leftist politics or is that a no-fun harumph fuggeddaboutit zone at the moment?

DV: There is a Kentucky left in the same sense there is an American left.

[wincing]

DV: It’s all the same shit. I do think that our biggest games – Louisville Socialists and Kentucky Workers League – are better than any of the national cliques besides maybe SAlt. But experiences with the local left soured Aubree’ so hard on Marxism that I basically had to let her pull out, where before I was pushing her to keep on it.

LV: It’s so weak and full of filthy people who just want to not look like assholes so they don’t get anything done.

DV: They’re fine being assholes to white Appalachians, of course. And whites in general. The usual shit.  Lots of egotistical posturing and apologism.

LV: It’s horrible to be around. People are dying and being crushed anyway. Do what you need to do now to get to the top so you can pull them up with you as soon as you’ve beheaded and bled the overlords.

At this very moment my heart brims with devotion to House Vincent, aye, it threatens overflowing.  What should I do?

DV: We’ll have to meet up so we can knight you into the Order of Apocryphars

LV: We have prophets of Vincent all over the country.

DV: The Order of Apocryphars is a chivalric/zealous order in Apocrypha

Last question: what is House Vincent’s next move?

DV: Every move we make right now is aimed at ensuring our own stability.  Anyway we’re raising money to maybe start a business to raise money and start investing in real power plays.

LV: Maybe start a business. We’re pretty content with making up jobs for ourselves.

DV: We’re extremely low on the wage worker scale of poverty.  We’re in the pre-Gaul phase of Caesar’s rise to power.

Any parting words?

DV: “If you must break the law, do so to seize power; in all other instances, observe it.”

 

the ring of solidarity

saturn

The working class doesn’t care about me.  That’s okay because maybe I don’t care about it either.  But none of this matters because we are stuck together (or maybe that means it matters all the more).  All pieces are key to the sum of the being.

The class struggle is an aggregated conglomerate of the conflicts of many individual social particles (people).  Often the people in the working class are colliding with each other more than with the ruling class (Brownian motion).  This is part of the process.  Through these collisions learning occurs over time, structure is found, and energies are redirected.  Eventually we end up aligning and pointing the right way, together, against the enemy.

Tolerate an astrological aside for a moment: Saturn is the planet of gravity.  Gravity can mean several things – it can mean hierarchical influence of one over others, of the planet’s invisible magnetic force arranging smaller particles around it into a ring.  Gravity can also mean severity or necessity.  Saturn is the planet of all things necessary, of the hardship of necessity, scarcity, and mutual incompatibility that compels us to choose one thing over another.  It also suggests the possibility that perhaps we must not simply choose all things that are necessary over those that seem not to be, but that all things are necessary.

How is that relevant?  It’s easy to think that you will have the biggest impact in the world by building up your personal profile, by becoming a “big” person, who is known, a star to whom all the other particles are connected, disregarding their connections to each other.

Perhaps the biggest way to have an impact is actually to be an equal.  Perhaps it’s not to be the planet in the center of the ring, but a particle in the ring itself.  Maybe the ring is a circular, mutually-reinforcing resonance of equals, all with their exact specific necessary place in the color wheel.  The ring is a defensive structure, drawing a line of what minimum we will tolerate, each of us guarding each other’s backs, facing out against a hostile world.  This is appropriate, because throughout history Saturn alignments have coincided both with historical events of authoritarian repression, and also moments of the repressed and underclasses finding the resolve to form a resistance, typically embattled and on the defensive as opposed to victorious.

The ring is imperfect, especially at this stage.  It is crooked, misshapen, bending, flexing, finding itself.  In fact the ring will always contain tensions – the circular shape of its resonance is held in place by repulsions as well as attractions.

Opposing Sides of the Ring?

The Left includes a wide array of personalities, many seemingly conflicting – and indeed conflicting in reality.  All of them are necessary.  You may be on opposite ends of the circle, and the tension may be real, but it is still a ring, and still connected by a solidarity, fraught with tensions though it may be.

Let’s take the tension between socialism and black nationalism, for example.  I think both socialists and black nationalists are necessary.  While I personally lean toward seeing seizing the means of production as the solution to black liberation and many other things, both are still necessary nonetheless.

You may critique black nationalism.  You may say it’s too narrow, misses the point sometimes.  But the hardliners of the black nationalist movement act as a pole of attraction for some of the more rightfully bitter and disaffected black people, who might be so sick of racism that they don’t even really feel like working with white people.  But they, in turn, act as a pole of attraction and activating force for more moderate black people, who may have a black power orientation while also seeing themselves as participants in the class struggle.  The black nationalists play a role of activating a community, and while collaboration with its hardline core may at times be impossible (or may at times be possible), the broader periphery around it is a population that is more relevant to other mass movements and class struggles.

The above example might not be perfect but you can extend it out to other things.  I enjoy having people both to the left of me and the right of me.  Ultralefts may often seem irrelevant or obscure but their critiques keep Leninists thinking and keep them sharp.  Leninists in turn criticize and test the Social Democrats, who are more relevant and popular at this time, activating larger layers of people, but also need to be challenged not to hollow themselves out into too much moderation.  The Social Democrats then influence and interact with garden-variety progressives.  The USA’s millions of progressives may not be radicals yet, but they act as a huge persuasive force interacting with the USA’s moderates, disseminating ideas and information which radicals might be too few in number to effectively convey, or too puritanical to stomach the conversation.  The moderates, a seemingly useless and neutral population, can then act as a check upon the conservatives, able to speak to conservatives in common language that progressives often don’t have.  Leftists may also underestimate the influence of moderate conservatives in acting as a pressure against the far right – the conflict between them is a real thing.  And the chain pulls the other way too – conservatives test us and check us, compelling us to submit our radical proposals to realism and be prepared for counter-arguments, at each stage along the spectrum.

We all form a great chain of being, each precise frequency in the spectrum necessary for communicating with its neighbor down the line.  Wherever we are on the chain, our challenge is to pull it left, while not losing touch with those to our right.  Sometimes we may end up oscillating between several roles at once, like an electron alternating between two different locations during its atomic orbit (or literally occupying both locations at once, according to some theories?).  I often find myself flipping between the roles of far leftist and broad leftist, between socialist unitarian and critic of sect bureaucracy.

A more relevant example to my own life is the tension between brocialists and feminists, or the tension between social progressivism and political incorrectness.  By “brocialist” I mean something a little more complex and nuanced than “leftist who doesn’t care about women’s issues,” who do exist (and who can be flipped through communication), but that does not seem to be the sole target to whom the term is applied.  Instead I refer to leftists who are irritated with the left’s atmosphere of moralism, call-out culture, humorlessness, and the sensation of walking on eggshells because you never know when you’ll make a mistake, say the wrong thing, and moralists will jump on your back and shout about how you’re a horrible person.  Indeed this phenomenon is not remotely limited to men (ladybros => ladybrocialists).

On opposite sides of the ring you have two counterposed populations.  You have feminists who have been so harassed or abused by men that they really don’t want to deal with them at all.  Speaking from my experience in West Philly, they literally form lesbian collectives, at the extreme end of the spectrum.  At least in my town they do not hesitate to convey to you that men are unwelcome if that is how they feel.  More common is the type of hostile conversational identity politics in which any man arguing with a woman often becomes accused of some kind of transgression.

The hardline feminists have a role in the ring.  For one, their hardline position doesn’t come from nowhere – it comes from a viciously sexist reality.  Secondly, they play a role similar to the black nationalist example above, in activating a community, which fights necessary struggles unto itself, and the more moderate periphery of which can act as a go-between among the opposite sides of the circle (moderate feminists can talk to moderate left dudes and often get along) or more mutual participant in other struggles.

As for me, while trying to recognize the necessity of all components in the ring, I seem to be occupying the opposite end of it.  (This type of contradiction is experienced by everyone in their unique role, both harmonies and tensions along the ring.)  It seems I have become some type of unapologetic brocialist.  I don’t think I even intended this in the beginning, and I haven’t always understood precisely what I was doing when I was doing it, but I have trusted my gut and followed it. Following my gut has often led me into conflicts, resulting in damaged or broken relationships with others on the ring, even getting me kicked out of various spaces.  Nonetheless I persist because being true to yourself is necessary, as every shade of the color wheel on the ring is necessary.

I have come to realize I play a hardline role on the ring (at least in terms of this particular issue), perhaps not the apex of it, but in that grouping.  I am one of the guys.  I’m a guy who other guys can vent to about their irritations with the left.  You’d be amazed how common this actually is, not in the sense of people needing to vent (lots of that obviously), but in the sense of just how many white or male or cis or hetero people are out there who have sincere good intentions, who are leaning toward socialist politics, who are socially progressive if sometimes a bit politically incorrect, who may even identify with feminism, but who just can’t handle being part of the organized left because the circular firing squad is too intense.  I am not speaking here of organized leftists, but the vast unorganized leftist majority whom the left must ultimately organize in order to win.  And it’s surprising how much even people who may be women, nonwhite, or queer also find themselves alienated by just how high-horse, moralistic, and guilt-tripping the organized left can be.  I find myself serving as a listener, and thus a gathering center, to their frustrations as well.

My role cuts me off from certain populations who find my nature offensive.  It also connects me with other populations who find my nature compatible, and then I can lend those networks to those elsewhere on the circle, or even trying connecting them with the other side.  The same thing applies to every role, including roles opposite my own.  The more uptight feminists and SJWs have their scene, and score points with certain women and leftists, but alienate many other people who I don’t.  Even the moderates alienate the hardliners, though they may get along with everyone else.

There is no simple answer here.  We actually do need the grim boundary-setting of political correctness, or human beings will not be treated with dignity.  And we also need to laugh at it and break it, because in a world that followed all the rules all the time, nothing would ever happen (certainly no one would ever fuck).  The politically incorrect crowd is fun, is able to get its hands dirty in the imperfections of the masses and socialize with them, and doesn’t cut itself off with an alienating mode of communication or puritanical intolerance.  And yet the political stances of the politically correct crowd are typically correct, and necessary.  We all take turns playing every role.

I’m not saying I’m right and the other side is wrong.  Hell, half the time I identify with the other side (being as I am a proper brocialist-feminist).  Sometimes both sides are right.  Sometimes both sides are wrong.  Sometimes it’s 50/50 on each end.  I don’t think this is a contradiction we can escape until capitalism is overthrown actually, or maybe ever.  Leftists must find their own place in the ring.  They must also learn to embrace and coexist with the Other on the opposite side of the ring from them, as we all try to support each other.  These can’t always be done successfully at the same time.

Be Yourself and/or Don’t

The universe is a totality.  It is a whole, but the whole consists of parts, and without each precise part, it would not be the same whole.  The parts exist not only in quantity, but in infinite rainbow variety of qualities.

This means that, among other things, one of your first duties to the universe is to tell the universe to fuck off and insist on being your absolute self-most self.  If you do not do this, you deprive the universe of your own personal quality which is a key component, along with all others, of constituting the whole sum of the universe, as the precise whole sum totality that the universe ought to be if all the parts are expressing their genuine natures.  By suppressing your own authenticity you damage the authenticity of all being.

The universe is a contradictory mishmash of pressures toward universal harmonious merging and distinct particles with boundaries that obstruct each other, collide, and refuse to combine.  Everyone wants unity, but everyone’s got their own idea of what kind of unity is right.  The others in the universe will pressure you to conform to their contours.  And yet you also find your own pressure, from within yourself, to be yourself, and disregard the pressures or even boundaries of others.  Life is all for one and one for all, and also all against all, simultaneously, not simply because of the structure of society, but I suspect also because of the structure of matter and consciousness themselves.  You may want to avoid conflict, you may want to not start drama, but given that drama is often the expression of genuine macro-political conflicts across the scale of individual particles, you really don’t have any choice if you are going to be yourself.  You may not want to be a compulsive shit-starter but may often find yourself dragged into or even initiating conflicts simply because your nature doesn’t allow you to remain silent before what you are witnessing.  Speak the truth even if, especially if your voices shakes.

We cannot be ourselves without possibly insisting on our own way and disregarding others.  And we cannot be ourselves without also regarding others, possibly disregarding ourselves.

Sometimes the two are mutually incompatible – often, actually.  The challenge is to struggle to find a way to be yourself while also living in harmony with others.  Most of us usually fall off onto one side or the other, compromising ourselves in the name of cooperation or breaking our relationships with others in the name of authenticity.

Rather than offer an answer, I offer a struggle.  The struggle is the answer.  The struggle to find a way to satisfy both conditions, self and other, is coterminous with your struggle to participate in the revolutionary process.  They are the same thing.  So keep struggling.  Insist on perfection ultimately, but accept and even celebrate increments of progress as they come.  Being part of the ring of solidarity means both finding your own place on it and also embracing the entire ring, at the same time.  This is the challenge.

April 14th Philly march pros, cons, and strategy

stadium stompers

Last Thursday, April 14th, was a march that incorporated the $15 minimum wage demand, black community control of the police, and opposition to the new stadium construction plans at Temple University.

I was happy to see Philly Socialists student members present, which is not usual given Philly Socialists’ abstentionist past with the $15 movement.  I found myself really pumped and amped up by this march, something I kind of needed.  After a slog of a campaign season in Philly Socialists, the incremental and low-visibility accumulation of forces in the tenants’ union, and the stupid divisiveness in the Left over Sanders, it was a breath of fresh air.

That being said, many of the critiques of the $15 movement (and nearly every movement) which circulate among the Philly Socialists crowd do have some merit, and were somewhat verified by the April 14th march.

My analysis of Stadium Stompers has tended to be that, since it is based around a specific incident rather than a general fight based around people’s units of daily economic circulation (housing, jobs, transit, schools), it will not tend to pull in as much of the actual North Philly community as the student organizers hope.  (This is in contrast to, say, a tenants’ union, which deals more directly and obviously with the economic needs of the community; even if the stadium would indeed be disastrous for the community, it’s not as easy to mobilize around it or build lasting power from it.)

This seemed confirmed to me by the fact that in truth, the march was not that big.  The recent Sanders marches have been larger actually.  I myself have been overloaded with events and was not even going to attend, except that I just happened to be working in Center City and I heard the drumbeats of the march at the end of the working day.  (The drums were cool in building energy but also drowned out chanting, pro’s and con’s.)

This blends into general problems with the $15 movement.  I would describe it as having similar issues as the Stadium Stompers movement.  It’s a good demand, and directly related to class struggle and people’s own standard of living, which means ordinary people might care about it and get involved more than many other activist demands.  That being said, it’s a demand on the state rather than necessarily a specific demand against specific, concrete local institutions.  We always harass McDonald’s, but the amount of actual fast food workers we’ve attracted has been minimal.  Movements around demands on the state tend to be self-limiting to a student-and-activist crowd who can afford the time to mobilize around issues that aren’t of direct relevance to institutions and life conditions they themselves may not be connected to.  This means only a small activist minority of the population will be mobilized, instead of the broader working class.

It’s true that, for mostly including causes initiated by white college kids, the march was wonderfully multiracial.  Maybe I’m being optimistic but certain parts of the crowd seemed to be 50/50 (which is good because that’s roughly the actual racial composition of Philadelphia).  Part of this had to do with the presence and involvement of the Black Hammer, a socialist and black nationalist group which incorporates both black national and class struggle demands in its focus.  (Dude, what an epic name.)  This to me was one of the most positive aspects of the march: the confluence of class and race demands, in what has often been a toxic left environment which counterposes these issues instead of conjoining them (or conjoins them without actually being multiracial in the composition of participants).  But in sum the overall smallness of the march lends to the notion that actually not much of the community has actually been mobilized by ANY of the demands – not $15, not the stadium, etc.

What could we do to change this?  One thing which seems to be in the works is making $15 a campus-oriented demand, ie demand the campus pay its workers $15.  This makes it more easy to build a student critical mass as well as engage the workers who work there, and lends itself to building a student power network based on campus-specific demands that are directly relevant to students’ own economic self-interests (tuition, room and board, things not mentioned in any of the Temple student government platforms – in fact the cost of the stadium may be more directly impactful to students in a dollars and cents fashion than anybody else, in the form of tuition hikes and fees).  Another thing would be to build up an inter-workplace workers’ alliance in distinction/complement to the traditional local-based union structure.  The Restaurant Opportunities Center seems to play a related role to this in Philadelphia.  The Philly IWW also used to run a South Street Workers’ Alliance which at its peak had 100 members, though this may have been a decade ago and collapsed.  The direct involvement of socialists in these alternative union initiatives makes sense to me. At the moment Philly Socialists is building a tenants’ union, which serves a slightly different but also very similar role of creating activity across multiple locations, struggling around units of people’s daily economic circulation.

Now these predicaments are not entirely our fault.  The unions involved are, well, unions, with all the shit this often implies.  Fight for $15 is not really a self-organized grassroots movement, but an SEIU front where the SEIU paid staff mobilize members.  Now I’m glad they’re doing this, but it makes their involvement contingent upon the possibly tenuous approval of the bureaucrats (who actually used their influence over this march to ban any campaigning for Sanders, which myself and others gleefully disobeyed).  Furthermore many of the West Coast $15 laws have involved exceptions against the unions themselves, negotiated by the unions themselves (this would almost be unbelievable, except we’re talking about union bureaucracy).

On a more positive labor note, it was nice to see Caucus of Working Educators people there too, though I have no idea who plugged them in or what their relationship was to the forces involved.  What relationship socialists and socialist organizations should have to such reform caucuses is itself a huge topic which deserves an entire separate article.

It was enjoyable to see electoral politics enter directly into the issue-oriented march, with the contention over campaigning for Sanders, a handful of people (probably SEIU staffers) holding Clinton signs getting harassed, and a speech by a state senate politician McGinty who was booed by some anarchists and others (okay maybe me for a second) for being the “Hillary Clinton of the PA senate race.”

Overall despite the criticisms I’ve made, it was a beautiful confluence of varying currents worthy of this psychedelic era, and benefited from a lot of red energy.  As an outsider to the actual organizing preparations, I wonder how the different forces involved felt about it.  For example, the $15 demand predominated in the chanting.  Did the black police control or stadium people feel slighted by that?  I have no idea.

I am not sure what precise role I play in this movement(s?) except as a supporter and marcher (hell, I am not exactly sure what my role really is in anything at the moment).  But I hope the Philly Left and these movements are full of enough thoughtful, open-minded, strategy-oriented, and driven people to maybe take some of these thoughts and run with them.  Better to talk about it than not.

As for me, I hope to build the party and increase the redness.

 

 

the psychological torture of neoliberal intersectionality

problematic

Everyone is alienated, no one wins.

The psychological torture of neoliberal intersectionality is this:

  1. It pretends to make progress for specially oppressed groups, while delivering none
  2. Its liberal wing attacks the white working class rhetorically, which is not suffering as much, but is still suffering as workers
  3. It creates a massive race tension (and other tensions) across society by creating a mental framework where no cross-demographic unity or constructive conversation is imaginable

The key of neoliberal intersectionality is to deliver progress for doubly-oppressed groups not in the form of sweeping economic and social reforms which would actually help the vast majority of that oppressed group, but instead to increase the number of political & corporate figureheads of those groups in the media and at the top of the power structure, and to increase the amount of empty rhetoric on behalf of those groups. (Doubly-oppressed groups have their own specific social issues but are also disproportionately working-class and poor.)

Occasionally the system may even emphasize narrow social reforms over broader social or economic reforms (the courts legalizing same-sex marriage at the same time as they destroy unions).  The importance of the social reforms should not be dismissed, but the deception should be clear: LGBT people will suffer from the dismantling of unions because LGBT people are also largely workers, so the courts are giving to us with one hand and taking with the other.

So while the liberal end of the media makes a lot of noise pushing for a multicultural rainbow society (but never truly getting one except for news anchor diversity), the white working class feels completely abandoned – because, in truth, it also is, with white workers dying faster than before.

So we have rhetorical justice for the doubly-oppressed combined with a reality of extreme injustice, and on the other hand rhetorical and structural abandonment for the white working class (except by the conservative media, which caters to such whites, but again in terms of empty rhetoric and not anything that would actually help them).

It should of course be pointed out that in nearly every material/economic metric, the white working class has it better than its other racial counterparts (though its overall wellbeing is also simultaneously declining). And yet, at the same time, whites believe they have it worse. This seems ridiculous, but again can also be explained to an extent by the way media themes are structured into neoliberal multiculturalism.

Because the media narrative is a simplistic game of warring camps (man vs. woman, black vs. white) instead of a constructive unity where we can all advance together as a class while addressing specific oppressions at the same time, white men feel like they are constantly under attack. At least in terms of rhetoric from the liberal and centrist ends of the media, it’s not a mistaken feeling, but actual media practice. Materially, such workers are only under attack as workers, not as whites or males – but given the omnipresent rhetoric, it’s not surprising they’d get confused.

Meanwhile doubly-oppressed groups deal with the extreme frustration of constant rhetoric and imagery of progress, coupled with a brutal reality of continued intense systemic oppression (also of course mixed with hostile rhetoric from the conservative and “moderate” ends of the media).

Everyone is confused. Everyone is attacking the wrong scapegoats. No one wins, except the rich.  And in the meantime, it’s a huge source of tension and psychic pain in the ass for everybody.

a world already ending, a world already over (fear the walking dead review)

heroin walker

The actual interpretations of The Walking Dead show itself have already been fully realized in the form of the article “Zombie Western of the Postmortem South” which used to be on Red Wedge but has since disappeared.  Whatever.

The general gyst: the original series is an oscillation between patriarchal white boys with guns re-establishing their local neo-feudal tyrannies, and the sheer inhumanity of zombiedom’s ultra-capitalism, mass graves, apocalypse, plague, and cannibalistic undeath.  (Sounds like every day on the news, but I’ll get back to that point.)  The idea was that this oscillation can never really be resolved but just keeps continuing.  Maybe the last season is evolving away from that toward some new framework of rugged conservatism (Rick & “the group”) versus civil but weak liberalism (the new walled community), with some kind of synthesis or alliance.  Again, whatever.  The moment of most depth was the one I had called years ago when the series began, when Rick said “We are the walking dead.”  Not sure if that meant some kind of total abandonment of humanity, or a gritty resolve to get through any crisis (with the risk of getting lost in death mode), but that was pretty much the peak for me.  Maybe Tyreese’s struggles with ethics were a similar story.

I find the subject matter of Fear the Walking Dead to be almost instantly more interesting.

The opening shot is a heroin addict so off his face that when I saw his bloodshot eyes I thought he was the zombie.

The show is pretty much just one giant compendium of the social crisis of the everyday.  The kids are on heroin.  The family is broken up.  The kids hate the parents in various patterns.  The school doors have metal detectors.  There’s a flu going around.

Weird rumors are circulating on that damn Internet.  Addicts repeat their cycles of addiction.  The school is struck by a sudden massive wave of absenteeism.

Zach Galifinakis said something like the world is getting exponentially more ridiculous.  That’s kind of a nice spin on what is a living nightmare where the weather is so fucked that summers and winters probably take years off our lives (unless of course they are so temperate as to not even be summers and winters).

Here’s the thing: It wasn’t just weird. It’s not just “an unusually hot and dry season.” You can feel it in your very cells: this is all part of a increasingly vicious, mean-ass vortex of accelerating evidence that the planet and all its animals – of which we are merely one – are under a potentially fatal stress like no other time in modern history.

The point is, Fear the Walking Dead is rather different from simply, The Walking Dead.  In The Walking Dead, a big bad thing happens, and people are forced to do bad things.

In Fear the Walking Dead, people are already doing bad things.  Bad things are already happening.  Bad things are normal.  It’s unbelievable that crisis is the new normal, but it totally is, and we are living it every day.  Catastrophe is so constant that we become numb to it – what other choice do we have?  We have to go to work, we have to carry on, we can only protest so long before having to get a job or something.  Everything is on fire and no one cares.

In Fear the Walking Dead – as in reality – normal life is already so saturated with crisis (like the , that if one more thing happens, the wrong catastrophe with the wrong cascading effect, it feels entirely plausible that the whole fucking thing would just implode.  The zombie virus is not the end of the world.  It is just the straw that breaks the camel’s back in a world that was already spinning down the toilet bowl, a world that was already ending.  The addition of the zombie crisis is not a qualitative shift in awfulness, but the addition of one more quantity of shit that forces a breaking point.  (In reality, I think we will have something more like a long, slow decline, with punch-by-punch catastrophes knocking us down but leaving society intact enough that we can revolt and change course.  Or I hope.)

And in Fear the Walking Dead, as in reality, the authorities do not tell us.  That news of that final straw comes to us not through official channels, but over social media through those damn phones, with those damn kids sharing the internal bulletins!

“It’s not real, I mean it can’t be real.” [says the goodie-two-shoes-overachiever who is probably voting Hillary]

[the truth-tested alternative chick responds:] “Watch.  This here’s the new real.”

And a generation raised on death and futility is already prepared for the zombie apocalypse, in our hearts:

“Killshot, bitch.”

killshot bitch

Robert’s Rules of Order condensed

roberts rules

A while ago I tried to get a bare-bones version of Robert’s Rules of order to make a democracy work.

I have seen so many bad attempts at “democracy” by the Left that it’s ridiculous, basically the committeemen at the front of the room saying “Okay, here’s what we can do,” allowing a brief period of discussion, and putting it to a vote without even giving a chance for alternatives to emerge or even having a process or budgeted/scheduled time to handle opposing proposals even if they do arise!  This is not an attack on any one organization or anything — I have seen this all over the fricking place!

Here they are:

The Beauty of Secondary Motions

While Robert’s Rules has a lot of names for type of motions, I’ve boiled it down into two clarifying categories: primary and secondary.  Primary (or main) motions are the actual proposals people make in order to make group decisions for group action.  Secondary motions (also called incidental, privileged, or subsidiary) tend to be related to procedure, and help move things along.

What if someone makes a proposal – a motion – and then someone else proposes an amendment?  Or how do we actually bring discussion to a close?  Is that its own motion, which now opens up a whole new can of worms of discussion?  Does the process telescope endlessly like Russian dolls, leading to a process that consumes time and never ends?

The beautiful difference is this: secondary motions cannot be discussed.  They must be immediately voted upon.

So if someone proposes to amend a proposal, we don’t discuss the merits of the change (or not yet).  We just vote on it right then.  (Now of course someone is free to say “hey come on, that was a good idea!” after losing the vote, provide reasons why, and raise it again.  But after the second time they should definitely stop.)

Secondary motions include:

  • Motion to table an motion
  • Motion to bring to a vote
  • Point of order (bringing up rules and demanding the chair enforce them)
  • Appealing a point of order (democratically overruling the chair’s decisions)
  • Question of privilege (Is the speaking environment currently unfair? Proposal to change it)
  • Adjourn or recess
  • Objecting to the consideration of a question (that’s so stupid/disgusting/offensive we shouldn’t even talk about it, raised immediately after a motion if it somehow received a second)
  • Call for the order of the day (like point of order; demanding we talk about what we earlier agreed to be talking about now)
  • Amending a motion
  • Dividing a motion (if a proposal is made of component parts, all members have the right to immediately demand they be divided into separate motions that may be voted up and down separately)

When these motions are immediately voted, some require majority and some require 2/3.  (In a tie, the motion “fails to pass” and is essentially rejected.)  It’s typically motions which limit speech, such as bringing discussion to a close or objecting to the consideration of a question, which require 2/3.

If there are no objections” is actually normal practice.  After most statements the chair should ask if there are objections.  If there are none, the motion is adopted.  The chair can also do this themselves to move things along as long as they don’t unfairly rush it.  This could probably be used undemocratically; don’t.

 

Interrupting others while they are speaking – the interruptor must state their motion (typically “point of order” or “question of privilege”).  The chair then has the floor and asks the interruptor why they have interrupted.  The interruptor states their purpose.  The chair then makes a call, but can be overruled by an appeal.

 

What Happens if Someone Makes a Motion?

In order for the motion to even be considered, it needs a second.  The proposer (mover?) should also indicate some rather specific language which they are proposing be adopted, or at least a specific plan of action.  (Making clear motions is something we all need to improve at.)

If the motion is seconded, it is now on the floor.  This doesn’t mean it has to dominate conversation; other things can be discussed and several motions can be in play (or “pending”) at the same time.

However, one of several things must happen to a motion before the meeting or agenda session ends.  A motion must either be (1) decided by passing or rejecting it in a vote, (2) postponed for reconsideration at a definite time, (3) tabled.

(Note that tabling a motion can be used as a bureaucratic maneuver for killing it forever, if the motion is never raised again, so if you care about a motion, it’s advisable that you rely on yourself to remember it and raise it again at the next meeting instead of relying on a chair or secretary.)

As described above, amendments or calls to bring the matter to a vote are secondary motions which do not open up a new segment of discussion but instead require an immediate vote up or down.

 

How Discussion is Ended and Matters Brought to a Vote

At some point during discussion, the chair may ask “are there any objections to bringing the matter to a vote?”  If there are none, a vote proceeds.

A member may motion to bring the matter to a vote.  “To bring the matter to a vote” is a secondary motion which itself must be immediately voted on, but not be discussed.  It must pass by 2/3.

If the 2/3 vote is met, the vote on the issue itself takes place.

If the 2/3 vote is not met, discussion continues until either the chair or a member once again motions to bring the matter to a vote.

Example:

Member: “I motion that we vote.”  (This is non-discussable.)

Chair: “Any objection?”

Other member: “Yes actually I object, I’d like more discussion.”

Chair: “Then we must vote on the motion to bring discussion to an end.”  (Chair then proceeds to conduct the vote, by voice vote, ballot, roll call, or whatever works for the situation.)

Chair: “2/3 support voting now.  Let us vote.”  (Chair conducts new vote on the actual issue.)

~OR~

Chair: “We don’t have 2/3 who support voting now.  Let discussion resume.”

“Joe was next on the stack.  Before he speaks anyone else want to get on stack?”

~OR~

“Stack is open.”

Only Discussion of Motions Permitted?

In Robert’s Rules of Order, discussion is actually limited to motions.  No discussion is permitted except when it is related to a motion on the floor.  This apparently keeps sessions moving along by focusing conversation on actual action plans.

This is completely opposite of Left discussional culture where endless rambling happens with zero connection to concrete proposed motions.  The Left’s open-ended conversation can be helpful – sometimes we do need to discuss politics without knowing a clear answer right here and now.  But maybe we could lean toward being a little more action-oriented too, given our habit for circular meetings which lead to more meetings.

We may want to continue the stack system which allows general discussion.  However many of us are hesitant to make a motion still because there was no procedure and it seemed like that motion would henceforth dominate all conversation until resolved.  We should get in a habit of making motions, without seeing it as something we have to walk on eggshells about.  Even propose things you are not 100% certain of yourself.  This will give us the benefit of decisiveness, by concretizing what decision we are actually talking about, without taking away the right to make general statements.

So my proposal is not to ban discussion unrelated to motions, but to encourage a culture where motions are frequently made without feeling like it is contentious or imposing anything on anyone.  But now that we have an actual procedure which makes clear that making a motion does not (1) dominate conversation, or (2) need to be immediately resolved, we should feel comfortable making them.

The tension within neoreaction

Market vs. legionnaire

Market vs. legionnaire

Short nerdy post.  Neoreaction is more of a morbid fascination than anything actually important.  It serves a few useful purposes, though, by acting as a foil:

  1. Its Dark Enlightenment form/cousin displays racist and sexist arguments openly; this allows us to actually become familiar with them, and better argue them down, rather than simply relying on speech codes.  We are much more credible when we can actually beat racism in an argument than simply saying “that’s horrible, don’t say that!” and sputtering when pressed for a reason.
  2. It’s a weird and experimental approach to the state form, a sort of Right-wing improvement/hybrid on fascism and anarcho-capitalism.  (Against this we need the Left counterpole of socialist & anarcho-communist hybrid of anarcho-statism ie civic anarchy, ie tech-enabled direct democracy at the national level, devolution of state functions to popular participation, especially in terms of policing, etc.)
  3. Studying right-wing logic is useful, not because they are politically relevant in the sense of having a mass adherence, but because right-wing beliefs express themselves in subtler ways throughout the entire population, forming components of the mixed consciousness most people have (there are strong left components too).  Studying these can help us understand the assumptions most people carry often without even realizing they do or being able to articulate them.

But none of that is what this post is really about.

The simple issue would be, neoreaction is caught between market and state.  But that’s not the real issue – most societies have possessed both market and state.  The issue is more that the states which neoreactionaries dream of require a spirit of collectivism which is completely contrary to free market individualism.

Anyone familiar with NRx knows that there is a conflicted “trichotomy” to it: “Christian, Caucasian, and Capitalist.”  Nick Land rightfully asserts that among the three, only Capitalist is really consistent.  Traditionalists and Racialists are collectivists of a sort, if a highly exclusive and reactionary type of collectivist.  Their traditional strictures and tribal loyalties could sometimes impede capitalism’s honorless, soulless, mechanical, inexorable, Terminator-like demands for expansion and commodification.

The crux of the problem is that neoreactionary states require special bodies of armed men, and special bodies of armed men require a collectivist identification to function well as military units.

Every body of armed men is based on and requires a strong camaraderie and esprit de corps.  You see it in every police department, in every infantry unit.  You can’t have people risking their lives together without it becoming a strong bond.  And this tends toward some kind of cultural collectivism.  Indeed, it is this very cultural collectivism of brotherhood in battle which probably attracts a lot of the neoreactionary demographic.

These men can be held together by some fancy, civilized, old-school concept of Virtue (that would be Nick B. Steves’ approach).  They can be held together by raw necessity in little more than a gang structure, essentially Mad Max barbarians (see Jack Donovan).  But whether you’re a Roman or a barbarian, it’s basically the same shit; groups (typically men) form strong bonds based on violence, and this phenomenon can become the basis for a society or state, and the same sort of spirit and ethic winds up defining the special bodies of armed men in states once established.

A quote from Land to explain some neoreactionary logic about the way these themes end up tying a society together:

“Reactionary theonomists, ethno-nationalists, and techno-commercialists share a fundamental aversion to rationalistic social reconstruction, because each subordinates reason to history and its tacit norms – to ‘tradition’ (diversely understood). Whether the sovereign lineage is considered to be predominantly religious, bio-cultural, or customary, it originates outside the self-reflective (enlightenment) state, and remains opaque to rational analysis. Faith, liturgy, or scripture is not soluble within criticism; communal identity is not reducible to ideology; and common law, reputational structure, or productive specialism is not amenable to legislative oversight. The deep order of society – whatever that is taken to be – is not open to political meddling, without predictably disastrous consequences.”

(Here we could see the reactionary kernel of Stalinism still strongly present within the Chinese state – hierarchy brings order, order brings production, it is right to trust and follow the Party leadership, etc.)

Even if the ultra-capitalist alternative “productive specialism” prevails as the deep fabric of society (as opposed to Tradition or Race being the glue that holds it together), the collective spirit within the state would spontaneously form.  Even if your state’s special body of armed men consisted of a bunch of heartless mercenaries, their very situation would probably over time give them a collective spirit.  If not, the armed men would not be effective.  They would not succeed as a state or portion of a state.  This collective identification is itself critical to the success of the very state which neoreaction calls for, in spite of its otherwise strong identification with individualist market capitalism.

**

Is this just a tension within neoreaction?  Hell no.  This is a tension within most societies.  Their mishmash of glorifying entrepreneurial individualism, versus glorifying selfless virtue, civic duty, and public & military service, is a real tension existing right now in America, also in Land’s beloved China, and not just in some bizarre little Internet corner.

And as usual, capitalism handles the synthesis badly, more to the point it doesn’t accomplish it at all.

Want to be a legionnaire-type hero and embody all the noble ideals that you are probably projecting on it?  Try actually serving the people.

China, America, democracy, and workers

maos china and after

So I just got done reading this bad boy.  I have to say, I’m impressed.  It praises the positive sides of the regime and condemns the negative, all while keeping a firm grounding in Marxist theory.  It does a great job untangling the many tangled threads of Maoism, and its many stages and incarnations, as well as its theoretical complexity and its contradictions and errors.  If everyone in China would read this book, there would be a revolution.

Socialism and democracy

My only hope for socialism in China is through democracy.  The CP is completely sold on this capitalist-development-before-socialism assumption, perhaps an economic-determinist overcompensation for Mao’s nutty idealist voluntarism, or perhaps just a great way for these fuckers to get rich.  There is only small impulse towards sustaining state control of the economy within the Party, and a willingness to literally dismiss/gulag Party members who lean that way has already been demonstrated.  Not that state control is even socialism anyway.

Without political liberalization, the kind of theoretical clarity which (1) critiques state bureaucracy as not inherently socialist, and (2) opposes the Communist Party’s wholesale sponsorship of capitalism, will never be given the space to breath it needs to come to prominence.

However my hope for democracy does not come from traditional 1989-style democracy movements.  The glasnost-affected Soviets were willing to cave to that stuff, but the Chinese CP has clearly demonstrated it would rather crack down than back down, and they are kind of high on all this ancient Chinese Emperor glorification to justify it to themselves.  (To be fair, the post-Soviet Russian nationalists probably imagine themselves similarly, just without the pretense of calling themselves Communist.)

Democracy movements alone cannot win in China

Every time there is some classic democracy movement in China, it gets smacked down.  It is usually petit-bourgeois and student-led.  It usually comes at least partially from within the Party itself, which is like China’s version of saying it comes from the bourgeoisie/ruling class.  It lacks the social weight or military force to withstand the regime’s fairly easy ability to assault, jail, expel, and execute dissidents.  At times there have been internal Party objections to this Game of Thrones-level inhumanity, but they have usually been batted down by more hardline factions and subsequently suffered similar fates to the protesters themselves.

This contrasts to the working class of China, who literally charged the military encirclement of Tiananmen Square while the student protesters were pretty helplessly trapped within it.

Of course they were ultimately shot, defeated, and organizers and participants hunted down in greater detail after the Square was cleared.  However contrasting the motives of students and workers is important here.

The students were demanding free speech and democracy, surely good things in themselves, but not necessarily the priority for the workers who got involved.  In fact, the workers had a rather different impulse for getting involved – they were furious with the Deng regime’s economic liberalization and introduction of capitalism into China, which was increasingly throwing their lives into poverty and chaos.

Can these two demands survive without each other?  Not really.  Ideally they would fuse.  However, if we have to give weight to one side, we should give weight to the side with superior social weight, the workers.  Students will make political demands, and find that they need a broader social base to actually attain them, and find it in workers.  Workers will enter the political realm for economic reasons, but then find that they need to take up the cause of democracy in order to defend themselves from the state repression of independent labor organizations.

Both sides certainly have a role to play here, and would go together ideally, but only one side is truly necessary, and contains within itself both the social weight and inherent need to realize democracy.

So if writing public articles for democracy and having public demonstrations for democracy are not the way to go, since in China they are repeatedly repressed without effect of consequence, what other course is open?

Workers and democracy in China

The key is do something that needs to be accomplish also in the USA and Europe: the democracy movement and the workers’ movement need to be fused into the same movement.

Dissident intellectuals or socialists in China might be better off doing the initial steps and reaching out to create a network of underground nuclei for independent workers’ organization, than recurringly publishing articles to the broad public and getting gulaged.  In this way they would actually begin to develop a pro-democracy social base, and without immediately exposing themselves.  Of course as it happens, the Chinese surveillance state pays special attention to this type of organizing, meaning that for now underground dissidents may have to serve more of a propagandistic role of ideologically supporting that type of activity than actually performing it, but people do appreciate when you bear the torch.  At the very least, underground publishing and distribution might be a better idea than open publishing.

Democracy and workerism are directly fused in China, because the Chinese workplace is already fairly institutionalized and surrounded by Marxist vocabulary.  Unions exist, but they are controlled by a Party whose own internal culture is viciously top-down.  Bureaucratic cultural organizations intervene in workers’ daily lives.  Collective workers’ control of the workplace, the Marxist & Soviet original dream, has occasionally appeared in China, and in some places the regime has pretended that this is how a workplace functions even when it is top-down.

Demands for genuine worker-management (fair enough under a “Communist” regime), independent unions, and the free speech to advocate these and other grievances are all democratic demands which can inspire a rebellion that spreads to and democratizes the rest of the society.  But rather than being remote abstract issues advocated by students, they are directly relevant to the lives of workers.

Workers and democracy in the USA

There are American analogues to combining workerism and democracy.  For example, in many places the $15 movement may find it beneficial to utilize or support the creation of ballot initiative measures which allow the city to vote directly on minimum wage laws, allowing the people to bypass unresponsive capitalist politicians.  The more minimum wage is fought for, the more it will be necessary to confront the political structure: many major cities, culturally progressive and home to large concentrations of workers, are the natural home of the $15 movements, but they are blocked from these measures by regressive rural state governments.  Increasing the home rule of cities might be a natural extension of the $15 movement.

Finally it is not enough for socialists to dismiss the USA’s fairly rotten, primitive representative democracy and demand we go straight to workers’ councils (though we should probably bring up workers’ councils more).  There are so many democratic demands to raise.  For one, our first-past-the-post geographic representation system, inherently rigged toward small numbers of parties are horrible pork-spending patronage, should be replaced with European-style parliaments based on proportional representation – ie, national elections where parties get into office according to the percentage of the vote they got, instead of blowing entire votes on offices where only one person will be elected.

Socialists should also intervene electorally themselves.  If they give us a platform we have to use it.  As Lenin said, “Whilst you lack the strength to do away with bourgeois parliaments and every other type of reactionary institution, you must work within them because it is there that you will still find workers who are duped by the priests and stultified by the conditions of rural life; otherwise you risk turning into nothing but windbags.”

Finally we can also raise the demand of national-level initiative and referendum, so that the American majority, by and large far more progressive on virtually every issue than the officeholders in Congress, can vote on legislation directly and bypass Congress.  Especially when things like national health services or national minimum wage are at stake, national initiative and referendum are directly workers’ issues.

We might consider opposing that Trans-Pacific Partnership thing, too, speaking of China/America, though this is a fairly advanced demand only familiar to those of us in the know of political inside baseball.  But maybe everything in this article is, and we can build the beginnings of a workerist-democracy movement among people who are opposing the TPP.

The wall of Chinese repression

Velvet revolution is not possible in China.  It may begin velvet, but it will definitely not stay that way.

I’m pretty much going to ignore the shrieking of moralists who say “oh but look at Baltimore, the USA is repressive too!”  Actually in Baltimore, the police frequently backed down against any real shows of resistance.  This is rather different from Tiananmen Square, where the PLA icily gunned down protesters with machine guns by the thousand like Terminator robots.   Let’s be real, we’re talking about qualitatively different things.

The problem in the USA is that the unions suck, are controlled by the (Democratic) Party, and no one has bothered to challenge this substantially yet.  The problem in China is that the unions suck, are controlled by the (Communist) Party – and every time someone tries to challenge this, they end up in jail for 15 years.  It is not the same situation.

This is a major problem if the only hope for regime change and democracy is the workers.  If the workers are effectively blocked by police & military hard power from forming independent labor organizations, what moves do they have?

One would be the classic trolling of the state-controlled unions, which the Russian revolutionaries tried during the brief state experiment in police unionism.  And rumor has it that sometimes these organizations do face spontaneous disruptions where demands are made.  But broadly, they are Party-controlled spaces where it is not even safe to make demands, serving as traps to catch dissidents early.

Only two paths are really open then: the Russian path, and ironically, the Maoist path.

Strategies

The Russian path is not to hope for open labor organizations, but to undertake underground revolutionary party-building which serves the dual purpose of anti-regime propaganda, and labor agitation.  This way the underground party acts as a coordinating nucleus & institutional memory between the various sporadic and spontaneous labor uprisings (which are happening already), and also as a constant steady torch of dissent instead of individual intellectuals occasionally popping up, publishing criticisms of the regime, and getting sent to gulags.  Eventually sufficient revolutionary opposition occurs that a velvet revolution of general strikes sweeps the regime off its feet and provides the social basis for military resistance, should it be required.

The Maoist path would be to jump straight to military resistance from the start, largely repeating the methods of the 1949 Revolution, but ironically against the regime which caused it.  It is curious to reflect that, after the KMT’s massacre of Communists in the 1920s, the Chinese Communists theoretically could have gone underground and imitated the Russian path, but they opted for guerrilla warfare instead.  There are some base-superstructure arguments that such action cannot bring about a workers’ state because militaries are essentially bureaucratic.  However I think moments in Chinese history, like the voluntary agricultural collectivizations of 1956, or specific moments of the Cultural Revolution, demonstrate that a bureaucracy with the right intentions can empower the workers & people, and overthrow itself – this was probably the original intention, but sadly not the outcome, of the Cultural Revolution itself.  Ultimately, however, the point of this would not be to create a new regime but simply to open up the political space to allow the creative energies of the workers to come forth.  For those horrified by the idea, keep in mind that guerrilla warfare was a major part of how bourgeois democracy started in the USA.

The third path is not one open to Chinese workers, but rather open to American workers in hopes of assisting them.  The fact is, as much as the US government possesses some wicked military hardware, we have a very open political system which is predominated by corporate corruption but will still allow you to publish your views, form organizations, and demonstrate in the streets.  They don’t shoot us by the thousands for political activity.  In fact the whole nation freaked out when they shot only four of us at Kent State.

For this reason we must attempt a socialist velvet revolution in the USA, a luxury the Chinese can likely not afford given their state’s superior willingness to kill its own people (and I know the shrieking moralists will shriek, but you really need to get real about how brutally repressive the PRC can be…yes our government can be brutal too, but not all brutality is created equal).  Sometimes velvet revolutions bleed into other types, obviously something to keep in mind.  If we succeeded in building a politico-economic order that was truly both socialist and democratic, the lies of the CCP would fold before the living reality of our example.  There would be no justification to suppress independent trade unions, if we had them and everything was working fine for us.  There would be no justification to insist on more capitalist development, if we showed that you can have both socialism and development.  There would be no justification for political repression, if our system was radically democratic and open.

The best thing we can do for the Chinese proletariat is to continue grappling with the very real and deep problems affecting the Left in the USA – failures to connect to the working class, issues of democracy, the general inhumanity and inhospitable nature of party-line organizations, fragmentation, and invisibility.

Finally, a Left

It’s like the independent Left had just wanted to have a big group hug all along, but we couldn’t admit this to ourselves until it happened  <3

It’s like the independent Left had just wanted to have a big group hug all along, but we couldn’t admit this to ourselves until it happened ❤

This post is about this thing, read the agenda and stuff.

So I’m doing this writeup almost more out of obligation than actually wanting to.  That’s all my blog is anymore, nothing gold can stay.  If you want a super-serious writeup, check out Dan La Botz’s piece over at New Politics, and I think many more assessments will be forthcoming (from North Star editors Louis Proyect and Mark Lause for example), all of which I will reprint here or submit to North Star.  The parts I’ve read are solid.  But if you want something perhaps a bit juicier and more detailed, and more stupid, stay here.

So what the fuck was this thing and how did I become involved?  These are excellent questions, and it’s still sort of unbelievable to me.

HOW IT HAPPENED

So you all know CUSP, a project which I love and I don’t see as unimportant but which is basically little more than me and some friends putting up a shingle on the Internet and say “hey socialists should be united derp derp” (more on that later).  During some CUSP canvassing over the Internet, a leading member of Solidarity messages me that he and his org are generally very much down with the broad direction of CUSP – probably more looking for anything Left-Independent than explicitly Socialist, but hey, it’s something.  He asks if I would want to be on a Soli conference call about putting forth the idea of an independent Left electoral conference.  I say, def.

That was a huge con call, probably the most active/collective participation that has occurred in one place in Soli for a while.  That’s not meant as an insult, because personally I think creating a collective beacon of visibility is one of the most important tasks the Left could be undertaking right now.  I was really energized to be on it.

However from there it was less about anything mass participatory (for a time) and more about people on Soli’s committee reaching out to other groups and local campaigns/candidates/outfits.  I followed this process as a fellow traveler on con calls of Soli’s committee, but not the collective inter-group planning committee.  Keeping me hidden away in the basement was probably for the best given that I think some people might still be mad at me about the whole saying what I actually think thing.  They asked me to help publicize the conference through CUSP, North Star, tankie facebook pages I bizarrely happen to be an admin of, and whatever the hell else I was involved in, plus to work on making the conference website.

CUSP => Soli con call => Soil IPA committee => logistics & attendance

My concern with the conference was NOT to launch some big intervention arguing that it should be socialist-only…there were enough weirdos mucking the thing up by advancing their own little bizarre formulations there (enough, but fortunately few!).  Now if you can believe this, I was actually not going to attend.  Still kind of unbelievable to me too in retrospect, but I figured I would try to make the conference a livestreamed interactive event over the Internet by setting up the application end, promote it among my affiliated audiences, maybe send a few minions to call for taking the whole thing to its next level of development (that ended up being me in practice), and that would be it.

So at some point a guy in Solidarity asks me, dude, this is all you have been about for like, years now?  How the fuck can you not go?  (He said it nicely, but pretty much that bluntly, which in truth was warranted.)   And I say, I’m broke.

He says, I found flights out of Atlantic City for $80 round trip and we can put you up.

Damn.  I have never felt so believed-in, except when my blog started getting an audience, Louis Proyect made me chancellor of North Star, or when my recruiter told me I should go to Officer Candidate School (Maximum Problemagic).  For real though, people seem to keep thinking it’s worth it to take a chance on me despite my uncompromising hate of authority, tendency toward putting forward grand sweeping plans for what the Left should do, and occult insanity/general weirdness.  If sometimes I seem a little wrapped up in what I’m doing and I don’t pay attention to you, don’t take it personally.  I notice when people notice; I notice when people support me, every time.  It all means a rather lot to me, thanks to everyone who gives me a hearing.  We’re rebuilding and reinventing the Left together and you rock.

SHENNANIGANS

I have been badly wanting to go to a rave ever since receiving miraculous revelations telling me that I should, I hoped this trip would be my chance.  Alas, too much fatigue, money limits, and not knowing my way around town concluded with this not happening and me getting only mildly drunk with small handfuls of leftists instead.  Only later did I hear from a comrade in Philly Socialists who had been passing through that she had indeed attended such an affair the night before we spoke.  Perhaps if I had only dedicated myself more, I could have gone apeshit in a bath of color and sound…truly the gods are cruel and regret is a bitter taste.  Someday.

I subjected some poor Green Party electoral technicality maven named Phil Huckleberry to my insane ravings about Jesus and reincarnation (the idea is that God had no moral authority to judge humanity until living a human’s life with perfect principle, hence Christ, except that for it to really count Christ had to be born without the knowledge of being God, etc).  A young woman asked for my phone number, but when I gave it to her, she quizzically asked if I was giving her an area code (I was), must have concluded I was an out-of-reach out-of-towner, and immediately abandoned the chase.  I guess it was just summer love.

I brought both Greenman and Redman, by which I mean to the uninitiated the mono-color body suits as seen on Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and I asked Jill Stein to do a photo with me of me wearing the red one and her wearing the green one.  She said she had to catch a plane.  This was almost certainly a lie.

One thing I said (roughly) during my comments was “It might not be 100% clear how to connect to Black Lives Matter, we can connect with its organized national convention, but it’s also sometimes enough to give our rhetorical support to it.  In the same way that Syriza has been Greece’s Party of the Riot, we can be that.”  For some reason this got laughter; I think it’s because how wide-eyed and rapturous I must have looked and sounded during that last beautiful vision of bricks and ballots.

On the flight out I got a ridiculous ton of writing done, regarding where CUSP is going, where Emerge is going (into North Star probably), and an emerging theory in my head about the relationship between the fabric of personal relationships, the formation of cliques/friend groups, and the dynamics of power and democracy within organizations, and also how this relates to the issue of state-based ruling classes in state-based economies.  It was a giant burst of suppressed creativity somehow, probably because I’d been working on conference stuff, but it finally got out.  All of that is forthcoming.

 

THE CONFERENCE

The conference was predominated by the 60s generation, but they were simply the largest group instead of the majority.  Ages were mixed, gender was mixed, and race was mixed, especially for what I assumed would be the most nerdy white petit bourgeois common interest imaginable.  Attendance was over 175, up to 200, I never got the final count, which is pretty good regarding that some critics viewed this conference as trying to create something out of nothing.  There was strong attention not just to electoral machinery (necessary!) but also how that stuff interconnects with issues like Black Lives Matter and $15.

The conference was somewhat nastily divided over Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein, leaning decisively toward Jill of course given that it was meant to be an independent, anti-Democrat conference in essence.  However Bernie supporters were there, both in the audience and as speakers/candidates/officeholders.

One of my few complaints is that numerous people were a bit too brutal to the Sanders supporters, and I say this not least because I am leaning toward his campaign (believe me I understand the anxieties of all sides).  A 16-year-old woman came to support Sanders and was subjected to endless berating of him, often with very little clear articulated reference to what precisely Sanders has done wrong (and honestly I could list things…).  Later in the conference she said that this was the first time she had been exposed to socialist ideas, she agreed with a lot of what she was hearing, but she was badly dismayed by the venom with which people were trying to “communicate.”  I agreed wholeheartedly on that front – whether you’re inside or outside the Bernie campaign, you should try to connect with these people and that means treating them like human beings.  I think we need to reach people like her, since there are already 175,000.

And this was a unique issue because the rest of the conference got along famously.  It was probably one of the best, least annoying inter-group Left gatherings I have ever been to!  The typical sectarian shitshow was almost nowhere to be found.  Sure, some groups were slightly self-promoting (and why not, really?), but they were also unmistakably contributing.  Sure, there were one or two sectarians making speeches about their bizarre preferred exact formulations of a party or whatever the fuck (and deep down I could be considered one of those though I did not really torture people at this conference about that), but they were completely overwhelmed by people actually talking about how to run campaigns, eager to work together, and focused on learning from each other.

One of my favorite presentations was from Richmond Progressive Alliance, a formation in California.  I hadn’t really paid much attention to them earlier because they were not Orthodox Pig Iron Campaigners for Socialism, but their methods were actually amazing.

Some of the key insights from their campaigning were two main points.  One was that in non-partisan struggle, you almost have to make the race partisan.  People need a collective bloc which they can clearly politically identify in order to vote; much of people’s voting habits are, in truth, party-based instead of individualistic, the constant self-dishonest griping of independents notwithstanding.  The second thing was that, while you should strive to give your bloc a broad progressive identification by participation publicly in many social issues, they actually win races by picking one strategic critical wedge issue.  This is comparable to Sawant’s campaigns, which revolved around $15 and now rent control.  RPA’s approach was very similar.

A guy from Vermont Progessive Party claimed that they run successful state rep campaigns for only $5,000 and state senate campaigns for only $20,000.  I am sure non-grassroots campaigns blow ten times that.

Jorgé Mújica of Chicago Socialist Campaign had one of my favorite quotes of the night.  He said that people at the conference were involved in a scattered focus on issues, and insufficiently on electoral machine politics required to actually win.  He said: “We win all the debates, we lose all the elections.”  Amazing.  Of course a more nuanced take would be that it all matters, but really he was counterbalancing other tendencies at the conference himself, so in context it made sense.

MY INVOLVEMENT

As for me, I was running the livestreaming.  At first we were using Twitch.  I thought this made sense; many people have heard of Twitch, and I heard of it through Jodi Dean posting something about how Twitch Plays Pokemon could be a visionary example of future online direct-democratic structures.

However, little did I know, Twitch is not simply a livestreaming platform popular among gamers, but is instead a livestreaming platform only for gaming.  We had gotten almost entirely through Saturday’s first two pre-lunch sessions when Twitch informed us our account had been suspended for non-gaming content, LOL.  Me and a comrade considered pressing the argument that this conference was itself a form of strategy game but concluded that time was critical and concessions had to be made.

I had to scramble to set up a conference YouTube account, learn their system, redirect my Open Broadcast Software client, and test it out all when I was supposed to be eating lunch, fun fun.

I ended up doing some of their other filming/recording stuff, and dealing with piping distance greetings from Denmark/Seattle onto a projector, and other projector stuff like power points and the notes from the final brainstorming session.  I also just did whatever bullshit that was asked of me like carrying stuff around or whatever.  I was a pretty good little boy, but they kind of paid for me to go so I had no problem with it.  Lots of video will probably be forthcoming at LeftElect.org.

Sad thing?  The livestreaming audience only ever reached single-digits at any given time.  That’s not to say that’s all it was; I am thinking it could have been around 30 people shuffling in and out, and if the livestreaming helped 30 people who couldn’t afford to make the trip follow along, then I consider it a good deed performed.

However, what was really hilarious is how many times people during the conference said things like “Fuck the mainstream media, fuck the corporate media, let’s BE the media!  We need to get this shit on YouTube!” and I was thinking “point of information ma’am, you are currently on YouTube…carry on.”  My services were appreciated by the attendees, if not so much utilized by the wider masses this time.  So I suppose that in its future development (future, larger, more participatory, and hopefully more widely-followed conferences coming out of this one) that the practice of getting the livestreaming and all the A/V & projector shit set up was good, and may help us be prepared for the future actual huge Podemos-magnitude flood of web participation.  If anything, I learned a lot and I am putting it on my resumé.

We were in a basement with shitty reception so I had prepared myself by enlisting the services of Jump Wireless mobile broadband, so I would always have an Internet connection independent of the infrastructure provided by the union (to be honest theirs was pretty weak, sad to say).  Mobile broadband really is excellent for sidestepping unresponsive institutions!  (It is necessary at all times to maintain a renegade political infrastructure in case of expulsion/split/government crackdown!)

RESULTS

The final session is what I had been hoping would be a democratic session to forge a network right then and there.  It’s not what it was.

Instead it was more of a consultative session where the planning committee who set the thing up affirmed that it would persist as a sort of unelected bureaucracy to keep pushing the process forward, but it now opened itself up to ideas/consultation/critique.  The committee’s plan/recommendation:

  • Keep continuations committee
  • Let continuations committee forge network after the conference
  • Reach out to even more groups and more local independent campaign forces
  • Support Sawant! (This was a major point to celebrate in my opinion.)
  • Keep website for coordination, opinion, content/video
  • Weather the Sanderite storm of 2016
  • Continue process at US Social Forum?

Another interesting possibility was that the Democratic National Convention is at Philly in 2016, and various voices came out in support of the idea of crashing it/hosting a large nearby event for the inevitable disaffected Bernie supporters.

What frightened me about the whole “let the committee handle it” approach was that I’ve seen this thing happen before over the last few years…many groups have been responding to electoral Left stuff out of more public pressure to do so than necessarily real commitment, as far as I could tell.  Several Left Unity talks have occurred only to be followed up by inaction, as well.  This conference assuaged my fears however – it seemed the people who set it up are dead serious about at least having another conference.  Whatever beef I may have with the structure, the continuations committee did state a sincere intention to keep pushing the thing forward in a way I found believable.

Indeed, someone raised a motion to accept the committee’s recommendations.  I objected that this session was not even really set up to be a democracy – there was insufficient time scheduled for competing motions, real discussion or planning, and the moderator was definitely not prepared to carry out anything approximating Robert’s Rules or even a basic fair democratic process.  I said a good deal of this.  I was one of four abstentions from voting for the motion, having no votes against and almost unanimous.

Yeah, that was a dickish thing of me to do given that I agreed with all the content of the motion in itself.  But you know what?  Democracy is something I insist on, and yes even formal democracy.  Virtually everything on the Left is done by “trusted cadres” as they said in the USSR (see intro), and if we are ever going to break out of our little corner into mass relevance, we have to do it by empowering the people in the room to debate, vote, and run shit themselves.  That is the only way our organizations will create a world worth living in, and indeed the only way people will feel ownership over them enough to put their time and participation in.  We need to be more flexible and prepared to turn discussion sessions into proper debate & voting sessions.  This means we have to surrender our own plans, our own pre-decided processes, and the undespoiled sanctity of our own positions to the will of the mob.  Really we should have only one position – all power to the mob, and none for ourselves, except through it.

I still thought putting the network formation off to another conference was a bad idea and we needed a network right here and now, and I said so.  How much momentum can people keep up?  We’ve all got other political stuff, and lives.  Shouldn’t this have been the conference to declare a network?  Why put it off after losing momentum?  If it never happens on their part, I’m fairly prepared to put it into motion unilaterally, and if anything, this conference strengthened my network of contracts and my ability to do such a thing.

My proposals were in this spirit of being pointed toward setting the damned thing up now:

  • walk away with a structure decided, less amorphous
  • mutual educational support re: electoral skills
  • Podemos-style launch-petition circulation for a targeted election
  • a wave of local candidates under a common umbrella name
  • a few keys issues defining this umbrella, ex. $15, BLM, Green New Deal
  • eventually a participatory decision-making structure

The response I got from the crowd was decent, and I have a feeling this and other brainstorm quality comments from the crowd (all viewable here) will help steer and influence the continuations committee in its planning of next steps.  (I don’t think I’m being oversharing by linking to this; it was, after all, up on a giant projector screen.)

So, in conclusion.  Will me and collaborators still probably launch a Socialist Electoral Alliance, based more on participatory membership, online organizing, and Socialist specificity?  Yes, but I don’t see it as competing with this conference or the alliance of people around it; it would be more like a component or ally of it, really.

Did I get everything I wanted?  No.

But the overwhelming feeling I got from the entire conference, seeing the mix of groups, the mix of ages, the mix of genders, the mix of races, the era of good feelings and willingness to come together, the common recognition of this common need, all to build some kind of collaborative electoral intervention & common electoral front in the USA, is “holy fuck this has needed to happen for years, I am so ecstatic it is actually happening.”

And it finally happened.