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Text coloring decodes as follows:
Black: Ken Ellis
Red: Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc.
Green: Press report, etc.
Blue: Recent correspondent
Purple: Unreliable Info
Brown: Inaccurate quote
Poll the group as to whether they would like to discuss any of the following topics:
How the form into which a group organizes itself reflects its class character. Examples: SLP, KPFA, Save KPFA.
'Save KPFA' is an example of how the left fights amongst itself. Give own experience of alienation from that group. Find reasons for alienation.
Discuss the effect that labor-saving technology will have upon society in the future.
Discuss the possibility of being part of a political Party that expresses the interests of the poor and oppressed, and how that Party would handle relations with the ruling classes if it won an election and wanted to implement its program of abolishing class distinctions, or whether the ruling classes would oppress the Party of the poor and never let it openly campaign.
Discuss the program that a Party of the poor would have. Gather some specific proposals for a Party program and list them, and decide on how many of the proposals we can find consensus.
Discuss the fraudulence behind anarchist ideology, using specific examples of anarchist ideological fraud, many of which have been propagated by the Socialist Labor Party for more than a century:
'All states are capitalist states.
'Working class state power is inconceivable.
'The state power which the proletariat might be tempted to wield turns out to be capitalist state power.
'The working class may take state power in backward economies, but only over the reactionary small property owning peasants and middle classes, but it could never take state power over the upper classes.
'No alliance between the progressive proletariat and the reactionary middle classes is possible. The hammer and sickle on the old Soviet flag had no symbolic significance whatsoever.
'Since the dictatorship of the proletariat was a dictatorship over the peasantry and middle classes, and those classes had an important place in production back in Europe during Marx's time, but since they barely exist in the United States today, there is no need in the USA today for a dictatorship of the proletariat over those non-existent middle classes. But, if you can't remember all of that, just remember that there is no need for a dictatorship of the proletariat in the USA today, and tell that to all of your friends.
'There are not two stages of post-capitalist society. The only kind of post-capitalist society is communism, a stateless, classless society.
'Marx used the terms socialism and communism interchangeably because they both represented the very same revolutionary, post-capitalist stage of society.
'The immediate transition from capitalism to classless, stateless communism can be achieved only in the advanced capitalist countries.
'A technologically advanced country can have a revolution and celebrate classless, stateless communist paradise, even while surrounded by hostile capitalist dictatorships on its borders.
'There is no political victory conceivable besides that of an electoral victory of the Workers' Party at the ballot box.
'Marx preached the abolition of the state after the political victory of the Workers' Party, as opposed to the abolition of classes.
'In the Marxist theory of the state, the capitalist state is abolished and replaced with a classless, stateless administration of things.
'Because the means of production were too incompletely developed in Marx's time, he could not foresee the form into which the workers should organize in order to bring about classless, stateless socialism.
'The development of the means of production in the technologically advanced Western countries will enable the workers to organize themselves into classless, stateless industrial unions and proceed directly to classless, stateless society after their Party abolishes the state and itself.
'The founders of socialism didn't know the difference between state capitalism and socialism.
'Marx believed that the capitalist state would survive the proletarian revolution, and would manage production after the revolution.
'There was a deficiency in the Marxist analysis of the state that Lenin recognized, but which Daniel De Leon corrected.
'Anarchists wanted to destroy the state with nothing to take its place, and with no organization to administer production.
'It is inconceivable for the state to administer production, so it is useless and dangerous to keep the state around after the revolution.
'The state is a means of oppression only, and has no interest in production.
'The purposes of the state and the Workers' Party are destructive only, and both will be abolished after the revolution.
'The organizational form of the Workers' Party has to be modeled upon the form of the state that it will abolish.
'The state consists only of elected representative bodies, such as the Senate, the House of Representatives, and other elected assemblies.
'The workers cannot take state power because the state is the means of the oppression of the workers, and is owned and controlled by the capitalist class, so the workers should not try to wield that which has always been used against them.
'Political power is the power of the capitalists to repress the workers, but sometimes it falls into the hands of the workers without having been fought for, and then they would have to figure out what to do with it.
'Since all political action is destructive, economic reconstruction will not begin until after politics is over and done with.
'The only body capable of a constructive administration of production is the Socialist Industrial Union, or the economic associations of the working class.
'In any conflict between proletariat and ruling classes, the ruling classes will flee or otherwise behave as cowards, and will not fight back.
'People were quite a bit more coarse and savage a hundred years ago, and the refinement, civility and suitability for socialism of their societies was proportional to the development of their means of production.
'The appearance of democratic republics had nothing to do with the possibility of a peaceful revolution. All political forms are to be abolished anyway. Marx and Engels had always denounced republicanism as a bourgeois phenomenon of no consequence to the working classes. The term 'Social-Democracy' came about as a result of the confusing attempts to try to find political solutions to the social question, instead of the economic solution that can be achieved only by organizing into the modern Industrial Union form.
'Rank-and-file members of socialist and workers' parties are not ready for freedom of speech or democracy within their parties and organizations.
'Reforms are of fleeting importance only, and what the capitalists give, they can also take away. Therefore, workers should give up on their attempts to bring about reforms, and work only for the Party that brings them the long term goal of abolishing the state.'
1 Define difference between the Right, Left and a Third Way
Ideology should not be separated from the economic classes in which the particular ideology finds support. Free enterprise, right to life, fundamentalist Christianity, patriarchal and nuclear families, super-patriotism, etc., generally finds a strong base of support in the rich, the middle class, business, professional, and working-class people who have lived in close contact with the middle classes, or who vacillate between wage-labor and small business. They generally do not like taxes and welfare programs, and many of them think that those who do not work are just being lazy and are taking advantage of liberal welfare programs. They tend to be Republicans, and some can be quite wealthy. As we learned from the Iran-Contra saga, almost anything can be sold to some of them, if it is wrapped in the flag.
Liberal ideology generally finds a base in educated circles, the professional classes, and some portions of the working-classes, and to some of the lowest income groups who benefit from liberal programs. Many are tax-and-spend liberals that the right-wing loves to complain about. They favor strong government intervention to solve many social problems. Many are wealthy and pragmatic in that they understand that something must be done to keep capitalism in operation, for capitalist 'democracy' is better to them than the total anarchy that would result from letting what is left of "free market forces" to solve all of the problems of society. More Democrats than Republicans.
Left-wing ideology favors the lower classes, unionism for protecting the rights and health of the working classes, welfare for the disadvantaged, strong health, safety and environmental rules for business to follow. Those further to the left like all of that, and additionally favor shorter working hours and higher pay. Democrats, Social-Democrats.
Social-Democrats believe that the way to do something to permanently alleviate the ill effects of capitalism on the poor and oppressed is through reforms of the present capitalist system with laws and programs that are intended to more thoroughly address our social ills. They dream of socialism and believe that it can eventually be achieved through reform. They believe that the capitalist state will eventually represent the interests of all of society through the implementation of reform upon reform. Democrats, Socialists and Communists, etc.
Anarchists have given up on any hope that the present system can be reformed to represent their interests. The peaceful anarchists think that the present system can be replaced with a classless, stateless administration of things the day after their political victory, but this victory is limited to the idea of a mere electoral victory of a Workers' Party in a democratic republic. They believe that the coercive force of the state can be abolished right after that electoral victory, and some peaceful anarchists spend lots of time looking for, or promoting, forms in which society can organize itself in order to abolish the present-day state. Anarcho-syndicalists would replace the state with organizations of trades, or some variation of the old One-Big-Union idea. Some of them are too alienated to partake of Party politics.
Violent anarchists are driven to such extremes of frustration by having to find ways to co-exist with the existing oppressive capitalist bureaucracy, that they are driven to acts of violence to let off steam. They also may harbor visions of a classless, stateless administration of things in which the old order is abolished by destructive means. Too alienated to vote.
Anarchy many times represents the interests of small business people and self-employed, for, without the state, anarchists would be free to do business without impediment.
Revolution finds a base of support among some educated and working-class people who think that working within the system will probably not achieve any kind of meaningful or lasting change. They think that a government that is owned by the rich will never do anything of real value for the poor, and yet, as long as democratic possibilities exist, they favor doing all they can to elevate the position of the lower classes. They know that history is replete with examples, all of them failed so far, of the lower classes having won political power through revolution, but have always seen that power, up to now, always slip back into the hands of bourgeois interests. They work for the day when the revolution will begin in the advanced capitalist countries and spread all over the world, in which case, in the eons that follow, the power of the state will eventually fade away and lead to a classless, stateless administration of things in a world in which, barring disaster, there will never more be any competition for means of subsistence, thanks to the intelligent use of labor-saving technology.
2 Find some source of American, and/or World statistics
3 Define the impact of surveillance on the left
4 Define difference between single-issue movements and an umbrella movement of united action
Single-issue movements: single-payer universal health care, gay and lesbian rights, equal rights for women, prisoners' rights, campaign reform, welfare expansion, environmental, anti-nuclear, animal rights, recycling, save the forests, the right to feed others, etc., just to name a few extremely valid concerns, not to be given up nor denigrated while looking misty-eyed for some umbrella movement.
Yet, there may be room now, more than ever, for an umbrella movement. The First International (1864-72) was such an umbrella movement. It was organized at a time in history when the oppression of the lower classes in Europe had reached such a level of intensity that many in the lower class movements of the day were ready to put aside petty differences in order to cooperate with each other. Such a time may very well have approached in the USA, in other Western countries, and even in previously alleged socialist or communist countries.
The First International was also a center of self-defense for the working classes. Working class organizations used the International to distribute aid among themselves that were under attack. Gross examples of injustice were addressed with proclamations. The First International sent letters to Abraham Lincoln to encourage the abolition of slavery.
5 Group process: Censorship vs. Relevance
In all of the alleged progressive movements of which I have previously been a part, censorship has played an integral role. Our own movement should not fall victim to that device, which has always played a part in keeping at bay any potential threat to some strong political agenda, stated or unstated. If our own political agenda is clearly that of encouraging the complete liberation of the oppressed, then there can be no danger that the speech of any of us will be curtailed in the forum that we shall adopt. In our own little group, I feel perfectly free to advance my ideas, as we all should. If we adopt a computerized bulletin board type of forum, that would ensure that anyone with access to computer technology would be able to advance their ideas as well, but that would also leave those without access out of luck.
In our meeting the other night, I blundered by suggesting that the input of a fellow member might be subjected to review by myself before I included it along with my own suggestions for a preamble, even before it had a chance to be discussed. I was just being lazy at the thought of having to type the copy into my computer, but it remained a blunder by not explaining that that was the motivation for my reluctance. It certainly was not motivated by a desire to eliminate competition of ideas, for our preamble deserves a lot of input by everyone to be a valid document.
Since the preamble is still up for discussion, then if those with computers were to choose to discuss it on the bulletin board, then those without computers might not be as fully heard as those with them. Since our work should be seen as being done in the interest of those without advantage, or even relative advantage, then we need to be able to consider the thoughts of those without computers as fully as those who have computers, either in our meetings, or in the form of a printed bulletin, if adopted. If adopted, then it should serve as a forum for all ideas relevant to the answer to the social question.
With only one person at a time being allowed to speak, there would only be room for a certain number of ideas that could be heard in a meeting if our meetings were to grow in size. Since all ideas should be equally available, we would have to use a printed bulletin that would publish all ideas relevant to the issue at hand. A good editor could include all relevant ideas, and could categorize them into appropriate slots for the purpose of making the forum easy to access. The ideas that we have already agreed upon by consensus could also be included in a box of some sort in every edition, but even that statement could be changed by consensus as well.
6 How to make benefits of technology accrue to our benefit, instead of to just the owners of that technology
We should gather in a political Party for the purpose of winning political power, and use that power to implement a program of abolishing class distinctions. For instance, some people have enormous amounts of wealth compared to others. One intermediate way to level the playing field would be to abolish taxes on any income less than $50,000 or $100,000, and use a flat 50% tax on anything above.
7 The race question in progressive politics
8 Paralysis of our movement
Whose movement? In order to be effective, we have to clearly and consistently express the interests of the lower classes, lest we lose sight of our goal of changing the basis of our present society, and merely remain active in single-issue politics. The reason that we should address the interests of the lower classes as a whole is that these classes are the only ones that are capable of initiating truly basic changes in the way we interact, due to their present lack of power and their rapid replacement by technology. Bourgeois economists are busy predicting that the year 2086 will be the year when no more physical labor will be required of humans ever again, and there will be no more need for agricultural labor, no more need for auto mechanics, dishwashers, waitresses, ditch-diggers, carpenters, tile-setters, etc., even with the status-quo capitalist mode of production. Beyond 2086, there will continue to be a need for scientists, engineers, lawyers, dentists, doctors, judges, many more government workers, and other elite professions for some time after the lower classes of jobs are all gone, but we have not begun to figure out what will happen to those lower classes.
People who have been part of the lower classes will be born, will die, reproduce, require food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, and other commodities and services, but if they don't have access to means of earning a living in a future in which all of the simpler forms of labor will be replaced by robots, computers and machines, what will become of them? If we just sit around and wait for the government to fix the problem, they will fix it the same way they have fixed other social problems. They will continue to blame the victims and build more jails and work camps. They will make it illegal to beg for money and food, just as they made it illegal to possess simple herbs.
Naturally, the technology that has accrued to the benefits of the owners of labor-saving technology will continue to do so, and the owners will be reluctant, as they have in the past, to allow any of the privileges associated with such elite status from being diluted by sharing ownership and/or control of the technologies and the decision making processes with the masses of us who will be dispossessed by that technology. Can the lower classes forever continue to allow themselves to be replaced by technology, with no political influence on the effects and directions of that technology?
In a better world in which we all have equal influence over the issues that affect us, the replacement of labor by technology would be met by an equal reduction in the length of the working day so that we could all share in the access to the means of making a living. But we do not live in a perfect world, nor in one that makes much sense at all, for, instead of us sharing equally in access to technology, we find that people who do have the access to the means of making a living are having to work longer hours, and those with less education or drive to get ahead are being pushed to the sidelines, are losing access to means of making a living, etc. It's past time to do something about it.
With regard to WhiteWater, I think that the Republicans are to be commended for pursuing its investigation. If the Clinton Presidency is brought to ruin, and the ruin of the Democrats enables the Republicans to re-establish their program of concentrating all wealth into the hands of the rich at a newly increased pace, regardless of the consequences, then this can only work into the hands of those of us who recognize increased opportunities for propaganda and organization of the lower classes. It will drive home the point that our republic is a republic for the use of the rich only, and that any attempt by Democrats to even out class discrepancies by the slightest amount will not be able to be accomplished. It will also bring home the point that classes are irreconcilable, and that our bourgeois republic is not the place to try to do it. Only a republic based upon the rule of the poor and oppressed can begin the process of abolishing class distinctions, and thus make the only positive steps toward ending the civil war between classes in this country. To be able to vie for power in this or any republic, we need a political Party that consistently expresses the interests of the lower classes, and that Party needs an open forum.
We, the people, are agreed that our present government, whether Republican or Democrat, does not represent our interests, but rather the interests of those who are distinguished from the majority by their greater economic and political power. They have succeeded in passing laws, rules, and regulations that increase their advantages, and have saddled the majority with a panoply of rules, regulations, taxes, rents, and other expenses that leave us with a diminishing share of what we contribute to society.
We recognize, further, that the classes with the most power, political and economic, are indeed ruling classes, and they have organized themselves politically and economically very well to protect their mutual interests, while the majority remains inadequately organized into unions, small Parties and other associations of mutual protection, or are organized inadequately, or not at all.
We recognize, further, that competition drives industries to increasingly invest in machinery, computers and labor-saving technology, promises to make physical labor obsolete within a century, and does not redound to the benefit of those who have been displaced, or can envision their livelihoods being threatened in the future by the implementation of more and more labor-saving technology. Under the rule of the rich and powerful, labor-saving technology is a scourge to be feared and loathed as the means by which our livelihoods are removed on a daily basis, and increasing proportions of successive generations will be prevented from access to the means of making a livelihood.
We recognize, further, that, by more equitably distributing control over that technology, it could be used to diminish the number of hours that many of us have to labor to make ends meet, if only there existed sufficient political will to empower the majority to take control of that technology, and make it work for all of us, rather than for the minority of rich and powerful who presently own it.
We recognize, further, that all too few of those in power, whether Republicans or Democrats, no matter how many of either Party we send to control the levers of power, nor to what offices they are sent, high or low, are capable of moving those levers of power contrary to the desires of the wealthy contributors to their election campaigns.
We recognize, further, that there are many in the service of the upper classes who are only too willing to lie and misrepresent the facts, in order to maintain their positions of power and relative advantage, and that the press, television, radio, and other media have been used by powerful interests to maintain the power of the elites both by lying about issues of importance to the majority, and by seeing that the interests that oppose those of the elite never have as many opportunities to express themselves.
We recognize further, that Parties represent classes, and that a new Party is required, which, from its onset, is pledged irrevocably to work to further the interests of those of us who live only so far as we find work, or otherwise can successfully appeal to the charitable sentiments of government, church, charitable institutions, family, network, or friends.
We resolve, therefore, that this Party will work to defend the interests of the lower classes until the goals of our program have all been met, and there no longer is a reason, in a world in which the problems of production have largely been met, for anyone to have to beg in the street for the lack of a social mechanism to create and distribute jobs, food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, education, and access to other necessities of life to anyone who is willing to work or otherwise contribute to the benefit to themselves and to society as a whole, as well as to those, who, by reason of age, infirmity, or other circumstance, are prevented from doing so.
In the International (1864-72), the annual Congress of Delegates was the ultimate power of the organization. Each Delegate to the Congress could represent up to five hundred rank and file members. Organizations were encouraged to cooperate to elect a Delegate from among their combined numbers. The Congress elected the members of a General Council for carrying on the International's affairs between Congresses, and it fixed the location of that Council. The Congress could also expel any member of the General Council, or even the whole Council. It could relocate the seat of the General Council to wherever it desired, based upon the suitability of the political conditions of the different countries and the qualifications of members local to the proposed seat.
The members of the General Council were equals and elected their own functionaries from among themselves. The General Council could elect from its numbers various Subcommittees to carry on day-to-day business, or to perform special tasks, such as the preparation of proclamations and addresses, etc. All of the statements, resolutions and manifestos of the International bore the signatures of the members of the General Council.
The International did not interfere in the internal affairs of its constituent bodies, but they could protect their interests by expelling Sections, Branches and Federations from the International, if the latter were to actually carry out policy that was in the interests of the ruling classes.
During the earlier days of the First International, there was a position called "President", but that post was eventually eliminated. At the Basle Congress of 1869, it was also proposed that ... "all local sections should abolish the post of president in their sections." Marx wrote:
"The International was founded in order to replace the socialist or semi-socialist sects by a really militant organization of the working class. The original Rules and the Inaugural Address show this at a glance. On the other hand the International could not have stood its ground if the course of history had not already smashed sectarianism. The development of socialist sectarianism and that of the real working class movement always stand in inverse proportion to each other. Sects are (historically) justified so long as the working class is not yet ripe for an independent historical movement. As soon as it has attained this maturity all sects are essentially reactionary."
..." I only want to remark that centralist organization, although very suitable for secret societies and sectarian movements, goes against the nature of trade unions. ... it would not be desirable, and least of all in Germany ... where the worker's life is regulated from childhood on by bureaucracy and he himself believes in the authorities, in the bodies appointed over him. He must be taught before all else to walk by himself ... When Engels and I first joined the secret Communist Society we made it a condition that everything tending to encourage superstitious belief in authority was to be removed from the Rules."
We continued to wonder about what we should do as a group. If our movement encompasses a wide range of information and criticizes present day society and government, we may be able to assist in the movements to 1) more equitably distribute wealth, 2) prevent environmental degradation, and eliminate a host of other injustices. But that can only be accomplished if we take political power out of the hands of those who represent the super-rich, and put it in our hands, i.e., those who represent the interests of the most exploited in society, i.e., those who only stand to lose even more as they get replaced by computers and automation.
To represent those interests, we need a newspaper or access thereto, i.e., some way to get the poor and oppressed involved in a discussion of theoretical matters that they so far have not engaged in. To get the ball rolling, we might start out with a brief statement of where society has been, where it is going, and our fate if we don't do anything to change our direction.
The reason our democracy is so limited that progressive forces are so fragmented that our actions add up to only very little, and is not a threat at all to the existing disorder. It is entirely possible that as soon as we learn to become really effective in using our limited democracy, it may be taken away from us. This is not to be over-anticipated, as there is not much sign of it yet.
To do the right thing in the future, one needs only repeat what has been done in the past, which is the building of the Party that expresses the interests of the lower classes, even if not all of us are members of those lower classes. That is the first great step on the road to power, even if a smaller step along the way consists in our starting a journal. People want to do something real, and many feel a certain frustration with doing ordinary leftist things. That may be because we may be getting close to a great transformation in this world, in which we discard the unmitigated rule of the ultra-rich, though we will not give up on capitalism all at once.
As a pure and simple information network, there is nothing that we could say that would get the people to do anything that we would want them to do, long before which, the anarchists will have already had them going out in general strikes, which are relative wastes of time. It is far more important to get people to do something that we want them to do, or, in other words, that which would be socially constructive, such as getting them organized into a political Party that expressed their lower class interests, getting them into discussion groups, getting them to vote for our candidates, etc.
"Article 7a. In its struggle against the collective power of the possessing classes the proletariat can act as a class only by constituting itself a distinct political party, opposed to all the old parties formed by the possessing classes."
"Freedom consists in converting the state from an organ superimposed upon society to one completely subordinate to it."
For a while, we have barely discussed organizing ourselves into a political Party. It is now time to hear from those who do not think that way, and who might have an argument for not organizing ourselves in such a way. Speak up, I can't hear you.
... "the fundamental features of the British and American working-class movements ... are: the absence of any big, nation-wide, democratic tasks facing the proletariat; the proletariat's complete subordination to bourgeois politics; the sectarian isolation of groups, of mere handfuls of socialists, from the proletariat; not the slightest socialist success among the working masses at the elections, etc."
It occurs to me that we are really more middle-class than lower class in our little group, and thus it may be difficult for many of us to identify with the interests of what some might consider to be rabble. None of us might ever have had anything to do with what may be called 'the interests of the lower classes'.
According to Engels, in a January 1894 letter to Turati in Italy, revolutionaries did not come from the relatively small class of proletarians in that country, but rather came from the classes that were in decay, who were not proletarians yet, but "... facing economic ruin and now driven to desperation, will be able to furnish both the bulk of fighters and the leaders of a revolutionary movement as well."
4-2-94 We have met many times by now, perhaps enough times to decide to do something. I wonder why we do not take a stand for the classes that will soon find themselves out of work, thanks to the march of technology, and the lack of interest of the owners of technology of anything outside their narrow interests. Is it because it hasn't happened yet to ourselves, that we are incapable of taking a stand for those classes? Or am I ahead of our time, in wanting us to represent the classes that are being replaced?
Ken: Our movement should be based upon class consciousness.
Adam: My group is working on a manifesto that describes a restructured society, has a vision that would attract many. Yugoslavian model is instructive for building a new society. Work week should be reduced to 15 hours. The single payer movement is important in that there would be more incentive to create jobs, since its passage would ensure that no more pressure would be put on employers to pay costly benefits. We need a new social contract. Employer's responsibility to employees should be on the agenda of that contract. Workers' cooperatives should be encouraged, but the word is bad, in that it is too close to socialistic rhetoric, which offends many.
Mike: How to get each one in our group to commit to something we can all do in common. Would like to contribute energy to something. What can we do to keep people interested?
Adam: Political movements of our times have been very democratic and oppressive to women. My experience has turned me into a believer in process.
Ken: I have also observed violations of democratic process in the Socialist Labor Party and at KPFA.
Mike: We have nothing to do, and no process. We have to do something, or we will fall apart.
Adam: On the computer networks, there are only 15% women. Women don't like to debate in the same competitive way that men do. We should have 50% women. We all started out with good ideas and wanted to put them forward and denigrated everyone else's trips.
Mike: We need a common ground. Doug Dowd does wonderful things for people, and he was able to focus us as a group. We should be able to tolerate different points of view within our group, and still get something done in common.
Ken: Whether we are libertarian or socialist, we are all being ruined economically by capitalism.
Adam: Jobs are vanishing, people are getting desperate. We have lots of gripes now, whereas when we were growing up, the future looked great.
Mike: There were lots of opportunities back then, easy money, lots of jobs. But not now.
Adam: In our group, my role as moderator of letting people talk interminably has not worked very well for the process as a whole.
Mike: LAG was wonderful in terms of process. Consensus was the rule, and the agenda was selected at the beginning of the meeting. It united a lot of diverse elements, and it could work for us.
Mike and Adam: We have to define who we are going to be in such a way that we can include everyone, and find a common ground. What is it that brings us here and unites us? If we could make that our agenda until we discover our identity. ....
Ken: We could then gavel down people who stray from the agenda.
Mike: We could define a process.
Adam: I sometimes have to discipline myself to say what I want in 3 sentences, otherwise I could go on and on.
Mike: I have a long term goal of a permanent peace and justice East Bay group, even if personnel comes and goes, the group remains in place.
Adam: The coffee house I had in my youth worked well for bringing people together, but the computer network is the coffee house of the present, as a virtual community in space. An effective model was Richard Vigary's right-wing phone trees. He wrote a book on organizing the right wing.
Mike: What else is on our agenda for this evening?
Adam: My biggest agenda items are: computer networks, which I could cover in 5 minutes; and the idea of a left-wing umbrella group.
Mike: We should find out what the others would like to do in a group context. Affinity group models worked well for LAG. Anyone could call up the members of their group and mobilize their support, even if they'd rather be doing something else, they had to stand by their pledge to support the other members of the affinity group. But nowadays, many comfortable ex-members will not pitch in even a few bucks for a good cause. Many have gotten less radical in their old age.
Adam and Ken: We've gotten more radical as we've aged.
Mike: I don't define myself so much as part of an 'ism, such as anarchism or socialism. But I want to make this a better world. I have anger and sadness over current state of affairs in world.
Adam: Ditto anger and sadness.
Mike: Such sad looking cases out on the street. So unlike it was years ago. People need to be taken care of.
Adam: Don't want to take care of people so much as build a world in which people can take care of themselves.
Ken: Our movement should be a movement of the frustrated.
Mike: Why doesn't the left have a TV station? We have to do TV. Mott Apple used to fund liberal causes. Maybe we could buy into unused air-time of KQED Ch. 32. KPFA could do more town-hall programs.
Ken: KQED Ch. 32 could do town-hall things, too.
Adam: Long-time ago proposed that KPFA news staff do some KQED news. KPFA should be on-line with Internet. Many possibilities for listener feedback. I volunteered to help, but offer was rejected.
Ken: Before we close, we should each take the opportunity to make a closing statement, and since I propose this step, I'll go first. I want to say that I oppose Adam's opposition to making our movement a movement of a class. The lower classes are being replaced by machinery and robots, and it won't be long before all manual labor jobs disappear. It may not happen tomorrow, but it's coming, and I don't think that we can rely upon the people who own everything to want to take care of this mass of displaced workers and others. We need a Party that can express the interests of our class that can take power and redistribute jobs so that we can all take advantage of the benefits of labor-saving technology.
Adam: It sounds like something we could discuss. I'll cooperate with anything that works.
Mike: We have to come to some common ground, or else we will dissolve.
Adam: I could even withdraw from the group if we don't do anything.
Mike: It's nice to be part of a group in which we have a lot in common and can speak freely without having to explain our every word to each other, and to be able to do things with.
Adam: Computer networks facilitate good friendships, but it's not a real-time conversation.
Mike: What could we do on a computer that we can't do face-to-face?
Adam: It's not a face-to-face encounter. Ideas are put forth, and can be digested for awhile before answering. Ideas can be well-elaborated.
Mike: People talk one at a time in our group, and sometimes it gets boring. Personalities may be the problem.
Adam: Computer conferences less confrontational. It's more like ideas on a bulletin board.
Mike: People have given us good stuff. But how do we define the group from all of the different inputs? We need to come to terms with it and find some way to focus. Maybe we could all buy computers.
Adam: Computers really useful to get ideas thrashed out.
Ken: Face-to-face can be exciting if we can focus.
Adam: A certain Indian model I'm familiar with might be helpful. Our movement must be 50% women. We must learn women's rules of debate, if men's rules are different.
Mike: We must avoid white-male-only orientation and appeal to diverse elements.
1 Define Marxist theory of the state. Differentiate Marxist theory for a democratic republic and that for a monarchy.
2 Define Anarchist theory of the state.
3 Define State socialist, reformist, or Social-Democratic theories of the state.
4 Define the role of the proletariat a century from now, when all human physical labor has been replaced by technology.
5 Define any problems that you may have had with this exercise, such as perhaps not having the faintest idea where to look up the answers, or problems you might have with applying Marxist theories to 20th century conditions.
Workers' control over the labor market
Elimination of unemployment by reducing the length of the work-week as technology replaces human labor
Minimum of double-time for overtime
Workers' insurance cooperatives for health and dental care, higher education
Restoration of progressive income tax, an end to tax loopholes, and an end to subsidies for business interests
National referendum and initiative Amendments
Replacement of costly human labor by machinery
Increased competition for scarce jobs to drive wages down
Continuation of the eight-hour day and longer for the few who can still find work
Low wages to ensure high profits
Lower taxes for business, higher taxes for workers
Tax subsidies for business
Elimination of government-funded social programs
Strong police forces to protect business and property interests
Media biased in favor of business and police
Politicians willing to pass legislation favorable to business interests for a minimum of compensation
Encouragement of bureaucracy, censorship, secrecy, sectarianism, in workers' organizations
Union leaders interested only in delivering cheap labor to business
Unions that stay out of politics, except to vote for mainstream politicians
Human weaknesses: Our need to associate with those who see the world the same way we do enables us to overlook problems within our belief systems, but which may have consequences more serious than what we may be willing to admit. Denial can be a layered affair, with some layers so deeply embedded, that other layers have to be removed first. People who believe in the likelihood of revolutionary scenarios ought to research the ways in which they evolved.
Documentable revolutionary scenarios:
Marx - Increasingly poor economic conditions will cause workers to revolt, take state power, use their new political power to expropriate the expropriators, and breathe life into great cooperative enterprises.
Marx - The lords of land and capital will put every impediment in the way of working class emancipation. Workers will have to attain political supremacy in order to reorganize labor along new lines. To conquer political power has therefore become the great duty of the working classes.
Marx - Between capitalism and classless, stateless communism lies a transitional stage in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.
Marx - The proletariat is revolutionary, or it is nothing.
Marx - Socialist revolution will begin in the most advanced capitalist countries and spread to the least.
Marx - On the continent of Europe, workers, socialists, peasants and petty bourgeois will ally to replace feudal monarchies with democratic republics. Workers and socialists will push these democratic republics through to proletarian dictatorship. This workers' state will fade out as class distinctions diminish over time.
Marx - In democracies, workers will be able to get what they want by peaceful means, through reforms, elections, etc.
Bakunin - Feudal monarchies will be replaced with classless, stateless administrations of things by means of unions.
SLP - At the ballot box, workers will vote government out of existence, and create a classless, stateless administration of things by means of Socialist Industrial Unions.
Lenin - Workers and socialists will overthrow any state, even a democracy, that gets in the way of socialist aspirations.
If all of these competing revolutionary scenarios are perfectly sensible, why do they all compete with one other? Which revolutionary scenario will win out?
Reconcile Marx's statements that 'The proletariat is revolutionary, or it is nothing' with 'Workers in democracies can get what they want by peaceful means.'
Reconcile Marx's statement that 'Revolution will begin in the most advanced capitalist countries and spread to the least advanced' with actual European and world history.
Marx's scenario for the Continent was actually fulfilled in Russia in 1917, but was distorted in that it didn't conform to his prediction of simultaneous revolutions in the most advanced capitalist countries. Collectivization was relatively easy to implement after overthrowing feudal monarchies in backward countries, and on the first day of the Russian revolution, all of the land was made into Soviet land. On the other hand, after mere electoral victories of workers' parties in western European democracies, collectivization could not be implemented, for the power of the state that protects private property before elections goes on protecting private property after elections, rendering socialism impossible in the very advanced capitalist countries where socialist revolution was predicted to happen first. The amount of force required to collectivize calls into question the compatibility of collectivization with democracy. Collectivization of means of production has only been possible after civil war. Winning elections does not grant a Party the power to collectivize, whereas parties had power to do what they wanted with means of production only after overthrowing governments, or winning national liberation. Our own Civil War proved that people are willing to fight to the death to defend their right to exploit what they consider to be their property, even if that property consists of other humans. In democracies, all that is possible is reform, whereas revolution is appropriate to bring democracy to where it doesn't exist. Given this perspective, can democratic socialism be anything but an oxymoron?
The record of workers smashing democracies in favor of socialism or collectivization is non-existent. Where workers helped to overthrow democracy, as in Chile, fascist dictatorship was the result. Until this century, workers have mostly allied with capitalists to overthrow feudal monarchies and create democracies.
The origin of the term 'Social-Democracy': The International wanted monarchies to be replaced with republics, and they also wanted republics to be socially controlled as well as democratic. The Commune began as a measure of defense for the French 3rd Republic, and the 1st International was the only friend that the Republic had.
Reflect upon scams that some Parties have run on workers to make their Party lines seem plausible:
SLP: 'Proletarian dictatorship is a dictatorship over peasants and middle classes, not a dictatorship over uppermost classes. In advanced capitalist countries, where peasants have been replaced with agricultural wage labor, proletarian dictatorship over a practically non-existent peasantry will not be necessary.'
This theory was advanced in the early 30's, as people became aware of Stalin's purge of the kulaks. The SLP attributed Stalin's pogroms to adherence to worn-out ideologies allegedly propounded by Marx, in spite of all of the documentation of Marx's theory of a worker-peasant alliance against the uppermost classes. But, proletarian dictatorship over upper classes is the only theory that makes sense numerically, for the proletariat has always been a much larger class than that of the bosses they work for, enabling proletarian dictatorship over bosses to be relatively easy in theory. Compare that numerically satisfactory theory to the situation in Russia a century ago, where the peasantry was greater numerically than either the proletariat or bosses, and try to imagine proletarian dictatorship over a class that greatly outnumbered the proletariat. Marx did not expect proletarians to be the kind of supermen that the SLP expected them to be. If a Party suggests that the enemy of the working class consists of other lower classes, is this not tantamount to advocating that lower classes should fight among themselves over insignificant differences?
The SLP defined democratically elected assemblies as the state to be abolished, instead of army, police, and other armed bodies that allegedly were supposed to dissolve, the capitalists supposedly being cowards who would run away from the threat of proletarian rule, though 'where to' was never discussed.
The Marxist intent of 'reform in democracies, violent revolution for monarchies' was converted by the SLP into 'peaceful change where means of production are advanced, violent where means of production are primitive.' They then used that [benign] distortion [of Marx's theories] to [malignantly] persuade us that we can collectivize peacefully by organizing ourselves into Socialist Industrial Unions.
Was there anything in Marx's theories about advances in means of production, or anything else in the economic field, that would negate the need for proletarian dictatorship? ... in the political field?
Many mistakes of the ideological left result from Marx's mistaken collectivization program. Bakunin's competing program was an attempt to correct Marx's mistake. The anarchist-socialist split is based upon people adhering to equally improbable scenarios of collectivization of means of production, one side believing that the capitalist state will be followed by a workers' state which will absorb all industry and then die out after class distinctions are dissolved; the other side believing that the state can be directly replaced by an administration of things, through unions. In either case, after the resistance of the capitalist class has been crushed, collectivization of means of production was to begin.
Due to the enormity of the mistake of advocating collectivization programs in a country that has private property as its only mass ideology, what the left considers to be 'the masses' stayed out of socialist, communist and anarchist Parties in droves. Small business interests exploited alienated workers who became interested in various ideologies. Marketing of ideologies became the main chore of Party loyalists, and internal opposition was stifled by means of secretive Party bureaucracy and censorship. Those entrepreneurs with followings who thought they could do better on their own went on to start their own parties. Is there a better explanation for the sectarianism and the wide diversity of scenarios of social change among left-wing organizations?
For every Party leader, there may be ten to a thousand followers who learn how to parrot a Party line, are stroked for their abilities to convey the Party line to others, but who have not done their own research, and are just being used to market Party lines and recruit new members. In efforts to recruit people into their Parties, revolutionaries many times do not divulge their maximum programs at the beginning of recruiting efforts, unless they feel as though people are open to such theories. What distinguishes sects from real workers' parties are bureaucracy, censorship and internal secrecy, which insulates bureaucrats from the influence of the rank and file, a defense that is especially necessary if ideological fraud is to be perpetrated, like proletarian dictatorship over middle classes. When Party ideologues quote founders of socialism, be aware of the possibility that quotes may have been taken out of context in order to support Party ideology, and that such quotes may bear little relation to the original intent of the author.
What is our actual strategy? Over the centuries, time required to produce necessities of life has been reduced by machines and technology to only a fraction of what the time required once was. Nowadays, only 1-2% of the population produces all of the food that we eat, whereas 40% were required at the turn of the century, and 80% a century before that. Technology has similarly reduced the time required to produce housing and clothing, with an increasing portion of the population freed to produce services and commodities that were unimaginable not long ago. If wages represent necessities of life and not much more, then most of what we produce we never see. Today, the lower 80% receive only 2% of what is produced, but the upper 20% disposes of the other 98%. Is it any wonder that CEO's get 150 times the wage of factory workers? This is nothing less than a royal rip-off. And yet, because so many of us still make a living, the status quo is good enough for the likes of many of us. But, further reductions in the amount of human labor required to run the economy, and the further worsening of inequalities in the future will require us to adopt some sort of intelligent policy. What will that be? Whatever it is, it will have to address the underlying reality that is raging out of control. So far, not much more than bankrupt solutions are promoted by either right or left. It would be a far different world for the poor if all of a sudden the labor market changed so that anyone who wanted a good-paying job could find one.
At a time when so many surpluses are being produced, it is an anachronism for us to have to compete for scarce jobs, as though some kind of compulsory Malthusian or Darwinian struggle for existence is going on. The lower classes are not benefiting from the technological progress that has occurred anywhere near the way in which upper classes have benefited. Workers are being taken advantage of to create both greater profits and stronger and bigger governments. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there are not enough 8-hour jobs, but that there would be a lot more 7-hour jobs, and maybe more than enough 6-hour jobs to go around. Another reason for the short supply of jobs is that, with such low rates of wages caused by competition for scarce jobs, it is more economical to keep people working at time and a half than to hire more workers, what with the high cost of mandatory benefits for full-timers. That same high cost of benefits also encourages bosses to hire part-timers who often do not qualify for benefits. One of the better initial ways to eliminate unemployment and underemployment will be by making overwork prohibitively expensive. Also, many workers do not currently enjoy the overtime protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act, so we need an amendment to bring all wage and salaried workers under the purview of that Act.
Converts competition between workers for scarce jobs into competition between bosses for scarce labor, which drives wages up, rather than down. All workers could then be employed at a living wage or greater, and unemployment and joblessness reduced to nil.
Reduces surplus values: A sufficient reduction in hours of labor could cut down on the tremendous profits and waste that are presently produced. Instead of working longer and harder for less, while simultaneously making governments powerful and bosses rich, a sizable reduction in output resulting from much shorter hours would help save the environment.
Gives us more spare time: Higher wages will enable workers to much more actively pursue political change in their own interests, as opposed to the present, when workers just do not have the time or money to get involved, learn new things, etc.
Marx and Engels also defended and promoted shorter hours of labor, including then existing struggles for the 8-hour day. A goodly portion of Marx's Capital was devoted to the effects of both shortening and prolonging the length of the working day, both in theory and under the Factory Acts of his time. However, Marx and Engels criticized union leaders for wanting nothing much more than high wages and short hours. But, not many workers have wanted political supremacy, which is the Marxist precondition for collectivization.
Reducing hours of labor would take a strong grass-roots effort. There presently does not seem to be a large effort in that direction. Labor and the left has been in a state of confusion for a long time, and not enough are aware of the true significance of the fall of the Communist bloc. There does not seem to be a clear alternative to nationalization or collectivization of means of production, and some have expressed fear that shorter hours would translate into lower wages, though unionists of a century ago used the slogan: "Whether you work by the piece or the day, decreasing the hours increases the pay." From all of the conflicts that are created when collectivization is projected as the solution to the problems of the world, the left should harness its intellectual capabilities to carefully think things through. A popular cry for an effective program may result in left-wing intellectuals finally doing something of value for the lower classes for a change.
This workshop was: (check as many as apply)
1. A waste of time
8. None of the above, but rather was (fill in):
This workshop would have been better if (fill in):
Other Comments; write as much as you want:
Special thanks to the Industrial
Workers of the World. This Workshop was presented at their
Tribe-A gathering March 1-3, 1996.
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