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Selected Political Correspondence

September - October 2000

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

9-01-00

Dear friends of shorter hours,

I probably always would have considered shorter hours to be a boon to
myself, but was first side-tracked to socialism in the early '70's. I became a
'revolutionary' for awhile, but soon discovered that revolutionism was nothing
better than a pack of lies, for revolutions and democracies have never mixed.
When Europe failed to support the Russian Revolution of 1917, that marked
the end of socialism right there. Marx's scenario would only have made sense
if socialists had been able to ride the tide of bourgeois-democratic revolutions
to proletarian dictatorship in Europe, or if the Russian Revolution had triggered
simultaneous socialist revolutions in the West. Today's socialist leaders are such
cynical manipulators that they have made businesses out of deluding people into
hoping they can dispossess the rich, which is ridiculous when one considers the
extent to which personal security depends upon property ownership, at least at
the stage people are at today. I expect that to change when the robots take
over completely in a scant few decades.

While refuting a pack of lies perpetrated by my old Socialist Labor Party,
I often came across references to workers' struggles for shorter hours in
England and America, and decided upon the shorter hour movement as a
perfect replacement for my broken socialist dreams. I append a copy of
a recent essay to this e-mail for your enjoyment.

Wishing us the best of luck in our mutual goal,

Ken Ellis

 

9-02-00

Dear Prof. Herman Daly,

Just the other day I discovered Phil Hyde's web page and saw your name
and qualifications. I would be very interested in seeing (on the Internet)
charts of economic trends that support work-sharing arguments. I would
also like to see inflation-adjusted real growth charts for the USA and the
world. I can imagine the curves going up like rockets in recent times,
perhaps steeply enough to alarm people into questioning the insane
path we are on. Any hopes of finding anything like that on the
Internet somewhere or someday?

I am already one of the converted, after having been enlightened on
the subject of sharing work in 1994 while finishing my own (unpublished)
book about my unhappy experiences in American left-wing politics. Though
the book originally began as a defense of Marx against his distorters, I ended
up writing some of the best original arguments against socialism that anyone
will be able to find, if I do say so myself. I did my own research, and have
read Hunnicutt, Dahlberg and others. While working as a talk-show host
for pirate micro-power FM station 'Free Radio Berkeley' in California, I
interviewed Prof. Hunnicutt, and read 'Work Without End' over the air
over the course of a few shows.

Good luck in your work,

Ken Ellis

 

9-13-00

Dear stevenw,

Thank you for taking the time to comment on my book. I look forward to
receiving more comments at my e-mail address after you read more of it.

snip personal data

I should point out that I have never lost the hope that the socialists' final
goal of classless and stateless society can someday be reached. I just think
that 'taking away the property of the rich' is an obsolete method of trying to
get to that final goal. I think instead that paring down hours of labor as made
possible by further advances in productivity is a feasible means of getting
there. I fleshed out my arguments rather fully at the WSM web site, where
I tried in vain to prove to some anarchists in the U.K. that their philosophy
was very much like that of my old ASLP, and that their ideologies were
both fatally flawed. You will see how I was treated in that forum:

http://www.egroups.com/community/WSM_Socialism_Forum

You should be able to read the messages without having
to formally join the forum, which I had to do in order to
contribute to it. Either way, it's relatively painless.

Best wishes to you,

Ken Ellis

 

9-13-00

The American Socialist Labor Party claims that 'taxes make no
difference to workers
'. The ASLP alleges that 'bosses merely
tack on enough extra $ onto paychecks to enable taxes to be
paid
'. Their argument that 'workers don't pay taxes--bosses do'
promotes their idea that 'the state is a tool of purely capitalist
interests
', and that, 'if bosses pay taxes for the maintenance of
their purely bourgeois interests
, then workers should boycott
the purely capitalist realms of government and politics, except
to abolish the capitalist state at the ballot box.
' The ASLP
promotes the revolutionary idea that 'because states are purely
capitalist, workers have nothing to lose by abolishing them
',
but the ASLP bowed low enough to legalism to claim that 'the
abolition can be accomplished at the ballot box, by workers
voting the
ASLP into office, which will be held for just long
enough for the party to shut down the government
'. It's all a
big joke, of course, but people still buy it, and some revel in it.

Ask workers whose heads aren't so far up in the clouds as to
whether or not they pay taxes, and they will give the right answer.
They will also demand their money's worth by defeating politicians
who are regarded as purely detrimental to workers' interests.

For additional tidbits on taxes, and for a refutation of other ASLP
deceptions, see my new and improved web site:

http://www.libcap.net

Ken Ellis

"As for myself, my dear General, you know that it's enough to be
a Marxist and Engelsist to stay young forever!
" ... From a January
2, 1893 Letter from Laura (Marx) Lafargue to Engels.

 

9-15-00

Citizens Vogel und Brucher,

There seems to be a little confusion over the issue of shorter
hours. Allow me to put in another 2 cents. Shorter hours can be
implemented in every Western power by amending laws already
on the books. That constitutes strike one against its advocacy
by revolutionaries, because revolutionaries oppose reforms.

Next, sharing work by means of shorter hours would put far
more people to work, hence would reduce people's interest
in revolutionary solutions. Strike 2, because revolutionaries
automatically oppose measures that diminish lower-class
revolutionary fervor. If suffering is what it takes to create
revolutionaries, then revolutionaries must oppose any
measure that reduces suffering. It really is 'reform OR
revolution
', lest one end up in an ideological muddle.

Since the business of revolutionaries is to promote revolution,
the shorter-hour solution must be opposed. Revolution MUST be
consistently chosen over reform, lest one be a bad revolutionary.
From now on, arguments and suggestions in favor of shorter
hours must be relentlessly denigrated, no matter how silly the
arguments revolutionaries dig up, because the constituency will
believe anything that is asserted positively and unswervingly in
favor of revolution and against all else. The little darlings in the
constituency would otherwise be disappointed. Arguments for
shorter hours must not come and go uncontested, for the WSM
must at all costs be guarded against appearing 'revolutionary
one day, reformist the next.' Your mission should be perfectly
clear. Or is there room for doubt, long reflection and possibly
even -- change? Heaven forbid that anything in 1904 that was
proclaimed 'for all time' could be considered subject to change.

Ken Ellis

One for all, and all for one!

 

9-19-00

Dear Jorge,

Thanks for your reply to my inquiry. I must have heard about
your web site through a link from another web site. I have yet
to read anything that's written there, unfortunately.

I'm celebrating having just finished uploading my own 600 page book
onto my own web site just today. It can be found at:

http://www.libcap.net

Perhaps you or an associate will find a moment to peruse it and comment.
It is the culmination of a lot of work, beginning in 1992. In 1994, I discovered
through my research that taking away the property of the rich was feasible after
overthrowing feudal monarchies in backward countries, or after liberating colonies,
but was never feasible after communists won mere elections in Western democracies,
proving that communism is indeed based more upon force than anything else, which
is why people in the West won't have anything to do with it, because they are used
to exercising their freedoms, including their freedom to own property.

If getting to classless and stateless society is still desirable, it will only
be achieved by militantly reducing hours of labor at the same time that the
robots and computers gradually replace all human labor within the next few
short decades. Marx and Engels always at least half-heartedly supported
workers' struggles for shorter hours, but thought that that particular program
would best be fulfilled under the aegis of a proletarian dictatorship. So much
for that idea, which was only valid in their day, when many monarchies
remained to be overthrown, and creating a big proletarian dictatorship on the
ruins of smashed European monarchies was plausible. They expected Russia to
play a major role in the socialist revolution, but communism was doomed forever
when Europe failed to support Russia with long-lasting fraternal revolutions.

Since the end of WW One, socialists have made mere businesses out of
the 'isms, whose parties have been characterized by bureaucracy, censorship,
secrecy, sectarianism, states of denial, and cults of personality, which speaks to
the impossibility of getting the majority to do anything directly about property
relations. In his 1877 biography "Karl Marx", Engels said that the purpose of
socialism was to enable full participation in the economy
, but the very fact that
expropriation has become a 'thing in itself' to modern socialist parties speaks
to their corruption by pure financial concerns. In a world in which long-hour
opportunities to make the rich richer than their wildest dreams are diminishing,
socialists are lucky to have scams to run on political novices, so resist efforts
to realistically appraise socialist prospects.

Such is the sad state of the 'isms. Sorry to be the bearer of sad tidings.
Comments will be cheerfully received at my e-mail address.

Ken Ellis

 

9-23-00

Bob Malone wrote:

"Ken Ellis is right to insist that workers should be working
shorter hours, but he is wrong when he suggests that it can
be brought about by simply changing the law."

If Bob knows of a means of shortening hours of labor other
than by amending existing laws or legislating new ones, then he
should be more specific as to how to get there his way, whatever
that way might be. Amending and legislating, on the other hand,
are 2 well-recognized methods that need no further explanation to
politically-minded people. Is having to slug it out on the political
field inappropriate to the WSM? Abstention from politics is rooted
in 19th-century Bakuninism, and may have been appropriate to the
monarchies of 150 years ago. Monarchies that were incapable of
change needed to be overthrown and replaced, but not the
democracies of today, which are flexible enough to be molded
into whatever people presently desire or need. The days of having
to circumvent "l'etat - ces't moi!" are over for the most part.

Bob - "when workers develop a political consciousness, they will
see that it is not the conditions of employment that are the problem,
but the social relationship of workers to the things that they produce.
"

That statement presumes that workers do not presently enjoy
'political consciousness'. Bob's statement also implies that some
other party probably DOES enjoy 'political consciousness', probably
the bosses. So then, 'bosses have political consciousness, while workers
do not', and, if I could guess why, it's probably because the bosses own the
means of production. So, all we have to do is eliminate private ownership
of the means of production, and then 'the bosses will lose their political
consciousness
and acquire the same non-political consciousness as the
workers'. Is that how it's supposed to work? Or, do the workers take
away the property of the rich, and then acquire the bosses' political
consciousness
, leaving the previous bosses (the new non-owners) with
no political consciousness? Or, do the bosses enjoy property by the grace
of the state, the elimination of which state will propel society into blissful
'political UNconsciousness'? The problem with all of this seems to go
back to workers allegedly not having political consciousness. Another
problem is that political consciousness seems here to be a function of
ownership
. In Bob's model, no property = no political consciousness.
Is that what everyone in the WSM thinks?

In any model, before workers can deprive bosses of their property,
must not the workers become politically conscious? And if they are
no more conscious today than they were in 1904, and if they show
no sign of acquiring political consciousness, then doesn't that pretty
much eliminate their chances of depriving their bosses of their property
anytime soon? If they must acquire property in order to become politically
conscious, then they must also acquire property in order to take away the
property of the rich. A bit of a paradox, it seems to me.

Bob - "Changes in industrial law might have some immediate benefits
for workers, but it is change in the political consciousness of workers
that will have the most profound effect on their existence.
"

The part before the comma happily isn't an argument against us
fighting for immediate benefits (but don't expect Paul Bennett to
help change the law). In the part after the comma, Bob seems to
assume that a change in political consciousness is needed. What
change? And how is that undefined change going to affect people's
existence? What if (as above) only ownership confers political
consciousness
?

Bob - "reforms in themselves do not address the real problem,
which is the division of society through ownership and control
of the means of living in the interests of a very small minority.
"

'The real problem' was identified as the division of society into
owners and non-owners
. How many average people regard the
division of society into classes as 'the real problem', when the
problems people usually face are disfunctionality, crime, poverty,
hunger, drug abuse, racism, sexism, environmental pollution and
degradation, inadequate housing and health care, unemployment,
exploitation, insecurity, homelessness, war and many other problems
that are much more tangible than 'the division of society into classes'?
Maybe Bob could show how the division of society into classes
somehow became 'the real problem' for the majority of the people.
In today's world, people tend to attack the above-mentioned non-'real'
problems individually, and don't connect them all together. Though
Bob may regard an instant termination of class distinctions as a
fundamental solution to all of the above non-'real' problems, I regard
the creation of an artificial shortage of labor as a feasible means of
attacking and conquering them. The only way I could come to that
conclusion was by doing my homework and refuting a mass of
ridiculous lies perpetrated by the anarcho-syndicalists of the ASLP.

Workers already have at least a certain amount of political consciousness,
but it does not include the abolition of property, nor does it stand a
chance of including the abolition of property any time soon.

Ken Ellis

"Tactics are not made from nothing,
but according to changing circumstances.
" - Engels

 

9-23-00

Paul Bennett wrote:

"We oppose advocating reforms, not reforms themselves."

This shows that the WSM will not discard the benefits of reforms that
are handed to them on a silver platter, though none of the reforms can
be advocated or worked for. If the WSM were living in an intransigent
monarchy, then this abstentionist attitude toward political reform might
be understandable in light of the ease with which monarchies break
promises, but abstentionism isn't as credible in democracies. Political
abstentionism isolates the WSM from the general public, and thus
makes it impervious to outside influence, ensuring that its ideology
will remain unchanged and incapable of adapting to new developments -
such as the complete replacement of human labor by robots and
computers in the next few decades. If there soon isn't going to be any
work for anyone to do, that development will certainly have ramifications
on the WSM concept of socialism. Its classless, stateless, propertyless
and moneyless program might soon be pressured to incorporate
'workless', but the WSM will never be able to adopt such a change if
it never admits to having an ideology that is mistakenly based upon
struggles in intransigent monarchies instead of being based upon
what's possible in democracies.

P.B. - "there isn't much revolutionary fervour to diminish"

If not, then it's a wonder why anyone would continue down a revolutionary
path. The revolution was imagined as INEVITABLE in the days of Marx, Engels
and Lenin, but M+E didn't foresee the peaceful accommodation of monarchies
to democratic add-ons, so lived for the day when the monarchies of Europe
would be smashed and replaced with a universal proletarian dictatorship. In
the West, however, democratization became far more important to people than
taking away the property of the rich for some reason, but who knows why?
Whether anyone can figure out that one or not, we should learn to accept it
as a fact of life. In the East, and in the colonies, where the majority had less
private property, so cared less about it than Westerners did, divorcing the
rich from their property was a comparatively simple adjunct to replacing
various despotic states with 'communist' party rule, which were far cries
from the lower stage of communism imagined by Marx.

It doesn't look like there's going to be any more revolutions
in Europe or the West, with the possible exception of Serbia if
Milosevic loses but rejects the results. Whatever could be going
on in the West to make anyone here think that the West will revolt
over anything? Could it be P.B.'s unemployment, "exploitation,
insecurity, homelessness, war, general poverty
"? When did the
poverty become 'general', or could that assessment have been
more relevant in 1904? Or, is our poverty 'general' only in relation
to the Bill Gates and Warren Buffetts of the world? With half of
Americans investing in mutual funds, it is generally recognized
that the American economy has never been better. Not much
HERE to revolt over. Not to say that we don't have problems,
but how do the polls indicate people will vote this November?
For the Communist Party? For the Socialist Party? The La
Rouchies? The Labor Party? The Socialist Labor Party? The
Progressive Labor Party? The RCP? I could go on and on down
a long list of alternatives to republocrat politics. No matter how
many parties vie for power, their voices aren't silenced the way
the czar muzzled the RSDLP in Russia before 1917, in spite of
which muzzling, the RSDLP won the battle for state power. Isn't
it strange how a lack of democracy in the old days gave socialism,
communism, and anarchism credibility, while democracy has the
power to make those movements irrelevant?

P.B. - "it will take stronger arguments than yours to change our minds."

The results of trying to prove anything to dedicated socialists
in this forum have been as disappointing as the results of trying
to prove anything to the ASLP bureaucracy I was once a part of.
At least within the ASLP, I was able to learn that their financial
interest in perpetuating De Leonism prevented any enlightenment
from reaching their brows. I have yet to determine why my
arguments have such little influence on the WSM. That some
underlying corruption of morals is involved I harbor little doubt.
Anyone who can insinuate upon the words of Marx and Engels
their exact opposite meaning must be aware of the power of big
lies. M+E were very explicit about 'seizing state power and turning
the means of production into state property
', but a WSM chorus
replies: 'They didn't mean that.' The only aspect of Marxism I
consider to be grossly outdated is his advocacy of SOCIALISM as
the means of obtaining full participation in the economy. In the
real world, full participation is mostly limited to primitive societies.
If class-conscious people would just COMMIT to full participation
everywhere, that would at least put them on the right track, but
most of them want expropriation of property as a 'thing in itself',
divorced from M+E's humanitarian reason for socialism. Is there
any hope that the basic humanitarianism that propelled people
into socialist movements in the first place will be strong enough
to lead them away from unfeasible socialism? I can hope, can't I?

Ken Ellis

". . . reap the masses, and discard the leaders . . . " - Engels

 

9-24-00

I read your page about work-sharing on the web, and heartily agree.
We need more of that kind of thinking. I have a brief article about work-
sharing vs. socialism and other 'isms if you would like me to e-mail it.
Also have a long book at http://www.libcap.net

Ken Ellis

 

9-24-00

I liked your web site very much, and I think that the following article would
be a natural for the New Internationalist, but didn't see any place in your
site to link to them directly. Perhaps you could forward this to them?

Ken Ellis

snip long article, available on the main page

 

9-25-00

Dear Nicholas,

Thanks for your reply: "we would prefer you to shorten the article -
probably a good thing to do anyway for our website.
"

The only problem with shortening the RBSD article is that it represents the
sum total of my political experience and wisdom. I can't think of a paragraph
to cut without leaving a gap that would break its synergy and cripple it into
an incomplete statement. Early versions of the same article go back 4 years,
and I polished RBSD for years to summarize the ideas contained in my 600
page book 'Left-Wing Lies', available on line at:

http://www.libcap.net

I don't know what to do. I just finished reading RBSD all over again, looking
for places to apply the axe, but couldn't find any. I presently don't have much
time to think about writing a shorter article. Can an exception be made in this
case? My 600 page book is a unique work, and RBSD is its unique synopsis.
The integrity of the article needs to be respected, because leaving out any part
would enable some people to say, 'Well, what about this?', or 'What about that?',
and would enable them to more easily disregard the shorter-hour solution that
remains the best non-socialist, non-communist and non-anarchist solution to
the approaching replacement of all human labor by computers and robots.

Ken Ellis

 

9-26-00

Dear Nicholas,

"The Institute for Social Inventions gave this Stakeholder Society scheme
a
Social Innovations Award in 1999 . . . "

I think that one good reason for the limited popularity of the Stakeholder idea
is that 'more taxes are involved', which most people resent. If the Stakeholder
idea represents the political perspective of your organization, then I can better
understand why my long article was dismissed on the grounds of its length.

Today, I formatted RBSD in html, and will make it available
on my web site tonight:

http://www.libcap.net

Just today, David Charbonneau requested permission to include my article
at one of his web sites:

http://www.cariboo.bc.ca/tt/electron/

Cheers,

Ken Ellis

 

9-27-00

Dear Nicholas,

Thanks for getting back to me. Today I took your suggestion and re-read the
'Employment and Unemployment' section of Great Ideas and re-observed that it
indeed contains lots of ideas about sharing work, which is very good and sensible
in itself. But, I couldn't find an idea that makes the theoretical connections that I
do between sharing work vs. socialism, communism and anarchism. It's those
connections and negations that make my article unique.

After a long and often bitter association with revolutionary causes and ideas,
thinking deeply about them, and writing a book of my ideas and experiences,
I discovered that the 'isms don't hold a candle to sharing work as a solution to
social problems. RBSD is a careful (though rather short) analysis of the waste
and/or unfeasibility and/or inapplicability of radical 'solutions'.

I see that each idea on the 'Employment and Unemployment' index/link page
has a short descriptive phrase of just a few words. The best short phrase that
I can propose for my link would be 'Sharing work vs. socialism, communism
and anarchism'. That would introduce people to the idea of a long-standing
contest between sharing work and the 'isms.

Instead of my link going to your resident file of abstracts, I might suggest
that my link could be global and go directly to my geocities web page. The
global link between the index/link page and my geocities web site would also
lead people to my 600 page book that explores the connection between all
of those ideas in far greater detail.

If a short abstract of RBSD is mandatory for the purpose of your web site,
I could work one up in a day or so. Give me a target for word length for the
abstract, and I will comply.

Optimistically,

Ken Ellis

 

9-29-00

Dear Mr. Hanks,

Thank you for your reply. I am sorry to hear that you had insufficient time
to read my article, but it was kind of you to label my efforts as sincere and
thoughtful.

I'm sorry that you think that I was picking on the SLP. I was a member during
the '70's, and it was my status as a political novice that made me useful to the
National Office during their move from Brooklyn to Palo Alto, and for a few
years afterward. After I more carefully grounded myself in history, the SLP
and I lost our previous compatibility. I was interested in social progress, no
matter where that road led, while my comrades were more interested in the
endless perpetuation of De Leonism, because that could be counted on to
make them a comfortable living. The full story of that adventure can be
found at my web site: http://www.libcap.net

I want people, especially novices, to know about my story. If the details of
my story reflect poorly on the SLP, then someone or something is to blame
for that, and different people may have different opinions. I would expect the
story to be at least somewhat entertaining to SLP members and sympathizers,
past and present, especially the details of the Party's relations with Engels, and
De Leon's speeches for the Nationalists. If you do find the time to peruse it,
I would appreciate learning what you think.

With best wishes,

Ken Ellis

 

10-01-00

Dear Prof. Hunnicutt,

snip irrelevancy

You may remember me from a phone interview we did over the airwaves of
Free Radio Berkeley in '96 or '97 during my program "Labor and the Left". I
discovered your web page by linking over from Philip Hyde's Timesizing page.

I now have a web site of my own in which my long, long book of unhappy
experiences with the SLP is available for people to read. Many of the book's
ideas were condensed into an 8,000 word article entitled 'Replacing Broken
Socialist Dreams', which also contains additional information, such as a plug
for your 'Work Without End'. I also want to add links to my web page, and I'm
wondering if I may link to your web site. At the same time, if you check out
my web site and think it worthy of linking, you certainly have my permission.

No present-day radical seems interested in the fact that the humanitarian
content of Marx's socialism turned out to be 'full participation in the economy'.
It just turns out that trying to get to that happy place by taking away the property
of the rich was not feasible in the Western Hemisphere. Hence, the decline and
fall of communism. My web site explains it in considerably greater depth.

It's been a pleasure to have found your web page. Best wishes to you.

Ken Ellis

 

10-01-00

On the 26th, Len wrote:

> Here's an example of formalistic and mechanical logic:
>
> Ken Ellis says:
>
> A.
My arguments are Moral.
>
> B.
Therefore I am moral.
>
> C.
The WSM does not accept my arguments
>
>
therefore D. Their morals are corrupt.

The first problem with Len's statement is that I can't recall saying
(or thinking) anything like what was alleged in parts A and B.
Those statements don't say anything of importance to anyone.

As for C and D, I have certainly tried to point out some fallacies
in WSM ideology. Plus, I have recently been more vociferous in
claiming that 'persistence in perpetuating fallacies is immoral', as
in 'wrong, bad, harmful, and damaging to the ostensible cause of
liberation from oppression'. After Marx and Engels very clearly
stated that 'the proletariat seizes political power and turns the
means of production into state property
', the validity of which
element of Marxism a billion people have no argument, a WSM
chorus still protests that 'the essence of communism is not the
creation of a workers' state
', as if it takes little more than
authoritative assertions to negate so many well-known ideas of
M+E. Len wrote on 6-26: "We do not wish to build a "workers
state
". That is a Leninist conception."* But, we all know that M+E
expected A state to die out (or wither away), and if M+E didn't
intend for a WORKERS' state to die out, then they must have
expected the CAPITALIST state to die out, which also implies
that no state would be smashed, and that M+E's revolutionism
amounted to little more than state capitalism. Those absurdities
show that the only kind of state that theoretically could die out
had to have been a WORKERS' state.

* 2002 note: Marx attributed 'workers state' to Bakunin (me24.520):
"If Mr. Bakunin were familiar even with the position of a manager in a workers'
co-operative factory, all his fantasies about domination would go to the devil. He
should have asked himself: what forms could management functions assume
within such a workers' state, if he wants to call it that?
" (End of note.)

Isn't it incorrect, and immoral as well, for the WSM to persistently
deny that the workers' state was formulated by M+E? If the WSM
isn't interested in helping to create a workers' state, but still wants
to be revolutionary, then it should regard itself as no more than
semi-Marxist. If the WSM has the requisite integrity, it will, in
the future, advise people about its differences with Marx on
that essential aspect of Marxism.

It seems absurd for the WSM to persist in trying to get away with
saying that Marx didn't want to create a workers' state, considering
that this is the beginning of the 21st century rather than the end of the
19th, when there were far fewer genuine resources to enable people to
understand the socialist dream. Americans back then actually had to rely
upon a butchered ASLP version of "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific",
of which Engels wrote in 1891: "[Socialism: Utopian and Scientific]
will be published here in a translation prepared by Aveling and edited
by me
.... In face of this authorised translation the American pirate
edition
[by De Leon and Vogt of the ASLP] with its miserable English
will be rather innocuous. It is moreover not even complete, whatever
they found too difficult they have left out
...." Later on, in the pages of
the SLP newspaper 'Workmen's Advocate', other writers went on to use
that butchered prose to argue for the abolition of the state. It's funny
how the majority of Americans failed to be won over by socialism,
leaving the ideology to be exploited by slimy commercial interests.

If the WSM finally someday admits that its ideology is not
fully based on M+E, that would represent a higher degree of
ideological and intellectual honesty, and would be a major step
in the direction of honestly sorting things out instead of endlessly
promoting an ideological muddle disguised as Marxism.

Alleged spokespeople for workers persist in promoting
misrepresentations for any number of reasons: 1) sheer inertia -
if they said something yesterday, they can say it again today; 2) a
blanket denial that their words and deeds result from any but the
highest and purest motivations; 3) being too lazy or dull to obtain
clarity about the relative values of various social solutions; 4)
desperate competition with other groups for a market share of
naive followers who are expected to support the party line; 5) a
full understanding of the divisive and retarding nature of useless
ideologies on the efforts of workers to obtain social justice, so
are the true agents of the upper classes in the various branches
of the working class movement.

So, what motivates Len and the WSM to maintain that their
concept of a socialist revolution is based upon the philosophy
of Marx and Engels if the WSM concept of revolution isn't
Marxist enough to include the creation of a workers' state?

Ken Ellis

"Refute all lies!" - Pablo Neruda

 

10-01-00

On the 25th, Bob wrote:

> no one apparently has bothered to introduce legislation to
> bring about a reduction in the working week. I wonder why?

A la contraire, such bills have been introduced in the USA in the
past. The Black-Connery 30-hour Bill of 1933 passed the Senate
and looked like a shoe-in for the House before FDR twisted the
AFL's arm to accept his wasteful tax-and-spend policies and
other goodies. A vaguely similar measure introduced in the
late '70's didn't go far. There's an H.R. 1050 still kicking
around in Congress that doesn't go far.

> I certainly would not be opposed to it happening,
> but why is it not happening?

That's a good question. In spite of it being a good idea, few
seriously try to make it happen. The left in general seems much
more interested either in socialism, taxing and spending, or revolution,
so the left is little to no help. So, it's up to the people themselves,
especially those of us who are fed up with left-wing shenanigans.

> anyone with such an idea would never be supported
> as a presidential nominee in the first place.

How can you be so sure? On the other hand, how many socialists,
anarchists and communists get elected in the USA? I know of one
politician running on a program of work-sharing. He has a very
informative web site at: http://www.timesizing.com/

Also, if you search for 'work-sharing' on the Internet,
you'll find many web sites.

> workers have been conditioned to accept a class divided
> society, and wage slavery; but that can change.

Who's going to change it? The left might have a chance if its
ideologies weren't so muddled, self-contradictory and out of line
with what's feasible. You can't simultaneously implement socialist,
communist and anarchist programs because they exclude one another.
You can't simultaneously replace the state with an administration of
things while at the same time replacing the state with a workers' state.
It wouldn't make much sense to do either of those two things while
simultaneously reforming the capitalist state. The left is so muddled
that it will never get anywhere. With so many people still wanting to
achieve the impossible, it takes energy away from feasible programs.
If people can't stick to democracy, motherhood, apple pie, and make
them all work for them, then they are out of touch.

> Why should we not strive to bring about democratically, a
> cooperative world society that collectively uses the resources
> of the world for the benefit of all the people on the planet?

I'm sure that we will someday. The sooner the better. Speed that day.

Ken Ellis

 

10-02-00

Dear Mr. Hanks,

Thanks for the messages. I also think that we are kindred spirits, and could
even be more so in the future. I am glad to hear that you are running for
office. A certain Phil Hyde in Boston is also running for office. He has
an informative site at http://www.timesizing.com/. Check it out.

snip irrelevancy

The fact that you have answered me indicates that you have an open mind. None
of the other 10 e-mail addresses on the SLP home page bothered answering me,
but my web site is registering quite a few hits lately.

Our old SLP was so sectarian that it did everything it could to get us
to shut our minds to any other kind of politics. It gives me the creeps
to remember the kind of person it made of my pliable lump of clay. It
was only my dedication to 'learning the facts, no matter what my new
knowledge did to my human relations' that saved me from remaining
in their clutches forever. Talk about a dysfunctional family.

I can understand your sentiment for the left in general, but you should be
sobered by the fact that the AFL sought in the 30's to ease the unemployment
crisis of the Depression by sharing work by means of a 30 hour work week.
You may be amazed to learn that the Black-Connery 30 hour bill passed the
Senate and was considered a shoe-in for the House before FDR's brain trust
urged its defeat in favor of consumerism, taxing and spending, and other wasteful
programs favored by big business interests. I cannot urge you strongly enough
to get your facts straight about this critical epoch of history, for it hopefully
will convince you that the role of the left in general was one of SABOTAGE of
labor's interests. That certainly was a rude awakening for me, but it's a role
that Petersen practically acknowledged in his "Proletarian Democracy vs.
Dictatorship and Despotism
" pamphlet, which talked of 'diverting labor
from its course
' precisely at the time labor wanted to share work by
means of shorter hours.

The best place to get your facts straight is at the web site of Ben Hunnicutt,
a professor at U. of Iowa who is considered the father of the shorter hour
movement. I had the pleasure of interviewing him over the air when I hosted
a talk show about 'Labor and the Left' on micro-power radio station Free
Radio Berkeley
in California. Ben's web site is at:
http://www.uiowa.edu/~hlss/specialfac/hunnicutt.htm

Ben's web site can also be linked from the timesizing web site. Ben's best
book on the subject, without which no one can understand American history
for the past couple of centuries, is "Work Without End", which is still available.

I think that it is critical for an open-minded person like yourself to do a little
more homework and follow up on some of the leads I have provided. Also, you
should read my RBSD article again and take notes on whatever you might doubt
about it. It will be only by a good constructive dialogue that we will be able to
work our way toward clarity, which is essential if we are to play any role at all
in moving society forward. I had to write a 600 page book before I became
clear about the unlikelihood of socialism, so you should also be prepared to
do a little homework, especially since you seem enamored of nationalization,
like the pre-SLP De Leon. Now, there's a tiger who changed his stripes. If De
Leon could change for the worse, there's no reason we can't do the same,
or even change for the better, as I hope we will do.

Ken Ellis

 

10-04-00

Dear Mike,

Thanks for the feedback. Your willingness to communicate with this
'traitor to De Leonism' probably means that you retain an open mind.

> I say we should tell Frank Girard it's
> time for an online edition of the
DB,
> or something roughly along those lines.

I'm with you on the general idea. I also think it's time for an on-line 'Discussion
Bulletin
' in which these issues could be explored fully and to enable us to work
our way to clarity, but Frank has already slapped me in the face by refusing to
print one of my letters, and printed an old SLP leaflet instead. He seems more
interested in promoting utopia than in taking a fresh look at it.

I'm not familiar with the '1-union' discussion group, nor with 'alt.politics.
socialism
', nor with 'talk.politics.theory' groups, but e-groups is something
that I am very familiar with, having corresponded with the WSM for a few
months now. Talk about abuse! It's as though a lot of them are students
of Arnold Petersen, and a certain Len W. admits to having read quite
a bit of A.P., and even uses similar methods of 'argument'.

The e-groups format is relatively easy to use, and I believe that adding
another e-mail group would be as easy as pushing a button at their web site:

http://www.egroups.com/community/WSM_Socialism_Forum

Were you thinking of a moderated format, or just letting it rip? I'm all in
favor of public access. I don't have any experience with Ayn Rand types, but
I suppose that if things got 'out of hand', people could take turns moderating.
But, I also have no fear of the right wing, and am ready to do battle toe-to-
toe on the necessity of the human race learning to share work equitably until
it's all gone in a few decades. Only a perfectly bourgeois anti-humanitarian
would argue against an equitable distribution of work, but such types exist.

I am dubious about the cleanliness of using a pre-existing service that was
dedicated to rather utopian issues of hammering out program elements of the
SIU-OBU. It might work, or it might not. The people who are still dedicated to
utopia might resent other people trying to use the same forum to try to explode
myths about utopian forms and might consider whatever I have to say to be
interference. Rethinking socialism, rethinking Marxism, rethinking activism
.... is the kind of discussion I'd like to participate in.

snip advertising dialogue

I'm glad that you are interested in this, so keep me abreast of your thoughts.

Ken Ellis

 

10-05-00

Dear Mike,

Glad to see you confirm my estimate of your open-mindedness. Glad that you
had the time to check out the e-groups. Scads of organizations already use their
services, and I believe that it's free as well. Can't beat that with a stick. See what
Frank thinks. For now, I'd hate to see him be the gate-keeper for any discussion
I'd like to be a part of, unless he'd promise never to exclude anything civil I'd like
to say. If you ask him about that, ask also if he is boycotting me. It's amazing, on
the other hand, the kind of accusations I can make against both the WSM and
some of its members and still not get censored in their forum. They, at least,
believe in free speech, somewhat of a rarity on the left. But, a couple of
months ago, I so antagonized some in the WSM forum that they
threatened to move to another forum, and a bunch actually did.

A lot of their political philosophy is very much like the SLP, what with their
belief that 'work will be compatible with classless, stateless society'. Not only
with classless and stateless, but with propertyless and moneyless as well. Plus,
they call for the abolition of the state right after victory, and they justify it in
Marx, but I've been pressing them to document the reason for that belief, but
they can't come up with much more than quotes out of context. They are in a
state of denial about the proletariat 'seizing political power and turning the
means of production into state property
', just the way the SLP went into denial
by claiming that 'Engels proposed state capitalism instead of socialism'. It's all
such a cruel joke, but I'm really pushing them on the morality of claiming to be
Marxist, while propagandizing anarchism. There really ought to be a law against
ideological dishonesty. That's the essence of my campaign in that forum. It is
almost identical to my battle with the ASLP. (I always say ASLP when talking
to them so as not to confuse the Brits into thinking that I'm talking about
Scargill's BSLP.)

As for discussing my book, I don't think too many people are up for it. I have
yet to receive an e-mail from someone who went to my web site and read my
book, so anything I initiate prematurely might just be artificial. In the meantime,
I'm content to shamelessly promote my ideas by messaging other sites of
interest, and by visiting other forums.

Thank you for the kind words about my scholarship. What you said about
quoting syntax enlightened me. Your way of quoting appears visually nicer.
I was operating under a strict home-spun protocol of keeping what I was
quoting as true to the original as possible, but which may boomerang
against me by interfering too much with aesthetics. I wasn't sure what
was the proper etiquette, but I feel torn between sticking to my home-
spun protocol and going for what looks better.

Ken Ellis

 

10-06-00

Dear Robert,

I have been a fan of the shorter hour solution since 1994. Are you aware
of any e-mail forums devoted to our subject? I'd love to be able to take
part in one. Thanks for your help.

Ken Ellis

 

10-06-00

Dear Mike,

I think you are correct with your assessment of 'Frank using his D.B. to
promote his cause
'. So, not to worry about asking him anything about a
possible boycott of me. It's been a long time since I was a libertarian
socialist, so my work is outside of his circle of interests.

As you say, being online allows everyone to have their say, but I would still
worry about my being part of a forum with him as the gatekeeper with final
AUTHORITY over online content, which is where the WSM forum has been
advantageous to me. They give me free rein to destroy myself, which is
what I really want (the free rein, that is). ;-)

Part D of my book, especially the first half, wasn't as meaty with theory as
the rest of Part D and most of E. Enjoy all of that before you come to too
many grand conclusions. I'm hoping that 'a preponderance of evidence'
will have the desired effect on you.

I think that it's important 'to focus on whether the SLP is true to Marx
and Engels', because, if the SLP isn't true to it, and yet claims to be true
to it, then they have to be lying, which discredits them and their program,
which also opens people's minds to alternatives.

I also evaluated the program of M+E, which rested upon simultaneous bourgeois-
democratic revolutions in EUROPE, and further developing those revolutions into a
grand proletarian dictatorship, or a universal workers' state
. Russia was definitely
part of the scenario, and was even regarded as initiating the whole thing, or else
European revolutions would lead to a Russian revolution. M+E left a few doors
open. They never wrote 'a definitive revolutionary text'. Nowadays, a lack of
intransigent overthrowable monarchies translates into 'no more opportunities
for a world-wide Marxist revolution'. Marxist revolutions became obsolete after
1917 because the scenario is IRREVOCABLY wrapped up with toppling a whole
bunch of monarchies at the same time. We have reached 'The End of History'.

Quiz time: In part C, wouldn't you say that A.P. was being facetious about a
proletarian dictatorship over the peasantry and middle classes? And facetious
in concluding that: 'we don't need a proletarian dictatorship because of the
non-existent peasantry
'? Didn't Marx promote alliances of workers with
peasants against the uppermost classes
? Was Marx so fuzzy that people
can find more evidence of a proletarian dictatorship over the peasants
than over the uppermost classes?

Ken Ellis

 

10-08-00

Dear Sam,

Thanks for your lengthy reply. Your feedback is appreciated. I'm glad to see
that we agree on many items.

I wonder about sending such a long essay to sanssou. They seem to be so hung
up on $$$$ issues that I doubt if anyone would welcome my submission. I joined
the forum a month ago, but have yet to find a way to connect to the group. I was
thinking about dropping the list when your message appeared. I am about to join
a new forum that is devoted to work-sharing issues, so I will probably drop out of
sanssou. If you want to continue with sanssou, you have my permission to submit
the essay yourself to see what others think. I am already fighting out similar issues
in the WSM forum, so can't really spend much more time in hostile forums than what
I already do. I'm excited by the prospect of slugging out issues in a new forum whose
members can at least whole-heartedly agree on the necessity of sharing work.

In your first comment, I couldn't figure out exactly where you disagreed,
but it looks as though you don't believe that we have democracy in the
West. Is that correct?

> An exchange/property system is not able to be properly regulated by anything

From what I see going on around me, the opposite is becoming the rule,
and constantly improving communications makes it increasingly difficult
for malfeasance to continue unabated. Tobacco is under assault, people are
restoring democratic principles in Serbia, criminal activities around Boston's 'Big
Dig
' are being addressed. The list goes on and on. When I was a revolutionary,
however, I had no faith at all in government or 'the system'. I had to write a book
about about my experiences on the left in order to get over my revolutionary
ambitions. Just sorting out all of the lies that my fellow leftists were telling
me straightened out my thinking. My whole transformative experience is
at my web site for people to hopefully learn from.

> I'm all for the internal displacement / metamorphosis model.

I've never heard of that. How does it differ from reform?

> "expulsions" ... seems a little extreme

My old American SLP expelled many people over the years, giving rise to so
many splinter groups that it enjoys a certain reputation on the left. For the
ASLP, expulsion was an ordinary part of business. Splitting and expulsions
among Trotskyist groups also has a reputation.

> only the workers who don't HAVE jobs who, in actual fact,
> give a shit about unemployment.

The fact is that, whenever disasters impend, people reach out to help their
fellow humans. We in the West seem willing to tolerate jobless levels of
about 10%; beyond that, people get active, as they are in Europe over
the shorter hour issue.

> The people who do have comfortable jobs (like me) are not likely to risk
> their livelihood to strike against unemployment!

No one is asking anyone to risk anything. A political solution - amending the
Fair Labor Standards Act (in the USA, at least) - would be much more effective
than a strike. We could amend the law to legalize a universal slow-down strike,
which is what's really needed to put everyone to work. As explained by Engels
in 1877, the purpose of socialism was to enable full participation in the economy.
The socialists just went about it in a way that might have been plausible in the
19th century, but which is obsolete in the 21st, as explained in the article.

> A. we could achieve that MUCH sooner than 2100, perhaps 2010!

2010 for the abolition of labor is a little too optimistic. IBM recently
announced that a computer as smart as a human will be built by 2010, but
it will cover 2 basketball courts. By 2020, however, a computer that smart
should fit in a teacup, after which we will really see some robotization.

> B. I don't WANT physical labour to be abolished.

Do you think anyone will care what YOU want? Capitalism has a life of its own,
and the replacement of labor by machines will not end until no one ever has to
work again, a process that will doom capitalism itself. Just relax and don't fight
it. In fact, relishing it would be the best advice I could give. Just see to it that
what little work that remains for people to do gets equitably shared for as long
as humans have to work. Social responsibility will start there, but being very
militant about sharing will also take care of our responsibility for the planet,
and will move us toward a more sustainable economy. Another thing is that:
work coerced by economic necessity is never as nice as going to the gym.
If Albert is saying the things you say he is, that is very, very bad.

> I don't think it is possible to legislate shorter hours of labour in a globalised
> marketplace, because somewhere someone is going to be working longer
> hours for less, the companies will go there, and BANG goes the economy.

We Americans are sabotaging European struggles for shorter hours by too
willingly working too much, because we don't have any leadership over the
issue. Hours of labor for full-timers here have increased over the past 30
years. But, don't worry, work will be shared because it was shared before
(in our history), and the general tendency has been for shorter and
shorter hours to be legislated.

> I don't agree with you that the government has the power to do these things, it
> is
not so powerful, it is more riding the wave and trying to keep from falling over.

In fact, the only way to lower hours in the democratic West will be to amend
laws in each country. If we lived in intransigent monarchies, the syndicalist
solution would be on the table. We need to learn to use democracy instead of
dissing it. We need a party that has 'amending laws' in its platform, and only
'amending laws', and see how far it will take us. Parties advocating all kinds of
revolutionary solutions are a dime a dozen, and you see how far they get.

> You need to grow something else inside it, playing by different rules, which
> is SO MUCH BETTER, that everyone will be drawn to it, and the old "game"
> will fall away like an abandoned chrysalis.

Sorry to report that reform seems so much more concrete than the 'grow
something else' and 'different rules' you propose. Try to be concrete.
Amending the FLSA to give us a 35 hour week with double time after 35
per week, and double time after 7 per day, are very concrete reforms
that would go a long way toward ensuring fuller participation.

Ken Ellis

Allow me to suggest some informative web sites with interesting links:

http://www.swt.org/

http://www.uiowa.edu/~hlss/specialfac/hunnicutt.htm

http://www.timesizing.com

 

10-08-00

Dear friends of shorter hours,

I'm new here. I became a fan of the shorter hour solution after all of my
hopes for building socialism were smashed in 1994. At first, I didn't even
know what was going to replace my broken socialist dream, but as I continued
working on my book of refutations of misrepresentations of Marxism as
perpetrated by my old party, I gradually became more aware of the importance
that Marx and Engels attached to struggles for shorter hours, so adopted that
struggle for my own. At least shorter hours are feasible and enjoy a long
tradition, as explained in "Work Without End".

I think that the quest for shorter hours might be more popular if more
people could be educated about socialism's place in history, and its present
unlikelihood. I'd be happy to entertain people's thoughts about that.

Is an archive of past contributions to the forum available? I'm also
interested in statistics, especially charts and graphs. I hope that someone
can lead me to appropriate resources. Otherwise, let's figure out what would
be appropriate to display, and make some charts and graphs of our own.

Ken Ellis

 

10-08-00

Dear Mike,

snip irrelevancies

While I'm at it, in Part C, I guess I didn't make it clear enough that I
wasn't really arguing personally for the DOTP, because there I was just
defending Marx's position vs. Petersen's. I later came to the position
that Marx's DOTP was as obsolete as A.P.'s arguments were fraudulent.

I think that the present democratic structure will remain basically remain
unchanged throughout the abolition of classes, which abolition will most
likely occur by us militantly forcing hours of labor down to insignificance
as the robots replace us, at which point we may go to an all-volunteer work
force for awhile, which will abolish capitalist exploitation right there, after
which a few loose ends will die on the vine at their own rate, such as the state,
property, money, etc. But, work will go first, and then class distinctions, the
rest to go later. Note that this is the opposite of the SLP's (and the WSM's)
scenario, in which they have the state, classes, property and money all going
away before work, but the march of technology, combined with the general
lack of interest in socialist solutions, is lately indicating a different course.
If we are as scientific as we say we are, we have to take into account
what's going on around us.

My documentation is so ponderous that it won't be unusual for lots of people
to come to the wrong conclusions as they read the book, simply because the big
picture isn't always shining like a beacon to lead them in the right direction. That's
the fault of the book, I realize. People may not have the patience to be led first in
one direction, then in another, and then back again, and so forth. Maybe people
ought to first read the synopsis 'Replacing Broken Socialist Dreams'. I should
probably put RBSD in slot one of the table on my home page.

Thanks again for all you are doing.

Ken Ellis

 

10-09-00

Dear Thirsty,

snip irrelevancies

My 8-page article is also on my web site, entitled 'Replacing Bro'Ken
Socialist Dreams' (or a title similar to that (chuckle)). I hope you were able
to use my web address at the end of my last e-mail. That's where both my
book and essay are. I promoted them both by looking up 'work-sharing' on
a search engine, and then blitzing the listed organizations with my essay, and
I personalized my response with a few words relevant to the organizations'
missions. My web site is doing really well. I would have been content with
100 hits by now, but have over 300. Another acquaintance is helping me
to promote my book at: http://www.crimsonbird.com/

snip

Bro'Ken

In late-breaking news, I finally seem to have been censored by the WSM forum.
I sent two messages, neither of which were posted to the group. Before I go
ballistic, I will post a very mild-mannered message to a certain Bob from New
Zealand who somewhat endorses shorter hours. Here are the censored messages:

see last message of 10-10-00, beginning with: "When Toby was ...

 

10-09-00

Dear Mike,

snip irrelevancy

I think that the WSM folks finally censored me. I had quite an exchange with
Len W., and the moderator and other party brass finally must have decided that
enough was enough. You remember our conversation about the SLP (and the WSM)
being Bakuninist instead of Marxist? Well, I finally got very explicit that it was
immoral for the WSM to go around parading their Bakuninism disguised as
Marxism, and that might have been the end of me. Either that, or else the gate-
keeper took Columbus Day off, and the whole rest of the weekend off as well,
but I kind of doubt if Columbus Day is a holiday in England like it is here.

I can always go to my deleted file (some 4,500 messages deep by now) and
pick up the addresses of all of the forum contributors, and then send out my
messages to everyone in the forum that way. In the 21st century, it becomes
ever more difficult for groups with crimes to cover up to apply the pre-21st
century trick of censorship. I have a very mild message to a different forum
member who is somewhat open to the shorter hour solution, so we'll see if I
can get that message to fly before I take the indicated drastic action.

This sure is getting interesting. More skullduggery to contend with. It's this
kind of stuff that makes me want to go on living for a long time.

Thanks for the table tip,

Ken Ellis

 

10-09-00

One aspect of socialism, communism and anarchism that is still relevant today is
their common ultimate goal of classless and stateless society. When work-hours
tumble so low that volunteers replace wage-labor, then that will also signify the
end of capitalism as practiced for centuries. The 'isms fail to be relevant today
due to the unpopularity of trying to get to classless and stateless society by
abolishing private property. Simultaneously replacing old monarchies with a
universal proletarian dictatorship (that would have had the power to abolish
private property
) may have been plausible in Marx's 19th century, but those
hopes faded when Europe democratized without revolting all at once, and those
hopes died forever when Europe failed to revolt in sympathy with the Russian
revolution of 1917. But, radicals continue to lure supporters to a lost cause. Is
it possible or worth trying to educate people about the unfeasibility of 'isms,
and thereby attract them to a feasible program of work reduction? Does
anyone have any experience in this field?

Ken Ellis

 

10-09-00

On the 3rd, Bob wrote:

> a shorter working week could solve many problems for workers
> but will it deal with many of the other social problems we face?

I can't think of any that it wouldn't solve eventually, some problems
sooner than others, because it will give everyone time and space to think
and act; but progress has always been uneven, and some problems will be
solved before others. In spite of unevenness, we have seen how people unite
and cooperate for the survival of all whenever disasters hit communities. It
must be in our genes, and no alleged capitalist dictatorship could prevent us
from working for the survival of all, and most governments even encourage
our self-preservation. That view pretty well coincides with the perspective of
Daniel De Leon when he was a Nationalist, before he adopted Bakuninism.
The Workmen's Advocate of August 3, 1889 contained a synopsis of a
speech by Professor De Leon of Columbia University to a Congress
of the Second International in France:

"Nationalists look upon government not as an oppressive force,
as an institution foreign to the people, but as emanating from the
people. It is the very self of the nation. Nationalists, therefore,
deem it necessary, and demand that all industries shall be of
national organization, because these are the people's interests,
and, consequently, the concerns of the government.
"

Right now, no one would call our present low rate of unemployment
(here in the USA) a disaster, so we don't unite to do anything real about
it, unlike during our Great Depression, when an AFL-promoted 30-hour
Bill
actually passed the Senate and looked like a shoe-in for the House
before FDR stopped it.

Unemployment levels here would probably have to double before
people started getting nervous. We have tolerated poverty in the
midst of splendor for millennia, and that isn't likely to end as soon
as we would like. As soon as a plentiful supply of computers and
robots as smart as humans comes on the scene in another 10-20
years, then we will begin to get more nervous, because it's going to
take time to change the prevailing ideology of 'having to go out and
get a job to earn a living'. Technology will lead, and consciousness
will follow, which is always the way it has been for people in general.

We in this forum differ little from the ordinary, in spite of some
believing that they have the answers to all of the world's problems.
Just the fact that the forum can't agree on violence vs. non-violence
says that something is lacking in our consciousness. The same could
be said about the shorter hours issue. Bob can endorse it on a certain
level, but many others can't say anything good about it. That
disagreement shows that elements of consciousness are lacking here.

> The average factory worker in the US in 1979 earned $US438
> weekly, in 1995 that had fallen to $US384 these figures come
> from research by the
National Policy Association. According to
> Robert Reich,
Labour Secretary in Bill Clinton's first cabinet, the
> gap between rich and poor was causing a social divide the likes
> of which had not been seen since the depression.

Quite a few people have observed that we are working longer
hours and getting less pay. Let me refer you to a web site that
has good facts, figures and links: http://www.timesizing.com/

> Piecemeal solutions cannot solve the increasing problems
> that capitalism brings.

I'm sorry to see that your endorsement of shorter hours is not
100%. What could have possibly influenced you to think that
the shorter hour solution is only 'piecemeal'? Certainly the
solution is not instantaneous, but 'piecemeal' has more
damning connotations than 'gradual'.

> the market mechanism closes the door for many. ... Capitalism
> destroys
... Capitalism means chaos and disorder

Now, now; we mustn't go on blaming SYSTEMS for the failures of
human beings. The only reason we have hunger in the West is that
so much of ordinary consciousness is rooted in pre-21st century
awareness of struggle and hardship. We mistakenly think that,
unless we either earn a living or own property and can make
millions without lifting a finger, then we aren't entitled to a piece
of the pie. The notion of getting something for nothing is foreign
to most, and yet it is right around the corner. Until that day gets
here, we will continue to uphold the usual bourgeois 'politics of
exclusion' ideology, and will begrudge anyone getting something
for nothing. That ideology is just waiting to be evaporated by the
heat of the approach of really smart computers and robots that will
soon put EVERYONE out of work. Naturally, the requisite change in
consciousness will require leaders who can foresee what is likely to
happen, and will be prepared (not to try to stop what's inevitable) but
to guide progress so that no one is left in the lurch and is completely
forgotten, as in Brave New World. Promoting the interests of those
whom the rich would like to forget during the upcoming robotics
revolution will ensure a happy landing for all of us.

> I want to see a revolution in the way that people think

Not much more than that in the near future could I ask for either.

Ken Ellis

 

10-10-00

Dear Marxist School,

Here is a suggestion for your curriculum. Because you are a school, then you
obviously enroll students. Students need things to do in order to learn. One of the
best ways for them to learn is by debunking propaganda. I propose this article as
a project for some of your students to debunk. If they find anything at all wrong
with it, please let me know. Thank you for considering this project. - K.E.

snip RBSD article, easily found on this web site's home page

 

10-10-00

Dear Ms. Engelstein,

Feel free to use the following 373-word article:

The Pressing Necessity to Share Work

Work-sharing by means of reducing hours of labor is a much more feasible,
logical and ethical plan for arriving at social justice than are socialist, communist
and anarchist schemes. Abolishing private property was plausible in the era of
Marx, but does not apply to democracies today. Europe was once dominated
by intransigent monarchies offering few freedoms, so Marx wanted socialists
to replace monarchies with democracies, and to develop those democracies
into a unified workers' state that would use co-operative labor to produce
goods and services, thereby eliminating waste, poverty and unemployment.

A Russian revolution was essential to Marx's scenario, but the failure of
Europe to revolt in sympathy with Russia in 1917 meant that socialism
would never replace capitalism. Instead of simultaneous revolutions in
the most advanced countries
, communist-inspired revolutions occurred
one at a time in backward countries. Communism's recent demise in many
countries proved it to be but a brief stage between feudalism and capitalism.

The present dearth of monarchies to overthrow renders Marxism obsolete,
but radical movements persist out of inertia. Because so much social injustice
remains, almost any imaginable movement can still attract a following, with or
without a feasible program. Radical groups overlook Marx's humanitarian
reason for socialism, that of enabling full participation in the economy. They
often organize into bureaucratic forms featuring static party lines, internal
secrecy, cults of personality, censorship, sectarianism, massive states of
denial, and less freedom for self-expression than allowed by the very
governments they would like to overthrow.

Progressive people who are disenchanted with radical programs should look
more closely into sharing work by reducing hours. If the higher communist,
socialist and anarchist goal of reaching a classless and stateless society
remains desirable, the only feasible means of getting there will be to reduce
work hours, not by trying to abolish private property. When the work week
finally gets so low that we shift to an all-volunteer work force, capitalism
as we know it will end. At the same time, the only way for us to equitably
share the products of whatever entity creates the necessities of life a
few decades from now will be to learn to share what little work that
remains for humans to do.

Ken Ellis

 

10-10-00

Dear Anthony,

Thanks for your response. I remember how badly you were treated by SW
and others. I have seen socialists treat other socialists very badly for the last
30 years. Maybe we should start a forum of civil people who respect the views
of others. Anyway, more information about how I was treated by anarchists
disguised as socialists is available at my web site below. Best wishes.

Ken Ellis

 

10-10-00

Dear Veet,

Thanks for your response. And there I thought I was the only one to be
censored, but they didn't censor a recent message aimed at Bob M. of New
Zealand. It's very selective. Maybe we need a forum for civil people. I also got
a response from Anthony W. who was treated very badly this summer. He was
driven away by all kinds of ugly words. I think now they may remove my name
from the 'send to' list as well, which makes me wonder if I will even be able to
go to their site to just read messages. I'll have to give that a try.

Best wishes,

Ken Ellis

 

10-10-00

When Toby was the forum's gate-keeper, my messages went straight through.
Sometimes I speculated that a post would be censored, but Toby always reassured
me that it would never happen. After Toby left, my posts were delayed for hours
before publishing. Just this past Sunday, I was unable to get either of the following
2 messages published at all, so I found 64 e-mail addresses from the past couple of
months' messages in order to circumvent the gate-keeper at the head office. I think
the issues I raise are relevant to human progress, which is why I persist in my
efforts to communicate.

Questions: 1) Does all of this amount to 'censorship of an unpopular perspective'?
2) Are the following messages so dangerous, obscene or whatever, that the head
office should prevent them from reaching the whole forum? 3) Is this the manner
in which the forum wants their mutual affairs to be handled? 4) Why does the
WSM offer the forum less freedom of speech than the governments they
would like to see replaced?

Here are the two 'unwanted' messages:

On the 2nd, Len accused me of "shoddy research, inability to grasp
simple historical and economic concepts
... inability to listen ... quasi-
intellectualist meanderings and misrepresentation that border upon the
malicious
... dim witted posturing as an authority on a Socialism ...
posturing as to personal troubled experiences with the ASLP ...
And [I] dare call [WSMers] "immoral"?"

Notice that Len's critiques were all general, and not a single concrete example
was given. Instead of painstakingly analyzing possible mistakes on my part
(I never claimed to be an expert in Marxism), Len stoops to call me names.
This is no surprise to me, having witnessed many others use the same defense
mechanism over and over, most likely because it distracts readers and prevents
them from achieving clarity over important issues.

As a result, few people have adequate yard sticks with which to measure other
people's arguments. Novices continue to accept 'teachings' of party wise men
without question, but thankfully won't have to forever. The march of technology
will doom this sort of nonsense in another few decades. Truth machines will soon
prevent commercial interests from having their way with history. Everyone will
have instant access to what important people said and did, when, where and why.
At the same time, the triumph of the work-sharing movement will ensure that no
one will ever again have to debase themselves by resorting to lying to make a living,
which will also gradually eliminate having to learn to lie in order to save face. That
will be a true human liberation which Len will surely be happy to enjoy at a future
date if he insists upon resisting the pleasures of being honest in the meantime.

Len concluded with: "Your statements, Ken are nothing but slander worthy of
a boot licking apologist and provocateur.
"

If so, then for whom do I apologize, and who am I provoking?

Ken Ellis

On the 2nd, Len continued: "Here we have a person who is avowedly not a
Socialist, not a marxist accusing us of being not Socialist enough or Marxist
enough! Outrageous! I have had enough.
"

As an optimist believing in the eventual triumph of honesty in politics, it
would be interesting to see if the WSM could ever live up to its claim of
being socialist and Marxist, if it really wants to be both of those. Marx and
Engels wanted workers to rule in a state of their own making, but the WSM
doesn't endorse that element of Marxism. If the WSM insists upon the purity
of its Marxism, and yet sounds more like Bakunin, I think that the world deserves
better than to be subjected to that error forever, so here is another opportunity for
the WSM to either prove me wrong, or accept the fact that it has been wrong, and
correct the error of its ways. My case is as simple as that. If the WSM wants to be
Marxist, then it has to fully endorse the concept of a workers' state, proletarian
dictatorship
, class rule, politics, etc. All of that can be found in the 3 volumes of
Selected Works of M+E. We in the audience are curious to know why politics
isn't good enough for an alleged Marxist party. If we don't get an appropriate
answer, we'll be forced to conclude that the WSM is irrevocably immoral for its
persistent failure to renounce its adherence to Marxism, or for its refusal to bring
its program into line with M+E. To PERSIST in asserting a Marxist philosophy
while practicing anarchism is to persist in a swamp of immorality.

> .. the Socialist Labor Party of the United States .. was transformed
> and accepted the principles (in
1897) of what was called "Socialist
> Industrial Unionism
" (much akin to the later Industrial Workers of
> the World
formed in 1905).

1897? The years that usually stand out in ASLP mythology and history are:
1876-7 - the dissolution of the First International and the birth of the ASLP;
1889 - the takeover of the ASLP by the anarchists; 1890 - De Leon's ascendancy
in the ASLP; 1895-1905 - the 10 years of the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance;
1899 - the split of the (American) Social-Democratic Party away from the ASLP;
1905 - the founding of the IWW. 1908 saw the IWW and the ASLP go their
separate ways over the issue of politics. De Leon passed away in 1914. In Frank
Girard's history of the SLP, 1897 was barely mentioned. Reeve's biography of
De Leon also barely mentioned 1897, and instead listed important years for the
evolution of De Leon's Industrial Union idea as 1895, 1904-5, and 1913, so
maybe Len could explain why he thinks 1897 was a seminal year for the SIU.

> The SLP believed in the use of the ballot only as a condition for
> a structure of industrial unions as the real power in the creation
> of Socialism. Their primary emphasis was upon economic might of
>
industrial union administration (in effect a "government") sanctioned
> by the use of the vote. Therein lies the major disagreement between
> the
Socialist Companion parties and the concept of the SLP.

To clarify the intent of the SIU program, the ASLP wants its candidates
to run for office and win the entire election, after which the party uses its
political supremacy to dissolve the state and political institutions, toss out
all (capitalist) law, and dissolve itself as a party, while the Socialist Industrial
Unions
(already having been organized well prior to the election) celebrate
the dethronement of the capitalist class in the state and the abolition of
private property
by carrying on production for use in a classless and
stateless 'administration of things' using the SIU form of organization.
Like the WSM, the ASLP also believes that work is compatible with
classless and stateless society, as ridiculous a notion as that of
'one fine day' abolishing private property.

> Ken writes in his defense that Marx and Engels desired a "worker's state":
>
>> It seems absurd for the WSM to persist in trying to get away with
>> saying that Marx didn't want to create a workers' state, considering
>> that this is the beginning of the 21st century rather than the end of the
>> 19th, when there were far fewer genuine resources to enable people
>> to understand the socialist dream. Americans back then actually had
>> to rely upon a butchered ASLP version of "Socialism: Utopian and
>> Scientific
", of which Engels wrote in 1891: "[Socialism: Utopian
>> and Scientific
] will be published here in a translation prepared by
>> Aveling and edited by me
.... In face of this authorised translation
>> the American pirate edition
[by De Leon and Vogt of the ASLP]
>> with its miserable English will be rather innocuous. It is moreover
>> not even complete, whatever they found too difficult they have left
>> out
...." Later on, in the pages of the SLP newspaper 'Workmen's
>> Advocate
', other writers went on to use that butchered prose to
>> argue for the abolition of the state. It's funny how the majority
>> of Americans failed to be won over by socialism, leaving the
>> ideology to be exploited by slimy commercial interests.
>
> Ken trots out this unique and
useless piece of information for us.
> What this quotation from Engels has do to with any conception of
> a "
worker's state" exists alone in the mind of Ken Ellis.

The relevance of the information has to do with the fact that a socialist party
of a hundred or more years ago may have been able to get away with saying
that M+E wanted to do away with the state in one stroke, whereas M+E wanted
monarchies and bourgeois republics to be replaced with a universal workers' state.
In the 21st century, a lot of good information avails to contradict misinformation
that might have previously led people to think that 'Marxism means the abolition
of the state
'. Unfortunately, a plethora of misleading information to set them on
the wrong track also exists, but people today are not so limited to ingesting
misleading information as they were in the more distant past. For Len and
the WSM to persist in misleading people to think that the abolition of the
state has much to do with Marx is increasingly plainly immoral.

> Daniel De Leon joined the SLP in 1890 and was still in the midst of
> forming his own thought upon Marx and Engels whose works were not
> readily available in North America. But reading the passage we learn that
> Engels is discontent with the translation of his work "
Socialism: Utopian
> and Scientific
". Why? Not because it doesn't mention "worker's state" (as
> Ken Ellis insinuates), but because it was a miserable translation based on
> innocuous English, and it was incomplete. Engels preferred the version
> edited and translation by Aveling (Marx's son-in-law).

I obviously did not insinuate that Engels was discontent with the De Leon-Vogt
translation
BECAUSE it didn't mention a workers' state, and Len could not have
helped to notice that fact. All I said was that 'other writers used that butchered
prose to argue for the abolition of the state'.

What does Len mean by 'innocuous English'? Engels wrote: 'MISERABLE English'.
The American pirate EDITION was going to be rendered innocuous by the Aveling
translation. If the pirate edition was NOT innocuous, then Engels must have
considered it HARMFUL to the cause of socialism. If a 'translation' is bad enough,
it can damage the cause that it is 'supposed' to help, by misleading people.

> Ken then argues that because of the butchered prose of the
>
original American translation that some SLP members argued
> for the abolition of the state in the SLP paper "Workmen's
> Advocate
". But what does that prove? Nothing.

As an example, a writer named Stroef 'quoted from Engels' in the March 29,
1890 edition of the Workmen's Advocate:

""The first act", says Frederick Engels, "wherein the state appears as really
representative of all society - the taking possession of the means of production
in the name of society - will be its last act as a State * * * Government over
persons will be succeeded by the management of things and the direction of
processes of production. A free Society cannot need or tolerate the existence
of a State between itself and its members."
"

This 'translation' of "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific" that Stroef used
lent itself to 'abolition of the state' interpretations very handily. The ASLP
wanted its literature to support its ideology, and it was not above 'translating'
to its hearts content in order to better achieve that goal. After all, the few who
would be interested enough to carefully check the 'translation' word by word
would be a tiny minority who could easily be ignored, so the party could keep
on getting away with the chicanery that helped them market their product
to their target audience.

2002 note: Actually, what Stroef included in his quote doesn't really
contradict Marxism, but the asterisks replaced what he didn't like:
Engels' description of the proletarian dictatorship. (End of note.)

> He doesn't tell us that the "Workmen's Advocate" did not last long.

As if the longevity of the Workmen's Advocate had anything to do
with the subjects under discussion.

> That Daniel DeLeon's influence grew and that the paper became
> the "
Weekly People", that the anarchist element which existed
> in the early
SLP was expunged.

Anarchists were expunged? Social-Democrats and Lassalleans predominated
in the early SLP. They were hostile to anarchists like Johann Most until the
anarchists took over in a palace coup in 1889, after which they treated Most
& Co. much more cordially in their press. Engels joked about the coup as a
'revolution in a socialist teapot'. Anarchists disguised as socialists have been
in control of the ASLP ever since.

> Ken doesn't tell us that subsequently the translation of Engels' work
> was based upon the Aveling translation (which was published in large
> numbers by the socialist publishing house,
Charles H. Kerr Company).

The translation was based on the translation? That is what Len's sentence
boils down to. According to A.P. himself, the ASLP didn't use the Aveling
translation until 1901, and then only as a hard-cover edition. Not until 1948
did the ASLP produce a pamphlet of "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific"
based on Aveling. The original German text goes way back. At the urging of
colleagues, Engels refuted the theories of Prof. Eugen Duhring in a series of
articles originally published in a German paper from 1877-8. The series was
collected into a book, and Lafargue excerpted and translated three parts
about socialism into French and published them in Revue Socialiste in
1880. Other language editions ensued in the 1880's, but the Aveling
translation of 1892 was the first authorized English translation.

> Ken does not tell us that Engels' major criticism of the SLP
> was its earlier domination by German socialists who acted
> in a sectarian manner with no ties to the U.S. working class
> and had a disdain for the American working class.

True as that is, what's the point of this? How would either the hiding or
recounting of that information have helped or hurt my arguments? Also,
Len repeats: 'Ken does not tell us this, Ken does not tell us that', but what
does Len not tell us? Or, maybe Len wants me to write more instead of less.

> Ken, in past emails, rails against the SLP because of its supposed "anarchism" -
> and maintains the
SLP wished to abolish the state. Ken knows full well that
> the
SLP programme was based upon the building of what was called "the
> Industrial Republic of Labor
" (Arnold Petersen, "Democracy: Past, Present
> and Future
", New York Labor News Company [the publishing arm of the
> SLP], 1940). He should know full well that
SLP leader Daniel De Leon
> was there at the formation of the
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)
> and that later the
SLP withdrew its support from the IWW on the basis
> that the
IWW renounced political action and was accused by the SLP
> of entertaining anarchism.

In spite of including a lot of valid information, Len re-created the false
impression (generated by the ASLP's Arnold Petersen as well) that 'the
anarchists would abolish the state out of hand with nothing to replace it
'.
Because the ASLP would replace the state with the SIU (rather than with
nothing at all), Len and the ASLP feel justified in asserting that 'the ASLP
therefore cannot be anarchist, simply because we have something with which
to replace the doomed state
'. But, does this replacement of the state by a
classless and stateless administration of things rescue the ASLP off the
anarchist hook? Nice try, but the answer is NO! The fact that Bakunin
wanted to replace the state with organizations of trade unions, or even
with the organization of the First International, didn't prevent Marx himself
from describing Bakunin as an anarchist. Len's and the ASLP's definition
of an anarchist program falls far short of the mark. They are entirely able
to be accurate when they want to be, but steadfastly refuse to define the
program of anarchism in the way in which it is commonly defined.
Common dictionaries have a better definition than theirs.

As shown by the text of the Workmen's Advocate before and after 1889
(available at my web site), the SLP became much friendlier to anarchism after
1889, and by 1904-5 propounded essentially the same anarcho-syndicalist
program it does to this day. Whereas a Marxist workers' state would use force
to maintain the rule of the workers, the Socialist Industrial Union (SIU) is
theoretically a classless, stateless administration of things. The program calls
for the dismantling of the state right after the election, which is a perfectly
anarchist idea, as opposed to the gradual decay of both the state and class
distinctions that M+E believed would happen. In Marxism, the precondition
for the decline of the state is the decline of class distinctions, for it was the
separation of society into classes that necessitated the state in the first place.
In Marxism, one does not abolish class distinctions by abolishing the state.
The SIU differs little from Bakunin's program except that it takes into account
vertical monopoly ownership of means of production, and vertical ownership
makes the corresponding industrial union structure an attractive alternative
to narrow craft unions. Bakunin's 1870 program was based on ordinary
unions because monopoly ownership didn't figure back then to the
extent that it figured by 1905.

> And yet somehow (in Ken's imagination) Engels' quotation is brought out as
> some kind of proof that Marx and Engels wanted to establish a "
worker's
> state
". How pathetic!

2002 note: Marx credited Bakunin with the origin of the term
'workers state', but didn't find fault with that particular term. (End of note.)

Oh? I suppose that Len imagines 'seizing political power and turning the means
of production into state property
' indicates a desire to abolish the state? If the
supposed purpose of the revolution is the abolition of the state, then why would
M+E turn the means of production into state property? Just so we could have a
Luddite 'smash up the means of production' party to celebrate the smashing of
the state?

In the Communist Manifesto, M+E wrote about the post-revolutionary proletariat
using "its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to
centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat
organised as ruling class; and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as
possible.
" These were to be the POST-revolutionary tasks of the proletariat, after the
question of state power had been settled in favor of the proletariat, so does Len still
think that the proletariat was to concentrate the means of production in the hands of
the state
, and then abolish the state the day after? Does that make any sense?

> But here is an additional piece of information that Ken Ellis never
> mentions. That Lenin (so often referred to by Ken as a beacon of
> socialist thought!)
was an admirer of SLP leader Daniel De Leon!

I devoted a good portion of my book (available on my web site) to exploding
the very notion that Len and Arnold Petersen (ASLP National Secretary 1913-68)
also promoted, that Lenin allegedly was an admirer of De Leon. In the 45 volumes
of Lenin's Collected Works, Lenin admired De Leon's phrase 'labor lieutenants of
the capitalist class
' (to describe union leaders), Lenin wanted to publish (in Russian)
De Leon's pamphlet 'Two Pages from Roman History', and Lenin admired the ASLP's
revolutionary spirit. Around 1916, Lenin was anticipating the fall of the monarchy and
the triumph of Russian Communism, so he couldn't willy-nilly alienate radical parties
all over the world - no matter what he thought of them - for the revolution had to be
global in order to ensure the success of the Russian revolution. In letters, Lenin
denounced the ASLP's dropping of their minimum (reform) program, he denounced
the ASLP's 'economic organization of the workers' as a 'fixed idea', and he denounced
the ASLP's sectarianism, while in his published pamphlets he remained cordial to De
Leon's memories. But, A.P. so outrageously and falsely inflated Lenin's limited esteem
of De Leon as to say that, 'if Lenin had lived longer, the American Socialist movement
would have become more De Leonist
'. The self esteem of the ASLP was so weak that
it rested upon what genuine revolutionaries WOULD have done and said, had they
lived longer. (A.P. pulled the same sentimental trick again, claiming that Engels would
have seen the need for the
SIU, had he lived longer.) Why wouldn't the American
movement have become MORE Leninist if Lenin had lived past 1924? Did Lenin have
no ego of his own? Did Lenin want only to see the triumph of De Leonism in the USA?
That is the impression A.P. tried to create, but it is completely false. A.P. alternately
denounced Lenin and praised him, but praised him only to the extent he could be trotted
out to sing the praises of De Leon. As for Lenin's theories, A.P. thought they bordered
on crazy, as any other anarchist would think. No more than Lenin wanted to thoroughly
discredit the ASLP (he was counting on the ASLP and other American parties to
become part of the revolution that the Russians started), A.P. also didn't want to
thoroughly discredit Lenin, for Lenin had to be made to appear credible enough
to prevent his alleged praise of De Leon from appearing like the mere ravings
of a lunatic. Both A.P. and Lenin sometimes had to walk a fine line.

> Neither does Ken mention that the SLP was later concerned with Lenin's
> "errors" The question being whether the State "
dies" or "withers away", not
> abolished (see the
SLP pamphlet "The Russian Revolution: Marxism or Soviet
> Despotism
") and that Lenin was treated rather benevolently by the SLP.

Len can probably go into great detail about the 'extreme differences' between
Engels' 'dying out' and Lenin's 'withering away', for he has A.P. to lead him
into that bit of posturing. Basically, the case A.P. made was that 'dying out'
supposedly signified for Engels a rather quick homicide for the state, whereas
'withering away' supposedly meant for Lenin a much more gradual decay, which
Lenin allegedly used as a justification for not abolishing the Soviet state in 1917.
In an amazing bit of chutzpah, A.P. actually used the continuation of the Soviet
state beyond 1917 to justify labeling the Russian revolution as 'not a Marxist
revolution
', as though a post-revolutionary state in the midst of being attacked
by foreign powers, fighting a civil war, facing starvation and economic collapse,
and waiting for the rest of the West to follow its revolutionary lead, etc., could
logically think about one day calling it quits 'because that's what Marx would
have wanted
'!! Anarchist ideology is so dependent upon the immediate abolition
of the state (for the instant gratification of its dogmatic followers) that the pressure
they are under to put that abolition forward as an immediate proletarian tactic can
justify any imaginable hair-brained tactic, and can also justify any imaginable
literary crime. No shame! The alternative? Anyone in the ASLP who dared
question the dictates of A.P. in the realm of party policy became subject
to expulsion. Idiocy ruled supreme by means of the forceful policies of an
intransigent party bureaucracy, and the members of the ASLP complained
more about Lenin, Stalin and Mao than they complained about their own
bureaucrats, which shows the caliber of their talent. Is there any wonder
why that party continues to decline? What they have to sell is so
increasingly obsolete and stupid that it's hard to find people with
the requisite level of gullibility anymore.

> And so Ken, upon the basis of a single criticism by Engels of a bad
> translation of his work concludes in grand historical manner that:
>
>> It's funny how the majority of Americans
>> failed to be won over by socialism, leaving
>> the ideology to be exploited by slimy
>> commercial interests.
>
> And he leaves us, without an ounce of proof, without naming names, that
>
Socialism in the U.S. was left to exploitive "slimy commercial interests".

Did I have to expressly say that it was the ASLP to which I was referring?

> Such is the laughable history presented by Ken Ellis.
> And he dares to judge our morals in the process.

I am content to let the readers judge our morals. The better informed they are
of the sordid details of 'socialist' chicanery, the better the judges they will make.

Ken Ellis

 

10-12-00

Dear David,

Thanks for your good work. I went to your page and clicked on the link, and my
article showed up very nicely. Thank you for that vote of confidence. May the
new era of sharing work arrive soon.

Ken Ellis

 

10-12-00

Dear Allison,

I loved the principled stand that you took on the issue of censorship. You saw
what was going on very clearly, but I hope that you won't leave the forum. I
don't allow this experience to daunt me, for the forum needs principled people
to stand up for what's right, and to criticize some of the uglier things that go
on. This is a different century, and the time is ripe for people to finally get on
the right track to making a better world, but I think that it will be a difficult
struggle at best. But let's not make the mistake of running off and trying to
create a utopian society on an island of our own. Let's instead make the world
we actually live in a better place. We can start by persuading the WSM to
guarantee us an uncensored forum, which would help us to achieve clarity about
the best way to reach social justice. With enough popular pressure, I think we
could do that. When I was in the ASLP in the '70's, I made the mistake of
underestimating my abilities and walked away from the job of doing something
about the censorship I encountered there, and I've regretted walking away from
that task ever since. At the same time, it might have been the best thing I could
have done to save my sanity. Choices like that are not easy. At least I do not
feel as totally alone in this forum as I did [in the SLP] back in the '70's.

On a brighter note, a Canadian intellectual thought the long article (I also
sent to you last week) worthy of attaching to his web page (but my stupid
program won't let me copy his address here), so now more people will get
to read and reflect on a very feasible method of arriving at a just world.

Best wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

10-12-00

Thanks to Tom Walker for his cheery greeting. The passage from Marx's
Capital that I am most familiar with in regards to work reduction is where
he says in essence in Volume 3 that 'the precondition for freedom is a
reduction in the hours of labor.
' That certainly makes sense in that, the
more time people spend working, the less time they have for themselves.

What is troublesome, however, is where Marx implied in the same paragraph
that the appropriate era for work-time reductions was to have been during his
proposed era of proletarian dictatorship. He said pretty much the same thing
as well in a letter to Kugelmann.

The proletarian dictatorship era was plausible in Marx's 'simultaneous replacement of
European monarchies with democracies
' scenario, along with his associated 'further
development of fledgling democracies into a universal proletarian dictatorship'. As
history demonstrated, however, relatively few monarchies were violently replaced
with democracies, and many European countries democratized at their own speed,
and individually.

Because Russia had to go it alone after 1917, Europe's development into the
hoped-for 'universal Marxist state' didn't happen, and Russia developed into
a model that most states, given a choice, would gratefully decline to follow.

So, if the scenario didn't play out the way he wanted, then there must have been
something wrong with Marx's tactic of forcefully taking away the property of the
rich. He did admit somewhere to following in a long socialist tradition. But, in an
1877 Marx biography, Engels wrote in essence that the purpose of socialism in the
first place was to enable full participation in the economy. So, one would have to
conclude that socialism for Marx and Engels was a mere tactic for arriving at their
greater goal of full participation. In our present-day democracies, we know that we
can get to full participation by means of legislating work reductions, and there is
no need for forceful property or wealth redistributions to get to full participation.

I have tried to explain this to some people on the left, but it seems to fall on deaf ears,
especially on professionals who make businesses out of their radical ideologies. With
all of the mass energy for social justice on the left, it would be nice to make the idea of
work reduction as much or more palatable than wealth and property redistribution. It
would be a lot better for the world if people who previously worked for impossible
socialism turned their energies wholeheartedly to feasible work reduction.

I don't regard this potential educational effort as setting up the work-sharing
movement in COMPETITION with more radical plans, because I have come to
regard socialism as truly obsolete and impossible in today's world. In that regard,
the work-sharing movement differs from radical movements in that we would be
patient educators encouraging full debate, not shying away from difficult topics,
and building a better world by setting a good example among ourselves.

Does anyone have any thoughts on the value of such an educational effort?
Or, is it better to do other things? Suggestions?

Ken Ellis

 

10-12-00

About De Leon's Bakuninism, Carl Reeve's biography
of De Leon stated on p. 139:

"C. Desmond Greaves, the English Marxist, in his biography of
James Connolly, comments on De Leon's theories on the state:
"The ghost of the old anarchist [Bakunin] must have chuckled
to see the followers of Marx {the SLP} accepting in his name
a compote of Bakuninism and Lassalleanism."

"Bakunin's principal aim was the destruction of the capitalist
"political state" and, like De Leon, the immediate setting up of
classless administration. De Leon called this the Industrial
Revolutionary Union. Bakunin called it "Free Association
of Workers."

"If De Leon did not understand Marx and Engel's position on the
state and largely ignored it, Bakunin had understood it very well,
from his own anarchist viewpoint, and had vigorously attacked
the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
"

Reeve went on for many pages describing the many differences
between De Leon and Marxism, and the similarities of De Leon's
theories with those of Bakunin, Proudhon and Lassalle.

In spite of all of the documentation demonstrating the anarchist
nature of the ASLP, Len persists in saying that 'the ASLP is not
anarchist
', and that 'it rejected anarchism'. In spite of Len's variance
with what obviously really was, Len gets free reign in the forum, while
my posts are either delayed for hours, or don't get published at all.
Is this the way the forum wants its affairs to be handled?

Ken Ellis

 

10-12-00

It appears as though I owe Toby and others an apology for
misidentifying him as a past forum moderator during the halcyon
days of a few months back when my posts were published like
greased lightning. I too rashly used the near coincidence of
Toby's resignation with the onset of delays in publishing my
posts as sufficient evidence to connect him with 'having
moderated but moved on', but I guess I made a few too
many assumptions. A thousand apologies.

Toby wrote on the 10th:
> Ken chose not to post publicly on what
> are, by any standards, very serious issues.

The fact is that I DID try to post publicly on 2 different occasions -
both messages the first time, but only the shorter message the second
time. After I gave my first attempt over a day to go through, I tried
posting just the shorter message. After patiently giving that attempt a
whole day to go through as well, I drew the conclusion of 'censorship'
and sent the private post. It was a drastic measure, because it took
a lot of time to gather all 65 names. 3 came back as invalid, and
one asked to be deleted, which I did.

Toby wrote:
> I was never in a position to reassure,
> and I never did reassure, Ken about anything.

In retrospect, that appears to be true, and I am forced to conclude
that whatever reassurances I 'inhaled' were purely subjective. Here's
what Toby wrote on June 23 in 'Dr. Who on the 22':

> Ken
>
>> I remain unconvinced that the WSM would go down
>> in smoke before relinquishing a death-grip on the
>> unvarnished principles of free speech.
>
> Why?
>
>> My experience is that freedom of speech and
>> advocacy of socialism are mutually exclusive.
>
> Why not have another look at what the
WSM actually
> say? And at the way they actually work?
>
>> The fragility of socialism makes
>> it crack like an egg under the
>> pressure of free speech,
>
> What fragility? What are you talking about?
>
>> which is why socialism is losing
>> ground in an increasingly free world.
>
> Free? Well, perhaps in the US, or wherever you are.
> But "increasingly free" is most certainly not the way
> I would describe life in, say, the UK.
>
> Toby

Even if Toby did not intend for his reply to reassure me, I felt
reassured, which is why I replied later that same day: "Toby is
right! I jumped the gun and ran ahead of myself. Edit, edit, edit!"

I really did run ahead of myself. On June 29, I wrote to the forum:
>> My freedom of expression in the WSM forum has so far been
>> an unblemished liberty, for which I am grateful.

On July 11, Toby philosophized, certainly not to reassure me,
but which reassured me nonetheless:

> Who are we to vote on banning somebody? Let everyone
> have their say. If anybody objects, they should say so. But
> removing somebody just because we disagree with them
> seems to be setting a dangerous precedent.
> Are we in favour of free speech or not?
>
> Toby
>
> "
Enter your vote today!
> Should Lawrence Leight be banned
> from posting to this mailing list?
"

To which I publicly replied:
>> Even though I can hardly follow the gist of
>> Lawrence's writings, I'm with Toby against censorship.

Toby once wrote in response to protests against long posts:
> The problem, isn't it Bill, is that there are active posters who
> aren't going along with the party line? I'm sorry sorry sorry.

I'll just end this by saying that Toby's repeated and uncompromising
stance against censorship of any kind had the effect of reassuring me
in the past, even if Toby never intended to reassure me or anyone else.

Toby also wrote on the 10th:
> And a question, Ken: have you raised
> your concerns with Shaun, who *is* the moderator?
> I would hope that you brought things up with him before
> posting semi-publicly on something as important as this.

Sorry to say that I didn't, and didn't even interpret Shaun's actions
or inactions in this matter to be anything other than 'following
instructions from a higher-up'. Maybe that was another bad batch
of assumptions. Because Shaun gets to enjoy every word of all
this, allow me to now ask:

Shaun: Why don't my posts go thru like they did when I was new
to the forum? Also, why are all of my more recent posts delayed
for hours before being published? Also, are some or all of my
posts now being censored? If so, then for what reason? Are you
doing this on your own, or is someone else instructing or advising
you on what to do? If so, what are their guidelines on deciding what
gets posted? Who might this other person or these other people be?

Toby also wrote on the 10th:
> Now the alleged censorship. But first let me say that I find
> your posts, like most other people I suspect, increasingly
> frustrating, annoying, and at base just plain wrong.

This sentence is unfortunately ambiguous. When I first read it, I
shocked myself to interpret it to mean that Toby *suspected* me
of something, but, when I read it later, I realized that it could also be
interpreted as merely meaning that he thinks others in the forum probably
agree with his assessment of my posts as 'frustrating, annoying, etc.' I
think I will stick with the second interpretation as being the most
likely, but I did write quite a bit about my first interpretation:

"This suspicion is news to me, and I hope that Toby and others
could be a little more frank about what they suspect me of. If
Toby could be forthright in expressing his suspicions, then I
think we could go further in hammering out our differences.

"This whole thing about suspicion among radical people is
another subject entirely. When I was in the ASLP, I certainly
had my antennae up about everyone except my 'comrades'. Even
after leaving that party and being an independent Leninist for 17
years, I was suspicious of anything and everything. Naturally, if
one wants to take away the property of the rich, and wants to do
it in one's own way, or in a party way, then everyone outside of
those circles becomes a potential enemy, which I think reveals
how a misplaced concern over property can completely poison
human relations. This is one of the important ways in which the
work-sharing movement automatically obliterates that source of
human conflict, because the work-sharing movement could give
a rat's arse over property, now or in the future. It just isn't a
concern, and never will be, because we have the confidence of
knowing that property will find its way into the ashbin of history
after work and the state disappear, which won't require too many
decades longer to occur. I hope that you can see now that, from
my perspective, all of the rampant 'suspicion' among radicals is
both obsolete and divisive."

That's what I wrote when I interpreted Toby's statement
as indicative of suspicious of me. Toby also wrote:

> I couldn't discuss with someone who refused, as it seemed
> on principle, to listen to what other people say -- even to the
> extent of
continuing to misrepresent their basic position after
> they have made many many attempts to put the record straight.

My subjective experience is that *I* am the person who is trying
to set other people straight. What makes Toby so sure that the
other people have THEIR stories straight? Certainly we repeated
much of the same material over and over often enough, but I don't
regard very many dialogues I have had in this forum to be of great
quality, mostly because other people refuse to address my most
important points. If I can quote M+E about 'seizing political power
and turning the means of production into state property
', then surely
a group of alleged Marxists should be able to prove otherwise by
providing quotes, and without taking the quotes out of context.

Toby also wrote:
> Indeed, I have found myself asking at times whether
> you are a freelance obsessive, or whether there is some
> darker confusion and distraction you are trying to spread.
> The seeds of confusion are my enemy's friend.

Good, good. If Toby is suspicious of me, then he just got a little
more concrete about it. The problem is that it will always remain
difficult to impossible for well-meaning people to argue on this
playing field unless they do their own research. When I was in
the ASLP and suspected their program was based upon a pack of
lies, the only way I could have proved it to others was by proving
it to myself. As documented in my book, I occasionally made a fool
of myself by NOT first of all thoroughly proving my argument to
myself before trying to prove it to the rest of the world. As a result
of the arguments which have been tested and augmented in this
forum, my convictions are stronger than ever, while most other
people still remain unmotivated to crack the books.

If some members of the forum have such weak knowledge of
what happened in the 19th century that they cannot follow my
arguments, then it is easy for me to understand the opposition
that I receive, complete with name-calling, suspicion, etc. If people
refuse to crack the books in order to try to understand the history of
socialism, then that makes it all the more difficult for my perspective
to make much progress in this forum. If that's the case, and if people
think I'm wrong but refuse to tell me exactly where they think I am
wrong, then progress is impeded. But, if I say that Marx wanted
fellow socialists to help replace feudal monarchies with republics,
and to further develop those republics into a universal proletarian
dictatorship
, but people disagree with me and don't say exactly why,
then how can we make progress? And if some people steadfastly
refuse to accept anything except what the WSM has proclaimed to
be gospel, then what am I to conclude except that some people would
rather go to their graves in the good company of those who are also
content to have their ideologies mapped out by their party? This is
one of the bases of sectarianism, which is very difficult to overcome,
because many people would rather be in the company of like-minded
people than to risk losing their favor in order to go their own way.
If only we were not so much attached to our need to 'belong' that it
overcomes and cancels out our quest for truth. Unlike many people
I've known, I've been enough of a loner that I didn't really sacrifice
much by putting the quest for truth over the need to belong. If I did
discover a higher truth than socialist, communist and anarchist truths,
then maybe I could do a better job of putting my newly discovered
truths across. Practice makes perfect, but what if the moderator
denies me the opportunity to practice?

Ken Ellis

The Workmen's Advocate of June 25, 1887 editorialized:

"Let everyone think, and everyone speak his thoughts.
Then we shall know men as they are.
"

 

10-14-00

Paul Bennett wrote:

> By the way, I'm sure that Ken Ellis is really enjoying all this.

Well, now that you mention it ... But, it really gives me hope for
the future of people's movements that a group like the WSM can
so thoroughly commit to free speech, even if a few lag behind,
which is inevitable in any group. As I wrote in my book: many
groups are characterized by bureaucracy, secrecy, censorship,
and sectarianism, and in order for all of those negative qualities
to dominate a party's affairs, they must all operate simultaneously.
Therefore, bureaucracy, secrecy and sectarianism cannot dominate
unless censorship is also enforced. In this regard, it's so nice to be
out of the ASLP, and in the WSM forum. My last few posts have
had a very quick turnaround between posting and publishing, and
I'm confident of a continuation of this happy state of affairs.

Ken Ellis

 

10-15-00

Shaun wrote on the 12th:

> The one argument of yours that I certainly don't agree with is that
>
advancements in technology will eventually rid the world of all labour.

I can't blame Shaun too much for not accepting that prediction
without question, but IBM officials recently said that a computer
the size of 2 basketball courts will be as smart as a human by
2010
. That was THEIR prediction. Here's mine: At the rate of
shrinkage of electronic circuitry, I expect the same degree of
smarts to fit in a teacup by 2020. If that isn't unreasonable, then
we will see some REAL effective robotization going on. Robots
as smart as people, but without people's appetites and emotions,
will work 24 hours a day while causing few 'labor problems'.
Jeremy Rifkin predicts the replacement of all human labor in 50
years. I've often quoted an EETimes article from 7 or so years ago
predicting the end of all physical labor by 2086. Recent predictions
have the end of labor approaching sooner than do the older predictions,
and the end of labor also seems to be approaching a lot faster than
socialist consciousness, which ought to make at least some people
worry a little that their ideologies might soon be left in the dust. I
don't know of a radical ideology that incorporates an appropriate
mass response to automation, sad to say.

I accept Shaun's explanation of the woes of moderating. I
think he has been very conscientious about doing his job. If it's
a volunteer position, then all the more can I empathize with his
level of commitment. Now that the censorship issue is dissipating,
maybe we can discuss the best method of getting to classless and
stateless society. Merely asserting that we are going to get there
in a certain way by using quotes from Marx and Engels and others
from a hundred or more years ago is becoming less and less valid
as time marches on. At some point we have to look with our own
eyes at what has been happening, and draw reasonable conclusions.

> people were getting really tired of replying to your posts,
> especially Len W., who explicitly said that he was not replying
> further. (Yet you continued to address your posts to him).

< ... and... >

> When they no longer want to argue with you, you are
> obligated to stop addressing your arguments to them.

Lese majeste. Out of whose book of etiquette can one find
that rule, and what does the proletariat think about it? Is Len
supposed to get the last word just because he agrees with his
party? With all due apologies, I cannot simply sit back and let
pass without comment what Len writes about certain subjects as
the final unchallenged word. People might read what he has to say
about certain subjects and mistakenly think that it's correct. Concepts
of what is correct guides people's activities, and, if their concept of
what is correct is based upon incorrect data, the effectiveness of their
social justice activities will suffer accordingly. How can an activist like
myself refuse to challenge what I consider to be incorrect because of a
rule of 'etiquette'? Sorry to appear to some as ill-mannered or rude for
that reason, but my inclination to comply with this seemingly reasonable
request has to bow to my sense of duty toward correcting mistakes.

I was glad to see so many in the WSM desiring to keep freedom
of speech as their proud standard. A good round on the old
censorship debate never did anyone any harm, and it certainly
gives me cause to repeat one of my favorite quotes from Engels:
"Are we demanding from others free speech for us, only to abolish
it again in our own ranks?
" I think that the people have spoken
well, and that we can let the censorship debate rest for a while.

Ken Ellis

 

10-17-00

Tony quoted me and asked:

>> Jeremy Rifkin predicts the replacement
>> of all human labor in 50 years.
>
> This is a curious statement. While robotics
> is really not my cup of tea, doesn't Jerry
> assume that humans want to be replaced?
> I would think that we would have a say in
> our own obsolescence. I am also wondering
> if he thinks robots will be doing jobs which:
>
> a) humans do particularly well because they
> are human, like pro sports (I can see it now,
> the Chicago CPUs vs the Dallas DVDs),
> medicine, religious and social work?
>
> b) humans actually like doing because they
> are human, like fine and performance art,
> cuisine, architecture, and politics?
>
> I'm really not for reading a whole book on the
> subject, but perhaps you can shed some light on
> this. The idea of a species voluntarily replacing
> itself to me sounds both psychologically and
> biologically ludicrous.
>
> Tony

If a society were to carry out 'the replacement of humans by robots'
very mechanically, Tony's point is well taken, but I'm sure that the
people of the future will continue to want to enjoy the finer things
in life, like sports, arts, culture, scholarship, etc., while advanced
technology will make the drudgery disappear precisely so that we
will ALL be able to enjoy the finer things in life. Nobody I know
really wants to 'go to work', unless they are the lucky few whose
vocations equal their avocations. Most of us would rather be
at the beach, or doing something other than drudge.

Did you see the new Sony robot on TV last week? Well, that little dog
is nothing compared to what will be available in another 10-20 years.
When it comes to medicine, I'm sure that the doctors who are in the
business of denying or rationing people's health care will be glad to be
relieved of the duty to their employers to make bad decisions. It won't be
long before it will be ridiculous to think about rationing health care, and
people will get the best that will be available, traditional or non-traditional.
Humans are very limited, but the machines and computers will have a data
base of everything that could possibly make sense for our health care,
so it will truly be a different world of medicine in the near future.

So, we won't allow humans to fade away into insignificance.
The machines will exist to serve the whole human race, not just
a few. We will see to that, because most of us are humanitarian
at heart, and we vastly outnumber the ones who aren't.

Ken Ellis

 

10-18-00

Kevin has joined the debate, and raises important issues. I'm
sure that by now he has noted my apology for mis-identifying
Toby as a past moderator. To shorten this reply a bit, I skipped
the whole censorship issue, which I think has been settled to the
satisfaction of freedom lovers.

> Who knows he [Superman] might even be able to make your
> state capitalism work
...

State capitalism has never been any more desirable to me
than it was to Marx or Engels.

> I have watched Len, Stuart, Paddy and several
> others fill volumes over the past months
>
carefully picking up on your points and
> having their answers ignored by you.

I don't think that's perfectly true. For instance, I often use the example
of the American Civil War to demonstrate the extent to which private
property is esteemed by Americans. It was decided 135 years or so ago
that the only form of ownership that was immoral enough to change was
private ownership of people. After crushing the resistance of the South,
the North had all of the power that would have been required to give freed
slaves their promised '40 acres and a mule', but, insufficient political will
prevented the breakup of the Southern plantations. If it took a civil war
to abolish as immoral a form of ownership as slavery, then what kind of
conflict would it take to abolish our widely accepted private ownership of
means of production
? The requisite level of violence would be nowhere to
be found. Would-be abolishers of property have yet to say a word about
the unlikelihood of abolishing property in light of the Civil War experience,
but I repeat it here anyway. In all likelihood it will be ignored again because
it runs counter to an ideology that expects people to 'one fine day' identify
property as a beast to be abolished.

Kevin quoted me:

>> As a result, few people have adequate yard sticks with which to measure other
>> people's arguments. Novices continue to accept 'teachings' of party wise men
>> without question, but thankfully won't have to forever. The march of technology
>> will doom this sort of nonsense in another few decades. Truth machines will soon
>> prevent commercial interests from having their way with history. Everyone will
>> have instant access to what important people said and did, when, where and why.
>> At the same time, the triumph of the work-sharing movement will ensure that no
>> one will ever again have to debase themselves by resorting to lying to make a living,
>> which will also gradually eliminate having to learn to lie in order to save face. That
>> will be a true human liberation which Len will surely be happy to enjoy at a future
>> date if he insists upon resisting the pleasures of being honest in the meantime.
>
> You do make sensible comments occasionally.
> I actually think that one of the greatest things
> Marx wrote was to question everything and not
> to take anything that you are told for granted.
> This questioning of 'wise mens' hand-me-
> downs has led me to where I am now.

Keep up the good work. People should never allow their
intellectual development to reach a certain plateau and stop.
There have been times when I thought I had found intellectual
gold that would elate me forever, but later found out that it was
just fool's gold. When I first discovered socialism, I was in 7th
heaven, but that elation died at the discovery of a quote in party
literature that had been taken out of context. Wisdom hopefully
develops if the process is repeated often enough. We should
never allow ourselves to remain completely satisfied with
a particular stage of development, and should always
keep our minds open to new data.

>> As an optimist believing in the eventual triumph of honesty in politics, it
>> would be interesting to see if the WSM could ever live up to its claim of
>> being socialist and Marxist, if it really wants to be both of those. Marx and
>> Engels wanted workers to rule in a state of their own making, but the WSM
>> doesn't endorse that element of Marxism. If the WSM insists upon the purity
>> of its Marxism, and yet sounds more like Bakunin, I think that the world deserves
>> better than to be subjected to that error forever, so here is another opportunity for
>> the WSM to either prove me wrong, or accept the fact that it has been wrong, and
>> correct the error of its ways. My case is as simple as that. If the WSM wants to be
>> Marxist, then it has to fully endorse the concept of a workers' state, proletarian
>> dictatorship, class rule, politics, etc. All of that can be found in the 3 volumes of
>> Selected Works of M+E. We in the audience are curious to know why politics
>> isn't good enough for an alleged Marxist party. If we don't get an appropriate
>> answer, we'll be forced to conclude that the WSM is irrevocably immoral for its
>> persistent failure to renounce its adherence to Marxism, or for its refusal to bring
>> its program into line with M+E. To PERSIST in asserting a Marxist philosophy
>> while practicing anarchism is to persist in a swamp of immorality.
>
> M+E wanted the concept of '
state' to cease to exist.

It's true that their ultimate and final goal was to see the state
buried along with the spinning wheel and bronze axe, but its
abolition was not their IMMEDIATE goal. Their immediate goal
was spelled out in the Communist Manifesto (MESW 1, p. 120):

"The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that
of all the other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat
into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest
of political power by the proletariat.
"

The proletarian dictatorship was to be a workers' state in transition
to classless and stateless society. In his 1872 Speech at The Hague
at the end of the First International, Marx was quoted as saying
(MESW 2, p. 292): "The worker will some day have to win political
supremacy in order to organize labor along new lines
..."

M+E always expected workers to wield a transitional state of their
own making, a state with a democratic republican form, a state in
which the party of the proletariat would rule simply because it was
to be the majority in a democratic state, and a state in which the battle
between worker and boss would be fought to a finish
. The state was to
cease to have a reason for existence only after class distinctions had
been abolished, but M+E did not forecast a quick abolition of class
distinctions
. Therein lay a big difference between M+E and Bakunin.

> The workers state was purely an interim measure that
> they saw as necessary for the times in which they lived.

That's true, and it was to function until the end of class distinctions,
for it was the division of society into classes that gave rise to the
state in the first place, so, according to M+E, only the erosion of
class distinctions under the guidance of a proletarian dictatorship
would enable the state to gradually decay. In the present world of
the opposite occurrence - the increasing gap between rich and poor -
we have seen the state grow enormously compared to a century ago.
We can begin to whittle down the state as soon as we create a more
equitable distribution of work, thereby eliminating poverty, which
is a tremendous source of social unrest and difficulties that are
traditionally handled by strong states.

> Do you deny that the world has changed in the century and a half
> since they wrote? That
workers now have a much greater franchise?
> That
education is no longer limited to the elite? That politics is no
> longer the sole prerogative of the nobs?

No, I do not deny the progress. We have come a long way with
neither anarchy nor a proletarian dictatorship. It appears as though
democratic progress has roughly paralleled economic development.

> M+E wanted the workers state to overcome these
> limitations, and prepare the world for socialism,
> but these limitations no longer exist.

If this is a trend, then who knows what other good things will
happen as time passes? If people make good things happen by
doing political work, maybe a better world will arrive even sooner.

> Do you have a car? Is the engine on the garage floor
> because the manual says 'remove engine, repair engine's
> problem'. If this was the case I would suggest that you
> read the rest of it that said 'replace engine in car'. The
>
workers state was suggested by M+E merely as part
> of the process towards achieving socialism.

It sounds like I'm stuck in 1848, that I live for the creation of a
workers' state, that I haven't moved beyond the proletarian dictatorship
that I allegedly advocate, and can't move beyond. Allow me to point out
that I don't necessarily advocate the ideologies I recognize as relevant
to the past. Correct definitions are critical to proper understanding, but
I don't advocate proletarian dictatorship any more than I would go to a
dictionary to read up on "totalitarianism" and automatically become a
totalitarian. It's important to have a reasonably well-informed perspective
on 'what everything is and was' in order to make good choices.

The WSM knows that this isn't 1848, and that it is 2000, and that
the proletarian dictatorship is obsolete, so the WSM has moved
beyond it. If so, then it begs the question of why the WSM still
regards itself as Marxist vis a vis other parties still advocating
Marx's 1848 program of proletarian dictatorship. If the WSM
has moved beyond or away from Marx's program of proletarian
dictatorship
while other parties haven't, then the Marxist quality of
the WSM program has been considerably diluted. Why would anyone
try to describe the WSM program as any more than SEMI-Marxist?

> Of course, our understanding has moved on
> since M+E wrote. This is why we advocate
> that
Parliaments should be taken over purely
> in order to take control of the coercive
> forces from capitalists.

Many describe the proposed take-over of political power as only
of very short duration. It doesn't sound very different from the
ASLP's abolition of the state at the ballot box, but without the
Socialist Industrial Union take-over of industries.

> I recognise Marx as the guy who took the
> thinkings of many others such as Owen and
> Hegel, tidied them up and put it all together, no
> more & no less. He is not a god and would
> have been horrified at the thought of being
> treated as such. He is merely the guy that
> got it all together. By the same token you
> cannot expect his work to be taken as the
> final, definitive answer. Would you deny
> all developments in physics since Newton?

I think we have come a long way from both Marx and Newton.
I think that Marx is obsolete for his advocacy of socialism as the
path to full participation, which was plausible in his era, when the
simultaneous overthrow of several European monarchies could have
resulted in the universal proletarian dictatorship, but the march of
history superannuated that scenario. It's funny that no revolutionary
scenario more plausible than Marx's was ever formulated, but few
people can bring themselves to define it for what it was. Instead, they
like to market their own scenarios as the only valuable scenarios, but
those scenarios also fall apart under close scrutiny. Reform will
remain the only allowable option for change in democracies.

> Bakunin & Marx both wanted the same end result
> but differed in the method of achieving it.

On that, I think we can agree. They both wanted to reach the end
goal of classless and stateless society, but they differed on how
to get there: Marx by means of his transitional workers' state, and
Bakunin by means of his abolition of the state, and his immediate
arrival at classless and stateless society by means of workers'
associations
. Both plans are obsolete, but I think that it's necessary
for us to agree on 'what the plans were' as a prerequisite to intelligent
debate. That's a problem I have had in many discussions: people can't
agree on what was, so instead elevate a sectarian notion to a principle
that cannot be strayed from.

> I am sure that you will appreciate that no one
> likes to waste time repeating previous statements.
> I should also point out that I am no expert on Marx
> having attempted to read '
Capital' & 'The German
> Ideology
' but not finding them them easiest of books
> to read. I do however have a solid understanding of the
> class struggle, labour theory of value and the theory of
> social development, which as you are probably aware
> are the cornerstones of Marx's work.

That's OK, because I'm no expert either. I always hit the books
when I don't have an immediate answer. If we make a sincere
effort to properly deal with the issues as they come up, I'm sure
that we will make progress. You can correct me, I can correct you,
and we can go back and forth until we come up with the right
answer. As soon as commercialism gets in the way (which asserts
the dominance of a fixed position, no matter what the evidence to
the contrary), then progress comes to a grinding halt. My old party
was perfectly guilty of preventing substantive debate on the worth
of its program, while its membership thought that their revolutionary
philosophy was based upon perfect science, so little was left for
members to do except advertise their 'perfect product' to the masses.
I used to think to myself, "If only I could prove to the members that
the quotes that they use are out of context", but I never had the chance
to prove anything to them, so closed was their world, and censorship
made the perpetuation of their dogma the only option. The lack of
censorship in this forum will allow logic to prevail.

> I absolutely cannot see how anyone who
> understands these (esp class struggle) can wish
> to retain the state in any form any longer than
> is necessary. You will be aware that this must
> include the guys who formulated the theories.

Well, I certainly don't advocate retaining the state for a second
longer than what's necessary. One good question is: How long
is necessary? As long as class distinctions remained, M+E did
not advocate retiring the state, and they also never told us how
long it would take to abolish class distinctions, which can only
be a slow economic - and not a directly political - process.

> I will carry on and answer the rest if you
> wish, but I would first like to see that you
> sensibly note other posting on the subjects.

Please do return, and let me know what you think I should bone up on.

Ken Ellis

 

10-18-00

Len wrote on the 12th:

> You quote Carl Reeve's book as to the authority
> that
De Leon was a Bakuninist. I maintain it is
> pure bunk.
Some writers have also maintained
> that
Marx was an anarchist too, some Mensheviks
> argued that
Lenin was one.

If Len doesn't accept what the American Institute for Marxist
Studies
has to offer, then maybe he would like to take issue with
Frank Girard and Ben Perry's history of "The Socialist Labor Party
- 1876-1991
". On page 83, we find:

"SLP belief in working class self-reliance belongs to a tradition
shared with other DeLeonists, anarchists, wobblies, council
communists and others who have rejected social democratic
and Leninist programs of state control.
"

So, if Leninists and social democrats advocate states, then
which radical philosophy do non-statists advocate, other than
anarchism or a variation thereof? Girard and Perry put the ASLP
squarely in the non-statist camp, regardless of the ASLP program
of using ballots and elections as an adjunct to getting to classless
and stateless society. As for the groups that split away from the
ASLP over the decades, did they gravitate into statist camps of one
sort or another? No way. As a long time member of my old Section
Boston
once implied, the difference between the ASLP and anarcho-
syndicalism is the ASLP's adherence to the abolition of the state at
the ballot box
. The complete election of the ASLP was to signal the
Socialist Industrial Unions (SIU) to take over the industries. If that
doesn't qualify as a small variation of anarcho-syndicalism, then I
don't know what does.

Len added:

> To end this discussion, all one has to do is refer
> to Daniel DeLeon's own words in "
Socialism versus
> Anarchism: A Lecture delivered at Boston October 13,
> 1901
" by Daniel De Leon. It was published in 1921 by
> the
National Executive Committee of the Socialist Labor
> Party
. In it, De Leon states that the Socialist revolution (as
> he viewed it)
would be done by the ballot box and through
> industrial unions
(neither which Bakunin ever supported*).

2002 note: While industrial unions did not emerge until decades later,
Bakunin certainly thought highly enough of unions in general, regarding
them as the only authentic workers' organizations. Bakunin rejected the
idea of workers organizing in political parties. (End of note.)

That may very well represent De Leon's views, but it doesn't make
De Leon a statist. So, if his program wasn't social-democratic, nor
Leninist, then it had to be a variation of an anarchist theme.

> Contrary to what you write, there is a
>
significant difference between Bakunin's
> concept of the
Free Association of Workers
> and the
Industrial Unionism of DeLeon's.

This would have been a good time to introduce the alleged difference,
but maybe it was De Leon's attention to politics (explored later).

> And, while I agree that Bakunin was against
> anything called "the dictatorship of the proletariat",
> this was not the case of De Leon.

In his 1931 pamphlet "Proletarian Democracy vs. Dictatorships
and Despotism
", Arnold Petersen (A.P.) credited De Leon with
having used "the dictatorship of the proletariat" phrase at least
once. A.P. quoted De Leon:

"They had better try and save their own precious legislatures. Close
behind the bourgeois dictator comes the
Dictatorship of the Proletariat. . ."

A.P. explained: "What does De Leon here imply by the phrase
"
Dictatorship of the Proletariat"? Clearly nothing more than that
the "precious legislatures" will be superseded by the organized
power of the proletariat, i.e., the integral Industrial Union. And
it was in the
identical sense (modified by the conditions of the
time) that Marx used it, and, indeed, it was in the
same sense
that Lenin used it, modified by the conditions in Russia.
"

A.P., who always represented the official party position, made it
pretty clear that the dictatorship of the proletariat (for an economically
developed country) signified the Socialist Industrial Union (SIU) to De
Leon, and the SIU always signified classless and stateless society.
Since A=B, and B=C, then A must also equal C, so the proletarian
dictatorship
for economically developed countries therefore signified
classless, stateless society as well as the SIU
. In his same pamphlet,
A.P. also interpreted the d.o.t.p. in backward countries as being a
proletarian dictatorship over the PEASANTRY, instead of over the
uppermost classes
. He unethically redefined it that way to try to
prove that, 'since the peasantry in the USA is so small compared to
European or Russian peasantries of decades past, the USA would
not need a
proletarian dictatorship over our tiny peasantry.' Though
the d.o.t.p. is certainly not necessary in the USA, changing its
definition was a highly unethical way for A.P. to argue against
its necessity.

Thus, the ASLP recognized TWO phony proletarian dictatorships
- the classless and stateless SIU for economically advanced countries,
and the political proletarian dictatorship over the peasantry and middle
classes in backward countries
. But, Marx only advocated ONE proletarian
dictatorship
, a political dictatorship in the most developed countries, but
certainly not a dictatorship over the peasantry or middle classes, for M+E
always advocated a worker-peasant ALLIANCE against the uppermost
classes
, as signified by the hammer and sickle on the old Soviet flag.

A.P.'s 'conditions' theory implied that: 'The conditions that Marx and
Lenin experienced in their respective countries were lowly enough
for
the
dictatorship of the proletariat over the peasantry and middle classes
to be relevant back then, but not to the USA in the 20th century.
' A.P.
also alleged that, not only was the peasantry in America insignificant,
but
the rest of the middle classes as well! And he did it without a single
statistic. I found, on the other hand, that nearly half of the American
working class worked for small businesses in the late '80's, which
surely implied a significant size for middle classes. Did A.P. say
anything that approached the truth? No, it was all* a fairy tale, for
the proletarian dictatorship for M+E+L were intended to be as
political as the SIU was intended to be non-political. If De Leon
ever used the phrase 'dictatorship of the proletariat' very much,
he certainly didn't use it the way Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin,
Mao and Ho Chi Minh used it.

2002 note: If all of it had been a lie, no one would believe A.P. The
relative small size of the American peasantry is indisputable. (End of note.)

> Yes, I persist in stating that the Socialist
> Labor Party
is and was not anarchist.

Then that would put Len in disagreement - not only with me - but
with Girard, Perry, Reeve and with many others. Not only is the
ASLP anarchist, but remains totally unethical as well for its refusal
to open up its sordid past to correct its idiotic 'dictatorship of the
proletariat
over the peasantry and middle classes'. A party that
cannot correct its own mistakes is doomed to serve the reaction
in the name of 'serving the people'.

> Anarchism is the rejection of political parties,
> political movements. It is about smashing the
> state as the FIRST order of the revolution (still
> noting there are differences between Proudhon
> and Bakunin, but noting the similarities between
> Bakunin, Kropotkin, Makhno, Malatesta, and other
> anarchists). Anarchism is about the rejection of the
> ballot box. Anarchists do not wish to "seize" the
> State in any way. Socialists do, De Leon did.

If De Leon had wanted to seize the state for the purpose of
wielding it, then Len would have had a good point, but De Leon
made it very clear in "The Socialist Reconstruction of Society" that:
"It is exactly the reverse with the 'political power.' That is to be taken
for the purpose of
ABOLISHING IT. It follows herefrom that the
goal of the political movement of labor is
purely DESTRUCTIVE."

De Leon was dead set against the notion of state managed
production, which put him squarely at odds with himself when
he was a Nationalist some 15 years previous (as I quoted in a post
to Bob M. on the 9th). If De Leon considered the political element
to be DESTRUCTIVE, he also considered the economic (SIU)
element to be the only CONSTRUCTIVE element.

De Leon continued (if I may paraphrase this first part): 'if the SLP won
the election so overwhelmingly that the capitalists couldn't disregard the
electoral victory
' (the way Milosevic tried to disregard Kostunica's electoral
victory) ... "What should there be for the [ASLP] to do? Simply TO ADJOURN
THEMSELVES, ON THE SPOT, SINE DIE
[without reconvening]. Their work
would be done
by disbanding."

It is not unreasonable for Len or anyone else to question: If De
Leon was an anarchist, then why would he want to have anything
to do with the state? Bakunin and others (as Len correctly pointed
out) would not seize the state the way De Leon would, even if De
Leon would only seize the state long enough to enable its abolition
in an election. Here is why: De Leon lived in a democracy, while
Bakunin, Kropotkin, Makhno, Malatesta, and many other anarchist
theorists lived in European and other states that had very dubious
democratic credentials a century and more ago, so had few popularly
elected bodies to deal with. De Leon was clever and realistic enough to
adapt his anarchist program for the democratic conditions in which he
found himself. De Leon just happened to live in the freest democracy
in existence over a century ago, so free in comparison with 'the old
countries' that jealous Europeans likened America's wild west to a state
of anarchy. While Bakunin and others had monarchies to abolish
(monarchies which were OPPOSED by increasing percentages of their
populations), De Leon had a democracy on his hands (a democracy
ENJOYED by most), so De Leon could not completely ignore that
difference. One could smash an unpopular monarchy in Europe with
a few well-directed blows, as the Romanovs in Russia found out, but
doing away with a democracy would require either a massive effort or
an election, when the people supposedly determine that they have had
enough of their 'bourgeois democracies'. But, the fact that the Western
hemisphere enjoys its democratic rights and privileges partially explains
the unpopularity of anarchism, a state-smashing ideology much more
appropriate to the era of absolute monarchies than to today's democracies.
While Marx recognized democracies as the negation of monarchies,
anarchists make NO distinctions between those 2 very different forms
of state, and for that reason would not hesitate to smash a democracy
as quickly as they would smash a monarchy. Anarchists should learn to
discriminate between various forms of state like Marx did, especially the
ones who want to think of themselves as Marxists. In his 1872 Speech
at the Hague
, Marx contrasted forceful change in monarchies vs.
peaceful change in democracies.

While M+E made no enormous distinction between the economies
of Russia and the USA, their political systems were very distinctly
different. On the other hand, A.P. did everything he could to make
the economies of the 2 countries appear as opposite as possible, but
said nothing to differentiate their political systems, which was entirely
opposite to the way M+E treated the subject. Why would the ASLP
spread such confusion if it was a workers' party? More later.

> Perhaps you can not see the differences which many of us find crystal clear.

I think the differences are getting clearer and clearer all of the time.

Ken Ellis

"Refute all lies!" - Pablo Neruda

 

10-20-00

Hi, Scott,

Thanks for the feedback. The only on-line discussion that I am aware of, which
so far remains only a proposal (since the book is relatively new to the web), is
associated with the crimsonbird website belonging to Mike Lepore, who is also
an ex-SLP member. I think he's located in New York state, so let me know if
that Colorado connection turns up again. Here's Mike's address:

http://www.crimsonbird.com/

I just tried to access Mike's web site, but the site may be down, for I kept
on getting notices of a connection failure. If you have the same problem,
I'm sure Mike would appreciate hearing about it at his e-mail address.

I am currently battling out a lot of my book's ideas at the following web
site, which originates in England. They are very much like the SLP, and
are rather hostile to me, but they can't seem to be able to get away with
censoring me as freely as some of them would like. We had one heck of
an experience with censorship a couple of weeks ago. Feel free to sign up
and join the fray; or, I think it's also possible to just read the messages at:

http://www.egroups.com/community/WSM_Socialism_Forum

For some very good information about a sensible program (with great links):

http://www.timesizing.com/

Feel free to be in touch about any issue.

Best regards,

Ken Ellis

 

10-21-00

Deathy wrote:

> The clause is in the genitive, i.e. possessive case,
> which can be rendered into english in two ways -
> 'The
proletariate's dictatorship' or 'the dictatorship
> of the proletariate
' - note, 'proletarian dictatorship',
> that Ken is fond of, is an
inaccurate rendering, the
> distinctions between '
Bill's Computer' and a 'Billian
> Computer
' should illustrate.

Would anyone want to use 'proletariat's dictatorship'? Would
anyone want to use 'bourgeoisie's dictatorship' instead of either
'bourgeois dictatorship' or 'capitalist dictatorship'?

My dictionary defines 'proletarian' as either a noun or an
adjective. If his billiness would bother to crack a dictionary
before he goes on line, we would have fewer mistakes to correct.

A debate over 'proletarian dictatorship' vs. 'dictatorship of the
proletariat
' would be as fruitful as a debate over 'medical doctor'
vs. 'doctor of medicine'.

Ken Ellis

 

10-22-00

Dear Bill,

snip irrelevancy

This spring, I got involved in the WSM forum discussion out of England, and an
anarchist opponent named Len W. claims that: 'dictatorship of the proletariat' is a
Marxist term, while 'proletarian dictatorship' is a Leninist term, and the latter term
implies a vanguard party (that the anarchists so despise). I'm wondering if I can
head my opponent off at the pass, but I first have to know if the Russian language
even allowed Lenin to distinguish between 'proletarian dictatorship' and 'dictatorship
of the proletariat
'. In the Indexes to the 45 Volumes of Lenin, the entry for 'proletarian
dictatorship
' refers readers to 'dictatorship of the proletariat'. English being the flexible
language that it is, I think Americans can use either phrase interchangeably, whereas
the Russian language may only allow for one way to say or write it. I figured that if
anyone would know about this question about the Russian language, you would
know. Any assistance you can offer will be greatly appreciated.

snip irrelevancy

Thanks for your help. Take care.

Ken Ellis

 

10-23-00

Dear Bill,

I was very pleased to hear from you. Now I know that the Russian language
doesn't offer a choice between 'proletarian dictatorship' and 'dictatorship of
the proletariat
'. That info came in handy. I think that the German language
has the same limitation. Lenore V. would know one way or the other for
sure, but I think that the issue is settled for now.

I haven't kept up that much with what's been going on in the Bay Area, but
I am curious to know if you manage to get on the air with any regularity any
more. I would guess that Free Radio Berkeley remains off the air, but I've
heard something about a Berkeley Liberation Radio in my latest issue of
Radio World. I wonder if they backpack into the hills like FRB used to.

snip irrelevancies

Ken Ellis

 

10-23-00

On the 21st, Len wrote:

> There is indeed a difference between a "proletarian
> dictatorship
" and "dictatorship of the proletariat".
>
> In the former, a minority section of the working
> class organised in a vanguardist political party
> (such as the
Bolsheviks - a section of the Russian
>
SDLP, or Babeuvists) could establish a political
> dictatorship, and wield dictatorial power.
>
> They could describe themselves as proletarian. And in the
> case of Lenin, he did. Thus
proletarian dictatorship was
> the dictatorship of a "proletarian party".
>
> The "
Dictatorship of the proletariat" is very different
> because it refers to the political power and control of
> the working class - the great majority - itself. It would
> be the "proletariat's dictatorship" not the dictatorship
> of a party calling itself proletarian.

If the respected scholar Hal Draper or any other scholar had
made the distinctions made by Len, I would have cause to re-
assess my terminology. But, it would be ridiculous to change
my terminology merely on the word of Len, who has gone to
great lengths in the past to try to 'prove' me wrong. If any taboo
against 'proletarian dictatorship' had ever been in place, Arnold
Petersen of the ASLP (in his fraud-ridden pamphlet "Proletarian
Democracy vs. Dictatorships and Despotism
") would not have
used 'proletarian dictatorship' as freely as he did.

Until this message, the controversy was over the meaning of
'dictatorship of the proletariat' as used by M+E. Neither that
phrase nor 'proletarian dictatorship' mentions 'party'. Neither
phrase mentions 'Lenin', nor the ways in which Lenin and the
Bolsheviks used either phrase. In the Indexes to the 45 Volumes
of Lenin's Collected Works, no entries exist under 'proletarian
dictatorship
'. Instead, people are referred to 'Dictatorship of the
Proletariat
', where hundreds of references are listed.

For a second opinion, I e-mailed a world-renowned Soviet
scholar who studied at the Lenin school in Moscow (not Idaho),
author of several books, and is fluent in the Russian language.
Here is what he wrote back:

"There is only one term in Russian, diktatura proletariata, which
grammatically means
dictatorship of the proletariat, but in English
it is often put
proletarian dictatorship simply to make a smaller
mouthful. There is no distinction whatever. ... Among
Communists it was absolutely interchangeable.
"

Ken Ellis

 

10-24-00

Dear Frank,

Thanks for your response. In the meantime, Mike L. got back to me with the
information that: the Socialism vs. Anarchism pamphlet had been written in 1901,
after the McKinley assassination.
De Leon's description of the socialist program
in that 1901 pamphlet sounded primitive compared to his 1905 description, so
Mike's info confirmed my guess. So, now I really don't need a copy for myself.
I haven't been in touch with the SLP N.O. in a long time, and would almost
rather keep it that way. I don't know what we would have to talk about.

I actually pared down the length of my opus as I prepared it for on-line
availability. The last version I actually printed up in Microsoft Word in 1995
or 96 was 641 pages, but the on-line version, using Appleworks 5 for a word
processor in my year-old iMac, worked out to be 547 pages without the index,
and before conversion into html format.

Unfortunately, no hard copy is available, and I don't really have any plans
for a hard copy version. People should feel free to use the Internet version
as they like.

Like you say, it has a lot of SLP history in it. I'm always excerpting parts of
it to include in the WSM forum, which is very interesting. I'm just plodding
along, doing my best to keep up, while Len W. (and others) keep on saying
the craziest and silliest things. I sometimes wonder if they really don't know
what they are talking about, or whether they are like Petersen, and do know
what they are talking about, but are doing their best to confuse the issues
to their advantage. I suppose that the only way I'll ever find out for sure
will be to keep on doing what I'm doing.

Just as a quick example, LW claims that there's a hell of a lot of difference
between 'proletarian dictatorship' and 'dictatorship of the proletariat', which
a noted Soviet scholar I know says is a lot of bunk because there was only
one way to say it in Russian for sure, and my own weak German says there's
only one way to say it in German as well. Anyway, LW says that Lenin used
'proletarian dictatorship' to indicate a vanguard party's dictatorship over
everyone
, while Marx used 'dictatorship of the proletariat' to indicate a
working class dictatorship. My Soviet friend says that the American
Communists he knew used both phrases interchangeably. English is
a more flexible language, and the short way to say it is easier than
saying it the long way.

LW's very latest is to say that 'proletarian dictatorship' indicates the
dictatorship of a single person (like a Stalin)
, because of the way we can
speak of a worker as a proletarian, so 'a proletarian is a single individual'.
But that would also have to mean that a 'capitalist dictatorship' has to be
the dictatorship of a single capitalist, like a Bill Gates, a Warren Buffet,
or a George Soros. Maybe all that LW would then have to do is figure
out which of the 3 is really the one capitalist dictator in power. Anyway,
Len digs himself deeper and deeper in a hole of his own making, and
I'm sure that that fact isn't lost on everyone in the forum.

You may have noted the fresh arrival of a Scott W., freed from the clutches of
the SLP. He wanted your e-mail address, so I gave it to him. He was very happy
to join the WSM forum, and seems to feel quite at home there discussing his
'socialism within capitalism' experiment. Personally, I hope he can make it
work. He seems to have just the right quantity and quality of energy for it.

Hope I didn't bother you with too much writing this time. Take care.

Ken Ellis

 

10-24-00

Dear Editor,

I recently read an interesting article on overwork entitled "Why hard work
isn't working any more
" BY SHARON BEDER. I have an article about the
same topic entitled "The Pressing Necessity to Share Work". Feel free to
use it as you like. I have a much longer version on line entitled "Replacing
Broken Socialist Dreams
", as well as a 500 page book.

Ken Ellis

The Pressing Necessity to Share Work

Sharing Work by means of reducing hours of labor is mandated by the
increasing replacement of human labor by computers and technology. Work-
sharing is a much more feasible, logical and ethical plan for arriving at social
justice than are socialist, communist and anarchist schemes. Abolishing private
property
and replacing capitalism were plausible ideas in the era of Karl Marx,
but are presently inapplicable to the democracies in which most people live. In
Marx's era, Europe was dominated by intransigent monarchies offering few
freedoms to the bulk of their citizens. Marx saw opportunities for socialists to
lead struggles to replace monarchies with democracies, and to further develop
fledgling democracies into a unified workers' state he would have described as a
'proletarian dictatorship'. Workers were to create their own democracies, abolish
capitalism and private ownership, and create a vast co-operative to produce goods
and services, thereby enabling complete participation in the economy, while
eliminating poverty, unemployment, and competition between workers for
scarce jobs.

A revolution in Russia was an essential part of Marx's scenario, and was seen
as promoting similar revolutions in Europe, and vice versa. The failure of Europe
to revolt in sympathy with Russia in 1917 actually spelled doom for the 'isms, for it
meant that the replacement of capitalism with socialism was not going to be the great
lever of social progress it was touted to be. Instead of simultaneous revolutions in
the most advanced countries
, the world witnessed communist-inspired revolutions in
backward countries, one at a time. Beginning in 1989, the replacement of communism
in Eastern bloc nations and Russia was further proof that communism was merely
a temporary stage between feudalism and capitalism.

That private property will endure for a long time is proven by the experience
of America during its Civil War of the 1860's. Due to the dwindling majority
held by the South in the Senate, the South became so worried about losing
slavery that it attacked the North at Fort Sumter in order to force slavery upon
the whole country. The North retaliated and so crushed the South's ability to
resist that the North could have broken up Southern plantations in order to
provide freed slaves with the suggested '40 acres and a mule', but the lack of
political will to violate property rights forced the freed slaves to go without land.

Though the 'isms have long been obsolete due to a lack of monarchies
to overthrow, radical groups persist out of inertia. Because so much social
injustice remains all over the world, and so many people (even in the USA)
remain hungry out of no fault of their own, almost any imaginable movement
can still attract a following, with or without a feasible program. Unemployment
remains around 10% in the most advanced countries, even in the USA, whose
government is embarrassed to broadcast the highest unemployment (U-6)
figure, so usually reports a lower (U-3) figure that fails to account for
everyone without work.

Radical groups working in a vacuum of popular support have also overlooked
Marx's humanitarian reason for socialism, that of enabling full participation in
the economy
. Their inability to move beyond socialism dooms them to endless
promotion of static party lines. They often organize into bureaucratic forms
featuring fewer freedoms of self-expression than allowed by the very governments
they would like to overthrow. They feature internal secrecy, cults of personality,
censorship, sectarianism, and massive states of denial of common knowledge.

Less radical groups that would 'tax and spend' their way to socialism overlook
the fact that robots will continue to replace human labor, a process that could
very well be complete within another 50 years. Some remain attached to the
'work creation' ideology founded during the Depression Era, when labor's
program for a 30 hour week nearly became law, but was shoved aside in favor
of taxing and spending to fuller employment. Constantly increasing productivity
of labor presently renders the tax and spend plan more impractical than ever,
because putting everyone to work at productive labor would waste resources
at a far greater rate than was possible during the 1930's.

People in advanced countries have shared work in tough times for nearly 200
years, and will continue to do so in the future. Progressive people who are tired
of getting nowhere with radical programs would do well to look more closely
into sharing work by reducing hours. If the higher common goal of socialists,
communists and anarchists of reaching a classless and stateless society remains
desirable, the only feasible means of getting to that goal will be by reducing work
hours. When the work week finally gets so ridiculously low that we shift to an all-
volunteer work force, that will also spell the end of capitalism as it was known for
centuries. At the same time, the only way for us to equitably share the products of
whatever entity creates the necessities of life a few decades from now will be to
learn to share what little work that remains for humans to do. Our continued
failure to learn to share work equitably can only translate into more wasted
resources and an unnecessary prolongation of human suffering.

864 words

A fuller text entitled 'Replacing Broken Socialist Dreams' can be read at my
web site http://www.libcap.net. An even longer examination
of similar issues is also available there.

Ken Ellis worked as a broadcast engineer for KPFA-FM in Berkeley, California,
and hosted the talk show 'Labor and the Left' on Free Radio Berkeley.

 

10-24-00

In some of his 4 messages on the 18th, Len alleged that
'replacing the capitalist state with a workers' state is a Leninist
invention
', ignoring all of the concrete data from M+E about
'workers seizing political power and turning the means of
production into state property
'. Do M+E have to exhume
themselves from their graves to stare Len in the face and say
that they wanted a universal proletarian dictatorship, and that
'proletarian dictatorship' is just another term for a workers' state?

> you have been angry that we do not acknowledge your viewpoint on this.

I think the fact that I cannot be censored in this forum is tacit
acknowledgement of the validity of my work. It may not be agreement,
but it shows that people are at least interested. People respect
reasonable attempts to arrive at feasible plans for social justice.

Len asserted a few things without providing specific concrete
examples as evidence. He also says that I don't know this, I don't
understand that, etc.
I will try not to reassert what I have already
proven in past messages, so will instead try to rebut some of
Len's current mistakes.

Len asserts an alleged difference between Lenin's and Marx's use
of the term 'proletarian dictatorship' without stating a single actual
difference. There isn't a substantive difference between M+E+L on
that subject. All 3 recognize the proletarian dictatorship in theory as
a workers' state in the process of dissolution, which is most of what
anyone would need to know about it, for the proletarian dictatorship
didn't happen the way M+E wanted it to happen. What happened in
Russia did not match what M+E wanted to happen, and even Lenin
recognized that fact often enough.

Anyone who thinks that 'dictatorship of the proletariat' could mean
a 'dictatorship OVER the proletariat' would then have to deal with
the possibility that Marx himself proposed a dictatorship OVER the
'proletariat'
, which would then mean that he made suckers out of billions
of people. Could that many people have been that dumb for so long?

> You have consistently argued that you believe
>
Marx and Engels wanted to replace the capitalist
> state with a 'worker's state'. This is something
> we maintain
is a Leninist invention. We do not
> wish to *replace* one State in order to build a
> new state (something Lenin envisioned in his
> work '
State and Revolution').

Len obviously recognizes the historical and theoretical entity
known as the 'dictatorship of the proletariat', since the phrase
is impossible to avoid in the writings of M+E. For Len, though, an
insurmountable gap exists between the 'dictatorship of the proletariat'
and a 'workers' state'. Len thinks, 'M+E wanted a 'dictatorship of the
proletariat
' - yes, but, a 'workers' state'? - No!'. Why not? We will have
to interrogate, since the answer is not forthcoming in a willing manner:

Can the upper classes wield state power in theory?
Can the upper classes wield state power in practice?
Can the workers wield state power in theory?
Can the workers wield state power in practice?
Is the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' a form of state?

Not wanting to put words in his mouth, I would nevertheless
guess that Len would answer 'yes' to #1 and #2, but 'no' to the
rest, but we will patiently await his answer.

> And we do not wish to *abolish* the State
> as the first order of Socialist *revolution*.

I thought that socialists DID want to abolish the state. What
about Marx? Did he not want to abolish the monarchies which
he and Engels were fighting on the continent of Europe, and
replace those monarchies with bourgeois democracies, and
then further develop those fledgling democracies into a
universal 'dictatorship of the proletariat'?

> That would be ridiculous since we ourselves call
> upon the majority of the working class to seize
> the power of the State to accomplish its tasks.

But, what if the state is an old monarchy rotten ripe for overthrow?
In Marx's time, overthrow was always the 'first order of the socialist
revolution', and was inseparable from winning the battle for democracy.
If Len is unwilling to smash old monarchies, that would put him in favor
of the working class somehow WIELDING THE OLD GHOSTLY MONARCHIES
'to accomplish its tasks', whatever those tasks were to be. Len couldn't
have forgotten that 'the working class cannot simply lay hold of the
ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes
'.

Or, was Len talking about workers not smashing, and instead
wielding, their democracies? That would be a different scenario
I think we could agree on.

Len quoted a pamphlet:

> 'Anarchism and Socialism' .. was published in the U.S. by the
>
Charles Kerr Co. which had ties to the U.S. Socialist Party (the
> party of Eugene Debs). The publisher's introduction notes:
>
>
"The anarchist desire to abolish the State at one blow,
> and to abolish money, etc., in much the same way, springs
> from their inability to understand the institutions of
> capitalist society. To many of them the State is simply
> the result of people laying faith in authority. Give up
> the belief and the State will cease to exist. It is a myth
> like God and rests entirely on faith. The anarchist's
> desire for the abolition of the State arises from entirely
> different concepts to that of the communists
[Socialists -
> LW]
. To these anarchist anti-authoritarians the State is
> simply bad. It is the most authoritarian thing in sight.
> It interferes with individual freedom and consequently is
> the greatest obstruction to 'absolute liberty' and other
> utopian desires of the champions of individualism.
"

You have to wonder what a publisher's note has to do with
much in this debate. I found the quote to be useless, except in
the way it could be noted that 'the abolition of the state' is once
again discussed out of the context of monarchy or democracy,
so is therefore instructive in its vagueness, for the anarchists are
the worst offenders in not distinguishing between monarchies
and democracies, since anarchists would gladly abolish either.

> Communists also want a society without a State but
> realize that such can only come about when society is
> without classes. The aim of the communist movement is
> to
destroy the capitalist form of the State and substitute
> a proletarian form during the time in which society is
> undergoing its classless transformation.

Notice that the publisher would not destroy the capitalist state,
but only the capitalist FORM of state. And, what is this capitalist
form of state? None other than a democratic republic, of course, for
we know that the alternative to a democratic form is a monarchical
form, which is the feudal form of state for kings and queens, but
not for capitalists. So, now we know that the publisher wants to
do away with democracies. Is that why Len likes it so much?

The publisher would destroy democracies, and replace them
with a mysterious "proletarian form during the time in which
society is undergoing its classless transformation.
" But, there is
no need for any mystery about that form, for M+E specified that
form as a democratic republic. Must I repeat a quote? OK, but
only one from Engels, in his "Critique of the Draft Social-
Democratic Programme of 1891
" (MESW III, p. 435):

"If one thing is certain it is that our Party and the working class
can only come to power under the form of a democratic republic.
This is even the specific form for the dictatorship of the proletariat,
as the Great French Revolution has already shown.
"

M+E wanted to replace monarchies with democracies, and made
that program clear in many a passage. Len continued to quote:

> When all property is centralized into
> the hands of this working class 'State'

There we have it! A working class 'state'! The very thing that Len
has been reluctant to admit - the PUBLISHER admits. But ...

> [please note that the term working class 'State' is put
> into quotation marks since it means
not a new State, but
> something
very different - LW]

But, the elation is short-lived, for, what the publisher gave with
one hand, Len took away with the other. It would have been too
good to be true for Len and the publisher to admit that Marx's
program consisted of turning the means of production into state
property
, even though that's what M+E made clear often enough.
Len says that his working class state is "very different" from [Marx's]
working class state, but HOW different we are not told. Maybe his
new form will not be different enough to give it its own name, but
we will have to wait for Len to speak again on this issue. We may
be getting closer to a definition of this mysterious something
which is to replace the capitalist democracy! Len quoted more ...

> and when the administration of things has taken the place
> of political dominance, the State, in its final form will have
> withered away. Therefore, the communist realizes that
the
> State cannot be abolished in the manner visualized by
> anarchists
, but that it must be used, that is, the proletariat
> must be raised 'to the position of ruling class,' for the
> purpose of expropriating the capitalists
and putting an end
> to the exploitation of the producing class. The State is not
> abolished. The State dies out
in the hands of the workers
> when there is no longer an opposing class to coerce.'
>
> In broad and general outline, the
WSM conception is much in
> agreement with this.

With some differences, that also approximates Marx's position as well. Len quoted:

> the State cannot be abolished in the manner
> visualized by anarchists
, but that it must be used

This unfortunately is unclear, for it says nothing about the form
of the old state. If 'the old state cannot be done away with, and
instead must be used', then this should have been specified as
Marx's program for pre-existing democracies, such as the USA
and England of Marx's era.

Len then referred me to the esteemed scholar Hal Draper, who
I'm sure would have rolled over in his grave to read what Len
handed us. I have a few of Hal's volumes. In fact, I met him
before he passed away, for I had been doing some volunteer
library work for the Center for Socialist History he was
associated with, and sort of 'inherited' a couple of his home-
made bookshelves which no one else had a place for.

> I will end by quoting Principle 6 of the Principles
> of the political parties which are part of the
WSM:
>
> 6. That as the machinery of government, including the
> armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the
> monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from
> the workers, the working class must organize consciously
> and politically for the conquest of the powers of government,
> in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be
> converted from an instrument of oppression into an agent
> of emancipation and the overthrow of plutocratic privilege.'
>
> The fact that the
WSM believes in the 'conquest of the
> powers of government' should dispel the notion that we
> are Bakuninists and un-Socialist.

Everything in point 6 was consistent with working within
democracies. Conquest of political power is regarded by
many of the people in this forum as useful only for abolishing
political power, just the way the ASLP also believes that winning
the big election would enable the abolition of political power in
the USA. Including the big election in the WSM program is
just a matter of the party being semi-realistic about living in
a democracy. A truly realistic program for a democracy
would never attack the institution of private property.

Ken Ellis

 

10-24-00

In another message on the 18th, Len quoted me:

>> M+E always expected workers to wield a transitional state
>> of their own making, a state with a democratic republican
>> form, a state in which the party of the proletariat would rule
>> simply because it was to be the majority in a democratic state,
>> and a state in which the battle between worker and boss would
>> be fought to a finish.
The state was to cease to have a reason for
>> existence only after class distinctions had been abolished, but M+E
>> did not forecast a quick abolition of class distinctions. Therein lay
>> a big difference between M+E and Bakunin.
>
> You have things confused. In both the above address and
> the
Communist Manifesto, Marx speaks of the battle of
> democracy, of winning political supremacy
. That is a
>
far cry from capturing the State and building a new
> one, as you maintain.

In the context of having just overthrown a monarchy, building a
new democratic state is the ESSENCE of winning the battle for
democracy, and that's the only context in which Marx intended
'winning the battle for democracy' to be construed.* Marx knew
that the battle for democracy had already been won in the few
democracies of his era. Political supremacy in democracies has
always been a mere matter of one credible party contesting other
credible parties for political power by means of elections. If a
party's program represented a huge departure from the values
upon which a democracy had been founded, the party would
get nowhere in the electoral process.

* 2002 note: The MECW shows that the essence of winning the
battle of democracy is 'winning universal suffrage', enjoyed only to
varying degrees in Marx's day, even in democracies. (End of note.)

> The battle of democracy was not to establish a
> democratic republic. Engels was
especially clear
> on that point.

A la contraire. Engels was especially clear on the democratic
republic as the specific form of proletarian dictatorship after
overthrowing monarchies. In his "Critique of the Draft of the
Social-Democratic Programme of 1891
", Engels wrote
(MESW 3, p. 435):

"What are these ticklish, but very important points?

"FIRST. If one thing is certain it is that our Party and the working
class can only come to power under the form of a democratic
republic. This is even the specific form for the dictatorship of the
proletariat, as the Great French Revolution has already shown.

"The system of small states and Prussianism are the two sides
of the antithesis now gripping Germany in a vice, in which one
side must always serve as the excuse and justification for the
existence of the other.

"What should take its place? In my view, the proletariat can only
use the form of the one and indivisible republic.
" ...

From this, one can easily see that Engels wanted the old
German feudal states to be replaced by a democratic republic.
Engels went on to state opposition to creating a federal republic
like the USA, and called for the organization of a centralized
republic. For Germany, Engels expected the revolution to skip
the bourgeois-democratic intermediary stage altogether, and
expected Germany to pass from a monarchy to a workers'
democratic republic in one leap.

> It was WITHIN the democratic republic that the battle
> of democracy could be fought to best advantage.

But, if a country already HAS a democratic republic, then the
battle for democracy has already been won, and it becomes a
matter of workers USING it to their advantage. If not democratic,
then how does a country with a freshly overthrown monarchy
BECOME democratic unless its progressive forces CREATE a
democratic republic? In his letter to Lafargue in Paris of
March 6, 1894, Engels wrote (MESC, p. 447):

"With respect to the proletariat the republic differs from the
monarchy only in that it is the ready-for-use political form for the
future rule of the proletariat. You
[in France] are at an advantage
compared with us in already having it; we
[Germans] for our part
shall have to spend twenty-four hours to make it. But a republic,
like every other form of government, is determined by its content;
so long as it is a form of bourgeois rule it is as hostile to us as any
monarchy (except that the forms of this hostility are different).
"

If the working class of an already existing democracy wants its
party to come to power, it would have little choice but for its party
to contend for power in elections, just like any other party, which
is where freedom of speech plays a vital role. In Marx's day,
enjoying a democracy in the West was the exception, rather
than the rule that it is today.

> Thus this republic was not the workers state,
>
nor the transitional period to Socialism.

Len should go back in time to tell that to the Communards. The
Commune would have been a player in the transition if the rest of
Europe had supported Paris with simultaneous revolutions of their
own, and had created new republics of the type of the Commune. The
election of working class parties in existing democracies like the USA
and England, in conjunction with the simultaneous overthrow of the
monarchies of Europe and Russia
(and their subsequent replacement
with Communes), was to mark the beginning of Marx's proposed
world-wide revolution. All of the Commune-type republics would
have supported one another as well as the new working class
governments in the democracies, and the whole mass of them
would have implemented communist policies in their unified
proletarian dictatorship on its way to classless, stateless, etc.less
society. I can't think of any other scenario in which communizing
property
would have been feasible. Now that the critical epoch of
history for which Marx's scenario was plausible is no longer here,
making property common has become unfeasible as well.

> So, to reiterate again (a point I have made many times)
> like Marx we DO believe
the state must be captured by
> the working class
. We do NOT believe in its immediate
> abolition as the first step of the socialist revolution.

That's good, because trying to get rid of a democracy is a pretty
tall order. And if, as Marx says, the final battle between worker and
boss will be fought to a finish in a democracy
(i.e., to the abolition
of class distinctions
), then it might be wise to think about keeping
democracies around for awhile, even after winning the big election.
But, a lot of the trick to getting elected is having an acceptable
program, and how many people are willing to establish
common property as a matter of policy?

> Later you write about the SLP:
>
>> Many describe the proposed take-over of political
>> power as only of very short duration. It doesn't sound
>> very different from the ASLP's abolition of the state at
>> the ballot box
, but without the Socialist Industrial Union
>> take-over of industries.
>
> That's not quite true. The
SLP did not wish to abolish
> the state at the ballot box
as you state. Let me quote from
> Daniel De Leon in his work
Socialism Versus Anarchism:
>
> "
The difference between these [De Leon refers to conservatives
> and capitalist apologists - LW]
and the outspoken Anarchists -
> is that the former imagine conditions can be changed by the mere
> capturing of governments, while the latter hold that conditions can
> be changed by the mere decapitations of governments - is a
> difference, not of kind, but of variety.
>
> "
The mere change, or the mere abolition of the
> governmental pimple can, obviously, bring no
> improvement, whatever else it may do.
>
> "
Consequently, today, arrayed against the whole clerical and
> lay Anarchistic conception of government, which, logically
> enough, produces such assassinations as the recent one in
> Buffalo, and to which such idiotic campaigns as the municipal
> campaign now on in New York are closely akin - arrayed
> against the whole pack stands the Socialist movement. It says
> to the working man: True enough, you must seek to capture the
> government, but not as either a finality or a starter. The overthrow
> of the government you must aim at must be to the end of using
> the governmental power to perfect the revolution that must have
> preceded your conquest of the public powers.
"

De Leon here tells workers to 'capture the government'. Then, he
says that workers are to 'aim at the overthrow of government'. So,
first the workers capture government, and then workers overthrow
their government
'to the end of using the governmental power to
perfect the revolution that must have preceded your conquest of
the public powers.
' So, the self-overthrow 'perfects a revolution
that occurred previous to the conquest of power
'. This vaguely
approximates the SIU program, in that the organization of workers
into Socialist Industrial Unions precedes the election so that the SIU
can replace the state after the election. What De Leon described here
is rather poorly formulated compared to the SIU program I learned
decades ago, leading me to think that this pamphlet must have been
written some years before 1905. In that year, his program of abolition
of the state at the ballot box
was made perfectly clear, as quoted in my
message 'Len on De Leon 2' on the 18th. But Len hardly pays attention
to anything that contradicts his philosophy, and keeps on insisting that
the ASLP did not want to abolish the state at the ballot box.

Scott W., please tell Len what De Leon wanted to do.

A late word has arrived to inform us that De Leon's 'Socialism
Vs. Anarchism
' pamphlet was written in 1901 to commemorate
the assassination of President McKinley, which helps explain
the 1901 pamphlet's rather primitive program description,
compared to its 1905 formulation.

> What IS abolished is the political character of the
> State once the conscious majority of the working
> class wrests it from control of the capitalist class.

That doesn't sound very Marxist, nor smart. 'Abolishing
the political character of the state
' could mean that all of the
legislation protecting workers could go down the drain. Such
a party program is not likely to attract many workers.

> The bureaucracy and military machine dismantled.

There's no precedent in Marxism or history for this.

> The majority proceeds to establish common
> ownership and thus classless society, class
> distinctions, class oppression (to which you
> agreed there would be no need for a State).

If the WSM gets elected on its platform of establishing common
ownership, then there's little to stop the rest of the program from
being implemented. The only question is whether people will come
to regard private ownership as an evil to be done away with.

Ken Ellis

 

10-24-00

In another message, Len quoted my paragraphs about the AIMS
Institute
and the Girard-Perry History of the ASLP, and stated:

> Firstly, I do not accept what this Institute offers and
> I do not consider it as *THE* authority on Marxism.

Does Len consider anyone to be "*THE* authority on Marxism"?

> Secondly, the quote from Girard and Perry's book says
> that
the DeLeonists were in a "tradition shared" with the
> council communists and anarchists.
No problem there.
>
All socialists "share a tradition" with anarchists. Marx
> "shared" a tradition with Bakunin!

Besides both wanting to smash old monarchies, which tradition
did Marx share with Bakunin?

> That the SLP rejected Leninism and social democratic
> reformism does not in itself make them un-Marxist.

Then, what DOES make the ASLP un-Marxist?

> This whole deal about defining socialist groups as either
> "statist" or "non-statist"
clouds the issue entirely.

Why is that? Which issue does it cloud?

> Let me argue like you do Ken, just for a moment.
>
> Let me start defining whether one is socialist
> or anarchist on the basis of whether or not they
> advocate "smashing" the state. You know, Marx
> didn't want to "smash" the State. Bakunin did!

Well, that's not entirely true, for we know that Marx wanted
to smash monarchies and replace them with democracies. As
Marx wrote in "The Civil War in France": "this new Commune,
which breaks the modern state power
". Where M+B differ is that
Bakunin would have smashed democracies as well as monarchies,
and would have replaced them all with an administration of things,
aka his associations of workers.

> You know who else wanted to "smash the state"? Lenin!
> He said it right there in his major theoretical work
> "
State and Revolution"!

One cannot read the works of M, E or L without reading about
the TYPE of state each was interested in smashing. Lenin certainly
wanted to abolish the Romanov dynasty, but differed from M+E
by wanting to overthrow bourgeois democracies as well. In that
sense, it puts him between Marx and Bakunin, but Lenin differed
from Bakunin by wanting to replace bourgeois states with workers'
states
instead of with a classless and stateless administration of things.
(Lenin was not a traditional state capitalist because state capitalists
would not smash states, whereas Lenin advocated smashing and
replacing any kind of state with a workers' state.)

> In fact, the right wing of the Mensheviks
> were
correct. Their leaders Tsereteli and Dan
> accused Lenin of wanting to "smash the state"
> and they said LENIN WAS AN ANARCHIST!

If Lenin was an anarchist, then Marx also had to be an anarchist
for advocating that workers smash monarchies and replace them
with democracies, bourgeois or proletarian. Lenin would also
smash monarchies, but would also smash democracies,
which he shared with Bakunin. Len quoted me:

>> That may very well represent De Leon's views, but
>> it doesn't make De Leon a statist. So, if his program
>> wasn't social-democratic, nor Leninist, then it had to
>> be a variation of an anarchist theme.
>
> Let me continue to argue
in your fashion.
>
> Since Lenin
wasn't* a social democrat and he broke
> from the ranks of the socialist movement of the time,
>
then he MUST be an anarchist! There is no other
> thing he could be! you only have three choices!

* 2002 note: As a one-time member of the RSDLP (Russian
Social-Democratic Labor Party
), Lenin most assuredly WAS
a social-democrat before becoming a communist. (End of note.)

The choices Len limits us to are: social-democrat (which
we know about); socialist (which we don't know about); and
anarchist (which we know something about). But, Len didn't
mention another possibility. Except for 'socialist', which is
too fuzzy, let's define them:

Social-Democrats would get themselves elected in democracies.
[In the First International, M+E distinguished social democrats
from ordinary petty-bourgeois democrats. The latter wanted to
replace monarchies with republics, but also advocated property
qualifications on the vote, whereas social democrats wanted
universal suffrage in the new republics. An old precondition
to being a communist was to first of all be a social democrat
and advocate universal suffrage. This history is generally lost.]

Marxists would also get themselves elected in democracies,
but wouldn't hesitate to overthrow monarchies and replace
them with either bourgeois or proletarian democracies.
(Bourgeois democracies were to be further developed
and consolidated into the universal proletarian dictatorship.)

Leninists would smash both monarchies AND existing
democracies and replace them with workers' states.

Anarchists would replace both monarchies and democracies
with an administration of things.

So, one can see that we have at least 4 choices, not just 3.
This also shows that Lenin wasn't an anarchist.

> I would like to ask Ken a few questions.
> When did Lenin become a Leninist?

Maybe when he was in the womb.

snip a few questions asking if Lenin became a Leninist during
one of a few milestones of his life.

> The reason I ask is that Lenin can also at times be defined as
> "anti-statist" (
using Ken's definitions of "statist" and "anti-statist").

In what manner could Lenin be regarded as an anti-statist?
If people advocate using the state after the election (or after
overthrowing monarchies), that would identify them as statist.
If people would not use the state after the election (or after
overthrowing monarchies), then I would regard them as 'non-
statist'. Leninists and social-democrats are clearly statist in
that regard, while anarchists and the ASLP are not.

Ken Ellis

 

10-24-00

Shaun,

This is an unusual request. Doesn't Len want to debate anymore? I have 3
other messages in the hopper, almost ready to go. Should I replace all of
the occurrences of 'Len' with 'my worthy opponent' or something like that?
I really don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and I will gladly do what you
say if Len is not up to debating all of this. All I really want to do is set the
record straight and not let mistakes go uncorrected.

Send a little more guidance, Shaun. Let's work this out to our
mutual satisfaction. Thanks for the message, and apologies to
anyone for whom apologies are due.

> Ken,
>
> You've stated before that you want to have the last word -
> you have it. Please at least do not address your messages
> directly, or indirectly, to Len W. for at least a while.
> Thanks.

 

10-24-00

A correspondent began a message by quoting me, but only
served up the quote as an example of my alleged inability to
prove that De Leon was an anarchist except by quoting other
books. Harumphhh! As an old friend used to say: "I resemble that
accusation!
" The correspondent must have forgotten that I had just
finished proving that De Leon was an anarchist by quoting De Leon
himself on the 18th. The correspondent probably only insinuated that
shoddiness on my methodology in order to use my alleged example
as an excuse to stoop to that low level of 'proof' himself. What are we
playing now, follow the leader? While the correspondent said that I
went that-away, I really didn't go that-away at all. But, having said
that I went thataway was all the justification the correspondent
needed to go thataway himself:

> Since I have taken up Ken's "logic" in this, let me
> continue to offer "proof" that
Lenin was an anarchist.
> I quote from the
left-Internationalist Menshevik, NN.
> Sukhanov's history, "
The Russian Revolution",
> Princeton,1983 edition, p. 287:
>
> "Tsereteli was supported by an enormous majority of the
> meeting
[the joint session of Mensheviks, Bolsheviks and
> independents - TC]
, including many Bolsheviks. But the
> Menshevik leader, while emphasizing the absence of objective
> premises for a Socialist overturn in Russia, was still far from
> summing up the gist of Lenin's position
[Lenin's speech at the
> Finland Station and his 'April These' - TC]
with as much success
> as a short, brilliant speech by the old Social-Democrat I. P.
> Goldbenberg, the most active of the would-be unifiers,
> historically a Bolshevik but theoretically a defensist:
>
> "Lenin has now made himself a candidate for one European
> throne that has been vacant for thirty years - the throne of
> Bakunin! Lenin's new words
echo something old - the
> superannuated truths of primitive anarchism.'
"
>
> Sukhanov then goes on to argue that
Lenin overthrew
> every Marxist principle in this period
and then accuses
> him of
"heedless Leftism", "primitive demagogy" and
> "
anarcho-sedition".
>
> Once again, (
using the method of argumentation of Ken
> Ellis
) proving that Lenin was indeed an anarchist.

As shown earlier, the correspondent alleged that 'the method of
argumentation
' I used was merely to quote or use a couple of other
books alleging that De Leon was an anarchist, forgetting that De Leon's
own words comprised more than adequate proof that the abolition of the
state at the ballot box
was a perfect anarchist method for abolishing a
democratic state, such as the USA.

Imagine, on the other hand, us having to accept the word of a
Menshevik that 'Lenin was an anarchist'. Does that mean that from
now on we have to accept the word of whoever the correspondent
decides to quote about any subject? If so, then maybe all of my
volumes of M, E, and L are useless because someone came
along AFTER M, E, and L that contradicted everything that
they had written and thought about themselves and their
belief systems.

One has to continue to wonder what exactly Lenin did that would
have earned him those awful labels of "heedless Leftism", "primitive
demagogy
" and "anarcho-sedition". Do I smell a little hatred on the part
of that Menshevik? Was the hatred because Lenin helped overthrow a
monarchy in a backward country, and then overthrew a bourgeois
democracy in order to put his party in power? Maybe that's what all
of the trouble is about. Maybe some people are so jealous that they
can't stand to see others succeed in what they set out to do. Don't
forget that it wasn't Lenin's fault that the rest of Europe didn't follow
Russia's example. Lenin led the way, but no one followed, dooming
the socialist experiment to ultimate failure.

Ken Ellis

 

10-25-00

In response to my suggestion that we promote a Million Overworked
March
on Washington, Martin wrote:

> That would be a great gesture but unfortunately most people are too busy!

Very astute observation, Martin. But, a million men weren't too busy to march
on Washington within recent years, nor were a million women and moms, etc.,
so does Martin imply that popular concern with overwork is not yet as unifying
an issue as 'brotherhood', 'sisterhood', or etc.hood? If so, then maybe he is right
about our 'busy-ness' pre-empting such an overt expression of activism.

Maybe the issue isn't big enough yet to justify a march. If not big enough now, it
will be someday, but 'when' is a good question. A march on Washington seems to
be a good test of popular consciousness of various issues. Our issue may have to
wait for more development, as in 'quantity turning into quality'. In the meantime, we
could be factors in the 'quantity' department by testing the waters wherever we go.

Instead of a 'Million Overworked March on Washington', maybe an 'Overworked
Millions March on Washington
' might sound better to the ears.

Ken Ellis

 

10-25-00

A correspondent recently replied to Kevin's question about
proletarian dictatorship:

> While I do not have the German wording, here is a letter from
> Marx to his friend Weydemeyer in 1852, which is I think important:

snip introductory material

> "2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to
> the dictatorship of the proletariat;
> 3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes
> the transition to the abolition of all classes
> and to a classless society."
>
> Point 3 is the key. That the
dictatorship of the proletariat
> ONLY CONSTITUTES THE TRANSITION to a classless society.

Here the correspondent belittled the dictatorship of the
proletariat
as a transition of zero consequence, as does any
other anarchist, but the post-revolutionary agenda is the
point of departure toward either anarchism or Marxism.

2002 note: Here I was being unnecessarily harshly contrarian
again. I should have asked the correspondent if a 'transition
to a classless society
' would be the most terrible thing for
a socialist to work for. (End of note.)

> Marx does not delineate a "worker's state" here

2002 note: Certainly not 'here', but Marx credited Bakunin with
formulating 'workers' state', but doesn't seem to have found fault with it.
'Workers' state' also shows up in an early work of M+E. (End of note.)

But, directly after the elections in democracies, and after over-
throwing monarchies, was when Marx expected workers to really
begin to wield their working-class policies in their states. This was
to be the beginning of the slow abolition of class distinctions as made
possible by both legislation and economic development. But, this political
power is precisely what the correspondent does not want workers to wield
for some reason, and intelligent people should ask 'why not'. Now for the
correspondent's utopian vision of beauty and light:

> no formal dictatorship of governmental power,
> but a social fact that the working class (the
> proletariat) has won political power and wields
> this power to create a classless society.

This is a matter of basic definition which I find difficult to believe
the correspondent could get so wrong.* Can he conceive of the capitalist
class wielding THEIR political power without a state? If the correspondent
can't, then why can he conceive of THE WORKING CLASS wielding political
power without a state? Perhaps he forgot what M+E wrote in the Communist
Manifesto
(MESW 1, p. 127): "Political power, properly so called, is merely
the organised power of one class for oppressing another.
" Notice that M+E
don't specify political power as merely capitalist oppression over workers,
rather M +E left it a 2-way street in case working class parties would someday
come to dominate in their states. Again, we know that whatever did happen in
the world in the 20th century was not part of Marx's scenario.

* 2002 note: It wasn't far off the mark. I was being needlessly contrarian again. (End of note.)

> His other writings indicate that such "dictatorship"
> actually extends democracy at all levels.

No argument there.

> The working class in power is the "dictatorship", just
> as the capitalist class in power today can be said to be
> a "dictatorship of the capitalist class".

The capitalists wield political power through THEIR parties and
state machinery, but the correspondent doesn't think that Marx
wanted workers to wield political power the same way. He must
have forgotten what Engels wrote in his 1894 article on "The Peasant
Question in France and Germany
" (MESW 3, p. 474): "As soon as our
Party is in possession of political power it has simply to expropriate
the big landed proprietors just like the manufacturers in industry.
"

Notice that Engels spoke of the working class PARTY in possession
of political power, not the working class itself. That is because parties
represent class interests, and the workers' party was to represent the
interests of the workers in the democratic proletarian dictatorship.
Workers were expected to elect workers (instead of electing
capitalists, as they do today). If Marx had expected the whole
working class to possess and wield political power, that would
require a mighty big hall of Congress or Parliament to seat
them all. Let's not play to the level of pre-schoolers.

> Marx referred to it as "the workers substitute their
> revolutionary dictatorship for the dictatorship of the
> bourgeois class.
" (from Marx's "On Anarchism and
> Anarcho-Syndicalism
").

What the correspondent actually quoted from was Marx's short
article: "Indifference to Politics". The anti-anarchist volume named
by the correspondent contained articles written by Marx, Engels, and
Lenin. The correspondent gave Marx credit for the whole book because
he didn't want the audience to know that it contained articles written by
Lenin as well as by Marx and Engels. The correspondent didn't want us
to get the impression that M, E and L were of like or similar minds on
the subject of anarchism, as well as on so many other subjects.

> Marx makes clear his differences with the anarchists,
> that when the working class comes to power it crushes
> capitalist power and "
instead of laying down arms and
> abolishing the state, they
[the working class - TC] give
> it a revolutionary and transitional form.
" Note here that
>
this "State" is only "transitional". A new state is not
> organised. This is a State already in transition.

The Correspondent would love to be able to make enough of
a distinction between 'a state' and 'a state in transition' to get his
readers to think that 'a state in transition is not a state at all'! But,
one would only have to read a little M+E to see that the interpretation
the correspondent gives to 'a state in transition' is not at all what M+E
implied. According to M+E, the state in transition was to be a workers'
state
, the means of production were to be turned into the property of that
workers' state, the workers' state was to be a political institution powerful
enough to prevent counter-revolution, the workers' state was to have a
democratic-republican form (like the Paris Commune), and the workers'
state
was to fade away in proportion to the decline in class distinctions.
The correspondent can agree with Marx up to the point of getting rid of
the old monarchy, but the correspondent shows his anarchist colors by
not wanting workers to create a democracy of their own, or to use a
pre-existing democracy to press their own class interests.

At the time of the Paris Commune, lots of words were exchanged
in the General Council of the First International on the subject of
democratic republics. On page 164 of Vol. 4 of the Minutes, Citizen
Marx reportedly said: "The International wanted to establish the Social
and Democratic Republic, and therefore it was high treason to belong
to it.
" On the next page, at the same meeting, Citizen Engels reportedly
stated: "No republican movement could go on here without expanding
into a working-class movement and if such a movement was to take
place it would be as well to know how it went on. Before our ideas
could be carried into practice we must have the republic.
"

> We have to remember that the term "dictatorship" in 1852
> meant something different than what it does today.

This might have been a good time to mention Hal Draper's
research showing that 'dictatorship' in Marx's day meant a
temporary period of extraordinary rule
, whereas 'dictatorship'
today has lost its 'temporary' connotation and now implies
permanence as much as harsh rule.

> Just as in 1852 the word "propaganda" did not have
> the bad connotations as it has today or the term "party"
> which meant something different from what we accept
> as a political party today.

That certainly didn't follow from anything M+E wrote. In 'The
Housing Question
' of 1872-3, Engels wrote: "Since each political
party sets out to establish its rule in the state, so the German Social-
Democratic Workers' Party is necessarily striving to establish its rule,
the rule of the working class, hence "class domination."
" That political
scenario is very much like it has always been, so it is not very appropriate
for the correspondent to imply that 'a working class party is to be very
different from any other kind of party
'. Engels made it clear that real
parties seek to establish their rule in the state
. How else could they
implement their own class policy? Maybe the correspondent wants
the whole working class to occupy the halls of Congress or Parliament.
Could they all fit? 'No' is why we have representative democracies.

> The dictatorship of the proletariat was indeed OF the
> proletariat
, remembering that Marx believed the maxim
> that
only the workers could emancipate themselves. It
> was clear that he did not mean dictatorship over the
> workers (through his writings about and debates with
> Weitling, Blanqui, Bakunin, LaSalle, etc.). Nor did he
> mean a dictatorship of a party (as noted by his writings
> on the
Paris Commune, and contrary to the attitude of
> later followers of Lenin).

I don't recall Marx advocating a dictatorship of a party, either, but
we do know that he advocated the dictatorship of the proletariat.
What happened in Russia was such a distortion of Marx's scenario
that the Russian experience isn't a valid example for workers' action
in developed democracies. Still, Engels sometimes spoke of what
his PARTY would do if it were in political power. Parties merely
represent various class interests. 'No democracy' means 'no
representation for any class except the ruling class'. Just the fact
that the working class is a much bigger class than the other classes
meant that the interests of the workers (as expressed by their party)
would dominate the affairs of the democratic state to be known as
the dictatorship of the proletariat.* It was all a dream that was never
realized, but that's what the dream was. The correspondent insists
that it wasn't like that in order to try to get workers to realize his
dream of a politics-free world, but workers are far more interested
in politics than what the correspondent gives them credit for.

* 2002 note: As an early article of Engels put it (me6.5):
"Democracy nowadays is communism. ... Democracy has
become the proletarian principle, the principle of the masses.
"
(End of note.)

> Marx made clear that once the working class
> achieved power it would democratize society,
> dismantle the state while classes disappeared.

This is such a short summary that it could create an impression
that the whole thing could be done in a day.

> Would the coercive powers of the State exist? Yes,
> as long as classes existed and the capitalist class
> resorted to subversion of working class power.

That's a reasonable assessment for a change.

> Marx wrote in his notes in a response to the anarchist
> Mikhail Bakunin's "
State and Anarchy" that: "as long
> as other classes and the capitalist class in particular,
> still exist, and as long as the proletariat fights against
> them (for its enemies and the old organisations of society
> do not vanish as a result of its coming to power) it must
> apply coercive measures, that is governmental measures.
"
> And yet, this is in no way contradictory to his view that
> the working class pushed to extend democracy at all levels
> and to end all class oppression. Thus the taking of power
> by the working class is two pronged - to suppress capitalist
> resistance and to press forward the socialist reorganisation
> of society (which in itself would hasten an end to classes
> and capitalist resistance).

Again the correspondent seemed in line with Marx.
Hats off for a fine paragraph. I wonder if I could even
become hopeful that we could work together for a change.

> Most Socialists in the WSM do not use the terminology
> anymore. More than a hundred years has passed since
> Marx's time, the terminology itself has changed meaning
> and can lead to confusion, its past identification with the
> party dictatorship of Lenin, etc.

It is useful to educate people in 'what really happened decades
and centuries ago' so as to break down sectarian nonsense and
foolishness, so much of which foolishness is based on mistakes
made in the distant past. Mistakes need to be discussed and corrected.

> As I said earlier, I still use the terminology, but
> mostly in order to dispel the myths some people
> write about Marx and this term.

The correspondent should make a sincere effort to make all of
his theories consistent with one another. It isn't easy, and I spent
years doing it for the sake of my own clarity. It's essential that we
straighten out the theories in our own minds before we can educate
people who really want to understand the past so as to better be
able to deal with the future.

Ken Ellis

 

10-25-00

Here's a middle-of-the-night inspiration for the amusement of all:

Anarchists have their anger and their humanitarianism. Whence
the anger? Their expression of humanitarianism is thwarted. They
want a world full of freedom, beauty and light, but do not presently
live in such a world. To make matters worse, their ideology is not
much help, for it is more fitted for abolishing monarchies in backward
countries than it is for working within the democracies in which they
presently find themselves, so they have been effectively neutralized
by their own ideology. If we lived where monarchies offered barely a
democratic trinket for us to ogle, and for that reason could argue for
boycotting the sham trinkets, abstention from politics would be plausible.
But, in spite of a tremendous expansion of democracy over time, some
people still regard all states as evil, and make no distinction between
useless, intransigent monarchies and useful democracies.
Consequently, anarchists advocate creating a better society by
deposing all forms of state, democratic or dictatorial. Because
deposing democracies is impossible, anarchists live in a jail of
their own creation, and yearn for a violent outbreak of all prisoners.
What if they achieve their goal of ridding themselves of states?
What would they do then? Many admit that an important step would
be to reduce hours of labor for all, which would also initiate M+E's
great goal of full participation, toward which end the abolition of
private property
was intended to be merely a means.

Many insist that the end goal of classless and stateless society
must be reached THEIR way, anarchists by ridding themselves of
states, communists by creating workers' states, social democrats by
nationalizing industries, but, instead of adopting a common feasible
plan to get there, they instead waste their energies in a million
different ways, a lot of it on foolishness. In a different forum,
the lack of resolution on the Berlin mass transit strike of
1932
prevents all progress.

That is the kind of superfluity that occurs when commerce
instead of clear thinking rules ideologies. How much longer
will activists allow their activism to be frustrated by either
obsolete, anachronistic, unfeasible or wasteful plans? These
are times of extreme class distinctions that force us to rethink
everything we know. Things should be getting better instead
of worse, so, in order to make progress, obsolete beliefs and
senseless traditions must be criticized until they either
survive the stress test, or are replaced with better ideas.

Ken Ellis

". . . reap the masses, and discard the leaders . . . " - Engels

 

10-28-00

Bob Feldman's economic analysis confirms my observations while working at
KPFA in the early 90's that both it and Pacifica were serving the Democratic Party,
or its left wing. D.P. local activists also served on KPFA's Local Board. Many
Station squabbles seemed like battles between D.P. Social-Democrats and more
radical socialists, communists and anarchists. Secrecy and cliquishness were
the norm, and battles were fought and won to keep some viewpoints off the
air as various sectors competed for slices of the scarce resource.

Internet and micro-power radio developments enable many more voices to be
heard, but I hope that future technological developments will allow for much
more choice, and with decreasing amounts of political monopoly domination,
so that the most valid perspectives and plans will finally have better chances
to win people's hearts and minds.

Ken Ellis, KPFA engineer 1982-97
http://wwwlibcap.net

 

10-29-00

Hi Nicholas,

snip irrelevancies

I think that some of the hatefest with Earthfirst! is just gratuitous ranting,
as Bruce is wont to do. But, EF! being the kind of direct action organization
that it is, is uninterested in creating the kind of shortage of labor that would
give workers the freedom to boycott cutting down the last of the redwoods.
That to me would be a solution to the redwood problem that would solve all
of labor's other problems as well; but EF! seems hung up on obsolete ideology.

snip

I had a censorship incident with my WSM forum. They tried not forwarding
a couple of my messages, so I did a 'private posting' to 64 of the 150 or so
members, and the shit hit the fan for a few days. So many people defended my
right to free speech that they couldn't possibly stop any more of my messages
without looking like total hypocrites. My would-be censors so discredit
themselves in so many ways now that they must be seething in internal turmoil.
My chief opponent, Len W., has so discredited himself with faulty arguments
that he asked the moderator to ask me if I would stop addressing him by name.
Len was losing so much face that he doesn't want to lose any more by debating
me face to face any more. But, so many people in the forum are so weak in
theoretical matters that they don't even know what happened, and another bunch
could care less, and maintain the usual talk as though nothing happened. Novices
still seek the advice of the party 'wise men'.

snip

A Canadian progressively minded person liked my long article "Replacing
Bro'Ken Socialist Dreams
" so much that it can be accessed via his web site:

http://www.cariboo.bc.ca/tt/faculty/dcharbon/index.htm

snip

My web site is doing swimmingly well. I'm up to 400 hits.

Ken Ellis

 

10-29-00

Dear Thirsty,

snip irrelevancies

I also submitted a 800 word piece to the Global Ideas web site in England:
http://www.globalideasbank.org/

I think a great challenge to each of us in the progressive movement is to do
and say things that affects what other people say and do. I wonder what it
takes. With all of the violent opposition that I receive at the WSM forum, I
sometimes wonder if I will ever have what it takes. I plod along, a message
at a time. I wonder if I will ever have some kind of inspiration that will turn
me from ineffective to effective.

If you would like to improve your effectiveness, allow me to suggest sitting
down with a pencil and paper, and write at the top of a page: 'What to do to
make a difference.' Then write one thing down, and walk away from it. The
next day, pick up the paper and write down another idea if the first doesn't
look as appealing. Then go back each successive day and look over the list,
cross some old stuff out, add some new ideas, until you find one or 2 or
more ideas that stick to your ribs. Whenever I write something important,
I always go back and forth to it over the course of a few days and rewrite
and edit, and rewrite and edit, until I get it right.

I also worry about the environment, but as sad as some of the stories are,
such as the ozone hole, and the destruction of the rain forests, our increased
activism compared to 30 and 40 years ago is encouraging. The nice part about
living in such a flexible democracy is that we can adapt our activism to the
issues at hand and hopefully keep up with them as they develop, and do
something about them before they get too far out of hand.

If you feel a little weak on the subject of 'the future', but are interested in
learning more, you could probably catch up by going to the Internet and
doing some searching. I have been interested in technical stuff for a long
time, and try to follow technological developments. There's a tremendous
amount of material out there, and one can just surf away until the cows
come home, and learn lots of interesting and useless stuff.

It's true that I share the same ultimate goal as socialists, communists and
anarchists, which final goal is that of reaching classless and stateless society.
I would get there by abolishing class distinctions by legislating labor time down
to such a ridiculously low level that we eventually convert to an all-volunteer work
force, thus abolishing class distinctions, which would allow the state to fade away
altogether. Communists, socialists and anarchists would try to get to classless and
stateless society by attacking the institution of private property, which would only
create conflict, which is why socialists, communists and anarchists don't get very
far. As many times as I've explained the lesson of how our Civil War shows how
precious private property is to Americans, radical people have steadfastly refused
to address that issue. They will never get logical about it because logic would put
more nails in the coffins of the ideologies they are trying to market, leaving them
with not much more to do than sell insurance and used cars.

If slavery was the only kind of property ownership Americans found tasteless
enough to want to abolish, and if some people fought to the death to preserve
slavery, immoral as it was, then just think how hard people would fight to
preserve their rights to own everything EXCEPT people. It just wouldn't work
at all to try to do anything about property. We fixed slavery, but people were
not about to go a step further to carve up the Southern plantations to give freed
slaves their 40 acres and a mule, and people won't go any further than that as
long as their sense of security is so wrapped up in property ownership.

There's already a lot of bad blood between anarchists, communists and socialists,
because their programs are mutually exclusive. You can't simultaneously create a
workers' state while creating a classless, stateless administration of things, and
it wouldn't make much sense to nationalize industries if you were going to do
either of the first 2 things; which puts anarchists, communists and socialists at
loggerheads with one another, so they will never cooperate to arrive at a single
feasible 'socialist' program. There are too many different kinds of ways to
redistribute wealth and property, leaving the field open to zillions of different
sects to try to come up 'the right plan to appeal to all', but no one plan will ever
appeal to everyone, for some sectarians are tuned to sniff out 'enemy plans'. No
matter which plan anyone suggests, some will find the plan acceptable, while
others will reject the plan. Common ground between communists, anarchists
and socialists stops at 'taking away the property of the rich', or 'property and/
or wealth distribution'. How to do either will never be agreed upon. On the
other hand, there are lots of ways to create a shortage of labor, but they all
complement one another, and their proponents don't compete with one another.

If anyone thinks that socialism will happen here, then they ought to reflect on
what's going on. Land ownership may be pretty stable and unchanging where
you live, but, around my neighboring towns, we are setting the stage for an
explosion of growth. 'Build the houses and the malls, and people will fill them'
seems to be the rule. The Makepeace family owns zillions of acres of cranberry
bogs in the neighboring towns, but the bottom dropped out of the cranberry
market recently, and it now costs them more to produce cranberries than
they get by selling them, so production is really slowing down.

So, what to do with all of the land that the bogs were on? Well, the Makepeace
family has a plan to develop the land in a socially responsible manner, and they
put their plan forth to the townspeople of Rochester, Wareham, and Carver, but
the townspeople can't agree further than to just let the owners of the land do with
the land what they want. The people are so paralyzed by notions of 'freedom to use
property as owners see fit', as well as 'develop the land to create jobs', that they are
willing to let landowners do with the cranberry bogs just about whatever the hell
they want. I think to myself, 'all of this land ought to be preserved as open spaces,
wildlife preserves, parks, etc.', and I'm sure that a lot of other people feel the same
way, especially as open spaces become scarcer, but too few are willing to do
anything to make open space happen. The people who owned the bogs have
been more socially responsible than the people who live in the towns, who, for
the most part, are just working people who consider the prospect of jobs and
development more enticing than just starving in their nice new houses with nothing
to do. The concept of sharing the remaining work has not even begun to dawn on
anyone. It's my fault as well, for I have yet to write a single letter to the editor this
year, or get on a single talk show. I haven't really even bothered to listen to the
radio. If I were living alone, I would probably listen to the radio most of the day, as
I did when living in Berkeley, but moving here has changed my habits drastically.

So, is socialism coming to New Bedford and the outlying towns? Not on your life.
'I've been checking it out, and it can't happen here.' Everyone is so scared of losing
touch with their values that made this nation as great as it is in the first place, that only
a monster ecological disaster or the complete replacement of their jobs by robots will
have any effect. I certainly hope that the people's jobs will be replaced by robots before
the ecological disaster happens. As they get replaced, beginning as soon as 10 years from
now, and ending probably no later than 2030, we will learn to share work as the only
possible way to learn to share the product of whatever entity creates the necessities
of life when there will no longer be a way for people to go out and earn them.

snip

Bro'Ken

 

10-30-00

[A correspondent] wrote:
>>> What IS abolished is the political character of the
>>> State once the conscious majority of the working
>>> class wrests it from control of the capitalist class.

Ken replied:
>> That doesn't sound very Marxist, nor smart. 'Abolishing
>> the political character of the state' could mean that all of the
>> legislation protecting workers could go down the drain. Such
>> a party program is not likely to attract many workers.

Danny wrote:
> When we create a socialist society we will not call
> ourselves workers, we all breathe but we don't refer
> to ourselves as breathers!

The trick to doing any of that is in 'creating a socialist society'.
No one has yet satisfactorily demonstrated a real need to establish
common property anytime soon. It doesn't put people to work, it
doesn't pay wages, it doesn't provide health care ... all it does is
satisfy a sect's irrational cravings to establish common property.

> As in socialism we will all do our bit, we will all work

Capitalism will abolish work a long time before socialism arrives.
The abolition of labor is a gift that people ought to see for what it
is, but which needs our oversight and control. We should help to
abolish labor in a socially responsible manner by militantly forcing
reductions in hours of labor proportional to technological improvements.
That was even a platform plank of the ASLP before they were taken over
by the anarchists in 1889. Maybe it was even a SPGB plank before 1904.
Could someone please check the archives?

> and as there will be no parasite class, there will be
> no need for differentiation we shall see ourselves
> as human, just human!

I regard myself as human already because I advocate a feasible
and humanitarian goal. Others should join in advocating feasible
and humanitarian solutions to real problems. The wealth of the
rich has never been a real problem for the poor; their problem
has always been their own poverty, and the fact that so many of
them cannot find long-hour opportunities to make the rich richer
than their wildest dreams. Organizing the poor to end that race
to the bottom would fix a lot of what's wrong with the world.

> People having abolished oppression and taken democratic
> control of their lives, living for themselves and not for
> others, would need no *legal protection.* Protection
> from who? Protection from what?

The point Danny makes is that, in socialism, we won't need state
protection, but the trick is in GETTING to socialism. Will we get
there by establishing common ownership, or will we instead get
there by working more directly for M+E's goal of full
participation in the economy
?

[A correspondent] wrote:
>>> The bureaucracy and military machine dismantled.
>
> Ken:
>> There's no precedent in Marxism or history for this.
>
> Danny:
> If that is the case it doesn't prevent the setting of one.

It's all well and good to talk about setting new precedents, but
it's another thing entirely to actually set one. An interesting thing
about M+E is that they didn't really go too far out on a limb with
either their revolutionary or non-revolutionary programs, for the
self-activity of the workers led M+E to both of them. Where M+E
went wrong was in looking at socialism as a feasible agenda item.
Considering how harshly they criticized workers in England and the
USA for being more interested in property and leisure time than in
depriving anyone of their property, M+E should have figured out
that socialism in the West was just not going to be an agenda item
here. But, M+E were at least close to the mark with their socialist
program for the rest of the world, for Russia and many other countries
were able to take property away from the rich, at least until the recent
counter-revolutions. The more recent world-wide collapse of Marxist
programs and ideology should have told Western radicals something,
but they may have to learn by their own bitter experience.

[A correspondent]
>>> The majority proceeds to establish common ownership and
>>> thus classless society, class distinctions, class oppression
>>> (to which you agreed there would be no need for a State).
>
> Ken:
>> If the WSM gets elected on its platform of
>> establishing common ownership, then there's
>> little to stop the rest of the program from being
>> implemented. The only question is whether people
>> will come to regard private ownership as an evil to
>> be done away with.
>
> We're on to Ken's beloved private property. A socialist
> doesn't regard private ownership as evil, only
irrational.

Workless, classless, stateless, propertyless and moneyless
society will someday arrive. After work disappears, the other 4
will disappear at their own rates. The axe I grind is the needless
overwork of some people, at the expense of those who could use
a little work to get by. I want a fair distribution of work more
than anything else.

> Ken can have for his own private exclusive use, let's say, a
> toothbrush, entirely rational, but not the factory that produced
> it. That would be irrational, in that it would be anti-social,
> because the only point in privately owning a factory is to
> exploit the providers of labour power who work there. I'm
> afraid Ken Eliss suffers from tragically low self esteem, he
> thinks we humans can only judge ourselves by what we
> have, compared to what others have not, by what
> we take, and not by what we bring.

Just because I don't think people will benefit by attacking
the institution of private property doesn't mean that I lust after
property. I've lived my whole life without owning a single plot
of real estate, or anything else resembling wealth. Peanuts is
all I got for working hard to realize my ideals.

Whether on not I ever wanted a cheap psychoanalysis, I seem to
have come to the right place. One day it's OCD, another day it's low
self-esteem
. How long before I get diagnosed with megalomania?

Ken Ellis

 

10-30-00

On the 26th, Scott quoted me:

>> "Consequently, anarchists advocate creating a better
>> society by deposing all forms of state, democratic or
>> dictatorial. Because deposing democracies is impossible,
>> anarchists live in a jail of their own creation, and yearn
>> for a violent outbreak of all prisoners."
>
> Is that why you call the
SLP anarchist? Because
> they want to abolish the state?

Yes.

> Is that a valid definition of anarchist,
> one who wants to abolish the state?

I think that it's the best place to draw the line - between those
who would abolish the state and those who would use the state.
Look at the hostility of the ASLP and the WSM to anything
resembling Leninism or Social-Democracy. Their goal of an
immediate classless, stateless, etc.less administration of things
clashes with both the revolutionless Social-Democracy and
Lenin's post-revolutionary workers' state.

> Certainly they don't want to abolish government,
> nor do they want to abolish democracy.

That's certainly true in a sense, but their concept of government
as a classless, stateless, etc.less administration of things is far
different from M, E, and L's vision of a POLITICAL proletarian
dictatorship
. But I don't want to come out of this sounding like
I'm in favor of setting up a proletarian dictatorship, because I think
that democracy renders their proletarian dictatorship as obsolete
as Gutenburg's press. My real beef with anarchists is that they
shouldn't parade their ideas around as 'Marxist' unless they can
show that their ideas are closer to Marx's than to Bakunin's.
Because Marx's ideas were more scientific and more grounded
in actual history than anarchist ideas, everyone with an anarchist
program today wants to be known as 'a socialist and a Marxist',
and they don't hesitate to misrepresent history in their
attempts to convince the politically naive.

> The Socialist Industrial Union program that the SLP advocates
> would be a government, but not a state, by that definition.
>
> As Marx said, "
The working class cannot take hold of the
> existing state machinery and wield it for its own purposes.
"

Scott seems to have offered the first sentence as a plausible
solution to the 'problem' indicated in the second sentence. I'm not
familiar with Scott's source for that particular version of Marx's
quote, but its inaccuracy makes it misleading. Scott should try to
find its source and report back to us so that we can all know who
butchered Marx's sentence, and so that we can pillory the source
in public. The official sentence was (MESW 2, p. 217): "But the
working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state
machinery and wield it for its own purposes.
" In Scott's version,
what happened to 'simply'? And why was 'ready-made' replaced
by 'existing'? I will bet my shirt that Scott's version was
butchered by an anarchist, but which one?

The next question is: How did those inaccuracies help the hidden
anarchist agenda? By eliminating 'simply', the butchered quote
becomes an absolute prohibition on 'taking hold' and 'wielding'.
Restoring the 'simply' restores the possibility that the working class
COULD 'take hold' and 'wield' the state machinery. Is that what Marx
intended? Apparently so. In 1884, Engels answered Bernstein's
inquiry regarding that very question (MESC, p. 345): "It is
simply a question of showing that the victorious proletariat must
first refashion the old bureaucratic, administratively centralised state
power before it can use it for its own purposes; whereas all bourgeois
republicans since 1848 inveighed against this machinery so long as
they were in the opposition, but once they were in the government
they took it over without altering it and used it partly against the
reaction but still more against the proletariat.
"

So, now we have officially restored the instruction: 'MUST
refashion
... the state power', but, what kind of state power - Marx's
'ready-made' state machinery, or the butchered quote's 'existing'
state machinery? Notice how well the 'existing' adjective serves
the prohibition against workers using the state: "The working
class cannot take hold of the existing state machinery
..." is a
strict prohibition. Bring back the 'simply', and substitute the
'ready-made' for 'existing', and the official version encourages
victorious workers to ALTER the old ready-made state
machinery
to suit their needs.

The words immediately after Marx's sentence also tell an
interesting story of the nature of the offending 'ready-made' state
machinery (MESW 2, p. 217): "The centralised State power, with
its ubiquitous organs of standing army, police, bureaucracy, clergy,
and judicature - organs wrought after the plan of a systematic and
hierarchic division of labour - originates from the days of absolute
monarchy, serving nascent middle-class society as a mighty weapon
in its struggles against feudalism. Still, its development remained
clogged by all manner of mediaeval rubbish, seignoral rights, local
privileges, municipal and guild monopolies and provincial constitutions.
"
That all sounds like the kind of stuff we can well do without in the year
2000. We in the West live in a much more democratic milieu than did
France in 1871, which 3rd Republic Marx described as 'a monarchy
without a monarch'.

> Also, I wonder about calling the capitalist state a democracy.

If what we have in the USA isn't a democracy, then perhaps it's
a monarchy, or a dictatorship like the Pinochet regime of the mid-
seventies, or an Islamic republic, or one of other possible varieties of
state. Scott unfortunately seems to want to discard definitions that
work just fine for the vast majority of the population, and he seems
to regard what he has learned from the radical left to be more valid
than common knowledge, as though he and a handful of like-minded
people are going to 'educate the uneducated about the totalitarian nature
of our democracies'. Scott seems to have forgotten the warnings in the
Communist Manifesto against 'setting up sectarian principles, by which
to shape and mould the proletarian movement
'. Someday, hopefully, Scott
will learn that all of the radical redefinitions of socialism, democracy, etc.,
are worthless to the cause of social justice, but are worthwhile to sects
whose only interests are to market their butchered 'Marxism' to
gullible people like I was in 1972.

> Certainly the capitalists refer to it that way, but I
> pretty much just consider that to be propaganda.

Scott should do a poll of the next 10 people he sees on the street:
"Do we live in a democracy?" The question is so absurd that several
people might say 'no' to show their contempt for such foolishness.

> To me, democracy is majority rule after a free and open
> debate. I remember back in 1980, I ran for congress in
> Minnesota for the
SLP. The television stations and the
> newspaper covered the campaigns of the
Democrat and
>
Republican, but they didn't even mention the fact that I
> was on the ballot. True, I was allowed to be on the ballot
> after collecting thousands of signatures on a petition, a
> sliver of democracy perhaps, but in the face of the giant
> capitalist propaganda mill, not much.

Some of the official sentiment behind those restrictions goes
back to the old 'ballot-clogging' issue, but I also regard what
happened to Scott as a violation of democratic principles. I think
that at least some aspects of European parliamentarism are basically
more fair than the American system. The USA will come around
eventually. The tremendous expansion of communications will
make change a necessity. Incidents like the Nader exclusion
from the debates will someday disappear.

> One more thing, I don't as yet understand how this timesizing
> idea you advocate would address the fundamental problems of
> capitalism. I don't see how it would alter at all, the amount of
> exploitation suffered by the working class, and therefore leave
> untouched all the problems related to the business cycle, and a
> host of other problems that have their root in the very nature
> of capitalism.

Scott referred to an informative web site:
http://www.timesizing.com/

One of the problems in the West is the fact that a lot of people
who are 'lucky' enough to be able to work full time also work too
much, and are working longer hours than in the sixties. Another
problem is that a lot of people who could use a little work to get
by can't seem to find enough. 'Timesizing, not downsizing' is a
rational solution to those 2 problems by reducing hours of labor
enough to provide more leisure time for all, and to provide work
for all at the same time. The idea is well-rooted in solutions that
people in the West have actually adopted in the past. Half the
companies in America during the Great Depression voluntarily
adopted work-sharing schemes, and the history goes on and on.
The shorter hour solution has often been used in unemployment
crises, and does not suffer from the same stigmas as do socialist
'solutions'. Don't you think that establishing full participation in
the economy
would solve a lot of problems? Socialism, for M+E,
was merely a means to full participation. Taking away the property
of the rich wasn't the 'end in itself' for M+E that it seems to have
become for [today's] revolutionaries.

One way to measure exploitation is by measuring surplus values.
Radicals regard high rates of surplus values as something to revolt
over, rather than to simply reduce by means of legislating 'less work'.
Radicals regard high rates of surplus value production to be a crime
incapable of being addressed except by the abolition of capitalism.
But, Marx himself favored legislation to reduce hours of labor, and
regarded the passage of the 10-Hours Bill in England as nothing
less than 'the replacement of the political economy of the capitalist
class with the political economy of the working class
'. That wasn't a
bad victory, and it was accomplished simply by enacting and enforcing
a very simple piece of legislation. The 10-Hours Bill wasn't the kind
of middle-class reform M+E were on record as having opposed; the
10-Hours Bill was IN THE INTERESTS OF THE WORKING CLASS,
a type of legislative reform M+E NEVER opposed. Marx could tell
the difference between reforms in the interests of the working class
and reforms in the interests of the bosses. M+E regarded democracy
as the form of state in which the battle between worker and boss
would be fought to a finish
, so we should keep democracies
around until class distinctions fade to zero.

> Oh, by the way, I do agree with you that the
>
SLP does aspire to get its people elected to the
> capitalist state, for the sole purpose of "banging
> the gavel on the capitalist state", dissolving it,
> and vesting all power in the
SIU's.

Perhaps the correspondent will accept what Scott has to say,
if he won't accept my offerings. Thank you, Scott. Stay tuned.
Perhaps the correspondent will contradict you as well.

> If they got some people elected at some point without
> sufficient power to do that, one would expect that they
> would try to do something constructive with that limited
> power in the meantime. The
SLP holds the position that
> a political victory without first creating the economic
> might (
SIUs) to back it up, would be futile.

That's pretty much the way I remember it, too. I'm glad that the
basic ideology of the ASLP isn't anywhere nearly as much of an
issue between us as it has been between me and 'the correspondent'.

Looking forward to your comments, Scott,

Ken Ellis

 

10-30-00

In a recent message, a correspondent argued in favor of a
precedent existing for 'dismantling the bureaucracy and military
machine', to which I replied: "There's no precedent in Marxism
or history for this." I wrote that because the dialogue up to that
point had been relevant to democracies, but not relevant to the
revolutionary situation of replacing a monarchy with a democracy.
There is precedent in Marxism and history for dismantling old
bureaucracies and military machines after a revolution, such as
in the case of the Paris Commune, but no precedent for doing
that after a mere electoral victory in a democracy.

The correspondent, on the other hand, asserted the relevance of
'dismantling the bureaucracy and military machine' by changing the
historical context from its original 'electoral victories in democracies' to
that of 'smashing monarchies', but mere electoral victories have never
conferred the kind of power required to make such sweeping structural
changes. Some might consider the correspondent's context switch to
have been clever, but, the ethics of such a context switch are dubious
in light of the impossibility of dismantling bureaucracies and militaries
after mere electoral victories. In a way, though, the context switch
showed that the correspondent is fully capable of distinguishing
between monarchies and democracies if he wants to, but so far
he only does so on opportune occasions.

Ken Ellis

 

10-31-00

On the 23rd, a correspondent took up the debate on 'dictatorship
of the proletariat
' vs. 'proletarian dictatorship', and began with an
English lesson:

> "Proletarian" can be a noun. As in - She is a member of the
> proletariat. It is singular. A group of workers can be "proletarians".
>
> "Proletarian" is also an ADJECTIVE. As in -
proletarian
> dictatorship
. It is specific and does not necessarily refer
> to the collective. Thus my point, which you ignored, that
> a formal governmental dictatorship can be described as
> "proletarian", as only PART of the proletariat.

The correspondent now implies that 'proletarian dictatorship'
can indicate the dictatorship of a single person (like a Stalin)
because of the way a single worker can be regarded as a proletarian,
so 'a proletarian dictatorship is the dictatorship of a single person'. By
that reasoning, we could also conclude that 'a capitalist dictatorship is
a dictatorship of a single capitalist', like a Bill Gates, a Warren Buffet,
or a George Soros. Maybe all that the correspondent would then have
to do in order to start the socialist revolution would be to figure out
which of the 3 is really the one capitalist dictator in power, and then
maybe depose that capitalist dictator.

> Historically, during the Russian Revolution, many
>
Mensheviks argued that Lenin's coup d'etat did not
> represent a dictatorship of the entire working class
> but only a part of the working class element.

I don't know why the correspondent repeatedly returns to
the Russian revolution as a debatable example of a proletarian
dictatorship
. As everyone else knows by now, what happened in
Russia was not part of Marx's scenario of world-wide revolution,
so, while the Menshevik's critique might very well be valid, its truth,
falsehood or usefulness remains irrelevant to the issue at hand. Even
Lenin knew that the Soviet government did not fully correspond to Marx's
scenario
. A Marxist revolution in Russia could never have adhered to Marx's
scenario unless all of Europe had revolted in sympathy with Russia, and if
all of the revolutionary countries had gone on to fight the counter-revolution
together, so there is no legitimate way in which anyone could argue that
'the Russian revolution was a good example of Marx's dictatorship of
the proletariat
', which also negates the usefulness of critiquing the
Russian revolution to death.

After the Bolshevik uprising, whatever government materialized
there could not have been anything better than a bad approximation
to the dictatorship Marx advocated, at least until all of Europe had
joined the Russians in a unified and cooperative dictatorship.
Russia's inability to conform to Marx's scenario does not imply
any bad intent on Lenin's part to create something other than what
Marx intended. Soviet practices during Lenin's administration
indicated nothing more insidious than their having to contend with
a far-from-ideal reality. Take away the civil war, the external war of
aggression, the starvation, the collapse of production, the failure of
Europe to support the revolution, etc., and the proletarian dictatorship
in Russia couldn't have helped but turn out better; but singling out
Kronstadt and other examples of a revolution gone bad in order to
vilify Lenin or any other leader indicates little more than sectarian
sound and fury, signifying nothing more than helplessness to go
back in history to start fresh.

> "Proletariat" is a NOUN. It refers to the COLLECTIVE,
> the entire working class.
>
> Thus, "
proletarian dictatorship" does NOT have to be
> synonymous with "
dictatorship of the proletariat".

Millions of English-speaking people have used the 2 phrases
interchangeably for many decades, and, after the dust settles from
this dispute, people will continue to use the two phrases the same
way. The correspondent's attempts to 'correct' us will suffer the
same miserable fate as his attempt to 'correct' the world on the
meaning of 'socialism' and on so many other issues.

> What is truly bizarre is the so-called proof
> you offer in your defense.
>
> You write:

>
>> If the respected scholar Hal Draper or any other scholar
>> had made the distinctions made by [the correspondent],
>> I would have cause to reassess my terminology. But, it
>> would be ridiculous to change my terminology merely
>> on the word of [the correspondent], who has gone to
>> great lengths in the past to try to 'prove' me wrong.

(I never claimed that the scholar's leadership would 'prove' anything.)

> Wow! There it is! Anything I have to say is wrong,
> harmful and probably "immoral", right Ken?

Not everything, but far too much. Sorry not to have the time
to calculate an exact percentage.

>> If any taboo against 'proletarian dictatorship' had
>> ever been in place, Arnold Petersen of the ASLP (in
>> his fraud-ridden pamphlet "Proletarian Democracy vs.
>> Dictatorships and Despotism
") would not have used
>> 'proletarian dictatorship' as freely as he did.
>
> This is just precious Ken. For months now you
> have vilified Arnold Petersen (one of the leaders of
> the U.S.
Socialist Labor Party) as a liar, a veritable
> witch doctor and conjurer of polemics, accused
> him of being an anarchist and have disagreed
> with everything he has written.

If I and a lot of other people had disagreed with EVERYTHING
Arnold Petersen had written, he never would have gotten as far as
he did in his 'socialist' movement. Here's an old saying by Colton:

"Falsehood is never so successful as when she baits her hook
with truth; and no opinions so fatally mislead us, as those that
are not wholly wrong, as no watches so effectually deceive the
wearer, as those that are sometimes right.
"

> Now you infer that he is a fraud.

Not simply NOW; I've been saying and writing that for the past 24
years. He was great for taking quotes out of context to try to show
that M+E (and even LENIN) advocated the creation of a classless
and stateless administration of things right after the working class
victory, but even the WSM wouldn't dispute the fact that Lenin
wanted a WORKERS' STATE after the working class victory.

> And in a truly amazing twist of logic you say
> that even Petersen
supports your argument
> because he found nothing wrong with the term.

I never said that 'A.P. never found anything wrong with that term',
but, if he did, I don't recall A.P. making a distinction between the
2 phrases, even though he was as much of an enemy of Leninism
as the correspondent, and would have been very much inclined to
jump on alleged differences between the two phrases if he perceived
any. He might have considered it enough of a victory to convince
thousands, perhaps, that the dictatorship of the proletariat was a
dictatorship
over the peasantry and middle classes in backward
countries
, as well as a classless and stateless administration of
things (like his Socialist Industrial Union) in economically
advanced countries.
For the politically naive, A.P.'s writings were
a strong recommendation for workers to eschew the dictatorship
of the proletariat
, and instead adopt the Socialist Industrial Union
program. With success on such a big issue, why would A.P. risk
straining credulity with a much less theoretically rewarding herring
like a 'dictatorship of the proletariat over the capitalist class' vs.
a 'proletarian (Stalinist) dictatorship over the proletariat'?

> But this type of argument just keeps getting better
> and better Ken. You go on to add:
>
>> Until this message, the controversy was over
>> the meaning of 'dictatorship of the proletariat' as
>> used by M+E. Neither that phrase nor 'proletarian
>> dictatorship
' mentions 'party'.
>
> Precisely. Marx and Engels never referred to
> the
dictatorship of the proletariat as meaning the
> dictatorship exercised by a supposedly "proletarian"
> party. You've proven my point there. Thank you.

The correspondent now says that 'because neither phrase
contains the word 'party', then the
dictatorship of the proletariat
excludes the use of the party by the proletariat'. Nice try, but
neither did the phrase say anything about the Paris Commune;
but that didn't stop Engels from writing in 1891 (MESW 2, p. 189):
"Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the
Proletariat.
" The theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat was
derived from the historical and political context in which it was
formulated, so it is not correct to assert that 'a party could not be
involved in the dictatorship of the proletariat'. When classes exist,
parties representing various classes vie for supremacy in the state.
There's nothing we can do about that until class distinctions are
abolished
. If we are not in the game to abolish class distinctions,
then we are not fighting for the interests of the working class. And
what better way to reduce class distinctions than by reducing hours
of labor for all? The rich don't have to labor, but workers do. We
could easily make workers less different from the rich by cutting
the percentage of their lifetimes spent working.

>> Neither phrase mentions 'Lenin', nor the ways in which
>> Lenin and the Bolsheviks used either phrase. In the
>> Indexes to the 45 volumes of Lenin's Collected Works,
>> no entries exist under 'proletarian dictatorship'. Instead,
>> people are referred to 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat',
>> where hundreds of references are listed.
>
> What research skills! Because Lenin's
Collected Works
> doesn't carry "
proletarian dictatorship" in the Index
> section that means that
the two terms are synonymous!!

What it really means is that Lenin didn't make the distinctions
between the two phrases that the correspondent makes, which
pretty well nullifies the correspondent's arguments of 'two
different meanings for the two different phrases
', at least
as far as Lenin and his followers were concerned.

> All this proves is that the terms are synonymous in the
> eyes of the supporters of Lenin, and that was my point
> exactly! You've proven me
correct again on this point.

After the correspondent went to lengths to try to 'prove' that 'the 2
phrases meant
2 different things', he now reverses course by agreeing
with me that the Leninists made no distinctions between the two
phrases after all. It's very interesting that all of the data that proves
me correct somehow also proves the correspondent correct. He
should remember what he wrote on the 21st about how Lenin
allegedly advocated a dictatorship of a small element:

>>> There is indeed a difference between a "proletarian
>>> dictatorship
" and "dictatorship of the proletariat".
>>>
>>> In the former, a minority section of the working
>>> class organised in a vanguardist political party
>>> (such as the
Bolsheviks - a section of the Russian
>>>
SDLP, or Babeuvists) could establish a political
>>> dictatorship, and wield dictatorial power.
>>>
>>> They could describe themselves as proletarian. And in the
>>> case of Lenin, he did. Thus
proletarian dictatorship was
>>> the dictatorship of a "proletarian party".
>>>
>>> The "
Dictatorship of the proletariat" is very different
>>> because it refers to the political power and control of
>>> the working class - the great majority - itself. It would
>>> be the "proletariat's dictatorship" not the dictatorship
>>> of a party calling itself proletarian.

If the correspondent doesn't make Lenin sound like he
advocated 'a dictatorship of a small element', I don't know what
does. And yet, where's a quote that proves it? Never mind, I
found one that at least came close (LCW 30, p. 476): "And we
are now being dragged back on a matter that was decided long
ago, a matter which the All-Russia Central Executive Committee
endorsed and explained, namely, that Soviet socialist democracy
and individual management and dictatorship are in no way
contradictory, and that the will of a class may sometimes be
carried out by a dictator, who sometimes does more alone and
is frequently more necessary.
" This was an issue that was treated
over and over again in the Collected Works, because it was not easy
to understand, many people took it the wrong way, and Lenin tried
time and again to explain that 'the dictatorship of the class did not
exclude the dictatorship of a single factory manager
'. But, it was a
point that people got wrong time and again. People complained that
the conductor of an orchestra was a dictator. Lenin's point was that,
'take away the conductor, and see what kind of 'music' you get'."

> However, it does not offer any proof to Socialists
> that
the terms are indeed synonymous.

Maybe it was time for the correspondent to disagree again.

> One has only to review the major writings of Lenin from the
> period of the
Bolshevik uprising on to see that he believed
> that the "
dictatorship of the proletariat" to him meant the
> dictatorship of his party (the "vanguard" of the proletariat,
> the minority element of so-called "advanced sections").

In that case, the correspondent should have found it real easy to
support his allegation with a single quote from Lenin, but maybe
Menshevik literature is all he could find in his library. The most
likely reason the correspondent didn't provide us with a good
quote is that none exists. No entries exist in the Subject Index
to the 45 volumes of Lenin's Collected Works for 'Dictatorship
OVER the Proletariat', nor is there a hint of a category relating to
use of the party as a weapon against the proletariat, or against
anyone else. The proletarian party for Lenin never signified
anything more than 'the most advanced elements of the working
classes
', at least in the published works. If 'the most advanced
elements
' can be synopsized in the word 'vanguard', then so be
it. According to my dictionary, 'vanguard' is just another word
for 'leaders' or 'leadership'. Is that what's wrong here? The
notion of leadership? Oh, gawd.

>> For a second opinion, I e-mailed a world-renowned
>> Soviet scholar who studied at the Lenin school in
>> Moscow (not Idaho), author of several books, and
>> is fluent in the Russian language.
>
> What is the name of this so-called
> world renowned scholar?

If his name were in any way relevant to the issues at hand, I
would divulge his identity, but I only needed him to apply a
little Russian language expertise to the dictatorship question.

>> Here is what he wrote back:
>>
>> "There is only one term in Russian,
>> diktatura proletariata, which grammatically means
>>
dictatorship of the proletariat, but in English it is
>> often put
proletarian dictatorship simply to make a
>> smaller mouthful. There is no distinction whatever.
...
>> Among Communists it was absolutely interchangeable.
"
>
> And thus Ken, you end with a quotation
> from a "scholar" who was most likely a
> Soviet
Communist Party bureaucratic hack.

With hostility like that toward someone whom the correspondent hasn't
even met, I feel justified in keeping his identity a secret forever.

> What is telling is his last line - "Among Communists
> it was absolutely interchangeable.
" Yes, amongst the
> so-called "
Communist Party" of the Lenin variety, those
> were hacks in the name of "scholarship" who were boot
> lickers and apologists for Lenin and Joseph Stalin all
> in the name of "Soviet socialism". Give me a break!

When the correspondent detects a 'communist adversary',
his response is to assume a hostile posture.

> The WSM does not, never has recognised the USSR
> as being socialist. So get off it Ken.

When did I ever say that 'the USSR was socialist in the WSM
sense of the word'? It was only communist in the popular sense,
but it never resembled Marx's vision.

> That argument means nothing to us. I and others are
> tired of hearing your argument ad nauseum that
'our
> conception of Socialism is so completely wrong', but
> that the mythical "Socialism" at the blood stained
> hands of a Vladimir Lenin is correct. It's your loss.

It looks like the correspondent cannot restrain his hostility. As
explained many a time before this, I don't see much in common
between Marx's dream and what happened in Russia. The
correspondent identifies WSM socialism with Marx's socialism,
and opposes it to Lenin's socialism. But, I regard Lenin's theories
about socialism to be a lot closer to Marx's than either's theories
are to WSM theories.

The correspondent thinks that anyone who varies from the
WSM concept of history and program has to be in bed with
Lenin's ideas. This is sad indeed, and nothing reasonable I
say seems to make much difference.

Ken Ellis

http://www.libcap.net

 

End September - October 2000 Correspondence

 

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