Category Archives: US Politics

Press Statement from the RNC Welcoming Committee!

RNC Welcoming Committee Call

RNC Welcoming Committee Call

PRESS ADVISORY:
10am Thursday, 627 Smith Avenue, St. Paul.
Photo and interview opportunities
Contact: rncwcmedia@riseup.net, 202-277-5262

In light of the massive police and military violence playing out each day of the Republican National Convention, the targeting, entrapment, and persecution of protest logistics organizers, the inhumane conditions that continue for the hundreds of people in the Ramsey County Jail, and the harassment of supporters outside the jail, we in the RNC Welcoming Committee are not backing down from our organizing. The Welcoming Committee is working harder than ever to ensure that our friends and comrades are safe and that protesters who are speaking their minds in the face of repression have access to food, housing, bicycles, a meeting space, workshops, legal/jail support, and medical care.

The St Paul Police Department, the City of St Paul, and particularly Bob Fletcher with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department have labeled us a “criminal enterprise”, painting a picture of us and other anti-RNC organizers as faceless terrorists. On Thursday, September 4th at 10 AM on the 2nd floor of the RNC Convergence Space at 627 Smith Ave S., we will show the true faces and stories of the RNC Welcoming Committee.

We will show the 2nd floor of the convergence center as it was arranged at the time of the police raid last Friday night. We will give the latest information on the RNC 8, and we will take and answer questions. Afterwards, several members of the Welcoming Committee will be available for interview and photo opportunities.

The joint press conference will also feature the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.

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Who Still Has ‘Cold War Mentality’?

Rice ups the ante for Russians

Rice ups the ante for Russians

As the Russian military slowly pulls out from deep in the interior of Georgia to areas protecting the small breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, they have faced criticism all along of their “Soviet” mentality and Cold War one ups-manship. These criticisms hailed from the White House and most NATO allies.

Today, Condoleezza Rice signs a deal with Polish President Lech Kaczynski to install a Missile Defense shield in Poland. I wonder if the impetus to do so is still the reported possibility of Iranian long range missile attacks? Let’s get real, who really still has cold war mentality?

Elections: A Trap for Fools

[Every so often I am astounded that someone quite self-conscious of the role of Bourgeois electoral politics gets caught up in the game. I still don’t see why radical left-wing people in NYC think that there is any reason to work for the Obama campaign. So I am posting up a little piece of excellent flame-bait. A little challenge to all my friends who are rallying to Obama when they know he is moving closer and closer to centre-right. Is the novelty of having the first black man as president in this country so great that we lose our strategic need to begin developing revolutionary consciousness?] –ShineThePath

Elections: A Trap for Fools
by Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean Paul Sartre

Jean Paul Sartre

In 1789 the vote was given to landowners. What this meant was that the vote had been given not to men but to their real estate, to bourgeois property, which could only vote for itself. Although the system was profoundly unfair, since it excluded the greater part of the French population, it was not absurd. The voters, of course, voted individually and in secret. This was in order to separate them from one another and allow only incidental connections between their votes. But all the voters were property owners and thus already isolated by their land, which closed around them and with its physical impenetrability kept out everything, including people. The ballots were discrete quantities that reflected only the separation of the voters. It was hoped that when the votes ere counted, they would reveal the common interest of the greatest number, that is, their class interest. At about the same time, the Constituent Assembly adopted the Le Chapelier law, whose ostensible purpose was to put an end to the guilds but which was also meant to prohibit any association of workers against their employers. Thus passive citizens without property, who bad no access to indirect democracy (in other words, to the vote which the rich were using to elect their government), were also denied permission to form groups and exercise popular or direct democracy. This would have been the only form of democracy appropriate to them, since they could not be separated from one another by their property.

Four years later, when the Convention replaced the landowners’ vote by universal suffrage, it still did not choose to repeal the Le Chapelier law. Consequently the workers, deprived once and for all of direct democracy, had to vote as landowners even though they owned nothing. Popular rallies, which took place often even though they were prohibited, became illegal even as they remained legitimate. What rose up in opposition to the assemblies elected by universal suffrage, first in 1794, then during the Second Republic in 1848, and lastly at the very beginning of the Third in 1870, were spontaneous though sometimes very large rallies of what could only be called the popular classes, or the people. In 1848 especially, it seemed that a worker’s power, which had formed in the streets and in the National Workshops, was opposing the Chamber elected by universal suffrage, which had only recently been regained. The outcome is well known: in May and June of 1848, legality massacred legitimacy. Faced with the legitimate Paris Commune, the very legal Bordeaux Assembly, transferred to Versailles, had only to imitate this example.

At the end of the last century and the beginning of this one, things seemed to change. The right of the workers to strike was recognized, and the organization of trade unions was allowed. But the presidents of the Council, the heads of legality, would not tolerate the intermittent thrusts of popular power. Clemenceau in particular became known as a strikebreaker. All of them were obsessed by fear of the two powers. They refused to consider the coexistence of legitimate power, which had conic into being here and there out of the real unity of the popular forces, with the falsely indivisible power which they exercised and which really depended on the infinitely wide dispersal of the voters. In fact, they had fallen into a contradiction which could only be resolved by civil war, since the function of civil war was to defuse this contradiction.

When we go to vote tomorrow, we will once again be substituting legal power for legitimate power. The first, which seems precise and perfectly clear-cut, has the effect of separating the voters in the name of universal suffrage. The second is still embryonic, diffuse, unclear even to itself. At this point it is indistinguishable from the vast libertarian and anti-hierarchical movement which one encounters everywhere but which is not at all organized yet. All the voters belong to very different groups. But to the ballot box they are not members of different groups but citizens. The polling booth standing in the lobby of a school or town hall is the symbol of all the acts of betrayal that the individual may commit against the group lie belongs to. To each person it says: “No one can see you, you have only yourself to look to; you are going to be completely isolated when you make your decision, and afterwards you can hide that decision or lie about it.” Nothing more is needed to transform all the voters who enter that hall into potential traitors to one another. Distrust increases the distance that separates them. If we want to fight against atomization, we must try to understand it first.

Men are not born in isolation: they are born into a family which forms them during their first years. Afterwards they will belong to different socioprofessional communities and will start a family themselves. They are atomized when large social forces — work conditions under the capitalist regime, private property, institutions, and so forth — bring pressure to bear upon the groups they belong to, breaking them up and reducing them to the units which supposedly compose them. The army, to mention only one example of an institution, does not look upon the recruit as an actual person; the recruit can only recognize himself by the fact that he belongs to existing groups. The army sees in him only the man, that is, the soldier — an abstract entity which is defined by the duties and the few rights which represent his relations with the military power. The soldier, which is just what the recruit is not but which military service is supposed to reduce him to, is in himself other than himself, and all the recruits in the same class are identically other. it is this very identity which separates them, since for each of them it represents only his predetermined general relationship with the army. During the hours of training, therefore, each is other than himself and at the same time identical with all the Others who are other than themselves. He can have real relations with his comrades only if they all cast off their identity as soldiers — say, at mealtimes or during the evening when they are in the barracks. Yet the word “atomization,” so often used, does not convey the true situation of people who have been scattered and alienated by institutions. They cannot be reduced to the absolute solitude of the atom even though institutions try to replace their concrete relations with people by incidental connections. They cannot be excluded from all forms of social life: a soldier takes the bus, buys the newspaper, votes. All this presumes that he will make use of “collectives” along with the Others. But the collectives address him as a member of a series (the series of newspaper buyers, television watchers, etc.). He becomes in essence identical with all the other members, differing from them only by his serial number. We say that he has been serialized. One finds serialization in the practico-inert field, where matter mediates between men to the extent that men mediate between material objects. (For example, as soon as a man takes the steering wheel of his car he becomes no more than one driver among others and, because of this, helps reduce his own speed and everyone else’s too, which is just the opposite of what he wanted, since he wanted to possess his own car.)

At that point, serial thinking is born in me, thinking which is not my own thinking but that of the Other which I am and also that of all the Others. It must be called the thinking of powerlessness, because I produce it to the degree that I am Other, an enemy of myself and of the Others, and to the degree that I carry the Other everywhere with me. Let us take the case of a business where there has not been a strike for twenty or thirty years, but where the buying power of the worker is constantly falling because of the “high cost of living.” Each worker begins to think about a protest movement. But twenty years of “social peace” have gradually established serial relations among the workers. Any strike — even if it were only for twenty-four hours — would require a regrouping of those people. At that point serial thinking — which separates them — vigorously resists the first signs of group thinking. Serial thinking will take several forms: it will be racist (“The immigrant workers would not go along with us”), sexist (“The women would not understand us”), hostile to other categories of society (“The small shopkeepers would not help us any more than the country people would”), distrustful (“The man near me is Other, so I don’t know how he would react”), and so forth. All the separatist arguments represent not the thinking of the workers themselves but the thinking of the Others whom they have become and who want to keep their identity and their distance. If the regrouping should come about successfully, there will be no trace left of this pessimistic ideology. Its only function was to justify the maintenance of serial order and of an impotence that was in part tolerated and in part accepted.

Universal suffrage is an institution, and therefore a collective which atomizes or serializes individual men. It addresses the abstract entities within them — the citizens, who are defined by a set of political rights and duties, or in other words by their relation to the state and its institutions. The state makes citizens out of them by giving them, for example, the right to vote once every four years, on condition that they meet certain very general requirements — to be French, to be over twenty-one — which do not really characterize any of them.

From this point of view all citizens, whether they were born in Perpignan or in Lille, are perfectly identical, as we saw in the case of the soldiers. No interest is taken in the concrete problems that arise in their families or socioprofessional groups. Confronting them in their abstract solitude and their separation are the groups or parties soliciting their votes. They are told that they will be delegating their power to one or several of these political groups. But in order to “delegate its power,” the series formed by the institution of the vote would itself have to possess at least a modicum of power. Now, these citizens, identical as they are and fabricated by the law, disarmed and separated by mistrust of one another, deceived but aware of their impotence, can never, as long as they remain serialized, form that sovereign group from which, we are told, all power emanates — the People. As we have seen, they have been granted universal suffrage for the purpose of atomizing them and keeping them from forming groups.

Only the parties, which were originally groups — though more or less bureaucratic and serialized — can be considered to have a modicum of power. In this case it would be necessary to reverse the classic formula, and when a party says “Choose me!” understand it to mean not that the voters would delegate their sovereignty to it, but that, refusing to unite in a group to obtain sovereignty, they would appoint one or several of the political communities already formed, in order to extend the power they have to the national limits. No party will be able to represent the series of citizens, because every party draws its power from itself, that is, from its communal structure. In any case, the series in its powerlessness cannot delegate any authority. Whereas the party, whichever one it might be, makes use of its authority to influence the series by demanding votes from it. The authority of the party over the serialized citizens is limited only by the authority of all the other parties put together.

When I vote, I abdicate my power — that is, the possibility everyone has of joining others to form a sovereign group, which would have no need of representatives. By voting I confirm the fact that we, the voters, are always other than ourselves and that none of us can ever desert the seriality in favor of the group, except through intermediaries. For the serialized citizen, to vote is undoubtedly to give his support to a party. But it is even more to vote for voting, as Kravetz says; that is, to vote for the political institution that keeps us in a state of powerless serialization.

We saw this in 1968 when de Gaulle asked the people of France, who had risen and formed groups, to vote — in other words, to lie down again and retreat into seriality. The non-institutional groups fell apart and the voters, identical and separate, voted for the U.D.R. [1] That party promised to defend them against the action of groups which they themselves had belonged to a few days earlier. We see it again today when S…guy asks for three months of social peace in order not to disturb the voters, but actually so that elections will be possible. For they no longer would be if fifteen million dedicated strikers, taught by the experience of 1968, refused to vote and went on to direct action. The voter must remain lying down, steeped in his own powerlessness. He will thus choose parties so that they can exert their authority and not his. Each man, locked in his right to vote just as the landowner is locked inside his land, will choose his masters for the next four years without seeing that this so-called right to vote is simply the refusal to allow him to unite with others in resolving the true problems by praxis.

The ballot method, always chosen by the groups in the Assembly and never by the voters, only aggravates things. Proportional representation did not save the voters from seriality, but at least it used all the votes. The Assembly accurately reflected political France, in other words repeated its serialized image, since the parties were represented proportionally, by the number of votes each received. Our voting for a single ticket, on the other band, works on the opposite principle — that, as one journalist rightly said, 49 percent equals zero. If the U.D.R. candidates in a voting district obtain 50 percent of the votes in the second round, they are all elected. The opposition’s 49 percent is reduced to nothing: it corresponds to roughly half the population, which does not have the right to be represented.

Take as an example a man who voted Communist in 1968 and whose candidates were not elected. Suppose he votes for the Communist Party again in 1973. If the results are different from the 1968 results, it will not be because of him, since in both cases be voted for the same candidates. For his vote to be meaningful, a certain number of voters who voted for the present majority in 1968 would have to grow tired of it, break away from it, and vote further to the left. But it is not up to our man to persuade them; besides, they are probably from a different milieu and he does not even know them. Everything will take place elsewhere and in a different way: through the propaganda of the parties, through certain organs of the press. As for the Communist Party voter, be has only to vote; this is all that is required of him. He will vote, but he will not take part in the actions that change the meaning of his vote. Besides, many of those whose opinion can perhaps be changed may be against the U.D.R. but are also deeply anti-Communist. They would rather elect “reformers,” who will thus become the arbiters of the situation. It is not likely that the reformers will at this point join the Socialist Party-Communist Party. They will throw their weight in with the U.D.R. which, like them, wants to maintain the capitalist regime. The U.D.R. and the reformers become allies — and this is the objective meaning of the Communist man’s vote. His vote is in fact necessary so that the Communist Party can keep its votes and even gain more votes. It is this gain which will reduce the number of majority candidates elected and will persuade them to throw themselves into the arms of the reformers. There is nothing to be said if we accept the rules of this fool’s game.

But insofar as our voter is himself, in other words insofar as he is one specific man, he will not be at all satisfied with the result he has obtained as an identical Other. His class interests and his individual purposes have coincided to make him choose a leftist majority. He will have helped send to the Assembly a majority of the right and center in which the most important party will still be the U.D.R. When this man, therefore, puts his ballot in the box, the box will receive from the other ballots a different meaning from the one this voter wished to give it. Here again is serial action as it was seen in the practico-inert area.

We can go even further. Since by voting I affirm my institutionalized powerlessness, the established majority does not hesitate to cut, trim, and manipulate the electoral body in favor of the countryside and the cities that “vote the right way” — at the expense of the suburbs and outlying districts that “vote the wrong way.” Even the seriality of the electorate is thereby changed. If it were perfect, one vote would be equal to any other. But in reality, 120,000 votes are needed to elect a Communist deputy, while only 30,000 can send a U.D.R. candidate to the Assembly. One majority voter is worth four Communist Party voters. The point is that the majority voter is casting his ballot against what we would have to call a supermajority, meaning a majority which intends to remain in place by other means than the simple seriality of votes.

Why am I going to vote? Because I have been persuaded that the only political act in my life consists of depositing my ballot in the box once every four years? But that is the very opposite of an act. I am only revealing my powerlessness and obeying the power of a party. Furthermore, the value of my vote varies according to whether I obey one party or another. For this reason the majority of the future Assembly will be based solely on a coalition, and the decisions it makes will be compromises which will in no way reflect the desires expressed by my vote. In 1959 a majority voted for Guy Mollet because he claimed be could make peace in Algeria sooner than anyone else. The Socialist government which came to power decided to intensify the war, and this induced many voters to leave the series — which never knows for whom or for what it is voting — and join clandestine action groups. This was what they should have done much earlier, but in fact the unlikely result of their votes was what exposed the powerlessness of universal suffrage.

Actually, everything is quite clear if one thinks it over and reaches the conclusion that indirect democracy is a hoax. Ostensibly, the elected Assembly is the one which reflects public opinion most faithfully. But there is only one sort of public opinion, and it is serial. The imbecility of the mass media, the government pronouncements, the biased or incomplete reporting in the newspapers — all this comes to seek us out in our serial solitude and load us down with wooden ideas, formed out of what we think others will think. Deep within us there are undoubtedly demands and protests, but because they are not echoed by others, they wither away and leave us with a “bruised spirit” and a feeling of frustration. So when we are called to vote, I, the Other, have my head stuffed with petrified ideas which the press or television has piled up there. They are serial ideas which are expressed through my vote, but they are not my ideas. The institutions of bourgeois democracy have split me apart: there is me and there are all the Others they tell me I am (a Frenchman, a soldier, a worker, a taxpayer, a citizen, and so on). This splitting-up forces us to live with what psychiatrists call a perpetual identity crisis. Who am I, in the end? An Other identical with all the others, inhabited by these impotent thoughts which come into being everywhere and are not actually thought anywhere? Or am I myself? And who is voting? I do not recognize myself any more.

There are some people who will vote, they say, “just to change the old scoundrels for new ones,” which means that as they see it the overthrow of the U.D.R. majority has absolute priority. And I can understand that it would be nice to throw out these shady politicians. But has anyone thought about the fact that in order to overthrow them, one is forced to replace them with another majority which will keep the same electoral principles?

The U.D.R., the reformers, and the Communist Party-Socialist Party are in competition. These parties stand on a common ground which consists of indirect representation, their hierarchic power, and the powerlessness of the citizens, in other words, the “bourgeois system.” Yet it should give us pause that the Communist Party, which claims to be revolutionary, has, since the beginning of peaceful coexistence, been reduced to seeking power in the bourgeois manner by accepting the institution of bourgeois suffrage. It is a matter of who can put it over on the citizens best. The U.D.R. talks about order and social peace, and the Communist Party tries to make people forget its revolutionary image. At present the Communists are succeeding so well in this, with the eager help of the Socialists, that if they were to take power because of our votes, they would postpone the revolution indefinitely and would become the most stable of the electoral parties. Is there so much advantage in changing? In any case, the revolution will be drowned in the ballot boxes — which is not surprising, since they were made for that purpose.

Yet some people try to be Machiavellian, in other words, try to use their votes to obtain a result that is not serial. They aim to send a Communist Party-Socialist Party majority to the Assembly in hopes of forcing Pompidou to end the pretense — that is, to dissolve the Chamber, force us into active battle, class against class or rather group against group, perhaps into civil war. What a strange idea — to serialize us, in keeping with the enemy’s wishes, so that he will react with violence and force us to group together. And it is a mistaken idea. In order to be a Machiavel, one must deal with certainties whose effect is predictable. Such is not the case here: one cannot predict with certainty the consequences of serialized suffrage. What can be foreseen is that the U.D.R. will lose seats and the Communist Party-Socialist Party and the reformers will gain seats. Nothing else is likely enough for us to base a strategy on it. There is only one sign: a survey made by the I.F.O.P. and published in France-Soir on December 4, 1972, showed 45 percent for the Communist Party-Socialist Party, 40 percent for the U.D.R., and 15 percent for the reformers. It also revealed a curious fact: there are many more votes for the Communist Party-Socialist Party than there are people convinced that this coalition will win. Therefore — and always allowing for the fallibility of surveys — many people seem to favor voting for the left, yet apparently feel certain that it will not receive the majority of the votes. And there are even more people for whom the elimination of the U.D.R. is the most important thing but who are not particularly eager to replace it by the left.

So as I write these comments on January 5, 1973, I find a U.D.R.-reformer majority likely. If this is the case, Pompidou will not dissolve the Assembly; lie will prefer to make do with the reformers. The majority party will become somewhat supple, there will be fewer scandals — that is, the government will arrange it so that they are harder to discover — and Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber and Lecannet will enter the government. That is all. Machiavellianism will therefore turn against the small Machiavels.

If they want to return to direct democracy, the democracy of people fighting against the system, of individual men fighting against the seriality which transforms them into things, why not start here? To vote or not to vote is all the same. To abstain is in effect to confirm the new majority, whatever it may be. Whatever we may do about it, we will have done nothing if we do not fight at the same time — and that means starting today — against the system of indirect democracy which deliberately reduces us to powerlessness. We must try, each according to his own resources, to organize the vast anti-hierarchic movement which fights institutions everywhere.

Its Here! The coming of the 2008 SDS National Convention.

Whats a Black Man Gotta do to Conduct this Train?

Racist mongering of Obama is the target of The New Yorkers satire.

Racist mongering of Obama is the target of The New Yorker's satire.

What a Black man has to contend with?

Lets just say so, straightforward, this is not a piece looking to defend Obama and establish how he is an American, Christian, and loves his country (probably all which is true), but here we are seeking to shine the light and expose White Supremacy as the hegemonic discourse in America. Whatever your thoughts on the Obama campaign per se, hasn’t this campaign been able to show the huge decrypt nature of this system and how a Black man and woman have to twist and turn in the wind in order to be viable for White America.

Today, the new episode of this awful series of racist events that have marked the Obama campaign is the appearance of the new issue of the New Yorker. The title cover is a satirical depiction of all the racist mongering drummed up by white racists and the media about the Obama’s, the concern that Barak Obama is a secret muslim hiding as a christian, that Michelle Obama is a radical black nationalist, that they give each other little gestures of black power or terrorist salutes. Google anything I have just said and you’ll find the myriad of fear mongering against Obama that is taken for legitimized discourse.

Even watching CNN today, speaking about the controversy over the cover, they had a man speaking about the absurdity of the claims that Obama is a muslim radical. He then went on to claim the only concern for Obama should be he is a “Socialist!” No one even said anything to him on CNN, probably out of surprise, but this kind of stuff is spread on the CNN network constantly.

Here is just a clip of Glenn Beck, who has a show on one of the CNN networks.

Or perhaps you can find easily some trolls attacking Michelle Obama for talking about white supremacy as cultural hegemony.

So why has the The New Yorkers’ cover art coming under heavy criticism when it simply is poking fun at all the right-wing racist attacks against the Obamas? Attacks which the Obama campaign had to create their own website to defend themselves from the campaign. They’ve had to tell you his father wasn’t a Muslim, he was an Atheist. That he, himself, didn’t go to a Madrassa. He threw his pastor under the bus for the sake of appearance, had to to denounce Louis Farrakhan, had to tell Black fathers in Bill Cosby-esque “get-your-shit-together” patriarchal uncle tom tone to be personally responsible just to seek the approval of white America. The reason why the Obama camp is trying to squash The New Yorker cover article is to really get rid of race from the agenda of discussion in this campaign altogether. Obama doesn’t want race brought up, and he sees it as only a harmful element in his campaign. So rather than dealing with race and white supremacy, he has only talked about a post-racial society.

When white racists go on a racist campaign against you and its being discussed, its harder to campaign on a platform of “post-racial” society. America is evidently not post-racial, but the Obama campaign has revealed the deep seated white supremacist underpinnings of this system altogether. It didn’t embark on doing that, and is still attempting to avoid, but because they are the legitimate possibility and the likely winners of this presidential campaign, those underpinnings are now around. So even when a liberal-left magazine like The New Yorker publishes a cartoon satirizing the racist depiction of the Obamas’, they are targeted by the Obama camp to “shut the fuck up,” they don’t want to deal with racism in this presidential race.

Simply to the Point : We Want a National Student Movement.

With the Numbers is Where I Want to Be.

With the Numbers is Where I Want to Be.

Simply to the Point
We Want a National Student Movement.

He who by profession has become a slave of trivial details is the victim of bureaucracy.
-Antonio Gramsci (Selections from Cultural Writings)

Imagine if all the boys in jail
Could get out now together
Whadda you think they’d want to say to us?
While we was being clever

-Joe Strummer (Bankrobber)

The 2008 National Convention of Students for a Democratic Society quickly approaches us as I am writing in the month of that coming convention. I am also one of a good many people who have put out a proposal for some sort of coherent national structure for SDS that goes beyond the work that is being done by the good volunteers who have kept our name relevant and let it have national importance for young people developing consciousness across this country. I, like many SDSers’ interested in building a national organization, have been engaged in this subject for about little over a year. That engagement was not just simple contemplation, but a painful but necessary struggle over our direction with fellow SDSers’. We all came to it with some clues, some thoughts, and some pretensions of what is needed to build a national student organization on the basis of egalitarianism and liberation vs. hyper-global capitalism and US Imperialism. The 2006 & 2007 National Convention served as a point of the necessary dialog and struggle in our movement about the direction that actively creates possible openings for serious systematic change. Undoubtedly the 2008 National Convention at College Park will be similar.

People coming to the National Convention will largely be people who believe SDS is a vehicle for opening up those radical possibilities, but we currently have more than 4 serious proposals at the current time that deal with the question of national structure and many more proposals which deal with some level of the nuance of national work. Direction is still very much in the air and the question is, can we come out of this gathering with anything less than a coherent idea on our way forward in doing national work? It is in the opinion of myself that anything less, which occurred in the previous two conventions (despite the progresses we have made), will signify a point of crisis for our organization in building that movement. In the short period we have before ourselves the task of seriously exchanging thought and opinions about what we need before we come to the National Convention. I hope this will be one of those sparks. Hopefully publishing this may help people understand my own thoughts and thoughts of others that have helped me in creating my proposal.

My proposal entitled, National Working Committee, is simply the end result of discussions, contemplation, and investigation of what could work for SDS. It will of course strike anyone at first read that I use the word “committee,” that I have decided not to frighten easy at the word “represents,” etc. I think a year ago now, if I put this proposal up for serious consideration by SDS it would certainly have been laughed off as ‘X’ or ‘Y’ [insert sectarian wedge issue] because it might codify us as “Students for a ‘Representative’ Democratic Society” as someone, I remember fondly put it, at the last national convention. So why don’t I shy from these words now? Many in SDS, after the shortcomings of our last convention to get a practical structure and the frustration of national work based on sheer volunteer work, see a simple and honest structure as the main priority of moving forward.

How Can We Sum Up Our Historical Experiences?

On the particular question of structure, as I have stated before, there has been great debate in SDS for some long time. The 2006 National Convention proved for many simply not possible to bring the question to manifestation in any serious way but began the process of discussing it. In the 2007 National Convention, structure was the main issue of contention, and there were many different visions on the floor that were being debated.

Three main proposals were seriously debated – Sailish Keys, a Tiered Council Proposal, and a Council Federation – which showed the active divisions of SDS. People were largely pulled to one or another proposal based on politics, region break down, and sometimes downright personality. The Sailish Keys proposal took off with largely anarchists who didn’t want any form of leadership within SDS, but this was the smallest fraction of the three. The Tiered Council proposal was put out by people in NYC and found its base there, but found support amongst Marxists, Anarchists, people into ParEcon, etc. It was the second largest grouping. Last was the proposal that was passed, the Council Federation, which won most of the support in the room, it was an amalgamation of many different proposals with a number of theoretical checks and balances. It was this proposal that passed at the Convention floor after the authors of the Tiered Council proposal pulled their proposal and their supporters allowed the Council Federation to pass.

So what happen? Why isn’t this passed proposal on our national structure from the 2007 National Convention not our structure today? We’ll a stipulation that members of SDS at the 2007 National Convention agreed upon was ratification by chapters after the convention, and it didn’t pass. But it wasn’t simply that it was unpopular for the rest of SDS, it was also the fact that people at the 2007 National Convention, and even those who were authors of the proposal, came to have serious doubts about whether or not this would work in practice and even if it was desirable to have. So people on the national scene even began to doubt it and let it get killed in the ratification process. The proposal that was passed wasn’t certainly my favorite for the reasons they began to doubt it.

The Council Federation idea was simply unworkable, it called for ‘spokes people’ from every chapter to be on a national ‘spokes council’ that discussed national work and topics, but couldn’t resolve to do anything without a necessary ratification of the chapters that the spokes people represented. This process would have meant 50, 60, 70 people finding someway to communicate with each other to speak about these topics. Could you imagine a 70 person conference call? Further a process of the necessary check of ratification from chapters would take months to happen. Simply what this proposal suffered from was down right bureaucratic mechanics, this wasn’t certainly the intention of its authors but would have objectively meant it. It tried to find all the right mechanics to stop centralization that it created a nightmarishly complicated legalistic structure.

The Problem of Mechanical Attitudes toward Organization

Simply what in fact all three proposals, some more than others, suffered from was trying to find the right mechanics to stop this group or that group, or for not becoming “authoritarian.” The solution to what are political questions became questions of form. We began asking the question in the negative sense, “what form would stop this?” People feared that the organization could degenerate into different splits like 1969 and asked what kind of form will prevent a new PLP or Weathermen from taking over, rather than asking what consciousness do we need to develop to have an organization that can deal with such problems in a healthy manner. People in the end were reduced to cogs, when in fact we are active contingent agents a part of this organization, dealing with questions as they come up.

Solutions that often try to find the right mechanics, the right legalistic form, always suffer from not putting questions to people as they come but rather tries to squash the question all together. The problem is of course this is quite misanthropic way of saying “can we trust ourselves,” that “we may fuck it up.” However the problem is that ready made solutions are not found in the question of form for mass movement organizations like ourselves. In the end, no matter what the form is, we are freely associating with each other. We need to deal with those questions in a political manner, opening up space for such discussion, trusting SDSers’ to think for themselves, leading this organization how they want to lead it.

It is actually the fundamental basis for my proposal and a position of myself that this perspective is not a healthy attitude in building any organization with a character of a mass type, a character that is fluid and developing. My proposal may therefore be the shortest of the national structure proposals for this very reason, I simply don’t think we need all these checks for possibilities that are not on the horizon yet, we need to actively build a movement in the always changing present, and that is going to require different ways of thinking of what we want and are thought through that consistent change. The solution then becomes struggle and finding unity on what that is and not a simple canned formula. I would like to think in the end my proposal is summed up as finding the simplest way to carry forward national work with as much maximum accountable participation.

Leadership, its Coming Out of the Closet

If you invoke the word leadership in the year of 07′, an SDSer’ might give you a look like you just twisted your head around and began convulsing or you just strangled a kitten (shock and disgust are what I am going for). Hell, what I am saying? There are still people that will probably give that look; however more and more we are talking about developing needed leadership & specifically leadership around women and people of color in our organization. I am first and foremost someone who thinks we need national leadership, and whether you like it or not, its already there. It exists through the volunteering and dedication of a few people who get our jobs done, it exists in every chapter as well, when people see things through with work. Further how could SDS articulate its politics as a radical, anti-capitalist, organization for liberation if people weren’t providing some leadership in articulating that?

The question is simply more complex than do we or do we not need leadership. It is also simply more than just legitimizing current dynamics of leadership. We need a process of developing organic leadership, thats accountable to the people and can be openly challenged. We then need a more dynamic sense of what leadership means based on raising people’s consciousness, lifting people’s heads up. As what became a rallying cry at the northeast regional convention in Philadelphia, we need people to “step up, step up” not just “step back, step up.” In other words, organic leadership doesn’t develop in the void of leadership, it develops when you actively facilitate it, when you begin raising ideas with people, teaching and learning with people, leading in your own right. With the void of leadership you only get hyper-volunteerism by people who have the time, the ability, and the resolve to carry things through. These people are needed of course, but sole reliance on this volunteerism means the uneven development of leadership within organizations around more able people based on existing social relations. We begin to reproduce the conditions and relations of society within our organization when you rely on volunteerism as the basic level of national work.

My proposal stands with this view in that it creates a formal body of a national character that allows for the ability for people to volunteer through national working groups, but at the same time develops organic leadership by the selection of people from regions and people from established caucuses Without this formal process, national leadership will likely remain highly in the hands of volunteer work.

Necessary Autonomy

We need a coherent national body to carry forward national work in order to build a national student movement. Can I be over stressing ‘National?’ Some people might have wigged out already because of my overuse of the word, so I’ll use a word of more comfortable in SDS. Autonomy, and I fucking mean it. Autonomy is needed, its real, and it will always be that way in SDS. While we need developed national work, I am not proposing a national body to hand out its directives to chapters, and anyone who does think that is going to happen is fooling themselves. As an organization of free association, this means that chapters are largely going to be free to carry forward their local work in whatever ways they feel, if of course in the last instance they remain committed to the principles that define SDS as a national organization (liberation, egalitarianism, feminism, etc). I have also left clearly open in my proposal for chapters in regional blocs to be left to their own processes.

I wish I can write more on the topic, but simply, chapters and regions are largely left to their own devices because this proposal is asking for a national body that carries forward national coordination and simple administrative tasks when necessary. It in theory meddles none with local or regional affairs, of course unless special circumstances arise (e.g. Two chapters claiming to be CUNY Hunter SDS).

To Note

My proposal is openly out there for all to see and discuss with me, hopefully we can get it passed. But of course, SDS is a living organization and this is living document ready for revision, collaboration, etc. It will most likely take some new revisions soon. If you think some points need to be developed, you want to collaborate, or talk about this you should get in contact with me. Maybe you just simply support it or you have a bone to pick with it, just drop a line. We need to openly talk about this, think about other proposals and ways to forward SDS.

As they say and have said in Venezuela, Chile, Colombia, and elsewhere.

VENCEREMOS!,
-Freddy Bastone
CUNY Hunter SDS
shinethepath@gmail.com

You can find the information about the 2008 National Convention of Students for a Democratic Society here.

My proposal on national structure is found here amongst other proposals. It is entitled National Working Committee proposal. It will be posted up in a day or so on this site.

Amongst the Undead: Report from New Synthesis Event in NYC.

Com. Neftalí Paolo

 

 

 

The Bob Avakian show has landed in the cities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and the Bay Area. I myself was lucky enough to attend the event in New York City that was on March 9th. I attended this event, which was put forward by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, with people who flyered the event informing them of the Kasama site and the “9 Letters” by former writer and editor for the Revolutionary Communist Party’s paper, Mike Ely. All of those who did flyer were allowed inside the event by the RCP with the exception of one of the people associated with the Kasama project. He was told he could not enter the event by the RCP and were kept out and watched outside through the event. This was sadly quite embarrassing for an organization that proclaims that it wants those who disagree to have a “wrangle-ism” around Bob Avakian’s work. The 9 Letters, despite our own disagreements on particular areas, is in very fact an embodiment of this “wrangle-ism” in that it confronts the work of Bob Avakian and the practice of the RCP that it can’t simply be ignored.

 

Despite this embarrassing display of RCP silencing prominent disagreement and trying to stifle struggle, I and a few others, that were outside flyering briefly, were allowed inside. It has to be said, that the RCP has to be thanked for finally bringing forward the “New Synthesis” and “Epistemological Break” [as they have coined them] in a way in which those who have disagreed with the line of Bob Avakian can really debate. It was immediately palpable and clarified what the significance of these supposed theoretical “breaks” were for the RCP. However it is the opinion of this observer that the event failed to show the breakthrough of Bob Avakian’s work, if it is in fact anything at all like a break through.

 

I was immediately struck about how stagnant the philosophical thinking was. Lenny Wolfe in mapping out the philosophical concepts of Idealism, “relativism”, pragmatism and summarizing Hegel’s work, stuck to a narrowly conceived opinion that is directly transposed from old and vulgarly simplified work that found itself in vogue with the instrumentalism and dogmatism of our historical tradition as Communists (the very same tainted legacy Bob Avakian claims to break from). Post-modernist, or contemporary philosophical work coming out of the structuralist/post-structuralist trend, is thinly attacked as “relativism.” Pragmatism is defined as an “American philosophy” that is just a “do what works” and Idealism is basically summarized as Religion. These comments, while it can be agreed in part with some of these generalities, shows a certain laziness in the actual approach of real philosophical work over the past century. Further these generalities are used in the most vulgar of way throughout the talks, in their sort of pop-philosophical connotations. This is a terribly bad treatment of philosophy. Hegel’s work receives such a treatment worth noting.

 

Hegel is more or less defined as a Platonic, semi-religious figure, who has his head in the clouds. The depth and breath of his work is just passed over as the most philistine Idealism. It is true Hegel describes his work as Absolute Idealism, and he is greatly influenced by German Idealists such as Kant, Fichte, Schiller, and Schelling, but this is problematic of course if you simply define Idealism as, for more or less, religion, which Lenny Wolfe had done. You miss the greater scope of his work if that is done. So what is of importance of Hegel for the RCP? Its his “dialectical method,” that of course Marx and Engels had stood him up right “on his feet” and off his head; however everything is quite simply missed if dialectics justs need to be inversed, turned inside out. In fact throughout the presentation by Lenny Wolfe, nothing is outrightly spoken about that begins to address the question of the dialectical method itself. This in my opinion seems to implicate something strongly damning of the RCP project itself and Bob Avakian’s “break.” Simply its not of its time, it is sadly caught up in its own self-referential system and just doesn’t relate to the actual theoretical developments outside itself.

 

Lenny Wolfe in the presentation, presented the work of Bob Avakian’s theoretical in three spheres. Epistemology (a historical branch of philosophy that studies the essence of Knowledge and Truth), socialism, and revolutionary organizing. To break this down, I’ll schematically outline each.

 

1) I’ll begin of course with the claim that Avakian has broken out from the pack and really put forward something that is rupturing from previous Epistemology. However for the RCP the question relates more to the history and theoretical struggle of the International Communist Movement on this question and largely nothing is presented on the field of work on epistemology itself. Further, most of the argument proceeds on the basis of challenging what is called relativism or pragmatism by the RCP. The actual epistemological claim made by Bob Avakian isn’t itself anything new, that Truth reflects Reality has been a standard claim of materialists whatever their methodology. However it is not in fact Avakian’s claim that he is making an “Epistemological Break” in the proper sense of a break within the framework of epistemology itself, but rather that he is breaking the Communist “instrumentalism,” the warping of Truth for political principle. It is the claim of Avakian that Communists historically have been “instrumentalist” in the sciences and arts based upon prejudiced political aims. Specifically here  the claim is that there is no such thing as “political truths” or “class truths,” and what is given as empirical examples against this is the Lysenko case in the Soviet Union and the certain ultra-left dogmatic deviations made by revolutionary leaders and revolutionary youth in fighting revisionism or other bourgeois manifestations in social relations.

 

While these excessive and dogmatic traits must be fingered out and criticized, the summation that this was a result of the conception of there being “political truths” is false. Bob Avakian wants to down play the relativity of our partisanship, but this is unfortunately ill conceived. Being we’re dialectical materialists, the process of the coming to Truth is intricate and nuanced and can’t be thrown down in simplisms as truth being synonymous with that which is outside us. Unfortunately, in my opinion because of the lack of “engagement” with revolutionary communists such as Gramsci, Lukacs, and Althusser [not to mention to the already spoke of neglect of Hegel] RCP can’t answer this question. But to look at it in a simple way, propositions and claims if validated inductively (through sense-experience of the world) or deductively (through logic and pure mathematics) becomes a truth. What is a muddle is the simple dualism that is presented to us. We are presented the question in this stark dichotomy of subjectivity vs. objectivity. Truth can’t help but be partisan, it can’t help but have a subjectivity. The mind is immanently a part of the world and isn’t just its mirror or its sponge, it projects into it. That is why what is our unearthed knowledge of the world is always subjective and objective at the very same time. The dichotomy of Subjective Truth vs. Objective Truth is a false one, this much Avakian understands this, but at the rate of heaving up the relation of subjectivity toward the world. It is a turn against dialectical materialism into a more mechanical materialism.

 

Here again we are presented with some clear indication of this when we present the political-ethical axioms that guide the principles of MLM itself. Mao Zedong said Marxism itself can be summed up in one Truth, “Its Right to Rebel.” This one simple axiomatic phrase will show us the subjective-objective relation, and how political partisanship matters. “Its Right to Rebel” is a political truth founded on the class consciousness, the subjectivity of a Revolutionary Communist. It couldn’t be derived any other way but a pure political partisanship as such and has no reference to the world outside of a class consciousness imperative and the basis for such a consciousness objectively.

 

The dialectical position of understanding consciousness reveals the “subjective” within the “objective,” and always has the self-consciousness of the relation between the two.

 

2) We are presented with Bob Avakian’s vision of socialism itself, and what a socialist society “must” be. It is a very interesting part of Avakian’s work and it is where the main function of his slogan and concept of needing a “solid core with lots of elasticity” lays. Avakian also looks at it in other ways in his article on Three Alternative Worlds and A Radically New Kind of State, A Radically Different and Far Greater Vision of Freedom where upon in the first he criticizes a social welfare vision of Socialism which provides the basic needs of the people, essentially a utilitarian society, and the latter in which he speaks about a certain contradiction of his about “upholding” revolutionary socialist countries while not wanting to live there.

 

These things presented by Bob Avakian must be said to be a genuine consideration of the fact that there is a certain crisis amongst the International Communist Movement in the summation of the previous epoch of Proletarian Revolution, where we rely upon dogmatic faith to models, we’ve ended up as apologists for periods that must be criticized and even become historical revisionists, or we have become defeatist in the aftermath and death of “actually existing socialism” across the world. All this shows is a general lack of summation that can help us move forward to build a successful revolutionary movement. We need in fact to reconceive questions of the Party and its relation tot he State; whether we need “multiparty” socialism or not, etc. However what is problematic about Lenny Wolfe’s presentation and Bob Avakian’s work is that there is hardly anything that makes up for the problems we face.

 

In the polemic that is feature on our site by Manuel R. Chávez López, A Contribution to the Confusion, it criticizes the Setting the Record Straight tour that was done by Raymond Lotta for its apologism of the Stalinist period and generally a broad scoping of the socialist periods without any thoroughness combined at the same time with what Com. Manuel called a “Lennonist” [referring to song writer, activist, and Beetle John Lennon and punning off the coined term of ‘Leninism’] to describe the proclamations that Avakian is conceiving how Socialism should look like as a breakthrough to Communist theory. Such thinking is necessary and must be done; however how Avakian proceeds with this is in fact anti-scientific and is against a Communist praxis. By projecting these musings of what socialism should look like as a definite part of his theoretical “break,” he establishes an A Priorism, Idealist vision rather than one that must take the zig zag course of historical developments that emerge out of necessity. Further Bob Avakian’s work isn’t actually gaging questions of practice and aren’t challenging certain historical problems. Avakian’s work minces in no way with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and it taking up a vision of “multiparty socialism” for 21st Century Communism. Avakian speaks nothing about the Great Purges themselves and the Stalinist show trials. Etcetera.

 

Further whatever the merit of these question about Socialism in the 21st century, they can’t be said to be theoretical breaks in themselves. Marxism never was established upon the pivot that we need to just meet people’s needs, but always has had the aim of empowering the people and taking on the contradictions that made difficult for such power to be held. Lastly, without the actual experience of socialist society itself, such questions can only rely upon speculation of possibility and aren’t concrete in the stone. Here we can look at Lenin’s State and Revolution and the experience of the Bolshevik Revolution as an example of how projected models are not definite when we are actually engaged in Revolution. During the Question and Answer period, when more or less this was posed to Lenny Wolfe, they answered they don’t proceed “empirically” or as “positivists” on these questions, that this vision doesn’t need to be brought to the reality of developing socialism through revolutionary struggle, it was adequate to analyze the previous historical models of the Soviet Union and China. It seemed this answer, during the Q&A, denigrates the role of practice and Mao’s pivotal “On Practice” which shows the criterion for understanding where correct ideas come from.

 

3) The last significant aspect of Avakian’s “New Synthesis” is then claimed to be what he conceives as revolutionary organizing and how it needs to be done. Here we are told that Avakian and the Party have Enriched “What-is-to-be-Donism[reference to V.I. Lenin’s pivotal polemic against Menshevism and economism, “What is to be Done?” written in 1905]. The current that has always emphasized a What-is-to-be-Donist approach have always put emphasis on getting out their politics the first principle in their practice. Many organizations on this principle make their revolutionary newspapers and literature principled organizing tools, have cleared work away from “day-to-day” needs of people to more active political campaigns, or have put “politics in command” in whatever work they do and don’t hide their politics. RCP has historically, on the principle of being What-is-to-be-Donists, stepped away from Trade Union work and worker organizing in favor of promoting the role of their literature and taking on more active political work which stands on the “fault lines” of US society, such as building organizations like Refuse & Resist, Not In Our Name, October 22nd Coalition, and World Can’t Wait.

 

The “enrichment” that they now refer to is their effort now to popularize not only the work

of Bob Avakian, but to promote and polarize those around Avakian himself. It is said they are going to get Ideology and the work of Avakian right to the hands of the people so people can grab onto these ideological breaks Avakian is making, so they can have access to his vision. The new line of the RCP is to make Avakian, himself, an organizing principle, being promoted as a new Lenin or Mao who is revolutionizing theory. RCP has restructured much of its work around it, the paper, “Revolution,” now features much of its articles on Avakian or written by Avakian. “Revolution Clubs” are being established and Youth Brigades are becoming non-functional in order to readily get Avakian’s work to people and to organize people to listen to his talks, watch the film of his talk on the East Coast and West Coast, which is an 11 hour DVD set entitled “REVOLUTION: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About–A Film of Talk by Bob Avakian.

 

The “enrichment” has turned RCP into the speaking vehicle of Bob Avakian. The idea is that the RCP will polarize society around Avakian’s theoretical “breaks,” his vision, and his own person and life lived. Lenny Wolfe spoke about this and compared Bob Avakian to John Coltrane. The analogy was essentially that Avakian like Coltrane is a path breaking figure, and his work in their fields is going to lead to intrigue into their lives. Further the analogy went a bit further because Wolfe compared the Party essentially as similar to the musicians around Coltrane when he was recording and performing. This is reason for the Memoirs presumably, and their promotion, and why the existing Cult of Personality -while existent from the early years of the RCP on- has intensified.

 

The temporal reality is that Avakian is not polarizing society, but the way in which the RCP has begun promoting Avakian is repulsive and alienating to most and has only served to push itself into bizarreness by the existing revolutionary forces. It is the reason why I left the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade. Such an approach has isolated and created a water tight kingdom for the RCP, not connected seriously to the mass work around it and not understanding how to bring forward masses to a revolutionary Communist position.

 

To sum up largely what I felt of the event, I can only say it felt dead. Not in the sense the RCP is a dead organization, no they do have the ear of genuine revolutionaries and are relevant, but this actually is a part of the problem. The Left itself is the living dead, especially the Communist Left in this country, very much out of touch and stuck in routine. We, in general in this country, suffer from a certain intellectual shallowness and pettiness in practice. Avakian’s work can only be seen as breakthrough with such conditions that the RCP is all well a part. The attempts to try to get Bob Avakian broken through and embedded into the consciousness of the structures of this seems a limited understanding of the superstructure itself and how it produces and reproduces Ideology. Such an attempt will ultimately fail if RCP insists to keep its self-referential system of questioning. It also denigrates the reality that the revolutionary left is not on the radar of politics for the masses of people, and “breaking into the superstructure” more or less seems the quick fix non-solution for the inability to organize the masses in struggle.

 

Undoubtedly the masses need to grapple with questions that are beyond the day-to-day, man doesn’t live on bread alone as the good Christians say; however lets consider the fact of the matter for a moment with the developing struggles of Black, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Filipino, and Arabic peoples, the developing student movement with organizations like Students for a Democratic Society in the forefront, and also with millions of people being brought forward by the Obama campaign [whatever we think of this], does the RCP really think by bolstering Bob Avakian into this position as a good Freudian super-ego of the movement, that this will actually “Engage” Avakian in anything real beyond the “solid core and its elasticity” that already exists? This for me is doubtful and more so painful that dedicated revolutionaries do see this as their actual aim. It remains to be seen what this path will entail for the RCP, but it is from this perspective not a bright one. We can hope only that whatever can come from this can be summed up and better the position Maoists are in after it. We can only have faith in the cadre and supporters of the RCP to really examine all the steps they take in their process of creating “wrangle-ism” around Bob Avakian.

 

We must look honestly at the fact that Maoists are in a Post-Maoist period. What can we say then to a development of a “New Synthesis.” Marxism is marked, in its history, not as a continuous naturally linear path of building up, but it is continually interrogating itself in the most disharmonious ways. Marxism is marked by discontinuity, and in many ways there is no totalized Marxist Philosophy proper as such. Marxists have a methodology of interrogation, immanent critique, and this is part of the dialectical method. This methodology is what enables us to come forward pitted from a partisanship, and to navigate a path to resolve contradictions within theory. Dialectical methodology in understanding the development of knowledge is in its simplest understanding, that consciousness comes into itself qua consciousness. The dialectical materialist view of the world understands that consciousness splits into two because of contradictions with consciousness and its relation to the world, in this way our movement continually breaks and ruptures from itself; however it is only the genuine position that keeps a fidelity to this self-consciousness of this movement. Maoists must take upon themselves this spirit to brave the waters and interrogate their praxis, and methodology as such, because it is the actual orthodoxy, the fidelity to revolution to do so. This doesn’t mean apologizing for being Maoists in the post-Maoist conditions. The eclectic pauper’s broth is no substitute for rigor in our theoretical work and keeping to revolutionary praxis. As it is today, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism represents most correct and coherent scientific approach to Revolution. Avakian’s work is a failure because it is regressively hindering the development of a rigorous synthesis that can supersede the contradictions that exist within our theory and movement.