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real organization requires a commitment to transparency (open letter to Edward)

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  • Ben Seattle
    Hi Edward, First, I should explain why I am posting a copy of this email to the pof-200 list. I am committed to creating revolutionary organization which is
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 6, 2005
      Hi Edward,

      First, I should explain why I am posting a copy of this email to the pof-200 list.

      I am committed to creating revolutionary organization which is real. This is not going to happen without political transparency.

      At this time you and I have different opinions concerning whether the web site for the anti-imperialist contingent for Sept 24 should be "interactive" (ie: will allow readers to post comments, questions and criticisms which would then appear _immediately_ on the page).

      You and Frank and the supporters of the Communist Voice Organization (CVO) have decided that the web page should not be interactive.

      On the other hand, from the beginning, I have made clear that there is no way that I will invest significant time in the work for the contingent unless:
      (a) all literature which is distributed references a website,
      (b) the website is interactive and
      (c) the literature which is distributed specifically tells readers
      that they are welcome to come to the website and to post
      their comments, questions and criticisms.

      At this point it appears that you and the CVO supporters have decided that your opposition to the interactive webpage is more important than my participation in the work of distributing the literature.

      I made my decision and you have now made yours. As activists in the movement we make decisions every day. Sometimes our decisions help the movement and sometimes they do not. But either way we learn from our experience.

      I am in favor of learning from experience. I want other activists within the Media Weapon community such as Marik and Ulyanovist to have an opportunity to learn from our experience also. This is the meaning of political transparency. And this is why I posting this letter to pof-200.

      If you would like to reply (and I hope that you do) I would like you to post your reply to pof-200 also. It is my conviction that others will be able to more easily learn from our experience as we stumble forward -- if they can watch our actions as they unfold.

      your counter-argument

      I thought that I should also address your counter-argument to the effect that an interactive website is not important since, supposedly, all that really matters is whether or not we have a commitment to make public the criticisms which we receive.

      You argue (I will not quote your exact words since you sent them to me in private -- but I will summarise your argument) that (a) if such a commitment exists then an interactive website is not necessary -- and (b) if such a commentment does not exist then an interactive webpage would do little good since all criticism could be "moderated" out of existence.

      This counter-argument looks reasonable at first glance. However let's examine it more closely.

      First -- it is clear to me, for several reasons, that there is no real commitment to making criticism public.

      You may think that _you_ have a commitment. But the CVO has a commitment in the opposite direction. And you do not appear to have either the experience or the conviction to stand up to them on this. On the contrary, it appears that you want to work with them so badly that you have already folded.

      The value of an interactive website (in the absence of a commitment to make criticism public) is that it would make the absence of this commitment more obvious to activists. In other words, each censored post would help to expose the hypocrisy of the CVO supporters who claim to support the idea of public criticism but who are actually bitterly opposed to it.

      Experience of SAIA shows that the CVO
      is bitterly opposed to political transparency

      How this hypocrisy works is illustrated by the history of the Seattle Anti-Imperialist Alliance (SAIA). SAIA was formed in October 2001 by (a) supporters of the CVO, (b) independent activists who soon become supporters of the CVO and (c) myself. Our unity statement, titled "Who we are and what we believe" included a section which said: "we are committed to making serious criticisms of us public".

      After (a) the CVO consolidated the other independent activists as CVO supporters and (b) I made clear that it was necessary for me to publically criticize the path that SAIA was on -- the supporters of the CVO then voted to liquidate SAIA in July 2002. I opposed the liquidation of SAIA and wrote a statement titled "SAIA Recoils--then Liquidates itself" (which can be found at http://leninism.org/stream/2002/saia-recoils.htm ). Per the unity statement I had the right to have (a) a link to my criticism of SAIA's liquidation posted on the SAIA website -- and (b) my statement sent to the activists on SAIA's email list. Neither of these things happened. The CVO supporters (under the lame excuse that they had a majority of the votes and could therefore do whatever they wanted) tossed into the garbage their commitment to make criticism public.

      Moderation guidelines would
      serve to expose hypocrisy

      The moderation guidelines for an interactive webpage which I insist on are simple and easy to enforce. We delete all posts which:

      (1) Support or endorse neo-nazi groups or ideology
      (2) Are commercial spam
      (3) Include personal threats of any kind
      (4) Include personal insults and have little political content
      (5) Are obviously insincere

      I have developed these guidelines as a result of moderating the discussion forums at http://communism.org and http://communism.com . Thousands of readers have posted comments over the years. Few comments that fall into any of the 5 categories above have survived for more than 24 hours. These guidelines make it suprisingly easy to quickly decide what stays and what does not.

      If, as a group of activists, we agreed that readers could post their criticisms to our page under the moderation guidelines which I proposed -- then it would become very difficult for the CVO supporters to delete serious criticism without exposing both their hypocrisy and their bitter opposition to public criticism.

      And that concludes my reply to your counter-argument.

      I will also add one more item which should be obvious: Readers are more likely to come to the webpage and post comments, questions and criticisms -- if they understand that they will not be wasting their time -- and that their comments will actually get posted on the page. And the most effective way for readers to understand that our commitment to making criticism public is not a sham (ie: as it was for SAIA) -- is if they can see that comments get posted immediately.

      For organization which is real

      I can understand, Edward, why you want to work with the CVO supporters. They are very talented activists who (a) recognize the need for our movement to be completely focused on mobilizing the masses and (b) have an incredible amount of experience at fighting the reformist treachery of the movement.

      I want to work with them as badly as you do. In fact my desire to work with them is even greater than yours.

      However I work with others only on a principled basis. I am a slave to principles. I do not bend my principles for any reason.


      The CVO includes some very talented activists. However more than 95 percent of their potential is completely wasted -- because they are bitterly opposed to any course of action which might compel them to be accountable for (or even to discuss) their errors. And it is precisely such actions which represent the salvation of our movement.

      We cannot confront the needs of our time without building organization which is real.

      We cannot create a real organization by gathering a few activists in a room and slapping on some pretend organizational name. We cannot create a genuine organizational democracy by simply insisting that we make decisions on the basis of voting. Such actions are futile because they represent an effort to create something which is real by artificially copying the most obviously recognized external features.

      This is like the South Sea islanders trying to carve "microphones" out of wood, putting coconut "headphones" over their ears and repeating the magic phrase "Roger, over and out" in order to entice the big silver birds to land and deliver their precious cargo.

      If we want to create real organization rather than simply get caught up in cargo-cult Leninist invocations to unseen silver birds -- then we need to understand what organization really is. Organization is activists who are in some way _committed_ to working with one another on a common objective.

      I am committed to work with you and the CVO supporters in ways which are principled.

      Recently the pof-200 list saw a comparitive review of some of the strengths and weaknesses of leaflets by the CVO, the ALC and me. Such a comparative review represents real cooperation between activists. This may seem modest in comparison to slapping together an organization -- but at least it is real -- while an organization which is artificially thrown together -- will accomplish very little and will not last.

      If you want me to set up a website for you at http://struggle.net/s24 (instead of at http://struggle.net/924 ) I will set it up with script interface. I believe that the existence of a website itself was a concession to me. And this is obviously no longer necessary since I have no intention of helping to distribute literature which is not backed up by an _interactive_ website. But if you and the CVO supporters actually want a site at "s24" -- I will create the directory and then you guys will be able to put up pages with anything which you believe will help the movement.

      For my part I will make the time to go to the public meetings that you organize, including the next one at:

      Capitol Hill Library (upstairs)
      Saturday, Sept 10 at 4:00 PM

      and I will encourage activists on this list to attend.

      I will also make two suggestions for the work around the anti-imperialist contingent:

      1) The poster announcing the anti-imperialist contingent should (a) combine the two slogans about the Iraqi resistence (I sent a separate private email to you and Frank about this two weeks ago) and (b) we may want to consider adding a slogan against the phony "exit plan" that the Democratic Party is promoting as a way to continue the war.

      2) We should have a public summation meeting following the Sept 24 protest. Various activists may be interested in attending. Marik (and possibly one or more of his political contacts in Portland) may be coming to Seattle for the protest and it would be useful for him to meet you and the CVO comrades. Lonnie has also expressed interest. And there may be other activists also.

      For an alternative to forums controlled
      by social-democrats

      No activist, or group of activists, is immune from making mistakes. I criticize everyone and every group. I focus in particular on the activists and groups with the greatest potential -- because it is the mistakes of the most talented and dedicated activists and groups which hurt our movement the most. Those with the most potential need criticism the most.

      Since it appears that the organizing effort for the anti-imperialist contingent will not have an interactive webpage -- then if or when I find the time to make a public criticism -- I will only be able to bring this criticism to the attention of most local activists by posting it on Indymedia. Indymedia is a useful resource for such purposes, Edward, but I believe you understand that it is run by social-democrats. It is a shame that public criticism can reach activists only because of the efforts of social-democrats. I work for the day when revolutionary activists make this possible in forums of their own.

      Sincerely and revolutionary regards,
      Ben Seattle -- http://struggle.net/ben

      Isolated from one another we are easily defeated.
      Connected to one another no force on earth can stop us
    • Tony Bondhus
      I got two things to say, one is about what should be deleted in a forum, and the other is about my soon to be user editable web site or wiki site (see below).
      Message 2 of 2 , Sep 6, 2005
        I got two things to say, one is about what should be deleted in a
        forum, and the other is about my soon to be user editable web site
        or wiki site (see below).

        From your little list of posts which should be deleted, I got some
        suggestions. I personally don't like the idea of deleting anything,
        but one needs to accept that we are in a capitalist society and
        therefore we are subject to its byproducts. So anyway, here's what
        I think of your list.

        BS> (1) Support or endorse neo-nazi groups or ideology
        I don't like the idea of deleting, but perhaps if it has a angry
        generally disrespectful tone. On the other hand, if someone is
        respectful and truly wants to communicate it shouldn't be deleted.

        BS> (2) Are commercial spam
        I would add to this, that only if it is obviously broadcasted by
        spamming software. Posts which are from people should not be deleted,
        for example, if someone designs tee shirt and wants to sell it to
        the group, that is ok, as long as in that person's mind it is relevant.

        Notice how I say "in that person's mind". NOT IN YOUR MIND! This is
        very important. If you delete according to what is in your mind, that
        becomes thought control.

        BS> (3) Include personal threats of any kind
        There's more than one type of personal threat. One is threat of
        violence. Another is threat of turning someone in to the FBI or
        something. I've had someone threaten to turn me in to the FBI when
        I didn't do anything even remotely bad. Nothing illegal, I didn't
        threaten or even insult anyone. I might have said something which
        made that person feel guilty about or something.

        If a person threatens to tell any law enforcement agency about
        anything, except in situations where the other person threatened
        someone, the person who made the threat to tell law enforcement
        should be banned permanently. Likewise, threat of physical harm
        should make a person banned as well. Unless of course it is
        obviously just play talk, like threatening to nuggy or a flushy or

        BS> (4) Include personal insults and have little political content
        The little political content is key here. It must be just small
        talk garbage.

        BS> (5) Are obviously insincere

        I posted something on a forum about a month ago, which was very
        in topic. I have a plan to bring about the type of society we are
        looking for, and that is what I posted. The person who was monitoring
        the forum though, deleted it. I explained that the deletion was
        thought control, and explained it quite clearly why it was wrong,
        so I'm sure if any intelligent people read the explanation, I'm sure
        they probably went looking for a different forum.

        I suspect the moderate is probably a government agent though, who's
        job is specifically thought control and detection of undesirables.
        His philosophies were more hatred type garbage, from what I've seen,
        and didn't seem to totally match the subject. Also, he started not
        one, but two forums on the same day, and a month later turned one
        over to another guy. Also the membership statistics looks fishy as
        well. The first year, all members joined both groups the same day.

        Seems to me like an obvious way to watch the people, to start a
        forum and moderate it. Spread anger, and then arrest people who
        do violent things as a result of it. I'm sure a government agent
        who does that sort of thing would look good to his or her boss.

        By the way, I'm starting a wiki site. You know, one of those
        sites where anyone can edit the content. It should be up in a
        few days, theoretically. I'm using Twiki, and interestingly,
        while I was installing it, I noticed a picture named anarchy.gif.
        I looked at the picture, and it is an animated gif which shows
        the Anarchy symbol and then Twiki. Apparently, at least one
        person who worked on Twiki is also believes in Anarchy, and is
        aware of the fact that the whole wiki movement is an Anarchy

        Anyway, my wiki site is not ready yet, but it will be at
        or at least a link to it.

        Don't get confused by the terminology. Anarchy is not chaos.
        In fact, Ben Seattle's definition of Communism also is the same
        definition most anarchists would use.

        BS> A classless society with no exploitation. No state machine
        BS> used by one section of the population to oppress another
        BS> section. No need for professional armies or police forces.
        BS> No use of production for profit or exchange. Society runs in
        BS> accord with the principle: From each according to his ability,
        BS> to each according to his need.

        This is what we are going to create, and I'm setting up the
        web site for it right now. Got a temporary page up right now,
        which I hope gives a little idea of what I'm planning. 'Course,
        since it will be a wiki site, it will be not just what I'm
        planning, but each and every one of us can contribute our own
        thoughts and dreams.

        It is going to take all of our intelligence to make this happen.
        Not to worry though, 'cause that is where we have the advantage.
        That is where Anarchy or Communism really shines, 'cause it
        draws on the abilities of all people, and is not limited to the
        intelligence of one leader.


        A new form of life discovered, and new hope for mankind,
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