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Are anti-imperialists afraid of open politics?

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  • Ben Seattle
    ... The development of an anti-imperialist pole of attraction within the antiwar movement requires an open politics organizational model that will allow
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 15, 2005
      summary:
      --------

      The development of an anti-imperialist pole of attraction
      within the antiwar movement requires an "open politics"
      organizational model that will allow activists to "see inside"
      our organization and participate and intervene in the
      struggles that determine our direction.

      posted at:
      http://seattle.indymedia.org/en/2005/10/248928.shtml
      http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2005/10/326798.shtml


      Hi folks,

      It must be stated clearly: the antiwar movement is paralyzed.

      The key to understanding this paralysis -- is the internal war
      within the antiwar movement.

      On one side of this war is a section of the bourgeoisie and its
      allies -- clustered around a section of the Democratic Party.
      These forces have immense social, media and money resources to
      promote their agenda. The most recent reminder of this is an
      article in the October issue of "Rolling Stone" magazine which
      gives "advice" to the antiwar movement. What kind of "advice"
      does Rolling Stone give the movement? Rolling Stone tells us
      that to be "effective" we must be "responsible" -- and support a
      phony "exit plan" in Iraq that would reduce troop levels a bit
      while leaving behind permanent U.S. military bases and a puppet
      government. Nor is this all. Rolling Stone also tells us that
      the antiwar movement must endorse the plans of various generals
      and support a U.S. "victory" in Iraq.

      I am not making this up.

      Now Rolling Stone is nothing like what it used to be. Many of
      the baby-boom generation can remember a time when this magazine
      was once something of an arbitar of what was "cool". But the
      significance of this article is that it demonstrates that the
      liberal wing of imperialism has a thousand channels to promote
      the liquidation of the antiwar movement. If it was not Rolling
      Stone -- then some other bourgeois mouthpiece would have been
      tasked with trying to float this crap.

      And no peace can be possible with this liberal wing of
      imperialism. They wage war against our movement -- and then ask
      us to "forge a united front" with them on _their_ terms (ie: that
      we demand "victory" for U.S. imperialism in Iraq).

      Now the other side of this war within the antiwar movement -- is
      composed of the overwhelming majority of activists -- who would
      actually like to see U.S. imperialism remove its claws from Iraq.
      This is our side.

      The problem is that our side is not organized. Nearly all of the
      organization within the antiwar movement is done by the
      liberal-reformist coalitions (like UFPJ, ANSWER and NION) who
      promote Democratic Party politics or illusions in one way or
      another.

      More than this -- our side is weak in terms of its
      _consciousness_. Most activists do not understand that there is
      a war within the antiwar movement. Most activists see the
      liberal movers and shakers as an "ally" of the antiwar movement.
      Most activists do not understand how imperialist society works --
      how an entire corrupt social stratam (ie: the trade union
      bureaucrats, liberal-labor politicians, religious misleaders,
      poverty pimps, "progressive" media personalities and professional
      "opinion leaders") -- which is small numerically but immense in
      terms of influence -- is waging a systematic war to degrade the
      consciousness of activists and step-by-step pacify and liquidate
      the antiwar movement and turn it into a prowar movement -- a
      movement for "victory" in Iraq.

      I would estimate that less than one in fifty of the quarter
      million or so activists who marched in the September 24 antiwar
      actions has a clear understanding of the war of ideas that is
      taking place within the antiwar movement.

      This section of activists, the most conscious section, will
      surely grow. But it is not enough to wait around until more
      activists see and understand the kind of treachery that appears
      on the stage at antwar rallies as much as in the pages of Rolling
      Stone.

      If we want to be effective in terms of building an antiwar
      movement with the power to shake society and mobilize millions --
      then those of us who understand (ie: that the political and
      economic system of imperialism generates one imperialist war
      after another -- and must be eliminated) -- must get organized.

      What does it mean for the most conscious section of activists to
      get organized?

      It means we must learn to recognize one another: it means we must
      communicate on a regular and long-term basis and gradually find
      methods to combine our actions and collaborate in a principled
      way.

      This will not be an overnite process, because there are many
      obstacles.

      But the principle that the most advanced section of activists has
      a special responsibility, a solemn responsibility, to find one
      another -- and to develop channels of communication and
      collaboration with one another -- stands out -- and will continue
      to stand out -- as one of the most decisive tasks of our time.

      It is in the spirit of encouraging communication and
      collaboration between advanced activists -- and overcoming
      obstacles -- that I describe the current state of relations
      between a small group of anti-imperialists in Seattle who are
      struggling to find ways of working together on a principled basis
      in spite of the fact that many of us basically do not trust one
      another.

      ------------------------------------------------------------
      Are we accountable to activists?
      ------------------------------------------------------------

      On October 9, eight local activists got together at a public
      meeting to discuss ways in which they might combine their efforts
      for the purpose of building an anti-imperialist pole of
      attraction within the antiwar movement. Most of the activists
      present had been involved in the recent successful effort to
      build an anti-imperialist feeder march on September 24 that
      marched on Capitol Hill before joining the reformist ANSWER rally
      at Westlake Square.

      We all agreed that the concept of imperialism was central for the
      development of a powerful antiwar movement and decided that we
      would collaborate, under the name "Seattle Anti-Imperialist
      Committee", on a leaflet about imperialism that we could
      distribute at the upcoming local November 2 events.

      Disagreements have emerged between us. Whether or not we will be
      able to overcome these disagreements and find ways of working
      together in a principled way is unclear at this time.

      My conviction is that the project which unites us (ie: building
      an anti-imperialist pole of attraction within the antiwar
      movement) must be accountable to antiwar activists. This means
      that antiwar activists must have a meaningful window into our
      disagreements -- so that they can play a role in helping us
      resolve our disagreements and encourage us to continue to
      struggle to find principled methods of working with one another.

      When a group of activists decide to work together -- it is
      usually the case that they do not make their disagreements
      public. Making disagreements public can be a messy and
      inconvenient process. Why air your dirty laundry before friend
      and foe alike?

      Because it is the salvation of our movement.

      We cannot enlist the intervention of activists (which we need) if
      we keep secret the struggles over principles that are taking
      place between us.

      On the contrary, we must find ways to tell activists that we
      believe that what we are attempting to do is so important -- that
      they must have the _right_ to know about the clashes of
      principles which are taking place as we stumble forward.

      Now I must introduce a warning to all readers: What follows is
      my view on the issues and principles at stake. Others involved
      in this will have very different views. Other participants in
      this project may have time to post their views here -- but they
      also may not have time. So what you hear from me may be only a
      one-sided and highly biased view of a complex story. It is my
      responsibility to present matters in as objective a way as I am
      capable. Whether or not I am successful at this may only become
      clear with time.

      ------------------------------------------------------------
      The necessity of "open politics"
      ------------------------------------------------------------

      My conviction is that an anti-imperialist pole of attraction can
      only be built on the basis of what I call "open politics".

      Many readers may be familar with what is called the "open source"
      software movement -- where anyone has the right to "look under
      the cover", so to speak, of the software they are using. Open
      politics is analogous to this in certain ways.

      Any political organization that has a mass character will include
      within it different political trends which contend with one
      another over the nature and direction of the organization.
      Unfortunately, this struggle, which takes place in one form or
      another inside _any_ political mass organization -- is usually
      kept somewhat hidden. Often even the members or supporters of
      the organization do not understand the nature of the struggles
      which are taking place as different trends fight for the
      organization's future.

      This is what has to end.

      ------------------------------------------------------------
      Will readers have the right to post public criticism?
      ------------------------------------------------------------

      The main disagreement that has emerged concerns whether or not
      the leaflet we distribute will link to a website where readers
      can easily post their comments, questions and criticisms. I am
      of the view that this is necessary. And I have made clear that I
      will not support with my actions a mode of literature
      distribution in which readers do not have the right to post
      public comments, questions and criticisms. What this means is
      that if readers cannot post their criticisms -- then I will not
      distribute the leaflet.

      ------------------------------------------------------------
      Will members have the right to a
      public listing on the group's website?
      ------------------------------------------------------------

      I have also made clear that I will not be a formal part of any
      organization which does not give all of its members the right (if
      they so choose) to a public listing on its website. I believe
      that this is essential for any mass organization in which the
      struggle between trends will have a public and open (ie: rather
      than a private and secret) character.

      ------------------------------------------------------------
      I will keep this short because I
      know that readers have limited time.
      ------------------------------------------------------------

      There are other things that might be said -- but the two points
      of disagreement above are probably the most important.

      ------------------------------------------------------------
      The proposal to ban me from public meetings
      ------------------------------------------------------------

      In response to this, one of the participants in this project (who
      has a lot of influence with many activists and whom I greatly
      respect) has proposed that I be banned from all meetings
      (including "public" meetings) of the Seattle Anti-Imperialist
      Committee.

      Obviously I believe that banning me would be a mistake.

      I have, as I noted, great respect for the comrade involved. I
      understand, on the basis of long expereince, that the political
      disease of sectarianism can distort the thinking of even the
      best, most determined, militant and principled activists.

      ------------------------------------------------------------
      Looking good vs. being good
      ------------------------------------------------------------

      I fully understand that making our differences public may invite
      ridicule from our political opponents. They may be able to point
      to us and say that this is what happens when you try to build a
      movement that is independent of the kind of liberal-reformist
      influence that appears in Rolling Stone and a thousand other
      sources which pump sewage into the movement.

      "Look," they may say, "even such a small and experienced group of
      activists cannot talk about distributing a leaflet without
      attempting to ban one another from the public meetings of their
      common effort. How ridiculous and ineffective they are. They
      are acting like a bunch of amateurs."

      And it would be the truth. We are acting like a bunch of
      amateurs.

      But we cannot be afraid of looking foolish in public. If we look
      foolish in public -- it is because we are foolish.

      However, as long as we are committed to working with one another
      while continuing to make our differences public, I believe this
      will change. Activists will help us overcome our errors. This
      is far more important than any ridicule we may experience. We
      will gradually become less foolish. We will eventually be able
      to overcome our amateur behavior. The ridicule will be a
      temporary thing. But overcoming our amateur behavior may have a
      long-lasting impact.

      This is what stands out above all else.

      If a small group of activists could successfully organize an
      anti-imperialist feeder march of more than 60 people last month
      -- imagine what we will be able to do as we struggle to discard
      the blindfolds which stand between us and the challenge of
      building an anti-imperialist pole of attraction?

      ------------------------------------------------------------
      What do we need from you, dear reader?
      ------------------------------------------------------------

      Most of what I write gets very little response from readers. I
      don't know if this post will be any different. There may be the
      usual ridicule and sarcasm from sideline critics. But that is
      not important. What is important are comments from the more
      serious readers -- who may believe that there is a need for an
      anti-imperialist organization which does not hide or keep secret
      its internal struggles and which recognizes that it cannot be
      effective without a constant stream of criticism from serious
      activists everywhere.

      If you are one of these readers -- then I hope that you will say
      something. Until the more serious activists find principled and
      effective ways of organizing ourselves -- we are going to live in
      a world dominated completely by imperialism.

      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
      http://MediaWeapon.com

      Hit them where it Hurts! and related articles ...
      Agitation for the Sept 24, 2005 antiwar march
      http://struggle.net/ben/2005/924.htm
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