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Weekly focus # 18 -- Militant activists will find a way

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  • Ben Seattle
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Weekly focus # 18 -- (1) The Communalist Project (Murray Bookchin) (2) Cleaning up our wiki -- one step at a time (3)
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 3, 2004
      Weekly focus # 18 --
      (1) The Communalist Project (Murray Bookchin)
      (2) Cleaning up our wiki -- one step at a time
      (3) Militant activists will find a way (my joint work with DJ)

      Hi everyone,

      My post this week will be a bit shorter than usual. I have been
      busy with many things, including work, family and a major essay I
      am preparing on the topic of culture. The essay was inspired by
      my visit to a temporary city of thirty thousand people which
      springs up once a year on an ancient dry lake bed under the
      blazing Nevada sun. The city is known as Black Rock City. Most
      of the world knows it as "Burning Man".

      1. The Communalist Project (Murray Bookchin)

      Dennis (Sept 29) posted here an article by Murray Bookchin
      describing Bookchin's attempt to confront the crisis of theory
      with an alternative called "communalism". I gave it a quick
      scan. Frankly, I don't think very much of it. Bookchin (as do
      most left-leaning intellectuals) equates marxism with the
      practices of the feudal-style ruling class in the former Soviet
      Union which enslaved the Soviet workers. On the basis of this
      Bookchin declares that marxism has failed. I have seen these
      kinds of confused pronouncements about ten thousand times. I am
      sure that I will see them another ten thousand times before I am

      > A new and comprehensive revolutionary outlook
      > is needed, one that is capable of systematically
      > addressing the generalized issues that may potentially
      > bring most of society into opposition to an
      > ever-evolving and changing capitalist system.
      -- from "The Communalist Project", Murray Bookchin

      OK -- nothing wrong with the above passage.

      > These assemblies and confederations, by their very
      > existence, could then challenge the legitimacy of
      > the state and statist forms of power. They could
      > expressly be aimed at replacing state power and
      > statecraft with popular power and a socially rational
      > transformative politics.

      So state power is going to be replaced with "socially rational
      transformative politics" (ie: an utterly useless phrase which can
      be interpreted in a thousand different ways). Bookchin also goes
      on about "dual power" and reinforces many of the absurdities
      about it that we commonly hear from anarchist minded activists.
      (I dealt with the absurdities of the reformist "dual power"
      nonsense in footnote 1 of part 1 of the anarcho-leninist debate
      on the state.)

      > In marked contrast to the various kinds of communitarian
      > enterprises favored by many self-designated anarchists,
      > such as "people's" garages, print shops, food coops,
      > and backyard gardens, adherents of Communalism
      > mobilize themselves to electorally engage in a potentially
      > important center of power – the municipal council –
      > and try to compel it to create legislatively potent
      > neighborhood assemblies. These assemblies, it should
      > be emphasized, would make every effort to delegitimate
      > and depose the statist organs that currently control their
      > villages, towns, or cities and thereafter act as the real
      > engines in the exercise of power. Once a number of
      > municipalities are democratized along communalist
      > lines, they would methodically confederate into
      > municipal leagues and challenge the role of the
      > nation-state and, through popular assemblies and
      > confederal councils, try to acquire control over
      > economic and political life.

      So the communalists are going to somehow compel municipal
      councils to create legislatively potent neighborhood assemblies?

      I doubt it.

      There may be some (or many) on this list who believe that such
      things could happen. Unfortunately, I do not have time to take
      apart these kinds of schemes. I believe that the real engines of
      class struggle will be assemblies that are created by the masses
      rather than by the enemies of the masses.

      Bookchin does raise a correct concern about the kinds of
      "proprietorship" that emerged in Russia and in Spain:

      > We must also avoid the parochialism and ultimately
      > the desires for proprietorship that have afflicted
      > so many self-managed enterprises, such as the
      > "collectives" in the Russian and Spanish revolutions.
      > Not enough has been written about the drift among
      > many "socialistic" self-managed enterprises, even
      > under the red and red-and-black flags, respectively,
      > of revolutionary Russia and revolutionary Spain,
      > toward forms of collective capitalism that ultimately
      > led many of these concerns to compete with one
      > another for raw materials and markets.

      Unfortunately it does not appear that Bookchin anywhere gives any
      clear idea of how this kind of proprietorship can be avoided.
      For example -- will Bookchin's communalists engage in trade with
      one another? Nowhere does Bookchin say. If they do engage in
      trade -- then they would be steadily transformed into capitalists
      by the unkind operation of the laws of commodity production
      (incidently, I have created a separate web page, excerpted from
      part 7 of the anarcho-leninist debate on the state, called "The
      Laws of Commodity Production for Dummies" at:
      http://struggle.net/ALDS/LOCP.htm ).

      The concerns that Bookchin raises are real and valid even if he
      is unable to give them good solutions.

      My opinion is that the outline I give in my proletarism page
      (see: http://struggle.net/proletarism ) and the solutions that I
      propose in the ALDS (see for example: "The solution to the crisis
      of theory" in "The Future Transparent Workers' State" at:
      http://struggle.net/alds/essay_160_content.htm ) are more
      well-informed than Bookchin's work.

      Dennis--have you read either of these? If so what do you think
      of them?

      My hope is that eventually this list will have on board a
      critical mass of activists who are familiar and comfortable
      enough with these kinds of theoretical issues to reply to
      articles such as the one which Dennis posted -- and give context
      and guidence on the issues raised. It is clear to me that such a
      development will not happen anytime soon. But there is a need
      for such a critical mass of activists to help guide a community
      focused on the development of a mass movement aimed at ending the
      system of bourgeois rule. And often, in the course of the class
      struggle, it is the things which are most needed which eventually
      appear. That is how the material world tends to work.

      2. Cleaning up our wiki -- one step at a time

      I am much behind in my commitments to cleaning up the wiki. I
      need to clean up the front page and create a projects page that
      gives visitors an idea of the kinds of projects in which they can
      invest their energy. And decent help pages are needed also.

      One issue I note is that often I create a page and others
      "improve" the page in a way that makes the page less useful. I
      don't have time (and I probably never will) to deal with the
      kinds of problems that are created when anyone has the ability to
      change any page I create. This is why I would like to see the
      development of "zones" in our wiki where only some people have
      the right to edit pages (I have discussed this in previous weekly
      focus postings).

      Related to this is the idea that visitors who look at a page
      should be able to know, immediately, who is (or was) responsible
      for that page. My conviction is that if "everyone" is
      responsible for a page -- this is simply another way of saying
      that no one is responsible for that page. I know that things
      have often worked out better than this on wikipedia and other
      wiki projects -- but these projects tend to produce poor results
      when they attempt to tackle the more important and controversial
      topics. And our wiki, in my view, must be aimed at creating
      clarity concerning precisely those topics.

      In particular, I believe it is misleading, for several reasons,
      when a page (as do all pages on our wiki) has "From Mediaweapon"
      emblazoned at the top. The content on some of these pages,
      frankly, is crap. Sometimes it is crap that is wrong. Sometimes
      it is crap that is simply unreadable. Why should our entire
      Media Weapon community be held responsible for the crap that is
      on some pages? Why should anyone be able to create a page that
      appears to have the endorsement of our entire community
      prominently displayed at the top of the page?

      If I was new to a community and was checking it out and
      attempting to decide if it was worth investing my time in the
      community -- and I saw what appeared to be a community
      endorsement of a lot of crap -- I would simply conclude that the
      community was a waste of my time.

      I brought this up more than a month ago.

      Daniel -- would you be able to change our software to delete or
      modify this feature? Please let me know.

      I think it would be much better if every page displayed, at the
      top, the name (or names) of the people who had rights to edit it.
      Lacking such an ability, however, I believe it would be better if
      nothing was displayed at the top of each page.

      There is another point about this. On the projects page there is
      a listing of a project described as promotion of our wiki. This
      is listed as being a high priority. I disagree. In my view our
      problem is the lack of high quality content and navigation on
      our wiki. We could find ways of getting a lot of people to check
      out our wiki. But if they see a lot of crap when they check it
      out -- what good does it do us? On the contrary I believe it
      would be better to focus on having more worthwhile content and
      navigation on our wiki (ie: the front page should not contain
      dead or empty links -- or link to pages which contain dead or
      empty links, etc).

      3. Militant activists will find a way (my joint work with DJ)

      DJ and I are working together on a page which deals with the
      topic of reformism. DJ and I also have different views on a
      number of important topics. I am certain that, over the course
      of time, DJ and I will explore many of our differences. For now,
      however, I would prefer that DJ and I focus on our page in order
      to help build confidence in the idea that we have the ability to
      work together to create something that is useful for activists.

      My experience is that when political differences surface -- this
      often results in activists not speaking to one another and
      cutting off contact. I have seen this and experienced it. This
      is due to many reasons -- including a low level of political
      culture. For example, a former political contact of mine, Alex
      (whom I have known and worked with on and off for seventeen
      years), will not talk to me at this time because I have
      criticisms of his conduct and the conduct of the organization
      with which he is currently infatuated. This kind of thing is
      very common.

      On the other hand the struggling peoples of the world (who are
      often in conditions very much more difficult than our conditions)
      very much believe that all serious revolutionary activists in
      countries like the US should _spare no effort_ to find ways of
      working together to fight imperialism and build a revolutioanry
      movement that is something more than a joke.

      My main focus and concern with DJ is that he and I help to
      demonstrate -- to others and to ourselves -- that activists with
      different views on important issues have the ability to engage in
      productive work in common.

      My proposal is not that DJ and I ignore our differences -- only
      that we delay (slightly) our efforts to discuss or resolve these
      differences until we have done a minimal amount of work in common
      to make it clear that we both recognize that our responsibility
      is to find ways of working together for the good of the movement.

      DJ -- what do you think about all this?

      How much work (either in hours or in terms of concrete
      milestones) should we do on our joint page before we spend time
      discussing our differences? Are there measures we could take to
      make it clear that our project is a live, ongoing project rather
      than a dead, abandoned project? Is there anything that I could
      do that would help with the page? Please let me know.

      I am kind of new to this kind of thing myself (I have worked more
      or less alone for more than ten years) and greatly value your

      Sincerely and with revolutionary regards,
      Ben Seattle
      ----//-// Oct 3, 2004
      http://struggle.net/Ben (my elists / theory / infrastructure)

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