- Category: Science & Technology
- Created on Wednesday, 06 August 2008 10:00
- Written by Mike Ely
This post originally appeared on the RevLeft discussion board this spring, before Obama was chosen as the Democratic party nominee. An extensive debate followed the post.
by Mike Ely
In an article called Refusal to Resist Crimes Against Humanity is Itself a Crime Avakian (head of the Revolutionary Communist Party) said, in one of his extensive talks:
"Not all, but still too many, Americans—especially within the middle strata, although not only there—are in a real sense falling into acting like children, easily distracted with toys. 'Here at midnight tonight—the new i-Phone!' People will line up, and fight each other to get in line, to get the new i-Phone, but they can’t bring themselves to mobilize against the torture and the wars and everything else that is being done by their government, in their name and right before their eyes—this is not even really being hidden."
I need to respond -- speaking as a Maoist and as someone who believes in serving (not blaming) the people. There is a lot wrong with BA's uninformed rant that needs to be unraveled.
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First the title captues the theme: "Refusal to Resist Crimes Against Humanity is Itself a Crime."
Let's discuss whether we can say that the masses of people are committing a "crime" of complicity.
There are huge problems in how to bring people to a fighting front against this system -- at a time when so many are both infuriated and passive. But what claim to leadership can anyone have who so crudely charges the masses themselves with "complicity" or even "crime"!?
To think this is about people being merely "distracted" or childish is (need I really say?) very shallow.
True: the masses don't *see* alternatives, so they don't create alternatives. They *believe* that the Dems will end the war -- or more precisely they confuse their hopes and projections with belief. They are buffered, pacified, atomized, bombarded by lies, not monolithic and restless.
But this verdict conflates (mushes and confuses) two things: the willingness of the masses to act, and their willingness to act along specific lines DEMANDED by this small political group. For communists to confuse these things is to lose the mass line completely.
These cheap shots about complicity "point the spearhead down," at a time when this party is itself falling painfully and crudely short.
And look: What is going to happen now? The political juice of this country will now flow into the elections. there will not be an impeachment movement (unless some new scandal or war erupts) -- october 5 2006 was the last window for that. Now the huge sucking sound will be the elections. And there are huge contradictions within that -- because the leading democrats will not (and do not now) oppose ending the war. (Hillary's call for continuing both U.S. bases and combat operations until the end of her first term is only the most blatant example.)
There will be a "stop hillary" effort by the Daily Koz folks.... and then what? If an attack on Iran emerges (and the Dems fall in line with that), huge eruptions are possible.
Who can think that the RCP has positioned itself (and advanced forces in society) wisely or well to deal forcefully and creatively with that coming storm?
What about the cascading DE-motion of organizing and struggle in the universe of the RCP?
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It is really conservative cluelessness mascarading as scientific truth and radical visions!
Part of Kasama’s critique of the RCP involves this issue of “living in the 21st century” — including on the question of technology. Rather than being on the cutting edge, the RCP has remained stubbornly clueless about all of this… aggressively removing their DVD materials from youtube, resisting even email for a decade between 1996 and 2006, treating the web as "just another way of publishing a newspaper," and conceptually focusing on “getting into the superstructure” (onto TV etc.) without considering the ways that superstructure is fragmenting.
What excites people about the new technology
Let's step back and ask what is really involved and what really excites people:
The change happening in mass media today is far more rapid than the shift to radio that happened in Weimar Germany.
Forms of technology, streams of data, means of independent creation, undermining of traditional hegemonic ideological centers, method of new dissemination -- all this is mushrooming and morphing in unprecedented ways. And people are creatively learning to use this to "get around" so much of the previous institutionalized crap and constraint in society.
Revolutionaries used to be on the cutting edge -- the European Reformation is inconceivable without the massive exploitation of the new printing presses. Communists jumped to take advantage of new mass literacy and the explosion of newspapers during the 1800s. Lenin's communists were ferocious in their attempts to innovate using film in the new Soviet Union (even creating movie theaters within armored trains during the civil war.)
Yet, the RCP is a party that clearly doesn't have a clue about really using the explosive potential of the internet, youtube, interactive discussion.... except as a stodgey one-way repeat of nineteenth century newspaper paradyms.
Yes: people line up when a new leap may be happening in the merger and delivery of info-paths -- as phone and internet and multimedia come together in a cool new way.
Yes some people want to be on the cutting edge of that -- and struggle to participate in the new ways human society is handling information, art and ideas.
Was there some silliness and corporate hype in the frenzy over the iPhone -- obviously. Is there privilege in the way technology is marketed and distributed -- obviously.
Is that the essence of the matter? Obviously not.
Is everything that has arrived with the internet, video games and new communication technologies positive? Obviously not -- especially in its corporate implementation and exploitation. There are new forms of advertising and surveillance, and new arenas for distraction and mental fragmentation.
But, perhaps rather than babbling uninformed nonsense about iPhones, more communists should investigate (gawd, do some real investigation!) into how the convergence of devices is potentially IMPACTING and TRANSFORMING the future of modern political discourse!
For a hundred years, the "mass media" of modern capitalism has undergone relentless monopolization -- the defacto censorship of the available culture by fewer and fewer hands. And now, suddenly, the internet, social networking and the explosion of digital media allows the fragmenting and cracking of that monopoly control in ways that have not even yet become clear.
Is this a major new social development, one that revolutionaries to be excited and curious about? Or is this all just the playthings of the privileged?
In “Bringing Forward Another Way,” Avakian writes:
“I want to say, just for the record, that at times I myself have been acutely disappointed by—and, yes, have cursed in graphic terms—the people in this society who are sitting by and doing nothing in the face of atrocities and horrors committed by their government and in their name…’” This is bitter, mean-spirited "blame the people, curse the people" nonsense.
Here are some quotes from Mao that provide a valuable AND TRULY COMMUNIST orientation. Compare and Contrast, as Mao says:
"As for people who are politically backward, Communists should not slight or despise them, but should befriend them, unite with them, convince them and encourage them to go forward." As for speaking without knowing, Mao said:
"A Communist must never be opinionated or domineering, thinking that he is good in everything while others are good in nothing; he must never shut himself up in his little room, or brag and boast and lord it over others."
Finally: Here is a related quote featured prominently on the Revolution newspaper website by Bob Avakian:
“The politics of the ‘possible’ is the politics of monstrosity. To adhere to, or acquiesce in, the politics of the ‘possible’ is to support, and actually to facilitate, monstrosity.”
It is worth thinking through, and debating, what that means. The politics of the possible refers to those who think that it is possible that the Democrats will make a difference, and that nothing else is currently possible.
Are the people who hold these illusions actually supporting and faciliating "monstrosity." Is it really that simple?