Continued from part one: Theory of the Offensive.
Open Threads is an open blogging platform, for debate and exploration of ideas among communists and radicals. Content presented here is contributed by Kasama site users.
The previous two essays, 'The First Words of Common Sense' and 'Because We Want to Win, We Want the Means' were written to look specifically at some of the strengths of Blanquist theory and practice. While the weaknesses and deficiencies of Blanquism were not denied or glossed over, they were not given prominence. Too often, a focus by leftists on the weaknesses of Blanquism is meant to justify a conservative practice under a leftist guise. In this case, Blanquism is just an insult that reformers or revisionists call revolutionaries. Our focus on the weaknesses, deficiencies and omissions of Blanquism here has a different purpose - to look at what prevented Blanquism from realizing the goal it set out to achieve: the revolutionary seizure of power by the proletariat. To do this, it is not enough to look just at Blanqui, but to look beyond him to other communists who thought seriously about the conquest of power.
By Doug Enaa Greene
Originally published at Open Media Boston here.
As an enthusiastic participant in the Occupy Movement I recognized, like many others, that it was time to act and “do something.” Here was a movement that, however inarticulately spoke the language of class struggle and questioned the way wealth and power in society was distributed. Yet I could never really hide a certain level frustration with what we were doing at Occupy. Despite the exciting exchange of ideas and the feeling of being a part of something important, the potential energy of Occupy never acquired adequate forms of organization with a set goal. Although Occupy has long since ended, the problems of a organization and the goal remain with the wider left.
A close look at Blanquism: Part 2
Part one: First Words of Common Sense.
"We are revolutionaries, ie Communards , and because we want to win, we want the means. For including the conditions of the fight and wanting to fulfill them, we want the largest organization of combat, the combination of force, not their dispersion, but their centralization."
-Charles DaCosta, Blanquist member of the Paris Commune
by Mike Ely
"When banks and corporations, police departments and intelligence agencies, have their internal communications compromised they don't respond by saying "oh well, I guess secure internal communications are a pipedream, lets just throw open the doors." On the contrary they strive to keep abreast of the technology, and to protect themselves better both through the use of technological protections but also by consciously training and cultivating their staffs in the best practices they know."...
Before you can build a revolutionary party, you have to have a revolutionary movement. We don't. We have a sad collection of lobotomized protest ghetto clichés that occasionally interact with a large mass of angry people, usually with the effect of driving them away or running them into a brick wall.
It is one of the worst clichés of the new left to form a revolutionary party before you have a movement. It doesn't work. It reeks of the role playing game, not to mention white upper class privilege. It is a case of the organization actually becoming a Fetish, around which is erected a cargo-cult, complete with a whole slew of taboos and magical beliefs, not to mention all our precious rituals of scapegoating....
Intro by Mike Ely
Zizek points out the basic truth, that Mandela is being honored because he opposed apartheid without opposing global capitalism. And adds that the people of South Africa still suffer great oppression and poverty.
It is Mandela's rebellion that made him famous, but it is his moderation that wins him praise....
by Nat Winn
The following comment comes from a longer discussion on the recent US government shutdown, the potential openings it creates for talking about communism to broader sections of people, and the limitations in how communists have dealt with such opportunity.
Miles Ahead asks,
Let me say from the get, I don’t have a lot of answers…but is the mindset that you are proposing breaking with a false dichotomy? How do we, along with other revolutionary-minded people, “fuse communist ideas and create revolutionary sentiments among broad sections of the people”—and is our main problem that people are too much into being revolutionary activists (or organizers) or is it something else?
My feeling is that there are two wrong ways of thinking and doing among revolutionaries in regard to developing a social base. I mentioned these briefly in my first article on the shut down.
by Nat Winn
So the shutdown of the U.S. Government has ended and the threat of a default on U.S. debt has been averted, for now. Everyone paying attention can see that the drama within the ruling class has not yet run its course, though we probably are less clear on how we might understand this, and for revolutionaries – how we might intervene and influence public opinion and organize forces.
Alain Badiou argues that we are now living in a time of riots and uprisings and that this creates the potential for a “rebirth of history” where the communist idea once again becomes a vital force. As the recovery from global recession has lagged, while workers and the most oppressed are made the target of austerity programs that dismantle any social safety nets they once may have fought for and used to survive; from the Middle East to Southern Europe to South America and in the United States rebellions have emerged in fits and starts and the ruling classes legitimacy has more and more been called into question....
In light of many recent debates here on Kasama, I thought it would be useful to revisit this article on line struggle and communist road. - Nat Winn
"One of the inflexible tasks of any communist organization (and any communist leadership) is to help train everyone (both the communists at all levels, but also the supporters of the movement) to evaluate choices by these criteria: Where does it lead? Who does it serve?
"And one of the difficult tasks in moments of struggle is to apply those criteria consciously, in the midst of great pulls, demagoguery and confusion."
by Nat Winn
There are a number of opinions among revolutionaries and communists on how we might interpret and intervene in the new movement among fast food workers.
This is as good a time as any to get into a discussion of what communist work is and whether or not we look at our principle (communist) work in this period as reconception. This article aims at a humble contribution to these questions about communist work and the necessity for reconception. It's main argument is that a recent article by NPC is an argument against the urgent necessity for reconception of communist strategy and would essentially result in a dispersion of communist forces into (local) militant activism (not communist work).
This is a sincere question about language.
I was reading an article today, and lingered over this sentence:
" Prostitution, as well as the sex industry as a whole, must be considered in the light of the reality of gender and class oppression and inequality under capitalism as it exists."
I have no issue with the point this sentence raises, but i was struck by the language.
And wondered why do such important matters now get discussed without talking about women's oppression and women's liberation"...
"I think [NPC's] point about focusing on the revolutionary movement "at home" is correct and important. We must be tied to the real struggles of people in our society, we must be "one with the people" in a sense. The concrete details of how this would be done are a bit beyond me right now and beyond my attention span to speculate on at the moment (ha). My amendment would be, I think, that our internationalism should also be central to that movement in whatever form it takes." [emphasis mine]
I replied in disagreement and said (among other things):...
A friend of mine posted a quotation from Leon Trotsky, and I'd like to share some comments that it raises.
"Capitalist society is puking up the undigested barbarism. Such is the physiology of National Socialism."
Leon Trotsky, What is National Socialism?
by Mike Ely
I don't think 1930s fascism was a recycling or resurrection or manifestation of past "barbarism." And, looking at this more generally, the historic approach to fascism and politics embedded in the famous phrase "socialism or barbarism" is wrong. It is a misunderstanding of fascism, and is rooted in a wing of socialism that saw itself as the inheritor of the "civilizing" project (with all the pro-colonial blindness that such socialists often shared).
Barbarism, for those new to this as a political-historic term, was a term used to describe clan-based societies before feudalism -- like the Germanic tribal societies fighting the Roman empire, or the African societies confronting European colonialism. Earlier societies (what we generally call "hunter-gatherer societies," were once called "savagery.") In other words, in popular speech, "barbaric" is generally descriptive term (something brutal, amoral, unrestrained) -- but for both Marxists and those embedded in European culture, barbarism has been a much more specific term, referring to a threatening, nihilistic world of barbarians threatening "Western civilization."
There was, in human society eight or ten thousand years ago, a moment when class societies first started developing out of earlier tribal/clan societies. And that process was accompanied with important developments of civilization (literacy, laws, infrastructure, medicine, intensified commerce, urban life, replacement of barter with money, the diminishing of constant violence through the development of distinct official bodies of armed men, etc.)
We should not be cultural relativistis who mistakenly see all societies as equal, and who don't see any overall progress in human social development. But, regarding the term "barbarism" itself: We should find a way of discussing pre-class societies that doesn't act as an extension of reactionary European narratives.