|(notes for this file:) This document is part of "Anti-Joseph and the S.O.M.E. Hypothesis". The following excerpts from "Joseph in Wonderland" (March 10, 1994) were described in that article as "scattered thoughts" in preparation for an article (never written) under the title below. Numbering of the 19 points and the text are as in the original but the section heads were added in September 1996 and the bracketed comment in point # 11 was added in May 1997.|
Ben's 19 Points:
Contents: TIP: Clicking on any of the paragraph numbers --------- along the left margin will take you back and forth between the body of the article and the table of contents. paragraph number chapters sections subheads -------------------------------------------------------------- 4 1) Intuitive Concepts 6 2) No Single Set of Rules 8 3) Fingers of Hand cannot Always form a Fist 10 4) Competition as well as Unity between Proletarian Trends 12 5) A Party of Interdependent Parties 14 6) Unity Depends on Practice and Ideological Development 16 7) Experience and Common Sense Can Guide Vehicles of Mass Democracy 18 8) The Proletarian Organizational Spectrum: Submerged Component Trends are "Schools of Thought" 20 9) The Proletarian Organizational Spectrum: Looser Trends Conduct Warfare via "Civilized Norms" 22 10) Rapid Movement along Spectrum as Internal/External Conditions Change 24 11) Base of Trends not Kept in Dark -- Open information would counter-act pressure of sectarianism and opportunism 26 12) No Pretend Unity with Opportunism 28 13) Mechanism to Bring Opportunism into the Light of Mass Democracy 30 14) Isolating Opportunism and Severing its Power and Influence 32 15) Formal and informal commitments for "information community" guarantee ceaseless "information war" 34 16) Class struggle makes necessary "parallelity" and "information wants to be free" 36 17) Proletarian journals would give readers access to Opposition 38 18) All guaranteed universal right of voice and ear 40 19) Modern communications sometimes decisive to the struggle between trends and organizational democracy
|I am dispensing, at least in this section, with any idea of a "bullet-proof" style of writing. This means that, in order to make it easier for me to write this down, I will not ponder each sentence and consider all the ways in which it might be misinterpreted or distorted by those who are strongly inclined in this direction. ...|
|Most of my concepts here are somewhat intuitive and as I describe them in the abstract and also, as I describe, in an ongoing fashion in months and years to come, the concrete development of the xmlp trend and its sections -- the concepts may become more clear.|
|I don't have in mind any single set of rules for how a proletarian "trend of trends" would be organized because it would depend on circumstances. Even Lenin, in describing the tight, centralized, party disciplined along top-down military lines, at the Second Congress of the CI in July 1920, emphasized that this was because of conditions analogous to "acute civil war" (LCW 31, page 210, point 13).|
|The analogy is sometimes made to how the fingers of a hand are closed into a fist. But if we accept this analogy we must accept with it that if in times of crisis, such as in a serious fight, the fingers must be in a fist, then at other times the fingers should not be in a fist (ie: using a wrench, untying a knot, or feeling one's way along a steep rock face of a mountain being climbed in the darkness of midnight).|
between Proletarian Trends
|Similarly, in certain kinds of crisis, the maximum unity-in-action is required of all organizations which may represent the proletarian interests. In other times, the competition between trends would come more to the fore.|
|In a sense, the trend of trends can be considered as analogous to a party of parties. Each trend has a dual character, being on the one hand its own organization and on the other part of a larger, more encompassing trend.|
and Ideological Development
|Would the trends be disciplined by the larger overall trend ? Again it would depend on the degree of unity that had been built up in practice and in the course of discussion and debate and development in the ideological realm.|
Can Guide Vehicles of Mass Democracy
|My view is of a sort of spectrum of proletarian political organization. This would be a set of very general rules, developed via accumulation of experience (and also "common sense") that would guide the structure of any organization or group of organizations which proclaim themselves to be guided by and vehicles of mass democracy.|
Submerged Component Trends
are "Schools of Thought"
|On the right hand of this proletarian organizational spectrum, picture a tightly disciplined centralized organization in which the component trends are so submerged that their unique identity is hardly discernible. Here the trends would exist in a form like that of "schools of thought".|
Looser Trends Conduct Warfare
via "Civilized Norms"
|On the left hand of this spectrum, we have a looser collection of trends which behave more as would separate political parties -- which have openly negotiated among themselves certain forms of cooperation and also have agreed to conduct their competition, or internal warfare among themselves, according to certain "civilized norms" -- that would be to the advantage of those at the base of each trend who wish to know and understand the real motivating forces behind both principled and unprincipled maneuvers.|
as Internal/External Conditions Change
|The position and spread of this "trend of trends" along the spectrum would vary, based both on external circumstances (the relative need for close cooperation) and internal circumstances (the degree of unity in practical actions and in ideology that develops). The situation might be very dynamic and it might be considered more or less "normal" for significant changes to take place often. It would be relatively easy to move back and forth across the spectrum as conditions changed and the constituent trends grouped and regrouped. There would be a variety of factors influencing the location on the spectrum best describing the current setup. Also, not all trends would be identical in their degree of closeness to each other. Some trends would be much closer to others and some would be further from the center of the overall umbrella trend.|
Open information would counter-act
pressure of sectarianism and opportunism
|Would this be like a parliament ? I don't think so. One key difference is that the base of each trend would be kept actively involved in all aspects of the process. Information would be "open". Negotiations would be open. The basis of unity of the trends would be not only their common interest but pressure from the base of each trend which would demand of the leadership of each trend that a policy of maximum practical and possible unity be followed. Hence the need for a well established system of democracy and consultation enforced by the flow of information that assists the base of each trend to monitor and supervise its leadership. So this setup is analogous to united front tactics except that it would be practiced by a group of communist parties [or organizations which consider themselves communist] on one another.|
|It would be generally recognized that, all else being equal, it would be to the advantage of the proletariat for the system of trends to have a closeness and unity that would place it on the right end of this spectrum. But at the same it would also be recognized that it would be harmful to attempt to move in that direction in an artificial way, ie: to pretend to have or to enforce a unity that does not in fact exist.|
into the Light of Mass Democracy
|Hence a tension would be set up which would be healthy and useful. Trends which oppose closer unity with other trends would feel pressure to give account of the reasons why to their own base and, in fact, to everyone. If the reasons for opposing greater unity were that other trends were in error or guilty of opportunism then this would come out into the open. Hence there would exist a mechanism of sorts that would work to bring political differences into the open, uncover the real motivating forces that direct events and bring them into the light of day where they would be exposed to the formation of public opinion and mass democracy.|
and Severing its Power and Influence
|Making it work would require a fairly high level of political culture at the base of each participating trend. If a trend were felt by a majority of the larger trend to be opportunist, it might be excluded from the more closely knit group but the "norms of civilized warfare" might still apply and they would be worked out along the lines of a developed tradition that would be favorable to democratic forms of struggle that would lead in the direction of isolating the opportunist leadership from the revolutionary base and severing the power and influence of opportunist thinking and principles.|
for "information community"
guarantee ceaseless "information war"
|What are some of the forms of "cooperation and civilized warfare" that would exist among these trends ? I conceive it as explicit formal and informal commitment to form an "information community". This would mean that trend "A" is guaranteed the right to communicate its views directly to all members and supporters of trend "B" and vice versa. Such a norm makes it difficult for an opportunist leadership at the head of a trend to keep its base in the dark or uninformed. This also sets the basis for a type of "information war" between the trends that would operate ceaselessly.|
"parallelity" and "information wants to be free"
The guiding principles that motivate and from which
are derived the above forms assumed by the "trend of trends"
would be three:|
a) independent development ("parallelity")
b) interdependent development ("information wants to be free")
c) necessity (the objective demands of the class struggle of the proletariat)
would give readers access to Opposition
How might some of these principles apply to the
groupings in the xmlp trend ? One example of "information
community" might be for both the Chicago and Boston journals to
negotiate, in a full public process, an agreement to give the
other journal a page in which to|
(1) in effect, place an ad showing its table of contents and p.o. box, or
The contents of the one page would, by negotiated public agreement, not be something that could be censored by the other side.
|Further, there would be similar agreement to maintain enough of a common communications system that members at the base of each trend would have no difficulty communicating a message to either an individual in the other trend or to post a message accessible to all of its members.|
to the struggle between trends
and organizational democracy
|Finally, a point must be made about the relationship of modern communications technology to methods of organization and to democracy. Joseph seems to be asserting that all conceptions which recognize this relationship are social- democratic in nature. I believe comrades are more open-minded. Questions such as this will become increasingly important in the decades to come and it is important to examine this question carefully.|
|Modern communications make it relatively easy, even in a large party, for any member to read messages from and communicate messages to everyone else. Contrast this with the situation facing members of the German social-democratic party in the last century. No xerox machines or telephones, not to mention word processors and e-mail. Even typewriters were likely too expensive for a worker to own. Hence internal communication would have been via one-to-one or circular letters, the party press and the organization of meetings. This is not the same as asserting that the lack of more modern means of communications somehow doomed the German party in the last century or Lenin's party in this one.|
|It can't be ruled out that such an assertion is correct but it seems to me that such an assertion would be both exaggerated and very one-sided. More likely, the means of communication play a very large role in democracy within the party. I do assert that modern communications enormously facilitate organization. They make it enormously easier for everyone to have a better picture of what is going on with everything, with all the trends.|
|The role of modern communication systems in the struggle between trends in a party is a subject with which we have little experience. When we have a large party and some years of experience with a computer bulletin board type system we will be in a better position to assess such questions. In the meantime we can recognize that such a question is both interesting and important.|
|These comments will hopefully be given greater substance as we all gain experience.|