It has been two years since the birth of the Occupy movement at Zuccotti Park — a movement organized through intensive in-person occupations connected through a wide range of online networks. Now, with the occupations long gone and those who supported them more dispersed than ever, activists must re-imagine digital infrastructure with an eye toward long-term network building. Nothing indicates the need for dynamic infrastructure more than the advertised theme of this second birthday, “Reconnecting with the 99%.” The time has come for a slow network movement, one in which infrastructures are developed from users’ perspectives and tailored to meet local needs.
I mean “slow network movement” in two senses. First, the movement must critique fast-paced corporate social networking for how it organizes us and prevents us from organizing effectively. Second, we need to learn the lessons of past organizing and recognize ourselves as part of a longer historical trajectory.
I recently traveled to New York City to catch up with the team behind InterOccupy — the global Occupy movement’s primary coordination platform — and discuss the infrastructure at work in the post-hurricane Occupy Sandy relief effort. While in town I also spoke with Todd Gitlin, the president of Students for a Democratic Society between 1963 and 1964. What piqued my interest was the similarity between the values outlined by SDS in the Port Huron Statement and OWS’s Declaration of the Occupation. While highlighting the continuity of values is critical, perhaps the most intriguing questions are much more banal: What skills were useful for organizing in the 1960s that are taken for granted now? Further, how does the current reliance on corporate social media make organizing both easier and more complex?
Jackrabbit, a volunteer with InterOccupy, reminded me, “Martin Luther King did not have a computer.” One of the significant effects of social media is the capacity to broadcast and amplify numerous voices across many platforms. But, a less-often-considered consequence is that activists have become less willing to do the messy work of collecting members’ information and maintaining a durable infrastructure. Moreover, many of our online networks are owned, operated, and located outside the movement itself — often by Wall Street-owned corporations. While automating information collection and network building leads to increased productivity, efficiency and a larger reach, it also produces a false sense of information security which stalls some activists from sharpening basic skills of organizing. Looking back, SDS’ infrastructure provides a valuable, offline exemplar of how a movement can be organized to coordinate networks of networks.
SDS formed in 1960 through the drafting of the Port Huron Statement, which outlined principles grounded in participatory democracy. Gitlin described his first encounters with SDS groups in Boston and Ann Arbor as a “far flung web” of “loosely connected” activists.
The infrastructure of the young SDS was held together by a cadre of office workers in New York — who assembled and mailed the newsletters, contact and work lists — as well as a complicated schema of elected national officers, local chapters, affiliates and associated groups. This structure allowed students to create their own SDS chapters on campuses, while it also encouraged established groups like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to work in temporary autonomous alliances. Technology important to SDS’ infrastructure included a national office, typewriters, a printing press and a Wide Area Telephone Service line for long-distance calls. SDS members relied on cars to travel between campuses and actions. Having the time, resources and ability to recruit at campuses, hand out leaflets and coordinate locally was an effective way to build chapters and camaraderie across the network. While the national agenda was set yearly at an open meeting, local chapters could choose to focus on issues like voting rights, poverty and racism in their communities.
While the dream of participatory democracy remained elusive for SDS in reality, coordination among chapters took place mainly through the national office in New York. Gitlin remembers, “During the time I was involved in the national organization, from ’63 to ’65, there was very little going on, between chapters.” National actions, workshops and convergences became more and more important for fostering ties as the network grew. By 1965, the intensification of the Vietnam War led to a rapid influx of new members, and the desire to modify the infrastructure revealed changing values. As Gitlin explains, “SDS decided to abolish the office of national secretary who was the staff chief, which is a development that came about because of a certain version of horizontalism although, it wasn’t called that then. It was a certain resistance to a division of labor.” Following this decision, numerous factions formed united fronts against the older SDS leadership. By 1966, a group once tightly coordinated and open to working with other organizations became fractionalized and more moderate elements, such as the Progressive Labor Party, were pushed out.
The Occupy movement first grew out of even more fractured conditions, with various groups around the country organizing more or less independently, coordinating only informally.
For every occupation, a new infrastructure emerged, which usually included a website, email list, streaming video, Facebook page, a Twitter account and public meetings. InterOccupy developed to bridge the gap between the various groups by using online tools as well as conference calls. Just as the Vietnam War propelled SDS to reorganize, a crisis propelled changes within OWS and InterOccupy.
During the Occupy Sandy campaign, more components were layered on top of this digital infrastructure. As the storm surged, an email list was set up by members of OWS and InterOccupy to circulate information about the condition of New York’s various neighborhoods. As the devastation grew, information gathered by volunteers on the ground in Brooklyn and Staten Island was funneled back to InterOccupy through texts, phone calls, email lists, a website, a donation page, maps and social media. InterOccupy then sorted the information for online distribution. Rather than occupying public squares, the movement transformed churches, storefronts and apartment lobbies into distribution centers. Although some participants wanted to separate the relief effort from the “Occupy” label, its ongoing use — as a political brand and a hashtag online — gave the effort momentum it might not otherwise have had.
There were two significant revisions to the digital infrastructure for Occupy Sandy. First, InterOccupy developed a database to log volunteers. Using open-source CiviCRM software, the network began gathering information about housing, work experience, languages spoken and more. Eventually, the online infrastructure grew as thousands of people signed up to volunteer and millions of dollars in cash and goods were collected. While the infrastructure could seem burdensome for those working in badly damaged areas, it brought to bear the coordinating capacities of those located outside the immediate area. With access to the database, I could find specific types of volunteers to fulfill needs in Brooklyn from my apartment in Los Angeles. I also arranged numerous shipments and hundreds of volunteers by staffing the main inbox, which could get as many as 1,000 emails per day.
Second, the vision of Occupy Sandy volunteers was long-term. Diego Ibañez, an organizer with OWS and Occupy Sandy, described the advantages of horizontal organizing during a crisis. “The network agreed that it is a crisis and then we all acted on it,” he said. “We didn’t ask — we created new channels so people can plug into and then address the crisis. If we could all agree that homelessness or houselessness was a crisis tomorrow, we could tackle it in the way that we tackled the hurricane.”
Being able to act in concert, without strict lines of communication and authority, allowed many small networks of relief workers to organize themselves according to the community’s needs. Along the lines of SDS chapters, the long-term vision included using funds to establish centers focused on organizing against racism, poverty and foreclosure, among other local concerns.
While participation in Occupy waxes and wanes, building databases that include information about the participants as well as the kinds of topics or events of interest to them can help point participants to projects they would like to work on. Much like missives from the national office in SDS, coordinating infrastructures like newsletters and phone banking can help maintain network ties during periods of relative stagnation. Moreover, a Facebook page or Twitter account could disappear at the discretion of the corporation that owns it or individuals with administrative access to it, potentially breaking the network into fragments. On Facebook, an upcoming March against Monsanto event was mysteriously deleted, as was the Occupy San Diego page and group. Examples like these suggest that simply relying on Facebook, Twitter or Google can make our networks highly vulnerable.
When events like Hurricane Sandy (or impeding war) require a strong public response, databases of volunteers, participants, activists and journalists, become indispensable for horizontal organizing because they mean that the infrastructure does not need to be built anew every time. Infrastructure design within a slow network movement requires thinking about the constituent elements of organizing, including the tedious tasks of database creation coupled with a multi-sited approach to distribution and storage. Thankfully, not only do many of the tools and software already exist, but groups like SDS and Occupy Sandy provide a historical precedent for what, if further developed, could work even better in the future.
When Dylan sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” he meant that when social problems become obvious, no one needs to explain it. In our current situation of movements mediated by social media perhaps another lyric from Dylan should be considered: “The pump don’t work because the vandals took the handles.” When the lever breaks on corporate social media, how do we keep organizing?
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LOL We’ve never heard the Progressive Labor Party described as “moderate” before. That’s a good one!
The main problem with your entire argument is that you believe that the SDS-style organization of workers in the 1960s was successful! It was NOT! Many SDS leaders – like Tom Hayden – “organized” themselves into comfortable niches as the agony aunts providing a “leftish” fig leaf for the warmongering, anti-worker, pro-capitalist Democratic Party post Vietnam. Others just bailed out after deluding themselves into believing that it was they who won the “victory” of the U.S. defeat in Vietnam – a victory that had nothing at all to do with the SDS or the anti-war movement and everything to do with the victorious revolutionary struggle of the COMMUNIST-LED workers of Vietnam, backed by China and the USSR. The SDS was a monumental FAILURE whose only residue has been a handful of shameless sellouts clinging to the coat tails of the Democrats. The Occupy movement’s determination to grasp at any political method OTHER THAN that of revolutionary socialism is not a strength but the vital weakness of Occupy. Instead of learning from the past and taking (or even seeking) a revolutionary road against the capitalist system which is at the root of poverty and exploitation of the world’s workers, Occupy seeks out every half-baked reformist method designed to beg for reforms from the capitalist class rather than seeking to overthrow it. The inability of Occupy to form a revolutionary movement of the working class is derived not from the lack of revolutionary will of the downtrodden working class but from the utter contempt in which the “leaders” of Occupy hold for the organized working class (especially union workers) and their thoroughly anticommunist philosophy. So, as currently constituted and led, Occupy can never be anything other than a clique of blind herdsmen “leading” a herd of politically naive bleating sheep begging for crumbs from the richly-laden banquet tables of the “1%”.
This yapping about a “slow network movement” is just so much puerile politics-babble from people thoroughly opposed to workers revolution against the capitalist system. It’s yet another detour from the road of revolution into yet another reformist dead end street of begging the Democrats to beg the capitalist class on the workers’ behalf for more tartar sauce* in the company cafeteria.
Without a revolutionary socialist party of the working class, organized and led by professional revolutionaries with a political program that fights to overthrow the capitalist system and place the working class in power there will be no workers revolution at all. That type of party is called a “Leninist vanguard party”. It is precisely what is needed; it is the only form of revolutionary party that has proven capable of leading a workers revolution in the modern era and it is PRECISELY what the “leaders” of Occupy hate far more than they hate poverty, homelessness, starvation and the capitalist system itself.
“Workers of the World, Unite!”
Independent Workers Party of Chicago
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Sadly, your analysis relies on the tired old view of political “revolution” that the patriarchal hierarchy wants us to believe is the only way for change to take place – one group of men taking political power from another group of men. Whether SDS “organizing” produced a successful mass revolutionary movement is not the point, its failures should not be used to judge Occupy. One of the greatest successes of Occupy was that it avoided the bloated pretension of creating a mass revolutionary movement that so many others like revolutionary socialism have unsuccessfully sought. Occupy was a process for social change not the means to an end i.e. mass revolution. Occupy was merely a part of a worldwide movement to create the new – a horizontally structured society – not tear down or reform the old patriarchal hierarchy. It was revolutionary in creating something new, like the agricultural, industrial and information revolutions. It was never about changing the patriarchal guard as in the American, French and Russian revolutions. Occupy sought to create a new horizontal politics of direct democracy not being a co-dependent in the old hierarchical politics of taking power. As such, it sought to change the world without “taking” power, instead relying on the power of cooperation to create a new horizontal world.
Citizen Lytwack seems to know nothing at all about Leninist vanguard parties! Revolutionary Trotskyist parties are among the most egalitarian organizations that have ever existed, in which both women and men take leading roles at all levels of party organization. To claim that the goal of a Leninist/Trotskyist vanguard party is to replace “one set of men with another set of men” is to reveal one’s utter ignorance of Marxist ideology.
“Whether SDS “organizing” produced a successful mass revolutionary movement is not the point” states Citizen Lytwack. But it is precisely the point when we are criticising an article in which the author states that “Looking back, SDS’ infrastructure provides a valuable, offline exemplar of how a movement can be organized to coordinate networks of networks”. Citizen Lytwack: did you even read this article?
Citizen Lytwack continues: “Occupy was a process for social change not the means to an end i.e. mass revolution. Occupy was merely a part of a worldwide movement to create the new – a horizontally structured society – not tear down or reform the old patriarchal hierarchy.” Where do we begin to untangle this mangle of absurdities? If Occupy “was not the means to an end” of any kind – as you assert – then it had no point at all, did it? If Occupy is going to limit itself to the task of creating “a horizontally structured society” then it had an impossible task, because class societies are not “horizontally” structured but quite obviously and ruthlessly vertical in their nature, with the tiny ruling capitalist class on “top” of the pyramid of society and the vast millions of workers and dispossessed poor on the “bottom”. But these theoretical diagrams of class society are just visual metaphors for class society – you can draw them in a number of ways – horizontally, diagonally, in three dimensions or however you wish, but that will not change the nature of class society, will it, Citizen Lytwack? You can represent the element Iron in a number of ways but that will not change the nature of the element Iron in any way, will it? Your argument amounts to no argument at all.
The rest of your “argument” is as full of non-sequturs as what we have already exposed to be nonsense. “[Occupy] sought to change the world without ‘taking’ power, instead relying on the power of cooperation to create a new horizontal world” says Citizen Litwack. Poor man! Not only do you fail to understand Marxism, you fail to even produce an argument consistent with simple Aristotelian logic. What you just stated in this last quote is what we stated in our original response to the article: Occupy was nothing more than a reformist organization, trying to patch up the massive human suffering created by the capitalist system with a couple of donated boxes of Band-Aids. When one attempts to “change the world without ‘taking power'” then one is merely trying to reform the existing economic system. This new “horizontal world” that you claim Occupy will be creating somehow – without making any attempt to overthrow the existing fully entrenched vertically structured class society of the capitalist mode of production – is a construct that exists now – and can only exist in “reality” – between one’s ears.
Citizen Lytwack: please consider reading “In Defense of Marxism” by Leon Trotsky. It will help you remove many – if not all – of the philosophical cataracts you have that are preventing you from seeing the nature of modern capitalist class society clearly. Just as we can not build a new skyscraper on the site of an existing one without first demolishing the existing structure, we can not create a new society today without first demolishing the old capitalist class structure that now exists. It can not be wished away with dreams and fairy tales or faux-sophisticated philosophical doggerel. Once you catch up with your philosophical studies, you’ll quickly stop talking this silliness about “creating a new horizontal society” without in any way disturbing the currently existing armed-to-the-teeth capitalist one. Good luck, Citizen Lytwack!
The empirical, material facts are that there is no lack of Leninist and Trotskyist activists in New York City, and yet they have accomplished very little since the days of Lenin and Trotsky. The fact that Occupy Wall Street was not dogmatic and doctrinally pure apparently enabled it to get enough people together of varying ideologies to create a scene of resistance in the heart of the financial district, and then capture the imaginations of thousands, indeed, hundreds of thousands of people eventually who were not (yet) radicals — most of them seemed to believe in social democracy and the Welfare state. One of the immediate results of those events was to change the flavor of public discourse in the U.S. and put the Fear into the Democratic Party. That, in turn, saved Social Security for those non-radical social democrats and it also began the process of splitting them off from the Democratic Party leadership. More recent effects of this change can be read into Mr. O’s incredible failure to start a nifty little war in Syria and to get his favorite thug appointed to the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve Bank.
However, none of this prevents the admirers of Lenin, Trotsky, and so on, from leaving off telling others what to do and actually accomplishing something themselves, thus showing the rest of us the way. Good theory arises from material facts, not from fantasy and polemic.
First of all we’d like to apologise to Citizen Lytwak for spelling his name wrong! That was unintentional. We have been spoiled too long, apparently, by the “edit” feature on our blog at WordPress.
Now, to Anarcissie. First of all, let us explain that we participated in occupy Chicago almost from the very beginning of the initiation of that farce until we were kicked out for trying to stop Occupy Chicago’s own homeless shelter at GracePlace from being what it was – one of the most abusive homeless shelters in Chicago. We’ve been in the Trotskyist movement since the late 1970s. We supported the USSR’s intervention in Afghanistan against the US-backed mullahs in 1979; we called for workers political revolution in the USSR to oust the Stalinist bureaucracy and defend the USSR from capitalist restoration; we have tried forever (it seems) to get the US workers to “Break with the Democrats and Build a Workers party!” and we have opposed every act of US/NATO/UN imperialism and have fought for workers revolution in the US and around the world since the ’70s. If that makes us bad people, then so be it. We wish we had been more successful, too.
You give us quite a list of Occupy Wall St.’s alleged “accomplishments”! You say that Occupy:
1) “[C]reate[d] a scene of resistance in the heart of the financial district”;
2) “[C]apture[d] the imaginations of […] hundreds of thousands of people”;
3) “[C]hange[d] the flavor of public discourse in the U.S.” [From “shit sandwich” to what? – IWPCHI]
O.K., so that’s what Occupy did. We agree, then: they did nothing substantial at all.
Creating a “scene of resistance” in Wall St. amounted to a series of impotent public demonstrations of dissatisfaction at the status quo in capitalist America. Yelling at buildings and such.
“Capturing the imaginations” of people in order to do… what, exactly? Yell at more buildings? What good were all those hundreds of thousands of “captured imaginations” when it came to defending the Occupy encampment against the NYC riot cops stomping through Zuccotti Park? What good were they here in Chicago when the Chicago Police arrested a couple hundred activists in Grant Park?
And how does one go about “changing the flavor of public discourse”? Do you put strawberry Kool-aid in the water coolers at the New York Times? That august “newspaper of record” just published an editorial entitled: “Bomb Syria, Even if it Is Illegal”. Someone must have changed the “flavor of public discourse” back to “shit sandwich” while Occupy Wall St. wasn’t looking! (We know who it was: the capitalist class, who were not scared at all by Occupy Wall St.’s silly, puerile demonstrations.)
And that brings us to the rest of your list of what Occupy was supposed to have accomplished. At this point, you go completely off into fantasyland:
Occupy “put the Fear into the Democratic Party”. Really?
At first, we agree: they really did. When Occupy first started, they scared the shit out of the capitalist class, as “Occupy” groups sprang up all over the US, which probably shocked the hell out of the FBI, who couldn’t even hope to get a handle on who these millions of people were who were launching “Occupy” discussion groups in every hamlet in the US.
But then what happened? In Chicago, the Democratic Party apparently dispatched police infiltrators and Democratic Party activists to take control of “Occupy” and see to it that it would not in any way interrupt the Obama re-election campaign. And when Occupy Wall St. announced that they had no intention of forming a political party – which we were calling for at the G.A.s here in Chicago – then the Democrats and their capitalist masters sighed an enormous sigh of relief! If Occupy had formed a political party in November of 2011 it could have run a rooster for President and it would have taken so many votes away from the Democrats that the re-coronation of war criminal Barack Obama would have been in serious trouble. But instead, Occupy played the “lesser of two evils” game, making sure not to upset the Obama applecart, thus ensuring that their de facto “preferred candidate” won.
You go on to credit Occupy Wall St. with “sav[ing] Social Security”! That is pure fantasy; Social Security is in just as much jeopardy now as it was before Occupy was even a daydream in its’ founders’ heads.
You also say that Occupy “began the process of splitting [the masses?] off from the Democratic Party leadership”.
We disagree with you on that; the primary result of Occupy’s refusal to form a political party in 2011 was to guarantee the re-election of Barack Obama!
But let’s just pretend that your assertion is correct (it isn’t): to what end is Occupy attempting to “split off” the masses from supporting the Democratic Party? If Occupy isn’t going to form its own political party to contend for that political power in New York, Chicago and Washington that is fully in the grasp of the paid employees of the US capitalist class, then what is the point? As we repeatedly pointed out while we were working with Occupy Chicago, if the Occupy movement refuses to assume the responsibility of organizing a political party to wrest power out of the hands of the Democrats and Republicans, then of what use can they be to the workers of the United States? If they refuse to run for public office, then all they can do is beg and irritate those whom they apparently feel are the “rightful rulers” of the United States – the “1%” – for crumbs from the capitalists’ overladen banquet tables! There is no other way to look at it! You either get out there and organize a political party and run for office and try to eventually overthrow the capitalist system or you just end up bleating helplessly outside the next Democratic and Republican Party conventions while the US ruling class puts on its usual pretense of allowing the working class to vote for one or the other pre-approved capitalist class politician in the next fake election!
“Good theory arises from material facts, not from fantasy and polemic.” Agreed! But it is YOU who is living in a fantasy world, not us. It is the Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism that led, during 60 years of brutal class warfare around the world (from the 1840s to 1914) to the development of the Leninist vanguard party – a type of political party which is the ONLY successful political formation that has produced EVERY successful workers revolution in world history – (Russia, China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam)! THAT fact is what you – and all of those who “despise revolutionary vanguard parties of any kind” like to ignore when you prattle about “creating a horizontal structure” or “capturing the imaginations” of the working class. You can “capture all the imaginations” you want: the fact is that, having done so for the briefest moment in history, ONCE YOU CAPTURED THEM YOU HAD NO IDEA WHAT TO DO WITH THEM! And since you eschew utilizing the ONLY proven method of leading a successful workers revolution – the formation of a Leninist vanguard party – you essentially abandon the field to the capitalist class.
(Even the United States revolution itself was organized by what was, essentially, a vanguard party of the bourgeoisie: the Sons of Liberty. Do you “despise” THAT vanguard party as well?) Without a revolutionary socialist vanguard party, there can be no revolutionary change at all in this era – only reformist band-aids to plaster over the severed limbs of the victims of world capitalism.
But that’s OK with you, because, if you want to be honest, when it comes right down to it, you most likely fantasize in your heart of hearts of someday carving out a comfortable, secure little “peaceful” niche for yourself and your family in the woodwork of the capitalist system. You oppose revolutionary vanguard parties because you are NOT a revolutionary worker; you hate the idea of workers revolution and you are essentially in favor of “capitalism with a human face”.
Unfortunately for you, unless we form a revolutionary vanguard party to lead the US workers in the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of an egalitarian socialist workers republic in its place, World War Three is going to blast away your cozy capitalist pipe dreams in a white-hot thermonuclear reality-check.
Lastly: if the currently existing Trotskyist parties haven’t done any more than just preach to the masses, it is because of two things: 1) Their outmoded methods of propaganda which are geared towards the politically sophisticated working class of the late 1930s and the relatively politically sophisticated students and African-American workers of the 1960s (neither of which exist today) and also – much more importantly – due to the stubbornness of the working class in clinging to the dead-end of “lesser evil” politics – a stubbornness made possible and constantly reinforced by the capitalist media and people like you and your
co-thinkers here at “Pie-in-the-Sky-When-We-Die” central.
Workers of the World, Unite!
Independent Workers Party of Chicago
I don’t know what you were doing at Occupy anything, since you don’t believe in what they were doing. As I said previously, there was nothing stopping you from organizing something different, on a different basis, and seeing how it worked. There still isn’t. Unfortunately you’re using your time and energy to deprecate Occupy, like a million other people, mostly liberals, who know just what they should have done but did nothing themselves. That seems like a waste of time to me, especially because you regard Occupy as insignificant.
I went to Zuccotti Park mostly to observe the events, although I did contribute some money and some goods (mostly food) because I thought what was going on was an interesting experiment and I wanted to energize it and make it last as long as possible. Of course it was infiltrated with spies, saboteurs, and provocateurs immediately, and one of the things I was interested in was how Occupy’s social organism dealt with them — fairly successfully, in the case of Zuccotti Park in 2011. (Since then and elsewhere provocateurs have more successfully exploited class and racial tensions in the remnant pieces of the movement. But the game isn’t over.)
As for vanguardist movements, the problem I have with those states where they succeeded — Russia, China, and so on — is that by and large they turned capitalist or feudal. This is not surprising: a fundamental characteristic of feudal and capitalist social organization (and fascism) is the existence of an elite class which is supposed to know better than everyone else and ‘guide’ (that is, coerce) the population for their own good. It’s hardly surprising, then, when function turns into form and supposedly socialist polities suddenly exhibit capitalist features. At first they are supposed to be transitional (Lenin’s ‘state capitalism’), then they are covered up, then the covering comes off and everyone admits what was going on and says There Is No Alternative. However, let me not discourage you from trying once again to make it work if you think you can do it.
As to my own situation, I’ve had a peaceful little niche for some time which is probably about as secure as anyone’s. However, I agree that if the current struggles for power aren’t derailed, my niche and everyone else’s are likely to be destroyed. But I don’t see how struggling for power derails the struggle for power; it’s like the ‘war to end war’. My strategy to to subvert and sabotage power systems, not compete with them.
Reply to Anarcissie:
We’d like to discuss the very important subject of how the Russian Revolution devolved from revolutionary Leninism to bureaucratic Stalinism and then to the restoration of capitalism (it did not happen without a long, unfortunately unsuccessful political fight from the Trotskyists) further with you but this really isn’t the right place to do that… we’re hogging up too much space on this page already! Anyone is welcome to email us at email@example.com It’s not “secure email”… but then what is?
If you’d prefer not to contact us, we recommend “The Revolution Betrayed” (1936) by Leon Trotsky which gives the subject a thorough going-over. You can read it for free online here: http://marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/revbet/index.htm
Independent Workers Party of Chicago
Let’s suppose for a minute that the anarchists/horizontalists had allowed the revolutionary vanguard Workers World Party to hijack the pre-Occupy general assemblies and turned them into just another one of their rallies. We wouldn’t be having this discussion. You don’t quite get it that process is an end in itself. And, as Margaret and our next president Killary so well illustrate, having women in the hierarchy does not make it less patriarchal.
P.S. I have the greatest respect for Marxism, in its day it was a truly revolutionary analysis and philosophy. I have read a great deal about it and even considered myself a Marxist at times. But then came Occupy and the realization that I’ve been an anarchist all along. I guess you should say a reformed “anarchist” aka horizontalist, since I really no longer have much use for political ideology and prefer practice to theory.
Citizen Litwak: you may have read a great deal about Marxism, but you don’t seem to have quite “gotten it”.
Here’s a little thought puzzle for you. You say:
“I really no longer have much use for […] ideology and prefer practice to theory.”
Instead of having your kid waste their time and your money learning the theory behind how one goes about safely driving an automobile, why not just give the kid the keys to your car and let them “spontaneously” learn to drive! “Don’t listen to those eggheads! You drive the way YOU want!”
Or, try to make that argument to a room full of brand new IBEW apprentices just before you lead them out to their first real-world encounter with a high-tension transmission line. “Ohm’s Law, Shmom’s Law! Act for yourselves!”
Now, imagine yourself making the same argument in an address to a room full of physicists at CERN who are trying to determine if it is safe yet to restart the Large Hadron Collider. Who needs theory, right? “Enough of this jabber about overheating magnets! Just start that thing up! We must practice, not theorize!”
“I prefer practice over theory”! What a philosophical muddle you are in, Citizen Litwak! As every rational being on the face of the Earth well knows (many who have denied it have paid with their lives): Without theory, there can be no practice!
Workers of the World, Unite!
Independent Workers Party of Chicago
There are two ways to learn, from experience and by reading second-hand about some one else’s experience or analysis. You can read all the theory you want about driving a car but until you get behind the wheel and do it you’re nothing but a wannabe driver. Likewise, if you really want to learn something second-hand you can stop being a true believer and think critically and independently.
“There are two ways to learn, from experience and by reading second-hand about some one else’s experience or analysis.”
That is a fine example of what we call “non-dialectical thinking”. We would say that learning ANYTHING is a PROCESS that involves both theoretical study and practice. We go back and forth between the two until we become proficient at whatever new skill we are trying to acquire. Unless you do both, you’ll struggle to get anywhere.
We just raised the red “W” flag over our office in Chicago on this argument. Thanks for playing, Ed!
I think this comment sums up my position as well. John Holloway makes the points much better than I though.
“In the beginning is the scream” Occupy was the scream “NO” No more hierarchical politics of power. No more representative shamocracy. No more revolutionary vanguard leaders.
Thank you for the comment. While I appreciate your perspective, I would not be inclined to join the party you describe. Why? I do not believe representative democracy works and I despise vanguard leaders in all their forms. What I have tried to demonstrate here is that there are multiple organizing models that should be investigated. It is partly a critique of the way in which corporations push organizing models on us through communication technology as well as a look into how people power can be built by consciously deciding on your own structure. My focus was solely on the early SDS model, pre- 1965, so many of your criticisms apply to a different organizing model adopted by SDS post 1965. I wanted to show that information collection, organization, and distribution by people within a movement has a different effect than hoping the network of activists lasts when infrastructure changes significantly. Feel free to respond.
“I do not believe representative democracy works and I despise vanguard leaders in all their forms.” That is quite a statement! We already knew that a person espousing the politics you stated in your original article above would “despise vanguard leaders in all their forms” because you are obviously pro-capitalist and of course revolutionary socialist vanguard party leaders are not. But your opposition to even bourgeois democatic forms is astounding and reveals you to be either an extreme right-wing person (a monarchist or a Hitlerite) or you could be a fan of Joseph Stalin; all these politicians shared your disdain for “representative democracy”.
Don’t get excited; like Citizen Lytwack, perhaps you, too, speak and write without thinking through the implications of what you are saying.
If you don’t believe that representative democracy works, what would you replace it with? Before the rise of the bourgeoisie – which began the development of mercantile capitalism and the evolution of “representative democracy” – which Marxists recognize to have been a very positive development in the history of human society – there was feudal society, where absolute monarchies were the norm. Do you think that was a better system? Or are you in favor of Hitlerite fascism or bureaucratic Stalinist socialism – both of which we, as Trotskyists, oppose in favor of an egalitarian international socialist republic? Or have you developed some kind of new political system in which the ruling class rules without bothering to obtain the “consent of the governed”?
We’re all ears!
Workers of the World, Unite!
Independent Workers Party of Chicago
Am I seriously being trolled right now for advocating building a database of people’s skills and asking activists to work on a long term vision for building digital infrastructure?
All good theory comes from practice and historical analysis. It’s not about trying to repeat old strategies and tactics, but learning from the past (standing on the shoulders of giants). Unfortunately, it is those pesky “historical conditions” that vary the effectiveness of one organizing model over another. There is no way to sneak a vanguard party into power without obscuring the multifaceted values of the public you seek to represent. It is complex because everyone wants a share, but not everyone wants to share.
It doesn’t stand to reason that one is a monarchist, Hitlerite, or Stalinist if they reject representative democracy. Marx also viewed capitalist social relations as a very positive development relative to feudal social relations at the same time that his critique demonstrated that capitalism did not “work” in the sense that liberal economists argued. If Joan had said she did not believe capitalism works would you have cried out, “But Marxists saw it as a great improvement over feudalism!” There are many reasons to suggest that representative democracy does not work (capture by capital, the logics of secrecy and security, gerrymandering, voting restrictions, and so on). To suggest that it does not work hardly betrays a desire for Nazism. You’ve made some worthwhile points in the comments so far and to ask what should replace representative democracy is an excellent question. Otherwise, I can’t see how this line of reasoning is useful. Instead, why not tell us why representative democracy works (or can be effectively reformed) rather than raising the specters of the past.
Communism failed on a global scale and Ho Chi Mien’s Vietnam has embraced capitalism and is now the sweatshop for neoliberalism along with China. Cuba is starting to open up it’s economy post Fidel and even backwards North Korea wants foreign investment. The so called Worker’s revolution you call for will lead to the opposite and will only repress workers into serfs for the state and I would do everything possible to overthrow that tryanny. Communism is just replacing one oppressor for another.
The Marxist-Leninist Communist Parties may have failed on a global scale, although the history of the 20th century could also be interpreted to say that they succeeded in bringing capitalism to feudal societies much more rapidly than the 18th- and 19th-century liberals did. What they did not do was produce communism, or even socialism. There were few times and places in the Communist Party enterprises where the workers owned and controlled the means of production.
The problem with actual communism, I believe, is that it is the only just distribution. As a result, it is a ‘spectre’ that haunts not just 19th-century Europe but mankind then and now, having neither substance nor power, beyond the beauty of its truth. It cannot be instituted as part of the state because a state necessarily consists of at least two classes, whereas communism requires a classless social order. Evidently people have to learn to emerge from the state, but it’s slow going — the culture has to change, and cultures change slowly and with difficulty.
I see I am out of reply links. Just as well, probably.
IWPCHI — I didn’t want to start a long argument about What Happened In Russia. I was just giving a light example of the source of some of my doubts about ‘vertical’, centralized, disciplined, in short, authoritarian — organizations.
Occupy is not exactly my kind of thing either — I am more interested in trying to start or maintain communistic and socialistic practices which at this stage are very primitive, such as Food Not Bombs, free stores, squats, and so on, out on the margins, where they won’t be immediately crushed. I want to help give people at least a momentary experience of the ‘paradise of communism’. I know people like me seem ineffectual, given the magnitude of the problems, but I run on ‘pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will’. What else can we do?
Hardly “ineffectual.” I think that people like you who did not try to turn Occupy into THE mass revolutionary movement are the ones laying the foundation for a non-hierarchical and most importantly non-patriarchal society. One of the biggest reason that the political ideologues have not been successful in creating a mass revolutionary movement is that the patriarchy controls not just the means of production but the means of survival – food, shelter, work, community etc. This control of the means of survival greatly limits the political action that most people are willing to take. That is why almost all political action, most especially that of the revolutionary vanguards, is just playing the game according to the rules set by the patriarchy. It is the small, “seemingly ineffectual” things that provide real people with alternatives to the capitalist system that are most important. Taken together with the billions of other people around the world who are building a parallel society and economy, it is these small largely non-political – but vital – actions that are a real actualized revolutionary mass movement for change. It’s what David Graeber calls the egg shell theory of revolution.
If you like long Latinate words, it’s also called the ‘interstitial’ approach (as opposed to the ‘insurrectionary’ or ‘ruptural’ approach, where one foments overt revolts, strikes, demonstrations, and so forth, and the ‘symbiotic’ approach in which one bores from within.*) The problem for me is that to some extent I share IWPCHI’s apprehension that time is going to run out, and the interstitial approach seems, thus far, to be moving very slowly.
Occupy Wall Street was interesting in that it was superficially insurrectionary, but what it demonstrated was interstitial culture (nonviolence, consensus, horizontalism), the mode in which its remnants now persist.
* I get these categories from Envisioning Real Utopias by Erik Olin Wright, which is online in various places and was discussed on Crooked Timber some months ago.
Thinking about utopias, I am reminded by Marx:
Empirical observation must in each separate instance bring out empirically and without any mystification and speculation, the connection of the social and political structure with production. The social structure and the state are continually evolving out of the life process of definite individuals, but of individuals, not as they may appear in their own or other people’s imagination, but as they really are; i.e. as they operate, produce materially, and hence as they work under definite material limits, presuppositions and conditions independent of their will (Marx 1978:154).
How do utopian visions see the future without reckoning with the fact that there are multiple material limits, presuppositions, and conditions competing? As Jameson put it, a utopia is a “system to end all systems” and really only gets talked about in times of great social unrest. These are also the very same times when the real material conditions are most difficult to locate. Classless utopias seek to end all politics and conflicting identities without dealing with the historical consequences of their invention. The idea of a vanguard party (with women!) has nothing to do with actually representation of subject positions and how they are reproduced.
Why I support the Occupy movement is because the ideas of degrowth, anti-globalization, and localization matter to me.
I have generally resisted the assertion that my ideas, and the ideas of people like me, are ‘utopian’, because it appears to me that a utopia, in the sense of ‘perfect polity’, would have to be static and totalitarian. However, people mean many different things by the word, from ‘mild improvement on the present’ to ‘absolutely unrealistic fantasy’. I do think class could be eliminated, but the resultant world, a big, shabby hippie commune, perhaps, would still have many problems.
The problem of corporate controlled avenues of information and organization has bothered me since I first realized that both corporations and the government can act outside the law, seemingly at will, as long as national security and/or banking stability is invoked.
I am relieved that people within the hierarchies of these movements, such as yourself, are thinking about these challenges as well.
Thank you for an excellent article and keep up the good works!
I think that not all occupiers are the same. I wonder if there are any others like myself who think having a government is a useful thing and that we ought to work toward getting a government of the people instead of a government of the corporate persons? I wonder if anyone else thinks like I do that —to have a government of the people, we need to get actual people, not politicians and certainly not billionaires, into our government, at all levels and in all positions.
And I wonder if anyone else thinks like me that we can not wait for the political parties to select candidates for us and then expect them to represent us instead of representing the money that funds the showy conventions and the expensive tv ads and the luxury life of the party boss? I wonder if anyone else thinks like me that we –the 99% who are actual human people, need to identify and select hundreds and hundreds of people from among ourselves who are competent and honest, people who have knowledge in some area of public concern (not politics)—and get them into our government. Does anyone else think like me that we don’t need to spend millions of dollars to campaign for real people? Does anyone else think like me that we don’t need a political party to identify the goals of these people? we need to know them. We need to know their history, their actions and words and their achievements so far for humans. Does anyone else think like me that no sane human in the world would want to be the president of the united states or believe that he or she could run this huge country and all its affairs, alone??? Does anyone else think like me that we need to identify a group of people from among ourselves who each has expertise in some area and who together hold a huge amount of knowledge and expertise as well as integrity and good will toward human life, and that we need to campaign for the entire group to represent our executive branch—pres, vp, all the cabinet positions, secretary of state and of agriculture and of education, and of all the cabinet positions, and as many aides and staff members, researchers and media liaisons as possible? no one sane and intelligent person would have the hubris to run for president, but a huge group of people supporting each other and supporting the environment, the humans on earth and the 99% in the US could undoubtedly do a better job of steering our country than the politicians and their corporate cabinet, staff, aides and media liaisons. What do you think? Occupiers don’t mind putting in their time and doing the work. Do you think we could do this kind of work, and actually encounter our government AS OUR GOVERNMENT?
I think that the fundamental problem with governments and the states which they create is that they are based on coercive force or violence. Hence the idea of the ‘monopoly of force’ or Gewaltmonopol — see Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly_on_violence.
Much flows from this way of organizing a community, such as the necessity of classes and rulers and the prevalence of hierarchical authority. Government also makes totalitarian claims over the lives, liberty, and property of its citizens and other residents, even if it does not generally exercise these claims. It seems to me there are serious moral questions involved with the concept which need to be faced squarely.
However, many people say that government is a positive good, for various reasons, and others that it is a necessary evil. Two centuries ago, the latter was considered a ‘liberal’ position but now it is considered a ‘conservative’ position, if these adjective mean anything any more.
It’s not just coercive violence, both physical and mental. The hierarchical structure of the political process and system, i.e. government, is at the root of the problem. The patriarchy needs coercive violence because the hierarchical structure precludes most people’s meaningful participation in the process. The masses are conditioned to believe that the relatively meaningless acts of voting and petitioning the government for redress of grievances constitute the full extent of their participation. As Emma Goldman said, ” if voting changed anything they’d make it illegal.” Joan is absolutely right that “representative” government, aka the shamocracy, can never lead to real democracy or change. Meaningful change and democracy require that people participate directly in decision making. Coercion is needed because people must be tricked or forced into accepting that someone above them, i.e. their elected representative (usually a man) will makes decisions for them. What in the West is called representative democracy is a sham whereby the elite 1% make the decisions and takes the commons wealth, through their surrogate “elected” representatives, aka political lackeys, shills, and stooges. Majority rule and majority decision making are just hierarchical forms of coercion by non-violent means. Horizontalism seeks to create a new political process by which people can participate directly in the decisions that directly affect their lives. The catch is that kind of direct democracy can only exist on the most local level. The most successful general assemblies, like those in Argentina, Spain, Greece, are local community assemblies that deal with problems immediately associated with the survival and general welfare of that local community. That was the direct democracy power of the Occupy assemblies – the community here defined as the occupation. Where the general assemblies bogged down was when they turned away from the local and immediate and started to deal with larger issues, demands and resolutions. “All power to the worker’s councils” is more than a slogan it is the essence of direct democracy. Those that do the work, take action and create wealth must make the decisions. Not through the tyranny of the majority but through the solidarity and empathy of consensus. Where the horizontal democratic process necessitates dealing with the larger issues, the system, i.e. general assembly, should become a means for communication, co-ordination and solidarity building NOT decision making.
What a mess “post-Marxist” “philosophy” has made of the minds of so many intelligent people! They are taught in the capitalist universities that “communism has failed” even as the Chinese degenerated workers state’s planned economy proves it’s vast superiority over the capitalist system’s anarchy in production! And yes, the maoists are trying to slowly restore capitalism in China – China is in a transitional phase between socialist property forms and the restoration of capitalism – but it hasn’t happened yet! And that trend CAN and MUST be reversed by the Chinese workers themselves by organizing a pro-socialist political revolution to kick the pro-capitalist fake-Communists of the CCP out on their asses.
Going right along with your confusion due to the muddled thinking of whoever saddled you with this ridiculous parody of “Marxist” education is a continued reliance on good, old-fashioned Aristotelian logic: everything is either this OR that; it’s either good OR bad, success OR failure; you all evince a complete lack of dialectical thinking across the board, from Joan, Ed, and even Anarcissie. The USSR had both good and bad points; it was successful in some things and not in others; same with China, Vietnam, etc. Which is to be expected in the very first attempts at overthrowing capitalism and creating new societies on the ruins of the old. If we threw up our hands and gave up on everything that wasn’t created perfectly on the first try then we would be a pathetic bunch indeed. As if the noble goal of building an egalitarian world socialist republic society was worthy of being abandoned if we failed to create it on our first try! It’s well that the inventors of suspension bridges, airplanes, irrigation systems, electrical power generation, modern agricultural methods, indoor heating systems and even man-made housing didn’t give up on their first try – we’d all be living in caves to this day.
We at the IWPCHI feel very fortunate to have caught on to Marxist dialectical materialism and held on to it as our fundamental philosophical foundation rather than grasping at the many, many thin philosophical reeds the tenured “left” professors of philosophy and political science have ginned up and foisted off on you all over the past 50 years. We aren’t smarter than you, we were just luckier in that we came to Marxism first and then recognized that our search was at an end because there simply isn’t anything better out there. We’ve been looking for better for 30 years now to no avail.
Joan: We weren’t “trolling” you at all, and we’re still waiting to hear how you propose to democratically organize society in the 21st century without some form of representative democracy. And who has ever proposed “sneak[ing] a vanguard party into power”? That’s not what Lenin and Trotsky or Mao or anyone else has ever done in history. We have no idea what you’re talking about.
Ed confuses “representative democracy” with “bourgeois democracy”. “Representative democracy” is a generic term that has no class content. What the capitalist class calls “representative democracy” IS a sham, as you say. But how can you accuse us of wanting to substitute a small clique of “vanguardists” for “the people” in one breath, and then rail against “representative democracy” in the next? We wish to lead the working class in the struggle to overthrow capitalism and create an ACTUAL workers democracy in the place of the bogus “bourgeois democracy” that now exists.
Joan: If you actually studied Marxism, you would understand that there is nothing “utopian” about the ideas of scientific socialism or communism at all, any more than it was a “utopian” idea of the bourgeois revolutionaries to posit the concept of a world without Kings and Queens. (But of course that didn’t stop the apologists of feudal society from accusing the ideologists of the emerging capitalist system from accusing the latter of “utopian dreams”, either! This lame “criticism” of revolutionary Marxism as being “utopian” has nothing at all to recommend it, including even the slightest pretension to originality!)
And your citations, Joan! Tsk, tsk! Is this what they are teaching at university these days? Where are your quotation marks? And what the hell does “Marx 1978:154” signify? That means absolutely nothing to us at all. How about telling us what specific essay or book your quote is from so we can look it up and see if it’s accurate or not? Or have even the citations for sources now become subjected to a “postmodernist critique” that has rendered them into impenetrable scholar-squirrel-speak as well? When we cite something we do it in a way that enables everyone to look it up and check to see if we’re being honest or not, or if we’ve made some stupid error. Or if we’re just making things up.
Oh, and SDS came out of the Socialist Party; SDS was also a political party, with elected leaders and mandatory membership dues (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Students_for_a_Democratic_Society)
Ed: we do not live in a “patriarchy”; we live in a capitalist class society that is dominated by rich men. If capitalism was run by women it’d be just as exploitive of workers, just as destructive of the environment and just as prone to world wars. If you start out being unable to precisely understand what it is you are up against and how to scientifically describe it, you will never be able to come to terms with it , never mind overthrow it.
Anarcissie: The subject of the state is an important one; your grasp of it is very tenuous – you have that lion by the tail, as it were. Hey, at least you’re trying to get ahold of it! We would suggest that you spend a little time reading the clear, precise, well-written Marxist analysis of the evolution of the state. Give that other mumbo-jumbo a rest before your brain turns into jelly and you start seeking tenure as a “left” political science professor at a “major” U.S. university. Engels’ “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” (http://marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1884/origin-family/index.htm) is an excellent book as is Lenin’s very nice short essay “The State” (http://marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/jul/11.htm) and of course the classic “The State and Revolution” (http://marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/staterev/index.htm). You may not agree with these works, but you’ll undoubtedly get a lot out of them as will anyone with a fondness for intelligent scientific analysis of political questions. “The State” is not an accidentally created thing: it evolved with the evolution of class society. The most important lesson for workers to know is that the capitalist state is a specialized form of state that can not be reformed into socialism nor can it be seized and utilized on the workers’ behalf; it must be overthrown, “smashed” and a new socialist edifice built on socialist foundations. The example of the Paris Commune in 1871 taught us this crucial fact, which somehow continues to be ignored or repudiated by so many people on “the left” that it is very disappointing. So many millions of workers were murdered by the capitalists in the 20th century because their “socialist” leaders did not understand the nature of the capitalist state. Do not allow yourselves to be the latest imitators of these organizers of defeat. There are many roads to the gallows and the firing squad and only one to a successful workers revolution (that we know of). In mountaineering, once a safe path to the summit is discovered, everyone takes that route instead of risking death on the more dangerous ones. We wish it was the same in revolutionary politics – we’d all be living under socialism by now.
Kathy Moi asks: “I wonder if there are any others like myself who think having a government is a useful thing and that we ought to work toward getting a government of the people instead of a government of the corporate persons”. Isn’t it sad that anyone would have to be in the minority who understands the absolute NECESSITY of having a government in a world of 7.5 billion people? How else can we feed, clothe and shelter all those people – never mind protect the planet from asteroids and comets?
WE agree with you Kathy; we want to see a workers government come into being. In order to do this we need to build a workers PARTY to lead the working class in a socialist revolution in the US and around the world. Read “The Communist Manifesto” and see if you think that makes any sense to you; if it does, send us an email!
The bottom line is this: if you haven’t read these few Marxist classics and come to terms with their implications, you simply do not understand how the capitalist world works, how it came into being and what needs to be done to change it – PERIOD! No philosopher or intellectual has surpassed these productions of the great Marxist revolutionaries. You are just pissing into the wind if you think you can prosper as a revolutionary by ignoring the works of these honest and brilliant political thinkers. Nothing written since the death of Leon Trotsky in 1940 comes even close to their works. You might think that’s a lot of baloney, but it is not.
Another too-long essay by us! Hope we answered some questions without coming across as being too arrogant or cheeky. Feel free to contact us directly via email if you’d like.
Workers of the World, Unite!
Independent Workers Party of Chicago
me — I’m a pessimist (i.e. I see no hope that the corporate, crony capitalist state can be defeated) — however, if all the Walmart and McDonalds employees organize into a worker’s union (of, by and for the workers) then I’ll gladly join the picket line with a big smile on my face. And by the way, isn’t about time we think about forming a non-violent cadre of protest defenders. These would be folks wearing football gear, gas masks and carrying plexiglas shields who would place themselves between the militarized police units and the non-violent protesters in order to defend the protesters from being attacked and gassed.
“No hope that the corporate, crony capitalist state can be defeated” is exactly why many people are seeking to change the world — without taking power — by creating a new horizontally structured society. I would only add that the capitalist state can not be defeated by relying on the same hierarchical political process (e.g. revolutionary vanguards) and violent means that the system uses to maintain power. They wrote the rules to that game, and the first rule is that “you can’t beat them at their own game.” No matter how much violence you are able to muster, the state will always have more. No matter how much brilliant political ideology and analysis you have, the capacity for lies, misinformation, religion and propaganda will always be able to control the mass mind. It’s hardly surprising that resistance, imagination and ability to create are inversely related to TV viewing.
I’ve read the mentioned works. Reading Engels’s Origin of the Family was a particularly significant part of my self-education.
My doubts about the state began a long time ago. I suppose I started out as a sort of liberal and began moving leftward due to experiences connected with the War in Vietnam. (I wasn’t actually in it but knew many who were, and was involved in the anti-war movement.)
A minor yet significant set of events for my thinking were attempts to organize unions and set up cooperatives. If socialism — ‘the ownership and control of the means of production by the workers’ — is ever to succeed, the workers have to be willing to own and control. I found that, at least in the present state of our culture, the workers don’t want to do the job. They won’t even join unions. Most of them are passive authoritarians, at least when it comes to employment. But top-down, government-implemented ‘socialism’ isn’t real socialism because it lacks that characteristic. In fact, since it possesses the formal properties of capitalism or feudalism, it soon evolves into actual capitalism or feudalism. This is what became of Lenin’s ‘state capitalism’.
The alternative is to organize a new social order from the ground up, changing the culture as we go, through direct experience. We are still learning how to do this.
According to Marx, as I understand his ideas, social transformations like revolutions to not come from theories but from objective material conditions. It is clear that while we observe much wrong with the world, we do not yet observe the objective material conditions necessary for a transformation to a socialist or other form of society. Capitalism has not yet run its course; it is still doing its own transforming. Meanwhile, some of us are trying to change the conditions, at least at the margins and in the interstices where we can operate.
Unlike some in the discussion, you seem to have a capacity to independently and critically analyze what you read in relation to reality and your own personal experience. One of the dangers of relying on out-dated political ideologies to provide the framework for contemporary reality is what I call the trap of history. That is, the belief that the future cannot be radically different from the past. As that “dialectic” thinker Marx once said, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” We might well say that this discussion repeats itself, first as …… second as farce. But then again, it was that un-dialectic thinker Albert Einstein who probably said it best, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Thanks Ed, Anarcissie, Joe, Denis, Elkojohn, and Kathy for your thoughtful comments. While the discussion has diverged quite a bit from the subject of the essay, I appreciate your perspectives on horizontalism, utopia, and reform.
As for citation style, please double check your handbook on block quotes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Block_quotation My comments about utopia in this thread were to another poster. You should read what they have written before responding. Your writing style betrays your insistence that there is a unified “we” responding to these comments. Your desire to represent yourself as the sole voice of reason makes it difficult to discuss anything with you.