It just doesn't surprise me, and yes, it disgusts me

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at
Mon Aug 11 06:49:10 MDT 2003

In general I agree with Jim Craven and James Daly, and Richard Harris is a
personal friend of mine regardless of what happens on this list. I am
thankful to Louis Proyect for bringing me into personal contact with Richard
via the list facility.
I haven't yet had any disagreement with Richard, but that is partly because
of the way we relate, i.e. with mutual respect and constructive intentions,
we do not make a massive point of controversy about a relatively trivial
difference, in the manner of sectarians. We are not afraid of a mutual
confrontation, but we would keep that confrontation for a context in which
that was politically and practically appropriate, if there was a real
disagreement which has major practical effect.

But I personally don't think some list-members grasp the issues at stake
very well.

As we know, there are many different groups and social strata in society,
sociologically, who are more or less conscious of the deeper structuration
of class society, its social origins and its future. They might radicalise
is different ways and might gain political consciousness in different ways.
This ought to be seen in motion and in development, on the basis of real
experiential evidence and analysis, within specific contexts. This is
difficult, and as individuals we are limited, only by working together to we
get a better and more objective view of the situation.

The value of a slogan must be evaluated in relation to levels of
consciousness, the kinds of people we are dealing with, and the political
project we happen to be engaged in. In general, it is useless to debate
about the merits of political slogans separate from a real political
practice and a real political involvement, and what we can do as individuals
there is limited, normally we can in practice only reach our own peer group,
our own constituency, the people we opt to work with.

The dialectical principle of non-exclusion ought to be applied. If people
want to use certain anti-war slogans, let them, if you don't like the
anti-war slogan others use, make up your own slogan, and see if you can
mobilise people around that, see if that catches on. That is the challenge.
A better question to ask is, how can we work together better, what obstacles
are there for this, and are those obstacles real or imaginary ? How can the
broadest basis of unity be arrived at with the best political formula ?  I
made a brief comment previously about the meaning, uses and limits of
slogans, that is all I am able to do, I refrain from other debates, because
I think they are mostly silly and I am currently not heavily involved in
some kind of peace activism anyway.

In my opinion, this business of continually putting into question, and
jibing about, the quality of the radicalism of others, and seeking to
dictate the true slogan to others, has a sectarian dynamic. Different
socialists have different personalities and will orient to different groups
of people, and there is nothing wrong with that. All one can say is that
some groups of people have greater radical or revolutionary potential than
others, but even here one ought to be careful about generalising. As the Bob
Dylan song has it, "the first ones now will later be last, because the times
they are a-changing", i.e. in a rapidly changing situation, people who seem
very radical now may be left behind, and others who did not seem so radical,
may in fact become the most radical. Maybe that has nothing to do with
political correctness, but with lifestyle.

Many participants in the debate seem to assume implicitly by their language
used, that a Leninist-type contest for the leadership of the working class
is occurring in the USA, but this is ridiculous. They want to use
party-style rhetoric when they haven't got a mass socialist or revolutionary
party anyway.  What Yoshie and similar people are concerned with is how you
get more and more people who are subjectively opposed to the war, to take
public action in practice, and organise themselves on an increasingly higher
level, with increasing political awareness. If you are not able to
accomplish this basic thing practically, in practice, then all the lofty,
fine and erudite disputations you might have on the list may be very
insightful, but absolutely useless anyhow. If you don't have a mass
socialist party in the USA, the 6 million dollar question is, how you get
one, and we do not answer it, by extrapolating a deleterous inevitable
political trajectory from the use of a political slogan or idea, but through
practically finding out, and comparing notes for the purpose of adjusting
political behaviour.

Many socialist sectarians subscribe to a peculiar Hegelian leftism.
According to this, a particular theoretical idea or political idea must, of
its own accord, automatically, necessarily and inevitably lead to political
disaster in the real world, and should therefore be vigorously polemicised
against as a deadly sin or evil. The practices behind the idea are ignored,
implying a distorted relationship between theory and practice, which has
nothing to do with materialism in a Marxian sense. In fact such a socialist
sectarian approach implies a crude idealism which ascribes an autonomous
power to ideas, which they do not have. In cyberspace, this can become
totally ludicrous and quixotic.

The terrible invective used on the list mimicks the worst aspects of
bolshevik political culture, and makes the Left look infantile and
unattractive. That is why I would not be surprised, if people like Yoshie
would have zero comment.


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