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Commentary :: Imperialism
What kind of organization does the antiwar movement need? Current rating: 0
08 Sep 2005
An organization capable of overthrowing the system of imperialist rule cannot be built on a foundation of sand. Only principled, transparent and long-term collaboration between serious activists can:

(1) organize a decisive break from the
confinement of liberal-imperialist politics,
(2) mobilize the masses in their millions and
(3) chart the couse forward to a world without
imperialist war or capitalist exploitation
Hi folks,

The current plan is that this essay will take up 3 pages of
a planned 8 page (ie: two 11 x 17 folded sheets) leaflet for
Sept 24 in Seattle.

Suggestions and criticism are welcome.

-- Ben

What kind of organization does the antiwar movement need?

An organization capable of overthrowing the system of imperialist
rule cannot be built on a foundation of sand. Only principled,
transparent and long-term collaboration between serious activists

(1) organize a decisive break from the
confinement of liberal-imperialist politics,
(2) mobilize the masses in their millions and
(3) chart the couse forward to a world without
imperialist war or capitalist exploitation

Why do we need organization?

We need organization because without it we are powerless.

Individual activists, acting on their own, can do very little to
overcome their isolation and effectively challenge the domination
of the antiwar movement by the big coalitions which, in ways
large or small, have allied themselves to liberal-imperialist
political trends.

Only by combining our energies can serious, militant activists
develop a clear alternative to liberal lesser-evil politics and
bring this alternative to the attention of activists everywhere.

The antiwar movement can never become a powerful social force
until it breaks free from the straightjacket of the bourgeois
politics which are promoted by a reformist social strata (ie:
liberal-labor politicians, trade union bureaucrats, religious
misleaders, poverty pimps, "progressive" media personalities and
professional shapers of "public opinion") which is dependent on
the bourgeoisie and in orbit around the Democratic Party.

* Organization is the difference between a demoralized movement
attempting to elect the establishment savior who will betray us
next -- and a movement which decisively breaks from liberal
lesser-evil politics.

* Organization is the difference between an antiwar movement
which appeals to the conscience of liberal-imperialist
politicians -- and a movement which works to raise the
consciousness of the masses.

* Organization is the difference between a movement that revolves
around the hope of getting coverage on CNN -- and a movement
which builds its own network of leaflets, newspapers and websites
that connect to the masses.

* Organization is the difference between the hope of going back
to the mythical "democracy" that supposedly existed before 9-11
-- and the recognition that we live under a political and
economic system which is imperialist to its core -- and which
will launch one brutal war after another until it is overthrown.

* In summary, organization is the difference between defeat and

We must recognize obstacles to organization

But there are several obstacles to effective organization. We
must talk about these obstacles frankly and openly.

Obstacle # 1 -- Not understanding who
to unite with and what to unite around

The first obstacle to effective self-organization by activists --
is the lack of a clear understanding of what kind of activists
and, more importantly, what kind of agenda, we must organize

If we are not clear on this -- we will end up with organization
which is either (a) focused on unrealistic and demoralizing
schemes to influence the powerful or (b) paralyzed by conflict
and infighting between those who want an alliance with the
reformist social strata and those who see the need to break with
this strata.

Effective organization in the antiwar movement must revolve
around an agenda of independence from (ie: breaking with) the
entire reformist social strata and the reformist ideology which
this strata promotes.

Breaking from the reformist ideology requires that we recognize
the nature of the society in which we live. We live in a society
ruled by the capitalist class (also known by its scientific name
-- the bourgeoisie).

As long as the bourgeoisie rule society they will launch one
imperialist war after another.

The only way to end this system of endless imperialist war -- is
to end the system of bourgeois rule.

Activists have many different views on how bourgeois rule can be
overcome (ie: whether it can be gradually reformed away or can
only be eliminated by means of a revolutionary mass movement of
millions). Activists also have many different views concerning
how society will organize itself in the period after bourgeois
rule is eliminated.

Activists who hold a wide range of views can play an important
part in building the kind of organization which we need so long
as they recognize (a) the necessity of breaking from the
influence of the reformist social strata and (b) that the primary
focus of the antiwar movement must be to tell the masses the
truth about the need to end the entire system of bourgeois rule.

Other than the two core views above -- all other ideological
divisions within the antiwar and/or anti-capitalist movement (ie:
between anarchists and "authoritarians", between trotskyists and
maoists, between this and that) are minor.

Obstacle #2 -- overcoming sectarian and
undemocratic methods of organizing

The antiwar movement needs a mass organization which includes
activists with a wide range of views concerning the path forward.
It will be inevitable, due to the crisis of theory and the
profound ignorance which saturates our society -- that many wrong
views (or views which are only partially correct) will exist in
and around this organization. It will, therefore, be necessary
to develop methods of sorting out, on the key questions, which
views conform to the needs of our time.

It is the practical experience of struggle which determines which
views are valid. But the experience of struggle is of no use if
it cannot be talked about, summarized, debated and understood.

Our movement is weak at this time because activists are being
kept unaware of the experience of struggle.

In a healthy revolutionary mass organization the experience of
struggle would be known through calm and scientific discussion
and debate.

Unfortunately the left (as it currently exists) is largely made
up of groups which are engaged in an intense dog-eat-dog
competition with one another over the warm, living bodies of
activists who are new on the scene and are looking for some
organized force to hook up with. These activists fuel, with
their money and labor, the growth (and the centralized staffs) of
the groups which are competing with one another for survival. In
these circumstances of cut-throat competition -- the need for
principled, transparent and long-term collaboration and for calm,
scientific discussion and debate -- is discarded by these groups
-- in favor of various forms of manipulation -- with each group
attempting to isolate itself from healthy criticism. In this
process, supporters of these groups, who are often intoxicated by
sectarianism -- cast critics as "black hats" and respond with
word-twisting, contempt, scorn and insults.

Most, if not all, of these groups -- in spite of the often
considerable amount of useful work which they do -- have a poorly
developed internal intellectual life -- and manifest many of the
characteristics of a cult (including the expulsion and isolation
of critics).

Multi-tendency organizations or coalitions which include
supporters of more than one of these groups are typically
characterized by (a) a form of unprincipled peace in which the
important issues are never discused and (b) unprincipled
manuevering and bloc voting (in which one group will pack a
meeting with its supporters -- who will all vote as a unified
bloc) in an effort to get their way and maximize their
recruitment of new blood.

Informal organization must grow like a tree

Because of the widespread manipulation and other unhealthy
features of even the best of existing organizations -- many of
the best activists are justifiably mistrustful of organization
and, as a result, are currently isolated from one another.

This situation needs to be overcome. But we cannot move forward
without taking into account the many existing unhealthy
organizational practices.

My conclusion is that the kind of organization which our movement
needs -- is organization which is somewhat informal and highly
democratic in nature. We must make it easy for the best
activists to get to know one another over the long term -- and to
work together and compare experience. We must make it difficult
for the control freaks to silence, intimidate or isolate critics.

Real organization can not emerge from any kind of "get rich
quick" scheme -- it must develop on the basis of healthy
principles and grow, over the long term, like a tree.

A real organization will develop around a core mission and
program. But for this core mission and program to serve the
needs of our movement -- it must be developed in an open way.

We need a form of organization where competing ideas and agendas
are put on the table and defended in a calm and open way -- and
there is open (ie: public) principled discussion and debate
concerning the fundamental path forward. We need to develop the
concept that we are accountable for our actions -- that we are
committed to answering questions and replying (calmly) to public
criticism from other serious activists. We can assist one
another by developing a tradition of publicly reviewing the
strengths and weaknesses of one another's leaflets. We can
deepen our understanding of key issues by discussing and
developing, in public forums, joint statements and resolutions.
We can make use of the emerging revolution in communications to
bring the principles that matter to increasing numbers of
activists so that we can reach a critical mass

And our developing community of activists can develop a focus on
our real tasks -- not by means of threats of isolation -- but
through passion and a recognition that we are here to fight.

The Media Weapon community

My own work to build organization along the lines I have
described above is focused on what I call the Media Weapon
community. At the present time, we are more of an email list
than a real community of the kind which is needed. But we may
develop over time.

All activists who oppose the war in Iraq are welcome to join our
community by subscribing to our pof-200 email list. We also
welcome those who we criticize in this leaflet. We need a
movement where thoughtful criticism flows in torrents like water
in a thunderstorm - and where all activists have the right to
reply and to defend their views.

Does polarization weaken
the antiwar movement?

Some say we intend to weaken the antiwar movement by splitting it
from its "natural ally" - the left wing of the Democratic Party.

We reply that the antiwar movement can never become powerful
until it turns its back on the imperialist Democratic Party and
all of its flunkies - and focuses one hundred percent of its
attention on raising the consciousness of the masses.
Some say that we intend to polarize the movement. Our reply is
that, in a class-divided imperialist society, polarization of the
movement is inevitable. We work so that this inevitable
polarization takes place in conditions of maximum consciousness
and clarity - so that the struggle between imperialist and
anti-imperialist politics within the antiwar movement - is no
longer hidden from activists - but is dragged into the light of
the sun.

We welcome reformists

We welcome to our community even reformist apologists for the
policy of alliance with the imperialist Democratic Party. Our
experience has been that the struggle on our email list against
the influence of these apologists for imperialist politics - has
been a powerful factor in waking up subscribers to the true
nature of reformism and a valuable source of experience in
principled polemical combat.

We welcome sectarians

We also welcome supporters of the various sectarian "socialist"
grouplets and anarchists of all kinds (including the most
immature). Our community is not afraid of people with a chip on
their shoulder or their head in a place that can't be reached by

Our email list has not had problems with flame wars or
word-twisting, time-wasting know-it-alls - because we limit
subscribers to one post per week (or two posts per week for
activists who march in antiwar actions) and require subscribers
to act toward one another with respect.

We know that all trends include activists with some level of
enthusiasm for doing the right thing and we want to accelerate
the process of separating what is healthy from what is not. We
want to be a refinery for the movement.

We are here to fight

The Media Weapon community is intended to be an ecosystem which
reflects and refines all the contradictions of the movement.
This means that we want our community to include representatives
of all political trends and currents of thought in the antiwar
movement. We understand that any time representatives of
opposing political trends are gathered together - struggle is
inevitable. That is fine with us. We are here to fight.

We understand that not all trends in the antiwar movement have
the stomach for an open, public principled fight for their views
and agenda. Our response to this - is to work for the day when
only those trends with the ability to openly fight for their
views can expect to gain mindshare in the movement.

Like stars from galaxies

Any member of our community has the right to propose any project
which they believe will be of value to the movement. And any
member has the right to participate (or not) in any project.
This follows from the fact that we are a community of autonomous

However we also understand that the challenges of the antiwar and
anti-capitalist movements can only be successfully confronted by
activists who are united by serious discipline.

There will be a need for groups with serious discipline and these
groups may eventually emerge as smaller subsets of activists
within the context of the broader and looser community we are
creating. This broader and looser community may help to guide
the development and evolution of healthy principles, such as
political transparency, that are essential for the emergence of a
genuinely revolutionary mass movement.

If the development of disciplined organization is essential to
confront the demands of our time - then possibly the Media Weapon
community may play a helpful role in the emergence of such an
organization - by bringing into closer proximity an increasing
number of serious, militant activists.

Nature provides for us the example of galaxies which give birth
to stars when isolated atoms and molecules begin to concentrate
in regions of higher density. Prehaps, in an analogous way, the
Media Weapon community may eventually give birth to the mass
revolutionary party of the future.

- Ben Seattle

Isolated from one another we are easily defeated.
Connected to one another no force on earth can stop us


I have used the word "we" in connection with describing
the Media Weapon community. It is therefore necessary
that I make clear that my views are not necessarily
representative of the views of anyone else in the Media Weapon
community. The views in this article are my own. I use the word
"we" in the conviction that, in the context of the aspirations of
activists in the movement as a whole, I am not alone.
See also:

This work is in the public domain

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Re: What kind of organization does the antiwar movement need?
Current rating: -1
08 Sep 2005
The first thing that needs to be understood is that there is not one MOVEMENT, rather many anti-war and peace movements. The anarchist anti-war movement is a completely different thing than the liberal peace movement or the one run by religious organizations. It's important to trash old ways of looking at activism and struggle, especially myths such as the one and only "movement," which the sectarian left has always morphed to cover whatever topic is popular at the time (Mumia, anti-globalization, etc.).

The Post-Seattle movement of movements against globalization and capitalism shows what really is going on, They show what works. The old model of having one leftist peace movement never worked and didn't even stop the Vietnam Wat (one of the more popular urban legends that the American left holds dear). Sectarian groups, such as the WWP and the Democrats, have a vested interest in this mythical one MOVEMENT because when activists believe there is one movement, it is easier for one organization to set the agenda for it.

In fact, there are many anti-war and peace movements out there. This phenomenon has been articulated and described by many writers on the anti-globalization movement, but it is equally applicable to peace and anti-war activism.

Before you talk about what can be done, you need to understand accurately what exists.

Re: What kind of organization does the antiwar movement need?
Current rating: 0
14 Sep 2005
"The first thing that needs to be understood is that there is not one MOVEMENT, rather many anti-war and peace movements."

Yeah, neo-fascists, Islamists, neo-Marxists and leftist anarchists for "peace"!

Re: What kind of organization does the antiwar movement need?
Current rating: 5
15 Sep 2005
Chuck, I'm somewhat curious what you find so highly objectionable with what "Ben Seattle" posted above. It's rather lengthy and excessively thick on rhetoric but I think the general message is one of getting at the root of imperialism and war.

When you say something like "The Post-Seattle movement of movements against globalization and capitalism shows what really is going on, They show what works," this isn't dramatically different from the sectarian line of "we have the answers-follow our lead."

Mostly, I don't think the poster above warranted the level of blasting he received for his recognizable naivete. If people are afraid that anything they post will be met with this variety of reaming, it's highly unlikely anyone will use Indymedia at all (unless they're posting 9/11 conspiracy rants which appear on every indymedia page).

Simply put: "quit harshin' his mellow."

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