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What kind of organization does the antiwar movement need?

by Ben Seattle Friday, Sep. 09, 2005 at 3:20 AM

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.

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