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"Cargo-Cult Leninism" vs. Political Transparency

by Ben Seattle (reposted by Alex) Sunday, Aug. 19, 2007 at 6:34 PM

Many "Marxist" organizations today are plagued by "cargo-cult" ideology. Why do people want to drink the kool-aid? Because the WANT to believe that things are OK. What is the solution? We need mass democracy!


What is "The Red Beacon?"


This is a news channel run by Alex.

The goal of this channel is to spread news, opinions, and various other articles based on the principles of information war -- or the democratic, open struggle for ideas.

The ultimate aim of this channel is to create an environment where serious discussion can be held regarding important political and theoretical questions that will advance the anti-war and revolutionary movements. This is part of an attempt to end the crisis of theory in the leftist community today, and make way for the coming of a movement that will end war and end ultimately end bourgeois rule.

This channel also believes that readers have the right to have their comments known to an international audience, and to have their comments responded to with something thoughtful and useful (if they want it).

More info can be found in the "Afterword" section of this article.


Our featured presentation


These sections were originally published

in “Cargo-Cult” Leninism vs. Political Transparency

-- by Ben Seattle, June 2007




In my recent annual report (May 2007) I discussed the principles which I believe must guide the Seattle Anti-Imperialist Committee (SAIC) in order for it to fulfill its potential to evolve into a revolutionary mass organization. Frank, a supporter of SAIC and the Communist Voice Organization (CVO), replied to me at length and opposed, in particular, my proposal that the SAIC website add a section where SAIC members and supporters could post articles or opinions -- arguing that this would somehow make it more difficult for activists to resolve their differences. Frank also opposed my proposal that SAIC take up explicitly revolutionary tasks, such as encouraging discussion aimed at creating a clear vision of our revolutionary goal. Frank also made a number of criticisms of me and the principles which have guided my political work for the last 15 years.

I am replying to Frank in order to draw attention to the principles which I believe will be the salvation of the revolutionary movement. It is unlikely, in the short run, that my arguments here will have much influence with SAIC or CVO activists, much less Frank. I believe, however, that in the long run -- the effort to forge and clearly explain fundamental principles will be of immense value. If the antiwar movement in the US takes a more serious turn, in which a large section of activists throw off illusions that US imperialism can be reformed (similar to what happened in 1968), then many activists will understand organizational principles to be a matter of life and death. In a period of great urgency and confusion we will need clear descriptions of principles that conform to the needs of the movement.

Resolution requires open struggle


The first principle of a mass organization based on mass democracy -- is that resolution of our differences requires a period of open struggle in which the best arguments on each side are brought out in the light of the sun and sufficient time exists for activists to study, consider, discuss and debate these arguments. Allowing supporters to post to the SAIC website conforms to this principle.

Movement needs revolutionary organization


Frank has argued that SAIC cannot take up revolutionary tasks because it is not a "communist" organization and that "our agreement" is that these tasks be entrusted to "other organizations and forums" (ie: the CVO). It is traditional in the movement for a cargo-cult organization of one or another flavor (ie: trotskyist, avakianite, etc) to lead a mass organization which includes those not inclined to drink the kool-aid. But that does not make it right. Frank advocates that SAIC entrust the CVO with tasks such as:

(a) developing SAIC’s ideological life (ie: by means of the CVO study group [*]) and

(b) developing and putting forward aclear vision of our revolutionary goal.

But SAIC should not be dependent in either of these ways on the CVO. First because SAIC should stand on its own feet and second because the CVO is utterly unreliable on both counts:

(a) people like me (who have done independent theoretical work and are aware of the CVO’s shortcomings) are excluded from the CVO study group

(b) the CVO is totally incapable of putting forward a clear vision of our revolutionary goal. For example: in the 12 years since they were founded they have never said a single word in print that recognizes and discusses the need for the working class and masses to have the democratic rights of speech and organization in order to exercise control over the economy, culture and politics of society in the period after bourgeois rule has been overthrown. The CVO appears to be aware of the brutal suppression of democratic rights over many decades by the former Soviet Union and the current Chinese regimes – but they are unable to reach the conclusion that they have any obligation to make it clear that their goal is not a similar society – even though their leaflets and theoretical journal are festooned with the hammer and sickle symbols of these regimes and they use various phrases (like: "socialism") which they repeat but are unable to understand, explain or defend.

We need calm, long-term discussion


I look forward to reading calm and considered opinions concerning the principles which are decisive to our movement. In the months and years ahead we will all gain experience and learn from our mistakes.

* [Footnote by Ben. July 14] After writing this I learned that the study group is not an official CVO study group. It is an informal study group. A SAIC supporter emailed me and informed me that the reason I was not welcome was because my participation would tend to distract from their study.


What is political transparency? (It means that activists can see what goes on behind the curtain)


What is political transparency? Political transparency means that everything that is politically important can be known by anyone who cares. In the context of a mass organization it means that activists can easily find out (for example, by going to the website of the organization) about the internal struggles, or contradictions, within the organization. It means that activists have the right to know:

1) What political trends play an important role in the life of the organization and

2) What political agendas exist and how the struggle between these political agendas unfolds.

It is also important (in order to clear up common misconceptions) to explain what political transparency is not. Political transparency does not mean that there will be unnecessary compromise of issues related to:

(1) personal or organizational security,

(2) personal privacy or

(3) time-sensitive tactical info related to upcoming mass actions.

Activists must have the right to know about the internal struggles within the mass organization – so that they can intervene in these struggles with the weight of their convictions and experience.

If activists do not have this right – then it is not really their organization – it does not really belong to the movement. It is as simple as that.


The opposite of transparency (Stonewalling: the easy answer to all criticism)


Are there any bothersome questions that it is difficult to answer? Are you not sure how to reply when someone suggests your actions reflect incompetence, hypocrisy or corruption?

The solution is easy! Just don’t answer! Let hell freeze over before anyone can hold you accountable for what you say or do!

Why does the CVO refuse to talk about the necessity of fundamental democratic rights of speech and organization when the working class runs society? Your guess is as good as mine ... they will not say. Does the CVO understand that concerns about a police state are a major ideological roadblock that makes it difficult for activists to recognize the need to overthrow the system of bourgeois rule? They will not say. Why did the CVO refuse to condemn the US imperialist bombing of the Balkans that helped to pave the way for the current war in Iraq? They will not say. Does the CVO believe it is important for a revolutionary organization to be accountable and to answer questions? They will not say. But, in this case, their actions tell us everything we need to know.

“Cargo-Cult Leninism” vs.

Political Transparency can

be found in full here:






1. How to get a reply to your comments/criticism

2. Why can’t we get a response at Indymedia or RevLeft?

3. What is this?

4. Our mission

5. Links for more info


1. How to get a reply to your comments/criticism


YOUR COMMENTS/CRITICISM ARE WANTED AND NEEDED! I am an activist much like yourself. I make mistakes. Therefore, your thoughtful comments and criticism can only help me in achieving my goal, and they are most welcome.

However, if you are seeing this on an Indymedia or RevLeft page, here is what we recommend:

1. Refrain from posting on Indymedia or Revleft. Instead, post on this channel’s page where the article was originally posted:

2. If you want a serious response, make that clear in your post.

3. It would be nice if you listed the site where you saw this.

4. Wait, and we should make a useful response within TEN DAYS.


2. Why can’t we get a response at Indymedia or RevLeft?


First of all, Indymedia articles only stay in the main column for a couple of days. Honestly, thoughtful responses can sometimes take several days, which is time we don't have with Indymedia. The same is true of RevLeft. If few people comment on a post, it gets put off the front page. Anyone can write something quickly, but to write something thoughtful takes more time.

If you post on this channel’s page, it gives me more time to generate a useful response to your comments and criticism:


3. What is "The Red Beacon?"


Again, this is a news channel run by Alex.

It is part of a broader community called the Media Weapon community, which can be found here:

At this stage, the "community" is more of a community-in-embryo, as very few activists post frequently and with useful information.

However, this can change, and this channel is part of an attempt to change it.


4. Our Mission


The goal of this channel is to spread news, opinions, and various other articles based on the principles of information war -- or the democratic, open struggle for ideas

My ultimate aim is to create an environment where serious discussion can be held regarding important political and theoretical questions that will advance the anti-war and revolutionary movements. This is part of an attempt to end the crisis of theory in the leftist community today, and make way for the coming of a movement that will end war and end ultimately end bourgeois rule.

This channel also believes that readers have the right to have their comments known to an international audience, and to have their comments responded to with something thoughtful and useful (if they want it).


5. Links for more info


Ben Seattle --

"Cargo-Cult Leninism" vs. Political Transparency --

The Red Beacon --

The Mediaweapon Community --

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