(Editor’s note: a PDF version of this letter, including graphics, can be found here.)
My comrade Art and I read your articles “Is an American Syriza in the Cards?” and “For a Socialist Alliance in 2016”, and told you that we would offer you our considered comments and criticism before the end of this month. This letter represents my fulfillment of this commitment.
I will start by briefly introducing myself.
I was originally a Maoist, starting about 1973. I had approached draft age in the late sixties, as the war in Vietnam was heating up. Because of the constant drumbeat of both the war, and the anti-movement–and because I had the kind of education normally reserved for the sons of the rich–I ended up becoming deeply influenced by the politics of revolutionary China. That is to say that, although I had been groomed to become part of the bourgeoisie, and a certain kind of leader–I ended up making up my mind that I would go with the proletariat. The news told us daily of the sacrifices that our comrades in Vietnam were making. I made up my mind in a crucible that I was here for a reason and I did not fear death.
So I, so to speak, became a traitor at a time that the best part of my generation recognized (on a level that was never fully conscious) that nothing was more cool than the courage to defy unjust authority: If you were a well-educated and socially awkward male at that time, and in my social milieu, you understood, instinctively, that it was ok to nourish thoughts of treason–because these thoughts attracted feminine attention–something highly desired.
Before Vietnam, coming home after fighting in uniform was a pretty good way to get feminine attention. At the height of the antiwar movement it was the opposite: “our boys” were the resistors.
And that, of course, is how it started, how the seed planted in my young conscience by the 1960 movie, Spartacus (a deep historical allegory by and about communists in the U.S. during the period of McCarthyism) received water and sprouted.
(It was possible, by 1960, for Kirk Douglas to make this movie–as long as certain changes were made. What was removed: the string of nine victorious battles in a row, over a period of two years, in which the slaves ran through nine Roman armies, one after the other, like a lawnmower, in the entire territory of Italy from north to south, from the Alps to within sight of Sicily. What was added: idiot masochist slaves who would prefer days of excruciating torture–to the opportunity for a quick death standing on their feet.)
By the end of 1975, I had managed to make contact with a maoist organization here in the U.S. By the time I ran into them, they were known as the Central Organization of U.S. Marxist-Leninists. When I first heard of them, I assumed (from their name) that there must be some kind of network of U.S. marxist-leninist organizations, and that this particular organization must logically be the central organization in this network of organizations. This particular assumption, like much of my thinking at the time (including, to say the least, a greatly and wrongly magnified assessment of the contributions of Mao Tsetung) had little basis in reality.
The real meaning of this name, COUSM-L, was that this organization was being created on the basis of what would be called, today, a type of religion. There is a name for the kind of religion that results from what is called impact shock. An alien civilization, with advanced technology, but utterly rapacious to its core, makes contact with a civilization of far less advanced technology–and this impact results in a kind of religion called a cargo-cult, where the inhabitants of the impacted society attempt to organize their resistance around their extremely fragmented knowledge of this invader technology.
The COUSM-L became the Marxist-Leninist Party in 1980. In my humble opinion, the MLP was the best of the (great many) cargo cults. But the MLP collapsed in 1993 in a gigantic implosion, because it finally reached a point (after reaching heights of struggle that had a permanent life-changing effect on all of us) where it could neither figure out what was to be done–nor even how to talk about what was to be done. By 1995, the only political survivors of the “great demoralization” which had caused the organization to collapse were: (1) a small grouping calling itself the Charlatan Voice Organization, and (2) me.
From that time, I have done a lot of theoretical work–all related to the central role that information (and what I call “information war”–understood as a war of ideas organized on a mass scale) will play in radically transforming the terrain of the class struggle in this century.
Every major theoretical question related to how the proletariat will create its own organization and win victory over its class enemy–will be shaped in, and sculpted by, information war.
Most of my major theoretical work can be seen at:
My more recent work, which includes analysis during (and in the wake of) the Occupy movement, can be seen on my blogs here:
That concludes my introduction. Now I must keep in mind that this is about you–not me. So I want to tell you what I think about your two articles on Syriza and “Socialist Alliance 2016” .
I heard of your Syriza article by way of Art. And, as I read it, I felt like a famished man who stumbles onto a twelve course meal–right up until I got to the last course–which, unfortunately, turned out to be dogshit.
Not to put too fine a point on it–but announcing at the end of your article that you believe the best way to kick things off is to try to get into Congress–reminded me of how I felt when LBJ explained that he was trying so darn hard to achieve peace in Vietnam.
Your article appears to be completely schizophrenic–with the materialist analysis that constitutes its bulk being flatly contradicted by the Congressional dogshit at the end.
Your article looks to me like it was written by two different people, with two different ideologies and two different worldviews. One of you is my comrade and one is not, if I may be allowed to be so blunt.
I would like to talk to my comrade. I don’t really care who else hears me. Ninety-nine of a hundred will tune me out. One out of a hundred will hear me. That is the only person I am interested in: the hundredth man (or woman). If you are my comrade–you will hear me. If you are not–I will go my way and continue to sing my song. I am at peace that this is how the universe works and I have no reason to doubt her wisdom. Because, call it what you will, my song is her song.
Running for Congress is bullshit
Running for Congress, by itself, stripped of context–reinforces bourgeois illusions concerning how the proletariat will come to power.
What context are you hoping to add to this obscene act?
Oh, you will (supposedly) do it to “unite the left”!
So–you propose to “unite the left” around an illusion?
And you are asking, *me*, Ben Seattle what I think about this?
What I think is that you can’t build anything real on a foundation of sand.
Elections are nothing but sand.
What is real?
A news service
Everyone who understands how things work knows that the real struggle for power only begins as the proletariat builds something that is real.
That something will be a news service.
- The news service will concentrate, on a single universal democratic platform, all the most important political news, analysis, discussion and debate.
- The news service will be:
- (1) independent,
- (2) democratic,
- (3) open/public
- (4) centered around the need to
overthrow the rule of capital
- (5) the single unifying project that will
unite all the best (ie: most independent,
militant, dedicated and conscious) activists
in the movement and connect them to the
working class and oppressed in their millions.
- The news service will be structured in such a way that it will (first, foremost, and always) remain (1) independent, (2) democratic, (3) open and (4) centered around a single idea–that the overthrow of the rule of capital (and its human representative on earth–our class enemy–the bourgeoisie, the one percent in Occupy language) is possible, necessary and inevitable. How about point 5? That will follow, automatically, as the contradictions between the first four points play out (like the blades of a blender) in the minds of millions. Advanced ideas, in the mind of the proletariat, will be transformed into a material force which, by its nature, is in service to its inevitable destiny.
I believe this project is going to get off the ground. I am not sure how much of it I will live to see. I have been around enough to know that clear insight into what is ahead–is not the same as a short distance.
What I want from you
What do I want from you guys (who *may* be my comrades)?
I want you to stand up and be counted. Right now. I am not saying that you have to use your real name (retaliation from potential employers and landlords is real and is likely to become more so). But find a way to let me know that you are listening. Call me names if you want. I don’t mind. I have had the best people call me the worst things–you cannot imagine. And I consider it an honor.
So let me hear back from you–yes, you!–just in case you are listening.
Let me know if you are in the world to fight.
What I want, is your attention.
All the best,
Ben Seattle — April 19, 2015