Bureaucratic Comix

bureaucratic-comix.jpg [text is in the post]

Large poster by Ken Knabb, issued in January 1970 following the December-January worker revolt in Poland. Reprinted in Public Secrets: Collected Skirmishes of Ken Knabb.

No copyright.

Submitted by Fozzie on April 19, 2024

A large scan of the poster can be accessed at the foot of this post. The text is as follows:

Bureaucratic Comix

Huey/Dewey/Louie: It’s the same all over the world — no power over the use of your own life!

Woman thinking: It’s probably as boring in Poland as it is in Berkeley!

Box: The uprising in Poland is only the most recent gesture in the developing struggle against modern capitalism. But like other revolutionary moments, from Hungary 1956 to France 1968, it exposes the ideological falsifications of those who claim to speak for that movement, from the pseudo-socialist East to the bureaucrats of the Spectacle of Opposition. . . .

Child: It often happens that the “excesses” of a revolt are precisely its most revealing moments — when everything becomes transparent, tangible, within everybody’s grasp. But it is also precisely these theoretico-practical advances which are obscured by the ideologues of the “Left.”

Newspaper clipping: “Then things began to move rapidly. The windows of the Communist party building were smashed. A group of youngsters climbed up the walls and into the building and began to throw out furniture, paper and other things, while people down in the street clapped their hands. When a very expensive table in jacaranda wood was thrown out of the window, everybody shouted with joy.”

Tom Hayden: The people wouldn’t have had to go so far if the rulers hadn’t been such pigs. Otherwise, we could have continued our nice manipulative “opposition.” (Don’t forget to vote for “community control of alienation”!)

Box: What a pity. Precisely because the insurgents in Poland, as in Watts, temporarily avoided such false-consciousness, they manifested a critique in acts of the commodity itself, demystifying that famous fetishism described by Marx over a century ago.

Child: The looting of furs and champagne by the Polish celebrants is no more an example of their “attraction to the Western way of life” or “bourgeois revisionist degeneracy” than the looting of Watts was proof of the essential integration of blacks into the American system.

Another child: These actions should instead be considered as positive signs of the new social order now possible: “To each according to his own desires” — in this case, still the false desires and “needs” produced by the commodity system.*

Footnote: *On the game in Watts, see the pamphlet The Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Economy by the Situationist International.

Box: “The alienation of the worker in his product means not only that his labor becomes an object, an external existence, but that it exists outside him, independently, as something alien to him, and that it becomes a power on its own confronting him. It means that the life which he has conferred on the object confronts him as something hostile and alien. . . . A commodity is therefore a mysterious thing . . . because the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labor is presented to them as a social relation existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labor.” (MARX)

Side box: MEANWHILE . . .

Gangster 1: Christ! Another spontaneous struggle where the people are acting on their own and for themselves. Where does that leave us Movement leaders?

Gangster 2: You can see why we have to push sacrificial militantism: armies of activists ready to sacrifice themselves to our ideology (= dogma). Any ideas for a good slogan?

Gangster 3: I like “Forget your life, serve the people!”

Gangster 4: How about “Revolutionary suicide!”?


Box: Picture of Mao above a huge crowd, labeled “PORTRAIT OF ALIENATION” and followed by this quote: “Their lives are so squalid that the majority can only live as a caricature of the Master. . . . To the sacrifice of the dispossessed, who through his work exchanges his real life for an apparent one, the proprietor replies by appearing to sacrifice his nature as proprietor and exploiter; he excludes himself mythically, he puts himself at the service of everyone and of myth. . . . Renouncing common life, he is the poor man amidst illusory wealth, he who sacrifices himself for everyone while other people only sacrifice themselves for their own sake, for the sake of their survival. The more powerful he is, the more spectacular his sacrifice. He becomes the living reference point of the whole of illusory life.” (Raoul Vaneigem, The Totality for Kids [= Basic Banalities #8])

Child: A critique of the commodity in a state-capitalist society becomes directly a critique of bureaucratic class rule itself. The official truth of the bureaucracy — that it does not exist as a separate class — is exposed as a lie by the events themselves. The rulers and their Movement counterparts attempt to divert the radical critique of all hierarchical power into false choices between “good” and “bad” bureaucrats. . . .

Newspaper clipping: “The local Communist party leadership hung a white flag from a window of the top floor and left the building with their hands up. The house was set on fire and party officials were seized by about 3,000 shipyard workers who had marched in from the harbor.”

Eldridge Cleaver: Poland is a pig state, unlike North Korea, etc., where the rulers (whose ranks we aspire to join) are so kind as to serve the (survival) needs of the people they exploit.

Jerry Rubin: Like Bernardine [Dohrn] says,* there are good leaders and bad ones. Good ones are defined as those who are able to manipulate people into “freely” following them. Me? Shucks, I’m a “non-leader”!

Footnote: *See the Tribe, December 18-25.

Side box: The more far-seeing regimes attempt to recuperate (take under their wing, deflect into partial solutions) the struggle for proletarian power. . . .

Castro: Under our tactful rule (as similarly in Yugoslavia and Algeria) the people are free to make all the decisions that — change nothing. The factory and farm councils are allowed to participate — within the state-controlled framework of alienated labor. Viva self-management!

Child: Stinking pig of a bureaucrat!

Another child: Proletarian revolution must recognize its tactics as self-management at every level of the struggle; and its goal as the management of all aspects of life by the workers councils!

Child: In the development of the proletarian critique of bureaucratic state-capitalism, the greatest danger will be to stop half-way. Thus, Kuron and Modzelewski’s important Open Letter to Polish Communist Party Members, as with recent anti-bureaucratic formulations in China,* attempts to reconcile the power of workers councils with a return to “true Leninism.”

Footnote: *Not to be confused with the “Cultural Revolution,” that spectacular pseudo-revolt produced by courtesy of the Chinese ruling class.

Lenin: The Stalinist class societies are only a natural (if excessive) development from the original Bolshevik seizure of totalitarian state power in 1917. My famous “vanguard party” theory of organization led to the greatest single defeat of the classical revolutionary movement: the power of the party over the masses, ruling in the name of the proletariat.

Trotsky: The real truth of Leninism was revealed when we slaughtered the Kronstadt soviet and the anarcho-communist peasants of the Ukraine in 1921. Yet fifty years later our faithful followers continue the alienating hierarchy within their organizations, and the corresponding manipulative practice “leading” the masses. They only reinforce (by presenting a false form of opposition) the capitalist system which still reigns everywhere.

Child: So far, the movements in the Third World have only tried to emulate the Bolshevik coup; and the Movement in the U.S. can only worship these underdeveloped imitations of revolutionary failure.

Voice off: Ho lives!

Box: One “anti-imperialist” star:

Ho Chi Minh: Yes, kids, here’s ol’ Uncle Ho back from the grave! And you can be sure I’d support the Polish regime’s actions just like I did the Russian interventions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. I’m not exactly a stranger to crushing autonomous popular revolts myself, you know. (Cf. the 1945 Saigon insurrection and the peasant uprising in 1956.) But you’ve got to support me anyway, sucker: I’m Third World, remember?

Pogo: The real struggle is still for “All power to the soviets (workers councils)” — but this time without the Bolshevik afterthoughts. This power (outlined in Spain 1936 and Hungary 1956) must not be mediated by anyone representing the people; the councils will federate with each other by means of strictly mandated, immediately revocable delegates. The total democracy of the councils (whose first project will be the abolition of work) will be the effective end of all hierarchical power.

Lady worm: . . . and of the commodity economy, too!

Child: In the end, it is only through the refusal of ideology, of sacrifice, of representation — all the rotten leftovers from the old world — that we will be able to annihilate everything that stands in the way of our desires, and live without dead time!

Mother: Practice must seek its theory!

Box: For the Power of the Councils, P.O. Box 1044, Berkeley, 94704

From: https://www.bopsecrets.org/comics/bureaucratic.htm