Minimum principles of a revolutionary group?

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Vaneigemappreci...
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Jul 30 2004 12:07
Minimum principles of a revolutionary group?

Someone made a post a while back about a possible, brief mandate for action and organisation.

Heres some ideas.

-To oppose and undermine capitalism, the spectacle and all institutions of oppression using practical measures.

-To elucidate and develop class consciousness through the development and dissemination of radical theory and acts of conscious revolt.

-To oppose all government/corporate war.

-To fight for a society in which people are free as opposed to capital, where democracy means self rule for the people not bureaucrats, in which racial, sexual and gender equality prevails and in which each individual is able to freely construct their own life.

-To work towards the ultimate goal of creating a situation in which autonomous workers councils can flourish.

-To oppose all forms of hierarchy, in organisation and society.

-To begin to dispand at the moment of revolutionary upheaval (formation of workers councils).

Just a broad idea.

Name, or title?

Libertarian group?

The Recalcitrant?

nastyned
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Jul 30 2004 12:21

You'd have to put it in plainer language if you ask me.

Vaneigemappreci...
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Jul 30 2004 17:39

kinda plain, workers councils and spectacle may need explaining.

Its hard to put it into monosyllabic sentences without making it sound simplistic or idealistic.

Its also hard to express any sort of complexity with simple terms.

petrichenko
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Jul 30 2004 21:14

I guess it would depend on who the 'target audience' is: 'politicals' who would be familiar with these terms and what they mean, or 'normal people' who would need it explained a bit?

how about:

- to oppose and undermine the political and economic system of domination (capitalism) and all it's armies and institutions.

- to spread and develop radical propaganda; support and encourage acts of revolt.

- to fight for a society where all are free from the control of Government and Authority; where democracy means self rule for all peoples not bureaucrats, in which racial, sexual and gender equality prevails and in which each individual is able to freely develop their own lives.

- to build a society based upon a federation of workers councils

- to oppose all forms of hierarchy, in organisation and society

- to encourage and fight for the formation of free workers councils in times of revolutionary upheaval.

red n black star

Mike Harman
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Jul 31 2004 06:18

Any revolution based entirely on workers councils would create an organisational system excluding students, stay-at-home parents, the unemployed, the old, and any others outside employment. It would also reinforce the separation between work and social life, especially since many workplaces are located so far from the communities of those who work in them. Since so much work done in contemporary society is useless, what good would workers councils be in marketing and financial institutions, call centres, banks, management consultancy firms, chambers, etc. etc. The legitimacy of those forms of work needs to be questioned, not merely the way in which they're organised.

If you want a:

"society where all are free from the control of Government and Authority; where democracy means self rule for all peoples not bureaucrats, in which racial, sexual and gender equality prevails and in which each individual is able to freely develop their own lives"

then people would need to self-manage through combinations of various assemblies, not just assemblies defined through work, which surely ought to be one of the main targets of revolutionary transformation, and therefore not posited as the only agent of revolutionary change.

petrichenko
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Jul 31 2004 10:46
Mike Harman wrote:

If you want a:

"society where all are free from the control of Government and Authority; where democracy means self rule for all peoples not bureaucrats, in which racial, sexual and gender equality prevails and in which each individual is able to freely develop their own lives"

then people would need to self-manage through combinations of various assemblies, not just assemblies defined through work, which surely ought to be one of the main targets of revolutionary transformation, and therefore not posited as the only agent of revolutionary change.

Yes, you're absolutely right. Sorry, the term 'workers council' is something of a historical hangover. You are correct, community-based, revolutionary assemblies would play a big role. I see a system like that of revolutionary Russia, with local soviets (councils) based in communities linking with work place councils etc.

...without bolsheviks, of course...

red n black star

Mike Harman
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Jul 31 2004 15:03

I think a lot of people identify more as consumers - even if not very well off consumers - than workers, hence so much discussion of classcentering on cultural (food, clothes) rather than economic priorities, no matter how misguided that might be. Regardless of how many people can be considered working class or not, there are vast numbers of people who want better quality food, less traffic and pollution, household goods that last for more than five minutes, control over environmentally hazardous industries setting up in their communities. Plenty of people who want commercial interests kept out of schools and hospitals, reductions in bureaucracy, etc. etc. all of this is linked to capitalism, but it isn't all decided in the workplace. Any potential revolution is much more likely to come with dissatisfaction with the condition of environment and the boredom of consumerism than it is with working conditions.

Vaneigemappreci...
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Jul 31 2004 18:56

I didnt intend to use 'workers councils' in the pannekoek sense, more in a sense of a broad 'proletariat' in the negri or debord definition. It has to take a broader view of the proletariat because as you say otherwise those whow are involved in other avenues of labour and the reproduction of labour would not be included in the definition. Those who play the roles of exploited, expendable, spectators.

I dont know about the average person not being able to undertstand it! Theres not too much wanky marxist careerist terminology in it, some people are literate.

petrichenko
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Jul 31 2004 21:16
Vaneigemappreciationclub wrote:
I dont know about the average person not being able to undertstand it! Theres not too much wanky marxist careerist terminology in it, some people are literate.

No, but terms like 'spectacle', even 'autonomous workers council' may not be immediately clear to a lot of people. I'm not saying they wouldn't understand, just might not get it.

Maybe we could just get the writers of the Teletubbies to translate it. grin

Ghost_of_the_re...
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Aug 2 2004 12:55

Literate is one thing, understanding your use of 'spectacle' is quite another, as it relies upon having read a certain book. Anything that isn't going to sound like another load of SWP pinko-talk is going to have to avoid pinching slogans from anyone- from Marx on down.

Worker's council's always semmed a bizarre term to me, surely once the term 'work' is broadened sufficiently to something along the lines of 'any actions necessary for the good of society', and the world has a truly fair distribution of goods and wealth, the term 'worker' would apply to everyone and thus cease to have meaning. But that's ivory tower stuff and not particulalry helpful. Just a thought.

bigdave
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Aug 3 2004 16:02

A good friend of mine. studying at Stirling Uni, dabbled in Socialism but got swiftly fucked off with it (or rather with the "Socialists" she met). She and some friends have decided to set up an "Ethics Society". They intend to lobby the Uni on , for example, investments made by the Uni and whether they are ethical. For their first meeting, they called Mark Thomas and he arranged to come and speak - cool. I was pleased because there is no talk of "revolution" or "radical theory" "fighting" anybody. They just intend to work for the moral betterment of their immediate surroundings. Hopefully it will grow bigger and spread to a wider remit?

Quote:
I didnt intend to use 'workers councils' in the pannekoek sense, more in a sense of a broad 'proletariat' in the negri or debord definition.

See? That's the kind of thing I'm talking about.

captainmission
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Aug 3 2004 18:20

i think bigdaves got a point, we should be setting up anarchist temperance societies so we can give the great unwashed lectures on moral virtue. Some of them are so uncivilised they rut wildly in the streets, whilst their illegitimate children cock a snook with nary a regard for those of a more gentle nature.

Vaneigemappreci...
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Aug 3 2004 18:35

''Morals''?

Those who protest against un-ethical companies (mcdonalds, exxon mobil, shell) have already been accommodated by the market, they tend to come under the Chris Martin 'fair trade' section of tescos.

Capitalism as a system is exploitative and degrading, you cant draw a smile on its face in an attempt to make it more palatable. You can reform all you like and you get nowhere, fair trade is a middle class, bleading heart liberal way of soothing the consciences of those who want starving africans to have a little more to eat.

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PaulMarsh
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Aug 3 2004 18:50

How about coming at it from another angle?

A revolutionary group should:

Steal at least one item from the state per week

Write to at least one prisoner per week

Support one strike or solidarity campaign per week

Ensure that its members are capable of defending themselves physically from attack by fascists and/or the state

Understand working class history

Steal at least twice a week from an employer or member of the bourgeoisie

Read as widely as possible to be able to propagate your own arguments and defeat those of the enemy

Vaneigemappreci...
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Aug 3 2004 19:52

Nice ideas, but unfortunately the stealing thing makes such a project easily suppressible without any clear means of defending such actions.

Councils, assemblies, federations etc etc allow some sort of base/defensive measure against the cops of capital.

Vaneigemappreci...
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Aug 3 2004 20:12

'Any potential revolution is much more likely to come with dissatisfaction with the condition of environment and the boredom of consumerism than it is with working conditions.'

And the means by which this boredom can be surpassed? Workers councils (in all fields of work and the community) remain the most revolutionary means and goal available to us. There is no other way that a revolution can be made without the occupation of the means of material and cultural production.

The practice and our role as consumers is stupefyingly boring, but it is only the proletariat, and in particular the employed proletariat, that are in a position to inititiate any change.

Consumerism is a recuperation of free time back into capital, we work, we become bored and dissatisfied and we are offered the chance of buying a plethora of products (gymm membership, alcohol, showbiz, cake, designer labels, films) in order to placate this boredom and ensure that we are occupied while not working and do not seek to do anything creative in our 'free time'. Consumerism is simply an extension of capital into the areas of daily life that work could not reach, it has its roots in Henry Ford and American society in the early 20th century, it is a progression of capitalism and as a result cant be considered as a separate system.

Mike Harman
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Aug 4 2004 10:03

Vaneigemappreciationclub:

"There is no other way that a revolution can be made without the occupation of the means of material and cultural production."

"Consumerism is simply an extension of capital into the areas of daily life that work could not reach"

Both of these I agree with, however, if someone says proletariat, I think industrial worker - i.e. someone who's work produces commodities that have tangible use-value. With the technological transformation in agriculture, I can easily transfer that from a factory to an agribusiness, but I can't transfer it to areas of work that have no rational purpose, like telesales - the relationship to capital is the same, but the relationship to the production of commodities isn't.

Similarly, I don't think you can call someone a worker if they don't work. If you're unemployed, or non-employed, you can't strike. You might be able to assist in a factory occupation (i.e. if that factory was to start producing things again), but the nature of technological progress has meant that there really isn't that much need for labour in the factory (not that that need isn't created when cost-savings are perceived) compared to the amount of labour deployed (or in reserve) in general. If I work in an marketing firm and seize the means of production from my employers, what would be the point? Any rational society wouldn't need either the marketing or most of the goods being marketed.

So exclusively relying on the industrial proletariat for revolution doesn't make sense to me since they're such a tiny, tiny number of the population. If it really is "only the proletariat, and in particular the employed proletariat, that are in a position to initiate any change. " then we don't have a hope in hell.

Most dissatisfaction with work is redirected into consumerism as you point out. Rebellion can be very easily marketed back to the rebellious by the same people they're rebelling against. Vast swathes of cultural production go towards venting anger and frustration, towards mediated communal experiences (large scale music and sports events, with the tribalism that accompanies them), and various other diversions that reinforce alienation from work and local community.

If you extend proletariat to the non-industrialised, non-productive, non-working sectors of the population, what you end up with is the community. You've said yourself that a big part of the activities of the community are spent in consumerism as well as work, not in anything creative. In that case, why restrict critiques of society to work? Most people identify with consumer-based subcultures much more than they do their work - any subcultural group - be it based around music, film, sport, fashion, or a combination of those or other pursuits generally has much stronger links than groups based around work. Those activities are a part of communities as much as work, and deserve as much analysis.

"And the means by which this boredom can be surpassed?"

Communities should try to wrest control of their free time from capital. This means trying to seize as much control over cultural production as possible. Rather than passively accepting mass-manufactured cultural products, communities should try to develop their own means for cultural satisfaction - the open source community already does this (although I'd be interested to see to what extent people think this is or could be radicalised), and to an extent the experimental and improvised music scenes do. In the sense that food and clothes have become marketed, to an extent I include these - a large part of clothes or food consumption has little to do with satisfying hunger or simply covering the body and providing protection from the elements. That consumption also has a great deal to do with work - those who watch films or listen to music often forget that a great deal of labour, exploited by capital, is present in the creation of that entertainment- it's not merely the crappy nature of the entertainment itself, the way it's production is organised socially and economically are at least as imprortant.

I see no reason why significant gains against capital couldn't be made by relocating cultural production into our communities. In the sense that gardening, clothesmaking etc. are simultaneously productive, leisure, and consumerist activities, there is a great deal of potential for us to decrease our reliance on mass-produced commodities. The technology for creating these artifacts is in many cases cheaper than some items themselves (sewing machine vs. designer shirt? guitar or even computer with CD burner vs. audiophile hi-fi? seeds, pots, and compost vs. cut salads, home brew kits etc. etc.). I'm not saying that any of these activities are revolutionary in themselves, or that they don't involve their own relationships to capital. But in order for community councils to organise anything at all, I'd hope that it'd include positive attempts to increase control over the community, rather than exclusively negative campaigning. A degree of self-sufficiency and control over the production of some consumer goods would also go a long way towards supporting communities were there to actually be massive social upheaval. If people can begin to learn again how to do things that up until a couple of generations ago weren't monopolised by capital, it'd also drastically reduce their need to work. If I can brew my own beer (if not grow hops), make my own clothes (if not produce linen or farm cotton), cook my own food etc. etc. recognising that technology has made all of these activities much more efficient on small scale, then it puts me in stronger position than if I have to pay someone to pull a ready meal from under a heat lamp for me every day, as people do in their millions. It's easy to discount stuff like fair-trade/organic/free range as bleeding heart liberal guilt reduction, but merely dismissing those people out of hand discounts the reasons why they try to buy that stuff. As an example, farmer's markets (which falls into fair trade, organic and free range I think) may be bloody expensive, but they provide direct access to fresh produce from local producers. Rather than dismiss them, we should be trying to make some combination of them, co-operative gardening, and home-growing the main way that people in urban and suburban areas access food, as opposed to buying food of questionable origin from supermarkets and chain convenience stores. Again, these things aren't necessarily revolutionary, but if they're linked to a strong critique of Capital - in other words an integrated part of anarchist/social-libertarian discourse, they offer a much more immediate opportunity for radicalisation than the general strike.

Vaneigemappreci...
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Aug 4 2004 13:37

''So exclusively relying on the industrial proletariat for revolution doesn't make sense to me since they're such a tiny, tiny number of the population''

Any revolutionary upheaval must off course involve a large proportion of society, students, the unemployed, workers etc etc. These are those who i would term the proletariat, those who have no control over their own lives in their current predicament. Those who are either wage labourers or who are being conditioned for a role as wage labourer. Neither should we be 'relying' upon anyone but ourselves. But as consumption, as we have agreed upon, is a corollary of work, work to produce capital, then the epicentre of the current system remains the workplace. Those workplaces which are involved in the maintenance of the system, judiciary, accountants, etc etc, would become surplus to requirements as you point out. Those means of production/employment would necessarily be dispanded.

''Communities should try to wrest control of their free time from capital. This means trying to seize as much control over cultural production as possible.''

The wresting of control of space and time from capital is a goal which should be developed through an attack on capital as a whole, not simply cultural capital. The free play and development of our 'free time' is essential, however if we do not simultaneously assault work then this 'free time' remains subordinate and secondary to work, it remains in the parameters of capital, as a result 'free time' outside work. We may well be able to a degree to produce some necessities at home, food, clothes etc, however this does not make us free people, the real power lies in the factories, warehouses, and the general means of production. If you return from a days work, the last tihing you want to do is go and grow your own food, to knit a jumper! The energy expended in work makes such activities unpalatable and labourious. The abolition of alienated labour allows for the liberation of daily life as a whole, whereas innovations in leisure time remain somewhat impotent if waged labour is not ceased and the general means of production (not simply heavy industry but electronics, power stations, printing offices, commodity production in general) are seized and used as those who operate them, and the wider society, see fit.

As you rightly point out innovations in leisure time, and the autonomous use of such time is not revolutionary, however it does have its benefits, and such developments can act to curtail the influence of capital and as a result can be utilised as part of a revolutionary project, they do not however represent the assault on capital that occupations and sabotage do.

Occupations and the subsequent formation of councils must not simply be seen in a negative light, eg the withering of the working day and time spent in work, conversely the occupation and seizer of the means of production open the way for the liberation of life from work and the transformation of the means of production into tools for realising the possibilities paralysed within them in the existing order, we can produce what we want, when we want, not in accordance with the market and the profitability of any commodity but in accordance with the desires of the people.

Mike Harman
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Aug 4 2004 15:31

I don't think there's a massive disagreement, although I'm still not sure who your minimum principles are aimed at. If it's intended to explain the group to the general public, I'll be happy to give good odds that random person on the street hasn't read either Debord or Vaneigem (or Marx, Bakunin, Chomsky, Plato, about the only author you'd have decent odds on would be J.K. Rowling, if you include the films).

Vaneigemappreci...
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Aug 4 2004 19:01

I dont think we should be looking for followers or supporters in the public, rather actors, therefor an understanding of basic revolutionary theory is preferable. However if such an organisation (like you point towards it seems a rather abstract idea at the moment) is to be trully revolutionary it needs to express itself in its actions and it is through these actions, interventions etc that it must seek to spread revolutionary sentiment and act as a catalyst for a wider insuregency.

Mike Harman
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Aug 7 2004 13:24

What I'd like to see pretty much corresponds with Bookchin's Libertarian Municipalism, which I think has pretty immediate practical application in the UK through existing yet politically dormant parish and community councils (although these are banned in London, no reason not to set up ones without legal powers though). Just found this speech from 1998 that puts a lot of these points across much better than I can:

http://www.social-ecology.org/article.php?story=20031118095526728

Vaneigemappreci...
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Aug 7 2004 17:41

i'll definately give it a read when i can be bothered/its not so hot!

Mike Harman
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Aug 8 2004 05:15

Let me know if you get a chance. I'm checking out as much of this stuff as I can at the moment, and if I find a better example I'll post it.

Ghost_of_the_re...
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Aug 8 2004 13:27

To those above stating that revolution cannot be achieved without the seizure of 'the means of production', I ask why they suppose production is so important. Production as it exists in modern society is merely a bedfellow of consumerism and not a necessary aspect of society; "For a better world to be born, the people must buy their TV sets from US!".

Debord said that you cannot undermine devices such as mass media by simply siezing control of them from the state, as their nature is not to inform but to give orders. Everything about capitalism is unnatural and repressive- the concept of a factory, operated by rows upon rows of workers acting like machines, existing in what someone would a call a free society makes me sick.

And whoever said 'do all this at least once a week' is undoubtably attempting to exterminate human diversity from this movement. Some people may be uncomfortable with the idea of stealing, some may see little value in solidarity protests, and somedays there just might not be any strikes at all. The only thing you can genuinely tell people to do whilst claiming to be anti-authoritarian is to do what they feel needs to be done where and when they have the oppurtunity to do so. As for people telling me i'm not a revolutionary unless i've read 'capital' from cover to cover and submitted a 5000-word report on its implications on historical events and modern society, they would probably feel more at home in the government or the catholic church.

Vaneigemappreci...
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Aug 13 2004 21:43

Hence there would necessarily be as much destruction of existing institutions as there would be occupation of them. Each institution/means of production would have to be judged by the extent to which it could further the freedom of the individual, as a result a media that preaches pacivity and obedience would be surplus to requirements.

Consumerism is a oofshoot of production, the working class were made into 'consumers' when mr ford realised he needed a mass market/stable workforce in order to maximise profits.