Money, Communications, Organization, and Vision

Consider these issues bearing on changing society: the need for left resources, summarized as money; the need for a wider and more compelling conveyance of ideas and values, summarized as communications; the need for lasting structures that address multi issue and multi tactic approaches to change, summarized as organization; and the need to have a compelling shared picture of desired institutions to inform our choices and inspire our efforts, summarized as vision.
Projects pursued to address these difficult large scale issues have all too often failed. For example, even from just my own experiences: Trying to create a city and region wide student organization in the late sixties. Trying to generate alternative media solidarity to shore up the finances of all alternative media and to enhance alternative media’s collective impact on consciousness raising. Trying to generate a network of alternative newspapers. Pursuing collective means of fund raising and fund dispersing on the left. Trying to create massive online community. Trying to create a left alternative to Facebook. Trying to create an international revolutionary organization. Trying to create an online school, twice. And most recently trying to create a community of mutually supportive writers. All these efforts ultimately failed, and even worse, nothing as ambitious has succeeded or for the most part, even been attempted.
Why all the failures when trying to achieve gains extending across constituencies, across geographies, and across ideologies, as compared to considerable successes with much more narrow endeavors dependent on small groups of participant workers like, again, merely my own experiences: creating a publishing house, a magazine, an online information system, and a summer school?
One thing I notice is that more people related more strongly to the parts of the endeavors that paid people. Similarly, parts that delivered something immediately tangible to people, or that seemed likely to deliver something that some people saw as immediately personally beneficial, those people generally related to. But people helping to create a new project without gaining direct immediate benefit for themselves – not so much.
People tend to relate as an act of friendship or an act of general solidarity, but without much followup. Especially for larger scale endeavors, very few people even conceive of more supportive participation as a possibility unless they are going to immediately benefit. And yet, in such cases, everyone typically agrees the problem each project addresses is paramount.
As just one example: regarding the organizational effort called International Organization for a Participatory Society, before the fact a poll had about 4,000 responses. It offered a list of possible attributes for a possible organization and asked if in light of those attributes poll respondents would want it to succeed, would join it, and would work for it – and the response was about 95% positive. In light of that, about 50 activists and noted writers were enlisted to become a consultative body. However once the organization was up and running, most of the 4,000 poll supporters didn’t join and only a small number did any work. Most damaging, only a handful of the fifty consultants tried to promote the project at all, much less vigorously – and even worse, alternative media with almost no exceptions ignored it.
As a second example, consider the alternative social networking project called Faceleft. Everyone knows Facebook is a major multinational corporation and the largest spy agency in the world, so that getting social media apparatus and revenues away from Facebook and inside the left would be wonderful – especially as Faceleft was designed to benefit all progressive organizations who wished to relate. Even so, only a relative handful of potential users related to the effort, and, again, alternative media and prominent figures who could propel Faceleft’s visibility overwhelmingly ignored it.
Why? You would think reasons would be evident from public criticisms but for IOPS there were no essays saying we don’t need an international organization based on local, regional and national chapters. Nor were there essays criticizing even one value the new effort espoused, or one commitment it had. Similarly, for Faceleft there were no essays saying the new social networking effort couldn’t provide what we needed, given ample participation, nor did anyone suggest that doing so wouldn’t be a terrific gain.
So what explanation remains?
In 1969 a friend told me that thinking primarily in terms of the overall movement and what one can usefully do for it – as compared to thinking primarily in terms of one’s own inclinations and benefits – was precisely the difference between being a revolutionary and just having some radical views.
Do I ask, my friend wondered, “what can I do for just myself or even just for my project or my organization considered unto itself?” Or do I ask “what can I do for fundamental social change, even if what it needs will be somewhat uncomfortable for me or for mine?” Additionally, even if we operate with the larger calculus, does a cynical sense that nothing will ever succeed prevent us from trying what is truly new and needed?
I am not saying everyone or even anyone individually is horribly at fault or anything remotely like that. But I am saying that collectively, we have a huge problem no doubt imposed by circumstances and history, but still, within us. Cynicism is a key part of it. Employing a narrow perspective that prioritizes only immediate narrowly conceived returns is another.
Yes, I realize that for particular projects mistakes by their designers may cause failures. But even in such cases, wouldn’t some folks motivated by larger social change aims point out the mistakes, try to correct them, and mainly, if necessary, seek to do better by undertaking a different and better approach. Some have, in some cases, but very few, I think, compared to the needs.
Note, again, I am most certainly not talking about activism per se, or about organizing per se. I am talking about tackling various persisting large scale issues that have constrained activism and change for decades. So, I am not talking about working to improve a particular media outlet, like Z, say, where I work, but about vastly enlarging and also coordinating our overall outreach and messages via media linkages and alliances. I am not talking about one media or activist project or another surviving financially, but about solving the left’s overall financial problems with new collective approaches to fund raising and the distribution of resources rather than clinging to atomistic and even competitive approaches. I am not talking about building local campaigns or organizations, say a wonderful anti foreclosure or anti poverty effort, but about doing that in many many places while also building an encompassing larger scale organization able to undertake national and international campaigns. And I am not talking about, finally, only admitting that the absence of left vision is crippling, but about tackling arriving at shared vision.
In each case many people do the former task, often very very well, courageously and tirelessly, but very few even try to do the latter task at all. Almost everyone concerned with social change acknowledges the impoverishing and debilitating funding dynamics that plague us, our insufficiently means of communications, the paucity and narrowness of our own institutions, and our absence of compelling shared vision. Yet when all too rare attempts are made to address these problems, there is almost no sustained interest, particularly from left pundits and progressive media. Why can’t we more effectively tackle these issues since the success of what we do do – it’s reach, scope, impact, and prospects for further advance – depends on our doing so?
Particular projects addressing large scale issues like money, communications, organization, and vision that I know about first hand were not repressed or defeated by power. They were not technically beyond our limited means, nor even financially beyond us. In each case, a small group laid out time, energy, and funds prerequisite to a meaningful try. All that was needed from others to augment initial start up efforts was sufficient positive public support and open participation to provide hope and momentum for others to be inspired, plus a level of involvement sufficient for benefits to begin to accrue.
That didn’t arise yet the politics, values, and underlying commitments were never much criticized. The means to be employed were also not denied publicly, and, most important, few if any alternatives were ever substantively proposed. Instead, the missing ingredient for the various projects was participation, and especially widespread entreaties by noted people in diverse alternative media to let others know there were projects they should look into. The reef that these projects collided with and sunk due to was therefore ourselves.
The dynamic seems to be an elephant in the room that no one successfully addresses. A Chinese slogan, “dare to struggle, dare to win,” has some wisdom for us, I think, regarding addressing our big problems.
One interpretation of why we don’t have, for example, a network of entwined left local and regional news outlets, a mechanism for enlarging and channeling funding on the left to all activists collective benefit, an alternative media consortium increasing the stability and reach of each individual media operation, a real left alternative to Facebook, an international organization of revolutionaries with truly self managing commitments and anti sectarian practice, a massive online left school system for essential consciousness raising and skills sharing across borders and constituencies, and even a modest networking of established as well as fledging radical writers for coordinating their efforts – among many other desirable projects one might list – is that we are all doing good things already and some new things just don’t make the cut or inspire our involvement. Someone feeling that explanation might sensibly say to me, “these things you are talking about, Michael, they just aren’t worthy or they are too demanding of time that can better go elsewhere – or they were simply impossible.” Perhaps, but I don’t believe these explanations. I think what we don’t have and aren’t doing is at least as critical to success as what we do have and are doing.
Yet in the cases of attempts to address these types of large scale problem that I have direct knowledge of, the time, attention, and support required to have a very good shot at success after the initial work was already done was actually amazingly modest. And the potential movement benefits were large, and in some cases even enormous. Yet in each instance, there was virtually no discussion across alternative media and movement groups. Endless articles covering the same complaints about society appear over and over in our alternative media, but there is rarely serious coverage, either critical or supportive, of attempts to solve massive problems on the left.  
Rosa Luxembourg said, “you lose, you lose, you lose, you win.” She was surely assuming we would learn from our losses. And while every project has its own specific lessons to learn, no doubt, I am suggesting that there is also at least one major overarching thing to learn from the overall pattern, and that it requires a lot less excavation to discover.
We cannot win without trying not just to be locally admirable and effective, but to win a new world. We cannot win without having our eyes on the full prize, as compared to on simply our own activities. We cannot win without knowing what the prize is.
We cannot win if we always take for granted that we will fail. If we assume things will fail every time out, we will often be able to brag of having been correct, but we will also miss the one, two, or three, possibilities for success. We will lose, lose, lose, and then lose again.
We cannot win without trying to really win, even if we have to do it skeptically, knowing at times that a project is a long shot. And perhaps I ought to add, we cannot win if we just try to persist, just try to defend some past belief we have long held, just try to appear radical or revolutionary, just try to distinguish ourselves from others who we deem less radical, or just denigrate those whose views we consider less wise than our own, even if we are doing more than they are for change, much less if we are doing less than they are for change.
Activists’ difficulties dealing with money, reaching out with consciousness that matters, and creating and sustaining multi tactic multi issue and visionary organization, are all gigantic problems for attaining lasting and far reaching change. Yes, we have to do our more familiar activism too, but if we don’t try to solve the large problems, our familiar endeavors won’t add up to winning a new world no matter how much courage, energy, and insight we bring to them.


  1. avatar
    James March 13, 2016 6:53 am 

    I’m gonna place this here. Here’s an essay worth ready and communicating to others. These are the sorts of essays worth writing and discussing rather than the endless and EASY anti-cap diatribes and bickering about electoral politics that often seem like vehicles for establishing ultra radical and revolutionary credentials. (Wow)

    This essay begins by looking at “visions” or possible alternatives to current work practices. It looks closely at them to see to what extent they actually work, how far they go or could and what extra may be needed. Gindin is looking for a deeper analysis of current populist tendencies towards worker-owned business, co-ops and real self-management, rather than just a superficial applauding of their existence in order to come up with strategies that could work. Is he right? Fucked if I know.


    The link is from The Jacobin, though it was posted here, sensibly. And here are some worthy quotes,

    “My point is not to dismiss the importance of strategies designed to increase worker control and ownership. In general, factory takeovers and co-ops should be enthusiastically supported.

    But what’s missing in so much recent analysis is a sober, comradely investigation of their strengths and weaknesses so that, over and above solidarity, we can learn from them rather than add to existing illusions — thereby gaining a better appreciation of what transforming society would really require.”

    “In grappling with the dilemma of competitive success versus class formation, one point must be made: trying to enact policies that “level the playing field” is the wrong approach. What’s needed is to change the rules of the game, so that the measure of success is not a “competitiveness” that undermines solidaristic and egalitarian values.

    Changing the rules of the game means constraining the disciplining power of competition — limiting rather than extending freer trade, and constricting the ability of capital to remove productive enterprises from the communities that enriched them. This also implies giving greater weight to inward-oriented development and introducing a significant degree of economic planning.

    Moving in this direction, rather than working within the existing rules of capitalism, requires taking the struggle to the state — not just against the state, but inside the state and with the goal of transforming the state.

    This brings us back to the question of agency. If the key to achieving a participatory economy lies in the capacity to change the rules of the game and transform the state, then the evaluation of WSDEs and co-ops can’t rest on whether this or that enterprise is economically successful but whether they contribute to building a working class with the vision, confidence, class sensibility, smarts, and institutional strength to democratize the economy.”

    “There is no quick fix for the Left’s impasse. The attempt to revive ideas of self-management are admirable in that they highlight the fundamental importance of challenging private property.

    But the project’s dominant populism underestimates the limits of doing so within capitalism and overlooks the fundamental necessity of comprehensively challenging and overturning existing property relations — which cannot happen without developing the class cohesion and institutional capacity to confront the capitalist state.

    The result is the worst of all worlds: while self-management is confined to the fringes, the dominant corporations continue on their merry way; the hated state is ignored and left to continue hammering us; there are occasional outbursts that absorb energy but leave little of substance behind; the working class, for all its potentials as an actor, stumbles aimlessly on.

    Until the discussion is politicized such that it can go beyond a (legitimate) critique of statism, and begin to see the democratic transformation of the state as part and parcel of economic democratization — and the development of the class capacities to address this is made a priority — this “next big idea” will only be the Left’s latest failure.”

  2. avatar
    James March 11, 2016 11:17 pm 

    The idea that deeper vision will come from the margins, like indigenous communities is merely wishful thinking. The problem here is the phrase “deeper vision”. What the hell is it? It’s really just a throw away phrase. It’s a little Ken Knabbian joy-of-revolution-like. Deep vision could be something substantial in terms of a real alternative but only if someone or someones actually develops it into that, like building vague anarchist visions into models such as Parecon. I am very suspect of the ability of coherent models to grow out of collectively improvised events. Ideas that may spring from such things still have to be assessed in light of larger and wider practicability. And one of the problems with hoping something may develop out of improvised movements in the present is that everyone is absorbed in the perfumed aroma of momentum. That pocket of apparently thoughtlessness that the improvising musician enters into unconsciously at times only to be jolted out of by and electrical accident, a “wrong note” or the sharp thump of a kick drum at an unexpected moment or any number of things. One really has to step back to find the really good ideas and possibilities that may evolve (and that is no certainty) and extract them from the surrounding noise in order to examine whether there is credibility in their institutional potential on a wider level, theoretically and practically. Like listening back to a free improvisation and finding gems and wonderment that were completely missed during the rapture, or dullness of the playing.

    The other problem is that the “margins” doesn’t mean anything. What’s the margins? If it is indigenous culture then fine. But even within these constituencies one won’t find unanimity regarding vision or even capitalist critique. Why? Because they are people like everyone else. Here in australia, the indigenous community is not at one regarding relations with the illegal colonial settler government, particularly regarding things like genocide, sovereignty, and treaty. Which in some ways is connected strongly to the idea of reparations elsewhere. Further it isn’t at all clear what percentage of them are anti-capitalist and it is/would be, incredibly rare to hear someone from that community talk about an alternate economic vision or model for the future. There are dreams and hopes and much obvious and understandable hatred and pissedoffness but no coherent clear “vision” let alone “deep vision” concerning a post capitalist inverted totalitarian world.

    But indigenous movements and organising may be an example of smaller focus type organising that can garner longevity. Let’s face it, one would have to be daft to not to see why they continue to fight against imperial, colonial settler powers and the ravages of market capitalism. Of course smaller focused, single issue groups have greater success because people, particularly inexperienced people, can plan their activism around it. General largely abstract revolutionary movements are hamstrung because no-one is sure where to start and some are not even sure whether they fully agree with everyone in the room. But that may have something to do with this fetish for organising and constant call to action.

    Organising works well when focused. It falls well short of success when it is based on vague notions or even huge general revolutionary ideals. Often inside these huge ideals, sometimes hidden from view, sometimes unknown until someone brings them up perhaps, is the nitty gritty. The subjective. The guts. To use a metaphor applied to music it’s the scalpel “cutting through the skin surface of “music” to expose pumping arteries and zinging nerve cells and replicating blood corpuscles. Close focus on the stuff of music itself.” Replace music with revolution and you have your problem.

    It isn’t a problem for music because music isn’t trying to change the world, but those “pumping arteries” and “nerve cells” and “replicating blood corpuscles”, is the “difficult matter” for a revolutionary movement that so often gets reasoned and rationalised away by revolutionaries with a far too analytical bent. They brush this stuff under the carpet like unwanted filth without realising it is part of the very fabric of each individual in that room. It is a stench that cannot necessarily be removed. At least some or most of it (he says in a concessionary moment!) It is one of the very real and valid reasons why many find Chomsky intolerably frustrating at times. It’s as if saying I could easily not write long ranting comments that at times seem like the ravings of a crazy loon, if I only thought a bit harder, took a breath, calmed down, meditated, went over what I wrote and edited it, over and over, until I was left with the perfect comment or thought, bundled beautifully for the consumption and perusal of all other equally rational and reasoned individuals here at ZNet. It isn’t going to happen and not because I am some sort of rebellious teenager being a dick. No it’s the same recalcitrant stiff middle finger that was always erect in the music of Frank Zappa, Derek Bailey and still is in that of Eugene Chadbourne, even as they grew into adults. Annie Di Franco is merely another neatly dressed, nicely bundled up bourgeois form presented as a “new or latest thang” but is really just the same white picket fence that Elvis turned Hound Dog into. Like Ice Cube may be straight out of Compton but he ain’t there anymore. Talk about deep vision coming out of the margins!

    I may be an armchair revolutionary but so what. I notice something or feel something so I jump in. “Deep vision” needs to be explicated so the movement can be clearer about direction and “eco-socialsm” doesn’t do it. Richard Smith from System Change Not Climate Change recognises that Klein fell way short of the mark. He sees the necessity of a non-market planned economy, but not being an economist won’t spell one out. But then he doesn’t have to, because Parecon is already here. Greg Sharzer and David Harvey both feel the contradictions of capital have to be dealt with for a “deeper vision” to come to fruition. Whatever. David Schweickart wants market socialism and doesn’t feel that small pay disparities poses a problem, that hierarchical structures aren’t all bad and that those perhaps a little cleverer than some can, and perhaps should in fact enjoy a little more. Ted Trainer wants a simpler hodge podge of everything yet even he lately it seems has been under fire for being a little too radical, for criticising the softly softly approach of the Transition Town folk and drawing the ire of some connected to the Next System Project (let’s go easy folks. Nothing over the top. Talk about hierarchical/paternalistic!) Takis Fotopoulos wants something like an anarchist vision, not too far from something like Parecon, but not nearly as well thought out (ouch!).

    One may be able to get a bunch of concerned citizens to fight hard for a kids school crossing. Fight tooth and nail but to move on to something more radical? Watch the numbers drop off. Those “zinging nerve cells” really come into play. Is a social democratic “vision”, like in the Nordic countries, really a vision or just tweaking? It’s fucking infuriating, that’s what it is. Is a Green New Deal a vision or a transitional strategy? Do we want markets or not. Schweickart gets rid of labour and financial ones. Parecon gets rid of them totally. Erik Olin Wright feels there may still be a place for markets on the peripheries. Why? Read the ebook where this is discussed with Robin Hanel. And what of markets? Are they a neutral institution that in the right environ will deliver wondrous things? Or are there evils inherent in them? How much is a little? How does introducing markets into a participatory planned economy upset the balance of assessing social costs and benefits, of pricing primary and secondary goods? Efficiency in other words. And what of the anti-social nature of them which is always conceded by those who seem to like a little bit of markets by the acknowledgement they would have to be heavily regulated. How much regulation. How? What kind of democratic institution is needed to regulate an institution that undermines the very participatory decision making most revolutionaries or radicals want?

    Who else is sitting in an armchair and thinking about this shit? Probably not many because most are shouting, quick, get organised, become active, don’t worry about the effects these quick decisions will have on your life and those around you, this is for the greater good and if those in your already formed relationships won’t allow you to get more deeply involved, it’s because they are flawed relationships. Relationships must allow you to grow. So grow you good thang. Get out there and join something and fight the good fight. Even if you are in your fifties, got kids who are trying to carve some sort of existence within this fucked up world with doom hanging over their heads, never done it before, your shoulders completely fucked from thirty years of picture framing, tennis elbow in both arms, a middle finger on your left hand that feels like it’s broke and is necessary for the imperative of music making, mentally fatigued and battered from taking orders all your life. Get fucked.

    What for? Where’s the “deep vision”. I’m a free improviser and the last place I want to see this kind of attitude determine the future of this planet is within the revolutionary movement. It’s fucking bogus. It has a place no doubt, as people like Robin Hahnel acknowledge, but there needs to be a coherent discussion around a coherent model for the future before anyone is going to fight for shit beyond a school crossing. Improvising one’s way there is what humanity has been doing all along and it’s a flawed approach. As a way of making music, it’s the best way. It allows for those zinging nerve cells and replicating blood corpuscles in ways that the neatly bundled bourgeois forms and over reasoned and rational approaches don’t.

    To end on a musical note, the Big Note being the very fabric of the universe,

    Tom Morello, Annie Di Franco, Bob and any number of the sameold sameold are no match for the musical musings of Peter Baxter and Out To Lunch, or even if I say so myself, Music With My Insane Friend, Eugene, Derek, or Frank.

    DANCE ME THIS, people!

  3. avatar
    Matt Grind March 11, 2016 6:25 pm 

    I think the way to go is a political party for a participatory society. I think the problem with initiatives like International organization for a participatory society is that there is nothing to do. You talk to people and maybe hopefully organize a march. What do marches do? Not much. But if you had a political party (with a participatory structure) that tried to get people elected (that were recallable and controlled by nested councils) then you have something concrete and worthwhile to do.

    • avatar
      Mark Evans March 11, 2016 8:38 pm 

      It simply is not the case that “there is nothing to do”, Matt. In fact the opposite is true – there is too much to do! The challenge we would have faced, if people had actually joined and got involved, would have been what to prioritise out of all our options? And yes, forming a political party controlled by nested councils – a structure that IOPS was set up to establish – would have been one of those options. To fail to establish that structure results in no functioning IOPS just as it would for a political party. If people see that primary organising as “nothing” – as you seem to – then, not surprisingly, nothing happens! But again, it seems to me that this is as true for a political party as it is for an international organisation like IOPS.

      • avatar
        Matt Grind March 19, 2016 2:31 am 

        So, therefore, according to you – Don’t even try for a participatory poiltical party? I mean, nobody’s tried it before, nothing else is working, but don’t try it, because… ???

  4. avatar
    Huzaifa Zoomkawala March 11, 2016 6:01 pm 

    Two reasons why I think the wins are not forthcoming:
    – You mention that Power has not undermined the efforts. Not directly perhaps, but indirectly, Power controls mind-share in terms of both media and technology. Coming up with alternate platforms for outreach means that the options for the left available using mainstream media and technology platforms have to be found inadequate, insufficient or plain incorrect. Since web technology, esp. social media, has not been around for that long, and a great deal of money rides on rigging the playing field, a few more iterations/failure are needed to hone in on what exactly works in overcoming mainstream distraction.

    – All the initiatives you mention are general, large, abstract. That in itself poses a motivational problem as immediate oppressions can be related to so much better than abstract ones. Also, there is a hint of top-down in abstract goals. To overcome that, general goals need to revise themselves continually by drawing from/listening to the deep visions inherent in the struggles at the margins as Colin Stuart mentions in his comment.

  5. avatar
    David Jones March 10, 2016 7:13 pm 

    Hey James, I read that whole rant. What about Annie Di Franco? As for the essay, I’m old and have been doing this forever and I’m a writer and read everything and I’m saying forget all this ‘intersectionality” or this stretched-till-it’s-useless term “the left” and go with ecosocialism. I said it at IOPS and I’m saying it here. There’s your slogan, your program, your theory, all in one pretty package. Focus on the climate crisis and you’ve got all the “contradictions” you could want. Pick this critical issue and focus, consolidate, merge, combine, ally, collaborate, join up and let’s go. You lose a bunch of Marxists, fine. You lose a bunch of anarchists, awesome. Lose the “progressives” and their tire-ass non-profits, perfect. Time to do some thinning and figure out who’s who and who’s what. Global Break Free actions happening middle of May. Focus on that and build the movement.
    There. Next question.

    • avatar
      James March 10, 2016 8:16 pm 

      Shit Dave, is that all? One paragraph? I know you’ve been around on this planet longer than me, you’re busy and you read shit that would make my head boil over, but that’s it? Keep truckin but lose a few? Eco-socialism, Kovel and co? That’ll get the crew down at P&G out onto the street? Or should that be Street?

      Focus and build the movement? What movement? Where? When? Who? I know, Brand and Graeber and maybe Harvey looking grumpy on the side!

      Yeah, could have gone Di Franco if she was in sight. Another one trying to make me cry with “that chord progression”, getting inside my innards with a scalpel scraping and scratching away like she knows! It’s all the same song with an acoustic guitar you know.

      Reading’s good because the armchair’s warm. Work beckons in between times.

      Indigenous lives matter as do black ones because they’re lives. But there are no visions within. Jus vague eco-socialist ideals where in the nitty gritty, the striped ends of marzipan, starts to wear at break off. You dream and then you wake up. Non-linear to linear.

      Sorry, more than one question.

      • avatar
        James March 10, 2016 8:19 pm 

        Sorry Dave, forgot to ask, hows the weather and trout going up there in dental floss country?

    • avatar
      Mark Evans March 10, 2016 9:59 pm 

      I can see that “ecosocialism” is a slogan but without further details I don’t see how it constitutes a “program” or a “theory”. IOPS, on the other hand, did provide this. I also know that not everyone considers the term socialism (even when prefixed with an “eco”) a “pretty package”.
      Things are just not as simple as you would appear to like to think, David.

  6. avatar
    Colin Stuart March 10, 2016 6:57 pm 

    The vision will come from the margins. I think Chomsky is right in pointing hopefully to the centuries of Indigenous Peoples’ struggle for survival against settler-colonial imperialism. Add to this the fact that Black Lives Matter really does matter, and we will find that the outlines of a vision rest deep within these varied struggles. Old white leftists like myself have to listen more and talk less.

  7. avatar
    James March 10, 2016 12:03 pm 

    Who are you talking to? What sort of a response do you want from this essay? Do you want it to happen here? Is this a kind of rhetorical essay like a rhetorical question? Do you want other left revolutionaries of note to enter some discussion, because that won’t happen? I might say something but so what, according to Paul Street this type of vehicle for comment is often just lazy dumb non serious intellectual time wasting.

    So what happens after this essay ? Who’s reading it? Did this essay go out and get accepted by other marginal left websites? If not, why not? Should you post the essay at IOPS and just see if it rekindles some interest? Even just a teeny weeny bit? Is that pointless? What am I meant to do with this essay?

    Who’d fuckin’ listen to me anyway? Paul Street?

    Writing essays is pretty easy so many do it. All over the place. Some write books. Organising and activism is hard, so far fewer do it. That’s a very physical activity. Takes more time even just to get to some place before things actually start. Just reading this essay then commenting takes time. It’s even harder for the inexperienced and older folk who have devoted a lot of time to their non political life and relationships to deal with. Not all oppressed workers even organise. Even independent unions get fought and sometimes crushed by older established hierarchical threatened mainstream co-opted unions.

    Organising often works when it’s focused and people know specifically why they are there and how much time they have to devote to things. Revolution is often just a bunch of vague notions being bandied around by a bunch of smart arses. . Chomsky’s hypothetical school crossing for kids movement, being born of a process, both mentally and physically, that is of a similar type to that which could eventually graduate onwards and upwards to bigger things like fighting police repression, makes no sense. Sounds good bit it just isn’t as simple as he often makes out because it ignores the subjective and much of the tiny tiny shit, most mental, that makes up an individual. Why is one fighting police repression anyway if one has no clear alternative to offer?

    How long does one sit in a room with people twinkling fingers before one becomes bored? How many people can one fit in a room before horizontal democratic procedures fall apart? What of age differences, backgrounds, all those little things that break up households, smells, farts, sex, jokes, musical tastes? Would I have had to stand around listening and liking Tom Morello singing This Land is Our Land if I thought it a load of celebrity bullshit just out of solidarity and diversity? It’s easy for people like him, others and the Michael Moores of the world to visit things, get applauded and then piss off, and for those present at the time to feel all tingly and fuzzy inside. And what’s Tom Morello singing that song for anyway? Whose land is it really?

    Yeah people are busy, but those experienced radicals who have organised their lives around revolutionary politics are in a better position to devote time to the things you are talking about in this essay than some lazy and dumb time waster who merely gives off a veneer of sophisticated education yet does little serious intellectual work, like moi. They are the ones that should read this and engage, but they won’t. They probably won’t even read it. They probably don’t know it exists. And, for example, if Paul Street read it, he’d probably only engage you privately via email, coz he don’t like the comment thang, so most other inexperienced lefties, or just down right normal folk like moi wouldn’t know what was going on.

    So again, what happens now? Nothing. And I am utterly sick of ultra radical revolutionaries, experienced oldies or energetic youngies, suggesting I and others just organise ourselves or become active as if it’s like joining a fucking gym. It isn’t and in the end it sounds like a whole lot of exhortatory moralism and if you are an older person with family and job and shit, it can sound insulting. Like some notion of a “transcendental mind hovering over the difficult matter: the point is we are the difficult matter.” And that’s not me having a shot at you Michael. I’m having a shot at that part of the left who thinks it’s merely a matter of ordinary folk like myself getting organised. Well, it isn’t. It just fucking isn’t.

    But if all those who are already involved, organising and activating all over the joint, because their free to do so, have organised their life around it, are willing to sacrifice family for it, old and strong relationships and a whole heap of good sex for it, or they’re getting a whole heap of good sex out of it, or just because they’re fucking good at it, are good leaders or have great intellects, or have read all the right books and came to political awareness at an early stage and are fucking so self confident or think it necessary in order to grow personally and on and on and on, think all that gives them some right to tell everyone else to get off their lazy arses, think again, because them lazy arses, whilst perhaps full of all that ideological bullshit and false consciousness all them smart arses go on about, haven’t actually been lazy and idle, they’ve been out there in the world trying to build some sort of life for themselves, trying to get by, sending shit back to families struggling in all corners of the world, and all that takes inordinate amounts of time and energy and the body wears out as one gets older and the mind gets fucking tired.

    You know, just listening to a bit of music actually takes time, real time. Just reading a fucking book takes actual time. And lots of lefties and serious intellectuals who think they know so much write all these books and essays that take actual time to read and and think about. Thinking actually takes time you know. This comment took a lot of fucking effort you know. It didn’t just appear out of nothing in an instant.

    And now I am really tired because it is getting late where I’m from and I still haven’t eaten yet, because as soon as I got home from teaching people how to enjoy making music, in ways other than just strumming a few chords and singing This Land is Our Land, as if that’s the only way music can touch the revolutionary in people on mass, the lefties rather timid and limited view of revolutionary music, I read this essay and started writing.

    And what really for. Everybody’s more than likely on Facile book or reading something worthwhile other than this banal and facile comment under an essay that very few serious intellectual radical revolutionaries will even read because they’re out doing the real stuff.

    That’s the problem with the left. It dislikes itself. Can’t stand being in a room for too long with itself. It can’t really talk to itself without tearing itself apart limb from limb because it’s full of moralistic transcendental anarchists with no fucking real theory, let’s face it, holding fat to outdated principles and vague visions because one just wouldn’t want to “over prescribe” would one, oh fuck no, that would be terrifying. Or Marxists who are holding fat to all sorts of interpretations of working class revolution caught up in a plethora of critical theory beyond the fucking mental capacities of most. Or it’s arguing incessantly about electoral politics and its value on every possible level or it’s splitting into ever smaller groups with a tighter focus and then going on about building a mass movement.

    It can’t get it’s own head out of its arse and most likely never will. Every example of past real revolutionary activity that has got past the talk has utilised violence. Every fucking one, but even those have fallen short. And non-violent ones, and I’m imagining there re a few here and there, go on, throw them at me, hardly have an impact beyond the backyard they grew out of. And part of that is that no-one has any fucking clue where they are headed and just about EVERY FUCKING WRITER ON THE LEFT HARDLY EVER TALKS ABOUT VISION, REAL VISION, REAL SENSIBLE YEAH THAT LOOKS LIKE A REAL POSSIBLE REPLACEMENT FOR THAT CAPITALIST FUCKER AND I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT SOME HALF ARSED OH NO YOU CAN’T GET RID OF CAPITALISM AND MARKETS BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE SAD AND STUPID SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM LIKE IN THE NORDIC COUNTRIES EITHER. I’M TALKING A REAL SERIOUS ALTERNATIVE.

    But that’s just me ranting on like a mentally disabled crazy loon. Well, that’s what I do but it don’t much matter because no-one gives a shit what I think and there are far more sensible types out there writing and writing and writing…and writing and writing and writing…and writing some more…well, because that’s what they do and they need idiots like me to take actual real time to read it all when I’d prefer to use my precious time listening to Eugene Chadbourne, Derek Bailey, Frank Zappa or myself for that matter, but certainly not Tom Morello.

    Sorry Tom, you were just there, it could have been Bob!

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