Wednesday, July 02, 2008

*To The Armed Struggle League- Propaganda or Agitation?

Click on the title to link to an "Under The Hood" (Fort Hood G.I. Coffeehouse)Web site online article about the "Oleo Strut" Coffeehouse, an important development in the anti-Vietnam War struggle. Hats off to those bygone anti-war fighters.


On Slogans- Propaganda or Agitation?

Every once in a while I get a political communication that baffles me. Today is one of those days. I am looking for help and comments from readers as much as I want to comment on this one myself. I monitor a number of amorphous left wing political sites to get a sense of what is happening in our little corner of the political universe and to get a better slant on events than one generally gets from the bourgeois media (although one should not dismiss that source out of hand, if for no other reason than to know what the buggers are up to). I have commented on other occasions that some of these left wing sites have gone off on more than one conspiracy theory tangent to explain away the impotent of the left but the subject of today’s entry is of different magnitude.

Here is what I am up against upon receipt of a communiqué (in English, although today that means less than it used to) from a group called the Armed Struggle League. Personally, I have never heard of this group, at least not under that name although I do not necessarily keep up with the doings of every grouplet as I have enough to do creating my own propaganda along with my own little grouplet. The substance of the Armed Struggle League’s message is that NOW is the time, due to a myriad of political, social and economic circumstances (the usual laundry list- the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the housing crisis, the commodities crisis, the poor American education and health systems) to form workers councils, use those organizations to struggle for power and defend them by arming the workers. That is where we part company-for the moment.

After giving the communiqué some thought my initial satirical reaction was that here was a group that had been underground for a long time and had only surfaced now that United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his majority had given its imprimatur for the individual right to bear arms. But that was too facile an analysis even for this writer. My next reaction was that the group had been underground for a long time and had only recently gotten the word that the 1917 February Revolution had occurred in Russia and that they were playing catch-up somewhere in the summer of that year. Again, that is too easy an answer. I am going to assume for my own political purposes that this is a rational group and that they are just frustrated (like the rest of us on the extra-parliamentary left) that the masses have not yet risen to slay the monster who is certainly taking a big chunk out of their lives.

Elsewhere I have tried to explain the difference between our general propaganda tasks in defense of socialism in this period and our occasional ability to take the offensive and agitate for certain demands either because the objective situation cries to high heaven for that solution or because the demand has some capacity to get a hearing from some segment of today’s political audience. The clearest example that I can give of this in recent times, and that concerned me personally, was the question of creating soldiers and sailors solidarity committees to link up with the soldiers in Iraq to end the war a couple of years ago when there were openly civil war conditions in Iraq and American military forces, especially the rank and file, were in turmoil. Without going into all the details of how my group decided to agitate around that issue it certainly met, for a time, the two criteria I mentioned above- objective necessity and possibilities of a hearing from political elements. Sometime in mid-2007 that slogan lost its agitational edge as things calmed down in Iraq with the ‘victory’ of the Bush/Petraeus ‘troop surge’ strategy. We still use the slogan as propaganda on selected occasions but we do not highlight it much less agitate around the slogan today.

And that, my friends, is exactly what is wrong with the political prospectus of the Armed Struggle League today. Workers Councils- great idea. Center a workers government around this organizational form- even better. Defend those organizations by arming the workers against internal counter-revolution and external imperialist intervention- ABC’s. But what does all that have to do with today’s “simple” little tasks like getting working people in America to break from their political allegiance to the Democratic Party (and, apparently, in the cases of at least some white workers the Republican Party) and struggling to create a workers party that can fight for a workers government. Not as sexy as invoking the glory days of the Russian Revolution but those are our general propaganda tasks today.

Note: The thought had passed my mind that this message was an act of provocation by some nefarious forces, governmental or otherwise. For what purposes, however, I do not know. The e-mail address I tried to reply to was one of those no reply things. However, since the thrush of the communiqué had some sense of historical knowledge I think this is really the work of some antsy “ultra left” kids. In that case I urge them to think things through- our day will come, it is just not today. If any reader knows anything about this group, has received this communiqué or is a member of the group I definitely want to hear from you.

1 comment:

  1. I still want to hear from anyone who has any information about this Armed Struggle League mentioned in the commentary. I am interested, if for no other reason, than why they directed their communiqué toward my door. I, frankly, am not certain if they sent it to me specifically or as a general declaration. That is why I am looking for additional information to see if others got the same message. Certainly the political framework of the document with reference, if unstated, to the Russian revolutionary experience of 1905 and 1917 drew my eye automatically. Whether they thought I might be sympathetic to their argument NOW is also something that crossed my mind. Any help?

    I guess I am also not finished with analyzing what is wrong with this document. Two issues come to mind. One issue that still boggles my mind is the question of political timing. Frankly, as stated in my commentary concerning our immediate tasks in America, we are today not even really addressing the forms that the struggle for a workers government would take. History shows that worker councils (Soviets, in the Russian experience) are almost always the most likely form that they take. However, as I am very fond of mentioning, Menshevik-dominated workers councils do not lead to the struggle for power. A Bolshevik-style party is necessary.

    The second point is that even with the historical pedigree that workers councils have as a form of struggle (in revolutionary situations) one should not today assume that this is the form that the struggle will take. Hell, it could be factory or work place committees. What, for that matter, is to preclude that in America it might not very well take the forms of worker defense guards? The point is not to worry today about that but do that little task I have outlined previously- break workers, women, minorities and any other allies we can round up and break from the Democrats. At least five generations of American radicals have broken their teeth on that little problem.