Clausewitz and Gramsci Bare-Knuckle Fighting – Revisiting the Question of Strategy Part I

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How do you move from this...

“We concluded that the current period is one of “resistance,” not one of “revolution.” We thought that the main work of revolutionaries at such times should be to build resistance fights. These fights would build power and consciousness in oppressed communities. But revolutionaries must design and craft this ‘resistance work’ so as to help lay the foundation for the long-term development of a revolutionary movement. As ‘conscious forces,’ we thought that revolutionaries should work intentionally to help the resistance movement mature into a revolutionary one.”

Reclaiming Revolution, by S.T.O.R.M.

S.T.O.R.M.’s analysis in this case is fundamentally sound, but it offers little insight on what this “resistance work” is. What makes this “resistance work” different from the work of revolutionary movement? Or, as A. Weaver pointed out, since the spark for the Spanish Revolution was defense against the Fascists, does that mean that the Spanish revolution was “resistance work” or, as I call it, a defense movement?

First, we must understand what makes a moment revolutionary or not. It is a fundamental question on analyzing the material conditions of a period in history. The predilection of some crude Marxists to make history the agent of revolution is as problematic as the view that equate the revolutionary process to an explosive voluntarism, with will alone becoming this overwhelming passion that would bring down the State apparatus. Revolution is the convergence of certain material conditions in society and the will of those historical agents who act in that situation.

It would be preposterous to claim an exact formula with which we can determine if the moment we live in is a revolutionary one or not. Much of that analysis is made in hindsight, and tends to be heavily influence by a perceived victory or defeat, for example, the late-sixties were not a revolutionary period because they did bore a revolution. However, a particular factor that we must always take into account is the power of the alternative institutions of the class in a confrontation with the status quo. Without powerful and vibrant institutions that channel the collective power of the class, and rival in power and influence the power of the State, true revolution is impossible. That situation, referred to as dual power, is far away from our reality – which means no matter the material conditions we are not faced with a revolutionary situation but with a reactionary one.

Moreover, the power and the institutions of the class directly influence the material conditions of their time period. If we accept that as part of our analysis, then the question becomes how do we move from this reactionary situation into a revolutionary one; and if we understand the need of building the collective power and the alternative institutions of the class, then our route is clear. We must work to build the consciousness and the institutions of the class. That’s the work of the revolutionary today.

Gramsci’s theory of war of position and war of maneuver refer to how we understand revolution: as a process of change or an explosive moment. As a process of change, as a protracted struggle, the revolutionary process is not a direct, straight line to communism. It is a pained, back-and-forth struggle between the State apparatus and the institutions of the people.

Fair enough. The concept of war of maneuver helps us comprehend the basic dynamics of the process of change; it brings to the fore the question of the role of the ideological field of class-struggle and how, in a very vague way, we move from the ideological state we are in to the ideological state we want to be in.

But for me, many questions, crucial questions, remain unanswered. More importantly for this discussion, what is the practical actions that need to be taken by the active group of revolutionaries to move the historical process forward? It is not a question around the role of social movements or the class, but what is the role of the conscious revolutionaries aiming at a revolutionary reconstruction of society?

Gramsci tried to address that in “The Modern Prince”, but his analysis is a vague reassertion of the Leninist argument for the party of professional revolutionaries. He differs from Lenin on that Gramsci view a bigger role for the organic intellectual of the class in the party than Lenin, who views the socialist consciousness as having to be brought in from outside of the class. Its a very limited and elitist view that has brought us already enough bitter fruits in the past.

Anarchists historically held the view that the role of the conscious revolutionaries, whether they originate inside the class or outside of it, is that of agitators or catalysts. They do not wish to have the people “be forced to be free” as Rousseau would have it, but have “people to free themselves” like Malatesta would say. Not to downplay other differences, bu this may be the seminal difference between the anarchist revolutionary organization and the Leninist party.

Since we do not believe that people need to be led to the revolution by the party, we have been accused of “spontaneism” by Marxists. Yet, anarchists that do not believe in spontaneism and aim at a structured approach to the anarchist involvement in the social movement tend to be derided as Marxists or bolsheviks. One group of anarchist that suffered the most of these kind of accusation were the members of the Dielo Trouda group, and more specifically, Nestor Makhno and Piotr Arshinov.

Criticism of their personal acts notwithstanding, the group’s “Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft)” talks about the role of the anarchist revolutionary organization – the wrestle for the “leadership of ideas” inside the popular movements. The idea of leadership of ideas is left vague and has been a place of criticism against the Platform. It is however, a crucial component of an anarchist revolutionary strategy. It is not about imposition of anarchist views on social movements, but about arguing for anarchistic values inside them.

Social movements, to remain healthy and vibrant, must be politically open. They must be a reflection of “the-class-for-itself”, a collective with understanding of their needs and aspirations and ready to fight for it. Movements cannot be monoliths attached to one political ideology or another – even when they subscribe to one political ideology, tend to have different interpretations of said ideology. That is the nature of social movements because they enhance the best in their participants – critical thinking, challenging authority and sense of individual and collective power. Solidarity and discipline are not enemies of democracy, but many times leftists tend to see dissent as a quality to be squashed. I mean, it’s all and good to challenge the boss, but never challenge the party line.

Conformity is the death of any social movement. When it gets stuck between the five “brilliant ideas” of their “glorious leaders”, movements not only reproduce the structure of the State but they also miss out on a plethora of solutions to the problems they face that could come from the active participation of their members.

The question then is what is the relationship between a organization of revolutionaries and these social movements? Lenin’s conception of the vanguard party ascribed to the organization of revolutionaries the role of a tough-love teacher – to bring socialism from without to the social movements and stir them to the path by grace or by might. It assumed an asymmetric relationship of knowledge and aspirations between the working classes and the upper classes and saw it as immutable. Therefore, the ideology of socialism as developed by the enlightened intelligentsia must be followed by the working classes:

Hence, to belittle the socialist ideology in any way, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology. There is much talk of spontaneity. But the spontaneous development of the working-class movement leads to its subordination to bourgeois ideology, to its development along the lines of the Credo programme; for the spontaneous working-class movement is trade-unionism, is Nur-Gewerkschaftlerei, and trade unionism means the ideological enslavement of the workers by the bourgeoisie. Hence, our task, the task of Social-Democracy, is to combat spontaneity, to divert the working-class movement from this spontaneous, trade-unionist striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie, and to bring it under the wing of revolutionary Social Democracy. The sentence employed by the authors of the Economist letter published in Iskra, No. 12, that the efforts of the most inspired ideologists fail to divert the working-class movement from the path that is determined by the interaction of the material elements and the material environment is therefore tantamount to renouncing socialism.

V.I. Lenin – What Is To Be Done

The Platform’s concept of the leadership of ideas has been likened to a Leninist vanguard, but if not from malice, the argument seems to come from a place of half-knowledge. Any ideological group seeks a leadership of ideas in its field – be they religious, scientific or political. Those who are passionate about their ideas want to share them. That anarchists should try to have a leadership of ideas – make their ideas prominent, even dominant inside movements. It is however, paramount that anarchists fight for the democratic process and spirit of movements at all times. We, who wish that “the people liberate themselves”, must advocate for and defend the elements of social movements that foster the realization of people as full human beings – critical thinkers, anti-authoritarian, self-confident human beings. This cannot happen without real space for dissent and debate inside the movements, for people to organize themselves in ways that may not be the desired ones by anarchist organizers.

One thing we must be aware is that challenging “what people want” is a fundamental part of organizing, however. The role of the anarchist organizer is to challenge the preconceptions of what is possible, of the one single way of doing things, and shatter the paradigms set on by capitalist society. That is the line that needs to be wlked on all the time – fostering critical thinking and respecting dissent in one hand, and offering critique and challenging attitudes that come from the bourgeois ideology. To expect that people “already know everything” is naive and self-deceptive. People can see only inside the paradigm that have been reared in. But for that to become a excuse to destroy dissent will never  bring the liberation of the working-classes.

In that context, we must understand leadership of idea as a struggle for hegemony between authoritarianism and self-actualization – between the values of obedience and critical thought. The left tends to charge at people with what to think, but it is often scared of thought. The leadership of anarchist ideas is the leadership of the ideas of socialism, solidarity and freedom in the broad sense, and the ideas of direct democracy and critical involvement by working people.

We believe that direct democracy and critical thinking are indigenous to every popular movement and that it is obedience and hierarchy that are brought from without. But those seeds are planted in people’s mind way before any particular organization tries to strangle the movement. That being the case, the anarchist organization must seek to raise the questions and to challenge those authoritarian and hierarchical tendencies.

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I know I barely said much in this post, but it is enormous as it is, and I’ve been working on it for a long time. I’ll just post this here now and get back to it.

... to something like this (Kwangju, 1980), with real possibility of winning?

The Role of Left-Wing Naysayers: A Response to “On the Occupy Oakland November 2 General Strike”

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There is not going to be a General Strike in Oakland.

Something is going to happen, it’s going to be large, beautiful and inspiring, but it is not going to be a General Strike; and that’s perfectly fine. A. Weaver from Machete408 in his post “On the Occupy Oakland November 2 General Strike” makes the argument that:

For radicals who have  been around the proverbial organizing block I would urge caution to avoid falling into the role of being the left naysayers of the movement. Just as under capitalism “all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned”, in times of upheaval and crisis events that never seemed possible suddenly become so. People who are unpoliticized or only have nascent consciousness become radicalized and people who are already politicized begin to identify with revolutionary politics. The lack of organic connections to more politically defined political militants leaves these newly radicalized layers to flail in the wind and take many political missteps, grow cynical, or be swept into the first organization that seems to offer a ready baked formula for radical change.

There is a tremendous amount of energy in Oakland right now. Walking downtown, you can feel it in the air: The police walks on a different kind of edge, the suits walk scared, the politicos hide their faces from the camera and sneak from the back of City Hall. There is a flurry of activity, from leftists to unionists to community activists are spreading the word about the strike action and engaging people in conversations about our current situation and capitalism. The energy is building up and the word is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Unions are, in different levels, trying to get their people out there or at least symbolically supporting the strike.

Something will happen, it will just not be a General Strike.

It will not be a General Strike because, for many people, the occupy movement still something they experience through the television. There is sense of them over there (people camping out and going to rallies every night) , and us here (people going to work every day and being spectators). The argument that “in times of upheaval and crisis events that never seemed possible suddenly become so” fails to take into account that these times of crisis and upheaval are generally escalations. Although build up has been happening, it has still not broken the barrier of alienation – people are still isolated and terrified of their bosses, people are still disconnected.

The call for a General Strike might have be a hasty one (specially since it only gave one week for preparation and build-up), but it has forced the issue of participation in capitalism and the power of working people to change things to the forefront. It has forces radicals inside the unions the examine the work that they are doing and take a stance – either this is revolutionary work, and my job as a revolutionary is to push my union to participate on this, regardless of bureaucracy, or being in the union is just my day job and that’s the end of that. It has forced the union to take a stance in supporting the action or be deemed irrelevant. It has shattered the confidence of many people in the electoral route for change, and it has instilled in people the confidence that they can do things for themselves.

It must however, be more expansive. The General Strike is an action of sharp contrasts: you either strike or you scab. That sharp contrast is good and crucial – but at the level that Oakland is right now, it is paramount that other venues open for people to participate. We must broaden the base of people who participate in the Occupy movement, and use this event as a spark to generate even more organizing and agitation outside Oscar Grant/Frank Ogawa Plaza. Hearing from a comrade that she was one-upped by a neighbor in door knocking in her street is one of those signs that the sentiment and energy is seeping through the cracks and building up. This is what we need. This is what we should be doing, and what many are doing.

It is really not productive to get caught fantasizing about a anarcho-syndicalist general strike and be tied to the exclusive project of stopping production. It is a lot more relevant and revolutionary to try and break people from the patterns of alienation, even if just a bit more, and have them engage in mass action, be strike mass action or not.

All that being said, I can only ask one thing of my beloved adopted town – prove me wrong, and shut down the town!

Romário and the Well-Placed Word

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Romário, World Champion with the Brazilian Squad of 1994 and now a congressman, sends a message of support to the workers who are rebuilding the Maracanã stadium and were on strike for a little over a week.

It was cool what happened in Rio with the workers of Maracanã. Although it was not ideal and independently of who agreed to the deal (with the company), the important thing is that the conditions for the workers will be better, and the construction at Maracanã will continue.

I know, I’m grabbing at straws. But I like the guy, ok? – and not one other person connected with football came out even minimally in support of the striking workers…

Campeonato Brasileiro Round 12: Football at Its Brightest: Santos vs. Flamengo


Forget everything you hear about today’s football.

Barcelona may have started to shift some concepts around, but some people still praise the style of play that led Paraguay to the Copa America final without winning a single match. Santos and Flamengo performed a feat of magic to show everyone why is it called “The Beautiful Game.”

For the twelfth round, Ronaldinho’s Flamengo went to Vila Belmiro stadium to face the Santos of Neymar and Ganso. The new generation of Brazilian football facing the “old”.

Neymar was extremely inspired. Dribbling, running, being basically unstoppable. At four of the first half, he dribbled two of Flamengo’s defenders and passed the ball to Elano. Elano threw a precise long ball to striker Borges, who didn’t miss. Santos 1×0.

Flamengo played well, creating chances, but the night seemed to be Neymar’s. A ball badly crossed by Renato gave Santos a good counter attack, with Neymar almost scoring but being stopped by Flamengo’s goalie Felipe. Fallen, he was still able to bicycle kick it to find Borges alone in the box. Santos 2×0.

Flamengo still tried, but we the last touch was either bad or defensible. Deivid missed an incredible goal after a cross by Luis Antonio. Luis Antonio and Ronaldinho both had good chances, but their goalie defended it.

There was more from Santos, though. A work of absolute beauty and skill by Neymar. He escapes between two of Flamengo’s defenders, gives and receives the ball from Borges, humiliates Flamengo’s defender Ronaldo Angelim with a disturbing dribble and kicks the ball over Felipe to make Santos 3×0

Did I mention this is only the 20th minute of the first half?

Santos has the game, but Flamengo is not dead. A cross from Luis Antonio and Santos’ goalie fumbled, and the ball comes soft into the feet of Ronaldinho. Santos 3×1 Flamengo.

There is another cross, a few minutes later, this time by winger Leo Moura, and Thiago Neves heads it in perfectly. Santos 3×2 Flamengo.

The tide seems to be turning. Santos’ fans are apprehensive, Flamengo’s fans are jubilant. But they have Neymar. The kid dashes down the left, with Williams in pursuit and falls inside the box. The ref calls a penalty.

Now, Elano was the first to take a shot in that horrible sequences of penalties that Brazil took against Paraguay. So everyone is a bit skeptical when he grabs the ball to take the penalty. He runs to it and tries to trick Felipe by taking a soft shot in the middle of the goal. Felipe is ready for it, though, defends and then, in a supreme act of irreverence and mirth, starts juggling the ball before releasing for the counter attack.

Then, a corner kick taken by Ronaldinho finds Deivid’s head, and he does not miss. Santos 3×3 Flamengo.

Did I mention this was just the first half?

The second half starts as the first ended, with both teams playing a frank, forward looking football. Santos comes out in advantage again, with Neymar receiving a very good pass from Leo, clearing easily Flamengo’s defender and putting the ball over Felipe’s head. Santos 4×3 Flamengo, in the beginning of the first half.

Santos now played a tad more cautiously, depending heavily on Neymar for attacking but keeping other players back to defend. Neymar almost find the goal a couple of times, but by himself he is not able to conclude.

Roanldinho, who has being playing very well but has been outshone by Neymar, strikes genius twice. Once in the dribble, that left three Santos defenders with no choice but to foul him near the box; and secondly by the masterful way he took the shot, sliding the ball under the jumping defenders.

But it wasn’t over. Deivid recovered a ball in the midfield and passed to Thiago Neves, who dashed towards the goal accompanied by Ronaldinho. He passes the ball to Flamengo’s number 10, who did not forgive. Santos 4×5. Thiago still had a great chance to score the sixth.

Regardless of the winner, this game was a real ode to football, to offensive, well played, beautiful football. Santos and Flamengo showed Brazil that playing football is still the best way to win a game.

 

 

Pride in Defeat

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"It's better to die on your feet than to live on your knees" - Práxedis Guerrero

Victory is not everything.

Sometimes, even in defeat, your pride swell and you realize that what you really care about is fighting spirit and good football.

Today, Flamenguistas across the world are waking up with their swollen by the result of 2×2 against Ceara that eliminated us in the quarter-finals of the Copa do Brasil. Yet we hold those swollen head high. Flamengo, after all, played as Flamengo, finally.

Having lost the first leg at home for 1X2, Flamengo went to the Northeast with a mission of winning 2×0 or a simple victory after 3×2. In 30 min, we were winning 2×0, two goals by the master Thiago Neves.

But then, as most teams still do in this boring age of football of results, we tried to just let the clock run. Ceara, needing to score now, started to attack and we gave them the midfield. In a corner kick, our defense just watched as their striker headed a ball in the net. Then our veteran defender Ronaldo Angelim, got two yellow cards committing two stupid fouls, and we were a man down. To make it worse, again our defense slept, and their striker, again, tied the match. All that in the first half.

On the second half, one man down, Flamengo still dominated the game, but exhaustion started to creep and we dragged ourselves, bloodied and battered, to try for the one saving goal that would put us in the semifinals. It almost came, but twice the post saved them.

In the end, the score  reflected the reality of the match – those that played well and searched victory saw the tie as a defeat, those that defended and hoped not to lose saw it as victory.

Never Surrender

We, however, still have our pride even in defeat.

May the National Tournament begin!

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