Category Archives: Methodology

Replace Yourself

Still one of the best organizing-related writings I’ve read.

http://www.recomposition.info/2011/01/12/replace-yourself/
Replace Yourself by J. Pierce

The primary task of an organizer is to build more organizers. We need more and more working class leaders and the way to do this is to constantly replace yourself. Here’s a few easy ways to help you build up your successors:

Reveal your sources so others can think with you: “I had a long talk with MK recently. He really convinced me that we should reorganize as a shop committee instead of having one or two ‘stewards’. He gave me this awesome article on how IWW shop committees used to work.” Telling others where you got an idea from demonstrates that you think of them as equals. You also provide an opportunity for them question your sources.

Show others how it’s done and take them through the process: “Hey Keith, has anyone showed you how to post an article to iww.org? I’m going to post that write-up on the strike right now. Let me show you how to do it. We need another person who can post.” Pass on the technical know-how so others can be ‘experts’ just like you. Continue reading

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Outline of Raymond Williams

Outline: Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature pp 75-89

I. Base & Superstructure

Two propositions:

  • Determining base and determined superstructure
  • Social being determines consciousness

Drawn from Marx’s Preface:

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure. In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Continue reading

Passages from Luxemburg’s Mass Strike

The Mass Strike by Rosa Luxemburg

“For the anarchist mode of thought is direct speculation on the “great Kladderadatsch,“ on the social revolution merely as an external and inessential characteristic. According to it, what is essential is the whole abstract, unhistorical view of the mass strike and of all the conditions of the proletariat struggle generally.”

“For the anarchist there exist only two things as material suppositions of his “revolutionary” speculations – first, imagination, and second goodwill and courage to rescue humanity from the existing capitalist vale of tears.”

Abstract, ahistorical methods

“What the trade-union opponent of the mass strike understands by the “historical basis” and “material conditions” is two things – on the one hand the weakness of the proletariat, and on the other hand, the strength of Prussian-German militarism…Now when it is quite true that the trade-union cash box and the Prussian bayonet are material and very historical phenomena, but the conception based upon them is not historical materialism in Marx’s sense but a policemanlike materialism in the sense of Puttkammer.”

“If, therefore, the Russian Revolution teaches us anything, it teaches above all that the mass strike is not artificially “made,” not “decided” at random, not “propagated,” but that it is a historical phenomenon which, at a given moment, results from social conditions with historical inevitability. It is not, therefore, by abstract speculations on the possibility or impossibility, the utility or the injuriousness of the mass strike, but only by an examination of those factors and social conditions out of which the mass strike grows in the present phase of the class struggle – in other words, it is not by subjective criticism of the mass strike from the standpoint of what is desirable, but only by objective investigation of the sources of the mass strike from the standpoint of what is historically inevitable, that the problem can be grasped or even discussed.”

“It is just as impossible to “propagate” the mass strike as an abstract means of struggle as it is to propagate the “revolution.” “Revolution” like “mass strike” signifies nothing but an external form of the class struggle, which can have sense and meaning only in connection with definite political situations.”

Part 3:

“Who, therefore, speaks of the mass strike in Russia must, above all things, keep its history before his eyes.”

Aspects of development of mass strike movement in Russia:

– sometimes struggle appears as purely economic
– the attitude of govt and agitation of social democracy make an economic into a political struggle
– workers suffer “defeats”
– mvmt appears not to arise on preconceived plan but flows together from individual points from different causes and in a different form
– economic struggles of earlier period mislead social democrats to exaggerate the importance of so-called economics, paving way doe demagogues
– at times the strike emerges under the immediate influence of news of strikes elsewhere (despite opposition to the strike from social democrats)
– when political struggles “dissolve” into economic front, appears to some as mistake. But this ignores important changes in consciousness of proletariat which inevitably impact next stages of struggle (“a general raising of the standard of life of the proletariat – economic, social, intellectual.” P 131)

“By many small channels of partial economic struggles and little “accidental” occurrences it flowed rapidly to a raging sea, and changed the entire south of the czarist empire for some weeks into a bizarre revolutionary workers’ republic.”

“But even here there was no predetermined plan, no organised action, because the appeals of the parties could scarcely keep pace with the spontaneous risings of the masses; the leaders had scarcely time to formulate the watchwords of the onrushing crowd of the proletariat. Further, the earlier mass and general strikes had originated from individual coalescing wage struggles which, in the general temper of the revolutionary situation and under the influence of the social democratic agitation, rapidly became political demonstrations; the economic factor and the scattered condition of trade unionism were the starting point; all-embracing class action and political direction the result. The movement was now reversed.” (128)

“Here, the economic struggle was not really a decay, a dissipation of action, but merely change of front, a sudden and natural alteration of the first general engagement with absolutism, in a general reckoning with capital, which in keeping with its character assumed the form of individual, scattered wage struggles. Political class action was not broken in January by the decay of the general strike into economic strikes, but the reverse, after the possible content of political action in the given situation and at the given stage of the revolution was exhausted, it broke, or rather changed, into economic action.” (129-130)

“Only complete thoughtlessness could expect that absolutism could be destroyed at one blow by a single “long-drawn” general strike after the anarchist plan. Absolutism in Russia must be overthrown by the proletariat. But in order to be able to overthrow it, the proletariat requires a high degree of political education, of class-consciousness and organisation. All these conditions cannot be fulfilled by pamphlets and leaflets, but only by the living political school, by the fight and in the fight, in the continuous course of the revolution. Further, absolutism cannot be overthrown at any desired moment in which only adequate “exertion” and “endurance” is necessary. The fall of absolutism is merely the outer expression of the inner social and class development of Russian society.” (130)

“In actual fact it is not merely a general raising of the standard of life, or the cultural level of the working-class that has taken place. The material standard of life as a permanent stage of well-being has no place in the revolution. Full of contradictions and contrasts it brings simultaneously on the part of the capitalists; today the eight-hour day and tomorrow wholesale lockouts and actual starvation for the millions.” ( see previous note– p 134)

“The most precious, lasting, thing in the rapid ebb and flow of the wave is its mental sediment: the intellectual, cultural growth of the proletariat, which proceeds by fits and starts, and which offers an inviolable guarantee of their further irresistible progress in the economic as in the political struggle.” (134)

“And finally another thing, the apparently “chaotic” strikes and the “disorganised” revolutionary action after the January general strike are becoming the starting point of a feverish work of organisation.” (134)

“The Moscow events show a typical picture of the logical development and at the same time of the future of the revolutionary movement on the whole: their inevitable close in a general open insurrection, which again on its part cannot come in any other way than through the school of a series of preparatory partial insurrections, which end in partial outward “defeats” and, considered individually, may appear to be “premature.”” (139)

Part 4:

“The mass strike, as the Russian Revolution shows it to us, is such a changeable phenomenon that it reflects all the phases of the political and economic struggle, all stages and factors of the revolution. Its adaptability, its efficiency, the factors of its origin are constantly changing. It suddenly opens new and wide perspectives of the revolution when it appears to have already arrived in a narrow pass and where it is impossible for anyone to reckon upon it with any degree of certainty. It flows now like a broad billow over the whole kingdom, and now divides into a gigantic network of narrow streams; now it bubbles forth from under the ground like a fresh spring and now is completely lost under the earth. Political and economic strikes, mass strikes and partial strikes, demonstrative strikes and fighting strikes, general strikes of individual branches of industry and general strikes in individual towns, peaceful wage struggles and street massacres, barricade fighting – all these run through one another, run side by side, cross one another, flow in and over one another – it is a ceaselessly moving, changing sea of phenomena. And the law of motion of these phenomena is clear: it does not lie in the mass strike itself nor in its technical details, but in the political and social proportions of the forces of the revolution.” (140-141)

“The mass strike is merely the form of the revolutionary struggle and every disarrangement of the relations of the contending powers, in party development and in class division, in the position of counter-revolution – all this immediately influences the action of the strike in a thousand invisible and scarcely controllable ways. But strike action itself does not cease for a single moment. It merely alters its forms, its dimensions, its effect. It is the living pulse-beat of the revolution and at the same time its most powerful driving wheel. In a word, the mass strike, as shown to us in the Russian Revolution, is not a crafty method discovered by subtle reasoning for the purpose of making the proletarian struggle more effective, but the method of motion of the proletarian mass, the phenomenal form of the proletarian struggle in the revolution.” (141)

“Thereby, temporarily considered, the following characteristic discloses itself: the demonstration strikes which, in contradistinction to the fighting strikes, exhibit the greatest mass of party discipline, conscious direction and political thought, and therefore must appear as the highest and most mature form of the mass strike, play in reality the greatest part in the beginnings of the movement.” (142)

“But the movement on the whole does not proceed from the economic to the political struggle, nor even the reverse. Every great political mass action, after it has attained its political highest point, breaks up into a mass of economic strikes. And that applies not only to each of the great mass strikes, but also to the revolution as a whole. With the spreading, clarifying and involution of the political struggle, the economic struggle not only does not recede, but extends, organises and becomes involved in equal measure. Between the two there is the most complete reciprocal action.” (144)

On the Scientific Method

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious – the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” ~Einstein

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less.” ~Marie Curie

“Being a scientist requires having faith in uncertainty, finding pleasure in mystery, and learning to cultivate doubt.” ~Stuart Firestein

And from Neil Degrasse Tyson:

i. Test ideas by experiment and observation.
ii. Build on those ideas that pass the test. Reject the ones that fail.
iii. Follow the evidence wherever it leads.
iv. Question everything.