Creative initiative (Engels)

(From a debate on Usenet, alt.politics.socialism.)

It seems to me to be wise to stop expecting everything from Sovereign politics. Sovereign politics is in a way a circus which absorbs the attention of the Nation. It is but a small steering wheel, on an immensely large ship. Many forces try to act on the steering wheel. It usually boils down to: all forces want more money for themselves. That is sometimes a good thing, and often it isn’t. The steering wheel is always loose to rotate back and forth. It is difficult to create permanent improvements with it. When the ultra-rich get upset with the wheel, they are well positioned to cut it off entirely. But even if one wants to influence the steering wheel, that requires large amounts of political interest and activity in the back of the few agents which are sent in to do the job.

I think the Communists, who at least see the limit of Parliament, also do not create the type of extra-parliamentary activity necessary, because their extra-parliamentary activity is exclusively aimed at the Sovereign power again. They more or less agitate for Revolution. That is extra- parliamentary in a tight sense, but it is still focusing all energy on the Sovereign power. It is merely another method of conquesting that power, one that is also rather dubious in a system where one could take the Sovereign power by a paper ballot vote. It has some legitimacy once Fascism is installed, but not much or any when Parliamentary balloting is operational. Once Fascism is installed, the matter will be settled by war. I do not see the Communists very well prepared for that either. The Socialists neither, nor the labor unions.

The labor unions are a force that is in significant ways focused on issues besides the Sovereignty, which are the Capitalist exploitations by particular companies and circumstances. That is a good thing, because it creates a wider field of activity upon which positive effects can be build, both generally in society and as decisions by the Sovereign Government (typically the Parliament). The labor unions have historically at the fringes of their activity, supported or executed things like the taking over of businesses by the workforce.

What I think we should do, is as it where a combination of being even more seemingly extreme then the labor union merely taking over businesses, more seemingly extreme then running a Revolution against the existing State in order to replace it all by a new State, but do it in a small, humble and tiny way, which I think is not only possible but easier then the ‘high and mighty moment of conflagration’ method, and will produce results – if any – that will stick for longer. This sounds a bit strange or obscurantist at first perhaps, but on closer inspection it should be crystal clear and practical once it is explained in detail.

This is the way that I don’t think will work:

  •  One can take over a big business with a strike team, fire the managers, and call it a Revolution. Assembling a million people in the street, and declare a Socialist Revolution, arresting the Parliament.

This is the way that seems to be the “nice and calm” way that is not the above radical way, which is what we see happening now, but I don’t think it works well enough either:

  •  Accept that there are abusive dictatorial companies, beg for money, strike for money, elect better parties to parliament for better law. With this method the labor force accepts their ultimate serfdom as an underclass, however they demand to be well treated.

The problem is that it leaves the gangster classes in power, and they will use that power to wage war sooner or later, or try to install tyranny. If they just didn’t do that, perhaps this way of things could even be suffered for quite a while (centuries). However the ultra-rich class doesn’t play so nice. They will wage another war, another world war, and it is such death and misery that turns this method of playing nice into a method of acquiescence to the worst evil and hell on Earth in the end. It really isn’t that nice, to play nice with hardened criminals that wage wars. It seems to be a nice and humble method, but in the end it isn’t because it leaves extremely evil people in power.

I think what we need to do is get more creative. We don’t have to overtake every existing large business and make it democratic, especially not while the majorities to do so in good order are lacking. We can attempt to set up democratic businesses. We can then try to hang on to them as best we can, and what we achieve will be what that Nation its moral behavior deserves. Such a method of creative initiative going *around* the enemy, rather then keep fighting the enemy head on – which also validates the power position of the enemy – can be applied to the other important vectors of economics and the State, to wit:

  • We can start buying soil and make soil free, as best as we can. It will be a bumbling road of mistakes and learning, disappointments and interesting experiences, but it is something we can already physically do, regardless of how small.
  • We can set up groups of 50 citizens, or even merely 10, each can elect a representative to form councils in between at more general levels, we can give such a system funds and some good cause job to do. It’s not an assault on the Sovereign government on the one hand, but on the other: while those who talk of “smashing the State” are in actual fact doing nothing more then talking and getting aggravated, we would be doing something creative and positive, an activity that eventually has the potential to become the State. It would be a practiced State, it would be a long standing tradition already, at the point it might become a contender for Sovereign power. What is going to be the successful new State: the hooligans who dressed up in their squatter outfits, having practiced fire bombing and screaming, or the soft spoken civil councils who sought to do a little good here or there with their democratic councils in the margins of society ? The question does only need to be asked rhetorically.
  • We can at least think of setting up common defense Militias, which defend all people from murder and tyranny, so that we reach over the differences of all civil parties on both left and right on this crucial issue. We can do that already, we can help people exercise their freedom of speech and assembly, even if we don’t agree with them, without needing to go to war on the whole State at once, and direct warfare at the State directly. If some weird church is being threatened by hooligans, we can say: we don’t accept this violence, this is the front line of our political freedoms now, and therefore we deploy here. Such a deployment could be as simple as writing a letter to the police, asking them to protect that property. It doesn’t have to be 15 ‘Rambos’ in a dug out. There are so many small ways to do things, that can later be build upon.

Overall this is a method of building the better society within the shell of the old one. Some people think this is not possible. I think it is the only thing that is possible, because anything else is trying to resolve a thousand long standing deeply ingrained social, economic, political and other grave issues, by some kind of theoretical overlay that will likely not stick for long. To better society, the medicine – as it where – should be something that works deep into every little fibre of the social body, over a long period, even eternally. The key with that is that the plan has to be good, such a discussion is meaningless unless there is an actual plan that is practical. This is therefore not an abstract discussion of some high end principles, but rather just the opposite. It is a question of if you personally have the will to do a few things based on such a plan.

A plan like this can also only work, if it feeds on itself, if it becomes a functioning society, both when it is enmeshed in the existing culture, and when it becomes overwhelming or even absolute. Can this plan do that, can it provide full bellies for all people ? Of course it can, therefore I think it is the best way to go forward. Since it also encompasses the above mentioned methods, because full sudden Revolution is still possible under it, and it is also still possible to use the normal pressures against the capitalist businesses and the Fascist shocks of this society, it seems to me that there is no loss. It is not a replacement to what is being done, it is not a standing down on the other options. It is an additional and I think ultimately more powerful method, which also improves the power of the other methods.

It does not improve the power of Stalinist Communism though, because that will be de-powered as a centralist danger. I think that is also something that one should want. In summary it is a method of creative initiative, which will likely have imperceptibly small results in the shorter term, but can have overwhelming effects over the course of centuries, and is something that can be done and started by merely a few individuals. It has achievable steps that require no magical powers (compare: coup d’etat, compare: changing the law, etc).

I don’t say this is anything new, but who cares about that. I think it is a good way of deepening the ideological sphere to start thinking about. We have all these loose things: land distribution hangs somewhere, co-operative businesses hang somewhere, minimum wage over there, this and that over there, all kinds of loose good things, but no overall coherent structure that binds it all together into a potent system of society, that we could drive home for a victory against world gangsterism and Imperialism.


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