ORGS.

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A chit chat tonight with a comrade – now a note to self for later:
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Seems some people have had a hard time seeing democratic centralism and meeting procedure as anything like fun. :)
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I was a peripheral participant in a thing called Open Polemic long ago. I think that is the way. Unfortunately it was too soon codified by people I like, with a structure I do not want to sign up for – even if I think its fine if other people do. I find myself half way between the CPGB, Mao’s principles, and the anarcho-comms. Is this something that can be distilled?
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The CPGB offer rules: Here
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but so do the anarchos: If you have seen David Graeber’s book on Direct Action, and the whole wobbly hands meeting procedure thing, plus the soon to be released Occupations Handbook, from AK Press, you’ll soon be well sick of rules. Usually a technique for closing down imagination or delegating/appropriating power to the inner clique of first name basis friends.
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Maoist organizing is a long term drawn out learning, criticism and self-criticism. I’ll dig out the texts…
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but maybe not tonight. Though it is important…
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Lynne Segal, socialist-feminist from Sydney Push, perceptively said: ‘when the excitement of finding a new collective voice begins to ebb, everyday politics becomes a far more discouraging, even tedious affair, a matter of competitive interests and conflicting alliances’ Segal 2000:19 in ‘Only Contradiction on Offer’ in “Women: A Cultural Review” 11:1/2:19-36.
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Maybe we need to keep a step ahead of that resigned-to-it tone, but also must recognize the constraints – which are perhaps best dealt with through Joy, and thought-crime.
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Comments

  • David Graeber  On 17/03/2011 at 12:42 am

    Actually, it’s a technique for encouraging imagining and creating the absolute minimal rules you’d need to prevent dominance of such a clique. Ah well. I so love macho male theorists making fun of feminist practice. The “wobbly hands meeting thing” is just as rule-bound as you want it to be, but the one thing it definitely is, is the main legacy of feminism on contemporary activism, and one that emerges not from somebody’s theory about how things ought to work in principle (as true of almost all Marxist practice including Maoism as far as I know) but a long slow process of working out how to actually make things work on the ground in a way that doesn’t do violence to one’s basic principles, starting with the emergence of feminist consciousness-raising circles themselves, and developing in pretty much a straight line from there. Whereas democratic centralism… well, let’s just say it doesn’t exactly have a glorious history. My own experience is that it’s really hard to drag anyone who grew up in China to an activist meeting because they HATE the ones they’re used to so much, being tedious shams, but if you do, and they get to do the “wobbly hand” thing, they are shocked and amazed that a genuine, effective, non-stifling meeting can even be possible. Tells you something.

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  • john hutnyk  On 17/03/2011 at 10:46 am

    ha ha – yep, I imagine you wobbling your hands right now in disapproval. Yawn. Cheap shots at my macho (ism – does it qualify?) comments and quotation of socialist feminists seems to tell me something indeed. I’m told. And there I was recommending your book to readers. Ah well, such comments are of course meant to stifle, so thanks – and I have been in those meetings and they also seem pretty stifling to me. Totally ignoring your all-too-typical commie baiting it-doesn’t-work crap.

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  • Ben Rosenzweig  On 24/03/2011 at 1:55 am

    Can I ask David: what is “the main legacy of feminism on contemporary activism”? Surely you can’t be saying the wobbly-hands thing is the main legacy, but I’m not sure what broader thing John referred to that you could be talking about. But it seems to be connected to how activists think people should do decision-making.

    I don’t know what activist circles you are talking about, and ‘legacy’ seems to be almost like feminism is in the past tense, which seems a bit strange. But really, the consequences of feminisms and of the forms of practice and contestation around gender which we can associate with that name were and are a bit more substantial than that, surely – even in “contemporary activism”.

    And whatever we think of John’s attitude to mao and to various maoisms, I hardly think he is suggesting anyone adopt the decision-making processes of the existing Chinese Communist Party. I could be wrong I suppose…

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    • john hutnyk  On 24/03/2011 at 9:15 am

      Hey Ben, much to say on this but little time today… occupation and strike… You don’t know the half of it, or how touchy the comrade is. China – hmmm, Dengist China is the context here right, so most of these invitees grew up with a pretty rotton Party apparatus as far as I know (and I certainly don’t know much about that circumstance – not enough to make sweeping statements). The rest, well laughing is healthy I guess. Love and C-gs.

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