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Stalking the deathstalker scorpion (letter to Black Orchid comrades)

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Stalking the deathstalker scorpion
(letter to Black Orchid comrades)

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Hi there Black Orchid comrades,

I have only read this article the first time. I have yet to study it.

The article has strong points and weak points.

I will come right to the point.

The article has a weak point that I wish to bring up now.

I hope to have more later.

I believe this article is _far too lenient_ on the ISO.

There is a sentence (or more than one sentence) where the article appears
to imply that the ISO is a group led by revolutionaries who are somehow

If this is an correct interpretation (I could be making a false assumption
concerning what I read) then either:

... (1) You are betraying the working class and oppressed by
... ... concealing your real opinion of the ISO, or

... (2) You are naive concerning the nature of the ISO.

I do not know which of the above is true.

My hope is that both are untrue. My hope is that I simply misread or
misunderstood your article.

My opinion is that the nature of the ISO is akin to the deathstalker scorpion
I wrote about in this letter to comrade X:

... The Nature of Our Coming Victory
... (Letter to comrade X)

The ISO may be in a position (ie: because of their connections and "clean bill
of health" from the labor traitors) to mobilize bodies for the Longview action
(ie: with help from an array of social-democratic institutions). And that would
certainly be a good thing.

But activists still need to know their real nature.

My hope is that, after their most recent betrayal, it becomes _impossible_
for the best activists in this region to even _think_ about the ISO
_without_ the image of the deathstalker scorpian automatically and
_inevitably_ coming to mind. Even amongst the ISO supporters at the bottom
or the organization (ie: the naive activists who do not yet feel ashamed
to be associated with the ISO) it should be _impossible_ to think about
the reputation of their group without a vivid image in their mind of a
deathstalker scorpion.

All the best,
Ben Seattle


  1. Ben Seattle's Avatar
    We do not work for them.
    We force them to work for us.
    (reply to Fray)

    From: http://blackorchidcollective.wordpre...he-89-unite-2/

    A number of quite intelligent and useful insights have been contributed to
    this thread. Powerful actions, such as the December 12 Port shutdown, lead
    to powerful thinking. We need the powerful thinking just as much as we do
    the actions.

    There was recently a powerful action in Oakland. The police surrounded
    hundreds of mostly peaceful protesters in a “kettle”–and then ordered
    them to disperse. The police, however, gave the trapped activists no way
    to escape, no way to desperse. That way the police could have an excuse to
    arrest hundreds of activists.

    Isn’t that clever? Our class enemy is conscious and intelligent.

    In Oakland the activists escaped the kettle and then occupied (and trashed)
    City Hall (from which the orders to the police originated). In normal
    circumstances, to be frank, I would not think much of the tactic of trashing
    City Hall. But in the specific circumstances in Oakland that day, such
    tactics were completely appropriate.

    Oakland’s mayor Quan responded by saying she would call on the “national
    leadership” of the Occupy movement to denounce the militant activists
    who had just taught her a lesson.

    Quan understands that the Occupy movement has both a liberal and a militant
    pole which are rooted in opposing class interests. As such it is the most
    natural thing in the world for her to attempt to use the liberal pole to
    attack the militant pole.

    The bourgeoisie would like the militant wing of the movement to be “tamed”.
    The bourgeoisie wants us to be terrified of losing the support of the
    liberal wing.

    From our point of view, it was a good thing that Quan acted as she did
    because it helps us understand how the ruling class (ie: the bourgeoisie,
    what is currently called the one percent) sees the liberal wing of our
    movement: as a weapon to use against us.

    It is necessary that we understand why it is that the liberal and militant
    wings of the Occupy movement work together in the first place. Both poles
    are competing, ferociously, against one another for influence in the
    movement. Both poles are, essentially, at war with one another. This is
    not something to cry about. This is _inevitable_ because we live in a class
    divided society. So why are these two poles (ie: which are at war with
    one another) cooperating with one another in the first place?

    Because whichever pole _fails_ to cooperate will _lose_ the war for influence.

    This is why we (ie: the militant section of the movement, or the “ultra-left”
    in the language of the liberal headquarters) work with the liberal pole.
    And this is also why the liberal pole works with us.

    It is a strange sort of war where we must work with our enemy in order to
    defeat him. But, like it or not–that is the kind of war we are in.

    We need to understand this in order to win.

    Activists understand the need to defeat the police. Activists did that
    at Oakland. Activists smashed fences and escaped encirclement.

    We must do the same thing politically. We must smash down the fences
    that the liberals seek to build within our movement and within our
    minds. We must fight to be conscious. We must understand that our
    clas enemy (ie: the bourgeoisie, the one percent) has its _own_
    representatives within _our_ movement–and we must work with these
    people, we must “drink from this cup” because of circumstances we
    are not yet powerful enough to change.

    I saw a filmed interview once with an activist from Nicaragua. The U.S.
    backed dictatorship there had imprisoned him. He was kept several days,
    in the intense heat, chained to a wall and without water. Finally, his
    interrogator handed him a cup of water. But before handing to him the
    cup of water–his interrogator first spat into it.

    Would the activist, in a show of pride, toss out the water?

    No. He drank its contents. In the film, the activist explained: “I had
    no choice, I was very thirsty”.

    That is the position we are in. That is the position of power the
    bourgeoisie is in–and we are in. The bourgeoisie is compelled to
    give us water (ie: to give us a minimal level of support in order
    to nuture and support the liberal wing of the movement that they
    intend to eventually use as a lever to tame, undermine and
    liquidate the movement) and we are compelled to drink it.

    Working with groups like the ISO is like drinking from that cup.
    We have no choice. But are only defeated if we _lose sight_ of
    the fact that the ISO works for the class enemy–or if we _mislead_
    activists about this.

    That is my disagreement with a portion of the BOC’s article, which
    appears to characterise the ISO leadership as revolutionaries who
    are making some kind of tragic mistake.

    Was the guy who spat in the cup making a tragic mistake?

    We could look at it that way, I suppose.

    But I prefer to look at it another way.

    I was glad to see the ISO openly attack the BOC and the entire militant
    wing of our movement. It creates clarity. We fucking NEED clarity.

    The ISO is “helping” our movement for the specific reason of kicking
    our ass. The ISO is a puppet of the trade union bureaucrats and other
    social democratic institutions. The ISO has been hurled into action
    against us because the _bourgeoisie_ is afraid of us. This is not
    actually complicated once we look at this in class terms.

    We are compelled to accept the help of the ISO. But it is _we_ who
    must kick _their_ ass. We do not work for them. We force them to
    work for us.

    As part of preparation for writing, I went and saw “The Girl with
    the Dragon Tattoo”. It is a great movie by the way. There is a
    powerful scene where she tells a sadistic rapist that she will
    tattoo what he is on his forehead if he misbehaves again. He cowers
    in fear because he knows this is not an empty threat (she has already
    tattooed this across his entire chest and stomach).

    I think that should be our attitude toward the ISO.

    The time has come to tattoo what they are right on their foreheads.

    We need to work with them but we do not need to pretend they are
    revolutionaries! We do not need to pretend they are anything other
    than a disgusting, foul substance that has been spat into water from
    which we are compelled to drink.

    Every fucking activist in the movement must know exactly what they are!

    Sean, the student activist who posted here Tuesday, explained that
    he was naive enough to invite the ISO to conduct a teach-in.

    We _owe it_ to activists like Sean to _tell him the truth_ about groups
    like the ISO. Every time the bourgeoisie throws one of its flunky
    careerist or “revolutionary” organizations at us–we should make
    the bourgeoisie pay for this–we should expose the group–so that it
    no longer has a _shred of credibility_–and force the bourgeoisie to
    throw another group or collection of its flunkies at us.

    The harder they come the harder they fall, one and all!


    > I do think that the ISO’s practice has been more liberal
    > than revolutionary. But we work with liberals too, in
    > united fronts where we refuse to hide our politics and
    > where we also take independent action. We all agreed that
    > devoting a lot of this piece to confronting the ISO would
    > look like an irrelevant sectarian pissing contest to most
    > people. We are much more interested in engaging the
    > questions of strategy that the ISO piece forced us to
    > confront in writing but that are much bigger than the ISO.

    It is correct that this article focused on the larger strategic
    questions of the movement rather than the ISO. I am in complete
    agreement with that. Yes, it certainly would look a stupid pissing
    contest if too many words were expended against the ISO. But
    that does not mean that we should fail to tell the truth about
    them. If the ISO is important enough to _mention_ in an article
    -–then this mention should also include their true nature,
    rather than conceal or prettify what they are.

    It is good that the ISO _forced_ you to confront your own thinking.
    These issues will come up, again and again, in a thousand faces.
    But we can cut through the confusion with a simple and powerful

    We do not work for them. We force them to work for us.

    If we assist the flunkies of the bourgeoisie in _concealing_
    their real, disgusting, poisonous and utterly treacherous nature
    –then we are working for them. If we always and consistently
    tell the masses the simple truth about everything we see and know
    –then we are forcing the flunkies of the bourgeoisie to work for us.
    Updated 2nd February 2012 at 19:57 by Ben Seattle
  2. Ben Seattle's Avatar
    This is the time to develop our necessary
    skill in dealing with social democracy

    (from the same thread as above)

    Hi Binh,

    Thanks for the correction. Yes, Sean described the SA,
    not the ISO. Here in Seattle the ISO has behaved worse
    than the SA, although both organizations, in my view,
    have been “captured” by (ie: become subordinate to)
    their social democratic allies. It is a complicated
    situation to be certain, and will certainly become
    more complicated before it becomes more clear. What is
    most important for activists to understand, at this time,
    is that the political attacks against us (and the ISO’s
    support of the goons sent by the trade union bureaucrats
    is such an attack) are a result of the needs of the
    ruling bourgeoisie.

    The SA takes a similar (if more subdued) stand in their
    leaflet for the December 12 action:

    > Occupy activists should not skip over the necessary
    > step of organizing, communicating, and working through
    > the organizational structures of trade unions and other
    > progressive organizations.

    As if the above had not already been tried. As if the
    organizational structures” they demand we worship have not
    been _engineered_ for the specific purpose of taming,
    controlling and liquidating mass struggle!

    This is the exact same line pushed on us by the Stranger’s
    Dominic Holden: “meet with the professionals” (ie: the trade
    union bureaucrats of the King County Labor Council) and agree
    to take orders from them.

    Activists have a fair amount of righteous anger against the
    attacks on us by the police. But there is much more confusion
    concerning the political attacks by forces that many of us
    expect to be allies. This is where we need clarity. It is
    actually a _good thing_ that we are being attacked–because
    the need for us to defend ourselves _forces_ us to develop
    this clarity–and this clarity will be useful in many encounters
    as the class struggle develops.

    I am strongly opposed to considering groups such as the ISO to
    be “revolutionaries” who have somehow made mistakes.
    Revolutionaries make mistakes, of course, but revolutionaries
    can be persuaded to recognize and learn from their mistakes.

    The ISO is a different kind of phenomenon. It is “revolutionary”
    only in its appearance. It has become a vehicle used by _social
    democracy_ to _attack_ the militant wing of the movement. This
    was just as much true before their most recent attack as it is
    now. What has _changed_ is that _now_ they have _exposed_ themselves.
    So, for us, this becomes the time for action: Now that they have
    dared to openly attack the entire militant wing of our movement–-
    we should publicly brand them for what they are: a weapon against
    the movement at the hands of the Democratic Party and its ecosystem
    of subordinate fiefdoms.

    As the struggle intensifies, the question which is thrown in the air
    (and to which all individuals and organizations must account) is
    “which side are you on?” The ISO is on the side of the bourgeoisie.
    We need to be clear on that. That is not a “mistake” any more than
    it is a “mistake” when the police attack us. When the police attack
    us–-this is the _inevitable_ result of our living in a class divided
    society. Ditto for the ISO attacks.

    The ISO is _waging war_ against the “ultra left” on behalf of their
    social-democratic patrons and sponsors. We degrade ourselves and our
    reason for existence on this planet; we forfeit our own self-respect,
    as activists and as revolutionaries–if we allow ourselves to be
    classified in the same bucket as these slimeballs. The naive activists
    who distribute these kinds of leaflets for the ISO and the SA must be
    made to understand that they are being _used against the movement_ by
    the cynical leaders of their organizations.

    Yes, we need to be in alliances with groups like the ISO and SA. But
    what are the _terms_ of this alliance? That is the question.

    And the answer is simple:

    They are free to lie about us as much as they want.

    And we are free to tell the truth about them.

    We do not allow our thinking or our statements to be compromised by
    distorted perceptions of diplomatic necessity. Any diplomacy which
    acts as a barrier to the truth is not good diplomacy. If we fail to
    recognize this–we may find ourselves on a slippery slope.

    I have great respect for the Black Orchid comrades (it is not for
    nothing that the ISO aimed its attack at the BOC). But the BOC is
    still learning and I owe it to them to criticize their formulations
    on this topic, while the topic is hot on all of our minds. These same
    issues will return, again and again and again in the years ahead.
    So _this is the time_ to develop our necessary skill in dealing with

    All the best,
  3. Ben Seattle's Avatar


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