A Reply to BAMF’s Eradication “Strategy”

Trigger Warning: Discussion of Sexual Assault/Predators

BAMF has published a “strategy” to eradicate sexual predators from the left. This strategy consists of forming an anonymous and unimpeachable committee of “listkeepers” to track sexual predators and rape apologists, and to organize supporters in a series of escalating direct actions against their participation in the activist scene. While recognizing the need to turn predators out of left organizations, BAMF’s strategy fails to effectively deal with the question of sexual predation, and dangerously proposes to put survivors and left groups at the mercy of a secret clique.

The key issue is who should have the power to determine how to deal with sexual predators in the Left. BAMF writes:

The State shall not determine for the Left who is a sexual predator, which groups harbor rapists, or who is a rape apologist. Listkeepers shall determine that based on a solid combination of experience, knowledge, documentation, and sound judgment. No applications will be accepted to join the Listkeepers. Membership will be determined by express invitation only.”

Modern capitalist states are still dependent on patriarchal family structures to reproduce their labor force, and the state is therefore deeply invested in upholding said anachronistic structures. BAMF rightly distrusts the state’s intent or even capacity to deal with the problem of sexual predators. However, in place of the state they prop up an explicitly self-nominated, anonymous-to-the-public group of people to secretly decide not only who are sexual predators and rape apologists but what sexual harassment and rape apology consists of.  Communist groups, and more importantly survivors, must submit themselves to the obscured whims of the secretive “list-keepers” or face disruption and ostracization.

What are the benefits of the secret committee of list-keepers? To protect survivors, BAMF argues. But how? The most important element to protecting survivors is limiting the ability of the accused to contact or further harass the victim. This is often addressed by charges processes and safe space policies, though constrained by lack of resources. Like a charges process, the strategy only deals with sexual predation after it has occurred. All that the central committee of list-keepers offers is anonymity, contingent on the “solemn vow” of the anonymous list-keepers. In other words, the same trust we’d expect in a charges process, yet now without any form of accountability.

Unaccountability and a lack of transparency in the context of generalized sexist social relations is a recipe for abusive disaster. Groups that foster this sort of behavior, like FRSO with which BAMF is very familiar, use secrecy to hide their crimes. Comintern-inspired Leftist Organizations often depend on secrecy to hide the actions of the leadership and activists from the rest of the membership. Secrecy is a weapon wielded by bureaucracies, private or public. It robs the membership of their agency and denies that they are capable of making this or that decision themselves. Unless extremely repressive conditions make it necessary, secrecy should have no place in the Left.

Unlike an elected committee, the strategy does not serve to spread the skills necessary for dealing with these situations or generalize the knowledge and experiences that may result in the active prevention of sexual predation.  A complaints committee elected by the general membership, and subject to its veto and recall would include the whole group in the general process if not in every particular case. The result is that the entire group learns from the horrors of sexual predation; many members would have the skills necessary for dealing with sexual predators, which at least increases the chance that predators will be dealt with. “The strategy” offers none of these benefits.

Instead BAMF seeks to forcefully compartmentalize the membership by levels of participation, depriving the general membership from experiences which would have helped the group deal with sexual predation and may even have resulted in its prevention. Instead, communist and left groups must bear fully the costs of dangerously “eradicating” sexual predators with force. This is an invitation for violent retribution and legal costs for any organization involved.

Not only does “the strategy” advocate bureaucratic control over victims, and depriving the Left of processes that would generalize experience dealing with sexual predators, but they threaten individuals and groups who do not comply with their strategy with public denouncement as rape apologists:

“We will hold self­proclaimed Leftist organizations and individuals to the highest standard.****** All Communist groups, formations, parties, and organizations must commit to Level 4 or face ruthless, relentless denunciation as enemies of the working class until they begin actively aiding the implementation of the Strategy of their own impetus, with their own resources, effective immediately.”

Thus by implementing their strategy, BAMF argues that they ought to have veto power over the political activities of any organizations on the left, as well as the desires of survivors. This threatens not only to affect those groups misguided enough to subject themselves to a shadowy, self-selected inquisition, but the whole left should this strategy gain much traction. Most importantly, it subjects survivors’ needs in organizational life to the whims of an unelected and unaccountable central committee, running the risk in the long run of being captured by the kinds of predators and abusers it aims to eradicate.

There is no real advantage in the strategy. Instead there are only a slew of potential problems related to the lack of information and accountability. Sexual assault has to be handled in left organizations, and we wouldn’t presume to have all the answers. Some critical problems for left groups include enforcing expulsions or terms of immediate relief and ensuring the process is speedy, both of which require considerable resources. However we should keep in mind core principles of accountability, democracy, and transparency, if we’re to find methods which work.

BAMF’s Original Piece

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Toward a communist electoral strategy

While the working class can’t vote away capitalism, electoral politics are nonetheless an essential tool in the class struggle.

Participation in electoral politics, and therefore an electoral strategy, are essential if communists are going to gain public legitimacy as a serious political force. Election cycles are of course endlessly nauseating, particularly this years in the USA with the obnoxious Trump vs. the neo-liberal imperialist Clinton. It is indeed sad that the majority of the public only seems somewhat politically active once every 4 years. Dominated by bourgeois parties that are neither democratic nor republican in the true meaning of those words, electoral politics becomes more and more cynical and corrupt. Yet it would be mistaken to believe that if a communist party simply played the field it would catch this disease.

At one point it was essentially leftist common sense that socialists would take on the electoral realm (excepting anarchists). For the Marxist left, the general view on elections differed little from his classic 1850 Address to the Communist League:

“Even when there is no prospect whatsoever of their being elected, the workers must put up their own candidates in order to preserve their independence, to count their forces, and to bring before the public their revolutionary attitude and party standpoint. In this connection they must not allow themselves to be seduced by such arguments of the democrats as, for example, that by so doing they are splitting the democratic party and making it possible for the reactionaries to win. The ultimate intention of all such phrases is to dupe the proletariat. The advance which the proletarian party is bound to make by such independent action is indefinitely more important than the disadvantage that might be incurred by the presence of a few reactionaries in the representative body.”

After the fracture of Social-Democracy in 1914 and then the October Revolution in Russia this would change. Theorists such as Anton Pannekoek (associated with the German KAPD) and Otto Ruhle (also associated with the KAPD) would take the betrayal of social democracy as a sign that it was necessary to abandon parliament and even the party form itself. Amadeo Bordiga, though forced to reconcile his view to remain within the Comintern, would argue for a stance of abstention toward all bourgeois elections. The early Communist Party in the USA also had a majority that rejected elections and argued for illegal work. While Lenin would chastise these political tendencies as infantile and a regression in marxist strategy, the New Left would rediscover these along with anarchist critiques of electoralism to argue for a left purely based on direct action that held no stance toward the electoral sphere. To this day these arguments influence large sections of the left. Yet these arguments have appeal for a reason; the bourgeois state presents itself as a leviathan of sorts, and anything that touches it is therefore doomed.

The ‘leviathan’ nature of the state is due to its level of subsumption to the needs of capital accumulation. While having pre-capitalist roots in class society itself, the state must be outfitted to meet the needs of a capitalist class, and thus will act in the end to assure the reproduction of a society based on class domination. While it may balance the needs of various classes, the state is the protection racket of the ruling class because it is committed to the rule of law, the rule of property, and therefore the rule of the propertied. It is clear that the bourgeois state must be crushed, its armies and police disbanded and new systems of governance established that allow for the rule of the proletariat.

Yet the question of whether we must smash the state and whether we participate in elections are two different questions. The bourgeois state can be smashed, yet we can still participate within its institutions with the purpose of propagandizing and politically training the working class. Election campaigns, even when lost, serve the purpose of forcing Communists to engage the public at large and argue their positions. However what if Communists actually win elections? Would we not just be managing the bourgeois state?

The first clarification to make is that we would not come to power unless we had the mandate to operate our full minimum program and essentially smash the bourgeois state and create the dictatorship of the proletariat. The party would be a party in opposition and would not form coalition governments with bourgeois parties. Unlike other organizations like Syriza, who act as if they cannot accomplish anything until they are in power, a properly Marxist party would remain in opposition and not form a government until conditions for revolution are ripe.

Another clarification is that we are not going to aim for executive powers we can’t realistically win. The extent to which communists are responsible for managing the state is the extent to which they will be forced to make compromises with bourgeois legality. Rather than running for offices like governor or president, we should aim for offices in the legislative branch such as the federal House Representatives, but also state Houses and Assemblies. In these positions we can vote for and against legislation (as well as abstain) and establish our party as a “tribune of the people” that uses its seat of power to propagandize against the bourgeois state and capitalism. By voting against reactionary laws, even if we are outnumbered by the Democrats and Republicans, we can demonstrate that our party stands firmly against the interests of the bourgeois state and develop mass legitimacy for radical positions.

Many would object to even this level of participation. One argument is the idea is that party representatives will develop interests independent from the working class. There of course is merit to this criticism, the German Social-Democrats voting for war credits in WWI being the most infamous example. The issue of why the SPD went social-chauvinist is another question, one I plan to address in depth elsewhere. However the phenomenon that electoral representatives will tend to develop class interests antagonistic to the proletariat can be addressed without having to abstain from electoral activities. For example, electoral reps can be required to donate a certain percentage of their salary to the party and be subject to recall by a popular vote. Electoral reps can also be given party-imposed term limits more strident that those enforced by the bourgeois state.

Another argument against electoral participation as such is that it’s a waste of time and diverts from the real type of struggle; direct action, which is what supposedly really makes history. Usually what this translates to is that energy is better spent engaging in the labor movement – that we should be building our capacity to wage mass strikes for example. This argument makes a false distinction between direct action and voting, the ballot or the bullet. A mass party will have to engage large amounts of workers through “extra-parliamentary” means before it will even stand a chance winning in an electoral campaign. Building class unions, solidarity networks, unemployed councils, mutual aid societies, gun clubs, sports teams, etc. is not to be rejected in favor of electoral action. A critique one could make of Bebel and Kautsky is that they did focus on the parliamentary movement to exclusion of mass actions and strikes.

Gains in the electoral sphere can also translate to “on the ground” victories through a feedback loop of sorts. Getting anti-worker and anti-democratic laws revoked can help the mass movement in the streets organize more effectively. It puts elected representatives in a position where they may be forced to defend the extra-legal and sometimes violent mass actions of the proletariat, thereby exposing to a mass audience revolutionary arguments.

Elections as a tactic have benefits, as does direct action. Today the left acts as if one must pick and choose between the two, yet this was not the case for Marx, Engels, Luxemburg, and Lenin. All saw the need for both the ballot and the bullet to win power. Yet at the same time no true Marxist would think one could abolish waged labor through passing a law. No one would deny that a social revolution involving the participation of mass of proletarians reorganizing the fabric of social life is required to transcend the capitalist system and achieve communism. Civil War will have to be waged against the forces of reaction in some instances. To deny these things is to be either deceptive or foolish.

While it is true aspects of 2nd international Marxism incorrectly comprehended the capitalist state and perhaps overemphasized the importance of electoral action, one could say the opposite plagues the current left which mostly fetishizes direct action. It is only “action in the streets” that vitalizes and gives consciousness to the working class; when it participates in electoral campaigns it is inert and doesn’t recognize the sham nature of the elections. When the left does break with this, it is in presidential election cycles. Most far leftists either don’t vote, vote for the most left-wing candidate on the ballot (Greens?) or vote for their sect’s marginal candidate. Worse, some talk a radical game but end up succumbing to the pragmatic lesser-evilism of the Democrats. The truth is that until we can build a mass party that has a successful electoral strategy, bourgeois politics will dominate the political discourse. This fact is not some “inevitable logic of capital” but a product of the general weakness of the left and the working class. Without a mass working class party, politics will remain the business of the two bourgeois cartels, each selling its brand of ‘rule-of-law’ constitutionalism. This weakens the direct action-oriented left as well, as the general level of militancy the masses is determined by how legitimate they see the state’s authority. A powerful communist party undermining business as usual within the state not only challenges the authority of the state but it expands what the public overall think is politically possible.

In order to take power and enact the full minimum program without launching a coup or delusional military adventure, the party needs to have enough of the politically active working class on their side as possible. If there is not adequate support, the regime will either be overthrown or suppress revolutionary democracy to stay in power. Bourgeois elections are of course not a reliable means of determining legitimacy, but they can give the party an idea of where and how much it garners popular support. So elections can not only serve as way to win support, but also to measure it. For Engels, measuring support alone was enough to utilize the benefits of suffrage:

“And if universal suffrage had offered no other advantage than that it allowed us to count our numbers every three years; that by the regularly established, unexpectedly rapid rise in the number of votes it increased in equal measure the workers’ certainty of victory and the dismay of their opponents, and so became our best means of propaganda; that it accurately informed us concerning our own strength and that of all hostile parties, and thereby provided us with a measure of proportion for our actions second to none, safeguarding us from untimely timidity as much as from untimely foolhardiness—if this had been the only advantage we gained from the suffrage, then it would still have been more than enough. But it has done much more than this. In election agitation it provided us with a means, second to none, of getting in touch with the mass of the people, where they still stand aloof from us; of forcing all parties to defend their views and actions against our attacks before all the people; and, further, it opened to our representatives in the Reichstag a platform from which they could speak to their opponents in Parliament and to the masses without, with quite other authority and freedom than in the press or at meetings. Of what avail to the government and the bourgeoisie was their Anti-Socialist Law when election agitation and socialist speeches in the Reichstag continually broke through it?” (1895 intro to Class Struggle in France).

So what do we make of these conclusions? First of all, CLT won’t be running any candidates anytime soon, as we are a small sect with little support and limited resources. Our energy right now is being put into making ourselves a more effective organization and helping get a General Membership Branch of the IWW started. We are obviously not saying communists should just run for office hoping it will kickstart a revolutionary movement. But in the long-term, if we are committed to building a world-wide party of the proletariat, the question of electoral strategy must be taken seriously. If we abstain from elections, it should be done on the basis of what is tactically best for the situation, not on the basis of anti-electoralism as an eternal principle.

Reaction today: who are the alternative-right and do they matter?

The Alt-Right subculture may be little more than a subculture but could be a prelude to a future neo-fascism. Yet rather than panicking Communists must build a movement worth defending and win the battle of ideas.

richard spencer

Hipster douchebag and head of National Policy Institute Richard Spencer, who claims to have coined the term alternative-right.

From the depths of the internet a subculture of reactionary pseudo-intellectuals who obsess over the supposed “biological reality of race” or “race realism” has arisen. They believe there is a literal white genocide occurring due to immigration and demographic changes. Feminism is seen as a “cancer” as it has subverted the “natural hierarchy” between the sexes, in which gender roles are purely rooted in biology and not a product of social and historical development. Democracy and Communism are all the same, promoting a false ideology of equality that has led to the decay of society since the French Revolution. The Jews are partially to blame, but they are just one culprit amongst the “SJWS” and “cucks” who have subverted society from within and made the typically sexually frustrated white males who participate in this culture the true outcasts while making the leftist extremists come out as the status quo.

The above may be a stereotype, but based on my research it’s a relatively accurate one that essentially sums up the core ideology of the Alt-Right, a subculture which has recently developed more notoriety due to their vocal support for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. To some on the alt-right, Trump is like a figure from mythology; a God-Emperor who comes to reestablish the righteous authority of the ultra-conservative white male in the form of a dictatorship, while violently cleansing the nation of its “degenerate elements.” They often gleefully refer to Pinochet’s reactionary coup, in which leftists were tortured and executed by being thrown out of helicopters, as an example of what is to come. While Trump has nothing to say to the press when asked about his vocal followers in the fringe right, his alt-right followers seem more than happy to attempt to rally around Trump. Others are more skeptical of Trump, seeing him more as simply an opportunity to move the general political discourse further to the right.

Writers like Milo Yiannopolis of Breitbart makes light of the alt-rights racism and sexism, saying that in the most open forms it’s simply the work of trolls poking at the remaining sacred cows (which leftists are of course not allowed to do). However one doesn’t have to look far into the actual online communities of the alternative-right to find that they are indeed racists and advocate for the subjugation of women due to a belief in natural hierarchies. One doesn’t have to dig very far into the works of Kevin McDonald or Jared Taylor to find overt racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny. What we have here is clearly an ideology that at its core is anti-egalitarian and anti-democratic, asserting the need for an order where “natural” hierarchies can prevail while rejecting any notion of a universal humanity with common interests. It’s classical reactionary thought, not really any much different from the long tradition of anti-democratic reaction that goes back to Joseph de Maistre’s hatred of the French Revolutions universalist impulses:

“The constitution of 1795, like its predecessors, has been drawn up for Man. Now, there is no such thing in the world as Man. In the course of my life, I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians, etc.; I am even aware, thanks to Montesquieu, that one can be a Persian. But, as for Man, I declare that I have never met him in my life. If he exists, I certainly have no knowledge of him.”

The Alt-right can easily be seen as a budding proto-fascism, rejecting the premises of both liberal democracy and communism. Because communism and liberal democracy are both theoretically based on egalitarian premises, they are essentially two sides of the same coin to the alt-right. This type of thinking is ultimately rooted in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories from the 19th and early 20th centuries about Marxism and the Russian Revolution being products of Jewish banking conspiracies. Classical Fascism developed as a form of radicalism that promised to wage a revolution of national rebirth that would do away with both the financial elites that squeezed the petty-bourgeois and the Communists who threatened their wealth. It promised a more organic and vital nation, free from the shackles of liberal pretenses to egalitarianism and democracy which simply promoted the growth of Communism.

Today there is no real Communist threat, as much as we’d like to think so. Instead global liberalism has largely consolidated itself as the hegemonic political system and what remains of the classical Communist movement are the shadows of a decaying Stalinism. This puts the far-right in an opportune position to present itself as the only legitimate opposition to global liberalism, which isn’t always identified with capitalism as such but with financial elites (“banksters)” or mass immigration. However, how much alt-right ideologues are critical of markets and capitalism, and economics are overall seen as less important that things like identity and tradition.

So who exactly are these “alt-righters” beyond a few random shut-ins spouting garbage on Youtube? Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute is a sort of think-tank for the alt-right, hosting conferences where different far-right speakers are hosted. The NPI aren’t a political party but seem to be more interesting in doing the intellectual work in making a viable far-right for 21st century. Their fixation is centered on identity, specifically white European identity.

While those of the European New-Right such as Alain de Benoist distance themselves from biological racism in favor of a more culturalist interpretation of what defines a “race” the Alt-right in the USA are quite obsessed with the long disproven idea that humanity is divided into recognizable biological races. This is called “race realism” when in reality it is just a rebranding of old school scientific racism. Proving that race is a biological reality has an almost obsessive quality to Alt-righters, believing that if they debunk the idea of race then the entire mythology that upholds global liberalism will be overthrown. Primary proponents of “race realism” include Jared Taylor (who heads the race realist American Renaissance think-tank) and Steve Sailer.

The latest stunt of the National Policy Institute was to set up a “safe space” at the University of Berkley for whites to discuss their identity and interests. “If other groups get to have identity politics, why don’t we?” is the typical argument made to try and mask this kind of nonsense as non-racist. We also have an example of how the alt-right weaponize and appropriate various leftist concepts, similar to the classical fascists. Another common talking point amongst Alt-righters is that they simply want self-determination for all ethnic groups and support nationalists of all skin colors, they just want the same right given to whites. Using this rhetoric “free association” is used to mean what in reality would require bloody ethnic balkanization.

NPI have also tried to make inroads with the Trump campaign, proudly proclaiming they were a presence at the Republican National Convention. Spencer realizes Trump isn’t the savior of the supposedly endangered white race, but sees him as opening space for white nationalism/European identitarianism (European) to organize within the party: “we can go to meetings and call ourselves Trump Republicans” says Spencer in one of his podcasts.

That said NPI is simply a think-tank, not a fascist political party. They see themselves as waging a “metapolitical” struggle of ideas, which mostly translates to trolling online and holding conferences. Their ideas will only become a material threat if organizations put them into practice.

The other organized group of the alt-right are the Traditionalist Workers Party, who are arguably more worrisome due to their desire to build an institutional electoral party based on the interest of whites. Partly led by the former leader of the White Student Union Matthew Heimbach, who got some notoriety from a Vice documentary, their motto is “faith, family and folk”. The Traditionalists Workers Party are openly and adamantly against abortion and rights for gays, speak about the need for a white ethno-state, and point to both Hezbollah and the Golden Dawn as an inspiration for party building. This form of third-positionism that draws on patriarchal religious faith as well as white identity workerism could be a serious source of reaction within the United States. Yet as of now they are merely a sect, and their attempt to hold a public rally in Sacramento was essentially shut down by local leftists (though with wounded individuals on both sides).

NPI and the TWP both differ on the issue of homosexuality, which NPI is tolerant of while Heimbach’s crew see it as an abomination. This lead to a rift between the two organizations, with NPI hosting gay speakers like Jack Donovan. Patriarchal gender roles are still generally upheld by alt-righters however; they are seen as being corroded by feminism to the detriment of civilization itself. In fact much of the basis for the alt-right phenomena seems to be rooted in a revanchism against the gains women have made through feminist and gender related movements. Much of the alt-rights “base” seems to be young men who spend their time being resentful and angry at women, yearning for a (mythological) day when being born a white male gave a guaranteed career and a “trophy wife”. Living in an alienating and atomized society and looking for answers to the general question of “why is shit fucked up” many find feminists (or women in general) as well as non-whites as an easy scapegoat.

The difference between the views on homosexuality is just one example of the divergence of ideology within the alternative-right. Ideologues that fall under this label range from National-Anarchism to Pinochet worshipping anarcho-capitalists who follow the monarchy apologist Hans-Herman Hoppe. What in the end unites the alt-right is its opposition to democracy and communism, personalized by the “SJW”. The term is broadly applied to all who have any problem at all with the existence of exploitation and oppression in this society, no matter what their actual politics are. This creates a phenomena where there are no real understood differences between actual Marxist and Communist politics and the identity politics of the neo-liberal “left”. By focusing on the most extreme examples of the latter camp, alt-right trolls try to create a mythological threat of a tyrannical and oppressive political correctness that is destroying society.

So are the alternative-right an actual threat to be worried about? The actual threat that fascists will become to society generally depends on the extent to which an organized left exists. The organization of the alternative-right ultimately only exists as small sects (much like the left) and isolated internet weirdos. It is more of a counter-culture of sorts that is creating the ideology of what could potentially be a budding fascism. But for fascism to actually be on the table the ruling class needs to ultimately to have an incentive to repeal constitutionalism to restore order in a crisis situation. The bourgeoisie needs to essentially be posed with some sort of threat to their existence that they would need to pull back democratic norms and give power to a dictators backed by paramilitaries who will restore order. We are far from this case in the United States. In the case that Trump were to win the presidency we would not so much as likely see a fascist dictatorship of the “God Emperor” as just a buffoon mismanaging the state. On the other hand it could also potentially increase the public appeal of far-right ideas and give more confidence and legitimacy to white nationalists. This isn’t to embrace “anything but Trump” style politics, but being aware of and hostile to the far-right is still of importance, as they will likely become shock troops of reaction in times of heated class struggle and revolution.

Rather than embracing a popular front with liberals to fight Trump and win voters to Clinton, we need to build a politically independent movement from all bourgeois parties composed of working people and the entire dispossessed that can stand as a real alternative to the “quick fix” populist demagoguery of the far-right. This will inevitably involve mobilizing people to shut down the organizations of the far-right, and it also may also involve debating their “intellectuals” in some circumstances. I would go as far to argue that Communists should debate figures like Milo Yiannopolis and even Richard Spencer if we are truly confident that our ideas are more correct. This may be heresy to many leftists, who argue that we should never debate the far-right ever because it gives them a chance to spread their platform. The problem is that far-right ideas are spreading regardless, and refusing to challenge them simply makes the left look like we’re not capable of actually proving our ideas are correct and rational. To quote Marx:

“Censorship does not abolish the struggle, it makes it one-sided, it converts an open struggle into a hidden one, it converts a struggle over principles into a struggle of principle without power against power without principle.”

The point is not that we should actively pursue debates with prominent alt-right thinkers but be prepared and willing to debate them when necessary, just as we must be capable of actually fighting fascists physically when necessary. If the growing popularity of the alt-right ideology and general racist nationalism are to be effectively challenged, flexibility of tactics is necessary.