i have the book. first impressions:

  • the book has another book on the back when you flip it over
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when you get the book flip it over glomper_stomper. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised
i'm reading the mao side first because the section on China in FNFI is still fresh in my mind and a nice complement

btw, www.readmarxeveryday.ml is a go, i'll work on a new front page over the holidays

Edited by karphead ()

my immediate thoughts are that we should always be working towards creating critical mass as fast as possible to ensure as many lives as possible


Just as with talking about the characteristics of small landlords or the slave trade, Mao got very specific about the sex workers: "There are 30 to 40 brothels in this town of 2,700 people. The best known among the hard-bitten lot of prostitutes, young and old, are Chang Jiao, Yue E., Zhong Simei, Xie Sanmei, Huang Chaokun, Wu Xiu, Run Feng, Da Guanlan, Xiao Guanlan, Zhao E, Lai Zhao, Yu Shu, Wu Feng, and Yi E..." (Whatever happenedn to them, in Mao's writing their names got penned into history, and i'm not going deny them this.)

i said every one of their names aloud in my head


karphead posted:

my immediate thoughts are that we should always be working towards creating critical mass as fast as possible to ensure as many lives as possible

there's a half price sale on kerspedelpeb books now. not the new sakai one but still
Great, love kesplebidyboo.
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i cant buy it cos leftwingbooks.net didnt like my debit card. helpo
finally finished the chinese revolution section. i think i was trying to savor each chapter. anyway.

one thing, it felt like there was a hole in the investigation between the long march and post-WW2. sakai looks closely at the lumpen grouping and its mixed consciousness, the open-mindedness of mao etc (and the lumpen for that matter), early success in recruitment. but i felt like it missed its second act: china's stage was set, the lumpen were introduced, some joined the PLA perhaps with skepticism. fast forward to the 40s, and the party's line on the lumpen hardens. sakai's plausible explanation was that all the easy recruits joined early, and the pool of lumpen iced over. so party's new (subjective) line reflected its early success.

but lumpen, more than any other class, are swayed by the prevailing social wind, so it's also plausible that during the decade of war between the long march and victory, there was more $$ for the Whites to bribe them. or, they accurately foresaw that red liberation, as attempted in beijing, wouldn't be for them. and whatever the explanation (and i think sakai hints at this with the stage-dressing, lumpen as a complex collection of specialty services), we still don't know what exactly split the chinese lumpen. that would be the holy grail of lumpen investigations, if we could reliably know beforehand who our class allies are and who's wasting our time. it's why we're marxists, right?

i think it mostly got me curious about the chinese revolutionary experience and would like to close the long march gap with more reading.
i just got my copy and started it last night, and then paused to watch the state of the union and eat way the fuck too much pizza
For some reason I had blithely assumed that when cars said “there’s another book when you flip it over”, it was some inscrutable in-joke from before my time or something. Then I got the book and I realized I’m just a dumbass. Anyway I don’t have any particular insight on these essays but I really appreciated that Sakai included some back-and-forth discussion between him and his editor at the end, more books should absolutely do this IMO. He prints his editor’s objection to his thesis that “troops and cops are lumpen”, and clarifies his own position in response, which I found especially valuable because that part in the main text made me do a double take. Probably the most unorthodox/theoretically contentious claim he makes, I’m surprised more people haven’t mentioned that.

ALso, in a classic J. Sakai move, on page 81 he drops the bombshell that most of the Thalmann Battalion fighting for the side of Republican Spain were actually former Sturmabteilung bitter that Hitler had betrayed them in 1934. Then if you check the endnote (which is 3 paragraphs long, it’s awesome, you should read it. number 50), he basically says, “my editor says I need to cite this, but it’s an old war story and I don’t want to. You can say it’s not true, just don’t put it on my editor.” If anyone has more info that bears either way on this old war story, I’d be very grateful.

p.s. hi rHizzonE
hey man you reminded me i still gotta read this. it’s so damn square it’s kinda awkward to lug around.

also i think bromma has a similar take on cops and troops as lumpen.
false nationalism false internationalism relays the same thalmann brigade story:

"The lumpen have many different origins. In pre-Nazi Germany many of the lumpen came from the bankrupted petty-bourgeoisie while others came from the peasantry and lower proletariat. Their primary political expression was in the paramilitary “Brown Shirts” (Sturmabteilung or Storm Troopers) of the Nazi Party, and they were the class base for the “radical” wing of that party (which sought to terrorize and rule over both the bourgeoisie and the proletariat). After the “Brown Shirts” were purged in a 1934 bloodbath by Hitler, many of the lumpen survivors became exiles from Germany. In that stage the ex-Storm Troopers became the main element in the Ernst Thaelmann Brigade, the German Communist Party unit that fought in the Spanish Civil War against the fascists. We can see that the lumpen should not be carelessly characterized without social investigation in the individual case."

no cite there either, tho

edit- yeah my first thought on cops=lumpen was outside the imperial nations where the shakedown's immediate and gives cops income. same here but for modesty's sake usually fines are routed thru the courts, put in a big pot with everything else, and cop salaries come out

Edited by toyotathon ()

secret pdf forum heed my call and let this spread. spread like the distance between comrade Prairie Fire's limbs in a patdown dühring a drug bust.
Yeah I mean, as far as the cops-as-lumpen thing, it makes a lot of sense once you remember to decouple lumpendom from (bourgeois) criminality, and keep in mind that the lumpen are not a unified class with shared interests. Lots of times, when the subject of the class position of the pigs comes up, people will just say “cops are class traitors”, and leave it there, as if that answers all your questions (it didn’t mine). I mean, it’s true, at least sometimes, but it’s not the whole story. And at a certain point you wonder if they’re just saying that because it’s what they heard from someone else.
For those who haven't read the book yet, the cops-as-lumpen bit is just a side note on page 30, printed over a picture of some armed douchebags captioned "Military "contractors" in Afghanistan." It reads:

"We mostly only see the clowns and losers, you know, when it comes to euro-settler lumpen. Most white lumpen are "invisible" because they aren't in conspicuous revolt against bourgeois society, no matter how much they privately despise it. To see just one part of these strata: They can get lots of weapons and legal permission to invade and occupy and beat and kill colonized peoples, while wearing tough uniforms and getting a nice salary, too. Why look like a weirdo parading around in a Nazi uniform, when you can be a police officer or a guard or a career military professional and do blood sport for real? And their class population spreads far wider than that in this parasitic oppressor society, too."

Down by the place where Saheed Vassell was murdered hours earlier I counted something like 50 pigs standing around, most of them in "community affairs" jackets doing nothing, chatting with each other, eyeing the crowds, each making ~$75 an hour in overtime
Thank you swampman. Here;s also the relevant section on this question from the addendum.

Editor: ... Regarding cops and career soldiers being lumpen. Agree that there is a relationship here. I was at a conference a year ago where this women’s group was talking about how their analysis is that cops target kids in their neighborhood in two ways, one being criminalization & the other recruitment. Others have also said about Robin Hood types that ‘policemen, mercenary soldiers are often recruited from the same material as social bandits,’ and about the Sicilian Mafia that ‘there are no other individual methods of escaping the bondage of virtual serfdom but bullying and outlawry’ ...

But i think calling cops and soldiers lumpen skirts over too much. In terms of the repressive bodies of the state being populated by lumpen, this process, through which the state soaks up large numbers of would-be lumpen, doesn’t just put them in disguise, it gives them a different life and politics than those who don’t get absorbed in this way could manage. And even then there is a difference, in historical terms, between the current hegemonic state soaking up violent young men into its repressive apparatus, and the big land owners or factory owners of the 19th century hiring similar violent young men to be their (private) enforcers. Different lives are produced by these different relationships to state power ...

J: It’s true that the young dude making his “payday” jacking up people on the street is usually lumpen, as is the cop who chases him. And that young street actor’s uncle who is doing yet another tour with his combat support unit in Iraq, too. But they aren’t the same kind of lumpen.

The lumpen/proletarian has many, many different kind of ‘non-class’ shards and strata. They sometimes resemble each other, having similarities—like the stickup boy can shift boundaries and become the cop, and often vice versa—but many other times these lumpen fragments have no relationship to each other. Don’t care or are affected if each other gets blown up or not. The sex worker doesn’t care whether the cops live or die. The drug hustler could care less if the national army all jumps into the ocean. Con artists working the asphalt driveway hustle are indifferent to the fate of on-road burglary teams hitting stopped semi-trucks and trains. There’s a lot more diversity in the whole lumpen ‘partial-class’ than in the whole rest of society put together, it sometimes feels like. Plus, the lumpen/proletariat is much bigger than most people think.

You seem to toy with the idea that a ‘respectable’ legal role within the state or corporation means that you dodge being lumpen. No, it doesn’t, not one bit. ‘Lumpen/proletarian’ isn’t another way of saying ‘criminal.’ These are very related but distinct and different things. Class role and identity is deeper than legal or illegal, ‘respectable’ or criminal. The gigantic capitalist state contains millions of lumpen of various kinds, mixed in with class everybody else. Just as prostitutes are criminalized sex workers in this patriarchal society, while the straight ‘girlfriend’ and ‘wife’ are perfectly ‘respectable’ and not criminal—but, hey, also sex workers themselves of a different kind. It’s all in the karma not in the harma.

Also, we always have to resist criminalization itself. We fight its power to make class lines over our bodies. An Eric Garner selling cigarettes out of his pockets is not necessarily the same as someone who sells drugs on the street. To quote a famous text, it’s seeing these people’s lives ‘only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively.’

The late Eric Garner selling ‘loosies’ on the street was not doing lumpen stuff, even though it was technically illegal in a small way just as so many survival activities are. By itself this is the kind of hustling lower working-class folks may do to survive. This is a long established part of the informal economy in the Black Nation and around the world. When we go to the big public health clinic and hospital for our appointments, there are men slowly walking through the rows of seats quietly vending out of their coat pockets and shoulder bag. Selling ‘loosies’ cigarettes and selling candy bars, as well as a guy downstairs in the lobby selling the daily newspapers. The guy selling ‘legal’ packs of cigarettes behind the counter at the corner bodega, where Eric Garner was killed outside, he may be the one that’s lumpen/proletarian. If the bodega’s main thing is as a front for drug sales. Or he, too, may be working-class—or if he’s the owner he may be lower middle-class of some kind. Let’s take things as they come, not get carried away and letting the power identify class over us in an abstract way.”

Edited by Ruzbihan ()

7. women interpenetrate lumpen/proletariat

Since we have our teeth into this subject, we might as well really get to the meat of it. Traditional bourgeois discussion of prostitutes has tried to judge them more or less as objects. Are they “immoral” or are they “degenerate criminals,” or merely “tragic victims” (the last being the favourite left position)? With it being tacitly understood that their own views do no count. Objects can't judge themselves. Nor do we ask the fox if she is feral.

Instead of this, for revolutionaries it might be more relevant to ask what their politics and political role are? Are prostitutes “degenerates” politically, too? Do their lives “prepare” them “far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue”? Are they likely police informers and agents, enemies of the oppressed? Which is what i was told when first joining the old socialist left as a teenager. There may be social investigations that factually verify these now quite ancient but still commonly repeated charges, but you know, i have never seen one.

So what little do i know about this?

When one of my sisters entered the ninth grade, she was still a skinny kid without sexual experience or romantic experience of any kind. But she got an offer to become a sex worker, in which she would be paid as a live-in companion, providing sex fer a well-known businessman, every weekend. For a quite poor working class child, the money was important and she would still be able to stay in school. That was a difficult decision for her to make, though. Finally, she went for it-which changed her life, of course.

’I he point here is. what happened when we flip the clock forward over a decade. In the late 1960s, my sister was living in California. In the same state, two part-time community college students named Huey Newton and Bobby Scale started an armed anti-police organization with revolutionary aims, which they named the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. My sister was an early local supporter, coming before the start of their demos so that she could paint placards for the young teenage Panthers to carry. At that time, she was also active in the brand new Asian-American consciousness raising movement. She wasn't any “heavy" or any kind of leader, but was a serious supporter of whatever liberation was breaking out.

My sister was certainly lumpen, definitely a material girl (having a nice Benz was a life goal to her), and no fan of the straight working life. But where did she stand then politically the struggle? Was she “scum of the depraved elements of all classes,” as Engels charmingly put it? i would say that what she really did, her actions when the struggle broke out and everyone had to take a stand on one side or the other, was the answer.

We noted how Marx wrote that brothel keepers in France were part of the “indefinite, disintegrated mass" of criminalized social discards who were so eager to be parasites on the “laboring nation" and serve the ruling class in repressive ways. This was not necessarily unrealistic on his part. In general, there are no secret brothels except in novels and male fantasies. It isn’t social work agencies who regulate brothels after all, but the police apparatus. This is a regular and quite profitable job of theirs. Particularly in the France of Marx's day, where brothels were often licensed and routinely officially inspected by the police, the brothel-keepers were assumed to gather information for them.

But how should that translate for us here? Back in our times, a member of my family was the operator of an escort service, which is a functional though not cultural equivalent to the brothel in our digital age of Craigslist. The idea to start her escort service came from some of the sex workers themselves, who knew her at the local business where she had worked.

Corrupt informer and servant of the police? In fact. when a dispute happened between the police brass and some local small businesses, because the officials wanted a bigger "under the table" cut of business income, the escort service got caught up in what weren't even originally her hassles. Her women started getting arrested on the street all the time, and the police wanted to muscle into the business and take more of the profits. She refused to knuckle under. Finally closing the escort service and going back to not earning much and being a wage worker rather than work for the cops. She certainly wasn’t going be any kind of flunky for them. This refusal wasn't even “political,” in her own view.

These small examples may puzzle some leftists, since my sister was stone lumpen, but was politically engaged like many university radicals might have been in those rebellious times. And the other relative from a younger generation was deeply involved in the sex trade, in what is usually considered a lumpen class role. but her tough, antagonistic attitude towards the cops was much more what we'd consider working-class. Neither was necessarily “typical” politically of women in the sex industry, but of those i've known in the life they were certainly in a normal range on the political spectrum.

it isn't that prostitutes or people in the sex trade are all anti-capitalist or rebels, any more than anyone else ordinarily is. Nor can they just be taken as ordinary workers or shopkeepers, since patriarchal capitalism has criminalized them. It's that the old male left stereotype of their alleged politics may be no more real than any of the other patriarchal stereotypes and fantasies placed involuntarily on them all the time.

Not that lumpen/proletarian women don't hesitate to pull the trigger anymore than lumpen men do. Or work every corner of the intersection. When one wanted guy in the old Black Liberation Army was beating on his girlfriend severely, she got scared for her life. So she turned him in to a relative who was a cop. Just dropped that dime and trashed him. That wasn't a bind my sister was ever in, so she didn't have to cross to that corner of the street. Nor was she ever kidnapped and imprisoned in an anonymous brothel in some foreign city. She escaped those types of experiences.

This is how we start, to repair revolutionary theory in the only way we can. By reexamining previous theory, summing up “book knowledge” and street knowledge. recharging theory with what we learn by interrogating the practical results of the class activity of millions. Which constantly goes on all around us and in which we are immersed.

This is difficult with the lumpen/proletariat, since fragmentary evidence we have shows more than the normal political distortions at work. In the epoch making Paris Commune of 1871, the first successful European socialist revolution, most prostitutes were not on the side of the Commune from what we know. That could have had something to do with the fact that the Commune seemed determined to wipe them out. And not as a figure of speech.

In the tumult of the new revolutionary democratic society, there was a spontaneous patriarchal movement to “clean up” the public life of Paris by eliminating brothels and prostitutes. In the 2nd arrondissement the council closed the licensed brothels, while in the 15th arrondissement they had the prostitutes arrested. New laws were being prepared to imprison all prostitutes citywide. Was it so strange that women involved in the life were more than a little cynical about the left?

Edith Thomas tells us that even at the military infirmary set up at the Hotel de Ville, prostitutes showing up wanting to help care for the wounded were turned away. This was witnessed by Louise Michel, the great anarchist fighter and political firebrand of the Commune. “They were refused this honor, for, Louise Michel noted, the men of the Commune wanted pure hands tending the Federals Therefore, she directed them to a committee of women (the 18th arrondissement Vigilance Committee? The Union des Femmes?) 'whose spirits were generous enough to let these women be welcomed.' 'We shall never bring shame down upon the Commune.' these prostitutes said. Many, indeed died courageously on the barricades durlng the Bloody Week in May...”19

There is an even more famous example, of sex workers intervening in a desperate war against capitalism. In Kenya, during the 1950s anti-colonial rebellion to oust the British empire, Mau Mau freedom fighters in Kenya faced a crisis when their scant initial stores of rifle ammunition started to run out. These they had gotten from the settler estates and colonial police barracks they had overrun in early surprise attacks. But once warned, these easy sources of supply from the enemy were under guard.


{PICTURE: Somali woman defends herself against Islamic men's gang, who are ripping her clothes off in the street}

'If we say the world of the man is the state, the world of the man is his commitment, his struggle on behalf of the community, we could then perhaps say that the world of the woman is a smaller world. For her world is her husband, her family, her children and her home. But where would the big world be if no one wanted to look after the small world? How could the big world continue to exist, if there was no-one to make the task of caring for the small world the centre of their lives? No, the big world rest upon this small world! The big world cannot survive if the small world is not secure'

Adolf Hitler, speech to the National Socialist Women's organization, Nuremburg Party Rally, 8 September 1934.


In return for sex, some prostitutes started getting a few bullets at a time from the colonial Afrikan mercenaries serving the British, these precious bullets saved up and then carried at night into the forests for the guerrillas. In a few cases, prostitutes worked “honey traps,” where Mau Mau men broke in and snatched weapons and ammunition from British soldiers after they had undressed and had their attention completely diverted. Working women also aided the guerrilla war in other ways, all of which had its own contradictions since the Mau Mau in theory proscribed prostitution, and punished their men who maintained intimate relationships with sex workers. Isn't that how it goes?

In many cases. the sex workers who supported the Mau Mau rebellion had very different circumstances than the capitalist ideology of prostitution would have us believe. As in all countries, in colonial Kenya sex work as a practical trade had different categories, each with its own realities. The malaya prostitutes provided workers in the colonial economy, often separated from their homes for long periods of time, with a simulation of being cared for, of having a “home,” they entertained men in their small homes, serving tea and providing warm water for baths, serving dinner and spending the night in conversation and sex.

To many malaya prostitutes, the life was a refuge from forced marriages. Where they would have to provide sex for a man without any choice, as well as do lifetime unwaged hard labor and bear children to enrich him in a definite kind of enslavement. Runaway wives and young women refusing to obey the authority of their fathers to be traded off as property. Were common among them. It was capitalist marriage and the patriarchal family that were life-threatening for them, more than sex work with strangers.

The possible financial independence of these Kenyan prostitutes was most important to them. “At home. what could I do?" one malaya woman said. “Grow crops for my husband or father. In Nairobi I can earn my own money, for myself.” Those who handled their money well often saved enough to buy small real estate or livestock. In the 1930s, half of the landlords in Pumwami, a Nairobi suburb where much of the sex trade took place then, were malaya women. Fighting off legal challenges by fathers and their patriarchal birth families, these sex workers could take an heir to leave their house and money to. “This is my heir,” a prostitute would declare in front of other malaya women, designating a younger woman who would help take care of her in her old age and then inherit. Deliberately creating matrilineal families of their own design. There was much group aid and cooperative help in dealing with the police and courts. So some of them were rebels not only in terms of fighting for the ouster of British colonialism, but in stepping outside the colonialism of the patriarchal culture, they came from.20

What i can see is that old male left views on the politics of sex workers have been simplistic and wildly inaccurate. There are also problems of their class positioning, in the lumpen/proletariat. Of fitting. them into any male-centered class, maybe. And many people have long asked, how can prostitutes be “parasites on society,” if the only person they might exploit in a Marxian sense is themselves? The radical cultural critic Walter Benjamin remarked long ago on capitalism’s ambiguous commodity “fetish... provided by the whore, who is both seller and commodity in one.”

It's interesting that sex workers are supposed to be a completely marginal phenomena, maybe of interest to the social worker, the feminist intellectual and the cop, but unimportant to the workings of society. Yet they don't seem so marginal at all, once we pull aside the mental curtains.

For. instance. there have been three auto plants in the larger Chicago area, two assembly plants and one stamping plant. (The Chrysler plant is being remodeled; the two Ford factories are notorious for sexual assaults and harassment of women workers, with over a hundred women even making official complaints to the u.s. government about it. And perhaps for that reason one of those plants has had a woman plant manager.) In good years, with added shifts and hot new truck or car models, the total employment at these three plants was still far under 10,000 workers. Still, mayors and governors may attend ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the media when a new model first rolls off the line. Auto factories are big in the economy, everyone knows that.

Then there's this: According to Illinois State Attorney-General Lisa Madigan in 2014, there were approximately 16,000 sex workers in the city of Chicago. Many thousands more than auto workers. For a social category, remember, which cannot be readily counted since it is criminalized and stigmatized and driven into semi-invisibility at the edges of society. Could sex workers be as meaningful in a different way to actually-existing capitalism as workers at automobile factories?

To look at this some question turned inside out: In this same year, lumpen/proletarian warlord movements such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, were aggressively looting villages of young women and girls for use and trade as slaves, among the most important commodities for them. Those women were becoming sex workers whether they knew it or not, by one of the ways it historically happens. We are seeing women and the raw creation of transitory societies and shadow states. This is on the cutting edge of actually-existing late capitalism.

It's clear now that existing revolutionary theory has a class analysis of sex workers like we have travel guides to the dark side of the moon. What we need is to better understand just what it is we don't know. For one thing, we don’t know enough to meaningfully identify the politics prostitutes or sex workers have and act on, here and now. In large measure, this is due to the criminalization they exist in. Sex workers, like much of the lumpen/proletariat, live in the constant haze of criminalization, which capitalism denies any responsibility for while at the same time sucking off it and regulating it as an important resource like oil or drugs. Again, we haven't understood this well enough to forge usable class analysis about it yet.


Advocates for the human rights of sex workers have demanded that the decaying proscription around them be blown up. That as one step the term “prostitute” with its heavily negative connotations be replaced in our everyday usage by plain “sex worker.” Acknowledging the right of this i still deliberately use both words here because the old language continues to radiate the malicious patriarchy which is our ruling culture, and still represents their criminalization. Which no one should forget for one minute. This is something a reform of some words won't cure.

"In my political lifetime i’ve seen what felt like dozens of primarily middle-class, white and asian M-L collectives, organizations and so-called parties started in the metropolis, this u.s. empire , and none of them to my knowledge have been successful. That’s a zero. At one point almost the entire, ex­-college asian-american movement on the West Coast and New York City emptied itself into fiercely warring “Marxist-Leninist-Mao-Tse-Tung-Thought party-building” organizations and collectives of one kind or another. All long gone now. Most 1960s-70s M-L organizations quickly disappeared. A few “Trotskyist” sects unfortunately lasted it felt like forever, like those fabled cockroaches briskly going about their business immune to the glowing levels of radioactivity in a post-holocaust world (when i think of those groups, there’s a reason a mental picture of radioactive cockroaches comes into my mind)."
except the greatest middle class m-l collective of all times, the rhizzone
I think in another timeline Sakai would have been just a pretty good bourgeois novelist or something... I’m immensely glad we have him and I hope someone with a fraction as much sobering insight will be there to pick up the torch when he’s gone.

swampman posted:


The old Marxist left here was like an aircraft manufacturer, whose elite, university-educated engineering teams with great theoretical flourish developed 60 or 70 different airplanes. All of them unfortunately crashing on takeoff. Their potential customers have long since split into two feuding camps: the Marxist-Leninists keep insisting, “Our people are so exceptionally experienced, we must buy their next airplane.” (Anarchists reply: “What this proves is that aviation should be banned, unless travelers going to a destination spontaneously meet and piece together some kind of a ‘plane’ out of whatever parts are left around airports.”)

Thought this was funny. Sakai is at his weakest when echoes of anarchism creep in though. His comments about the Spanish Civil War and Stalinism are particularly lame since rather than being some tired debate, rediscovering the historical truth about Stalin and Marxism-Leninism has been a huge deal in reviving the left after the post-56 confusion and giving it theoretical coherence against liberal anti-communism (as well as in defending Cuba and North Korea - if that was the only victory of the first world Marxist-Leninist movement it would be a great accomplishment). I think the parts about the CPUSA are the weakest part of settlers as well, and ultimately the whole piece rings hollow because all the problems he identifies were true of "actual revolutionaries" in the third world who nevertheless embraced Marxism-Leninism. But sakai's a reasonable guy, this is more aimed at people who read his stuff and are like "yeah Marxism is racism, post-anarchism or whatever is the way to go because eclecticism is a strength when we just don't know."

hes a genius for sure
i still havent finished this book, because i start reading other books

stegosaurus posted:

i still havent finished this book, because i start reading other books

the readers curse

i am just finishing up my latest project (which is not finishing any of my many half written articles or working on my "book" haha), but i was wondering if anyone might think that there is any value in compiling some selected quotations on various topics from sakai's work into something or if that sounds stupid? people always say read settlers or whatever but whos ever read a book when someone told them to, and karphead did a website and *trailing off*
The Sakai Reader
The Thicc Red Book
'Settlers!' Says Sakai
the stuff on eclecticism (bhpn's words) made me think. like the rhizzone will go down as having the most completed goon projects, probably including SA. structure of the projects is like, >>50% is completed by one person. then people jump on to push the ball to goal. people are attracted to projects with momentum and vision.

he used the example of the prisoner letter exchange to look at org democracy, ends and means. and separately, how our image of democracy ends up speaking a social language we learned in the business world, how org meetings can be structured like business meetings. likewise to that, the idea of 'project ownership' is huge in business management world, that each project has one name attached to it, and the name is accountable. so when he talks about lone activists individually founding and laboring on passion projects, that too is a structure found in the firm. on one level businesses do this because it works, which is what i think he was getting at, just a practical reality that a stubborn passionate person can keep a project alive. but it's a social language that a lot of times we learn the words for and expectations of in the workplace. society is the shadow of the firm etc etc

i liked the end about well, if you aren't in a real rev org maybe you just like ideas. nothing wrong with that. (almost literally translating the word philosopher)

swampman posted:

Down by the place where Saheed Vassell was murdered hours earlier I counted something like 50 pigs standing around, most of them in "community affairs" jackets doing nothing, chatting with each other, eyeing the crowds, each making ~$75 an hour in overtime

if you follow the idea that cops are lumpen, fed by theft, then the fat salaries to stand around and do nothing are out of place for lumpen. where's the grind? but if cops are monopoly lumpen, and the money to stand around comes from victory in war against gangs/mafia/low level thieves, then maybe it makes more sense. dunno just an out-of-place thought.

I don't think it matters that they don't work. Lots of drug dealers do very little real work beside traveling around. I mean, the cops aren't paid to "do nothing" exactly, those cops were out as a show of force, they were ready to roll up their sleeves and cage some of Vassell's neighbors if people had been ready to press them. But they have definitely stopped doing anything like socially necessary production. In that sense the question can roam in the opposite direction - aren't hedge fund employees lumpen? What about bitcoin miners... or people who do video game commentary on youtube? In the "mao z's revolutionary laboratory" half of the book, Sakai talks about how Mao's Xunwu investigation found that the communist party's ideological "base" of agricultural laborers barely even existed, while many who participated in social production held lumpen roles on the side. This relates to a point Ive seen, that at many times in human history, normal, productive waged labor has not even been enough to survive on while also accomplishing "housework".
yeah it's not a complete thought but i'm down to follow it through, in a thread about lumpen and now beginner's mind. lumpen survive on worker surplus, like hedge fund owners etc. the non-laboring classes. to the limit of productive class reproduction (starvation), there's only so much the non-laboring classes can steal, until the parasite kills the host. although the skimming all looks the same on a ledger, to a coffee farmer there's a difference between the invisible extraction by starbucks VPs at the point of sale on the market, and the visible extraction paying protection money to police/gangs, and paying taxes.

so there's a difference on the level of experience by the producer. the non-laboring classes, on the ledger, look like they're in competition for the same surplus. in practice tho there is intra-class competition in the bourgeoisie to the point of monopoly, and intra-class competition between the lumpen, cops vs thieves vs feds vs mafia, but the two classes are in alliance. like flea and wolbachia on the same dog's ear. don't need to go into the reasons why they need each other.

in terms of cops as monopoly lumpen, that'd be the preferred arrangement for business owners. don't gotta worry who owns which area. lumpen can expand through investment in war with other lumpen, like cops v gangs or gang v gang. this investment work isn't necessary tho at the point of monopoly. at the point of monopoly there's an ideal situation: no competitors so the only parasitism limit's the iron law of wages, and subjects have been socially tamed to 'respect the badge' or whatever and pay up easily. like a bourgeois monopolist without competitors to risk a price battle, there's no risk of demanding too much and getting reprisal from an organized rival. so that the cops get to just stand around rests on all that history. like you said standing around is their job at that point.

i'd forgotten that part about part-time lumpen. at that point the distinction seems almost idealistic (i'd really forgotten about that part, was he talking about prostitution and gambling?) because the surplus is just circulating around the same class.
Sakai is talking specifically about sex workers (page 187) and how most of them also have legitimate work of some kind, and that many socially productive jobs would also require sex work (eg. mend a sailor's shirt and fuck him as well). And that this work was not chosen to augment the income from their main concern of waged labor, but the other way around. So prostitution is seen as necessary for survival, but a job is an option, it augments wages but isn't as important for survival as sex work. (Sakai points out that in Shanghai, the industrial capital of China, 1 in 13 women were sex workers, and they outnumbered women working in textile mills)

Thinking about drug dealers, lots of them have side jobs, for the sake of social nicety and dealing with the IRS. A common choice is to become a "contractor" since it's easy to put your cash into tools. And then prisoners, who have definitely been "cast out of social production" will often have socially productive jobs, not just stamping license plates but say, working in the prison GED program... Getting a GED to avoid going back to jail, or getting a job to avoid poverty for that matter, is like getting a shopping cart to stop being homeless. Likewise the reality of prison work is that prisoners might make cheap gear for the Army, but they don't produce anything near the cost of their incarceration. And then cops have usurped lots of "socially productive" roles like animal control, suicide prevention etc.

So to me this brings up a new response to the DSA/Jacobin mad dash to call people workers like a monkey solving a block puzzle by systematically smashing the block into every consecutive hole from every angle... what is the point in rallying these people as "workers" if they literally do not form a productive base?

Edited by swampman ()


JohnBeige posted:

The Thicc Red Book



tears posted:

i am just finishing up my latest project (which is not finishing any of my many half written articles or working on my "book" haha), but i was wondering if anyone might think that there is any value in compiling some selected quotations on various topics from sakai's work into something or if that sounds stupid? people always say read settlers or whatever but whos ever read a book when someone told them to, and karphead did a website and *trailing off*

SOmething like this, but bigger


Like many radicals who struggle as organizers, i had wondered why our very logical “class unity” theories always seemed to get smashed up around the exit ramp of race? At the time i’d quit my fairly isolated job on the night shift as a  mechanic on the railroad, and was running a cut-off lathe in an auto parts plant. The young white guys in our department were pretty good. In fact, rebellious counter-culture dope smoking Nam vets. After months of hanging & talking, one night one of them came up to me and said , that all the guys were driving down to the Kentucky Derby together, to spend the weekend getting drunk and partying. They were inviting me, an Asian, as a way of my joining the crew. Only, he said, “You got to stop talking to those Blacks. You got to choose. White or Black.”
When Race Burns Class: Settlers Revisited (An Interview with J. Sakai)

On revolutionary theory

Revolutionary theory in form has too often in essence become its opposite.

One part or aspect of revolutionary theory falling into disuse, is that it's mostly decoration right now. Maybe like an old sword hung on a tavern wall. Real, but not real.

Once it was genuinely revolutionary, startling even, cutting edge in describing a new world coming into being. But now? The little black and white tv screen of revolutionary theory has a mighty dull resolution, and to feel the new everyone turns to mediums like hip-hop, manga, to illegal fiction, or to just checking out the latest street fighting.

The main use of established revolutionary theory now is maybe even conservative: as recycled propaganda, or as an ideological stage prop to claim that someone's triumph is “inevitable” or that someone’s politics must be “correct.”
prologue: “science” and “theory”, The Dangerous Class and Revolutionary Theory


Was talking to a comrade about this work, and she broke in: “I don’t see why you're writing about Marx at all? To me he's real 19th century, a stuffy, middle-class white man, and his writings are difficult to read.”

That's obviously a popular opinion, but there’s also something singular about this situation. The real old dude, Karl, is different here because he was present at the instant of creation. He was the co-discoverer back then of not one but two significant class formations in capitalism: both the lumpen/proletariat and the industrial proletariat itself. He wasn’t like an astronomer who discovers a comet; he was more like a scientist who discovers how the solar system is structured. Though he was wrong about some bodies in motion, i’d believe.

We need to scope out his theory about the lumpen/proletariat, not so much to applaud it or diss it, but because all groundbreaking scientific endeavour has an inescapably high “did not work” rate. And we need to understand all the research theories and the methodology, so we can avoid the same dead ends and big potholes on the highway. Just because he was a pioneer, estimating and pushing the test results in one direction rather than the other, and lived way back in the 19th century, doesn't mean that any mistakes from back then aren't still being passed along in the political atmosphere. And need to be cleaned up.

Again, we know that most scientific exploration, most theory, is imperfect and often turns out to be not as hoped for under one condition or another. Whether that's some new cancer therapy or new strategies of teaching kids, or the latest “computer security” software patch, or... you know. This is just reality. So in getting the benefits of any theoretical explorations or discoveries, we need to also know what ideas didn't work as well as what did. And why. Even imperfect theories, even failed theories, are important, because they help fill in blank areas in the map. Guide us away from dead ends and towards the more productive directions. That's pretty useful. Think of this as research. experimental theory, not so black or white, “incorrect” or “correct.”
Chapter 5, forensic analysis of suspect: k. marx, The Dangerous Class and Revolutionary Theory

On Sakai's book, Settlers: the Mythology of the White Proletariat

Settlers completely came about by accident, not design. And what was so “new” about it was that it wasn’t “inspiring” propaganda, but took up the experience of colonial workers to question how class really worked. It wasn’t about race, but about class. Although people still have a hard time getting used to that – it isn’t race or sex that’s the taboo subject in this culture, but class.
When Race Burns Class: Settlers Revisited (An Interview with J. Sakai)


First chance i got, i asked the UN representative of an Afrikan liberation movement if he thought u.s. whites as a society, including workers,  were settler oppressors in the same way as Rhodesians, Boers, or Zionists in Israel? He just said, “Of course.” Upset, i demanded to know why he didn’t tell North Americans this.  He only smiled ironically at me, and i won’t even bother telling you what  certain Indian comrades said. So Settlers didn’t involve any great genius on my part, just finally listening to the oppressed and what the actual historical experience said about class. Finally.
When Race Burns Class: Settlers Revisited (An Interview with J. Sakai)

On Amerikkka

The imperialists even concede that their standard "U.S. history" is a white history, and is supposedly incomplete unless the long-suppressed Third-World histories are added to it. Why?

The key to the puzzle is that Theirstory (imperialist Euro-Amerikan mis-history) is not incomplete; it isn't true at all. Theirstory also includes the standard class analysis of Amerika that is put forward into our hands by the Euro-Amerikan Left. Theirstory keeps saying, over and over: "You folks, just think about your own history; don't bother analyzing white society, just accept what we tell you about it."
Introduction to Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat


So when we hear that the settlers "pushed out the Indians" or "forced the Indians to leave their traditional hunting grounds", we know that these are just codephrases to refer politely to the most barbaric genocide imaginable. It could well be the greatest crime in all of human history. Only here the Adolph Eichmanns and Heinrich Himmlers had names like Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Jackson.

The point is that genocide was not an accident, not an "excess", not the unintended side-effect of virile European growth. Genocide was the necessary and deliberate act of the capitalists and their settler shocktroops. The "Final Solution" to the "Indian Problem" was so widely expected by whites that it was openly spoken of as a commonplace thing. At the turn of the century a newspaper as "respectable" as the New York Times could editorially threaten that those peoples who opposed the new world capitalist order would "be extinguished like the North American Indian."(14) Only a relative handful of Indians survived the time of the great extermination campaigns. You see, the land wasn't "empty" after all — and for Amerika to exist the settlers had to deliberately make the land "empty".
Chapter 1, The Heart of Whiteness, Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat


The key to understanding Amerika is to see that it was a chain of European settler colonies that expanded into a settler empire. To go back and understand the lives and consciousness of the early English settlers is to see the embryo of today's Amerikan Empire. This is the larger picture that allows us to finally relate the class conflicts of settler Euro-Amerikans to the world struggle.
Chapter 1, The Heart of Whiteness, Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat


The life of European settlers — and the class structure of their society — was abnormal because it was dependent upon a foundation of conquest, genocide, and enslavement. The myth of the self-sufficient, white settler family "clearing the wilderness" and supporting themselves through their own initiative and hard labor, is a propaganda fabrication. It is the absolute characteristic of settler society to be parasitic, dependent upon the superexploitation of oppressed peoples for its style of life. Never has Euro-Amerikan society completely supported itself. This is the decisive factor in the consciousness of all classes and strata of white society from 1600 to now.
Chapter 1, The Heart of Whiteness, Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat

On the nature of Euro-Amerikan Life

Most importantly, Euro-Amerikans share an exceptional way of life. What is so exceptional about it is that almost all get to live in a bourgeois way, "quite Philistine in the mode of life, in the size of their earnings and in their entire outlook..." Thus, the mass of the lower middle classes, the huge labor aristocracy, and most workers are fused together by a common national way of life and a common national ideology as oppressors. The masses share a way of life that apes the bourgeoisie, dominated by a decadent preoccupation with private consumption. Consuming things and owning things, no matter how shoddy or trivial, is the mass religion. The real world of desperate toil, the world of the proletarians who own nothing but their labor power, is looked down upon with contempt and fear by the Euro-Amerikans.
Chapter 13, Klass, Kulture and Kommunity, Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat


No matter where we look, the mass, extra-proletarian privileges of Euro-Amerikans have structurally insulated them within their exceptional way of life. "Problems" like high mortgage rates for homes are problems of a particular way of life. The full extent of what the Euro-Amerikan masses get from their special relationship serving imperialism cannot be measured in dollars alone. Everyone in the Empire understands the saying: "If you're white, you're alright." To the settler garrison goes the first pick of whatever is available - homes, jobs, schools, food, health care; government services, and so on. Whatever security is available under imperialism is theirs as well. This is taken for granted.
Chapter 13, Klass, Kulture and Kommunity, Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat

i think this is a wonderful idea tears