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Annual Report
June 25, 2006
by Ben Seattle

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I believe it is useful for revolutionary activists to post, once a year, a summary of their activity over the past year and plans for the coming year.

Capitalist corporations give a public annual report to stockholders every year. Our "stockholders" are the workers and oppressed of the world who, by their own struggles, inspire us and give us strength. An annual report can assist revolutionary activists to better understand the work, activity and priorities of other revolutionary activists. This can be a small step in the direction of transparency and eventual greater coordination of effort.

This is my 8th annual report. (I usually post my annual report on May 1st. This year I am two months late.)

To set an example, and declare my work and priorities before friend and foe alike, I submit the following:

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Contents:
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1) What I accomplished in the last year
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a) work to support the Media Weapon community
b) independent work in the antiwar movement (leaflets/cartoons)
c) work with SAIC (direct support and open struggle)
d) work related to Indymedia (technical and political)
e) work related to the Attention Refinery (a new kind of wiki)

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2) What I plan to accomplish in the coming year
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a) improve my "work-life balance"
b) develop spec (and maybe prototype) for Attention Refinery
c) support for work to build interactive syndication channel
d) assist Seattle Anti-Imperialist Committee (SAIC)
e) (maybe) reply to a cargo-cultist on crisis of theory

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3) Problems that emerged and solutions that were developed
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I learned that we cannot build a community except around
a program of practical work that serves the movement

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4) Appendix
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An invitation to participate in our work



Following are more detailed comments.


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1) What I accomplished in the last year
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a) work to support the Media Weapon community
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My political work is centered on helping to create an open community of political activists who are focused on ending the system of bourgeois rule. This community (which I call the Media Weapon community) is, at this time, more of a community-in-embryo than a real community.

This community-in-embryo exists mainly in the form of a few email lists and a wiki. Although the email lists include more than a hundred subscribers, at this point only a handful post on a regular basis or appear to be involved in or paying attention to the life of the lists.

Over the last year I made 46 posts to the main email list (ie: pof-200) of the Media Weapon community, and a slightly larger number of posts to the smaller, sister list (ie: pof-300). I have retreated from my original goal of providing informed comment on most of the posts to these lists, even though both of these lists average less than one post per day.

Several talented and dedicated activists have been part of the life of this community-in-embryo in the last year or two -- but most no longer actively participate. The most likely reason for this is that the community is not doing any practical work that serves the movement.

The conclusion I draw is that this community cannot be built simply by having activists talk to one another. If we want activists to sustain their interest in the community -- then we must build the life of the community around a program of practical work that serves the movement.

The most promising candidate project for such practical work -- is work to build an interactive syndication channel that promotes a revolutionary perspective on issues in the news and issues in the movement (see section (2)(c) below for more about this).

Related links:
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website of the Media Weapon community-in-embryo:
 http://MediaWeapon.com
public archive of posts to pof-200 list
 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pof-200/messages
public archive of posts to pof-300 list
 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pof-300/messages
public archive of Ben Seattle's posts
 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/theorist/messages

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b) independent work in the antiwar movement (leaflets/cartoons)
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I wrote and distributed a total of more than 2000 copies of two leaflets for the large September 24 antiwar march in Seattle. These leaflets included a total of three articles, one joint statement and a page and half of cartoons.

I posted one of these articles ("What kind of Organization does the antiwar movement need?") to a dozen email lists and about 4 dozen Indymedia sites. I posted another article ("How the Democratic Party and its flunkies plan to liquidate the antiwar movement with hot air about an 'Exit Plan'") to the same number of email lists about half as many indymedia sites.

The article about the phony "exit plan" turned out to be more popular than the article on organization. Most popular of all were the cartoons.

Related links:
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"Hit them where it Hurts!" and related articles written for the Sept 24, 2005 antiwar march in Seattle
 http://struggle.net/Ben/2005/924.htm
Politics as Usual: The cartoon guide to the left in Seattle:
 http://struggle.net/Ben/2005/cartoon.htm

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c) work with SAIC (direct support and open struggle)
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I supported the work of the Seattle Anti-Imperialist Committee (SAIC) in several ways. I helped to put into contact with one another the activists who founded the committee. I assisted in editing most of the leaflets. And I helped to distribute leaflets at the large immigrants' rights march on May 1.

I also assisted SAIC in another way: I have openly criticized what I see as SAIC's weaknesses and presented by own 3-point program (see related links below) that I believe would help to overcome these weaknesses.

Any mass organization that is _real_ will take steps to give attention to the open struggle over decisive tasks in the antiwar and revolutionary movements. In pursuit of this objective, I created a website to serve as an archive of the public exchanges I have had with SAIC comrades concerning priorities. And I recently summarized my views in an open letter to comrade Edward (ie: "The Road to Information War: A longer-term view of the tasks of building anti-imperialist and revolutionary organization").

Related links:
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The Seattle Anti-Imperialist Committee (SAIC)
 http://SeattleAIC.org

Real organization cannot be built on a foundation of sand
* Why do we need to build an open community?
* The need for national distribution of SAIC agitation
* The case for developing theoretical tools that allow us to confront the more serious questions
 http://struggle.net/mass-democracy

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d) work related to Indymedia (technical and political)
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I have followed Indymedia's development since it emerged in the storm of the 1999 mass actions against the WTO and the main need of the Indymedia volunteers was for protection against tear gas. Many activists believe that, with more than 100 local and independently-run websites focused mainly on activist-type news, the Indymedia network has potential to emerge as a mass alternative to mainstream corporate media.

But Indymedia's potential can never be realized without confronting some of the obstacles (ie: technical obstacles that have political roots) that are holding it back.

In the last year I created a detailed technical proposal for what I call "democratic filters" for the Indymedia newswire. I proposed that any reader should be able to create his or her own filter -- and to share this filter with other readers who would then have the choice of making use of filters that were created by activists whose judgment they respected.

Also, in February and March of this year [...]

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Note by Ben to Indymedia readers:

I have deleted this section of my annual report in order to make it possible for other sections of my annual report to appear in the Indymedia newswire.

This is necessary because many Indymedia sites maintain an unwritten rule that the newswire cannot be used for critical discussion of Indymedia politics, principles and policies.

Readers who would like more information are reminded that my main site at  http://struggle.net/ben indexes _all_ of my political work and also provides public forums where readers can post about topics that cannot be discussed in many Indymedia newswires.
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Related links:
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Democratic filters (where readers can create, share, select and combine filters) are the solution to newswire spam on Indymedia
 http://NewsRefinery.com/indymedia/proposal.htm
 http://NewsRefinery.com/indymedia/mockup.htm

Proposal for a News Rating and Filtering Service together with related essays on why we need such a service
 http://NewsRefinery.com

Seattle Indymedia must be run in an open and democratic way
[link deleted -- see note above -- Ben]

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e) work related to the Attention Refinery (a new kind of wiki)
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The Media Weapon community makes use of a wiki. Our direct experience with this wiki, as well as the result of my study of the experience of major wikis such as wikipedia, has made it clear that a new kind of wiki is necessary.

We need a wiki where each activist has the right to have exclusive control over an article that he or she creates. If multiple articles are written on the same topic (ie: giving different perspectives on topics like Palestine, democracy, communism or Walmart) then the democratic solution is to have an unlimited number of "sister pages" on the same topic. All wiki pages will then automatically list (in a side column) all of these sister pages. That way, if a reader goes to a page on a topic and does not like what the page says -- he or she will have the choice of clicking on a page by someone else on the same topic -- or creating his or her own page on that topic.

There are many other features that are needed also -- such as the ability for readers to make a comment on a page and have the comment be part of a forum (indexed in a side column) instead of the unstructured mess that current wiki "talk" pages represent.

We need software where activists can easily collaborate with one another on common projects and well as openly compete with one another. This is an opportunity to do everything right and create a software platform that will be suited to the coming period in which "information war" will be understood as the open and systematic struggle for ideas on a mass scale.

Rather than attempting to patch one or two features onto the currently existing "media wiki" code that powers most wikis today -- I have concluded that a new type of wiki must be written from the ground up.

I have created a mockup and concise description of features that will be required for the software foundation of an ecosystem of parallel and connected blogs and wikis. I call this project the Attention Refinery. I have come to the conclusion that something like it is very much needed. Work on this project will be my main priority over the next year.

Related links:
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The next step in the evolution of wiki warfare: a concise description, mockup and introduction to the Attention Refinery:
 http://AttentionRefinery.com
Mockup (below) of Bart's article on "democracy":
 http://AttentionRefinery.com/bart/democracy


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2) What I plan to accomplish in the coming year
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a) improve my "work-life balance"
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My main priority for this year is to spend less time on political work so that I can pay greater attention to neglected areas of my personal life: my physical health (exercise and diet, etc), my job skills/security and (most important of all) my responsibilities to my friend and partner who needs me.

Neglect of one's personal life often leads to burnout, destroyed relationships and total chaos of a kind that makes political work unnecessarily difficult. Eventually, like ignoring the need to visit the dentist or change the oil in your car -- this kind of neglect will catch up with you.

A long-term perspective of steady and stable political work requires that I take time to restore a greater sense of sanity to my life and the life of my partner.

I believe that my political effectiveness will not be hurt too much by this if I can be successful in focusing on those key tasks which are most decisive. This will also require that I say "no" to the temptation to become involved in political projects which are less than decisive. I am determined to do this.

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b) develop spec (and maybe prototype) for Attention Refinery
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My main political priority for the coming year will be work on the Attention Refinery. I intend to create a functional spec for this project (ie: a document describing how the software will work from the point of view of a user) as well as both a high-level and detailed-level technical spec. Possibly I will also write enough code to have a primitive version of the project up and running. If I can do this -- that would be very cool.

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c) support for work to build interactive syndication channel
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In the recent period there have been indications that at least one member of the Media Weapon community-in-embryo understands the need to begin work to create an interactive syndication channel that makes _systematic_ use of email lists, Indymedia sites and other web-based forums.

Currently, many leftist political trends are creating syndication channels. Most of these channels are mired in the reformist swamp and for this reason do little to develop the revolutionary consciousness of the movement. Other channels lack interactivity (ie: the ability of readers to publicly challenge or criticize the channel content in such a way that other readers, on a national level, can easily link up with the public criticism).

A new kind of channel is necessary that promotes a revolutionary (ie: non-reformist) perspective and is fully interactive.

The key part of the need to be interactive -- is to help activists understand that the channel content is something other than a form of political spam. Posting something to an email list or Indymedia site without being able to respond to the comments which result -- is "one way" communication. We cannot build a revolutionary movement that is deserving of the respect of the working class and oppressed with "one way" communication.

In a similar way, the revolutionary movement needs a channel where the best criticism or challenges to the channel content are aggregated in such a way as to be easily visible to a national audience. In other words, if some activist criticizes us on an obscure email list or Indymedia site -- and the criticism represents something thoughtful (ie: something more than shallow insult or sarcasm) -- then we must find a way to copy the criticism to a central web page where all of our critics can find it. This is what the movement needs. Anything less is undeserving of being considered to be a genuinely revolutionary channel.

The capitalists have created for us a splendid digital communications infrastructure. History will not forgive us if we fail to make the most determined and systematic use of this weapon that is now waiting for us -- like the fabled sword in the stone.

On the other hand, Rome, as the saying goes, was not built in a day.

Building a genuinely revolutionary channel is long-term work. There is a need for us to learn how to do this well and to neither expect instant results nor exhaust ourselves in the process. Rather we must focus on a long-term perspective in which a relatively small amount of work on a monthly basis can be applied in an intelligent and focused way.

There exists a possibility that in my next annual report I will be able to say that some work along these lines has begun.

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d) assist Seattle Anti-Imperialist Committee (SAIC)
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The most advanced political organization that I am aware of is SAIC. SAIC creates fairly consistent anti-imperialist agitation on a variety of topics. SAIC is firmly opposed to the reformist spirit that, unfortunately, saturates the antiwar movement and other progressive movements. SAIC also maintains an interactive website where activists can publicly post comments or criticism of SAIC's agitation.

More than this, even though I criticize SAIC publicly, the members of SAIC treat me like a comrade. In this respect, SAIC serves as a good example that goes against one of the most rotten and corrupt practices that keeps our movement weak: the idea that if you publicly criticize an organization's mistakes -- you must be considered a "black hat" to be isolated, shunned and ostracized.

I am fortunate that an organization like SAIC (ie: one which is not infected with either the reformist nor sectarian diseases) exists in the city where I live. I believe that all serious and militant activists in the Seattle area should support SAIC (even those activists who support groups that SAIC criticizes). And I would like to see similar organizations develop elsewhere.

I will continue to support SAIC both directly and (by means of criticism) indirectly.

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e) (maybe) reply to a cargo-cultist on crisis of theory
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At this time my most important theoretical work is complete. I am able to focus on work to build a community of activists (and work to create the software infrastructure of this community -- such as the Attention Refinery) because my work on the nature of workers' rule in the context of modern, stable conditions is essentially complete.

The last major installments of my theoretical work were "The World for which We Fight" and "Proletarism is anti-revisionist Marxism for the 21st century" (both written in 2004). My experience, however, is that replying to my political opponents on questions of theory has nearly always been worth the effort. I would never have been able to develop the precision of the formulations which I now use without the experience of polemical combat. This experience of combat has been particularly useful in the case of Joseph Green -- whose challenges and focused questions made possible "the self-organizing moneyless economy" which became the theoretical foundation of all of my work on post-bourgeois society.

For this reason, I take great interest in Joseph's latest challenge to me (see the reply from Joseph Green indexed under my "Road to Information War" letter to Edward on the page at:  http://struggle.net/mass-democracy ) in which Joseph attempts to justify the refusal of his current organization (ie: the Communist Voice Organization, or CVO) to touch the decisive question of the nature of democratic rights under workers' rule in the context of modern conditions.

From a theoretical point of view -- the CVO does not understand the difference, in theory, between the dictatorship of an organization and the dictatorship of a class (ie: the CVO equates the "dictatorship of the proletariat" with the rule of a single organization with a monopoly of power and the ability to suppress the independent political voice and independent political life of the working class).

This is a key theoretical question which all militant activists may eventually find to be of great interest as it becomes more clear that we cannot build a mass movement around the goal of ending bourgeois rule without developing a minimal amount of clarity concerning what comes afterward.

The CVO may be one of the better (and theoretically sharper) of the many cargo-cult Leninist organizations and for this reason, and also to do justice to the events and people that have made possible my work on the commanding heights of theory, I may, in the coming year, reply to Joseph in an article with the title: "Cargo-Cult Leninism vs. proletarism".

Stay tuned.


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3) Problems that emerged and solutions that were developed
=================================================================


I have discussed this in the sections above. Our community had some talented and dedicated activists around it for a while. Most of them split. My conclusion is that they left because they concluded (more or less correctly) that our community was not doing anything other than to engage in useless talk with people who were not motivated to do anything that counted.

My conclusion is that we cannot build a community except around a program of practical work that serves the movement.


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4) Appendix -- An invitation to participate in our work
=================================================================


Our community-in-embryo needs talented and dedicated activists. If you are such an activist, you may be reluctant to spend any significant amount of time on a project such as ours which, so far, has done little to organize significant actions or to build the movement.

However, even in this case, I hope that I have caught your attention. We cannot build either a mass movement or a mass organization that is deserving of the respect of the working class without also creating an open community of activists to help guide us and to help us correct our errors. This needs to start somewhere. That "somewhere" will likely be an organization that organizes actions in the street. But even in this case, there will be a need for an open community that takes full advantage of the potential of the revolution in communications. If our community-in-embryo is not deserving of your full attention today -- we hope it will be so tomorrow.

Sooner or later there will be a critical mass.

In line with this, I will repeat below my comments from previous annual reports:

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(below) from Ben Seattle's previous annual reports
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The dominant intellectual pole of attraction for science-minded students of my generation ... was the Manhattan Project. This was the project that gathered scientists from many places into a location in New Mexico where the atomic bomb was developed. Later, as I grew up and was influenced by the movement against the war in Vietnam -- I learned how US imperialism used nuclear weapons in war crimes against the Japanese people and also to threaten and terrorize peoples around the globe. Nonetheless, the image of a relatively small group of dedicated people working to develop a "super weapon" remains compelling.

The imagery of the Manhattan Project is very much in my mind today -- as I work to create a community of activists -- that will be focused on making use of "information war" -- to bring to millions the news that a world without bourgeois rule is both possible and necessary.

It may appear that the development of a community of activists centered around an email list -- is small potatoes in comparison with the awesome might of US imperialism's nuclear weapons -- which are capable of incinerating tens of millions of people in the time it takes to read this email.

If we look at this from another direction, however, we will see that the efforts of a few activists like me to create a community -- are part of something much larger -- are a small part of the efforts of many activists to make use of the emerging revolution in communications to awaken and mobilize the entire working class.

Today this idea may still seem strange -- but I believe that, fifty years from now, it will be obvious to nearly everyone that "information war" (defined as the struggle for ideas organized on a mass scale) is more influential, more "powerful" than nuclear weapons.

I view the work I am doing now to build a community -- as being analogous to the first phase of the Manhattan Project. In this phase, which began in 1939, the objective was to prove that it was possible to create a "chain reaction" of splitting atoms that would release vast amounts of energy. Once this was accomplished (in a squash court in Detroit in 1942) it was clear that a bomb could be more than a theory. That was when scientists were gathered into the New Mexico desert.

The work to build the media weapon community is still (to continue the analogy) in that first phase. I have poured, and am continuing to pour, vast amounts of time and energy into my weekly posts. To date I have not achieved a chain reaction. At this time the success of the project remains unproven.

However I do note indications that activists on the list are carefully following the discussion. For example, more than one subscriber has developed a deeper understanding of the nature of the reformist ideology and taken action to oppose the influence of this ideology. And I have seen posts which indicate that other activists are developing a deeper understanding of the nature of sectarianism and the need to fight it. And there are also indications that some recognize that the general outlook of "information war" will become increasingly important.

These indications, while important, have not, to date, translated into any efforts to systematically send out bulletins from our community to other activists (ie: via email lists, Indymedia sites, bulletin boards, etc). But it is logical to assume that this may be the next step of development -- and maybe we will see this step taken sometime within the next year.

...

The antiwar movement has invigorated the general atmosphere of opposition to some of the worst abuses of the system of bourgeois rule. An increasing number of young people, in particular, are thinking about ways to oppose the current imperialist national mood. The necessity of a mass movement aimed at eliminating the system of bourgeois rule will eventually make itself felt.

For those who may have found my work of interest--I invite you to participate in this work. Check out my home page at  http://struggle.net/ben . Join the pof-200 email list (by sending a blank email to  pof-200-subscribe@yahoogroups.com ) and join with a growing community of media, tech and revolutionary activists who are gradually developing a focus on the use of "information war" (as a struggle for ideas organized on a mass scale) as a powerful weapon to (i) raise the consciousness of millions, (ii) create a mass organization deserving of the respect of the working class--and (iii) coordinate the efforts of millions to bring about an end to the system of bourgeois rule.

And, if you are too busy for all that, send email to  pof-100-subscribe@yahoogroups.com which will bring into your email box two emails a year describing my progress (or lack of progress) in discovering and applying the principles which will lead to the rebirth of a genuinely revolutionary movement that is deserving of the respect of the masses.

Sincerely and with revolutionary regards,
Ben Seattle
 http://struggle.net/ben
* Antiwar agitation and cartoons
* The open struggle over the decisive tasks in antiwar movement
* Email lists and the Media Weapon community
* For a democratic and accountable Indymedia: proposals/criticism