To the Council and the Sanhedrin: Jewish Renewal and Councilism
Posted by skepoet2
Love labor, hate mastery, and avoid relationship with the government (Avot, 1:10)
He who says, “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours”, is the median type, though some say that this is the quality of Sodom. He who says, “What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine”, is a simple man. He who says, “What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is yours”, is a pious man (“Hasid”). And he who says, “What’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is mine”, is wicked. (Avot, 5:10)
- If the working class rejects public ownership with its servitude and exploitation, and demands common ownership with its freedom and self-rule, it cannot do so without fulfilling conditions and shouldering duties. Common ownership of the workers implies, first, that the entirety of producers is master of the means of production and works them in a well planned system of social production. It implies secondly that in all shops, factories, enterprises the personnel regulate their own collective work as part of the whole. So they have to create the organs by means of which they direct their own work, as personnel, as well as social production at large. The institute of State and government cannot serve for this purpose because it is essentially an organ of domination, and concentrates the general affairs in the hands of a group of rulers. But under Socialism the general affairs consist in social production; so they are the concern of all, of each personnel, of every worker, to be discussed and decided at every moment by themselves. Their organs must consist of delegates sent out as the bearers of their opinion, and will be continually returning and reporting on the results arrived at in the assemblies of delegates. By means of such delegates that at any moment can be changed and called back the connection of the working masses into smaller and larger groups can be established and organization of production secured. - Antonie Pannekoek
My title for this post could well be a wet dream for the those whose obsession with “The Jews” overlaps with an obsession with “The Commies.” A very special sub-sect of individuals who blame both communism and Capitalism on Judaism, and miss that it was Christian legal restrictions on Jews owing land mixed with a strict interpretation of usury which led to relationship between Jewish communities and the development of banking. Myopia and denial of relationship between communities is a problem in all human communities, and so people looking for an Other to blame will almost always miss their relationship in such a social formation.
My flirtations with religion is a butt of many jokes, especially to myself, but reading both Martin Buber and Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, I find myself drawn to more organic and traditional notions of community, bound together by material social benefit and shared cultural routine. Even the most die-hard materialist ultra-leftists I know from Mexico have a lingering dust-blown cultural Catholicism. I grew up around Protestants but identify deeply with the communities around Judaism that runs in one part of family.
Furthermore, I have become a much more traditional Councilist in my politics, Antonie Pannekoek and Paul Mattick, Sr. loom large lately. While I can think of little worse than an eternal city hall meeting to run society, nor do I think the problems of capitalism are simply fixable by running the shops in syndicates, like the Rabbi Rudolph Rocker, can fix society. The transformation must be much more profound than councilizing a system based on wage ex Still the manifestation of anything approaching the will of a community can pretty much only be handled in councils, and not in a party apparatus nor in consensus or merely formal representative democracy.
One can always find a justification for any belief in Tenakh and thus only doubles into a greater set of infinities when one looks at all the Talmud, but I would not be the first to see the relationship. Rabbis such as Yehuda Ashlag, Abraham Yehudah Khein, Shmuel Alexandrov, and as well as the aforementioned Rocker. This, however, does not do anything but show a possible relationship, and whatever spiritual or cultural sympathies I may have, all justifications for councilist view points must be rooted in material reality. For material reality drives our relationship to our cultural tradition and in our world, cultural traditions are not assumed and cannot be, thus material reality must be grounding there.
It is, however, the particularly Talmudic contrast between laws as manifested in the will of the community, be it the Rabbis or the proletariat, and the idea that one could use the state as a means of fixing the problems of society. This may be a conservative element to my socialism, but I have never trusted a structure derived from the current society to be sole locus of the changes that would lead to a new one. Nor have I thought the Leninist–and frankly even left-liberal conception–of trying to lead through a vanguardist change in consciousness as directed by a party really leads anywhere. Like the Talmud, which still records the minority views of those involved even when they do not win the opinion, I increasingly think the contradictions emerging from a society must be hashed naturally and those disagreements allowed to emerge. In short, I may want to change the world, but I have no ambitions to change the minds of people overnight obliterating sincere disagreement in the blink of an eye or a caucus of a party–be it the DNC or the Comintern.
The embrace of this attitude that separates the law from the rulers of the law was common in early Hasidim and even more common in contemporary Jewish renewal. If religion is the opium of the masses, then it is good to remember some opium is medicine even if all one can assume is the material world.