Sunday, June 07, 2009

Thunder roared from the skies. Lightning forked from cloud to cloud and down into the innocent streets of Rome. Winds howled, ripping roofs from houses and shattering windows. It was July 18th, 1870, the last official day of meetings of Vatican Council I, presided over by Pope Pius IX. While he had begun his papal career as a liberal reformer he later became an arch conservative after having had to flee Rome during the Italian version of the revolutions of 1848. He later returned behind French bayonets in 1849 (lent by Louis Napoleon in what may have been one of the earlier examples of why nobody should trust "progressive politicians"- if the latter isn't an oxymoron). When Pius returned under the protection of his French friends he was a changed man. The liberal reformer had become someone best described, with only a little exaggeration as 'Atilla the Pope'.

So here we were at Vatican I, prepared since 1864 and opened on December 8, 1869. Prior to this Pius had attempted to define the 'Immaculate Conception' of Mary as infallible doctrine, but this controversial move was stymied by the fact that "Papal Infallibility' was, at the time, a common opinion rather than an accepted article of faith for the Catholic Church. Amongst other things to be considered (many of which never were) at Vatican I was the formal acceptance of Papal Infallibility by an Ecumenical Council.

Opinions differ as to the divisions amongst the bishops at this council. Official Catholic histories say that there was little disagreement as to the content of the declaration, only differing opinions about whether it was "opportune" to proclaim the doctrine at the time. Sources from the 'Old Catholics' who split from the Church of Rome over this issue have an entirely different view. They point out that the council was "stacked" with an artificial majority of Italian bishops, many of whose dioceses make the present Vatican City look like the late USSR in terms of geographical extent. They also point out the large number of bishops who decamped before the final vote so as not to be seen publically as opposing the Pope. In the end the ultramontanists carried the matter by an overwhelming majority, even though probably 20% of the bishops were opposed.

Thus we return to that day in 1870 as Pius read out his declaration of infallibility to the backdrop of a guttering candle and the rain poring in through a storm broken Vatican window. "I am infallible"."How do you know this ?" "Because I say so and I am infallible"

Pius later went on to die a miserable death, afflicted by erysipelas (which Molly is most familiar with as a zoonotic disease of pigs). As he aged open sores appeared on his legs, sores that refused to heal. By the time of 1877 his lesions had worsened to the point that he was immobile and had to be carried from place to place. He died on February 7, 1878 after the longest recorded Papacy in Church history, 31 years, 7 months and 23 days. Later efforts to elevate his status in Church history resulted in his being declared "venerable" in 1965 and "beatified"(the stage below official sainthood) in 2000 by, who else, Pope John Paul II who was the most busy body saint maker in Church history. Vatican I was supposed to be reconvened in the Fall of 1870, but history intervened. On September 20, 1970 the forces of the Kingdom of Italy captured Rome, and the dominion of the Papal States was ended forever. On October 20, 1870 Pius suspended the council "indefinitely".


Here we leave regular history and enter into a Molly fantasy, titled, in tribute to the late radio journalist Paul Harvey..."The rest of the story".

When those who were opposed to the declaration of Papal Infallibility left the council the story was not over. The Holy Spirit moved amongst them, and he revealed that there would some day be a fount of eternal wisdom by the name of 'Mollymew'. It was further revealed by divine dispensation that only Mollymew could be considered "infallible". The opponents of ultramontanism planned to return to Vatican I when it resumed, and they trusted in the grace of the Lord that this new revelation would sweep all before it as the Holy Spirit would touch the souls of the assembled good bishops. Unfortunately it was not to be, as secular events (see above) intervened. "And now you know...the rest of the story". Keep telling them well in the Great Beyond Harvey.


Thus we have the sad case of today. Mollymew is still a pretender to infallibility, but until this is declared by a General Council of the Church the reality is somewhat different.


So, back to reality. Back in May(see our archives) I reported a demonstration in the Polish city of Wroclaw, undertaken by the Polish Union of Syndicalists. I have received replies to this article from Poland objecting to some of the mistakes I made. Let us say that despite the support of the dissident bishops at Vatican I I make no claim to infallibility. The source of my major mistake was the-now corrected- faulty listing of the ZSP (Union of Syndicalists) Warsaw link as that of the 'Workers' Initiative'. This has been corrected, and recognizing the "competition" between the two organizations in Poland I can fully understand the reaction that this mistake provoked. Here is the first reply.
About something what puzzled you:‏
Dear Molly,
I am writing about your blog, (it's very interesting!) specifically post "Starbucks Picketed by Polish Syndicalists". Unfortunately you were confused some things in this text.

I am sympathizer of ZSP but not member because there is no group yet in my city. ZSP is Union of Syndicalists. I was at last picket by Starbucks in Warsaw.

ZSP is not member of IWA but made application. That's not main mistake. Main mistake is you give address for Warsaw ZSP blog and say it is blog of Workers' Initiative!!! It is a very bad mistake(I fully agree, and it has been corrected in the Links section of this blog-Molly), you can see yourself: If you look at this page, you can see easily that it is page of ZSP and even has name in title.

Wroclawska Sekcja Alternatywna is site made by alternative lifestyle anarchists from Wroclaw. It is not connected to ZSP. However, ZSP from Wroclaw put the information about their actions there too. I think there was a link to it because on person from this service made photographs. I don't think there are any English texts on that service.

It is impossible that what you call non-AIT site of Workers' Initiative reports action because in general they do not report actions of ZSP in sectarian way. They also did not want to go to Starbucks action in Warsaw. WI don't exist in Wroclaw. They exist in Warsaw but are small group of lifestyle anarchist squatters and students who don't do anything.

I think it is not confusing, just you confused something, I don't know why.

Laura and Zaczek from the ZSP in Warsaw and Xavier from the ZSP in Wroclaw speak English very good. You can ask them to explain if you still confused something. There is also English on CIA website, but it isn't regular.
In Solidarity,

And here is another reply from 'Laure' in Poland.
This is Laure from Warsaw.:
A friend of mine pointed out that you made a mistake on your blog and I believe he wrote to you about it. It concerned pickets at Starbucks held on May 17 in Warsaw and Wroclaw.

The address you gave ( is the address of ZSP Warsaw, as the name implies. It's not the address of Workers' Initiative.

The page which has the photos, WSA, is just a general page for "alternative stuff" in Wroclaw, and the photos were there because the person who took the photos contributes photos to that service. ZSP Wroclaw doesn't have an English blog and of course WSA site is in Polish.

I hope that clears up any confusion you might have had. I think that the post on A-Infos had all the correct information, so I'm not sure what caused that confusion.

BTW, we didn't put the description there that we are an anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist initiative, although that is true. This is rather standard practice of A-Infos English-language editor and occasionally they do this in other languages as well. I don't see the point; for me it would make more sense to put a star and describe any groups mentioned that AREN'T anarchist or anti-authoritarian and to assume the rest are. It doesn't bother me though, but you might forward your comment to A-Infos.
Molly Notes:
As the introduction to this exchange pointed out I have no legitimate claim to infallibility. What I attempt to do in many of the posts here is process them so that they have "value added", whether this may be original attribution, further references or my own comments. In this case I erred grievously, as the commentators above have pointed out. I am grateful to them for pointing out my mistake, and the error in my Links section that led to this (I offen refer to it while writing intros or comments) has been corrected.

Let me assure the comrades of the ZSP that there was no ulterior motive behind this error. Even though regular readers of this blog may know that I am generally in favour of the tactics espoused by the syndicalist unions grouped around what used to be know as 'International Libertarian Solidarity' I am open to facts, and I think I expressed them via my opinion that the ZSP is more active and effective in Poland as opposed to the Workers' Initiative. I await further facts, and I am willing to change my opinion. This blog (and I myself) is totally independent of any organizational affiliations. I call them as I see them.

As to one point raised above...the Workers' Initiative claims a much wider representation than the one correspondent says above. To say the least I am incapable of judging this claim (walk across half a continent, swim a wide ocean and walk across another half continent to get to Poland from where I live). But at least from the admittedly biased article in Wikipedia the WI claims "offices" in four cities in Poland and supporters in many others. Maybe other Polish comrades might want to comment on this.

Another point that should be raised is the "students" description. Here's a dirty little secret that is far too often swept under the 'anarchist rug'. In their initial phase ALL anarcho-syndicalist unions in our modern world have an over-representation of university students. I have little doubt that this applies as much to the ZSP as it does to the WI. Is this a "bad thing" ? No ! Here in Canada close to 20% of the workforce has an university degree. As such they outnumber the "proletariat", as defined by Marx in 'Capital' as workers who produce products which are sold on a more or less free market. Yes, what Marx actually said is something quite different from what his followers imagine. What is important is 1)the retention of anarcho-syndicalists as they move out into the real world and 2)the ability of an anarcho-syndicalist organization to expand beyond this original 'nucleus'. This is a matter of tactics, and generally the tactics espoused by non-AIT affiliated anarcho-syndicalists are more effective. Poland may be a special case because of a general disaffection with the unions that are there. I don't know, but I'd be interested to learn more about it.

Well, it's past 1:30 in the morning, and I grow very tired. I'll try and deal with the 'buzz phrase'"anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist" in another post. good goddamn night for now-Molly. In closing, please, pretty please with sugar on it, feel free to correct any mistakes I may make, as the two comrades above have. It's a useful tool to refine this site.


Anonymous said...

Hi Molly,

I think you're wrong in your definition of proletariat - it has nothing to do with level of education. Anyone who is required to sell their labour power for their livelihood, is a worker - period. It doesn't matter if you work on an assembly line producing widgets or you sit in front of a computer providing a service.

Have a look at this:


Larry Gambone said...

I am sorry to see you are not infallible. My world is shattered.

Transcona Slim said...

I'm pretty sure that the IWW in the U.K. have card recognition with W.I. but don't quote me on that.

mollymew said...

My world too Larry. My world too.
I believe that Transcona is right, but I forget the reference for now.

mollymew said...

In this sort of argument I am tempted to invoke the usual rejoiner that I use it arguments with Christians ie "read your own God-damn book. I have NO doubt that present day Marxists have used an 'expansive" definition of "the working class" for obvious political reasons. Good for them. They are intelligent enough to know that the definition advocated by Marx of "the proletariat" is so restrictive as to be of little use in practical politics today.
It is possible that Marx used a definition of "working class" that was more inclusive than that he used in 'Capital' in various polemics before he had given up all hope of actually influencing socialist revolution. I have little doubt about this because Marx was singularily lax with teh definition of "petit-bourgeois", which had about 6 different definitions in his writings. Unfortunately the only one that "stuck" with Marxists who followed him was..."a socialist who disagreed with Marx".
But what we are talking about here is NOT where Marx tried to influence current events. It is where he attempted to, in his limited view of it, be "scientific" ie in 'Capital'. In that work he very plainly distingished between some vague idea of the "working class". He defined the "proletariat" not just as those who "have nothing to sell but their labour power", but more importantly as those whose labour produces COMMODITIES which will be sold on a more or less free market and therefore generate "surplus value".
He was under several different illusions when he wrote Capital. One was that the "ideal conditions" of a free market England at the time would become generalized so that a presumed future England would be a future world. That was the least of his errors. He took an ideal situation and tried to describe it in a 'scientific" manner, but all the time he attempted to shove his predictions into Hegelian categories. With this he left reality entirely. He took certain abstractions such as the idea that only "living labour' could create surplus value and extrapolated from this the bizarre (and contradictory to all evidence) idea that there was some "falling rate of profit" that would eventually lead to a final crisis of capitalism. His fallacies were recognized very early on.
This, however, is not the place to take Marx to pieces. The point that I wish to make is that Marx defined "the proletariat" (as HIS historical actor) as those who produced surplus value in a free market. The echo of this in present day Marxism is the dichotomy between "productive labour" and "non-productive labour". In general Marxists have tended to "fudge" this very plain contrast that Marx gave in Capital for obvious utiliarian political reasons. Only the most dogmatic of Marxists have held to it in its entirety. Let us not neglect, however, it fading echo in the romance of Leninist sects with the "industrial proletariat". Nowadays this may seem exceedingly strange to young people, but it was quite current amongst the commies when I was a "baby leftist" as was the distinction between "productive" and "non-productive" labour, even if the commies never read the vast majority out of the working class out of their audience.
Today Marxists who are no longer Marxists in any coherant sense of the word may indeed claim a different definition for 'working class" and forget (or sweep under the carpet) the orginal definition. Good for them in one way. Bad for them in another in not recognizing that they are "revisionists" Oh, horrible, horrible, horrible Marxist swear word that puts Marxists into the rest of intelligent, progressive humanity that recognizes the fact that knowledge is tested and revised because of the results of such tests. How little Marxism resembles "scientific socialism" can be judged from their reaction to such "tests". At their best they search the Holy Writ for evidence for their views. At their worst they merely yell louder.
Once what Marx said in Capital, not what any opportunist party says today.

mollymew said...

By the Way,
I had to edit out some of my reply because of the restrictions of Blogger. If this generates any reply I will attempt to add the edited parts. If not...let it fall into the internet memory hole. Sometimes I wonder aboutb the usefulness of this medium.