Susan + Steve — 16 Things to be Done (1-8), September 12th, 2003.

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(Note: the second block (9-16) will be sent on September 19th, 2003.
16 Things to be Done works with the current archive of the What is to be Done? project by Susan Kelly and Stephen Morton, which was presented in the Spring of 2003 at the Lenin Museum in Tampere, Finland. What is to be Done? is an ongoing archive of responses to Lenin’s original question, re-posed 100 years after Lenin’s original book. It continues on the Lenin Museum web-site and will travel and accumulate at the Krasnoyarsk Museum Biennale in Siberia (September 2003), and other future locations to be confirmed.
A selection of 16 archived responses from Susan Kelly and Stephen Morton’s project “What is to be Done?” will be sent out as a pair of emails, eight responses each, and starting two weeks before our First International Lunchtime Summit – through the 16Beaver Journalisms e-mail list in New York, and the list of international lunch participants. The responses will also be available in print during the exhibitions “Get Rid of Yourself” at ACC Gallery, Weimar/Leipzig (July-October, 2003) and “24/7” at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius, Lithuania (September-October, 2003). In addition, response cards will be left in each space for further answers, thoughts and ideas to be added to the archive.
Please e-mail your response in not more than 300 words to
If people still would like to send in contributions to What is to be Done? or are curious to learn how the project here is a description and the structure of the original invitation:
See also: http://www.sci.fi/~lenin/questions.htm
These texts are meant as a springboard for international exchanges and a bridge between the 16+ autonomous meals, which will happen on September 26th, 2003, in 16+ cities around the world.
To learn more about these projects, check for “The Common Project” at:
First Set of Responses (8 0f 16 total) to “What is to be done?”
1. Kathy Kang
2. Nell McCafferty
3. Michael Hardt
4. Agricola de Cologne
5. Vladimir Volonovic
6. David Landy
7. Kaisa
8. Alain Badiou
Number 1.
Name: Kathy Kang
Date: Wed, 20 Nov 2002, 17:25
Place: Department of Government and Industrial Relations, University of Sydney, Australia
What is to be Done?
There are two issues: the trapping of masses of humanity in grinding poverty, and the persistence of a faith in techno-economic fixes for our disruption of the ecosphere. Both are the legacy of modern imperialism, with its avarice, callousness, and Euro-supremacist impetus. Thanks to the social process of memory and forgetting, each of us is stitched somewhere into that unhappy tapestry. Thus the global ruling class is a more elusive adversary than the name suggests; elusive and entrenched.
The latterday reformists are the centre left parties. Their leaders are adept in using the media to massage public opinion, seeming never to tire of the one trick, feeding the electorate on spin. It has to do with the reinforcement they receive for keeping the managed-democracy process going; like the heads of large corporations, they are in a position to hog the lubricant within the system. Significant change requires exposing managed-democracy as no democracy at all.
Consider the women’s movement, the US civil rights movement, the movement opposing the Vietnam War, the people’s movements of the late 1980s in Eastern Europe. Mobilisation occurred within and across borders, without ultimately serving ambitions invested in some political machine. And as the Zapatistas have shown in Chiapas, the rot does not have to set in after achieving social change. So, the 21st century Left need have no identity, no head office, leadership, or fixed territory. Participants need agree only on a manner of collective decision-making, which values breadth of participation and is biased toward operating by
consent, minimising coercion. Such a mode of collective decision-making encourages self-defence, and tends to block the formation of conventional armies and policing. It disabuses the group of any aspiration to exercise power, whether over a territory, a people, or an
epoch. Zones of this kind are a way forward.
Number 2.
Name: Nell McCafferty
Place: Dublin, Ireland
Date: March, 2003
What is to be Done?
Pay Women the same wages as men, for jobs of equal value.
Frank Sinatra rightly describes Surplus Wealth as
“Fuck-You” Money.
Number 3.
Name: Michael Hardt
Place: Durham, N. Carolina
Date: Mon, 17 Feb 2003
What is to be Done?
It is useless and counterproductive today, in my view, to force political struggles into the traditional two-part conceptual framework, as either distributed and spontaneous, on one hand, or centralized and organized, on the other. This view assumes that the only way to organize political
struggles is under hierarchical leadership. On the contrary, the most interesting political struggles emerging today, from the Zapatistas to the movements at Seattle and Genova, are organized in new ways, ways that constantly refuse hierarchy and leadership. The network form is often used to try to name this new organizational structure as is the slogan of a movement of movements.
It is a paradox of historical materialism that with each new era, as our historical reality transforms, so too must transform our theoretical outlook. With this in mind, in order to follow Lenin we cannot simply repeat his theoretical dictums, which were oriented toward his own historical reality. To do so would be to treat Lenin in a strangely ahistorical way. In order to follow Lenin, then, we must move beyond Lenin and apply his organizational genius to our own reality. We must specifically recognize the most powerful forms of political organization that are emerging today and work to further their struggles.
Number 4.
Name: Agricola de Cologne
Place: Germany
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2002, 13:20
What is to be done?
As you explain in your press release, you remain the only museum in the entire world dedicated to Lenin. If this is true, we all can be glad that this museum is far from any major public somewhere in Finland. Being a historical figure of 20th century remains the only merits of Lenin. His ideas were wrong already when he was thinking them, and the results were in the reality totalitarism , mass murder, genocide and war. Viewing the economical/social problems nowadays, it would be absurd and insane taking just those ideas while searching for solving these problems. Maybe you are thinking that mass murder and genocide would be the solution to save the world.!!?
No, completely new ideas are requested, based on the reality nowadays, on
democracy and humanity. Preserving memories of an historical moment is one thing, but the attempt to transform totalitarian ideas into the future belongs certainly to the most irresponsable things.
What has to be done?
If you think, that is worth to keep the memory of a mass murderer,take the museum what it is, as a memory of a short historical moment. Not more and not less. But if your action would be the attempt to legitimize the death of even one single victim of the persecutions, mass murder, genocide and war executed by Lenin and Stalin or in the name of both or their ideology, you better close your doors immediately as all other memorial institutions did already earlier, and, above all, be ashamed until the rest of your life. This would probably mean the unemployment of the museum staff, but what marginal effect would this mean compared with manifesting historical lies and above all, inhumanity.
Number 5.
Name: Vladimir Volonovic
Date: June 18th 2002
Place: New York
What is to be Done?
History Lesson 2.1 : What is to be done ? ‚Chto delat’
“I don’t have the shadow of an artistic talent. I even use the language poorly. But that is not important: read on, kind public, you will read this with benefit. Truth is a great thing; it compensates for the deficiencies of the writer who serves it.”
What is to be done ? or‚Chto delat’ in Russian is a novel written by Nicholas Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky in 1862-64 in the Petropavlovsk fortress (prison). The novel takes place in the Russia of the 50s and is about social and politicalemancipation. Especially the women’s emancipation. The story of a “new woman” Vera Pavlovna. And “new man” Lopukhof. They get married but only in the eyes of the law. They have separate bedrooms and they have all the other freedoms, to entertain other friends without eachothers knowledge, and so on. Vera organizes the seemtresses’cooperatives, where the girls live and work together and profits are shared. In her dreams which are set as interludes in the novel, she sees a society in which poverty and opression have been eliminated, where women have full equality, where government have disappeared.” Everybody lives as s/he wishes”
End quote
‘what is to be done’ was a different history lesson every time. And lenin as you might know was inspired by Chernyshevsky’s novel, and no wonder he used the same title.
I am interested in Lenin because I was born in Georgia and as you know Georgia was a communist country. And don’t forget my name is a shadow that haunts me all the time.
Number 6.
Name: David Landy
Place: Tampere, Finland
Date: May 21st, 2002, 18:52
What Is To Be Done?
My Granddad told me a story about Lenin. Seems that Trotsky once complained about having to wear all sorts of ridiculous evening clothes when meeting German diplomats, counterrevolutionary dress y’know. ‘Wear a bloody bathing suit for all it bloody matters,’ was (my Granddad’s version of) Lenin’s response.
He told the story to show Lenin’s impatient ability to get to the root of things, his hard-headedness and his appreciation that you had to deal with reality as it was (Trotsky simply hadn’t any sartorial choices – not in the real world) rather than as you’d want it to be. It’s an admirable ability. So in the spirit of Lenin….
First the question should move from the passive to the positive – to ‘What do we do?’ even to ‘What are we doing?’ Lenin could use the passive form, he could assume an army of followers moving along the reasonably well mapped-out road of socialism. Having neither armies nor road nowadays, the passive question indicates nothing more than armchair theorising.
>From Where I Stand. I stand in a kitchen; in a 50 metre range there’s at least a hundred people – in their kitchens, saunas, living rooms. I know next-to-none of them, they hardly know each other.
>From where I stand in Finland my relationship to the global south is next-to-nonexistent. There’s next-to-no solidarity, community, even common interest. Really the main connection I have with the rest of the world is mediated from above, and is based on their exploitation.
No-one’s expecting our ‘leaders’ to change this – our elites that profit from the divisions and exploitations we have. Any positive change will have to come from below, from us.
But such social change needs society, and that we don’t really have. We’ve a fragmented, individualised, ever-relocating society. We have trouble even to answer the question – Who are ‘We’? At the most, we’re only capable of reacting to the changes imposed from outside, above… and rarely even that.
So we can’t answer the question – ‘what do we do?’ – can’t even deal with it in any meaningful way until we build these axis of community and of solidarity from ourselves, through our lives, concomitant with our work.
A lot of folks understand this, it’s the motivation behind a lot of this otherwise annoying political lifestylism – the need we have to build a community. The reason for the mass international protests and Indymedias and fair trade movements – connecting, outside the elites. Building structures in which we can communicate and ask these questions – not just of myself or yourself, but to a society of others.
For the moment, what we do is to build these structures and structure ourselves within them. Build these relationships within our lives so that we’ll be able to ask this question in a meaningful way – What’s to be done?
Number 7.
Name: Kaisa
Place: Tampere, Finland
Date: May, 2003
What is to be Done?
Use the Vote.
Vote, because the system works. Activists should take an active interest in politics and be part of the “power” – the democratic system which governs society. Like it or not, it’s the only way. Participate!
Individual choices – yes, but make sure to make an impact in the right place to renovate and re-vitalise how governments are run.
Number 8.
Name: Alain Badiou
Place: Paris
Date: March, 2003
What is to be Done?
In What is to be Done, Lenin puts forward a definition, a new concept of politics. He wants as a point of departure not the State of Power, but a revolutionary consciousness. The party has to be the result of the organisation of that consciousness.
We have to look at Lenin’s path. The party form is now impracticable. But the necessity of organising a political subjectivity outside any submission to the rules of the state remains. We especially must completely criticise electoral democracy.
We need to invent a politics without parties, which would be submissive to the discipline of concrete political processes.