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Communism is not just a 'nice idea'....Tent City University, 22 December

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Dec 11 2011 20:36
Communism is not just a 'nice idea'....Tent City University, 22 December

Communism is not just a ‘nice idea’

The author of the book produced by the International Communist Current, Communism, not just a nice idea but a material necessity, begins a discussion on what communism is not, what it is, and why it is the only alternative to the crisis of capitalist society.

Tent City University,
Occupy London
St Pauls

Thursday 22 December 2011, 6 -7.30 pm.
Nearest Tube: St Pauls

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Dec 11 2011 22:05

Alf, the actual title of the book is, Communism: not a nice idea but a material necessity. I always thought that the original title should have had just in it! Btw, is pt 2 on the horizon?

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Dec 11 2011 22:21

Some earlier threads on the said book to whet one's appetite!

http://libcom.org/forums/history/criticism-communism-not-nice-idea-material-necessity-chapter-2-23122007

http://libcom.org/forums/events-and-announcements/icc-public-forum-london-12-5-07-communism-not-nice-idea-material-necessity

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Dec 11 2011 23:23

"I always thought that the original title should have had just in it! Btw, is pt 2 on the horizon"


As Lurch points out in one of those threads,

"that was generally the title under which the series of articles - some of which are now a book - appeared in the International Review".

All the articles in Volume two are in the International Review but to my chagrin are not all online - a summary appears here:

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/125-communism

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/126_communism

A good part of Vol three has also been published in the IR and more of that is online. It's got stalled at around 1936 so there is still quite a lot to write.....

The intention has always been to publish it all in book form but it's one of those things that has been put on a back burner.

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Dec 20 2011 14:51

Coming up this Thursday. After the meeting join us for a drink, probably at the Paternoster in High Holborn (as long as they are showing the Spurs-Chelsea game)

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Dec 20 2011 21:47

In 2005, I wrote a retrospective summary of the series (initially conceived as just one or two articles)so far, explaining the circumstances in which it came to be written - the need to respond at the theoretical level to the vast bourgeois campaign, after 1989, about the 'death of communism', by tracing the history of the real communist movement to its roots in the distant past (for example, the early hunter gatherers), through its return as a dream in the minds of the exploited in pre-capitalist civilisations, to the emergence of the 'modern' proletariat and therefore to the breakthrough achieved by Marx in his vision of communism. The first volume then looks at the further efforts made by those who sought to continue and develop Marx's contribution, such as Engels and Morris, but ending in the late 19th century, on the verge of betrayal by social democracy.

The second volume begins with the mass strikes of 1905, centres on the 1917-20 revolutionary upsurge and the communist political programmes it gave rise to - Communist International, KPD, KAPD, Russian Communist Party -and ends with the efforts of the left communists to understand the degeneration and defeat of the revolution. Volume three mainly seeks to show how the communist left of the 1930s began, along with their balance sheet of the defeat'. to look forward to what an authentic and victorious proletarian dictatorship would look like: thus the translation and publication of the series 'Problems of the period of transition', first published in Bilan between 1934 and 1936 (ish) and written by the Belgian communist Mitchell. And that's where the series stalled. But the next task would be to show that there was a genuine proletarian debate on this question between the Italian/Belgian left and the 'Dutch internationalists', who had produced the Ground principles of communist production and Distribution. (Any ideas about that discussion would be very welcome....).

just thinking aloud about what I am going to say on Thursday.

Here is the summary to volume one and you can find the rest sumamrised in the next two issues of the International Review

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/124_communism

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Dec 20 2011 22:37

Or I might just say:
capital is a social relation

alb
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Dec 22 2011 11:20

I hope you're prepared to deal with the Greens, currency cranks and New Age mystics who frequent the camp. But if you can get over the idea of needing to get rid of money altogether (through communism) rather than just reform the banking system you'll have contributed to raising the level of consciousness there.

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Dec 22 2011 12:52

Well, that will certainly be the main point I will try to get over, although I don't have any illusions about the huge weight of confusions you find at the occupation.

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Dec 23 2011 08:14

This was the third time an ICC comrade had spoken at the Tent City University in the St Paul’s occupation. The previous two meetings, introduced by a visiting French comrade, had been on the economic crisis of the system and the ecological question. I hadn’t been able to attend, although I did see some video footage of the first one.
This time I went along with another ICC comrade from London and my two sons, who are sympathetic to the ICC’s politics. One of them filmed the meeting and we can see whether it’s feasible to publish parts of it. I won’t try to give a blow by blow account but will just make a few synthetic points:
1. the meeting turned out OK in the end, despite some dodgy moments at the beginning. There were about 20 people all told, with some comings and goings. I already knew some of them: two comrades from the Communist Workers Organisation and the one who posts as Pingu on libcom, and would also see himself as a communist, influenced by the autonomist current. He is involved in the organisation of the occupation. The others were an even mix of ‘residents’ and visitors;
2. there were definite problems with the organisation of the event. There was little evidence of publicity around the organising tents and the bookshop/university, and no one knew where the microphone was – the mic being useful even in a small meeting because of the amount of outside noise intruding into the tent (such as the bells of St Paul’s). But the main problem was the presence of a ‘resident’ (I think) who made persistent low level interruptions as I was trying to give what was intended to be a short summary of the book. Along with going around sticking for ‘sale’ labels on books and papers and even people attending, he tried to get people to ‘vote’ (wavy hands and all that) on things I was saying, like why we need a revolution He said the Occupation had agreed on non-violence, so he was against it. In sum, using the ‘forms’ of open discussion to make actual discussion very difficult. So I gave up trying to make the presentation and opened up the discussion, which went on quite intensely for the hour and a half, and improved greatly when the interrupter lost interest and left. But I am not saying he was representative of all the organisers. Pingu in particular expressed his irritation with the interruptions and wanted to hear the presentation, and was also annoyed about the absence of the mic, which would have made the interruptions less possible;
3. despite all this, the discussion mostly stayed on topic, and through the responses given by the communist ‘contingent’ to some of the questions, a number of the themes of the book (and subsequent volumes of the series on communism) were incorporated into the meeting, such as:
- ‘doesn’t communism mean making everyone the same, which goes against the fact that people are all different?’. Comrades referred to Marx’s early writings to say that he had been explicitly opposed to what he called ‘crude’ or barracks communism. The aim of the communist revolution was to resolve the problem of labouring to produce life’s necessities and thus create a society where wealth is measured not in labour time but in free time, and where individuals can develop their full potential;
- ‘can’t we change things without violence?’ Several comrades responded that no ruling class had ever given up without a fight, but it was also pointed out that the more organised and conscious the revolution is, the less it will get bogged down in violence. And whether or not Occupy London had agreed on non-violence, the other occupations in Spain, North Africa, Greece and the USA had all faced police or army violence when they tried to take over ‘public’ spaces. And they had been obliged to defend themselves. Posed with a concrete situation like this, there was a wider level of agreement that we could not avoid the question of force, above all if we were talking about taking over the whole of the means for producing wealth;
- ‘how can we make a revolution which doesn’t end up with new Stalins?’ In response to this, reference was made to the actual experience of past workers’ revolutions, such as the Commune and the workers’ councils of 1905 and 1917, which had not been ‘invented’ by Marx or other revolutionaries but had emerged from the struggle itself and expressed the need of the working class to create forms of organisation that could be under its direct control. The re-appearance of the general assembly form in the occupations movement was, whether its participants were aware of it or not, a continuation of the same dynamic. Of course there can be no guarantees that a revolution won’t degenerate, but we can certainly learn from the failures and errors of the past, such as the mistaken idea that the role of the communist political organisation is to take state power into its own hands. The participant who raised the question, someone who might have termed himself a ‘sceptical marxist’, seemed happy with this last response;
- ‘isn’t there a subjective element to the crisis?’ This was raised in response to the point I had made about Marx’s analysis of the economic crisis, which in his view and ours derives from contradictions inherent in the system and are thus ultimately beyond the control of the capitalists or the state. But it was posed from two very different angles: Pingu wanted to discuss the subjective role of the working class in either provoking or aggravating the crisis through its own struggles. Some answers to this were given, such as a reference to the 1930s when you had a defeated working class and yet an economic crisis that was extremely deep. But the discussion was pushed into another direction by two or three people who thought that I was being naive to think that the ruling elite had not engineered the crisis: in other words, they held to the classic conspiratorial view of history: there is a continuing elite passed down through blood lines over hundreds of years, who manipulate the world’s finances to bring about the crisis and thus shore up their power. The main spokesman for this viewpoint had also been the one most in favour of non-violent resistance. In response a number of points were made: the ruling class is profoundly divided along national lines, hence their imperialist rivalries and their total inability to come together to do anything about the ecological crisis; the crisis is not benefiting the ruling class because it is creating the conditions where people are indeed resisting capitalism and posing questions about the future; and, even if there was a single, secret elite running the world, we would still need a revolution to overthrow them. When you discuss with people who hold to the full-blown conspiracy viewpoint , you usually get the impression that this is ultimately an ideology of resignation: nothing can be done because the elite (the Illuminati, etc) are so all-powerful.

This topic was, unsurprisingly, not resolved and we ran out of time. But these kinds of ideas are extremely widespread and they need to be answered They are connected to a growing disillusionment with the democratic facade and an attempt to make sense of an increasingly chaotic world. The response is a false one but revolutionaries have to respond to the underlying questions being posed (just dismissing people as ‘conspiraloons’ isn’t really what’s needed here).

All in all, worth doing and it might be a good idea to repeat the talk, or something similar, at the Bank of Ideas in the new year.

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Dec 25 2011 17:36

There is one item of the St Paul's meeting I didn't include, as I was not sure how to present it. But here goes anyway. There was a lot of interest in the connection that virtually all the 'left communists' at the meeting made between economic crisis and war. There was even a specific request to one of the CWO comrades to elaborate on the argument that war restores the rate of profit, and even initiates a new cycle of accumulation, through the massive physical destruction of capital. He did so very succinctly, and a number of people semed to find that it fitted in with many of their own thoughts. The problem was how to integrate this question - which is an issue of disagreement and debate among marxists themselves - into a more general discussion where few of the most basic postulates of marxism were close to being accepted.

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Dec 25 2011 17:38

PS

Season's greetings, to those who will accept them from one such as I.

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Dec 29 2011 16:39

So, no one says happy christmas even?
Not even 'have a nice chanuka'?

Alf: you are talking to yourself again.

Pingu did say he didn't post much on libcom theses days, or he would certainly have said something

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Dec 30 2011 06:18

Thanks for that reportback, Alf, really interesting to hear others experience with Occupy in different places. I imagine there would be similar questions here, although probably with more Cold War red scare stuff.

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Dec 30 2011 17:54

And thanks for your response. What's the state of the movement where you are? In London you get the feeling that it has lost its initial impetus and is hanging on more like an extended squat, but that might have been the 'end-of-term' feeling just before Christmas

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Dec 30 2011 20:55

Well, I'm in the Twin Cities. There are technically 3 Occupy groupings. There is Occupy Minneapolis (formerly OccupyMN), Occupy St. Paul and Occupy Your Homes.

Occupy your Homes is doing anti-foreclosure work, there are some IWWers involved in this, although my impression is that it's dominated by SEIU and FRSO (Stalinist organization) people, like a lot of the left is usually in the cities1 They just got some coverage on Aljazeera.

Occupy St. Paul is kind of weird and doesn't seem to have much to do with the other two. It seems like inexperienced vaguely liberal folks. They're interested in the Occupy the Caucuses campaign that liberals I hate in Iowa have initiated.

Occupy Minneapolis is the originating Occupy in the state. They were occupying a plaza in between two government buildings downtown. Slowly, as the winter came and as the activities were seen by some as just loitering until some boring rallies happened, people started to stop coming. They're in the the process of restructuring right now. The general assemblies get anywhere from 15-75 people and they're done in a skyway downtown, which I imagine is probably difficult to have a GA in.

Some of us in the IWW and sympathetic folks are trying to get a Occupy May Day committee formed through Occupy Minneapolis to start planning for no school, no work action on May 1st. Actually we're proposing it tonight.

  • 1. In the Twin Cities, a lot of left/far left activity is dominated by FRSO or groups they control, SEIU plays a big role, too (and there is for surecrossover between a couple union locals and FRSO). The IWW I would say is the second most important group and we often clash with them in various work. There used to be a signifigant anticiv/insurrectionist anarchist crowd, but the repression following the 2008 Republican National Convention protests I think destroyed that scene. Some of those folks are still around, but they haven't really been involved in Occupy.

    Then there's a smattering of smaller socialist sects like the Socialist Worker's Party and Socialist Alternative who are involved in various degrees in Occupy. Honestly, though, most of their work is either selling papers, getting speakers at rallies and doing the usual university/college organizing. There's also an SDS chapter that's controlled by FRSO that used to be real active but I'm not sure if they still exist anymore.

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Jan 1 2012 00:49

Happy Christamas, Mithras's Birthday, Hannukah, Saturnalia, Solstice, Yule, Kwanza, and Gregorian New Year Alf, and anyone else reading.

Thanks for posting these updates. I'll try to get something together about what's happening here.

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Jan 1 2012 14:56

I hear voices!
Same to you Slothjabber