Are Council Communists Libertarian?

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Jan 27 2012 14:40
Are Council Communists Libertarian?

I ask because I've never really read anything by the likes of Anton Pannekoek, Otto Rühle and Herman Gorter, the classical stuff that has mentioned the word 'Libertarian'.

Though in more modern times I don't see any real difference, historically the term libertarian communist has devoloped taking on a more broader views.

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Jan 27 2012 15:22

No scholar on this, so I'm quoting from articles in the library:

Quote:
In contrast to orthodox Leninist organizations which saw class consciousness as something external to the working class and which would have to be injected by a bourgeois intelligentsia (hence the doctrine's popularity among intellectuals) the Council Communists developed a theory of class consciousness which saw working people and their allies moving into struggle as a result of actual conditions, not because of the intervention of small groups of revolutionaries.

http://libcom.org/library/council-communism

and

Quote:
Of most significance after the question of the “revolutionary party” for the council communists was the question of the state. The Russian experience had shown to them that giving power to a new state after the destruction of the old capitalist state in order to facilitate the transition to a socialist society was a counter-revolutionary strategy, as it only provided the institutional means for the rise of a new bureaucratic ruling elite. As far as the council communists were concerned, the workers’ councils are sufficient for the transition to socialism, while any organization holding power above or beyond them would only counteract their ability to make changes favourable to the interests of the whole class.

http://libcom.org/library/what-council-communism

This puts them in the libertarian camp in my eyes.

Edit: I see you already know what council communism is.

Well, judging by the excerpts I posted, I'd consider it a strategy towards the same goal of communism (which by definition is libertarian since it is classless and stateless), akin to anarcho-syndicalism but working from a different angle.

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Jan 27 2012 17:15

Aye, they're just one strain that would make up libertarian communism. Jury's still out on the left ones though wink

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Jan 27 2012 17:33

No. Libertarian Marxism is a fabrication by anarchists, I've been assured by Left Communists.

Council communists, like all Marxists (with maybe the exception of Open Marxism and Autonomism), believes in centralisation. The difference with Leninism is the degree to which centralisation and concentration of power should coincide. Leninism tends to believe that centralisation should coincide with a concentration of power, whereas centralisation according to council communists, should be backed from below, not above and there would thus be no or little concentration of power at the top.

Libertarianism must necessarily include decentralisation and Left Communism does not seem to advocate this, therefore it cannot logically be libertarian.

EDIT: elaboration

Left Communism, which includes council communism, distinguishes itself from other Marxist currents for its staunch anti-Leninism. They argue in favour of revolutionary spontaneity, where the masses should undertake the revolution spontaneously without the aid of a vanguard party, etc. This leads them to argue in favour of workers' councils as they arise from such working class struggles almost naturally. Nevertheless they favour a centralised state that is controlled from below by these workers' councils, and are therefore not libertarian.

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Jan 27 2012 17:31
Goti123 wrote:
Council communists, like all Marxists (with maybe the exception of Open Marxism and Autonomism), believes in centralisation. The difference is the degree to which centralisation and concentration of power. Leninism tends to believe in both to a certain degree, whereas centralisation according to council communists, should be backed from below, not above.

Libertarianism must necessarily include decentralisation and Left Communism does not seem to advocate this.

That wholly depends on what you mean by centralization and what you propose as an alternative. Total autonomy of the individual is a myth, so if one looks at it from that angle, there will always be "centralization".

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Jan 27 2012 17:37

Hard, isn't it? Most Left Communists I think would reject the notion of 'libertarian communism' because it implies that you can have 'slavertarian (or something) communism'. Communism is libertarian or it isn't communism, in my view. Thus 'libertarian communism' means either the same as communism (the end goal of a classless communal society), or in practice the same as anarchist-communism (a strategy/philosophy of revolution that does not see capturing state power as a necessary step towards the ending of capitalism and the state), or 'marxists that anarchists like'. I've even heard Rosa lumped in with 'libertarian communism'. Can one be a part of a political movement if one doesn't believe it exists?

If that bit at the end that Railyon quotes : "... As far as the council communists were concerned, the workers’ councils are sufficient for the transition to socialism, while any organization holding power above or beyond them would only counteract their ability to make changes favourable to the interests of the whole class..." is an attempt at a definition/criterion for acceptance as 'libertarian communists', then that would I think apply to most Left-Comms too. I certainly don't think the revolutionary organisation(s) (whether anarchist or marxist) should hold 'power above or beyond' the workers' councils. The Bordigists might believe that the Party takes power on behalf of the working class but I'm pretty sure the ICC and ICT don't. In fact, I know the ICC don't, and I don't see how the ICT can.

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Jan 27 2012 19:24

I agree with Slothjabber. The whole idea of a 'libertarian Marxism' to me seems to be a construct of anarchists designed to differentiate 'Marxists we like'.

I don't think that any of the council communists themselves would have defined themselves as 'libertarians'. This is essentially for two reasons. Firstly, the libertarian/authoritarian dichotomy isn't really a part of the Marxist discourse, and secondly because at the time part of the argument against the German left was that they were a syndicalist/anarchist deviation, which meant that they strove to refute the allegation and distance themselves from it.

That doesn't mean that there weren't similarities between their ideas, which I don't intend to discuss here, but it does mean that they wouldn't in any way have identified themselves with that tradition.

Devrim

scottydont
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Jan 27 2012 18:45

hmm...
the thing is "libertarian" is a pretty broad term and can mean a lot of different things.

If it means rejecting the idea of a party, then there is a pretty broad array of opinions within the tendency know as "council communism". Gortner, for instance, in his open letter to Lenin, clearly rejects the Leninist party, but accepts the building of a party as the task of communist millitants. The task of this party is to theoretically clarify for the class and aid in organizing it towards revolutionary ends, but not to lead it. Anton Pannekoek, on the other hand, clearly rejected the party to such an extent that any organization of revolutionaries that was not focused on purely "circulating information" was suspect. It seems like mid 20th century councilist groups: Root and Branch, Echanges & Mouvements etc., have mostly followed Pannekoek's ideas.

To try to use a historical rather than theoretical example:
This tension regarding the party was the source of the conflict between the AAUD (General Union of German Workers) and the AAUD-E (General Union of German Workers- Unitary Organization) during the 1920's in Germany. The first served as the workplace organization of the KAPD (The German Communist Workers Party), or, perhaps more accurately, the KAPD served as its party. The second claimed that no party was necessary to guide the workplace organization.

Also, for what its worth, it seems to me like Anarchists have had debates around very similar questions: i.e. the relationships between anarcho-syndicalist unions and specific anarchist organizations. Just in a vocabulary that doesn't include the word "party".

I'm sure there are plenty of folks around here who are better read on the matter, so please correct me if I'm wrong on all this...

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Jan 27 2012 18:55
Devrim wrote:
I agree with Slothjabber. The whole idea of a 'libertarian Marxism' to me seems to be a construct of anarchists designed to differentiate 'Marxist we like'.

This.

When I make a good faith attempt to understand what the phrase "libertarian" is supposed to mean, I assume it means something like safeguarding certain liberal democratic rights like press freedom and the right to strike which many "really existing socialist" governments have often suppressed.

In other words, "libertarian" in the sense of supporting civil liberties.

So to that extent I guess I support "libertarianism", but then again, I hardly know anyone who doesn't. Even "Bolshevik" cadre groups claim to support these things, and explain their suppression in the past as being due to the exigencies of emergency situations, etc.

However, I get the sense that a lot of the debate between left-communists (including councilist groups) and more orthodox "Bolshevik" formations has nothing to do with questions of civil liberties. Generally they're about far more esoteric questions such as the primacy of the council form, or the nature of revolutions in predominantly agrarian societies (i.e. whether such revolutions can be described as "proletarian"), etc.

And the person above who said something about "Autonomists" being libertarians..."Autonomism" as it's used in English-speaking countries is basically a synonym for Italian Operaismo, and most of those groups were self-described Leninists. There's this irritating tendency by anarchists to slap the label "libertarian" on any political tendency that doesn't have a parliamentary orientation. So that "anarchist" publishers like PM Press publish the collected writings of bonkers urban guerilla groups like the Red Army Fraction. I mean seriously, are "anarchists" really totally oblivious not just to the shitty politics of such an organization, but also the totally hierarchical and cult-like internal regime?

(to clarify, I'm not talking about the agreeable class struggle anarchists on Libcom, but the broader anarchist swamp that slaps the label "libertarian" on anything that isn't a Bolshevik cadre group or Social Democratic electoral formation)

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Jan 27 2012 19:13
Quote:
When I make a good faith attempt to understand what the phrase "libertarian" is supposed to mean, I assume it means something like safeguarding certain liberal democratic rights like press freedom and the right to strike which many "really existing socialist" governments have often suppressed.

In other words, "libertarian" in the sense of supporting civil liberties.

I've (literally) never heard any libertarian communist describe or conceive it as thus.

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Jan 27 2012 19:19

In the sense libertarian communists use the term "libertarian", it is a qualifier for communist. In this sense, obviously and indisputably, Council Communists were "libertarian". In any other sense (that is, in an utterly irrelevant sense), it's obviously more disputable.

However left communists like to play a particularly dishonest game around this, pretending (and I refuse to accept it as a misunderstanding, given the number of times I've seen it plainly explained) that when libcoms use it, they are saying council communists are libertarian in a wet "do what you want, man" manner. See above for some prime examples.

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Jan 27 2012 19:50

The thing is that whatever it means, this label is put on so many different currents that it confuses more than it explains (a similar label would be "anti-authoritarian").

"Open Marxism" is an academic exercise (a very interesting one, I might add) in combining operaismo, western philosophical marxism and a Rubin-inspired reading of Marx. As such it says very little, if anything at all, about things like whether the working class needs a party, how it should be run and what the proletarian dictatorship should be like.

"Autonomism" in the sense of operaismo (which is a confusion in itself) was not a homogenous tendency, and it included die-hard Leninists some of whom eventually re-joined the PCI or some vanguardist party. This actually applies to most of the frontmen. Somehow, a large part of the fanclub fails to notice this. Of course, the original line-up also included people like Sergio Bologna who took a different course.

"Left communism" or "communist left" is another broad category which includes the left fringes of the Comintern parties and of parties close to the Comintern – in various countries and on a time scale that spans 2 to almost 10 decades, depending on how you periodize. The positions were developing throughout all that time. I think many anarchists who are sympathetic to the council communists would be surprised if they read what Pannekoek actually thought about anarchism. Not to mention the original Italian left, which was by no means anti-Leninist, as Goti123 wrote above.

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Jan 27 2012 19:55
Fall Back wrote:
However left communists like to play a particularly dishonest game around this, pretending (and I refuse to accept it as a misunderstanding, given the number of times I've seen it plainly explained) that when libcoms use it, they are saying council communists are libertarian in a wet "do what you want, man" manner. See above for some prime examples.

I don't think that I did this in any way.

Devrim

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Jan 27 2012 20:49
jura wrote:
I think many anarchists who are sympathetic to the council communists would be surprised if they read what Pannekoek actually thought about anarchism.

Depends on what kind of anarchism we talk about here...

If we talk the Proudhon school or beating the dead horse of the First International*, that'd be highly uncontroversial even among anarchists.

*David Harvey, in his video lectures on Capital, promotes the idea of the split being over women involved in class struggle as "anarchists" were said to be "artisans who didn't like the idea of women taking their place" - great lecturer but I doubt he knows much about anarchism

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Jan 27 2012 21:09
Devrim wrote:
I agree with Slothjabber. The whole idea of a 'libertarian Marxism' to me seems to be a construct of anarchists designed to differentiate 'Marxists we like'.

I don't think that any of the council communists themselves would have defined themselves as 'libertarians'. This is essentially for two reasons. Firstly, the libertarian/authoritarian dichotomy isn't really a part of the Marxist discourse, and secondly because at the time part of the argument against the German left was that they were a syndicalist/anarchist deviation, which meant that they strove to refute the allegation and distance themselves from it.

That doesn't mean that there weren't similarities between their ideas, which I don't intend to discuss here, but it does mean that they wouldn't in any way have identified themselves with that tradition.

Devrim

i don't care in the slightest what they identify as and i dont see how it could possibly matter, the only things that matter are what they do and the theory behind it

Angelus Novus
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Jan 27 2012 22:32
Fall Back wrote:
I've (literally) never heard any libertarian communist describe or conceive it as thus.

Well, don't be shy. Tell me what it means.

BTW, the sense in which I defined it above wasn't intended as a diss. I know a lot of communists like to engage in a bunch of macho chest-thumping about the bourgeois nature of civil liberties, but I don't agree with that at all. If anything, I think the most sympathetic aspect of classical anarchism is precisely in emphasizing the current of liberalism informing anarchism. I think Rocker's formulation was classical liberalism + socialism = anarchism. That's nothing to be ashamed of.

The freedom to strike, publish a dissident newspaper, criticize a government supported by the majority, etc.: I wouldn't use the word "bourgeois" as a pejorative for those kind of freedoms, anymore than I'd dismiss Beethoven or James Joyce or Leonardo da Vinci as "bourgeois".

When people like Noam Chomsky use the term "libertarian socialist", I usually take it to mean that they're referring to the defense of such liberties, and not because they're accusing the Bolsheviks of merely consummating the agrarian revolution or some other esoteric debate (as valuable and enlightening as such esoteric debates might be).

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Jan 27 2012 22:47

The (French) term "libertaire" was coined by Joseph Déjacque in 1857 as a neologism in his open letter attacking Proudhon for being a sexist pig and a market socialist to boot. Libertaire was created as an antonym to liberal. In that original sense, libertarian communism is a tautology, because libertarian already means communist anarchism.

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Ecrivain fouetteur de femmes, serf de l'homme absolu, Proudhon-Haynau qui avez pour knout la parole, comme le bourreau croate, vous semblez jouir de toutes les lubricités de la convoitise à déshabiller vos belles victimes sur le papier du supplice et à les flageller de vos invectives. Anarchiste juste-milieu, libéral et non LIBERTAIRE, vous voulez le libre échange pour le coton et la chandelle, et vous préconisez des systèmes protecteurs de l'homme contre la femme, dans la circulation des passions humaines ;

Déjacque later published a newsletter in New York between 1858 - 1860, called "Le Libertaire, journal du mouvement social" (The Libertarian, journal of the social movement) which became briefly well-known in the radical milieu (it was a staunch advocate of the abolition of slavery in the US). In the aftermath of the Paris Commune, the word "anarchist" was banned by the jumble of repressive laws passed by the reaction, so the term libertarian was adopted as a legal alternative. Libertaire is still synonymous with anarchism in France and many other continental tongues.

So no, the council communists would definitely have refused the label libertarian communist as that was understood throughout Europe up until WW2 as specifically anarchist.

I suspect the use of libertarian communism to designate anti-state Marxism dates only from the late 60s or 70s (or possibly even later). Pannekoek would not have approved. As for the Left Communists, given that the only people who use that label in the post-WW2 period are descended from that most ultra-authoritarian of all state socialisms, Bordiguism, Left Communists are also not remotely libertarian. In fact "slaveitarian communist" is not a bad description for Bordiga who made Lenin and Stalin look like milksop liberals. Bordiga was also the leader of the anti-parliamentarian faction of the PSI before the formation of the PCI, so anti-parliamentarian should not be understood as in any way necessarily anti-authoritarian or anti-statist.

With the possible exception of Solidarity (UK), I can't think of any organised Marxist tendency that would ever have identified as libertarian communists.

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Jan 27 2012 23:38

From a historical perspective you're absolutely right, but from my (most likely flawed) understanding of the term, the libertarian in libertarian communism has come to denote the means towards our goal, that is, contrary to authoritarian tendencies, organizing ourselves in egalitarian, non-hierarchical, ways (one could find other adjectives but I'm tired and trying to just get my point across haha).

I think in this "modern" usage of the term the council communists and most antistatist Marxists would be included in that.

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Jan 28 2012 00:14

I'm quite happy using 'libertarian communist' as a 'fence' term a certain type of anarchist can use. On the one hand it divides us from the varieties of anarchism (or things calling themselves anarchism) that aren't directed toward revolutionary class struggle towards communism, on the other hand, it let's us acknowledge our commonalities with certain trends within Marxism that share such ideas as self organisation, rejection of the use of state apparatus, critique of union and party bureaucracy, etc. I don't think it helps to be too etymological when talking about the term. Finally, by using the word communist, rather than anarchist or socialist or marxist, it resonates with the idea that communism is a sort of immanent force in the world that throws up formations of the class and corresponding ideologies, but the important thing is the 'real movement' no matter how it's participants label themselves.

Members and sympathisers of the ICC should compare the word with their own term the 'proletarian camp' which does a similar thing, but from their political standpoint.

bastarx
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Jan 28 2012 02:16
ocelot wrote:
In fact "slaveitarian communist" is not a bad description for Bordiga who made Lenin and Stalin look like milksop liberals. Bordiga was also the leader of the anti-parliamentarian faction of the PSI before the formation of the PCI, so anti-parliamentarian should not be understood as in any way necessarily anti-authoritarian or anti-statist.

This is rather hyperbolic. Lenin and Stalin killed millions, Bordiga wrote stuff you don't like.

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Jan 28 2012 02:54

This is an interesting discussion. Historical council communists were Marxists and would not have accepted the 'libertarian' adjective. Having said that however, interestingly, Victor Serge makes a distinction between libertarian and anarchist in his book, Memoirs of a Revolutionary. Serge perhaps considered the adjective libertarian to be more closer to Marxism than pure stateless anarchism. Using Serge's usage of the adjective 'libertarian', libertarian communist would probably apply to council communists and even the name of this website might be a signal that certain varieties of Marxists are naturally included under the umbrella of libertarian. However, I am not sure if the libertarians who post on this site would accept Serge's usage of the term.

Angelus Novus
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Jan 28 2012 03:10
Railyon wrote:
the libertarian in libertarian communism has come to denote the means towards our goal, that is, contrary to authoritarian tendencies, organizing ourselves in egalitarian, non-hierarchical, ways (one could find other adjectives but I'm tired and trying to just get my point across haha).

So the difference between "libertarian" and "authoritarian" currents is purely formalist, like the difference between preferring a Playstation 3 to an XBox ("self-organization" vs. "state apparatus") or whether one prefers Linux to OS X ("councils" vs. "the party")?

Honestly, the anarchists who are concerned with preserving certain legal norms of civil liberty achieved in bourgeois society I can sympathize with, because there are concrete achievements of bourgeois democratic societies with regard to the freedom of individual subjects (however much we can historicize the very idea of the juridical subject), but defining "libertarian" vs. "authoritarian" solely in terms of organizational forms just strikes me as a weird kind of war between competing Platonic ideals of what a social revolution is supposed to look like.

Quote:
Lenin and Stalin killed millions

Lenin "killed millions"? Where the fuck does this come from? Whatever justified critique can be made of how the Bolsheviks exercised power, this is just nonsense. I don't think even the most backwater American high school would teach something like that.

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Jan 28 2012 03:37
Angelus Novus wrote:
Quote:
Lenin and Stalin killed millions

Lenin "killed millions"? Where the fuck does this come from? Whatever justified critique can be made of how the Bolsheviks exercised power, this is just nonsense. I don't think even the most backwater American high school would teach something like that.

I'm guessing what Peter means is that the political project embodied by "Lenin and Stalin" involved the premature, often violent, deaths of millions of people. Not that Lenin the individual shot, ordered the deaths of, or supported the killing of millions of people, or that Lenin the individual made decision in the knowledge that they would lead to the deaths of millions when he could have made other decisions or something like that.

bastarx
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Jan 28 2012 03:48
Angelus Novus wrote:
Lenin "killed millions"? Where the fuck does this come from? Whatever justified critique can be made of how the Bolsheviks exercised power, this is just nonsense. I don't think even the most backwater American high school would teach something like that.

Yeah ok, that was over the top. Still the Red Terror during the Civil War killed tens of thousands.

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Jan 28 2012 06:01
Quote:
Members and sympathisers of the ICC should compare the word with their own term the 'proletarian camp' which does a similar thing, but from their political standpoint.

I completely agree; for the purposes of a general idea of who is the 'us' and who is the 'them', the naunces between specific historical traditions of the workers movement aren't that important.

Quote:
As for the Left Communists, given that the only people who use that label in the post-WW2 period are descended from that most ultra-authoritarian of all state socialisms, Bordiguism, Left Communists are also not remotely libertarian. In fact "slaveitarian communist" is not a bad description for Bordiga who made Lenin and Stalin look like milksop liberals. Bordiga was also the leader of the anti-parliamentarian faction of the PSI before the formation of the PCI, so anti-parliamentarian should not be understood as in any way necessarily anti-authoritarian or anti-statist.

While Bordiga was a major figure in the Italian workers movement, and heavy hitter in what became the Communist Left, post-WWII (well really 1942/3+) left communist groups (Italian Fraction in Exile, founding of the PCInt, German group breaking from Trotskyism, etc) the major left communist groups descending from these tendencies and ideas are the ICC (mainly influenced by the GCF- the portion of the Italian Fraction in Exile in France and Belgium which made huge strides in organizational, tactical, theoretical questions) and the ICT (descended from the split in the original PCInt in '52 animated largely by Damen, which broke with what became Bordigism- the "International Communist Party[s]"). Plus the Dutch/German communist left which spawned numerous councilist groups.

Bordigism is on the fringes of what could be called left communism. It embodies a number of things that make it just as 'bad' as any Leninist subsect (national liberation, union policy, organizational structure, conception of the party, etc).

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Jan 28 2012 09:42
Angelus Novus wrote:
So the difference between "libertarian" and "authoritarian" currents is purely formalist, like the difference between preferring a Playstation 3 to an XBox ("self-organization" vs. "state apparatus") or whether one prefers Linux to OS X ("councils" vs. "the party")?

Honestly, the anarchists who are concerned with preserving certain legal norms of civil liberty achieved in bourgeois society I can sympathize with, because there are concrete achievements of bourgeois democratic societies with regard to the freedom of individual subjects (however much we can historicize the very idea of the juridical subject), but defining "libertarian" vs. "authoritarian" solely in terms of organizational forms just strikes me as a weird kind of war between competing Platonic ideals of what a social revolution is supposed to look like.

I wouldn't say it's formalist really, the differences are oftentimes pretty vast.

In my opinion the question of whether the proletariat can organize itself is THE pivotal point between "libertarian" and "authoritarian" tendencies (yes -> self-organization, no -> appropriation of state and media power), and I don't think it comes down to pure taste like your example of consumer choices.

Of course this is overly simplistic but I think this question is what most differences between camps hinge on.

Then again, the Left always has been a pool of tendencies biting each others' arses, don't they... but I think, as RedEd pointed out, drawing the circles a bit wider is a great source of unity across tendencies, though going as far as being a Pan-Leftist does not really make sense.

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Jan 28 2012 19:19
Devrim wrote:
I don't think that any of the council communists themselves would have defined themselves as 'libertarians'. This is essentially for two reasons. Firstly, the libertarian/authoritarian dichotomy isn't really a part of the Marxist discourse, and secondly because at the time part of the argument against the German left was that they were a syndicalist/anarchist deviation, which meant that they strove to refute the allegation and distance themselves from it.

This is true, but I don't see how this refutes the argument that council communists are libertarian in the contemporary use of the word. I mean, why were they accused of being a syndicalist/anarchist deviation in the first place if not for sharing certain ideas with anarchism and syndicalism?

No one is saying that council communists self-identified as anarchists.

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Jan 28 2012 19:49
Goti123 wrote:
Council communists, like all Marxists (with maybe the exception of Open Marxism and Autonomism), believes in centralisation. The difference with Leninism is the degree to which centralisation and concentration of power should coincide. Leninism tends to believe that centralisation should coincide with a concentration of power, whereas centralisation according to council communists, should be backed from below, not above and there would thus be no or little concentration of power at the top.

Libertarianism must necessarily include decentralisation and Left Communism does not seem to advocate this, therefore it cannot logically be libertarian.

First of all, libertarianism must not necessarily include decentralisation in this wider sense of the word. The libertarian critique of centralism is about centralisation of power through parties and the state, and this is a critique that was shared by many council communists.

I also think there was quite different views regarding the concept of centralism amongst council communists. Otto Rühle for one, was very critical of it:

Otto Rühle wrote:
Centralism is the organisational principle of the bourgeois-capitalist age. With it the bourgeois state and the capitalist economy can be built up. Not however the proletarian state and the socialist economy. They demand the council system.

(...) The necessary freedom therefore will however never be won in the coercive system of centralism, the chains of bureaucratic-militaristic control, under the burden of a leader-dictatorship and its inevitable accompaniments: arbitrariness, personality cult, authority, corruption, violence. Therefore transformation of the party-conception into a federative community-conception on the line of councilist ideas.

-from Report from Moscow, 3rd International congress, 1920

Angelus Novus
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Jan 28 2012 19:59
Railyon wrote:
I wouldn't say it's formalist really, the differences are oftentimes pretty vast.

Honestly, from what various different tendencies profess (anarchists, Trotskyists, Maoists, etc.), the differences actually aren't vast. The (justified) anarchist criticisms of for example the Bolshevik's actual practice shouldn't ignore the fact that pretty much all tendencies tracing their lineage to them profess support for the self-organization of the working class in councils or similar organs (at least in theory).

I mean, what are the political tendencies on the left that explicitly don't support the self-organization of the working class as the means to achieve socialism? British Fabians? Fourierist utopians? Do these tendencies even exist anymore?

Quote:
THE pivotal point between "libertarian" and "authoritarian" tendencies (yes -> self-organization, no -> appropriation of state and media power)

Have you observed the debates between the ICC and orthodox anarchists on this forum concerning the definition of the word "state"? Of course anarchists don't support "appropriation of the state": they define the word in a completely different way than Marxists! This is just an incommensurability problem arising from the fact that anarchists and Marxists give the same word different definitions.

Quote:
and I don't think it comes down to pure taste like your example of consumer choices.

I think it's weird because it seems to frame the debate purely in terms of some predefined ideal of the organizational forms (councils, "the party", unions, whatever) that a revolution will assume, rather than discussing things in terms of the content of a revolution. And I don't mean content solely according to the terms of the "communization" tendency, of the abolition of value and the commodity form, but also the content of preserving certain basic liberties of individuals. I have always assumed that the latter is precisely what anarchists were always fighting to defend, but now you guys are basically saying that doesn't matter in terms of the difference between "libertarian" and "authoritarian"!

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Felix Frost
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Jan 28 2012 20:07
Angelus Novus wrote:
So the difference between "libertarian" and "authoritarian" currents is purely formalist, like the difference between preferring a Playstation 3 to an XBox ("self-organization" vs. "state apparatus") or whether one prefers Linux to OS X ("councils" vs. "the party")?

Well, yes, opposing party rule and state dictatorships with self-organization and workers councils was pretty much the defining feature of council communism, and why many people will call them libertarian. I don't think most people will agree that this is a purely formalist difference though.

Otto Rühle wrote:
It is not possible for men to serve two masters. Neither can a totalitarian state do such a thing. If fascism serves capitalistic and imperialistic interests, it cannot serve the needs of the workers. If, in spite of this, two apparently opposing classes favour the same state system, it is obvious that something must be wrong. One or the other class must be in error. No one should say here that the problem is one merely of form and therefore of no real significance, that, though the political forms are identical, their content may vary widely. This would be self-delusion. For the Marxist such things do not occur; for him form and content fit to each other and they cannot be divorced.
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Railyon
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Jan 28 2012 20:38

Novus, I don't quite understand what we're arguing about here.

From your post I take (and I apologize if this is wrong):
- That all contemporary tendencies of the left support the self-organization of the proletariat in theory, therefore there is little difference between them
- The word state is defined differently from tendency to tendency
- That "we" (whoever that is) think individual liberty is actually not important in defining the two poles

Point 1 I think is kind of pointless; shouldn't we look at actual political practice here?

Point 2 is kinda uncontroversial... nonetheless an issue.

Point 3, well, I thought that was pretty much a given that "libertarian" includes "basic liberties of the individual", however one may argue about that definition.

I'm still confused what your point is; is it that this way of defining "libertarian" and "authoritarian", the modi operandi, is creating false dichotomies?