Are Council Communists Libertarian?

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devoration1
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Jan 29 2012 03:08
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- That "we" (whoever that is) think individual liberty is actually not important in defining the two poles
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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 think the goals and demands of the Kronstadt revolutionaries put clearly into perspective the kind of 'civil liberties', outisde of a liberal bourgeois-democratic framework, that we (libertarian and left communists, anarcho-syndicalists, etc) would completely agree with most of (some points in their historical context, others as general principles):

Quote:
RESOLUTION OF THE GENERAL MEETING OF CREWS OF THE 1ST AND 2ND BATTLESHIP BRIGADES, OCCURING 1 MARCH, 1921

Having heard the report of the crew representatives, sent to the City of Petrograd by the General Meeting of ships' crews for clarification of the situation there, we resolve:

1. In view of the fact that the present Soviets do not express the will of the workers and peasants, to immediately hold new elections to the Soviets by secret ballot, with freedom of pre-election agitation for all workers and peasants.

2. Freedom of speech and press for workers and peasants, anarchists and left socialist parties.

3. Freedom of assembly of both trade unions and peasant associations.

4. To convene not later than March 10th, 1921 a non-party Conference of workers, soldiers and sailors of the city of Petrograd, of Kronstadt, and of Petrograd province.

5. To free all political prisoners of socialist parties, and also all workers and peasants, soldiers and sailors imprisoned in connection with worker and peasant movements.

6. To elect a Commission for the review of the cases of those held in prisons and concentration camps.

7. To abolish all POLITOTDELS, since no single party should be able to have such privileges for the propaganda of its ideas and receive from the state the means for these ends. In their place must be established locally elected cultural-educational commissions, for which the state must provide resources.

8. To immediately remove all anti-smuggling roadblock detachments.

9. To equalize the rations of all laborers, with the exception of those in work injurious to health.

10. To abolish the Communist fighting detachments in all military units, and also the various guards kept in factories and plants by the communists, and if such guards or detachments are needed, they can be chosen in military units from the companies, and in factories and plants by the discretion of the workers.

11. To give the peasants full control over their own land, to do as they wish, and also to keep cattle, which must be maintained and managed by their own strength, that is, without using hired labor.

12. We appeal to all military units, and also to the comrade cadets to lend their support to our resolution.

13. We demand that all resolutions be widely publicized in the press.

14. To appoint a travelling bureau for control.

15. To allow free handicraft manufacture by personal labor.

The resolution was passed by the Brigade Meeting unanimously with two abstentions.

Ideas that were already etched into the first Constitution of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic, 1918, particularly Part II:

Quote:
11. The soviets of those regions which differentiate themselves by a special form of existence and national character may unite in autonomous regional unions, ruled by the local congress of the soviets and their executive organs.

These autonomous regional unions participate in the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic upon a Federal basis.

12. The supreme power of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic belongs to the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, and, in periods between the convocation of the congress, to the All-Russian Central Executive Committee.

13. For the purpose of securing to the workers real freedom of conscience, the church is to be separated from the state and the school from the church, and the right of religious and anti-religous propaganda is accorded to every citizen.

14. For the purpose of securing freedom of expression to the toiling masses, the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic abolishes all dependence of the Press upon capital, and turns over to the working people and the poorest peasantry all technical and material means for the publication of newspapers, pamphlets, books, etc., and guarantees their free circulation throughout the country.

15. For the purpose of enabling the workers to hold free meetings, the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic offers to the working class and to the poorest peasantry furnished halls, and takes care of their heating and lighting appliances.

16. The Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic, having crushed the economic and political power of the propertied classes, and having thus abolished all obstacles which interfered with the freedom of organization and action of the workers and peasants, offers assistance, material and other, to the workers and the poorest peasantry in their effort to unite and organize.

17. For the purpose of guaranteeing to the workers real access to knowledge, the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic sets itself the task of furnishing full and general free education to the workers and the poorest peasantry.

http://www.marxists.org/history/ussr/government/constitution/1918/article2.htm

If you add 'without the influence and manipulation of and by capital', terms like 'freedom of the press', 'freedom to assemble/organize', 'freedom of speech', etc take on new meaning and significance.

And these are things that would not be acceptable for Marxism-Leninism; be it Trotskyism, Maoism, Stalinism, Juche, Jim Jones Thought, whatever. I think this is the fundamental litmus test for determining the revolutionary 'camp' or 'milieu'- not whether you believe in an international party of revolutionaries, One Big Union/unitary organization, complete spontanaeity and the lack of organization by revolutionaries, unions organized along anarcho-syndicalist lines; an international confederation of revolutionary federations; all tendencies mentioned more or less put these words of one of countless socialist thinkers that the proletarian revolution must be the work of the proletariat itself. Lip service may be paid by M-L's and SocDem's, and co, but their practice has shown otherwise countless times throughout the 20th century and beyond.

capricorn
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Jan 29 2012 05:04

Nobody's mentioned yet the use and meaning of word "libertarian" in the US. Given this, I'm surprised anyone here wants to touch it with a barge pole.

capricorn
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Jan 29 2012 08:50

True, but an awful lot do. It would be interesting what people over there think of the tag "libertarian".

I must confess I forgot what "libcom" is short for. I still don't like the word because of its association with the worst side of anarchism (the individual against the state). The opposite of "Libertarian Communist" is presumably "Authoritarian Communist" and who is going to admit being that?

The early Council Communists called themselves this to distinguish them from "Party Communists" and "State Communists" (and who would call themselves that?).

If I may dare suggest it, I think the word people are looking for here is "democratic". Are Council Communists democrats? Yes. Are all Left Communists democrats? No.

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Jan 29 2012 10:25
radicalgraffiti wrote:
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

Yeah, I'd agree with this.

capricorn wrote:
True, but an awful lot do. It would be interesting what people over there think of the tag "libertarian".

I must confess I forgot what "libcom" is short for. I still don't like the word because of its association with the worst side of anarchism (the individual against the state). The opposite of "Libertarian Communist" is presumably "Authoritarian Communist" and who is going to admit being that?

The early Council Communists called themselves this to distinguish them from "Party Communists" and "State Communists" (and who would call themselves that?).

If I may dare suggest it, I think the word people are looking for here is "democratic". Are Council Communists democrats? Yes. Are all Left Communists democrats? No.

'Democratic' could imply a variety of practices, and has become just as corrupt as "libertarian." Point taken, but I don't see the need to reject 'libertarian' because of some buffoons that have hijacked it. If they know where we stand, we know where they stand. From what I've seen of Bordiga on democracy, I can't say that strand of Left-Communism would be desirable.

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Jan 29 2012 11:18
capricorn wrote:
If I may dare suggest it, I think the word people are looking for here is "democratic". Are Council Communists democrats? Yes. Are all Left Communists democrats? No.

What? Like in Democratic Kampuchea? The Democratic Republic of North Korea? The German Democratic Republic? The US Democratic Party? The Christian Democrats? Liberal democracy? Er... what's basically the dominant 'democracy', the ruling ideology of the bourgeoisie? Wouldn't touch it with a barge pole wink Hmm... if the term 'libertarian' is unwelcome because it's been nicked by weirdo elements in the US, why wouldn't democracy or communism be equally unwelcome.

slothjabber
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Jan 29 2012 13:04
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 think neither Devrim nor myself said this, and we are the only Left Communists to have commented before your post. I'm pretty certain Angelus Novus, the person who mentioned 'civil liberties', wouldn't identify as a 'Left Communist', so who exactly are you talking about?

Railyon wrote:
...
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...

So it's not just Angelus Novus who thinks that 'libertarian' includes 'civil liberties'.

capricorn wrote:
... The opposite of "Libertarian Communist" is presumably "Authoritarian Communist" ...

Well, as you mentioned the States, you should know that the opposites of "Libertarian Communist" must include "Libertarian Capitalist" or maybe "Libertarian Individualist".

But if you think "Authoritarian Communism" is real, and not just an oxymoronic term for Leninism or Stalinism, then that implies that you accept the basic premises of Stalinism and other 'workers' state', 'actually existing socialism'-type systems, that they are a stage towards communism. If you don't accept that they're a stage towards communism, there's no reason to have a term 'authoritarian communism' because there's nothing 'communist' about them. So it's better to call them what they are, a particularly brutal and inefficient form of state capitalism.

If 'libertarian communists' are those who do not believe that the party must seize state power on behalf of the workers, then Left Communists (except Bordigists) are 'libertarian communists' - even if we don't, on the whole, accept that the term has any real meaning (because we tend to reject the notion that communism can be authoritarian).

capricorn
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Jan 29 2012 13:58

According to this (I've not bothered to check who they are) the first person to use the word "libertarian" in English was the individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker in 1897. As Tucker was a free-marketeer the "buffoons" and "wierdos" who have established the dominant meaning of the word in the US may have some claim to it.

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Jan 29 2012 14:18

Oh, that's it then. Benjamin Tucker got in first in the English speaking world. We must really think on.

Then again, the term 'libertarian socialist' was used before capitalism's weirdo wing got their grubby little mitts on it. And as the link you provided says:

Quote:
The term ‘Libertarian’ was first used in the anarchist journal ‘La Libertaire, Journal du Mouvement Social’. It was published in New York between 1858 and 1861 by French Anarchist Joseph Dejacque. Benjamin Tucker used the term ‘Libertarian’ in 1897 in his journal Liberty, no. 350 pp 5. 8.

So I think that trumps you, sir beardiest

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Jan 29 2012 15:31

Marx forbid that I should make a contribution that isn't specifically attacking somebody else's point of view, but it appears to me that the problem is that a clear and unambiguous definition of "what libertarian means the way we use it today" (in English) is lacking.

If I point to the historical meaning, it's because it is a lot easier to agree what it meant in a pre-WW2 European context, than in the post-war era.

Some people appear to use it in a loose "anarchist or anarchist-like" way. This could potentially lead to problems for relatively new people who pick up an AK catalogue and think, from that, that council communists of the 1920s & 30s are "close to anarchist" because they're described retrospectively (and ahistorically) as lib coms.

Worse, people may even get the idea that somehow there's little real difference between anti-Leninist ultra-left Marxists and anarchists. While the ultras of the 20s and 30s may have rejected both Lenin and Kautsky, that does not mean that they had the time (or inclination) to fully break from the problematic of orthodox Marxism, and in that sense, they are still very far away from the classical libertarian communists. The latter, while incorporating much from Marx (both Cafiero and Covelli for e.g. were Marxists before becoming libertarian communists), rejected the idea of Marxism as a closed science and philosophy of history (with all the objectivist and substitutionist baggage that implies).

capricorn
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Jan 30 2012 09:14
Serge Forward wrote:
So I think that trumps you, sir beardiest

Not really. I was talking about the first person to use the word "libertarian" in English. You irrelevantly refer to somebody who used the French equivalent ("libertaire") some years previously.

Dejacque was undoubtedly one of the earliest users of "libertaire" but not the only one. One French dictionary gives the etymology of the word as Proudhon in Justice in the Revolution and the Church that came out in 1858 (though which had taken four years to write). In it Proudhon uses the word on two occasions, both times to refer to advocates of extreme laissez-faire. I've not checked how these passages have been translated in the recently published Proudhon reader (or whether they have been translated at all).

Like Tucker Proudhon was a "market anarchist" and die-hard anti-communist.

Voilà, monsieur.

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Jan 30 2012 15:43

And in the British journal 'radical philosophy' referring to the USA Occupations movement it mentions influences including a ''...mix of class struggle and libertarian anarchisms,...'' So two different types by their account and one of them described as libertarian and anarchist together ... perhaps to distinguish it from 'authoritarian anarchism' ? ...so full circle in this circular discussion .....time to bin it perhaps?

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Jan 30 2012 16:08
capricorn wrote:
Dejacque was undoubtedly one of the earliest users of "libertaire" but not the only one. One French dictionary gives the etymology of the word as Proudhon in Justice in the Revolution and the Church that came out in 1858 (though which had taken four years to write). In it Proudhon uses the word on two occasions, both times to refer to advocates of extreme laissez-faire.
[...]
Voilà, monsieur.

Ancap revisionist crap. Reputable dictionaries use first in print etymologies for a reason. That is without documentary evidence it is impossible to say that Proudhon used the word before 1858. The fact that Déjacque capitalised the word in that first use in the 1857 letter, and the fact that he then went on to use it as the title of his journal, indicates that the commonly accepted view that he was the coiner of the neologism is the correct one. Those who begin by seeking to eradicate history, always end by eradicating people.

capricorn
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Jan 30 2012 16:18
Spikymike wrote:
And in the British journal 'radical philosophy' referring to the USA Occupations movement it mentions influences including a ''...mix of class struggle and libertarian anarchisms,...'' So two different types by their account and one of them described as libertarian and anarchist together ... perhaps to distinguish it from 'authoritarian anarchism' ? ...so full circle in this circular discussion .....time to bin it perhaps?

Surely this confirms the dominant meaning of the word "libertarian" in the US. "Libertarian anarchists" will be individualist anarchists, to which the opposite will be "class struggle" or "communist" (or maybe "cahmmunist") anarchists.

Incidentally, while we're discussing linguistics, in French "anarchiste" and "libertaire" are virtual synonyms, so to ask in French whether Council Communists are "libertaires" would get a resounding no from both Council Communists and anarchists.

In England, it is true, "anarchist communist" and "libertarian communist" do have different connotations, with some of the latter not accepting to be called anarchists
.
Next linguistic discussion: Are Libertarian Communists anarchists?

capricorn
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Jan 30 2012 18:02
ocelot wrote:
Reputable dictionaries use first in print etymologies for a reason. That is without documentary evidence it is impossible to say that Proudhon used the word before 1858. The fact that Déjacque capitalised the word in that first use in the 1857 letter, and the fact that he then went on to use it as the title of his journal, indicates that the commonly accepted view that he was the coiner of the neologism is the correct one.

I don't doubt that Déjacaque's was the first recorded use of the word "libertaire" and I never said otherwise. I just mentioned that Proudhon used the word about the same time, which suggests that it was already in use in the mid-1850s even though not recorded. The French dictationary in question is a serious respectable one. I'm writing to them to draw their attention to the Déjacque usage and will report back their reply.

ocelot wrote:
Those who begin by seeking to eradicate history, always end by eradicating people.

A bit over the top, surely, and probably not true though the opposite might be.

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Jan 30 2012 18:00

Anti-authoritarian has always been my favorite. That seems to be staunchly left.

That quote about the Occupations having two different camps of anarchists is surprising, as I've never really met someone outside of the internet that insists on their adjective.

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Jan 30 2012 18:55
capricorn wrote:
Next linguistic discussion: Are Libertarian Communists anarchists?

According to my Venn diagram, yes and no.

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Jan 30 2012 19:53
Railyon wrote:
capricorn wrote:
Next linguistic discussion: Are Libertarian Communists anarchists?

According to my Venn diagram, yes and no.

Job done grin

capricorn
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Jan 30 2012 20:06

Looks like a good answer except that I think "Capricorn" should be situated within the Marxists circle but as far away as possible from the anarchists.

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Jan 30 2012 21:25
capricorn wrote:
Looks like a good answer except that I think "Capricorn" should be situated within the Marxists circle but as far away as possible from the anarchists.

Farther away than the Stalinists?

(I think in simple set theory the distance doesn't matter at all anyway...)

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Jan 30 2012 22:25
capricorn wrote:
According to this (I've not bothered to check who they are) the first person to use the word "libertarian" in English was the individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker in 1897. As Tucker was a free-marketeer the "buffoons" and "wierdos" who have established the dominant meaning of the word in the US may have some claim to it.

Didn't Tucker fancy himself some sort of 'socialist,' even if he had absolutely no idea 'socialism' was? From what I know, he translated Proudhon's 'Property is Theft,' who was influential upon his 'anarchism.'

The French Revolution was more radical than the American Revolution. Libertaire > 'Libertarian'.

Also, what about Anarcho-Capitalism? Should we reject 'Anarcho' as well? If we can't be 'Anarcho-Communists', or any sort of 'libertarian,' then maybe we can appropriate 'Democratic-Socialists/Communists' as our epithet. Lol.

Great graph though.

capricorn
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Jan 30 2012 22:20
Railyon wrote:
Farther away than the Stalinists?

Stalinists are not Marxists. They are Leninists.

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Jan 30 2012 22:27
capricorn wrote:
Railyon wrote:
Farther away than the Stalinists?

Stalinists are not Marxists. They are Leninists.

I'm pretty sure they'd beg to differ.

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Jan 30 2012 22:34

no25 wrote -

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Didn't Tucker fancy himself some sort of 'socialist,' even if he had absolutely no idea 'socialism' was

Well I fancy meself as a hip-shaking cool cat, but I'm not. Pretty certain I won't be remembered for the Elvis I see in the mirror.

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Jan 30 2012 23:07
capricorn wrote:
Railyon wrote:
Farther away than the Stalinists?

Stalinists are not Marxists. They are Leninists.

I like that answer, actually.

However, I guess you must be okay with at least some elements of it or you wouldn't be here.... right? Not that it matters though.

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Jan 30 2012 23:13
plasmatelly wrote:
no25 wrote -
Quote:
Didn't Tucker fancy himself some sort of 'socialist,' even if he had absolutely no idea 'socialism' was

Well I fancy meself as a hip-shaking cool cat, but I'm not. Pretty certain I won't be remembered for the Elvis I see in the mirror.

Libertarian-Socialist 4 lyfe.

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Jan 31 2012 07:13
no.25 wrote:
Didn't Tucker fancy himself some sort of 'socialist,' even if he had absolutely no idea 'socialism' was? From what I know, he translated Proudhon's 'Property is Theft,' who was influential upon his 'anarchism.'

I find Tucker, the little I've read of him, pretty absurd. He seems like the least intelligent of the American individualists.

However, he had good intentions, which is something. While modern day ancaps will bemoan 'welfare queens' and throw around not-so-well-veiled racism, Tucker was definitely a working man's working man (and I say man because I'm not quite sure he had much to say for women). Sometimes beautiful anti-state rhetoric, though.

Jordan
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Jan 31 2012 07:37
no.25 wrote:
Didn't Tucker fancy himself some sort of 'socialist,' even if he had absolutely no idea 'socialism' was? From what I know, he translated Proudhon's 'Property is Theft,' who was influential upon his 'anarchism.'

Socialism before it became set in it's meaning of somebody who promotes centralised ownership of the means of production by the State and/or the socialisation of costs within the community (I'd call myself a socialist or communist in this latter sense), meant (or at least could mean) simply anybody who wanted to solve the 'labour' question - or 'social' question by providing an alternative to the Capitalist/State situation.

It's not that he didn't know what the meaning of the word was, it's just that the way we use language has altered since then (or more accurately, it was more disputed than it is now). Even in Tucker's time, some people were already under the impression that it only meant centralised production by a state, as they often are now - which he had to seperate himself from.

Rather than Tucker being somehow stupid, it's just that individualist responses to the 'social' question lost the battle to gain hegemonic control over the language of socialism.

To be honest though, I don't think Tucker was a particularly good example of an individualist answer to the labour question. Spooner and Warren (as well as others) are much better.

capricorn
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Jan 31 2012 07:56

What I got against anarchism (and libertarianism) is its basic premise that the main struggle in society is that of the individual against "Authority", which leads to all sorts of aberrations such as not accepting majority decisions if you don't want to and to a society based on individual contracts not community. I'm for a stateless society but many anarchists see any central body as a state even if it is democratically elected and answerable and even if it has no armed force at its disposal. Having said that, anarcho-communism is not too bad (but because of its communism), nor is syndicalism (because of its emphasis on the class struggle). Council Communism is not too bad either (Pannekoek, Mattick and Rubel are ok).

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Jan 31 2012 08:29

I don't see a problem with not going along with majority decisions, and that doesn't bar the majority from not giving the benefits of the majority decision to the minority.

The idea that a democratically organized hierarchy is acceptable, no matter how benign, seems similar to the logic behind one's "consent" to contracts in An-Cap thought.

capricorn
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Jan 31 2012 09:05
Birthday Pony wrote:
I don't see a problem with not going along with majority decisions, and that doesn't bar the majority from not giving the benefits of the majority decision to the minority.

The idea that a democratically organized hierarchy is acceptable, no matter how benign, seems similar to the logic behind one's "consent" to contracts in An-Cap thought.

That's why you're an anarchist and precisely why I'm not.