Libertarian Marxism, history of the term and organisations

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Henry Laws
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May 31 2017 11:07
Libertarian Marxism, history of the term and organisations

I have two questions on the topic of libertarian Marxism:

(1) When was the term Libertarian Marxism coined? I do know the history of the term libertarian and how it was coined in a political sense by communist anarchists, as detailed here (https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/the-anarchist-faq-editorial-collective-150-years-of-libertarian), but not this the history of this term specifically.
(2) Which organisations and groups have identified as supporting Libertarian Marxism? I ask because of the Marxists I've encountered of various tendencies, very few to any identify as Libertarian Marxists (and dislike the term libertarian), and the absolute majority of the organisations, groups and individuals detailed here (http://libcom.org/library/libertarian-marxist-tendency-map) have not and do not identify themselves as libertarian Marxists.

Spikymike
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May 31 2017 13:40

'Libertarian' is a word that libertarian and anarchist communists tend to use to describe Marxist or Marxist influenced communist organisations and writers that have political views close to their own rather than a description that such organisations use themselves. Factors influencing the use of such a description are Marxist communists opposition to substitutionist policies or practice and commitment to independent working class self-organisation. Political organisations from traditional Marxist-Lenninist, Trotskyist, Maoist or 'Third-worldist tendencies wouldn't qualify whereas those from an 'Autonomist', 'Councilist' or 'Communiser' tendency usually do. Classification of Left communists in that category is generally debatable depending on the particular group. The use of the word 'libertarian' to describe some Marxist influenced communists seems to have come into more common use from around the sixties but don't know about any earlier origins. Such short-hand descriptions serve their purpose I suppose but are not adequate to any real understanding of the different analysis or strategies of the various genuine communist tendencies.

Mike Harman
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Jun 2 2017 12:25

Pretty much what Spikeymike says, no-one really uses it to self-identify, you might see 'anti-state marxist' or similar.

Council communism is the first explicitly Marxist mass movement that rejected the state: https://libcom.org/tags/council-communism - these were contemporaries of Lenin who were critical of him but had come from the same tradition.

The next bigger wave was the post-WWII breaks with Trotskyism (CLR James, Facing Reality in the US, Solidarity in the UK, Socialism ou Barbarie in France).
https://libcom.org/library/facing-reality-clr-james-grace-lee-boggs-pierre-chaulieu
https://libcom.org/tags/solidarity
https://libcom.org/tags/socialisme-ou-barbarie

Those three groups were very influenced by the wave of struggles in eastern europe (East Germany '53, Hungary and Poland '56) which showed working class self-organisation against communist states.

Then the autonomist breaks with the Italian communist party: https://libcom.org/tags/autonomism

That's a very incomplete list and only goes from about 1915-1970 but most groups since have been either directly or indirectly been influenced by those tendencies.

The other thing to note is there's also been a lot of direct reading and re-reading of Marx. Marx's analysis of capitalism and critique of political economy doesn't imply particular political organisational forms, and Marx changed his views on the state a fair bit during his lifetime, for example after the Paris Commune.

Anarcho
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Jun 3 2017 19:52
Spikymike wrote:
'Libertarian' is a word that libertarian and anarchist communists tend to use to describe Marxist or Marxist influenced communist organisations and writers that have political views close to their own rather than a description that such organisations use themselves.

True, to some degree -- libertarian is generally used as "close to anarchism" when prefixed with "Marxist". Same with terms like "libertarian socialist" these days -- although I don't think "libertarian communist" is used for anything other than an alternative to anarchist-communist. So while I would call Paul Mattick a libertarian Marxist I probably wouldn't call him a libertarian communist.

As to when "Libertarian Marxism" was first coined, not sure -- been seeing it used for as long I as can remember, so at least 30 years. Maurice Brinton indicated others called themselves that in the late 1960s and 1970s.

I should also note there is a 160 Years of Libertarian now -- it is much more comprehensive and includes a new full translation of Joseph Déjacque's open letter to Proudhon which coined "Libertarian" for the first time.

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klas batalo
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Jun 4 2017 04:33

It comes from Guerin, I thought?

Battlescarred
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Jun 4 2017 08:10

Yes, you're right. But don't forget Maximilien Rubel, who wrote, among other things "Marx théoricien de l'anarchisme"

Agent not available
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Oct 5 2017 17:20
Mike Harman wrote:
Pretty much what Spikeymike says, no-one really uses it to self-identify, you might see 'anti-state marxist' or similar.

Council communism is the first explicitly Marxist mass movement that rejected the state: https://libcom.org/tags/council-communism - these were contemporaries of Lenin who were critical of him but had come from the same tradition.

The next bigger wave was the post-WWII breaks with Trotskyism (CLR James, Facing Reality in the US, Solidarity in the UK, Socialism ou Barbarie in France).
https://libcom.org/library/facing-reality-clr-james-grace-lee-boggs-pierre-chaulieu
https://libcom.org/tags/solidarity
https://libcom.org/tags/socialisme-ou-barbarie

Those three groups were very influenced by the wave of struggles in eastern europe (East Germany '53, Hungary and Poland '56) which showed working class self-organisation against communist states.

Then the autonomist breaks with the Italian communist party: https://libcom.org/tags/autonomism

That's a very incomplete list and only goes from about 1915-1970 but most groups since have been either directly or indirectly been influenced by those tendencies.

The other thing to note is there's also been a lot of direct reading and re-reading of Marx. Marx's analysis of capitalism and critique of political economy doesn't imply particular political organisational forms, and Marx changed his views on the state a fair bit during his lifetime, for example after the Paris Commune.

So where does left communism, as well as situationism, fit into all of this?

Tom Henry
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Oct 7 2017 00:30

Mike Harman writes:

Quote:
Council communism is the first explicitly Marxist mass movement that rejected the state.

Was/is it a mass movement?

Spikymike is correct to say that it is anarchists who search for 'libertarian' or anarchic elements within Marxist thought and policy, rather than that those people or groups identify themselves as libertarian or anarchist. Most of these Marxists (for example 'left communists) continue to try to distance themselves from anarchists and anarchism. Rosa Luxemburg, for example came very close to anarchist positions around the time of writing The Mass Strike, and continued in this vein, but was always strongly dismissive of anarchists and anarchism. So she, for example, as also is Anton Pannekoek, another left/council communist who shunned anarchism, is held in high regard by some anarchists, but the respect is not mutual.

The situationists also came from a Marxist perspective (Henri Lefebvre's, for example, and SouB), but they were more wild and free and didn't explicitly write off anarchism as others in that vein had done. I kind of see Tiqqun as occupying a similar place as the Situationists today (though Tiqqun's era is probably gone now) and for this reason they cop the disdain and derision of more 'serious' Marxist groups like Endnotes.

This might be interesting:

https://libcom.org/forums/anarchist-federation/leicester-meeting-council-communism-tues-25-april-2017-17042017#comment-592618

Mike Harman
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Oct 7 2017 19:47
Tom Henry wrote:
Mike Harman writes:
Quote:
Council communism is the first explicitly Marxist mass movement that rejected the state.

Was/is it a mass movement?

There were tens of thousands of people in the AAUD and KAPD, a lot more mass than now anyway.

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Reddebrek
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Nov 4 2017 04:03
klas batalo wrote:
It comes from Guerin, I thought?

Yeah, he had two essays title Libertarian Marxism, but he was talking about building a synthesis of Marxism and Anarchism, based largely on events from 1968. My reading of Guerin isn't complete but I noticed in Anarchism and Marxism he seemed to have ditched the Synthesis approach in favour of using Marx to reinforce Anarchism.

http://libcom.org/library/libertarian-marxism

http://libcom.org/history/anarchism-marxism

Agent not available wrote:
So where does left communism, as well as situationism, fit into all of this?

Left Communism doesn't really, it was an umbrella term by Lenin to refer to groups of Communists critical of the Bolsheviks for different reasons. Its not really a codified thing with much common ground. Council Communists are normally lumped in under Left Communism but so are groups like the Workers Opposition and Bordigism and I don't really think Libertarian would apply to the latter two.

The Situationists were pretty big on workers councils and workers self activity so they're usually seen as more Libertarian communists. And rival communist groups used to refer to them as Anarcho-Marxists as an insult.