Participatory Socialist International?: Critique of Michael Albert and Hugo Chavez on Internationals

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Jacob Richter
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Feb 4 2010 14:38
Participatory Socialist International?: Critique of Michael Albert and Hugo Chavez on Internationals

Participatory Socialist International?: Critique of Michael Albert and Hugo Chavez on Internationals

CARACAS – In late November 2009, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez addressed the International Encounter of Left Parties by making an announcement: that “it is time to convene the Fifth International, and I dare to make the call, which I think is a necessity. I dare to request that we create my proposal.” Agreeing to the proposed establishment of “the Fifth Socialist International as a space for socialist-oriented parties, movements and currents in which we can harmonize a common strategy for the struggle against imperialism, the overthrow of capitalism by socialism” were, among others: the ruling Movement Towards Socialism in Bolivia, the Proposal for an Alternative Society in Chile, and the recently strengthened Socialist Alliance in Australia (resulting from the revolutionary liquidation of the Democratic Socialist Perspective). Even the ruling party, the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV), affirmed this resolution in its First Extraordinary Congress held a day after.

Things were not entirely smooth, however. Delegates from the mass reformist parties Die Linke in Germany and the Parti de gauche in France “expressed interest in the proposal but said they would consult with their various parties.” A representative from the ruling Brazilian reformist party, the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), said the Sao Paolo Forum was sufficient. Many Communist parties opposed the proposal, stating that their own regular meetings of “Communist and Workers parties” were sufficient. Also in attendance, unfortunately, were delegates from the ruling revisionist (or post-revisionist) parties in China in Vietnam, not to mention the left Peronistas ruling Argentina and the former long-standing ruling party in Mexico, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).

Nevertheless, a global conference was scheduled for April 2010, and the resolution allowed undecided parties to join at a later time.

What, then, is the significance of the proposed Fifth Socialist International?

History

Despite the official reason for many Communist parties’ opposition to the proposal, perhaps the real reason lies in Chavez’s own account of past internationals. The president cited the International Workingmen’s Association (IWMA) founded in 1864 by Karl Marx, the original Socialist International founded in 1889 but more commonly known as the Second International, the Communist International (Comintern) founded in 1919 in response to the collapse of its predecessor towards imperialist warfare, and the so-called “Fourth International” founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938. These Communist parties, despite their own nation-oriented politics, simply do not recognize what the Marxist Louis Proyect acknowledged as a “sectarian mistake” not recognized much beyond parties in France, Argentina, Sri Lanka, and very few others: the so-called “Fourth International” and its splinter successive groups. Therein was Chavez’s diplomatic blunder towards unity with these Communist parties.

The bigger problem with Chavez’s historical account of internationals lies in what was not mentioned, most likely due to a lack of knowledge. Key resolutions passed by the IWMA go against the president’s own politics, ranging from the latter’s deeming of “the working class as the motor of socialism” to be “obsolete” to measures of the Paris Commune not implemented in Venezuela. The ways in which the Second International helped propel the working class towards real mass organization were not acknowledged. Moreover, other international groups serve as (generally) positively relevant lessons for the new international, over and above one negatively irrelevant sectarian mistake.

The most important of these groups was the short-lived International Working Union of Socialist Parties (IWUSP) formed in 1921, derisively called the “Two and a Half International” by an increasingly out of touch Comintern, which became more and more an infantile, nutter-ish fan club for the Soviet leadership. This “centrist” international acknowledged that any revolutionary period which had arisen in Europe just before the war and which lasted a few years into the Russian revolution had receded; mass hostilities towards bourgeois regimes, majority political support (not just electoral support) for such hostilities towards parties even more hostile towards those regimes, and instability within the organs of those regimes were absent. Among the mass parties of this international were: the Section Française de l'Internationale Ouvrière (SFIO), the main Social-Democratic parties in Austria and Switzerland, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, and what Die Linke’s Dietmar Bartsch contemporarily called “an outstanding role model for left politics today” which “paid attention to the daily demands and needs of workers without yielding its claim to revolutionary, anti-capitalist politics” – the Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany, or USPD). Unlike the Comintern, the short-lived IWUSP retained the key lesson from the Second International on real mass organization, which revolved around what Vernon Lidtke called a party-based “alternative culture”: cultural organizations, sports clubs, and funeral homes all back in the day – today including food banks and larger humanitarian organizations. All these went beyond newspapers, protests and other street agitation, promotions of trade union militancy, and election campaigns.

Of course, the former realo wing (to borrow from the German language on politics) of the Comintern that drifted into the IWUSP was not strong enough to win decisively against vacillators and liquidationist renegades in that international who were too cozy with the war criminality that was right-wing Social Democracy. This is why the IWUSP should be seen at best as “generally positive” and not plainly “positive.” Mirroring this, obviously, was the unwelcome presence of most of the parties mentioned in the second paragraph of this discussion.

“Participatory Socialist International”

In late January 2010, the pareconist Michael Albert (parecon: “participatory economics” as a substitute label for “socialism”) wrote a very constructive article reflecting on Chavez’s proposal:

Thus, lesson one, already familiar to most: If a new International marches to the beat of past drumming, no matter what its members might want, and no matter how courageously its members might seek their worthy dreams, the support they gain will be too limited and their efforts will be too compromised by past destructive residues to generate desirable 21st century outcomes.

The "subject matter" of a new international should and will inevitably address all concerns which go into and are part of developing and sustaining a liberated society and world but there is no reason to think all sensible and caring people would or should agree about all such matters. Much will have to be worked out in practice. Much will differ from country to country. Maybe there is a best position - but we don't yet know it. Maybe most people think they know a best position, but a few people differ, and perhaps the few will prove right later.

This indicates that regarding unity we ought to settle only on a minimalist but profoundly important set of principles and commitments that would characterize a new International. What minimal commitments would a new International need to adopt to do its job well. Those who agree with essential inviolable commitments, could join. Those who don't agree with them, might want to join, but couldn't.

Few would doubt that a new International should be centrally concerned with economics, gender and kinship, culture and community, politics, international relations, and ecology. Further, however, there is no need for, and we have learned in recent decades there is also no point trying to elevate any one of these focuses above the rest. They are all centrally important and powerfully entwined. Thus, it should be the case that a group in a new International might in some country, or at some time, or for some purpose, be primarily focused on one or another of these focuses, but to be part of the new International it would also have to acknowledge that their priority was just one among many, and that other priorities should inform their work as well as be informed by their work.

[…]

Finally a new International will of course have to have an attitude about decisions, participation, and power. At a minimum a new International would presumably commit to the value called "democracy." For myself, however, I would hope it would reach further to a more inspiring conception of "people's power," or "participatory democracy," or "self management." And that it will seriously assess the kinds of structural changes and innovations essential to ensure informed, confident, participation by all citizens in political, economic, and social life - perhaps also including, for example, changes in the way labor is divided and carried out, the way education is conceived and implemented, and of course the way preferences are debated, explored, resolved, and implemented. Perhaps that will prove possible, too!

At any rate, given its place and time of origin, suppose a new International adopts a name like Participatory Socialist International (PSI), where "participatory" connotes that it isn't our forebears' International, but is really new.

[…]

One possibility is to include and celebrate "currents" that serve as vehicles for contending views. There might be a current composed of various member organizations, projects, and/or movements who share a particular contested economic goal (such as participatory economics or market socialism, etc.), or a certain contested strategic orientation (such as electoralism or nonviolence, etc.). The International's various currents would not be seen as a weakness undermining unity but as a strength warding off sectarianism and guaranteeing constant growth. The respectfully contending positions would all be part of the International, together interactively exploring their disagreements in hopes of reaching new insights.

[…]

Every member group would have its own agenda for its own separate operations which would be inviolable. At the same time, each member group would presumably be strongly urged to make its own operations consistent with the norm, practices, and shared programmatic agendas of the International. There would be solidarity among member organizations, but, regarding their separate operations, there would also be autonomy. The International would have shared program, policies, norms, and rules to continually decide on, as well as having to decide on gatherings to hold, campaigns to support or undertake, and perhaps much else.

[…]

More ambitiously, an International might also decide on campaigns and projects of its own, financed via its membership. It might settle, for example, on a massive international focus on immigration, on ending a war, on shortening the work week all over the planet, and/or on averting climatic catastrophe. There might then be materials to prepare, education to convey, activist campaigns to carry out, boycotts to initiate and sustain, support for local efforts to engender, and even efforts to provide material aid and participants for events occurring across borders.

[…]

Finally, regarding program, clearly one reason to have an International is to help organizations, movements, and projects escape single issue loneliness by becoming part of a larger process encompassing diverse focuses and united by agreements on various major shared endeavors.

[…]

Is it only a dream that worldwide parties, movements, organizations, and projects could operate with intellectual and programmatic respect and mutual aid, with deep diversity and sharp focus, with strong solidarity and equally strong autonomy, with profound coherence and commitment and also with material and social equity and overarching self management?

Yes, today this is a dream, or a wish, or a hope. But tomorrow, and literally, this April, it could become a reality. Wouldn't that be a huge and historic step forward?

General Class Politics and Class Backgrounds

Even if parties forming this new international were to implement Michael Albert’s suggestions above, there are still lingering problems. Take for example, Albert’s statement that “there is no need for, and we have learned in recent decades there is also no point trying to elevate any one of these focuses above the rest.” While this could be applied to the Green left’s emphasis on ecology, unfortunately it is also used, with more devastating results, against class politics (a concept buried in Albert’s list of principles).

Before the formation of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA) through the liquidation of the main French Trotskyist party, a similar assertion to Albert’s was made more explicitly and noted by Mike Macnair of the UK-based Weekly Worker:

Durand’s arguments, and in a certain sense those of Artous on ‘alliances’, suggest that the core claim of Marxism - that the struggle for socialism is the struggle for the emancipation of the working class and that the emancipation of the working class can only be achieved through the struggle for socialism - is false. Instead, the struggle for the emancipation of the working class is part only of the struggle for human liberation: “Relations of oppression or exploitation arising from patriarchy, humanity’s predatory conduct towards the rest of the biosphere, racism, the denial of political and individual freedom, choice of sexual orientation or minority cultures” are equally important and cannot be “mechanically transferred back to the resolution of the central economic conflict” (Durand).

[This discussion is not intended to be an extended political promotion for Mike Macnair’s material on revolutionary strategy, which has been compiled into the book Revolutionary Strategy: Marxism and the Challenge of Left Unity. More discussion on class politics, so-called “social movements” based primarily on non-class politics, and genuine party-building can be read in that book.]

Albert’s reiteration of lingering New Left dead ends is important, because class politics is something that needs to be explored at a deeper level, inside and outside this new international. As I mentioned before, the alternative culture model from the Second International (primarily from the pre-war SPD) and carried over into the short-lived IWUSP is one such aspect that needs to be revived. Key IWMA resolutions need to be carried over into this international.

Take, for example, the class demographics of this new international. The modern working class: exists within the wage-labour system (even in retirement by receiving income from past wages), contributes to the development of society’s labour power and its capabilities, and has no significant-influence ownership or factual control over the means of production. This class is comprised of the traditional manual workers and service-providing manual workers mistaken for the whole class (by both the mainstream and many on the left), the clerical workers (office workers, bank tellers, bartenders, and others), and the professional workers (teachers, professors without subordinate research staff, engineers, nurses, and many accountants). One of the resolutions of the IWMA was to increasingly adopt a policy restricting voting membership to individuals in this class, in full accordance with the classic slogan on the self-emancipation of the working class.

[Small left organizations such as Hekmatist groups, the UK-based Independent Working Class Association, and the Workers Party in America are the only ones upholding this policy, realizing that this is a better “link” to the working class at large and to primarily non-unionized worker movements than mere labour parties based on ever-myopic trade union movements.]

Contrast the modern working class to the class backgrounds of the leading figures in this new international; all of them exist within the (legal) wage system, but they may not contribute to the development of society’s labour power and its capabilities. Those with this dubious distinction (and more than one class has this) include: artisans, judges, lawyers, police officers, private security guards and strikebreakers, and the ever-unproductive self-employed (most notoriously consultants without employees). Even some mistakenly thought of as being part of the working class but not doing the “work necessary to the support of the direct producers” (according to Paul Cockshott and Dave Zachariah) have this distinction – being employed in, among others: armaments manufacturing, manufacturing and retail of luxury goods, wholesale and commission trade, real estate services (even if not self-employed), public administration (the government bureaucracies proper), most non-profit organizational activity, and even butlers and housemaids.

If those figures do contribute to the development of society’s labour power and its capabilities, they may belong to the proper petit-bourgeoisie, or they may belong to what Albert himself calls the “coordinator” class – the very class that drove him and others to conceptualize “participatory economics” as an alternative to bureaucratic socialism like that in the former Soviet Union. Because of the productive-unproductive labour divide, the Marxist definition of this class is limited to productive occupations like mid-level managers of large enterprises, all non-owning managers of small businesses, and tenured professors with subordinate research staff (such as the Canadian Marxist Leo Panitch).

Above all, there is the lingering question about the class status of those belonging to the so-called “Student Left.” In a stratum outside the wage-labour system that enables class mobility, their respective class statuses are not yet determined by anything other than the class background of their parents or by their previous occupation (for the more adult students who are changing careers).

“Dispossessed Classes” and the Volkspartei Problem

“Social democracy is from the outset by its very nature an international party. But it has also the tendency, ever more a national party, that is a Volkspartei to be in the sense that the representative not only of industrial wage workers but all working and exploited classes, so the vast majority of the population is, of what one usually calls ‘the Volk’.” (Karl Kautsky)

In my theoretical pamphlet, I used an older English translation of Kautsky’s authoritative commentary on the Erfurt Program of 1891, the leading program of the Second International. In any case, towards the end of his commentary, Kautsky described how Social Democracy in his day tended to become a “people’s party” that represents even the class interests of independent craftsmen, where “independent” means “self-employed.” Little could he imagine, of course, about the one reactionary mass that flocked to the anti-tax populism of self-employed jocks like Joe the Plumber in the 2008 US presidential elections, or another such reactionary mass of primarily the self-employed responsible for the anti-tax populist amateurisms that are the so-called “Tea Parties.” The main reason, of course, is that the self-employed are by no means dispossessed.

The mistaking of traditional manual workers for the working class as a whole by both the mainstream and many on the left – not helped at all by myopic tred-iunionizm – has led to the emergence of new terms and related politics, none of which are appropriate. The most notorious of these terms is the post-modernist “multitude,” which is the class-collaborationist culmination of putting equal emphasis on typical class politics, New Left identity politics (race, gender), radical Green politics, and so on – to the point of including blatantly non-worker demographics subscribing to New Left identity politics and radical Green politics. The Canadian Marxist Leo Panitch, himself a coordinator (tenured professor with subordinate research staff) is subtler with his usage of the term “working classes” – as if traditional manual workers, service-providing manual workers, clerical workers, and professional workers are separate classes.

A more appropriate term and related politics can be derived from the accumulation by dispossession thesis of Marxist geographer David Harvey, but without repeating Panitch’s mistake: dispossessed classes. This Volk encompasses the modern working class in all its sectoral distinctions, the coordinators (because they too are estranged from owning the means of production), the proper lumpenproletariat outside the legal wage system (preferring legal work to the illegal work that they do), and those dispossessed elements who nevertheless perform unproductive labour.

The demographics of the leading figures and base of the new international pose both a challenge and an opportunity. First, there clearly needs to be a mass sub-organization within the new international itself that restricts voting membership in that sub-organization to affiliates that themselves restrict voting membership to working-class individuals – as an initial means to the “formation of the proletariat into a class” for itself (from the Communist Manifesto on proper proletarian parties). Second, that sub-organization should push the modern working class towards exercising leadership over all dispossessed classes, but without compromising its own class interests by a single inch – thus the “overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy” (again, from the Communist Manifesto on proper proletarian parties) by means of establishing proletarian hegemony. Third, in this period of late capitalism, the broader international itself should adopt a dispossessed-only membership and affiliation policy, and also deem all non-dispossessed classes as – in the words of the not-so-revolutionary but nevertheless great anti-liberal fighter for working-class independence known as Ferdinand Lassalle – “one reactionary mass.”

“Conquest of Political Power By the Proletariat”

The third and last goal of a proper proletarian-not-necessarily-communist party, as opposed to reformist labour parties that never seek to fulfill the first two aims, and as opposed to “vanguardists” who forget about the first aim in their schemes for putsches, is indeed something that should be on equal footing with Albert’s assertion that “economic production, consumption, and allocation should be classless - which of course includes equitable access for all to quality and accessible education, health care and the requisites of health like food, water, and sanitation, housing, meaningful and dignified work, and the instruments and conditions of personal fulfillment.”

For too long the left has been plagued by broad economism. The “struggle for socialism” is an economic struggle and not a political one, and this is something most of the left has long forgotten. The political struggle is the expropriation of ruling-class political power by the working class itself. As quoted above, Albert wrote about “structural changes and innovations essential to ensure informed, confident, participation by all citizens.” I will therefore end this discussion with an almost-complete program of such structural changes and innovations, based on the Paris Commune but incorporating two or more key elements from Athenian demokratia missing too long on the left:

Taking into account modern developments and critiques, the consistent advocacy of this core of a minimum program for political power – as opposed to the more common and orthodox “minimum program” for continued opposition even after complete fulfillment – emphatically solves the problem of broad economism throughout the class-strugglist left by being much greater than the sum of its political and economic parts. While individual demands could easily be fulfilled without eliminating the bourgeois-capitalist state order, the complete, consistent, and lasting implementation of this minimum program in the pre-orthodox sense (as formulated by Marx himself) would mean that the working class will have captured the full political power of a ruling class, thus establishing the so-called “dictatorship of the proletariat”:

01) All assemblies of the remaining representative democracy and all councils of an expanding participatory democracy shall become working bodies, not parliamentary talking shops, being legislative and executive-administrative at the same time and not checked and balanced by anything more professional than sovereign commoner juries. The absence of any mention of grassroots mass assemblies is due to their incapability to perform administrative functions on a regular basis. Also, this demand implies simplification of laws and of the legal system as a whole, dispensing entirely with that oligarchic and etymologically monarchic legal position of Judge and at least curtailing that legalese-creating and overly specialized position of Lawyer.
02) All political and related administrative offices shall be assigned by kleros (random selection or lot) as a fundamental basis of the demarchic commonwealth. This is in stark contrast to elections for all such public offices, the central radical-republican demand that completely ignores electoral fatigue. With this demand comes the possibility of finally fulfilling a demarchic variation of that one unfulfilled demand for annual parliaments raised by the first politico-ideologically independent worker-class movement in history, the Chartist movement in the United Kingdom.
03) All political and related administrative offices shall be free of any formal or de facto disqualifications due to non-ownership of non-possessive property or, more generally, of wealth. The Chartists called similarly for “no property qualification for members of Parliament – thus enabling the constituencies to return the man of their choice, be he rich or poor.” While the struggle against formal property qualifications was most progressive, even freely elected legislatures are almost devoid of the working poor, especially those who are women. Unlike the Chartist demand, by no means does this demand in the grammatically double negative (“disqualifications” and “non-ownership”) preclude the disenfranchisement of the bourgeoisie – and other owners of the aforementioned types of property – as one of the political measures of a more obvious worker-class rule. In fact, the original Soviet constitution deprived voting rights from the bourgeoisie and others even on more functional criteria such as hiring labour for personal profit.
04) All political and related administrative offices shall operate on the basis of occupants’ standards of living being at or slightly lower than the median equivalent for professional and other skilled workers. On the one hand, formulations that demand compensation for such public officials to be simply no more than “workman’s wage” fail to take into account the historic worker-class demand for legislators to be paid in the first place, first raised by the worker-class Chartists, “thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency, when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the country.” On the other hand, even freely elected legislators, many of whom have additional sources of income through businesses, tend to increase their collective level of expense allowances beyond the median equivalent associated with professional work. A combination of appropriate pay levels and expense allowances, mandated loss of regular occupations (since these offices should be full-time positions), and other measures can fulfill this demand.
05) All political and related administrative offices shall be subject to immediate recall in cases of abuse of office. This can be fulfilled effectively under a radical-republican system of indirect elections and hierarchical accountability, as opposed to the current system of direct electoralism (based on mass constituencies) that require significant numbers of constituents to sign recall initiatives. However, like the two preceding demands, this demand is best fulfilled not just when all such public offices function with the aforementioned hierarchical accountability, but also when all such public offices are assigned by lot, thereby minimizing interpersonal political connections.
06) There shall be an ecological reduction of the normal workweek – including time for workplace democracy, workers’ self-management, broader industrial democracy, etc. through workplace committees and assemblies – to a participatory-democratic maximum of 32 hours or less without loss of pay or benefits but with further reductions corresponding to increased labour productivity, the minimum provision of double-time pay or salary/contract equivalent for all hours worked over the normal workweek and over 8 hours a day, and the prohibition of compulsory overtime. In addition to the extensive analysis provided in the next chapter, it must be noted that proposals for an eight-hour day were made but not implemented within the Paris Commune, and that the development of capitalist production is such that time for workplace democracy and so on should be part of the normal workweek and not outside of it.
07) There shall be full, lawsuit-enforced freedom of class-strugglist assembly and association for people of the dispossessed classes, even within the military, free especially from anti-employment reprisals, police interference such as from agents provocateurs, and formal political disenfranchisement. If one particular demand could neatly sum up the struggle for the politico-ideological independence of the working class – before and even just after having captured the full political power of a ruling class – it is this one by far.
08) There shall be an expansion of the ability to bear arms and to general self-defense towards enabling the formation of people’s militias based on free training, especially in connection with class-strugglist association, and also free from police interference such as from agents provocateurs. The aggressive advocacy of this demand separates class-strugglists from the most obvious of cross-class coalitionists, even if the likes of Bernstein pushed for this demand in less formal workers’ action programs.
09) There shall be full independence of the mass media from concentrated private ownership and control by first means of workplace democracy over mandated balance of content in news and media production, heavy appropriation of economic rent in the broadcast spectrum, unconditional economic assistance (both technical and financial) for independent mass media cooperative startups – especially at more local levels, for purposes of media decentralization – and anti-inheritance transformation of all the relevant mass media properties under private ownership into cooperative property. Although this is an applied combination of more general demands that are in and of themselves not necessary for workers to become the ruling class, a comprehensive solution to the mass media problem of concentrated private ownership and control (not to mention bourgeois cultural hegemony as discussed by the Marxist Antonio Gramsci) is a necessary component of any minimum program in the pre-orthodox sense.
10) All state debts shall be suppressed outright. Unlike the more transformative suppression of all public debts on a transnational scale, the minimum character of this demand was long established by the historical precedent of the 19th-century imperialist powers periodically going into debt to fund their wars and then defaulting upon them on an equally periodic basis.
11) All predatory financial practices towards the working class, legal or otherwise, shall be precluded by first means of establishing, on a permanent and either national or multinational basis, a financial monopoly without any private ownership or private control whatsoever – at purchase prices based especially on the market values of insolvent yet publicly underwritten banks – with such a monopoly inclusive of the general provision of commercial and consumer credit, and with the application of “equity not usury” towards such activity. The usage of the word “multinational” instead of “transnational” signifies the minimum character of this demand, given the multinational structure of the European Union and given that, as mentioned earlier, a single transnational equivalent should put to an end the viability of imperialist wars and conflicts more generally as vehicles for capital accumulation.
12) There shall be an enactment of confiscatory, despotic measures against all capital flight of wealth, investment strikes, and other elitist economic blackmail, whether the related wealth belongs to economic rebels on the domestic front or to foreign profiteers. Ultimately, the flight of gold from Parisian banks by those in control over same banks weakened the workers of 1871 Paris and financed the ruthless suppression of the Paris Commune.

REFERENCES

Venezuela’s Chavez Calls for International Organisation of Left Parties by Kiraz Janicke, Venezuelanalysis.com [http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/4946]

Chavez’s Historic Call for a Fifth Socialist International by Federico Fuentes, Venezuelanalysis.com [http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/4965]

Louis Proyect Home Page by Louis Proyect [http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mypage.htm]

Sr. Presidente: sin Marx, Lenin y la clase obrera, no hay socialismo posible (parte I) by Miguel Angel Hernández [http://www.aporrea.org/trabajadores/a39036.html]

The Road to Power by Karl Kautsky [http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1909/power/ch06.htm]

German Left Party honours the founding of the centrist Independent Social Democratic Party by Stefan Steinberg [http://www.wsws.org/articles/2007/may2007/left-m10.shtml]

The Alternative Culture: Socialist Labor in Imperial Germany by Vernon Lidtke [http://www.amazon.ca/Alternative-Culture-Socialist-Imperial-Germany/dp/0195035070]

Fifth International?! by Michael Albert, ZNet [http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/23692]

Revolutionary strategy and Marxist conclusions by Mike Macnair [http://www.iran-bulletin.org/Marxism/Macnair%20-2.htm]

Hunting Productive Work by Paul Cockshott and Dave Zachariah [http://www.dcs.gla.ac.uk/~wpc/reports/unprod3b.pdf]

Das Erfurter Programm by Karl Kautsky [http://www.marxists.org/deutsch/archiv/kautsky/1892/erfurter/5-klassenkampf.htm#14]

ajjohnstone
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Feb 8 2010 13:02
Quote:
The purpose of the proposal, in other words, is to promote discussion and debate and also offer some broad ideas for features that ought to be included in the discussion and debate, and which the endorsers favor.
Put differently: This proposal is not itself a call for a new International much less a map of all attributes a new International could have - nor is it a gathering of people intent on somehow themseleves creating a new International. This proposal is, instead, simply a group of people urging that any efforts to create a new International should involve wide discussion and debate, including considering the points raised here.

The new Participatory Socialist International declaration can be read at

http://ruby.zcommunications.org/newinternational.htm

Of course , the SPGB hostility clause will be evoked and thus our participation will not be promised even though the purpose is all rather vague and actually nebulous that it could be argued within our organisation that as a forum it is possible for ourselves to engage within it . (i know there is 5th International in the form of Workers Power and affiliates , so does that make it the 6th , or does the IWA count as one too so is it the 7th International )

ajjohnstone
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Feb 8 2010 18:27

I was not inferring that the IWA was 7th , but that this new one would be the 7th . There was the 2 and a half International too , am i right , during the inter war years with the ILP and their links ?

Reading further i found it all rather disappointing and fear its Michael Albert slipping in Parecon propaganda by the back door , right down to the use of the term participatory as in MA'S baby "participatory economics" , ( Parecon) . he even disigenuously avoids the connection when he says its all rather original .

Quote:
" ...suppose a new International adopts a name like Participatory Socialist International (PSI), where “participatory” connotes that it isn’t our forebears’ International, but is really new ... "

.
Ah , but , of course , its only a coincidence the similarity it has with his own organisation network title , isn't it , and not at all really new or unique to this International !!

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appledoze
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Feb 9 2010 22:50

What the hell is up with Chavez anyway? Does he really believe he's a libertarian socialist or is he trying to come off as one?

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Devrim
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Feb 9 2010 23:14
Quote:
I was not inferring that the IWA was 7th , but that this new one would be the 7th . There was the 2 and a half International too , am i right , during the inter war years with the ILP and their links ?

Yes you are right. It was also know as the 'London Bureau' and officially called the 'International Revolutionary Marxist Center.
Incidentaly the KAI (Communist workers' International) was also referred to as the fourth international prior to the Trotskist one.

Devrim

Jacob Richter
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Feb 11 2010 04:44
ajjohnstone wrote:
I was not inferring that the IWA was 7th , but that this new one would be the 7th . There was the 2 and a half International too , am i right

The 2 and a 1/2 ("International Working Union of Socialist Parties") was the international I critically acclaimed in my OP. By "[paying] attention to the daily demands and needs of workers without yielding its claim to revolutionary, anti-capitalist politics" (Bartsch) the IWUSP - more than either the Comintern or its derivative internationals - had the potential to be a Third Workers International ("Independent World Workers Association - The Left") appropriate for a NON-revolutionary period.

Devrim confuses the IWUSP with the 3 and a 1/2 ("International Revolutionary Marxist Center") formed after the former folded.

Jacob Richter
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Joined: 13-07-08
May 20 2010 05:39

I apologize for the bump, but it has come to my attention that this page, as opposed to the original RevLeft article, has been referenced to by Peter Waterman (http://alainet.org/active/37930&lang=es) and by Andy Lucker over at ZCommunications (http://www.zcommunications.org/the-first-socialist-international-of-the-21st-century-by-julio-chavez).

It has been said that this article is economistic, but I object to the critics' insistence on holding onto Identity Politics stuff of the 1960s New Left, which in fact isn't real politics at all. The conclusion of my work above is a direct attack on broad economism, part of which ignores participatory democracy and conclusive demands like the ones listed above (all too common on the left).

Pareconists who read the above are reading an article from an Orthodox Marxist perspective, which in Albert's POV is based on "monism" (http://www.zcommunications.org/thinking-forward-by-michael-albert) and which is based on recognizing the Second International and IWUSP as *model* internationals ("reformists would be able to participate, bringing up the same old problems of the Second").

I would also add that some *programmatic centralization* is necessary, coupled with grandfather clauses:

http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/history-of-the-marxist-internationals-conclusion-the-call-for-a-fifth-international/#comment-47125

Jacob Richter wrote:
Michael Albert raises a touchy subject that I think should be considered:

“I am not surprised that his proposal for a Participatory Socialist International is filled with details about how things should be run (you’ll note the inclusion of the “participatory” brand naming.)”

Organizational blueprints are sometimes key. Heck, the very premise of “alternative culture” (food banks, cultural societies, sports and other recreational clubs, funeral homes, etc.) is based on having organizational blueprints.

“members, employees, staff, etc., of each new International member organization would in turn gain membership in the International
individuals who want to be members of the International but have no member group that they belong too, would have to join one”

This is aimed at forcing the hand of freelance activists. Left sectarianism has given rise to freelance activism, which in the long term is bad.

“every member group would have its own agenda for its separate operations which would be inviolable”

This is where I think a heavy dose of programmatic centralism, but with “grandfather” clauses, is required. A standing executive body (alongside congresses/conventions and conferences) should decide on programmatic questions like the IWMA did. Recall the absence of programmatic centralism on the enforcement of the anti-war Basel Manifesto before WWI. Recall the fiasco that was the World Social Forum.

Take some of the demands I raised as an example:

– The expansion of local autonomy for equally local development through participatory budgeting and oversight by local assemblies, as well as through unconditional economic assistance (both technical and financial) for localities seeking to establish local currency alternatives to government money
– The abolition of legal personhood, most notably with respect to corporations, and the prohibition of legally defined political contributions made by non-government entities other than eligible voters
– The application of not some but all economic rent of land towards exclusively public purposes – such as the abolition of all indirect taxation and other class-regressive taxation based on labour and on consumer goods and services – by first means of land value “taxation”
– The combating of residential gentrification and speculation by first means of expanding resident association guarantees beyond the privilege of homeowners and towards the formation of separate tenant associations, limiting all residential writs of possession and eviction for the benefit of private parties to cases of tenant neglect, and establishing comprehensive tax and other financial preferences for renting over home ownership
– Direct guarantees of a real livelihood to all workers, including unemployment provisions, voluntary workfare without means testing, and work incapacitation provisions – all based on a participatory-democratic normal workweek, all beyond bare subsistence minimums, and all before any indirect considerations like public health insurance – and including the universalization of annual, non-deflationary adjustments for all non-executive and non-celebrity remunerations, pensions, and insurance benefits to at least match rising costs of living (not notorious government underestimations due to faulty measures like chain weighting, or even underhanded selections of the lower of core inflation and general inflation)
– The abolition of all copyright, patent, and other intellectual property laws, as well as of all restrictions on the non-commodity economy of peer-to-peer sharing, open-source programming, and the like
– The genuine end of “free markets” – including in unemployment resulting from workplace closures, mass sackings, and mass layoffs – by first means of non-selective encouragement of, usage of eminent domain for, and unconditional economic assistance (both technical and financial) for, pre-cooperative worker buyouts of existing enterprises and enterprise operations

In the recent crisis, another key demand for implementing right now would be the abolition of private ownership and control over the entire financial services system (banks and even insurance), not just nationalize-to-privatize-later schemes. Continued:

Jacob Richter wrote:
The Chavista denunciations of imposing “socialism in one country” on Soviet-influenced parties is a slippery slope to excessive diversity on the definition of socialism and even on reform struggles. The standing executive body should issue *binding* programmatic resolutions for all affiliates that incorporate, among other things, the suggestions I’ve made above.

Those parties more aligned with “state policies” and not “the development of a political project” (read: ruling parties or parties in ruling coalitions) can have a grandfather clause applied to them, only to the extent they can enact “state policies,” and only upon the condition that they have no vote in the programmatic resolutions.

For example, the Die Linke coalitionists in east Germany can be exempt from a programmatic resolution against enacting privatization and budget cuts, but cannot vote on this resolution. Once they’re out of power, however, the resolutions are binding upon them, or else those sections found in violation would be expelled from the party (or the party as a whole would be expelled for participating in national coalitions without carrying out the binding resolutions).

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Hughes
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Joined: 21-05-10
May 30 2010 15:42

What's the status of the fifth international? I thought it was supposed to convene this past April. Have I not been paying attention?

Jacob Richter
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Joined: 13-07-08
Jul 20 2010 13:38

I don't know if Chavez was just blowing hot air, but the IMT says it can only be convened after the September elections. The PSUV is too busy with the campaigns to deal with the new International. Time will tell.