Can we ever escape Leninism?

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radicalgraffiti
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Jul 19 2017 20:04
Pennoid wrote:
Echoing Noa, the only way to not have a movement dominated by the middle class (who have the bread to 'do activism' however malfeasant in their off time) is to pay and democratically subordinate bureaucrats and organizers recruited from the ranks of the working class systematically.

bureaucrats are not working class

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Pennoid
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Jul 19 2017 23:17

Where did I say they were? I said an orgs bureaucrats need to be systematically subordinated to the governance of the orgs members. But bureaucrats are necessary because a division of labor is imposed on us by the current level of technology and social organization; it's not simply a matter of will.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 20 2017 16:28

If we are into creating distinctions, then an ex- postie with a public sector final salary pension does that make me more privileged than some DHL/TNT delivery worker.

But i agree it would be interesting to do surveys of SPGB members but also of those regular contributors on Libcom. At a wild guess, i would think they would be very similar.

But as i pointed out in a previous post, (one of the plagiarised) we have very few of the Bolshevik leadership from the working class or representing workers organisations. Off-hand i can only think of Shlyapnikov.

Spikey, perhaps you recall the strikes by the CWU which was aimed at thwarting the introduction of team-working which was a move to do exactly what you mention, eliminate a layer of middle-management by replacing them with appointed overseers/foremen. Doesn't Marx call them the NCOs of the factory owners?

Pennoid, your proposal is very similar to the Chartists original demand for wages for MPs.

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Pennoid
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Jul 20 2017 18:33

This is the old hat trick of making something out class authenticity; that only the workers can know what the workers want, as if it is some simple and subjective matter of whim and will at any given point.

We aren't talking about matters of taste but concrete social relations of production that are objectively knowable. The task is to bring information to the wider working class and sort out concrete methods for effecting it. That requires a division of labor internal to an organization along technical lines, which implies paying people for their contributions to the organization, albeit with the principle being that they're salaried no more than the average worker (Paris commune etc.).

It doesn't matter all that much that Lenin was a lawyer; was he right or wrong? The implication here is that workers are stupid followers of clever leaders; so let's not allow them any leaders and they will be forced to find their own way! Hogwash. Again, you can't have a failing organization if you don't have a functioning one in the first place! Workers can't be trusted to determine their own delegates so they shouldn't have any!

Noa Rodman
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Jul 20 2017 19:09
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as i pointed out in a previous post, (one of the plagiarised) we have very few of the Bolshevik leadership from the working class or representing workers organisations.

Specifically about Sovnarkom, yes, but the criticism was that Sovnarkom arrogated to itself legislative power, which you would presumably find bad even in the case Sovnarkom was entirely composed of people from a working class background.

And I replied that Sovnarkom's decrees still could be rejected by the CEC of soviets (as its chairman Sverdlov said in April 1918) and that the CEC also maintained legislative power itself.

You have not responded how in the bourgeois system, if the SPGB were to be elected into government, it would avoid its party's ministers having de facto legislative power (its parliamentarians simply rubber-stamping the government's decrees). Or do you think the SPGB parliamentarians would really be making the law and control its ministers (who are presumably its finest/most powerful party leaders)?

radicalgraffiti
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Jul 20 2017 21:11
Pennoid wrote:
This is the old hat trick of making something out class authenticity; that only the workers can know what the workers want, as if it is some simple and subjective matter of whim and will at any given point.

We aren't talking about matters of taste but concrete social relations of production that are objectively knowable. The task is to bring information to the wider working class and sort out concrete methods for effecting it. That requires a division of labor internal to an organization along technical lines, which implies paying people for their contributions to the organization, albeit with the principle being that they're salaried no more than the average worker (Paris commune etc.).

It doesn't matter all that much that Lenin was a lawyer; was he right or wrong? The implication here is that workers are stupid followers of clever leaders; so let's not allow them any leaders and they will be forced to find their own way! Hogwash. Again, you can't have a failing organization if you don't have a functioning one in the first place! Workers can't be trusted to determine their own delegates so they shouldn't have any!

deny them leaders? the point is the workers should refuse to accept any authority opposed over them

anyone given power over others is in a class relationship with them, and they have antagonists interests, the level of pay is not the issue, the social relations are.

while you claim that the workers can't know what a they want or need, only some intellectuals completely detached form them can, and yet you claim that the workers can control their leaders?
if the workers have the "level of consciousness" to subordinate the leadership to there class interests then the leadership is supuflues and nothing but a hindrance

Noa Rodman
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Jul 20 2017 22:29
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while you claim that the workers can't know what a they want or need, only some intellectuals completely detached form them can, and yet you claim that the workers can control their leaders?

That's clearly not what Pennoid said. It's the "anti-Leninist" side which is actually patronising to workers, believing a few intellectual leaders can hoodwink simple-minded workers into doing their biddings.

radicalgraffiti
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Jul 20 2017 23:04
Noa Rodman wrote:
Quote:
while you claim that the workers can't know what a they want or need, only some intellectuals completely detached form them can, and yet you claim that the workers can control their leaders?

That's clearly not what Pennoid said. It's the "anti-Leninist" side which is actually patronising to workers, believing a few intellectual leaders can hoodwink simple-minded workers into doing their biddings.

Quote:
its actually the anti capitalist side that is patranisng to workers, believing that a few capitalist leaders can hoodwink simple minded workers into doing their bidding

wow, i can make up stupid bullshit about what people think too

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Pennoid
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Jul 21 2017 03:07

Thanks Noa, you also provide a great deal of directly useful source material referenced here and on other threads, and uploaded to the library.

To reiterate; yes, my point was that an implication of Lenin the hoodwinker is that the hoodwinked are presumed to be quite hoodwinkable. Boy am I glad I stuck with that word.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 21 2017 06:02

Noa, as you are probably aware that the SPGB's case is that when elected into power is not to occupy the office of government to administer capitalism. Our only role is to ensure that any recalcitrant capitalist party cannot use the State to suppress the social revolution that will be going on outside parliament and to coordinate the dismantling of the governmental functions of the State, while using the administrative parts of it to coordinate measures with the various structures thrown up by workers outside parliament to run socialism.

As our pamphlet explains:
i

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f some pro-capitalist minority should be so unwise as to resort to violence to resist the establishment of socialism, it will be an immense advantage to have control of the social institution with the power to employ socially-sanctioned force. Once any threat of this sort has disappeared (fairly rapidly, we would think), then the state can be dismantled. The armed forces can be completely disbanded and the centre of social administration and coordination can be thoroughly democratised. The state will have ceased to exist and a stateless society – an aim of socialists as well as anarchists – achieved.

Unlike other political parties that i know of, future SPGB MPs do not have a free-hand and the Whip is the instruction of the SPGB members per our rulebook. And let us emphasise that we do not envisage the present SPGB other than the embryonic form of a vastly different mass socialist party required. (One issue raised is a maverick MP or group of MPs, and perhaps signing an undated Chiltern Hundreds upon election would be suffice precaution.)

ajjohnstone
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Jul 21 2017 07:52

I thought this article reflected parts of this topic's debate that class is a dynamic process.
https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/07/20/94236/

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The dangers of völkisch anti-capitalism, esoteric conspiracy theories, and deceitful third positions are real. But it is of crucial importance to link progressive values to the prospect of material and social prosperity in a way that is convincing to those who are now duped by political forces that will only increase their misery. Where the left is able to do this, people will rally around it, whether they live in an urban metropolis or a mountain hamlet, whether they go to college or learn a trade, whether they work as teachers or mechanics.

To play different social groups off against each other is not worthy any left-wing project. Only fools question that social movements fighting for the rights of those who do not conform to the norm of the white, heterosexual, cisgendered male help make the world a better place. This is particularly true for working-class people. Not only do they have as many LGBT people in their ranks as any other class, but more women and many more people of color. To see the struggles of these communities as somehow separate from, or even opposed to, working-class struggles is the result of both internal (analytical, personal, and political) shortcomings and the ideological manipulation by the enemy. It is a fatal flaw that needs to be overcome.

Noa Rodman
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Jul 21 2017 08:20

I don't see the relevance of that Counterpunch article to this thread.

I agree with your point that

Quote:
future SPGB MPs do not have a free-hand and the Whip is the instruction of the SPGB members per our rulebook

, but then in defense of Sovnarkom it can be said that it dispensed with the parliamentary rubber-stamping procedure for its decrees. Though even in the bourgeois system, the government can rule and set policy pretty much without consulting a vote of parliament, namely by allocating its granted budget as it pleases.

Pennoid wrote:
Thanks Noa, you also provide a great deal of directly useful source material referenced here and on other threads, and uploaded to the library.

Still want to remind of Cleishbotham's appeal to find sources on soviets' election practice.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 22 2017 08:56
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the government can rule and set policy pretty much without consulting a vote of parliament, namely by allocating its granted budget as it pleases.

Isn't the government required to go to Parliament for a vote on its finances and spending?

http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/role/check-and-approve-government-spending-and-taxation/
http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/role/check-and-approve-government-spending-and-taxation/the-budget-and-parliament/

Noa Rodman
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Jul 22 2017 11:21

but once the budget is granted, it can be allocated as the government wants, eg Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier (Lab.) on 27 Feb. 2017 (one of the Estimates Days) complained:

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Let us be clear that protecting the NHS England budget is not the same as protecting the health budget. As the hon. Member for Totnes mentioned, Public Health England and Health Education England are being squeezed, and social care budgets—although not a direct national health cost—went down by 10% in the last Parliament. There are some clever measures by Ministers, saying, “Put up your council tax precept and it’ll all be fine.” That is still taxpayers’ money being found from somewhere to go some way towards solving the problem, but it will not solve it in the long term. Unless we tackle social care and health together, we will have an unsustainable future. There is too much robbing Paul [sic: Peter] to pay Paul—shifting money from one bit of the budget to another in a clever way that is not transparent to most people out there because it is buried in big numbers.

https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2017-02-27/debates/CAD3842F-D160-4924-BCA9-476B2CA44884/HealthAndSocialCare

In an ideal world, the whole interest and purpose of parliamentary debates would be to discuss and decide specifically how and where to spend the money.

From your link it seems that twice a year there are Estimates Days where a resolution is passed which becomes the basis of the Supply and Appropriation Bill, which is just formally voted in the House without debate.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 23 2017 07:29

It also occurred to me after my post of the US federal finance system is regularly threatened by shut downs by Congress.

I think this covers your "ideal world" where appropriations are the core of the US disbursement of tax receipts.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_budget_process

I imagine the similar process will apply to State budgets. too, but not sure

Noa Rodman
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Jul 23 2017 09:59
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The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 requires the President to submit the budget to Congress for each fiscal year, which is the 12-month period beginning on October 1 and ending on September 30 of the next calendar year.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_and_Accounting_Act

Quote:
This act is credited by political science scholars as playing a key role in creating the institutional presidency.[6] As James Sundquist puts it, "The modern presidency, judged in terms of institutional responsibilities, began on June 10, 1921, the day that President Harding signed the Budget and Accounting Act.

on google books see The Decline and Resurgence of Congress, p.39 ff, Sundquist (1981)

He mentions that public opinion (in the Progressive Era) held that Congress failed fiscal responsibility (pork barrel appropriations, patronage, corruption etc.), so fiscal responsibility was handed over to the President (who was considered to be more "businesslike", "efficient", "scientific").

Noa Rodman
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Jul 23 2017 10:20

But to return to the function of Sovnarkom; at the 11th RCP congres one proposal by Osinsky (member in the early Democratic Centralism group) was to make the Sovnarkom just an executive, and the CEC the legislative power, an idea which Lenin dismissed out of hand (pp. 92–3, T.H. Rigby, Lenin's Government: Sovnarkom 1917-22).

(Osinsky also proposed that it should be left to the chairman of Sovnarkom to unilaterally select his ministers/commissars.)

Here's an interesting passage (translated) from Osinsky (emphasis mine):

We have the Sovnarkom as a legislative body, issuing decrees. In essence, we have adopted a tradition that comes from the Provisional Government, which had no parliament, – they began to legislate themselves. This habit we took over in the revolutionary period. It was necessary to legislate very quickly. And now 16 departmental people write laws. This is the result. I know this psychology being a representative of a departmental institution myself, but I am able to look at the question objectively. (Voice: Not always, brother!) I am able to watch from the sidelines as a member of the party, and at the same time, I understand the psychology of the departmental people and the way they approach the decrees. Take a project, handed out 16 copies, run, see their department, suppose the Narkomput, – one person is against, another is for, all the others are indifferent. Next, we have in the Sovnarkom sitting not "commissars" but "deputies", the actual operatives are not responsible persons, but "deputies" who are not obliged to understand the general policy. Next, what happens? The Politburo is the decisive authority. SNK has always been an irresponsible stepchild in relation to even the most specific issues. If there is a Politburo directive to resolve the issue like this, then stop the car: the commissars are silent. If one needs to review the essence of a matter, try to reconsider, then our people's commissaries are saved, because there are special guidelines. Such a situation is impossible: an institution consisting of 16 irresponsible or poorly responsible people, representatives of their departments, can not write and solve laws! This created an incredible vermicelli flux, a departmental decomposition of the central authorities. What needs to be done? Here one must accurately record one thing: we must take away from the SNK legislative functions and concentrate them exclusively at the Central Executive Committee. SNK should be the executive body of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. This must be said fully exactly, and so exactly comrade Lenin still did not put it. Then it must be noted that it is necessary to have a "Cabinet" of commissars. Only in that case, if there is such a cabinet formed, its chairman, responsible to the Central Executive Committee, selects both individuals and this cabinet. If at the moment you are trying to skeptically smile, dear comrades, then at the XII Congress, and perhaps at XIII, you will see this and accept this formulation of the issues. If we do not accept it with full clarity and seriousness and do not realize on our class basis in the limits of our Soviet system, then the serious thing will happen, that comrade Lenin is talking about: namely, we will then be driven to hell, because we will have an untenable, outdated system of government that does not correspond to the colossally complex tasks of class society, which we now receive with a mass of contradictory struggle etc. This is the first half of the matter, which I wanted to talk about.

Noa Rodman
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Jul 23 2017 10:44

The task of a Constituent Assembly is exactly to decide and write a constitution that sets out the powers of the state bodies.

In discussions about Russia we don't even hear what concrete proposals the parties in the CA had. It is just assumed that, being oh-so democratic, they would create a parliament with much power vis-a-vis the government. But Lenin warned (already before CA elections, which btw were finally held only already under Bolshevik power) that the CA could become an impotent Duma.

Note that there are different traditions/models of CAs (iirc based on English and French history). I'm not sure which one the CA in Russia was modeled on. I think in one tradition the CA also assumes itself legislative powers, besides writing the constitution. And in the other the CA is just a select committee which composes the constitution. And as a reminder, the Russian soviets (led by Sverdlov) themselves did write a constitution, which you can read on the MIA.

Tom Henry
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Jul 24 2017 02:03

This thread has devolved, degenerated, decomposed. No one else has anything to say.

A couple of points are worth returning to make though.

Devrim (in his ICC days, 2010) makes the same arguments as S. Artesian in support of early Bolshevism:

https://libcom.org/forums/theory/why-are-some-communists-considered-be-left-others-06042010#comment-370866

Devrim, in another post on the same thread:

Quote:
We [the ICC] think that in 1914 when he called to turn the imperialist war into a civil war, and in 1917 when he called for all power to the Soviets, he was a revolutionary. Ultimately he ended up siding with capitalism and the state for example at Kronstadt. We recognise that there were positive things in Lenin's contribution, but also see that things can be learned from his mistakes. We think that 'Leninism' as it exists today is anti-working class, and we don't see ourselves as part of 'the left'.

https://libcom.org/forums/theory/why-are-some-communists-considered-be-left-others-06042010#comment-370622

Devrim’s ‘Why I left the ICC’ doesn’t contradict these views.
http://libcom.org/library/my-experience-icc-devrim-valerian

And neither are they contradicted or investigated here:
https://libcom.org/forums/organise/about-my-experience-icc-devrim-valerian-08102013

One shouldn’t knee-jerkingly think this is an ‘attack’ on Devrim, which it isn’t, as he will know, it is an investigation of perspectives that are dominant and pervasive on Libcom and that once were questioned here.

It is interesting that posters a few years ago were defending Bolshevism in the same way as Bolshevism is continuing to be defended here.

The difference is that in past years this defense has been questioned and rigorously objected to.

But it would seem that all the posters who undertook these rigorous objections quit posting between 4 and 7 years ago, leaving the field far freer for the Leninists and the apologists for Bolshevism. And who can blame them for giving up?

There is one person, however, who remains, and holds the line:

Dave B, from 2010:

Quote:
I think the Bolsheviks started off as a bunch of shits (‘degraded and corrupted’ by imperialism perhaps), and it was only upon seizing power that they blossomed so to speak.

https://libcom.org/forums/theory/marxist-lenin-11122009?page=1#comment-367246

Some threads, there are plenty more, to introduce oneself to past objections to Leninism:

https://libcom.org/forums/theory/why-are-some-communists-considered-be-left-others-06042010

https://libcom.org/forums/theory/marxist-lenin-11122009

https://libcom.org/history/black-guards

This one reveals, quite repulsively, what is historically allowed on threads on Libcom:

https://libcom.org/forums/theory/lenins-what-be-done-analysis-28072012

The apologists for Bolshevism are the tip of the iceberg, the thin edge of the wedge, the wishy-washy prevaricators who act now, and in the past, and forever forward, as bystanders when the Leninists come to town.

(see also: https://libcom.org/forums/theory/forgotten-great-theoreticians-02042010?page=1#comment-596397 )

radicalgraffiti
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Jul 24 2017 02:25

Devrim always had a way more sophisticated view than what we've seen recently, however it is true that the reactionary pro Bolshevism of the left communists served to give cover to the trots or whatever they are

Noa Rodman
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Jul 24 2017 08:41
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This thread has devolved, degenerated, decomposed. No one else has anything to say.

Actually, ajjohnstone and I are engaged in a very interesting discussion about parliament and government (in both bourgeois and council system in Russia), which I invite others to join, and I'm trying also to direct attention to the issue of soviet elections. If you don't think these are substantial issues, you're missing a lot. You mention Dave B "holding the line", but he is a member of the SPGB, which believes in electoral participation, so holding the same line as Kautsky. I haven't seen you or any anarchist on this thread or elsewhere "hold the line" against the SPGB's position on electoralism.

Tom Henry
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Jul 24 2017 09:50

Ah, I didn't know Dave B was an SPGBer. I have always respected the SPGB.

So Libcom has to rely on an SPGBer to articulately and effectively oppose the Leninism here? This is even more damning for the so-called libertarian communists of Libcom.

Good on you Dave B. You have stuck it out here. You deserve a medal. Perhaps I will join the SPGB: The last group that has an intelligent and knowledgeable response to Leninism...

Noa Rodman
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Jul 24 2017 10:07

Care to tell what arguments/points of his in particular did you find articulately and effectively opposing Leninism that deserve him a medal?

Tom Henry
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Jul 24 2017 12:28

Obviously, arguing with you, a Leninist, is, as I have repeated several times now, in regard to Leninists in general, pointless. This also, sadly, seems to go also for those who repeat that they are not Leninists. See the first link for Devrim's post above, which repeats S. Artesian's words almost word for word in his denial of his Leninism - with respect to Devrim. And if one reads the rest of the thread one can see how the Leninism is called out.

For those who may be interested, have a look through the links I have provided above and elsewhere.

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Red Marriott
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Jul 24 2017 12:44

Tom Henry and his nihilist communism - the self-appointed guardian & saviour of the true working class theory, toiling at the coal face of reaction. We should be eternally grateful for him carrying the cross for the grievous sin of our boredom & apathy towards yet another round of posturing over the original sin of leninism. That doesn't look at all like a mirror image of the ICC & co's self-image as the saviour & guardian of true class consciousness.

Quote:
Good on you Dave B. You have stuck it out here. You deserve a medal. Perhaps I will join the SPGB: The last group that has an intelligent and knowledgeable response to Leninism...

Except for Tom & his nihilist communists, of course; i.e., yet another ageing burnt out politico comes on here to pronounce how much more radical and authentic they are than everyone else. Yeh, you should join SPGB - and carry on their libcom wing's attempt to pass off parliamentarism as libertarian communism, "the parliamentary wing of anarchism" as one of them has said on here - a much clearer critique of leninism & statism...

Endless threads of arguments with leninists would likely only encourage some leninists; if that became the dominant content it would probably be worse than largely ignoring them and they would then be defining the content of the forums far more. Having said that, if the balance of leninist involvement became dominant or too intrusive for an avowedly libcom site the admins would have to decide how to deal with that.

And yet, after arrogantly slagging everyone else for not doing what he insists we should ('we' having tired of it years ago), he now comes to the same conclusion;

Quote:
Obviously, arguing with you, a Leninist, is, as I have repeated several times now, in regard to Leninists in general, pointless.

So TH will logically now join those he wagged his finger at for the sin of being "bystanders when the Leninists come to town". Either that or continue in what he sees as "pointless".

Tom Henry
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Jul 24 2017 21:22

You are still misunderstanding, RM.

What I wanted to do all along here was to discuss what was Leninist in all our politics.

I wanted to explore how what we do - all of us, me and you - turns into Leninism.

And I wanted to explore ways out of this bind. We never got near this part of what I wanted to discuss though.

It was, as I have said, time and again now, pointless to discuss such a theme with avowed Leninists.

What happened in the course of my attempts to begin this discussion was that people who were, in my opinion, effectively Leninist, and avowedly pro-Bolshevik, until Lenin 'made mistakes', were the only ones engaging in the discussion. The fact that they said they didn't support a vanguard party was irrelevant. And if you examine the 'Why are some communists more left than others etc' (see my links above) thread one can see that even this claim is dubious, in the least.

I am, as I have said, disappointed that there is no effective resistance here to avowed Leninism and pro-Bolshevism, and there seems to be little inclination to look seriously at our politics. This is not just some kind of 'obsession' of mine that is best ignored, it is the same problem that is causing various people on the far left to re-examine their politics and seek to find new avenues. I think that this process could be sped up by concentrating on particular aspects of our politics.

All I wanted was to discuss this. Discussion is not world war three. But many make it that on Libcom.

I understand, from your upset at this, expressed in your intemperate and silly remarks (burnt out etc), that this discussion is too much for you. This is OK, and from what others have said this appears to be a general feeling. You don't want this discussion to continue here. You don't mind other kinds of discussion continuing here. I have already said that I won't be pursuing it. I merely wanted to make a couple of final remarks.

All the best, but please have the last word.

Noa Rodman
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Jul 25 2017 03:53

Well from your original post it seems you're not so much criticising/analysing Leninism, as boiling everything down to Marx's alleged "productivism".

I suggest you browse through a biography of Dzerzhinsky, from the time when he headed the Vesenkha (Supreme Council of National Economy). Do you disagree with him that soviet labour productivity should be increased?

Tom Henry
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Jul 25 2017 11:00

It's interesting and commendable, Noa, that you have reached back in my posts, or got it from a brief mention in my op here, to find a (hint of a) critique of 'productivism'. Yes, you are on the right track. But that doesn't discount the Leninism in any way - which in the end must be boiled down to 'consciousness-raising'.

I don't understand why you ask the Dzerzhinsky question, surely my answer is obvious?

But we must stop now. You can carry on of course.

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Zanthorus
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Jul 25 2017 21:43

It seems this whole discussion comes down to fear.

Tom Henry is afraid of the big bad Leninists. He sees the creeping Leninism within all of us (within himself perhaps?!) and wants to extirpate it root and branch.

Now I can only speak for myself, but I'm not a Leninist. But nor am I afraid that my politics might turn out to be a form incipient Leninism, or feel the need to project my fear of Leninism outwards by calling everyone who disagrees with me a Leninist.

I'm sure there's a goldmine of psychoanalytic discoveries waiting for anyone who wants to examine Tom's pathological reaction to anything that smacks of Leninism.

Noa Rodman
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Jul 25 2017 11:31

The reason I'm asking you is because it allows you an opportunity to elaborate what your critique is of eg increasing labour productivity as envisaged by Dzerzhinsky (which is the prime example, because I doubt in your involvement with activism today that you experienced "productivism" – I don't know how that concretely manifests, it sounds really like you just read it from some highfalutin Theorist).

"Consciousness-raising" is not a specific Leninist invention, it's quite simply the ABC of socialist politics, including the SPGB.