Councilism v. Left Communism

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slothjabber
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Jun 24 2010 08:55

The De Leonists and the SPGB (another 'Impossibilist' organisation, a term that pre-existed 'Left Communist' by a long way) do not describe themselves as Left Communists. Or even, to my knowledge, Communists. The SPGB certainly call themselves Socialists.

The organisations that do describe themselves as Left Communist (the ICC, the ICT, the Bordigists) are not Impossibilists. These organisations were (or are descended from) the left fractions of the Communist International. This is why they are Left Communists.

The fact that the SPGB (and the De Leonists) and the Communist Left share some elements of anaysis doesn't mean that they're all the same thing. No matter what wikipedia says.

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Demogorgon303
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Jun 24 2010 09:20

Paullapaul, you still haven't clarified what you mean when you said this:

Quote:
I've never seen the ICC as Left Communist, regardless of what they proclaim themselves to be.

I'm not trying to trap you, I'm genuinely interested in why you think this.

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Paulappaul
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Jun 24 2010 19:45
Quote:
The De Leonists and the SPGB (another 'Impossibilist' organisation, a term that pre-existed 'Left Communist' by a long way) do not describe themselves as Left Communists. Or even, to my knowledge, Communists.

Bordiga formed the Communist Party of Italy. Gorter was in the Social Democratic party he helped to form until he was a part of the KAPD, another Communist Party. These people didn't consider themselves "left communists" they considered themselves to be a part of the true Marxist tradition.

Just because it "pre-existed" the term "Left Communism" doesn't mean it wasn't Left Communism. The historical conditions were there. Anarchists leach off of ancient philosophers, who didn't even call themselves Anarchists, let alone know the word.

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Paullapaul, you still haven't clarified what you mean when you said this:
Quote:
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I've never seen the ICC as Left Communist, regardless of what they proclaim themselves to be.

I'm not trying to trap you, I'm genuinely interested in why you think this.

And I'm not ignoring you. I was hoping you'd see what I posted in 6 and 10, about the ICC and Vanguardism. Maybe I different interpretation of what of things though.

I may be going a little hard on the ICC though looking back. I guess I don't see alot in Common with the older Left Communists and the modern movement.

slothjabber
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Jun 25 2010 09:52
Paulappaul wrote:
...

Bordiga formed the Communist Party of Italy. Gorter was in the Social Democratic party he helped to form until he was a part of the KAPD, another Communist Party. These people didn't consider themselves "left communists" they considered themselves to be a part of the true Marxist tradition. ...

Of course. Because Left Communists consider that they are Marxists and the Stalinists, Trotskyists and others have abandonned Marxism. Thus, only Left Communists carry on the Marxist tradition - in this view the SPGB and the De Leonists are fossilised remnants of the pre-1914 Second International - so, not 'Communists' (as in, coming from the Communist International and post-1917) at all, which is why the SPGB calls itself the Socialist Party and not the Communist Party.

The KAPD and the Abstentionist Fraction of the Socialist Party of Italy which became the PCI (and Sylvia Pankhurst's group in Britain and those around Pannekoek in the Netherlands) were criticised by Lenin in 'Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder'. They were then progressively expelled from the Communist International and/or their local Communist parties in the process of 'Bolshevisation'. This is why they are 'Left Communists'. The groups you are talking about are not 'Left Communist' having come out of the Second International not the Third.

Why is it, Paulappaul, that you use words the way you do? The Bolsheviks are socialists because they believe in state power, the Socialist Party is communist because Anarchists leach off ancient philosophers, the Councilists believe in a Vanguard Party because Gorter was in the KAPD, the ICC is not Left Communist because of something about a Vanguard Party... Joey has been taking great pains to unpick your terms on the other thread but I'll tell you straight; I can't keep up. You're like Humpty Dumpty - every time you use a word the rest of us have to check and double check what you mean. We're all speaking the same language, more or less,; but you're using all the same words but with very different meanings. So, why do you think that is?

Angelus Novus
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Jun 25 2010 11:11

I'm not sure if this sort of hair-splitting about labels is even worth the time, but...

Paulappaul wrote:
Search Left Communism on Wikipedia, find "People" and you see Daniel De Leon is third on the list.

Wikipedia is not a very good source for this kind of thing. If you look up the German Marxist Group and its successor journal Gegenstandpunkt, they are also slapped with the label "Left Communism" and "Impossibilism", even though they don't come out of either of those traditions, and in fact are a completely sui generis formation coming out of the student left of the 1960s. They only refer to Marx as a theoretical antecedent, otherwise the only other thinkers they refer to are actual members of their own group.

So Wikipedia plays a little too fast and loose with these terms.

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Paulappaul
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Jun 26 2010 23:10
Quote:
in this view the SPGB and the De Leonists are fossilised remnants of the pre-1914 Second International - so, not 'Communists' (as in, coming from the Communist International and post-1917) at all, which is why the SPGB calls itself the Socialist Party and not the Communist Party.

To quote myself,

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Just because it "pre-existed" the term "Left Communism" doesn't mean it wasn't Left Communism. The historical conditions were there.
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This is why they are 'Left Communists'. The groups you are talking about are not 'Left Communist' having come out of the Second International not the Third.

Left Communism as an ideology existed before the International. I don't understand why you can't wrap your mind around this one. Daniel De Leon and the Impossiblists and came to same conclusions as other Left Communists.

The AFL, CIO, and other Trade Unions are Reformist. The Socialist Parties have become Reformist. They have lost touch with all Marxism. The Emancipation of the Working Class must be the act of the Working Class itself. State Socialism is bad. These were Deleon's criticisms and they mirrored alot of what Pannekoek, Gorter, Pankhurst and others were saying a couple years later.

And I really am not saying anything out of the ordinary. In fact there are Anarchists (Michael Schmidt and Lucien Van der Walt) who even claim James Connoly, Daniel De Leon and other 20th century Socialists as a part of the broad Anarchist tradition.

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The Bolsheviks are socialists because they believe in state power,

Because there are Socialists who strive for Communism, through State Power. I don't understand why this is so bizarre for you.

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the Socialist Party is communist because Anarchists leach off ancient philosophers

Never said that. I was illustrating a point that Anarchy as an ideology existed before the enlightenment and the Anarchist movement and yet Anarchists are inspired by their writings.

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the Councilists believe in a Vanguard Party because Gorter was in the KAPD

No I said Councilists believe in a party, have spoken in favour of a party and participated in parties. Not every party is a Vanguard Party, and the Councilists warned against these sort of parties.

dave c
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Jun 27 2010 08:05
Quote:
Search Left Communism on Wikipedia, find "People" and you see Daniel De Leon is third on the list. Scroll down and you see "Related topics" Where you find other branches of Left Communism i.e. Council Communism, Impossiblism (influnced by Deleon), Libertarian Marxism, De Leonism, etc.

I'd recommend actually reading the article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left_communism. It nowhere labels De Leon a left communist, and in fact states:

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Left Communists see themselves to the left of Leninists (whom they tend to see as 'left of capital', not socialists), Anarchists (who they consider some of as being internationalist socialists) as well as some other revolutionary socialist tendencies (for example De Leonists, who they tend to see as being internationalist socialists only in limited instances).

thereby specifically separating out the De Leonist tradition. And the inclusion of De Leon on the "people" list on the same page does not contradict the general attitude of the main article, as Marx and Engels themselves are on the list of "people," and they would certainly not be considered left communists by the standards of the main article (Antonio Negri, for example, is also on this list of people). The implication that the "related topics" list on the page simply lists branches of left communism is again absurd if you bother to read the main article. The first "related topic" listed is "Western Marxism." Go to the "Western Marxism" page and it is clearly stated that

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Western Marxists have varied in terms of political commitment

An example of some of their political commitments:

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Lukács, Gramsci and Althusser (famous for his supposed "anti-humanism") were all members of Soviet-aligned parties . . .

I don't see how anyone could think that these are all somehow "left communists" because they are listed as "Western Marxists," representing a tendency listed as a "related topic" on the "left communism" page! Yes, Wikipedia can be misleading, but it is not that bad.

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Paulappaul
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Jun 27 2010 08:57

Continuing off post #36 @ Slothjabber.

Guy Aldred, the anarchist, even said once that Deleon is "the leading theorist in the socialist movement in america" and that " his conception of Social revolution .... Is the true and only conception."

You talked a little bit about Infantile disorder, which around the time of it's conception, the Comitern was being by criticised by guess who? The SLP. Who also called the Russian revolution, not a socialist revolution. Something upheld by Communist left. Infantile disorder criticises the Communist left for refusing to work with in the Parliament for the working class, for refusing to work in Trade Unions. Who upheld the exact same idea? Daniel De Leon.

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"the union whose conception of society is capitalistic will find its economic aspirations dominated accordingly"

"the one legged conclusion regarding political organisation and political activity as fatally abuts, in the end, in pure and simple ballotism as numerously exemplified in the Socialist Party - likewise struggled and warned against by Marx as "parliamentary idoicy"

"Industrial Unionism bends it's efforts to unite the political as well as the Industrial field"

- Daniel De Leon

To which I think particularly in this last line corresponds with one of the Communist lefts' theorisation, Anton Pannekoek was saying in his work "Trade Unionism" published in 1936. Although Pannekoek says that Industrial Unions are not sufficient to unite the working class he comes to very same conclusion that Unionism is centered around exactly what Daniel De Leon says in the First quote. He further concludes that,

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the narrow field of trade union struggle widens into the broad field of class struggle. But now the workers themselves must change. They have to take a wider view of the world. From their trade, from their work within the factory walls, their mind must widen to encompass society as a whole. Their spirit must rise above the petty things around them. They have to face the state; they enter the realm of politics. The problems of revolution must be dealt with.

Which I think mirrorers exactly what Daniel De Leon was talking about when saying that the working class has to organise Industrially first, but that this struggle against Capitalism in the factories is not enough, that you have to face the State as well, on the Political field.

De Leon on the outside can be seen as the same old Authoritarian Socialist bullshit, but when you start exploring some his writing, you find he's alot like Marx in the sense that he is full of special meanings in word choice, that in conclusion you find him to much more libertarian then expected.

slothjabber
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Jun 27 2010 14:54

No.

You totally mix up everything into a big soup and pull out the chunks you want in a random order.

De Leon: not a Left Communist. A socialist. Hence, 'Socialist Labour Party'.

The SPGB: not Left Communists (you don't have to believe me, you can ask them). Socialists, hence 'Socialist Party'.

Left Communism does not 'pre-date the (Communist) International'. The Left Communists were the Left fractions of the Communist International. Previously, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg, Pannekoek, Gorter and Bordiga were the left fraction of the Socialist International (and the SPGB and possibly the De Leonists, I don't know, but certainly the SLP in Britain, had already left the II International).

Swans are not sparrows (nor sparrows swans) despite the fact that they both have wings. Of course, as penguins can't fly, they must be fish, right?

Left Communists support the Russian Revolution - Bordiga, Pannekoek before the 1930s, the KAPD, Pankhurst, Gorter, the Russian Left Communists in the 1918-24 period; the ICP, the ICT and the ICC now. All these groups were or descended from groups that were expelled from the Communist International for being 'left-wing communists'. Lenin never criticised De Leon in 'An Infantile Disorder', nor the SPGB.

Those who do not support the Russian Revolution - the SPGB, the De Leonists in your estimatiuon, and the Councilist groups influenced by Ruhle from the 20s onwards (later Pannekoek, Mattick) are not Left Communists. They are an amalgam of 'Anglo-Impossibilists' from the Second International, and Council Communists from the Third. Only Pannekoek figures on both lists. The Left Communists consider that when Pannekoek was pro-Party and pro-Russian Revolution, he was a Left Communist; when he was anti-Party and considered the Russian Revolution bourgeois, he was not a Left Communist.

I don't think anyone is denying that there are similarities between the Impossibilists, Council Communists and Left Communists. The 80% of things they agree on is also the 80% that I agree with - this is the hard core of Marxist internationalism that they have in common. But the 20% of their theories that seperates them from each other is pretty significant. And using historically-derived labels as you wish because of similarities, and then inventing new ones (eg 'the Bolsheviks weren't Communists') because of what you think different groups or individuals believed at different times, is both irresponsible and annoying.

What Guy Aldred has to say about De Leon is supremely irrelevant to this. As is the idea that 'Anarchy predates the Anarchist movement' - it doesn't. You might as well claim that Jesus was a Marxist because he said 'give up all you have and follow me'. Or, maybe, Marx is a Christian, it's difficult to grasp your idea of cause and effect, similarity and significance.

Left Communists: groups that come from the Communist International, and support the Russian Revolution.

Councilists: groups that came out of the Communist International, and consider parties to be bourgeois forms.

SPGB/SLP: "Impossibilist" groups that came out of the Socialist International.

That there is some (a lot actually) of common ground between these organisations does not mean that they're all the same thing.

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Paulappaul
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Jun 27 2010 19:49
Quote:
Those who do not support the Russian Revolution - the SPGB, the De Leonists in your estimatiuon, and the Councilist groups influenced by Ruhle from the 20s onwards (later Pannekoek, Mattick) are not Left Communists. They are an amalgam of 'Anglo-Impossibilists' from the Second International, and Council Communists from the Third. Only Pannekoek figures on both lists. The Left Communists consider that when Pannekoek was pro-Party and pro-Russian Revolution, he was a Left Communist; when he was anti-Party and considered the Russian Revolution bourgeois, he was not a Left Communist.
Quote:
Left Communists: groups that come from the Communist International, and support the Russian Revolution.

Councilists: groups that came out of the Communist International, and consider parties to be bourgeois forms.

SPGB/SLP: "Impossibilist" groups that came out of the Socialist International.

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Left Communism does not 'pre-date the (Communist) International'

To quote Marxists.org

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There are two main currents of “Left Communism”: on one hand, the Communist Left or “Council Communists” (the term used by the Dutch and German Left Communists after 1928) criticised the “elitist” practices of the Bolshevik Party, and increasingly emphasised the autonomus organisations of the working class, reminiscent in some ways of the anarcho-syndicalists and left communists of the pre-World War One period, rejecting “compromise” with the institutions of bourgeois society, while rejecting the new forms of working class rule created by the Russian Revolution.

So Councilists are Left Communists. Pannekoek was always a Left Communist. I think this definition of Left Communism tosses out alot of what you've said.

The Next part I'd like to draw your intention too is the Pre-World War one aspect which we've talked about earlier in the thread as a designation for being defined as Left Communist. Daniel De Leon died one year before World War 1 and still wrote in the last year of his life. He rejected compromise with institutions of bourgeois society and the Deleonists after him rejected the class rule of the Russian Revolution.

slothjabber
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Jun 29 2010 13:50

Yes the Council Communists came out of Left Communism. If you like, there are two currents of Left Communism, the Council Communists from the Dutch/German Left and the Bordigists from the Italian Left.

The reason the ICC and ICT are not 'Bordigists' is that they both to a greater or lesser extent embody both the traditions of the Italian Left and the Dutch/German Left. But they aren't 'Council Communists' either; the Council Communists developed their positions from pro-Russian Revolution and pro-proletarian party to theorising the opposite. Latterly, Council Communism/Councilism has been anti-Party and believed the Russian Revolution was bourgeois.

So the ICC and ICT are 'synthetic Left Communists' while the International Communist Parties in Italy are 'Bordigist Left Communists' (they do not follow any of the theories of the Dutch/German Left) and the Councilist groups (if any are still in existence) are 'Council-Left Communists'.

So when in these days of shorthand we talk about 'Left Communist groups' we can be referring to groups that are descended (programmatically, if not always organisationally) from groups of the Italian Left, the German/Dutch Left, or both. But not neither.

As 'Bordigism' is a perfectly-well understood term for those groups that only follow the Italian Left, and 'Councilism/Council Communism' is a term for those groups that follow the Dutch/German Left (and there aren't any left in the world anyway), 'Left Communism' is the term most often used for those groups that follow both the Dutch/German, and the Italian, currents of Left Communism.

But as I say it can also be widened those other groups that only follow one strand. One way of using it is to include any group that relies on the heritage of the Italian Left (ICC, ICT, ICP) who believe in proletarian parties, as against the Council Communists, who do not. This isn't wrong, but it's perhaps not immediately explicable what the distinction is.

I'm sorry that you seem to think I know or care what Marxist.org has to say about pre-WWI 'Left Communists'. I don't. I don't even know who or what 'Marxist.org' is; but, honestly, I believe the SPGB when they say that they're not Left Communists, and I believe the ICC when they say they are Left Communists, and I believe both of them when they say that Daniel De Leon wasn't a Left Communist; and I don't believe Marxists.org.

I'll quote again what I said earlier:

slothjabber wrote:
...
Left Communists: groups that come from the Communist International, and support the Russian Revolution.

Councilists: groups that came out of the Communist International, and consider parties to be bourgeois forms.

SPGB/SLP: "Impossibilist" groups that came out of the Socialist International.

That there is some (a lot actually) of common ground between these organisations does not mean that they're all the same thing.

ajjohnstone
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Jun 30 2010 09:11

The SLP has been mentioned a few times so i thought i cut and paste a contribution from an old Brit SLPer who made this contribution on the SPGB discussion list

Quote:
"The main differences between the Socialist Labour Party/DeLeonist concept of the Socialist Industrial Union and Workers Councils could possibly be summed up as follows:

The Socialist Industrial Union is somewhat more formal and structured, and from its inception the Socialist Industrial Union would have a definite perspective or programme of working towards a socialist society. On the other hand, Workers Councils may tend to be somewhat more 'spontaneous' and 'local' and may not have a perspective of the complete national and international transformation of society from capitalism to socialism. This being said, it is quite possible to envisage Workers Councils coming together in a federation, adopting a full socialist programme, and effectively becoming Socialist Industrial Unions. (They might not call themselves SIUs, the name itself is not that important).

Many advocates of the Workers Council idea have a distain for, and opposition to, 'political' action in the 'Party' sense. The Socialist Labour Party maintains that parallel 'political' and 'industrial' organisations - the working class organised both politically and industrially - are essential in the struggle for working class emancipation. The political party of socialism carrying out general socialist education and agitation and, in bourgeois democracies, contesting elections with the view of capturing the state machine in order to neutralise and dismantle it.

The main difference (there are also other differences, some of which are minor or of little importance) between the DeLeonist Socialist Labour Parties and the perspective of the Socialist Party of Great Britain/World Socialist Movement centre upon this last point. The SPGB/WSM has a perspective of capturing the bourgeois state via the ballot box and "converting" the capitalist state machine "from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation." (See clause number 6 of the SPGB's 'Declaration of Principles.')

The Socialist Labour Party, on the other hand, envisages the Socialist Industrial Unions taking over the administrative and organisational tasks of the future society, with the apparatus of the capitalist state machine being dismantled."

I'm not here to defend the SLP view but thought some should hear what they say from the horses mouth so to speak

ajjohnstone
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Jun 30 2010 09:25

From the same contributer on the SLP attitude to Russia

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The SLP in the immediate aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution took essentially the same line as the SPGB: that socialism was impossible in Russia in isolation at that time, and that the revolution was not socialist. Nonetheless, while never holding the view that socialism existed in Soviet Russia, and while also refusing to join the Third International and maintaining a hostility to the so-called "Communist" parties - the SLP did develop a supportive, although not uncritical, attitude towards the USSR. This perspective was motivated out of a feeling of solidarity with the Russian working class: the SLP being slow to realise the true nature of the evolving society and the reactionary nature of the Stalinist dictatorship that eventually emerged.

The SLP also had an ambivalent attitude to Lenin after a number of reports surfaced that suggested that Lenin was impressed by Daniel De Leon's writings.

Belatedly, the evaluation of the USSR did change for the better, and from 1939 onwards the SLP's criticisms and exposure of the despotic Stalinist state soon became rigorous and decisive. Shortcomings did remain: the ambivalent attitude towards Lenin and a failure to fully acknowledge the mistakes of the past, and to develop a viable theory of just how the Soviet social system should be designated from a scientific viewpoint.

These problems were tackled by the SLP in the 1970s. A detailed evaluation and self-criticism took place on the question of the SLP's attitude over the years towards the USSR. The mistakes were recognised and acknowledged, and lessons drawn. The result of the discussion and re-examination can be found in the SLP pamphlet "The SLP and the USSR" (1978). This text is at:
http://www.slp.org/pdf/slp_ussr.pdf

A cogent theory on the nature of the Soviet system was developed: that it was a new form of class system and exploitative society that the SLP designated as Bureaucratic State Despotism. Details will be found in the SLP pamphlet "The Nature of Soviet Society" (1978). While not identical to the SPGB position that the USSR was State Capitalist, the practical conclusions are much the same. Indeed, the pamphlet states that: "it is possible to attempt a Marxist analysis of the USSR and similar systems as state capitalist." and adds "There is no disagreement with many of the political and revolutionary conclusions drawn by those who support state capitalist positions." This text is at:
http://www.slp.org/pdf/sov_soc.pdf

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Paulappaul
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Jun 30 2010 21:45
Quote:
I'm sorry that you seem to think I know or care what Marxist.org has to say about pre-WWI 'Left Communists'. I don't. I don't even know who or what 'Marxist.org' is

Christ get off your high horse please. Don't put yourself above Marxists.org, by acting like you don't have to care about the Largest Internet archive of Marxist literature.

Google search it and stop being a prick.

I'll quote again what I said earlier:

Quote:
There are two main currents of “Left Communism”: on one hand, the Communist Left or “Council Communists” (the term used by the Dutch and German Left Communists after 1928) criticised the “elitist” practices of the Bolshevik Party, and increasingly emphasised the autonomus organisations of the working class, reminiscent in some ways of the anarcho-syndicalists and left communists of the pre-World War One period, rejecting “compromise” with the institutions of bourgeois society, while rejecting the new forms of working class rule created by the Russian Revolution.

By using your definition of Left Communism, we may as well rule out Rosa Luxemburg as well from ever being aligned with Left Communism, despite being labelled as so.

@ajjohnstone

Thank you for information regarding Workers' Councils and the SLP's industrial union program, I've always been interested in the SLP's position on Workers' Councils but I've never found any information on the SLP's site regarding them.

I'm not saying that Deleon is a Councilist though. More that he is a moderate Left Communist. Councilists, Libertarian Marxists and Ultra Leftists rule out the participation in parliament. Other currents of Left Communism see the parliament as a tool of the Working class, but refuse the structure of Bolshevism and the Reformism of the Social Democracy. They view like, the Councilists that Trade Unions are reformist that they must be superseded by more revolutionary organisations.

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Alf
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Jun 30 2010 22:36

OK, Slothjabber should know what marxist.org is. It's a hugely valuable course of basic marxist texts. But Paulapaul, you just don't seem to be engaging with what people are saying here, you keep repeating your own very particular definition, but the one you are hearing from others here is the one you will encounter when you discuss the historical tradition of left communism. You seem to be coming from a kind of Deleonist side river.

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Paulappaul
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Jun 30 2010 23:54

I wouldn't consider myself Deleonist. I'm inspired by his works and that of another Deleonist William Paul, but in the end, I lean more towards theories of Mattick, Pannekoek and Rocker. I'm defending Deleonism (impossiblism, etc) as a current of Left Communism because I see the similarities in theory and practice. Most of all for that fact that I disagree with kind designations set by Slothjabber and others, which see Left Communism as People, rather then a theory of action.

To put it in nutshell, Sloth and others argue that,

Quote:
there are two currents of Left Communism, the Council Communists from the Dutch/German Left and the Bordigists from the Italian Left.

Sloth seems to be confining Left Communism to just the Dutch and German left, as well the Italian Left. To which is wrong. Sylvia Pankhurst is a British Born Suffragette and Left Communist. There are lots of Left Communists not aligned with Council Communism or the Dutch, German and Italian tendency's. Left Communism is like Anarchism. It's a wide ranging collection of theories. Marxists.org, acknowledges this.

Quote:
Left Communism does not 'pre-date the (Communist) International'.

Which I disagree. The theories of Left Communism were coming in before the 3rd International. I wasn't alive during the Communist International, does that mean I am not a left communist?

Rosa Luxemburg, was not alive during the Communist International. Is she not a Left Communist as well?

To be Left Communist doesn't mean you have to have Lenin right next to saying your an Infantile Leftist. Even the phrase 'Left Communist' was being uttered before Lenin wrote Infantile disorder.

To be Left Communist means to agree with it's set of ideas, it's programs, etc. It isn't geographically or historically oriented just to those in the 1920's Germany, Italy and Holland.

No doubt the biggest strides of information and theories began here. But the theories of Spontaneity, Anti-Reformism and Anti-Trade Unions were developing in Marxism before 1919 and the International.

dave c
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Jul 1 2010 06:53

Paulappaul, your method here is baffling. It is not so much that you have a very idiosyncratic way of classifying people as left communists, but that you keep appealing to sources that do not support your claims. You appealed to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left_communism) to support your claim that Daniel De Leon is a left communist. I showed how sloppy that was. You then appeal to Marxists.org (http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/index.htm) to support your claim that Rosa Luxemburg is a left communist. That web page lists a number of left communist thinkers whose writings are available at the Marxists.org website. Rosa Luxemburg, one of the most famous Marxists ever, whose writings are most definitely archived at Marxists.org, is not listed.

It is simply bizarre that on post #12 you quote the Marxists.org page saying "The Left Communists were those Marxists who supported the 1917 Russian Revolution . . .", say that this is your definition, and then go on to name Daniel De Leon (who died in 1914!) as a left communist.

I am not so much criticizing your insistence on certain classifications. But you need to be consistent. For example, if you want to define left communism as entailing a rejection of vanguard parties, because you want to upset the ICC, that is all well and good, but you then can't say that Amadeo Bordiga, for example, was ever a left communist.

There are of course reasons why what scholarship exists on "left communism" counts Rosa Luxemburg as an important influence on left communism but not an actual "left communist." At the time of the founding of the German Communist Party, for example, Luxemburg did not share the views of the left wing majority on communist participation in parliament and trade unions. Still, you can attach little significance to this if you like.

The websites are not all that authoritative, although the Wikipedia article is not a bad place to start. But if you are sympathetic to the ideas of the Dutch-German left, I would recommend the following works (none of which support your classifications) for understanding some of the historical context on which useful classifications are constructed:

Bricianer, Serge, Pannekoek and the Workers’ Councils. Telos Press, St. Louis: 1978.

Gerber, John, Anton Pannekoek and the Socialism of Workers’ Self-Emancipation, 1873-1960. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Norwell, MA: 1989.

Gombin, Richard, The Radical Tradition: A Study in Modern Revolutionary Thought. St. Martin’s Press, New York: 1979.

Philippe Bourrinet, The Dutch and German Communist Left. Porcupine Press, London: 2001.

Shipway, Mark, “Council Communism,” in Maximilien Rubel and John Crump, eds. Non-Market Socialism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. St. Martin’s Press, New York: 1987.

Smart, D.A., ed. Pannekoek and Gorter’s Marxism. Pluto Press, London: 1978.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 1 2010 07:25

Paulappaul said

Quote:
"I wouldn't consider myself Deleonist. I'm inspired by his works and that of another Deleonist William Paul"

Not sure if you have read it but there is a contemporary review of Paul's work The State: Its Origin and Function
by the SPGB

It can be read here

With the SLP and the SPGB having their roots in the SDF, its not surprising that there was an overlap of ideas. We share the same analysis that raises the importance of political action in addition to industrial action to achieve our socialist objective - one of the defining factors that separates us from the anarchists and syndicalists and which led to the SLP leaving the IWW .

Quote:
" The constructive element in the social revolution will be the the action of the Industrial Unions seizing the means of production in order to administer the wants of the community ...Thus Industrial Unionism is the constructive weapon in the coming social revolution...In order to facilitate the work of industrial organisation it is absolutely imperative for the workers to disarm the capitalist class by wrenching from it its power over the political State ...by destroying the capitalist control of the State , makes possible a peaceful social revolution...the work of the political weapon is purely destructive , to destroy the capitalist system. " William Paul , The State . Its Origins and Function ,1917 .

Although we may have reservations on the actual economic organisation ie industrial unions , William Paul was much in accord with the SPGB views.

Quote:
"The Socialist Party, in aiming for the control of the State, is a political party in the immediate sense, but we have an economic purpose in view, namely, the conversion of the means of living into the common property of society. Therefore, the question necessarily arises whether an economic organisation acting in conjunction with the political is vital to our task. We have on more than one occasion pronounced ourselves in agreement with the need for such an organisation, and in so doing have flatly denied the charge that the Socialist Party of Great Britain is "nothing but a pure and simple political party of Socialism." The Socialist Party and economic organisation , Socialist Standard , 1937

Chapter 4 from the pamphlet Scientific Socialism. Its Revolutionary Aims and Methods by Paul shows the similarity of his views and the SPGB position is available here to read.

It is regrettable that Paul went down the road of Bolshevism when the CP was formed.

I have heard some SPGBers call themselves communists , not very many and not very often and usually echoing Paul Mattick's book by describing themselves "Anti-Bolshevik Communists", but never ever Left Communists. Nor Ultra-Left nor Far Left. One suggestion at the founding conference of the SPGB for the party's name was Social Democratic Party ( and an amendment to add "of Great Britain"- so it could have been the SDPGB for those also following the acronym thread ) , a hint that they saw themselves as a British version , or perhaps an aspiration to become the German-type mass party.

slothjabber
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Jul 1 2010 09:15
Paulappaul wrote:
...
Christ get off your high horse please. Don't put yourself above Marxists.org, by acting like you don't have to care about the Largest Internet archive of Marxist literature.

Google search it and stop being a prick. ....

Never heard of it. I used to use the John Gray website for my internet based Marxist (and other) textual needs.

Right, on to the point.

No, the fact that you were born after the CI doesn't mean you can't be a Left Communist. It does however mean that the CI wasn't, and never could have been, Paulappaulists, no matter how much you try to claim that people who were dead before currents were formed were members of them.

Rosa Luxemburg was not a Left Communist. She inspired Left Communists. I don'y know who 'labelled' her a Left Communist, but, as a Luxemburgist myself, and not a Left Communist (though, quite obviously I have a lot of sympathy with them), I can categorically state that I do not consider Rosa to have been a Left Communist because Left Communism as a series of historically-defined currents didn't emerge until after Rosa's death. Whether she would have evolved her positions to be a Left Communist had she lived is unknown; but she could not belong to a current that didn't form until after she was dead.

Same goes for Daniel De Leon. 'Left Socialist' if you like, though it's not a term that has any historical currency I don't think, but many of the people that you identify as 'Left Communism' were rather on the left wing of Social Democracy - as of course were Lenin and Trotsky. Why aren't they 'Left Communists' in your definition?

As a set of ideas, it seems to me what you're actually talking about is not 'Left Communism' ( a name given to a historically constituted group of tendencies in the Third International) but Marxism. This is why you can on the one hand have Pannnekoek in both phases (pro-Revolution, pro-Party; and 'anti-Bolshevik'), thoe Councillists, De Leon, Luxemburg, Bordiga and the SPGB. But, strangely, not the ICC, the largest Left Communist organisation in the world.

I think it bizarre that you claim my definition of Left Communism is about 'people' and yours is about 'ideas'. You're the one that is claiming that semi-random figures in the early 20th century workers' movement were all Left Communists. Of course, on one level, Left Communism must be about people, and ideas, in that people hold ideas; but my 'history of left communism' is about groups and tendencies. Sylvia Pankhurst was close to the Dutch/German Left, and also worked with Bordiga; but she left no organisation - there is no continuing 'British Communist Left'. Nor is there a continuing Russian Communist Left, or in any significant way a Greek or Spanish Communist Left. Just the Dutch/German and the Italian Communist Lefts.

These are the only Left Communist currents to have continuity to the present, in the form of the ICC, ICT and various ICPs. The 'pure' Dutch/German Left - Council Communism - is organisationally dead, following the demise of Daad en Gedacht in the 1990s. But both the ICC and CWO (British section of the ICT) were formed in a large part from Council Communist groups so there is some continuity.

slothjabber
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Jul 1 2010 10:01
Paulappaul wrote:
... I'm defending Deleonism (impossiblism, etc) as a current of Left Communism because I see the similarities in theory and practice. Most of all for that fact that I disagree with kind designations set by Slothjabber and others, which see Left Communism as People, rather then a theory of action...

But you don't, you see it as 'people' - Luxemburg, De Leon - while I see it as historically constituted organisations.

I agree with you that there are similarities between the SLP, the SPGB, and the Left Communists. But that doesn't mean that it's applicable to call the SPGB or the De Leonists Left Communists.

Paulappaul wrote:
...
To put it in nutshell, Sloth and others argue that,
Quote:
there are two currents of Left Communism, the Council Communists from the Dutch/German Left and the Bordigists from the Italian Left.

Sloth seems to be confining Left Communism to just the Dutch and German left, as well the Italian Left. To which is wrong. Sylvia Pankhurst is a British Born Suffragette and Left Communist...

Actually, she was a Suffragette, then a Left Communist. She wasn't both at the same time. But she was closely aligned with the Dutch/German Left. However, as my definition relies on groups not individuals, Sylvia Pankhurst can be included with the Dutch/German current, and anyway, my point was that only the Dutch/German Left and the Italian Left have bequeathed organisations down to the present; Pankhurst's group did not create a lasting Left Communist organisation in Britain. The important verb in what I said is "are". Not "were". There "were" British, Russian, Greek, French, Belgian and Spanish Communist Lefts, and possibly others too. But now there are only two currents; the Italian and the Dutch/German.

Paulappaul wrote:
...
There are lots of Left Communists not aligned with Council Communism or the Dutch, German and Italian tendency's. Left Communism is like Anarchism. It's a wide ranging collection of theories. Marxists.org, acknowledges this...

It is a wide-ranging collection of theories; for instance it goes from Ruhle's anti-Partyism, to the Bordigists' pro-Partyism; but this merely emphasises the historical nature of what Left Communism is. It is the developing theory of the groups (or their political descendents) that came out of (or were expelled from) the Third International. Those groups have never had a single coherent set of positions. Until the 1930s, the Italian Left described the government of the Soviet Union as 'centrist'. Many in the Dutch/German Left were already declaring that all parties were bourgeois. But it's a mistake to think that because there are different Left Communist positions, that all different positions can be included in Left Communism. Again; historically-determined set of currents, the defining feature of which was that they were the left wing of the III International.

Paulappaul wrote:
...
Quote:
Left Communism does not 'pre-date the (Communist) International'.

Which I disagree. The theories of Left Communism were coming in before the 3rd International. I wasn't alive during the Communist International, does that mean I am not a left communist? ...

Yes the theories that became the positions of Left Communist groups (some of them at least) pre-date the III Int. You are after the III Int. That's an important point I think. You didn't die a hundred years ago. That makes a big difference. When discussing history, it's best to make sure you know the difference between 'before' and 'after'.

For the same reason, Marx was not a Left Communist, Jesus was not a Christian, Lao Tzu was not an anarchist, and you won't be a 9th Internationalist, because the 9th International won't be formed until after you're dead.

Paulappaul wrote:
...
Rosa Luxemburg, was not alive during the Communist International. Is she not a Left Communist as well? ...

No, she wasn't.

Paulappaul wrote:
...To be Left Communist doesn't mean you have to have Lenin right next to saying your an Infantile Leftist. Even the phrase 'Left Communist' was being uttered before Lenin wrote Infantile disorder.

To be Left Communist means to agree with it's set of ideas, it's programs, etc. It isn't geographically or historically oriented just to those in the 1920's Germany, Italy and Holland.

No doubt the biggest strides of information and theories began here. But the theories of Spontaneity, Anti-Reformism and Anti-Trade Unions were developing in Marxism before 1919 and the International.

But to be a Left Communist means precisely orientating yourself to one of the historically-determined Left Communist currents. I agree that some of the ideas that became 'Left Communism' pre-existed the CI. But that's not 'Left Communism'. That's the pieces from which 'Left Communism' came together.

Wilhelm Liebknecht said 'there is no state socilaism, only state capitalism'. Does this mean he was a member of the SPGB, who critiqued the Fabians for being state capitalists? No, it doesn't; it means that different people can use the same ideas without being the same thing.

If you're suggesting that I think only German, Dutch or Italian people can be Left Communists, then, I'm afraid you haven't really understood anything either I or anyone else on this thread has been saying. It's got nothing particular tyo do with location, it's got to do with history. Historically, it is the Dutch/German and Italian Lefts that had political continuity down to the present.

Left Communism is a heterogenous current derived from specific historical roots. Those roots include both the left of social democracy and the left of the Communist International. Crucially Left Communism has both of these. Luxemburg, De Leon and the SPGB do not. They only have the first of them. They are not Left Communist, no matter how much they have in common (a lot, I'd say).

Paulappaul's picture
Paulappaul
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Jul 1 2010 15:15
Quote:
You appealed to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left_communism) to support your claim that Daniel De Leon is a left communist. I showed how sloppy that was.

Being that it's the left Communist page, I generally have a feeling a left communist made it, which means, there are more left communists out there regarding Deleon.

Quote:
You then appeal to Marxists.org (http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/index.htm) to support your claim that Rosa Luxemburg is a left communist. That web page lists a number of left communist thinkers whose writings are available at the Marxists.org website. Rosa Luxemburg, one of the most famous Marxists ever, whose writings are most definitely archived at Marxists.org, is not listed.

Rightly so, If you look at alot of authors you'll find they are in places they don't really belong. Mostly because of geological or historical background. Take James Connolly, he is classified as an American Socialist on the site. That isn't really an idelogy and Connolly fought and died in Ireland. But they put him there because his theories developed alot in America and he did alot for the IWW. I appealed Marxists.org for my definition, and defend my definition of Deleon as a left communist. I don't deny that I may be odds with people on this one, but that's why I'm arguing it.

Quote:
"The Left Communists were those Marxists who supported the 1917 Russian Revolution . . .", say that this is your definition, and then go on to name Daniel De Leon (who died in 1914!) as a left communist.

If you continue the quote goes onto to include pre-WW1 left communists.

Quote:
because you want to upset the ICC, that is all well and good, but you then can't say that Amadeo Bordiga, for example, was ever a left communist.
Quote:
if you want to define left communism as entailing a rejection of vanguard parties, because you want to upset the ICC, that is all well and good, but you then can't say that Amadeo Bordiga, for example, was ever a left communist.

I went back on my ICC comment later.

Quote:
But if you are sympathetic to the ideas of the Dutch-German left, I would recommend the following works (none of which support your classifications) for understanding some of the historical context on which useful classifications are constructed:

I would recommend my website, but I haven't got it set up yet. Although I do print some Anarchist stuff, I am mostly a left communist printer

@ Slothjabber

I will get back to your stuff later, I need to get to work.

dave c
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Joined: 4-09-07
Jul 1 2010 16:49
Paulappaul wrote:
Quote:
"The Left Communists were those Marxists who supported the 1917 Russian Revolution . . .", say that this is your definition, and then go on to name Daniel De Leon (who died in 1914!) as a left communist.

If you continue the quote goes onto to include pre-WW1 left communists.

So you you think this source is contradictory, yet you keep appealing to it! You believe in using definitions that are internally contradictory!? I have a more reasonable explanation: Andy Blunden (whose name is on the bottom of the page) or whoever wrote that stuff wrote "Left Communist" and "Left Communism" (with capital letters) over 10 times on that page to designate this current. The one time that "left communists" is written without capital letters is not meant to designate this current as such (and hence is not capitalized), but rather is a very misleading label for tendencies that influenced the development of Left Communism (this also explains why Luxemburg, for example, is not listed below). I think this is clear from the context. A better label would have been "left socialist" in order to avoid confusion and be more historically accurate in tying these tendencies to the Second International. But I think the meaning is clear from the context, and the fact that you ignore this context shows how you are cherry-picking bits of information with little rigor.

Once again, it is bizarre that you keep appealing to sources that do not support your classifications. I recommended books I have read that deal with this topic to varying degrees and all place "left communism" in its post-Bolshevik Revolution context. You appeal to websites that don't even support what you are saying, and then recommend a website of yours that is not up. Why?

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arminius
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Jul 1 2010 20:49

From the SLP newspaper, The People, from the early 1990's (I don't have the exact date to hand):

industrial unionism or workers' councils?

QUESTION PERIOD

What is the difference between the socialist industrial unions
advocated by the SLP, and the soviets, or workers' councils, that
arose in Russia in 1905 and again in 1917? Since the soviets were the
spontaneous product of workers' uprisings, and socialist industrial
unions are just an abstract concept, shouldn't soviets be the
preferred form for a workers' government?

Socialist industrial unions are unions that embody the true
mission of unionism organizing and uniting the entire working class
for the express purpose of taking, holding and operating the
industries, putting an end to capitalist-class rule in its entirety.
They are central to the establishment of a genuine socialist society;
they would at once provide the organized economic might needed to
ensure the defeat of the capitalist system and provide the basic
organizational structure of the socialist industrial government.

Through the socialist industrial unions, every worker in a socialist
society would have a voice and a vote in the running of their own
workplace, their particular industry and the economy as a whole.
Meeting where they work, the workers would elect, and recall as
necessary, their own managers, their own representatives to local,
regional and national councils charged with administering their
industry, and their own representatives to an all-industry congress
charged with administering the economy as a whole.

Soviets, on the other hand, were essentially political, or
parliamentary, bodies elected by factory workers, and subsequently by
soldiers, sailors and peasants as well. They were first formed by
representatives of strike committees in 1905, and to a limited extent
tried to function as an alternative, workers' government in some
cities before that rebellion was crushed.

They re-emerged in 1917 and became the central organs of the new
Russian state following the October Revolution, but were soon
subordinated to the party-dominated Supreme Economic Council, the
Council of People's Commissars and other party-run administrative
bodies in the emerging hierarchy. In time, they became purely formal,
rubber-stamp legislative councils, thoroughly controlled by the party
bureaucracy.

Geographic vs. Industrial Organs

The key word here is that the soviets were state bodies organs of
continued class rule, standing over society as a whole, not of
workers' self-government. They were never intended to be used to
administer the means of production and distribution: They were
geographically based, not industrially based bodies, organized by city
or village, district, county, or region, with an All-Russian Congress
of Soviets ostensibly representing the nation as a whole. Accordingly,
they were not, and are not, an appropriate model for the classless
society of socialism, in which the workers themselves, collectively
and democratically, are to administer the forces of production and
distribution.

(It should be noted that the soviets are sometimes confused with the
factory committees that the Russian workers formed in 1917 which were
industrially based organizations aiming to establish democratic
workers' control over the forces of production. However, those bodies,
too, were subordinated to the party-state machinery in short order,
before they could form their own central authority for administering
the economy as a whole.)

As to the second question, while it is true that the soviets were
created by workers during a revolutionary period, that does not confer
superior status on them. Neither does the fact that they were more
"spontaneous" in their origin. Actually, there is no such thing as a
"spontaneous" organization; no organization can be formed without some
degree of forethought.

'Spontaneity' Is No Virtue

Nonetheless, some "revolutionary" theorists make a fetish of
"spontaneity," contending, in effect, that only organizations built in
the heat of crisis, with little forethought, are truly
"revolutionary," and that there is no point to trying to build
revolutionary organizations with greater forethought and deliberateness.

That notion is refuted by common sense and historical experience. The
Paris Commune, the factory committees and similar bodies of workers'
power formed in Russia in 1917, Germany in 1918, Spain in the 1930's,
Portugal in 1974, etc. however inspiring and instructive their history
may be all suffered from the lack of a coherent and unifying program
for administering the economy going into the revolutionary period, and
all were defeated, in part, because of it.

Moreover, the soviets were the product of a workers' uprising in an
underdeveloped country that was far from being ripe for socialism;
their inadequacies reflect those circumstances. And the final fate of
the Russian soviets and the "Soviet" government hardly recommends them
as a model organization for Socialists to advocate today.

Finally, while it it true that there are no socialist industrial
unions in existence today, the SIU concept is not a mere abstraction.
It is itself a product of the class struggle in the United States, the
most developed capitalist nation in the world, a nation that is ripe
for socialism, at least in terms of having the necessary material
foundation. The SIU program was formulated and first articulated by
Daniel De Leon, but he didn't just dream it up: It evolved as a
consequence of the lessons learned by the SLP in the course of its
involvement in the class struggle and its efforts to build socialism
under U.S. conditions.

More specifically, it evolved as De Leon and the SLP identified the
pitfalls of the "purely political" or reformist "socialism" of the
Socialist Party, on the one hand, and the pitfalls of "pure and
simple," or pro-capitalist, trade unionism on the other. From these
experiences, De Leon and the SLP drew the logical conclusion that a
classconscious economic organization of labor must play an essential,
leading role in the establishment of socialism, with the party playing
an equally essential, but supporting and transitory role. The SIU
concept took concrete form with the organization of the original
Industrial Workers of the World in 1905, though that effort came to
naught when anarchist forces disrupted and split the organization in 1908.

But that initial disaster does not disprove the correctness of the
concept. On the contrary, historical experience since then including
the fate of the Bolshevik Revolution and other attempts to reconstruct
society under the political rule of a party has only further affirmed
that the socialist industrial union program is the real pathway to
genuine socialism.

Paulappaul's picture
Paulappaul
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Jul 1 2010 20:50
Quote:
but many of the people that you identify as 'Left Communism' were rather on the left wing of Social Democracy - as of course were Lenin and Trotsky. Why aren't they 'Left Communists' in your definition?

Where as Left Communists were calling for Spontaneity and against State Socialism, Lenin and Trotsky were not. Which goes back to the whole theory of things. I classify the Communist left as a collection of theories which resists the State as a means of building Socialism, resists Trade Unions and Reformism.

Quote:
As a set of ideas, it seems to me what you're actually talking about is not 'Left Communism' ( a name given to a historically constituted group of tendencies in the Third International) but Marxism. This is why you can on the one hand have Pannnekoek in both phases (pro-Revolution, pro-Party; and 'anti-Bolshevik'), thoe Councillists, De Leon, Luxemburg, Bordiga and the SPGB. But, strangely, not the ICC, the largest Left Communist organisation in the world.

Left Communists believe themselves to be true tradition of Marxism, If I generally regard the too as the same, it is because I am a Left Communist. I have talked about how the ICC is Left Communist, to quote

Quote:
I may be going a little hard on the ICC though looking back. I guess I don't see alot in Common with the older Left Communists and the modern movement.

Pannekoek was always pro-party, just anti-parliament and anti-Vanguard.

Quote:
Rosa Luxemburg was not a Left Communist. She inspired Left Communists. I don'y know who 'labelled' her a Left Communist

Because she is generally regarded as one.

Quote:
I think it bizarre that you claim my definition of Left Communism is about 'people'

Now you're putting words in my mouth, to quote

Quote:
with kind designations set by Slothjabber and others, which see Left Communism as People, rather then a theory of action.

So no.

Quote:
Sylvia Pankhurst was close to the Dutch/German Left, and also worked with Bordiga; but she left no organisation - there is no continuing 'British Communist Left'. Nor is there a continuing Russian Communist Left, or in any significant way a Greek or Spanish Communist Left. Just the Dutch/German and the Italian Communist Lefts.

So she is not a left communist in your definition?

Quote:
Actually, she was a Suffragette, then a Left Communist. She wasn't both at the same time.

I said it to ensure her British tradition.

Quote:
But she was closely aligned with the Dutch/German Left

By being in a completely different country, doing completely different things, coming to different conclusions? By closely aligned do you mean she inspiring the Dutch/German Left Communist tradition

Quote:
It is the developing theory of the groups (or their political descendents) that came out of (or were expelled from) the Third International.

Much like how the Communist left is an extension of the same criticisms of left communists in the Second International. It's descendants which were really only about a year or two apart.

Quote:
I recommended books I have read that deal with this topic to varying degrees and all place "left communism" in its post-Bolshevik Revolution context. You appeal to websites that don't even support what you are saying, and then recommend a website of yours that is not up. Why?

I've already said, It doesn't bother that me other Left Communists or sites don't agree with. Hence why I am arguing it. I posted my site, to show I'm not a I'm not a socialist, anarchist, syndicalist, etc. but a Left Communist. I didn't do it to back up my point, more to show you that I'm not someone who is

Quote:
sympathetic to the ideas of the Dutch-German left

more of someone who acknowledges his allegiance to such ideas. Guess I didn't make it clear enough, though.

slothjabber
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Jul 2 2010 11:49
Paulappaul wrote:
....
Quote:
Rosa Luxemburg was not a Left Communist. She inspired Left Communists. I don'y know who 'labelled' her a Left Communist

Because she is generally regarded as one.

Not 'generally' by Left Communists (eg the ICC). Not by Luxemburgists (eg me). Not by non-Left Communists that you think are Left Communists even though they don't (eg the SPGB). So, who, except you, are these 'generally' people who regard Luxemburg as a Left Communist?

Paulappaul wrote:
....
Quote:
I think it bizarre that you claim my definition of Left Communism is about 'people'

Now you're putting words in my mouth, to quote

Quote:
with kind designations set by Slothjabber and others, which see Left Communism as People, rather then a theory of action.

So no...

Reading that again, it says exactly what I thought it said, and you claim it doesn't. Odd.

Paulappaul wrote:
....
Quote:
Sylvia Pankhurst was close to the Dutch/German Left, and also worked with Bordiga; but she left no organisation - there is no continuing 'British Communist Left'. Nor is there a continuing Russian Communist Left, or in any significant way a Greek or Spanish Communist Left. Just the Dutch/German and the Italian Communist Lefts.

So she is not a left communist in your definition?

I am at a total loss to understand why you should think that. The rest of what I said was that there were Left Communists and Left Communist groups in Britain, Spain, France, Belgium, Russia, and Greece, and maybe other countries too. But only the Dutch/German and Italian Lefts had organisations that continued until the present. The fact that there isn't a British Communist Left now doesn't mean that Sylvia Pankhurst wasn't one then. Again, you have a very strange idea of cause and effect in history.

Paulappaul wrote:
....
Quote:
But she was closely aligned with the Dutch/German Left

By being in a completely different country, doing completely different things, coming to different conclusions? By closely aligned do you mean she inspiring the Dutch/German Left Communist tradition..

By working closely with the Dutch/German Left, and maybe less closely with the Italian Left, publishing their works, supporting them in the work of the Amsterdam Bureau, etc.

Paulappaul wrote:
....
Quote:
It is the developing theory of the groups (or their political descendents) that came out of (or were expelled from) the Third International.

Much like how the Communist left is an extension of the same criticisms of left communists in the Second International. It's descendants which were really only about a year or two apart...

Yes, very much (except they were 'left socialists' in the Second International).

The Left Wing of Social Democracy (Luxemburg, Lenin, Trotsky, Pannekoek, Gorter, Bordiga and their organisations) was the foundation of the CI. Some of them (Pannekoek, Gorter, Bordiga) became the Left of the Communist International too. Others did not; Luxemburg because she was dead; Lenin and Trotsky because they were 'state socialists' apparently. Other prominent Left Communists did not have any significant role in the Left of Social Democracy. Mattick for instance; Munis; Ruhle; Pankhurst; Miasnikov.

Others, that you claim were Left Communist, had no connection even with the end of the Second International. I don't know when De Leon set up the SLP, but the British SLP came out of the BSP and the IInd Int in 1903, I believe, shortly before the SPGB did the same. They weren't even in the IInd Int by 1914 when you claim that in 'only year or two' the CI would be spawning its own left wing.

So your argument that the left wing of the Socialist International = the left wing of the Communist International rests on Pannekoek, Gorter and Bordiga - in other words, the Dutch/German, and the Italian, Lefts, which is what I've been arguing all along; and everyone else (De Leon, left the Socialist International about 1900? then died before WWI; the SPGB, left the Socialist International 1904; Lenin and Trotsky, became 'state socialists'; Luxemburg, dead before the constitution of a Communist Left) has no direct organisational connection with the foundation of Left Communist currents, though their theories may have had an influence. Of all of them, Luxemburg is probably the closest to being the 'founder' of a Left Communist group, in that the KAPD was the majority of the KPD that Luxemburg founded. But she was still dead before the KAPD formed.

This part of your post is very significant:

"I classify the Communist left as a collection of theories which resists the State as a means of building Socialism, resists Trade Unions and Reformism."

What you have to realise is that no-one else does. Whatever our backgrounds, whether Left Communist, Marxian Socialist or Luxemburgist, we all seem to be agreed that 'Left Communism' is the historically-defined group of theories of particular organisations, specifically, those derived from the work of the Dutch/German and Italian lefts that were expelled from the Communist International between 1920-30. It is a particular specific thing, not a synonym for 'anti-statist communism' or 'left anti-unionism' or anything else.

Other currents may have similar ideas. That doesn't give you the power to take the name of a thing and apply it to another thing that may or may not be closely related to it.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
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Jul 2 2010 14:21
Quote:
Other prominent Left Communists did not have any significant role in the Left of Social Democracy. Mattick for instance; Munis; Ruhle; Pankhurst; Miasnikov.

I think you are wrong on Rühle here. He was a member of the SPD, and along with Liebknecht, one of the first Reichstag members to vote against war credits in 1915:

Mattick wrote:
In the spring of 1915 Liebknecht and Rühle were the first to vote against the granting of war credits to the government. They remained alone for quite some time and found new companions only to the degree that the chances of a victorious peace disappeared in the military stalemate. After 1916 the radical anti-war attitude was supported and soon swallowed up by a bourgeois movement in search of a negotiated peace, a movement which, finally, was to inherit the bankrupt stock of German imperialism.

As violators of discipline Liebknecht and Rühle were expelled from the social-democratic Reichstag faction. Together with Rosa Luxemburg, Franz Mehring and others, more or less forgotten by now, they organised the group, Internationale, publishing a magazine of the same title in order to uphold the idea of internationalism in the warring world. In 1916 they organised the Spartakusbund which cooperated with other left-wing formations such as the Internationale Sozialist with Julian Borchardt as their spokesman, and the group around Johann Knief and the radical Bremen paper, Arbeiterpolitik. In retrospect it seems that the last-named group was the most advanced, that is, advanced away from social-democratic traditions and toward a new approach to the proletarian class struggle. How much the Spartakusbund still adhered to the organisation and unity fetish that ruled the German labour movement came to light in their vacillating attitude toward the first attempts at re-orienting the international socialist movement in Zimmerwald and Kienthal. The Spartacists were not in favour of a clean break with the old labour movement in the direction of the earlier Bolshevik example. They still hoped to win the party over to their own position and carefully avoided irreconcilable policies. In April 1917 the Spartakusbund merged with the Independent Socialists [Unabhèngige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands] which formed the centre in the old labour movement but was no longer willing to cover up the chauvinism of the conservative majority-wing of the social-democratic party. Relatively independent, yet still within the Independent Socialist Party, the Spartakusbund left this organisation only at the end of the year 1918.

Devrim

slothjabber
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Joined: 1-08-06
Jul 2 2010 17:04

Thanks for the information Devrim.

I meant that those I listed didn't have an international reputation in the Second International before WWI, unlike Luxemburg, Lenin, Pannekoek etc. I realise it might be a slightly ambiguous usage saying that they didn't have significant roles in the left of social democracy when in theory the Communists were still in the Second International until the founding of the Third; but for all practical purposes I think, the Second International ceased to exist during the war.

It may be that I've underestimated the international importance of some of the people listed. On the other hand, being 'nationally important' such as Ruhle's opposition to the war, doesn't counteract the general thrust of the argument, that many future Left Communists did not have significant roles or profiles in the left of the Second International as a whole, though they may have done at a national level.

petey
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Jul 2 2010 18:41
Quote:
I don't know when De Leon set up the SLP

the US SLP was founded in 1876 and deleon joined in 1890, so both well before there could be left communists.

Paulappaul's picture
Paulappaul
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Jul 3 2010 03:34

I don't agree Sloth, but if I responded it would draw us into another circle which I don't want to do, and I have a feeling your getting tired of this too. Regardless you and Dave C have taught me alot and have made me reconsider alot of Left Communist history wink

syndicalist
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Jan 22 2013 02:02

I was looking at something else and this topic appeared in the side bar. So I started to browse it.

Anyway, is this really true about Luxemborg?:

Quote:
Left Communists include Daniel Deleon, Slyvia Pankhurst (she goes back and forth), Rosa Luxembourg etc. Basically Left Communists are against Reformism and a Revolutionary Party. They tried to distance themselves from Social Democracy and the degeneration of Russian revolution. They believe in participating in government, but understand the Emancipation of the working class is the act of the working class itself. Most left communists see Industrial Trade Unions as a tool of Class struggle.