Councilism v. Left Communism

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mikail firtinaci's picture
mikail firtinaci
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Jan 22 2013 04:07
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Anyway, is this really true about Luxemborg?:

Not really. I think this whole quote is misleading. First, Luxemburg was never a Left Communist - simply because the term itself invented after her death. But even when she was alive, future LCs like Pannekoek were already anti-parliamentarian and in opposition to her - just as the slight majority of the German CP-Spartakist. Moreover, neither Luxemburg nor LCs were against a Revolutionary Party. They just have different conceptions of it. Needless to say LCs and Luxemburg did not advocated participation in government but the soviet power. The union question is more complex but LCs also rejected unions tactically.

slothjabber
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Jan 22 2013 09:01

Along with Luxemburg, De Leon wasn't a Left Comm either. Both of them died before Left Communism emerged from the 3rd Int.

That whole conception it seems to me comes from wikipedia not the real history of the emergence of the Dutch/German Left currents. There's a tendency I think to conflate the left of the 2nd Int (even though I don't think De Leon and the the SLP were even in the 2nd Int) with the left of the 3rd Int (because for example Pannekoek was part of both) and call anyone on the left of the 2nd Int a 'Left Communist'.

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Jan 22 2013 10:40

the SLP was present at least up to the 1907 congress of the International in Stuttgart - http://archive.org/details/reporttosocialis00socirich - where they defended (together with a majority of continental delegates) an internationalist position on immigration against especially other American and Australian delegates who were demanding a "colour bar" ... the 2nd was in a way a broad church e.g. with the Armenian Dashnaks, Fabians, LibLabs, Russian SRs, etc. participating ... Luxemburg belonged at the founding conference of the KPD together with Leo Jogiches, Paul Levi and Carl Minster (a strange guy, despite this and advocating together with Jogiches and Hirsch to stay in the USPD, he went over to the KAPD in 1920, then to the USPD, 1931 to SAPD and was supporting French-backed separatists in Western Germany) to the minority which was in favour of electoral participation ... there was a strong tendency towards Luxemburgism (defense of international party democracy and of the autonomy of unions and other proletarian orgs, appreciation of proletarian spontaneity) among those, who were expelled as "Right-wingers" from the KPD 1921 (Levi, Däumig and the KAG) and 1928 (Brandler, Thalheimer, Frölich (he and his partner Rosi Wolfstein (who was the legal "owner" of Luxemburg's "Nachlass") edited the first edition of writings of Luxemburg during the 1920ies) and the KPO)

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Jan 22 2013 13:31
redtwister wrote:

In the Netherlands and Germany, the Communist Left was made up of a number of groups, including the Bremen Left, the Dutch and German communists around Pannekoek and Gorter and elements around Otto Ruhle, and so on, which cohered into the KAPD in Germany. None of these people referred to themselves as Council Communists until the late 1920's-early 1930's, esp. with the formation of the GIK.

both prominent and rank & file members of the Bremen Left/IKD ended up in quite different camps after 1919, many did not end up in the KAPD, but on different wings in and around the KPD e.g. Radek, Frölich, Becker, Deisen, Lindau (helped Heinrich Laufenberg to write his History of the Workers Movement in Hamburg in 1911, later KPD polititian and maverick historian in East Germany), Eildermann (later a leading ideologist of the SED), Borchardt or even in the SPD (Henke) or in the FAUD (Hermann Böse), some historians say, that the Bremen Left/IKD was in fact the "more Leninist" than the Spartacus League during the KPD's founding process

p.s.: in my opinion, it is not really possible to create non-contradictory "lines of (apostolic) succession" and "calendars of saints" for whatever revolutionary current because the concrete history is to contradictory and to complicated

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Jan 22 2013 11:44

Rosa supported a party gaining state power, nationalizing the economy, but then giving that nationalized economy into workers' self-maganement, insted of the state/party appointing managers.

I'm pretty sure that De Leonism is for a party fighting in the elections, but that is less important then syndicalist struggle.

And coucil communists think party should only do propaganda, no participation in election, no council communist unions.

I am correct here?

syndicalist
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Jan 22 2013 13:42

Green:

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Rosa supported a party gaining state power, nationalizing the economy, but then giving that nationalized economy into workers' self-maganement, insted of the state/party appointing managers.

For my own info, where did she write this or lay it out?

Ent:

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p.s.: in my opinion, it is not really possible to create non-contradictory "lines of (apostolic) succession" and "calendars of saints" for whatever revolutionary current because the concrete history is to contradictory and to complicated

No doubt. But I am very conflicted about placing Lux. in the libertarian camp. She always read and seemed like a partyist. That the foci was the party. That mass strikes were aimed at and in support of the revolutionary party. I can be wrong and am willing to engage and learn, but this is my impression.

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Jan 22 2013 14:42
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For my own info, where did she write this or lay it out?

Essay is called "The socialization of society", also her "What does the Spartacus League want?".

syndicalist
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Jan 22 2013 14:42
greenjuice wrote:
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For my own info, where did she write this or lay it out?

Essay is called "The socialization of society".

Got it: http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1918/12/20.htm

Off to work. Read it later.

Thanks for the mention.

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Jan 22 2013 15:41
syndicalist wrote:

No doubt. But I am very conflicted about placing Lux. in the libertarian camp. She always read and seemed like a partyist. That the foci was the party. That mass strikes were aimed at and in support of the revolutionary party. I can be wrong and am willing to engage and learn, but this is my impression.

see also http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1918/12/14.htm

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The Spartacus League is not a party that wants to rise to power over the mass of workers or through them.

The Spartacus League is only the most conscious, purposeful part of the proletariat, which points the entire broad mass of the working class toward its historical tasks at every step, which represents in each particular stage of the Revolution the ultimate socialist goal, and in all national questions the interests of the proletarian world revolution.

...

The Spartacus League will never take over governmental power except in response to the clear, unambiguous will of the great majority of the proletarian mass of all of Germany, never except by the proletariat’s conscious affirmation of the views, aims, and methods of struggle of the Spartacus League.

and occasionally e.g. in dealing with a minority inside the SDKPiL in 1911 (the Warsaw Committee) and in a conflict around 1912 with Radek, she and Jogiches also used dirty tricks and slander (which was at this point vehemently criticised by Lenin) ... but probably more libertarian than the "most beloved comrade" Garcia Oliver

syndicalist
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Jan 22 2013 16:01

Ent:

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but probably more libertarian than the "most beloved comrade" Garcia Oliver

What does this have to do with anything? She's a marxist (I'm not) and he's an anarchist?
I'd prefer to try and gain an understanding of Lux.and why she seems to be liked in some libertarian circles.

syndicalist
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Jan 22 2013 16:34

On political-state power... there seems to be little difference between the state socialist perspective of others who see the party-formation as the dominant vehicle .....

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The Spartacus League will also refuse to enter the government just because Scheidemann-Ebert are going bankrupt and the independents, by collaborating with them, are in a deadend street.

BUT.....

Quote:
The Spartacus League will never take over governmental power except in response to the clear, unambiguous will of the great majority of the proletarian mass of all of Germany, never except by the proletariat’s conscious affirmation of the views, aims, and methods of struggle of the Spartacus League.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1918/12/14.htm

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Jan 22 2013 21:41

Not in the least. She did write against the Party-centric then developing Leninism, but was an active factor in the founding of the KPD. The bit about left communists being for industrial unions is also false. So is the bit about 'participating in government'. So, overall, no.

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Jan 22 2013 22:58
Entdinglichung wrote:

both prominent and rank & file members of the Bremen Left/IKD ended up in quite different camps after 1919, many did not end up in the KAPD, but on different wings in and around the KPD e.g. Radek, Frölich, Becker, Deisen, Lindau (helped Heinrich Laufenberg to write his History of the Workers Movement in Hamburg in 1911, later KPD polititian and maverick historian in East Germany), Eildermann (later a leading ideologist of the SED), Borchardt or even in the SPD (Henke) or in the FAUD (Hermann Böse), some historians say, that the Bremen Left/IKD was in fact the "more Leninist" than the Spartacus League during the KPD's founding process

p.s.: in my opinion, it is not really possible to create non-contradictory "lines of (apostolic) succession" and "calendars of saints" for whatever revolutionary current because the concrete history is to contradictory and to complicated

Interesting post and I think your comment is right. Apparently what held these people -radicals- together in between 1905 to 1918ish has gradually dissolved after 1919...

Endinglichung;

Can I ask you which historians you are referring especially about IKD?

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Jan 22 2013 23:50
syndicalist wrote:
No doubt. But I am very conflicted about placing Lux. in the libertarian camp.

Wait. What? The original quote you posted re Luxemburg talked about Left Communists? There's nothing remotely libertarian about most Left Coms - Bordiga made Stalin look like a liberal, for e.g.

syndicalist
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Jan 23 2013 02:52
ocelot wrote:
syndicalist wrote:
No doubt. But I am very conflicted about placing Lux. in the libertarian camp.

Wait. What? The original quote you posted re Luxemburg talked about Left Communists? There's nothing remotely libertarian about most Left Coms - Bordiga made Stalin look like a liberal, for e.g.

Sorry, I crossed the two, my bad..there are some libertarians who think she is.. while were at it.. thanks for confirming that left communism is not libertarian. groucho

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Jan 23 2013 07:49

For the umpteenth time, council communism was also part of the "communist left", "left communism", "ultra-left", "infantile disorder".

slothjabber
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Jan 23 2013 08:48

And, of course, it depends what you mean by 'libertarian'.

If the defining question is 'do you believe that the organisation of revolutionaries should call itself a party?' then Left Comms are 'partyists', or even 'vanguardists'.

If the defining question (as many people on this site seem to think) is 'do you believe 'the party' should take power?' then the answer is no, Left Comms don't and are therefore 'libertarian' (except Bordigists do, but there are very few Bordigists in the world at large).

If the question is 'do you advocate a post-revolutionary state?' then the answer is complicated, because we don't 'advocate' one, we think it's unavoidable in the short term, but there are all sorts of qualifications about what 'state' actually means in this case, and anarchists and Marxists tend to have different definitions of a 'state' anyway. I'm quite happy with Rocker on this point - 'Everything for the Councils! Nothing above them!'

The notion of putting Luxemburg and the then the Council Communists into some sort of 'Libertarian Marxism' category I think stems from Guerin who (if I'm remembering correctly) comes up with a list of Marxists who can be used to criticise the Bolsheviks. It's not something that Luxemburg would have recognised, I dont think, and it's not a distinction most Left Comms would recognise either, though Council Communists might.

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Jan 23 2013 09:10
mikail firtinaci wrote:

Endinglichung;

Can I ask you which historians you are referring especially about IKD?

especially Ossip K. Flechtheim in his study on the Weimar KPD (also available in French) which was originally published in 1948, Hermann Weber, probably the leading expert on the KPD at least partly agrees with it, a few historians in Eastern Germany around 1960 like Karl Drechsler also put forward the argument that the IKD was closer to Lenin than the Spartakusbund, which was however not the official party line of the SED whose leader Ulbricht (joined the KPD only in 1920, was before in the USPD) said, that the Spartakusbund was always closer to Lenin ... bearing in mind the history of differences between Luxemburg/Jogiches and Lenin and Radek's privileged relationship with Bremen and also the different positions on the "centrist" USPD, Flechtheim's argument makes sense

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Jan 23 2013 09:34
Entdinglichung wrote:
p.s.: in my opinion, it is not really possible to create non-contradictory "lines of (apostolic) succession" and "calendars of saints" for whatever revolutionary current because the concrete history is to contradictory and to complicated

/thread

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Jan 23 2013 10:56
slothjabber wrote:
If the defining question (as many people on this site seem to think) is 'do you believe 'the party' should take power?' then the answer is no, Left Comms don't and are therefore 'libertarian' (except Bordigists do, but there are very few Bordigists in the world at large).

imo the opposite is the case. There are not many people "in the world at large" who identify as left communists, full stop. Of those that do identify first and foremost as left communists (or "in the tradition of the communist left") rather than council communist, the majority, at least in my experience, are bordigists (in the sense of referencing Bordiga's version of 'party and class', rather than Pannekoek's, the "Rome Theses" etc).

edit: not to mention that gateway theorists important in the transition from paleo- to neo-ultraleftism, like Cammatte and Dauvé, are ex-bordigists, so when "communization" folks look back to the traditions of "the communist left" it's more often Bordiga than Pannekoek they're looking to

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Jan 23 2013 13:32

I think historically the Bordigist ICP was bigger than Battaglia, or the Bilan group and its offspring - so people like Camatte came out of Bordigism, in a similar way perhaps to the Trotskyist groups who broke towards the 'ultra-left' around the time of WWII - 'meso-ultra-left' I think?

But surely since the 1980s the Bordigists proper have been pretty much confined to Italy, haven't they? Sure, people can read Bordiga, but does that really make them 'Bordigist'? The biggest organisations of the Communist Left are the ICC and the ICT, aren't they? Neither of these organisations is 'Bordigist'.

Android
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Jan 23 2013 17:08
slothjabber wrote:
I think historically the Bordigist ICP was bigger than Battaglia, or the Bilan group and its offspring - so people like Camatte came out of Bordigism, in a similar way perhaps to the Trotskyist groups who broke towards the 'ultra-left' around the time of WWII - 'meso-ultra-left' I think?

But surely since the 1980s the Bordigists proper have been pretty much confined to Italy, haven't they? Sure, people can read Bordiga, but does that really make them 'Bordigist'? The biggest organisations of the Communist Left are the ICC and the ICT, aren't they? Neither of these organisations is 'Bordigist'.

slothjabber, as far as I can tell ocelot is using "Bordigist" in the broad sense of all the groups that originate and stay within the Italian communist left. Not the more narrow sense of Bordigism as it emerged and took shape in post-WW2 context of the split in PCInt. I don't think the broad sense of the term is very useful in describing much, apart from saying all these groups and individuals come from or are influenced by the Italian left.

And I think Bordigists do and have existed outside Italy (France, Germany, UK, Lebanon, and possibly other places) mainly as isolated individuals, collection of individuals and small/tiny groups. Although it is mainly an Italy-centered thing, alright.

syndicalist
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Jan 23 2013 14:36
slothjabber wrote:
And, of course, it depends what you mean by 'libertarian'.
......

The notion of putting Luxemburg and the then the Council Communists into some sort of 'Libertarian Marxism' category I think stems from Guerin who (if I'm remembering correctly) comes up with a list of Marxists who can be used to criticise the Bolsheviks. It's not something that Luxemburg would have recognised, I dont think, and it's not a distinction most Left Comms would recognise either, though Council Communists might.

Cutting my teeth on the heels of the peak of the "new left", I can recall going back to my early years and onwards, various folks within the movement promoting Luxemborg or having her poster on their walls or exhorting the reading of the "Mass Strike" .... I guess some saw her as a revolutionary woman, who challenged some forms of "lenninism". Maybe you're right to pin some of this on Gurein, I kinda get a sense that the Situationists had a bunch to do with this as well. Well, perhaps those f a certain age and generation.

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Jan 23 2013 15:29
Angelus Novus wrote:
Entdinglichung wrote:
p.s.: in my opinion, it is not really possible to create non-contradictory "lines of (apostolic) succession" and "calendars of saints" for whatever revolutionary current because the concrete history is to contradictory and to complicated

/thread

wink

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Jan 23 2013 15:54
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And, of course, it depends what you mean by 'libertarian'.

I'd say that the broad movement of "socialism" can be divided in two camps- libertarian socialists and state capitalists, the difference being that the first ones are for a non-hierarchical economy (worker self-management) and the second ones are for technocracy- a class of "experts" ruling over the workers. With that in mind, I would clasify as "left communism" all marxists who are for a libertarian socialist economy.

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Jan 23 2013 16:04
Android wrote:

And I think Bordigists do and have existed outside Italy (France, Germany, UK, Lebanon, and possible other places) mainly as isolated individuals, collection of individuals and small/tiny groups. Although it is mainly an Italy-centered thing, alright.

in Germany Bordigism was, especially compared with Council Communism, Situationism or Korschism, always a negligible force, despite some academic/political research by the late Christian Riechers (who met Bordiga in 69 while doing research on Gramsci) during the 1970ies, some of his essays have been republished a few years ago, Riechers deeply admired Bordiga's intransigeance but was as far as I know never part of any PCInt & Co., furthermore, a few tiny circles, some very bad translations, some web pages existed for the last 40-45 years ... and occasionally Bordiga's Auschwitz-text popping up, sometimes not published by Bordigists ... and unlike the KAPD tradition, Pannekoek, Situationism, Korsch, etc., Bordiga and also other Italian Left (ICC and since around 2004 the ICT have a presence in Germany) stuff never played a substantial role in discussions of the SDS during the 60ies or for the Operaist scene or in other parts of the "left left"

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Jan 23 2013 16:09
greenjuice wrote:
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And, of course, it depends what you mean by 'libertarian'.

I'd say that the broad movement of "socialism" can be divided in two camps- libertarian socialists and state capitalists, the difference being that the first ones are for a non-hierarchical economy (worker self-management) and the second ones are for technocracy- a class of "experts" ruling over the workers. With that in mind, I would clasify as "left communism" all marxists who are for a libertarian socialist economy.

from above or from below?!

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Jan 23 2013 16:32

Can be both, Rosa was for "from above", although she, along iwith Esers, was the only revolutionary LibSoc that was that, but there were also reformists who wanted a LibSoc economy like Ricardian socialists, Guild socialists, Mill, and being reformists, they naturally wanted it established from above.

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Jan 23 2013 17:02

Entdinglichung, I agree with your point about it being completely marginal in Germany and many other places too for that matter. I was not trying to make an assertion in the opposite direction.

I was responding to slothjabber.

I have never met German Bordigists but people have told me they exist. Not in the form of a formal group, but an informal network of people, in Hanover for instance.

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Jan 23 2013 22:16

Entdinglichung

thanks for the very interesting info. I am actually working on the early comintern/pre-war 2. International left history. And I am pretty convinced that Bremen Left/IKD is actually the closest ally of the Bolsheviks after 1914. Perhaps there is more to that; Bremen/Dutch left and Bolsheviks have more theoretical connections than it is conventionally assumed because obvious reasons; cold war, councilist-liberal-stalinist re-writing of history etc.