Councilism v. Left Communism

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Entdinglichung
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Nov 1 2017 13:39

the paper of the Bremen Left: Arbeiterpolitik, 1916-19, in one clunky 800mb file: http://aaap.be/Pages/Arbeiterpolitik-Bremen-1916-1919.html

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Nov 2 2017 09:39

also recently read the autobiography of Paul Frölich Im radikalen Lager. Politische Autobiographie 1890–1921 which he wrote during his exile period in the 1930ies (manuscript only rediscovered in 2007 and published four years ago), according to him, the main Russian influence on the Bremen Left was Radek, Lenin and his writing were generally unknown before the war in Germany (his name was known to some only through the polemics by Luxemburg/Jogiches against "What is to be done"), Trotsky was known through his writings about the 1905 and the role he played back then. Generally, among the Russian Social Democrats in German exile, the relations were according to Frölich quite easy-going between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks ... also loads of other intetesting stuff in Frölich's book about the left in Germany

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Dec 17 2017 18:41

De Leon and Sylvia were marxist council communists tho
De Leon was most of his political career and Sylvia was later on in her life.

Spikymike
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Dec 18 2017 10:39

Not DeLeon of the SLP - a socialist industrial unionist rather.

slothjabber
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Dec 13 2018 13:27

... and to come in a year after the last comment, not Sylvia Pankhurst either.. She was close to the Dutch/German Left when it was still pro-party, pro-October (ie when it was still part of what would be regarded as 'Left' Communist, not 'Council' Communist) but 'later in life' she became a supporter of Haile Selassie.

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Dec 14 2018 13:00

This is the first time I've seen someone reject Council Communism as being part of the Left Communist umbrella. I mean Lenin's Left Wing Communism an Infantile disorder refers to Pannekoek and Dutch and German Council Communists as being victims of "the childishness of Leftism".

slothjabber
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Dec 14 2018 13:55

Well, I'm not sure anyone did. But the situation is complicated by the German Left of 1920 (pro-party, pro-October) calling itself variously 'Linkskommunismus' and 'Ratenkommunismus'. What is Left Communism in 2018 is not exactly the same as everyone's political trajectory from 1918-1968.

The Communist Left now is generally understood - by those that claim to be it, and by related currents such as the Council Communists - to be those organisations that defend 'pro-party, pro-October' lines, as opposed to the Council Communists, who defend the positions that the German/Dutch Left developed in the 1920s-30s, that parties were bourgeois and October was a dual or even straight out bourgeois revolution.

The fact is that the Council Communists developed a theory that was very different to that of the KAPD. They started as 'Left Communists' but ended as something else - which today we know as 'Council Communists'.

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Dec 14 2018 16:09
slothjabber wrote:
Well, I'm not sure anyone did. But the situation is complicated by the German Left of 1920 (pro-party, pro-October) calling itself variously 'Linkskommunismus' and 'Ratenkommunismus'. What is Left Communism in 2018 is not exactly the same as everyone's political trajectory from 1918-1968.

The Communist Left now is generally understood - by those that claim to be it, and by related currents such as the Council Communists - to be those organisations that defend 'pro-party, pro-October' lines, as opposed to the Council Communists, who defend the positions that the German/Dutch Left developed in the 1920s-30s, that parties were bourgeois and October was a dual or even straight out bourgeois revolution.

The fact is that the Council Communists developed a theory that was very different to that of the KAPD. They started as 'Left Communists' but ended as something else - which today we know as 'Council Communists'.

I don't think that's very accurate at all, a lot of the Council Communists from what you call the "pro-party, pro october" phase weren't. Otto Ruhle to pick probably the most well known KAPD member was already advocating his ideas by 1920 if not earlier. The KPD under Radek was pro Bolshevik and pro party, and also pro participation in parliament as was supported by the Third International at the time, so would that not also mean the KPD qualified for Left Communist status?

I also don't recognise your views on contemporary Left Communism, its not been my experience at all of those who use the term. I've seen plenty of supporters and groups active over the years whose archives are full of the older texts including Mattick and Pannekoek's anti Bolshevik and party scepticism. I've even seen a few cite material put out by syndicalist and Anarchosyndicalist groups like KRAS.

I'm familiar with groups like the ICC using extremely narrow definitions of the term Left Com, but these groups don't really have a codified criteria from what I've seen.

slothjabber
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Dec 14 2018 16:18

I think it was 1920 when Ruhle started saying that the revolution had been betrayed. He was the first from the SPD-KPD-KAPD that I'm aware of. How is that incompatible with me saying that the German and Dutch Lefts came to those views in the 1920s and 30s? Over that time more people from the German/Dutch Left came to agree with Ruhle, but not all in 1920 by any means.

The KPD weren't expelled from the ComIntern. Not Left Communists (of either Italian or German/Dutch flavour).

Who in your experience is 'Left Communist' (apart from the Hekmatists, that is)?

Mike Harman
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Dec 14 2018 16:50
slothjabber wrote:
I think it was 1920 when Ruhle started saying that the revolution had been betrayed. He was the first from the SPD-KPD-KAPD that I'm aware of. How is that incompatible with me saying that the German and Dutch Lefts came to those views in the 1920s and 30s?

But calling people 'pro-October, pro-party' based on an external view of the Russian Revolution in 1918-1919 is a bit ahistorical, it's like projecting those positions back into the past. Emma Goldman in 1919:

Somehow I found myself on the platform. I could only blurt out that like my comrades I had not come to Russia to teach: I had come to learn, to draw sustenance and hope from her, to lay down my life on the altar of the Revolution.

https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/goldman/works/1920s/disillusi...

So is Emma Goldman also 'pro party, pro October' (or just pro October?), or did she have a skewed view of events filtered through distance until confronted with reality within a day or so of landing in Russia?

There is some truth to someone like Gorter not making a complete break with Lenin when they broke with the Comintern - i.e. the Open Letter to Comrade Lenin is much more about Lenin imposing tactics developed in Russia on communist parties in Western Europe, it does not really question those tactics being applied to Russia itself or that they might be correct in 'different historical circumstances' or similar.

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Dec 14 2018 18:41
slothjabber wrote:
I think it was 1920 when Ruhle started saying that the revolution had been betrayed. He was the first from the SPD-KPD-KAPD that I'm aware of. How is that incompatible with me saying that the German and Dutch Lefts came to those views in the 1920s and 30s? Over that time more people from the German/Dutch Left came to agree with Ruhle, but not all in 1920 by any means.

Well from what I read you're implying it was some sort of radical break in 1920. That's not really the impression I get from that. I mean they had already walked out on the KPD which was the official Comintern affiliate. In Left Wing Disorder Lenin its stated that the KAPD was only allowed to join the Comintern as a sympathiser on condition that it go back into the KPD, that this was a condition and that they didn't comply suggests there was already a growing divergence.

I remember Jan Appel stating that the KAPD had already put its focus into the AAUD as early as its founding 1919.

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The KPD weren't expelled from the ComIntern. Not Left Communists (of either Italian or German/Dutch flavour).

Huh? So now its expulsion that's the key determining factor? So being pro party pro Bolshevik isn't that important I guess. Also Radek the former leader of the KPD at this time was expelled from the Comintern and then executed so I guess he still counts, then.

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Who in your experience is 'Left Communist' (apart from the Hekmatists, that is)?

Off the top my head Kurasje, Mark Shipway, Mattick Snr and Jnr, the Operaismoists, Karl Korsch, etc. According to the Left Communism tag on this site, we have other groups including Communizers. I've also encountered Left Communist groups and factions that have popped up within the IWW.

Other authors note continuity with Socialism ou Barbarie and the German Left, like in La Banquise.

It doesn't seem like you're very familiar with Left Communism at all.

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Dec 14 2018 19:02
Reddebrek wrote:
slothjabber wrote:
Who in your experience is 'Left Communist' (apart from the Hekmatists, that is)?

the Operaismoists

Italian workerism has very little to do with the left communist tradition, and little to do with the Italian communist left specifically. On a very superficial level, they share some positions (e.g. both were critical of unions or of Gramsci), but their historical lineages are independent. Apart from some "six degrees of Kevin Bacon" stuff like the fact that Bordiga was one of the founders of the party of which Mario Tronti was also a member of (a completely different party in terms of substance by then!), there is no real relation between them.

Also, the Middle Eastern "workerist" parties, as much as I like them (more than I like most Trots), have nothing to do with either Italian workerism (or "autonomism" more generally) or with left communism. Again, there are some superficial similarities, but nothing substantial – don't let the label fool you.

Left communism or the communist left was a phenomenon related to the debates and conflicts around the IIIrd International. It included both the German-Dutch and the Italian variety, along with similar tendencies in other countries (e.g., Russia, Bulgaria). They were defined, chiefly, by their opposition to working in unions and parliaments, and their opposition to "compromises" in general. Yes, in terms of other positions, the views of all of those who were included were not compatible. That is also why their attempts to cooperate and forge a united opposition ultimately failed.

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Dec 14 2018 19:49

Does operaismo really count as "left-communism"? It did not come from the Italian left-communist parties or circles, it came from the stalinist Italian Communist Party and most operaismo groups still had ties to the Italian Communist Party in someway(even if their members were purged as time went on). At the time of the operaismo movement the left-communist parties were very critical of the operaismo groupings(often in a chauvinist manner, ex 1, ex 2), just as much as the operaismo groupings were critical of the "bordigists" for being the result of the labor movement in retreat, i.e intellectuals retreating to defend the "invariance" of marxism and the party's "nucleus".

slothjabber
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Dec 14 2018 20:36
Reddebrek wrote:

Well from what I read you're implying it was some sort of radical break in 1920. That's not really the impression I get from that...

Well, moving from a position that the October revolution was a proletarian revolution and that the Bolsheviks were an expression of the international working class, to a position that the October revolution was bourgeois and so were all parties, seems like a pretty radical break to me. In 1920, other Left/Council Communists didn't share Ruhle's views; by 1940, many did, especially in the Dutch/German Left, and from then on, they've generally been known as 'Council Communists'; and the groups that didn't change their view as 'Left Communists' - today, that's generally how the terms are used.

Reddebrek wrote:

I mean they had already walked out on the KPD which was the official Comintern affiliate... In Left Wing Disorder Lenin its stated that the KAPD was only allowed to join the Comintern as a sympathiser on condition that it go back into the KPD, that this was a condition and that they didn't comply suggests there was already a growing divergence.

I remember Jan Appel stating that the KAPD had already put its focus into the AAUD as early as its founding 1919...

The KAPD was founded in 1920, so it can't have been focusing on the AAUD in 1919. They were expelled from the KPD, rather than walking. The expulsion is important.

Reddebrek wrote:

Huh? So now its expulsion that's the key determining factor? So being pro party pro Bolshevik isn't that important I guess. Also Radek the former leader of the KPD at this time was expelled from the Comintern and then executed so I guess he still counts, then...

Comparing the Left Communists with the Council Communists, the points of difference are pro/anti-party, pro/anti-October.

Comparing the Left and Council Communists with the ComIntern, the points of difference were affiliation to the Soc-Dem parties and contesting elections.

'Left-Wing Communism: an infantile disorder' is extremely relevant here. The Left Communists (all of them, including the Council Communists, including both the Dutch/German and Italian Lefts) were against participation in elections and affiliation to the Soc-Dem parties. That's pretty much the point Lenin is making. They were expelled from their national parties and/or the international. In Germany the majority was expelled and formed the KAPD; in Italy the leadership was manoeuvred out of its positions by Gramsci's faction backed by (and backing) Moscow.

So yes, taking 'Left Communists' in opposition to 'the Moscow line' then expulsion from the Comintern (or parties affiliated to) is what is important. Taking 'Left Communists' in distinction to 'Council Communists' the important question is the nature of the October revolution.

Reddebrek wrote:

Off the top my head Kurasje, Mark Shipway, Mattick Snr and Jnr, the Operaismoists, Karl Korsch, etc. According to the Left Communism tag on this site, we have other groups including Communizers. I've also encountered Left Communist groups and factions that have popped up within the IWW.

Other authors note continuity with Socialism ou Barbarie and the German Left, like in La Banquise.

It doesn't seem like you're very familiar with Left Communism at all.

If you like. Maybe I'm not, I've only been talking to them for 20 years. I don't know Kurasje or La Banquise.

Some of those you mention were connected with the German Left over the course of its development into modern Council Communism (Korsch, Mattick, Mark Shipway). So, yes, part of the Communist Left in its widest sense.

Socialisme ou Barbarie came out of Trotskyism, under the influence of Bordigism. It moved towards Left Comm positions. Other groups such as Munis's group in Spain and Stinas's group in Greece had somewhat similar evolutions. These groups did move towards the Communist Left for sure.

Communisation isn't Left Communism.

In agreement with Jura, Operaismo isn't Left Communism either.

There are definitely Marxists in the IWW, some of whom are Left Comms, and Mattick was for a while a member. I've never heard of any Left Comm groups coming out of the IWW - though if they did it would surely be on the basis of approach to the positions of either the Italian or the German/Dutch Left, these being the only Left Comm groups to have left lasting organisations.

But I don't really see the point you're trying to make here. You're just mixing up a lot of different things and claiming that they're all Left Communism. I don't accept that as a method. I think political labels have meanings; Left Comm means something specific, and a bunch of the groups you name don't have the characteristics of Left Comm groups. You didn't answer when I asked if you think Anarcho-capitalists are Anarchists. I don't think they are, because I think 'Anarchist' has a meaning which excludes An-Caps from being Anarchists. I think Left Comm means something too, and at its widest it means 1-the groups mentioned by Lenin in Left Wing Communism; 2-the groups organisationally descended from those groups; 3-groups which approach the political positions of 1 and 2.

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Dec 14 2018 20:40

...Moreover, operaismo was also critical of the other part of the communist left, i.e. the (perceived) council communist views on "self-management". Operaists (Sergio Bologna, notably) argued that they were but the expression of a technical composition based on highly skilled, artisan-like workers (German metalworkers being the archetype).

I really wouldn't trust WIkipedia on obscure marxist history.

Mike Harman
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Dec 14 2018 20:52
slothjabber wrote:
Socialisme ou Barbarie came out of Trotskyism, under the influence of Bordigism. It moved towards Left Comm positions.

There was also Dunayevska's correspondence with Pannekoek in the late '40s or early '50s (i.e. after the Forest-Johnson tendency had split with Trotskyism, but before the late '50s early '60s splits in that tendency between Correspondence/Facing Reality/Marxist Humanism).

With that tendency you have:

- Pro-Lenin, but anti-Leninism/Trotskyism
- extremely critical of the unions.
- ambivalent on the party form
- pro workers councils

Neither the CWO nor the ICC have more than a sentence each to say about CLR James though, let alone Glaberman - this despite Glaberman having some of the very clearest writings on trade unions.

Are they classical left communists? No. Did they come to very similar positions to left/council communism? (both independently and as a result of contacts with earlier generations during that process), definitely they did.

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Dec 14 2018 21:18
Mike Harman wrote:
Are they classical left communists? No. Did they come to very similar positions to left/council communism? (both independently and as a result of contacts with earlier generations during that process), definitely they did.

But this very much depends on the range of positions you choose. If you focus on the union question, the analogy works. Less so with the party (at least with respect to the Dutch-German variety of left communism), as you noted. Conversely, the Italian left was very critical of the councils and of self-management – a major point of contention with Gramsci, in fact, and an important difference with respect to, e.g. Socialisme ou Barbarie and their splits. And surely you don't think that CLR James' views on the Third World and anti-imperialist struggles were close to those of the Italian Communist left. (One of James' students was Kwame Nkrumah.)

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Dec 14 2018 21:34

To Jura and LeninistGirl that's true but I didn't mention Bordiga. My reading of Autonomism and Workerism was that it came out of the Italian left in Opposition to the PCI and embrace a more rank and file approach to build a movement that went beyond the ownership of factories and aimed at abolishing among other things wage labour.

slothjabber wrote:

Well, moving from a position that the October revolution was a proletarian revolution and that the Bolsheviks were an expression of the international working class, to a position that the October revolution was bourgeois and so were all parties, seems like a pretty radical break to me.

Sure but the issue here is timing, I don't think that's usually how ideas develop, again Jan Appel stated that he and his comrades had put their faith in the AAUD at its founding in 1919.

Quote:
In 1920, other Left/Council Communists didn't share Ruhle's views; by 1940, many did, especially in the Dutch/German Left, and from then on, they've generally been known as 'Council Communists'; and the groups that didn't change their view as 'Left Communists' - today, that's generally how the terms are used.

Sorry but you're the first person I've seen to use the term in that way. I've seen people distinguish between what they call Councilism and Council Communism before but never as a divergence between Left Communism and Council Communism. I've seen plenty of debate about Russian, British, Italian, and Dutch and German Left Communists before too.

Quote:
The KAPD was founded in 1920, so it can't have been focusing on the AAUD in 1919. They were expelled from the KPD, rather than walking. The expulsion is important.

The AAUD was founded in 1919 with the involvement of many KPD members who went on to be the KAPD. I agree the expulsion is important, but for different reasons. They were expelled because they opposed the KPD leadership that at the time was very close to the ComIntern. Opposing the Comintern line doesn't strike me as "Pro Bolshevik," it seems to suggest that they were already well on the way to critical opposition.

Quote:
Comparing the Left Communists with the Council Communists, the points of difference are pro/anti-party, pro/anti-October.

Comparing the Left and Council Communists with the ComIntern, the points of difference were affiliation to the Soc-Dem parties and contesting elections.

Ok so you are using Left Communism to exclude the Council Communist, but on your second point the PCI contested elections before the split and since Lenin called the Council Communists

Quote:
'Left-Wing Communism: an infantile disorder' is extremely relevant here. The Left Communists (all of them, including the Council Communists, including both the Dutch/German and Italian Lefts) were against participation in elections and affiliation to the Soc-Dem parties. That's pretty much the point Lenin is making. They were expelled from their national parties and/or the international. In Germany the majority was expelled and formed the KAPD; in Italy the leadership was manoeuvred out of its positions by Gramsci's faction backed by (and backing) Moscow.

Sure but that also applies to others including Pankhurst who you've discounted. If that's your criteria then the definition of Left Communism would be much broader. But you keep insisting that isn't the case.

Quote:
If you like. Maybe I'm not, I've only been talking to them for 20 years. I don't know Kurasje or La Banquise.

Well I've been talking to many over the years too and you're just as dismissive of my experiences, so. Both La Banquise and Kurasje are on this site.

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Communisation isn't Left Communism.

Personally I'd agree but I've seen more than a few Left Coms that overlap it a lot with what their doing.

Quote:
There are definitely Marxists in the IWW, some of whom are Left Comms, and Mattick was for a while a member. I've never heard of any Left Comm groups coming out of the IWW - though if they did it would surely be on the basis of approach to the positions of either the Italian or the German/Dutch Left, these being the only Left Comm groups to have left lasting organisations.

Sorry if your not familiar with them than what's the point of you speculating about them?

Quote:
But I don't really see the point you're trying to make here. You're just mixing up a lot of different things and claiming that they're all Left Communism. I don't accept that as a method. I think political labels have meanings; Left Comm means something specific, and a bunch of the groups you name don't have the characteristics of Left Comm groups.

That's true but your qualifiers in this thread aren't very clear at all. From what you've told me Trotskyists would easily qualify as Left Communists, they're pro party, pro Bolshevik, were expelled from the ComIntern, and a number are hostile to participating in elections and social democratic policies.

I don't think your usage of the term is very useful at all. You keep having to add layers of distinction which often add more ambiguity.

Quote:
You didn't answer when I asked if you think Anarcho-capitalists are Anarchists. I don't think they are, because I think 'Anarchist' has a meaning which excludes An-Caps from being Anarchists. I think Left Comm means something too, and at its widest it means 1-the groups mentioned by Lenin in Left Wing Communism; 2-the groups organisationally descended from those groups; 3-groups which approach the political positions of 1 and 2.

If you want to use the term Left Communism to refer exclusively to groups that are as close as possible to the ones singled out in Lenin's book then that's fine, I don't think its particularly useful since most (all?) of the people covered by it are now dead.

But in terms of Left Communism in ideas and positions that's just useless, unless you're arguing that the few groups you do consider Left Communist haven't changed or developed at all over the years, how on earth are you making the judgement? The criteria you've shown me seems both highly reductive and yet somehow loose enough to include plenty of people and groups I'm sure you wouldn't accept.

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Dec 14 2018 21:47
Reddebrek wrote:
To Jura and LeninistGirl that's true but I didn't mention Bordiga. My reading of Autonomism and Workerism was that it came out of the Italian left in Opposition to the PCI and embrace a more rank and file approach to build a movement that went beyond the ownership of factories and aimed at abolishing among other things wage labour.

In this sense any opposition "from the left" against the Stalinist parties could count as "left communism". According to this logic, certain Yugoslav humanist philosophers of the 1960s, Jacek Kuron in Poland, some of the Hungarian militants fighting on the barricades of 1956 and many others would all be "left communists". Feel free to define your terms however you want but surely this isn't standard usage.

I think all of the criteria necessary to determine what left communism was are contained in Lenin's brochure. It clearly states that both the Dutch-German and the Italian currents belong there. It's what started the term. End of story. We can perhaps extrapolate to latter-day followers of the original left communists' ideas (who explicitly identify as such), but I don't see the point in stretching the term to include someone like Raniero Panzieri (who at one time was on the central committee of the PSI) or Mario Tronti, who even returned to the PCI after a few years (but still remains somewhat true to operaist discourse to this day).

Mike Harman
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Dec 14 2018 21:53
jura wrote:
But this very much depends on the range of positions you choose. If you focus on the union question, the analogy works. Less so with the party (at least with respect to the Dutch-German variety of left communism), as you noted. Conversely, the Italian left was very critical of the councils and of self-management – a major point of contention with Gramsci, in fact, and an important difference with respect to, e.g. Socialisme ou Barbarie and their splits. And surely you don't think that CLR James' views on the Third World and anti-imperialist struggles were close to those of the Italian Communist left. (One of James' students was Kwame Nkrumah.)

James was very critical of Kwame Nkrumah in 1962, in his book Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution, where he quotes Lenin at length in order to critique Nkrumah. He was also connected to Jomo Kenyatta in the 1930s, but had an extremely low opinion of Kenyatta (although only wrote about him a couple of times, basically calls him an idiot when he does). A lot of James' inconsistency on this is due to him not breaking fully with Lenin IMO (or his personal ties with people he met and organised with in the 1930s UK when he was still a Trotskyist and very recently ex Caribbean nationalist) - but that lack of Lenin break does not distinguish him from some Left Communists.

Even though I think the criticism of Nkrumah is tame (in the same way Lenin's criticism of the USSR, which James marshals against Nkrumah, is tame), it's useful to read, in that he's at least (although by his own admission belatedly) giving an account of events. But James on Nyerere reads very uncritical indeed, and that's even later.

On the other hand a 'left communist' evaluation of anti-colonial and similar movements often equates to sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting 'la la la' very loudly. See the really sloppy discussion of Syria and South Africa here for example: https://libcom.org/blog/trotskyism-war-syria-01092018 where actual class struggle just gets ignored in favour of talking about how Mandela actually wasn't that great, and a survey of Trotskyist positions on Syria from everywhere except the middle east. Or the ICC's promotion of campists/conspiracy theorists Robert Fisk and Piers Robinson documented here: https://libcom.org/forums/news/syria-campism-conspiracy-theory-26062018. Not really anything substantial in these to compare to other tendencies unfortunately, one or two ICC articles have been better (I think there was one on Senegal), but haven't seen anything substantial from the CWO.

Matthew Quest is excellent on CLR James' residual Leninism fwiw: https://libcom.org/library/silences-suppression-workers-self-emancipatio... . Would also recommend Quest's resurrection of Eusi Kwayana's The Bauxite Strike and the Old Politics on proto-workers councils in 1970s Guyana.

Also 'unreconstructed Johnsonite' Glaberman wrote more on the unions than James, and didn't really write much about national liberation that I know of.

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Dec 14 2018 22:01

Mike, that was very interesting, but my point was that while the standard left communist position on anti-imperialism is pretty unambiguous – petty bourgeois nationalist movements inimical to the working class and designed to prop up domestic capitalist development – the views of CLR James, or even Glaberman (with respect to the LRBW and their Maoism or whatever it was), were much more accommodating. I'm not picking a position here, just stating the difference. You were implying that on some positions, the JFT and their splits were close to left communism. I'm saying it only works with a pretty narrow range of positions (on a rigorous view, unions and perhaps working class self-activity, but that's a very broad theme).

slothjabber
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Dec 14 2018 22:16
Reddebrek wrote:
... My reading of Autonomism and Workerism was that it came out of the Italian left in Opposition to the PCI and embrace a more rank and file approach to build a movement that went beyond the ownership of factories and aimed at abolishing among other things wage labour...

Operaismo came out Stalinism. Nothing to do with Left Communism or even Trotskyism.

Reddebrek wrote:

... Sorry but you're the first person I've seen to use the term in that way. I've seen people distinguish between what they call Councilism and Council Communism before but never as a divergence between Left Communism and Council Communism. I've seen plenty of debate about Russian, British, Italian, and Dutch and German Left Communists before too...

I think probably you have seen other people use the term that way, but not realised. I really don't think that how I use the terms Left Communism and Council Communism is all that idiosyncratic. I don't refer to 'Councilism' because my understanding is that it's basically a pejorative from the French that the ICC popularised. A bit like how Stalinists refer to Trotskyists as Troskyites. I consider people who identify with Council Communism as comrades. I'm not out to insult them.

Reddebrek wrote:

... Sure but that also applies to others including Pankhurst who you've discounted. If that's your criteria then the definition of Left Communism would be much broader. But you keep insisting that isn't the case...

How have I discounted Pankhurst? Literally don't know what you're referring to here. She was a Left Communist: she was anti-parliamentarian, expelled from the CPGB, was close to the KAPD, was part of the Fourth International, published pieces by Bordiga, and was criticised in Left Wing Communism. How could she not be a Left Communist? She's pretty much the poster-child of Left Communism.

The point is about legacy if you like. There were loads of Left Communists in 1919. Only the German/Dutch Left, and the Italian Left, had continuing legacies in terms of organisations that survived. The British Left didn't, the Bulgarian Left didn't, the Russian Left didn't.

Reddebrek wrote:

... Both La Banquise and Kurasje are on this site...

OK, I'll check them out but if they're Hekmatist, Communisers or Autonomists I reserve the right not to be impressed.

Reddebrek wrote:

... your qualifiers in this thread aren't very clear at all. From what you've told me Trotskyists would easily qualify as Left Communists, they're pro party, pro Bolshevik, were expelled from the ComIntern, and a number are hostile to participating in elections and social democratic policies...

Did Lenin refer to Trotsky in Left Wing Communism: an infantile disorder?

The Trotskyists were not Left Communists. There were Left Communists in Russia - Ossinsky, Bukharin in 1918 (he changed positions, but Left Communism didn't go with him) and others.

When the Spanish Bolshevik-Leninists called themselves 'Left Communists', Trotsky complained because he knew 'Left Communist' was a term with a meaning and it didn't apply to his supporters in Spain.

Reddebrek wrote:

...If you want to use the term Left Communism to refer exclusively to groups that are as close as possible to the ones singled out in Lenin's book then that's fine, I don't think its particularly useful since most (all?) of the people covered by it are now dead...

Yes they're all dead, how could they not be?

But that's pretty much the origin of the term - Lenin was criticising various groups in Europe who refused to participate in elections. Gorter, Pannekoek, Bordiga's group in the Italian party, Pankhurst - they were the 'Left (Wing) Communists'. That's what 'Left Communist' means as much as anything does.

Reddebrek wrote:

... But in terms of Left Communism in ideas and positions that's just useless, unless you're arguing that the few groups you do consider Left Communist haven't changed or developed at all over the years, how on earth are you making the judgement? The criteria you've shown me seems both highly reductive and yet somehow loose enough to include plenty of people and groups I'm sure you wouldn't accept.

If they're anti-parliamentary, refuse to back fractions of capital in imperialist wars, and are in favour of workers' self-organisation, that's a really good start as far as I'm concerned. I disagree with the Council Communists about the nature of parties, but they're still part of the broader Communist Left.

But the point is, Left Communism (broadly so including the Council Communists) is the political positions of the groups that were expelled in the '20s for anti-parliamentarism (so, not the Trotskyists). If new groups move towards those positions then yes they are Left Communists. If they don't then they're not. I don't know why you think that's a useless definition.

Mike Harman
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Dec 14 2018 22:20
jura wrote:
Mike, that was very interesting, but my point was that while the standard left communist position on anti-imperialism is pretty unambiguous – petty bourgeois nationalist movements inimical to the working class and designed to prop up domestic capitalist development

In theory yes. In practice any investigation of independent working class organisation is absent when there's also an 'anti-imperialist' movement happening at the same time.

I'm sure if a group showed up in South Africa, Kenya or Tanzania that claimed to be in the direct intellectual lineage of the Italian fraction of the communist left they'd be into it, but general strikes organised by mass meetings of thousands in post-war Kenya, or Abahlali baseMjondolo in South Africa today, it's just silence or conflation. Are mass strikes 'petit bourgeois'? Maybe if you're Lenin in 1919..

Mike Harman
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Dec 14 2018 22:25
slothjabber wrote:
I don't refer to 'Councilism' because my understanding is that it's basically a pejorative from the French that the ICC popularised.

hmm I know 'councilist' is a perjorative but for some reason I also thought Henri Simon identified with it? Might be wrong on that though. Have also seen it used as a catch-all for SouB, Solidarity et al, sort of 'post war council communism'.

slothjabber wrote:
How have I discounted Pankhurst? Literally don't know what you're referring to here. She was a Left Communist: she was anti-parliamentarian, expelled from the CPGB, was close to the KAPD, was part of the Fourth International, published pieces by Bordiga, and was criticised in Left Wing Communism. How could she not be a Left Communist? She's pretty much the poster-child of Left Communism.

I don't think you have, but Dyjbas/the ICT/CWO have with there 'left communism first arrived in the UK in the 1970s' claim which they really don't like me bringing up.

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jura
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Dec 14 2018 22:25
slothjabber wrote:
Operaismo came out Stalinism. Nothing to do with Left Communism or even Trotskyism.

OK, I guess at this point the debate has already lost any pretence at historical accuracy and everybody's just redefining terms as they go (how this is possible on a site with perhaps the best available literature on all of this, I don't know), but I want to add that the organizational origins of "operaismo" were much broader than just the PCI. As mentioned in this or other thread, one of the founders, or perhaps the founder, came out of the PSI and was influenced by (and corresponded with) S. ou B. Montaldi had a brief stint in the PCI but his father was an anarchist. Still others had no formal party background or were politicized in Christian Socialist circles. Anyway, operaismo as a current signified a radical break with the Gramscian-Togliattian postwar PCI, so saying "it came out of Stalinism" and pretending like it's some sort of political analysis from which one can draw conclusions is like saying Pannekoek came out of the IInd International and doing the same.

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jura
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Dec 14 2018 22:29
Mike Harman wrote:
In theory yes. In practice any investigation of independent working class organisation is absent when there's also an 'anti-imperialist' movement happening at the same time.

Seriously, what are you on about? We're not debating the details or merits of that position. We're debating your dysfunctional analogies.

Mike Harman
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Dec 14 2018 22:38
jura wrote:
Mike Harman wrote:
In theory yes. In practice any investigation of independent working class organisation is absent when there's also an 'anti-imperialist' movement happening at the same time.

Seriously, what are you on about? We're not debating the details or merits of that position. We're debating your dysfunctional analogies.

Pannekoek in 1947:

Pannekoek wrote:
To characterize modern capitalist production as a system wherein the workers by their own free responsibility and will-power are driven to the utmost exertion, the expression was often used that a free worker is no coolie. The problem of Asia now is to make the coolie a free worker. In China the process is taking its course; there the workers of olden times possessed a strong individualism. In tropical countries it will be much more difficult to transform the passive downtrodden masses, kept in deep ignorance and superstition by heavy oppression, into active well-instructed workers capable of handling the modern productive apparatus and forces. Thus capital is faced with many problems. Modernization of the government apparatus through self-rule is necessary, but more is needed: the possibility of social and spiritual organization and progress, based on political and social rights and liberties, on sound general instruction. Whether world capital will be able and willing to follow this course cannot be foreseen. If it does, then the working classes of these countries will be capable of independent fighting for their class interests and for freedom along with the Western workers.

Seems to be advocating for political independence for the colonies with full political social rights and liberties as a step towards an international communist revolution to me - i.e. that it would not be possible for the working class in colonised countries to attain a communist consciousness without that step first. Of course this isn't quite the same as support for 'national liberation movements' in the usual Trot/Leninist sense but it doesn't seem so very far removed from CLR James' combination of council communism in Western Europe and support for nationalist movements in the periphery.

In both cases for me it's because they didn't fully drop 'historical materialism' (in the bad, 'Marksist' sense).

https://www.marxists.org/archive/pannekoe/1947/workers-councils.htm#h31

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jura
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Dec 14 2018 22:40
jura wrote:
And surely you don't think that CLR James' views on the Third World and anti-imperialist struggles were close to those of the Italian Communist left. (One of James' students was Kwame Nkrumah.)

Mike Harman wrote:
Pannekoek in 1947:

jura wrote:
*head explodes*

Mike Harman
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Dec 14 2018 22:53
jura wrote:
jura wrote:
And surely you don't think that CLR James' views on the Third World and anti-imperialist struggles were close to those of the Italian Communist left. (One of James' students was Kwame Nkrumah.)

Mike Harman wrote:
Pannekoek in 1947:

jura wrote:
*head explodes*

Why stick to James vs. the Italian communist left when thread is 'council communism vs. left communism' - if you think they've got some continuity with council communism but not italian left communism that's fair enough and I agree.

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jura
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Dec 14 2018 23:23

Obviously there are similiarities (the union question) that I've mentioned myself, but not on the question of nationalism/anti-imperialism. What Pannekoek is saying in that quote is that if capitalism develops in the colonies, the working class will also develop that could be an ally to the working class in the West (or North). I guess any marxist would agree with that. It's rather trivial, and quite different from rooting for Fidel Castro, as James did. For what it's worth, Pannekoek opposed nationalism since before WW1, favoring personal autonomy over territorial autonomy. Even in Workers' Councils, he calls nationalism "the essential creed of the bourgeoisie". Gorter rejected national self-determination in 1914 and later viewed Lenin's national liberation doctrine as "bourgeois-capitalist".