Difference between Anarchism and Left Communism?

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Nov 14 2009 15:23
Difference between Anarchism and Left Communism?

Could someone tell me what the fundamental differences bewteen these two are (anarchism in its class struggle, collectivist version)

nastyned
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Nov 14 2009 16:00

Left communists are authoriatarian Marxists that believe in the need for a vanguard party.

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Steven.
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Nov 14 2009 18:21

Ned, I don't think that's a very accurate distinction.

For starters, the word "authoritarian" in addition to being extremely loaded, doesn't actually explain much. And in terms of the vanguard party, many theories of political parties are indistinguishable from roles of anarchist organisations.

I will try to post a better answer to this a bit later...

nastyned
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Nov 14 2009 18:47

Don't give me none of that, what I've said is entirely factually correct and totally accurate.

Android
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Nov 14 2009 19:16

From my limited experience of the anarchist movement. When anarchists use the term "authoritarian Marxists" it is usually in reference to leftists. Even in this context I don't think it is the right approach because as a communist my objection is not there "authoritarism" but rather the political perspective of leftism.

It isn't an accurate description of left communists in my opinion to attribute them being in favour of a vanguard party in the sense it is usually understood as the party substituting itself for the class. The left communists groups (IP, ICT, ICC) I am familiar enough with, none hold such a perspective on political organisation as I understand there position anyway.

Ronan

Jason Cortez
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Nov 14 2009 21:43

the left communists eat new born babies in rituals attempting to raise the prols to the dictatorship of world, commonly called ZOG

Boris Badenov
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Nov 14 2009 23:46

I don't see what is so authoritarian about left communists, given that they've always existed in opposition to mainstream, and truly authoritarian, Communist politics, from the left of the spectrum, as their name indicates. There isn't a lot of historical proof to back up the claim of their supposed authoritarianism, unlike with the Trots, and other such groups.
Yes, the whole thing about the Party is pretty bad politics, and it clearly sets them apart from anarchism, but it seems to me that the writings of classical left communists are definitely closer to a truly libertarian strain of revolutionary thought, than all Trotskyism (and most platformism). So, although I enjoy ICC jokes as much as the next fella, I don't think the hostility to left communism is warranted.

Jason Cortez
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Nov 14 2009 23:52

so you will give up your new born to Left communists to eat willingly. ICT, ICC, IP take note you won't even need to steal this one, but wouldn't that ruin it. Ah I see what you have done, Vlad.

appledoze
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Nov 15 2009 00:54

Left communism is a tendency of non-Leninist/non-orthodox Marxism, and settle for a more classical and libertarian side of Marxism. Anarchism is just the general term for the spectrum of ideologies mostly based on left-wing anti-authoritarianism. Just a general term like Socialism.

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Nov 15 2009 00:54

Hmm, I wouldn't say "non-Leninist"...

appledoze
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Nov 15 2009 01:00

Yes it is non-Leninist, otherwise it would be Trotskyism. Left communists, especially the German left communists were renowned for being critics of the Bolsheviks. It was what distinguished them from the Orthodox tendencies, like Leninism, which were mostly authoritarian.

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Nov 15 2009 01:15

Er, no, the most high-profile Left Communist organisation would be the ICC, which defends Lenin (and occasionally Trotsky) as a "great revolutionary". It strongly identifies itself with the left of the Bolshevik party until the early 20s.

Now I think its worth distinguishing council communism from the left of the Bolshevik party, the Bordigists etc, as I think that a number of differences are hidden by the catch-all term. Self-described left communists often like to claim it all though.

Android
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Nov 15 2009 02:41

To address the original question. I feel it is necessary to distinguish between leftist anarchists (Anarkismo groups) and internationalist anarchists (libcom.org group and AF). The latter of which on the surface is quite close to left communism, adopting a communist critique of trade unionism, internationalist on the national question and anti-parliamentarianist. However the left communist groups analysis is grounded in that groups conception of decadence. Whereas all anarchist groups reject decadence theory.

Also, I'm interested in what Django criticisms of the left-wing of the Bolshevik Party are, as my knowledge is limited to just reading articles on the Workers Opposition group and the such.

Ronan

appledoze
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Nov 15 2009 04:59
Django wrote:
Er, no, the most high-profile Left Communist organisation would be the ICC, which defends Lenin (and occasionally Trotsky) as a "great revolutionary". It strongly identifies itself with the left of the Bolshevik party until the early 20s.

Now I think its worth distinguishing council communism from the left of the Bolshevik party, the Bordigists etc, as I think that a number of differences are hidden by the catch-all term. Self-described left communists often like to claim it all though.

I haven't looked much into the ICC, but I'm pretty sure they are critics of Leninism and Trotskyism as well as Stalinism and Maoism. Regardless, left communism has always been from a historical perspective anti-Bolshevik.

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Nov 15 2009 05:24

See, now, this is really interesting because all you anarchists have different views on what is really left communism and much of it centres around the question of the party or political organization, "Leninism", and "authoritarianism". As opposed to decadence theory or whatever other aspect of their Marxist theory.

The answer to the question is determined partly by asking whether or not one considers council communism to be an instance of left communism. Obviously some do and some don't, even within the left communist milieu itself; e.g. the ICC would say yes, while Bordigists would say no, and -- I think -- the IBRP/ICT would also say no.

As a left communist myself -- actually, I say I'm just a communist who is largely or mostly influenced by and thus coming from the tradition of left communism -- I do consider council communism, a tendency which is opposed to the vanguard party, and parties in general, to be part of left communism. The ICC claim that "councilism", which is supposed to be some form of deformed offspring of council communism, is completely opposed to every form of political organization defending a revolutionary perspective within the struggles of the class. A "councilist" non-organization of this sort I guess would be the network Echanges et Mouvement.

I have a position on these issues that is apparently unique. I am against vanguard parties, and parties in general as I understand them to be in mature capitalist society, along the same lines as I understand the traditional council communists (Pannekoek, Mattick, Appel, Canne-Meijer) saw them. However, I am not hostile to political (or anti-political) organizations of pro-revolutionaries defending a revolutionary perspective within the struggles of the class, within general assemblies and workers' councils, in a manner that encourages as much as possible the direct control of the struggle and all the common activity by all of the workers equally, and opposes those organizations that attempt to gain leadership over the struggle by means of control over the councils or other organizations the workers use to carry out their struggle. I would characterize this position as "non-Leninist", but not necessarily "anti-Leninist", although that is an interesting debate on its own. I also see it as fairly similar to the position on the role of the political (or anti-political) organization held by some anarchists.

This position is clearly distinct from the ICC (not to mention the IBRP/ICT and the Bordigists), which while it claims to be against party-substitutionism, is still for the vanguard party and as we have seen many times here on libcom defends the role of the Bolshevik Party in the Russian revolution as model for the role of the party they work toward in the revolution to come.

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jesuithitsquad
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Nov 15 2009 05:51

Waslax-Do you find your position to be in line with Dauve's approach? As I understand his views it seems fairly parallel.

knightrose
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Nov 15 2009 11:45

Actually the term "anarchist" is about as useful a way of defining your own politics as is the word "socialist".

I like what Waslax says. In many ways it defines my own views on organisation, except I wouldn't say

Quote:
I am not hostile to political (or anti-political) organizations of pro-revolutionaries defending a revolutionary perspective within the struggles of the class, within general assemblies and workers' councils

etc, rather I'd say such an organisation is absolutely essential. Interestingly it's what many who label themselves as anarchist communists think as well.

As far as I can see, the main issue with the ICC, for example, is not that it is authoritarian - which I agree is a meaningless term. We are all authoritarians on one level - we want a revolution - something that will be both liberatory for the majority, but profoundly authoritarian for the current ruling class, state and hangers on. Neither is the problem their centralisation as such - again I favour centralisation in the area of ideas. The problem in the immediate sense is their view of decadence, which I'd see as just plain wrong and the way they interpret that theory which makes their practice here in the UK one of shouting from the sidelines in a manner which is all but unintelligible to the very class they claim to want to be aiming their press at. Secondly there is their view that there should be a state that mediates between the workers councils and other classes post revolution, rather than seeing the workers councils themselves as the organs of class power.

Frankly though, we'd be far better ditching 19th century labels like anarchist or marxist or left communist (Ok - I know it's not exactly 19th century).

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Nov 15 2009 12:43

Left communists can be recognised because they usually appear to be going in circles because of their inability to turn right.

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Nov 15 2009 14:06
appledoze wrote:
Regardless, left communism has always been from a historical perspective anti-Bolshevik.

actually last time this came up ICC members were saying they were proud to identify as Bolsheviks. I think the differences between left communism and anarcho-syndicalism are pretty clear, rooted in whether 'politics' should be addressed by a centralised party or by libertarian industrial/community organisations that reject the notion revolutionary ideas are the possession of a cadre of dedicated and sincere militants organisationally apart from everyday struggles. This is complemented by a view of class struggle as largely spontaneous, so what must be done is build the party ready to provide leadership when the opportunity arises, whereas anarch-syndicalists think by having organisations rooted in workplaces/industries/communities you can influence or instigate struggles from the off without having to 'intervene' as politcos when they become visible to the outside world.

'Anarchists' is an amorphous term, but the AF are somewhere between those two perspectives, while when i've had this discussion with ICC members they say they support workplace groups and the like - but presumably see them as agitational while the Party handles political leadership. iirc the ICC's main criticism of the Bolsheviks is that they took power, seen as an 'error' rather than the logical material consequence of the party form of organisation advocating a 'proletarian state.'

Jason Cortez
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Nov 15 2009 16:02

Why is everyone else ignoring the fact that left commies eat working class new born babies and not just ones from the ruling class, like they have try to claim in the past. I think this tendency to consume the flesh of babies results directly from their 'theory of decadence' leading to their religious mystical expression of class struggle, despite it being clothed in pseudo-scientific rhetoric.

nastyned
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Nov 15 2009 21:18

I find it odd that people don't see organisations such as the ICC as authoritarian when clearly they are. They've certainly had articles in their paper attacking libertarian communism.

I find it even odder that people can say that 'authoritarian' is a meaningless term. It could be that new dictionaries are called for but I suspect the more likely reason for such nonsense is spending too much time reading ultra-left theory. Whether or not groups adopt leftist positions on the unions and national liberation movements is not the be all and end all of whether they are worthwhile. As far as I'm concerned how groups operate and are structured is important too, and good old terms like 'libertarian' and 'authoritarian' come in handy here.

Or to use ultra-left terminology, which seems to be the only language some of you can understand, I think it is important that groups are prefigurative.

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Nov 15 2009 22:01
jesuithitsquad wrote:
Waslax-Do you find your position to be in line with Dauve's approach? As I understand his views it seems fairly parallel.

Hi jesuithitsquad

Yes, I do think my position is compatible with Dauve's, actually. I just haven't read enough of his material on the question addressed here. Can you point me to anything relevant?

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Nov 15 2009 22:22
knightrose wrote:
I like what Waslax says. In many ways it defines my own views on organisation, except I wouldn't say
Quote:
I am not hostile to political (or anti-political) organizations of pro-revolutionaries defending a revolutionary perspective within the struggles of the class, within general assemblies and workers' councils

etc, rather I'd say such an organisation is absolutely essential. Interestingly it's what many who label themselves as anarchist communists think as well.

Actually, I agree with you on this as well, Knightrose. I just didn't express it that way on this occasion. Political (or anti-political) organization of pro-revolutionaries is indeed absolutely essential. And it is not necessary that all such organizations be fused into one single centralized organization for the most beneficial impact of said organizations (or of pro-rev's) to occur. In fact, I am a member of one such organization.

I think that if in the future there is to be any significant, serious co-operation and common activity between libertarian communists and left communists (while existing in separate organizations) in a revolutionary (or pre-revolutionary) situation that it will have to be on the basis of shared understanding on this question of organization and the role of pro-rev's in the struggle.

And, yes, when I said I thought that some anarchists have similar positions on these questions, one such group I had in mind was the AF.

Interesting, but probably not that surprising, that there are some who are fundamentally hostile to any kind of rapprochement between (some) libertarian communists and (some) left communists.

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Nov 15 2009 23:22

To my knowledge he has the most to say about it in "Eclipse and Reemergence" in the section "Leninism and the Ultra-Left"

Gilles Dauve wrote:
The party is a spontaneous offspring, born on the historical soil of modern society. Both the will and the fear to "create" the party are illusions. It does not need to be created or not created: it is a mere historical product. Therefore revolutionaries have no need either to build it or fear to build it.

Lenin had a theory of the party. Marx had another theory of the party, which was quite different from Lenin's. Lenin's theory was an element in the defeat of the Russian revolution. The ultra-left rejected all theories of the party as dangerous and counter-revolutionary. Yet Lenin's theory was not at the root of the defeat of the Russian revolution. Lenin's theory only prevailed because the Russian revolution failed (mainly because of the absence of revolution in the West). One must not discard all theories of the party because one of them (Lenin's) was a counter-revolutionary instrument. Unfortunately, the ultra-left merely adopted a conception which is the exact opposite of Lenin's. Lenin had wanted to build a party; the ultra-left refused to build one. The ultra-left thus gave a different answer to the same wrong question: for or against the construction of the party. The ultra-left remained on the same ground as Lenin. We, on the contrary, do not want merely to reverse Lenin's view; we want to abandon it altogether.

dave c
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Nov 16 2009 01:32
Quote:
Or to use ultra-left terminology, which seems to be the only language some of you can understand, I think it is important that groups are prefigurative.

Strange, I have seen that word used to describe anarchism on a number of occasions, but I'm unaware of any left communist use of it. Maybe I've just missed it.

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Nov 16 2009 05:55

I'm not a Left Communist, but here are my thoughts:

Quote:
Left communism is a tendency of non-Leninist/non-orthodox Marxism, and settle for a more classical and libertarian side of Marxism...

Regardless, left communism has always been from a historical perspective anti-Bolshevik.

I don’t think so. There were Left Communists in the Bolshevik party after all. The Italian left were also strong supporters of the Bolsheviks.

Quote:
classical and libertarian side of Marxism

Libertarian is a useless catchphrase employed by anarchists for Marxists they consider ‘okay.’ Apart from that, it says nothing about anything.

Quote:
Anarchism is just the general term for the spectrum of ideologies mostly based on left-wing anti-authoritarianism.

Again, that says nothing does it? Trotskyists are left-wing, Stalinists are left-wing, Maoists are left-wing. Being opposed to authority tells me nothing either. Being opposed to the State tells me nothing of your class stance. Anarcho-capitalists oppose the state, yet they are every bit as reactionary as Stalinists.

Quote:
Yes it is non-Leninist, otherwise it would be Trotskyism.

Yah, apart from the different stances on unions, elections, anti-fascism, rights of nations to self-determination, stances on imperialist wars, then yeah, you could say Left Communists are Trotskyist. roll eyes

Quote:
It was what distinguished them from the Orthodox tendencies, like Leninism, which were mostly authoritarian.

Is this anti-authoritarian enough for you:

Communists have no codified constitutions to propose. They have a world of lies and constitutions - crystallised in the law and in the force of the dominant class - to crush. They know that only a revolutionary and totalitarian apparatus of force and power, which excludes no means, will be able to prevent the infamous relics of a barbarous epoch from rising again - only it will be able to prevent the monster of social privilege, craving for revenge and servitude, from raising its head again and hurling for the thousandth time its deceitful cry of Freedom!

- Bordiga.

What about:

The working class must above all else strive to get the entire political power of the state into its own hands...

Socialist democracy begins simultaneously with the beginnings of the destruction of class rule and of the construction of socialism. It begins at the very moment of the seizure of power by the socialist party. It is the same thing as the dictatorship of the proletariat

-Luxemburg.

Was therefore Bordiga not a Left Communist because he was an 'authoritarian?' Should Luxemburg be written off because she supported the dictatorship of the proletariat? (I am not saying she was a Left Communist, merely indicating the uselessness of a criteria which is based on 'authoritarianism')

Quote:
See, now, this is really interesting because all you anarchists have different views on what is really left communism and much of it centres around the question of the party or political organization, "Leninism", and "authoritarianism". As opposed to decadence theory or whatever other aspect of their Marxist theory.

Yes, it is interesting, because it shows that anarchists are more interested in the theoretical existence/non-existence of a workers state (something which has absolutely no relevance to present struggles), rather than their issues on unions, imperialism, electoralism and class war. Rather, the crux of the issue is the debate over whether there will be a future worker’s state/ the role of a vanguard party!

Quote:
actually last time this came up ICC members were saying they were proud to identify as Bolsheviks.

Which is rather stupid, since the Bolshevik party was renamed in 1918 (from memory), and whatever Bolsheviks remained in the Communist Party were removed or murdered by the 1930s.

Quote:
As far as I'm concerned how groups operate and are structured is important too, and good old terms like 'libertarian' and 'authoritarian' come in handy here.

Here are two terms I think come in handy for describing anarchist groups: ‘liberal’ and ‘hippies.’ Very handy and, as you stated, totally factual and entirely accurate.

Quote:
Whether or not groups adopt leftist positions on the unions and national liberation movements is not the be all and end all of whether they are worthwhile.

Actually, whether a group supports one side in an imperialist war (and hence is content with the massacre of the other side's working class), is the minimum standard test on whether I would consider them revolutionary or not.

You can have all the right stances on unions, on opposing elections, on the self-organization of the working class, but if you side with a faction of the ruling class then you have no right to label yourself a revolutionary. That's why in 1917 Lenin was a revolutionary and Kropotkin wasn't.

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Nov 16 2009 07:20

jesuithitsquad

He also addresses it briefly in "What's it all about? Questions and Answers" (in Troploin #4, 2007). I agree with what he and Nesic say there.

Re: the first paragraph of quote from "Leninism and the Ultra-left": it's a strange view to me, not exactly how I see things. He seems to be saying the party in historically inevitable. It sounds overly determinist. But then it depends on how one is defining the term "the party". If he is understanding it in more or less the same way Camatte did when he spoke of the "historical" as distinct from the "formal" party, wherein the "historical party" is just the set of all organized communists (or pro-rev's, if one prefers) at any given time, then I'm okay with that.

And re: the second paragraph of the quote, if he is saying that the "ultra-left" (i.e. the German-Dutch communist left) could only conceive of a party of the Bolshevik sort, of a vanguard party that seeks to lead the class by means of controlling its organs of struggle (councils or whatever), as an organization of politicized (pro-)revolutionaries, and that they thus refused to be involved in the construction of such, and condemned all such efforts, then, yes, I would agree with him about that also

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Nov 16 2009 08:10
nastyned wrote:
Whether or not groups adopt leftist positions on the unions and national liberation movements is not the be all and end all of whether they are worthwhile.

Yes. Much more important to look at what groups are doing on the ground than what "positions" they take on this or that, which may even end up contradicting what they actually do when that position becomes immediately relevant to them. Of course if you're just a propaganda group that believes that practically any form of activity is 'subsititutionist', 'volutnarist' or 'vanguardist' then you will never actually need to do anything, so you're safe.

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Nov 16 2009 08:07
Marsella wrote:
Quote:
Whether or not groups adopt leftist positions on the unions and national liberation movements is not the be all and end all of whether they are worthwhile.

Actually, whether a group supports one side in an imperialist war (and hence is content with the massacre of the other side's working class), is the minimum standard test on whether I would consider them revolutionary or not.

You can have all the right stances on unions, on opposing elections, on the self-organization of the working class, but if you side with a faction of the ruling class then you have no right to label yourself a revolutionary. That's why in 1917 Lenin was a revolutionary and Kropotkin wasn't.

I am in full agreement with this, as I understand it.

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Nov 16 2009 08:30
Marsella wrote:
Quote:
As far as I'm concerned how groups operate and are structured is important too, and good old terms like 'libertarian' and 'authoritarian' come in handy here.

Here are two terms I think come in handy for describing anarchist groups: ‘liberal’ and ‘hippies.’ Very handy and, as you stated, totally factual and entirely accurate.

Marsella: Age: 10-19. We could describe you as 'immature' or 'inexperienced'.

Marsella wrote:
Quote:
Whether or not groups adopt leftist positions on the unions and national liberation movements is not the be all and end all of whether they are worthwhile.

Actually, whether a group supports one side in an imperialist war (and hence is content with the massacre of the other side's working class), is the minimum standard test on whether I would consider them revolutionary or not.

You can have all the right stances on unions, on opposing elections, on the self-organization of the working class, but if you side with a faction of the ruling class then you have no right to label yourself a revolutionary. That's why in 1917 Lenin was a revolutionary and Kropotkin wasn't.

Hmm... I wonder what Lenin's position on national liberation movements (which was what was being discussed, not involvement in world wars) was though?

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Nov 16 2009 08:37

As I see it, there are at least the following five tendencies with present day left communism:

1) the ICC with their unique blend of inheritance of parts of the contributions of both the Italian communist left and the German-Dutch communist left, along with their own (including the GCF and later work (1952-68) of Marc C.) contributions;

2) the Bordigists, entirely from the Italian communist left, defending an 'invariance' of the programme of the CP of Italy in 1922 (Rome Theses), and a position that their party holds supreme power within the dictatorship of the proletariat ("proletarian state");

3) the IBRP/ICT, entirely from the Italian communist left, but defending the Damenist as opposed to the Bordigist tendency (see the split of the Internationalist Communist Party in 1952) within that tradition, arguably more "partyist" than the ICC, but less so than the Bordigists, as they claim to be opposed to party-substitutionism;

4) the "councilists", entirely from the German-Dutch communist left, and allegedly opposed to any form of organization of communists defending a revolutionary perspective within the struggles of the class;

5) those others like me, who reject all of the above tendencies re: their position on the role of pro-revolutionaries in relation to the class; in general, they will be influenced primarily by the German-Dutch communist left, including the council communists, especially on this issue, but they may well also be partially influenced by the Italian communist left (e.g. on other issues); belief in some form of organization of communists, which has a role of defending a revolutionary perspective within the struggles of the class, but rejects and opposes all vanguardist partyist groups as fundamentally substitutionist (even if formally "anti-substitutionist); included here would be the group Internationalist Perspective, the old Communist Bulletin Group, and probably Dauve; this grouping can't be seen as a unified tendency, unlike the other four.