ICC on councilist left and anarchism

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888
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Jun 22 2008 00:06
Angelus Novus wrote:
Black Badger wrote:
Is this a war of analysis? Whoever has the most historically based and dialectical analysis of councils is the winner?

Well, yeah. Loren Goldner notes in a recent interview that many people who start out as anarchists soon abandon it for some variant of left-communism simply because anarchism is so intellectually thin.

If anarchists had a tradition of the critique of political economy with figures to equal Marx or Rubin, or theorists of the state to equal Paschukanis, Joachim Hirsch, Heide Gerstenberger, or John Holloway, it might be of some interest.

Anarchism is of interest solely as a historical movement, not as a school of thought, and what little contributions it has made to the communist movement have been at the level of practice, and not even a particularly successful practice, at that. But as a theoretical tradition it's really boring.

What's an example of a major anarchist contribution to theory? Murray Bookchin?? Sheeyit.

Whereas left communism has made no practical contribution (the German revolution was a complete farce), and its theoretical contribution might be completely wrong for all we know, it's never been verified.

Angelus Novus
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Jun 22 2008 07:48
Black Badger wrote:
Those doing so don't need to read long expositions of political economy by graduate students writing their doctoral theses or professors writing another peer-reviewed paper for a philosophy journal

Haha, pure populist ressentiment. I barely graduated high school, don't have any higher education, have been a lowly wage worker my whole life. But real workers don't read theory, right?!

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The tendency toward an over-reliance on intellectual theory (almost always written after the fact, thanks so much for the advice comrades) appears to prepare the self-selected professional revolutionaries to jump into the action with the correct critique of political economy

Aah, yes. The spontaneity of revolutionary consciousness. Because spontaneous anti-capitalism always takes such progressive forms right? Like populist rants against financial speculators, Jews, and yuppies.

Who needs theory when you can personalize a social relationship?

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Why does anyone require the likes of Goldner et al to explain what it is we're doing?

I never said you did. I merely said that he made a statement which I regard as correct, namely that more intelligent anarchists soon grow out of it to pursue areas of thought that are more useful for understanding reality.

Angelus Novus
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Jun 22 2008 07:52
888 wrote:
and its theoretical contribution might be completely wrong for all we know, it's never been verified.

Does the critique of political economy provide a close approximation of how capitalism functions at its "ideal average"? Yes? Then that is all the verification it needs. Whether human beings actually ever manage to create a communist society is not a validation for how well Marx analyzed the functioning of capitalism. You're muddling two different things.

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Jun 22 2008 08:24
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888 wrote:
and its theoretical contribution might be completely wrong for all we know, it's never been verified.

Funny, I never thought Marx tried to predict anything. 888 your comment reeks of scientific/fatalist Marxism. If Marx was a prophet we won't have to do a fucking thing! After all history is on our side. But if you want to go all empirical, the strikes that erupt time and over again anywhere where capital has settled should be proof enough that on some level Marx was verified (and after all, Marx did not pull all his theories out of thin air either).

Mark.
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Jun 22 2008 09:39
Angelus Novus wrote:
Loren Goldner notes in a recent interview that many people who start out as anarchists soon abandon it for some variant of left-communism simply because anarchism is so intellectually thin.

I'd be interested in reading this - does anyone have a link?

Mike Harman
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Jun 22 2008 10:07

Goldner's site appears to be down at the moment, but you can read it in google cache

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Jun 22 2008 14:11

I think AN is totally off point on this. Anarchists don't only read within their tradition. Marx was translated by Bakunin, fanelli went to spain distroing th communist manifesto, rubin who she quotes so highly was translated and published by anarchists, Holloway is pretty much only read by those close to anarchism, ditto with Goldner.

I mean I found the state derivation debate interesting, I think Marx is pivotal, I think Rubin's interpretation of him is excellent (although I still have another 3 or 4 chapters to go in his book and I've left it aside for now), but to hold up a theoretical tradition as if it is the releaved truth is ridiculous. Marx based much of his critique on ricardo and smith and hegel. Today its just as necessary to read friedman, lucas, blanchard, mankiw, romer etc. as well as kagan and scmitt and fukuyama and huntington. To limit yourself intelletually to one tradition is barking mad.

And marxism intellectual amazingness is totally over played. While the people you mention are impressive the truth is that most marxists dont read them. And yes only marxists close to anarchism read them. (And dont get offended by that i mean i'm sure there are few people on here who'd get offended by being called anarchists close to marxism). Most marxist theory is based on lenin, trotsky, gramsci and luxemburg (and worse mao and stalin) who to say the least are not particularly impressive theoreticians. Although i do like luxemburg she's no luckacs or rubin. (And yes I've read much of her accumulation of capital - but basically she's totally wrong in her primary thesis in that.)

Largely you have just listed impressive marxist academics, there have of course been impressive anarchist academics but as anarchism is not respected in the academy you dont hear about them as anarchists.

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Jun 22 2008 14:11

Also Goldner is totally over rated. Like embarsssingly over-rated.

Mark.
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Jun 22 2008 15:59
Mike Harman wrote:
Goldner's site appears to be down at the moment, but you can read it in google cache

Thanks for the link. The comments about anarchism are fairly brief and come at the end of a lengthy but quite interesting series of interviews with Loren Goldner explaining his take on left communism to members of a Korean Marxist group.

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It's important to understand that in the general reaction against vanguardism, Bolshevism, Trotskyism, there's also a relatively large milieu in England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain in which people call themselves anarchist, libertarian communist, anarcho-communist and other combinations that I think could be fairly seen as part of a broadly left communist mood.

I don't want to stretch the parallel too far but in America in early 60s as the New Left movement was beginning there was a wide spread hostility to Marxism and in the course of 6-8 years, these kinds of libertarian rejections of Marxism went into decline and people became more and more attracted to different kinds of Marxism.

And I believe something similar is happening today. There's a real Marxist renaissance going on in western Europe and the US and many people that I'm familiar with have started out as anarchists, and Situationists and they relatively quickly find their way to the study of Capital and the serious study of the failures of the old revolutionary movement and become left communist or close to left communist.

Anarchism, for example, is really not very interesting as a theory of contemporary capitalist society and people who are attracted to it because it rejects Soviet Marxist or Maoist models, very quickly get bored with it and that's when they begin to discover the richer Marxist alternative.

If you're not familiar, I really recommend this website which is a website of... It's called libcom.org -libertarian communist. They have really interesting coverage of struggles all over the world. There is one place you can see a lot of these. They even allow the ICC to participate in their debates but everybody just kind of laughs at the ICC.

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Jun 22 2008 16:32
Angelus Novus wrote:
Loren Goldner notes in a recent interview that many people who start out as anarchists soon abandon it for some variant of left-communism simply because anarchism is so intellectually thin.

I like the poster Anarcho but IMO he's very stuck in (classical?) 'A'narchism in opposition to anything else, whereas the ICC - or you for example, in the same way amusingly cling and are trapped by another largely irrelevant construct. A position which only cancels out the incredible richness of other theories and particuarly practices. So, anarchist theory - what do you mean here? is lacking. And all the failure of a practice - what exactly? is meaningless because the actors never called themselves marxists. I'd wager that you're ignorant not only of the part anarchists have played but also what many of them meant by anarchism. Goldner's snippet is also interesting because he actually defines 'anarchism' seen in many countries as part of a 'left-communist mood'. In his case not opposed to another 'greater' ideology but (albeit still quite self-involved) an expression of it.

mikus
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Jun 22 2008 17:51

I don't know if Black Badger was referring to Dave C when he was criticizing the sectarianism on here, but I don't see anything sectarian in what Dave C wrote. He criticized Bakunin, not anarchism tout courte, and he defended Marx, rather than Marxism.

Personally I'm not too impressed with Marxist theorists (in general) much more than anarchist theorists. And I say that as a Marxist. And as someone who thinks that anarchist theory is quite bad.

And to georgestapleton, Rubin's book is kind of a reference point for anyone doing Marxist economic theory. (Past the late 1960's in the English speaking world, anyway.) He is most definitely read by Marxists who are not at all close to anarchism. My impression is that that's the case for the state derivation people as well, although most of that is in German and I don't know much about the German scene.

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Jun 22 2008 21:07
mikus wrote:
And to georgestapleton, Rubin's book is kind of a reference point for anyone doing Marxist economic theory. (Past the late 1960's in the English speaking world, anyway.) He is most definitely read by Marxists who are not at all close to anarchism. My impression is that that's the case for the state derivation people as well, although most of that is in German and I don't know much about the German scene.

With Rubin I simply think this is not the case. Honestly brenner, glyn, pollin, arrighi (the big name marxist 'economists') never refer to him. I mean its a small point, and rubin perhaps should be better known, but outside of anti-leninist, autonomist and left communist marxism he's rarely referred to. I mean you could argue that brenner, glyn, pollin, arrighi, trots, tankies, maoists etc. aren't marxists but thats a very different argument and, not being a marxist, not one i give a shit about.

Mike Harman
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Jun 22 2008 21:14

I pretty much agree with volin and georgestapleton on this - 90% of what passes for anarchism and marxism is complete shite, trying to hold one over puts you in a very restricted mode of operation, whichever side you're on, since the most interesting stuff of the past 50-60 years has been where they overlap (if not always consciously).

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Jun 22 2008 21:37
Khawaga wrote:
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888 wrote:
and its theoretical contribution might be completely wrong for all we know, it's never been verified.

Funny, I never thought Marx tried to predict anything. 888 your comment reeks of scientific/fatalist Marxism. If Marx was a prophet we won't have to do a fucking thing! After all history is on our side. But if you want to go all empirical, the strikes that erupt time and over again anywhere where capital has settled should be proof enough that on some level Marx was verified (and after all, Marx did not pull all his theories out of thin air either).

Well if you can't predict anything then how does it help determine what you should do? And if it could accurately predict things it certainly wouldn't mean we wouldn't have to do a thing, even if that's what the extreme determinism/quietism of most of the left communists suggests.

And Marx made multiple predictions about the future of capitalism. Anyway I thought we were talking about left communism, not just Marx.

Mike Harman
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Jun 22 2008 21:37
888 wrote:
Well if you can't predict anything then how does it help determine what you should do?

Understanding past and present events helps you make informed decisions about future activtiy. Understanding what capitalism is, and what it isn't, helps to understand when certain activities are likely to reinforce or renew capitalism rather than destroy it.

That's not the same as predicting that capitalism will collapse due to the falling rate of profit in 1916 - which is the sort of stuff that gets half-wittedly attributed to Marx on a regular basis.

Angelus Novus
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Jun 22 2008 22:20
Volin wrote:
is meaningless because the actors never called themselves marxists.

Actually, if you've ever read anything I've posted on libcom, you'll have noticed I have no interest in defending "marxism" or "marxists".

When pressed, I usually say that I am a "communist in the tradition of the critique of political economy." Not very catchy-sounding, I admit.

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I'd wager that you're ignorant not only of the part anarchists have played but also what many of them meant by anarchism.

I love that book "Haymarket Scrapbook" from Charles H. Kerr Publishers. American anarchism at the end of the 19th century is fascinating, and worthy of respect as a tendency within the communist tradition.

But honestly, in terms of theoretical work, most anarchists are dreadful. I've tried to keep an open mind about this. I approached Murray Bookchin's _Ecology of Freedom_ with an open heart and mind, hoping for something really enlightening, and what I got was basically warmed-over Engelsian dialectic of nature crap. Ugh. Never again!

georgestapleton wrote:
Holloway is pretty much only read by those close to anarchism

I'll take your word for it as far as the anglo-american "scene". In Germany, the audience is broader than that. Holloway also has a not inconsiderable academic following here. When he visited Berlin in 2003 (maybe 2004?) the talk he gave was co-sponsored by ATTAC of all things.

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but to hold up a theoretical tradition as if it is the releaved truth is ridiculous

See above. I am a) not a marxist, and b) have no interest in defending most of what is called "marxism".

As for Rubin and Paschukanis, they really are sort of the touchstone for a lot of theoreticians pursuing the critique of political economy and the state. I'm willing to concede that's probably not the case in English-speaking countries.

Angelus Novus
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Jun 22 2008 22:25
Mike Harman wrote:
90% of what passes for anarchism and marxism is complete shite

It just occured to me that Freddy Perlman considered himself an anarchist.

So there you go, there's an anarchist thinker I respect, at least as far as his introductory pamphlet "the reproduction of daily life" and his translation of Rubin.

Chomsky doesn't count for me, since his intellectual contribution is outside of his political engagement, and his political writings are glorified newspaper opinion pieces.

Black Badger
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Jun 22 2008 22:38

Fredy Perlman NEVER considered himself an anarchist. Ever. He quipped once - and in print - that the only "ist" he was was a cellist.

Angelus Novus
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Jun 22 2008 23:15
Black Badger wrote:
Fredy Perlman NEVER considered himself an anarchist. Ever.

Really? Ok, I stand corrected. I'm just going on the basis of Martin Glaberman once describing him in conversation as an anarchist.

So we're back to square one, I can't think of a single compelling anarchist thinker. wink

Black Badger
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Jun 23 2008 00:33

And my square one challenge back to you is this: can you not think of any compelling anarchist practice? For example, self-organization, anti-hierarchy, decentralized networks, direct action. Any of that sound familiar? Why do you need some theoretical authority to validate these practical radical activities after the fact?

And another thing that I find endemically obnoxious among Marxists and non-anarchist Leftists is the labeling of anyone whose politics are radical or revolutionary without being Marxist as "anarchists." Total lack of imagination and a lack of historical awareness.

mikus
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Jun 23 2008 01:18
georgestapleton wrote:
mikus wrote:
And to georgestapleton, Rubin's book is kind of a reference point for anyone doing Marxist economic theory. (Past the late 1960's in the English speaking world, anyway.) He is most definitely read by Marxists who are not at all close to anarchism. My impression is that that's the case for the state derivation people as well, although most of that is in German and I don't know much about the German scene.

With Rubin I simply think this is not the case. Honestly brenner, glyn, pollin, arrighi (the big name marxist 'economists') never refer to him. I mean its a small point, and rubin perhaps should be better known, but outside of anti-leninist, autonomist and left communist marxism he's rarely referred to. I mean you could argue that brenner, glyn, pollin, arrighi, trots, tankies, maoists etc. aren't marxists but thats a very different argument and, not being a marxist, not one i give a shit about.

I've dealt with a lot of Marxist economics, and particularly within the "value-form school" there is a huge Rubin following, and a lot of those theorists are not close to anarchism. Chris Arthur is one of the best examples I can think of off the top of my head. I can find many more if you'd like but it's been some time since I've dealt with this stuff.

And you have picked a narrow subset of Marxists to point to who don't write about Rubin. The Marxist economists who follow Rubin tend to be very different, non-economist types (their treatment of Marxist economics is basically just philosophy, in my opinion) but not necessarily any closer to anarchism.

And actually I'm not convinced that Rubin's treament of the theory of value is very different from the orthodox Marxist account, but that's very off topic.

mikus
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Jun 23 2008 01:22
Black Badger wrote:
And another thing that I find endemically obnoxious among Marxists and non-anarchist Leftists is the labeling of anyone whose politics are radical or revolutionary without being Marxist as "anarchists." Total lack of imagination and a lack of historical awareness.

I agree with this, but I get the impression that many anarchists repeat this sort of nonsense. Syndicalism is largely treated as an anarchist phenomena but I don't really see any evidence for this. And anarchists frequently think that the IWW was an anarchist organization, which is not true either. Idiotic Marxists and anarchists feed off each other. So be it.

mikus
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Jun 23 2008 01:27
Black Badger wrote:
Those doing so don't need to read long expositions of political economy by graduate students writing their doctoral theses or professors writing another peer-reviewed paper for a philosophy journal--their actions are the critique. The tendency toward an over-reliance on intellectual theory (almost always written after the fact, thanks so much for the advice comrades) appears to prepare the self-selected professional revolutionaries to jump into the action with the correct critique of political economy and the program to intervene as a conscious minority with the ability to inject that analysis and that program for... the seizure of state power or the implementation of the dreaded dictatorship of the proletariat of course. It all comes back to the issue of executive power doesn't it? So it seems that the left-communists still have that nagging urge to grasp the mechanisms of command and control.

This is a really bizarre statement. First of all, what left communists write for peer reviewed journals? Secondly, what left communists Marxists that have actually seized power or even made an attempt to do so have started off in the university system reading and writing for peer reviewed journals? You're just making this up. (And I'm not even particularly sympathetic to left communists.)

Angelus Novus
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Jun 23 2008 01:31
Black Badger wrote:
can you not think of any compelling anarchist practice? For example, self-organization, anti-hierarchy, decentralized networks, direct action.

1. These nebulous concepts abstracted from any sort of consideration of social content mean nothing to me. A pogrom is "self-organized". The international financial system is also a "decentralized network".

2. Even assuming these nebulous concepts are intrinsically good, it's rather specious to claim them for "anarchism". This is Chuck0 anarchism at its worse, where everything and anything an anarchist thinks is good is honored by having the label "anarchist" bestowed upon it. Thus Chuck0 calls Arundati Roy an anarchist for expressing skepticism against parliamentarism, and chides George Katsiaficas for not referring to European autonomists as "anarchists", despite the fact that most autonomists and post-autonomists do not situate themselves in the anarchist tradition.

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Why do you need some theoretical authority to validate these practical radical activities after the fact?

Who says I do? You are merely inferring things based upon a very limited statement I made, namely that anarchism as a theoretical tradition within the workers and communist movements has not produced any compelling thinkers. It really isn't possible to extrapolate very many conclusions from such terse, limited statement.

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And another thing that I find endemically obnoxious among Marxists and non-anarchist Leftists is the labeling of anyone whose politics are radical or revolutionary without being Marxist as "anarchists."

Here we can agree. That is precisely why I hate the whole Chuck0 school of claiming all "good things" for anarchism.

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Jun 23 2008 05:20
Angelus Novus wrote:
2. Even assuming these nebulous concepts are intrinsically good, it's rather specious to claim them for "anarchism". This is Chuck0 anarchism at its worse, where everything and anything an anarchist thinks is good is honored by having the label "anarchist" bestowed upon it. Thus Chuck0 calls Arundati Roy an anarchist for expressing skepticism against parliamentarism, and chides George Katsiaficas for not referring to European autonomists as "anarchists", despite the fact that most autonomists and post-autonomists do not situate themselves in the anarchist tradition.

I think another way that this is done is by applying the label 'libertarian communist' to Marxists anarchists like. Although there may have been a few Marxists who used it, it is in essence an anarchist term, and would have been rejected by those it is applied to.

Devrim

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Jun 23 2008 06:04
mikus wrote:
This is a really bizarre statement. First of all, what left communists write for peer reviewed journals? Secondly, what left communists Marxists that have actually seized power or even made an attempt to do so have started off in the university system reading and writing for peer reviewed journals? You're just making this up. (And I'm not even particularly sympathetic to left communists.)

Anton Pannekoek, although I don't think astronomy was that relevant

mikus
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Jun 23 2008 06:54

I can actually name a couple decent examples (unlike the Pannekoek one, which I assume is a joke). But to say that this is very common in left communism is a huge overstatement. (And left communists don't have any despicable figures in the university like, say, Saul Newman.) The few left communist types who did eventually write things in the academy were basically run of the mill leftists by the time they were published.

I still don't know what the hatred of the term "libertarian Marxist" comes from. I don't use it and don't find it particularly useful (I just call myself a Marxist) but why is it a big deal? We've already discussed this issue on another thread and I don't remember there being any response to my points on the issue coming from the left communists.

Mike Harman
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Jun 23 2008 07:21
Devrim wrote:
I think another way that this is done is by applying the label 'libertarian communist' to Marxists anarchists like. Although there may have been a few Marxists who used it, it is in essence an anarchist term, and would have been rejected by those it is applied to.

Devrim

IMO it's applied descriptively and retrospectively, rather than trying to define a particular theoretical or practical tradition, and certainly doesn't imply any self-identification. And it really means 'Marxists who aren't Leninists and anarchists who are also communist' - being therefore quite an exclusive term, compared to chuck0's big tentism. Nice try though. I'm sure a fair few anarchists who might be included would've objected to being called communist at the time too.

Either way, if we accept that Libertarian Marxist is not that much of a useful term, I'd say most of the blame for its use lies with (Marxist) Harry Cleaver and (equally Marxist) Chris Wright - with the introduction to Reading Capital Politically and the [url=http://libcom.org/library/libertarian-marxist-tendency-mapLibertarian Marxist tendency Map[/url] respectively.

Anarcho
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Jun 25 2008 08:56
Khawaga wrote:
Funny, I never thought Marx tried to predict anything.

Except, of course, all those bits in, say, Capital, which predicted how capitalism would develop. Some of which have come true, other bits not. Then there is the notion of organising political parties and taking "political action", both of which was based on the prediction that they would result in socialism. In this, Bakunin's prediction that this would generate reformism has been verified time and time again.

Khawaga wrote:
After all history is on our side. But if you want to go all empirical, the strikes that erupt time and over again anywhere where capital has settled should be proof enough that on some level Marx was verified (and after all, Marx did not pull all his theories out of thin air either).

Given that strikes took place before Marx put pen to paper, can we assume that those also show that Marx has been verified? But, yes, Marx did not pull all his theories out of thin air, he built on the ideas of others (Proudhon, most obviously) as well as generalising from working class struggle (the Chartists, most obviously). Sadly, he generalised the wrong lessons from the Chartists... and then tried to impose it on all sections of the International.

This reminds me of Bukharin during a defence of "revolutionary" parliamentarianism complained that the working class were "crude empiricalists" and the anti-parliamentarians could point to the actual outcome of using that tactic in practice!

Anarcho
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Jun 25 2008 09:00
Devrim wrote:
I think another way that this is done is by applying the label 'libertarian communist' to Marxists anarchists like. Although there may have been a few Marxists who used it, it is in essence an anarchist term, and would have been rejected by those it is applied to.

Yes, heaven forbid that we anarchists point to areas of commonality between (libertarian) Marxism and anarchism! Yes, let us keep those walls up between revolutionary (libertarian) communists, let us continue to exclude classical anarchism from the "communist tradition"....

and it is I who gets accused to being sectarian and anti-Marxist, when, in fact, I note how on many issues libertarian Marxists have come to communist-anarchist conclusions. Still, better not call this libertarian communism...