ICC on councilist left and anarchism

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Anarcho
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Jun 25 2008 09:04
Volin wrote:
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.

That is so unfair, as I continually point out how groups like the council communists and situationists have, on many issues, come to agree with Bakunin over Marx. This is hardly opposition to anything else, rather pointing out issues in common. I think Marx and Engels were important thinkers, particularly Marx -- I just fail to see why we should paper-over the bits they were wrong and how at odds with their ideas certain forms of Marxism are.

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Khawaga
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Jun 25 2008 09:15
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Except, of course, all those bits in, say, Capital, which predicted how capitalism would develop. Some of which have come true, other bits not.

I did not make myself clear, but I was referring to the "prediction" that the logic of capitalism would somehow negate itself.

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Given that strikes took place before Marx put pen to paper, can we assume that those also show that Marx has been verified?

which is what I mean with

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(and after all, Marx did not pull all his theories out of thin air either).
Anarcho
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Jun 25 2008 09:16
Angelus Novus wrote:
Yeah, dave c., don't you get it? When Proudhon advocates the extermination of Jews, when Bakunin calls for the revolutionary dictatorship of a secret society, when Kropotkin supports an imperialist war, and when the CNT-FAI participates in a bourgeois government, these are all regrettable but ultimately non-essential to the pure, true anarchist position.

ROTFL! Presumably I should mention how Engels argued that certain "unhistoric" peoples should be wiped out, down to their very names? Or that Marx and Engels took sides in an imperialist war and considered imperialism as progressive? Or their racism or homophobia? Or when Marxists participate in imperialist wars or impose party dictatorships that is, also, regrettable but ultimately non-essential to the pure, true Marxist position?

Please, if that is the best you can do then don't bother...

Angelus Novus wrote:
But every single thing that Marx ever wrote at every period in his life is the communist position, period. And any communists who might disagree with anything Marx ever said are really closer to anarchism, dig?

Opposition to "political action", who took that position? Oh, Bakunin. Marx supported taking part in elections -- and thus proved Bakunin right. Advocating a federation of workers councils based on mandated elected delegates. Who took that position? Oh, Bakunin. Marx argued that universal suffrage was the same as political power for the masses. Engels considered the republic as the "specific form" of the proletarian dictatorship.

Now, when "Marxists" take the position that we should be anti-parliamentarians and argue for workers councils who are they closer to? Wow, that is a hard one. And why did Marx and Engels make such mistakes? Could it be because their theory of the state is flawed, confused? No, apparently that is, by definition, out of question. They probably just got up on the wrong side of the bed those days when they argued that.

So here we have two key issues when Marx repeatedly did not take the "communist position". Bakunin did. Now, why should anarchists fail to point this out? And can we not draw some conclusions from it?

Anarcho
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Jun 25 2008 09:28
Angelus Novus wrote:
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.

Well, if he said it, it must be true! Well, I've been an anarchist for 20 years and have felt no desire to abandon it for Marxism. That is because I am well aware of the important contributions anarchists have made, contributions that some marxists have belatedly come to agree with.

Angelus Novus wrote:
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.

Holloway? He is just recycling anarchist ideas, changing some of the words and passing it off as a contribution to Marxism. As for Marx, he happily ripped off key ideas of Proudhon -- without mentioning it, of course. Yes, Marx is a far better thinker than Proudhon but on many key issues Proudhon had got their first.

Still, I do not think we should dismiss the contributions of Marxists simply because some of them rip off anarchist ideas. Some of them do make independent and important contributions. Sadly, most of them have no idea that anarchists usually said so or did so first.

Angelus Novus wrote:
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.

Well, I think that Marxism is of interest solely as an example of the power of ideology and how it makes its supporters totally blind to the contradictions of their own positions. They also usually seem utterly ignorant of other socialist traditions and so feel able to dismiss anarchism even when it first advocated the "Marxist" notions they are so proud of...

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

Bookchin? Yes, interesting but flawed thinker. Has far more to say than Holloway, for example. As for a major contribution? Well, how about arguing that the republic is not the "specific form" of the revolution but, rather, it must be based on the working classes own organisations of struggle? That would be considered pretty important, I think.

Anarcho
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Jun 25 2008 12:48
baboon wrote:
For Anarcho above, the First World War wasn't a "test of truth" for any anarchist organisation. If he's right (which he's not), then anarchist organisations were the only political organisations - whether on the side of the bourgeoisie, centrist or on the side of the proletariat - that were not tested by the new oonditions of World War I.

What the hell does this mean? That there where no anarchist organisations in countries involved in the First World War? Which is rubbish of the highest degree. Goldman and Berkman were deported for their anti-war activism. In Italy, the anarchists and syndicalists compaigned against the war -- the USI was explicitly anti-war and expelled the few Marxist-syndicalists who had turned into nationalists. In Britain, the anarchists were anti-war (bar Kropotkin, of course). In Russia, the anarchists were anti-war (and so distanced themselves from Kropotkin).

In summary, the vast majority of anarchists, and their organisations, opposed the war. The vast majority of Marxists, and their organisations, supported it. Now, perhaps we can draw some kind of conclusion from this? I know Marxists do not seem to like to generalise theories based on empricial evidence, but perhaps in this case they could try? Or, perhaps, we will just get people repeating the myth that anarchists somehow supported the war?

So, to be honest, I have no idea what Baboon is going on about. It is at odds with well known facts. Perhaps he/she can explain?

Anarcho
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Jun 25 2008 13:07
Alf wrote:
It seems that for Anarcho Bakunin is allowed to develop and clarify his position (even if Dave C's post argues strongly that he just held two positions at the same time).

He simply clarified his terminology, and quite rightly too. His position is remarkably consistent.

Alf wrote:
But he gives no quarter to Marx and Engels: from start to finish they are for the workers taking hold of the bourgeois state, without any recognition of the fundamental advances they made, based on analysing the real experience of the class (ie after 1848 and 1871), or the regressions that did take place, as in some of Engels' later writings. Anarcho's method is a static one, and he projects that onto Marx and Engels.

What rubbish. I am pointing to the continuity of their position. Engels did not "regress", for the point he was making was essentially the same in 1848 as in 1895. In terms of analysing the real experience of the class, in 1871 Marx took on some of the ideas anarchists had been expounding for sometime. In some cases, from Proudhon in the 1840s (mandated and recallable delegates, for example).

So Marx supplemented his ideas with ideas anarchists had popularised, from their analysing the real experience of the class, for some time. I would suggest we generalise from this and draw some conclusions.

I explore some of these issues in my article on the Paris Commune (in the next issue of Anarcho-Syndicalist Review):

The Paris Commune, Marxism and Anarchism

Assuming that they did "regress", then why did Marx in 1871 conclude that the state had to be smashed but shortly after he concluded that in some countries it need not be? To quote Martov:

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"But the sole fact that he admitted such a possibility shows us clearly Marx’s opinion, leaving no room for arbitrary interpretation. What Marx designated as the 'destruction of the State machine' . . . was the destruction of the military and bureaucratic apparatus that the bourgeois democracy had inherited from the monarchy and perfected in the process of consolidating the rule of the bourgeois class. There is nothing in Marx’s reasoning that even suggests the destruction of the State organisation as such and the replacement of the State during the revolutionary period, that is during the dictatorship of the proletariat, with a social bond formed on a principle opposed to that of the State. Marx and Engels foresaw such a substitution only at the end of a process of 'a progressive withering away' of the State and all the functions of social coercion. They foresaw this atrophy of the State and the functions of social coercion to be the result of the prolonged existence of the socialist regime."

When explicitly asked to clarify what Marx meant in 1871, Engels was clear:

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"It is simply a question of showing that the victorious proletariat must first refashion the old bureaucratic, administrative centralised state power before it can use it for its own purposes: whereas all bourgeois republicans since 1848 inveighed against this machinery so long as they were in the opposition, but once they were in the government they took it over without altering it and used it partly against the reaction but still more against the proletariat."

In terms of mainland Europe, unlike Britain, America and perhaps Holland, Engels argued "the first and direct result of the revolution with regard to the form can and must be nothing but the bourgeois republic. But this will be here only a brief transistional period . . . The bourgeois republic . . . will enable us to win over the great masses of the workers to revolutionary socialism . . . Only them can we successfully take over." The "proletariat can only use the form of the one and indivisible republic" for it is "the sole political form in which the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie can be fought to a finish."

Elsewhere, he repeated this analysis: "With respect to the proletariat the republic . . . is the ready-for-use form for the future rule of the proletariat." Then, of course, there is this well known quote:


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"If one thing is certain it is that our Party and the working class can only come to power under the form of a democratic republic. This is even the specific form for the dictatorship of the proletariat, as the Great French Revolution has already shown."

Which is some regression! But, I would argue, it is no "regression" at all. It flows from a confusion of the state with the state machine by Marxists, something which Marx and Engels did not confuse (nor did Martov and Kautsky).

Now, what conclusions can we draw? Perhaps that Marx and Engels were confused about the state and their analysis of it was flawed? Or that they forgot their insights?

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Devrim
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Jun 25 2008 13:51
Anarcho wrote:
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...

I have no problem with anarchists drawing on the Marxist tradition. I also have no problem with Marxists drawing on an anarchist position.

As an organisation we tend to characterise groups by what they say, and do, not what they call themselves. For us the first think we look at is internationalism. Thus we think that the UK AF is an internationalist group. We think that the Irish WSM isn't. However, both call themselves anarchists.

We think that the ICC is an internationalist group, and that the UK SWP isn't. They both call themselves Marxists.

We don't judge things on a the basis of a political split that took place over a century ago.

For us Marx made mistakes. In my personal opinion, he was wrong on the US civil war, and his attitude on the Franco-Prusian war was approaching jingoism.

Also we think that there were mistakes in Bakuninism:

Bakunin wrote:
It is necessary that in the midst of popular anarchy, which will make up the very life and all the energy of the revolution, the unity of revolutionary thought and action should be embodied in a certain organ. That organ must be the secret and world-wide association of the international brothers
...the army must always be the people - but a revolutionary general staff composed of devoted, energetic and intelligent individuals who are above all sincere - not vain or ambitious - friends of the people, capable of serving as intermediaries between the revolutionary idea and the popular instincts. The number of these individuals should not, therefore, be too large. For the international organisation throughout Europe one hundred serious and firmly united revolutionaries would be sufficient ...

To me this contains all of the worst aspects of what came to be called Leninism.

To summarise, I don't see any problem with left communists drawing on parts of the anarchist tradition, nor vice-versa.

I don't think that we should claim though that anarchists, like for example 'The Friends of Durutti' were left communists.

Nor do I think that anarchists should claim that people like Pannekoek were 'libertarians'.

Neither were. It doesn't mean that revolutionaries, be they communists or anarchists, shouldn't draw on the history of the working class movement.

But why try to call people something that they wouldn't have called themselves?

Devrim

Anarcho
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Jun 25 2008 13:50
dave c wrote:
The "essence," namely "an instrument of class rule" does not exist because theoretical abstractions (whether drawn from history or not) do not "exist" except as abstractions.

It is a generalisation based on facts and, as such, should be guide for action. I'm arguing that Marxist theory is flawed because it draws the wrong generalisation.

dave c wrote:
In Marx's social theory, however, the category does describe all states based on minority rule, and the theoretically posited transitional state not based on minority rule. There is no "metaphysical confusion" whatsoever.

So we have a "transitional state" which shares none of the characteristics of all previous states? Strange sort of state...

According to Engels, the state has two distinguishing features, firstly (and least importantly) it "divides its subjects according to territory." The second "is the establishment of a public power which no longer directly coincides with the population organising itself as an armed force. This special public power is necessary because a self-acting armed organisation of the population has become impossible since the split into classes . . . This public power exists in every state; it consists not merely of armed men but also of material adjuncts, prisons and institutions of coercion of all kinds." Thus "an essential feature of the state is a public power distinct from the mass of the people."

So, in this "transitional state" will the public power be distinct from the mass of the people? Under Leninism, it was and that was a state in the normal sense. Now, if the public power is not distinct from the general public, why call it a state?

dave c wrote:
Your second sentence is premised on the idea that there is some specific "state structure" based on exclusion of the masses that defines the state as such. Since you define the state as a form of minority rule it is tautological that it excludes the masses from that rule.

Yes, states have evolved structures to achieve their function. If a social structure has those features then it is a state. If it does not, then it is not a state. Nothing tautological in that.

dave c wrote:
But Marx's theory does not imply any of this, so it is a ridiculous criticism. For Marx, there is no transhistorical "state structure" that is common to all states.

Which is the problem, Marx did not have an evolutionary perspective on the state. He had a metaphysical one. Thus the republic, created by and for the bourgeoisie, could be captured by the proletariat and become its instrument. That only makese sense if you abstract from real states and draw some essence of the state as an instrument of class rule, any class -- including a majority one!

dave c wrote:
For you there is "a state structure" as such, and you read into Marx's theory the implication that this transhistorical "state structure" should be used in the transitional period.

I have read nothing into Marx. As Engels put it, "the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another."

dave c wrote:
Marx was not confused in calling this transitional form a state, since he was being consistent with his definition of the state and asserting that "an instrument of class rule" would exist in the transition period. His theory is consistent, and therefore he is not confused in that sense. Perhaps you meant that his usage is "confusing."

Which implies the state could be used by the working class, which was of course his and Engels conclusion. Now that is confused, a product of a confused theory. Moreover, it assumes that the working class takes political power while still being proletarians. A central anarchist critique of the Commune, for example, was that a social revolution could not leave property as it was.

dave c wrote:
I was simply trying to point out that even a usage of the word "state" describing a historically specific type of state is an "abstraction drawn from history." If we say that the state is a machine (neutral or not), we implicitly endow this machine with particular characteristics, which makes sense if we are talking about a machine. But when it comes to forms of class rule (which is the definition of state we are dealing with), we are not describing a machine.

To requote Engels: "the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another." So from a marxist perspective we are taking about a machine...

And we are talking about social organisations and institutions which have evolved over time to do certain tasks. As part of that evolution, they have developed certain structures to achieve their aims. If a new form of social organisation is created, say based on working class organisations, which are both structurely different and have a different goal (mass participation rather than mass exclusion) then it makes little sense to call it a state.

dave c wrote:
You could say, if you wanted to, that we are describing different machines, but never "a neutral machine." Claiming that Marx did not understand the common characteristics of historical states is ridiculous.

Then why did he and Engels think it possible for working class people to vote socialism into being?

dave c wrote:
When the first form of "workers' government," the Commune, came along, Marx clearly wrote that it was "a thoroughly expansive political form, while all the previous forms of government had been emphatically repressive." (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/ch05.htm) They were based on minority rule, as he recognized. The Commune was nonetheless a "workers' government," a new form of government, different from "all previous forms of government."

As I said, he was confused. Moreover, as Marx made clear the old state structures were used for this revolution. As he put it, it was "formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town." In practice, this was not up to the task. I explore this in my essay:

The Paris Commune, Marxism and Anarchism

dave c wrote:
Perhaps there are some other ways of characterizing all previous forms of government other than their being forms of minority rule that you don't think Marx understood. In any case, it would still be irrelevant to your argument that Marx showed a "metaphysical confusion" in calling the dictatorship of the proletariat a state, since he was not trying to draw formal parallels with past states.

Actually, given Marx's perspective on utilising the republic that is not at all obvious. Yes, this is the old "this new state is nothing like everything else we know as a state" line. But we do not call a mammal a new kind of lizard, a kind of lizard which has never existed before, a lizard but not in the usual sense of the word....

As it stands, using the term "the state" to describe a new form of social organisation leaves the door open to all the Bolshevik redefinitions of the "dictatorship of the proletariat", up to and including party dictatorship. And, I would argue, Marx repeatedly suggested that the "dictatorship" could take the form of a standard republic, with modifications, and so it did share many features with states we all know and hate.

dave c wrote:
Marx did not confine his usage of "republic" or "universal suffrage" to the bourgeois republic. In The Civil War in France, we find:

Actually, you would discover that structurally the Commune was a bourgeois republic. As he put it, it was "formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town." Thus, as per social democracy, a workers party took power by means of universal suffrage and reformed the state.

That an insurrection took place before hand does not contradict this analysis, as Engels (for example) argued that a democratic republic would be the first act of the revolution. As Kautsky later put it, social democracy fought for the democratic republic as this "was the particular form of government in which alone socialism can be realised." He stressed that the abolition of the standing army was "absolutely necessary if the state is to be able to carry out significant social reforms" once the party of the proletariat was in a position to "control legislation." This would mean "the most complete democracy, a militia system" after, echoing the Communist Manifesto, "the conquest of democracy" had been achieved. [The Road to Power, p. 34, p. 69, p. 70 and p. 72]

dave c wrote:
The "parliamentary republic" is described as "the proper form" of the "joint-stock government" which was "formed by all the rival fractions and factions of the appropriating classes"

And with the election of the workers' party, that ended.

dave c wrote:
The "social republic," or a working class government, is characterized by the resumption of the alienated powers of the masses--the masses of civil society take on political functions which previously belonged to a separate political sphere of "hierarchic investiture."

And power was still concentrated in a few hands, in the elected government. As the Commune and Russia showed, this came into conflict with the masses quite quickly...

dave c wrote:
This is why it is important to distinguish between Marx's transhistorical use of the word "state," and his specific uses of the word "state" to describe the bourgeois republic or the "social republic." These two forms do not have any inherently shared "state structure" just because they are both "states" in terms of the general usage of the word.

If we have power resting at the top of society, in the hands of a"revolutionary" government then it is a state structure in the anarchist sense, of delegated power in the hands of a few. That was the core of Bakunin's critique. And as for "the general usage of the word", that suggests that the term state should not be used for new forms of social organisation...

dave c wrote:
With regards to Bakunin, at the same time that he was dreaming up his federation of parliamentary States characterized by "universal suffrage" (Selected Writings, 66), he was saying that "the advent of liberty is incompatible with the existence of States." (88) In the free State, however, the "national parliament" would pass laws, fix taxation, etc. There will be a "national executive government" elected "with a limited term of office" (73). An-archy!

How sad. Really, that has been addressed already. He clarified his position and terminology after the mid-1860s. The same cannot be said of Marx. If anything, his post-Commune comments are pretty consistent with his pre-Commune position -- winning and using universal suffrage to vote socialists into office. That this could require insurrection to create or to defend should not make us forget this consistent theme in his works. Which suggests, at least, some confusion on the state and its nature... at the very least.

Angelus Novus
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Jun 25 2008 16:29
Anarcho wrote:
ROTFL! Presumably I should mention how

You can mention whatever you want, it's irrelevant to the actual point I was making, namely, your tendency to construe an iron consistency in Marx's thinking while disregarding breaks and discontinuities, while allowing all sorts of leeway for your pantheon of religious idols.

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Now, when "Marxists" take the position that we should be anti-parliamentarians and argue for workers councils who are they closer to?

Beats me. Maybe you should ask a Marxist. As I've already stated twice, I am not one.

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And why did Marx and Engels make such mistakes?

1) Marx is not Engels.

2) Marx really had no coherent theory of the state on the basis of the critique of political economy. The original "six book plan" was intended to also encompass a volume on the state, but as most people know, the only volume published in his lifetime was the volume on the production process.

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Well, I've been an anarchist for 20 years and have felt no desire to abandon it for Marxism.

Good for you. I haven't abandoned anything for "Marxism" either.

Do you actually read the posts on this thread, or just go straightaway for the "post comment" button?

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Holloway? He is just recycling anarchist ideas

Uh, no. Holloway is recycling the West German debates of the 1970s concerning "state derivation" and the "logic" of capital, and filtering it through his recent "Zapatista" affinities. The figures involved in those debates had absolutely nothing to do with anarchism, or any organized political tendency. Backhaus and Reichelt were former Adorno students (Moishe Postone, incidentally, was also studying in Frankfurt in the 70s).

I know that you and Chuck0 like to slap the label "anarchist" on anything that you view vaguely compatible with anarchism, but it's not a very honest practice.

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As for Marx, he happily ripped off key ideas of Proudhon

What ideas did Marx "rip off" from Proudhon? Most academic Marxologists are agreed on the fact that the value-form analysis in Vol I of Capital is an extended critique of the idea, then common among some socialists, including Proudhon, that one could retain commodity production while dispensing with money. That's not "ripping off" Proudhon, that's a critique of Proudhon.

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Well, I think that Marxism is of interest solely as an example of the power of ideology and how it makes its supporters totally blind to the contradictions of their own positions.

If I run into a Marxist, I'll let them know you said so.

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Bookchin? Yes, interesting but flawed thinker.

Engelsian "dialectic of nature" twaddle is "interesting" to you?

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Well, how about arguing that the republic is not the "specific form" of the revolution but, rather, it must be based on the working classes own organisations of struggle?

Ah, ok, here I think I recognize the incommensurability problem between the discussion I'm trying to have and the discussion you're trying to have. By "contribution to theory", I usually am referring to things like the debate between Wolfgang Fritz Haug and Michael Heinrich over whether the commodity and money chapters of Vol. I should be understood logically or historically, or the question among Regulation School adherents and their critics to whether something like a Post-Fordist accumulation regime has actually solidified, or whether such a periodization of capitalism is even possible.

When you say "theory", you're referring to practical debates within the workers movement almost a century and a half ago.

We're on two different planets.

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888
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Jun 25 2008 19:49
Angelus Novus wrote:
Ah, ok, here I think I recognize the incommensurability problem between the discussion I'm trying to have and the discussion you're trying to have. By "contribution to theory", I usually am referring to things like the debate between Wolfgang Fritz Haug and Michael Heinrich over whether the commodity and money chapters of Vol. I should be understood logically or historically, or the question among Regulation School adherents and their critics to whether something like a Post-Fordist accumulation regime has actually solidified, or whether such a periodization of capitalism is even possible.

When you say "theory", you're referring to practical debates within the workers movement almost a century and a half ago.

We're on two different planets.

Yes, you're on the planet of academic up it's own arse pomposity. Who cares whether the commodity and money chapters of Vol. I should be understood logically or historically?? What the fuck does that mean anyway? Why are we still stuck on chapter one of Capital? Shouldn't we be developing new theories rather than constantly re-analysing old ones? I feel there is a huge amount of work to be done mathematically analysing economic data using computers from a proletarian perspective. Marx didn't have the capacity to analyse vast quantities of data that we have today, and also he was apparently only capable of understanding addition and multiplication.

You're deliberately speaking an alien language. Have you ever done anything except read books?

(Yes this is a very stereotypical anti-intellectual reply but pretty legitimate considering this post)

Angelus Novus
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Jun 25 2008 21:09
888 wrote:
Yes, you're on the planet of academic up it's own arse pomposity.

bzzzt! Wrong! As I already answered when someone tried this populist demagogy on this very same thread, I barely graduated school, and have no higher education (university, college, technical, or otherwise).

So go academic-bait somebody else.

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Who cares whether the commodity and money chapters of Vol. I should be understood logically or historically??

http://marxmyths.org/chris-arthur/article2.htm

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What the fuck does that mean anyway?

Again, http://marxmyths.org/chris-arthur/article2.htm

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You're deliberately speaking an alien language. Have you ever done anything except read books?

Yawn, more class-baiting.

Union activity since leaving school for a number of years, first as a rank-and-filer, then as a staffer. More recently, primarily anti-fascist and community (read: neighborhood) organizing. You don't need to know more unless you're a spook.

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(Yes this is a very stereotypical anti-intellectual reply but pretty legitimate considering this post)

Anti-intellectualism and academic-baiting is a common trait among "college boys with designer hard hats" (ha ha, baited you back, you horny-handed son of toil, you!)

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888
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Jun 25 2008 21:58

You were deliberately speaking an alien language, though. Academic-baiting is common amongst all sorts of people, and usually justified.

Anyway, you didn't reply to the entire non-troll part of my post,

me did wrote:
Why are we still stuck on chapter one of Capital? Shouldn't we be developing new theories rather than constantly re-analysing old ones? I feel there is a huge amount of work to be done mathematically analysing economic data using computers from a proletarian perspective.
Angelus Novus
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Jun 25 2008 22:47
888 wrote:
You were deliberately speaking an alien language

I speak English, German, and (very bad) Spanish. I'm not one of those Star Trek types who learns Klingon.

In all seriousness, I wasn't "deliberately" anything. In my original post, I passingly noted that anarchism hasn't really produced any compelling theorists on the level of thinkers like Marx, Rubin, Backhaus, Reichelt, Heinrich, Agnoli, Hirsch, Gerstenberger, etc.

The poster Anarcho somehow misconstrued this as being an allegation that anarchists have never said anything true, or that anarchists have never taken correct positions inside of the worker movement.

In the post you are responding to, I was simply noting that Anarcho and I are really talking about two entirely different things.

When I say "theory", I'm talking about, say, Joachim Hirsch's attempts to construct a theory of the state on the basis of understanding the separation of political and economic domination in capitalist society, the mediation of social activity through objective forms that are constituted by human agency but "blindly" and behind the backs of social actors, and the dual fundamental social forms of capitalist society being the form of value, expressed in money, and the political form, expressed in the state.

When Anarcho says "theory", he refers to Bakunin and cohorts saying things like "state bad! Me no like!" (I'm paraphrasing, of course). That might be true (I think it is), but it's not particularly insightful, unless you're Anarcho, in which case, one might have a vested interest in defending the notion that everything anarchists have ever said about anything is simply vastly superior to anything said by communists coming from the tradition of the critique of political economy.

A true statement or correct position is simply that. It is not theory, and doesn't provide the same analytical insights. It is "correct" in some sense to be "anti-capitalist", and hundreds of thousands of people might intuitively characterize themselves in this way, but it still doesn't mean that they have the first fucking clue of what capitalism really is, how it operates, what distinguishes it from other social formations, etc.

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Why are we still stuck on chapter one of Capital? Shouldn't we be developing new theories rather than constantly re-analysing old ones?

With the exception of minor details like Marx's belief in the necessity of a physical money commodity (the ol' fella never forsaw the abolition of the gold standard and the standardization of fiat money), I think Marx largely succeeded in his attempt to create a theoretical depiction of the operation of _Capitalism_ at its "ideal average". Once one understands, against the historicists, that Marx is not analyzing a historical, actually existing capitalism, but rather the dynamic of the capitalist system as such, it is an amazingly insightful work, and will remain relevant so long as capitalism exists.

Volin's picture
Volin
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Jun 26 2008 19:34
Angelus Novus wrote:
In my original post, I passingly noted that anarchism hasn't really produced any compelling theorists on the level of thinkers like Marx, Rubin, Backhaus, Reichelt, Heinrich, Agnoli, Hirsch, Gerstenberger, etc. The poster Anarcho somehow misconstrued this as being an allegation that anarchists have never said anything true, or that anarchists have never taken correct positions inside of the worker movement.

Everyone knows that comparing 'anarchism' to 'Marxism' is completely futile because they were both trying to do something quite different. There was no 'anarchist theoreticians' along the lines of Marx since the finest minds of that working class movement weren't spending their time writing theses on the critique of political economy but were - more fully, throwing themselves and their ideas into the practical struggles of their time. This isn't to say marxian advances in the post festum abstraction and interpretation of those events aren't extremely important - they definitely are, and today should be blended with the historical insight of anarchism*. But I'd also say, unlike catch, that the organised anarchist movement lived up many times more closely to the self-same principle of critique you apparently hold, unlike 90% of 'Marxism' which was a positivist drain on the working class and many of the fine ideas that were meant to liberate them.

You underestimate Bakunin but also the whole host of anarchist thinkers. Instead - I'll say it again; you give rediculous emphasis to those marxists, 'critics of political economy', who through a great amount of intellectual pomp and fluff say the same things that have been said and understood much earlier. Humanity needed to wait for the councilists to realise the reaction of the Bolsheviks? And I'm a fan of Holloway I admit it, but his contribution is entirely original, is it? it came out of the Geman debates of the '70s? Em, sorry but the only main difference is he situates the same ideas in a marxian paradigm. Sure it's useful but let's not be too generous. You'll even find that 'anarchists' have been involved in those things which is meant to be marxist territory - the 'dialectical materialism' which Marx is accredited with was created independently by Josef Dietzgen who, like many people on libcom today, thought the label 'anarchist' and 'communist' was arbitrary.

*It all goes back to the question - what purpose can and should revolutionary theory serve? In short what do you think is the point of, say, the state derivation debates? Not what ideas came out of it, but how can it change things?

Spikymike
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Jun 26 2008 21:39

As usual I found something to agree with on both sides of this debate but I think Devrim cut through the nonsense with his short but relevant approach to the 'Marxist' v 'anarchist' boxing match.

Personally I have always thoughty the anarchist opposition to 'pro-revolutionary' participation in capitalist elections to have been the more consistent and justifiable even in the days in which Marx and Engels were writing but that is with the benefit of hindsight. I can see why 'pro-revolutionaries however did at the time see this as an area of struggle worth participating in given the level of working class political development in that period.

As important though is understanding that there was otherwise much in common between these two aproximate political tendencies in the late 19th/early 20th century, much of which however valid at that time can no longer be applied to the conditions of todays modern global capitalism.

It is a marxist based approach none the less which best equips us to analyse and understand the changes that have happened and the need to move beyond both 'marxism' and 'anarchism' as ideologies.

Spikymike
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Jun 26 2008 21:41

I suppose I should have said 'participation in the struggle for a voice in capitalist parliamentary elections' to be more precise in my contribution above. I must be getting tired - time for a kip.

Angelus Novus
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Jun 26 2008 23:01
Volin wrote:
Everyone knows that comparing 'anarchism' to 'Marxism' is completely futile because they were both trying to do something quite different.

I'm not comparing "anarchism" to "Marxism", as I've stated already three times on this thread, I'm not a Marxist, I consider myself to be a communist in the tradition of the critique of political economy, something quite different from "Marxism", which is an ideology of the historical workers movement.

If you keep trying to apply the label "Marxist" to me, it either means you are intentionally misrepresenting my position, or you are simply not reading what I've written. Either way, I will not continue the discussion on such a basis.

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But I'd also say, unlike catch, that the organised anarchist movement lived up many times more closely to the self-same principle of critique you apparently hold

Again, we're on different planets. I'm talking about a critical social theory that attempts to grasp the state and capital in the form of a categorical critique, or, as Marx put it in a letter to Lassalle:

“The work I am presently concerned with is a Critique of Economic Categories or, if you like, a critical exposé of the system of the bourgeois economy. It is at once an exposé and, by the same token, a critique of the system.”

You, on the other hand, like Anarcho, are concerned with the question of who took whatever correct position concerning practical questions of the workers movement in the 19th century. Now, those are interesting things, of a certain historical interest, but the statement I originally made that so irritated Anarcho has no bearing upon such questions.

Stop being so defensive, nobody is pissing on your idols. To take another example, the question of whether to vote up or down on a particular trade union contract has no immediate bearing upon a critical analysis of the role of "law" in bourgeois societies. Get it? Two entirely different spheres. Two entirely different sets of questions.

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And I'm a fan of Holloway I admit it, but his contribution is entirely original, is it?

No, as I already said, a bit of value-form analysis borrowed from Backhaus and Reichelt, analysis of the state and political form borrowed from Hirsch and Gerstenberger, a dash of operaismo, and big heaping spoonful of Holloway's own idiosyncratic Zapatismo.

And on top of that, the whole thing is written in a style that attempts to imitate Ernst Bloch ("In the beginning was the scream..."), only, you can't write like Ernst Bloch in English, Ernst Bloch expressionist German does not transfer well, and trying to do so makes one sound like an emo kid.

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it came out of the Geman debates of the '70s? Em, sorry but the only main difference is he situates the same ideas in a marxian paradigm.

Uh, those German ideas of the 1970s were situated in a Marxian "paradigm". Again, you're mixing up two entirely different things, Holloway's form-analytical critiques of value and the political form, and Holloway's prescriptive statements along the lines of "state bad. me no like power", which is presumably the aspect that interests anarchists.

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he 'dialectical materialism' which Marx is accredited with

Ugh. Diamat. One of the worst theoretical legacies of the classical workers movement. Certainly not a concept ever elaborated by Marx. If you're trying to score points with me, you won't do it by pointing out that some anarchist got there first with some ridiculous poppycock about nature being a "movement in contradiction" or some other claptrap. Earlier on this thread, I dismissed Murray Bookchin as a serious thinker on the basis of his adoption of this Engelsian pseudo-scientific BS.

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*It all goes back to the question - what purpose can and should revolutionary theory serve?

To abolish capitalism, you have to know what it is. To abolish the state, you have to know what the state is. A foreshortened understanding of capital gives you neo-Proudhonians like ATTAC, who locate the root of all evil merely in the sphere of circulation, but who have no beef with commodity production as such.

yoshomon
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Jun 27 2008 01:29
Angelus Novus wrote:
To abolish capitalism, you have to know what it is. To abolish the state, you have to know what the state is. A foreshortened understanding of capital gives you neo-Proudhonians like ATTAC, who locate the root of all evil merely in the sphere of circulation, but who have no beef with commodity production as such.

This is idealism. ATTAC and other formations do not fail to be anti-capitalist because of bad ideas or analysis. Why would capitalist formations have "beef with commodity production as such"?

I find a lot of your ideas compelling, but I do not understand this faith in consciousness.

dave c
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Jun 27 2008 05:01

Anarcho:

Quote:
It [a definition of the state] is a generalisation based on facts and, as such, should be guide for action. I'm arguing that Marxist theory is flawed because it draws the wrong generalisation.

By talking about drawing a generalization, you seem to mean identifying common features. But the common features of states that one identifies will depend on how one has defined a “state.” If someone’s definition of a “state” differs form yours, they can have a different set of “states” from which to generalize. When Marx calls a state an “instrument of class rule”, he is obviously not trying to list all the common features of previous states. He is defining a term for the purpose of using it within a specific discourse. Like your definition of the state, it is a stipulative definition (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stipulative_definition), and it is not “right” or “wrong.” As I have been saying, your focus on definitions is entirely wrongheaded.

Anarcho:

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So we have a "transitional state" which shares none of the characteristics of all previous states? Strange sort of state...

This is a straw man. I never said or implied that it would share “none of the characteristics” of all previous states. I had only mentioned a key characteristic that it does not share with all previous states: that it is not based on minority rule. Marx specifically wanted to describe the state as an expression of social class relations, and not treat it as “an independent entity that possesses its own intellectual, ethical, and libertarian bases.” (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch04.htm) Thus, after socialism triumphs, “there will be no more political power properly so-called, since political power is precisely the official expression of antagonism in civil society.” (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/poverty-philosophy/ch02e.htm). The state of proletarian class rule was described as a state because it is the organized expression of the political power of a class. As Marx commented on Bakunin:

Quote:
Bakunin: Then there will be no government and no state, but if there is a state, there will be both governors and slaves.
Marx: i.e. only if class rule has disappeared, and there is no state in the present political sense.
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1874/04/bakunin-notes.htm

Here I will refer back to previous posts to clarify my argument.

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Anarcho: Because it [Marx’s usage] is drawing some kind of essence of "the state" which simply does not exist. It implies that a state structure can be used by the masses when, in fact, every state has evolved to exclude the masses.

dave c: Your second sentence is premised on the idea that there is some specific "state structure" based on exclusion of the masses that defines the state as such. Since you define the state as a form of minority rule it is tautological that it excludes the masses from that rule. But Marx's theory does not imply any of this, so it is a ridiculous criticism.

Anarcho: Yes, states have evolved structures to achieve their function. If a social structure has those features then it is a state. If it does not, then it is not a state. Nothing tautological in that.

This last comment does not respond to my point at all. If you look at Anarcho’s statement that I was originally responding to, you notice that he claims that Marx “implies” that a state structure can be used by the masses. But Marx does not “imply” this, he says this repeatedly—because class rule is by definition a state structure for him. Anarcho obviously knows this, so what else could Marx be implying, according to Anarcho? Only that a state structure that excludes the masses could be used by the masses. And Marx would indeed be implying this if he was using Anarcho’s theory of the state and calling proletarian rule a state. But Marx is using Marx’s theory of the state. So it is not plausible that he is implying what Anarcho claims he is implying. And this is the flimsy basis of Anarcho’s claim that Marx’s understanding of the state is “confused.”

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dave c: For Marx, there is no transhistorical "state structure" that is common to all states.

Anarcho: Which is the problem, Marx did not have an evolutionary perspective on the state. He had a metaphysical one.

So “an evolutionary perspective on the state” is one that identifies a transhistorical state structure common to all states? And Marx is the metaphysical one?

Anarcho:

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As it stands, using the term "the state" to describe a new form of social organisation leaves the door open to all the Bolshevik redefinitions of the "dictatorship of the proletariat", up to and including party dictatorship.

Does it really? The “dictatorship of the proletariat” is a state power. “Party dictatorship” is a state power. Therefore, “Party dictatorship” = “dictatorship of the proletariat.” I can see how the door was left wide open. Seriously, this is laughable.

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dave c: This is why it is important to distinguish between Marx's transhistorical use of the word "state," and his specific uses of the word "state" to describe the bourgeois republic or the "social republic." These two forms do not have any inherently shared "state structure" just because they are both "states" in terms of the general usage of the word.

Anarcho: And as for "the general usage of the word", that suggests that the term state should not be used for new forms of social organisation...

The general usage of the word is the transhistorical usage of the word, the “instrument of class rule.” Once again, I don’t care how you want to define your terms. Even though you disparage Marx for supposedly trying to extract an “essence” from states, your main complaint seems to be that Marx does not describe the real “essence” of the state, since you think that a stipulative definition “becomes obvious” after empirical investigation.

The crux of Anarcho’s argument, when he is not trying to make ridiculous claims about “essences” and “metaphysics,” is that Marx wanted the workers to use the bourgeois parliamentary republic to assert their dictatorship, even if he thought that some “state machinery” would have to be lopped off, and that the Paris Commune is somehow an example of this. If the bourgeois republic is bourgeois because of the territorial elections that Anarcho brings up, then Marx is guilty of not criticizing this. But I doubt Anarcho actually wants to argue this. And Marx saw the defining feature of the bourgeois republic elsewhere. Anarcho, like Lenin, identifies the “democratic republic” with the bourgeois parliamentary republic, when Marx and Engels clearly did not do this, as I have argued.

In a document Anarcho is fond of quoting from, Engels clearly lays out the issues at stake:

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From the outset the Commune was compelled to recognize that the working class, once come to power, could not manage with the old state machine; that in order not to lose again its only just conquered supremacy, this working class must, on the one hand, do away with all the old repressive machinery previously used against it itself, and, on the other, safeguard itself against its own deputies and officials, by declaring them all, without exception, subject to recall at any moment. What had been the characteristic attribute of the former state? Society had created its own organs to look after its common interests, originally through simple division of labor. But these organs, at whose head was the state power, had in the course of time, in pursuance of their own special interests, transformed themselves from the servants of society into the masters of society, as can be seen, for example, not only in the hereditary monarchy, but equally also in the democratic republic. Nowhere do "politicians" form a more separate, powerful section of the nation than in North America. . . .

It is precisely in America that we see best how there takes place this process of the state power making itself independent in relation to society, whose mere instrument it was originally intended to be. Here there exists no dynasty, no nobility, no standing army, beyond the few men keeping watch on the Indians, no bureaucracy with permanent posts or the right to pensions, and nevertheless we find here two great gangs of political speculators, who alternately take possession of the state power and exploit it by the most corrupt means and for the most corrupt ends — and the nation is powerless against these two great cartels of politicians, who are ostensibly its servants, but in reality exploit and plunder it.

Against this transformation of the state and the organs of the state from servants of society into masters of society — an inevitable transformation in all previous states — the Commune made use of two infallible expedients. In this first place, it filled all posts — administrative, judicial, and educational — by election on the basis of universal suffrage of all concerned, with the right of the same electors to recall their delegate at any time. And in the second place, all officials, high or low, were paid only the wages received by other workers. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/postscript.htm)

Here Engels is unequivocal: the key feature of the French state that Engels points out is even more pronounced in the more modern American republic: the state has become independent of society. But the Commune showed an alternative to both the French bureaucratic state and the modern bourgeois republic. It is what I pointed to, what Marx insists on continually, the taking of the political sphere under the control of the masses of civil society. This means the bourgeois state is destroyed, either “on the Continent” or in America. This is the change in the class content of the state. Since parliament reproduced the separation of the “political sphere,” the Commune

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was not one of those dwarfish struggles between the executive and the parliamentary forms of class domination, but a revolt against both these forms . . . .
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/drafts/ch01.htm

Marx’s perspective is spelled out well here:

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That the Revolution is made in the name and confessedly for the popular masses, that is, the producing masses, is a feature this Revolution has in common with all its predecessors. The new feature is that the people, after the first rise, have not disarmed themselves and surrendered their power into the hands of the Republican mountebanks of the ruling classes, that, by the constitution of the Commune, they have taken the actual management of their Revolution into their own hands and found at the same time, in the case of success, the means to hold it in the hands of the people itself, displacing the State machinery, the governmental machinery of the ruling classes by a governmental machinery of their own. This is their ineffable crime! (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/drafts/ch01.htm)

A governmental machinery of their own. A state through which the people take “the actual management of the revolution into their own hands.” It is spelled out quite clearly.

Anarcho
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Jun 27 2008 07:58
Devrim wrote:
Also we think that there were mistakes in Bakuninism:

Bakuninism? If it existed, I would say that it died with Bakunin. Malatesta, in 1876, argued that we follow ideas and not people and so refuse to name our ideas after an individual. Yes, Bakunin made mistakes, no anarchist would deny that. That is part of the reason we are anarchists, not Bakuninists....

Devrim wrote:
To me this contains all of the worst aspects of what came to be called Leninism.

Bakunin's ideas on this matter are subject to a lot of selective quoting and misrepresentation. These kinds of quotes should be read in context, particularly in relation to the parts where he explicitly states that the revolutionaries would not take "official" power, i.e., hierarchical positions. An Anarchist FAQ has a section on this:

J.3.7 Doesn't Bakunin's "Invisible Dictatorship" prove that anarchists are secret authoritarians?

His way of expressing his ideas are confusing and not clear. In fact, I think this is probably the only case of an anarchist thinker expressing himself in a confusing way. Usually, it is pretty obvious what they meant -- unlike, say, Marx whose positions on certain issues are subject to such a wide range of intepretations it is staggering.

Devrim wrote:
Nor do I think that anarchists should claim that people like Pannekoek were 'libertarians'.

Yet there most obviously were libertarian Marxists. I doubt that anyone calls them just libertarians or anarchists, but it is obvious that their ideas are extremely close to class struggle anarchism. This obvious similarly was noted by Lenin, for example, who did call the council communists anarchists.

Devrim wrote:
But why try to call people something that they wouldn't have called themselves?

In order to show links and similarities? To show that we have more in common than certain labels suggest....

Anarcho
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Jun 27 2008 08:24
Angelus Novus wrote:
You can mention whatever you want, it's irrelevant to the actual point I was making, namely, your tendency to construe an iron consistency in Marx's thinking while disregarding breaks and discontinuities, while allowing all sorts of leeway for your pantheon of religious idols.

And you have missed the clear continuity of Marx and Engels on this issue. Now, given that from the 1840s Marx and Engels repeatedly argued that the working class could vote socialism into office, could utilise the bourgeois republic for socialist ends, it seems strange to deny that this is the case.

I am well aware that Marx did, at times, adapt working class experiences into his politics (for example, the mandated and recallable delegates of the Commune). However, this is into a remarkably consistent framework. Now, feel free to deny that this framework exists but it would hardly be sensible.

And, just to mention the obvious, I do not really consider Engels public statement for genocide against "non-historic" peoples to be remotely relevant to the discussion of the Marxist theory of the state. I only mentioned it because you brought up the utterly irrelevant fact that in his private notebooks Proudhon expressed deeply anti-jewish opinions. If you look at his political words, this anti-jewish position is nowhere to be found. I only mention Marx support for an imperialist war because you mentioned Kropotkin's similar act. Again, this is pretty irrelevant to the issue at hand -- so way mention it?

Angelus Novus wrote:
Quote:
Now, when "Marxists" take the position that we should be anti-parliamentarians and argue for workers councils who are they closer to?

Beats me. Maybe you should ask a Marxist. As I've already stated twice, I am not one.

Go on, make a guess. It is not that hard.

Angelus Novus wrote:
Quote:
And why did Marx and Engels make such mistakes?

1) Marx is not Engels.

ROTFL! So we can quote Engels when he appears to agree with the correct interpretation of Marx but when someone quotes Engels in a way which destroys said interpretation, then Engels is not Marx?

I would guess that Engels and Marx discussed the issue of smashing the state machine and what it meant. After all, they wrote the preface to the 1872 edition of the Communist Manifesto. I would think it extremelt unlikely that Engels did not ask what Marx meant by it.

Angelus Novus wrote:
2) Marx really had no coherent theory of the state on the basis of the critique of political economy. The original "six book plan" was intended to also encompass a volume on the state, but as most people know, the only volume published in his lifetime was the volume on the production process.

Oh, right. I say that his position was "confused" and that is terrible. I know now that I should have used the words "no coherent theory of the state" instead! Now I know...

Angelus Novus wrote:
Do you actually read the posts on this thread, or just go straightaway for the "post comment" button?

Do you?

Angelus Novus wrote:
Quote:
Holloway? He is just recycling anarchist ideas

Uh, no. Holloway is recycling the West German debates of the 1970s concerning "state derivation" and the "logic" of capital, and filtering it through his recent "Zapatista" affinities. The figures involved in those debates had absolutely nothing to do with anarchism, or any organized political tendency. Backhaus and Reichelt were former Adorno students (Moishe Postone, incidentally, was also studying in Frankfurt in the 70s).

Perhaps he is doing so unknowningly, but his arguments and conclusions are anarchist in nature. As the more orthodox Marxists, like the Leninists, have pointed out. Perhaps these old Marxist debates unknowningly came to the same conclusions of anarchists -- probably, as most Marxists I know see to be pretty ignorant of other socialist traditions.

Angelus Novus wrote:
I know that you and Chuck0 like to slap the label "anarchist" on anything that you view vaguely compatible with anarchism, but it's not a very honest practice.

Noting that a certain person's ideas are similar, if not identical, to anarchism is not to claim it is anarchist, simply to note that we said it first.

Angelus Novus wrote:
What ideas did Marx "rip off" from Proudhon?

Off the top of my head, the notion that exploitation occurs in production. The notion that capitalists monopolise the benefits of co-operative labour. The difference between possession and property (capital).

Angelus Novus wrote:
Most academic Marxologists are agreed on the fact that the value-form analysis in Vol I of Capital is an extended critique of the idea, then common among some socialists, including Proudhon, that one could retain commodity production while dispensing with money. That's not "ripping off" Proudhon, that's a critique of Proudhon.

You really missed the point, I feel. I never said that Marx was a Mutualist. He obviously critiqued Proudhon (sometimes dishonestly) and his solution to the social problem. That is not what I argued. I argued that marx's analysis of capitalism contained elements that Proudhon first expounded.

Angelus Novus wrote:
Quote:
Bookchin? Yes, interesting but flawed thinker.

Engelsian "dialectic of nature" twaddle is "interesting" to you?

I seem to have read more of Bookchin than you appear to have. . .

Angelus Novus wrote:
Ah, ok, here I think I recognize the incommensurability problem between the discussion I'm trying to have and the discussion you're trying to have. By "contribution to theory", I usually am referring to things like the debate between Wolfgang Fritz Haug and Michael Heinrich over whether the commodity and money chapters of Vol. I should be understood logically or historically, or the question among Regulation School adherents and their critics to whether something like a Post-Fordist accumulation regime has actually solidified, or whether such a periodization of capitalism is even possible.

What a load of pseudo-academic bollocks. If that is what you think are important contributions to theory, I think you should get out more.

Angelus Novus wrote:
When you say "theory", you're referring to practical debates within the workers movement almost a century and a half ago.

And when you say "theory" you are referring to hair-splitting discussions of parts of a book written in the 1860s. The kind of thing which is utterly relevant to actual people and attempts to change the world.

Angelus Novus wrote:
We're on two different planets.

Yes, I'm on planet earth. What planet are you on?

Angelus Novus
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Jun 27 2008 09:32
yoshomon wrote:
This is idealism. ATTAC and other formations do not fail to be anti-capitalist because of bad ideas or analysis. Why would capitalist formations have "beef with commodity production as such"?

I agree with you that ATTAC is a capitalist formation to the extent that it is programmatically reformist and that probably a majority of the leadership and a substantial number of the base (quite possibly also a majority) are explicit advocates of reforming capitalism, not its abolition, so in that sense, I agree that ATTAC's failings are not purely at the level of analysis, but in the nature of the organization itself.

However, at least here in Germany, a not insubstantial number of ATTAC activists view themselves as in some way opposed to capitalism (Silvio Gesell followers, but also many professed "anarchists" and "Marxists") and their objectively affirmative relationship to capital is a result of a truncated anti-capitalism not rooted in the critique of political economy, but rather limited to a demonization of finance (what the Wertkritiker would call "structural anti-semitism).

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I find a lot of your ideas compelling, but I do not understand this faith in consciousness.

Well I wouldn't call it a "faith" in consciousness, but I certainly think that the fetishism of bourgeois social relations pre-structures consciousness and inscribes the framework and limits of everyday "common sense". This is a problem I have with late operaismo: too often the notion of class composition seems to me a way of short circuiting the problem of fetishized consciousness by attempting to ascribe some sort of automatic resistance to capitalism. I think after a century and a half of failures in the communist and workers movements, one has to seriously examine how "everyday common sense" in commodity society sets limits for activity which can't be transcended without trying to grasp how this society is constituted.

Anarcho
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Jun 27 2008 09:32
dave c wrote:
When Marx calls a state an “instrument of class rule”, he is obviously not trying to list all the common features of previous states. He is defining a term for the purpose of using it within a specific discourse. . . . As I have been saying, your focus on definitions is entirely wrongheaded.

It is hardly wrongheaded, as it is clear that marx's defintion of the state lead to extremely flawed conclusions. The notion that the state is an "instrument of class rule" implies that the republic based on universal suffrage could be used by the working class as its instrument (with appropriate modifications). Which is precisely what Marx and Engels did conclude. They imparted this wisdom to social democracy, with consequences we are all aware of.

How else to explain the apparently contradictory positions that Marx argued the state needed to be smashed and replaced and that universal suffrage gave power to the workers and social change could proceed peacefully? I have pointed out that these positions can be explained once you realise that "state machine" does not equal the state in Marx and Engels. Martov, the left-Menshevik, made the same point in his critique of Lenin's "State and Revolution." (see his post-1918 essays)

dave c wrote:
Anarcho:
Quote:
So we have a "transitional state" which shares none of the characteristics of all previous states? Strange sort of state...

This is a straw man. I never said or implied that it would share “none of the characteristics” of all previous states. I had only mentioned a key characteristic that it does not share with all previous states: that it is not based on minority rule.

In other words, the public power does lie with the general public? In which case, it is not a state! As defined by Engels. Which is why the whole notion of a "transitional state" makes little sense. Which was at the core of Bakunin's critique of Marx.

dave c wrote:
Marx specifically wanted to describe the state as an expression of social class relations, and not treat it as “an independent entity that possesses its own intellectual, ethical, and libertarian bases.”

So, after the revolution, the working class would still be proletarians? So a political revolution comes first, with capital left in the hands of private owners? I should point out that anarchists argued that a key problem with the Commune was precisely that it did this, rather than expropriating capital directly. in Bolshevik Russia, the capitalists used their economic power to undermine the economy, forcing the Bolsheviks to introduce nationalisation (and so create state capitalism).

dave c wrote:
Thus, after socialism triumphs, “there will be no more political power properly so-called, since political power is precisely the official expression of antagonism in civil society.”

The argument that the "public power" could stop being "political" (i.e. a state) is a tautology, and a particularly unconvincing one at that. After all, if "political power" is defined as being an instrument of class rule it automatically follows that a classless society would have a non-political "public power" and so be without a state! This does not imply that a "public power" would no longer exist as a structure within (or, more correctly, over) society, it just implies that its role would no longer be "political" (i.e. an instrument of class rule).

dave c wrote:
The state of proletarian class rule was described as a state because it is the organized expression of the political power of a class.

So the working class would still be wage slaves? Capital would remain in private hands? As I noted in my first post, the anarchist commune is based on expropriation of the means of production and the placing of social power into the hands of the masses. Anarchists recognised that this could not be called a state in any meaningful sense, for reasons I have explained above. I also noted, from a Marxist position it cannot be called a state.

Now, Bakunin argued that Marx was in favour of representative government -- and Marx did not object. Instead he obscured the issue by talking about a trade union and how it has a central body. As Alan Carter argues, "this might have seemed to Marx [over] a century ago to be satisfactory rejoinder, but it can hardly do today. In the infancy of the trade unions, which is all Marx knew, the possibility of the executives of a trade union becoming divorced from the ordinary members may not have seemed to him to be a likely outcome, We, however, have behind us a long history of union leaders 'selling out' and being out of touch with their members. Time has ably demonstrated that to reject Bakunin's fears on the basis of the practice of trade union officials constitutes a woeful complacency with regard to power and privilege -- a complacency that was born ample fruit in the form of present Marxist parties and 'communist' societies . . . [His] dispute with Bakunin shows quite clearly that Marx did not stress the continued control of the revolution by the mass of the people as a prerequisite for the transcendence of all significant social antagonisms." [Marx: A Radical Critique, pp. 217-8]

Anarchists made the obvious point that electing a government by universal suffrage did not equal working class power over society, quite the reverse. In that sense, marx's "transitional state" is like previous states and would, as a consequence, not lead to liberation. As has proven to be the case.

dave c wrote:
This last comment does not respond to my point at all. If you look at Anarcho’s statement that I was originally responding to, you notice that he claims that Marx “implies” that a state structure can be used by the masses.

Actually, he does. He repeatedly notes that universal suffrage gave political power to the masses. He listed republics and democratic states where this could be done. Engels is even more explicit on this issue ("[w]ith respect to the proletariat the republic . . . is the ready-for-use form for the future rule of the proletariat." ) and of course:

Quote:
"It is simply a question of showing that the victorious proletariat must first refashion the old bureaucratic, administrative centralised state power before it can use it for its own purposes: whereas all bourgeois republicans since 1848 inveighed against this machinery so long as they were in the opposition, but once they were in the government they took it over without altering it and used it partly against the reaction but still more against the proletariat."

Perhaps Engels never actually talked to Marx about this issue, but it seems unlikely....

dave c wrote:
But Marx does not “imply” this, he says this repeatedly—because class rule is by definition a state structure for him.

And he repeatedly states that working class rule could be expressed by universal suffrage and be achieved by means of it.

dave c wrote:
Anarcho obviously knows this, so what else could Marx be implying, according to Anarcho? Only that a state structure that excludes the masses could be used by the masses. And Marx would indeed be implying this if he was using Anarcho’s theory of the state and calling proletarian rule a state. But Marx is using Marx’s theory of the state. So it is not plausible that he is implying what Anarcho claims he is implying. And this is the flimsy basis of Anarcho’s claim that Marx’s understanding of the state is “confused.”

Nope, far from it. I have stated, repeatedly, that the problem is that Marx's definition of the state was wrong, that he produced a metaphysical definition of the state rather than the (correct, anarchist) evolutionary one. As, for Marx, the state was an instrument of class rule then it follows that even a republic could be used by the working class for its aims. A conclusion he did draw and one Engels is particularly clear on this. That flows from an incorrect analysis of the state.

Now, it also that means, for Marx and Engels, representative structures could be used by the masses in a social revolution. However, anarchists argued that such a concentration of power would lead to the state structure developing interests of its own. It was not simply an instrument of class rule, in other words, as its structure has evolved to exclude the masses and ensure minority rule. Hence the need to smash the state, not just the state machine, and replace it with new forms of social organisation.

The notion that working class power could be expressed in republican structures, even in the republic itself, shows that Marxist notions of the state are confused. That kind of error does not co-exist with some valid theory of the state!

dave c wrote:
Does it really? The “dictatorship of the proletariat” is a state power. “Party dictatorship” is a state power. Therefore, “Party dictatorship” = “dictatorship of the proletariat.” I can see how the door was left wide open. Seriously, this is laughable.

You are aware that is precisely what the Bolsheviks did do? It is not laughable, it is a historic fact. Now, feel free to deny that this happened but you will not be remotely convincing.

So, I would argue, Marx's confused theory of the state allowed this Bolshevik stupidity to be seriously argued by leading Marxists.

dave c wrote:
The crux of Anarcho’s argument, when he is not trying to make ridiculous claims about “essences” and “metaphysics,” is that Marx wanted the workers to use the bourgeois parliamentary republic to assert their dictatorship, even if he thought that some “state machinery” would have to be lopped off, and that the Paris Commune is somehow an example of this.

Which was what Marx did mean, according to Engels. To re-quote Engels (yet again!) when asked what Marx meant in the Civil War in France about smashing the state machine:

Quote:
"It is simply a question of showing that the victorious proletariat must first refashion the old bureaucratic, administrative centralised state power before it can use it for its own purposes"

Now, what else could that mean?

dave c wrote:
If the bourgeois republic is bourgeois because of the territorial elections that Anarcho brings up, then Marx is guilty of not criticizing this.

You really do not have a clue, do you? This really does show the power of ideology to ignore facts and arguments....

dave c wrote:
But I doubt Anarcho actually wants to argue this. And Marx saw the defining feature of the bourgeois republic elsewhere. Anarcho, like Lenin, identifies the “democratic republic” with the bourgeois parliamentary republic, when Marx and Engels clearly did not do this, as I have argued.

Here is Engels again:

Quote:
"If one thing is certain it is that our Party and the working class can only come to power under the form of a democratic republic. This is even the specific form for the dictatorship of the proletariat, as the Great French Revolution has already shown."

and again:

Quote:
"With respect to the proletariat the republic . . . is the ready-for-use form for the future rule of the proletariat."

Then again, there is Engels 1887 comments that in the USA the workers "next step towards their deliverance" was "the formation of a political workingmen's party, with a platform of its own, and the conquest of the Capitol and the White House for its goal." This new party "like all political parties everywhere . . . aspires to the conquest of political power." Six years previously he had argued along the same lines as regards Britain, "where the industrial and agricultural working class forms the immense majority of the people, democracy means the dominion of the working class, neither more nor less. Let, then, that working class prepare itself for the task in store for it -- the ruling of this great Empire . . . And the best way to do this is to use the power already in their hands, the actual majority they possess . . . to send to Parliament men of their own order." In case this was not clear enough, he lamented that "[e]verywhere the labourer struggles for political power, for direct representation of his class in the legislature -- everywhere but in Great Britain." In 1870, Engels commented that in Britain "the bourgeoisie could only get its real representative . . . into government only by extension of the franchise, whose consequences are bound to put an end to all bourgeois rule."

I could do on, but these quotes will (as usual) be simply ignored.

dave c wrote:
In a document Anarcho is fond of quoting from, Engels clearly lays out the issues at stake:
Quote:
From the outset the Commune was compelled to recognize that the working class, once come to power, could not manage with the old state machine;

And to quote a quote which is simply ignored, this was what Engels said when he was asked to clarify what this meant:

Quote:
"It is simply a question of showing that the victorious proletariat must first refashion the old bureaucratic, administrative centralised state power before it can use it for its own purposes: whereas all bourgeois republicans since 1848 inveighed against this machinery so long as they were in the opposition, but once they were in the government they took it over without altering it and used it partly against the reaction but still more against the proletariat."

Now, how to explain that? Well, first you need to recognise that Marx and Engels both drew a difference between the republican state and the state machine (which, Marx argued, predated the republic as was essentially non-capitalist although utilised by capitalists to secure their position). He argued the smashing of the latter, yes, but the utilisation of the former.

dave c wrote:
Here Engels is unequivocal: the key feature of the French state that Engels points out is even more pronounced in the more modern American republic: the state has become independent of society.

Which, of course, shows the notion that the state is merely an instrument of class rule is wrong. So the common "marxist" definition of the state Engels popularised was simplistic. And I have always stressed that for Marx and Engels the republic would need to be reformed. This would be done by smashing the state machine, as well as other reforms. As Engels made clear, repeatedly.

Asserting that the state "is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another" Engels noted that it is "at best an evil inherited by the proletariat after its victorious struggle for class supremacy, whose worst sides the victorious proletariat, just like the Commune, cannot avoid having to lop off at once as much as possible." Simply put, if the proletariat creates a new state system to replace the bourgeois one, then how can it be "an evil inherited" by it? If, as is argued, Marx and Engels thought that the working class had to smash the bourgeois state and replace it with a new one, why would it have "to lop off at once as much as possible" from the state it had just "inherited"?

But that does fit in with the quote I keep quoting but is always ignored...

dave c wrote:
But the Commune showed an alternative to both the French bureaucratic state and the modern bourgeois republic. It is what I pointed to, what Marx insists on continually, the taking of the political sphere under the control of the masses of civil society.

Not that I have denied that Marx and Engels sought to reform the republic, lop off its worse aspects, include more democratic forms into it (such as recall and so forth).

dave c wrote:
This means the bourgeois state is destroyed, either “on the Continent” or in America.

Where does Engels say that the state, rather than the state machine, is destroyed? How can the working class "inherit" something which is destroyed? How can it "lop off" bits of it, if it is destroyed?

dave c wrote:
Marx’s perspective is spelled out well here:

Yes, just as well this draft was not accidentally destroyed because otherwise the "real" Marxist position on the state would have been lost of it. Strange as it may seem, quoting a draft document, i.e., quoting something Marx never published, is not convincing. Particularly as it does not contradict my argument.

dave c wrote:
A governmental machinery of their own. A state through which the people take “the actual management of the revolution into their own hands.” It is spelled out quite clearly.

I am not denying that Marx argued that the Commune was based on popular participation and action, that it introduced reforms to make the republic more accountable. I am arguing that it was, structurely, a republic and it was seized by universal suffrage. And I am also arguing that the Commune was not up to the task, that the structure it inherited (even after lopping off aspects of it) was not up to the task it was given. I also argue that even in the Commune, the representatives became isolated from the masses and started to act in authoritarian ways. As I discuss in detail here:

The Paris Commune, Marxism and Anarchism

I have to say, this shows the power of ideology -- In spite of extensive quotes from Engels which explain very clearly his position, we get simple repetition of a position which is based on a confusion between the state and state machine, a confusion Lenin popularised. I'm not sure what you can do when people simply ignore the evidence presented in favour of ideology...

Devrim's picture
Devrim
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Jun 27 2008 11:50

I have absolutely no interest on discussing Bakunin but to comment on this:

Anarcho wrote:
Devrim wrote:
Nor do I think that anarchists should claim that people like Pannekoek were 'libertarians'.

Yet there most obviously were libertarian Marxists. I doubt that anyone calls them just libertarians or anarchists, but it is obvious that their ideas are extremely close to class struggle anarchism. This obvious similarly was noted by Lenin, for example, who did call the council communists anarchists.

Devrim wrote:
But why try to call people something that they wouldn't have called themselves?

In order to show links and similarities? To show that we have more in common than certain labels suggest....

Lenin called them it as an insult. They rejected it as one. Pannekoek called himself a social-democrat, a communist, a left communist, and eventually a council communist.

I think that it is intellectually dishonest to refer to him by a label you know he would have rejected. It is a type of political grace robbing.

Anarchists would be outraged if left communists started referring to Makno as a left communist for example.

Devrim

yoshomon
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Jun 27 2008 13:09
Angelus Novus wrote:
I agree with you that ATTAC is a capitalist formation to the extent that it is programmatically reformist and that probably a majority of the leadership and a substantial number of the base (quite possibly also a majority) are explicit advocates of reforming capitalism, not its abolition, so in that sense, I agree that ATTAC's failings are not purely at the level of analysis, but in the nature of the organization itself.

ATTAC is not a capitalist formation because of its programme! That is still just at the level of ideas.

Quote:
However, at least here in Germany, a not insubstantial number of ATTAC activists view themselves as in some way opposed to capitalism (Silvio Gesell followers, but also many professed "anarchists" and "Marxists") and their objectively affirmative relationship to capital is a result of a truncated anti-capitalism not rooted in the critique of political economy, but rather limited to a demonization of finance (what the Wertkritiker would call "structural anti-semitism).

Again, why does it matter if some members of ATTAC "view themselves as in some way opposed to capitalism"? So do members of lots of leftist sects. I don't think their affirmative relationship to capital is the result of their 'half-way critique' - it's the result of their objective place in the economy and their membership in that racket.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but what you seem to be implicitly saying is that if "we" can successfully argue a full critique of political economy to these ATTAC activists, they will become anti-capitalists? That the task of communists generally is to spread consciousness?

dave c
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Jun 28 2008 17:50

I will re-state one of my main points with the hope of clarifying things. Part of Anarcho's misunderstanding seems to come from an unfamiliarity with the theoretical framework that Marx was using when he wrote about the Commune. I will try to summarize this framework, something perhaps I should have done earlier. Marx defined the state as "an instrument of class rule." But he mostly wrote about the "bourgeois state," a historically specific category. The definition, "an instrument of class rule" sets the boundaries for what sort of social forms Marx will describe as a "state." That is why it is a general definition. It does not describe any transhistorical state structure, as Marx saw empirical analysis of historical states as necessary in order to describe their specific features. One way that Marx chose to group these states together was on the basis of the mode of production obtaining in the society in question. Thus he writes,

Quote:
the different states of the different civilized countries, in spite or their motley diversity of form, all have this in common: that they are based on modern bourgeois society, only one more or less capitalistically developed. They have, therefore, also certain essential characteristics in common. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch04.htm)

In various works, the bourgeois state is characterized as a political sphere separate from the general competition of private interests in civil society. This is contrasted with feudalism:

Quote:
The character of the old civil society [of feudalism] was directly political – that is to say, the elements of civil life, for example, property, or the family, or the mode of labor, were raised to the level of elements of political life in the form of seigniory, estates, and corporations. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/jewish-question/)

Bourgeois society, by contrast, is characterized by a political sphere separate from the economic sphere of civil society, in which

Quote:
the practical struggle of . . . particular interests, which constantly really run counter to the communal and illusory communal interests, makes practical intervention and control necessary through the illusory “general” interest in the form of the State. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01a.htm)

Furthermore,

Quote:
The police, the judiciary, and the administration are not deputies of civil society itself, which manages its own general interest in and through them. Rather, they are office holders of the state whose purpose is to manage the state in opposition to civil society (http://marx.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/ch03.htm) . . . . The separation of the political state from civil society appears as the separation of the deputies from their mandators. (http://marx.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/ch06.htm)

But the masses of civil society are more and more members of a class with "radical chains," a class that can organize society in a cooperative manner by taking charge of the political functions that had become independent of civil society. This process was called the dictatorship of the proletariat. During this period, the working class as a whole takes political power, forming their own "governmental machinery," their own form of class rule. The Paris Commune was a historical example, during Marx's lifetime, of such a "workers' government." In his essay The Civil War in France, Marx emphasizes again and again the novelty of the "democratic institutions" that the Commune provided. This novelty, he held, was due to the fact that it was a workers' government, and therefore the workers were taking "the actual management of the revolution into their own hands."

To quote from the Final Draft roll eyes of Marx's essay:

Quote:
The unity of the nation was not to be broken, but, on the contrary, to be organized by Communal Constitution, and to become a reality by the destruction of the state power which claimed to be the embodiment of that unity independent of, and superior to, the nation itself, from which it was but a parasitic excrescence. While the merely repressive organs of the old governmental power were to be amputated, its legitimate functions were to be wrested from an authority usurping pre-eminence over society itself, and restored to the responsible agents of society. . . . It is generally the fate of completely new historical creations to be mistaken for the counterparts of older, and even defunct, forms of social life, to which they may bear a certain likeness. Thus, this new Commune, which breaks with the modern state power, has been mistaken for a reproduction of the medieval Communes, which first preceded, and afterward became the substratum of, that very state power. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/ch05.htm)

Now, keeping in mind Marx's theory of the bourgeois state, how can anyone not notice the obvious references to the destruction of the bourgeois state? A state still exists of course, but in the form of a "workers' government." The key characteristic of the bourgeois state is overturned--the masses of civil society take politics into their own hands! The "illusory general interest" of the bourgeois state is replaced by the democratic general interest of the workers, but precisely because it is their interest as a class that is dominant, a state still exists (using Marx's general definition of a state, which sets the limits to what can, within his theory, be described as a state.) Yes, Marx considered it a republic. Yes, it is based on universal suffrage. But a specifically bourgeois or parliamentary state cannot function in the really democratic manner of the revolutionary workers. In the Final Draft, Marx clearly states that

Quote:
The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/ch05.htm)

In his Final Draft, Marx writes of the Commune that "It supplied the republic with the basis of really democratic institutions." Such institutions, which go against the bourgeois "separation of the deputies from their mandators," against the bourgeois independence of the political sphere, are not bourgeois institutions. The reason I quote from the drafts is to help explain some of Marx's points which are already in the Final Draft. I have never said that they reveal the "real Marx." They do not contradict the Final Draft. But they could help someone who does not understand what Marx is saying get a clearer picture of his thought process. For example, his description of the Commune as the governmental machinery of the workers, shows very clearly that the Commune represented for Marx a working class state, as opposed to the bourgeois state, the state of the bourgeoisie. This idea is already present in the Final Draft, when he calls the Commune a "working class government." Another example: Marx says that "parliamentarism was dead in France," and that the workers were not going to resurrect it in the First Draft, but in the Final Draft he repeats the same idea by saying that the Commune was not a parliamentary body. And Anarcho objects to quoting from the First Draft. But all this stuff is in the Final Draft, only in different words, which may not leap out at certain readers as clearly. And I think I have shown quite clearly, from the Final Draft, that Marx describes the Commune as a completely new historical creation, which is not a parliamentary body, which breaks with the modern state power, "the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economical emancipation of labor." Thus, this "workers' government" was not, according to Marx, either parliamentary or bourgeois. Anarcho thinks that this is what Marx meant. He is clearly mistaken. He keeps quoting from Engels' letter to Bernstein and interpreting it in such a way as to contradict Marx, even though his method is always to strictly identify the opinions of Marx and Engels, as Orthodox Marxism does. But Anarcho claims, on the basis of a statement by Engels in a letter, that Marx was saying something that I have shown he is clearly not saying. The "state power" is "refashioned" according to Engels. State power still exists. It is given a new form. You could go in different directions with this brief and ambiguous statement. Anarcho chooses to go in a direction that contradicts Marx, and then, ignoring Marx's statements that contradict this interpretation, claim that it is the real meaning of Marx's work. And my interpretation is pure "ideology"!? I am satisfied to disprove Anarcho on this point, and do not feel the need to address every quote he rips out of context without citations or links.

But wait, there is further evidence. Marx's First Draft:

Quote:
This State power forms in fact the creation of the middle class, first [as] a means to break down feudalism, then [as] a means to crush the emancipatory aspirations of the producers, of the working class. All reactions and all revolutions had only served to transfer that organized power – that organized force of the slavery of labour – from one hand to the other, from one fraction of the ruling classes to the other. . . . This was, therefore, a revolution not against this or that, legitimate, constitutional, republican or imperialist form of State power. It was a revolution against the State itself, of this supernaturalist abortion of society, a resumption by the people for the people of its own social life. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/drafts/ch01.htm)

Two ways of interpreting this: 1) Marx is contradicting the idea, which he stated before and after 1871, that the state only ceases to exist when classes have been abolished, or 2) Marx is speaking of the bourgeois state as "the State itself," which includes all the forms of the state based on the reproduction of capitalist relations, since he has specified that it is created by the bourgeoisie, and that it is the organized power of the bourgeoisie over labor. There are some nutty scholars out there who seem to think that the second interpretation is more plausible. One example: Derek Sayer and Philip Corrigan, "Late Marx: continuity, contradiction and learning." Late Marx and the Russian Road, ed. Teodor Shanin. Monthly Review Press, New York: 1983. I happen to be so blinded by ideology that I agree with them. Funny thing is, this would actually accord with Marx's theory of the bourgeois state, as well as with Engels' remarks distinguishing the Commune state from both the French bourgeois state (with its "machinery") and the American bourgeois state (lacking the same "machinery") on the basis of its resumption of the social powers alienated under bourgeois rule. But according to Anarcho's Principle of Hermeneutics, the interpretation which produces the most inconsistencies in Marx's thought must be the correct one. Julius Martov, where are you?

As for Bakunin, Anarcho claims that his revolutionary organizations appear "quite democratic in nature." Even Paul Avrich, who is a sympathetic Bakunin scholar, would never claim such a thing. To quickly disprove this claim, only focusing on one aspect of Bakunin's organizational ideas, we can look at his letter to Nechayev of 2 June 1870. Bakunin had become aware of the depths of Nechayev's depravity, etc., etc., and does indeed scold him rather strictly. But he would welcome the renewed collaboration of his stray boy, on new bases. Bakunin outlines the structure of a secret society he would like Nechayev to participate in, provided certain conditions are fulfilled. Bakunin writes, in this outline,

Quote:
All members of the Regional Fraternity know each other, but do not know of the existence of the People's Fraternity. They only know that there exists a Central Committee which hands down to them their orders for execution through [a] Regional Committee which has been set up by it, i.e. by the Central Committee. (Michael Confino, Daughter of a Revolutionary: Natalie Herzen and the Bakunin-Nechayev Circle. Alcove Press, London: 1974, 266)

And in Bakunin's actual outline of the organization of his "International Brotherhood" we find the same theme:

Quote:
However, the two groups [of the "National Committee"] must not be under any circumstances informed of the international organization or of the seat and the composition of the international central Committee. (Michel Bakounine, Oevres Complétes: 6. éditions champ libre, Paris: 1978: 369-370)

A democratic organization cannot be one in which its sections are unaware of the existence of its executive organs. Simple as that.

RedHughs
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Jun 27 2008 19:34
Angelus Novus wrote:
In my original post, I passingly noted that anarchism hasn't really produced any compelling theorists on the level of thinkers like Marx, Rubin, Backhaus, Reichelt, Heinrich, Agnoli, Hirsch, Gerstenberger, etc. The poster Anarcho somehow misconstrued this as being an allegation that anarchists have never said anything true, or that anarchists have never taken correct positions inside of the worker movement.

This statement is spot-on When Volin quotes it, he fails to understand that this isn't a comparison of all of Marxian praxis with all of Anarchist practice, simply a statement that Marxian analysis flows from theory whereas Anarchism flows from a simple program. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses.

The strength of Marx was that he formulated an abstract theory of historical evolution that could be applied to the capitalist system at different times. Neither Marx nor theorists after him always applied this theory correctly. Indeed, one have to say that the process of applying this theory to reality must inevitably involve the mis-steps characteristic of learning. Thus I don't think it is problem for Marx's abstract theory that I believe Marx took a number of practical positions I'd view as incorrect.

It seems obvious to me that we revolutionaries only need an abstract theory such as Marx's theory if we need to formulate different revolutionary strategies at different times. If the same program of revolution is as applicable in 2008 as in 1870, then what use is analysis? Anarchism is just a empirical program of "freedom" which has been refined but not really changed. If that works, then Marx's theory is indeed useless (but I naturally I believe it does not work and that anarchist "theory" is what is useless).

However, I tend to see "micro-marxists", "political economy Marxists" and similar tendencies as failing to grasp this key point. These tendencies certainly grasp that Marx's theory is a correct, abstract theory of capital but they rather hostile to the point that such abstract theory is only useful and necessary in so far as it is a tool allowing we revolutionaries to deal today with the evolving conditions of world capitalism. The reflex which I see is merely an urge to defend the rightness of Marx and do nothing new - under these circumstances, why not become an anarchist?

Yoshomon is right to point the idealism of Angelus Novus' approach. Revolutionary praxis is different from convincing subjectly anti-capitalist individuals to adopt Marx's abstract concept of capital. These subjectively revolutionary individuals have their "incorrect" ideas because of their material position in the capitalist world and not as a result of an acidental error.

This doesn't mean that one can't intervene with the subjectively radical or revolutionary. However, to address these people overall material condition, at the minimum, an intervention would have to show them the poverty of their real position in society as well as proving the error of these people's ideas. One crude example of such an intervention was the Situationist International's "On The Poverty Of Student Life".

Red

mikus
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Jun 28 2008 01:38
Anarcho wrote:
dave c wrote:
Does it really? The “dictatorship of the proletariat” is a state power. “Party dictatorship” is a state power. Therefore, “Party dictatorship” = “dictatorship of the proletariat.” I can see how the door was left wide open. Seriously, this is laughable.

You are aware that is precisely what the Bolsheviks did do? It is not laughable, it is a historic fact. Now, feel free to deny that this happened but you will not be remotely convincing.

So, I would argue, Marx's confused theory of the state allowed this Bolshevik stupidity to be seriously argued by leading Marxists.

By this logic, which you apparently think is correct (if it were incorrect, then you could not say that Marx left the door open to the Bolsheviks), we can prove that turtles are snakes.

Turtles are reptiles. Snakes are reptiles. Therefore, turtles are snakes.

And if anyone comes along and proclaims this identity between turtles and snakes as a fact, we can say that scientists "left this door open" by proclaiming that both snakes and turtles are reptiles.

Oddly enough, this confusion of the use of the "is" of predication ("a turtle is a reptile") and the "is" of identity ("George W. Bush's wife is Laura Bush") is also common in the dialectical materialism of orthodox Marxism (drawing on Hegel).

Angelus Novus
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Jun 28 2008 10:02
yoshomon wrote:
ATTAC is not a capitalist formation because of its programme! That is still just at the level of ideas.

OK, I understand what you're saying and I agree with you as far as it goes. ATTAC is capitalist because of what it is and does, not because of what it proclaims. But all activity in this society is necessarily circumscribed and limited by the framework of commodity-production and the state, and everything is in that sense merely system-immanent. Sort of like Moishe Postone's observation that the proletariat qua proletariat is not revolutionary. So far, so good. These are not necessarily great insights.

But that does not preclude criticizing ATTAC and its members precisely for their intentional, declared affirmative position towards capital.

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Please correct me if I'm wrong, but what you seem to be implicitly saying is that if "we" can successfully argue a full critique of political economy to these ATTAC activists, they will become anti-capitalists?

There is no guarantee that they will, but they certainly won't otherwise.

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That the task of communists generally is to spread consciousness?

The task of communists is to propagate communism. I no longer believe in some sort of historical-philosophical notion of an objective movement towards communism.

To a certain extent, you don't either, otherwise, why would you publish a communist journal?

RedHughs
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Jun 28 2008 20:39
Yoshmon wrote:
ATTAC is not a capitalist formation because of its programme! That is still just at the level of ideas.
Angelus Novus wrote:
OK, I understand what you're saying and I agree with you as far as it goes. ATTAC is capitalist because of what it is and does, not because of what it proclaims. But all activity in this society is necessarily circumscribed and limited by the framework of commodity-production and the state, and everything is in that sense merely system-immanent. Sort of like Moishe Postone's observation that the proletariat qua proletariat is not revolutionary. So far, so good. These are not necessarily great insights.

Well, maybe these aren't "great insights" but they still deserve to be addressed. Other, if you say "two plus two equals five" and Yoshmon says "no, two plus two equals four", you can say "So far, so good. These are not necessarily great insights".

I suspect that Yoshmon isn't making his points to show his high insight level but to contest the merits of your approach. (Also, Postone was hardly the first one to say that the working was not necessarily revolutionary within capitalism).

Angelus Novus wrote:
But that does not preclude criticizing ATTAC and its members precisely for their intentional, declared affirmative position towards capital.

It doesn't preclude anything but it strongly suggests that one should critique ATTAC for overall praxis rather than ONLY for its intentions - you and Ruthless Criticism seem to dance away from this point ever whenever it is raised.

Yoshmon wrote:
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but what you seem to be implicitly saying is that if "we" can successfully argue a full critique of political economy to these ATTAC activists, they will become anti-capitalists?
Angelus Novus wrote:
There is no guarantee that they will, but they certainly won't otherwise.

Now that is quite a statement. ATTAC activists will ONLY become anti-capitalist through conscious anti-capitalists injecting ideas into them? That seems simplistic at least.

Let's break this down. I am not saying that anti-capitalist ideas have no effect. I would rather say that a person arrives their ideas through a complex interaction of 1) Their external physical condition, 2) their process of the ideas they have. 3) Ideas which others present to them. Under some conditions, communist ideas might spread like wild fire. In other conditions, they might find little interest. In other conditions, people might come up with their own versions of communism.

Of course, this might again be "no great insight" but the point is that you're failing to find a praxis that can follow even our priddling little truths.

Quote:
The task of communists is to propagate communism.

One further problem is that by ONLY describing how someone in ATTAC has wrong ideas about capitalist rulers, you fail to demonstrate a communist analysis. The crucial quality of a communist analysis is that it looks at the overall material conditions - the ideas and activities of ATTAC are both part of this. By only challenging ATTAC's ideas, you are demonstrating an idealist praxis and thus hardly propagating communism.

Now, since most permitted activity in this society is indeed "necessarily circumscribed and limited by the framework of commodity-production and the state", to be anti-capitalist one must be to an extent against one's own circumscribed activity. One must be a worker against wage labor but also if one is an activist, one should be an activist against activism. Thus it is crucial, if one expects to inspire an individual to reach the point of being authentically anti-capitalist, to include in one's critique of a group such as ATTAC, a critique of their overall activity and position in commodity-production.

Red