The Question of Parasitism.

213 posts / 0 new
Last post
rat's picture
rat
Offline
Joined: 16-10-03
Nov 18 2009 18:00
The Question of Parasitism.

What is the International Communist Current's theory of Parasitism?

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Nov 18 2009 21:01

best place to start is here.

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/94_parasitism

I would be very interested in your views on this - hope it's not too heavy as a first course

jaocheu's picture
jaocheu
Offline
Joined: 30-07-07
Nov 18 2009 21:37

Thanks for posting that, seriously funny, reads like a Monty Python comedy

JoeMaguire's picture
JoeMaguire
Offline
Joined: 26-09-03
Nov 18 2009 23:52
Quote:
“It is high time to put an end, once and for all, to the internal conflicts provoked daily in our Association by the presence of this parasitic body. These quarrels only serve to waste energies which should be used to fight against the bourgeois regime. By paralysing the activity of the International against the enemies of the working class, the Alliance admirably serves the bourgeoisies and the governments" (Engels, “The General Council to all the members of the International” - a warning against Bakunin’s Alliance).

So Engels tried to mute a discussion on tactics and stratergy, thats rather grand of him.

Quote:
Every penetration of alien ideology into proletarian organisations plays the game of the enemy class. This is particularly evident when it comes to parasitism whose aim is the destruction of these organisations (whether this is openly avowed or not). Here again, the IWA was particularly clear in affirming that even if he was not an agent of the capitalist state, Bakunin served the interests of the state far better than any agent could have done.

...

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Nov 19 2009 00:31
october_lost wrote:
So Engels tried to mute a discussion on tactics and stratergy, thats rather grand of him.

it's also ironic given Engels was a statist railing against revolutionaries (who for all Bakunin's mentalness) advocated a council system to negate the state. except maybe that only became a good thing after 1917, who knows.

nastyned
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Nov 19 2009 07:57

Surely you mean 1914?

Demogorgon303's picture
Demogorgon303
Offline
Joined: 5-07-05
Nov 19 2009 08:46

So far the only criticism seems to be the dim view taken of Saint Bakunin. Surely the first priority should be to establish whether the behaviours identified in the text (a) exist, (b) have a political significance for the working class and its organisations.

Until we have agreement (or at least a mutual understanding of each other's positions), quibbling about this or that historical personality seems pointless.

Jason Cortez
Offline
Joined: 14-11-04
Nov 19 2009 14:48

well since the ICC claim historical precedent and authority from Engels it might be worth looking at the value of Engels statement, no?

JoeMaguire's picture
JoeMaguire
Offline
Joined: 26-09-03
Nov 19 2009 18:45
Demogorgon303 wrote:
So far the only criticism seems to be the dim view taken of Saint Bakunin. Surely the first priority should be to establish whether the behaviours identified in the text (a) exist, (b) have a political significance for the working class and its organisations.

Until we have agreement (or at least a mutual understanding of each other's positions), quibbling about this or that historical personality seems pointless.

Bakunin was a highly flawed character, though for his sins he did throw himself entirely into the praxis and suffered heavily in the due process. I thought it funny that your piece was quite uncritical of Marx (accusing Bakunin of being a spy and moving the IWA to New York) and yet had the audacity to assess someone like Bakunin in terms of language you usually associated with counter-revolutionaries.

nastyned
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Nov 19 2009 23:40
Demogorgon303 wrote:
So far the only criticism seems to be the dim view taken of Saint Bakunin.

This is ridiculous, anarchist take what's useful from Bakunin, they don't revere him as a saint and there's no such thing as a Bakuninist. That would be as daft as taking some other historical figure from the 19th century and naming your policitical theory after him. You'd look like a bit of a plonker stuck in the past. Imagine if people took the name of the other guy, what was his name now? Oh yeah, Marx, and called themselves 'Followers of Saint Marx' or maybe shortened to 'Marxists'. It would just look daft. wink

Demogorgon303's picture
Demogorgon303
Offline
Joined: 5-07-05
Nov 20 2009 08:43
Quote:
well since the ICC claim historical precedent and authority from Engels it might be worth looking at the value of Engels statement, no?

We don't claim authority from Engels, we regard him as a seminal practitioner of Marxism but he wasn't right about everything.

The point I was making about method is simple. I could claim President Obama is German. I would be wrong but that doesn't mean there is no such thing as Germans. Similarly, the ICC (and/or Engels) could be completely wrong about Bakunin - this doesn't mean "parasitism" as a phenomenon doesn't exist. Before we can decide whether Bakunin (or anyone else) is "parasitic" we need to understand what is meant by this term. This is the most important point of this debate.

Although I understand people's desire to defend Bakunin (I was struck by a similar desire to defend Engels from JK's daft accusation of him being statist, but restrained myself), it's a deflection from the real issue.

Quote:
I thought it funny that your piece was quite uncritical of Marx (accusing Bakunin of being a spy and moving the IWA to New York) and yet had the audacity to assess someone like Bakunin in terms of language you usually associated with counter-revolutionaries.

Marx - to my knowledge - didn't accuse Bakunin of being a spy. And we don't accuse him of being a spy in our piece. We say that he was a destructive element whose intrigues contributed to the destruction of the International. The fact that this also served the interests of the bourgeoisie doesn't automatically mean he was consciously working for them and nowhere do we claim this.

Now, given that the thread isn't called "Was Bakunin a Parasite?" but is about the phenomenon of parasitism in general, maybe it's time to get to the issue at heart.

Jason Cortez
Offline
Joined: 14-11-04
Nov 20 2009 09:23

well considering that you are using Engels piece as an example to illustrate an occurrence of parasitism, it is relevant. Unless you use meaningful concrete examples of the phenomenon you wish to talk about, all you are left with is abstract theorising disconnected to any material basis. How many angels can you fit on the head of a pin, anyone?

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Nov 20 2009 09:44
Joseph Kay wrote:
for all Bakunin's mentalness

...

Demogorgon303 wrote:
Saint Bakunin

confused confused confused

october_lost wrote:
Bakunin was a highly flawed character

...

nastyned wrote:
anarchist take what's useful from Bakunin, they don't revere him as a saint and there's no such thing as a Bakuninist

...

Demogorgon303 wrote:
Although I understand people's desire to defend Bakunin

confused confused confused

Demogorgon303's picture
Demogorgon303
Offline
Joined: 5-07-05
Nov 20 2009 10:16
Quote:
well considering that you are using Engels piece as an example to illustrate an occurrence of parasitism, it is relevant. Unless you use meaningful concrete examples of the phenomenon you wish to talk about, all you are left with is abstract theorising disconnected to any material basis. How many angels can you fit on the head of a pin, anyone?

There's nothing abstract about the question of parasitism at all. For example, do you think the following examples (off the top of my head) would be "abstract" without a specific historical example to back them up?

1. The formation of an undeclared secret ‘committee’ within an organisation;
2. The use of slander, gossip, etc, to spread misinformation about individual comrades within the organisation, bypassing the normal rules and structures established to deal with such suspicions;
3. The activity of that ‘committee’ directed towards destabilising the organisation rather than clarifying and presenting points of disagreement;
4. The conscious and deliberate rejection of the organisation’s rules of functioning;
5. The appropriation of resources directed for organisational use to anti-organisational use

Do we really need "concrete" examples to consider these behaviours and make a judgement about whether they are appropriate for revolutionaries?

It's true that we use Bakunin as an example of some of these behaviours. But even the defence of Bakunin mounted here so far hasn't actually refuted any of the accusations! The main point seems to be that Bakunin ("for all his mentalness" and despite being "a highly flawed character") was revolutionary. Actually, I don't have a problem with that for the purposes of this discussion. Many revolutionaries, at various times, demonstrate harmful behaviour. The point is to examine this behaviour, understand the dangers that it poses both for the proletariat as a whole and - just as important - to those revolutionaries themselves.

Demogorgon303's picture
Demogorgon303
Offline
Joined: 5-07-05
Nov 20 2009 10:18

My post crossed with Joseph Kay's, but the last paragraph seems relevant.

nastyned
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Nov 20 2009 19:03

Yes, yes, the ICC prefer Engels to Bakunin. We could have guessed that.

Now tell us about the real parasites: the ex-members of the ICC that stay invovled in politics - these political nemotodes need to be exposed!

Yorkie Bar
Offline
Joined: 29-03-09
Nov 20 2009 20:10
Quote:
the workers’ movement has had to deal with the penetration into its ranks of alien ideologies, coming either from the ruling class or from the petty bourgeoisie.

Like socialism, you mean? smile

Seriously though, that article is a total piece of shit. It starts with the preposterous accusation that the main problems faced by workers' organisations are caused by 'alien' classes polluting the purity of proletarian thought, and goes on to construct an absolutely fictional phenomenon (parasitism) on this basis, which is transparently nothing more than a stick to beat your political opponents with (as evidenced by your reference to the Marx-Bakunin catfight in the IWMA).

The ICC have evidently constructed a spectacular conspiracy theory based on these events, in which a frankly Satanic Bakunin wages all-out war on the beleaguered defenders of pure proletarian consciousness, i.e. the Marxian fraction of the IWMA. This view is obviously a post-hoc construct from the aggressive diatribes that each wrote against the other during their drawn-out feud. Accordingly you see all of Bakunin's political practice as a ploy to destroy the 1st International sabotage the workers movement generally. Why does Bakunin want to do this? No reason is given; those guilty of parasitism are simply evil, motivated by petty-bourgeois (the ultimate Marxist curse-word) influences and boundless personal ambition.

Honestly, this parasitism gobbledegook is the worst document I've read published on your website.

~J.

petey
Offline
Joined: 13-10-05
Nov 20 2009 20:31
BigLittleJ wrote:
Quote:
the workers’ movement has had to deal with the penetration into its ranks of alien ideologies, coming either from the ruling class or from the petty bourgeoisie.

Like socialism, you mean? smile

BINGO! while it's only sane to think that one is on the right track, it's not sane to assert that one possesses the Magisterium of political thinking. every example given in that article was of an idea sensibly worked out by genuine anticapitalists, and while i find some of those ideas wrong, the only test will be in the implementation.

and just to be clear, i'll repeat what i said above, i've attended ICC events, i've enjoyed them, i find the american bunch agreeable, i'll go again, and i didn't hear pontification (though the point is to speak with one voice, so i imagine every section would sign on to the contents of that article). is there some sort of culture difference between the english and american ICC?

Wellclose Square
Offline
Joined: 9-05-08
Nov 21 2009 03:27

The thing that the ICC has about Bakunin... Don't get me wrong... I know this is going to sound patronising, but... oh, just go for it...

I got into anarchism about 1979-80, at the time of the 'Persons Unknown' trial and the 'No Housing - No Crowning' Amsterdam squatters' riots ( both of which kind of switched me on to what was, hitherto, a developing, inchoate 'libertarianism' - Colin Welch's hysterical rants in the Daily Telegraph urging the Dutch police to beat the hell out of the squatters and Judge Alan King Hamilton's pontifications and recriminations against the jury (as reported by the Daily Mail) after it acquitted Ronan Bennett et al, helped speed me on that trajectory - unfortunately, or not, I was exposed to those Tory rags all week, apart from the Mirror on Saturday and the Sunday People - that's an 'aspirant' working class family for you, where your Mum would refuse to tell her own son who she voted for (almost certainly Maggie), and your Dad (staunch Labour) would say that '80s mass unemployment was a punishment inflicted on the working class by the Tories and their friends... so a lot of conflicting messages there.

I tried to read up what I could about anarchism then - there was that New Society article, featured on the front cover, with the caricatured bourgeois couple (bowler hat and all), with the headline, Neither God Nor Master. Yes, it was 'a journey of discovery', but it wasn't about some political historical re-enactment, even if I'd read too much about Proudhon in what were general introductions to anarchism in the college library.
eses
Even if one of your main introductions to anarchism was George Woodcock, and you've 'moved on' to The Society of the Spectacle, it doesn't mean to say that you should be fully conversant with, or responsible for, the thoughts and deeds of Mikail Bakunin. So imagine how nonplussed I was to be asked one day whether I was a 'Bakuninist' by an ICC comrade (who happened to be a former anarchist from years before) when stumbling into a 'radical bookshop' donkey's years ago. What is this thing about Bakunin? He was barely on my political radar (discounting the green paperback, Bakunin on Anarchism (Black Rose Books), which I'd barely read anyway.

waslax's picture
waslax
Offline
Joined: 6-12-07
Nov 21 2009 03:40

confused This relates to the question of parasitism ... how? Why not start a new thread on Bakunin if you're really so interested. Or maybe one on your 'journey of discovery'. Sorry if I'm coming across as snarky, but try re-reading this thread and your post again.

Wellclose Square
Offline
Joined: 9-05-08
Nov 21 2009 12:22
Quote:
This relates to the question of parasitism ... how? Why not start a new thread on Bakunin if you're really so interested. Or maybe one on your 'journey of discovery'. Sorry if I'm coming across as snarky, but try re-reading this thread and your post again.

OK, try re-reading my post, and maybe find in its ramblings an impression of how the ICC's then(?) fixation with Bakunin and the First International (a significant component of its critique of parasitism) came across like something from a historical re-enactment society. Sorry to bang on about my personal political 'awakening', but I can't speak for anyone else - a kind of 'microhistory'. Even then, I barely thought Bakunin was relevant, getting more out of reading Richard Gombin, Debord and Colin Ward(!), so to be interrogated about whether I was a Bakuninist as soon as I walked through the door of the shop was a bit disconcerting. I didn't even know how to begin to answer that question then, partly a reflection of my naivety in the face of the titanic political intellect of comrade IH (himself responsible for an anarchist publication called Mantra in the early seventies) perhaps, but I felt I was being asked to account for the sins of 19th-century anarchists. I just added that encounter to the list of other comical ideas in the ICC press, like The Swamp(qv) and 'the subterranean maturation of consciousness'.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Nov 22 2009 11:36

I don't agree with all the ICC says on this issue, but I think it is obvious that there is a point here. If we take a group such as the 'Internal Fraction of the ICC', we can see that it is still totally obsessed by the ICC. As we can see on their front page:

Quote:
Since its creation in october 2001, our fraction is fighting against the degeneration of the ICC.
...
The evolution of the situation, the fight we carry on against the opportunist ICC drift

These are people who left nearly 8 years ago.

I think it is a bit like getting divorced. Obviously when it happens, people find it difficult to adjust to, and often talk about it obsessively. I think this is normal. However, at some point you have to move on. If, like a friend of mine's father, you are still obsessive nearly twenty years after the marriage has ended, there is obviously some problem. I think that parasitism is the beat way to describe this group.

IP would be a group that in my opinion doesn't fit this characterisation. They have changed their name. They have different politics to us. Yes, they were focused on the ICC after the split, but have now moved on. I don't think the term applies to them.

Devrim

Yorkie Bar
Offline
Joined: 29-03-09
Nov 22 2009 11:39
Devrim wrote:
Quote:
Since its creation in october 2001, our fraction is fighting against the degeneration of the ICC.
...
The evolution of the situation, the fight we carry on against the opportunist ICC drift

These are people who left nearly 8 years ago.

The ICC - definitely not a cult. wink

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Nov 22 2009 11:44
BigLittleJ wrote:
The ICC - definitely not a cult. ;-)

Why do you think the ICC is a cult J?

Devrim

Yorkie Bar
Offline
Joined: 29-03-09
Nov 22 2009 11:47

Because you always respond to light-hearted jibes with deadpan serious questions. smile

~J.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Nov 22 2009 12:06

It starts with the preposterous accusation that the main problems faced by workers' organisations are caused by 'alien' classes polluting the purity of proletarian thought, and goes on to construct an absolutely fictional phenomenon (parasitism) on this basis, which is transparently nothing more than a stick to beat your political opponents with (as evidenced by your reference to the Marx-Bakunin catfight in the IWMA).

Wait a minute, BLJ. Are you accusing us of inventing the idea that the working class is dominated by bourgeois ideology? That the 'ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class' ? Because this ABC of marxism is the starting point of the article. Neither did we invent the idea that opportunism, to take the most important example, expressed the penetration of bourgeois ideology into the ranks of the workers' movement, or that the weight of the sects in the early workers' movement expressed the influence exerted by other strata on the margins of the working class. We took all this wholesale from Marx, Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg, Pannekoek....Before we can even get to parasitism we have to get this point clear.

Yorkie Bar
Offline
Joined: 29-03-09
Nov 22 2009 12:07

It's absolutely stupid to pretend that things like opportunism, sectarianism or what have you are purely the product of 'petit-bourgeois' ideas. That is nonsense. It's also idealist nonsense, as it suggests that ideas are the driving force behind organisational failure or success.

~J.

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Nov 22 2009 12:37

BigLittleJ

Is the proletariat an outlaw class in capitalist society, as Marx said it was? IF| so its aims and means of struggle are in stark contradiction with those of capitalism. Thus, it is in a constant struggle with the weight of the dominant ideology of the ruling class. That said it is the responsibility of revolutionaries to struggle against this weight and to demonstrate how it effects the proletariat, its struggle and means of organisation. If revolutionaries are unable to do this they are disarming themselves and their class.
An essential part of this constant struggle is the need to develop the solidarity, comradeship, and unity that is the only foundation that a revolutionary organization can be built on. However, it is precisely these characteristics that the poison of bourgeois ideology work against, given that the pervasive ideology of capitalist society is every man for himself, competition etc. This is not idealism but materialist reality.
If you read our analysis of the problems we have had in our organisation we always underline that it is a weakening of the organization's organizational activity that is at the root of these problems. Revolutionary activity is a praxis and thus the constant struggle against the weight of the pernicious ideas generated by bourgeois society is a vital part of these activity.

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Nov 22 2009 12:53

To summaries the ability of bourgeois ideology to penetrate and find organizational expression in a proletarian organisation is the result of weaknesses in that organisation's ability to maintain the constant struggle to maintain a proletarian method of functioning.
For a more detailed analysis of our theoretical understanding of these questions the following texts are very useful:
- Confidence and solidarity

Discussion: Opportunism and centrism in the working class and its organisations
I hope this are of use.

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Nov 22 2009 12:59

In response to those who criticise us for 'going on about Bakunin'. This is a question of method. For use the Marxist method is the historical method. By which we mean: when trying to understand a question it is essential to try and understand how they have been posed in history, both of the workers' movement and history in general. Thus in trying to understand the question of opportunism and other organisational problems we have spent a lot of time trying to understand the organisational problems in the Bolshevik party, the German SDP and KPD.

Yorkie Bar
Offline
Joined: 29-03-09
Nov 22 2009 13:09
ernie wrote:
solidarity, comradeship, and unity that is the only foundation that a revolutionary organization can be built on. However, it is precisely these characteristics that the poison of bourgeois ideology work against, given that the pervasive ideology of capitalist society is every man for himself, competition etc. This is not idealism

Right, so the problem of self-organisation isn't a product of the material conditions of capitalism, it's a pure war of ideas, in which bourgeois ideology does battle with proletarian consciousness. And that's not idealism. roll eyes

~J.