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Tired of the ICC?

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ernie
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Sep 17 2006 11:19

Hi

Jaycee your understanding of our understanding of the vanguard role of a revolutionary organisation is correct.
Ticking_fool you say:

Quote:
I think at the heart of people's problems with the ICC is something like this. I think I'm right, I think the AF's a&ps are right, and I'll put work into developing and furthering those opinions and those goals, but I'm quite open to the possibility that I might be wrong, that I could be misunderstanding something, or missing some key historical example that could change my whole understanding of something. The ICC really don't seem to think like that - in fact they've got a whole mythology of 'parasites' and 'leftists' to insulate them from ever having to question any of their beliefs. Any organisation that can put forward Engels and Bebel (I looked it up) as the last word in writing on the situation of women under capitalism, amongst many other examples that have come up on these boards, needs to take a long, hard look at itself, and the ICC is organisationally, down to its internal mythology and structures, absolutely incapable of doing that.

This appears to believe that the ICC thinks it emerged fully formed from the earth proclaiming the truth. The ICC does not see itself as such, but as the product of the development of the workers' movement above all the Marxist Left. The positions that we defend are those that have been discussed and argued about in the workers' movement since its beginning. We do defend a platform of positions that we are convinced have been proven by history and the experience of the working class. If that is a crime, so be it. However, if you or any group or person thinks that these positions or some of them are wrong we are more than willing to discuss this.
Ticking_fool, the idea that we brand anyone who does not agree with us a Leftist or parasite is manifestly wrong. Yes we do reject the Left of capital as part of the state, but if elements from leftism or breaking with leftism want to discuss with us we do. Yes we do call those whose only rational for existence is to attack the ICC or the Communist Left parasites, however, again, if you read our theses of parasitism that does not mean we will not discuss with elements caught up in parasitism who want to clarify what the differences are between the ICC and some parasitic organisation.
This idea that we only want to examine our own rectums is also manifestly incorrect if anyone would care to read the latest issues of World Revolution or the International Review. In WR is the article on the 17th Congress of our French section, at which the Brazilian group the Workers' Opposition participate. The OpOP have disagreements with us but see the need for discussion and common work. In the IR there is another article, in a series, replying to letters and texts from groups in Russia, who do not necessary agree with the ICC on very question. A look though the contents of the International Review will undoubtedly surprise those who like to think we are a sect, because there they will find -since the very first issue in 1974) a concern to engage in discussion with the groups of the Communist Left and elements searching for an understanding of the positions of the Communist Left.
There is also the common work we have carried out with the EKS, which as Devrim correctly points out is not in full agreement with the positions of the ICC.
Our posting of our public meetings on Libcom and Indiemedia and our encouragement of all those on these forums to come to them, is hardly the actions of a sect: unless you think we think all those on libcom are simply mindless prey to our machinations. If you do think this you should say so.
One last point, on the question of Babel and Engels on the Women's question, what do you see as a better analysis? Yes these texts were written over a hundred years ago, but unless you condemn something for its age, what is wrong with them. They tear away at hundreds, if not thousands of years, of the oppression of women.

jaycee
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Sep 17 2006 11:23

well i think their view is that the icc emerged from the struggles of 68 etc. This is quite obviously the case, the original members were growing up during this period and as a lot of people were, they were drawn to revolutionary politics by these struggles. I don't see any reason why this sounds crazy or occultish or whatever you were trying to make it sound like.

ernie
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Sep 17 2006 11:31

Hi

Blacknred ned, it was me you tried to develop the discussion with and I apologise for not continuing it. I did not get back due to personal reasons stopping me from being able to give the time for a developed response. Also I think I fell into the danger that there is on the forums of trying to engage in too many discussions at once: spreading oneself too thinly.

ticking_fool
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Sep 17 2006 16:41
ernie wrote:
Yes we do call those whose only rational for existence is to attack the ICC or the Communist Left parasites

Self-fulfilling surely? And that's what I mean. You've got 'the truth', everyone else is either after you or needs to be shown the error of their ways. It doesn't even seem to occur to your members that you might be wrong. The 'parasite' category seems specifically designed to hold off criticisms from within left-communism that are not so easily fought off with the usual cry of 'leftist'.

Quote:
The positions that we defend are those that have been discussed and argued about in the workers' movement since its beginning. We do defend a platform of positions that we are convinced have been proven by history and the experience of the working class.

I could say exactly the same about my positions, as indeed could any trade union hack. It proves nothing. At the end of the day we've got the same resources and the same access to the history of working class movements. None of us can sanctify our conclusions by appealing to some great abstract 'movement'.

Quote:
Yes these texts were written over a hundred years ago, but unless you condemn something for its age, what is wrong with them.

I haven't read Bebel and I'm unlikely to, but I have read Engles (alright, I skimmed it). He made shit up and based his analysis on entirely unsupportable and demonstrably wrong anthropology. He accepted the sexual division of labour as natural and had no conception of the role of violence in patriarchal relations. He had no analysis of sexuality separate from his analysis of the family and no analysis of the economic role of 'women's work', which was taken as part of her 'natural' heritage. It's just bollocks from start to finish, and about as relevant to the women's movement as most of the other fuckwitted Victorian system builders. None of the first wave paid much attention to it and the second wave ripped it to shreds in their arguments with the marxists and their 'secondary contradiction' shite.

As I said when I've mentioned this earlier: read some books by women.

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Alf
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Sep 17 2006 17:29

john says:

ICC wrote:

Because the activity of revolutionaries is part of a historic perspective, militants have to hold out over the long term, without getting demoralised. This is why comrades who want to join the ICC have to avoid any immediatism, any impatience in the process of integration.

This sounds pretty much like a perfect definition of vanguardism (and, ironically, it also sounds highly exclusive and, therefore, highly uninternationalist!).
So, for me, the point that the ICC have to address, and the reason why so many people seem to get annoyed with them, is how do they justify their vanguardism, and why do they keep acting in a vanguardist way, on a forum where anti-vanguardism is one of the core shared principles?

BlacknRed says:

“Unless I read the (frankly loony) document about joining the ICC wrongly they also maintain that the working class engendered the ICC. So their reified working class supposedly gave rise through some wierd alchemy to their potty little sect. Cobblers!”

These two posts, although their tone is rather different, both raise the central issue of where communists, and particularly communist organizations, come from.

In our view, anti-vanguardism is an untenable, indeed nonsensical, position for a communist to hold. Going back to very well known passages from Marx in the German Ideology:

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it”.

The existence of revolutionary ideas in a particular period presupposes the existence of a revolutionary class”.

In other words: the working class as a whole is subjected to the dominant ideology, and most of the time the vast majority of the class does not explicitly question it. It’s certainly true that when workers go into struggle, they begin in practice to challenge the ideas of the ruling class, and some will, as a result, begin to ask some fundamental questions about it. But outside of a revolutionary situation, that will be a minority. In periods when the struggle of the class is relatively weak, that minority will be even more restricted. However, the domination of bourgeois class ideology cannot be total because a revolutionary class – the proletariat - still exists and this is the source of revolutionary ideas in society, as the second quote affirms. The process through which class consciousness develops is often hard to see, ‘subterranean’, contradictory, and expresses itself in numerous forms, but a key expression of it is the emergence of communists and (because communists, like the rest of the working class, need to unite their forces) of communist organizations. These groups and elements cannot help being a vanguard; whether they recognize it or not, whether they assume the responsibilities that go with it well or badly, the fact that they hold revolutionary ideas when the majority of the class does not seriously question the dominant ideology puts them in advance of the rest of their class. As it says in another well-known phrase from the Manifesto:

“The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the lines of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.”

Thus, for example, council communists and internationalist anarchists are part of the proletarian vanguard, even if some of their ideas obstruct their capacity to play this role effectively. Their confusions (usually of a 'democratist' or individualist nature)about their role are proof that the break with the ideology of the ruling class is never total.

By the same token, all communist groups, elements and tendencies (and certainly not just the ICC) are “engendered” by the class. Again, the German Ideology:

In the development of productive forces there comes a stage when productive forces and means of intercourse are brought into being, which, under the existing relationships, only cause mischief, and are no longer productive but destructive forces (machinery and money); and connected with this a class is called forth, which has to bear all the burdens of society without enjoying its advantages, which, ousted from society, is forced into the most decided antagonism to all other classes; a class which forms the majority of all members of society, and from which emanates the consciousness of the necessity of a fundamental revolution, the communist consciousness, which may, of course, arise among the other classes too through the contemplation of the situation of this class”.

Nothing here about communists or communist consciousness coming from outside the class, for example from the bourgeois intellectuals as Kautsky theorized (and Lenin in 1903, although he later rejected this notion). Rather it’s the other way round. “Consciousness of the necessity for a fundamental revolution” emanates from the working class and because of this elements from other classes can adopt a proletarian standpoint.

So if we are ‘loony’ to claim that we have been engendered by the proletariat, so was Marx.

Caiman del Barrio
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Sep 17 2006 17:46
Devrim wrote:
To Alun,

Caiman del Barrio wrote:
The ICC purports a highly developed, theoretical ideology, whereas my idea of anarchism prefers an ideology (if you must) arising out of experience.

Where do you think that communist theory comes from if hot from experience? The positions of the communist movement derive from the experience of the class.

Well yes so you say, and I agree to a certain extent. Don't get me wrong, I consider myself a Marxist too, but I only use it as a rough guide to a society that has evolved since Marx's time, attempting to overcome his positions by incorporating Marxism into the spectacle. The struggles of the early 20th century to which left communists are somewhat keen to hark back towards resulted in bourgeois reforms that necessitated class conflict to move onto new terrain. This of course coincided with capital's expansion into the proletarian's life outside of work.

My point is that heavily developed ideology comes at the expense of experience. Ideology, a fixed set of rules shining with rationality and logic, is superimposed on a subjective working class that is rife with contradiction, confusion and conflict. Left communism surely lacks room to manoevre and respond to the specifics and levels of individual outbreaks of class struggle. Basing politics on experience means using the contemporary proletariat, rather than certain would-be mouthpieces, as its locus and evolving from there.

lem
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Sep 17 2006 18:18
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The 'parasite' category seems specifically designed to hold off criticisms from within left-communism that are not so easily fought off with the usual cry of 'leftist'.

Some people would say (e.g. Ian Hacking) that an explanatory inference can never epistemically justify a conclusion. I wanted to bring that up on anhother thread, but here'll do.

nastyned
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Sep 17 2006 18:30
Serge Forward wrote:
Quote:
Quote:
If the AF share those positions why are they flocking to join the IWW?

well yeah, forgot about that one, i've found that change of heart extremely odd.

Heh heh... speaking as an AFer, I personally reserve the right to be an inconsistent bleeder.

As for the AF as a whole, they're not 'flocking' to the IWW, but true, a fair few have joined recently (one or two have already been members for yonks). This is because, we discussed the IWW at conference, and although the IWW calls itself a union, it functions pretty much the same as the Workplace Resistance Groups outlined in our workplace strategy. Not every AFer will join the IWW, but the point is, we don't see membership of the IWW incompatible with AF membership.

And i'd just like to add that Devrim's original point here is incorrect. A prominent council communist worker theoretician was at one point a leading light in the IWW.

ticking_fool
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Sep 17 2006 19:04
lem wrote:
Some people would say (e.g. Ian Hacking) that an explanatory inference can never epistemically justify a conclusion.

Eh? Not sure what you mean by 'explanatory inference', although I think I can parse the rest.

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Alf
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Sep 17 2006 19:15

Alan: the issue is not just 'left communism' any more than it just the ICC. The underlying conflict is on the question of scientific communism, the "Marx party". If left communism has failed, as many claim, then marxism as a continuous and organised movement has itself failed.

nastyned
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Sep 17 2006 19:17

Yup.

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Joseph Kay
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Sep 17 2006 19:18

so?

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Alf
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Sep 17 2006 20:04

So where did you come from?

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Devrim
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Sep 17 2006 20:25
NastyNed wrote:
And i'd just like to add that Devrim's original point here is incorrect. A prominent council communist worker theoretician was at one point a leading light in the IWW.

O.K. fair point Ned. I just wanted to answer this before I return to the discusion. I presume that you are talking about Paul Mattick. I would argue that the IWW of his time, and the IWW today are distinctly differemt oranisations.
Devrim

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McCormick
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Sep 17 2006 21:22

Now, this should be interesting. In what sense, for you, is the IWW of the 1930s different from the IWW of today? Genuinely interested.

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Joseph Kay
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Sep 17 2006 21:25
Alf wrote:
So where did you come from?

are you conflating history per se with "marxism as a continuous and organised movement"? not even communism, or class struggle, or workers movements, but 'marxism'? ffs listen to yourself

if something has failed, we try something else, we don't pine for the true proletarian historic mission that never was :?

Blacknred Ned
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Sep 17 2006 21:31
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Alf wrote:So if we are ‘loony’ to claim that we have been engendered by the proletariat, so was Marx.

You said it Alf, not me. Your assumption that the sun of revolutionary thought rises and sets with Marx is utterly ridiculous. I am no Marxist & the fact that I prefer to see people as individuals rather than "elements" does not make me subject to the ruling ideology. It is exactly the kind of Marxist Party dogma that you push that has given rise to such creative thought on the part of anarchists who now use the term post-left. I have had to take on board a lot of very critical stuff about work that I considered very important to come to terms with what the post-left current suggests but it's been worth it, not to swallow it hook line and sinker like the latest panacea but because it highlights the wonderful truth about anarchism: our revolutionary tradition is deeper than yours; our conception of human liberation is wider than yours; we are more flexible than you and more inventive than you; in the final analysis we are more humanistic than you. You are a sub-sect of the priests of the dismal science and we carry the hope of liberty in our hearts.

You keep your marxist party born out of the "most advanced" parts of the working class and we will work with people in real communities; we will subtly and persistently spread the word of liberation and communism and we will be there when people are involved in struggle, not to interpret the events and tell people what history says they should do, but to defend and support the expressions of the new society as it is born, wherever and whenever that may be.

Marx & the ICC are the past; a sorry episode in the ongoing struggle against hierarchy. We will bury you!

lem
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Sep 17 2006 22:29

What a long winded way to say that you will not support people who see an objective meaning to history. I don't see why its such a big problem, tbh. I mean, I could understand if it was vangardism, that you had a problem with.

I dunno, can you really say that objective meaning is insane?

lem
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Sep 17 2006 22:36

I thought, a subjective (no laws) objectivism. "Pure necessity", or so I am told :? Its probably shite.

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cantdocartwheels
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Sep 17 2006 22:51
Blacknred Ned wrote:
You said it Alf, not me. Your assumption that the sun of revolutionary thought rises and sets with Marx is utterly ridiculous.

fair point

Quote:
It is exactly the kind of Marxist Party dogma that you push that has given rise to such creative thought on the part of anarchists who now use the term post-left.

Theres not much thats creative about post-left anarchism

Quote:
You are a sub-sect of the priests of the dismal science and we carry the hope of liberty in our hearts.

Now surely this just misses the entire point, i mean do you honestly think the anarchism has a lot top offer right now or is flexible? It hasn't achieved anything tangible for years.

I'm not down with the 'anarchism is good the icc is bad' type arguement since the entire problem with the ICC is that they base their politics on the minutae of the ideology of the revolutionary organisation, rather than on the terrain of social change and class struggle.

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Alf
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Sep 17 2006 23:27

Cantdo wrote:

"since the entire problem with the ICC is that they base their politics on the minutae of the ideology of the revolutionary organisation, rather than on the terrain of social change and class struggle".
This is just an assertion. Why don't you respond to something specific, for example the general conclusions we drew from a real movement "on the terrain of social change and class struggle", in which we took part in a direct manner - the movement of the students in France last spring. http://en.internationalism.org/ir/125_france_students

Joseph wrote:

"are you conflating history per se with "marxism as a continuous and organised movement"? not even communism, or class struggle, or workers movements, but 'marxism'? ffs listen to yourself"

Why am I "conflating" marxism with history? Marxism is not the whole of history, it is the product of history at a certain stage of its development. But in my opinion it does represent the best method for understanding history yet developed; and if in your opinion it has been proved wanting, then you had indeed better come up with something better. And you could start by showing where it is that marxism has been transcended or left behind by history.

This is obviously not a problem for the "pure" anarchists on this forum, if there are any. For them marxism was always a bad thing. But it surely is a problem with those who may consider themselves to be anarchists or libertarian communists, but are prepared to accept a great deal of the work of Marx and other 'marxists'.

Caiman del Barrio
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Sep 18 2006 01:36
Alf wrote:
Alan: the issue is not just 'left communism' any more than it just the ICC. The underlying conflict is on the question of scientific communism, the "Marx party".

Well possibly, if scientific communism means what I think it means. It's more about the Marx quote Jack told me today about "the educator becoming the educated". embarrassed

Quote:
If left communism has failed, as many claim, then marxism as a continuous and organised movement has itself failed.

So you're saying that left communism is the only true Marxist current?

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Joseph Kay
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Sep 18 2006 05:35
Alf wrote:
if in your opinion it has been proved wanting, then you had indeed better come up with something better. And you could start by showing where it is that marxism has been transcended or left behind by history.

i haven't said marx is irrelevant (though his work is undeniably incomplete and a product of a certain age), marx is pretty influential for me, but i hardly relate to the majority of "marxism as a continuous and organised movement", especially those marxisms which claim to be in possession of The TruthTM, apparently the product of historical development but strangely immune to challenge by present developments, which must be interpreted in line with The TruthTM

MalFunction
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Sep 18 2006 08:08

small suggestion

Let the ICC set up a message board like this, and the rest of the work involved in the libcom website, and then invite people to discuss the ICC there.

If anyone is really interested in what they're saying they can do so there.

Blacknred Ned
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Sep 18 2006 08:27

I do apologise; although I stand by what I wrote it's long windedness was certainly the product of the couple of beers I had after playing cricket yesterday.

Cdcw: I disagree about postleft anarchism; it is evident, not least from a lot of the language used on these boards that this critique has been influential even amongst folks who might not consider themselves post-left.

Quote:
It hasn't achieved anything tangible for years.

This is certainly an argument for the kind of reassessment that the postleft writers have embarked upon, just as it was a stimulus for Bookchin's social ecology project.

I am not sure that anarchism has been so uninfluential anyway; anarchist ideas have spread into some amazing places and have been more important than Marxism in all but one respect: Marxism and many of its adherents have contributed energetically to the ideology and practice of the right; new nationalists and neo-cons with Marxist backgrounds have abounded since the early 1990s.

Quote:
I'm not down with the 'anarchism is good the icc is bad' type arguement since the entire problem with the ICC is that they base their politics on the minutae of the ideology of the revolutionary organisation, rather than on the terrain of social change and class struggle.

Well, you see here we differ; I don't like the minutia or the terrain. For the best part of a century and more anarchists have laboured in the shadow of Marxists and their movements and what exactly have they achieved except at every stage towering arcane arguments and then accomodations with capitalism. The two great gifts of Marxism to the world: social democracy & Bolshevism/Stalinism. Anarchists have done more to advance the understanding of human liberation, of human potential than Marx and his followers have even dreamt of.

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Joseph Kay
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Sep 18 2006 08:52
Blacknred Ned wrote:
Anarchists have done more to advance the understanding of human liberation, of human potential than Marx and his followers have even dreamt of.

well, whatever his faults, marx certainly dreamt of anarchist communism, so its just wrong to dismiss him on the basis of his statism - bakunin adopted marx's theoretical base pretty wholesale but was obviously more astute on the issue of the state, forewarning the "red bureaucracy ... the worst of all despotic governments" etc. But its unwise to dismiss marx completely on the basis of social democracy and bolshevism - marx advanced our understanding of capitalism more than any anarchist - don't judge the piper by his rats wink

john
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Sep 18 2006 08:56
alf wrote:
The process through which class consciousness develops is often hard to see, ‘subterranean’, contradictory, and expresses itself in numerous forms, but a key expression of it is the emergence of communists and (because communists, like the rest of the working class, need to unite their forces) of communist organizations. These groups and elements cannot help being a vanguard; whether they recognize it or not, whether they assume the responsibilities that go with it well or badly, the fact that they hold revolutionary ideas when the majority of the class does not seriously question the dominant ideology puts them in advance of the rest of their class.

I think this is one of the key differences between your view and that of a lot of other people on here.

You see your role as being "in advance" of the rest of the proletariat, and therefore your role is to guide, think for, and propose the way forward for, the rest of us.

For a lot of people here, this is inherently about the delegation of authority to a higher, intellectual elite, which implicitly acts to subjugate and de-intellectualize members of the "follower" section of the proletariat. (because they are supposed to let the vanguard do the thinking for them).

Personally, I'm much more interested in an exchange of ideas between people, on an equal footing, in which both sides of the intellectual exchange stand to gain something.

Your view of discussion/praxis is much more one-sided, in which you, the communists, know the real truth, and in which me, the follower, stands to gain by listening to you.

This is vanguardist, elitist, and uninternational - whilst a lot of the people on this site, I think, post here exactly because they are trying to avoid these pitfalls in left/communist thought - and the manifest failures they produced in the 20th century.

Moshehess
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Sep 18 2006 11:20

what does ICC stand for?

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Alf
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Sep 18 2006 11:28

International Communist Current (website www.internationalism.org)

john says to the ICC:

"You see your role as being "in advance" of the rest of the proletariat, and therefore your role is to guide, think for, and propose the way forward for, the rest of us".

"think for"? No. The role of revolutionaries must surely be to stimulate critical thought and self-organisation throughout the working class.

But let's look at it from a different angle. I assume you want to see the overthrow of capitalism and the emergence of a society without exploitation. How do you then relate to the rest of the class - to those who haven't come to that conclusion? Are you not yourself "in advance" of the rest of the class? And does that not laad you to proposing ways forward for the struggle against capitalism?

john
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Sep 18 2006 12:37
Alf wrote:
But let's look at it from a different angle. I assume you want to see the overthrow of capitalism and the emergence of a society without exploitation. How do you then relate to the rest of the class - to those who haven't come to that conclusion? Are you not yourself "in advance" of the rest of the class? And does that not laad you to proposing ways forward for the struggle against capitalism?

I want to see a society free from domination.

I want to discuss and cooperate with people interested in reaching this goal. I want to resist/avoid people who seek to perpetuate systems of domination.

I don't, though, see myself as part of a singular class that needs to overthrow the domination of another singular class. I think reality is a lot more complex than that.

So, if I don't recognize myself as being part of one huge working class, proletariat, or dominated class, then, likewise, I also don't see myself as relating to that class in some way (becuase I don't recognize it to exist). So how can I be in advance of it?

The point is that individuals exist. Of course they enter into social relationships, but these are multiple, fragmentary, changing, and complex.

I don't see myself as in advance of anyone. I have a preference regarding the type of society I want to be in, but I don't think I have any special access to knowledge/thought that places me in a priviliged position from which to orchestrate/facilitate social change. Rather I want to discuss/deliberate/experiment with people of similar persuasions, in an attempt to improve my own life, and thereby by connection improving the world in which I live.