Tired of the ICC?

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Lazy Riser's picture
Lazy Riser
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Oct 18 2006 17:31

Hi

Yeah. The army should elect commanders, definitely. What's the ICC's line on that Alf? Anyone who thinks that's "fetishising democracy" is in big trouble with me.

Funny thing was, I was chatting to a squaddie about this the other day and he reckoned it was bad idea and that everyone (apart from him of course) would elect an officer likely to compromise effectiveness in combat. Does anyone do any decent pamphlets to hand out to soldiers?

Love

LR

Demogorgon303's picture
Demogorgon303
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Oct 18 2006 20:20

Maggid

The simple reality of war demands particular structures in order for a force to be effective. For example, it demands obedience to a central organ that is responsible for co-ordinating overall strategy. If individual units fail to obey instructions from the command centre, the whole strategy falls apart and the army is defeated. And within individual fire teams, individual soldiers are expected to obey their fire-team leader without question in a combat situation - because if they don't, the team can't co-ordinate attacks properly which is the quick road to defeat.

Although the Makhnovists started out essentially as a guerilla force and there were elections for officers etc, as the war went on more and more officers were appointed. The top commanders were all Makhno's closest friends. In addition, there were certainly times when conscription occurred in Makhnovist areas. The nature of war itself relentlessly forced them to comply with a logic which slowly ate away at their democratic structures.

The Red Army began in exactly the same way, on the basis of volunteers and with elected officers. But while the Ukraine faced only the German Army, the Red Army had to defend the whole of Russia against over 14 different forces! Makhno's troop numbered about 15,000 men at its height. The Red Army numbered 5 million. The number of proletarians with skills required to be officers in a force that size was simply not adequate. There was no time to train them even thought Bolsheviks established military schools for exactly that purpose, so the Tsarist officers were brought in to fill the gap. The Bolsheviks then tried to keep a reign on them through the use of their political commissars, effectively attempting to use authoritarian means to control an authoritarian organism.

(Incidentally, the role of Tsarist officers gives the lie to your thesis that the Bolsheviks were agents of German imperialism. The reactionary elements of the officer corp only began to co-operate with the Bolsheviks once they were convinced that they were genuinely willing to fight the Germans.)

This is the fundamental difference between a Red Guard and a Red Army. An army - or any force required to take on that role - is essentially a state structure whose formation is governed by the logic of capitalism. Function dictates form and this is why they inevitably take on - sooner or later - authoritarian forms. This constitutes the essential dilemma for the proletariat - it will need these organs to defend itself against the bourgeoisie, yet those organs themselves are in fundamental contradiction to the nature of the proletariat.

The more limited scope of the Makhnovist troop slowed the degeneration of that force, but it was clearly not immune to that process. Ironically, the existence of the Red Army probably actually helped preserve the Makhnovists in that it provided the muscle needed to resist the White forces, so the Makhnovists never really needed to move beyond their guerrilla origins. But there was simply no way the Makhnovists could have won on their own. At several points, the combined forces of Makhno and Trotsky were routed by the Whites.

Lazy Riser's picture
Lazy Riser
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Oct 18 2006 20:36

Hi

So let me get this right. The ICC is against soldiers electing their command due to the special nature of combat.

Love

LR

Alf's picture
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Oct 18 2006 22:44

No you haven't got it right.

At the 1919 congress of the Bolshevik party, many of the left wing elements, especially those in the Democratic Centralism group, formed a 'Military Opposition' which advocated the return to the 'principles of the Commune' in the Red Army (ie soldiers councils, election of officers, etc). This was basically the right approach. Even though the transitional state by its nature contains the danger of turning against the working class, it is still vital to ensure that it is as much as possible open to control from below. But Demogorgon is equally correct to point out that the longer the civil war lasted, the more likely it was that the red army (state organ par excellence) would become hierarchical and classically militarised. He is also right to say that even when you elect officers, you cannot have mass assemblies in the middle of a battle situation and have to be prepared to carry out instructions from the officers you have elected to issue them!

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Oct 18 2006 23:44
Quote:
The simple reality of war demands particular structures in order for a force to be effective. For example, it demands obedience to a central organ that is responsible for co-ordinating overall strategy. If individual units fail to obey instructions from the command centre, the whole strategy falls apart and the army is defeated. And within individual fire teams, individual soldiers are expected to obey their fire-team leader without question in a combat situation - because if they don't, the team can't co-ordinate attacks properly which is the quick road to defeat.

Reads to me like a bolshevik apology for militarizing the anarchist militias in the Ukraine or Spain.

Demogorgon303's picture
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Oct 19 2006 09:31

A) I don't speak for the ICC

B) I didn't say I was against electing officers.

What I said was that the demands of war (really the demands of capitalism itself) impose a certain logic on the forms of organisation needed to meet those demands. This is why I agree with the ICC's position on the question of these state organs i.e. that they are necessary but the working class must be especially vigilant towards them.

The Bolsheviks' entire approach to this was wrong because they assumed that if they were in charge, the class was in charge.

Oliver, you can read it as an apology if you like, but without some form of militarisation the Whites would have won. It's really that simple, however unpleasant that reality may be. Guerrilla forces can make life hell for a regular army as we see in Iraq today, but they can't hold land, they can't achieve strategic aims and they cannot maintain the political power necessary to transform society. Their very existence is the result of a political and military defeat.

The question here is how can the working class create organs to defend itself (which will require militarisation) while simultaneously preserving its own political dominance. The Bolsheviks got this completely wrong but to simply reject the necessity for the state in this period because it's nasty is the political equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting "I can't hear you" when your mother tells you to go to bed.

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Joseph Kay
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Oct 19 2006 09:35
Demogorgon303 wrote:
The Bolsheviks got this completely wrong but to simply reject the necessity for the state in this period because it's nasty is the political equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting "I can't hear you" when your mother tells you to go to bed.

yeah, its such an infantile disorder

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Oct 19 2006 12:10

Yes, you're right Revol, our arguments are despicable, because we are the first people in the world (or are we the last?)to argue that the Russian revolution was a proletarian revolution that was worth defending.

And we are also the only people ever to claim that the Spanish civil war was turned into an imperialist war.

Lazy Riser's picture
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Oct 19 2006 13:09

Hi

Quote:
the political equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting "I can't hear you" when your mother tells you to go to bed.

Correct tactical response though. What do communists do? Just go to bed I suppose.

Love

LR

baboon
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Oct 19 2006 15:19

In the 30s the Popular Fronts were an integral part of the bourgeoisie's mobilisation of the working class for war. The left, from the early to mid-30s were exercising their role as executioners of the working class. There was still enormous combativity from the working class in the 30s but in essence, after the defeat of the revolutionary wave, it was a rearguard action (with possibilities nonetheless), more of a desperate revolt. The development of Popular Fronts in Belgium, France and Spain, the development within them of "anti-Fascism", was nothing other than the development of state capitalism and the march to full blown imperialist war.
In France the workers were told by the left in 34 that they were defending "freedom and democracy", not capital. The "gains" given to the workers by the state were soon wiped out, and more. In Spain, 1935, the PSOE called for the "united front of all democrats". This popular front with the UGT, CP, with the critical support of the POUM and the CNT, was nothing other than the defence of the capitalist state, with the fight of class against class buried underneath support for democracy and reform. The anarchists, in general, in France and Belgium also, supported the state in the development of state capitalism, nationalism, the war economy and xenophobia. Both the democratic new deals and the national socialism of fascism represented attempts by the bourgeoisie to counter the crisis of unemployment, inflation and the weakening of the economy with state capitalist measures. In Spain, the CNT was involved in supporting agrarian credits, public works and legislation on wages, etc. These measures were involved in mobilising the workers behind the state and here again, any temporary "gains" were soon clawed back, with more attacks on top of them. The national socialisms of France, Spain, Belgium, the USA, Britain, (all with their specificities) were essentially the same as the fascist states and Stalin's 5 year plan (the latter which inspired the US Democrats). State capitalism responds to the need of decadent capitalism.
The combative struggles of the working class in the 30s (insurrectionary in Belgium 32) were extinguished by a combination of the left, leftism and the "official" anarchists, in their Popular Fronts, ie a front with capital, an alliance with the bourgeoisie and a preparation and mobilisation for imperialist war.

Black Flag
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Oct 19 2006 16:15

Howdy all!Who the fuck are the ICC?Never heard ov em.

Lazy Riser's picture
Lazy Riser
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Oct 19 2006 16:35

Hi

They're the most advanced political organisation ever. They've heard of you though, Tim, so watch out.

Love

LR


Revol's new BF. Ha ha.

ernie
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Oct 19 2006 23:15

Tim: this answers your question: http://en.internationalism.org/node/603

lem
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Oct 28 2006 20:07

I for one am pleased that the icc are still around.

Ah fuck it I'm alreqady drunk... have they fallen out with Devrim yet, that will be fun.