For Communism: An Introduction to the Politics of the Internationalist Communist Tendency

For Communism: An Introduction to the Politics of the Internationalist Communist Tendency

A new pamphlet laying out the internationalist communist politics of the ICT/CWO for English readers. Slightly more in depth than their about us statement and updated from their original IBRP platform.

2019-for-communism.pdf1.22 MB

Posted By

klas batalo
Nov 27 2013 02:45


  • The sole alternative to the unions consists of the self-organisation of the struggle - autonomy from below. The task of revolutionaries consists of struggling for the communist perspective everywhere that the working class is to be met (including in union meetings).

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Nov 27 2013 15:36

This pamphlet makes a lot of sound points but still retains traces in my opinion of outdated views on the need and assumed practicality of uniting all communists in a single international party in advance of, and as a precondition of, a successful revolutionary transformation of society, and whilst correctly recognising the inevitability of a period of communist transition on a world scale, proposes some at best doubtful concepts of that transition which border on a form of worker controlled state capitalism and hark back to a rather rigid view of revolution as a series of controlled nation by nation historical stages, rather than a cross border process of expanding,deepening and 'centralising' class struggle. These were some of the areas of our recent MDF/Free Communist discussion meeting in Sheffield recorded elsewhere on this site.

klas batalo
Nov 28 2013 00:31

Yeah the stuff about the need for the party I am very wary of, especially since it comes off sorta odd considering it is a very different type of party I'd assume (or is it?). Do I think there are revolutionary minorities, yes...will these look more like parties or unions or other forms of yesteryear I have no clue.

I still need to check out some of the recent podcasts of those meetings. Should be interesting, wish I could go to stuff like that here.

Nov 29 2013 15:21

Thanks to Klas batalo for posting this here (which came as a surprise to us. I hope people will not be put off by Spikeymike's negative, inaccurate (and unsubstantiated) comments and read it for itself. There is no suggestion in our organisation of any "nation by nation" approach to revolution (we do not call ourselves "internationalists" for nothing). We think that a new mode of production can only come about through a movement from below encapsulating several countries at once and we have all joined the ICT precisely because we reject all state capitalist models (and the original split with Bordigism was on this very issue as you will see from reading the Bordiga-Damen correspondence on our website), We were able to present some of this in the anarchist bookfair but Spikeymike though in the fair did not deign to come to listen.

Nov 29 2013 17:01


I draw my comments regarding 'traces' of past approaches to the nature of a transition period from the bracketed references to the 'measures' which a ''workers'' state ''will take'' at the tale end of the ICT text and my past understanding of ICT politics. ''Bordering on'' a concept of ''worker controlled capitalism'' is not meant to ascribe any support by the ICT for nationalisation measures undertaken by any capitalist states. I detect a difference here between the ICT and other 'Communiser' currents for instance, but if I am reading too much into a few phrases then I stand corrected.

My caution should certainly not put people off reading this pamphlet and checking out other worthwhile material on the ICT website.

Your comment about my 'non-attendance at your London bookfair meeting I thought a little uncharitable in the circumstances.

Nov 29 2013 22:50

I don't like the "workers state" notion either but it is in quotes to show that we don't think it is a state in the proper sense of the word (we would have been better just saying the "dictatorship of the proletariat" but that also sets alarm bells ringing for some). The working class revolution can only be made by the working class itself and in the process it will create a transnational political body to fight for precisely that perspective. This is why we say we are not the party and why we leave to our local affiliates the decision on how to operate where they find themselves. We don't say we have the truth join us. Life is far more complicated than that, Everything has to be built from below, It may be that a looser "movement" is the form but we don't exclude that possibility. But even if there are different groupings history always forces us sooner or later into decisive situations (even if we can go through a whole lifetime of not seeing one!). Sorry about the lack of charity (I too wanted to go to another meeting scheduled at the same time as ours but as the speaker I felt I could not do it!) but I came into revolutionary politics denouncing state capitalism (via a masters thesis on Castroism) and it is the one issue I am deeply sensitive about.

Are we a a communiser current? You'll have to enlighten me. Probably see you at the Manchester meeting tomorrow.

klas batalo
Nov 30 2013 02:24

DotP would be better. Anti-statism would be a more clear proletarian position, and you all say so yourselves in the Anarchist Bookfair talk pretty much.

Dec 3 2013 18:38

I see that the SPGB in it's December Socialist Standard carries a review of this pamphlet which whilst acknowledging some important areas of agreement then abandons (my) caution and seeks to ascribe to the ICT/CWO by a process of 'association' a straightforward support for a Leninist 'Workers State'. Whatever disagreements I may have with some aspects of the CWO's understanding of the transition between capitalism and communism, they do at least attempt to apply a Marxist materialist analysis to both the relationship between class struggle and communist consciousness and the inevitable practical problems of such a transition on a world scale, which contrasts to the SPGB's approach based on their own strange mix of mechanical Marxism and idealism. When trying to envisage what such a transition might look like we can find only a very few geographically isolated examples from history of some attempts to overthrow capitalist social relationships which provide more guides as to what to avoid than any positive 'plans of action' applicable in today's modern global capitalism. In the present situation of an isolated and fragmented communist political minority movement a lot is left to speculation and certainly the SPGB is in no better position than the rest of us to assume it has 'learnt the lessons of history' in this matter.

Dec 5 2013 13:16

Thanks for that Spikeymike. I just read the SPGB review and it lacks logic and as in every discussion with the SPGB hides behind rhetorical tricks. After quoting our view that the working class has to make the revolution not the party they then say we are "leninist" by suggesting that we think the socialist/communist revolution can be MADE by a minority when all we have said is because we have no property to defend as a class a minority will come to socialist ideas before others. (logical to me or else we all deny our own existence and what is going on in front of our eyes). They might take the initiative in kicking things off (they might not) but there will always be minorities who push the issue wherever. For us too the revolutionary political organisation is not a government in waiting or a body to rule in any sense. Its task is spreading international revolution and it is the task of the class wide organisations (whatever they are at the time) to try to wrestle with the inevitable problems in any one territory. What we do think is that unless it is an unfolding continuous international process then we will not escape from the clutches of capital. It seems to me that the SP(GB) are closer to the conceptions of social democracy than we are - especially on the insistence that the participation of the mass of the class in transforming society can be epitomised in a vote in a bourgeois parliament. They have not understood the German Ideology is not just about the quote on the domination of bourgeois ideas but that more importantly in shown how in the PROCESS of revolution human beings are themselves transformed and thus become ready to get rid of the "muck of ages". I'll try to reply to them later.

Feb 10 2014 16:41
Cleishbotham wrote:
Thanks for that Spikeymike. I just read the SPGB review and it lacks logic and as in every discussion with the SPGB hides behind rhetorical tricks.

Here's the author's reply:

Re the CWO they’re wriggling of course as this is a weak spot for them and to accuse others of rhetorical tricks must be some form of psychological projection as that’s what they’re doing here, like the ICC always do too when confronted with this.

I don’t understand some of Spikeymike's comments though (though others are predictable enough). I said pretty much what he said in his first post here! And as for the ‘workers’ state’ issue that was a direct quote as it’s the phrase they use – not just a dictatorship of the proletariat but specifically a workers state:

A so-called ‘workers’ state’ or the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ is, in the first instance, a political category. Nevertheless, a ‘workers’ state’ will take measures for the improvement of the conditions of life of the working class (reduction in the working-day, free access to the health and education system, etc) and try to direct production for the needs of society . . . [but] as long as capitalist commodity production in the rest of the world continues to exist, the diktat of the law of value holds’ (p.38).

If they don’t mean a workers’ state that will effectively have to run capitalism for a period until socialist consciousness spreads sufficiently, etc why do they talk about one that way . . ?

And when Cleishbotham says this:

They have not understood the German Ideology is not just about the quote on the domination of bourgeois ideas but that more importantly in shown how in the PROCESS of revolution human beings are themselves transformed and thus become ready to get rid of the "muck of ages."

That’s the very point I was making and understand it full well. They want the pregnancy after the birth ie you start a revolution and hope people miraculously change during the process (including when there is a transitional workers’ state). Indeed the review says that explicitly:

Heavily influenced by a particular interpretation of sections of Marx’s German Ideology, where he wrote that the ruling ideas in any epoch are the ideas of the ruling class, the CWO take the view that a majority socialist revolution is impossible because the mass of the working class in capitalism is always going to be inculcated with ruling class ideas about the system. This leads them to the equally Leninist view that a revolution with only a minority of socialists is all that is possible and that only after this will the working class be able to shake off capitalist ideas. . . . the CWO have made it more explicit here than they normally do that after the minority revolution they will be aiming to set up a workers’ state, which for us is a contradiction in terms. Its role will be to run capitalism while attempting to spread socialist consciousness and move society in some sort of vaguely socialistic direction

Feb 11 2014 15:35

'Transitional states' aside (and the CWO can answer for themselves), workers and people generally do of course change in the process of engaging in struggle and more so in periods of 'mass' struggle - it's no miracle! But it helps if there is at least a pro-revolutionary minority current that can influence events, especially as such changes do not necessarily follow some ideologically pre-determined course and there is equally no straight evolutionary advance in class consciousness through the history of capitalism but ebbs and flows in response to changes in the structure of capitalism and the composition of the working class. The SPGB have great difficulty in understanding revolutionary change as an interconnected PROCESS of practical material changes effected by working class struggle which, in turn, changes workers ideas about what is both necessary and possible. We have seen this process of escalating struggle and consciousness historically but only in a partial and geographically isolated way that has so far been unable to break free of capitalism and move towards communism. This is a 'process of becoming consciously communist' in which the movement must inevitably be characterised by expanding minorities of the class (in relation to the world population) with an effective majority only being recognised on the practical achievement of a communist society. The SPGB seem to only be able to understand social change as either conscious revolution on a world scale achieved virtually overnight or evolutionary reformism with nothing in-between either past, present or in the future.

Of course we may just repeat the cycle of escalating class struggle, defeat, capitalist restructure, capitalist consolidation, crisis and renewed struggle without ever breaking the cycle - without any historic rupture in the system, but I can see no other potential route towards a communist future or even a temporary respite from the capitalist exploitation and oppression we all experience to one degree or another.

Dec 25 2014 15:28

This discussion seems to cross over a bit with the rather extended and wider discussion thread on the back of the AF statement on Rojava elsewhere, but I have to say that the more recent text on the ICT website titled 'Towards Socialism-Notes on the Transitional Phase' signed off by 'Lotus' admitedly only a part one, seems in some respects to be a step backward from the introductory pamphlet above and reinforces some of the doubts I expressed early. We will see.

Just took a short break here from festive drinks!!

Noah Fence
Mar 24 2016 19:12

Bumping this coz it was quoted at me in a debate. I don't know much about the various forms of communist theory but the section on the revolutionary party somehow makes me very uneasy though to be honest I can't really put my finger on why.
If anyone would be willing to put there explanation/thoughts down on this I'd be very glad to hear it.
A question to kick off though - is the revolutionary party, the vanguard party under a different name or am I a clueless twat???

Mar 24 2016 20:33

The ICT will be better able to respond to your points than me, but their "What we stand for" seems fairly clear:

The Communist Workers Organisation stands for a global society where production is for need and not profit (and is therefore sustainable), where the state, national frontiers and
money have been abolished, where power is exercised through class-wide organisations like workers councils. This can only be created through the activity of millions of human beings…..
In order to get there we are working to create a world proletarian political organisation: a ‘party’ for want of a better word.This is not a government in waiting. It does not rule but it will lead and guide the struggle for a new world. We by no means claim to be that party, only one of the elements which will come together in its formation.

Mar 25 2016 10:47

I read the section on "The Organisation of Revolutionaries" in "For Communism" again and tried to work out what made you uneasy. My own feeling is that it is a bit too short (it is after all an introduction to ICT politics) and does not explain the nature of any political organisation of the class in the future. We definitely reject the idea that the future will be a re-run of the past but we do learn from the past "what is not to be done". And we are quite clear that though the party/rev pol org (or whatever you like to call it) is one of the key tools the working class will forge in the process of becoming revolutionary it can only act as a guide inside a much bigger movement of the class majority and as it says in the passage only the working class as a whole can establish a new mode of production which depends not on the passive acceptance of its "citizens" but their active participation. That will be one of the distinctive features of communism as against class societies.
The "vanguard party" is a myth dreamed up by Stalinist historiography and emerged as part of the decline of Bolshevism (Zinoviev I believe articulated it first). An analysis of the real course of the Russian Revolution shows that there were a number of different parties present inside the working class in Russia in February 1917 but the crisis caused by the war led to the working class seizing on the Bolsheviks as the organisational inspiration for the October Revolution. Unfortunately the Bolsheviks although they had merit in their opposition to capitalism and war had not shaken off all their social democratic hangovers - which is why they formed Sovnarkom (copying the bourgeois cabinet of the Provisional Government dominated by Mensheviks and SRs). Instead they should have let the Executive Committee of the All Russian Congress of Soviets take on this role whilst the party remained as a body (although its individual members could accept delegation to the soviets) outside the structure of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The task of the party is to keep fighting for the spread of the revolution not acting as a government of any geographical area.

And in reply to Spikeymike (I had not seen his post from 2014 before), Loto's document on the period of transition is just his contribution to the debate (which only got re-animated after the sub-prime collapse). He was criticised for the first draft by his own comrades in Battaglia Comunista and then did some corrections in the second part. I have to say I don't like the second part either nor do I agree with all that CWO have written on this. However it is an open debate and all the documents have been put under one button on the website (debate on socialism or something like that). However we are all agreed it is the councils or whatever class-wide body containing recallable delegates that run/administer the dictatorship of the proletariat until all classes are absorbed into the working class and we have arrived at a stateless society.

Noah Fence
Mar 25 2016 11:59

Thanks. So do the Rev party members act as delegates for workers councils? Is this a type of representative democracy? I have a pretty unsophisticated knowledge of the implementation of revolution so don't know if this is something many Libcoms would be down with but I suspect not?

Noah Fence
Mar 25 2016 12:24


Mar 25 2016 21:29

Cleishbotham - earlier today I started a thread on a similar topic to what's being discussed here. I take it you're a left communist? If you're up for it, have a look at the thread (it's pretty short) and jump in the conversation. I have some confusion about left communism I'm trying to sort out.

Thanks grin

Mar 25 2016 22:31

I downloaded it from their site, looks pretty good from like the page and a half I already read.

Nov 22 2016 03:24

Wobbly times number 196

Once more, I shall attempt to clear up some confusion with regard to the conceptual framework within which Marx, Engels and indeed, many communists were working in the 19th century. To accomplish this task, I shall refer the reader to what Engels wrote about their interchangeable use of the terms socialism and communism i.e. why he and Marx sometimes used the term "socialist" and why "communist" in their writings over the years of their lives. Both terms meant the same thing to them, however why they preferred communist identity at the beginning of their studies and organization whilst socialist at the end remains well stated in Engels’s Preface to the English edition of 1888 as well as his Preface to the German edition of 1890 of the Communist Manifesto:

“Nevertheless, when it appeared, we could not have called it a socialist manifesto. In 1847, two kinds of people were considered socialists. On the one hand were the adherents of the various utopian systems, notably the Owenites in England and the Fourierists in France, both of whom, at that date, had already dwindled to mere sects gradually dying out. On the other, the manifold types of social quacks who wanted to eliminate social abuses through their various universal panaceas and all kinds of patch-work, without hurting capital and profit in the least. In both cases, people who stood outside the labour movement and who looked for support rather to the “educated” classes. The section of the working class, however, which demanded a radical reconstruction of society, convinced that mere political revolutions were not enough, then called itself Communist. It was still a rough-hewn, only instinctive and frequently somewhat crude communism. Yet, it was powerful enough to bring into being two systems of utopian communism — in France, the “Icarian” communists of Cabet, and in Germany that of Weitling. Socialism in 1847 signified a bourgeois movement, communism a working-class movement. Socialism was, on the Continent at least, quite respectable, whereas communism was the very opposite. And since we were very decidedly of the opinion as early as then that “the emancipation of the workers must be the task of the working class itself,” [from the General Rules of the International] we could have no hesitation as to which of the two names we should choose. Nor has it ever occurred to us to repudiate it.”

Neither Marx nor Engels ever used the term "socialist State". Socialism yes. But socialism for Marx and Engels meant a classless democracy and the political State was always meant to describe class ruled government. Included in this description would be a workers' State--the now infamously used term, "dictatorship of the proletariat". A workers' State would not be socialism. It would be class rule by the overwhelming majority, in reality, a proletarian democracy. Marx and Engels used the word State to indicate the governing structure of class rule whether the ruling class was the slave owning class, the land owning class of feudalism or the modern day capitalist class. All political States were and would be class ruled. With the establishment of socialism by the working class, the State would die out because the social relation of Capital would no longer exist, common ownership and democratic control over the collective product of labour would necessitate the abolition of the wage system, commodity production and with it Capital as a social relation of political power.

A political State controlled by workers would include other classes. For instance, if the workers as a class controlled the State, they could get legislation passed which would tax the wealth of the capitalists and landlords in order to use that revenue to benefit people who had to work for wages in order to make a living. An example might be something like free healthcare paid for by the government using the aforementioned revenue. A proletarian democracy would be run by the workers in the class interests of the useful producers. The Paris Commune of 1871 was an example of a proletarian democracy or "dictatorship of the proletariat".

A worker controlled democratic republic is what Marx and Engels are proposing in section II of the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO. The reforms listed at the end of this section are general proposals which a workers' State might implement in 1848:

"Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionising the mode of production.

"These measures will, of course, be different in different countries.

"Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.

4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.

6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.

7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.

10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c."

Further, it should be noted that even after the Paris Commune of 1871, Marx and Engels would speak in terms which many think they renounced after that workers' revolt. On September 8, 1872 more than a year after the Paris Commune was drowned in the blood of the proletariat, Marx said:

"But we have not asserted that the ways to achieve that goal are everywhere the same.

"You know that the institutions, mores, and traditions of various countries must be taken into consideration, and we do not deny that there are countries -- such as America, England, and if I were more familiar with your institutions, I would perhaps also add Holland -- where the workers can attain their goal by peaceful means. This being the case, we must also recognize the fact that in most countries on the Continent the lever of our revolution must be force; it is force to which we must some day appeal in order to erect the rule of labor."

As for the so-called "dictatorship of the proletariat", it was never Marx's or Engels' intention that it would be Lenin's dictatorship of a party. In fact, that's just what they were arguing with the anarchists about in terms of the interpretation of the concept. If there has been any doubt as to whether the USSR was a dictatorship of the party, as opposed to being a proletarian democracy after the 10th Party Congress of the CPSU (B) in 1921, then I would suggest reading the well documented work by Maurice Brinton titled, The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control .

The point of writing all this is to get people who "know" what Marx and Engels actually wrote about the question of communism. Without reading what Marx and Engels actually wrote about socialism or communism, if you will, many, if not most people calling themselves "Marxists" have failed to grasp that they might be taking off from a conceptual base which does not correspond to the conceptual base Marx and Engels were taking off from. So, to reiterate:

1. A workers' State is controlled democratically by the workers. It is not common ownership and democratic control of the collective product of labour after the wage system has been abolished i.e. it is not the lower stage of communism/socialism. It is not a classless democracy. It is, like all political States, the dictatorship of a class, in this case, the still existing working class. Commodity production for sale can still exist in a such a proletarian democracy. A wage system can still exist. Under the wage system, labour power is a commodity.

2. Communism or socialism, if you will, signals a change in the mode of producing wealth from the capitalist mode which depends on wage labour and commodity production to the communist mode in which a free, classless association of producers democratically decide how to distribute the collective product of their labour. Socialism/communism means that commodity production for sale with a view to profit no longer exists, whether in its initial stages or in its more advanced stage. You can begin to see the outlines of this in various writings of Marx and Engels. Wobbly times number 88 contains some quoted examples.

"The emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves...the struggle for the emancipation of the working classes means not a struggle for class privileges and monopolies, but for equal rights and duties, and the abolition of all class rule." - Marx, 1864

Nov 12 2019 09:25

Updated PDF attached.