We Are Against All Institutional Parties

The ICT considers itself to be one core of the future international party of the working class. But the word “party” often triggers an allergic reaction, even amongst elements otherwise sympathetic to our politics – after all, there is already no shortage of parties both of the left and the right which attempt to rule the capitalist state, be it through electoral or military means. As we often repeat, our vision has nothing in common with these rackets. The party we seek to build is not a government in waiting but a guide in the struggle for a new world.

Submitted by Internationali… on May 21, 2020

This brief translation from our comrades in Battaglia Comunista straightforwardly reiterates that very message, and should be read in conjunction with other articles already on our website, such as The Working Class needs its own Political Organisation and On the Future International.

The state, the government, the parliament, the local authorities... all these institutions are nothing but instruments created and managed by the bourgeois class. They represent the repressive political machine of the bosses. They are nothing more than a political-bureaucratic superstructure that protects the capitalist economic structure. The State represents the organised political-economic-military domain of the bourgeois class and this is as true in Italy as in any other part of the world.

"The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie." (Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party)

Depending on the phase that capitalism is going through, and depending on the level of proletarian response, the state can take on a "democratic" or openly dictatorial form.

"The forms of domination of the state may vary ... but essentially the power is in the hands of capital, whether there are voting qualifications or some other rights or not, or whether the republic is a democratic one or not." (Lenin, The State: A Lecture Delivered at the Sverdlov University)

"Democracy" is really nothing but the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. The vast majority of the population is proletarian, therefore if – as they want us to believe – in this "democracy" the majority expresses their will through the institutions... how come all the laws that are passed go against the interests of the proletariat?

"A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism ... capital ... establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it." (Lenin, The State and Revolution)

The "democratic" elections are the theatre of politics, a deception, to legitimise power in the hands of the bourgeoisie. Indeed, the bourgeoisie controls the tools with which it can shape so-called "public opinion", from the mass media to schools and religious institutions. The proletarian class in this "democracy" counts for nothing, every institutional decision must be compatible with the economic needs of the bosses. State administrators are therefore representatives of the dominant class.

It is a pure illusion to consider these institutions an instrument which the proletarian class can use to free itself from exploitation by the bosses, when in fact these institutions are the best political means that the bourgeoisie has to administer its economic power. After the Paris Commune (1871) Marx wrote in the preface to the German edition of the Manifesto:

"One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes." (Marx and Engels, 1872 Preface)

The various institutional parties carry out a deceptive game, between those who govern and those who are in opposition. Behind the confrontation between the parties, there is often only the power struggle between different factions of the bourgeoisie, or more simply a rat race between different politicians to sit in the comfortable institutional seats.

In essence, no institutional party questions the economic and social foundations of this system, in the best of cases a party proposes an illusory difference in management: a capitalism with a more human, fairer, more “democratic” face, etc. The same self-styled communist parties – who sit or want to sit in parliament – are not bearers of a real revolutionary programme, they only spread the illusion of an institutional path for the struggle of workers and almost always (like the parties of the so-called "radical left") work hand in hand with other bourgeois parties in local institutions.

Our commitment, therefore, does not go towards building a party that aims to amass votes in the elections, to win positions within the institutions. What we want to build is the class party, international and internationalist, capable of acting as a political reference point for the proletarian class struggle.

13 May 2020

Comments

Nymphalis Antiopa

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nymphalis Antiopa on May 22, 2020

The only good party is an all-night party (and even some of those give you as debilitating hangovers as the political ones).

What we want to build is the class party, international and internationalist, capable of acting as a political reference point for the proletarian class struggle.

I don't want to build anything this side of a revolution except maybe a shed. Movements move, but buildings don't move unless there's an earthquake.

A political party might not want " to amass votes in the elections, to win positions within the institutions" but it wants to amass recruits, like for an army, and win political positions in the jockeying for some "radical" hegemony equipped with correct lines and constant quotes from the Masters (Marx, Engels, and even that mass murdering state capitalist piece of filth Lenin). They are invariably hierarchical and function as a collective illusion for its recruits of being connected to history and to the rest of the world, creating a dependence on their organisation as a substitute for what is possible and necessary for each of them. Each individual proletarian needs to organise with others but organising an organisation is like constantly writing "to do" lists without ever getting round to doing anything.

Those who want a genuine revolution want to influence others but have no desire to reify them into members, recruits, political roles. Revolt and revolution, a genuine urge to connect to history internationally, cannot connect through such conservative petrified and tedious institutions as a political party, a political road which is an impasse which anybody who wants to try something new based on overcoming past failures would know is one of the most obvious dead-ends history has taught us.

You haven't even begun to understand.

comradeEmma

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by comradeEmma on May 22, 2020

You haven't even begun to understand.

Nymphalis Antiopa

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nymphalis Antiopa on May 22, 2020

You've convinced me with your enlightening argument. I shall now permanently hail Lenin with a red flag, an early 20th century rifle in my hand, a stern face, some bright red lipstick and a social realist portrait of myself for evermore.

R Totale

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by R Totale on May 22, 2020

For what it's worth, if I was writing an article designed to convince people that my party was completely different to the "self-styled communist parties – who sit or want to sit in parliament", I'd probably try to avoid sprinkling it with quotes from someone who led a communist party that took part in parliamentary elections, and actively wrote about why communists who don't want to do that are stupid and wrong. In the words of your hero himself:
"the “Left” Communists have a great deal to say in praise of us Bolsheviks. One sometimes feels like telling them to praise us less and to try to get a better knowledge of the Bolsheviks’ tactics."

Red Marriott

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Red Marriott on May 22, 2020

The only thing more dull and stupid than this article is the admins hosting of such leninist garbage on a supposedly 'libertarian communist' site.
article

The "democratic" elections are the theatre of politics, a deception, to legitimise power in the hands of the bourgeoisie. [...]

After the Paris Commune (1871) Marx wrote in the preface to the German edition of the Manifesto:

"One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes." (Marx and Engels, 1872 Preface)

The various institutional parties carry out a deceptive game, between those who govern and those who are in opposition. Behind the confrontation between the parties, there is often only the power struggle between different factions of the bourgeoisie, or more simply a rat race between different politicians to sit in the comfortable institutional seats.

This is either simply ignorant or a deliberately "deceptive game". Marx's view was quite the opposite of what the article claims: Marx repeatedly encouraged the working class to engage with and play the bourgeois institutional game of parties. As he said to the IWMA in 1871, against the anarchists;

In America, a recently held workers' congress [National Labor Union, August 7-10, 1871, Baltimore] resolved to occupy itself with political questions and to replace professional politicians with workers like themselves, who were authorized to defend the interests of their class.

In England, it is not so easy for a worker to get to Parliament. Since members of Parliament do not receive any compensation, and the worker has to work to support himself, Parliament becomes unattainable for him, and the bourgeoisie knows very well that its stubborn refusal to allow salaries for members of Parliament is a means of preventing the working class from being represented in it.

One should never believe that it is of small significance to have workers in Parliament. If one stifles their voices, as in the case of De Potter and Castian, or if one ejects them, as in the case of Manuel -- the reprisals and oppressions exercise a deep effect on the people. If, on the other hand, they can speak from the parliamentary tribune, as do Bebel and Liebknecht, the whole world listens to them. In the one case or the other, great publicity is provided for our principles. To give but one examples: when during the [Franco-Prussian] war, which was fought in France, Bebel and Liebknecht undertook to point out the responsibility of the working class in the face of those events, all of Germany was shaken; and even in Munich, the city where revolutions take place only over the price of beet, great demonstrations took place demanding an end to the war.

The governments are hostile to us, one must respond to them with all the means at out disposal. To get workers into Parliament is synonymous with a victory over the governments, but one must choose the right men... . [my emph.]https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/09/politics-speech.htm

Dyjbas

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Dyjbas on May 22, 2020

Nymphalis, so there is no need for us to actively organise around our politics, the working class will just automatically adopt communist perspectives when the time is right and reject all the other options out there? Good to know, in that case we can all sleep soundly!

R Totale, yes, Lenin in 1920 thought parliaments could be utilised for revolutionary propaganda, as exemplified by Karl Liebknecht and Zeth Höglund against the First World War. Red Marriott, likewise Marx in 1871 thought parliaments could be utilised for revolutionary propaganda, as exemplified by August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht against the Franco-Prussian War. But it was always a question of tactics corresponding to concrete political situations, not some eternal principles. Putting aside the debate whether in 1871 or 1920 the tactic was adequate or not, clearly things have changed since then. Today repeating tactics from over one hundred years ago simply out of dogmatic adherence (because x said y in z year) would hardly be consistent with a Marxist method.

Red Marriott

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Red Marriott on May 22, 2020

Dyjbas

Red Marriott, likewise Marx in 1871 thought parliaments could be utilised for revolutionary propaganda, as exemplified by August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht against the Franco-Prussian War. But it was always a question of tactics corresponding to concrete political situations, not some eternal principles. Putting aside the debate whether in 1871 or 1920 the tactic was adequate or not, clearly things have changed since then. Today repeating tactics from over one hundred years ago simply out of dogmatic adherence (because x said y in z year) would hardly be consistent with a Marxist method. would hardly be consistent with a Marxist method.

But "Today repeating tactics from over one hundred years ago simply out of dogmatic adherence (because x said y in z year)" is what the article is pretending to do by bolstering your position with highly selective and deceptive quotes from Marx & Lenin - to pretend that you are good radical marxists in line with their prescriptions/"eternal principles". But that's a historical distortion. It wasn't that Marx merely thought that parliament could be used for propaganda: even near the end of his life in 1880 he thought that socialism could occur through parliamentary participation;

... collective appropriation can arise only from the revolutionary action of the productive class – or proletariat - organized in a distinct political party;

That a such an organization must be pursued by all the means the proletariat has at its disposal including universal suffrage which will thus be transformed from the instrument of deception that it has been until now into an instrument of emancipation;

The French socialist workers, in adopting as the aim of their efforts the political and economic expropriation of the capitalist class and the return to community of all the means of production, have decided, as a means of organization and struggle, to enter the elections... https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/05/parti-ouvrier.htm

In 1872 he told the IWMA that some countries, including England, might achieve a peaceful parliamentary path to emancipation;

He proclaimed the necessity of the working classes fighting the old, decaying society in the political field and in the social field alike. The worker must one day seize political supremacy in order to establish the new organization of labour. He must overthrow the old politics sustaining the old institutions.
But we have never said that the means to arrive at these ends were identical. We know the allowance that must be made for the institutions, manners and traditions of different countries. We do not deny that there exist countries like America, England, and, if I knew your institutions better, I would add Holland, where the workers may be able to attain their ends by peaceful means. If that is true we must also recognize that inmost of the countries of the Continent force must be the lever to which it will be necessary to resort for a time in order to attain the domination of labour. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/Marx_The_Hague_Congress.pdf

Likewise, in the immediate aftermath of 1917 Lenin, in " “Left-Wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder ", criticised communists for anti-parliamentary positions and advocated participation in parliamentary politics.
None of this shows Marx & Lenin's support for your views, quite the opposite. You want to have it both ways - first referencing them as if their eternal relevance verifies your position, then saying their views aren't eternal truths when it's pointed out you're misrepresenting them.

Black Badger

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Black Badger on May 22, 2020

Dialectics: what Marxists call it when you point out their contradictions, inconsistencies, misrepresentations, and lies.

Dyjbas

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Dyjbas on May 22, 2020

Red Marriott, seems like you don't understand the distinction between method and tactics. The quotes in the article, which you see as "highly selective and deceptive", generally refer to the former (what is the role of the state, elections, democracy, etc.). The quotes you've dug up, generally refer to the latter (what are communists to do at this given moment in time, what is possible at this stage in historical development, etc.). Method and tactics are closely interlinked (the scary dialectics!) through analysis of concrete social reality rather than upholding this or that tactic as eternal dogma.

In other words, it's absurd to expect those who draw on the method of Marx and Lenin to parrot everything that Marx and Lenin have thought at one time or another as if it's necessarily applicable today, because the basis of that very method is that things change and nothing is eternal.

As an aside, the infamous Programme of the French Workers' Party clearly states that socialism "can arise only from the revolutionary action of the productive class – or proletariat – organized in a distinct political party", not that it "could occur through parliamentary participation".

comradeEmma

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by comradeEmma on May 22, 2020

You've convinced me with your enlightening argument. I shall now permanently hail Lenin with a red flag, an early 20th century rifle in my hand, a stern face, some bright red lipstick and a social realist portrait of myself for evermore.

You haven't even begun to understand.

R Totale, yes, Lenin in 1920 thought parliaments could be utilised for revolutionary propaganda, as exemplified by Karl Liebknecht and Zeth Höglund against the First World War. Red Marriott, likewise Marx in 1871 thought parliaments could be utilised for revolutionary propaganda, as exemplified by August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht against the Franco-Prussian War. But it was always a question of tactics corresponding to concrete political situations, not some eternal principles. Putting aside the debate whether in 1871 or 1920 the tactic was adequate or not, clearly things have changed since then. Today repeating tactics from over one hundred years ago simply out of dogmatic adherence (because x said y in z year) would hardly be consistent with a Marxist method.

I don't think this was actually about tactics though, none of these people would ever, except for Karl Liebknecht and Lenin, would ever enter into a revolutionary struggle where they abandoned elections all together. Zeth Höglund is an especially interesting figure, he became part of the left-camp and later the left-socialist split for his opposition to the war, having taken part in the Zimmerwald conference, but was purged around 1924 during the "bolshevization" process due to his opposition to centralization. He created his own independent communist party that was in international cooperation with the Russian social-revolutionaries and Norwegian Labor-party, but in the end he just re-joined the Social-Democrats once Hjalmar Branting died because in reality he was never a communist militant but a left-social democrat opposed to the leadership of his time.

Nymphalis Antiopa

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nymphalis Antiopa on May 22, 2020

Dyjbas wrote

Nymphalis, so there is no need for us to actively organise around our politics, the working class will just automatically adopt communist perspectives when the time is right and reject all the other options out there? Good to know, in that case we can all sleep soundly!

Bad to know , in the case above, that we cannot sleep soundly because of the irritating politically-motivated noise of distortions and outright misrepresentation of things people say; in this case, what I've said -

Those who want a genuine revolution want to influence others but have no desire to reify them into members, recruits, political roles

Influencing others often means organising around some anti-political perspective. Discussion, action, intervention, experimentation, etc can certainly be organised. But organising an organisation just organises a collective image and that's all. And in your case, a collective image that has as much relevance to the miserable contradictions of life and the world today, as much potential to influence current struggles and as much relation to historical truth as Sergei Eisenstein's "Октябрь (Десять дней, которые потрясли мир)".
I said "You haven't even begun to understand." but really this is a case of not even beginning to want to understand. You are so lacking in integrity, so stuck in your 100-year-old dogma, that you pretend what I've said is a classic spontaneist ideology. Because you have only a desire to manipulate your little band of followers or would-be recruits and to lie to yourself, you feel compelled to drag out a stale ready-made accusation of spontaneism in imitation of your hero.

You're right about one thing - sadly it's true that sometimes our class did and does not invariably adopt "communist" perspectives when the time is right - for instance in 1917 far too many did not reject the option of Bolshevism, Lenin and of state power. But if you want those who seriously want to help make a revolution to sleep soundly knowing that any Leninist perspective such as yours is dead and buried , there's certainly no need for you to actively organise around your politics.

I shall not bother to reply to anything further from you. You may sleep soundly knowing that. Though mumbling in your sleep as you do in all your posts implies that your sleep is not at all sound.

Red Marriott

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Red Marriott on May 22, 2020

There is no necessary "distinction between method and tactics" regarding Marx's views on this subject: he was consistent throughout his life on this. That's why your quoting him to support the opposite view is nonsense. But the problem stems from you being apparently unable to write an article with enough confidence for it to stand alone without parroted quotes from the sacred Old Masters to back it up; even when the Old Masters actually thought the opposite. Whether the opposite view is more appropriate in this time is not at issue; though your belief appears shaky if you feel the need to misrepresent the views of the Old Masters so as to enlist them as supporting evidence. But more likely it's just resort to the formulaic template for writing articles that requires a sprinkling of Bible quotes.

Method and tactics are closely interlinked (the scary dialectics!) through analysis of concrete social reality rather than upholding this or that tactic as eternal dogma.

Your simple factual inaccuracies and historical distortions have nothing to do with dialectics (except in the sense Black Badger noted above). The only thing you negate is historical truth.

As an aside, the infamous Programme of the French Workers' Party clearly states that socialism "can arise only from the revolutionary action of the productive class – or proletariat – organized in a distinct political party", not that it "could occur through parliamentary participation".

Then we have to assume that Marx included parliamentary participation as part of "revolutionary action of the productive class – or proletariat – organized in a distinct political party" as he clearly states at the start of the programme;

He proclaimed the necessity of the working classes fighting the old, decaying society in the political field and in the social field alike. The worker must one day seize political supremacy in order to establish the new organization of labour. He must overthrow the old politics sustaining the old institutions.
But we have never said that the means to arrive at these ends were identical. We do not deny that there exist countries like America, England, and, if I knew your institutions better, I would add Holland, where the workers may be able to attain their ends by peaceful means.

comradeEmma

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by comradeEmma on May 23, 2020

I said "You haven't even begun to understand." but really this is a case of not even beginning to want to understand. You are so lacking in integrity, so stuck in your 100-year-old dogma, that you pretend what I've said is a classic spontaneist ideology. Because you have only a desire to manipulate your little band of followers or would-be recruits and to lie to yourself, you feel compelled to drag out a stale ready-made accusation of spontaneism in imitation of your hero.

The issue that most of the arguments here have just been assertions and adding phrases like "You haven't even begun to understand." These comments sort of play the same role as what people are accusing the article of doing.

And if you really wanted proof of how Marx and Engels viewed the importance of parliaments and universal suffrage for the growth of the workers' movement I would check out Engels' introduction to Marx' Class Struggles in France: 1848-1850,

The Communist Manifesto had already proclaimed the winning of universal suffrage, of democracy, as one of the first and most important tasks of the militant proletariat, and Lassalle had again taken up this point. When Bismarck found himself compelled to introduce the franchise as the only means of interesting the mass of the people in his plans, our workers immediately took it in earnest and sent August Bebel to the first, constituent Reichstag. And from that day on, they have used the franchise in a way which has paid them a thousandfold and has served as a model to the workers of all countries. The franchise has been, in the words of the French Marxist program, "transformé, de moyen de deperie gu'il a été jusqu'ici, en instrument d' émancipation"—they have transformed it from a means of deception, which it was heretofore, into an instrument of emancipation. And if universal suffrage had offered no other advantage than that it allowed us to count our numbers every three years; that by the regularly established, unexpectedly rapid rise in the number of votes it increased in equal measure the workers' certainty of victory and the dismay of their opponents, and so became our best means of propaganda; that it accurately informed us concerning our own strength and that of all hostile parties, and thereby provided us with a measure of proportion for our actions second to none, safeguarding us from untimely timidity as much as from untimely foolhardiness—if this had been the only advantage we gained from the suffrage, then it would still have been more than enough.
[...]
With this successful utilization of universal suffrage, an entirely new mode of proletarian struggle came into force, and this quickly developed further. It was found that the state institutions, in which the rule of the bourgeoisie is organized, offer still further opportunities for the working class to fight these very state institutions. They took part in elections to individual diets, to municipal councils and to industrial courts; they contested every post against the bourgeoisie in the occupation of which a sufficient part of the proletariat had its say. And so it happened that the bourgeoisie and the government came to be much more afraid of the legal than of the illegal action of the workers' party, of the results of elections than of those of rebellion.

BigFluffyTail

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by BigFluffyTail on May 23, 2020

As he said to the IWMA in 1871, against the anarchists;

That's true but for that matter Bakunin was inconsistent. He was an abstentionist and believed that socialism could not be achieved through parliamentary means. Yet he was okay with his friends being elected in Italy, on the argument that they were too principled and would not be corrupted and that circumstances had changed. See his letter to Gambuzzi on the 16th of February 1870. In another letter, to Celso Cerretti in 1872, he tells his companions in Italy to collaborate with bourgeois parties (the Mazzinists specifically), given the circumstances there. In the letter he also says anarchists should form an active and powerful party. For the 1876 elections in France, Bakunin pronounced himself in favor of the republican party, accusing the opposing parties of not even being true parties. The fact is both he and Marx took into consideration the circumstances in different countries in their time. That doesn't make them irrelevant when discussing these issues.

Dyjbas

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Dyjbas on May 23, 2020

Red Marriott

Then we have to assume that Marx included parliamentary participation as part of "revolutionary action of the productive class – or proletariat – organized in a distinct political party" as he clearly states at the start of the programme

Talking about factual inaccuracies, that "peaceful means" quote doesn't appear at the start of the 1880 French Programme - it comes from an 1872 speech, the context of which may be somewhat relevant to Nymphalis's anti-political musings (as if they're not 100+ year old dogma...).

Agreed with comradeEmma that "most of the arguments here have just been assertions", written under the expectation that we cannot draw on Marx and Lenin unless we parrot everything they may thought at one point or another (without taking into considerations that even their views on tactics changed over time adapting to changing circumstances).

Red Marriott

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Red Marriott on May 23, 2020

Yes, I got the quotes mixed up, but the consistency in Marx's views means it hardly matters whether it's from 1872 or 1880;
Marx 1880

... collective appropriation can arise only from the revolutionary action of the productive class – or proletariat - organized in a distinct political party;

That a such an organization must be pursued by all the means the proletariat has at its disposal including universal suffrage which will thus be transformed from the instrument of deception that it has been until now into an instrument of emancipation;

The French socialist workers, in adopting as the aim of their efforts the political and economic expropriation of the capitalist class and the return to community of all the means of production, have decided, as a means of organization and struggle, to enter the elections... https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/05/parti-ouvrier.htm

BFT

That's true but for that matter Bakunin was inconsistent.

It may be more in your comfort zone to reduce this to a Marx v Bakunin match but that is irrelevant to the point I'm making; which is that Marx's & Lenin's views were opposite to the view the article defends. So to use their quotes as if they back up such views is dishonest and misleading and to give a false impression of their views. Even an honest Marxist could easily point that out.

The same dishonest ICT revisionism on a similar theme was exposed in comments here;
http://libcom.org/blog/founding-comintern-then-now-03032019
What was said there applies equally here;

This article serves only to try to legitimate and preserve in aspic the supposed purity of the Bolshevik ancestry/pedigree left communists are absurdly obsessed with protecting. Its deliberate omissions and evasions are far more revealing than the article itself.

slothjabber

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by slothjabber on May 23, 2020

I really don't understand some of the argumentation here.

First there is an anti-organisational argument. I have never understood this. I don't think on this matter there's a difference between a group like the CWO, and a group like the ACG or the AF. What is the alternative to communists organising with other communists? Are those of us who believe in collective action supposed to refuse to act collectively with people who agree with us? What is the point of being a communist if not to try and convince other workers that the overthrow of the capitalist order, and the creation of a new society, is in the interests of humanity as a whole, and that only the working class has the power to do this? Is such an endeavour not best pursued collectively? I am genuinely mystified by this.

On the question of whether Marx and Lenin should be treated as all-knowing sacred progenitors whose holy doctrine we have received, of course they should not be. Marx wrote a lot of things that make sense, but conditions have changed a lot since he was writing. Some of what he wrote no longer applies. Some of what he wrote is probably more applicable to today than when he was writing, because a lot of the time he was writing about continuing historical processes. But everything should be approached critically. Do we think it's possible today for the working class to vote in a socialist society in Britain or the USA or the Netherlands? No. Do we think Marx was wrong about it in 1872? It didn't happen, so that would suggest that he might have been wrong. But whether he was wrong or not to consider it possible (or even to think that in the C19th it was possible to use parliament in any way to advance the interests of the working class), we think that conditions now are such that there is no possibility of a 'parliamentary road to socialism' or even meaningful amelioration of the plight of the working class through the state.

Lenin is much more problematic than Marx. Some of what he wrote was correct, some of it was wrong. Some of what he did was absolutely horrendous. The Bolsheviks, fused with the state, were the vehicle for the counter-revolution in the Soviet Republic. But dismissing everything that the Bolsheviks did is as misguided as praising everything the Bolsheviks did. At best, they were attempting to help the working class in Russia and throughout the world to destroy capitalism. At worst, they were viciously repressing the working class in Russia in the utterly mistaken belief that their own power inside the state represented some sort of gain for the workers of the world. We can take both some positive and many negative lessons from the events of the revolution in Russia, its failure to spread, and its overwhelming by the counter-revolution. One of the most important, against Lenin, is that it is not the task of an organisation of revolutionaries to assume state power. Another absolutely fundamental point, with Lenin, is that the working class must actually overthrow the state power of the bourgeoisie, however it is organised. We think that both "the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves" and "All power to the soviets!" actually mean what they appear to mean, and are both valid political expressions of the real movement of the working class towards the abolition of the existing state of things. We think that - at best - both Marx's work, and the organisation and political work of the Bolshevik Party expressed the needs of the working class, and we're trying to be a continuation of that work, because we think it's important.

Spikymike

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on May 23, 2020

Communist 'propaganda' has a useful role and needs a collective effort to produce and distribute. The problem with many of the small communist political organisations who post here (and others that don't) is that they tend in varying degrees to prioritise 'ideology over movement' in there competition with each other (and with the Left), rather than contributing alongside others, whether in similar groups or none, to the practical development of the class struggle in undermining capitalism. Having a sound theoretical analysis of the fault lines in capitalism and the necessity of communism is important but doesn't necessarily equip members of these small groups more than others to be effective in leading/moving that struggle in a communist direction. What we do is often more important than what we communists say!

sherbu-kteer

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by sherbu-kteer on May 24, 2020

BigFluffyTail

As he said to the IWMA in 1871, against the anarchists;

That's true but for that matter Bakunin was inconsistent. He was an abstentionist and believed that socialism could not be achieved through parliamentary means. Yet he was okay with his friends being elected in Italy, on the argument that they were too principled and would not be corrupted and that circumstances had changed. See his letter to Gambuzzi on the 16th of February 1870. In another letter, to Celso Cerretti in 1872, he tells his companions in Italy to collaborate with bourgeois parties (the Mazzinists specifically), given the circumstances there. In the letter he also says anarchists should form an active and powerful party. For the 1876 elections in France, Bakunin pronounced himself in favor of the republican party, accusing the opposing parties of not even being true parties. The fact is both he and Marx took into consideration the circumstances in different countries in their time. That doesn't make them irrelevant when discussing these issues.

It's correct Bakunin advised his friends at one point to try and get elected. However I've read the March '72 letter to Ceretti and saying it is an instruction to collaborate with the Mazzinians is misleading -- he's writing it on the occasion of Mazzini's death, the bulk of it being criticism of Mazzini. There is a section where he says the Mazzinians will fracture, and that some of them will wish to join with the internationalists, but he warns that they must be careful:

No doubt you will receive them with fraternal feelings, but have a care, do not allow them to overwhelm you, and do not let them introduce their small political passions, or their deceiving and authoritarian ambitions into your compact body. Open doors wide to them, but receive them only on the condition that they accept honestly the entire programme of the IWMA.

There's a bit in there about Spanish socialists collaborating with liberals in the Spanish revolution of 1868 but it's vague on details.

Where did you get the info on Bakunin endorsing the republicans in 1876? I'm interested in reading more on that

R Totale

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by R Totale on May 24, 2020

slothjabber

I really don't understand some of the argumentation here.

First there is an anti-organisational argument. I have never understood this. I don't think on this matter there's a difference between a group like the CWO, and a group like the ACG or the AF. What is the alternative to communists organising with other communists? Are those of us who believe in collective action supposed to refuse to act collectively with people who agree with us? What is the point of being a communist if not to try and convince other workers that the overthrow of the capitalist order, and the creation of a new society, is in the interests of humanity as a whole, and that only the working class has the power to do this? Is such an endeavour not best pursued collectively? I am genuinely mystified by this.

It's not really my argument to make (I suppose at this stage I don't really consider myself pro- or anti-organisational), but I think that someone coming from that perspective might agree with you about not seeing too much difference between the CWO, ACG, AF or whoever. I don't think anyone except for the very daftest would oppose communists organising with other communists or say that we should refuse to act collectively with people who agree with us, I think the point that remains an open question is how far the formation of formal membership organisations with acronyms, programs and all the rest of is the best way to pursue those goals.
Actually, thinking about it there's a very simple analogy here, one that should be clear enough to leftcoms at the least, which is that people can be anti-union - indeed, I'm sure several people on this thread are - but that doesn't mean they oppose the idea of workers organising collectively in the workplace.

BigFluffyTail

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by BigFluffyTail on May 24, 2020

It may be more in your comfort zone to reduce this to a Marx v Bakunin match

But uh... that's not what I did. Just because Marx thought parliamentary tactics could be used doesn't mean he didn't also think bourgeois democracy was a sham. My point was that in that case you could argue the same for Bakunin, in hopes of showing how ridiculous that line of thought is.

Sherbu, it's not misleading (in any case, it wasn't meant to be). He says they have a common enemy and should temporarily collaborate, all while being wary of them. The circumstances being Mazzini's death but more importantly the wave of counter-revolution following the crushing of the Paris Commune.

For 1876 I certainly remember reading it but cannot for the life of me find where. It doesn't help my searches that he died later that year. I don't remember it being full support. I remember him estimating the republicans would win and that that's the better outcome, to have a republican and democratic state. It's mentioned here (french) but this isn't what I originally read:

https://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Lettres_à_Herzen_et_Ogareff/À_R-s_(21-10-1874)

Edit: Had some problems with url because of the accents.

Red Marriott

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Red Marriott on May 24, 2020

BFT

Just because Marx thought parliamentary tactics could be used doesn't mean he didn't also think bourgeois democracy was a sham. My point was that in that case you could argue the same for Bakunin, in hopes of showing how ridiculous that line of thought is.

Whether or not Marx believed bourgeois democracy a sham is beside the point – which, for the 10,000th time, is that he and Lenin did consistently advocate the use of it, contrary to the impression given by the article’s use of their quotes.

But I think the M&E quotes above clearly show more than that, that Marx & Engels actually thought socialism could in some countries be achieved via parliament - 'from a deception turned into a vehicle of emancipation' etc. (So perhaps the SPGB really are the most consistent marxists, fwiw :) ) While, if your interpretation is right, Bakunin may have been hypocritical/contradictory in his private letters, unlike M&E he didn’t consistently advocate parliamentarism as a central goal of the working class movement, quite the opposite.

comradeEmma

4 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by comradeEmma on May 25, 2020

I am actually pretty confused about what Bakunin's stance on things actually were, he was also on the burial ceremony organization committee for Ferdinand Lassalle.

(So perhaps the SPGB really are the most consistent marxists, fwiw smile )

The neo-kautskyists are the most consistent marxists.

Do we think it's possible today for the working class to vote in a socialist society in Britain or the USA or the Netherlands? No. Do we think Marx was wrong about it in 1872? It didn't happen, so that would suggest that he might have been wrong. But whether he was wrong or not to consider it possible (or even to think that in the C19th it was possible to use parliament in any way to advance the interests of the working class), we think that conditions now are such that there is no possibility of a 'parliamentary road to socialism' or even meaningful amelioration of the plight of the working class through the state.

I think it is important to remember what Marx actually meant with this. The lesson from the Paris Commune was that the capitalist state apparatus had to be smashed, and the state apparatus was for Marx the military and the state bureaucracy. His reasoning was based on the military-bureaucracy organisation not being strong enough in these places to become an issue if the state apparatus was seized a democratic road to socialism but this was of course never the case, especially not for a place like the UK.

sherbu-kteer

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by sherbu-kteer on May 25, 2020

I'd never heard of Bakunin being on Lassalle's burial committee (if you have a source I would appreciate it) but he was not shy about speaking positively about people he otherwise seemed to hate politically, eg the letter to Ceretti about Mazzini contains thousands of words about how awful he is but it's also got the most effusive praise: "one of the greatest Italian personalities", "intelligent, eminent, ardent of heart, indomitable of spirit, constant in his dedication, sublime", etc. Same with Marx -- lots of stuff about how awful he is, including the anti-semitism, but also unabashed praise about his works, including compliments about Capital being the scientifically motivated death sentence of the bourgeoisie, the only criticism being that it was too difficult for ordinary workers to read.

Besides this personality trait, his conception of the IWMA was that it should encompass the working class in general, a de facto "big tent". As long as you agreed with the programme, you should be welcomed; you can preach whatever political beliefs you want to preach so long as you do not impose them onto the organisation and its members. The documents that really show this have only been translated into English recently and they're not as well read as the denunciations of Marx, Lassalle, Mazzini, etc., at least not in English.

The unity of the International is founded not on uniformity of an official theory, nor on one single orthodox dogma as in the Church of Mazzini. It is founded only on the commonality of misery, economic servitude, needs, instincts, and the current aspirations of the proletariat of all lands on the one hand, and [on the other hand] on perfectly free organisation, from bottom to top, rather than top to bottom, through the course of its spontaneous federation, across frontiers, of communes, regions, States -- of its practical international solidarity.

comradeEmma

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by comradeEmma on May 25, 2020

Georg Brandes mentions it briefly in Ferdinand Lassalle.

Red Marriott

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Red Marriott on May 25, 2020

Engels 1886

Surely, at such a moment, the voice ought to be heard of a man [Marx] whose whole theory is the result of a lifelong study of the economic history and condition of England, and whom that study led to the conclusion that, at least in Europe, England is the only country where the inevitable social revolution might be effected entirely by peaceful and legal means. He certainly never forgot to add that he hardly expected the English ruling classes to submit, without a “pro-slavery rebellion,” to this peaceful and legal revolution. (Engels – Preface to English edition of Capital, 1886.)
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Capital-Volume-I.pdf

In fact Marx had even more optimistically stated in 1872;

that there exist countries like America, England, and, if I knew your institutions better, I would add Holland, where the workers may be able to attain their ends by peaceful means.

So this thread contains quotes from M&E from 1840s-1880s showing their consistent belief in parliamentary representation as a possible path of revolutionary change.

The growth of fake political history falsified for petty ideological ends, as we see in this ICT article above, is not exclusive to marxists. Some anarchist revisionist ‘historians’ have been at it too, eg; http://libcom.org/forums/history/ren-berthiers-comments-black-flame-31052019

It’s ironic that the self-appointed anarchist & marxist guardians of the consciousness and history of the working class should produce such unreliable fake accounts of it.

comradeEmma

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by comradeEmma on May 25, 2020

I for one embrace their belief in parliamentary representation, universal suffrage and the struggle for democracy in general. The working-class is, as Lenin wrote, the most consistently democratic class.

This quote from Engels' A Critique of the Draft Social-Democratic Program of 1891 is also worth mentioning up:

If one thing is certain it is that our party and the working class can only come to power under the form of a democratic republic. This is even the specific form for the dictatorship of the proletariat, as the Great French Revolution has already shown. It would be inconceivable for our best people to become ministers under an emperor, as Miquel. It would seem that from a legal point of view it is inadvisable to include the demand for a republic directly in the programme, although this was possible even under Louis Phillippe in France, and is now in Italy. But the fact that in Germany it is not permitted to advance even a republican party programme openly, proves how totally mistaken is the belief that a republic, and not only a republic, but also communist society, can be established in a cosy, peaceful way.

Red Marriott

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Red Marriott on May 25, 2020

cadre emma

I for one embrace their belief in parliamentary representation, universal suffrage and the struggle for democracy in general. The working-class is, as Lenin wrote, the most consistently democratic class.

Well, just for clarity, I don't.
And, as for Lenin's notions of democracy, tell that to Miasnikov and to the Kronstadt sailors.

Black Badger

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Black Badger on May 25, 2020

I for one embrace their belief in parliamentary representation, universal suffrage and the struggle for democracy in general.

critical fail alert!

Dyjbas

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Dyjbas on May 25, 2020

Red Marriott, the Communist Left generally doesn't reject electoral participation out of principle. Like for Marx and Lenin, it's a tactical question dependent on time and place. And like slothjabber said, it's one discussion whether it was an adequate tactic back in 1871 or 1920, and another whether it's adequate today. For us, even as a means of propaganda, electoral participation today is "not only tactically pointless but strategically helps to legitimise the system."

In fact, Miasnikov, whom you are so fond of referencing to back up your arguments, would not agree with you or anarchist positions either, as he likewise never rejected electoral participation out of principle. He argued instead that "all the workers’ communist parties must take part [...] in parliamentary elections [...] until the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies have been organised, after which point all focus should be shifted to the Soviets." So maybe don't be so quick in accusing others of "fake political history falsified for petty ideological ends".

comradeEmma

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by comradeEmma on May 26, 2020

Didn't Marx explicitly argue against the notion that partaking in democracy would help legitimize the state?

He writes this (sarcastically) in Political Indifferentism:

“The working class must not constitute itself a political party; it must not, under any pretext, engage in political action, for to combat the state is to recognize the state: and this is contrary to eternal principles. Workers must not go on strike; for to struggle to increase one's wages or to prevent their decrease is like recognizing wages: and this is contrary to the eternal principles of the emancipation of the working class!

“If in the political struggle against the bourgeois state the workers succeed only in extracting concessions, then they are guilty of compromise; and this is contrary to eternal principles. All peaceful movements, such as those in which English and American workers have the bad habit of engaging, are therefore to be despised. Workers must not struggle to establish a legal limit to the working day, because this is to compromise with the masters, who can then only exploit them for ten or twelve hours, instead of fourteen or sixteen. They must not even exert themselves in order legally to prohibit the employment in factories of children under the age of ten, because by such means they do not bring to an end the exploitation of children over ten: they thus commit a new compromise, which stains the purity of the eternal principles.

I feel like no one has yet to point out what actually is different from 1920 and 1948(when that article was written) or today that justifies abandoning all electoral tactics(I am assuming both local and national elections are rejected). Just like Lenin wrote: the parliaments have not become irrelevant yet as the working masses still go to vote and engage in electoral politics.

Spikymike

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on May 26, 2020

To the extent that Marx and Engels considered it was potentially possible in their time to attain communist revolutionary aims (rather than just favourable reforms) directly through the use of the English and Dutch parliamentary systems they were hopelessly optimistic and proved wrong. There understanding of what preliminary measures were necessary to help build independent working class organisation and practice in preparation for a direct assault on capitalism and capitalist states were open to question then but either way are certainly not relevant today. Genuine communists, whether of a Marxist or anarchist tendency today do not need to justify their anti-parliamentary, anti-reformist strategy by reference to key historical figures operating in significantly different capitalist or pre-capitalist circumstances.

Dyjbas

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Dyjbas on May 26, 2020

comradeEmma

I feel like no one has yet to point out what actually is different from 1920 and 1948(when that article was written) or today that justifies abandoning all electoral tactics(I am assuming both local and national elections are rejected). Just like Lenin wrote: the parliaments have not become irrelevant yet as the working masses still go to vote and engage in electoral politics.

There is a couple of reasons why electoral tactics might be no longer considered viable. One is the evolution of the state since the early 20th century after capitalism has entered its imperialist (or decadent) phase. Or as Lenin put it in State and Revolution "the unprecedented growth in its bureaucratic and military apparatus" makes Marx's suggestion that revolution can be achieved through parliamantary means in places like Britain and America "no longer valid".

Secondly, as the article on the 1948 Italian election says, the "increasing domination of the capitalist media over the political system" makes electoral participation even for propaganda means a futile exercise, particularly for the tiny communist groups that exist today. Furthermore, voter turnout in "democratic" countries has been generally decreasing for the past few decades, more and more working class people now instinctively recognise "democracy" to be a sham without the need for communists to tell them so. Going against this trend would be counter-productive.

comradeEmma

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by comradeEmma on May 26, 2020

Secondly, as the article on the 1948 Italian election says, the "increasing domination of the capitalist media over the political system" makes electoral participation even for propaganda means a futile exercise, particularly for the tiny communist groups that exist today. Furthermore, voter turnout in "democratic" countries has been generally decreasing for the past few decades, more and more working class people now instinctively recognise "democracy" to be a sham without the need for communists to tell them so. Going against this trend would be counter-productive.

In the US I might tend to agree that socialists should reject the general election since it is pretty much impossible and only 53% vote either way. But in a place like Sweden you still have 87% voter turn out. Is it really impossible to use elections, both national and local in such a case for agitation? In general election campaigns means an upsurge in young workers and students joining up.

Red Marriott

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Red Marriott on May 26, 2020

Dyjbas

In fact, Miasnikov, whom you are so fond of referencing to back up your arguments, would not agree with you or anarchist positions either, as he likewise never rejected electoral participation out of principle. He argued instead that "all the workers’ communist parties must take part [...] in parliamentary elections [...] until the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies have been organised, after which point all focus should be shifted to the Soviets." So maybe don't be so quick in accusing others of "fake political history falsified for petty ideological ends".

Unlike you, I haven’t misused quotes by Miasnikov to try to back up views that are the opposite of what he thought: so there is no falsification of anything. No need to judge me by your own poor standards.

Within a discussion on the usefulness of democracy, where our pet Leninist Emma cited Lenin as an advocate of workers democracy I referenced what happened to Miasnikov under Lenin & his Party from 1920 on; slandered, kicked out of the Party, harassed by the Cheka, jailed and sent into exile. All for merely publicly criticising the repressive anti-working class policies of Lenin and the new ruling bureaucratic class of Bolshevism. Miasnikov was a veteran working class Bolshevik who stood up for working class freedoms and was silenced by his Party for doing so; so obviously a relevant reference in such a discussion. (And an awkward one for your own revisionism.)

Whether Miasnikov would agree with all my views is irrelevant to that point – unlike you, I don’t have ideological gods/sacred ancestors I have to pretend I’m always 110% in agreement with. But your Miasnikov quote is anyway not very relevant to my point as it’s from 1930, long after Lenin’s death; and it’s about the unlikely possibility of communist parties participating in elections in 20th C Stalinist USSR - while we’ve been debating bourgeois democracy in 19th C Western Europe.

R Totale

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by R Totale on May 26, 2020

comradeEmma

I feel like no one has yet to point out what actually is different from 1920 and 1948(when that article was written) or today that justifies abandoning all electoral tactics(I am assuming both local and national elections are rejected). Just like Lenin wrote: the parliaments have not become irrelevant yet as the working masses still go to vote and engage in electoral politics.

I mean, I'm not conviced that the electoralists were right in 1920 or 1848 either, but being deliberately charitable to the electoral argument, I can see how someone might look at Lenin writing in 1920 that:

far from causing harm to the revolutionary proletariat, participation in a bourgeois-democratic parliament..., actually helps that proletariat to prove to the backward masses why such parliaments deserve to be done away with; it facilitates their successful dissolution, and helps to make bourgeois parliamentarianism “politically obsolete”.

And think "hmmm, that's an argument that hasn't really been fully tested out in practice yet, so I can see how it could well prove to be true". But in 2020, we have the benefit of a whole extra century's experience of the British Road to Socialism, 20th-Century Americanism, historic compromises and all the rest of it, and yet somehow all this parlimentary participation has not yet led to the dissolution of such parliaments. Almost as if the original analysis was wrong.

Dyjbas

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Dyjbas on May 26, 2020

ComradeEmma, I think for Sweden, despite higher voter turnouts, the "domination of the capitalist media over the political system" likewise makes it a futile exercise. And if you look at the SPGB, one of the few parties which still goes into elections agitating for "real socialism", it's clearly not the case that doing so "means an upsurge in young workers and students joining up", today more often than not it's a waste of resources to little effect.

Red Marriott, so when you refer to a figure from the past it's under the condition that you "don’t have ideological gods/sacred ancestors". But when we refer to a figure from the past it's because we do? Get a grip.

Spikymike

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on May 26, 2020

Unfortunately we have a good deal more than just the regular capitalist media against us - there is the rest of the reformist, trade unionist, educational, commercial and psychological apparatus of the capitalist social and economic structure of our everyday lives which is difficult to escape from outside of exceptional crisis conditions. The spgb claims good propaganda results by it's standards from it's participation in elections but few net gains in members and probably no more benefits than other anti-parliamentary groups active during elections without standing candidates of their own or supporting others.

Dyjbas

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Dyjbas on May 26, 2020

Indeed Spikymike.

Red Marriott

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Red Marriott on May 26, 2020

Red Marriott, so when you refer to a figure from the past it's under the condition that you "don’t have ideological gods/sacred ancestors". But when we refer to a figure from the past it's because we do? Get a grip.

The problem is your failure to get a grip on historical accuracy. You can hardly write an article without using quotes from your gods to back up your positions – even when you have to distort their views to do so. If you had the sense and independence of thought you could’ve just stated your views without resorting to that trickery. Your dishonesty has been shown in this article and the Comintern one linked to earlier. The criticism is not in referring to historical figures but how you do it - your misuse of their views and your convenient omissions.

You want to use such distortions to promote your supposed Papal Infallibility – and to show your views as always in accordance with your gods, even when your scriptures show they’re blatantly opposite.

Cleishbotham

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Cleishbotham on May 26, 2020

I don't think anyone who has been as cavalier about dates and opinions throughout this thread is in a great position to claim to be a defender of historical accuracy. We have no gods but critically relate to various thinkers in the Marxists (and sometimes anarchist) tradition. But most of these thinkers views were historically conditioned. The Lenin of 1914-18 (sometimes described as the "libertarian Lenin") was not the the man of the state Lenin of 1918-24. Marx lived in a different historical epoch but we think his Communist Manifesto a great contribution to proletarian emancipation (whilst at the same time rejecting the programme at the end, as Marx later did after seeing the Paris Commune). There is a tendency in this thread to take absolutist positions to portray these people as if they were entirely consistent. And the whole issue about "gods" takes us away from the issue of the article which Slothjabber tried to take us back to many posts ago. Can the proletariat arrive at political emancipation without organising politically. We know the political organisation cannot "make the revolution" - that is the task of the whole class but it can give certain pointers and it can disabuse the wider class of the false roads offered by Trotskyism, Maoism and Stalinism. The political organisation is certainly not a government in waiting - that we know from history.

Red Marriott

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Red Marriott on May 26, 2020

Cleishbottom

I don't think anyone who has been as cavalier about dates and opinions throughout this thread is in a great position to claim to be a defender of historical accuracy.

More desperate distortion, I mixed up one quote and quickly corrected it, that's all. Cleishbottom, meanwhile has great form on historical distortion - in a now-familiar pattern from the ICT, see here his false claims about the Makhnovists; http://libcom.org/forums/history-culture/suggested-reading-lenin-1917-revolutions-22112009?page=1

comradeEmma

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by comradeEmma on May 26, 2020

ComradeEmma, I think for Sweden, despite higher voter turnouts, the "domination of the capitalist media over the political system" likewise makes it a futile exercise.

Is this not true in every facet of society? It does not matter if you are in the workplace or in an electoral campaign: the capitalists economic power over media is always present. As Lenin wrote: bourgeois ideology is always the most "spontaneously" influential ideology. I don't think SPGB is a fair example because their strategy is what is wrong, not their tactics. They view the electoral struggle as the only way to change society and political education as the "the party mode of activity".

Even in Sweden we still have some examples of socialists and internationalists making "waves" in politics and in the trade union movement over all. One of the more recent cases was a party that start in the 90's that was called Arbetarlistan(roughly Workers List) that had the initial composition of trade union activists, dissident social-democrats, trotskyists and old communists. Their focus was both electoral, a working-class alternative to the "neo-liberalized" Social-Democrats and an alternative to the reformist and middle-class Left Party, and in the trade unions where a lot of their members were important oppositionists against class-collaborationist leadership and members were on opposition lists in workplace clubs at large factories like those of Volvo. In the short life of Arbetarlistan they managed to get so high up in the polls that if there had been an election at the time they would have gotten seats in Parliament and they would undoubtedly have gotten local seats. This party was of course not perfect but it was in its process of building a real program before collapsing under infighting. But it shows that if you fight in the right places, if you turn towards the workplaces, you can get a much larger say on a nation-wide scale.

I would also be curious if you uphold this line for local elections. On a local level it is much easier through grass-roots politics to sway out-comes and reach people.

The Lenin of 1914-18 (sometimes described as the "libertarian Lenin") was not the the man of the state Lenin of 1918-24.

I don't think you can really describe Lenin in that period as libertarian. He most surely took a more revolutionary turn and revitalization of internationalism but his view of the party or its role did not change.

R Totale

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by R Totale on May 26, 2020

On electoralism, I think this is worth a read: https://libcom.org/blog/labour-defeat-thoughts-democratic-socialism-21122019

This bit is crucial, imo:

Democratic socialist strategies are based on the assumption that the state stands above 'capitalism' and could intervene in it as a politically neutral form... The state appears as a neutral force that is only there to look after law and order and the wider organisation of society. But law and order means primarily that the property relations which are the material basis for the exploitation of the working class are maintained. By making us citizens the state disarms us as a collective class force. State politics separate the sphere of social production from the sphere of social decision-making - we are supposed to produce the world, but apart from casting a vote every four years have no say in how the world is run...

There is also a misunderstanding of parliamentarianism: just because a political party is composed by workers doesn't make party politics and the parliament a form of working class politics. Parliamentarianism is the exact opposite of working class politics, as it is based on individual citizenship, not on collective and practical relations. This is true for national parliamentarism as much as for the ‘parliamentarianism light’ in the form of ‘radical municipalism’ (campaigning for independent candidates in local elections) that some activists propose.

comradeEmma

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by comradeEmma on May 26, 2020

Food for thought from Kautsky,

The power of the proletariat lies in its great number, in its mass. United in masses, it deploys its greatest self consciousness. Isolated the worker feels weaker, is more easily influenced. To the voting booth however he goes as a loner. Here it is much easier to intimidate or bribe him than it is in a mass action, if there is no membership of a strong organisation to lend him moral backbone or empower him.

https://libcom.org/library/action-mass-karl-kautsky

Dyjbas

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Dyjbas on May 26, 2020

Thanks for bringing up that thread from 2009 (!) Red Marriott. Looks like, unlike communist tactics, some things never change:

Alf

I don't have time to trawl through this thread again in search of exact formulations. But I am certainly familiar with Ret Marut's [Red Marriott] method of using the least turn of phrase, often posted in haste, to impute malicious and dishonest intentions. [...] The effect of all this is far more pernicious than straightforward flaming.

ComradeEmma, to answer your question, national or local level elections makes little difference in this regard. I'm not sure Arbetarlistan is a fair example either, seems to me to have been a leftist formation that did not stand on an anti-parliamentary and communist platform.

Red Marriott

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Red Marriott on May 26, 2020

Thanks for bringing up that thread from 2009 (!) Red Marriott. Looks like, unlike communist tactics, some things never change:

Alf wrote:

I don't have time to trawl through this thread again in search of exact formulations. But I am certainly familiar with Ret Marut's [Red Marriott] method of using the least turn of phrase, often posted in haste, to impute malicious and dishonest intentions. [...] The effect of all this is far more pernicious than straightforward flaming.

Looks more like the ICT's misuse of history doesn't change. Regardless of what Alf assumed - without him bothering to read the thread - anyone who does read the thread will see Cleishbottom was caught out using as reference an obscure academic book on the Makhnovists to try to prove the exact opposite of what it actually said. Sound familiar? Unfortunately for him I had a copy of the book to check the reference.

If you don’t have enough confidence in your beliefs without falsifying historical facts you have a problem. If you don’t see that as a problem you have a bigger problem. The only ones you’ll be fooling are the ignorant and servile – and yourselves.

comradeEmma

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by comradeEmma on May 27, 2020

I'm not sure Arbetarlistan is a fair example either, seems to me to have been a leftist formation that did not stand on an anti-parliamentary and communist platform

It was not "anti-parliamentary and communist" but it is still an interesting case study of an independent working-class party-formation managing to challenge Social-democracy, both in the arena of elections and in the workplace. It shows that the way we fight and agitate as socialists is fundamentally different from the way that capitalist parties advertise.

Old Mole

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Old Mole on May 27, 2020

Eternal moral truths fail to recognise changing historical/material circumstances. The working class developed out of the crumbling feudal order, became the universal exploited class as capitalism became the dominant mode of production. Tactics which were legitimate for the working class whilst it was building up its strength and consciousness became weapons against us in the 20th century, particularly trade unions and also parliamentarism. The working class can never exercise power through parliament or unions and neither are they a step on the way towards the overthrow of capitalism.

Cleishbotham

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Cleishbotham on May 27, 2020

Red Marriott

Cleishbottom

I don't think anyone who has been as cavalier about dates and opinions throughout this thread is in a great position to claim to be a defender of historical accuracy.

More desperate distortion, I mixed up one quote and quickly corrected it, that's all. Cleishbottom, meanwhile has great form on historical distortion - in a now-familiar pattern from the ICT, see here his false claims about the Makhnovists; http://libcom.org/forums/history-culture/suggested-reading-lenin-1917-revolutions-22112009?page=1

The desperate distortion seems to be coming from one who continually diverts the discussion away from the issue - does the working class need a political organisation? - to accusing everyone else of bad faith or bringing up past and irrelevant discussions (the discussion on Makhno was me asking you questions based on the only two sources I had read at the time but you, in the ridiculous and aggressive manner you use, chose to interpret the questions as answers). Ironically since you raise the issue, Makhno himself (or so I have read!) concluded that one of the failures of the anarchists in Russia was their failure to organise politically. He was thus part of the Platformist project. We, like the Platformists hold that the political "vanguard" can lead politically (and oppose the pretensions of the capitalist left) but cannot rule or even create the new society since communism can only be built by the active participation of the mass of the class and not as passive followers of some "conoscenti" leaders. For us this means that soviets/ councils or whatever the working class comes up with, will rule whilst the international communists (and anyone else who agrees) will concentrate on spreading world revolution. I would like to hear where people stand on that issue.

Red Marriott

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Red Marriott on May 27, 2020

Still denying your dishonesty and yet you claim to want a rational discussion - a logical fail. Anyone can read the Makhno thread and see the exposed dishonesty and your continued attempt to mask it here. Just as you did there, you demand that the historical distortion is glossed over and ignored and that we discuss things on your terms. But your terms are historically false, based on distortion of facts (as shown on the Makhno & Comintern threads and here above), making it impossible for rational discussion to even begin.

Your self-delusion is amazing and your disinterest in correcting it evidence of a crippling ideological conformity (but that's a common symptom of bolshevism). Either that or your deliberate attempts to falsify are so incompetent as to be insulting to your readers' intelligence. Or both.

Cleishbotham

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Cleishbotham on May 29, 2020

I don't think yo even honestly enter into our terms of the discussion. For us the Russian Revolution failed despite the fact that at the time there were many people who understood where the revolution was going unless it changed course. Some of these were in the Bolshevik Party some were anarchists. The weight of the counter-revolution has been so tremendous since that it has made it difficult for the working class to pick up the pieces. You dont respond to what I said about Makhno's organisational conclusions (which is after all the issue raised here at the top of the thread) but continue to blare that anyone who disagrees with you is dishonest. You have tried to portray on this thread that Marx was just a social democrat and someone earlier said that it sounded like the SPGB but we have debated many times with the SPGB over the years, We recognise that they understand what socialism is, a classless, stateless society (and not a state capitalist one). Some of these polemics have been quite sharp but we have never accused them of being dishonest despite the different interpretation they give to Marx's writings. I don't think they have been any different towards us. We are travelling in the same direction even if we are still in separate vehicles. The ridiculous posturing of your method of argument only stems from the fact that you a) erroneously think we think all we need to do is repeat the Bolshevik experience (as our ancestors were also victims of that experience it is difficult to comprehend such a position) and b) resent the fact that the libcom collective invited us to have a blog here at all. There is only one kind of communism and it is libertarian in essence and as we have said many times, including in this thread, it can only be established by the mass of the class, not by a political minority whatever role they play in the class war leading to a proletarian revival. The issue which remains in front of us with a capitalist system in visible decline, and a lack of widespread working class response, is do we need to regroup workers internationally in an organisation or not? We think the former as the alternative seems to be at best fragmented resistance. If you have anything positive to offer on this we would sincerely like to hear.

Red Marriott

3 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Red Marriott on May 29, 2020

I don't think yo even honestly enter into our terms of the discussion.

There you go again, demanding everything on your terms. If your presentation is factually inaccurate, as has been repeatedly shown, that isn't possible. But I never suggested I did want to debate that with you.

You have tried to portray on this thread that Marx was just a social democrat

Can't you honestly describe anything? I haven't - I portrayed accurately Marx's consistent view on Parliamentary activity for the working class movement - because the article failed to mention it and suggested otherwise. But I never said that was all there was to be said of Marx. But your inaccurate description of my comments is probably indicative of a reason why the article misrepresented Marx's actual views; it's you, not me, who doesn't want to admit the complexity of Marx - as that's not suffciently simplistic for your preferred group ideology. And when others point out the true complexities of what you oversimplify, misrepresent or omit you can't handle it and have your tantrums. Even though you can't refute the factual truths.

As I said earlier, you could've written the article to make your anti-parliamentary point without the misleading impression given by intermingling 'supporting' quotes from someone who had the opposite view. What is insulting to the intelligence is you repeatedly think you can get away with this historical nonsense here, as also seen, eg, on the Comintern whitewash article; not only pro-leninist dogma while desperately trying to tout it as part of 'libertarian communism' but also leninist-style revisionism. Sorry, we're not that dumb. But nobody's stopping you having any debate you want.

Btw, if you want people to engage with you try using paragraphs.

Spikymike

3 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on May 30, 2020

Red may, in their usual persistent and forensic way, have won their argument in this case over the potentially misleading use of selective quotes from Marx and Lenin in the original opening text from the ICT/CWO, but the rest of the substantive issues regarding working class organisation and the role of political parties, useful or otherwise, is still open for discussion both on this thread and more generally on this site. The rest of us can make up our own minds on questions of 'honesty and dishonesty' in this little spat now presumably.

Dyjbas

3 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Dyjbas on May 31, 2020

I'm not sure what's misleading about referring to Marx and Lenin's analysis of the state. Particularly since the article is not about how their attitude towards parliamentary methods evolved over time, but what kind of organisation we need today (the specifics of which may be at odds with what Marx or Lenin thought one-hundred-plus years ago, even if their analysis of the state is still useful and relevant for us).

For those who want to make up their own minds regarding the historical views of Marx and Lenin, reading the source of these "selective quotes" might be a good place to start: Communist Manifesto, 1872 Preface, State and Revolution and the Lecture on the State.

Red Marriott

3 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Red Marriott on May 31, 2020

The article and its use of quotes is about the relation to parliamentarism and democracy rather than just "the state". The various quotes of Marx & Engels from 1840s-1880s in the comments above show that their positive views on parliamentary activity remained consistently in favour of it rather than having "evolved". So when the article states;

It is a pure illusion to consider these institutions an instrument which the proletarian class can use to free itself from exploitation by the bosses, when in fact these institutions are the best political means that the bourgeoisie has to administer its economic power.

- it means Marx must have been labouring under "a pure illusion" for 40 years.

klas batalo

3 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on May 31, 2020

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0ER6srEhQ0

Nymphalis Antiopa

3 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nymphalis Antiopa on June 29, 2020

slothjabber:

I really don't understand some of the argumentation here.

First there is an anti-organisational argument. I have never understood this. ... Are those of us who believe in collective action supposed to refuse to act collectively with people who agree with us? What is the point of being a communist if not to try and convince other workers that the overthrow of the capitalist order, and the creation of a new society, is in the interests of humanity as a whole, and that only the working class has the power to do this? Is such an endeavour not best pursued collectively? I am genuinely mystified by this.

I am probably the only one here who has explicitly developed what you call an "anti-organisational argument" But I made it clear from the start that I am not against organising at all, rather I am against organising an organisation:

Each individual proletarian needs to organise with others but organising an organisation is like constantly writing "to do" lists without ever getting round to doing anything.

(first post in response to this rubbishy article).

I'm not dogmatic about this - sometimes people organise and put a name to what they organise, and maybe even this organisation genuinely organises interesting and original activities (theoretical as well as practical in a wider sense) for a certain period of time. But for the reference to be "communists organising with other communists" or to pose the question "What is the point of being a communist if not to try and convince other workers that the overthrow of the capitalist order, and the creation of a new society, is in the interests of humanity as a whole, and that only the working class has the power to do this?" is profoundly misleading.

Why? Because firstly the term "communist" can mean anybody who says on paper that they're against the state and capital. But we know, for example, from Aufhebengate, libcom admin or from loads of other sources (eg Mussolini's statements in favour of internationalism before World War I) that "as in private life one differentiates between what a man thinks and says of himself and what he really is and does, so in historical struggles one must distinguish still more the phrases and fancies of parties from their real organism and their real interests, their conception of themselves from their reality." (Marx, Eighteenth Brumaire...). Generally speaking, proletarians in organisations , especially ones that hope to represent the working class, owe their loyalty to the organisation not to the struggle, regardless of how they see themselves. So-called "communists" are not above the contradictions of this world and almost invariably reproduce many of its aspects in their daily lives, particularly the most obviously political (above all, relations of domination and submission, and of rivalry and complicity), rather than anti-political aspects .

As for attempts to "convince other workers that the overthrow of the capitalist order, and the creation of a new society, is in the interests of humanity as a whole", this seems a ridiculous way of acting. How can you convince abstractly outside of a revolutionary movement that hardly exists? Moreover, why is it constantly necessary to play the role of trying to "convince" people? Even if you're "successful" how is this success measured? By the amount of converts to such an abstraction? Someone who wants the destruction of capitalism in all its various forms and contents will only be able to "convince" people by their acts, by words that directly relate to a partiuclar struggle or action or situation. And even then the word "convince" is hardly appropriate as the courage of our convictions is never definitive and constantly needs to be renewed, constantly involves making decisions at all levels of life (in particular in relation to those who are close to us).

Above all, such formal political organisations encourage adherence at an abstract level that rarely involves taking even a little risk and makes it very easy for opportunists and populists to play a politically correct role without genuine commitment, a commitment that means first of all making personal, often anxious, decisions and seeing the struggle as a personal as well as an anti-political one. And above all, political organisations encourage a sterile conformity that represses all originality and experimentation in order to present a united front of everyone in agreement with a politically correct line. Which is why they're rarely "convincing".

Nymphalis Antiopa

3 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nymphalis Antiopa on June 29, 2020

Red Marriot:

The only thing more dull and stupid than this article is the admins hosting of such leninist garbage on a supposedly 'libertarian communist' site.

Any explanation from admin of why they've been more dull and stupid than this article, why they've hosted such leninist garbage on a supposedly 'libertarian communist' site?