Impossibilism - Jon White's reading guide

A guide to further reading around the subject of impossibilism.

Submitted by jondwhite on September 16, 2017

Capitalism
Economics for Beginners, 1935, John Keracher

Anti-Capitalism
The Policy of the Socialist League, June 1888, Commonweal
We Don't Want Full Employment, 1998, Ken Knabb
Beyond Capitalism, June 1993, Socialist Standard

Labourism
The Rise and Fall of the I.L.P., October 2009, Socialist Standard
Syndicalism: Its Origin and Weakness, October 1986, Socialist Standard
The General Strike Fiasco: Its Causes and Effects, June 1926, Socialist Standard
Commodity Struggle or Class Struggle, November 1920, Socialist Standard
Remember Tonypandy, December 1910, Socialist Standard
As to Politics, 1907, Daniel De Leon

Radicalism
Anyone know a Lifestyle Anarchist? July 2011, Socialist Standard
Robert Owen: Paternalist utopian, December 2008, Socialist Standard
Looking Backward, 22 June 1889, Commonweal

Reforms
Politicians Promise and Things Get Worse, Why? 1997, SLP (US)
The Futility of Reformism, 1984, Samuel Leight
The Futility of Reform, October 1904, Socialist Standard
Reform or Revolution, 1896, Daniel De Leon
Reforms and Reforms, January 5 1896, Daniel De Leon, The People

Gradualism
The Myth of the Transitional Society, 1975, Critique 5
Stepping Stones to Nowhere, June 1996, Socialist Standard
Fabian Essays in Socialism, 25 January 1890

Revolution
State Capitalism, April 1987, Socialist Standard
State Socialism, Feb 17 1911, Daniel De Leon, The People

Abstention
Morris and the Problem of Reform or Revolution, February 1984, Socialist Standard
What is Anarchism?, December 1967, Socialist Standard
The Practical and Logical Impossibility of Anarchism, Socialist Studies
Socialism and Politics, July 1885, Commonweal

Unity
Is the SPGB Sectarian?, Summer 2001, Socialist Studies 40
How the SPGB is different
What's the Difference between the SLP (and other Socialists)?
The Birth of the Socialist Party, September 1954, Socialist Standard
Requirements for Membership, June 1953, Forum SPGB Discussion journal
Is there Room for Differences of Opinion in a Socialist Party?, March 1960, Forum SPGB Discussion journal.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain, September 1904, Socialist Standard
Where Are We Now?, 15 November 1890, Commonweal

Minimum program
Chapter 4, Impossibilism, Steve Coleman, Non-Market Socialism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries ed. Max Rubel and John Crump (1987)

Juan Conatz

9 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Edited 'libcom.org's' out of description. This isn't from us. Also unpublished, since this is all outside links. Going to ask what the deal is.

jondwhite

9 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I thought this was the way guides are contributed?

Steven.

9 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Renamed and re-published. Cheers

Spikymike

9 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I don't have a problem with this list being included under this title but it is of course heavily SPGB weighted. There is much more which could have been added from the SLP in both N.America and the UK plus some of the internal critical publications that appeared from time to time over the lengthy period of both organisations existence and some further links to other external critical publications, otherwise it is little more than a bit of very selective self-promotion from those organisations formally approved sources. Nothing here really gets to grips with the historical origins and limitations of 'impossibilism' . Reading a bit more than Chapter 4 of the book 'Non-Market Socialism in the 19th and 20th Century..' is to be recomended for starters.... and are there not some anarchist versions of 'impossibilism' perhaps?

syndicalist

9 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Thanks for keeping this up. I've historically enjoyed seeing this stuff. Another spot to catch some of this was in the old "Discussion Bulletin" Frank Girad (ex-SLP) used to publish:
http://libertariansocialism.4t.com Also, more stuff by London Solidarity, coming out of that tradition is always great to see.

Android

9 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

syndicalist

more stuff by London Solidarity, coming out of that tradition is always great to see.

I don't think the old Solidarity group (London) was related to impossibilism? At least as it is commonly understood.

For a critical perspective on SPGB I would recommend J. Crump's resignation letter. AJJ sent it to me a while back whilst helping a friend/comrade do some research. If people want I will add it to the library.

syndicalist

9 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Android

syndicalist

more stuff by London Solidarity, coming out of that tradition is always great to see.

I don't think the old Solidarity group (London) was related to impossibilism? At least as it is commonly understood.

For a critical perspective on SPGB I would recommend J. Crump's resignation letter. AJJ sent it to me a while back whilst helping a friend/comrade do some research. If people want I will add it to the library.

Android, fair enough on London Solidarity.

I guess since many of their origins were SPGB, I kinda lump them together in a broader libertarian socialism. But there seems to be so many long and small lines that criss cross as succeeding movements away from the original parties, electoralist ideas and so forth where I sorta put bunches into a not so neat box for my own (barely) intellectual and historical reference. Sorta an SPGB, SLP foundation with bunches of more "modern"off-shoots and ties to libertarian socialism, on the hand. And on the other, those who have come out of a "third camp" socialism, with their own origins elsewhere.

OK, I'll zip it on this, before I confuse everyone with my own internal cataloging system.

Android

9 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Don't worry about it, syndicalist. I thought that might have been what you meant.

I just don't find the concept of libertarian socialism in the broad, all encompassing, sense all that useful. Although it does catch a certain political reflex I suppose. It is more useful in the narrower sense, i.e. Solidarity group.

Steven.

9 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Android, posting that letter to the library would be great!

fnbrill

9 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I would advocate libcom setting up some uniform protocol for Introduction Readings. Let's make sure in Introductions to Anarcho-Syndicalism, Anarcho-Communism, the IWW, etc there include criticisms.

I agree that this is a bit too skewed to the SPGB. Their theoretical work is very good, but we need to include work by and about both the SPC and OBU in Canada. Both of these organizations had a much more active participation in class struggles than the SPGB has had and give a different glimpse as to what Impossibilism advocates. Juan C has posted a number of articles by/about them and I'll be funneling some more to him.

As for DeLeonists, should WIIU ("Detroit IWW") materials be included?

Android

9 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Steven.

Android, posting that letter to the library would be great!

Done.

fnbrill

9 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The Petard piece is crap. It doesn't deal with SPGB's real politics just holds up a mirror for Petard to confirm his own views.

Spikymike

4 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

And check out the text 'monument or movement' in the 'Subversion' library listing for an entertaining internal critique of the spgb by an old Glasgow member. It has it's limitations but reflected one part an ongoing internal discussion amongst some members of the spgb at that time, see here:
https://libcom.org/history/monument-or-movement

Entdinglichung

9 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

wasn't Jules Guesde and his gang in the SFIO considered to be Impossibilists ... before everything changed in August 1914? ... and has anyone said Austria?

alb

9 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think the confusion about whether or not Solidarity is "impossibilist" (when it wasn't) may be due to the fact that some SPGB members, expelled in 1974, ended up in Solidarity. They didn't last long there though as they soon found out that Solidarity stood for the "self-management" of a market economy, as set out in this article from 1973. Something else to put in the library? Chris Pallis wrote a reply which someone must have. Maybe I have. I'll have to check.

I don't understand either why Larry Gambone's pamphlet on the SPC and OBU, The Impossibilists, is not on the list.

There's also this from a French site (but the articles are in many languages).

Spikymike

9 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

alb might be right about the confusion in relation to the UK 'Solidarity' group which a (very!) few people have expressed.

It is noteable that it took two years of negotiation between the 'Social Revolution' group, that had it's origins in expelled members of the SPGB (but by then including various other individuals), and the Solidarity group, to get some significant changes to the original Solidarity 'Where We Stand' and 'Where We Don't Stand' statements (in the library here). Unfortunately there was never wholehearted support from everyone in Solidarity for these and other changes made in the final fusion of the two groups and it eventually fell apart - though not entirely due only to the wavering of original Solidarity members (there was a general drift into swampy politics preceding this). To be fair however Solidarity, at it's best, did make some useful theoretical and practical contributions to our milieu more especially when it was not following a strictly Cardanite (Castoriadis) analysis.

syndicalist

9 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Thanks for this link: http://www.socialisthistory.ca/Docs/Imposs/Impossibilists1.htm

Spikymike

4 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This link to archived DeLeonist material was previously supplied on a related discussion thread:
https://www.marxists.org/archive/deleon/pdf/index.htm

Interest in the origins and work of the former SLP in Scotland was briefly revived by The Communist Organisation in the British Isles who republished a book by William Paul on 'The State - its origin and function' together with an introduction from Harry McShane in 1974.

I still have a 1980's to 2000 selection of the old duplicated Discussion Bulletin organised by Frank Girard which has a surprisingly wide variety of both direct and indirect contributors across the genuinely communist political spectrum beyond just the spgb and slp. Perhaps libcom provides something of a modern day version of this.

Spikymike

4 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Just had another look at that original list put up by Jon White and it struck me that for an SPGB member it was still strangely selective. Without retracting any of my own continuing criticism of the SPGB, I thought he could usefully have included this particular issue of the Socialist Standard as their own attempt at a bit of 'internal' history of their organisation. It has some inaccuracies and is still open to criticism of course, some of that reflected in later editions 'Letters' but still of interest to some of us historians of these tiny socialist groups.
www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2000s/2004/no-1198-june-2004
Also in the library here.

Red Marriott

4 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

fnbrill

The Petard piece is crap. It doesn't deal with SPGB's real politics just holds up a mirror for Petard to confirm his own views.

"Crap..." is a pretty crap critique. Considering SPGB's historical eagerness to debate with everyone from leninists to fascists, perhaps surprising that the 'official' SPGB apparently never publicly responded - though the 'reconstituted' Socialist Studies splitter bunch did, not very convincingly; http://www.socialiststudies.org.uk/socstudy63.shtml#petard

jondwhite

4 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Spikymike

Just had another look at that original list put up by Jon White and it struck me that for an SPGB member it was still strangely selective. Without retracting any of my own continuing criticism of the SPGB, I thought he could usefully have included this particular issue of the Socialist Standard as their own attempt at a bit of 'internal' history of their organisation. It has some inaccuracies and is still open to criticism of course, some of that reflected in later editions 'Letters' but still of interest to some of us historians of these tiny socialist groups.
www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2000s/2004/no-1198-june-2004
Also in the library here.

Thanks, I think this piece is an attempt to articulate an impossibilism not limited to the SPGB so including SPGB internal history might run counter to that but I will give it some thought.

swaminetero

1 year 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

great reading list!

swaminetero

1 year 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

i've wondered the same question Spikymike, whether a tendecy's sprung from the anarchist tradition that takes the impossibilist stance of building a supermajority of class-conscious workers and only voting for genuinely socialist candidates to either: a) disarm the ruling class by winning and thus having legitimate control over the military, or b) call liberal democracy's bluff

darren p

2 months ago

No idea why Ken Knabb turns up in this list.

Steve Coleman's PhD thesis 'The origin and meaning of the political theory of impossibilism', which contains much of the background research for the chapter in 'Non-Market Socialism' can be read online here: https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?did=1&uin=uk.bl.ethos.245385

Also, there's Peter E Newell's study of the Socialist Party of Canada, 'The Impossibilists'. Published 2008 by Athena Press.