Can we comprehensively map out all the tendencies of the left?

Submitted by Agent of the I… on June 7, 2023

Is there any resource that maps out all the tendencies of the left? It doesn't necessarily have to be a literal map with lines, but it could be something like a brief essay that outlines all the tendencies. I know there is a 'libertarian marxism' map on this website, but I think there should be one with all currents associated with the left.

Edited to exlude additional questions about specific tendencies.

Steven.

11 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by Steven. on June 7, 2023

Basically, I don't think it would be possible to do it comprehensively. The left is too big and complex to include everything.
Also, are you including anarchism here within the syndicalism strand? Or you counting that not as part of the "left"?
I don't think it would be accurate to describe council communists as left communists, no. Council communists are anti-party, whereas most (all?) left communists seem to be pro-party

Submitted by Agent of the I… on June 7, 2023

Steven. wrote:
Also, are you including anarchism here within the syndicalism strand? Or you counting that not as part of the "left"?

I count anarchism as part of the left, but I list those three since they were the main ones to be significantly organized. I mean, anarchist communism never really achieved the success of syndicalism. Also, by syndicalism, I mean both revolutionary syndicalism and anarcho-syndicalism.

Submitted by Agent of the I… on June 7, 2023

Steven. wrote:I don't think it would be accurate to describe council communists as left communists, no. Council communists are anti-party, whereas most (all?) left communists seem to be pro-party

Hmm, aren't left communists just critics of Bolshevism but come out of Marxism? By Party, do left communists aim at capturing state power, or do they just refer to political groupings? Do council communists and left communists have any relationship?

Submitted by Dyjbas on June 7, 2023

Steven. wrote:I don't think it would be accurate to describe council communists as left communists, no. Council communists are anti-party, whereas most (all?) left communists seem to be pro-party

Left communism originally refers to those currents within the Third International which opposed its degeneration from early on. The most famous and enduring of these were the Italian Left and the German-Dutch Left. The latter is also known as council communist, but initially it was very much pro-party - that is why many of them ended up in the Communist Workers' Party of Germany (KAPD). As an illustration, have a read of their theses on the role of the party from 1921. Only over time did some of the German-Dutch Left become anti-party (this current is often called councilist and Otto Rühle was its early proponent).

In other words, council communists were also left communists, yes.

Dyjbas

11 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by Dyjbas on June 7, 2023

Agent of the International wrote:By Party, do left communists aim at capturing state power, or do they just refer to political groupings?

Depends on the left communist group in question. Here's how the Internationalist Communist Tendency (ICT) sees it: On the Future International (see also the articles recommended in the intro of that article)

nastyned

11 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by nastyned on June 8, 2023

The Dutch-German and Italian Left Communists were always different tendencies with different politics. And those that adopted the term Council Communist did so because they no longer saw themselves as in the left wing of the Third International so it's ahistorical nonsense to call them Left Communists.

Dyjbas

11 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by Dyjbas on June 8, 2023

Lenin's "Left-Wing Communism" (which popularised the term) was primarily aimed at the German-Dutch Left, so it's not ahistorical. At least according to Marcel van der Linden, the term council communism appears from 1921 onwards (same year as the KAPD leaves the Third International and the AAUE separates from the KAPD), so there's an argument to be made it's only following this that the German-Dutch Left can be called council communist as such (but to say they never were left communists would be ahistorical). However, over time left communism as a term also evolves beyond its original association since all left communists sooner or later find themselves outside the Third International (e.g. it's in the 1930s, already after being expelled from their respective communist parties, that the Italian Left regroups itself as Fractions of the Communist Left). All in all, these terminological distinctions were not that clear at the time and, as we can see here, can still cause confusion today (might be more useful to look at the actual political evolution of the various groups that had a common heritage of once being a left communist opposition).

ZJW

11 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by ZJW on June 9, 2023

In my view the simplest formulation is: Council-Communists were ex-Left Communists.

That is, as Dyjbas has more or less intimated, the positions of Pannekoek, Rühle ... about the Russian Revolution, about the role or not of 'the party' etc etc, were not in, say, 1919, what they came to be later.

( And the *word* 'party' is not that important. Council Communist Paul Mattick's group was called ['the United Workers] Party' from formation in 1934 until 1936. For details (amid a discussion of what constitutes 'vanguardism'), see https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/forum/topic/glasgow-cop26/page/12/#post-243752 . )

Submitted by Reddebrek on June 9, 2023

Dyjbas wrote:

Steven. wrote:I don't think it would be accurate to describe council communists as left communists, no. Council communists are anti-party, whereas most (all?) left communists seem to be pro-party

Left communism originally refers to those currents within the Third International which opposed its degeneration from early on..

Not a very good or accurate definitions since most of the syndicalist unions in Europe would be considered left communists given they were briefly involved in the Soviet internationals and clashed with the bolsheviks immediately. While the Italian Communists would be excluded since they did not oppose "its degeneration from early on" they spent the early years as a loyal formation.

"that is why many of them ended up in the Communist Workers' Party of Germany (KAPD)." Out of curiosity, what do you think the KAPD's position on Unions was?

Submitted by Agent of the I… on June 9, 2023

Reddebrek wrote:

Not a very good or accurate definitions since most of the syndicalist unions in Europe would be considered left communists given they were briefly involved in the Soviet internationals and clashed with the bolsheviks immediately.

But doesn't it refer to those that come out of the Marxist tradition, therefore not including the syndicalist unions? What would be your definition of left communism?

Submitted by Reddebrek on June 9, 2023

Agent of the International wrote:

Reddebrek wrote:

Not a very good or accurate definitions since most of the syndicalist unions in Europe would be considered left communists given they were briefly involved in the Soviet internationals and clashed with the bolsheviks immediately.

But doesn't it refer to those that come out of the Marxist tradition, therefore not including the syndicalist unions? What would be your definition of left communism?

"But doesn't it refer to those that come out of the Marxist tradition" I'm sure there are people out there happy to tack on an extra qualifier like that, but that wasn't in the definition I was critiquing. And I don't think adding a contentious term like "marxist tradition" onto the confused term left communism helps with clarity much either.

Submitted by Dyjbas on June 10, 2023

Reddebrek wrote:
Not a very good or accurate definitions since most of the syndicalist unions in Europe would be considered left communists given they were briefly involved in the Soviet internationals and clashed with the bolsheviks immediately. While the Italian Communists would be excluded since they did not oppose "its degeneration from early on" they spent the early years as a loyal formation.

Sure, we could keep refining the definition. The point though is that left communism arose as an opposition from within the Third International, out of Marxist elements which took an internationalist position on WWI and were some of the first to rally around the Russian Revolution.

The Italian Left only accomplished their task of forming a separate communist party in 1921 (nearly two years after the formation of the Third International to which it affiliated). By 1922 they were already raising criticisms during the debates over the united front and the concept of workers' government. You can read more about it in the introduction to this pamphlet.

Reddebrek wrote:
Out of curiosity, what do you think the KAPD's position on Unions was?

Per their 1920 programme, unions are "one of the principal pillars of the capitalist state", instead they proposed the formation of factory organisations allied to the KAPD.