Is LibCom being couped by the Internationalist Communist Tendency?

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slothjabber
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May 5 2019 13:13

We've been through similar arguments many times in the last 10 years or more, but it looks like we have to do so again.

In what sense are the ICT 'anti-libertarian'?

The understanding on LibCom as has been thrashed out over the years is that groups that do not promote a party dictatorship are within the working definition of 'libertarian'. And the ICT does not promote the idea of a party dictatorship. For the ICT, the workers organised in the councils are the decision-making bodies of the revolution. As Onorato Damen put it, “the working class does not delegate its power to anyone, not even its class party.” I can't for the life of me see how that is less 'libertarian' than, say, Rocker, who said "Everything for the councils! Nothing above them!". I have no problem with that, except I think that "for the international power of the workers' councils" is snappier. I don't think there's anything regarding the theory and practice of the ICT that makes them less 'libertarian' than, say, the AF or the ACG.

I'm also not sure where you think the ICT supports or has supported using troops against striking workers. Maybe you could quote something to that effect so we could respond properly.

In only one way is the term 'libertarian' not appropriate, in that the ICT doesn't see 'libertarian/authoritarian' as a valid dichotomy in terms of describing revolutionary organisations. However, if one accepts that 'libertarian' means something, then the ICT fall into the 'libertarian' camp on the above criteria; it applies to the ICT even if we don't recognise it. Just as the AF is a communist organisation (even if it doesn't claim to be) because its theory and practice aim to wards communist society, the ICT are 'libertarian' in that its theory and practice aims at a society that is recognised as 'libertarian' by people who accept the label.

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Red Marriott
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May 6 2019 09:21

Saying that an organisation is ‘for workers councils’ while being for the Party doesn’t reveal much about the relationship between party & class. The fact that the ICT write historically deceitful articles like this; http://libcom.org/blog/founding-comintern-then-now-03032019 (which was rightly critically shredded in the comments below it) shows their ambiguity on the question; they whitewash the counter-revolutionary role of Lenin & his Comintern so as to glorify it as a supposedly still-relevant model for today.

Lenin’s influence and Bolshevik manipulation of the communist movement is glossed over and not seen, as it should be, as a crucial element in understanding the role of counter-revolution within the revolution; which suggests that ICT & co are fine with that kind of relation of party to class. Any proletarian power of that nature and tiny left-comm groups’ relation to it is far from a practical issue at present. But on the ideological level that they mainly operate on the defense of, or excusing of, such things certainly isn’t compatible with anything libertarian or what they call “revolutionary praxis” then or now – and the blood of anarchists, left-SRs and left communists repressed by the Cheka still proves it, however much they might try to airbrush them from their deceitful Lenin-glorifying ‘histories’.

Apart from that, the topical ICT articles posted on this site are so predictably formulaic; state one of capitalism’s numerous problems and show that reformism won’t cure it – then conclude ‘one solution, revolution’. ‘Correct’ in a boring obvious way but not very practically useful or even really very theoretical. The process of actual struggle by which the desired outcome might come about seems to trouble them little and implies that ‘class consciousness’ and formation of councils will simply occur when sufficient numbers have converted to their ideology. ICT remain (in claimed historical lineage and ideology if not practice), like most present left-comms, semi-Leninist - so of course they’ll get stick for it here.

Dyjbas
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May 6 2019 12:31

Red Marriott, you're being highly dishonest here. We do not glorify Lenin nor praise the suppression of anarchists, Left-SRs or left communists (the latter especially is just absurd).

Mike Harman
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May 6 2019 12:43
Dyjbas wrote:
Red Marriott, you're being highly dishonest here. We do not glorify Lenin

Where is the criticism of Lenin in this article? https://www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2015-01-21/lenin-s-legacy

We host a couple of Lenin's later writings where he's critical of the party bureaucracy and/or Stalin's nationalism. However whereas the CWO/ICT (and CLR James) see these as Lenin remaining true to communist ideals, they can be seen as more of him simply supporting the reformist wing of the bureaucracy, having spent the previous half-decade suppressing workers self-organisation. Why host them? Because while their criticism of the bolshevik state is belated, muted, and self-serving, they do show Lenin identifying trends that both Trotskyists and Stalinists insist were invented by anarchists (or liberals). So Lenin's own writing can (sometimes) be a way for people to break with Stalinism and Trotskyism (with CLR James and Hal Draper being examples of this trajectory), but this is useful only really for people on their way to discovering anti-state communism more generally, I wouldn't recommend them to others except to know they exist in order to argue with Leninists more effectively.

The 'Lenin's Legacy' article rather than doing this, whitewashes Lenin altogether, for example completely fails to mention Lenin's exile of Miasnikov. https://libcom.org/library/bolshevik-opposition-lenin-paul-avrich

CWO/ICT wrote:
In the first place they are wrong because the brutal party dictatorship which collapsed in 1992 had nothing to do with Lenin's idea of communism.

But what did Miasnikov say about this to the time, directly to Lenin himself?

Miasnikov wrote:
The trouble is that, while you raise your hand against the capitalist, you deal a blow to the worker. You know very well that for such words as I am now uttering hundreds, perhaps thousands, of workers are languishing in prison. That I myself remain at liberty is only because I am a veteran Communist, have suffered for my beliefs, and am known among the mass of workers. Were it not for this, were I just an ordinary mechanic from the same factory, where would I be now? In a Cheka prison or, more likely, made to 'escape,' just as I made Mikhail Romanov 'escape.' Once more I say: You raise your hand against the bourgeoisie, but it is I who am spitting blood, and it is we, the workers, whose jaws are being cracked.

ICT/CWO wrote:
Unlike the Stalins and Kamenevs in the Bolshevik Party, when the war-sick Russian population finally rose against the tyranny of Tsardom in February 1917 Lenin saw no reason to stop struggling for socialism.

'Lenin was nothing like Stalin or Kamenev' - except when in 1922 he was working with them to expel left communists from the Bolshevik party.

Avrich wrote:
The following day, February 21, 1922, Lenin instructed Kamenev and Stalin to publish his letter to Miasnikov, or at least substantial extracts, to show that, before expelling Miasnikov" he had endeavored to reason with him.(44) For there was still widespread reluctance within the party to take extreme measures against veteran members, especially one with Miasnikov's reputation for courage and dedication. Lenin himself shared these hesitations, Yet his patience with Miasnikov had been exhausted.

And not only this, any criticism of Lenin is conflated with ruling class distortion:

ICT/CWO wrote:
Our rulers would have us believe that this monster was the natural outcome of the October Revolution in I917. Above all they want us to think that Lenin was the architect of it all. They want workers to remain ignorant of their own class history and have what Lenin really stood for buried for ever.

Dyjbas
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May 6 2019 14:40

Miasnikov also wrote that,

"it is only by returning to the revolutionary traditions of revolutionary Marxism (Bolshevism), which regulated the life of the party from its inception up until 1921, that proletarian democracy can be restored to the party. To accomplish this, however, a proletarian party is necessary, not a bureaucratic party. “That which was born to crawl, cannot fly.”" (Miasnikov, 1930)

He did not share the anarchist position on Bolshevism or the party question, and anarchists appropriating him now to argue against left communists is a bit rich. In any case, we are currently working on a longer piece about Miasnikov which some here may find interesting.

Black Badger
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May 6 2019 15:31

if you think that Red Marriott or Mike Harman are anarchists, you've not been paying attention. not that there's anything wrong with not being an anarchist; some of my best friends aren't anarchists...

Mike Harman
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May 6 2019 15:25
Dyjbas wrote:
He did not share the anarchist position on Bolshevism or the party question, and anarchists appropriating him now to argue against left communists is a bit rich. In any case, we are currently working on a longer piece about Miasnikov which some here may find interesting.

It is perfectly reasonable to cite Miasnikov's contemporary statements against Lenin when criticising current left communists who write hagiographies of Lenin. I didn't claim he's an anarchist, just that he's a harsher critic of Lenin than the ICT/CWO. Seems a bit rich for an organisation that writes hagiographies of Lenin to appropriate one of the people Lenin had expelled from the Bolshevik party and exiled.

Dyjbas
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May 6 2019 16:47

Well Miasnikov also wrote that

"Lenin, when he was a Marxist revolutionary, did not conceive of a proletarian State without Workers Councils, without that “association” by means of which the proletariat administers production instead of the bourgeoisie, after the latter is defeated. Following Marx and Engels, Lenin saw in these Councils “the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour”. And “except on this last condition, the Communal Constitution would have been an impossibility and a delusion”. Stalin, Bukharin & Co., however, are devoted to hauling off to the dungeons of the GPU, under the accusation of being counterrevolutionaries, all workers who have the audacity to talk about organizing these Councils. And yet they still dare to call themselves Marxist-Leninists!" (Miasnikov, 1930)

Both you and Red Marriott deny that Lenin was ever a Marxist revolutionary who took the idea of workers' councils seriously. We don't (which doesn't mean we are uncritical of Lenin, as e.g. HERE, unlike your strawman argument goes).

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Noah Fence
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May 6 2019 17:31
Black Badger wrote:
if you think that Red Marriott or Mike Harman are anarchists, you've not been paying attention. not that there's anything wrong with not being an anarchist; some of my best friends aren't anarchists...

You have friends? Sellout!

Mike Harman
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May 6 2019 20:25
Dyjbas wrote:
Both you and Red Marriott deny that Lenin was ever a Marxist revolutionary who took the idea of workers' councils seriously.

I don't particularly try to impute intentions to Lenin most of the time because I don't think that's especially useful. What I tend to do is look at what he did (and wrote) in power as well as what he wrote out of power. And also attempt a close reading of what he wrote and how much it is actually putting forward a communist position vs. an argument for state capitalism of some variety. Chris Wright is someone who takes Lenin seriously but also finds him extremely lacking https://libcom.org/library/contra-state-and-revolution

Also even though I have an extremely low opinion of Lenin in general, I can respect that some people who had a very high opinion of him (CLR James, Martin Glaberman, Hal Draper) still had extremely important insights into the failure of Leninist organisation, trade unions, the sect system and other things, while retaining disagreements in other areas (such as their opinions on anarchism, or CLR James not fully breaking with statist pan-Africanism like his support for Nyerere). However with those three they were all on a trajectory out of Leninist/Trotskyist organisations which is not the case for 21st century left communists.

Dyjbas wrote:
We don't (which doesn't mean we are uncritical of Lenin, as e.g.

HERE, unlike your strawman argument goes).

It's not a strawman, you have an article which praises Lenin while making absolutely zero criticisms. Unlike this site, which is an archive, this is a published political article by your organisation. Instead of defending that article on its merits, all you're able to do is try to distract from it by whining about anarchists quoting Miasnikov.

Even this: "Lenin, when he was a Marxist revolutionary" implies that there was a time when Lenin was not a Marxist revolutionary - this implication is not made by the article I pointed out, so it's still more critical than you.

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Red Marriott
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May 6 2019 20:45
Dyjbas wrote:
Red Marriott, you're being highly dishonest here. We do not glorify Lenin nor praise the suppression of anarchists, Left-SRs or left communists (the latter especially is just absurd).

No, you just uncritically glorify the Party & Comintern which he led and, as MH points out, write glorifying simplistic articles about his legacy. With the obligatory left-comm cop-out excuse of the supposed "tragedy" of greater historical circumstance absolving the Bolsheviks of any responsibility for counter-revolution. The Bolsheviks are portrayed as masters of history in 1917 and helpess victims of it when they start to get repressive. After 100 years your analysis/apologetics are a century behind the anarchists, Left-SRs & left-comms who developed serious critique of Bolshevism in practice. Whereas your idealist 'analysis' is to always quote bureacratic holy scripture & dusty text rather than analyse the concrete social relations of society under the Bolshevik state.

Nor did I say you "praise the suppression" by the Bolsheviks of more radical opponents - read more carefully before claiming others are "dishonest". I said you 'airbrushed them from your deceitful 'histories' '.

Dyjbas
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May 6 2019 21:14

I don't need to "defend" that article. It echoes what I said above ("Communists today are not in the business of turning Lenin into an icon nor do we support everything he did or said"). We outline our criticisms of Lenin, and talk about the repressions by the Cheka, etc., in other articles. How about this, on Lenin's support for the "dictatorship of the party" in 1920:

"This is mysticism not materialism. It has more in common with the fascist myth that the Führer/Duce is the real expression of the will of the nation than with the Marxist materialist Lenin of 1917-18." (CWO, 2003)

But Mike and Red Marriott - you're not actually interested in what we say or believe. You've already decided that we are "uncritical Leninists" and to this end you're willing to twist our politics. So what is the point of this discussion?

Mike Harman
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May 6 2019 21:32
Dyjbas wrote:
But Mike and Red Marriott - you're not actually interested in what we say or believe. You've already decided that we are "uncritical Leninists" and to this end you're willing to twist our politics. So what is the point of this discussion?

I have not said that you are 'uncritical Leninists', I've said you published an uncritical hagiography of Lenin, which you personally are now refusing to even defend, and that Miasnikov, an actual real life bolshevik, was more critical in his letters to Lenin than your article. For someone so concerned about being misrepresented you don't seem to be able to engage with what people are actually arguing at all.

Dyjbas
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May 6 2019 22:12

What's your argument though? That not every ICT article contains what you want it to contain?

In any case, I'll take one "uncritical" article about Lenin over selling Gramsci sweatshirts! wink

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Red Marriott
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May 6 2019 22:37

I never knew of the existence of that website and have no association with it - but if that's the best response you can come up with to specific criticism it only reinforces the impression of a formulaic dogma being repeated ad infinitum. I originally raised the question of relations of Party & class but you can't seem to engage to defend anything of what you say except by quoting holy scripture.

Dyjbas
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May 6 2019 22:59

Red Marriott, if you're actually interested in our understanding of the relationship between party & class this recent document is a good starting point.

But to me it seems like you were more interested in accusing us of uncritically glorifying "the Party & Comintern", quoteing "bureacratic holy scripture" and "airbrushing" Cheka repressions. I'm sorry but a cursory glance at our website and publications should be enough to see that none of this is the case (indeed even the article on the Comintern, which you hate so much, doesn't say what you claim it says). You can't expect me to defend views I don't hold. That's not how you start a discussion.

Working Class History is a project affiliated to libcom.

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Red Marriott
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May 6 2019 23:45

And in 'reply' - rather than replying directly yourself you reference another holy tablet ...