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Felix Frost
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Oct 1 2007 20:23
lem wrote:
Unionists here refers to the Workers' Unions (Arbeiterunion) (AAUD and AAUD-E)

even i knew that: were they traditional unions? :)

Actually, they weren't trade unions at all, but council communist workers organizations. Theoretically, they were only supposed to prepare the workers for the revolution, and not get involved in bread and butter issues. Of course, at the time they were set up, they thought the revolution was right around the corner...

Mark.
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Oct 1 2007 20:38
Felix Frost wrote:
Actually, they weren't trade unions at all, but council communist workers organizations. Theoretically, they were only supposed to prepare the workers for the revolution, and not get involved in bread and butter issues. Of course, at the time they were set up, they thought the revolution was right around the corner...

Does this mean they restricted membership on ideological grounds - something like the FORA model of unionism except council communist instead of anarchist?

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Oct 1 2007 21:06
Leo Uilleann wrote:
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during the terror against syndicalists, unionists* , anarchists

Well, I don't think any revolutionary would actually celebrate any state repression of against anarcho-syndicalists. That doesn't make him "quite-friendly" to trade-unionism.

The point is that he was very hostile to trade-unionism, but that he didn't consider the syndicalists to be trade unionists. On the contrary, one of the arguments he used against the trade unions was that they helped the state repress syndicalists, council communists and anarchists.

Leo Uilleann wrote:
This said, I would actually believe that Rühle was sympathetic to the IWW. He was a bit of a disgrace to the council communists already with his behavior at the Communist International Congress tongue grin

So okay, Rühle and Mattick are two dubious examples. The rest of the council communists, who numbered around, well, more than a hundred thousand, are a more reliable source for defining council communism in my honest opinion.

I believe the AAU-E had tens of thousands of members at its height, had friendly relations with the anarcho-syndicalist FAUD, and sent observers to the IWA congress. From a text here on Libcom ( http://libcom.org/history/reimers-otto-1902-1984 ) :

Quote:
In 1921 came the split in the AAU over whether a revolutionary party was necessary, one which acted to the left of the Communist Party (KPD), and whether this party, the KAPD, should join the Comintern. Otto, along with the entire Hamburg branch of the AAU took the side of those like Otto Ruhle and Franz Pfemfert, against affiliation to the Comintern and for a unitary organisation. This new body, the AAU-E (United General Workers Union) approached the anarcho-syndicalist union the FAUD in 1923 and 1924 so that Franz Pfemfert could participate as a delegate of the AAU-E in the international congresses of the International Workers Association.

In Hamburg Otto, along with Karl Matzen, Karl Roche and Ernst Fiering argued in 1926 for the building of an anti-authoritarian bloc, an idea first advocated by Ruhle. Anarcho-syndicalists, anarchist communists and individualist anarchists, as well as unionists of the AAU-E met in the Planeth Restaurant. On Fridays they all came together at the restaurant under the mantle of the Block Antiautoritaerer Revolutionaere and organised meetings addressed by Rudolf Rocker, Karl Roche, Pierre Ramus, Ernst Friedrich, Bertold Cahn, Franz Pfemfert and Winkler. Sometimes as many as 300-400 attended. Rocker spoke for a series of six meetings on Nationalism and Culture. These became so popular that they had to move from the upper room to the larger room downstairs.

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Oct 1 2007 21:11
JH wrote:
Does this mean they restricted membership on ideological grounds - something like the FORA model of unionism except council communist instead of anarchist?

Yeah, one of the conditions for membership was that they had to support the "dictatorship of the proletariat".

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Oct 1 2007 22:36
Dev wrote:
It would be nice to have historical accuracy too though. Historically, I think you can say that the council communists are those whose origins are in the German/Dutch left and the Communist Workers' International.
Ret Marut wrote:

On the general topic; where does Guy Aldred fit in these boundaries? Holding communist left positions around WWI alongside Sylvia Pankhurst & co, yet an anarchist-communist valuing equally the contributions of Bakunin & Marx. Karl Korsch was another left communist who, like Mattick, took an active interest in syndicalism;

I don't think that he was a council communist by the definition I gave above.

But when Aldred talks about those we know as councilists - with whom he had an extensive correspondence - he refers to them as fellow 'Anti-Parliamentarists' (in fact he'd been an anti-parliamentarist communist since 1906, before most councilists). So, for him at least, the council communists (which he doesn't ever seem to refer to by that name) were only part of a wider international Anti-Parliamentarist movement, of which he was a part.

ernie
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Oct 1 2007 23:20

I think I may have been a bit too black and while in my initial post. The main council communist groups in the 20's and 30's certainly did not see themselves as anarchists. However with the decay of council communism one of the indications of this was the increasing openess of some councilist groups to anarchism. As for those individuals such as Guy Alred or Karl Korsch, this has to been seen on an individual basis. What we mean by council communism is those groups that emerged from the German and Dutch Left and who rejected the party. Korsch, if I remember, only began to more towards anarchism in the 30's. I do not think he was a council communist, well at least not when he was a member of the Riechstage (given that another defining feature of council communism is the reject of parliament).

dave c
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Oct 2 2007 01:17

Ernie:

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What we mean by council communism is those groups that emerged from the German and Dutch Left and who rejected the party.

First, I would point out that Devrim and Leo seem to be casting a wider net with the term "council communism" than others would care to do. There is nothing wrong with this in itself, but it is good to keep in mind. Some people include Gorter, the KAPD, the AAUD, etc. in "council communism," while others do not. The distinction that some make is between the Dutch/German left communism of the KAPD and the later "council communism" of the GIC of Holland, the latter rejecting "the party." How much relevance this difference in terminology has to this discussion is unclear. Some people seem to imply that the council communist tradition (in ICC terms: Dutch/German left communism, 1930's council communism, and post-war "councilism") being associated with radical unionism is the fault of its later evolution, since it became (in some ways, and certainly not in all ways) a bit closer to anarchism. I would question this. Is Cajo Brendel or Henri Simon any more syndicalist than Gorter or Pannekoek in the early 20's? I think not. To take just one example, here is an excerpt from the KAPD's Report on the Third Congress of the Communist International (1921):

Quote:
After the Bulgarian comrades, it was the Spanish comrades whose positions were closest to ours. They understood us perfectly. There is just one problem: the concept of the need for a political organization has yet to be generally accepted in Spain; but it is gaining ground. The comrades find themselves beyond trade unionism, on the road to communism. Their organization has 1,100,000 members: approximately 50% of all the organized workers in Spain.

So the the pro-party left communists of the KAPD found the CNT "beyond trade unionism." These left communists did not consider something called "unionism" to include trade-unionism and radical unionism (this seems to be a later development). Also, if you look at the GIC, you find an anti-party stance coupled with a harsher judgement of anarcho-syndicalism.

Terry
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Oct 2 2007 13:21

This is what Otto Ruhle has to say about going to Moscow for a Third International conference:

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"Centralism is the organisational principle of the bourgeois-capitalist age. With it the bourgeois state and the capitalist economy can be built up. Not however the proletarian state and the socialist economy. They demand the council system. For the KAPD - contrary to Moscow - the revolution is no party matter, the party no authoritarian organisation from the top down, the leader no military chief, the masses no army condemned to blind obedience, the dictatorship no despotism of a ruling clique; communism no springboard for the rise of a new Soviet bourgeoisie. For the KAPD the revolution is the business of the whole proletarian class within which the communist party forms only the most mature and determined vanguard. The rise and development of the masses to political maturity of this vanguard doesn't await the tutelage of the leadership, discipline and regulation. On the contrary: these methods produce in an advanced proletariat such as the German exactly the opposite result. They strangle initiatives, paralyse the revolutionary activity, impair the combativeness, reduce the personal feeling of responsibility. What counts is to trigger the initiative of the masses, to free them from authority, to develop their self-confidence, to train them in self-activity and thereby to raise their interest in the revolution. Every fighter must know and feel why he is fighting, what he is fighting for. Everyone must become in his consciousness a living bearer of the revolutionary struggle and creative member of the communist build-up. The necessary freedom therefore will however never be won in the coercive system of centralism, the chains of bureaucratic-militaristic control, under the burden of a leader-dictatorship and its inevitable accompaniments: arbitrariness, personality cult, authority, corruption, violence. Therefore transformation of the party-conception into a federative community-conception on the line of councilist ideas."

Obviously the terms "centralist" and "federalist" can actually have a number of different meanings.

Terry
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Oct 2 2007 13:24

Ruhle's piece is here:
http://libcom.org/library/third-international-congress-report-ruhle

- moderators might note there is something wrong with it, at times KPD is given when clearly KAPD is meant. There most have been some mistake with the scanning somewhere along the line.

Terry
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Oct 2 2007 13:35

In 'World Revolution and Communist Tactics' Pannekoek argues that the failure of the German Revolution:
“proves that the bourgeoisie possessed another hidden source of power which had remained intact and which permitted it to re-establish its hegemony when everything seemed shattered. This hidden power is the bourgeoisie’s ideological hold over the proletariat. Because the proletarian masses were still completely governed by a bourgeois mentality, they restored the hegemony of the bourgeoisie with their own hands after it had collapsed.”

Having identified “the masses’ lack of faith in their own power” as a central issue, and holding that only the “experience of struggle” can change this, it follows to Pannekoek, that: “The tactical problem is not how to win power as quickly as possible if such power will be merely illusory – this is only too easy an option for the communists – but how the basis of lasting class power is to be developed in the proletariat.”

The premise of Pannekoek’s argument here is that the overthrow of bourgeois hegemony requires a long protracted struggle, in which the role of the KAPD is
“raising the masses themselves to the highest pitch of activity, whipping up their initiative, increasing their self-confidence”. To Pannekoek revolution is “only possible if first the vanguard, then a greater and greater number take matters in hand themselves, know their own responsibilities, investigate, agitate, wrestle, strive, reflect, assess, seize chances and act upon them.”

This position is what informs the rejection of parliamentarianism and the advocacy of new forms of workers’ organisations, breaking from the traditional trade unions.
For Pannekoek “the most tenacious and intractable element” of the bourgeois mentality “is dependence upon leaders, whom the masses leave to determine general questions and to manage their class affairs” and “parliamentary activity is the paradigm of struggles in which only the leaders are actively involved and in which the masses themselves play a subordinate role” consequently electoral politics “has the counterrevolutionary effect of strengthening the leaders’ dominance over the masses” and “tends to inhibit the autonomous activity by the masses”.

- These positions are not only what I would call libertarian, in the year 2007 when languague and terminology has moved on a bit (indeed I do not think this word would have been used in Germany in 1920 at all?), they actually represent an unusually clear coherent and thought out expression of libertarian politics.

Terry
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Oct 2 2007 13:36

"KPD is given when clearly KAPD is meant"

- actually the other way around.

ernie
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Oct 2 2007 13:44

Dave C, we make a difference between the KAPD and the council communists because the KAPD defended the need for the party.

Terry
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Oct 2 2007 13:51

Devrim writes:

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"I think that is used by anarchism to lay claim to the political heritage of council communism. This would actually annoy me less if they didn't claim this heritage whilst abandoning nearly all its politics. Of course there is nothing wrong to anarchists drawing things from the council communists. It is part of the historical struggle of the class, but to try to relabel them as something they weren't is going a bit far. Revol would call it 'grave robbing'."
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"It is not about 'formalities of strict bloodlines or ideologies'. For me it is about where people stand today. It is mostly about people who are complete leftists claiming to be council communists, or council communist influenced, and having no connection with council communist politics whatsoever."

Who are the people "who are complete leftists"? The organisers of the libcom site? Yeah I'm sure there is a rush to appropriate the prestige of some obscure figures from an obscure movement from 80 years ago. Yeah there are some people around here alright who are very concerned with the purity of heritages and aligning their tiny groups with this or that movement from Spain, or Germany, or wherever a long time ago. I think being more concerned about the future means drawing what lessons are to be had from past movements whether they called themselves "marxist", "anarchist", "syndicalist", or whatever, and in doing so one can clearly recognise a commonality between them. For that matter an anarchist could reject the term "libertarian communism" as clearly an awful lot of the anarchist movement spent an awful lot of time slating Marx and Marxism.

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Oct 2 2007 14:25
Terry wrote:
Who are the people "who are complete leftists"? The organisers of the libcom site? Yeah I'm sure there is a rush to appropriate the prestige of some obscure figures from an obscure movement from 80 years ago.

Er...no, I wasn't referring to the Libcom site at all. Actually, I had a few arguments about council communism, and libertarian communism on another site with people who had no idea what the politics of the council communists were, and they cited Libcom as part of their evidence.

Terry wrote:
These positions are not only what I would call libertarian, in the year 2007 when languague and terminology has moved on a bit (indeed I do not think this word would have been used in Germany in 1920 at all?), they actually represent an unusually clear coherent and thought out expression of libertarian politics.

They do argue for a vanguard party, Terry, not something usually associated with anarchism.

Devrim

Mike Harman
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Oct 2 2007 15:00
Devrim wrote:

Er...no, I wasn't referring to the Libcom site at all. Actually, I had a few arguments about council communism, and libertarian communism on another site with people who had no idea what the politics of the council communists were, and they cited Libcom as part of their evidence.

Evidence for what?

Terry
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Oct 2 2007 15:06
Devrim wrote:
They do argue for a vanguard party, Terry, not something usually associated with anarchism.

Aye. Incidentally that would be the KAPD. Above other folk have a definition of 'council communism' as meaning when some moved to reject the conception of a "vanguard party" as understood by the KAPD. A step backwards in my opinion. You will note I havn't refered to them as "anarchist" but as "libertarian", not a term used, by me at least, as meaning anarchism under another name. Nonetheless the concept of a "vanguard party", is problematic, in that it seems to assume that "the vanguard" and "the party" are necessarily the same thing. However you will find that some anarchists did and do have a conception that the establishment of a political organisation should be aimed for, one which would aim for a leading role in the sense that Pannekoek employs above, that is encouraging a broad working class self activity (as opposed to dominance by the party). Also while not employing the idea of a political organisation in the same sense, some anarcho-syndicalists would I think have had a similar conception, that is that their organisation was one of a minortiy that should seek to lead the way. I think Emile Pouget, of the historic French CGT, for instance, had this idea. Essentially this is just a no shit sherlock recognition of what they were doing, or trying to. Of course problems start when you put the term "vanguard" and "party" together, as it seems to assume that the most advanced section of the class, playing a leading role, is always found in the same place, and is in fact embodied in a particular organisation. But in fairness I don't think anyone we are discussing suffered from that. What is the alternative? Belief in a perfectly even spontaneous revolt involving the entire class as one which will just like happen one day.

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Oct 2 2007 15:43
Mike Harman wrote:
Devrim wrote:

Er...no, I wasn't referring to the Libcom site at all. Actually, I had a few arguments about council communism, and libertarian communism on another site with people who had no idea what the politics of the council communists were, and they cited Libcom as part of their evidence.

Evidence for what?

That council communism is a part of 'libertarian communism' for a start.

Devrim

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Oct 2 2007 15:48
Terry wrote:
Nonetheless the concept of a "vanguard party", is problematic, in that it seems to assume that "the vanguard" and "the party" are necessarily the same thing. However you will find that some anarchists did and do have a conception that the establishment of a political organisation should be aimed for, one which would aim for a leading role in the sense that Pannekoek employs above, that is encouraging a broad working class self activity (as opposed to dominance by the party).

Let's be clear. The KAPD was in favour of an elite vanguard party. However you talk around it you can not reconcile this position with anarchism.

Devrim

Mike Harman
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Oct 2 2007 15:56
Devrim wrote:
Mike Harman wrote:
Devrim wrote:

Er...no, I wasn't referring to the Libcom site at all. Actually, I had a few arguments about council communism, and libertarian communism on another site with people who had no idea what the politics of the council communists were, and they cited Libcom as part of their evidence.

Evidence for what?

That council communism is a part of 'libertarian communism' for a start.

Devrim

Got more to say on this but not much time now. Part of the reason we change the site to libcom.org from enrager was because of council communism and the various 'libertarian marxist' currents. I don't see this as anarchists trying to claim them as 'a part of anarchism', more recognising that there are common strands within both anarchism and marxism which can be reconciled, while there's much in both that also needs to be completely rejected. Now I accept that 'libertarian communism' was originally an anarchist formulation, but given that it's not synonymous with 'anarchism', and that it's certainly taken on a life of it's own in the past 30-40 years, I don't think it can remain as such despite your attempts to the contrary.

I'd also dispute the idea that federalism and centralism are diametrically opposed - many people in favour of federalism see this as part of a bottom-up centralism which ought eventually to take on an international character, and local autonomy doesn't necessarily mean free reign - it means control over those matters best dealt with at a local level, and in case of disagreements between the centre (or majority) and the periphery, many would say the result would be secession/split rather than license.

Terry
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Oct 2 2007 16:42
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Devrim wrote: "Let's be clear. The KAPD was in favour of an elite vanguard party. However you talk around it you can not reconcile this position with anarchism."

(a) No one here described the KAPD as anarchist.

(b) You havn't put forward ANY argument as to how their conception of the role of a political organisation is removed from conceptions which have been situated within the anarchist tradition.

If one puts some of Pannekoek's writings at or near the core of what is meant by a libertarian perspective, which is after all the premise of this thread, it follows that if you want to argue that this is wrong as it makes for too much of a commonality between council communism and anarchism, you would be probably better off to argue that anarchism is inconsistent with a libertarian perspective.

You also havn't addressed that if the KAPD's line on the party removes them from anarchism, which, somehow means that they cannot be considered libertarian, how this can be applicable to council communism as a whole, given that some people actually define 'council communism' around a rejection of the KAPD line on the party.

Terry
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Oct 2 2007 16:49

You might as well say council communism "was in favour of an elite vanguard party", therefore council communism cannot be reconciled with council communism (a lot of them were very much not into 'the party' ), so consequently it was in actual fact not a communist movement at all.

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Oct 2 2007 18:06
Terry wrote:
If one puts some of Pannekoek's writings at or near the core of what is meant by a libertarian perspective, which is after all the premise of this thread, it follows that if you want to argue that this is wrong as it makes for too much of a commonality between council communism and anarchism, you would be probably better off to argue that anarchism is inconsistent with a libertarian perspective.

Terry, I don't know what you are arguing for here. I am not sure what 'Libertarian communist' actually means. My point is that the Council Communists would have objected to being lumped in the same boat as a) anarchists, and b) those who shared not of their politics (specifically on unions, and national liberation).

Devrim

mikus
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Oct 2 2007 19:26

This whole debate is a bit ridiculous.

Devrim wrote:
My point is that the Council Communists would have objected to being lumped in the same boat as a) anarchists, and b) those who shared not of their politics (specifically on unions, and national liberation).

This seems to be Devrim's main point.

Would council communists have rejected to be called "communists"? How about: "Marxists"?

If not, then they certainly were okay in certain situations with being grouped in with other radicals that did not share certain key features of their political positions. And if that is the case, then your original point is nullified.

Thinking it is okay to call them "communists" but not "libertarian communists" is just absurd.

I do agree with Devrim, however, that the claim that council communists generally think that any union is better than no union is too strongly stated. No council communist I have heard of actually stated this explicitly, or even implicitly. At the same time, I think it would be wrong to assume that they have the same uncompromising stance towards the unions that Devrim or the ICC does. (The left communists have been trying to twist and turn unsuccessfully to try to define the characteristics which all council communists must have had to be worthy of the name. I think "council communist" was a term used for a number of different groups, of which there wasn't necessarily any single common element. And as this discussion moves along, it seems more and more likely that this is the case.) Mattick and Ruhle are the obvious examples. Korsch could be mentioned too but perhaps he never was really a council communist, so he should perhaps be left out. But just because their position wasn't as strict as the ICC's doesn't meant that they went so far as to say that any union is better than no union.

Mike

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Oct 3 2007 06:42
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I'd also dispute the idea that federalism and centralism are diametrically opposed - many people in favour of federalism see this as part of a bottom-up centralism which ought eventually to take on an international character, and local autonomy doesn't necessarily mean free reign - it means control over those matters best dealt with at a local level, and in case of disagreements between the centre (or majority) and the periphery, many would say the result would be secession/split rather than license

Catch, I used to have a view similar to this that a lot of what anarchists call 'federalism' is really quite similar to 'centralism', and the difference is purely semantical, and historical. Then I met anarchists who believed in 'federalism' again.

Devrim

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Oct 3 2007 06:46
Mikus wrote:
Would council communists have rejected to be called "communists"? How about: "Marxists"?

If not, then they certainly were okay in certain situations with being grouped in with other radicals that did not share certain key features of their political positions. And if that is the case, then your original point is nullified.

Thinking it is okay to call them "communists" but not "libertarian communists" is just absurd.

Mike, they referred to themselves as communists, and rejected anarchism.

Mikus wrote:
At the same time, I think it would be wrong to assume that they have the same uncompromising stance towards the unions that Devrim or the ICC does

From earlier in the thread:

Rühle wrote:
As long as the trade unions still exist, they will remain what they are : the most genuine and efficient of all the White Guards of the bosses, to whom German capital in particular owes a greater debt of gratitude than to all the guards of Noske and Hitler put together.

Such generally harmful, counter-revolutionary institutions, inimical to the workers, can only be destroyed, annihilated, exterminated.

Devrim

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Oct 3 2007 12:05
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nastyned:Though historically council communists would not have described themselves as libertarian communists it is common nowadays to use libertarian communism as a term that lumps together anarchist communism and council communism.

I would add tht this defination goes back to the mid-late 1970s. Oft times US and Canadian "libertarian communists" would be an amalgam of anarchist-comminism, anarcho-syndicalism,ORA/AWAism,* council communism, some situationism and those who would agree with much of the British Solidarity folks had to say. So, quite broad, perhaps with contradictions, but libertarian never-the-less.

* By this I mean, there were some of us who were reading "the platform"; distributing ORA/AWA (while also distributing SWF materials, newspaper) newspaper and generally agreeing with the need for an organized, class conscious anarchist movement. This didn't translate into lock step agreement with "the platform" or the overall politics of "the platform" or the ORA/AWA or the French UCTL. Our small group wwer basically willing to explore all aveneues of class struggle libertarian thought and ideas. In the long run, my immediate comrades chose to identify themselves with the best traditions of anarcho-syndcalism and non-platformist anarchist-communism.

mikus
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Oct 3 2007 18:25
Devrim wrote:
Mikus wrote:
Would council communists have rejected to be called "communists"? How about: "Marxists"?

If not, then they certainly were okay in certain situations with being grouped in with other radicals that did not share certain key features of their political positions. And if that is the case, then your original point is nullified.

Thinking it is okay to call them "communists" but not "libertarian communists" is just absurd.

Mike, they referred to themselves as communists, and rejected anarchism.

This is irrelevant. I don't dispute either of those points. I only dispute your idea that it follows from these points that we should not call council communists "libertarian communists." The term "communist" refers to a class of different groups, political tendencies, etc. (Likewise for "Marxist".) "Libertarian communist" does nothing more than make the class referred to smaller. (I.e., instead of including Trotskyists, Leninists, certain anarchists, council communists, etc., it includes only certain anarchist and left-wing communist groups.) There is absolutely no more problem here than there is a problem with saying a phrase like "anarchists and council communists."

I personally have no attachment to the label "libertarian communist." I never use it. I just think it doesn't make any sense to be against the use of the phrase. If you imagine that the use of the phrase means that distinctions between anarchists and council communists are erased you are wrong. Using the term "communist" doesn't erase all differences between communists. It doesn't even mean that there is a specific set of commonalties to all of the communist groups. The same is true of the phrase "libertarian communist."

Devrim wrote:
Mikus wrote:
At the same time, I think it would be wrong to assume that they have the same uncompromising stance towards the unions that Devrim or the ICC does

From earlier in the thread:

Rühle wrote:
As long as the trade unions still exist, they will remain what they are : the most genuine and efficient of all the White Guards of the bosses, to whom German capital in particular owes a greater debt of gratitude than to all the guards of Noske and Hitler put together.

Such generally harmful, counter-revolutionary institutions, inimical to the workers, can only be destroyed, annihilated, exterminated.

When I said that "they" didn't have the same uncompromising stance toward the unions that you or the ICC do, I meant that not all of them did. Certainly some of them did. Certainly some of them didn't. (Mattick, as has been pointed out.)

Mike

Mike Harman
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Oct 3 2007 20:14
Devrim wrote:
Quote:
I'd also dispute the idea that federalism and centralism are diametrically opposed - many people in favour of federalism see this as part of a bottom-up centralism which ought eventually to take on an international character, and local autonomy doesn't necessarily mean free reign - it means control over those matters best dealt with at a local level, and in case of disagreements between the centre (or majority) and the periphery, many would say the result would be secession/split rather than license

Catch, I used to have a view similar to this that a lot of what anarchists call 'federalism' is really quite similar to 'centralism', and the difference is purely semantical, and historical. Then I met anarchists who believed in 'federalism' again.

Devrim

It probably depends which anarchist you speak to at which time (and for that matter what you mean by centralism). It's certainly possible to have a conception of federalism which is also centralist, and many of the 'classical' anarchists had that conception. It's also possible to have a conception of centralism that's not federalist, and vice versa. In other words, I don't think you can use them as antonyms in the way you have here.

Mike Harman
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Oct 3 2007 20:15
mikus wrote:
This is irrelevant. I don't dispute either of those points. I only dispute your idea that it follows from these points that we should not call council communists "libertarian communists." The term "communist" refers to a class of different groups, political tendencies, etc. (Likewise for "Marxist".) "Libertarian communist" does nothing more than make the class referred to smaller. (I.e., instead of including Trotskyists, Leninists, certain anarchists, council communists, etc., it includes only certain anarchist and left-wing communist groups.) There is absolutely no more problem here than there is a problem with saying a phrase like "anarchists and council communists."

I personally have no attachment to the label "libertarian communist." I never use it. I just think it doesn't make any sense to be against the use of the phrase. If you imagine that the use of the phrase means that distinctions between anarchists and council communists are erased you are wrong. Using the term "communist" doesn't erase all differences between communists. It doesn't even mean that there is a specific set of commonalties to all of the communist groups. The same is true of the phrase "libertarian communist."

Mike

This is as good a way to put it as any.

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Alf
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Oct 3 2007 20:49

I don't think this really began as a discussion about labels, but about the unions and the communist attitude towards them. Devrim pointed out that the libcom library gives a very misleading account of the 'council communist' approach to the question. It's perfectly true that the term council communism covers a number of different groups and currents, some more lucid about the union question than others. But if the council communist tradition is to be remembered in history as something distinct and recogniseable, it will hardly be for the idea that 'it's better to have unions than nothing'.