Kronstadt

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Battlescarred
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Jun 22 2006 09:30

Going on further from this, and addressing the problem of blind Party allegiance above the needs of the working class, Nikolai Bukharin was a leading light within Kommunist. He then, in the interests of the Party, rallied to Lenin and Trotsky's views and dropped the ideas of Kommunist

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Steven.
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Jun 22 2006 09:36
Battlescarred wrote:
Going on further from this, and addressing the problem of blind Party allegiance above the needs of the working class, Nikolai Bukharin was a leading light within Kommunist. He then, in the interests of the Party, rallied to Lenin and Trotsky's views and dropped the ideas of Kommunist

Well, anyone can change their ideas. Loads of anarchists moved over the Bolsheviks, so I'm not sure this is an entirely valid point...

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Jun 22 2006 09:43

The point is, the oppositionists within the Party were shackled by Party allegiance so in most cases they remained within it, rather than breaking with it, or in the worst case, like Bukharin, rallied totally to the Party leadership

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Jun 22 2006 15:49
revol wrote:
Why did the Workers Opposition stick with the Bolsheviks, why did they put Party allegiance over class? Surely Lenin had nothing to offer them.

Why did tjhey fail to link up with the actual oppositional tendencies in the working class, in the factory committees and also in the Soviets? Why did they resort to quietism over kronstadt?

Worse, why did the Workers Opposition actually rush on to the ice to help suppress the Kronstadt revolt? Because they felt obliged to prove their loyalty to the party after being severely criticised for making some fairly moderate calls for the trade union bureaucracies to be allowed have a greater hand in planning production. But the TUs were already under almost complete control of the party bureaucracy;

Quote:
"the continuous 'independence' of the trade union movement, in the period of the proletarian revolution, is just as much an impossibility as the policy of coalition. The trade unions become the most important organs of the proletariat in power. Thereby they fall under the leadership of the Communist Party. Not only questions of principle in the trade union movement, but serious conflicts of organisation within it, are decided by the Central Committee of our party." (Trotsky, "Terrorism and Communism".)

The WO believed all criticism should remain an internal party concern; this was the main extent of their 'opposition' and championing of 'workers' power. At heart the WO leaders were party bureaucrats, with a conception of socialism similar to Lenin, just with a little more participatory democracy than Lenin or Trotsky could stomach. Those who disagreed left and joined the left communist groups who had quickly been forced into clandestinity. WO leader Kollantai later received an Scandinavian ambassadorship from Stalin for her party loyalty.

demagorgon wrote:
The main reason that administrative positions in the party and the state were taken up by non-proletarians was because the shocking state of Russia meant that hardly any actual workers or peasants could read.

Exaggeration. Yet it had been party policy for decades to take promising worker recruits out of the factory and into the professional revolutionary lifestyle of full-time Bolshevism. And none of these learnt to read? Lenin expected the party newspaper to "bring into the spontaneous worker movement certain specific socialist ideals." So all the efforts under difficult conditions over several decades pre-1917 by Russian marxists and anarchists, to maintain and distribute a workers press, were for a working class readership - that couldn't read?! confused Why did workers carry banners on demos then?

And so the establishment of communism privileges the literate? (All that bureaucratic paperwork, I guess.) Literacy levels were highly variable, concentrated in certain areas; the capital, St Petersburg, had large numbers of literate skilled male workers.

demagorgon wrote:
Nonetheless, for all their past errors, Lenin and Trotsky's dim realisation of the growth of the Stalinist machine still constituted a genuine proletarian reaction against such degeneration.

Individual comrades can sometimes extract themselves from their previous errors and go on to play a positive role fighting against a degeneration they initially played a role in.

Demag and Alf's defence of Lenin and Trotsky's positions are unconvincing; they were instrumental in banning all factions, in jailing former comrades, banning all opposition presses and forcing the left comms into clandestinity. In power, they were the right wing of the party. They sowed the seeds of Stalinism. Lenin only voiced much real concern about bureaucratisation in private on his deathbed. The Trotsky/Stalin conflict was a factional battle within the ruling elite, played out above the heads of the exploited subjected proletarian class. If, as implied previously, the authoritarianism is not enough to convince one of new class relations established, try some hard economic facts;

Quote:
"Ante Ciliga described what he called the state capitalists' 'morals on the morrow of the October revolution' as follows:

From the first days of the October revolution, the Communist [sic] leaders had shown a great lack of shame in these matters. Having occupied the building, they furnished it with the best furniture from shops that had been nationalized. From the same source their wives had procured themselves fur coats, each taking two or three at a time. All the rest was in keeping. (Ciliga, 1979, p. 121)

Far from the emergence of the privileged consumption enjoyed by the state capitalist class coinciding with Stalin's rise to power, some of the state capitalists of Stalin's day looked back with nostalgia to the comfortable life they had experienced during the early years of Bolshevik rule:

During the winter of 1930 fuel ran short and we had to do without hot water for a few days. The wife of a high official who lived at the Party House was full of indignation. `What a disaster to have this man Kirov! True, Zinoviev is guilty of "fractionism", but in his day central heating always functioned properly and we were never short of hot water. Even in 1920, when they had to stop the factories in Leningrad for lack of coal, we could always have our hot baths with the greatest comfort.' (Ibid., pp. 121-2)

Another illustration that Stalin was not personally responsible for establishing state capitalist privilege in Russia is that during the period 1923-5, when Stalin had only an old car at his disposal 'Kamenev had already appropriated a magnificent Rolls." (Medvedev - 1979, p. 33).

( State Capitalism - the wages system under new management, Buick & Crump.)

Not to be outdone, Lenin apparently owned 9 Rolls-Royces during his Soviet leadership - inheriting the 1st one from the late Tsar.

A must for every leninist (and other wargamers) - check out the available model car kit! http://www.tin-soldier.com/sg/rrs.htm

And the real thing- (now in Moscow Museum) http://users.rosweb.ru/lomakovka/0auto-Rolls-Royce1915.html

"...a Rolls-Royce car, manufactured in 1914 or 1915, garage number 50, city number 236. The engine and chassis numbers, which researchers have managed to identify from the technical inspection certificates, technical specifications and other documents from the period, confirm that this is the car used by Vladimir II'yich Lenin during the first years of the revolution."

Quote:
"Autocracy’s main enemy, Vladimir Lenin, had no reservations about inheriting the hated old regime’s automobile collection. Lenin used the Tsar’s Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost to drive around town while his colleagues divided up the rest of the collection among them. But two revolutions and a civil war had taken their toll on the cars, and in 1919 the Council of People’s Commissars had to order 70 more from London." (Aeroflot site) http://www.aeroflot.aero/eng/service.asp?ob_no=4812&d_no=4815

To the manor born... 70 new Rollers in 1919, in the midst of rationing and civil war, amid extreme hardships for the workers and peasants.

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Jun 23 2006 11:17
Red Marut wrote:
Demag and Alf's defence of Lenin and Trotsky's positions are unconvincing; they were instrumental in banning all factions, in jailing former comrades, banning all opposition presses and forcing the left comms into clandestinity.

Neither Alf or myself have defended their actions in this regard. It's a pity you didn't quote the entirety of my piece, where I agreed that the role Lenin and Trotsky played in the destruction of party democracy was negative:

Demogorgon303 wrote:
No-one disputes that Lenin and Trotsky were instrumental in the banning of fractions in the RCP (B). This was a terrible error on their part and one of the signs that the party and the revolution were in degeneration.

I could be wrong, but the banning of fractions was not a "top-down" decision, but one taken at a congress because the Party was beginning to tear itself apart. They were striving desperately for unity. Many of those who represented counter-tendencies agreed to this freely, to save the Party. It quickly turned the Party into a monolithic organisation, of course.

Lenin's "Last Testament" concerns on beauracratism were sent to the Party Congress. He also previously defended the principle of workers being allowed to resist "their" state against Trotsky who wanted to militarise the unions. Hardly a last minute flash in the pan. The point is that there was a debate within the Party concerning these very serious issues, indicating some level of proletarian resistance to its degeneration.

Individual comrades can support completely erroneous positions - as both Lenin and Trotsky did - and yet still recognise and reflect on these errors at a later date. Focussing on these errors and their consequences is necessary but cannot be divorced from understand the process that lead to them. Were Liebknecht and Ruhle counter-revolutionaries because they initially voted for War Credits? Was Luxemburg a counter-revolutionary because she hesitated in breaking with the SPD? I cannot believe this is the case.

In the same way, I cannot accept the proposition that the Bolsheviks were self-evidently counter-revolutionaries in the early days of the Revolution. It was the Bolsheviks (and Lenin in particular) that pushed the Soviets into accepting they were an alternative form of power, when the latter were voting in Mensheviks who supported Kerensky and the Constituent Assembly!

As for Lenin and his Rolls Royces, I don't know too much about that. But I'm not sure it really proves anything. These cars existed and happened to be reliable - and Lenin was appointed by the Soviet to be the head of the Commisariat, so presumably he had to get around somehow. It was also Soviet policy to appropriate palaces and luxury homes for use by the new proletarian power. They made use of what the previous state had left behind it. These people were no different from many other workers - after living vast portions of their lives in prison, running from one hiding place to the next, I bet they did succumb to the temptation of a little luxury. If I got turned loose in Buckingham Palace, I might do the same.

It's easy to engage in "Bolshie-bashing". What's not easy is to understand the process by which the Bolsheviks moved from being the most determined advocates for revolution within the working class to being the gravediggers of that same revolution.

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Jun 23 2006 12:51

I also think it's very important to understand the economic processes that took place in Russia immediately following the Revolution. The economic crisis actually accelerated rapidly after October:

- The Army quite literally collapsed, ejecting hundreds of thousands of armed, angry workers into the street, many of whom turned up at factories demanding their old jobs back;

- The immediate and sudden cessation of war production - partly through local decisions made by anti-militarist workers and also by decrees made by the Government - resulted in hundreds of factories literally grinding to a halt. In Petrograd, dominated by military production, nearly 60% of the workforce was laid off.

As unemployment spread and the disruption of production proliferated rapidly, the different factory committees began a siege mentality. Armed groups were sent to appropriate supplies and began to block off access to workers without legitimate employment cards. As conditions got worse, armed conflicts began to break out.

Even worse, was the tendency for workers in the factories to turn against their own committees. Workers would be elected to the committees only to be turned out within a week as the crisis continued, creating an ever more explosive social situation. Strikes proliferated which accelerated the crisis further.

The situation was horrendous:

- The workers democracy that the Bolsheviks had trumpeted before October now seemed to be "part of the problem" - the same democracy that the Bolsheviks themselves legalised with a decree in December 1917;

- The factory committees were now caught between the reality of keeping production limping along while facing aggrieved workers who were going on strike on a daily basis against committees they had often elected only days before;

- The state was completely impotent and unable to meet the demands that desperate workers were pushing on it through the Soviets. Worse, different arms of the state and the Soviet issued contradictory orders. In many cases, armed Chekists turned up at factories to enforce different orders often issued from the same office!;

- At mass demonstrations, workers condemned the brutality of the Red Guards - while simulataneously demanding the Red Guard increase their presence at the factories to protect them from the ensuing chaos.

Against this backdrop of an economy torn apart the Bolsheviks felt they had no choice but to strengthen the state in order to begin even the most modest co-ordination of production. In fact, part of the problem was the absolute impotence of the state to meet the demands for state intervention that the committees and the workers were demanding. Without that co-ordination, Russian society would have collapsed inwards on itself. That was the beginning of the attacks on the factory committees as the central state power attempted to reorganise production on a co-ordinated basis through the trade unions.

Any realistic appraisal of the situation can see that the obstacles facing the revolution were extreme and nothing in the experience of the working class had prepared either the proletariat or the Bolsheviks for it. Class consciousness was disintegrating into a factory consciousness with "every factory for itself". The Soviets were creaking under the pressure. It's no wonder the Bolsheviks began to see themselves and the state they were fusing with as the only force that could bring order and began to substitute themselves for the working class.

Were they right to do so? No. Central organisation and co-ordination was certainly needed but this should have been done through the unitary organs of the class i.e. the Soviets, even if they were on the verge of collapse. Nor should the Bolsheviks have seen themselves as a "government". The list goes on. But this is largely the benefit of hindsight. And many of the measures which can now be seen clearly as representing a trend were, at the time, simply contingent temporary measures to stave off the tide of complete social and economic collapse.

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Jun 23 2006 12:51

Posted twice for some reason! How do you delete posts? embarrassed

mk12
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Jun 23 2006 13:10

All well and good. You then say, "Against this backdrop of an economy torn apart the Bolsheviks felt...." and therein lies the problem in my view.

The factory committees (if i remember correctly) were intending to organise a natiowide conference to secure their "virtual economic dictatorship" according to one historian (Carr or Deutscher).

But rather the attempt at re-organisation from below, the central government took the initiative and created central, unelected institutions (Supreme Economic Council). Thus the process of centralisation (from above) in economic and political life began, ending up with Stalinism.

EDIT: should have finished reading your post, as it basically says what I said. embarrassed

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Jun 23 2006 13:31

Matt, exactly why the ICC argues that the Party should not take power. In a similar situation, the Party should be active in the Soviets, pushing for an end to factory rivalry and for centralised co-ordination through the Soviet, not trying to do this themselves.

Nonetheless, I don't think this attempt by the Bolsheviks makes them automatically counter-revolutionary. Rather, it was a desperate (and deeply mistaken) effort to salvage a collapsing situation that then paved the way for even worse developments in the future.

But Lenin & Co still believed, at that stage, that a German revolution would follow, giving Russia relief from the West. Lenin, in particular, never saw all the various economic policies, be they War Communism or the NEP as anything else than "holding actions" until the revolution spread across Europe. When this didn't happen, the "holding actions" became permanent and the Bolsheviks watched their dream collapse about them. The real tragedy of reading the writings at the time, is that many knew things were going terribly wrong but didn't have a clue what to do about it.

mk12
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Jun 23 2006 13:39

All of that makes sense, but you try to paint the leading Bolsheviks as sorry victims. Why, if these were temporary measures, did they turn these necessities into virtues? Why did they make the tactics in Russia the tactics of ALL communist parties? They didn't admit that what they were doing was a temporary setback. Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev and co never went back on the theory of the dictatorship of one party. Trotsky went as far to argue that one-man management would have been implemented even if the civil war hadn't started!

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Jun 23 2006 14:16
Demogorgon303 wrote:
Posted twice for some reason! How do you delete posts? embarrassed

You can't - you can edit it to say "double post deleted" or something

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Jun 24 2006 11:01
Alf wrote:

I realize that this is not your position – that you are saying that the Bolsheviks were indeed proletarian in 1917 and that Kronstadt was their death knell as a proletarian party. But I think there is still a weakness in your method. As I said before, by taking state power and arguing that the revolutionary party should defend that state under all circumstances, even in the face of working class discontent and rebellion, the Bolsheviks were not doing what the Socialist parties did in 1914 – they were not betraying already established proletarian principles. Instead, through their terrible errors, they were negatively establishing new principles which others would have to elaborate through reflection and debate on the defeat of the revolution. And if the principle lesson of Kronstadt is the necessity for the working class and its party to retain their independence from the transitional state, then again it was the Italian left current which drew the clearest lessons in the end, even if this also involved assimilating the best insights of the German left.

I basically agree with this, Alf. My point on the original thread was:

Quote:
The Italian left was very confused originally about the nature of the Russian state though, and the German left, although they tied themselves into knots with formulations about the dual nature of the revolution, did realize much earlier that something was deeply wrong in Russia. The Germans could see that there was something wrong in Russia even though they struggled to explain it theoretically. The Italians couldn't explain it theoretically, so they couldn't see it. There are times when people make the right decisions based on healthy class instincts rather than on theoretical elaboration. I think that this was one of them.

I think that this is still valid. The Italian left did come to the right conclusions, but it took them a long time, and even then it was a only a small fraction of the Italian left. The German lefts descent into councilism is not only due to their analysis of the German revolution. In fact I would say that it was directly connected to the defeat of the German revolution, and the 3rd international’s taking up of counter revolutionary positions.

Alf wrote:
But Gorter denied supporting the rebels, reflecting a more general ambiguity within the international communist left about the significance of the rebellion.

I think here that Gorter was pressurized by the KAPD, who wanted to affirm its support for the Russian revolution. There is no denying though that Gorter was right when he wrote that 'a section of the proletariat has risen against you'. And the fact that they failed to explain it theoretically is due to the general confusion in the workers' movement, and the defeat of the revolutionary wave.

If we acknowledge that it was a workers’ revolution, and that there were good communists in the party. The question then becomes how should they have reacted to the degeneration of the revolution, and when should they have left the party, and say that it was counter revolutionary. If one does not agree with these points the debate is completely different.

This doesn't mean that all of the actions of the RCP(B) were correct up to a certain point, and it doesn't mean that the germs of bureaucratization were not carried in the ideology of the Bolsheviks.

Maisnikov's Workers' Group of the RCP(B) in 1923 said that the people eligible to be members of the Workers' Group were:

Workers'Group of the RCP(B) wrote:

1) Members of the RCP(B)

2) those expelled from the RCP(B) for political reasons

3) Non-party workers who are advised to join the RCP(B)

It seem to me from this that in 1923 the Workers' Group still saw that a struggle could take place within the party. They also supported workers' strikes, and demonstrations that were struggling against the party/state.

Could useful work still be done in the party at that time? I don't think so. I think that Kronstadt represent the definitive end of the Bolshevik party as a revolutionary force, which is not to say that they didn't act against the working class earlier.

A question for the anarchists; a what point should communists have left the Bolshevik party? After Brest-Litosk for example? How long should they have stayed inside, and argued their positions? I think that when the Bolshevik party took up arms against the working class at Kronstadt the point had come where there could be no more action within the party.

Battlescared made a good point when he said

Battlescared wrote:
The point is, the oppositionists within the Party were shackled by Party allegiance so in most cases they remained within it, rather than breaking with it, or in the worst case, like Bukharin, rallied totally to the Party leadership.

The Miasnikov group stayed inside as long as they could. I think that there are two reasons for this:

1) They thought that there was still valid work to be done inside the party.

2) As Battlescarred points out there is an emotional attachment to an organization that you have struggled in for years, and it is difficult to break. This can of course influence your appraisal of point 1.

Incidentally, I think the same could be said of the Friends of Durruti group, and their relationship with the CNT.

It is not 1923 now, and we have the benefit of hindsight. I think that drawing a balance sheet of the events doesn't mean a slavish adherence to the positions of one particular faction. It means looking at the movement as a whole, and drawing what lessons that we can from it.

In this way Alf was right when he wrote:

Alf wrote:
by taking state power and arguing that the revolutionary party should defend that state under all circumstances, even in the face of working class discontent and rebellion, the Bolsheviks were not doing what the Socialist parties did in 1914 – they were not betraying already established proletarian principles. Instead, through their terrible errors, they were negatively establishing new principles which others would have to elaborate through reflection and debate on the defeat of the revolution. And if the principle lesson of Kronstadt is the necessity for the working class and its party to retain their independence from the transitional state...

When he wrote that

Alf wrote:
I also think that you are not grasping the significance of the huge struggles that took place in the Bolshevik party between 1921 and 1928. The shift of Lenin and Trotsky towards an oppositional stance towards the emerging Stalinist apparatus, and above all the struggle of the left fractions like those around Miasnikov and Sapranov, were in themselves signs that there was still a proletarian life in this party.

I think that he is holding on to the party, which had already passed over to the other side. I agree with Ret Marut when he writes:

Ret Marut wrote:
The Trotsky/Stalin conflict was a factional battle within the ruling elite, played out above the heads of the exploited subjected proletarian class.

As for Miasnikov, on some points he was very clear, but on his continued adherence the RCP(B), I think he made a mistake.

Devrim

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Jun 24 2006 15:21

Devrim I agree more-or-less that Kronstadt was when they definitively became a party of Capital. Before this, I'd say it depends on the time and place, when communists should have left. In cities where anarchists were being murdered by the Cheka, in rural areas where the Cheka was 'requisitioning food', etc. I think communists probably should have left, especially if there was other revolutionary groups that they could militate with. Obviously there is the hope that you can turn the party around; but in a situation where you are being asked to break a strike or murder a fellow proletarian militant, than I think any healthy class instincts would force you to leave.

Devrim it's interesting that you bring up the CNT. At their Toulouse congress of 1951 a clear majority resolved that participation in the state had been a fatal error and could never be repeated. I'd like to know if you think there's any significance to that...

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Jun 24 2006 17:48
OliverTwister wrote:

Devrim it's interesting that you bring up the CNT. At their Toulouse congress of 1951 a clear majority resolved that participation in the state had been a fatal error and could never be repeated. I'd like to know if you think there's any significance to that...

I think that it has no significance whatsoever. If they had expelled the CNT, maybe it would have.

The CNT played the role of the 'Spanish Noske' in 1937. They called for the workers to lay down their arms, and go back to work, and after that the Stalinists massacred the militants. There needs to be a full evaluation of the CNT's role in the Spanish revolution. While the anarchists pretend that it was just a few 'bad apples' who entered the government, there can be no balance sheet.

We say that the RCP(B) passed over to the side of capital. The anarchists do not say the same thing about the CNT (as an organization: to say that there were thousands of militant workers in it means nothing. It applied to the Bolshevik party too).

I know full well why the Bolshevik party was attacked for turning against the working class. It is because they did. I feel that the CNT is not subject to the same analysis.

Devrim

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Jun 24 2006 20:03
Devrim wrote:
OliverTwister wrote:

Devrim it's interesting that you bring up the CNT. At their Toulouse congress of 1951 a clear majority resolved that participation in the state had been a fatal error and could never be repeated. I'd like to know if you think there's any significance to that...

I think that it has no significance whatsoever. If they had expelled the CNT, maybe it would have.

I think you misunderstood me - I was speaking of the CNT's own congress.

Quote:
The CNT played the role of the 'Spanish Noske' in 1937. They called for the workers to lay down their arms, and go back to work, and after that the Stalinists massacred the militants. There needs to be a full evaluation of the CNT's role in the Spanish revolution. While the anarchists pretend that it was just a few 'bad apples' who entered the government, there can be no balance sheet.

I'm sorry but unlike the SDP the CNT were not full of social-democratic 'marxist' shit. The SDP had been on the side of capital at least since it voted credits for the war in Africa. Even Otto Ruhle and Rosa Luxemburg initially voted war credits for WW1, but the SDP had been full of opportunist shit for long before then, its main movers such as Wilhelm Liebknicht were the architects of the 'Socialist' International's exclusion of any delegates who argued against electoral participation, even if these were sent by unions rather than anti-electoral political groups.

To call the CNT the 'Spanish Noske', I must take issue with. First of all Noske was an individual politician, on a superficial level he could be compared with Federica Montseny or Garcia Oliver. However unlke them he was obviously a capitalist, and had been for some time. Noske saved German and international capital from a worldwide revolutionary wave, and was conscious about his goals. Bilan's analysis of the Spanish revolution (though they didn't call it that) was dead right in one regard: it was taking place in the midst of a fundamentally counter-revolutionary period in which capital was preparing for another world war. The Spanish workers could not count on workers' solidarity in France, much less in Italy, Germany, or Russia. I think Montseny, Garcia Oliver, and some of the other leadership of the CNT were dead wrong, but unlike the SDP or Bolsheviks who may have sometimes made good decisions (such as taking anti-war stands) for the wrong reasons (opportunism), these currents within the CNT made awful decisions for what were for the most part the right reasons - the recognition that international capital was mobilizing to absolutely crush the proletariat. Despite the occasional dogmatism of left communists, fascism is actually bad for workers and there was a real risk of Britain, France or the US giving much more succor to the fascists or even openly aiding Franco. The desire to avoid an absolute massacre of workers is far different from the desire to protect ones seat in the Reichstag and overall position within capital, and for better or worse many militant workers in Spain felt that the 'anti-fascist' front was the best way to avoid this massacre and encouraged the CNT to participate in this front.

Asking 'the anarchists' to make an evaluation of the May Days is like asking 'the bolsheviks' to make an evalutation of Kronstadt. Different trends descending from anarchism have made this evaluation, and there will be differences within each evaluation. There is a fundamental class line in both cases, however: groups which are on the side of the workers will say, in both cases, that the workers were right to strike and that it should have spread. From what I can tell the CNT themselves have made this evaluation.

I will draw up right now a short balance sheet on the roles of the Bolsheviks in and after Kronstadt, and the CNT in and after the May Days:

-In 1921, after 4 years of fighting working class autonomy, the Bolsheviks finally triggered a massive strike by militant and revolutionary-minded urban workers. The Bolsheviks, and even their most critical internal currents, feverishly responded that the workers must be massacred. After this the "left current" remained in the party for several more years.

-In 1937, after having seen many of their revolutionary gains smashed by Stalinists and other capitalists in the name of 'anti-fascism', and being deliberatly provoked by those same forces, the militant workers of Barcelona who formed the largest and most militant section of the CNT responded with an uprising against all the Spanish capitalists. Sections of the CNT's leadership responded that this was tactically a bad move. They were dead wrong, but considering for instance how relieved they were when they were able to leave the government this has to be looked at as a tactical decision, rather than one stemming from their desire to participate in capitalism. Other sections tried to spread the strike as much as possible and stood always with the workers. After the fact, the CNT did internally criticize and say that all started going wrong when they did not mobilize the workers to suppress the state from the very beginning but rather succumbed to 'anti-fascism' and participated in the government.

There is a clear difference between the two.

Quote:
We say that the RCP(B) passed over to the side of capital. The anarchists do not say the same thing about the CNT (as an organization: to say that there were thousands of militant workers in it means nothing. It applied to the Bolshevik party too).

Accept the Bolsheviks decided as a whole, including with their most critical currents, to suppress the workers. I don't think many militant workers would have remained in the Bolsheviks, at least not without the coercion from the Cheka, at this point.

On the other hand it was actually the CNT, and probably a majority of it, who participated in or supported the May Days. I don't see how these are at all comparable in terms of saying the organization as a whole 'passed to the side of capital'.

Quote:
I know full well why the Bolshevik party was attacked for turning against the working class. It is because they did. I feel that the CNT is not subject to the same analysis.

Devrim

You say that the Bolsheviks had a lot of complications which had them taking action against the class before Kronstadt, but that Kronstadt was 'definitive'. I've outlined why I think that there is a huge difference between the May Days with the CNT, and Kronstadt with the Bolsheviks. Maybe the CNT is not subjected to the same analysis because there were real differences.

Oliver

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Jun 24 2006 21:33
OliverTwister wrote:
Devrim wrote:
OliverTwister wrote:

Devrim it's interesting that you bring up the CNT. At their Toulouse congress of 1951 a clear majority resolved that participation in the state had been a fatal error and could never be repeated. I'd like to know if you think there's any significance to that...

I think that it has no significance whatsoever. If they had expelled the CNT, maybe it would have.

I think you misunderstood me - I was speaking of the CNT's own congress.

Sorry, my mistake. I thought that you were referring to an IWA congress.

Quote:
Even Otto Ruhle and Rosa Luxemburg initially voted war credits for WW1

I think it was Liebeknect not Luxembourg.

Anyway, on to your points,

Quote:
I think Montseny, Garcia Oliver, and some of the other leadership of the CNT were dead wrong, but unlike the SDP or Bolsheviks who may have sometimes made good decisions (such as taking anti-war stands) for the wrong reasons (opportunism), these currents within the CNT made awful decisions for what were for the most part the right reasons - the recognition that international capital was mobilizing to absolutely crush the proletariat.

I don't think that it is really a question of individuals taking positions for either the right, or wrong reasons. It is a matter of the activities, and practice of organizations, and which side they take.

Quote:
I think Montseny, Garcia Oliver, and some of the other leadership of the CNT were dead wrong

You make it sound like this was one fraction of the CNT leadership, and that their was a real active opposition. It wasn't it was a decision taken by the organization, and ratified at its various plenums.

Quote:
To call the CNT the 'Spanish Noske', I must take issue with. First of all Noske was an individual politician, on a superficial level he could be compared with Federica Montseny or Garcia Oliver.

O.k, point taken. Maybe I should have called Juan Garcia Oliver the 'Spanish Noske'. I did put it in inverted commas though. I know that it is Wiki, and not a revolutionary view point, but they say:

Wiki wrote:
He encouraged workers to disarm during the Barcelona May Days of May 1937, calling a ceasefire.
Wiki wrote:
he defused the Kiel Mutiny of 1918 without a shot being fired

It seems a bit similar if only on a superficial level, and of course the aftermath of both of these events was the murder of revolutionaries.

The reason that I said the CNT though, and not just Juan Garcia Oliver, was that when you mention individuals it opens up the bad apple theory again.

Quote:
The desire to avoid an absolute massacre of workers is far different from the desire to protect ones seat in the Reichstag and overall position within capital, and for better or worse many militant workers in Spain felt that the 'anti-fascist' front was the best way to avoid this massacre and encouraged the CNT to participate in this front.

There was a massacre of workers. The CNT participated in drawing the workers off their class terrain, and into a capitalist war encouraging workers to die at the front, not for their own interests, but for the defence of the bourgeois state.

Quote:
-In 1937, after having seen many of their revolutionary gains smashed by Stalinists and other capitalists in the name of 'anti-fascism', and being deliberatly provoked by those same forces, the militant workers of Barcelona who formed the largest and most militant section of the CNT responded with an uprising against all the Spanish capitalists. Sections of the CNT's leadership responded that this was tactically a bad move. They were dead wrong, but considering for instance how relieved they were when they were able to leave the government this has to be looked at as a tactical decision, rather than one stemming from their desire to participate in capitalism. Other sections tried to spread the strike as much as possible and stood always with the workers.

Again, it seems to come down to Sections of the CNT's leadership. I think that it was the organization that did it. Didn't Solidaridad Obrera call for the workers to stop the strike, and disarm? Sure lots of workers were against it, but also look at the figures for RCP(B) membership. The amount of workers leaving makes you think that lots of Russian Bolsheviks were against what happened at Kronstadt.

Quote:
On the other hand it was actually the CNT, and probably a majority of it, who participated in or supported the May Days. I don't see how these are at all comparable in terms of saying the organization as a whole 'passed to the side of capital'.

You seem to find it very difficult to differentiate between the organization, and the class. Anarchists never have this problem when discussing Russia even though the Bolshevik party was a mass party of workers. The CNT is treated differently. Only the leaders are condemned, not the organization, and the politics of it, anarcho-syndicalism, is not condemned in the same way that Leninism rightly is.

What happened in Barcelona was that the workers rose up (whether, or not they were members of the CNT is irrelevant. Lots of the Kronstadt rebels were, or had previously, been members of the Bolshevik party.), and the CNT played its part in sending them back to work, and disarming them. And then the massacres of militants started.

Quickly, on the point of fascism:

Quote:
Despite the occasional dogmatism of left communists, fascism is actually bad for workers

I know. We had fascist ministers in the last government, and I expect to have them again in the next one. Now we just have a nationalist Islamic government.

Devrim

martinh
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Jun 24 2006 22:31

Surely the difference between the CNT's actions in 1936-7 and those of the Bolsheviks is that the CNT analysed what happened and regard it as a mistake? I don't see any parallel within any faction of Leninism, most of whom applaud the massacres at Kronstadt.

Regards,

Martin

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Devrim
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Jun 25 2006 10:14
martinh wrote:
Surely the difference between the CNT's actions in 1936-7 and those of the Bolsheviks is that the CNT analysed what happened and regard it as a mistake? I don't see any parallel within any faction of Leninism, most of whom applaud the massacres at Kronstadt.

Regards,

Martin

I think that the Bilan, and the Italian left could be said to have been a 'faction of Leninism' in some ways. They analyzed it and said it was a mistake, but it had far reaching consequences for their idea of the party, and its relationship to the class, and they also ceased to be Leninists.

Does the anarcho-syndicalist analysis have the same consequences, or was it just a question of a mistake?

Best wishes,

Dev

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Alf
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Jun 25 2006 12:57

Interesting discussion.

I think the question of whether Miasnikov should have left the party is important, but still secondary. No-one is saying that the Bolshevik party is alive today. Whereas Oliver is saying that the CNT, despite its obvious betrayal of internationalism and its direct participation in the apparatus of capital in 36-37 - not just via the ministers in the central government, but more importantly, the Central Commitee of Anti-fascist Militias and the Catalan regional government, which played a much more direct role in controlling the working class - remains to this day a living expression of the proletariat. Your post - like a previous one on the second world war - also seems to be a last-ditch defence of antifascism

"Despite the occasional dogmatism of left communists, fascism is actually bad for workers". Do you think the Italian left communists, who had fought tooth and nail against fascist gangs in Italy in the 1920s, needed to be told this? But they also saw how Italian (and German) fascism had been called to power by the 'democratic' bourgeoisie, and they showed very clearly how the same democrats (and Stalinists) were equally capable of crushing the workers. Prior to 36, Bilan published a number of articles showing how the Spanish democrats had used the army to repress workers' revolts in the Asturias and elsewhere.

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OliverTwister
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Jun 25 2006 16:18

I'd like to come back to this thread tomorrow, but a quick point in response to Alf's post: If you recognize that the Bolsheviks still had proletarian elements in the party until 1926 and the declaration of 'Socialism in one country', surely the same standard must be applied to other groups, such as the CNT? However unlike the Bolsheviks, the CNT actually critiqued its actions and (unanimously, IIRC) condemned them, writing them off for any future opportunities.

Also, i don't want this to seem like an ad hominem, because it is just a curiosity: doesn't the Spanish section of the ICC participate in the CNT's web forums at Alasbarricadas.org? How is this reconciled if that organization is considered to still be part of capital?

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Demogorgon303
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Jun 26 2006 18:03
mattkidd12 wrote:
All of that makes sense, but you try to paint the leading Bolsheviks as sorry victims. Why, if these were temporary measures, did they turn these necessities into virtues? Why did they make the tactics in Russia the tactics of ALL communist parties? They didn't admit that what they were doing was a temporary setback. Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev and co never went back on the theory of the dictatorship of one party. Trotsky went as far to argue that one-man management would have been implemented even if the civil war hadn't started!

Once they abandoned the hope that the Russian working class could organise society on its own, and that therefore the Party would have to do it, keeping the Party in power became an end in itself. The logic was simple:

If The Party = The Class, then The Party In Power = The Class In Power.

Now, obviously this is based on a completely false premise, but once you've accepted it, the rest logically falls into place. Lenin was actually much clearer about the dangers of the course they were taking than you imply. Trotsky, on the other hand, never truly made a critique of the course the Revolution took. But one-man management was actually the focus of a bitter discussion in both the Party and the Factory Committees - it was not simply a matter of handing down decrees from above. The Factory Committees were well aware of the problems of productivity and "worker indiscipline" the measure was meant to solve - they were the ones demanding something had to be done!

All this has to be placed in its historical context. The entire workers movement at the time supported the conception of a Party in power in one sense or another. And lets be clear about the stakes. The Factory Committees, by July 1918, were dominated by Mensheviks who were calling for the return of the municipal authorities, a new Constituent Assemby or Duma, i.e. the reconstruction of the bourgeois state. The other factor in the situation - the Left Communists and (some) Anarchists - supported workers democracy, but they also supported the renewal of War with Germany!

The Bolsheviks felt they were faced with a choice. Act against the class or let the Revolution die and/or reignite the War. We can see - now - that they should have "stayed with the class", that is vigorously criticising the serious errors from within the Soviets rather than turning against the class. But, on the other hand, what effect would it have had on the confidence of the international working class to see the Revolution collapse in such a way? Would it not have crushed the proletariat's confidence in itself?

We cannot know but these were the choices that the Bolsheviks were faced with. I believe they made the wrong choice, but I sure as hell understand why they made the choices they did at the time and without the benefit of hindsight. Once they started down that road, becoming essentially the managers of a state bureaucracy they were caught up in a very dangerous dynamic that led to Kronstadt.

Had the revolution spread, I believe a revolution by the far more experienced proletariat in the West would have swept those errors away. But that didn't happen and the Bolsheviks were left on their own. They effectively became the managers of a capitalist state that was ravaged by war for another three years. The trauma of these years and an inability to go to the root of their substitutionist error, completely disarmed them theoretically as they tried to understand what was happening.

alibadani
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Jun 27 2006 00:54

The communists in Russia and elsewhere saw as the major threat, the restoration of power to the Whites. There probably would have been an anti-proletarian dictatorship that would have massacred the communists. I wouldn't underestimate the fear of extermination that the communists were facing if they lost the Civil War. They felt they had to save Krondstadt, to save the revolution and thier skins.

The irony is that the communists were indeed massacred by an anti-proletarian dictatorship. They were slaughtered by the very party they created.

alibadani
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Jun 27 2006 01:55

Get laid revol.

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Devrim
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Jun 27 2006 12:17

Oliver, I thought you were going to come back on this.

Dev

Battlescarred
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Jun 27 2006 12:37

Alf wrote:"I also think that you are not grasping the significance of the huge struggles that took place in the Bolshevik party between 1921 and 1928. The shift of Lenin and Trotsky towards an oppositional stance towards the emerging Stalinist apparatus, and above all the struggle of the left fractions like those around Miasnikov and Sapranov, were in themselves signs that there was still a proletarian life in this party."

But in 1920 Trotsky was very much taking severe measures against the working class. His order of 16th June 1920 for the Red Army

1... all deserters who do not execute orders of combat will be shot

2 All soldiers who have quit by themselves their post of combat will be shot

3 Those who throw away their rifle or who sell a part of heir equipment will be shot

Executions, of course, were going on in the Red Army well before this order. The bolshevik Larissa Reissner says that "simple Red soldiers are shot down like dogs" reporting on the opinion of red soldiers themselves in her account of the events of Sviajsk in August 1918 in Proletarskaiia Revolutssia, no18-19. She refers to the 27 important Bolsheviks shot by the Cheka for fleeing the town on the approach of the Whites

Opposition to the Stalinist apparatus?

But at Tsaritsin, where Stalin was in command , he organised a local Cheka and started a savage repression. Voroshilolov quotes with admiration the words of a White on Stalin:" ...his energy could be the envied by every old administrator and his capacities of adaptation to work and to circumstances could teach plenty of others". The Cheka worked to full capacity, and every day a new conspiracy was discovered. An engineer and his 2 sons who had moved to Tsaritsyn from Moscow, were arrested for conspiracy. Stalin had them shot. This was in July 1918 and received the approval of Lenin. In fact, Stalin was rewarded by being sent to the Viatka front by Lenin, where his first task was to purge and strengthen the local Cheka. Lenin further rewarded him by presenting him with the medal of the Order of the Red Flag, given to him when Lenin found out, according to Bukharin, that Stalin could "not live without having that that another had". (yes, the other recipient was Trotsky)

Lenin and Trotsky cannot be separated from Stalin or the apparatus, created not by Stalin himself but by the whole Party leadership.

Battlescarred
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Jun 27 2006 12:45

As Brinton says referring to the establishment of the Tsektran in September 1920 "Setting up of Tsektran (Central Administrative Body of Railways). Very much Trotsky's brainchild, it was brought into being as a result of a compulsory fusion of the Commissariat of Transport, of the Railway unions and of the Party organs ('political departments') in this field. The entire railroad and water transport systems were to fall within Tsektran's compass. Trotsky was appointed its head. He ruled the Tsektran along strictly military and bureaucratic lines. "The Politbureau backed him to the hilt, as it had promised". (45) The railways were got going again. But the cost to the image of the Party was incalculable. Those who wonder why, at a later stage, Trotsky was unable to mobilise mass support for his struggle, within the apparatus, against the 'Stalinist' bureaucracy should meditate on such facts."

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OliverTwister
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Jun 27 2006 17:10

Devrim,

I hope things are well. They are good for me, but this will have to be my last contribution on this topic as i am leaving to go traveling tomorrow.

I think the SDP only had one deputy vote against war credits, and it was not Ruhle, Luxemburg, or Liebknicht (I don't remember who though).

I think that with proletarian organizations it is important to look at the actions that they did wrong and determine whether it was a matter of individuals or factions making a bad decision or a mistake, or whether the organization itself has become a defender of capitalism.

I think the matter of whether there was a divide on the decision of governmental participation is something we'll just have to disagree on. Not only was there wideesspread opposition in the CNT of which the FoD were just one expression, there were also the Libertarian Youth, many of the militias, and the IWA, all of whom came out against government participation.

I don't want to claim that the intentions of Garcia Oliver or Montseny excuse what they did, that would be pure idealism. However I think the opposite is vulgar materialism.

Quote:
There was a massacre of workers. The CNT participated in drawing the workers off their class terrain, and into a capitalist war encouraging workers to die at the front, not for their own interests, but for the defence of the bourgeois state.

I think the majority of anarchists, as well as some of the trotskyists, were right when they said that the war and revolution were inseperable - the only way to beat fascism was extension of the revolution, but conversely the only way to extend the revolution was to beat fascism. I know that Bilan disagreed on this point. However I'd like to reiterate that using this standard, there is nothing worthwhile with the Bolsheviks beginning at least with Lenin's call to "turn the imperialist war into a civil war." The Red Army was fighting proletarians from the very beginning.

This also gets into your next point about many proletairan party members possibly having left after Kronstad. I haven't seen the statistics, but I'll point out that this was far from the first action that the Bolsheviks took against the working class. The CNT on the other hand, gained all of he most militant workers, more than ballooning up to 3 million members during the war. I think that as bad as the May Days were for the CNT, it was nothing compared to Kronstadt.

Revol has already made a good point regarding the difference between the organizations and the class. While the Bolsheviks had a mass party of workers, they were always told what to do by the middle class leadership who recruited them. The CNT on the other hand had all the decisions made by the working class base, or at least decision making power was delegated to the Regional or National Committees. Thus the middle class leadership of the Bolsheviks were fighting for capitalism almost from the beginning (despite possible ideals) while there were real divisions within the CNT based on the divisions in the membership and within the class.

In Barcelona the workers rose up to defend the CNT and put it into power, while in Kronstadt the workers rose up to remove the Bolsheviks from power.

The politics of the Bolshevik party were left-social democracy, and you don't have to go past the SDP to condemn most of it. I agree with the ICC that 'Leninism' was an invention of Stalin. Anarcho-syndicalism, on the other hand, was the politics of the extremist anarchists at least as much as it was of the collaborationists - who tended more towards 'neutral syndicalism'.

On the point of fascism, I was only pointing out one thing: as fascism is a more vicious mode of capitalism, it is in the interests of workers to fight it. 'Anti-fascism' is not fighting fascism, it is the opposite and actually prepares the way for fascism. This was thee analysis of Bilan (as I understand it), for what its worth, and I think its right. The desire to fight fascism does not make something 'anti-fascist' especially if it is recognized that the only way to beat fascism (as with patriarchy or racism) is proletarian revolution, as large sections of the CNT realized.

One of my problems with left-communist politics is that while they often have positions that I agree with, they perform gymnastics to say that the Bolshevik Party was not entirely dead until 1926 (or even 1921) but that the the CNT had betrayed the working class definitively by May '37 at the latest, or else that that was just a reflection of the betrayal the week after the revolution began, or that the CNT had been counter-revolutionary all along.

dom
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Jul 5 2006 17:05
Quote:
This also gets into your next point about many proletairan party members possibly having left after Kronstad. I haven't seen the statistics, but I'll point out that this was far from the first action that the Bolsheviks took against the working class. The CNT on the other hand, gained all of he most militant workers, more than ballooning up to 3 million members during the war. I think that as bad as the May Days were for the CNT, it was nothing compared to Kronstadt.

The big difference between Kronstadt and the May Days was that the May days occured the upswing of the revoultion whereas Kronstadt occured as the power of the proletatiate was fading.

Quote:
In Barcelona the workers rose up to defend the CNT and put it into power, while in Kronstadt the workers rose up to remove the Bolsheviks from power.

This is why the events in Barcelona where worse than at Kronstadt. In Kronstadt people where fighting the Bolsheviks when they died. In Barcalona workers rose up in support of the CNT but the CNT leadership told them to go back to work abandonded them. They then allowed there most militant supporters to be massacered.

Quote:
I think the majority of anarchists, as well as some of the trotskyists, were right when they said that the war and revolution were inseperable

Indeed but if the "majority of anarchists" thought it why was it then not the postion of the CNT why did they then join the government.

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OliverTwister
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Jul 5 2006 17:23

Dom you are exactly right. Kronstadt signalled the absolute death of the Russian Revolution, or at least it made it clear that the bolsheviks had nothing left to offer to the proletariat (if ever they did). The reason Kronstadt is so damn important isn't because it was unique (it wasn't) but because it was definitive. The Bolsheviks began mass arresting anarchists in Petrograd in 1918, I believe, (if not sooner) and shooting workers for felling trees to avoid freezing to death, or eating the potatoes which they themselves grew. Kronstadt was the logical end of everything the Bolsheviks had done prior.

Against that, the May Days hardly compare. Though semantically I might say that it was an attempt at a second revolution after the Stalinists had so effectively murdered the first - not too important for this discussion though.

A strange thing about the CNT leadership. Unlike Bolsheviks, anarcho-syndicalist unions were able to have a plurality of 'leading lights', which did cause problems such as a group of them encouraging the workers to go back to work. However Jaime Balius (main theoretician of the FoD) had only just stepped down (or was forced out during a faction fight) from being the editor of one of the CNT's most important papers, so he was hardly far from 'the leadership'.

For better or worse, many people in the CNT were not anarchists, but simply militant workers. Thus even if the majority of anarchists thought something they could not force it on the other workers. There was a lot of confusion, and like in Russia the proletariat was stuck between a rock and a hard place. However Garcia Oliver never ordered the Barcelona strikers to be 'shot down like partridges'.

BTW I feel like you skirted some of my points, specifically the ones regarding the left-communist analysis of the CNT, FoD, and May Days.

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Devrim
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Jul 5 2006 19:06
OliverTwister wrote:

BTW I feel like you skirted some of my points, specifically the ones regarding the left-communist analysis of the CNT, FoD, and May Days.

Oliver, I will come back to those points either tonight or tomorrow. Dom is a member of the SWP (english version not US), so they are not really questions for him.

Dev

P.S. I hope your esperanto school is enjoyable.