The period, 1924-1967

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Beltov
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Jan 10 2007 15:02

Hi,

Well, this is quite a good discussion. I haven't been able to get on the forums for some time now so I may be a bit rusty, but here we go...

To take up the last point made by Alf. This discussion is mainly about the concept we call 'the historic course' really, whether there can be one, how does it change direction. Is there a 'grand narrative' to history? etc. etc.

For anarchism the revolution is a matter of pure will, and has been possible at any time in history. This is idealism. For marxism, "Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past." (18th Brumaire). This is materialism.

Also, there seems to be a strong influence here of councilism/economism, of seeing the class struggle and ultimately the revolution just in terms of the number of days lost to strikes. Of course this is important, but the communist revolution is a fundamentally POLITICAL revolution, whereby the working class seizes political power from the ruling class. This power is then wielded by the workers' councils (and NOT the party) which unify both the economic and political aspects. So, there is an extremely important role to play for class consciousness, which is something which is rarely discussed on these boards. The political nature of the revolution gives a central role to class consciousness, and thus to the organisations which unify the most conscious and determined minorities: the proletarian political organisations and ultimately the class party.

So, why did the First World War happen? Yes, for good old imperialist reasons, but also because the bourgeoisie felt that politically, at the level of its consciousness, the working class was sufficiently disarmed by the opportunist decay of the parties of the Second International,

Quote:
...there is no doubt that it was the creeping betrayal of the old workers' organisations, their gradual incorporation into capitalism, which really tipped the balance of forces against the working class and opened a course towards war, and this in spite of the very high levels of combativity which the workers had displayed in many countries in the decade before the war, and even immediately before it.
From: The idea of the historic course in the revolutionary movement
http://en.internationalism.org/ir/107_class_struggle.html

That the Russian Revolution and the international wave broke out in 1917 doesn't negate this: it just shows that the bourgsoisie hadn't gone far enough in defeating the working class. This explains why they drove home such a crushing defeat during the '30s.

So, I think people are arguing against a false impression of the ICC's conception of the historic course. It would be good if WTY, and Alibadani!, could come back on Alf's point about the struggles in the 1930s. The thirties were a period of defeat and counter-revolution fundamentally at the political level, and the year 1927 is significant because this marks the death of the Third International, with Stalin's declaration of 'Socialism in One Country'... If the 'Spanish Revolution' was such a success how come 50 million died in a world war which started three years later?

The counter-revolution ended during the late '60s / early '70s not only because of the massive international wave of struggles from '68 to '72, but also because at the political level, of its class consciousness, there emerged new left-communist minorities.

I can see Revol keeling over now: the counter-revolution ended because the ICC formed! I'll get me coat...

B.

PS. One the question of ideas becoming a material force, I found the quote from Marx on that,

Quote:
The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism by weapons, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses. Theory is capable of gripping the masses as soon as it demonstrates ad hominem, and it demonstrates ad hominem as soon as it becomes radical. To be radical is to grasp the root of the matter.
Abstract from The Introduction to Contribution To The Critique Of Hegel's Philosophy Of Right
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/df-jahrbucher/law-abs.ht...

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Tojiah
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Jan 10 2007 15:19
Beltov wrote:
PS. One the question of ideas becoming a material force, I found the quote from Marx on that,

Quote:
The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism by weapons, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses. Theory is capable of gripping the masses as soon as it demonstrates ad hominem, and it demonstrates ad hominem as soon as it becomes radical. To be radical is to grasp the root of the matter.
Abstract from The Introduction to Contribution To The Critique Of Hegel's Philosophy Of Right
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/df-jahrbucher/law-abs.ht...

I think Marx is giving too much credit to radical theory, and too little credit to status-quo theory. It is status-quo (neo-liberal, Fundamentalist, whatever) theory, or ideology, which is the dominant non-physical material force in history.

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Tojiah
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Jan 10 2007 15:21
Alf wrote:
OK, mic, you disagree with us about when the counter-revolution ended (you don't think 1968 changed very much), but you do say that there was a fundamental defeat for the world revolution, a counter-revolution in the 20s and 30s. Perhaps you could argue in favour of that position against those who say this whole idea is nonsense and not worry about appearing to say similar things to the ICC. Likewise with decadence: you disagree with our interpretation of decadence, but perhaps you could defend the basics of historical materialist analysis in the face of those who quite openly say that they don't agree with them - who, for example, reject the very idea that you can categorise modes of production as passing through epochs of ascent and epochs of social revolution. And not worry about appearing to say similar things to the ICC.

Are you suggesting that the IBRP form a pro-decadence front with the ICC? I thought that frontism was frowned upon in left-communist society.

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Alf
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Jan 10 2007 18:10

Frontism, for us, means allying with non-proletarian forces. Like the United Front policy in 1921, when the communist parties were urged to make an alliance with social democracy, which had already 'passed over' to the bourgeoisie. The KAPD criticised this, but did not reject united action with the Comintern parties which it still saw as proletarian at that point.
For us the IBRP is a proletarian organisation so there is no problem about working with it.

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 10 2007 19:07

just a camp proletarian unfortunately. drumkit please!

alibadani
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Jan 29 2007 14:26
Demogorgon303 wrote:

There's no question that this ideological offensive had a calming effect on the massive struggles that had developed. Ideology, for Marxists, is itself a material force that springs from the bourgoeisie's dominance of society and the proletariat's lack of any independent means of production.

That basically asnwers my question. I asked this in part because of some IBRP article I read critiquing the ICC about its analysis of the lull in class consciousness in the 90's. The IBRP basically said it was unmarxist to speak of the ruler's ideological campaign about the death of communism.

I'm wondering however what the role of the party is in all this. If the German left had organised itself earlier like the Russians had, could things have been different? At some point subjective factors (and yes will) must come into play.

mic
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Jan 29 2007 15:32

Hi Alibadani, I see you're trying to recollect memories of something you read some time ago from IBRP. But as you put it, it was quite surprising for me, as in internal and external discussions, we always recognized the role of such campaigns against class consciousness. I believe Marx's famous sentence "The ideas of the ruling class are in every age the ruling ideas" is still true, probably today even more than yesterday! So I went and search for something about "death of communism". I found our May Day 2000 leaflet:

Quote:
The crisis of capital accumulation which began in the early Seventies has been able to go on without a dramatic resolution (world war or proletarian revolution) thanks to two key simultaneous events. These are:

* the microprocessor revolution, which has radically changed the whole process of production and distribution, allowing manufacturing itself to be globalised and above all bringing enormous increases in productivity;
* the implosion of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact — i.e. one of the victorious imperialist fronts that came out of the Second World War. For the time being this is increasing the success of the international bourgeoisie’s campaign against communism, against working class struggle, reinforcing the idea that capitalism can last for ever.

I also completely agree with your considerations about the important role of party and subjective factors, but I'll not risk writing a different hypothetical history here...

I'll leave ICC comrades to answer your questions now, sorry for my interruption!

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Alf
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Jan 29 2007 15:34

This is a bit of an imponderable but when we talk about subjective factors, we have to take into account both the activity of the revolutionary minority and the more general level of consciousness in the class. In the first aspect we can include the element you mention - the fact that the left wing of social democracy was less organised in Germany than in Russia, and took longer to break with the old parties, as exemplified in Luxemburg's policy of remaining inside the USPD. But we also have to look at the more general hesitations in the class. The apparently sudden onset of a period of 'wars and revolutions' made it very difficult for the mass of the German working class to recognise that there could be no going back to the old struggle for reforms, and this reduced the impact of revolutionary ideas and organisations, especially after one of the main initial demands of the German revolution - an end to the war - was won very rapidly.