Appeal to sympathisers of the communist left (Australia)

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Apr 22 2010 14:25
Bilan wrote:
We don't presume all anarchists are psychotic like Makhno (though some are).
Makhno was a wee bit a of a crazy cat.

I reckon Makhno's memory is actually worth defending and no amount of back-pedalling after making outlandish statements changes my opinion that you are being deliberately provocative (and dishonest in the process).

Just as common as the strategy of anarchist invisibility, is the one that claims there may have been truly revolutionary anarchists during some arbitrary epoch but there was a definitive break which means that no anarchist could possibly be revolutionary today—or they are despite their avowed goals.

Unsurprisingly, my personal interest in "debating" with the latest batch of Marxist theoreticians is somewhere around zero.

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Apr 22 2010 14:41
Lumpen wrote:
Just as common as the strategy of anarchist invisibility, is the one that claims there may have been truly revolutionary anarchists during some arbitrary epoch but there was a definitive break which means that no anarchist could possibly be revolutionary today—or they are despite their avowed goals.

Actually we don't quite say that. We say that there are revolutionary anarchists today, and it is not in spite of their 'avowed goals'. Of course, we disagree with them on some things, otherwise we would be anarchists, but that is not to say that they are not revolutionary.

Devrim

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With Sober Senses
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Apr 22 2010 14:55

Hi All
Lumpen, why are the authors of this call "theoreticians"? Is that a good or a bad thing? Is there something in their proposal you object to? If they kept exactly the same three core positions but called themselves Anarchists would they no longer be theoreticians not worth "debating"?
rebel love
Dave

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Apr 23 2010 00:18
Quote:
Lumpen, why are the authors of this call "theoreticians"?

Mostly because I get the distinct impression that Bilan in particular doesn't mind simultaneously deriding someone like Makhno as a psychopath while talking about how modern anarchism and some new small organisation is so decisively different. "Theoretician" was an insult aimed at yet another radical marxist groupsicule forming because of a brand new interpretation of the texts that rescues it from its embarrassing history of authoritarianism. The relationship between the insult as it was contextualised here and actual theoreticians is tangental; calling someone a 'bedroom philosopher' isn't exactly deriding bedrooms or philosophers, right?

As you may know Dave, life on the fringes of radical ideas can be a bit tedious. The prospect of dealing with the fringe of the fringe isn't exactly heartening. Admittedly, the distinction between Left Communists and the other, bad marxists is a bit lost on me as marxism never interested me as much as anarchism.

Again, personally speaking, the proposal sounds filled with the kind of language that makes me want to cry. If it floats your boat, then okay. If they do something interesting or turn out to be a good bunch, then more the better for everyone. I only chimed in because it suddenly turned into a Makhno bashing exercise and, in my opinion, dishonestly bookended by "oh but that's all in the past and let's ignore it."

Pic related.

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Apr 23 2010 01:15

It didn't turn into a Makhno bashing exercise. It was one tiny quip about Makhno. Interestingly, no one has any objection to what I said about Kropotkin?

Seriously.
In any case, this proposal isn't about starting a battle about dead revolutionaries, and neither is this thread. The only reason Makhno, Kropotkin, etc. were brought up was because of lugius' unsubstantiated claims against us.

And for the record, as an ex-anarchist, I have read Makhno's texts, and I do know about the anarchist-communists in Ukraine and I do know what I am talking about.

And on top of all of that, it is not about "ignoring the past". The point is that not all anarchists are living reflections of their predecessors - not all anarchists are like Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, etc. even if they do take something from them, and recognise their contribution to anarchist theory. The point is that anarchism has changed, and unlike groups like the Socialist Alternative, who still criticise anarchists because Bakunin was anti semitic (personal.fucking.experience), we do not. Our criticisms of modern anarchism are not derived from the flaws of anarchists who died 90 years ago. The point is that we criticism anarchism for what it is, not for what it was.

That is the point.

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Apr 23 2010 01:44
Quote:
It didn't turn into a Makhno bashing exercise. It was one tiny quip about Makhno. Interestingly, no one has any objection to what I said about Kropotkin?

Kropotkin is fair game, because his lapse in internationalism was a clear, documented misstep. Since we are all on the same page re: support of capitalist wars, there is no "objection". However, your slur against Makhno is unsubstantiated and frankly, kind of bizarre. I just threw up some question marks hoping you'd explain what you meant by that. I don't have the same animosity towards left communists that some anarchists do, so it's less of an ideological point scoring game and more of a "wtf".

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Apr 23 2010 02:22

It wasn't supposed to be an ideological scoring point. I think we're getting a bit caught up on one petty comment. It's really not of any significance.

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Apr 23 2010 02:33

Agreed, it's not a big deal. I think the statement is good and hope that it develops into something substantial. That aside, why won't you answer the question? I genuinely want to know...

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Apr 23 2010 03:07

Which question?

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Apr 23 2010 03:47

jesus, what was it that made Makhno "crazy" in your eyes!

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Apr 23 2010 05:42

TBF, it was two petty comments, not one.

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Apr 23 2010 07:21
Lumpen wrote:
TBF, it was two petty comments, not one.

True, but one was clarifying the other.

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Apr 23 2010 07:31
Tarwater wrote:
jesus, what was it that made Makhno "crazy" in your eyes!

Sorry. I saw your question marks when I looked back, but then I left the house.

Anyway, what I meant when I was referring to crazy was (from what I interpreted from him) a bit of a fetishism of violence.Whatever, evidently not everyone agrees on that. And besides, it is not a political position.

But yes, the craziness was just my interpretation of his violence. It was a bit of unnecessary quip, but I was merely attempting to illustrate that we know the difference between modern anarchists and those in history.

People have seriously missed the point here.

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Apr 23 2010 07:35

No one missed the point, you just got a bit wide with your assertions and we're reigning you in. You should thank us for keeping you from drifting off into mere speculation and muddling your message...

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Apr 23 2010 07:45

Fair play.

Spassmaschine
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Apr 23 2010 08:14

Anyway, to get back on topic, I agree with various above comments that it's an interesting proposal. I am interested to know, what form do you guys envisage the network taking? I know there are enough of you in Sydney to make face-to-face discussions possible but that's not the case elsewhere at this point (and indeed that's what the appeal aims to overcome). I'm assuming there will be a mailing list for this; but have you thought about the possibility of having conference/meeting type things a couple of times a year in different major cities?

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Apr 23 2010 08:45
Lumpen wrote:
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Lumpen, why are the authors of this call "theoreticians"?

Mostly because I get the distinct impression that Bilan in particular doesn't mind simultaneously deriding someone like Makhno as a psychopath while talking about how modern anarchism and some new small organisation is so decisively different. "Theoretician" was an insult aimed at yet another radical marxist groupsicule forming because of a brand new interpretation of the texts that rescues it from its embarrassing history of authoritarianism. The relationship between the insult as it was contextualised here and actual theoreticians is tangental; calling someone a 'bedroom philosopher' isn't exactly deriding bedrooms or philosophers, right?

As you may know Dave, life on the fringes of radical ideas can be a bit tedious. The prospect of dealing with the fringe of the fringe isn't exactly heartening. Admittedly, the distinction between Left Communists and the other, bad marxists is a bit lost on me as marxism never interested me as much as anarchism.

Again, personally speaking, the proposal sounds filled with the kind of language that makes me want to cry. If it floats your boat, then okay. If they do something interesting or turn out to be a good bunch, then more the better for everyone. I only chimed in because it suddenly turned into a Makhno bashing exercise and, in my opinion, dishonestly bookended by "oh but that's all in the past and let's ignore it."

Ah, so you see left communism as the fringe of anarchism? That's sounds pretty strange to me, but maybe that's how some younger people are 'getting to' left communism these days. Certainly anarchism is better known and more 'accessible' since (at least) the Battle of Seattle.

And if they (ICAN) are really just 'theoreticians', then surely them 'doing something interesting' would probably be to produce some decent theoretical work, and publish it. Is there anything wrong with that? Is it somehow of less value for the revolutionary project than your oh so 'practical' anarchist projects and practices? You seem to think that theory is not important for the revolution (or movement, if you prefer), or else that it has already been completed, and now all that's needed is action.

And I do agree that Bilan's remark about Makhno was ill-advised, and came across as a provocative cheapshot (being that this is a libertarian board). But he or she has admitted that.

Oh, and just whose 'embarrassing history of authoritarianism' are you referring to? Left communism's? Or Marxism's? A bit rich coming from someone who most likely defends the legacy of the CNT, even thought it participated in the Spanish Popular Front government. And so I guess you don't think there are any anti-authoritarian (or non-authoritarian) forms of Marxism. At least you admit that you don't understand the distinction between left communism and other Marxist tendencies. I wouldn't want you to feel like crying any more than you have to, but perhaps you should investigate a bit more about left communism (try reading some Pannekoek, Mattick, and Dauve, for starters) before going off on these polemics.

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Apr 23 2010 12:40
Lugius wrote:
Why don't you just say political party founded on the basis of a shared desire for power?

Because this is not our position, obviously.

Lugius wrote:
Sympathisers of the 'Communist Left' have existed in Australia for some time and have always been 'individuals suffering largely from political isolation'. They were found in cafes in Glebe and Carlton and would talk about reading Gramsci, Althusser and Pannekoek.

If you happen to know of any individuals who might be interested in what we have to say, you are welcome to pass the appeal on to them. Our means are limited in this respect and we rely on the contact networks of sympathetic comrades to help get the word around.

Lugius wrote:
See lyrics to Skyhooks 'Lygon St. Limbo'. In those days, they would often refer to themselves as Council Communists and would always pronounce the word 'nice' as 'naice'. Not a few of them were former members of rowing clubs.

They would come across all libertarian not dissimilar to Karl Marx in 'The Revolution in France' but inevitably reveal their managerial attitudes that a chap might recognise at their local polo club bar.

Anarchists constitute a major problem; how to attack them without giving away their own authoritarianism? Solution; pretend their entire history of the practise of anarchism doesn't exist or claim it as your own!

I'm not sure if you're being serious here. What does any of this have to do with our appeal?

Lugius wrote:
Look, I may be but a mere plebian, and it may come as a shock, but yes, I do know what I'm talking about. Indeed, your knowing-betterness, I would hazard to guess that I know more what I speak of than dost thou.

For I am the worst kind of plebian, an uppity plebian who dares to imagine a world without the patrician class that will realised without their help or guidance.

I think this really speaks for itself.

Lugius wrote:
For what is a political organisation if it does not seek power?

Maybe you should ask the IWA?

Lugius wrote:
Does all unions mean revolutionary unions?

I think the appeal is pretty straight forward on this one. I think the concept of a 'revolutionary union' is an oxymoron.

Of course individuals who are less inclined to agree are free to do so. I think we are willing to discuss this question with people who have a desire to do so seriously. I think we must avoid putting the cart before the horse wherever possible in the task of political clarfication. Of course we still must have some basic premises for discussion to take place, this is one of them.

Lugius wrote:
Are 'Left-Communists' not Marxists? You know not of Marx's 'Civil War in France'? (sorry, I got the title wrong in my post but, hey, you know us plebians! - in constant need of correction).

It was in this text, of which 'Communists' are fond of quoting, that Marx said "The task of the emancipation of the working class is up to the workers themselves" Here, in the wake of the Paris Commune, Marx tried to come across all libertarian-like. Marx had thrust his moistened finger into the wind and worked out which way it was blowing. Does the plebian not understand the need to feel the gentle guiding hand of their betters? Rather than see the International fall under the influence of the Bakuninists he manoeuvered to have it moved to New York. (1872?) Ha! Let's see the Bakuninist rustle up the cash for a transatlantic ticket!

Marx went to great lengths to establish himself as an original thinker and acquire the mystique of holiness. In fact, he was a plagiarist, particularly of Proudhon but also of David Ricardo and Adam Smith, Hegel, Fourier, Saint-Simon and others. To cover his tracks he later attacked Proudhon in 'The Poverty of Philosophy'.

Again, what does any of this have to do with our appeal? Why do we as left communists have to bear this 'original sin' of Marx?

Lugius wrote:
Today, the only people who talk of Left-Communism (as opposed to Right-Communism) or Marxism are either private school twats

For the record I am not a private school student. I attended the local high school up the road.

Lugius wrote:
By the way, whilst on the topic of welcoming questions, would you answer the first one in my previous post? Or will you just ignore it?

Which one is that? Did I manage to responded to it?

Lugius seems to believe that if he just slings mud, never mind the content, some of it will stick. However, it is apparent to observers that it is the mudslinger himself who in this case is covered with it.

I'm geniunely curious as to what motivates someone to join an internet discussion board specfically for the purpose of slandering a group of individuals whom they have never met before, most of whom have not been involved in left communist circles in the recent past and some of whom are in fact new to politics altogether. I presume sour grapes, but from whence?

This is all very off topic though and I think most people who have responded in this thread so far have given Lugius the appropriate response.

Nic.

N. Rossi
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Apr 23 2010 12:40

Away from all that rubbish, I'd like to thank the posters who have made serious replies and those who have expressed interest in the project in the thread thus far.

Yes, as Arminius notes, the appeal can also be viewed in the announcements forum. I trust that the double post won't be too much of a bother. Our hope is that the appeal is viewed and passed on by as many people as possible. As internationalists this means not only appealing to people in Australia but individuals and groups from other parts of the world, who are understanably less likely to frequent the oceania forum.

Nic.

N. Rossi
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Apr 23 2010 12:44
Lumpen wrote:
I reckon Makhno's memory is actually worth defending and no amount of back-pedalling after making outlandish statements changes my opinion that you are being deliberately provocative (and dishonest in the process).

I'm somewhat in agreement with you here Lumpen. I don't think Bilan is right to claim that Makhno was psychotic. At the same time, I think we need to make clear that Bilan's comment was more or less made in jest and in only in passing. It is not the subject of the thread and doesn't represent the views of those who authored this appeal.

Lumpen wrote:
Just as common as the strategy of anarchist invisibility, is the one that claims there may have been truly revolutionary anarchists during some arbitrary epoch but there was a definitive break which means that no anarchist could possibly be revolutionary today—or they are despite their avowed goals.

The 'strategy of anarchist invisibility' must be very rare indeed then. What you are describing is neither a position outlined in the appeal, nor my own or Bilan's position, nor that of any individual or group that I am aware of.

Lumpen wrote:
Unsurprisingly, my personal interest in "debating" with the latest batch of Marxist theoreticians is somewhere around zero.

I agree with Grumpy Cat's sentiment here. I'm curious as to what makes us 'theoreticians'. I mean, we don't even have a journal.

Of course, you are welcome to choose not to discuss with us. I think our priority ought to be discussing with people who are serious about the project. Our goal is not to argument for argument's sake.

Lumpen wrote:
Mostly because I get the distinct impression that Bilan in particular doesn't mind simultaneously deriding someone like Makhno as a psychopath while talking about how modern anarchism and some new small organisation is so decisively different.

I'm not sure how this makes Bilan, much less all the people involved in the proposed discussions, 'theoreticians'.

Also, I think I would prefer it if you didn't put words in my mouth and the mouths of the other authors of the appeal.

Lumpen wrote:
"Theoretician" was an insult aimed at yet another radical marxist groupsicule forming because of a brand new interpretation of the texts that rescues it from its embarrassing history of authoritarianism.

I don't think what we are proposing is a 'groupsicule'. We are calling for the initiation of organised discussions between sympathisers of the Communist Left in Australia. We are not proclaiming the existance of a new political organisation.

Also, I'm somewhat confused as to where you think we are offering a 'brand new interpretation of the texts that rescues it from its embarrassing history of authoritarianism'. We aren't and there isn't anything in the appeal that suggests we are. Again, please don't put words in our mouths.

Quote:
Again, personally speaking, the proposal sounds filled with the kind of language that makes me want to cry.

This I'm legitimately interested in. What kind of language in the appeal do you dislike? I'll admit to authoring the bulk of the appeal so any suggestions that you have as to how we could improve our writting would be very welcome. smile

Nic.

N. Rossi
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Apr 23 2010 13:07

Once again, back to the topic of the thread...!

Thanks to Spaßmaschine for the questions. I'll try and reply to some of them.

Quote:
I am interested to know, what form do you guys envisage the network taking? I know there are enough of you in Sydney to make face-to-face discussions possible but that's not the case elsewhere at this point (and indeed that's what the appeal aims to overcome). I'm assuming there will be a mailing list for this; but have you thought about the possibility of having conference/meeting type things a couple of times a year in different major cities?

You are correct, most of us are based in Sydney at this point and regular, physical meetings are possible and necessary for us. For other comrades this is less feasible, though maybe not as much as we had originally imagined. We have addressed the appeal to multiple people in Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra. Of course in these cities we are dealing with numbers smaller than in Sydney but we are hoping, and it looks as if this will be the case, all comrades will have atleast one or two others who they can meet up with regularly in the same city. We await more replies to confirm this.

The bigger matter is how all comrades from all different cities communicate with one another as a collective. The medium in which we will have to communicate on this level will, foruntately or unfortunately, be the internet. Without saying too much at this stage, one possible means to do this would be by a libcom subforum like many other political groups have, although hopefully more active.

Also, at some point in the future national meetings will be necessary. Again, without setting any dates or saying anything concrete at this stage, at the last meeting of the comrades in Sydney, such a meeting over the June-July period was suggested. These kinds of things will of course have to be discussed amongst all comrades as time goes on.

We have got a half dozen replies back so far but are still awaiting on many more. The authors of the appeal living in Sydney, including myself, will be meeting up this weekend with Pete from Canberra and a contact of his in Sydney. Hopefully we will reply to some of the emails with more concrete details after this. We are of course open to suggestions. At this stage all we have is our own proposals. Hopefully other comrades have better ideas! smile

Nic.

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Apr 23 2010 16:05

I think by answering a lot of these questions I'll be derailing the thread even further, which would be out of proportion to my annoyance with Bilan's comments. Like I said, I wouldn't have commented otherwise. There's plenty of anarchist threads that haven't suffered the same level of derailment, so if you really want some specific answers from me personally, PM me. Again, my interest is low so I may not reply–and clearly I'm not your target audience anyway. Plus, if I read the comments directed at me correctly, there seemed to be more refutation than actual questions I need to answer.

Carry on.

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Apr 23 2010 16:41

Just out of curiosity, do those with a contemporary interest in Left Communism have any relationship with or to previous manifestations of this tendency in Australia?

(Fwiw, minor quibbles with the appeal include the slightly apocalyptic tone, the absence of references to contemporary Australia (in favour of WWI, Luxemburg, Engels and so on) and the reference to "the period of counter-revolution which opened at the end of the 1920s". But as I'm not a Left Communist, and am therefore not going to participate in the proposed network -- whatever. Still, and again fwiw, regarding the elementary positions: I suppose the first makes sense, although obviously, if it's the case that nationalism offers the working class only death and destruction, the political perversity of the working class must be explained; I'm ambivalent about the possible political effects of electioneering; I'm unsure if unions must always perform the conservative role allocated to them...)

N. Rossi
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Apr 23 2010 23:35

Hi Andy,

Thanks for the post. Appreciate the comments. I'd like to respond to your question and some of your comments regarding the appeal aswell, briefly.

@ndy wrote:
Just out of curiosity, do those with a contemporary interest in Left Communism have any relationship with or to previous manifestations of this tendency in Australia?

The history of Left Communism in Australia is really very sparse. As of my knowledge the only manifestations of the Communist Left in Australia have been the Southern Advocate for Workers' Councils, animated by Jim Dawson in the 1940s, an ICC nucleus (read, one man) up until 2004 and the Melbourne Left Communist Discussion Circle, animated by said ICC militant.

The only connection with any of these previous groups is the comrade from Adelaide who signed the appeal Max. Max had been involved in the Melbourne Left Communist Discussion Forum whilst it was active and has been a long-term sympathiser of the ICC (since the 70's).

We have also sent the appeal to one other former participant of the discussion circle.

Otherwise there is no direct continuity between us and any of the groups which have come before. We are literally starting from scratch so we have our work cut out for us.

@ndy wrote:
Fwiw, minor quibbles with the appeal include the slightly apocalyptic tone, the absence of references to contemporary Australia (in favour of WWI, Luxemburg, Engels and so on) and the reference to "the period of counter-revolution which opened at the end of the 1920s".

Again, thanks for the comments. They are interesting to hear. I find the middle remark here regarding references to comtemporary Australia particularly interesting. I suppose the way I would justify it would be that the problems facing workers in Australia are problems facing the whole of humanity and can only be overcome internationally. Given our target audience I think this is something understood and accepted by all, hence there isn't the same need to proceed from the specific to the general in the same way that one would in say an agitational article. If that makes sense.

Nic.

EDIT: Also, thanks to Lumpen for being so civil. I'd be happy to continue the dialouge via PM if you choose to.

Skraeling
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Apr 24 2010 03:14
N. Rossi wrote:
The history of Left Communism in Australia is really very sparse. As of my knowledge the only manifestations of the Communist Left in Australia have been the Southern Advocate for Workers' Councils, animated by Jim Dawson in the 1940s, an ICC nucleus (read, one man) up until 2004 and the Melbourne Left Communist Discussion Circle, animated by said ICC militant.

The only connection with any of these previous groups is the comrade from Adelaide who signed the appeal Max. Max had been involved in the Melbourne Left Communist Discussion Forum whilst it was active and has been a long-term sympathiser of the ICC (since the 70's).

We have also sent the appeal to one other former participant of the discussion circle.

if i may but in from across the tasman, and if you include councilism as part of the broad left communist tradition, i think there were a few councilist groups in australia in the 1970s that were basically copies of the british group solidarity.

the big one was the brisbane self-management group (SMG), which seemed to be influential in some circles at least. i think a similar group was formed in perth. and then the brisbane one split into two. unfortunately, the SMG seemed to tail the anarchist scene, getting involved in brutal rucks with the carnival lifestyle anarchists over some pretty basic issues. and someone from the SMG now does the anarchist age weekly review, which IMHO is very liberal anarchism and not got much to do with councilism let alone socialism. and another became involved in social ecology local govt type politics IIRC (welcome to be corrected on this). this may tell us the politics of the SMG were all not that hot to begin with perhaps -- or the dangers of vague self-managementism.

of course, you could argue that solidarity and the SMG were not communists, but 'libertarian socialists', yet they do have a line of descent from the council communists (including Dawson) and i think would have prob. accepted yr three key points. to go around in a circle some more, it always gets me confused if council communists can be called left communists. is it a very narrow defn to claim only the ICC and their ilk are the true left commies?

in any case, i am interested if anyone knows more about left communist/councilist/situationist groups in australia in the 1970s; i certainly have very limited knowledge. maybe N Rossi you could ask Max for me (i am writing something about councilism/situationism in australasia in the 70s)

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waslax
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Apr 24 2010 03:46

Absolutely council communism is a part of left communism. Only sectarians would deny it. In fact, some do, such as Bordigists, for whom only the Italian com. left is genuinely left communist, and some anarchists who seem to be under the impression that council communism is a form of anarchism.

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Apr 24 2010 08:12

@N. Rossi:

I'm familiar with Dawson and the Southern Advocate -- http://www.reasoninrevolt.net.au/biogs/E000444b.htm -- and I also think I met some of the individuals you refer to (and perhaps a handful of others with similar perspectives). That said, I suppose there's a definitional issue, in that I'm aware of a range of individuals and small projects which might be described as left-communist or Communist Left in the post-1960s era, and which have had varying relations to Marxist traditions in Australia, but which do not necessarily correspond with the Communist Left as described in Bilan's original post. Further, while there's obvious similarities between the kinds of positions advanced by way of the Southern Advocate, I think Dawson's position was closer to what might be termed 'council communism' than 'left communism', although again, much depends on how such terms are defined, and whether strictly or loosely (as later commentators discuss).

@Skraeling:

On the anarchist and libertarian socialist milieu of the late 1960s and early to mid-1970s: the 'melbourne anarchist archives' brings together a range of documents from the period 1966--1973; Bob James makes a few refs to some of the individuals concerned in his Encyclopedia entry (http://slackbastard.anarchobase.com/?p=1853); but probably the best source of infos would have been individuals such as Andrew Giles-Peters (http://slackbastard.anarchobase.com/?p=1642) and Peter McGregor (http://slackbastard.anarchobase.com/?p=993), both of whom have recently died. As for Uncle Joe, the 'Libertarian Workers for a Self Managed Society' has has been in existence, on some level, since 1977.

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Apr 24 2010 12:50
waslax wrote:
Absolutely council communism is a part of left communism. Only sectarians would deny it.

Yes, I agree.

Skraeling wrote:
i think there were a few councilist groups in australia in the 1970s that were basically copies of the british group solidarity.

I am not sure that the groups in the Castoriadis tradition were councilists though. I think that council communist means a bit more than communists who were in favour of councils.

Does that make me a sectarian?

I don't think it means that I am writing off these people all together, and it is interesting in itself, but I wouldn't really call them council communists.

Skraeling wrote:
is it a very narrow defn to claim only the ICC and their ilk are the true left commies?

I don't think we say that at all.

Devrim

Tim B
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Apr 24 2010 19:15

Hi,

I've done some research on the Brisbane Self-Management Group (SMG) for a thesis, which i'm currently writing.

The SMG was numerically larger than a gropuscule. There were about 200-300 in its 'cells', being groups of militants active in struggles in a particular institution-e.g hospitals, the dockyards, high schools or Queensland Uni. There was a smaller core membership of 50-60. It existed from 1971-1977 and was the largest radical left organisation besides the Communist Party in Brisbane. Several ex-members have argued to me that while smaller; it was of equal importance as the CP (however this is hard to verify, as the CP's strengths lay in various unions, as opposed to the SMG's student base).

They were influenced heavily by Solidarity (UK) and Socialisme Ou Barbarie (from France. Marcel Van Der Linden wrote an excellent account of their history at http://www.left-dis.nl/uk/lindsob.htm). It's incorrect to reduce them to a clone of either of these groups though. The SMG emerged out of quite different conditions, especially late sixties student radicalism, and developed a distinctive activist practice. A 1974 conference in France, comprising an array of non-Leninist organisations throughout Europe, as well as the SMG, illustrates this well. Of all the groups present the SMG delegate disagreed most vehemently with the representative of London Solidarity!

SMG drew from a diffuse set of theorists and events: such as Eric Fromm, Wilhelm Reich, the Summerhill School and Prague 68. Later (from 1975) they initiated a critical engagement with anarchism, studying the Spanish Revolution. This interest derived from having established connections with local anarchists.

They split 3 ways not 2. The third faction was the 'marxist tendency', most of whom soon became key activists in the International Socialists in Brisbane. The 'lifestyle anarchists', became associated with the shortlived Self-Management Organisation (SMO), They weren't 'carnivalist' however. Within the SMG, they offered sophisticated proposals for revolutionary practice around feminism and collectivelly controlled, democratic organisation.

The final post-split group was the Libertarian Socialist Organisation (LSO). In 1984, the LSO was dissolved to form the Brisbane Greens-quite a marked shift! Those who remained revolutionaries became involved with the Institute for Social Ecololgy in Brisbane. It's politics were fairly Bookchinite: but they kept the anarchism.

As for whether the Self-Management Group can be placed as part of 'left communism': without doubt they would affirm the three points proposed by the Appeal! But hopefully my historical tangent has indicated something of their exciting 'revolutionary eclecticism', as opposed to the immutable ideological categories that so many groups adopt.

Related to that, I think one hope for effective praxis today lies in such eclecticism. Autonomists, Post-Autonomists, class struggle anarchists, green radicals, independent Marxists, left communists, and so on, all have insights to offer. There's a lot to learn together.

My best wishes for the conference.

Tim

P.S to Skraeling in particluar, I know quite a lot more about the SMG, have accessed a plethora of primary sources (including 30 interviews with activists) & would be very happy to pass information on! If you want to get in touch, please e-mail me at tbriedis(at)hotmail.com I'd be really interested in having a look at your research as well.

Tim B
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Joined: 30-07-08
Apr 24 2010 19:33

Hey devrim,

fyi the SMG did sometimes call themselves council communists (though they mostly used the term 'libertarian communist'. A classic I guess! )

Their political programme 'Workers' Council Democracy not Parliamentary' in particular expounds views in a very councilist vein. More so than the standard Castoriadias support of councils, I'd say.

I'd quote slabs for evidence but.it's really early in the morning here and i need to get at least some sleep...

Tim