Communist Electoral Strategy?

Submitted by klas batalo on August 22, 2016

https://communistleaguetampa.org/2016/08/22/towards-a-communist-electoral-strategy/

What do Libcom users think of this piece by DP of CLT?

Interested in anarchist / left communist / impossiblist thoughts on it.

Pennoid

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

And if universal suffrage had offered no other advantage than that it allowed us to count our numbers every three years; that by the regularly established, unexpectedly rapid rise in the number of votes it increased in equal measure the workers' certainty of victory and the dismay of their opponents, and so became our best means of propaganda; that it accurately informed us concerning our own strength and that of all hostile parties, and thereby provided us with a measure of proportion for our actions second to none, safeguarding us from untimely timidity as much as from untimely foolhardiness—if this had been the only advantage we gained from the suffrage, then it would still have been more than enough. But it has done much more than this. In election agitation it provided us with a means, second to none, of getting in touch with the mass of the people, where they still stand aloof from us; of forcing all parties to defend their views and actions against our attacks before all the people; and, further, it opened to our representatives in the Reichstag a platform from which they could speak to their opponents in Parliament and to the masses without, with quite other authority and freedom than in the press or at meetings. Of what avail to the government and the bourgeoisie was their Anti-Socialist Law when election agitation and socialist speeches in the Reichstag continually broke through it?

Engels in his 1896 intro to the Class Struggles in France by Marx

This is quoted in the piece and is certainly worth engaging, as it sums up the arguments, more or less, offered by Parkinson.

fnbrilll

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Don't electoralize

klas batalo

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Some of my own thoughts:

I’ve been waiting for a while to have a succinct article from Donald Parkinson on communist electoral strategy, because various informal debates previously left me unclear. Here are a few of my initial thoughts.

“A mass party will have to engage large amounts of workers through “extra-parliamentary” means before it will even stand a chance winning in an electoral campaign. Building class unions, solidarity networks, unemployed councils, mutual aid societies, gun clubs, sports teams, etc. is not to be rejected in favor of electoral action.”

Currently we do not have such a mass movement and revolutionary organization. The top priority for the immediate to mid term strategy of communists should surely be to build such a movement and organization.

“A critique one could make of Bebel and Kautsky is that they did focus on the parliamentary movement to exclusion of mass actions and strikes.”

Unfortunately not only Bebel and Kautsky focused on parliamentary struggle to the exclusion of mass action but the majority of actually existing socialists and leftists then and now have favored electoral activity of lobbyist activism, or speaking truth to power instead of building the self-activity and organization of the masses for real gains here and now.

“The opposite plagues the current left which mostly fetishizes direct action.”

I highly doubt this. Since the fall of the Soviet Union there has been an increase in the world wide anarchist movement, but the majority of the far left still seems attached to the lobbying and electoral strategies of the left of capital. Most “direct action” activists serve these purposes as a sort of militant reformism, shock troops for the Democrats.

“Elections can not only serve as way to win support, but also to measure it.”

If you are saying you would only start electoral action once you built up a sizable mass movement to justify a mass party taking part in elections, don’t you think you would have already developed tools for measuring support, various forms of metrics from FB likes and shares, to media sales, to number of local groups, success and support in strikes, etc? Not saying that elections couldn’t be another avenue to win support or measure it, but it seems sorta silly that in 2016 and the future we would need such an outdated way to drum up and gauge support.

“Our energy right now is being put into making ourselves a more effective organization and helping get a General Membership Branch of the IWW started. We are obviously not saying communists should just run for office hoping it will kickstart a revolutionary movement. But in the long-term, if we are committed to building a world-wide party of the proletariat, the question of electoral strategy must be taken seriously. If we abstain from elections, it should be done on the basis of what is tactically best for the situation, not on the basis of anti-electoralism as an eternal principle.”

This really gets to the meat of things. You don’t see it as viable short term to take on an electoral strategy, but a long term goal. For now you think honing your own intra-organizational capacity and building the IWW is worthwhile. In this short term work my organizations share generally a lot with yours. However most serious anarchists have never held anti-electoralism as an eternal principle, there have been situations where it was important to oust out right reactionaries from office, though certainly all sort of methods should be tried before putting forth candidates. But if we flip your formulation on it’s head, if we are really engaging on a debate on tactics, why the insistance on parliamentary politics as the strategic end game for communist revolutionaries? Should communists as a principle engage in elections if they have the capacity to do so?

Jim

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Craftwork

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

syndicalist

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I say this respectfully, it's a double edge sword
It depends on which side of the sword you want to cut yourself on

I don't advocate electoralism, perhaps the comrades
Should examine the campaigns and results if the former
De Leonist SLP and the British impossibility SPGB. These
can indicate an approach with full knowledge of no electoral victory, what sort of info that was distributed and imparted in outreach and so forth. And an analysis
of what is grained by head banging

Steven.

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

klas batalo

https://communistleaguetampa.org/2016/08/22/towards-a-communist-electoral-strategy/

What do Libcom users think of this piece by DP of CLT?

Interested in anarchist / left communist / impossiblist thoughts on it.

Jesus I managed about one and a half paragraphs of that.

In short, no.

Best case scenario:
admin: inappropriate and anatomically inaccurate joke from another user unpublished

Pennoid

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'm sympathetic with the view towards a limited, tribune of the people, attitude toward state and national legislatures. But it's a very complex topic upon which I'd like to read a lot more. I'm not convinced that the SPD or myriad other parties failures derived simply from the fact of electoral engagement, in the same way I'm not convinced that paying staff in unions is the generative moment of their betrayal.

I've heard that 'municipalism' what in the U.S. was rightly derided as 'sewer socialism' was one of the conservative forces in the SPD and clearly was in the SPA. That should be avoided and incorporated into any strategy.

I should say that this piece isn't as in depth about the strategy problems as one I'd like to see, but there are a lot of past examples to investigate.

Some core principles;

1. Recognition of the demise of the Constitutional order as the beginning of the working class taking power; revolution is on the agenda, not an electoral road to power.

2. Critical focus on specific enumerable democratic rights as 'minimum program's to clarify what exactly will break the rule of the bourgeois order, and bring workers to power

3. A rejection of Bolivaran, SYRIZA, Podemos, Labour (and much labor left) 'form-a-government-first, act later' strategy as a failure which doesn't reckon with the normal methods of global bourgeois rule.

I would like to take a closer look at impossibiist parties or other left socialist/communist electoral strategies and their road blocks and so on.

klas batalo

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

https://symptomaticcommentary.wordpress.com/2016/08/25/concerns-about-toward-a-communist-electoral-strategy/

Spikymike

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Donald Parkinson is 'living in the past' replaying the arguments of yesteryear under different material conditions than today. There is no basis today for building a 'mass' socialist/communist party. The SPGB's electoral strategy carried out consistently since 1904 is a measure of all the success Donald's strategy is likely to produce.

Hieronymous

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Spikymike

Donald Parkinson is 'living in the past' replaying the arguments of yesteryear under different material conditions than today. There is no basis today for building a 'mass' socialist/communist party. The SPGB's electoral strategy carried out consistently since 1904 is a measure of all the success Donald's strategy is likely to produce.

word

ajjohnstone

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The SPGB's electoral strategy carried out consistently since 1904 is a measure of all the success Donald's strategy is likely to produce.

Sadly, as being inferred by Mike, it is indeed depressing and pessimistic. The only thing we have to look to is that as a structured organisation with a shared goal and agreed strategies to achieve it, the SPGB has survived. Many larger parties have faded and disappeared, so we must wonder that the SPGB encompasses a reflection of fellow workers, no matter how few they be. But our slow decline may be terminal in a decade or score of years from now.

The alternative methods offered against the SPGB has been numerous over the century, from syndicalism to anarchism to reformism (both gradual and radical versions) none of which gained much more than temporary success and are now much at the same level of popular support as the SPGB. Nobody can take any pleasure in facing that stark fact. For those in the SPGB who say "we told you so", it is a very poor consolation for perhaps being right.

If different ways of organising and gaining adherents were proving a success and advancing the case for libertarian communism then i think it would be incumbent upon members of the SPGB to reconsider their principles, particularly the focus on elections which cause much debate on this website but also the ever recurring reformist recipes as remedies. I've been waiting in vain, unfortunately.

We really do need a comprehensive MOT of the Thin Red Line, returning to some very basic political positions to reappraise their validity and how they are expressed and applied in practice.

But i always get the feeling that comrades fear, as they do their own car's annual MOT, what unpleasant surprise might result when the dirt is scraped away and the rust exposed. Some i think feel happier to live with that haunted house engine with all its unsettling rattles and squeaking.

Maybe i am justifying my increasing reputation for being a gloomy Private Fraser..."Doomed...we are doomed"...But for crying out aloud...can anybody provide proof or even evidence of hope that we don't have society collapse before we get anywhere close to establishing our desired new world :(

bastarx

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The days of big parties and big unions are over and seem unlikely to return. Working class struggle largely takes the form of massive street movements which seemingly appear from nowhere and then disappear just as quickly plus small isolated strikes with occasional big union orchestrated strikes that are designed to fail.

That's what communists have to work with not fantasies about replaying the early 20th century only without the betrayals.

Hieronymous

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

klas batalo

https://communistleaguetampa.org/2016/08/22/towards-a-communist-electoral-strategy/

What do Libcom users think of this piece by DP of CLT?

Interested in anarchist / left communist / impossiblist thoughts on it.

First, I'm being sincere: what does legitimacy mean in the opening sentence?:

CLT

Participation in electoral politics, and therefore an electoral strategy, are essential if communists are going to gain public legitimacy as a serious political force.

The etymology from the Medieval Latin, legitimatus, means "make lawful, declare to be lawful." So this term is tied up with conformity with rule-of-law. Perhaps Parkinson is being careless and even naïve in using a term that historically has been used for the "lawful authority of kings and governments," especially over their "subject" -- which seems to be Parkinson's "public."

O.K., poor choice of words can be chalked up to sloppy writing. But his attempt to support the "authority," "lawfulness," or "constitutionality" (all synonyms of "legitimacy") of communist participation in electoral politics by arguments from the mid-19th century remains unconvincing.

At worst, it's a pretty orthodox Leninist argument lacking any nuance for the second decade of the 21th century. But the Communist League of Tampa is currently in the process of merging their editorial efforts with the stodgy Old Left formation, the Red Party, whose activities include defending the Russian, Chinese and Cuban revolutions. So will the World Party have to include these reactionary anti-imperialists?

Pennoid

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

They're reaching out. Nothing has been decided yet. Would love to see evidence of Red Party's 'defense of Chinese and Cuban' revolutions. Your comment implies an uncritical support for Russian revolution, which I'd also be happy to see evidence for. Perhaps you're conflating them with some other organization?

As for clt it is not monolithic and it is not 1/1 Donald. There are multiple views in the group. CLTs main activity is a small weekly rg. Secondarily, writing. Thirdly, internet shitfights because of slaying contemporary sacred leftcows.

The typical anarchist and leftcom rejections of electoralist most commonly advanced don't stand up to historical scrutiny. At most they contain partial truths, and by no means ought to be ignored but I think a more thorough investigation is in order.

My own feeling is that it hasn't been completely eliminated at least as a possible field of propaganda. But I also am sympathetic with Marx's view that the political plane needs to be actively engaged and eventually conquered by the organized working class in order to put in place the institutional means of working class rule. I'm not convinced that this is a spontaneous process (alone) as the point of reference for spontaneists is always epochs with mass workers parties' and unions, so we cannot abstract away from that element.

Until 1913, for example, the SPA and the IWW were close organizationally if some what anatagonistic politically. There were majorly important infrastructures of support, which persisted in some places after the formal split.

The question here is settled in agreement between an advocate of elections of some sort for propaganda, and the abstentionist, regarding the point of revolution; it will be an insurrection and a smashing of the bourgeois state. Elections aren't a road to state power in the direct sense, but an organizational tool to agitate, educate, and organize the class and prepare it for the day of revolution. This is the articulation, so to presume some sort of kautskyism, bergerism, Bernsteinism, is to act in pretty poor faith.

What are the mechanisms by which the bourgeois state in the US militates against legislator accountability to a membership political party? What are the laws and policies which militate against the working poor being drawn together in unions and parties so they can act in their interests? Etc. If it's true that the state is not a viable field in the strategic and tactical (vs the moral) sense then it seems this would be part of the argument advanced.

Pennoid

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Re rule of law, legitimacy etc.

In terms of Republican democracy the general populace will have to recognize the authority of the delegated representatives; to Soviets, to IWW convention, or the commune (extreme Republican democracy in Marx and Engels' sense).

Here the delegates are subject to recall, avg wage, etc. Other institutional and practical methods which subordinate them to the working class. But nevertheless it's a means of organizing the authority of the majority of non-owners over that of owners (initial dictatorship of proles). In that way, like authority in general, it is a means of making decisions on the basis of a division of labor.

This does not equal the rule of law constitutionalism inin the bourgeois sense which is a very specific set of social relations. Authority =\= rule of law constitutionalism. Easiest example is a tribal society with a chief or council of elders etc.

Spikymike

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Well the 'Red Party's' political programme seems to be little more than a second-hand version of Trotskyist transitional demands - best not to get linked in with any electoral strategy which includes that! Anyway you don't have to stand yourself in state elections to take what little advantage there may sometimes be in election periods with some appropriate propagandising.

Pennoid

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

There program seems more inspired by CPGB-PCC and classic minimum/maximum programs iirc. There were some wonky demands in there, that are reminiscent of Trotskyism, but that stuff could change.

I should add, that in the above, I Think the substantive questions (what exactly is the day-to-day nature of the rule of bourgeoisie, how does it keep elections useless etc.) have to be answered as well by those advocating *some* electoral strategy, and would inform what the strategy entails, how far it goes, what elections to run in, etc.

Hieronymous

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Pennoid, this is one of those agree-to-disagree moments. Like many others here, libertarian communism is the goal. Which, to me at least, doesn't mean Republican democracy, working class rule, party programs, electoral propaganda campaigns, or tactical alliances with vanguardists. And much of my own theoretical perspective comes from the anarchist rejection of authoritarian and hierarchical structures of organizing.

My ideal of communism is based on a revolutionary upheaval that changes all social relations to communist ones. It doesn't create the preconditions of communism, it creates communism. Money, wage-labor, enterprises as separate value-creating poles of accumulation, private property, the state and its judicial apparatus for mediating social life and conflicts -- police, courts, jails/prisons, standing military forces, nations and borders, the separation between learning and doing, all of these have to be abolished. This doesn't mean worker control of production, co-ops, or nationalization of industries. Communism is the continuous process of replacing bourgeois institutions with communal, moneyless, profitless, and stateless forms of life, where the proletariat self-negates, destroying all classes, and gives birth to a material human community (some of this plagiarized from Gilles Dauvé).

As for elections and political representation in bourgeois society, I don't base my ideas on Marx's -- or anyone's -- writings from the 19th century. Instead, my opinion comes from direct experience. I worked as a campaign staffer, being mentored by veterans of SDS and the UFW in the methods of Saul Alinksky. In the mid-1980s I took part in a grassroots statewide initiative campaign that against all odds -- being outspent by at least 100 to 1 -- succeeded, only to be wiped out by a dozen court challenges the day after the election. During that campaign, I participated in a speaking tour across the state, accompanying Ralph Nader who was our main spokesman -- even acting as one of his bodyguards in communities where he was unpopular.

Over the years, I've crossed paths with dozens of politicians, from the local level to the House of Representatives. To a person, they all had the character defect of narcissism, naked ambition, and a Machiavellian quest for power. There might be decent people striving for elected office, but I've yet to meet any of them. All the ones I've ever seen are opportunist chameleons who've earned their place on the gallows a thousand times over (to paraphrase Bakunin). Where I live and work, some college-educated liberals are self-righteous voters, but most rank-and-file workers find it all to be a meaningless racket and are part of the abstaining demographic that gives the U.S. the lowest rate of electoral participation in the advanced industrial world (even factoring in those, like convicted felons, denied voting rights).

Pennoid

The typical anarchist and leftcom rejections of electoralist most commonly advanced don't stand up to historical scrutiny.

If you believe this, please give some concrete examples of this historical scrutiny. The closer to the 21st century the better.

Pennoid

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Well, I suppose I could start with the one you advanced, which is nonsense;

"All politicians are ambitious, narcissist, etc." I of course cannot disprove this, but for reference to honest politicians. This a classic liberal argument for the rule of law actually, that even politicians are submitted to the rule of law because we can never be too trusting and so on. But I never even suggested that what was needed was people with a better moral character, but institutional means to hold people to account. Just like one would expect in a social system based on the plan administration of things, french-utopian wetdreams notwithstanding. Dauve doesn't actually solve the puzzle of decision making, authority etc. at the point of revolution he just attempts to exorcise it with flowering language and the most basic spontaneism.

Most bourgeois politicians are insincere, no doubt. But the reason this is encouraged and enabled has its roots in the social relations of production, policies of state, election rules, the dominance of money-donations, lack of membership political parties, etc. which encourage forms of party organization antithetical to the working class controlling its own institutions.

As for the rest of imputing some sort of 'in-authenticity' (Leninism) to the methods we employ; the day-to-day is the same - reading groups, writing, arguing, distributing info, helping workers fight back and so on are the forms of 'practice' we're engaged in. It's no less 'organic' because we call it what it is (agitation, education, organization) instead of trying to make fatuous appeals to 'authenticity' on the basis of being 'exactly alongside our other workers' and 'not above them, on the same level'. Reading groups are a form of education. Passing out lit is agitation. Soliciting for people's problems at work and beginning to address them in a prepared way with a division of labor is organization. I wouldn't want an auto mechanic to appeal to my ignorance in order to get my trust. I similarly wouldn't want a union organizer or community organizer to do the same, but to subordinate their skills to the direction of the membership.

jdhthegr8

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hieronymous

the Red Party, whose activities include defending the Russian, Chinese and Cuban revolutions

Huh, didn't realize I unconditionally loved tankie stuff. Learned something new today *little Red Book spontaneously poofs into my hands in response to this quote*

Hieronymous

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Found this on your website:

Are you selling subscriptions? Or just spontaneously plugging the publication in a call for more openness?

jdhthegr8

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

You might want to check the caption to that, comrade! "Hopefully with more editorial openness than this". Guess the sarcasm missed you? Look at our about page and you will see that we are decidedly not tankies.

The pending publication is the result of ongoing talks with some CLT members. We're not "selling" anything. This is just an example of the potential unity that we hope to grow between groups wherever possible.

jdhthegr8

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Also, what about Russia and China? This is only one third of the quality tank Red Party content you promised me!

Hieronymous

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Jdhthegr8, you've only been on libcom for 20 minutes and you're already barking orders.

Could you explain the sarcasm of this:

[quote=Red Party]Still, socialist candidacies standing on a platform of working class political independence should be supported, ideally not just as an end in themselves but as a means to campaign for the kind of party we need. The vote share for the radical left as a whole will be squeezed both by the specter of Donald Trump and Jill Stein’s relative popularity, but working for the best possible result will help consolidate what support we can while laying the groundwork for the future. The Socialist Party’s Mimi Soltysik / Angela Walker ticket remains the best choice for class-conscious workers to give support while arguing for unity, electoral and otherwise, on the basis of class independence, internationalism and a commitment to radical democracy. Where this is not possible, support Gloria LaRiva (Party for Socialism and Liberation), Monica Moorehead (Workers World), or Mackler (Socialist Action) along the same lines.[/quote]

I miss the humor. Perhaps you've wandered onto the wrong website. We're not Trotskiytes.

jdhthegr8

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

We endorsed Mimi, yes. But what exactly does that have to do with supporting Russia or China? I'm asking (or as you say 'barking orders') because I'm curious about why you came to the conclusion that you did, other than by misunderstanding of a single picture.

donald parkinson

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'll just say this: the question of legitimacy isn't based on the rule of law. To have a regime that doesn't trample on democratic rights and rig elections, you need to have genuine majority support from the politically active sections of society. This requires that the political regime is seen as legitimate by enough of society to stay in power without resorting to mass repression on the populace. I don't see how a communist party could build this legitimacy on a mass scale without engaging in electoral politics to some degree. It's a question of revolutionary strategy and tactics.

donald parkinson

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

And voting for a fringe socialist candidate in an election isn't some great crime that "crosses the class line", if people are going to vote they might as well have a socialist option. It's not the equivalent to promoting a "tactical vote" for Hillary.

Hieronymous

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

O.K., deviating from the thread's topic of elections, I'll ask you a libertarian communist litmus test question related to Russia:

Jdhthegr8, how would you avenge the betrayal of the heroic Kronstadt revolutionaries in 1921?

Next, rather than beating around the bush, what is your position on China?

donald parkinson

And voting for a fringe socialist candidate in an election isn't some great crime that "crosses the class line", if people are going to vote they might as well have a socialist option. It's not the equivalent to promoting a "tactical vote" for Hillary.

"Fringe" is being too generous; "wingnut" is more accurate. Gloria LaRiva? You've gotta be fucking kidding! From memory, LaRiva was one of the last diehard devotees of Hoaxa in Albania, and is a perennial cheerleader of whichever Kim is the current tyrant ruling over North Korea. Cuba is kinda like their model to emulate, followed closely by whatever despot is ruling Venezuela, Bolivia, or Brazil from the left. And in street marches, if she's a parade marshal, she works closely with the pigs to help arrest militants who don't march in line (a.k.a. anarchists and anti-authoritarians). That list of Red Party's wingnut endorsements reads like the strongest argument for electoral abstentionism that I've ever seen.

jdhthegr8

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'd avenge it by focusing on the here and now, building a movement that represents all workers and all ideological slants rather than one specific clique.

My personal position is that it made some major advances (compared to what was before it) and some major failures (The Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution, Hundred Flowers Campaign)

But again, was there anything that led you to your initial analysis of us as blind supporters of these states?

donald parkinson

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

My position on China? I think it was a bourgeois-democratic revolution that was progressive in the sense of breaking pre-capitalist forms and forming a more centralized nation-state but had little do with communism and Mao was ultimately an enemy to working class self-organization when it developed.

donald parkinson

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

deleted

donald parkinson

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The Kronstadt suppression was a tragedy and instead of "avenging" the reps in a (albeit degenerating) workers state i'd rather speculate what alternatives to suppression existed; personally I would argue that negotiations should have been more thoroughly attempted. Unfortunately history doesn't happen the way we'd like it to, and we must learn lessons from it, but a political programme isn't a answer to the question of "what was the right thing do to in x situation/who were the good guys in this situation".

jdhthegr8

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

^Exactly. I'm not here to debate who was the perfect flawless example of Marxism nor who was the ultimate villain of humanity nor how they represented or failed to represent communism. I'm here to make something happen in the material conditions workers face now, and I don't think it's wrong to believe that leftists can learn from the past.

Hieronymous

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

donald parkinson

My position on China?

No. Didn't ask you.

donald parkinson

The Kronstadt suppression was a . . .

Didn't ask you that either.

How 'bout get back on topic?

What are your examples of electoral success?

jdhthegr8

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Our endorsement of Mimi explains the points of disagreement with the other parties, if you check that article. We endorsed him, not Gloria La Riva nor anybody else. If Mimi has no ballot or write-in access in a comrades' particular locality then we encourage strategically voting for another candidate. That does not amount to unconditional support of every single thing that they may have had in their party, and it's intellectually dishonest to insinuate that it does. We also by no means agree with every single person or thing in the SPUSA, but for this electoral cycle we feel their candidate best represents the spirit of the Red Party's ideals.

Also, come on now. It's an internet board with a flow of messages. If the subject of a question isn't clarified it's perfectly reasonable for another to suspect it's for them. Besides, I don't think his answering the question as well took anything away from the conversation. No need to react so harshly.

Hieronymous

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

So Gloria LaRiva is the lesser evil? (or wingnut?; question to Jdhthegr8, but by all rights anyone can answer)

jdhthegr8

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I would say the lesser-good. If no other socialist candidate had presence in my state then I would strategically vote for her as a means of having placed a vote for a socialist candidate. I don't subscribe to two-partyism where the "lesser evil" is what you vote for, I vote for what is the best option available. None of us expect revolutionary change to come from a ballot box in November, we expect it to come from organization-building and principled unity.

donald parkinson

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The use of electoralism by the Socialist Labor Party and Socialist Party of America would stand as examples of success to me. They were able to use a mix of union work and elections to build an existing, is flawed, socialist current in the working class. The IWW also played an important role and often collaborated with the Socialist Party. That's just an example of the USA.

Ivysyn

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

These are my thoughts on Donald's article I initially posted somewhere else:

This is what I think of it. His argument against direct action as opposed to electoral politics is that supposedly such a stance would preclude interacting with electoral and parliamentary institutions. His theory of how a communist party would not capitulate to bourgioes politics is that there would be checks on representatives.

The problem with the first argument is that it is false and at worst a straw man. Direct action refers to the direct struggle of the oppressed against their oppression. This would include going up against electoral and parliamentary politics. The real difference between what he is arguing against and the views he holds is that people who reject electoral politics and pose direct action as an alternative don't see electoral politics as a particularly fruitful avenue of struggle since electoral politics are beholden to the will of state bureaucrats and their financial backers in the capitalist class.

The problem with the second argument is that no social democratic party has ever been beholden to those checks. They have no reason to because they are a party in power in the bourgioes state and as such their interests lie in capitulating to the bourgioes state which is what social democratic politics have historically resulted in. This is the problem with the return to social democracy and the minimum program that people like the CPGB, Red Party, and now the CLT are advocating for.

Ivysyn

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The use of electoralism by the Socialist Labor Party and Socialist Party of America would stand as examples of success to me. They were able to use a mix of union work and elections to build an existing, is flawed, socialist current in the working class. The IWW also played an important role and often collaborated with the Socialist Party. That's just an example of the USA.

The SPUSA and SLP didn't create a movement. Really it was the labor movement that created them. While I think there is something to be said for the SPUSA's history and success they were ultimately thrown out the window by state power through repression and propaganda. The problem is the capitalist class has ways of dealing with elements in state power that are not in line with their interests.

Craftwork

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Need to historicise more, Donald.

The late-19th/early 20th century socialists operated at a time when the idea of the workers' movement forming political parties, contesting elections and wielding state-power was a novel thing - social democracy was in its nascent period, suffrage was still being fought for, the trade union movement was young, etc. Between then and now, we've seen what a dead-end this whole politico-statist approach is - we hit peak leftism in the '60s/'70s (where I am), when the labour movement was at the height of its powers. It was defeated, and this defeat was accompanied with economic restructuring ('80s). Nowadays, the very notion of doing things that way makes no sense.

"[I]t now becomes necessary [...] that we read his [Marx's] theory in a different light: as a theory of the development and crisis of the modern commodity-producing system (this term embraces logically Western capitalism and the state socialist systems of "catch-up modernization"). This reading of Marx, "against the grain" of the common interpretations, naturally requires two things. First, the historization of Marx’s thought, i.e., the clearing of those elements in which he still thought within the horizon of bourgeois modernization. Secondly, such a reading requires to, so to speak, reverse the polarity of the Marxian Theory, so as to not understand it as a positivistic presentation of capitalist categories, but conversely, as their immanent radical critique. In other words, it is necessary to discover and overcome the contradictions within the Marxian Theory, which are due to the limited historical horizon of Marx’s time. Reading Marx with a negative (instead of a positive) charge is the precondition for rendering his work explosive again. - Kurz

donald parkinson

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

A lot to respond to here. My intention is not to denigrate the importance of struggles that rely on direct action. Mass struggles, because of their scale, tend to also produce representative which mediate the struggles. The inevitability that representatives will exists because of the scale of mass politics and the need to make large collective decisions. The question is how these representatives are held accountability to the communist programne that the party is organized around. I have suggested ways this can be be done without having a pure abstentionust position.

That no social-democraic party was subject to these checks isnt' really an argument. I'm not arguing for a social democratic party that makes an alliance with the the coalitionist right, but rather a Communist Party based on the fundamentals of marxist politics. And no anarchist revolution or spontaneous council revolution has been able to win either; every time there is a question of who will lead the smashing of the state and become the new centre of power. Councils aren't revolutionary if they give their political support to a bourgeois party (which the SPD was at that time).

To say that that SLP and SPA were created by the workers movement and not the converse, i'd say that both the labor movement and these parties created what became a 'socialist movement', tho one that was less powerful than those in Europe.

So say I'm not historicizing isn't really an argument to me. I don't think we are in a period of "capitalist decadence", I think the proletariat was defeated in the 20th century and that we need to examine these failures and put them up against orthodox marxist politics. I don't think the labor movement is completely dead; it seems to be having a revival though with different forms from the past. But the political party is not going away anytime soon, though it would of course have to adapt to the times. People aren't against adapting to the times, and the key to this is winning support from youth and preventing orgs from being fossils from the 60s and 70s.

ajjohnstone

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Message #40

The use of electoralism by the Socialist Labor Party and Socialist Party of America would stand as examples of success to me. They were able to use a mix of union work and elections to build an existing, is flawed, socialist current in the working class. The IWW also played an important role and often collaborated with the Socialist Party. That's just an example of the USA.

Don't forget the achievement of the One Big Union in Canada and its relationship with the Socialist Party of Canada. This development seems to often get side-lined...perhaps because it goes against the grain of many who dismiss the Impossiblist tradition and therefore underplay what was involved.

It did not condemn political action, but rather declared that the only hope for the workers was "in the economic and political solidarity of the working class, One Big Union and One Workers' Party." (The OBU Bulletin, Dec. 20, 1919).

As one of its proponents, Jack Kavanagh, "There can be no question of industrial vs. political, the two are complementary phases of the working class movement"

The OBU did not have all the answers but what they represented was a tendency that was stopped short by so-called revolutionary proponents of Leninism and the reformist apologists of Laborism who were part and parcel of an unholy alliance with the bosses and the government.

ajjohnstone

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Message #41

The problem with the second argument is that no social democratic party has ever been beholden to those checks. They have no reason to because they are a party in power in the bourgioes state and as such their interests lie in capitulating to the bourgioes state which is what social democratic politics have historically resulted in.

This argument has been often discussed within the SPGB.
The checks begin with the structure of the political party - whether it is a hierarchal top-down party or one that is based on no leadership and control by the party's membership. Another issue is, of course, the nature of the membership. Just those who accept the SPGB's case for socialism gets to join. It is not a broad church where anybody is entitled to enrol regardless of agreement and for the price of a membership card. And that compatibility is tested for.

The second crucial importance is how does a social democratic party (and we use that in the original sense, not the modern one) get elected. If they appeal to votes on a platform of reforms and palliatives then i don't consider not achieving those objectives as capitulation. But rather the reality of capitalism imposing themselves upon false promises.
By calling for votes on mitigating the effects of capitalism rather than abolishing it, the votes they get are little different from the votes given to overt pro-capitalist parties. They are elected to run capitalism better than their rivals...and they are de-elected when they fail to the goods and the voter return to the promises of the pro-capitalist camp. The voter is not asked to fundamentally change his views or opinions. The party makes plenty of pledges to get elected, but doesn't make socialists to get the vote from them

But the SPGB campaigns in elections for one demand only - socialism. It is the genuine one-issue organisation.

And it asks only for the vote of people who understand its case and shares in its aim. It doesn't canvass for popularity and uninformed votes.
I don't think any political party has ever been elected on such a manifesto and in such a way and so there has not been any capitulation in the past.

I dont think the debate between the Possiblists and the Impossiblists and the Anarchists has really advanced much from the original argument at the turn of the century. Some words and terminology may be different but the core of the disagreement hasn't changed too much.

In fact, it has probably grown more blurred with the years and that's without the muddying of the waters by the Leninists/Trotskyists

jef costello

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

jdhthegr8

and I don't think it's wrong to believe that leftists can learn from the past.

Then they should have learnt that voting is a waste of time and launching parties a waste of time energy and resources.

jdhthegr8

Our endorsement of Mimi explains the points of disagreement with the other parties, if you check that article. We endorsed him, not Gloria La Riva nor anybody else. If Mimi has no ballot or write-in access in a comrades' particular locality then we encourage strategically voting for another candidate. That does not amount to unconditional support of every single thing that they may have had in their party, and it's intellectually dishonest to insinuate that it does.

What you are describing is voting for the least worst candidate.

jdhthegr8

I would say the lesser-good. If no other socialist candidate had presence in my state then I would strategically vote for her as a means of having placed a vote for a socialist candidate. I don't subscribe to two-partyism where the "lesser evil" is what you vote for, I vote for what is the best option available. None of us expect revolutionary change to come from a ballot box in November, we expect it to come from organization-building and principled unity.

You seem to think voting is important and that you can (and should) pick a best option rather than a least worst option.

bastarx

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

iexist

bastarx

The days of big parties and big unions are over and seem unlikely to return. Working class struggle largely takes the form of massive street movements which seemingly appear from nowhere and then disappear just as quickly plus small isolated strikes with occasional big union orchestrated strikes that are designed to fail.

That's what communists have to work with not fantasies about replaying the early 20th century only without the betrayals.

Yea, except that those fantasmic movements almost always emerge from long histories of local organizing.

Do they? Provide as many examples as you need.

Pennoid

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yeah, Ajjohnstone, as Debs once put it, socialists want a vote for a program, not this or that personality. A program of overthrow of the constitutional order by workers I might add!

syndicalist

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Pennoid

Yeah, Ajjohnstone, as Debs once put it, socialists want a vote for a program, not this or that personality. A program of overthrow of the constitutional order by workers I might add!

OK, I'll accept that on face value, even if I don't agree with it (cause we live in an age of personalities, basically).

What then would the evolutionary / revolutionary / socialist program be that your tendency might propose?

jdhthegr8

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Then they should have learnt that voting is a waste of time and launching parties a waste of time energy and resources.

Voting is not the way to revolution, but electoral campaigns are a useful means of spreading revolutionary ideals. I don't expect socialism to come from the ballot box, but elections are an opportunity to promote it.

You seem to think voting is important and that you can (and should) pick a best option rather than a least worst option.

It's not, really. At the end of the day what I put on the ballot myself is symbolic as far as I'm concerned. I think the interpretation you're making of my post is different from what I actually mean, but it's a common misconception to assume that because we endorsed a candidate and would like people to write their name in that therefore we expect them to win or gain meaningful change directly from that. What actually happens on election day itself is irrelevant. It's everything that happens UP to election day that matters. It's a time when we can draw attention to an alternative system through a candidate and possibly win hearts and minds. It's using the electoral cycle to create something outside of it

Hieronymous

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

jdhthegr8

It's a time when we can draw attention to an alternative system through a candidate and possibly win hearts and minds.

Winning "hearts and minds" has come to sound like merely an advertising slogan it's become so hackneyed and devoid of meaning. It's such a shallow way to skirt dealing with consciousness.

jdhthegr8

It's using the electoral cycle to create something outside of it

So what you're basically saying is that we can use liberal means to achieve revolutionary ends. That's called magical thinking.

All this dogma and mechanistic formulae seem rooted in Lenin's deeply flawed blueprint for revolution in texts like “Left-Wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder.

syndicalist

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'd suggest you all look at the record of the De Leanest SLP. The US SLP ran its own candidate in every Presidential election from 1892 to 1976....
Of course they ran candidates for all sorts of offices on the local and state level as well. Unlike;y they advanced socialism very far as their numbers continued to fall off until they only exist in a handful of non-public members. And you figure they had a socialist message that was at least somewhat revolutionary. And a look at contemporary Sawant may also give a feel for electoral-socialism-in-action.

SLP presidential votes:

* 1892 - Simon Wing - 21,163 votes
* 1896 - Charles H. Matchett - 36,356
* 1900 - Joseph F. Malloney - 40,900
* 1904 - Charles H. Corregan - 33,156
* 1908 - August Gillhaus - 14,018
* 1912 - Arthur E. Reimer - 29,374
* 1916 - Arthur E. Reimer - 15,284
* 1920 - William W. Cox - 31,716
* 1924 - Frank T. Johns - 28,746
* 1928 - Verne L. Reynolds - 21,608
* 1932 - Verne L. Reynolds - 34,028
* 1936 - John W. Aiken - 12,818
* 1940 - John W. Aiken - 14,914
* 1944 - Edward A. Teichert - 45,226
* 1948 - Edward A. Teichert - 29,038
* 1952 - Eric Hass - 30,250
* 1956 - Eric Hass - 44,300
* 1960 - Eric Hass - 47,522
* 1964 - Eric Hass - 45,187
* 1968 - Henning A. Blomen - 52,591
* 1972 - Louis Fisher - 53,811
* 1976 - Jules Levin - 9,616
http://www.ourcampaigns.com/PartyDetail.html?PartyID=97

ajjohnstone

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Syndicalist, perhaps you can post the membership trend of the IWW over the last century?

I can be corrected but something in the back of my mind recalls Fred Thompson's history saying at one point in the late 1950s the IWW members dropped to below 100.

That too would make depressing reading for those who seek the primacy of industrial action over political action.

Something is amiss in both camps.Is it the theories or the practices?

Shouldn't we try to identify where things have gone wrong so we can begin to discuss how to remedy the situation?

I think i said this on another topic thread.

jdhthegr8

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hieronymous

Winning "hearts and minds" has come to sound like merely an advertising slogan it's become so hackneyed and devoid of meaning

Fair point, but I don't think my phrasing detracts from the message which is that it is a useful tool. I'm not sure how it 'skirts dealing with class consciousness' either. I can reasonably say that thought was never going through my mind when I typed this up.

Hieronymous

So what you're basically saying is that we can use liberal means to achieve revolutionary ends. That's called magical thinking.

I would agree that it was magical thinking if that were what I was saying, but it is not. I am saying that right now, and for the next two months, all of the American public's eyes are on bourgeois elections. What good does it do us to vehemently reject any mention of this in our reaching out to workers? If I claimed this were our ONLY tool, that outside of these remaining two months then there was nothing else for socialists to do and that running a candidate was the ONLY useful way to spread the word, then you could rightfully call it magical thinking. As it is though your stance amounts to puritanism and empty words over substance. The RP will continue to try and organize outside of elections just as much, and we will adapt our message to the circumstances of the time. On the flipside, what is your strategy? That's not meant to sound condescending, I just want to hear it.

Spikymike

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Not sure the absence of a successful growth in a consistent large scale revolutionary communist movement in recent decades let alone a successful world revolution can be put down to the various 'revolutionary' organisations and parties past mistaken strategies. We can with the benefit of hindsight consider mistakes made in the past at certain high points in the class struggle which might have helped to move things forward or at least avoid catastrophic failures, but these endless searches by our minority tendencies for the 'magic bullet' that might suddenly transform our influence and the potential for revolutionary change seems to ignore the material changes past and present in the evolution of capitalism that have been the more significant factors influencing the relevance or otherwise of the various different political and economic organisations claiming the communist project as their own. Analysing these and understanding how we might adapt to them would seem more fruitful than simply replaying the past historical debates between parliamentary and anti-parliamentary, political and economic, anarchist and marxist etc

Pennoid

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

1. Spikymike no one has presented any of this as a silver bullet. Look closer.
2. Also, the whole 'material conditions have changed' line is just bullshit when you're not able/willing to articulate what that consists of specifically.
3. "Stop looking" I'm sorry, but are you suggesing that the failures of the past were inevitable? Hindsight is 20/20 I suppose, though that can be incredibly deceptive.
4. Hieronymus, it would be using a particular set of means as directed toward a particular end, with no illusions whatsoever as to the content and usefulness of that end. For example, a union might demand and interrupt work to get a co-worker back on the job from being sacked for being pro union. That does not make a revolution. But it does increase the scope and possibility for organizing as well as defend working class people. Similarly, legislative electoralist could potentially (in abstract, admittedly) provide for the legalization of public sector workers to strike, thus giving them a greater tool for organization. Of course, this would not be won without a great deal of direct action on their end but it could be legally secured as a means of hanging on to the win. Why this is suddenly different than a negotiated peace with the boss is not readily apparent and if you're serious about arguing against it, it seems you would martial the many inhibitory aspects in your favor.
5. It appears that what we have are considerable challenges to working out what exactly would keep althe electoral elements of a party accountable. Any examples in the past or present would be instructive. SLP presidential elections are interesting but sort of missing the point; did Donald not reject executive branch pursuits?

jef costello

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

jdhthegr8

Then they should have learnt that voting is a waste of time and launching parties a waste of time energy and resources.

Voting is not the way to revolution, but electoral campaigns are a useful means of spreading revolutionary ideals. I don't expect socialism to come from the ballot box, but elections are an opportunity to promote it.

You seem to think voting is important and that you can (and should) pick a best option rather than a least worst option.

It's not, really. At the end of the day what I put on the ballot myself is symbolic as far as I'm concerned. I think the interpretation you're making of my post is different from what I actually mean, but it's a common misconception to assume that because we endorsed a candidate and would like people to write their name in that therefore we expect them to win or gain meaningful change directly from that. What actually happens on election day itself is irrelevant. It's everything that happens UP to election day that matters. It's a time when we can draw attention to an alternative system through a candidate and possibly win hearts and minds. It's using the electoral cycle to create something outside of it

I really don't understand how this would work. IT's like entering a battle of the bands to encourage people to play football.

syndicalist

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ajjohnstone

Syndicalist, perhaps you can post the membership trend of the IWW over the last century?

I can be corrected but something in the back of my mind recalls Fred Thompson's history saying at one point in the late 1950s the IWW members dropped to below 100.

That too would make depressing reading for those who seek the primacy of industrial action over political action.

Something is amiss in both camps.Is it the theories or the practices?

Shouldn't we try to identify where things have gone wrong so we can begin to discuss how to remedy the situation?

I think i said this on another topic thread.

Thanks for the reply. I'm on a cell but would like to reply at some length
at some point. One significant difference between the SLP and IWW (of which I'm not a member)
can be tactical. Growing up and getting involved during the anti viet nam war period, I recall the SLP refusing to partake in demos, even just to hand out their leaflets. On the other hand
the IWW did. They made an effort to reach out to a rebelling generation. The SLP became old, they became totally sectarian and couldn't reverse their demise. Btw, I do not gladly cheer the demise of the crusty ole SLP .

Hieronymous

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

jdhthegr8

On the flipside, what is your strategy? That's not meant to sound condescending, I just want to hear it.

First, I don't ever actively discourage anyone from voting (anymore). If someone asks, I explain why I don't vote. If they say, "That's nuts, I've never heard that argument before," I respond with some historical quotes:

Henry David Thoreau

All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or back gammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it.

Or I would point to Emma Goldman, who viewed the state as a tool of social control and ruling class oppression. She felt that voting was useless at best and dangerous at worst. Instead of voting, which gives the illusion of participation while veiling the true nature of class domination, she advocated fighting back with strikes, protests, and "direct action against the invasive, meddlesome authority of our moral code." She held fast to her anti-voting position and opposed the struggle for women's suffrage. Emma thought that anarchist power was wasted when funneled into oppositional voting blocks and would be much more effectively used to help foment nationwide strikes.

Or I would selectively quote anarchist poet (and occasional Wobbly) Kenneth Rexroth's tale (from his An Autobiographical Novel) of hitchhiking across the Dakotas and Montana in the early 1920s, before most roads were paved, and how he caught a long, slow ride in Billings from: Kenneth Rexroth

"a hard-boiled, well-to-do man who seemed to know everything and believe nothing. . . For orthodox politics and politicians, his scorn was far beneath contempt. . . He was full of good advice and sound opinions . . . One night I said to him, 'Don't you believe in the integrity of any politician whatsoever? Don't you believe that a few rare people are motivated by a disinterested desire to serve society?" He didn't. 'How about La Follette and Burton Wheeler?' [The gentleman responded] 'Did you ever go to a baseball game?'. . . 'Of coarse,' I said. 'Uh hunh,' he said. 'What's behind he catcher?' 'Why, there's nothing behind the catcher except the umpire.' 'Oh yes there is,' he said. 'Think.' 'I can't think of anything. There's just the boxes in the grandstand.' 'What's between the box seats and the catcher.' 'Nothing.' 'Oh yes there is; there's a wire net called the backstop. It catches the balls the catcher misses, and all the fouls that go off in that direction, so that nobody in the box seats gets hurt. That's the function of guys like La Follette and Wheeler, and believe me, they know it if you don't.'"

The next day the man's car got stuck in the mud near a rural farm and recognizing the man, a farmer with a team of mules eagerly pulled the car out. The man offered the farmer a $10 tip, which he refused and said "No, thank you Senator, it's been an honor I'll always remember." Rexroth's ride was with U.S. Senator Burton K. Wheeler, who as a Montana state legislator in the teens had a reputation as a staunch defender of the miners doing battle with the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. In his memoir, Rexroth wrote that the week he traveled with Wheeler was more "illuminating than all the economics and political-science courses in all the universities in the country."

Rexroth, who broke his revolutionary teeth as a soapboxer at Bughouse Square in Chicago, was also an important defender of an anti-authoritarian tradition, rooted working class self-activity, against the increasingly ossifying vanguardist dogma of Lenin and the corrupt idea of importing the Bolshevik ideology to the U.S. -- or anywhere else -- as an ahistorical blueprint for revolution.

And lastly, my strategy is best expressed in my posts here on libcom, as well as generally agreeing with a libertarian anti-Bolshevik communist perspective best expressed in libcom.org: an introduction (click on the link).

Below is the poster my comrades and I wheatpasted all over San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley in the run-up to the 1992 election. I met many comrades on those nights for the first time and most of us are still close today.

jondwhite

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

klas batalo

https://communistleaguetampa.org/2016/08/22/towards-a-communist-electoral-strategy/

What do Libcom users think of this piece by DP of CLT?

Interested in anarchist / left communist / impossiblist thoughts on it.

I'm a bit late to the party but the CLT article is soft soaping classical Leninsm via Kautsky Second Internationalism. True that Trump-Clinton and their parties campaigns are all about cynical electioneering but there's a cynicism in the electioneering model proposed by the article. It's pragmatic but rewrites history to claim 1914 (the betrayal narrative) and 1917 changed everything. Despite using an image at the top from the Debs campaign to illustrate it, the SPA is entirely skipped over. The SPA was still riding high in the late 1910s - after and due to Debs 1912 campaign, the CPA consistently tried to undermine the SPA but couldn't compete fairly which is probably why they favoured non electoral strategy including illegal activity. The CPA were formed as wreckers and the CLT should probably concede that.

ajjohnstone

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I recall the SLP refusing to partake in demos, even just to hand out their leaflets. On the other hand the IWW did. They made an effort to reach out to a rebelling generation. The SLP became old, they became totally sectarian and couldn't reverse their demise.

I agree...you got to be there to get your voice heard.

My feeling is we have to find a way to say "we told you so..." that comes across in a positive manner that bestows confidence rather than spread a dispiriting message of hopelessness when people do decide to protest and resist.

I have no pat answer as yet that goes beyond some platitudes but we have to be able to say ---"We told you so...Now, are you going to heed our advice or repeat the same old mistakes as before..."

I'm not sure how to express that sentiment which doesn't sound sectarian, party-liner, and even elitist. We can't avoid making conflicting ideas a battle-ground...but what about the collateral damage that it results in?

Because of our weakness in conveying our ideas, every new generation of activists is being obliged to re-learn old lessons the hard way. But I'm not someone who will let a toddler put a hand into a fire as an object lesson in that experience teaches. Nor will i stay silent when some quack recommends a fake remedy as a cure.

Spikymike

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Pennoid,
My earlier post No57 was a reflection on the nature of this discussion at that point and not aimed any more at you and Tampa than others who had contributed, but briefly on some, I thought fairly obvious, material changes how about in no particular order - the extension of globalisation, the downfall of soviet style state capitalism and shifts in the imperial balance of power, the incorporation of trade and industrial unions into the corporate management structure of capitalism, the de-industrialisation of large parts of the western economy and the financialisation of the economy, the growth of the digital economy, major restructuring of both the technical and political composition of the working class, the extension of a tightly controlled nominal democracy to formerly dictatorial regimes, the extension of society as a 'spectacle' etc. I would suggest also that theoretically some of this can be understood by an extended analysis of capitalism's evolution globally from the 'formal' to the 'real' subsumption of labour. All of these interconnected issues discussed extensively in other threads and texts on this site and others. I'm not arguing a case of all past failures at revolutionary change as inevitable, but a recognition that they did in the end fail to achieve communism whilst in the process impacting on and contributing materially towards the further globalisation and 'modernisation' of capitalism - creating new and changed conditions within which we and and our fellow workers must operate that are not replicas of the past.

jondwhite

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Here's what I wrote to Weekly Worker

Airbrushed

Miah Simone writes praising the Communist Party of the USA, which formed with 20,000 militants and calling for a ‘party of the working class for socialism’ (Letters, May 5). Typical!

It is only by starting the clock in 1919 that the Socialist Party of America can be airbrushed from our history. The SPA reached 120,000 members and 6% of the national vote at its peak in 1912, beating even the CPUSA peak membership of 80,000 in 1944.

Miah’s “criminal destruction of a great opportunity” might be an apt description of what the CPUSA tried to do to the SPA, including CPers beating SPA members at the SPA’s 1934 Madison Square Garden rally (although the most damage to the SPA was done by World War I).

There’s more to be learned from the SPA presidential campaign than from the CPUSA, not least candidate (and Bernie Sanders’ avowed hero) Eugene Debs’ famous quote:

“I am not a labour leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else. If you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the Promised Land if I could, because if I led you in, someone else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition; as it is now, the capitalists use your heads and your hands.”

Jon D White
Socialist Party of Great Britain

published in issue 1106
http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1106/letters/

Pennoid

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

1. Jon, if you want to ply your trade, you'd be better suited to finding members of the non-monolithic clt, such as myself, who've taken inspiration from and an interest in the SPA and Debs. But 1914 was a betrayal; how it can be characterized as anything else sounds deluded to me. Whether or not it necessitated a split is perhaps up for discussion, if you're willing to suggest that socialists ought to remain in league with the political supporters of imperialist policy. In general, I'm supportive of the Debs and Haywood wing of the SPA, the extreme left-wing, which was a minority in terms of control of the organization, but seemed to approximate he political beliefs and concerns of the rank and file. I would not dismiss the history of the spa out of hand, especially concerning the question of elections.

2. Spikey, I appreciate the response, but the point remains that it is assertion. How do those changes affect how we deal with a particular problem, say, forming a mass socialist party? I'm sure they bear, but in what way? I don't demand a fully worked out answer, but that was the basis of my gripe.

Spikymike

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Well just for now Pennoid those material conditions suggest that nationally based mass socialist party's internationally federated with other's of the same kind are neither possible or desirable today!

seahorse

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Steven.

admin: inappropriate and anatomically inaccurate joke from another user unpublished

Come on now, you can't say that and then not tell us what it was. It's just too tempting.

jondwhite

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Pennoid

1. Jon, if you want to ply your trade, you'd be better suited to finding members of the non-monolithic clt, such as myself, who've taken inspiration from and an interest in the SPA and Debs. But 1914 was a betrayal; how it can be characterized as anything else sounds deluded to me. Whether or not it necessitated a split is perhaps up for discussion, if you're willing to suggest that socialists ought to remain in league with the political supporters of imperialist policy. In general, I'm supportive of the Debs and Haywood wing of the SPA, the extreme left-wing, which was a minority in terms of control of the organization, but seemed to approximate he political beliefs and concerns of the rank and file. I would not dismiss the history of the spa out of hand, especially concerning the question of elections.

Pennoid, you keep using that term; 'monolith' and 'monolithic'. What do you mean when you use it in terms of its application to the CLT? I ask as the SPGB has been pejoratively described as a 'monument' in a critique titled 'Movement or Monument'. And also because (and correct me if I am wrong here) you possibly may have your mind made up, or at least have firm opinions. Elsewhere you declared 'The only guide we have for future action is to study the past! ' Surely, we can use our imagination and the circumstances of the past must be selectively applied to the present circumstances.
I'm really convinced that the narrative of betrayal is especially unhelpful, not because socialists shouldn't be against all war, but because it personalises the political movement which ought to be about politically self-emancipating ourselves not relying to any degree on leading lights of the Second International to be trusted to do anything on our behalf.
If you're going to distinguish between some 'extreme left wing' and 'rank and file' then you are going to have to explain these labels as Jack Ross' work argues Ira Kipnis' work invented many of these distinctions or at least retrospectively applied them.

ajjohnstone

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Debs and Haywood wing of the SPA, the extreme left-wing, which was a minority in terms of control of the organization

Surprisingly, apart from being its presidential candidate a few times, Debs never ever was a member of its executive committee, declining that role.

Alf

5 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The article here is our contribution to this discussion, which I think is well worth pursuing.

http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201610/14139/reply-communist-league-tampa-why-communists-oppose-participation-bourgeois-el