Are SPGB Libertarian Communist?

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jondwhite
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Jan 19 2015 19:38
Are SPGB Libertarian Communist?

Following on from the election press release topic
Are the SPGB Libertarian Communist?
Are companion parties such as WSPUS Libertarian Communist?
Is Libertarian Communist just anarchists?
Would it be possible for SPGBers (or WSPUS) to be involved in running this site if SPGBers wished?

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Serge Forward
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Jan 19 2015 21:38

Libertarian communists, yes but flawed libertarian communists.

augustynww
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Jan 19 2015 22:17
jondwhite wrote:
Is Libertarian Communist just anarchists?

Here is something about roots of this term, what does it means and from where it came from:
http://anarchism.pageabode.com/afaq/150-years-of-libertarian

In short it was coined as synonym for anarchist communism. It means non-authoritarian, non-statist communism. Non-authoritarian in the sense rejecting authority (and not only "non-dictatorial" maybe this is the reason for misunderstanding). Communism which doesn't intend to use the state for its own purpose. This is the difference between authoritarian and libertarian communism. Which of course exclude both SPGB and any other political party which aim to seize state power, authority. This is what this term means, end of story.

Now, in 20th century some Marxist groups abandoned earlier Marxist theories about the state and the possibility of using it therefore they are sometimes called libertarian communist but only if they are similar to anarchism in this respect (i.e they are not political parties aiming at seizing state power).

fnbrilll
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Jan 19 2015 22:48

augustynww: I would suggest actually reading what the SPGB, etc have said and done (Socialist Party of Canada actually elected people) before cutting and pasting definitions. Helps to know what you're talking about first.

augustynww
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Jan 19 2015 23:03

So the state abolished the state and introduced libertarian communism in Canada then? Never heard about this glorious moment in Canadian history, sorry.

fnbrilll
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Jan 20 2015 00:22

where did I say that? Perhaps you need to learn to read.

ajjohnstone
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Jan 20 2015 08:47

And to bandy quotes

http://www.infoshop.org/AnarchistFAQSectionI1

"Isn't libertarian socialism an oxymoron. In a word, no"

Quote:
Therefore, rather than being an oxymoron, "libertarian socialism" indicates that true socialism must be libertarian and that a libertarian who is not a socialist is a phoney. As true socialists oppose wage labour, they must also oppose the state for the same reasons. Similarly, libertarians must oppose wage labour for the same reasons they must oppose the state. So, libertarian socialism rejects the idea of state ownership and control of the economy, along with the state as such.

Just where does the SPGB stand counter to that definition? ...Our case is to capture the state to disarm the capitalist class who currently are in control of it, and then to abolish its class and coercive function. Some are critical of that approach but it does not make the SPGB statist or authoritarian or reformist but nowhere is anything recognisable as a state exists in our vision of socialism...

The SPGB has always differentiated between supporting reforms and reformism. In regards to it AF says "The boss class is our enemy, and while we must fight for better conditions from it" so why not turn your attack on their reformism but of course it would be a deliberate mis-reading by myself of their position, just as you are intent on misrepresenting the SPGB case on reformism.

A rare moment in history was when a Socialist Party of Canada member did get elected to a Province parliament, as been referred to by FNBrill. It is worth re-posting what his attitude was and which will probably be the approach of any future elected SPGBer.

Quote:
“I feel it is my duty to clearly define my position in this House ….I have no confidence in either of you, and it does not matter to me which of you win. It is a fight between political representatives of different corporations over surplus values that have been and are to be stolen from my class. When I voted on the last division I did so because I saw an opportunity to benefit a few of my class, the laborers in the construction camp. There is no opportunity to get anything for the workers on this vote, and I shall not vote. On every vote where there is no opportunity to get something for my class, I shall not vote. On every vote where there is no opportunity to get anything for my class, I shall leave the House and refrain from voting.”

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Serge Forward
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Jan 20 2015 09:26

I may be mistaken but I get the impression that augustynww is reacting to the words 'party' and 'socialist' and would possibly be saying much the same if this was about the SPEW, the SWP or the Scargillite SLP. He/she also appears to have a downer on any association with Marx and holds an extremely narrow and territorial definition of 'libertarian communism'.

In fact, I don't see how anyone reasonably informed about the SPGB could not see them as libertarian communist. That said, I don't see how anyone sympathetic to the SPGB could not see the flaws in a political strategy based on a unique kind of 'revolutionary' parliamentarism mixed with an endearing form of socialist evangelism... but that's another story...

augustynww
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Jan 20 2015 09:33
ajjohnstone wrote:
Just where does the SPGB stand counter to that definition? ...

uhm, In your next statement

ajjohnstone wrote:
Our case is to capture the state

In being political party.

On the other thread you actually gave an explanation why. Usual explanation of state socialism which had led anarchists at the time to regard Marxism as authoritarian version of socialism and communism:

ajjohnstone wrote:
Marx in 1852 “But universal suffrage is the equivalent of political power for the working class of England, where the proletariat forms the large majority of the population, where, in a long though underground civil war, it has gained a clear consciousness of its position as a class and where even the rural districts know no longer any peasants, but only landlords, industrial capitalists (farmers) and hired labourers. The carrying of universal suffrage in England would, therefore be a far more socialistic measure than anything which has been honoured with that name on the continent. Its inevitable result, here is the political supremacy of the working class.”

His meaning is clear - a working class majority in Parliament, backed by a majority of the population, can bring about the real transfer of power. Marx reaffirms “the way to show political power [in Britain] lies open to the working class. Insurrection would be madness where peaceful agitation would more swiftly and surely do the work.”

Several decades later Engels still argued for its use commenting that in the USA the workers "next step towards their deliverance" was "the formation of a political workingmen's party, with a platform of its own, and the conquest of the Capitol and the White House for its goal." This new party "like all political parties everywhere . . . aspires to the conquest of political power."

In Britain Engels continued to argue that the task of the British working class was not only to pursue economic struggles "but above all in winning political rights, parliament, through the working class organised into an independent party" (significantly, the original manuscript stated "but in winning parliament, the political power").

So we are in good company even if not the popular one at this moment in time.

(btw I have no idea what you meant by "not the popular" as state socialists always think like that)
Is this how you understand "libertarian socialism"? Really?

As I said on the other thread these Marx and particularly Engels ideas have led to the creation of social democracy in Germany. And it is reformism. "Capturing the state" is what make SPGB authoritarian and reformist and what differs you from libertarian socialism

I'm also curious what you meant by this:

ajjohnstone wrote:
and then to abolish its class and coercive function.

So, you don't want really abolish the state but "its function". That's the real catch here because libertarian socialists believe the state as such is class and coercive apparatus and saying that you only want to abolish "its class and coercive function" doesn't make much sense. It's like saying you only would want "to abolish class and exploitative function of capitalism"

augustynww
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Jan 20 2015 10:04
Serge Forward wrote:
I may be mistaken but I get the impression that augustynww is reacting to the words 'party' and 'socialist' and would possibly be saying much the same if this was about the SPEW, the SWP or the Scargillite SLP. He/she also appears to have a downer on any association with Marx and holds an extremely narrow and territorial definition of 'libertarian communism'.

In fact, I don't see how anyone reasonably informed about the SPGB could not see them as libertarian communist. That said, I don't see how anyone sympathetic to the SPGB could not see the flaws in a political strategy based on a unique kind of 'revolutionary' parliamentarism mixed with an endearing form of socialist evangelism... but that's another story...

I do not think my definition of libertarian communism is narrow. I also said I regard some marxists as libertarian communists. Of course only those who reject "capturing the state" and party organization i.e rejecting authoritarian socialism. This is broad definition of libertarian socialism and communism I think.

As for Marxism in general there are some theoretical reasons why historical Marxism accepted state socialism - look at this quote about Marx and Engels - (and later created state capitalism). I'm critical of Marxism, that's true but I don't think all Marxists are necessarily authoritarian. It depends in what direction they go - libertarian or authoritarian and how critical are they in terms of those authoritarian elements of Marxism.

slothjabber
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Jan 20 2015 10:25

Well, the Left Comms on LibCom tend to get a pass because we don't see that the role of the political organisation is to take control of the state; so under augustnww's definition we'd qualify (though the 'party/organisation' question might be a source of contention) - certainly earlier discussions around this question as it related to the Communist Left revolved around conceptions of taking 'state power' as being the defining factor. Which I think is why there aren't really any Bordigists who post here, and why incidently when anyone (eg on RevLeft) asks about the relationship of the Communist Left to Anarchism I tell them that the ICT and ICC can be regarded as 'Libertarian Communist' but the ICP can't.

But the SPGB do want to take state power; even if they immediately want to give it up again. And they're a party organising to do that, which may again be a problem, though to be honest most Anarchists don't seem to have a problem with the organisational forms that Marxists might call a 'party'. I think the role of the organisation is more important than its name or even its statutes.

I see Serge's argument, I really do; but in the definition of 'libertarian communism' that seems to be the consensus on LibCom, I think the SPGB would be ruled outside of it, even if the roots of the SPGB, and the goal of 'world socialism', are the same as the majority of the historical traditions of the Anarchist movement in the UK (fraction of the SDF, free-access communism). I can't see how you can have an "electoral libertarian communist party". It seems to me that the methodology doesn't fit the definition (no matter what else fits, which is let's face it is the majority of what the SPGB says, part of what we all have in common, whether Anarchist-Communist, Anarcho-syndicalist, Impossiblist or Left Communist).

ajjohnstone
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Jan 20 2015 14:18

As i keep saying...you insist in reading what you want into things...

Quote:
Even a quick glance at the history of the socialist movement indicates that the identification of socialism with state ownership and control is not common. For example, Anarchists, many Guild Socialists, council communists (and other libertarian Marxists), as well as followers of Robert Owen, all rejected state ownership

Now there is an oxymoron according to you....but if you cite a source, i am free to cite the same source and i include the SPGB in that definition...(although reading Slothjobber contribution, he might think it refers to the Left Communists)

Does the SPGB accept state ownership... " For if the state owns the workplace, then the producers do not, and so they will not be at liberty to manage their own work but will instead be subject to the state as the boss."...ummmm, yessss, that's our position, so do we meet that criteria of libertarian Marxists. It appears so.

So we are guilty of following the Marxist tradition of declaring that political action is necessary and in particular circumstances primary, that the suffrage was a hard-won victory It's totally irrelevant that like every other victory achieved bythe working class it has been somewhat co-opted and the use of it is has not been put to revolutionary practice despite the possibility of it being applied...something we have always said. And people also forget that we were no slaves to democracy and the suffrage. We opposed the Woman's Suffrage Movement for it was not giving the vote to working class women. Nor did we think it was required...we supported effective political majorities, which may mean a minority headcount, not the proverbial arithmetical 50% plus one.

In being a political party are we similar to all the rest. Do we have a party leader? Do we have a politbureau cental committee? Do we even have informal influencial members who determine policy? Do we have closed meetings? Not at all...We are to be admired for our democratic...libertarian...yet structured organisation which permits even the most recent recruit to have as much say and participation as the longest member. We are inclusive, not exclusive....and we have over the years coped admirably with the occasional upset.

For the typical Left party, all activity should be mediated by the Party (union activity, neighbourhood community struggles or whatever) , whereas for us, the Party is just one mode of activity available to the working class to use in their struggles. We are blamed for no entryism/intervening in workers struggles and trying to dominate the unions. But our position is that shared by the IWW when they decided unions should not be used as vehicles for political parties and decided upon no political party manipulations of workers self-organisation. Very authoritarian of us not to impose our political programme on the unions as many would like to.

Our analysis isn't very popular because of the Leninist distortions misquoting Marx on the Paris Commune in attempt to pass off smashing the state as orthodox Marxism.

Other state socialists who i am guessing you mean the social democrats of the 2nd International and since, well again, our critiques of using the state in the interest of the workers led to us distancing ourselves from those and setting up our own party and never joining with them.

The only role of the state is a very limited one, right at the beginning of the revolutionary process to ensure the capitalists are appropriated and to defend that action from counter-revolution...You may think some sort of militia, or whatever can perform that role, the SPGB differs in that opinion. It doesn't make us authoritarian, just pragmatists and realists.

The function of the state? Every department has no social use...the office of statistics...health...agriculture...education....science and technology...environment ...none possess a useful function that can be retained and adapted to make it more fit for purpose? We start at Year Zero? Everything must go. Every civil servant is a parasite of no social use? Is it the same for the local state, every council worker has no contribution to make to the community?

As some are aware i often suggest a reapproachment between us on Libcom and always so far get spurned as being impractical and wishful thinking but after all i was signatory to Libertarian Communism statement within the SPGB in the 70s that led to the evolution of various groups and my own personal development politically and journey.

I do interpret Marx and Engels as a libertarians and anti-statists. In 1844 Marx wrote that "the existence of the state and the existence of slavery are inseparable" - "The King of Prussia and Social Reform"
Again, as Engels wrote in a letter to Bebel in March 1875, "Marx's book against Proudhon and later the Communist Manifesto directly declare that with the introduction of the socialist order of society the state will dissolve itself and disappear.”
Then, in a circular against the Bakunin prepared for the First International in 1875, Marx wrote: "To all socialists anarchy means this: the aim of the proletarian movement--that is to say the abolition of social classes--once achieved, the power of the state, which now serves only to keep the vast majority of producers under the yoke of a small minority of exploiters, will vanish, and the functions of government become purely administrative"

I also stand by what Dietzgen said "If a worker wants to take part in the self-emancipation of his class , the basic requirement is that he should cease allowing others to teach him and should set about teaching himself."

And when he said

"The terms anarchist, socialist, communist should be so "mixed" together, that no muddlehead could tell which is which. Language serves not onlythe purpose of distinguishing things but also of uniting them- for it is dialectic." June 9, 1886
And on anarchists and socialists generally, he said:
"For my part, I lay little stress on the distinction, whether a man is an anarchist or a socialist, because it seems to me that too much weight is attributed to this difference."....
"While the anarchists may have mad and brainless individuals in their ranks, the socialists have an abundance of cowards. For this reason I care as much for one as the other."... "The majority in both camps are still in great need of education, and this will bring about a reconciliation in time."
- April 20, 1886

Perhaps it was never emphasised as much before since a battle of vying ideas was being waged but the SPGB never rejected workers councils or industrial unions but simply said that it would necessarily be parallel to the parliamentary political action. I think the SLP defined it well ...sword and shield (although they kept switching the roles)

All the above i have said before and some will no doubt recognise my repetition...just as i recognise the same stale old humbug.

I am half-prone to venture to think those who are hyper-critical of the SPGB, it just maybe stems from psychological denial of their own political impotence, so we serve as the whipping boy for their frustrations...particularly since we have a nice Head Office and loadsa dosh at our disposal and don't spend it the way they would have us do. But i reckon that is too simplistic explanation. I think it is the baggage of history we have carried with us...My criticism of my own party is that we should be doing more to jettison some of it and take a few risks...After all, like all yourselves, we are so small and inefectual to make any difference in the big picture of our class, if we err. Who would miss the SPGB, the AF, the ICC, CWO, Solfed, and lets not forget in the 50/60s the Industrial Workers of the World, were down to a hundred members, if i recollect my Thompson history right. practically extinct for all practical purposes...the 60s New Left brought the renewal. And even Freedom has gone apart from online...and the SLP has disappeared.

Who knows ...the May general election just might revitalise the SPGB...and would that be such a bad result...be honest ...or can i take it that August will be delighted by our disappearance and dance on our political grave with joy...

Spikymike
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Jan 20 2015 20:28

ajj,

Local State (ie most Civil Service and Local Authority) workers are not the local state or a department of state and where they might continue to perform a useful communist function they are quite capable of organising themselves do do so. Using the state apparatus as a means of trying to achieve communism is a specifically political/military matter which defines such as the SPGB as a statist political party and is unrelated to questions about 'state ownership' ie nationalisation.

I think you took a wrong turning somewhere around the 1970's though when you could have stayed true to a definition of libertarian communism more acceptable to most around here rather than the particular version used by some in the SPGB!!

Whether the SPGB is considered by some and not others to be 'libertarian communist' can in my opinion be relegated to a secondary issue in asessing both the positive and negative contributions of that organisation to working class struggle in and against capitalism - so the starting point of this discussion thread was frankly not helpful.

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jondwhite
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Jan 20 2015 22:17

Not necessarily a distinction anarchists might regard as significant, but 'capturing the state' is not the same as parliamentarism.
The former makes sense to me, participating in the latter - not so much.

ajjohnstone
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Jan 21 2015 03:38

Some "libertarians" do make the difference in arguing local administration in socialism being based on the local state machine.

Murray Bookchin's municipalism?

His suggestion of using the New England town meetings and contesting local elections.

...and i have heard many suggest the parish councils in this country could be given new life as administrative organs. Why re-invent democracy when the structures exist?

I'll accept the definition that we are statist in regards of desiring the state to commit suicide, once we provide it with the means to do so.

But does that preclude us from being libertarians, the title of this thread...

Quote:
What we call this movement has, in different times and places, been called 'anarchist communism', 'libertarian communism' or simply 'socialism' or 'communism'. What matters, however, is not the name or ideological label but its existence, not just as a future ideal but as the living embodiment of our needs, our desires and our spirit of resistance in our everyday lives. This spirit of resistance exists, and has always existed, in every society and under every regime where there is injustice and exploitation; so then, does the possibility for a world based on freedom and equality for all.

....Someone want to tell me where we do not meet that criteria?

Upon reading the analysis of the State

Quote:
And where workers have attempted to use the state, or even take it over to further our interests, they have failed - because the very nature of the state is inherently opposed to the working class.

Where has the SPGB not said that the state is a class institution. But instead we have come to conclusions about why previous endeavours to use the state failed and offer a solution ...and i'm surprised Slothjobber was let off the hook so easily by claiming Left Communists, who fully endorsed he Bolsheviks of 1917 seizure of the State in what the SPGB at the time said would fail, are libertarians !

Mike, it took over 30 years of exploration before i re-joined the SPGB again when i recognised their weaknesses still outweighed the strengths of other groups and organisations....i may have taken a wrong turning but i returned to the right track....perhaps you might ponder whether you yourself are still straying off-course down the wrong path wink

ajjohnstone
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Jan 21 2015 03:58

I have previously answered this question of majorities and minorities before on Libcom, (no idea the thread now to link)...but i will return now to it again.

One of the most confused issues is the party case that it must be a majority that establishes socialism (the cartoon strip expressed that very clearly) and perhaps the SPGB have been amiss in not spelling out what this means. The stress on requiring a majority was in response to historical circumstances where there were those who argued that an elite could take political power and decree socialism upon an ignorant working class. We held to Marx who employed the misunderstood term “dictatorship of the proletariat” but his interpretation was that it was an act of "the immense majority in the interests of the immense majority."

How do we determine a majority? Although it means more than half of people, we well know that many are political inactive, either through complete apathy or content to go with the flow. In other words, there will always be a section of people who will not express their preferences. Everyone knows that, not just from politics but experience of trade union decision-making. We do not and never have said that the majority is all about the majority of the whole population or even the whole electorate What we do say is that those who signal their support for the ruling class and those who side with the socialist cause determine how we count a majority or minority. We judge majority on the contending forces

Once more our emphasis on a majority revolution is to counter those who declare a resolute minority can win the revolution in the name of the people. It is not from the abstract concept of democracy but that an effective majority is required to ensure success of socialism. If the mass of people do not reject capitalism, if a blood bath doesn’t arise during the course of the revolution, then the organization and application of the new society will be confounded and corrupted. That’s why we view minority revolutions as dangerous tactics and not a winning strategy. To assume political power prematurely is disastrous. And I won’t insult those on the list by listing the precedents from our history.

The SPGB can perhaps rightly be accused of over-caution rather than impulsively haste and we constantly argue over that type of mind-set within our party. But better safe than sorry.

While we do accept the strength of capitalist ideology via the media and its institutions such as school and church which presently holds the minds of the workers we aren’t slaves to determinism but understand that there exist the possibility of consciousness arising within the working class in spite of the power of the conditioning and brainwashing conducted by the ruling class. And the SPGB has never said that it is through being textbook-clever that the worker learns. A mixture of material conditions, experience and education is the revolutionary process. A militant class conscious worker is fully capable of exercising either the power of the vote or the power of folded arms...We seen no either/or...What is best suited for a particular time and place will be used.

augustynww
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Jan 21 2015 09:31
ajjohnstone wrote:
As i keep saying...you insist in reading what you want into things...

Quote:
Even a quick glance at the history of the socialist movement indicates that the identification of socialism with state ownership and control is not common. For example, Anarchists, many Guild Socialists, council communists (and other libertarian Marxists), as well as followers of Robert Owen, all rejected state ownership

Now there is an oxymoron according to you....but if you cite a source, i am free to cite the same source

What oxymoron? I didn't use that word and I don't know what you mean.

ajjohnstone wrote:
and i include the SPGB in that definition...(although reading Slothjobber contribution, he might think it refers to the Left Communists)

no, you don't, particularly if you cite that source "state control" is what SPGB supports, right?

ajjohnstone wrote:
So we are guilty of following the Marxist tradition of declaring that political action is necessary and in particular circumstances primary

Yes, you are guilty of this. This precisely is why you are not libertarian socialists in my opinion. This is part of Marxism which anarchists criticized as authoritarian, rejected and called this socialism which not use what you call "political action"/"capturing the state" etc - liberrtarian socialism and communism.

ajjohnstone wrote:
In being a political party are we similar to all the rest. Do we have a party leader? Do we have a politbureau cental committee? Do we even have informal influencial members who determine policy?

This is very good, but I'm afraid it works only until you actually achieve your goal of "capturing the state".
Tell me, if you do that if you will be able to say the same about the state: "we don't have ruling politicians in parliament, we don't have government, we don't have ministers, we don't have prime minister, we don't rule at all"?

ajjohnstone wrote:
For the typical Left party, all activity should be mediated by the Party (union activity, neighbourhood community struggles or whatever) , whereas for us, the Party is just one mode of activity available to the working class to use in their struggles.

That's right and that's why I can't admit you are libertarian socialists. For libertarians is only one way of socialism, libertarian one.
I can admit though you sometimes support libertarian methods. This is what you just said yourself.

ajjohnstone wrote:
We are blamed for no entryism/intervening in workers struggles and trying to dominate the unions. But our position is that shared by the IWW when they decided unions should not be used as vehicles for political parties and decided upon no political party manipulations of workers self-organisation. Very authoritarian of us not to impose our political programme on the unions as many would like to.

Again I must remind you it works only if you aren't winning. As if you don't understand how the state works

ajjohnstone wrote:
Other state socialists who i am guessing you mean the social democrats of the 2nd International and since, well again, our critiques of using the state in the interest of the workers led to us distancing ourselves from those and setting up our own party and never joining with them.

So why you quoted Engels supported it and said it's "your company"? You know his role in 2nd International?

ajjohnstone wrote:
The only role of the state is a very limited one, right at the beginning of the revolutionary process to ensure the capitalists are appropriated and to defend that action from counter-revolution...You may think some sort of militia, or whatever can perform that role, the SPGB differs in that opinion. It doesn't make us authoritarian, just pragmatists and realists.

The function of the state? Every department has no social use...the office of statistics...health...agriculture...education....science and technology...environment ...none possess a useful function that can be retained and adapted to make it more fit for purpose? We start at Year Zero? Everything must go. Every civil servant is a parasite of no social use? Is it the same for the local state, every council worker has no contribution to make to the community?

Everything must go if the state is concerned. Functions are sometimes useful and should be regained in new social organization. There is big, substantial, qualitative difference between abolishing the state while keeping some functions and abolishing some functions and keeping the state.

ajjohnstone wrote:
As some are aware i often suggest a reapproachment between us on Libcom and always so far get spurned as being impractical and wishful thinking but after all i was signatory to Libertarian Communism statement within the SPGB in the 70s that led to the evolution of various groups and my own personal development politically and journey.

It's good to hear that, nonetheless:

ajjohnstone wrote:
I do interpret Marx and Engels as a libertarians and anti-statists. In 1844 Marx wrote that "the existence of the state and the existence of slavery are inseparable" - "The King of Prussia and Social Reform"
Again, as Engels wrote in a letter to Bebel in March 1875, "Marx's book against Proudhon and later the Communist Manifesto directly declare that with the introduction of the socialist order of society the state will dissolve itself and disappear.”
Then, in a circular against the Bakunin prepared for the First International in 1875, Marx wrote: "To all socialists anarchy means this: the aim of the proletarian movement--that is to say the abolition of social classes--once achieved, the power of the state, which now serves only to keep the vast majority of producers under the yoke of a small minority of exploiters, will vanish, and the functions of government become purely administrative"

And as you know libertarian socialists, anarchists answered to this that that there is no such thing as "purely administrative" state, as in every state it's only minority group who rule "vast majority" and every member of this ruling group is ex-worker in best case scenario (but rather bourgeois) This group will become new ruling class exploiting the rest etc. All of this actually happened in Russia and other countries with "real socialism" (btw interesting, because you used the same word earlier when you said you are "realists" and pragmatists - you are at the begging of this road which led to this).
Since 1917 it's not some theoretical discussion only. Anarchists have facts to base this on, you don't. You are behaving as if all of this didn't happened at all.

ajjohnstone wrote:
I am half-prone to venture to think those who are hyper-critical of the SPGB, it just maybe stems from psychological denial of their own political impotence, so we serve as the whipping boy for their frustrations...particularly since we have a nice Head Office and loadsa dosh at our disposal and don't spend it the way they would have us do.

Now this is funny grin I envy you your office smile Listen, I'm from another country, from Poland, never met any of you and never heard the name SPGB until i registered on libcom (and didn't pay attention to what SPGB is until this election thing because this is more than I can stand.)

ajjohnstone wrote:
But i reckon that is too simplistic explanation. I think it is the baggage of history we have carried with us...My criticism of my own party is that we should be doing more to jettison some of it and take a few risks...After all, like all yourselves, we are so small and inefectual to make any difference in the big picture of our class, if we err. Who would miss the SPGB, the AF, the ICC, CWO, Solfed, and lets not forget in the 50/60s the Industrial Workers of the World, were down to a hundred members, if i recollect my Thompson history right. practically extinct for all practical purposes...the 60s New Left brought the renewal. And even Freedom has gone apart from online...and the SLP has disappeared.

Well, in Poland all of it actually was destroyed by "socialist realists" using the state as a weapon - in theory against bourgeois of course, in reality against workers and peasants, political oponents (as anarchists predicted)

ajjohnstone wrote:
Who knows ...the May general election just might revitalise the SPGB...and would that be such a bad result...be honest ...or can i take it that August will be delighted by our disappearance and dance on our political grave with joy...

Or you can simply throw away some state socialist illusions wink

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Serge Forward
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Jan 21 2015 09:50

Augustynww, at least try and find out a little about what you're criticising here. You seem to be talking about a generic 'Socialist Party' of some sort, which the SPGB doesn't easily fit into. In fact, I wouldn't disagree with much of what you say if it were aimed at some generic leftist party X but come on, criticise the SPGB for things where they are a bit crap at (and there are a few of these) rather than what you imagine they are guilty of because it's all making you sound a bit clueless.

augustynww
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Jan 21 2015 09:53

I criticize what SPGB and other socialist parties have in common actually (and theory behind it) basing it on what ajjohnstone said mostly. So...

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Jan 21 2015 10:01

The SPGB is not 'other socialist parties' and I would say it has little in common with most other socialist parties, apart from the words 'socialist' and 'party' and references to Marx and Engels.

Edward Sexby
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Jan 21 2015 10:03

Sorry, Augustynww, but the SPGB have never been "State Socialists" in any sense of the term. I acknowledge that, coming from a former Comicon/Warsaw Pact country, you may have issues with anything mentioning Marx, Engels, "Socialism", etc, but don't misconstrue either ajj or the organization. Go check out their stuff on organisation, their attitude to reformism and the State (any State!), and their trenchant, ongoing critique of Leninism, the Soviet Union and "national liberation" struggles - for example - then make your mind up.

Nobody has exclusive ownership of terms and concepts such as "libertarian", or, indeed, "communist". We learn and evolve, or we ossify and become ineffective.

And ajj is right about the ICC and CWO, by the way - whilst they have a fantastic critique of trotskyism, how are these groups "libertarian"?

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jondwhite
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Jan 21 2015 10:05

Also I think the SPGB envisage the working-class being in control rather than the party. I think 'capture the state' even refers to the working-class doing it, with minimal party input.

augustynww
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Jan 21 2015 10:11

Serge,
And this whole thing with capturing the state and reasons for it, running in elections... Which basically constitute socialist parties as socialist parties. And make SPGB one of them.
All of this is here.
I don't criticize them for some other actions which you have in mind I think. They may be positive I don't know.

augustynww
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Jan 21 2015 10:20
Edward Sexby wrote:
Nobody has exclusive ownership of terms and concepts such as "libertarian", or, indeed, "communist". We learn and evolve, or we ossify and become ineffective.

That's true but I'm actually only one who gave here some definition (not mine though) of libertarian socialism and communism.
You people who defend SPGB as being libertarian have never gave some other definition of it which would allow to include political parties running in elections. That's convenient ,such vague libertarian socialism when no one knows what does it actually mean.

Burgers
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Jan 21 2015 10:32
Edward Sexby wrote:

And ajj is right about the ICC and CWO, by the way - whilst they have a fantastic critique of trotskyism, how are these groups "libertarian"?

Neither CWO or the ICC has ever claimed the libertarian mantle and in general would reject this libertarian, authoritarian divide as being meaningless.

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Jan 21 2015 10:33

Due to some of the gaps in the SPGB's explanations as to how they intend to organise society and perhaps just plain old ignorance on my behalf (I can't see anything on their website) as to how they make decisions and structure their organisation now, makes me question whether they could credibly claim to be libertarian communists in the here and now. How we structure, decide and distribute now, combined with the objective of creating a society based on these principals is what I understand as the criteria of whether an organisation is libertarian communist or not.
So, are the SPGB libertarian now? I don't know - I'd like to know how they decide and structure themselves. Are they an organisation with the objective of creating a society based on libertarian communism? Perhaps, but maybe only nominally - but this really depends on the key issues of structure and decision making. (Again, it may be ignorance on my behalf and they may be die hard horizontal federalists, etc.)

Spikymike
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Jan 21 2015 10:48

ajj,

My previous criticism of the SPGB's poor (and unmarxist) understanding of the relationship between material conditions and both class and communist consciousness stand despite your references to that here and was tackled to some extent in the links offered above.

But on the quoted reference to the ''spirit of resistance in our everyday lives'' and the distinction between 'ideological labels' and our practice both as individuals and organised groups, I think my experience (and your in the 1970's?) would suggest that the SPGB has serious shortcommings in so far as this area is not commonly considered in your organisation as a matter for collective discussion or response in a way in which it is in many anarchist groups (for all their shortcommings in trying to do this effectively). This is not to say that some some individual SPGB members don't and haven't engaged in seeking to marry their socialist politics with their everyday activity but it seems to me to have been as much a matter of other influences as those comming from their SPGB membership. Equally I understand that all of our efforts, especially as isolated individuals, are severely constrained in current circumstances so I'm not looking for 'working class heroes' but rather collective engagement.

Still I do accept that at the present time the different tiny genuinely communist groups in our milieu are unlikely to approach things in exactly the same way and that each may have something to contribute. Here I am of course putting more emphasis on the label 'communist' than 'libertarian'. (As an aside you make a valid point about Murray Bookchins 'liberatarian municipalism' but then that has been severely criticised as a strategy by both myself and many anarchist-communists - though you seem to have got hopelessly muddled over this in your brief interventions to the Kurdish discussion threads)

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Jan 21 2015 11:23

I'm nowhere near knowledgeable or clever enough to join in with this conversation but regardless of anything the simple fact remains - The SPGB are participating in parliamentary elections and that is most definitely an activity entirely contrary to anarchist principle. It would also seem to me to be adding fuel to the capitalist lie that we have political control through the ballot box.

Spikymike
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Jan 21 2015 16:49

plasma,

As I understand it - The SPGB (but not the wider WSM as a whole) have a centralised organisational structure based on branches, delegate conferences and an elected central executive committee based on individual membership voting. Branches nowdays have a limited measure of independence in their activities but much less than the equivalent groups in an anarchist federalist structure (such as in the AF). In the past the Executive Committee exercised a fairly dictatorial control over the written and oral expression of politics and political activity by branches and members, but that has broken down to a greater degree mainly due to the inabillity to exercise such control in the age of the internet with many members publishing their own websites and blogs with a more flexible approach to other groups and tendencies and the world in general! Suffice it to say that both types or organisational structures have their strengths and weaknesses depending more on the level of collective comitment, consciousness and independence of mind of the members in each case than the formal structures.

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plasmatelly
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Jan 21 2015 17:02

Thanks Spiky - you alluded to a change in the '70's on another thread.. Was this related to changes to the organisational structure?

Spikymike
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Jan 21 2015 17:26

plasma, Just in answer to you specific question my reference to the early seventies in the SPGB is really a dig at ajj who was briefly associated with myself and others who were involved in a factional rebellion amongst members then that resulted in our leaving/being expelled on the excuse of what I might call organisational indiscipline when the Executive Committee and most branches were reluctant to take us on politically. We were not the only members at the time (late 60's to early 70's) to rebel against the 'dictatorial' approach of the EC but (apart from some theatrical proto-Situationists) we were the most politically critical influenced by a mixture of anarchist-communism, Council Communism and Womens/Gay liberation theories. Some of that experience has been written up and posted here I think by my old dearly departed comrade Bob Miller from that era. Bit of a diversion but you asked.