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Are SPGB Libertarian Communist?

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ocelot
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Jan 21 2015 17:39

It might be worth breaking the question down into different parts. I can see four aspects, two pre-rupture, one post-rupture and the question of the process of rupture itself. For lack of anything better let's use the terms "process", "strategy", "rupture", "goal".

Working backwards, "goal" would be the vision of the immediate post-rupture society - i.e. what kind of society we want to construct to replace capitalism. For e.g. the goal of most self-described socialists is a "transitional period" in which exchange, money, wage-labour and the institutions of the state are retained, but private property in land and capital goods is abolished. AFAICS from the SPGB's writings on the need for abolition of exchange, money, wage labour (and thus bodies of waged workers that make up the state institutions) as an immediate post ruptural task, they can be categorised as libertarian communists in relation to the "goal".

By "process" I'm referring to the prefigurative aspect of "practicing what you preach". i.e. to what extent are the characteristics of the goal reflected in the practical organisational processes of the specific political organisation/party? In certain instrumentalist theories of process, there is no necessary connection between goal and process - a radically democratic libertarian goal may be pursued by a rigidly authoritarian organisation and vice versa. Despite Burgers intervention above, however, the recent announcement from the Turkish section that they were leaving the ICC, in fact pointed to difficulties of process, even if they may not necessarily chose to use the words, "authoritarian" and "undemocratic" for political reasons. In terms of process, ajj informs us that the SPGB has an internal culture than is non-hierarchical, non-authoritarian and democratic. I haven't come across any evidence from ex-member accounts to the contrary, so we could say that in terms of process also, the SPGB doesn't appear to have any features that would contradict its libertarian communist goals.

However, on the questions of strategy and the model of rupture itself, things are a little more problematic.

First of all, in terms of strategy ajj's account is more ambiguous. "Folded arms" is not really the kind of antagonistic proletarian counter-power that most more traditionally revolutionary organisations envisage. ajj seems to claim continuity of SPGB strategy back to the pre-WW1 period:

Quote:
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...

Ignoring, for the time being, the juicy bait of that last sentence, if the SPGB's strategy today is supposedly unaltered from the 1910s, then I have a few questions from my readings of the attitudes expressed in the Socialist Standard around the time of the 1913 Dublin Lockout (which was a big history project for us here in Ireland last year, hence the research).

I think any fair reading of what Jack Fitzgerald was saying in the SS at the time, is of a violent opposition to syndicalism (see especially his super-sarcastic review of Tom Mann's translation of the Pouget Pautaud pamphlet) to the extent of opposition to any form of working class struggle, or activity that distracted from the central message that "only through the ballot box" can the working class exercise power.

Now in terms of strategy, this is pretty key. If the SPGB's strategy remains unchanged, that building the actual fighting capability of the class is unnecessary (which is what Fitzgerald was saying, effectively), then the strategy remains a purely educational or ideological one. This is definitely not in keeping with any of the diverse strategic tendencies in the libertarian communist tradition, which, despite their divergent paths, do all still have a certain commonality in building working class counterpower, not just "consciousness raising".

This leads us to the most problematic part of all - the process of rupture itself. As ajj outlined it above:

Quote:
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.

Unless I'm very much mistaken, this is in keeping with Fitzgerald's scoffing at the syndicalists for their lack of appreciation for the need for a strong army and navy. That is, the process of the rupture of capitalist class power, for the SPGB, involves their party forming the government and then commanding the police and armed forces to defend "the revolution" against the capitalist counter-revolution.

Obvious problems -

1) the armed forces of the state are waged workers ("soldier" actually means wage-worker, etymologically), so you can't end wage slavery without liquidating the armed forces of the state. So as long as the protection of the state's armed forces is required against the counter-revolution, the goal of a communist society must be postponed.

2) If the counterrevolution holds the financial power to destroy the finances of the state (they do) then sooner or later the troops will go unpaid, and the power of the "socialist state" collapses.

3) In the UK the armed forces swear allegiance to the monarch. Assuming the monarch joins the counter-revolution, what guarantees the loyalty of the armed forces to a government ripping up the constitution (with or without a referendum for a constitutional shift to a republic). Especially if it looks like the "regicides" may not be able to guarantee wages and pensions in the near future.

Practical problems aside, the idea of "seizing" hold of state power to carry out the revolution, especially the sovereign ministeries (ministères régaliens in French - Defence/Army, Interior/Police, Justice/Prisons, Foreign Affairs, Treasury/Tax,State-wages) is definitely not a libertarian communist model of the process of rupturing capitalist class power. And also shows no possibility for transition to the desired wage-less, state-less goal.

So, overall, no I wouldn't categorise SPGB as libertarian communist, despite their compatibility in terms of process and goals.

ajjohnstone
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Jan 22 2015 03:38

Just a quick interim comment, i'll try later to do a fuller one.

August, i simply was relating that the Anarchist FAQ accepted that there was such a political grouping as "libertarian marxism", which many anarchists, particular Bakunists would say is a contradiction and accuse Marx of being authoritarian and which i believed you too would also think him and his followers to be...hence my reference. I was not saying you used it but reading between the lines of your previous comments inferred you would consider such a description would be an oxymoron. Apologies for misunderstanding and adding to any misunderstanding.

Burgers i believe Slothjobber did say so "I tell them that the ICT and ICC can be regarded as 'Libertarian Communist' but the ICP can't."

But more later once i digested the comments...

Burgers
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Jan 22 2015 06:21
ajjohnstone wrote:

Burgers i believe Slothjobber did say so "I tell them that the ICT and ICC can be regarded as 'Libertarian Communist' but the ICP can't."

Yes Slothjobber did say that, but in a very specific context of revleft, which is a very strange and confused forum at the best of times and to make the difference between Bordigism and other left communist currents, like the ICT and ICC.

augustynww
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Jan 22 2015 08:07
ajjohnstone wrote:
Just a quick interim comment, i'll try later to do a fuller one.

August, i simply was relating that the Anarchist FAQ accepted that there was such a political grouping as "libertarian marxism", which many anarchists, particular Bakunists would say is a contradiction and accuse Marx of being authoritarian and which i believed you too would also think him and his followers to be...hence my reference. I was not saying you used it but reading between the lines of your previous comments inferred you would consider such a description would be an oxymoron.

Yes, that's misunderstanding. I said earlier that I consider some Marxists to be libertarians but only if they reject use of the state. But this apply to particular Marxists after Marx. What would I said in the times of Marx/Engels-Bakunin dispute is another thing. I would support Bakunin of course. It was polarized dispute between libertarian and authoritarian socialism.

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Jan 22 2015 10:09

Augustynww, definition of libertarian communist... I'd say, at its most simple, it's anti-state socialism. The SPGB fits that simple criteria in so far as they aim to abolish the state once a majority of the population demonstrate a desire for proper socialism in a recognisably libertarian form. As a socialist party in the tradition of Marx, they are unusual in this aim because most socialist parties aim to capture the state and use it as an instrument of power - whether to carry on a leftish variant of capitalist business as usual or to establish some sort of "workers' state". The SPGB have no desire to do either of these things.

How do they establish that a majority of the population want socialism in a meaningful sense? Well, in countries where you have an electoral system, the vote could be used as a barometer of the popular desire for socialism, a simple way of measuring whether the greater population wishes to establish a form of libertarian anti-state communism, if you like. As with the guy in Canada, if a minority gets elected, then they will take no part in administering capitalism and would stand aside. Should they have a majority however, then they immediately abolish parliament and the majority who voted SPGB, with the help of everyone else, would then get to work establishing a form of socialism that would not really differ from the type of society those who define themselves as libertarian or anarcho-communists would want to see.

How realistic this all is, is another matter and I for one can see massive flaws with this strategy. Either way, it is anti-state socialist as they aim to immediately abolish the state and establish a free socialist society.

Apologies to any SPGBers if I've misrepresented or oversimplified.

ajjohnstone
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Jan 22 2015 10:19

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.
I concur and so does the SPGB, August

All of this actually happened in Russia and other countries with "real socialism"
The SPGB have been critical of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution since information concerning it began to filter out and was denouncing it by early 1918. We have consistently argued since then it was not socialism.

Serge and Sexby point out that the SPGB developed from a very different tradition from ones that you maybe acquainted with and sharing similar terminology does not mean we share the same meanings as “other socialist parties”

Plasma and Mike, the party member poll trumps all within the SPGB. Every conference decision has to be ratified by it. One important difference from centalised control by the EC is that it cannot submit motions to the conference nor decide actual policy of principle. The EC minutes are online for all to read and you can attend in person to verify their veracity if you so wish. The General Secretary?…Hell, we have to press-gang volunteers for that task, since it carries no authority or status. A dogs-body.
Mike is correct. Since my first membership there has been a positive change in attitudes but it was attitude that determined the “heretic hunts” of the past and a different attitude of a much more open approach today. Whether it was due to the internet and blogs, I’m not sure I accept, since it seemed that it was the expulsion of certain branches that had something more to do with it but I hadn’t yet re-joined to 100% declare so.

Great debates over differences have taken place within the party over the decades, great orators and influential writers unable to use any personal charisma to control the party against the wishes of the members. The SPGB structure is a template for others to follow. It did evolve from trade union organization and strictly adheres to rules of debate inherited from them but its rejection of personal fiefdoms of party leaders was one of the decisive reasons for the party creation and forming a structure as democratic as possible.

Ocelot, your contribution I think made me think the most. I think I did mention that much of the SPGB politics were in response of repudiating rival theories. Syndicalism and industrial unionism was an example. I accept there was what I would in retrospect describe as over-compensation by viewing the ballot box as the primary process (and all members still accept control of political power, political action, is a necessity). However, it was never treated as the sole process to the exclusion of industrial action
But when you describe “working class counterpower” I think you don’t acknowledge enough that the SPGB always supported workers engaging in class struggle, and endorsed their actions. They were always critical of any acquiescence or collaboration with employers. One example is suffice from 1937.

“we regard Socialism not as a purely political theory, nor as an economic doctrine, but as one which embraces every phase of social life…The Socialist Party, in aiming for the control of the State, is a political party in the immediate sense, but we have an economic purpose in view, namely, the conversion of the means of living into the common property of society. Therefore, the question necessarily arises whether an economic organisation acting in conjunction with the political is vital to our task. We have on more than one occasion pronounced ourselves in agreement with the need for such an organisation, and in so doing have flatly denied the charge that the Socialist Party of Great Britain is "nothing but a pure and simple political party of Socialism."… the greater the extent to which they combine on the economic field the more the workers present the capitalist with a situation which the latter cannot afford to ignore… “All action of the unions in support of capitalism, or tending to sidetrack the workers from the only path that can lead to their emancipation should be strongly opposed, but, on the other hand, trade unions being a necessity under capitalism any action on their part upon sound lines should be heartily supported”… The workers' political organisation must precede the economic, since, apart from the essential need of the conquest of the powers of government, it is on the political field that the widest and most comprehensive propaganda can be deliberately maintained. It is here that the workers can be deliberately and independently organised on the basis of Socialist thought and action. In other words, Socialist organisation can proceed untrammelled by ideas other than those connected with its revolutionary objective…”

You may disagree with its viewpoint of needing to go beyond trade-unionism, but the point I make is that it ‘working class counter-power” is not ignored. What I think maybe the question as it has been brought up elsewhere….Does the class struggle automatically result in a rise in consciousness. The SPGB has always said it will be a combination of material conditions, experience (praxis) and education (ideology).

The SPGB have always argued that the army, the police, are workers in uniform and are not immune to the rise of revolutionary ideas. They too will reflect what is happening elsewhere in society. And I can’t think of too many successful take-overs that did not involve the disaffection and mutiny and cross-over of the military. Not only is there the Queen’s oath but several members of the royal family are colonels in charge of the regiment. How loyal? As loyal as the SPGB elected requiring to take his or her oath to take the parliamentary seat. Those with a history perspective cite the example of the Franco or Pinochet. Franco had to execute the senior officers and he used Moorish troops. What is forgotten is Allende promoted Pinochet to commander-in-chief of all Chilean armed forces for services rendered. And Prats, another general was against the coup, resigned when he could have been later in a position to stop it. He was later assassinated on the orders of Pinochet.

John Keracher of the Proletarian Party, a critic who can be considered nevertheless a comrade, accused the SPGB of misunderstanding control of the state in 1930 arguing “Getting control of Parliament does not mean that the workers have gained control of the public power of coercion, the state. At such a critical moment the capitalist class (not so stupid as the S.P. of G.B.) will send its ‘armed forces’ to disperse Parliamentary representatives. The real State will show itself.”
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/1930s/1930/no-312-...
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/1930s/1930/no-316-...

The debate is then just who does control the military. The Government or the capitalist class and if it is the capitalist class then just exactly how…it then becomes a conspiracy theory of cigar smoked backrooms of generals and industrialists. But more importantly, with the existing state captured and under control of the socialist movement, just how would a new state form arise. I suggest the “folded arms”, a general strike and civil disobedience of the masses would simply frustrate any return to the old state or the creation of a new one.

And finally as our pamphlet explains we are not gradualists…that horrible phrase “dictatorship of the proletariat” is not foressen as a lengthy one. It will be “the more or less rapid changeover from capitalism to socialism…This is not to say that the socialist majority only needs to organise itself politically. It does need to organise politically so as to be able to win control of political power. But it also needs to organise economically to take over and keep production going immediately after the winning of political control. We can’t anticipate how such socialist workplace organisations will emerge, whether from the reform of the existing trade unions, from breakaways from them or from the formation of completely new organisations. All we can say now is that such workplace organisations will arise and that they too, like the socialist political party, will have to organise themselves on a democratic basis, with mandated delegates instead of leaders.”

I don’t think there will be any issues with tax, treasury state wages. They simply cease to exist from Day One. Nowhere do we envisage the revolution being an overnight event, with everyone waking up to an SPGB government.

Foreign relations will already be in place through a “new international”, the World Socialist Movement wink

Justice and prisons has been debated at our conference and all we can say in advance is when the time comes that will be resolved. Who better to know who should be kept locked up than fellow prisoners and the wardens. But if anybody thinks a socialist will take the keys and unlock the gates of Rampton or Carstairs and throw them open in a liberatory gesture, well, I think he or she should be inside too.

There will be countless things to plan and discuss and organize, and that is why we stand by our argument that it has to be participatory and not a minority revolution. These problems you are raising are exactly the same that any anarchist or Left Communist revolution would have to tackle. I’m sure you have faced the same interrogation of …what you going to do?…what if…? how will you?

And just as a qualifier. I am not speaking in the name of the Party as one person on Weekly Worker once tried to imply because i happen to be a pretty opinionated and gobby member. Other members will have their own take on certain aspects. Not everybody here will agree 100% with the positions of their own organisations and i have a few reservations myself regards my sympathy for workers council and their potential role but when push comes to shove, i chose membership of the SPGB not as the lesser evil but as the best option.

Whether libertarian label is useful or not as has been already asked, i think Crump's Thin Red Line and the non-market socialist criteria is the most worthwhile one to build upon.

http://theoryandpractice.org.uk/library/thin-red-line-non-market-sociali...

ajjohnstone
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Jan 22 2015 10:21

"Apologies to any SPGBers if I've misrepresented or oversimplified"

I've probably over complicated and over elaborated and provided enough rope to hang myself smile

augustynww
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Jan 23 2015 08:52
ajjohnstone wrote:
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.
I concur and so does the SPGB, August

Yeah, and then you quote with approval Marx and Engels supporting use of the state. Or you're saying SPGB is not reformist and yet you support Engels' claims about some parliamentary/statist reforms etc.
Many things you say are contradictory in this way. Of course I'm aware why: you are hopelessly trapped between Marx and Engels statism (because they were statist in theory and practice and Engels proved that when he and others Marxists created social democracy) and real life facts - it doesn't work. You oscillate between them all the time.

ajjohnstone wrote:
All of this actually happened in Russia and other countries with "real socialism"
The SPGB have been critical of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution since information concerning it began to filter out and was denouncing it by early 1918. We have consistently argued since then it was not socialism.

I've read some texts by SPGB on Russian Revolution. That's true you are critical but mostly for wrong reasons. All of this critique is ultimately based on very orthodox and rigid form of historical materialism with all those "stages of development" and you claim Russia was on wrong stage of development therefore socialist revolution couldn't succeed. First capitalism and bourgeois democracy and only then socialism.

ajjohnstone wrote:
Serge and Sexby point out that the SPGB developed from a very different tradition from ones that you maybe acquainted with and sharing similar terminology does not mean we share the same meanings as “other socialist parties”

Nope, what I criticize is what you all have in common (perhaps in various forms - social democrary, leninism, other forms of statism, it doesn't matter) and it's based on Marx and Engels ideas you yourself cited on the other thread.
I'm not saying you are bolshevik, you are not.

ajjohnstone wrote:
Whether libertarian label is useful or not as has been already asked, i think Crump's Thin Red Line and the non-market socialist criteria is the most worthwhile one to build upon.

http://theoryandpractice.org.uk/library/thin-red-line-non-market-sociali...

These categories are and will be useful as long as authoritarian, statist socialism in one form or another will be around. They are equally important as socialist - capitalist, market- anti-market etc. But if you or someone else consider them not important then don't use them. And I also want to remind you are on libertarian communist website, not some communist without adjectives wink

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Jan 24 2015 12:58
Webby wrote:
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.

Webby's on it.

In my personal experience SPGBers are good people and solid class warriors. That said, I don't see how any group which participates in elections (which to me seem like a more important distinction between libertarian and statist than, say, reform v. reformism) can be considered to be libertarian socialist.

And that shit applies just as much - if not more so - to Class War. Their anarchist credentials go out the window once they stand candidates in elections. I'm afraid it's the same case for the SPGB.

As for the SPGB's desire to abolish the state, I don't doubt it's genuine. But all communist parties claim to want to eventually abolish the state. I don't think the SPGB's professed immediacy of achieving that goal somehow redeems their participation in the electoral process and, indeed, seeking to place their members in positions of state power.

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Jan 25 2015 16:15

Having digested as best I can the above posts - I understand the SPGB are currently not libertarian communist in structure and praxis, however come the glorious day, if they get their way in the ballot box, they will usher in a new dawn along these lines. Which, to be fair, is a completely unique position - at least the authoritarian socialists practice what they preach.
But, switching the emphasis away from the SPGB and looking at participating in parliamentary elections. If an organisation that was structured on libertarian communist lines (which the SPGB is clearly not) and sought to create a society built on these principals using parliament, would this then be enough to thought of as libertarian communists?
I ask this because, on a personal level, I think that class struggle on our terms (ie not deferring control or decisions to intermediaries) is paramount; not just because I believe that benefits to people's material conditions that are fought and won by themselves is the cornerstone to building confident antagonism, but also because I do sometimes wonder why so many libertarians (not all) rely so heavily on methods that defer control - from complete reliance on reformist unions, to petitioning parliament, all the way up to Class War and the SPGB using elections (and expecting their Right Hon MP's to make decisions for them). Surely if we use the term class struggle (and I refer to Chilli - class warrior), we mean uniting as a class of workers in keeping with our role in the capitalist mode of production, and fghting on our terms to build a wider culture for this society we keep mentioning? If so, how relevant is it - or accurate - to even describe the SPGB (or anyone else for that matter) as class struggle? A class struggle anarchist is someone who is united by class, organised on anarchist lines and struggling along with fellow workers to achieve the day to day victories as part of the bgger story, is it not?

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Jan 25 2015 22:25

The SPGB may preach class struggle, but it is not doing it by participating in elections for state power. The criteria for being libertarian communist isn't just about having the right structure, or about having a vision of post-capitalism that is 'classless, stateless, and moneyless'. It’s about being strategically oriented towards developing the self-activity of the working class, laying the foundations of the future communist society in the here and now, and not just putting that off into some distant future.

Individual members of the SPGB may participate in workers’ struggles or other revolutionary organizations outside of the party, and even advocate libertarian direct action and self-organization, but those who deny the SPGB the ‘libertarian communist’ label are making a judgment on the organization, not those individuals.

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.

Yes. The SPGB is one of many options available to the working class in their struggles, but it’s one that they should reject. The SPGB is an option as much as the next ‘revolutionary’ political party striving for state power.

ajjohnstone wrote:
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.

The point that I'm trying to make is that it would be more useful and in line with libertarian communism to put our efforts into those former activities/organizations (workers' councils, industrial unions, etc.), whereas the latter (parliamentary political action) is not useful towards bringing the greater self-activity and self-organization of the working class.

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Jan 27 2015 14:39

So what counts as 'class struggle' other than syndicalism? Because you're in danger of excluding even anarcho-communists with this narrow definition.

Battlescarred
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Jan 27 2015 17:27

"Would it be possible for SPGBers (or WSPUS) to be involved in running this site if SPGBers wished?"
What and be subjected to more pro-electoralist blather from the SPGB.? As if we didn't have enough already.
Alternative proposal "Would it be possible for SPGB to drop its electoralism one and for all and then be welcomed into the libertarian communist camp?"

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Jan 27 2015 17:52
Battlescarred wrote:
"Would it be possible for SPGB to drop its electoralism one and for all and then be welcomed into the libertarian communist camp?"

Nailed it. Roll down the shutters and close the thread. Oh, and light up a cigar and help yourself to a biscuit of your choice, Battlescarred.

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Jan 27 2015 17:54
jondwhite wrote:
So what counts as 'class struggle' other than syndicalism? Because you're in danger of excluding even anarcho-communists with this narrow definition.

Nonsense - if people unite as a class and struggle as a class, despite being half a dozen or half a million, this is class struggle. Notionally being in favour of class struggle should be the starting point - never attempting to go further than discussion groups and online forums is IMHO not class struggle. On a personal level I see my politics as being anarcho-communist, however I use anarchosyndicalism as the vehicle to which I attach my political ideas about class struggle to. Personally, I don't see anarcho-communists as either wishing to exclude themselves or being excluded from class struggle by dint of their politics - perhaps the most relevant example today would be especifism. But in short, if an organisation - any organisation - only ever aspires to go as far as liking, upping, linking, discussing, critiquing or writing about class struggle, then they are not actually a part of any class struggle.

fnbrilll
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Jan 27 2015 20:04

OK so participating in government is non libertarian communist. Does this mean CNT-E is not libertarian communist? Does this include the folks of the FAI? Would the fatwa extend to IWA and the International Anarchist Federation?

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Jan 27 2015 20:51
fnbrilll wrote:
OK so participating in government is non libertarian communist. Does this mean CNT-E is not libertarian communist? Does this include the folks of the FAI? Would the fatwa extend to IWA and the International Anarchist Federation?

CNT doesnt participate in government, and it is an federation of anarchosyndicalist unions - therefore building through struggle for a libertarian communist society. I fail to see what you are driving at tbh.

fnbrilll
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Jan 27 2015 22:58

The CNT and FAI participated in the government in Republican Spain. 3 ministers

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Jan 27 2015 23:07

Then you tell us whether they are libertarian communist for something that happened in the 1930's. In 2015, CNT doesn't participate in government - or receive any state funding.

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Jan 28 2015 09:30
plasmatelly wrote:
jondwhite wrote:
So what counts as 'class struggle' other than syndicalism? Because you're in danger of excluding even anarcho-communists with this narrow definition.

Nonsense - if people unite as a class and struggle as a class, despite being half a dozen or half a million, this is class struggle. Notionally being in favour of class struggle should be the starting point - never attempting to go further than discussion groups and online forums is IMHO not class struggle. On a personal level I see my politics as being anarcho-communist, however I use anarchosyndicalism as the vehicle to which I attach my political ideas about class struggle to. Personally, I don't see anarcho-communists as either wishing to exclude themselves or being excluded from class struggle by dint of their politics - perhaps the most relevant example today would be especifism. But in short, if an organisation - any organisation - only ever aspires to go as far as liking, upping, linking, discussing, critiquing or writing about class struggle, then they are not actually a part of any class struggle.

I'm not saying anarcho-communists are excluding themselves from class struggle, I'm saying people posting here are close to claiming that anarcho-communists are excluding themselves from class struggle. SPGB are notionally in favour of class struggle and do go further than discussion circles. The question what counts as class struggle other than syndicalism hasn't been answered. Stating that electoralism is not class struggle, therefore class struggle excludes electoralism seems to me to be a circular argument.

augustynww
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Jan 28 2015 11:50

I doubt there are many anarchists who would want to claim that participation in government in Spain in 1936 was libertarian communism par excellence. This is indeed regarded as abandonment of libertarian communism not by CNT though but by those who participated in government and supported it.

On the other hand Syndicalist Party in Spain is something one could mention here as group of people with anarchist background who established actual political party.

Today if you want to compare SPGB politics and claims about SPGB being libertarian with something what is called "anarchist" not necessarily being it - here you have an example,

Alliance of Ukrainian Anarchists

https://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A1%D0%BE%D1%8E%D0%B7_%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B...

this is actual political party participating in elections, only one "anarchist" party in the world as far as I know. I wouldn't call it "libertarian socialist party" or anarchist organization

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Jan 29 2015 17:44

Apologies jondwhite - I thought I had answered your question. What constitutes class struggle other than syndicalism? Well, I wouldn't say syndicalism is the one true path - class struggle is imo workers united by a shared interest in their roles at work that fight to improve their material conditions. Even if I hate the reformist unions that we have in Britain as flawed, representative parodies, they are involved in class struggle. But to answer more specifically your question, I don't believe anarcho-communists (that is, comrades that see the need to organise on a level that demands politically agreement) are excluded from class struggle (I gave the example of especifism), however I do see this as very limited when trying to organise as a class due to the restrictive demands on political agreement - whereas syndicalism makes demands only around the methods of organising (which are, in the case of anarcho-syndicalism, in keeping with the principals of anarcho-communism). This is the reason that, as a anarchist-communist, I believe syndicalism is our best hope of fighting capitalism.
The especifistas have shown a way to organise with success - albeit largely on a community level. I admire what they have acheived in organising working class people; and given that capitalists may strike at working class communities without reference to who works where and does what, this is in itself class struggle organising. But it is very limited. It's limited because we aim to take control of the means of production, and this requires a wider class approach to organising that goes far beyond political unanimity.
So jondwhite - imo, class struggle is primarily about struggling as a class of workers, so extends to all organisational structures that do this (but not without criticism!), and anarcho-communism has never been written out within the context of the class struggle, it is just limited due its own specific political demands. I will say this though, I do believe there IS a need for a specific anarchist-communist organisation.

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jondwhite
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Jan 29 2015 09:32

I don't think either of us are convinced by the other, but I appreciate your answer.

ajjohnstone
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Jan 29 2015 11:34

Plasmatelly #41..

Quote:
. I understand the SPGB are currently not libertarian communist in structure ... If an organisation that was structured on libertarian communist lines (which the SPGB is clearly not)...

I can fully understand how our commitment to not leaving any field of struggle uncontested may raise questions and be challenged on the validity of being class as libertarian ...but your comments i quote are beyond my comprehension.

Could you please elaborate on how our democratic structure is not a libertarian one. I have already briefly described the internal workings of our party but a visit to our website or discussion lists, all open to anyone to look at, can provide you with enough evidence of our libertarian approach...unless, of course, you wish to restrict and limit and place such parameters upon the definition that it probably excludes every libertarian group. (Federalism does not equate with libertarianism if that is your reason.)

I hazard a guess that the IWA has over its history expelled several groups that did not fully accept its rules and regulations. I hazard a guess that there hasn't been an anarchist group that hasn't excluded someone either formally or informally.

Our democracy as an organisation is something i am proud of , and it is something every other member cherishes. So if you can, please explain the shortcomings and weaknesses that makes other structured organisations more democratic and libertarian, particular any with a history of over a hundred years of its rule book regularly being adapted and adjusted and amended.

ajjohnstone
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Jan 29 2015 11:48
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"Would it be possible for SPGBers (or WSPUS) to be involved in running this site if SPGBers wished?"

Glasgow branch SPGB member Brian Gardner was active on the World In Common website as a moderator and a contributor, i believe. If an SPGBer did take on a role on Libom, i am sure he or she would conduct themselves with the highest integrity.

Quote:
What and be subjected to more pro-electoralist blather from the SPGB.? As if we didn't have enough already.

As been mentioned, many individuals of the SPGB are active and elected to posts in their unions. If you have any evidence that party-line was more important than being a representative of their fellow union members, please give details.

Quote:
Would it be possible for SPGB to drop its electoralism one and for all and then be welcomed into the libertarian communist camp?

If you want my opinion, we have a feud between purists and purists. If you want to pre-determine the course of the class struggle, that is your privilege but the SPGB has not...we have included both the streets and the seats in our interpretation of the what is required for the establishment of socialism. We can be rightly accused of prioritising the wrong one but not of excluding the other. It seems to me the doctrinaires and dogmatists are not the SPGB. At one time membership of the IWW was not permitted...but the IWW changed and our attitude towards it changed and membership is allowed.

Spikymike
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Jan 29 2015 13:00

ocelot's ealier suggested structuring of this discussion seemed the most useful and is still relevant. ajj's response goes some way to answereing the criticism of the SPGB's approach on the problems associated with its 'model of a revolutionary rupture with capitalism' and it's 'strategy of developing a working class counter power' but is inadequate. I presume ocelot would not suggest that working class struggle, without the influence of organised pro-revolutionary organisation, would automatically lead to a sufficient level of communist consciousness to achieve a rupture with capitalism, but the point of difference is precisely on the role of such organisation and it's strategy in trying to assist in the development of working class counterpower that might (in the right 'objective' circumstances) lead to such a rupture. In this area the SPGB, contrary to ajj's claim of wanting to 'go beyond trade unionism', rather reinforces trade unionism (and economism in general) in it's theoretical division between the economic and the political and it's seperation of activity between the two at a practical level.

proletarian.
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Jan 29 2015 16:51
Quote:
theatrical proto-Situationists

Could you expand a little?

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plasmatelly
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Jan 29 2015 18:51
ajjohnstone wrote:
Plasmatelly #41..
Quote:
. I understand the SPGB are currently not libertarian communist in structure ... If an organisation that was structured on libertarian communist lines (which the SPGB is clearly not)...

I can fully understand how our commitment to not leaving any field of struggle uncontested may raise questions and be challenged on the validity of being class as libertarian ...but your comments i quote are beyond my comprehension.

Could you please elaborate on how our democratic structure is not a libertarian one. I have already briefly described the internal workings of our party but a visit to our website or discussion lists, all open to anyone to look at, can provide you with enough evidence of our libertarian approach...unless, of course, you wish to restrict and limit and place such parameters upon the definition that it probably excludes every libertarian group. (Federalism does not equate with libertarianism if that is your reason.)

I hazard a guess that the IWA has over its history expelled several groups that did not fully accept its rules and regulations. I hazard a guess that there hasn't been an anarchist group that hasn't excluded someone either formally or informally.

Our democracy as an organisation is something i am proud of , and it is something every other member cherishes. So if you can, please explain the shortcomings and weaknesses that makes other structured organisations more democratic and libertarian, particular any with a history of over a hundred years of its rule book regularly being adapted and adjusted and amended.

Forgive me ajj if I seem so decided of the SPGB's structure being incompatible with my understanding of what a libertarian communist organisation should be - I like to think I have an open mind when it comes to different organisations approaches, but on this one, I can only go off what has been described on this thread, it just doesn't sound like base democracy. You appear to be defending a structure that is possibly libertarian to a degree - but not communist. Would this be fairer to say?
I have my own misgivings about federalism, and direct democracy - but most of these are fuelled by the current reality that it is largely used by politicos, as opposed to those workers and community members it is designed to serve; this in itself can throw up all sorts of question marks around participation and quorums... but, as yet, I know no more democratic a structure than those that use horzontal federalism. At the end of the day, participatory democracy - mass meetings feeding into federal democracy - is what fighting organisations need; omov is no more democratic, but can hamstring an organisation that wants to take the fight to the bosses.
With regards to the IWA, yes a few organisations have been shown the door over the years, but these tend to be because they have taken upon themselves to adopt reformist tactics, such as social partnerships with State or bosses - reasons, quite simply, that would have prevented them from entrance into the IWA in the first place. But just why you have mentioned expulsion and exclusion is a mystery to me!

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Red Marriott
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Jan 30 2015 00:22

The SPGB and libertarian communism;

fnbrilll
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Jan 30 2015 01:00

Anarcho-Syndicalist Analysis of the state