The differences if any between Left-Communism, Council Communism and Bordigism.

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WineAndJoy
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Aug 3 2009 13:04
The differences if any between Left-Communism, Council Communism and Bordigism.

Greetings comrades,

Could anyone explain to me the essential differences between Left-Communism, Council Communism, Bordigism and Situationism?

Thanks.

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georgestapleton
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Aug 3 2009 13:29

Council Communism - From the German-Dutch left 1918-1923ish. Very similar to anarchism., Very good.

Bordigism - Leninist movement from Italy 1920-1928ish. Shit.

Situationism - Theoretical movement developed out of art movement in France 1950s/60s. Good but enables people to be gobshites.

Left Communism - People who were to the 'left' of the comintern 1919-1935, therefore council communists, bordigists, workers dreadnought etc. (Most had left or been expeleed from the comintern by the late 20s.)

WineAndJoy
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Aug 3 2009 13:53

So the term Left Communist includes all Marxists to the left of Trotskyism?

What are Bordigist views of cross-class anti-imperialist movements and trade unions?

posi
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Aug 3 2009 14:03

I think "left communism" did (and perhaps in a sense still does) have that meaning. But because the only groups actively identifying with it in the English seaking have been the ICC and its off-shoots (IBRP, ICG, etc.), the phrase is often used as shorthand - on these boards at least, and amongst people I talk to - for the positions of those particular groups.

WineAndJoy
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Aug 3 2009 14:08
posi wrote:
I think "left communism" did (and perhaps in a sense still does) have that meaning. But because the only groups actively identifying with it in the English seaking have been the ICC and its off-shoots (IBRP, ICG, etc.), the phrase is often used as shorthand - on these boards at least, and amongst people I talk to - for the positions of those particular groups.

Thank you!

And what exactly is it that defines these groups as seperate from Council Communism?

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Devrim
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Aug 3 2009 14:51
WineAndJoy wrote:
So the term Left Communist includes all Marxists to the left of Trotskyism?

Left communist originally refered to the groups on the left of the Comintern It doesn't include Trotskyism in that it predates it. These groups can be split into two main currents, the Italian left, and the German left, which also includes the Dutch, Bulgarian, English and other less well known groups.

posi wrote:
I think "left communism" did (and perhaps in a sense still does) have that meaning. But because the only groups actively identifying with it in the English seaking have been the ICC and its off-shoots (IBRP, ICG, etc.), the phrase is often used as shorthand - on these boards at least, and amongst people I talk to - for the positions of those particular groups.

The groups you mention along with a few others are the groups that follow this tradition today and as you point out are effectivly modern left communism.

The IBRP by the way is not an offshoot from the ICC.

WineAndJoy wrote:
Could anyone explain to me the essential differences between Left-Communism, Council Communism, Bordigism and Situationism?
georgestapleton wrote:
Council Communism - From the German-Dutch left 1918-1923ish. Very similar to anarchism., Very good.

I don't think that this is quite right. Council communism usually refers to the German-Dutch left in a latter period after it had developed strong anti-organisational positions. The KAPD of the period refered to above believed in an elite vanguard party, which is not similar to anarchism at all.

georgestapleton wrote:
Bordigism - Leninist movement from Italy 1920-1928ish. Shit.

At first glance Bordigism seems like a sort of ultra-Leninism, and indeed does have a fetishism of the party. However, there are lots of interesting ideas there. The present day communist left draws its roots through a merger between the 'Bordigist' current and the ideas of the German left.

There are many small Bordigist groups in existance in Italy today. All of them splits from the PCInt since 1952, all of them claiming to be the party and most of them calling themselves the same name, International Communist Party.

WineAndJoy wrote:
What are Bordigist views of cross-class anti-imperialist movements and trade unions?

As far as I know, most Bordigists support national liberation struggles and either working in the trade unions or building 'red unions'.

The websites of the two main left communist groups today, the ICC and the IBRP can be found here:

http://internationalism.org/500/
http://www.ibrp.org/#fn1

Devrim

posi
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Aug 3 2009 16:54

Well, as Devrim says the original council communism was quite diverse in the brief period of its existence, and did include strong partyists. Right now, when people refer to 'council communism' they generally refer to a non-"partyist" libertarian revolutionary marxism, which emphasises councils.

The left communists (in the sense of ICC, etc), are differentiated from other groups mainly by:
- sharp opposition to electoralism (though on different grounds to anarchists)
- extremely sharp opposition to trade unions (again, on different grounds to anarchists, and typically more vociferously - e.g refusing to join unions on principle)
- sharp opposition to all national struggles (inc. condemnation of anti-fascist partisans in Eastern Europe at the end of WWII, if I remember rightly?)
- strong advocacy of 'the party', and 'centralism', but with widely varying views on what those things mean.

All this arises, I would say, through a stark 'periodisation' of history betwee pre and post 1918 (the latter being the period of 'decadence'). (They recognise other periodic units, but this is the one with by far the most significant political implications, possibly the only political implications for fundamental questions.) For example, electoral participation was progressive pre 1918, but after that can only be reactionary. I also think that one issue is that the internal culture of the modern left communists has been very poor in the recent past, though I get the impression it has changed alot for the better - so this has influenced perceptions of them.

Problem with trying to define council communism is that it has had very little organised theoretical expression, though many people seem to quite like it. After the original wave of council communists (Pannekoek, Gorter, Ruhle, etc.), groups sometimes identified in that way include Socialisme ou Barbarie, Solidarity (UK), and the Situationists, but I don't know that they ever self-identified as such... as theory, it is very strongly suited to a very high level of class struggle (when councils emerge), but doesn't have alot distinctive to say about other times (that I've read). It didn't have time to grapple with several major issues: I don't know that there's an independent critique of political economy, or set of views on the national question for instance. Some of it is also a bit silly. This is Ruhle, describing how the revolution will happen:

Quote:
We shall show this process in a concrete way:

There are 200 men in a factory. Some of them belong to the AAU [i.e. the General Workers Union] and agitate for it, at first without success. But during the first struggle the trade unions naturally give in and the old bonds are broken. Some 100 men have gone over to the AAU. Amongst them there are 20 communists, the others being from the USPD, syndicalists and unorganised. At the beginning the USPD inspires most confidence. Its politics dominate the tactics of the struggles carried out in the factory. However slowly but surely, the politics of the USPD are proved false, non-revolutionary. The confidence that the workers have in the USPD decreases. The politics of the communists are confirmed. The 20 communists become 50 then 100 and more. Soon the communist group politically dominates the whole of the factory, determining the tactics of the AAU, at the front of the revolutionary struggle. This is so both at the small scale and large scale. Communist politics take root from factory to factory, from economic region to economic region. They are realised, gaining command becoming both body and head, the guiding principle.

Cheers for that, Otto: I'd always wondered before how it was going to work. (From The Revolution is Not a Party Affair: http://www.kurasje.org/arkiv/300f.htm.) He continues "How long will that take? A few years? A few dozen years? Until 1926 perhaps."

I seem to remember this is a good piece from a council communist perspective: http://www.kurasje.org/arkiv/1300f.htm

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Devrim
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Aug 3 2009 18:06
Posi wrote:
Well, as Devrim says the original council communism was quite diverse in the brief period of its existence, and did include strong partyists. Right now, when people refer to 'council communism' they generally refer to a non-"partyist" libertarian revolutionary marxism, which emphasises councils.

We charecterise council communism as the latter phase. I don't think that its period of existance was that brief. There were councilist groups from the late twenties through to the eighties with a organic historical link. The German/Dutch left was initially very different though. The KAPD was a party. Councilism was an offshoot from that.

Quote:
- extremely sharp opposition to trade unions (again, on different grounds to anarchists, and typically more vociferously - e.g refusing to join unions on principle)

I know council communists who are members of unions. Personally I don't moralise about it. What we say is that revolutionaries can't work through the unions.

Quote:
- sharp opposition to all national struggles (inc. condemnation of anti-fascist partisans in Eastern Europe at the end of WWII, if I remember rightly?)

In principle yes you do. It was actually in Western Europe though in France and particulary in Italy where the communist left still had some strength.

Quote:
All this arises, I would say, through a stark 'periodisation' of history betwee pre and post 1918 (the latter being the period of 'decadence').

Actually it is by 1914.

Devrim

WineAndJoy
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Aug 3 2009 19:34
Devrim wrote:
Posi wrote:
Quote:
All this arises, I would say, through a stark 'periodisation' of history betwee pre and post 1918 (the latter being the period of 'decadence').

Actually it is by 1914.

Devrim

Saying that 1914 was the year in which capitalism became decadent seems to me to be extremely eurocentric as most of the world at that time had not reached significant levels of industrialization and had only a small industrial proletariat....but anyway.

Are there any real differences between Bordigists and Trotskyites such as the SWP and other who hold the state-capitalism explanation of the old system in Russia and eastern Europe?

WineAndJoy
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Aug 3 2009 19:42

Also would Luxembourgists be considered Left Communists and if not what is there relationshio with Left and Council Communism?

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mikail firtinaci
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Aug 4 2009 03:19

I regard this articles as a very good and clear introduction to the history of communist left;

http://en.internationalism.org/node/2555

Quote:
Saying that 1914 was the year in which capitalism became decadent seems to me to be extremely eurocentric as most of the world at that time had not reached significant levels of industrialization and had only a small industrial proletariat....

Basically that is not what ICC say. ICC argues that by 1914, it became clearly appearent that capitalism is a decadant mode of production. To quote its platform;

"Since 1914 imperialism, which has become the means of survival for every nation no matter how large or small, has plunged humanity into a hellish cycle of crisis - war - reconstruction - new crisis…, a cycle characterised by immense armaments production which has increasingly become the only sphere where capitalism applies scientific methods and a full utilisation of the productive forces. In the period of capitalist decadence, humanity is condemned to live through a permanent round of self-mutilation and destruction."

http://en.internationalism.org/node/608

And on eurocentrism; I believe that it is capitalism that operate on a eurocentric way. In that sense when it opened the door of a cycle of war and destruction in europe that instantly expanded to the whole world. On another level existence of small proportions of workers in this or that country does not directly mean that these countries are not suitable for a revolution or that they are not developed enough. Even though the process of capitalist accummulation was centred on Europe in 1914 it still was an international process. Hence the working class is an international organism fighting against it on an international level.

--------------------

I think there is a general misconseption about bordigism. Bordigism is not even 'bordigism' at all since bordiga gave up active political struggle in 1930's till the end of the second world war but the communist left of Italy remained. Even in late 1920's when Bordiga started to argue that anti-parlamentarism was a tactical position that does not have to be accepted as a principle, communist left of Italy stict to that position.

After 1933 Italian communist left started to publish Bilan which expressed the developments and discussions of the Italian Fraction. And between 1933 and 1938 Italian Fraction saw and clarified the real differences between itself and Trotsky.

*On the general level of perspective towards the world-historical situation (in 1930')

Italian left saw a defeat of revolutionary wave that started in 1917 and a beggining of counter revolution with;

-1923 -Germany
-1927, 1928 - 'socialism in one country' dedfeat in China; total defeat of Russian Revolution
- 1933 fascism in germany.. According to Italian left this was a retreat of class.

whereas trotsky still saw possibilities for world revolution. I believe the main reason of that was his mechanical understanding of decadance, as if it is a total halt in the development of productive forces. That means in a way a tendency of rejecting the subjective element... A tendency which might be related to his party's becoming of an instrument of state.

* On organisational level trotsky wanted to set up an international whereas Italian left argued that an international can only be created by working class when it is marching forrward towards revolution.

* Trotsky and trotskyism defended the left, democracies and 'weaker' imperialisms (they defended china against japan, albania against italy, popular front and finally democratic states plus USSR against fascisms). However Italian Fraction remained internationalist till the end.

* On state capitalism; actually cliff started to argue that position after giving support to USSR in 2nd World War, in a way too late. And it was too little since, even then Cliff argued that state capitalism could still be counted as more progressive and closer to socialism...

Obviously there are other things as unions, national lib, parlamentarism etc. But if we go to the roots of the differences btw 'bordigism' and trotskyism I believe the points above might be meaningful in showing the differences.

Of course it was first Italian Fraction and then French Communist Left that clarified these differences and not bordiga and even bordigism (as it is today in its static form) itself.

------------------------

On Luxemburgism; I find Luxemburgism as somehow a little dogmatic in its approach, since it is strongly adhering to the positions of Rosa while somehow neglacting the clarifications of german communist left. However I believe they are still clearly internationalist though not being a part of communist left since they do not clearly reject unions or even burgeoisie left.

Anarcho
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Aug 4 2009 07:51

Only the Council Communists and Situationists are of any interest... the others are irrelevant sects with crazy politics and, if libcom is anything to go by, far too much time on their hands...

Skips
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Aug 4 2009 08:08
Anarcho wrote:
Only the Council Communists and Situationists are of any interest... the others are irrelevant sects with crazy politics and, if libcom is anything to go by, far too much time on their hands...

I would love to have far too much time in my hands. Is that meant to be an insult?

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Django
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Aug 4 2009 08:34
Anarcho wrote:
Only the Council Communists and Situationists are of any interest... the others are irrelevant sects with crazy politics and, if libcom is anything to go by, far too much time on their hands...

I don't think thats true - I find Gilles Dauve's stuff to be really useful (though it isn't without problems) and he is often associated with the communist left. I think Society of the Spectacle is good, but much of the other stuff the Situationists wrote is hit and miss.

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darren p
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Aug 4 2009 09:21

The book 'non-market socialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries' has good introductory chapters on Bordigism, Council Communism and Situationism as well as Anarcho-Communism and 'Impossibilism'.

A couple of them have been uploaded to libcom:
http://libcom.org/library/bordigism-adam-buick
http://libcom.org/library/council-communism-mark-shipway-1987

WineAndJoy
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Aug 4 2009 12:30
Django wrote:
I don't think thats true - I find Gilles Dauve's stuff to be really useful (though it isn't without problems) and he is often associated with the communist left. .

I am reading him at the moment and would be interested to know what problemns you see in him.

WineAndJoy
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Aug 4 2009 12:33
darren p wrote:
The book 'non-market socialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries' has good introductory chapters on Bordigism, Council Communism and Situationism as well as Anarcho-Communism and 'Impossibilism'.

A couple of them have been uploaded to libcom:
http://libcom.org/library/bordigism-adam-buick
http://libcom.org/library/council-communism-mark-shipway-1987

Thank you!

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Devrim
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Aug 4 2009 14:40
WineAndJoy wrote:
Saying that 1914 was the year in which capitalism became decadent seems to me to be extremely eurocentric as most of the world at that time had not reached significant levels of industrialization and had only a small industrial proletariat....but anyway.

It isn't that capitalism became decadent in 1914. It is that 1914 demonstrates the decadence of the system clearly with the opening of the First World War showing that their were no new colonial markets to be found and that imperial expansion could only take place through direct confrontation between the powers, and the incorperation of the mass social democratic workers organisations into the state.

Was capitalism decadent in 1913? I would say undoubtedly. Was it decadent in 1861? Well you could argue it. I don't think that it would put you outside the analysis of our organisation.

The question about the eurocenterism tends to put the question onto the particular situation in particular countries, whereas our method is to see capitalism as a world system. This is something that could be developed further.

WineAndJoy wrote:
Are there any real differences between Bordigists and Trotskyites such as the SWP and other who hold the state-capitalism explanation of the old system in Russia and eastern Europe?

Yes, I think important ones that developed from their political ideas in the period. Possibly the most crucial one was their charecterisation of the social democratic parties. They saw the Trotskyists work with and within these parties as a 'recrossing' of the Rubicon.

WineAndJoy wrote:
Also would Luxembourgists be considered Left Communists and if not what is there relationshio with Left and Council Communism?

I don't think that until recently there were groups that you could identify as Luxemborgist. Now there is a small international Luxemborgist network. In my opinion it seems to be concentrated on Luxemborg's critique of bolshevism and not particulary on other positions she held.

A few things to add on Mikail's comments:

Mikail Firtinaci wrote:
I think there is a general misconseption about bordigism. Bordigism is not even 'bordigism' at all since bordiga gave up active political struggle in 1930's till the end of the second world war but the communist left of Italy remained. Even in late 1920's when Bordiga started to argue that anti-parlamentarism was a tactical position that does not have to be accepted as a principle, communist left of Italy stict to that position.

I think what is termed Bordigism today is actually Bordigism in that these groups are descendents of the split in 1952 from the Internationalist Communist Party, a split which Bordiga was involved in. The Italian left in the 1930's wasn't 'Bordigist' in the same way, but was refered to as such. I used inverted commas to indicate this.

Mikail Firtinaci wrote:
* On state capitalism; actually cliff started to argue that position after giving support to USSR in 2nd World War, in a way too late. And it was too little since, even then Cliff argued that state capitalism could still be counted as more progressive and closer to socialism...

Cliff never dircetly argued that state capitalism was closer to socialism. It could be implied that his positions implied that, but he didn't publically state it and in fact always denied that he belived this.

I think that of all of the groups which broke from Trotskyism* during its crisis after the Second World War, the group around Cliff made the least complete break unable in a way to follow its own analysis.

In 1953, they condemned the Korean war as an inter imperialist conflict. By the sixties they were supporting the Viet-Cong, it what was, to the communist left, also an inter-imperialist conflict.

Yes, it was 'too late', but others, for example Munis or Stirnas, managed to make that analysis and develop from it. The group around Cliff never did.

WineAndJoy wrote:
Django wrote:
I don't think thats true - I find Gilles Dauve's stuff to be really useful (though it isn't without problems) and he is often associated with the communist left. .

I am reading him at the moment and would be interested to know what problemns you see in him.

We review one of his pamphlets here:
http://en.internationalism.org/wr/230_Fbarrot.htm

I think that this exerpt summerises our criticisms:

ICC wrote:
Barrot has never reached the extreme conclusions of Camatte, but from the 1970s onwards he has continued to disseminate all the underlying conceptions of modernism: its doubts about the working class; its characterisation of politics as a sphere of alienation; its rejection of militant political organisation and of the necessity for the working class to establish its political domination before it can create a communist society. When Insurrections Die shows that Barrot has not revised these views.

Devrim

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mikail firtinaci
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Aug 4 2009 23:21

Well Devrim,

Quote:
Cliff never dircetly argued that state capitalism was closer to socialism. It could be implied that his positions implied that, but he didn't publically state it and in fact always denied that he belived this.

Actually Devrim this is false. I will only give 3 quotes (my translation) that will show how wrong you are;

Cliff says;

"state capitalism is the preceding level of transition to socialism before socialist revolution while workers state is the latter level of transition to socialism after soc. rev."

"The partial negation of capitalism in capitalist social relations [as state capitalism] means that the forces of production that had rosen inside capitalism have come to a level that is exceeding the system and forcing the capitalist class to take "socialist" measures in order to direct them for its own intterests."

"State capitalism and workers state are levels of transition from capitalism to socialism."

So no honest person -let alone revolutionary- can say that communist left and cliff are close on state capitalism.

Bilan for instance bravely take the question of state and the world wide nature of capitalism. So even though they could not hastily conclude that russia was state capitalism they could see that it was an instrument in the hand of world capital against the world proletariat. You can not see that kind of a clear denunciation of state capitalism in Cliff. He never talks about a world proletariat. For him "stalinist state did not only developed as a result of seperation between bureacuracy and masses (...) but at the same time as a solution for the requirements of very productive forces, as a necessary element of mode of production."

-----------------------

Quote:
In 1953, they condemned the Korean war as an inter imperialist conflict.

Can you show a source for that?

Quote:
Yes, it was 'too late', but others, for example Munis or Stirnas, managed to make that analysis and develop from it. The group around Cliff never did.

You are wrong again. Stinas broke with trotskyism before the second world war.
http://en.internationalism.org/specialtexts/IR072_stinas.htm

And when it comes to Munis, they were also against 4th international policy while having compeletely broke up after the war;

http://en.internationalism.org/node/2937

However cliff tendency did not developed or even tried to develop a clear critic of warmongering of the 4th international before or during the war. As far as I know even after IS tendency set itself up their militants still defended their actions in line with military program of trotsky during the war.

So if I have to repeat myself again; there is no connection or similarity between Communist Left and Cliffite IS. First had always defended proletarian internationalism while taking its theoretical steps surely and slowly. Second has never been on the side of working class and only tried to secure its nationalism through shiny but meaningless theoretical hocus pocus

RedHughs
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Aug 5 2009 19:30
Devrim wrote:
Cliff never dircetly argued that state capitalism was closer to socialism. It could be implied that his positions implied that, but he didn't publically state it and in fact always denied that he belived this.

I think that of all of the groups which broke from Trotskyism* during its crisis after the Second World War, the group around Cliff made the least complete break unable in a way to follow its own analysis.

In 1953, they condemned the Korean war as an inter imperialist conflict. By the sixties they were supporting the Viet-Cong, it what was, to the communist left, also an inter-imperialist conflict.

I think it's important to consider both the ideas of a group and the group's position within capitalist society. The anti-Imperialist positions of the various Trotskyist groups tend to move them towards taking part in the larger anti-imperialist left as well as towards being opportunistic bureaucratic fiefdoms in their own right. The problem with said fiefdoms isn't simply "authoritarianism" but the identification of their members with ruling or would-be ruling bureaucracies, usually in other parts of the world. If their opportunism leads them to take some "anti-anti-Imperialist" position, their basic nature isn't going to change.

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Aug 8 2009 10:28

Sorry to butt in at this late stage but I just wanted to thank Devrim for his clear and honest statements about the CL and his pointing readers to the relevant IBRP text on the differences. I think the Communist Left has to include what we call "Late Bordigism" i.e the International Communist Party and all its splits after 1952 even if they won't talk to anyone else and have a mechanical view on class consciousness etc.

Can I also correct Posi above who seems to conflate the CL with the ICC (presumably the only one encountered here). Not all CL organisations ban their members frrom union membership. In Britain it makes no sense as you need to be in contact with fellow workers. We have experience of comrades organising struggle committees beyond the unions across several union memberships but we were only able to do this becuase our comrades were memerbs of one union in the first place thus getting a chance to speak inthe memetings. I understnad the situation is different in say Spain where you don't need to be inthe union to speak to workers' assemblies. Where the CL agrees on unions is their role as part of the apparatus for negotiating wage labour rates on the basis of capitalist needs, a role they have always performed for capital. Today however this is often much more formalised with state sanction in the advanced capitalist countries. There are other nuances of difference (on decadence, for example, a concept which we think the ICC have devalued by conflating it with the crisis).

morven
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Aug 14 2009 09:22

Very briefly on a point of clarity:

The ICC does not 'ban' it's members from union membership. Members of the organisation do join unions if it's necessary (for some professional reason, closed shop, etc.) but we find that it's easier / clearer to defend an anti union position outside union membership.

On the broader question of being where workers are - this is something the left often say to defend rank and filism, etc. (to be clear, I'm not suggesting that the IBRP are leftists - their position on the unions is clear) which doesn't hold up. On the crudest level, what about those workers who aren't in unions, the way different unions divide workers even in the same workplace - union membership does not automatically open up possibilities to talk to workers - our comrades have still been able to intervene in strikes, even union meetings despite not being in the union and, I think, have a clearer position on the unions because of this.

Agree with Cleish on what he writes about 'late Bordigism' and our differences on decadence (I don't agree we devalue it and would like Cleish to elaborate on this point) but I won't go into them here.

For communism! Morven

tout_niquer
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Aug 11 2009 18:21

The introduction to END NOTES volume 1 is a good summary of councilism, situationist ideas, communization, etc and helps flesh out some of these terms.

http://endnotes.org.uk/texts/endnotes_1/introduction.xhtml

Cleishbotham
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Aug 11 2009 20:49

For a summary of the differences in the internationalist communist left copy this tag.

http://www.ibrp.org/en/articles/2009-07-01/the-italian-communist-left-a-brief-internationalist-history

Re Morven. I think you are skirting a difference. I have never worked in a place where being outside a union allowed you to speak to the workers and you would have been deeply resented if (not paying the usual blood money in the form of union subs) you had attempted to make a point in discussion. It is an ICC myth that those outside the unions are somehow more class conscious than those in them (it is part of the ICC's fundamentally "idealist" aporach to the world which we have criticised over many years over a whole range of issues.

Sorry to not deal with the decadence issue just yet but will do so tomorrow...

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Alf
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Aug 11 2009 21:21

Where did we say that workers outside the unions (unless you are taking about communists) are more class conscious than those who are members? Speaking from my own experience I do not get resentment when I talk to workers at work about the need to go beyond the divisions into unions; there is a ready understanding that the situation of being split up into different union clubs is ridiculous; and furthermore, when they do have ' joint union meetings' they have not been able to argue against me and other non-members being present and saying that the meeting should be open to all workers, whether inside or outside unions. With regard to union membership, people are more scared on the individual level - 'what will happen to me as an individual if I don't have the 'insurance' of being in a union', etc. The problem with being a member of the union is that it is more difficult to argue consistently against the idea of accepting the discipline of the union if you constantly oppose it - which you have to do if anything serious is happening. Then people start to say to you 'why are you in the union if you think it's so useless....?'
That said I don't think this is a fundamental point of difference, and as Morven said there are circumstances where it would be pointless to insist on not being a union member.

ajjohnstone
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Aug 11 2009 23:52

for those on the thread who curious about the SPGB take on the differences between Council Communism and Bordigism , article here on Bordiga and Pannekoek

http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/jan04/panbordiga.html

Quote:
if we were forced to choose between Bordiga and Pannekoek (which of course we're not) we would have to prefer Pannekoek with all his faults. We are commending Pannekoek's “democratism” not his “councilism”.
morven
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Joined: 21-05-07
Aug 12 2009 07:41

Again briefly:

"I think you are skirting a difference. I have never worked in a place where being outside a union allowed you to speak to the workers and you would have been deeply resented"

You should get out more grin. But seriously, this is not my, or my comrades, experience. The only workers / colleagues I have had problems with were the union 'hacks' / idealogues not the 'general membership'.

"It is an ICC myth that those outside the unions are somehow more class conscious than those in them "

Alf's replied but where do we say this?

FC! Morven

trenchone
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Joined: 31-10-05
Aug 12 2009 08:36

"It is an ICC myth that those outside the unions are somehow more class conscious than those in them "

What is a myth is that such a thing has ever been thought or said. So why would someone want to argue like that? What's the point in saying things that are blatantly not the case? Class consciousness develops because of the reflections of those in and out of the unions. And workers take action whether in and out of unions. The recent wildcats in the construction industry took place against the will of the unions. The occupation of Vestas took place at a site that was mostly not union organised. Who knows what will happen in terms of the development of consciousness? Possibly nothing. But it won't depend on being in or out of a union. But, presumably it is a 'CWO myth' that those inside unions are 'somehow more class conscious'. You see how silly that sounds. Especially in a country like France where less than 10% of the workforce is in a union.

As for being resented - hypocrisy is always resented. Presumably CWO members of unions have to say at some point "I don't see any thing good in union activity, the only reason I'm in the union is so I can talk to the rest of you, who wouldn't listen to me unless I was in the union". Of course it sounds ridiculous...

Cleishbotham
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Joined: 28-08-08
Aug 12 2009 17:52

You are trying to foist your fallacies on to me. I did not say that anyone inside the union was more class conscious than those outside but ICC members in various countries over 30 years have asserted the opposite to me. Recently I have noticed that they have tended not to do this as though reality has actualy caught up with them. As I treid to say in my first comment on this it is a question of the nature of the wrokplace or even the local framework that decdies such things.

If you think the Lindsey oil refinery strike was outside the unions you have to explain why the union directed the slogans from the first day and had preprinted "British jobs for British workers banners already prepared.

Some things that happened were not according to the script but the union was not unhappy at the way it unfolded.

Cleishbotham
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Joined: 28-08-08
Aug 12 2009 21:44

I am sorry that I only replied to Trenchone in my last post as I just assumed that it would be the only reply. I have just returned to see the contributions of Morven and Alf. I am not trying to make differences (as Alf implies) and am gratified that ICC members now reject the view that I attributed to ICC members. However I did not make it up and the ICC, particularly those in WR in the early days behaved as though they came from Planet Mars (and Alf will know who I mean) in relation to the working class. I am correct though in saying that the ICC statutes do (or did?) say that union membership was to be avoided unless for "professional reasons" (obviously I have not seen them but several ICC members have said this)? We don't have that provision for the reasons outlined in my first post.

One example of formalism which can be checked out is on the Miners Strike of 25 years ago. When we said (in Workers' Voice) that it was the most important struggle for the future of working class resistance the ICC accused us of mistaking a real struggle for "corporatism". I wonder if that would still be the position today? Formally, as the NUM ran everything, it was corporatist but then that wasn't the most important issue in the scale of things. I think that by the late summer of 1984 the ICC also realised this and WR wrote some good articles re the lost opportunities for extending the strike.

ernie
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Joined: 19-04-06
Aug 12 2009 22:06

Cleistbotham

The post about Lindsey said "The recent wildcats in the construction industry took place against the will of the unions", it was not dealing with the one at the beginning of the year, where the unions certainly did push the nationalist poison. They tried to do the same with this one but it was more difficult to do so around the question of solidarity over the question of sackings.
As for the idea of fallacies etc, how can we answer points about what a member said to you here or there over the decades. It is much more clarifying to go by what we say in the press etc. It may well be that comrades may have said this in the past, but in what context were they arguing. If workers are struggling outside and against the unions, organising their own struggles consciously yes this would express a high level of struggle, If it is simply a question of not being in the union in itself, this proves nothing either way, you can be a very backwards worker and outside the union. Surely it is a question of the consciousness of those involved in the struggles, Workers may be still in the union but can be pushing against the union prison. We saw that with the recent Lindsey strike, where it was clear that workers were not struggling consciously against the unions but the fact they were seeking solidarity mean they ran up against the union.
On the question of the differences between us on the unions you say that "Where the CL agrees on unions is their role as part of the apparatus for negotiating wage labour rates on the basis of capitalist needs, a role they have always performed for capital. Today however this is often much more formalised with state sanction in the advanced capitalist countries." We would agree that the unions do play this role, but for the ICC this is only a part of their role as part of the capitalist state. It is this seeing them as being absolutely central part of state capitalism's apparatus, as the rampart of the state in the workplace that is central to our position that comrades cannot belong to the unions, unless there is a closed shop or for professional reasons, and to our whole approach to the question of how to struggle.
This has been the central foundation of our understanding of the unions since our beginnings and continues to be so. The nature of the workplace or local framework does not change their state nature. They may be less fully integrated in some countries or even illegal but that does not change their nature and function for the capitalist state. They are there to control the proletariat for the rest of the ruling class.