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

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baboon
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Aug 14 2009 12:37

As experts on "idealism", the IBRP should recognise the idealism inherent in their position on the unions as timeless "negotiators" possibly modified and "formalised" "today". The suggestion is idealist because it's not even half a position and the other part that it leaves open, "negotiators", is a potentially dangerous way of approaching the union question. The trade unions, since the beginning of last century, are much more than "negotiators" (with the implication hangin in the air that they are outside of the class struggle). They are recruiting sergeants for capitalist war, they are permanent police on the shop floor, they are active and involved in the highest levels of the state in all the major economies. They are the purveyors par excellence of bourgeois ideology - take the small example of their current engagement in the propagation of "green" ideology that will only grow. They are active in all sorts of electoral circuses. Just to see them as "negotiators" (negotiators for what - wage cuts, job losses, flexibility?) is to completely underestimate the role that they play within the state and their role against the working class..

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Alf
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Aug 14 2009 21:43

I'm not sure that the main problem with the CWO analysis of the unions is that it is 'idealist'. Baboon is correct to point out that there is an ambiguity in the formula of 'negotiators', in that it implies a position half way between the proletariat and capital, and he is right to insist that in the period of decadence the main thing to understand about the unions is that they have been integrated into the state. However, we also need to criticise the 'negotiators' formula as it applies to the period of ascendancy, when real trade unions were not intermediaries between capital and labour but fighting organs of the proletariat. This above all else explains why within the working class there remains a powerful attachment to the trade union form, even though it has proved itself to be an obstacle not only to the revolution but also to the defensive struggle of the working class.

Cleishbotham
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Aug 16 2009 12:15

Sorry not to reply earlier but have not been online for while. Thanks to Ernie for his succinct reply which I mostly agree with (yes I mistook the Lindsey reference to the first strike). However the last paragraph does pose me a couple of problems.Ernie wrote (I stilll have not worked out how to do quotes so I paste it here)

"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. "

I deliberately only stated the bits on what I thought we agreed on precisly to avoid this debate. I was concentrating ont replying to Posi (I think a Communard?) who seemed to think that because we left communists have the same basic positions that the same actions flow from them (and I thought alos that the left communism that was being criticised was only that of the ICC). This is why I referred only to the issue of union membership (and not to the whole question of the class nature of unions). Now we have got into that I just want to clarify one or two things. First Ernie does a good job relating the ICC's view that the unions are "absolutely central" to the state and thus you cannot be a member if you are in the ICC (unless for closed shop reasons). Aside from posing the question as to why ICC members would get involved in any job which required union membership, (after all if you were really true to your beliefs you would avoid such jobs like we avoid the armed forces and the police) the real iisue is that unions are simply part of millions of workes lives and if union memebrship allows us to take part in meetings where we can try to fight the unions then why not? We knwo we cannot win such a fight but we might be able to open the eyes (in fact we can claim we have done sometimes) of others to union manoeuvres. An earlier poster from the ICC frivolously suggested that we would look silly if we suddenly walked out of the union (individually it might be but since when have we been talking of individual action?) but that misses the point - such an action would be part of a collective movement. I get the impression that at least some ICC members are becoming more flexible monthis (I think it was a post of Alf's on Lindsey that made me realise it). You don't have to hammer home how dangerous the unions are to us since our members have been sacked after being fingered by the unions (se Blackhawk's posts elsewhere) and we have even had people beaten up by union apparatchniks during the miners' strike. However Ernie I think bends the stick too far when he calls illegal unions part of the state. Herre we are talking about communities of workers coming together to defend themselves adn they call what they are doing as "forming a union". It is the primordial "fighting" (to quote Alf) instrument of the class (under both ascendance and decadence - these workers aren't asking themselves that question. The issue for them is collective resistance. It is often accompanied by a murderous attack on them by the state apapratus (and even the proto-state apparatus like the FARC in Colombia which has killed union organisers in villages in the regions it used to control). Now we know from our experience that such resistance is hardly the stuff of the traditional vision we have of unions (and the traditional unions in countries like Colombia are the mafia whose aim is to keep the rest of the class from gettting the "benefits"). Perhaps the solution here is not to get hung up on the formal name unions but to see these fighting organisations which might evolve into state institutions or will have to take a more political path? I think though it is difficult to make out that at the start they are already sttae instuions unless you see the "state" not as a direct organ of political control but as simply "what is in existence" (this abrstract view seems to be what Ernie implies).

Baboon's rant is based on a misrepresentation (but I have noted over the years that misrepresenting the IBRP is one of his hobbies) . When we say that they act as negotiators of wage labour there is no notion of neutrality - it is for the capitalist state and the use of the word negotiators is no different fromEnghles use of the word "mediator" when talking of the role of the state. It is a mediator but on behalf of the dominance of the propertied classes. That is the same with the negotiator role. Alf's introduciton of the work "fighting " I have already alluded to but the question is fighing for what? "A fair day's pay or aboliiton of the wages system?" as Marx put it. I realise that I am opening up all sorts of other discussions by replying to these but I suppose this little exchange does at least make the point that despite a broad shared framework there is still a lively degree of debate between left communists, let alone betwen libcoms and leftcoms.

baboon
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Aug 16 2009 17:09

I don't think that it's a question of not getting hung up on the "formal" name union, but I do think it's a question of having a clear analysis of what the trade unions are and thus what you say to workers. I think that we'd all agree that going to workers in struggle and making a priority of saying "leave the unions", "the unions are anti-working class" wouldn't be the most effective intervention to make. But the less ambiguity in the overall analysis of trade unions the better.

I've been a meetings where workers have torn up their union cards and thrown them at the full timers. At a union meeting of BA workers a couple of years ago, workers tore up their cards and threw them at Woodley of Unite while some shop stewards resigned on the spot against the unions. At the end of the recent Lindsey strike there were reports of workers ignoring the unions. What do you say in these situations (that are likely to become more widespread)? Stay in the unions so you can go to meetings? No, you would emphasise the need for self-organisation and then extension if the possibility exists. It's exactly the same in the weaker economies where the unions are illegal and it's one of the bourgeoisie's most pernicious ideologies that there can be "new", "free", "real rank and file" unions.

I agree with Alf's definition of the unions as fighting bodies of the working class in capitalism's ascendency. And he makes the valid point about the residual consciousness of this in the working class a century later being a strong factor of the continuing faith of many militant workers in the unions and the appeal that persists generally throughout the working class. This "faith" has been reinforced by the bourgeoisie who still insist that the unions (whether they're for them or against them) are "fighting organs" of the proletariat. The democratic states have been instrumental in this perversion and we saw this clearly, within the unity of both blocs, with the creation of the new, free trade union, Solidarnosc in Poland 1980.

"Negotiators" and even "mediators" are uneccessarily restrictive descriptions that underestimates the total role of trade unions, the structure from top to bottom, the ideologies they purvey in their own right, their total support for the national capital and their role in imperialist war.

mic
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Aug 16 2009 19:55

I've not been here since quite a lot of time (sorry!) but Baboon has not changed a lot... Ibrp has analyzed unions' role in deep degree along the years, and has adjusted its tactics of intervention according to this analysis. For interested comrades, I think this is a good reading, and a good basis to get Ibrp's stance on unions: http://www.ibrp.org/en/articles/1997-06-01/communist-work-and-the-trades-unions-today

Quote:
It is an accomplished and irreversible fact that the trades unions are subjected and incorporated into the capitalist state. Since the first decades of this century working class experience has fully confirmed our analysis and predictions. As an integral part of the state apparatus, reduced to an essential tool for the support of the national economy and to an organic factor in the maintenance of the capitalist mode of production (operating in accordance with its laws), the trade union has completely lost even the last trappings of an intermediary and apolitical organism which, during the first years of the Third International of Lenin, still made it possible for the Party to use it as an instrument for the revolution.

A more informal discussion, together with some concrete experiences, is here: http://www.ibrp.org/en/forum/2008-10-09/asking-for-council-to-intervene-with-trade-unions

ernie
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Aug 17 2009 10:57

Cleishbotham

This is a very important point

Quote:
I realise that I am opening up all sorts of other discussions by replying to these but I suppose this little exchange does at least make the point that despite a broad shared framework there is still a lively degree of debate between left communists, let alone betwen libcoms and leftcoms.

It is essential that we can debate not only amongst the Communist Left but within the wider context of Libcom, RevLeft etc in order that the growing numbers of people interested in the positions of the Communist Left can see that it is animated by a culture of debate and clarlification.
To this end I think we all would be agreed that all petty personalisation of our discusisons (be it between comrads of the groups, on in the wider context with others comrades etc) should be avoid: we are discussing as comrades not competitors, or individuals defending our own corner.

ernie
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Aug 17 2009 11:13

On the question of workers organising in Colombia and calling their organisation a union. Clearly, we would not walk in and denounce their effort as simply being to set up another state organisation. However, we would seek to explain that the logic of the course of the concern to set up a union to defend themselves is to set up such a state insitition. This is only part of what we would do, above all we would seek to argue that the most effective means of organisation for struggle is mass assemblies and strike committees when there is struggle going on, and outside of period of struggle those workers who want to continue to prepare for future struggles could set up a discussion cricle to discuss the lessons of the struggle, seek to contact with other militant workers. We cannot get around the fact that there cannot be any permanent organisations of defence.

The link given by mic to the IBRP discussion forum thread on the unions is indeed interesting, did Pantaloon post the post on there on here? I must have missed it. It is a very revealing exposure of the role of the unions, one we can all learn from.

Having only skimmed through the Theses on Communist Work and the Trade Unions, does the IBRP still seek to put into practice the idea of factory groups?

mic
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Aug 17 2009 14:18

Ernie, I think your concept of "logic of the course of the concern to set up a union..." is a bit too formal and mechanical.

If workers organize their own struggles, and they call this embrionic organization a "union", I'll not be surprised. If this organization is still just "mass assemblies and strike committees", it's still a genuine tool of the working class, whatever they want to call it.

If it will develop into a classical union, or it will be part of a network of workers' councils, it cannot be stated by a general formula. Politics is not chemistry. The course of events will be the product of the material situation, but also of the action of owners, on the one side, and workers, on the other one. Those in the "union" (which is not yet really a union) and those in other workplaces. But it will also be the product of communists intervening into the struggle, to join the communist program with the immediate needs of their colleagues.

A factory group is essentially a nucleus of comrades who take part in the struggle, and try to lead it to a stronger position against owners and their state, to build solidarity amongst other sectors and places, to grow a higher level of class consciousness...

Comrades participate in the struggle, they also get responsibilities, and try to lead the struggle along the communist program, criticizing and warning against errors. Comrades don't simply show up to a workers' meeting (which maybe is wrongly called something like "union") and say they're building a state apparatus...

If such a local workers' organization of assembly and committees is constituted, then after the struggle it will likely develop into something different, like a real union. That's true, if a general class movement has not grown around. In this case, the role of communists would not be to create a circle of discussion, but to link their original nucleus to other workers and participate in the creation and growth of a workers political organization (a party, we say) which should be home for more combative workers, to make the experience of a single struggle (and of all other struggles) a patrimony of the whole class.

One of ours factory (or territorial) group is not a circle of discussion, or simply a part of the party. It's also a "tool" for workers, to create stronger struggles, to make future struggles more incisive and more interconnected with other places and sectors. This won't happen simply because we write it in some document. It will happen only if comrades participate in struggles and are acknowledged by workers as their most advanced, conscious part.

Cleishbotham
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Aug 17 2009 19:24

It is a bit embarassing when you look back at your previous comment and realise how smei-literate it looks (especially compared with someone like Mic writing more accurately in his second language)! Thanks Ernie for taking the trouble to wade through it. I absolutely agree with him re the need for a serious discussion re the issues facing communist (of all tendencies) today. I am long past the need for competition and if we are to move things on and leave a legacy (and perhaps more) then the exchange has to be about mutual enlightenment and removing misrepresentations. I feel a lot more sympathetic to Baboon having read his (and Alf's) posts on the Vestas thread. We share common experiences and at the end of the day we have behaved identically in similar situations. We absolutely agree that under (decadent) state capitalist conditions there can be no defensive organisations of the class, Which leaves us the big problem of how to relate the current economic struggle of the class to its historical goals. This is why we have factory groups and (now) territorial groups. We are not attempting "to organise the class" but to organise the political vanguard inside the everyday class struggle. The groups have to be essentially political but start from the struggle aginst that which exists (which is why the unions hate them and block them at every turn).

baboon
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Aug 17 2009 20:35

Positive clarifications. I think that the survival of groups of the Communist Left is itself a victory for the working class and it's in this framework of the shared heritage that the discussion has to take place.

The highest point of class struggle since the Russian and German revolutions has to be the mass strikes in Poland, 1980, and that, even with all its specificities, this event is rich in lessons for the development of struggles. The MKS represented the battleground between the self-organisation of the class and the bourgeoisie's counter-attack of the "free trade unions". The former, a coordinated and centralised inter-factory strike committee with revokable delegates, was gradually taken over by the "free trade union" movement and the establishment of the Solidarnosc trade union "recognising the party and the state" and laid the ground for the repression that followed. At the time, groups of the communist left were unable to present anything like a united front so it might be worthwhile to look back at this event in the context of the role of revolutionaries in such a struggle. My own view is that such a struggle, even (or especially) after its defeat, will throw up all sorts of expressions of the working class: publications, more or less political groups and discussion circles and it's not necessarily a simple question of factory groups v discussion circles. What's important about this, what I think we agree on though not necessarily how to implement, is the need for a intervention of a revolutionary political minority, international first of all, in order to put forward the communist programme. Where it exists, the communist minority has to fight within the various expressions of the class not least because, as we saw in the events in Poland, "free trade unions" and the trade union ideology can still have an enormous weight in the class.

I've read the two links made by Mic above and in the light of the clarity of the first text particularly, I think that the terms "negotiators" and "mediators" are still unecessarily confusing. I'm still not clear about the relationship of the factory groups to the IBRP itself.

mic
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Aug 18 2009 19:20

Baboon, the groups are made of comrades of the IBRP (so they're essentially political) who work together with sympathizers in a particular workplace (or a particular area) to join the local struggles with the overall political program for a communist society.

They're not external to struggles, they're part of struggles from their beginning. The concrete experiences, in reality, are quite limited. But in those cases, in fact, our groups were those who proposed the most incisive strikes (not announced and even outside of unions' control) and carrying on the most advanced positions. By analyzing this kind of experiences we're developing and adjusting our tactics of intervention in "economical", limited struggles. Not easy job...

The political program of the groups is the same of IBRP - you know, we're communists... The "practical work" is directed to bring struggles to a higher level of consciousness and solidarity, to denounce opportunists with the "sharp elucidation of all those objectives of struggle which can be realised only through the revolutionary conquest of political power and the overthrow of the capitalist system", and at the same time to acquire workers to the communist program and organization - you also know, we're for the party...

RedHughs
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Aug 18 2009 19:56
mic wrote:
If workers organize their own struggles, and they call this embrionic organization a "union", I'll not be surprised. If this organization is still just "mass assemblies and strike committees", it's still a genuine tool of the working class, whatever they want to call it.

If it will develop into a classical union, or it will be part of a network of workers' councils, it cannot be stated by a general formula. Politics is not chemistry. The course of events will be the product of the material situation, but also of the action of owners, on the one side, and workers, on the other one. Those in the "union" (which is not yet really a union) and those in other workplaces. But it will also be the product of communists intervening into the struggle, to join the communist program with the immediate needs of their colleagues.

A factory group is essentially a nucleus of comrades who take part in the struggle, and try to lead it to a stronger position against owners and their state, to build solidarity amongst other sectors and places, to grow a higher level of class consciousness...

This sort of argument has been around for a while and it is a quite reasonable sounding argument for talking only about "democratic unions versus authoritarian unions". I think, for those on the communist left, the counter-argument boils down to the belief that present day capitalism is highly dynamic and that struggles generally fail to go in the direction of any semi-permanent organization of relatively constant size that would be even slightly comparable to the ordinary union (by implication, this means that the IWW or other efforts of earlier times might even be considered essentially revolutionary but that such a formation isn't not likely to reoccur in present conditions, at least not in most areas of the globe).

I think Theorie Communiste gave a description of the upsurge in Argentina that looked at these issues - not that they would represent any default left-communist position here.

mic
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Aug 18 2009 20:54

Red, I'm not sure I've understood. But I'd like to make clear that I am against any kind of union (as ICC I think). I was simply saying that if workers call their own local assembly or committee a union, that alone doesn't make it a real union.

When the struggle, or the wave of struggles, is over, the workers' organization will become something different from a simple workers' assembly or committee. In fact, it will become a permanent/semipermanent instrument for contracting, inside the compatibilities of the system. In a word, a union. It cannot be a genuine struggle committee, if the struggle is over...

Another thing I was arguing, is that this development will happen if the struggle remains isolated, and doesn't develop to a full revolution. But... this other option would need different material conditions, a different strength of the working class and a different strength of its political vanguard. Nevertheless, we still need to participate in the local struggle and guide it, if possible, to the maximum result it could reach, economically but also and above all from the political point of view (class consciousness and unity).

Our work is not for a permanent/semipermanent democratic/autocratic union. It's in another direction, it's to create a political organization with its roots in the working class.

Our position is not common to the whole communist left. Probably it's similar, in some sense, to the one of ICC, only. But in my opinion they have a different attitude towards struggles, labeling them as bourgeoise if they're not "purely proletarian". I think it's our own duty, if we pretend to be the vanguard of someone, to take part in struggles and guide them to a more clear proletarian position.

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Alf
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Aug 18 2009 21:01

Agree that groups of workers who stay together after a struggle can take on more tasks than that of a discussion circle, depending on circumstances. They can also intervene, raise unifying demands, call for assemblies, etc. The key thing is that they don 't see themselves as representing the workers and taking on union functions.

However, while communists will certainly be active in such groups, I don't see how they can be formed around a specifically communist programme, still less be in some way 'attached' to a particular left communist group. For example, there are many people who post on libcom who have many disagreements with left communism but would certainly have their place in such a struggle group. As would a number of workers who may not see themselves as revolutionary at all but agree on basic needs like assemblies, extending the struggle to other enterprises, etc

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Alf
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Aug 18 2009 21:06

Don' t agree with this, however, as a characterisation of our position:

"But in my opinion they (the ICC) have a different attitude towards struggles, labeling them as bourgeoise if they're not "purely proletarian". I think it's our own duty, if we pretend to be the vanguard of someone, to take part in struggles and guide them to a more clear proletarian position" (mic).

There are no pure struggles - bourgeois influences are always there in every struggle of he proletariat. And of course communists have to participate in them in order to "guide them to a more clear proletarian position"

mic
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Aug 19 2009 08:24

Alf, I didn't want to give an objective characterization of your position, as after all I don't know ICC that much, and I'm open to new facts and new evaluations. That's my own opinion, right now, expressed in a quite simplistic way, given our past different lectures on events like Argentina 2001, Oaxaca etc., for example. I don't know if it's the moment to deal (again) with those past events. But I'll be really glad to be proven wrong in future, in this regard.

About factory groups, we don't confuse them with struggle committees. Our groups work in struggle committees when those are lively, trying to get an active and positive role, but also to highlight errors, denounce opportunism etc.

Certainly in the whole committee there will be other political positions, other communists, leftists, more moderates elements etc. With all kinds of contradictions. As I said, we had limited but very interesting experiences.

A factory group is a different thing, it is made of Ibrp comrades and sympathizers. When the struggle is over, our effort is directed to keep the factory group alive, to continue contributing to the communist program and organization, but also to keep the best experiences of the struggle alive into that one workplace/area. It's a political entity, it's part of our organization, so definitely it's not to be confused with a trade union.

RedHughs
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Aug 19 2009 22:43

Sorry Mic, I did indeed misunderstand your original point.

mic
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Aug 20 2009 12:23

In fact, Red, I think it was me not being very clear.

It was interesting to read your ideas, though. In fact, I think democracy is important in any organization of communists and/or workers. But then the issue is about: do we need an organization of communists (with a clear program of changing the production system from its basis), an organization of workers, or both...

Workers, when they appeared with strength on the scene of history, organized themselves in councils or assemblies. I think this is their own genuine form of organization. Direct proletarian democracy, in some sense (but they don't have power, yet). In these councils the main political struggle of communists in different "flavors" and other political elements takes place. I'm curious to know if people on this forum agree with this...

Anyway, on the other side, Ibrp and some part of the communist left think there's need for an organization of communists, of the vanguard of the working class, too, to join the immediate requests of workers with the historical program of social revolution. To carry on the political struggle inside councils in an organized and effective way - to say it shortly.

More precisely, we say that, while power has to stay solidly in the hands of councils, the communist party is the "indispensable political organ for the political guidance of the revolutionary class movement and the proletarian power itself". I guess much fewer libcoms will agree on this...

Obviously, there are many missing points here... but also space for discussion.

Red, does this post relates to yours?

To stay more on the topic of this thread, let me precise that "political guidance" does not mean in any sense "dictatorship of the party". There's a whole sea of difference, and it's also one of the main differences between us and bordigists. The main one, in my opinion.

mic
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Aug 20 2009 12:55

This may be interesting for the discussion:

"But councilism is predicated on a rejection of the very principles of how class consciousness arises as laid out by Marx in The German Ideology. If class consciousness uniformly arises inside the working class then the question of party versus soviet becomes fairly academic, and the party would be irrelevant, but in fact this is not the case. Class consciousness exists in fragmented form amongst different groups of workers according to relatively recent class experience. Such experiences may be fleeting (a strike in one industry), they may be spaced out over years so that workers only have dim recollections of what has happened previously or they may be particularly violent outbursts of struggle which no-one forgets but which separate groups experience differently. What draws these episodes together is not the direct experience of the actual struggle (the spontaneist/ councilist hypothesis) but the reflection of those workers and activists who recognise that this or that struggle is only a part of a greater whole and is the product of the class antagonisms of capitalist society as a whole. Outside of the immediate struggle how can these groups of workers develop their experience and the consciousness which has been aroused by that experience. A permanent political organisation that takes the acquisitions of the past into the future struggles is not simply desirable — its appearance as part of the process of ever widening class consciousness is inevitable. This is the organisation that we call the party."

http://www.ibrp.org/en/articles/2002-12-01/party-and-class-in-the-revolutionary-wave-of-1917-21

RedHughs
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Aug 20 2009 22:16
Mic wrote:
Anyway, on the other side, Ibrp and some part of the communist left think there's need for an organization of communists, of the vanguard of the working class, too, to join the immediate requests of workers with the historical program of social revolution. To carry on the political struggle inside councils in an organized and effective way - to say it shortly.

I would agree that it is good for self-conscious communists to intervene in struggles, naturally while avoiding becoming some centralized authority on revolution. Further, if we do intervene, we need to be at least as willing to learn something as to teach something. Studying history or Marx or whatever only gives one an understanding of the structural tendencies of the system as a whole. Workers in struggle naturally will have already learned much more about their situation than those of us who have a lot of book learning or even who've been other, distinct struggles.

I don't think you can ask for an opinion from all of libcom since there's such divergence of views...

Perhaps making this question a separate thread would be appropriate, though I'm sure it would be contentious...

Spikymike
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Aug 22 2009 13:59

Surely a lot of 'Lib Comers' would agree on the necessity of an active and organised pro-revolutionary communist minority within class struggle because of the inevitable uneven nature of the development of class and communist consciousness. The disagreements are about the nature and forms of activity of such a minority.

The more libertarian amongst us have experienced either directly or indirectly the problems of, and in some cases sheer harm done by, those organisations in recent decades who most strongly advocated the concept of a single centralised world communist party.

As a result some of us have tended to view the premature push towards creating such an organisation, or it's prefiguration, as worse than the more federalist, bottom up approach to organising such a minority favoured by anarchist and libertarian communists of various pursuasions.

We should certainly work together whenever possible and not wear our separateness as any kind of badge of honour (as some anarchists do) but the holy grail of the perfect form of pro-revolutionary organisation may indeed constantly elude us all!

.

mic
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Aug 22 2009 20:37

Thanks for your answers, comrades! I appreciate them as they show me, at least, that the semantic gap between lib & left communists can be overcome without great difficulties...

Then, when we look at their core... "the disagreements are about the nature and forms of activity of such a minority". I agree. I think these disagreements are also what distinguishes more the different organizations of the communist left. The disagreements about the intervention of communists in struggles are those making also basic collaboration so difficult, in my opinion. Let's hope some progress will be made in future.

I agree with RedHughs when he says that "we need to be at least as willing to learn something as to teach something". Probably this kind of preoccupation is due to Lenin's (wrong) statement about consciousness being led to proletariat from the outside, tou cour.

"In Russia, the theoretical doctrine of socialdemocracy arose absolutely independently from the spontaneous growth of the workers movement, it arose as the natural and unavoidable result of the thought in revolutionary socialist intellectuals." (Lenin)

We wrote that: "it's not possible for the revolutionary organization, for the party, to elaborate doctrines outside of the real movement of the class and of its real historical experiences. So, only living inside of the class phenomenon, the party can elaborate the lines of its own political action." In a dialectical relation, a reciprocal interaction between the wider class and its vanguard. (Both are quick translations, not necessarily accurate, from http://www.ibrp.org/it/articles/1978-12-01/classe-e-coscienza-dalla-teoria-all-intervento-politico)

There's no holy grail. There's no a priori knowledge or organization form which has not to be formulated in accordance with the reality and history of the workers movement and continuously tested against it.

About the form of organization, as Ibrp, we stand for democratic centralism. The expression needs more specification... But clearly it contrasts with completely decentralized or federalist networks, on the one hand, and the organic centralism of bordigists, on the other one, which is nothing less than internal despotism. Organic centralism, joined with the aspiration to a "dictatorship of the party", would make them quite dangerous for my tastes... Fortunately (I have to say) organic centralism has been the perfect recipe for exploding the organization in thousand pieces.

Spikymike, you say that some of you "experienced either directly or indirectly the problems and in some cases sheer harm..." I don't know what these experiences were (though I'd like to learn more!) but I understand you're underlining (with some negative examples) the importance you attribute to the way communists organize and intervene in struggles. So I suppose when you say "the holy grail of the perfect form of pro-revolutionary organisation may indeed constantly elude us all", you at least don't want to put the question completely aside...

ernie
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Aug 23 2009 08:25

Sorry not to have posted for sometime but work has got in the way.

From reading the posts it is clear that there is a lot more agreement than disagreement on the unions and the role of revolutionaries in the struggles. Thus Mic's statement:

"Then, when we look at their core... "the disagreements are about the nature and forms of activity of such a minority". I agree. I think these disagreements are also what distinguishes more the different organizations of the communist left. The disagreements about the intervention of communists in struggles are those making also basic collaboration so difficult, in my opinion."

would appear to be at odds with this dynamic. What "disagreements" would stand in the way of a common intervention if the opportunity arose? This is not to downplay the disagreements but this thread has shown that at times these disagreements are due to misunderstandings of what is being said. As Left Communist what would stand in the way of intervening in a struggle to say that the only way forwards is the formation of mass assemblies, elected strike committees, the spreading of the struggle. As Communists our of central responsibilities is to put forwards the common needs of the struggle.

Taken to its logical conclusion Mic's position would mean that Left Communist militants, and other militants could not work together during a struggle they were involved in, because of these "disagreements". This would be completely absurd, and leave those calling for class unity and solidarity looking like idiotic sectarians who say one thing to the class but are unable to even work together during a struggle.

Not sure about the point Mic makes about Lenin seeing consciousness coming from outside the class.
""In Russia, the theoretical doctrine of socialdemocracy arose absolutely independently from the spontaneous growth of the workers movement, it arose as the natural and unavoidable result of the thought in revolutionary socialist intellectuals." (Lenin)"
He changed this position after the experience of the 1905-06 revolution to a more dialectical one, something the CWO have pointed out themselves.

mic
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Aug 23 2009 09:44

Ernie, by "intervention" I don't mean simply producing a leaflet or a statement, but the way we participate in a struggle. Agreements exist, as well as differences. I think we can improve the common understanding among lib & left communist groups. Occasions for common intervention will hopefully present in the future.

We collaborated in strikes and various struggles with different comrades (autonomists, anarchists, workers and people not joining any group in particular, etc.). It happened in various cases and I'm sure it'll happen again. We act without hiding differences, but nevertheless trying to advance the struggle. If single comrades don't move from an idealistic approach, then often it's possible and desirable to find a way to act together, at least at some level.

About Lenin, I think that his own standing is not expressed by that sentence. It's also clear in the rest of the document I linked. Nevertheless, those old polemics and misunderstandings (even some very "unfortunate" sentence, like that one) could have their reflections till today...

Cleishbotham
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Aug 23 2009 14:47

I agree with Ernie that this has been a significant exchange. I don't know if we have enlightened WindAndJoy who started this thread off but I feel it has enlightened me. The ICC seems to have moved in attitude if not on formal positions and that is to be welcomed. On the oterh hand I don't know what damage Spikeymike has experienced from groups advocating an internationally centralised world communist party so perhaps he would like to enlighten us?

ernie
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Aug 24 2009 11:16

This has always been our attitude towards discussion between the groups of the communist left and others who are seeking to defend internationalist positions. We may not have expressed ourselves too well at time, something we have had admitted repeatedly on these forums, but our central concern has been to defend the need for a culture of debate, and where possible common work and the taking of common positions faced with historically important work events.
It would be useful if you could explain what formal positions we need to move? Apart from the question of the roots of the crisis and the role of the party/class consciousness our basic programmatic positions are more or less the same.

Cleishbotham
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Aug 29 2009 16:56

Sorry I have been elsewhere so did not see Ernie's post. I don't agree with Ernie's view that the ICC have always wanted a culture of debate. It adopts different tactics for different situations and the systematic distortion of opposing views in meetings and documents is what get's up many people's noses. This is probably not the place to go into all this now and to be frank I prefer to look forward.

Similarly the seemingly simple question about our difference requires a complex answer since there are many methodological differences behind our divergences (e.g. decadence, the adoption of short term perspectives etc). I am willing to go into these but should the discussion be elsewhere or on another thread?

Spikymike
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Aug 30 2009 14:54

As Cleishbotham asks I would say that the ICC (whatever it's good points) has for one caused much damage in it's time spawning endles splits and divisions and leading to many good comrades disapearing into the political void whilst turning off many potential new activists.

A Cleishbotham says the ICC does not have a good historyof encouraging 'a climate of debate' - quite the contrary, though I see some signs of change more recently

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Alf
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Aug 30 2009 20:14

Spikeymike: perhaps you could be both more specific and more wide ranging when you repeat these accusations. It would be a good idea to go back to the beginnings of the present revolutionary movement at the end of the 60s, and examine the role played by our tendency (and others) during that period, perhaps up until the end of the 1970s and early 80s when many of the existing divisions openly appeared.

1ngram
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Sep 4 2009 11:54

I agree with SpikeyMike that there are welcome signs of some change in the ICC's responses to disagreement recently - as Ernie admits "We may not have expressed ourselves too well at times"

In answer to Alf's last post, we feel that in the past calling people and groups parasites and thus not part of the milieu and thus not worth debating with, or saying critics within and without your organisation either were actual police spies or (in another case) were acting in a way no different from how such a state agent would act, or saying that critics represented a Masonic conspiracy to infiltrate the ICC, or, in another case again, were an anarchist clan lying at the heart of the ICCs central organs, have (at the very least) acted to close down discussion, creating resentment and hostility. There is great responsibility on us to nurture and protect the whole milieu, not just the organisation we belong to - a responsibilty of the whole milieu, not just the ICC. Hopefully, we are beginning to see such an approach within the milieu.