Why are some communists considered to be to the 'left' of others?

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Gravedigger
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Apr 14 2010 21:36
Devrim wrote:
Gravedigger wrote:
Yes you were quite clear and has I've pointed out in my post No 21 you tried to make a hopeless distinction between a vanguard and the vanguard party.

In your post No 14 you stated this, "What do you mean by this? If it means that we believe in a vanguard party, then we are. If it means we believe that party should seize power, then actually we are not." Such inconsistency is called hedging your bets by gamblers, self denial by psychologists, and spreading confusion by socialists. Myself I call it abstrusely absurd!

But regardless of these quibbles, we are for a vanguard party. We don't think that the ICC is it.

Devrim

I'm amazed that you describe such glaring inconsistencies has 'quibbles'. Nevertheless, I would appreciate an answer on who the ICC consider to be the vanguard party? I just can't wait for your reply. Oh dear what are they going to come up with next?

Android
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Apr 14 2010 21:46
Gvavedigger wrote:
I'm amazed that you describe such glaring inconsistencies has 'quibbles'. Nevertheless, I would appreciate an answer on who the ICC consider to be the vanguard party? I just can't wait for your reply. Oh dear what are they going to come up with next?

Hope Gravedigger and Devrim don't mind me intervening in their discussion.

Open to correction. But I think the ICC don't consider themselves to be a vanguard, just that they are for one in the future and work towards it.

nastyned
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Apr 14 2010 22:07
Devrim wrote:
we are for a vanguard party. We don't think that the ICC is it.

Devrim

Many Trotskyist groups would say the same.

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Sheldon
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Apr 14 2010 22:12
nastyned wrote:
Devrim wrote:
we are for a vanguard party. We don't think that the ICC is it.

Devrim

Many Trotskyist groups would say the same.

What's your point?

Just as well, all groups on this site as far as I know would say they are necessarily against capitalism (and usually in a revolutionary sense) yet there are very different ideas as to what exactly this means.

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Devrim
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Apr 14 2010 22:39
Gravedigger wrote:
I'm amazed that you describe such glaring inconsistencies has 'quibbles'. Nevertheless, I would appreciate an answer on who the ICC consider to be the vanguard party? I just can't wait for your reply. Oh dear what are they going to come up with next?

We don't consider anybody to be 'a' or 'the' vanguard party at the moment, and certainly not ourselves. Your point has been that the ICC sees itself as 'a' or 'the' vanguard party. I merely say that we don't and it would be absurd for such a tiny organisation to consider itself to be so. In that regard, I think addressing the issue of whether we see ourselves as 'a' or 'the' vanguard party, these are 'quibbles' though wouldn't necessarily be so in a discussion on another point. We don't claim to be 'a' or 'the' vanguard party, and never have done. In that respect, I can't quite understand why you keep insisting that we do.

Devrim

Gravedigger
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Apr 14 2010 22:40
ronan.mcnabb wrote:
Gvavedigger wrote:
I'm amazed that you describe such glaring inconsistencies has 'quibbles'. Nevertheless, I would appreciate an answer on who the ICC consider to be the vanguard party? I just can't wait for your reply. Oh dear what are they going to come up with next?

Hope Gravedigger and Devrim don't mind me intervening in their discussion.

Open to correction. But I think the ICC don't consider themselves to be a vanguard, just that they are for one in the future and work towards it.

They may not consider themselves a vanguard but the proof is in the pudding and has I've pointed out repeatedly what defines a vanguard, irrespective whether or not they are from the left or the right wing, is do they have leaders?

I think it is safe to presume that there is a hierarchy of self-appointed leaders within the ICC. This being the case they are by definition a vanguard and part and parcel of the capitalist political structure.

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Devrim
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Apr 14 2010 22:40
nastyned wrote:
Devrim wrote:
we are for a vanguard party. We don't think that the ICC is it.

Many Trotskyist groups would say the same.

Actually, I think that most of them would claim that they were it.

Devrim

Gravedigger
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Apr 14 2010 22:56
Devrim wrote:
Gravedigger wrote:
I'm amazed that you describe such glaring inconsistencies has 'quibbles'. Nevertheless, I would appreciate an answer on who the ICC consider to be the vanguard party? I just can't wait for your reply. Oh dear what are they going to come up with next?

We don't consider anybody to be 'a' or 'the' vanguard party at the moment, and certainly not ourselves. Your point has been that the ICC sees itself as 'a' or 'the' vanguard party. I merely say that we don't and it would be absurd for such a tiny organisation to consider itself to be so. In that regard, I think addressing the issue of whether we see ourselves as 'a' or 'the' vanguard party, these are 'quibbles' though wouldn't necessarily be so in a discussion on another point. We don't claim to be 'a' or 'the' vanguard party, and never have done. In that respect, I can't quite understand why you keep insisting that we do.

Devrim

So according to the ICC the concept of a 'vanguard' does not exist, it has yet to appear. Are we to assume that this event will only be verified by the ICC? Can they tell us what they define has a vanguard, for instance will there be a hierarchy of leaders?

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Apr 14 2010 23:11
Gravedigger wrote:
So according to the ICC the concept of a 'vanguard' does not exist, it has yet to appear.

Yes.

Gravedigger wrote:
Are we to assume that this event will only be verified by the ICC?

No.

Gravedigger wrote:
for instance will there be a hierarchy of leaders?

No, not as we see it.

ICC wrote:
Can they tell us what they define has a vanguard,

You could start with this from the ICC Platform:

Quote:
16. THE ORGANISATION OF REVOLUTIONARIES
a. Class consciousness and organisation

Any class fighting against the social order of the day can only do this effectively if it gives its struggle an organised and conscious form. Whatever the imperfection and alienation in their forms of organisation and their consciousness, this was already the case for classes like the slaves or the peasants who did not carry within them a new social order. But this necessity applies all the more to historic classes who bear the new relations made necessary by the evolution of society. The proletariat is, among these classes, the only class which possesses no economic power within the old society. Because of this its organisation and consciousness are even more decisive factors in its struggle.

The form of organisation which the class creates for its revolutionary struggle and for the wielding of political power is that of the workers’ councils. But while the whole class is the subject of the revolution and is regrouped in these organisations at that moment, this does not mean that the process by which the class becomes conscious is in any way simultaneous or homogeneous. Class consciousness develops along a tortuous path through the struggle of the class, its successes and defeats. It has to confront the sectional and national divisions which constitute the ‘natural’ framework of capitalist society and which capital has every interest in perpetuating within the class.
b. The role of revolutionaries
Revolutionaries are those elements within the class who through this heterogeneous process are the first to obtain a clear understanding of "the line of march, the conditions and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement" (Communist Manifesto), and because in capitalist society "the dominant ideas are the ideas of the ruling class", revolutionaries necessarily constitute a minority of the working class.

As an emanation of the class, a manifestation of the process by which it becomes conscious, revolutionaries can only exist as such by becoming an active factor in this process. To accomplish this task in an indissoluble way, the revolutionary organisation:

* participates in all the struggles of the class in which its members distinguish themselves by being the most determined and combative fighters;
* intervenes in these struggles always stressing the general interests of the class and the final goals of the movement;and the final goals of the movement;
* as an integral part of this intervention, constantly dedicates itself to the work of theoretical clarification and reflection which alone will allow its general activity to be based on the whole past experience of the class and on the future perspectives crystallised through such theoretical work.

c. The relationship between the class and the organisation of revolutionaries
If the general organisation of the class and the organisation of revolutionaries are part of the same movement, they are nonetheless two distinct things.

The first, the councils, regroup the whole class. The only criterion for belonging to them is to be a worker. The second, on the other hand, regroups only the revolutionary elements of the class. The criterion for membership is no longer sociological, but political: agreement on the programme and commitment to defend it. Because of this the vanguard of the class can include individuals who are not sociologically part of the working class but who, by breaking with the class they came out of, identify themselves with the historic class interests of the proletariat.

However, though the class and the organisation of its vanguard are two distinct things, they are not separate, external or opposed to one another as is claimed by the ‘Leninist’ tendencies on the one hand and by the workerist-councilist tendencies on the other. What both these conceptions deny is the fact that, far from clashing with each other, these two elements – the class and revolutionaries – actually complement each other as a whole and a part of the whole. Between the two of them there can never exist relations of force because communists "have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole" (Communist Manifesto).

As a part of the class, revolutionaries can at no time substitute themselves for the class, either in its struggles within capitalism or, still less, in the overthrow of capitalism and the wielding of political power. Unlike other historical classes, the consciousness of a minority, no matter how enlightened, is not sufficient to accomplish the tasks of the proletariat. These are tasks which demand the constant participation and creative activity of the entire class at all times.

Generalised consciousness is the only guarantee of the victory of the proletarian revolution and, since it is essentially the fruit of practical experience, the activity of the whole class is irreplaceable. In particular, the necessary use of violence by the class cannot be separated from the general movement of the class. For this reason terrorism by individuals or isolated groups is absolutely foreign to the methods of the class and at best represents a manifestation of petty-bourgeois despair when it is not simply a cynical method of struggle between bourgeois factions. When it appears within the proletarian struggle, it is a sign of influences external to the struggle, and can only weaken the very basis for the development of consciousness.

The self-organisation of workers’ struggles and the exercise of power by the class itself is not just one of the roads to communism which can be weighed against others: it is the only road.

The organisation of revolutionaries (whose most advanced form is the party) is the necessary organ with which the class equips itself to become conscious of its historic future and to politically orient the struggle for this future. For this reason the existence and activity of the party are an indispensable condition for the final victory of the proletariat.
d. The autonomy of the working class
However, the concept of ‘class autonomy’ used by workerist and anarchist tendencies, and which they put forward in opposition to substitutionist conceptions, has a totally reactionary and petty-bourgeois meaning. Apart from the fact that this ‘autonomy’ often boils down to no more than their own ‘autonomy’ as tiny sects who claim to represent the working class in the same way as the substitutionist tendencies they denounce so strongly, their conception has two main aspects:

* the rejection of any political parties and organisations whatever they may be by the workers;
* the autonomy of each fraction of the working class (factories, neighbourhoods, regions, nations etc.) in relation to others: federalism.

Today such ideas are at best an elementary reaction against Stalinist bureaucracy and the development of state totalitarianism, and at worst the political expression of the isolation and division typical of the petty-bourgeoisie. But both express a total incomprehension of the three fundamental aspects of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat:

* the importance and priority of the political tasks of the class (destruction of the capitalist state, world dictatorship of the proletariat);
* the importance and indispensable character of the organisation of revolutionaries within the class;
* the unitary, centralised and world-wide character of the revolutionary struggle of the class.

For us, as marxists, the autonomy of the class means its independence form all other classes in society. This autonomy constitutes an INDESPENSABLE PRECONDITION for the revolutionary activity of the class because the proletariat today is the only revolutionary class. This autonomy manifests itself both on the organisational level (the organisation of the councils), and on the political level and therefore, contrary to the assertions of the workerist tendencies, in close connection with the communist vanguard of the proletariat.
e. The organisation of revolutionaries in the different moments of the class struggle
While the general organisation of the class and the organisation of revolutionaries are two different things as far as their function is concerned, as far as their function is concerned, the circumstances in which they arise are also different. The councils appear only in periods of revolutionary confrontation when all the struggles of the class tend towards the seizure of power. However the effort of the class to develop its consciousness has existed at all times since its origins and will exist until its dissolution into communist society. This is why communist minorities have existed in every period as an expression of this constant effort. But the scope, the influence, the type of activity, and the mode of organisation of these minorities are closely linked to the conditions of the class struggle.

In the periods of intense class activity, these minorities have a direct influence on the practical course of events. One can then speak of the party to describe the organisation of the communist vanguard. On the other hand, in periods of defeat or of downturn in the class struggle, revolutionaries no longer have a direct influence on the immediate course of history.

All that can exist at such times are organisations of a much smaller size whose function is no longer to influence the immediate movement, but to resist it, which means struggling against the current while the class is being disarmed and mobilised by the bourgeoisie (through class collaboration, ‘Sacred Union’, ‘the Resistance’, ‘anti-fascism’, etc). Their essential task then is to draw the lessons of previous experience and so prepare the theoretical and programmatic framework for the future proletarian party which must necessarily emerge in the next upsurge of the class. These groups and fractions who, when the class struggle is on the ebb, have detached themselves from the degenerating party or have survived its demise, have the task of constituting a political and organisational bridge until the re-emergence of the party.
f. The structure of the organisation of revolutionaries
The necessarily world-wide and centralised character of the proletarian revolution confers the same world-wide and centralised character on the party of the working class, and the fractions and groups who lay the basis of the party necessarily tend towards a world-wide centralisation. This is concretised in the existence of central organs invested with political responsibilities between each of the organisation’s congresses, to which they are accountable.

The structure of the organisation of revolutionaries must take two fundamental needs into account:

* it must permit the fullest development in revolutionary consciousness within itself and thus allow the widest and most searching discussion of all the questions and disagreements which arise in a non-monolithic organisation;
* it must at the same time ensure the organisation’s cohesion and unity of action; in particular this means that all parts of the organisation must carry out the decisions of the majority.

Likewise the relations between the different parts of the organisation and the ties between militants necessarily bear the scars of capitalist society and therefore cannot constitute an island of communist relations within capitalism. Nevertheless, they cannot be in flagrant contradiction with the goal pursued by revolutionaries, and they must of necessity be based on that solidarity and mutual confidence which are the hallmarks of belonging to an organisation of the class which is the bearer of communism.

Devrim

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Leutha
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Apr 15 2010 10:18

As regards the ICC they can properly be considered Left Leninist or even Left Bolshevik. It is of course tue that they are a vanguardist organisation even if they failed to create an actual vanguard - so I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief there.
I have always found Left Bolshevism unsatisfactory - a revolutionary gloss attached to an antiquated framework - and perhaps the ICC can best be seen as Left Bolshevik heritage group.

baboon
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Apr 15 2010 12:42

Gravedigger thinks that "it is safe to presume that there is a hierarchy of self-appointed leaders within the ICC". This, Gravediggers "safe" presumption about a self-appointed ICC leadership, is totally at odds with my experience with the ICC and totally at odds with everything that they've written about "leadership", including self-appointed leaders. But don' let that bother you Gravedigger, just keep repeating your "safe presumptions" and then you can draw your equally "safe" conclusion that the ICC is part of "the capitalist political structure".

Android
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Apr 15 2010 12:48
Leutha wrote:
As regards the ICC they can properly be considered Left Leninist or even Left Bolshevik

.
In a sense yes. Since they trace there origins to the left-wing of social democracy (Second International) and of the Comintern. But not really because what people commonly undertand as Leninism (partyist substitutionism, support for national liberation movement etc) can not be attributed to them.

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miles
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Apr 15 2010 18:25

Agree with Baboon.

There's no need to many too many assumptions - if you go to the sitemap on the ICC website you'll see (under the heading "Heritage of the Communist Left") a section entitled "Revolutionary Organisation" which currently has 37 articles in it, including a 2 part series entitled "Have we become Leninists? Part 1 and 2, here.

Also, a long time ago (1983 to be exact) we published a reference text for the whole organisation - the title is fairly self-explanatory
"Against the concept of the 'Brilliant Leader'"

Wellclose Square
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Apr 16 2010 16:27

Leutha wrote

Quote:
I have always found Left Bolshevism unsatisfactory - a revolutionary gloss attached to an antiquated framework - and perhaps the ICC can best be seen as Left Bolshevik heritage group.

That would seem to be consistent with the ICC's fixation with Bakunin, which appears very anachronistic.

The ICC once denounced Class War for describing it as national bolshevik, presumably in reference to the ICC's Eurocentrism (the whole centre/periphery thing). A case of the pot calling the kettle black, in view of Class War's subsequent pandering to a kind of social nationalism.

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Apr 17 2010 11:59
ronan.mcnabb wrote:
Leutha wrote:
As regards the ICC they can properly be considered Left Leninist or even Left Bolshevik

.
In a sense yes. Since they trace there origins to the left-wing of social democracy (Second International) and of the Comintern. But not really because what people commonly understand as Leninism (partyist substitutionism, support for national liberation movement etc) can not be attributed to them.

Lenin was a wily practical politician who maintained his leadership position as much by dint of his personality rather than by having a 100% coherent view. The myth of Lenin was developed long before he was embalmed, and became a unifying element of how the Bolsheviks seized and maintained power. I find the ICCs approach quite unrealistic - probably this arises from their essentially intellectual attitude to class struggle which involves drawing out abstract positions as so-called "lessons" rather than seeing the struggles unfolding as part of the sensuous life of proletarians as flesh and blood human beings. Another source the ICC draw on is, of course Rosa Luxembourg whose tragic premature death meant that we will never know how she would have handled the defeat of the revolution, and whether this would have thrust her into all manner of compromises.

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Apr 17 2010 13:01

What is a vanguard, or to use a similar term, an 'avant-garde'? In itself it just means those who are ahead of others, whether theoretically, practically, or both, unless we think that class consciousness is completely homogenous throughout the working class at all times. In that sense, all those elements who have a clearer view of the nature of capitalist society and the necessity for communism are in the vanguard, and this includes revolutionary anarchists and councilists who say they are against the concept of the party. The concept only becomes ridiculous or pernicious when a single group or party claims to be the only expression of this proletarian vanguard, or argues that it gives them a divine right to rule over the rest of the class.

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Apr 17 2010 13:08

treble post

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Alf
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Apr 17 2010 13:10

treble post.

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Leutha
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Apr 17 2010 18:27

Both vanguard and avant-garde are military terms with quite distinct meanings which unfortunately became confused. a long time ago.

The vanguard originally were the units, often veterans, who guarded the treasury of the army (the van) as opposed to the body guards of the general or emperor, who guarded the person of the leader. Both of these contained mature men, of known loyalty with great deal of combat experience who played a crucial role safeguarding the leader and his war-chest

The avant-guard played a different role, consisting of younger more agile troops who would be sent ahead to seize objectives before the rest of the army could get in place. Often these would be cavalry or light infantry equipped with rifles (in the Napoleonic terms through which this concept passed into political theory).

Alf's interpretation of the term might indicate a manner of thinking acceptable to such groups as the ICC, but actually lacks clarity. By positing a linear view of class consciousness with those who are "ahead of others", and then suggesting that any other view implies "that class consciousness is completely homogenous throughout the working class at all times" the complexities class consciousness are reduced to an abstraction.

In reality the class struggle places different groups in different positions consequential to the material conditions in this or that locality. This is not a linear relationship. In this way it becomes easier to understand why the KAPD found itself with the National Bolsheviks (Laufenberg and Wolfheim are the best known writers of this tendency in its 1919 manifestation) amongst their ranks.

The reason these two groupings found themselves together is that whereas the working class of Berlin had been defeated in the Spartacist uprising, the less centralised structure of German industry meant that this had less impact on workers in other parts of Germany (particularly Hamburg and the Ruhr). (In fact the German military, which more or less constituted a state within a state was more unified than the German state as a whole).

Faced with the threat of further military action by the allies, the Hamburg National Bolsheviks proposed an alliance with the military, or even with the semi-independent Frei Korps. (Certainly some of the Red Army of the Ruhr came out of the Frei Korps, and while the structure of the Frei Korps and associated veteran organisations ensured the hegemony of right wing politics, we should not ignore the fact that some veterans became active in proletarian fighting organisations.

Looked in the round, the seeming contradiction of the KAPD being left Communist but having ardent nationalists in their midst can be better understood. If you read Laufenberg it is clear that he supports the rejection of parliamentary action in favour of Workers Councils - often fetishised as a Left Communist position.

When the ICC speak of the "forward march of the workers' consciousness" to borrow a phrase from the ICCs Communist Organisations and Class Consciousness (http://en.internationalism.org/pamphlets/class) they reproduce this linear mode of thought. From this they soon derive "the role of the clearest organisations must be the constitution of an international pole of regroupment" (p123 of that text).

This is why it is correct to describe the ICC as vanguardist rather than consituting a vanguard. Some may regard it as a shame that the ICC has not been able to produce material as good as this in recent years, but that is symptomatic of the decline of revolutionary politics since the sixties, something which the ICC is a product rather than a cause. That booklet remains interesting notwithstanding the evident flaws in the ICC's approach.

They come to see themselves as the avante garde of the avante garde and regard themselves as the kernal around which the once and future party will congeal, even though they believe that they will have to come together with other groups.

What actually is proposed can be seen from the horse trading which accompanied the formation of the ICC, which they then theorise a sought of organicism in which "the organisation has to have rules of organisation and specific organs which allow it to act not as a sum of dispersed cells but as a single body with a balanced metabolism" (ibid p122).

I am not sure that it can be dismissed as mere coincidence that William Ritter's The unity of the organism, or the organismal conception of life was published in 1919, seeking to overcome both mechanicism and vitalism.

The emptiness of their position is also revealed in this pamphlet: they Quote Rosa Luxemburg from 1918 calling for the setting up "leading organisms capable of using and guiding the combative energy of the workers" then ruefully comment that this was sadly not put into practice at the time, but sublate it into setting up propaganda groups.

Of course, reality is different and the Ruhr March Uprising happened precisely because communists had prepared to set up workers councils in the event of a general strike being called - which is why they were able to organise the uprising.

The resultant perspectives which emerged following the defeat of the series of uprisings which mark the German revolution led to a range of views, from which the ICC chose to highlight those of certain elements within the KAPD.

Work needs to be done to have a better grasp of the social and political make up of the different elements of these high points of revolutionary struggle, work which goes beyond the linear organisicism of the ICC

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Apr 17 2010 20:46
mciver wrote:
Gravedigger takes no prisoners. This is in marked contrast to some who are inclined to accept the myth of the ICC's communist nature. They can't see that groups that claim 'heritage' from the Bolshevik Party, be they Trotskyists or left communists like the ICC, are rackets (using the concept as developed mostly by Camatte and Collu). Regardless of what these rackets preach, their everyday practices reveal them as most definitely part of the existing political spectrum. They don't point to the alternative of an emancipated future.

In 1939 Otto Rühle correctly described the Russian empire that emerged from October 1917 (under the Bolshevik Lenin) as the prototype fascist state. In this sense the Bolsheviks of Lenin were the 'redshirts' or storm troopers of a new anti-proletarian state.

Gravedigger is correct about the ICC:

Quote:
If you are a vanguard party it means you have leaders who set the party line, define the rules or constitution, determine party activity, expel those who dissent, interpret procedures to suit their own agenda, instigate witch hunts, verbally abuse those members who oppose their version of events and are addicted control freaks.

The aim of a vanguard party, by definition, is to treat the workers has grist for the mincer. For the working class are incapable of thinking for themselves and need directions from the vanguard on the nearest cul de sac. Self-emancipation according to the self-appointed vanguard, can only be brought about by 'professional revolutionaries' whose superior knowledge ensures the day to day tactics are correct and strictly followed in a dogmatic fashion. For what is the point of leaders if they have no followers? Seems that with such a party structure you are most definitely on the left of the capitalist political spectrum.

Predictable denials by ICC hacks have followed Gravedigger's analysis. But the evidence confirms that the ICC have always treated their oppositionists and seceders like they will be compelled to treat the working class one day: in a manipulative and violent way (that is, if they ever achieve some real power).

Mark Chirik, the ICC's founding egocrat, used to declare loud and clearly to his chekists: 'I am a Bolshevik'. This seemed like a war cry and a warning to all concerned. The promise was there, as in 1917, -- if workers disobey the Bolshevik Party, then this can only mean petty-bourgeois or 'parasitic' influences. Retaliation and coercion will follow because these workers are now class enemies, not authentic proletarians. The early Bolsheviks' intimidation and crushing of the working class and peasantry from 1917-18 are justified as 'mistakes' by the ICC. As if shooting and terrorising people was something done in virginal innocence, a 'lesson' that mistaken Bolsheviks unfortunately didn't grasp. Or as if 'internationalist credentials' in 1914-17 conferred special dispensations to slaughter and terrorise workers and civil society. The penny dropped years later, in the dulled brains of the Italian Left --- that killing workers wasn't such a neat idea after all. Yes, let's suggest this as a 'class line', a 'big question' like Devrim frets, one open to future referendums. Maybe held inside new Lubyankas?

In the self-serving history of the ICC, the hullabaloo about 'stolen typewriters', 'unreturned internal bulletins', 'unpaid dues' and plots by 'parasites' and 'adventurers' serving world capital consciously or not, was a smokescreen. It was used to terminate debate and justify the expulsion of troublesome people. These campaigns of intimidation via the violent re-appropriation of material, plus theft of hostage goods and slandering individuals, undermined the ICC's claims that violence cannot be used to settle disputes within the class. But as a vanguard of the class, it didn't have to be accountable to anyone, as vanguards of the class know which violence is best for the proletariat and mankind.

Just because an ICC hack in Libcom claims that he dissents often and hasn't been abused or expelled doesn't prove that intimidating and violent actions haven't been used against past oppositionists. Claiming also 'that's before my time' shows how naive or deceitful arrivistes can be when whitewashing their cult.

For example, the 'direct action' carried out by the ICC in 1981 -- Alf's heroic misnomer for chekist gangster raids -- was aimed to physically hurt oppositionists, and it's mendacious to pretend that force wasn't the aim also in recuperating ICC bulletins. How could the bulletins be separated from typewriters or 'unpaid dues'? Could the apparat's bailiffs make the distinction? The 'welcoming of JK's post' by his sidekick Alf, on his fraternal post 12 of February 5, 2010 (The Question of Parasitism Letter... thread), cynically admits that force was essential to recuperate typewriters (and steal one as a bonus!). By whingeing that his house was broken into, he hides that at oppositionists' homes in Manchester, London and Lille, phone lines were cut and torn from walls, and individuals roughed up, even if they didn't resist the thugs set upon them.

A new party line may follow, like: 'OK, we made mistakes, that was in the past, let bygones be bygones, we are all amigos in the 'thin red line', but now we will play fair and smarmy, as we are studying Ethics and Freud'. They may even agree to some psychoanalysis, though therapists trained to cure left communist rackets are rare. They may borrow one from the CWO/ICT, who, compared with ICC zealots, seem to be sectioned in the good-behaviour ward.

Why some 'communists' are considered the 'left' of others is really an esoteric and pointless issue, like asking which racket is healthier for its inmates.

This is pretty fucked up....Who done the roughing up? And were they expelled from the ICC?

baboon
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Apr 17 2010 21:00

As inconsequential as it is, I'm quite happy to be considered a Bolshevik. For me, bolshevism was the international expression of the working class during the revolutionary wave of 1905-1928ish. It was defeated by a counter-revolution that the isolated Russian SDLP couldn't avoid being sucked into - not least from its earlier mistakes - Revolutionary War being one of them.

For some on here bolshevism is dead and buried. Not for me. The red thread has been maintained with the assistence of left communism and all the other expressions of the working class. Turning imperialist war into civil war and all power to the soviets concretely expressed the heights of class consciousness and absolutely represents the fundamentals of the revolutionary perspective today. Anything that represents the interests of the working class towards these ends will, today, by necessity - unless you believe in the religious transformation of society at a stroke - initially be an expression of a minority. That seems fairly obvious. What does this minority do in the meantime? Go away? Or fight for a possible future that it believes in beyond capitalism? Forget dictionary definitions - most people on here, all in fact, who contribute something to working class organisation from an internationalist perspective are a vanguard in the sense of putting themselves out in front. The necessity for organisation coming out of this stares you in the face.

Similarly, in relation to the development of class consciousness among workers, there's a myriad of subjective and objective factors. But most strikes or actions of workers start off from a minority who to all intents and purposes are vanguards of the struggle. What are they supposed to do - keep quiet and wait for everyone all at once to see this or that particular need for struggle and organisation? That, under some weird anti-vanguard conception, would be a recipe for disaster.

RedHughs
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Apr 17 2010 22:36
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Alf's interpretation of the term might indicate a manner of thinking acceptable to such groups as the ICC, but actually lacks clarity. By positing a linear view of class consciousness with those who are "ahead of others", and then suggesting that any other view implies "that class consciousness is completely homogenous throughout the working class at all times" the complexities class consciousness are reduced to an abstraction.

Now I can't why Alf's interpretation of the term implies a linear view.

The only thing that it really implies to me is a non-homogeneous working class. To me, it doesn't seem particular hard to go from talking about a more advanced section to talking about a variety of groups which might be more advanced in various ways and at various times.

But rather than just projecting one or another position onto the ICC, I think we should ask.

so @ALF, @Baboon or other ICCers, do you think that there can only be one vanguard group or is it possible that in one or another processes of struggle different group might be advanced in different ways and at different time?

I wouldn't object to an answer like "yes this is possible, even likely at various times, but it would be good for different advanced groups to unify their efforts as much as practical", since I agree. Once a revolution is in the offing, it will be important for those different advanced groups to work together. Remember the example of Leutha, the German Revolution, was a powerful but failed attempt. Part of the failure of involved a failure of the working class to act as a whole against it's enemies. This isn't saying that unity should ever be mindless pursued but it seems like unified proletarian action is something that will have to be reached at some point.

I would certainly agree that the ICC uses archaic Leninist rhetoric and wooden language in their publications and interventions. This would suggest a linear or static view of the world. But hey, these are desperate times and everyone is going to have to change, whether ICCer or reactionary proletarian.

Wellclose Square
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Apr 18 2010 00:09

Baboon wrote:

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Anything that represents the interests of the working class towards these ends will, today, by necessity - unless you believe in the religious transformation of society at a stroke - initially be an expression of a minority.

The italicised bit rings alarm bells for me, maybe it's about time I reread The Proletariat as Subject and as Representation. In any case, didn't Marx say words to the effect that 'the emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class itself'? Social democracy (and its logic of representation) isn't the same as communism, I would have thought, however militant its poses, and the Bolsheviks were just a militant strand of social democracy.

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Leutha
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Apr 18 2010 10:35

Perhaps I could expand in away the touches on more general issues rather than the peculiarities of the ICC.

When we analyse the past we do so with the shortcomings of hindsight. Unlike the people at the time (which may have been our former selves), we can theorise chains of cause and event based on what actually happened, whereas those acting in a given circumstance can only speculate about potentialities. These constitute two different ways of reasoning.

Leninism, as an ideology fostered by the Third International, took the body of reasoning by Lenin developed in the latter fashion, and transformed it by post facto considerations: i.e. the success of Lenin and Bolshevism more generally generated diamat (by which I mean the particular slant on dialectical materialism adopted by the Third International) to create a stultifying manner of keeping the party apparatus in order. This of course necessitated more and more historical falsification as Bolshevism turned into Stalinism. This retro-jection creates a linear model, a time sequence, which can then be used in subordinating the party apparatus to a party line which is determined by the leadership.

Dauvé and Authier have a different take on this when they speak of:

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The revolution of the future will not be a mere matter of “imitation”; it will be a question of continuing the “thread of time” traced by the International Communist Left.

http://libcom.org/library/chapter-17-international-communist-left
They then proceed to describe different Left Communist currents and round off with comments such as:

Quote:
To speak of an “international communist left” is not to impose a structure on a multitude of movements which are as varied as they are unlike one another. It is obvious that the revolutionary “solution” for the epoch could not have consisted in a mindless agglomeration of all these tendencies. Only a minority had arrived at a (relatively) correct view and had tried to act on that basis. The “German” and “Italian” communist lefts had in part cleared the way for communist perspectives, while the anarchists and revolutionary syndicalists of all stripes remained trapped in the past, even though a considerable number of them were revolutionaries. Even the German and Italian Lefts were still the prisoners of serious errors. Confusion reigned everywhere, but it was not shared equally.

and their concluding remark:

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Considered as a whole, the course of the revolutionary movement did not depend on the Left, but on the extent and depth of the social crisis, including the greater or lesser capacity of the proletarians to organize themselves with a view to destroying capitalist society.
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Alf
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Apr 18 2010 13:08

Red, yes to your question and to your own answer to your question. It is evident that the 'vanguard' (and if some other term is preferable because this is too 'military', fine) is and will always be made up of different currents and organisations, even if the tendency towards unification is to be encouraged and pushed forward.
I don't think our conception is 'linear'. Lenin himself was able to admit that the masses could often be 'to the left' of the party in a revolutionary situation. Any political organisation can become fossilised and unable to keep up with the real movement; the test of whether it's a living organism (can't see the problem with that analogy) is its capacity to throw off outmoded conceptions and integrate new concrete experiences into the 'programme', as in the case of the soviets for example...

mciver
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Apr 19 2010 06:53

Devrim

I will accept that you are genuinely sorry for my time in a racket. This is like describing time inside a panopticon, which is accurate. But inmates are most traumatised when inside, not when they escape. This is perhaps what you mean when you accept that the ICC must have destroyed or demoralised many people, and that the damage spread internally. The condition is probably quite worrying for people who have overstayed their time, some doing more than three tenners. But it's never too late: escaping from an apparat usually revives the individual, brings back independent thinking outside the paranoia and omnipotence of a false community.

The history of oppositions and seceders from Révolution Internationale and the ICC is a long story, and like the Pirandello play, accounts vary depending on the actors and witnesses. Some key ones are dead now. I can only hope that the history is told one day with as much objectivity as possible. However, to focus on the trauma of individuals or groups can deflect from broader historical issues.

True, it's not always deceitful to admit 'that's before my time'. Yet, as part of an organisation that claims to strive for the highest consciousness, I take it that new members have the duty to become aware of these past fractures. Not all the relevant facts may be at hand, but the effort of clarification is worthy so that truth prevails in the end. For example, to understand the actions and motivations of Chénier and the Lille section, who started as energetic and devoted ICC militants. Chénier was never a 'state agent', his integrity is confirmed in his written contributions and disagreements before he became a scapegoat. They must exist in the archives in Paris. The unproven charges were just defamation and slander, and the ICC deserve to be denounced to the end of their days for this. This is just one example, there are many others, like that of the ex-CBG. Some of the ex-CBG remain loyal to an idealised ICC. I don't see any basis to that, but one must respect their integrity.

The ICC's Theses on Parasitism (1998) are worthless, a modern Malleus Maleficarum which has rebounded against its authors. Ingram and others have demolished this text on these posts. Yet even in 2009 Alf recommended them to Yearzero:

Quote:
'best place to start is here [link to Theses on Parasitism in ICC site]." (Alf, post 1, 18 Nov 09, Question of Parasitism)

A mendacious letter from Internationalism, the ICC US section (probably by the late Jerry Grevin) also supports this text:

Quote:
"... we would like to clarify what we mean by “political parasitism”, which is not simply an insult to be hurled at anyone we disagree with. You are doubtless aware of the “Theses on parasitism” which set out in some detail our view of the question, ..." (Letter to Internationalist Perspectives, April 2009, <http://internationalist-perspective.org/IP/ip-discussions/appeal-response.html#note-3>

Only parasitologists or arthropods would claim that 'parasite' is not an insult.

The oppositionists or seceders, even those of 2001, were never secret agents, informers, parasites, freemasons or adventurers. I'm referring not only to ex-'foot soldiers' but also ex-founding members in central organs, who were eliminated gradually by Chirik and sycophants over the years, aided by Bolshevisers like Krespel. But I don't believe that the past oppositionists offered credible alternatives to the ICC, or the way forward for what's called 'left communism'. But that's another issue.

You say that time will show whether the ICC can repair itself from the damage it has done to itself, and undo the damage to others. It is clear that I don't think it can, not because members like you won't try, but because of deeper historical and social trends, some related to the evolution of the class struggle, some not. From hindsight we can say that the ICC's impasse wasn't created by Chirik alone or even by the unconscious legacies of Treint, Stalin or Lenin. No left communist organisation today has been able to resist society's monolithic trends. This incapacity for self-correction, a symptom of an objective terminal decline, affects all groups like the ICT and Bordiguists, not just the ICC. Platforms and statutes, contradicted in practice by totalitarian practices, have not safeguarded against decay, confirming that 'left communism' never stopped being, like Trotskyism, a left fraction of Stalinism.

It is not a secret or a mystery that the ICC has leaders. How else could monolithic centralism unfold? Cleishbotham confirms that they do exist:

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"The ICC have done enormous discredit to the internationalist communist left in their penchant for abusive name calling. They have a French comrade (Fabienne) who is a master publicist and this is his special skill. It is a pity that WR comrades have never opposed this ..." (Cleishbotham post 143, Dec 1, 2009, The Question of Parasitism)

But they did in 1980-81 and failed to change anything. Although Cleishbotham attempts to incite the WR 'comrades' against the central apparat, the point stands that 'master publicists' can make or unmake the organisation. Platforms or statutes are useless against the paranoiac arbitrariness of leaders. 'Egocrats' (Perlman's term) are very adept at twisting practices and rules to get what they want, in between congresses or even at them. Waslax corroborates this:

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... (the ICC central organs) also refused to let them (the Tendency comrades) participate in the ICC Congress of 1985 unless they signed a loyalty oath beforehand to agree with whatever the outcome of the Congress was. Not exactly very hospitable or comradely, not to mention, tolerant of internal differences." (Post 13, Nov 28, 2009, The Question of Parasitism)

It makes no difference that the ICC site has a huge collection of texts on organisation and one against 'brilliant leaders'. How could texts exorcise totalitarian practices? It's pointless to mention these archival texts, as if they were a self-explanatory retort to critics like Gravedigger.

Did 'Against the Brilliant Leader' of 1947 immunise Chirik, or the ICC, against the fanatical obedience to 'brilliant genius leaders' like himself? Did anyone in Révolution Internationale and the other sections (apart from WR) oppose the hit squads and calumnies of 1981, which Chirik imposed on the whole ICC and planned with relentless sadism? Did anyone forbid him to transport himself to the crime scenes in London? After all, he was still recovering from a very serious heart operation. Didn't his followers feel that he was irreplaceable? But no matter, who would have dared stop him? The 'defence of the organisation' and his bruised macho ego won the day. It was imperative that he was the avant-garde of the hit squads, that he personally directed the apocalyptic war against 'parasites' and agents of world capital. If the the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then the ICC's practices confirmed their critics' claims.

Allybaba asks "Who done the roughing up? And were they expelled from the ICC?"

FM's hit squad entered Chénier's flat in Lille, who was alone. Although Chénier offered no resistance, he was pushed around, threatened and his phone line cut in front of him. The typewriter, which had been bought by the Lille section partially with their personal funds, was taken by the chekists. No negotiation, no discussion, nothing, only the rage of the hit. In Manchester R Weyden was roughed up and threatened but he's not around to corroborate details. In 1981 he said he was hit. According to Knightrose

Quote:
"... the manchester comrades felt that they had been the victims of an act of violence." (Post 18, Feb 5, 2010, The Question of Parasitism Letter (edited) to Ingram...)

No, Chirik and his hit squads did not expel themselves from the ICC. Chénier and the short-lived group L'ouvrier internationaliste, put forward a 'jury of honour' proposal to deal with the raids and slanders, but this charade wasn't followed up by any of the existing left communist rackets. Certainly not by the ICC, which never mentioned it. Not that it would have made any difference, the spectacle would have only prolonged the agony of racketeering.

gypsy
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Apr 18 2010 18:33

Mciver. Thanks for getting back to me and for writing about your experiences in the ICC.

mciver
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Apr 18 2010 22:12

That's fine Allybaba. Maybe it will help others leave or avoid a racket.

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mikail firtinaci
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Apr 21 2010 17:13

I have left the ICC months ago. I still hold some funds and publications that belongs to them which I will soon give back to them. Still in these months they neither threatened me nor attacked me. On the contrary they were very fraternal since I had lots of problems.

I feel that I had to tell this since I think that when somebody criticise the ICC it is the incidents that can be used in the most scandalous ways are taken up.

I thought about ICC and its impact on the milleu a lot after leaving the ICC. I can say that it can be difficult for some to think without blacks/whites after leaving an organisation that they believed in heart. To put the most terrible blames on the organisation and to speak in haste and with rage can be relieving. I think this is the essence of parasitism. It is very human and from my perspective understandable. After all everyone fears to face the feeling of abandoning his own cause. Still this act out of an irrational fear is the thing that would lead to the practice of parasitism.

On the other hand there are examples of communists who can maintain some kind of revolutionary theory/practive even after leaving their organisations - the history of the communist left in 1920's itself is full of these kind of examples. Still in this period in which even the organisations can find themselves in severe isolation it is much more difficult for individual communists to fight with that. I think that is another reason why the anti-ICC behaviour is so violent among the people who left it.

Saying these I am not implying that ICC is an organisation without any problem. But there is a difference between labeling the ICC as leninist with a leadership cult and and saying that ICC has problems.

mciver
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Apr 23 2010 21:57

You say:

Quote:
I have left the ICC months ago. I still hold some funds and publications that belongs to them which I will soon give back to them. Still in these months they neither threatened me nor attacked me. On the contrary they were very fraternal since I had lots of problems.

What's your point? Who claimed that the ICC would 'threaten' or 'attack' anyone who left? Regarding publications that 'belong to them', it's clear that the apparat have clinched the matter about who owns their turgid internal bulletins. But in 1975-1981 this 'ownership' wasn't clear or in the statutes. That's why many seceders assumed they owned them. Of course this gave Chirik and his hit squads another excuse to plunder them, in addition to trying to claw back 'unpaid dues' and 'stolen typewriters' (the case was not straight-forward in Lille, where Chénier and Blaise half-purchased a golf-ball typewriter with the ICC).

Most apparatchiks are not pathological thugs but quite common fanatics. If you have had lots of problems, of course they would be fraternal and understanding, as you say. After all, a member is a big investment for a racket. The amount of time taken to convert 'contacts' into zealous Bolsheviks can be huge. Even more if one extracts them from anarchist 'swamps'. If you don't suffer from spells of clannish or factional urges, the 'central organs' may keep a good file on you, so don't worry. Advice: just purge parasitic thoughtcrime, pay the dues, return the bulletins (soon!), and your door will not splinter under the blows of the French Inquisition. But your case about their fraternal humanism is not pertinent because you are not launching a new 'parasite' brand. Thus you are not to become an 'other' deserving threats, punches, lootings or endless recitals of La Fontaine fables.

You seem to think that what happened in 1981 were unimportant incidents:

Quote:
I feel that I had to tell this since I think that when somebody criticise the ICC it is the incidents that can be used in the most scandalous ways are taken up.

Unfortunately these 'incidents', were crimes. But they revealed the nature of the ICC, and by implication the whole genealogy of left-communism. What is most scandalous is that they happened almost unopposed, and zealots still ignore or justify them. You are in denial of the implications. The ICC -- an 'organ of the proletariat' -- was ready to terminate itself in November 1981 through their cheka raids against ex-members. What Alf proudly glorifies as 'direct action' to ingratiate himself with anarchist 'swamps'. Chirik should have thanked the dexterity of an English locksmith, who changed parasitic locks overnight: a new meaning to 'my kingdom for a lock!', and fate granted this, just as Chirik was ready to plunge his racket into the abyss.

There is no need to recount here all what happened in 1981: Ingram's exposés of those grim events are totally scrupulous with the truth. The raids and calumnies of 1981 had precedents in the slanderous polarisations of Révolution Internationale against GS, Bérard and others. Taking a longer and more considered view as to the genealogy of rackets, there's ample evidence that these totalitarian and repressive practices were present in the workers' movement of the 19C. Naturally they were endemic in the Jacobin clubs of the French Revolution, as they were in the later Marxist and anarchist rackets. Bolshevism and Stalinism expanded the use of terror, murder, calumnies, geometrically. In the case of the Bolsheviks, the repression and war launched against soviet civil society targeted workers and peasants from early 1918, which made Rühle conclude that it was a first prototype of fascism. Other anarchist witnesses voiced similar dire warnings, and not 20 years later.

With due respect, these comments are bewildering:

Quote:
I can say that it can be difficult for some to think without blacks/whites after leaving an organisation that they believed in heart. To put the most terrible blames on the organisation and to speak in haste and with rage can be relieving. I think this is the essence of parasitism. It is very human and from my perspective understandable. After all everyone fears to face the feeling of abandoning his own cause. Still this act out of an irrational fear is the thing that would lead to the practice of parasitism.

I have no idea why you joined and left the ICC. But those details are somewhat irrelevant to your comments about ICC critics, and the discussion 'why are some communists considered to be to the 'left' of others' is of little interest, as I consider all left communist groups to be rackets. They don't represent the proletariat as they claim. Nobody does. The myth of the Bolshevik Party and the Lenin cult are regressive and destructive fantasies. If this is ignored, how can one explain the pathology of what happens inside neo-Bolshevik rackets, the alienated rituals, the bizarre newspeak, the self-serving historical parodies, the implicit internal violence, the rage and contempt against 'others' like the 'parasites'? This is a real tradition that apparatchiks ignore and minimise, to keep 'their own cause' pure and intransigent. That is why they ignore and conceal their own totalitarian practices, and focus on the purity of historical positions and texts.

I don't follow what you think is the essence and practice of 'parasitism'. Obviously you agree with the insult 'parasite'. It seems that 'parasitism' is to

Quote:
... put the most terrible blames on the organisation and to speak in haste and with rage ...

This reduces criticism to personal trauma, a well-known deflector. The crucial historical dimension is avoided by deviating the attention to the 'trauma' of ex-members. However, as I maintain, the 'terrible blames' are real crimes, amply verified by the evidence. If you disagree that these events happened, prove it. This isn't done by attempting to deflect the charges by saying that the critic has 'haste' and 'rage', or that 'relief' is found by blaming a racket for (imaginary?) events. Regarding haste, hardly, it's going to be 29 years in November when Chirik's chekists were unleashed on the streets of Lille, London and other English cities. Rage? Possibly, those who have endured lootings and defamations have a case, even if the events happened 30 or 300 years ago. In 1981 the more unstable chekists used to bleat 'we are not pacifists', threatening seceders with hospitalisation. Now, why should the accosted critics NOT feel enraged at these abuses? Why imply that they should be pacifists? Or would you suggest that they suffer from 'false memories'?

Paradoxically, you find that critics who engage with the essence and practice of parasitism are still carrying out human and understandable acts. How can this be? This is a remarkable volte-face and it may earn you a sudden visit from the bailiffs! For years parasites were hammered as covert or unconscious agents of the 'world bourgeoisie', akin to reptilian hidden species co-ordinating evil attacks against proletarian enclaves like the ICC. That is the language of Vishinsky, or Lenin against Kronstadt '21, revived. Be careful Mikail!

Your explanation below contains fruitful insights, that you should explore. However, the 'violent anti-ICC behaviour' is an inversion of what happened, and a paranoid projection of the ICC. The 'severe isolation' you mention is a real determining factor, yet you don't face up to the consequences of that premise. A 'period' of more than 40 years of complete isolation and irrelevancy is nearly two generations gone, and it's of no use to base any new theory/practice on the contaminated and uncriticised 'heritage of the communist left', a tradition that added blindly to the alienation and isolation of revolutionaries and critics.

.

Quote:
.. there are examples of communists who can maintain some kind of revolutionary theory/practive even after leaving their organisations - the history of the communist left in 1920's itself is full of these kind of examples. Still in this period in which even the organisations can find themselves in severe isolation it is much more difficult for individual communists to fight with that. I think that is another reason why the anti-ICC behaviour is so violent among the people who left it.

I hope you resolve all your problems well, and happily.