Left Communism and Bolshevism

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Steve
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May 3 2006 09:23
Left Communism and Bolshevism

admin edit - split from libcommunity

revol68 wrote:
Just before all youse ladies throw yourselves from Parisian lofts, revol68 is not gay.

Could have been much worse, they could have said you were a platformist. wink

Steve
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May 3 2006 09:24

or left communist.

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Devrim
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May 3 2006 09:29

Is this a sort of experiment? Coming out as gay is less embarassing than coming out as a Left communist, so you are just seeing how it goes down.

Dev

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Devrim
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May 3 2006 12:59

Nasty Ned,

Why do you equate the left communists with the Bolsheviks?

Devrim

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Devrim
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May 3 2006 13:30

Revol wrote:

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well most left communists didn't break from bolshevism to very late on, the heritage that Bordigists and groups like the ICC claim is one that stems from internal opposition factions within the Bolsheviks, workers opposition etc.

Yes, but they did break from it. In 1917, the entire working class movement, including the anarchists, supported the Russian revolution. So is it down to a matter of who broke first?

The Left Communists in Russia were condemning the Bolshevik parties turn towards state capitalism in 1918:

Quote:
“The introduction of labour discipline in connection with the restoration of capitalist management of industry cannot considerably increase the productivity of labour, but it will diminish the class initiative, activity and organisation of the proletariat. It threatens to enslave the working class; it will rouse discontent among the backward elements as well as among the vanguard of the proletariat. In order to implement this system in the face of the hatred prevailing among the proletariat against the ’capitalist saboteurs’, the Communist Party would have to rely on the petty bourgeoisie, as against the workers, and in this way would ruin itself as the party of the proletariat” (Kommunist No. 1, p. 8, col. 2, April 20th 1918).

Yes, Bordiga broke late (in 1926), but it was a time of immense confusion, and lots of segments of the worker’s movement didn't know how to react to the degeneration of the Russian revolution. Bordiga was very confused about the Russian revolution, but on other things he was amazingly clear.

Dev

nastyned
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May 3 2006 21:59
Devrim wrote:
Nasty Ned,

Why do you equate the left communists with the Bolsheviks?

Devrim

Because Left Communists see themselves as being in the Bolshevik tradition. They called themselves 'Left Communists' because they saw themselves as being on the left of the Bolshevik Third International.

The sensible ones of course did then break fully with Bolshevism and adopted the term Council Communist as they no longer wished to be seen as the left wing of Bolshevism.

The not so sensible ones that still use the term Left Communist in many ways aren't much different from the Trotskyists - they may have broken with the politics of the Third International but this is not because they reject Bolsehvism. No, it's because they see themselves as being the true Bolsheviks and all other tendencies as deviations from Bolshevism.

The groups that describe themselves as 'Left Communist' in modern Britain are certainly thoroughly Bolshevik.

I know some people do use 'left communist' to describe all sorts of Marxist groups to the left of Trotskyism but I don't think this is the correct usage of the term.

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May 3 2006 22:30

Ned,

I don't want to argue about semantics, but words are important. You yourself said

Quote:
I know some people do use 'left communist' to describe all sorts of Marxist groups to the left of Trotskyism but I don't think this is the correct usage of the term.

I think that maybe you should define what you mean by 'Bolshevisim'. To our group the 'Left Communist' tradition means the rejection of parliamentarianism, and Social democracy, the rejection of any form of nationalism, and the rejection of the trade unions. In fact, the positions that the KAPD, the left communists in Germany, stood for. We don't like the term council communism as it has echoes of the anti-organisationalism that people like Pannekoek later fell into.

You tell me what you think that Bolshevism is, and I will tell you if I am one.

Devrim

Catch 22
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May 4 2006 01:57

Hate to ask a dumb question, but what exactly makes "Left-Communism" different than councilism and other libertarian Marxist strains? I hear enough about what left communism is against, but what exactly is it for? And don’t you guys dare answer me with an ICC article, those things are damn near incoherent.

alibadani
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May 4 2006 03:00

I think the term left communist has to do with heritage and traditon. It originally refered to those left currents of the IIIrd International who fought against its opportunism and degeneration, and who were expelled for that fight. This included many currents, but the Italian left is the one that influences the bigger groups the most today.

All left communists began as Bolsheviks and some later rejected that.

Bolshevism as I see it is priamarily about some basic beliefs in the organisation of revolutionaries, the party. It's not about romanticising Lenin. I certainly believe the ICC is correct in not demonizing Lenin either.

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cantdocartwheels
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May 4 2006 04:16

why doesn't this thread have a zzzzz warning

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OliverTwister
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May 4 2006 05:38

I really enjoyed the articles the ICC has written on how they can acknowledge inspiration from Lenin and Trotsky (and the same is true of luxembourg, bordiga, etc.) yet actually anaylzing how "leninism" and "trotskyism" were creations of stalin's counter-revolution.

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cantdocartwheels
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May 4 2006 09:18
revol68 wrote:
cantdocartwheels wrote:
why doesn't this thread have a zzzzz warning

coming from the person who should be given a fucking Medal for Services to 2nd International Economic Reductionism......

seriously when are you going to make the jump to union bureacrat, it's funny but u and Jack remind me of Kautsky and Lenin.

Yeah i was thinking about it for the pension, i mean they might be able to outsource a lot of other jobs but union officialdom is a career with real long term prospects and good opportunities for promotion.

knightrose
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May 4 2006 09:33

The key questions for us surely have little to do with people's romantic attachments to this or that thinker in the past. If people want to believe that they are the historic continuity flowing on from Lenin, then that's fine - foolish, but fine. It's the same with Bakunin or Marx or whoever. A strange thing for communists to do, but not my problem.

The real issues revolve around what people see as the role of political organisation and what the form of proletarian dictatorship would be. Central to this is the question of whether there is a function for a party before and after the revolution and its relationship to the proletarian dictatorship or state. To my mind there are very clear lines to be drawn around these issues.

WillsWilde
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May 4 2006 09:41

..should the ICC be...

patronised?

're-educated'?

absorbed?

dissolved?

all of the above?...

is that's what's happening here?

where their bizarre paranoias and anachronistic politics are being ritually dissected, and they are 'allowed' the opportunity for the 'self-critique' they so desperately desire/deserve? Is the Libcom playing confessor/commissar to a flock of delusional twerps?

this is so exciting roll eyes

twisted

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OliverTwister
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May 4 2006 11:58
revol68 wrote:
OliverTwister wrote:
I really enjoyed the articles the ICC has written on how they can acknowledge inspiration from Lenin and Trotsky (and the same is true of luxembourg, bordiga, etc.) yet actually anaylzing how "leninism" and "trotskyism" were creations of stalin's counter-revolution.

yeah, Trotsky's writings on taylorism and militarism of labour should inspire us all. roll eyes

Ranks somewhere with Bakunin writing on italian republicanism

mk12
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May 4 2006 12:00

Bordiga never broke with the idea of a one-party dictatorship though, did he?

Quote:

The proletarian state can only be "animated" by a single party

http://www.marxists.org/archive/bordiga/works/1951/class-party.htm

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Alf
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May 4 2006 12:02

On the connection between Bolshevism and left communism with the Russian left communists this is obvious because nearly all of them came out of the Bolshevik party. But the issue also needs to be raised at the level of political positions. What made Bolshevism a distinctive current after the 1903 split with the Mensheviks was its insistence on the need for a distinct and centralised organisation of revolutionaries, formed around a clear programme. On this point they moved beyond the social democratic conception of the party as a mass organisation of workers. And this is one of the principal reasons why the original left communists in the Third International – the KAPD in Germany and the Communist Party of Italy – identified with them so strongly in the early years of the revolutionary wave. Gorter’s definition of the party as a nucleus of communists “hard as steel, clear as glass” is certainly inspired by the Bolshevik conception.

It is possible to make many criticisms of the Bolshevik model of organisation, of Lenin’s mistakes on class consciousness and all the rest. But they nonetheless made an enormous advance towards a conception of the proletarian political organisation that was entirely appropriate for the new epoch of directly revolutionary struggles opening up in the 1900s. This was the crucial element missing from many of the polemics written against Lenin and the Bolsheviks at the time, not least by Trotsky and Luxemburg.

We’ve done a series of articles on the birth of Bolshevism quite recently. I will send the references later.

mk12
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May 4 2006 12:12
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This was the crucial element missing from many of the polemics written against Lenin and the Bolsheviks at the time, not least by Trotsky and Luxemburg.

These criticisms seemed somewhat prophetic though, didn't they?

Paddy O'Reily
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May 4 2006 12:49

Knightrose wrote:

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The real issues revolve around what people see as the role of political organisation and what the form of proletarian dictatorship would be. Central to this is the question of whether there is a function for a party before and after the revolution and its relationship to the proletarian dictatorship or state. To my mind there are very clear lines to be drawn around these issues.

I agree this is an important issue, could you elaborate on this comment...what your conception of the role of a revolutionary party?

paddy

knightrose
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May 4 2006 19:15

The party (or organisation) is part of the class. It has no existence outside of the class. It doesn't seize power in the name of the class. It doesn't control a state as an intermediary between the class and the workers councils. It exists to argue anarchist communist politics and actions. The "state" that exists in the transition period is the collective expression of whatever organs the class creates in the process of the revolutionary struggle.

Anyway, that's for starters.

jaycee
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May 4 2006 19:18

thats the same position as the ICC are you sure you don't wanna change it now.

knightrose
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May 4 2006 19:25
jaycee wrote:
thats the same position as the ICC are you sure you don't wanna change it now.

Nioce to know they've changed then.

mk12
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May 4 2006 19:27
knightrose wrote:
The party (or organisation) is part of the class. It has no existence outside of the class. It doesn't seize power in the name of the class. It doesn't control a state as an intermediary between the class and the workers councils. It exists to argue anarchist communist politics and actions. The "state" that exists in the transition period is the collective expression of whatever organs the class creates in the process of the revolutionary struggle.

Anyway, that's for starters.

hows that different to any trotskyist or leninist group in existence at the moment?

knightrose
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May 4 2006 19:31
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hows that different to any trotskyist or leninist group in existence at the moment?

Well, mostly it's the whole idea that there should be an organisation that is part of the class, that doesn't seize power in the name of the class, that doesn't seek to set up a state and run it in the name of the class, that exists to push for communist ideas, not impose communism.

mk12
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May 4 2006 19:46

I don't think the SWP, SP, WP or any other Trot group would say that they want to take power in the name of the class to be honest with you. They also believe they should be part of the class.

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Demogorgon303
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May 4 2006 19:59
knightrose wrote:
jaycee wrote:

thats the same position as the ICC are you sure you don't wanna change it now.

Nioce to know they've changed then.

Knightrose, the ICC hasn't changed anything regarding this question.

The ICC has always defended this position on the role of the party right from the organisation's formation in 1975. Starting from International Review No.4 (Feb 76) they've always printed a summary of their basic positions on the back of every publication.

My copy of IR4 says: "The role of the revolutionary organisation is not to 'organise the working class' or to 'take power on behalf of workers' but to assist in the active generalisation of the communist goals and revolutionary consciousness within the working class."

The precise wording of these basic positions seems have been revised on several occasions throughout the ICC's history, but the spirit has never changed.

Another wording was adopted during the early 80s (I think), which reads like this: "The role of the revolutionary organisation is not to 'organise the working class' or to 'take power on behalf of workers' but to participate actively in the generalisation of proletarian struggles and revolutionary consciousness within the proletariat."

The current wording, adopted in the early 90s, says this: "The revolutionary political organisation constitutes the vanguard of the working class and is an active factor in the generalisation of class consciousness within the proletariat. Its role is neither to ‘organise the working class’ nor to ‘take power’ in its name, but to participate actively in the movement towards the unification of struggles, towards workers taking control of them for themselves, and at the same time to draw out the revolutionary political goals of the proletariat’s combat."

These principles, which have been defended consistently for over thirty years, are enshrined in the organisation's Platform and fully discussed in their pamphlet Communist Organisations and Class Consciousness.

Jaycee is thus thoroughly correct to say that the position you have defended on this thread is in continuity with the positions of the ICC on this question.

jaycee
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May 4 2006 20:02

Well the idea that the Bolsheviks had and the Trots today have is that the party with the most votes in the workers councils takes power of the workers state. THe view which Knightrose rightly put forward is that the workers state should remain under direct control of the workers councils. THe role of the part is therefore to argue in favour of the clearest proletarian positions and attempt to persuade the working class of certain policies but that the workers councils have the actual power to act.

I should just say that the difference between the BOlsheviks then and the Trots now is that the Bolsheviks were despite their mistakes still intrested in working class revolution and communism.

redtwister
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May 4 2006 20:05
mattkidd12 wrote:
knightrose wrote:
The party (or organisation) is part of the class. It has no existence outside of the class. It doesn't seize power in the name of the class. It doesn't control a state as an intermediary between the class and the workers councils. It exists to argue anarchist communist politics and actions. The "state" that exists in the transition period is the collective expression of whatever organs the class creates in the process of the revolutionary struggle.

Anyway, that's for starters.

hows that different to any trotskyist or leninist group in existence at the moment?

I would say is that Leninists of all shades believe that "the party" is

a) something that exists outside the working class, a fact emphasized by Lenin's desire to follow the Germans in having "talented" socialist workers made into full-time party activists, as one example,

b) the party is a cadre organization to be built,

c) there is a program in the sense of some set of demands and politics that mark this organization off as unique.

In my reading of the left communist tradition, 'the party' is the communist fraction of the class, composed of groups, individuals, sections of the class, etc., not an organization to be built or recruited to. It is a historical entity expressing the most self-consciously communist element, not a cadre organization.

Left communists argue the need for communists to lead this party, but they can't build it. And they can only lead by earning the right to lead, showing that the class has a reason to trust their ideas and practices. This falls to no one group or persons.

Add to that the rejection of parliamentarism, trade unionism, democracy (Gorter was as critical of democracy as Bordiga), and nationalism and you have the core aspects of Left Communism.

Also, historically Left Communists supported the Russian Revolution and initially the Bolsheviks, but they developed an antagonistic relationship to the groups that would eventually in 1918-21 become accepted by the Bolsheviks. The IKD and the majority KAPD in Germany, the majority fraction in italy under Bordiga, etc. only discovered through the Third international and the Bolsheviks international actions the depth of the differences. These groups had roots in a fight against Second Interntional rottenness that goes back to the 1890s, and they were less critical of or concerned with Lenin, with whom they often were on the same side, as they were with Kautsky, Bebel, Liebknecht, David, etc. Their anti-trade unionism and parliamentarism stemmed not from Bolshevism, but from their experience of the reactionary character of the parliamentarians and trade unionists in the party and found their base in groups like the radical Bremen and Hamsburg (sp?) workers.

If you want a variety of views on the relation of Party and Class from the Left communist tradition, you can always read Bordiga, Gorter and Pannekoek pre-1927, the KAPD documents, as well as the ICC, Internationalist Communist Group (though the ICC won't like that), Internationalist Perspective, Battaglia Communista, Interntional Bureau for the Revolutionary Party and get a wide range of views on the party and realize that among Left Communists there is no clear agreement and that Left Communism is more a harkening to some general political positions than a coherent entity.

For my part, I like the ICG document "Contribution to the so-called "Question of the Party" - Communism #2".

(in spite of not knowing what they mean, as it is impossible to grasp their meaning. So go read some secondary texts, like say an ICC analysis of it and you will undoubtedly get the same ideas.)

Chris

mk12
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May 4 2006 20:12

I was more concerned with Trotskyist groups methods today, rather than the Bolsheviks and other groups of that era.

So dont the ICC and other left-communists, and anarchists, worry about recruitment? Do they not seek influence in the class?

knightrose
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May 4 2006 20:39

I can't speak for the ICC and co. I can speak as an AF member. We do care about recruitment - but on the basis of political agreement with our aims and principles - which are quite complex, plus a willingness to work with the organisation. The trots just take anybody in and get them to sell papers. the internal party structure stops uneducated fools running things. We try and con new members into taking up posiitons within the AF from word go!

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May 5 2006 01:09
mattkidd12 wrote:
I don't think the SWP, SP, WP or any other Trot group would say that they want to take power in the name of the class to be honest with you.

They do say that. Yet they base all their ideas on the ideologues of a Party who did just this - the bolsheviks. I think they probably want the new mass workers party they're all trying to build to seize state power on behalf of the class, instead of their groupuscule. Which is at least marginally less ridiculous.