LBird Banned

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LBird Banned
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Despite being warned, LBird deliberately continued to disrupt the thread on the Resolution on Class Struggle. He has now been banned, as he obviously seems to have wanted. The ban will be reviewed in a couple of days.

LBird, if you're reading, attempts to circumvent this ban will simply result in the period being extended.

LBird Ban Update

After reflecting on the question and canvassing opinion from our sympathisers, the forum team of the ICC has decided to maintain the ban on LBird for a period of three months, with the aim of rescinding it at the end of March 2018.

We have not taken this decision lightly.

The exclusion of people from political discussion is a significant action, not one to be taken lightly. Many times in history, the exclusion of individuals has been – either explicitly or implicitly – a means to eliminate proletarian positions from discourse. It is often the precursor to oppression.

At the same time, the working class has to be able to push forward its debates in the most productive and rigorous manner possible. Where the conduct of individuals mitigates against this aim, workers have to find ways to challenge and prevent these individuals from sabotaging debate.

We want to say right away, for the avoidance of doubt, that LBird has not been banned because he defends any particular position. On the contrary, many of LBird’s stated positions we either agree with or certainly would not see as any barrier to fraternal discussion.

LBird has consistently defended internationalist positions. For us, this is the most fundamental proletarian political principle. It is impossible to be part of the workers movement while defending nationalism in any form. Compared to this principle, all other questions are secondary. We have no concerns whatsoever over LBird’s internationalist stance.

We understand that LBird identifies with the councillist tradition. Councillism is primarily a product of the German and Dutch Communist Left and is particularly associated with the Dutch Left Communist, Anton Pannekoek. This tradition rejects the need for political organisation in the working class and generally considers “parties” as inherently bourgeois.

Although the ICC rejects the councillist thesis, we nonetheless recognise that councillism is a legitimate current of the Communist Left and consider those holding councillist positions as comrades.

The debates that have caused the most heat have centred around questions of epistemology and especially on the nature of science and Marx’s materialism. We won’t repeat those debates here, other than to say we think LBird’s interpretation of Marxism is gravely mistaken on these points.

Nonetheless, these differences are not, in themselves, reasons to exclude someone from political debate. On the contrary, in a healthy environment, debate between such opposing points should ultimately lead to a greater clarity on these questions for all concerned, even when they don’t necessarily lead to an immediate resolution.

The problem that LBird has presented is not therefore, his formal political positions, but the way he approaches debate and the resulting impact on the discussions that he becomes involved with.

The first question is his use of continual ad hominem attacks. LBird’s constant refrain is that his debating opponents are “materialist” and therefore “Leninist” with the ultimate implication that they are Stalinist.

Were his opponents defending Stalinist (or “positivist”, “Leninist” or “Trotskyist”, for that matter) positions (nationalism, state control of the economy, imperialism, party rule, repression of the working class, etc.) this might be a legitimate charge.

However, the ICC and its sympathisers are diametrically opposed to Stalinism. We explicitly reject Stalinist and “leftist” positions and political practice. Moreover, our political ancestors were the first victims of the Stalinist GULAG. One of our founding members, MC, barely escaped with his life from Stalinist forces in France. When Stalinism was still a significant political force in Europe during the 70s and 80s, ICC members put themselves at physical risk to intervene against the Stalinist parties and unions, as with other forces of the bourgeois left.

LBird maintains that our adherence to “materialism” is sufficient in itself to warrant these charges. However, he has never provided a clear, logical chain of reasoning to justify this assertion.

Even had he done so, this would be wholly insufficient to justify any such charge. It is perfectly possible for individuals and organisations to hold positions which, were they taken to their logical conclusion, could well end up in reactionary politics. Any false position is a weakness that can lead to the reassertion of bourgeois ideology. This is why proletarian debate is so vital to the process of developing class consciousness, as it is only through this process that such weaknesses can be confronted and overcome.

But holding a flawed or false position does not automatically lead to an abandonment of class positions or the establishment of bourgeois political practice. If it did, being a revolutionary would be impossible because, unless one holds the view that revolutionaries are immune to error, any mistake would mean crossing the class line.

LBird may sincerely believe that comrades are mistaken in their views on materialism and science, perhaps even seriously so, but unless he can demonstrate that we have Stalinist political positions or practice his charges are, in our view, entirely unfounded. Not only that, in the absence of a serious and honest critique, such charges can only serve as a means to insult and demean an opponent. In this context, such habitual accusations are slurs of the worst sort, not a method of political debate.

Aggravating this habitual slandering is the fact that, more-often-than-not, these slurs are actually used to avoid any serious discussion of LBird’s actual positions. They are a substitute for argument.

This is no accident. Avoiding critique of his own positions is the core element of his behaviour. Many comrades have systematically critiqued LBird’s ideas. But instead of attempting to respond to such critiques by showing how they are wrong, he typically resorts to a series of dishonest debating tactics. A full analysis of his conduct is impossible here, but examples include:

  • Continual misrepresentation of the positions of other thinkers (e.g. Marx, Pannekoek). LBird will often claim this or that authority has a particular position, but rarely provides quotes to back this up;
  • When quotes are given, they are stripped of their original context in order to further misrepresent the actual position of the person concerned, a practice known as “quote-mining”;
  • Refusing to respond any evidence or argument that challenges his claims;
  • Refusing to answer direct questions that seek to draw out the implications of his claims;
  • Outright insults, deriding his opponents’ knowledge and intelligence;
  • The continual, repetitive reassertion of disputed claims as if they were absolute truths, ignoring any theoretical or evidential challenge.

The ICC makes no claim that its comrades or sympathisers are perfect debaters. Even the best of us can fall into fallacious methods of debate.

What has distinguished LBird is that he employs such methods so habitually and systematically, to the point that they constitute his primary method of discussion. This is not mere deviation or error, but fundamental intellectual dishonesty. The result of this deep-rooted lack of intellectual integrity, along with continual and deliberate provocation, is a demeaning of debate to the point where the forum can no longer fulfil its function.

His behaviour affects other comrades who, rightly offended by his continual dishonesty, either refuse to engage with him or are reduced to trading insults. Neither approach is productive.

It is already impossible to have discussions on certain topics without his disruptive influence, but he also has a tendency to hijack other discussions and turn them towards his particular obsessions. We had already begun to take a stronger line on this, but continual intervention to prevent yet another thread degenerating is disruptive to the flow of discussion.

It is worth considering for a moment that LBird has been active on our boards for over four years. Why have we not banned him until now?

There are several reasons for this.

Firstly, as indicated above, the majority of LBird’s positions are actually in agreement with ours and the questions on which there is most divergence would normally be considered secondary to us. Adherence to proletarian politics is a precious thing in this day and age. Under normal circumstances we would welcome him as a comrade, as we did initially.

Secondly, banning a participant in discussion is not an action we take lightly. As we highlighted above, we have serious reservations about such actions and have only taken this course in response to deliberate provocation on his part, and then only reluctantly.

Thirdly, we recognise that he has been profoundly traumatised by his experiences in the SWP. This is a basic function of leftism for the bourgeoisie: the absorption and annihilation of revolutionary elements. Even those that manage to escape leftism are often so damaged that they are completely unable to function as revolutionary militants.

Sometimes such comrades are able to overcome these difficulties, but others are irretrievably lost to the class.

For our part, the tragedy of this situation is that LBird clearly has a hunger for debate. This is a profoundly proletarian impulse, one that we want to encourage. And yet, his own behaviour makes it impossible to actually debate within him. But his behaviour is not only self-defeating from his personal perspective. The problem is that, because his behaviour has such a toxifying influence on any discussion that he engages in, he has made it impossible for the forum to fulfil its function: comradely debate.

We had hoped that, given time, he would be able to overcome these problems and become a valuable addition to our boards.

However, as long as he remains impervious to critique concerning his behaviour, we are forced to take action to defend the integrity of the discussion forum.

We have therefore decided to exclude LBird from these boards for a period of approximately three months. At the end of this period – assuming he wishes to return – he may do so on condition that he does not continue to engage in his previous pattern of behaviour.

We hope LBird takes this time to reflect and confront the problems that have led to this deeply regrettable impasse. Should he return with a healthier attitude to debate, he will be welcomed as a comrade.