On the Party and its relationship to the class

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Fred
On the Party and its relationship to the class
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: On the Party and its relationship to the class. The discussion was initiated by Fred.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

Fred
The ICC has many marvelous

The ICC has many marvelous and sometimes inspiring articles on it's web site. This one "On the party and its relationship to the class "(node 3131) really is a big winner. I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a good read. Here's a section.

Quote:
On the other hand, in decadent capitalism there has been a considerable leveling out of the economic, social, and political characteristics of the system, especially in the advanced countries. Never before in its history has the capitalist world, despite its insurmountable national and bloc divisions, reached -- due, among other things, to the development of world trade and the use of modern means of comm unication -- such a high degree of homogeneity, of interdependence between its different parts. For the working class, this has meant an unprecedented leveling out of its living conditions and, to a certain extent, of its political experience.

Finally, the present circumstances of the historic development of the class struggle towards revolution (simultaneous aggrav ation of the economic crisis in all countries and not imperialist war as in 1917, the considerable level of the bourgeoisie's unity against the proletariat) imply that this development will tend towards a much higher degree of simultaneity, unity and generalization than in the past.

All these conditions imply that the future world party won't be formed around this a or that national sector of the proletariat, as in the past, but that it will straight away be constituted on a world scale around the clearest, most coherent, most developed political positions.

The article contains a short but extremely clear account of the historical development of the class and the proletariats' growing understanding of what the party is and what it does - the party is both educational and political. And it insists and emphasizes the party's openess to all ideas coming from the class; and the party's desire to do away with any tendency towards suppression of proletarian utterance on the grounds that "the party knows best"; and that the party is against all dogma and dogmatic approaches, and will exude an international openess to the international class in it's efforts to further the development of class consciousness round the globe.

I may not exactly have got this last bit quite right and urge comrades to read this excellent and encouraging article for themselves.

Fred
About the development of the

About the development of the future world party, the ICC says:

Quote:
. All these conditions imply that the future world party won't be formed around this or that national sector of the proletariat, as in the past, but that it will straight away be constituted on a world scale around the clearest, most coherent, most developed political positions.

"Just like that..." so to speak. But where will all the newish militants needed to constitute this party suddenly come from? A huge rebellion, a dramatic potentially revolutionary upheaval world wide ( oh! Wondrous prospect!) will undoubtedly create large numbers of those who see the way forward and are eager to press ahead. But how do they become aware of "the clearest, most coherent, most developed political positions"? It all sounds a bit like "magick".

Now the ICC has outposts in various parts of the world, and so does the ICT, and then there's Internationalist Voice, and Birov, and others whose names are not known to me, and these groupings will undoubtedly spring into greater life, spurred on by the energized class, and work to coalesce in a way they're not so keen on at the moment, and this is all good. But to claim that the party will "straightaway be constituted on a world scale" does seem a little like "wishful thinking" and a way of avoiding nitty-gritty details. But isn't it the latter we have to consider?

red flag
It seems to me that the

It seems to me that the greatest problem facing Marxists is to be able to intervene effectively in the class struggle even on a limited scale in an attempt to win the most class conscious workers away from a position which is located within capitalist ideology.  This means participating in strikes which are essentially reformist while emphasising the imporatnce of workers to develop our own forms of orgaisation which can transcend the prison house of trade unions.  How not to isolate oneself but to remain true to a Marxist perspective that has never been achieved in any western bourgeoise democracy.  There will be no sudden flowering of a Marxist organisation only  the slow and difficult process of winning workers awayy from a capitalist perspective.

Fred
If only the class would wake

If only the class would wake up and start rebelling! I'm so fed up with posts about whether consciousness is maturing, whether it's a subterranean development or not, whether marxism needs "demythologizing" or not and bringing up to date from a sociological perspective, whether anyone is in "denial" or not, and, in the end, the subconscious question, is the ICC and left communism still relevant or not in an age so radically different from that of the 3rd. international which saw the birth of the communist left?

There are lots of questions, but not really any answers to all this. There are now so many questions and doubts raised that I feel my "faith" in Marxism and the ICC to be undergoing a serious challenge. Of course it's all my fault. Faith is a ridiculous thing to pin hopes on and I should try and grow up and find the historical and material basis for Marxism, not rely on feelings. But perhaps it's the historical basis for Marxism that critics are beginning to question. We live in such different historical and sociologically constructed times (according to critics) that maybe the very tenets of Marxism are undermined, or no longer apply, or need to be understood differently.

I used to think that the challenge of accepted ideas was great fun: especially if it was at the expense of the bourgeoisie. But the challenge of what might be regarded as proletarian accepted ideas - the content of what is usually taken to be Marxism and what it says about class struggle and the proletarian seizure of power - has horribly pissed me off. But then I am pretty old.

However, a vigorous outburst of militant strikes and challenges to bourgeois rule could make everything okay again in a flash. Though there's no sign of this on the horizon. It's nice to consider the relationship of the party to the class. But that's not today is it? What about an article on the relationship of the very small revolutionary organization to the class critics claim is now a considerably different kettle of fish than it was in the 70's and 80's; that might help to clear the air a bit at least on the forum, where serious issues do seem to have got very confused? Or am I misreading tbe situation?

mikail firtinaci
Comrade Fred

Dear comrade Fred,

I totally share your frustration and I feel everyday as if I am a total alien in this world. I sympathize with you and I want to say; hang in there!

About feelings and beliving; even though I am not sure, I really value belief highly. Belief is not the business of the ignorant or it is not devoid of any logic.( I will sound strange but please pardon me since english is my second language), belief is this thing that unites your feelings with your reason and turns them into this passionate force because when united with others' beliefs it will become the historical party. So, I think belief is a very strong material force, just as the feelings are and we have to learn to respect and cultivate these.

Historically speaking, it is only in today's world that belief is ridiculed by every sort of synical person. Is not it ironic that only right wing irrational types claims to be "believing" since they have no other way to explain their clinging on totally absurd concepts like religion or nation in order escape from the daily terror and fear? Belief has become a negative rejection of things; things like rationality, logic, meaning, purpose, collective etc. It actually is a misuse of the word. Belief implies will and purpose and it precedes every form of action as a vital component of the action.

 

 

 

jk1921
That's an excellent exchange

That's an excellent exchange between Fred and Mikhail that really hits some of the emotional aspects of militancy and the problems individual militants face maintaining a commitment.

To Fred--the prospect of the "common ruin of the contending classes," is totally contained within Marxism. One doesn't need to jettison Marxism to ponder this possibility. The question then becomes trying to evaluate the point we have reached in history. It shouldn't be surprising that some comrades will evaluate the given "evidence" differently. Only history, probably in retrospect, can say who is right. But this also raises the issue of the extent to which militant activity can actually contribute to producing the very outcomes we desire. Can we make the working class revolutionary, make the revolution "true" by an act of collective militant will power? Does this raise the spectre of substitutionism? This is but one of the issues we have wrestling with in the various threads.

About "belief"--I don't have much sympathy for it. I would like to think I don't "believe" in anything that isn't demonstrated in some kind of scientific way. Still, Mikhail is right that we can't write off militant commitment to science. If that was the case, there would be little issue of militant commitment; it would be the simple, logical, thing for people who order there lives according to the scientific principle to do.all good scientists would be Marxist revolutionaries. Clearly, there is some other level of motivation and commitment involved that likely takes place at a pre-cognitive level--something we might not be able to analyze in a detached, archimedian way. That said, perhaps we can't always explain why some of us become demoralized, withdraw, etc. Sometimes there aren't always good answers that provide us with the comfort that some kind of science is standing behind them. Maybe it is here where we need Freud?

 

mikail firtinaci
thanks for the comments

Thanks for the response JK

During the last months I increasingly feel that I am moving towards this "will does matter" side which you described in your post. Substitutionism is a sersious problem. But in terms of the question of decomposition and other practical questions, I think it is not the main problem of our age.

Especially in Europe, the question of this "death of subject" (as the academics put it), a tendency or inclination towards rejecting collective struggle, rejecting any political action based on a programme for change, or rejecting another world vision as unrealistic has increasingly become prevelant. This happened perhaps after 80s but especially after 90s. So now it is a sin to talk about a vanguard party, it is authoritarian to hold up the proletarian class dictatorship.

And I think it is not enough to refute those by saying simply that the party and the class people know about is the wrong party and wrong class. There is a deeper problem here, a loss of spirit even, a loss of sense of history as a moving and changing reality. People accept that something happened in the past but this feeling that "history has ended" is prevelant. At this point decomposition concept is most valuable.

But identifying the problem is one thing, providing the solution is the other. I tried to raise the German, Dutch LC analysis in 20s in terms of the prospects of the revolution in western Europe in the other debate. Especially Pannekoek was deeply aware of this paralysis of the "spirit" in Europe problem produced by years of parliamentary politics and legalism. And his criticism of the parliaments and unions was not restricted to a formal-coldly calculated position on the necessity of revolution but he was counterposing "mass action," against the parliamentary struggle (war of attrition as Kautsky called this general strategy) in order to raise the spirit of the workers.

I think many people were aware of the problem at the time. I particularly like Lukacs for instance, when he said:

By separating the inseparable, the opportunists have barred their own path to this knowledge, the active self-knowledge of the proletariat. Hence their leaders speak scornfully, in the authentic tones of the free-thinking petty bourgeoisie of the ‘religious faith’ that is said to lie at the roots of Bolshevism and revolutionary Marxism. The accusation is a tacit confession of their own impotence. In vain do they disguise their moth-eaten doubts, by cloaking their negativity in the splendid mantle of a cool and objective ‘scientific method’. Every word and gesture betrays the despair of the best of them and the inner emptiness of the worst: their complete divorce from the proletariat, from its path and from its vocation. What they call faith and seek to deprecate by adding the epithet ‘religious’ is nothing more nor less than the certainty that capitalism is doomed and that – ultimately – the proletariat will be victorious. There can be no ‘material’ guarantee of this certitude. It can be guaranteed methodologically – by the dialectical method. And even this must be tested and proved by action, by the revolution itself, by living and dying for the revolution. A Marxist who cultivates the objectivity of the academic study is just as reprehensible as the man who believes that the victory of the world revolution can be guaranteed by the ‘laws of nature’.

The unity of theory and practice exists not only in theory but also for practice. We have seen that the proletariat as a class can only conquer and retain a hold on class consciousness and raise itself to the level of its – objectively-given – historic task through conflict and action. It is likewise true that the party and the individual fighter can only really take possession of their theory if they are able to bring this unity into their praxis. The so-called religious faith is nothing more than the certitude that regardless of all temporary defeats and setbacks, the historical process will come to fruition in our deeds and through our deeds.

Here too the opportunists find themselves confronted by the dilemma posed by impotence. They argue that if the Communists foresee ‘defeat’ they must either desist from every form of action or else brand themselves as unscrupulous adventurers, catastrophemongers and terrorists. In their intellectual and moral degradation they are simply incapable of seeing themselves and their action as an aspect of the totality and of the process: the ‘defeat’ as the necessary prelude to victory.

It is characteristic of the unity of theory and practice in the life work of Rosa Luxemburg that the unity of victory and defeat, individual fate and total process is the main thread running through her theory and her life. As early as her first polemic against Bernstein’s she argued that the necessarily ‘premature’ seizure of power by the proletariat was inevitable. She unmasked the resulting opportunist fear and lack of faith in revolution as “political nonsense which starts from the assumption that society progresses mechanically and which imagines a definite point in time external to and unconnected with the class struggle in which the class struggle will be won”. It is this clear-sighted certitude that guides Rosa Luxemburg in the campaign she waged for the emancipation of the proletariat: its economic and political emancipation from physical bondage under capitalism, and its ideological emancipation from its spiritual bondage under opportunism. As she was the great spiritual leader of the proletariat her chief struggles were fought against the latter enemy – the more dangerous foe as it was harder to defeat. Her death at the hands of her bitterest enemies, Noske and Scheidemann, is, logically, the crowning pinnacle of her thought and life.

Fred
Thank you so much comrades

Thank you so much comrades mikail and jk for your consoling and sympathetic responses to my emotional post. The quote from Lukacs is very good and what he says about Rosa, the spiritual leader, with great foresight as part of her armoury, is excellent. mikail tries to define " belief" and give it a rational basis. jk doesn't go for this and would prefer to find a scientific basis to beliefs. Just as , I suppose, there has to be some kind of "belief process" underpinning science, and the formulation of hypotheses. For don't these start with intuitions? Jk also says that all good scientists should be Marxist revolutionaries, and, by implication, all Marxist revolutionaries should be good scientists I suppose. For me, that all good scientists are not marxists raises doubts about the genuiness and use to humanity of the work they do (are they not functioning under a sort of dishonesty of mind, or schizophrenia, in not having any Marxist consciousness but claiming a scientific validity to what they think and then produce?). And then of course, all marxists are certainly not good scientists, or even want to be scientists in the traditional sense. ( Was Marx a scientist?) Not of course unless we start to redefine what science may be, and perhaps extend the word's meaning to include all systems that have a rational basis capable of elaboration and being debated with a view to proof. (I am starting to sound Popperish!) But even then some marxists would be better scientists than others; and some might claim Marxism as more of an art than a science anyway.For is it so easy and clear cut to continue to separate the arts and sciences, as the bourgeoisie insist on doing; both being products of the human community? Didn't the great sculptors of the ancient worlds and the renaissance turn their skills into a science? Didn't the great composers make of music a science of organized sound!

As jk said. "Sometimes there aren't always good answers that provide us with the comfort that some kind of science is standing behind them." but perhaps this just means we've got to try harder.

jk1921
Nice post Fred.

Nice post Fred.

Alf
belief/confidence

Mikhail: are you seeing belief as something different from what we have referred to in some texts as 'confidence' (the Latin word for 'faith' is after all contained within it?)

I agree that this is a very important discussion right now. 

mikail firtinaci
Alf; Yes confidence sounds

Alf;

Yes confidence sounds about the right word. In turkish confidence (guven) means both "trust" and "certainty of the outcome of an action preceding to that." I guess what I want to underline is a positive prospect can not grow out of a pure criticism. Conviction and desire for a positive program, a definition of communism is also necessary. Here the key word is "will" or "spirit" for me. A spirited action is necessary if a priori knowledge of the outcome is missing.

I am not trying to say "blind activisim" though. The type of action I am referring is not an action stemming from the feeling of desperation. On the contrary, it is an action based on what millenerian radicals (Muntzer) have felt; a feeling of uneasiness about the collapse of the world as they knew it (in 17th century they were thinking that turks, hunger and pestilance were all expressions of that) and a "calling" for action. A calling of course requires a sense of historical comprehension of the world and even a cosmological unity in understanding universe; a sense of somehow purposeful existance or at least a purposeful revenge from the rulers as obstacles.

These will sound today almost lunatic or very religious. However, I think Marx was very much aware of these radical traditions influencing the artisans and journeymen radicals around him (Weitling for instance). So, his "materialism" was not a pure materialism/empiricism devoid of any historical dimension, standing outside of history and only in the sphere of pure reason. I started to think that Capital was very much a response to this millenerian sense of history renewing its claim and grounding it in material existence. So, if the 17th century anabaptists were making their plans for the correct time of revolt on the basis of an astrological/astronomical calculations, Marx was proposing to use economics. This was a very tactical reading though - to comprehend clearly the correct and suitable time for revolution. And I think he defintely wanted to retain the spirit of the earlier christian radicalism.

Eventually, what he intended to do was the fusion of socialism (as an intellectual and middle class endeavour) with worker radicalism in this sprit of confidence/belief in the unavoidability of change, which he intended to prove in the new language of the time (science); just as the anabaptists tried to do with astronomy and bible. I think Lars Lih is very cleverly hinting this "religious" dimension; this secular "calling" of socialism, patient, conscious and "scientific" preparation for the final fight.

ps. JK; I hope I did not offended you in anyway. If so I am sorry. I may sound strange but I actually think about the same questions and I am in no way 100 % certain.

jk1921
No offense taken

mikail firtinaci wrote:

ps. JK; I hope I did not offended you in anyway. If so I am sorry. I may sound strange but I actually think about the same questions and I am in no way 100 % certain.

 

Not at all. I have always had trouble with the notion of "confidence" as it has been used by the ICC. I hear that expression and it is not quite clear to me why it is any different than "faith." I have been told its not a "blind confidence." But that seems unsatisfactory too. So, its empirically grounded? How? Sometimes I wonder if there are such things as general philosophical antinomies that simply have no good dialectical resolution? Not in a Kantian sense, but perhaps more like Zizek's "parallax zone" or "indivisible remainder" or whatever. Like, as Zizek has pointed out, is there really anyway to bridge the "philosophy of consciousness" with "cognitive science" or are these paradigms just inpenetrable to one another? Stephen Jay Gould once argued that science and religion ihabit different realms of the human experience and one cannot be reduced to the other nor should they. In this, his approach was much different than Dawkins and the so-called "new atheists." I wonder if any of this can inform our discussion here? I have more to say on Gould vs. Dawkins, but need to watch the video on the selfish gene first........

Fred
How does the party see itself

How does the party see itself in relationship to the class? Here's a suggestion. As the class becomes a class for itself, developing increasing consciousness through struggle in the run-up to the revolution, and after the seizure of power, it still remains, historically and biologically speaking, a very innocent and youthful class politically speaking. It is like an immensely talented and creative child, with enormous as yet untried, and thus unknown powers, and occasionally in need of guidance and suggestions. The party and it's members have been deliberately thinking about the revolution, it's theory and possible practice, for a much longer time than much of the rest of the class, and to that extent may be thought to be more mature than the excitable clever but innocent child; if that is not a too extreme way in which to describe the youthful proletariat seizing power worldwide. The party is thus required to act as a guardian and advisor, or as a parent to the class, protecting and fostering its talents as these begin to astound both the party and the world.

LBird
Inverted logic? Or boot on the other foot?

Fred wrote:
How does the party see itself in relationship to the class? Here's a suggestion. As the class becomes a class for itself, developing increasing consciousness through struggle in the run-up to the revolution, and after the seizure of power, it still remains, historically and biologically speaking, a very innocent and youthful class politically speaking. It is like an immensely talented and creative child, with enormous as yet untried, and thus unknown powers, and occasionally in need of guidance and suggestions. The party and it's members have been deliberately thinking about the revolution, it's theory and possible practice, for a much longer time than much of the rest of the class, and to that extent may be thought to be more mature than the excitable clever but innocent child; if that is not a too extreme way in which to describe the youthful proletariat seizing power worldwide. The party is thus required to act as a guardian and advisor, or as a parent to the class, protecting and fostering its talents as these begin to astound both the party and the world.

How does the party see itself in relationship to the class? Here's another suggestion, Fred!.

The 'mature', worn-out, old, doddery, shuffling, aged parents have had their day. They were a guardian and advisor whilst their excitable children were innocent and youthful, and clearly in need of guidance.

But... the children have grown into responsible, caring, intellectual, driven, thoughtful adults. Their parents are 'past it', and have difficulties with the 'modern world'. Their time has passed. They did their job, and did it well: they will be respected and cared for until they die.

The 'children' are now the 'adults'. They will tell the old duffers what's best for them, now.

Fred
Oooh!

Oooh!

LBird
Advice or orders?

Fred wrote:
I may not exactly have got this last bit quite right and urge comrades to read this excellent and encouraging article for themselves.

Fred, this is a part of the article that caught my eye immediately:

On the party and its relationship to the class wrote:
5. The main error of the councilism of the Dutch Left, under the influence of Pannekoek, is that it attributes a purely educational, peda­gogic role to the groups and currents that arise within the class. It ignores their political role as an integral, militant part of the prol­etariat, whose task within the class is to de­fend and elaborate coherent positions crystallized in a communist program, and in view of which these groups act in an organized manner. By attributing to them solely the role of ed­ucators, rather than the defense of the communist program, Pannekoek's councilist organization becomes the ‘counselor' of the class, thus joining up with Lenin's vision of an organization in the service of the class. Both con­ceptions end up negating the idea that the party is a part of the class, one of the active organisms produced by the class.

At present, I think that the 'councilism of the Dutch Left, under the influence of Pannekoek' is precisely what is required. And I don't agree that this 'negates the idea that the party is a part of the class', either.

But, I'm prepared to discuss this, because I think it goes to the heart of the nature of the relationship between 'class' and 'party'.

LBird
An old (even ancient) lesson?

Fred wrote:
Oooh!

 

Plutarch, Pompey 14.3, wrote:
Pompey, however, was not cowed, but bade Sulla reflect that more worshipped the rising than the setting sun...

The class is the 'younger', Fred!

Alf
generations

I wouldn't go along with the party as the parent of the class; it's actually the other way round. the class gives birth to the party, historically speaking. But there's an important point behind what Fred is saying: for one thing, the older generations of the working class do pass on the lessons of experience to the newer generations, even if this 'education' is not a one way process. But more specific to the revolutionary organisations is that they consciously preserve, study, and draw lessons from the experience of the class. They are a vital part - though not the only one - of the memory of the class. In a period when capitalism is only too happy to wipe out the history of the working class and imprison the proletariat in the immediate present with no past and no future, this aspect of the role of revolutionary organisations is more crucial than ever. 

LBird
Generation (of consciousness)

Alf wrote:
But more specific to the revolutionary organisations is that they consciously preserve, study, and draw lessons from the experience of the class. They are a vital part - though not the only one - of the memory of the class.

Couldn't this also be seen as the emergence of a 'priestly caste'?

Surely the key to disproving this 'caste thesis' is when the 'preservations, studies, lessons and memories' are restored to the class from whose experiences they emerge, and for whom they are allegedly 'stored' in the first place?

Isn't a sign of 'class consciousness' the growing out of the need for mere, preservative, 'party consciousness'?

Alf wrote:
In a period when capitalism is only too happy to wipe out the history of the working class and imprison the proletariat in the immediate present with no past and no future, this aspect of the role of revolutionary organisations is more crucial than ever.

Yes, but what happens in the next period, when the proletariat is no longer allowing this to happen, perhaps having developed with the help of the revolutionary organisation? Can't the class ever stand on its own feet?

mhou
Lbird- Before going against

Lbird- Before going against his previous position on the Party, Pannekoek also put forward that memberss of the party should be appointed as advisor's and recording secretaries for soviets and soviet meetings. While education is a part of the Party's role, this ignores the primary task of the Communist Party in a revolutionary crisis- defending the communist program actively within the various organs of class power (councils, committee's, assemblies, commune's, armed bodies). There is a substantive difference between a propaganda-only (education) role, and defending and fighting for the communist program. In the former, the Party and its members simply propagandize; in the latter, militants are physically present in the organs of class power, putting forward the communist answers to the crisis.

petey
pannekoek and party

if

the Dutch Left, under the influence of Pannekoek, ... attributes a purely educational, peda­gogic role to the groups and currents that arise within the class

were they trying to present a pattern for a party that would innoculate it against what happened to the bolsheviks? (i know this stuff poorly.)

Alf
exactly....

"Surely the key to disproving this 'caste thesis' is when the 'preservations, studies, lessons and memories' are restored to the class from whose experiences they emerge, and for whom they are allegedly 'stored' in the first place?"

 

well put! I think we agree on this point. But there's no 'allegedly' in the fact that revolutionary organisations have 'stored' lessons which the mass of the class, in periods of defeat, have lost sight of. Look at the role the communist left played during the period of counter-revolution for example. 

Alf
stand up

Yes, but what happens in the next period, when the proletariat is no longer allowing this to happen, perhaps having developed with the help of the revolutionary organisation? Can't the class ever stand on its own feet?

 

I would say that when the party and the soviets are acting in harmony, that's precisely the class standing on its own feet. Eventually, there will be no more need for the party, and it will dissolve itself. But the working class also has the ultimate aim of dissolving itself. 

Demogorgon
"Not trying to be snide, It's

"Not trying to be snide, It's just an important point to understand that parties often become counter-revolutionary. I think it would be important if even the party itself expressed the understanding that the party would eventually be dissolved."

It's not just parties. To often this debate is polarised around the idea of "masses = good, party = bad" and that if it wasn't for those pesky parties surrendering to counter-revolution everything would be fine. But other class organs, including mass organs, have surrendered to counter-revolutionary politics too. The soviets in Russia displayed some very disturbing trends as the revolution began to degenerate and it was, if only in part, trying to combat those trends that led the Bolsheviks down their own path to the counter-revolution. The annihilation of the Bolsheviks as a revolutionary force can't be understood except in the context of an overall revolutionary decline.

As Alf has already pointed out, it was also the party remnant (the communist left) that took stock of these lessons and are largely the reason why we are even able to have this conversation.

To answer other concerns: a party does not lead by force - when it takes a step down this path it takes a step away from being a revolutionary party.

"how often do political parties and forces simply "dissolve themselves"?"

How often has communism been achieved? More important is to understand why and how parties and other class organs degenerate.

This article makes an attempt to contexualise some aspects of the Russian experience, which comrades may find useful.

mhou
The concept of a vanguard

The concept of a vanguard party only means that it is an organization of the most advanced portion of the class; Marx and Engels both recognized that a class is only active on the political realm when it is organized into a party- but the worker's party is different from all other parties (Gorter called it, "a party in name only; and the last party that will ever exist"). Trotskyist and Stalinist parties are not the model for the next International.

The party only exists as long as there are class divisions- the party is no longer necessary when classes have been abolished. Since it doesn't seek to take power from the insurgent proletariat, seek to co-opt and 'lead' struggle (the way Trot groups worm their way into unions and organizations to try and capture them), etc. there shouldn't be the same kind of reservations as those for Trot, Maoist, etc. parties. I think the KAPD's theses on the party describes all of this as well.

jk1921
Substitutionism

mhou wrote:

The concept of a vanguard party only means that it is an organization of the most advanced portion of the class; Marx and Engels both recognized that a class is only active on the political realm when it is organized into a party- but the worker's party is different from all other parties (Gorter called it, "a party in name only; and the last party that will ever exist"). Trotskyist and Stalinist parties are not the model for the next International.

The party only exists as long as there are class divisions- the party is no longer necessary when classes have been abolished. Since it doesn't seek to take power from the insurgent proletariat, seek to co-opt and 'lead' struggle (the way Trot groups worm their way into unions and organizations to try and capture them), etc. there shouldn't be the same kind of reservations as those for Trot, Maoist, etc. parties. I think the KAPD's theses on the party describes all of this as well.

Its true that the KAPD conceived of itself in such a way, but I think the concern is that regardless of whatever the party thinks of itself that as long as an organization seperate from the rest of the proletariat exists that there will be a temptation in a moment of crisis for the party to assert itself as some kind of political/state power, i.e. substituionism is somehow written into the party form itself.

 

jk1921
German Revolution

Alf wrote:

Yes, but what happens in the next period, when the proletariat is no longer allowing this to happen, perhaps having developed with the help of the revolutionary organisation? Can't the class ever stand on its own feet?

 

I would say that when the party and the soviets are acting in harmony, that's precisely the class standing on its own feet. Eventually, there will be no more need for the party, and it will dissolve itself. But the working class also has the ultimate aim of dissolving itself. 

Funny, listening to all the hoopla about the new Pope and about how he will supposedly work with the poor, my thought was--"so they will still be poor?"

This is what makes "proletarian subjectivity" different than just about any other--its goal is not to affirm its status within society, but to transcend itself--the party must have the same goal, which is all the more reason why it cannot get involved with state power. But what prevents this from happening? The working class's unitary organs? I suppose in some sense, if the party does become indentified with this state--this must be a symptom (as Demo points out) or a broader revolutionary decline. If the proletariat is advancing the revolution, no party should be able to steal the revolution from it. Of course, it is true the Bolsheviks went into the experience of the Russian Revolution with numerous faulty conceptions of the relationship between party and class, but I think it has always been the ICC's position that these errors could have been corrected by the international advance of the revolution. The key to understanding the counter-revolution therefore lies not so much in Russia, but in the failure of the German Revolution to provide a better example. Is this narrative convincing?

mhou
Quote:Its true that the KAPD

Quote:
Its true that the KAPD conceived of itself in such a way, but I think the concern is that regardless of whatever the party thinks of itself that as long as an organization seperate from the rest of the proletariat exists that there will be a temptation in a moment of crisis for the party to assert itself as some kind of political/state power, i.e. substituionism is somehow written into the party form itself.

Actually, now that you mention it, I think the KAPD (and the other Communist Worker's Party's- Holland, Bulgaria, etc.) are an example of a proletarian party dissolving itself (in that case because of the degeneration of the revolution).

I've read several pieces that put forward the theses as you describe- that the party-form itself is structurally "not what we want regardless of its method of operation, internal practices, program, etc." I understand where these criticism's come from, particularly in the case of Pannekoek, Ruehle, Mattick, even Camatte, but I'm not sold that an organization is inherently counter-revolutionary, inherently statist, as they contend: the lessons of the Russian revolution, the Third International, and post-war communist left have further refined the definition of the Communist Party; it'll bear little resemblance to the old Stalinist parties and Social Democratic Parties.

Demogorgon
"I feel like what went wrong

"I feel like what went wrong in Russia, along with the "socialism in one country" concept, was also the idea that the parties role was to take over the aperatus of state."

Agreed. This is one of the principle positions of the ICC, as has already been stated.

"If the revolution was worldwide, there would have been no need to ration resources, sure, but what about the secret police and gulags? Those are issues of the state, and a failure of the party. The aperattus of state must be destroyed at the end of the revolution, because this prevents any counter-revolution from happening by taking away the means by which the proletariat can be controlled."

I think this underestimates the conflicts that will exist in the post-revolutionary situation. If, by the end of the revolution you mean the actual establishment of communism itself then no state will exist (as communism is, by definition, stateless). But if revolution means the seizure of political power, then a state will exist simply by virtue of the continuing existence of class divisions and the need for the proletariat to impose its will on the other strata in society. The process of actual transformation of society into communism will probably take decades and during that process we will have to live with a state in some form or other.

The question is what form does that state take? Does it emmanate directly from the structures that the working class creates, such as the Soviets, or will it be something separate? Can the proletariat identify itself with these state formations or must it maintain a separate identity?

*Note: I'm using the term state in its traditional Marxist sense, i.e. an organ that represents the organised political domination of society by a particular class. In this sense, the dominant class is the proletariat.

LBird
Summary of workers' experience?

From what all the comrades have said, on this thread and the other about ‘left of capital’, I’m not sure why the ICC, which I thought claims to stand in the Council Communist tradition, doesn’t just come out with a straight answer like ‘Yes! The class will have power over the party’.

It’s a simple question ‘Where does power lie, in the class or in the party?’.

The twentieth century seems to have been one long attempt by supposed Marxist revolutionaries to avoid answering this question.

Working class people are rightly suspicious of Leninism and the notion of Democratic Centralism and a Central Committee. No only the Russian Revolution itself, but every attempt to found a ‘proletarian party’ (sic) has produced the same result: some clown thinking that they know better than working class people what they need, because their consciousness is faulty/undeveloped/nascent/false/lagging.

As my clinching piece of evidence, look at the SWP right now.

Yes, I know, I know, ‘The SWP aren’t really Leninist/Democratic Centralist/Factional, just look at the real practice of the Bolsheviks, blah, blah, blah…’. Same old excuses, Stalin, Ceausescu, Healey, etc., The Intervention by the Western powers, shortages, Mensheviks, Anarchists, deviationists, capitalist-roadsters… anything but the bloody ‘party-leading-the-incapable-class’ model itself.

FFS, comrades, we’re in the twenty-first century now. Whatever relevance the party had in Russia in 1917 (if it had any), it’s not relevant now. We can learn more from the experience of the Dutch-German Left and other Council Communists, who actually lived in developed western societies, which since then have spread to what was the Colonial and Third World.

I’ve posted a long quote from Pannekoek on the 'Left of Capital' thread, post 31, so I won’t repeat it in entirety here, just a short extract – why not discuss his ideas, and Gorter’s and Ruhle’s, for example?

Pannekoek wrote:
We are only at the very earliest stages of a new workers' movement. The old movement was embodied in parties, and today belief in the party constitutes the most powerful check on the working class' capacity for action… in our day, a party cannot be other than an organization aimed at directing and dominating the proletariat. To this type of organization we oppose the principle that the working class can effectively come into its own and prevail only by taking its destiny into its own hands. The workers are not to adopt the slogans of any group whatsoever, not even our own groups; they are to think, decide and act for themselves. Therefore, in this transitional period, the natural organs of education and enlightenment are, in our view, work groups, study and discussion circles, which have formed of their own accord and are seeking their own way….
[my bold]

If the ‘working class’ were clever enough for Pannekoek, they’re clever enough for me. What else constitutes Marx’s vision of the self-emancipation of the working class?

Demogorgon
"It’s a simple question

"It’s a simple question ‘Where does power lie, in the class or in the party?’"

Actually, I did answer this on the "left of capital" thread.

Incidentally, the ICC does not claim to be councillist at all. In fact, we regard councillism as a degeneration from the clarity of the early German Left. Your quote fromPannekoek is a good illustration of that degeneration, as he is unable to conceive the party as being anything other than "an organization aimed at directing and dominating the proletariat". In other words, Pannekoek wasn't able to see beyond Social Democracy.

Anyway, I'll try again. Power is in the hands of the mass organs of the class. It is the mass organs where decisions are made about the course of the revolution. It is the mass organs that control the armed detatchments of the class. The decisions of the mass organs will be binding.

All workers will be welcome within these organs regardless of their political views; these mass organs don't tell workers what to think. "Parties" are groups of workers who agitate for communist positions and policies in an organised fashion within the mass organs. They do not "control" the mass organ (although at times they may be a majority within it, of course, just as any other political current may be). There will, most likely, be a variety of political currents within these organs, representing the different views within the working class and each current may have more than one "party" within it.

An attempt to ban political organisations within the mass organs can only be a symptom of the denegeration of the revolution, a desire to protect workers from "dangerous ideas", etc. In other words, the retreat into despotism.

LBird
I'm a bit slow on the uptake

Demogorgon wrote:
Incidentally, the ICC does not claim to be councillist at all. In fact, we regard councillism as a degeneration...

Well, you live and learn! This is probably why we're having difficulties, comrade!

Right! Let's tease out some more of our 'differences'.

Demogorgon wrote:
All workers will be welcome within these organs regardless of their political views...

Are you suicidal? Surely only Communists will be 'welcome within' organs of proletarian power? Isn't that the point? That enough workers will already have developed class consciousness to enable these organs to be set up in the first place? Communism will be the ideology of the organs of proletarian power.

Demogorgon wrote:
...these mass organs don't tell workers what to think.

Of course they will! Workers, not being individuals, but social individuals, will have already recognised that the 'free-thinking individual' is a bourgeois myth. That's why we need the aid of our comrades to think. 'Thought' will follow collective discussion, debate, disagreement and voting. Minority positions will be demanded and protected, to provide constant alternatives to the (temporary) majority position. The 'mass organs' will tell workers both (or all three, or all four, etc.) things to think. The mass organs will be the site of 'politics', not external groupings.

I don't know about you, but I want help to think, and I trust my comrades to help. I'm not an 'individual', I'm a worker.

Demogorgon wrote:
"Parties" are groups of workers who agitate for communist positions and policies in an organised fashion within the mass organs.

So let me get this straight: both in the midst of a violent revolution, and afterwards when the bourgeoisie has been physically destroyed, we'll be allowing 'parties' to form that don't 'agitate for communist positions'? (these must exist, if parties have to be formed to argue for Communism, which apparently isn't taken for granted by the workers - perhaps they're a bit 'thick', eh?)

Demogorgon wrote:
There will, most likely, be a variety of political currents within these organs, representing the different views within the working class and each current may have more than one "party" within it.

No, there will 'be a variety of Communist political currents' only.

Demogorgon wrote:
An attempt to ban political organisations within the mass organs can only be a symptom of the denegeration of the revolution, a desire to protect workers from "dangerous ideas", etc. In other words, the retreat into despotism.

That's a handy belief, blaming workers who insist on Communism, as being afraid of 'dangerous ideas'. Degeneration and despotism, eh? Blimey, dozy workers, eh? They just need a helping hand. Not so much Communism, as Care-In-The-Community-ism.

Well, this has been enlightening!

Demogorgon
"Are you suicidal? Surely

"Are you suicidal? Surely only Communists will be 'welcome within' organs of proletarian power? Isn't that the point? That enough workers will already have developed class consciousness to enable these organs to be set up in the first place? Communism will be the ideology of the organs of proletarian power."

Then you have already created a dictatorship of the party in all but name.

And you're simply wrong about the idea that class consciousness and organisation develop at the same rate. One of the reasons many Bolsheviks were aghast at Lenin's "All Power to the Soviets" slogan was that the Soviets were dominated by Mensheviks!

Similarly, class consciousness can retreat as well as advance. As I have already pointed out several times, the Mensheviks began to regain their weight in the Soviets after the revolution. That is why the Bolsheviks (misguidedly) began to dismantle them!

In the German Revolution, the workers also formed mass councils but the dominant political current was the bourgeois SDP.

Where are workers who are not communists going to be represented?

"Thought' will follow collective discussion, debate, disagreement and voting. Minority positions will be demanded and protected, to provide constant alternatives to the (temporary) majority position."

Exactly! And this is what will and must happen within the councils, but this must also include non-communists because non-communists will still exist within the working class.

"So let me get this straight: both in the midst of a violent revolution, and afterwards when the bourgeoisie has been physically destroyed, we'll be allowing 'parties' to form that don't 'agitate for communist positions'? (these must exist, if parties have to be formed to argue for Communism, which apparently isn't taken for granted by the workers - perhaps they're a bit 'thick', eh?)"

See above. Not all workers are going to magically become communists after the revolution.

"No, there will 'be a variety of Communist political currents' only."

Highly unlikely. None of the actual revolutionary experiences of the proletariat suggest that there will be no other currents within the working class. Are you really suggesting that social democrats, centrists, anarchists, etc. should be banned from the councils? Then you are actually agreeing with the Bolsheviks at their worst moments.

"That's a handy belief, blaming workers who insist on Communism, as being afraid of 'dangerous ideas'. Degeneration and despotism, eh? Blimey, dozy workers, eh? They just need a helping hand. Not so much Communism, as Care-In-The-Community-ism."

Strawman attack. It's precisely because we're not afraid of 'dangerous ideas' and that we trust the working class to be able to overcome them, that we stand for the mass organs to be places of the widest possible debate. That is what the defence of class power as opposed to party power means.

"Well, this has been enlightening!"

I agree. It is clear that you actually have a very homogenous view of how class consciousness develops. This is no accident; if you think that all workers will essentially become (and, more importantly, remain) communists during and after the revolution, then it logically follows that there is no need for the party at all. But class consciousness is not homogenous even during a revolutionary process, even if it has to reach a certain critical mass for revolution to occur.

In trying to free yourself from the idea of the dictatorship of the party, you have simply transfered the same conception to mass organs which, in your conception, is actually the party with a different name. What you are actually calling for is power to the communists, not power to the workers.

LBird
MBird?

Thanks for your prompt reply, Demogorgon.

Demogorgon wrote:
It is clear that you actually have a very homogenous view of how class consciousness develops. This is no accident; if you think that all workers will essentially become (and, more importantly, remain) communists during and after the revolution, then it logically follows that there is no need for the party at all.

Right! You now get my point!

I think workers have the capacity to become, and the sense to remain, Communists. Ergo, 'no need for the party at all!'

Demogorgon wrote:
But class consciousness is not homogenous even during a revolutionary process, even if it has to reach a certain critical mass for revolution to occur.

My political assumption is that 'to reach a certain critical mass for revolution to occur' that 'class consciousness' would have to be 'homogenous'.

Demogorgon wrote:
What you are actually calling for is power to the communists, not power to the workers.

Marx wrote:
In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole?

The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties.

They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.

I'm actually calling for power to Worker-Communists, which, I was under the impression, was what Marx was doing.

Demogorgon
"I think workers have the

"I think workers have the capacity to become, and the sense to remain, Communists. Ergo, 'no need for the party at all!'"

Leaving aside the fact that this completely ignores the process of how workers change from potential communists to actual communists, this also completely ignores the potential for the process to work in reverse. It ignores the thorny problem of how the proletariat (and especially communists) can deal with retreats in its consciousness. If, as you suggest, once workers become communist, that's it, there will never be any recividism then how do you explain the triumph of the counter-revolution? How was it that a mass of workers in Russia went from calling from the overthrow of the state one year, to calling for its return the next? How was it they went from believing in the soviets as the direct expression of class power to believing that the Stalinist abomination was communism?

"My political assumption is that 'to reach a certain critical mass for revolution to occur' that 'class consciousness' would have to be 'homogenous'."

It requires a certain level of homogeneity certainly. After all, the workers have to be able to aware that they can take power, how they can take power and that they need to take power! But this doesn't necessarily mean there is any agreement on exactly how the new system should function. Nor does it imply an automatic agreement on how to deal with unforeseen problems. And it doesn't require all workers to feel like this, even if there has to be a significant number who do.

"I'm actually calling for power to Worker-Communists, which, I was under the impression, was what Marx was doing."

Marx called for the exercise of class power and had various (mostly rather vague) conceptions of exactly how this power would be implemented which developed in light of the actual experience of the working class, especially the Paris Commune.

Your quotes from Marx also do not immediately appear to support your arguments:

"The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties." This implies the existence of other working-class parties (which you say are unnecessary). In this epoch, the "proletarian camp" could include a far wider expression of views, both revolutionary and reactionary. Moreover he's not even saying Communists don't form a party (he was in the Communist League when he wrote this!) but one that would work with other proletarian currents.

And even if Marx had a static view of this (he didn't), history has gone beyond Marx. The 2nd International definitively excluded anarchism; the 3rd was explicitly Communist and revolutionary, abandoning the reactionary wing of social democracy (even if it fell back into it in the end).

"They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole." Absolutely true. But this does not automatically translate into the idea that Communists are able to take power for the rest of their class. This is exactly the problem of substitutionism that Pannekoek was attempting to critique!

Time for you to answer a direct question: do you agree or not with Lenin's slogan "All Power to the Soviets"? Why did he say that rather than "All Power to the Communists"?

Demogorgon
Incidentally, despite your

Incidentally, despite your claims of being a Councillist and quoting Pannekoek, I think you have seriously misunderstood much of what he was trying to say. In his writings on the Workers Councils he says things like this repeatedly (all emphases mine):

"So unlimited freedom of discussion, of expressing opinions is the breathing air of the workers' fight."

"Where the enemies present themselves in the guise of friends, and in the diversity of opinions every party is inclined to consider the others as a danger for the class, who shall decide? The workers, certainly; they must fight their way in this realm also. But the workers of to-day might in honest conviction condemn as obnoxious opinions that afterwards prove to be the basis of new progress. Only by standing open to all ideas that the rise of a new world generates in the minds of man, by testing and selecting, by judging and applying them with its own mental capacities, can the working class gain the spiritual superiority needed to suppress the power of capitalism and erect the new society."

"Every revolution in history was an epoch of the most fervent spiritual activity. By hundreds and thousands the political pamphlets and papers appeared as the agents of intense self-education of the masses. In the coming proletarian revolution it will not be otherwise. It is an illusion that, once awakened from submissiveness, the masses will be directed by one common clear insight and go their way without hesitation in unanimity of opinion."

"Those who have the same ideas form groups to discuss them for their own and to propagate them for their comrades' enlightenment. Such groups of common opinion may be called parties, though their character will be entirely different from the political parties of the previous world. Under parliamentarism these parties were the organs of different and opposite class interests. In the working class movement they were organizations taking the lead of the class, acting as its spokesmen and representatives and aspiring at guidance and dominance. Now their function will be spiritual fight only."

I could go on and on, but that would mean reproducing the entire pamphlet. But it is clear that your vision of a homogeneity of consciousness is entirely foreign to both Pannekoek's conception and the actuality of the revolutionary experience of the working class.

Even the Councillist Pannekoek (and I suspect he hadn't actually transitioned to "full" councilism at this point) acknowledges the vital role of parties in the development of class consciousness.

LBird
ICC(L)?

Demogorgon wrote:
If, as you suggest, once workers become communist, that's it, there will never be any recividism then how do you explain the triumph of the counter-revolution?

The minority who had become Communists were physically eliminated, which was possible because the majority weren't yet Communists.

So, I put the blame for counter-revolution, historically, upon attempts to introduce Communism when the proletariat was still immature.

This, of course, goes against Leninist voluntarism, and has an element of fatalism. But this is, I think, unavoidable. It must be the fate of the proletariat to develop itself, otherwise Marx was wrong about 'self-determination'.

If that proves to be the case, then I'm not a Communist.

Demogorgon wrote:
Time for you to answer a direct question: do you agree or not with Lenin's slogan "All Power to the Soviets"? Why did he say that rather than "All Power to the Communists"?

Unlike some, I have no problem answering 'direct questions', even if the answers are unpalatable.

I don't think Lenin was a Marxist, so I think he chose whichever slogan suited his political purposes at the time that he expressed them. So, he chose 'Soviets' because he thought it would advance his party's interests, but I think he would have chosen 'Communists' if that would have them served better. Even today, we can see this Leninist 'bending of the stick', of which our SWP friend Tony Cliff was also very fond.

As you can tell, I'm not a Leninist. I didn't think that the ICC was, either. Perhaps I'm in the wrong place, comrade, not you.

LBird
Acknowledgement

Just to acknowledge your post, with which I cross-posted.

I won't get into a bout of 'quote-mongering', because we both know that anything can be proved with a judicious quote.

I've tried to explain my views as plainly as possible, so now it's for others to support/reject/comment on/ignore them.

Thanks for your discussion, Demogorgon, it's helped me to think things through a bit more!

Demogorgon
Although not "Leninist", we

Although not "Leninist", we (I am actually a member of the ICC) consider Lenin a Marxist and a revolutionary. If Lenin had been interested in simply advancing his party's interests he would have called for power to the factory committee where the Bolsheviks were very, very strong. (He did, in fact, consider this, but rejected the committees in favour of the Soviets on the basis that the soviets were mass organs that regrouped the entire proletariat while the scope of the Factory Committees was limited).

"So, I put the blame for counter-revolution, historically, upon attempts to introduce Communism when the proletariat was still immature."

Does this mean you don't support the Russian and German Revolutions?

More to the point, you don't think that the Russian and German Revolutions were not the actions of the workers themselves?

"As you can tell, I'm not a Leninist. I didn't think that the ICC was, either. Perhaps I'm in the wrong place, comrade, not you."

We're not Leninists. I don't think you're in the wrong place. Our board is for people who are interested in discussing working-class politics, which you seem to be.

LBird
Voluntarism versus Determinism?

Demogorgon wrote:
Although not "Leninist", we (I am actually a member of the ICC) consider Lenin a Marxist and a revolutionary.

At least we've clarified where we differ, comrade. I consider Lenin to have been a voluntarist who believed he could 'force the pace' of history.

I don't believe that this can be done - the majority of the working class has to come to consciousness by its own efforts before any Communist revolution can take place. Of course, we Communists can organise political groups (I'm not an Anarchist), to help advise, discuss, clarify, train and prepare, but the proletariat must develop a Communist class consciousness essentially from its own experiences. That's why I quoted Pannekoek, earlier.

Demogorgon wrote:
Does this mean you don't support the Russian and German Revolutions?

More to the point, you don't think that the Russian and German Revolutions were not the actions of the workers themselves?

I don't think that the Russian or German Revolutions involved Communist-conscious workers, forming a majority of the society in which they lived. There were non-worker Communists, there were Communist workers, there were non-Communist workers rebelling, there were peasants in the same categories, but, in neither case, was there a majority of Worker-Communists.

This might appear fatalistic, but if workers can't do this for themselves, then Communism of the type Marx spoke about is not possible. I take his ideas of 'self-emancipation' seriously.

Demogorgon wrote:
We're not Leninists. I don't think you're in the wrong place. Our board is for people who are interested in discussing working-class politics, which you seem to be.

But we seem to have some serious political differences, even if continued discussion is welcomed.

Demogorgon
"I don't believe that this

"I don't believe that this can be done - the majority of the working class has to come to consciousness by its own efforts before any Communist revolution can take place. Of course, we Communists can organise political groups (I'm not an Anarchist), to help advise, discuss, clarify, train and prepare, but the proletariat must develop a Communist class consciousness essentially from its own experiences. That's why I quoted Pannekoek, earlier."

I think some contradictions are emerging in your positions. On the one hand you say "I think workers have the capacity to become, and the sense to remain, Communists. Ergo, 'no need for the party at all!'". But then you say communists must organise political groups to "advise, discuss, clarify, train and prepare".

Our conception is different. For us, the party is part of the class, not external to it. It is the most conscious part of the proletariat, emerging from the process of the reflection of the entire class. It does not train or advise the working class but works in an organised fashion to stimulate and advance the very process that produced it in the first place. It is the first sign of the developing self-awareness of the class.

The proletariat certainly achieves consciousness through its own experiences: but these experiences also have a historic dimension as well as a contingent one. The revolutionary organisation thus exists outside and independently of the immediate struggle but preserves and elaborates the lessons of all the proletariats struggles. It distills the essentials of these lessons into a clear communist programme and agitates for it throughout the rest of the class.

"I don't think that the Russian or German Revolutions involved Communist-conscious workers, forming a majority of the society in which they lived."

It is highly unlikely that any revolution will begin with a majority of class-conscious workers in society. Firstly, the working-class proper is probably a global minority when you consider the vast numbers of peasants, slum-dwellers, proto-workers, dispossed slum dwellers, lumpens, etc. So a truly world revolution will rely on the capacity of the proletariat to lead the other dispossessed classes against capital.

Secondly, the working class homogenises its consciousness through struggle - I think we agree here. It is through the revolutionary process, the confrontations with capital and its political forces, that the mass (as opposed to a minority) becomes fully aware of the realities of the situation. It is also the struggle itself that shows it (as opposed to being told) how to organise itself. As I said before the proletariat formed soviets, councils, etc. before it had anything like a communist consciousness. The very existence of the soviets posed the question of power before the mass of workers were really aware of it themselves. It was the activity of the Bolsheviks in this era which showed workers the power of the organs they had themselves created, in the spirit of Marx's famous phrase "We do not say to the world: Cease your struggles, they are foolish; we will give you the true slogan of struggle. We merely show the world what it is really fighting for, and consciousness is something that it has to acquire, even if it does not want to."

This, in no way, means that Lenin (or Liebknecht, or Luxemburg, or Pannekoek, etc) was wrong to call for revolution. In fact, he called for it in 1914 when the prospects for it appeared dark indeed. Waiting for the proletariat to achieve communist consciousness before calling for revolution is a recipe for class pacificism as the likes of Kautsky or SPGB show.

The voluntarism of the Bolsheviks wasn't that they agitated for revolution - this was their finest hour! - it was that they attempted to substitute themselves for the mass of the class once the revolution began to retreat.

Alf
Lenin

 

 

Lbird, what's your principal evidence that Lenin wanted to 'force the pace of history' (in a voluntarist way)? 

But perhaps we also need to define our terms a bit. According to my meagre understanding of physics, work is force; when we do work we are applying force to something to make it move, accelerating the pace of history if you will...

Alf
after you....

Demogorgon's lucid post crossed over with mine. So Lbird might want to respond to what Demo wrote before we get into the big Lenin debate.  

LBird
Apologies

Alf, Demogorgon, I'm afraid there isn't going to be a 'big Lenin debate', not with me, anyway.

I'm well convinced as much by my (and my friends' and other workers') experiences in 'Leninist' organisations, like the SWP, Militant, Workers' Power, WRP, etc., etc., together with reading lots of pro- and anti-Bolshevik histories, over the years.

My mind, at least, is already made up. If others want to discuss it, that's fine with me, and I'll read the contributions. But I've spent enough time over the years, being even-handed, and I've come to my conclusion.

My reason for looking to the ICC was precisely because I thought it was a 'Council Communist-inspired' organisation, which to me also means 'anti-Leninist'. It would be pointless me getting involved with the ICC if this is not true, because my first act as a member would be to embark on a campaign of disruption, to remove any 'Leninism' within the organisation.

And I think any member of any 'Central Committee' or directing body should only serve once, for one year only. Ever. The membership should take turns in any posts, so that no-one person (or a few people) remains in control.

This is the only way of ensuring that all the membership experience the higher levels of the organisation. If the organisation is controlled by the members anyway, this won't present a problem. No Cliff- or Healey-type figures.

Alf
'Leninist'

All the organisations you mention have in common the fossilisation of Lenin's errors and none of them have continued what was revolutionary in his thinking.  I don't think we can get anywhere towards understanding Lenin's role in the history of our movement by looking at these organisations. 

LBird
The true Leninist?

At least you seem to accept that Lenin made some errors, Alf! That's a big plus.

Whether you think those organisations were Leninist or not (and let's face it, that's another trait that pro-Leninist orgs. all have, that only they are the 'true' Leninists), I've also read histories and had personal experience.

I'd be more interested to discuss how the ICC differs from Pannekoek, etc., and why the ICC doesn't share what I thought was the common rejection of Lenin's ideas and practice.

mhou
But they are influenced by

But they are influenced by the German communist left, as well as Luxemburg. There's little relation between the 'Bolshevik-Leninism' of the early Trotskyists or the caricatures of even those degenerated organizations that exist today (AWL, WP, SWP, SPEW, etc.)- and neither bares any resemblence to the organizational practices of the ICC (or those of the future International). What do you think are the aspects of 'Leninism' that need combatted? Other than the historical narrative about Lenin, I'm not sure there are any aspects of what is colloquially known as Leninism present.

jk1921
Lenin and Pannekoek's Mistakes

LBird wrote:

At least you seem to accept that Lenin made some errors, Alf! That's a big plus.

Whether you think those organisations were Leninist or not (and let's face it, that's another trait that pro-Leninist orgs. all have, that only they are the 'true' Leninists), I've also read histories and had personal experience.

I'd be more interested to discuss how the ICC differs from Pannekoek, etc., and why the ICC doesn't share what I thought was the common rejection of Lenin's ideas and practice.

I opened the discussion forum and it said there were 21 new posts in this thread! The ICC acknowledges that Lenin made very many and very grave mistakes, but it would also say the same about Pannekoek. Its going to take some time to tease them all out.

mhou
This point from the Second

This point from the Second Congress of the Communist International seems appropriate to the discussion:

"A sharp distinction must be made between the concepts of party and class. The members of the 'Christian' and liberal trade unions of Germany, England, and other countries are undoubtedly parts of the working class. The more or less numerous groups of workers who still follow Scheidemann, Gompers, and their like, are undoubtedly part of the working class. In certain historical circumstances it is quite possible for the working class to include very numerous reactionary elements. It is the task of communism not to adapt itself to these backward sections of the working class but to raise the entire working class to the level of the communist vanguard. Confusion of these two concepts - party and class - can lead to the greatest mistakes and bewilderment. It is for example clear that in spite of the sentiments and prejudices of a certain section of the working class during the imperialist war, the workers' party had at all costs to combat those sentiments and prejudices by standing for the historical interests of the proletariat which required the proletarian party to declare war on the war."

Written (and accepted by the Third International) in 1920, during the peak of the revolutionary wave after WWI; even at that time, masses (if not a large majority) of workers still relied on, allied with and supported the Scheidemann's and Gompers'.

A term that I think fits in relation to the question of the time of the revolutionary crisis is a 'revolutionary combined and uneven development'- that the next revolutionary wave will look like the last one in the sense that some regions of the Earth will be the first to turn the capitalist crisis into a revolutionary crisis- that other areas will be the advanced vanguard of the revolutionary movement for communism, while others will lag behind or run into dead ends.

LBird
Pannekoek versus Lenin

jk1921 wrote:
The ICC acknowledges that Lenin made very many and very grave mistakes, but it would also say the same about Pannekoek. Its going to take some time to tease them all out.

Would you (or anyone else) like to point out some of the essential differences between Lenin and Pannekoek, jk? And which side of each of these differences the ICC stands for?

I should make it clear that I mean a post by a comrade which embodies the knowledge required, rather than a large post, or, even worse, a link to massive original documents.

I would imagine that 'consciousness' would be a prime candidate for one difference, but perhaps there are other, more important, ones?

Demogorgon
"My reason for looking to the

"My reason for looking to the ICC was precisely because I thought it was a 'Council Communist-inspired' organisation, which to me also means 'anti-Leninist'. It would be pointless me getting involved with the ICC if this is not true, because my first act as a member would be to embark on a campaign of disruption, to remove any 'Leninism' within the organisation."

We are not Leninists:

  • We reject Lenin's idea of a hierarchical, "militarist" party (although Lenin himself retreated on this);
  • We reject Lenin's conception the "right of nations to self-determination";
  • We reject the conception of class consciousness expressed in What is to be done? (in reality, this was borrowed from Kautsky and later Lenin rejected it).
  • We reject the conception of the party as an instrument of power.

It actually appears to us that you're closer to Leninism (and Lenin and Leninism are far from identical) than we are. For starters, you defend a conception of power being exercised by "communist-workers" instead of just plain workers. This is just another name for the dictatorship of the party with a bit of workerism (the idea that non-proletarians can't be communists) thrown in. In effect, you identify the party with the class but think that because you don't call it a party, you've escaped the trap of party dictatorship.

We make a very clear distinction between the mass organs of the class and the party:

  • The mass organ emerges from the immediate struggle of the class. It regroups all workers regardless of their political positions. A worker can participate in these organs simply because he is a worker. The mass organs are the instruments of working class power.
     
  • The party is an organisation of communists. It is not exclusive to workers even if they will tend to be a majority within it. Only those defending communist positions can join the party. The party is not an instrument of power, but the self-organisation of the most conscious elements of the working class (joined by non-workers who support the proletarian struggle).

From what you've said, however, the mass organ is exclusive to workers who are communists. Does this help explain why I'm saying that you're conflating the party and the class?

But, with you councillist hat on, you also see the party (and consciousness) as something external to the class. This is why you're afraid of it imposing its will over the workers. Both Leninism and Councillism fall into this error. "Leninism" sees the masses as inert and the party the sole embodiment of consciousness - it is therefore "proper" that the party should direct, as the brain directs the body. Councillism on the other hand, rightly horrified by this conception, retreats in terror of "imposing" its ideas on the rest of the class. It sits outside the struggle offering "advice and training", almost as if it were some kind of consultancy group.

Both fail to see the party as the product of the class itself, as the self-organisation of its most conscious and militant members with the aim of fighting for the communist programme, for the masses to become aware of their own power and take control of their own struggles. If the party begins to impose its will over the class, then this is because the consciousness of both the masses and the party itself is deteriorating and the party is ceasing to be a proletarian body.

LBird
Cadre consciousness, not class consciousness

Demogorgon, I think that the ICC’s concept of consciousness is where our differences lie. Because you see ‘Communist consciousness’ as something that lies in the party, not the class, you are forced to deny workers’ democracy. In contrast, I think ‘Communist consciousness’ must be produced, developed and be embraced by the majority of the class itself, before a revolution is possible. So, we differ in our political assumptions.

From my assumption, I think I can make a prediction. I predict that the internal workings of the ICC will be reproduced in the future within the version of Communism that they embrace. Because you see consciousness as the attribute of a minority rather than a majority, I bet that you don’t ensure that the same comrades don’t fill the leadership positions within the party. I think that you’ll have a cadre of long-term members at the centre of the party. You won’t ensure that there is a constant turnover of new members placed into positions of power within the party. Although you claim to only recruit Communists, I’ll bet that some older Communists are seen as better than most newer Communists. The party will divide between ‘Even-Conscious Communists’ and ‘Uneven-Conscious Communists’. Your external model of ‘party and class’ will be reproduced internally as ‘cadre and members’.

An organisation I would join would have to be entirely internally democratic, in the way I would expect to be reflected in the developing class. All positions of responsibility would have to be elected, mandated and revocable, and the comrades filling these roles would be regularly replaced by newer comrades who haven’t fulfilled the role before. No cadre; just members.

The supposed separation in ‘uneven consciousness’ produces a mentality within Leninist parties that ‘they know better than the class’. This means that the party thinks that it is going to teach new members, rather than assume that new members are going to teach the party. If I’m recruited, I’m openly admitting that I know better than you, and I’m going to have the party changed to fit my model: if I can win a majority, of course. I’ll ensure that I recruit new comrades who agree with me, and build this majority.

Of course, I wouldn’t mind being part of a party that recruits Communist workers who can overrule and teach me, because I assume that Communist workers know better, if democracy prevails.

To me, this defines a Leninist party: one that won’t do as it’s told by the workers it recruits. This is because it believes that its consciousness is clearer than theirs. This internal one-way dynamic of power between cadre and members is reproduced externally towards the class: party prevails over class.

Demogorgon wrote:
The party is an organisation of communists. It is not exclusive to workers even if they will tend to be a majority within it. Only those defending communist positions can join the party. The party is not an instrument of power, but the self-organisation of the most conscious elements of the working class (joined by non-workers who support the proletarian struggle).

Simply, a Leninist party defines ‘Communist’ as their assumption of consciousness, and so doesn’t recruit those will a ‘class consciousness’ rather than a ‘party consciousness’. Workers with ‘class consciousness’ are merely defined as ‘Anarchists’, or ‘lacking real consciousness’ or not ‘conscious and militant enough’, or some other internally-defined, Leninist-inspired, anti-democratic measure. The party is a cadre 'instrument of power' over its own membership.

I hope I’m mistaken about the ICC, and you can tell me how I can bring my mates into the party too and how long it will be before we run the party, not the current members.

Some of this is obviously polemical and joking, but I think it raises some serious issues of what we mean by ‘class consciousness’ and who has the power to define it, if not workers themselves through democratic means.

We have to get to the heart of our political assumptions.

Demogorgon
I'm not going to respond on

I'm not going to respond on the question of the ICC's internal life because it will only serve to deflect us from the core issue under discussion.

It is clear that you are making assumptions about what we think rather than engaging with what we're actually saying either in terms of our published positions or in this discussion.

As I said earlier: "[The party] is the most conscious part of the proletariat, emerging from the process of the reflection of the entire class. It does not train or advise the working class but works in an organised fashion to stimulate and advance the very process that produced it in the first place. It is the first sign of the developing self-awareness of the class."

The specific text that inspired this discussion elaborates: "The party cannot claim to be the sole and exclusive bearer or representative of class consciousness. It is not predestined to have any such monopoly. Class consciousness is inherent in the class as a whole. The party is the most advanced organ of this conscious­ness and no more. This does not imply that it is infallible, nor that at certain times it may be behind the consciousness attained by other sectors or fractions of the class. The working class is not homogeneous but it tends to become so. The same goes for class consciousness which tends to homogenize itself and to generalize. It's the task of the party -- and this is one of its main functions - to contribute consciously to the acceleration of this process."

And from our platform: "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."

Your claim that we "see ‘Communist consciousness’ as something that lies in the party, not the class" is therefore diametrically opposed to our actual position. Following this you conclude that we "are forced to deny workers’ democracy".

This, again, is diametrically opposed to our actual position. In fact, the denial of workers democracy is your position, which you seem to be projecting onto us. You state explicitly that "Surely only Communists will be 'welcome within' organs of proletarian power?" We, on the other hand, defend the idea that the organs of proletarian power are open to all workers, no matter what their political opinon. As Luxemburg said, "Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters." For real freedom for the working class, this means freedom for workers who dissent from communism to voice their opinions in the organs of class power (the mass assemblies and the councils).

You claim that a party "party defines ‘Communist’ as their assumption of consciousness". This, of course, is true to a certain extent as a party, in Pannekoek's words is "a group of common opinion". You then state that this state of affairs makes the party an instrument of power over its own members.

But it is utterly bizarre that you then fail to draw the implications of what this means for your own position of only allowing communists into the organs of proletarian power. Who is it that decides who is "communist" enough to join your organs of power? Why is it absolutely fine for the class organs of power to exclude those who are aren't "communist" enough but dangerous when a party does it?

jk1921
Democracy's Contradictions

Demogorgon wrote:

This, again, is diametrically opposed to our actual position. In fact, the denial of workers democracy is your position, which you seem to be projecting onto us. You state explicitly that "Surely only Communists will be 'welcome within' organs of proletarian power?" We, on the other hand, defend the idea that the organs of proletarian power are open to all workers, no matter what their political opinon. As Luxemburg said, "Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters." For real freedom for the working class, this means freedom for workers who dissent from communism to voice their opinions in the organs of class power (the mass assemblies and the councils).

You claim that a party "party defines ‘Communist’ as their assumption of consciousness". This, of course, is true to a certain extent as a party, in Pannekoek's words is "a group of common opinion". You then state that this state of affairs makes the party an instrument of power over its own members.

But it is utterly bizarre that you then fail to draw the implications of what this means for your own position of only allowing communists into the organs of proletarian power. Who is it that decides who is "communist" enough to join your organs of power? Why is it absolutely fine for the class organs of power to exclude those who are aren't "communist" enough but dangerous when a party does it?

 

The connection between this discussion and the one on science is clear. Why bother allowing non-communist workers to speak if they are clearly wrong? What is the point of bothering with "democracy," when all that can do is muck up the application of a scientifically determined program? Why is it so important that all workers be able to speak and have their voices heard? Is this an end in itself?

These issues were of course paramount in the context of the German revolution, the KAPD, the AAUD, etc. Just who can belong to a factory group? Only communist workers? How is this not a violation of workers' self-determination and autonomy? There seems to be an assumption, that workers' autonomy (the councils, mass assemblies, etc.) as a form always leads (eventually at least) to the correct content (communist consciousness). Therefore, there the problem of excluding non-communist workers never arises. All workers will belong, because all workers will be communists. But this is simply not what happened in the German revolution and its even debateable the extent to which this happened in Russia. If anyone struggles to understand the appeal of substitutionism, here it is. This of course doesn't make substitutionism correct.

 

 

 

Fred
jk wrote: Why bother

jk wrote:
Why bother allowing non-communist workers to speak if they are clearly wrong? What is the point of bothering with "democracy," when all that can do is muck up the application of a scientifically determined program? Why is it so important that all workers be able to speak and have their voices heard? Is this an end in itself?

How will we know that non-communist workers are clearly wrong if they're not allowed to speak? And if they say something that is "wrong" (something supporting the bourgeoisie's outlook) then it can be discussed, and possibly be sorted out. The idea of "a scientifically determined program" - eugenics, the final solution? - as taking precedence over any kind of proletarian democracy is anathema. But you must be joking jk: at least I hope so. And the reason that it's so vital that all workers speak and be heard, is because we're talking about the emergence of communism; that is our end in view. We're talking about the emergence of a fully human society, where all fear has been removed, and people will be able to develop their various talents, working together in harmony, rather than hiding away in bourgeois isolationism. The encouragement of self expression for all - the exact opposite of what happens in bourgeois society - is surely the essence of communism? And you might argue that "the scientifically determined program" and its worshippers, who are fanatically determined to service it and maintain its survival, is nothing less than the abominable capitalism under which we struggle.

jk1921
Not Joking

Fred wrote:
jk wrote:
Why bother allowing non-communist workers to speak if they are clearly wrong? What is the point of bothering with "democracy," when all that can do is muck up the application of a scientifically determined program? Why is it so important that all workers be able to speak and have their voices heard? Is this an end in itself?

How will we know that non-communist workers are clearly wrong if they're not allowed to speak? And if they say something that is "wrong" (something supporting the bourgeoisie's outlook) then it can be discussed, and possibly be sorted out. The idea of "a scientifically determined program" - eugenics, the final solution? - as taking precedence over any kind of proletarian democracy is anathema. But you must be joking jk: at least I hope so. And the reason that it's so vital that all workers speak and be heard, is because we're talking about the emergence of communism; that is our end in view. We're talking about the emergence of a fully human society, where all fear has been removed, and people will be able to develop their various talents, working together in harmony, rather than hiding away in bourgeois isolationism. The encouragement of self expression for all - the exact opposite of what happens in bourgeois society - is surely the essence of communism? And you might argue that "the scientifically determined program" and its worshippers, who are fanatically determined to service it and maintain its survival, is nothing less than the abominable capitalism under which we struggle.

I am not joking Fred. I am posing a question for discussion and attempting to probe why many people have been attracted to substitutionism historically. The connection to the discussion on the nature of science couldn't be clearer. So, the question remains is workers' democracy or workers' autonomy an end in itself or is it a means towards a further goal?

If it is an end in itself, then it seems we must forfeit our right to suggest that the working class might in any moment be wrong. Whatever it decides, must be correct, because there is no higher principle than democracy, autonomy, etc. We slip into a kind of Panglossian world and would seem to surrender our ability to criticize from a point of view of science.

If on the other hand, communism is a scientifically determined program (as believed by many who subscribe to subsitutionism) workers' democracy is a complete waste of time, capitulating to it is sheer opportunism and there is no need wait on democratic mechanisms to arrive at the truth--if they ever do.

And this, I think, is the Gordian knot that left communism has attempted to undo since its inception. How do we reconcile communism as a scientific program with the principle of workers' democracy/autonomy, etc. ?

LBird
Some definitions required?

jk1921 wrote:
How do we reconcile communism as a scientific program with the principle of workers' democracy/autonomy, etc. ?

This reasonable question demands that we define 'communism' and 'scientific program', and outline what 'workers' democracy' will consist of.

jk1921 wrote:
The connection to the discussion on the nature of science couldn't be clearer.

Yes, I agree.

Demogorgon
I'm not sure I would define

I'm not sure I would define communism as a "scientific programme". Marxism is (arguably) a scientific method that is (arguably) a structured expression of the proletariat's class consciousness (another term that probably needs to be defined) or at least aligns with it.

But communism itself? It also depends, as LBird has already said, what we mean by communism and particularly the "communist programme".

Consider Marx's famous statement: "Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality will have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence."

What made Marxism "scientific" wasn't the idea of communism itself, but that he analysed the "premises" and concluded that communism was their conclusion. Hence, socialism became more than a moral call for transformation of society but an objective requirement for society's development.

Maybe ...

jk1921
False Consciousness

Demogorgon wrote:

What made Marxism "scientific" wasn't the idea of communism itself, but that he analysed the "premises" and concluded that communism was their conclusion. Hence, socialism became more than a moral call for transformation of society but an objective requirement for society's development.

Maybe ...

Marxism is scientific because it makes a claim to a kind of objective knowledge and it describes objective processes that are independent of human consciousness. Captialism is doomed to crisis regardless of what we think about it. Moreover, capitalism can only be replaced by communism. Thus, when the working class goes in for reformism, social democratic ideas, reviving democracy, etc. it is expressing "false consciousness" that is objectively wrong from the point of view of a scientific analysis of capitalism. If we give up the conception of Marxism (and thus the communist programme) as science, as objectively true, we give up our right to critique reformism, because we no longer have the objective viewpoint to determine which forms of consciousness are class consciousness and which ones are false. It is here that we fall into empiricism and democratism and must submit ourselves to the "democratic control" of the masses. Without the standpoint of objective science, the masses can't be wrong. This is where democracy and science reveal their contradiction.....

Demogorgon
I largely agree with your

I largely agree with your points about the objective qualities of Marxism. Indeed, the objective vs. subjective approach was one of the key critiques Luxemburg made of the Reformists, albeit from a slightly different perspective. I'm not sure "scientific programme" is necessarily the best way to say it, but I will admit I'm not entirely sure why.

"It is here that we fall into empiricism and democratism and must submit ourselves to the "democratic control" of the masses. Without the standpoint of objective science, the masses can't be wrong. This is where democracy and science reveal their contradiction....."

The masses can certainly be wrong. On the other hand, so can communists and scientists. I don't think there is contradiction between science and democracy. Science is an effort to understand reality which is necessary in order to change reality. Democracy, if that is what we want to call the development of debate and freedom of criticism, is actually an essential part of science. The revolution has to involve the masses in this process or else we are simply creating a technocracy.

The masses must have to have the freedom to make mistakes and to learn from them; this is part of the process of the revolutionary transformation of the working class itself. Leaving matters in the hands of communists alone is simply a remnant of bourgeois democracy, with the masses remaining passive and not taking a direct role in society. The homogenisation of consciousness becomes impossible without the active engagement of the masses in every aspect of the revolution and wielding of power.

"Every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programmes," as Marx once put it.

jk1921
Democracy vs. Science

Demogorgon wrote:

I largely agree with your points about the objective qualities of Marxism. Indeed, the objective vs. subjective approach was one of the key critiques Luxemburg made of the Reformists, albeit from a slightly different perspective. I'm not sure "scientific programme" is necessarily the best way to say it, but I will admit I'm not entirely sure why.

"It is here that we fall into empiricism and democratism and must submit ourselves to the "democratic control" of the masses. Without the standpoint of objective science, the masses can't be wrong. This is where democracy and science reveal their contradiction....."

The masses can certainly be wrong. On the other hand, so can communists and scientists. I don't think there is contradiction between science and democracy. Science is an effort to understand reality which is necessary in order to change reality. Democracy, if that is what we want to call the development of debate and freedom of criticism, is actually an essential part of science.

 

Hmm, interesting points Demo. But I am not sure I agree that democracy is debate and freedom of criticism. This sounds more like what the political scientists call "liberalism," or what Habermas might call "communicative reason." I think we are using "democracy" differently. Democracy, or perhaps better "democratism," to me is the idea that the "majority rules," the masses are always soveriegn, always know best, etc. There is a tinge of the "noble savage" in these ideas. But if we always accept the will of the majority as legitimate, it becomes impossible to engage in critique. The masses could even decide that science should be banned, repressed, censored, etc. and we would have to accept it, like Socrates accepting his fate and drinking the hemlock.

Its true that scientists can also be wrong, sometimes with damaging and nefarious consequences. My favorite example is the epidemic of neurologic disease created by psychiatric medication. I would even argue that sometimes common sense is the best defense against this type of scientific overstep (i.e. "why should I take a drug for anxiety that has anxiety listed as a side effect?!) , but that idea has gotten me into trouble lately.

LBird
Veeeery gentle probe

jk1921 wrote:
I would even argue that sometimes common sense is the best defense... but that idea has gotten me into trouble lately.

jk1921, your often expressed fondness for 'common sense' hasn't 'gotten you into trouble lately'.

What's happened is that another comrade has questioned your use of the term. This isn't a personal attack, but a philosophical and political question. Many Communists see the use of the term 'common sense' as a problem: as a Communist, I certainly do.

So, in the spirit of comradely enquiry, can you outline where your 'common sense' comes from?

Since it seems to play a large part in your political responses, I think I'm justified in asking you to explain its origins. The alternatives I can think of, off the cuff, are: your individual mind, society as a whole, a part of society, or external to society, like god, spiritual revelation, or nature, or a substance, like drink or drugs.

Perhaps you can think of other potential sources, whether you personally root it in them or not?

Demogorgon
"But I am not sure I agree

"But I am not sure I agree that democracy is debate and freedom of criticism. This sounds more like what the political scientists call "liberalism," or what Habermas might call "communicative reason." I think we are using "democracy" differently. Democracy, or perhaps better "democratism," to me is the idea that the "majority rules," the masses are always soveriegn, always know best, etc. There is a tinge of the "noble savage" in these ideas."

I accept there are problems with the term "democracy". Democracy is very much the "tyranny of the majority" - under communism proper, where there will far wider lattitudes for people to fulfill their desires as they choose, that sort of "tyranny" will be very much reduced.

Nor does the term "democracy" - which implies everyone having a say - really apply to the post-revolutionary situation: this will be true of all proletarians but not at all for other social strata who will either have no say at all (the rump bourgeoisie) or reduced weight (middle-class, peasantry, etc.) in the decision making processes.

We are talking about a "dictatorship of the proletariat" after all. But what we cannot allow is a dictatorship over the proletariat, even by a segment of itself (e.g. the party).

I don't get the noble-savage reference at all. I am simply saying that in order to launch a revolution and then create communism, the whole proletariat has to be involved and the entire class has to take on the responsibility of raising its level of consciousness. The role of the party is to accelerate this process of homogenisation of consciousness through the class; not to "step in" when the class isn't up to the job.

Although you clearly have doubts about this vision, I'm not yet clear what your position actually is. Do you have an alternative to what I've posited?

"But if we always accept the will of the majority as legitimate, it becomes impossible to engage in critique."

I don't follow this. Accepting that class power remains with the masses in no way relieves the party of its responsibility to critique the masses when they are in error. That is the principal function of the party!

"The masses could even decide that science should be banned, repressed, censored, etc. and we would have to accept it, like Socrates accepting his fate and drinking the hemlock."

That's right, we would. Should something like that occur, then the revolution is already dead and it would time to be focussing on preserving what was left of the organisation. But what's the alternative? Tell the masses they are wrong and take over? That would, in itself, destroy the revolution. Either way, we lose. But better to let the revolution die at the hands of the bourgeoisie and the reactionaries than to wield the ax ourselves.

jk1921
Democracy as principle or necessity?

Demogorgon wrote:

I don't get the noble-savage reference at all. I am simply saying that in order to launch a revolution and then create communism, the whole proletariat has to be involved and the entire class has to take on the responsibility of raising its level of consciousness. The role of the party is to accelerate this process of homogenisation of consciousness through the class; not to "step in" when the class isn't up to the job.

The noble savage idea comes the sense that in a "democracy" the masses are never wrong, they have some kind of natural wisdom about what should be done, that it is somehow innapropriate to violate.

I am not advocating substiutionism at all. I am only arguing that we cannot give up our position of critique by subcumbing to the Panglossian idea that democracy always leads to the right outcome, or that the masses always know best. Please be aware that I am not saying you hold this vision.

Demogorgon wrote:

Although you clearly have doubts about this vision, I'm not yet clear what your position actually is. Do you have an alternative to what I've posited?

No. Is that an issue?

Demogorgon wrote:

"But if we always accept the will of the majority as legitimate, it becomes impossible to engage in critique."

I don't follow this. Accepting that class power remains with the masses in no way relieves the party of its responsibility to critique the masses when they are in error. That is the principal function of the party!

"The masses could even decide that science should be banned, repressed, censored, etc. and we would have to accept it, like Socrates accepting his fate and drinking the hemlock."

That's right, we would. Should something like that occur, then the revolution is already dead and it would time to be focussing on preserving what was left of the organisation. But what's the alternative? Tell the masses they are wrong and take over? That would, in itself, destroy the revolution. Either way, we lose. But better to let the revolution die at the hands of the bourgeoisie and the reactionaries than to wield the ax ourselves.

You are a few steps ahead of me here. I am not even talking about a situation of power--only about the basis upon which revolutionaries can and should engage in critique and the complicated relationship between science and democracy. And once again, nobody is endorsing substitutionism--but the discussion of science and democracy is making it increasingly clear to me why the subsitutionist vision has proven so attractive for many over the eons. When a Bordigist stands up and says, "Yes, the party should rule," this is more than just an expression of stupidity. There is a genuine and serious rationalization behind it based on the idea of Marxism as science, even if I don't agree with it. But this raises the question: why don't I agree with it? Out of democratic principle? (Its wrong to rule in the name of others) or out of strategic necessity (communism cannot be built and captialism cannot be transcended without the participation of the entire working class)?

jk1921
Shock and awe

LBird wrote:

jk1921 wrote:
I would even argue that sometimes common sense is the best defense... but that idea has gotten me into trouble lately.

jk1921, your often expressed fondness for 'common sense' hasn't 'gotten you into trouble lately'.

What's happened is that another comrade has questioned your use of the term. This isn't a personal attack, but a philosophical and political question.

Comrade, do you not see how the title of your post could reasonably be interpreted as patronage by implying that I was some irrationally sensitive person who is prone to fly off the handle at any moment? This seems very passive aggressive to me.

But to the substance of your inquiry. I would say your response was a little more dramatic than the posing of a philosophical and political question. You expressed nothing less than shock and awe that I would dare cite common sense in defense of anything. To you, this was somehow un-Marxist and not worthy of expression on this forum.  Moreover, I certainly wouldn't say that I have "often" expressed fondness for common sense. Certainly, this contradicts your often expressed charge that I worship, or are brainwashed by, science and scientists, doesn't it? In fact, if you look at the original post in which I cited common sense, you will see that it done in a very limited way--hardly the act of epistemological destruction you interpreted it to be.

But perhaps that is all water under the bridge?

LBird wrote:

So, in the spirit of comradely enquiry, can you outline where your 'common sense' comes from?

Lived tactile experience of the world? The same place where "common law" comes from--a set of principles useful for making sense out of the world on a daily basis and ordering one's daily life and interaction with others. These can either confirm dominant ideology, i.e. "there will always be classes," or "human nature makes communism impossible." Or it can help one see through fantastic  ideological promises that can never be true like that great deal the used car salesman is offering you, the drug company ads that tell you a little blue pill will make all your troubles go away, or the idea that the masses can someday master every aspect of science and that the problem of the division of labour in a complex, science driven society isn't a fundamental difficulty for the communist vision.

 

LBird
Baffled

jk1921 wrote:

LBird wrote:

jk1921 wrote:
I would even argue that sometimes common sense is the best defense... but that idea has gotten me into trouble lately.

jk1921, your often expressed fondness for 'common sense' hasn't 'gotten you into trouble lately'.

What's happened is that another comrade has questioned your use of the term. This isn't a personal attack, but a philosophical and political question.

Comrade, do you not see how the title of your post could reasonably be interpreted as patronage by implying that I was some irrationally sensitive person who is prone to fly off the handle at any moment? This seems very passive aggressive to me.

But to the substance of your inquiry. I would say your response was a little more dramatic than the posing of a philosophical and political question. You expressed nothing less than shock and awe that I would dare cite common sense in defense of anything. To you, this was somehow un-Marxist and not worthy of expression on this forum.

Well, I've tried, haven't I?

I'm afraid that the ICC is going to have to give me some direction as to how to ask political questions. I think I'm being reasonable, but, apparently, when I'm not being 'aggressive' and hurting feelings, I'm being 'passive-aggressive', patronising, implying irrational sensitivity, dramatic and expressing 'shock and awe'.

To forestall any further bad feeling between comrades, I'll refrain from 'interrogating' (is that the suitable, new, sensitive term?) jk1921 any further, and leave them in peace.

Though, how we're going to carry through a potentially violent revolution against a ruling class that can employ Fascism, when merely asking questions is enough to cause offence, god only knows.

Perhaps I should talk to him/her/it/them, eh? Probably get hit with a bolt of lightning...

jk1921
Tone

LBird wrote:

Though, how we're going to carry through a potentially violent revolution against a ruling class that can employ Fascism, when merely asking questions is enough to cause offence, god only knows.

Perhaps I should talk to him/her/it/them, eh? Probably get hit with a bolt of lightning...

 

Straw man again. Nobody is taking offense at you asking questions of other comrades. That's perfectly fine, expected and indeed necessary. Its an issue of tone: the expression of self-righteous indignation when someone says something that rubs you as un-Marxist, the implication that those who disagree with you are somehow "brainwashed," the resort to charges of "bourgeois ideology" in debates that are far from easy or simple and in which multiple Marxist interpretations are real possibilities.

Moreover, is it really appropriate to compare preliminary debates between comrades with the violence of revolution? This seems like a poor analogy and harkens back to the quote in LoneLondoner's post above in which there has too often been a tendency to see debates as knock-out, drag-down, bloodsport in which one's opponents must be pulverized. I just don't think these issues have reached a level of development yet, where this approach is necessary. It can only scare people off, encourage reticene and prevent a full flowering of ideas. This isn't Luxemburg vs. Kautsky just yet, comrade. We are still only broaching these issues. Please tread more lightly, not for the sake of my personal feelings, but for that of the younger generations of militants who are certainly watching this play out. Some are on the verge of making a decision about whether or not this kind of activity is a worthwhile pursuit.

 

LBird
Stone

jk1921 wrote:
Lived tactile experience of the world?

I suppose you look up at the sky every morning, see with your own eyes the moving sun going around the earth that you can bodily sense is stationary, and draw the scientific conclusion that the sun does indeed go around the earth.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at your attitude to comrades trying to help you explore the philosophy of science.

Demogorgon
LBird, that is exactly the

LBird, that is exactly the kind of response that makes it very difficult to debate with you. Your approach does not come across as trying to "help" anyone. Instead, it is derisive and mocking. This is unfortunate, because you clearly have a lot to offer - all of which will continue to remain absolutely invisble to people while you continue with this method of debate.