Differences Within an Organization

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mhou
Differences Within an Organization
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The concept of 'class lines' was discussed briefly in another thread, but it may be worth revisiting.

What positions do other communists view as immutable or prerequisites for membership in a communist organization?

There's always differences over certain positions or tactics going back to the Communist League- and a long history within the worker's movement of tendencies, factions and minorities within parties or organizations. But apart from issues most communists would argue are 'class lines' (positions which place someone either in the company of leftists or on the side of communists) there's a lot of other 'big' positions or concepts which divide communists:

Examples:

-Differences over the conception of decadence (high OCC, saturation of pre-capitalist markets, transition from formal to real domination of capital).

-Difference over when or how the party is created (during or before a pre-revolutionary situation).

 

I'd be very interested to hear others' thoughts on which issues, positions or theories require homogenous acceptance by all communists if they inhabit the same organization, and which positions-concepts-theories are tangential or secondary in the sense that there can be disagreement on them in an organization.

Fred
There could be differences

There could be differences about the party: what does it do, and who joins it.  I suppose there would be general agreement among contemporary communists that the "party doesn't substitute itself for the class."  But I am not so sure that there would be agreement everywhere about the actual real meaning of this dictum.  I suspect it tends to be taken for granted that we all know what it means, and are all in agreement about this. But I think we probably aren't, and that this issue goes under the carpet. But its very important. In no way at all must the party substitute itself for the class, for the councils, for the exercise of power by the class - whilst the Dictatorship of the Proletariat continues - in any way at all! 

 

 

A related issue that is not easy to talk about at least for me, is that of elitism. The party might be regarded as an elite. But isnt the whole idea of "elites" and "elitism" something left over from bourgeois thought, and more traditional bourgeois  understandings of what education is, and who counts as "educated", and the role of elite knowledge such as "science" and "engineering"  and hi-tech in general, particularly in bourgeois society?  But doesn't this point of view still carry enormous sway, and  permeate people's thoughts in general, even comrades who might  be regarded as on the communist side of class lines?

 

 

 But the party isn't an elite. On the contrary, a major activity of the party, and committed communists in general, could well be in fighting against the whole idea of elitism; that some people are "more informed" than others, rather than just different.  But the sad thing is that in many ways, in the period of transition, some comrades will be, or will present themselves as being, better informed than others, and I think this could become a more serious problem to deal with than we may think of it as being now.  Only a huge growth in communist consciousness will be able to sort this out. Is that right? 

LBird
Democracy

mhou wrote:
What positions do other communists view as immutable or prerequisites for membership in a communist organization?

I think that the most fundamental prerequisite for any Communist organisation is internal democracy.

A cadre must not be allowed to form who, in reality, control the flow of information, the appointment of officials, the policies adopted: in short, 'power' within the organisation.

A Communist organisation must be controlled by the entire membership, from below.

It should be a model for class organisation, where the membership learn their 'trade' as class fighters.

In my opinion, most political organisations do not fit these criteria, especially those that look to any form of Leninism.

mhou
Quote: But the sad thing is

Quote:
But the sad thing is that in many ways, in the period of transition, some comrades will be, or will present themselves as being, better informed than others, and I think this could become a more serious problem to deal with than we may think of it as being now.

It's definitely difficult to imagine it today. I'd guess the other problem there is if excessive barriers to communist participation in open struggles are put in place on the organizational or theoretical terrain (leaving only the role of 'educator' for the party or rejecting the party-form, etc.), communists wouldn't be able to fulfill their 'function'.

Quote:
I think that the most fundamental prerequisite for any Communist organisation is internal democracy.

That's the other side of the question: how much toleration can there be on secondary political or theoretical questions within any kind of organization of communists? The collection of Trotsky's late-life letters and articles in 'In Defense of Marxism' talks about the 'abuse' of internal democracy in the US-SWP by the Schachtman and Burnham faction (who ended up opposing most of the basic foundational positions of the group), but were still able or permitted to publish in the groups paper and internal bulletins. Surely there is a point where healthy discussion and confrontation of ideas ends and counter-productive factionalism begins (in the case of the contorted and ingrown Trotskyist 'party', it would seem that moment was when a minority came to positions completely against all of the principle positions of the organization).

 

LBird
Four legs good; two legs better. Or, 'better fewer, but better'?

mhou wrote:
Surely there is a point where healthy discussion and confrontation of ideas ends and counter-productive factionalism begins (in the case of the contorted and ingrown Trotskyist 'party', it would seem that moment was when a minority came to positions completely against all of the principle positions of the organization).
[my bold]

But... if the political organisation is a democratic organisation, it wouldn't matter what 'positions a minority came to', would it? They would be outvoted, and their positions would remain a 'minority position', without any political influence (as opposed to theoretical influence, which would of course be allowed for democratic reasons of openness and debate).

Of course, if the political organisation was already a non-democratic organisation, then 'factionalism' by an influential minority would be 'counter-productive'. In a democratic organisation, in contrast, 'healthy discussion and confrontation of ideas' can never reach such a point. The purpose of such an organisation is to actively encourage such 'confrontation of ideas'.

mhou wrote:
That's the other side of the question: how much toleration can there be on secondary political or theoretical questions within any kind of organization of communists?

There sounds an awfully Stalinist, never mind Leninist, cast to such a question.

But then again, I consider that Lenin did indeed lead to Stalin. In Leninist organisations, there is always someone who thinks that they know better than the whole membership.

Cadre thinking? The ones who define 'secondary' questions, that is. God forbid that the membership could be trusted with such decisions, never mind the class!

mhou
If a political organization

If a political organization was only concerned with theoretical questions to the exclusion of practice, what you're proposing may be acceptable. I have a hard time imagining an international organization acting in concert when events require it (like the next time a wave of open struggle takes place) if codified democracy (formal voting- either by show of hands, yay or ney, secret ballot) is necessary before anything can happen. Hell the UK-SWP has codified democratic forms; it doesn't make the organization open or accountable. Unless you're talking about organizational culture- in which case I agree with this:

 

Quote:
But... if the political organisation is a democratic organisation, it wouldn't matter what 'positions a minority came to', would it? They would be outvoted, and their positions would remain a 'minority position', without any political influence (as opposed to theoretical influence, which would of course be allowed for democratic reasons of openness and debate).

But I think this can be accomplished without codifying vote-counting.

Quote:
Cadre thinking? The ones who define 'secondary' questions, that is. God forbid that the membership could be trusted with such decisions, never mind the class!

Some ideas or tactics would not be appropriate in a communist organization. Whether an ultra-centralized organization or an open and 'democratic' organization, I don't think members would tolerate such positions which are counter to the stated principles and foundational principles of the group; for very long anyway. It's not about policing thought or internal disagreement, but at what point (and what issues) is internal disagreement incompatible with being in a communist organization?

hypothetical example:

Organization X has a decades long history of theory and practice concerning trade unionism; that it is not the place of communists to 'bore  from within' or capture leadership of unions due to their being integrated into the state. Organization Y has a similar outlook, however, unlike Organization X, Organization Y thinks communists can use the slogan of 'Red Unions' for propaganda and desire to build new red trade unions outside and against existing trade unions.

Can members of both organizations, who have conflicting views on the matter of red unions (some against, some indifferent, some all for it), inhabit a single communist organization- or is this difference, which is rooted in theory, political positions and practical activity, too disruptive to co-exist in one organization (conflicting theories, conflicting practices)?

 

Quote:
Every serious discussion develops from the particular and even the accidental to the general and fundamental. The immediate causes and motives of a discussion are of interest, in most cases, only symptomatically. Of actual political significance are only those problems which the discussion raises in its development.
LBird
If not by 'codified' voting, then how? An elite?

mhou wrote:
If a political organization was only concerned with theoretical questions to the exclusion of practice, what you're proposing may be acceptable. I have a hard time imagining an international organization acting in concert when events require it (like the next time a wave of open struggle takes place) if codified democracy (formal voting- either by show of hands, yay or ney, secret ballot) is necessary before anything can happen.
[my bold]

But why shouldn't mandated delegates be the ones to put into practice the policies, already put in place as a democratic response to 'events', which have been theoretically decided by the whole membership of the organisation?

Why should a 'cadre' of self-selecting 'senior members' be the ones to decide what 'acting in concert when events require it' actually consists of in practice?

And since the 'mandated delegates' are the executive organ, they should be constantly rotated from within the entire membership. After all, they are only required to put into practice what has already been decided by the membership itself. We don't need any 'great thinkers' or 'great leaders' at the centre of our proletarian organisations. No gurus, no central committee.

mhou wrote:
But I think this can be accomplished without codifying vote-counting.

That's your opinion. Let's put it to the vote and count ('codified' or otherwise).

mhou wrote:
Some ideas or tactics would not be appropriate in a communist organization... It's not about policing thought or internal disagreement, but at what point (and what issues) is internal disagreement incompatible with being in a communist organization?
[my bold]

The 'point' and 'issues' are decided by the whole membership, not a cadre at the centre of the organisation. The acceptable 'ideas and tactics' must be defined by the entire membership, not by a small group of 'old hands', who just know "what's best" for the organisation.

mhou
Quote:The 'point' and

Quote:
The 'point' and 'issues' are decided by the whole membership, not a cadre at the centre of the organisation. The acceptable 'ideas and tactics' must be defined by the entire membership, not by a small group of 'old hands', who just know "what's best" for the organisation.

I'm not arguing a small group within an organization are the ones making these decisions- I'm talking about communists in general (all members of an organization). It's not necessary for guru's or a central committee to exist for an organization to decide what theories and practices are harmful for the organization. I want to know if you think, even in this hypothetical ultra-democratic communist organization, there are positions, theories and practices which cannot co-exist and still maintain organizational effectiveness. It sounds like the only criteria you would place on an individual joining a communist organization is a general stated agreement with the aim of communism- everything else being a free for all.

A.Simpleton
I second that Fred

And the same 'thin line' is walked here today and yesterday even before the transitional period ..

On the one hand, we have the mass; on the other, its historic goal, located outside of existing society. On one hand, we have the day-to-day struggle, on the other, the social revolution. Such are the terms of the contradiction through which the socialist movement makes its way. It follows that this movement can best advance by tacking betwixt and between the two dangers by which it is constantly being threatened. One is the loss of its mass character; the other, the abandonment of its goal. One is the danger of sinking back to the condition of a sect; the other, the danger of becoming a movement of bourgeois social reform.[9]  (my bold : AS)

(Rosa Luxemburg : 'Organisational Question of Social Democracy')

**

The proletariat cannot be victorious except through democracy, i.e., by giving full effect to democracy and by linking with each step of its struggle democratic demands formulated in the most resolute terms... While capitalism exists, these demands -all of them- can only be accomplished as an exception, and even then in an incomplete and distorted form. Basing ourselves on the democracy already achieved, and exposing its incompleteness under capitalism, we demand the overthrow of capitalism, the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, as a necessary basis both for the abolition of the poverty of the masses and for the complete and all-round institution of all democratic reforms.[13] (my bold : AS)

(V.Lenin : Revolution, Democracy, Socialism' : 233/234)

His very name evokes 'distaste' ( ..often me as well   - always subjectively, intuitively if you like, a 'Luxemburger'): his later decisions/actions carried out in the face of catastrophic opposing circumstances (e.g.the organised Bourgeois barbarism of WW 1 using the very Proletariat he championed as cannon-fodder ), were fatally wrong with the luxury of hindsight.

August Thalheimer, a revolutionary who knew and worked with both of them, insisted on the formulation “not Luxemburg or Lenin – but Luxemburg and Lenin”, explaining that “each of them gave ... what the other did not, and could not, give”.[17]

Nor do I mention this because I believe in 'poster-boys' or 'pin-up girls'. So they both published books: so what ? : 'a book is just a man or woman speaking in public' . ironically I think it was Lenin who saId that: a sort of 'anti-expert' phrase.

The working class can decide to ignore both of them if they wish and build anew: but without them and their comrades offering for use their best theoretical efforts, their 'dictionaries' of traps to beware of, possible lines of march  : no 1907 : no Petrograd insurrection 1917 : no 1 million workers striking in 20 cities in Germany 1918. 

It is a tribute to this forum and all contributors, that this far-reaching, vital issue is being examined, re-examined, re-formulated .I have no answers: I can only read on and learn .

AS 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LBird
Answers? I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention...

mhou wrote:
It's not necessary for guru's or a central committee to exist for an organization to decide what theories and practices are harmful for the organization.

Does this statement of yours, mhou, have official ICC sanction that 'a central committee of gurus' is 'not necessary'? If so, I agree.

A.Simpleton wrote:
It is a tribute to this forum and all contributors, that this far-reaching, vital issue is being examined, re-examined, re-formulated .I have no answers: I can only read on and learn .

We're all in the same boat, AS. Workers must be allowed to pose any questions to an organisation that claims to want to play a part in building Communist consciousness within the proletariat.

It is also crucial that the organisation actually answers those questions, in an open and relevant way, in a form that most workers today can quickly understand.

Constantly harping on about the events of a century ago, in a society very different to ours, and insisting that the first port of call for information is thinkers who have been dead for over a hundred years, and clearly had not had the political and philosophical experiences of the twentieth century that we have had, is, in my opinion, a strategic mistake.

It troubles me that now someone will allege that 'LBird claims we can't learn from history! LBird says we should ignore Marx!'. I think that that feeling of mine itself demonstates the problem.

mhou
Quote:Does this statement of

Quote:
Does this statement of yours, mhou, have official ICC sanction that 'a central committee of gurus' is 'not necessary'? If so, I agree.

I'm not a member; I don't understand why posts on this forum are assumed to [i]all[/i] be official answers from the ICC- it's a discussion forum hosted by the ICC, but I think the majority of participants are not members.

Quote:

Nor do I mention this because I believe in 'poster-boys' or 'pin-up girls'. So they both published books: so what ? : 'a book is just a man or woman speaking in public' . ironically I think it was Lenin who saId that: a sort of 'anti-expert' phrase.

The working class can decide to ignore both of them if they wish and build anew: but without them and their comrades offering for use their best theoretical efforts, their 'dictionaries' of traps to beware of, possible lines of march  : no 1907 : no Petrograd insurrection 1917 : no 1 million workers striking in 20 cities in Germany 1918.

That's a very good point- that's what it comes down to, isn't it? A vision of the class struggle that has a particular place or role for those who came to communist positions prior to a revolutionary movement?

Trotsky's point about 'the significant political issues which arise from discussion are what is important' promotes the kind of dynamic reached in the debate and polemics between Luxemburg and Lenin. Or Pannekoek and Kautsky (and Bauer). That suggests that competing strategic/tactical and theoretical positions can (and should) exist in an organization (or the party) to push forward development and hopefully lead to an organization that is more capable (of carrying out its role or tasks).

Quote:
It troubles me that now someone will allege that 'LBird claims we can't learn from history! LBird says we should ignore Marx!'. I think that that feeling of mine itself demonstates the problem.

I think the bigger problem is the vision of how communists relate to non-communist workers (and to other communists) you're hinting at. The dismissal of the voluminous (sometimes superfluous, sometimes extremely lucid) collective 'works' of all revolutionaries and communists that came before 'us' as a matter of strategy reminds me of a quote (from 2001 UK, not some far away society and centuries dead thinkers):

". . . it means nothing to 'speak the language the workers understand' because nobody has ever spoken such a language."

LBird
'Prioritise': a verb meaning 'to ignore'?

mhou wrote:
That suggests that competing strategic/tactical and theoretical positions can (and should) exist in an organization (or the party) to push forward development and hopefully lead to an organization that is more capable (of carrying out its role or tasks).

But how does this organisational model, which I agree with, fit in with Leninist norms?

How can a central committee, who claim to have a more 'even consciousness', allow 'uneven consciousness' to take hold and spread, in their organisation?

mhou wrote:
The dismissal...

Sigh! What did I predict? What part of 'first port of call' equates to 'only port of call'?

mhou
Quote:But how does this

Quote:
But how does this organisational model, which I agree with, fit in with Leninist norms?

It was the original model of the Bolshevik faction and later the Communist Party of Russia- a model that, over the course of  years, degenerated and all legitimate political decision making among the membership was quashed (the various oppositions liquidated, banning of factions, etc.). I don't think being in continuity with or seeking the best traditions of the Bolshevik Party (pre and post 1917) hinges on being 'Leninist' or not. Especially since you consistently define Leninism as exemplified by post-war Trotskyism; in which case, I'd guess there is nothing in common with that 'Leninism'. No one has mentioned a central committee except you so far.

Quote:
Sigh! What did I predict? What part of 'first port of call' equates to 'only port of call'?

I don't know what part. I don't really understand your objection unless it is to be more appealing for the purpose of recruitment or something along those lines.

Quote:
Was wondering what people thought about 'Left Unity' in Britain and the attempt of sorts to build a new party. Is there a place for intervention, criticising it's nationaist outlook especially? Or do we stand by as celebrity leftists once again steer searching workers into politics on a bourgeois terrain?

Some of the history of the worker's movement seems to support both sides (intervention and anti-intervention). I'd assume that most of the Trotskyist groups have supported one side over another in a war. But most rank and file members are well intentioned looking for Marxist analysis and communist positions (and think they've found it). What do you think that intervention would consist of?

It's a good question. I'd imagine the formation of the next class party would attract parts of 'the left', including Trotskyists- how should communists orient themselves to that?

 

 

radicalchains
intervention

mhou wrote:

Quote:
Was wondering what people thought about 'Left Unity' in Britain and the attempt of sorts to build a new party. Is there a place for intervention, criticising it's nationaist outlook especially? Or do we stand by as celebrity leftists once again steer searching workers into politics on a bourgeois terrain?

Some of the history of the worker's movement seems to support both sides (intervention and anti-intervention). I'd assume that most of the Trotskyist groups have supported one side over another in a war. But most rank and file members are well intentioned looking for Marxist analysis and communist positions (and think they've found it). What do you think that intervention would consist of?

It's a good question. I'd imagine the formation of the next class party would attract parts of 'the left', including Trotskyists- how should communists orient themselves to that?

 

I'm inclined to agree with anarchist Ian Bone's latest blog post:

 

We can slag off the Left for all we like but when it comes to confronting them in argument we…don’t. I have had tons of comments on this blog about my suggestion of getting involved with local Left Unity groups – you know meet some new people out of your comfort zone. Most of them go like this….’I went along, few decent people but the usual Trots so went home. Waste of time.’ Well you could have stayed and argued and maybe more people would agree with you than you think. Abandoning any new space to the Trots just because they are there is….timidity. How do people move on, change their minds if the alternative is never put to them?

At the conclusion of the Benn/Rees official speeches at the Rainsborough do on Saturday we raised our own banner and I spoke giving our own perspective on the Levellers. Many people came over to listen to us and gave a round of applause and nodding agreement. We could have just gone straight to the pub muttering ‘its just a load of lefties’ Rees and German and Nineham were visibly annoyed, clucking away to each other. Their space had been contested.

On June 22nd we intend to invade their space again at the Peoples Assembly against Austerity at Westminster Hall. Many people will agree with us for reasons I have put before on this blog. we need to be engaging with them in debate – they are the people we want to win to our class politics not the platform of TUC barons and time served Trots. We want to have more people with us at the end of the day than the start – which means not hectoring from the same platform but talking in hundreds of individual and group conversations. We need not always to keep our mouths shut comrades…..there’s tons of good working class people who want to hear a different story. Let’s tell it on June 22nd.

http://ianbone.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/the-political-timidity-of-uk-anarchists/

 

LBird
Wrong track?

mhou wrote:
I don't know what part. I don't really understand your objection unless it is to be more appealing for the purpose of recruitment or something along those lines.

You appear to be having a parallel discussion, mhou. You're certainly not responding to anything that I've written.

I'm merely saying that modern works are easier to understand than 19th century works, especially for workers just coming to Communist ideas. It doesn't follow from this point of view that 19th century works shouldn't be read. I'm not sure why you seem to think that I'm 'dismissing' earlier works.

LBird
Damn Bolshevism

mhou wrote:
It was the original model of the Bolshevik faction and later the Communist Party of Russia- a model that, over the course of years, degenerated and all legitimate political decision making among the membership was quashed (the various oppositions liquidated, banning of factions, etc.). I don't think being in continuity with or seeking the best traditions of the Bolshevik Party (pre and post 1917) hinges on being 'Leninist' or not.
[my bold]

This is at the heart of out disagreements, mhou.

For this (Leninist) model, the 'best tradition' is 'degeneration'. It isn't the result of socio-historical circumstances, but is an integral part of the 'model'. There is no 'best tradition' in a positive sense.

It's a consequence of a theory of consciousness that emphasises 'minority consciousness', at the expense of the majority.

The proletariat must reject this theory and organisational model, if it is ever to progress. Too many workers who have started to come to class consciousness have been hamstrung by being diverted into 'Bolshevik' model parties.

The 'theory of uneven consciousness' is not correct.

Why? Not because workers don't suffer from uneven consciousness as a class - of course they do.

It's because the 'theory of uneven consciousness' implies that the political organisation (party, etc.) does not share this unevenness (or suffers it less).

I think that the history of Bolshevik model organisation throughout the 20th century, throughout the world, in all socio-economic conditions, shows that 'the party' suffers from more unevenness, not less.

Bolshevism is the last refuge of the bourgeoisie.

The proletariat must rely on class organisation (which prefigures Communist socio-political organisation), not party organisation (which focuses on 'best elements' or leaders ).

LBird
Puppet on a string

Trotsky, on a good day in 1904, wrote:
"The organisation of the party substitutes itself for the party as a whole; then the central committee substitutes itself for the organisation; and finally the 'dictator' substitutes himself for the central committee."

Of course, this process begins with 'the party substitutes itself for the class', by 'the theory of uneven consciousness'.

The political organisation of the proletariat must obey the proletariat.

No 'best elements' nonsense. The shape of the organisation must be bent to the will of the majority of new members that it recruits. It doesn't know a 'truth' that eludes workers, who must be initiated into this 'truth' by a party. The 'truth' is injected by a constant supply of new workers.

The class is the teacher, the political organisation the learner.

The political organisation must be the puppet of the class, not the reverse.

LBird
What term is appropriate?

mhou wrote:
It sounds like the only criteria you would place on an individual joining a communist organization is a general stated agreement with the aim of communism- everything else being a free for all.
[my bold]

By 'free for all', do you mean Communist workers being able to control a proletarian organisation?

If so, I think that this would be a marked improvement upon the Leninist Bolshevik model.

Then, there would be debate about fundamamentals within the organisation. The older members would constantly have to win arguments and persuade newer members of the correctness of existing positions/theories/policies.

Perhaps the older members would have to form an oppositional, minority faction, to try to maintain their outdated ideas. It's not their organisation - it's the class' organisation.

Yes, perhaps 'free for all' sums up the open proletarian organisation which contains opposing strands.

mhou
Quote:By 'free for all', do

Quote:
By 'free for all', do you mean Communist workers being able to control a proletarian organisation?

No- I mean an organizational culture which paralyzes initiative and action in the interest of a democratic principle.

Quote:
You appear to be having a parallel discussion, mhou. You're certainly not responding to anything that I've written.

I asked you if the reason for your insistence that contemporary texts are preferable to older texts; and you answered affirmitively that it was indeed a question of recruitment. I've noticed that most of the people new to Marxism, even if they were initially attracted by something contemporary, generally, in short order, seek out the older texts. Which is why I posted this quote on that issue:

". . . it means nothing to 'speak the language the workers understand' because nobody has ever spoken such a language."

Quote:
For this (Leninist) model, the 'best tradition' is 'degeneration'. It isn't the result of socio-historical circumstances, but is an integral part of the 'model'. There is no 'best tradition' in a positive sense.

I think the experience which is left to us via posterity (all of the minutes, speeches, press articles, theoretical pamphlets and books) is a net positive. The fierce debates within Bolshevism and between Bolsheviks and other socialists- on national liberation, on trade unionism, on the nature of the proletarian revolution to value-form theory and matters of being a communist in a proletarian revolution. Your aversion to anything connected, even tangentially, to the experiences of the October revolution and Communist Party disregards all of this. Contemporary positions and debates on national liberation, trade unions, the nature of the semi-state, the transition period vs transitional society, dozens and dozens of extremely important, foundational positions for communists today and in the future originate in these experiences and debates. It's a strange dichotomy that either you curse every dead Russian who's name appears in a history book, or you're a counter-revolutionary agent seeking to re-create a command economy-one party state.

A lot of these lessons are in the negative (i.e. what communists can't or shouldn't do, what doesn't work, etc.) but Luxemburg noted that the defeats of the working-class contain more valuable experiences than temporary victories (something along those lines).

I don't quite understand how one can agree with and adhere to positions which were born from the Bolshevik experience and reject a view of that experience which is impartial and less jingoistic (we're not all closet Yagoda's and Stalin's).

Quote:

Of course, this process begins with 'the party substitutes itself for the class', by 'the theory of uneven consciousness'.

The political organisation of the proletariat must obey the proletariat.

I don't know what 'a political organization must obey the proletariat' means.

and don't agree with your conception of consciousness; this individualized notion of class consciousness (Socialism In One Worker?).

LoneLondoner
Dipping my toe in...

I confess to being a bit hesitant at joining this discussion because it's not absolutely clear to me what are the different points being made, but perhaps I can raise a few for starters.

First of all, just to clarify things for Lbird, I am the first ICC member to take part in this discussion.

A lot of this is going back to the earlier discussion on class consciousness (not surprisingly), and to be honest I'm inclined to think that Lbird's repeated remarks about democracy and workers' control add a certain confusion to what is undoubtedly a fundamental debate (that's not a problem, it's one of the things debate is for). It might be helpful to start with Marx and the Manifesto:

Karl and Fred wrote:

The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.

Mhou has already brought up this point:

mhou wrote:

I don't know what 'a political organization must obey the proletariat' means.

Actually, if you think about it, it is meaningless (at least today). Nobody today can "obey the proletariat" because the proletariat has no organisation as such which could express the will of the class. This is an example of the kind of contradictions that Lbird's mechanistic democratism leads to. In fact my impression is that Lbird's argument is just full of unexamined hypotheses (a paradigm perhaps?) which don't hold water, for example:

Lbird wrote:

The 'theory of uneven consciousness' is not correct.

Why? Not because workers don't suffer from uneven consciousness as a class - of course they do.

It's because the 'theory of uneven consciousness' implies that the political organisation (party, etc.) does not share this unevenness (or suffers it less).

Implies that the organisation does not share this unevenness? Really? Who says so? Not the ICC anyway. The existence of a political organisation of communists separate from the rest of the class is itself the material expression of the fact that class consciousness is uneven. This does not mean that there is any guarantee that this will always be the case: wasn't it Lenin (though I forget where) who when he presented the April Theses said something along the lines of "the rank and file of the party is a thousand times further to the left than the leadership, and the workers are a thousand times further to the left than the rank and file"?

Nor does it mean that there is a permanent group of... what? gurus? "older members"? who for some god-given reason are guaranteed to be "right". Here is Lenin again (though it's quoted from our predecessors in the French communist left):

GCF wrote:

"Lenin wrote: “It is the duty of communist militants to verify for themselves resolutions coming from the higher bodies of the party. Any­one in politics who believes in mere words is an incorrigible idiot.” And we know what contempt Lenin had for such ‘incorrigible idiots’. Lenin insisted time and again on the necessity for the political education of militants. Learning and understanding could only develop through free discussion, through the general confrontation of ideas, involving each and every militant. This wasn’t simply a question of pedagogy, but a fundamental precondition for political elaboration, for the progress of the movement for the emancipation of the proletariat."

It's precisely because consciousness and understanding is necessarily uneven (and fluctuating, so that the most clear today may not be so tomorrow) that the organisation exists, and that a constant process of debate and clarification is a precondition for its continued health. This is why the ICC spends an enormous amount of our very limited time and energy into maintaining a level of discussion within the organisation by publishing and translating (and discussing) in three languages, our internal discussion bulletins.

This is why I would indeed argue that a truly proletarian political organisation (amongst which I would not count the SWP, etc etc) does indeed "suffer less" from "unevenness", simply because the mass of the proletariat today do not spend a substantial part of their waking lives thinking about, discussing, and practicing proletarian politics (if they were, somebody would have noticed...).

I'll stop here so as not to go on too long - I don't pretend to have answered all the many issues raised in the thread, but perhaps I can conclude by drawing comrades' attention to this article from the 80s on the ICC's internal functioning.

PS: I liked AS' quotes from Luxemburg, very much to the point.

LBird
Sump Communism

mhou, post #14, wrote:
I don't really understand your objection unless it is to be more appealing for the purpose of recruitment or something along those lines.

LBird, post #16, wrote:
I'm merely saying that modern works are easier to understand than 19th century works, especially for workers just coming to Communist ideas.

mhou, post #20, wrote:
I asked you if the reason for your insistence that contemporary texts are preferable to older texts; and you answered affirmitively that it was indeed a question of recruitment.

mhou, how do you translate my term ‘understanding’ to mean ‘recruitment’?

I think that it’s more important that workers begin to understand Communist ideas, rather than are recruited into an organisation. This allows them to learn to be critical, before they enter an organisation. Without this prior understanding, they become uncritical recruits, easily swayed by the cadre of the organisation.

mhou wrote:
I've noticed that most of the people new to Marxism, even if they were initially attracted by something contemporary, generally, in short order, seek out the older texts.

My experience is that most people who read ‘older texts’ can’t make head nor tail of Marx, especially Capital. I completely disagree that newcomers to Communist ideas should be advised to plunge into 19th century or early 20th century texts, without some fairly extensive preparation. And make that ‘critical preparation’.

mhou wrote:
Your aversion to anything connected, even tangentially, to the experiences of the October revolution and Communist Party disregards all of this.

My ‘aversion’, as you put it, has come from my study of the October revolution and the pig’s ear that the Communist Party made of it, which still resounds a hundred years later and has perhaps fatally damaged the term ‘Communism’.

I don’t share your enthusiasm for Bolshevism, that’s what you don’t seem to comprehend.

mhou wrote:
I don't know what 'a political organization must obey the proletariat' means.

Evidently!

And that’s the problem, mate.

mhou wrote:
and don't agree with your conception of consciousness; this individualized notion of class consciousness (Socialism In One Worker?).

Where the hell has this come from? You’re scraping the barrel of Stalinist insults, now, mhou!

Why not criticise what I’ve written, rather than make it up?

I’m arguing for class consciousness, not party or individual consciousness.

The problem is, you equate ‘consciousness’ with ‘party’, whereas I don’t. I think party members suffer from less consciousness than non-party worker Communists. I think joining a Boshevik-type party damages a worker’s class consciousness, and lessens their earlier development.

I call it ‘sump-consciousness’. The lowest level of Communist consciousness.

Now, you clearly disagree with me, and that’s fine, we can debate, but at least get my criticisms correct!

LBird
Hard Core!

LoneLondoner wrote:
Karl and Fred wrote:
The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.

Yes, 'Communists'. No mention of Bolshevik-type organisation.

LL wrote:
Actually, if you think about it, it is meaningless (at least today). Nobody today can "obey the proletariat" because the proletariat has no organisation as such which could express the will of the class.

Yes, 'today' it is meaningless. But 'tomorrow', when Workers' Councils have been formed, it isn't 'meaningless'. It's of vital importance that the proletariat discusses this party/class relationship before it becomes 'meaningful'.

LL wrote:
This is an example of the kind of contradictions that Lbird's mechanistic democratism leads to.

Give me 'mechanistic democratism' anyday, over 'democratic centralism'!

LL wrote:
In fact my impression is that Lbird's argument is just full of unexamined hypotheses (a paradigm perhaps?) which don't hold water...

Or even a 'research programme'? Yes, we all have them. Communists and Bolsheviks. I'm trying to expose some of both, I think. Our respective 'hard cores'.

LL wrote:
Implies that the organisation does not share this unevenness? Really? Who says so? Not the ICC anyway. The existence of a political organisation of communists separate from the rest of the class is itself the material expression of the fact that class consciousness is uneven. This does not mean that there is any guarantee that this will always be the case: wasn't it Lenin (though I forget where) who when he presented the April Theses said something along the lines of "the rank and file of the party is a thousand times further to the left than the leadership, and the workers are a thousand times further to the left than the rank and file"?
[my bold]

But these are mere words, that Bolshevik supporters ignore in practice.

Or is the ICC going to admit that I, like all other non-party-member working class Communists, know better and have a higher level of class consciousness than ICC members?

Where's all the talk of 'best elements', now? I'll be convinced when jk1921 and others talk of the ICC being the 'worst elements' of the Communist movement! Not 'better fewer, but better', and other elitist nonsense.

LL wrote:
It's precisely because consciousness and understanding is necessarily uneven (and fluctuating, so that the most clear today may not be so tomorrow) that the organisation exists, and that a constant process of debate and clarification is a precondition for its continued health. This is why the ICC spends an enormous amount of our very limited time and energy into maintaining a level of discussion within the organisation by publishing and translating (and discussing) in three languages, our internal discussion bulletins.

This is something to be admired of the ICC. I just don't know why it doesn't go the whole way, and condemn Lenin's organisational model and Bolshevism, and open itself up to all Communist workers, in opposition to mhou's narrower conception of the party.

LL wrote:
This is why I would indeed argue that a truly proletarian political organisation (amongst which I would not count the SWP, etc etc) does indeed "suffer less" from "unevenness"...
[my bold]

But this is an axiom, a component of your 'hard core'. My axiom is the opposite: proletarian political organisation (pre-Workers' Councils) is necessarily 'less conscious', if it adopts a Bolshevik-style method.

They are different conceptions of the party, rooted in different conceptions of consciousness.

But... keep discussing...

mhou
Quote:perhaps I can conclude

Quote:
perhaps I can conclude by drawing comrades' attention to this article from the 80s on the ICC's internal functioning.

The text in the link is exactly the kind of starting point I was looking for- questions related to organization: differences between the 'atmosphere' of the party vs other forms of organization- and specifically if the differences between communists today is something that can be overcome, either in a single entity (party) in its process of formation or if it is something that persists (or should persist?). I'll comment after a more thorough reading.

Quote:
mhou, how do you translate my term ‘understanding’ to mean ‘recruitment’?

It just sounds like a variation of the argument that if only the marketing was better, more workers would become communists.

 

 

LBird
Echoes of old methods

mhou wrote:
It just sounds like a variation of the argument that if only the marketing was better, more workers would become communists.

Do you really think that opponents of 'Bolshevism' are supporters of merely 'improving the image' of Communism?

I really think that Leninists should take more notice of the criticisms being made of Leninism and the theory of 'uneven consciousness', and perhaps try to seriously answer some of those criticisms.

For what it's worth, 'smearing' opponents with false allegations is precisely one of the tactics used by the Stalinist bureaucracy. The party didn't face up to criticisms with political and philosophical debate, but 'translated' their democratic opponents' arguments as 'anti-proletarian' propaganda. So, I'm really concerned with 'recruitment', not 'understanding'. That's the party viewpoint, in a nutshell. Fancy worker Communists outside the party being encouraged to develop their critical thinking! Whatever next? The proletariat will be thinking it can identify its own interests, next!

Of course, the party itself defines the interests of the proletariat, not the proletariat for itself.

Probably too interested in 'image', eh? Not like those 'committed' party supporters.

Frankly, mhou, you're doing my work for me. Ever thought of going into 'marketing'?

mhou
Quote:Do you really think

Quote:
Do you really think that opponents of 'Bolshevism' are supporters of merely 'improving the image' of Communism?

No. I was addressing your specific comments about contemporary texts being 'easier to understand' and should take precedent over older texts in terms of emphasis. I think minorities of the working-class still seek out communist positions despite the 'image problem' inhereted from the 20th century, and find it a bit arrogant to presume that no one understands Marx (except you?): other discussion forums are publicly visible contradictions of your assertions. The fear of being wrong (and being pounced on by more experienced people) seems to be a bigger problem than any inherent difficulty to Marx or texts from the history of the workers movement. I've seen variations of the argument that communists have to use simple language so as not to confuse or lose the attention of workers- variations of 'we have to speak the language of the working-class'- which is what your argument sounds like.

Quote:

I really think that Leninists should take more notice of the criticisms being made of Leninism and the theory of 'uneven consciousness', and perhaps try to seriously answer some of those criticisms.

For what it's worth, 'smearing' opponents with false allegations is precisely one of the tactics used by the Stalinist bureaucracy. The party didn't face up to criticisms with political and philosophical debate, but 'translated' their democratic opponents' arguments as 'anti-proletarian' propaganda. So, I'm really concerned with 'recruitment', not 'understanding'. That's the party viewpoint, in a nutshell. Fancy worker Communists outside the party being encouraged to develop their critical thinking! Whatever next? The proletariat will be thinking it can identify its own interests, next!

Silencing opposition to your uber-democracy with epiphets is a bit rich- especially to another 'worker communist outside the party'. The working-class has and will again identify its interests in its real movement, based on a class consciousness which isn't defined by the level of politicization of each individual.

Quote:

Of course, the party itself defines the interests of the proletariat, not the proletariat for itself.

Probably too interested in 'image', eh? Not like those 'committed' party supporters.

Frankly, mhou, you're doing my work for me. Ever thought of going into 'marketing'?

The party is a part of the working-class, one expression of the level of class consciousness. I'm not concerned with changing the message- and frankly oppose those that want to 'speak the language of the workers' as if they are part of an elite above the class- do you know better than your co-workers and the rest of the working-class what they wil and will not understand?

LBird
Class over party

mhou wrote:
I ...find it a bit arrogant to presume that no one understands Marx (except you?)...

Let's be frank, mhou. I don't understand much of Marx. And why? Because Charlie was, in turns, unclear, changed his mind, made mistakes, developed his ideas, re-wrote... and he had an arse and shat like the rest of us. He's not god. He was wrong, sometimes. He is not a religious authority.

But... his ideas are suggestive. We should critically examine them. They can help us. But, what was his motto? Omnibus dubitandum.

mhou wrote:
Silencing opposition to your uber-democracy with epiphets is a bit rich...

'Silencing opposition'? Now you're showing your true colours, mhou! Don't you just wish!

I don't need to 'silence' any 'opposition', not even your good self. You're doing my work for me.

Fear of 'democracy', by slighting it as 'uber-democracy'. The alternative, comrade, is 'unter-democracy': the 'democracy' of the sump-communists, the Bolshevik party.

mhou wrote:
The working-class has and will again identify its interests in its real movement, based on a class consciousness which isn't defined by the level of politicization of each individual.
[my bold]

No, it's apparently defined by the 'level of politicisation of each party member'. Not 'class consciousness', but 'party consciousness'.

mhou wrote:
The party is a part of the working-class, one expression of the level of class consciousness.

Yes, the lowest level of class consciousness. As I've said, 'sump-consciousness'.

mhou wrote:
...do you know better than your co-workers and the rest of the working-class what they wil and will not understand?

No, I don't.

I don't know better than the 'rest of the working class'.

But I can say that. As a worker Communist, I argue for democratic control of proletarian organisations. If most workers disagree with me, I'm fucked. I don't fear democracy, I welcome it. I'll expose my ideas to a vote of the proletariat.

I can only prevail when the majority of workers come to Communist consciousness. I'm not an elitist.

But you can't say that. You're a Bolshevik. You fear the majority, as do conservative philosophers. You think a minority of party members know better, and have a more developed consciousness, than non-party workers, who are in the majority.

Leninism: the last refuge of the bourgeoisie.

mhou
Quote:Let's be frank, mhou. I

Quote:
Let's be frank, mhou. I don't understand much of Marx. And why? Because Charlie was, in turns, unclear, changed his mind, made mistakes, developed his ideas, re-wrote... and he had an arse and shat like the rest of us. He's not god. He was wrong, sometimes. He is not a religious authority.

And no one is saying he is anything more- or anyone else who contributed to the collective effort to theorize and analyze (and participate within) the real movement of the proletariat. However, saying that most people don't understand either his work or older texts in general suggests that a caste (that can understand it) is then responsible for disseminating 'The Word'- I'm not the one proselytizing a religion here.

Quote:
Fear of 'democracy', by slighting it as 'uber-democracy'. The alternative, comrade, is 'unter-democracy': the 'democracy' of the sump-communists, the Bolshevik party.

Democracy is fine. But suggesting it is either one of or the highest principle (in all things?) apparently leaves 2 sides to every discussion: the defenders of an abstract democratic principles vs The Bolsheviks.

Quote:
Yes, the lowest level of class consciousness. As I've said, 'sump-consciousness'.

That doesn't make sense- even by your own definition of consciousness elaborated in the consciousness thread.

Quote:
But you can't say that. You're a Bolshevik. You fear the majority, as do conservative philosophers. You think a minority of party members know better, and have a more developed consciousness, than non-party workers, who are in the majority.

I'd rather be the worst slur you can come up with than a slave to an abstract democratic mystification.

Quote:
if the organisation is going in the wrong direction, the responsibility of the members who consider that they defend the correct position is not to save themselves in their own little corner, but to wage a struggle within the organisation in order to help put it back in the right direction

-1982 report, link from LoneLondoner's post.

This is a part that I'm having trouble wrapping my head around- how this works in practice. Trotsky mentions Bogdanov's faction within the Bolshevik party pre-1917 as a healthy or normal factional practice- since it was a section of the party that defended its theses until being rejected by the majority of the rank and file. Is forming a faction qualitatively different from forming a tendency? I get the impression that one is a part of a larger organization which defends a specific position or set of positions to try and win the whole organization to their views via debate-polemic, and the other is an attempt to form a kind of 'organization within an organization', with its own counter-platform and its own press or organ?

Fred
LBird said, of another

LBird said, of another comrade:

Quote:
You're a Bolshevik. You fear the majority, as do conservative philosophers. You think a minority of party members know better, and have a more developed consciousness, than non-party workers, who are in the majority.

 Leninism: the last refuge of the bourgeoisie.

<p>   Ah! Lenin and the Bolsheviks  or LATB. ("Lenin and the Bolsheviks" always reminds  me of '70's pop groups. Tonight at The Hippodrome at 8.30. If they turn up.) <p>     But just as you say that Freud, in studying individuals rather than society, was only looking at symptoms LBird, I think you do the same with LATB.   To conclude because LATB made mistakes, that we don't  need the party, could be to chuck out the baby in a plastic bin liner. Now I am not making a case here for the party; just expressing a sympathetic understanding for the circumstances in which LATB came to make their awful errors from which we've learned so much.<p>      The proletariat learns from its mistakes doesn't it?  But it also learns from its own practice if someone bothers to theorize what was achieved so the learning isn't lost.  Marx suddenly realized from the Commune that the working class can't just seize hold of  and use the bourgeois state for its own working class purposes and furtherance of its aims.  A vital lesson. Lenin repeated this in his "State and Revolution" as he foresaw the approaching revolution in Russia. But did LATB really understand what precisely was meant by these words?  Did Marx? Did the the working class at large?  Maybe not. We think we do now though, don't we? <p>       Lenin suddenly realized that the Workers' Councils were the way in which the revolutionary working class would yield its power.  "All power to the Soviets" he declaimed. This came as a shock to many who weren't consciously considering the intentions of the class in inventing soviets, and needed to "realize" what was going on. But the sad thing is that perhaps LATB, and other workers too, didn't actuall fully understand all the implications of this for actual real revolutionary practice. After all, it was the first time the proletariat had reached this level of political expression in the whole history of humanity!  Not surprising if mistakes were possible.  So, despite "knowing" that the working class can't seize hold of and use the bourgeois state; and despite, at least theoretically, "knowing" that theSoviets must   wield the power....what did LATB do?  They substituted themselves for the Soviets and put themselves in charge of the bourgeois state. (This is a simplified version of what took place I know.) It was all  a horrible misunderstanding of the process of fully understanding the meaning and significance of new and gradually emerging proletarian concepts: and it was a mistake. But people make mistakes: even the working class. We can see the mistake now, but in their circumstances they fell victim to history. <p>       I don't think this happened because LATB had a lower level of working class consciousness - sump consciousness as you call it LBird - and certainly not because they were anti-working class in some way.  LENINISM  may well be a bourgeois form of politics. But Lenin and the Bolsheviks didn't start out as Leninists, and didnt intend  to invent it, though they may have ended up there.   We have learned have we not? <p>      It isn't that party members - or people on this forum! - "know better" LBird  (though some may at times think they do ) it's just that they've thought about it a bit, or a lot, and "know" something about the proletariat and its mission, somewhat earlier than many other folk who may come to know later, AND MAY WELL KNOW BETTER.   WILL CERTAINLY KNOW BETTER. It isn't that members of the ICC/ICT/ and posters on red-marx, and elsewhere, and some anarchists too, and others in the milieu, have a "more developed" consciousness LBird, it's just that they have, or may have, a class consciousness that has started to mature a little earlier than most.  I haven't said this very well, but am sure there's a difference. Perhaps someone else will help me out? It isn't a matter of elitism and "more" developed as in: "I'm a better revolutionary than you and my brain's bigger too..." it's a question of a phased in maturation...oh! what the heck!    
LBird
Ghostly opponent?

Fred wrote:
To conclude because LATB made mistakes, that we don't need the party...

Fred, you seem to be catching the same disease as mhou. That is, making up positions that opponents don't hold, in order to damn them. This was a symptom of Bolshevism.

To be clear, I haven't concluded that 'we don't need a party'.

In fact, I've already said that I'm not an Anarchist.

In fact, I've already quoted Pannekoek on the need for proletarian political organisation.

Why do Bosheviks allege that Communists who question 'Bolshevism' are opposed to all forms of party organisation?

Let's be clear once and for all what this discussion is about.

It's about what form proletarian political organisation should take, and what role that political organisation should have in relation to the proletariat.

At the root of these issues is the question of 'class consciousness' and its unevenness.

Everyone accepts (here, anyway) that proletarian consciousness is 'uneven'. The issue is, does a proletarian political organisation necessarily have a more 'even' conscious, over time.

So, if I outline my present position on these issues:

1. We need a political organisation;

2. It should be an open, democratic organisation, which is hostile to a 'cadre' forming;

3. It must contain factions which disagree with each other;

4. Its role is to give only advice to the proletariat: power must remain with the proletariat, including the power to disband any political organisation which the proletariat decides (so, 'power' does not lie in a party);

5. I think that Bolshevik-type political organisation degrades the existing class consciousness of a worker who joins such a party (that is, Bolshevik-consciousness is worse than class-consciousness).

Now, it is open to any comrade to disagree with me (and thus I might learn something), but, please comrades, criticise what I am saying, not some ghost of your own party-imagination.

Fred
Do you realize how

Do you realize how infuriating you can be, LBird? I'm amazed to find out you approve of the party! Quite glad actually. But I am a bit tired now. Let me voice my approval of your 1, 2and 4 above. Am puzzled how 3 would work  and don't like 5 at all.  Enough for today. 

LBird
Glad all over!

Fred wrote:
Do you realize how infuriating you can be, LBird?

That's just what the bourgeoisie said, sir!

Fred wrote:
I'm amazed to find out you approve of the party! Quite glad actually.

I know, it doesn't matter who many times I say it, or that I'm contributing on a forum that is hosted by a political organisation, but I'm not opposed to organisation. I'm glad, too, that I've made you glad, comrade!

But... 'approving' of proletarian political organisation is not the same thing as approving of Bolshevik-type organisation.

I'll let you sleep for now, Fred. Sweet dreams.

Fred
Wasn't "Glad all over" the

Wasn't "Glad all over" the Dave Clark 5 with moronic drumming? But I've got blisters on my fingers now!  Fred.

LBird
Only 3 and 5? Any more objections, comrades?

Fred wrote:
Let me voice my approval of your 1, 2 and 4 above. Am puzzled how 3 would work and don't like 5 at all.

Yes, I think 3 and 5 are interlinked, so it's no surprise to see this point being made.

LBird wrote:
3. It must contain factions which disagree with each other;

This is only a problem, I think, to those comrades who see the 'party' as a unitary organisation, which tries to reflect a 'truth'.

On the contrary, I think a proletarian political organisation (the use of 'PPO' perhaps makes distinct the difference to 'party', which is often taken to be synonymous with 'Bolshevism') should reflect different aspects of 'social truth', so I would expect a PPO to embody proletarian debates about what the current 'social truth' should be. That is, factionalism is a inescapable part of PPO. Disagreement and debate are structurally built into a PPO.

I think this is related to my point 4, that is, the PPO's role is to give advice, indeed conflicting advice from several factions, to Workers' Councils, where the decision is made on which particular advice is taken at any point. But, the factions remain, as 'back-up' position by a minority, which might replace the current majority position in the future.

LBird wrote:
5. I think that Bolshevik-type political organisation degrades the existing class consciousness of a worker who joins such a party (that is, Bolshevik-consciousness is worse than class-consciousness).

Simply, because Bolsheviks refuse to allow permanent factions, some of which are obviously at odds with the 'party' centre and majority, this degrades the proletariat's ability to be faced with competing choices. Just as in 'science', workers must learn to think critically, which requires at least two choices, and to realise that a decision made (the current social-truth) is possibly temporary.

Science teaches us these lessons, and they must be embodied in our PPOs.

The emergence of a 'cadre' within a 'party' also adds to these problems. There must be a constant turnover of delegates to the PPO's organisational centre. Power must lie with the entire membership, not the centre. The 'centre' must be a tool of the membership. We have to figure out how to ensure that this happens.

LBird
The Moronic Faction?

Fred wrote:

Wasn't "Glad all over" the Dave Clark 5 with moronic drumming? But I've got blisters on my fingers now!  Fred.

Yeah, I thought that 'moronic drumming' was an apt accompaniment to my endless posts on this issue!

mhou
Quote:Fred, you seem to be

Quote:
Fred, you seem to be catching the same disease as mhou. That is, making up positions that opponents don't hold, in order to damn them. This was a symptom of Bolshevism.

Pot. Kettle. etc.

Quote:

In IR, no.10 we asserted that the CWO had not grasped the lessons on state or party afforded by the Russian experience. The latest CWO text has the merit of stating very clearly what before had only been implicit in their writings: that the role of the communist party is to take and hold state power. While we profoundly disagree with this idea, we welcome the fact that the debate can now proceed on an unambiguous basis. In numerous texts we have tried to show why the assumption of state power by the Bolshevik Party was a determining factor in the degeneration of the party and the revolution as a whole, and why it is not the task of the political organization of the class to take power. The CWO, unable to understand any of this, thinks that for the ICC “the revolution could succeed when the majority of the class is not conscious of the need for communism”. Their position on the party reveals a deep misunderstanding of the way consciousness develops in the class. Not only do they hold to a parlia­mentary conception that communist conscious­ness can be measured by the willingness of the workers to vote for a party to run the state; they are also moving very close to the classical Leninist position that the workers’ councils are mere ‘forms’ in which the amorphous mass of the class is organized, and into which the party -- which is the communist consciousness of the class -- has the task of injecting a communist content. The CWO doesn’t see that class consciousness -- and thus communist consciousness -- deve­lops in the whole class and that the coun­cils are also an aspect of the development of communist consciousness. The party is the most conscious fraction of the class, it is an indispensable weapon in the gene­ralization of revolutionary consciousness, but it, clarity is always relative and it can never represent the totality of class consciousness. Once again the CWO emit have it both ways. On the one hand they correctly assert that a minority cannot substitute for the class in the taking of power, on the other hand they call on the workers to delegate state power to the party. But as the Russian Revolution showed, from the conception that the party repre­sents the class in power, to the party actually substituting itself for the class, there is only a thin line. And one sure sign of revolutionary consciousness develop­ing in the class tomorrow will be its refusal to invest political power, which it alone can wield, in the hands of a minority.

The CWO’s movement towards the idea that the party ‘holds’ or ‘represents’ the tota­lity of communist consciousness is also consistent with the idea that they themselves represent the entire communist movement today, that they possess the only communist platform in the world

-'Some Answers From the ICC'

http://en.internationalism.org/book/export/html/2636

This is another example of the kind of differences (and the working-out of those differences) that exist. Presumably those in the existing communist camp strive to be a part of founding the next class party- yet an issue as large as the party's role via state power is a huge issue that doesn't appear to have any (or much) room for disagreement in one organization. It's difficult to picture how this issue would be settled between communists during a regroupment into the next International.

LBird
Why alienate potential support?

mhou, quoting the ICC, wrote:
 In numerous texts we have tried to show why ... it is not the task of the political organization of the class to take power.

This statement leads me to believe the ICC is saying two things:

1. the proletariat is sovereign, and that the proletariat organised in Workers' Councils will have 'power', ie. will hold the 'keys to the armouries'; and

2. since the class has power, it can disband any political organisation, including the ICC.

Why, when I asked the questions, 'Who has power?', and 'Can the class disband the ICC?', weren't the simple answers forthcoming, of 'The class' and 'Yes'.

It baffles me why straightforward answers can't be given when straightforward political questions are asked of a supposed proletarian organisation.

Or... are my 'two beliefs' incorrect, because I've misunderstood the ICC statement, above?

Demogorgon
"It baffles me why

"It baffles me why straightforward answers can't be given when straightforward political questions are asked of a supposed proletarian organisation."

On the first question, "Who has power?" we did, repeatedly.

We also tried - repeatedly - to answer your second question but it's a far more complex question.

Because power lies with the class, if a decision was made to disband the party there would be little we could about it on a practical level.

But, assuming that the party was still a genuine communist organisation, such an act would be a retreat in the consciousness of the class and a return to capitalism. It would therefore be the duty of what was left of the organisation to reform most likely on a clandestine basis.

If, on the other hand, the party had suffered from a degeneration, then those leading the combat against it would be the most class conscious workers (both inside and outside the original organisation) who would have to organise themselves to do so i.e. form a new party.

That is, unless, we are talking about a future point long past the period of transition (the immediate post-revolutionary period) where the entire class has more-or-less become communist and the party is no longer needed in which case it would probably disband itself.

"If most workers disagree with me, I'm fucked. I don't fear democracy, I welcome it. I'll expose my ideas to a vote of the proletariat."

Is this the same LBird that said "Surely only Communists will be 'welcome within' organs of proletarian power?" and "No, there will 'be a variety of Communist political currents' only [in the proletarian organs]"?

LBird
Class or party? Clandestine Party!

Demogorgon wrote:
But, assuming that the party was still a genuine communist organisation, such an act would be a retreat in the consciousness of the class and a return to capitalism. It would therefore be the duty of what was left of the organisation to reform most likely on a clandestine basis.

Who decides 'that the party was still a genuine communist organisation', if not the class?

Who decides 'such an act would be a retreat in the consciousness of the class and a return to capitalism'?

On the one hand, it is claimed that 'the class has power' - presumably, this means that the class has the power to decide what counts as 'communist' and what counts as 'consciousness'.

On the other hand, it is claimed that someone other than the class has the power to make those decisions, presumably a 'party'.

Demogorgon wrote:
On the first question, "Who has power?" we did, repeatedly.

Bolshevik organisations have a history of saying one thing, and doing another. Every one says it is democratic because of 'democratic centralism', but then there is no democracy in actuality, as every worker who has been in one of these Bolshevik parties knows.

Why can't comrades see the contradictions in what's being said?

LBird
Rainbow coalition in Workers' Councils?

Demogorgon wrote:
That is, unless, we are talking about a future point long past the period of transition (the immediate post-revolutionary period) where the entire class has more-or-less become communist...

I think that this might be the heart of our disagreement.

I'm a Marxist. Marx claimed that Communism would be the conscious act of the proletariat.

I take this seriously. Only the working class can introduce Communism.

I think that you're a Leninist. Lenin claimed that Communism would be the conscious act of the party.

I dispute that Lenin followed Marx on this issue.

Demogorgon, quoting LBird, wrote:
"If most workers disagree with me, I'm fucked. I don't fear democracy, I welcome it. I'll expose my ideas to a vote of the proletariat."

Is this the same LBird that said "Surely only Communists will be 'welcome within' organs of proletarian power?" and "No, there will 'be a variety of Communist political currents' only [in the proletarian organs]"?

That's right. I assume that a majority of the working class will be Communist. That is why it will be the conscious act of the proletariat, as Marx insisted.

Thus, the organs of workers' power will be Communist.

Why would Workers' Councils allow liberals, conservatives or even fascists to organise within Communist structures? Do the bourgeoisie allow us to organise within MI5 or the FBI?

From this conversation, some things that Alf said to me on LibCom about 'the state in the period of transition' are becoming a bit clearer.

Perhaps this 'period' needs a little more explanation?

mhou
Who are members of communist

Who are members of communist organizations, Lbird? Who are members of the party? These mythic 'worker communists' you're so sure about. Yet when discussing with them here, real live 'worker-communists', we're all secret Leninists. This disparity in your narrative is a gangrene that turns every discussion into platitudes and epiphets. Where do these (future) worker-communists come from? Since they are obviously not those of us discussing here, or doing anything involving Marxism today- apparently because, in your narrative, the proletariat's first order of business is to immediately confront and disband such organizations as the one that operates this forum (with force, of course). Who is going to decide what the positions of the party are? Worker-communists I guess but immediately afterward they disband the party and arrest all of us Leninists- or just drumhead court marshal all of us ('U.A.T.W.M.F.! The real worker-communists are here). 

Quote:
I think that you're a Leninist. Lenin claimed that Communism would be the conscious act of the party.
Where, exactly, did Lenin write that? Or say it?
jk1921
I am concerned that this

I am concerned that this forum has degnerated into a kind tit-for-tat with LBird the last six weeks or so. He appears rather hardened in many of his core beliefs and it does not seem that anything other comrades have argued has really given him much pause about anything significant. When criticisms are raised about his central assumptions the epithet of "Leninist" flies about, causing--I fear--some to recoil from discussion. This doesn't mean that the comrade doesn't have many important points to make. Indeed, the ICC needs to have a better answer on the relationship between the workers' councils and the semi-state in the period of transition. However, I am concerned that we have hit the point of exhaustion and repetition in this format and there doesn't appear to be a real perspective for moving forward. Is there a better method for addressing the main issues that have appeared as a result of the comrade's participation? Is it sensible for someone to try to make a balance sheet of the issues at this point?

LBird
Contradiction is all very fine in theory...

mhou wrote:
This disparity in your narrative is a gangrene that turns every discussion into platitudes and epiphets.

You don't like comrades disagreeing with you, do you, mhou? You don't like being asked to explain your ideas, or having them criticised, either.

jk1921 wrote:
I am concerned that this forum has degnerated into a kind tit-for-tat with LBird the last six weeks or so. He appears rather hardened in many of his core beliefs and it does not seem that anything other comrades have argued has really given him much pause about anything significant.

Perhaps because what 'other comrades have argued' doesn't stand up. As for being 'rather hardened in my core beliefs', I'm a Communist, for god's sake! Of course my 'core beliefs' are 'hardened'!

If mhou, jk1921, or any other comrade, doesn't like what I'm arguing: easy answer - stop arguing with me! If you want to argue: fine - argue away!

I'm not complaining about any comrades arguing back with me. The more the merrier. At least then we all get to consider conflicting ideas. No-one has to agree with me.

By the way, are mhou or jk1921 members of the ICC? Before you answer, I can tell that if the answer is 'Yes', that will seriously affect my opinion of the standard of members of the ICC.

I expect to be argued with, not whined about.

Fred
Is it really possible for

Is it really possible for someone who regards themself as being a "communist" today, to have core beliefs which are "hardened"?  Do we really know today, in any great detail, exactly what "communism" and "consciousness" too will actually be?  We fumble in the dark. We know much more about what they won't be: because we see that they will negate the negation. Apart from that how can we be sure....how can I be sure that what I regard as "communist consciousness" now is in fact the real genuine thing, or the same as what other comrades think it is? Marx's consciousness of what communism would be like, changed over the years didn't it? 

 

One of the marvelous things about humanity's need to escape from capitalism and build a true society free from exploitation,  is that we can never in advance of doing it know what it'll be like when we get there. If we ever get there!   We only have glimmers and gleams like the flashing of a mirror. We can confirm our beliefs and feelings, through debate and solidarity, yes of course; and this is vital. But, unhappily,  few of us have any experience of the solidarity of mass working class action, and the breakthroughs in ideas and consciousness  that take place in those circumstances.  Trotsky and Luxemburg described the glorious feelings of release and renewal. 

 

 

I don't think there's a lot to be gained  from getting hung up on Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Let those who believe lessons are to be learned from them, learn those lessons. Let those who despise them, carry on despising if they need to. . The important thing is the future and how we get there. 

 

What we have in common on this forum is much more important than what we appear to disagree over. Are there really such enormous differences between what mhou, Demogorgon, and LBird want the working class to do? And want the class party to do? 

 

LBird wrote:
 On the one hand, it is claimed that 'the class has power' - presumably, this means that the class has the power to decide what counts as 'communist' and what counts as 'consciousness'.
 

 

 

I don't think it's "the power to decide what counts..." that distinguishes the proletariat from the bourgeoisie, but something more like "the ability to know what's right and what's required". In the process of discovering, or unveiling what communism truly is, consciousness plays the vital role. IF consciousness fails then communism fails too.  The question: What counts as communism? scares me off.  It smacks of  academicism and a certain unreality.  The question: Is what we are doing together helping to build  the better society we want? is preferable.  It relates more  to consciousness and the "this-sidedidness" of our communal endeavor.

 

 

Yet once again I think that I haven't really said what I thought I wanted to say! Maybe another day? 

 

Fred
And Alf said on

And Alf said on red-marx:

 

Quote:
 I think that it's likely that in any future revolution, there will be assemblies, workplace committees, councils of delegates, all sorts of organisations created to fight the ruling class, but the consciousness within them will be very uneven, and the left of capital will be active inside them with all their false solutions, so it will be vital for those who oppose the left of capital and are clear about the need for proletarian power and communism to be as unified as possible. Hence a 'party', or if you prefer, a political organisation of communists. I don't think that''s an anachronism, it's a lesson of history.
 
Fred
power to decide

Something about the concept "power to decide" keeps bugging me.  Is it because the power to decide is really a bourgeois concept and a bourgeois power?  The power to take decisions, even awful ones, is a fundamental premise of bourgeois democracy is it not? 

 

 

The proletariat doesn't  need that childish state of affairs.  We want  "the ABILITY to reach wise decisions." We do this in our workers councils, where we have the power to exercise this proletarian approach to decision making.  Maybe even "decisions" is a little on the quaint side. How about reaching "agreements" rather than finalistic and  dogmatic sounding DECISIONS!  The ability to arrive at sensible agreements.

 

 

 

  Nor I think do we want a lot of bombastic argument: but something more in the nature of a comradely discussion where we exchange views in the process of coming to some agreement on an issue.  Then there's the "power" aspect. This is easy. Our workers councils have the political power to organize and institutionalize if necessary, all the agreements we have reached on a democratic basis.  A lot of these agreements will be sensible because based on a developing consciousness, a decreasing servitude to ideology, and the growth of communist society itself.  Oh! What bliss it'll be to live at such a time! 

LBird
A scientific proletarian organisation?

Fred wrote:
I don't think there's a lot to be gained from getting hung up on Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Let those who believe lessons are to be learned from them, learn those lessons. Let those who despise them, carry on despising if they need to.

I, too, think we shouldn’t ‘get hung up’ on Lenin or Bolshevism. That’s my opinion. If other comrades wish to push those ideas, then fine, let’s discuss them. But those comrades can’t ‘cry foul’ when other comrades won’t ‘play by the rules’ of framing the discussion around endless squabbles, debates, ideas, factions, personalities and conferences of the RSDLP in the first decade of the 20th century.

If they want to prevail, their answers must be in terms of questions posed now, in modern language, relevant to the 21st century. If they disagree with anti-Bolsheviks, fine, but don’t expect their opponents to wade through long, obscure, often poorly-written, texts from ‘another world’. There may well be lessons to be learnt from that period, but comrades need to take the lesson and present it in their own words, rather than ‘quoting scripture’.

Fred uses the word ‘despise’, and that is a strong term. But I don’t think that the comrades, who espouse Lenin and the Bolsheviks, understand just how strongly many workers who have been involved in Bolshevik-type organisations have come to fear that form of ‘proletarian’ political organisation. Almost everybody I have met with an interest in Marx and Communism have been in one (or more) of these organisations (SWP, Militant, WRP, Workers’ Power, etc., etc.) and have come out the other side with a intense distrust of ‘democratic centralism’, cadres, the notion of ‘best elements’, clearer ‘consciousness’. They know from experience that these organisations do not contain ‘better Communists’ than those who have left through disagreement or who always remained outside. ‘Despise’? Perhaps it isn’t too strong a term, after all, Fred.

Fred wrote:
What we have in common on this forum is much more important than what we appear to disagree over. Are there really such enormous differences between what mhou, Demogorgon, and LBird want the working class to do? And want the class party to do?

I have no doubt that those who disagree with me want the same for the working class as I do, but the issue of the ‘class party’ is, I think, an ‘enormous difference’. This needs discussion, not papering over.

Fred wrote:
IF consciousness fails then communism fails too.

Yes, I think we all agree on this, but the difference seems to be that Bolsheviks want the party to have ‘consciousness’ before the proletariat, and that the proletariat will enter the revolution with less ‘consciousness’ (that is, the proletariat won’t be Communist already), and so the ‘party’ guides it through this ‘transitional phase’ to Communist consciousness.

On the contrary, I think, to make sense of Marx and the notion of Communism being the act of the working class, that the proletariat has to develop for itself a Communist consciousness prior to the revolution. Without this intrinsic development, I think that ‘communism fails too’.

This ‘schema’ has implications for the form of organisation and the role of the proletarian political organisation (PPO). I think it should be an open party to Communists, which structurally embodies disagreement and debate (hence permanent factions), which only advises the class (no ‘power’ of any sort separate from Workers’ Councils), and that the advice should often contain contradictory elements which reflect PPO debates and disagreements: the proletariat itself must decide between these choices.

Alf, quoted by Fred, wrote:
I think that it's likely that in any future revolution, there will be assemblies, workplace committees, councils of delegates, all sorts of organisations created to fight the ruling class, but the consciousness within them will be very uneven, and the left of capital will be active inside them with all their false solutions, so it will be vital for those who oppose the left of capital and are clear about the need for proletarian power and communism to be as unified as possible.
[my bold]

This notion of ‘uneven consciousness’ during the revolution, after proletarian organs have been set up, is contentious. Just because in past revolutions the Workers’ Councils were not Communist, doesn’t mean we can conclude that this will always be the case. In fact, it’s possible to propose the idea that we will be able to predict whether the proletariat has developed its consciousness far enough for success, by the Communist content of those councils.

That is, if ‘the consciousness within them will be very uneven’, then the proletariat hasn’t yet developed its consciousness. This would account for the failure of the German Revolution, for example. It wasn’t the ‘lack of a Bolshevik party’ (as Chris Harman insisted in The Lost Revolution), but the undeveloped state of the proletariat, that was the cause of its failure.

Fred wrote:
Nor I think do we want a lot of bombastic argument: but something more in the nature of a comradely discussion where we exchange views in the process of coming to some agreement on an issue… Our workers councils have the political power to organize and institutionalize if necessary, all the agreements we have reached on a democratic basis.

Yes, but that ‘agreement’ must be seen as temporary. Disagreement, and respect for minorities, must be structural. Workers’ Councils must foster dissent. No unitary organisation.

There is no final truth, and we must maintain back-up positions. I think that the PPO should be helping to teach these lessons to a developing proletariat. I would expect a PPO to structurally reflect these organisational lessons for the future. The PPO must prefigure workers’ organisations for the future.

The Bolshevik model embodies out of date 19th century consciousness and structures. Criticism must be inherent to a PPO. And criticism implies no one truth.

Fred
agree to agree

I agree that "agreements" will be temporary. That's why I used the word "agreement" rather than the word "decision" - much more final this - which was your word.  (I am trying LBird. You're not the only one.)  And yes, the issue of the class party needs lots of discussion LBird , but I didn't try to paper it over, as you seem to suggest, and I could interpret  that as an attempt to "belittle" what I was saying. But I'll let you off this time.  "The Bolshevik model embodies out of date 19th. Century  consciousness..."  is criticism of the Bolsheviks. This is preferrable to just despising. So thanks for that. And I was going to question your insistence - does it attain the level of a final truth?  - that the working class has to have communist consciousness in advance of the revolution if the revolution is to succeed. But its time for bed. 

LBird
Polemics - more heat than light

Fred wrote:
(I am trying LBird. You're not the only one.) And yes, the issue of the class party needs lots of discussion LBird , but I didn't try to paper it over, as you seem to suggest, and I could interpret that as an attempt to "belittle" what I was saying. But I'll let you off this time.

My apologies, Fred. Polemics often get the better of us! I wasn't trying to 'belittle' what you're saying, and I'm sorry you got that impression.

I'm not even trying to 'belittle' our Bolshevik-supporters, but disagree with them. I'm happy for them to have their say. It's up to workers to think through the theory and experience of Bolshevism.

Anyway, I'm having at look at the ICC text:

The Organisation of Revolutionaries.

http://en.internationalism.org/icc/200412/622/16-organisation-revolutionaries

Some (most?) of this seems amenable to my ideas, but half of the problem is interpretation of what a phrase means in practice.

This short text needs further discussion and clarification, I think.

Demogorgon
"Who decides 'that the party

"Who decides 'that the party was still a genuine communist organisation', if not the class?

Who decides 'such an act would be a retreat in the consciousness of the class and a return to capitalism'?"

This is not an easy question. The very fact that the class is acting to disband the party already implies that there is a dispute between the mass of workers and a smaller group of workers (the party) about the proletarian content of the latters' policies.

At root, such a scenario represents a dispute between workers and the use of repressive measures (such as disbanding the party) is in complete opposition to the "democracy" you claim to espouse.

Unless, of course, you think the masses are always infallible although this is simply the mirror image to Leninism.

"I think that this might be the heart of our disagreement. I'm a Marxist. Marx claimed that Communism would be the conscious act of the proletariat. I take this seriously. Only the working class can introduce Communism. I think that you're a Leninist. Lenin claimed that Communism would be the conscious act of the party. I dispute that Lenin followed Marx on this issue."

I challenge you to produce a shred of evidence that we don't agree with the statement that "only the working class can introduce communism". Note: evidence should take the form of direct quotations from our publications and statements, not your continual false assumptions about our positions. Ditto for your accusations of Leninism.

But, once more for the gallery: the ICC does not and never has seen communism as the act of the party.

Of course, direct statements are no doubt "saying one thing and doing another".

"That's right. I assume that a majority of the working class will be Communist. That is why it will be the conscious act of the proletariat, as Marx insisted. Thus, the organs of workers' power will be Communist. Why would Workers' Councils allow liberals, conservatives or even fascists to organise within Communist structures? Do the bourgeoisie allow us to organise within MI5 or the FBI? From this conversation, some things that Alf said to me on LibCom about 'the state in the period of transition' are becoming a bit clearer. Perhaps this 'period' needs a little more explanation?"

And - again, as I've repeatedly said - you cannot make these sorts of assumptions. A revolutionary situation occurs when the masses "have had enough". The Russian and German situation showed quite adequately that the consciousness required to make a revolution and that needed to build a new society are not at all the same. Moreover, both demonstrated the class consciousness can wax and wane: in Russia, the same councils that called for a Bolshevik revolution in 1917 were electing Mensheviks and calling for the re-establishment of bourgeois state forms in 1918.

What would your response to Mensheviks or Liberals, etc. getting elected to Councils be? Simply ban them? Repress them? That's exactly what the Bolsheviks did!

Your search for simple solutions to a deeply complex and contradictory process, combined with your viceral hatred of "Bolshevism" simply leads you into reproducing the worst parts of Bolshevism behind the shield of a mythical homogenous class consciousness. When confronted with the opposition of your vision and history, you ignore it; when confronted with the opposition of your vision (as I did on a previous thread with direct quotes) with that of Pannekoek, you ignore it. Instead, you simply accuse anyone who disagrees with you of being "Bolsheviks". This is so far away from genuine councillism (a current we reference, if not adhere to) it makes me want to weep.

"Bolshevik organisations have a history of saying one thing, and doing another. Every one says it is democratic because of 'democratic centralism', but then there is no democracy in actuality, as every worker who has been in one of these Bolshevik parties knows."

Your retreat into accusing us of being "Bolsheviks" or "Leninists" when somebody gives you an answer you don't like or don't understand is not really very helpful. The inference of your statement is that either the ICC or myself is dishonest and hypocritical (i.e. "saying one thing and doing another"). Given this opinion of us / me it seems fruitless to continue this discussion with you.

LBird
Some questions

Regarding the ICC text 'The Organisation of Revolutionaries', perhaps the ICC would like to start a new thread to discuss this particular text?

For now, I have some immediate questions. These should be understood in the context that I think much of the text is acceptable, if it is interpreted in a certain way. Of course, it is open to the ICC to deny that 'certain interpretation', and clarify where they disagree.

the ICC wrote:
To accomplish this task in an indissoluble way, the revolutionary organisation:
 
  • participates in all the struggles of the class in which its members distinguish themselves by being the most determined and combative fighters;
  • intervenes in these struggles always stressing the general interests of the class and the final goals of the movement;and the final goals of the movement;

Does this mean the 'members of the rev. org.' participate and intervene as 'members of the class' or as 'members of the rev. org.'?

If it means the former, I agree. Their membership of the class must always be the superior duty. That is, their political organisation is as class members. Their membership of the rev. org. is not political (in the sense of 'power') but only educational/developmental/ideological/etc. The rev. org. members do not form identifiable associations within class organisations.

Next, how does:

the ICC wrote:
The criterion for membership [of the rev. org.] is no longer sociological, but political: agreement on the programme and commitment to defend it.

square with:

the ICC wrote:
...communists "have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole" (Communist Manifesto).

Surely 'the programme' of the party thus becomes an interest 'separate and apart' from the class?

Either it should be a 'class programme', or the party should contain several 'progammes' which reflect the 'proletariat as a whole' (in all its divergence, disagreement and struggle for self-clarification)?

LBird
Choice

Demogorgon wrote:
Given this opinion of us / me it seems fruitless to continue this discussion with you.

That's your prerogative, comrade.

On my part, I hope you continue to participate.

Demogorgon
"Does this mean the 'members

"Does this mean the 'members of the rev. org.' participate and intervene as 'members of the class' or as 'members of the rev. org.'?"

As both. There is no conflict between being a revolutionary and a worker, unless you think there's a conflict with being a worker and a communist.

"Surely 'the programme' of the party thus becomes an interest 'separate and apart' from the class?"

Communist demands aren't in the interests of the class?

"On my part, I hope you continue to participate."

Against my better judgement, I am for the moment, but I grow weary of strawman attacks and implications that I, my organisation and/or our supporters are dishonest. Until you clarify where you stand on this I wouldn't expect any great investment on my part.

LBird
To continue?

Demogorgon wrote:
Against my better judgement, I am for the moment, but I grow weary of strawman attacks and implications that I, my organisation and/or our supporters are dishonest. Until you clarify where you stand on this I wouldn't expect any great investment on my part.

Whether you continue to participate or not is your decision, Demogorgon, not mine. If you don't like my questioning of your answers, I can't help that. If you insist that they are 'strawman attacks', there doesn't seem to be much I can do, because I think that I'm asking genuine questions. I'd rather you continue, but you have to answer the questions I ask, rather than hope for the questions that you want to be put to the ICC.

For instance,

Demogorgon wrote:
"Does this mean the 'members of the rev. org.' participate and intervene as 'members of the class' or as 'members of the rev. org.'?"

As both. There is no conflict between being a revolutionary and a worker, unless you think there's a conflict with being a worker and a communist.

You seem to be deliberately conflating being a Bolshevik revolutionary with being a Communist revolutionary. This is the whole point of my questions. I don't think that they are synonymous, which you seem to.

I think that there is a conflict between being a revolutionary and a worker, if the revolutionary is a Bolshevik.

So, if by 'revolutionary', you mean a revolutionary who puts the class before their organisation, then I agree there is no conflict. But if you mean a revolutionary who puts the party first, then I think that there is a conflict.

Demogorgon wrote:
"Surely 'the programme' of the party thus becomes an interest 'separate and apart' from the class?"

Communist demands aren't in the interests of the class?

Not if by 'Communist' you mean a party programme which does not originate from the wider class. The class must determine its 'programme(s)', not a Bolshevik-type party.

So, once again, I ask:

1. Does this mean the 'members of the rev. org.' participate and intervene as 'members of the class' or as 'members of the rev. org.'?

If you reply 'both', we disagree. I define the 'rev. org.' as an advisory group for the class, not a participatory body.

2. Surely 'the programme' of the party thus becomes an interest 'separate and apart' from the class?

If you reply 'no, it doesn't', then we disagree. A party programme is a separate interest from the class.

This isn't a debate for either of us to 'win', but a discussion to 'clarify' our respective ideological positions.

I quite openly put 'class' first, but you seem to put 'party' first.

This is not a 'strawman', but based on your answers about 'participation' and 'programme'.

We're hitting up against our respective 'hard cores', comrade.

Demogorgon
"You seem to be deliberately

"You seem to be deliberately conflating being a Bolshevik revolutionary with being a Communist revolutionary. This is the whole point of my questions. I don't think that they are synonymous, which you seem to."

I'm talking about being a revolutionary in the sense of the ICC's vision of militancy and revolutionary organisations. We aren't Bolsheviks.

"Not if by 'Communist' you mean a party programme which does not originate from the wider class. The class must determine its 'programme(s)', not a Bolshevik-type party."

Define "originate". To date, no communist programme has ever been issued by the class as a whole but has been developed and elaborated by a succession of political minorities from the Utopians, through Marx, Social Democracy, Bolshevism, and the Communist Left.

At various historical moments, these minorities have commanded different levels of support within the wider class. They are, in themselves, an expression of that class. At very particular moments, particularly during the revolutionary moments in Russia and Germany, a sizeable mass even a majority of the class formally adopted revolutionary positions. This didn't happen in a vacuum but as part of process of the pre-existing minority growing into a majority.

"If you reply 'both', we disagree. I define the 'rev. org.' as an advisory group for the class, not a participatory body."

The revolutionary organisation is an organisation of class conscious workers or those who defend the interests of workers by defending communism. That's all. A revolutionary organisation can't go on strike, of course, but its members naturally join in all the class movements that they can. Within those movements, they propagate communist positions, calling for the extension of the struggle, for combat against the state and exposing and denouncing the counter-revolutionary actions of the bourgeoisie. This is done in an organised fashion, in the context of an organisation.

"If you reply 'no, it doesn't', then we disagree. A party programme is a separate interest from the class."

Of course not all party programmes represent the interests of the class. The programme of the Tory party, the SWP, etc. are all programmes for capital. But the communist programme, the demand for the elimination of national borders, commodity exchange, the state, etc. is absolutely in the interest of the class and derives from the very essence of the proletariat. It is nothing more or less than the political articulation of "what, in accordance with this being, [the proletariat] will historically be compelled to do".

The communist programme is thus in absolute unity with the interests of the class regardless of how many workers at any given moment agree with it.

"I quite openly put 'class' first, but you seem to put 'party' first."

You think you do, but in fact you reproduce the party dictatorship through your model of homogenous consciousness and the willingness to exclude any non-communist from class organs. I have pointed this out to you many times and you never respond. I will ask you yet again as you've never answered this question either: What would your response to Mensheviks or Liberals, etc. getting elected to Councils be?

And how exactly am I putting "party first"?

LBird
Acknowledgement

Just a post to let you know, Demogorgon, that I'm not ignoring your last post.

It's just that I'm having trouble at the moment formulating an answer that will take the discussion forward productively.

This is my fault, of course, not yours, comrade.

slothjabber
Pity this discussion ended stillborn

I think there was a great deal here that could have informed the discussion on the other thread (spinning off the discussion on the Dutch-German Left) regarding the relationship of party and class.

 

LBird's position seems to be that only communists should be in the workers' councils, though he accuses others of being 'scared of the working class'. Hardly, I think as it is the supporters of the ICC in these discussions who are advocating workers' councils, and it is LBird that is advocating communists' councils from which workers who are not communists are excluded. I find it difficult to squarte LBird's idea that the 'party' should learn from 'the class' or be subservient to the class somehow, when LBird also wants to exclude the working class from the councils. It seems to me this comes down to a question of (for the ICC) 'workers' power' or (for LBird) 'communists' power'. Even, perhaps, 'proletarian revolution' versus 'communist revolution'? LBird seems to think that the revolution is made by 'communists', whereas I would certainly see the revolution as being made by 'the working class'; and obviously 'the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat', in Marx's words, is to mind quite clearly not the same as 'the revolutionary dictatorship of the communists' that LBird seems to be advocating.

 

There are also differences between the ICC supporters and LBird over 'the party' - on the one hand, LBird seems to believe that there will be 'party' Communists and 'non-party' Communists, whereas to myself and I think the other supporters of the ICC position a 'non-party Communist' is more or less equivalent to 'a Communist who will not work with other Communists' - but I think the use of the term 'proletarian politial organisation' is reasonable if 'party' is thought to be too loaded a term. I agree with LBird that the proletarian politcal organisation cannot be a monolithic entity, and welcome the statement he made early on - "A Communist organisation must be controlled by the entire membership, from below...". I agree, though LBird also says that the entire working class should control the party (including those outside the councils? Excluding those outside the councils? If what LBirdd means here is 'all communists should control the proletarian political organisation' then I agree, because all communists are the proletarian political organisation). But that implies that there are no 'non-party communists' - communists who do not seek to work with other communists, that LBird seems to think will also exist. That I think is a ridiculous position. However, as LBird hasn't returned to elaborate on this question it's difficult to determine whether such a position is intrinsic to his system or a reductio ad absurdum.

 

However, having said I'd be happy with using 'proletarian political organisation' instead of party, I'm thinking that as LBird thinks non-communist workers should be excluded from the councils, and instead of 'the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat' LBird wants a 'PPO dictatorship' to be established (that the ICC's supporters would regard as a party dictatorship) perhaps 'proletarian political organisation' is not the right term after all. As non-communist workers are excluded, perhaps a 'communist political organisation' is a better term for what LBird has to offer.

mhou
Quote:But that implies that

Quote:
But that implies that there are no 'non-party communists' - communists who do not seek to work with other communists, that LBird seems to think will also exist. That I think is a ridiculous position
I'm not sure why that would be ridiculous; there have always been nominally communist groups or parties that 'compete' with the International or pre-party formations, either on the fringes of Marxism or anarchism. I agree with your earlier comment that all communists are 'of the party', and this is a point where a divergence between communist organizations today (International CP's and ICC for example) exists. Historically, not all communists will join the International, either in the process of formation or after it has become a recognizable, physical/tangible entity, like the historic experience of the KAPD, IWW, CNT-FAI and other groups that broke with or never joined the Third International. Bordiga used the example of the left PSI and left USPD joining the national Comintern sections as the kind of opportunistic dilution of revolutionary content that kills the class party, like what Stalin and Molotov did with the Lenin Levy in the 1920's. It brings up the question whether or not the class party seeks to regroup all nominally communist militants, or if it must be a selective organization with a high threshold for membership. I guess that relates to what role an individual or communist organization conceives for the International.
slothjabber
'Threshold'

I think probably the notion of an organisation with a 'threshold' is the idea that underlies LBird's distinction between 'party' and 'non-party' communists. But I don't conceive of the party as being a specific organisation. In my conception the distinction between 'party' and 'non-party' communists would be communists who seek to work with other communists, and communists who don't seek to work with other communists. It had never occured to me that there might be communists who would not want to work with other communists. I tried to get LBird to comment on this, but as yet there has been no reply.

commiegal
I do want to work with other

I do want to work with other communists. However I don't think that just because someone is a communist it means that they're necessarily part of the "advanced layer of the class" lol. I agree with the ICTs position on organisation that I do want to get involved in practical work rather than solely theoretical/discussions, but I don't want to be involved in a "party" that like sees itself as "the memory of the class" or whatever.

I suppose thats what people are scared of that it will end up excluding/trying to lead others. I do like the left communist position that it can only be the working class acting as a mass rather than a vanguard.

It was really nice to meet you all yesterday btw :) I learnt a lot.

slothjabber
I don't understand what the objection is

Do you mean that by being a communist, one isn't a member of the 'advanced layer', or do you mean that you don't believe that there is an 'advanced layer'?

Presumably, we think there will be a generalisation of communist consciousness or revolutionary consciousness among the working class. At the moment, however there is only a minority of revolutionary consciousness. So, what is the relationship of the consciousness of the working class as a whole to those who have, in advance of the rest of the class, acquired a revolutionary consciousness? does tht not make them an 'advanced layer'?

commiegal
Of course everyone is at a

Of course everyone is at a different stage of understanding etc and people are more or less informed etc but someone can think they understand communism and actually understand very little (like me i guess :) )

commiegal
I think even if you are part

I think even if you are part of an "advanced layer" you can still learn from people who aren't if you see what i mean?

commiegal
I suppose where i am going

I suppose where i am going with the advanced layer thing is that even if someone knows about communism there's still likely to be things they don't understand, because of their upbringing and personal experiences, and things that someone might understand better than them even if their knowledge in other areas etc isn't as developed. And there might be somebody who knows about communism but doesnt have an experience of struggle and so when it comes to a test of their principles in reality (such as crossing a picket line i suppose) they don't end up applying those lessons and take an easy route out. Because we are all different, I guess that's what I'm saying.

I think its helpful to know that everyone is at different stages of understanding but I'm just not sure about the layers thing!

And I suppose I'm also thinking about people who think that because they have read several books by various left wing thinkers and whichever party leaders they have, that they are the advanced layer and so there is nothing to be added to their programme because "they have the best theoretical understanding of marxism" or whatever, so they can never learn from anything else anyone says, they end up just repeating dogma's and not thinking for themselves despite thinking they are communists and more advanced than anyone.

I guess that's what I'm saying, I hope thats a bit clearer now :)

commiegal
But I might be talking

But I might be talking absolute bollocks I mean I'm not exactly clear about these questions 100% in my own mind :)

mhou
Quote:And I suppose I'm also

Quote:
And I suppose I'm also thinking about people who think that because they have read several books by various left wing thinkers and whichever party leaders they have, that they are the advanced layer and so there is nothing to be added to their programme because "they have the best theoretical understanding of marxism" or whatever, so they can never learn from anything else anyone says, they end up just repeating dogma's and not thinking for themselves despite thinking they are communists and more advanced than anyone.
I've found it helpful to compare the biology analogy used by Trotskyists, that the working-class is the body and the vanguard party is the head (many would disagree with this, but Trotsky's late-life theorization of 'crisis in the leadership of the working-class' and the actions of Trotskyists since the 1930's suggest this is in practice what they think), to the idea that if the working-class is the body, its legs or arms are class consciousness and the communist minority. They condition each other, are dependant on one another, are the means that the proletariat exercizes its agency. You're right that all of it has to do with learning from one another (communists and non-communists) while also influencing one another in the process of real experience (doing and thinking). The problem is there are lines between being a communist and just wanting communism, and the ability of communists to carry out the tasks of communists in a revolutionary situation- providing solutions to the crisis of capitalism. This is where I disagree with slothjabber. I think the tangible organization is a necessary aspect of carrying out these tasks of the party.
slothjabber
on unexpected disagreements

I'm sorry mhou, until the point where you said 'this is where I disagree with slothjabber', I was completely in agreement with you.

 

I have recently tried to use the metaphor of the proletarian political organisation being a hand/arm rather than the 'brain' of the proletariat. And I don't disagree that communists need to organise together, they (we) certainly do. My argument with LBird was over whether there was such a thing as 'communists who didn't want to organise together', which it had never occured to me that there would be.

jk1921
Revolutionary Suicide

slothjabber wrote:

I'm sorry mhou, until the point where you said 'this is where I disagree with slothjabber', I was completely in agreement with you.

 

I have recently tried to use the metaphor of the proletarian political organisation being a hand/arm rather than the 'brain' of the proletariat. And I don't disagree that communists need to organise together, they (we) certainly do. My argument with LBird was over whether there was such a thing as 'communists who didn't want to organise together', which it had never occured to me that there would be.

I suppose in some extreme forms of councilism its a political sin to try to organize with others, because the second you do that the spectre of substiutionism is raised. I don't know what would count as legitimate political activity in this vision though--revolutionary suicide?

LBird
From dismay to disbelief

slothjabber wrote:
My argument with LBird was over whether there was such a thing as 'communists who didn't want to organise together', which it had never occured to me that there would be.

jk1921 wrote:
I suppose in some extreme forms of councilism its a political sin to try to organize with others, because the second you do that the spectre of substiutionism is raised. I don't know what would count as legitimate political activity in this vision though--revolutionary suicide?

The mis-characterisation of what I've written on this thread is reaching laughable proportions.

'Solipsistic socialist seppuku' - do you really believe that that is what your anti-Leninist political opponents' ideas amount to?

slothjabber
Anti-Leninism is as anti-Leninism does

As your conception of the workers' councils is that they're purged of non-communist workers, I think that the 'Leninst' here is you, LBird.

 

But, as you're back, perhaps we could return to the question of the party, and perhaps you'd like to comment on this:

 

"... LBird seems to believe that there will be 'party' Communists and 'non-party' Communists, whereas to myself and I think the other supporters of the ICC position a 'non-party Communist' is more or less equivalent to 'a Communist who will not work with other Communists' - but I think the use of the term 'proletarian politial organisation' is reasonable if 'party' is thought to be too loaded a term. I agree with LBird that the proletarian politcal organisation cannot be a monolithic entity, and welcome the statement he made early on - "A Communist organisation must be controlled by the entire membership, from below...". I agree, though LBird also says that the entire working class should control the party (including those outside the councils? Excluding those outside the councils? If what LBirdd means here is 'all communists should control the proletarian political organisation' then I agree, because all communists are the proletarian political organisation). But that implies that there are no 'non-party communists' - communists who do not seek to work with other communists, that LBird seems to think will also exist. That I think is a ridiculous position. However, as LBird hasn't returned to elaborate on this question it's difficult to determine whether such a position is intrinsic to his system or a reductio ad absurdum..."

 

jk1921
You tell us

LBird wrote:

The mis-characterisation of what I've written on this thread is reaching laughable proportions.

'Solipsistic socialist seppuku' - do you really believe that that is what your anti-Leninist political opponents' ideas amount to?

I don't know LBird, why don't you tell us? I do remember one prominent American councilist (Is that an oxymoron?) telling a member of Internationalism that the purpose of political organization was for him that it was a good way to meet women.

LBird
Berian confession - freely made, of course!

slothjabber wrote:
As your conception of the workers' councils is that they're purged of non-communist workers, I think that the 'Leninst' here is you, LBird.

jk1921 wrote:
I don't know LBird, why don't you tell us? I do remember one prominent American councilist (Is that an oxymoron?) telling a member of Internationalism that the purpose of political organization was for him that it was a good way to meet women.

Now I'm a supporter of purges and a slave to lust?

Y'know, this conversation is like:

sj and jk: 'We support an organisational form'.

LBird: 'So do I. But yours is organisational form A; whereas I support organisational form B'.

sj and jk: 'Why are you opposed to organisation, LBird?'.

LBird: 'No, you misunderstand me, comrades! I'm not an individualist anarchist, I support organisation, I just don't agree with your model'.

sj and jk (scratching their heads): 'But, LBird, you don't accept our organisational form. How can you be a Communist?'.

LBird: 'I'm a Communist who doesn't agree with your form of organisation'.

sj and jk: (still baffled): 'LBird, Communists agree with organisation! Can't you see that?'.

LBird: 'No, no, you seem to be getting the wrong idea: I agree with organisation, too. I just happen to disagree on the form'.

sj and jk: (getting irate): 'LBird, you're being obtuse. Why can't you read?'.

LBird: (finally getting the message): 'Yeah, yeah, I'm an individualist counter-revolutionary opposed to the proletariat, who hates Communism. I'm also a fascist sexual pervert and capitalist roadster'.

sj and jk (in unison, well satisfied at their triumph): 'We knew it, all along!".

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