Egypt: after the revolution that wasn’t, workers’ struggles continue

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Pierre
Egypt: after the revolution that wasn’t, workers’ struggles continue
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Egypt: after the revolution that wasn’t, workers’ struggles continue. The discussion was initiated by proper_propaganda.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

Pierre
"the Egyptian example shows

"the Egyptian example shows that the combativity of the working class is still intact"

Will there be something to read about the events of the past month or so? Cheers

Alf
egypt

We are certainly planning to write something but it will need some discussion as the situation looks rather complex. To what extent are we seeing the mobilisation of the population by bourgeois fractions (Islamist and secularist) and to what extent is there some real social and even class content going on? It looks as though the Mahalla textile workers may be on the move, and in any case there is certainly huge discontent within the population. Let's have some discussion here. there is also a thread on libcom that should be looked at: http://libcom.org/forums/news/egypt-reaction-morsi-mb-machtergreifung-23112012?page=1

shug
http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_1
zimmerwald1915
Poverty of Information

Is it just me, or do snippets like the one to which Shug linked obscure more than they inform?

slothjabber
Not much info to be gleaned

This was reported in several other places but with little more information:

http://dailynewsegypt.com/2012/12/07/mahalla-announces-autonomy/

http://rt.com/news/egypt-protesters-announce-independence-572/

 

Analysis from Trotskyist groups (confusingly, the 'World Socialist' website isn't the SPGB's international organisation, as I'd first assumed)

http://wsws.org/articles/2012/dec2012/egyp-d08.shtml

http://www.counterfire.org/index.php/articles/international/16184-egypt-a-new-crisis-and-the-tasks-of-the-left

 

This event (Thursday 8th December) followed violent clashes in Cairo on the previous night:

http://rt.com/news/egypt-protesters-announce-independence-572/

 

Iskra (from Croatia) has been collecting info on this, I got all these links from his Egypt thread on RedMarx.

baboon
From Iskra also

This is the latest link posted by Iskra on libcom and it shows the weaknesses of the "independent" expression here but also shows the autonomy and potential stregth of the class struggle: http://oreaddaily.blogspot.it/2012/12/the-mahalla-soviet.html (this link is not "live", anyone know what the problem is?

zimmerwald1915
Live Link
slothjabber
To baboon: making links live

To get the link to be live (I just did this in the post above yours, my links weren't live either) you need to:

1-'edit' your post to open the comment box;

2-copy the link;

3-click the 'Link' icon at the top of the of the box where the icons are (the chained globe icon);

4-paste the link you copied into the new window that pops up.

 

When you 'OK' that, the link in the post should go live.

ernie
I am a bit confused about

I am a bit confused about someof the response to the developments in Mahalla. There appears to be the assumption that because this meeting of a few thousand workers -there are 10.000s in the city- declared independence that some how this is a great sign of workers' autonomy. They do declare themselves against the Brotherhood but this in itself is not a sign of autonomy if it goes along with support  for the "opposition" bourgeois fraction: whom, along with the Brotherhood, are doing all they can to mobilise the class behind the national flag and nation rather than proletarian internationalism and autonomy. The weight of this nationalist poison can be seen in the fact that this meeting, that declared independence, also end by singing the national anthemn, which would seem pretty good evidence that the bourgeoisie has managed to drag at least part of the vanguard of the proletariat in this counntry into support for the state and nation. Personally, the only reassuring thing about these events is that only a small minority of workers in this city have lined up behind this nationalist vision.

Also in the general context of the effort by different bourgeois fraction to drag the working class into bloody prop or anti Brotherhood confrontations in order to drown a class that had shown important signs of autonomy  and pull it away from this class terrain of autonomy, any concessions within the class to joining in these destructive campaigns need to be clearly warned against.

mhou
Information coming out thus

Information coming out thus far has shown they are against the MB state and also the official opposition. This could be innaccurate, or new information may come out. Workers in Mahalla have struggled against the union officials as well (reported in the BBC a couple years ago).

“During the period in which the bourgeois class is economically and politically dominant, the actual unfolding of the revolutionary process takes place subterraneously, in the murky depths of the factory and of the minds of the countless multitudes that capitalism subjects to its laws.” – Gramsci

 

The textile workers of Mahalla contain both the largest public sector textile firm (Misr Spinning and Weaving Company) and large private sector textile mill and factories. Their struggles made international news during the anti-Dutch cartoons protests in 2006, followed by a large number of intense and often violent strikes stretching from 2006 to the present. These workers in the Nile Delta are part of a key sector of the Egyptian economy:

 

“One of the important characteristics of the textile/garment industry is that it is one of the very few manufacturing processes in Egypt that is handled completely in country.  Thirty-one large public entities account for 100% of spinning, 70% of weaving, 40% of knitting, and 30% of the garment manufacturing industry. Although government-owned companies have traditionally dominated the industry, due to poor management and other reasons, many have recently suffered from losses. The public sector is by far the main supplier for many textile products such as lint, yarn, and fabrics. On the other hand, textile exports with higher value added items, such as ready-made garments and clothing dominated by the private sector, have expanded successfully.

. . .

The Egyptian apparel industry is one of the most dynamic industrial sectors in Egypt. It comprises some 1500 private sector apparel and intermediate manufacturers, the majority of which are equipped with state-of-the-art machinery. The latest technologies are adopted in all phases of production: pattern making, spreading, cutting, sewing, and packaging. Apparel manufacturers also apply the latest technical innovations such as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), Supply Chain Management (SCM), and Product Data Management  (PDM).   Total apparel production output is approximately USD 3 billion per year, representing 3.5% of Egypt's total GDP.” – SME Times

Those who work in the public sector are tied directly to the regime and their policies- as indeed the state is their boss. Following the Islamist protests of 2006, demands began to surface in the course of militant struggle for a higher standard of living, for better pay and benefits. These workers have become politicized following the recent introduction of struggle, they seem to be following an obvious path, revealed in the course of struggle, toward class conscious demands and methods. They were ahead of the Tahrir Square movement, continuing to strike over both economic and political demands. Today, they are finding the course toward class demands against the new ‘popular’ regime of the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi. While the Egyptian Trotskyists demand a new Constituent Assembly (that democratically represents all strata of Egyptian society), the textile workers are striking and physically fighting against the Muslim Brotherhood state openly. Their recent declaration of independence should be seen in the context of a fight against the state, a declaration that they are no longer under any illusions in the ‘democratic revolution’ of 2011 and instead are putting forth class demands. If their formation continues to develop along proletarian lines, this new revolutionary council may indeed go beyond the kind of neighborhood committees established last year. How then do we explain the last 6 years in Mahalla?

Starting with the struggles on the terrain of the bourgeoisie in common cause with the Islamists (who now control the Egyptian government), the Mahalla proletariat has struggled for immediate demands, and when they have not been satisfactorily met, they’ve reengaged in struggle. Absorption of the collective memory of prior struggles has been met with reemerging demands and actions, taking into account this collective memory. Labour leaders were quoted in the BBC as deploring the strikes, pleading with workers 'to give the state time' to enact their demands instead of going back out on strike.

Like Polish workers leading up to 1980, it seems like a clear manifestation which demonstrates the subterranean maturation of consciousness.

 

Fred
mhou mentions Gramsci who the

mhou mentions Gramsci who the ICC has called a Stalinist among other unpleasant things. This is from an article by the ICC addressed to a Council Communist group in Denmark available on this site. "In Gramsci's schema, the workers achieve class consciousness not through the class struggle, as Marx described, but through a gradual pedagogic process of ‘economic mastery'. Gramsci viewed the workers as single ants, which achieved redemption from their base existence only through awareness of how they fitted in a grand economic plan, a statist anthill. Apart from the entomological aspect, this is an idealist view of the class struggle, and one that helped lead Gramsci to opportunism. The proletarian revolution is not determined by the previous edu cational level of the workers, their culture or their technical skills. On the contrary, the proletarian revolution takes place precisely to obtain and generalize through humanity those cultural and technical advances already existing in society. The revolution is caused by the inner crisis of the capitalist system."

That Gramsci believed in the subterranean development of consciousness disturbs me as he also believed that workers should ultimately remain where there were ie. " in the murky depths of the factories" where they could go on merrily producing surplus value for a new Stalinist-type bureaucracy, and hope to receive the odd crumb for being good submissive girls and boys. But if Gramsci equated communism with what would turn out to be Stalinism and state socialism, why wouldn't he have cottoned on to the idea of subterranean consciousness blah blah black sheep and use it for bourgeois purposes?

Similarly with the Polish workers in the 'eighties. I don't know how far they got with their subterranean consciousness but not far enough it seems to prevent their horrible defeat by Holy Mother Church hand in glove with phony Solidarity. So I don't think this zealously guarded concept of maturing consciousness taking place in secret ( much as I like the idea) has satisfactorily been "manifested" or "demonstrated". Sadly!

Pierre
These posts give me a

These posts give me a headache! Do you guys actually talk to one another like this in real life? And we wonder why the word "rigid" has been thrown around so much!

Fred, what's your point about Gramsci? Is there one? Or is it more an issue with the idea of subterreanean maturation?

Pierre
Ernie--- I like where you

Ernie--- I like where you were going with that. What do you think of the information mhou has posted?

jk1921
P_P, what is it exactly that

P_P, what is it exactly that is giving you a headache and what do you think might be considered "rigid"? Don't leave us hanging.....

jk1921
On Gramsci: I think that he

On Gramsci: I think that he spent most of the Stalinizaton period in a facist gaol, but it is true that he supported the Comintern against the left communists. There were organizational reasons for this (He was the Comintern's preferred alternative to Bordiga), but also theroretical ones that reveal a fundamentally different vision of communist praxis.

On the surface, there appear to be many similarities between Gramsci and the Dutch/german left communists in their joint emphasis on the cultural or spiritual aspects of capitalist dominiation--the construction of bourgeois hegemony, which suppresses proletarian consciousness. However, from there the two parted ways--with Gramsci arguing for a "counter-hegemonic" struggle that purported to combat bourgeois hegemony through a "war of poisition" within captialist society directed by "organic intellectuals" (i.e. the Communist Party). The left communists eschewed such a counter-hegemonic struggle, arguing that such a tactic would always end in state recuperation. The task of communists was not to try to change proletarian conciousness by building up some kind of alternative instiutional structure within captialism, but to preserve the specifically revolutionary content of Marxist theory in anticipation of the next upsurge of class combativity, which was the inevitable result of the objective crisis of capitalism.

Gramsciism, thus, has a very Leninist core. It was attractive to the post-68 generation of radical intellectuals that could not feel at home in the "old left," but who needed some kind of theoretical justification for embarking on a "long march through the institutions" in the wake of the defeat of the movements of '68-'73. As such, it was very appealing to various academic types, but was also important in the development of "Eurocommunism."

None of this means that Gramsci is completely useless, but it is important to keep this context in mind as it is tempting to see his work as some kind of development of "left communism," when historically it has often led to a very different praxis.

 

 

mhou
Quote:P_P, what is it exactly

Quote:
P_P, what is it exactly that is giving you a headache and what do you think might be considered "rigid"? Don't leave us hanging.....

Either being verbose or formulaic would be my guess. Given the subject matter, Marxist concepts don't exactly inspire the kind of daily, familiar way we talk. If we were talking about whether or not Jay Cutler is going to get canned next season or if he deserves to play without Smith as head coach for a season at least (I've been hoping for that since at least 2007 or 08), it'd look more like typical conversation.

It shouldn't be that controversial to quote Gramsci; it was taken from what he had written during the factory occupations- a trajectory of the underlying high and low tide in successive waves of fighting the bosses. Not much different from how the textile workers have been developing over the last 6+ years. Then again some seem quick to see the negatives of whats going on/been going on as outweighing whatever gains there might be, so who knows.

ernie
In response to P_P I think

In response to P_P I think Mhou post contains interesting information. The question of sub mat is very important. The example of poland is illuaminating. 1980 did not come out of the blue but was the culmination of a process of struggles that swept Poland in the late 60s and 70s and the international explosion of struggles from 68. The strength of 1980 was the mass nature of the struggle and the self-organisation. However, one of its achilles heels was the weight of nationalism, and the ruling class were able to uses this to weaken the struggle and prepare the crushing of the movement.

It is clear that the workers in Mahalla and other industrial cities have been through an important process of development.That however does not protect them against the twin dangers of;

- nationalism

- taking sides between the different fractions.

The fact that these workers did say they were against the brotherhood, is potentially important, if they do not line up behind the opposition fractions.

The singing of the national anthemn, which Mhou does not mention, is an indication of the  heavy weight of this poison on these workers and thus a serious weakness that the rulilng class can exploit.

 

baboon
some points

Some points from the above. Don't disagree with the last post and these weaknesses of nationalism have been shown in the workers at Malhalla before.

Thanks for the info on links sloth.

I think that one important point that p-p raises above is the question of "language". This is a discussion forum and should be accessible and p_p's point about 'do you actually talk to each other like this?' is very pertinent and should be kept in mind. This is not a problem of the ICC or the communist left generally whose analyses are generally very clear. But there is this problem of appearing to be in a closed loop in some of the discussions and writings. It's the same on libcom on many occasions, where I understand the words used but don't know what people are talking about. Here there's a sort of "anarchese", matey and insular language often used. I think that it represents something of the distance between revolutionaries and the working class so we should try to be clearer and discuss like we are talking to each other.

Pierre
Re:

baboon wrote:
I think that one important point...is the question of "language". This is a discussion forum and should be accessible and p_p's point about 'do you actually talk to each other like this?' is very pertinent and should be kept in mind....I think that it represents something of the distance between revolutionaries and the working class so we should try to be clearer and discuss like we are talking to each other.

 

Demogorgon
At what point is it that the

At what point is it that the delectation experienced upon the internalisation of a difficult set of conceptual axes dissolved by a surfeit of prolix?

jk1921
LOL

Demogorgon wrote:

At what point is it that the delectation experienced upon the internalisation of a difficult set of conceptual axes dissolved by a surfeit of prolix?

 

LOL!, :), HAHA, :). Or (Insert preferred stock web image as a stand-in for meaningful English discourse  so as to give the sense of being able to connect to real people).

mhou
Quoted material from some

Quoted material from some Mideast blogs:

"Protesters threw the head of their city council out of the building, announcing they “no longer belong to the Ikhwani state,” the Daily News Egypt reports.

Workers have attempted to create a “revolutionary council” and rule the industrial city, report suggests. The head of the Mahalla City Council, Ismail Fathy, however, denied the claims."

. . .

"

El-Mahalla el-Kubra, a city north of Cairo home to 450,000, was dubbed the cradle of the Egyptian revolution. The opposition April 6 movement was formed there in 2009, and the first major anti-government protests also took place there.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports circulating on Twitter suggest that protesters in four more Egyptian cities – Alexandria, Kafr Sheikh, Sharqaya and Sohag – have declared independence, announcing that President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have lost the legitimacy to rule"

[b]"Meanwhile in Tanta, Egypt’s fifth-largest city, a crowd of anti-government protesters reportedly torched the Freedom and Justice Party’s local headquarters."[/b]

A number of news editorials credit the Mahalla textile workers as providing the initial impetus to oust Mubarak- now, the impasse the workers are facing (inability for the state or ruling class to provide reforms) in the new post-Mubarak 'popular government' is leading to directly attacking the state, the bosses and the political parties. In the Sic journal they describe the bourgeoisie facing a political crisis- that their political apparatus is illegitimate, and rests more now than ever on repression. I think decomposition is basically describing the same phenomenon that the Sic people are. It seems that the textile workers are at the heart of one of the most advanced struggles against capital and the state in a long time.

 

 

Redacted
Re:

Seems things are heating up in Egypt once again. I heard numbers above 5 million for the mass protests earlier this week.

And now it seems the Army has issued an ultimatum, basically for Morsi to call for early elections or resign in the next 48 hours.

There are also calls for a general strike, and the ultra-conservative Salafis have now joined the opposition (they gained the second highest number of votes in the last election.) Interesting situation to say the least. I will continue to watch closely the next few days!

baboon
a few words

It's very early to see how this pans out but a few words.

The rapid decision of the army to side with the crowd was taken within the interests of Egyptian capital to reinforce nationalism. Yesterday the army was dropping Egyptian flags from helicopters onto the crowd in Tahrir. The head of the US joint chiefs of staff, General Dempsey was, according to US reports, on the phone to the heads of the Egyptian army on Sunday. Obama didn't sound too certain about supporting Morsi in his statements yesterday. This is another blow to US imperialism who backed the Muslim Brotherhood along with the British (and the SWP).

There's all sorts of elements at work in these latest demonstrations but the sheer numbers on the streets is something to behold and the issues of the economy - bread and jobs seems to be very high on the agenda. The BBC have portrayed the protests as anti-muslim but that's belied in their own reports even that clearly show a majority of muslims against the Morsi clique and with the crowd.

Redacted
If the urge to go out into

If the urge to go out into the streets stems from something deeper on the part of the millions of Egyptians protesting right now, it might be interesting to see what happens after a potential military takeover. I heard an Egyptian writer and leftist talking in the news asking if the Egyptian people are "savvy" enough to go against the military once Morsi is potentially thrown out. She seemed to be almost suggesting it. Another Egyptian journalist mentioned that it would be hard for people to forget the Army killing so many of them only about a year ago.

But as I'm writing this the deadline has passed and there still has been no significant action on the side of the Army.

jk1921
Perhaps this only hihglights

Perhaps this only hihglights my ignorance, but it is amazing to me to see a mass movement in favor of democracy that appears to be asking for a military takeover. Has this ever happened before? I understand there are some specificities in Egyptian politics, but this strikes me as novel.

Redacted
Re:

This does sort of have a precedence in Egyptian history. The "Egyptian Revolution" of 1952 that overthrew the Egyptian monarchy of Farouk I was basically a military coup led by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser if I remember the story correctly. I'm not sure how much "mass support" there was exactly at the time but those events are viewed highly favorably by Egyptians today. I think I remember hearing the workers of Malhalla keep posters and photos of Nasser even today.

So the latest on the situation seems to be the Army is carrying through with removing the elected government, against the will of the US State Department it seems. The Army has said Morsi is "no longer president", Morsi of course saying he "would rather die" than be removed as president.

I realize at this point the working class has largely been left out of the recent events but look out for clashes soon from the more combative sectors like in Alexandria, the Malhalla factory workers, etc.

The Army is apparently now cruising around Cairo in armored trucks arresting high-ranking MB officials.

baboon
It's certainly novel

I don't know the latest developments - the army has never really been away anywhere - and don't propose to deal with them but the situation strikes me as novel also, as well as not a little ironic with some potential that's already expressing itself.

The area I want to look at here is the possible spoke in the wheel to Qatari imperialism in the first place and the problems given to imperialism in general by this uprising. Qatar has become the biggest bankroller of the Egyptian state and its political influence through the Muslim Brotherhood of Morsi is great. From Qatar's $8 billion or so a year to Egypt, Saudi Arabia pays about half that and there's no equinimity between these two. Qatar has called the shots in Egypt in their own interests first of all and of the major imperialisms next. The appetities of Qatari imperialism led it to play a particularly ruthless and murderous role in Libya, then Syria as well as currently "interfering" in Kuwait. In Egypt, as well as these regions, it has more or less openly supported the most sectarian, ruthless elements which it sees as components of a Muslim Brotherhood League of States. One of the inefficiences of Morsi and his clique in relation to the needs of Egyptian capital was too much emphasis on the aims of the Brotherhood and not enough on the national interest. The British have a long history of working with the MB and they work closely with the higher elements of the Qatari state, intelligence, diplomacy, militarily and so on. The Americans seemed to have followed, or been persuaded by Britain, to back the Brotherhood in the name of regional control and bourgeois "stability". But novel events have come along.

I think that, without getting carried away and mindful of dangers, one can only salute the combativity and solidarity expressed in this massive demonstrations. It certainly raises, to a higher level, the question of democracy.

Fred
The demonstration in  Egypt

The demonstration in  Egypt  continue, but what are they for? Egyptian Presidents come and go, but does anything change?  Cameron said he's on the side of the army - well that's a wise move isn't it?  as they seem to  be in  charge - and the Brotherhood appear to be out of favour for now. I thought Obama supported the  Brotherhood at one point?  But now he said "he's on nobody's side" or was that about  Syria. Its difficult to keep up with all the bourgeois maneuvering.  Are they all trying to make sure they end up supporting the winners? I suppose they are. Anyway they all support bourgeois democracy, you can take that for granted.  Unfortunately however, most of the demonstrators in Egypt and Turkey too seem to be supporters of bourgeois democracy, but just can't decide which ridiculous aspect of it to go along with for now.

 

 

I think someone on the ICT forum suggested that this mess and confusion will continue until we acquire The Party (I hope I haven't got that wrong.) which will give a lead to the workers and point the way forward. I agree with this. But unfortunately we haven't got The Party and there isn't even the slightest indication  of its forthcoming appearance as yet. So does this mean that what's going on in Egypt, and Turkey and Brazil too,  is all wasted energy by the masses taking part. Or does it start to politicize them so that when we do have The Party they'll be more responsive?  Or will they just be worn out in fighting for "improved" but still   bourgeois democracy?  WE WANT FAIR ELECTIONS blah blah blah. How about WE WANT MORE WAGES AND MORE TO EAT?  Just for starters! 

jk1921
Ah, yes: The deus ex machina

Ah, yes: The deus ex machina of the party. Of course, this only begs the question of where the party comes from if it is not from the sky. Doesn't the party have to be formed out of the very questioning elements generated by these movements? If they are still stuck on democracy; then it seems unlikely we will have the party anytime soon. So the question then becomes, why are they still stuck on democracy? What is the attraction? Is it all just an "illusion" or is there something functional about it (as the paragraph in the Turkish comrades' article suggests)?

Redacted
I think that "democracy" when

I think that "democracy" when translated/code-switched from plain proletarian workers language means something cdes in general call "proletarian political power."

Of course people are going to read the above statement and not know what the hell I'm talking about. Lemme explain:

Look past whatever definition you have embedded in your head as you read this. Because I would say generally your average worker is definitely NOT using the term "democracy" the same way we left coms do. To us "democracy" is a mode of bourgeois governance, bourgeois political power, dominance, hegemony etc etc.

We tend to view it as a distraction from the class struggle. Am I correct in saying all that?

Ok, so how about your average worker? Democracy can mean so much. For many it's almost just an innocent ideal. The word "democracy" when concieved in the mind of a worker excedes and surpasses any of it's bourgeois limitations. "True democracy" would mean sharing the means of production. "Real democracy" would get rid of representative politicians. "Democracy" would mean lessening and potentially eradicating the gap between rich and poor. In the mind of most of the fellow workers I've worked with, known in friendship, etc. ideal democracy sounds/is described no differently than one might describe the DotP.

Redacted
So to add a bit more, I'm

So to add a bit more, I'm rubbed the wrong way by the questions jk put forward above.

"the question becomes, why are they still stuck on democracy?" - jk

Is democracy (using the ICC's definition here) what the working class is really stuck on? Or are they really stuck more on the state itself? After all it's the government that's watching you. It's the government that's tapping my phone calls. It's the government that's reading my emails, these posts-- It's not democracy.

- "It couldn't be! ...that's not democratic."
- "Is this a democracy?"
- "Maybe not. ...Definitely not."
 

What if in fact (out of some subterranean? instinct??) the working class is stuck on the idea of what is actually the dictatorship of the proletariat. But is (inaccurately) described using the word "democracy" as a buzz word. This buzz word, which encompasses all ones ideals and hopes is thereby thrown around recklessly until finding it's way into the ear canal of some unsuspecting left com who then curls up in a fetal ball rocking back and forth in agony all the while completely misinterpreting the intent of the core message.

"What is the attraction?" - jk

I think the attraction is that most workers see democracy as theirs. It's something that serves "the people", not the rich. If that's not how democracy is working here in America, then we don't really have a democracy. "Oh, there's still some fucked up shit happening in Denmark? Then we need real democracy."

But in regards to the situation in Egypt, I think there is a large portion of the people in the streets, mostly youth, who seem to already be at the level of pointing the finger and saying "fuck their democracy", "fuck democracy", or even "fuck capitalism."

I don't understand how not having "The Party" right now is helping the current situation. Not just in Egypt, but world wide. If the party needs to be formed by the questioning elements--- there are elements questioning. We just aren't answering in a way that's intriguing them. Maybe it's not time for "The Party" but one could imagine the benefits of having a more proactive roll in some of these struggles.

And to one last thing to jk: Wasn't the real jk a proactive militant himself?

jk1921
I don't think the working

I don't think the working class has many ideas about democracy or dictatorship in its heads when it first begins to struggle; or at the very least it is not orienting its struggle around these ideas. They are generally struggling for direct and immediate improvements in their living and working conditions. As Baboon had said elsewhere, when the working class starts struggling around these abstract ideas--it is on the road to defeat.

However, it seems hard to escape the fact that whatever social movements we have seen over the last several years have largely failed to escape the horizon of "democracy," however understood. Its been all about fixing the bourgeois democratic arrangements, making it real again, taking it back from monied interests, making democracy work for the people, etc. etc. Clearly, these were the main themes of Occupy, Indignadoes, etc. even if there were some other ideas floating around as well. The question then becomes why has it proven so hard for these movements to go past this level? Is it just a question of ideological blockage or is there something more material about these movements that limits them?

I suppose what is underneath these questions is a good deal of doubt about what seems to an assumption in the milieu that these "social movements," "social revolts," etc. are some kind of prefigurative form of class stuggle that are just confused by ideological manipulations around democracy. Perhaps it is the failure to link up with point of productions working class struggles that limits these movements to "democracy." Perhaps, they can only go past this point when struggles around point of production issues show the material necessity of transdcending calls to make democracy real again; in other words you can't defend your living and workign conditions with demnocracy, you need something else for that. Democracy is part of the very system that attacks your living and working conditions.

One final point on Jamal's post: I am not sure I understand the concept of "proactive militant." What does that mean? What is the difference between a proactive militant and a non-proactive one? What would a proactive militant be doing right now that non proactive ones aren't doing?

mhou
I wonder about the same thing

I wonder about the same thing as Jamal describes in the last paragraph.

Quote:
I don't understand how not having "The Party" right now is helping the current situation. Not just in Egypt, but world wide. If the party needs to be formed by the questioning elements--- there are elements questioning. We just aren't answering in a way that's intriguing them. Maybe it's not time for "The Party" but one could imagine the benefits of having a more proactive roll in some of these struggles.
What are the means to connect or start a dialogue with those workers seeking revolutionary perspective in the midst of upheaval? The only thing that I can think of is for internationalists/communists, where ever they are, to organize themselves to a point where their organization can effectively regroup new individuals or small groups that develop out of local struggles. I don't know that there's a lot communists (not locally organized near a point of struggle) can do; the 'summit hopping' part of anarchism is a big example of adventurism/voluntarism where being present takes priority over other aspects of political organization.
Redacted
"I don't think the working

"I don't think the working class has many ideas about democracy or dictatorship in its heads when it first begins to struggle"

I couldn't disagree more.

"...or at the very least it is not orienting its struggle around these ideas."

This I agree with. Unavoidable truth.

"Its been all about fixing the bourgeois democratic arrangements, making it real again, taking it back from monied interests, making democracy work for the people, etc. etc."

Completely disagree with this as well. While MSNBC and some petty bourgeois elements in Zucotti want to blame our problems on "crony" capitalism (and speak for the whole population), many, many people involved with Occupy were there for more radical reasons. Especially the youth.

Remember the whole Michael Moore coming down to Zucotti in the early days? The media, the leftist speakers and politicians pushed the whole "we can fix this" narrative hard. People weren't buying it. They still aren't. You can look at popularity of movies like "Assualt on Wall Street" (one of the top pirate downloads on the web now as well) to see that.

Wasn't the Russian Revolution itself framed as a movement towards democracy at the time?

"In reality the mere existence of privations is not enough to cause an insurrection, if it were, the masses would always be in revolt...The immediate causes of the events of a revolution are changes in the state of mind of the conflicting classes... " (Trotsky)

Were Occupy and the Indignados movement "insurrections?" How about Egypt? Bahrain?

"The question then becomes why has it proven so hard for these movements to go past this level?"

People are going to hate on me for saying this. But maybe it's a lack of leadership. Where are the most advanced members of the class? What effect have they had? How have they been attempting to effect the sentiment of the demonstrations?

That's what I mean by "proactive" militant. Militants who go in and stir up shit. Militants who give the right communist "lines" at the right moment. Much like what the Turkish sections has been doing. But it goes beyond even that. We could be doing a lot more to "agitate."

Remember JK in the movie? We shouldn't be afraid to be on the streets throwing rocks with the youth. We shouldn't be afraid to go to the Mahalla's of the world and "stir up shit."

jk1921
Whose Confused?

Jamal wrote:

People are going to hate on me for saying this. But maybe it's a lack of leadership. Where are the most advanced members of the class? What effect have they had? How have they been attempting to effect the sentiment of the demonstrations?

That's what I mean by "proactive" militant. Militants who go in and stir up shit. Militants who give the right communist "lines" at the right moment. Much like what the Turkish sections has been doing. But it goes beyond even that. We could be doing a lot more to "agitate."

Remember JK in the movie? We shouldn't be afraid to be on the streets throwing rocks with the youth. We shouldn't be afraid to go to the Mahalla's of the world and "stir up shit."

So, fundamentally these movements are already conceiving of a new society; they just need us to lead them there? Its a failure of the revolutionary minorities who have bought the line of the bourgeois media? Its not the movements that are confused, its the organizations?

What exactly is it that the Turkish section is doing that nobody else is?

jk1921
Blockage

mhou wrote:

I wonder about the same thing as Jamal describes in the last paragraph.

Quote:
I don't understand how not having "The Party" right now is helping the current situation. Not just in Egypt, but world wide. If the party needs to be formed by the questioning elements--- there are elements questioning. We just aren't answering in a way that's intriguing them. Maybe it's not time for "The Party" but one could imagine the benefits of having a more proactive roll in some of these struggles.
What are the means to connect or start a dialogue with those workers seeking revolutionary perspective in the midst of upheaval? The only thing that I can think of is for internationalists/communists, where ever they are, to organize themselves to a point where their organization can effectively regroup new individuals or small groups that develop out of local struggles. I don't know that there's a lot communists (not locally organized near a point of struggle) can do; the 'summit hopping' part of anarchism is a big example of adventurism/voluntarism where being present takes priority over other aspects of political organization.

I don't understand the "we are not answering them in a way that's intriguing them" part. What isn't intriguing them? Internationalism? If internationalism isn't expressing the needs of their struggle at the moment than what are we supposed to do? Change our message? Tell them what they want to hear? What do they want to hear and why do they want to hear that? Is it always the organizations that are to blame for the disconnect or is it just that the struggles haven't reached a point where this makes sense yet?

The discussion seems misplaced in one respect though. If there really are enough searching elements out there and the struggles are propelling them forward in a way that poses the question of organization, then they should be taking the question up all on their own regardless of whether or not they are finding an echo in the existing organizations. Something is blocking them. Democracy seems to be the ideological expression of that blockage, but I fear that it is not merely ideological and there are some fundamental material and sociological problems at the base of this. (See paragraph in Turkish comrades' text).

 

Redacted
For starters, I haven't seen

@jk: For starters, I haven't seen you face to face in more than six years.

I'm just going on what information I've heard second hand, partly because things are so hush-hush, so need-to-know in this org. The Turkish section seems to have offices, they seem to be going into the streets effectively. Talking to common people. Their press seems to be effective. They have been doing big things with pamphlets. I'm told like the UK section there are regular discussions? I assume the UK and Turkish sections are meeting new people interested in becoming militants? I've heard similar things about France. As opposed the US, where numbers are tiny and this is not happening.

A better question might be what is the rest of the ICC doing that the US section isn't? Also, there's no Egyptian section, no way of following events on the ground in some of these places where these "revolts" are happening. Does nobody else see this as a problem?

About your first question:

"So, fundamentally these movements are already conceiving of a new society; they just need us to lead them there?" - jk

"...the effort of the class to develop its consciousness has existed at all times since its origins and will exist until its dissolution into communist society."

"As an emanation of the class, a manifestation of the process by which it becomes conscious, revolutionaries can only exist as such by becoming an active factor in this process."

(ICC Platform Point 16)

The problem I have with your question is the term "these movements." I wasn't implying that movements like Occupy, etc. are revolutionary, communist, or even have it on the agenda to conceive of a new society. What I was implying however is that (what would probably be a shocking amount of) workers involved in demonstrations, protests, revolts like we've seen do indeed have larger ideas. They do want to see real change. They are thinking about their political power, their power as a group, but not quite self-consciously as a class.

 

Redacted
Shit it seems we are all

Shit it seems we are all posting very closely after each other. Apologies for any anachronisms in my posts.

I would really like to echo mhou and salute him for adding and helping me with what I was trying to express.

J--- You would agree that we have answers, yes? I don't know if Commiegal is around. I wonder if we have help her with some of our answers for example?

And like L. says, "We are not prophets." We don't have all the answers. But I think we are right about enough things for the time being. Therefore any failure to influence workers I view as a communication problem. A syntax problem. A problem with the approachability of the ICC's literature. Etc.

mhou
That seems a bit determinist

That seems a bit determinist though- if the relationship between open struggle and signs of proletarian content to revolutionary organization was that direct, there wouldn't be a need for permanent political organization. The way I understand the argument for revolutionary organization is the history of the workers movement in the old centers of capital, with all of the trial and error and accumulated experiences embodied in organizations to act as the link between past experience, present struggle and the future revolution. I'd agree that democratic ideology is a barrier (and that there are class-based reasons for this); but the lack of experience seems to be a bigger barrier. Democratic ideology has been a problem in the past, but the disconnect from the experiences of revolutionary ferment seems like a contributing factor to the wide variety of ideas and actions (often conflicting and contradictory) seen in all of the protest movements. I think stronger organization, bringing in more comrades into one international organization, has potential and is in the control of communists- something within 'our' collective capacity to change. Messaging could only be the problem if intransigent communist ideas were being widely heard, discussed, etc. to begin with. 

Fred
jk wrote:   If there really

jk wrote:
  If there really are enough searching elements out there and the struggles are propelling them forward in a way that poses the question of organization, then they should be taking the question up all on their own regardless of whether or not they are finding an echo in the existing organizations. Something is blocking them. Democracy seems to be the ideological expression of that blockage...

 

But a more realistic blockage is that people just don't know what the alternative is because COMMUNISM is the politics that dares not speak its name.  And, if it does, there's a chorus of shriekers who insist "it's what they had in Russia"  and any chance of further discussion stops there.  Questioning elements need opportunities to come across the answer they're looking for. That there is an alternative to capitalism, and that this alternative is communism.  And that this communism - the democracy of the working class - is definitely not the shitty crap the bourgeoisie would have us believe such as North Korea, Cuba, Chavezism, and the former USSR.  Once in possession of this information, seemingly one of the best guarded secrets on the planet - even Snowden has no access to it - then there will be no stopping the "eureka" effect as it whizzes round the planet bringing in its path huge outbursts of "ah I get it now" and "I always vaguely suspected, but now I see"  and just plain "Yipee, at last!. So this is what they've been hiding all these years."   This is the simple but easy-to-grasp answer to what is intriguing all the questioning elements searching for help.

 

 

just to have this information brought  to their attention will change minds and cause a tsunami of consciousness.  And I want to thank  comrades for what I find to be exciting and clarifying posts above. 

 

baboon
protests in Israel

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/07/14/313701/israelis-protest-austerit...

Protests against austerity in Israel haven been going on for a couple of weeks now. This report from PressTV shows protesters likening Netanyahus and the finance minister to Morsi in Egypt.

jk1921
Agree

Jamal wrote:

ATherefore any failure to influence workers I view as a communication problem. A syntax problem. A problem with the approachability of the ICC's literature. Etc.

OK, I agree with that to a degree. There is indeed a cultural gap. I have harped on that several times on here in the past couple of weeks actually.

So you don't think the problem is content, but it is more a problem of style and cultural relevance? I don't mean that in a dismissive way, I think that you are right, that there is a real problem on that level. Still, I don't think that can be the total explanation.

Oh, I forgot to mention: Its good to see you back.

jk1921
Agree Again

mhou wrote:

That seems a bit determinist though- if the relationship between open struggle and signs of proletarian content to revolutionary organization was that direct, there wouldn't be a need for permanent political organization. The way I understand the argument for revolutionary organization is the history of the workers movement in the old centers of capital, with all of the trial and error and accumulated experiences embodied in organizations to act as the link between past experience, present struggle and the future revolution. I'd agree that democratic ideology is a barrier (and that there are class-based reasons for this); but the lack of experience seems to be a bigger barrier. Democratic ideology has been a problem in the past, but the disconnect from the experiences of revolutionary ferment seems like a contributing factor to the wide variety of ideas and actions (often conflicting and contradictory) seen in all of the protest movements. I think stronger organization, bringing in more comrades into one international organization, has potential and is in the control of communists- something within 'our' collective capacity to change. Messaging could only be the problem if intransigent communist ideas were being widely heard, discussed, etc. to begin with. 

To be clear-- I am actually very skeptical that we can use ideological explanations alone to explain the difficulties. There was actually a rather heated exchange about that on here last week. But I do think, along with the Turkish comrade's text, that "democractic ideology" is the expression of the underlying difficulties that reflexively acts back on the struggles to block them. Did I express that clearly enough? You are right that democratic ideas are not the only ones expressed in the movements. There are also many anarcho inspired ideas, etc. But the default of all these contradictory positions swirling about IS democracy. That is what democracy tends to produce--a mish mash of contradictory ideas, which it is the job of some supposedly content neutral organ to keep the peace between. Wasn't this the experience of the General Assemblies in Occupy?

mhou
But is there widespread

But is there widespread dissemination of communist propaganda (that is being ignored, rejected, etc.)?  I definitely agree with Jamal's point on effectiveness requiring an established local section that is active in several different ways- producing propaganda and analysis, physically engaging with points of struggle, etc. Jk you've talked before about the difficulty of finding or accessing the communist left, which is true (even online; searching for Internationalism or ICC and one of the first links is to a Trotskyist group that split from the Spartacist League). If small groups have been formed or there are individual workers looking for communist positions in Egypt, what's the best way to establish communication? Though the same can be asked about small groups or indviduals everywhere since the global protest waves started (including the US).

 

jk1921
I don't know. These are good

I don't know. These are good questions. I think in the end, the root of these questions becomes a more general philosophical one. Is the problem that the rvolutionary minorities are doing something wrong and therefore lack effectiveness, i.e. there aren't any local sections, they aren't out among the protestors, etc.? Or is it the case that objective conditions produce this very weakness--i.e. the working class has not reached a significant level of struggle, does not have the requisite experience where left communists ideas express their struggle (something which would inevitably strengthen the communist left).

We are in the realm of very old and persistent philosophical debates within Marxism about (as you say) determinism, freedom of the revolutionary will, the gap between objective cirucmstances and reflexive political organization. They are very tough questions, particularly if you reject substiutionism as inherently unhelpful (which in part explains why substiutionism continues to have some considerible attraction for many--its legacy within the Italian left, etc.).

LoneLondoner
On democracy and revolution

I'ld like to take up a few of Jamal's points briefly.

First, on democracy and how workers see it.

Jamal wrote:

In the mind of most of the fellow workers I've worked with, known in friendship, etc. ideal democracy sounds/is described no differently than one might describe the DotP.

I think that he is being (if I may say so) wildly over-optimistic to think that workers when they say "democracy" really mean proletarian dictatorship. For one thing, the first foremost and primordial quality of the proletarian dictatorship is internationalism. "Workers have no country". Now tell me how many workers think that today, especially in the USA. And here are a few pictures to make my point:

That was for the USA. Now here is Tahrir square 1st July during the anti-Morsi protests

And here's a photo from the Russian revolution: no Russian flags!

This is not a criticism of the movement, because actually posing questions across national frontiers is incredibly difficult. It means having a perspective for overthrowing the whole capitalist order worldwide - and knowing who can do it. In a situation where the majority of workers don't even realise they are workers, this is not going to happen, except in the case of tiny minorities.

So, I think that while many workers may not mean the same thing as the bourgeois do by "democracy", there is no evidence that they are actually thinking beyond national frontiers in a concrete way, when people talk about "real change" they are still thinking within national boundaries.

Jamal wrote:

What I was implying however is that (what would probably be a shocking amount of) workers involved in demonstrations, protests, revolts like we've seen do indeed have larger ideas. They do want to see real change. They are thinking about their political power, their power as a group, but not quite self-consciously as a class.

"Their power as a group" - but what group? As long as it is not "self-consciously as a class", then they only alternative is as "citizens" (the "99%").

Second, on action:

Jamal wrote:

We shouldn't be afraid to be on the streets throwing rocks with the youth. We shouldn't be afraid to go to the Mahalla's of the world and "stir up shit."

And where exactly is "throwing rocks with the youth" going to get us? Certainly there will be young people eager to let off steam and "throw rocks" - but this is not going to get us very far if they don't know who they are throwing rocks at and how. Our experience is that "throwing rocks" - or indeed any kind of "immediate action" is precisely what the bourgeois politicos would like (well, it's the next best thing to everybody keeping schtum and not protesting). "Action, action" was what DRY (Democracia Real Ya) was pushing during the Indignados movement, and precisely what the "proletarian wing" in this movement was refusing: what the workers need more than anything is discussion, to understand where they are and where to go and who they are. And that is why political organisations of the working class exist.

Finally on organisation

What the Turkish section has been doing in the recent movement is what any section of the ICC does, to the best of its ability.

Jamal wrote:

any failure to influence workers I view as a communication problem. A syntax problem. A problem with the approachability of the ICC's literature

This is an old old discussion (as old as the ICC, or even older) and has taken place within the ICC itself many many times. And while I will be the first to say that we need to do our best to make what we say easy to understand, as much as possible, you are simply wrong to say that workers not being communist is nothing more than a "syntax problem". In fact, I would go further and say that this is basically a Trotskyist viewpoint: the only problem of the revolution is one of "revolutionary leadership", or "revolutionary literature".

This begs the question of where the "revolutionary leadership" is to come from: who is to educate the educators?

Are you really saying that this revolutionary spirit exists in the working class and is only waiting for the ICC to write better articles to appear? But what kind of revolutionary spirit would be waiting? If it really existed and the ICC was inadequate to its needs, then it would create another organisation.

The problem is (and this problem is even bigger in the USA than generally, IMHO) that even those workers who really are thinking internationally and beyond democracy simply don't see the need for political organisation. This is not just a problem of literature.

LoneLondoner
I agree, but how?

mhou wrote:

I think stronger organization, bringing in more comrades into one international organization, has potential and is in the control of communists- something within 'our' collective capacity to change.

Very glad someone is saying this. Any bright ideas how we go about it? How we get the ball rolling?

mhou
Quote:Very glad someone is

Quote:
Very glad someone is saying this. Any bright ideas how we go about it? How we get the ball rolling?
I've been thinking about that a great deal (and all that follows is just conjecture/opinion); particularly regarding the situation in the US. I agree that there isn't a revolutionary situation on the immediate horizon, but do agree with part of Jamal's point that there are changes within the class since the crisis, new activity and developments that require attention and practical activity. There are several small groups (ranging from broadly Marxist to somewhat activist to anarchist collectives) that have sprung up in the last few years. Identifying other comrades and reaching out to start dialogue (the kind the ICC has carried in their press over the years with other organizations) over substantive practical and/or theoretical issues, despite geography, either in the press or online, seems like a good idea. A question that I see asked repeatedly is 'what does the ICC/what do left communists do?'. Answering that with concrete recent examples of intervention or practical activity (tied to concrete principles- off hand I remember reading about a member in France addressing workers assemblies during rail strikes, leafleting the East coast Verizon strike in the US, and on the topic of this thread the activity of the ICC in the Indignados movement- a recent issue of Internationalism carried an article about a bloc demanding mass strikes against the union called general strikes; all of which are based on putting forward class based positions, not in the name of becoming 'revolutionary leadership' or building united fronts etc.). I don't know if that's the kind of messaging being discussed, but may clearly answer some fundamental initial questions people ask who are only familiar with leftist groups and their mode of operation. For building stronger sections/new sections that would be able to 'do' more, maybe we could start a thread specifically on intervention and ways to engage with the class struggle, with other organizations or individuals that identify with Marxism/communism or who are trying to come to communist positions, and other matters related to practice; which may shed light on whats required to get there (whats required of communists to make that happen). I don't really know what specifically is necessary and only have relatively vague ideas- but do think talking about it collectively would help.
Redacted
So much to respond to here.

So much to respond to here. I've just gotten back from the demonstrations for Trayvon Martin which were quite poignant, and in many ways not at all what I expected. Way more radical in terms of rhetoric. And there was even some "civil disobedience" which is a first I've seen or heard about in this city since the 80's and 90's. Listen some of the best public speaking I've ever heard from everyday people in my community. More than ever people were just mad. Yelling, crying, etc. Powerful experience.

But lemme give it a try here...

Redacted
"There is indeed a cultural

"There is indeed a cultural gap." -jk

I'm not sure I understand the use of the term "cultural" here. I guess I kinda do, but it sounds weird somehow. I dunno maybe you could expand on that a bit, please?

Are you just trying to figure out a way to say the "old guard" of the ICC are well........a bit out of touch maybe? I'm not trying to be sarcastic or coy or anything like that. I promise. Buzz words, umbrella terms I've heard used in the org often confuse me. Like "cultural gap" or "organic break," etc.

To me it always sounded like maybe those elements within the ICC feel that they themselves are a bit out of touch with the "searching elements?" I wouldn't know if that was even the case, due simply to limited communication and interaction with ICC members (more recently at my own discretion), because of regional isolation, etc.

...

I mean can you imagine being at the bar, going after someone who caught your eye, not having much success and then telling your buddies/mates, "Oh, she...yeah...it was a cultural gap."

...

"So you don't think the problem is content, but it is more a problem of style and cultural relevance?" -jk

Once again, "cultural" is throwing me off a bit. But, no. I don't think the problem is content at all. It's more the way it's presented.

Style...hrmmm. I had a comrade a long time ago who used to say something like; Style is nothing. Style is superficial, etc. Then sometime after that I read a Bukowski poem where he's like:

"Style is the answer to everything.

A fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous thing

To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it

To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art"

and he goes on...

"Opening a can of sardines can be art"

And a lot of times as left communists I feel that's what we're doing. We're opening cans of sardines. Sardines other communists won't eat. Sardines workers find hard to swallow. Etc. What I'm implying is sometimes what wins people's favor is not what you're saying, but how you convey that message. We have to make opening our cans of sardines art to the "searching elements."

"But I do think, along with the Turkish comrade's text, that "democractic ideology" is the expression of the underlying difficulties that reflexively acts back on the struggles to block them. Did I express that clearly enough?" - jk

Yes, but somehow no haha. Could you give some concrete examples of this happening in the past 30 years or so? What problems do these specific "difficulties" make outside of periods of open struggle?

"I think that he is being (if I may say so) wildly over-optimistic" - LL

Haha, you may. I'm a wild dude after all. Impulsive beyond belief. But would you prefer wildly over-pessimistic?

I understand how it is a bit inconsiderate or ignorant of me to assume (if I even have assumed...) that workers in other places (Britian, maybe?) have the exact same reservations or lack thereof in other countries/parts of the world.

"But while the whole class is the subject of the revolution and is regrouped in these organisations at that moment, this does not mean that the process by which the class becomes conscious is in any way simultaneous or homogeneous. Class consciousness develops along a tortuous path through the struggle of the class, its successes and defeats. It has to confront the sectional and national divisions which constitute the ‘natural’ framework of capitalist society and which capital has every interest in perpetuating within the class." (PF point 16 again)

Is this more of an age thing? I still think nationalism has a much stronger grip on workers 35 yrs old + than workers of jk's or my generation and after. From my humble perspective, from my few experiences, I would say LL is over-emphasizing the effect of nationalism on the class' ability to become self-conscious. ESPECIALLY amongst countries like the US where people like African-Americans, or in Japan with Korean-Japanese, and many others have ALWAYS felt disenfranchized, like they have no home, no country, etc.

I think to a degree this has to do with where we are drawing lines in the sand. Polarization of the class as well. There's a point where we just won't be able to convince certain people (even if they are workers) to fight for communism. At some point, future revolutionaries will probably have to just shoot them in the face. Is that fucked up of me to think? Bottom-line of what I'm implying is I believe (believe, not think, or know) more workers than not are NOT racist and are NOT nationalist. I acknolwedge my experience is "limited", confined to where I live, unlike some "more experienced" cdes in the ICC. But I still believe this nonetheless.

"In a situation where the majority of workers don't even realise they are workers" - LL

No, right. They think they're butterflies.

Is this an official ICC position? I don't remember reading it anywhere in the literature given to me.

Workers realize they are workers. Whether or not they realize they are a part of a historically unique social class that is the "living negation" of capitalism is different.

"...there is no evidence that they are actually thinking beyond national frontiers in a concrete way, when people talk about "real change" they are still thinking within national boundaries." - LL

"Their power as a group" - but what group? - LL

The group of demonstrators. The group of protestors. The group of angry youth throwing rocks. While they are participating they can't help but think of their power/abilities as a group. It's one of the most powerful things a working class person can take from these experiences.

- "Wow, we chased away the Army. Even if for a brief moment, on this one boulevard. What else can we do?"

"...you are simply wrong to say that workers not being communist is nothing more than a 'syntax problem." - LL

If I did say "nothing more than" I didn't mean to. There are a lot more problems. But I think that is the root problem. You mentioned that what the Turkish section is doing what all sections in the ICC do. But you added a little caveat--- "to the best of it's ability."

Well when comrades quit, or die, or fail to bring in new comrades what happens to that ability? We ended with a section like the one here in the US. One with (as much as it hurts to say this knowing how much blood, tears and sweat jk, ak and countless others from other sections have put into helping the us) very little ability to reach the masses, let alone a handful of workers.

I mean correct me if I'm wrong but we had just as many people at our NYC (city of 20 million+) days of discussion as we did at the Greensboro, NC days of discussion (city of 200,000+). That doesn't seem right, and it seems like there is something we could do about it.

Also, LL... did you just call me a Trotskyist?!

(only kidding)

Redacted
Oh, one more thing"If it

Oh, one more thing

"Are you really saying that this revolutionary spirit exists in the working class and is only waiting for...better articles to appear?" - LL

Uh, yeup. That's basically the thing.

"If it really existed and the ICC was inadequate to [the working class'] needs, then it would create another organisation." - LL

Maybe it is. Maybe it will. Comrades like Devrim certainly think so.

I'll paraphrase because it was meant on his part to be a private communication. But what he said had a profound impact. I believe it was something like the ICC has never nor will ever hold much historical relevance to the working class.

I understand that's going to piss some people off, but it is what it is...

jk1921
Just briefly, because there

Just briefly, because there is too much here to process at the moment; the phrase "cultural gap" is certainly not an ICC buzzword. It bascially just means that the more experienced generations have a way of doing, speaking, understanding politics that does not fully link up with the newer ones. There is a disconnect, a problem of translation, I don't know, call it what you want. But in no way do I think this gap is insurmountable and in no way do I think it alone explains the "difficulties of struggle." Still, it is one factor that we actually have some control over right now, so it behooves us to pay attention to it and think about ways of mitigating it. BTW, both sides should be doing this. 

Proletarian Dy
ICC is not the only revolutionary organization in existence

Jamal wrote:

"If it really existed and the ICC was inadequate to [the working class'] needs, then it would create another organisation." - LL

Maybe it is. Maybe it will. Comrades like Devrim certainly think so.

I think left-communists like us have no problem with that. It is clear for the ICC that it is not the only revolutionary organization in existence and not the revolutionary party. Certainly the revolutionary working class will create their own revolutionary party sooner than later if they want to prevent the continuing decomposition of capitalism. Communists and internationalists will definitely join it.

LoneLondoner
What is the alternative?

Jamal wrote:

Oh, one more thing

"Are you really saying that this revolutionary spirit exists in the working class and is only waiting for...better articles to appear?" - LL

Uh, yeup. That's basically the thing.

"If it really existed and the ICC was inadequate to [the working class'] needs, then it would create another organisation." - LL

Very briefly, because it's late. The problem is that for the moment there is no other organisation. Since I don't believe that organisations are a matter of willpower, but fundamentally depend on the development of consciousness within the working class (of which the organisations are both an expression and an active factor), then I would have to say that the ICC's irrelevance to the vast mass of workers (today at least) who have not even heard of us, says far more about the degree of consciousness within the working class as a whole than it does about the quality of the ICC's syntax. It's true that we are not the only organisation, but right now if you're looking for a left communist, internationally centralised organisation with sections on several continents, then whatever our weaknesses the ICC is the only game in town.

So what alternative have you to suggest? If you can write better articles than we can, then send some to us and we'll give them a try.

mhou
There's a quote at the top of

There's a quote at the top of the most recent article (in English) from the N + 1 journal on OWS:

Quote:
“Workers will win if they'll understand that no one is to come. For a marxist the expectation of a Messiah and the cult of the genius, explainable for Peter and Carlyle, are only a miserable covering of helplessness. The Revolution will rise up terrible, but anonymous” (PCInt., 1953)''
That could apply to communists who want to be an active factor in the class struggle, like that old IWW slogan 'we're the leaders we've been waiting for' etc. There's been plenty of Marxists in history that argued it was the responsibility of communists to, if they think a worker's organization is mistaken or on the wrong track, to work to correct it. Surely it's easier to change a tire than build a new car?
Fred
sardines or worms?

Communists don't think there's a "cultural gap" but think there's a "generational gap".  Communists don't think form is more important than content. That's a modernist bourgeois point of view. Nor do communists think "the medium is the message".  Just because it is thought in some places that what the ICC writes is not always easy to read,  is no reason is fall for explanations such as "cultural gap", or, ICCers are all old-fashioned and don't know how to present communists ideas in, for example, the form of "rap".  The latter is true no doubt. But I get a vague impression from another thread that Jaycee and Jamal may well have the talent for wrapping up communist ideas in rap, and so I hope they do it and wish them every success. 

 

Jamal wrote:
 And a lot of times as left communists I feel that's what we're doing. We're opening cans of sardines. Sardines other communists won't eat. Sardines workers find hard to swallow. Etc. What I'm implying is sometimes what wins people's favor is not what you're saying, but how you convey that message. We have to make opening our cans of sardines art to the "searching elements."

 

I like this quote  very much. It's poetic. I like the sardine image. But its easy to get carried away by images. Really this is a can of worms tarted up as sardines.  In bourgeois society - the society of the commodity and spectacle in general -  what wins people's favour, as advertising agencies well know, is not what you have to say but how you convey the message: assuming you have one other than "buy this!"  But, as communists are we really only trying "to win people's favour", is that all we want? Will the DOTP be established on the basis of people's "favour" - won over by some smart sales talk or advertiser's trick - rather than on the clear light of conscious awareness, the exact opposite of being obsessed with "form" or other merely cultural manifestations? 

 

If the message revolutionaries are trying to convey is to be regarded as a sardine, as in "communism = sardine" then why would  other communists, or worker's looking for rational explanations and critiques of capitalist society, find this sardine so difficult to swallow?  If we changed the sardine for a snail or frog's leg would it make the message easier to swallow?  I doubt it. The "form" is irrelevant. Communism is all about "content".  It's what communism means that has the capacity for the revolutionary changing of society, not whether it presents itself as "sardine" or "rock 'n' roll". For communism the medium is definitely not the message. 

 

If we try to dupe "searching elements" into thinking that embracing communist ideas - which they must already vaguely possess -  is in fact an activity requiring little thought or effort, and present them with sugared communist pills instead, are we doing either them or communism a favour?  For are we not rather falling into the sort of bourgeois mystification designed to stop everybody everywhere from thinking seriously about their existence, which will put an end to the possibility of a consciously planned society for ever?    

 

 

Redacted
I have a lot to say in

I have a lot to say in response to all the great discussion here. But very breifly while I'm on right now:

@LL: I believe I already have (: Although I'll be the first to admit my article wasn't the creme of the crop, not above average or "better", and that without the help of jk and ak it would have been even worse.

Let me just point out before I get back on with more later--- I think a lot of the answers to these questions change according to time scale as well as the degree of intensity of the class struggle. A lot of the suggestions I've made I see as tactical, in the short term, as an attempt to increase interest and militancy around an org or section that is losing more comrades than it's gaining.

Back with more later, please continue the discussion though. Loving this thread right now. It's been very frank and to the point.

jk1921
A Materialist Analysis

Fred wrote:

Communists don't think there's a "cultural gap" but think there's a "generational gap". 

 

Fred, I support good chuncks of your post, but I am a communist and I do think there is a "cultural gap," between the existing organizations and the newer generations. I don't think this gap is insurmountable, nor do I think it can possibly be the main explanation for the difficulties the class is having finding the path to struggle, but there is a gap and I don't think its "bourgeois modernist" to think in these terms. 

I support LL's post, the ICC is far from perfect. I have my own littany of complaints, but in terms of a centralized international organization defending a set of internationalist positions, there is nobody else. We can always do better, but I agree with mhou--its better to start with repairing the tyre than trying to build the entire car from scratch.

Of course, if the newer generations can't see this; if it can't get past simplistic cop-out arguments like the ICC (and ICT?) use funny words, write tedious articles, can't appeal to me, then it must reflect something in their objective circumstances that makes the task of linking up with the established revolutionary forces too difficult for time being. The big question is are conditions for the formation of the party just not ripe enough then or did we miss the boat?

mhou
Unity through collaborative

Unity through collaborative work and local cooperation seems to be a theme from certain national sections of the Third International- the German party in-particular, or the US section which unified several different groups that sought affiliation to the international. But I'd think that a preferable regroupment is more seamless, the way the left of the Italian Socialist Party was well organized and a distinct/well-defined entity prior to the formation of the Communist Party of Italy (or how the Bolsheviks regrouped as a fraction then as a defined organization prior to becoming the CP of Russia). Either way open discussion and collaboration seems to be a prerequisite for unity and regroupment. There are a number of opportunities in the US for local intervention and cooperation (even though events in Europe, Asia and Africa have developed faster or with greater breadth and depth and may have greater opportunities for communist engagement); a number of likely or on-going struggles (the blacklisted baker's, disgruntled telecom workers, locked-out and attacked dockworkers, public sector cuts, fast food and retail struggles). Are the assemblies a useful slogan and rallying point for communists given the recent history and current use of this specific form as a generalized international phenomenon? It seems like a good starting point for approaching the union issue (which was described in the exchange published by the ICC on intervention during the telecom strike as a difficult issue to confront effectively) and what it means to have a class perspective.

LoneLondoner
Reality check

Jamal wrote:

"Are you really saying that this revolutionary spirit exists in the working class and is only waiting for...better articles to appear?" - LL

Uh, yeup. That's basically the thing.

I don't mean to be aggressive or unkind, but isn't it immediately obvious that this is nonsense? I mean, if you consider the level of education of great masses of the workers today, which is far higher than in 1917 (especially in Russia) when very many workers were illiterate, surely it is inconceivable that if such a revolutionary spirit existed there would not be someone, either us or (preferably) better than us, writing stuff that they could understand? Moreover, if these workers really did have a revolutionary spirit then surely a bit of complicated syntax or poor translation wouldn't bother them?

Moreover, it's instructive to look at some hits on this site. I'm afraid I've not been able to find the article you're referring to, however here is a long post from you concerning Occupy in Greensboro. I absolutely do not want to belittle what you did or wrote: it was all excellent stuff, and it helped to spread the word and have a clearer idea what was happening. That said, it has only gotten 589 reads since January 2012. On the other hand, if you look at this fairly complex article on a scientific subject, you can see it has 896 reads since March this year. Hmmm. Then consider that the most read/contributed thread on this forum is on Beliefs, science, art and marxism with over 142,000 reads since it began on February this year. I think that should tell us something... though I'm not sure exactly what to be honest.

Jamal wrote:

People are going to hate on me for saying this. But maybe it's a lack of leadership. Where are the most advanced members of the class? What effect have they had? How have they been attempting to effect the sentiment of the demonstrations?

Jamal, when I said your reasoning was fundamentally Trotskyist (that doesn't mean I think you're a Trotskyist by the way), it's because you're basically saying that the problem is not the level of consciousness in the working class as a whole, but that the communists are not able to "attract" the workers. This is essentially the same argument as the Trotskyist argument that "The problem of revolution is a problem of revolutionary leadership", and indeed you actually say as much yourself, in the quote above.

Jamal wrote:

"If it really existed and the ICC was inadequate to [the working class'] needs, then it would create another organisation." - LL

Maybe it is. Maybe it will.

There's an excellent French saying: "With 'if' you can put Paris in a bottle", and it also works with "maybe". Well "maybe" it will, but it certainly won't happen by sitting around complaining about the ICC's poor syntax! No revolutionary organisation ever appeared out of the sky as a gift from heaven...

LoneLondoner
It's going to be a long haul...

mhou wrote:

Either way open discussion and collaboration seems to be a prerequisite for unity and regroupment.

We would agree with that 100%

mhou wrote:

There are a number of opportunities in the US for local intervention and cooperation (even though events in Europe, Asia and Africa have developed faster or with greater breadth and depth and may have greater opportunities for communist engagement); a number of likely or on-going struggles (the blacklisted baker's, disgruntled telecom workers, locked-out and attacked dockworkers, public sector cuts, fast food and retail struggles). Are the assemblies a useful slogan and rallying point for communists given the recent history and current use of this specific form as a generalized international phenomenon?

I would say two things about that:

  1. For us today the key, absolutely fundamental issue, is internationalism. This is the dividing line, in today's conditions, between those who one way or another defend a proletarian perspective, and those who do not. For example, if you look at a lot of the slogans in Occupy, they were about making a difference in the USA (this lack of international perspective was very striking to me, looking at events from Europe). So being for assemblies is not in itself a determining factor, IMHO.
  2. While the purpose of any effort to bring revolutionaries together is obviously intervention in the working class, this cannot be seen in the short term. Struggles will come and go (indeed they are coming and going all the time), but if and when internationalists actually try to build something together then they must be in it for the long haul; in other words they must be driven by a perspective which goes way beyond strikes at the immediate level.
Demogorgon
If the ICC's syntax is

If the ICC's syntax is complicated, how on earth do people cope with Marx?

A.Simpleton
Good question

How did Engels cope?

In an 1867 letter to Marx re : the First Volume of 'Capital' his financier and publisher, thus:

Dear Moor,

I have been so distracted by all manner of bother ...... and disturbances for the past week that I seldom had the leisure to study 'the form of value'. Otherwise, I would have sent the sheets [of the first volume of Capital] back to you long ago. Sheet 2 in particular has the marks of your carbuncles rather firmly stamped upon it, but there is not much that can be done about it now and I think you should not deal with it any further in the supplement, as this philistine really is not accustomed to this kind of abstract thinking and will certainly not torment himself for the sake of 'the form of value'

'It was a serious mistake not to have made the development of these rather abstract arguments clearer by means of a larger number of short sections with their own headings. You ought to have treated this part in the manner of Hegel’s 'Encyclopaedia', with short paragraphs, each dialectical transition emphasised by means of a special heading and, as far as possible, all the excurses or merely illustrative material printed in special type.

The thing would have looked somewhat like a school text-book, but a very large class of readers would have found it considerably easier to understand. The populus, even the scholars, just are no longer at all accustomed to this way of thinking, and one has to make it as easy for them as one possibly can.

***

Nonetheless : 'World Revolution' the ICC's  broadsheet has been - as I wrote elsewhere - my 'Revolutionary Reuters'  : a point of clarity when I am confused by, and want a revolutionary perspective on world events .It is prioritized well, accessible, summarizing without 'deforming'. A knowledge of core Marxist principles is very helpful obviously -by which I mean if you aren't inclined to view 'the history of all human societies' as 'the history of class struggle' then however simple it were it wouldn't really make any sense.

International Review has a differnet role: people often say 'being musical is a gift' : not so : one doesn't roll out of bed improvising the blues in all 12 keys by some divine blessing : as that Bronx taxi driver proverbially said :'Lady ...you gotta practice'

It is a long haul as LL correctly says and that's just for the individual - let alone Organisations -which is neither an elitist nor defeatist statement .Mhou rightly encourages -at the very least- nthe intention of co-operation. 

***

RE : throwing rocks.

On the train on the way to school in the Sixties the slogan 'U.S .OUT OF VIETNAM!' was the graffiti on many bridge and wall :'STOP THE WAR IN VIETNAM! was what I saw. 

We threw marbles (rather than rocks) to make the police horses protecting The US Embassy in Grosvenor Square - fall over : yes we were 'seeing through one layer of deception': yes we were expressing anger at the lies about 'the domino effect of "Communism" and the 'alleged' country of Britain supporting this war. We were also delighted to see Sir Mick Jagger there ... ( I rest my case)

It is not some moralising judgement to state that 'dissent and protest' are not revolutionary : it is an important 'long haul distinction' that theory has a responsibility to make.

"'Legal and social reform and revolution are not different methods of historical process that can be picked out from the food counter of history, just as one chooses hot or cold sausages . They are different moments in the development of class society which condition and complement each other reciprocally...In the history of the classes : revolution  is the act of political creation while legislation is the expression of the life of a society that has already come into being ..........'

Rosa Luxemburg : The Communist Movement : from Comintern to Cominform

AS

 

 

 

Demogorgon
To expand upon some previous

To expand upon some previous points. Beyond a certain level, any field of study develops a certain complexity of language, jargon, technical terms and all the rest. This is why most people can't pick up a text on advanced biochemistry and expect to understand it right away and certainly shouldn't expect to produce ground-breaking new discoveries without years of learning those technical concepts and terms.

While this is accepted as normal in most human endeavour, there seems to be an expectation by some that it shouldn't exist within revolutionary politics. In fact, we are trying to study the most complex and dynamic thing of all - human society - with the disadvantage of having to rub the dirt of centuries of ideology out of our eyes into the bargain. Not only are we studying human civilisation, we have the project of building a new one in complete contradistinction to everything that gone before. If the working class is really going to be put off by the perceived effort of learning to understand the ICC it will have no hope whatsoever of arming itself with the theoetical weapons needed to combat this society and build a new one!

To re-emphasis the point LL made: lets assume for the moment that the ICC really is the most terrible collective writer human history has ever known (and we do certainly have our moments). If the class is dependent on the success or failings of an organisation that can barely stagger out of double figures on a global basis, then its really not much of revolutionary class is it? The question then becomes why is the ICC so bad? Why has the working class produced such a sorry collection of useless militants? Why isn't there something much better out there?

I really don't think that the current impasse of the class is simply down to the bourgeoisie having better marketing!

jk1921
Comic Books

Demogorgon wrote:

If the ICC's syntax is complicated, how on earth do people cope with Marx?

"Marx for Beginners," replete with illustrations. Or is that too 90s?

 

Demogorgon
I read one of those, it

I read one of those, it wasn't bad! I read the Kant book in the same series though and didn't get it at all!

jk1921
Marketing

Demogorgon wrote:

I really don't think that the current impasse of the class is simply down to the bourgeoisie having better marketing!

Neither do I, but I think these ideas reflect (perhaps unknowingly) some rather old controversies. Behind the "you can't inspire me," meme lies a certain lingering substitutionism influenced by Gramscianism in which it is the job of revolutionaries to build up a kind of counter culture within captialism by winning the "struggle for hegemony" with bourgeois insitutions. Of course, from the left communist perspective this is patently impossible. Revolutionary consciousness cannot be won by changing the culture; cultural change follows the revolutionary activity of the working class as it struggles to defend its living and working conditions. The organization is not some kind of counter-institution that can impact the direction of bourgeois culture--it is itself a product of the working class struggling to throw off the ideological and cultural dominance of the bourgeoisie, which then reflexively acts on that struggle by defending the communist perspective once it has reached a certain level of development.

The answer to the question, "What does the ICC do?" is that it does what it has always done--it develops revolutionary theory and seeks to plant the seed of internationalism wherever it can. It simply can't do anything else without objective conditions providing the opening. To attempt to do something "more" risks flirting with voluntarism and eventual reintegration into the state as a Gramscrian "counter-hegemonic" institution, a base union or some other such entity.

The first task of any revolutionary organization is to defend internationalism, not seek influence or to inspire anyone. If the class isn't inspired by internationalism, it can only reflect the fact that the concrete needs of the struggle and the process of recovering consciousness, have not reached a point where internationalism is the logical expression of those struggles (let's bracket a discussion of false consciousness and maladaptive beliefs for now). We can't win some kind of propaganda campaign with the bourgeoisie. We will always lose. We can only hope to have a broad influence when there is a broad social movement begging for a direction.

mhou
jk-Quote:We can only hope to

jk-

Quote:
We can only hope to have a broad influence when there is a broad social movement begging for a direction.
That reads as the defining question; a sort of collective frustration with this moment and what it means. LL- 
Quote:
While the purpose of any effort to bring revolutionaries together is obviously intervention in the working class, this cannot be seen in the short term. Struggles will come and go (indeed they are coming and going all the time), but if and when internationalists actually try to build something together then they must be in it for the long haul; in other words they must be driven by a perspective which goes way beyond strikes at the immediate level.
I agree; but wonder about the factors that lead from division to collaboration, if it is generally subjective and up to the individuals involved or if other forces push / pull toward cooperation. AS-
Quote:
Nonetheless : 'World Revolution' the ICC's  broadsheet has been - as I wrote elsewhere - my 'Revolutionary Reuters'  : a point of clarity when I am confused by, and want a revolutionary perspective on world events .It is prioritized well, accessible, summarizing without 'deforming'. A knowledge of core Marxist principles is very helpful obviously -by which I mean if you aren't inclined to view 'the history of all human societies' as 'the history of class struggle' then however simple it were it wouldn't really make any sense.
The responses I've heard about Internationalism from different people echo the idea that it is accessible (and I agree that this is accomplished without sacrificing method or 'deforming' content).
jk1921
Tedium

mhou wrote:

The responses I've heard about Internationalism from different people echo the idea that it is accessible (and I agree that this is accomplished without sacrificing method or 'deforming' content).

 

They don't complain that the articles are too long and tedious?

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