A proletarian debate in Edinburgh
Fighting the cuts
Dutch and German communist left
The next session, given by a member of the AF, was on the Dutch/German communist left. We were in agreement with virtually all of it. The presentation made no attempt to hide the fact that the Dutch and German communist left were Marxists and were often very critical of anarchism; that they were unequivocal supporters of the Russian revolution and the Bolshevik party at the beginning of the 1917-23 revolutionary wave. The description of their positions on unions, parliament, national liberation and the USSR was accurate and nuanced. The speaker defended the left communists from the charge that they had been an irrelevant and tiny sect, showing that their membership and their influence among the most advanced sectors of the working class was far from insignificant; when the discussion turned to the reasons for the dramatic shrinking of this current in the late 20s and 30s, the emphasis was rightly laid on the general defeat of the working class which reduced all its revolutionary expressions to an almost invisible minority. At the same time he recognised that those sections of the Dutch/German left who had most theorised anti-organisational ideas also helped to dig their own political graves. One point in the presentation we endorsed with particular enthusiasm: at the beginning, when posing the question ‘why should we as anarchists look at this Marxist tradition?’ the answer given was that anarchists should learn as much as possible about all the genuinely revolutionary expressions of the workers’ movement. The comrade had also said that some had accused the AF of ‘pinching’ the mantle of left communism, which we took to be a reference to past statements the ICC has made about the AF. Our response to this was to admit that in the past we have been too dismissive of the revolutionary tendencies in anarchism; and while we had indeed made such statements about the AF, we are now fully convinced that we can only welcome the fact that comrades coming from an anarchist standpoint want to find out as much as they can about the history of the communist left.