What can I do?

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Commissaress
What can I do?
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First of all, hi everyone, I'm a teenage left communist (I'd say I'm more influenced by the German-Dutch tradition of left communism, although I'm not a council communist per se and do advocate the formation of a party) living in Britain. Lately I've been plagued by this need to just do something. As the government of the country that I live in engages in imperialist warfare in the Middle East, crushes the working class with brutal austerity measures and presides over the continuous decline of everyone's real wages apart from those of the bosses and politicians while the ostensible left stands idly by, a communist movement that can get its shit together is needed more than ever and I want to help to make this happen. The problem is, the left in Britain is almost non-existent and what sliver of a left does exist is a sectarian, "ostalgic" mess and dominated by Soviet Union apologists of various stripes.

So what I did was join the communist platform of a pan-leftist network called Left Unity. I know, I know, it sounds like the Popular Front of 2015...but my reasoning was that it is not a Trotskyist or Stalinist organisation and that since it's very young - only around a year old - I would be able to have influence in it and it could be the roots of an actual revolutionary communist party that isn’t stuck in the past. But I’ve been wondering how smart it was for a left communist like myself who opposes united fronts and all the rest of it to join such an organisation. Particularly since they seem to be fond of trade unions and not only parliamentary participation, but bourgeois parties like SYRIZA and Podemos.

What should I do, comrades? Should I quit LU or not? And what would be a good way for someone of my age and my beliefs to get involved in leftist activism?

Commissaress
Edit

Btw I was hoping that the communist platform would split from the rest of Left Unity as soon as possible.

radicalchains
It's very short notice but

It's very short notice but there is a discussion talk/meeting tomorrow in Birmingham I'm sure you could bring up these questions and concerns. You may have already seen the thread on the subject. 'MDF' - Midlands Discussion Forum.

Redacted
Re:

Hello and welcome to the forums. It's refreshing and great to hear a young person describe themselves in the terms you have.

The "need to do something", with most comrades, is a genuine sentiment and an understandable result of the frustration of this period. But it can be a double edged sword when there is still much debate about what needs to be done and when. You're probably on to something in mentioning that communists need to get their shit together. Definitely a good starting point.

On that subject...having also been involved in a leftist group with not too dissimilar rhetoric nearly ten years ago when I was around your age, Left Unity is definitely not the place for a principled left communist. Having worked for Ken Loach and the ISO on a purely monetary and non-political basis, I found the ideas to be very leftist/bourgeois.

The urge to "be able to have influence" is a result of orgs like the ISO and Left Unity - they have a rank and file, militaristic approach to membership - which easily leads to its most critical and radical elements to feel like sheep in the flock. There is really no political basis or understanding required for membership. If you pay the fifty bucks a year or whatever, you're in there. These groups are as common on college campuses as beer and Ramen noodles.

Since you asked, yes, quit LU as soon as possible. All of us here are looking for and working towards what "could be the roots of an actual revolutionary communist party that isn’t stuck in the past". But issues like this are major, major points of discussion. What is the form/role/function/tasks of revolutionaries today? Big question.

The last question posed may be the most important one for your political development right now. Most left comms on these forums are in agreement that "leftism" is:

ICC wrote:
Groups and organisations which in one way or another defend the continued existence of capitalism, under the guise of fighting for communism. This category includes both currents which were once part of the working class but have betrayed it (eg Trotskyism), as well as those which were never part of the working class in the first place.

How does that sit with you? Because it leads to the next point, which most here tend to also agree with:

ICC Platform wrote:
If [in capitalism's ascendance] the tactics of ‘revolutionary parliamentarism’ were primarily an expression of the weight of the past within the class and its organisations, the disastrous results of such tactics show that they are [in the current period] profoundly bourgeois.
radicalchains
There is really no political

There is really no political basis or understanding required for membership.

This may be true for some orgs but certainly not all. The anarchist/marxist Chris Knight who has attended ICC congresses has been refused membership (more than once) of the CPGB-pcc in Britain for example for as far as I can gather different approaches to practical and tactical work. Your general point is probably correct though, generally they do just want more bodies.

 

 

 

Alf
Agree with Jamal

Jamal's post was very good: there is no posibility of revolutionary work inside a leftist front. You would be far better off clarifying your positions in discussion with real left communists. if there are people in Left Unity who share your views, I think you will find yourself saying the same thing to them. 

Commissaress
Thanks for all your replies,

Thanks for all your replies, everyone!

Jamal wrote:
The last question posed may be the most important one for your political development right now. Most left comms on these forums are in agreement that "leftism" is:

ICC wrote:
Groups and organisations which in one way or another defend the continued existence of capitalism, under the guise of fighting for communism. This category includes both currents which were once part of the working class but have betrayed it (eg Trotskyism), as well as those which were never part of the working class in the first place.

How does that sit with you? Because it leads to the next point, which most here tend to also agree with:

ICC Platform wrote:
If [in capitalism's ascendance] the tactics of ‘revolutionary parliamentarism’ were primarily an expression of the weight of the past within the class and its organisations, the disastrous results of such tactics show that they are [in the current period] profoundly bourgeois.

I definitely disagree with "revolutionary" parliamentarianism and have no idea why any genuine revolutionary would support participation in an institution created by the bourgeoisie, for the bourgeoisie. But the point about leftism seems like pointless semantics to me. Sure, there are groups who call themselves socialist but fight for the interests of capital, but what's wrong with just calling them "bourgeois socialist" as communists have done since The Communist Manifesto? I just used "leftist" in this sense to mean "anti-capitalist" or "revolutionary."

I wouldn't consider Trotskyists etc. bourgeois socialists either. I'm an ex-ICL-FI sympathiser myself, and while I had some very questionable views as a Trotskyist that included support of the Kronstadt rebellion's suppression, advocacy of entryism in Britain's blatantly reactionary public sector unions and defence of pretty much everything as a "deformed workers' state", I was still a principled communist with good intentions. I'm not saying that this justifies forming antifa or anti-capitalist united fronts or anything like that with Trots, but there are communists outside of our little leftcom bubble and it doesn't really accomplish anything to claim that these people aren't True Communists (TM).

baboon
Hello Commissaress

I'm a sympathiser of the ICC and I don't think that the issue is "True Communist" or not, sincere or not, but what political programme do they defend - what is the politics of the organisations that they belong to? The politics of all the major Trotskyist groups are for the defence of state capitalism, for the defence of the national interest and the state. Individuals inside these organisations may well see themselves as communists or revolutionary but their objective situation is to support a reactionary programme. The politics of the organisations that they defend, from their particular leftist niches, are the other side of a class line. This also applies to the smaller groups. I think that it confuses the issue to call these organisations "bourgeois socialist" when there's nothing socialist about them at all.``

Redacted
"Pointless semantics"...

-> International Review, Fall 2009: What Distinguishes Revolutionaries from Trotskyism?

"Pointless semantics"...have to disagree. I knew a musician who had a bumper sticker that read "Fuck Subtlety".

Needless to say his music was terrible.

SP in France, Syriza in Greece, these people are "leftists". Are they revolutionary? No. Are they anti-capitalists? No. But they want you to picture them that way. I think the terms are mutually exclusive at the very least.

"Activist" and "activism" are also problematic.

Fred
the leftcom bubble

I find the expression "our little leftcom bubble" used  in post  7  above, both  distasteful and  inaccurate.

Its distasteful because it implies the speaker has a superior overview of "our little bubble" with which he condescendingly appears to associate himself.  He does this through the use  of "our" by which he implies elitist knowledge of the said bubble; so small, so self-contained and so removed from real life as to be nothing more than a twinkling effervescence. Soon passed; soon burst. 

Its inaccurate because the use of the word bubble for a political movement that has been in existence for almost a century - left communism was born from the defeat of the Russian Revolution  do we need reminding - is a complete misrepresentation and misunderstanding of the history and growth of left communism as a theoretical and practical underpinning of developing proletarian  consciousness.

 A leftist might sneer "Oh really! What developing proletarian consciousness is that?  The class is non-existent. That's why we're working so hard to motivate it into action."  But leftists are immured in the here and now. Activism is their creed.  When the class once more returns to struggle, which it surely has to do, the wealth of information, the  contribution made by left communists in their analysis of class struggle - the lessons gained, investigation  of mistakes made, indications for future movement, the continuing balance sheet of the opposing forces -  all this is there ready and waiting as a technology  to assist the development of class consciousness on a massive scale.  And then of course there is the matter of the formation of The Party which can't just suddenly emerge from the void,  without precedent and without historical understanding. 

So "our little leftcom bubble?"   Some bubble!   Some understatement! Some misconception! 

Commissaress
Re

baboon wrote:

I'm a sympathiser of the ICC and I don't think that the issue is "True Communist" or not, sincere or not, but what political programme do they defend - what is the politics of the organisations that they belong to? The politics of all the major Trotskyist groups are for the defence of state capitalism, for the defence of the national interest and the state. Individuals inside these organisations may well see themselves as communists or revolutionary but their objective situation is to support a reactionary programme. The politics of the organisations that they defend, from their particular leftist niches, are the other side of a class line. This also applies to the smaller groups. I think that it confuses the issue to call these organisations "bourgeois socialist" when there's nothing socialist about them at all.``

Apart from the fact that they do advocate revolution and they do advocate socialism? They are wrong to support national liberation, a "state capitalist phase" and so on, but being wrong doesn't disqualify one from being socialist. They're socialists whose ideas on how to achieve socialism are incorrect and whose thinking has certain reactionary elements, like support of national liberation movements.

Redacted
Don't make me get my yellow card out

I think Fred has some good points, but don't really agree with the tone of his response considering Commissaress is not a frequent poster and none of us are familiar with his/her views. I doubt they meant it as pejoratively as Fred took it.

Personally I have no problem saying leftists are not communists. Booyakasha.

They're the left of capital, in effect they represent the interests of the ruling class not the workers. Whether intentionally or not, that's just where they are politically.

Alf
internationalism

from the point of view of the (left) communist tradition, the key issues are war and revolution. Lenin defined Kautsky as a renegade because he supported the democratic bourgeoise against the revolution in Russia, just as the Third International initially defined the 'socialists' who had supported the war as agents of the bourgeosie. The Italian left considered that the Communist Parties had passed to the other side of the barricade when they came out in favour of national defence, part of the preparations for the next world war. They also saw that the majority of Trotskyists followed the same path in the course of that war.  Once an organisation goes over to the ruling class, there is no going back, and the subjective intentions of those who join them don't alter their objective function for capital. 

Today the Trotskyists continue to call for participation, on one side or another, in every imperialist war. That more than anything else means that they are profoundly anti-working class. And their talk about revolution is worthless, considering that for them revolutions took place in China, Vietnam, Portugal, Venezuela, Egypt, Syria, etc etc. In other words, as in wars, they also find a faction of the ruling class to defend. They will be doing exactly the same thing now with the victory of Syriza in Greece. 

Redacted
They already are and two or

They already are and two or three years ago when Syriza first was in the headlines I called out senior ISO members about their support of this neo-Keynesian bullshit. Their defense of the left in Greece was very deliberate and anything but communist.

-> World Revolution, July 2012: The left in Greece offers no prospects for the working class

LoneLondoner
The road to hell....

Commissaress wrote:

I'm an ex-ICL-FI sympathiser myself, and while I had some very questionable views as a Trotskyist that included support of the Kronstadt rebellion's suppression, advocacy of entryism in Britain's blatantly reactionary public sector unions and defence of pretty much everything as a "deformed workers' state", I was still a principled communist with good intentions.

This is one of the most difficult things to deal with. To put it very briefly, Commissaress, while I have no doubt that you had good intentions, when you were a Trotskyist you were not a principled communist. You could only become a principled communist by abandoning being a Trotskyist.

The only thing that is relevant about your "good intentions", is that it is these intentions combined with a questioning mind and a refusal to accept ready-made answers that gave you the drive to quit Trotskyism and look for the truth. Many of us have been there, we know this from experience.

Commissaress
  I certainly didn’t intend

 

I certainly didn’t intend the expression “leftcom bubble” to be so pejorative. Sorry if I offended anyone.

What I intended to infer in that expression was that in calling other socialists – Trotskyists, anarchists, etc. - “not socialist”, left communists seem to be constructing a bubble around ourselves. We’re excluding other tendencies that advocate an eventual stateless, classless society with social ownership of the means of production and saying that our single tendency within the socialist movement is the only truly socialist tendency.

Now, I agree that Trotskyism ultimately ends up being counterrevolutionary since the tendency supports to involvement in reactionary organs and reactionary wars that will harm the working class and its movement. That’s why I’m no longer an adherent to it. However, Trotskyists support proletarian revolution and the eventual formation of a communist society, and although they’re wrong about how to achieve it, they intend to achieve it. As I’ve said before, there is a difference between being socialist and being absolutely correct about everything.

As for SYRIZA, Podemos, Die Linke, the Green Party in the UK and other leftist populist outfits, I wouldn’t consider any of them to be socialist because none of them actually want a socialist/communist society, not even one achieved through reforms. There aren’t many actual reformist socialist outfits these days. But they do, to a lesser extent, hold the same principles as revolutionaries. We all think that capitalism is unsustainable, are internationalist, collectivist and egalitarian, oppose looking to some golden age of the past for guidance on how society should be organised, and want to improve the lives of the oppressed. We just have varying degrees of radicalism in our ideologies and different beliefs regarding the implementation of these principles. Moderate leftists can be the most dangerous of all to the working class movement because they can push it in a direction that is ultimately reactionary and will not implement the principles we have in common successfully or benefit anyone, and we should not work with them for this reason. But we do have these principles in common. Even though some of us are right and some of us are wrong.

 

Alf
We don't dismiss all

We don't dismiss all anarchists as bourgeois - we've written quite extensively about this. And even after the majority of the Trotskyists betrayed during World War Two, this didnt apply to all of the Trotskyists. But those who broke and maintained a class position tended to go towards the communist left - Munis being the most obvious example. 

Demogorgon
A couple of points. Firstly,

A couple of points.

Firstly, lots of political currents claim to want socialism. I seem to recall the more sophisiticated Stalinists would argue that that the "socialism" of the USSR was really a transition to full communism. They even argued that the hypertrophy of the state was part of the period of transition as a symptom of increased class struggle on this path to communism but it would eventually wither away once the working class moved to victory. Of course, "victory" meant the obliteration of the peasantry and brutal crushing of autonomous class struggle and even when that was achieved the state didn't wither at all.

The Trotskyists (with a few exceptions) also talked about the USSR being a "degenerated workers' state" i.e. one that was basically socialist in its economic structures but which needed a political revolution against the beauracracy. The SWP differed in that it correctly identified the USSR as state capitalist, but nonetheless saw state ownership as progressive compared to private ownership given the way it's campaigned against "privatisation" since the year dot.

The vision of "socialism" that most of these currents defend is nothing to do with the socialism of Marx or the communist left. It is state capitalism dressed up as socialism, or state capitalism as a stepping stone to communism. The more sophisticated may pay lipservice to authentic communism as a stateless, money-less society (this is certainly the case with leftist academics) but still advocate the same anti-working-class shit as the road to communism: unions, national struggles, parliament, nationalisation, etc. This isn't just a matter of mistakes and theoretical errors (although they try to justify these positions in the mistakes and errors of genuine revolutionaries) but the politics of the enemy class.

As you yourself say "I agree that Trotskyism ultimately ends up being counterrevolutionary since the tendency supports to involvement in reactionary organs and reactionary wars that will harm the working class and its movement". The reason why it always ends up being counter-revolutionary is because it is counter-revolutionary; counter-revolution is the inevitable result of its political positions.

Secondly, there is a world of difference between the Trotskyist and other leftist political currents and individual Trotskyists. Most adherents to these currents genuinely want to do something to change the world and do something for the working class. But whatever their subjective beliefs, while they propagate leftist ideology they are working actively against the material interests of the proletariat! They are pushing the working class towards political positions that, in your own words, "ultimately end up being counter-revolutionary".

They're not doing this because they're bad people. I've no doubt that Noske genuinely believed he was saving the working-class from dangerous radicals that would destroy what he thought were genuine gains when he issued the orders for the Freikorp to whack Liebknecht and Luxemburg. It's often said the road to hell is paved with good intentions ... and truisms aside it is horribly clear from history that it is often the ardent defenders of "socialism" that make the most effect agents of counter-revolution.

One of the the functions of the left and leftist ideologies is to serve as an antibody to the development of a genuine revolutionary consciousness. The situation of the working class causes it to continually produce individuals who want to change that situation. Leftism harnesses that inherent desire and turns it into an instrument that ends up preserving bourgeois domination. It is not a mistaken part of the workers movement but a weapon against it, one that "ultimately ends in counter-revolution".

What common cause can revolutionaries find with those who defend a politics that "ultimately ends in counter-revolution"? In a sense, none, because they defend the politics of the enemy class. However, what we can do is show the militants that leftism has captured that the politics that they defend "ultimately ends in counter-revolution" and that only by abandoning that counter-revolutionary politics can they avoid working against the desire for proletarian emancipation that pushed them into political life in the first place.

baboon
Agree with Jamal about the

Agree with Jamal about the term "left communist bubble" and don't think that C'ess should be jumped on for saying it. In fact the idea, if not the actual term, has been raised on here many times from many different angles and it's a valid question about the isolation of revolutionaries.

 

On the dangers from the left of capital: one side of it is the completely false revolutionary perspective, a part of capitalism parading itself as socialist or revolutionary. The other side, a very useful one for capitalism, is the way that Trotskyism and leftism burns up and burns out genuine class militants who eventually become demoralised and degraded by the whole circus and turn their backs on class politics altogether... 

radicalchains
Union too

baboon wrote:

the way that Trotskyism and leftism burns up and burns out genuine class militants who eventually become demoralised and degraded by the whole circus and turn their backs on class politics altogether... 

 

Much like how the unions march people around for an afternoon, good to let off steam and lose some pay. Fuck all is achieved and in many cases workers are worse off than before leaving them demoralised and degraded. It helps increase the everyone for themselves ideology and leads to people less willing to even attempt a fight in the future. It crushes all confidence. 

Redacted
It worries me this thread

It worries me this thread died so fast. There are a lot of issues raised by the comrade's original post we still haven't discussed.