What can I do? THE SEQUEL

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Commissaress
What can I do? THE SEQUEL
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Hey comrades, long time no see :) Apologies in advance for the length of this post; I am probably going to ramble on quite a bit. If you don't want to read what happens when adolescents get horribly politically confused, do yourself a favour and click out of this thread.

So I've been having quite a bit of theoretical and practical confusion as of late, and I thought I should ask all of you for opinions seeing as I'm evidently still influenced to a great extent by left communism.

Around this time last year, I made a thread asking whether it was a good idea for me, as a left communist, to join Left Unity (a broad-tent leftist party which sometimes contested elections and had union links) out of a sheer desire to "do something, anything." Quite a bit has transpired since then. I ultimately decided to stay involved with the party and just see what happened, and...some stuff sure did happen. I got what I wanted in terms of activism: I got to feel as if I was doing something, met some cool people, attended a bunch of events and started writing regularly for the CPGB(PCC)'s paper, the Weekly Worker (if you happen to read that paper, I go by "Commissaress" there too). But I also became a theoretical mess. At the beginning of 2015 I was quite confident in terms of my knowledge of the Marxist basics and my political consistency, and I had never been one to jump wildly around the political spectrum: I had a passing interest in (orthodox) Trotskyism, then I was a left communist, and that was pretty much it. Once I joined Left Unity, I lost all sight of what I stood for and routinely contradicted my own positions. All the clarity I once had vanished, because being "too leftist" in LU wasn't going to get me anywhere, but at the same time I didn't really know what I actually supported. To clarify, I'm not referring to the tendency label I used, but to my actual theoretical positions themselves.

Not that I was at all good at not being "too left." Almost every single time I did any work with the party, I would feel ridiculously out of place politically. I knew this was going to happen as soon as they started getting all hyped-up about SYRIZA last January (and then grew strangely quiet about them when, surprise surprise, they failed to deliver), but once Corbyn was elected leader and everyone started acting like he was the fucking Messiah, things got really bad. I wrote quite a bit about that in my assessment of the LU national conference, if you're interested: http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1084/heads-in-the-sand/. And you know something's gone very wrong when you have to tell ostensible socialists not to support liberals. This continued, fundamental disagreement between me and the rest of the party made me question my membership over and over again, as well as whether a Communist Platform should even exist within a party so contaminated by not even reformism, but flat-out liberalism.

Then, about a month ago - a year and three months after I had joined LU - I didn't need to question anymore. There was a programme and organisation-related dispute between the CP and the rest of the party, the CP passed a motion and after it was rejected, we promptly announced our dissolution. Some part of me was relieved that our platform dissolved, since frankly, consistent Marxists have no place in LU. But mostly, I was just miffed. Firstly, because everyone - even the other CP members - seems to think that the Labour Party could somehow be made into a party of the working-class and that Corbyn is a step forward, and no one is arguing against this ludicrous idea. Secondly, because this split goes to show that the latest "rebuild the left" project has failed just like Respect and the countless other initiatives before it, and that the left still can't get its shit together. And finally, because I'm now back to square one.

I want to be in a party and I want to organise and I want to fight capitalism, but there is not a single revolutionary organisation in the UK with a decent internal culture and good politics. I was even thinking of joining Labour (and the Labour Party Marxists) as a way to gain a platform and participate in some activism and awareness-raising, but if I felt ultra-left in LU, I can't imagine how I'd feel in an actual social democratic party. Joining Labour would be totally against my principles, but...is contravention of principles sometimes necessary for practicality's sake?

Help me out, comrades, I have no clue what to do. Perhaps I should just forget about politics and go back to looking at shirtless pictures of Zayn Malik on Tumblr. I don't know.

LBird
Help with clues

My advice, Commissaress, is to keep thinking critically, and, in the absence of any possible revolutionary political activity, try to develop yourself theoretically.

We've all tried to realise the ideal of 'theory and practice' by joining various so-called 'Marxist' groups (with me, it was the SWP), but usually leave when it turns out that the 'theory and practice' of those groups is nothing to do with Marx.

I've done quite a bit of reading and thinking over decades, and now I would describe my politics as 'Democratic Communist', which I think is synonymous with Marx's theories, but I've never come across a group that holds to Marx's views; they all seem to be 'Engelsist', and just simply assume the identity of Marx's and Engels' views, which any proper study of their works shows to be mistaken.

Best I can advise, in the current situation.

lem_
I suppose that I agree with

I suppose that I agree with LBird (for once) and think that what's important isn't just "doing something" but doing so effectively. And failing that to live according to your principles

Demogorgon
First Task: Know where you are

Hi Comissaress

Perhaps the first thing to do is try to explain why you feel that Left Unity, Labour, the CPGB etc. are not revolutionary.

This may seem like a bit of a bizarre question, given that you've stated that you've been influenced by left communists, but it would help clarify what your actual objections are.

Many people become disillusioned in the practice of various leftist groups (the politicking, the opportunism, the authoritarianism, etc.) but nonetheless maintain an adherence to a leftist ideology (supporting national wars, nationalisation as somehow progressive, electoral campaigns, unions, etc.). For us, the latter is just as important, if not more so, than the former because it is the bourgeois nature of these organisations' politics that leads them to engage in those behaviours.

From your post, it seems that much of your political activity is driven by the need to do something and feel part of a movement. This, of course, is the foundation of militancy but you also need to consider what the real nature of the movement you're joining is. For us, leftism is part of the bourgeois ideology that keeps the working class quiescent. Participating in it, even "critically", can only reinforce its hold on the working class.

What I might suggest is taking a look at our basic positions, and articulating what you think about them and more importantly, why you think that. Take them in any order you like. This will help all of us (including you) understand where you are politically.

lem_
vanity of vanities

It may help you to clarify what you think.

Really I think that trying to retain some agency in capitalism, even through activism, is pretty much doomed. 

 

Commissaress
Thanks so much, everyone

Thanks so much, everyone :)

What I'm getting from this is that it would be more beneficial if I were to stick to my principles and not join an organisation, since such organisations are not genuinely Marxist. I completely get that, and I don't want to abandon my principles, but...what if that's the only choice I have? I don't want to be doing nothing practical at all, since ultimately that means I'm not contributing anything at all to the fight against capitalism (however insignificant this "fight" may be at the moment). And perhaps a non-revolutionary organisation could still provide a useful platform and a way to broaden my scope, interact with more people and be more engaged.

@Demogorgon, my specific problem with those three groups is that they continuously shill for social democrats and advocate parliamentary approaches despite the blatantly anti-proletarian nature of all of this. I wouldn't say that the CPGB is not revolutionary, though the dominant ideas there about Labour certainly are. Labour participates in a bourgeois parliament, and LU has become a Labour echo chamber. I used to be extremely disparaging towards unions, but am now sort of on the fence since I think the bureaucratic union leadership is the main problem. As for the ICC's other positions, I completely agree with them on a theoretical level, but I don't know how practical it is to refuse to work in these existent "leftist" groups, unions, parliamentary parties etc. simply because they're counterrevolutionary at base. That essentially prevents us from doing any activism.

MH
activism or revolutionary politics?

I agree with what other comrades have said.

Commissaress, I enjoyed your first post, I thought it was honest and insightful, as well as self-critical – to a point. If what I say sounds a bit harsh it’s because I think you are genuine enough in your commitment to revolutionary politics to at least consider it.    

I want to be in a party and I want to organise and I want to fight capitalism, but there is not a single revolutionary organisation in the UK with a decent internal culture and good politics.

If you 'completely agree' with left communist positions you'll know the role of the left is to defend capitalism and prevent a genuine fight against it by the working class. If you join a leftist organisation then objectively – despite your subjective wishes – you are part of the problem not the solution.

 “What I'm getting from this is that it would be more beneficial if I were to stick to my principles and not join an organisation, since such organisations are not genuinely Marxist. I completely get that, and I don't want to abandon my principles, but...

No, with respect, I don't think you do completely get that, otherwise we wouldn't be having this discussion.

How can you be a revolutionary and have a complete separation – in fact a complete contradiction – between theory (left communist positions) and practice (leftist, counter-revolutionary, reactionary, activism)? 

Once I joined Left Unity, I lost all sight of what I stood for and routinely contradicted my own positions. All the clarity I once had vanished…

Keep that in mind. How can you really fight capitalism without clarity?

I don't want to be doing nothing practical at all, since ultimately that means I'm not contributing anything at all to the fight against capitalism (however insignificant this "fight" may be at the moment).

We all want there to be a party of the working class today – a genuine communist party - and we’d all like to see massive fightback by the working class against capitalism, but we also have to consider the objective conditions as well as our own individual wishes. “Neither laugh nor cry, but understand”… - that would be a start to contributing something to the fight against capitalism.

And perhaps a non-revolutionary organisation could still provide a useful platform and a way to broaden my scope, interact with more people and be more engaged.”

Have you just forgotten all about your own recent experience?!

As for the ICC's other positions, I completely agree with them on a theoretical level, but I don't know how practical it is to refuse to work in these existent "leftist" groups, unions, parliamentary parties etc. simply because they're counterrevolutionary at base. That essentially prevents us from doing any activism.”

Aye, there’s the rub!

("Simply because they are counter-revolutionary..."! You mean 'just because' they objectively defend capitalism?)

On theory and practice, see above.

Whether you like it or not your choice is to be a counter-revolutionary activist or a revolutionary in a period when of necessity one of the main tasks facing revolutionaries is to theoretically deepen our understanding of why the working class has not yet been able to overthrow capitalism and to use this understanding to help develop the conditions for the communist revolution.

Do you want to be an activist or a revolutionary?

Activism - activity for the sake of it/divorced from theory or even politics - is not the same as activity, perhaps that's something we need to discuss further.

 

(edited)

lem_
you should let the board know

you should let the board know what you decide or go on to do.

incidentally, and it's not super related to the OP, but, one of my oldest friends, who i've talked about socialism with, seems to have formed some kind of vaguely secret vaguely syndicalist group or "union". i would discourage him, but i don't really know what to say

lem_
complacency

Complacency is stupid. 

No-one is living how they would want, that's the very issue with capitalism IMHO, at least some of the time.

Which doesn't validate doing everything