Can the worldwide communist movement be resurrected?

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Communist
Can the worldwide communist movement be resurrected?
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As I'm sure the ICC would agree the communist movement has been extremely weak since the 1920's. In the 20th century many well intentioned workers joined the official so-called 'Communist' (in reality, Stalinist) Parties because the Stalinists could claim the historical prestige of having led so-called 'revolutions' and created so-called 'socialist' countries. Many other workers joined Trotskyist parties because the Trotskyists could claim the historical prestige be the true continuation of the Communist movement. Any other revolutionary movements found it harder to attract militants since they don't have the same resources or so-called historical 'successes'. How can real Communist organisations prevent potential militants from falling into these State Capitalist traps? Even those who see clearly that the Stalinists and Trotskyists support a system of 'state capitalism' masquarading as socialism might well erroneously conclude that socialism is impossible  that the disasters of the 20th century are due to Marxism's theoretical positions on the State.

Fascism and Stalinism also weakened the communist movement through killing thousands of communist militants. The literal eradication of militants coupled with the atmosphere of terror and the traps of the Stalinists and Trotskyists meant that there was very little 'reproduction' of new militants. Yes the Left Communists are the theoretical descedents of Third international whilst it was still revolutionary but given the difficulties faced in the 20th century of creating actual constant organisations in addition to the minuscule size of current organisations it seems strange to claim any true continuation of the communist movement. Perhaps some kind of 'historical break' is needed, though what this would mean in theory or practice, I don't know.

Fred
reply to Communist

How can the disasters of the 20th.century - I assume you mean the wars, the recession in the thirties, the austerity now, the failure of the working class to get rid of capitalism, which is the biggest disaster of all and a major cause of the others - how can these disasters be connected in any way to a Marxist theoretical position on the state?  Can you elaborate please, comrade Communist?  For myself, all these disasters and more  are the result  of the very persistence of decaying bourgeois states and the failure of the proletariat to overthrow them which persistence and which failure are hardly the product  of any Marxist theory including Marxist thought on the transitional state.  

 

I agree with you that left communism descends from groups who criticized the 3rd International for various reasons, but the fact that they are small today and maintaining themselves with great difficulty doesn't mean that they are not a continuation of the left wing communism, the infantile disorder  which so alarmed Lenin in 1922.  The historical succession and clarity of communist theory doesn't depend on numbers does it?  There were large numbers of communists around in Germany for instance between 1917-1923 but most of them ended up bring recuperated by the very Social Democracy which had betrayed them in 1914.  There were many factors involved in this  including general lack of theoretical clarity and lack of any group or party of advanced workers, like the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917, who could in any way steer a clear revolutionary course.  The KAPD  emerged too late.  Luxemburg and others were  already murdered, but had failed to realize  in time that a complete break with the politics of Social  Democracy was essential to the proletarian cause. 

 

What do you mean by "historical break"? Do you mean that the few left communists organizations we have should shut up shop and go away for a couple of years?  Your wish could well come  true. But what will that usefully achieve?  Not a lot I guess. How anyway can you have a break in thought and theory?  All you can do is subject both theory and practice to a continuing critique. That's what left communists try to do.  It's what we should all try to do. Our emancipation is our job. No one else can do it for us.  Perhaps we should help each other more often and try to cooperate more?   

 

What we need is a resuscitation of left communist thought and the springing up of more  communist organizations to swell the ranks of those we have, who may be clinging grimly on. This may have to wait for a resurgence of international class struggle. In the meantime it might help if those few militants we have scattered round the planet were to sense the urgency to re-group in some way, to put aside differences for the sake of proletarian emancipation, and find enough proletarian spirit to work together. Easy to say but hard to do. But if we don't do it nobody will.  And if we dont do it the bourgeoisie will destroy just about everything. Its happening already. 

Communist
Reply to Fred

I should have been clearer with some of my post.

When I say the disasters of the 20th century what I refer to is the Stalinist political systems in the so-called 'socialist' countries coupled with the Trotskyist movements who claim to be the opposition to Stalinism. These factors coupled with the relative insignificance of the Left Communist organisations present Marxism as a bi-polar theory of Stalinists and Trotskyists. Now of course I don't believe that the Stalinism represented Marxism in any way but there are anarchists who argue that these governments and the state capitalist bureaucracys that they spawned are a result of Marxism's insistance of the need for a transitional state which they believe naturally led to the entrenchment of such systems.

I think that we need to ask why left Communist organisations such as the KAPD and post-war Internationalist Communist Tendency weren't able to retain sizable organisations. Didn't the KAPD once have 30,000 militants, and the ICP a similar number? I'm not saying numbers makes a political organisation any more valid than the next one but it does make it easier for organisations to actively participate in the struggles of the class if they have greater numbers and resources. Is it something inherent in Left Communist theory? 

As for historical break what I mean is turning over a new leaf from the methods of the past. I'm not saying Lenin and co don't matter no more but I think perhaps we need to create new tactics or forms of organisation relating to the class struggle. Since the deepening of the crisis in 2007 anti-capitalist sentiment has largely increased, but why hasn't this translated into a new resurgence for groups such as the ICC, surely at this moment in time such organisations should be increasing in strength and number?

 

 

Alf
Historical break

Thoughtful posts from Communist and Fred and no simple answers. Just on a factual point  - the post war ICP may have had 3,000 membes for a time but never I think 30,000. Not a mere detail because the conditions after world war two were really not favourable to the formation of new comunist parties. This is connected to the problem of 'historical break' because one of the problems confronting the movement today is precisely the real historical break whch took place in the 1950s, the result of the global defeat of the class over the previous decades - what we call 'the break in organic continuity' with the revolutionary organisations of the past. This was a real handicap for the organisations which came out of the resurgence of struggles after 1968 because they had lost many of the basic acquisitions of the past movement, such as the necessity for solidarity between workers' organisations and even the need for a political organisation at all. The renascent movement was traumatised by Stalinism and this perhaps has left deeper scars than the actual killing of militants by the Stalinists which Communist mentions - the deep fear of political organisation and militancy which affects the movement to this day, and which gives such an 'advantage' to anarchist tendencies which theorise and institutionalise this fear. Added to this we have the terrible effects of capitalism's slide into decomposition, reinforcing atomisation, suspicion, a lack of confidence in the future...

In a sense what the movement needs above all is a real re-engagement with its past, a re-assimmilation of the acquisitions, which is the only solid basis for a leap forward. 

Leo
I think the reason for the

I think the reason for the often repeated error about the Internationalist Communist Party (PCInt) in Italy post WW2 numbers stem from their election results in the 1946 and 1948 elections in Italy, where they got 24,000 and 20,000 votes respectively. There is of course a pretty massive difference between voters and members although people may have taken their total votes as a sum of their influence and that may have turned into "members" as it kept being told.

One of the two factions coming out of the old PCInt split in 1952, the International Communist Party (Programma Comunista) did get pretty big during the 1970s, especially in North Africa, specifically Algeria where they were large enough to have an influence in the military (there were trials) and of course the Algerian community in France (which was something of a center for the other sections in the Arab world). I heard they had been present in many countries from Morrocco to Lebanon, where I heard they had perhaps as many 200 hundred supporters and members. Aside from the Arab world and Italy, they were pretty strong in Germany. Again I don't know how many members however I know that in a single city where I've talked to people, 200 hundred people would march behind their banners. They also had some groups in Latin America.

Perhaps before asking why the PCInt or the ICP (Programma Comunista) couldn't retain these numbers would be asking how they got them in the first place. In the final period of WW2 and during the immediate post-war period the PCInt in Italy had participated in strikes, yes, but they had also participated in the elections and developed close relations with some partisans. (Also check: https://en.internationalism.org/internationalreview/197701/9333/ambiguit...) Hence a weird situation arose when almost the entire Turin section, to the horror of the old left communist militants in the city, wanted to parade in the streets to celebrate the 'liberation' of the city by Americans (there was a compromise, they were allowed to go but not to take the party flags). Needless to say they participated in two elections and in fact they still defend that as a tactic which has allowed them to develop numerically. (For a criticism of the PCInt made at the time, also check: https://en.internationalism.org/node/3136)

The ICP's (Programma) strengthening in the Arab world was related to their position in regards to the national question and their activism within the immigrant communities of Europe. It ended pretty badly though, leading to the implosion of what was the largest left communist organization at the time. The Arab sections for the large part ended up joining the PFLP, stealing a sum of money from the organization. As far as I've heard, the debate focused on the strange situation of the Arab members of the ICP who were, by the knowledge and blessing of the organization as a whole, on the front with the PFLP anyway in some areas while their papers denounced the nationalism and Stalinism of the same organization. (Again, for a criticism made at the time of Programma's implosion, also check: https://en.internationalism.org/node/3123)

mhou
  The questions about

 

The questions about membership growth and influence came up in the ICC's press from the 80s:

"Let’s begin with the central observation, according to which the revolutionary movement grew numerically and politically from 68 to 75, then stagnated numerically and regressed politically. In order to present things in this way, it is necessary to falsify shamelessly the real dynamic of events. It is absolutely true that the years 68-75 saw a whole process of decantation and of politicisation around the French group Revolution Internationale, which led to an international regroupment in the ICC, and to one limited in Britain in the CWO. But it’s also true that the years 72-75 saw the outbreak of the ‘modernist’ mode, with the ensuing abandonment of marxism by an enormous number of militants who, in those years, had only just broken with the extra-parliamentary groups to discover the positions of the communist left. If the CBG thinks it can stir us by talking of the ‘good old days’ where it seemed that everything was moving towards the positions of the communist left, then it’s come to the wrong address. The fact that thousands of individuals, who the day before had sworn by Trotsky’s Transitional Programme or Mao’s Bloc of Four Classes, should suddenly start quoting Pannekoek and Bordiga, was not a strength but a weakness, and above all a very serious danger for the revolutionary movement."

-'Decantation of the PPM & the Oscillations of the IBRP', International Review #55 (1988)

Articles from those years on the diffculties of the PCI and other groups (including the ICC) change the nature of the question a bit, showing that growing numbers and interest are not universally or necessarily positive.