In defence of the ICC and marxist revolutionary organisation (reply to an ex-member)

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Fred
In defence of the ICC and marxist revolutionary organisation (reply to an ex-member)
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: In defence of the ICC and marxist revolutionary organisation (reply to an ex-member). The discussion was initiated by Fred.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

Fred
personal liberty against authority

My first impression of this article was that it was a personal attack on somebody, an ex-member of the ICC who had expressed his desire for the organization's death (sic!) and that therefore it wasn't appropriate to approve of it, because it was "personal" while disapproving of the expressed death wish. This is a bungled and messed up petty-bourgeois response.

A further reading reveals how extraordinary and good the piece really is in laying out the purposes, aims and even the ethos of proletarian revolutionary organizations, and how these differ  from bourgeois particularly anarchist notions of political organisations, where personal liberty is seen as the dominant issue. So it is possible to feel grateful to Devrim for sparking such a response from the ICC and triggering their confident analysis and explication of the function and form of a revolutionary organization, with its essential need for centralisation and the proletarian authority that underpins this. For finally the proletariat is not the bourgeoisie, having new and different needs and new political thoughts. 

Quote:
In the end Devrim’s critique expresses a completely different vision of revolutionary militancy to the marxist one. Whereas the latter sees the free development of the militant as a process of interaction with his comrades, that is, as a question of organisational solidarity, Devrim sees the revolutionary as someone who must retain his personal autonomy at all costs even if it means the desertion of the organisation and thus his comrades.

 

In a period when the working class needs to regain its identity as a political class, the suggestion that an existing revolutionary political organisation, one that can provide a valid communist political perspective, is obsolete, and should be replaced by a vaguely conceived alternative which is indifferent to political positions - well, this is derisory. Not only derisory but harmful.

 

Freedom understood as a personal individual achievement, the dominant ideological given we're all schooled in from birth, is a lying deception, and harmful to us all. The freedom offered by proletarian organisational solidarity is both different and real.

baboon
I think that the response,

I think that the response, much delayed but worth waiting for, deals effectively with the idea of personal liberty against some percieved "authority". As Fred says it is a question of Marxism v anarchism in relation to organisation. Further, Devrim's position is an attempt at a theroretical justification of apoliticism and disinterest in politics something that the bourgeoisie, with its constant campaigns against any political (i.e., marxist) positions of the proletariat, can only welcome. For Devrim, the ICC is "trying to complete the circle of its isolation" by which he means continuing  to defend political organisation, political centralisation and the defence of proletarian positions. This for him is an outmoded concept and against this he poses an explicitly outmoded and reactionary concept straight out of petty-bourgeois based anarchism of the defence of individualism, individual activity and individual will. None of this of course is in any way "individual" as the respons shows but rooted in the support of class society and class division. Moreover, again as the article says, this individualism - which is perfectly compatible with the "death of communism" campaigns of the bourgeoisie, is just a cover for the authoritarianism of the minority over the majority. For the ICC to even consider adopting Devrim's need to adapt to general political disinterest, to give up, would be to fall into the arms of the bourgeoisie and its political suicide. But  that's not going to happen. Devrim's hostility to proletarian centralisation and proletarian majorities (as well as the real role of minority positions within revolutionary organisation), within his federalist individualism, is another example of his anarchist authoritarianism. Devrim's "position" against the ICC makes the latter's political position all the more valid.

 

What has been Devrim's response to this text? Well, he hasn't read it because it said that he left the ICC around 3 years ago whereas it was actually 4 years ago! This pathetic "response" is really just a continuation of his attempted theorisation of political disinterest. But in a further brief statement on libcom, he paints himself as being depicted as a "parasite" in the text (?) and this can only be another apolitical anti-ICC jibe to please his anarchist fan base.

 

I liked the bit in the text about the struggle of the workiing class being "difficult and lengthy"; I think that the idea that existed in the ICC of the workiing class "running out of time" (decades ago) had a definite negative effect from its immediatism. I also think that the integration of Devrim (and possibly others) into the ICC in the first place also expressed an element of immediatism that showed that its integration processs, far from being too exhaustive or too rigorous, wasn't exhaustive or rigorous enough. It was naive at best in the case of Devrim and I've no doubt that the ICC has confronted this problem since.

Proletarian Dy
Apoliticism of anarchism

Even in Facebook several individualist "left-communist" just laugh-off this text of ICC. As if the general tendency now within these individuals is to ignore any theoretical deepening and debate with the hidden aim of painting that the ICC does not exist or at the very least, the texts of the ICC is "not worth discussing".
There are individuals who even said that the text is "mental", if I understand correctly, means insane/crazy. Another one, commented that the text is "boring". 
IMHO, this is a clear manifestation of "going with the tide of aploticism" prevalent in the majority of the workers.

jk1921
A couple of initial

A couple of initial reactions (OK, four):

1.) There was no need to wait three years for this. The article explains the delay as the intial desire of the ICC to avoid politicizing someone's "personal taste," but then appears to me to go onto suggest that such a preference for "personal taste" over political substance is really a capitulation to bourgeois ideology. So was the ICC under the influence of bourgeois ideology in intially writing off Devrim's memoir as a matter of "personal taste" and not the substantive political artifact it has become?

2.) While I think it is assinine to suggest that the best reposnse to the overall depolitiicization in society is to downplay the importance of political deepening, I think the text subcumbs to a bit of democratism, when it suggests that the conditions faced by previous generations of left communists were more difficult then they are today. True, there is no real overt state viiolence against left communists in the central countries today--at least not in an organized way-- but I don't think this means that today's conditions are more benign. The threat of being submerged in the democratist ideological soup is just as grave a threat, if not worse, than state repression. Devrim's text, the overall isolation of the ICC, the inability to connect with the searching elements of the younger generations are all examples of it. So, I think the text incorrectly downplays the threat posed by today's conditions. Devrim is right in his diagnosis, even if he is wrong in what to do about it.

3.) I think the text went off the rails a bit in its rant against "personal freedom." Yes, there is a distinction to me made between the "negative liberty" of the bourgeoisie and the "positive freedom" of the proletariat--but the negative liberty that gave rise to the idea of "poilitical rights" at the time of the bourgeois revolution is nothing to snear at, as if it were a mere manifestation of bourgeois ideology, as if it was not a real accomplishment of the bourgeois era or as if it had/has no positive meaning for the proletariat. Social democracy would have been impossible without it. Marx himself wrote of this kind of freedom as a necessary prerequisite for human emancipation--even if it was limited and even if it came to serve as the basis of a democratist ideology. It is interesting that this part of the text makes no reference to Rosa Luxemburg and her discussion of "freedom" in her critique of the Russian Revolution, which was--lets face it--also a critique of the Bolsheviks. There is only ever freedom in the sense of freedom for those who think differently, which to me presupposes a level of "personal autonomy" that the text is far too dismissive with.

4.) I do agree with this point, and in fact, I found it a rather beautiful piece of prose: "Diversity is not therefore a goal in itself, the celebration of difference for its own sake, as the anarchists believe, but the means to the greater self-consciousness of the proletariat as a unified class." One could substitute "Occupy Movement," "Indignados" or "post-modern identity politics" for anarchist in the quote and it would still be true. However, given that nobody has a monopoly on the truth (on this the post-modernists, along with Rosa Luxemburg, are right) it seems that a necessary precondition for the development of this greater self-concsiousness and of this greater unity is a respect for the personal autonomy of individual militants and searching elements, as in the end each indivdual can only ever rely on their personal judgment to decide what is best for them. This, unfortunately or not, is a matter of the human condition that cannot ever be fully overcome in a class society based on individual egos. Whether or not it can ever be overcome is a matter for the cooks of the future I think.

 

Fred
personal autonomy

Hi jk 1921 it's lovely to be able to read you again on this forum. But I wondered about something you said. 

 

Quote:
...given that nobody has a monopoly on the truth (on this the post-modernists, along with Rosa Luxemburg, are right) it seems that a necessary precondition for the development of this greater self-concsiousness and of this greater unity is a respect for the personal autonomy of individual militants and searching elements, as in the end each indivdual can only ever rely on their personal judgment to decide what is best for them.
 

"...in the end each individual can only ever rely on their personal judgement to decide what is best for them." Isn't this what the bourgeoisie would have us believe? That we are isolated individuals struggling to materialise our own destinies, without help from anyone, but free to make our own mistakes.  Isn't this the dominant ideological viewpoint of capitalist society? That only we as individuals know what is best for ourselves?  But is it really true that only I know what is best for me in all cases?  

Surely the reality is, or can be, different? My personal autonomy and its growth and development, doesn't have to remain a private matter for me and my ego. Other people, various other inputs come into play here. What you choose to commit yourself too; how prepared you are to abandon outmoded ideas faced with criticism; how far you are ready to go in understanding that what you experience at times to be a strictly personalised and individual autonomy isn't necessarily the correct or the only interpretation of the process of consciousness, have to be considered. 

Doesn't communism release us from the trap of having to rely on personal judgements developed in isolation in a competitive society, and open up the chance of decision making on a collaborative basis and through feelings of solidarity? 

The "personal autonomy of individual militants" could be a prison and could be hell if suffered in isolation. Only the educative and healing process of group interaction communist style, where the growth of each contributes to the growth of all, opens up the possibility of true self-realisation for everyone. 

lem_
Hi, I made a superficially

Hi, I made a superficially dismissive comment in that group: I don't read much of what the ICC publishes.

It's a (IMHO highly) peculiar state of affairs when militants cannot tell a basic proletarian ethic from "insanity". I am not rising above bickering, I just don't need to work these things out.

If the milieu was a little less pissy (about the ICC) and a little more shall I say "critical" I'd still be involved with at least the analysis of history. Which isn't me loudly trumpeting my own present "autonomy", I fully believe anything of the sort shall be washed away - one way or another.

I sympathise with anyone who sympathises with the ICC.

jk1921
Not easy

Fred wrote:

Hi jk 1921 it's lovely to be able to read you again on this forum. But I wondered about something you said. 

 

Quote:
...given that nobody has a monopoly on the truth (on this the post-modernists, along with Rosa Luxemburg, are right) it seems that a necessary precondition for the development of this greater self-concsiousness and of this greater unity is a respect for the personal autonomy of individual militants and searching elements, as in the end each indivdual can only ever rely on their personal judgment to decide what is best for them.
 

"...in the end each individual can only ever rely on their personal judgement to decide what is best for them." Isn't this what the bourgeoisie would have us believe? That we are isolated individuals struggling to materialise our own destinies, without help from anyone, but free to make our own mistakes.  Isn't this the dominant ideological viewpoint of capitalist society? That only we as individuals know what is best for ourselves?  But is it really true that only I know what is best for me in all cases?  

Surely the reality is, or can be, different? My personal autonomy and its growth and development, doesn't have to remain a private matter for me and my ego. Other people, various other inputs come into play here. What you choose to commit yourself too; how prepared you are to abandon outmoded ideas faced with criticism; how far you are ready to go in understanding that what you experience at times to be a strictly personalised and individual autonomy isn't necessarily the correct or the only interpretation of the process of consciousness, have to be considered. 

Doesn't communism release us from the trap of having to rely on personal judgements developed in isolation in a competitive society, and open up the chance of decision making on a collaborative basis and through feelings of solidarity? 

The "personal autonomy of individual militants" could be a prison and could be hell if suffered in isolation. Only the educative and healing process of group interaction communist style, where the growth of each contributes to the growth of all, opens up the possibility of true self-realisation for everyone. 

 

Relying on your own personal judgement is not the same as isolation. And yes communism may release us from the trap of the reified egotistical self, but we aren't in communism yet. We are still our damaged selves inherited from class society and that is not going to change right away even after the communist revolution. The communist revolution will have to be accomplished by people molded by capitalist society--with all the attendant pathologies and limitiations.

There, of course, could be an issue here of not using the same defintion of "personal autonomy," but I think what confused me about the article was that it seemed to, in spots, suggest that there really is a contradiction between personal autonomy and comradeship, while in other places suggesting that it might be a false dilemna. I for one wouldn't want to have to make a choice between the two, if I didn't have to. I'd like to think that they are both possible at the same time. Of course, this raises very complex issues of the nature of the self, the soverignty of the individual, the obliteration of the self in the search of intentional communities, etc. I don't think there are easy answers.

lem_
I kinda agree jk1921. We can

I kinda agree jk1921. We can at best hope for proletarian solidarity, not communist solidarity. Right? So in effect, perhaps autonomy is all we really have but we have to choose solidarity over it.

I'm not completely sure when it becomes relevant anyway: why would anyone want to choose self interest over others, or stop communication (except perhaps for a moment however brief as a chance to think).

I have no real opinion on Devrim btw, it seems unnecessary to do so against the ICC's detractors, they being so many etc. Edit Ok the truth is he both frightens and fascinates me.

I really hope he's a charimastic leader that isn't so out of self interest. Let's face it, one way or another we'll probably find out hah ! Until then, it's fine.

Fred
personal autonomy and comradeship

Thank you you for your interesting reply above jk and your provocative remarks about autonomy.

But when you say that "relying on your own personal judgement is not the same as isolation" well it is of course unless you are in discussions with others (comrades) sharing the same interests as you and thus able to contribute to your elaboration and critique of the idea in question. Otherwise your autonomy is in doubt.  Without discussion and debate an autonomously held viewpoint remains unverifiable, like a hunch, and can quickly become a personal prison and a trap.  Isn't autonomy validated through interaction? 

But it  is true as you say that we aren't in communism yet and therefore still suffer the indignities stemming from life under capitalism. We remain our damaged selves. We retain the reified egotistical personas we acquire from alienating social relations awaiting abolishment. Yet that we can identify this situation and talk about it means that we can try and fight against it now and don't have passively to surrender to it, throw in the towel or become apolitical. 

Quote:
In the end Devrim’s critique expresses a completely different vision of revolutionary militancy to the marxist one. Whereas the latter sees the free development of the militant as a process of interaction with his comrades, that is, as a question of organisational solidarity, Devrim sees the revolutionary as someone who must retain his personal autonomy at all costs even if it means the desertion of the organisation and thus his comrades.
 

I very much liked the image of the orchestra elaborated in the article.  The players are all autonomous individuals and experts on their chosen instrument. But they submit their individual talents to a conductor who  - if they are a large symphony orchestra - essentially  holds  them together and can thus produce good sound, good music. The contribution here of individual autonomous skill to the collective effort thus transcends the sum of its parts. And I would suggest the conductor should not be idealised and worshipped as the great leader, like he is today by the bourgeoisie (the bourgeois being psychotically obsessed by the idea of great leaders, like the flock of sheep they are)  but seen as just another player and part of the band. There is after all no special mystique associated with being an orchestral conductor, apart from bourgeois obsessions with  personalities, showbiz and stardom.  So, for myself, I see no contradiction between personal autonomy and comradeship as both contribute to each other.