Notes on the subterranean maturation of consciousness

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commiegal
relationship to capital

jk1921 wrote:

commiegal wrote:

I am sorry if this sounds stupid but to the majority of the bourgeoisie I think they see trotskyists as just as much of a threat as left-communists and they view them in the same light, for example when Labour expelled Militant for being "too left wing" and portraying left-wing opponents of for example thatcher as being trots and members of the SWP.

Part of the U.S. bourgeoisie thinks Obama is a communist. Its not so much in what regard the Trots, etc. are held by the rest of the bourgeoisie, its the objective function they preform in recuperating workers' struggles behind the state that makes them bourgeois.

Are they actually bourgeois though? In terms of their relationship to capital? I suppose some of them are (because they employ full-timers etc) but it's just hard for me to think about them that way since that's not exactly what I think about when I think about the bourgeoisie, and some of them give most of the money back to the party, or claim they do anyway. (that might be a lie but they make quite a lot of it!)

jk1921
Political Function

commiegal wrote:

jk1921 wrote:

commiegal wrote:

I am sorry if this sounds stupid but to the majority of the bourgeoisie I think they see trotskyists as just as much of a threat as left-communists and they view them in the same light, for example when Labour expelled Militant for being "too left wing" and portraying left-wing opponents of for example thatcher as being trots and members of the SWP.

Part of the U.S. bourgeoisie thinks Obama is a communist. Its not so much in what regard the Trots, etc. are held by the rest of the bourgeoisie, its the objective function they preform in recuperating workers' struggles behind the state that makes them bourgeois.

Are they actually bourgeois though? In terms of their relationship to capital? I suppose some of them are (because they employ full-timers etc) but it's just hard for me to think about them that way since that's not exactly what I think about when I think about the bourgeoisie, and some of them give most of the money back to the party, or claim they do anyway. (that might be a lie but they make quite a lot of it!)

 

They may not fit the typical image of what we historically think of when we hear "bourgeois": Factory owning men in top hats, but they are fully integrated functionaries of the capitalist state, paid or otherwise. Sociologically, they may not always have a one percent lifestyle, but they are still part of the state in terms of the political function they perform for capital.

commiegal
Do you think they know

Do you think they know they're doing this? When you go to some of these party rallies etc they make all these great claims about overthrowing capitalism and the bourgeoisie and decrying everything that the bourgeoise are doing, and a lot of their analysis is actually a marxist analysis in terms of the class forces and what is happening to world capitalism, not too similar to what you would find on this website (although obviously their solutions are different).

So do you think that if they are functionaries for the bourgeoisie, do you think the leaders know they're doing it? It seems to me that many of them sincerely believe they're fighting to overthrow capitalism. (and replace it with state capitalism but still...) 

Sorry if that seems well ignorant of me.

mhou
Trotskyist organizations as

Trotskyist organizations as either a direct or extra-parliamentary wing of the existing political structures. The example of Militant (both in and out of the Labour Party) is a good example: the working-class has nothing to gain from elections, and communists have known for nearly a century that the time had passed when durable reforms could be wrested through the electoral/parliamentary processes. This is where decadence theory comes in.

When Trotskyist groups in the UK print "Vote Labour With No Illusions", or try to get radicals elected as MP's (TUSC, RESPECT) or trade union officials (RMT etc.), Trotskyism is either directly (by standing candidates for election) or indirectly (through extra-parliamentary organizing around trade unions or 'pushing Labour left' campaigns) reinforcing the capitalist political structure. Since they call themselves communists while doing it, they spread confusion among both the working-class but particularly amongst workers who are inclined to search for answers to the crisis of capitalism in Marxism/communism- on both accounts Trotskyism is directly reinforcing a system that most Trotskyists think they are resolutely struggling against. It's a structural thing- not about whether any Trotskyists own the means of production or whether individual Trotskyists realize that supporting left-Labour candidates and trying to work within the unions they are directly reinforcing the system.

Then there's historical Trotskyism, which emerged from a genuine reaction (like left communism) against the degeneration of the Russian revolution- however, Trotsky, from the 1920's on, never left the terrain of 'Defense of the USSR', 'Defend the Gains of October!' etc. I mean, he was involved in some of the most counter-revolutionary ideas in the '20s (militarization of labor was his pet project). He always stood by the Soviet Union until his death, no matter how many adjectives used by Trotskyism in its said defense ('critical defense', 'no illusions', etc.)- identifying only the Stalin faction as the problem and not the command economy, the state that had swallowed up and strangled the life from the soviets, the merger of the Party with the state, etc.

And Trotskyism's support of the Soviet Union rallied a lot of militant workers into the imperialist slaughter of WWII- all the while telling workers that they had to defend the socialist bastion from fascism.

The historical record of Trotskyism has been one of supporting state capitalism, supporting the Soviet state well after all proletarian content had been drained from the revolution, supporting the war effort with their 'lesser evil' politics, supporting the bourgeoisie in the West by reinforcing illusions in electoral democracy and trade unionism, etc.

Quote:
Sure, but if we are going to claim than somehow 1968 or 1917 influences what happens in 1980 then there has to be some mechanism through which the experience of workers far away and from a different time can affect the struggles of workers in the here and now. What is it? It is certainly possible for workers to learn from their own struggles, or from the struggles of workers they know personally, or from older workers who pass down the lessons of previous experience. But once this link has been broken, either in terms of generations or geography, what is the mechanism for this kind of transmission?

Like Demo said, it's a long shot. I think it has more to do with relatively contemporary experiences- like the Mahalla example, which started in 2006 and continues today (and you can see a near constant development of the forms and content of struggle over those 7 years- from reactionary strikes, to regular strikes, to public-private sector inter-firm strikes, to physically assaulting/ejecting union officials from the scene of the struggle, to forming self-organized regional committees, to ejecting official and opposition politicians from the city, etc all the while fighting private and state security forces). That example seems pretty clear that the experiences inform future action- and the direct link with the spread of the GA form.

Then there's examples like Hungary- Mouvement Communiste and the Johnson-Forest tendency have both written about the 1956 council revolt. Both have ambiguous things to say about the oldest generation of workers who were around to experience the soviet revolution in 1919- through in both cases the revolt was centered on the heavy industry in Budapest. Then again 37 years isn't that long considering we're talking about 1917 (nearly 100 years ago).

Alf
class nature

commiegal: the unconscious precedes the conscious. As others have said, there is an objective logic behind the subjective perception. As Marx said (paraphrasing): you can't understand a past epoch of history only by  what it said about itself. But this way of looking at things doesn't only apply to the past. Psychoanalysis is based on the same method: the patient may say this or that about himself, believe this or that about himself,  but you won't be of any use to him if you only look at these aspects of their psyche. As comrades have said, it's not what individual members of leftist organisations think they are doing that is decisive for our conclusion that the organisations they belong to have been integrated into capitalism. 

In addition to which: it's one of the precise functions of these organisations to take sincere commitment and honest conviction and turn it into various forms of cynicism. So they would not be doing their job if they didn't attract people who at some level at least really want to participate in a revolution. 

In response to Lbird, I agree with MH entirely: there is no need to stop talking to us because we are not 'councilist', and that we criticise both 'councilism' and 'Leninism' from a marxist standpoint. This again raises the question of class nature. In our view, the dichotomy between councilism and Leninism is not a scientific one at all - i.e. it's not based on class criteria.

The anarchists take a similar line. For them, the SWP, the Maoists, the official CPs, the Bolshevik party of 1917, and groups like the Bordigists, and no doubt the ICT and ICC, are all to be rejected as Leninist, which ultimately means 'authoritarian'. Opposed to this is the family of anarchism or libertarian communism which rejects all those who try to dictate to the working class from on high.  This is one of the arguments used from year to year to deny the left communist groups the possibility of running a stall inside the Anarchist bookfair. It's clear that this is an argument which ignores class lines because inside the bookfair every year are a number of groups who are out and out leftists but who claim the libertarian label in some way. 

'Leninism' doesn't define the class nature of an organisation, any more than 'authoritarian' or 'libertarian'. If the ICC was a capitalist organisation, like the SWP, then you would have some justification for not engaging in discussion with us, although we don't have anything in principle against going onto the forums of bourgeois leftist organisations (even if in our experience they don't encourage open debate and communists often get banned at the first opportunity). If on the other hand we are an internationalist, proletarian organisation, Lbird as an internationalist proletarian revolutionary would be acting irresponsibly to refuse to debate with us...

In short, stick around and carry on discussing. Perhaps even come and meet us at the day of discussion in June.....

jk1921
Probably not...

commiegal wrote:

Do you think they know they're doing this? When you go to some of these party rallies etc they make all these great claims about overthrowing capitalism and the bourgeoisie and decrying everything that the bourgeoise are doing, and a lot of their analysis is actually a marxist analysis in terms of the class forces and what is happening to world capitalism, not too similar to what you would find on this website (although obviously their solutions are different).

So do you think that if they are functionaries for the bourgeoisie, do you think the leaders know they're doing it? It seems to me that many of them sincerely believe they're fighting to overthrow capitalism. (and replace it with state capitalism but still...) 

Sorry if that seems well ignorant of me.

 

Most of them know what they are doing--they are fighting to install, as you say, a particular form of state capitalism; because they think that form of state capitalism is communism. They probably don't know that the version of state capitalism they champion is not really communism at all, but does that really matter?

jk1921
Discussions

Alf wrote:

In response to Lbird, I agree with MH entirely: there is no need to stop talking to us because we are not 'councilist', and that we criticise both 'councilism' and 'Leninism' from a marxist standpoint. This again raises the question of class nature. In our view, the dichotomy between councilism and Leninism is not a scientific one at all - i.e. it's not based on class criteria.

Do councilists only discuss with other councilists? Or is it only discussions with "Leninists" that are off the table? I seem to remember Cajo Brendel having a fairly open attitude towards discussions with the ICC, as did Frank Girard of Discussion Bulletin.

Redacted
Report on the function of the revolutionary organisation

Just piggy-backing on what people have said already---

Report on the function of the revolutionary organisation

This article adopted by the ICC int'l congress over 40 years ago [January 1982] and published in IR 29 plainly states the ICC's official position on many of the questions posed here.

Some selections:

"An inability to understand the function of a revolutionary organisation has always led to a denial of its necessity"

...

[The revolutionary organisation] "is not a simple physiological appendage of the class, limited to obeying its immediate impulses. The revolutionary organisation is a part of the class. It is neither separate from nor identical with the class. It is neither a mediation between the being and consciousness of the class, nor the totality of class consciousness. It is a particular form of class consciousness, the most conscious part. It thus regroups not the totality of the class, but its most conscious and active fraction. The class is no more the party than the party is the class."

...

"The ascendant cycle of capitalism gave a particular and thus transitory form to revolutionary political organisations" [...then continues on to list them]

...

"In recent years the ICC has suffered the disastrous effects of immediatism, the most typical form of petty bourgeois impatience, the final incarnation of the confused spirit of May 1968. The most striking form of this immediatism has been:

1. Activism, which has appeared in interventions and theorised in the voluntarist conception of 'recruitment'. It has been forgotten that the organisation doesn't develop artificially, but organically, through a rigorous selection on the basis of the platform. 'Numerical' development is not the fruit of mere will, but the maturation of the class and the elements it secretes.

2. Localism, came to the surface in particular interventions. We have seen certain elements in the ICC present 'their' local section as though it were a personal property, an autonomous entity, whereas it can only be a part of a whole. The necessity for an international organisation was even denied or ridiculed, seeing it as no more than a 'bluff', or at best as a vague series of 'links' between sections.

3. Economism, which Lenin fought against a long time ago, has expressed itself in a tendency to see each strike in itself rather than integrating it into the worldwide framework of the class struggle. Often the political function of our Current was pushed into the background. By considering revolutionaries as 'water-carriers' or as 'technicians' of struggle in the service of the workers, you end up advocating the material preparation of the future struggle.

4. Suivism (or 'queueism'), the final embodiment of these incomprehensions about the role and function of the organisation, took the form of a tendency to simply follow strikes while hiding our own banners. There were hesitations about clearly and intransigently denouncing all hidden forms of trade unionism. Principles were set to one side in order to stay with the movement and find a more immediate echo - in order to be recognised by the class at any price.

5. Ouvrierism was the final synthesis of these aberrations. As with the leftists, certain elements cultivated the crassest kind of demagogy about 'workers' and 'intellectuals', about the 'leadership' and the 'rank and file' within the organisation."

...

"This is why the ICC must vigorously oppose any abandonment of the programmatic framework which can only lead to immediatism in political analysis. It must resolutely fight:

• against empiricism, where fixating on immediate events and phenomena inevitably leads to the old conception of 'particular' cases, the eternal source of opportunism;

• against all tendencies of superficiality, which take the form of a routinist spirit or of intellectual laziness;

• against a certain mistrust or hesitation about theoretical work. The 'grey' of theory must not be opposed to the 'rosy' colours of intervention. Theory must not be seen as something reserved for specialists in marxism. It is the product of collective thought and the participation of everyone in this thought. "

LBird
A 'special' branch of the proletarian tree?

In response to the comradely appeals of MH and Alf to ‘keep discussing’, I’ll make a further attempt to spell out what I consider to be the political differences between what I’m arguing and what I think that the ICC is arguing (I’m still prepared to accept that what I think about the ICC’s stance is incorrect, and I am still open to being persuaded that my characterisation of the ICC as ‘Leninist’ is mistaken).

I’m arguing that for Communism to succeed, that the proletariat as a class must be the final arbiter of what any Communist political organisation, which claims to organise/represent/advise/etc. the working class, is allowed to have as a policy (including its forms of internal organisation).

To argue that a proletarian organisation must have complete autonomy/independence from the class, so that the organisation can separately decide for itself all of its own structures and political positions, is to me, in shorthand, ‘Leninism’.

Does this mean that different political organisations formed by workers can’t emerge to put forward conflicting ideas and policies? Of course not! The essence of Communism must be the widest possible debate, heated comradely arguments, defence of acceptable minority positions, and the finest critical education for all individuals within our society.

But… who or what determines ‘widest’, ‘possible’, ‘heated’, ‘comradely’, ‘acceptable’, ‘finest’ and ‘critical’?

Political terms must be defined by the majority (the class) not a minority (the political organisation). Does this mean that the class will close down or limit ‘free speech’ or the ‘freedom to organise’ on a whim?

To start from that position of political philosophy is to denigrate democracy and the ability of the proletariat to make its own decisions. Is the proletariat congenitally stupid?  I think not. Are the individuals we see all around us everyday the same as the conscious workers who will run society? I think they are, but they are as yet not conscious. If they can’t become themselves conscious (perhaps with our help and advice), then Communism, as outlined by Marx, is not possible. I think that the class will only proscribe those political ideas that it identifies for itself as dangerous to workers’ democracy and proletarian power.

I think that the essence of Leninism is the political idea that a political organisation knows better the needs of itself than does the proletariat. I disagree. I think that, for Marx’s statement ‘That the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves’ to happen, the political idea that the class knows better the needs of any political organisation must prevail.

jk1921 wrote:
Do councilists only discuss with other councilists? Or is it only discussions with "Leninists" that are off the table?

Of course ‘discussions with Leninists’ are not ‘off the table’!

But, the purpose of those discussions is to convince ‘Leninists’ (as you seem to be, with your earlier statement ‘better fewer, but better’, and support for less scientific ‘experts’ outside of proletarian control) of the error of their ways! And to be very clear, this is not a personal attack on you, jk1921, but a political attack on the philosophical ideas that jk1921 presently holds. In the vernacular, you might be a lovely person in real life, and we might get on like a house on fire face-to-face, but the politics, that you’ve expressed here, stink. We Councilists need to help you develop! Come over to the class, comrade!

jk1921, post 29, wrote:
Science doesn't really need more scientists, it needs better scientists, i.e. Lenin's famous phrase, "Better fewer, but better."

And,

jk1921, post 49, wrote:
Consequently, one could ask, "Who decides who constitutes the 'scientific community'? The answer is: other scientists through a process of peer review. So what is the equivalent for the revolutionary vanguard?

No mention of ‘workers’? Just scientists and vanguard. Gulp! The ignorant ‘mob’ have been warned!

Why not just have a ‘Scientific Vanguard’? No, no, no… science, like politics, must become a mass activity.

If jk1921’s views represent the views of the ICC, then it’s best we part company now. This isn’t a refusal to discuss, and I’m not throwing my dummy out of the pram, and I appreciate the ICC’s openness in hosting these debates, but surely there comes a point at which my contributions become entirely negative, from the point of view of the ICC? If we’ve reached that point, I’ll graciously withdraw, with comradely best wishes; if we haven’t (and you continue to encourage me to post), then you know what political ideas you have to combat. In itself, this may be useful training and development for comrades within the ICC, whether I’m contrary or not. As long as you carry the majority, then you have won the political debate, which is as it should be, comrades.

Perhaps ‘Special Branch’ can be renamed ‘Scientific Vanguard’ in the new society?

Alf
who's to say?

Lbird, I am struggling to understand what you mean by the working class 'knowing best' the political needs of the political organisation. Are we actually talking about positions, declarations, statements issued by mass organisations? Certainly this is not at all on the agenda today when the working class is not massively organised and is not generally conscious of its historic goals, otherwise we would be in the midst of a revolution. So should revolutionaries refuse to organise themselves until that time, given that there is no mechanism for the class as a whole judging what political organisations should be formed and how they should be organised internally?

And even when the working class is massively organised, surely the watchword of communists must be: no censorship of proletarian political organisations (we have learned that lesson from the errors of the Bolsheviks), all proletarians must have the possibility of getting together in groups, tendencies or parties to put forward their ideas and positions. Within the councils, there has to be a constant process of open debate and discussion between and across tendencies. Certainly the councils, as they express a growing political understanding, will rid themselves of bourgeois tendencies disguised as 'revolutionary' ones, but even on that level I would be against the forcible expulsion of leftists unless they had explicitly allied themselves with the counter-revolution, taken up arms against the councils, etc. If there is a real development of class consciousness, the idea of handing power over to a particular political organisation will be totally rejected and will not be the constant danger that you seem to be haunted by. Of course, if the revolution retreats or degenerates, then the danger will be much more real. 

Marin Jensen
A "scientific vanguard"?

Lbird wrote:

Why not just have a ‘Scientific Vanguard’? No, no, no… science, like politics, must become a mass activity.

I fundamentally agree with Lbird (and although this is not an "ICC position", I think that comrades in the ICC would generally agree with me) that science should become a "mass activity", however it's worth going into more depth about exactly what we mean by that.

For the revolution to be possible, then the scientific method must become a mass activity, in the sense that the mass of the workers must become critical, materialist thinkers about the world they live in (and indeed about themselves both individually and as a class). And they need to be ready to put their critical thinking to the practical (experimental?) test of revolutionary action. This is not easy: here is Pannekoek writing in 1920:

Pannekoek wrote:

“Revolution also demands something more than the massive assault that topples a government and which, as we know, cannot be summoned by leaders, but can only spring from the profound impulse of the masses. Revolution requires social reconstruction to be undertaken, diff­icult decisions to be made, the whole prolet­ariat involved in creative action -- and this is only possible if first the vanguard, then a greater and greater number take matters in hand themselves, know their own responsibilities, investigate, agitate, wrestle, strive, reflect, assess, seize chances and act upon them. But all this is difficult and laborious: thus, so long as the working class thinks it sees an easier way out through others acting on its behalf -- leading agitation from a high platform, taking decisions, giving signals for action, making laws -- the old habits of thought and the old weaknesses will make it hesitate and remain passive.”

(This is quoted in the article I have already referenced and which I encourage comrades to read and comment on, since it goes into the issue of substitutionism in more depth than is possible in a forum post).

It is the mass of the class that must act, take decisions, in other words exercise power.

Lenin wrote:

“Comrade workers! Remember that you yourselves now administer the state. Nobody will help you if you do not unite and take all the affairs of the state into your own hands. Your soviets are henceforth the organs of state power, organs with full powers, organs of decision.”

Absolutely so!

Lbird, however, in #80, tips over into what looks on the face of it like an extreme democratist position:

Lbird wrote:

I’m arguing that for Communism to succeed, that the proletariat as a class must be the final arbiter of what any Communist political organisation, which claims to organise/represent/advise/etc. the working class, is allowed to have as a policy (including its forms of internal organisation).

This sounds very like saying that the "proletariat as a class" must decide not only what is to be done (yes, I agree), but also what is to be thought (absolutely not!).

During the German revolution, the workers' councils at one point decided that Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht should not be allowed to speak in the councils because they were not workers (whereas members of the SPD which assassinated the revolution were allowed to speak for the same reason). The majority, in short, is not always right.

Does this mean that we should put a "knowledgeable" minority in power? Of course not! The minority (and at least in the revolutionary process the actual vanguard will still be a minority) cannot substitute itself for the action of the class as a whole, including when the majority of the class is making mistakes. This is one of the lessons of Kronstadt (also addressed in the referenced article).

LBird
Acknowledgement

Just a quick post to Alf and LoneLondoner: I appreciate your posts/link, and I'll follow them up, but I have a pressing engagement later today, so I'll have to respond tomorrow, I think.

Thanks.

baboon
What day of discussion in

What day of discussion in June? Re Alf above?

Alf
this one
mhou
Quote: This is precisely what

Quote:

This is precisely what is at issue. Why should a self-selecting 'vanguard', self-defining 'Communist', organisation be a 'clearer expression' than that expressed by workers themselves, in non-Leninist organisations?

This is why ones conception of class consciousness matters when it comes to organizational and practical questions.

Quote:
I still haven't had an answer to my quote from Pannekoek on the other thread. Why should any organisation of Communists have more than an advisory role to the developing class?

What does 'advisory role' mean in practice?

Quote:
In other words, power lies with the class, not 'Communists'.

No one is saying otherwise.

Quote:
The proletariat has to develop a Communist consciousness for itself. The role of any organisation is merely to develop the class, not to take on a political role for itself. Power, including the power to disband organisations, must lie with the wider class, not with those minority organisations themselves.

By seeing highly developed class consciousness (depth and breadth) as a creation the class you completely cast aside nearly any role for communists in the here and now. If you think that is how class consciousness develops, I'd like to hear why. The councilist argument on class consciousness (like the GIC quote jk provided earlier in the thread) isn't very convincing.

Quote:
Any other stance displays a fear of democracy, and separates society into two parts.

Of course, if any advisory organisation becomes the mass party (containing the majority of the class), then it necessarily becomes a political organisation

Is a mass party a good thing?

jk1921
Well, first, LBird totally

Well, first, LBird totally mischaracterises my views. Second, he seems to adopt the stance (which is all too typical in the milieu) that all of my statements represent some fully worked out position that I hold deep in the inner core of my being. He doesn't seem to countenance that it may be possible I am not some Leninist boogeyman, but am just as confused as many others and I am attempting to work through various interpretations of the issues at hand--specifically, the relationship between "science," "scientific method," "class consciousness" and the role of the organization. Of course, I am not the first or only person to have difficulties where these questions are concerned. Still, there seems a constant tempation to want to characterize others with a particular label or eptithet so as to no longer have to confront their views, confusions, difficutlies in a dispassionate and reasoned way. So what if some of the things I have written about science and the role of the organization are my "real" views? Why should that lead the comrade to abadon discussion? Are supposed "Leninists" so irredeemeable that they are not worthy of attempting to convince otherwise?

Still, the comrade may be surprised to learn that I actually agree with him on a central point: There does appear to be a great difficutly in reconciling the idea that Marxism is some kind of "science" with the idea that the revolution must be the job of the entire working class itself, and I am not so sure that the answers given by ICC comrades to this dilmena are adequate. Unfortunately though, the comrade seems so terrified by the ghost of Lenin, and instinctually threatens to withdrawl from discussion, rather than face up to the inherent difficutlies in reconciling these two aspects of the workers' movement. The comrades mind is made up, it seems. There is no real difficulty, I guess. Anyone who does not accept his version of the issue is not worthy of engagement.

Sometimes, I think, understanding a particular position requires following the argument through to its conclusion--assuming the role of your antagonist--in order to truly grasp the logic of their position. How can it be that so many have gone in for the substituionist position in the past? Surely, the explanation can't simply be that they were all power hungry elitists, or that they were just stupid, can it? Where is the disconnect? How can an otherwise intellectually honest person look at the debate and choose subsitutionism over workers' democracy? This seems to be behind some of the questions commiegal poses above, questions that have been asked in various ways on this forum, and elsewhere, time and again. I don't have the answers, yet. But, I suspect it has something to do with "science." Pardon me for attempting to work through these issues out in the open, on this forum, rather than alone in my own corner. Still, it would be a lot easier to do this, without the constant fear of being labeled a Leninist and summarily dismissed, because I can occasionally see some internal logic/consistency behind political positions that may be repugnant.

mhou
I think, historically,

I think, historically, substitutionism developed when the inertia of the revolutionary movement began to ebb, or crest its peak; at which point revolutionaries end up with a dilemma- 'what can we do?'. The trouble is that in that situation, it is still a revolutionary movement, despite the retreats or seeming ebbs- the level of class consciousness had already reached a critical mass to begin a revolutionary movement. Bordiga noted that the Italian CP was formed (1921) too late to have been directly involved in the peak of the Italian social revolts (1919-1920).

We should probably start a new thread concerning Marxism and its scientific merits. A bunch of analysis and quotes from Capital & Community (Camatte) make a compelling case for its basis as a science.

I don't really understand accusations that communists who organize amongst themselves are 'self-selective' or demonstrate some kind of authoritarian personality disorder for using the term vanguard to describe all workers who come to communist positions & principles before a revolutionary situation. Did all of us here choose to become communists for the purpose of telling other workers what to do? No, and I don't know where these conceptions come from; why communists who don't dance on Lenin's grave have the Marxist-Leninist millstone de facto transposed onto their politics. Believing that the Russian revolutions (1905 & Feb. Oct. in 1917), the Bolshevik party, the early RCP(b) and Lenin (and Trotsky, and Bukharin, etc) require a more naunced view when it comes to sorting out what is useful what is not (and what kind of legacy/practices have been left behind) can't be grounds for calling someone a 'Leninist' (the implication being that they are no different than members of the KKE in Greece).

I'd bet that most workers who become communists came to those conclusions based off of experience living and working as proletarians- which would be in line with SMC in my view, and a recognition that class consciousness does not solely exist in open struggle and against the idea that it doesn't exist at all.

Fred
Party, Councils, and Substitutionism

The article LoneLondoner refers to above in his post, is actually called. "Party, Councils, and Substitutionism", so it's right on target.    I think, I hope, it goes a long way to answer many of LBird's political objections to the proletariats' own thinkers who "get there first "; and who then organize  themselves together to further and quicken the spread of communist consciousness throughout as much of the class internationally as possible, to promote the success of the communist revolution.  The article ends as follows.

 

C. D. Ward wrote:
 The revolutionary party will only contribute to the progress towards communism by stimulating and generalizing a consciousness which runs entirely counter to the ideology of the bourgeoisie: a consciousness of the inexhaustible capacity of the class to organize itself and become conscious of itself as the subject of history. Communists, secreted by a class which contains no new relations of exploitation within itself, are unique in the history of revolutionary parties in that they do everything they can to make their own function unnecessary as class consciousness and activity becomes a homogeneous reality throughout all of the class. The more the proletariat advances on the road to communism, the more the whole class will become the living expression of “man’s pos­itive self-awareness”, of a liberated and consci­ous human community.
LBird
Reflections on ICC’s ‘Party, Councils, and Substitutionism’

I like the emphasis on twin problems of spontaneity and substitutionism (but don’t accept ‘councilism’ as synonym for ‘mass spontaneity’).

I accept need for ‘political organisation’ (but not the Leninist form).

I think that there is a need to examine the practice, not just the theory, of the ICC.

I don’t accept definition of ‘mass party’ as ‘disciplined’, ‘army’ (implying top-down control) and ‘reformist’. By ‘mass party’, I mean a majority of the class, controlled from below, employing mandated, revocable, short-term, ever-changing delegates. If this seems like a model for the workings of councils which have yet to emerge, it is. I think that our organisational models now should prefigure our organisational models for Communism. Workers who have experience of these models during their own earlier membership of a Communist political organisation, and have developed confidence in them in practice, will thus argue for those same practices to be adopted by emerging Workers’ Councils in a period of upsurge.

So, for me, the minority, vanguard, class-conscious, Communist ‘political organisation’ we build now must prefigure our intended practice for the future. No ‘experts’, no ‘fewer but better’, no ‘cadre’, no ‘best elements’, no ‘even consciousness, so unlike and superior to the uneven class’, no fuckin’ ‘scientists’, no long-serving central committee ‘original members’. A party run on the principle of constant rotation of different members to positions of authority, but an authority vigilantly controlled from below by the whole membership.

Again, we need to examine the practice, not just the theory, of the ICC.

PCS wrote:
Lenin was the most capable of seeing that the revolut­ionary party could only be a tightly organized and severely selected communist vanguard; …The role of the communist vanguard within these mass struggles was not an organizational one in the sense of providing the class with a pre-existing structure for organizing the strug­gle.
[my bold]

Even given much agreement between us, this is a clear point of disagreement between us.

I don’t believe in spontaneity (neither does the ICC);

I don’t believe in substitutionism (neither does the ICC);

I do believe in political organisation (so does the ICC);

But… I think that the political organisation must inevitably prefigure our future political practice as Communists (the ICC does not); I’m inclined to locate this latter difference in issues of ‘class consciousness’.

I think that ‘prefiguratism’ will combat both ‘spontaneism’ and ‘substitutionism’.

I can see an objection that such an ‘open’ concept of a party leadership is vulnerable to the criticism of the issue of ‘state infiltration’. I think that this infiltration is unavoidable for any form of organisation, but ‘cadre’ type central committees are even more disastrous because the state agent once planted (or suborned/blackmailed/bought/threatened) remains in place. And control from below would limit the destructiveness of a state agent, who would immediately be recalled (and probably shot), by a membership well used to questioning, criticising and removing their delegates. Again, unlike ‘central committee’ type organisations, where the members become habituated to believing the nonsense emanating from the ‘infallible centre’.

I would think that our attitude to our delegates would be that of our present growing attitude to managers and politicians, that ‘only scum rises to the top!’. Healthy, proletarian political suspicion. Let’s face it, an emerging, class conscious, Communist proletariat would have that in buckets. Our ideology would be so different to that of our present bourgeois programming, with its reverence for ‘experts’ and ‘scientists’.

That’s probably long enough a post, so I’ll leave it there for now. My apologies for not covering everything in the article.

I think that a new discussion thread is probably required, if we start to discuss the democratic content of a ‘prefigurative’ political organisation. I’ll leave that in the hands of the ICC, if they deem it necessary.

PS.

PCS wrote:
The truth of the matter is that you cannot be simultaneously for the power of the party and the power of the councils.

My thoughts entirely. I’m not sure where this leaves those posters who’ve argued for a party which has the autonomous power to decide its own structures and policies, entirely free from the wishes of the class.

I’m for ‘the power of the councils’: that’s why I’m a ‘councilist’, and not a ‘Leninist’, who want ‘the power of the party’.

Alf
power

Thanks Lbird for your effort to define how you see the party. I need to reflect on what the implications are, but at first sight it's hard to see how your 'mass party' differentiates itself from the councils, which would actually carry the danger of substitutionism. 

This confusion also seems to affect the way you see the question of power. Tthe article about party and councils talks very specifically about political power and clearly states that only the councils can wield it. To say that communists coming together in specifically communist organisations is also an exercise of power makes it very difficult to understand what political power actually means: the power to coerce, to exercise violence against the class enemy, for one thing. How does the decision of communist to form communist groups and organise themselves in such and such a way fit into this definition of power?

It seems to me that the the major result of this idea of the 'class' deciding on the structure and programme of  the communist organisation is to make it impossible to form any communist organisations at all.  

baboon
On mhou's post 88

There's a certain fear expressed about a "vanguard" being a minority and having to impose its will on the majority. This is not at all the case as Mhou makes clear above and as the practice of the communist left with its development of proletarian theory demonstrates.

Mhou says that many workers come to communist positions from their experience of the labour process and, in my individual instance, this was certainly the case for me. During the 70's I was involved in several strikes, some wildcat and then others, more or less, in a union framework. My experience was that a minority - or vanguard - took the initiative (in the face of attacks) and the decision to strike. The decision taken it was backed by the whole of the workforce (with one abstention) because that was the condition of the struggle. Similar events took place within the union framework and the more the latter was imposed the weaker became the struggle as the stronger minority elements were caught up in the union process, ie, as shop stewards. We can see the role of leftism, the SWP etc., who continually act to neutralised and destroy vanguardist elements within the union framework. I got sick of it, of having to act against the interests of the class and it was only that I came across the analysis of the ICC on the trade unions that I could see that I wasn't mad. In my case it was a powerful argument of practice and theory coming together - but the theory had to be there in order to pose the practice against it.

I want to reiterate the point about China because it's a powerful argument in favour of a vanguard and a demonstration that the subterranean maturation of consciousness is a proletarian expression that firmly exists in the capital/labour relations. In China a dozen years ago there is a completely new, raw proletariat made up from the peasantry mainly. It has absolutely no experience of struggle and it has  even less exposure than the paltry exposure of workers in the west to communist positions. In fact, given the perversions of communist politics and the direct repression of the state, one could argue that it's probable that the working class in China at this time had no exposure whatsover to communist positions, just their wholesale perversion. Yet, in a few short years, across the country, vanguardist elements of workers, small and large self-organised committees with names such as "unity of workers" and the like, were, within the majority, leading strikes and demonstrations in the face of a repression that we can only imagine. Where did this come from except the subterranean maturation of consciousness, a phenomenon that's existed in the working class from its very beginnings  and which emanates from the contradictions of the capital/labour relations. I would say, for the same reasons, that it's very likely that in China now there are politicised elements that have positons close to left communism.

This applies to us now. If minority elements of the working class are coming together to fight then this must apply at the level of political organisations in order to prepare for the wider struggles of the future. I don't understand the position that says we shouldn't organise because organisation means substituting oneself for the class.

mhou
Quote:My thoughts entirely.

Quote:
My thoughts entirely. I’m not sure where this leaves those posters who’ve argued for a party which has the autonomous power to decide its own structures and policies, entirely free from the wishes of the class.

But the party is just the organization of the most class conscious and politically mature workers, who defend the communist programme actively in the class' organs of power (councils, committees, assemblies) - not an organization that exercises power outside of or above the rest of the class.

The distinction between the councilist view of class consciousness and that of other communists comes into play on this point. If you see the entire class gaining more or less homogenous level of class consciousness that develops linearly after the start of a revolutionary crisis, the role of communists is severely diminished. The conception discussed in this thread (subterranean maturation of consciousness) suggests a non-linear, non-homogenous level of consciousness at the start of a revolutionary period, which can differ across all kinds of boundaries that exist in the international class today (by trade, age, region, etc.). In that conception it makes sense for the most class conscious and politically mature workers (communists) to organize amongst themselves to defend the communist programme in the organs of class power- in the effort to expand and develop existing class consciousness of the wider class, and agitate for communist solutions to the crisis.

We're all for the power of the councils (and committee's, assemblies, etc.); councilism is something distinct beyond that though. It's a conception of revolution and a conception of organization.

LBird
More queries

Thanks Alf, I'll try push this discussion a little bit further, for the clarification of all of us!

Alf wrote:
This confusion also seems to affect the way you see the question of power.

Yes, what do we mean by 'power'?

Alf wrote:
The article about party and councils talks very specifically about political power and clearly states that only the councils can wield it.

But, if only councils can wield 'political power', but they don't have the 'power' to determine the internal organisation of proletarian parties, just who does have this form of 'power', which is, seemingly, not a form of political power? Isn't this just playing with words?

I take the words 'The article about party and councils talks very specifically about political power and clearly states that only the councils can wield it' to mean 'only councils can wield political power'. If the form of political organisation chosen is a political decision (which I think it is), then 'only the councils' can make that decision.

The only logical way, it seems to me, to deny this, is to claim that 'proletarian organisational form' is not a question of political power. I think we're back to 'Pull the other one, mate!'.

Alf wrote:
To say that communists coming together in specifically communist organisations is also an exercise of power makes it very difficult to understand what political power actually means...

Well, I think building, joining, organising and expanding a political organisation is a political act. That means it is an issue of 'power'. I think the relationship between that organisation and the wider class is a political relationship. That means it is an issue of 'power'.

You're not defining 'political power' in the same way as the bourgeoisie, are you? You know, the stuff that only exists in a 'parliament' (read: 'Workers' Council')? The stuff that doesn't (apparently) exist in the workplace (read: 'political organisation')?

Hmmm... bosses say those things, too...curiouser and curiouser...

Alf wrote:
How does the decision of communist to form communist groups and organise themselves in such and such a way fit into this definition of power?

Perhaps it's not an exercise of 'power' to you, Alf, but it is to me: 'decisions', 'forming' and 'organising' are acts of power.

Alf wrote:
It seems to me that the the major result of this idea of the 'class' deciding on the structure and programme of the communist organisation is to make it impossible to form any communist organisations at all.

Let's see...

'It seems to me that the the major result of this idea of the 'people' deciding on the structure and programme of the parliamentary organisation is to make it impossible to form any parliamentary organisations at all.'

... yes, it does match bourgeois objections to democracy, doesn't it? Pesky outsiders, putting their ignorant noses into issues that don't concern them, and which should be left to the experts.

Alf, comrade, I'm afraid I'm still to be convinced that what you're arguing is not Leninism. There must be some underlying issue (consciousness?) behind our differences.

Alf
But the revolutionary

But the revolutionary organisation is not a parliament and not a council. It doesn't claim to represent anyone but the communists who are part of it. I don't think you've answered the question here: how, with your view about how the class must decide on the structure and programme of the revolutionary organisation, will you ever be able to form an organisation of revolutionaries?

jk1921
Representation

Alf wrote:

But the revolutionary organisation is not a parliament and not a council. It doesn't claim to represent anyone but the communists who are part of it. I don't think you've answered the question here: how, with your view about how the class must decide on the structure and programme of the revolutionary organisation, will you ever be able to form an organisation of revolutionaries?

 

You couldn't, without submitting every decision, every position, every article, every analysis, every statement to some kind of plebescite of the "entire working class."

I think you've hit the nail on the head Alf. The revolutionary organization is not meant to "represent" the will or opinion of the entire class at any given moment in time. It represents the communist program. Its up to the class to recognize itself in that program or not. But it seems clear that if it does, it won't be before a certain process has taken place that will entail some workers arriving at a communist consciousness before others. This of course doesn't mean that the communist program is fixed, immutable or invariant. It doesn't mean that the communists can't learn from the experience of the broader class, but the goal of the revolutionary organization isn't to pander to democratic sentiments, its to defend a certain "scientific" conception of communism. Still, nobody can force this conception down the throats of workers. The workers have to come to recognize communism as a concrete, material expression of the immediate interests of their struggles.

However, the trouble emerges here for councilists, I think. If communism, at some point in the development of the struggle, really does express the concrete, immediate, material needs of the struggle, what is a revolutionary organization good for; other than as a talking shop? The workers will find communism all on their own. The existence of any organization can only ever get in way and muck things up.

LBird
Avoiding the issue?

Is anyone going to answer my questions about 'power'?

Alf wrote:
I don't think you've answered the question here: how, with your view about how the class must decide on the structure and programme of the revolutionary organisation, will you ever be able to form an organisation of revolutionaries?

1. No Workers' Councils in existence? Communist workers form an organisation of revolutionaries, to help promote emergence of Workers' Councils. Meanwhile, political power resides in the political organisation.

2. Workers' Councils emerge? Having successfully helped to bring about Workers' Councils, the political organisation now comes under the power of the councils. Political power now resides in the Workers' Councils, including the power to disband, change organisational form of, and determine acceptable policies of, any revolutionary organisations.

I answer questions in a way anyone can understand and criticise, and go on to develop or reject those answers. Shame most workers can't get a straight answer out of most 'revolutionary organisations'.

If 'power' lies in the council, as your document suggests, then the council must be able to disband the revolutionary organisation, otherwise your document doesn't make sense.

Quite frankly, most workers don't read documents published by revolutionary organisations because they are meaningless in practice. That's another lesson workers have learned by experience.

My advice? More answers to questions, less links to long-winded texts, which have references to obscure historical events. Those texts and historical study will come later, when workers have had their immediate concerns addressed.

Where does power lie?

If anyone answers 'in the councils', I will take that to mean that the councils can disband the revolutionary organisations, if they wish to make that political decision. Any other conclusion makes the statement 'in the councils' meaningless.

If the ICC doesn't agree with this, why maintain that 'power lies with the councils'? What motive could the ICC have other than pulling the wool over the eyes of workers?

Why not just say 'power will lie in the revolutionary organisation', I'll call you 'Leninists', and we can all go home and do more productive things than continuously dance around each other?

Alf
power?

I think I have answered the question, we just don't agree on wnat political power means. You want us to say 'power will lie in the revolutionary organisation' and yet for nearly forty years the ICC has been saying the opposite. The revolutionary organisation has no power to impose its views on the working class. It can only convince them that its poistions are correct. We do not intend to repeat the errors of the Bolshevik party who thought they could use political power  - the state - to force the revolution forwards. 

On the other hand, your position seems blind to another danger: that the councils could, at an early stage of the revolution, dissolve a genuinely revolutionary organisation because it doesn't agree with the majority line in the councils. When the soviets were first formed in Russia, the majority position was pro-Kerensky, defencist and so on. At certain moments there was a danger that the Bolsheviks would be branded as traitors, wreckers, because they opposed collaboration with the Provisional Government and particpation in the war. It could well be that at the beginning of the next revolution the councils will be dominated politically by all kinds of reformist and leftist elements who could push for the suppression of genuinely revolutionary organisations. It could even be decided 'democratically' (like the decision to prevent Luxemburg from speaking at the soviet congress in 1918 because she wasn't a workers' delegate). 

 

LBird
Power

Alf wrote:
I think I have answered the question, we just don't agree on what political power means.

Well, I think that's that, eh Alf!

mhou
Quote:No Workers' Councils in

Quote:
No Workers' Councils in existence? Communist workers form an organisation of revolutionaries, to help promote emergence of Workers' Councils. Meanwhile, political power resides in the political organisation.

Do councils have to be formed by 'communist workers'? The council form seems to be a necessity born of intense and highly developed class struggle- rooted in joint-strike committees in the context of mass strikes; all of which suggest a tendency for an escalating trajectory of struggle in the forms and content that develop, leading to their creation by the workers (regular workers of all levels of political maturity).

What makes you think that embryonic and proto soviets in the next revolution will be created by communists? That's the opposite of what you were proposing earlier in this thread.

jk1921
Answers

LBird wrote:

1. No Workers' Councils in existence? Communist workers form an organisation of revolutionaries, to help promote emergence of Workers' Councils. Meanwhile, political power resides in the political organisation.

Straw-man. Nobody has argued that. The ICC has explicity rejected this since its inception. 

LBird wrote:

If 'power' lies in the council, as your document suggests, then the council must be able to disband the revolutionary organisation, otherwise your document doesn't make sense.

Well, yes. By definition, if political power resides in the councils then they can do whatever they want, including disbanding the revolutionary organization. Of course, if they did this it would be a tremendous capitulation to bourgeois ideology and would only serve to demonstrate the weakness of the revolution.

LBird wrote:

My advice? More answers to questions, less links to long-winded texts, which have references to obscure historical events.

You may have a point here.

LBird wrote:

Where does power lie?

If anyone answers 'in the councils', I will take that to mean that the councils can disband the revolutionary organisations, if they wish to make that political decision. Any other conclusion makes the statement 'in the councils' meaningless.

If the ICC doesn't agree with this, why maintain that 'power lies with the councils'? What motive could the ICC have other than pulling the wool over the eyes of workers?

I would reckon the ICC would agree, but once again--this doesn't render every decision the councils make "correct." It is here, once again, that the contradiction between "democracy" and "science" reveals itself. Of course, nobody here thinks it would be a good thing if the organization attempted to side step the process of consciounsess development and substitute itself for the rest of the class. The issue that seems to be outsanding here is that there does not appear to be a fully developed statement of why this is not acceptable. Democracy for democracy's sake or is there something material and functional about the communist revolution that demands the full participation of the "entire working class"? Neither you nor the ICC have really developed this........

LBird wrote:

Why not just say 'power will lie in the revolutionary organisation', I'll call you 'Leninists', and we can all go home and do more productive things than continuously dance around each other?

This is simply not what the ICC believes and it is evident just by reading its basic political positions. Moreover, you once again seem to want to use "Leninist" as some kind of delegitimating epithet for conceptions of the revolutionary process that contradict your assumptions. Your issue seems to be that you are not willing to take the ICC at its word and instead are looking for the that Leninist boogeyman that must be hiding around the corner in any group that thinks a revolutionary organization is necessary, even one that explicity states that the organization should not have anything to do with political power.

LBird
Power, science, democracy, councils...

jk1921 wrote:
It is here, once again, that the contradiction between "democracy" and "science" reveals itself.

Well, jk, if you think 'science' can ever trump 'democracy', we have very different conceptions of Communism. Mine is a Communism of the masses, yours appears to be a Communism of experts. I'm not using 'Leninism' as an insult, but as an attempt to label the discredited notion that Communism can be anything other than a mass democratic society.

jk1921 wrote:
Your issue seems to be that you are not willing to take the ICC at its word...

This is an astoundingly naive statement to make, jk. This is politics, not 'Trust the Priest'.

On the issue of 'power', I've thought of another way of illustrating the question.

'Who holds the keys to the armouries?' If the ICC doesn't, then you will be subjected to the exercise of the power of those who do, that is (hopefully!), the Workers' Councils.

LBird
Consciousness before or after the glorious day?

mhou wrote:
The council form seems to be a necessity born of intense and highly developed class struggle- rooted in joint-strike committees in the context of mass strikes; all of which suggest a tendency for an escalating trajectory of struggle in the forms and content that develop, leading to their creation by the workers (regular workers of all levels of political maturity).
[my bold]

I suppose that I agree with the first part of your statement, mhou, but disagree with the latter. That is, it's a contradictory statemeent.

The more I consider the issue, the more I think that 'highly developed' workers is the objective key to the issue of 'Workers' Councils'. There must be a dominating tendency already in existence within the proletariat of Communist ideas on the formation of those councils. If they are formed by 'regular workers of all levels of political maturity', that is, the conditions of the German Revolution are rerun, then I think that those councils will go down to defeat, whether revolutionary minorities intervene or not. The working class must develop Communist ideas itself, perhaps with the aid and advice of revolutionary organisations.

mhou wrote:
Do councils have to be formed by 'communist workers'?

I suppose that the logic of my position is to answer with an emphatic 'Yes!'.

mhou wrote:
What makes you think that embryonic and proto soviets in the next revolution will be created by communists?

Again, I suppose I don't think it will be a rerun of the Russian or German Revolutions, which involved minorities of Communists. The working class must be moving towards Communist ideas before any revolution can happen.

If Workers' Councils are formed by workers who want  representatives to 'do politics' for them, as opposed to workers who already want to run society themselves, then I think that the objective conditions for Communism don't exist. I think that the process of coming to consciousness must precede the formation of Workers' Councils (for at least a majority, because we all know the real world is messy, and we'll never have 100% proletarian agreement for Communism beforehand).

Is this becoming any clearer?

slothjabber
For clarification's sake

Alf wrote:

It seems to me that there's a third option that Alf didn't refer to, which is to take what's positive from the evolution of the groups of the Communist Left over the last 45 years, but leave behind what isn't positive... But whether that has done by joining and working within the existing organisations, or working with but outside the organisations while seeking to establish new forms, or ignoring them altogether, is an important question. I think my approach is fairly clear, but I think I'm possibly in a minority and a number of self-identified Left Communists do not want to engage with, let alone join, the existing organisations.

...

The 'third option' really smuggles in a fourth. If the third is the one that Sloth is himself following - working with but outside - the fourth is 'ignoring them altogether', which is a very strong tendency within the milieu and needs to be fought vigorously, whether by the organisations themselves, or those like Sloth who are convinced that it is necessary to work with the organisations. 'Ignoring them ' is not a matter of individual taste, it's a political position...

 

baboon wrote:

I generally agree with the postions of Demo and MH above. I don't really understand what Sloth is getting at and don't support his position about the ICC being some sort of "library" - that is an aspect of its existence and work but it's ongoing discussions, their developments and analyses make it much more than that. I'm of the opinion that the existence of revolutionary organisations with platforms and positions is something of a victory for the working class...

....

 

It seems what I thought was my 'clear position' was not so clear at all.

 

I am a symapthiser of both the ICC and the ICT. On some questions I am closer to the ICC, on some I I'm closer to the ICT. That doesn't bother me, I regard myself as part of a tradition called 'Left Communism' - or 'the Communist Left' - that happens at present to be divided into several different organisations. It's not an ideal situation historically but neither is it in the long term an insoluble one I think. I seek to work 'with but outside' both organisations. I distribute the press of both organisations, and try to attend meetings and forums organised by both groups. I'm a member of a discussion forum and both ICC and CWO comrades are invited to our meetings (as are any comrades not in organisations in case any of you are in the English Midlands.

 

My comments about 'libraries' and 'archivists' are about what happens if comrades do ignore the organisations. The 'shipwreck of the 3rd International' is a phrase I use sometimes - the Communist Left was the survivor of the shipwreck and salvaged what it could. AT WORST, the revolutionary organisations have preserved that as a 'treasure chest' to be discovered by a new (possibly yet to be born) generation of revolutionaries. This is the scenario (that I fear may be coming to pass) where those coming to revolutionary positions turn their backs on the existing organisations.

That isn't my view of what should happen, because I absolutely agree with baboon that the existence of the revolutionary organisations is a gain for the working class - though I do think that 'ignoring' does happen, to an extent, and I think that tendency may be increasing. It may be that the gain is lost, because a coming generation of revolutionaries throws out the hard won theoretical baby with all of the dross of organisational bathwater. Or some such.

 

Alf wrote:

...

As far as developing new forms, what does Sloth have in mind? Isn't the party a new form, and something we  - those sections of the proletarian political movement who have the most lucid view of the role of the communist organisation -are already trying to construct? There may be steps on the way (all kinds of physical meetings, for a start) but the party remains the goal, and it will be based on taking what's positive from the actual organisations while overcoming their weaknesses (the real meaning of the word 'aufheben')

 

baboon wrote:

....

I don't understand what this new organisation is that Sloth wants to set up and how would it be any different from present revolutionary elements? Could its motivation be frustration with the present level of class struggle? If it is anything to do with the latter - and we've seen a fair bit of this frustration expressed on here in this regard, then we would do well to remember that this  phase of the economic crisis is very much at its beginnings...

 

It's a good question. I don't honestly know. Frustration? Yes. Displacement because I'm really frustrated about the lack of overt struggle? Maybe. I'll pick that up below. Frustration at seeing a generation of Left Communists (especially in North America, it seems) turn their backs on the existing organisations of the Communist Left? Definitely.

'New forms' meant 'forms not like those we have' - so, at the moment not 'the party', and not a 'new organisation (no) different from existing revolutionary elements'. Any attempt to set another parallel 'International(ist) Communist Organisation' would be a non-starter; I think there are too many groups already, forming more is not the point, working to try to bring about closer co-operation between groups is what I'm aiming for.

 

My position is that it's not 'politics' as such that is the problem, it's 'practice'. Obviously those two are linked. But the formal political positions of the ICC, and the formal political positions of the ICT, 'the Communist Programme', are not such a problem I think to the 'new generation'. So if there's an unwillingness to engage with the existing organisations it's because of some other problem, I'd suggest. If it isn't programmatic, perhaps it's organisational. Perhaps it's the organisational practice of the existing organisations that seems to turn people off - people, let's be clear, who have wide-ranging agreement with the political principles. Essentially, why do people who are sympathetic to Left Communism not want to join the ICC and ICT? Saying 'we've got the wrong sort of sympathisers' (weight of councilism, etc) is not a good enough answer I don't think. The ICC is not perfect and therefore must accept that sometimes the answer is not in the failings of individuals to be convinced, but in the failing of the organisation to convince.

 

baboon wrote:

....

It's something of a diversion to say that the working class is not responding as we think it should to the level of attacks because, in the main, there is absolutely nothing we can do about that except consolidate our own positions. But another point to bear in mind is that the level of attacks from the bourgeoisie on the working class are nothing like they need to be from the former's point of view. The attacks that we are seeing today, as gross as they might appear to us, are nothing compared to what's got to come and I think that it's important that we are clear about this.

I absolutely agree. The working class will need all its wits and resources, all the theoretical and organisational tools it has. Are the theoretical tools sharp enough? Are the organisational tools to hand? I hardly need to say that we need to constantly struggle to be ready for what history throws at us. Consolidating our position is good - but it doesn't mean entrenching our selves on our hilltop. The chaps on the hilltop next to us are fighting the same enemy, indeed there has been some to-ing and fro-ing between our hilltops over the years. Some of us, from this hilltop, and that hilltop, and the dell in between, have been advocating that we build a joint position that encompases both hilltops. Consolidation doesn't necessarily mean a defence of a static position. perhaps we could even mount a simultaneous offensive from both hilltops.

 

Am I frustrated at the lack of class struggle? Yes, certainly. I would have liked to be living in a post-revolutionary society by now, obviously. Does this lead me to unduly criticise revolutionary organisations? Not unduly, I hope. I think criticism of some things is justified. To think otherwise would be to think that the ICC was perfect. Obviously it isn't. Holding onto what seems positive (while monitoring it for changes of situation) and questioning what doesn't seem to work should be the way we approach everything, shouldn't it?

 

LBird wrote:

...

'Who holds the keys to the armouries?' If the ICC doesn't, then you will be subjected to the exercise of the power of those who do, that is (hopefully!), the Workers' Councils.

 

My answer is 'the workers' councils'.

 

 

LBird wrote:

...

mhou wrote:
Do councils have to be formed by 'communist workers'?

I suppose that the logic of my position is to answer with an emphatic 'Yes!'...

 

Isn't that the rankest Leninist substitutionism? Workers form the councils. Not 'communist workers'. They're not party councils. The working class exercises its dictatorship - not the 'communist workers in the working class'. The working class, warts and all. Restricting the councils to 'communist workers' means that the party (even if you don't call it a party - the self-selecting ideological group, eg the ICC) is in fact the one holding the keys to the armoury, contrary to what you just said.

LBird
'Communist' does not mean 'party'

slothjabber wrote:
LBird wrote:
...

'Who holds the keys to the armouries?' If the ICC doesn't, then you will be subjected to the exercise of the power of those who do, that is (hopefully!), the Workers' Councils.

My answer is 'the workers' councils'.

LBird wrote:
...
mhou wrote:
Do councils have to be formed by 'communist workers'?

I suppose that the logic of my position is to answer with an emphatic 'Yes!'...

Isn't that the rankest Leninist substitutionism? Workers form the councils. Not 'communist workers'. They're not party councils. The working class exercises its dictatorship - not the 'communist workers in the working class'. The working class, warts and all. Restricting the councils to 'communist workers' means that the party (even if you don't call it a party - the self-selecting ideological group, eg the ICC) is in fact the one holding the keys to the armoury, contrary to what you just said.

Your simple answer, slothjabber, of "the workers' councils" cuts through the apparently inpenetrable Gordian Knot that seemingly confronts the ICC.

Why can't the ICC give as clear a political answer?

Your latter comment about 'communist workers' makes the common mistake of translating my meaning of 'communist workers' (I mean 'class conscious workers') as though I mean 'party-member workers'. If my explanation is accepted, then my 'communist workers' is synonymous with 'the working class organised in councils'. I can't see workers' councils allowing non-Communists to destroy their work, which they will if permitted (see the Russian and German Revolutions).

My views are premised upon workers becoming class conscious Communists before the setting up of workers' councils. My following view is that if they are not Communist, the workers' councils will fail. As you say, the 'keys to the armouries' will be elsewhere.

The 'keys to the armouries' are in our heads. If workers' councils permit 'parliamentary bourgeois' views to flourish within the councils, then the keys are already in the hands of the ruling class.

slothjabber
definition of consciousness

LBird wrote:
...

Your latter comment about 'communist workers' makes the common mistake of translating my meaning of 'communist workers' (I mean 'class conscious workers') as though I mean 'party-member workers'. If my explanation is accepted, then my 'communist workers' is synonymous with 'the working class organised in councils'. I can't see workers' councils allowing non-Communists to destroy their work, which they will if permitted (see the Russian and German Revolutions).

My views are premised upon workers becoming class conscious Communists before the setting up of workers' councils. My following view is that if they are not Communist, the workers' councils will fail. As you say, the 'keys to the armouries' will be elsewhere.

The 'keys to the armouries' are in our heads. If workers' councils permit 'parliamentary bourgeois' views to flourish within the councils, then the keys are already in the hands of the ruling class.

 

Would 'militant' workers be an acceptible substitute for 'communist' or 'class conscious' in your schema do you think?

If you'd agree to the use of the word militant (not that you have to use it but that it would an approximately synonymous term) then I'd have no real problem with that first paragraph.

 

Workers' councils are organs of struggle. They're not necessarily organs of struggle for (for communism, for a better world, for the future) they can also be organs of struggle against (against deteriorating conditions at work, etc). So in my conception militant (ie struggling) workers form the councils. These workers do not have to be 'communists' because I don't see consciousness being this thing that workers acquire like a vaccination (delivered by specialists?). Class consciousness, socialist conscious, is something workers develop, through experience (like muscles). It is through exercising power in the workers' councils thagt communist consciousness is generalised. It's not a one-by-one-by-one enlightenment (as I think the SPGB for instance would have it) but a collective process of coming to consciousness. And this occurs during the course of the class struggle not as a preceeding moment.
 

LBird
What counts as 'class struggle'?

slothjabber wrote:
Would 'militant' workers be an acceptible substitute for 'communist' or 'class conscious' in your schema do you think?

If you'd agree to the use of the word militant (not that you have to use it but that it would an approximately synonymous term) then I'd have no real problem with that first paragraph.

slothjabber, I'm desperate to agree with someone round here, mate!

But... yes, you've guessed it, I can't, I'm afraid.

I would use 'militant' for workers who want to fight against something, and use 'communist' for workers who want to fight for something. So, according to 'my schema', I think, if Workers' Councils were populated by mere 'militant' workers (wanting, eg., higher wages, lower hours, etc.), I think they'd be on a hiding to nothing. 'Reaction' will willingly invite 'the militant' in through its front door, on the pretence of 'good neighbourly-ness'. But in the parlour, the now higher-paid and shorter-week (but disarmed) militant will meet a fiercer breed.

slothjabber wrote:
Workers' councils are organs of struggle. They're not necessarily organs of struggle for (for communism, for a better world, for the future)...

Yeah, this is definitely where we differ, at the moment.

slothjabber wrote:
These workers do not have to be 'communists' because I don't see consciousness being this thing that workers acquire like a vaccination (delivered by specialists?). Class consciousness, socialist conscious, is something workers develop, through experience (like muscles).

I agree, 'develop' not 'acquire', but I think consciousness will have to have already developed from workers experiences, reflections and thinking (aided by existing Communists), within capitalism before the emergence of Workers' Councils.

A Workers' Council developing without this will be like a toddler getting out the garden gate and heading towards the busy road. We Communists should advise keeping the gate shut until the we infants can understand the nature of the world. Of course, we could always hold the hand of the nice Scientist, and trust to his kindness, the genial Dr. Mengele...

slothjabber wrote:
It is through exercising power in the workers' councils that communist consciousness is generalised. It's not a one-by-one-by-one enlightenment (as I think the SPGB for instance would have it) but a collective process of coming to consciousness. And this occurs during the course of the class struggle not as a preceeding moment.
[my bold]

No, not 'one-by-one', but it is an individual decision, hopefully collectively aided by experiences and comrades.

But when is 'the course of the class struggle'? Before or after the emergence of Workers' Councils? I say 'before'.

jk1921
Impasse

LBird wrote:

Well, jk, if you think 'science' can ever trump 'democracy', we have very different conceptions of Communism. Mine is a Communism of the masses, yours appears to be a Communism of experts. I'm not using 'Leninism' as an insult, but as an attempt to label the discredited notion that Communism can be anything other than a mass democratic society.

More straw-men, I'm afraid. Nobody is arguing for a "communism of the experts" (whatever that means).

LBird wrote:

This is an astoundingly naive statement to make, jk. This is politics, not 'Trust the Priest'.

Well, then there appears to be nothing the ICC can do to allay your fears. Whatever words come out of its mouth won't be taken seriously and there will constantly be a lingering fear of "Leninism" reering its ugly head. There does seem to be a genuine impasse. Is there anything the ICC can do to satisfy you that it is not Leninist? Can you at least believe in giving it the benefit of the doubt?

LBird
Fair offer?

jk1921 wrote:
There does seem to be a genuine impasse. Is there anything the ICC can do to satisfy you that it is not Leninist? Can you at least believe in giving it the benefit of the doubt?

No, no 'giving it the benefit of the doubt', I'm afraid, jk.

The solution is that the ICC says that 'the keys to the armouries' will be held by the Workers' Councils.

Then, every member of the ICC will know that the ICC will expel/arrest/shoot (depend on circumstance) any member in the future who suggests that the ICC should take those keys from the Workers' Councils.

This is tantamount to the ICC accepting that the ICC can legitimately be disbanded/re-structured/re-policy-ed by Workers' Councils, who hold the power to determine its own class organisations.

If they make that statement, I'll be satisfied that it's not Leninist. I can't say fairer than that, can I, jk?

jk1921
OK

LBird wrote:

jk1921 wrote:
There does seem to be a genuine impasse. Is there anything the ICC can do to satisfy you that it is not Leninist? Can you at least believe in giving it the benefit of the doubt?

No, no 'giving it the benefit of the doubt', I'm afraid, jk.

The solution is that the ICC says that 'the keys to the armouries' will be held by the Workers' Councils.

Then, every member of the ICC will know that the ICC will expel/arrest/shoot (depend on circumstance) any member in the future who suggests that the ICC should take those keys from the Workers' Councils.

This is tantamount to the ICC accepting that the ICC can legitimately be disbanded/re-structured/re-policy-ed by Workers' Councils, who hold the power to determine its own class organisations.

If they make that statement, I'll be satisfied that it's not Leninist. I can't say fairer than that, can I, jk?

I think the ICC has said time and again that power lies with the councils, or haven't they? But I don't think they would necessarily expel anyone who would suggest otherwise--wouldn't this violate freedom of speech and freedom of thought? "Freedom is always freedom for those who think differently"?--RL. Or are there some ideas that are too dangerous to tolerate? Here is one of the essential problems with democracy--who decides which ideas are acceptable and which ones aren't? The majority? But we know from history that majorities are often wrong.

Moreover, if the ICC doesn't hold power how can it arrest or shoot anyone? Finally, I really hope the "shooting" would be kept to an absolute minimum in any future revolution and it would be better if it didn't happen at all.

LBird
Shooting or asking?

jk1921 wrote:
I think the ICC has said time and again that power lies with the councils, or haven't they?

But Lenin said 'all power to the soviets', just before the Bolsheviks destroyed them. He lied. I'm afraid workers like me need the reassurance of a clear policy that all members of the organisation are clear about from the start. The acceptance that weapons will not be in the hands of the organisation, but in the hands of workers. So clear a policy that any suggestion of 'disbanding' soviets will be met by violent action by the membership against the member suggesting it, even if he is named Vladimir.

jk1921 wrote:
But I don't think they would expel anyone who would suggest otherwise--wouldn't this violate freedom of speech and freedom of thought? "Freedom is always freedom for those who think differently"?--RL.

This sounds like Liberalism, jk? It certainly needs discussing, because I'm not having any Fascists in my Workers' Council!

jk1921 wrote:
Moreover, if the ICC doesn't hold power how can it arrest or shoot anyone?

If it has arms, it has power. No matter what the pretence that 'honest, we won't use them on workers!'.

jk1921 wrote:
Finally, I really hope the "shooting" would be kept to an absolute minimum in any future revolution and it would be better if it didn't happen at all.

Well, I'd like to think the later Marx was right, and the bourgeoisie will see the light and hand over power to us, but I have my doubts.

It might involve shootings by the millions, unfortunately. Let's hope not, but class war will be nasty, I think. Look at the experience of the workers and peasants during the reaction after 1936 in Spain. It continued for decades, with tens of thousands shot after the war. We have to prevent that, with force, if necessary. I'm a Communist, not a pacifist.

I think the figures show that now, every day, 22,000 babies die on this planet from preventable diseases and lack of basic needs. If we only shoot 20,000 reactionaries a day, the human race will be saving lives.

There's obviously an element of rhetoric to what I've written, but I think you should seriously  consider the issue of 'revolutionary violence' and its unavoidable necessity.

jk1921
Revolutionary Process

LBird wrote:

But Lenin said 'all power to the soviets', just before the Bolsheviks destroyed them. He lied. I'm afraid workers like me need the reassurance of a clear policy that all members of the organisation are clear about from the start. The acceptance that weapons will not be in the hands of the organisation, but in the hands of workers. So clear a policy that any suggestion of 'disbanding' soviets will be met by violent action by the membership against the member suggesting it, even if he is named Vladimir.

How can the party disband the soviets? If all power lies in the soviets, then it would seem no party would be able to simply take it away without meeting stern resistance. I think the reality of what happened in Russia was much more complex than it seems you appreciate, LBird. Yes, it is true the Bolsheviks had a mistaken substitutionist legacy--but does this alone explain the failure of the revolution? This seems simplistic. It would seem that if the party is in a position to substitute itself for the soviets, then there are deeper problems with the revolution than this or that mistaken theoretical conception of this or that party. So in a sense, party rule was a symptom rather than a cause of the revolution's demise. I suppose you won't find this very convincing, however.

LBird wrote:

This sounds like Liberalism, jk? It certainly needs discussing, because I'm not having any Fascists in my Workers' Council!

It also sounds like Rosa Luxemburg, because that is indeed a quote from Rosa Luxemburg. Were there no fascists in the workers councils during the German Revolution? I bet there were. Or maybe it is better to say "workers under the influence of fascist ideas." Shouldn't the orientation towards these elements be to convince them, rather than to extirpate them?

LBird wrote:

If it has arms, it has power. No matter what the pretence that 'honest, we won't use them on workers!'.

I have never met an armed ICC member (other than one armed with theory), but I don't rule out that there may be one or two who enjoy a good duck hunt now and again.

LBird wrote:

I think the figures show that now, every day, 22,000 babies die on this planet from preventable diseases and lack of basic needs. If we only shoot 20,000 reactionaries a day, the human race will be saving lives.

Interesting you would make this argument. Barrington Moore used to make a similar one in order to excuse---wait for it---Stalinism. Its also the same argument the "democratic" powers use to justify their various military excursions, usually involving catchy phrases like "bombing people into modernity for their own good"

Your position on this seems a stark contradiction to your statements elsewhere. The party can't force the working class to do anything; yet we are supposed to shoot the reationaries into submission? How many of those "reactionaries" are workers? Today, large parts of the working class are under the influence of reationary ideologies--is this all going to go away the moment workers' councils emerge? It does seem you see it that way with your idea that class consciousness must preceed the councils. Of course, if this were the case--it seems the revolution would be a rather straight forward affair; there would be no real revolutionary process. Once the councils emerge the matter is settled, but then it would seem there would be little reason to shoot anyone or fear a take over of power by the party.

mhou
I'd assume that all

I'd assume that all communists have combined into the party by the time of the next revolutionary crisis; unless you think the ICC is some kind of deep entrist Bakuninite 'Alliance for Social Democracy' that is setting up moles and spies and gangsters into neonatal communist groups for the purpose of taking total power on the backs of the working class (and have been conspiring to do this since before the ICC was formed) when the party is eventually formed and the revolution is successful.

Quote:
It might involve shootings by the millions, unfortunately. Let's hope not, but class war will be nasty, I think. Look at the experience of the workers and peasants during the reaction after 1936 in Spain. It continued for decades, with tens of thousands shot after the war. We have to prevent that, with force, if necessary. I'm a Communist, not a pacifist.

So it's ok for you to have arms in a revolution, but even though no one suggested (in any way) that a revolutionary organization have a monopoly of arms, you think the ICC will at some point have a monopoly of arms to forcibly disband soviets (after spending decades promoting the soviet form- for what purpose?).

You seem to be granting Lenin magical powers. Not much different from those who blame Thatcher for the decline of living standards, busting the unions, etc.

Workers didn't need specialists to tell them how and why to set up joint-strike committees, worker's councils, elect delegates from amongst themselves, organize production and distribution during wide mass strikes (approaching mass-general strikes), inter-firm committees, geographic committees, etc.

You're right that it's not going to be a re-run of 1917, 1936 or 1956 or 1968 or 1980; so why do you think the kinds of historic-specific events that accompanied past revolutions will happen for sure next time?

slothjabber
communism and consciousness

LBird wrote:

slothjabber wrote:
Would 'militant' workers be an acceptible substitute for 'communist' or 'class conscious' in your schema do you think?

If you'd agree to the use of the word militant (not that you have to use it but that it would an approximately synonymous term) then I'd have no real problem with that first paragraph.

slothjabber, I'm desperate to agree with someone round here, mate!

But... yes, you've guessed it, I can't, I'm afraid.

I would use 'militant' for workers who want to fight against something, and use 'communist' for workers who want to fight for something. So, according to 'my schema', I think, if Workers' Councils were populated by mere 'militant' workers (wanting, eg., higher wages, lower hours, etc.), I think they'd be on a hiding to nothing. 'Reaction' will willingly invite 'the militant' in through its front door, on the pretence of 'good neighbourly-ness'. But in the parlour, the now higher-paid and shorter-week (but disarmed) militant will meet a fiercer breed...

 

The consciousness of individual or groups of workers is not fixed. If workers are 'mere' (really?) 'militant' workers struggling against the attacks of capitalism they will be defeated. But there is no possibility that 'mere' 'militant' workers can raise themselves up by their own bootstraps to become 'communists' and struggle 'for'? Are they different workers, these 'mere' 'militants' and the 'communists'? Or are they the same workers at different times and in different circumstances?

LBird wrote:
slothjabber wrote:
Workers' councils are organs of struggle. They're not necessarily organs of struggle for (for communism, for a better world, for the future)...

Yeah, this is definitely where we differ, at the moment.

slothjabber wrote:
These workers do not have to be 'communists' because I don't see consciousness being this thing that workers acquire like a vaccination (delivered by specialists?). Class consciousness, socialist conscious, is something workers develop, through experience (like muscles).

I agree, 'develop' not 'acquire', but I think consciousness will have to have already developed from workers experiences, reflections and thinking (aided by existing Communists), within capitalism before the emergence of Workers' Councils...

 

"It's turtles all the way down!"

There are pre-existing 'communst workers'. Where do they get their 'developed' class consciousness from? From their experiences. So, in any group of workers there will be some (perhaps as few as none, never less, often more) who are already communists. But they are not 'perfect communists' because any class-consciousness (any form of counsciousness) can never be total. Their own consciousness is always developing.

 

When workers discuss and generalise their experiences, they can quite independently of any other communists come to the same conclusions - so it's not actually necessary for '(pre-)existing communists' to aid in the process. But it is necessary for workers to discuss their situation and what they ant to do about it in order to form a workers' council. A workers' council does not form 'spontaneously' (in that without prior communication workers independently decide that they'll meet). It is formed because workers decide in small groups that they'll call a meeting. No communists need be involved. But do 'communists' (those who struggle for) need to be involved? No, it could be entirely 'militants' (those who struggle against). Are these fixed positions? Of course not. Those who struggle against, and form a workers' council, can find in the course of the struggle that they develop a perspective of struggling for. In my conception, the struggle moves from a defensive struggle to an offensive struggle through the process of struggling. In your conception, some 'militants' become 'communists' and change what they're doing.

 

LBird wrote:
...

A Workers' Council developing without this will be like a toddler getting out the garden gate and heading towards the busy road. We Communists should advise keeping the gate shut until the we infants can understand the nature of the world. Of course, we could always hold the hand of the nice Scientist, and trust to his kindness, the genial Dr. Mengele...

 

So are you saying it 'can't or it 'shouldn't'? I'm not sure. If it's 'can't' I think history proves you wrong. The working class is entirely capable of setting up defensive councils. If it's 'shouldn't', who is it exactly telling the working class that it 'shouldn't' struggle? Is it the political organisation?

LBird wrote:
...
slothjabber wrote:
It is through exercising power in the workers' councils that communist consciousness is generalised. It's not a one-by-one-by-one enlightenment (as I think the SPGB for instance would have it) but a collective process of coming to consciousness. And this occurs during the course of the class struggle not as a preceeding moment.
[my bold]

No, not 'one-by-one', but it is an individual decision, hopefully collectively aided by experiences and comrades.

But when is 'the course of the class struggle'? Before or after the emergence of Workers' Councils? I say 'before'.

 

More turtles, sadly. There is always class struggle; some workers become communists by reflecting on those struggles and some do not. The bigger the struggles and the bigger and more profound the learning of lessons and reflection and discussion of those lessons, the more communists there will be (in either my sense of 'communists' or your sense of 'communists').

When the class struggle reaches a critical point (attacks are particularly severe; enough other workers' councils have been formed; enough contact between the perhaps small existing number of workers' councils has been established - I don't know what the catalyst is, it may even be the intervention of 'communists', but anyway 'at some point in the process') the workers will move from a 'defensive' position to an 'offensive' position.

But your conception can't make enough 'communists' in order to reach the critical mass necessary, I don't think (the ruling ideas of any epoch being the ideas of the ruling class and all). If commitment to communism is an 'individual decision' not a social development then it can't succeed in capitalism, and it can't 'make communism' in ordrer to make communists to make communism... 'making communists' is not the answer. 'Communists' don't make a revolution, I'd argue; rather, a revolution makes communists. The revolution will be made by a working class that is not communist; not wholly so, possibly not even majorly so, in the beginning. It will be made by a working class that includes communists; but many workers will not be, even when the decisions are taken to move from the defensive to the offensive. Your definition of 'communist' seems to be 'one who sees the necessity for the overthrow of the existing system' but I think there's more to it than that. Those who see the necessity of overthrowing the existing system are small in number now; they may grow (impossible to have a revolution without them growing) but they won't necessarily become communists. If they do it'll be because of the discussions and reflections that they collectively take part in, I think.

 

LBird wrote:

... I'm not having any Fascists in my Workers' Council!

 

Who are you to stop them? It's a workers' council. It's open to all workers. It's not a party council. No organisation gets to decide who isn't in or out of a council. Workers are workers are workers, fascist, communist of buddhist. These are not political groups that can police their membership and select on political creteria. You work at Factory A and you are a part of Factory A workers' council. You work at Office B and you are part of a Office B workers' council.

LBird wrote:
jk1921 wrote:
Moreover, if the ICC doesn't hold power how can it arrest or shoot anyone?

If it has arms, it has power. No matter what the pretence that 'honest, we won't use them on workers!'...

 

Why do you think the ICC has arms? The workers' councils have the monopoly of arms. Even the fascists in the workers' councils.

LBird
The fundamental question

Well, as I've prediced a number of times on different threads, it's all come back to the issue of 'consciousness'.

We should focus the discussion on that particular problem, because I think that the stance taken on 'consciousness' will detemine the later positions taken on Workers' Councils, their composition, origins, power, openness, freedoms allowed, and the political organisation and its structures and policies, its relationship to Workers' Councils, its power, who controls 'the keys to the armouries', the proletariat and its development (how, who and when) and its potential abilities (or lack of), Communism and its composition, emergence, strength and differences from individualism, the role of specialists like scientists, etc., etc.

Does it require another thread? Will someone from the ICC lead the discussion?

Or has everyone had enough?

I think one thing should be borne in mind by supporters of the ICC. Most workers coming to these forums, like me, will have been in at least one 'Leninist' organisation, so we are already familiar with the standard defences of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Indeed, most of us have used those very arguments ourselves in the past, during our defence of Lenin when engaged in these issues! Yet, we have now rejected those arguments, partially through further reading of anti-Bolshevik histories (to complement our earlier study of pro-Bolshevik literature), and partially through our own personal experience of 'parties' and central committees. We have been innoculated!

In a nutshell, Stalin is rooted in Lenin. Yes, yes, I know... historical circumstances, shortages, starvation, failure of the German Revolution, Mensheviks, Anarchists, Makhno, fourteen interventionist armies, dissolution of the Russian proletariat, Civil War, NEPmen, 'What is to be Done' must be situated within its times and the contemporary political debates, troublemaking dissenters like me...

...anyone or anything, rather than blame Lenin. He was wrong on 'consciousness'. Both times. All three times. Even on the version I haven't yet heard.

Fred
I would like a thread on

I would like a thread on consciousness too, LBird. Perhaps an ICC comrade could start us off as you suggest. About Lenin.  He wasn't wrong on consciousness  when he saw what an advance for consciousness the soviets were, was he LBird, and declaimed all power to the soviets? Not all power to the party - surely the class via their soviets, in discovering the form of working class political power, were in advance of the party at that moment? - nor all power to the party plus the soviets; no, just all power to the soviets. He saw at that moment what perhaps even the soviets themselves had not yet fully, consciously, understood - that they were the at last discovered form of working class rule. But perhaps he was lying and being a Machiavellian old Leninist himself, just as some comrades suspect. Perhaps he was really already considering his"seizure of power" and the eventual perpetuation of his name in LENINISM  that great  distortion of his name, so ardently pursued by all the radical RED leftist bourgeois cliques that seek to distort communism. And yes, Stalinism is rooted in Lenin. Not in Lenin's fight for proletarian victory, but in Lenin's, the Bolshevik's, and the whole revolutionary failure of that epoch, and the birth of Stalinism/Leninism as the substitute for what was almost achieved at that time, the seizure of some political power by the working class. 

LBird
The life and times of Lenin

fred wrote:
And yes, Stalinism is rooted in Lenin. Not in Lenin's fight for proletarian victory, but in Lenin's, the Bolshevik's, and the whole revolutionary failure of that epoch, and the birth of Stalinism/Leninism as the substitute for what was almost achieved at that time, the seizure of some political power by the working class.

No, not in "the whole revolutionary failure of that epoch".

In Leninism.

I, like probably hundreds of thousands of workers in the last 50 years, have joined Leninist parties. We didn't live in an epoch of revolutionary failure. That's a smokescreen. The same 'substitutionism' happened, every time.

It can't be a coincidence. It happens in every epoch. There is something wrong with the concept of the Bolshevik Party, and it's rooted in Lenin's conception of 'consciousness'.

fred wrote:
But perhaps he was lying and being a Machiavellian old Leninist himself, just as some comrades suspect. Perhaps he was really already considering his"seizure of power" and the eventual perpetuation of his name in LENINISM...

No, he was wrong in his theoretical formulations. No conspiracy, no foresight... just wrong.

He was a man who lived a hundred years ago in a backward society. He was formed by his society.

But we have to move on.

Workers can smell religious fervour, and it's off-putting.

slothjabber
what is Leninism?

LBird wrote:

fred wrote:
And yes, Stalinism is rooted in Lenin. Not in Lenin's fight for proletarian victory, but in Lenin's, the Bolshevik's, and the whole revolutionary failure of that epoch, and the birth of Stalinism/Leninism as the substitute for what was almost achieved at that time, the seizure of some political power by the working class.

No, not in "the whole revolutionary failure of that epoch".

In Leninism...

 

Leninism... is rooted in Leninism?

Yet again with the turtles all the way down.

What is 'Leninism'? My own view is that it's everything Lenin was wrong about, neatly packaged to be a new creed for Russian state capitalism. Was Lenin wrong about many things? Yes. Was he wrong about everything? No. Could the soviets have made 'the revolution' work in an isolated Russia? No. Is the isolation the only mechanism at work in the degeneration of the revolution in Russia? No. Is it the overriding factor? Yes.

 

LBird wrote:

I, like probably hundreds of thousands of workers in the last 50 years, have joined Leninist parties. We didn't live in an epoch of revolutionary failure. That's a smokescreen. The same 'substitutionism' happened, every time...

 

Yes, you did live in an epoch of revolutionary failure. Whether or not parties were substitutionist doesn't change the fact that you have lived in an epoch of revolutionary failure.

Evidence: no successful revolution.

 

LBird wrote:
...

It can't be a coincidence. It happens in every epoch. There is something wrong with the concept of the Bolshevik Party, and it's rooted in Lenin's conception of 'consciousness'...

It can't be a coincidence that no-one has ever seen a barnacle goose chick, and that barnacles have feathers. Maybe geese are really fish?

As no revolution has succeeded in overthrowing capitalism, all revolutions have necessarily failed. Does that mean revolution is impossible?

I'm not disagreeing that there are problems with 'consciousness' but the linking of 'problem of consciousness' to 'parties are substitutionist' is a logical leap too far. Are there no 'material conditions' that might explain why revolutionary waves have failed in the past? Honestly, what you're proposing just looks like idealism to me.

 

 

LBird wrote:
...

fred wrote:
But perhaps he was lying and being a Machiavellian old Leninist himself, just as some comrades suspect. Perhaps he was really already considering his"seizure of power" and the eventual perpetuation of his name in LENINISM...

No, he was wrong in his theoretical formulations. No conspiracy, no foresight... just wrong...

 

Right, I agree; he had some very wrong ideas about process (eg the idea shared by pretty much the entire IInd Int that the party took power on behalf of the working class) and he was making stuff up in a new situation. Some of what he said is useful and some isn't.

 

LBird
What did Lenin say?

Lenin, July 1919, wrote:
When we are reproached with having established a dictatorship of one party and, as you have heard, a united socialist front is proposed, we say, “Yes, it is a dictatorship of one party! This is what we stand for and we shall not shift from that position because it is the party that has won, in the course of decades, the position of vanguard of the entire factory and industrial proletariat. This party had won that position even before the revolution of 1905. It is the party that was at the head of the workers in 1905 and which since then—even at the time of the reaction after 1905 when the working-class movement was rehabilitated with such difficulty under the Stolypin Duma—merged with the working class and it alone could lead that class to a profound, fundamental change in the old society.
[my bold]

V. I. Lenin, “Speech at the First All-Russia Congress of Workers in Education and Socialist Culture,” in Collected Works, vol. 29 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1965), 535.

I know, I know… ‘you don’t understand the political context’, ‘it was mere political rhetoric’, ‘he was misquoted’, ‘he had to hide his true views’, ‘it was dialectical thinking’…

slothjabber
really, no...

LBird wrote:

Lenin, July 1919, wrote:
When we are reproached with having established a dictatorship of one party and, as you have heard, a united socialist front is proposed, we say, “Yes, it is a dictatorship of one party! This is what we stand for and we shall not shift from that position because it is the party that has won, in the course of decades, the position of vanguard of the entire factory and industrial proletariat. This party had won that position even before the revolution of 1905. It is the party that was at the head of the workers in 1905 and which since then—even at the time of the reaction after 1905 when the working-class movement was rehabilitated with such difficulty under the Stolypin Duma—merged with the working class and it alone could lead that class to a profound, fundamental change in the old society.
[my bold]

V. I. Lenin, “Speech at the First All-Russia Congress of Workers in Education and Socialist Culture,” in Collected Works, vol. 29 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1965), 535.

I know, I know… ‘you don’t understand the political context’, ‘it was mere political rhetoric’, ‘he was misquoted’, ‘he had to hide his true views’, ‘it was dialectical thinking’…

 

Really, no.

 

slothjabber wrote:

...

What is 'Leninism'? My own view is that it's everything Lenin was wrong about, neatly packaged to be a new creed for Russian state capitalism. Was Lenin wrong about many things? Yes.

 

... I agree; he had some very wrong ideas about process ... Some of what he said is useful and some isn't.

 

Lenin was wrong about some things. Possibly many things. The role of the party in the dictatorship, for example. It wasn't '...the political context' (except in so far as everyone else in the IInd Int was wrong as well); it wasn't 'political rhetoric', he wasn't 'misquoted', he didn't have to 'hide his true views' and it wasn't 'dialectical thinking'. Lenin was wrong that the role of the revolutionary organisation is to take state power. The party does not represent the working class. It cannot substitute itself for the working class. Lenin was wrong.

 

I hope that's suitably unambiguous.

 

However: even had Lenin and the Bolsheviks pushed to build a party-state machine the revolution in Russia would still have failed to acheive socialism as socialism in one country is not possible. Lenin and the Bolsheviks presided over the shape of the revolution's decline, not the fact of that decline.

LBird
Support slipping away

slothjabber wrote:
Lenin was wrong that the role of the revolutionary organisation is to take state power. The party does not represent the working class. It cannot substitute itself for the working class. Lenin was wrong.

I hope that's suitably unambiguous.

Thanks for that, slothjabber. Totally unambiguous, on role, representation, and substitution.

But what about 'consciousness'?

slothjabber wrote:
Lenin and the Bolsheviks presided over the shape of the revolution's decline, not the fact of that decline.

But the 'fact' was predicted beforehand by many Marxists, including the Mensheviks. Not least, because of Lenin's ideas on 'consciousness'.

And since then, all Leninist parties have alienated the working class.

My personal experience backs this up.

The personal experiences of friends and acquaintances who've spoken to me back this up.

The numerous accounts from comrades in books and on the internet back this up.

Rooting through historical events and texts won't change these experiences.

To me and many others, Lenin's ideas about consciousness are indefensible. Why would the ICC persist in alienating potential supporters? Why do so many workers join and then leave these parties when they find that they don't control the party that they've joined?

It's a mystery to me, comrade. Perhaps workers are thick, and don't understand their role in the revolutionary process. I daresay that I'm one of them.

KT
What did L Bird Say?

 

“I won't get into a bout of 'quote-mongering', because we both know that anything can be proved with a judicious quote” (L Bird March 15, post 45, Party and Its Relationship to Class thread.”

But in truth, it’s hard not to have a full-blown discussion without quoting this or that ‘authority’ so L Bird’s ‘quote mongering’ from Lenin is fine afaic.

Better than that: it takes us to the full, short text which I really rather liked. In it, apart from an excellent dissection of bourgeois ‘right’ taken straight from Marx, there was a well-made point on ‘freedom’ of the (bourgeois) press and a forceful argument for why the proletariat in 1919 should not align itself with the Mensheviks or Social Revolutionaries (the real content of the “shocking” phrase about one-party dictatorship).

As for “Lenin’s position on consciousness”, I would hold no revolutionary liable for statements made in 1903, before the first mass strikes; before the 1905 revolution in Russia, before WW1 and the betrayal of social democracy, and before 1917, than I would hold Lenin to account for every word of ‘What is to be Done’ or ‘One Step Forward...’. (1)

L Bird writes: “Lenin's ideas about consciousness are indefensible.” But which ideas, and when? Only the factory proletariat that is capable of leading the peasant masses that are not class-conscious can be the leader, the vanguard, of the working people in this struggle (Lenin, “Speech at the First All-Russia Congress of Workers in Education and Socialist Culture,” in Collected Works, vol. 29 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1965), 535. - the same speech as quoted by L Bird. The preceding paragraph, in fact!

In a ‘pre-emptive strike’, L Bird mocks the idea that arguments should be put in the context of their time (“I know, I know… ‘you don’t understand the political context’, ‘it was mere political rhetoric’, ‘he was misquoted’, ‘he had to hide his true views’, ‘it wasdialectical thinking.” But there’s certain desperation in this line of ‘argument’. Without context, for example, we’d have to condemn the 1848 Communist Manifesto for the concrete demands it makes at the end which today have little to do with the communist project.

As others have said, the ICC does not tolerate or promote the idea of a party which takes power ‘on behalf’ of the working class, nor the notion of one which “brings consciousness to it”. That’s been the case since its formation over 40 years ago. But the ICC insists that no proletarian revolution can be successful without the formation of a world party, without the input of that organised part of the proletariat which has seen ‘the general line of march’ in advance of its comrades and which defends concrete propositions within the generalised struggles of the workers. If that makes them “Leninists” in your eyes, so be it.

I suspect the disagreements between L Bird and the ICC and its ilk run a lot further than the question of communist consciousness. For me, the rejection by L Bird of the Russian and German revolutions as authentic experiences of the working class – as attempts by the proletariat to conquer power as a moment towards the world revolution – is just as big a gulf. Hopefully we will continue to discuss all aspects.

(1) Further context for What is to be Done here: https://en.internationalism.org/ir/96/leninists

 

mhou
Quote:Well, as I've prediced

Quote:
Well, as I've prediced a number of times on different threads, it's all come back to the issue of 'consciousness'.

There shouldn't be a need to start another thread- this thread was originally about consciousness, based on an article developed as a response to earlier threads on consciousness. I don't know why a 'Leninism or Lenin?' is related to that- since the models of consciousness being discussed (subterranean maturation of consciousness) is in opposition to both the Kautsky-Lenin schema and the councilist conceptions of consciousness. I'd be delighted if you would go into your vision of the councilist conception of consciousness in a more comprehensive fashion- since that is one of the only other views defended (I don't know if anyone has defended the Kautsky-Lenin schema of consciousness on the forum, at least lately).

d-man
I defend the "Kautsky-Lenin

I defend the "Kautsky-Lenin schema" (remember it was put forward against Austrian revisionists' belief in automatic 'teleologic' way of class struggle to socialism, so by rejecting it you unwittingly side with opportunism). I don't know if it is a left-communist tradition to reject the schema (would be interesting to look for precedents). I know it was rejected by Trotsky, and the SWP rejects it as well. ICT (CWO then) defended it in a polemic with ICC. Lenin already in WITBD itself responds to the demagogic outcry about the "carrying consciousness from the outside" (which is a historic fact, Marx and Engels were not proletarians, they read and critiqued classical political economy). Note also that nobody has actually read Kautsky's original article.

slothjabber
again on leninism

LBird wrote:

slothjabber wrote:
Lenin was wrong that the role of the revolutionary organisation is to take state power. The party does not represent the working class. It cannot substitute itself for the working class. Lenin was wrong.

I hope that's suitably unambiguous.

Thanks for that, slothjabber. Totally unambiguous, on role, representation, and substitution.

But what about 'consciousness'?...

 

I'm not sure what parts in what you quoted in that excerpt from Lenin relate to consciousness, so I'm not sure I can really offer an opinion on the question.

 

LBird wrote:

slothjabber wrote:
Lenin and the Bolsheviks presided over the shape of the revolution's decline, not the fact of that decline.

But the 'fact' was predicted beforehand by many Marxists, including the Mensheviks. Not least, because of Lenin's ideas on 'consciousness'...

 

But the medieval monks demonstrated geese were fish. Not least, because barnacles have feathers.

 

Are you claiming that, if Lenin's ideas on 'consciousness' were different, then the revolution in Russia would (could, should) have been successful? Are you claiming socialism in one country is possible if people just have different ideas about it? If different circumstanceshad pertained in Russia in 1917 (no Lenin, or a different Lenin, or no Bolsheviks, or Bolsheviks pursuing different policies), could a revolution isolated there have established a socialist society?

 

A revolution that is isolated will degenerate. That degeneration is perhaps slowed or accelerated by the policies of the revolutionary power. But it is the inevitable result of the failure of the revolution. A revolution cannot be both succesful, and unsuccesful, art the same time (not when you're measuring by the same criteria anyway).

LBird wrote:

...

And since then, all Leninist parties have alienated the working class.

My personal experience backs this up.

The personal experiences of friends and acquaintances who've spoken to me back this up.

The numerous accounts from comrades in books and on the internet back this up. ..

 

But, the experience of other workers goes against this. There are more 'Leninists' than Left Comms plus Council Comms in the world. There are probably more 'Leninists' in Britain than there are Left Comms plus Council Comms in the whole world. This isn't even empiricism here, it's just anecdote.

 

LBird wrote:

...Rooting through historical events and texts won't change these experiences.

To me and many others, Lenin's ideas about consciousness are indefensible. Why would the ICC persist in alienating potential supporters? ...

 

Which ideas do you find objectionable?

 

LBird wrote:
...

Why do so many workers join and then leave these parties when they find that they don't control the party that they've joined?

It's a mystery to me, comrade. Perhaps workers are thick, and don't understand their role in the revolutionary process. I daresay that I'm one of them.

 

Which parties? I don't see workers flocking to the ICC only to leave, burmed out or dissillusioned.

Workers don't understand that their 'role' in the revolutionary process is to make the revolution? I think that's self-evident, given that they haven't done so.

jk1921
Councilist Vision

mhou wrote:

Quote:
Well, as I've prediced a number of times on different threads, it's all come back to the issue of 'consciousness'.

I agree. This is a thread on consciousness.

mhou wrote:

There shouldn't be a need to start another thread- this thread was originally about consciousness, based on an article developed as a response to earlier threads on consciousness. I don't know why a 'Leninism or Lenin?' is related to that- since the models of consciousness being discussed (subterranean maturation of consciousness) is in opposition to both the Kautsky-Lenin schema and the councilist conceptions of consciousness. I'd be delighted if you would go into your vision of the councilist conception of consciousness in a more comprehensive fashion- since that is one of the only other views defended (I don't know if anyone has defended the Kautsky-Lenin schema of consciousness on the forum, at least lately).

Here is another quote from the GIC's "The Rise of a New Labor Movement" (1935):

"So long as only isolated groups sporadically here and there set about, through serious study, making themselves acquainted with the movement of social forces, so long the importance of this work does not directly strike the view. But as soon as they become more general, when they form a consciously widepsread movement, when work groups arise everywhere for the purpose of imparting to the workers the true (scientific) insght into the social process of life; then the picture is alterted. Their task is then no longer small and modest, but gigantic and all mastering. In the work groups, the working class has then shaped itself the instrument with which it masters the social forces."

OK, so the work groups (the GIC's alternative to the party) are a product of the working class. But they are not the working class as a whole. They are small isolated groups whose work does not "directly strike the view." They only acquire an "importance" within the broader struggles of the class when the social situation reaches a certain level in which the work groups multiply. Still, their task is to "impart" science to the rest of the working class. Therefore, the organization is a kind of reservoir of science (Marxism), which only resonates with the working class when the struggle reaches a certain fever pitch.

Other than the obvious capitualtions to federalism, decentralization, etc. its not entirely clear how this conception actually differs actually from the ICC's, as I understand it. Of course, it is totally unclear what it means to "impart" science to the rest of the working class. How exactly, does one "impart" something?

mhou
consciousness

d-man wrote:

I defend the "Kautsky-Lenin schema" (remember it was put forward against Austrian revisionists' belief in automatic 'teleologic' way of class struggle to socialism, so by rejecting it you unwittingly side with opportunism). I don't know if it is a left-communist tradition to reject the schema (would be interesting to look for precedents). I know it was rejected by Trotsky, and the SWP rejects it as well. ICT (CWO then) defended it in a polemic with ICC. Lenin already in WITBD itself responds to the demagogic outcry about the "carrying consciousness from the outside" (which is a historic fact, Marx and Engels were not proletarians, they read and critiqued classical political economy). Note also that nobody has actually read Kautsky's original article.

Has that been their position all along, or has it changed over the years (CWO-ICT)? (working from memory, I can recall a few different approaches to consciousness; though some of those are quotes from CWO's press years ago).

Camatte in, "On Organization," brings it up (Leninst conception of consciousness) as something the party (PCI) thought it had 'done away with' and sometime in the 1960's, a part of the group reassumed that position.

This bit seemed interesting on the topic of communists as internal to the proletariat, merely an expression of their class, or something else- as well as how consciousness is formed, and how communists relate to it:

 

"For the proletariat, in Marx's sense, the class struggle is simultaneously production and radicalization of consciousness. The critique of capital expresses a consciousness already produced by the class struggle and anticipates its future. For Marx and Engels, proletarian movement = theory = communism."

- J. Camatte, On Organization

"Mr. Heinzen imagines communism to be a certain doctrine which springs from a definite theoretical principle as its nucleus and draws further consequences from it. Mr. Heinzen is very wrong. Communism is not a doctrine but a movement springing from facts rather than principles. Communists presuppose not such and such a philosophy but all past history and, above all, its actual and effective results in the civilized countries.... In so far as communism is a theory, it is the theoretical expression of the situation of the proletariat in its struggle and the theoretical summary of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat".

-F. Engels, "The communists and Karl Heinzen" Article 2, MEW 4, pp. 321-322." 

I don't know what is opportunistic about adopting another conception of class consciousness. Are there specific passages from Kautsky that you would recommend?

jk1921
Automatic

mhou wrote:

I don't know what is opportunistic about adopting another conception of class consciousness. Are there specific passages from Kautsky that you would recommend?

 

I think the argument is that the Lenin/Kautsky thesis was a response to the growing reformism in the 2nd International that saw a more or less automatic transition to communism that did not require a revolutionary break with capital.

The left communist tradition has always had trouble reconciling its position on the fundamental requirement for autonomous class struggle with the need for a party or organization. Class consciousness springs, more or less automatically, from the class struggle as an effect of capitalism's "objective crisis." So, why is a party necessary?

The conception of consciousness that sees the party or organization as but a moment in the heterogenous development of consciousness comes closest to solving this--but things get more complicated when it comes to "proving" that the organization really is some kind of organic outgrowth of the proletariat and not just the product of a new class of intellectuals, as the councilists have often claimed (and therefore ripe to be reintegrated into the capitalist state).  How is this organic link "proven"? What does it have to do with the size of the organizations? Ten to fifty people in two or three different organizations could be a sign of anything, but perhaps at some numerical level, or some level of unity, it becomes harder to dismiss the organization as some kind of sect? But then it seems we are back into the Gramscian model of "party building" of the "official workers' movement." I don't know.

d-man
I searched it in on the

I searched it in on the French site and found the 'accusation' that CWO defends the "Kautsky schema" in e.g. on 'subterrean maturation of consciousness' by MU (1985, 4q) and 'The party disfigured: the Bordigist conception' by MC (likely stands for Marc Chirik) (1980, q4). It wouldn't surprise me if the CWO/ICT has changed their position nowadays (or perhaps the ICC misrepresented their position in the past). Chirik (if it was him) doesn't justify his rejection by reference to left com tradition, instead he refers to Trotsky (and Luxemburg).

The passage from Kautsky which Lenin quotes in WITBD is excellent and it is basically the contradiction which jk1921 points to:

“Many of our revisionist critics believe that Marx asserted that economic development and the class struggle create, not only the conditions for socialist production, but also, and directly, the consciousness [K. K.’s italics] of its necessity. And these critics assert that England, the country most highly developed capitalistically, is more remote than any other from this consciousness Judging by the draft, one might assume that this allegedly orthodox Marxist view, which is thus refuted, was shared by the committee that drafted the Austrian programme. In the draft programme it is stated: ‘The more capitalist development increases the numbers of the proletariat, the more the proletariat is compelled and becomes fit to fight against capitalism. The proletariat becomes conscious of the possibility and of the necessity for socialism.’ In this connection socialist consciousness appears to be a necessary and direct result of the proletarian class struggle. But this is absolutely untrue. Of course, socialism, as a doctrine, has its roots in modern economic relationships just as the class struggle of the proletariat has, and, like the latter, emerges from the struggle against the capitalist-created poverty and misery of the masses. But socialism and the class struggle arise side by side and not one out of the other; each arises under different conditions. Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge. Indeed, modern economic science is as much a condition for socialist production as, say, modern technology, and the proletariat can create neither the one nor the other, no matter how much it may desire to do so; both arise out of the modern social process. The vehicle of science is not the proletariat, but the bourgeois intelligentsia [K. K.’s italics]: it was in the minds of individual members of this stratum that modern socialism originated, and it was they who communicated it to the more intellectually developed proletarians who, in their turn, introduce it into the proletarian class struggle where conditions allow that to be done. Thus, socialist consciousness is something introduced into the proletarian class struggle from without [von Aussen Hineingetragenes] and not something that arose within it spontaneously [urwüchsig]. Accordingly, the old Hainfeld programme quite rightly stated that the task of Social-Democracy is to imbue the proletariat (literally: saturate the proletariat) with the consciousness of its position and the consciousness of its task. There would be no need for this if consciousness arose of itself from the class struggle. The new draft copied this proposition from the old programme, and attached it to the proposition mentioned above. But this completely broke the line of thought...”

mhou
I understand that Marx and

I understand that Marx and Engels were not proletarians, but it sounds like Kautsky is suggesting that since that time, a similar strata outside of the working-class, is continually necessary to introduce class consciousness (on the level of being socialist/communist) to the proletariat. Lenin uses the words "Twelve Wise Men of Socialism" in WITBD to describe this strata of intelligentsia in every Social Democratic party.

SMC includes the role of the 'advanced strata of proletarians who transmit' communist ideas: but the development of communists from within the proletariat, is thus a manifestation of class consciousness within the working-class; rather than a small upper crust of every communist organization that transmits communist principles and positions to these advanced workers who then transmit these ideas to the working-class. It's a 'class affair', beginning and ending with the class consciousness of the proletariat, involving other proletarians who by nature of their experiences of the class struggle and proletarian condition brought them to communist conclusions.

Are you suggesting that this strata of intelligenstia is still an arbiter of class consciousness and communist principles-positions?

The Engels quote I posted suggests that the proletarian condition and class struggle produce the communist minority of the proletariat, who transmit the theory of the real movement of the proletariat within the class.

 

Kautsky:

Quote:
. Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge. Indeed, modern economic science is as much a condition for socialist production as, say, modern technology, and the proletariat can create neither the one nor the other, no matter how much it may desire to do so; both arise out of the modern social process. The vehicle of science is not the proletariat, but the bourgeois intelligentsia [K. K.’s italics]: it was in the minds of individual members of this stratum that modern socialism originated, and it was they who communicated it to the more intellectually developed proletarians who, in their turn, introduce it into the proletarian class struggle where conditions allow that to be done. Thus, socialist consciousness is something introduced into the proletarian class struggle from without [von Aussen Hineingetragenes] and not something that arose within it spontaneously [urwüchsig]. Accordingly, the old Hainfeld programme quite rightly stated that the task of Social-Democracy is to imbue the proletariat (literally: saturate the proletariat) with the consciousness of its position and the consciousness of its task.

What I'm getting at is: since the Second World War, the post-war period (modern capitalism), to today, is this still valid in your opinion?

Since the time of Marx and Engels, I don't think the case can be made that the intelligenstia is the originator and perpetuator of communist ideas and class consciousness (which are related but 2 separate things)- most of here if not all are workers. I'd imagine that's true of every left communist organization. Does our conception of class consciousness require a recognition that we wouldn't be here if it weren't for Marx and Engels, that we still require the intelligenstia?

I still don't agree that this leaves us open to opportunism by rejecting this conception of class consciousness and development of communist miitants/the communist minority.

d-man
Kautsky is not saying that a

Kautsky is not saying that a layer of intellectuals is necessary to introduce socialist consciousness; he wrote that it are the more intellectually developed proletarians who introduce it in the proletarian class struggle. Also for Lenin the professional revolutionaries are not necessarily intellectuals. Kautsky in another article wrote:

"The alliance of science with labour and its goal of saving humanity, must therefore be understood not in the sense which the academicians transmit to the people the knowledge which they gain in the bourgeois classroom, but rather in this sense that every one of our co-fighters, academicians and proletarians alike, who are capable of participating in proletarian activity, utilise the common struggle or at least investigate it, in order to draw new scientific knowledge which can in turn be fruitful for further proletarian activity."

The intellectuals were the originators of socialism. On that we agree, like the ICT wrote:

"In the last century when working hours were often over 70 a week and labour for both men and women was both more gruelling than today the chances of workers who were largely denied any educational opportunities elaborating the theory of communism was very small."

And further the ICT writes:

"In the first place the very experience of capitalist exploitation, and the resistance to it by the workers, will cause a minority to reflect on what the lessons of the class struggle are. These, whether workers or intellectuals, will formulate the programme of working class emancipation. Such a programme can never be static but develops as the working class comes to understand the strengths and limitations of its own movement. And this is where the ICC polemic over Kautskyism misses the point. Today the issue is not one of which class of persons elaborates communist theory. The issue is of how that theory is elaborated."

But neither for Kautsky and Lenin the issue was ever about that (only) intellectuals can/must (continue after Marx) to elaborate communist theory (or for us after WW2). The issue is that such class consciousness doesn't develop (and continues to be developed) spontaneously. We are spontaneously aware of the conflict between worker and boss (you don't need Marx for that), and from that arises economism/ trade-unionism, but that isn't socialist consciousness.

 

 

 

jk1921
"Transmit," "impart", etc.

"Transmit," "impart", etc. These are very imprecise terms that appear to have no real definition. Just how are communist ideas transmitted from communists to the (rest of the) proletariat if they do not necessarily arise from daily economic struggles?

mhou
Quote:But neither for Kautsky

Quote:
But neither for Kautsky and Lenin the issue was ever about that (only) intellectuals can/must (continue after Marx) to elaborate communist theory (or for us after WW2). The issue is that such class consciousness doesn't develop (and continues to be developed) spontaneously. We are spontaneously aware of the conflict between worker and boss (you don't need Marx for that), and from that arises economism/ trade-unionism, but that isn't socialist consciousness.

I'm inclined to agree with jk here- and go further in suggesting 'trade union consciousness' does not exist separate from class consciousness; that there are varying depths and breadths of class consciousness that correspond to material conditions and experiences, of which the task of the minority of workers who have come to be communists is to theorize this real movement of the class. During crises, such as the revolutionary ferment throughout the 20th century, it was the class itself which posed questions of revolution, power and production outside the control of the bourgeoisie and state. I think the Kautsky-Lenin conception sees separate kinds of class consciousness, rather than consciousness as a 'thing' that exists all of the time, to varying degrees of breadth and depth.

Fred
Should we not distinguish

Should we not distinguish between the intellect and class consciousness?  Isn't consciousness a higher way of thinking, or of being aware, than the activity of a trained mind, an intellect? A trained mind becomes trained as a result of absorbing a lot of ready-made knowledge that is transmitted at it by teachers. This becomes stuff that it knows and can regurgitate when required. But the extent to which this inowledge may relate meaningfully to the being, the person, who has it, who "owns" it, is surely open to question. Class consciousness isn't like this. It could be "taught" transmitted as a subject, but this certainly wouldn't guarantee that the pupil thus taught would actually BE class conscious at the end of the procedure, merely that he would have  some knowledge about the subject. He might even wonder what the point was.  Consciousness, which is the organic production of a class, isn't a subject, and thus can't be taught, because ITS A WAY OF BEING. It's praxis. it's not intellectual. And it permits new ways of thinking not available to the bourgeoisie.   It's a waking up to the true nature of social reality and to the fact of being alive and human and exploited.  (This is difficult stuff to try and say. Pleased bear with me.

Thus,this sudden "waking up" to reality, and to the nature of our existence, may well appear to be spontaneous  even if it actually isn't.  I forget the name of the Greek philosopher who had a EUREKA moment in his bath, and leapt out shrieking, but the point is that he had doubtless been giving considerable and possibly sub-conscious thought to the issue at hand for some time, and had suddenly "got it". I think this may be the way, or one way,  in which class consciousness matures and is suddenly realized within the working class.  And isn't it something like this, the sudden development and contagion of consciousness, rather than an intellectual understanding unrelated to being, what Luxembourg famously describes in her image of class consciousness spreading out among gatherings of workers in struggle, and in solidarity, in increasing waves of "getting it" and waking up from intellectual prisons to the vistas offered by consciousness, and the special consciousness of what we can achieve as a class consciously working together? It's an evolutionary breakthrough for humanity, but can only be brought about by the working class itself.

If, as an individual, you are aware of Marx when you suddenly wake up, then you equally suddenly understand what he was talking about, and that he was right.  But this development will happen mostly to those who know little or nothing about Marx and communism, and who are maybe trapped in trade-unionism. The "spontaneous eruption" of class consciousness will offer them release. 

Fred
Should we not distinguish

Should we not distinguish between the intellect and class consciousness?  Isn't consciousness a higher way of thinking, or of being aware, than the activity of a trained mind, an intellect? A trained mind becomes trained as a result of absorbing a lot of ready-made knowledge that is transmitted at it by teachers. This becomes stuff that it knows and can regurgitate when required. But the extent to which this inowledge may relate meaningfully to the being, the person, who has it, who "owns" it, is surely open to question. Class consciousness isn't like this. It could be "taught" transmitted as a subject, but this certainly wouldn't guarantee that the pupil thus taught would actually BE class conscious at the end of the procedure, merely that he would have  some knowledge about the subject. He might even wonder what the point was.  Consciousness, which is the organic production of a class, isn't a subject, and thus can't be taught, because ITS A WAY OF BEING. It's praxis. it's not intellectual. And it permits new ways of thinking not available to the bourgeoisie.   It's a waking up to the true nature of social reality and to the fact of being alive and human and exploited.  (This is difficult stuff to try and say. Pleased bear with me.

Thus,this sudden "waking up" to reality, and to the nature of our existence, may well appear to be spontaneous  even if it actually isn't.  I forget the name of the Greek philosopher who had a EUREKA moment in his bath, and leapt out shrieking, but the point is that he had doubtless been giving considerable and possibly sub-conscious thought to the issue at hand for some time, and had suddenly "got it". I think this may be the way, or one way,  in which class consciousness matures and is suddenly realized within the working class.  And isn't it something like this, the sudden development and contagion of consciousness, rather than an intellectual understanding unrelated to being, what Luxembourg famously describes in her image of class consciousness spreading out among gatherings of workers in struggle, and in solidarity, in increasing waves of "getting it" and waking up from intellectual prisons to the vistas offered by consciousness, and the special consciousness of what we can achieve as a class consciously working together? It's an evolutionary breakthrough for humanity, but can only be brought about by the working class itself.

If, as an individual, you are aware of Marx when you suddenly wake up, then you equally suddenly understand what he was talking about, and that he was right.  But this development will happen mostly to those who know little or nothing about Marx and communism, and who are maybe trapped in trade-unionism. The "spontaneous eruption" of class consciousness will offer them release. 

Fred
d-man wrote: Quote: The

d-man wrote:

Quote:
The intellectuals were the originators of socialism. On that we agree.

But NO WE DON'T . The origin of socialism is within the working class itself and its conditions of life.  Intellectuals observed this and found the situation of the working class to be unsatisfactory, and wanted to help. They wanted to REFORM  and improve the conditions they saw. But they stood outside the working class. They didn't fully identify with it. They didn't identify the genuine real source of working class impoverishment and slavery.  Only by ceasing to observe from outside the class, as intellectuals,  and adopting the class position and point of view of the class, as a class enslaved, were these intellectuals able to become the first communists and set up the communist league. 

jk wrote:
" Transmit," "impart", etc. These are very imprecise terms that appear to have no real definition. Just how are communist ideas transmitted from communists to the (rest of the) proletariat if they do not necessarily arise from daily economic struggles?
 

What makes you think communist ideas are transmitted from communists to the class, and not vice versa?  It was only because certain bourgeois intellectuals responded to the slavery of the class and its actual real situation in a political  morass, on an International scale, that they were able to become class conscious and thus communists themselves - the vanguard of class consciousness - and formulate and write the Communist Manifesto.   In developing their own  class consciousness in solidarity with their class, they "freed" themselve, they "woke up", and became able to help the class clarify its own consciousness and awareness, not only of its enslaved position but of  the actions needed to free itself and the rest of humanity from the imprisoning conditions of an increasingly understood capitalist political economy. All of this "consciousness" sprang from the already existing class, it wasn't the invention of some intellectual elite.  They have only ever interpreted the world, never realizing that the evolution of class consciousness would leave them high and dry;  still thinking that the key to everything was the individual brain and its thoughts; never considering that the actual situation of an enslaved class, poor, dirty, ill-fed and barely educated, already exhibited indications for a new and better world,  where competing and politicized intellectuals drawing near in their cleverness to destroying the world would at last be replaced  through revolution, by a class-for-humanity and for increased consciousness as the goal  and way of being.  

Alf
  In response to D-Man, this

 

In response to D-Man, this is an extract from the article on subterranean maturation in International Review 43. It was a critique of the CWO which had regressed towards the Kautskyist view - one which I think they no longer adhere to, judging from their more recent pamphlet on consciousness and organisation:  

 

Lenin's thesis (borrowed from Kautsky) goes against all of Marx's most crucial statements about consciousness. Against the Theses on Feuerbach, where Marx attacks the contemplative materialism of the bourgeoisie which regards the movement of reality as an external object only, and not "subjectively" - ie, it does not see con­sciousness and conscious practice as an integral axed active element within the movement. The penetration of this standpoint into the ranks of the proletariat gives rise to the substitutionist error (in the Theses, Marx points to Owen as an expression of this) which involves "dividing society into two parts, one of which is superior to society" and forgets that "the educator him­self needs educating." Above all it goes against the position defended in The German Ideology that social being determines social consciousness, and consequently against the same work's most explicit statement about class consciousness: "...from the conception of history we have sketched we obtain these further conclusions: In the development of productive forces there comes a stage when productive forces and means of intercourse are brought into being, which, under the existing relationships only cause mischief, and are no longer productive but destructive forces...and connected with this a class is called forth, which has to bear all the burdens of society without ‘enjoying its advantages,        which, ousted from society, is forced into the most decided antagonism to all other classes; a class which forms the majority of all members of society, and from which emanates the consciousness of the necessity of a fundamental revolution, the communist consciousness, which may, of course, arise among the other classes too through the contemplation of the situation of this class."         

Notice that Marx entirely reverses the manner in which Lenin posed the problem: communist consciousness "emanates" from the proletariat and because of this elements from other classes are able to attain communist consciousness - though only, as the Communist Manifesto puts it, by going over to the proletariat, by breaking with their 'inherited' class ideology. In none of is there a trace of communist consciousness "emanating" from the intellectuals and then being injected into the proletariat.

jk1921
Not my position

Fred wrote:

What makes you think communist ideas are transmitted from communists to the class, and not vice versa? 

I didn't say that was what I think. But, it seems to be a central tenet of the "Kautskyist/Leninist" position, and if you look at the quote from the GIC there are still some residues of it that show up in councilist theory, perhaps also in the ICC? I am looking for an explanation of how this takes place and what it means exactly.

But, if the rest of your post rings true, what is the nature of these "bourgeois intellectuals" who cross over to the side of the proletariat? Are they necessary for the development of class consciousness or are they just a bonus? Or, are they necessary in the sense of inevitability? I.e. its inevitable that some bourgeois will cross over the class line in the course of the development of struggles, just as it is inevitable that some workers will come to communist positions before others? In fact, I guess one could say, then, that some bourgeois will come to communist positions before some workers?

LBird
Power, power, power...

Alf wrote:
The penetration of this [Lenin-Kautsky] standpoint into the ranks of the proletariat gives rise to the substitutionist error (in the Theses, Marx points to Owen as an expression of this) which involves "dividing society into two parts, one of which is superior to society" and forgets that "the educator him­self needs educating."

But to deny that the ‘power’ to dissolve/re-organise/specify acceptable policies for the ‘revolutionary organisation’ must lie with the ‘class’ is to ‘divide society into two parts’. Power cannot lie in both class and party, if we wish to remain faithful to the Theses. Power can only have one legitimate origin, and for Communism this must be in the class, not in potentially numerous ‘revolutionary organisations’. That is, unless we picture Communist society as a society of fractured sources of power, like Feudal societies (what Perry Anderson called a ‘parcellization of sovereignty’).

Alf wrote:
In none of [this] is there a trace of communist consciousness "emanating" from the intellectuals and then being injected into the proletariat.
[my italics]

Likewise, we have to insist that there can be no ‘trace of Communist power “emanating” from the revolutionary organisations and then being injected into the proletariat’.

LBird, post 80, wrote:
I think that the essence of Leninism is the political idea that a political organisation knows better the needs of itself than does the proletariat. I disagree. I think that, for Marx’s statement ‘That the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves’ to happen, the political idea that the class knows better the needs of any political organisation must prevail.

Alf, post 81, wrote:
Lbird, I am struggling to understand what you mean by the working class 'knowing best' the political needs of the political organisation. Are we actually talking about positions, declarations, statements issued by mass organisations? ….

And even when the working class is massively organised, surely the watchword of communists must be: no censorship of proletarian political organisations…

But the power to determine whether a ‘proletarian political organisation’ is censored or not must lie with the proletariat, not with the ‘political organisation’, otherwise there would be two sources of power.

Again, I ask the ICC ‘in a Communist society, where does power lie?’

I maintain that Marx must mean ‘Power lies with the proletariat’.

I read the posts of Fred and Alf (in response to D-Man) to mean just this.

Why does clearly saying this (that the ICC’s policies, organisational structures and indeed its very existence will be subject to proletarian power exercised through the Workers’ Councils) seem to be so difficult?

To maintain otherwise is surely to divide society into two?

Political sovereignty must lie in the Workers’ Councils.

mhou
Quote:What makes you think

Quote:
What makes you think communist ideas are transmitted from communists to the class, and not vice versa?

Well, in the non-Lenin/Kautsky conception, communists are a product of the proletariat due to its class consciousness- so communists are not some 'other' but a part of the class itself. Engels quoted above is quite clear that the task of communists is to theorize the real movement of the working-class; the communist programme, like that of the KAPD in 1920 (which the ICC have republished) is a document forged during a revolutionary situation containing the principles of communism, the lessons of past revolutionary attempts, theorization of the real movement of the working-class in its struggle to transform all things, etc.

"The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties." - Communist Manifesto

I take that to mean communists are not outside of the class, but the most politically mature and class conscious section of the class that tries to coordinate efforts with other communist workers in the effort to push the revolutionary crisis to communist conclusions- by defending the communist programme in the organs of power during the revolution (councils, committees, assemblies).

Quote:
But, it seems to be a central tenet of the "Kautskyist/Leninist" position, and if you look at the quote from the GIC there are still some residues of it that show up in councilist theory, perhaps also in the ICC? I am looking for an explanation of how this takes place and what it means exactly.

In the non-Lenin-Kautsky schema, doesn't it just mean the minority of workers who are also communists organizing amongst themselves, producing theory around the real movement of their fellow workers, and defending the communist programme?

At the risk of raising Lbird's ire, the example of Lenin delivering the April Theses to the revolutionary sailors was an example used by Damen to explain a dialectical centralism; militants acting under their creative energy in the heat of events, with other communists, to defend communist positions and principles against all of the counter-revolutionary slogans and groups that will undoubtadly pop up.

jk1921
Conflicts

mhou wrote:

Well, in the non-Lenin/Kautsky conception, communists are a product of the proletariat due to its class consciousness- so communists are not some 'other' but a part of the class itself. Engels quoted above is quite clear that the task of communists is to theorize the real movement of the working-class; the communist programme, like that of the KAPD in 1920 (which the ICC have republished) is a document forged during a revolutionary situation containing the principles of communism, the lessons of past revolutionary attempts, theorization of the real movement of the working-class in its struggle to transform all things, etc.

OK, but saying that communists are of the proletariat, doesn't seem to get us out of the councilist predicament. Instead of the intellectuals subsituting themselves for the proletariat, they will just decry one part of the proletariat substituting itself for the entire proletariat.

mhou wrote:

In the non-Lenin-Kautsky schema, doesn't it just mean the minority of workers who are also communists organizing amongst themselves, producing theory around the real movement of their fellow workers, and defending the communist programme?

I think that is what it is means, but it brings us back to the question of the nature of Marxism as a science. Even the GIC, the historical councilist organization par excellence, saw Marxism as a science that needed to be "imparted" to workers. So where does this science origninate from and how is it "imparted" to the rest of the working class? Moreover, if there is such a thing as a Marxist science; what is the relatioship between it and the non-proletarian intellectuals who take it up--and how do we understand any conflicts that might emerge between the revolutionary organization (the sceintists) and the political power of the working class? One example: suppose the councils fall under the influence of Socal Democrats who urge them to ban the communist party and arrest its members. Certainly, this is possible and certainly just because it was decided upon by the councils in a "democratic" fashion, doesn't make it the "correct" decision.

 

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