1914 ‘commemoration’: Right and left justify imperialist war

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Hawkeye
Responding to comments #66

Responding to comments #66 and #67 regarding 'internationalism', no matter how important that seems to the ICC to be, the practical problems within what might be considered to be 'critical path analysis' always need to be focused on, if progress is to be made. Signposts are useful, but does 'internationalism' actually need to come first, has it ever come first, in workers' views ?  The day-to-day struggle immediately in front of workers everywhere might benefit from an internationalist perspective, but that is unlikely to be accepted as an absolute priority, however much the 'communist left' might advocate it.

(Quote from the NCP Political opening of the 16th National Congress:-)

( "Let's be clear about bourgeois democracy.  We believe that the working class can never come to power through bourgeois elections but that doesn't mean that we turn our back on working class demands for social justice and state welfare.

"We believe that social democracy can never lead to people's democracy but that doesn't mean that we turn our back on social democratic movements that represent millions upon millions of working people in Britain in the unions and within the Labour Party."). (End of quote).

Of course numerous examples of internationalist thinking and trans-national co-operation by workers will spring to mind, but probably almost all of that has grown from workers' experiences of what they have been doing within the circumstances where they actually live, albeit within the world dominated by imperialism.

Fred
leftist crap

To misquote what Hawkeye refers to:  "we believe that social democracy can never lead to people's democracy, but that doesn't mean we'll turn our backs on it, because people's democracy, ie communism, is the last thing we want." 

 

And: "we believe that the working class can never come to power through bourgeois elections"  - well at least they got that right! - "but that doesn't mean we can turn our back on working class demands for social justice and welfare, although of course we will because, in the end, as bourgeois leftists, we don't give a fuck about the working class and its crackpot demands and just want to go on fooling them into believing that the bourgeoisie has their interests at heart."  

I am surprised that anyone sensible enough to read ICC stuff and post on this forum cant see this crap for what it is: leftist shit!  

LBird
Signpost to Hell

Hawkeye wrote:
Signposts are useful, but does 'internationalism' actually need to come first, has it ever come first, in workers' views ? The day-to-day struggle immediately in front of workers everywhere might benefit from an internationalist perspective, but that is unlikely to be accepted as an absolute priority...

You're right, Hawkeye, in that "internationalism hasn't come first in workers' views", but this is a fundamental 'signpost' (to use your metaphor) that those workers are not Communists. If their basic ideas of who they are, and what they should organise around, and what they should defend, are 'nationalist', they will identify with others of the same 'nationality'. If 'nation' precedes 'class' for a worker, they will remain within their 'nation'.

The rejection of 'national identity' is the clear 'signpost' of the develoment of a 'class identity'. This development won't come after workers have organised on a national basis (as you seem to argue for), because that will just strengthen their 'national' feelings, and weaken their 'class' self-consciousness. If workers are winning on a national basis (even if we Communists know that this victory will be shortlived, and will lead to more national clashes, with workers 'making sacrifices for their nation'), why would they then reject that winning formula? If they have better pay and conditions than 'foreign' workers, why should they risk those hard-won gains, for an internationalist ideology like Communism? Nationalism means co-operation with the leaders of 'the nation': they are never 'workers'.

No, if 'internationalism' doesn't 'come first', it won't 'come' at all. And thus Communism cannot follow.

We must break the ideology of nationalism within the working class, Hawkeye, prior to any advance. The 'signpost of the nation' leads to hell, otherwise, as the 20th century should have taught us.

Hawkeye
Reply to Fred

Fred, have you ever met and chatted with active members of the party to which I referred ?  It is agents of the bourgeoisie who are quick to attack all sorts of organisations of the working  class, however varied.  

Hawkeye
Reply to LBird's comment #74

LBird, thank you for your comment.  Your final paragraph:- "We must break the ideology of nationalism within the working class.. prior to any advance", should be reconsidered.  Any advance ?  The choice for workers is not just a simple one of that between 'nationalism' and 'internationalism', but of how best to organise defence against attacks on us by the powers that be, wherever we happen to live at any one time.  That is the constant need of workers within any land.  Of course, internationalist solidarity can be of great mutual assistance.  As the chaos of capitalism grows and workers' strruggles multiply, internationalist concepts and aims will spread. The need to struggle wherever we are surely comes first.  However much the 'internationalist' concepts of the 'communist left' are thought to vary from all other organisations, in fact many of them actually do promote internationalism, whilst doing much more than the CL seems to me to do to organise and promote workers' struggles.

LBird
Workers' struggles are not necessarily class struggles

Hawkeye wrote:
LBird, thank you for your comment. Your final paragraph:- "We must break the ideology of nationalism within the working class.. prior to any advance", should be reconsidered. Any advance ?

 Thanks, Hawkeye, for your response and question. Put simply, the answer is: 'Yes, prior to any advance'.

Hawkeye wrote:
The choice for workers is not just a simple one of that between 'nationalism' and 'internationalism', but of how best to organise defence against attacks on us by the powers that be, wherever we happen to live at any one time....  The need to struggle wherever we are surely comes first.
[my bold and italics]

But, who are 'we' and 'us', Hawkeye?

Furthermore, 'struggle' within itself tells us nothing. 'Struggle' won't necessarily lead to class consciousness, merely by the fact of 'struggle'.    [this point might find me at odds with other posters here, by the way]

'Struggle' is always 'for' something, positively, and is not just an 'against', a negative.

If the 'we' and 'us' is 'British workers', then struggle might appear to be 'against' bosses, but overwhelmingly (given our present world of nation-states) it will be 'for' the 'British'. If the struggle appears to be victorious, it can always be subborned by bosses, with talk of 'national unity', which will be welcomed as 'reasonable talk' from the bosses, in the eyes of the temporarily triumphant 'British workers'.

So, is there an 'advance' towards Communism within the confines of a 'National' ideology?

The answer must always be 'No!'.

Moving  'forward', without any sense of direction, can lead to an 'advance' to the rear! Simple 'movement' following 'struggle' is clearly not enough.

We must define our direction first, and our direction must be Internationalism. We are compelled to march on an ideological compass bearing (this is inescapable), and our bearing must point to Internationalism, not Nationalism.

The 'national road' leads inexorably to workers' defeat. It halts the development of class consciousness, rather than helps it. This is the lesson of history for us, Hawkeye.

Hawkeye
Reply to LBird's comment #77

Your question as to 'who are we or us' can be answered in many ways, but, whilst allowing for the possibility that you will declare any answer that I offer to be at variance with what you personally prefer, 'we or us' can be regarded as the working class, for the purposes of this exchange of views.

It is something of a truism to say that struggles are for something positively and not just against a negative.  It would be incorrect to hold that workers in struggle for clear short-term objectives are lacking in long-term perspectives, even if those vary.  Workers with a range of proletarian organisational allegiances combine in strikes and so on.

Re your closing view that 'the national road leads inexorably to workers' defeat', that is by no means certain in all circumstances.  For instance, whilst it is true that in WW2 all sides (with the debatable possible exception of the USSR) were under capitalist rule, the vast majority of workers, except those harnessed to the nazi war machine, regarded being occupied by the nazis as severe defeat, even though, those once liberated and those not overrun, were still under some sorts of capitalist rule for time being.  That is a lesson from history which the CL seems reluctant to accept.

As so much of all this interaction seems to have become a mass of argument way up an ideological backwater, it seems to me to be time to leave it to 'posters' to get on with as much of it as their proclivities dictate. Time is precious; people tend to think that they have still got plenty of it !

 

 

 

LBird
Icing on the cake? Or scum on the pond?

Hawkeye wrote:
Your question as to 'who are we or us' can be answered in many ways, but, whilst allowing for the possibility that you will declare any answer that I offer to be at variance with what you personally prefer, 'we or us' can be regarded as the working class, for the purposes of this exchange of views.
[my bold]

But... this leaves us no further forward, Hawkeye, because, from the start, it has been argued that if one identifies as 'working class', one can't identify as 'British'.

'Class', by its nature as a 'horizontal' category, splits between 'above' and 'below' the line of fracture. Above are the exploiters, and below are the exploited.

'Nation', on the contrary, splits 'vertically', into separate pieces, each containing a portion of top and bottom, of exploiters and exploited.

Perhaps it is helpful to visualise the world population as a 'cake' with a thin layer of 'icing' on the top, and the great mass of 'sponge' below.

We can either split the cake horizontally, into two parts, one a thin layer of 'icing' and one a large mass of 'sponge', or we can cut the cake into 'slices', containing both 'icing and sponge'.

But we can't do both; we have to choose; those who choose to 'slice vertically into pieces' will get 'icing'; those who choose to 'split horizontally into similar content' will not get 'icing'.

'Icing' is poisonous to the proletariat, Hawkeye. In fact, I'd call it 'scum', which floats to the top of a stagnant society, rather than 'icing'.

Hawkeye wrote:
As so much of all this interaction seems to have become a mass of argument way up an ideological backwater, it seems to me to be time to leave it to 'posters' to get on with as much of it as their proclivities dictate. Time is precious; people tend to think that they have still got plenty of it !

Well, to me (and I think the other posters), it's not an 'ideological backwater' at all, but a central tenet of Communism!

Thanks for the debate, Hawkeye. I suspect proletarian practice with be the proof of the pudding, of whether Nationalism leads to, or away, from Communism.

Let them eat cake!

Hawkeye
Reply to #79

Please read again comment #76 and more carefully.

LBird
Re-reading

Hawkeye wrote:

Please read again comment #76 and more carefully.

Please read all my posts much more carefully. And then please read all the other comrades' posts.

And then ditch the nationalism and Maoism, Hawkeye. It's good advice, comrade.

You don't seem to understand why Nationalism and Communism don't mix.

Please try to theorise what you believe. Otherwise, your visit has been wasted.

radicalchains
Obvious is obvious is obvious

Breaking with nationalism is the advance. It is struggle itself which brings development and where it takes place. Breaking with nationalism inherently means internationalism and the path of struggle which is not a nice choice, moral question or philosophical debate. It is something which happens because it is a necessity. It is intertwined with class society as it exists today. It can not not happen, whether sporadically or on an ever increasing scale. The question is, how to help increase it if possible. And what holds it back?

radicalchains
LBird

I don't understand your reply to my post #60 but that's probably in part becuase I need to read this whole thread from the start. It might take a while for me to reply. 

LBird
Knowing one's observational position gives clarity

radicalchains wrote:

[LBird,] I don't understand your reply to my post #60 but that's probably in part becuase I need to read this whole thread from the start. It might take a while for me to reply. 

I'm afraid you have the wrong comrade, radicalchains. I didn't give a reply to your post #60, because I didn't know it was directing a question towards me in particular. But here it is again, in part:

radicalchains, post #60, wrote:
I read probably as much leftist stuff as I do Left Communist stuff and I consider/think about both does this make me a 'National Communist'?

It's probably 'worth considering' because it's a different perspective that at times criticises the society we live in. Just as certain avenues of conspiracy theory do, no matter how bogus or reactionary their overall view is.

My advice is to read as widely as possible, including those political perspectives which you think you disgree with, including Maoism, which Hawkeye seems to be keen on. So, perhaps follow any links Hawkeye has provided.

What you must keep in mind, though, is your present philosophical and political stance. This will determine how you understand what you are reading. We all have a 'stance', because it is inescapable for humans in trying to understand the world, both social and physical. As Einstein wrote, 'It's the theory that determines what one observes'.

If you haven't yet thought about your 'stance', I recommend thinking through your own assumptions and axioms. If you think you are an 'impartial observer' (so beloved of 19th century positivist science, which is still influential today), you're mistaken. Society provides us with these assumptions and axioms (and they are often class-based), so we are all subject to them. Communists should be open about their ideological beliefs, because the only alternative is to hide them; there is no such thing as non-ideological human thought. This applies to physics, as much as politics.

This opening up of one's ideology can be a difficult journey, but, once done, far greater clarity ensues. And in our case, it's a 'class conscious clarity', comrade!

radicalchains
LBird

I meant posts #48 & #49.

LBird
Theory and practice

radicalchains wrote:

I meant posts #48 & #49.

As far as I can tell, post #49 was my reply to your post #48.

To reiterate my answer then, you seem to be confusing 'Scientific Socialism' with Marx's views, when that term represents Engels' views (which are very different, regarding 'science'), and also, again following Engels' poor philosophical understanding, you seem to see our two choices as either 'materialism' or 'idealism'. This is also incorrect: Marx argued for a unity of idealism and materialism in the 'materialist conception of history'. This means 'theory and practice' (or, praxis), which is not 'materialism'.

If you read the Theses on Feuerbach, this 'third' or 'intermediary' position of Marx's becomes clear.

Marx wrote:
The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism – that of Feuerbach included – is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence, in contradistinction to materialism, the active side was developed abstractly by idealism – which, of course, does not know real, sensuous activity as such.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/theses.htm

You can see here that Marx praises idealism as 'developing the active side' of human thinking, whilst also condemning earlier materialism as mere 'comtemplation'. He, of course, also condemns idealism and praises materialism, in other aspects.

To call Marx's views simply 'materialism' is to do his original thinking a disservice. It's 'theory and practice', radicalchains.

Hope this helps, comrade.

A.Simpleton
:@}Heart of The Matter

Excellent post : excellent.

For some time I have been waiting for a chance to address precisely these fundamental core premises which are step by step clearly elucidated at the very beginning of the whole enterprise - without which I wouldn't be here.

So many unfortunate misunderstandings arise ( as you may be aware ) from using terms which have become  'thingified' or 'assumed to mean' X or Y which are then falsely counterposed to others which have undergone the same 'loss of meaning'.

(Although I guess we should take this to a new thread 'cos it's gone beyond beer  what the hell : let's not miss this opportunity.)

When I read your post #11 LBird (as in read it) I happened to be re-reading The First Sections of The German Ideology and that's why this simpleton thought : yup precisely.

Marx starts where he is: under the apparently 'weighty' German Ideology. With not a little sarcasm he says - to paraphrase simpleton style - 'because The German Big Shots don't actually have any premises or much clue as to what they are talking about' I'll start at the beginning.

Talking his 'chidren' by the hand -as it were-  he lists the four premises that define the 'history' that men make. Then:

Only now, after having considered four moments, four aspects of the primary historical relationships, do we find that man also possesses “consciousness,” but, even so, not inherent, not “pure” consciousness. From the start the “spirit” is afflicted with the curse of being “burdened” with matter, which here makes its appearance in the form of agitated layers of air, sounds, in short, of language.

Note the almost compassionate shot at Hegel - whom he by no means dissed - it just reads to me as if he is saying 'well you've gone as far as anyone can in 'abstractland' but -alas- your poor old 'pure consciousness' has been 'burdened' by real stuff from the start (the inverted commas are all Marx's btw)

Also it is clear - at least to me - that here at the very start of grounding the only 'science' there is - the science of real men and social men in their practical activity that language itself is material for Marx .

Language is as old as consciousness, language is practical consciousness that exists also for other men,[A] and for that reason alone it really exists for me personally as well; language, like consciousness, only arises from the need, the necessity, of intercourse with other men.

The Triangle of Cognition Model - Environment/Cognition/Action a sleek design and ty for directing me to it  - is in a way embryonically there in this statement and others around this section: surely the very radical re-depiction of everything that Marx's material conception of History is forms a clear example that 'environment' 'circumstances'/'material conditions' - however you like to describe it are not some 'thingified' exclusive and inexorable 'cause' of 'thinking' or 'perception' or 'consciousness' 

If that were so then how come Marx born and (mis)educated under the weight of this presumtuous German Ideology, took such a radical leap? The 'Ideology' was all focussed on X but he looked somewhere else entirely .

So 'living in a blue house' does not = blue thinking - (yes thats an oversimplification of 'rank' materialism but I sometimes feel it is misunderstood to be that sort of relationship)

In direct contrast to German philosophy which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven. That is to say, we do not set out from what men say, imagine, conceive, nor from men as narrated, thought of, imagined, conceived, in order to arrive at men in the flesh. We set out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life-process we demonstrate the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process. The phantoms formed in the human brain are also, necessarily, sublimates of their material life-process, which is empirically verifiable and bound to material premises. Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence. They have no history, or development; but men, developing their material production and their material intercourse, alter, along with this their real existence, their thinking and the products of their thinking.

And to make absolutely clear his premises;

This method of approach (the materialist conception of history: AS) is not devoid of premises. It starts out from the real premises and does not abandon them for a moment. Its premises are men, not in any fantastic isolation and rigidity, but in their actual, empirically perceptible process of development under definite conditions. As soon as this active life-process is described, history ceases to be a collection of dead facts as it is with the empiricists (themselves still abstract), or an imagined activity of imagined subjects, as with the idealists.

I'll leave it there with one last point : he has shown - not by just declaring it or contriving it - that this method is not 'one of a range that you can pick from pseudo-science's larder' nor is it 'the opposite' of blah or blah : it is the 'overtaking' of all dualistic false opposites.

My God I could have died in that Sociological/Philosophical jungle if it were not for this ...

Phew ...

 

AS

Excuse the daft references to the alcohol thread and your post 11 which was on that thread : it makes no difference to the overall thrust

 

A.Simpleton
I should add ..

That when Marx writes:

'The phantoms formed in the human brain are also, necessarily, sublimates of their material life-process, which is empirically verifiable and bound to material premises. Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence.'

It does not mean :  Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness .... are 'crap' - as it were .

It means exactly what it says : that the products of these human activities ' no longer retain the semblance of independence.'

Moving , connected, interwoven and - in that sense - in unity of practical activity, consciousness and the 'state of affairs' reproducing itself but never could that be 'just a clone' of the unity before.

I think that is what c'rade LBird is correctly and importantly explaining.

If I have got that wrong, I have no hesitation in betting huge sums that he will correct me .... loudly.

(tee hee)

AS 

 

LBird
The Maoist camps await us

A.Simpleton wrote:
That when Marx writes:

'The phantoms formed in the human brain are also, necessarily, sublimates of their material life-process, which is empirically verifiable and bound to material premises. Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence.'

It does not mean :  Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness .... are 'crap' - as it were .

It means exactly what it says : that the products of these human activities ' no longer retain the semblance of independence.'

Moving , connected, interwoven and - in that sense - in unity of practical activity, consciousness and the 'state of affairs' reproducing itself but never could that be 'just a clone' of the unity before.

I think that is what c'rade LBird is correctly and importantly explaining.

If I have got that wrong, I have no hesitation in betting huge sums that he will correct me .... loudly.

(tee hee)

AS 

Thanks for the contribution, AS; you seem to be the only one who actually engages with these difficult issues (in actual posts, anyway; I've no way of knowing the opinions of those who don't post). Perhaps your earlier background interest in modern epistemology allows you to more easily see the problems that I'm attempting to address, and which are not addressed by the repetition of 19th century views (both Engels' and those of positivist science, which is still the 'common sense' approach to science in bourgeois society, and its methods are taught in schools, even today).

So, then, no 'correction' of you, comrade, either loud or gentle.

But... still more questions and clarifications are need, I think!

I think that the method of 'theory and practice', by its very meaning, must start with 'ideas', rather than the 'material'. This view is always objected to and condemned as being 'Idealism!', as if Marx had rejected idealism wholesale (as Engels alleged). It was Engels who separated philosophy into the combatants 'materialism' versus 'idealism', not Marx. As we have seen (from the Theses), Marx united these philosophical strands in a new viewpoint, that of 'theory and practice'.

But (again), 'theory' doesn't appear simply from the ether. Theory is always human theory, and so is always social and shaped by earlier theory/ideas/philosophies etc.

This consideration leads me to see 'theory and practice' as 'social theory and practice'. Thus the concrete circumstances of a society form part of the input into the initial stage of cognition, that is, the formation of 'theory'. That 'theory' is then tested in practice, by which humans create 'knowledge'.

The simplistic idea that the 'concrete' creates 'ideas' is 19th century positivist science, which argues that human ideas, morals, politics, etc. should be kept out of physics. This, we know know, is impossible. 'Physics' is a human activity, and as such the knowledge produced by its methods is human knowledge. This knowledge is a creation of human theory and practice, and as such, can be 'wrong'. That is, 'truth' is historical and can change (by new theories being applied to the original concrete); this is very different to the view that 'science' just impartially discovers 'The Truth', which, once discovered, is 'true' forever more.

Fundamentally, the method of 'theory and practice' is a critical method, which insists on new ideas and debate. There is no final 'Truth', in physics or society.

What I've said here fits, I think, with your model of:

AS wrote:
The Triangle of Cognition Model - Environment/Cognition/Action a sleek design...

...as long as the 'Environment' is seen as a factor providing possibilities or potential for the 'Cognition' phase, rather than determining the 'Cognition' phase in any simple one-on-one way (as in Lenin's outdated 'copy theory' of epistemology). In this way, we preserve Marx's insistence upon 'the active side' in human affairs, both scientific and political.

If I were to rewrite 'theory and practice' to fit your three-step model, I would write it as Social/Theory/Practice, with the creative emphasis on the 'Theory' phase.

As an aside, I think this also fits well with our discussion with Hawkeye on 'nationalism and communism', because it suggests that workers are provided with potential by the state of society, both material and ideological the ('Social' phase), but if they creatively adopt 'nationalism' rather than 'communism' (in the 'Theory' phase), then their political activity (the 'Practice' phase) will produce very different knowledge and results, than if they had adopted 'communism' as their theory. Put simply, the choice is not preordained by 'the concrete' (which only provides choices), there is an element of workers' creativity, and this shows that our debate with Hawkeye is vital, because if workers adopt Maoism or somesuch, the results won't be what we recognise as 'communism'.

In fact, we'll both be in the gulag AS! See you in adjoining cells, you critical bastard, you!

Alf
philosophy at war

I'm for a debate about philosophy, as is the ICC as an organisation, LBird, but you can't turn every thread, on whatever starting topic, into one that insists on a discussion about philosophy that is rigidly ensconced in your own terms of reference. This is a thread about an article which focused on war and internationalism. Of course every political question that confronts the proletariat also leads to an underlying philosophical question. This is why when war broke out in 1914, one of Lenin's first decisions was to go the library in Zurich and read the works of Hegel in order to grasp his dialectical method: I have read Lenin saying somewhere that these readings convinced him that hardly any of the so-called marxists  -  I think he meant the official marxists of the Second International - had so far understood Hegel's method. It was at this point that Lenin made a fundamental break with the conservative and mechanical marxism of Plekhanov and Kautsky, just as he broke from their increasingly reactionary positions on war and the state. 

Hawkeye
Re #90 Alf's for debate re philosophy

It might be useful, if embarking on philosophy, to note as follows.  In the sixties I read two books by the Russian  neuropsychologist A.R.Luria, 'Higher Cortical Functions in Man',  and  'Human Brain and Psychological Processes'.  In one of those he mentions that Lenin once observed that ..'every word is a generalisation'.  Well, that should be enough for starters ! 

LBird
Need for philosophy?

Alf wrote:
I'm for a debate about philosophy, as is the ICC as an organisation, LBird, but you can't turn every thread, on whatever starting topic, into one that insists on a discussion about philosophy that is rigidly ensconced in your own terms of reference. This is a thread about an article which focused on war and internationalism.

Four points, Alf.

1. radicalchains asked for more information.

2. My answer to A.Simpleton referred to why method was important for our reply to Hawkeye and Maoism.

3.

Alf wrote:
Of course every political question that confronts the proletariat also leads to an underlying philosophical question.

4. Hawkeye's view needed to be challenged on a philosophical level.

Furthermore, if you disagree with my 'terms of reference', why not outline yours, if they are so different?

Considering that you yourself stress the need to query 'underlying philosophical questions', why is everybody other than A.Simpleton reticent about actually discussing theirs?

KT
Why?

Perhaps because the 'underlying philosophical question' of this thread is the First World War, attitudes to it and actions against it. Because it was not at the time nor is it today merely a subject of contemplation.

Against Hawkeye, most posters have insisted on an internationalist viewpoint as our fundamental point of departure. That's why the ICC, ICT and other communist organisations remain, with Luxemburg and (at the time) Pannekoek as supporters of Bolshevik opposition to the war, see it as part of the proletariat’s response in theory and in practice. We see from 1914-1921 the desertions, mutinies, strikes, uprisings and seizure of power in Russia and the crushed revolutionary attempt in Germany, 1918, as the concretisation of Marx's praxis: the proletariat not just interpreting the world (necessary) but attempting to change it.

What do comrades think of the current shitstorm of the dominant ideology around WW1, particularly in GB? How has this article (and, in case anyone hasn't noticed) the update to it measured up? And what about the video, the article explaining it; the article on 100 years of decadence and, also the article on  the origins of WW1: is the ICC correct to place so much of its meagre resources into these attempts to promote a marxist perspective against the bourgeoisie's world view? If it’s not enough to merely proclaim ‘internationalism’ but to act concretely in the world, to attempt to concretise this understanding, does anyone know how it can be done better (practically and, of course, theoretically)?

Hawkeye
Responding to KT's #93

Acting concretely cannot just be done somewhere else.  When workers go on strike against capitalist bosses, they are acting as part of the international proletariat, whether they know it or not, wherever they happen to be living.  World communism must mean communism here, as well as everywhere else.  However, the uneven pace of development around the world is still a factor to be recognised, even though the spread of more and more modern technology is tending to even things out to some extent.  Therefore proletarian advance and gains are likely to be made in steps and stages, according to varied conditions where workers live, although, of course, most still live or die under the rule of capital.  Saying this does not rule me out of internationalism, of wanting workers of the world to unite.  What it does remind us of is that marxism is practical rather than idealist, substituting science for dreams.

LBird
Theory before practice is not contemplation

KT wrote:
Why?

Perhaps because the 'underlying philosophical question' of this thread is the First World War, attitudes to it and actions against it.

I'm afraid you're wrong, KT. The 'underlying philosophical question of this thread' is the issue of 'internationalism' being key component of 'communism'. The Great War is but one example of how differing attitudes to this philosophical question panned out in history. Without this deeper discussion, any discussion about WW1 will remain superficial.

KT wrote:
Because it was not at the time nor is it today merely a subject of contemplation.

Discussing 'philosophy and theory' is not 'mere contemplation'. It is an essential part of Marx's method of 'theory and practice'. Any 'practice' which takes place before a 'theory' is discussed, is not innocent of 'theory'. That practice simply takes on board an unexamined theory. Practice without theory is a myth (and is related to 19th century positivist science, which insisted that if philosophy and politics were kept out of physics, then humans could know the Truth).

In fact, I'd argue that Hawkeye's failure to theorise his 'nationalist' stance to 'communism' is at the very core of our disagreement with him. Our 'underlying philosophy' is the essential need for an internationalist practice from the outset. We don't think that just 'doing practice' will succeed, if that 'practice' is a 'nationalist' practice. We think it will lead, not surprisingly, to nationalism, not communism. Hawkeye disagrees with this, and somehow expects an untheorised 'worker's struggle' to lead to communism. We think 'national workers' struggle' will in practice displace the class element at some point, and the national element will come to the fore.

Theory is workers' guide to action.

LBird
Practical nationalism, and avoid the dream of communism

Hawkeye wrote:
When workers go on strike against capitalist bosses, they are acting as part of the international proletariat, whether they know it or not, wherever they happen to be living.
[my bold]

This is a central philosophical problem with your method, Hawkeye.

If workers don't 'know it', who does?

Your formulation leads to the need for a group/party/sect/leadership who do 'know it'. Thus, this is not an act of the class conscious proletariat, the act of self-emancipation that Marx argued for, but the manipulation of the proletariat by those who do know 'it'.

Further, if the 'knowers' are 'nationalists' (as you argue they should be, because that's where workers are themselves), then 'internationalism' will remain 'unknown' to the proletariat. If workers are nationalist, as you argue (ie. 'they know it..not'), and this leadership argues for nationalism (as Maoists do), why, where and when will 'internationalism' suddenly come to the fore?

Hawkeye wrote:
World communism must mean communism here, as well as everywhere else.

But, if you define 'world communism' to be separate 'national communisms', then it won't be what we regard as 'communism'. To us, 'world communism' is completely hostile to any nationalism whatsoever.

Hawkeye wrote:
Saying this does not rule me out of internationalism, of wanting workers of the world to unite. What it does remind us of is that marxism is practical rather than idealist, substituting science for dreams.

I don't doubt your sincerity about 'internationalism', Hawkeye. I doubt the effectiveness of your philosophical assumptions, and the 'practice' that will emerge from your 'theory'.

Your theory is Engelsian and Leninist, and nothing to do with Marx.

Your view that 'Marxism is practical rather than idealist' is incorrect, and is itself an Engelsian formulation. Marxism is the unity of 'theory and practice' (or, 'idealist-materialism', to spell it out in your terms). The opposition of 'materialism' to 'idealism' is Engels' viewpoint, not Marx's. 

Human ideas and creativity are a central part of Marx's method. Again, to spell it out in your terms, 'dreams' are an inescapable part of 'science'. There is no 'Scientific Socialism' of the positivist sort.

KT
Response to Hawkeye, #94

Hawkeye wrote:

... However, the uneven pace of development around the world is still a factor to be recognised, even though the spread of more and more modern technology is tending to even things out to some extent.  Therefore proletarian advance and gains are likely to be made in steps and stages, according to varied conditions where workers live...

 

There’s internationalism, and then there’s internationalism. Or to put it another way, the general, immutable class line that decrees ‘the workers have no country’ and ‘workers of the world unite’ is indeed not some abstract, pious pose but one whose political concretisation is indeed  subject to prevailing historic conditions.

In the mid-19th century, Marx expressed his internationalism by taking sides in the American civil war, seeing one bourgeois faction as ‘progressive’, as in pushing forward the development of capitalist social relations in order to hasten the material conditions for socialism. Similarly, Marx was ever on the lookout for any movement which might rock the really regressive remnant of feudalism in Europe: Czarist Russia. In the same manner, workers in Britain and elsewhere actively supported the struggle of Garibaldi to progress Italy from the myriad of medieval fiefdoms to a modern, unified nation state. This epoch was indeed one of “steps and stages” governed by the uneven development of global capital, albeit one in which the working class attempted to maintain its autonomy from bourgeois interests.

Yet while we continue to witness, to a certain extent, an uneven development of capital, today’s epoch is not the same. The hotch-potch of political and economic formations existing around the globe don’t express different modes of production (such as capitalism or feudalism) but are all expressions of the global domination of capitalist social relations under which there are no ‘progressive’ factions of the bourgeoisie, no nations worthy of workers’ support against other nations.

No: in our present epoch, the ‘theoretical programme’ of ‘steps and stages’ is most closely associated with the ‘elaborations’ of Stalinism: it was the ideological cloak under which, according to Stalin and his ruling clique, the workers of the world had to subordinate their struggles and interests to ensure the ‘development’ of the Russian nation state. (1)  It was a programme of Russian nationalism. Of state capitalism in the USSR. And it is precisely this, we fear, that lurks behind Hawkeye’s plea for a ‘practical marxism’.

And what, which event, demonstrated practically, concretely, bloodily, globally the change of epoch from Marx’s time to that of the present day? What was recognised by all the communists at the time to be the definitive statement of capitalism’s passage from being a system which allowed for the expansion of humanity’s productive capacity to one whose social relations had become too narrow to contain the richness of which the productive forces were capable, and which was henceforth doomed to horribly cannibalise itself and the planet? What, in short, ushered in the epoch of ‘wars and revolutions’? Why, none other than the subject of this thread, the First World War, that subject which L Bird relegates to just one amongst many, declines to approach for fear of being ‘superficial’!! 

(1) This Stalinist vision of 'stages' was covered in literature, IIRC, in Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon

KT
Don't Talk About the War.....

L Bird wrote: well if you look closely at what he wrote, he’s actually agreeing with KT’s statement that Marxism is not only theory. KT used the words “not merely as in “not just” theory or “not only” theory – L Bird had to resort to twisting his words, substituting instead the statement “Discussing 'philosophy and theory' is not 'mere contemplation'” as if this was what had been argued. It wasn’t, as any re-reading makes clear.

But this is not the central point. I’d put it like this: without a correct theoretical, ‘philosophical’ approach, one is likely to stray. But a broadly correct theoretical, ‘philosophical’ grasp doesn’t in and of itself guarantee a decent political orientation or an agreement on what is to be done. For example, I may agree with much of L Bird’s philosophical approach (and certainly with his vision of internationalism), but I and many others don’t agree with the practical conclusions he draws from it, particularly about the state of capitalism in 1914, nor about the class nature of the Russian Revolution, nor about the processes surrounding the development of communist consciousness within the working class. By way of further illustration (and not to ‘personalise’ the debate) the erudite poster AS is clearly enthusiastic about L Bird’s philosophical approach – he ‘reads’ Marx the same way. But does he reach the same conclusions about the events of 1914-1923? We’ll see.

However we’ll only see if we collectively make some attempt to tackle not “just” the theoretical underpinnings, but the concrete, historical events which were both a product of, and contributor to this ‘philosophy’. The clue’s at the top of this thread: it reads: The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: 1914 ‘commemoration’: Right and left justify imperialist war

Hawkeye
Response to KT #97

Marx emphasised 'the property question'.  In his day it was certainly the case that workers had no country.  As from 1917 workers began to change that situation.  An internationalist communist view was and still is thought to assist that process.  It is simplistic to confuse that with 'nationalism', bourgeois nationalism.  If workers are going to take control of what happens on the ground, on the planet, then revolutionaries will need to know just what it is that they are intending to gain in their ongoing circumstances. Gains worldwide are unlikely to be all obtained simultaneously, unfortunately.

KT
really existing socialism?

So the workers have deployed their power in Russia since 1917? They 'own' the land? 

zimmerwald1915
Response to Hawkeye post #99

Hawkeye wrote:

Marx emphasised 'the property question'.  In his day it was certainly the case that workers had no country.  As from 1917 workers began to change that situation.  An internationalist communist view was and still is thought to assist that process.  It is simplistic to confuse that with 'nationalism', bourgeois nationalism.  If workers are going to take control of what happens on the ground, on the planet, then revolutionaries will need to know just what it is that they are intending to gain in their ongoing circumstances. Gains worldwide are unlikely to be all obtained simultaneously, unfortunately.

Hello. It might be useful to try to imagine what the world-political consequences might have looked like if workers had "control of what happened on the ground" in Russia. Let us stipulate for a moment - putting aside that it is not certain that either of these things were the case - that the working class in Russia had adopted a broadly speaking internationalist perspective, and that the balance of forces left it in a position to dictate its whims to the state. In such a situation, we should observe the working class in Russia forcing the state to put its resources at the disposal of the revolution in other countries. Instead, as KT has pointed out, we observe the Russian state doing everything in its power to suborn the revolution in other countries to its own interests. Certainly by the thirties these interests, as the Russian state defined them, looked quite a lot like the interests of the Tsarist regime: expansion in eastern Europe, spheres of influence in China and Persia, access to the sea, war with Japan. There are two things going on here. The working class in Russia has been supplanted as primary subject by the Russian state, and the Russian state has started to act more like a Great Power than the seat of a revolutionary society in combat against the old society. Neither of these things indicates that the working class in Russia has any power over the Russian state.

Hawkeye
Response to zimmerwald1915

Your comments don't alter the veracity of my post #99 and it's no good trying to bulldoze me into your mass of conjectures, assertions, assumptions and so on.  If and when the working class gains control of some land, whether totally or partially, steps have to be taken to secure and thus chronologically extend control over it.  Faced with aggression from elsewhere and internal opposition in all sorts of forms, it is by no means certain that what has been gained can be retained, although, of course, many internationalist benefits might flow from an unlikely unimpeded revolutionary scenario.  The means by which proletarian power is maintained needs to be efficiently effective.  Whether that is expressed in some sort of 'state' (if you will excuse the expression !), or something better, will be the outcome of what revolutionaries want and of what they find possible to construct in the circumstances. These are general considerations.

As for happened specifically in Russia as from 1917, such a vast subject is more than can be tackled in this comment.  However, readers might be interested to be reminded of the intervention by the British Expeditionary Force sent to Arkhangelsk (Archangel) from 1918 to 1919.  My grandfather was a morse-code telegraphist in the post office, sent there from his home in Plymouth.  I heard that the local people asked the soldiers for soap. Apparently someone elected as whatever was the local equivalent of a mayor turned out to be a communist, so the BEF arrested him !  Back in Plymouth, his wife, also a telegraphist, caught scarlet fever and went stone deaf, so when there was a group conversation, my grandad would tap morse code on his knee, which she could read right across the room, so of course nobody else knew what they were telling each other !

KT
A human tale

That's a touching story about your grandparents, Hawkeye. And the attempt of the combined armies of various imperialist powers to militarily crush the revolutionary bastion is well documented. It's already been referred to - approvingly, of course - in a couple of the 'celebratory' radio and TV programmes' about WW1 that I've tuned in to. But without going - in this instance - beyond the level of assertion, the tragic but very real death of proletarian power in Russia, leaving behind only political lessons as 'gains', is also a well documented process. For readers wanting to delve further into this subject, this site is an excellent resource. One article plucked at random:

https://en.internationalism.org/ir/126_communism

 

 

A.Simpleton
Ignoreland ....

Yes KT: now I understand that phrase: I confess 'Father' that I followed the long a winding thread, responded to c'rades who had changed trains at Clapham, forgot what the basis was and - with a final Homer Simspson flourish - thought I was posting my German Ideology post on the 'Alcohol' thread anyway  : so much for my scholarship (years on the road with Dismal Dikker and The Erudites have taken their toll obviously)

So

'What do comrades think of the current shitstorm of the dominant ideology around WW1, particularly in GB? How has this article (and, in case anyone hasn't noticed) the update to it measured up?'

What do I think of the shit-storm? I think it is a storm of shit: I also think that the ICC is right to devote time and resources to countering the layers of this obscene lie based on and containing in itself, all kinds of unchallenged 'reversed world bourgeoist lies' beneath. Every year these are hypocritically reinforced on 'Armistice Day' ...and AND the most insidious propaganda of all is that ;'it is meet right and our bounden duty' to revere it, It comes round like christmas.

It is especially necessary to speak out against this one because it contains some of the most powerful 'lie-topics': Nationalism: 'Just War': 'Sacrifice for the good': 'Aren't WE 'good' for remembering it': 'However cold and hungry you are right now just be thankful that 'their' sacrifice allows your very existence.' And AND the 'so when we send troops in anywhere it is for a 'good' reason'.

It makes me sick.

I also confess to being - deliberately - disconnected (as much as one could ever be) from the equally obscene propagating media and so to read the 'opinions' of the goons quoted in the article, was actually - though not basically surprising to a Marxist - a surprising affront. And AND again another layer of mystification is slid in that 'Gove' or 'Millipede' or whoever's comments have any validity are of the slightest importance and deserve attention.

The Ruling Class 'won' the war: The Working Class died at their hands: organised barbarism for Capitalism's purposes.

What is more, The Working Class brought the war to an end not the Corpulent Generals and Big Shots at Versaille.

The second World War is in no way different : The Ruling Class 'won' the war: The Working Class died at their hands: organised barbarism for Capitalism's purposes.

***

I can scarcely believe that 'Blackadder' was brought into it - adding a layer of Politically Correct puke to the shit, Full marks to the opposition to that in the press.

That last scene in the last series is imo very powerful : all the more so precisely because nothing until that point has been 'serious' as it were.

The freeze frame as the up until that point 'lampooned' 'class' distinct personas all go over the top ....

Z's personal tale is very poignant : in the flat above me lives the daughter of a great friend of mine: her Grandfather came to visit recently whom I have known for years: before we all went out to eat,  they were watching Blackadder together : he told us the story of his father - one Captain Harrison - who would have been the 'Hugh Dennis'  in Blackadder. The trenches were synchronised by 'phone-men' and the signal came to go over the top : he with his pistol, the rank and file with their rifles and bayonets all in a line: within ten minutes, all the men to the right and left of him were dead: he had no special 'armour' no special priviledge. 

Her Grandfather (94) has no illusions about the war and finds Blackadder very funny: he would have something to say to the sanctimonious ones.

AS

radicalchains
They get you early

At my old secondary (High School/College) school there was a Great War memorial plaque as soon as you entered through the main doors, listed with Old Boys and Masters. Also, once a year during an assembly we had to endure a slightly less flamboyant version of the video below. I always liked the bugle/trumpet call and still do, I find it very emotional. During the silence I used to try and get my head around why so many mainly young people had slaughtered each other and how pointless it all seemed.

http://youtu.be/99tCg596QSc

baboon
KT

KT, I've been toing and froing a bit; what "update" on the WWI article are you referring to?

I wasn't impressed by the last episode of Blackadder - it seemed a bit "Love Actually" in uniform to me. I thought that Gove's other criticism, Joan Littlewood's "Oh What a Lovely War", was much more incisive and critical from a class standpoint.

My own story about my Grandfather was after charging, fixed bayonets, a field of cabbages in Ypres that the officer mistook for German helmets, he was shot in the head a day later and was home in hospital having a steel plate fixed a week into the war. When he came out of the hospital in civvies a few days later he was accosted by a group of Suffragetes who stuck white feathers on him.

LBird
baboon wrote:My own story

baboon wrote:
My own story about my Grandfather...

My Great Grandfather:

Enlisted 02/09/1914

France 25/09/1915

Wounded in action

Discharged 28/08/1917

War ended 11/11/1918

Died 26/11/1918

His name's on the Memorial Roll of Honour in the Town Hall. At least he saw two weeks of peace, unlike thousands of others named on the walls.

He was aged 34, leaving a widow and three sons.

radicalchains
Just wondering

LBird, do you have any strong feelings about him being on the Memorial Roll of Honour in the Town Hall, either way or both?

radicalchains
Baboon and everyone else

Baboon, I realise we live in a different era and situation now but I take it you would not approve of accosting returning soldiers nowadays at least not in an individualist manner. Or has the type of fighting changed so much that it might be more relevant? Back then the majority of people who were injured or killed were other soldiers now it's 'non-combatants'. That is, the general population are not only killed in huge numbers but are actively targeted. Sometimes as a specific tactic. Of course 'accosting' returning soldiers not simply on a moral basis but perhaps as a form of encouragement/propaganda to change their attitude and organise among their ranks.

baboon
A bit of a misunderstanding

A bit of a misunderstanding here Radical, I think. The accosting of my Grandfather by Suffragettes was because the latter thought that he wasn't going to fight for his country. They obviously didn't know that he'd been and came back wounded. I don't agree with "accosting" individuals for anything but was trying to demonstrate with this anecdote the support for imperialist war by the "sisters" of the Suffragettes.

LBird
Confused feelings...

radicalchains wrote:

LBird, do you have any strong feelings about him being on the Memorial Roll of Honour in the Town Hall, either way or both?

Well, when my brothers and I found his name we were glad to have found it. It's a strange experience: on the one hand, the comradeship and bravery shown by those men are an inspiration, and they're all united together in ranks on the plaques; on the other, it's heartbreaking that they died for no useful purpose. Their widows, children and grandchildren went on to live through the 'hungry thirties', and to prepare for the next bout.

I think that all the memorials to the Great War, and others, should be kept in place, because it shows the great sacrifice made by thousands for no great purpose. Humans will make sacrifices for what they consider to be a better world. We shouldn't forget. Our turn, and that of our children and grandchildren, will come one day...

Let's hope it's for Communism and not Nationalism.

radicalchains
OK Baboon, that surprises me

OK Baboon, that surprises me about the Suffragettes. Honestly I don't know much about them and have probably swallowed some of the bourgeois propaganda surrounding them. Do you think it is a non-starter to attempt to organise in the military during non-revolutionary periods or are there more appropriate methods?

radicalchains
LBird

LBird wrote:

radicalchains wrote:

LBird, do you have any strong feelings about him being on the Memorial Roll of Honour in the Town Hall, either way or both?

Well, when my brothers and I found his name we were glad to have found it. It's a strange experience: on the one hand, the comradeship and bravery shown by those men are an inspiration, and they're all united together in ranks on the plaques; on the other, it's heartbreaking that they died for no useful purpose. Their widows, children and grandchildren went on to live through the 'hungry thirties', and to prepare for the next bout.

I think that all the memorials to the Great War, and others, should be kept in place, because it shows the great sacrifice made by thousands for no great purpose. Humans will make sacrifices for what they consider to be a better world. We shouldn't forget. Our turn, and that of our children and grandchildren, will come one day...

Let's hope it's for Communism and not Nationalism.

I think I agree with you about keeping memorials in place but sometimes I would change their positioning as per my old school. Something just seemed wrong about it. It wasn't something you would ever see, only really guests used the main entrance. You would never come across it in a normal school day. To take another example, there is a memorial at the gates of a nice park near where I live. It's a public place and highly visible and much more likely to make people think about it. It's not dark or secluded. Again, maybe it's the environment they are in. One a slightly miserable place of discipline and attempted order another a place of relative freedom, nature and beauty. 

LBird
Environment and ideology

radicalchains wrote:
I think I agree with you about keeping memorials in place but sometimes I would change their positioning as per my old school. Something just seemed wrong about it. It wasn't something you would ever see, only really guests used the main entrance. You would never come across it in a normal school day. To take another example, there is a memorial at the gates of a nice park near where I live. It's a public place and highly visible and much more likely to make people think about it. It's not dark or secluded. Again, maybe it's the environment they are in.
[my bold]

You're right, rc, but it's also the ideology used to understand the names on the memorial.

In a Communist society, the names would remain an unforgettable memory of the innumerable numbers of real workers with names who were slaughtered in the old bourgeois society.

We shouldn't forget them. They were our people, in someone else's society.

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