Communism is not a 'nice idea', Vol. 3 Part 10, Bilan, the Dutch left, and the transition to communism

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jk1921
Communism is not a 'nice idea', Vol. 3 Part 10, Bilan, the Dutch left, and the transition to communism
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Communism is not a 'nice idea', Vol. 3 Part 10, Bilan, the Dutch left, and the transition to communism. The discussion was initiated by jk1921.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

jk1921
This is a very imporant

This is a very imporant contribution to the history of the communist left and to the debate on the problems of the transition. A couple of things struck me:

1.) I think the text is incorrect to identify the GIC's conception of the "regulating principle of communist society" as "average socially necessary labour time (ASNLT)." Unless I totally misunderstood it, The FPCPD argues that ASNLT is the regulating principle of capitalist society that communism must overcome. The GIC posed "Average social labor time" and "average social reproduction time" as a communist alternative to ASNLT, a principle that overcomes the law of value, by eliminating the requirement that production be driven by the blind forces of "necessity." Average social reproduction time could be transparently calculated at the level of each individual enterprise using easily understandable modern accounting techniques and then aggregated at the level of the society as a whole, eliminating the need for some kind of seperate starta of economic experts. ASNLT is still driven by the law of value, operates blindly behind the backs of men and cannot be transparently administered asit is still driven by necessity rather than freedom.

2.) I am intrigued by the weight given in the critique of the FPCPD to the importance of the continued existence of other classes in the transition period, which must be represented--thus requiring the existence of some kind of state. Going back to the discussion of democracy in the other thread--why is it important that these classes are represented somehow? Is this a matter of principle or is there some strategic goal of the transition period that necessitates this? In other words, does the transition to communism require that these classes have political representation in some way?

 

mhou
I've been preoccupied with

I've been preoccupied with the GIC text and the debate around the DotP and transition period lately, glad you started this thread.

I think the mechanism's for proletarianizing other classes (generalizing the working-classes condition) are a vital part of the movement for communism- it's the means that classes are abolished and along with it class society and the semi-state. I agree with the GIC's description of the semi-state as only the forces of armed coercion that the working-class uses to suppress recalcitrant bourgeoisie (and recalcitrant non-bourgeois classes/strata as necessary) and coercively proletarianize everyone during the proletarian dictatorship. In the debate with OpOp of Brazil, the ICC's responses are very lucid on these points, and I agree with them completely (the use of geographic/territorial organs that are similar to the organs of the proletarian power- things like councils, committee's, delegate structures, assemblies- for all non-proletarian and non-bourgeois classes and strata).

Including non-exploiting classes and strata creates communication and imbues them with the movement for communism and communist principles, allowing them a chance to participate in the abolition of their own class and class society willingly- while the semi-state, the organized monopoly of arms/violence, acts as the coercive arm of the proletarian dictatorship.

slothjabber
Sttrange formulations

I wasn't aware of this text until reading it in IR151 today; though the online text is numbered 'Communism:... (10)' and the printed version 'Communism:... (xi)' they seem to be the same.

 

Both the text and the extract from 'The Dutch and German Communist Left' contain variations of wording by the ICC authors expressing a view of the process of moving from capitalist to communist society that I find puzzling, to say the least. I will quote from both passages, firstly from the text itself (IR151 p27, column 2):

"... It’s true that there are a number of passages in the Grundprinzipien where the Dutch comrades cite Marx’s distinction between the lower and higher stages of the transition period..."

and (ibid, column 3):

"... they talk about the “free and equal producers” deciding on this or that precisely in the lower stage, a time when true freedom and equality are being fought for by the organised proletariat, but have not yet been definitively conquered. The term “free and equal producers” can only really be applied to a society where there is no longer a working class..."

From the extract from 'The Dutch and German Communist Left' (IR151 p130, column 3):

"... the GIC distanced itself from the marxist vision of the period of transition, which distinguished two phases: a lower stage, sometimes described as socialism, in which the “government of men” determined a proletarian economic policy in a society still dominated by scarcity; and a higher phase, that of communism proper, a society without classes, without the law of value, where the productive forces develop freely, on a world scale, unencumbered by national boundaries..."

 

Marx refers to the transition between capitalist society and communist society (in the 'Critique of the Gotha Programme', Part IV) as being that of the 'revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat':

"... Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat..." http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch04.htm

Also in the 'Critique' (Part I), he refers to the 'first phase of communist society' and 'a higher phase':

"... these defects are inevitable in the first phase of communist society as it is when it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society..."

"... a higher phase of communist society... only then can ... society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!" http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch01.htm
 

Thus the 'birth pangs' from which communist socieiety emerges from capitalist society, are surely to be equated with the period of the transformation of capitalist society under the 'revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat'. There are no 'lower and higher phases of the period of transition', as the ICC has it, but lower and higher phases of communist society. The way the passages are worded, one could argue that capitalist society will produce a revolutionary, transformative communist society (lower phase) under the dictatorship of the proletariat that has wages, states and classes; which will in turn give way to a higher phase of 'communism proper' (which is still somehow a 'transition period').

 

This 'three-stage' solution - even called by the ICC 'capitalist society... (dictatorship = lower phase = ) sometimes called socialism... communism proper' - which equates the revolution, the transformation, the dictatorship, with socialism and the lower phase of communism, is a formulation I have only ever encountered before when debating with Maoists on RevLeft.

 

Do these passages, not necessarily by different authors, actually represent the position of the ICC? Does the ICC believe that Marx really intended the references to 'communist society' in Part IV of the 'Critique of the Gotha Programme' not to apply in the same way his references to 'communist society' in Part I?

Alf
three stages?

I know Marx talks about the lower and higher stages of communism and to my knowledge did not call the first one socialism, which I think is a confusing use of the term. But I think the use of the term stages can itself be misleading when we are talking about a process, a transition, a movement. When the working class takes power, it sets in motion a process of communisation - a constant battle against the vestiges of the old world, which continue to exert their backward pull, whether we are talking about ideological pressures or the more material economic forms which can easily revert to an overtly capitalist incarnation (for example, labour time vouchers or similar systems for the remuneration of labour reverting to a more explicit wage form). The dictatorship of the proletariat still exists and so does a form of the state. Exchange has not disappeared - the working class exchanges products with the non-socialised sector even if it has abolished exchange over the areas it controls. The transition period continues until there are no classes and no need for a state. Then we have 'full' communism although as Marx said in his early writings communism is just the beginning of real human history.

I'm not convinced we have a real difference here but perhaps you can explain your thinking a bit more. 

slothjabber
stages, phases, periods, dynamics...

The dictatorship of the proletariat must be a class society, because otherwise it can't have a 'proletariat' in it.

 

But if the transition to communism is also the lower stage of communism, then the lower stage of communism must be a class society.

 

The schema outlined in these pieces by the ICC is:
 

Capitalist society  >>> revolutionary dictatorship/transitional period/first stage of communism/'sometimes called socialism'  >>>  higher stage/'communism proper'

 

This means that the dictatorship of the proletariat is the first stage of communism, 'sometimes called socialism'.

I'd absolutely disagree with this - not even Stalinists regard the DotP as 'socialism', though the Maoists do. To the Stalinists, the first stage of communism (AKA, for the Stalinists, 'socialism') follows the DotP.

 

Marx's schema, I believe, is capitalist society  >>> revolutionary dictatorship/transitional period  >>>  first phase of communist society  >>> higher phase of communist society. This is the point about the 'birth pangs' - the birth pangs are the same as the process of transformation under the dictatorship of the proletariat.

 

The dictatorship of the proletariat is a temporary and dynamic phenomenon. It either extends, as the world revolution extends, or it dies and is replaced by something else - in Paris it was brutally destroyed by the Thiers government forces, in Russia it was transformed from within into the Bolshevik dictatorship over the working class. Either way, I'd contend that the 'revolutionary dictatorship', rather than being a phase of 'communism', is rather the final phase of capitalism, and runs at the same time as the world revolution is actually raging.

Alf
not so fast

I can envisage a post-dictatorship classless society which has not yet achieved abundance to the point where free access is possible. If that's what you mean by the lower stage of communism, OK, but it doesn't get rid of the problem of the transition period towards that point. I don't think the dictatorship of the proletariat ends even with the worldwide political victory over the bourgeoisie in the civil war. The working class still needs to maintain its political direction over society because it needs to integrate the other non-exploiting classes into associated labour; it's faced with an enormous task of reconstruction where there are no guarantees of uninterrupted progress. 

slothjabber
some agreements, and some not-so agreements

Apologies for the length and possible incoherence of parts of this, it's now about two hours after I started replying and I may have lost some of the thread of what I was saying.

 

Alf wrote:

I can envisage a post-dictatorship classless society which has not yet achieved abundance to the point where free access is possible. If that's what you mean by the lower stage of communism, OK, but it doesn't get rid of the problem of the transition period towards that point...

 

I think, rather than being what I mean by lower stage, that this is what Marx means by 'first stage' - communist society that's marked by its birth pangs from capitalism. The post-revolutionary society that has been ravaged by the world civil war, if nothing else, and these ravages will in my opinion be of massive extent and significance (which is why I don't hold with Communisation Theory, for example, because I think the tasks of rebuilding the world which will face post-revolutionarry society are likely to be huge and not allow movement to 'full communism/communism proper/the higher phase of communism' upon the instant).

 

I'm not sure what 'the problem of the transition period' means in this context. The problem of the transition period, to me, is not one of conceptualisation or explanation; it's one of praxis. Perhaps I don't, but I think I understand the concept of the DotP that Marx outlines. But I don't think I understand the concept of the DotP that the ICC outlines (and the parts I think I understand, such as the notion that Marx discusses 'lower and higher phases of the period of transition', I disagree with), and therefore I don't think that the concept of the DotP that the ICC is outlining is the same as the concept that Marx outlined. It seems at times that the ICC is arguing that the DotP is 'socialism' or 'communism' in some form, whereas I'd contend that it is in fact capitalism - capitalism in the process of being taken and re-organised (but not yet destroyed) by the working class, but capitalism nevertheless.

 

Alf wrote:
...

I don't think the dictatorship of the proletariat ends even with the worldwide political victory over the bourgeoisie in the civil war. The working class still needs to maintain its political direction over society because it needs to integrate the other non-exploiting classes into associated labour... 

 

OK - Marx speaks of the 'transition' from capitalist society to communist society as corresponding in time to the 'revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat'. The 'revolutionary dictatorship' encompases two things (phases or stages, perhaps, though I think the ICC is mistaken to claim that Marx talks about 'two phases of the period of transition': perhaps 'aspects' would be a better term). 

 

The first 'aspect' is the 'political' revolution against the bourgeoisie, which happens at the same time as some economic and social reorganisation, which however is not in any way 'socialism' (or Marx's 'first phase' of communist society either, unless the ICC believes that the 'first phase of communist society' precedes 'socialism') as Mitchell makes clear in the texts quoted above -  "... a national proletariat can only undertake certain economic tasks after installing its own rule ... [but]  the construction of socialism can only get going after the destruction of the most powerful capitalist states ...  the tasks of a victorious proletariat with regard to its own economy are subordinated to the necessities of the international class struggle...".

 

I'd go further and say not just 'the destruction of the most powerful capitalist states' but the complete victory of the revolution. The construction of the basis for socialism can proceed but not the construction of socialism itself, until the proletariat has won the world civil war, expropriated the bourgeoisie, destroyed all capitalist states and integrated all other classes into production.

 

The second 'aspect', if such it is, is the 'social' revolution. I agree that the working class must seize hold of capitalism and the state in order to destroy them (you cannot destroy something that is not in your power to destroy), and that this seizure on an international scale will not be immediate (this of course is why in the revolutinary territories there must be a 'dictatorship of the proletariat'), and even when the revolution against the bourgeoisie is complete the working class will probably still need to finish integrating other classes into production and finally abolish property completely (at which point is also abolishes itself as a class).

 

Do these aspects happen sequentially, or concurrently, or is there a certain overlap and a certain distinction?

 

Alf wrote:

... The working class still needs to maintain its political direction over society because it needs to integrate the other non-exploiting classes into associated labour; it's faced with an enormous task of reconstruction where there are no guarantees of uninterrupted progress...

 

Indeed, I don't disagree here at all, there are no guarantees of uninterrupted progress; neither during the world revolution, nor during the post-revolutionary, but still class-based, re-organisation of society.

 

And, in the post-class society that you referred to origianlly - 'a post-dictatorship classless society which has not yet achieved abundance to the point where free access is possible' - (which, to re-emphasise the point, is what I contend Marx meant by the 'first phase of communist society'), after property has been collectivised and classes have been abolished by being fully integrated into production, there is still 'an enormous task of reconstruction where there are no guarantees of uninterrupted progress' - only this time it will not be 'the working class' that carries out the reconstruction, but for the first time 'the world human community'. I think it likely that the ability of the world human community to supply all needs will, in the early post-class period, be hampered by the destruction that the world civil war has caused and the other problems bequeathed by capitalism - environmental catastrophe, uneven development, inadequate infrastructure etc. I don't see these being completely solved before the end of class society.

 

But this now means that there are even more 'phases' - having picked at the ICC's 'three-phase model' (capitalist society >>> 'lower phase of communist society/transormation' during DotP >>> 'higher phase'/'communism proper'), and suggested that Marx envisioned a 'four-phase model', it seems that logic demands a 'five-phase/aspect model' (with some overlap between 2 & 3?) approximating to capitalist society >>> political revolution/world civil war with DotP transforming capitalism >>> social revolution completing transformation of capitalism and abolition of classes >>> economic rebuilding in classless society >>> 'full communism'/'communism proper'/'higher stage'/'free-access communism' etc.

slothjabber
DP, sorry

And now due to some computer brain-freeze, I've posted this twice, sorry.

mhou
Quote:The second 'aspect', if

Quote:
The second 'aspect', if such it is, is the 'social' revolution. I agree that the working class must seize hold of capitalism and the state in order to destroy them (you cannot destroy something that is not in your power to destroy), and that this seizure on an international scale will not be immediate (this of course is why in the revolutinary territories there must be a 'dictatorship of the proletariat'), and even when the revolution against the bourgeoisie is complete the working class will probably still need to finish integrating other classes into production and finally abolish property completely (at which point is also abolishes itself as a class).
 Are you arguing that the contemporary-type state structures must be seized in order to be smashed (i.e. can't have one without the other)? I can't tell whether that is the intended meaning there. 
slothjabber
on 'seizing the state'

No, I don't think 'contemporary-type state structures must be seized' - the 'structures' must be destroyed, but in order to destroy something it must be in your power to destroy it. By 'seize' I mean 'assume power over'.

However, in the revolutionary process, the territories seized by the working class still need some 'state structures'. Contrary to the belief of some supporters of Communisation Theory, the state cannot be abolished in one locality, before the revolution has defeated capitalism worldwide. I'm sure you recall my extended argument on Revleft, with a supporter of the SPGB (who may not have been delivering SPGB orthodoxy on this point, I never could tell), over the question of the abolition of the state in a single territory - or, 'socialism in one country', as I call it.

mhou
Thanks for clarifying. I

Thanks for clarifying. I agree that that is one of the glaring holes in communisation (something at least one of the groups promoting the theory have yielded a bit and theorized a 'para-state' during the revolutionary movement).

Quote:
But this now means that there are even more 'phases' - having picked at the ICC's 'three-phase model' (capitalist society >>> 'lower phase of communist society/transormation' during DotP >>> 'higher phase'/'communism proper'), and suggested that Marx envisioned a 'four-phase model', it seems that logic demands a 'five-phase/aspect model' (with some overlap between 2 & 3?) approximating to capitalist society >>> political revolution/world civil war with DotP transforming capitalism >>> social revolution completing transformation of capitalism and abolition of classes >>> economic rebuilding in classless society >>> 'full communism'/'communism proper'/'higher stage'/'free-access communism' etc.
It's definitely worth exploring- though from the passages quoted and referenced it sounds like a problem of articulation rather than theorizing a multi-step series of stages starting on day 1 of the revolutionary movement and ending with day 1 of 'full communism' that the ICC is promoting. Is there a definitive text on the theory of the revolutionary movement/period of transition currently held by the ICC? There are many texts (some going back to 1974-1975) on the topic.
jk1921
The issue of the period of

The issue of the period of transition has been a thorny one even within the ICC. The pamphlet it published many years ago on "The State in the Period of Transition" is not so much a statement of an organizational position, but a collection of various theses put forward in debate--none of which (as I understand it) represent the position of the organization as such.

I agree with Slothjabber that even the victory of the political revolution that smashes the bourgeois state does not get us to even a lower stage of communism. The economics of the period immeditely following the revolution are still thouroughly captialist. Its the task of the working class, organized in the councils, to begin the process of the transition towards communism by attacking the law of value wherever it exists.

I think this is the missing epistemological moment in the councilist theory LBird has been trying to elaborate. The participation of the masses of the working class in the revolution is important not because of some "democratic principle," but because only it--as the productive class--can figure out how to erode the law of value. This has to be done as a conscious act of the entire proletariat, thus requiring, as a matter of necessity, the widest debate and discussion within the class. It cannot be carried out by a party that has mastered some kind of "economic science," even if the party may still be the part of the class that is best able to concretize and express the experiences the class has in attacking the law of value and thus suggest the best way forward. But this far away from a dictatorship of party priests.

As for the state, the ICC has often argued that the period of transition will require the existence of a semi-state that is NOT synonomous with the workers' councils. This semi-state will be charged with maintaining social cohesion and making sure all the non-exploiting (but non-proletarian) elements in society are represented somehow. My question is how do the workers' counils exercise control over the semi-state w/o becoming, in turn, the state themselves?

In terms of communisation theory--the left communist vision that sees the erosion of the law of value as necessarily a conscious act necessitating the destruction of the bourgeois state as an initial opening act of the revolution, seems to be at odds with much of the thrust in communisation theory, which seems to me to posit a more or less unconssious refusal of the value form and the proletarian condition within the structures of the existing bourgeois state.

Alf
ICC position

The ICC adopted this resolution on the state in the period of transition at its third congress in 1979, so it is the 'official' position of the ICC 

https://en.internationalism.org/node/2733

There have of course been a number of other positions within the ICC on this question, which we have always defined as an 'open' one, to be finally decided by future experience. 

jk1921
Debate

Alf wrote:

The ICC adopted this resolution on the state in the period of transition at its third congress in 1979, so it is the 'official' position of the ICC 

https://en.internationalism.org/node/2733

There have of course been a number of other positions within the ICC on this question, which we have always defined as an 'open' one, to be finally decided by future experience. 

There is obvioulsy a lot in that resolution that is open to debate. I am not sure if this is the place to start it or not?

LBird
Correction (yet again)

jk1921 wrote:
The participation of the masses of the working class in the revolution is important not because of some "democratic principle," but because only it--as the productive class--can figure out how to erode the law of value.

I must correct jk's erroneous characteristion of my position.

'Participation of the proletariat in the revolution' has two aspects: 'why' and 'how'.

The 'why' is its position in the production process (and not, as jk alleges I say, a 'democratic principle').

The 'how' is through 'democratic means', which is the only way that a conscious class can control its economy and society.

jk1921 wrote:
This has to be done as a conscious act of the entire proletariat, thus requiring, as a matter of necessity, the widest debate and discussion within the class.

I'm yet to hear 'how' this can be done, in the absence of a democratic system of control.

[now, posters will allege 'LBird wants parliamentary democracy!', ignoring everything that I've written on Workers' Councils]

jk1921
OK

LBird wrote:

I must correct jk's erroneous characteristion of my position.

'Participation of the proletariat in the revolution' has two aspects: 'why' and 'how'.

The 'why' is its position in the production process (and not, as jk alleges I say, a 'democratic principle').

The 'how' is through 'democratic means', which is the only way that a conscious class can control its economy and society.

Your previous posts have been far from clear on all of this.

LBird wrote:

jk1921 wrote:
This has to be done as a conscious act of the entire proletariat, thus requiring, as a matter of necessity, the widest debate and discussion within the class.

I'm yet to hear 'how' this can be done, in the absence of a democratic system of control.

[now, posters will allege 'LBird wants parliamentary democracy!', ignoring everything that I've written on Workers' Councils]

Why would you assume people would think you want parliamentary democracy? Whatever your confusions and imprecisions this hasn't been one of them. I don't think anyone would disagree with you. The working class has to figure out how to erode the law of value. It can't do this by applying some ready made scientific formula. It has to figure it out as a result of its conscious actions in struggling to transform the economy. In order to do this, it must organize itself in workers councils. Within those councils, the widest possible discussion and debate is necessary (precisely because there is no clear ready made answer) and decisions will have to be taken according to some kind of formal democratic mechanism. If this is what you envision, then I don't think there is any genuine disagreement at this level. Its when you start talking about "democratic control" of science itself that things fall apart.

LBird
'Science' remains an inviolate bourgeois authority, for some

jk1921 wrote:
Your previous posts have been far from clear on all of this.

Only for those with their ideological blinkers firmly in place.

Your reaction to the discussion about 'science and its method' is only the clearest example. 'Clarity', like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, unfortunately.

jk1921 wrote:
Why would you assume people would think you want parliamentary democracy?

Because of the constant rewriting of what I say, viewed through a different ideological lens, that of Bolshevism.

jk1921 wrote:
Its when you start talking about "democratic control" of science itself that things fall apart.

QED.

You don't understand, thus 'things fall apart'.

FFS. These 'things' are intimately connected, comrade. If Workers' Councils don't control science, someone else will. Thus, society will be 'divided into two parts', which Marx himself warns us against. This, I think, suits the Bolshevik mentality entirely well.

I could cry, because the rest of your post is so close to my position, but you retain a fatal flaw which undermines the whole project of Communism.

slothjabber
I know I am but what are you?

LBird wrote:

... a different ideological lens, that of Bolshevism.... the Bolshevik mentality ...

 

It's barely worthwhile flinging around the term 'Bolshevism' to people who wouldn't see it as an insult.

 

However, I and other posters here have at various times said that we find your idea of 'communist' soviets, in which non-communist workers are excluded (by whom? Only self-selecting communists, surely? This then is a 'party' whether you want to call it that or not) to be Leninist, and one of the gretest errors of the Bolsheviks in the early period of the revolution. This is what you've claimed you want to (or think the working class should/will) replicate. So, be careful of calling others 'Bolshevik' as an insult, Leninist.

 

Clarity may indeed be in the eye of the beholder; but if one is misunderstood, one can either try to explain in a way that's understandable, or throw up one's hands. Thus far, you've kept at it. If you think what you are saying is worth saying, then you have a duty to continue trying to explain it, even if it isn't understood. Claiming that everyone else has their 'ideological blinkers' on is a cop-ut. "Oh noes! I haz the wrong sort of audience!"

LBird
It dawns: "Oh noes! I haz the wrong sort of audience!"

slothjabber wrote:
However, I and other posters here have at various times said that we find your idea of 'communist' soviets, in which non-communist workers are excluded ... to be Leninist, and one of the gretest errors of the Bolsheviks in the early period of the revolution.

But this is because of your ideological assumptions, sj.

Your assumption is that 'communists' will be in a tiny (or at least small) minority even at the moment of the revolution/setting up of Workers' Councils.

My assumption is that 'communists' will be, if not in an outright majority, then in a mass approaching a majority.

So, when I say that 'non-communist workers are excluded', this will be an act of the majority of the proletariat; in other words, a democratic decision.

In contrast, when you say 'excluded', it must be by definition an act of a 'self-selecting' minority: thus, I'm seen as a 'Leninist'.

slothjabber wrote:
Claiming that everyone else has their 'ideological blinkers' on is a cop-ut. "Oh noes! I haz the wrong sort of audience!"

Unfortunately, we all have 'ideological blinkers', including me. That's the scientific method: an acceptance that these 'blinkers' can't be avoided, and an awareness that they should be exposed as part of that method.

As for 'parties', I'm not an Anarchist, and I think Communists should organise, but on two provisions:

1. the party is open to any 'Communist' (of course, that itself has to be defined, but you can see that I'm arguing for an essentially 'open', 'all strands', heavily-factionalised, loose, political organisation, rather than a 'best elements', programme-based, cadre-dominated, 'better-consciouness', Leninist Bolshevik-type 'party'); and

2. members should see themselves as having dual-membership of pol. org. and class, and be aware that their essential loyalty is to the latter. In times of non-communism, the p.o. element predominates, but as the wider class develops its consciousness, and Workers' Councils threaten, then p.o. members should gravitate to the class organs, and 'ditch' their now outdated p.o. membership and throw themselves into class organisation. Thus, the 'party' self-disbands.

I don't agree with the scenario (outlined by Alf to me in the past) that W.Cs will be like a form of proletarian 'parliament' within which pol. orgs. compete for 'power', and that these W.Cs will allow non-communists to organise within them, which seems to me to be suicidal. I can argue this, of course, because I think that class consciousness of a Communist level will already be widespread in the class organised within W.Cs.

Whatever the arguments against my views, I can't see how Marx's notion, of the act of liberation of the working class being an act by the class itself, can be possible without widespread Communist consciousness before the revolution, rather than something which develops in the mass after the setting up of Workers' Councils.

We'd be better spending our time examining our present-day assumptions, rather than constantly harping on about the RSDLP a century ago. Our understanding of those events is refracted through our current views of Communism, consciousness, organisation and class.

jk1921
Majority might makes right

LBird wrote:

Whatever the arguments against my views, I can't see how Marx's notion, of the act of liberation of the working class being an act by the class itself, can be possible without widespread Communist consciousness before the revolution, rather than something which develops in the mass after the setting up of Workers' Councils.

We'd be better spending our time examining our present-day assumptions, rather than constantly harping on about the RSDLP a century ago. Our understanding of those events is refracted through our current views of Communism, consciousness, organisation and class.

Your vision sees workers' councils as the end result of a process of the development of consciousness, such that the problem of "non-communist" workers within the councils never arises--or is only a minor detail and is thus not of any real importance. By the time workers' councils emerge, most workers will already be communists. This also obviates the need for a party, since most everyone will be a communist already anyway.

But your vision seems unable to account for any tangible heterogenity in consciousness. As a result, you are unable to explain the existence of communist minorities today, the discussions taking place on this forum or indeed your own existence. You simply wish away the problem of heterogenity of consciousness by assuming that on the day of the revolution most everyone will already be a communist.

Of course, this assumption allows you then to legitmate the suppression (even violence) against any remaining minorities in the class, as apparently violence carried out by a majority must be legitimate. This, I think, is one of the main lessons of the failure of the revolutionary wave. Violence against and the suppression of minorities is a real disaster that only spells the decline of the revolution. Why? Because majorities are not always right. It was a majority within the German councils that handed power back over to the SPD (evidence against the idea that councils emerge only after the vast majority have become communists). It was the majority within the RCP that suppressed the workers' opposition, attacked Kronstadt, etc.

It is for the this reason, that despite the necessity for the party to operate on some kind of formal democratic mechanism (i.e. majority rule) there must be protections built in for the minority. They must be given the opportunity to continue to expres their divergences, etc. It should be the same withing the councils. If reactionary ideas prevail--well, then that should only be evidence that consciousness was never as strong or developed as you assumed it would be. You seem to envision some kind of democratic police state within the councils through which those with the wrong kind of ideas will be delivered over to their fate, which according to your posts elsewhere might even mean execution. But then again, elsewhere you have argued that the revolution will have to shoot thousands (or was it millions?) of reactionaires, so perhaps you don't even believe your own dogma about the near universality of consciousness on the day the revolution breaks out?

Of course, I suppose you could argue that if the majority is already communist then the appropriate content has been achieved and we can dispense with such liberal nicieties as protetions for the minority, but to return to your problematic--who decides what is really or truly communist or when someone is really and truly a fascist and can be legitmiately suppressed? If the majority says so--this makes it right on principle?

It is here where you seem to reveal your fetish for majoritarian demoracy as a principle rather than a material necessity. Majorities are always right and can do whatever they want. Why? Well, appearently because they are a majority. It seems only another way of saying, "might makes right." As long as it is a majority imposing its will on a minority, you have no problem with political violence within the working class?

LBird
Believe what you want

jk1921, I've answered all your questions already. If you want my answers, please re-read what I've already written, in numerous threads elsewhere, about class, consciousness, proletarian political organisation and science, which all involve discussion of minorities, majorities and democracy.

Discussing with you has the feel of discussing a 'zebra crossing' (a pedestrian crossing point on a road in the UK), where the previous context has been discussion of the 'black' markings, so I draw attention to the 'white', and you then question my ignoring of the 'black', so I discuss the 'black', whereupon you accuse me then of ignoring the 'white', so I return to the 'white', and you accuse me once more of ignoring the 'black', ad infinitum.

Perhaps someone else will engage with your important questions, again, but I don't have the heart for it anymore, comrade.

slothjabber
and we know what assumptions are

LBird wrote:

slothjabber wrote:
However, I and other posters here have at various times said that we find your idea of 'communist' soviets, in which non-communist workers are excluded ... to be Leninist, and one of the gretest errors of the Bolsheviks in the early period of the revolution.

But this is because of your ideological assumptions, sj.

Your assumption is that 'communists' will be in a tiny (or at least small) minority even at the moment of the revolution/setting up of Workers' Councils.

My assumption is that 'communists' will be, if not in an outright majority, then in a mass approaching a majority.

So, when I say that 'non-communist workers are excluded', this will be an act of the majority of the proletariat; in other words, a democratic decision.

In contrast, when you say 'excluded', it must be by definition an act of a 'self-selecting' minority: thus, I'm seen as a 'Leninist'...

 

'A mass approaching the majority'?

 

So, let's say the 45% of self-selecting communists are able to exclude the 55% of non-communist workers? I think that's a horrifying vision comrade.

 

I never mentioned a 'minority'. I understand that you think the Party (not that you see a self-selecting group of 45% of the protoletariat organised as communists as a Party, but that's a question of your ideological blinkers not mine) will be a mass Party, an I don't think it will; the size of the Party doesn't matter. I don't think the workers' councils (not communist councils) should exclude non-communists even if they're 60% or 80%. So 'minority' doesn't come into it. Minority or majority - the Party cannot dictate to the working class as a whole. Your insistence that the Party is always right because it (nearly?) contains a majority of workers is a hideous notion, an entirely consistent with the most degenerated 'Leninism'.

 

As a further point I find your insistence that the failure of the revolution in Russia was a question of leadership to be very depressing, and again would link it to notions prevelant in degenerated Leninism. The only thing on which you disagree with the Stalinists is the outcome; whereas they see the 'success' of the revolution as being due to the wise leadership of Lenin and Stalin, you see the failure of the revolution as being due to the misleadership of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. I agree woth you about the result - yes, the revolution failed - but not because of the failure of Lenin and the Bolsheviks to successfully lead it. The substitution of the Bolsheviks for the working class - the point where the 'communist workers' took over the workers councils, where I can only think that your objection was that there weren't enough Bolsheviks doing the taking over - was a result, not a cause, of the failure of the revolution. It was a sign that the revolution had already stalled.

LBird wrote:

... I think Communists should organise, but on two provisions:

1. the party is open to any 'Communist' (of course, that itself has to be defined, but you can see that I'm arguing for an essentially 'open', 'all strands', heavily-factionalised, loose, political organisation, rather than a 'best elements', programme-based, cadre-dominated, 'better-consciouness', Leninist Bolshevik-type 'party'); and...

 

So, what is a 'communist'? Saying 'of course, that itself has to be defined' is no help really, because we're still left with a self-selecting 'ingroup' that you think should be able to exclude the 'outgroup' from the councils. That is not 'the dictatorship of the proletariat', that's 'the dictatorship of the party over the proletariat'.

 

LBird wrote:

2. members should see themselves as having dual-membership of pol. org. and class, and be aware that their essential loyalty is to the latter. In times of non-communism, the p.o. element predominates, but as the wider class develops its consciousness, and Workers' Councils threaten, then p.o. members should gravitate to the class organs, and 'ditch' their now outdated p.o. membership and throw themselves into class organisation. Thus, the 'party' self-disbands...

 

OK; but then this to me is fundamentally misunderstanding what the Party is. It isn't an organisation that stands above the class, the Party is the union of revolutionary workers. The ICC isn't the Party. The ICT isn't the Party. The fusion of the ICC and the ICT isn't the Party. Even the fusion of the ICC and the ICT and Internationalist Perspectives and Insurgent Notes and Mouvement Communiste and the KpK and Birov and ...x n with all of the supporters and sympathisers of those organisations isn't the Party; though it might be a nucleus of the Party. But, the Party will be formed when the working class really goes on the offensive. It's a tool, or as the ICT says a weapon, that the working class forges - a weapon made up of class-conscious militants.

 

It's also in contradiction to your views that workers' councils should be instead 'communists' councils'. If the Party disbands, who is to 'man' the soviets? Not non-communist workers; you've already decided that they should be excluded; but if communist workers have to 'self-disband' where are the communist workers to be in the workers' (sorry, communists') councils?

 

LBird wrote:
...

I don't agree with the scenario (outlined by Alf to me in the past) that W.Cs will be like a form of proletarian 'parliament' within which pol. orgs. compete for 'power', and that these W.Cs will allow non-communists to organise within them, which seems to me to be suicidal. I can argue this, of course, because I think that class consciousness of a Communist level will already be widespread in the class organised within W.Cs...

 

Alf and the rest of the ICC can speak for themselves obviously but in more than 13 years of discussing with the ICC I've never heard the idea that political organisations would compete for 'power' in the workers' councils. Influence yes, but the Party doesn't excercise power; all it can do is advise the working class as a whole.

 

LBird wrote:
...

Whatever the arguments against my views, I can't see how Marx's notion, of the act of liberation of the working class being an act by the class itself, can be possible without widespread Communist consciousness before the revolution, rather than something which develops in the mass after the setting up of Workers' Councils...

 

Because we think that workers don't need to be self-identifying communists ( =Party members) to contribute to the process of the revolution. It's only because your ideological blinkers are telling you that the non-Party workers are a danger to the revolution that you insist that the revolutionary workers should organise to exclude the rest of the working class. I don't think that workers should have to formally identify themselves as Party members to be part of the revolution or the workers' councils. As I've already suggested I find the idea of 'Party soviets' to be a horrifying recapitualtion of the worst of 'Leninism'. It takes 'the emancipation of the working class will be won by the working class itself' into the realms of 'the liberation of the working class will include the suppression of backward sections of the working class and will be delivered by a self-selecting ideological elite who will exclude the non-elite from the revolutionary process'. Please, tell me how that's different to Maoism, Stalinism or Trotskyism, or any others of the bastard descendents of 'Bolshevism'. It's the rankest substitutionism. Just because you employ some pseudo-democratic handwavium to the process, it doesn't mean that your conception of the 'communist workers' being the sole drivers of the revolutionary vehicle isn't a theorisation of as much of a party dictatorship as the USSR was. You are not talking about the 'liberation of the working class being an act by the class itself', as you're already excluding sections of the class and insisting only Party members have the right to excercise power. It's liberation delivered by the Party, which in my view is no liberation at all.

In opposition to this, Left Communists put forward perspective that the working class will embark on the process of the revolution without having a clear idea of where events will lead. It is being revolutionaries that will allow the generalisation of class consciousness. In these circumstances, contrary to your assertion that the revolutionary workers should disband the Party, and liquidate it into the soviets (which, I've already indicated is in contradiction to your assertion that only Party members should be allowed into the soviets), the revolutionary workers will in the conception of the Left Communists be unifying and organising together and creating the World Communist Party. The Party is nothing more than the union of those revolutionary workers who uphold the communist programme and seek to extend the revolution to its conclusion - the overthrow of capital and the state on a worldwide scale.

And in opposition to your 'communist' soviets that privilege a self-selecting/self-abnegating majority or perhaps large minority (whichever of those contradictory conditions happens to co-incide with your thought at any given point), I would rather put forward the notions expressed by the Situationists and Rudolf Rocker as:

For the international power of the workers' councils!

and

Everything for the councils! Nothing above them!

 

LBird wrote:
...

We'd be better spending our time examining our present-day assumptions, rather than constantly harping on about the RSDLP a century ago. Our understanding of those events is refracted through our current views of Communism, consciousness, organisation and class.

And vice versa. It's dialectical, innit?
 

LBird
Mass participation

Can we take your extremely long (but interesting) post, a bit at a time, for clarity's sake?

slothjabber wrote:
So, let's say the 45% of self-selecting communists are able to exclude the 55% of non-communist workers? I think that's a horrifying vision comrade.

This is as good a starting point as any, sj.

If we get to the point where 45% of 7 billion humans on this planet are class-conscious Communists, I'll be very happy. I think that the over 3 billion Communists should impose themselves upon the other 4 billion, who will be divided up between supporters of the ruling class, reformists who think that they can 'save capitalism' and those yet to be convinced to get involved in any political action.

As the 45% impose their views, the natural superiority of Communism will soon become clear to the other 55%, many of whom are already unwilling to maintain 'real' capitalism (that is, those who see necessity for some form of change, even if slow and gradual, and those who haven't fought for either capitalism or Communism).

I don't think it would take much 'imposition' to take the supporting numbers well over 50%. If we assume that Communism would have an effect equivalent to allowing starving people to eat and have clean water, then I would expect the figure to be more like 80-90%.

Perhaps I would call the period between support moving from 45% and 80-90% the 'dictatorship of the proletariat'. Once we are 80-90% of humanity, the other 10-20% will have to just like it, because now they would be living in an established Communist society. They would gradually disappear as our socialisation processes indoctrinate the next generation.

Why would you see this (admittedly, at present, unlikely) scenario as 'a horrifying vision', comrade?

Of course, the figure of 45% is an arbitrary one, but I think the real point is that Communism must have mass support at the point of the setting up of Workers' Councils, rather than being a minority viewpoint within the working class. In my opinion, if workers set up Councils that are not Communist, then this will show that workers are not yet class conscious, and are on a hiding to nothing, and the reformist blowhards will, once again, come to predominate.

We might as well throw ourselves in the canal, and save the ruling class and their working class supporters the trouble of shooting and bayoneting us first, mate.

LoneLondoner
A bit of history, please...

Lbird wrote:

Of course, the figure of 45% is an arbitrary one, but I think the real point is that Communism must have mass support at the point of the setting up of Workers' Councils, rather than being a minority viewpoint within the working class. In my opinion, if workers set up Councils that are not Communist, then this will show that workers are not yet class conscious, and are on a hiding to nothing, and the reformist blowhards will, once again, come to predominate.

Bit pie in the sky isn't it? If we look at what happened in history, we only have one example of a proletarian seizure of power, on a limited basis: the Russian revolution of 1917. Now, when the Russian workers first formed their Soviets in February or thereabouts, they certainly weren't communist in their majority, and the delegates were mostly Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries - ie "reformist blowhards". Nor were they initially ready to take power (any more than they were in 1905 when the workers first invented the soviets). That came later, as a result of struggle, experience, discussion... and the political activity of the Bolsheviks.

That said, the question of "majority/minority" is a real one, because the majority of the world's population is not made up of workers but of the peasants and the landless poor. The question of how the proletariat will impose its dictatorship in this situation is a real one, which we have addressed at some length in this pamphlet.

LBird
A lot of history, thanks...

LoneLondoner wrote:
Bit pie in the sky isn't it?

That's all of us Communists, isn't it?!

LL wrote:
If we look at what happened in history, we only have one example of a proletarian seizure of power, on a limited basis: the Russian revolution of 1917.

This is where interpretation of history comes in, doesn't it? I don't think it is an example of a 'proletarian seizure of power', but a 'party' one.

LL wrote:
Now, when the Russian workers first formed their Soviets in February or thereabouts, they certainly weren't communist in their majority, and the delegates were mostly Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries - ie "reformist blowhards". Nor were they initially ready to take power (any more than they were in 1905 when the workers first invented the soviets). That came later, as a result of struggle, experience, discussion... and the political activity of the Bolsheviks.
[my bold]

Workers not communist, delegates not communist, workers don't want power - but the party steps in...

Not my idea of "Workers' Power", I'm afraid, LL.

LL wrote:
That said, the question of "majority/minority" is a real one, because the majority of the world's population is not made up of workers but of the peasants and the landless poor.

I've discussed this one with Alf, in the past. In my opinion, capitalism's continued development will drive peasants into the cities to become urban proletarians, and those that remain on the land will become rural proletarians. I think that the issue of a 'peasantry', which so exercised the Bolsheviks, will soon become a non-issue, in historical terms. Soon, the proletariat will be the overwhelming majority. If that happens, the compelling issue is their Communist consciousness (or lack of it).

LL wrote:
The question of how the proletariat will impose its dictatorship in this situation is a real one, which we have addressed at some length in this pamphlet.

Thanks, I'll have a read of the pamphlet later, LL, but I think already our 'hard core' differences are becoming clearer.

slothjabber
a slip or an obfuscation?

LBird wrote:

Can we take your extremely long (but interesting) post, a bit at a time, for clarity's sake?

slothjabber wrote:
So, let's say the 45% of self-selecting communists are able to exclude the 55% of non-communist workers? I think that's a horrifying vision comrade.

This is as good a starting point as any, sj.

If we get to the point where 45% of 7 billion humans on this planet are class-conscious Communists, I'll be very happy. I think that the over 3 billion Communists should impose themselves upon the other 4 billion, who will be divided up between supporters of the ruling class, reformists who think that they can 'save capitalism' and those yet to be convinced to get involved in any political action....

 

I said 45% and 55% of workers, not humans. 45% of the (let's say) 3 billion people who are workers. So, maybe, 1.35 billion out of 7 billion, leaving 5.65 billion non-communists.

 

The thrust of my point is that you think the Party (even if it's a minority) should be able to exclude workers from the workers' councils. How is this different from Leninist substitutionism?

jk1921
Leninism in Reverse

slothjabber]</p> <p>[quote=LBird wrote:

The thrust of my point is that you think the Party (even if it's a minority) should be able to exclude workers from the workers' councils. How is this different from Leninist substitutionism?

Or why would one not think it is OK for a non-communist majority of workers to exclude communists from the councils (or just shoot them)? If the essence of what makes something legitimate is whether or not a majority subscribes to it, we are left with no basis upon which to call reformist consciousness false. We have to accept the judgement of the majority and as such are in no position to offer an alternative to reformist ideology. Of course, it seems LBird only wants to accept the judgement of the majority when it has the "right ideas." But who decides what the right ideas are? A privileged caste of communists? From where does their special access to the right ideas derive? As Slothjabber aptly points out, we are right back into the comrade's "Leninist" problematic, but from the other direction.

LBird
Categories

slothjabber wrote:
The thrust of my point is that you think the Party (even if it's a minority) should be able to exclude workers from the workers' councils. How is this different from Leninist substitutionism?

I'm still not sure why when I say 'Communists' it gets interpreted by comrades here as meaning 'Party'. To try to be clear about my categories, they are:

1. Workers (non-Communist)

2. Workers (non-party Communist)

3. Workers (party Communists)

[other classes irrelevant for this point]

I differentiate between 2 & 3, whereas when I mention 2 you seem to think I mean 2 & 3.

So, I think that Communist workers (2 & 3) should be able to excluse non-Communist workers (1),

and not 3 should be able to exclude 1, which is what you've suggested.

jk1921
Significance?

LBird wrote:

slothjabber wrote:
The thrust of my point is that you think the Party (even if it's a minority) should be able to exclude workers from the workers' councils. How is this different from Leninist substitutionism?

I'm still not sure why when I say 'Communists' it gets interpreted by comrades here as meaning 'Party'. To try to be clear about my categories, they are:

1. Workers (non-Communist)

2. Workers (non-party Communist)

3. Workers (party Communists)

[other classes irrelevant for this point]

I differentiate between 2 & 3, whereas when I mention 2 you seem to think I mean 2 & 3.

So, I think that Communist workers (2 & 3) should be able to excluse non-Communist workers (1),

and not 3 should be able to exclude 1, which is what you've suggested.

 

Its true that you make a distinction between party communists and non-party worker communists, but I think Slothjabber's argument is that it doesn't really matter; once you make a distinction between communist and non-communist workers you are de facto recognizing the existence of a party; for what is the party other than the organizational expression of the most conscious communist workers? So, can you tell us why the distinction matters? Anyway you slice it, in the end you are still saying its acceptable for part of the working class to surpress another part; you still haven't overcome Slothjabber's critique that you are advocating a backdoor form of "Leninism."

LBird
Assumptions

jk1921 wrote:
Its true that you make a distinction between party communists and non-party worker communists...

Thank you, jk, for realising that I make a distinction between these two categories. For me, they are separate categories.

jk1921 wrote:
...but I think Slothjabber's argument is that it doesn't really matter...

Thank you, jk, for realising that sj does not make a distinction between these two categories. For sj, they are the same category.

To take the discussion forward, it must be borne in mind what both sides are assuming, as part of their 'hard core' of ontological axioms.

jk1921 wrote:
...once you make a distinction between communist and non-communist workers you are de facto recognizing the existence of a party...

Unfortunately, this is the same assumption, jk. It involves only two categories: 1. non-Communist and 2. Communist. You then go on to say that your category 2 is synonymous with a party. I don't share that assumption, either.

I don't start from this bi-partitite schema (in effect, non-Communist and Party).

I start from a tripartite schema: non-Communist, Communist non-Party, and Party.

jk1921 wrote:
...for what is the party other than the organizational expression of the most conscious communist workers?

This is yet another two assumptions which I don't share, jk.

1. By 'party' here, you mean a tight Bolshevik party, whereas I would use the term loose political organisation (I defined the difference elsewhere).

2. I don't think that the most conscious Communist workers are necessarily within the party/pol. org. Perhaps at some points they are, but often they are not.

jk1921 wrote:
So, can you tell us why the distinction matters? Anyway you slice it, in the end you are still saying its acceptable for part of the working class to surpress another part; you still haven't overcome Slothjabber's critique that you are advocating a backdoor form of "Leninism."

You'll have to re-read what you've written here, in the light of my comments above.

This doesn't mean you have to agree with my categories, but if you wish to understand my arguments they must be placed within the correct axiomatic context. It's pointless trying to fit my arguments into your axioms. This is unscientific, according to philosophers of science, like Lakatos.

slothjabber
it's your party...

LBird wrote:

slothjabber wrote:
The thrust of my point is that you think the Party (even if it's a minority) should be able to exclude workers from the workers' councils. How is this different from Leninist substitutionism?

I'm still not sure why when I say 'Communists' it gets interpreted by comrades here as meaning 'Party'. To try to be clear about my categories, they are:

1. Workers (non-Communist)

2. Workers (non-party Communist)

3. Workers (party Communists)

[other classes irrelevant for this point]

I differentiate between 2 & 3, whereas when I mention 2 you seem to think I mean 2 & 3.

So, I think that Communist workers (2 & 3) should be able to excluse non-Communist workers (1),

and not 3 should be able to exclude 1, which is what you've suggested.

 

slothjabber wrote:

... non-communist workers are excluded (by whom? Only self-selecting communists, surely? This then is a 'party' whether you want to call it that or not) ...

All 'the Party' is, is the union of revolutionary workers. So your 'non-party communist workers' are the Party. The 'Party' (from 'partie' - 'seperation' or 'portion') of the working class - ie, 'that portion of the working class that identifies as communist' which is your category 2 (there is no category 3) - is a self-selecting elite. The non-existence of 'the Party' as a seperate category from 'the union of revolutionary workers' invalidates your division into categories 2 & 3.
 

LBird
Queries

slothjabber wrote:
All 'the Party' is, is the union of revolutionary workers. So your 'non-party communist workers' are the Party. The 'Party' (from 'partie' - 'seperation' or 'portion') of the working class - ie, 'that portion of the working class that identifies as communist' which is your category 2 (there is no category 3) - is a self-selecting elite. The non-existence of 'the Party' as a seperate category from 'the union of revolutionary workers' invalidates your division into categories 2 & 3.

You seem to be just playing semantics, here, sj.

You can't define my categories out of existence. You can disagree with them, and define your own, but you can't pretend I haven't said what I've said.

"All 'the Party' is, is the union of revolutionary workers."

So, what about 'revolutionary workers' outside of this 'union'? Or are you defining anyone outside the 'union' by definition as being 'non-revolutionaries'?

"The non-existence of 'the Party' as a seperate category from 'the union of revolutionary workers'..."

But what about those outside of this 'union/party' category?

I'm afraid you'll have to clarify what you mean by this 'union/party' category, sj. Does merely coming to a class consciousness place the proletarian unwittingly into this 'union', so that a Communist can be unconscious of their own 'union' membership, but you have the consciousness to identify it?

jk1921
Axiomatic

LBird wrote:

You'll have to re-read what you've written here, in the light of my comments above.

This doesn't mean you have to agree with my categories, but if you wish to understand my arguments they must be placed within the correct axiomatic context. It's pointless trying to fit my arguments into your axioms. This is unscientific, according to philosophers of science, like Lakatos.

Or your axioms are contradictory. You may be entitled to your own beliefs, but you are not entitled to your own rules of logic. Regardless of whether or not you support a tight-knit Bolshevik Party or some kind of looser federation, you are still positing the seperation of the working-class into distinct communist and non-communist sectors and giving the communist sectors the right (whether because they form the majority or because they have the "right ideas") to suppress the non-communist sectors. Its difficult not to see this as a reproduction of your caricature of "Leninism." 

Moreover, I am somehwat surprised to read that you characterize your system as a set of "axioms." This seems to imply a certain rigidity, a system building quality, that seems more appropriate for "Leninists."

LBird
Finish here?

jk1921 wrote:
Moreover, I am somehwat surprised to read that you characterize your system as a set of "axioms."

I'm not surprised you are surprised, jk. You haven't taken our discussion of the scientific method any further, have you?

If you wish to characterise my views as 'illogical', then there doesn't seem to be much more I can say, does there? I'm trying to explain why we disagree, that we have different definitions, categories and starting points, but we're not going to very far if you refuse to discuss these, or indeed deny that you have any axioms/assumptions/beliefs.

jk1921
Development?

LBird wrote:

jk1921 wrote:
Moreover, I am somehwat surprised to read that you characterize your system as a set of "axioms."

I'm not surprised you are surprised, jk. You haven't taken our discussion of the scientific method any further, have you?

If you wish to characterise my views as 'illogical', then there doesn't seem to be much more I can say, does there? I'm trying to explain why we disagree, that we have different definitions, categories and starting points, but we're not going to very far if you refuse to discuss these, or indeed deny that you have any axioms/assumptions/beliefs.

I am curious LBird, what have you gained from participating in the discussion here? Have you developed your views at all? Has anything changed in your worldview or do you still have the same set of "axioms" as the day you showed up? I thought the purpose of discussion was for there to be a development. You may be surprised by this, but I have actually learned a great deal from you. In particular, I find the relationship between epistemological skepticism and councilist politics very interesting. Its a connection I didn't see before. But, it seems to me, and pardon me if I am wrong about this, that you have built up a system that doesn't respond very well to criticism. What do you see as the goal of discussion here? Is it a clash of aboslutes and systems or is there some process of development and growth to be found? Its hard for me to see where this has happened for you, but I am open to you showing me that I am wrong.

LBird
Slim pickings

jk1921 wrote:
I am curious LBird, what have you gained from participating in the discussion here?

Well, it's become clear to me that I don't share the political beliefs of most (all?) the posters, here.

As I've said from the start, I consider myself a 'Councilist', and I made the initial mistake of thinking that the ICC was, too, but I've since been put right on that.

jk1921 wrote:
Its hard for me to see where this has happened for you, but I am open to you showing me that I am wrong.

That's about it, I'm afraid. All that has happened is that I've been confirmed in my fears about 'Leninist' parties.

You don't think that the ICC is 'Leninist', and that's fine by me, too.

I'm not sure there's anywhere else to go, now.

jk1921
Clash of Absolutes?

LBird wrote:

jk1921 wrote:
I am curious LBird, what have you gained from participating in the discussion here?

Well, it's become clear to me that I don't share the political beliefs of most (all?) the posters, here.

As I've said from the start, I consider myself a 'Councilist', and I made the initial mistake of thinking that the ICC was, too, but I've since been put right on that.

jk1921 wrote:
Its hard for me to see where this has happened for you, but I am open to you showing me that I am wrong.

That's about it, I'm afraid. All that has happened is that I've been confirmed in my fears about 'Leninist' parties.

You don't think that the ICC is 'Leninist', and that's fine by me, too.

I'm not sure there's anywhere else to go, now.

 

Well, if you think the ICC is Leninist, but I don't, we can't both be right or can we? I suppose only if you assume, as you seem to, that people carry around deep axiomatic beliefs that express fundamentally different ways of looking at the world and between which no real dialogue is possible. There may be instances when a "clash of absolutes" is inevitable, but is this really one of them? Is there no metric, standard of judgement, that can be devised by which one can evaluate our competing claims with some degree of reason? (I suppose the ICC would say it depends on what you mean by "Leninist," but let's leave that aside for a minute).

You may be right that everyone does carry around certain assumptions, beliefs, axioms through which they relate to the outside world at a very basic level, but I thought the point of scientific inquiry was to attempt to overcome these, because they represent bias and prejudice? But on the contrary, you seem to want to wave yours around like a flag and when others do not accept the fundamental building blocks of your system of axioms, you assume it is because they have their own.

Its hard for me to see how all of this is compatible with a scientific, Enlightenment project in the spirit of Marx. It seems much more Nietszchean, post-modern even its assumptions about the nature of the world, the nature of human reason and the possibility of rational discussion, debate and eventual consensus. I don't mean these as a series of epithets; they are all important intellectual artefacts of the modern era that need to be examined, but I wonder if it is possible for you to put aside your, what seems to me, rather pessimistic view of human nature and human knowledge and attempt to engage with the ideas themselves rather than defensively throw up the shield of a "clash of axiomatic systems" whenever someone casts doubts about your basic beliefs?

Whatever happened to Mikhail? I bet he would have some interesting insight on these issues.

LBird
A happy bunny

jk1921 wrote:
But on the contrary, you seem to want to wave yours around like a flag and when others do not accept the fundamental building blocks of your system of axioms, you assume it is because they have their own.

Yes, you're spot on here, jk. I consider that the scientific method should consist of exposing one's 'hard core' of empirically-unverifiable 'beliefs'. The study of science has shown that all science consists of these core building blocks. Since axioms are unavoidable, according to philosophers of science, I think it best to show them off and compare them. This seems to me to be the only honest thing to do.

jk1921 wrote:
Its hard for me to see how all of this is compatible with a scientific, Enlightenment project in the spirit of Marx.

Well, I think that I've tried hard over the last months to show how this approach is fundamental to achieving Marx's hope to unify the natural and social sciences, but if you see it as entirely destructive of 'reason', then I've failed.

The ball is in your court, though, to try to show how Marx's aims might be achieved.

jk1921 wrote:
...I wonder if it is possible for you to put aside your, what seems to me, rather pessimistic view of human nature and human knowledge...

Where you've got this one from, jk, I've no idea! I'm entirely optimistic about humanity and the possibility of humans, one day, controlling their society, in every sense, including science. That's why I actually read Lakatos, Kuhn, Feyerabend, and many commentators, and take an interest in Einstein himself, who I'm sure would have agreed with much that I've said about scientific method. He was no positivist, and neither was Marx.

jk1921
The Future

LBird wrote:

Where you've got this one from, jk, I've no idea! I'm entirely optimistic about humanity and the possibility of humans, one day, controlling their society, in every sense, including science. That's why I actually read Lakatos, Kuhn, Feyerabend, and many commentators, and take an interest in Einstein himself, who I'm sure would have agreed with much that I've said about scientific method. He was no positivist, and neither was Marx.

Well, I, and I am sure many others, have also "actually read" a good deal of the literature you describe. You can cite Einstein as your backing authority if you like, but then I could cite Habermas (also no positivist, but a firm defender of the Enlightenment project) as mine and we could play the game of competing experts all day long. What does that get us other than strutting a sense of self-importance?

It seems to me your professed optimisin about the future of humanity hides a genuine pessimism about the steps necessary to get there, a process I think requires a sense of humility, rational discussion in a exchange of ideas and a sense of openeness to otherness. But, of course, before all of this can take place, one first has to accept that a process of development is possible; rather than refuse to listen to ideas, because they do not confirm what we already believe and dismiss them with a label.

To your credit, you continue to try to discuss--despite openly considering whether or not the supposed "Leninists" on this board are worthy of your company--but you still seem burdened by a conception of the world that wants to categorize and carve people up into hostile camps and irredeemable others. If we are burdened beyond redemption by fundamentally irrarional "core beliefs" that cannot be transcended through scientific inquiry and praxis then no consensus about how to get out of the mess that is capitalism is ever going to emerge. We are now in the realm of Samuel Huntington's clash of civilizations (only now it is clash of worldviews) and that story doesn't end very well. The only way to decide a clash of axiomatic absolutes is through power and violence. In some ways your fear of Leninist violence seems almost a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You assume the world is full of power hungry absolutists and in fact it could only ever be that way by your interpretation of scientific method and as such we are all consigned to our fate. There's no reason to fight it or fool ourselves that it could otherwise. The optimism about the future of humanity you proudly proclaim seems a far way off and will require a terrible passage to finally arrive at. It will as you have written, require a lot of violence, thousands or millions of shootings, etc. to finally bring into existence. Its about as pessimistic a vision as I have ever encountered.

 

 

Demogorgon
"As I've said from the start,

"As I've said from the start, I consider myself a 'Councilist', and I made the initial mistake of thinking that the ICC was, too, but I've since been put right on that."

This is what I find strange about this entire discussion. That you genuinely believe yourself to be a Councillist.

Have you ever discussed with other councillists?

slothjabber
categories

LBird wrote:

slothjabber wrote:
All 'the Party' is, is the union of revolutionary workers. So your 'non-party communist workers' are the Party. The 'Party' (from 'partie' - 'seperation' or 'portion') of the working class - ie, 'that portion of the working class that identifies as communist' which is your category 2 (there is no category 3) - is a self-selecting elite. The non-existence of 'the Party' as a seperate category from 'the union of revolutionary workers' invalidates your division into categories 2 & 3.

You seem to be just playing semantics, here, sj.

You can't define my categories out of existence. You can disagree with them, and define your own, but you can't pretend I haven't said what I've said.

"All 'the Party' is, is the union of revolutionary workers."

So, what about 'revolutionary workers' outside of this 'union'? Or are you defining anyone outside the 'union' by definition as being 'non-revolutionaries'?

"The non-existence of 'the Party' as a seperate category from 'the union of revolutionary workers'..."

But what about those outside of this 'union/party' category?

I'm afraid you'll have to clarify what you mean by this 'union/party' category, sj. Does merely coming to a class consciousness place the proletarian unwittingly into this 'union', so that a Communist can be unconscious of their own 'union' membership, but you have the consciousness to identify it?

 

I don't have to pretend you haven't said what you've said, just that in doing so you're mistaking one thing for another.

 

The 'Party' is in toto 'those workers who identify as communists'.

Those workers who identify as communists cannot be both 'non-party' and communists, as identifying as a communist means that a worker is apart from those workers that do not identify as communists. So, there are 'communist workers' who are a 'party' whether they want to be or not; and there are non-communist workers. There are no 'communist workers who are at the same time non-communist workers'. There may be political organisations - for instance, it may be the case that the ICC and the ICT and other organisations continue into the revolutionary period; but they are not 'the Party'. So there may be 'communists in organisations' and 'communists not in organisations' (even so, non-organisations can be quite organised, with people publishing things and other people reading, discussing, and distributing them) but that isn't what you said. If that's what you meant, you need to be clearer. If it isn't what you meant, then never mind.

It still comes down to the idea that you think only the communist workers should have a place in the soviets, which makes you a Leninist.

jk1921
A Council of One?

Demogorgon wrote:

"As I've said from the start, I consider myself a 'Councilist', and I made the initial mistake of thinking that the ICC was, too, but I've since been put right on that."

This is what I find strange about this entire discussion. That you genuinely believe yourself to be a Councillist.

Have you ever discussed with other councillists?

Perhaps other councilists are not "really councilists"?  I wonder would the comrade have excluded the GIC from the councils? They believed in the critique of ideology through science after all. In fact, one wonders just who counts as a "communist worker"? Workers under the influence of Stalinism, Trotskyism, Left Communism? Or are only councilist workers really communists? Or only the councilisits that accept LBirds' axioms? That seems like it would result in one lonely council.

Proletarian Dy
"Convincing power"?

I followed this discusion seriously. But hesitant to participte for 2 reasons: 1) I'm not good in English (prone to misinterpretation) and 2) the highly "theoretical" (intellectual) level of the discussion.

But I have an observation (not sure if I'm right) that the discussion goes something like this: "you cannot convince me, then I'm right"; "you're not convince with my argument, then you're wrong (a Leninist)".

LBird
Fading fast

LBird wrote:
Does merely coming to a class consciousness place the proletarian unwittingly into this 'union', so that a Communist can be unconscious of their own 'union' membership, but you have the consciousness to identify it?

slothjabber wrote:
So, there are 'communist workers' who are a 'party' whether they want to be or not...

So, I'm in this 'party', too? Strange that I know nothing about it (or my friends). Good job I've got you to tell me this, slothjabber. You make a good 'best element'.

More widely, I'm baffled why the ICC is apparently trying to attract other comrades to its discussion forum, and then proceeds to alienate those who attempt to engage with it.

Surely you're aware that other comrades will disagree with you? Or are you just hoping to attract comrades who will merely accept what you argue? You have to answer questions, not just say that they are the wrong type of questions.

I suppose I'd better remain a 'non-councilist of one', who is completely unaware of my 'party membership', and go back to my isolated, uncomprehending, reading.

At least I've learned that the ICC is not a Council Communist organisation, though what you are, if not Leninist, is a mystery to me, still.

Demogorgon
"More widely, I'm baffled why

"More widely, I'm baffled why the ICC is apparently trying to attract other comrades to its discussion forum, and then proceeds to alienate those who attempt to engage with it."

Repeatedly calling us Leninists and then refusing to define Leninist is not engaging. Repeatedly and deliberately mocking comrades who disagree with you or fail to match what you believe your level of knowledge is on some topics is not engagement.

"Surely you're aware that other comrades will disagree with you? Or are you just hoping to attract comrades who will merely accept what you argue?"

Strawman argument. Most comrades in the ICC disagreed with its positions when they first encountered it.

"You have to answer questions, not just say that they are the wrong type of questions."

Pot calling kettle black. What should communists do when workers councils start electing Menshevik-style delegates? I think that's the 3rd time I've asked this now.

"I suppose I'd better remain a 'non-councilist of one', who is completely unaware of my 'party membership', and go back to my isolated, uncomprehending, reading."

And more refusal to focus on labels rather than the concepts behind what they are saying. Slothjabber has made it quite clear what his definition of "party" is on this thread - anyone who is a communist is part of the "party". (I happen to disagree with the way he defines "party" incidentally, but I'm more than capable of understanding the concept he's trying to elucidate!). Instead of trying to engage with the concept, you impose your own definition of word on him. In fact, you refuse any form of debate about categories - it's your way or the highway.

This was evident in your first points about reading Capital, where you ditched Marx's own categories in favour of your own and seemed quite shocked when no-one else seemed to find this helpful, and even more so when we pointed out that you'd either misunderstood or mangled Marx's original ideas when trying to impose your own system on them.

You're now doing exactly the same thing with the debate about the party and class. Several comrades have repeatedly pointed out, using your own quotes, historical examples, etc. how you are reproducing the concept of the Leninist dictatorship of the party. The only thing you have changed is the label. This is why I believe your vision of this question is wholly alien to the Councillist current - instead, you've arrived at a curious hybrid of authoritarian Councillism the like of which I've never seen!

When confronted with this you retreat from debate ... only to pop up again on another thread repeating exactly the same arguments in exactly the same pattern.  And when comrades criticise your behaviour and arguments, we're trying to "alienate" you, or we're Bolshevik Leninists or whatever, or we don't understand how to debate, or we're not clever enough to understand <insert philospher hero of choice here>, all usually accompanied with threats to walk away from the debate.

Even worse, you've previously accused us (never clearly defining whether your mean the ICC, a particular individual, or just the whole board!) of being liars and / or hypocrites. When challenged you refused to back up that accusation as well, but rather than retracting it (or, heaven forbid, apologising for what is, historically, a very serious accusation to make to a fellow communist) you just sail on as if it never happened.

You seem to think that we'll all be lost without you. In fact, given your conduct and your growing tendency to hijack thread after thread with your own preoccupations, I would say we have atually been remarkably tolerant of your behaviour, far more so than many other discussion boards I suspect. It is not that the ICC and the other participants here have tried to alienate you - we've done our best to engage with you on multiple topics numerous times. In all seriousness, I find myself wondering why you come to our board as you seem determined to alienate us.

LBird
Pot man

Well, I've had my answer!

Best of luck with more suitable callers.

slothjabber
Strawman & red herring = ?

LBird wrote:

LBird wrote:
Does merely coming to a class consciousness place the proletarian unwittingly into this 'union', so that a Communist can be unconscious of their own 'union' membership, but you have the consciousness to identify it?

slothjabber wrote:
So, there are 'communist workers' who are a 'party' whether they want to be or not...

So, I'm in this 'party', too? Strange that I know nothing about it (or my friends). Good job I've got you to tell me this, slothjabber. You make a good 'best element'...

 

What do you mean, you're 'in' the party? The Party (the World Communist Party, the international union of revolutionary workers) doesn't exist, as an organisation. How can you be 'in' it?

I didn't say that communists are 'in' the party, I said that communists are the party. But it's not a very precise thing to say so I'll try to be clearer.

If you are communist and a worker, you are not 'in' the party, because in the sense of a formal organisation 'the party' doesn't exist. You are however 'of' the party, ie part of the working class that identifies as 'communist'. You are part of the working class that identifies as communist, that is. 'The party' at this point is 'those who identify as communist' - not 'those who identify as being in an organisation'.

'The Party' is not this or that organisation. As I asked earlier, but it's another question you didn't answer, do you think that 'the Party' is a specific organisation? If so, can you tell us which one?

When the revolution begins in earnest, revolutionaries will seek to work together. Because we (the ICC, people that support the ICC) think that communists should seek to work together, we are 'Leninists' in your view. But we - or at least I - think that you're a Leninist because you want soviets of communists not soviets of workers. Until today, it has honestly never occurred to me that a 'communist' would say 'I'm a communist, and you're communists, and because you're communists and I'm a communist, I won't work with you'. But it seems to me that that is what you're saying.

I'm not sure why you think your blend of authoritarianism towards the working class, and extreme individualism to the point of being unwilling to work with other communists has anything to do with communism, but perhaps you can try to explain it.

LBird wrote:
...

More widely, I'm baffled why the ICC is apparently trying to attract other comrades to its discussion forum, and then proceeds to alienate those who attempt to engage with it.

Surely you're aware that other comrades will disagree with you? Or are you just hoping to attract comrades who will merely accept what you argue? You have to answer questions, not just say that they are the wrong type of questions.

I suppose I'd better remain a 'non-councilist of one', who is completely unaware of my 'party membership', and go back to my isolated, uncomprehending, reading.

At least I've learned that the ICC is not a Council Communist organisation, though what you are, if not Leninist, is a mystery to me, still.

The question of being 'unaware' of your 'party membership' is a strawman. The party is not a specific organisation at present. The question also has nothing to do with 'the ICC' trying to alienate you, as I'm not a member of the ICC. In that sense, I'm no different to you, and in your soviets-only-of-communists during the revolution you would presumably be quite happy that I should take part, as I'm not in an organisation (while I try as hard of possible to foment the formation of workers' councils of all workers, communist and non-communist, not your Leninist communists' councils). Or, does believing that communists should seek to work together make me enough of a 'Leninist' to be thrown out, or shunned, or whatever it is that you consider suitable punishment for trying to work together?

LBird
Comrades

I'd like to apologise to any comrades that I've insulted. I hope that some of the things that I've said have been thought-provoking, if not convincing.

Demogorgon
I think most comrades will

I think most comrades will accept an apology and want to keep debating with you if it's backed with a genuine effort at engagement.

 

mhou
semi-state

jk1921 wrote:

The issue of the period of transition has been a thorny one even within the ICC. The pamphlet it published many years ago on "The State in the Period of Transition" is not so much a statement of an organizational position, but a collection of various theses put forward in debate--none of which (as I understand it) represent the position of the organization as such.

I agree with Slothjabber that even the victory of the political revolution that smashes the bourgeois state does not get us to even a lower stage of communism. The economics of the period immeditely following the revolution are still thouroughly captialist. Its the task of the working class, organized in the councils, to begin the process of the transition towards communism by attacking the law of value wherever it exists.

I think this is the missing epistemological moment in the councilist theory LBird has been trying to elaborate. The participation of the masses of the working class in the revolution is important not because of some "democratic principle," but because only it--as the productive class--can figure out how to erode the law of value. This has to be done as a conscious act of the entire proletariat, thus requiring, as a matter of necessity, the widest debate and discussion within the class. It cannot be carried out by a party that has mastered some kind of "economic science," even if the party may still be the part of the class that is best able to concretize and express the experiences the class has in attacking the law of value and thus suggest the best way forward. But this far away from a dictatorship of party priests.

As for the state, the ICC has often argued that the period of transition will require the existence of a semi-state that is NOT synonomous with the workers' councils. This semi-state will be charged with maintaining social cohesion and making sure all the non-exploiting (but non-proletarian) elements in society are represented somehow. My question is how do the workers' counils exercise control over the semi-state w/o becoming, in turn, the state themselves?

In terms of communisation theory--the left communist vision that sees the erosion of the law of value as necessarily a conscious act necessitating the destruction of the bourgeois state as an initial opening act of the revolution, seems to be at odds with much of the thrust in communisation theory, which seems to me to posit a more or less unconssious refusal of the value form and the proletarian condition within the structures of the existing bourgeois state.

If the worker's councils (or similar bodies) are the expression of the proletarian dictatorship, and the semi-state (by virtue of being a 'semi' state) is different from the state-capitalist, modern bourgeois state and only encompasses the organized monopoly of violence, there are conceivable ways the councils could or would exercise control. The semi-state (if it fits the form described) would be the 'totalitarian-coercive' force wielded by the proletairat during its dictatorship: so the organization of the semi-state or its form could be decided by the soviets or no permanent organization of military-like command (even mandated and revocable) would be used, and only a generalized arming of the working-class with the councils deciding when to 'raise' the armed workers into a militia if there is a specific threat locally or regionally, and afterward the impromptu militia is disbanded. This kind of decentralized response/temporary militia (with no permanent organizational structure) is a semi-state that can conceivably 'wither away' when no longer needed (when the worker's councils are no longer necessary, when there is no more classes, etc.).

jk1921
Just a couple of things: The

Just a couple of things: The state has generally been said to have a monopoloy on the legitimate use of violence. In other words, it is the institutionalization of power beyond which there is no appeal. As such, it seems like we are in a difficult position when we posit the existence of the state (semi or otherwises), but then say that there is a level of authority over and above that (i.e. workers' councils). It seems like in this conception, the workers' councils are really the state. I am not sure this is coherent. It seems that the transitional state according to the ICC's definition remains a conservative force, one tending towards a preservation of the status quo (although what the status quo is in a period of transition is not clear. Is it captialism?) 

It seems to me like the proletariat would have to struggle against this state. Perhaps this is how it "maintains control" over it? Not so much by acting as an additional layer of authority, but by limiting the semi-state's power by remaining constantly organized (workers councils) and threatening to nullify the state through massive struggle. In other words, the semi-state is kept in check by a working class social movement that remains in near constant motion throughout the period of transition. The semi-state is in a sense constantly on the defensive. It no longer has the upper hand in the dissemination of propaganda, ideology construction, etc. so it lacks the legitimacy and authority of a true state?

So the workers' councils are not some kind of supra-state in the period of transition. They continue to represent the class power of the working-class against the state; even as the working class exercises its dictatorship in other areas of society, in transforming the economy, exposing bourgeois ideology, etc.

But how then is the idea of a proletarian dictatorship compatible with the notion that the proletariat has to continue to struggle against the state? I am not sure this is entirely coherent either. Are we saying that in this context dictatorship means something other than state violence?

Alf
social movement

I think that jk is spot on when he sees the councils as the expression of a movement which needs to constantly overturn the status quo, whereas there will be state-type bodies which are there to preserve the 'gains' of the revolution, which could become obstacles if they are not in their turn transcended. This connects to the discussion raised by Slothjabber. The period of transition is not communism but it's not exact;y capitalism either, it's a hybrid which either goes forward or backwards. The state is also a hybrid, neither proletarian nor capitalist, which is either withering away from semi- to no-state, or institutionalising itself as a 'true' state power which would eventually restore capitalist class rule. 

slothjabber
trying to find a way forward

LBird wrote:

I'd like to apologise to any comrades that I've insulted. I hope that some of the things that I've said have been thought-provoking, if not convincing.

Not sure who you think you might have insulted. For my part, no apology is necessary, because no insult has been given.

 

However, I certainly have become particularly annoyed by you recently and allowed that annoyance to come out in our discussions, so I'd like to apologise LBird for my uncomradely behaviour, and, if you're willing, to continue to examine some the questions about party and class.

 

It seems to me that we have some areas of agreement in the midst of our disagreements, though obviously the disagreements are substantial.

 

I propose for the moment to leave aside the question of the exclusion of the working class from the workers' councils by communists - I will want to return to it - and also any questions about specific organisations and whether they do or don't qualify as 'the party' as you conceive it; and look only at what you call 'workers (non-party Communist)' and 'workers (party Communist)'.
 

From one of your posts earlier:
 

LBird wrote:

...

1. Workers (non-Communist)

2. Workers (non-party Communist)

3. Workers (party Communists)

...

I differentiate between 2 & 3, whereas when I mention 2 you seem to think I mean 2 & 3.

So, I think that Communist workers (2 & 3) should be able to excluse non-Communist workers (1),

and not 3 should be able to exclude 1, which is what you've suggested.


 

I think of course that you've made an error in your categorisation of what I'd suggested. I didn't claim at any point that what you understand as 'category 3' should exclude 'category 1'. Because I don't believe in 'category 2' and 'category 3', when I say that your view is that the party excludes non-Communist workers (though I'd probably say non-revolutionary workers), I mean your categories 2&3, not category 3 only.
 

You say you differentiate between 2&3, but then go on to explain that 2&3 (not differentiated) can and should exclude category 1. This is no more than I was saying; the fact is that I regard 'the party' as being equivalent to your categories 2&3 while you think 'the party' is equivalent only to your category 3. So when I say that in your conception 'the party' excludes non-revolutionary workers, from your point of view what I mean is 'communist workers (party and non-party)', or 'category 2&3', exclude 'workers (non-communist) (category 1)'

 

slothjabber wrote:
... the Party is the union of revolutionary workers... It's a tool, or as the ICT says a weapon, that the working class forges - a weapon made up of class-conscious militants.

...the revolutionary workers will in the conception of the Left Communists be unifying and organising together and creating the World Communist Party....

 

This is why I don't believe in your 'category 2' and 'category 3'. As 'the Party' is a relationship between revolutionary workers, to claim that there will be 'Communists (non-party)' is in my conception the same as saying 'Communists (who reject trying to work with other Communists)'. Your category 2 is thus something like 'individualist Communists' or 'anti-Communist Communists', in my understanding, which is an oxymoronic thing to believe in, as far as I can see.
 

Do you think, in a revolutionary period (leaving aside any other times for the moment), that revolutionary workers - communists - should seek to work together? Those of us who support 'the Party' - for which we are derided as 'Leninists' having a 'Bolshevik mentality', whether we are actually members of an organisation or not - are doing no more than attempting to work together as revolutionary workers. To oppose the notion of 'the Party' is in our conception to oppose revolutionary workers attempting to work together.
 

 

As, in your conception, you explain that your 'categories 2&3' need to work together to exclude the rest of the working class from the councils, then in our - perhaps I should say my - understanding, you support the notion of 'the Party' (=revolutionary workers, working together); and therefore you believe that 'the Party' (=revolutionary workers, working together) should exclude the rest of the working class from the workers' councils.
 

 

 

mhou
Quote:But how then is the

Quote:
But how then is the idea of a proletarian dictatorship compatible with the notion that the proletariat has to continue to struggle against the state? I am not sure this is entirely coherent either. Are we saying that in this context dictatorship means something other than state violence?

Isn't its expression the social revolution and the use of state violence (to defend/be in service of the revolution)? The proletariat exercising its will on all other classes and strata in its revolutionary movement; from slothjabber's post awhile back:

Quote:
The dictatorship of the proletariat is a temporary and dynamic phenomenon. It either extends, as the world revolution extends, or it dies and is replaced by something else - in Paris it was brutally destroyed by the Thiers government forces, in Russia it was transformed from within into the Bolshevik dictatorship over the working class. Either way, I'd contend that the 'revolutionary dictatorship', rather than being a phase of 'communism', is rather the final phase of capitalism, and runs at the same time as the world revolution is actually raging.
jk1921
Theory of the State

mhou wrote:

Quote:
But how then is the idea of a proletarian dictatorship compatible with the notion that the proletariat has to continue to struggle against the state? I am not sure this is entirely coherent either. Are we saying that in this context dictatorship means something other than state violence?

Isn't its expression the social revolution and the use of state violence (to defend/be in service of the revolution)? The proletariat exercising its will on all other classes and strata in its revolutionary movement; from slothjabber's post awhile back:

Quote:
The dictatorship of the proletariat is a temporary and dynamic phenomenon. It either extends, as the world revolution extends, or it dies and is replaced by something else - in Paris it was brutally destroyed by the Thiers government forces, in Russia it was transformed from within into the Bolshevik dictatorship over the working class. Either way, I'd contend that the 'revolutionary dictatorship', rather than being a phase of 'communism', is rather the final phase of capitalism, and runs at the same time as the world revolution is actually raging.

 

It sounds like we are saying the proletariat struggles against the state and yet uses the same state for its own ends. But if the state is necessarily conservative, its hard to see how it can serve revolutionary ends other than, as Alf says above, defending previous acquisitions. But these previous acquisitions themselves still need to be transcended.

Still, it seems like there is a fundamental redefinition of the state at work here. If the state is always the organ of the ruling class, and the ruling class is the working class in the period of transition then in struggling against the state the working class is struggle against itself? I suppose I could see how that is possible.

This reminds me of a discussion I had recently with a friend who, while not a left communist, broadly idenitfies with the "Marxist project." He suggested that the state, as an institution, was always up for grabs. It can serve whatever ends as the class that captures it wants. But this seems to me to full of social democratic confusions. So, I am very weary of the idea of the proletariat capturing and using the state.

 

 

mhou
Quote:This reminds me of a

Quote:
This reminds me of a discussion I had recently with a friend who, while not a left communist, broadly idenitfies with the "Marxist project." He suggested that the state, as an institution, was always up for grabs. It can serve whatever ends as the class that captures it wants. But this seems to me to full of social democratic confusions. So, I am very weary of the idea of the proletariat capturing and using the state.
Well, the 'state debates' in the 1970's between the view you describe here, the instrumentalist vision of the state* (that it serves whichever class, represented by its class party,  is in control of it), and the  structuralist view of the state* (that no matter which class or party is at the helm of the state, it cannot  but serve the interests of capital) took up these arguments. *state here as in the bourgeois state. But the semi-state, the state that de facto exists despite the proletariat, in its revolutionary movement, smashing the bourgeois state- is radically different from the modern State Capitalist, bourgeois-state (the latter takes on political, economic and military functions while the semi-state will not 'do' all of this). The semi-state can't be the same institution that exists today simply captured by the communist minority of the working-class, but rather a completely separate organism that arises in the course of the revolutionary movement. The Bordigists describe the proletarian state as nothing but the totalitarian violence used by the proletariat to suppress the bourgeoisie and force other classes to submit to its movement.
Quote:
It sounds like we are saying the proletariat struggles against the state and yet uses the same state for its own ends. But if the state is necessarily conservative, its hard to see how it can serve revolutionary ends other than, as Alf says above, defending previous acquisitions. But these previous acquisitions themselves still need to be transcended.
I agree with the ICC that the worker's councils are separate from the semi-state (soviets and soviet type organizations as the form of the  DotP), but have a hard time with the argument that the semi-state takes on a number of administrative functions in addition to defense of the revolutionary movement, and is then a force that must be 'struggled against' based on the experience of 1917-1923.
Quote:
Still, it seems like there is a fundamental redefinition of the state at work here. If the state is always the organ of the ruling class, and the ruling class is the working class in the period of transition then in struggling against the state the working class is struggle against itself? I suppose I could see how that is possible.
I think it comes from Engels' description of the state as an organ of one class to oppress other classes; in which case the proletariat, with its semi-state and during the DotP, doesn't become a new ruling-class, but becomes, by nature of exercising its agency, the socially dominant class in struggle with the ruling-class to abolish classes. But, like I said, I have trouble with the idea of struggling against a semi-state that takes on numerous functions beyond exclusively being the form of more or less organized class violence.
jk1921
Whose state?

mhou wrote:

I have trouble with the idea of struggling against a semi-state that takes on numerous functions beyond exclusively being the form of more or less organized class violence.

Isn't that a pretty good definition of what any state is? Perhaps, the ICC's vision is the reverse of what you lay out here. The bourgeoisie (or whoever the agents of capital are) remain economically dominant; however, the proletarian revolution has smashed the bourgeoisie's state and it has now become politically dominant--it is now the ruling class. What makes the period of transition unique is that there is now a split between economics and politics when it comes to the state. But this begs the question of where the semi-state comes from and how can the proletariat be a ruling class while struggling against the state? This does seem to go in the direction of the instrumentalist theory of the state. The semi-state is kind of floating out there. Its not really the proletariat's, not really the bourgeoisie's. So whose is it, if anyone's?

slothjabber
is anything happening?

Is there anything else going to happen on this thread, does anyone think? Has LBird disappeared, do we know?

 

I think Alf's point about the 'transitional state' being a dynamic system that must either go forwards towards socialist society, or backwards to capitalist dictatorship is hugely important. It isn't a stable formation.

 

On some of the issues at hand, the distinction between 'workers' power' (which is what I think I was advocating in discussions with LBird) and 'communist power' which he was advocating I think is also important. I noticed on the ICT site that Cleishbotham makes this claim: "..In a movement towards overthrowing the old order communists (who else?) make communist revolutions...". I'm pretty certain I disagree with that assessment, though I agree with most of the rest of what he says in the post. I think it's workers, not communists, who make the revolution; and the working class (though Cleishbotham doesn't suggest the opposite, LBird did) that administers society in the revolutionary transformation (Marx of course speaks of the 'revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat' not 'the revoutionary dictatorship of the communists').

 

I'm not entirely convinced of the theory of the 'semi-state' which the ICC says needs to be watched over by the working class. I think the working class, organised in the workers' councils, is the state; what the working class needs to watch out for is the state separating itself from the workers' councils, in the form of permanent technical commissions or whatever; but while the workers' councils have a monopoly of force (through the workers' militia) and control the parameters of production and distribution, they are the state - in my opinion.

jk1921
States and Semi-States

slothjabber wrote:

I'm not entirely convinced of the theory of the 'semi-state' which the ICC says needs to be watched over by the working class. I think the working class, organised in the workers' councils, is the state; what the working class needs to watch out for is the state separating itself from the workers' councils, in the form of permanent technical commissions or whatever; but while the workers' councils have a monopoly of force (through the workers' militia) and control the parameters of production and distribution, they are the state - in my opinion.

 

How can something "watch-over" the state without itself being the state? Unless this is meant in terms of a dynamic soical movement limiting the state's field of maneouvre, etc. Of course, how this conception is compatible with the idea of a "dictatoship of the proletariat" is unclear to me.

Alf
society and state

In one of his early texts (the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of the State) Marx develops the notion of the state as an expression of man'e alienation and looks to a radical form of democracy to enable man to take back his own social powers. The same idea is expressed in a clearer form in The Civil War in France which Marx refers to in one of his drafts as a revolution against the state itself, and warns against confusing  the Commune itself with the social movement for the emancipation of labour: it's merely the framework within which the process can take place. If the workers' councils are the direct expression of this movement, then it is wrong to describe them as a state, and it remains more appropriate to see the transitional state as the general organisation of society, which will be there to hold together the hybrid transitional society. The working class and its direct expressions, however, have an interest in going beyond the hybrid nature of this society and thus in the 'withering away' of the state. Part of this process means stripping the state of the monopoly of violence. That doesn't mean the state will have no role in the use of violence: if a 'red army' becomes necessary, then  that is a quintessentially statist organ, and hence an organ that must be subject to vigorous controls. Which is why it was such a mistake for the workers' militias in Russia, which began as armed bodies directly linked to the workplaces and controlled by the councils, to be dissolved into the Red Army.  

slothjabber
That's what I was trying to get at...

jk1921 wrote:

slothjabber wrote:

I'm not entirely convinced of the theory of the 'semi-state' which the ICC says needs to be watched over by the working class. I think the working class, organised in the workers' councils, is the state; what the working class needs to watch out for is the state separating itself from the workers' councils, in the form of permanent technical commissions or whatever; but while the workers' councils have a monopoly of force (through the workers' militia) and control the parameters of production and distribution, they are the state - in my opinion.

 

How can something "watch-over" the state without itself being the state? Unless this is meant in terms of a dynamic soical movement limiting the state's field of maneouvre, etc. Of course, how this conception is compatible with the idea of a "dictatoship of the proletariat" is unclear to me.

 

I don't think it can, comrade, I think I was agreeing with you. In the conception of 'the workers' councils = the state', the working class, through the workers' councils, needs to maintain vigilance against any external bodies (such as the 'Red army' mentioned by Alf, or the 'permanent technical commissions' that I mention, or any other body that is set up by the workers' councils, or for example neighbourhood councils) becoming an alternative centre of power - a 'state within the state' or an 'alternative state' or any such thing. The workers' councils must have final say on everything and the working class must therefore excercise it's 'revolutionary dictatorship' over all aspects of social life.

jk1921
What's a state?

Alf wrote:

In one of his early texts (the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of the State) Marx develops the notion of the state as an expression of man'e alienation and looks to a radical form of democracy to enable man to take back his own social powers. The same idea is expressed in a clearer form in The Civil War in France which Marx refers to in one of his drafts as a revolution against the state itself, and warns against confusing  the Commune itself with the social movement for the emancipation of labour: it's merely the framework within which the process can take place. If the workers' councils are the direct expression of this movement, then it is wrong to describe them as a state, and it remains more appropriate to see the transitional state as the general organisation of society, which will be there to hold together the hybrid transitional society. The working class and its direct expressions, however, have an interest in going beyond the hybrid nature of this society and thus in the 'withering away' of the state. Part of this process means stripping the state of the monopoly of violence. That doesn't mean the state will have no role in the use of violence: if a 'red army' becomes necessary, then  that is a quintessentially statist organ, and hence an organ that must be subject to vigorous controls. Which is why it was such a mistake for the workers' militias in Russia, which began as armed bodies directly linked to the workplaces and controlled by the councils, to be dissolved into the Red Army.  

 

I think there is an imprecision here on the idea of "monopoly of violence." The state never has a monopoly on violence; it has a monopoly on legitimate violence--meaning it is the institutionalization of power and violence beyond which there is no appeal. So with what instiution, body, organizational form, etc. would this power lie in the transitional period? If it is the workers' councils, then it would seem they are the state. Or is this what is meant by semi-state? This situation simply wouldn't exist? There would be multiple points of power and violence, but none would be able to claim a monopoly as the last point of appeal?

Part of the confusion here, I think, is a difficulty in grasping the entire idea of a "semi-state." How do you strip away the state's monopoly on legitimate violence and still call it a state? This makes no obvious sense. There is the question of whether or not the idea of a semi-state even works. This, it would seem, requires broaching an entire discussion of just what a state is at its core and how this could be abrogated in a transitional society w/o setting up a de facto new state. Of course, this also raises the issue of how a state "withers away"? By what metric do we measure the relative level of "statification" of society?

Somalia is often said to be a country without a state, but it seems that there must be some state-like bodies functioning there. Northern Mexico is often said to have suffered state collapse. Is it correct to say that Somalia has less state than a country like the UK or US or is just a matter of how the state functions? Has the state collapsed in Northern Mexico or have the drug cartels simply assumed de factor state power?