Use of the Internet for discussion

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Link
Use of the Internet for discussion
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This contribution is being posted on the ICC’s and the CWO’s discussion forums.

I have been trying to get used to internet based discussion in the recent couple of years.  Im gradually getting over the problems of being too worried about being absolutely correct when I write something.  I have contributed on both the ICC’s and the CWO’s forums and engaged in interesting discussions even if I cant always manage to get responses to what I feel are key issues.  I guess that’s the nature of group discussion whether face to face or not anyway.

What I have noticed is that members from neither group engage in discussions on the others forum.  Is this an agreed practice?

It is clear that the internet is changing discussion and indeed intervention..  Both the ICC and the CWO  organisations have discussed how to respond to the emergence of electronic communication and have geared themselves up to change from printed media to internet based interventions. The ICC appears to have forsaken public meetings as a discussion point and embraced the hosting of an internet forum as the main means of external communication alongside its press.

As an old fart, I still find face to face discussion important but I am aware of the need for change here.  Nevertheless I am concerned that this may diminish the opportunity for discussion between the 2 groups.  If their public meeting are being reduced, then where is the opportunity for members to discuss, influence and get to know others perspectives?  I have seen members of both organisations engage in fruitful  and comradely discussion after the main part of meetings has ended – all without fear of crossing organisational lines!!  This is however happens purely by chance, yet I see this contact as very important.  All are left communists after all and there are not that many to ignore points of contact. 

Having said this I do recognise that printed and internet discussion raises problems of whether what is being said represents individuals views or the organisation they belong to and I don’t quite think this has been solved on internet forums.

To facilitate contact discussion between the groups, is there some way of agreeing how to enable individuals to contribute to all groups forums.  Ok, you will want to keep certain discussion formal and to representative of organisation but there must also be scope to discuss individual without the fear of crossing those organisation lines.

Is it not possible for both organisations to simply agree that members can contribute as individuals to each other discussion forums?  Otherwise the informality of internet discussion is likely to keep posing more and more problems of this nature in future and is likely to inhibit discussion between the groups. 

Link
Mmmm Interesting!!

No responses!?

After reading the last paragraph of the resolution on the International Situation from the 20th Congress, i wondered if anyone has anything to say on the issue?

A.Simpleton
I do @}

I think the overarching issue you define and bring up is most valuable and timely. You rightly draw attention to the practical implications, pros/cons, undeveloped (though not entirely unnoticed) possibilities of what is a qualitative (and perhaps quantitative) change in the practical environment in which the milieu both elaborates and intervenes.

And - to your eternal credit Link - you waited at least a week before commenting on the underwhelming response (rather like that unpaid bill thing: 'this is a reminder: amount of attention (in this case) due : at least some

I've actually been at this keyboard for hours and hours already, so I'll just throw together some notepad points - no particular order of priority - general and specific mixed together, for the important general issue, subsumes manifold smaller ones. 

* on 'online intercourse' policy within/across milieu orgs. As a maverick Marxist it doesn't 'restrict' me in that sense, however although I registered at libcom and have (as a bus pass holder) more time than many, just reading (properly) the articles for discussion, reflecting (properly) and hopefully contributing even to several threads here pre-empts the possibility of doing it 'there' ....or will it become a tiny but 'connective' plus to 'tweet' : "I'm still listening" or "agree" in many places.

* face to face : yup can't substitute for that - especially like your mention of 'asides after the meeting' :10 misunderstandings about positions can disappear like smoke in 10 minutes in real conversation. But as you say online is an addition not a substitution : it would be a sort of 'Luddite' false opposition to pose it like that.

*I feel here at least that it is a very open forum: there have been threads where 'independents' - as it were - have debated, developed, taken positions which are sometimes forcefully denounced as 'the usual ICC dogma' or some such: an irony. Plus members themselves do express reasoned doubts on certain aspects of positions.

It's a good point you raise about whether it is just a natural tendency or whether there are compelling reasons why the individual would not choose or 'could' not to do the same elsewhere.

It's that old balnce between concessions for the sake of advancement being acceptable or being a diluting danger. It was ever thus in some way or other .

In a non-digital world Liebknecht and Luxemburg faced similar questions. And tragically (or not) Lenin didn't have a laptop ...

i'll have to leave it there

AS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

baboon
a few points

I agree with AS and welcome Link's original post and his insistence in not being put off in coming back.

Not only Link's points, there's been at least a couple of posts recently wondering about non-responses to what seems important questions on these boards - particularly around the development of class struggle. I've been bemused myself a time or two why there's been silence on particular issues here. There is this difficulty in discussing over the internet and this has been shown in a certain fractiousness is some discussions recently. But with a will  and the constant concern for the "ethics" of discussion these can be overcome as we've seen with the development and clarification of some very good and  thought-provoking discussions and positions. I particularly liked AS's posts about Marx and marxism.

Yes, I think that the ICC and ICT should both post on each other's sites. The last time I remember an ICT member posting on here he sort of apologised for intruding. This shouldn't be the case at all as we don't have to just hurl fully-formed positions at one another but can make punctual points of support, clarification, disagreement, etc.outside of a necessarily formal framework. I think it's a concern that there isn't more discussion on the ICT website and that there isn't more input from ICC members on here - but the reality is that both organisations have a lot of work and it's a matter of priorities.

For myself recently I've been exchanging messages with Cleish from the ICT over some details and analysis about Grangemouth which was both pleasant and rewarding. I try to maintain posts on certain issues on libcom because I think that this is an important proletarian resource.

There was (is) also a good discussion on libcom re Grangemouth which developed many issues around the class struggle and which saw a left communist defence from different elements.

I think that we must do what we can to encourage more people to post even, especially, when positions are not "the last word". There's plenty of people (though not enough) reading the stuff over time.

Link
A distinct lack of response from ICC members

I thank AS and Baboon for their interesting responses here.

I would echo Baboon’s point that it is hard to get responses sometimes, whilst I do support the ICCs approach that it is hosting a discussion, it is nevertheless the ICC website and there have been times when contributors have asked in vain for clarification of ICC positions.  So in additional to my original query about ICC and CWO members posting on each others' websites, perhaps I should also ask why more members of both organisation don’t engage in the discussions on these websites?  I recognise the need for priorities and divisions of labour in these tasks, however I would think that if the websites are becoming the focus of intervention, then more members should be involved in discussions here.

The lack of response so far is surprising really cos i did not think i was posing anything problematic for either the ICC or the CWO

I would further like to ask the ICC and the CWO (because i would think the CWO will generally agree with te thrust of tis paragraph) what are the implications posed by the Resolution on the Int Sit from it 20th Congress:

“…. debate is the key to criticising the insufficiencies of partial points of view, to exposing traps, rejecting the hunt for scapegoats, understanding the nature of the crisis, etc. At this level, the tendencies towards open and fraternal debate of these last years are very promising for this process of politicisation which the class will have to take forward. Transforming the world by transforming ourselves begins to take form in the evolution of initiatives for debate and in the development of concerns based on a critique of the most powerful chains holding the proletariat. The process of politicisation and radicalisation needs debate in order to make a critique of the present order, giving a historical explanation of problems. At this level it remains valid to say that “the responsibility of revolutionary organisations and the ICC in particular is to participate fully in the reflection going on in the working class, not only intervening actively in the struggles which are already developing but also by stimulating the positions of the groups and elements who aim to join the struggle” (ICC's 17th Congress: Resolution on the international situation). We must be firmly convinced that the responsibility of revolutionaries in the phase now opening up is to contribute to and catalyse the nascent development of consciousness expressing itself in the doubts and criticisms already arising in the proletariat. Developing and deepening theory has to be at the heart of our contribution, not only against the effects of decomposition but also as a way of patiently sowing the social field, as an antidote to immediatism in our activities, because without the radicalisation and deepening of theory by revolutionary minorities, theory will never seize hold of the masses.”

I don’t think this is saying continue as we have been; it suggests changes in strategy.  What are the implications for the ICC intervention therefore and how does this therefore impact on the use of the internet and relations to other political groups?

Alf
fora

There's nothing in principle against us posting on the ICT website and vice versa, on the contrary, there's no difference between doing this and us going along to CWO public meetings or them attending ours, which happens on a regular basis. We have posted on the ICT forum in the past and no doubt will do it again. 

There is a big problem of resources for us, given the number of possible forums and the small number of comrades available for the work, which can become very time-consuming. I think there is more to this than a technical issue - there is a whole discussion to be had about (a) the difficulties of an older generation of revolutionaries adapting to this new medium and (b) the lack of a real culture of debate in many of the forums, which has sometimes sapped comrades' morale and led them to keep away from the forums. Certainly several comrades now rarely intervene on libcom for this reason.

There are perhaps some more specific issues regarding the relationship between the ICT and the ICC, in particular, a desire on both sides to avoid 'squabbles', but this should not be confused with serious debate and polemic between revolutionary groups. If you look at our press over the past few years, you will see a decline in the number of polemics in general, and with the ICT in particular, so it's not just a question of the internet. I think that we need to go back to the spirit of polemic, avoiding some of the errors made in the past, on the basis that the majority of advances in the theoretical clarity of the revolutionary movement have come about precisely through polemic. 

jk1921
Lack of Participation

Link wrote:

I would echo Baboon’s point that it is hard to get responses sometimes, whilst I do support the ICCs approach that it is hosting a discussion, it is nevertheless the ICC website and there have been times when contributors have asked in vain for clarification of ICC positions.  So in additional to my original query about ICC and CWO members posting on each others' websites, perhaps I should also ask why more members of both organisation don’t engage in the discussions on these websites?  I recognise the need for priorities and divisions of labour in these tasks, however I would think that if the websites are becoming the focus of intervention, then more members should be involved in discussions here.

Over on the ICC's French language page there is an article discussing the lack of public meetings over the last year. It seems that this is no accident as the organiztion has decided to refocus itself in the face of a certain "loss of acquisitions." Is the part of the reason why it seems like there is often sparse participation from ICC members of this forum? Questions go unanswered, etc.? Is it all down to a lack of resources or is there something more fundamental going on here?

BTW, it seems it is not possbile to start a discussion on the French language forum using the log in for the English language forum. It also seems it is not possible to start a discussion about an article from another language on the English language forum, unless I am missing how to do it.

Link
I think its time to resurrect this thread

"Your concern over our failure to follow the forum recently is well founded and we are discussing it. It reflects more profound difficulties confronting the organisation (and probably the revolutionary movement as a whole) which we have begun to write about at the general level (cf article on the last ICC congress) but will have to make more concrete. But we aim to take more immediate measures to improve our following of the forum."

The above comment was made by Alf elsewhere - I don’t this it is just about Lbird’s behaviour is it? 

Comrades have made some good points on this thread and left quite a few questions for response.  I hope your comment about the need to improve the following of the forum applies generally though to the discussion Alf than the content of contributions. 

Alf, I think you have been a bit too easy on the old ‘uns.  I don’t want to question strategic decisions and meetings etc or even that the ‘host a forum’ approach,  but I cant help thinking the online discussions of general political issues cannot be less significant than internal discussions and maybe should be more?

I do agree however about the weariness induced by the state of some online discussions.  I don’t use libcom as a result but to be honest Ive been less inclined to post in ICCs forum too.  I am quite happy to see you (WR members)  control contributions more and I would prefer to see more comrades involved doing this.  I do hope Lbird now really understands the effects of a destructive approach to discussion.

I have not been posting into online forums for very long and only use yours and CWOs.  I still find it quite hard to get over the age old (old age?) problem when committing thoughts to paper of remembering its just a discussion not an organisational position.  Do you believe this is part of the background to the lack of intervention?  It really isn’t part of the mentality of the new generations now re their use of internet and something to fighting against. 

I don’t want to question strategy/decision making as such but I agree that the forum needs more ‘following’ and would enjoy more contributions to discussion from members.

The other criticism I still have relates to the relationship with the CWO.  Fair enough in what you said and  I don’t think that you should each be the others’ priority – but I do think here should be some priority to this relationship.  If the ICC does not hold public meeting then the contact between members is purely accidental!  The 2 organisations have the same positions but apply them differently (or something like that anyway!) so it seems daft to me to keep making the same posts on both forums

I would just like to go back to the quote I put up earlier in the thread on ICCs policy towards intervention in this period.  Perhaps someone could give a proper explanation of how this translates or should translate into practice, because it does not seem to me given what I and others have said in this thread, that practice is in accordance with it?

A.Simpleton
'Accidental'

Link wrote:

 Fair enough in what you said and  I don’t think that you should each be the others’ priority – but I do think here should be some priority to this relationship.  If the ICC does not hold public meeting then the contact between members is purely accidental!  The 2 organisations have the same positions but apply them differently (or something like that anyway!) so it seems daft to me to keep making the same posts on both forums

 

I think this is a valid and very practical point which you re-emphasise: although not 'aligned' -which seems to be the word of choice for simpletons like myself- one does not forget how to 'ride Marx's bicycle' as it were.

Surely it is not -de facto- some slide into 'centrism' or watering down to practically show solidarity with another organisation with the same 'essential' positions but who happen to spell some words differently.

Even an 'oldster' like me would be highly motivated to attend an open meeting where ICC and CWO presentations /discussions /interventions were voiced in person.

The class war is not virtual: the immiserated workers are not oppressed by 'virtual' poverty' : and although I, as much as anyone, could be lulled into a 'virtual sense of progress' by the 'number of hits' on this or that thread, as you say, even a genuine desire to use the 'extra' resource of the internet to develop theory-with-a-view-to-practice can seem deceptively positive sometimes.

Just trying to contribute some substance - requiring time and research- two or three threads on one site takes hours and hours a week - not 'begrudged' at all and I have more time than most. The feeling of 'not being in the know' 'less informed' just because it is a simple practical fact that the profusion of 'virtual forums' cannot all be kept up with: and if I read you right nor do they need to be.

I will add one other point which may bring down a hail of virtual bullets but I stand by it: 'mavericks' like myself cannot seriously believe that they are contributing to the years and years of mental/physical work of groups like the ICC or CWO if my starting point is ' well I think that the whole thing should be re-written' or 'because you are an organisation I must (for some inexplicable reason) distrust you.'

Some petit bourgeois artisan like myself is going to produce 'the stunning solution' which 160 years of dedicated effort - including error - has 'failed to see' or even forensically examine?

Ridiculous: and a bit insulting actually. I used to walk from a brass-polishing job in Denman Street to Farringdon to ICC meetings (1980/Poland times) : if I felt at all qualified to query or disagree rather than listen, it took more than logging on and cutting and pasting my favourite quotes.

AS

Fred
Debate versus "culture of theory"

Link wrote:

No responses!?

After reading the last paragraph of the resolution on the International Situation from the 20th Congress, i wondered if anyone has anything to say on the issue?

Hi comrade link.  The paragraph you refer too harps on a lot about "debate" .  For myself I have doubts about good old bourgeois debate and university debating societies and the like, and prefer the word "discussion". - surely there is a difference?  Debate aims at scoring points and eventually "winning" whereas discussions aims  for clarification,  which is  always a proletarian goal. ( The last thing the bourgeoisie needs these days is any clarification of either the true nature of their bourgeois democracy or of the economic system it supports!)   Anyway, the paragraph you refer to, if I've got the right one (?)  ends as follows.

 

Quote:
.  Developing and deepening theory has to be at the heart of our contribution, not only against the effects of decomposition but also as a way of patiently sowing the social field, as an antidote to immediatism in our activities, because without the radicalisation and deepening of theory by revolutionary minorities, theory will never seize hold of the masses.
 

I have elsewhere on the forum attempted to elaborate the distinction between "the culture of debate" and "the  culture of theory"  to use two categories provided by the ICC  in the article on the 20th. congress, and wonder  whether there might not be some conflict between these two.  That is to say that theory, and the culture of theory  aims for enlightenment and clarification, and the expansion of consciousness in a way in which the culture of debate  doesn't or can't.  If I've got this right, that is to say.  

 

The difference between  the two cultures of (a) debate and (b) theory-as-a-way of life-and-thought may go some  way to explain difficulties of presentation of communist ideas and thoughts on proletarian forums. These are okay as long  as comrades are in broad agreement with each other and  "on the same page" so to speak,  but run into harsh and painful difficulties as soon as consensus and solidarity  are lost.  This may prove to some that "we don't know how to debate".  But I don't think this is right.  It's more like "we don't know how to behave and respond when we don't immediately see each others' point  but are forced into a retaliation."  

 

Isnt  it possibly something of this nature that proved the undoing of the redmarx  and leftcommunist (slothjabber's) forums?  

 

I am going to stop now, because I really have to think about this a bit more and can't do it now. 

Link
Response to Fred on other thread

Ive put a response to Fred on his thread on ICC conference document

MH
setting the tone

Like other comrades I warmly welcome the ICC’s recent increased presence on this forum, and appreciate the additional time and resources that must be involved.

It’s right to emphasise the need for self-discipline on the part of all contributing to online discussions, but it is also inescapable that the ICC has a particular role to play in promoting a culture of debate on its own forum, following the threads, encouraging the development of thoughts and ideas, clarifying the organisation's position, identifying areas of agreement and disagreement, attempting to summarise the results where possible and intervening to enforce its own rules where necessary...

This is onerous, and there’s a discussion to be had about the limitations of such online forums in enabling genuine, structured debate, but in the meantime, fairly or unfairly, it's the ICC's actions that set the tone here.

lem_
I think of bbs as leisure

I think of bbs as leisure time without as much input (I can listen to mp3s and type, go take a pee, whatever). The Internet is very odd, in that as long as the communist "current" is winning, it can I think mitigate against mistakes. Being an advanced communication technology it helps orientate efforts into greater openness. I think the bolshevik party would've done better, with it. But likewise capital is able to advertise itself and its relations, if not promoting distraction then disengagement up to being wanton thoughtlessness. 

 

 

Fred
Online forums may have their

Online forums may have their limitations MH, but not having any online forums at all  would be even more limiting.  How did Rosa  and Lenin manage without?  By letter?  By newspaper publications  which might take  days or even weeks to get from A to D?  How would the comrades who read and write on this forum communicate without it?  We wouldn't. We wouldn't even  know we existed.   I agree with lem, I think the Bolsheviks, and the various comrades in Germany  and elsewhere, in 1918,  could have benefitted enormously from Internet communication or even  a widespread and effective telephone service. An advanced technology might have been the saving of the revolutionary wave! 

As to "genuine structured debate" - just at the moment I am taking a position against that concept as being essentially ruling class  (I know everyone disgrees with that!)  and not something the working class can necessarily use easily for its own purposes.  Just to pose a mischievous question: exactly how  "genuine" is a "structured" debate going to be? What about "spontaneity"  and "intuitions" and flashes of inspiration in response to something somebody says?  What about letting somebody who's speaking well, and openly, and making marvelous points, just have the floor and to hell with "structure" and control? 

I know you might say:    "Well, alright Fred. What will you have instead, and how will you organize it and avoid chaos and anarchy?"  

 

And the answer is I don't  actually know.    I don't know how workers managed themselves in the Soviets.  But surely it wasn't all "points of order" and the like so beloved of leftism?  I imagine a great deal of excitement. People talking all at once as they suddenly are freed and find themselves and their voices and hear new ideas by the dozens. 

 

I think enabling comrades to speak, and encouraging comrades to speak,  and to post stuff on this forum for instance, must take pride of place today over "genuine structured debate"  (which  I know most ICC comrades are good at  - but, as commiegal commented about the  ICC  Spring public meeting, speakers can over do it at times )  and, in the meantime, all power to the internet and specially the  Marxist forums found  there.  

 

As a footnote to the above.  When the question arose of publishing poems by the poet Gerard  Manley Hopkins after his death,  his executor the then poet laureate had grave doubts about the required "literary decorum" of some of Hopkins poems, and found them lacking.  These poems, needless to say, are now regarded as among the best.  But I can't help feeling that  "genuine structured debate" has a touch about it of longing for a perceived as necessary "literary decorum".  I posit this for debate. 

 

 

 

 

MH
is there an intrinsic problem with online discussion?

Fred, well, yes I do disagree that the concept of “genuine structured debate” is essentially a ruling class idea but at least it has successfully provoked this debate... My point about online debate is that, having reflected on some of the problems recently with this forum, I think there are some intrinsic barriers it has to overcome. I was struck by S Artesian’s previous response about the apparent demise of the redmarx forum: why stay and ‘debate’ on redmarx when you can go on facebook and ‘chat’ with so many other ‘chatters’ online? Isn't this the sort of thing we’re all up against? Elsewhere comrades have observed how the internet reflects not only the anarchy of capitalist production, but more pertinently the effects of decomposition. The Bolsheviks may well have made use of the internet if it had been invented but they didn’t have to deal with decomposition.

You say you remember ICC forums in the 70s (in fact I think I remember you, I was a young student at the time); what if there had been no one to chair the meeting, no presentation, no summing up, and comrades had been free to wander in and out of the room rather than staying to listen to the arguments and respond? It would be different, maybe less intimidating, still potentially productive, but as productive?  Would it seriously reflect, if only in a small way, the efforts of the working class to clarify its role and tasks..? Of course you could try to impose more structure on an online discussion, devote more resources to ensuring it is structured, but it's even more onerous, time-consuming, for ICC comrades.

There have been too many threads on this forum which to my eye start to tackle difficult issues like why it is so difficult to struggle today, or the extent of decomposition, where comrades begin to make really important points, only for the thread to trail off, without any proper development of the arguments or conclusion. Why is this? Is it just about resources? Or am I wrong? Is it even a problem?

LBird
What's the real problem?

MH wrote:
There have been too many threads on this forum which to my eye start to tackle difficult issues like why it is so difficult to struggle today, or the extent of decomposition, where comrades begin to make really important points, only for the thread to trail off, without any proper development of the arguments or conclusion. Why is this? Is it just about resources? Or am I wrong? Is it even a problem?
[my bold]

I'm sympathetic to the problems you raise, MH, but isn't part of the problem the simple fact that some posters will question some of the assumptions that are being made, by those who agree with the ICC?

So, for example, on 'the extent of decomposition', some will say 'Whoa!', never mind 'extent', what about 'decomposition' itself, as a concept?

If comrades won't explain this, and answer difficult questions about the concept (and not just pretty much ignore the problem, and peremptorily dismiss the questions with 'Read This!' and supply a thread to an (often long-winded) ICC publication), then the thread will 'tail off'.

The wider problem with having an internet board is that you're more likely to get comrades who are critical of the organisation's basic assumptions. One way around this is to label a thread on 'decomposition' (for example), as only for those who agree with the concept of 'decomposition'. Then, you'll only get comrades who wish to 'develop the argument' and reach a 'conclusion'. The ICC supporters will then be content.

But... isn't the aim of the site to engage with comrades who don't presently agree with the ICC, in the hope of persuading them of the correctness of the ICC's positions? Unfortunately, this, though, will always leave open the problem of comrades visiting who not only disagree with present ICC positions, but act as a transmission belt for opposing views which actually weaken the ICC's.

For my part, I can only acknowledge openly that the ICC has allowed me to post many disagreements, and ask many difficult questions. But, I'm of the opinion that the ICC is not answering those questions very successfully.

Short of banning me, which is what LibCom eventually did, because they couldn't answer difficult questions, I'm not sure what the answer is. If the ICC posted a notice here that anyone participating must agree with a certain number of key positions, and that they must declare this before they post, then I'll simply go away, with comradely thanks for the intervening discussions. Of course, the ICC will have solved a short-term problem (me, apparently), but at the cost of longer-term development, which will necessarily be a two-way, difficult, process, for class and party.

lem_
Why did libcom ban you lbird?

Why did libcom ban you lbird? Is it busy there? They banned me for bad netiquette, posting too many times without reply. Also for not making sense, which still strikes me as absurd.

I've been banned from a lot of forums. There's too many vested interests / clashes of personality in these social sites for them to really function fairly, let alone as important areas of debate. I think this site has some promise cos it's not so open ended that the mods act as a clique rather than facilitating discussion. Similar to tech sites. But it's inevitably very slow... 

MH
real and false problems

LBird wrote:

I'm sympathetic to the problems you raise, MH, but isn't part of the problem the simple fact that some posters will question some of the assumptions that are being made, by those who agree with the ICC?

So, for example, on 'the extent of decomposition', some will say 'Whoa!', never mind 'extent', what about 'decomposition' itself, as a concept?

No I honestly don’t think this is a problem – as long as questioners are prepared to inform themselves of the views of the organisation on this or any other topic and then come back to discuss.

LBird wrote:

If comrades won't explain this, and answer difficult questions about the concept (and not just pretty much ignore the problem, and peremptorily dismiss the questions with 'Read This!' and supply a thread to an (often long-winded) ICC publication), then the thread will ‘tail off’.

Why is it to “peremptorily dismiss a question” simply to say: we’ve written a text on this which explains our position, why not read it and come back and say what you think of it?

Are we all somehow so affected by attention deficit syndrome and the spirit of instant gratification promoted by capitalist ‘social media’ that we demand instant answers to our online questions without reading a book anymore? Surely not.

When I first approached the ICC, a long time ago, apart from discussing with comrades I was encouraged to go away and “read the Decadence pamphlet”. Which I did. I simply accepted that I didn’t know enough about the positions of the organisation to be able to have a more informed discussion. And then I came back to discuss some more.

One of the gains of the internet is precisely the ability of organisations like the ICC to make their publications available to a global audience online – and for free! When I were a lad - no sorry…

And actually, the threads I have in mind which have tailed off have not involved anyone being told to “Read This”. In fact, when you think about it, many of the threads are started by comrades who have read, and want to discuss further, a particular text or article.

LBird wrote:

The wider problem with having an internet board is that you're more likely to get comrades who are critical of the organisation's basic assumptions.

Again, it shouldn’t be a problem if comrades who are “critical of the organisation’s basic assumptions” are also prepared to read and reflect offline.

LBird wrote:

For my part, I can only acknowledge openly that the ICC has allowed me to post many disagreements, and ask many difficult questions. But, I'm of the opinion that the ICC is not answering those questions very successfully.

Yes, it has alllowed you to post your many disageements. And I know you think comrades avoid your ‘difficult’ questions because they feel ‘threatened’ by you, but the truth I suspect is a little more prosaic: the ICC just doesn’t have the time or resources to answer all your questions. Or all mine.They do their best, but they’re militants, they are actively opposed to everything capitalist society stands for, and throws at them, and there’s just too much to do, and too little time. I know you think we’ve got at least a century to bring about communism but some of us don’t share your optimistic timescale.

LBird wrote:

But... isn't the aim of the site to engage with comrades who don't presently agree with the ICC, in the hope of persuading them of the correctness of the ICC's positions?

Yes, in my view it is, and there is clearly a discussion going on within the ICC about the role of the forum in the context of the recent congress resolution on activities (qv). 

I think it is true to say that, due to the current weakness of the revolutionary movement generally, the content of this discussion forum may tend to reflect the concerns and views of a relatively small number of sympathisers, close or otherwise – especially those who for one reason or another are dependent on the internet for political contact. Whether this is a problem depends on your point of view. And apart from a much-hoped for surge of interest in revolutionary politics worldwide it’s difficult to see what could be done about it.

LBird wrote:

Unfortunately, this, though, will always leave open the problem of comrades visiting who not only disagree with present ICC positions, but act as a transmission belt for opposing views which actually weaken the ICC's.

This rather assumes that opposing views somehow weaken the ICC’s positions. If this was true the ICC would have shriveled up and died a very long time ago. So I wouldn’t worry too much about this.

LBird wrote:

Short of banning me, which is what LibCom eventually did, because they couldn't answer difficult questions, I'm not sure what the answer is. If the ICC posted a notice here that anyone participating must agree with a certain number of key positions, and that they must declare this before they post, then I'll simply go away, with comradely thanks for the intervening discussions. Of course, the ICC will have solved a short-term problem (me, apparently), but at the cost of longer-term development, which will necessarily be a two-way, difficult, process, for class and party.

I think there is also an issue here about ways of discussing, which has been raised with you here already, and which I think you do need to reflect on. Banning would only be appropriate for someone who consistently broke the rules of the forum and would not be a decision taken lightly. Again, I think you exaggerate the extent to which your views present a ‘problem’ for the ICC except to the extent that they demand scarce time and resources (see above). But I think you’ve raised some genuine issues and concerns here which is why I’ve taken the time to respond to them, as part of the wider discussion about the use of the internet for discussion.

 

lem_
It depends on what the job of

It depends on what the job of the forum is. Is it, for now, mostly a token gesture, a way to demonstrate that the icc are open to debate etc., or is it there to help clarify things for if not the organisation itself then its acquaintances? I am unsure what good it does for in terms of the latter, not only cos if our lack of numbers but cos I don't here what we could learn that would help as struggle more effectively, at least for now. For this reason I see the forum as simply a chance to chat with like minded people. 

A.Simpleton
The 'They' problem

I think MH's post is commendable. In a measured way it depicts and tries to focus on the the 'real-time' challenges 'difficulties and purposes' as webmaster put it -pros and cons- if you like of this new 'timeless' digital domain

I equally feel that conflagrations sparked by 'whatever' have reduced 'fairly' or 'unfairly', this or that thread to 'ashes'. Yet we rise from the ashes.

'However that may be' - as Marx often liked to write - c''rade LBird's energy and persistence have (oft with all the subtetly of a breeze block ) certainly motivated 'me' to read a great deal. Many of the links to 'their' articles which may seem to be just 'casually presented as a fob off' are eagerly followed by AS - even if only to see for myself whether the charge of 'long-winded' is justified and -'critical bastard' that I am- to ascertain the level of fob-offish-ness if any.

Here is an example from the ICC's platform and their adherence to these basic core principles has never wavered as far as I know (additions may have been made e/g Terrorism being utterly unnacceptable and a subversion of these principles)

* In order to advance its combat, the working class has to unify its struggles, taking charge of their extension and organisation through sovereign general assemblies and committees of delegates elected and revocable at any time by these assemblies.

* The revolutionary political organisation is an active factor in the generalisation of class consciousness within the proletariat. Its role is neither to ‘organise the working class’ nor to ‘take power’ in its name, but to participate actively in the movement towards the unification of struggles, towards workers taking control of them for themselves. 

So just to focus on this one thing (please ): (and I'm only using it as an example LBird man) 

When a very wide ranging thread about Class Consciousness (or was it Marxism Art and Science) ended in a hail of quote boxes about 'who would hold the keys to the gun locker' - no praise no blame here - I was a bit puzzled:

In what way, I thought is :

Its (the revolutionary organisation's) role is neither to ‘organise the working class’ nor to ‘take power’ in its name.'

In what way is it not a resolutely clear answer? : it is a most basic principle - which is to me vital - applicable in many circumstances. 

In this specific case it means to me : 'the ICC's role is absolutely not to 'snaffle' the keys to the gun locker: nor 'dictate' to the workers 'how they should decide' even the method of deciding who should hold them.

Now that's in the past and it may well have been A.N.Other -some simpleton or maverick - who provoked the response : that is why I entitled the post the 'they' problem. 

I.E. it is, in this digital domain - especially for the humanly erroneous such as myself - important to distinguish between and not conflate:

i)  what a member has stated as the ICC's position and an answer (which one is at liberty to challenge as insufficient) 

ii) what a member has stated as his differing opinion individually (and they do -Demogorgon I seem to remember has questions and quite openly aired them about 'decomposition' - forgive me if I have taken a name in vain)

iii) what the 'non-aligned' have answered or failed to answer.

In sum my point is this:

If 'moonraker99' (non-ICCposts a view that is in my opinion flawed in maybe both detail and core principle I can't 'add that to my list' of why 'they' (the ICC) 'always go on like this' or 'don't understand the basic flaw in 'their' position.

This really (really reallly) is meant in a spirit of improving understanding. The description of the unproductive 'petit bourgeois' tendencies in webmasters post struck me - trust me I am the werry paragon of the petit bourgeois tendency to slide, slide, slide, and talk about me, me, me (just ask Alf if you don't believe it... )

AS

 

 

 

 

 

MH
token gesture?

lem_ wrote:

It depends on what the job of the forum is. Is it, for now, mostly a token gesture, a way to demonstrate that the icc are open to debate etc., or is it there to help clarify things for if not the organisation itself then its acquaintances? I am unsure what good it does for in terms of the latter, not only cos if our lack of numbers but cos I don't here what we could learn that would help as struggle more effectively, at least for now. For this reason I see the forum as simply a chance to chat with like minded people. 

lem_ I have to disagree with you that the forum is “mostly a token gesture”, although I think it is fair to say the ICC recognises that it has not always devoted the time and resources to it that it needs.

I do believe it is there to genuinely “help clarify things” for those who use it, and there have been many wide-ranging and deeply-informed discussions on many of the most pressing issues facing the revolutionary movement, including why it appears to be so difficult for the proletariat to struggle against the current capitalist crisis.

I think your point about not learning what would help us struggle more effectively is a relevant one; it suggests there may be more of a role for the forum/website in acting as a resource for those active or wanting to be active in struggles. What would you find helpful?

lem_
I wouldn't say it's a token

I wouldn't say it's a token gesture, it's that I can understand why it may not seem that important. I don't known is the answer to your question, which is why I mention the subject as I did. If there's no substantial advice that can be given right now, it'd be cool to hear that too.

 

Cheers.

baboon
discussion on discussion

I welcome MH's post above in his discussion with L Bird. A good example of a structured debate - I'm all for that.

I too welcome an increased participation of the ICC in debates on its forum though I think that summarising them, amongst other things, may be too much work. It's a time-consuming task to summarise any discussion. But we have seen before, following some discussion, a renewed interest of the ICC on its forum that takes the form of a flurry of posts which then die a death. Consistency is better.

I object to L Bird's 'read this and weep' characterisation of suggestions to read ICC articles to help to deepen a debate. Why would this be wrong? I think it shows a very immediatist approach to discussion from him. As KT says elsewhere there are such rich texts, all well-researched within a marxist framework - Africa, history of the US, international situation reports, congress resolutions - that are hardly commented on. And we can also point to the wealth of material on the ICT website.

I think that contrary to L Bird, who seems to think that the ICC only wants people who agree with its positions to post on here, it is actively looking for the generalisation of debate and criticism. L Bird might say that his difficult questions are ignored but generally speaking difficult questions are continually confronted. And I think that there was more to libcom banning L Bird - as I remember it - than simply because they couldn't answer difficult questions. I do agree though that non-response, a refusal to engage in discussion is a feature of this libertarian communist website.

lem_
Re refusal to discuss that is

Re refusal to discuss that is IMHO precisely what is most obviously wrong with people organising themselves based on these anarchist networks of loose association and cliquey debate etc. It may be more natural to do so but that doesn't make it less alienated, does it?

 

Warmly...

LoneLondoner
Are Internet forums so different?

This thread started with a question about the use of the Internet to discuss, but perhaps we should forget about the Internet for a moment and ask the more fundamental question about what discussion is aiming for in the first place.

International Review no.1 wrote:

We also extend an invitation to all revolutionary groups who are not organizationally part of our current, but who display the same pre-occupations as us, to associate themselves with these efforts, by multiplying and strengthening contacts and correspondence, and by sending us critiques, texts, and discussion articles which the Review will publish to the best of its abilities.

That is taken from the Preface to the International Review n°1, which we published in 1975. Throughout our nearly 40 years of existence, and long before the Internet existed, we have consistently published readers' letters and correspondence with other groups (with our replies of course). We have also published polemics with other groups that we consider to be basically on the same side as us, as well as critical appraisals of other currents (the ongoing series on revolutionary syndicalism for example).

In this sense, the Internet forum is simply a continuation of our previous efforts through the printed press and public meetings or discussion meetings of different kinds.

International Review no.1 wrote:

We do not claim to be the bearers of a Programme complete in all its details. We are perfectly well aware of our inadequacies which can only be overcome by the unceasing effort of revolutionaries to obtain greater coherence and a higher understanding within the development of the class struggle.

That is what debate is for: to gain greater coherence not just for ourselves of course but for the whole working class movement. This coherence will not necessarily bear immediate fruit: in the 1940s, the French Communist Left was reduced to a bare handful of militants - but the ideas they developed made it possible to create the ICC 20 years later when the class struggle brought with it a new upsurge of militants.

Debate aims to clarify, but it is not just a discussion over port in a gentleman's club. We have definite positions and principles which we aim to defend. The purpose of debate is to clarify by throwing out ideas that are found wanting. We are against the democratist principle that "all ideas are equally valid" in the workers' movement.

I personally welcome Lbird's presence on this forum. Give me an internationalist (which I think Lbird is unless anyone can demonstrate the contrary) who has definite ideas to defend, and sticks to his guns, any day of the week (or at least those days when I am able to get to the forum!). But I disagree with two points on his post in this thread:

  1. First, the idea that ICC members "shy away" from answering his difficult questions. I don't think this is justified. We do generally try to give answers to difficult issues, unless some other comrade seems to us to have dealt with them, we probably don't always do it as well as we might. The answers may not always satisfy Lbird - but I'm afraid that cuts both ways comrade!
  2. Nor do I accept the criticism that we sometimes reply with links to articles. As MH (I think) said above, we have already given some of these questions a great deal of thought, and an article will always be a more considered and in-depth argument than is possible in a post (which is what Lbird is asking for...).

In fact that last point is one advantage of a forum on a web site. When you are discussing on this forumn then don't forget comrades that there is a whole wealth of historical research and theoretical reflection already on this site, especially in the International Review. It is there for reference!

Another advantage of a forum is that it can - it should - allow for a less "tit-for-tat" discussion than is possible in a face to face meeting for example. You don't have to reply immediately: you can go away and think about the question for a day or so if necessary.

radicalchains
There are some really good

There are some really good contributions here which would compliment the Internet and the Milieu thread. I just wanted  to add that the IGCL recently published on the subject 

Bourgeois Democracy, Internet... and the So-called Individuals’ Equality

Which can be found on their website.

Personally, I think I have been lazy and taken the easy option for a long time by mainly reading and keeping upto date with forums, Facebook chat - informal gossip to an extent. So much so that I have spent less time actually reading what the ICC write or reading generally. My less than substantial posts, jumping from one subject to the next, informality etc on this forum reflect this. I've got many books I could have been reading, gained more from and increased my ability to have a worthwhile discussion. For a period I will be spending a lot less time here. And for those curious I'm currently reading The Origins of Unhappiness by David Smail and All Power to the Imagination by Dave Douglass.