Differences between ICC and ICT on the party

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MH
Differences between ICC and ICT on the party
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I thought it was worth re-posting this recent exchange from the ICT’s forum here. As I said (on the 'brown masquerade' thread):

MH wrote:

...it was a genuine query; if they now see themselves merely as one of the nucleii of the future party then what is the difference with the ICC on this question? It seems to be more one of emphasis, talking more about the party as a 'special weapon' forged by the class, bringing the historic programme to the workers' struggles, etc. If I can't see the difference how can the wider milieu be expected to? And do indeed ICC comrades see substantive differences here? If not, how can we proceed?

Not surprisingly the ICT see this from their own perspective, but I find Cleishbotham’s response interesting and constructive.

markyhaze wrote:

This is an important discussion but it’s one where we need to avoid false disagreements.
Re Stevein7’s original comment I agree with Charlie that class consciousness – ie. the tendency for the class to become conscious of itself as a class and of its historic interests - must be inherent within the class as a whole, otherwise there would be no revolutionary minorities in the first place. Marx and Engels may or may not have been ‘extraordinary geniuses’ but if it wasn’t for the struggles of the working class and the emergence of its first political minorities they would have been unable to relate their theories to a practical movement. Presumably as Marxists we all agree that history is not made by brilliant individuals?

Cleishbotham then makes some interesting distinctions about class consciousness but again I think there is a danger of false disagreements.

For a start I don’t think the ICC would deny that the party has a “special purpose” or that it is absolutely indispensable to the success of the proletarian revolution. In fact on the back of every ICC publication you find the following:

“Our activity…The regroupment of revolutionaries with the aim of constituting a real world communist party, which is indispensable to the working class for the overthrow of capitalism and the creation of a communist society.” (my bold).

This doesn’t sound very different from the ICT’s own statement that:
“We are for the party, but we are not the party or its only embryo. Our task is to participate in its construction, intervening in all the struggles of the class, trying to link its immediate demands to the historical programme; communism.”

Nor do I think there is a substantive disagreement with Cleishbotham’s view that:
“the key role of the party is that it is the historic consciousness of the class and as such it is the bearer of the communist programme which has to be put into the debate in order for capitalism to be finally overcome. Where it is not present then other capitalist agendas will certainly take over.”

I’m not trying to pretend that there are no differences between the two groups of the Communist Left on this or other questions. But it must be hard for the wider milieu to know exactly what the disagreements are, especially on the party, since the ICT replaced the IBRP.

So I think at the very least, if ICT comrades want to demonstrate that the ICC is wrong, and that the ICT has a correct position on the party, they are going to have to try a bit harder to clarify their differences.

Cleishbotham wrote:

Mark Let's agree that this is a serious issue and in a recent meeting between us the ICC said they substantially agreed with our pamphlet on Class Consciousness and Revolutionary Organisation which they said they would review. This is welcome. However the ICC also have some work to do to "demonstrate" that they have moved on from 1980 and the Third International Conference. After all its subsequent splits in the 1980s (mainly of a councilist orientation) I have quoted the passage you cite on the back of ICC publications to put the point to several ICC comrades that they now could accept the seventh criteria [on the party] but have always received the reply "yes but that's not the point the criteria was just introduced to ensure the ICC could not participate any further in the conferences" (as always organisational defence comes before political clarity). That was 33 years ago. If the ICC were really serious they would now restart the discussion on the basis of that criteria and stop implying that we have a Kautskyian view of class consciousness. Perahps we are on the verge of some sanity on this. I hope so and thank you for your comment.

What do other comrades think? I’m not under any illusions that we’re all going to suddenly agree, but it can only be positive if we are clearer where the real differences lie, and if we can use this forum to contribute to this process, we may even take a small but important step forward...
 

LoneLondoner
Sanity?

It's nice that the ICT now thinks it is time to have a "serious debate" about the question of the Party, but one could ask why they thought such a debate was unnecessary 33 years ago. After all, when they introduced out of the blue this new criterion for participation in the conferences, they put this as a question on which no debate with the ICC was even possible let alone necessary. Otherwise they might have accepted our suggestion that the question should have been put on the agenda of a 4th Conference at which the ICC would have participated.

I think also that it would be more fruitful, if we are to take up this debate again, to start from what people at the time actually said and wrote. The details are in the proceedings of the third conference which can probably still be ordered from WR. Otherwise (if the ICT can get over their hurt feelings at our use of the word "bluff") there is the article we wrote at the time of the IBRP's formation, which quotes extensively from what was written at the time.

Here, for example, is the English wording of the new criterion for participation: the Conferences should be recognised as “the process leading to the International Party of the proletariat, the indispensable political organ for the political direction of the revolutionary class movement and  of proletarian power itself”. The problem here is the word "direction", which is extremely ambiguous since it is translated from the French "direction" which can mean "leadership" (ie the party takes power) or something much more vague. Our problem, and the reason we found this criterion unacceptable at the time, was precisely that the term was completely ambiguous: as such we could not accept it without further debate.

The article I've cited goes into some detail about different statements (mostly by the CWO since the article's author did not read Italian) as to their view of the party, and I think an impartial reader will have to agree that the CWO's position at the time was to say the least unclear. Here is one of their statements which leans more to the "taking power" view:

CWO wrote:

it is “the Communist party, the vanguard of the class, which organises and leads the revolutionary uprising and all the proletariat’s important actions during the period of transition, and the party will not abandon this role as long as a political programme is necessary” (CWO, The Period of Transition: our translation from the French)

Would the ICT uphold this view now? If not, when did it change and as a result of what discussions?

One could also start from this text on the Party which the ICC published in 1983, which says amongst other things:

ICC wrote:

in contrast to bourgeois parties, the proletarian party doesn't have the role of taking over or running the state. This principle is intimately linked to the need for the class as a whole to maintain its independence vis-a-vis the transitional state. The abandoning of this principle would inevitably lead to the party losing its proletarian character

Would the ICT agree with this today?

MH
Good questions

 

LoneLondoner wrote:

Would the ICT uphold this view now? If not, when did it change and as a result of what discussions?

Very good questions LL, thanks for your response. Of course I have my own personal views about the historical issues on this. But as Cleishbotham also reminded me on their forum, the Third International Conference was 33 years ago. That’s before some comrades here were born. It’s the same period of time as, for example, between May ’68 and 1935…
This isn’t a reason to forget principled disagreements, but it is genuinely frustrating, and there must be an interest within the present milieu in discussing how we can move forward.
I would be interested to hear the views of non-ICC comrades on the issue.

 

LBird
Periods

MH wrote:
I would be interested to hear the views of non-ICC comrades on the issue.

Be careful what you wish for, MH!

But seriously, you're more likely to get some comment if someone summarises the positions of the ICT and the ICC, and pays particular attention to highlighting both similarities and differences.

Asking non-committed comrades to read old, long documents at this stage is really asking too much, given that non-committed comrades will have their own priorities for their time and reading.

Although this might seem unattractive, given that you'll probably get comrades like me commenting unfavourably, it might have the effect of making both the ICT and ICC realise how much they have in common, in contrast to other Communists, like me, for example.

MH wrote:
This isn’t a reason to forget principled disagreements, but it is genuinely frustrating, and there must be an interest within the present milieu in discussing how we can move forward.

No, it isn't a reason to forget, but on the other hand it's also time to realise that other Communists also have their own principles, too.

The key issue, I think, is to identify exactly which core 'principles' mean you can't work with others who hold contrary core 'principles', and which 'principles' are more open to discussion and revision.

Could someone provide a list of both 'core' and 'other' principles, for both ICT and ICC? Then, you'll have more chance of overcoming your frustration at the lack of response from the 'milieu', as you term it. But, as I've already said, you might not like what you read, if comrades can more easily come to understand the essence of the debate.

Although, I've often thought that some Communists prefer the arcane approach, so the most workers can't understand. For me, one of these factors is the constant reference to the RSDLP and Lenin, which was over a century ago.

MH wrote:
But as Cleishbotham also reminded me on their forum, the Third International Conference was 33 years ago. That’s before some comrades here were born. It’s the same period of time as, for example, between May ’68 and 1935…

Yeah, and Russia in 1903 was before all of us were born, and is almost the same period of time as between the French and Russian Revolutions.

petey
frenemies

LBird wrote:

Asking non-committed comrades to read old, long documents at this stage is really asking too much, given that non-committed comrades will have their own priorities for their time and reading.

yes, we do

from what reading i've done into the literture of both groups, the ICT seems more 'partyist': they seem to imagine a stronger role for the party in future revolutionary activity. in that regard i'm more sympathetic to ICC. but for cryin' out loud do yiz who are members of both groups realize the effect that publishing these squabbles has on people reading your press? apparently some bad stuff happened decades ago in england. some of those actors are gone, some today (as i think MH said) weren't born yet. it's the narcissism of small differences. just talk to each other. get people who weren't involved in those events to do the talking.

jk1921
Suggestion

petey wrote:

yes, we do

from what reading i've done into the literture of both groups, the ICT seems more 'partyist': they seem to imagine a stronger role for the party in future revolutionary activity. in that regard i'm more sympathetic to ICC. but for cryin' out loud do yiz who are members of both groups realize the effect that publishing these squabbles has on people reading your press? apparently some bad stuff happened decades ago in england. some of those actors are gone, some today (as i think MH said) weren't born yet. it's the narcissism of small differences. just talk to each other. get people who weren't involved in those events to do the talking.

It sure seems that with all at stake these two groups would be able to put aside their differences, but it seems that the trauma of the past is a very potent force. But Petey's suggestion seems to put forth a very concrete proposal: the formation of a joint commission comprised of comrades with no direct connection to the events of the past charged with developing opportunities for cooperation. Is this pie in the sky?

 

mhou
Quote:Very good questions LL,

Quote:
Very good questions LL, thanks for your response. Of course I have my own personal views about the historical issues on this. But as Cleishbotham also reminded me on their forum, the Third International Conference was 33 years ago. That’s before some comrades here were born. It’s the same period of time as, for example, between May ’68 and 1935…
This isn’t a reason to forget principled disagreements, but it is genuinely frustrating, and there must be an interest within the present milieu in discussing how we can move forward.
I would be interested to hear the views of non-ICC comrades on the issue.

(non-ICC response). The form of international conferences, or multiple meetings on different continents/in different countries under the umbrella of the conference, sounds like the most straightforward way to organize the party's formation on a global scale. It may be a naive assumption, but I'd like to think that coordinated discussion between existing organizations (local and international) as well as communists who are not members of a regional or international organization could result in the actual organization of the next party via articulating the positions and programme on which it will orient itself in the process of active 'construction'. I recognize that it isn't built on will alone; but it would take some kind of initiation by communists to begin the process when the conditions warrant it?

Outside of directly constructing the party, what kind of cooperation is needed to get to the point of future collaborative efforts in organizing the party? Or does anyone think it is possible for differences that exist now/in the past between communists to become less important given other priorities (open class struggle/pre-revolutionary situation/etc.) in the future that would make cooperation much more necessary and pressing?

d-man
(non-ICC response) The ICT is

(non-ICC response) The ICT is right about ICC's "quixotic tilting at Kautskyite windmills" (class consciousness and party). Only I fear all the Kautsky-bashing has taken its toll, and if Cleishbotham disowns "Kautskyism" it just makes the ICT follow the dominant position (with the 'justification' that Lenin allegedly "changed his mind", or how all this RSDLP stuff is sooooooooo irrelevant, etc.). I think though (perhaps in vain) that the ICC is beginning to reconsider their stance on Kautsky (and USPD) to a somewhat less brazen dismissal.

mhou
Quote:I think though (perhaps

Quote:
I think though (perhaps in vain) that the ICC is beginning to reconsider their stance on Kautsky (and USPD) to a somewhat less brazen dismissal.

 

Do you think that those are fundamental roots for building collaborative/cooperative efforts? A unified definition/schema of consciousness (regardless of which model/theory)? As of late I'm not sure whether issues like consciousness or origin of crisis/definition of decadence etc. are points that require homogenous views for communists to either work together or inhabit the same organization.

d-man
A shrug of the shoulders in

A shrug of the shoulders in the face of those issues (which constittue the manifestoes of the ICC and ICT) would be possible if there was (seen the necessity for) a programme of demands (eg workers militia), but which there isn't. I think the focus on theoretical issues (however obscure they may seem) arises in part because debate about programme (eg how practically to arm workers) is even more difficult.

MH
a suggestion

For a short thread we now have a good range of views on this question, including responses from both organisations.

Rather than responding to all the views expressed, I’m thinking about possible ways of cutting through this particular gordian knot, which on one level appears to hinge not only on a single meeting 33 years ago, but, almost unbelievably, on the correct translation and interpretation of a single French word, ‘direction’:

LoneLondoner wrote:

The problem here is the word "direction", which is extremely ambiguous since it is translated from the French "direction" which can mean "leadership" (ie the party takes power) or something much more vague. Our problem, and the reason we found this criterion unacceptable at the time, was precisely that the term was completely ambiguous: as such we could not accept it without further debate.

My suggestion for a way forward is, firstly, let’s not go back over what the ICC and the CWO have said in the last 33 years about the conferences, the resolution or the motives of the proposers. We’re never going to get agreement that way.

Instead, to start things off, how about a ‘thought experiment’? If an organisation came along tomorrow and proposed a series of international conferences of proletarian political groups, and requested suggestions for a criterion on the party for discussion, what would it be?

In other words, if the words were a problem last time, let’s suggest some different words…

The organisations at our imaginary conference may have all kinds of differences on secondary issues, all sorts of histories of disagreements, but in principle they should be able to agree on the basics of a revolutionary position, ie. one that explicitly rejects the reactionary and outmoded notion that the role of the party is in some way to take power on behalf of the working class or in any way substitute itself for the self-activity of the class but which recognises that the future world communist party has an indispensable role to play in the proletarian revolution (yes I'm making my own assumptions here...)..

In the absence of a real conference, or even, for the present, of a room in which both organisations could be invited to present their positions , maybe we have to create this room in cyberspace and at least encourage some informal discussion on the issue...

mhou
If I'm not mistaken, the

If I'm not mistaken, the International Conferences had the purpose to contribute toward regroupment of dispersed communist forces internationally; since then, the IBRP-ICT was founded and the ICC has grown with the introduction of numerous new sections. Other groups have continued to exist, or split, or come and gone, or more recently been formed. Isn't the organic process of discussing, debating, polemicizing, like the International Communist Conferences that led to the formation of the Third International, a task to take the existing organizations as well as dispersed individual communists who do not belong to an organization and form the party? Is a new or higher form of international communist organization possible that isn't the same as forming the party?

Alf
Re-establishing a minimal

Re-establishing a minimal framework for common work, cooperation, solidarity and so on among the groups of the communist left would already be a higher form of organisation than the dispersal and even distrust we have now, so let's walk before we can run....

Regarding differences between the ICT and the ICC on the party question: I don't think that the issues posed at the old cycle of conferences can be dimissed as old hat, petty squabbles, etc. They derive from real theoretical differences. We are still referring to the debates between Rosa and Lenin, the divergenes within the Communist International of the 20s, the dissagreements between between the Dutch and Italian lefts in the 30s, or between the GCF and the PCInt in the 40s, and none of these debates can be dimissed as just too long ago to be important.

However, I do agree with MH that the best starting point for a discussion about the party isn't the controversy between us back in 1980, but what the organisations are saying now; it's in the process of this discussion that we can clarify the real changes and developments that have taken place since then. The suggestion of reviewing the ICT's pamphlet on class consciousness is a good one, for example.