First post after 2 years (give or take), though the reason for departure and return are linked. Specific political and historical issues, including some explored on this forum and others explored in the left communist press, had become a barrier to finding a satisfactory understanding of legitimate socialist practice. These exposed what appeared to be weak links in the fundamental-foundational positions of a (broadly or narrowly) defined left communism and seemed to be a point of departure for settling my own difficulty in finding a legitimate socialist practice; raising questions that could not be answered with adequate precision with the available theoretical arsenal of left communism.
The result is a 9000 word pamphlet, Class, Bureaucracy and the Union-Form, hosted online at octoberinappalachia.com, which starts from 3 premises:
I. [Proletarian] class consciousness is the preceded by the class struggle [s of wage laborers under the capitalist social relation]
II. The only crucible to develop, test and validate socialist theory and practice is the lived experience of [organized and organizing] labor’s class struggles
III. As a class definitively without property or the prospect of owning anything but its own labor power to sell, the proletariat can only accumulate its lived experiences and can only inherit its historic memory
An interesting thing happens when you go back to the genesis of the trade union bureaucracy: within the conditions of its production and reproduction is the entire organic course of labor’s class struggles, from the origin of the permanent class of wage laborers to the moment of creation of the union-form to the raw materials for the construction of a workers’ state as proletarian dictatorship, the processes set into motion by capital remain totally unaltered by time expressed as history (for the working-class, its history can only be its accumulated lived experiences). Capturing and cataloguing this moment of genesis also reveals the physiognomy of class consciousness and the conditions of its production and reproduction, connecting the terms of the class struggles of wage labor-capital to the means to conclude the class struggle. It’s what falls between
“. . . the ‘spontaneous element’, in essence, represents nothing more nor less than consciousness in an embryonic form” (Lenin)
“. . . the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat. . .” (Marx)
The trade union question is the central problem of the socialist movement. All derivative products of a theory on the trade union question define the relationship of its adherents to both the working-class and the class struggle. But the class struggle isn’t a blank canvas; the socialist movement is a constituent element of it, whether a positive or negative, present or absent force-- with accompanying consequences for any and all activity and inactivity. Repercussions from a false or mistaken theory can be and have been immense. The centrality of the trade union question for the socialist movement can be seen historically in the changing trajectory of the American labor movement in the 1880’s due solely to the Socialist Labor Party, in the German Communist Party split at the Heidelberg Congress and the content of the 10th Congress of the Russian Communist Party. These represent the entire panoply of moments in the class struggle in which the consequences of socialist theory on the trade union question have had decisive influence: the character of the labor movement of a major industrial nation, the success or failure of a revolution and the practical leadership of the proletarian dictatorship.
The pamphlet is directed against the core left communist theories of the class struggle and by extension the trade union question without naming any particular organization, tendency or programmatic document; attempting instead to put forward an alternative as a basis for drawing out particular disagreements.
I wanted to open discussion here as a starting point given the importance of the ICC in my personal political development, with either the pamphlet as a basis of discussion or using the content and method of the pamphlet to discuss and elaborate on disagreements with the specific programmatic documents and political positions on the trade union question of the ICC, for example the 1974 definitive-foundational “Unions Against the Working-Class" pamphlet, and/or the wider left communist tradition.