Questions on Activity & Intervention

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Pierre
Questions on Activity & Intervention
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Hello cdes,

Since I came in contact with the ICC, I have been wrestling with the question of "what is to be done"…so to speak. I have always felt there is much more that an international revolutionary org can do in terms of engaging the proletariat, especially in times of little or no open class movement from the workers.

After familiarizing myself with some new concepts I found through discussion with the ICC (specifically debates we've had about partial struggles), I think I maybe able to articulate my thoughts a little better now. I thought about posting this internally, but in the spirit of open and stimulating dialogue I think all have should have a chance to access this and for fair say in these matters. Such a thing would only be following the ICCs tradition.

If you uphold the ICCs position, like I do, that the various "workers and labor parties"  are counter-revolutionary by nature, action, and historically outmoded than you have probably come to see the comm left as somewhat of a haven of Marxism. Its only natural to develop those feelings, but in effect how far does this go inside the milieu?

Yes for sure the Comm left is "theoretically advanced" if I could put it that way. I'm not sure how or why you would deny this. But I am increasingly getting the sense that many of us in the Left comm milieu take the role of the milieu for granted.

In the other parties who call themselves socialist/communist, one could only argue that a MAJORITY of the people involved in these groups have genuine intent in building communism. Sure, you could say their positions might negate this genuine intent. But nevertheless, I see people involved in the "workers parties" and think of them in a positive light, I get the sense the ICC does not. I feel they can be won to REAL class positions through consistent, friendly, and mutually beneficial discussions--- increasingly I feel as the ICC thinks not. Otherwise, wouldn't we be engaging these groups now? After all there is a friendly Maoist everywhere--- even if they are shit when it comes to revolutionary politics. But I argue those positions would change. And in places where the ICC section is very small in members, how and why could this hurt?

Of course I'm familiar with the Socialism or Barbarism arguement, which I feel is used to much as justification NOT to work with people in the backwards parties. I'm I alone in feeling like the Left comm milieu in general sees itself playing a role in a future international proletarian party almost as a birth-right? Who died and left us supreme communist generals? We have to earn this right with the workers and communists I think. And I don't see that happening when basic functions of an org take 6+ months to effectively carry out.

Where does this feeling that there should be ABSOLUTE political agreement in an organization keep arising from? Does one really need to study internal documents for months, even years, when they could be putting forth class lines in places where there are sympathetic workers and communists? Nobody I know in the ICC or the Left comm milieu would agree with this. But, is it not a reoccurring criticism? I wonder why that happens? Are people sympathetic to left comm positions put off by such rigorous requirements for membership? Surely, as we have seen happen in recent times.

I think these issues direly need to be addressed for the milieu to grow. I'm not mad, heartbroken or anything. My support has not wavered one bit. I am really interested in seeing where this discussion goes.

Solidarity,

- []D[]D*

Fred
Hi,p_p. You want a response

Hi,p_p. You want a response from the ICC to what you say above, but some of it strikes a chord with me, so I want to speak.You agree with the ICC, the haven of Marxism, that the various "workers and labor parties" are counter-revolutionary. Yet you argue that a majority of people involved in these groups "have genuine intent in building communism." I doubt this very much, and wonder how you know that. Is it wishful thinking! It is true that, one day, when the struggle really takes off,and the class starts to see itself for what it is - capital's gravedigger - that a lot of folk in these bourgeois groupings will consciously realize their need to build communism, and their intent really will become "genuine". In fact, so genuine, so consciously realized, that they will abandon these various workers and labor parties (in short, social democracy, and leftism)and rally to the calls coming from left communism, and other internationalist groupings, for class solidarity on an international level in the fight to defeat capitalism. Your "friendly Maoist" may be winnable for the proletarian cause, but this will hardly be possible so long as they remain within a Maoist type organization. The so-called "backward parties" are not backward but bourgeois. A truly communist organization cannot engage in discussion with them, as this would be to validate the very thing it is against!

The communist left is the haven of Marxism, as you say, because it contains within itself all the gains the working class has been able to make throughout it's history. And the ICC, amongst others, is a genuine proletarian organization that has to defend itself for the benefit of the working class as it's struggle develops. "Who died" you ask, and bequeathed this legacy to the communist left? One answer is that the 3rd. International died. What the communists know now - the whole
proletarian heritage - is the result of long efforts to understand why the Comintern died, and what this means for a class re-emerging from a long period of defeat, confusion, and the" Death of Communism" in Russia.

It is true that this right to carry the communist flag in front of the classhas always to be renewed. It's not automatic. But the wider class has also to renew its class commitment to its historic task: the overthrow internationally of capitalism, as the first step in beginning to build communism. As the class begins to grasp that its emancipation is its own task, and that no
workers' or labor or "backward" party is going to help, so it will turn to those organizations that embody its true vocation.These will be the existing proletarian organizations, or even the world Communist Party. These the class recognizes at last as it's own organizations, secreted by the class itself as part of it's growth. Joined together the victory may be theirs.

This means that for real, true, genuine communist organizations, there can be no compromises with anything bourgeois. No way is the bourgeoisie to be allowed infiltration into the communist organization. Whether this means that people seeking membership of the organization need to study documents for months or years in order to become communists who know what it means to actually be one - as opposed to finding it a nice idea - I don't know. But can you really put forward class lines if you don't actually know what they are, but only think you do? Being a communist is a serious job and takes a serious learning effort. If people are put off by what the organization sees as essential requirements, then how serious can they be? But this may be open to debate? The ICC can doubtless explain it best, and I leave it to them. But I too want the milieu to grow. I too want a successful revolution - despite growing decomposition which seems to threaten it. I too hope I'm not mad and try not to be heart broken. Thank you proper_propaganda.

Pierre
Fred thank you for your

Fred thank you for your responses. You are a good comrade to have and I am glad to maintain this correspondence. It was in fact the section here which urged me to write this on these forums. I was worried about my language, as I firmly believe in presenting "one clear face" to the class. But the ICC section where I am insists on nurturing a culture of debate. Given this perception of mine, many of the critiques of the ICC people have approached me had to be explained in full depth. And I'm sure to them I sounded like a propagandist (oh dear here it comes). I would also add that from my vantage point, the ICC seems to have started recognizing past mistakes and have let me for the most part dictate my learning pace and level of commitment during integration.

As I said before, I haven't been too affected by some of these "revelations" (critiques) certain people have brought to my attention lately (refuse to drop names and play into this gossip bullshit). I have considered them deeply, agree with certain aspects, but nonetheless still see the ICC as having a large role already within the class (all though some people disagree vehemently), as well as playing a large role in the future. But as I continue or even maybe increase my activity I'm sure whats going on in actuality will become more clear.

I'm not surprised that Fred challenged my idea that folk in these "bourgeois groupings" have genuine communist intent. This to my surprise and from my experience is a very prevalent position with individuals that make up the ICC. But, I will continue to challenge it because it touches on a fundamental question. What level of agreement is necessary in building the milieu? Fred, you talk a lot about commitment, but I would urge you to step back, entertain me, and take a more critical look at your comments. Because sincerely, I get this a lot. Let me address point by point, just briefly;

Fred wrote:
Being a communist is a serious job and takes a serious learning effort. If people are put off by what the organization sees as essential requirements, then how serious can they be?

Even already we have made a fundamental mistake by assuming this much, in my most humble opinion. When people are put off by what you call a "serious job" which takes "serious learning effort", is this really a question of how committed they are to building an egalitarian, cooperative society where by class distinctions and poverty are abolished?

I'm only 23, I've worked all my life part & full time since I was 15. Whenever anyone approaches me about "serious jobs" which take "serious learning efforts" I almost want to run for cover! I love to read Marx, its my relief from…… getting up early everyday, walking the dog, feeding the dog, driving 30 miles to school, driving back, going to work afterwards, coming home studying and doing it all over again the next day. This is the age of austerity, poverty awaits us all… some of us work two, three jobs you know the nature of capitalism these days. What worker wants another "serious job" that requires "serious learning effort"?

Have I beat the horse to death yet? Good I'm only just beginning haha. Fred you also say so much that I like, for example;

Fred wrote:
It is true that this right to carry the communist flag in front of the class has always to be renewed. It's not automatic. But the wider class has also to renew its class commitment to its historic task: the overthrow internationally of capitalism, as the first step in beginning to build communism. As the class begins to grasp that its emancipation is its own task, and that no workers' or labor or "backward" party is going to help, so it will turn to those organizations that embody its true vocation…This means that for real, true, genuine communist organizations, there can be no compromises with anything bourgeois.

I agree with this wholemindedly. But how does that contradict the idea of stirring up the bees nest so to speak? The revolutionary and historical processes which play into a communist revolution are largely educational and formative ones. Whatever quality you lose in this process leading up to actual insurgency you will pay for post-revolution. This we say everywhere after the first wave and the collapse of the IIIrd international. But given all that, I still challenge the notion that "a truly communist organization cannot engage in discussion" with individuals or groups under these bourgeois parties.

Have you ever told someone in a communist group we consider bourgeois you consider there organization and positions bourgeois? You might as well slap their mothers! Is that the reaction the ICC suggest we solicit in the field if we ever participate in genuine proletarian action? I don't think so.

Anyways its getting late here and I feel I have made many of my points. At the end of it all, I think at least 51%+ of the people in these bourgeois "communist" parties genuinely see communism as the superior mode of human production, humanity realizing its potential. How much longer can we go on denying this? Do we have to wait to be forced underground, for communism to become illegal again?

Thanks again for the discussion comrades, as always

- []D[]D*

 

Peter Pan
internationalism

Hi,

I think this discussion has everything to do with the discussions and articles about internationalist anarchism and the communist left:

  1. What we have in common
  2. On the difficulties of debating and the ways to overcome them
  3. The approach needed for debate

Although the internationalist anarchist individuals, groups and organisations are not the same thing as trotskyist, maoist, leninist/stalinist groupings, I think many of what is said in these articles can also be applied for the individuals and few groups among the latter, who are sincere of posing into question their support to national resistance groups/movements.

I am myself a 'platformist' and want to become an ICC member. I am envolved in a discussion group, where young and old people with different political and non-political backgrounds discuss with each other, or just listen to the others. Among us are and have been: (a kind of) anarchists, anarcho-syndicalists, christians, ecologists, left communists, (a kind of) social-democrats, trotskyists, people who do not reckon themselves to a kind of political movement, and even a liberal guy. Off course, these are just labels, abstract categories to which people reckon themselves, but I've actually seen some people change the labels that people gave themselves. Some of the participants stayed, some left. Many come just for 1 time. There is off course a core group. We discuss with eachother, sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't, but we try to explain eachother why we don't. Untill now, there was a good atmosphere of respect. This atmosphere is however a thing to fight for. It is completely utopian, when you do not want to discuss and understand eachothers view points.

I've seen 1 trotskyist on 1 of these discussions. He didn't came back. I heard of another young trotskysist, who came and found it very interesting,  but he didn't came back as well. Is it because his organisation forbid it? Is it because it didn't interest him that much? Or were there just practical difficulties to come back? I don't know. But the fact  ist the coure group right now is made off left-communists, eco-socialists and people that came to know of the group via the limited occupy-movement in the town in which this discussion group exists. These are actually not very "political" people, by which I mean that they weren't involved in any political activities before.

Now, I understand Proper_Propaganda's feeling. I think I've had the same. In the beginning, I invited trotskyists to come to the discussions and participate, although I was a bit suspicious towards them. They just didn't come, because in their eyes it is a group controlled by the ICC, which all participants deny (also the participants, which are not sympathizers of the ICC). To me, this was one proof of this Trotskyist groups' logic of political thinking: they want to controll groups, they are not concerned with catalysing class consciousness, they are concerned with keeping their militants in rank. The ones who are open, are constantly brought back on an ideological and practical level in the ranks of the organisation. Don't ask me how exactly, I don't know. Maybe they lie, maybe they just keep the critical and/or open militants busy with party work.

I've stopped addressing trotskysists from my side very quickly, because I don't know open ones among them, ready to discuss, question and defend oneselves. Maybe I will invite one again, if I meet someone like this. But I am coscious, because the correct attitude of the others, could bring credibility towards trotskyist individuals who do not deserve it. I also refuse to go to their pseudo-discussion meetings, but they are welcome on the meetings of the discussion groups, where real discussion is going on. But they just don't do it.

I don't say I'm very clear on the whole front. This is just my limited experience. This is "belly feeling". I didn't really talk about the leftist political view points.

Demogorgon
I think there are a number of

I think there are a number of important questions to be dealt with here. It's important to recognise that there's nothing new about these questions. When I first became interested in the ICC I, too, wondered why they didn't engage more with the local leftist groups.

The first thing to recognise is that we make a distinction between groups and individuals. Leftist groups are enemies of the working class; their function is to fog consciousness both of their own members and the wider class by serving bourgeois ideology with a working class face. All these traditions (if not specific groups and certainly not individuals) have the blood of generations of proletarians on their hands. They cannot be won back to the working class; they have to be destroyed.

Individuals, of course, are another question. As you say, most leftists genuinely believe in their cause and in "communism" even though they often have a very distorted idea of what this means. But most are trapped within these distortions which progressively destroy their militant capacities. Their political consciousness suffers from the typical "dual consciousness" (e.g. believing in democracy while practicising dictatorship) typical of the bourgeoisie exacerbated by the typical leftist technique of trying to "reach the class" by pandering to its illusions. This technique makes (some of) them seem very open to discussion while they think there is a chance you can be "saved" from your crazy left communist purism. The contradictions in their own positions and even their genuine sympathy for your own position, won't stop them doing everything they can to manouvre class positions out of the frame in crucial situations. Experienced leftists always recognise genuine revolutionaries as a threat and are very good at eliminating that threat, even if there is a partly unconscious element to this. 

That said, some leftists do reach a point of political crisis where the contradictions in their own positions and activity begin a process of questioning. Some are able to break with leftism and adopt class positions. Most people in the ICC today were once leftists. Revolutionaries have a duty to engage with individuals when they are in the process of breaking from leftism - but how?

We cannot do it by opening "dialogue" with enemy organisations. As organisations of the class enemy, they are incapable of changing their positions so debate at that level is pointless. Nor can we do it by following the leftist model of "getting involved" in campaigns and fronts - again, the role of such formations is to spread the ideology of the class enemy. In fact, such tactics put revolutionaries who engage in such activity in profound danger of themselves being taken off the class terrain. At best, it sucks out the best energies of militants in a fruitless exercise.

Such engagement can, therefore, only take place on a personal dialogue between that individual and the organisation. Nor is it something that can be initiated by us - there has to be an element of will on the part of the individual. Obviously they also have to aware we exist! And this is part of the process of building up a political presence in the class: distributing our press; participating in strikes and other movements; speaking at public meetings, discussion circles, etc.

"Where does this feeling that there should be ABSOLUTE political agreement in an organization keep arising from?"

Not from the ICC! The lines of agreement that we set out in our platform actually just delineate the basic class lines derived from the historic experience of the communist left. If you read our platform and basic positions as compared, for example, with the ICT you won't find a lot of difference. Our primary difference is more on the basis of our conception of organisation.

Our platform is largely the bare minimum you'd need to be considered a "left communist". Over its history the ICC has developed various other positions, of course: the idea of the course of history, the focus on Luxemburg in economic theory, parasitism, decomposition, etc. This doesn't mean every militant agrees with every one of these positions, although most of us would largely agree with a good proportion of them.

"Does one really need to study internal documents for months, even years, when they could be putting forth class lines in places where there are sympathetic workers and communists?"

This implies that class positions (let alone analyses of the world situation, etc.) are somehow easily come by. The only reason I'm even aware of what a class position is, is because the people who formed the ICC spent years grappling with the problem! The only reason I have a vaguely Marxist understanding of today's world situation is because the ICC has worked for decades to develop a framework for discussing these questions. It is very hard work and many of us (well, me at least!) are often periodically tired out by it - and we don't even do half the discussion we need to do to properly maintain the quality of our press! And, on top of this, people have to hold down jobs, maintain friendships outside of the organisation, have a family life and occasionally (for their own sanity) do something not related to politics all within the pervading atmosphere of despair and atomisation of a dying society.

You ask what worker wants to do this? I often ask myself the same question when I'm faced with yet another article to write, another text to read or another meeting to go to and defend revolutionary positions when I'd rather stay in and watch a film with my girlfriend. The answer is that I want to get rid of capitalism; I don't want to submit to this inhuman existence; I want something better for myself, my friends, my family, and my colleagues. Nor do I want to let down comrades that have worked hard to bring me to class positions. I can't just leave it to someone else, because there isn't anybody else - our forces are so pathetically small that even my limited talents are precious to the class.

It was this determination that characterised the workers' movement from its earliest days. In spite of literally being worked to death, workers put their time into political meetings, parties and groups; in spite of unimagineable poverty, they gave their money to form unions, solidarity funds, etc. Why do we find this commitment so hard today? This is a question that the ICC has been grappling with for a long time, one we've spent year and many internal texts on. Which brings us back, full-circle, to the intitial point. None of this discussion happens for its own sake but is part of the process of the organisation arming itself in order to carry out its combat against the ideology of the ruling class.

Peter Pan
I can totally find myself in

I can totally find myself in what Demogorgon writes.

Pierre
I'd like to thank Peter and

I'd like to thank Peter and Demo for their responses. This is shaping up to be the stimulating discussion I was hoping it to be! Its really interesting to hear about our different experiences on this matter.

One thing I've noticed is that the tone of the thread is already quite different from the language the ICC uses when addressing these questions. Is not as abrasive, assertive. Demo briefly pulls away from this in my opinion by saying things like leftists are our "class enemy", which I couldn't disagree with more. Barack Obama, David Cameron--- these are our class enemies, not people with genuine interest in marxism & communism.

Another thing I'd like to highlight is that everyone has different experience. The trotskyists in the UK for example sound pretty close minded to me. Where I am, the trotskyists are very open minded and I know they would attend ICC discussion if there was any in my area. I continue to have "dialogue" with not just individual "leftists" but for example, a part section of the ISO (which where I am is I think 9 people). Through my dialogue with them they have moved to closer to proletarian positions, for example on the topics of the German revolution and the nature of reform in this era. By no means have they ever tried to "to fog consciousness both of their own members and the wider class by serving bourgeois ideology with a working class face" and thats why I disagree that "they have to be destroyed."

Id also like to point out its insane how "top-down" some of these groups are and how much the official leadership of a group can differ from the culture found within it. In the ISO, there are no theoretical requirements before joining. If you want to start a ISO section you need 50 dues-payers. So in effect what you have are sections based on nothing but their dues paying and the fact they read and discuss Socialist Worker every few weeks. Could you ask for more fertile ground for planting the seed of clear class positions?

Quote:
Individuals, of course, are another question. As you say, most leftists genuinely believe in their cause and in "communism" even though they often have a very distorted idea of what this means.

Is a group not an affinity of individuals?

Quote:
But most are trapped within these distortions which progressively destroy their militant capacities.

Are the people who pose integration with the ICC not trapped within these distortions? I would say they are, and thats the whole point of the PF, the statutes, and the integration process--- to become untrapped from these distortions. But if we continue this logic, does that mean those individuals posing integration with the ICC "progressively destroy their militant capacities" during the integration process? No. I think this notion is a false one. When I was trapped in orgs with distorted positions, I urned for more theory, more truth. Thats how I ended up with the ICC. By no means have my past affiliations destroyed my militant capacity. The experiences only clarify and strengthen my proletarian outlook.

Quote:
Their political consciousness suffers from... the typical leftist technique of trying to "reach the class" by pandering to its illusions.

Once again, not sure how crazy the trots in Europe are but… where you see "pandering to illusions" I see how a lack of clear class positions can confuse and abstract any group or individual. They pander to illusions because they don't know how to put forth real class lines, because they don't have them. With the persistent influence of left comms, they will be forced to familiarize themselves with these positions in order to debate them, at the very least. At the most things start clicking and you start winning people over to class positions more and more.

I leave it there for now, although I would urge folks to re-read what I wrote in the OP because some of it still hasn't been fully and most critically considered. Cheers!

- []D[]D*
 

jk1921
Demo says it very well. I

Demo says it very well. I think part of this discussion goes back to the very foundation of left communism in the aftermath of the revolutionary wave. Many of the themes under discussion here were broached by Pannekoek and Gorter on the one hand and Lenin on the other. The major danger Lenin pointed out with left communism was that it in a non-revolutionary period it would lead to the isolation of revolutionaires from the class, deprive them of a voice in front of the workers and leave the reformists as the only voice that the working clas would here. Therefore, as distasteful as it may be, Lenin argued communists would have to enter parliament, work in the trade unions and enter into coaltiions with non-communist parties; otherwise they would face certain impotence and total isolation.They would lose their voice in front of the working class and end up speaking only to themselves. Lenin of course felt this was a form of "infantile purism."

Pannekoek and Gorter, on the other hand, argued that entering into this type of politics only diluted the specficity of the communist program, reinforced the working-class' illusions in demcracy and reformism and ultimately disarmed them in the face of the class enemy. The task of communists was to defend the specificity of the communist program and keep the theoretical development of Marxism alive in preparation for future revolutionary moments--even if this meant suffering a certain level of isolation in the present moment. Getting mixed up with bourgeois and reformist politics would only serve to smother the development of future revolutionary situations by giving cover to democracy, reformism and top-down party politics.

This is the crux of left communism. In some ways, a certain level of isolation is part of what you get when you decide you are a left communist. No doubt it can be hard to deal with when there aren't very many others around who share your ideas. It is perfectly understandbale that there is a certain temptation to seek alliances with others who may seem to have ideas that are somewhat like yours, who sound as if they can be reasoned with or who seem to speak a language similar to yours. If you are the only left communist in town, it can be tempting to temper your own ideas so you can "work with" other people who at the very least accept some form of Marxism. Heck, nearly the entire communist movement fell victim to this temptation once the revolutionary wave collapsed. Its no accident that left communist groups have historically been small, isolated and written off as "sects," etc. Its does seem pretty damning be be called an "absurd sect" when there is a much larger party that seems to have many of the same general views, but at the very least can claim some kind of influence over the day to day life of the working-class and some small relevance in national politics (think the ISO, SWP or Lutte Ouvriere).

In some sense, isolation is part of the price one pays to be a left communist, we are likely bound to be small except when revolutionary situations develop. This may or may not be true of bourgeois leftist parties. In the U.S.. they too are small and isolated--in China they are the ruling party. That is why the ICC puts so much emphasis on organization--as the key to mitigating this isolation. Of course for this, the ICC has often been subjected to some of the most vicious denigration, i.e. the famous slur on the John Gray page that describes the ICC as an "absurd new age sect that uses a conservative form of left communism to promote itself as a political community".

I am not sure I understand the emerging criticism of the ICC "that it takes too long to integrate." IMHO, it probably doesn't take long enough. One should know what one is getting into and this takes time, experience and a process of "getting to know" an organization and its politics. But this doesn't mean that one has to sit on the sidelines in the meantime. In fact, as I have said before, one doesn't even need to be a member of the ICC to contribute to its work. There a slew of really important articles here, forum posts, etc. authored by sympathisers and contacts. Similary, I am not sure I get the discussions that have been circulating on various Internet forums about the size (or lack of it) of the ICC and its various sections. Yes, we all know they are very small, isolated and carry only a minimum direct influence in the working class. So what? Who are we measuring ourselves against? The unions? The Democratic Party? Well, we are bound to lose those fights.

Fred
p_p asks: What worker wants

p_p asks: What worker wants another "serious job" that requires "serious learning effort"? Well, I think the answer is that you do p_p. You say you read Marx: that requires a pretty serious learning effort, and you make time to write seriously on these ICC forums. I keep saying " serious" when what I really mean, as you've already pointed out, is 'commitment'. It strikes me that you are already committed to the communist cause, and are frustrated that you can't persuade leftists, Maoists etc. to see that you are right where they are wrong: that you are sympathetic to a proletarian, communist organization, where they are not. They in fact are ensnared in bourgeois organizations pretending to be proletarian. I say 'ensnared', but this only applies if deep down they do have some sort of feelings for communism. But if in fact their sympathies are really with capitalism and it's perpetuation - which they hope to achieve by deceiving the working class as to their true intentions - then you are putting yourself in a dangerous position by hanging out with them. It's a dangerous liaison, so beware. Some people don't understand what class lines are because they are actually on the side of the bourgeoisie! And regarding your militant capacities, maybe these would be better used working within a communist organization, rather than risk them being squandered as a freelance individual.

It's only recently that I have begun to understand that our class doesn't so much produce individual militants, but that it produces organizations. Individual militants then gravitate to these communist organizations and join them. The final flowering of this process is the International Party, without which the next revolutionary wave will probably fail. So it maybe p_p that you could work best for the proletarian cause, and have more success in winning folk over to class positions, from inside a communist organization than without: even though as jk says that you don't have to sit on the sidelines meanwhile.

So what is a busy worker like p p to do? Listen to Demogorgon. "You ask what worker wants to do this? I often ask myself the same question ... The answer is that I want to get rid of capitalism; I don't want to submit to this inhuman existence; I want something better for myself, my friends, my family, and my colleagues. Nor do I want to let down comrades that have worked hard to bring me to class positions. I can't just leave it to someone else, because there isn't anybody else - our forces are so pathetically small that even my limited talents are precious to the class."

Are you feeling indulged properprop? And its not abrasive to recognize leftists as our class enemy; just facing facts. After all, they don't want to get rid of capitalism at all! And we do. That's the difference.

jk1921
I don't know how fruitful it

I don't know how fruitful it is to try to interrogate other people's "intentions." How many people truly have bad intentions? Is there anyone who actually claims to defend evil, misery and suffering? Most people are convinced they act in for the betterment of the world--even the vulture captialists that make a virtue of greed argue that in the end their self-aggrandizement only serves the common good, i.e. "trickle down economics." Of course, this is all bourgeois ideology, but even many workers fall for this trap--think Joe the Plumber. Its easy for us to see this as ideology, but perhaps it is harder to see the ideological nature of leftism, because it looks on the surface closer to the Marxism we defend. Afterall, both left communists and Maoists like the Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital. The difference is that left communists aim for a classless society, while Maoist organizations work for the creation of a particular form of state captialism that involves the most brutal exploitation of the working class. Its not that certain indivdual Maoists are insincere in their desire for communism--its that they belong to organizations who take that desire and put it towards a goal that in the end does not escape the captialist horizon.

But to get back to the vulture captialists: its one thing to discuss politics with Joe the Plumber, another altogether to want work with Mitt Romney, because we all share the Enlightenment goal of bettering humanity. The same holds true of Maosits--its one thing to discuss with individual Maoists, another alogether to want to work with Bob Avakian and the RCP, because it professes some sort of affinity with something that looks like Marxism on the surface. 

 

 

Demogorgon
"Barack Obama, David

"Barack Obama, David Cameron--- these are our class enemies, not people with genuine interest in marxism & communism."

The problem is what they think is Marxism and we think of as Marxism are two very different things. Not so long ago, I had a discussion with a "Marxist" who defended Stalin's labour camps as "re-education" and thought our idea of the class struggle was utopian. Don't get me wrong, he was polite, friendly (I quite liked the bloke)  and really wanted to change the world from the nightmare of today - but his "communism" was just another nightmare. People can have a genuine interest in "internationalism" but when "internationalism" means the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, can we be said to be on the same side in any way shape or form? Are we really using anything like the same conceptual framework? Or are we just using similar words?

Our platform uses deliberately strong terms to describe the various politics of leftism:

  • On the "so-called socialist countries" we say "Any defence of these countries, no matter how ‘critical’ or ‘conditional’, is a completely counter-revolutionary activity."
  • On the old forms of reformist struggle: "In fact the political tendencies who continue to advocate their use only do so in order to tie the working class to exploitation, to undermine its will to fight."
  • On the unions: "After more than fifty years of experience of the anti-working class character of these organisations, any position advocating such strategies is fundamentally non-proletarian."
  • On parliamentary democracy: "If at the beginning the tactics of ‘revolutionary parliamentarism’ were primarily an expression of the weight of the past within the class and its organisations, the disastrous results of such tactics show that they are profoundly bourgeois."

I could go on but similar terms are used throughout the document. All leftist groups defend some or all of these positions - this is why such groups are "counter-revolutionary", "fundamentally non-proletarian", "profoundly bourgeois". There is a fundamental class line that separates us from them which must not be forgotten. Our political antecedents suffered and died to preserve that line.

Now, it's important to say once again that individuals and groups are not the same. I'm not in a position to judge the trajectory of your acquaintances in the ISO. It may well be that some, or all of them, are ready to make the break with leftism. But the ISO as an organisation cannot, will not and never will cease to be a leftist organisation. For such a break to mean anything, those people will have to leave the ISO.

"Are the people who pose integration with the ICC not trapped within these distortions?"

I was somewhat perplexed by this. Most people who pose integration do so because they have already been through a process of questioning of their previous politics and are largely convinced by ours - or at least they think they are. The platform discussions are an effort to drill down into the ideological bedrock of a militant and make sure their understanding and ours are actually the same.

Why is this important? Because bourgeois ideology has very deep roots and its very easy to mistake superficial similarities in positions for genuine agreement. I've met several Trotskyists who will be very critical of the unions even as far saying they can be a block on the class struggle - but they still feel they should work in these organisations because they're okay for "defensive struggles", or "we have nothing else" or "that's where the class is", etc.

The platform discussions are there to bring any unconscious reservations to the surface, to bring a process of rejecting the false conceptions of leftism to a level where the individual can become a militant. Such a process never really ends because the pressure of bourgeois ideology is perpetual, of course, but a certain point has to be reached before militancy is really possible.

"By no means have my past affiliations destroyed my militant capacity. The experiences only clarify and strengthen my proletarian outlook."

Your desire to be a militant is not in question. It was probably this that led you to join whatever leftist organisation it was you joined. But let us be absolutely clear: your militant capacities are intact in spite of that organisation. They have survived because you escaped. While you were in that organisation you were acting against the interests of the working class, regardless of your intentions or awareness of the fact.

This is what is so dangerous about leftist organisations. Their entire function for the bourgeoisie is to draw in militant workers who are beginning to develop class consciousness in order to assimilate them and destroy them.

Let's suppose the ICC didn't exist or you didn't find us. What would have happened then? You probably would have stayed in the organisation you were part of for a while growing more and more dissatisfied and disillusioned and yet nonetheless carrying out activity with it. Such activity, the propagation of bourgeois positions, would be nothing to do with proletarian militancy. Or perhaps you may have left, utterly disillusioned with leftist politics but without any clear alternative. Either way, you'd be lost to the working class.

"They pander to illusions because they don't know how to put forth real class lines, because they don't have them. With the persistent influence of left comms, they will be forced to familiarize themselves with these positions in order to debate them, at the very least. At the most things start clicking and you start winning people over to class positions more and more."

No doubt (although I suspect this will turn out to be a far slower process than you think) and this is exactly why it's necessary for revolutionaries to organisise themselves, clarify their positions and work to build a political presence within the class and be ready to engage in rigorous discussion with individuals who are interested in our politics (who may or may not have a leftist background). There is, of course, a whole other debate about exactly how to discuss with such individuals.

But such a debate can only be frutiful if it is based on an absolutely crystal clear understanding about what leftism is: the ideological antibody of the bourgeois order, evolved to abort the development of proletarian class consciousness.

jk1921
Individuals and Intentions

Demogorgon wrote:
  • On the old forms of reformist struggle: "In fact the political tendencies who continue to advocate their use only do so in order to tie the working class to exploitation, to undermine its will to fight."

Demogorgon wrote:

This is what is so dangerous about leftist organisations. Their entire function for the bourgeoisie is to draw in militant workers who are beginning to develop class consciousness in order to assimilate them and destroy them.

I think this is part of the difficulty PP is having. The way that it is phrased here makes it sounds as if the people who make up leftist organizations actually intend to "perform a function for the bourgeoisie." This seems to contradict pp's concrete experience with the indivdual leftists he has met, whose intentions he finds sincere. I think perhaps there is a certain suspicion of "conspiracism," involved here, where it is difficult to imagine the indivduals that make up these organizations being conscious conspirators against the working class. On the contrary, they seem to be well-meaning individuals who have regrettably fallen under the influence of a warped conception of Marxism.

I don't think the ICC believes that everyone in a leftist organization consciously conspires against the working-class, but I can see how someone could be confused by the way it is worded above. However, I think as Hegel argued, history often takes place "behind the backs of men." In other words, the individuals in leftist organizations can still perform a bourgeois function without actually intending to. This doesn't mean they lack the capacity to break with this practice under the right circumstances.

may
who can communists work with?

P-P thank you for starting this very interesting discussion. How do we maintain our firmness on political positions without being sectarian? In the early days of the ICC many of us took a very sectarian view that any organisation that didn't agree on all the class lines expressed in our platform was bourgeois, counter-revolutionary. That was an unrealistic view that had to be corrected - in the resolution on proletarian political groups in IR 11 (https://en.internationalism.org/forum/1056/properpropaganda/4752/questio...). It's not that we should water down the platform or the class lines - I completely agree with what Fred and Demogorgon and others have said, reformism, parliamentarism and trade unions are totally antiworking class today. It's just we do not judge a group simply by totting up its positions and seeing if we agree with them all. Nor do we judge it by how friendly its local members are.

The resolution still gives a very good framework for understanding the development of groups based on their history and development as well as what they claim they are in favour of and is well worth (re)reading. Basically the historical test for an organisation of the working class is whether it defends internationalism and the class struggle, particularly massive class struggle, mass strike or revolution. Fail that test and an organisation is lost to the proletariat - which is inevitably part of a struggle for the organisation in which the healthy members will inevitably leave or be forced out.

This is the basis on which we are so confident in saying that the various stalinist, maoist, trotskyist and other organisations are totally anti-working class - they have supported one or other side in imperialist war, and taken part in repression of the working class - as organisations. I first came up against this as a teenager inspired by the events of 1968, which I certainly didn't understand at the time, and joined a stalinist youth organisation. As a naive teenager in a provincial backwater I only became aware of the role played by the CP in France when they had to send people round to explain why they had been strike breaking - in order to prevent revolution! This left me totally demoralised and confused, exactly as Demogorgon describes, and it was only some years later that I met the ICC that I could begin to understand this.

How does this leave the 'friendly maoist'? In countries where maoism has a real presence the fact that we are firmly against maoism is a point of attraction  to those breaking from maoism. Our best solidarity to the leftist who really wants to defend the working class and to struggle for communism is to remain clear on our positions, to offer a clear perspective out of what they are involved in - all the while being open to discuss if they wish to do so.

Organisations that really defend internationalism are a completely different matter. We recognise them as revolutionary even if for various reasons they may be suspicious or hostile to us.

Fred
"Its not that certain

"Its not that certain indivdual Maoists are insincere in their desire for communism--its that they belong to organizations who take that desire and put it towards a goal that in the end does not escape the captialist horizon." Thus speaks jk above. It's an interesting sentence. I would change it a bit. "Its not that certain Maoists are insincere in their desire for communism--its just that they don't know what it is." (They think its a left-wing variety of capitalism). Therefore "they belong to organizations who take this confused desire and put it towards a goal that in the end does not escape the capitalist horizon." The reason the desire doesn't escape the capitalist horizon is because neither the Maoist, who doesn't know what communism is, nor the organization they are in, which is a bourgeois racket in any case, have any real intention of escaping capitalism, because its the thing they live for and defend, and wouldn't have it any other way.

As to the question: How many people truly have bad intentions? Well, how about all the liars, hypocrites, exploiters and murderers who comprise the bourgeoisie? The bourgeoisie are a Machiavellian class jk, don't forget that. They will do anything to make a quick buck and to maintain their corrupt and destructive rule which risks destroying both humanity and the planet. They don't claim to defend evil, suffering and misery, they just perpetuate it as part of tbe defense of their abominal dictatorship. I would say their intentions are wholly bad. And if they say "well, we are only doing it for the common good" then you'd have to be pretty naive to believe it. Did the allies delay tbe end of the 2nd. World War out of some mis-
-guided love of humanity, or because they needed the total destruction of the working class? It can be fruitful indeed to question people's intentions, and I think we should.

Demogorgon
Bourgeois ideology is

Bourgeois ideology is fundamentally reified, shot through with contradictions and can never become fully conscious of the reality of its society. It cannot perceive the possibility of communism and sees it as the end of civilisation, a reversion to barbarism. At some level, they really do believe in their various ideologies of democracy, freedom, "socialism" or whatever. But in order defend this civilisation (which, almost by coincidence from their point of view also means defending their position within it), they'll plumb the depths of human cynicism and will not shrink from any atrocity.

Individual bourgeois will often be horrified at the degradation of humanity resulting from such actions. But when these actions are required to defend the system, those willing to carry them out rise through the ranks and take leadership positions in the ruling class. Similarly, when the time is past, we then have the hand-wringing elements coming to the fore: a classic example is the enforced starvation of the Morgenthau Plan in Germany, followed by Hoover's savage critique which pointed out it meant the extermination of 25 million people. I've no doubt Hoover's disgust was probably genuine to a certain extent, but it also served the needs of US imperialism.

Leftist ideology, in many ways, take these contradictions to their absolute breaking point as they stand on the cliff edge of bourgeois thought. The "closer" they are to genuine proletarian positions (as some very radical Trotskyism can sometimes appear) the more dangerous they are to the working class. Like the rest of the bourgeoisie (and in answer to JK's point) they will "conspire" against the workers to "save the workers from themselves". Union ideology is a classic case in point - when workers really begin to move in an autonomous way, even the most militant union officials will work against that process because it could be a threat to the union and they are unable to separate the union from the class.

This is also why it's difficult to sometimes really appreciate the danger of leftism (and unionism) until you see how they operate in critical situations. How can the union activist really be "acting against the class" when he earnestly calls on workers to unite and defend themselves? How can the Trotskyist who truly believes in world revolution be a counter-revolutionary? It's easy to appear radical when class struggle is weak and class consciousness undeveloped - but when the struggle really takes off, that's when the contradictions metastasise into a cancer in the movement. In practical terms it actually doesn't matter how aware the individuals themselves are aware of it - the end result is the same.

But, there is also another process at work - the struggle for the class to become conscious. The contradictions of capitalist society also push this process forward as well but the key point to understand is that this process is counterposed to leftist ideology; the latter does not play a part in it, it threatens to abort it.

Leftist ideology is the outer wall of the prison of bourgeois thought. To get out, most of us have to scale the wall (even Marx went through a phase of radical liberalism before he became a Marxist!) but it doesn't mean the wall actually helps us to free ourselves.

jk1921
Nature of Leftism

Demogorgon wrote:

Leftist ideology is the outer wall of the prison of bourgeois thought. To get out, most of us have to scale the wall (even Marx went through a phase of radical liberalism before he became a Marxist!) but it doesn't mean the wall actually helps us to free ourselves.

 

I think part of P_P's concern is that in his particular case his encounter with leftism only pushed him forward to left communism. For him, it wasn't much of a prison at all, because he was able to scale the wall rather quickly. I think that part of what he is saying is that those who are involved with leftism are much more likely to be open to left communist ideas than those who are liberals or conservatives or whatever. But, as Demo points out, just about every individual who has arrived at left communist positions has gone through a confrontation with leftism in one form or another. In many ways, left communists are the exceptions that prove the rule. But was it leftism that pushed them towards left communism or the failures and gaps in leftism?

I have a question for P_P: Just for clarity, is it that you do not see leftism as inherently bourgeois or do you question the assertion that left communists should never work with bourgeois organizations?

jk1921
Fred, there's not doubt that

Fred, there's not doubt that there are true sociopaths in the ranks of the bourgeoise. And as Demo points out, they often rise to leadership positions when the needs of the national captial require truly ruthless measures. But I think my point is that we live in a world where just about everyone claims to be on the side of the working class; Democrats, Republicans, Labour and Tory all say they have the best interests of the working class in mind. Do they really believe that? Many probably do. My point is that the question of their intentions is rather secondary to the reality of their policies, so we don't get too far inquiring about others intentions. Does it really matter if the Maoists and Trots really want a classless society at some indeterminate point in the future? I think even the Stalinists see the party dictatorship as a transitional phase. I think maybe P_P's point is that it does matter: those who really desire communism will be more likely to see through the weaknesses of leftism and open up to left communist ideas--therefore, left communist organizations should not shun them the way they currently do. Do I have that right?

Fred
You amaze me jk! You say just

You amaze me jk! You say just about everyone claims to be on the side of the working class, and include the bourgeoisie's politicians. You ask whether they really believe what they claim, and conclude that many probably do. You say that questioning their intentions gets us nowhere - although it could show just what a Machiavellian bunch they are - and that we should examine their policies instead. But these all work, or try to, for the betterment and preservation of capitalism, and always now, turn out to be at the cost of the working class, whose side, you say, they're mostly on. (Could it be that they are just more on capitalism's side when push comes to shove?) Then you ask whether Maoists and Trots want a classless society in the future, and if this matters? Of course it matters! For if they do, then this means they must want to get rid of capitalism - in order to achieve the classless society they want so much - and that therefore they are real, genuine communists! But we know they're not. They defend capitalism, and just want to tart-up it's appearance, through the use and abuse of radical and marxists verbiage, in order to keep it going. As to whether Stalinists see the party dictatorship as a transitional phase: well in Russia they certainly did. It was a transitional phase to state capitalism, and has served the interests of the bourgeoisie, in their attempts to bamboozle the working class with massive lies, as to the nature of communism, ever since.

Demo's image of leftism being the outer wall of the prison of bourgeois ideology is excellent. The bourgeoisie are it's main victims though, as they are incapable of conceiving what communism is. I suppose this has to be true. If you knew what communism really is, how could you possibly go on defending capitalism: unless you were a sociopath, a Maoist or just plain evil. Demo says that struggling over the leftist wall doesn't actually help in freeing people for communism. jk however, thinks that experience of leftism might help prepare folk for communism a bit, because in some way it's"nearer" (my word) to communism (ie through use of Marxist terminology and abuse of Marxist concepts) than are, say, the Tories or Democrats. This idea carries little weight with me.

I once knew some people in the SWP and IMG (now defunct). I was not tempted by the little they had to say. Not until, by accident not design, I heard interventions from a group of ICC members in a meeting of the CPGB ( also now defunct) did I hear anything that explained history, the human predicament, or provide any reason for taking a serious interest in politics, in a way that made real sense, and in a manner that cleared up for me the question: what is communism? Thank you comrades.

jk1921
Fred, I think you are

Fred, I think you are misinterpreting the argument I am trying to make or maybe I am not being clear enough. Nowhere do I claim that the bourgeoisie is on the side of the working class. Many of them probably believe they are though. After all, they are human and they have to live themselves at the end of the day; so I imagine they have to convince themselves that their action serve the greater good somehow. But my point is that it doesn't mater what they believe or what they intend: its the objective effect of the policies they pursue that counts. My intention in bringing this up was to respond to P_P's concern--which I think we are getting away from a bit--about "well-meaning" leftists. It doesn't really matter what they intend--they belong to organizations that fufill an objectively captialist function. If they are to really fufill their intentions they have to break with those leftists organizations. Left communists cannot work with them until they do. They can discuss with them and help them try to break with leftism--but joint work with a bourgeois organization is impossible. I think that P_P is not entirely comfortable with this.

My intention was not to make the bourgeoisie appear any less moribund and ruthless than it really is. But if I have my Marxism right, the proletarian revolution redeems ALL of humanity--not just the working class. I think we need to be careful about painting any group of human beings as an absolute "other," devoid of all morality, etc. History doesn't give us many kind lessons about movements that fall for that easy temptation.

Fred
On March 21, jk, you wrote:

On March 21, jk, you wrote: "Nowhere do I claim that the bourgeoisie is on the side of the working class. Many of them probably believe they are though...". On March 19 you wrote: " we live in a world where just about everyone claims to be on the side of the working class; Democrats, Republicans, Labour and Tory all say they have the best interests of the working class in mind." This is confusing, and I won't even try to sort it out. I appreciate that what you personally may "claim" is to be distinguished from what you understand the bourgeoisie to "claim" but it's all obscurantism to me. And I don't know why you so insist on sticking up for the bourgeoisie so much anyway. You sound like an apologist for them at times, although you also say they are moribund and ruthless. I agree that we shouldn't present any human beings as beyond "redemption" or as "other". But as a class now, surely the bourgeoisie IS devoid of all morality. Look at the world they have created in their own image. Full of war, starvation and misery. It's the working class which is the class with ethics, not the bourgeoisie. (The ICC has written at length on proletarian ethics, but I have no reference to hand. Sorry.) I don't know whether History gives us any lessons yet about what happens to movements that fall for the temptation of seeing others as being beyond salvation, but we may be in the process of finding out. The bourgeoisie is decadent and their world is decomposing. It is not falling for some " temptation" to say that their time is up. And it falls to the proletariat to remove and replace them; to build a new society, with a new ethical basis; and thus to "redeem" ( your word jk) humanity.

On a personal note, the easiest way out might be to arrange for the bourgeoisie and all their assorted leftist supporters, to be delivered somehow to the nearest Black Hole. Ha ha!

Demogorgon
Fred, I think you're being a

Fred, I think you're being a bit harsh on JK. What he's getting at is the same as me. Although at a class level, everything you say is true at the level of individuals, the bourgeoisie are not necessarily monsters. Even more to the point, their self-perception is entirely different. Stalin may well have believed he was defending the revolution while he was destroying it.

The whole point about the discussion about personal intentions is that it is fruitless. An individual bourgeois may a moustache-twirling villain or a deeply thoughtful, ethical individual who believes he's doing the best for humanity. The real point is that they act against the working class (and therefore humanity) regardless of their intentions and self-belief.

jk1921
It strikes me as a little

It strikes me as a little strange that my attempts to get P_P to think past individual's intentions, ends with me "sounding like an apologist for the bourgeoisie." I think perhaps that this may be the kind of blanket statements P_P is concerned about. But it would be good to hear from him reagrding what he thinks about the progress of this discussion. P_P, do you have any reflections so far?

Fred
I don't get it! And even

I don't get it! And even worse, I don't really know what it is I don't get!It seems to be something to do with the difference between individuals and groups. Stalin thought he was doing something good, though he was doing something bad. But his intentions don't matter anyway, it's the group he was working for that counts. So the bourgeoisie, as a class, may consist one hundred percent of well-meaning ethical individuals, doing their best for humanity; but the real point is they act against the working class and thus against humanity! They act against humanity regardless of their intentions and self-belief. WHY? Because they all belong to the class of the bourgeoisie. Is that right? But the bourgeoisie doesn't see itself as a class, does it? But as well- meaning ethical- individuals doing their best. How come then that as the class-for-capitalism, which they don't see themselves as being, they are so moribund and ruthless? How does what they think get so disengaged from what they do? Does capitalism really run itself, like a machine, without human involvement - apart that is from exploited workers who
produce the profit?

Anyone who reads this will see what a mess Fred is in. Demo said: " I had a discussion with a "Marxist" who defended Stalin's labour camps as "re-education" and thought our idea of the class struggle was utopian. Don't get me wrong, he was polite, friendly (I quite liked the bloke)  and really wanted to change the world from the nightmare of today - but his "communism" was just another nightmare. ". So Demo was talking to a nice guy who (a) wanted to change the world for the better, but (b)whose understanding of communism was rubbish. But this is all right, lots of us hold contradictory thoughts simultaneously, with no problem at all! But we hold them as individuals, and with an individual intent. So why then is it fruitless, as Demo says, to talk about personal intentions? Groups after all consist of individuals. The group may signify more than the sum of it's individuals, but they are there all the same. For instance comrade may was left totally demoralized and confused by an encounter with somebody from the cp when a youth. His problem was only resolved by meeting the ICC.

Zoute alors, or what ever they say. I still don't get it!

Fred
So individual members of the

So individual members of the bourgeoisie are only human and not all bad. They are, however, trapped within their own ideology, and have a false consciousness which leads them to put the needs of capital above those of humanity who they may well love. We should not be tempted to demonize them, though they do ask for it, and it's fun. I think Ive got it at last.

Demogorgon
Yep, that's it.

Yep, that's it.

Pierre
JK wrote: I think part of

JK wrote: I think part of P_P's concern is that in his particular case his encounter with leftism only pushed him forward to left communism. For him, it wasn't much of a prison at all…what he is saying is that those who are involved with leftism are much more likely to be open to left communist ideas than those who are liberals or conservatives or whatever…

Yes, you are correct JK. This summed up my general attitude on these questions.

I had the weird experience of being referred to the ICC by a "Stalinist" "party". At the time, even with international family ties, my sense of internationalism was extremely flimsy. I wanted to be involved with a group I considered "militant", one that really wanted to "fight for communism" (which happened to be the party "slogan"). I also liked the "Progressive Labor" moniker, I felt it was something a worker trapped in false consciousness would dig. I was reading a lot of Gramsci at the time... Also, the organization claimed to be an international one. We often acknowledged the shortcomings of the USSR, of Stalin and Mao, but turned around and quoted them in literature.

Before participating in PLP, I had never so much as really had an open conversation with another serious communist. My eyes were just opening up to the power of collective work, I was intrigued, the whole thing was very romantic. One positive thing is that I did sorta begin the steady habit of reading Marxist literature and analysis, debating ideas of the class sincerely at this point. Which is what lead to my break with this sort of "leftism" if you want to call it that.

I soon (6 months maybe) began having questions, particularly around one of the "party lines" which was something like "after the revolution the party will dictate every aspect of society." Of course looking back, they considered this position to be proletarian, but back then I knew nothing of substitutionism, etc. Only after reading Loren Goldner was I able to ask questions which could not be answered, and when they sensed my breaking with the party one of the CC members nephews suggest I check out the ICC.

So, in my case the experience with "Leftist" socialists was very amicable. Our differences came on a purely political/theoretical level. I am confident many in the org also shared some of my criticisms (in fact I had many nightly conversations confirming this), but remained involved with PLP for other reasons (some sentimental).

JK wrote: I have a question for P_P: Just for clarity, is it that you do not see leftism as inherently bourgeois or do you question the assertion that left communists should never work with bourgeois organizations?...But it would be good to hear from him reagrding what he thinks about the progress of this discussion. P_P, do you have any reflections so far?

This thread has been about as helpful as a Skype conversation. I'm really pleased to see such a lively debate around our quite minute differences. I think we all can agree the point is not about "intent" really, although I still have questions about this. The point is that in essence these so-called "workers and communist parties" end up serving the interests of the bourgeoisie, as is stated in the PF. But I feel we've only picked the surface of this vein.

JK wrote: But was it leftism that pushed them towards left communism or the failures and gaps in leftism?

I like this question. Its the type you ask which the answer then enables you to think and write a whole shit-loads, always good. Its like the precursor to a solid class position.

Anyways, to address the question--- we have to first say it is the class struggle itself which pushed people towards any kind of socialist consciousness, perceived or real. Thinking otherwise is a mistake so many people and also orgs as a whole make… a fatal substitutionist one. Without the bourgeoisie and the proletarians there would be no working class positions to be had.

After making that distinction is where it gets tricky. In my case, Leftism was a spring board--- but I had genuine experiences and genuine thoughtful discussion. And everything was amicable. But for so many others, these Leftist groups entrap workers in a consciousness almost as dangerous as the bourgeois one. Some people aren't fostered and encouraged and cultivate, they only regurgitate the literature of a party, and never get out of this hamster wheel. Some groups have so many "answers" things are so convoluted people maybe are not able to address their questions in totality.

We involved with the ICC have this position of being hard-liners. It also leads to a "monolithic" perception of the soul of the org, if it can have one for the purpose of analogy. Sometimes I want to embrace this reputation and reject the leftists outright. But mostly this leads to the beginning of hostilities, many times because people take it personally when you shatter their whole political framework and socialist "egos" by so clearly espousing solid proletarian positions. What do we do about this? Is there some "policy" or guideline, some general rule we could follow?

I remember when JG, AK, and JK first began discussing with me. I think its fair to say were all a bit stubborn, and no matter how frustrated or mean I got they did not take it personally. Look where we are now. At any point they could have written me off as being "bourgeois" (aside from me being a genuinely premium dude ;P lol). They never did that and they never backed down from their Left comm. positions. What resulted was me asking questions further and more deeply, now I am posing integration.

All I am saying is we direly need a way of consulting and advising our militants and supporters on how to deal with individual elements (1-5 people with similar positions) who show interest in our positions, but face certain hurdles. If we had an article or more clearly laid out some of the common leftist phenomenon we document in this thread I think it would go very far with people flirting with our positions. The PF point for example is really "dry", it lacks the casual human element. Just my thoughts.

PS - Fred thank you for your passion and unwillingness to back down from proletarian positions! We don't always have to be in FULL agreement to appreciate this quality in each other comrades!!

Pierre
I also wanted to include some

I also wanted to include some questions about trade union consciousness vs true proletarian consciousness. To me this is the theoretical point at which so many "leftists" get trapped, the substitutionist one. Ironically, not doing enough to stimulate the class is a main criticism of the ICC.

I haven't formulated my questions exactly in the context of this discussion, but... are there specific guidelines we could follow in helping people to see how their positions are substitutionist? I feel like we should have a manual on it. Only because of how frequently we deal with this as Left comms...an "idiots guide to defeating substituionism" maybe, hah.

The underlying question here is: How important is it to win revolutionaries (who may or may not be entrapped in leftism) to true proletarian positions versus a single worker? How about one revolutionary versus two workers? How about three revolutionaries versus two workers? Where are our resources most valuable, given the atomized state of Left comm. and communism in general?

Also, to give you an idea of the type of rhetoric and positions I'm dealing with down here in NC I will post a fb snippet underneath this. It's from a discussion circle we've started.

Pierre
Heres another interesting

Heres another interesting interaction I had with a self-described socialist lately:

@ZR wrote: what, exactly, is that revolutionary party is supposed to do until it gets big enough to throw the final strike? Just wait?

Well, I think this question relates to the nature and role of revolutionaries in this period. We need to say that until there is significant proletarian movement, on the terrain or home turf of the workers (essentially, the workplace) there is no need to have a "party" but instead coordinate as revolutionaries with the intent of the general advancement of the class. Discussions like the one in this thread are one step in that direction. I Skype with my comrades frequently, internationally--- its really fantastic.

ZR wrote: Or, does it engage in daily struggles with other sectors of society in order to gain the organizational experience that will be necessary eventually to take charge of matters?

I don't see this as the logical counterpoint to the first question you posed. Its somewhat of an abstraction, an anachronism just like some of the other posts in this thread. Marx stated that every society has its ascendence and decadence or decay--- its downward trend. If we look at history we can see how the tables turned, plebeian, slave, surf, lord, artisan, capitalist, workers… and societal systems built up on these social relations.

Today, I would argue that capitalism has ceased to be a productive force. The only reason in essence, why the workers were granted the 8 hour work day is because they became more productive. Workers were given breaks, reasonable hours, child labor banned and education promoted, all because it increased the productivity of the workers.

Since after WWII, more specifically around the late 1960's onward the bourgeoisie has had a harder and harder time extracting and maintaing its profits at the levels it has historically accumulated them. So more and more we have entered an epoch where the ruling class maintains its profits by unloading austerity on us common folk. There is no need for the proletariat to unite with "other sectors of society" because, haha, increasingly there are no other sectors of society, We are seeing more and more the effects of the widening income gap, the percentage of companies who own 95% of the market share is a tenth of a percent. There are no more reforms to be had. The capitalists have long contributed to the general decomposition of society in all terms--- trust me they are no longer thinking about ways to make things better, as Obama would have you believe.

So I still don't understand where a "cross-class" "social movement" comes into play at all, under this back drop. Some people in this thread posed the notion of being sympathetic to "capitalism with a smile." I can't support that position at all, when more and more the ruling classes greed equals the misery and death of people all over the world, internationally.

ZR wrote: Engaging in the democratic struggle, including parliamentary struggle, is how the working class develops the experience to become the ruling class.

There is no room for old ideologies, anachronisisms, like the one cde Lenin was a proponent of--- the one that caused major cracks in the Russian and German Revolutions as well as the IIIrd International. You would be wrong to advocate parliamentarism in under Czar Nicholas or President Obama. As much as I admire cde Lenin on certain issues, he was always completely wrong on supporting a coalition involved with bourgeois democracy. The illusions created by these positions led the workers away from communism and into the social democratic, and the fascist trap in Germany and Italy. Do we really want to repeat those mistakes?

Marin Jensen
A whole lot of questions around substitutionism

Getting back to this thread after a while away and wow! So many questions!

proper_propaganda wrote:

Anyways, to address the question--- we have to first say it is the class struggle itself which pushed people towards any kind of socialist consciousness, perceived or real. Thinking otherwise is a mistake so many people and also orgs as a whole make… a fatal substitutionist one. Without the bourgeoisie and the proletarians there would be no working class positions to be had.

Perhaps part of the difficulty lies in the general separation between political organisations and the working class as a whole. It is natural enough that those who want to better humanity's condition should want above all to "do something practical". The problem is that it is the whole working class that has to "do something". It is one of the hardest things to grasp: the organisations are part of the class in a historical sense, revolutionary organisations only exist, and their political positions only exist, because the working class exists in history as a potentially revolutionary class.

proper_propaganda wrote:
until there is significant proletarian movement, on the terrain or home turf of the workers (essentially, the workplace) there is no need to have a "party"

I think it would be better to pose this in the sense that until there is really a mass workers' movement it is not possible to have a party. What is the party? Surely if it means anything, it means an international organisation which is recognised by the class, or a very significant part of the class, as giving expression to the proletariat's own needs and ideas, so that the proletariat as a whole takes notice of what the party says and has confidence in it. How we get to this situation does not depend only on the action that revolutionaries take, but on what the class itself is capable of, how it is capable of developing the class struggle and its own view of itself as an international force with its own distinct interests.

PP's proposal for "guidelines" on combating substitutionism is an interesting one, but I wonder how possible it is, since very often it is a matter of discussing with individuals who have their own particular take on things. What do you think of this very early article as a starting point?

On the issue of relating to people in leftist organisations, I take PP's points - in the past we were probably too often inclined to denounce the organisations without seeing the emotional attachment that people had to their organisations (understandably).

Not always though. I remember one time in London a young contact invited us to a meeting of his SWP branch - just an ordinary local branch. We went along and were very well received by the ordinary members, but not at all by the main speakers. So there is a real cleavage between the "leadership" in these organisations, and many of the membership. Indeed, that is precisely why these organisations are useful to the ruling class.

Hawkeye
Who can communists work with?

Responding to the comment by may of March 17,2012, sets me wondering, if, to a greater or larger extent, workers in or from other organisations seem to be approaching an ICC set of views, and thus might be welcomed, on which actual tasks would work be combined ?

KT
working with the icc

I'm not a member, so I can't answer Hawkeye's question directly. However I did note that the old 'Contact the ICC' column which ran regularly ('routinely'?) for many years in the English language publication World Revolution has now been changed. As of April, 2012, it still appears on page 7 as part of the 'Life of the ICC', but is now called 'How to Work with the ICC' and is, to my mind, much more open and encouraging to those who share and want to actively defend the basic positions of the communist left. Anyone who wants to can download the .pdf of the actual issue and read 'How to Work with the ICC' too, though perhaps there's a case for including it in the list of articles for the next couple of issues.

Marin Jensen
Working together

In response to KT's comment, the bit in the paper is part of a slightly longer piece, just published on the front page (and which will continue to appear under the "What is the ICC?" menu heading.

In response to hawkeye - well first of all, try reading that same article to see if it answers any of your thoughts.

But to be more general, I think it depends a lot on the situation and the other organisation that the person is actually a member of. Are you thinking of a trades union or a political organisation for example?

One way anyone can help, is by spreading our ideas and by taking part in discussions here on this forum (or in some of the forums mentioned in the article "how to help"). If we produce a leaflet, then download it, print it, and distribute it even if it's just to people you know. Come to a public meeting if you are able - it's always better to talk face to face - or just write to us to find out if there is someone in your area. All that is a start.

If someone is a member of another organisation, then I think a lot would depend on what kind of organisation it is. We would always welcome an approach from a member of another internationalist group - whether individually or more "officially" - and would be glad to explore the possibilities of joint action: holding meetings together, leafletting together, or simply holding joint discussions.

The kind of joint activity we can envisage will depend on how much agreement there is between the different parties (this is true on both sides of course), but as a general rule we are and always have been in favour of as much joint activity as possible among internationalists.

For someone who is a member of a Trotskyist group for example, the situation would probably be more complicated (especially because most of the Trotskyist groups that we know would take a very dim view of their members cooperating with us, or indeed even talking to us). If we were to take a hypothetical situation, of a member of the SWP who wanted to distribute one of our leaflets, then I think that in such a case, our first concern would be to explore how much the comrade really understands and agrees with what is in the leaflet - since our politics bear very little relation to that of the SWP.

I hope that helps...