Communist Programme

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radicalchains
Communist Programme
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To the Communist Left and working class

Why hasn't work on a communist programme started and what is needed to happen before it starts?

What would or should it contain?

mhou
I think that what communists

I think that what communists do - applying the methodologies and analytical tools of the revolutionary milieu to what is happening in the class struggle - is always a prelude to what becomes the programme (theoretical elaboration about the class movements that have become the revolution, orienting this theoretical understanding of what is happening to the movement becoming communist). Earlier programmatic documents (from the RCP, KPD, KAPD) reflect what the working-class movement was doing and how the movement was revolutionary, why its trajectory could be toward communism. Engels’ concise affirmation of the role of communists to be the advanced segment of the class that consciously orients the class movement in the direction of the revolutionary transformation of existing society into communism articulates this:

"Mr. Heinzen imagines communism to be a certain doctrine which springs from a definite theoretical principle as its nucleus and draws further consequences from it. Mr. Heinzen is very wrong. Communism is not a doctrine but a movement springing from facts rather than principles. Communists presuppose not such and such a philosophy but all past history and, above all, its actual and effective results in the civilized countries.... In so far as communism is a theory, it is the theoretical expression of the situation of the proletariat in its struggle and the theoretical summary of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat". – F. Engels, "The Communists and Karl Heinzen" Article 2, MEW 4, pp. 321-322."

I guess a lot of people have very different perspectives on what the programme is. Groups like Theorie Communiste say the classical workers movement suffered a crisis after 1968 which resulted in the ‘death of programmatism’, the permanent overcoming of the programmatic conception of proletarian revolution. But it would seem their opposition to the communist programme in contemporary capitalism/ the contemporary revolutionary milieu is based on a foil, strawman kind of organizational setup such as that derided by Engels: a pre-existing, pre-movement party document to which the real class movements are ‘constrained’ by ready-made schema (i.e. a doctrine). But this doesn’t particularly sound like the role of communists and the programme contained in works from Marx and Engels (when quotes like the one above are used to promote certain communisation theory concepts) or the content of the programme of the CP in the RCP/KPD/KAPD/etc., articulated during a revolutionary movement. It sounds more like their opposition is to a communist organization’s platform, or another kind of pre-revolution set of theses or positions existing in a revolutionary organization. The odd thing is the apparent intention of communisation proponents (small groups and publications) to seriously analyze and understand the content of contemporary class movements, particularly those since 2007-08, in relation to the revolutionary transformation of society into communism- the very content of the programmatism that TC say is ‘dead’.

Some left communist groups who already call themselves the party have drawn up programmes, like the International Communist Party (Il Partito Comunista):

http://international-communist-party.org/BasicTexts/WhatDist.htm#THE%20PROGRAMME%20OF%20THE%20PARTY

But it reads more like a condensed selection of experiences of the communist milieu after 1917, with nothing about the ‘real movement’ of the class and class struggle, rather than how it used to be in the revolutionary wave. I guess they see the programme as containing the experience of the communist minority in prior struggles, and not as the active reflection or theorization of the generalizing, open class struggle.

What do you think the programme or steps toward it should be?

Fred
for programs as clarification

Programs are all right and serve as useful guidelines, as long as the comrades who wrote it have got it right.  But this is item eleven from the program referred to above by mhou.  

 

ICP wrote:
11. The full accomplishment of socialism is inconceivable within the borders of one country alone and the socialist transformation cannot be effected without failures and momentary setbacks. The defence of the proletarian regime against the ever present dangers of degeneration can be ensured only if the running of the proletarian State is continually coordinated with the international struggle of the working class of each country against its own bourgeoisie, State and military apparatus; there can be no let up in this struggle even in wartime. The necessary co-ordination can be ensured only if the World Communist Party controls the politics and program of the States where the working class has attained power.  
 

 

The first thing to note is that the concept "proletarian state" is a sort of "primitivism" (the opposite of Marxism)  ie. there's always been states, the bourgeoisie has states, therefore the proletariat will  have a state too.  We can take the state for granted, says the ICP.  And there'll be coordination between the various proletarian states ensured by the a World Communist Party. This  makes the World Communist Party begin to sound rather like a new United Nations: but this time round a UN of Proletarian States not bourgeois states.   (Everything changes but everything remains the same!) Yet THE STATE is increasingly the bulwark by which the bourgeoisie imposes its rule.  Is the proletariat then supposed to take on board this bourgeois lesson: that to run society a strong state is required?  Is this the lesson from Russia 1917? 

 

 

The ICP rightly points out that socialism is inconceivable within the borders of one country  yet follows this up by saying that degeneration of the revolution  can only be prevented by means of a strong proletarian state working in conjunction with other proletarian states functioning in other countries!    But surely the great Internationalism which is the essential corner stone of the proletarian breakthrough, doing away with concepts of country and state,  and divisions and separations between humanity along bourgeois economic and racist lines, will never be achieved if countries and states are taken for granted at the very outset of proletarian victory.  And it's no use saying: oh well, we can sort this kind of bureaucratic nit picking out later, for once established world wide proletarian states will quickly turn out to be none other than bourgeois states with new names.   

 

On the other hand, the ICC's program tells us that there will be no proletarian state after the successful international revolution, but a "semi-state" under proletarian supervision.  This semi-state will be under the tight control of the workers councils which will constitute the dictatorship.  There is much to be considered here.  But at least the ICC have thought and are thinking about this. The ICP appear unaware of the problem.  Such a failure could be curtains for the revolution.  So it is vital that communist organizations, looking forward to the birth of the party,  express in their programs what they understand so far about how things will work at these critical times in the future.  And these programs can then be debated. 

A.Simpleton
A clear statement

It of course echoes Marx's foundational statements in 1844/45 - at the very moment he was turning Hegel the right way up:

'Communism is not an ideal(his italics) : a state of affairs to be brought about and put in place: it is the real (wirkliche) movement that abolishes the present state of affairs'

and:

'Communism is the indispensable form (Gestalt) and the energetic principle of the closest future (nächtsen Zukunft), but communism is not in itself the goal (der Ziel) of human development - the form (Gestalt) of humanity's enterprise'

Now it would be contrary to Marx's own material conception of history to ignore real material changes and the way they might affect the movement but as Fred writes:

Programs are all right and serve as useful guidelines, as long as the comrades who wrote it have got it right.... 

So it is vital that communist organizations, looking forward to the birth of the party,  express in their programs what they understand so far about how things will work at these critical times in the future. And these programs can then be debated. 

The years of building the ICC internationally, the convening of the 20th congress, the publication of its resolutions represent, at least for me, a realistic depiction of the state of affairs, a 'non-wishful thinking' analysis of where the class are, why this is so, what the 'unconscious' and various forms of sometimes more, sometimes less mass resistance represent and what this means for the orientation and prioritisation of a revolutionary organisation. It is of substance although it may 'appear' passive, a 'non-programme' as it were: but leaping ahead to 'what the party will do when' is fraught with confusion and danger.

Take for example the issue of class consciousness: the resolutions depict and reach conclusions about class identity, lack of, what to do etc. Then take the special pamphlet and video re World War I: the opportunity to reach out with a very very accessible publication plus visual, pointing to the real reasons for the continued oppression and disaster which has continued for 100 years: it is not a militant intervention in a mass strike (which isn't happening) it simply seizes a timely opportunity to reveal the reality of the false hoopla of the bourgeoisie for what it is, as a way in to consciousness over a huge lie widely taken for granted and au courant. 

https://en.internationalism.org/internationalreview/201310/9219/20th-icc-congress-resolution-international-situation

This may read like an advert for the ICC but as you know I am not 'aligned' as they say. Just because revolutionary work is not spectacular or proactive does not mean it has no force, point or programme. 

I can't find the link to the video perhaps someone can :@}

AS

Alf
I think we have begun work on

I think we have begun work on the question of the communist programme - the series on communism for example. Long slow business of course, but if we are serious, we must go back to the beginning. So far the series has got to the 1940s (but are taking a step back to Spain 36 and the programme of anarchism, which will be the next part)

 

https://en.internationalism.org/go_deeper

radicalchains
I think a programme should

I think a programme should contain practical steps that have been distilled from historical defeats and successes. I think walls of text like that ICP one are a bit of a waste of time. The content seems more suited to other kind of documents. A programme should be a plan of sorts of action but not set in stone - as conditions and so on change. I think it also should be quite a short, precise document that can be easily understood and widely and easily propagated. Just to take one example from that ICP document:

On the line of Marx and Lenin the party proclaims the tactics of class antimilitarism, of fraternization at the fronts, of revolutionary defeatism at the front and the rear; which aim to turn the war among States into a war between classes.

This I see as irrelevant. There exist now in most countries professional soldiers not workers in uniform (conscription). Wars have also changed character completely. There are not the same kind of mass confrontations of opposing soliders. A more relevant and practical point in a programme regarding current war might be calls to strike and disobey when called upon by any government to prepare for strikes against another country. For workers to refuse logistic work, not load arms or supplies etc I think in the current political climate and given recent history, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya etc this would find resonance.

[Or to take another example, what practical steps should or could workers take when there is a coup and facsist thugs are patrolling the streets, terrorizing, kidnapping and so on. I tried broaching this subject in reference to Ukraine on Libcom but no one seems to be interested. I suggested some kind of collective workers defence. Maybe people find it too real to talk about. It's much safer to reflect afterwards or to talk about something else. What workers do in any given situation isn't automatically correct and I think people forget this and also think the correct actions just come out of thin air...eventually. What happens, happens and on it goes.]

This kind of political call and potential action is relevant to our period, could inspire confidence in practical action and lead to some political development. To get anywhere though I don't think one small organisation making it a point in their programme would get very far. It would need to be taken up much more widely and heavily propagandized.

 

radicalchains
It seems my idea of a

It seems my idea of a programme is completely different then and not worth talking about. The lurkers can feel free to private message me on this topic ; )

MH
hang on a minute!

As a 'lurker', I was finding this discussion really interesting. mhou's contribution I found particularly thought-provoking. A huge topic - hopefully it's just getting going...

radicalchains
MH, you're not a lurker. I

MH, you're not a lurker. I value all your contributions. I meant the hundreds, thousands even that view the forum and never comment at all. I wish they would give it a try. 

A.Simpleton
OK

Usually I write my posts on wordpad or something because the most frustrating thing about this site is that the slightest 'brush' of the wrong key loses an hour of work.

Yes it's my fault pilot error: but the first time I pressed 'save' .....would you believe I stupidly thought it meant 'save' ? It means POST: what a Simpleton!

Sorry rc you'll have to wait until I've ceased my petit bourgeois sulking to hear my views 

::@}~

AS

mhou
I agree with the

I agree with the characterization by AS: "It is of substance although it may 'appear' passive" in regards to the work being done. It doesn't look like the current generation of the class has found a means to understand and respond to what contemporary war is. There have been repeats of 1960's, anti-Vietnam war actions (mass demonstrations, coalitions). There have been a lot of interesting developments in terms of class composition and the organization of work: lean production being adopted in the public sector, domination of precarity, temp and part-time jobs in the logistics industry. This seems important to the emergence of the geographic-based social movements. Regular periods of unemployment and multiple job transfers (quitting one second job to take on another second job, etc.) have disrupted connections that used to be commonplace. Language conveying 'self-management' are less than utopian, they've been made irrelevant. Does someone working at Starbucks want to run their workplace, or a clerical worker at a public sector office? Even the idea of continuing to work at  your current job (without money/bosses/state) is un-imaginable and probably un-desirable for most workers today. That seems important to the work to do now and in the future in theorizing the revolutionary movement.

edit:

rc: 'I think walls of text like that ICP one are a bit of a waste of time'

There's a lot to consider when looking at a document like that one. Coming from a group that claims to be a [the] monolithic class party, it's easier to contrast their completed party program to the reality of class struggle as it is right now. I forget where it came from, but the situationists wrote something to the effect that, "whats left of the old ultra-left are groups that are infinitely preparing and prepared for the revolution... of 1917." Obviously not every experience is equally relevant, but where is the dividing line between understanding various dimensions of prior struggles (like the example you quoted about revolutionary defeatism) and what these actions, positions, theories, etc. meant in their historic moment vs things that must be integrated into contemporary theory as definitive acquisitions? For example, the debates over the concept of the general strike going back to Marx's time still seem largely relevant, given the experiences of European general strikes (particularly since 2008) and the US experiences in Wisconsin and Oakland in 2010-2011. The Marxist position on the inadequecy of the general strike as an end or vehicle in itself appears to have been validated in these experiences.

Alf
I guess a lot of people have

I guess a lot of people have very different perspectives on what the programme is. Groups like Theorie Communiste say the classical workers movement suffered a crisis after 1968 which resulted in the ‘death of programmatism’, the permanent overcoming of the programmatic conception of proletarian revolution. But it would seem their opposition to the communist programme in contemporary capitalism/ the contemporary revolutionary milieu is based on a foil, strawman kind of organizational setup such as that derided by Engels: a pre-existing, pre-movement party document to which the real class movements are ‘constrained’ by ready-made schema (i.e. a doctrine). But this doesn’t particularly sound like the role of communists and the programme contained in works from Marx and Engels (when quotes like the one above are used to promote certain communisation theory concepts) or the content of the programme of the CP in the RCP/KPD/KAPD/etc., articulated during a revolutionary movement. It sounds more like their opposition is to a communist organization’s platform, or another kind of pre-revolution set of theses or positions existing in a revolutionary organization. The odd thing is the apparent intention of communisation proponents (small groups and publications) to seriously analyze and understand the content of contemporary class movements, particularly those since 2007-08, in relation to the revolutionary transformation of society into communism- the very content of the programmatism that TC say is ‘dead’.

 

Mhou's observations on the 'communisation' tendency are well worth going back to. I agree that they make a straw man of the programme as a kind of Koran - helped in this, as comrades have noted, by the Bordigists, who really do have tendencies in that direction (the notion of Invariance); and that their real opposition is to coherent political organisations based on a platform. In this they show themselves to be a very 'marxoid' wing of the anarchist current, like Aufheben which is in some ways very similar, despite the antagonisms surrounding the expulsion from Aufheben of the minority interested in 'Theorie Communiste'.

 

MH
social movements and the programme

Alf wrote:

I think we have begun work on the question of the communist programme - the series on communism for example. Long slow business of course, but if we are serious, we must go back to the beginning. So far the series has got to the 1940s (but are taking a step back to Spain 36 and the programme of anarchism, which will be the next part)

I must admit I did a double-take when I read this, and it still slightly mystifies me tbh. The implication to me is that the long-running series on the ‘necessity of communism’ is actually a preparation for drawing up the communist programme?

The underlying idea that you have to go back to the beginning of history before you can do this seems to me – well, a bit academic? It also implies that the series is somehow an ‘official’ text of the organisation, rather than an individual contribution. But maybe alf’s post was intended as a bit ‘tongue in cheek’, if so ignore me…

On a more constructive note, the comments of comrades above emphasise for me the importance of the ICC’s attempts to grapple with the issues raised by the so-called ‘social movements’, most recently in the resolutions of the 20th Congress. These are indeed part of the efforts of communists to understand the ‘real movement’ of the class in all its complexity at a particularly difficult juncture of history.

Alf
tongue in cheek?

a little bit tongue in cheek, perhaps; it was a corrective to immediatism. The communist programme seen as a process which has been evolving through the entire history of the proletariat (and even before that), rather than as a document of intervention at a revolutionary moment - although it is that too.