Midlands Discussion Forum meeting 15th Feb 2014

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Theft
Midlands Discussion Forum meeting 15th Feb 2014
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Midlands Discussion Forum Presents 
Workers' Council, Parliament - which way forward to socialism? 

Date: Saturday, 15 February 2014 - 2:00pm

Venue: Anchor Pub, 308 Bradford St, Birmingham B5 6ET

Directions: About 13 minutes walk from Birmingham New Street rail station

Link
Meeting on 15.Feb 2014

Just changing a couple of things about the meeting from Theft's note above.  Its actually a joint meeting and debate with the SPGB rather than just our meeting and also the title has been changed to:

 

'The Role of Workers' Councils in a Socialist Revolution'

 

This should cover not only workers councils but at least parliament, direct democracy, workers economic and political struggles and class consciousness ie all the good stuff.

Do come all welcome and its a real ale pub if thats helps anybody decide!!  Date time and place as above

 

 

 

radicalchains
Interesting

There's been a couple of relatively lively libcom threads around this which I thought has been promising? When I first read the title I laughed and said what's the point? Having argued with SPGBers before about the subject, listened to debates and read them. In short, there isn't' much movement in position and a real distinct clash of ideas. But, having said that the libcom discussion has been pretty interesting and more open than usual I think. Something which hasn't come up yet however, is the broad question of how do you stop working class organs and organisation in general of a burgeoning revolutionary society from becoming a form of state? Maybe it's a separate question though.

Lastly, wondered if this might be of interest to anyone?

http://www.cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/online-only/critique-conference-2014

Alf
having your cake and eating it

We apologise for the fact that we won't be able to attend the meeting in person. We support the fact that the MDF is still carrying on with its efforts to develop discussion in the proletarian movement. The SPGB is still part of that movement, but its position on the 'parliamentary road to socialism' is a direct expression of bourgeois ideology. Now the SPGB tends to argue that you can have parliament on the one hand and workers' councils on the other, and still get to socialism. But as we argue on the libcom thread mentioned by radicalchains, (http://libcom.org/forums/announcements/midlands-discussion-forum-workers...), there is a total opposition between working in parliament and working in the autonomous organs created by the class struggle, and this opposition will reach its zenith during a revolutionary situation when the choice will be starkly posed between keeping the bourgeois state standing, and demolishing it. The last ideological prop of the political power of the ruling class will be 'the democratic vote of all citizens' as opposed to the horrible threat of a bloodthirsty class dictatorship. They used this mystification  - the prelude to an outright massacre of workers and revolutionaries - very successfully against the Spartacists and the potential power of the councils in Germany in 1918, so why wouldn't they use it again?    We are sure there will be comrades present at this meeting who will be able to argue against ideas that express the SPGB's congenital inability to break with the dominant ideology on this life or death question.  

LBird
Parliamentary road, or parliament as useful disposable tissue?

Alf wrote:
Now the SPGB tends to argue that you can have parliament on the one hand and workers' councils on the other, and still get to socialism.

Could you elaborate a little, Alf, on what you consider to be 'the SPGB argument' and your opposition to it?

I'm unsure on this issue, and in some ways I think I agree with some part of the 'SPGB argument', but from what I've heard of some interpretations of it, I disagree.

Alf wrote:
But as we argue on the libcom thread mentioned by radicalchains... there is a total opposition between working in parliament and working in the autonomous organs created by the class struggle...

I'm not sure I agree that there is a total 'opposition' between these two modes of 'class struggle'. I can visualise a symbiotic relationship, in which the use of parliament to propagandise for workers' councils can take place. Of course (before any comrades jump on me), Communism cannot be 'introduced' by parliamentary means, and the developing of the 'workers' council' element of the relationship must be the reason for the relationship (and not to develop a 'parliamentary political force' which is independent of workers' democratic control), and the 'MPs' elected must be Communists who openly say that they are subject to democratic extra-parliamentary workers' controls. There is no room for the 'George Galloway' type, in this conception. The political purpose would be openly to elect a majority to hand over power to workers' councils.

Given these restrictions, the 'SPGB argument' might have some merit. Of course, if the SPGB disagrees with my caveats, then I'll have my answer. And, furthermore, I'm sure that someone will say that 'parliament' itself will not allow these caveats, but then we'll be in the position of showing the working class that their representatives cannot be 'elected to parliament' to do as they bid.

What do you think, Alf? I'd value your views, even if I come not to agree with them. This really is an issue of which, at present, I don't have a thought-out position. I can see pros and cons, and would like more of either to be pointed out to me, so that I can form an informed opinion.

Can parliament be useful to help wipe our proletarian arses?

radicalchains
In short, the SPGB want to

In short, the SPGB want to convince a large majority of the world on an individual basis to want socialism. Then delegates will be duly elected to all governments. The delegates take control of the state and becuase the majority want socialism the capitalist minority will be powerless to resist. The state and capitalism will be dismantled/abolished.

There are so many flaws. Just a few, Marxism understands that the exploited class changes and becomes potentially revolutionary through attempting to struggle and therefore changing conditions. Not by being partially or temporarily convinced of this idea or that. We don't live in a world of individuals but one of antagonistic classes and a dominant capitalist ideology. The ruling class will not stand by idle while the working class build and build mass support. The capitalist minority will do all they can to stop us, using all the worst methods. You cannot control the state. In this bogus scenario that will never happen the SPGB delegates (the one true Party remember) will be managing a capitalist state. The SPGB's method lends to abstention from the class struggle and pretending the ruling class won't use all means against us including the worst forms of violence. They mainly talk about England/Britain on this subject when you consider the rest of the world it really hits home how preposterous the whole scenario is.

As we have seen in the 'Arab Spring' discounting for a moment all the faults it is a much clearer indication of how things will go. Spreading from one country to the next, uneven, different forms, advances and retreats etc 

LBird
Perhaps too short!

radicalchains wrote:
In short, the SPGB want to convince a large majority of the world on an individual basis to want socialism. Then delegates will be duly elected to all governments. The delegates take control of the state and becuase the majority want socialism the capitalist minority will be powerless to resist. The state and capitalism will be dismantled/abolished.

Thanks for your reply, radicalchains, but I'm not convinced by your account of the 'SPGB argument'. I think that it's a bit more subtle, but I might be wrong. Plus, I'm not opposed to 'individuals' becoming 'convinced': we've both been 'convinced', as have many other posters and readers here. What's so special about us? If Communism is to be proletarian self-emancipation, why shouldn't workers become convinced by argument and education as individuals, prior to any mass movement?

rc wrote:
As we have seen in the 'Arab Spring' discounting for a moment all the faults it is a much clearer indication of how things will go. Spreading from one country to the next, uneven, different forms, advances and retreats etc

I think this process merely provides evidence for the SPGB case: without a majority wanting Communism, society won't get Communism.

Alf
the real movement

I agree entirely with radicalchains on this. If the working class is to make a revolution it has to make a break with the habits of the past, and that certainly includes the whole passive 'vote for us to represent you' scenario. Pannekoek was particularly clear on this absolute necessity to break with the 'spiritual' grip of bourgeois democracy during the revolutionary process. If the working class is forming assemblies and councils which pose a direct threat to the existing state power, to the whole chain of command of bourgeois society, the first thing the more intelligent factions of the ruling class will do is to empty these forms of any real content by showing how they can happily co-exist alongside parliament and local councils and trade unions - and they will have the whole leftist menagerie supporting them - as well, on this issue, as the SPGB. So the last thing communists will need to say in such a situation is 'let's now put our very limited resources into standing for these parliamentary elections called to deliberately distract and divert the class from attacking the state'.  We should denounce these elections and call for boycotting them while strengthening the organs of proletarian counter-power. Any centrism on this question could prove fatal to the revolution, as it was in 1918 in Germany.    On the question LBird poses about individuals being convinced, yes, of course individuals can be and are convinced of revolutionary ideas outside of a mass movement, but for communist theory to 'grip the masses' a mass movement is absolutely indispensable.     

radicalchains
Agree

And in turn, I completely agree with Alf. Like Alf said the importance is on a mass movement, an international one I might add. It's all well and good that some people are or become convinced communists, this doesn't make them better or special in anyway at least in my opinion but most importantly it doesn't make them communists necessarily in practice only in the realm of ideas. Even though I consider myself a communist and even more so part of the working class who knows what I will do in a revolutionary situation. Who knows what you will do or Alf for that matter. Do you see my point? I largely feel spreading the message/putting forward the case or whatever you want to call it is a waste of time. Besides no individual convinced me with their case for socialism. I only briefly described the SPGB case, the problem is as soon as you start debating it with them (in particular) they start playing with words and providing false arguments. If someone is prepared to argue from the SPGB their case, in my opinion you will not change their view at all. A comrade once noted they were like religious preachers, I think I used the word zealot.

Hence my original comments regarding the meeting.

radicalchains
LBird

LBird wrote:

rc wrote:
As we have seen in the 'Arab Spring' discounting for a moment all the faults it is a much clearer indication of how things will go. Spreading from one country to the next, uneven, different forms, advances and retreats etc

I think this process merely provides evidence for the SPGB case: without a majority wanting Communism, society won't get Communism.

 

Regarding this point, in my view it is not so important that we didn't get to communism. It is rather more important that parts of the working class begin to struggle and experience partial successes and defeats. Then workers learn and reflect and hopefully this has impact on the struggles to come in at least a small way and on it goes.  Most struggles will lead to defeat, this is a given. If you do not understand this in my opinion you have no clue about Marxism (not aimed at you directly). It doesn't make them wrong or irrelevant. Also, workers don't need to be convinced socialists/communists to struggle. Struggle happens because it becomes a necessity. it is inevitable in a society of antagonistic classes.

In my opinion I will not see communism in my lifetime, I think we will need to have much bigger experiences of partial success and massive failure. similar or perhaps bigger than the Russian Revolution. I wouldn't discount hundreds of years before communism arrives and that's if it ever does. That does not stop me from being communist though as I hope I've made clear in this and other posts.

LBird
Yet more queries

Thanks for your reply, Alf. But I'm not sure that you've answered my post, just merely reiterated a 'standard' response to the SPGB.

Alf wrote:
...the whole passive 'vote for us to represent you' scenario...

This certainly isn't what I wrote about MPs in my post. I made it plain that MPs would be delegates doing our active bidding, not 'free representatives'. They would be the 'passive' factor, in my scenario. I'm not sure what the SPGB would say to contradict me: perhaps we'll find out, later.

Alf wrote:
If the working class is forming assemblies and councils which pose a direct threat to the existing state power...

But in this scenario, the parliamentary delegates of the workers' movement would be under their control, surely? Do the SPGB envisage their MPs giving orders to workers' councils? Isn't the use of parliamentary delegates merely for propaganda purposes, to agitate for workers' councils? That is, to make use of a forum that, in a parliamentary democracy at least, is open to workers being elected, and to thus be able to 'take the temperature' of the early stages of the consciousness of the proletariat?

Alf wrote:
So the last thing communists will need to say in such a situation is 'let's now put our very limited resources into standing for these parliamentary elections called to deliberately distract and divert the class from attacking the state'.

But isn't the purpose of the SPGB strategy to 'attack the state' from within? In a growing revolutionary situation, not only most soldiers, but many officers too, will have come to a communist consciousness, and will be looking for 'legitimate' ways to redirect the actions of the armed forces into supporting workers' militias. A majority of parliamentary delegates could provide this 'legitimation' for units to arrest those officers pre-identified as reactionaries, including most 'commanding officers'. Again, I might have the wrong end of the stick about the SPGB's vision, so I await further details, if you can't provide them, Alf.

Alf wrote:
On the question LBird poses about individuals being convinced, yes, of course individuals can be and are convinced of revolutionary ideas outside of a mass movement, but for communist theory to 'grip the masses' a mass movement is absolutely indispensable.

This is an old bone of contention between us, Alf, so I won't push it any further on this thread. Suffice to say, I'm not sure how a 'mass' comes to consciousness, without the individuals being involved!

LBird
Zealotry and the IZC

radicalchains wrote:
I only briefly described the SPGB case, the problem is as soon as you start debating it with them (in particular) they start playing with words and providing false arguments. If someone is prepared to argue from the SPGB their case, in my opinion you will not change their view at all. A comrade once noted they were like religious preachers, I think I used the word zealot.

I appreciate that you only briefly described their case; it's just that I'd like a more detailed (and even-handed?) description. As I've already said, I'm not convinced either way, yet. I can see pros and cons, depending upon what the actual case is, of which I'm unsure in detail. That's why I've tried to provide a tentative 'interpretation' that might be workable. If an SPGB spokesperson ridicules my attempt as nothing like their 'case', than at least I'll have some feedback, and can reconsider further.

I'm not particularly trying to 'change' anyone's 'views', at this point, at least. I'd merely like to clarify the SPGB case, and try to form an opinion of it.

As for 'religious preachers' and 'zealots', I'm sure the vast majority of our society would regard both of us (and everyone else here) as that, too!

Alf
ideas spreading

radicalchains: of course, as individuals we might well 'fail the test', and the same applies to revolutionary organisations, but even so if you have the collective strength of a revolutionary organisation behind you, you are in a far better position to resist bourgeois ideology. I obviously don't agree that spreading (and theoretically developing) communist ideas today is a waste of time because one of our fundamental tasks, as it was for the Italian left fraction in the darkest days of the counter-revolution, is to constitute a bridge linking us to the revolutionary future, when our ideas will become much more widespread. This is an active process and its significance for the future can't be underestimated. And again, I think that this can't be done effectively by a conglomeration of individuals, but requires a political organisation of revolutionaries. 

LBird, I don't think it matters whether the 'socialist delegates' say they will enter parliament to destroy it, or just to make propaganda, they are entering a treacherous terrain which will inevitably corrupt them or spit them out if they stick to their principles; and above all getting involved in elections will basically convey the idea to the working class that, when it comes down to it, it's worth taking part in the bourgeois democratic game. 

In addition to helping to fuel the democratic myth, the huge amount of time, energy and resources that would have to be put into contesting elections in a phase of revolution would utterly undermine the real activity of the communist organisation. 

Participation in elections to the representative organs of bourgeois democracy and participation in parliamentary activity, while always presenting a continuous danger of deviation, may be utilised for propaganda and for schooling the movement during the period in which there does not yet exist the possibility of overthrowing bourgeois rule and in which, as a consequence, the party's task is restricted to criticism and opposition. In the present period, which began with the end of the world war, with the first communist revolutions and the creation of the Third International, communists pose, as the direct objective of the political action of the proletariat in every country, the revolutionary conquest of power, to which end all the energy and all the preparatory work of the party must be devoted.
In this period, it is inadmissible to participate in these organs which function as a powerful defensive instrument of the bourgeoisie and which are designed to operate even within the ranks of the proletariat. It is precisely in opposition to these organs, to their structure as to their function, that communists call for the system of workers' councils and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Because of the great importance which electoral activity assumes in practice, it is not possible to reconcile this activity with the assertion that it is not the means of achieving the principal objective of the party's action, which is the conquest of power. It also is not possible to prevent it from absorbing all the activity of the movement and from diverting it from revolutionary preparation

(from the theses of the Abstentionist Fraction of the Italian Socialist Party, 1920)

 

Alf
ideas spreading

double post

radicalchains
To clarify

It's not that I think theoretical debate and clarity are a waste of time, I've always maintained there is a lack of this in the working class if anything. It's that I think trying to turn individuals "to want socialism" is a waste of time and unproductive. To be clear, I don't think you or the ICC do this. I think the SPGB do and it's the focus of their work. Unlike the ICC I don't think the SPGB and similar organisations do even attempt theoretical development (on ICC terms). Only on a superficial individual basis not at an organisational or class wide level.

If you asked people on the street would you like to live in a world where everything was free and you didn't have to work for a living a majority would say yes. The problem is not workers not wanting socialism.

Alf
that's clearer

thanks for the clarification, I now understand better the point you trying to make

LBird
Periodisation is the key

Alf wrote:
LBird, I don't think it matters whether the 'socialist delegates' say they will enter parliament to destroy it, or just to make propaganda, they are entering a treacherous terrain which will inevitably corrupt them or spit them out if they stick to their principles; and above all getting involved in elections will basically convey the idea to the working class that, when it comes down to it, it's worth taking part in the bourgeois democratic game. 

In addition to helping to fuel the democratic myth, the huge amount of time, energy and resources that would have to be put into contesting elections in a phase of revolution would utterly undermine the real activity of the communist organisation. 

Participation in elections to the representative organs of bourgeois democracy and participation in parliamentary activity, while always presenting a continuous danger of deviation, may be utilised for propaganda and for schooling the movement during the period in which there does not yet exist the possibility of overthrowing bourgeois rule and in which, as a consequence, the party's task is restricted to criticism and opposition. In the present period, which began with the end of the world war, with the first communist revolutions and the creation of the Third International, communists pose, as the direct objective of the political action of the proletariat in every country, the revolutionary conquest of power, to which end all the energy and all the preparatory work of the party must be devoted.
In this period, it is inadmissible to participate in these organs which function as a powerful defensive instrument of the bourgeoisie and which are designed to operate even within the ranks of the proletariat. It is precisely in opposition to these organs, to their structure as to their function, that communists call for the system of workers' councils and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Because of the great importance which electoral activity assumes in practice, it is not possible to reconcile this activity with the assertion that it is not the means of achieving the principal objective of the party's action, which is the conquest of power. It also is not possible to prevent it from absorbing all the activity of the movement and from diverting it from revolutionary preparation

(from the theses of the Abstentionist Fraction of the Italian Socialist Party, 1920)

Alf, the problem with the 'thesis' you've quoted above, is that it stands or falls simply on the basis of its characterisation of 'this period'.

On the one hand it agrees with the SPGB's position: "Participation in elections to the representative organs of bourgeois democracy and participation in parliamentary activity, while always presenting a continuous danger of deviation, may be utilised for propaganda and for schooling the movement during the period in which there does not yet exist the possibility of overthrowing bourgeois rule and in which, as a consequence, the party's task is restricted to criticism and opposition." [my bold]

But, on the other hand, "In the present period, which began with the end of the world war, with the first communist revolutions and the creation of the Third International, communists pose, as the direct objective of the political action of the proletariat in every country, the revolutionary conquest of power, to which end all the energy and all the preparatory work of the party must be devoted.
In this period, it is inadmissible to participate in these organs which function as a powerful defensive instrument of the bourgeoisie...
" [my bold]

So, it is not a 'point of principle' to oppose the SPGB's parliamentary strategy, but only the belief that 'the present period', since 1914, no longer allows parliament's use for 'propaganda', 'schooling' and 'criticism and opposition'.

The logical inference of this is that, if one denies the characterisation of 'the present period', then the SPGB's present strategy is perfectly sound, as indeed the thesis itself argues it was, prior to 1914.

The real debate here, Alf, is about the nature of 'the present period', not the SPGB strategy, the estimation of which is reliant upon the more fundamental issue of 'period'.

Alf
question of period

The question of the period does, as the Italian communist left and also the KAPD recognised, have a major impact on the tactic of participating in parliament. For the majority of the communist left, this tactic  - using parliament both as an arena for fighting for reforms and for making propaganda against capitalism - lost all validity once the epoch of proletarian revolution had opened up. But well before this, the clearest marxists (not least Engels in his introduction to the Communist Manifesto) had already recognised that parliament could not be used as a means of taking control of the state and introducing socialist measures. This was the fundamental lesson of the Commune of 1871. The tendency to forget this acquisition was one of the most important signs of the degeneration of social democracy, to the point where, when revolutionaries like Pannekoek, Bukharin, and then Lenin 'returned' to the position that the working class could not come to power through the parliamentary process, that the old state had to be demolished, they were denounced as anarchists. The SPGB has inherited the degnerated social democratic tradition that these comrades fought against.  

LBird
Caricature or actual?

Alf wrote:
The question of the period does, as the Italian communist left and also the KAPD recognised, have a major impact on the tactic of participating in parliament. For the majority of the communist left, this tactic - using parliament both as an arena for fighting for reforms and for making propaganda against capitalism - lost all validity once the epoch of proletarian revolution had opened up.
[my bold]

Is this characterisation of the post-1914 (including up until now) period as 'the epoch of proletarian revolution', the axiom that separates the ICC from the SPGB on the issue of 'parliamentary participation'?

Alf wrote:
...parliament could not be used as a means of taking control of the state and introducing socialist measures...

Is this the actual position of the SPGB? I was under the impression that they don't want to use parliament to 'take control of the state', but to undermine the bourgeoisie's control of their own state. Surely the SPGB see the 'introduction of socialist measures' as being the act of the class organised in workers' councils, rather than by 'parliamentary representatives'? From what little I've read on their site, there seems to be some disagreement about this, and perhaps some members do want to do what you suggest of them, Alf.

Alf wrote:
The tendency to forget this acquisition was one of the most important signs of the degeneration of social democracy, to the point where, when revolutionaries like Pannekoek, Bukharin, and then Lenin 'returned' to the position that the working class could not come to power through the parliamentary process, that the old state had to be demolished, they were denounced as anarchists. The SPGB has inherited the degnerated social democratic tradition that these comrades fought against.
[my bold]

Surely the SPGB also agree with this view that the state, including parliament, have to be demolished? In that sense, wouldn't they be as equally 'Anarchist' as the ICC, in denunciations by 'social democrats'?

I'm still not convinced that the actual views of the SPGB are being criticised, Alf, rather that a caricature is being lampooned. Perhaps we need someone from the SPGB to elaborate further.

radicalchains
The force of the state(s)

The force of the state(s) will be againt any revolutionary working class, it will be in direct opposition. It does not make any sense once you put it all into the real world context. Abstractly Lbird your interpretation of the SPGB case would work perhaps but we don't live in abstract. 

Because the scenario will never actually happen - the mass of world wide workers all becoming socialists then acting, the delegates won't have the chance to go into the hostile states and attempt to abolish them. The joke is the SPGB probably wouldn't think they would be hostile because remember once all workers are socialists who want socialism the minority capitalist state is powerless to resist. 

In the words of Lenin, "muddleheads".

LBird
Pots and kettles?

radicalchains wrote:
The force of the state(s) will be againt any revolutionary working class, it will be in direct opposition.

Isn't this an assumption, rc? An 'abstraction'?

rc wrote:
It does not make any sense once you put it all into the real world context. Abstractly Lbird your interpretation of the SPGB case would work perhaps but we don't live in abstract.

But, I agree, the 'force of the state' is not an 'abstraction', but a structure made up overwhelmingly of 'workers'. Every officer in the army has 30 workers around them. Whilst it's correct that in 'normal' periods the officer commands the 30 (by the power of ideas, as much as compulsion), won't this start to change in a 'revolutionary' period? That is, 'direct opposition' is dependent upon social context? Without a social context, it is merely an 'abstraction'.

rc wrote:
Because the scenario will never actually happen - the mass of world wide workers all becoming socialists then acting, the delegates won't have the chance to go into the hostile states and attempt to abolish them.

Once again, isn't this an assumption? Never?

Plus, the SPGB don't argue that 'all workers across the world' have to be conscious, just a sufficient combination of enough class conscious combined with enough who won't defend the existing system. To put it in the context of our 'officer over 30' example, if 15 become class conscious, and 10 don't give a shit because the system has taken their pensions, the 'officer and remaining 5' are in trouble. This is only an example, but I'm sure you take my point about 'sufficient numbers' not meaning 'all'.

rc wrote:
The joke is the SPGB probably wouldn't think they would be hostile because remember once all workers are socialists who want socialism the minority capitalist state is powerless to resist.

In the words of Lenin, "muddleheads".

Aren't you descending to the 'depths' from which I've recently climbed out of, and which you yourself rightly condemned as 'childish'?

radicalchains
...

In my view it's only an abstraction if the state is neutral but we know it's not.

Soldiers are not workers in uniform they are now mostly professional soldiers.

I was having a bit of a joke with "muddle heads" as I had just written the post in the other thread, not to be taken seriously. Besides, I was talking of the SPGB not yourself. And if I consider them counter-revolutionary which possibly I do there are much worse words I could use.

A.Simpleton
Could you ...

Expand on that a little rc ?

'Soldiers are not workers in uniform they are mostly professional now' : the 'in the final analysis' people who are mobilised by 'a State' to end 'unrest' insurrection' internally or externally execute (black pun) 'a State's' involvement in some Imperialist war.

Now I admit I have not re-examined this description which to me when I first realised it was quite revealing: 'armies' 'the military' ceased to have in my mind the deliberately mystified status (and all the Nationalist bells and whistles) as 'outside the class struggle': Marx tore away that 'appearance' and a great deal came into the simple focus of the real.

It's unmissable that the 'living catastrophe' of the present has in many chaotic war zones changed, confused, mixed, what perhaps was a simpler generalisation - mercenaries, 100s of 'rebel armies' in just one city (Misrata as Baboon posted).

But the standing armies, navies, air forces of America, Britain, France, Germany, Australia? Yes they are 'professional' soldiers - de facto - it is their 'job' and for the rank and file it is often the only employment choice. Have I misunderstood a phrase that was coined to describe only conscripts...

Or just not read the whole thread properly ...

It's an issue that I think about from time time as quite important: similarly the police in Europe at least: obviously the falling apart of even the State's ability to control the out of control makes any distinction between gangsters on the basis of class in areas of Mexico not only impossible but perhaps pointless...

AS  :@-

 

radicalchains
I accept that in many cases

I accept that in many cases soldiers are economic conscripts and can still rebel or mutiny. A Russian ancestor did a runner from the army and another from the Irish Guards - sadly the idiot signed up again later. However, today the majority of soldiers are not conscripted and in large part because of said dangers. The US really learnt from what started to happen in Vietnam, conscripts killing officers and so on. I would argue today, soldiers are more ideologically tied to their role and benefit more e.g young people look at it as an option because they get credit for college which otherwise would be unaffordable. They also have the choice not to sign up. You don't have that choice as a conscript, or at least it's a much tougher one with consequences. 

I used to think armies were 'workers in uniform' too but I have changed my mind for the above reasons, and some gentle persuation (from the ICC I think). Also we should look at the last time at least in the West these 'workers in uniform' rebelled or muntinied. Have they ever? OK, we may not have been in any situations similar to WW1 or the Russian Revolution but it's worth noting.

Anyone else think there is a significant difference now there are many non-conscript armies? And yes the seemingly growing number of mercenaries are a really disturbing added factor.

A.Simpleton
Numbers

There's some good news and some bad news 

Relating to this context, discussing actual 'numbers', as you do, counts (ahem) for more than meets the peremptorily glancing eye: which sees such a straightforward approach as - shall we say - somewhat underwhelming: the sort of thing that a simpleton would come up with: not so.

Marx uses precisely this method of distinguishing between - to give just one example -'ordinary money' and 'capital': he asks why simply a larger quantity of something changes its quality. He carried out a very specific piece of chemical research (alcohol I think or the 'paraffin' family) adding to the constituents of one substance in precisely similar proportions 'more of the same' and ending up with a different substance.

(I'll search out the reference)

I don't think he was too bothered with why exactly he simply noted that it was so. ( the 'bad' news is that it is one of the principles of dialectics that a change in quantity 'suddenly' (i.e. when the critical number is reached) changes the quality and vice versa.)  

***

AS

radicalchains
I must be the simpleton on

I must be the simpleton on this one, I'm totally perplexed. I don't see how this relates to my answer. Unless you are saying there isn't a distinction between workers in uniform and professional soldiers. That they are one and the same and it's all a numbers game. The more the merrier, becuase then a change will occur?

Sorry for being crude, maybe I'm talking to rocks again? Was your quote from Dialectics of Nature? 

 

 

A.Simpleton
A prime example

Of a pitfall in Internet discussion: 

Nor can any 'blame' be attributed because we are all still learning 'how to behave', not I hasten to add just in a 'don't put your elbows on the table sense' but in a 'how to generate the results we want' sense.

It's a response to LBird's #23 : so it doesn't make any sense where it is plonked: and although it says it is a reply to #23, what I should have taken into consideration is that we have been having a 'real time' exchange and so in 'real meeting terms' I've been rude by suddenly talking to someone else, you are baffled by a non-sequitor, the context of the 'dialectics' 'joke' falls flat (not that it had much zest in the first place) And c'rade LBird at some later point is confronted with what looks like a plate of fish and chips after a child of 4 has not eaten much of it but 'pushed it around a lot'

ahahaha ... 

And knowing me I will somehow press some combination that now sends this post to the advanced economics thread .

Thanks for your Yes re the internet thing: I think we've given a fine 'shop demonstration'

AS

Fin

 

radicalchains
Oops

Sorry AS, entirely my fault. Should pay more attention. 

LBird
Dog's dinner, rather than a child's

A.Simpleton wrote:
It's a response to LBird's #23 : so it doesn't make any sense where it is plonked: and although it says it is a reply to #23, what I should have taken into consideration is that we have been having a 'real time' exchange and so in 'real meeting terms' I've been rude by suddenly talking to someone else, you are baffled by a non-sequitor, the context of the 'dialectics' 'joke' falls flat (not that it had much zest in the first place) And c'rade LBird at some later point is confronted with what looks like a plate of fish and chips after a child of 4 has not eaten much of it but 'pushed it around a lot'

Perhaps it's better to begin a post with a quote from the post which you are addressing, AS? Like I have, here. Then it's not only obvious 'who' you're replying to, but also gives some 'what' context, for those coming to the 'conversation' later. As you say, our conversations are not in linear time, face-to-face, but jump around over time, with asides interspersed within the main subject.

On the issue of my post #23, I take it that you're agreeing with my point to radicalchains, that 'socio-economic' context is an important consideration when dealing with issues of 'state personnel', and it is too simplistic to simply say 'the state is not neutral. Of course, we all agree with that axiom, regarding the state as a 'structure', but regarding its 'components' (the actual soldiers recruited from working class communities, and influenced by the oppression and struggles of their family and friends at home), then to argue that those soldiers are identical to the 'state', is a mistake, in my opinion.

Link
The Role of Workers' Councils in Socialist Revolution

First the discussion then the presentations.    An new approach for sure.  I'll put up a link to the audio shortly

Anyway here is the SPGB speaker's notes for the discussion of "The role of workers’ councils in the Socialist Revolution"

 

 

What are “Workers’ Councils”? What are we going to mean by the term? One definition is given by someone who wrote a book advocating them, Anton Pannekoek. Here’s his definition:

“The organisation of production by the workers is founded on free collaboration: no masters, no servants. The combination of all the enterprises into one social organisation takes place on the same principle. The mechanism for this purpose must be built by the workers. Given the impossibility to collect the workers of all the factories into one meeting, they can only express their will by means of delegates. For such bodies of delegates in later times the name of workers’ councils has come into use.”

On this definition, “workers’ councils” are a variety of working-class organisation at the point of production. The working class organised industrially, or economically. Other varieties would be trade unions, industrial unions, one big union, strike committees.

What attitude should revolutionary socialists take towards the economic organisation of the working class? Fully in favour of course. Obviously, workers need to organise to resist the downward pressures exerted all the time on their wages and working conditions under capitalism. But there is no need to give preference to a particular form, as long as workers organise on democratic lines, with the sort of system of election of delegates and majority decision-making described by Pannekoek.

So, what would or could be the role of economic organisations of the working class in the socialist revolution? There has been one strand in the revolutionary tradition that has taken the view that these should play a leading role, that they should in fact be the instrument of the social revolution. There’s the Syndicalists with their idea of a General Strike to overthrow capitalism, the IWW with their idea that the workers should take and hold the means of production. In his book Pannekoek too envisages the working class using strike action and occupations to confront and finally overthrow capitalism.

But what about the State?

But there is one big drawback to this approach: it leaves political control, that is, the control of the State machine and its instruments of coercion, in the hands of the capitalist class. This is dangerous as it means that they will have at their disposal a powerful instrument with which to oppose any industrial action. This is why Marx in his day always insisted on the need to first take control of political power out of the hands of the capitalist class before attempting to overthrow capitalism and replace it with socialism.

If you accept the need to win control of political power, there are basically only two ways of doing so: armed insurrection or the ballot box.

Insurrection and minority action go together. In fact, to organise an insurrection is the origin of the theory of the vanguard party. In any event, today it is obviously out of the question on practical grounds, as the IWW and Pannekoek recognised.

So, what about elections as a way to win control of political power? Marx himself did not rule this out even in his day as long as certain political conditions were met, and said so publicly. The conditions he had in mind were a stable political structure, a government responsible to an elected law-making body, and a majority of working-class electors. He specifically mentioned Britain as an example of this. These conditions now exist in most industrially developed capitalist countries. So, today, the only practical way to win control of political power is through the ballot box, backed up of course by socialist-minded workers democratically self-organised outside parliament.

What’s wrong with contesting elections?

But even if this were not the case, that the ballot box was not a way to win political power, this would not be a reason for revolutionaries not to contest elections. Elections are a way of challenging pro-capitalist parties and politicians so they don’t get a free run. They are a way of spreading socialist class consciousness and, if a socialist is elected as the delegate of those who elected them, that secures a tribune from which to campaign against capitalism and for socialism. Having a majority of MPs on the side of the revolution would add legitimacy to it and take this away from the capitalist class.

There is no case for not contesting elections on principle. There is certainly a strong case for not voting for pro-capitalist candidates and abstaining when this is the only choice, but not for not putting up socialist candidates where this is practical. Anti-electoralism is an anarchist dogma and the onus is on those who are against ever contesting an election to make a coherent case.

The main objection seems to be that any socialist delegate sent to parliament would be corrupted and co-opted into the Establishment. This had indeed been the experience of Labour and Social Democratic parties all over the world. But who is advocating the sort of electoral action they engage in? Quite apart from thinking and spreading the illusion that capitalism can be reformed to work in the interest of wage and salary workers, they put their candidates forward as leaders who, if elected, are going to do things for people. Their MPs are leaders not delegates.

We can envisage a quite different kind of electoral politics: workers, when they have become socialist, organising themselves into a mass, democratic political party on the same basis as Pannekoek envisaged for his “workers’ councils”, i.e. no leaders, only mandated and revocable delegates. A socialist MP would simply be the delegate of those who had voted them, just as anyone elected to some central council of workers’ councils would be.

If this will work for industrial organisation, why won’t it work for political organisation? After all, the same people, the same workers, will be involved, organising themselves in the one case in the places where they work and in the other where they live (as well as with those without a job or who are retired). If you wanted to, you could even regard the mass, socialist political party as a sort of “workers’ council” as it too would be made up of workers organised on the basis of delegate democracy.

The realm of speculation

But what would be the role of workers’ economic organisations in the socialist revolution? Because they will still have a role, even they are incapable of overthrowing capitalism on their own. Essentially, it would to keep production going and to prepare to take over the workplaces and run them after the abolition by political means of the political structure that maintains capitalism.

We are now entering the realm of speculation but it is possible to imagine the political and economic organisations of the working class being joined in a single socialist movement, with each section having its specific task, the political to win control of the State and the economic to keep production going.

So, workers should organise themselves democratically at their place of work but this can take a variety of forms (industrial unions, Pannekoek’s workers’ councils, the IWW’s One Big Union). There is no need to make a fetish of one particular organisational form. What is important is democratic control by the members.

Once capitalism has been abolished these can form the initial basis for the democratic management of production. But since classes, including the working class, will have been abolished it wouldn’t be appropriate call them “workers’ councils”. There will no longer be any “workers”, just free and equal men and women running industry and society through councils of delegates.

Website: www.worldsocialism.org/spgb   Email: [email protected]

Link
The Role of Workers Councils in Socialist Revolution - 2nd Pres.

 

 

This is my presentation from the discussion with SPGB

 

Unlike the SPGB, the MDF is not a formal organisation with a formal platform nor indeed formal members

The Midlands Discussion Forum is a discussion circle.  We meet and discuss with others in the working class movement – for us that is how to understand both our own and others’ arguments more clearly.    But not having a platform means that whilst I am here as a participant of the MDF, what I say is my opinion as a left communist not the mdf’s.     In volunteering for this task, I do not pretend to be an expert in Workers Councils or the Russian Revolution or even the SPGB but I volunteered for this task to improve my understanding of workers councils as well as the SPGB – hopefully SPGB members too

The SPGB is unlike the LP and the Stalinists and Trotskyists, it believes genuinely in the overthrow of capitalism by the working class. socialism as a classless society, it does not support reforms and does not turn nationalist and support the ruling class in the event of imperialist wars. These are very important points of agreement and from my perspective mean this is a discussion within the workers movement – not just between non-market socialists

We nevertheless have sharply different views on the path to socialism which will no doubt come out in the discussion – such differences are clearly an important topic that raises key issues for clarification  - but can only be decided in future events.  I will not focus on the SPGB’s view of parliament.  And in terms of councils, I have rather focussed on the aspect of councils as organs of class struggle because there is far more experience of this than councils as organs of administration in a global socialist society.  Something again that remains for clarification in future.

The first appearances of Workers’ Councils were in Russia in 1905 as a revolutionary situation was opening up across the capitalism world.  It is no accident that this is also the period  which saw the formation of the SPGB when it split from reformists.  In Russia, there was a strong concentrated working class suffering under a brutal and out of date regime which used foreign capital to support itself.   Called Absolutism, it violently resisted encroachments from bourgeois society to change - and the councils emerge from 1903 onwards when the confrontation was become ever deeper and greatly politicised.  The strikes were certainly based on everyday economic struggles but became political as they were thwarted by an aggressive and untrustworthy ruling class.

There was no, one specific point of origin, but lessons were being learnt in struggle and the councils emerged as workers needed to join up together to fight united battles and,  critically,  to raise generalised political demands. 

Trotsky in his history of 1905 describes how the structures grew out the workers struggles with the state.  Based simply on the need for assembly meetings in the workplace, prolonged struggle led to the formation of factory committees to represent the assemblies’ decisions.  Prolonged struggle also generated the emergence of what came to be called soviets (councils in English), Ultimately as the conflicts became broader and more political, these works assemblies became formalised and began to elect and send delegates with mandates to district and town councils.  In their turn the councils enabled decisions to be taken and implemented which gave a strength to the workers that they did not have separately.

What is clear is that prior to 1905 no political organisations were calling for councils, no one prepared workers as to how to fight in this way.   In a period of intense and politicised conflict, the need was still for discussion but particularly for coordination and organisation to take political struggles forward.  Councils have therefore been a feature of periods of mass struggle. 

The setting up of a complex web of councils by October 1905 incorporated metal and textile workers, bakers, print and communication workers and so forth in both Moscow and Petersburg the 2 main centres of industry.   In Petersburg, print and railway workers created councils which became the heart of the central Petersburg Soviet. It raised demands related to food supplies, rents, working day, civil liberties, freedom of assembly, parliamentary freedoms etc.  The central Soviet in Petersburg began with about 100 delegates and eventually comprised over 500 delegates representing about 200 works and drew support from far broader range of workers, students, soldiers sailors, state workers etc.

Trotsky points out the councils were not a means of pursuing passive or limited strikes but enabled offensive struggles against the state. Trotsky described them as ‘a natural organ’,  ‘an authentic democracy’  that was “a workers government in embryo”.

And from the Summing Up in his book 1905 Trotsky says:

“Prior to the soviet, we find among the industrial workers a multitude of revolutionary organisation directed, in the main, by the social democratic party.  But these were organisations within the proletariat and their immediate aim was to achieve influence over the masses.  The Soviet was from the start the organisation of the proletariat and its aim was the struggle for revolutionary power”

The 1905 revolutionary wave was however defeated.   The experience lived on nevertheless, and when a revolutionary situation re-emerged in 1917, workers began by re-creating councils and these organisations played a key role in driving the revolution forward a 2nd time

1917 was not simply a Bolshevik coup.   The struggles at this time were based on a groundswell of militancy that gave more and more power and influence over events to the council networks.  The growing revolutionary consciousness of the working class found an organisational structure where it could be expressed practically

During middle of 1917 the Mensheviks and social revolutionaries gained control of the councils and turned them into permanent committees - something which weakened the revolutionary movement from within.   The Bolsheviks at that time seemed to think the councils were dead to the working class but the pressure of a rising revolutionary consciousness in late 1917 saw the councils pulled back to revolutionary goals. The councils that emerged were then based on direct control from below and had a strength and vitality that the ruling class could not undermine even with violence.  Trotsky talks of soviets spreading across Russia and of regional meetings with hundreds of delegates from local soviets. There was substantial network across the whole country

It was this agitation from below by the masses involved at the base levels of councils that pushed that revolutionary process forward and continually reaffirmed working class power when those at the head of the councils weakened.

I would like to quote here Pannekoek from his book ‘Workers Councils’:

“ Where the action of the workers is so powerful that the very organs of Government are paralysed,  the councils have to fulfil political functions. Now the workers have to provide for public order and security, they have to take care that social life can proceed, and in this the councils are their organs. What is decided in the councils the workers perform. So the councils grow into organs of social revolution;…..” 

So what can we learn from these experiences?

From the bottom up, workers created structures that helped them fight the class struggle against capitalism.  It helped them discuss and clarify themselves as well organise and plan and act.  In essence each factory or locality used assemblies that created committees with mandated and recallable delegates.  These local assemblies and committees  then sent recallable delegates (workers deputies)  to district or industry based councils.  The district based councils sent delegates to regional councils and so forth.

This structure enable discussion and clarification but also united economic struggles to manage day to day life - with - political struggles to manage society as a whole.  Ultimately this is very important, the councils unite the economic and the political in a way that political parties alone cannot. 

The Councils also undertook the extension of struggles to involve key sectors (including the armed forces) and organised militias to protect working class districts from pogroms and state violence.  They took decisions about the management of society which brought them in conflict with the local state

Finally they also based themselves in practice on the direct democracy and they found themselves continually in conflict with the reformists and the Bourgeoisie who prefer representative democracy by professionals.  The councils then were a key part of a mass movement that were based on active participation by the working class.  Parliamentary votes cannot create this and in fact tend to work against it.!!

By 1919 it was the Bolsheviks themselves that weakened these organisations by moving power over to party structures soon  – ie they reduced the power of the councils.  It is this error we need to learn from and not simply reject the Bolsheviks because of brutal state capitalist regime that the Soviet Union became.

The Bolsheviks’ mistake was tragic and major – in the end they separated the political struggle from the economic.  Councils organised the factories and the political party took over the power of the state.

Here, I want to return to the point i made earlier about the differences between the SPGB and the MDF.  A future revolution will throw up problems that we cannot solve now. So we dispute and argue issues as preparation, but we should still see each other as part of the workers movement and we should give the Bolsheviks that credibility too.  They were not in a position to give final answers to organisational issues prior to 1917 as there had been no previous experience. 

“The working class is in need of a movement………. An entirely new movement based on working class solidarity, unification on the job, free and independent workers councils in cadres of self- asserting fighting units, based on ships, rail, aircraft, workshops, pits, factories and agricultural communities.

The workers do not require professional leaders, our confidential men shall be class-conscious comrades and teachers only, dismissable at any time by a vote of their direct electors.”   Icarus on The Wilhelmshaven Revolt.

I’ve stressed that I want to focus on what workers councils are, and in doing so I have particularly tried to make it clear that workers’ councils have been based on the type of democratic structure that the SPGB itself calls for - direct democracy.  They are institutions that can achieve far more than the economic management in the workplace - which  I think is the SPGB view.   

I do however want to finish with a couple of points about the SPGB views

Firstly because the SPGB will want to dispute with the way I have used the term class struggle.  We do agree that socialist consciousness is key to the way forward but rather than recognise the link between economic and political struggles in its development, the SPGB rejects economic struggles as pointless and sees important part of class struggle just in the struggle for political clarity. 

 

SPGB sees working class consciousness as only coming from a political or intellectual process and hence it is only the party brings enlightenment to the class;.   This is a key weakness in its political view  - one that raises the danger of a belief that the class struggle is simply the struggle to understand the SPGB and worse, that it is simply discussion with and in some cases within the SPGB.  In a round-about way, the SPGB is making a similar mistake to the Bolsheviks in 1919 by separating the two. -  (this happens because it rejects the Bolsheviks rather than learns lessons from them).

Related to this view of class struggle is also the belief that Parliament can be used to as a vehicle for that struggle. 

One expression used by the SPGB that I particularly object to and that is the slogan ‘Parliament - why not give it a try’??  Maybe members will call it a weak slogan, but it seems to neatly express the SPGB’s weaknesses.

In 1904 when it formed, the SPGB was probably clearer than many other working class groups, particularly on social democracy and reformism. But a hundred years later I want to say this is no longer a realistic or indeed materialist view of the working class experience.  We have much more experience of how parliament functions in class society and we should have learnt better than that.

The Bourgeoisie likes to have us think of the world as divided between good western democracy and the underdeveloped world where dictators and bullies usurp power to maintain their own rule. 

In fact, if you make an overview of the countries in the world, they are virtually all described as democracies with universal suffrage.  Only a few exceptions don’t meet this standard – UAR, Saudi Arabia and Western Sahara.  The real issue here is why on earth  the ruling class would build and rely on an instrument to front its political system which according to SPGB makes revolution easier.  No this is not a materialist viewpoint.

The Bourgoisie’s parliament is representative democracy and this institution has shown itself to be the ideal figurehead for capitalism.   That is the materialist argument

In conclusion, the SPGB correctly recognises that the working class is revolutionary because of its situation as the exploited class within capitalism. Only the working class can bring about socialism - nobody else.   But this does not meant it is just the experience of working for a wage that brings this situation about, it is also a product of workers’ whole experience of the labour market, working contracts, working conditions, state policies - and - all economic and political struggles with the ruling class that flow from this situation

Economic and political strikes, mass protests and violence confrontations can be and are part of that experience that raises working class  consciousness  and make its aware of its capacity to make a socialist revolution.  This consciousness emerges because of its whole experience not because political minorities have persuasive skills.

A.Simpleton
AS tries the QB

And ..... fails 

[/quote]

On the issue of my post #23, I take it that you're agreeing with my point to radicalchains, that 'socio-economic' context is an important consideration when dealing with issues of 'state personnel', and it is too simplistic to simply say 'the state is not neutral. Of course, we all agree with that axiom, regarding the state as a 'structure', but regarding its 'components' (the actual soldiers recruited from working class communities, and influenced by the oppression and struggles of their family and friends at home), then to argue that those soldiers are identical to the 'state', is a mistake, in my opinion.

[/quote]

 

Yup: I was thinking of some of the working class lads whom I saw grow up in a small town in Cornwall - an apparently desirable holiday destination and 'lovely place to live' etc. Even 10 years ago it had chronic unemployment, much hidden poverty - to some extent mitigated but also covered up by the echo of a vestige of 'old style community' but nonethelesss... I sponsored a skateboarding park and therefore got to know them and see their transition from school to ...well what?

Two I knew well, joined the marines (that or 'on benefits' - if there were any): they were sent to Basra and a year later hearing them speak of the whole experience was educational and telling. Ok that's just an individual or two but is surely the 'socio-economic' stencil repeated as you say many times over. Kes and Steve aged 22 (multiply 1000 times) somehow 'are the State' ? Doesn't make sense to me (but then I have to admit that it's only recently I have heard that there is an argument that 'they' are).

AS

 

P.S My reduction in rank from 'child's dinner' to 'dog's dinner' I view with calm abiding: anything's better than the 'pig's ear' I started off as 

A.Simpleton
Thanks Link

For both presentations: 

"The role of workers’ councils in the Socialist Revolution'

They are comprehensive and knowledgeable yet straightforward and accessible to someone like me who has never really 'found a way in' to penetrating to any conclusions the questions of 'organisation' whether of workers or 'party', and how they have, do or might enhance or militate against each other.

Your last sentence:

'This consciousness emerges because of its whole experience not because political minorities have persuasive skills.'

is food for much thought. 

An American c'rade and I have had long detailed discussion recently about Germany1918/9 : although obviously different 'circumstances' all the mix of ingredients are there. VERY crudely put there were the self-organised workers -the 'right organisation' as it were, with insufficient awareness leading to the 'wrong goal': the 'adhering to old structure' trade unions - i.e. not self organised - the 'wrong organisation' as it were but with the 'right goal'.

The mix is well summed up in a book by Barré:

'The process by which large masses of people change direction in a revolutionary period is a complex one, and, in particular, does not develop in a straight line, when these masses are constantly being increased by hundreds of thousands of individuals who are awakening to political life. Their experience, which sometimes is concentrated in only a few weeks, demands that the political organisations which hope to take advantage of them have quick reflexes and especially great clarity of analysis. In Germany in 1918, the positions of the workers’ parties and of the competing currents within them contributed rather to increasing the confusion.'

('take advantage of them' is innocently meant I feel and yet ....as we know it can end up being nearer the truth than the original intent)

One note that Liebknecht writes in his notebooks, before he was murdered sticks in my mind 

The problem is to set the masses into motion. This can only be done by starting in the factories. Our officially having joined the Independent Party, however politically distasteful it may be to us, leaves our hands free, and enables us to construct in the factories a well-knit system of people whom we can trust, under the cover of organising the legal party.

Liebknecht’s notebook:
‘Journal of a Spartacist’, Illustrierte Geschichte der deutschen Revolution :182

I am not stating any 'position' here: I couldn't if I tried: I have already visited the site and you encourage me to learn more.

One last point with regard to the slogan: ‘Parliament - why not give it a try’?? . On that I agree and would definitively reply :

'It doesn't matter who you vote for, the 'Government' always gets in'

AS

 

LBird
Jokes and quotes

A.Simpleton wrote:
P.S My reduction in rank from 'child's dinner' to 'dog's dinner' I view with calm abiding: anything's better than the 'pig's ear' I started off as

Phew! Am I glad that you took it as the joke it was meant to be! Given the recent 'sensitivities' on this site, I was hoping I could rely on your sense of humour!

On this issue of using an initial quote, you've not quite got the hang of the technique yet!

Try this:

{quote=Pigs Ear]I'm not a dog's dinner![/quote}

But replace the first and final curly brackets '{' and '}' with matching square brackets '[' and ']'.

Amended in this way it will give:

Pigs Ear wrote:
I'm not a dog's dinner!

Also, note that only the last 'quote' has a '/' before it.

Hope this helps, AS

baboon
soldiers

I tend to agree with AS's characterisation of economic conscripts in professional armies and that these elements can come over to the working class in its struggle. It's not entirely clear but in the present protests in the Balkans, there are some veteran's organisation that have joined the protests (in Croatia).

The issue raised by Radical about the growing use of mercenaries is one that we haven't really confronted. From some sketchy details it looks to me that there are more US mercenaries in their Iraqi fortresses than regular grunts (though an awful lot of special forces, secret services, etc.)

Unlike its police force personnel, who are cosseted, well-paid and well pensioned, the soldiers of the British bourgeoisie are dumped on the scrap heap, left to fester with mental problems, ridden with addictions that are used to escape their anguish and form disproportionate numbers in jail. Compare that to the way the police are treated - getting hundreds of thousands for feeling "slighted" for example.

The 84 miners' strike showed the potential for "professional" soldiers joining the class struggle. My suspicions were aroused when the bourgeoisie began releasing stories that plain clothes soldiers were among the police fighting miners. A few weeks later a written parliamentary answer was reported, on the bottom of about page 17 of The Times, that in one region of the north (among others) the numbers of soldiers on leave arrested on the picket lines and demonstrations were second only to the number of miners. It was clear where the majority of soldiers sympathies lay. Shortly afterwards the British bourgeoisie definitively rules out using troops against the miners.

radicalchains
Fair points made about

Fair points made about soldiers by AS and baboon, the soldiers on leave arrested on picket lines during miners strikes is enlightening and encouraging. However, regarding the state I would say if there are no soldiers there is no state. I say soldiers are the state with all the exceptions and realisations mentioned. 

I seriously considered signing up after leaving school for similar reasons as AS mentions plus some seriously incorrect ideas.

LBird
Soldiers today, police tomorrow?

baboon wrote:
Unlike its police force personnel, who are cosseted, well-paid and well pensioned, the soldiers of the British bourgeoisie are dumped on the scrap heap, left to fester with mental problems, ridden with addictions that are used to escape their anguish and form disproportionate numbers in jail.

Perhaps things are starting to change, here, too, baboon. The introduction of cheap-labour PCSOs, the reduction of pension benefits, the holding back of pay rises, the constant lying about crime figures (which they all know about, since they massage the 'offence registered' and statistics themselves, by order from above) reducing morale, the ruling class' open dissatisfaction with the Police Federation (the staff federation imposed on the police after their own union NUPPO was broken), are all straws in the wind which have been multiplied by 'Austerity'. Plus, I'll bet some police officers, having saved for years, with nice houses by the river...

I think during the developing revolutionary process that the compulsion upon the bourgeoisie to make 'cuts' will also have their effect on all branches of the state, and thus affect all those employed by the state. Perhaps the failure of the demoralised state to defend itself in Eastern Europe in 1989 is instructive, here?

And... one point of comparison that's already true, baboon: a 'disproportionate number' of police offices are in jail.

Unfortunately, there are 'disproportionately fewer  numbers' than there should be, given the amount of crimes committed by the crooked, bought, dim, lustful and psychopathic within their ranks.

LBird
The biggest exception and realisation?

radicalchains wrote:
I say soldiers are the state with all the exceptions and realisations mentioned.

I think that you're mistaking a 'structure' for its 'components', radicalchains.

Soldiers are only the state when they are organised and structured in a particular way. Our task is to damage and eventually break the relationships within the state, rather than condemn the individuals who comprise it.

A  soldier on leave isn't a soldier in barracks. Most soldiers are on leave every weekend. Many carry the social attitudes and criticisms learned from suffering family and friends at weekends back into the barracks on a Monday morning...

And the policies of the bourgeoisie are helping with this development. The state will weaken during the process of revolution. This has always been true.

radicalchains
???

In that case what is the state?

Or does it disappear and reappear?

LBird
Purpose of question?

radicalchains wrote:

In that case what is the state?

Or does it disappear and reappear?

I'm not sure what you're asking here, radicalchains.

Does the smile remain when the Cheshire Cat disappears?

Are you asking about the difference between "650 soldiers" and "an infantry battalion"?

An infantry battalion is 650 soldiers organised and structured in a particular way. The relationships are fundamental.

Those same 650 soldiers demoralised and unstructured are not an infantry battalion.

An infantry battalion can fight; a mere 650 soldiers can't.

The 650 soldiers remain, but the infantry battalion has disappeared.

Theft
This is a somewhat stupid

This is a somewhat stupid that I can't post on a thread that I started?

 

If there is a post count or something then atleast put infomation up about it so people know.

 

Edit: is this due to the link I added? the audio from the meeting has to be approved?

 

Edit2: The audio is up on my Free Communist site.

 

 

radicalchains
I might be a muddlehead on this one

Sorry, I'm not sure I can explain better what I'm thinking or mean. Maybe I'm a bit confused. Can anyone enlighten LBird regarding my two questions or am I talking nonsense?

LBird
State as Structure

radicalchains wrote:

Sorry, I'm not sure I can explain better what I'm thinking or mean. Maybe I'm a bit confused. Can anyone enlighten LBird regarding my two questions or am I talking nonsense?

Perhaps I can help illustrate the problem, radicalchains.

You said:

rc wrote:
I say soldiers are the state...

But, if we take my earlier example of 'an infantry battalion' as representing 'the state', I've shown that your statement is not true. That is, 'soldiers (minus specific relationships) are not an infantry battalion'.

Your formulation works, if it is amended to say

Quote:
I say soldiers (in a specific relationship) are the state...

Thus, 'soldiers' alone are not 'the state'. 'The state' is 'soldiers in particular relations'.

The 'soldiers' can remain, but if the 'relationships' between them are broken, the 'state' disappears.

The wider philosophical problem, rc, is one of 'reductionism'. You're reducing a 'structure' to its 'components' (the 'state' to its 'soldiers'), and this can't be done.

The state is a structure, not a random collection of soldiers. In this sense, (simple) 'soldiers' are not the (complex) 'state'.

Hope this helps to explain the problem, comrade.

Alf
back to the MDF...

Discussion about the role of soldiers in a revolution is important but I wanted to come back to the presentations at the MDF meeting. Link's is a very good defence of why left communists are for workers' councils, not parliament. The SPGB's presentation rests, as Link points out, on the specious notion that parliament is the political sphere, workers' councils the economic (just like trade unions, industrial unions etc). It's true that latter day councilism tends to reduce the councils to factory-based, economic organs but their real secret is the one expounded in the Trotsky quotes: councils are both economic and political organs, and thus enable the working class to take the political sphere back into its own hands. 

radicalchains
Yep

Alf wrote:
councils are both economic and political organs, and thus enable the working class to take the political sphere back into its own hands.

Very much agree. It also puts into question the attitude of the SPGB or anyone else when this is happening without a majoritarian mandate.

MH
LBird and the SPGB

Alf wrote:

Discussion about the role of soldiers in a revolution is important but I wanted to come back to the presentations at the MDF meeting. Link's is a very good defence of why left communists are for workers' councils, not parliament. The SPGB's presentation rests, as Link points out, on the specious notion that parliament is the political sphere, workers' councils the economic (just like trade unions, industrial unions etc). It's true that latter day councilism tends to reduce the councils to factory-based, economic organs but their real secret is the one expounded in the Trotsky quotes: councils are both economic and political organs, and thus enable the working class to take the political sphere back into its own hands. 

I agree. What I find a  bit odd is that, with the SPGB’s own arguments now clearly presented here for us all to read, LBird has not returned to the thread to say whether he agrees or disagrees with them?

 

radicalchains
MH

MH, LBird has been commenting along with others in the SPGB forum on this subject if you or anyone else is interested. It's a lively topic, there are about five or six different threads on the subject in various forums.

http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/forum/comments/role-workers-councils-socialist-revolution-birmingham-200pm

http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/forum/general-discussion/spatial-spread-socialist-society

LBird
Failure of comprehension or of political thinking?

MH wrote:

Alf wrote:

Discussion about the role of soldiers in a revolution is important but I wanted to come back to the presentations at the MDF meeting. Link's is a very good defence of why left communists are for workers' councils, not parliament. The SPGB's presentation rests, as Link points out, on the specious notion that parliament is the political sphere, workers' councils the economic (just like trade unions, industrial unions etc). It's true that latter day councilism tends to reduce the councils to factory-based, economic organs but their real secret is the one expounded in the Trotsky quotes: councils are both economic and political organs, and thus enable the working class to take the political sphere back into its own hands. 

I agree. What I find a  bit odd is that, with the SPGB’s own arguments now clearly presented here for us all to read, LBird has not returned to the thread to say whether he agrees or disagrees with them?

I've been following and participating in the discussions here and on the SPGB's site, and reading LibCom (from which I'm banned from participating), and I've asked a few questions, but I'm still unsure of what's really being said.

I find some of the contributions here to be a bit 'straw-mannish', but that's probably as much due to the opaqueness of the SPGB's position, as to the posters here. The members of the SPGB themselves seem to have differing opinions of what they mean by 'parliamentary participation', workers councils, and the power relationships between these entities.

Yeah, IMO, the arguments have not been 'clearly presented', by anyone involved. Perhaps it's because they are not 'clear arguments' in themselves, rather than any comrade's failure to explain.

MH
fair enough

thanks for the links, I'll take a look.

  

Link
SPGB forum

Thanks for the links Radicalchains.  

Link
SPGB forum

Thanks for the links Radicalchains.  

Link
SPGB forum

Thanks for the links Radicalchains.  

Redacted
Enhance81 what the hell are

Enhance81 what the hell are you even talking about?

"Peaceful" ????????????????

So the bourgeoisie is just going to hand us over the vestiges of power, smiling and waiving the whole time?

How about the violence being committed by the ruling class against workers everyday? Should we just sit back and allow all this to happen..."peacefully?"

Redacted
!!!...!!!!..........!!! :)))

!!!...!!!!..........!!! :))) !!!!....!!!

radicalchains
I was searching where I

I was searching where I coined the term "catastrophe of the present" but couldn't find it and came across this old good discussion. Incidentally searching that phrase I think subconsciously it comes from ICC literature. The reason for searching in the first place as Leo coined a similar phrase in his thread about barbarism on Libcom. Anyway...

Lbird said:

Thus, 'soldiers' alone are not 'the state'. 'The state' is 'soldiers in particular relations'.

The 'soldiers' can remain, but if the 'relationships' between them are broken, the 'state' disappears.

 

I still think this is wrong. I think the state still exists, doesn't disappear but may be unstable. It takes a lot more for its abolition or disappearance i.e  the state can even be in crisis, fighting with itself but still exist.

You seem to be saying if the soldiers mutiny or for whatever reason don't follow orders the state doesn't exist but that would imply a classless society and communism. 

LBird
Relationships

radicalchains wrote:

Lbird said:

Thus, 'soldiers' alone are not 'the state'. 'The state' is 'soldiers in particular relations'.

The 'soldiers' can remain, but if the 'relationships' between them are broken, the 'state' disappears.

 

I still think this is wrong. I think the state still exists, doesn't disappear but may be unstable. It takes a lot more for its abolition or disappearance i.e  the state can even be in crisis, fighting with itself but still exist.

You seem to be saying if the soldiers mutiny or for whatever reason don't follow orders the state doesn't exist but that would imply a classless society and communism. 

I was merely making a point about 'structures', which are composed of 'components' in particular relationships.

Much the same as 'tins of beans' (components) are only 'commodities' in the particular relationship of capitalism.

Regarding the state, if the personnel who comprise the state become no longer committed to the state, the state as a structure will fall apart, even if the individuals remain. In other words, if the soldiers (as an example of state personnel) reject their exploitative social relationships, the state starts to disintegrate.

The state has no existence outside of its personnel; it is not a 'thing' outside of human relationships.

radicalchains
In transition

So the state relationships exist, but if they are ineffective they only exist as buildings, tanks etc material things - to me they are things perhaps not to you and Marx. 

Now, if the state is in crisis or under threat the state relationships can come under strain or even break down. This means there is less state or at least a less powerful state with not as much control.

In transition from capitalism to communism the old ruling class still has sections of the military at the same time other sections come over to revolution and organs of working class rule. Some people call the new organs combined with other elements a state. I'm not convinced myself. But my question is: is the old ruling class still a state or control a state formation?

Perhaps no state exists at this time. A new society is attempting to come into being while another is being surpressed and fighting to retain the old society. 

If the new 'state' uses the old forms, prison, regular army, parliament then this must be a state in the old way even if there are councils and other new forms. If the old state forces are using the old forms this is a different scenario however. 

If the revolutionary working class rejects prisons for example which it makes sense to do in my opinion then repression of enemy forces must find new forms because it will still be necessary. 

I'm of the opinion it does not help us to let the enemy go around freely, communicating, gathering forces, strategizing etc on how to murder us all. I do not agree with free speech or free anything for these murderous bastards. The formation of a new police, 'secret' or otherwise won't help us either. That will return to the old society once more.

LBird
Transition to...?

I'm not sure either what points you're making, radicalchains, or whether we share the same basic ideas.

I think that a 'social authority' has always existed, and always will, in any society. So, I'm not an 'individualist Anarchist', who thinks that 'Communism' means 'no social power over any individual'.

Individuals live within social structures, and I believe that our Communist social structure must be under our democratic control.

Democracy is not 'unfettered individual freedom'. It is a collectivist ideology.

I regard a 'state' as a 'social authority' within an 'exploitative social structure' (ie. a class society).

So, to me, the removal of 'class society' will not see the end of all 'social authority', but the placing of 'social authority' at the hands of society, which thus cannot be, by definition, a 'state'.

Politics (the issue of 'power') will not end with the introduction of Communism.

Humans are political animals.