A new start for the forum

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A new start for the forum
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A new start for the forum

The forum of the ICC in the English language has existed for nearly ten years. In those years numerous discussions have taken place on this forum, and as many contacts and readers of the press of the ICC made use of it to express their views and to share them with other comrades, who were interested in the subject. The items that have been discussed in in these years were very varied, ranging  from “Do stones talk to us?” and “The ICC as a fraction” to “Anarchists and the war question”.

But the number of subjects and posts  is not the most important. More important is the fact that the debates on the forum have permitted the contacts and the readers of the press of the ICC to deepen their comprehension of the the situation of capitalism and the development of the class struggle. And this is also the main objective of the forum: the development of debates, in which everyone, engaged in the struggle against repression and exploitation, is invited to contribute to the clarification of the questions, essential for the development of a class perspective.

The debates that took place on the forum in the past 10 years have been possible since there has been an organisations that watches over the culture of debate and oversees the discussions taking place in the fraternal spirit. A real debate among internationalists is only possible if there exists, without hiding the divergences and the contradictory positions of course, a respect for the visions of others. Insults and cynicism, arrogance and brutality are incompatible with the development and the defence of any proletarian position.

Ten years ago the forum was launched without any thorough preparation. Reading the first threads, one cannot really discover a plan behind it. It started as kind of public billboard, where everyone could paste his messages or make his announcements without the intention of really deepening a certain question. In the course of the years this has improved and the forum has even been used to develop some articles for the press and to be published on the website.

But at the same time the ICC has not always paid enough attention to the forum and it has certainly not given sufficient orientation for the discussions. However in this particular period of the Covid crisis we have become more aware that the forum can fulfill an important function for the theoretical struggle of the class.

As capitalism has no future to offer, people fear for the future, engendering the tendency towards irrational thinking or retreating into a corner. As response to this tendency it is the responsibility of the revolutionary organisation to create the conditions for its contacts and the readers of its press to be able to “open up” and to participate in the elaboration of the theory as “the head of passion”. Every contribution to the expression of a rational, rigorous and coherent thought is welcome. What we want is that the forum becomes a fertile ground for the increase of the taste for theory.

In particular the ICC wants

  • To intervene on a more regular basis in the discussions.This means that, from time to time, the team responsible for the forum will give its comment on the stakes of the discussion, on the way this discussion develops, what the main points are that should be clarified and to make proposals for the continuation of the discussion.
  • To develop the forum in such a way that more contacts are invited and encouraged to participate and not only contacts from the UK, but from Australia to Canada and from Spain to Sweden. In the deepening of the internationalist positions we need the contribution from contacts all around the world.
  • The scrutiny of the forum needs to take place in a more rigorous way than in the past. We hope in future to count on the work of some of our more regular contributors to the forum to assist us in this task.
  • In contrast to the posts of individual members of the organisation, which are signed with their own name, posts signed under the name “Forumteam” express a position agreed on by the organisation. 

“Under the present conditions of the Covid-19 crisis it is more than ever necessary for all who fight for the proletarian revolution to express their solidarity with each other and maintain their connections. While we have to isolate ourselves physically for the time being, we can still come together politically!” (Leaflet of the ICC)

I really appreciate this

I really appreciate this forum. Unlike other organizations, which hold the threads of discussion in their hands, the ICC forum has allowed, in any case for me, true freedom of expression.

Here are some discussion manipulation techniques used in other forums:

  • A priori moderation
  • Deletion of critical, or simply not in line with the organization posts
  • Hidden moderation, i.e. a post has been modified or deleted without the readers being aware
  • Prohibition of private exchanges between participants

Many organizations do not accept the freedoms of expression, press and correspondence and use a particular vocabulary, a true newspeak to camouflage their activity.

A priori moderation is no different from the obligation imposed on newspapers, in certain countries or at certain times, to submit their articles to censorship beforehand so that it can make the cuts and deletions they deem appropriate.

The deletion or non-publication of critical posts, or out of line, gives the appearance of consensus and adherence to the line which in reality does not exist, and stifles dissenting voices.

The hidden moderation reveals the bad faith and the bad conscience of the censors, who do not assume what they do or engage in a real manipulation.

The ban on private exchanges is both an attack on freedom of correspondence and on freedom of association, since in order to organize people must be able to communicate with each other confidentially.

All these freedoms have been defended for the paper press and correspondence, but they must also be defended for the electronic press and correspondence.

About open moderation

Sometimes the moderation of a post or a user is necessary to perpetuate the discussion in a serene and constructive atmosphere.

However, this moderation raises the question of the good faith of the moderators, who find themselves arbitrarily in a position of omnipotent and questionable judges.

One solution to avoid this pitfall and guarantee freedom of expression is "open moderation". Instead of deleting the post, it is moved to a dedicated discussion thread in the special moderation folder, and the original post is replaced by a link to it.

So :

  • The post in dispute does not pollute the original thread,

  • The post is not censored, it is always visible to readers if they really want to,

  • Negotiation of the author with moderation to publish the post in an acceptable form is done publicly, and others may eventually participate in the discussion. Moderation is thus obtained in a collegial manner and by consensus, rather than in an authoritarian manner by a small group (oligarchy). In the absence of consensus, the moderation group wins, but the damage is limited because the original post and the discussion are in any case available to the public in the moderation folder.

  • Posts being moderated or permanently removed cannot be discussed on the main discussion thread.

Example of open moderation:

Moderate. See the original post and its discussion [link].

Cause of moderation: insults.

Being discussed. Please do not respond to this post until the moderation process is complete. If you wish, you can participate in the moderation process on the dedicated discussion thread.

… [Version of the post modified after discussion]…

This post was subject to collegial moderation. You can see the original post and the discussion here [link].

Post permanently deleted due to the failure of the moderation process. You can see the original post and its discussion here [link]. Please do not reply to moderated posts. You can make comments only in the dedicated discussion thread.

Of course, computer robots do not benefit the right to open moderation, and their posts can be deleted without formality.

It would therefore be necessary to have a “moderation” folder in the forum, so that the discussion threads dedicated to moderation do not pollute the forum.

thanks for your suggestions

Thanks for your suggestions Tagore. We will coming back to them, hopefully after other comrades have also sent comments on the opening statement (and your own suggestions) 

Perhaps another question is

Perhaps another question is with the creation of too many threads. When there is recurrent discussion on a topic like eg decomposition/decadence/Luxemburg, then perhaps it should be grouped in a single thread. Or when a group (eg International Voice) publishes its articles, again, perhaps it could be grouped in a single thread. When the topic of a thread is not (considered to be) "serious" enough, or even is obviously not meant to be "serious", then it could be posted on a single open (ie running, if not pinned) thread (like I attempted with my "International Communist Cruise ship" thread), because many times people (at least speaking for myself) have observations/thoughts, but they don't feel these are  significant or "serious" enough to create a new thread for, and so a "low entry bar" thread would allow for perhaps more random but still interesting posts to be made.

If I'm not mistaken, in the past the French section of the site too had a forum or a comment function, but it was apparently done away with. I don't know why, but perhaps discussion by the French comrades got too heated?

In any case, having a forum is important and a necessity. Social media is "quicker", but it's also makes it nearly impossible for people with lack of time to follow/participate, because you have to scroll down a lot, tweets or facebook wall get impossible to find after some days, so the discussion is basically lost, and if you're not in the "closed group" or friends on twitter, you can't even see the discussion.

As for "freedom of expression" (by the way, Lenin in WITBD did not particularly endorse this "right') that Tagore2 highlights, I think because the forum is relatively small and has relaxed moderation, it has not been seriously put to the test yet. Suppose some "bad apples" or, with increasing traffic, a whole ton of different political people come in here and diverge from left-communism or make grievances in particular against the ICC that they consider important, but are slanderous or "fake news", then even if these are all placed into a "moderation folder" as Tagore proposed, that folder will become quite large.


> but perhaps discussion by

> but perhaps discussion by the French comrades got too heated?

No, I think it is because there were not enough activities on the French forum.

Anyway, we are a very small forum, moderation is rarely necessary, and that's fine.

To discuss moderation here is to discuss a non-problem.

on freedom of expression

Freedom of expression

The role of the forums is more important than ever. But not any forum and not in every way, because on the forums it is often the delusion of the day that reigns. There are too many forums where every issue is raised in every debate and where every thread all too soon simply turns into a formless mess. Therefore only the forums that are able to avoid these dispersed, fragmented discussions and provide a certain framework (objective and limits) are able to contribute – although in a very modest way - to the clarification of the difficulties the working class is facing in its struggle.

And of course the ICC tries to meet these conditions by offering a place for public discussion between contacts, sympathizers and readers of our press. The existence of our own forum makes it possible for the ICC to accompany the discussions between them and to give its view - from time to time – on the evolution and direction of certain on-going discussions. The main role of the ICC in this respect is not to defend a particular position, but to invite and encourage every contact to participate in the discussions, by explaining what the discussions are really about, the importance is certain discussions, etc.

We have explained this in the “The new start for the forum”. So far two comrades have given a response to this announcement about the new start: Tagore2 and d-man. The ForumTeam thanks both comrades for their response. In his second post Tagore2 develops at large on the question of open moderation, which is certainly worth considering, but will be the subject of later post of the ForumTeam.

This time it is the first post of Tagore2, qualifying the forum as a place for open debate, which merits the attention: “I really appreciate this forum. Unlike other organizations, which hold the threads of discussion in their hands, the ICC forum has allowed, in any case for me, true freedom of expression.” (Tagore2) We cannot but agree with this appreciation of the comrade, but at the same time it requires us to clarify some points about the meaning of the term freedom of expression.

The real content, the real meaning of freedom of expression, also called freedom of speech, is determined by the concrete conditions, in which it is applied. In the proletarian struggle for communism it means the widest possible, collective debate in all the unitary organs of the class: the massive assemblies, the workers’ soviets, the strike committees, etc. But for decadent capitalism it means a very sophisticated form of manipulation, theatre and brainwashing. All this means that freedom of speech cannot be conceived in abstracto, as something that has the same function in in all circumstances.

The freedom of expression and the freedom of press were important weapons for the ascendant bourgeoisie in its fight against the decaying feudal system and the establishment of a real bourgeois democracy. They were part of a broader cultural movement in the context of a progressive capitalist system. Because of these favourable conditions the workers’ movement, i.e. the social democracy was able to develop a broad system of propaganda with a whole range of publications in several languages.

But once capitalism entered in its period of decadence these democratic principles became increasingly illusory and the democratic principles of freedom of speech, expression and press changed into the opposite: an omnipresent and vast ideology with only one goal: to hide the real truth. From that moment on “The myth of the free press is a fundamental cornerstone of democratic society (…) supposedly guaranteeing the right to criticize the state and the status quo” (“How the Media Serves the State”; Internationalism no. 147, July-October 2008) but in reality “to shape and fabricate a so-called public opinion” (Lenin) in the service of the status quo.

There is a saying: if it too good to be true, then it is probably not true. A so-called absolute freedom of expression is too good to be true, and in decadent capitalism it actually turns  into a sophisticated propaganda machine to broadcast a one-dimensional messages about the present system as the one and only able to meet the needs of its citizens. These messages are hammered into the heads of everyone by media, which are presented to us as the ambassadors of free speech, but which are in reality pawns in the propaganda machine of the bourgeois state. “Freedom of expression” is in reality summed up in speeches that are subordinate to the state, to the laws and values of capitalism.” (“Paris killings: an excuse for increased militarisation”; March 2015)

Under the present conditions of decadence the realisation of the maximum freedom of expression can only come about in and through the concrete fight against bourgeois ideological poison. It won’t come by itself, as a gift. No, it needs to be fought for, to be conquered. Not only against the repressive organs of the bourgeois state but also, and in a still more fundamental way, against the ideological bombardment to which we are subject in our daily life as individuals of this capitalist society in decomposition

This means that freedom of expression cannot be decreed by a moderator. It is something that has to be forged in close cooperation between the participants on the forum and the ForumTeam, which manages the forum in name of the ICC. It can only come about by the conscious development of a number of rules, which has to take place in the coming period on the basis of the experience with the way discussions on the forum take place. 

The ForumTeam

The statement, that "freedom

The statement, that "freedom of speech cannot be conceived in abstracto", should actually even imply more strongly a total avoidance of the highfalutin phrase itself: all there is, are the concrete rules/application of speech.

The statement that rules should be developed, on the basis of experience, is correct, but merely scratches the surface. (whereas Tagore2 does not even see the need to enter that topic, on the ground that this forum is still so small anyway.)

I mentioned already some formal problems with social media, but the obnoxious debating tactics(/"culture") themselves too, common there, are now being reproduced in forums. (just to name an example: bloating irony)

And what is the rule with regard to the presence of open rightwingers, Stalinists, etc. or suspected secret ones.