Monday, April 07, 2008

Anarchist-Marxist Convergence: Part One

I have not yet gone into too great a detail regarding the underlying socio-political theory which animates this blog. Although it is rather obvious from the title of the blog as well as from the content of the posts, the operative underlying theory has been and continues to be derived from the anti-capitalist, anti-state, socialist-left, the specificities of this theory have not yet been fleshed out in detail.

As comrades of mine already know, the specific tendency which animates my perspective is a dialectical convergence between several dynamic traditions. It would be impossible to give a full account of the various interrelated tendencies which converge and supplement the general underlying theory in a single post without doing a grave injustice to all of the separate yet related tendencies as well as to the dialectical amalgamation there from derived.

This post shall then be the first in a series of serial installments within which I will hence forth describe the specific individual tendencies which I draw from, their history, and their coalescing with various other related tendencies.

I will begin by drawing attention to the convergence and near indistinguishable nature of the anarcho-syndicalist tendency, represented by the anarchist theorist Rudolf Rocker, and the council communist tendency, represented by the left-Marxists Anton Pannekoek and Paul Mattick.

I have noticed that what Noam Chomsky pointed out is correct, that there is a fundamental convergence between anarcho-syndicalism – best expressed by Rocker’s work of the same title – and left Marxism, such as Pannekoek’s council communism. In fact, I am uncertain what differentiates Pannekoek’s council communism from Rocker’s anarcho-syndicalism.

Both posit that capitalism must be dismantled, socialism being the alternative. That strikes are the primary method by which the proletariat achieves class consciousness and is, as Rocker claims, “the focal point of the political struggle.”[1] Pannekoek explains “…mass strikes of the workers tend to become most serious attacks against State power, that fortress of capitalism, and most efficient factors in increasing the consciousness and social power of the working class.”[2] Rocker concurs stating that, “the strike is for the workers not only a means for the defense of immediate economic interests, it is also a continuous schooling for their powers of resistance, showing them every day that every least right has to be won by unceasing struggle against the existing system.”[3]

It was this premise that was the cause of conflict between Kautsky and Luxemburg. Luxemburg rightly took the position that the mass strike was foundational to any revolutionary socialist movement, as she said “the mass strike is the first natural, impulsive form of every great revolutionary struggle of the proletariat and the more highly developed the antagonism is between capital and labour, the more effective and decisive must mass strikes become.”[4]

Both Pannekoek and Rocker conclude that workers’ councils have and shall be established spontaneously and organically through trade unionism and strikes and that these councils are in embryo the organism of the future socialist society. They realize that organization is required in order to achieve workers’ control and that it is through strikes and the subsequent organic formation of workers’ councils that this organization will develop.

As Pannekoek explains, “In a big strike, all the workers cannot assemble in one meeting. They choose delegates to act as a committee. Such a committee is only the executive organ of the strikers; it is continually in touch with them and has to carry out the decisions of the strikers. Each delegate at every moment can be replaced by others; such a committee never becomes an independent power. In such a way, common action as one body can be secured, and yet the workers have all decisions in their own hands.”[5]

He goes on to explain that “Councils are the form of organization only for…the working class as a whole..They originate and grow up along with the first action of a revolutionary character. With the development of revolution, their importance and their functions increase. At first they may appear as simple strike committees…In a universal strike the functions of these committees are enlarged. Now delegates of all the factories and plants have to discuss and to decide about all the conditions of the fight…When the revolution develops to such power that the State power is seriously affected, then the workers’ councils have to assume political functions…They are the central bodies of the workers’ power…”[6]

Rocker points out that “The lancehead of the labour movement is, therefore...the trader union, toughened by daily combat and permeated by Socialist spirit. Only in the realm of economy are the workers able to display their full social strength, for it is their activity as producers which holds together the whole social structure, and guarantees the existence of society at all...the trade union is by no means a mere transitory phenomenon bound up with the duration of capitalist society, it is the germ of the Socialist society of the future, the elementary school of Socialism in general. Every new social structure makes organs for itself in the body of the old organism. Without this preliminary any social evolution is unthinkable."[7]

The points of convergence are many and the examples here are merely first approximations.


[1] Anarcho-Syndicalism by Rudolf Rocker

[2] Strikes by Anton Pannekoek

[3] Anarcho-Syndicalism by Rudolf Rocker

[4] The Mass Strike by Rosa Luxemburg

[5] Workers’ Councils by Anton Pannekoek

[6] ibid

[7] Anarcho-Syndicalism by Rudolf Rocker

21 comments:

melloncollie said...

Very interesting, JDHURF. I'm glad you did this.

I printed off those articles you linked to and read Luxemburg's piece on mass strikes, which was informative. I'm looking forward to reading the others. Nice job working out and sharing your ideas, as always.

Anonymous said...

Dude, I dont understand any of that, but thanks for the mental masturbation. Hey, where are you these days. Email your old bud from Wally world, Dan, oguitardan@yahoo.com

JDHURF said...

Thank you both for commenting.

melloncollie:

Luxemburg's piece on Mass Strikes is a classic as are most of her writings which are freely available at marxists.org, which I link to on the right hand side of my main blog page.

Dan:

Odd, the tendencies I discussed are among the most straightforward, they are without the sort of mystical Marxist theory which obscures so much postmodern deconstructionism, as is the case with the nearly completely incoherent work of Derrida.
I'll shoot you an email here in the not too distant future.

Aspera said...

An interesting and insightful analysis, and useful for contemporary movement politics. Thank you for adding your analysis to the discourse!

Dan the man said...

Hello genuis! I am almost shy to post this three years after the gauntlet was thrown down, but in response to your post in Nov 05 entitled Evidence for Evolution, here is a reply that I hope is acceptable...

http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/answers.html

JDHURF said...

That is acceptable as an attempt to link to an anti-evolution website, but that is about all. To begin with, if you don't know the evidence and therefore must rely upon online websites, I would highly recommend that rather than getting all of your information about evolution from charlatan's who, if lucky, possibly graduated high school, you instead look towards the professional scientists who study evolutionary mechanisms for a living.
You could start here:

UC Berkeley: lines of evidence

Talk Origins

Renegade Eye said...

I think you are on shaky ground theoretically.

I think humanism, a bourgeoise utopian theory, is incompatible with Marxism. Humanism has its roots, in a bourgeoise worldview, free of class struggle.

The Left-Communists have no history of involvement or leadership, in any major events or causes.

My problem with anarchism is the tactical inflexibility. I think electoral politics have a place. At my blog, is a post about Bolivia. There is a movement of armed thigs, who attack peaceful demonstrations. How would an anarchist deal with them? Left communist or humanists? It's a situation needing the use of state power.

JDHURF said...

renegade eye said:
I think you are on shaky ground theoretically.

I don’t think so and I wonder how you can even say that after my post, which you do not at any time actually respond to in your response; you never discuss the convergence of Rocker’s anarcho-syndicalism and Pannekoek’s council communism for instance.

I think humanism, a bourgeoise utopian theory, is incompatible with Marxism. Humanism has its roots, in a bourgeoise worldview, free of class struggle.

My post was about the anarchist convergence with Marxism; I don’t recall mentioning humanism. However, setting that aside, your conception of the history and content of humanism is problematic. I would here suggest that you read the second chapter, ‘The Humanist Tradition’, of Corliss Lamont’s – a socialist – The Philosophy of Humanism; Lamont also has an excellent chapter entitled ‘A Humanist Civilization’ wherein he offers a Lincoln quote as the general first approximation and principle of the future just society: “Whenever there is a conflict between human rights and property rights, human rights must prevail.” Lamont also emphasizes the role within humanism regarding economics as “planning.” He goes on to say that “if follows that beyond all questions of national self-interest, every people has a moral obligation to humanity as a whole; a duty, which is also an opportunity, to make common cause with the other peoples of the earth in humankind’s eternal quest for peace, plenty, and freedom. All individuals of all countries are together equal citizens of our one world and equal members of our one human family. The Americans, the Russians, the English, the Indians, the Chinese, the Germans, the Africans, and the rest are all part of the same perplexed, proud, and aspiring human race.”
The Council for Secular Humanism is a generally left-liberal organization, as Free Inquiry, its publication, demonstrates; Paul Kurtz, the chair of the organization, was formerly explicitly associated with socialist and communist parties and has remained throughout the years progressive at the very least.

Lastly, humanism has its roots in ancient Greek philosophy, where no bourgeoisie yet existed.

The Left-Communists have no history of involvement or leadership, in any major events or causes.

You should read Spanish history. Specifically, Spain during the Revolution, the so-called civil war. You will read of plenty of left-communists directly involved in the fight against fascism – as Trotsky sent around letters – and the Revolution.

”My problem with anarchism is the tactical inflexibility. I think electoral politics have a place. At my blog, is a post about Bolivia. There is a movement of armed thigs, who attack peaceful demonstrations. How would an anarchist deal with them? Left communist or humanists? It's a situation needing the use of state power.”

My critique of state power – derived largely from Rudolf Rocker himself – still stands. State power is not required, although a massive, militant social movement certainly is.

I too think that parliamentary politics can play a role – I agree with Noam Chomsky and others here – but only a superficial and very much background role.

As for how anarchists would deal with armed thugs, in part like this:
Spanish Anarchists (video on youtube

I don’t think you really want to compare anarchist-left-communism to the central committee mafia-like Bolshevik form of organization, nor the fruits of either tendency.

Personally, I would rather focus on similarities and points of convergence and only then, from there, should differences be resolved if possible, through a completely free and open exchange - no central committees, no hierarchy and certainly no domination - where there is no coercion and so on.


Thank you for stopping by and contributing to the ever-on-going dialogue.

politiques USA said...

Did you know that the problem between Marx and Proudhon was only emotional even before being ideological? Marx never liked Proudhon because he considered him as a lil bourgeois.

Duncan Money said...

Bit of a late response to your post and comments but never mind, there were a couple of remarks you made which prompted me to think you've not really understood left communism.

Firstly:

You will read of plenty of left-communists directly involved in the fight against fascism – as Trotsky sent around letters – and the Revolution.

This I very much doubt, for left communists the democratic republic and the fascists were simply two reactionary wings of capital and thus should be opposed equally. For left communists 'anti-fascism' is a dangerous, reactionary and anti-working class ideology.

I don’t think you really want to compare anarchist-left-communism to the central committee mafia-like Bolshevik form of organization

This doesn't make sense, left communists are Bolsheviks and organised, and continue to organise, broadly along those lines.

There is only a minority around the IBRP who reject the October Revolution and the Bolshevik Party as bourgeois.

I would also echo Renegade Eye's criticisms of the left communists.

JDHURF said...
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JDHURF said...

Duncan said:
“Bit of a late response to your post and comments but never mind…”

A response is never to late on my blog.

”there were a couple of remarks you made which prompted me to think you've not really understood left communism.”

After reading your response, I believe, as I will show, that you have this backwards.

There is not a single word you wrote that would suggest you know the first thing about left-communism and, in fact, when you conflate left-communism with Bolshevism (paradoxically conflating to opposing tendencies) you provide definitive evidence that you don’t know anything about left-communism (for god’s sake, at least google search it before you decide to attack it on someone’s blog).


JDHURF said:

“You will read of plenty of left-communists directly involved in the fight against fascism – as Trotsky sent around letters – and the Revolution.”

Duncan said:
“This I very much doubt, for left communists the democratic republic and the fascists were simply two reactionary wings of capital and thus should be opposed equally. For left communists 'anti-fascism' is a dangerous, reactionary and anti-working class ideology.”

You can’t make allegations such as this about specific events and be so vague and general. Who are these “left communists” who viewed “anti-fascism” with such disfavor? I don’t know of them. However, I do know of left-communists such as Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, Herman Gorter, Karl Korsch, Anton Pannekoek, Paul Mattick, etcetera, would have and did theoretically and physically opposed fascism. Here is Paul Mattick, one of the most famous council communists to have lived:
Mosco-Fascism in Spain

(and just who do you think that Lenin’s [i]Ultra-Leftism: An Infantile Disease[/i] is written in response to? Primarily many the leading left-communists I just cited.)

In any case, I could just as easily cite the left-communists brothers and sisters, Spanish as well as foreign, who actively fought against the fascist military so bravely. I highly recommend that you read Murray Bookchin’s masterpiece on the subject [i]The Spanish Anarchists: The Heroic Years 1868-1936[/i], in which he documents the banding together of left-communists and anarchists.


JDHURF said:

“I don’t think you really want to compare anarchist-left-communism to the central committee mafia-like Bolshevik form of organization”

Duncan said:
”This doesn't make sense, left communists are Bolsheviks and organised, and continue to organise, broadly along those lines.”

Ah, here’s the problem, you don’t even understand what left-communism is. One of the most distinctive features of left-communism is its anti-Bolshevism: Luxemburg, Liebknecht and Gorter’s critiques of Lenin and Bolshevism come to mind as well as a plethora of others. Simply read Paul Mattick’s Anti-Bolshevist Communism in Germany or Bolshevism and Stalinism or anything written on the subject by any of the people I cited.

You simply have no idea what differentiates left-communism from Bolshevism and I would be willing to wager, based upon your performance so far, that you couldn’t even make sense about Bolshevism.

There is only a minority around the IBRP who reject the October Revolution and the Bolshevik Party as bourgeois.

Arguing that the Bolshevik party was bourgeois is hardly the only argument against Bolshevism, as some of my references should clearly indicate.

I would also echo Renegade Eye's criticisms of the left communists.

In which case my response to Renegade equally applies to you.

Thank for posting.

JDHURF said...

From what I have read Marx and Proudhon were initially close comrades but grew apart in theory and Marx made public and unbridgeable their differences when he penned The Poverty of Philosophy as a critique of Proudhon’s The Philosophy of Poverty.
It was Marx's belligerence in arguing their differences which ultimately ended the friendship.
In fact, as Rudolf Rocker argues, Marx was very much influenced by Proudhon. Marx and Anarchism by Rudolf Rocker.

Thanks for stopping by and posting.

JDHURF said...

That last post was addressed to politiques usa.

Duncan Money said...

Jdhruf,

My first response was a little short to make such an allegation that you don’t understand what left communism is so I’ll expand it here.

Left communism refers, in Marxist jargon, to an explicit political tendency in the wider ‘ultra-left’, a term applied to those who reject the decisions of the third and fourth congresses of the Third International.

Left communism is distinct from other tendencies in the ultra-left, such as council communism, but you’ve conflated them.

Who are these “left communists” who viewed “anti-fascism” with such disfavor? I don’t know of them.

Um… most actual left communists? Since you’ve asked this will be a bit of a lengthy reply.

First let’s look at the reaction of left communists at the time.

One of the more significant groupings, which in left communist terms doesn’t mean much, was centred around the Italian journal Bilan who arguing that events in Spain were an ‘inter-imperialist’ war between two factions of the bourgeoisie, a fascist faction and an anti-fascist republican one. They argued that both of these factions diverted the proletariat from fighting in its real class interests.

Together with a small group of Belgian militants, the Belgian Fraction of the International Communist Left, they issued a statement condemning both the fascist and anti-fascist factions in Spain:

This time it is the anti-fascist government - including the anarchists and receiving the indirect solidarity of the POUM - which unleashes the scum of the forces of repression against the workers.



Let us raise the standard of the communist revolution which the fascist and anti-fascist murderers are preventing the defeated workers from passing on to their class heirs.

(Reproduced in Bilan 41)

Other issues of Bilan describe Spain in the 1930’s as the:

imperialist front of struggle between fascism and anti-fascism (Bilan 34)

Amadeo Bordiga, another theorist of the communist left in Italy, argued for similar positions, remarking that ‘the only thing worse than fascism is anti-fascism’.

In terms of modern organisations, here is the view of probably the largest existing left communist grouping the International Communist Current:
Anti-fascist ideology illustrated itself particularly during the 1930s, when it served as the main ideological weapon of the "democratic" imperialist powers to drag the working class into the bloodbath of World War II. Anti-racism serves as a mirror-image of racism - a means to divide workers amongst themselves and drag them into inter-classist movements which, in supporting "democracy", inevitably end up supporting the working class' main enemy: the bourgeois state.
These basis positions on anti-fascism were adhered to by all in the left communist tradition, including all the many fractions of the old International Communist Party.

who do you think that Lenin’s Ultra-Leftism: An Infantile Disease is written in response to?

Primarily it was Laufenberg and Wolffheim who were council communists from Hamburg and published the Kommunistische Arbeiterzeitung (The Communist Workers’ Newspaper) during the 1920’s. The individual ‘Erler’ who is mentioned throughout is in fact the pen name of Laufenberg.

I don’t think Gorter, Korsch and Pannekoek are even mentioned in the entire thing, though Gorter wrote the most notable reply to Lenin’s polemic.

Ah, here’s the problem, you don’t even understand what left-communism is

I actually find this a little insulting, left communists have historically organised on the same basis as the Bolsheviks did, as anyone with any knowledge of actual left communist groups would know, which is arguing for the construction of a revolutionary party with a clear programme.

Left communist groups accept the role of a revolutionary party, an important distinction between them and council communists such as Paul Mattick and Otto Ruhle, and agreed with the Bolsheviks on this point.

Let’s again turn to what historical and current left communists say on the subject.

All of the emerging left communists groups, apart from those which turned to council communism, accepted the role of the revolutionary party, even those in Russia such as Myasnikov’s Workers Group of the Russian Communist Party who were in the process of being persecuted by said revolutionary party.

The final issue of ‘Communist Program’, which was I believe produced by a faction of the International Communist Party (you may find a clue in its name as to what the attitude of Italian left communists to the necessity of party’s was) in the 70’s, concludes with an article entitled:

Poland confirms: the need for organisation the need for the party

(Communist Program No.7 September 1981)

Looking at modern left communists, the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party notes:

The IBRP thus aims for the creation of the world communist party as soon as the political programme and international forces exist for this

The ICC argues similarly:

For this reason the existence and activity of the party are an indispensable condition for the final victory of the proletariat.

The ICC argue that Marxists who argue against the necessity of a party, such as autonomists, are reactionary and petit bourgeois.

You simply have no idea what differentiates left-communism from Bolshevism

No, I think I do and I could go into more detail but this comment is long enough.

I think your confusion was come about because you have confused left communism and council communism, two distinct Marxist trends.

As for your remark that I have conflated two opposing tendencies, left communism and Bolshevism, perhaps you should contact, say, the International Communist Current and tell them, as left communists, to stop making the same mistake as they see themselves as being in the tradition of the groups which founded the Third Communist International in 1919.

Arguing that the Bolshevik party was bourgeois is hardly the only argument against Bolshevism, as some of my references should clearly indicate.

I’m not referencing your argument here, I’m making the point that the majority of historical and existing left communist organisations view the October Revolution as ‘proletarian’ in character and defend it.

I did, however, make a minor mistake the IBRP do actually argue that the October Revolution was ‘proletarian’.

To clarify my points, please contact any existing left communist organisation and ask them if they support anti-fascism, the October Revolution and whether they consider themselves in the Bolshevik tradition or not.

JDHURF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JDHURF said...

Duncan said:
Left communism refers, in Marxist jargon, to an explicit political tendency in the wider ‘ultra-left’, a term applied to those who reject the decisions of the third and fourth congresses of the Third International.

No. “Left-communism” encompasses not only the “ultra-left” of the third and fourth congresses of the third international, but much else besides.

”Left communism is distinct from other tendencies in the ultra-left, such as council communism, but you’ve conflated them.”

Council communism is indeed left-communism or left-Marxism generally, as the theorists I cited indicate, from Luxemburg to Mattick.

JDHURF said:

“Who are these “left communists” who viewed “anti-fascism” with such disfavor? I don’t know of them.”

Duncan said:
”Um… most actual left communists? Since you’ve asked this will be a bit of a lengthy reply.”

One of the more significant groupings, which in left communist terms doesn’t mean much, was centred around the Italian journal Bilan who arguing that events in Spain were an ‘inter-imperialist’ war between two factions of the bourgeoisie, a fascist faction and an anti-fascist republican one. They argued that both of these factions diverted the proletariat from fighting in its real class interests.


You have failed to distinguish between the Dutch-German left-communists and the Italian ultra-leftists.

As my WSM comrades write:

” Left communism is extremely difficult to define. There are various strands of left communism that emerged at different points in the period between 1917 and 1928. Aufheben writes “The 'historic ultra-left' refers to a number of such currents which emerged out of one of the most significant moments in the struggle against capitalism - the revolutionary wave that ended the First World War.” Left communism is generally divided into two wings: the Dutch-German left and the Italian left. Between the two groups there was no love lost. Gilles Dauvé, originally a Bordigist, writes: “Although both were attacked in Lenin's ‘Left-Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder’, Pannekoek regarded Bordiga as a weird brand of Leninist, and Bordiga viewed Pannekoek as a distasteful mixture of marxism and anarcho-syndicalism. In fact, neither took any real interest in the other, and the "German" and "Italian" communist lefts largely ignored each other.”

The Dutch-German and Italian lefts were tendencies within the Comintern that ultimately broke with the Comintern and critiqued it from the left. As such left communism, or ultra leftism, is often defined by its opposition to ‘leftism’…


In any case, there were three general factions in the so-called Spanish Civil War, the Franco fascists, the Republicans and the popular front (and by “popular front” I am neither referring to what Stalin argued for nor the parliamentary popular front) of anarchists, syndicalists, socialists, left-communists and so on. If any analysis of the so-called Spanish Civil War leaves out this very important and dynamic dimension, then it is simply a failed analysis.

Together with a small group of Belgian militants, the Belgian Fraction of the International Communist Left, they issued a statement condemning both the fascist and anti-fascist factions in Spain:
Amadeo Bordiga, another theorist of the communist left in Italy, argued for similar positions, remarking that ‘the only thing worse than fascism is anti-fascism’.”


Unless he was referring to Spain this means nothing to me because he could just as well be talking about anti-fascism within a capitalist framework rather than the anti-fascism I am discussing as exemplified by the Spanish revolutionaries.
You seem to want to ignore the Spanish Revolution. In Spain during the thirties – and I am not talking about the Republicans – there were left-communist groups and left-communists who joined the popular front along with anarchists, syndicalists, socialists and so on.

”In terms of modern organisations, here is the view of probably the largest existing left communist grouping the International Communist Current:
“Anti-fascist ideology illustrated itself particularly during the 1930s, when it served as the main ideological weapon of the "democratic" imperialist powers to drag the working class into the bloodbath of World War II. Anti-racism serves as a mirror-image of racism - a means to divide workers amongst themselves and drag them into inter-classist movements which, in supporting "democracy", inevitably end up supporting the working class' main enemy: the bourgeois state.”
These basis positions on anti-fascism were adhered to by all in the left communist tradition, including all the many fractions of the old International Communist Party.”


Ah, exactly. You are talking about something entirely different. I personally know several members of the ICC, one of them is from Turkey, Devrim, and you are misrepresenting the ICC, although it is by no means the epitome of left-communism.
You are talking about anti-fascism only as it was manifested within the ideological framework of capitalism. I am talking about anti-fascism as it was manifested through the Spanish Revolution. These are two entirely different forms of anti-fascism for sure.


”I don’t think Gorter, Korsch and Pannekoek are even mentioned in the entire thing, though Gorter wrote the most notable reply to Lenin’s polemic.”

That was my point. Paul Mattick would have also not been mentioned, but Lenin ideologically attacked left-communism and some of the left-communists I cited and some of them responded and many more who were never mentioned in Lenin’s screed.

”left communists have historically organised on the same basis as the Bolsheviks did, as anyone with any knowledge of actual left communist groups would know, which is arguing for the construction of a revolutionary party with a clear programme.
Left communist groups accept the role of a revolutionary party, an important distinction between them and council communists such as Paul Mattick and Otto Ruhle, and agreed with the Bolsheviks on this point.”


No, they do not all accept this.

”Let’s again turn to what historical and current left communists say on the subject.
Poland confirms: the need for organisation the need for the party
(Communist Program No.7 September 1981)
Looking at modern left communists, the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party notes: The ICC argue that Marxists who argue against the necessity of a party, such as autonomists, are reactionary and petit bourgeois.”


A party can be a multitude of things. A left-communist may argue for the necessity of a party and not be invoking the central committee, hierarchical, anti-democratic Bolshevik party machine.

”I think your confusion was come about because you have confused left communism and council communism, two distinct Marxist trends.”

They converge and in fact council communism is left-communism, period, as my links and references to theoretical works by the likes of Herman Gorter, Karl Korsche, Luxemburg, Pannekoek, Mattick and Bookchin would support were you to review them.

”As for your remark that I have conflated two opposing tendencies, left communism and Bolshevism, perhaps you should contact, say, the International Communist Current and tell them, as left communists, to stop making the same mistake as they see themselves as being in the tradition of the groups which founded the Third Communist International in 1919.”

I have been in contact with members of the Turkey ICF (Internationalist Communist Left) and I know first hand that what you say here is false with regards to left-communism as a whole. The ICF approves of the October Revolution, just as did also many critical anarchists (clearly you can at the same time support something while also being critical of it).

”I’m not referencing your argument here, I’m making the point that the majority of historical and existing left communist organisations view the October Revolution as ‘proletarian’ in character and defend it.
To clarify my points, please contact any existing left communist organisation and ask them if they support anti-fascism, the October Revolution and whether they consider themselves in the Bolshevik tradition or not.”


I have already been in contact with members of the ICC from Turkey for several months and I have read the history of the Spanish Revolution, the so-called Spanish civil war and I have also read the numerous left-communists I have cited both in this post and my previous one.

Thanks for coming back and responding. Surely we will be able to have enlightening discussions in the future on a range of issues.

Because your post so extensively relied upon quotes, allow me to cite the following from the WSM:

The Dutch-German Left

The German Revolution 1918-1919

In Germany in 1918 there was a wave of mass wildcat strikes that ultimately led to a revolution breaking out in November which ended World War One. Sailors mutinied and workers’ councils were set up across the country. The SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany) a few years earlier was universally considered the world’s greatest revolutionary Marxist party, but had in 1914 supported the drive to war. It took part in this revolution despite opposing it. Thereby, it “managed to get a majority vote at the first National Congress of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils in favour of elections to a constituent assembly and for dissolving the councils in favour of that parliament. At the same time the trade unions worked hand in hand with management to get revolutionary workers dismissed and to destroy independent council activity in the factories. Councils against parliament and trade unions became the watch word of revolutionaries.”

At the turn of the year the KPD (German Communist Party) was founded. On the basis of their recent experiences, the majority of workers in the KPD developed a revolutionary critique of parliamentary activism and raised the slogan ‘All Power to the Workers’ Councils’. However, the leaders of the party, including Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, opposed this on the basis that it was anarchist. The anti-parliamentarian majority were also opposed to the ‘Trade Unions’ on the basis of their experience of the German social democratic trade unions opposing the revolutionary movement and actively trying to crush it. On this point the leadership also opposed the majority. Ultimately, in October 1919, these disagreements led to the leadership expelling over half of the party’s membership.

These expelled members went on to form the left communist KAPD (German Communist Workers Party). The KAPD left the Comintern after the Third Congress in 1921 for reasons that anarchists would be very sympathetic towards. They believed that the revolution would not be made by a political party but could only be made by the working class itself organized in its own autonomous organisations. The organisation that the KAPD worked within was the AAUD (General Workers Union of Germany); at its height this was an organisation of around 300,000 workers. The AAUD emerged during the German Revolution in 1919. Jan Appel describes its formation: “We arrived at the conclusion that the unions were quite useless for the purposes of the revolutionary struggle, and at a conference of Revolutionary Shop Stewards, the formation of revolutionary factory organisations as the basis for Workers’ Councils was decided upon.”

Council Communism

Based on their experiences, the left communists in Germany critiqued Lenin’s arguments in ‘Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder’ firstly on the basis that although the Bolshevik model of organisation made sense in Russia, as Germany was more industrially developed different forms of proletarian struggle were needed. They argued that through self organisation in their factories workers laid the basis for setting up workers’ councils. They argued that this form of organisation was the single form of organisation suitable for a revolutionary struggle of the working class. As such, they argued against activity in Trade Unions, parliament and the primacy of the party.

The KAPD aimed not to represent or lead the working class, but rather to enlighten it, a similar project to the idea advanced by the Dyelo Truda group: “All assistance afforded to the masses in the realm of ideas must be consonant with the ideology of anarchism; otherwise it will not be anarchist assistance. ‘Ideologically assist’ simply means: influence from the ideas point of view, direct from the ideas point of view [a leadership of ideas].” However, some left communists, such as Otto Rühle, felt even this was too much. They left the KAPD and AAUD and, objecting to the involvement of the KAPD in the AAUD, set up AAUD-E (General Workers Union of Germany – Unitary Organisation).

The majority of those who claim a legacy from the Dutch-German Left, those who call themselves council communists, tend to take the position of Rühle and the AAUD-E. For that reason they refuse to form political organisations. Dauvé explains the theory thus: “any revolutionary organisation coexisting with the organs created by the workers themselves, and trying to elaborate a coherent theory and political line, must in the end attempt to lead the workers. Therefore revolutionaries do not organise themselves outside the organs "spontaneously" created by the workers: they merely exchange and circulate information and establish contacts with other revolutionaries; they never try to define a general theory or strategy.”

Pannekoek wrote in 1936 “The old labor movement is organised in parties. The belief in parties is the main reason for the impotence of the working class; therefore we avoid forming a new party—not because we are too few, but because a party is an organisation that aims to lead and control the working class. In opposition to this, we maintain that the working class can rise to victory only when it independently attacks its problems and decides its own fate. The workers should not blindly accept the slogans of others, nor of our own groups but must think, act, and decide for themselves. This conception is in sharp contradiction to the tradition of the party as the most important means of educating the proletariat. Therefore many, though repudiating the Socialist and Communist parties, resist and oppose us. This is partly due to their traditional concepts; after viewing the class struggle as a struggle of parties, it becomes difficult to consider it as purely the struggle of the working class, as a class struggle.”

While the idea of working class struggle being ‘purely the struggle of the working class’ is essential, it hides major theoretical and practical problems. Firstly what does it mean to take the side of the class and as opposed to a party? What does the working class without a party look like? What does is mean to reject parties? If we take Dauvé’s understanding, that this rejection of partyism is a rejection of any attempt ‘to elaborate a coherent theory and political line’ then we face a problem. If any attempt to elaborate a coherent theory and political line is forbidden then how can the class develop a coherent theory and political line to guide itself through a revolution and to victory? How can the class think strategically if strategic thinking is banned lest it be oppressive or vanguardist?

In a revolution there will be a number of conflicting theories and political lines being put forward. To claim otherwise is highly naïve. If those of us who believe that ‘the emancipation of the working classes must be achieved by the working classes themselves’ don’t enter the revolution prepared with a program explaining how this can be achieved the revolution will, like all prior workers’ revolutions, fail.

It was precisely the lack of a program that spelled the failure of the anti-state position in Russia and in Spain.”


” While the Italian Left insisted on the communist program that was to be realised by the party for the working class, the Dutch-German Left insisted that the class did not need a party or program; indeed they would be obstacles to the working class realising communism.

In the Italian Left we find the communist program separated from the working class. In the Dutch-German Left we find the exact same. The difference is that the Italian Left insists on defending the communist program from impurity while the German Left insists on defending the working class. The solution surely is to unite the two, the working class and communism, and say ‘The working class is the communist subject’. This is the position adopted by most left communists today.”



So, yeah, sure you can post a lot of propaganda from the Italian ultra-left and its spawns, but that by no means represents all of left-communism.

Anonymous said...

I am a "Left-Communist" and I have an interest in what people say about a tendency that I have been a part of. Miasnikov, the Bolshevik was a leader of workers. The Communist Left Decists were the first to call on Trotsky to stop vacillating & join the left opposition. The military commander of the battle of Oltretorrente in Parma was a "left-communist", this was the first battle against fascism anywhere. Bordiga, the first leader of Italian Communists was on the executive committee of the 3rd International. Left-Communists have done more useful things than all the Trots and Stalinists combined. Next time you hear how the ICC is the "largest" left-communist organization or that left-communists have never had experience leading anything, please take it with a grain of salt.

Anonymous said...

I am a "Left-Communist" and I have an interest in what people say about a tendency that I am a part of. Miasnikov, the Bolshevik was a leader of workers. The Communist Left Decists were the first to call on Trotsky to stop vacillating & join the left opposition. The military commander of the battle of Oltretorrente in Parma was a "left-communist". The KAPD was a mass party. The Communist Party of Italy was a majority left-communist party until the Stalinist vermin Togliatti and Gramsci took it over in 1926. Next time you hear how the ICC is the "largest" left-communist organization or that left-communists have never had experience leading anything, please take it with a grain of salt. There is a difference between not agreeing with people's ideas and slandering them out of their historical existence.

Anonymous said...

The IBRP never rejected the Russian Revolution and the Bolshevik Party as bourgeois. We do reject the centrist and rightist opportunism that led from the NEP to "Stalinism". By stalinism we mean ALL "marxist-leninists". Only in the mind of stale Stalinist,Trotskyists and Anarchist armchair historians have the Communist Left been pushed out and denigrated constantly. In most cases it was the Communist Left that founded the early communist parties around the world. Left-Communists have been in all sorts of Struggles. Eric Fischer, of the Fischer and Maslow group that broke from Trotskyism, were left-communist. Eric Fischer led a strike a Buchenwald, that the Stalinists were too nationalist and divided against each other to bother organizing resistance within the camps. Read the declaration of Internationalist Communists of Buchenwald. It makes Trot and Stalinist "activism" and "leadership" or "involvement" with struggles seem pathetic and weak.

Anonymous said...

The communist left never rejected a struggle against fascism, but they did reject entering into alliances with bourgeois forces. For them (and me), this means not entering into fronts with CP butchers, anyone who kills their comrades, and most importantly anyone who sides with the capitalists in an imperialist war. The United Front/Popular Front is a religion on the left. It was a good way for the Stalinists to score political points with the social-democrats and slaughter their political opponents. Bordiga referred to it as a bureaucratic maneuver (his exact words being una manovra burocratica).