The IBRP

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berrot
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Mar 9 2009 00:21

It can’t be often in a revolutionary’s life that a second chance is given to practise the mysterious Art. Those on this thread who have read their teabags for the past 30 years, looking for signs of the Second Awakening, have been amply rewarded for their patience. The Crisis has returned, on a scale hitherto unseen, promising a potential global audience of billions for The Message. The bourgeoisie are quaking in their leaking boots and threadbare socks as capitalism gets sucked into the vortex.
Not quite. Aging megaphones have been dusted down. Not, you understand, to address the expectant proletariat. No, scores from the past have to be settled; the bottles of vitriol must be passed around. Recollections of things antique have to be polished up, ready for the fray, the real struggle: refreshing animosities dating back many decades.
At the time I first proposed the meeting which is now scheduled for Birmingham (to which Cassady alluded), I have been categoric that we must all have our gaze firmly fixed on the future, not on acrimonious episodes from the past. Revolutionary discipline demands: “Eyes front!” It also demands a relaxation of sectarian vigilance, if our minority status is to be less debilitating.
There has been some evidence of this here. Some of the contributions have displayed the requisite qualities and have recognised the dire necessity of a greater spirit of cooperation and forbearance than has often been displayed in the past. Nevertheless, there is a real risk of temper overtaking intellect and throwing away the opportunity to make an impact on the real world instead of the rarefied cloisters of sectarian polemic. Optimism of the Will implies a willingness to seek positive ways forward and positive ways to address each other. Every word must be premissed on the need to reach our goal. Time is short and we have a movement to create.

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Demogorgon303
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Mar 9 2009 10:28
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Aging megaphones have been dusted down. Not, you understand, to address the expectant proletariat.

I agree that this thread is not the time or place to discuss the (very real) issues of the past but I think we should remember that the ICC and IBRP have been "addressing" the proletariat consistently and tenaciously for over 30 years. Others may or may not have allowed their megaphones to collect dust, but they certainly haven't.

Moreover, there were moments when it looked like the ICC and IBRP were actually on the brink of having a meaningful exchange on certain topics. It now seems that effort has been successfully derailed - I can only hope it will be resumed in some other form if it proves impossible here.

Alex
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Mar 9 2009 12:03
Demogorgon303 wrote:
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Moreover, there were moments when it looked like the ICC and IBRP were actually on the brink of having a meaningful exchange on certain topics. It now seems that effort has been successfully derailed - I can only hope it will be resumed in some other form if it proves impossible here.

I agree. When I came across this thread I was pleasantly surprised to see the willingness of both IBRP and ICC posters to deal so constructively with their political differences and to calmly reflect on past events. You can spot where these efforts get hijacked - with Ingram's first intervention. It's quite funny really; how can you call for a “serious raising and confronting of differences” while accusing both organisations of the Communist Left today of “a tissue of brazen, blatant lies and reworkings of reality”, and of being “mentally ill”, etc? Beware sectarians calling for an end to sectarianism!

The best rebuttal of Ingram and co would be if the ICC and IBRP could calmly return to the clarification of their positions for the rest of the milieu.

petey
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Mar 9 2009 16:15

perhaps a new thread then? because i for one (not a member of either group, not a left communist, but still an interested reader) would like to see a list of agreed positions. nicely and succinctly stated.

1ngram
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Mar 9 2009 16:28

"You can spot where these efforts get hijacked - with Ingram's first intervention"

Yet it was Cleish and Alf who brought the subject up - not me.

I don't want to rehash old grievances but I long ago learned that if you do not rebut falsifications and outright lies then some mug will start accepting them. I'm therefore glad Alex finds me funny (we could all do with a laugh these days) especially given the length of time he has been here and has been able to devote to the whole question.

How sectarian we all are will not be determined by what we think about what happened in the past but by the extent to which we are all willing to work together in the future.

ernie
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Mar 9 2009 20:20

Petey

Our main agreements are:
- the need for communism;
- the need for the proletarian revolution;
- intransigent internationalism;
- the need for the proletariat to build a revolutionary party
- the need for revolutionary political organisation.
- defence of the proletarian nature of the October 1917 revolution
- defence of the proletarian nature of the Bolshevik party, though we differ on when it became counter-revolutionary: I think!
- firmly rooting ourselves in the Marxist tradition, 1st, 2nd, 3rd internationals
- being Left Communists
- the decadence of capitalism, though we have different understanding of the causes of this.
- rejection of bourgeois democracy and the use of parliament
- the counter-revolutionary nature of the trade unions;
- the counter-revolutionary nature of nationalism liberation
- the counter-revolutionary nature of the 'left'
-
These are more or less the main ones. An impressive list I think we would all agree. But I have to stop now to eat my tea!

petey
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Mar 9 2009 20:41

a start! i have questions, but i have to go now myself - to eat dinner.

berrot
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Mar 9 2009 22:30

Yes, Demogorgon, the past decade or two must have taken some degree of resilience to undergo. I am not trying to detract from that in any way. My complaint is confined to the exchanges on this thread. It is like a kind of revolutionist’s Tourette Syndrome: everyone is desperately trying to conduct themselves in a proletarian manner, but despite themselves they cannot help calling on their fellow finches to “Feck off” (apologies, Shug).

I suppose there is some small justification for it all: unloading the detritus of 30 years cannot be easy. One of the principal problems, as I see it, is that it is all being conducted in an open-plan aviary in the Proletarian Zoo with the world looking on. May I suggest the “debate” takes place privately on another bulletin board well out of view of potential clients of the revolution, access being granted only to the principal contenders who can slug it out of their systems so they can then emerge with their beaks suitably clipped and their psyches cleansed of their Tourette tendencies? If need be, I will organise it, but be warned: by the time some emerge, the Zoo may have disappeared.

In the meantime, I recommend some restraint. There are one or two finches around whose mindless chirrupping is giving us all ear-ache. And insulting new finches with maybe no beaks at all is no way to behave.

Cleishbotham
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Mar 10 2009 17:20

I apologise for not getting back to all those who posed issues in direct response to what I said in the boards above but I have been in Turkey having face to face (positive) discussions with the comrades of the EKS who recently joined the ICC. I cannot say much more just now as the comrades are writing up the outcome but we did make a list of political agreements as part of that work and it was not dissimilar to that put by ernie.

I have been told that I write posts that are too long (and I have already lost this one three times as I went up and down checking what people have said!) so I will leave this for now but I hope this post can act as an antidote to some of the despair Shug and Berrot have expressed.

petey
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Mar 10 2009 18:15

ok ernie, each of your points individually could be a topic (and i'm sure each has been, in places i haven't read), so i'll start with this, others to follow:

ernie wrote:
- defence of the proletarian nature of the Bolshevik party, though we differ on when it became counter-revolutionary: I think!

- the syndicalistically-inclined (such as myself) will have issues with any phase of the history of the bolshevik party, but putting that aside, by what criteria do the ICC and the IBRP judge when it became counter-revolutionary?

Cleishbotham
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Mar 10 2009 19:53

It is difficult to freeze a process and say when was the precise point when something happened but we have always argued that 1921 was the opening of the counter-revolution in Russia (there is an article called precisely that on our (IBRP) website. However I guess it doesn't really matter for you since you think that the Bolshevik Party was never revolutionary in the first place (and for all I know hold the same view as those who think that Bolsheviks all along came to power with an agenda to destroy the revolution. The tragedy is that the very force which the working class created to liberate themselves turned into the motor of counter-revolution (although by that time we are talking not only of a different beast but even of a different personnel since a good part of its class conscious rank and file were dead). A physical defeat of the working class in 1921 would have been less damaging than what happened afterwards since the Russian Rev would have the status of the Commune today as an inspiration. Instead we are fighting for the inspiration bit whilst also trying to understand the process by which we were defeated back then.

petey
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Mar 11 2009 07:27
Cleishbotham wrote:
It is difficult to freeze a process and say when was the precise point when something happened

i didn't ask you to freeze a process, i asked what criteria were used.

Cleishbotham wrote:
However I guess it doesn't really matter for you since you think that the Bolshevik Party was never revolutionary in the first place

1: i didn't say that either, i said i had issues with the history of the bolshevik party.
2: if it didn't matter for me i wouldn't have asked the question. in fact, i suggested that we put aside my inclinations, in order for me to get your position. did you read that?

Cleishbotham wrote:
The tragedy is that the very force which the working class created to liberate themselves turned into the motor of counter-revolution

so, returning to my original question: by what criteria do IBRP and ICC judge that?

ernie
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Mar 11 2009 06:10

A very short initial reply, but a very fundamental one, when the Bolsheviks stopped defending internationalism i.e., when the party adopted the theory of Socialism in One Country. That was the end of a process which had seen them become increasingly integrated into the state and defending that state against the working class. There is plenty more to discuss around this, but I think that is the fundamental criteria. Other comrades of the ICC or the IBRP can correct me or add more, but that is pretty much the bedrock of our criteria.

petey
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Mar 11 2009 07:32

thanks ernie, very helpful. i hope others will add more.

Alex
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Mar 11 2009 11:34

To follow up Ernie’s point, yes absolutely for revolutionaries the abandonment of the basic principle of internationalism is the point at which a proletarian organisation crosses over to the enemy. The case of the Bolshevik party not surprisingly has been a major issue for those coming towards revolutionary politics and it’s worth highlighting the fact that despite those on this thread who imply we’re all firmly stuck in the past there has been a real evolution on this question in the Left Communist movement, by both the CWO and the ICC.

Largely coming out of the post-’68 libertarian milieu and reacting against Stalinism and Trotskyism, it was probably not surprising many revolutionaries were reluctant to accept that the Bolsheviks were ever a proletarian party, and if they were then Kronstadt marked the point at which they definitively crossed over.

Seeing 1921 as the point at which the Bolsheviks and the Russian revolution became capitalist was one of the main issues in the breaking off of relations with the ICC by the CWO’s predecessors way back in 1974. The CWO as Cleish describes later reassessed its position after their internal discussion on the German and Italian Lefts (published in 1982 - see Revolutionary Perspectives 20). But the group which formed World Revolution in GB also originally had difficulties on the same question due to the influence of councilist ideas, and as Alf says above the whole ICC has had to go back and learn the lessons about the influence of councilism on its original positions, openly dealt with in its press over the years and leading to (fairly minor) changes in its Platform.

One of the lessons is that for Left Communists it’s a principle you fight within an organisation as long as there’s a breath of proletarian life in it, rather than simply walking out and abandoning it, and for both the CWO and the ICC this was one of the lessons from the Italian Communist Left’s experience in the Comintern against Stalin. Also if you look at what the Left Communists in Russia did, you see people like Sapranov and Miasnikov fighting right up until 1927-28 to somehow try to rescue the Bolshevik Party from the Stalinist counter-revolution. With hindsight of course we can see their efforts were futile but they were absolutely right to try (the ICC’s book on the Russian Communist Left has a lot of material on this). As well as being about the criteria for defining bourgeois and proletarian organsiations this is about how it's the duty of revolutionaries to stay inside proletarian organisations to fight for their positions.

As Ernie says there’s a whole lot more on this and related issues but it would be good to get the IBRP’s take.

nastyned
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Mar 11 2009 12:19

I'm not convinced at all. Fighting to 'save' the Bolshevik party up until 1928 the same as what any Trot would say.

Battlescarred
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Mar 11 2009 12:33

"One of the lessons is that for Left Communists it’s a principle you fight within an organisation as long as there’s a breath of proletarian life in it,"
Exactly the arguments thar Rosa Luxemburg used to stay within the Social Democrats, so that a split came only in the last stages of World War One and not enough was done to create an independent organisation and break with the mystique of , let alone develop a critique, of social democracy. As a result she was murdered by the reaction led by.....Social Democrats like Noske and Scheidemann.

petey
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Mar 11 2009 15:47

thanks much alex, this is the sort of info i was hoping to see. i'm not throughly read in this era (an understatement) but if my choice is between the kronstadt soviets and the bolshevik party, i'm with the soviets. i have no position at all as to whether the bolshevik party was or was not proletarian all along.

Quote:
As Ernie says there’s a whole lot more on this and related issues but it would be good to get the IBRP’s take.
Dannny
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Mar 11 2009 21:39

I´m in agreement with most of the minimum points of agreement that ernie has suggested but I don´t really understand why an agreement on the "proletarian" nature of the Bolshevik party should be seen as a sine qua non of left communist or internationalist re-groupment? Certainly I am put off joining or trying to join a group by these kinds of arguments, as interesting as they can sometimes be.
Cleishbotham´s statement: "The tragedy is that the very force which the working class created to liberate themselves turned into the motor of counter-revolution" just doesn´t seem to make sense to me. Surely the "force the working class created to liberate themselves" would be the Soviets? The working class did not create the Bolsheviks, even if a significant minority joined them during the revolutionary period.

(None of which I intend to mean that the Bolsheviks and all that sail in them should be dismissed out of hand but I´m groping towards the idea that unity among revolutionaries would be better fostered by emphasising the other things on the list)

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Alf
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Mar 11 2009 23:14

Greetings danny. I just wanted to clarify something. Agreement about the proletarian character of the Bolshevik party was one of the points of agreement between the ICC and the IBRP that Ernie was enumerating - it wasn't put forward as a precondition for internationalists working together. On the contrary, it would be a mistake for left communists to insist on that before working with others against imperialist wars or as part of a class movement. It's a different matter if we're talking about regroupment in the sense of forming a single organisation.

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Rowntree
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Mar 11 2009 23:40

I would agree with Cleishbotham that "1921 was the opening of the counter-revolution in Russia". What I can't understand is how agreement on that date, or one a few years later, justifies seperate organisations.

RedHughs
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Mar 12 2009 05:12
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One of the lessons is that for Left Communists it’s a principle you fight within an organisation as long as there’s a breath of proletarian life in it, rather than simply walking out and abandoning it, and for both the CWO and the ICC this was one of the lessons from the Italian Communist Left’s experience in the Comintern against Stalin.

I'm with the critics here. I don't know what information you using to validate this "lesson". If anything, I think the Stalin period shows that when an organization is heading towards counter-revolution, one needs to get out quickly, cut one's losses and be extremely clear and consistent about the weaknesses of that organization that "still has life in it" but has no way of preserving that life and will drag those who put any faith in it down to death, dreck and discredit - we're talking the true horros of 1930's counter-revolution here guys.

Oddly enough, one Italian left communist group, Bilan, was relentlessly and correctly critical of the CNT and its alliance with the Spanish Republican state. The CNT "had plenty of life left in it" in the sense of being a massive proletarian organization, having millions of members who saw their aim as stateless communism. Being critical of the CNT was great but it seems to imply that one would be at least as critical of Comintern.

As folks hopefully know, I am not all a knee-jerk critic of the ICC or IBRP. I am happy to see the degree of reconciliation that seems to have appeared on this thread. But this is perhaps where I'd have the greatest difference with you folks.

Battlescarred
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Mar 12 2009 09:52

What, still no comeback from either the ICC or the CWO? Tcchh!!

Spassmaschine
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Mar 12 2009 12:15
RedHughs wrote:
.The CNT "had plenty of life left in it" in the sense of being a massive proletarian organization, having millions of members who saw their aim as stateless communism.

A question of semantics here, but what exactly do ICC/IBRP mean when they talk about "proletarian organisations"? Wouldn't "communist organisations" be a more accurate term, as generally it seems to be used in the context of the party still holding to communist principles, rather than being composed entirely of proletarians?

baboon
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Mar 12 2009 12:49

Captain, I think that the way that the ICC and the IBRP use the term "proletarian organisation" is another way of expressing communist organisation - it's interchangeable. It's not a question of sociological origins or numbers but the defence of the political platform. One of the lessons from the revolutionary wave, the Bolshevik party and its subsequent degeneration is that the political organisation of the proletariat, contrary to the period of capitalism's ascendency, can no longer be a mass organisation (which is facilitated by the soviets in decadence) but an organisation of a political minority of the class.

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Demogorgon303
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Mar 12 2009 13:05

Did Luxemburg leave it too late to leave the SDP? Was the German Left too early is leaving the communists parties? Was the Russian Left too late?

It seems to me that a lot of the judgements on this question are made with the benefit of hindsight or are linked to a kind of fatalism. I don't think it was inevitable that either Social Democracy or the Comintern parties were going to betray. It might have been possible to rescue them or for the Left's to believe it was still possible. Often the reason for not leaving was not because they believed they could even win over the majority but more because they were trying to persuade centrist elements to join them.

There are also questions of period. Luxemburg's "error" was made in a revolutionary period where revolutionaries were in a position to have a direct effect on the class. The task of the hour was to present communist positions to the proletariat and push for revolution. The situation of the Left Fractions was different. The proletariat's communist forces were being absorbed by the counter-revolution and the task of the hour was to save what could be saved in readiness for the proletariat's next revolutionary upsurge.

Battlescarred
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Mar 12 2009 13:29

But the counter-revolution WAS PRECISELY the Bolshevik Government. Kronstadt was not the beginning of a counter-revolutionary process but the culmination of one that had started by at least 1918 with the attacks on the anarchists in Moscow and murder and imprisonment of anarchists and other revolutionaries

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Demogorgon303
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Mar 12 2009 13:42
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But the counter-revolution WAS PRECISELY the Bolshevik Government. Kronstadt was not the beginning of a counter-revolutionary process but the culmination of one that had started by at least 1918 with the attacks on the anarchists in Moscow and murder and imprisonment of anarchists and other revolutionaries

Where did I deny the Bolsheviks were the vector for the counter-revolution? I don't see how that has much bearing on my comments. Or is it that you don't think the Bolsheviks had any revolutionary character at all so the idea of a revolutionary fraction within it trying to turn it back to its own principles is obviously irrelevant?

petey
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Mar 12 2009 15:25
Demogorgon303 wrote:
Or is it that you don't think the Bolsheviks had any revolutionary character at all

but by what criteria do you (meaning ICC but also IBRP) judge when they lost it? ernie gave one helpful answer about the loss of an internationalist perspective; but these events (kronstadt, the attacks on anarchists) are earlier.

and, again, i'm not asking for a pinpoint answer, i'm asking about the criteria.

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Demogorgon303
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Mar 12 2009 15:45

Internationalism is the most important factor. 1928, the date the Comintern adopted the theory of one country, is usually regarded as the final nail in the coffin. But nails were being driven in right from October 1917 in many ways. The Bolsheviks made many mistakes, some of which led directly to their absorption into the state and the counter-revolution.

None of these other "nails" can be ignored. That's why I would unreservedly condemn Kronstadt as a victory for the counter-revolution. But what many forget is that most of the Bolsheviks in Kronstadt actually joined the insurrection - and many outside who fought against it weren't aware of what was really happening, believing it to be driven by the Whites. I seem to recall that the Left in the Russian party joined in the suppression because of that belief.