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ICC on councilist left and anarchism

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DJ-TC
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Jun 17 2008 17:27
ICC on councilist left and anarchism

(Recently posted on Revleft.)

http://en.internationalism.org/wr/231_gdleft.htm

ICC wrote:
Council communism is thus presented as a libertarian break with the marxist tradition.

It was. The face of so-called "Marxist tradition" in the years since the turn of the century until the November revolution was a grim face, with few exceptions here and there. From organisational, to philosophical and theoretical concepts, "Orthodox Marxism" of that time was barron with ultra-statist line.

ICC wrote:
in the struggle to extend the international revolutionary wave and to constitute the Communist International after 1917. The German-Dutch left unreservedly supported the revolutionary character of Soviet Russia and the internationalism of the Bolsheviks.

So did the anarchists. They viewed Bolshevism as a form of "Bakuninized Marxism", and CNT eventually joined the Red Syndical International. But this doesn't mean that Bolshevism was inherently revolutionary, but that the truth behind it remained hidden, while the Russian revolution itself deemed unconditional international support.

ICC wrote:
When reformism took an increasing hold over these parties, anarcho-syndicalism was certainly the expression of a proletarian reaction against it, but its attachment to the old ' revolution at any time' approach made it incapable of understanding the historic origins of the opportunist gangrene in the workers' movement, while its traditional opposition to 'politics' prevented it from defending the political organisations of the proletariat and encouraged illusions in a purely 'economic' revolution led by the unions, by-passing the necessity for the working class to take political power.

First of all, "economic" revolution (term used by Pouget) isn't purely economic, while factory organisation of the proletariat is not necessarily "a-political" (indeed, CGT was "a-political" and that's why it failed). Secondly, it was precisely the line of anarcho-syndicalists during the Russian Revolution that turned out to be the right one: not merely a capture of state power by a bureaucratic, hierarchical party, but the organisation of the revolution through a non-hierarchical federation of workers' and local councils and factory committees, with armed proletariat and self-organised peasantry.

Of course, this doesn't mean that anarchists didn't make the mistake of ignoring the state, or even undevaluing it's potential reactionary danger while passively "using" it - they did in Spain in the summer of 1936. It backfired heavily.

ICC wrote:
Finally, faced with the tragic degeneration of the Russian revolution and the emergence of the Stalinist nightmare, it wasn't anarchism that was able to explain what had happened and draw the lessons for the struggles of the future, but once again the marxist left: the Italian left around the review Bilan but also the German-Dutch left.

I don't agree. If anything, left communist and anarchist analysis of USSR complement each other in a way that we can have a complete and clear picture of Russian state capitalism. It can even be said that the anarchist analysis of "How" (i. e. Voline's and Maximoff's critique of the statist counter-revolution) was a bit faster than the left communist analysis of "What" (the usage of classical Marxist critique of political economy through which the workings of state capitalist systems were outlined), although it wouldn't be worthy enough if there wasn't for latter.

Black Badger
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Jun 17 2008 18:12

The CNT only affiliated to the Red International of Labor Unions provisionally, and decided not to join it after a few of its delegates went to the Soviet Union in 1921 and saw first hand that the Bolsheviks were suppressing any and all examples of autonomous worker and peasant (self-)organization.

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Rob Ray
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Jun 17 2008 19:05

Berkman's writeup of his time in Russia under Lenin and 'War Communism' is worth a look at on this subject btw.

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Jun 17 2008 21:56
Quote:
First of all, "economic" revolution (term used by Pouget) isn't purely economic, while factory organisation of the proletariat is not necessarily "a-political" (indeed, CGT was "a-political" and that's why it failed). Secondly, it was precisely the line of anarcho-syndicalists during the Russian Revolution that turned out to be the right one: not merely a capture of state power by a bureaucratic, hierarchical party, but the organisation of the revolution through a non-hierarchical federation of workers' and local councils and factory committees, with armed proletariat and self-organised peasantry.

I agree with this 100%.

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robot
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Jun 18 2008 04:06

It took less than two years until the first anarchist refugees from Russia appeared in Berlin in 1919. A few month later in early 1920 Rocker and other German anarcho-syndicalists startet publishing articles about the anti-proletarian and anti-soviet nature of the bolchevist system.

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waslax
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Jun 18 2008 07:39

Otto Ruhle, of the German left communist party KAPD, and arguably the original council communist, wrote his strongly critical account of the Bolsheviks and the direction in which they were taking "Soviet" Russia in 1920 also.

Anarcho
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Jun 18 2008 08:02

What a crap article, really pathetic. There is this classic quote:

Quote:
In this context, the outbreak of the first world war was more than ever a test of truth, not only for the right wing of social democracy which betrayed the working class, but also for a good number of anarchist organisations which, like Kropotkin and the French CGT, fell into 'anarcho-chauvinism'.

Interesting, a "good number of anarchist organisations" yet none are actually mentioned. I wonder why? Because it is simply not true? Could that be it? I think so...

As for Kropotkin and the French CGT, well, obviously they must be mentioned as they are about it in terms of libertarians who betrayed their politics. In the case of Kropotkin and his 14 comrades who supported the war, I fail to see how they compare to the multitude of mass Marxist parties who sided with their ruling class in the war. As for the CGT, it was the only syndicalist union which supported the war. All the rest remained true to their internationalist principles. In Italy, for example, the USI expelled those Marxist-syndicalists who had become nationalists and pro-intervention.

So, what can we conclude? Well, a honest account would say that the vast majority of anarchists and syndicalists and libertarian organisations remained true to their revolutionary principles. In fact, only one syndicalist union did not while of the famous anarchists, only a handful betrayed their ideals (compared to Malatesta, Berkman, Goldman, Rocker, etc., who did not). But why expect the truth from the ICC (as can be seen from their inaccurate rant against the CNT, facts and common-sense go out the windown when it comes to anarchism)?

In terms of "the outbreak of the first world war was more than ever a test of truth", what the ICC hide is that the vast majority of anarchists passed that test. Unlike the Marxist movement. Now, any serious political analysis would note that fact and draw an obvious conclusion....

As for council communism, only an ideologue could fail to note that they draw the same conclusions on many issues as Bakunin and other anarchists had decades previously. Even Lenin acknowledged this.

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Alf
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Jun 18 2008 08:19

greetings DJ-TC.
Just a few comments on your post:

You wrote:
The face of so-called "Marxist tradition" in the years since the turn of the century until the November revolution was a grim face, with few exceptions here and there. From organisational, to philosophical and theoretical concepts, "Orthodox Marxism" of that time was barron with ultra-statist line.

I don't think you can write off the left wing of social democracy - Luxemburg, Pannekoek, Gorter, Bordiga, etc etc - and for us, of course, Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin, etc - as a "few exceptions here and there". They were the real continuity with the marxist tradition that was increasingly being undermined not only by the revisionist right (Bernstein etc) but also by the Kautskyist centre.

We could start another discussion here about the Bolsheviks since you raise the issue in your post, but the problem with most of those who dismiss the Bolsheviks as petty bourgeois or capitalist from the beginning is that they detach them fom their international context. The Bolsheviks were part of the international socialist left prior to and during the first world war, and they cannot really be understood as a specifically 'Russian' phenomenon. In other words, it would be more fruitful to analyse the class nature of the international left as a whole rather than starting with only one of its components.

Secondly, it was precisely the line of anarcho-syndicalists during the Russian Revolution that turned out to be the right one: not merely a capture of state power by a bureaucratic, hierarchical party, but the organisation of the revolution through a non-hierarchical federation of workers' and local councils and factory committees, with armed proletariat and self-organised peasantry.

The problem with the Bolsheviks (and most other marxists at the time, including Rosa Luxemburg) was that they saw the seizure of power by the proletariat as involving the election of a workers' party to the head to the soviet state. This was an error born of inexperience and the survival of bourgeois, parliamentary conceptions. However, the "anarcho-syndicalist line" (later reproduced to all intents and purposes by Ruhle) hardly provides the antidote to this misconception, since it evades the question of political power and focuses on taking over the means of production: in other words, it tends to reduce the soviets and factory committees to organs of economic self-management rather than seeing their fundamentally political role as the organisers of the proletarian dictatorship. You recognise this weakness in anarcho-syndicalism in Spain in 1936, but the same errors were made in Russia in 1917 in a different context.

On drawing the lessons of the Russian revolution, we certainly wouldn't deny that many anarchists had insights about this. The point is whether there is a coherent, collectively elaborated body of theory explaining it, comparable to what was produced by the communist left (here I would say the Italian left in particular, but other fractions as well)

Anarcho
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Jun 18 2008 08:22
ICC wrote:
When reformism took an increasing hold over these parties, anarcho-syndicalism was certainly the expression of a proletarian reaction against it, but its attachment to the old ' revolution at any time' approach made it incapable of understanding the historic origins of the opportunist gangrene in the workers' movement, while its traditional opposition to 'politics' prevented it from defending the political organisations of the proletariat and encouraged illusions in a purely 'economic' revolution led by the unions, by-passing the necessity for the working class to take political power.

I should also note, as other have pointed out, that the notion that anarcho-syndicalism aimed for a "purely 'economic' revolution" is just nonsense. They saw the need to smash the state, as can be seen from (for example) How we shall bring about the revolution by Emile Pataud and Emile Pouget. See my review of that book for a summary: How we shall bring about the revolution

And to quote An Anarchist FAQ:

Quote:
This does not mean that syndicalism is "apolitical" in the sense of ignoring totally all political issues. This is a Marxist myth. Syndicalists follow other anarchists by being opposed to all forms of authoritarian/capitalist politics but do take a keen interest in "political" questions as they relate to the interests of working people. Thus they do not "ignore" the state, or the role of the state. Indeed, syndicalists are well aware that the state exists to protect capitalist property and power. For example, the British syndicalists' "vigorous campaign against the 'servile state' certainly disproves the notion that syndicalists ignored the role of the state in society. On the contrary, their analysis of bureaucratic state capitalism helped to make considerable inroads into prevailing Labourist and state socialist assumptions that the existing state could be captured by electoral means and used as an agent of through-going social reform." [Bob Holton, British Syndicalism: 1900-1914, p. 204]

As for "taking political power", this ignores the whole anarchist critique of Marxism -- namely that the state is a centralised body which has evolved specifically to exclude the majority for participating in decision making. The notion that the working class can take "political power" just shows a confusion between a few leaders holding power and the class as a whole. Anarchist argue for the latter, arguing that we need new forms of social organisation (unions, workers' councils, communes, whatever) to smash the state and to form the basis of a free society.

Anarcho
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Jun 18 2008 08:31
Alf wrote:
However, the "anarcho-syndicalist line" (later reproduced to all intents and purposes by Ruhle) hardly provides the antidote to this misconception, since it evades the question of political power and focuses on taking over the means of production: in other words, it tends to reduce the soviets and factory committees to organs of economic self-management rather than seeing their fundamentally political role as the organisers of the proletarian dictatorship.

Which ignores the actual politics of anarcho-syndicalism in favour of the decisions made in July 1936 when, in the face of unknown and difficult circumstances, the CNT leadership decided not to pursue their political programme in favour of co-operating in "Worker Alliance" style organisations with other unions and political parties.

If you read the actual political programme of the CNT, plus other anarchist thinkers, as well as the actual practice of the CNT from 1931-6 you would see that they were well aware of the need to destroy "political power" and create a new society based on federations of workplace and community assemblies.

The real question has, therefore, nothing to do with claims that syndicalism ignores the state in favour of "focus[ing] on taking over the means of production". It does not. Rather, it is to do with why the CNT ignored its own politics in July 1936. And, to be honest, any serious analysis would have to place that in the objective circumstances the CNT faced at the time. This explains, but does not justify, what happened.

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Jun 18 2008 10:39

As for "taking political power", this ignores the whole anarchist critique of Marxism -- namely that the state is a centralised body which has evolved specifically to exclude the majority for participating in decision making. The notion that the working class can take "political power" just shows a confusion between a few leaders holding power and the class as a whole. Anarchist argue for the latter, arguing that we need new forms of social organisation (unions, workers' councils, communes, whatever) to smash the state and to form the basis of a free society.

I accept that the views of anarchists about the revolutionary process can be thrown into an all cats are grey heap in some marxist writings. But what tends to unite all the anarchist currents is the idea that the state as a historic form of organisation can be simply replaced by a 'free society' after the revolution, in other words that after the destruction of the bourgeois state a new form state organistion will not inevitably arise (the 'semi-state' of the transition period). Since marxists see this as an inevitable product of the survival of class divisions in the transitional phase, then arguing that the state 'as such' is simply abolished by the revolution is indeed a way of evading the problem.

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Django
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Jun 18 2008 14:15

So horizontal workers' insitutions which direct both production and distribution and the suppression of the bourgoisie, which is both what anarchists and left communists advocate, are formed, right?

DJ-TC
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Jun 18 2008 16:23
Quote:
The Bolsheviks were part of the international socialist left prior to and during the first world war, and they cannot really be understood as a specifically 'Russian' phenomenon.

Reducing Bolsheviks to internationalism is not a valid line to take. Let us revise: internationalism was not a specific Russian Marxist phenomenon, but bolshevism was.

Quote:
The problem with the Bolsheviks (and most other marxists at the time, including Rosa Luxemburg) was that they saw the seizure of power by the proletariat as involving the election of a workers' party to the head to the soviet state. This was an error born of inexperience and the survival of bourgeois, parliamentary conceptions.

Thus, if this is true, Orthodox Marxism suffered from illness of electoral politics, and council communism made a clear break: AAUD saw the "dictatorship of the proletariat" embodied principally in the workers' councils, not in the "capture of state power".

"Seizure of power", namely, social power, isn't merely an act that can be left to a political action of a "proletarian party". Organisation of "political power" of the working class can only be established through so-called (in classic syndicalist term) "economic organisations" - councils - local, productional, professional.

Quote:
However, the "anarcho-syndicalist line" (later reproduced to all intents and purposes by Ruhle) hardly provides the antidote to this misconception, since it evades the question of political power and focuses on taking over the means of production: in other words, it tends to reduce the soviets and factory committees to organs of economic self-management rather than seeing their fundamentally political role as the organisers of the proletarian dictatorship. You recognise this weakness in anarcho-syndicalism in Spain in 1936, but the same errors were made in Russia in 1917 in a different context.

Comrade Anarcho responded well to this point.

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Alf
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Jun 18 2008 21:16

Reducing Bolsheviks to internationalism is not a valid line to take. Let us revise: internationalism was not a specific Russian Marxist phenomenon, but bolshevism was.

That is a strange turn of phrase - "reducing Bolshevism to internationalism". Internationalism is the highest principle of the proletarian movement, and only proletarian organisations are capable of defending it. .

I'll come back to the other points later.

DJ-TC
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Jun 18 2008 21:49

Alf, you're missing the point. Even if we call it "the highest principle" it is still criminal to measure bolshevism solely by that.

Leo
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Jun 18 2008 22:07
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Thus, if this is true, Orthodox Marxism suffered from illness of electoral politics, and council communism made a clear break

I'll even go ahead and say that marxism in general "suffered from the illness of electoral politics". And yes, it was always a rather dangerous thing to do.

Yet then again there was not much other options at that time, and the parliaments were not what they are now. How can anyone expect people to make a council communist break break from electoral politics when councils did not even exist?

I think it is necessary to judge things while keeping in mind the conditions of the time period.

Quote:
AAUD saw the "dictatorship of the proletariat" embodied principally in the workers' councils, not in the "capture of state power".

Well, you know, so did the Bolsheviks, at least for a while.

And in the early years, at least the theoretical positions of the council communists and the Bolsheviks on the question of the party, the soviets, and the seizure of power was not that different, despite there being some differences of course.

Quote:
Organisation of "political power" of the working class can only be established through so-called (in classic syndicalist term) "economic organisations" - councils - local, productional, professional.

Of course this is far from the KAPD position. Had this been the KAPD position, then they would have argued that the Unionen should take power, not the workers councils. This would of course make them syndicalists rather than council communists.

Workers councils are neither local nor productional or professional organizations, and they are not craft or industrial organizations either and they are not factor committees also. In other words they are not economical organizations at all. Workers councils are political organizations of the entire proletariat: they regroup all proletarians, be them industrial workers, agricultural workers, housewives, proletarian soldiers etc. and they are centralized organs for the entire proletariat to come together and take decisions collectively, independently and needless to say in the interests of the entire proletarait as well.

This was the perspective of the council-communists as well, and it just doesn't go with the anarcho-syndicalist perspective at all.

Anyway, how is everything going man?

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Alf
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Jun 18 2008 22:10

Alf, you're missing the point. Even if we call it "the highest principle" it is still criminal to measure bolshevism solely by that.

Why criminal? In 1914 they were absoluely in the forefront of internationalist opposition to the war on a world scale. I think it is a serious misjudgement to 'reduce' this to a secondary point compared to the terrible errors they made once they were in power.

DJ-TC
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Jun 18 2008 23:49
Quote:
Workers councils are neither local nor productional or professional organizations, and they are not craft or industrial organizations either and they are not factor committees also. In other words they are not economical organizations at all. Workers councils are political organizations of the entire proletariat: they regroup all proletarians, be them industrial workers, agricultural workers, housewives, proletarian soldiers etc. and they are centralized organs for the entire proletariat to come together and take decisions collectively, independently and needless to say in the interests of the entire proletarait as well.

They are "economic organisations" in the sense that they are based not on political affiliations, but social position of the working class, that is to say, they spring out of speciffic conditions of economic organisation and exploitation of labor. They of course transcend this division in their total social character.

The workers' councils that embody the power of the working class in a certain area do not come about from nowhere: rather, they are councils of delegates who were elected precisely in these "economic organisations" - factory councils/committees, professional and local councils, etc.

It's important to understand the semantics if we're to engage in discussion on political ideas of that time. Anarcho-syndicalists used that term to distinguish workplace federations (thus "economic") from political parties (thus "political"); it were precisely workplace gropus and organisations that reflected and anticipated councilist forms of proletarian organisation. I believe only workplace organisations (like Ruhle's Einheitsorganisation) are the means to reflect the ends. (Don't get me wrong: I do agree workers' councils are political organisations, but it's important do define things on more than one level.)

Quote:
This was the perspective of the council-communists as well, and it just doesn't go with the anarcho-syndicalist perspective at all.

I wouldn't be so sure about that. What anarcho-syndicalist perspective are you talking about? Golos Truda?

Quote:
Anyway, how is everything going man?

Everything is really good. I was hoping to come to Turkey this summer, but I'll have to pass again. :-/

Quote:
In 1914 they were absoluely in the forefront of internationalist opposition to the war on a world scale. I think it is a serious misjudgement to 'reduce' this to a secondary point compared to the terrible errors they made once they were in power.

I'm not reducing it, obviously. I'm against any attempt to justify Bolsheviks by their internationalist positions, because that's not the only characteristic - albeit a positive one - that Bolshevism carries.

Anarcho
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Jun 19 2008 08:57
Alf wrote:
But what tends to unite all the anarchist currents is the idea that the state as a historic form of organisation can be simply replaced by a 'free society' after the revolution, in other words that after the destruction of the bourgeois state a new form state organistion will not inevitably arise (the 'semi-state' of the transition period).

I should point out that anarchists have argued that a revolution would need to defend itself. Bakunin called for a militia, for example, based around a federation of communes (the communes made up of delegates from workplaces and neighbourhoods). This new social organisation is based on mass participation, the decentralisation of decision making into the hands of the people as well as the expropriation of capital.

This would be a free society, in that the oppressed have freed themselves from their masters. They are defending that freedom from those who seek to enslave them again. It is hardly a state, or even a "semi-state." Even in terms of Marxism, this is not a state.

Somewhat ironically, Engels provided more than enough support for the anarchist position. It is perfectly possible to have social organisation and it not be a state. When discussing the Native American Iroquois Confederacy, Engels noted that "organ of the Confederacy was a Federal Council" which was "elected . . . and could always be removed" by popular assemblies. There was "no chief executive" but "two supreme war chiefs" and "[w]hen war broke out it was carried on mainly by volunteers." Yet this was "the organisation of a society which as yet knows no state." [Marx-Engels Selected Works, p. 517, p. 518 and p. 516]

In the anarchist commune there is a federal council elected and mandated by popular assemblies. These, in turn, are federated in a similar bottom-up manner. The means of production have been expropriated and held by society as a whole and so classes have been abolished. Volunteer militias have been organised for self-defence against counter-revolutionary attempts to subject the free people to authority. Why is this not a society which "knows no state"? Is it because the anarchist commune is fighting against the capitalist class? If so, does this mean that the Iroquois Confederacy became a state when it waged war against those seeking to impose bourgeois rule on them? That is doubtful and so Marx's assertion is simply wrong and reflects both the confusion at the heart of the Marxist theory of the state and the illogical depths Marxists sink to when attacking anarchism.

Alf wrote:
Since marxists see this as an inevitable product of the survival of class divisions in the transitional phase, then arguing that the state 'as such' is simply abolished by the revolution is indeed a way of evading the problem.

Which assumes, of course, that the anarchist and Marxist definitions of the state are identical. They are not. The Marxist one is a metaphysical confusion, trying to draw some abstraction from history (i.e., an instrument of class rule). Anarchists base their definition on an empricial analysis of the state, its role and how it evolved. Once you do that, it becomes obvious the state is an instrument of minority class rule which has evolved to exclude the masses from power. When the masses are controlling their own fate, it is simply confusion on the highest level to call this new social organisation a state.

And as the Bolsheviks showed, this confusion can be utilised by those really in power to justify all kinds of repression against the masses in whose name the new ruling minority governs.

dave c
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Jun 20 2008 01:27

Anarcho:

Quote:
In the anarchist commune there is a federal council elected and mandated by popular assemblies. These, in turn, are federated in a similar bottom-up manner. The means of production have been expropriated and held by society as a whole and so classes have been abolished. Volunteer militias have been organised for self-defence against counter-revolutionary attempts to subject the free people to authority. Why is this not a society which "knows no state"? Is it because the anarchist commune is fighting against the capitalist class? (My bold)

If the abolition of classes is a precondition for the existence of the anarchist commune, how can the commune fight against the capitalist class?

Anarcho:

Quote:
Which assumes, of course, that the anarchist and Marxist definitions of the state are identical. They are not. The Marxist one is a metaphysical confusion, trying to draw some abstraction from history (i.e., an instrument of class rule). Anarchists base their definition on an empricial analysis of the state, its role and how it evolved. Once you do that, it becomes obvious the state is an instrument of minority class rule which has evolved to exclude the masses from power.

Certainly Marx sometimes used the word "state" in a transhistorical manner to describe something like "an instrument of class rule." With this usage he drew a distinction between communism and all forms of class society. We could say that under the umbrella of this general definition we see that Marx developed, to a greater or lesser extent, particular theories of the bourgeois state, and of the transitional state prior to the establishment of a classless, communist society. But back to the general, transhistorical definition. How is this simple definition based on a metaphysical confusion? Marx's understanding of the bourgeois state, though it is historically specific, is still using an abstraction drawn from history, and is not a theory of any particular state. But Marx clearly saw value in abstracting from particular bourgeois states in order to understand their common characteristics. Are you claiming that the "anarchist" definition is somehow not "an abstraction drawn from history"? And you claim that an empirical analysis of the state throughout history yields, not any theories of the different forms of political rule in different epochs, but a definition of the state as "an instrument of minority class rule." And with this now "obvious" definition, the Marxist metaphysics is revealed for the thorough confusion that it is!

Anarcho opposes one definition of the state to another as if he has made an argument against Marxism, revealing "confusion on the highest level"! Once you have defined the state (based on a thorough empirical analysis, to be sure) as "an instrument of minority class rule" instead of "an instrument of class rule" it becomes supremely obvious that Marx was confused or wicked. The trick is simple: we take Marx's understanding of a transitional state, and superimpose the new, improved "anarchist" definition, and it is revealed that Marx wanted to impose a new form of minority rule! Marx wanted to "exclude the masses from power," or even if he didn't really consciously want to do that, his theory, as you mindlessly interpret it, says so! Therefore it is confused. Of course this is not a demonstration of confusion within Marx's theory at all, which is what was aimed at. Marx held, quite consistently, that

Quote:
The abolition of the state has meaning with the Communists, only as the necessary consequence of the abolition of classes, with which the need for the organised might of one class to keep the others down automatically disappears (MECW, vol. 10, 333).

I hardly think that his usage of the word "state" in passages such as this shows any "metaphysical confusion" (and we are dealing here with a transhistorical usage). Perhaps Marx is simply a metaphysician because he worships "the goddess science" and wants "to force the life of future generations" into "an ideal social organization" devised in his mind (Statism and Anarchy, 133). But imagine the trouble of investigating Bakunin's uses of the word "state"! He writes,

Quote:
All States belonging to the revolutionary federation must play an active role in any war waged by any of its members upon an unfederated State. Before declaring war, each federated State must notify the international parliament, and only make its declaration if the latter rules that there is adequate cause. If it so rules, the federated executive directory will take up the cause of the offended State and request prompt reparation from the foreign aggressor State in the name of the whole revolutionary federation. If, however, the parliament rules that there has been no aggression and no genuine offence, it will advise the plaintiff State not to embark on war, giving warning that if it does so, it will act alone. (Bakunin, Selected Writings, ed. Arthur Lehning, 75-76)

But I thought that the Official anarchist definition of the word "state" implied minority rule? What confusion, and what metaphysics! Oh, but that was written for the secret brotherhood, the Official definition remains untarnished. We must accept that the revolt of life against science is not always logically consistent. Rather than listen to Anarcho's presentation of the anarchist and "Marxist" arguments as such, one would do better to read Bakunin. His arguments against Marx are fantastic!

Anarcho
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Jun 20 2008 15:16
dave c wrote:
If the abolition of classes is a precondition for the existence of the anarchist commune, how can the commune fight against the capitalist class?

Because, obviously, the revolution starts in a certain geographical area and then has to spread. That should be obvious, but never mind. And, of course, it would have to defend itself against those ex-capitalists who seek to recreate their social position.

dave c wrote:
Certainly Marx sometimes used the word "state" in a transhistorical manner to describe something like "an instrument of class rule." . . . How is this simple definition based on a metaphysical confusion?

Because it is drawing some kind of essence of "the state" which simply does not exist. It implies that a state structure can be used by the masses when, in fact, every state has evolved to exclude the masses.

dave c wrote:
Marx's understanding of the bourgeois state, though it is historically specific, is still using an abstraction drawn from history, and is not a theory of any particular state. But Marx clearly saw value in abstracting from particular bourgeois states in order to understand their common characteristics.

Changing the defintions here. Marx and Engels were talking about the state as such, NOT the bourgeois state. He saw the value in abstracting from all particularly states and so failed to understand their actual common characteristics. Which was my point, the state is not a neutral machine which can be used by the masses.

dave c wrote:
Are you claiming that the "anarchist" definition is somehow not "an abstraction drawn from history"? And you claim that an empirical analysis of the state throughout history yields, not any theories of the different forms of political rule in different epochs, but a definition of the state as "an instrument of minority class rule." And with this now "obvious" definition, the Marxist metaphysics is revealed for the thorough confusion that it is!

Different forms of state have evolved to meet the needs of different ruling classes ruling over different forms of class and hierarchical society. What they have in common is that they are instruments of minority class rule. Anarchism does not generalise into the notion of a "state" which is an instrument of majority classes, as this is something which has not existed -- nor could it, given what makes a state a state.

dave c wrote:
Anarcho opposes one definition of the state to another as if he has made an argument against Marxism, revealing "confusion on the highest level"! Once you have defined the state (based on a thorough empirical analysis, to be sure) as "an instrument of minority class rule" instead of "an instrument of class rule" it becomes supremely obvious that Marx was confused or wicked.

Wicked? Really, how? And you have skillfully ignored my point, namely that calling a federation of communes a state shows great confusion of mind. Which is precisely why anarchists have not done so once we have become aware of the problems such a confusion creates. Still, let us ignore that an instead mistakenly imply that I think Marx is "wicked"...

dave c wrote:
The trick is simple: we take Marx's understanding of a transitional state, and superimpose the new, improved "anarchist" definition, and it is revealed that Marx wanted to impose a new form of minority rule! Marx wanted to "exclude the masses from power," or even if he didn't really consciously want to do that, his theory, as you mindlessly interpret it, says so! Therefore it is confused.

You really have no idea what I'm arguing, do you? I'm arguing that Marx's notions fail to see the difference between mass participation in newly created popular organisations and electing a socialist government into power. And as history has shown, this produced a dictatorship over the proletariat when implemented.

dave c wrote:
Of course this is not a demonstration of confusion within Marx's theory at all, which is what was aimed at. Marx held, quite consistently, that
Quote:
The abolition of the state has meaning with the Communists, only as the necessary consequence of the abolition of classes, with which the need for the organised might of one class to keep the others down automatically disappears (MECW, vol. 10, 333).

I hardly think that his usage of the word "state" in passages such as this shows any "metaphysical confusion" (and we are dealing here with a transhistorical usage).

Actually, it does. Marx and Engels both argued that universal suffrage equalled the "political power" of the working class and that the bourgeois republic could be used by the proletariat to exercise its dictatorship (Engels called it the "specific form" of the proletarian dictatorship). The notion that representative government, based on universal suffrage, means anything but a workers' power in power is confused. It is a confusion which the Bolsheviks utilised to defend, among other things, the dictatorship of the party.

dave c wrote:
But imagine the trouble of investigating Bakunin's uses of the word "state"! . . . But I thought that the Official anarchist definition of the word "state" implied minority rule? What confusion, and what metaphysics!

Christ, this is pathetic. Yes, Bakunin in the 1860s used the term "state" to describe a revolutionary social organisation. However, he came to recognise the problems in that and the confusions it could cause. To quote Daniel Guérin, initially Bakunin used the term state "as synonyms for 'social collective.' The anarchists soon saw, however, that it was rather dangerous for them to use the same word as the authoritarians while giving it a quite different meaning. They felt that a new concept called for a new word and that the use of the old term could be dangerously ambiguous; so they ceased to give the name 'State' to the social collective of the future." [Anarchism, pp. 60-1] Anarchist thinkers since Bakunin have been quite consistent in this issue, unlike Bakunin -- who was, of course, breaking new ground and so it is understandable that he sometimes made errors in presentation of his ideas.

dave c wrote:
Oh, but that was written for the secret brotherhood, the Official definition remains untarnished. We must accept that the revolt of life against science is not always logically consistent. Rather than listen to Anarcho's presentation of the anarchist and "Marxist" arguments as such, one would do better to read Bakunin. His arguments against Marx are fantastic!

Christ, you really don't have a clue, do you? Still, I would agree with you -- do read Bakunin. His critique is excellent. Also read Marx and Engels -- to do so shows how confused their theory of the state actually was.

Still, it is nice to see that the whole point of my post has been ignored. oh, hum. Still, the fact that both Marx and Engels could think that workers could capture the (bourgeois) republic (perhaps by universal suffrage) and use it to implement communism shows great confusion of mind. Which, I argue, flows from their flawed analysis of the state as "an instrument of class rule". Anarchists have not shared that particularly illusions which suggests that their analysis is superior.

dave c
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Jun 20 2008 20:55
Quote:
Quote:
dave c wrote:
Certainly Marx sometimes used the word "state" in a transhistorical manner to describe something like "an instrument of class rule." . . . How is this simple definition based on a metaphysical confusion?

Because it is drawing some kind of essence of "the state" which simply does not exist. It implies that a state structure can be used by the masses when, in fact, every state has evolved to exclude the masses.

The "essence," namely "an instrument of class rule" does not exist because theoretical abstractions (whether drawn from history or not) do not "exist" except as abstractions. In Marx's social theory, however, the category does describe all states based on minority rule, and the theoretically posited transitional state not based on minority rule. There is no "metaphysical confusion" whatsoever. Your second sentence is premised on the idea that there is some specific "state structure" based on exclusion of the masses that defines the state as such. Since you define the state as a form of minority rule it is tautological that it excludes the masses from that rule. But Marx's theory does not imply any of this, so it is a ridiculous criticism. For Marx, there is no transhistorical "state structure" that is common to all states. For you there is "a state structure" as such, and you read into Marx's theory the implication that this transhistorical "state structure" should be used in the transitional period. Marx was not confused in calling this transitional form a state, since he was being consistent with his definition of the state and asserting that "an instrument of class rule" would exist in the transition period. His theory is consistent, and therefore he is not confused in that sense. Perhaps you meant that his usage is "confusing."

Anarcho:

Quote:
Changing the defintions here. Marx and Engels were talking about the state as such, NOT the bourgeois state. He saw the value in abstracting from all particularly states and so failed to understand their actual common characteristics. Which was my point, the state is not a neutral machine which can be used by the masses.

I was simply trying to point out that even a usage of the word "state" describing a historically specific type of state is an "abstraction drawn from history." If we say that the state is a machine (neutral or not), we implicitly endow this machine with particular characteristics, which makes sense if we are talking about a machine. But when it comes to forms of class rule (which is the definition of state we are dealing with), we are not describing a machine. You could say, if you wanted to, that we are describing different machines, but never "a neutral machine." Claiming that Marx did not understand the common characteristics of historical states is ridiculous. When the first form of "workers' government," the Commune, came along, Marx clearly wrote that it was "a thoroughly expansive political form, while all the previous forms of government had been emphatically repressive." (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/ch05.htm) They were based on minority rule, as he recognized. The Commune was nonetheless a "workers' government," a new form of government, different from "all previous forms of government." Perhaps there are some other ways of characterizing all previous forms of government other than their being forms of minority rule that you don't think Marx understood. In any case, it would still be irrelevant to your argument that Marx showed a "metaphysical confusion" in calling the dictatorship of the proletariat a state, since he was not trying to draw formal parallels with past states.

Anarcho:

Quote:
Anarchism does not generalise into the notion of a "state" which is an instrument of majority classes, as this is something which has not existed -- nor could it, given what makes a state a state.

And I have never claimed that your usage of the word state here cannot be internally consistent. But to take this as an argument against Marx is absurd. What for you cannot exist, cannot exist because of how you are defining your terms--which is fine.

Anarcho:

Quote:
Marx and Engels both argued that universal suffrage equalled the "political power" of the working class and that the bourgeois republic could be used by the proletariat to exercise its dictatorship (Engels called it the "specific form" of the proletarian dictatorship). The notion that representative government, based on universal suffrage, means anything but a workers' power in power is confused.

That last sentence looks a bit confused to me smile , but Marx did not confine his usage of "republic" or "universal suffrage" to the bourgeois republic. In The Civil War in France, we find:

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Instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to misrepresent the people in Parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people, constituted in Communes . . . .

and

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The cry of "social republic", with which the February Revolution was ushered in by the Paris proletariat, did but express a vague aspiration after a republic that was not only to supercede the monarchical form of class rule, but class rule itself. The Commune was the positive form of that republic.

The "parliamentary republic" is described as "the proper form" of the "joint-stock government" which was "formed by all the rival fractions and factions of the appropriating classes" (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/ch05.htm)

The point is that for Marx, the "bourgeois republic" is based on the anarchy of capitalist civil society and the political alienation of the citizenry. This is clear from On the Jewish Question, The German Ideology or The Civil War in France, for example. The "social republic," or a working class government, is characterized by the resumption of the alienated powers of the masses--the masses of civil society take on political functions which previously belonged to a separate political sphere of "hierarchic investiture." This is why it is important to distinguish between Marx's transhistorical use of the word "state," and his specific uses of the word "state" to describe the bourgeois republic or the "social republic." These two forms do not have any inherently shared "state structure" just because they are both "states" in terms of the general usage of the word.

With regards to Bakunin, at the same time that he was dreaming up his federation of parliamentary States characterized by "universal suffrage" (Selected Writings, 66), he was saying that "the advent of liberty is incompatible with the existence of States." (88) In the free State, however, the "national parliament" would pass laws, fix taxation, etc. There will be a "national executive government" elected "with a limited term of office" (73). An-archy!

Angelus Novus
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Jun 20 2008 20:47
Anarcho wrote:
Anarchist thinkers since Bakunin have been quite consistent in this issue, unlike Bakunin -- who was, of course, breaking new ground and so it is understandable that he sometimes made errors in presentation of his ideas.

Yeah, dave c., don't you get it? When Proudhon advocates the extermination of Jews, when Bakunin calls for the revolutionary dictatorship of a secret society, when Kropotkin supports an imperialist war, and when the CNT-FAI participates in a bourgeois government, these are all regrettable but ultimately non-essential to the pure, true anarchist position.

But every single thing that Marx ever wrote at every period in his life is the communist position, period. And any communists who might disagree with anything Marx ever said are really closer to anarchism, dig?

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Alf
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Jun 20 2008 21:23

It seems that for Anarcho Bakunin is allowed to develop and clarify his position (even if Dave C's post argues strongly that he just held two positions at the same time). But he gives no quarter to Marx and Engels: from start to finish they are for the workers taking hold of the bourgeois state, without any recognition of the fundamental advances they made, based on analysing the real experience of the class (ie after 1848 and 1871), or the regressions that did take place, as in some of Engels' later writings. Anarcho's method is a static one, and he projects that onto Marx and Engels.

baboon
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Jun 21 2008 11:29

On "reducing Bolshevism to internationalism or the International':
Whatever the weaknesses of the Communist International (not least its federalism and all the weaknesses that inevitably flow from that) and whatever the weaknesses of the Bolsheviks, the role of the latter in the former, and particularly its First Congress, must be the highest expression of proletarian consciousness: the terminal bankruptcy of capitalism; the bankruptcy of the trade unions; the positive role of the soviets and the seizure of power by the proletariat as a class; proletarian power the only alternative to the descent of capitalism into barbarism and war. It denounced the sham of bourgeois democracy, parliament and elections, as well as the betrayal of the right wing of Social Democracy, the "outright lackys of capitalism", with a clear delineation from the centrism of Kautsky.
It clearly called for the mass struggle and direct confrontation with the capitalist machine of all bourgeois states, at the same time calling for the unity of all proletarian forces such as the anarcho-syndicalists.

For Anarcho above, the First World War wasn't a "test of truth" for any anarchist organisation. If he's right (which he's not), then anarchist organisations were the only political organisations - whether on the side of the bourgeoisie, centrist or on the side of the proletariat - that were not tested by the new oonditions of World War I.

Mike Harman
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Jun 21 2008 11:45
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the bankruptcy of the trade unions;

Not exactly a position supported by the Bolsheviks this, was it.

DJ-TC
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Jun 21 2008 12:20

And here's something on anarcho-syndicalists and the councils:

Anarchosyndicalism and Sovietism by Rudolf Rocker.

Black Badger
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Jun 21 2008 12:43

There seems to be a lot of positive cross-fertilization in terms of the practice of each tendency (syndicalist and councilist) and a lot of animosity in terms of the respective theories of each. Is this a war of analysis? Whoever has the most historically based and dialectical analysis of councils is the winner? The polemics going back and forth, with jabs both wild and on the button, are sometimes funny to observe. Mostly it's puzzling. I'm not convinced it matters who has the "best" analysis of the state so long as executive authority (don't know how else to put it) rests in the general assembly or plenum of all those self-organized in councils rather than in a self-selected party or a clique of delegates.

tsi
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Jun 21 2008 16:00
Black Badger wrote:
Is this a war of analysis? Whoever has the most historically based and dialectical analysis of councils is the winner?

I must be a real nerd. I actually laughed out loud at this.

Angelus Novus
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Jun 21 2008 22:28
Black Badger wrote:
Is this a war of analysis? Whoever has the most historically based and dialectical analysis of councils is the winner?

Well, yeah. Loren Goldner notes in a recent interview that many people who start out as anarchists soon abandon it for some variant of left-communism simply because anarchism is so intellectually thin.

If anarchists had a tradition of the critique of political economy with figures to equal Marx or Rubin, or theorists of the state to equal Paschukanis, Joachim Hirsch, Heide Gerstenberger, or John Holloway, it might be of some interest.

Anarchism is of interest solely as a historical movement, not as a school of thought, and what little contributions it has made to the communist movement have been at the level of practice, and not even a particularly successful practice, at that. But as a theoretical tradition it's really boring.

What's an example of a major anarchist contribution to theory? Murray Bookchin?? Sheeyit.

Black Badger
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Jun 21 2008 22:51

How about the cumulative practice of various people actively engaged in self-organized consciously radical acts of class conflict? Those doing so don't need to read long expositions of political economy by graduate students writing their doctoral theses or professors writing another peer-reviewed paper for a philosophy journal--their actions are the critique. The tendency toward an over-reliance on intellectual theory (almost always written after the fact, thanks so much for the advice comrades) appears to prepare the self-selected professional revolutionaries to jump into the action with the correct critique of political economy and the program to intervene as a conscious minority with the ability to inject that analysis and that program for... the seizure of state power or the implementation of the dreaded dictatorship of the proletariat of course. It all comes back to the issue of executive power doesn't it? So it seems that the left-communists still have that nagging urge to grasp the mechanisms of command and control.

The blathering of Angelus Novus makes me want to be an anti-intellectual. Why does anyone require the likes of Goldner et al to explain what it is we're doing? If there's a left-communist beside me at the barricades to defend the councils, I don't care how much or who she's read, as long as at the end of the day she doesn't try to intimidate, coerce, manipulate, or deceive anyone into relinquishing one iota of our collective strength--whether through some representative body of delegates or an outright usurpation in the form of a state. I don't need to have a critique of political economy to know when someone's acting like a politician.