The Revolutionary Party and the Working Class

The document by the internationalists of Battaglia Comunista on “The Role and Structure of the Revolutionary Organisation” comes from the Second of the International Conferences called by the Internationalist Communist Party [Battaglia Comunista] which took place in 1978. It has never been published in English by us before [1] but we are doing so as part of a discussion on the role and structure of the revolutionary party inside the Internationalist Communist Tendency which will culminate in a meeting later this year. It is the first of a series of such documents dealing with different aspects of the party question so we are prefacing this with a few words by way of background.

One of the central and most vexed questions (at least since the failure of the revolution in Russia) has been the question of the role and nature of a revolutionary minority of the working class, the party. Each generation it seems has to confront the question anew but can only do so adequately if it takes into account the real achievements of previous struggles and previous generations of proletarians. This was the case for the forerunners of the Communist Workers’ Organisation in the UK which like other left communist organisations was formed following the end of the capitalist post-war boom in the early 1970s. It was a time of great suspicion towards the failed legacy of the Russian Revolution as exemplified in the Stalinist USSR and there was much sympathy for the views of Otto Rühle that “all parties are bourgeois”. After all the collapse of Social Democracy, in the face of imperialist war, followed not long after by the rise of the partyocracy in the USSR, alongside the abandonment of world revolution by the Third International seemed to wipe out the idea that mass parties and “vanguard” parties alike had anything to offer the working class. For those who entirely rejected the notion that the USSR had anything to do with socialism but was in fact a peculiar form of state capitalism the whole party question was problematic. So much so that councilism and the cult of “spontaneity” exerted an enormous influence at that time.

However, the real nature of working class revolution stubbornly keeps coming back to confront revolutionaries. Unlike other antagonistic and subordinate classes in history, the working class has no form of property to defend. It is the propertyless class. Unlike the bourgeoisie it cannot make incremental gains by getting rid of this law or abolishing that privilege under the old regime. Its only “property” is its ability to labour (and produce surplus value for the exploiting class) and its only weapons, as Anton Pannekoek noted, are it’s “consciousness and its organisation”. And here lies the problem which Marx confronted in The German Ideology. If the following is true:

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.”

How can the working class ever break free from such dominance? The answer lies firstly in the insoluble contradictions of the system. These include regular and periodic economic crises and the fact that its continued existence depends on the increasing exploitation of a class which is “in civil society but not of civil society”, the working class (proletariat). The class responds to this situation by coming together to resist exploitation by collective action which occasionally takes the form of wider insurrections. The class struggle is the school for an alternative to capitalist exploitation. But in the course of the struggle it is inevitable that some workers (and some non-workers who can see through the system and identify with the working class) come to an awareness, a consciousness, of the need for something more than the daily guerrilla war against capitalism. They perceive the need for a political programme which goes beyond the system itself. However, as a minority in the class, they have to organise themselves to take their aims further so what more natural than to create an organisation, a party, which unifies both them and all the gains in consciousness that the class struggle has historically produced?

The problem of the nature, role and structure of the proletarian political party was now posed. And it would not be answered in the short term. Marx initially thought he had found it in the International Workingmen’s Association or First International. In its Rules he posed its key ingredient. “The emancipation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves”. By this he meant not that the workers did not need a party (as the councilists misinterpret that quote) but that at last the working class had its own political body independent from all bourgeois organisations. However the First International was riven by disputes, particularly with the followers of Bakunin and Proudhon and died as a real force after a decade or so. In its place came Social Democracy which in some ways was a step backward since it was based on national parties. It sank deep roots in the working class at a time when bourgeois control of the media and ways of reaching the mass of the population were largely ineffective. Social Democracy grew into a movement of millions and began to create the illusion that capitalism could be gradually conquered through the ballot box or at least peacefully. The revolution which Marx saw in The German Ideology as essential for wiping the slate of past domination clean (see Thesis 5 in the document which follows) was relegated to some distant and unspecified future (the so-called maximum programme).

In fact, far from acting as a repository of communist consciousness in the class the opposite was happening. The presence of genuine revolutionaries in Social Democracy only served to disguise the fact “the movement”, increasingly riddled with nationalist and imperialist notions, was actually integrating the working class into capitalism. This was not clearly revealed until 1914 when the vast bulk of Social Democratic parties of the so-called Second International voted to support the machinations of their “own” government and marched the working class off to imperialist war. And in the revolutionary wave after the war Social Democracy provided its second service to capitalism by continuing to support the capitalist suppression of the first genuinely international attempt at working class revolution. The Social Democrats in Germany (in particular) mobilised their masses against the masses who followed the newly-founded Communist Parties, thus ensuring the defeat of the revolution outside Russia. This in turn led to the final victory of counter-revolution in an isolated Russia. That counter-revolution was to be carried out by the very party which had led the revolution in the first place.

The Bolsheviks were one of the few parties in Social Democracy to reject nationalism and imperialism, and as a result came to wield an enormous influence inside the revolutionary class movement in Russia. Here the war had brought death, destitution and quasi-starvation and, in the weakest link of the capitalist chain, revolution was on the agenda. The Bolshevik Party was not a disciplined mass as later Stalinist (and Trotskyist) mythology would portray it. It was full of lively debate about what the revolution should be and how it would come about. What, however, was significant about it was that, though relatively small in 1914 it was present within the wider working class and perceived to stand for clear positions against both Tsarism and the war. This marked it out as did its unwavering support for the soviets as real working class bodies capable of replacing capitalist rule. This made it a rallying point for all those who saw that proletarian revolution was the only solution.

What it did not debate very much was the role and position of the party in the coming revolution. In this respect it assumed that the main aim was for the party to grow and once it had enough support to “take power”. In short it still largely accepted the Social Democratic notion that the party represents the class and thus carries out the revolution in its name. Thus, when the Provisional Government made up of Social Democrats of various hues, was overthrown instead of passing power to the Executive Committee of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets it was decided that a new government would stand above it, the Council of People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom). And once the Left Socialist Revolutionaries abandoned it this became a single party government. The party thus came to be the state and there was no separation between them. Few at the time saw the danger, not only for the revolution, but also for the idea of a revolutionary party, especially once the consequences of the isolation of the revolution became apparent.

The Russian Revolution we have dealt with, and will deal with, further elsewhere. Here we simply want to make a brief comment about revolutionary organisation. The Russian Revolution demonstrated that the party, revolutionary minority or whatever else you want to call it doesn’t start the revolution and it doesn’t finish it either. But it exists in the class before the revolution and participates in the revolution from the beginning. Its influence goes beyond its membership. It exerts a leadership as a guide pointing the way forward and criticising all those who aim to halt the revolutionary process. It may even lead insurrection wherever this is necessary but insurrection is not revolution and this ultimately can only be carried out by the mass of the class once they have gone through the revolutionary experience themselves. And it is the class-wide organs (councils or soviets, local committees etc) which are the real transformers of society. This is simply because socialism cannot be brought in by decree but only by the conscious self-activity of the mass of the class once it has taken up the programme proposed by its own revolutionary minority, its party.

It is a complex issue and has many aspects which pose many questions which we will be addressing in the coming months. One thing though is clear – the idea of a mass party in advance of the revolution belongs to the past. The collapse of Social Democracy revealed this in 1914 as did the abortive attempts of the Comintern to form united fronts with Social Democracy as the revolutionary wave declined in 1921-2. It was an error repeated by the Trotskyists from the 1930s onwards when they went into “entryism” into the Social Democratic parties and which wiped them out as a revolutionary tendency. As the Platform of the Committee of Intesa put it in response to the united front

“It is mistaken to think that in every situation expedients and tactical manoeuvres can widen the Party base since relations between the party and the masses depend in large part on the objective situation”.[2]

The first task of revolutionaries is to defend a revolutionary perspective whatever the situation and not chase this or that opportunist or short-term policy to attempt to build an organisation on false (and dishonest) premises. The brief document here is a starting point for what we hope will be renewed debate on the various issues facing the formation of a truly international and internationalist class party.

CWO

The Role and Structure of the Revolutionary Organisation

Communist Consciousness

We hold to the acquisitions of revolutionary theory elaborated by Marx in The German Ideology, confirmed by the practical and theoretical work of Lenin, reaffirmed by the first two Congresses of the Third International and in the formation of the Communist Party of Italy. They were defended by the Italian Left inside the Committee of Entente, and throughout the 1930s and 1940s according to which:-

  1. Since history is the history of class struggle, it is the proletariat which will accomplish the decisive step that will take humanity from the realm of necessity to the world of freedom.
  2. The proletariat cannot gradually conquer a position of strength within capitalist society; the continued existence of the capitalist mode of production does not gradually diminish the power of the bourgeoisie, as was the case where previous rising classes were confronting earlier exploiting classes. On the contrary, the power of capital over society tends to become absolute and to exert itself on the deepest layers of civil society.
  3. From the very existence of a class forced into a position of decisive antagonism against other classes concretely “emerges the consciousness of the need for a fundamental revolution, communist consciousness”.
  4. It is during periods of crisis, when the bourgeoisie is no longer able to control the explosion of the contradictions inherent in its mode of production and its social relations, that the possibility of a revolutionary overthrow of bourgeois power is put on the historical agenda.
  5. This revolution “is necessary … not only because the ruling _class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing_ it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew” (Marx). And “both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men on a mass scale is necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution”. (Marx)
  6. During the period leading up to it, and during the revolutionary process itself, communist consciousness is found amongst a minority of individuals from the working class and other classes, but it derives from the very existence of the proletariat, from the objective nature of class antagonisms, and continually refers back to it. It draws from this objective situation its strength and its materialist nature, and is thus the patrimony of the whole class.
  7. As the expression of the historic movement and programme of the proletariat, communist consciousness cannot be defined as ‘ideology’ in the Marxist sense; on the contrary, it is the most complete instrument for grasping social and economic reality as a whole, since its aim is to change this very reality. Whereas bourgeois revolutionary consciousness was directed against the external aspects of aristocratic rule and was based on the necessity to substitute one exploiting class (the bourgeoisie) for another, communist consciousness is directed against the very class nature of present-day society and all previous societies: its goal is the elimination of class divisions. It is not the last theory in the proper sense of the word, but it is certainly the last revolutionary theory. The proof of this is the fact that the ideologies which have broken away from revolutionary Marxism in the so-called ‘socialist’ countries (which for communists are a form of state capitalism fully integrated into the class enemy’s international line-up) have no road to take except the traditional one of classical bourgeois ideology – even though they don’t even do this very well.
  8. The relationship which links the class to its communist consciousness is the same one which links the class to the future exercise of its dictatorship: it resides in the objective social and economic contradictions, in the very dynamic of history. It will not be present in the minds and psychology of all proletarians until the time when they are ready to make their own history.
  9. It is necessary to definitively reject and fight against the theory – alien to Marxism and typical of petty bourgeois idealism – which maintains that communist consciousness can grow and become generalised outside of the revolutionary process itself. It is based on the idealist principle of the superiority of ideas, and can only deceive potential revolutionaries with an impossible vision of reality, drawing them away from their unavoidable duty as communists and obstructing their work.
  10. This fundamentally anti-Marxist thesis was adopted by the council communist movement, which, beginning from an erroneous evaluation of the process of revolution and counter-revolution in Russia, arrived at positions alien and opposed to those of the communist movement.
  11. A position close to that of the council communist movement, and which also has to be rejected, recognises that only the revolutionary process makes it possible for communist consciousness to become generalised, but which reduces this to a “consciousness of the need for revolution”, thereby renouncing the organised struggle against the highly organised forces of the bourgeoisie; although the defenders of this position talk about the revolution, they are actually working for the preservation of capitalism and for the hegemony of one of the two imperialist blocs
  12. Similarly we have to reject the position that communist consciousness, the entire inheritance of principles, theses, and positions pointing towards communist revolution, is something given once and for all, and doesn’t change from one historic phase of the movement to another. Those who gravitate around this position forget that communist consciousness is something directly attached to the class and to the experiences it objectively goes through in its subordination to capital. They therefore forget that theses and positions have to alter with changes in the real situation in which the class lives. The main problem is to recognise the characteristics of the class struggle through all these changes, and to draw the necessary lessons from it. Naturally all the variations in the capitalist mode of production cannot, despite the bourgeois theories of the national communist parties, alter the basic substance of class society, or the fact that the proletariat is, and remains, the class which is economically exploited and socially and politically dominated.

The Organisation of Revolutionaries: The Party

  1. In the entire period leading up to the revolution, and even during the initial phase of the revolution itself, communist consciousness is possessed by a minority, i.e. only a minority possesses and acts on the basis of this consciousness. This is a real and concrete fact which is beyond discussion. This minority has the duty of forging the tools necessary for the class to develop, in the moments of crisis in the capitalist mode of production, this “practical movement”, the revolution – the only way that mass communist consciousness matures within the class itself. In the fullest sense the organisation of the revolutionary minority is the party.
  2. The party has the permanent task of giving back to the class the entire legacy of theses, principles, and expressions of the struggle for communism, as that communist consciousness which has come about through the experiences which the working class itself has lived through.
  3. The party is therefore the medium through which the relationship between the class and its consciousness has been expressed throughout the entire history of capitalism’s existence, just as it will be during the period of transition from capitalism to communism.
  4. The seizure of power by the working class, and thus the beginning of the revolution for the whole of society, is only possible during the crises of capitalism and when the class recognises, in the principles and programme of revolutionaries, its own historic interests; when, during the assault on the bourgeois state, it rallies around the party and its programme.
  5. The ups and downs of the party-organisation faithfully reflect the ups and downs of the life of the class. It almost disappears during periods of profound reflux when the bourgeoisie reigns supreme on the economic and political level. But just as the objective antagonism between the classes can never disappear, so communist consciousness which is nourished by this antagonism can never disappear either. It may though be reduced to the point where the organisation of revolutionaries seems to have disappeared. This is particularly the case when the defeat of the class leads to fear and disillusionment in the ranks of revolutionaries themselves, and thus to confusion and aberration on the level of communist consciousness. This was confirmed in Italy in the period around 1948, when the definitive victory of Stalinism [3] – which had disarmed the class and led it to re-forge its own chains – provoked division in the ranks of the unified organisation, the Internationalist Communist Party, which had arisen in 1943 as a response to a potential reawakening of the class from the profound depression of Stalinism.
  6. The existence of several organisations claiming the title of the party in no way undermines the continuity of the party and the necessity for militants to defend it. This was the task of the comrades of the left fraction in France and Belgium vis-a-vis the party founded at Livorno in 1921 throughout the period in which the Third International and the Soviet power had not yet, in their estimation, completed their cycle of degeneration. This was completed with the Soviet Union’s participation in the war in Spain as an agent of the counter-revolution, and in one of the blocs in the world imperialist war. The defence of revolutionary continuity was then crystallised in the new Internationalist Communist Party, which reunited in its theses and programme the whole corpus of experience and elaboration from the previous period. The fact that this party was later divided into two trunks [4] and that one of them gave rise to groups and currents that were often openly counter-revolutionary (we are thinking of Invariance) [5] has not led to the total disappearance or betrayal of the bases of the 1943 programme.
  7. Although we cannot exclude the possibility of a revolutionary upheaval in one country under the guidance of a ‘national’ party at a time when the world party of the proletariat has not yet been formed, past historical experience and the growing supra-national concentration of imperialism teaches us that revolutionaries must seek to forge the international party on the basis of the theoretical and programmatic platform expressed by the communist consciousness of revolutionaries for half a century. The supra-nationality of capital, i.e. the identical class interests of the bourgeoisie in all countries, is matched by the supra-nationality of proletarian interests. A revolution that is victorious in one country will not survive for long if it does not have the active solidarity of the world proletariat, not only on the defensive level, but also through revolutionary assault on the whole capitalist system. The world party of the revolution is essential for the execution of this vital strategic plan; and, because it is so concerned with the generalised attack on capital it will subordinate to this plan the tactics of its section in the country where the revolution first breaks out.
  8. This is the perspective the party will have for its international work. The supra-nationality of proletarian interests and of the party’s strategy will be reflected in the centralised organisation of the party. The party is the indispensible tool of the proletarian revolution, because only the party can incorporate into a programmatic political platform the ongoing developments coming out of the objective situation of the class, developments which would otherwise remain extremely incoherent and easy prey to sectarianism and corporatism – both expressions of bourgeois ideology – even before being hit by the repression of the bourgeois state. It is essential that the party is solidly regrouped around its central positions, that it is organised on the principle of centralism and not of federalism. Just as the class transmits to the party the multiple and sometimes contradictory experience which the party has to elaborate in a unifying programme and then return to the class, so within the party itself experiences of militant activity and strategic and tactical positions can go from the periphery to the centre and back to the periphery.

The Class and the Party

The notion that the party is only forged immediately before the revolution and even during it completely deforms the concept of the party. If in effect the class is capable of carrying through the revolutionary offensive – which demands a particular level of political homogeneity in the class without the intervention of the politically unifying factor represented by the party, then the party itself is superfluous. If it is the class which, at a certain moment in the development of its struggle “equips itself” with the party, then the latter becomes an operational instrument which has no connection with the problem of consciousness. Once again we are back at the famous theory of the councilists.

This is why, within the left communist movement it’s necessary to fight against the conception which, while recognising the necessity of the party in carrying out the revolution, postpones the constitution of the party to a “riper” period. It is based on an underestimation of the practical tasks of the party (or organisation of revolutionaries as certain comrades like to express it). We have seen that one of the essential tasks of the party is to equip itself with operational instruments which can, in the most concrete way possible, return to the class the programme of working class emancipation, elaborated by the party on the basis of the historical experience and existence of the proletariat. The formula “the party acts as part of the class in the class itself” says nothing, because all it means is that revolutionary militants are part of the proletarian struggle wherever they happen to be present and thus bring to it the critical positions and general orientations of the party. This is necessary but not sufficient if the party is to fulfil its role as a guide, unless one is saying that the party will undergo such numeric growth that it has a mass presence everywhere which contradicts the generally held idea that it is a ‘minority’ of the class.

It is a definitively acquired revolutionary principle that intermediary organs between party and class must exist for the entire period before and after the revolutionary offensive. These are organs the party uses to extend as far as possible the influence of its platform and orientations throughout the entire class. The class moves and struggles on the level of economic or, one might say, contractual demands. Only revolutionaries have a precise awareness of the limitations of these struggles, their inability to emancipate the class. Communists distinguish themselves from the mass of workers by the fact that even while they fight alongside the whole class in its defensive struggles they denounce the limitations of these struggles and use them to propagandise the necessity for revolution. Communists have to link the struggles of the class to a political strategy for attacking the bourgeois state. They must prepare the instruments which the party will use concretely to orientate the proletariat’s offensive when the whole system is in crisis and the struggle is becoming generalised.

The party would be failing in its fundamental duties – indeed it would be unable to function as an organisation of revolutionaries, as a party – if it neglected to work within the class with all the necessary instruments in the period leading up to the revolution, It would mean that, when the situation was objectively favourable, it would be unprepared and isolated from the class, which would result in the class being disarmed and disorientated.

The concrete possibility of making progress in the arming of the party is naturally closely linked to the degree of maturation of the class struggle and the real relationship in the class between revolutionaries and the agents of the left wing of the bourgeoisie. This does not mean that the kinds of tools to be used cannot be exactly envisaged in the programme of the party. The proof of this is that the ‘internationalist factory groups’ envisaged in our programme, and which must be an integral part of the platform of the international party whose creation we want to contribute to, may have a difficult life today, but in other times they have had an enormous importance (from 1945 to 1948 for example). Their task is not to simply ‘incite the struggle at the economic level’ as certain comrades seem to believe, but to transmit to the class the general political principles of the party, solidifying a sympathetic layer of the class and creating a reference point for future revolutionary struggles. The difficulty of the present situation, the low level of class consciousness, is reflected in the enormous difficulty of strengthening and extending this workers’ network. But if we miss out this point in the programme, putting it off to better times, we will render ourselves incapable of carrying out our duties when the time is ripe, since we will lack the cadre and the experience which the party can only develop through a long and combative presence in the working class.

Among the instruments which the party must equip itself with in its work towards the class and towards the revolution, the network of factory groups is the most urgent and important, but others must be studied and prepared [6] even though they don’t yet seem to be necessary owing to the numerical weakness of revolutionaries and the unpropitious political situation. On the other hand, other organisations, such as the ‘communist youth’, must be considered products of a previous phase in both bourgeois society and the revolutionary movement and are thus now superfluous.

We reaffirm the principle that there is no class party without the instruments which really link the central organisation of the party to the class; those who underestimate or deny this affirmation are not working for the party.

  1. The dialectical relationship between the class and its party does not disappear or go through qualitative changes during the seizure of power and the construction of the proletarian ‘semi-state’. Both are only possible when the class is concentrated and united around this objective.
  2. The proletarian ‘semi-state’ will be characterised by the soviet form discovered by the proletariat itself during the experience of the Russian revolution. The gradual disappearance of classes carried out by the practical revolutionary movement of the proletarian masses will be accompanied by the mass production of communist consciousness and, consequently, by the gradual disappearance of the party.
  3. The party will in no way identify its own structure with the structure of the “workers’ state”, but will accomplish its role as a political guide as long as the class recognises its own interests in the orientations it defends.
  4. The need for groups of the communist left to deepen their understanding of the problems of the transition period must begin from the clear and fundamental affirmation that without a party there can be no revolution and proletarian dictatorship, just as there can be no proletarian dictatorship and workers’ state without the workers’ councils.

Internationalist Communist Party (Battaglia Comunista)

October 1978

Notes

1 The original translation was printed in the pamphlet Second International Conference of Groups of the Communist Left November 1978 Volume One: Preparatory Texts by the International Communist Current (ICC). This translation is of the version on the Italian section of the leftcom website at leftcom.org

2 See our pamphlet “Platform of the Committee of Intesa 1925 – the Start of the Italian Left’s fight against Stalinism as Fascism increased its grip”. For details see back cover.

3 Stalinism was obviously victorious in the USSR in 1928 but this refers to the role of the reformed Italian Communist Party under Stalin’s loyal henchman, Togliatti in helping to establish social peace in Italy in the post-war period.

4 This is a reference to Bordiga and the Bordigists’ split from the Internationalist Communist Party (Battaglia Comunista) in 1951-2. A future article will outline the organisational differences between the two tendencies but details on the split can be found in Bordiga; Beyond the Myth by Onorato Damen (see advert in this issue).

5 “Invariance” was the first split in the Bordigist camp (in 1966 but there have been many more since) and the only one when Bordiga was actually alive. Led by Jacques Cammatte, it denounced the Bordigists for their “activist” turn. Eventually Cammatte concluded that all political organisations were “rackets” and that the working class was a “class for capital” with no hope of making a revolution.

6 This was written 38 years ago and since then the restructuring of the working class over the last 30 years has also led to the attempt to organise in localities which our Italian comrades call “territorial” groups. The CWO itself has experimented with groups which fight in each area around such themes as “No War but the Class War” at the time of the Iraq War. We should point out that this is not an attempt “to organise the class” (as the ICC said in 1978) but to organise revolutionaries and widen their impact within the class. The revolutionary political organisation or party cannot simply be an ideological construct which simply propagandises in a vacuum as this document tries to stress.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Comments

I notice in the original version, there is no hesitation in using the term Stato Operaio, yet in the translation this is put as "Workers' state" as if it was something not accepted.

As far as I know, the Italian comrades have had no issue with the term Stato Operaio, and do not use it ao mean anything other than the power of the councils, the proletarian dictatorship, the proletarian semi-state.

I do not regard this as any sort of big issue, but if I am definitely wrong, an explication would be useful, perhaps for others as well.

Il Partito, lungi dall'identificare la propria struttura con quella dello Stato Operaio, svolge il suo ruolo di guida politica se e in quanto la classe si riconosce nelle indicazioni che questo emana. In tali condizioni è naturale che negli organi esecutivi del potere proletario siano eletti nell'ambito dei Consigli i quadri del Partito.

There is no deep mystery here and it is not just BC members who are unworried about the nomenclature. The document was originally written almost 40 years ago and, as footnote 6 makes clear, is abit out of date in places. Currently there is a discussion amongst and within all the affilitates of ICT about how we should label the period in which the councils have to take out acts to suppress the bourgeoisie and their mode of production. In the ICT's common platform "For Communism" (p.38) it also deals briefly with this and "workers' state" is in quotation marks. The translation is intended not just to be a historic document from the past but a working document for our current discussion. The update is just to bring it in line with our current document.

One facet of the issue is that by abandoning the terminology of the state in its various shades and hues, we are approaching the anarchist (but not only anarchist) conceptions of an immediate switch to full communism which we recognise as not being reality.

I am not advocating any prolonged version of socialism in one country, but I wonder if capitalism could indeed hang on in a sizeable area of the world, while the rest of the globe fell to revolution. This would be a short term situation, eventually the matter would be decided, but if it lasted a year or two or even more, then we have a big issue to deal with, daggers drawn two opposing camps,the question of violence would be a major concern.

A weak fledgling socialism would be at risk internally and externally. successful revolutionary overthrow does not mean unanimous working class support. In a real sense, the fight for socialism is a fight not only between classes but within the working class.

Looking ahead and imagining possible scenarios may be of limited value, but it may serve to gather revolutionaries around the communist project for the party rather than anarchist fantasies.

It's thought provoking that Stevein sees that "the fight for socialism is a fight not only between classes but within the working class". The fight against the bourgeoisie is straightforward - they are definitely the enemy in this fight. The fight within the working class will be more difficult to handle. Is that right?

I read with interest a discussion on the party and class consciousness between Charlie and Stevein at the end of the Hinckley point article. I was working up to joining in but perhaps its better placed here. I am finding this a hard article to get to grips with directly but perhaps a discussion can make it clearer (and indeed on the cwos views)

In that discussion Stevein was stressing that the party would be essential to revolution to the point that I think he was saying no party no revolution let alone no successful revolution. This seems to be supporting the idea that the working class can only achieve a limited consciousness. Please correct me if I am wrong Stevein because I would like to further that discussion as I agreed much more with Charlie’s formulation of the rise of a revolutionary consciousness and how it produces and needs a revolutionary minority.

On my readings of the article however it seems to present both positions (which may be down to language/translation or my misunderstanding) but at one particular point it states the following

“The notion that the party is only forged immediately before the revolution and even during it completely deforms the concept of the party. If in effect the class is capable of carrying through the revolutionary offensive – which demands a particular level of political homogeneity in the class without the intervention of the politically unifying factor represented by the party, then the party itself is superfluous.”

This seems to agree with Stevein’s point of view.

From the CWO introduction I would however agree that.. “the party, revolutionary minority or whatever else you want to call it doesn’t start the revolution and it doesn’t finish it either. But it exists in the class before the revolution and participates in the revolution from the beginning. Its influence goes beyond its membership. It exerts a leadership as a guide pointing the way forward and criticising all those who aim to halt the revolutionary process.” The emphasis here appears different

I find it easier therefore to accept eg charlies viewpoint that the revolutionary minority is a product of and feeds back into the revolution process and I am critical therefore of points of view that set prescriptions for how insurrection and revolution (a good distinction made in the intro) can and cannot happen. We do have some experience of insurrection but little of revolution however it think there is insufficient of either to say ‘no party no revolution’ - even if we believe a party can play an important role.

I am also therefore critically of the idea that without a party the class cannot achieve political homogeneity (an expression which means surely it cant achieve political understanding also) because it further suggests that the creation of the revolutionary minority and party is a product of separate process of the class coming to consciousness ie something outside the activity of the class.

I like the formulation in BC’s text that the party brings back to the class the lessons of its history and its struggles and in addition I would say perhaps its most important role is to analyse the day to day situation during a revolutionary period and present that analysis to the class. Its is precisely then that a small organization with political clarity can have a big influence on the movement of the class and that seems to me something that only a revolutionary minority. The party cannot teach the class to be revolutionary but it can help the class understanding what is going on and what can be done when it is already in a conscious struggle against the bourgeoisie.

Now I hope I am not putting forward more prescriptions. My readings of the russian and german revolutions suggest to me that the events in revolutionary period are never likely to follow patterns and certainly not ones we are likely to visualize beforehand.

TBH, I thought I was only reiterating basic ICT positions in saying the party is absolutely essential and the formulation of No party, no revolution is only a condensed version of what has been often said.

No one, not I, not Lenin in WTBD, is saying that the broad working class, a majority, cannot acheive class consciouness, revolutionary, communist, internationalist.

The argument seems to centre more on how.

The formulations regarding the essential role of revolutionary theory, and its vehicle the party are correctly, I think, absolute. The possibility of revolution in their absence is zero.

You are very dogmatic Stevein.

The formulations regarding the essential role of revolutionary theory, and its vehicle the party are correctly, I think, absolute. The possibility of revolution in their absence is zero.You might be correct Stevein but you are off-putting in the way you say it. There may well be experiences that we the class, and its revolutionaries, haven't had yet, but could have in the future, which might smooth off the edges of your dogmatism, which after all is the product of only a very limited historic experience which in any case went sadly wrong. If if I may say so you sound a little "invariant". As if we already know all the answers which we certainly don't.

L'audace.....Yes, on this matter I am invariant. We know enough to say the revolutionary organisation is essential. Spontaneity is not enough.

The presence of the party is no guarantee of success but its absence guarantees failure.

I suspect opposing views are shaped by bourgeois liberal ideology and a level of temporary material wellbeing which was able to maintain working class passivity.

We don't know everything an never will, but that does not leave us paralysed.

'' The party cannot teach the class to be revolutionary but it can help the class understanding what is going on and what can be done when it is already in a conscious struggle against the bourgeoisie.''

All these formulations have a charm and are soothing to the ear, but all deny the impossibility of generalised class consciouness without the revolutionary party. The party is not just a dispensable facilitator, take it or leave it.

Yes Stevein, I agree, the party is indispensable.

Interesting but im not convinced or your statement as yet. The party is not the only vehicle of the revolutionary theory so how does the latter develop and grow and how does it become widespread? I agree with you when you say the broad working class can achieve class consciousness but this consciousness generates the need for organisation both political and executive and I cant see the party as separate to that.

I would like you to explain more what 'indispensable' means to you and what that means the party actually does please.

I think it is generally accepted that any future party wont be a mass organisation. Its impact will depend on its political clarity and understanding, as you say, of history and of conjunctural situations, which is the point i was emphasising. These enable it to act as a guide and raise understanding throughout the class but that cannot succeed unless the class is demonstrating a high level of class consciousness already and certainly cannot happen just because the party, or any organised groups of political workers, says it should. So you cant say take it or leave it. You have to persuade.

I think i am of the opinion, the peak of its significance will be at the time of insurrection and shortly after when its understanding of perspective of building a communist society will be key for the class as a whole. My interpretation of the text suggests that the party will wither away after that so as the revolution (not the insurrection) progresses it will be the participation of the mass of people that becomes indispensable.

Your first paragraph I think is resolved by clarifying that for a long period this consciousness will only be the preserve of a minority, part of which will be outside of the working class. This consciousness which does not spontaneously arise from the class struggle will not be generalised until the decisive moments. So it is not generalised class consciousness which gives rise to revolutionary organisation, it is a minority swimming against the tide which organises to extend revolutionary consciousness. That task may well be glacial but the point is to have a revolutionary organisation on the ground in advance of the decisive moments during which class consciousness can explode and grip the masses.

The party is not just a dispensable facilitator, take it or leave it.

I think you misunderstand, because there is an ambiguity in that sentence. What I am saying is the party is not something that is merely a facilitator of a process which can otherwise occur, albeit more slowly. The party is not an organ which you can take or leave, it is not optional.

I did not mean you can take or leave my perspective as if that were the last word.

I think this explains the term indispensable. Without the party then there is no revolution.

One question I do not think is yet settled is the possibility of multiple parties, 2 or more, at the time of the rise of councils which may be only separated by relatively subtle differences, may have areas of agreement and points which give rise to separation.

The role of the party is more than an educational advice bureau. A centralised organ will arise from the council system which ultimately exercises power, its decisions are binding on all other emanations of the council system. This centralised organ has to be composed of party members or in agreement with the party. It is not a party dictatorship, its members are subject to the rules of proletarian democracy and it is not necessarily exclusively composed of party members. However, if a central organ emerges which opposes the broad perspectives of the party, then the break with capitalism will not transpire.

It is not a case of mass of the class OR a Party OR objective conditions, it is an alignment between these factors which may allow proletarian revolution to prevail.

As to the end of the party, I do not know. Will it continue in some form for a very long time? Possibly.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

In its struggle for power the proletariat has no other weapon but organisation. Disunited by the rule of anarchic competition in the bourgeois world, ground down by forced labour for capital, constantly thrust back to 'lower depths' of utter destitution, savagery, and degeneration, the proletariat can, and inevitably will, become an invincible force only through its ideological unification on the principles of Marxism being reinforced by the material unity of organisation, which welds millions of toilers into an army of the working class.

p210

I dont think you have answered my question as to how you see the role & tasks of the party which make it indispensable. However i agree with quite a bit of what you said particularly the statement: "It is not a case of mass of the class or a party or objective conditions, it is an alignmnet between these factors which may allow proletarian revolution to prevail.' This signifies to me that it is not enough to say that one element is indispensable but that all 3 in an appropriate relationship to one another are. Perhaps we have both been doing the former?

I do think that you criticise the word facilitation incorrectly. It means that you dont tell others what to do or do it for them but that, using understanding and trust, you enable them to do it for themselves. This is a very strong and powerful activity

The bit i am not clear about is your statements on the councils. Again it may be language and putting things bluntly but i dont see that membership of the top layer of the council system HAS to be party members and this is in contradiction to your view that members are subject to proletarian democracy (which means to me instant recall by lower levels of the system). Changes in direction and policy will inevitable be part of the process towards communism and the party (or parties) will have to argue for its analysis and perspectives. Do you mean before the wc takes power or after however because this would change what we are discussing? Remember though that the construction of a communist society after taking power would be essentially a practical act by the whole of the working class acting together and not something the party can control - in fact it cannot know what to do on that level, its understanding is historical and long term.

I think I use the word 'facilitator'' absolutely correctly.

The party is not a mere facilitator in a process that would occur without it.

The party is indispensable.

Is it correct to describe the party as a facilitator?

Yes, it helps and eases the process.

We tell the class what to do. Organise! Abstain! Strike! Build the Party!

However the imperative form gives us no authority over the class which remains free to be exploiited and reduced to poverty and worse.

Your ultimate paragraph again criticises half a sentence. I did not say any central organ emerging from the councils has to be composed exclusively of party members.

One point I omitted on the role of the party is its involvement in the class struggle through intermediate organs,factory groups and the like, for a period before decisive revolutionary struggles. The party is not an impotent friendly advice giver. It is fighting for power in the context of proletarian democracy.

Thanks for your reponses here Stevein. Sorry if i criticise half sentences but im trying to work out implications of what you are saying thats all.

The party is a facilitator then and it facilitates a process that would occur without it - the question is whether that process could be successful without it surely

I agree that telling the class what to do gives no authority at all and rev minorities only get a response if the class is ready to act ie already conscious of its place. But why talk about 'impotent friendly advice' - I dont think you are suggesting the party holds the power to instruct the class what to do - so saying Organise! Abstain! is not somehow different.

I worry about the expression 'build the party' Why use that as a slogan? A revolution minority needs to organise agreed but the party if i understand it correct comes into being independent on size but based on the impact that revolutionary minority is capable of having on the class? Build workers councils is much stronger slogan.

I am obviously emphasising the role of the workers councils in the possible creation of a new society and so my priority is to emphasise that the council system is indispensable.

Its the councils that will hold power in that new society and as communism is built. Its a practical task building communism and the council system is more likely to have power over the party than the other way round. In this period the party needs to and is likely to be asked to analyse tasks in terms of long term goals but it will be the councils that wield political administrative and executive power and it will be the work of the class as a whole to organise those millions of councils into an administrative apparatus to enable eg new systems of education to be created and decide the irrigation of africa and how to put buildings into earthquake zones of middle italy and so on and so forth. Individuals members of the party may/will participate but the party doesnt control or manage the process.

Prior to the class taking power the situation is clearly different and a revolutionary minority is going to take the lead in the actions of the class as a whole and particulary in the period of revolution itself. My starting point however is that anybody can call themselves a party and issue impotent instructions but unless the class is already organising itself into struggle against the ruling class as eg in Russia in 1905 and 1917 their is no fertile soil for these seeds to fall into.

Dear comrades.

Being inspired by the german and dutch communist left, I'm puzzeled with thesis 9, 10 and 11 on consciousness where you mention positions that BC identifies with "the council communist movement". Please can you cite writings by this 'movement' that affirm these supposed positions?

Concerning the supposed 'erroneous evaluation of the process of revolution and counter-revolution in Russia', there are many theories on this question in the german and dutch communist left. Please tell me which of those does BC actually mean? And of course, what is the correct theory according to BC?

Thesis 11 talks about a position close to that of the council communist movement. Also in this case I have no idea what organization BC is talking about. You can't mean Programma Comunista? In fact BC seems to consider this organzation 'close to ...' as counter revolutionary. So there is absolutely no room for vagueries.

I can't help thinking that BC believes that only the italian left is on proletarian positions and that it is enough to qualify the german and dutch left as 'councilist', a strategy that can be rather succesfull in f.e. France and Italy, where in fact the positions of this left are hardly known, but from the distorted view of Dauvé/Barrot. Sadly enough in the Netherlands the italian left is rather unknown, and those who know it identify it with the icc or with bordigism.

I don't think that a real discussion should try not to limit itself to the use of these kind of labels, but should show an effort for real understanding on basis of original historical texts.

Internationalist greetings,

Fredo Corvo


"9. It is necessary to definitively reject and fight against the theory – alien to Marxism and typical of petty bourgeois idealism – which maintains that communist consciousness can grow and become generalised outside of the revolutionary process itself. It is based on the idealist principle of the superiority of ideas, and can only deceive potential revolutionaries with an impossible vision of reality, drawing them away from their unavoidable duty as communists and obstructing their work.

10. This fundamentally anti-Marxist thesis was adopted by the council communist movement, which, beginning from an erroneous evaluation of the process of revolution and counter-revolution in Russia, arrived at positions alien and opposed to those of the communist movement.

11. A position close to that of the council communist movement, and which also has to be rejected, recognises that only the revolutionary process makes it possible for communist consciousness to become generalised, but which reduces this to a “consciousness of the need for revolution”, thereby renouncing the organised struggle against the highly organised forces of the bourgeoisie; although the defenders of this position talk about the revolution, they are actually working for the preservation of capitalism and for the hegemony of one of the two imperialist blocs"

Fredo

This is a document from 1978 (see intro) and is simply a general overview. What you are demanding can be found in other documents on our site. However you cannot deny that Ruhle was an influential member of the German left and that he concluded that "the revolution is not a party affair" as well as pronouncing the idea that "all parties are bourgeois". In Thesis 11 the target I believe (and this is only my guess since we won't be discussing this and other documents until November) was a certain tendency in the ICC (which later went on to found its External Fraction) as in the International Conferences it seemed there were two ICC positions on the Party. The ICC eventually accused them of being "centrist in relation to councilism" when they parted company in the mid-1980s.

I agree that it would be better to specify precisely the documents we are addressing when we address the question in detail but this one is an overview. And of course you yourself (and others) are not averse to labelling our position on the party as "Jacobin", a term which is not only inaccurate but also extremely insulting.

Fredo

This is a document from 1978 (see intro) and is simply a general overview. What you are demanding can be found in other documents on our site. However you cannot deny that Ruhle was an influential member of the German left and that he concluded that "the revolution is not a party affair" as well as pronouncing the idea that "all parties are bourgeois". In Thesis 11 the target I believe (and this is only my guess since we won't be discussing this and other documents until November) was a certain tendency in the ICC (which later went on to found its External Fraction) as in the International Conferences it seemed there were two ICC positions on the Party. The ICC eventually accused them of being "centrist in relation to councilism" when they parted company in the mid-1980s.

I agree that it would be better to specify precisely the documents we are addressing when we address the question in detail but this one is an overview. And of course you yourself (and others) are not averse to labelling our position on the party as "Jacobin", a term which is not only inaccurate but also extremely insulting.

''Thesis 11 talks about a position close to that of the council communist movement. Also in this case I have no idea what organization BC is talking about. You can't mean Programma Comunista? In fact BC seems to consider this organzation 'close to ...' as counter revolutionary. So there is absolutely no room for vagueries.''

As far as I can see, BC is not refering to any particular organisation, rather it refers to a theoretical misconception; the working class in general can attain communist consciousness outside of the restricted time frame before the insurrection and without the need for a revolutionary party.

From my limited knowledge of Programma Communista, I do not think there is any reference to that organisation there.

As far as I can see, BC is not refering to any particular organisation, rather it refers to a theoretical misconception; the working class in general can attain communist consciousness outside of the restricted time frame before the insurrection and without the need for a revolutionary party.

Thus Stevein speaks.

But surely it isn't a misconception to say that some members of the working class - and even those from another class like Marx - can achieve some communist consciousness even when it seems an unlikely thing to do and certainly without the need for a party? Though this is not to deny the essential need for the party as the revolution approaches and of course during and immediately after it.

Consciusness, the ideas in people's heads, does not come from nowhere. There are many influences working against a correct identification of reality.

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.

Marx

This is not to say the dominance is total, but it is still a dominance.

I would say that a partial class consciousness, perhaps better labelled a class instinct, exists which is insufficient to make a revolution.

From personal experience, workers at this moment are more inclined towards nationalism and racism then revolution. I have hardly met anyone outside of the political circles I have chosen to frequent and a very few long term relationships where I have gradually brought up the matter, where the concept of abolition of capitalism is accepted or supported.

I do not see class consciousness as so elusive that it cannot be generalised. But it takes a specific circumstance to do so.

Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men on a mass scale is, necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.

Karl Marx, The German Ideology (1845)

There I was being convinced to say that the party is indispensable in a wc revolution but now im confused again as to what you are saying Stevein.

I believe you said earlier that the party is 'a facilitator that helps and eases the process (of the class coming to consciousness)' I am happy with that approach but in the last contribution Stevein you seem to be disputing with Charlie's view that member of the wc can come to consciousness and suggesting that happens only with the party present. Ok the party may represent the ' full' consciousness of the wc but it is itself a product of that process and the working class coming to consciousness is for me a continuation of that process and involves the participation of a rev minority and/or a party.

hence i also dont understand the reference to levels of consciousness today. Clearly we are not at the point where a revolution is possible but it sounds like you implying that is just because we dont have a party? I agree with your previous statement that class movement, the party and objective conditions are all necessary and we clearly dont have any today. To achieve a revolution will requires changes in all 3 elements, preconditions if you like, not just in the party?

Your quote from Marx is excellent but again for me it emphasises the consciousness only comes from the class as a whole making those difficult steps in a practical movement of revolution and not merely as a product of an intervention of a party.

The idea that the wc only achieves a partial class consciousness whereas the party can achieve full consciousness suggests different processes in action for the class and for the party? Is that what you are saying Stevein?

I think I have made it clear that the party is indispensable.

That without the party, the class conscious minority, the bulk of the working class will remain dominated by ruling class ideas,

That the majority of the working class can take on board the revolutionary perspective if the party is rooted on the ground to present it in times of acute struggle or upheaval when the class in general is willing to hear the message,

So yes, not everyone comes to class consciousness at the same time or through the same process. The minority get there well in advance of the majority and are an essential factor in the generalisation of revolutionary consciousness.

Now this is somewhat tentative and may well require subsequent crtique, but I think there are elements, fragments, of class consciousness which already exist in a relatively generalised fashion. For example disenchantment with capitalism's preferred political party forms expressed in the rise of new parties. A growing awareness that at least for the forseeable future, the capitalist economy promises a worsening situation. A resistance to war. Lack of faith in trade unions...China's claim to socialism...

Such fragments constitute a certain level of class consciousness, but can be integrated within ideologies opposing the correct Marxist anaysis.

The party integrates the correct fragments into a total critique of capitalism and integrates the historically acquired lessons regarding the superseding of capitalism.

I absolutely agree that you can see elements of class consciousness in daily life of the working class. The experience of working and being exploited is after all the materialist basis for any possiblity of communism. Its this unity of experience that gives the possibility of class solidarity and class unification and as you say bourgeois ideology distorts and limits that possibility.

However if a party could simply integrate this fragmentary consciousness it would certainly have happened already; its the struggle of the class and the building of class unity in struggle against the bourgeoisie that is indispensable here

I think your ultimate paragraph covers two topics.

  1. Theoretical comprehension (Identification)
  2. Generalisation of the revolutionary perspective.

Whilst it can never be absolute, we recognise in the analysis already attained by the ICT an integrated theoretical perspective. This has evolved from earlier theoretical contributions, Marx, Engels, Lenin and many others of oustanding quality, and the class struggle, and the objective realities of capitalism.

The generalisation of that knowledge, class consciousness, as you point out is not only an act of will on the part of the few who have raised themselves to high levels of revolutionary consciousness, but the demand of the proletariat for change, its struggle against capitalism's encroachment.

Both these aspects require the indispensable factors of theoretical clarity whose vehicle is revolutionary organisation, and the class struggle.

In declaring the role of the revolutionary organisation essential, this does not diminish the importance of other factors.

Quote:

“And of course you yourself (and others) are not averse to labelling our position on the party as "Jacobin", a term which is not only inaccurate but also extremely insulting.” Cleishbotham (editor) on Mon, 2016-09-12 12:02


Dear comrades,

I believe feeling insulted is harmfull, because this kind of emotions prevent a discussion with arguments. That’s why I try to prevent insulting people I try to discuss with. And I waited your emotions to calm down, and finished an important translation first.

Now, did I insult the CWO?

Nowhere in my small contribution I find something like that.

I remember a private email exchange in May this year where I give a preliminary view on the Russian Revolution, where I called the Bolsheviks Jacobin, not the CWO.

Should I recall that Lenin called the Bolsheviks proudly 'Jacobin' (see citation, the complete text is quite interesting too), generally against the reformist 'Mountain'-party.

So, if the CWO and BC base themselves on Lenin, they can’t be insulted when called Jacobin.; which I didn’t anyway.

I think the analyses of the Russian Revolution and of Bolshevism is an essential question. Notwithstanding the courageous effort of the Bolsheviks to end WW1 and to start the World Revolution, proving they were in the internationalist proletarian camp, didn’t prevent them to make mistakes, as all revolutionairies did at that time.

I believe it is not in continuation of the Communist Left to base our concepts of class consciousness and organisation specially on Lenin and the Bolsheviks. An extra reason not to do so is because they considered the revolution in Russia within the theoretical framework of the League of Communistst of the 1848 bourgeois revolutions. When the revolution stayed isolated, they prescribed their methods developped for a working class executing a bourgeois revolution, to communists in Central and Western Europa. I believe this framework of a double revolution was already obsolete in 1917 and therefore we should be extremely carefull in adopting the bolshevic legacy without further analysis.

Internationalist greetings,

Fredo

“(…) ‘Jacobinism’ in Europe or on the boundary line between Europe and Asia in the twentieth century would be the rule of the revolutionary class, of the proletariat, which, supported by the peasant poor and taking advantage of the existing material basis for advancing to socialism, could not only provide all the great, ineradicable, unforgettable things provided by the Jacobins in the eighteenth century, but bring about a lasting world-wide victory for the working people. It is natural for the bourgeoisie to hate Jacobinism. It is natural for the petty bourgeoisie to dread it. The class-conscious workers and working people generally put their trust in the transfer of power to the revolutionary, oppressed class for that is the essence of Jacobinism, the only way out of the present crisis, and the only remedy for economic dislocation and the war.”

Source: Can “Jacobinism” Frighten the Working Class? First published in Pravda No. 90, July 7 (June 24), 1917. Published according to the Pravda text.

Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 25, pages 121-122.

marxists.org

Fredo

My apologies you are right. It was not you but another comrade who wrote about the ICT (not CWO) being "Jacobin" but as it occurred at about the same time I confused the two. And simply saying it was "insulting" was not an expression of anger but a simple calm expression of fact. I think though the talk of "Jacobinism" in reference to either us or the Bolsheviks (whose mistakes we have learned from) is crass and idealist. You demonstrate this in quoting Lenin. What Lenin said and what the Bolshevik Party actually was are not the same things (in fact at certain points in its history the Party was the opposite of what Lenin said it should be). What Lenin (and Marx for that matter) said about Jacobinism was largely historically inaccurate but then we have the benefit of a longer perspective and deeper research. And if the October Revolution was just a Jacobin putsch then what happened to the working class? Councilism and idealism always throw the revolutionary baby out with the counter-revolutionary bathwater. As it happens we see neither the Bolshevik Party nor the Russian Revolution as models. We don't live in their world and the best we can do is analyse where they went wrong.

The real problem lies in the Social Democratic inheritance of Bolshevism. They may have been the best of Social Democracy and they may have transcended it in some ways in 1917 under the pressure of the class movement but at the end of the day they still saw the revolution as the party which represented the proletariat being in power. Lenin said this as early as June in a rhetorical response to Tsereteli's question about which party could govern Russia and of course in November the Council of People's Commissars was set up OVER the All Russian Soviet Executive Committee (which just rubber stamped decisions). It was in fact a continuation of the Provisional Government idea of the other social democrats. This conception of leadership was mistaken. Politically the party had led the revolution and was a product of it but a party which based its whole premise on world revolution does not take power in any one territory - its task is to spread the world revolution. Certainly its members will be active in class wide bodies and may even dominate them by personnel as well as through revolutionary leadership. However these class wide bodies are essential for drawing the whole mass of the class into the fight for a new mode of production (which, pace communisateurs, will not come about by magic) and they have to work out for themselves what the best way of doing this is. This is messier than automatic schema of Trotskyists and Stalinists who think it is just a question of dominance of the party over the class wide bodies to effect social transformation, but it is the only route to a new mode of production and a new form of social existence.

I leave aside the "double revolution" hypothesis as this was also a product of the mechanical "marxism" of Social Democracy (alien to Marx himself) which rigidly assumed that all states had to follow the same path to socialism as the first capitalist states.

Thank you Cleishbottom for clarifying this.

This conception (by the Bolshevik party ed.) of leadership was mistaken. Politically the party had led the revolution and was a product of it but a party which based its whole premise on world revolution does not take power in any one territory - its task is to spread the world revolution.

I think the above quote may be a little one-sided.

I could be wrong but it seems to me that there was a dialectical contradiction, rooted in the social democratic tradition (party rule) and the new discovery of the councils form.

According to dialectics, every phenomenon is driven by contradiction and I suggest Lenin and the Party embodied that contradiction. Another thought is that there was some degree of continuation between Stalin and Lenin. I say this not to justify Stalinism which is anti-communist, but to say that we cannot uncritically proclaim ourselves Leninist.

Again this is not a binary perspective. Lenin good/bad. Our task is not a simple proclamation of the invariant but a constant process of evaluation of past experience in order to act effectively in the present.

I agree with Charlie about the strength of this point made by Cleishbottom. A clear setting of priorities and tasks in a specific situation. Recognising that it is only the class as whole acting together that can create a new society does not for me reduce and diminish the role of the political minorities but probably makes them harder and more specific as this point makes clear.

I printed the whole article, except the notes, to 7 sides of A4 and read it carefully right through, underlining the numerous points. Unfortunately I'm dogged by such questions as to whether the combined co-operation of ICT-correct revolutionaries could formulate plans for a socialist economy, at whatever time it might seem necessary, and guide workers to implement it, and, in the shorter term, could they organise a jumble sale ?! This is deeply cynical, but that's the state of my consciousness today. Sorry about that. Have a nice meeting !

What we are attempting to organise is the ICT!

By making our perspectives known to the world at large we are attempting to gather revolutionaries.

It is possible we become part of other revolutionary organisations; we are not saying we are definitively the nucleus of the future world party, but that could be the case.

The point is that the forces we today have are in all likelihod not going to be enough to ensure a successful outcome.

The organisatin of the revolutionary society is something we would seek to contribute towards, but the first step is the organisation of revolutionaries.

In the final analysis, the ideas which will be materialised in revolutionary society are not simply the formulations of a revolutionary minority, they will be put forward, evaluated and selected by the proletarian democracy which allows for the participation of the vast majority of the members of society, perhaps even all.

What posssibly lies behind your question is the nature of the decision making structure of transitional society. It is envisaged that a network of local organisations gives rise, via recallable delegates, to a centralised organ which has ultimate power.

I hope this depicts the ICT perspective, but I a not claiming to speak for the ICT here.

One day I will learn to proofread my posts. The lack of a means to correct our bad typing is frustrating!

I 've taken good note of Stevin7's two comments. I would like to suggest as follows. There is general agreement amongst marxists of all sorts that imperialism is the main ongoing cause of wars. It is then genarally considered that the aims of marxists are, or should be, to both (A) get rid of imperialism and also, (B) in the course of that, or soon after it, initiate a socialist economy. But let us ask and consider whether (B) in an essential part of the agenda, when obviously (A) is essential ?

People everywhere need and want peace, but, in so far as they know what it means, mostly don't want whatever communism is supposed to mean, apart from overthrowing capitalism. Every word is a generalisation, according to Lenin, but we must remember the old adage that nazi is as nazi does, and that's the way millions of workers, yes subjected to bourgeois ideology, think of communists being as so-called communists have done, and maybe still are doing, maybe as in North Korea. Millions of people have some ideological allegiance today with either Stalinism or Trotskyism, and some with communist left theories, but whichever way communism is imagined, despite gross dissatisfaction with all that capitalism inflicts, any idea that millions can, after all that has gone before, be persuaded to become communists, is realistically futile, at least here in the UK.

So are there any other options available to all those who want to achieve peace only by getting rid of capitalism and imperialism ? Amaziingly, it seems to me that there is a materially objective way that that could be done. Alvin Toffler wrote a book called 'Power Shift'., explaining the growing power over events by all those people directly working in computing and information technology. Most people want more money rather than getting rid of it altogether at present. If enough revolutionaries could gain all the technical knowledge needed to get into cyberspace and redirect capital into what might be a worldwide set of proletarian bank branches, the power of the five or so percent of the world 's big capitalists would rapidly be relieved of the vast sums they use for daily transfer across global markets, and the surplus value they accrued from the working class would be transferred for the use of workers. Shows of hands at mass meetings is really a fuddy- duddy way of imagining the organisation of a world proletarian economy by now. Money won't just go away, but come our way, out of the pockets of the parasite class. Well', I await comments on this lot. You've heard it all before ?!

The Bolshevis organised bank robberies. I don't condemn them for that. What you are describing sounds like a form of non lethal terrorism which I am not condemning, and indeed, perhaps disruption of the capitalist process can have some positive effects, but it still does not do away with the fundamental need for the generalisation of sufficient class consciousness.

We share Marx' perspective that despite the deep grip of the ideas of the bourgeoisie over the vast majority, proletariat included, this is not total and it is not invincible. In certain situations with the required factors in place, not least of which is a pre organised revolutionary vanguard, class consciousness can be sufficiently generalised.

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.

Marx, German Ideology (1845)

Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and ... the alteration of men on a mass scale is, necessary, ... a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.

Marx, German Ideology (1845)

Thank you stevein7 for your comment of 2016-12-14-18:21. 'Whatever!' is all I'm inclined to say now, but am aware that that is hardly adequate; sorry, though remind myself and maybe others to beware the irrational thoughts of sleep-deprived persons, as advised by A,.R.Luria.

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