My Positions

I would have supported Gramsci against Bordiga in 1919-1920 Turin as I am a councilist. I would have supported Gramsci at Livorno against Bordiga as I would rather bang out with the fascists than sit by and watch. But by the twenties Bordiga led the Italian left and Gramsci was the right wing supporters of Stalin. The rightists completing their control at Lyon '26. After being expelled in 1930 Bordiga sat out like a bitch for 13 years. Meanwhile Gramsci died in prison and Togliatti undeniably turned the Communist Party of Italy into a counter-revolutionary organ. Then Bordiga split the Internationalist Communist Party and I would of sided with Damen. So I am a Damenist. You could say I am a Bordigist of sorts since Damen was at one time a Bordigist, but I feel like for a guy who called for a violent revolution by the proletariat, he was pretty much a bitch for not standing up to Fascism, while Damen spent most of his time in prison, led prison revolts, and stood up for what he believed in trying to fight Franco. Bordiga was stuck in the '20s, and for a guy who opposed united fronts with social democrats he sure relied on bourgeois democracy to make his points. Sitting out the whole fascist era. Kind of a bitch move.

I guess in many ways actions speak louder than words to me. But ideas are obviously very important. I do believe I differentiate between the two.

I am generally a materialist agreeing with Marx that material factors and class relations are the driving factors of history, not individuals as Hegel argued. Marcuse is interesting as a thinker but from a realistic and practical perspective the Frankfurt School has been completely discredited by "the third way" and modern European realities. Honestly I've always viewed them as just the modern incarnation of old school Bernsteinien Revisionist theory, which is something I totally reject. I also totally reject Stalinism and agree with you folks that it is state capitalism, as has been every communist dictatorship that has existed. If I had to pick one to live in it'd be Titoist Yugoslavia, but he was still an imperialist like every other nation. Nations cannot be anything but Imperialist. Time we abolish them. I invite discussion and comments but as I stated in my other post I thought you folks were quite rude to me when I wrote you six years ago so please be nice. No point in being antagonistic and engaging in these endless splits that paralyze the left. I've been reading and referring to this site for maybe six years now so I find I'm pretty much in agreement with most of the Communist Workers' Organization but I am interested to hear your opinions on Otto Rühle as I also consider myself a Rühleist. The German left all left though. Not to play on words. Honestly I am also interested to hear your opinions of the IWW as well.


Just a couple of historical errors to dispose of first. Bordiga did not take part in political activity for closer to 20 years from 1928 on. Damen did not support the anti-fascist fight against Franco but agreed with those in Bilan who thought workers should be against both sides in the Spanish Civil war (and in Italy after 1943 called for a fight against all imperialisms (Nazi-Fascist, Russian, and US).

Re Ruhle we translated and published his "from the Bourgeois to the Proletarian Revolution" back in the 1970s but we quickly realised that his anti-party stance was ahistorical and based on the experiences of German Social Democracy and the Russian Revolutionto conclude that "all parties are bourgeois". We think this is a counsel of despair and completely avoids the question of how the proletariat can make its numbers and its consciousness tell. Pannekoek (who alos became a councilist) put it a bit better when he argued that the proletariat only had two weapons - its consciousness and its organisation. This means not just a class wide organisation (councils etc) but also an organisation of the political minority - a party. what we have learned though from the experience of the Russian Revolution is that the party is not a ruling body (that's the councils). The party does not take power not even through the councils (even if every delegate in them was of the party). The party;s task is to spread world revolution and for this it cannot get involved with any one geographical area. Ruhle just thought that spontaneity was enough to get us there. I wish he was right but all he did was avoid the whole issue. If you don't think it is an issue then that's fair enough but we have other ideas. In fact the proletariat spontaneously throws up revolutionaries who are its minority. By particpating in this debate we are both part of that. We are not elite or anything just aprt of a natural process of the coming to consciousness of the working class. By stopping here and saying we just have nice discussions whilst we await the revolution we ar enot only denying our own existence but also the very process which is necessary to bring about revolution.

Can I just ask what the reference to ''bitch'' means?

I am not pointing out bad language, I swear and curse but tend to think we'd be better off without it and it's probably a reactionary behaviour, but nobody's perfect.

However the 'bitch' thing comes across as sexist and that is a no-no. We don't accept sexism.

Now maybe you didn't mean to be sexist, so you decide.

In one sense 'councilism' is a contradiction. If you don't think revolutionary organisation is required, why speak? Just let the workers get on with it. I.E. give the multiple expressions of organised capitalist ideology a free pass and let them appeal to a working class soaked in pro-capitalist propaganda from the cradle.

In another sense we are councilists as far as we reject the equating of proletarian dictatorship with party rule.

In fact we have no qualms about using the expression 'revolutionary organisation' rather than 'Party' if that helps to dispell the fear of a Stalinist type big brother party dictatorship. However the word party does not necessarily mean a ruling organ.

The fact is we are not just impartial observers who are clever enough to have solved the capitalist riddle, we want to actively propagate the revolutionary idea and speed up the process, contribute to putting down a system which is moribund and raising a society built on a classless foundation.

Workers' councils are an arena in which conflicting ideas are accepted or rejected.

Workers in general don't bear revolutionary ideas , but given a profound crisis and an organistion of militants determined to generalise the revolutionary perspective such ideas can prevail in the councill structure, but without the interaction between councils and revolutionary theory, the inevitable result is a temporary compromise, capitalist order and back to square one.

To clarify bitch in my vocabulary means someone who doesn't stand up, but I see the sexist implication. I am judging people who I did not know but I would like to think if I lived in that era Italy I'd have been inclined to fight fascism.

Interesting criticisms of councilism.

In many ways I agree with Rühle as I generally agree with the Spartacists for their criticism of Lenin. In many ways was he not a forward looking figure? He saw the Soviet Union for the state-capitalism it was, and pointed out its similarities to fascism. I guess in general I agree with his analysis of Leninism. When I say I am a "Bordigist" or a "Rühleist" I realize this is kind of silly because it is more like personality worship then focusing on their ideas. All thinkers have had good and bad ideas, and are inevitably products of their time. Bordiga meanwhile, referred to himself as a Leninist his whole life, although a Leninist before he became super-opportunist, rejecting United Fronts. I am anti-Leninist, even though admittedly he had interesting ideas, and we obviously gain from studying him, the fruits of his labor speak for themselves. The thread in this forum on Bordiga is interesting. What are the opinions of the ICT on Rosa Luxemburg? or of the later German KAPD? Seems a shame so many people got killed so that capitalism could keep running. I also asked about the IWW. I'd like to hear general opinions on "radical unionism"? This publication seems pretty clearly anti-union, but I wonder about so called "anti-capitalist" unions? As far as me calling Bordiga a "bitch" what I am trying to say is this: the dude called for violent revolution, but did he ever bleed or get into a fight? Would he have been gettin his hands bloody in the revolution? He rejected parliamentary participation, good idea, and he was not Lenin's plaything, but I feel sort of like dude was a hypocrite. Damen, meanwhile, actually shot and killed a fascist. He acted on his words.

When considering Lenin, one has to consider a process some parts of which were laudable and which we would uphold today, for example, much of his criticism of the second international, his defense of the revolutionary content of Marx's theory, defense of the proletarian dictatorship. Conversely, some of his positions we would reject, but no individual is completely beyond his time and place and Lenin's contribution was made at a time when the Soviet form was only just emerging and the argument around what actually constituted a proletarian dictatorship was far less advanced than today.

Unionism is all about a compromise with capital, conditions of exploitation which are tolerable. Factory groups we advocate are political organs and serve to link workers to revolutionary theory. We have no demands to make of capitalism, we only want to bury it. Any strike we engage in we seek to generalise, not negotiate an end.

As regards individual revolutionaries engaging in revolutionary activity, well, our task is not to physically exterminate the ruling class but to propagate the revolutionary perspective. However, I don't discount civil war in which revolutionaries will participate. We fight when we can win or when we have to fight, I don't think we should go out looking for fascists, and it is also a mistake to consider fascism as the special enemy, it is one variant of the capitalist ideology. Killing all of them is not required. However, I am not advocating pacifism. Let's cross the bridge when we get to it regarding exact use of violence.

Ruhle's formulation of state-capitalism is more bad than good. While we should without reservation agree that te Soviet Union never transcended capitalist relations, Otto Ruhle and others like Mattick say that the Soviet Union couldn't have been anything other than capitalism. This is of course a retreat back to Menshevism and 2nd International stage-ism, Marxism for amateurs. It completely ignores the class content of the Russian Revolution and most importantly, its international aspect. To say Russia "could only" have been capitalist is to restrict one's sights on a single nation, abstracted from the rest of the world.

Sandman is from the USA. The land of gun ownership. He describes his political orientation as ''armed struggle'', I just checked.

He says actions speak louder than words. I get the feeling he is not grasping the prime role of revolutionary consciousness.I highly recommend our pamphlet on Class consciousness.

''Consciousness, theory, an intellectual grasp of social reality -these cannot occupy a subordinate or fluctuating place in the socialist transformation of society, no empirical and anti-ideology or trust in the 'natural' evolution of affairs can substitute for them.''

The process by which the bulk of the class acquires a revolutionary perspective, the retarding or accelerating role of the various organisational forms, such are the questions we are dealing with. No masked avenger, magnificent seven, Zorro can rescue the working class.

Only by its own transformation into a revolutionary subject can the class destroy capitalism and build a world fit for humanity.

LOL! To be fair I put armed struggle because I thought it was amusing. Honestly I thought that list was silly and unduly specific to the point where many options seemed legitimate so i picked one that would be amusing. You need to figure out how to send me that pamphlet from Britain. I have never seen the magnificent seven and of course they cant end capitalism, but they can defend that town from bandits. You can take it upon yourself to defend people from whoever but thats obviously not going to end capitalism. The thing is most people don't care about these things and find it boring. In the land of gun ownership there is a knee jerk illogical reaction towards communism where people will literally think you are crazy. But if those people see me as an honorable man, concerned with the welfare of the disadvantaged, and I stick up for them against "the powers that be", then they will have gained respect for me as an individual. It is once you have acquired this individual respect you can get people to listen even if what you're kickin is radical. Case in point on may day I brought 64 Sandwiches and candy to feed people, tried to dress well and then went and made a speech in which I railed against police violence and actively advocated the overthrow of capitalism. If I had not brought food to feed people, and came looking all disshevelled, I predict people would have been less inclined to hear my message. Feeding a bunch of people, bringing them candy, and attempting to present yourself as respectfully as possible makes the listener more open minded to ideas they would normally automatically reject, such as violence towards the police (gasp!). After many years of failure to spread any working-class consciousness, I have come to understand that the observable logic and truth in my arguments dont matter, but people's perception of you as the one presenting the ideas does count a long way. In that letter years ago I was accused of "fearing organization", how can I fear organization if I have no one to organize with? I have not had a chance to ever meet a communist or conspire with one. The best I have been able to do is kick propaganda and ideas to friends, and then years later they find themselves opposed to capitalism, although lacking an understand of it, and still infected with knee jerk opposition to "communism" a word they dont understand. Usually when I engage people I leave out that word because it is a conversation ender, and credibility destroyer. But these days I am more and more bold about it because most people don't understand what capitalism is let alone communism, and by engaging them in the "soviet union wasn't communist" argument they come to realize they dont even know what capitalism is. The fact is most of my experience as a communist has been arguing with people and trying to get people to listen to me. The most I can say I've done is open peoples minds to ideas they were previously unaware of, and after fact checking me they find out I am right. I have never literally converted anyone to communism though, and it is still considered laughable. I fail to understand what I am not grasping? I have tried many times to inject revolutionary conciousness into the minds of proletarians and have universally failed. Even when I have gotten workers to realize they are being exploited they just think if they get a better job they will somehow no longer be exploited.

We are far away from the revolution, in the meantime how do we get people to realize these things? Propaganda of the deed, graffitti, Anonymous style whistle-blowing are not what Marx prescribed but I think in our modern reality they are effective to a degree of getting our message out. Steven, what was the point of your post? Do I strike you as lacking "an intellectual grasp of social reality"? I do not own a gun, but I am ready to fight. There is constant police violence in this country that normally goes unpunished. To advocate self defense is not attempting to be a "zorro" it is being sensible. But if people throw rocks at the police just out of sheer rage, rather then with a vision of a revolutionary future and a plan on how to conduct that revolution, then I agree it is a wasted effort. But an act of destruction done with a specific purpose in a well thought out manner, becomes an act of creation.

First thing we need to do is get a machine up and running to spread the ideas.

Actually that's probably almost all we need to do.

People like you are exactly what we need.

People looking for solutions, willing to commit to a certain extent at least.

You don't have to be alone, trying to work it all out from scratch, we have a lot of answers already and together we'll have a lot more.

Your questions as to the precise means by which we can penetrate the working class, influence those willing to listen, how we 'intervene' (I like the word, some don't) are exactly what we are looking at.

Anyway, back to the beginning, getting the fire started, getting the ball all comes down to people like yourself getting involved in our revolutionary organisation, that's the stage we are at, molecular growth, individual by individual. Don't underestimate how important the individual revolutionary is. 1000x more important than revolutionaries when the revolution is up and running. Without today's few, there will not be tomorrow's many.

But be patient, don't get frustrated, what we are looking at is a huge historical task, a dividing line for all time. I think we have a lot of grounds to believe that those alive today will see the revolution, but it could be further off. There are no guarantees, the answer is in each one of us, we can all contribute to accelerating the process. No matter how grim the capitalist reality may be, it still will not collapse into socialism on its own.

And a last comment, the working class of the moment may appear to be conservative, backward, but that is not the point, the point is that reality is a process of change, capitalism constantly forces radical change and today's obese video gamers will be tomorrow's class conscious revolutionary fighters.

Marx himself said the proletariat was revolutionary or nothing. Only at certain moments of history can the capitalist floodgates be breached and the revolution explode from obscurity to everything. Yet that revolutionary explosion is dependent on the patient work of the few who resist the tide and persist with revolutionary work, getting the revolutionary organisation together, defending, spreading, clarifying, developing revolutionary theory.

Point of my post is to eventually get you into our organisation and pooling our efforts into something bigger and more powerful and effective that any of us can create on our own.

Well I accept, sometimes I feel like you guys are a little rude though. I've been tryna encourage people to think more but some people mock me for self-describing as a revolutionary. They say I am all talk, I should do something, I ask them what can I do by my self? I think the most is just spur people to think and question their actions and pre-conceived notions. More and more people are waking up and realizing this system is unsustainable, the problem most people I know are also lazy pot heads who don't really feel like they can do anything or don't have the boldness to do anything. So I am left all alone, unable to not see what I see, and unable to convince myself that are society is somehow right, or "this is the best we can do". Like I said I never believed that shit even when I was a preteen, I may not of been intellectually advanced but I understood I was being lied to, and that our society was full of shit. I don't even really like the label communist. Who gives a shit? Its the ideas and the "scientific socialism" Marx left us.

I have no simple solutions but I think that you need to find your political 'home'.

The working class is strong through unity.

Otherwise it is nothing but a resource to be used by the capitalist class.

I hope that is with us in the ICT but that will be your decision.

Have you contacted our North American comrades?

I.N. - P.O. Box 746, Lafayette - IN 47902-0746

Maybe you could get to talk to someone in person, reduce the isolation.

That PO Box no longer functions. You can write to us@'

Yo what was Damen's stance on the Arditi del Popolo?


We have no documents by Onorato Damen on the Arditi del popolo but we are sure that he was loyal to the PCd'I view that the Arditi were a precursor of the 1930s Popular Front (they wanted an anti-fascist alliance with all parties including the liberal bourgeoisie). At the time the PCd'I only supported a "united front" from below (i.e between workers in struggle not between politicos or the bourgeoisie). Many ex-Arditi later fought for the Spanish Republic. Onorato Damen condemned fighting for either side during the Spanish War.

So am I to take it from this thread that I am a member of the ICT? Or a "young American sympathizer" lol.

I will change my "label" to "Anti-Americanism" so you can have something else to make fun of me about.


I don't understand where your last two comments come from. We have not made fun of you on this site (you have replied to us that some of your posts were not to be taken seriously when we did do so and criticised them). No-one has said you are a member of the ICT here although Stevein did express the hope you would consider it (but his post also realises that you are exploring issues for yourself).

The reference to "young American sympathiser" is not on here either but we did refer to your original post reminding us that we had predicted the end of the specualtive bubble in 2006 as such (because we deduced that from your positive (even when critical comments). Since then we would not have said it (since on this thread you say you identify with Gramsci because he was "a councilist". I don't think you realise just how bad Gramsci's position was in 1919-20 (read our introduction to the History of the Communist Party of Italy which is on this site for more details) but that is something for you to think about.

Forthe most part you have posted positively and hope you wil continue to do so.

You guys referenced me in your article on the meeting in Britain, and referred to me as such. I mean he sounded like he was inviting me, so I was trying to understand. I'm not really sore but I felt like steven was mocking me, about the "armed struggle" so I switched it to something as amusing. It was a joke. I like you guys dude, don't get it twisted. Sarcasm doesn't communicate well on the internet.

Keep it real I don't really care about Gramsci in 1919. My views are not on these dogmatic lines based on reliving the past and keeping old sectarian beefs alive. Bordiga had some good ideas, some bad ones, as does everyone. The only ist I'm really willing to call myself is communist and Marxist. Honestly I read the original post I made in this thread and laugh at it, I have really come to understand the silliness of sectarianism these last three months. My positions are organic, not fixed. What does councilism or Bordigism matter today? Well it matters as history, and as a historian I truly value that study, but it is not the 1920s, it is 2012, and it has been 100 years since the russian revolution. Our movement's fixation on it really cripples communism and leaves us internecine, dogmatic and irrationally focused on the past and reliving past beefs.

Communism hasn't arrived, so in some way everyone so far was wrong. Let us study the past leaders and theorists for their ideas and stop drawing battle lines among our own movement against each other, just spending our time arguing amongst each other. I guess If I was to be an ist I would be a left communist. I abhor Leninism and view it as a departure from orthodox Marxism. The result of an impoverished understanding of Marxism, and fundamentally petit bourgeois, vanguardism denies the revolutionary potential of the proletariat, instead positing the petit-bourgeois must lead them, as their trained dog, into their new pen, of what turned out to be a dictatorship of the bureacracy. Lenin's rigid authoritarian organization was made to combat authoritarian czarism, so in that way it is a reflection of it. Communism will not be brought about by a petit-bourgeois vanguard of intellectuals, it will be brought about by the proletariat.

But as materialists can we not agree that the russian revolution happened not because of Lenin, but because of material conditions? He may have been one of the few to call for revolutionary defeatism, but why is he the one who is remembered the most? Because of the accident in history that he was the leader of the aggressive russian revolutionaries, not the mensheviks, who were the more orthodox Marxists, Marx said Russia couldn't skip from feudalism to socialism, and ultimately they were the ones who were vindicated. Lenin would rather trick the proletariat into handing over power to an elite of traitors, than allow them to rule themselves, which is the point of our whole movement. I believe Lenin poisoned Marxism. All his followers laid down their doctrine, Stalin, Mao, Hoxha, Lin Biao, Trotsky, Kim Sung-il, Bordiga, Damen, Castro the many others I am not mentioning.

At this point the movement starts to resemble a religion, with a chain of prophetic succession, and a progressively narrowing doctrine. Each prophet claiming legitimacy by following in the prophet before him. "Sects", becomes the word to accurately describe the different interpretations of Marxism, this resemblance to religion is truly troubling. The "ists" (the followers of these different dogmatic sects) become like cultists focused around personalities, they refer to a written dogma of text in order to differentiate themselves from others with the same goal. The internicine nature of the left is what has always crippled it. These cultists are denying the fundamental nature of Marxism as a dynamic living science which requires constant revision and criticism, it is not a religous dogma. They do not have original opinions that came out of their own analysis, but rather those preformulated by their theorist, referring to written doctrine for instructions on how to live life, just like a religious person.

They wish to relive the past, apply a frozen doctrine on a dynamic present, they cannot understand the point of Marxism. Unknowingly, but most certainly, they are reactionary, because they wish to relive the past, keeping the head of the proletariat turned away from the future. All of these people are dead, their ideologies have failed. Capitalism keeps trucking, but the internal contradictions of capitalism, and its decadent nature, is displaying itself ever more often. We don't need ists, or to relive old beefs, we need to return Marxism to its purpose and goal, the emancipation of the modern day proletariat, not vindication of the mistakes of past revolutionaries.

“The tradition of the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the minds of the living. And, just when they appear to be engaged in the revolutionary transformation of themselves and their material surroundings, in the crea­tion of something which does not yet exist, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary cri­sis they timidly conjure up the spirits of the past to help them; they borrow their names, slogans and costumes.” (Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1852)

Keep it real I will join, ya'll just gotta accept I am critical.

So am I accepted?

Do you mean as a member? To join the ICT you join through the local territorial section. In your case that is the IWG who can be reached on

No offense, I disagree with him, this is the author of "internationalist notes"?

Internationalist Notes is a collective product not a one man band. I don't see how you can say you agree with the ICT enough to ask to join and then disagree with one of its sections (we all disagree about one thing or another but we are talking about a general agreement around the Platform).

I dunno, its just the shit he sent me years ago I didn't like. Apologia for Lenin and Trotsky and defaming the Kronstadt sailors. I also conversed with him thru email, I think his name is "Gary"? I didn't agree with his positions.

I think this must be a case of mistaken identity. No "Gary" in the US exists and we would not have anyone defaming the Kronstadters but that's another complex event of 91 years ago!

I know I'm not tripping dude. W/e maybe I will write the ICG.

Good idea. Good luck.

I know for a fact I talked to the dude though, I think he said he lived in Wisconsin and used to live in Canada. I think he told me he was like the only one in America, he sent me Internationalist Notes. I remember I thought he was extremist because he criticized Onorato Damen for running in the Florentine city council, when it seems to me at that time it was probably the prudent thing to do. This is 6 years ago so its hazy but don't tell me it's mistaken identity, he sent me a bunch of your stuff to my address w/o me even asking for it, which btw, much of I have kept to this day :) I'm pretty sure I've read articles by him on this site talking about Wisconsin.

I think Sandman's comments on Lenin are a bit extreme.

I agree that he/the bolsheviks/1917 had flaws and our attitude isn't just happy celebration and I said as much at the Sheffield meeting, maintaining that acceptance of 1917 as proletarian, without necessarily being an incorrect position, needs not be a condition for adherence to the ICT.

However, I think that Lenin, Trotsky et al are complex subjects and cannot be easily condemned or praised.

However, if sandman wants to be in the ICT, I welcome him, he's thinking about the subjects profoundly and I wish him luck.

Thats really the only part of your platform I disagree with. This desire to define october as "proletarian", when it was blanquist. It was a minority section of the proletariat in a nation where the proletariat was an absolute minority. This was not a "mass movement", but a coup by rigidly authoritarian "democratic centralist" professional revolutionaries, the leaders of which were all from the petit-bourgoeis. It really seems silly to me to even be fixated on it in 2012. Besides that I don't believe in rigidity of doctrine, we cannot preformulate the revolution, different objective conditions call for different strategies. Besides that I like you guys so I guess I will remain a "sympathizer" regardless.

1917 was 95 years ago, besides it seems arbitrary to me. Why not contain a plank about a stance on the 1925-27 chinese revolution, or the Spanish civil war, or Hungary '56, or '68 France, '80-81 Poland or '88 Poland, do you catch my drift? Revolution by its nature is dynamic, fixation on past ones suppresses future ones. The future will not take us back to 1917!

I think the ruling class wants to obliterate our history, wants us all to live in a blinkered emotionally driven state, a perpetual present of blissful work/consumption like farm animals.

All the past events you refer to embody important lessons for the working class, highlight mistakes we need to avoid and show us our power to bring this shitstem to its knees.

I'm not going to try and defend 1917 here because it would take a long time and the work has already been done in the pamphlet on the subject that I recommend to you.

the paid lackeys of the ruling class are desperate to present 1917 as just a few megalomaniacs seizing power but the reality is a massive mobilisation of the proletariat and a profound penetration of revolutionary class consciousness.

nobody really knew what the proletarian dictatorship looked like and it's hardly surprising things went wrong, but there's a lot to be proud of, a lot to inspire us from the period.

It won't repeat but nor should the massive effort of so many workers be written off.

Keeping it real doesn't mean going with the official flow.

Most of what you say I would have once said, but now I hope I know better, in no small part due to the efforts of the CWO/ICT which I embrace after abandoning the anti-party anarchist mindset that I think permeates your thinking.

However, no -one starts knowing it all and this is a long process.

Wow I'm an "anti-party anarchist" first time I've been called that.

I think Stevein said only that "an anti-party anarchist mind set permeates your thinking" which is not quite the same thing.

I had precisely the same views as you when I was in my early 20s. I not only thought that the Bolshevik Revolution was a coup but that Lenin was some kind of criminal and that he was an opportunist who kept shifting his position to suit circumstances. I was in the group Solidarity in London at precisely the time Chris Pallas (aka Maurice Brinton) published his Bolsheviks and Workers Control. However I did some real study after this and have a much more sanguine view than I did then but we are at an impasse in discussing this with you since you claim that it is not important and happened a long time ago. Stevein, I think, has made the case for why it is important and why revolutionaries cannot bury their head in the sand about the history of our class, both the good bits and the bad bits. The bourgeoisie has learned a lot from the class struggle which is why it is still dominant. We have to do the same. The difference is all revolution has to be predicated on the mass activity of the working class (and in October 1917 we had it). But that's a discussion ...

No, I don't think sandman is an anti-party anarchist, but I think his assessment of Lenin and others does tend towards a glorification of the spontaneous consciousness of the working class.

We could all call ourselves anarchists, even councilists, the words are sufficently elastic and broad to accommodate us, but I think we of the CWO/ICT have a relatively homogenous and clear view of the need for a revolutionary party, the limits of spontaneous consciousness, the nature of the proletarian dictatorship which does not translate into a separate party power.

Is there a way to get it so it don't notify me every time someone replies?

I'm a think bout what you sayin, Stevein. I think I'm gonna go ahead and try to get involved with the IWW. Maybe a way of saying what you guys think is, Lenin was an asshole butcher but he was an organizer who organized a pretty powerful force which eventually became a victorious army: the bolsheviks? As in, lets take the example from what he was good at and throw out all the duplicitousness and authoritarianism?

No you don't get it. You have to look at the whole thing is a process not as a series of still black and white pictures (As Bordiga famously said history is a movie which is a brilliant way of explaining how the dialectic in history works). We don't leave out anything but examine both the success and the failures, the things that contributed to the revolution and the things that were without doubt part of the counter-revolution. But you don't start with one individual (although Lenin is as intellectually dominant a force as you get in history (the only rival I can think of is Bismarck - and they share the same fate that they both ultimately failed). But Lenin's real force in 1917 is that the working class went along with him and did so willingly. It was the rank and file Bolsheviks (the vast majority of them workers) who accepted the April Theses whilst the old Bolshevik leadership, still mired in social democratic schemas, could not see what was happening on the ground. It was Lenin who was the most internationalist in seeing that the October Revolution was not a solution in itself but depended on an international revolution. And of course this was consistent with his internationalism in being the most vociferous supporter of revolutionary defeatism at the outbreak the First World War (to the derision of the leaders of the Second International who revelled in showing his isolation as the workers of Europe willingly went off to butcher one another). In these things Lenin demonstrated real revolutionary leadership.

But not everything Lenin thought was a break from Social Democracy. Even the State and Revolution which is sometimes seen as his most visionary work (where he does not once mention the Party) has a mechanical view of what communism might be like and at times appears as state capitalist. In fact when the Bolshevik Left Communists in March 1918 pointed out that the revolution was heading towards state capitalism Lenin was not worried because he saw state capitalism as a step towards communism (the position of the orthodox Leninists of Troskyism today). We NOW know (since we have the experience of the Russian Revolution before us) that the opposite is the case and that state capitalism is the decadent form of capitalism helping to preserve it in the face of its own contradictions. This is one reason why we study past revolutiooanry experiences even though we know we live in an entriely different era and the course of revolution will be different.

But this error, plus the other one in November 1917 where the Bolsheviks set up a GOVERNMENT called the Sovnarkom instead of allowing the EC of the Congress of Soviets to rule, were not the CAUSES of the counter-revolution. That was due to the isolation of the revolution to the territory of the Russian Empire. And as the isolation grew worse Lenin took on the role of the leader of a Party which increasingly carried out the tasks which the working class could not in Russia alone. And in due course the Party convinced itself it was the class and that everything else was counter-revolutionary. In the brutal civil war you get Lenin becoming increasingly counter-revolutionary (advocating shooting workers at one point). Ultimately it all ended with Kronstadt, the adoption of NEP, the banning of factions in the once very lively and democratic Bolshevik Party and the adoption of the first steps towards a united front (fully adopted 1922). The failure of the international revolution and the stabilisation of capitalism in the 1920s are the real causes even if specific polices of the Bolsheviks defined the nature of the defeat.

At the end of his life a very ill Lenin realised the failure when he recognised that they had created state machine which was not controlled by either the proletariat or the communists and had acquired a life of its own. But that was about the last thing he wrote.

This is of course all very schematic (I have left out lots of things on both sides of the equation) but I hope you can get the idea of a sense of process that was all going (with a few problems) in the right direction until 1918, then became ambiguous in the civil war (although there was still some life in the soviets into 1920) but then hit the buffers in 1921 and a process of counterrevolutioon was full on until the adoption of "socialism in one country" after the death of Lenin.

For anyone interested I recently started a discussion on the Russian Revolution on the ICC forum:


As the discussion is only about what to read it has not yet got to the "interesting" stage. If you put "1917" into the search at the top of this site you will get a series of articles which deal with the events of 1917. Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution is at times brilliant but he also has a penchant for metaphysics (the February Revolution was a product of the party schooled by Bolshevism is the one that I recall. It was a bit more dialectical process than that). You should read Rabinowitch's "The Bolsheviks Come to Power" as an antidote. Rabinowitch's sequel on the counter-revolution thirty plus years later is an apologia for Social Democracy and a big disappointment but he is not alone in his conversion after the fall of the USSR (the list is very long and we have written about this elsewhere).

Thanks Cleishbotham. Hopefully it will get "interesting"! I just hope people aren't put off as I imagine they have been through it all before, many, many times. It's quite difficult to get a handle on it after hearing so many conflicting perspectives and opinions, people drawing lessons from it which go in some part to directing elements of their organisation and so on etc, etc.

I have been studying it for nearly half a century and I have never been in a position to say that I fully understand it all. Every year there is new material which challenges every orthodoxy. The problem you face is that raised here by Sandman which is that the next revolution will not be based on the same material basis as the Russian Revolution of 1917 so why bother to study it? The premise is unimpeachable but this was the closest we got to an authentic proletarian revolution where workers talked openly of communism. In anarchist and councilist mythology the revolution was proletarian but was then hijacked by a bunch of putschists who had secret plans to proceed to take it towards a new authoritarian form of capitalism. Unfortunately the real story is worse than that. We had here authentic internationalist communists who headed a militant and revolutionary class movement (people forgot that 1917 made the Bolshevik Party as much as the other way round) and yet within a very short time they had failed. This is a far bigger tragedy for the working class. We know that the objective situation and isolation of the revolution was the principle factor but we also need to understand the process of political degeneration which accompanied it and defined the manner of the defeat. Happy reading!