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 Post subject: The Purpose of Intervention: A Discussion Text
PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 1:54 am 
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https://anticapital0.wordpress.com/the- ... sion-text/

What is the purpose of communist participation in the class struggle in the most immediate sense, and what is the basis of this participation?


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 Post subject: Re: The Purpose of Intervention: A Discussion Text
PostPosted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 8:34 am 
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The Purpose of Intervention: A Discussion Text has been published in Dutch on the blog Arbeidersstemmen http://arbeidersstemmen.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/het-doel-van-deelname-aan-de-klassestrijd-een-discussietekst/

The translation is followed by critical notes:

1] 'Intervention' can not be translated into Dutch with 'interventie’ or ’tussenkomst’. These two words have in Dutch the meaning of 'intervention' in a situation by a State by legal or military means, often unsolicited.
A second meaning is that of a psychologist or social worker committing intervention in a case of personal crisis.
'Intervention' in both senses does not apply in the case of participation of council communists in class struggle. To ‘intervene' in workers 'struggle may mean nothing but to come ‘in between’ labor and capital, as the unions and "left" parties do in the exercise of their state function of sabotaging the workers' struggles and maintaining "industrial peace". So do "communists" of all kinds - especially Stalinists, Maoists and various Trotskyists, but council communists do not.
The participation of council communists in the class struggle is neither comparable to the outside and 'professional' intervention in a personal crisis. Therefore I prefer to speak of ’participation’ in the workers' struggle, but in this translation, I keep the term "interventie” between quotation marks, to indicate that this word in the context of the translation is somewhat misleading.

[2] On paragraph 3 “As the fraction of the working-class … but to what ends?”.
I’ll give some comments: to this remarkable argument,
For a meaningful discussion, what here is called the leverage of the communists, must be specified to determine how they contribute to the struggle for power. As a council communist I take the latter as the development of the struggle in defense of the workers against attacks by the state, into a seizure of power by the workers' councils and the destruction of the bourgeois state. Then the workers' councils consolidate their power over society (dictatorship of the proletariat, also the most democratic exercise of power so far).
"The enforcement of immediate material improvements" in the current situation of crisis and wars (and in a broader historical sense for over 100 years) is only possible as concessions from the state and the capitalist class if the working class in its struggle, in fact, is threatening the power of capital, but in itself it is not yet massively conscious. The communists make this clear to the masses of workers and encourage them to fight to get to power.

[3] In paragraph 4 the obvious participation of communists in the daily struggle is unnecessarily shrouded in Christian religious terminology. The communists are nothing more than workers (or members of other classes place themselves in workers position) who, as a result of a process of development of consciousness within the proletariat as a whole, as firsts have reached a certain awareness, and this is why they spread their positions in the class as a whole to promote this process.

[4] On “winning a formal (and hollow) mantle of leadership”: The obsession with "leaders" and the qualities of the 'leader' is typical of many variations of Leninism. Instead of the slogan "the emancipation of the working class can only be the work of the workers themselves" Leninism places the leadership principle. It is not clear what position the text adopts. For a council communist position regarding the relationship between the revolutionary minority and the mass of the working class, see “mass organization and minority organizations” (Dutch only).

[5] I object to the use of the term 'raw material'. Considering the members of their organization as "raw material" for the Party, is typical for Bordigist and Leninist sects and shows their willingness to sacrifice this 'human material' to more honorable purposes. The insane false self-accusations of revolutionaries in the Stalinist show trials - that thought to serve the Party - were the caricatured outgrowth of this party ideology. Councils communists by contrast, consider autonomous thinking, open discussion and inner conviction and motivation as characteristics of communists, following the example of the working class developping its humanity in the mass struggle for its self-liberation and therefore of humanity as a whole.


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 Post subject: Re: The Purpose of Intervention: A Discussion Text
PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 9:38 pm 
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Welcome Fredo, and thank you for the comment.

I'll begin to respond to your comments in chronological order:

[1] Yes, even in English the word has the same issues associated with it (so it's used by some, and its usage opposed by others for the reasons you outline).

I think that using it in the affirmative is a positive thing, for recognizing that such communist participation is in the most literal sense "unsolicited," and something that is outside the scope of the terms and conditions of the immediate struggle, or in other words, it's possible for a struggle to run its course with or without communist participation, but only communist participation is capable of giving it the potential to become something else.

I disagree that the trade unions can be grouped into the same category as Maoist and Trotskyist groups, or that they are both (unions and leftist groups) agents of the capitalist state. As it relates to the trade unions, I don't think they 'get in-between' labor and capital-- they were and are organs produced and reproduced by labor in its struggles against capital.

[2] In the basic sense, I agree with you that the fundamental issue at stake for communists in the class struggle is the development of working-class resistance to capital and the capitalist state, and affirming the proletarian revolution, proletarian dictatorship and communism.

Quote:
"The enforcement of immediate material improvements" in the current situation of crisis and wars (and in a broader historical sense for over 100 years) is only possible as concessions from the state and the capitalist class if the working class in its struggle, in fact, is threatening the power of capital, but in itself it is not yet massively conscious. The communists make this clear to the masses of workers and encourage them to fight to get to power.


If I understand your argument, it's that defense of current working and living conditions and the extraction of new concessions isn't possible unless the working-class is threatening the power of capital-- if that's an accurate description, I don't agree with that prognosis, if only because it can be demonstrated that there have been such victories, both defensive and offensive, over the last 100 years, and even in the last 40 years when capital's crisis and offensives have put almost 2 generations of workers on the defensive.

[3]
Quote:
In paragraph 4 the obvious participation of communists in the daily struggle is unnecessarily shrouded in Christian religious terminology.


I'm not sure what you're referring to with this comment regarding Christian terminology?

The 4th paragraph of the article reads:

In becoming the personification of labor’s lived experience and historic memory we can be and historically have been useful in the struggle for immediate improvements—be it winning new demands or resisting deteriorations; in other words, assisting labor’s encroachments on capital or defending labor from capital’s encroachments.

Quote:
The communists are nothing more than workers (or members of other classes place themselves in workers position) who, as a result of a process of development of consciousness within the proletariat as a whole, as firsts have reached a certain awareness, and this is why they spread their positions in the class as a whole to promote this process.


My main disagreement is with what isn't said: first, whether it is expected that an overwhelming majority of workers must become communists prior to a proletarian revolution, and second whether there is a mediation between communists and their non-communists in the process of the development of proletarian class consciousness, specifically a communist organization (workers' party) in your perspective?

[4] "the emancipation of the working class can only be the work of the workers themselves" is a phrase that I think has been subject to extreme confusion. It was deployed by Marx in the First International to definitively announce the political independence of the working-class from the other classes and strata. The International Workingmen's Association-- as loose as it was as an organization-- was still led by its General Council and bound to a measure of party discipline.

I don’t think that the question of leadership is the defining element of Leninism (but it is the defining element of Trotskyism).

Quote:
On “winning a formal (and hollow) mantle of leadership”: The obsession with "leaders" and the qualities of the 'leader' is typical of many variations of Leninism.


In the text, the statement reads:

Winning formal leadership must be secondary to acting as a constructive and creative force; practical usefulness to our co-workers and fellow workers is more important than winning a formal (and hollow) mantle of leadership.

The emphasis was that informal leadership earned by being practically useful is more important than formal leadership. It’s an affirmation and an opposition. It’s an affirmation that communists must be both a constructive and creative force, a lever in the shared terrain of the class struggle, but not necessarily rejecting or disregarding formal leadership as a matter of principle.

It’s an opposition to those caricatures of communist activity (such as that seen in Trotskyist groups), where maneuvering for a formal leadership position in labor organizations (like the trade unions) is portrayed as synonymous with winning leadership of the struggle, or the working-class.

[5]
Quote:
I object to the use of the term 'raw material'. Considering the members of their organization as "raw material" for the Party, is typical for Bordigist and Leninist sects and shows their willingness to sacrifice this 'human material' to more honorable purposes.


I meant that communists as a whole, not the members of any particular existing organization(s), must become the raw materials for the construction of the workers’ party, as something that we work toward together through common work and development. No such party exists.

The main thesis of ‘The Purpose of Intervention’ is that communist intervention in the class struggle makes better communists, more effective communists, which facilitates revolutionary organization and facilitates the communist function in the class struggle, and so also facilitates the proletarian revolution-proletarian dictatorship-communism.


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 Post subject: Re: The Purpose of Intervention: A Discussion Text
PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, 2017 4:20 am 
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Thank you for your remarks.

I believe that most issues can become more clear if we concentrate this discussion on the question of class consciousness and that of the relationship between communist minorities of the class and the class as a whole.

An important part of your answer is to be found in following 4 quotations (in Bold) from your reply:

" ‘the emancipation of the working class can only be the work of the workers themselves’ is a phrase that I think has been subject to extreme confusion. It was deployed by Marx in the First International to definitively announce the political independence of the working-class from the other classes and strata. The International Workingmen's Association-- as loose as it was as an organization-- was still led by its General Council and bound to a measure of party discipline.”

Let me confirm what this famous phrase ‘the emancipation of the working class can only be the work of the workers themselves’ underlines in the present situation:
1) the programmatical autonomy of the proletariat towards other classes and therefore the need to organize on a class basis;
2) the mass character of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat;
3) the origin of class consciousness in the mass character and the autonomy of the proletarian struggles.
This does not contradict the centralized character and discipline within the communist minorities of the class or even their indispensable function in the class. In the following I’ll try to prove that the mentioned slogan should be considered as an ‘invariant’ part of Marxism, as it already appeared in a central fragment of German Ideology.

It may be necessary to explain that the position of Kautsky, that Lenin referred to in ‘What to do’, that socialism originates from outside the proletariat, can only be understood as ‘socialism’ in the sense of ‘historic materialism’ or ’scientific socialism’, and that this theory only could be elaborated by Marx and Engels on the basis of mass consciousness in the first autonomous struggles of the working class on beforehand. The same is true for the further evolution of communist theory in the light of historical development of class struggles, a necessity that you may deny. Anyway, in the ‘invariant’ part of the writings of Marx and Engels the need and posiibility for a mass consciousness reads as following:

“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.” Source: point (4) in German Ideology https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01d.htmlogy .

“ it's possible for a struggle to run its course with or without communist participation, but only communist participation is capable of giving it the potential to become something else.”

Are you referring here to the position ascribed to Lenin that the proletariat is only capable to ‘trade-unionist’ struggle and consciousness, meant as remaining within the framework of capitalism? Following quote seems to suggest so:

“As it relates to the trade unions, I don't think they 'get in-between' labor and capital-- they were and are organs produced and reproduced by labor in its struggles against capital.”

I’m in fact referring to the definitive change in the function of trade-unions from workers’ organizations into organs of the state that the German and Dutch Communist Left has seen marked by the unions anti-working class behavior in Word War I. This Left explained these and other changes in the tactical means of struggle from the historic change in the course of capitalism that was recognized in the early texts of the Communist International, and that Marx and Engels ‘invariantly’ had foreseen in point (1) of the text cited above:

“In the development of productive forces there comes a stage when productive forces and means of intercourse are brought into being, which, under the existing relationships, only cause mischief, and are no longer productive but destructive forces (machinery and money); and connected with this a class is called forth, which has to bear all the burdens of society without enjoying its advantages, which, ousted from society, is forced into the most decided antagonism to all other classes; a class which forms the majority of all members of society, and from which emanates the consciousness of the necessity of a fundamental revolution, the communist consciousness, which may, of course, arise among the other classes too through the contemplation of the situation of this class.” Source: point (1) in German Ideology: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01d.htm.

Unfortunately it was not only Trotsky, but Lenin as well, that - acting as the agents of foreign policy of the Russian State - obliged the CP’s in the West to work inside the corrupted trade unions.

“what isn't said: first, whether it is expected that an overwhelming majority of workers must become communists prior to a proletarian revolution, and second whether there is a mediation between communists and their non-communists in the process of the development of proletarian class consciousness, specifically a communist organization (workers' party) in your perspective?”

Let me be clear: I do NOT expect that an overwhelming majority of workers must become communists prior to a proletarian revolution. In agreement with German Ideology my position is “the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness (…) can only take place in (…) a revolution”. Or as put in ’10 theses on the coming revolution” where a distinction is made between revolutionary and communist consciousness on a mass scale:

“9. Mass revolutionary consciousness develops in the revolution itself as necessity and possibility of global unification of the workers' councils and the smashing of all bourgeois and imperialist states.
10. Massive communist consciousness will develop when the working class united as factory organization (general meetings, committees and councils) will form the association of free and equal producers and will determine production and distribution on the basis of the working hour.”
(translated from Dutch). Source: http://www.arbeidersstemmen.nl/R_revolutie_10stellingen.html

Concerning the mediation between a communist workers’ party (which can only be a minority) and the mass of the workers:

Actually: “The most conscious individuals unite on the basis of shared positions in groups that contribute to the process of consciousness throughout the class.” (From thesis 8).

Only in a pre-revolutionary situation these groups - by numerical growth and a process beforehand of theoretical clarification and regroupment - will have become so numerous that they cannot be called ‘groups’ anymore. Because of revolutionary consciousness grown in the class and following from this, by the more direct impact that the minority organizations will have on the struggles, the class party will re-emerge, be it with other functions than ascribed to it before, because of its remaining minority character (the party does not take power), something that was not clear to Lenin nor to Rosa Luxemburg in 1917. In this sense: without Party there will be no successful Revolution.

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Fredo Corvo

website: http://arbeidersstemmen.nl
blog: http://libcom.org/blog/fredo-corvo
mail [url]mailto:[email protected][/url]
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 Post subject: Re: The Purpose of Intervention: A Discussion Text
PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, 2017 6:19 pm 
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Fredo Corvo wrote:
I’m in fact referring to the definitive change in the function of trade-unions from workers’ organizations into organs of the state that the German and Dutch Communist Left has seen marked by the unions anti-working class behavior in Word War I. This Left explained these and other changes in the tactical means of struggle from the historic change in the course of capitalism that was recognized in the early texts of the Communist International, and that Marx and Engels ‘invariantly’ had foreseen in point (1) of the text cited above:


Sorry if I appear to be nit-picking, unions have been a point of study for me lately.

When you say that the trade-unions became organs of the state, I assume you mean the capitalist state. What do you think, functionally, caused this shift? I'm not asking so much what broad overarching theme in capitalism is reflected by this transition, but how did the change itself actually happen? For instance, if you were a Trotskyist (I know you're not) you might answer that the problem is one of leadership, so what went wrong with the unions is simply that the wrong leaders are in charge now according to this viewpoint.

From this, I would then like to ask about your thoughts on the soviets in Russia in the year 1917. During the period in which the social revolutionaries and kerinsky held the majorities in the various soviets, were they organs of working-class rule, or could you comment on the character of the soviets more generally during this time as contrasted to when the bolsheviks held the majority?

I ask because I think Mike might answer by saying that the soviets needed to be 'won over' to communism in a similar way to how he may feel that trade-unions of today need to be 'won over' to communism, so I was interested to hear your thoughts on this manner (and please Mike, correct me if I'm wrong).

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 Post subject: Re: The Purpose of Intervention: A Discussion Text
PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, 2017 10:54 pm 
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Bro has anticipated part of my response: primarily the idea that the function of communists in the class necessarily means being a part of the life of the class in all aspects and phases of its struggles, including those which take place within and through labor organizations of any and all forms (trade unions and workers' councils for example).

Fredo I'm in agreement with your interpretation of the slogan ‘the emancipation of the working class can only be the work of the workers themselves’. Generally in discussions I've had, that slogan is often distorted to mean that communists are not a part of the working-class, similar to Ruehle's "The Revolution is not a Party Affair" line, so I'm very pleased to find some common ground.

Quote:
Are you referring here to the position ascribed to Lenin that the proletariat is only capable to ‘trade-unionist’ struggle and consciousness, meant as remaining within the framework of capitalism? Following quote seems to suggest so:


Yes and no, but mostly yes. I'm not implying that communism is something external to the working-class, but I am saying that it is not capable of extending itself or universalizing itself without the premeditated action of communists in the class struggle-- and that a proletarian revolution in the movement toward communism is not possible without such action.

Or put another way, the class struggle is perpetual and constant, it is not a series of individual choices but determined by social relationships, so the working-class is compelled to struggle against capital whether communists engage in premeditated (class conscious) action or not.

Regarding class consciousness, I see it as two manifestations (both derived from the working-class): action preceding consciousness, and consciousness preceding action. That is what it seems Lenin was expressing in the 'trade union consciousness'/'social democratic consciousness' distinction, but both are equally forms of proletarian class consciousness.

Quote:
I’m in fact referring to the definitive change in the function of trade-unions from workers’ organizations into organs of the state that the German and Dutch Communist Left has seen marked by the unions anti-working class behavior in Word War I. This Left explained these and other changes in the tactical means of struggle from the historic change in the course of capitalism that was recognized in the early texts of the Communist International, and that Marx and Engels ‘invariantly’ had foreseen in point (1) of the text cited above:


Yes, I am familiar with the position (and I held that same position on the same basis until relatively recently).

The one element of the question that seems most important to me at the moment is that the evidence of a change in the trade unions which provides a basis for that political position (about the changing class nature of the trade unions with the onset of capitalist decadence/during World War I) is not exclusive to the 'epochal shift' at that time. Bro's question relates to this matter of how the shift is said to have manifested.

The behaviors, tendencies and episodes used to justify this political position about the trade unions becoming organs of capital and lost to the working-class pre-exist the timeline said to be the crossing-over from ascendant to decadent capitalism.

I think this alone demonstrates that there was not a fundamental change in the class content of the trade unions; and this is without considering the theoretical questions raised by Marx, Engels and Lenin on the basis of their practical political activity and the real development of labor's class struggles.

Marx and especially Engels, in their appraisals of the British trade union leaders in the mid-19th century, were reacting to what was then a new phenomenon: the accumulation of material gains by fractions of the working-class as a result of the class struggle and embodied in permanent trade union organizations/structures. And I think Lenin, in response to these appraisals, was wrong in developing the theory of the 'aristocracy of labor' and those aspects of his theory of imperialism which deal with the supposed material basis of this 'aristocracy of labor'.

Quote:
Unfortunately it was not only Trotsky, but Lenin as well, that - acting as the agents of foreign policy of the Russian State - obliged the CP’s in the West to work inside the corrupted trade unions.


I disagree with this assessment, based on the content of the Bolsheviks' work long before, during and after the October revolution. It wasn't the foreign policy of the Soviet Republic which led to the Russian position on the trade union question, but was instead the preceding decades of struggle which resulted in the first successful proletarian revolution and became the point of departure for their interventions in the Third International. In comparison the Western European and the American communists in particular were very isolated from the class and displayed both practical and theoretical backwardness.

While I don't agree with your conception of the class political party, I am interested to hear your thoughts on the practical elements of communist activity in the present.

Also, do you have a link to the text you mentioned in your earlier reply (“mass organization and minority organizations" in Dutch)?


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 Post subject: Re: The Purpose of Intervention: A Discussion Text
PostPosted: Thu Mar 23, 2017 6:28 am 
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I just see now the answers I received to my post. Thank you for that!
I hope to reply within 10 days.
Asked link to (dutch only) "10 stellingen over de komende revolutie": http://arbeidersstemmen.nl/R_revolutie_10stellingen.html.

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 Post subject: Re: The Purpose of Intervention: A Discussion Text
PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 12:54 pm 
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Follow the contributions by Bro and Mhou (thank you!) and my replies in Bold.

Broletariat Mar 13, 2017 ——————————————————————————————————

Sorry if I appear to be nit-picking, unions have been a point of study for me lately.

When you say that the trade-unions became organs of the state, I assume you mean the capitalist state.

Yes I do.

What do you think, functionally, caused this shift? I'm not asking so much what broad overarching theme in capitalism is reflected by this transition,

You don’t ask, but the context of changing capitalism is important: tendency toward monopolism, organization of employers, in conflicts with labour supported by capital as a whole and the state, economically the pressure on wages is growing

but how did the change itself actually happen? For instance, if you were a Trotskyist (I know you're not) you might answer that the problem is one of leadership, so what went wrong with the unions is simply that the wrong leaders are in charge now according to this viewpoint.

Trade unions have never been revolutionary organizations but were always limited to execute functions of the labour market, accepting the framework of wage labor. The unions have a form of ‘bureaucratic’ organization adapted to a context of wage struggles of the past. It’s true they didn’t change in these two aspects! When the period changed, to survive as formal organizations against the grown economic and legal pressures from employers and the state, the unions transformed themselves from organs of struggle within capitalism into mediators between the classes, playing down conflicts, preventing them, and if possible handing over combative workers to the police.


From this, I would then like to ask about your thoughts on the soviets in Russia in the year 1917. During the period in which the social revolutionaries and kerinsky held the majorities in the various soviets, were they organs of working-class rule, or could you comment on the character of the soviets more generally during this time as contrasted to when the bolsheviks held the majority?

Soviets were a form of organization more adapted to the period of social revolution. In stead of top-down bureaucratic control, workers councils have a functionality suited for revolution: their mass and factory based character, recall of delegates, simultaneous decision and action, etc. In short the Soviets in the Russian revolution were potentially revolutionary organizations, i.e. in which mass proletarian class consciousness could develop and the proletariat could constitute itself as class for itself. In February the workers started a mass strike movement and hit the streets because they wanted to end the war. The Tauric Palace was seen as a center of this struggle and that’s why all bourgeois political forces who wanted to prevent a revolution gathered there and founded the first Soviet, followed by Soviets all over Russia. Of course the Bolshevics and others that really wanted a revolution were there as well.

I ask because I think Mike might answer by saying that the soviets needed to be 'won over' to communism in a similar way to how he may feel that trade-unions of today need to be 'won over' to communism, so I was interested to hear your thoughts on this manner (and please Mike, correct me if I'm wrong).

The soviets were not won over, but the workers mass assemblies were won over in their understanding that Russian participation in WW1 could only be ended by overthrowing not only Tzarism but the provisional government as well. So they send other delegates to the councils, mostly Bolshevics. The growing consciousness in the class was stimulated by the Bolshevics and on the other hand expressed itself in growing influence of the Party.

mhou Mar 13, 2017
___________________________________________________________

Bro has anticipated part of my response: primarily the idea that the function of communists in the class necessarily means being a part of the life of the class in all aspects and phases of its struggles, including those which take place within and through labor organizations of any and all forms (trade unions and workers' councils for example).

Fredo I'm in agreement with your interpretation of the slogan ‘the emancipation of the working class can only be the work of the workers themselves’. Generally in discussions I've had, that slogan is often distorted to mean that communists are not a part of the working-class, similar to Ruehle's "The Revolution is not a Party Affair" line, so I'm very pleased to find some common ground.

Quote:
Are you referring here to the position ascribed to Lenin that the proletariat is only capable to ‘trade-unionist’ struggle and consciousness, meant as remaining within the framework of capitalism? Following quote seems to suggest so:


Yes and no, but mostly yes. I'm not implying that communism is something external to the working-class, but I am saying that it is not capable of extending itself or universalizing itself without the premeditated action of communists in the class struggle-- and that a proletarian revolution in the movement toward communism is not possible without such action.

If revolutionary consciousness develops within the class, then this expresses itself first in tiny minorities, that only can become larger in periods of open struggles. As a mutually reinforcing process, it’s not a question of what comes first and what follows.

Or put another way, the class struggle is perpetual and constant,

Mmmmm, I see mostly ups and downs

it is not a series of individual choices

that is a question of scope

but determined by social relationships, so the working-class is compelled

there is a pressure but depending on its consciousness and unity the class can reply to this pressure with struggle … or submission

to struggle against capital whether communists engage in premeditated (class conscious) action or not.

that’s true, communist can stay passive as well, as some do, f.e. according to some Rühle-principles

Regarding class consciousness, I see it as two manifestations (both derived from the working-class): action preceding consciousness, and consciousness preceding action.

This seems to me a very schematic approach, that reminds me of the central dogma of the anti-party Brendel group ‘Daad en Gedachte’ in the Netherlands: "in social movements action precedes understanding". May be you believe the opposite. In fact class struggle is a dialectical process in which interaction between mass and minorities is essential.

That is what it seems Lenin was expressing in the 'trade union consciousness'/'social democratic consciousness' distinction, but both are equally forms of proletarian class consciousness.

I don’t see how this relates to what 'precedes or follows'.

Lenin simply wanted social democracy in Russia to grow into a party along German example. He was right at the time, that if the proletariat would only organize in trade-unions, the revolutionary minorities would be without organization and therefor a revolutionary process would be impossible. This is true today as well, be it not with the organizational forms of mass party and unions of more that a century ago.

Of course we have no workers councils today. But even small scale class struggle shows that the most effective form of organization is that of participation in discussing, decision making and acting of a maximum of concerned workers, electing revokable delegates for specific tasks and sending mass delegations for extensions to other workers. As to promote this, communist should not refrain from entering union meetings whenever this is appropriate. I lost my first job because of doing so, nearly 40 years ago, so don’t tell me I’m ‘theoretical’. But such agitational activity is completely different from entering the ‘reformist’ unions as to ‘win over the workers’ as the CI defended.


Quote:
I’m in fact referring to the definitive change in the function of trade-unions from workers’ organizations into organs of the state that the German and Dutch Communist Left has seen marked by the unions anti-working class behavior in Word War I. This Left explained these and other changes in the tactical means of struggle from the historic change in the course of capitalism that was recognized in the early texts of the Communist International, and that Marx and Engels ‘invariantly’ had foreseen in point (1) of the text cited above:


Yes, I am familiar with the position (and I held that same position on the same basis until relatively recently).

The one element of the question that seems most important to me at the moment is that the evidence of a change in the trade unions which provides a basis for that political position (about the changing class nature of the trade unions with the onset of capitalist decadence/during World War I) is not exclusive to the 'epochal shift' at that time. Bro's question relates to this matter of how the shift is said to have manifested.

The best you can do to prove your thesis are some exceptions of unions after 1914 that - for a longer period than 1 struggle - behaved as organs of class struggles: mostly smaller or new organizations.

The behaviors, tendencies and episodes used to justify this political position about the trade unions becoming organs of capital and lost to the working-class pre-exist the timeline said to be the crossing-over from ascendant to decadent capitalism.

Before 1914 there were enough bosses’ and state unions, or unions that became so; there is no discussion about that.

I think this alone demonstrates that there was not a fundamental change in the class content of the trade unions; and this is without considering the theoretical questions raised by Marx, Engels and Lenin on the basis of their practical political activity and the real development of labor's class struggles.

Marx and especially Engels, in their appraisals of the British trade union leaders in the mid-19th century, were reacting to what was then a new phenomenon: the accumulation of material gains by fractions of the working-class as a result of the class struggle and embodied in permanent trade union organizations/structures. And I think Lenin, in response to these appraisals, was wrong in developing the theory of the 'aristocracy of labor' and those aspects of his theory of imperialism which deal with the supposed material basis of this 'aristocracy of labor'.

In agree with that. By the way, Gorter made the same mistake.

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Unfortunately it was not only Trotsky, but Lenin as well, that - acting as the agents of foreign policy of the Russian State - obliged the CP’s in the West to work inside the corrupted trade unions.


I disagree with this assessment, based on the content of the Bolsheviks' work long before, during and after the October revolution. It wasn't the foreign policy of the Soviet Republic which led to the Russian position on the trade union question, but was instead the preceding decades of struggle which resulted in the first successful proletarian revolution and became the point of departure for their interventions in the Third International. In comparison the Western European and the American communists in particular were very isolated from the class and displayed both practical and theoretical backwardness.

This is interesting.

Till about 1920 the Bolsheviks believed they were lacking experience in leading the proletariat in a situation of democracy, ‘free’ trade-unions and workers parliamentary parties. Only when it became clear that a revolution from the West to save them from their isolation, and they needed compromises with capitalist states, they changed this position and re-evaluated their experiences in backward Czarist Russia where they believed they had to lead the proletariat in a bourgeois revolution.

It is simply not true that the German communists that later formed the KAPD were ‘very isolated from the class and displayed both practical and theoretical backwardness’. F.e. the 'astronomist' (Lenin) Pannekoek before WW1 (and during the war from Holland) was in close contact with workers in the German social-democratic party and trade-unions, specially in the German ports and shipyards. When the unions (that paid him as a teacher of the local party school) put pressure on him because of his position in the mass strike debate, he dismissed for one day a week to tour all over Germany to defend revolutionary positions in mass meetings. The KAPD consisted of the most conscious elements of the German proletariat and was the only proletarian party with a consistent revolutionary approach, be it not without mistakes.


While I don't agree with your conception of the class political party

Why not?

, I am interested to hear your thoughts on the practical elements of communist activity in the present.

Let me tell first, I don’t oppose practical to theoretical. I despise the academical approach of ‘modernist’ groups and sects.

Of course communists should be active on their working place (or as a student, unemployed or retired worker). This is why I published your text (as those of other groups on this subject) in he first place. The possibilities however are very different and mostly limited as a consequence of the actual low level of class struggle. Therefor communists should concentrate on organizing as minorities on base positions, analyze actual class struggle and spread these in the class with all their means. Activity on the workplace is secondary, be it very inspiring for finding a language that can be understood by a bigger audience than the tiny communist minorities.

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 Post subject: Re: The Purpose of Intervention: A Discussion Text
PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 8:44 pm 
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Fredo Corvo wrote:
Trade unions have never been revolutionary organizations but were always limited to execute functions of the labour market, accepting the framework of wage labor. The unions have a form of ‘bureaucratic’ organization adapted to a context of wage struggles of the past. It’s true they didn’t change in these two aspects! When the period changed, to survive as formal organizations against the grown economic and legal pressures from employers and the state, the unions transformed themselves from organs of struggle within capitalism into mediators between the classes, playing down conflicts, preventing them, and if possible handing over combative workers to the police.


You say the unions transformed themselves from organs of struggle within capitalism into mediators between the classes, but my question was how did this transformation take place mechanically.

In addition to this, they were always mediators between the classes, they simply mediate in the interests of labour rather than of capital. Your argument is, essentially, that instead of taking labour's side of the argument, the unions now prefer to side with capital, my question is what changed within the unions themselves on a functional basis to cause this shift and can it be reversed?


Fred wrote:
Soviets were a form of organization more adapted to the period of social revolution. In stead of top-down bureaucratic control, workers councils have a functionality suited for revolution: their mass and factory based character, recall of delegates, simultaneous decision and action, etc. In short the Soviets in the Russian revolution were potentially revolutionary organizations, i.e. in which mass proletarian class consciousness could develop and the proletariat could constitute itself as class for itself. In February the workers started a mass strike movement and hit the streets because they wanted to end the war. The Tauric Palace was seen as a center of this struggle and that’s why all bourgeois political forces who wanted to prevent a revolution gathered there and founded the first Soviet, followed by Soviets all over Russia. Of course the Bolshevics and others that really wanted a revolution were there as well.


Precisely! The soviets were adapted to the period of social revolution, the unions are adapted for permanence.


Fred wrote:
The soviets were not won over, but the workers mass assemblies were won over in their understanding that Russian participation in WW1 could only be ended by overthrowing not only Tzarism but the provisional government as well. So they send other delegates to the councils, mostly Bolshevics. The growing consciousness in the class was stimulated by the Bolshevics and on the other hand expressed itself in growing influence of the Party.


So the way to shift the soviets from being organizations advocating return of state power to the provisional government was to alter their human architecture (not just leadership), why are the unions different in this way?

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 Post subject: Re: The Purpose of Intervention: A Discussion Text
PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2017 8:31 am 
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soviets are suited to revolutionary struggle because they are organs of dual power, of the class struggling for state power to abolish the social formation of capital; trade unions were never that type of formation.

No, "the way to shift the soviets" was not to alter their human architecture-- the change in human architecture was a result of the development of the class struggle-- the way the soviets were changed was by the mobilization of the working class against the war; against the provisional government through the factory committees, through the "neighborhood" soviets (raions, IIRC), and the explosive mobilization in the countryside against the landed estates.

The soviets were organized as political bodies of deputies of the entire class; trade unions were not, and never have been so organized. Doesn't mean trade unions won't support such bodies, or act at some point, and in some instances to advance revolutionary struggle. Does mean trade unions are incapable of becoming the organs of dual power.


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