Responses to 'An Appeal to the Pro-Revolutionary Milieu'


This page contains a record of responses to Internationalist Perspective's document An Appeal to the Pro-Revolutionary Milieu

B. York

Forum for the Communist Left

Internationalism

John Ayers (Socialist Party of Canada)

John Garvey

Against the Wage (Iranian group based in Toronto)

Perry Sanders, Chirevnet

Victor from the IBRP (Montreal)

Michel Olivier

Guy Sabatier

Loren Goldner

Friends of the Classless Society

Discussion from LIb com

Discussion from Anti-politics

Discussion from the Internationalists Discusison List


B. York

Well said! I am however anxious to see what you propose as the minimum criteria for participation in an initial effort that will begin this dialog

March 2, 2009


Comment by Forum for the Internationalist Communist Left

We greet and support the appeal of Internationalist Perspectives (IP) addressed at groups and circles of the revolutionary milieu. We share all the essential conclusions and their implications :

The dramatic situation of the crisis puts the stakes of the present situation far higher. The proletariat is still the only social force capable to give an answer to the crisis of an outlived system. More than ever, the generalised character of the crisis of the capitalist system needs clear replies about the ways and means revolutionaries have to put forward before the world proletariat during the inevitable clashes of the class in which it will have to engage itself to save humanity from the disastrous future the bourgeoisie is preparing for it.

Internationalism will be nodal point of recognition and of gathering of the most conscious elements within the vanguards of the proletariat. Unfortunately, these are not only dispersed and split up by profound disagreements, but also by conflicts which left painful wounds. That is why we support all efforts which will be made to overcome these heritages of the past.

Therefore, on top of the necessities and goals underlined in the Appeal of IP, we think that, not withstanding the different historical period, we need to follow up with the spirit and orientations which gave life to Bilan when it noted in the introduction of its first theoretical bulletin that: “Our fraction, in bringing out the publication of this bulletin does not think to bring definitive solutions to the terrible problems which are posed to the proletariat of all countries. […] it does not refer to its political precedents in order to ask for adhesion for the solution it promotes for the present situation. On the contrary, it invites revolutionaries to subdue the actual positions it defends to the verification of the events just like the political positions contained in its basic documents. […] October 1917 has been possible because in Russia there was a party which had been prepared for for a long time, which had, through an uninterrupted series of political struggles, interrogated all the questions posed to the Russian and world proletariat after the defeat of 1905. It was from this defeat that the executives came forward to lead the battles of 1917. These executives were formed in the heat of intense criticisms aimed at reestablishing the ideas of Marxism in all sectors of knowledge, economy, tactics, organisation: no dogma could stop the works of the bolsheviks and it was precisely for that reason that they could fulfil their mission. […] Those who opposed this indispensable work of historical analysis with the phrase of the immediate mobilisation of the workers only sew confusion, prevented the real resurgence of the proletarian struggles […] And this knowledge cannot endure any ban or ostracism. Our fraction would have preferred that such a work would be undertaken by an international organism, convinced as it is of the necessity of the political confrontation between the groups who are capable to represent the proletarian class of several countries. We would also be very happy to put this bulletin before an international organism applying serious methods of work and with the will to conduct a healthy political polemic.”

We thus think that the resurgence of contacts within the revolutionary milieu should also take care of the tasks of “reestablishing the ideas of Marxism in all sectors of knowledge”, and this with “no dogma” nor “any ban or ostracism”, without opposing this indispensable work of historical analysis with the phrase of the immediate mobilisation of the workers” and with” the will to conduct a healthy political polemic.” Because it is only on the basis of such a balance sheet that, in the image of the bolsheviks, the basis can be gradually developed for a successful new October 1917.

Nevertheless, whatever choice will be made by those who reply positively to this Appeal, we commit ourselves already to support all initiatives, however modest they might be, going in the same direction. As for ourselves, we have already committed ourselves: (a) by positively participating in the debate on “The Crisis” organised by IP in March 2009 in Brussels; (b) by replying favourable tot its Appeal; (c) by committing ourselves to participate with all our means; and (d) by proposing shortly other concrete initiatives in the same direction.

We wish all success to the initiative of PI and we are convinced that it will meet gradually an ever stronger support in the weeks to come, as we have ever more echos of intended positive replies by other groups and elements with whom we have contacts.

With our best revolutionary greetings, Forum for the Internationalist Communist Left.

March 29, 2009


Internationalism - U.S. Section of the International Communist Current March 20, 2009

Comrades,

We have received the copy of your “appeal to the pro-revolutionary milieu,” for which we thank you. We agree of course with its general sentiments. However we would like to raise what seem to us some contradictions in your approach.

In a message to comrade Berrot dated Dec. 22, 2008, comrade Sander (with whom, we may recall, the ICC delegation to Korea during 2006 was able to work in good fraternal spirit) says “I totally agree with you that ‘there is too much at stake here to continue flapping the cloaks of sectarian habits in the face of the proletariat.’ We in IP (...) join you in your desire to cast aside the sectarism and sectarianism that plagues the left communist milieu.” It does seem to us a little contradictory that you should choose the moment of your appeal to publish for the first time on the web a ten year old text attacking the ICC over a thirty year old event: the Chénier affair (which we don’t propose to discuss here).

In the same message, comrade Sander continues: “’How far is IP prepared to lean over and stretch out its hands in pursuit of its responsibilities as a revolutionary organization?’, you ask. Let's find out. For joint action to become possible, we first need joint discussion, waged in an open, honest, non-sectarian way. IP is open to such discussion, always has been. This, rather than programmatic positions, is what distinguished us within the left communist milieu. That is what defines us, the defense of open debate, the capacity to work together despite disagreements, the encouragement to others to cast their rivalries aside.” We would echo these sentiments, but we can only regret that IP did not see fit to suggest that the ICC should take part (simply as participants, rather than sponsors of the event) in the recent joint meetings between IP and the IWG in Canada, or even in the meeting which we understand is planned in New York (if we have not invited you explicitly to our own meetings by mail, it is simply because these are advertised well in advance on our web site and for no other reason).

The difficulty with general “appeals” is often that of following them up to practical effect, and we would therefore like to make the following very low-key suggestion: that we should initiate an exchange of e-mail information concerning forthcoming meetings planned by Internationalism and by IP in the US and Canada. As you know, you are welcome to attend our meetings; indeed the last time the comrades of the US section met you at the Kliman lecture on the economic crisis in October, we explicitly invited you to our November public meeting in NY.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Communist greetings,

Internationalism

Reply by Internationalist Perspective - March 29, 2009

Comrades.

Thank you for your reply to our Appeal.

You write that you agree with its sentiments, but that you see some contradictions in our approach. Let's address these first. You argue that there is a contradiction between our appeal against sectarianism and our publication of a text on the 'Chenier Affair' from IP#35 on our website. To clarify, this was done at the request of Shug, a poster on the Libcom IBRP thread, so that he could refer to it and correct something he had written earlier (See post #41 of this thread on 6 March 2009). This is not the first time we have put older texts on our site. In fact, our goal is to make all the articles from our back issues available on the site. In any case, the article in question is not a sectarian attack on the ICC. It pointed out its serious mistakes, but it recognized that several among us, who were then in the ICC, supported what in hindsight seems so clearly wrong. Like you, we don’t want to rehash this sordid episode, but this should be recalled before accusations of sectarianism are made.

As for the public meetings in Canada, we were not aware that you have members or sympathizers in the area, otherwise, we would have invited them. The events were publicized on public forums and on the IP site. The meeting in New York, unfortunately, has been postponed until later this year. We will notify you when it is rescheduled, as well as for future public meetings in Canada.

We hope that this takes care of our 'contradictions'. Now let’s address yours. You call us 'comrades', and you agree "of course" with the Appeal. However, this stands in glaring contradiction with the fact that you have condemned large parts of the milieu to which the appeal is addressed, as 'parasites', 'gangsters', 'the swamp', in order to express your revulsion for those who disagree with you. If the ICC wants to be anti-sectarian, it must do more than express agreement with "the general sentiments" of the Appeal. It must look in the mirror and address the sectarianism reflected in its own positions and practice.

The first condition for healthy debate in the pro-revolutionary milieu is that this milieu recognizes itself as such. Then thoughts are exchanged in a context of a common purpose. It was not in this spirit that the ICC attended IP's public meetings. Since IP was "a parasitic group", the ICC openly announced that it only came to denounce, not to discuss. In Paris, in particular, your denunciations became so tiresome and disruptive that you were eventually disinvited. We can only hope that this is a thing of the past and that, when ICC members come to future meetings of IP, their purpose will be to participate in a discussion.

But besides its practice, the ICC needs to address also the "theoretical" obstacles mentioned above. It cannot declare itself willing and ready for a non-sectarian milieu and at the same time cling to its condemnations of it.

Fraternally,

Internationalist Perspective

Letter from Internationalism, April, 2009

Comrades

We have received your reply to our mail concerning your “Appeal...” for which we thank you. We look forward to receiving notification of any further public meetings you may arrange in the American North-East (taken as a geographical expression, ie including Canada), and we will add you in to our own mailing list.

In your letter, you have felt it necessary to address what you see as the ICC’s contradictions, and it seems to us necessary to take up certain inaccuracies – as we see it – which are contained in your letter, so that there should be no doubt as to where we stand on the questions addressed.

In your letter you state: “However, this [the fact that we expressed our agreement with the ‘general sentiments’ of your appeal] stands in glaring contradiction with the fact that you have condemned large parts of the milieu to which the appeal is addressed, as 'parasites', 'gangsters', 'the swamp', in order to express your revulsion for those who disagree with you.” Let us address these questions one by one.

First of all, we would like to clarify what we mean by “political parasitism”, which is not simply an insult to be hurled at anyone we disagree with. You are doubtless aware of the “Theses on parasitism” which set out in some detail our view of the question, but to be brief we consider that a group can be described as “parasitic” essentially on the basis of two criteria:

1. The group defends the same political positions as an already existing organization, especially when it is a split from the latter.

2. The group devotes most or a substantial part of its energy attempting to discredit those groups or organizations to which it appears to be closest, if one were to judge from its publicly declared political positions.

The ICC was formed with the aim of uniting and regrouping into one international organization the scattered energies of small groups who agreed on the essential political lessons bequeathed to us by the experience of 1917 and by the Italian and German-Dutch lefts. Then and now, the ICC has always considered that it is a weakness for the working class that internationalist groups defending the same positions should, for whatever reason, be more concerned to defend their own separate existence (their own identity as a “sect” if we can put it like that) and non-essential particularities.

It is an unfortunate fact that in the ICC’s 30-odd years of existence, there have been occasions when comrades have left the organization for reasons which in our view were not justified on political grounds, and moreover have done so declaring that their intention was to defend the ICC’s political platform from the ICC itself on the grounds that the latter was “degenerating”.

It is worth pausing for a moment to consider one of the reasons for this. We think that one of the facets of the sectarianism which has done so much damage in the communist left is monolithism, an inability to accept that divergent viewpoints can exist within the same organization. It is often assumed that monolithism is a characteristic of the majority, unable to accept being called into question by a minority viewpoint. This is by no means necessarily the case however. On the contrary, in the ICC monolithism has in our opinion at least as often been a weakness of the minority: convinced that it’s arguments are right, the minority is unable to imagine that the majority could simply fail to find them equally convincing. The minority is therefore forced to fall back on some other explanation: the majority are sheep-like “followers”, the majority is “suppressing debate”, the majority is adopting “organizational measures”, etc, etc. In a word, the organization is degenerating and the only thing left to be done is to quit, long before the debate itself is finished.

It is an equally unfortunate fact that on these occasions, those who left the ICC have immediately published the most virulent attacks on our organization, usually accusing it of “Stalinist” practices and of “suppressing” or “expelling” the minority. The number of occasions on which this has happened is happily limited and we don’t propose to discuss them all here. That said, you may remember that before the Internationalist Perspective group went by its present name, it was called the “External Fraction of the ICC”: it claimed to have been expelled from the organization, which was not true. A part of its press was also devoted to denouncing the “Stalinist” practices of the ICC: at the very least this was disproportionate (it shows very little appreciation of what Stalinism really represented), and it is hard to see how an organization could continue to exist for more than 20 years of Stalinist degeneration and continue to defend internationalist principles – surely there must be some connection between an organization’s principles and its practice?

It was for this reason that, at the time, we considered the EFICC as it was then called to be a parasitic group whose existence was not justified by the disagreements that comrades had already expressed within the ICC. Things have changed since then of course: the EFICC has abandoned its reference to the ICC, it no longer claims to defend the ICC’s platform and has moved closer politically (in our view) to the councilist current. We think it would be fair to say that IP does not view the ICC with a particularly friendly eye, and in this sense if there is to be any possibility of working together on a more regular basis (and not just at one-off events such as the conference in Korea ) it will certainly demand a great deal of patience and goodwill on both sides. This is why we think that a fruitful beginning would be to develop a mutual presence at each others’ public meetings on both sides of the Atlantic. As we reminded you in our previous letter, you have always been welcome at our public meetings: our supposed “disruption” of your meetings, which you complain of, was undertaken on our side essentially with the aim of establishing publicly certain facts, most notably the fact that the EFICC was not “expelled” from the ICC as it claimed at the time. We protested vigorously and publicly at the continued publication of this claim on the back of your publications; doubtless it was uncomfortable for you to confront this criticism, but nobody has accused us (as far as we are aware) of violently interrupting your meetings.

Let us turn now to the “gangsters”. The ICC has always considered that there are certain forms of behavior which should not be tolerated within the proletarian camp, to whit in particular: theft, grassing, and the spreading of lies and distrust between comrades. We thought at the time and we still think that such behavior puts those who indulge in it outside the proletarian camp altogether; we also thought, and still think, that the question of behavior is a question of political principle every bit as important as the political positions which figure in our platform. You, it seems, are reluctant to draw such a conclusion. In your article on the Chénier affair you say: “In 1981, following ever greater difficulties in carrying on a debate within the ICC, the ‘Chénier tendency’ (named for its principal figure) left the organization, taking with it material belonging to the ICC. This was characterized by many as theft, an action which jeopardized the organization”. Yes indeed. When a comrade in whom trust has been laid betrays that trust to remove the organization’s equipment from another comrade’s house to which he has access (before any official announcement of his “tendency’s” intention to leave the organization, we would add) we “characterize” that as theft. Do you? If not, then how would you characterize it? And if you do, then what conclusions do you think should be drawn from such a characterization? Have you changed your opinion on the subject since 1990 when you made the restitution of stolen material by the CBG a condition for meeting with them?

A final word in passing on the Chénier affair: granted that you felt the need to republish your article from 1999, we feel it regrettable that you did not at least correct some of its factual inaccuracies, most notably the idea that the Chénier affair involved “the expulsion, in 1981, of a number of comrades who had constituted a tendency within the ICC”. This is incorrect: Chénier himself was the only member expelled, and his expulsion in fact came after his departure from the organization in the company of a number of militants and the ICC’s own equipment.

Finally, a word on the “swamp”. From our point of view this expression has no pejorative connotations, but is merely an expression for the multitude of groups whose positions cannot be definitely tied to any of the proletariat’s historical political currents and which are generally in a process of movement between bourgeois and proletarian political positions. Like real swamps, the political swamp is an inevitable and even a necessary part of the eco-system.

We hope that these few lines have clarified some of the points which you have raised in your last letter.

We would like, finally, to return to the subject of your Appeal... and to ask a few questions in this respect: we hope you will be able to clarify your thinking on these subjects for us.

First of all, the Appeal... is addressed to the “pro-revolutionary milieu”. However, we can find nothing in the Appeal... itself which attempts to define what that milieu is. You also say in the Appeal... that “the pro-revolutionary milieu must transcend its fragmentation by coming together to defend basic revolutionary positions with a clear and loud voice”, but unless one clarifies what those “basic revolutionary positions” actually are it is hard to see how they can be defended or indeed who could be expected to defend them.

Secondly, it is not clear to us what you expect to come out of this appeal. We understand that you are planning to hold meetings in countries where you are present to discuss the Appeal... and we will of course be glad to attend those meetings and participate in the discussions. The Appeal... mentions “common discussions, common meetings, common statements and interventions”, but surely common discussion has to come before common intervention, and will need some kind of a framework if it is to lead successfully to common intervention?

The ICC has always attached the greatest importance to initiatives of this kind, and has always done what it could to encourage and support them (as we did for example, with your support, at the conference in Korea). However the collapse of the International Conferences at the end of the 1970s has also taught us what can be the consequence of failure in such initiatives: a reinforcement, not a weakening, of the ambient sectarianism which has plagued the Communist Left since the re-emergence of the class struggle in 1968. This is why we feel that a carefully considered approach is a vital precondition for their success.

We look forward to receiving your reply.

Fraternal greetings, ICC

Letter from Internationalist Perspective, August 5, 2009

Comrades,

Based on the response to our “Appeal to the revolutionary milieu,” and the events that transpired at the “Midlands Discussion Forum,” in the UK, in which both IP and the ICC participated, Internationalist Perspective welcomes the prospect of exchanges with you and participation in each other’s Public Meetings. Given the gravity of the present global crisis of capitalism and its devastating impact on the working class, a willingness to discuss fraternally between revolutionary organizations defending basic the class lines is now long overdue. Events beyond our control prevented us from participating in your Public Meeting in New York in June, but we shall be at the next one. We hope to see you at our own Public Meetings too.

In regard to past expressions of sectarianism: we neither want to shove them under the rug nor fixate on them. It is important to keep our eyes on the future. The lessons of the past will hopefully become clearer with hindsight, if, in the future, the consciousness of our common purpose establishes a climate of honest and fraternal discussion between us.

In your April 9 letter to IP, you defend your past practices and theories such as ‘parasitism’. Even if we remain utterly unconvinced by your arguments, we recognize that they are presented in a non-confrontational way which suggests that such a climate may become possible. It is a discussion we want to continue, but preferably not through lengthy emails. We think that, if and when a discussion between us becomes possible, priority should be given to discussing the present state of the world, the changes in capitalism and how they affect the development of class consciousness.

We do, however, want to respond to the last point you raise in your letter. The “Appeal” was sent to groups and individuals that defend the basic class lines that have since the first revolutionary wave separated revolutionaries and the political organizations of the left of capital: Internationalism and a repudiation of any nationalist struggles, a recognition that capitalism is a reactionary system in all its forms and in all parts of the globe in the present epoch, and the need for the immediate overthrow of the capitalist state by the working class. We realize this is quite general and therefore appealing to a broader milieu than left communists alone. If the purpose of our Appeal was to set in motion a process of regroupment, the milieu to which it was addressed, would have been much more defined. But that was not the purpose. Instead, the aim was to contribute to the development of a sense of community among those who genuinely understand that capitalism must end, and collaboration and honest debate between them as a result.

The need for such debate seems clear to us: The world is in turmoil, ideas are shifting. Consciousness develops through the confrontation of different ideas. The basic class lines of left communism are insufficient for a genuine renaissance of Marxism, which nearly a century of capitalist decadence or retrogression requires of pro-revolutionaries. IP hopes to contribute to a comprehension of the vast changes in both the structuration -- economic, political and ideological -- of capitalism since the end of World War Two, the ways in which the real domination of capital has asserted itself, and in the composition and “life” of the collective worker.

We see this as a collective task, and hope our discussions can contribute to it.

Fraternally,

Internationalist Perspective


Socialist Party of Canada

Greetings, Thank you for this communication.

I can agree with most of what you have written. However, a couple of points:- You write, "wealth creation was no longer dependent on the exploitation of labour-power". This confuses me as I believe it is only through the exploitation of labour power that wealth is/was created. Is there any other way to create wealth?

Recession is part of capitalism's decadent phase. Since recessions (and booms) are inherent in the capitalist mode of production, then they have been around as long as capitalism, which, by the way, has always been rapacious and destructive, not just in one 'phase'. Its need for devalorisation impels it to war. Shouldn't this be valorisation?

Many thanks for the communication,

For socialism,

John Ayers, general secretary, The Socialist Party of Canada


John Garvey

Dear comrades

I agree with the sentiments that you have expressed. I attach a document that I wrote just a short while go. I think it’s a friendly amendment. I’d welcome your thoughts.

John Garvey


Against the Wage

Hi, How are you?

Nice statement, you indeed mentioned one of the obstacle which is sectarianism. Then, how about Trade Unions that are betraying the working class in the name of the working class?

thanks

Omid


Chicago Revolutionary Network

Comrades!

We in CHIREVNET applaud your Pro-Revolutionary Mileu appeal!

Perry Sanders for Chirevnet


Internationalist Workers Group (Canadian Affiliate of the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party)

Dear comrades,

I have been given the task by the IBRP to acknowledge reception of your Appeal to the Pro-Revolutionary Milieu, given to me directly by one of your comrades at a Toronto event. We want to assure you we will study and discuss it from a fraternal and open standpoint. When we have achieved a collective position, we will convey it to you as quickly as possible.

Please accept our best internationalist greetings,

Victor, for the IBRP


Michel Olivier

Chers camarades,

Je vous joinds ma réponse à votre Appel en sepèrant qu'il y aura beaucoup de réponses positives. François m'a dit aller très rarement sur son e-mail, donc c'est à vous que je le transmets. Faites lui parvenir.

Salutations communistes,

Michel Olivier


Guy Sabatier

L'appel de Perspective Internationaliste est sans doute une première étape comme il est dit dans le texte mais il a la mérite d'exister face à l'atomisation des révolutionnaires. Il a le grand mérite de se situer par rapport à la crise de surproduction qui secoue le système capitaliste depuis plusieurs mois. Cette crise est évidemment globale et pas simplement financière comme voudraient nous le faire croire les économistes du pouvoir. Elle touche tous les secteurs du travail et attaque la classe ouvrière dans son ensemble en accroissant la paupérisation dans le monde entier. Elle mencace l'environnement et fait peser le risque d'une guerre impérialiste car ce n'est pas une crise cyclique.

Pour faire face à cette dramatique situation, il est nécessaire de se déterminer sur des bases de classe, celles d'un marxisme vivant. Il n'est pas question de sombrer dans le sectarisme mais ni non plus dans la confusion. J'ose donc prononcer les mots de plate-forme communiste pour mettre en oeuvre la méthode marxiste, celle de la dialectique matérialiste et historique, qui a fait ses preuves dans les assauts prolétariens depuis le XIXe siècle. S'il y a des divergences, elles devront clarifier leurs positions par rapport aux développements théoriques accomplis par Marx et ses successeurs.

Un regroupement révolutionnaire doit se donner pour tâche la meilleure clarté théorique mais il se doit également d'intervenir dans la lutte des classes pour contribuer à la destruction du capitalisme qui ne s'effondrera pas tout seul. L'appel a raison d'énumérer toutes les actions que peuvent mener les révolutionnaires pour achever ce système mortifère. De la brochure au tract en passant par le journal et la prise de parole, ce ne sont pas les moyens qui manquent pour manifester notre colère et notre besoin de communisme.

De l'appel au regroupement, il y a tout un processus pour être à la hauteur de l'Histoire.

Un communiste internationaliste.


Loren Goldner

Dear IP Comrades:

Thinking about your “Appeal”, I decided that a slightly edited (and augmented) version of my recent intervention about money on Meltdown would be a good reply, in terms of the kind of organization/regroupment I’m interested in.

I submit it to you, and, depending on the interest it generates, will possibly post it on Intsdiscnet later.

Comradely

Loren

How I Imagine the Proletarian Revolution

Thinking about some perspectives I have encountered in the pro-revolutionary milieu, as you call it, I occasionally remember the remark of Oscar Wilde, who said that socialism would never work because it requires too many meetings. Bureaucracy has always thrived on that idea. Everyone in this milieu, I think, imagines the world revolution as the establishment of soviets and workers councils and the direct democratic rule of society on a global scale by ordinary working people. Everyone writes in the shadow of the failure of the revolutions (Russian, German et al.) of 1917-1921, and the occasional, nationally isolated moment since (Spain 1936, Hungary 1956, France 1968) and his/her understanding of why those revolutions failed, not to mention the Stalinist, Maoist and Third Worldist nightmares that resulted from their failure.

(NB: The soviets and workers’ councils were the high benchmark to date and the concrete historical discovery of working-class practice, and not the idea of any theoretician. We should of course be open to the possibility that the the new situation will provide a similar unforeseen solution to working-class self-organization. But for now I use soviets and workers’ councils as the tried and trusted reference.)

Ever since I became involved in the revolutionary movement over 40 years ago I have encountered people and texts imagining the revolution as a wondrous festival in which the tedium of the material reproduction of the world is banned, in the spirit of Fourier’s remark that rioters can put up a barricade in a few minutes that construction workers would take hours to build.

So be it. I have felt that euphoria on occasion in some similar situations, and anyone who lived consciously in the late 1960’s in the US or Europe might say that such euphoria was (briefly) present often enough, even pervasive.

I think have thought of my work and activity, outside any “organization”, building on the past 35 years or more during which there has been little enough euphoria, as preparing the way for an activity closer to Fourier’s imagination than to the tedium of most contemporary work. I want to fuse my personal creativity with the social universal (Marx’s species-being), instead of having to experience it as a precarious contingency while performing alienated labor. That’s why I signed on to the revolution. The movement is the only place in this world where I have experienced any approximation of that fusion.

It is for that reason that I think of our theoretical and practical work as a collaboration preparing ever-wider circles of people to “take over the world”, in the spirit of “we don’t want a bigger piece of the pie, we want the bakery”. And we want to transform the bakery.

Our task is to facilitate the working class—our class-- becoming the ruling class, on the way to abolishing classes altogether.

I think that the broader the base of the revolution is, the less “authoritarian” it will have to be. I think, again, the same applies to the questions of money, banks, etc. in the first post-revolutionary phase.

Let’s review some recent episodes, such as they were, of euphoria. I recall ca. 2002 trying to write a critique of John Holloway’s book How to Change the World Without Taking Power. I read or perused the book 3 times and gave up because I couldn’t figure out what Holloway was for. I had been interested in writing a critique because the book was apparently very influential among the Argentine piqueteros of 2001-2002. It was like shooting at a moonbeam.

In late 2001, the Argentine economy collapsed. The piqueteros in the late 1990’s had developed very creative and successful forms of struggle attempting to go beyond an exclusive factory focus after so many factories had closed. They attacked supermarkets to distribute food, blocked freeways to win demands from the government, and attacked police stations where their comrades were being held and tortured. In December 2001 they charged in from the de-industrialized suburbs of Buenos Aires and the Peronist government collapsed. The piqueteros even briefly had the support of the middle classes who had also been robbed by the “showcase of neo-liberalism”.

And then what? The piqueteros, in the spirit of Holloway, had no idea what to do next. Huge mass assemblies continued, lacking a concrete program for taking over. The Peronist party regrouped, four governments succeeded each other in a matter of weeks, and finally a new Peronist government was formed around an obscure provincial governor, Kirchner, now continued by his wife.

Like the Italian industrialists in 1920, confronted with the factory occupations, the Argentine ruling class sat back, waited until people without a clear perspective beyond “Throw the Bums Out” tired of too many meetings, and then reestablished their rule in the vacuum.

France in May 1968 offers another example, where 10 million workers staged a wildcat general strike for 6 weeks and occupied many factories. But they never went beyond the passive stage of occupation (and more stayed home or went on vacation then we sometimes imagine) to resume production on a new basis. We might do well to look at Michael Seidman’s (albeit one-sided) writings on May 68, in which he shows that the Gaullist regime assured itself of control of gasoline and food distribution, sat back and waited while the CP and the unions herded everyone back to work, and in the demoralized vacuum that followed, won a crushing electoral victory.

Of course I am not saying they needed a “vanguard party”. Advocates of a vanguard party never answer concretely, historically, dialectically the question of why, in such situations, there is no vanguard, if it is such a pressing historical necessity. The Hungarian workers in 1956 in twelve days overthrew the Stalinist regime and established a national system of workers’ councils, without a vanguard party in sight.

I am arguing rather for a programmatic current that challenges the long-standing attitude in the revolutionary movement that all practical questions (such as money, banks, planning etc.) “will be settled in the soviets and workers’ councils”, if not on the barricades. Many will indeed. I have bored everyone sufficiently with my reiteration that one major first task of a revolution will be to abolish a majority of workplaces, freeing the population working in them to do useful work, make possible a much shorter work week, and also transform the remaining work beyond recognition. There is, as several people have pointed out, no aspect of this society which does not embody capitalist social relations. The main “use value” we have to work with is the vast creative potential of existing labor power, after we transform technology and the organization of work to overcome the capitalist division of labor materially embodied in all workplaces today. The soviets and workers councils will not be democratically managing THIS world production, or they will just be democratizing capitalism (and probably not for long).

The current I imagine will be one of several (or perhaps many) in the soviets and workers’ councils. Its aim will not be to seize state power but to abolish as rapidly as possible the state and its functions. Central to that, the armed forces and police will be replaced by worker militias, as they have been in the past. The current’s influence will be established by its role in the process leading up to taking political and economic power away from the capitalists, by saying as concretely and programmatically as possible “the working class as ruling class will do this and that”: dissolve these workplaces, expand those, fuse education with production and reproduction, shorten the work week with the freeing of millions from useless or noxious labor, replace the auto-steel-oil complex with mass transportation and ultimately different arrangements of living space” etc. Fellow workers will orient to this current (or to others) depending on their belief that such a current is capable, within the framework of soviets, of taking the situation (one we cannot imagine in advance) in hand and accelerating the transition to another kind of society.

What about specialists? Won’t we need a few of them to help develop new forms of energy, new forms of production, new health and dental care, to deal with environmental destruction, new forms of transportation? And possibly for the military defense of the revolution? A few brain surgeons, perhaps? A few researchers for medical innovation? As Kuron and Modzelewski put it in their brilliant (1965) “Open Letter to the Polish Workers’ Party”, imagining a new society after the overthrow of Stalinism in eastern Europe, today the specialists work for the ruling class, tomorrow they will work for the working class. But of course we want to dissolve specialists to the extent possible, precisely by expanding education of ordinary working people so they can dispense with specialists and make and enact informed decisions about all the issues which are today decided by the market and available rates of profit.

History shows that most revolutions have needed relatively little violence in their overthrow of the old power, but that they have had to exercise massive violence defending themselves, during which they were destroyed (Germany, Spain, Hungary) or destroyed themselves (Russia), or both (Spain).

The capitalists, however, have studied history too, and have refined a new strategy: the conscious fomentation of chaos as a method of control and rule, the “strategy of tension”. Take Algeria. The riots of mainly unemployed youth in 1988 shook the FLN regime to its foundations. The regime responded with counter-insurgency, creating fake Islamic militant groups that carried out massacres, assassinated key figures of a potentially serious opposition, and generally created a situation of chaos in which the terrified population accepted the FLN as the devil they knew. This “strategy of tension” was also used in Italy in the 1970’s, with various groups of “armed struggle” discrediting the actual revolutionary left and allowing mainstream forces (led by the PCI) to isolate and discredit it. Such a strategy played a role in the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990). In Pakistan today, and perhaps India. And the US since 9/11 has been a showcase for the use of the “terrorist threat” to regiment daily life and vastly increase police powers.

If a possible revolution in the advanced capitalist world is preceded by such a “strategy of tension”, it will be all the more important for the kind of current I propose to be present and to convince other workers that there are forces on the scene proposing something beyond endless meetings.

Now, for money, banking, planning, the “first 100 days”, etc.. Revolutionary history offers us little enough (though we should learn more) for what we will confront in this respect. I hope the preceding convinces people that there will be 1000 contingencies for the revolution and the current I propose to deal with. A successful revolution in one or two countries while the capitalists regroup in others? A serious civil war? Destruction of productive forces in such a civil war? Counter-revolutionaries using the incredible weaponry available today to small groups of determined people to foment chaos and undermine the revolution? An embargo by the surviving capitalist powers? In such situations, the revolution as a “wondrous moment” will fade quickly enough. I hope they don’t occur but I doubt such a momentous shift in world history will be a picnic.

A brief review. The Paris Commune never touched the Banque de France and its money was used to finance the counter-revolution. Lenin proposed using French bonds for wallpaper and gold for public urinals, but quickly enough the Russian Revolution had to have recourse to forced requisitions and with the NEP money returned in all its splendor. In Spain, Aragon communes in individual villages issued their own currency and soon any coordination was crippled by a chaos of different local currencies.

The great moments to which we look back do not offer us much to go on in this regard.

Thus, once again, it will be the possible contingencies (sketched above) which will determine how quickly we can transform money, with its active role in the M-C-M’ process of capital accumulation, into first a passive accounting device which does not complete any circuit of accumulation, until we can dispense with value (based on the socially necessary labor time of reproduction) and hence any representation of the exchange of equivalents altogether. We know the famous example of water being so cheap that it is easier to make it free than to bill people for its use. Why can’t that become, with high levels of productivity, the principle for wider and wider swaths of productive and reproductive activity and goods? Once that is achieved, we can get on with the far more interesting creation of an “activity as all-sided in its production as in its consumption, wherein labor no longer appears as labor, but as activity itself” (Grundrisse, 1973, p. 325).

We should have such problems. As for getting form here to there…

Let me be myself as concrete as possible, IP comrades. I have raised before (years before, on Intsdiscnet I believe) the question of why, when our (shared) theses have been confirmed so amply by history since the 1960’s, our forces remain so small relative to what we call the fake left, the state capitalist left, etc, who on most recent occasions of masses in the streets in recent years (the anti-globalization demos from Seattle to Genoa etc. 1999-2001, the anti-Iraq war mobilizations in 2003, the anti-CPE movement in France, etc.) still, as in the 1960’s, outnumbers us 100 to 1 if not 1000 to 1. Of course ideology constantly reinvents itself, as witnessed recently by e.g. chavismo and the vague alliance moving from Chavez to Castro to various Latin American center-left regimes (Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador) to the even more unseemly Hezbollah and Hamas to Russia, China and Belarus as the last stop, all of it applauded by the cheerleaders of Porto Alegre and the World Social Forum.

Even more concretely. I recently asked Macintosh if the New York IP had distributed any kind of leaflet at the mass gatherings following the murder of black man Sean Bell by New York police, the day before his wedding. Macintosh replied: “on what basis?”, thinking perhaps that I meant sharing the podium with Nation of Islam and black nationalists and the occasional left-liberal politician who shows up for such rituals. In fact I meant talking to the proletarians and sub-proletarians in the crowd, rightly enraged by the nth cop killing of someone “driving while black”.

Whereas the League for the Revolutionary Party, which has my vote for the most intelligent and thoughtful of the Trotskyist vanguard groups, was all over that demonstration and many others like it. Was that because they are for “state capitalism”, comrades, because their positions make them the “extreme left-wing of the bourgeoisie”? Or was it because they have a sense (with which I agree) of the need for revolutionaries to talk to proletarians and potential allies of a broad proletarian movement whenever and wherever possible, when they are ready to listen?

The LRP (of which I am not a sympathizer but to whose militants I talk as regularly as possible because they are involved in “on the ground” interventions and know a lot about New York City realities) also has had, over years, militants in the New York City unions (transit, civil service) who are the most persistent, visible and successful opponents of the “bureaucrats”. They do this with a perspective I consider to be quite wrong-headed, namely “taking over the unions” with “revolutionary leadership”? But would it be “counter-revolutionary” for people of our universe to be in those unions, arguing for the overthrow or supersession of unions, while attempting to advance the struggles that arise (e.g. the New York City transit strike of 2005, or countless smaller struggles over regular on-the-job atrocities in which transit workers are killed)? They are always there, and we are not. Is that because they want “state capitalism” or because they have a sense of the concrete development of struggle we lack? They are there, while we are standing at the door of the occasional mass meeting with a leaflet explaining how unions are capitalist institutions.

Or take the example of our comrade Gifford H. in California. He has been involved for years in organizing forums on working-class history, working with many people of doubtful or unformed politics as well as conscious council communists, etc. He has organized a series of Capital study groups reading the 3 volumes plus important post-Marx works (e.g. Grossman). Gifford is EVERYWHERE when struggle erupts in California: with people trying to shut down shipments to Iraq from Oakland harbor, at meetings of the ILWU (West coast longshore) over various work stoppages, organizing a strike of fellow ESL teachers for health care at one of his many such jobs, most recently at tent cities of the newly homeless in the California Central Valley. Before that he was a street fighter and militant for years in Korea when (mid-90’s) the Korean working-class movement was in the streets much more than in recent years. I am sure that many people in the “milieu” would have asked on many such occasions “but on what basis”?

I have to say that my own perspective for the future, the kind of regroupment with which I want to be involved (and am involved, in Korea) acts concretely on a daily basis, with left communist politics, more like the LRP or Gifford, when combined with my perspective of a current with a real program to take over, than what I know of the milieu to which the IP appeal was addressed. We are going to have to talk to and work with in concrete situations with people of inchoate or wrong-headed “positions”, or we will be outgunned by the “state capitalist” left or whatever you want to call it. Revolutionary politics is not just about positions, or brilliant journal articles that only someone with decades of experience in the milieu can understand. Let’s not forget that the Bolshevik slogan that made the revolution of 1917, with all its problems, was something as simple as “Land, Peace, Bread”. In that concrete situation, no other tendency could touch them because they had established themselves in the worker milieu with years of concrete interventions.

So let’s get down to it.

Loren


Friends of the Classless Society

Dear comrades,

we agree with the premises of your appeal. As you do, we believe that this crisis is a crisis of capitalism and probably the deepest in the last 80 years. We also think that the consequences of the present crisis will be very serious and will worsen the living conditions for the majority of the world population, but we are not able to describe in what ways, how quickly and in which areas of the planet these consequences will have a particular impact and therefore we avoid to make predictions of the outcome of the crisis. We also hope that social convulsions will arise in which the divisions created by capitalism can be overcome and in which the self-organization in the struggles prefigures the new society. It is also evident for us that the working class plays a crucial role in taking over the means of production and hence in reorganizing society on new bases.

In our view the fragmentation of the “pro-revolutionary” milieu is the result of a historical process that has led to the marginalisation of a revolutionary perspective. Sectarianism is not the cause of the present lamentable situation of the milieu but the expression of the lamentable situation of the working class. So, overcoming the divisions within the “pro-revolutionary” milieu is desirable but not essentially a matter of will; it is primarily a matter of how clearly and unequivocally the issues at stake appear for the class and for the “milieu”. For the moment we do not see a real possibility of bringing together all the efforts by multiple local pro-revolutionary groups, because of the diversity of regional situations and of the analysis and opinions about what are the essential tasks. Of course we do support the circulation of information among the groups and as far as possible we also support common discussions, meetings, statements or pamphlets. But only the future will show which of the multiple activities proposed by “pro-revolutionary” groups, if any at all, are adequate to the social convulsions which we will be facing, provided that the consequences of the crisis will tend to homogenize world-wide conditions for the class struggle. In other words, we should try to contribute to the radicalization of emerging conflicts and propagate a radical communist perspective, but at the same we should be careful to not overestimate our own role, in order to distinguish between hope and reality.

Friends of the classless society


From the UK site LIBCOM

1. Mar 5 2009

Spikymike

A very timely and concise reminder of what pro-revolutionaries have in common and need to recognise in working together practically in the comming period.

You might consider assisting with the new 'Tea Break' as it emmerges - a french edition perhaps?

2. Mar 5 2009

Weeler

Quote: Of course the groups and circles in the milieu are deeply divided

The left-communist milieu perhaps. This statement doesnt really say anything to me.

3. Mar 8 2009

Yoshomon

An Appealing Pro-Revolutionary Milieu

No.1 : Our first task is to relax. Then, we can begin our second task: dismantling the regime of urgency. Urgency destroys whatever space exists for pro-revolutionary ideas to be received and is bad for our blood pressure. There is always a war. There is always crisis. Revolution is always the only solution. Slow down. This has been the case for several centuries.

No.2 : The vaunted historical perspective of pro-revolutionaries has never prevented them from being perpetually too early or too late. The current crisis is not driven directly by class struggle but by an internal partial collapse in the productive circuits for extracting value. Agency is still absent.

No.3 : It’s said that the Great Wall of China was built on brown rice and fermented cabbage, while the revolution will be built on the fermented blood of pro-revolutionaries. If the working class does not drink our wine, it is because we have not made enough. This is the logic of organization.

No. 4 : Common discussions, common meetings, common statements and interventions putting forward the same positions is a game of putting all our eggs in the same basket.

No. 5 : Our third task is cutting holes in baskets. We can begin with our own, naturally, then move on to others.

No. 6 : All pro-revolutionary activity ought to be defined above all by restraint. Restraint, first of all, because none of us know any more about communism and revolution than anyone else. Restraint, second of all, because every victory of a pro-revolutionary organization has meant defeat for the working class in its task of destroying itself. Restraint, finally, because this task is apparent only to us.


From the U.S. site ANTI-POLITICS

1. Re: An Appeal to the Pro-Revolutionary Milieu

dead stare for life Mar 06, 2009

What does this all mean? Three, that's the magic number. Yes it is. It's the magic number of appeal. Pro-revolutionary literature and art are part of the whole proletarian revolutionary cause. The working classes cannot do it themselves, we shall direct them as seven hookworms in the intestine. Do you see this contradiction of working class force, self-organization as you call it, and the need of us? The working class mustn't organize themselves without us. Agreement occurs trough an extraction of disagreement. Children on a swing, and to you they say, 'push me.' We are three feet high and rising.

2. Re: An Appeal to the Pro-Revolutionary Milieu

bzfgt, Mar 07, 2009

Could you try that in English, Dead Stare? Are you lamenting what you see as vanguardism and paternalism in the post, or what? What is the numerology about? Three feet high and rising? Hookworms? Maybe I'm a bit dense, but I don't get it.

3. Re: An Appeal to the Pro-Revolutionary Milieu by yoshomon on Sun Mar 08, 2009 4:38 pm

See above

4. Re: An Appeal to the Pro-Revolutionary Milieu deadstareforlife, Mar 09, 2009

bzfgt wrote:Could you try that in English, Dead Stare?

Are you lamenting what you see as vanguardism and paternalism in the post, or what? What is the numerology about? Three feet high and rising? Hookworms? Maybe I'm a bit dense, but I don't get it.

Well, the magic number to the formula presented by Internationalist Perspective seems to be

"3. The only force capable of preventing capitalism from dragging humanity into the abyss is international working class revolution. The only way this revolution can succeed is through the development of collective self-organization of the working class in struggle; breaking through all the divisions capitalism imposes on it. From this self-organization of the struggle will arise the self-organization of the post-capitalist world."

So, the working class is the only force capable of saving humanity, of revolution and self-organization. Vague agreement, and I suppose little pro-rev reaction to this flattening, radical ideas trimmed down like a sample track or movie trailer. Here, it is important to remember that pro-revolutionaries tend to put the word in the mouth, "Non, je ne regrette rien." Skip the record to cut 7 and we have

"If the pro-revolutionary milieu does not put forward the revolutionary perspective, then who will? Who will discuss openly inside the working class both the historical meaning of its struggles in the face of this crisis and the consequences of letting the ruling class have its way?"

For me this represents a putsch without regrets. Internationalist Perspective (IP) desire a forced spatial diffusion, and in reverse. So to bring them back, I ask of them, how does osmosis occur? Does water travel from where there is no water to where there is a concentration? No, this does not make sense. So why then should one expect that the masses of the working class will self-organize themselves due to a push from isolated pro-revolutionaries, who are not themselves self-organized? IP would like to think they have too much water. They are talking osmosis when they mean a flowing river. Or to carry on from Yoshomon, trying to produce a surplus of wine is part of the problem. Essentially, we have too much going on in these 8 points of discussion, the simplification of language causing a confusion of language. Isn't this the point of children's stories? One can never be so sure where they might go... IP seem too certain where they're going with this story. They seem to be here to eat my porridge and then disappear.

I wonder if it would be helpful to transpose our characters? To use a hip-hop reference with this, as is popular now, IP play KRS, the insurrectionalists Tupac, and De La Soul for us. What does it all mean? The sounds don't hit our ears, each one of us, quite the same. For now, isolation and retrospective, headphones with our own tracks a relief. Last.fm and Facebook might connect us through algorithm the same way Ip desires connecting us. This seems not to be the interesting story I began to read. But where to go? In a society that has seen everything there is a need for the complex piecing together of things. At times, the simplification of our perspective, the channeling of our humanity into compartments can lead us to new places, unknown territory. If you have seen La Haine we have a Frenchman, a Maghrebin and an African. The angry, the talkative, the quiet. Jewish, atheist and christian. The simplifications do not take away from the film, they allow for the story's complex unfolding. The opposite of what IP has done. From here I would suggest a simplification of our individual political characters, and the unfolding of ourselves as in a derive. The contemplation of random slogans, for a day, a week, or a month. "La justice nique sa mère." "Nique La Police." "Non, je ne regrette rien." Do these apply to any of us? Where will they take our characters? It becomes more complex as we add statements from other nationalities, ideologies, or opposing political theories.

For IP I will offer this question, “If you offer someone a gift, and they decline to accept it, to whom does the gift belong?” I am quite sure the working class will be rejecting the gift. For now we are left with a wrapped box, and the awkwardness. Recognizing the awkward situation is the first step. From there one can return the gift, throw it out, give it to someone else, use it oneself or get a better gift. IP do not have many options, and without a contemplation of characters they have nothing.

deadstareforlife

4. Re: An Appeal to the Pro-Revolutionary Milieu

deadstareforlife, Mar 09, 2009

I was thinking of a DJ in the piecing together of things.


From the Internationalist Discussion List

1. Sander's reply to "An Appealing Pro-Revolutionary Milieu"

Re: An Appeal to the Pro-Revolutionary Milieu

yoshomon on Mar 08, 2009

This is my reply to the appeal. I emailed them a few days ago but never got a response, which is too bad as I imagine I'm one of maybe a dozen people to reply. S: We're only a few and we try to do several things at the same time. Sometimes, there's a delay. An Appealing Pro-Revolutionary Milieu:

No.1 : Our first task is to relax. Then, we can begin our second task: dismantling the regime of urgency. Urgency destroys whatever space exists for pro-revolutionary ideas to be received and is bad for our blood pressure. There is always a war. There is always crisis. Revolution is always the only solution. Slow down. This has been the case for several centuries.

S:No. I'm sorry but this is not the time to relax. The urgency is real, too bad for your blood pressure. Urgency does not destroy the space for pro-revolutionary ideas, it creates it. Without it, there is not enough pressure to think and act outside the box. There are chains to be broken. To say 'slow down, nothing has changed', is the wrong message at the wrong time.

No.2 : The vaunted historical perspective of pro-revolutionaries has never prevented them from being perpetually too early or too late. The current crisis is not driven directly by class struggle but by an internal partial collapse in the productive circuits for extracting value. Agency is still absent.

S:So let's sit back and wait and see? Or let's be part of the change?

No.3 : It's said that the Great Wall of China was built on brown rice and fermented cabbage, while the revolution will be built on the fermented blood of pro-revolutionaries . If the working class does not drink our wine, it is because we have not made enough. This is the logic of organization.

S:Please. What kind of an argument is this? Is this prophet-talk?

No. 4 : Common discussions, common meetings, common statements and interventions putting forward the same positions is a game of putting all our eggs in the same basket.

S: Well, you need many eggs to make a good omelet J. But seriously, there's something really wrong with comparing discussion with gathering eggs. Are you against discussion? Or against eggs?

No. 5 : Our third task is cutting holes in baskets. We can begin with our own, naturally, then move on to others.

S:Stay away from my basket! But seriously, why do some of you neo-councilists like to express yourselves as if you were some kind of oracle of Delphi?

No. 6 : All pro-revolutionary activity ought to be defined above all by restraint. Restraint, first of all, because none of us know any more about communism and revolution than anyone else.

S:So you would say that the knowledge of communism and revolution of Marx and the pope are about the same? And you would recommend to both restraint?

Restraint, second of all, because every victory of a pro-revolutionary organization has meant defeat for the working class in its task of destroying itself.

S:Why is this not as dogmatic as the belief in the party?

Restraint, finally, because this task is apparent only to us.

S:If that is the case, doesn't it call for the opposite of restraint?

Response by Yoshomon

Sander,

This dialogue between us is difficult because we are using very different terminology. I think a diversity of language is a positive thing, but I will try to move forward speaking 'your tongue'.

First of all, I am curious, how many people responded to your appeal? It did not generate any discussion on anti-politics or libcom (or here, for that matter) aside from my reply. What do you think is the reason for this lack of response? If urgency creates the space for pro-revolutionary ideas to be communicated, why is there so little communication about your appeal? I ask these questions in good faith (I can count the number of people who read my last piece of writing on one hand). Discussing the potential communicability of radical ideas is perhaps the most crucial discussion we can have.

Ok. Onto your reply - when I wrote 'restraint' and 'relax', I did not mean to hide from the world. Quite the opposite. I went out of my way to read and respond to your text (I think I am the only person who has done so publicly, in english anyway) and show interest in your group. What do you think I meant when I used those words? It is possible that there are other ways of approaching communist ideas than the ways you approach communist ideas. Some of these approaches may be horribly written or express a 'project' that is altogether different from the project you are part of but nonetheless antagonisttic to capitalism. In my short text I propose a critique and rejection of urgency and tension. You reject this without discussion.

I did not think my wine and egg metaphors are that hard to decipher. The latter is a common phrase. Urging a tiny group of people (the milieu) to speak together in unison is a good example of 'putting all your eggs in one basket'. It is a proposal for centralisation (that I imagine is aimed at the IBRP and ICC, who else is there?). What if the principles you choose to communicate are not the right ones or are not communicated in a way that will be received? The wine thing says something similar.

"Neo-councilist" is a political slur I have never had levelled against me. This was rude and not an accurate assessment of my ideas. I think this need to classify responses ("neo-councilist" ) is one of the worst aspects of left communist discussion. I am going to bed now, but I hope your future responses will be more empathetic.

All the best,

Yoshomon

Rejoinder from Sander

Dear Yoshomon

The appeal in question is not a proposal of centralization but of communication, from which collaboration could follow. That's why your egg-metaphor was so wrong. Communication: implying a healthy debate, the expression and exchange of ideas, to which sectarianism is an obstacle. We felt that the urgency created by the crisis could help to focus on what's at stake and help to overcome old habits. It was not only directed to older groups such as the IBRP or the ICC but to all those who are, in their own way, arguing for the end of capitalism. It is an appeal to come together. Not in one big organization; it takes no position on that perspective. But, in this society which hurls us apart, to reach out to each other, to talk to each other from within a sense of commonality in purpose instead of as competitors.

Trying to talk differently to each other does not guarantee that no misunderstandings will arise. So let me clarify that I didn't mean "neo-councilist" as a slur. I used the word, which I invented at the spot, because I was talking about what seems a common characteristic of people whose basic positions are the same (albeit less optimistic) as those of councilists like my old friend Cajo Brendel (who had no objection against that word) but whose way of expressing themselves seems more influenced by other currents (like Situationism) ; Hence the "neo". If that is a misrepresentation, forgive me and tell me why. My point was: whereas the councilists were known for expressing themselves very clearly, "neo-councilists" such as yourself, monsieur Dupont, some of the people on libcom, prefer a more poetic language, suggestive of deeper meaning. That's fine. As you say, diversity of language is a positive thing. It's not my intention to censor you. I think that, when it works, the approach can be very effective. But when it doesn't, it comes across as silly. The danger is that one goes for the suggestive effect, for the boutade, at the expense of clarity. Which, I think, is a mistake. I could have put that less curtly. But from Gifford's reaction you can see that I'm not the only one who feels this way.

You suggest that the paucity of reactions indicates that the appeal is not the right way to communicate. It's true that there was little discussion of it on internet forums. Still, we received quite a few reactions in our mailbox, most of them encouraging. I will propose to put the substantial ones on IP's blog. We never saw this appeal as more than a nudge in the right direction. We're open to suggestions as to how to communicate its message better.

The urgency of the situation is a valid argument for the appeal, for focusing on the essential. You equate urgency with panic and submission, the suppression of discussion for the sake of fast action. There's just no basis for such a crass generalization. The problem today is, in part, the lack of a sense of urgency. The idea that capitalist society will, somehow, muddle through in the end; which you reinforce by claiming that the urgency has been there for centuries. We think that neither the danger of destruction nor the potential for a different world have been present as urgently as today. The working class needs to realize the stakes and act on that base. Isn't that what we try to communicate? Isn't that what our praxis should express?

Sander


Home IP Archive Texts Discussion IP's French site Links