Revolution or War n° 2

(September 2014)

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Statement on the ICT and ICC Platforms (Stavros)

We reproduce below the criticism and the comments that comrade Stavros has written in March 2014 on the Platforms of the International Communist Current and the Internationalist Communist Tendency. Since then, and after having contacted also the ICT, the comrade asked to be candidate to our group. But independently of this adhesion, this contribution represents, we think, a kind of militant balance-sheet of the Proletarian Camp such as it is presently. Actually, several individuals adhering to the positions of the historical Communist Left tend to politically line up with one or the other Platform of these two currents. [1].

Thus, Stavros’ comments sets themselves in a necessary present process which should see the most serious individuals of the historical Communist Left converge in order to undertake the discussions leading to their regroupment. With the worsening of the inter-imperialist tensions and the Proletariat’s attempts to resist at the level of the economical struggles, the time is more than ever to the historical alternative ’Revolution or War’. And for the first of the two terms, the international and internationalist class Party is indispensable for orientating the economical struggles of the proletariat to their full political consciousness.

In regards with the two tendencies which diametrically oppose the Proletarian Camp at the present time, i.e. the partidist tendency and the one which tends towards academicism and towards more or less formal councilism, we address to the first one : here, according to the IGCL, is what should be the priority of the different individuals who claim the proletarian positions such as faithfully reflected by both the ICT and the ICC: the regroupment of our political forces in one Party, only rampart of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie which opposes it.

On this matter, several questions raised by Stavros in this discussion he began with us, have not been settled yet – nor even tackled – within the IGCL. For us, however, we don’t think these questions constitute such an important demarcation between the ICT and the ICC to prevent a militant to take part to one or the other of these organizations (let’s forget the present stalinist drift of the official ICC). The time is thus to mark off the ground on which the proletariat must struggle, in other words the basic positions of the Communist Left. The programmatic particularities of these two currents, as important they are, such as the theory of decadence and the one on Capitalism’s crisis, don’t represent the same stake when the struggle speeds up and when the conditions become more convenient to the historical alternative.
Sol, May 2014.

Statement on the Platforms of the ICT and ICC (Stavros)

Most of the positions in the platforms of the ICC [2] and ICT [3] overlap to a large degree. I will start by highlighting the areas of agreement. The ICC and the ICT agree on the counterrevolutionary nature of bourgeois democracy, trades unions, national liberation struggles, state capitalism in the guise of socialism as well as all “workers’ parties” that give “conditional” support to these states. They similarly reject as class collaborationist and counterrevolutionary united/popular fronts with leftist groups whether under the banner of anti-fascism or left unity, as well as workers’ self-management under capitalism. They both also affirm the proletarian nature of the 1917 October revolution in Russia. Finally, both groups claim continuity with the internationalist elements within the 2nd International that went on to form the 3rd International, as well as with the elements within the 3rd International (especially the Italian left but also the Dutch and German left) that struggled against the slide into opportunism (ie opening to reformism) and abandonment of proletarian internationalism (Socialism in One Country).

However, the differences between them do need to be emphasized and are not simply a question of semantics but have political and programmatic significance. Apart from their apparently divergent assessment of the balance of class power – the ICC is more optimistic in this regard, thinking that the bourgeoisie has not been able to impose its historic solution of generalized war onto the proletariat — the foremost among their differences is their conception of the concrete role and organization of the revolutionary vanguard, their explanation of the development of crisis in capitalism and its periodization, as well as the nature of the period of the transformation of capitalism into communism, i.e. the transitional period.

On the question of the role of the revolutionary vanguard, both the ICC and ICT agree on the need for the existence of a centralized and international communist party — as an expression of the political organization of the most class conscious part of the working class — before the emergence of a revolutionary situation. The reason for this is to combat the bourgeois ideological mystifications that are sure to manifest themselves in such a situation, for example in a situation of dual power when there is a widespread generalization and politicization of workers’ struggles through the formation of workers’ councils, as well as after the seizure of power by the workers councils. The ICC and the ICT also agree that the party cannot substitute itself for the class. From the ICC platform on the organization of revolutionaries: As a part of the class, revolutionaries can at no time substitute themselves for the class, either in its struggles within capitalism or, still less, in the overthrow of capitalism and the wielding of political power. Similarly for the ICT, Its [the Party’s] task will be to fight for a communist perspective in the mass organs of proletarian power (soviets). The party, however, will remain a minority of the working class and is not a substitute for the class in general. The task of establishing socialism is one for the working class as a whole. It is a task which cannot be delegated, not even to the class conscious vanguard.” What, then, is the difference between these two groups with respect to the role of the organization of revolutionaries? It seems to be one of emphasis. The ICT puts more emphasis on the revolutionary leadership of the Communist party and the active role that its militants will take on the assault of the working class against capitalism and its state. “…its principal task. This is to win over the masses to the communist programme and gain political leadership of the struggle in order to lead it forward to the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist state. The revolution, therefore, will only succeed if the revolutionary organisation - the communist party standing at the head of the class - is adequately developed and prepared for its own frontal assault against the political enemies of the revolutionary programme.” For the ICC, The organisation of revolutionaries (whose most advanced form is the party) is the necessary organ with which the class equips itself to become conscious of its historic role and to politically orient the struggle for this future.” Based on my reading of their respective platforms, the ICT places more emphasis on the active leadership which must be provided by the revolutionary party immediately preceding and during the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Here I am in agreement with the ICT position as I understand it, as the position of the ICC may lend itself to an interpretation of the Party as little more than a propaganda group.

What about the form of the organization of revolutionaries? For the ICC the process of building the revolutionary party is centralized from the start: “the fractions and groups who lay the basis of the party necessarily tend towards a world-wide centralisation. This is concretised in the existence of central organs invested with political responsibilities between each of the organisation’s congresses, to which they are accountable.” While I agree with the need for centralized coordination of the revolutionary minority even before the organization has matured to the point where it is justified to call it a party, I believe that the danger – in particular in times of relative social peace – is when these central organs try to exercise undue influence over its various sections (micromanagement), in terms of recruitment and the intervention of the various sections in their localities. On the point of adherence of the different sections to the political program of the organization as a whole, there can be no question. Similarly, the importance of centralization of the organization in its role of showing to the class the actuality and lessons of its own struggles unfolding globally needs to be stressed. However, it is vital that the central organs do not try to artificially impose political homogeneity from above. This homogeneity only has meaning when it is the result of interchanges between all of the different sections and members. This presupposes that all militants of the organization not only have an understanding of the political positions of the party but also their methodological underpinnings (dialectical materialism). In cases where the central organs attempt to micromanage this is usually indicative of opportunistic recruiting practices, as it becomes necessary to impose more top-down control to prevent the political positions being diluted.

The position of the ICT seems to be that the future centralized party will be the result of the consolidation of different national sections that are already working together. “The formation of the International Party of the Proletariat will come about through the dissolution of the various ’national’ organisations which have worked together and are in agreement about the platform and programme for revolution. The International Bureau For the Party aims to be the focus for coordination and unification of these organizations [their bold].” Although I can see why the ICT holds this position – namely, the unique experience and integration into the class of each section within its own regional context – I believe there is a danger in the possibility of tolerating lack of coordination between different sections in their interventions prior to the centralization which the ICT agrees is indispensible. Also, it is not clear to me why this sectional division should be on a national basis. Maybe more dangerous is the possibility of permitting national variations in terms of the understanding and application of the political program. However, I am not saying that the dangers highlighted above represent the state of affairs (I do not know enough about the inner workings of the ICT), merely that it is something which the ICT must be vigilant to prevent. Also, given that the ICT says that it is vital for there to be an already formed and centralized international party before the start of the revolutionary period, what will be the signal for this process of centralization to start? It is almost as if they are letting it be understood that this process will happen by itself in an organic or emergent fashion, rather than requiring the concerted and active participation of all of the different sections of the group as the immediate priority. Everything else being equal, an international organization which is centralized is more able to allocate its resources and efforts to rationally intervene in the class on the basis of its program than an organization that is divided into more autonomous national sections. As I understand, their position is that increase in class consciousness and struggle will drive the process of centralization of the pro-revolutionary forces that are currently fragmented and lack rootedness in the class. There is a need to navigate the tension between not wanting to arbitrarily impose centralism from above as well as the need for the revolutionary organization to coordinate its intervention.

Another important difference between the ICC and ICT is their understanding of the cause of capitalist crises as well as their periodization of capitalism. The ICT is unambiguous in their assessment of what causes capitalist crises; it is the tendency of the average rate of profit to fall. This is a consequence of the change in the organic composition of capital from lower to higher proportion of fixed capital relative to variable capital. For the ICC on the other hand there are two related dynamics that are happening that explain capitalist crises: by generalising its relations of production across the whole planet and by unifying the world market, capitalism reached a point where the outlets which allowed it to grow so powerfully in the nineteenth century became saturated. Moreover, the growing difficulty encountered by capital in finding a market for the realisation of surplus value accentuates the fall in the rate of profit, which results from the constant widening of the ratio between the value of the means of production and the value of the labour power which sets them in motion. Although this may seem like a marginal difference, it has important implications for the strategy of communists. For example, an explanation of the crisis as solely being the result of saturation of global markets lends itself to an understanding of crisis as a permanent aspect of capitalism in this phase of its development. This would be at odds with the observable cycles of accumulation in the 20th century, cycles which can be explained in light of the tendency of the average rate of profit to fall. This view (saturation of markets) underestimates the ability of marketing and credit to create new markets for capitalism’s commodities. However, the position of the ICC on this is obviously more refined than rejecting outright the relevance of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and relying solely on the “saturation of the global market”.

A further difference between the ICC and ICT is how they conceptualize the different periods of capitalist development. In the platform of the ICC, they refer to the period of capitalist modernity starting with the Great War as capitalist decadence. Although the word decadence is not found in the platform of the ICT, it is mentioned in their About Us section. In their platform the ICT also refers to the means of production … as the property of finance capital, which is the real form of capital in the imperialist era. This understanding seems to me completely consistent with an understanding of capitalist decadence. However, the ICC includes the concept of decomposition in its understanding of decadence: As in all other decadent societies this has led to a growing decomposition of social institutions, of the dominant ideology, of moral values, of art forms and all the other cultural manifestations of capitalism. In addition to arguably being empirically demonstrably false, this seems like an unnecessary addition (with little or no explanatory or predictive value) to the theory of decadence. Did the absolute monarchy in decadent feudalism show tendencies of decomposition? The institution of the absolute monarchy did not decompose and weaken of its own accord. It needed to be smashed by the bourgeois revolution. Similarly with decadent capitalism. In the absence of proletarian revolution, we can look forward to new forms of totalitarianism, not a rotting society of every one for themselves. The other aspects of the theory of decomposition seem like they belong more to petty bourgeois idealism rather than dialectical materialism.

However, the ICC includes the concept of decomposition in its understanding of decadence. The ICC posited that the class struggle was entering a decisive period. This was supported by the increased combativeness of the working class in economic strikes at the time. Because of the lack of politicization and generalization, the working class was not able to assert its collective power and pose a threat to the state. The class did not acquire for itself consciousness. The ICC overestimated the ability of the proletariat to resist bourgeois ideological mystification and state repression. After the failure of the “years of truth”, the ICC revised the theory of decadence to include a new category of “decomposition” in which neither class can decisively impose its political interests. On the view of the ICC, this period is characterized by “a growing decomposition of social institutions, of the dominant ideology, of moral values, of art forms and all the other cultural manifestations of capitalism. The problem with this view is that it underestimates the extent domination of the bourgeoisie and it obscures the historic dilemma posed by decadent capitalism: proletarian revolution or imperialist war.

The final and arguably most significant area of divergence between the ICC and ICT is their conception of the nature of the period of the transformation of capitalism into communism, i.e. the transitional period. For the ICC: During this period of transition from capitalism to communism, non-exploiting strata other than the proletariat will still exist, classes whose existence is based on the non-socialised sector of the economy. For this reason the class struggle will still exist as a manifestation of the contradictory economic interests within society. This will give rise to a state whose function will be to prevent these conflicts leading to society tearing itself apart. But with the progressive disappearance of these social classes through the integration of their members into the socialised sector, and with the eventual abolition of classes, the state will itself have to disappear.” However this seems to be at odds with the conception of the state as an instrument of class rule as well the related idea of the state as having a monopoly on the use of force. If there is a state apart from the dictatorship of the proletariat, how is it then that the proletariat has a monopoly on political power and the exclusive authority to use violence and repression that goes along with this? The ICT makes no mention of a semi-state separate from the dictatorship of the proletariat. Furthermore, the ICT has been highly critical of the ICC’s view of the transitional period. “The ICC way of seeing things results in the following consequences: the state in the transition period is not the dictatorship of the proletariat; the transitional state should, thanks to the magical power of the Holy Spirit made flesh by the alliance of all non-exploiting classes, all of which stand with equal right on the same level as the remnant of the bourgeoisie, merge into socialism; the dictatorship of the proletariat is according to this no such thing, as it exercises force on behalf of no specific class.”[[.

On this issue I fall on the side of the ICT. A state implies the rule of a class. The form of this rule in the transitional period is the dictatorship of the proletariat (DOTP). Based on my understanding, the DOTP is the centralized exclusive political rule of the working class. This takes the form of working bodies with combined legislative and executive power. The immediate task of the DOTP (along with suppression of reaction) is to socialize property since private ownership of the means of production of socially necessary things implies private accumulation of social power. Once the DOTP is consolidated in the central capitalist powers and property is socialized, the task is to abolish the law of value and the working bodies go from being political organs for the suppression of the bourgeoisie to organs whose task is to rationally administer production according to a centrally coordinated material plan. The process of withering away of the state corresponds to this transition from political tasks (repression, expropriation) to administrative ones (production according to material plan to satisfy needs). I do not see the need to include an entity of a semi-state separate from the councils. The monopoly on the use of force (ie the state) is in the hands of the workers’ councils. So then what about the non-exploiting strata of society apart from the proletariat? Peasants and slum-dwellers have existed before the emergence of capitalism whereas the proletariat is a revolutionary class that only emerges with capitalism. The non-exploiting strata apart from the proletariat will find their political expression to the extent that they are progressively proletarianized, i.e. to the extent that they are included in socialized (rather than small-scale or subsistence) production. One of the major tasks of the transitional period will be the inclusion into socialized production of this part of the population which is structurally excluded by capitalism.

Despite the apparent similarity in the programs of the ICC and the ICT, there are important differences, most notably the ICC’s theory of decomposition and the divergence between the two groups on the question of the transitional period. On this basis alone it would be difficult to imagine unification between these two groups. This is quite apart from the issue of the organizational health of these groups (for example the ICC’s opening to anarchism as well as its reported sectarian and monolithic nature), issues that have been discussed elsewhere.

Stavros, March 2014

Stavros, March 2014.

(Published on : 9 September 2014)



[1. The International Communist Party, even though another important historical organization, is a special case for the IGCL because its position on Red Unions or its lip service adhesion to some national liberation struggles such as Palestine. However it shares the same programmatic legacy and fully fits within the Proletarian Camp