Debate with the International Communist Current
We had started a debate with the ICC four years ago which was continued this year in early October. We were also inspired to the debate by the fact that we had read an article in the summer issue of World Revolution which presents Lenin, the butcher of the revolution, as the heroic standard-bearer of internationalism. Three topics were included in the debate:
1) the relationship between Bolshevism and Communism, the so-called “left fractions” (of course, the article – which didn’t contain a single word which would we agree with – showed the position of the ICC quite clearly);
2) the decadence theory of the ICC;
3) the present situation.
We didn’t expect to divert them from their position, and they told us the same. We still don’t consider the debate to be pointless, because – in order to clarify – the positions became clear: they go that way – stuck into the approach of bolshevism, walled in into the pseudo-proletarian mysticism –, we go this way – as a real class-fighter faction, hopefully stepping over the nightmarish shadows of the past… We dispute with pleasure with such Marxists who have never understood class struggle, and who in fact say the same as we, but with the opposite sign – since the anarcho-communist struggle (in its real name the class struggle) for them is a petty-bourgeois, modernist deviation. (In their press they often call the Internationalist Communist Group “anarchist”. If somebody knows the activity of this group then he will quickly realize that they intend to condemn a real anarchist-communist group with the “anarchist” attribute, merely in order to discredit them among the Marxist idolators – that is an ancient social democratic method to call everybody “anarchists” who is more on the “left” than they are. The other possibility is that they really think the ICG to be an anti-proletarian group, but this is not less incriminating for the ICC. A good example is a recent article about the piquetero-movement – which was taken over by the ICC in the International Review –, which confirmed each point of our opinion about the ICC’s schematical train of thought on the chemically pure revolutionarism, on the chemically pure revolutionary elements, on the petty-bourgeois anarchism, and that the ICC absolutely doesn’t recognize and misinterprets the real proletarian struggles.)
In the ICC’s opinion the bolsheviks after 1920 had become the agents of the bourgeoisie. We don’t agree with this, for us it’s impossible to draw such lines in the activity of a basicly counter-revolutionary organization. They think that the bolshevik party represents essentially a proletarian line. But in the reality, bolshevism haven’t done any contribution to the solution of the historical task of the proletariat – abolishing wage labour. On the contrary, bolshevism exiled the Russian revolution into the desert of social democracy: with the NEP-era, with its class-consciousness theory and practice (which existed from the very birth of bolshevism and which was artificially cherished), with the “vanguard” of the self-appointed professional revolutionaries, with the democratic (=bourgeois) centralism, and besides there is Kronstadt or the continuous liquidation of the anarchists from 1917 on etc., etc. We are not interested in the fact that Lenin and his comrades thought that they are revolutionaries while doing their “beneficient” activity (with which they set back the workers’ movement more than all the other bourgeois of the world together) – the facts show directly, to what extent bolshevism was “proletarian”… Not even the ICC is able to justify what cannot be justified, so it reacts to the critique of this mendacious position by either hiding behind the back of the bolsheviks, or – switching colours – gives itself out to be more council communist than the council communists theirselves. (This has clearly turned out in the debate, too.) What’s going on? They use precisely the weaknesses of the council communists for their goals, and harrow them together with bolshevism. From this we get a specific synthesis which shows that the bolsheviks and the revolutionaries who attacked them, were fighting for the same goal. But the history of council communism proves different! See the activity of Pannekoek, Gorter, Otto Rühle, for example – and the fact, that the bolshevik historians (together with the other historians of the bourgeoisie) simply wrote/blotted them out from the history. According to some bolshevik historian-owls (who take wing at nightfall) there were no council communists, because – we can read – they finished their activity in the workers’ movement after 1920 – what a chance, exactly when they turned against bolshevism…
After that it is not surprising, that the ICC makes the funny trick of identifying the “consequent bolsheviks” with the communists after the “degeneration of bolshevism”. Because – as we can find out from the ICC-text about the Russian left – originally there were no problems with the bolsheviks. These problems started only when they had become isolated and degenerated, which led them to substitutionism (nota bene, their substitutionism originated entirely from their conception of power, which clearly appears – among others – in State and Revolution of the “not yet degenerated” Lenin) – and the left communist fractions, which emerged in that period, did nothing else than following what the bolsheviks had started before!!! So, according to the ICC, the real communists are nothing else than – bolsheviks “without power”. It is no accident that they prefer the Miasnikov-group and the Italian left (which they like to refer to) – really thought these that about themselves. Of course, there were a lot of communists in these cells, but we must not forget that these groups managed to detach themselves from bolshevism only organizationally (if they managed at all), and – embedded in their false counsciousness – they always identified the communist struggle with the struggle for “true” bolshevism. It’s no accident that these proletarian elements criticized precisely the same points which were criticized by the communist movement in general.
As we have seen before, the ICC’s approach of the history of the workers’ movement is essentially false. For example, they don’t see anything else on the “proletarian side” between the Paris Commune and the First World War than the “legal workers’ movement” (the 2nd International), although in fact this was the organization of the bourgeoisie for the disarming of the revolutionaries. This does not hinder them to agree enthusiastically with the Italian left (Bilan) when this states, that only small factions are able to do real class-struggle activity at the time of ebbing of the revolution. Oh yeah, this belongs to the decadent phase of capitalism, here everything works in a different way…
The ICC’s approach of the workers’ movement is inseparable from the false, simplifying explanation of historical materialism, from the bourgeois world-view of the group. This world-view is explained in their brochure entitled The Decadence of Capitalism. According to its subjective conviction, the ICC relies on Marx, and explains the decadence theory referring to the famous Preface of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. The approach of the ICC is very simple: when the production relations already stand in the way of the development of the productive forces, from that time the social form declines. But in the Marxian Preface we don’t find the rising-decadence dichotomy. And we cannot find, because such rigid contrasts are alien to dialectics. The ICC builds up its theory on a few page text of Marx. But the Preface can be understood correctly only in relation to the other revolutionary texts and to history. When Marx says that “At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of the society come in conflict with the existing relations of production… From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters” than this does not mean at all, that it is possible to draw a sharp line between the “ascendant” and the “decadent” epoch of a mode of production. Since capitalism, for example, carries in itself from its beginning all those contradictions in the bud, which will cause its ruin. During their evolution, these contradictions create more and more powerful clashes. And, finally, these clashes will bring the positive solution of the basic contradiction (private property).
The ICC’s analysis concentrates only to the Preface (and even misinterprets it). In the brochure they make an effort to fit the whole former and present history of humanity to their construction of “rising-decadence”, and during this they misunderstand history. Since this is – as history of class struggles –, from the dissolution of the ancient communities, the history of the evolution of the contradiction created by private property. The ICC did not recognize much from that. For example, talking about the ancient societies, the ICC doesn’t tell a single word about the role which the exchange between the communities played in their dissolving.
We won’t give a detailed criticism of The Decadence of Capitalism, but mention that Pannekoek, for example, in its writing about The Theory of the Collapse of Capitalism refuted point for point the views of Luxemburg and Grossmann which serve for bases for the different decandence theories. We will only shortly illustrate that the ICC’s view of history moves in abstract categories and the ICC ignores the real connections in the human society.
“When the economy trembles, the whole superstructure that relies on it enters into crisis and decomposition. The manifestations of this decomposition are the characteristic elements of the decadence of the system. Beginning as consequences of a system, they then most often become accelerating factors in the process of decline. Many a bourgeois historian, having seen the latter phenomenon, deduces from it that the superstructural elements are actually the main causes for the ending of a civilisation.” (The Decadence of Capitalism. Chapter I. The overturning of the superstructures.) After that, the ICC lists four phenomena in the superstructure, which “can be found both in the decadence of slavery and the decadence of feudalism”, and the fourth of which is “the intensification and development of class struggles”. So, according to the ICC, the class struggle takes place in the superstructure (which is, by the way, an abstraction, so it shouldn’t be contrasted rigidly with the basis!). It’s only a concomitant phenomenon, which can accelerate the fall of the system. But in fact, the classes are defined and set against each other exactly by their place in the production process, so the class struggle is (also) an economic fact, in the strictest sense of the word. Economy as such also belongs to the class society, and with its dying, economy will also disappear.
Another citate also shows that for the ICC the class struggle of the exploited is a subordinate moment in the historical development. “Years of famine, plague, war and anarchy were necessary before men were forced to begin to abandon slavery and feudalism. Only such events, engendered by the decadence of a society, can bring to an end centuries of customs, ideas and traditions. Collective consciousness always lags behind the objective reality which lies before it.” (The Decadence of Capitalism. Chapter II. The causes of decadence.) This is a mystification, which shows the collective recognition not as a living component part of the objective reality, but as a rather passive element staying out of it. And we add, that the ICC is again in contradiction with itself, since in its program it writes precisely this: “The Paris Commune of 1871 was the first attempt by the proletariat to carry out this revolution, in a period when the conditions for it were not yet ripe.”
Finally we touched upon the present and future class struggles. It’s not necessary to say much about that, since the article about the piquetero-movement, which was taken over by the ICC demonstrates, to what extent they (don’t) recognize the phenomena of the real class struggle. They project their own expectations on the present proletarian struggles (this is already pure idealism!) and if these don’t correspond to them, they draw a “well-tried” cliché forth… Behind the distorting lens of ideology the things lose their real forms and become just like the ICC wants to see them. The counter-revolutionary phrases about the “petty-bourgeois”, the “lumpen” etc. prove better than any theoretical argument the decadence of the decadence theory.
Barricade Collective, 2004.